Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein is dead

It's not often that I will make any even vaguely sort of political comment on this blog. I have some opinions that I just have; I can't justify them in most cases and don't really think hard about the arguments. I could be argued down easily by a six-year-old. Or by myself if it comes to that.

But my view is that some things are just wrong.

To play God and kill a man in the name of justice and right is one of these.

Yes, he was evil; yes, he deserved to be punished; but the death penalty is not the answer.

Having said that I would probably be willing to kill him myself if he had been responsible for the murder of a child of mine. But there is, in my shaky logic, a difference between that (which I still know is wrong) and state execution.

God, the peace on earth that was promised by the angels at the birth of Christ seems a long way off. Let your peace come.

I was wrong

It wasn't over-indulgence; it was the dreaded bug.

Spent last night throwing up. Most unpleasant. But it gave me an excuse - if one were needed - to sit in bed reading. The book I chose from my pile was a birthday gift, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich.

I think I've mentioned her books featuring bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, before. They are peopled with the most outrageous characters to whom the most ridiculous things happen and they're wonderful. Make me laugh out loud. A new book about Stephanie is a delight to be treasured and devoured, while wanting it to not end.
Janet Evanovich has won loads of crime-writing and humour awards and they're well-deserved. It's the best sort of American writing, like West Wing or MASH (which I had on DVD for Christmas, goody!)
If you haven't read any of this series, I do recommend it.

How will I be defined in the dictionary?

liz hinds --

A person who has the ability to be invisible

'How" will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Visiting that quiz site I noticed it had an advert: find Merthyr Tydfil's sexiest woman, man and couples.

You'd have to know Merthyr Tydfil - by reputation at least - to understand why that had me rolling about laughing. Then again, I'm sure all countries have their own Merthyr Tydfil.

Like an egg without salt

Come February, Daughter will have been married four years (give or take a year - I'm never sure).

I made their wedding cake (but left the icing to a professional) and, as is traditional, kept one of the layers to use for the first christening. As the chance of that day coming anytime in the near future is as likely as England winning the 2007 rugby world cup, I decided it was time to make some space in the freezer and turn it into a Christmas cake.

Unfortunately, time being as elusive as it is, it's now going to be a New Year cake. I've removed the old icing and marzipan and replaced it with fresh marzipan and will do the icing tomorrow. And as Husband is the only person who likes Christmas/wedding cake, it will last long enough to double up as an Easter Cake too.

By the way, when I say, 'do the icing', I mean roll out the shop-bought fondant icing and lay it over the cake. I might see if I can find 2007 in candles - or something equally artistic and understated!

* * * * * * * * * *

Seeing Elsie's post, with the photo of her husband wearing the beard he grew at her request, reminded me that Husband has forgotten his intention/threat (depending on where you stand) to shave off his moustache over the Christmas holiday.

In the 32 years I've known him he's only once been without facial hair. That was over a Christmas and I said then, and I reminded him this time, that if he did it again I would divorce him.

There's an old Spanish proverb that says that kissing a man without a moustache is like eating an egg without salt. Guy de Maupassant describes it thus in The Mustache.

... he has shaved off his mustache. You cannot imagine, my dear Lucy, how it changes him! I no longer recognize him-by day or at night. If he did not let it grow again I think I should no longer love him; he looks so horrid like this.
In fact, a man without a mustache is no longer a man. I do not care much for a beard; it almost always makes a man look untidy. But a mustache, oh, a mustache is indispensable to a manly face. No, you would never believe how these little hair bristles on the upper lip are a relief to the eye and good in other ways. I have thought over the matter a great deal but hardly dare to write my thoughts. Words look so different on paper and the subject is so difficult, so delicate, so dangerous that it requires infinite skill to tackle it.
Well, when my husband appeared, shaven, I understood at once that I never could fall in love with a strolling actor nor a preacher, even if it were Father Didon, the most charming of all! Later when I was alone with him (my husband) it was worse still. Oh, my dear Lucy, never let yourself be kissed by a man without a mustache; their kisses have no flavor, none whatever! They no longer have the charm, the mellowness and the snap- yes, the snap--of a real kiss. The mustache is the spice.
Imagine placing to your lips a piece of dry--or moist--parchment. That is the kiss of the man without a mustache. It is not worth while.
Whence comes this charm of the mustache, will you tell me? Do I know myself? It tickles your face, you feel it approaching your mouth and it sends a little shiver through you down to the tips of your toes.
And on your neck! Have you ever felt a mustache on your neck? It intoxicates you, makes you feel creepy, goes to the tips of your fingers. You wriggle, shake your shoulders, toss back your head. You wish to get away and at the same time to remain there; it is delightful, but irritating. But how good it is!
A lip without a mustache is like a body without clothing; and one must wear clothes, very few, if you like, but still some clothing.

There's no need for me to say anything else.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lucky in love

Unlucky in cards.

It was my turn to look into the lavatory in the middle of the night but, embarrassingly, I fear the cause was over-indulgence rather than the tummy bug that has been rampant in our house. Spending the evening eating my way through bowls of chocolates and crisps might have been a contributory factor. But if I'd had a few good hands I wouldn't have folded so early in each round and been forced to relieve my boredom by munching my way through the goodies.

Three times I thought I had a good hand and bidded accordingly - and foolishly as it turned out. I really must make an effort to learn the rules if I am to play again. The one time I did have a winning hand I folded because I thought it wasn't.

We've had three poker evenings now and each time I have been bankrupted. I am either very unlucky or very stupid when it comes to cards.

But Husband and I did win the table football competition! I was in goal for the first game and that was way too stressful so I moved up to the front to attack. This meant I could just lift my legs up and let Husband get on with winning the game.

Technophobe me?

Never! Technophile is my new middle name.

I have sent and received my first text messages on my new mobile!

I messaged a friend to give her my number; she wrote back saying, 'Who r u? U didn't leave ur name.'

Well how was I supposed to know that it didn't do it automatically? It guesses what words I'm typing so it's probably cleverer than me.

Now to cook dinner - something I can do - before we head off for a poker evening.

I just hope it's not red hot.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chocolate is good for you

I forgot to say: Blogger forced me to convert!

I had planned to go over to Beta during the hols but Blogger couldn't wait. It seems okay though.

And for anyone who feels guilty about eating too much chocolate over Christmas, you'll find an article to make you feel better here:

On the fourth day of Christmas

Do you think someone should tell Charlie that she's going to have to wait another 361 days for Santa?

Oh, yes, Charlie is still with us. Daughter thought it would be a nice holiday for Charlie to stay in our house without that nuisance, Holly, bothering her. As we're going down to Devon on Sunday we can take Charlie home with us then. That was Daughter's reasoning.

Our belief is that they left Charlie here so they could have some peace. She spent most of last night trying to scratch her way out through the door of the room she was shut in. It was the Great Escape all over again.

But, to be fair, her burrowing wasn't responsible for waking us up: that was down to Elder Son on his frequent trips to the toilet. Between them though they did a good job of keeping us awake. It's no wonder I didn't get up until ten to twelve this morning.

I'm just off to clean the toilet now ...

What the chafe?!

We had a chafing dish for Christmas. Anyone know what to do with it?

Apart from that we had some lovely presents and the big news is: Husband bought me a mobile phone! He decided I'd broken down once too often and it was time to ignore my resistance to the twenty-first century.

It's a very simple phone so all I have to do now is remember to take it with me when I am out in the car. That and my power starter and there's nothing I won't be able to do.

Elder son and Fiancee brought me a genuine New York hoodie; wearing that, and with my mobile to my ear I am cool and hip. Dig it like crazy, man.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Spent this morning cleaning toilets. Daughter went down with a tummy bug on Friday and is still not properly recovered. She managed to eat a little of her Christmas dinner (cashew and mushroom layer roast) unlike Younger Son who went down with it on Christmas morning and missed out on turkey and all the goodies. He is still poorly and now Elder Son has taken to his bed complaining of stomach pains.

So far the only stomach problems I have had have been the result of too much chocolate. So that's worthwhile.

But none of this managed to spoil Christmas, which was wonderful, all being together.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We (Husband, Elder Son, Uncle, uncle's friend - as YS was too sick - and me) were at the Liberty Stadium yesterday for the big local derby rugby match between the Swansea/Neath Ospreys and Llanelli Scarlets. The Ospreys won 50-24, ole, ole, ole, Ospreys, Ospreys!

Husband had bought me a Welsh woolly hat that I wore, forgetting until I got to the stadium and saw the Scarlets supporters that their colour was red. I struggled on not wearing it until half-time when my ears were screaming with the cold and I had to put it on. But I shouted extra-loud for the Ospreys just in case there was any doubt about whom I was supporting.

I'd been late getting tickets so we were seated in less than ideal seating three rows from the front and feet from the edge of the pitch. That was great when the Ospreys - lovely big hunky lads - were warming up in our corner, but not so good - too low - when they were scoring in the furthest corner from us. I have a theory that wherever we sit for a game, the majority of the action will be in the diagonally opposite corner. And when your eyesight isn't quite what it was ...

* * * * * * * * * * *

Daughter, Son-in-law, Holly and Charlie are just getting ready to go home. Fiancee will be arriving later on this evening for a couple of days before we all - except YS who prefers to celebrate with his friends - spend the New Year together in Devon. Assuming Husband and I don't start throwing up.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It seemed like a good idea at the time

We bought Harvey a new bed for Christmas.

His old one was looking very tatty (to say nothing of poohed-upon). I paid lots of money for a lovely, comfy, fluffy one for him to snuggle down in over the long winter nights.

There's only one problem.

He can't climb up on it.

His poor old back legs are too weak. Even if he manages to get his front legs up on it and he sits down, he rolls off.

I haven't worked out a solution to the problem yet.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Woofin' all over Christmas

Great big Christmas wags and woofs to Simi, Bailey, Hershey, Frieda and all blogging dogs from Harvey and Holly XX.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung
by the chimney with care

in hopes that Saint Nicholas
soon would be there.

A very happy Christmas to one and all!

It's Christmas!

Elder Son got back safely from Madrid and will be travelling home today; Daughter is almost recovered from a 24 hour tummy bug; and we watched It's a Wonderful Life last night.

Still got cleaning, shopping, wrapping and cooking to do but, hey, it's Christmas!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

An early Christmas present

A big brown envelope was waiting for me when I returned home from work this afternoon. My first thought was that it was another rejection, but I couldn't think of anything I had submitted to be rejected. I opened it tentatively, preparing myself for the worst.

Inside the envelope was a copy of Your Cat magazine. Once a week the milkman has been leaving us a bottle of fruit juice that I haven't asked for; was the newsagent now sending me magazines I hadn't requested?

Then I remembered: some time ago Your Cat accepted an article cum story I'd written. And here it was published for all the world - or at least all the cat-lovers who bought the magazine - to see.

Under True Cat Tales, The Worst Christmas Surprise related what happened the year we looked after a friend's gerbil over the holiday season. At the time we had a cat called Toby. Copyright doesn't allow me to reprint the story in full but here's a little sample.

Christmas Day came and went.

After the excitement of the big, not to mention long, day, a lie-in on Boxing Day was very welcome. While we were loafing in bed we heard a crash but as the children were up and about we didn’t think much of it. That was before Robert came dashing in yelling, 'Toby’s got a mouse on the stairs.'

When he persisted in his claims, my husband got out of bed to investigate. I stayed where I was, still half asleep, wondering how a mouse could have got in the house. I had just decided that Toby must have brought him in from outside (a late Christmas offering perhaps) when Anna came rushing in. What she said made me leap out bed faster than was good for me.

'Toby’s eaten Cheeky!'

This proved to be only half true. He’d only eaten the top half.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Breaking down

I've had to call the rescue men out quite a few times over the last month or so. Each time they get called I'm sent a questionnaire to comment on the service recived.

This morning the postman brought me three questionnaires: two were for the same occasion while the third was for a call-out I didn't even make. They must have figured I was due to call them out and sent me a questionnaire ready.

One of the breakdown trucks was parked in the petrol station and followed me out the other day. I feared he was going to follow me to Sainsburys: it's where I break down most often. It's the stress you know.

I wasn't going to post this

Honestly I wasn't. But then Elsie picked up on it in the previous post so I felt obliged.

Here Barney models his present from Secret Santa.

And doesn't he look fetching?

* * * * * * * * * * *

The longest night of the year is set to be one of the coldest so far this winter. Elder Son was due to fly home from Madrid tonight. He heard this morning that BA had cancelled his flight - fog at Heathrow - but he managed to get a flight into Gatwick. At least, he managed to get a ticket for it; I haven't heard yet if he's actually made it back to London.

He and Fiancee are at a wedding in London on Saturday so he'll be driving home on Christmas Eve. It will be lovely to have the children home.

P.S. Is tonight the longest night? Or was last night?

And they call this work?

Staff Christmas lunch at our house today. Much eating and merriment - and Secret Santa. Guests included staff, trustees and tenants.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More walkies

Holly and I visited another of Harvey's favourite haunts this afternoon: up the boggy hill. Only in Wales surely can the top of a hill be boggy.

It's been a long time since I've been in the woods and it's changed a lot. Over the last year an operation has been mounted to rid it of the rhododendron invaders, leaving only the native woodland species. As a result it's a lot clearer but, without the familiar bush formations, it's less recognisable as well.

Where there was a narrow track, great swathes of mud now exist, the result of the tractors and trucks that have been used to cart away the logs. It is an alien landscape.

And in the misty early-dusk I find myself talking to tree-stumps instead of Holly. It's not unusual for me to talk to trees but normally I am aware of what I'm addressing.

On the homeward trail through the deserted woods Holly stops suddenly, stock still, her ears pricked, her hackles raised. 'Oh dear Holly, what have you seen?'

It's all right; it's only a bit of plastic.

The combination of darkness and disorientation causes me to lose the path. Fortunately Holly finds it; then I lose her. How do people with dark dogs manage? It was bad enough with Harvey. I once bought him a little light to wear on his collar: the first time he wore it was one of the few times I lost him. And he lost the light.

And now a question for your scientific bods.

Is it really easier to throw a stick downhill than uphill? Or is it my little brain saying, 'You're a girly; you can't throw uphill'?

But your arm has to be at a different angle to throw up and gravity helps it to go further down so probably it is actually easier to throw down.

Another question: why did I have the smell of Christmas cake in my nose all walk when I hadn't been near a cake?

Monday, December 18, 2006

What a woman wants

I have my own power starter!

Husband bought it at the weekend. I think he was getting concerned about my blossoming relationship with the recovery-man.

It was described to me as being like a cattle prod for cars. As long as it gets me started I'm happy to prod away.

All I have to do is make sure it is in the same car as me. So before I go out it's handbag - check, keys - check, power-starter - check. Never leave home without it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Holly's favourite place.

Like Webster's Dictionary, I'm Morocco-bound

This morning, while searching for presents for everyone else, I found one for myself: the box set of all seven of the 'Road to' films. And for £9.99! A bargain.


The last thing Daughter said before leaving Holly in our care was 'Don't let her get pregnant!'

To avoid such misfortune we've been walking her where we're unlikely to meet many other dogs: over the tip aka the bog. In places the mud comes halfway up my calves and I have been in serious danger of losing my wellies.

Holly brings me a stick; she drops it at my feet. I pick it up, draw back my arm and fling the stick with all my might. It slips out my hand and lands seven feet in front of me.

My alternative to the slip-and-slide throw is the up-and-under where a speedy little brown bullet arrives before the stick does and is likely to be banged on the bonce when it lands. She perseveres with me though. Harvey learned long ago that anything I throw is not worth expending energy on.

We come back along the valley where the river is high and running fast and muddy. It doesn't deter Holly who flings herself in with never a thought for crocodiles. I say, 'What will I tell your mummy if you are eaten by crocodiles?'
Holly says, 'Pah, I laugh in the face of crocodiles.'

I don't think she has ever seen one. Harvey agrees with me when I tell him about it on our return home. The walk is one of our old haunts, one of his favourites when he could manage more than just round the playing fields.

Now they are both sitting at my feet - actually Holly is sitting under the desk preventing me from getting close to the keyboard. 'It's not time for tea yet.'

I have ordered my turkey!

That might not seem like news but for someone who has a tendency to leave it until Christmas Eve, it's pretty impressive. I have been out in the middle of the night looking for a turkey before now.

Charlie is pleased to hear that I have ordered one.

I know I'm meant to be hurrying ...

but I just read a joke on Serena's blog. It made me laugh out loud.

House guests

Daughter and Son-in-law are enjoying a few days pre-Christmas break in west Wales and they've left their 'girls' - Holly Dog and Charlie Cat - with us.

There was some concern before they arrived as Holly had just come into season but Harvey either hasn't noticed or doesn't care - he is 98 - so they're fine together.

As for me, I'm in pre-Christmas overdrive. Hence by 7.30 am I've had breakfast and I'm blogging. I'm off to town today to try to finish the bulk of the shopping - last presents and odds and ends not food.

By 5.30 pm I'll be asleep.

P.S. Haven't had much time to blog or visit others but I promise I'll catch up soon.

P.P.S. It's Elder Son's birthday today and he's flying back to Madrid after his week's holiday in New York. Happy Birthday Lovely Boy!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

For long-term lease

Just down the road from us there used to be an old boarding school. It's recently been demolished, the land having been sold for lots of money to enable property developers to move in.

Before the school was knocked down we noticed that a small building was being erected in a corner of the grounds. It's down in a dip that has problems with flooding so we thought it might be a pumping station, but the odd thing is that it doesn't have a door. Not at ground level anyway. It does have a solar panel on the roof but no windows.

Anyway last week I found out what it is: a bat house.

There were bats living in the school and because they are protected (and they include a rare species) a new home had to be built for them before any demolition happened. It's bigger than it looks in the photo; it's about the size of a garage, so very spacious det res in highly sought-after area.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Calling Beta Bloggers

Serena and Steve, I've tried to post comments on your blogs and Blogger won't recognise me. I've tried as me, Other and Anonymous and it won't let me through. I haven't had this problem before so I just wanted to let you know that I did visit!

Now I'm off out in Betty. Anyone offering odds on her breaking down?

No, she won't do that; she's a good girl.

Incidentally the 'girls' I went out with last night were all mums together at the same time. I haven't managed to get out with them for the last few years so it was good to catch up and frightening to discover that the toddlers are now dentists and lawyers.

Night out with the girls

Yesterday continued to mount a crusade against me.

After careful consideration of the menu (not that careful as I quickly spotted what I wanted) I chose cockle fishcakes for starters and sea bass for my main course.

The waitress came to take our order and announced, 'I have to tell you that the cockle fishcakes and sea bass are both off the menu now.'

There was an inevitability about it.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Shiatsu today. Mm, looking forward to it. But before that I plan to do this, this, this and this, so I'd better get on.

P.S. On the plus side, the waitress, who felt bad, gave me two mint chocolates with my tea at the end.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Meet the Queen of Stupidity

Remember yesterday how Alfie broke down? Now guess who forgot to put his battery on charge last night.

Younger Son had borrowed Betty and because this prescription-collecting was hanging over me I decided to take Alfie down to the hospital to get it. He groaned a bit when he started but I made the decision to risk it, taking care, when I got to the car park to park somewhere that gave me a bit of space ahead should he need bump-starting.

Which he did. I asked a lovely little car park attendant to come and push ... and he pushed Alfie half the way round the car park, before we decided to try out the jump leads.

It was my own fault; I've got no-one to blame but myself. And Husband ... and Alfie ... and Younger Son ... and God ... and the manufacturer of batteries.

My Today

My plan for today was to do this, this, this and this, then go to the hairdressers' then do some shopping.

The trouble is that I live in an imaginary world. In my imaginary world I am also a figment of my imagination. In it I am someone who is organised. I am not someone who is still in her dressing-gown when the window-cleaner arrives.

With face appearing at windows it seemed wise to loiter for a while before showering and from then on it was downhill all the way.

I called in to the hospital to pick up a prescription; I couldn't park and gave up.

I tried to buy Hugo Boss Woman perfume for Daughter but it turned out I had to choose between Hugo Woman and Boss Woman.

I searched in vain for the DVD set I had heard advertised on the radio at a bargain price.

I gave up and came home. Younger Son said my hair looked 'all right'.

But Betty behaved perfectly. And I bought myself a bag of Thorntons' Mint Toffee. Do you know, they have a chocolate fountain Thorntons and you can buy skewers of fudge to dip in it? Or buy a chocolate shot. I wonder if it's available intravenously.

Things I didn't know ...

or hadn't thought about.

It doesn't actually say in the Bible that there were three Magi. It mentions the three gifts but that's it. I didn't know that.

Because they were following a star, the Magi would have had to travel at night. I hadn't thought about that.

Having detailed my lack of brain power, I'll move on.

What it does say is that Herod killed all the babies, under the age of two, in Bethlehem. Blossom said it's going to be one of the things he asks God about. Why was that necessary? We know why Herod did it but why did God allow it to be part of the plan?

Of course, the obvious 'christian' answers came up: it just was part of the plan; God works on a different time scale; and God can bring good out of bad. I wonder if the parents of the babies understood that.

About ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, my friend died. She was a young mother of 4 boys. I have seen no good come out of that.
'Ah, well, God's time scale ...'
Please don't give me that.

I can accept it; I can accept there are things my titchy brain will never grasp. I still believe. But I don't understand and I don't like it. And I won't pretend to.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Speaking too soon

This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, it occurred to me that I hadn't had to call out the recovery men for two whole weeks.

It was a crazy day in work but at tea-time, when I was loading my shopping into the boot, I thought, 'Well, I had lots to do but it all gone done and I've even done the shopping AND I'll be home in time for Neighbours.'

I was feeling very pleased with myself until I got into the car and tried to switch on the engine.

I'm beginning to notice a pattern to this. Alfie always breaks down in Sainsburys car park in the rain ... except when he breaks down in the doctors' car park in the dry.

I had the jump leads in the boot. I thought about standing round, looking pathetic and hoping someone would offer to help, but it was dark and wet so I went and phoned Younger Son. He brought Betty out to the rescue.

We got the batteries ready then we looked at the jump leads.

'Do you know what to do?' I said.
'How hard can it be?'

When the terminals started sparking we wondered if it might be harder than it looked. I had a sudden vision of having to call out recovery to rescue both Betty and Alfie.

We tried again and this time it didn't spark but the engine didn't start either. We gave up. Younger Son took home most of the groceries (so he could have tea) while I phoned recovery.

I'd only eaten a packet of crisps, a banana and half a bunch of grapes before the recovery man turned up. He'd been in the petrol station across the road helping someone else.

I told him I'd tried to jump start it. He looked at the leads. 'With those?' he asked.
'Yes. What's the matter? Aren't they jump leads?'
He did a Crocodile Dundee.

'Call those jump leads? These are jump leads,' he said as he whipped out an enormous pair.

He says I shouldn't worry about calling recovery: I am one of his regulars. I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

Without wishing to sound like a character from Friends, I am so not driving Alfie again until Husband sorts out the battery.

* * * * * * * * * * *

With my visit to the dentist fresh in my mind, I was reminded of the disaster that struck two Christmases ago.

I had a filling on the outside base of a tooth at the side of my mouth. The filling itself didn't cause a problem but the dentistry work did. Because my mouth had to be held open for so long it sort of seized up and for several weeks I couldn't open it properly.

Now, chocolate-lovers will have already anticipated what I am going to say next.

For the twelve days of Christmas - and several more - I couldn't open my mouth wide enough to get a Lindor truffle in!

(Blogger won't let me post a photo yet.)


I was woken on Saturday morning by the postman knocking on the door. I was out of bed and downstairs before I remembered Husband was home and could have done the decent thing. As it was, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror as I passed. Thinking I'd better say it before he thought it, I commented to the postman, 'You must see some sights in the mornings.'

He laughed and said, 'The worst ones - or the best - are in the student village. You wouldn't believe what some of those girls wear to sleep in.'

I suppose there have to be some benefits to a job that involves getting up that time of the morning.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last night in circuits, Aly said to me, 'Did Alun tell you?'
'Tell me what?'
'That we've decided to put off the recipe book until after Christmas?'
'No, Alun didn't tell me and I've spent three and a half hours today typing recipes so I think we are doing the blinking recipe book before Christmas.' (Can you hear my voice getting higher and faster?)

Monday, December 11, 2006

The lights are on ...

but there's no-one at home.

When Harvey and I walk down to the playing-fields at tea-time at this time of year, we notice a house that always has its lights on. The curtains are open and there is never anyone in the living-room. If someone had a nosey disposition, it could drive them mad.

Speaking of which, Husband took Harvey for a check-up on Saturday. The vet was surprised to see he was still with us (no, not Husband). She said the nerves in his back region are going, which explains the trouble getting up, the tripping and other little local difficulties. But, hey, he's happy. After all, why shouldn't he be? He doesn't have to clean up after himself.

The playing-fields were more like a bog. In places the water came above the foot of my wellie boot. Ee, we've 'ad a bit of rain lately, tha knows. (I don't know what accent that is supposed to be mimicking. Somewhere oop north I think.

In which your opinion is sought

Betty and I were zipping down a road today when we noticed a speed camera sign. 'Oh oh,' I said, 'we'd better slow down; we don't want to get a ticket.'

Betty said she would quite like to get a ticket but she didn't think it was very likely as we were only doing 32 mph.

It seemed a lot faster than that.

Maybe they should give Beetles to boy racers. Then they would just think they were going fast instead of actually going fast and killing themselves and other people.

The reason we were zipping anywhere on a Monday morning was that I had a dentist appointment. Just a check-up but I have a confession: I am terrified of dentists.

It's been years since I was hurt by one but an appointment still hangs over my week like a big black cloud. I can' think why I should get so nervous. I mean, what is there to dislike about having three metal instruments, a mouthful of saliva and a hand in your mouth all the same time?

(I used to have to be very brave when I took the children for their check-ups. Even though it wasn't me seeing the dentist I had to hide the fact that I was still all quivery.)

My teeth were fine except I needed a scale and polish. 'Shall I do it now or will you come back?'
'Do it now, please.'

Kitted out with a plastic apron and safety goggles, I could have safely delivered a baby.

Still that's done for another six months.

I went straight from the dentist into work - no, I don't usually work on a Monday but some bright spark had the brilliant idea of raising money for Mutende Children's Village by collecting recipes and making them into a Linden cookbook. Which is fine until all the recipes arrive hand-written and the cookbooks are wanted in time for the Christmas Concert next Sunday.

Then I discovered the Linden tree hadn't been delivered - or more worryingly, might have been delivered and stolen. Last week a box of Mars bars, this week a 12' Christmas tree. Well, you never know. (It hadn't; the farm had forgotten to deliver it.)

Now I'm home and realising that the extra cards I bought - that were on special offer at Sainsburys - are Large Letter size. Do I send them innocently with second-class stamps or go to the PO and find out what stamps I should use? Or, another possibility - take them back to Sainsburys and swap them for small cards? That sounds the best idea.

Oh, yes, that's what I was going to ask you.

I was recently out for a meal with a group of people. When the bill came it turned out that the restaurant had failed to charge us for two of the bottles of wine we had. This news was greeted with delight and much 'sshh, don't tell-ing' by the party. I wasn't paying but, if I had been, I would have told the waitress. I don't think this is a particularly Christian stance but rather an honest one.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Home again

And with the in-laws' delivery done, it feels like Christmas is starting. In fact I've just realised that Christmas is two weeks tomorrow. Crumbs! That is rather soon.

Thank heavens for Amazon and ebay.

On the way home Husband was grumbling that he was feeling tired: he hadn't slept well the night before. Then he realised that over the course of the last six nights he has slept in five different beds. That can't be good.

Still the journey home was fine - unlike the trip to Derby. It normally takes just under three hours; yesterday it took five and a half.

As we joined the motorway just outside Swansea, we found we were joining a traffic jam. It took us two hours to get to the next junction, where we could come off, turn round, drive back to where we started and take a different route. And there was only a small traffic jam on that one.

Never mind, done now.

A fix of West Wing is called for I believe.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The State Within

Did anyone watch The State Within?

If so, will you please tell me what happened? Has it finished? I watched it, you understand, but I didn't understand. It didn't sound to me as if it were resolved; or was it that the writer couldn't work out how to end it so he left us to make up our own minds?

It would be good to think that the British Ambassador (who must have had less security than anyone in his position should have as he was always popping up somewhere on his own) did the right thing. But if he did that would mean that both the British and the American governments would be shown up for what they were. I think that was what it would mean anyway. Hmmm, a dilemma.

But he was awfully British and decent and brave and honourable. Not the sort of man who will go far these days.

There's even a game here where you can be the British Ambassador and save the world!

A bit of a grumble

I've just been to a prayer meeting.

Correction: I just tried to go to a prayer meeting.

For the last few weeks we've had prayer meetings on a Thursday at the church as we've a number of people amongst us who are seriously ill. The last two weeks Husband has come home on Thursday and I've wanted to be here to greet him so I haven't gone. This week he's not home till tomorrow so I went.

I arrived. No cars. No lights. Door locked. This didn't look good. It wasn't as if I were early; I was ten minutes late.

I drove round to my boss's house; her car was missing.

I came home. I'm going to watch Pie in the Sky, which was what I wanted to do anyway. So there.

I'm Church Administrator and I never know what's going on. No-one tells me anything!

And what's more, while I'm in the mood, I'm not happy with Cadburys.

I bought myself - for the first time ever - a chocolate advent calendar. I thought it contained little bits of milk chocolate but it has a variety of fillings. It's the 7th today and I've had two orange bits and two Turkish delight and I like neither of those. So I'm grumbling.

Or is it God's way of telling me I should be on a diet? :)

Santa's Little Helper

For a long time I resisted.

But at last I gave in.

Fed-up with looking like the poor relation when it came to wrapping presents, I started using tasteful paper, matching labels and bows - instead of fat Santa paper, cut-up old card labels and no bows. But somehow, no matter what I do, my sister-in-laws's gifts always look nicer than mine!

It's the added ribbon I suspect. But I am not going to start faffing about with ribbon. Didn't Shirley Conran (Superwoman of my generation) say, 'Life's too short to stuff a mushroom'?

And that reminds me: I watched the Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson, last night. Daughter, having the sort of enthusiasm for cooking that I had BeforeChildren, was very excited about it; I was less so having sat through all of Delia's Christmas cooking programmes not that many years ago.

Neither of us had seen Nigella in action before although Daughter uses her recipe book. Haven't found out Daughter's opinion yet but I'm not watching again.

It's not hard to guess what the marketing ploy is. The seductive look up from under the eyelashes, the girlish giggle, the dark tresses falling around her face.

Bring back Delia.


Harvey and I waited for a gap in the weather before we went out today.

Walking next to the river I said to Harvs, 'God is good to stop it raining on us.'

Then I thought:
a) Surely God has something better to do with his time than be my personal meteorologist;
b) Does that mean, when it rains on us - as it often does - that God is mad at me, or that he's in a bad mood?

Naah. So I'll just be grateful that it's dry for now.

Which was just as well as straight after that it poured down on us.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I keep forgetting to mention some good news. Yesterday Younger Son was told that he doesn't have to go to the surgery to have his wound dressed any more as it's better.

I just checked: he had the operation to cut out an abscess at the base of his spine on 30th August! And since then he's had it dressed daily and then every other day.

All he needs now is a job.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now it can't be put off any longer.

I have to go and wrap some presents.

We're visiting Derby on the weekend delivering the in-laws's Christmas gifts, so I really really have to wrap them now. I've been saying that all week but finding excuses. Sadly, time and excuses have run out.

Unless there's anything you want to ask me ...?

A bit like Harry Potter

A portal has been discovered.

Actually it's been set up, which isn't quite the same, but is almost as exciting. And here's the address

What happens if you enter the portal? That's what you're longing to know, I can tell.

You won't go spinning through time or space.
You won't come face to face with Voldemort or Gandalf.
You won't be exterminated by a dalek.
You won't even find a potion that says 'Do not drink'.

But you will help raise money for Zac's Place. At no cost to yourself!

Apparently the portal is a magic little doorway and if you go to another site from it and buy something on that site, it blows fairy dust onto the proprietors who are so happy that they give pennies to Zac's. Or something like that.

And you know what your granny said about pennies. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.'

So put the portal in your Favourites and when you're shopping at HMV or Amazon or Marks & Spencers or a whole host of other online retailers, go there from the portal.

And be a fairy this Christmas.

P.S. If you click on the link you'll get some sense about this very excellent scheme.

Donald, where's your trewsers?

My maiden, and my uncle's, name is Williams. Yesterday I ordered - and this morning it arrived - a lambswool scarf in Welsh tartan: the Williams of Wales tartan. No, I didn't know there was one either.

But there is and this is it.

And on a tartan theme, I have to say: I do love a man in a kilt (cilt). I have been known to drool at the sight.

What crappy Christmas gift am I?

You Are Socks!
Cozy and warm... but easily lost.You make a good puppet.
What Crappy Christmas Gift Are You?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Make mine a double

Whenever he is asked what he would like for Christmas/his birthday/Father's day, Husband says, 'Whisky.'

He has quite a collection of bottles although he insists that most only have a tiny drop in them - a fact he blames on younger Son, having convinced himself that he couldn't possibly have drunk it all -and that is why he needs more for Christmas. They include his favourites, the smoky, peaty malts from Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila and the other Islay distilleries.

As for me, I sit at the other end of the sofa with my glass of water when he drinks them as I can't stand the smell.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On Shirleen's blog we're discussing words that annoy us or that we mispronounce.

Something that annoys me is modern Bible translations, like The Message, that use unnecessary words. Some things can be more simply stated than in the NIV but with a lot of it, I'm more inclined to the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' theory. The language is perfectly clear and beautiful.

Last night, for instance, we were looking at the shepherds in the Christmas story and what did The Message call them? Sheep herders. Now I ask you, who calls them sheep herders? That is change for the sake of change and pointless change at that.

Grumble over.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Astonishment now. I discovered on a website an advert for an essay-writing company. They say, 'Send us the exact question you have to write an essay or dissertation on and we'll guarantee you an essay of 2.1 or first class honours standard.'

Now is it me, or isn't that cheating?

Ten things I'll never do

I was tagged (weeks ago!) by Welshcakes so let's think.

1. Grow old gracefully.

2. Go potholing.

3. Eat a kangaroo's penis (as a contestant on a reality show was challenged to do).

4. Go to a nudist resort.

5. Stop loving my family (that includes Harvey).

6. Get my life organised.

7. Take life or myself too seriously.

8. Go out without eye-liner on.

9. Be able to imagine infinity or eternity.

10. Stop being awed by creation.

I know this month is a really busy time for everybody so I won't pick anyone to tag but say, 'Please, if you'd like to, list ten things you'll never do.'

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Today, continued

I want to hug Billy but I am embarrassed. I'm not a hugger. And, also, if I'm honest, there's bit of me that is thinking, 'He's probably not very clean.' And again, I'm a woman and he's a man that I don't know very well, and it wouldn't be appropriate. And, well, I'm not a hugger.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We had our first card in work today. I would say 'Christmas card' but you'd be hard-pressed to guess its significance. It has an orange and gold picture of The Tree of Life on the front and inside it says, 'Greetings' in eleven languages. I wonder why the Citizen's Advice Bureau bothered.

I am responsible for sending cards from Linden to the various organisations with whom we have links or who use our building; I shall make sure they say very clearly, 'Happy Christmas.' It's what we're celebrating so we shall say so.

One card we receive every year comes from a large (rich) church in the city. And every year it's the same thing: a large, expensive-looking, pre-printed greeting from 'The Pastors and their wives.' I make sure our 'pastors' and their husbands see it.

What it's all about

Billy is an addict.

Drugs certainly and, I guess, alcohol too. A week or so ago he narrowly escaped arrest after the police found him paralytic on the streets. Some girls who knew him slightly told the police he was their dad and they'd look after him.

He doesn't always follow some of the, admittedly surreal, discussions that happen in Zac's, and he makes no bones about it. 'I don't understand; I don't know what the story's about now.' Sean explains it simply, and Billy listens again.

But the thing is: he's got it. The big picture, the little important detail. God's love is for everyone - for every one. He understands that. That's why the shepherds were the first to be told of the birth of Jesus: they weren't important. They didn't have money or education, fame or status. They were ordinary people.

Billy doesn't need to be a theologian to know that. He just knows God loves him.

I tried to photograph the moon tonight

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Tiffany's

The little black dress, one of three versions made for Audrey Hepburn for her role as Holly Golightly in the classic romantic comedy, Breakfast at Tiffany's, was auctioned today at Christie's. It sold for £410,000.

The money raised will go to the City of Joy Aid charity which helps underprivileged children in India.

It sets a world record for a dress made for a film but the world record for any dress belongs to the white silk evening gown worn by Marilyn Monroe the night she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy in 1962, which fetched $1.27 million at a New York auction in 1999.

Wow! And it's going to a good cause.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A little night exercise

One of the stations on the circuit involves cones set out in a rectangle around the hall. The first side you walk, then jog, then run, and then sprint. Admittedly an onlooker would be hard-pressed to distinguish between my jog, run and sprint, but there is one. Although maybe not on the second circuit.

Anyway there are two of us doing this station and Jules, the trainer, says as I trot past, 'Come on, Liz. Don't let her catch you.'

I surge (push my head further in front) forward and, while slowly expiring, think, 'What am I doing? She's half my age: she should be catching me.'

Pride will be the death of me.

a dilemma

When I was choosing a book for my mother-in-law I just happened to notice that there is a new novel out by one of my favourite frothy writers, Catherine Alliott. I made a mental note to put it on my Christmas list and carried on shopping.

Next stop was the Cancer shop to get my cards and what do I find there - when I just happen to be browsing the books while waiting to be served - but the very same hardback in perfect condition for £2.99 (as opposed to £12.99 new).

Of course I bought it.

The pros:
it saves money;
it helps the cancer charity;
it saves trees.

The cons:
authors (and I would very like to be one) lose out on royalties;
publishers lose money making them meaner and less likely to take on new authors (like me).

Well, what would you have done?

It's not even a good photo!

We all need help

I saw this card in Waterstone's this morning and it made me laugh out loud. I said as much to the man on the pay-desk. He just looked at me.

Christmas comes ...

The first Christmas cards arrived today.

I haven't even bought mine yet.

I'm going to town NOW!

A bit saucy

As we were walking out of prison yesterday morning, Jez, the musician I'd been in with, turned to me and said, 'Do you like dead animals?'
'Um, pardon?'
'Do you like looking at dead animals?'
'Or rather half a dead animal with its guts spilling out.'
I decided that it wasn't me; this conversation wasn't making any sense.

It turned out that a dolphin had been washed up on Pobbles, a local beach.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It's now possible to buy bottles of sauce for dogs. Maybe it's been available in your country for a long time but it's a new thing here. Harvey has dry food and, even though he loved it when he first had it, he's not very keen on it now. We've been mixing it with 'wet' food to encourage him to eat it but with his limited exercise it means we've got to be careful or he'll put on weight.

'No, Harvey, that is the reason .......... No, it's not that we're mean and stingy and trying to starve you .......... You get plenty to eat - without raiding the dustbin!'

Anyway he loves the sauce. It's lip-licking good.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Elder Son, his fiancee and her parents were down for the weekend. The wedding is planned for the spring. Over lunch yesterday, someone asked what we would do with Harvey - the wedding will be in Twickenham - and would we put him in kennels. I said we 'd get someone in to dogsit; Husband said, 'He probably won't be with us by then.'

And Harvey was in the room!

(He's in the hall now so it's all right to whisper this.)

Fortunately Harvs was too busy staring, wide-eyed and hopeful, at fiancee's dad's plate to pick up on this. I'm sure he'd have had something to say otherwise.

I think that he's been much better of late (ignoring his deafness, short-sightedness, persistent barking and incontinence). But the funny turn (mini-stroke?) he had in the early summer came out of the blue so we'll have to wait and see. And just be grateful for each day we have with him.

Even if he does grumble about - well, most things.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My jigsaw in progress.

Bother, Blogger won't show it. You do wonder where it puts your picture when it says, 'Done', and there's no photo to be seen. Has it appeared on someone else's blog? Is it floating in virtual space waiting for a chance to make its appearance? Has it been swallowed by the Great Picture Eater in the Sky?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who's a failure?

I copied this from Neil's blog.

Go to Google, type in 'failure', then click on 'I'm feeling lucky'.

It cheered me up but now back to the cleaning.


A day of cleaning planned today. Elder son, his fiancee and her parents are coming down this weekend and I want to create a good impression.

I rise, pull on scruffy trousers and holey jumper and set to work.

Younger Son has his regular wound dressing at the surgery at 10.45 and, as Betty's gears aren't engaging, he asks me if I will take him in Alfie. I think about washing my face or brushing my hair and teeth but decide that as I'm only going to be in the car, I don't need to bother.

I park in the surgery car park and wait for YS. He returns to the car, I switch on engine and 'uuuuuurrrr'. YS and I look at each other. I try again. 'uuu.'

I walk to payphone a short distance away and call rescue. They say someone should be with us within the hour.

YS and I play I Spy but he is much better at it than me so I refuse to play. We discuss Harry Potter and YS's theories for what will happen in Book 7. We have both always been convinced that Snape is not a baddie.

One and a half hours later I call rescue again.

It seems the breakdown van came but couldn't find us so went away again. The lad on the phone is defensive. 'They tried both car parks. And you didn't give us a mobile number to contact you on.'

The car park we are in is only big enough for 8 cars. If the breakdown man had come in we would have seen him; he would have seen us.

Lad on phone seems to think that it was my fault. He will call them again but this is another call-out and we will have to wait - up to an hour.

Half an hour later a breakdown van arrives. He is not the one sent before; he found us without any difficulty.

He is very nice and gets us started. He says the battery has plenty of charge and if it happens again we might have a faulty battery. I think, 'If it happens again, I might divorce Husband.' For no real reason other than I have to take out my frustration on someone.

We get home nearly three hours after we left.

That's three hours of lost cleaning time.

On the plus side, while we were out an Amazon parcel, containing a birthday present I had ordered for Husband, arrived and was left in the toilet. I didn't think it would get here on time so it's not all bad.

Ship ahoy!

While tidying (please note) this morning I came across this photo. A few years ago a ship got into trouble and was deliberately grounded in the bay down the road from our house. For a day or two, when the tide went out, it was a great visitor attraction.

I could have got a bit closer but I was afraid it might fall on me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The future and the past

Driving home from PC World this morning (where they gave me a brand-new super-duper-printer - I'm not sure what sort of exchange I was expecting from them - maybe something more in the John Bull line seeing as the printer was almost a year old) I made myself go through town.

Road-works go on apace in order to convert the city centre into a one-way system. It's getting there but it still feels odd to be driving down the wrong side opf the road. I make sure I am following someone - preferably not a council workman who might have the authority to go where we mere mortals can't - and stick in one lane. If that means a slightly longer and more roundabout route than I had intended, well, so be it.

One thing I did notice was signs pointing to the Metro. I know these roadworks have taken some time and I haven't been following their progress closely but surely I would know if they were building an underground system? Apart from anything else, I mean, where would it go? It's only a small city centre really.

So taking this unexpected route home I passed a memorial chapel at the bottom of a block of flats. When I was in school there was a church on this site and the wife of the minister there taught us history.

I can't remember any history she taught us - or even what periods in history we covered - but I do remember the first few sentences she spoke to her new class of eleven-year-old girls.
'My name is Mrs Brynmor-Jones. That's Brynmor, not Bryn-y-mor, which is the road. And you needn't tell me I still have my hat on as I know: I don't take it off.'

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it an angel?

If you've read any of my previous posts about Zac's Place you'll have got the picture that there are one or two characters there. The core of the Tribal Gathering (as the Tuesday night Bible study is called) consists of members of the Welsh chapter of the God Squad, Christian motor-bikers. Along with bikers from all over Wales they recently posed for a calendar to be sold in aid of the MS Society. Said calendar was launched last week and our boys are April. For copyright reasons I can't show you the whole photo (and possibly also for reasons of good taste) but I can give you this little taster.

Look away now if easily shocked.

Blossom at the piano.

This week continuing the look at the Christmas story we examined the role of angels in it, and in other places where they crop up. Sean asked if anyone had had any angelic experiences. Blossom (above) recalled a time he'd run out of petrol on a motorway, a man in a car had stopped, picked him up, taken him to the nearest garage and then returned him to his bike. The Bible says we won't always recognise angels; maybe that was one. It sounded slightly more likely to my ears than the angel who crept up on Blossom when he was folding blankets - but maybe I'm too cynical.

A few years ago I ghost-wrote the autobiography of a New York cop who worked the Harlem beat. He reckoned he had met angels.

"When I arrived at the subway station, I ran down the steps to the platform. I heard the trouble before I saw it, the sounds of raised voices echoing up the steps. Ahead of me I saw a crowd of people jostling and pushing each other. In the midst of them was a cop. He was injured and I could see he was struggling to handcuff one guy who was mouthing off and resisting arrest. At that time of night, some of the people you find on subways aren't the type to be very helpful to the police, and this crowd was no different. They were insulting and harassing the cop, trying to prevent the arrest. They didn't notice me arrive so, with the element of surprise on my side, I burst through the crowd and took hold of the prisoner before they could stop me. This made them really mad and they turned on me. I heard someone shout, 'Throw the cop onto the tracks.' Arms grabbed me and pushed me towards the edge of the platform. I had to let go of the prisoner as I struggled to resist but there were too many of them and I could feel myself getting closer and closer to the train tracks. Coming from inside the tunnel I could see two enormous yellow headlights bearing down the tracks and I could hear the roar of the train getting louder as it got closer. Just as I was on the edge of the platform, about to be pushed onto the tracks, I cried out, 'Jesus, help me!'
Suddenly two big black guys appeared out of the crowd, pushing people aside. 'Officer, follow us,' one of them said. 'Sure, I'll follow you anywhere,' I said, gratefully. Because the crowd was caught by surprise, I was able to get hold of the prisoner again before we made our way up out of the subway. The two black guys went in front, clearing the way, and the injured cop came behind me, his hand on my shoulder. Up on the street I pushed the prisoner into the back of the waiting patrol car, and turned round to thank the guys who had saved us, but there were crowds of people milling around and I couldn't see them anywhere. I didn't want to hang around so I shouted out, 'Thanks for your help, guys,' and climbed into the back seat next to the prisoner. 'C'mon, let's go,' I said.
The wounded cop was sitting up front next to the driver and as we left the scene he turned around to me and said, 'Mike, that was some job you did getting the prisoner through the crowd.'
'Yeah, I thought we were done for,' I said. 'Thank God for those two guys going ahead of us pushing people aside.'
'What two guys?'
'The two black guys who were pushing the crowds out of the way.'
'I didn't see no black guys helping us.'
'You must have seen them. They were talking to us, told us to follow them.'
'I didn'
t hear nothing.'I was puzzled. I'd definitely seen and heard these two guys who had saved us. If it hadn't been for them, I figured I'd have been dead by now. But why hadn't the other cop seen them? Just then some words from the Bible came into my head. 'Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to help believers?' (Hebrews 1:14)
'Naah,' I thought, 'it can't have been.'
But I couldn't get the possibility out of my mind. I was a believer and I had certainly needed help. I stored the memory in my head and in my heart but I didn't tell many people about it. It's not a smart thing to do, telling New York people that you're a cop who sees angels!"