War and peace with Daisy

While kittens usually enjoy playing together, many adult cats shun the company of their own kind. Our Daisy, now aged about 13, does not like other cats at all. Although Felix was already well established in our household before Daisy arrived, she always resented his presence, and the two of them never became friends during all the years they lived together. Daisy prefers having contact with humans. She also enjoys lying on her back in the sun.



When I adopted Magic as a tiny rescue kitten, I had vague hopes that Daisy’s maternal instincts would be revived – after all, when Daisy first came to us, she had three tiny kittens of her own and was a most devoted mother. However, I was prepared for the likelihood that she would not welcome a new arrival, and this proved to be the case. I carefully followed the advice from SPCA Auckland about introducing a new cat – but with limited success. For several months, Daisy growled and spit whenever she saw Magic, and sometimes hit out in attack though never seriously hurt her. Daisy was equally hostile to Leo when he joined our household. This hostility continued as the kittens grew bigger. Fortunately neither of them seemed to mind it very much.

Last month I went to England on holiday (and took in a Thames cruise in aid of International Cat Care). All our three cats went into a boarding establishment while I was away – Magic and Leo were in shared accommodation but I invested in a private unit for Daisy. When I came to pick them up, the staff commented that Daisy had been an absolute delight. She had obviously relished the time in her own space with a view over the fields. And since they came back home, relations have been much more cordial. All three will now eat side by side, and even choose to sleep on (or in) the same bed.

Update January 2017

Daisy and Leo are now the best of friends as you can see.




The portrayal of illness in fiction

I spent most of my working life as a doctor, so it is not surprising that medical topics often find their way into my fiction writing. Looking back at my completed novels I recognise the themes which have arisen, sometimes more than once: conflicts between mainstream and alternative medicine, overlap between “organic disease” and “functional symptoms”, how serious illness can bring about changes in mood, attitudes and relationships for better or worse, the scope for weakness and corruption in the healthcare professions.

Books, films and television dramas with a medical theme have a widespread appeal. In addition to their entertainment value, when well researched and sensitively presented they serve an educational function, and help to reduce the fear and stigma associated with certain diagnoses whether physical or mental.

There is a risk that fiction with a medical content will distress some readers, especially those who suffer from the conditions in question themselves. Information which was accurate at the time the book was written may have become out of date later on. The use of labels and stereotypes, black humour, or gratuitous sordid detail which promotes morbid fascination with sickness and disability, may cause offence. If the characters are based on real people, or even if they are not, medical authors may be accused of breaching patients’ confidentiality, or of libelling their colleagues.

I don’t know how far I have managed to avoid these pitfalls in my own novels. Most of the illnesses mentioned are ones which I felt entitled to write about because I have experienced them through family, friends or patients, or in myself.