Friday, November 21, 2014

The trouble with lies

I grew up believing my parents were married but separated and that my father worked in India. At some point, quite late on, my early teens I think, my mother told me in a roundabout way that, in fact, she had never been married. I was a naive child and had never thought to question the things I was told, a situation that I suspect today's children would find hard to believe.

Discovering that lie, which had been the basis of my life up till then, threw everything into doubt. The Indian doll allegedly from my father, the £5 note my mother said my father had sent for me when I passed my 11+, how could I see them as anything but fabrication put into place to help maintain the story?

But now I wonder.

Husband's family history research has shown that my father did indeed spend time in India so it is possible he brought home a doll for me. And he might have sent me a reward for my first academic success: he was a barrister after all; maybe he thought I had inherited his brains.

He might actually have thought about me once or twice in his lifetime, not as a nuisance that shouldn't have happened but as a child of his. Not enough to want to meet me but maybe a little more than one of his neatly filed and finished-with legal cases. I'll never know. He, my mother and my grandparents, the only people who could have told me, are dead.

That's the trouble with lies: they undermine truth.

Good and bad service

Today I returned a £9 t-shirt to Sainsburys. As I didn't have the receipt I couldn't have my money back but had to exchange it. In its place I bought a £22 jumper.

Then, when I'd finished shopping I discovered that 'my 'branded shop today was £10.74 cheaper than Asda,' meaning I'd saved £10.74, which when added to the original £9 almost makes £22. Which means, if I'd bought and saved just a little bit more, I could have had my jumper for nothing.

That is what it means, isn't it?

Sainsburys is, like most reputable shops, good when it comes to exchanging items. Not so The Range as I discovered when I tried to swap a curtain track that was too short for a longer one.
'Do you have the receipt?'
'No, I'm afraid I couldn't find it.'
'Then you can't exchange it.'
'But I only want to exchange it for a longer one. I'll pay the difference.'
'Without the receipt you can't.'

The only way I could make the exchange was if I took in a copy of my bank statement proving my purchase. For goodness sake! 

I got home and penned an angry email to The Range. That was last Friday and I've not had a reply from them.

Then I found the receipt.

Once again I drove across town and presented the curtain track and receipt to Customer Services at The Range. 
'I'd like to return this, please.'
'Is there anything wrong with it?'

I had a full refund and I will go elsewhere to buy a replacement track. And I will write another email to the Head Office telling them I won't be using their shop again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A celebratory day!

Yesterday morning Husband said, 'As it's your birthday I'll put on some deodorant.' What more could a girl ask for?

Anyway I had a lovely day. The rain kept off long enough for us to enjoy a walk - and the odd jump - on the beach and then Husband cooked me a super dinner. I received lots of cards and lovely presents - including 4 boxes of Maltesers - and Younger Son and Nuora made me a Malteser and chocolate finger cake.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On being a single mother (for a week)

One of the women in Zac's went into labour in the early hours of last Monday (3rd). I'd agreed to go and look after her 18-month-old while she was in hospital so at 2.30 am - when Husband had finally heard the phone ringing and woken me - off I trotted. I thought I'd be there 24 hours, 48 at the most. I came home yesterday evening - 8 days later.

I'd forgotten how wearing it is to have a constant shadow especially when that shadow didn't like to go to bed in the evening until past my bed-time. But even worse than caring for a toddler was coping with a coal fire. My granny, who kept our home fire burning until she was in her 80s,  would have been ashamed of me. I'm afraid my language deteriorated slightly. I fear Toddler's first word may be 'crap', in which case I shall deny all knowledge. 

It is pleasing to know that, though I may have let down my granny, Great-auntie Vi, who could swear like a trooper, would have been proud of me.

With no internet access and mobile reception intermittent at best and seeming to depend on which way the wind was blowing I felt cut off and in danger of being swallowed up by the world of Mr Bloom, Mr Tumble, Mike the Knight and the inhabitants of 64 Zoo Lane.

Over on Facebook I listed a number of firsts for this last week; the list included burning my finger with a cigarette lighter. I hope that is now explained. Next on the list was being chased by a gang of swans, geese, ducks, seagulls and coots. It had seemed a good idea to take Toddler and the old bread to feed the birds on a nearby lake. How was I to know they would surround me and try to take the bread out of my hands? No amount of squeaking or saying, 'Shoo! Shoo!' while backing away deterred them so I ended up flinging slices of bread in the air and running. (By the way, Toddler was parked in his pushchair at a safe distance away in case anyone from Social Services is reading this.) 
Next came shopping at Lidl. It seemed appropriate, given that I was living on the east side, to pay a visit to the supersaver store. I managed to resist the cheap Belgian seashell choccies but gave in to the freshly-baked Tiger loaf, which was delicious.

Taking Toddler back and for to hospital (on the west side of town) to see his mum gave me plenty of opportunity to call into home for an occasional shower and brief respite when Husband took Toddler out in the pushchair. I could not have survived this week without Husband who is a truly wonderful and generous man. I'm also very grateful to Wendy and Vincent who stopped by on Saturday evening to give me a break.

On my forays home I usually remembered to pick up clean underwear but, at the end, had to wear the same knickers for two days. Shudder. I thought about taking Toddler to playgroup but couldn't face it knowing I was wearing old knickers. 

That was the final thing on my list but I should have added 'driven around with a banana on the roof of the car.' 

And as for being a single mum, especially those without family support, well, I don't know how they do it. 

I had a car, which at least allowed me to get around but, and here I'm going into rant mode, the number of parent and child parking spaces is woefully inadequate. Without wishing to sound disablist, if you're disabled there are plenty of reserved parking spaces everywhere and I'm sure there are more parent and children than disabled. In the whole of the hospital car park - the inadequacy of which is another rant in itself - there are just three spaces for parent and child parking. If you've ever tried to get a baby in or out of a car parked in a normal space you'll know how hard it is. And I know they don't encourage child visitors in hospitals but there must be times when it's important or unavoidable. When I was sitting in the queue slowly moving around the full car park I saw three families struggle getting out of cars.

If I had any energy left I'd start a campaign.

And in the midst of all this Younger Son and Nuora came home from Malaysia (good) and Wales lost to Australia (bad).

Still now things should return to normalish as I only have to visit Mum and children most days for the next two weeks and that'll be a doddle!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I'm not going to say in Zac's tonight

I've said before that Paul isn't my favourite bible character and in the bit we're looking at tonight (Philippians 1:12-26) he comes across to me as an irritating sort of man - the passage is all about rejoicing in difficult situations: he's in prison but still rejoices - the sort of man you can imagine having little sympathy.

'Oh, Paul, I've got such terrible toothache.'
'Well, praise the Lord that you've got teeth!'
'But they hurt like crazy.'
'Praise the Lord for dentists who can help you!'
'But I can't see a dentist until tomorrow morning.'
'Then praise the Lord for paracetamol. In fact, who needs paracetamol when you have Jesus.'

I can't swear that that's exactly what he said at that point because he did say it through a mouthful of teeth and blood after I'd punched him in the mouth. And I'll paraphrase what he said next.
'Praise the Lord for the opportunity to suffer alongside my brother!'

The final straw. 'And that, your honour, is why I am up in court before you today.'

I caught a leaf!

To be honest, it was more a case of the leaf dropping into my hand when I turned around after another failed attempt. I think the tree felt sorry for me. Or possibly embarrassed by my antics.

See an earlier post for reasoning behind this stupidity.

My heart nearly stopped

I very rarely get called on my mobile - to be honest I rarely receive phone calls and that pleases me as I don't like phones - but I'm currently on stand-by in case a friend goes into labour as I'm to look after her toddler. Her due date isn't for three weeks but she has been early before so I'm trying to remember to take my mobile everywhere with me and to keep it charged. (Possibly another reason I don't receive many calls is that I never know where my phone is so it could well be ringing away merrily.) (No, actually, that's not likely as I don't have many friends.)

Which is all a long way of saying that my heart nearly stopped just now when my phone rang.

P.S. It wasn't a call to action but Martin checking I'd be in Zac's tonight. I almost said, 'I will be as long as I don't get many more calls like this.'

Taking off my clothes

Arriving home from the theatre last night the first thing I did was take off my clothes.

It gave Husband a minor thrill but as I pointed out to him, 'You wouldn't have be so impressed if I'd been arrested after taking them off in the theatre.' In fact, that's maybe why there were so many policemen around: in case women began randomly discarding clothing.

It was hot in the theatre. Lots of people said that. But my overheating is more personal. And it's been happening on a regular basis for a while now.

I thought I was done with hot flushes. All that was supposed to be behind me; I thought I'd entered the period-free, PMT-free, best time of my life stage. 

But when I got home last night you could have used me to heat the Royal Albert Hall - and people would have been asking the management to turn down the heating .

So what the feck (to use a jolly little alternative) is going on with my body?

In which Husband sets off on an adventure

'I'm going to the bank - and I'm going to go on the bus!' Husband announced this morning.

He's had a bus pass for four years and hasn't used it - except in Derby where it shouldn't have been used but the driver didn't notice - so this is an adventure for him.

But so that it's not too scary he just spent twenty minutes checking all the bus routes and times.

* * * * * * * *
I had my own mini adventure last night: I went to the theatre on my own. Okay, not really an adventure and not something I haven't done before but it was scheduled to end at 11.00 pm so that was quite late for me to be out on my own. Plus I almost didn't make it into the theatre.

Swansea Council has taken to introducing in their car parks pay machines that require your registration number. No, I knew it; I've been caught out like that before. That wasn't the problem. No, the problem was the keyboard. Low down and poorly lit  and me without my glasses. It was only thanks to a man queuing behind me who put the numbers in for me that I was able to use it.

So anyway, I was at Swansea's Grand Theatre for the final three-hour stint in the 36 hour Dylathon. As it says, over 36 hours, with 15 minute breaks every so often, loads of famous and not famous people read poems, letters, articles and stories by Dylan Thomas as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Artistes taking part in the finale included: Sir Ian McKellen, Katherine Jenkins, Sian Phillips, Matthew Rhys,  Gillian Clarke (National Poet), the Wales Theatre Company and the Morriston Orpheus Choir. We also had Prince Charles (recorded), Carwyn James (Wales First Minister), the President of Ireland, and Ryan Jones (Wales and ex-Ospreys rugby player and all-round lovely boyo). And others you won't have heard of.

I'm afraid I have to admit I don't get Dylan's poetry but it's nothing personal: I don't get poetry full stop. But I thoroughly enjoyed his letters, Under Milk Wood excerpts and the short stories. Di Botcher, who is I think famous on the local arts scene, read The Outing and she brought the house down. She was really excellent. It was just a shame she wasn't reading A Child's Christmas in Wales. The man reading it seemed to think it was a race to get to the end - and, in fact, we were out of the theatre by 10.50 pm, partly I'm sure thanks to his speed-reading. I wanted someone - the producer/anyone - to stand up and say, 'Slow down!!!'

The talent of Sir Ian McKellen speaks for itself and even me, not getting poetry, couldn't help but me moved by his rendition of Do Not Go Gentle. But I still preferred his reading of Dylan's last letter to Caitlin, his wife.

Morriston Orpheus Choir rounded off the evening with the Reverend Eli Jenkins' Prayer from Under Milk Wood. This is Dunvant Male Voice Choir's rendition. And I've just noticed it's my Uncle Woodie on the right end of the second row.

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep Thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye - but just for now!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Despite Changing Rooms

Walking in the woods one day I was working on my novel. One of my characters was about to say, 'I have nothing but *** for you,' where *** is the noun from despise. You know like you have derision from deride? 

So I'm wandering along saying, 'Despision? Despite? Despitution?' None of them worked, and you know what it's like when you begin to think intensely about a word the word itself starts to sound peculiar, as if it's a word you've made up. 'Despise? Is there such a word? Why does it sound so odd?'

I still haven't thought of the word; is there one?

* * * * * * * 

Husband and I have spent two days recently transforming a spare room into a nursery for a friend. It's not finished yet but it's getting there.

The fact that there wasn't a camera team filming our every move didn't stop me from doing a Changing Rooms style running commentary (in my head). Please take note of the stools, table and bookcase put together by ME! The ease with which the stool went together lulled me into a false sense of my ability as a handywoman; the bookcase was an altogether different matter. It involved a screwdriver for goodness sake. And a lot of muttering.

P.S. I say 'we did the work' when actually it was mostly Husband, who is truly a wonderful man allowing himself to be let in for these things by his wife. Even if he did go round touching up the paintwork where my bits weren't good enough and putting extra paste on the wallpaper because I hadn't done it well enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

I first came across Fannie Flagg with her Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (before it was and better than the film) and I've read all her books since and this one, her latest, is probably the best yet.
The story flicks back and for between now and the second world war when Sookie, a middle-aged woman, discovers she's not who she thinks she is but was in fact adopted. Her adoptive mother, now in her eighties, is a very dominant character and Sookie's belief that she's never lived up to her mother's expectations is encouraged by her mother's comments and snobbishness.

It is by chance that Sookie finds out that her birth mother was a Polish Catholic WASP, one of a few American women who flew planes during the war - not in direct action but taking the place of drafted men and delivering planes from factories.

It's a great story with wonderfully likeable characters and I looked forward to reading it of a night-time; in fact I had to force myself to turn out the light so reluctant was I to put it down.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Catch a falling leaf in October

Whenever we visited the in-laws in autumn Grandma would always tell the children it was lucky to catch a falling leaf in October. Needless to say I was the one who threw herself into this pursuit most vigorously.

Let me tell you, if you've never tried to catch a leaf, it's not as easy as you'd think. A leaf doesn't just fall down like a stone. It meanders, enjoys the view, takes a few detours on its route to the ground. And that's just an average journey from branch to woodland floor; when the chase is on it's a whole new leaf game.

My theory is that as I run towards it I create a tiny draught that, just as I am about to grab my prize, causes the leaf to veer away from me, leaving me leafless and looking like a fool. And never tell me leaves don't giggle. An evil malicious sort of giggle at that.

Try it, why don't you? And prove that it's not just me. Please.

Remembering Albert House in the winter

We've been in Devon for a couple of days and while we're away Husband turns the heating down, meaning that we arrived home late yesterday evening to a cold house. And, more importantly, a cold bed.

I was sort of warm in bed but not properly and couldn't really warm up. I should have got my dressing gown to put over me but that would have meant getting up so I kept hoping I'd just warm up. (I didn't.)

Anyway that reminded me of when I was a child and would wear more clothes to go to bed than I did during the day to go out. Albert House was an old solid terraced house (or attached as I described it in a school essay once) with the original walls, at the back of the house, being 2' thick. It was a double-fronted house so we had two front rooms. Until I was about 11 one of the them was my great-gran's bed/sitting room, and the other front room wasn't really used at all until we had our first television when it became the television room. 

The kitchen with the cooker, food storage and preparation areas and sink, was a one-storied lean-to with a corrugated iron roof that we called the scullery. The room that we ate, sat, lived in, we called the kitchen, and it was in the kitchen that we had the main source of heat: a coal fire. When we had the bathroom installed upstairs a boiler was put behind the fire to heat the water. Before that we'd relied on a little Ascot heater in the scullery - and a hosepipe from it to fill the bath that was also in the scullery at that time. (Our bath was a full size one by the way: I didn't have to bath with my legs dangling over the edge of the bath in front of the fire.)

I guess my great-gran must have had an electric fire in her room and we certainly had one when the other front room housed the television, but, as I said, the only real source of heat in the house was in the kitchen. 

My bedroom was above the kitchen (and was cut in half to make space for the bathroom when I was in my teens) so must have benefited from some warmth from the chimney but you wouldn't have thought it seeing me going to bed on a cold winter's night. It was a good job I was on my own.