7 Lessons Learnt from Climbing Ben Nevis

This was a very personal goal for me. It was the highest priority on my 30 list, and after climbing Snowdon and Ben Lomond, I wondered whether we could really do it.
The first day of our Scotland trip, we had planned to do it, but I was taken ill with a severe migraine that night so we put it off.
The second day, after much ado, we called it off. The weather was heavy rain.
The third to sixth days we were in and around Aberdeen.
As our holiday drew to a close, I felt more and more miserable and started acting like a complete brat. I didn’t work out why until day 6 when I hit my head and nearly died (you’ll remember this was confirmed by a doctor when we got back and I landed in hospital). The thing I was most regretting? That I would never have even climbed Ben Nevis.  Yes, there was an “even” in there.  And this is how my lack of sense of achievement undermines my confidence.
So on the evening of the sixth day, I drove us back to the west side of Scotland and we slept at the foot of the mountain. In the morning, we packed some snacks and water, and began our ascent.

Rush hour in Scotland, several hundred sheep crossing the Youth Hostel path on Ben Nevis late afternoon.
Rush hour in Scotland, several hundred sheep crossing the Youth Hostel path on Ben Nevis in the late afternoon (on the first day when we didn’t actually climb it).

It took about 8 hours to get up and down. I learned several things:
1. Those respect the mountain people take it too far with their scaremongering. If I’d known it was going to be as straightforward (I did NOT say easy) as it was, I would’ve done it on day 2. I wore trainers and I had my waterproof and gloves.

We built a snowman from snow on the slope. It was the size of my fist, and sits on a 2x4 plank of wood.
We built a snowman from snow on the slope. It was the size of my fist, and sits on a 2×4 plank of wood.  Curiously the lack of ice axe and crampons did not hinder us.

2. You don’t need a fancy hydration system. I took a plastic 500ml bottle of water, I think 750 would have been optimal but a litre would have meant expending too much energy on carrying it up. There is a waterfall around 2/3 of the way up where you can refill anyway.

Waterfall Ben Nevis
Waterfall on Ben Nevis.

3. You don’t need trail mix, energy bars, kendal mint cake and other expensive walkery foods. I took some ready-made Morrisson’s Chicken Salad sandwiches, a cereal bar and a banana. If I’d been closer to home, I would have made my own sandwiches.

Carn Dearg (the mountain next to Ben Nevis) from Ben Nevis
Carn Dearg (the mountain next to Ben Nevis) from Ben Nevis

4. You only need 7 hours of daylight left to set off (you can do the last hour in twilight/darkness if you have a torch), so if it’s 11:00am in August you probably haven’t missed it for the day (we thought this on 3 separate days).

The waterfall that you could refill bottles from (we stopped for lunch beside it).
The waterfall that you could refill bottles from (we stopped for lunch beside it).  It goes on up but my head is in the way, despite my best efforts.

5. You don’t need a headtorch, a normal torch will do (or the flashlight on your phone if you’re confident about the battery life) and you don’t need one torch each, one between two or three is enough unless you’re stupid enough to separate from your companions.

The drinking water fall, from in front of it.
The drinking water fall, from in front of it.

6. Wellies and a map are FAR more useful than crampons and an ice axe.

The remains of the old Victorian observatory on top of Ben Nevis.
The remains of the old Victorian observatory on top of Ben Nevis.

7. More people attempt it than we saw at the summit. Loads of people (about 50%) turned back before the top. While this is fine, I do suspect they then go back to work telling everyone they climbed Ben Nevis when they didn’t actually get to the top.

The trig point at the top, proving we made it.
The trig point at the top, proving we made it.  As the little sign to my right so rightly observes, I do have a weak edge.

8. The top has an emergency shelter so if the weather turns, you can hide out (this one’s more of an observation than a lesson).

The emergency shelter is in that hut at the top of the remains of the old observatory.
The emergency shelter is in that hut at the top of the remains of the old observatory.

After I got so worried about climbing without a spare pair of tractors in my daysack, I am at my wit’s end with the shitty advice coming from “respect the mountain” type people.  Where do they actually get off?  Being an anarchist and a minimalist and a free spirit and having lived among Irish travellers, I am firmly in camp “disrespect the mountain” if it means I’m not carrying so much crap with me that I’m never going to get to the top.  If you’re wondering whether it’s okay to go up or not, and it’s summer conditions, just go for it.  As long as you’re not a complete moron it’s going to be fine.  I mean, you would really have to try to get killed in summer on the tourist path on Ben Nevis.  At which point, your last thoughts should probably be “whoops.”

This song sums up my attitude to the prospect of my own death by misadventure, learn it, before you canoe back down Everest being towed by mountain dolphins:

When we reached the summit, I didn’t really have a sense of achievement. I guess I must be developing a good sense for things such as the top of the mountain really being a halfway point not an end. And this was borne out, because (as with Snowdon) the descent was far more painful on my poor damaged lower leg bones and on my feet. When we reached the little wooden bridge (we took the Youth Hostel Path as it’s got free parking and less hikers before it joins the “tourist path”), the magnitude of the achievement struck me. Not the physical demands because let’s be fair I’d barely done any exercise for a month before we climbed it and I found it was only the compression on my leg bones on the descent that caused an issue. The achievement was that I was able to fulfil a promise to the me from the past who wrote the 30 list. Ben Nevis was one of the most important things on the list. A gateway to bigger things.
I guess now I need to try and work out what those bigger things were.
Any ideas?

Britain's highest war memorial. Because one generation's pretentious junk is another generation's national treasure.
Britain’s highest war memorial. Because one generation’s pretentious junk is another generation’s national treasure.  Actually if you read it, it’s for soldiers from Fort William, the nearest town, which makes more sense than the “Nepalese War graves” all over the UK – why oh why aren’t they home on their mountains where their hearts belonged?  Didn’t they give us enough already?

This was a Travel Tuesday post but it’s taken my internet 8 hours to upload all the pictures even though I’ve well reduced the image sizes.  We really need to get the internet fixed but we have no way of contacting BT since our phone line being partially severed is the whole problem.

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My favorite band: NOFX live in Birmingham 2015

After a whole year of so many different concerts, bands and gigs that I’ve been to (see here to see my other articles on various bands), I wasn’t holding out much hope for NOFX being any good live.
What I forgot is that they’re primarily a punk band, and like nearly every punk band (and riot grrrl band, for that matter), they ALWAYS sound better live.
I guess I wasn’t sure because I just didn’t know what could possibly sound better than NOFX’s recorded albums.

Well…. seeing them play live is a better experience. It’s like having someone playing your favorite music AND seeing them in person in front of you AND being surrounded by people who know their back catalog as well as you do AND do you know what’s better than that?
Fat Mike came on stage in a fucking MAID DRESS mauling his guitar like it was a toothpick and I could’ve died right then and died happy.

Can you tell it's from before I got my new camera?
Can you tell it’s from before I got my new camera? Click to enlarge.
Fat Mike in a maid dress while Hefe plays the trumpet for the trumpet solo that he plays why is my internet taking so damn long to finish uploading this stupid picture it's still terribly slow I don't know when we are getting it fixed but this is taking far too long to upload and if I stop typing it'll blank this caption when it finishes fucksake why won't it fi
Click to enlarge. Fat Mike in a maid dress while Hefe plays the trumpet for the trumpet solo that he plays why is my internet taking so damn long to finish uploading this stupid picture it’s still terribly slow I don’t know when we are getting it fixed but this is taking far too long to upload and if I stop typing it’ll blank this caption when it finishes fucksake why won’t it fi

It was literally the BEST concert I’ve been to ever.
It’s like everything I wanted all those other concerts to be, everything I was looking for in this quest to see all the bands on my bands bucket list, it all culminated on this one evening in July.

I took my step-dad and my half-sister, against my better judgement, because while her and I have had a pretty big rift that got even worse after my mum died last year, I’ve never really had any huge issues with him after I got over the whole “you didn’t want me when you went for custody after the divorce” (he didn’t).
That bit.
But we’re over that. And it was a milestone birthday for him this year so I decided to extend my good fortune of having enough time and money to go to concerts, and I bought 3 tickets for NOFX.

My half-sister didn’t really know who they were. But my step-dad did (I was brought up on metal and punk because he was the biggest ever metal fan when he married my mum then over the years moved more into punk; I still can’t listen to Sepultura or Slayer without cleaning my house, because that’s just what we DID on Sundays when my mum was still in bed).
I don’t know why I’ve always loved NOFX. I guess their sound reminds me of simpler times while their lyrics are so fresh and relevant (and I wonder whether my stepdad actually gets the lyrics).

Here’s some of their stuff (from one of my favorite albums – aw hell they’re all my favorite) in case you don’t know them:

From start to finish their gig was AMAZING. They were being supported by Lagwagon (who were the first band that Fat Mike signed to Fat Wreck Chords – aside from NOFX of course) and Alkaline Trio.

I thought Lagwagon were a good warm up band but their sound system was a bit loud (same as The Who – it was just so loud that it cut loads of the sound out of the audible range – what is the point of this?) as there weren’t enough people in the room by then to absorb all the sound, and they sounded totally different live than they do on their recorded stuff. I like them better recorded, they’ve got a good sound. They still had me bobbing my head though.

Alkaline Trio were a bit EMO if I’m honest. I thought their lyrics sounded very angsty and I was surprised because I thought they were one of the bands that was slightly more “out there” than NOFX. Like, proper American punk. Putting all argument about whether America has any “proper” punk aside because that’s elitist and it’s not my job to keep punk rock elite: That’s Fat Mike’s job:

After Alkaline Trio finished, there was an OBSCENE interval, in which my stepdad got VERY drunk (by normal people’s standards – not by his standards, he could’ve probably drank 3 times as much before he’d be as rowdy as he can get) and then complained that this is why he hadn’t seen NOFX when they’d played Blackpool’s Holiday In The Sun (or whatever it’s called nowadays. Google says: Rebellion Festival) – he just couldn’t be arsed with waiting around to see ’em. He also said that aparently NOFX were banned from this year’s Blackpool Rebellion Festival (the big punk one) because they’d been too offensive last year.
Too offensive to play a punk festival… whuttt???
Something to do with things they’d said being taken too seriously by festivalgoers.
Well, when NOFX came on stage and Fat Mike was punking his maid dress and Hefe was looking like he hasn’t aged since the early ’90s (in fact, they’re all doing pretty well in that regard), in between songs Fat Mike did make a few jokes which could have been taken to be offensive by the wrong crowd, so I guess if you don’t “get” NOFX then there’s no hope for you. Like, literally.
I say this in the full knowledge that my Dearest had seen NOFX at Leeds in 2004 and told me several times that they were “a bit meh.”
Fuck only knows what that’s supposed to mean. I thought they were the best band I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of bands.
Here’s a list of live bands that NOFX are better than (by me, Bender):
Iron Maiden,
Slayer,
Anthrax,
Slipknot,
Muse,
Kiss,
Billy Idol,
Motley Crue (but I’m seeing them again in 2 weeks so I’ll report back),
Slash (but only because NOFX has better lyrics than the old GnR stuff, if it was all like Anastasia they’d have to have a rock off for me to work out who was best),
Mallory Knox (by a country mile),
Marilyn Manson (by a country mile),
The Who,
Steeleye Span,
Judas Priest,
Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I’m seeing Alice Cooper on 4th November, Megadeth on 12th November, and Bob Dylan TOMORROW (24th October) so I will let y’all know how they size up against NOFX.

So what did they play?
Only the entirety of their album Punk In Drublic and when they started playing Linoleum I was just gone. GONE. Just… raving? Is that the right word? I was waving my arms and jumping up and down and banging my head and the whole universe just made sense and it all converged around a moderately sized man in his 40s wearing a maid dress and wielding a guitar, surrounded by other men in their 40s who were not wearing girly costumes and who were still equally mesmerizing. What impressed me most was that they knew their shit. They didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t lose their thread (unlike Bruce Dickinson when we saw Iron Maiden). They just sounded like they do on their records, but BETTER. That’s the first time I’ve said that about a band. My step-dad disappeared into the moshing and I later saw him crowd-surfing. They also did Franco Un-American and some other stuff I’ve forgotten because I was just totally lost in the experience which is why it’s taken me so long to get to a point where I could write about it. Putting it into words I’d say it experientially was like being in a BDSM scene. Which I’m patently bad at writing about (hence my other, VERY ADULT CONTENT DON’T GO THERE IF YOU GET OFFENDED BY BDSM, no reblogging, blog only having one proper scene write-up, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU –it’s here– NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED although much less extreme than loads of stuff out there) when it’s something I’ve experienced rather than using my experiences to write stories.

Speaking of which… I was intrigued by the maid outfit but I thought Fat Mike was being ironic: I didn’t know that Fat Mike was like BDSM’s biggest fan. Then I found this interview and when the guy asked him the question, “you’ve got your finger in many pies, what are you first, are you a musician first?” And he said, “Oh, no. If I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be, er…” [long pause] and I instantly thought about my own answer to that question, which would unequivocally be BDSM. I would literally abandon everything else going on in my life if it was a choice like that, stop writing, acting, traveling… anyway, I was whispering “BDSM, BDSM…” (the way you do when you know how you’d answer a game show question) then I took a gulp of tea, Fat Mike said, “BDSM” and I literally spat my tea. It happens around 28 minutes 30 seconds (although you can’t see me watching it and spitting my tea I guess).

I felt like such an idiot, there’s this punk guy being interviewed in a pink negligee with a chain around his neck fastened by a padlock and I totally MISSED the fact that he’s someone’s bitch. So anyway I did some googling and found out he’s actually married to a dominatrix (lucky him) and has a dungeon in his house (lucky him) and my respect for Fat Mike and all things NOFX just went through the roof. I thought S&M airlines (an album by NOFX) and all their dominatrix-themed shirts and him turning up to the gig in a maid dress and that song about Japan (Cool and Unusual Punishment) were all just another example of people incorporating BDSM imagery into popular culture. It happens a lot.

Mind…. blown…

It gives me another reason to place NOFX at the top of my list as my all time favorite band. It’s like there’s this fundamental rightness to the sound of NOFX that I have only ever heard when listening to Bikini Kill. *stares off into space thinking about Kathleen Hanna’s voice and feels a bit sad that Bikini Kill aren’t still touring* Bikini Kill were, in fact, the whole catalyst that started me on this Bands Bucket List quest, because I felt it was such a tragedy that I never got to see them live on account of being FAR too young. I need to see NOFX again. Like, every day for the rest of my life.

Anyway this article needs an ending. We staggered out of the venue and then went on a hunt for some food and it turns out there’s a deficiency of fast food in Birmingham on a Sunday night. So I think we got back as far as Stafford before we found a McDonalds and ordered large quantities of dead animal flesh to fill our faces with.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

Katie’s Funeral

On Tuesday, I put Fifer on his rabbit lead because the carrier was at the vets with Katie. There was a spare carrier, but two boxes and a husband don’t fit in my car safely. It turns out Fifer much prefers to wear his harness and sit on someone’s knee for car rides than to be put in a box. We learned he likes looking out of the window. I told him we were going to see Katie. I wanted him to have the chance to see her again, because whilst I’d been worried about her when I took her to the vets in the morning, I had had no idea that this was going to happen or that we weren’t getting her back. I’d been worrying in the morning because Katie was worrying; it was like she knew.

We arrived at the vet’s 20 minutes early. Contrary to what the receptionist had said earlier, we were shown straight into a room and Katie was brought out for us by the nurse. We put Fifer on the table with her so they could talk in bunny language to each other and share a moment. She wasn’t very with it because they’d sedated her, she’d been in so much pain after the anaesthetic wore off that they had to, apparently. She still looked like she was in pain, and she basically just sat there and Fifer came and snuggled her and licked her nose and she just stared at him for the longest time, then she nuzzled him with her nose and sat next to him.

Our usual vet (not the one I’d seen in the morning or the day before, but the one who founded the practice and who has been seeing us since we first started going here, a few weeks after they opened) came in to talk to us about Katie’s situation. She showed us the X-rays. It was much MUCH worse than it had sounded on the phone, and as soon as I saw the X-rays I started crying because Katie’s skeleton was effectively crumbling away inside her. Before we came to the vet, I’d kept an open mind and if I’d thought there was the slightest chance of her having a pain-free or fulfilling life after that day, I would have paid the money. I would have remortgaged the house if I’d had to to pay to save Katie. But there’s only so much that can be done, and the leg was today’s problem, but as the X-rays of the rest of her showed, her other leg could split at any second, her knees were fucked, her spine was fused together, her hips showed significant lack of bone density, and that was just the lower half of her body (which was what was X-rayed). This more experienced vet told us she thought Katie was probably about 7 years old, and that from the bone density throughout her skeleton, it was extremely likely that she wasn’t actually fed rabbit food by her previous owners. From this day on, her life was only going to be vet stay after vet stay, interspersed with what they called “cage rest,” during which her movement would have been inhibited as much as possible and she would have spent months in extreme agony until this leg healed, then there would have been the rest of it, a ticking timebomb inside her ready to go at any moment, causing her more unspeakable pain and fear. I wanted my squishyboo, but I wasn’t going to keep her alive so I could selfishly stroke her nose.

Would I still have adopted Katie if I had known she was so old? Resoundingly yes. I just would have maybe expected this instead of it being such a shock. It was only last week that I was thinking that one day, in a few years time (with her and Fifer being our youngest rabbits – or so I thought), the only bunnies we might still have of our current set would be Katie and Fifer. I thought she would even outlive Banacek, who we got when he was a tiny helpless baby three and a half years ago. Because she should have just turned three last week, when I got her vaccinated. She should have had about another five to seven years of life. That was what was most shocking I think – because we have some very old rabbits (over age 10) and Katie looked and acted nothing like them.

Before I took her to the vet, she had taken herself to a spot in her hutch and stayed there. When I came to pop her in the box, she screamed in pain but she didn’t resist. She knew her time had come and she was very serene about it. I didn’t understand at the time (hence my worry before and after dropping her off at the vet that the anaesthetic would be the killer here). I never expected to end the day having to make a living death or death decision over my favorite bunny.

While we were talking to the vet, Katie seemed to perk up a bit, and she started eating the cilantro that my Dearest had brought for her and strewn over the examination table. Then, with superhuman effort, she managed to get up and hop over to where Fifer stood opposite her, and she faltered when her injured leg touched the floor, but that didn’t deter her, she went to lick his face profusely. Then she turned around, and just lay down sideways on the examination table. She only managed to do it for a few seconds before she had to get up again because her leg hurt too much in that position, but after her little energy spree, she turned to my Dearest and licked his hand, then she turned to me and licked my hand, then she licked Fifer’s nose again, then she sort of switched off again, it was as if she was saying “there, now I’ve done everything, now I have said goodbye to you all, I can go now. I’m ready.” I was in floods of tears throughout. The vet picked Katie up and took her out (they can’t do rabbits the way they do dogs because their veins are too small so she had to do it away from us then bring her back).

When the vet took Katie in the back to do it, Fifer just sort of sat there staring at the floor looking morose. Then, about a minute or so after she’d left, Fifer suddenly looked straight up towards where she’d been taken, he stared at that spot for a second, then he lay down on the examination table. It was as if he knew the exact moment when she died. After Katie was PTS (put to sleep), the vet put her on the examination table for us and then she just let us stay in the examination room and take our time.

I let Fifer have a look at her. He declared that she smelled strange then indicated that he wanted to leave. So we bundled Katie up so carefully (the vet let us have a towel). I just scooped Katie up, supporting her head because she was limp, and held her for about ten minutes, just rocking her and crying and kissing her nose and trying to deal with the situation. Then I popped her back in her dog carrier (she’s the size of one) and took the bunnies home.

When we got home, I popped her in the big outhouse where Fifer’s hutch is (they have 24/7 indoor/outdoor access and no door on the entrance to the hutch for their own freedom to roam), and I lay her down next to the hay pile. We fed Fifer and we had given him copious snuggles and strokes.

On Wednesday morning, after the school run, the first thing I did was go to see Fifer. I went to his outhouse and just sat by Katie’s body with him. I noticed there was now some broccoli in her ear. He had tried to feed her broccoli at some point in the night. The rest of her had been thoroughly groomed.

Rabbits have a special ritual when one of their herd dies. They sometimes do a rabbit dance around the dead one, and they often groom them. It’s critically important that they get to see the dead body after the bunny has been PTS, which is why I put Katie out with Fifer overnight. That morning, I lifted her up – rigor mortis had set in by now – and I took her out into the outdoor run so that Sebastian could see her as well. Fifer of course had priority because they were bonded first, but Sebastian loved Katie and would often be found on the other side of the fence snuggled up to her.

When I got Sebastian out of his run and put him next to Katie, he nosed her then lost interest. He didn’t seem to care. I put him back away and gave the rest of my attention to Fifer who was clearly mourning his Katie. Fifer sat with me and Katie for hours in the garden, and when I went to the flowerbed to dig her a grave, he came and “helped” without getting in the way. He knew what we were doing. He’s very intelligent. I lined the bottom with lots of her favorite plants. After that, I popped Katieboo in the outdoor toilet room so that bugs and birds didn’t start on her, then waited for my Dearest to finish work so we could bury her.

After I moved her, I watched Fifer from the kitchen. I saw him sniff around where she’d been before, then he laid down where her body had been, and stared into space wistfully. This is why they have to see the body – otherwise, they will wait for weeks sometimes for their friend to return (because they think they’re out feeding and haven’t come back) and they won’t eat or drink if you’re not careful.

When He got home from work, we wandered down the road and picked loads of dandelions and daisies for her. Dandelions were her favourite thing to eat that grows wild, and she’d eaten all the ones in the garden which is why we went looking. We were losing light, as the sky turned a dark pink, it was Katie’s favorite time of day (bunnies naturally are most active in the hour around dawn and the hour around dusk, and out of all of our buns, Katie and Fifer are/were the most in tune with their natural rhythms). We gathered her some broccoli and a whole carrot from the fridge, and all the rabbit nuggets that had been handed back by the vet because she wasn’t eating properly. I got her out of where I’d put her, and rigor mortis was wearing off again so she was a bit more movable than before. I placed her carefully on the bed of plants, then we placed the dandelions, daisies and broccoli where she could get at them (I put some of the broccoli behind her ears as per Fifer’s broccoli-feeding attempts, in case he knew something about all of this that we didn’t, such as that rabbits eat backwards in the afterlife maybe). We snapped the carrot and placed it in front and behind her. Then we took the bunny nuggets and scattered them around her, so she was totally insulated from soil by all her favorite snacks. It’s what she would have wanted.

The hardest part was putting the soil over her. It felt so wrong. She just looked like she was sleeping, peacefully, dreaming, with her eyes slightly open. I covered all the rest of her then I did her face last because it was so hard. Then after I’d covered her a bit I handed the shovel to my Dearest and let him put the next layer on. I was too upset. I didn’t want to let her go.

In the end, I took over again because he was too upset too. Fifer stood beside us, looking on, I’m not sure what he was thinking but he knew she was there. We put a protective fence (made of spare panels of rabbit run) around her because the last thing I want is a cat to dig her up and eat her. I’ve let Fifer out since and he’s gone to the place where she’s buried and he’s nosed at the fence, like he’s saying “that’s where Katie is, isn’t it mummy?” and I’ve replied (because I do) with “yes, honey, that’s where Katie is.”

He seems to be coping pretty well. He’s just gone back to being his loner, lonely, languishing self from his pre-Katie days. We’ll probably need to get him a new friend soon but for now I want to just let him (and us) get over this profound loss.

My Dearest asked me a question yesterday that threw me. He said, “what are your thoughts about pregnancy now?” and my answer was “it’s strange that you should ask, because when I was holding Katie’s body in the vets, the only thought in my mind was ‘if we get pregnant RIGHT NOW then we might get her reincarnated spirit.’ Because I know that Katie will get reincarnated if she doesn’t just get a free pass to the afterlife. Look, I know it’s weird but in the last 12 months I’ve lost 2 parents and 2 rabbits, I think I’m allowed to have strange afterlife ideas.

The night after she died, I had a dream that her and my dog Dillon (childhood BFF) were both pissed that only humans get let into the afterlife (in my dream it was Elysian fields, pearly gates, huge drinking festhall of Valhalla – the works – all together in the same place), so they broke in (Katie burrowed then Dillon barked at anyone who tried to stop them) until St Peter and Hades both turned up and St P. said “well, you’ve clearly made a lot of effort so Imma let you stay” and they went to the fountain of youth and drank from it and tore around heaven like racing cars.

Then I had a dream about all the ginger people I know, all in the same room, and I was looking for Katie but she wasn’t there. I had that dream the next night as well. Weird, huh?

I still can’t upload pictures, internet’s still fucked and intermittent, so here’s the link to my last set that I posted that were all of Katie doing really cute stuff.

I’m going to miss my Marmalade Princess Katieboo.
I don’t think there’s another rabbit the same as her in the whole world.

I also need to give a big shout-out to my vets who were really really wonderful about the whole thing (even when I got stressy, and even sent Fifer a condolences card with a pair of rabbits on it). If you live in York, you can’t do better than Vets4Pets for rabbit-savvy vets.

Katie getting put to sleep at 6:20 this evening

I got a call from the vets at 12:00 this afternoon telling me that Katie has split her femur all the way up and that it would require extensive surgery to pin and repair, and that a surgical specialist would have to come to do it.
The X ray shows that she has very severe arthritis – she is apparently much older than the 3 year old bun we though she was, they estimate she’s at the very least 5 years old, and they think the arthritis has torn her leg bone in half.
They won’t amputate because the other leg is just as arthritic, and they won’t double amputate because they can’t take a “healthy” leg. Amputation would come to £500 per leg and she’d suffer a lot in the process.
The surgery would cost at least £1500 and on top of that, there would be the future problems from the untreated arthritis and the ongoing cost of complications, and the risk of using anaesthetic again.
She got a check up at the vets last week and they told me she was in good health. Now she’s at death’s door with this fractured femur.
We have had to make the very difficult decision to put Katie to sleep because she is in unbearable pain, she is hardly moving and she is suffering greatly. I don’t want to lose my marmalade princess, when I’ve barely had her for a year, but it turns out that she is an older lady rabbit. It seems weird thinking that about a 5-ish year old bunny when Cleo and Sebastian are both 10 and 1/2 and they’re still hopping around. And I was mentally prepared for either of them to die. But not Katie. I thought I had about a decade with her before we’d have to deal with this stuff. We were supposed to have more time!!! Fucksake.
Mostly I’m angry at her previous owners for doing the shit they did to her then abandoning her in a cardboard box. I’m angry that she never got her happily ever after, when she’s the rabbit of all of our buns who most deserved to be happy, because she’d gone through so much shit before we got her.
I don’t know how to tell Fifer. He has only known her for a year too and they’ve been so happy together.
I’m angry at the vet receptionist who just told me I couldn’t have my rabbit back before we put her to sleep. I want my rabbit. I want to stroke her nose and tell her it’s going to be okay and fix this all.
I can’t stop crying.
I feel so awful. I told her last night that we’d have her back and safe this evening, that the vet would make her better. Instead, we can’t do that.
I don’t want to lose my Katieboo. I just want this to not be happening.
I probably won’t update tomorrow even if my internet is working (unlikely).
I don’t know if this will get online or not.

Katie is at the Vets

Katie is at the vets under general anaesthetic right now.
Her left back leg started causing her pain on Sunday. I took her in yesterday, they said it might be a broken knee and there’s no reflex movement in the foot; she needed an X-ray and she’ll be in all day today because they do them under general anaesthetic.
Anaesthetic is potentially lethal to rabbits more than any other small animal. They sent her home to be with her partner Fifer, and her appointment was made for 9am today. She barely moved from one hiding spot last night (rabbits hide when they’re ill), and she squeaked in pain when I put her in the carry box today. Rabbits never squeak in pain. She barely ate what I put down in front of her and there’s 9/10 of her food left, her partner Fifer saved it for her and she didn’t go to eat it.
On the way, she was so scared she produced about 1/2 litre of wee, all over her carry box, then when we got to the vets, I got her out of the box and she covered my coat, my shoe and my foot in it. Poor bunny was just terrified. She was trembling like a leaf and wouldn’t even nibble her favorite cilantro (which every bunny owner knows is the absolute favorite food of every rabbit, it’s like bunny crack – they’d sell their grandmother for cilantro). She’s so terrified and nothing I can do will reassure her.
I hope my baby is ok.
I would never forgive myself for signing the release forms if she doesn’t wake up.
I will find out at 3.30pm.
Her life partner Fifer is sitting in their garden, waiting for her to come back.
I have no pictures, I don’t want to intrude on their emotional pain.

SCIENCE! Video issues and stupid internet connection.

Bleurgh I’m feeling under the weather. I’ve waited all day for painkillers to kick in. Obviously they didn’t.
I’m editing my next book ready to send to the publishers (so they can probably send it back with more edits but y’know, I respect the process), I’m trying to keep my Youtube channel alive and get my Science channel up and running, and my camera battery is refusing to play ball (because it’s a cuboid. They don’t roll so good), I’ve got the school run in a minute and OMFG I just want to crawl into bed and whimper quietly to myself.

The worst problem?  My upload speed is 0.2Mbps (Thanks Internet Company) and so it has taken 6 hours for it to upload a video which, when it uploaded, was so shockingly bad quality that I had to delete it straight away because it was supposed to be high definition.  I started again about 2 hours ago, it’s uploaded less than 30 seconds of video so far and it reckons over 5 hours remaining (and this is a 5 minute video, which should take less than 30 mins to upload by my usual weekly upload experience).  So I don’t have a video for science friday yet and probably won’t have one before it’s “Internet Connection Reset: Couldn’t upload to Youtube, please try again” Saturday.  That has happened before and it’s all just infuriating.

Here’s a screenshot:

...And then the internet took several minutes to upload this tiny picture. FML.
…And then the internet took several minutes to upload this tiny picture. FML.

That probably means this post won’t go up very soon either.

Between nothing loading on my internet and my shitty day in general I’m afraid I haven’t been able to catch up on anyone else’s blogs either. 😦  Imma go crawl in a hole nao.

Wanderlust: Iceland

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday again and today I want to talk about Iceland.  Iceland is one of my dream destinations, with its dramatic volcanoes, waterfalls, amazing winter landscape and, of course, if you go at the right time of the year, the Aurora Borealis.

Here’s some pictures that really capture why Iceland floats my boat:

iceland volcano iceland hot baths iceland wanderlust1 iceland waterfall1

What would I do when I went to Iceland?

Well, you can’t always count on seeing the Aurora Borealis – some of my rellies were there for 2 weeks and never saw it at all, at the specific time of year when it should have been at its best.  For that reason, I wouldn’t go to Iceland just for that, and I wouldn’t depend on seeing the Northern Lights as a make-or-break the trip kinda thing.

First, I’d want to see the blue lagoon, a geothermal lake that’s also a pretty nifty spa resort.  Can you imagine traveling through miles of icy glaciers, then getting into a swimming costume and swimming outdoors in hot spa temperature water, surrounded by ice.  Access to the Blue Lagoon is limited by tickets, and ticket prices start at E35.  More information at http://www.bluelagoon.com/

Then, if that hadn’t blown me away (and doing these in order matters, otherwise I would never appreciate the Blue Lagoon in all its glory), I’d take a trip across to Askja.  Here’s a picture:

askja volcano lake

You can climb it.  Not only that, but once you’ve climbed inside this amazing volcanic crater, you can totally swim in that.

But if you do it first then Blue Lagoon will be a teensy bit anticlimactic.  More info on Askja.

I’d probably be fairly tired of swimming after all that (I’m not a great swimmer to start with and I’m terrified of specifically shaped swimming pools – don’t ask me why, it only makes sense to me.  Needless to say that when I was in Sindelfingen I was clinging to the side like a limpet nearly in tears).  So I’d go do some museuming after that lot, with a visit to the Culture House in Rejkjavik, where you can find The Sagas of Icelanders manuscripts alongside modern Icelandic art.  Guided tours in English are at 2pm!  Find out about opening hours and ticket prices here (it’s in Icelandic Krona so you may need a currency converter).  Other Icelandic museums worth visiting in Rejkjavik include The National Museum of Iceland (Thjodminjasafn) which covers a lot more of Iceland’s thousand-year past.  If you’re anything like me and love a good romp around the geological and non-human aspects of a place, The Natural History Museum of Iceland might be for you.  I would certainly love to go there, as its British equivalent is one of my favourite places to go in London.

After all that indoor stuff, I’d probably want to get out again, this time I’d go for some of the world-class waterfalls, a handy top 10 list of these can be found here (with stunning photographs).

To round up my visit, (if I had enough money to spare – it costs 39,000 Icelandic Krona which I just converted, is about £202 British Pounds), I’d want to top my visit off with a trip into the heart of a dormant volcano with the “Inside the Volcano” tour (it’s one of those guess the hidden meaning names, amirite??).  There’s a video and full tourist details here.  It’s not for the faint hearted/people with a fear of depths (heights?)/claustrophobic though so it’s probably not for everyone, but for me it would be a truly stunning experience to round off the rest of the trip.

That’s my take on what I’d do in Iceland if I ever get there:  What would you most like to do in Iceland?  Have you been?