“From the start I knew I wanted to make it amazing” 

Carpenter Simon Clissold talks about how he helped make Pause Cat Café a perfect kitty sanctuary.

When Simon first saw the café it was nothing but a “shell of bricks” and he knew it was going to be a mammoth job. As well as standard renovation, there was a lot of work to be done structurally, in order to meet the health and safety regulations around keeping animals in areas where food is served.

A former boat-builder and owner of Scallywags, a local floor restoration company, Simon has a passion for working with reclaimed wood. He got creative with leftover timber and always aimed to get the most out of his materials. He is most proud of the café’s fascia, which he crafted out of old floorboards. Rather than using expensive cedar wood – the original plan – the reclaimed wood cost him just £150.

Simon standing outside Pause Cat Cafe

He used a mixture of wood he had in stock, donated materials and old furniture. The cute little kitty doors were actually made from regular doors!

Little wooden cat door

Simon came highly recommended to Jaya and though he admits the work was very stressful at times, he says he thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very long days – up to 18 hours! –including one particularly memorable one.

“I ended up falling asleep at about 2 in the morning and didn’t wake up until people started coming in at 9am,” Simon laughs. “So I got up and pretended I’d just arrived as well!”

“I wanted the cats to be able to get around the whole café without having to touch the floor.”

Perhaps the café’s most striking feature is the incredible maze of bridges, walkways and stair cases for the cats to get around on.  A lot of thought went into their design and Simon wanted them to be neat and symmetrical. “I like the contrast of the disorder of the reclaimed wood and the order of the clean designs,” he explains. “The whole look is very organic; all the shelves support one another and it almost looks as if they are growing out of each other.”

The cat bridge The cafe interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon used a lot of wooden dowels as supports, which he bought for £1, and even got creative with a rolling pin, which he used to support the spiral staircase.

Rolling pin staircase support

A lot of work went into the back of house areas as well, including individual bedrooms for each of the cats.

Petrus' bedroom

The cat flap to each bedroom is activated by its cat’s own microchip.

While he admits he’s more of a dog person, Simon has grown to love the cats. “They all have very different personalities – that’s something I didn’t know about them at first.” He even very kindly named one of the cats, Petrus.

Petrus

“Petrus was the name of my grandmother’s dog, so I like that it has a family connection. I’ve named a boat Petrus as well.”

 “It satisfies my creative side.”

Simon’s passion project is carving beautiful end-grain chopping boards, which he plans to sell online very soon. He has a range of designs, his favourite being this Escher inspired “3D” chopping board.

Escher chopping board

He also carved and generously donated one to Pause, featuring a beautiful dark wood inlay of the café’s logo.

Pause Cat Cafe logo chopping board

He’s done such a fantastic job that I think we can forgive him for being a dog person!

You can find Simon’s work here – www.scallywagsfloors.co.uk – and buy his chopping boards here: www.geekmagnifique.co.uk/shop.

Before I start, I’d like to stress that I am in no way a finance expert and that entering into a financial agreement is a big decision that must be considered carefully. This post is purely to share the things I learned during the process and how I found the whole experience.

Choosing my car

I’d never bought a brand new car before, so I have to admit when I walked into Eden Vauxhall the first time, I was pretty excited.

I initially wanted a Vauxhall Corsa, for a few different reasons:

  • I’ve driven a few in the past (as hire cars) and I always found them comfortable and nice to drive
  • Friends of ours recently bought their car from Eden and had a really good experience
  • From the research I did I found that Vauxhall did some good 0% finance deals (more on that later)

In the end I went for a Vauxhall Adam Energised, which is smaller and a bit funkier than the Corsa.

Image of me with my new car

Me with Magnus!

Dave and I used to share one car, which worked fine when I walked or got the train to work. However, when I got my new job I realised I would need to drive, hence the need for a second car.

Our other car is quite big and where we’re moving to is a bit tight on parking, so it actually made sense to get a smaller car. I do sometimes miss having 5 doors, but on the whole I’m really happy with my new little car. It’s cheap to run, looks cute and gets me where I need to go – plus it has something called City Mode, which is AMAZING for parking in tight spaces.

Was it scary going car shopping?

Not at all! The staff at Eden were so friendly and I always felt very well taken care of. The showroom was spacious, modern and very comfortable, so while I had to do a wee bit of waiting around, I was able to do so on comfy sofas, with plenty of magazines and all the free coffee I could drink!

Jennie, the saleswoman that helped me, was lovely – very warm, helpful and professional, without being too pushy or sales-y.

She answered all my questions, talked me through the features and benefits of the car and took me on a test drive so I could get a feel for it.

Is car finance confusing?

It was a bit at first, but I made sure I did lots of research as I wanted to go in knowing what sort of deal I was looking for. I think this was a good idea as it helped me feel more prepared and sound like I knew roughly what I was talking about! Obviously you can ask questions and they’ll be more than happy to explain things, but it’s nice to have a basic understanding going in.

Can you explain a bit about car finance?

There are various different ways to finance your purchase, but the two main terms you’ll hear being thrown around are PCP and HP. Both are summed up very briefly below:

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

  • Flexible terms, low monthly payments (instalments only cover the partial cost of your car)
  • Low deposit required
  • At the end of your agreement you will need to pay a large chunk (or balloon payment) for the car to be yours
  • If you aren’t bothered about owning the car you can return it to the dealership or part exchange the car on a new finance agreement
  • Mileage restrictions apply, with penalties for exceeding them. You will also be penalised for damage to the car (beyond general wear and tear)
  • This type of finance is best suited to people who aren’t bothered about owning the car at the end. So, if you’re the type of person who likes swapping cars and having a brand-new one every few years, this could be a good option for you
  • You’ll hear the term ‘Guaranteed Future Value’ – more on this here

Hire Purchase (HP)

  • Once you’ve made your final payment you will own the car
  • Rather than smaller monthly payments followed by a large balloon payment at the end, your agreement will be made up of larger fixed monthly payments
  • You can vary the size of your deposit. The more you’re able to put down, the smaller your monthly payments will be

What about interest rates?

Interest (APR) rates vary and it is possible to find 0% interest deals, which is what I did. Quite simply this means my monthly payments are worked out as follows:

[Retail price of car + any extras (I’ll come to this later) – deposit] % by the number of months my contract runs for (48, in case you were wondering)

And that’s it, no interest is added on.

So…extras?

I added on floor mats (they weren’t included), GAP Insurance (I would recommend having this – more info here, and exterior paint and alloy protection. There were other options, such as upholstery protection, that I decided not to go for. Don’t worry – when you come to buy, the dealer will run through all your options and their benefits.

What next?

If you’re planning to buy a car and either don’t wish to purchase from a private seller or don’t have the funds to buy outright, you’ll want to start exploring finance options. The points I’ve mentioned here are very brief, but Creditplus* have a mine of information on the various types.

What I have learned though, is that buying a new car needn’t be scary or overwhelming. It’s a big purchase, but there is plenty of advice available to help you make the right choice. I’m really happy with my new car and had a great experience with the team at Eden.

I should say as well that I went for a brand new car because of the various perks that come with doing that, but finance is available on used and even classic cars, so your options aren’t limited!

*Disclaimer: Creditplus is my employer but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no additional financial incentive for writing this post.

 

I’d wanted to visit the Lush Spa for absolutely ages, so Dave very kindly treated me to a massage for my birthday. I love firm, deep-tissue massages, so he chose one for me called The Good Hour.

According to Lush’s website, 

“A firm pair of hands rings out tension in time to the music, stretching and straightening you on the tide. Sea shanties fill the air, low and haunting before a gentle crescendo, always tempered by the steady pressure of your therapist’s hands grounding your body.”

Sounded good to me!

When I arrived, my massage therapist, the lovely Jo, ran me through the different products she was going to be using and let me choose the scents I liked. She also let me pick a bath bomb which I dropped in a jug of water to create mood-setting mist – so cool!


The room looked amazing and I loved the nautical theme, though I must admit I was a little unsure about the idea of 70 minutes of sea shanties. I ended up loving the music though – so much so that I’m planning to get the CD for whenever I have a pamper night at home. It’s certainly more interesting than the standard spa music you’d usually expect. The massage complemented the music perfectly and Jo’s hands moved in time, adjusting the pressure to match the lulls and climaxes of the songs.

It was quite intensive and focused on specific areas of tension, which for me was my neck and shoulders. Jo worked out the knots by applying pressure with her fingers and holding them there, before releasing quickly. I’ll admit, this was slightly painful, but I could feel it having an effect almost straight away.

The whole massage was wonderful, it felt very rhythmic and suited the music perfectly. I felt like she really worked me, kneading out my knots and stretching my muscles. Afterwards I felt like I was in a trance, my limbs felt like jelly and every single muscle in my body felt relaxed. A blissful experience!

The verdict

If you’re a fan of deep-tissue massage and have areas of tension you’d like worked on, then this is quite possibly the treatment for you. I’ve had quite a few different massages but this was by far my favourite, in part because of the wonderful atmosphere of the Lush Spa. I loved the way the whole treatment was more of an experience designed to appeal to all the senses, and the nautical theme, with the mist and sea shanties, was so well done. With every other massage I’ve had in the past, as soon as it finished that was it, but at the Lush Spa I was led to a lovely lounge area afterwards for some refreshments, which I thought was a great touch. The theme carried over to this part too, with biscuits and tea spiked with a little drop of ‘ship’s rum’!

Very generously, I was also given a massage bar to take home. Jo was great, very knowledgeable and friendly, and from start to finish I felt extremely well looked after. Plus, it was nice to have the shop next door to browse afterwards.

Oh, and one last note – the spa had the NICEST bathroom I’ve ever used, filled with loads of lovely Lush products to use. What more could you want, right?

 

You need to buy a good carpet spray!

We learned very quickly when we got Marty that ‘litter-trained’ doesn’t mean you won’t find the occasional surprise in the corner! Make sure you have some good carpet spray designed for pet messes (we used this one) and keep an eye on your kitten. If they start scratching a corner of the carpet, quickly pick them up and put them in their litter box. Eventually the accidents will stop, don’t worry!

Lemons = magic

Cats hate the smell of lemon, so it’s a great, chemical-free way of discouraging them from chewing things they shouldn’t. Marty was obsessed with eating cables, so we used a cloth to wipe some diluted lemon juice on them. We also sprayed a little bit on the carpet where he was weeing and it seemed to put him off.

Kittens come with fleas

I didn’t know this before, but kittens very often have fleas. When you take your kitten for their first vet’s appointment they’ll be treated for fleas (it’s important not to buy flea treatment from a pet shop as very often these will be unsuitable for kittens), but you should also comb them regularly to keep an eye on the situation. There are treatments available for your home (Acclaim is very effective), but your vet will advise.

There are SO MANY TYPES OF CAT LITTER

For something that’s designed to be pooped on, there really is a surprising amount of choice, not to mention some ridiculously fancy options.

The two main types are clumping and non-clumping. I personally prefer clumping as it means as soon as the litter becomes wet it forms an easy to remove clump. There are all sorts of other types, including scented – I wouldn’t bother, it makes little difference – and even a natural one made from puffed corn that’s designed to be flushable. Side note, the corn litter smells weirdly delicious (not something you should be able to say about something that, again, is designed to be pooped on).

The best one we’ve found so far is Cat’s Best ÖkoPlus. Its consistency makes it super easy to scoop, plus it doesn’t turn into a sticky ball of clay. As well as cleaning the tray out regularly, you may want to grab a bottle of litter freshener because man, these little cuties can sure whip up one heck of a stink.

You will hoover A LOT

For some reason kittens like to fling litter EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it just gets stuck to their paws, but I swear when we’re not around, they do some sort of litter dance to summon their cat gods or something. Guys, I don’t know, but it’s such an unreasonable amount of litter that I have to believe they’re doing it deliberately. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you’ll find a tiny nugget of poop mixed in with your floor confetti. Cute.

Pet shops are awesome

I’m not ashamed to admit I love going to the pet shop. I spend ages looking at all the cute products and fancy foods, and I can never resist picking up a few treats for my little rapscallions. Also, the staff are a mine of knowledge so I know I can always ask for advice.

If you sign up for a Pets at Home VIP card you get some great discount vouchers, plus your mail comes addressed to you and your pet – so cute!

Getting a second cat is tricky but doable 

After we’d had Marty for a couple of months, we decided that we wanted to get him a little friend. We would come home from work and Marty would be bouncing off the walls. He’s such a friendly, loving kitten that we were fairly certain he’d appreciate having a friend to keep him company.

We did loads of research and asked a lot of people before we made the decision to welcome little Plum to the family. It was hard at first – they fought constantly and had to be kept separate for the first couple of weeks. We purposely got Plum while Marty was still very young, as the consensus seems to be that it’s the easiest way to make the transition as smooth as possible.

We knew cats are very territorial and that Marty would take a little time to adjust, but they were incapable of spending any time together without biting and hissing at each other. I was starting to worry we’d made a mistake. We followed the advice the vet gave us and introduced them to each other slowly. Eventually they got used to each other and now they are absolutely adorable together.

When Plum came back from the vet’s the other day, Marty ran straight over to make sure he was alright. He’s always washing him and they spend most of the day snuggling each other. In turn, Plum seems to copy Marty, looking to him when he’s figuring out how to do things. They really seem to love each other and it melts my heart.

You don’t need to spend loads on toys

Marty and Plum have a few toys, but more often than not they will choose to play with pen lids, tissue and um…cotton buds. They love this cute little bee though!

Neither of them are particularly fussed about their scratching post (£25 well spent!), though they do use it as a napping perch.

What they do love however, is cardboard scratch mats. We got a small one to see if they liked it and it was such a hit that I also picked up a bigger, fish-shaped one from Tiger for around £5 (we have affectionately named him Scratchy Fish Face). So, when it comes to something for scratching, save yourself a few quid and just grab one of these.

They’re a handful…

They climb on every surface, try to eat things off your plate and kill your plants, headphones and your Nintendo Wii (yes, really).

…but they are so worth it.

I mean, how can you not love them?

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve started a new chat for people who have experience with emetophobia. #ChatEmet takes place on Tuesdays at 7pm (GMT) and is a safe space for sufferers to share their story and discuss ‘Cure your Emetophobia and Thrive’ by Rob Kelly.

In the first chat we discussed our recent ‘wins’. A win is a breakthrough, no matter how small. It’s something you might have thought your emetophobia would never let you do. I would like to hear your wins – tell me what you’re proud of. Because you should feel ridiculously proud of yourself. Emetophobia is a terrible, debilitating phobia that had me starving myself and washing my hands until they cracked and bled. I want you to know that I understand and I’m so proud of you, even in those times when you think you’ve failed. Most importantly, I want you to know that you’re not alone. 

To get us started, here are some of my recent emetophobia wins. There will be a few OCD ones in there too, as for me the two issues overlap.

Eating chicken

Cooking chicken at home became a huge no-no for me and I would only eat it in restaurants on very rare occasions. I’m still a little bit nervous about eating it, but I’ve let friends cook it for me and am very partial to a cheeky Nando’s.

Washing my hands less

I still wash my hands more than the average bear but nowhere near to the extent I was before. Emetophobia Help was such a useful resource for me, especially for putting things into perspective when it came to norovirus.

Understanding the ways the virus can and can’t be transmitted, and that some of my safety behaviours were actually completely useless really helped me feel calmer. I quickly found it easier to ignore irrational thoughts.

Using the word ‘norovirus’

One of the strange things about emetophobia is how superstitious it can make you. Even though logically I knew it wasn’t possible, I had this strange belief that writing or saying the word norovirus would make me sick. I had little ‘knock on wood’ rituals and was very particular about the language I used when discussing anything to do with illness. Now though, when my brain tells me I’m being irrational, I listen to it. No more censoring myself!

I did the deed!

Yes, that’s right – I vomited. Three times in the last six months to be exact. And do you know what? I just got on with it. I stayed calm, cleaned up after myself and dealt with it how I think most people would. The first time it happened, that little bit of exposure helped me see that it’s actually not so bad, and gave me confidence in myself again. So when it happened again the next morning, I handled it just fine. SO. BLOODY. PROUD.