On Recent Events: Thinking Too Much (Can Lead To Not Blogging)

Hi there folks, a friend commented the other day that I’d been very quiet recently. Online, she meant. I guess, like many others, I’ve been suffering a bit from not knowing what to say about recent events in Paris and other parts of the world. Should I say anything? Do I have something to say that others haven’t already said? I came to the conclusion that the answer to that last question was no. But it seemed frivolous to be waffling on about writing stories and what my cats were up to and all that stuff, when such terrible things were going on. So I kind of stopped saying anything about anything.

And that’s exactly playing into the hands of the terrorists. Yes, in a very small way, and I’m only one little person – but I stopped doing what I normally do. I thought it seemed wrong to keep having fun – and to be talking about it. Well, SOD THAT!

Hubby and I have always said that we won’t be put off from travelling or doing things. Hell, we were all set to still visit Tunisia in August until the tour operators stopped going altogether. We stand by that. And I’ll keep posting about cats and dragons, because that’s what I do. Others have made tributes and statements far better than I could.

So, here is a contented cat to cheer us all up. I’m off to write something spooky or sexy or scary…or maybe all three, who knows? ;)

Love to my friends all over the world.

Karen xx

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

Frodo reminding me of the little but important things in life

Fallen (A Creepy Flash Fiction For Halloween)

I wrote this nasty little tale for The Sirens Call ezine, last December. The story had to feature Death (with or without the capital ‘D’). With a tiny tweak, here it is for All Hallows Eve. Enjoy (although I’m not sure that’s the right word)…


At first, he doesn’t believe he’s falling.

It’s only when the black-blue bruise of the sky is rushing away from him that he realises he’s gone over.

He grabs for something, anything, but she’d had more power than he thought possible. He can’t reach anything to stop his fall. How could something so small have such strength?

Forever and no time at all passes. The air is unforgiving as it gashes him with frozen knives. His body twists into shapes it has never made before; an echo of the pointless writhing and squirming she once did to escape. He tries to scream, like her, but his voice is pulled from him in a pathetic squeak. Fear savages his mind. The stars flash with laughter as they watch his final moments.

He evacuates all his waste as he hits the ground with a sickening thud. He doesn’t hear that, or smell the stench of his bodily fluids. He doesn’t feel the blood exiting the back of his head and pooling around his neck. But his mind is still working, in a body beyond repair. He wonders what happens next. Some primal part of him knows he is dead, or dying.

The sky changes from a bruise to a wound, as a red maw opens above him and regurgitates a nightmare.

Etiolated fingers reach for him, ragged lips stretch in a rictus of evil. The thing has his own features, warped into the face that truly lies beneath his own skin. He whimpers as it speaks.

“Come, Steve,” the creature whispers, “It’s just a bit of fun. Don’t tell Mummy, remember? This is our little game…”

His blackened soul yells and screams and begs, but his Death ignores him as it scoops him up and carries him towards the hideous rip in the night sky.

She still stands on the crag, little hands balled into fists at her waist. Smiling as she surveys his broken body below. Grinning at the creature that carries his soul to his ultimate fate. Her lips form words he can’t hear.

Death enlightens him, bringing its hideous mouth close to his ear. A putrid stench caresses his face, stinking of beer and chips and cigarettes. His own breath.

“She says, ‘Happy Halloween, Father’.”

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

What can I say about Istanbul? As the song goes, it is indeed a Turkish delight on a moonlit night. The word I would more likely use to describe it, however, is…mental. In the best possible way.

View from the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

View from the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Here are some facts about Istanbul, with help from turkeytravelcentre.com:

1. Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.

2. While being the ancient capital of many empires, from Rome to the Ottoman era, Istanbul is not the modern capital of Turkey – Ankara is.

3. Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.

4. Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets.

5. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with more than 13 million people. (Our tour guide thought the ‘unofficial’ figure was probably closer to 18 million.)

6. Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to the Netherlands.

7. The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3000 shops.

8. Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.

9. Istanbul is surrounded by sea, with the Bosphorus cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.

11. Istanbul was once renowned as the most crowded city in the world – in 1502!

Regarding that last fact: I would say Istanbul is the second most crowded city I’ve ever visited. That honour still goes to Cairo.

Hubby and I visited Istanbul on a very long, but very worthwhile, day trip as part of our recent holiday to Turkey. Here comes a photo blog of our adventures.

We flew from our resort to Istanbul, and landed on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The Old Town is on the European side, so first we had to get there. Here are a couple of views from the coach. Oh my goodness, the traffic!

Our first visit was to the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, due to the unusual blue tiles found inside. Built between 1609-16, it was considered sacrilegious at the time, as its 6 minarets were seen to be trying to rival Mecca.

You don’t see it from the photos, but the inside of the mosque was so crowded you could barely move. That was the case with many places in this crazy city, including our next stop, right across Sultanahmet Square: Topkapi Palace. This grand complex of buildings was the home of the Ottoman Sultans and the women of the Harem for 400 years.
(I’ve tried with various photos to show how busy everywhere was, but pictures don’t really convey the madness!)

Crossing Sultanahmet Square towards the Haghia Sophia. Sadly we didn't have time to go inside this magnificent building. (That's our tour guide's arm waving the '20' paddle about, trying to keep us together!)

Crossing Sultanahmet Square towards the Haghia Sophia. Sadly we didn’t have time to go inside this magnificent building. (That’s our tour guide’s arm waving the ’20’ paddle about, trying to keep us together!)

Here are some views from inside Topkapi Palace:

Oh yes, and we met the Palace Cat:

The Sultan's Cat disdains to look at the camera

The Sultan’s Cat disdains to look at the camera

After some lunch – and ice cream – at a café in Sultanahmet Square (where we met another cat), it was off to the river for a cruise on the Bosphorus. This gave us a great opportunity to take some pictures of both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. There are some amazing buildings – and lots of bridges.

Café Cat is a little shy

Café Cat is a little shy

The Old Town skyline towards the end of a busy day

The Old Town skyline towards the end of a busy day

Our final stop before a restoring seafood dinner was the Grand Bazaar. Originally the spice market, now you can buy anything: spices and tea are still on sale, but also ceramics, clothes, shoes, pet supplies…you name it. So many people crammed under covered walkways, haggling, buying or just staring. It was awesome. We bought ceramics: 2 pot stands, 4 coasters and a bowl. Handmade and handpainted. The cost? A grand total of £7.

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar

After dinner we caught the flight back to our resort, exhausted but happy. If you ever get a chance to visit this amazing city, do it. But be prepared for crowds. Oh, and the most annoying thing? Selfie sticks! I swear I’ve never seen so many. I won’t say what I’d have liked to do with them all… ;)


(All photos by Gordon and Karen Soutar)

The Ten(ish) Funniest Things My Cats Have Done

My blogger friend ‘Silly Mummy’ writes a fantastic regular post called ‘The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said’. Check out her blog at R is for Hoppit. Now everyone knows kids aren’t really my thing, but these posts actually do make me laugh out loud. I love The Toddler’s insights on everything from The Baby’s behaviour to Silly Mummy and Daddy’s foibles. Chatting on Twitter, Silly Mummy and I agreed that I should do a cat version. After all, I am Silly Cat Mummy (you can decide whether the Silly applies to me, the cats, or both). If my cats could speak, I’m sure they would be saying many entertaining things, but since I can’t translate random meows (although I often have a good idea), I’ve gone with things done rather than things said.

1. On baffling all humans, including the vet
Several years ago, Jet, our late lamented black fluffball, came in sneezing and pawing at his nose. Neither ourselves or the vet could find anything up there, and came to the conclusion that maybe something had irritated his nose but was now gone, leaving the irritation. It was only when home from the vet, that hubby spotted something during one of the sneezes. Something shot out of Jet cat’s nose, and then disappeared again. Next sneeze, quick-thinking hubby grabs the thing – a blade of grass! It had been lying flat in the cat’s nasal passage and that’s why nobody could see it. Only Jet could inhale a blade of grass, mad kitty. Needless to say the sneezes cleared up after that.

Jet looking for his next grass fix

Jet looking for his next grass fix

2. On faking it
On the subject of ‘illness’, Sam the bonkers Bengal fakes a limp if he’s not getting enough attention. It mysteriously disappears after he’s sat on someone’s knee, had a fuss, and a little snooze. Big phoney.

3. On the elegance of cats – not
Then there’s Arwen, Bengal number two, the most inaccurately named cat in the world. Arwen the elf – graceful and agile, right? Nope. This cat is the clumsiest little miss I’ve ever seen. She frequently jumps for the kitchen worktop, misses, and lands in her water dish. Splash! Cue the looking around that says ‘I meant to do that – ta da!’

4. On shouty meows
She also tells things off if they don’t do what she wants. A spider very ungratefully hid itself under a table leg when she was chasing it the other day. She sat there shouting at the spider for hours. I don’t know whether she was saying ‘Come out, I won’t hurt you!’ ‘Stop being such a spoilsport!’ Or ‘Can I have a moment to talk to you about the Word of Ceiling Cat?’ (See internet memes if you don’t know about Ceiling Cat.)

The washing basket needs to be shouted at. From the inside

The washing basket needs to be shouted at. From the inside

5. On thuggy behaviour
It’s no secret that Frodo, our British Shorthair cross, is a little on the chubby side. Sam is also big, although he’s all muscle. The two of them were driving me mad in the kitchen one day, and in a fit of pique I locked the cat flap with them on the outside. Big mistake. The two thugs just nutted it until the door caved in. Frodo then marched through wearing the broken pieces.

Frodo beating up the rug

Frodo beating up the rug

6. On toileting – where kitty b****y well pleases
Tilly, a little grey tabby also long gone but never forgotten, was also good at showing if she was displeased about something. One time, she peed in my trainers. My very expensive Nike trainers! It wasn’t funny at the time, but I suppose with hindsight…

7. On changing one’s hair fur colour
Jet was the poster boy for ‘curiosity killed the cat’ (although Arwen is trying to give him a run for his money). In our last house, we had floor boards up while doing some renovations. Of course, Jet disappeared underneath. We tried not to panic and sure enough, he eventually came out by himself. No longer black however, but greyish white – absolutely covered in cobwebs and ‘stoor’ (good Scottish word – look it up). I think he got shoved outside to take a bath in the rain. See number 5 for what probably happened next.

8. On base jumping, kitty-style
When we brought her to live in this house, Sooty, our current black fluffball, had not lived in a house with an upstairs before. I’m not sure whether she fell or jumped the first time, but I turned round one day to see her disappearing out of the first floor bedroom window. Aargh! Of course, being a cat, she landed just fine – and promptly came back upstairs and did it twice more. I think she just couldn’t believe she was so high up. Talk about trying to give her human a heart attack.

Sooty grumping on the ground floor window ledge because it's too low to base jump from

Sooty grumping on the ground floor window ledge because it’s too low to base jump from

I’m sure all cat (and other animal) mummies and daddies can relate to these, and add many more. Like toddlers and babies, we love ’em, though. Add your own funny stories in the comments if you wish – and happy parenting to all!

Inspiring Rooms, A Writers’ Circle, and the Open University Again

Hi people! Well, after my good intentions to get back to blogging after my holiday, I discovered that it’s very hard to concentrate when your house is a building site. But – the Great Kitchen Renovation is done! Complete! Finito! Thank f*** for that. (Pardon my French.) It looks fantastic, and together it and I have already produced a lavish Scottish-themed dinner for me, hubby, and two German friends who were visiting last week. You should see how much wine food I can fit in my new fridge!

Pic courtesy of blogyourwine.com

Pic courtesy of blogyourwine.com

The ground floor of the house is now resplendent in a colour scheme of reds and creams, although Frodo Cat is trying to add more cream by spreading his fur far and wide. Now that downstairs is back to normal, I have finally been able to tidy the office (which has had half the downstairs furniture in it up until now). This is in readiness for much writing, especially as I have taken on two new ‘things’, as follows:

A few weeks ago I attended my first meeting of the Falkirk Writers’ Circle. I enjoyed it very much and have been going weekly ever since. I received a lovely welcome in week 1, and said so at the end of the meeting. When I turned up for week 2, several members expressed delight, as apparently people often turn up for the first time, enthuse about how much they’ve enjoyed themselves, and then never return. I guess no-one wants to say, ‘Oh dear, I don’t think this is for me after all’, or whatever. Maybe it’s the prospect of reading their own work aloud? Who knows. Anyway, I loved it and I loved week 2, which was indeed a ‘Read Your Own Work’ week. Such a great variety of pieces! Poetry: rhyming, not rhyming, and written in Scots. Chapters of novels. Memoirs. Flash fiction. Short stories. I think I’m going to be in good company, and encouraged to write more and improve my writing, which is great. I’ve already been inspired by two guests, Janet Paisley and Alan Bissett, who spoke about poetry and prose respectively, and gave us writing exercises to do. The Circle has a packed programme of events, so whatever you write there’s something to interest you.

Pic courtesy of falkirkwriters.org.uk

Pic courtesy of falkirkwriters.org.uk

Aaand…I decided a few months ago to bite the bullet and go for my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University. Some of you may remember I did their Level 2 Creative Writing course last year, and that will count towards the degree. I have to fill in the gap, as it were, of Level 1 courses this year and next. So this week I start a course on The Arts Past and Present, which has literature, but also painting, sculpture, film…I think it will be interesting, and hopefully my studies last year will stand me in good stead, as I already know how the OU website works, how to submit work, and how to take part in online tutorials and chats. Now that my preferred writing and study space is sorted, I’m raring to go!

Of course, there is a tiny spanner in the works: the OU tutorials are on the same evening as the Writers’ Circle! Aargh! They’re not every week though, so I’ll attend the first one, introduce myself, meet my tutor…and then see how many I actually go to. If the Writers’ Circle is doing something particularly good that night, I think they’ll win. ;)

This might be me soon...

This might be me soon…

Phew! That’s all my news, I think. Feel free to bombard me with yours in the comments. I’m bound to have missed some things over the last few weeks.

(Oh, and don’t think you’ve escaped my Istanbul photos. They, and a blog post, will be on their way soon… :D )

9/11, and my visit to the World Trade Center Memorial

This post was originally published on 11th September 2013, after I had visited New York, and the Memorial, for the first time.
For those who’ve joined me since then, here it is again, in remembrance of those who died.


Today arrived, and a post that I’d been thinking about for a while more or less demanded to be written.

On my recent visit to New York, hubby and I went to the World Trade Center Memorial. I have a confession to make here. It wasn’t on my ‘to-do’ list. I don’t mean that I DIDN’T want to visit; it was just that hubby was far more keen than I was. So off we went.

I’m glad we did. It was one of the most moving places I’ve ever been to. It was also a strange experience. Let me try to explain why.

The Memorial is right in the midst of what is still a construction site. Cranes rise all around, the surrounding streets are dusty, there are hoardings everyhere. It’s a veritable maze to get to the entrance. Mad New York traffic passes by on all sides. But…once you are in there, it seems silent. Visitors are speaking quietly. The waterfalls that have been created in the footprints of the old towers roar a little, but not enough to drown out NYC, surely? And yet – it is wonderfully peaceful. No outside noise seems to get in.

In the footprint of each tower sits a waterfall and reflecting pool. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and the waterfalls that cascade into them are the largest manmade ones in North America. We walked right round both pools, where the names of everyone who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are carved into bronze panels. Memorial Plaza itself is covered with beautiful swamp white oak trees. And rising majestically beside all this: the new towers. One World Trade Center, once it’s 408-foot-tall spire is complete, will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

(If you want to know more about the Memorial, click here).

I said moving, yet strange. I couldn’t imagine, as I stood there, what it must have been like that day, or afterwards. I didn’t know anyone who died in the attacks, or in London in 2005, or Boston this year. This is not a comment piece on the state of the world, the rights and wrongs of the West’s relationship with the Middle East, or anything like that. I just wanted to describe my visit, and how it made me feel.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a lump in my throat, for the huge loss of life. I also felt proud to belong to a people who could pull together in the aftermath: to rescue people, rebuild lives, and build something new – in every sense. Why is it that humankind can do such terrible things, and yet have the courage and compassion people showed that day, and every day? I guess if someone had the answer to that, these things would no longer happen.

As I craned my neck to gaze up at the new towers, they seemed like a defiant phoenix rising from the ashes. You achieved nothing, they seemed to say. Except for stupid, senseless loss of life. We are still here. We remember our dead. We build something more beautiful where destruction was.

The 9/11 Memorial is one of the most inspiring places I’ve been to.

This post is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives in terror attacks around the world.


The Sirens Call – Issue #22 – Supernatural Horror

I’m a busy bee just now! I’m so pleased to feature in the fantastic FREE ezine The Sirens Call this month. Check out my twisted tale on page 4, along with lots of other great horror stories, features and artwork.

(For my short story, I had another little play with a local legend, but in a more sinister and gruesome way…)

The Witches Craig, pic by Karen Soutar