The bottom line

The TP shortage continues unabated.

I’m down to 13 rolls. Small ones. This is not a scary number if you know that next week you can go and buy your usual 24-pack. But I can’t. I’m also not prepared to stand in a queue of potentially lethal bogans on the offchance of snaffling a single twin-pack. There is another way.

(In the interests of full disclosure, these links are unaffiliated and I don’t get anything for posting them. I’m just showing you what I’ve been looking at.)

I can’t afford to install a fabulous all-singing, all-dancing bidet toilet. The Husband secretly lusts after one, with multiple programs and sensors, adjustable water temperature, a variety of spray intensities, warm-air drying and a heated seat. For a couple of hundred, you can buy a bidet attachment to retrofit to your toilet. But it doesn’t heat the water or dry you after. I can afford a shattaf hand spray which can be installed by a reasonably competent DIYer. Which I am. That’s what I’m after, ideally. The Husband, tropical-climate princess that he is, feels that the cold-water-only spray may be a bit chilly in the winter. Or what they call winter here in the tropics, which is a balmy spring day to the rest of us. So we’ve agreed to try an intermediate stage before we agree on a long-term solution.

I’ve ordered a ‘portable bidet‘ from Squeezy bottle, long stem with right-angled spray head on the end. There’s an amazing selection of these devices out there, so I read all the user reviews and picked the one that gave the strongest spray for the smallest size. Sadly, the vast majority of these items are now out of stock, as it seems the toilet tissue issue has bitten deep. Got in just in time!

To accompany this device, I have made a selection of dry-off cloths and a pump bottle of lavender water. Do your business, spray with water till clean, dampen cloth with lavender water (still a work in progress), and wipe. There should be nothing visible to worry about. If there is, you haven’t sprayed enough. I’ve seen a YouTube video demonstrating these things in action and she was able to dislodge a large lump of very sticky peanut butter from an apple. Very tastefully done, but enough to show it worked. I’ve seen another, demonstrating another device, using Nutella and the top of a clenched fist. Much less tasteful, especially when he licked off the Nutella afterwards…. The device is effective but initially a little challenging to use if you’re new to the concept. The used cloth goes into a lidded container. No, it’s not smelly, except if you count lavender water. It’s just water, remember?  You could get in there with soap if there’s a lot of clean up to do.

For small jobs, my cloths are 6 inches square and made of flannel with serged edges. For the bigger jobs, I halved old face washers and serged the raw edges. These are 12 x 6 inches. I have a spray pump bottle filled with water and about 5 drops of lavender oil. I’m looking at adding some glycerine, aloe vera gel, etc, to see if that increases long term bum-comfort.

While I wait for the portable bidet to arrive (mid-April, eek!), I’ve had to resort to a temporary solution. Voilà. The bottle formerly known as Toilet Duck or other local variation, henceforth to be known as Bottom Buddy. Wash it out well. Fill it fresh for each use – unsurprisingly, the Husband likes warm water, the great big girl’s blouse. It works surprisingly well. Scoot forward on the seat and lean forward for rear cleansing and aim the nozzle at the, er, bullseye… In other words, hold the bottle as you would for toilet cleaning, but pointing at yourself. For front cleansing, scoot back and lean backwards. Simples, peoples… Squeeze, gently at first and then to the pressure that works for you. Release and repeat. Use all the water. Take a cloth, give it a couple of squirts of lavender water. Wipe and dry. Put the cloth in a lidded container till it’s time to launder them.

I repeat, this is not stinky or chunky. There are no Klingons,  dags or dingleberries. However, wash the cloths hot, as you would with terrycloth nappies/diapers. This is no grosser than pullng your underwear back over a bottom that hasn’t been washed at all after doing your business. Hot water and soap takes care of it all. If it works in the shower when you wash yourself, it’ll work in the washing machine.

If you can, wash the bottle and nozzle after use. It shouldn’t touch the body, but a little back spray is possible.

I know how much damage ‘foreign materials’ flushed away can do. I’m not ever going there. To one raised on the paper scrub-clean, this takes a little getting used to. To most of the Asian world, it’s normal. If you’ve been using a ‘wet wipe’ after anyway, as I have for years, it’s not so weird. The big downside about this? Forgetting what you’re doing and dropping the cloth in the toilet. Yup, you’ll have to get in there after it. So don’t forget.

I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, I’m really pleased with the result, but I think the purpose made bottle will be a bit more user friendly than the Bottom Buddy. I may also need to make more cloths, or change the spray formulation. This is simple, cheap, and easy, and you know what?  It feels good!

I’m also working on a small travel-sized kit with a small squeezy bottle you can fill from a tap, a small spray pump of lavender water and a couple of cloths, in a zippered waterproof bag .

And yes, visitors will remain untraumatised. I’ve kept my remaining TP rolls for them.

Neither snow nor rain…

‘…Nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’

This sentence is the creed of the mail carriers of the United States Postal Service. These days, I feel they should add ‘Nor heavy traffic, crazed Uber drivers, nor COVID-19 social distancing…’

This beautiful card was made for me by the lovely and generous Alys, who specially chose teal stamps because she knows my affinity for teal and that it’s the signature colour of Ovarian Cancer and the quilts a team of us makes to raise funds for the cause. I particularly love that she’s included a vintage stamp in teal from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) which was originally in her own father’s stamp collection.

Also, don’t you love how she’s made use of the trimmed-off edge of the heart on the front to make a frame for her sweet message inside?

So, having carefully and beautifully crafted it, she has entrusted it to the stalwarts of the USPS and their unstoppable motto. They in turn have passed it to our own considerably more laid back and, um, idiosyncratic mail carriers, and the other day, I had a call from our tenant to say it had arrived at our old home, and would I like him to bring it round. So there was even a third mail carrier involved!

We don’t write letters much any more, and the mailmen, or ‘posties’ as they’re called here, generally bring officialdom and financial depletion to our doors. I think that may change. As we become more and more isolated and fearful, and as we lose acquaintances, friends and loved ones, will we not feel the need to reach out to others in some more tangible fashion than a phone call, SMS, Skype or email? So, write. Write to business associates, acquaintances, friends, relatives and close family. Write to the paper (“Disgusted of Burpengary’, ‘Outraged of Wonglepong’). Write to the ones who mean something to you, or who can’t get home to you.

Of course, there’s a small fear some virus may have set up housekeeping on the letter despite its time languishing in trucks, planes, sorting offices and mail bags, away from sources of infection. So, before you write it, wash your hands. Don’t cough over it, don’t lick the glue on the envelope or the stamp. At the other end of its journey, if you’re super concerned about infection, wait 5 days before you open it (if you can), and wash your hands after you read it. Ideally, don’t cover it with kisses or blotch it with tears. Both will guarantee a hotbed of germy goodness…

But after all that, you’ll have a beautiful, tangible and poignant reminder of love, friends and family in the time of COVID-19.



On being a decent human

it’s getting a bit scary out there, isn’t it?

Food shortages are beginning to bite, never mind the toilet paper crisis. Those who aren’t hitting the supermarkets and loading their trolleys/carts with enough food to feed a family of 6 for a month are beginning to find it hard to find the basics. Even the raw materials like flour and sugar are getting scarce. It’s looking a lot like survival of the entitled. Personally, I haven’t bought toilet paper since my last 24 pack, which is how I normally buy it. That was before COVID-19 was even a thing. I’m using less these days, and I have a plan for when I finally run out, even if things haven’t returned to normal on the tp shelf-stocking front. I may even end up sticking with it when tp is freely available again, it’s a much more ecologically-friendly solution.

We only have to look at Italy to see how bad it can get, and how quickly. First, people think it’s just another flu-like virus, nothing much to worry about. Then there are the poor Chinese, whose government pretended nothing was going on, followed by a few unlucky cases who caught it in China, came home, and gave it to others. And so on. It’s all a little unreal, something that happens to someone else. Most of us still don’t know anyone who knows someone who’s got it or is even self-isolating. But slowly, that’s beginning to change. There’s an uneasy note in the news bulletins now, people are beginning to avoid touching and then meeting each other, others are working from home…

But what is worrying me more than a little is how the vulnerable are coping. Who is taking supplies to their elderly neighbour? To their daughter’s friend’s mother on chemotherapy, their work colleague recovering from a heart attack, the slightly scary schizophrenic guy on the corner? And by vulnerable, I don’t just mean the elderly, immuno-compromised and alone. I also mean those on whom we rely, and who in turn rely on others to make doing their jobs possible. Who will look after the out-of school-children of the doctors, nurses, and researchers, the first responders, the teachers, the supermarket workers; who is buying groceries for them? Who is supporting the power, phone and fuel workers?

This is probably one of the few times I wish I was a social-media-savvy ‘influencer’. Some of the things I’d talk about:

  • I wish I could encourage people to be kinder, less selfish, more altruistic. Seriously, what are you going to do with that mountain of 300 toilet rolls? Just give some away…
  • I’d happily accept a proper government-implemented rationing system if it meant everyone got their fair share and we saw an end to those hideous fight scenes in our supermarkets. Don’t tell me we’re not at war and rationing is an over-reaction. You just have to watch TV to see that fair shares are badly needed.
  • If the crisis becomes truly huge, I’d like to see the start of a volunteer organisation of the successfully-recovered and now immune, the Antibody Positive, the A+, to help those who are sick or self-isolating or even not yet affected.
  • I’d like to see people fined savagely for spreading disinformation or scaremongering or endangering others by refusing to self-isolate, for sneezing and coughing rudely and dangerously over other people, and for COVID-19-related abuse of anyone of a remotely Asian appearance.
  • I’d like our leaders to show some backbone and make necessary but unpopular decisions for the sake of our future health and economy, rather than leaving it to the discretion of individuals and organisations. I’d like them to acknowledge that this crisis is here for the long term, that it’s real, and I’d like them to stop patting me on the head and telling me all will be well, they have things under control. Because they don’t.
  • I’d like to start a national ‘Visit your elderly relative’ movement. Don’t leave it too long; if they’re in a care home of some sort, all it takes is one unwitting infectious case to be introduced, and the residents would scarcely stand a chance. Many homes are already considering a total lock-down, excluding even immediate relatives who are displaying no symptoms. I’ve just had a FaceTime conversation with my own 97 year-old father in his nursing home in the UK. My brother takes his iPad when he visits Pa, so we can talk face to face, as it were. That may not go on much longer, and I’m acutely aware that each conversation may be the last one. Make your visits count. Tell them you love them, ask if they need anything. Don’t forever regret that you didn’t bother.
  • If you have children, talk to them. Give them real information, not facile reassurances. There’s no need to frighten them, but they’ll need some sort of proper explanation for why everything is changing, why their parents aren’t going out to work and why they aren’t going to school, why people are wearing masks and public places are emptying out. They need to know people can get very sick… and even die. They need to know you’re being careful, and responsible, and kind to others. Don’t promise them what you cannot guarantee to deliver.

Let’s all be humane humans. We are better than the doom-sayers, the gossip and scare-mongers, the grocery-grabbers and profiteers, the irrational abusers and the ones who post cheap cracks about someone they don’t like deserving COVID-19.

This world may be a slightly emptier place when it’s all over. But wouldn’t it be good if those of us who are still here when it’s over were also a bit kinder, more rational, more generous and less profit-driven?



ScrapHappy March: Progress again

Welcome once again to ScrapHappy Day!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

This month, it’s all about hexies. I took Days Gone By, my Days for Girls scrappy hexie quilt away with me, and it saw a lot of action! Here’s last time….

And here’s now!

The loose pieces from last time have been sewn in, extras added and a whole new double row at the bottom. I’m very pleased with this now. (Please excuse the photography; I took the shot on holiday, and as it was raining, I took the photo of the piece on my caravan bunk, standing on the ice box/cooler to get enough height). A lot of quiet holiday sewing time has paid off; it’s now almost as large as the piece that was lost. Not only that, but I’ve removed all the papers except those around the outside, so it’s now a lot nicer and softer to work with.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). We also have a new member: welcome, Kjerstin 🙂 If you’ve copied this list from previous posts, please use the one below as it’s the most up to date.

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline, Sue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

I only got back from our trip yesterday, so I’ll have to see what I can do for next time!

The Travels of Mouse, Part 9

I think this is going to be my last post. 

We’re one day from home now, and it’s a long and not very exciting trip, according to Dad, who drives a lot of it every day for work. There have, however, been a few interesting things to report and Mum has been fiddling with her phone camera almost non-stop. OK, I exaggerate somewhat…

Yesterday, we went from St George (bye bye, Uncle Jim) to Roma, where we had a not very fun stay in a not very good caravan park. Mum is going to name names on Tripadvisor, which she says she doesn’t normally do, but we wuz robbed, and all that. I won’t steal her creative thunder, but I think she’s right.

There was a colourful old Shire Hall in Surat, on the road to Roma, worth a photo, but most of the journey was rather uneventful, being the shortest leg of the journey.

We did, however, have one rather exciting moment before coming into Roma when we had to drive through a flooded creek. it looked worse than it was; a wide brown expanse of flowing water. All 22cm/9 inches deep of it… We took it steady and all came through with dry paws. That Dad is a good driver.

On our route today, there was lots of clickety-clicking of the phone camera, and visits to a couple of alternative caravan park options between Roma and Emerald. One of them, at Rolleston, was very pretty, and the people were kind and smelt nice and the grass was green, and the man knew the correct technique for tickling under my chin, so I told the Staff this was the one we’d stay at next time.

After that, we crossed the Carnarvon Range. I was asleep for a lot of it, but Mum took endless photos. She didn’t get any really good ones because we didn’t get close enough, and the road was bumpy, but she says the link will give you a very good idea what it’s like. Here’s one of the start of it…

…one looking back at the central basin of the National Park surrounded by rocky walls, from Staircase Range Lookout…

plus one of an interesting commemorative plaque (click on it to enlarge). Glad I wasn’t travelling in that car…

Also, on principle I turn up my nose at the Carnavon Gorge. It’s a National Park and therefore doggos are not welcome. I ask you… However, protection of sensitive and endangered native species, and all that, so I suppose I should be understanding.

The last one is of Mount Zamia, just outside Springsure, and that upright section is called the Virgin rock because viewed from the right angle it slightly (in my opinion) resembles the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus. Mum said she could just about see the reason for the name, but it was a stretch unless you were very devout and inclined to see sacred images in unlikely places. If you want to read more about it, this is a very good article with great pictures.

Today was a good drive. Not too far, and we’ve arrived at Lake Maraboon Holiday Village on the Fairbairn Dam, just outside Emerald. There are plenty of dogs here but most of them are rather rude and barky so I am staying aloof and ignoring them. It would be a lovely place for a family, as you can hire boats and kayaks, and pedal-karts, and there’s a pony club, swimming pool, restaurant and bar, and the facilities are all really nice and well-kept.

I think the Staff may be getting a bit weary as they seem to fall asleep earlier each night. I’m getting dog tired myself (did you see what I did there?). I must say, it will be nice to get back to my own house and my own bed, and meals served in the proper place and my own back yard to zoom in. Dad says it has rained a lot while we were away, so everything will be green and smell good, but I expect he’ll attack everything with that smelly lawnmower. Mum says she has unpacking the caravan and cleaning it, and doing the laundry to look forward to. I don’t know, you just can’t get the staff… What’s a little domestic servitude against the honour and delight of serving Me?

Just off to sharpen my claws – aka running spikes – in readiness for tomorrow evening’s zoomies on my own turf!


The Travels of Mouse, Part 8

Well, here we are in St George.

It was a short and fairly boring trip here. It was raining when we left Glen Innes (no surprise there, then) and there was a slight risk of encountering a flooded road outside Moree, but Dad decided to proceed; the car is tall and 4WD and Miz Lizzie is even taller and her subframe is built for off-road. I told Dad to forget any idea of me getting out to lend a hand if we got stuck in water, though, and I think I made my point….

In the never ending quest for the Perfect Pie, Mum got Dad to stop at Annie’s Bakery in Moree, which was modestly signed ‘Bloody Good Pies’. Mum said hers was “up there”, but Dad wasn’t so impressed because he didn’t get the flavour he asked for. He couldn’t fault the flavour of the Wrong Pie, though. They also got enormous bulgy sandwiches for lunch, which the Staff later ate almost as quickly as I deal with my own dinner… Definitely one to remember, apparently.

And then it was miles and miles and miles of almost nothing. I did a lot of snoozing. Finally, the Staff made a racket as we crossed the border at Mungindi, back into Queensland, and Dad ceremoniously reset the car clock back to Proper Time. Mum cheered; she’d been keeping her watch set to Qld time so I could be fed at the time my tummy said was Mouse Dinner Time, and it made things a bit complicated when making arrangements in NSW…

One final stop before we arrived was a photo-visit to the painted silos at Thallon. Mum took some nice photos, but strangely ignored my advice about lighting and angles. She actually called my directions ‘photo-bombing’! The ingratitude! The misunderstanding of my creative input! I was forced to sulk maintain a dignified silence until we reached St George in mid-afternoon.

I was introduced to our hosts’ companions: It the cat and Ruffy George the red cattle dog (rather elderly and lame). The cat and I have an understanding; we will ignore each other in a dignified fashion. But old Ruffy follows me around everywhere, incessantly poking his nose into my privates, which is disconcerting, and while the attention is flattering, a chap wants a bit of peace and quiet to snooze without the sudden arrival of a cold wet nose to startle one unpleasantly awake. Dad and Uncle Jim have had a really good time reminiscing about Dad’s time in St George, 30 years ago when he and Uncle Jim were just pups. Mum has been listening peacefully, doing fabricky stuff with bits of paper and sharp pointy things in her paws, and says to tell you that you’ll see the results in 4 days or so. She also cleaned up the caravan, did the laundry, baked banana muffins (without giving me one – an outrage!) and prepared meals for me for the next few days. She says it’s been a nice rest, but that didn’t sound too restful to me; I insist on absolute inactivities during my snoozes…

Today we took a drive around Dad’s old haunts in St George, and he showed us a few places he’s lived, the golf course, and the bridge over the Balonne. That’s a river, which has been dry for years. Actually, six months ago, they got a grader and bashed flat a cricket pitch in the river bed and held a game there. You wouldn’t believe it now; since the rains, it’s filled bank to bank with brown, surging water, and they’re actually releasing some from the weir.

There’s a small park beside the bridge, and they’ve put up a sculpture of a Murray River Cod, made of all sorts of tools and bits of hardware. It’s very clever, if you like sculpture. They wouldn’t let me pee on it. Mum took a second, closer shot in which you can see the tail of the Cod, and behind it, water spilling out of the weir with some force. Hence the need to pee, you understand…

We’re here for another night, and then tomorrow we have a short journey of only 200km or so to Roma, our next stop. We don’t need to check out of anywhere or set off very early, so the Staff have arranged to pack up in the morning and I won’t have to spend an hour in the car waiting for everything to be put away. Hopefully Ruffy will be tied up for a while so I can leave with my dignity intact…

More from Roma.


The Travels of Mouse, Part 7

It’s cold and it’s wet and it’s an Outrage!

But the Staff didn’t do anything about it, so I sulked a bit. It rained hard just before we left, and Mum and Dad were both complaining in the car about sitting in wet clothes. I had done the sensible thing and supervised the packing up from inside the car…. They went to get hot coffee and hot chocolate from the service station, and then we set off.

We climbed the first 800m up to Dorrigo Mountain Top, up the Waterfall way and through the rainforest. I leave you to imagine whether even more water was involved in that particular drive… Apparently (although you could have fooled me) it’s very beautiful, world heritage-listed rainforest, blah blah. Mum says there are lots of walking trails, spectacular waterfalls (that W word again), incredible views, a viewing platform and a very nice café. I automatically don’t care for it because dogs aren’t allowed there for fear of disturbing the native species… Fair enough, I suppose, but who could object to Me?

After that we headed across the Dorrigo plateau via Ebor and Guyra, onto the New England Tableland. These are areas where the recent dreadful fires have created huge swathes of devastation in national parkland. Mum pointed out that nearly every single blackened tree trunk was sprouting new green growth. I must say, it looked rather strange, as though the black trunks were wearing frilly pale green tutus all the way up, instead of the leaves being at the top, like sensible trees. Mum managed a photo of some silver gums, which have pale blue green new growth (‘glaucous’, Mum says. Show off…).

We have arrived in Glen Innes, in ‘Celtic Country’. The caravan park offers ‘fossicking’, where people mess around with sieves of gravel in tanks of freezing cold, yes, you guessed it, water, trying to find coloured quartzes and sapphires. Mum talked to a couple of them while she was walking me. Loonies, of course, but they were having fun. Mum found a pink quartz for the lady in her sieve of gravel… By the way, I don’t want to create the impression that I’m a water-funk. I like water, to drink, to paddle in, to have sprayed over me in hot weather. But it needs to be hot weather to enjoy it, and this is distinctly dismal and the water is freezing cold besides. I’m a Tropical greyhound, and I don’t do cold and wet.

We’re only here in this freezing cold (14°C/57°F) place for one night, thank goodness, and then it’s off to Uncle Jim’s for a bit more civilised Queensland warmth. Oh, and the cat… I’m looking forward to that visit, because I get my own bed in the guest room. I expect there will be a lot of Staff chatter, because they haven’t seen Uncle Jim and Aunty Shelley since Mum and Dad got married 7 years ago. Before my time….  We’re there for 2 nights, and then off again.

Oh, and while I think of it, Mum and Dad are taking me to Townsville the weekend after we get back. We’re staying in a special cabin for dogs and their owners, and on Saturday morning (21st March), we’re participating in the Greyt Greyhound Walk. This is to promote the work of GAP Queensland in rehoming retired racing greyhounds, and I am proud to be associated with the organisation and my fellow retirees. Mums and Dads and furry greyhound siblings are also welcome, as are those interested in adopting. Mum is going to ensure I look fabulous and shiny, and there will be an absolute pack of us there so I’ll be able to socialise and sniff like mad and compare notes on Staff, treats, diet, treats, grooming, treats, accommodation, treats, etc.

I’m really looking forward to it!