The Strangeness of Kindness – remembering how to be human

I’ve spoken before about my need for reindoctrination into the concept of people being ‘nice’ after living in London for so long, but I thought I’d share a story to illustrate how severely afflicted I was. This was a couple of weeks after moving to Edinburgh and I still wasn’t used to the whole idea of good customer service. Or any kind of customer service. Actually it was all rather weird.

My kitten had been driving me nuts for days, so, determined to sort her the hell out, and despite the fact it was called Simply Dogs, I walked to the pet store half a block from my house. I didn’t know for sure, but I was fairly confident Simply Dogs wasn’t a literal interpretation of their services, just like the launch of Virgin Airlines years ago didn’t convince me I’d be ineligible to fly with them.

I had a quick look at the window displays and yes, there we go, cat toys. I pushed the white, wooden door open with some effort and stepped in. Although only about as big as your average famous person’s walk in closet, Simply Dogs was crammed full of what was quite possibly every single animal product available to mankind. Precariously stacked shelves of name tags, leashes and fetch toys reached the ceiling. Cat and dog baskets, bicycle carriers, litter, dry food, wet food, fish food, bird food, automatic laser beams, dog hurdles and curious things called Wiggly Giggly and Kong Wobblers filled almost every bit of floor space. These too were arranged just as alarmingly as the shelves.

I stood there, stuck staring in amazement, before being startled by a small “hello…”

Turning my head to the right I was surprised to see a lady seated behind a small glass counter. She was crouched so low, for all I knew she might have been sitting on the floor.

“Oh. Hello.” I replied, feeling giant-like as I looked down at the top of her head.

She smiled widely and stood up. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

She had soft blue eyes and a kind, round face, but her hair was a most unusual pale yellow, so much like creamed butter that I felt a sudden urge to lick a cake bowl. She wore a grubby, blue windcheater with the name “Pedigree” embroidered on it and her plump hands were clasped together, resting on her belly as she spoke.

“Well, my kitten has developed a new routine where she claws the sides of my bed at 3am every morning. Have you got a scratching post? But not those stand up, ugly carpet ones? Are there any other kinds?” I asked hopefully.


I know what you’re thinking – how could anyone possibly ever have a problem with something this cute and fluffy? Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, you’ve obviosuly never had one.

Her eyebrows lifted toward her buttery fringe. “Oh aye,” she said, coming round from behind the counter and negotiating two display racks in the middle of the store. She squeezed in front of me, her right foot kicking a bottom shelf as she passed. A pyramid of Sheba Chicken Liver spilled to the floor.

“Oh.” she said, absentmindedly looking back to see what she’d knocked over, but making no move to pick them up. “I’ve got a wee something back here, the last one I think.”

Balancing one hand on a box of disposable puppy nappies, she reached behind a row of super-size Royal Canin dog food bags and presented me with what looked like a skateboard made of porous cardboard.  ”There we are,” she said, pleased.

As she handed it to me, I noticed a small, plastic bag of suspicious looking herbs taped to it.

“It comes with Catnip. You sprinkle it all over it. Cats love it.” she explained.

“Ah,” I said, moving the packet toward me for a closer look, somehow managing to stop the urge to sniff. Continue reading


Thinking is a lot more effective when you actually use a brain.

When I was thinking about how to get all our “stuff” from London to Edinburgh, I thought with my wallet, not my head. Or my arms or legs or my seriously neglected cardiovascular system. Moving company? Way too expensive. Man with a van? Well he might be a lot cheaper, but it’s not like he could magic his way back to London. He’d probably charge us for a night’s sleep and for his time schlepping all the way back too, wouldn’t he?

Fuck it, I’ll drive us, I proclaimed – me, the girl, the cat, the kitten and a van full of all the ‘stuff’ one seems doomed to amass by staying still for more than a few weeks, like dust on the top of the fridge that you never realise is there until the day you move, or a really tall (and rude) person comes to visit and points it out. I came to London with one large suitcase -albeit bursting at the seems – a few years later and I had to ask for the biggest rental van I could get to accommodate all the accumulated ‘stuff’. 

We took the west route, past Birmingham and Manchester and the Lake District, because I read on some crappy forum the east route merges into one lane after Newcastle, and I imagined all sorts of holdups as a consequence. The west route – so says Google Maps – is only about 10 miles longer, something like 414 miles or 7.5 hours’ drive. And not that it should matter, but much more scenic, according to the authoritative voice of  FatherFatFingers88 from the forum.

I’d arranged temporary accommodation for us and space in a storage facility for the portion of the stuff we wouldn’t need until we’d found a permanent place. I figured it would be best to go to the storage place the same day to unload the van so I could return it the next morning and only be charged one day’s rental.

Thinking with my wallet again.

The day of the move we were up with the birdies. We needed time to pick up the van (sure to take ages courtesy of London traffic and car rental rigmarole), pack it, do a last once over clean of the flat, plead with the passing policemen to let me keep the beast of a van parked on the footpath and bribe the builders next door with some beer to help us poor, weak females with the heavy stuff. This had to be done by 11am, when the inventory clerk was due. She was coming to make sure we hadn’t left holes in the walls or dead bodies under the floor boards. Continue reading