Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Back home and voiceless

Arrived home Saturday after a really good Christmas with my brother who lives in a cottage in Wytham woods just outside Oxford. This is a shot of part of the house: about half of the ground floor to be exact - not a large building and we are constantly amazed by the fact that it was originally not one but two houses - some time ago we had a visit from an old lady who had brought up a family of six in what is now the kitchen, entrance hall and master bedroom!

The house was originally built in the nineteenth century as estate cottages for Wytham Abbey, about two miles distant. Now the estate is owned by Oxford University, which means that, much as my brother would like to buy this house, he is only allowed to rent it. You can read more about Wytham Wood at http://www.wildcru.org/links/wytham/wytham.htm and see some wonderful pictures at the website of local photographer Tobias at http://www.moochuk.com/

This is the gate leading from the front to the back garden. The architecture of the estate buildings is gothic revival, as is Wytham abbey itself. The walls are really substantial - the external house walls being two feet thick in places. Even so, it did suffer subsidence (all those trees!) several years ago and had to have extensive repairs.

As you can see the stone itself has wonderful colours and textures.

One of the great things about staying there (in addition of course to the warm welcome, good company, excellent food, and walks in the woods) is that my sister-in-law Gill looks after a colony of feral cats.
These qualify as feral cats only technically: they live out doors most of the time (a few of the bolder ones come in to curl up in the warm for a while sometimes and in inclement weather the doors of various outbuildings are left open for them) and from time to time hunt their own food - a cat has to keep in pratice! The colony remains, but the members of it change - the lives of feral cats are short, but there are several kittenings a year (local farm-cats oblige as absentee fathers). My sister-in-law feeds them, with some of the food subsidised by a local cat charity.

The cat on the right is the mother of many of the colony. The grey cat behind is called Bat because he had to grow into his large ears and Tiger is the youngest of the current colony, still a kitten. The other tortoiseshell, on the left, has a habit of disappearing from time to time (probably to chat up the farm cats!). The older toms (two each of ginger and black) are rather nervous around humans. Momma is the only one who will let herself be stroked and then only occasionally - with the exception of Bat who will let my nephew cuddle him (Gareth has always had a way with animals and really works hard at gaining their tru

As you can see from the state of Ginger, they actually look nothing like feral cats - very fluffy and well-rounded and beautifully clean - a short life but a happy one, as far as we can see.

Oh yes, the voiceless bit: I had a cold, then a nasty chesty cough. Went to bed late after celebrating the New Year. Woke up this morning - no voice - which is weird and VERY frustrating!

Anyway, since I can't say Happy New Year to anyone by phone let me say Happy 2008 here to all my cyber-friends!


zquilts said...

Oh Sandra ! I loved this post.
What a wonderful cottage that is. Beautiful felines all. AS for the voice - have a toddy - it's a great cure-all !
Blessings and wishes for a New Year filled with creativity, health and happiness

Julie said...

Love the cats Sandra. I hope you soon get over your cold and get your voice back. A toddy sounds ideal.