Who really built the first pyramids?

Shana alerted me to a Sciencemag.org article on cats, and about how long humans have been domesticating them. It seems that, if cats through the ages have been anything like our Smoky, the domestic feline has been pestering its ‘owners’ for a lick of butter off the snack plate (one of Smoky’s absolute faves) and other table scraps for around 9000 years. No wonder they’ve got so good at it. (‘Awww, he has such a cheeky little face. Go on, give him some butter,‘ is how it works in our house. How about yours?)

Impressed by ancient cats’ ability to hoodwink the earliest Egyptians into raising them to the status of gods, Shana suggested some of those Old and Middle Kingdom moggies might also have been responsible for the pyramids. We now believe the original pyramids looked quite different from how they do now. Not because, as is often said, that they started life with a facing of limestone. But because they were originally wrapped in…


Yes, Shana and I are convinced that the pyramids were the most advanced form of cat scratching toy known to man at that time. Scratchers, even today, come in all shapes and sizes. Cleopatra’s Needle, presented to Britain in the 19th century, was (obviously) simply a scratching post of a more regular shape and would have amused kitties of the time for, oh, minutes, before of course they got bored and went off doing something else. That’s the thing about cats. Short attentions spans, all of them. Probably need another nine millennia of domestication before that will change  🙂

Wagner vs Corrie

Earlier this evening, we were watching BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, a sort of ‘Eurovision song contest for posh people’, as Shana put it 🙂 when Shana, having glanced at the screen for a moment in the middle of a fraught hand of Lexicon,  suddenly remarked (indicating a burly chanteuse) ‘I bet she’d make a good lead singer in one of those Wagnerian epics.’

‘Brunnhilde?’ I suggested. To which Shana immediately agreed.

And then my comedy brain cells sprang to life. ‘Wouldn’t it be amusing,’ I said, ‘to make a Wagnerian Ring cycle style of opera telling the story of a fearless adventurer who set off in search of the perfect pint of ale, and of all the characters and ne’er-do-wells he met during his quest. It could be titled “The Return of the Rover” and the lead female role would be called Brunnhilde Ogden! Obviously, to retain a Teutonic feel to the proceedings, she would have to live on Coronation Strasse, and there would be enigmatic references throughout to a mysterious ‘Muriel’, and a backstory about three ducks pinned to a wall. They probably come alive as Austrian princesses or something in the final act.’

Shana, as usual, looked at me askance.

Then I wished I hadn’t started the plot synopsis at all. I reckon I’d need at least a thousand old envelopes on the back of which I’d need to scribble it all down. Maybe best stick to part-time waffling eh? Apparently it’s what I’m best at 🙂

Huer Missus

For as long as we can remember (though do bear in mind that often I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast the same day 🙂  ) Shana and I have been playing each other at Scrabble and, more recently, Lexicon.

The trouble with playing too intensively though, is that sometimes you can sort of go blank, albeit temporarily.

I blame all those notorious two-letter words that Scrabblers find essential. Poor Shana was left scratching her head a few weeks ago, agonising over whether one particular word was permitted. She even spelled it out to see if that might help.

“S-O. No I’m not sure. I’ll have to look it up.”

“Of course it’s allowed,” I said.  “It’s ‘So’, the well known conjunction, as in the sentence ‘I didn’t score enough points, so I lost the game’.”

“Oh, that ‘so’,” said Shana. “Sorry. Forgot.”

“Easily done,” I said, pencilling a quick note on the back of the scoresheet for future reference.

The other major problem with word games is that sometimes you want to look something up, either for an exact definition, or for its interesting etymology. And it’s so easy to get sidetracked and end up reading the dictionary instead.

Sometimes though, that’s when you discover fascinating words. Like tonight’s Word of the Evening: ‘Huer’.

Here’s what the dictionary tells us. A huer is, and I quote: ‘A pilchard fisherman’s lookout man’. Apparently, a huer would stand on a clifftop and would signal to his fisherman friends on their boat at sea, where shoals of herring or pilchards could be found. For some reason it’s easier to spot them at a distance rather than when you’re sailing right next to them.

Anyway, huer was never on the list of options during careers advice day at school back in the Dark Ages. Shame that, because if it had been I might have found my lifelong vocation.

Lexicon ten

At last, it has finally happened.  This evening I got my first ten-letter word in one of our regular games of Lexicon. No letter changes, no relying on the Master Card to stand for a letter of my choice. Just ten cards straight out, spelling a valid word: ‘HOSPITALER’. This is defined as a member of a charitable religious order, if you were wondering.

Shana was a tad peeved, as it was she who had dealt the cards out. In the end it cost her a shade over sixty penalty points. We don’t include audio files on this blog, but you can imagine here an appropriately melancholy tune played on the violin 🙂

Oh, and as well as being peeved, Shana was also a trifle miffed, because she recently made a lovely pink crocheted card case in which to keep our Lexicon deck. ‘It will bring me luck,’ she said hopefully. Famous last words, alas, Famous last words… 🙂

Why Smoky goes nutty for neon

A lot of cat ‘owners’ might not know this, and we ourselves only found out by chance when watching a documentary on kitties. Your beloved houehold moggy sees most things in various tones of grey.

Blue and yellow, however, really stand out, and cats see those as real colours.

Smoky though, goes one better. He gets really excited and goes nutty when we present him with rainbow/neon colours. Wave a piece of cordage (specifically a length of 1mm or 2mm satin cord) and we believe it actually flashes in front of his eyes. Gets his attention like nothing else. Even some neon acrylic yarn we bought a little while ago doesn’t quite do the trick. It has to be shiny satincord.

Here he is playing with a few feet of satincord that I braided into a kind of mini rope. He loves to pounce on it and chew it as if it’s a mouse or something. Shana captured this shot of Smoky just after his breakfast this morning, shortly before I got up. As far as I knew, Smoky was a quiet well-behaved, even sedate little kitty.

But look here at how he has rolled his head backwards as if to see the world in new and interesting ways. Now I know he’s an absolute loony 🙂

See the little grey squeaky mouse to the right of that last picture though? He knows trouble is a-brewing. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to find him scuttling off to the nearest bolthole before the Neon Nutcase catches a glimpse of him Scary times….