Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

It's a famous quote from William Morris, the 19th century artist and designer, but am I able to apply it?

I'm trying hard but it's not easy. What about the thing, for example, that is useful but I know I'm never likely to use. I haven't used it for the last ten years so I'm not likely to use it in the next. But then again I might. Better put it back in the drawer. 
And those bits of ribbon. Well, they might come in handy one day. For something. And those candles with the burned down wick. Seems a waste to throw good wax away.

And so my argument with myself goes on and on. But at least with useful it's a little easier to persuade myself than it is with something of sentimental value. Then my problems really start.

As I said before, Daughter and family will be moving in for a while when they return to Swansea so I've been trying to make drawer space for them, hence the necessity to make decisions I'd rather put off, preferably until I'm dead and it becomes someone else's responsibility. Someone who won't have the sentimental ties that bind me. 

I have at least a cupboard full of ornaments I don't particularly like but they belonged to my gran or my great-aunt and I'm loath to part with them. I'm not going to display them or use them so the voice of reason says, 'Charity shop,' but the voice of my heart says, 'Ah but ...'

I currently have the rug on the hall floor covered with items I plan to take to a charity shop TOMORROW. How many of them will get there is another thing.

And speaking of other things Daughter was telling me I should get rid of some of my books. She has done this recently and found it liberating. I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Life is so simple for Husband

'When I was speaking this morning twice I had that "I can't swallow" thing.'

I was telling Husband about my visit to prison earlier where I'd been speaking (more on that later).
'What "I can't swallow thing"?' he asked.
'You know. When you try to swallow but can't and for an instant you can't speak either.'
Husband shook his head. 'Never happens to me.'
'Life is so simple for you, isn't it?'

We were walking in the woods at the time and soon after I said, 'You're going to have to let go of my hand in a minute as I need to blow my nose.'
'Why can't you blow it with one hand?'
'Because that's not possible. It's impossible to properly blow your nose using only one hand.'

Husband then demonstrated how he is capable of a one-handed nose blow. I said again, 'Life is so simple for you, isn't it?'

Beforehand I'd been practising what I was going to say and I was fine on most of it but there was one bit I just couldn't make stick in my head, try as I might. Then I woke up this morning and before I was properly awake I said it perfectly. Only to have forgotten it again half an hour later. As it wouldn't be possible for me to have a nap just before I spoke I had to find an alternative way of instant recall.

Before I set off I was able to tell Husband I'd worked out a foolproof method.
'H comes before w in the alphabet but in my talk it's the other way round.'
He patted me on the shoulder. 'Whatever works for you, dear.'

It did work: I remembered it perfectly. It was just an earlier bit - that I'd recited calmly in the woods when rehearsing -  that I stumbled over.

What I said was obviously very moving though: three men were so moved they had to go to the toilet while I was speaking. (If I'd been a prison officer I would have been suspicious of their motive. Then again maybe the prison officer wished he could have excused himself to get out of my talk.)

Picking up good vibrations

The opening sentence of the magazine article reads: 
Think sex toys and Good Housekeeping are unlikely bedfellows?

Well, yes, actually I do.

Daughter is having a spring clean prior to moving so she offered me a load of her old magazines including a Good Housekeeping. I took it expecting some tried and tested recipes, home decorating advice, and sensible clothes from M&S. I did not expect the panel to have tried and tested vibrators. (I feel a flush coming on.)

Apparently there is a huge range available including eco-friendly ones, some small enough to fit in a lipstick case (especially handy if you travel a lot and need to go through customs) and those with individually controlled leaves. (No, I don't know what they're for either.)

The one that came out worst in the test was the cheapest and smallest, its only benefit being that 'because it's so quiet, new locational avenues have opened up.' Such as? Boring meetings? Waiting for a bus?

There's even one designed for couples complete with remote control. Presumably designed for the younger generation. I mean, can you imagine it? If you're not trying to change television channels with it by the time it's turned up from under the dog's bed ('I had it a minute ago; it must be here somewhere') you - or your partner - will be asleep.

But, in case you're interested, the winner was Je Joue Mimi, which is 'cute, feminine and feels nice in the palm,' and only costs £64.99.

I think I need a cup of tea.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

If at first you don't succeed ...

Have now printed out the first 50 pages of novel 2, a synopsis and cover letter to try another publisher - most agents accept email submissions these days but this is a small Welsh old school publisher.

Am I mad? Is it worth wasting the postage? One more try. I say that every time ...

I have been doing what writers do i.e. procrastinate. I've tidied my desk and even sorted through the old leaflets and assorted paraphernalia on the noticeboard. So now I'm all ready and have the tidy space to enable me to concentrate on writing.

Except I think I might have a shower now. So far today I've managed to avoid it in spite of getting a healthy glow during circuit training. I waited so long for my body to cool down before showering that it wasn't worth doing it before going swimming. And then when I came home I meant to shower but somehow ended up cleaning the bottom of the oven. (Not something I ordinarily do but the burned-on layer was getting beyond belief.)

Ooh, perhaps I'll eat some strawberries first.

I was browsing through some blogs listed by bloggers I visit: there are some jolly intelligent bloggers out there, some of whom specialise. But I didn't come across one I liked enough to re-visit.  I lost several blogs off my list when I changed the template and I do feel though that I need to widen my circle.

I wonder if specialisation is the way ahead. Possibly but not for me with my butterfly brain.

Why blogging is better for you than running

Trying to recover from circuit training this morning. As we were an odd number I had to double up on the boxing. Expect grumbles about aching shoulders any time soon. Last week it was my buttocks. Sitting was agony; climbing stairs was agony; actually most things were agony for several days.

And I didn't notice a noticeable improvement in my running today even though I put on athlete's foot cream last night. Maybe I should have put it on my feet instead of my nose. My nose is already an expert runner.

So ... anyway, yesterday was hairdresser day. I no longer resemble a badger, or possibly I do but not an aged one. Husband collected me afterwards and suggested, as I'd missed lunch, that we go home via Verdi's and ice cream. He is such a thoughtful man.

Also possibly psychic as I found yet another rejection awaiting me on my return home.

If I were bashing my head against a wall there would come a point when my brain would make me pass out and I'd have to stop. It's a shame that doesn't work when it comes to submitting novels to agents. Or maybe it does. Eventually I gave up with This Time Next Year; maybe I should cut out more pain and go straight to self-publishing novel 3.

The thing with that is that there is no outsider choosing to publish it because he or she thinks it's good enough. It's relying only on my own belief thus decreasing credibility. Plus the publisher has all the marketing and promoting tools to sell it whereas I, try as I might, have limited scope.

Ho hum.

But today I read an interesting article via Robyn's Facebook page about the value of writing. According to the report it gives strong mental and physical health benefits.
"When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health," Pennebaker, the author of the report, writes. "They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function." 

Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up. 

The article also says that even blogging is good for you.
One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

You mean I needn't have gone circuit training this morning?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning to lead

It's a hard job this leading malarkey.

Last week Sean asked if I'd be in Zac's on Tuesday and if I could lead as he was away. I said I could and then he grinned and said, 'It's that part about loving your enemies.'
'Oh thank you very much!'

So I prepared and was quite pleased with the ideas and questions I'd come up with. Preparing always helps me to understand better so I like that bit. It's the actual leading the discussion that causes my problems.

With a lot of vulnerable and damaged people in Zac's it's no surprise that the idea of loving your enemies is a hard one to stomach. Even for reasonably undamaged people it's tricky. I had come to the conclusion that what's needed is the willingness to take the first step, even if that's just to say to God, 'I want to want to forgive and love,' and that repetition isn't a typing error. We might not yet have arrived at that place where we want to stop hating and we may need help to get past that before we can even begin to think about loving. But it's an openness to the idea that I think God wants to see in us.

But for some - or at least one - last night it was a case of, 'Well, I can't do that. I live in the real world.' And it was this attitude, repeatedly expressed and with added mumblings to a neighbour when not holding the floor, that exasperated me and made me 'shout' (speak loudly and crossly) and have to take a deep breath. 

I thought, 'That's it. That person's going to be mad at me now and probably won't come again and it'll be my fault.' But fortunately I don't think my outburst was noticed by the person at whom it was directed - I am so loudly and explosively aggressive! - who was fine with me at the end.

How Sean manages to sit calmly and listen and respond gently and appropriately is an example for me. One I need to practise following. But I fear it will take an awful lot of practice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scottish devolution and my nose

I woke in the night and my nose was whistling. It kept saying (or so it sounded), 'Vote yes, vote yes.'

For goodness sake, I'm not even Scottish. And if I were I wouldn't be told what to do by my nose. Large though it is.

Welsh mams and their babies

I didn't want to mention it until I was really really really sure it was going to happen. It's been a possibility for a number of years but it was beginning to seem like more of an impossibility.

Son-in-law has got a new job in Swansea and that means that Daughter and family will be coming home!

Literally home. Until they sell their house in Devon and buy another they'll be living with us. And Younger Son and Nuora will also be living with us for a month or so when they come back from Malaysia. So from there being 2 adults, 1 dog and 2 fish living in our house there will be 6 adults, 2 children, 2 dogs, 1 cat and 2 fish living in our house! It's a good job we have a large house.

I'm a Welsh mam; I'm delighted my babies are coming home. I'm sure there'll be some tensions but we're family; we'll manage.

Happy days.

And in readiness for those happy days I've finally been spurred on to make a start on de-cluttering, mainly to make extra cupboard and drawer space. I am trying to be ruthless but when I came across this I had to stop.
It's Harvey's old collar. I know there's no point or reason to keep it but I'm still resisting putting it in the bin. I've left it outside, in the hope, I think, that it will mysteriously disappear - or that Husband will bin it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Big Brother is watching you

Some people have a death wish; I appear to have a stupidity wish.

In between prison and the outside world is a room I like to call purgatory. When you arrive at prison you are first let into this room (and locked in) before someone comes from the other side to (unlock you and) take you in.

So, this little room has recently been refurbished and where there used to be lockers are now empty plastic-covered noticeboards. Waiting in there this morning I glanced around at the changes and my eyes happened upon the inevitable security cameras. 'Do not do anything stupid,' I said to myself. 'They are watching you.'

A stupidity wish. It seems that no sooner did I tell myself to behave normally than I spotted the mirror effect of the plastic-covered noticeboards. The distorting mirror effect, like you see at fairgrounds. Like the song of the sirens it drew me in and I began moving this way and that to see what peculiar shapes I could create.
I was just contemplating whether I could pull off the Harry Worth effect ...
when I heard the door being unlocked. The arrival of the chaplain saved me from myself.

Friday, September 12, 2014

George and the jellyfish

After Wednesday's hike out to the Worm we took it easy yesterday with a stroll down to Tor Bay. In the shelter of the cliffs it was lovely and warm but there was a cool breeze coming off the sea, which was a long way out, meaning that by the time you got there you were pretty chilled in a not good way. But we did have a dip in the sea. A very very quick dip, just to say we'd done it.

One thing we learned: don't take George with you if you fancy a bit of relaxing sun-bathing. Honestly he was worse than a child. If he wasn't digging a hole under you and covering you in sand he was woofing, demanding that someone get up, pick up his stone and go and throw it in a deep pool so he could have fun getting it out again. We kept throwing it further and further in and he kept getting quicker and quicker at getting it out.

And today we discovered another thing we shouldn't attempt with George: walk the Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli. Not because of anything George did this time but because most of it is aimed at cyclists and dogs are supposed to be kept on leads. 

We tried an alternative route across the sand - that proved to be very slippery mud.

But we did get a wave from a friendly train driver. (The train line runs next to the beach in places.)

I'd been looking forward to going to the Millennium Coastal Park but we found it to be the sort of place you wouldn't want to go to twice. It's probably wonderful for cyclists but a bit boring and, as I said, not good for dogs.

We parked near the 'iconic' Discovery Centre - you can just see it by my shoulder in the now obligatory selfie - and began our walk on Llanelli beach. You didn't know Llanelli had a beach? Apparently it's been a well-kept secret known only to the locals, and, quite frankly, the locals can keep it.

When the famous Stradey Park rugby ground closed down one of its goalposts was saved and has been erected in the coastal park complete with a lifesize cut-out of Llanelli's famous son, Phil Bennett, beating an All Black, in one of the small Welsh team's famous victories over the New Zealanders.

I'm demonstrating my rugby skills and providing support as you can see.

It's been a lovely week. We've taken advantage of the glorious weather and George has walked his little socks off. I have fully embraced retirement and life is pretty good.