Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thank you, Blogger - at last!

Younger Son's hair

My conker collection

Me weird? Never.

Back from holiday one minute and I find I've been tagged by Shirleen! So before I write about the hols, I thought I'd better respond to the tagging.

The rules are:
List 5 weird things about yourself or your pets.
Tag 5 friends and list them.
Then, those people need to write on their blogs about 5 weird things, and state the rules, and tag 5 more people.

Now the problem I have with this is that there is absolutely nothing weird about me. Not that everyone agrees with me on that.

I asked Younger Son for some weird things about me and he straightaway said, 'Your hair, your children, your personality and your dress sense.' This from a boy with hair like this:

(BLOGGER won't lte me upload photos! I will try again later.)

Anyway, by really wracking my brains, I came up with these slightly unusual - I wouldn't say weird - things about me.

1. Every autumn I collect conkers. For no reason other than I love their shiny sheen and their wonderful, um. chestnutty colour. I had to take Younger Son to the doctor's today for his wound dressing (as Betty is poorly but more of that later) and, while he was in with the nurse, I gathered conkers from the car park. I only had one really funny look and that was when I leapt in front of a car pulling in to stop it running over a conker (no, I didn't really; I wasn't quick enough - she sneakily pulled in where I wasn't expecting her to).

2. I have six toes on my left foot and a bent little finger on my left hand.

3. I can do that Russiany sort of jump - you know the one when you kick both legs out to one side and click them together - on my left side but I fall over if I try to do it on my right. And I do try.

4. I was once in make-up with Olympic rower, Matthew Pinsett.

5. Driving to Cardiff - the capital city of Wales - once, I missed it and ended up in Newport. Not missed the turning, you understand, just missed Cardiff.

Now I will tag Anna, MaryB, Chris, Elsie, and Victoria.

And if Anna says, 'My mother,' I am disinheriting her.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Losing it

I found my sunglasses.

Not the recently-lost-and-found ones, which I bought this year to replace last year's missing ones, but last year's. The ones that were missing.

They were in my holiday handbag.

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

I had lost 1 lb at weigh-in last night. That means I now weigh half a pound less than when I joined Weightwatchers four weeks ago. And I'm about to go on holiday - have I mentioned that? - so goodness knows what my weight will be next weigh-in.

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

A friend sent me a card with this photo and the legend, 'laughter is the medicine of life.'

We laugh a lot in our house. The friend has spent some time staying with us recently and she commented on it.

But I don't think our laughter is quite as whole-bodied and exuberant as these children's!

Nearly finished now for what is definitely the last post before our hols but I just want to plug my podcast again.

You can hear the first chapter of my novel, It wasn't like this in the Waltons, here on Jellycast. I'd love to know what you think - constructively, please!

There's also a link in the side-bar.

Have a good week.

We're all going on a summer holiday

Well, husband and I are.

We're not very good at holidays. Organising them that is. So a couple of weeks ago husband sat himself down with a large cup of coffee and began to search. His requirements were simple: somewhere warm and sunny, flying from Cardiff, in the morning.

Zakynthos came up.

'That'll do,' we said. (After husband had checked it out very carefully on every True Review he could find and we'd dithered a suitable length of time - long enough for husband's first choice hotel to be fully booked.

So we're off there tomorrow morning for a week.

I don't usually look forward to holidays as I'm not keen on flying, don't like too much heat and I'm a bit of a home bird, but I am really looking forward to this one. I think we both need a good rest. I have done the important packing - half the suitcase is full of books - and the rest is ready to go in. More or less. I am remarkably well-organised, which makes me think I have forgotten something vital.

But on holidays husband is in charge of all the critical things, like tickets, passports and money. I am like the Queen and I just call him when I need him to pay for something. I like that arrangement.

Until 2000 I hadn't flown for about 25 years. It was one of those things: the longer I put it off, the less I wanted to do it. But then I needed to go to New York to talk some more to the ex-NYPD cop whose autobiography I was ghost-writing, so it had to be done.

We flew out in July, the day after Concorde crashed.

Sitting in the airport terminal (name chosen specially with nervous flyers in mind?) waiting to get on the plane, there was nowhere we could look without seeing a newspaper with the aeroplane and its trailing flames blazoned across it.

The previous day, the day of the crash, daughter had phoned me. 'You um heard the news today?' she said casually.
'Oh, yes,' I sighed.
'Well, you mustn't worry. Look at it this way: if it's happened today, it's not going to happen again tomorrow, is it?'
'What's not going to happen?'
'There's not likely to be another plane on its way to New York crashing.'
'A plane crashing!' I squeaked. 'What are you talking about?'
'Concorde crashing.'
'Concorde crashing?!'
'Yes, I thought you said you'd heard the news?'
'I thought you were talking about the outbreak of deadly mosquitoes in Central Park.'

In case there's any confusion we weren't travelling on Concorde but Air India, whose in-flight curries come highly recommended. And our plane didn't crash and we weren't bitten by deadly mosquitoes.

Probably the worst bit of the trip was queuing in Times Square for cheap theatre tickets. We had Mikey with us and he 'entertained' us with an oratory about how the kingdom of God is approaching and the true meaning of the Book of Daniel. I suspect he entertained a lot of people in the queue.

Make My Day Day

Not having blogged for a couple of days, my brain is fair dinkum loaded with trivia that needs dumping to make space for new. So here goes.

First of all, I'm sorry that I missed Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday; we could have had such fun in work. Alun needs very little encouragement to talk like a pirate or a Valleys' boy, or anyone else really. It's the actor in him coming out. And it would have been a good excuse to download a screensaver of Johnny Depp. (Do I need an excuse? No, I don't.)

Who decides these things? That 19th September is going to be TLAP Day for example. I've often tried to find a calendar that lists all the specified days in a year so I could be prepared for Doughnut Day, or Jump Up and Down Day, or Cuddle a Cat Day, but I've never been entirely successful.

I did find a rather strange American calendar in which everyday was dedicated to an item of food - apple pie, t-bone steak, maple syrup, beefburger etc - but that wasn't really what I wanted.

I suppose there's no reason why you can't make up your own day. So we could have a Be Nice to Your Computer Day or a Walk Backwards Day or even Smile at a Stranger Day.

What no-one would ever suggest though is Lunch Prowl Week. This would be dedicated to teaching single women how to use their lunch-break to find a man. No, no-one would ever come up with that.

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

Last Friday I discovered that, not only are the Scissor Sisters not sisters, they're not even women.

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

I'd jotted down a few other things I was thinking about - and getting cross about - but they don't seem so important now. Either that or I can't remember what the cryptic note I wrote for myself means.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What the world has been waiting for!

It just didn't know it.

First there was Mrs Dale's Diary; then came Bridget Jones's. Now we're delighted to announce the safe delivery of Alison Turner's.

Alison is an about-to-be-fifty-year-old divorcee. She likes neither prospect. In her diary she records her innermost thoughts about life, ex-husbands, the bimbo, and the fact that manufacturers of skin care products for the over-fifties, in the design of their labels, have not taken into consideration the fact that with increasing age comes decreasing eye-sight.

You can listen to the first chapter of Alison's diary, beginning on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, over on Jellycast NOW!

It's about 28 minutes of listening time in all, but Alison (and I) would be really pleased if some people listened to at least some of it and reported back their thoughts.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Message in a bottle

Reno, in Brussels, stopped by my blog; in return I visited his site. He describes SHO()OT MY BLOG! as '...a new kind of "viral marketing" concept based on people’s imagination and creativity. A very bizarre photoblog, but also a very good way...i catch people’s and media’s attention on my (and your) website.'

It's best if you go and visit his blog rather than me try and explain, and if you do, you'll see my photo! Pic number 75.

I had a good time taking it although I did feel a bit odd wandering to a quiet corner of the beach with a whisky bottle in my hand.

Here is my original photo:

And here people are making the most of the last days of summer. I don't think the beach was on a tilt so it must have been me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Little quirks

Is anyone else barrier-phobic?

When I'm going into a car park, or anywhere that involves going under a raised barrier, I take the ticket and drive very quickly. I am terrified that if I delay, even a minute, the barrier will come down on top of me. Probably on top of my head. That's why I duck as well. Just in case.

And another thing. I wonder how many people, when they're getting money out of a hole in the wall, try to pull their card out of the machine before it gives a 'pull the card out now' series of beeps. I've never managed it but I'm sure it's quite rational to try and outwit a machine.

You only have to look at 2001 Space Odyssey to see what happens if you don't: you get Hal, the control freak computer.

We have four cars

Now I know that sounds like a lot - especially as there are only three of us in the house - but let me explain.

We have two old Beetles, one old Porsche and one proper car. The Beetles are Brian (the soft-top) and Betty; Alfie is the Porsche; and the other car is the black one.

Betty, Brian and Alfie are all white and respond best to being talked to nicely. I like to tell Alfie what a good boy he is if he starts at the first or second attempt. Betty I will explain things to, like I did this morning. 'It's okay, Betty, I'm just moving you round the front so I can get Alfie out. I'm taking Alfie to the hairdressers because you're needed by Younger Son, not because I don't love you.'

You can't talk to modern cars in the same way; you don't feel that they listen to you. Although I did wonder if we were being a little hard on the black one by dismissively calling it the black one. But it just doesn't have the personality.

Brian only comes out in the summer and he's a babe magnet! When husband takes Alfie to work, all the men talk to him about his car; when he takes Brian it's all the girls who ooh and aah. His most recent conquest was an 86-year-old lady who told husband all about her first car and how she learned to drive, back in the thirties.

Alfie (above) is husband's pride and joy and Betty (right) is mine.

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

Went to the hairdressers this afternoon. It will be fine when I've mooshed it up a bit.

Also bought a pile of books in the charity shop. it is slightly un-nerving being served by a man in a denim mini-skirt and purple and orange eye shadow. He hasn't learned subtlety yet.

Driving home in Alfie, into the lowering sun, I pulled down the sun visor. Unfortunately when I do that it covers the mirror, meaning I have to choose between being able to see ahead and see behind. I'd rather know where I'm going than where I've been so it's small sacrifice.

It's wonderful what you learn through blogging

As Zinnia in America and Steve in Germany were unfamiliar with magpies, I thought I'd do a bit of research.

First of all let me explain that magpies are unpopular with many people in Britain because, as members of the crow family, they include in their diet bird eggs, nestlings and even young rabbits. They are sometimes blamed for the decline in Britain's population of songbirds. However the RSPB undertook a study and found that songbird numbers were no different in places where there were many magpies from where there are few.

But now the really interesting bit.

According to the RSPB, when food is abundant, magpies hoard the surplus to eat later. They make a small hole in the ground with their beak, place the food in it and cover it with grass, a stone or a leaf. These caches are spread around their territory or home range.

So it looks like we have a particularly stupid magpie who can't remember where he hid his store and intends to dig up the entire garden until he finds something.

Now here's a little rhyme:

One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that's best to miss.

It's an old rhyme but was made famous when it was used for a TV programme of the same name. Do you remember Magpie?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I did something stupid today

No, really I did.

I'd arranged to see Jon, the trainer at the gym, to talk about devising a fitness program for me to follow. I have circuit training tonight so I wasn't intending on exercising beforehand - but as I was there ...

Anyway, Jon wanted me to do a fitness test. With a belt strapped round my chest I had to cycle a mile, I think. At the end of it I scored 2/5 with a VO2 level of either 21 or, as I thought, 121.

If it was 121, I am fitter - incredibly more so - than Superior Men; if it was 21, I am in the Poor Woman range. That is very disappointing.

And only 2 out of 5? If that's for fifty-something women, then it's appalling; if it's for the population in general, it's somewhere to work from. I will have to ask Jon for clarification next time.

Meantime I still have circuits to do tonight. All I really want to do is go to sleep.

Slap an ASBO on him!

Spotted from my kitchen window.

The culprit.

He's started on the back garden now. I took this photo through the window. I tried to creep up on him but he has very good hearing.

Having minor car trouble?

Then call Dummies Can Do It Together on 0800 1212 3434.

Last night daughter phoned me. They were out in the car and the lights wouldn't pop up; would I call Dad and ask him what to do?

Okey dokey.

Husband is in the hotel bar ordering a baguette. He says there is a way to make the lights pop up manually. He tells me to get the car manual from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. I look.

'It's not there.'
'It must be.'
Rustle, rustle, as I rummage through the drawer.
'You don't have to rummage. It's easy to see; if you can't see it, it's not there.'
'I said it wasn't.'
'Are you sure? Are you looking in the right place? You don't have to rummage; if you can't see it, it's not there.'

I eventually find it under the shelf on top of some boxes in the bookcase.

I phone son-in-law. 'There is a knob on the end of the motor drive shaft,' I tell him. 'If you turn that the lights will pop up.'
'Great,' son-in-law says confidently. Ten seconds pass. 'Um, what does the motor drive shaft look like?'
'Well, it's sort of sticky out with a knob at the end.'
'Whereabouts in the engine is it?'
'I don't know. The picture only shows a little bit of engine. Hang on, I'll see what can I find.'

I flick through the rest of the manual.

'Here we are! It's on the right or left as you look at it. It sticks out from the front of the car at an angle sort-of inwards and upwards and it's next to a sort-of light grey boxy thing with a knob. Just behind it or in front of it is a thing that looks like a thermos with a knob. In fact, the thing you're looking for is a knob on a thing that looks like a darker grey knobby thing with sort-of ridges round it.'
'Oh yes, I've got it!'

Who needs the AA when they've got me and a few knobs?

P.S. I did buy chocolate. Three bars. I was going to give one to Younger Son but he was out so I ate it. But they were small bars and on special offer, 3 for £1. I bought Cadburys Dairy Milk, Caramel and Bubbly. (I don't recommend Bubbly; it disappears in your mouth.)

I have decided to declare Tuesday evenings between weigh-in and bedtime a diet-free zone.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Half a stinky pound! That's all I lost. I'm not even back where I was before the week Younger Son was in hospital.

I have had to have lots of cheese on my baked potato to make up for the disappointment. But i didn't buy chocolate.

Not yet anyway.

good news, bad news

First the good news: I have found my sunglasses! I've been looking for them for weeks.

They were in my handbag.

Now, why have I got a little flashing eye in the corner of my monitor screen? I'll ignore it. It will go away soon if I ignore it. I expect.

I didn't mention it yesterday but during the afternoon I received an email telling me the result of my application to attend a script-writing course partly sponsored by the BBC and ITV. To be considered I had to submit a sample script, which I did.

What do you think the result of my application was?

You've guessed it: thank you but no. And in case I didn't believe the email they told me in a letter as well today.

I am trying to fight the superstition that says things come in threes. Although as they informed me by letter and email, would that, along with my Romantic Novelists Report make it three?

I really wanted chocolate yesterday but I'm on a - excuse me - sodding diet! And I have weigh-in tonight. Last week I had put on one pound but I was expecting it; I had had a bad eating week with Younger Son in hospital and me grabbing cake on the run. This week I have tried really hard so I had better have got down to the weight I was before I put on the pound at least. I am planning on having chocolate straight after weigh-in anyway!

People keep telling me I don't need to diet but, according to the charts, I am 10lbs overweight for my height. And that's even when I lie and say I'm taller than I am.

I might even go to the gym this afternoon. Would that help?

The little flashing eye is starting to intimidate me.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Does this indicate alien activity?

Over the last week we noticed that something was happening to our front lawn. Part of it appeared to be covered in bits of grass or moss.

Like this.

We came up with various reasons for this peculiarity and didn't worry too much about it.

Sunday morning, husband got out the mower and by munchtime the lawn was bit free (that should read lunchtime but is quite an appropriate typing error).

By tea-time this is what the lawn looked like.

Husband thinks it is a squirrel burying his nuts. But that is an awful lot of nuts. And, surely, in the course of an afternoon, we would have spotted a squirrel at some point? Unless it is an invisible squirrel.

Harvey was named after an invisible white rabbit. At least I assume it was a white one but I have no reason for that. But I digress.

I am more inclined to the alien activity theory.

This says that miniature aliens have inhabited that area of our lawn. There is nothing - apart from Doctor Who - that says that aliens have to be huge terrifying monsters, so ours landed some time ago and have been busy creating a new biosphere for themselves. I don't mind in principle: I am just as prepared to share my home with aliens as I am to share it with spiders whose webs I do not have the heart to destroy. However it does make the lawn look awfully messy. It wouldn't be so bad if it were the back garden but this is right next to our front door.

Oh! There's a magpie on the lawn! He is searching for aliens. Either that ... or he is the one responsible for the mess.

September 11th

A big day today: West Wing Season 7 is out on DVD.

Husband says I must wait until my birthday.

It's also Jon and Becky's 2nd anniversary. Congratulations to a lovely couple!

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

After church yesterday Andre was telling me that he is reading a book that claims that 9/11 was an inside job. The way the buildings fell in on themselves was more in keeping with bombs inside the building. It was all a set-up by the CIA. Just like they fooled us into believing that man had walked on the moon.

It never really happened. Just like the Holocaust.

Yeah right.

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

I was in church but not in church again yesterday as I went out with Alun and the older children for Sunday Club. We played Pass the Pigs and talked about knowing when to stop. Elin said she had always been taught that one is enough. Later I suggested to husband that perhaps we had failed our children: we never taught them that one is enough!

I said to Alun and the girls that as I don't drink, I didn't know what I'd be like drunk. Elin said, 'Probably we wouldn't be able to tell the difference.'

Really, I don't know where these children get this impression of me.

How to play castanets

Older Son, who works in Madrid, was in the airport lounge with Victoria Beckham on Friday. Apparently she is not as skinny as she looks.

OS and girlfriend travelled round Spain for their summer holiday and, knowing my fondness for percussion, brought me back some castanets. The only problem was that no-one knew how to play them.

Now I do. Courtesy of

How to hold the castanets in Andalusian dance
The string fits either side of the knuckle of the thumb. Pull the knot tight over the thumb on the side away from the nail.

When playing allow the hands to curl inwards remaining relaxed. If you straighten the thumb, it will open the castanet to allow the fingers to strike a clean sharp sound!

(Note: in the north of Spain the castanets are held differently for the Jota.)

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

Younger Son has just come home from his Steve Irwin Tribute Day yesterday. I had been starting to worry that he may have been eaten by an alligator; I wasn't sure how seriously they were taking the tribute.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What have I done?

Technorati Profile

I have claimed my blog on Technorati but I have no idea what that means.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

(With thanks to Bono for the post title)

I received a package today. Husband found it in the outside toilet. It was my manuscript returned from the Romantic Novelists' Association assessment service.

I said I'd look at it later; husband said not to put it off. 'It will only be hanging over you. Even if they don't think it's good enough, they'll have lots of helpful advice to improve it.'

So I opened it.

In three full pages of critique, the closest thing to a positive comment was this: 'You obviously intended this to be a humorous story and some of your scenarios are amusing.'

According to the expert, my heroine is slovenly (she has dirty cupboards), and it's unrealistic to imagine that someone who has catered for Christmas for 20 years would forget to order a turkey. She knows that she should diet but, shock horror, does absolutely nothing to rectify the matter. Welcome to my world.

Oh, yes, and surely my heroine should be less concerned about her pre-menopausal hot flushes and more worried that she might lose her sex drive, find sex painful or experience heavy periods.

And I misuse punctuation marks.

I want to retaliate, to scream and shout at this unnamed expert that she has missed the whole point of my novel, but to do that would be acting against what I have always put argued in critiquing situations: that if a reader has missed the point of what you've written, it's your fault not the reader's.

So now what I must do is put this report to one side for a while, consider what is said and decide what to do about it.

Okay, that's long enough; does anyone have a tall building I can jump off?

The postman obviously knew what he was doing when he left the package in the toilet. Down the toilet seems to be the only place for it. And my hopes. (No, I'm joking. I wouldn't waste all that paper. It'll go for recycling.)


Two totally unconnected things happened yesterday.

1) Husband said I looked sexy in my Eric Morecambe shorts and welly boots.

2) Husband got a letter from the optician saying his eye test was overdue.

The reason for shorts and welly boots was the continuing saga of the raspberry patch. You might remember that some time ago I related how I'd cleared the old over-grown raspberry patch ready to plant new healthy bushes.
A month later we bought 10 raspberry bushes ready for planting.

Two months after first clearing the soil my lovely patch of dug and bare earth was covered with convolvulus but no raspberry bushes. I cleared it.

A month later - yesterday and today - I cleared it again. This time husband planted the 7 dead and 3 live plants.

It looks lovely - all fresh (as long as you ignore the bare non-sprouting stalks) and earthy. It is very satisfying, especially when you can pretend you are burying someone who wouldn't recognise a funny story if it stood up and kicked them in the backside.

Speaking of dead things, Younger Son and his buddies are having a Steve Irwin Tribute Day today. I assume it involves watching videos and drinking lots of Australian beer.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The things I have to put up with

Husband arrived home last night after a week in Glasgow. He looked at me and burst out laughing. 'Have you thought of hiring yourself out as a belisha beacon?' he asked.

I'd asked him to bring me home a little something from Scotland, preferably a man in a kilt; he didn't. However he told me he was thinking of me on his flight home. In the plane with him was the Glasgow Warriors rugby team in, for some obscure reason, their kit of shorts and jumpers. They travelled from the plane to the airport terminus in a coach. 'Standing jammed between all these big meaty men in their shorts, I thought of you,' he said. He knows my penchant for rugby players. And men in kilts.

My nose was glowing a little less today but to conceal it a bit more before I went to work, I put on some powder. I thought I had got away with it until Alun and I were talking about something and Alun said, 'It's good to have a sense of unity about the office, a sense of concord.' Something in his voice made me turn round quickly to look at him: he was doubled over with laughter.

Things didn't improve when Chris joined us in the office. He was asking Alun to attend a student event as he was unable to go and they wanted 'someone older.' Alun snorted indignantly and, as the oldest one present, I decided to get in first before either of them did. I said, 'Why don't I go instead as I'm the oldest?'
Almost to a man they said, 'We don't want someone THAT old!'

And this is a church office! Supposedly peopled by 'good' Christian workers. I don't think so. If I were in an ordinary office I could sue for sexual harassment. I said this to husband. He said, 'I don't it could be called sexual harassment; more like nose or age harassment.'

P.S. Llanelli Scarlets are just about to beat Glasgow Warriors by quite a lot to not much including a brilliant Dwayne Peel-made try. Some good news for the Welsh; not such a good night for the Ospreys who've lost their game.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I keep seeing a book tag that is doing the rounds. No-one has tagged me but that is probably because all the people who've done it (that I've seen) have been awfully intellectual in their choice of books and far too clever for me. I've never even heard of half of the books. So here is my little list. And if any equally intellectually-challenged people would like to be tagged, consider yourself so.

1) A book that changed my life:
I thought about saying the Bible but it was God not the book that changed my life.

2) A book I've read more than once:
All of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. It's through these books that I developed the longing to be called cupcake. Preferably by a lean, tanned, muscular cop called Joe.
3) A book I'd take to a desert island:
Brother of the More Famous Jack. Just because it's my favouritest book ever and the only book (I think) I ever gave as a present to someone. You know how hard it is to choose a book for someone else? I just knew this would be right for the person.
4) A book that made me laugh:
The Stephanie Plum series again.
5) A book that made me cry:
Marley and Me. Probably others but that is the most recent.
6) A book I wish had been written:
Anything that sold well and made me a famous (and rich) author.

7) A book that should never have been written:
The Travelling Hornplayer. The sequel to BotMFJ. I waited so long for a sequel and when it came, it stank. The man I fell in love with in BotMFJ behaves in a way completely out of line with who he is.
It is one of the rare books I just couldn't finish. I gave it to a charity shop.
8) A book I'm currently reading:
The Other Boleyn Girl

9) A book I'm planning to read:
The Other Boleyn Girl (I haven't actually started it yet.)

Some of my stick collection

Including 'arry the aardvark. D'oh, it's not an aardvark.

People look at it and say, 'That doesn't look like an aardvark.'

That's because it's not; it's an anteater.

Teapots and tea-cosys

I found the photo of the tin of beans on the (American) English Tea Store site. It's an imported tin so that is probably why the label looks slightly wrong. Anyway as I was there, a bit of browsing was in order.

And this is what I read. "Teapots are used to brew tea, not to heat water. Use an electric kettle to boil water."

Do people really have to be told what teapots are for? Or kettles?

Then further on it again recommends using a kettle to boil water. "Tea tastes much better when made with freshly boiled water, compared to water heated in a microwave."

It made me wonder: do Americans have kettles have as a general rule? Go into any home in Britain and you may be offered coffee but chances are the kettle will be used to boil the water to pour on the instant coffee granules. Is this the real diffference between Britain and America? Every home in Britain has a kettle; every home in America has a coffee-pot.

And, of course, when the tea is made it needs to brew, to allow the bitter tannins to dissolve, and to keep it warm while brewing you need a tea-cosy. Which provides my link in a Woganesque way.

Harvey has a bad case of the moults. Losing hair at the end of summer? That's global warming for you. He is shedding enough for me to knit a cosy (like the cunning link?) for the Eiffel Tower. If I could knit.

Blogspot hates baked beans

I have tried about - lawks a mercy, what's happening?

I am just in the process of saying that I have tried about 18 times to get a photo of Heinz Beans on my blog when - kapow - it appears. It seems Blogger realised I was calling its bluff and telling the world what a waste of space it is.

But now I don't have to. Blogger is lovely. Just because I have wasted most of the day trying to get this photo on, I'm not upset.

Just because I tried three different photos; just because I tried saving them in different formats; just because I allowed it time in-between attempts; just because I started a whole new post; none of those matter now. I have my photo.

It should be in the previous post but I'm not going to try and move it. I mean it's not as if you don't know what a tin of beans looks like. But it just became a matter of style - making my post look attractive - and principle - not being beaten by a - a - bit of circuitry in the sky.

I thought I was going to have to resort to taking a photo of my nose and posting that. I still might. It is incredibly impressive. If you're impressed by boxers, Walter Matthau or Rumpole.

What do you love?

I'm having two of my favourite things for lunch today: baked beans and Victoria plums. (If that sounds a little odd, blame Weightwatchers; I blame them for most things including my bad moods and the hole in the ozone layer.)

Victoria plums are one the few fruits to still be (spilt infinitive! Apologies) seasonal, and
a short season it is too. Blink twice and you miss it. In the shop last Saturday I waved the label from the shelf under the eye of the shop assistant. 'It says Victorias; where are they?'
'Sorry, they're sold out, but we have Reeves, they're very similar, in fact, I prefer them to Victorias.'

Led on thus, I bought some; they're okay but they're not Victorias.

Then, on the shelf in Sainsburys, there they were. Red and peachy and golden and amber, mmmm. That'll do for me.

I wonder if it's the fact that they're only available for such a short period that makes them so delectable. Strawberries even at the height of summer these days don't have the same magic about them that they did when I was a child.

In an article I read it said that many people under the age of 15 have never tasted a ripe native plum. And that 'today the number (of Victorias) on sale represents a mere twentieth of the bumper crops that we used to know only a generation ago.' Spring is getting earlier and earlier so the trees blossom earlier, making them particularly vulnerable to late frosts.

It would be a tragedy if the Victoria were to die out. There is no other plum worth eating.

Baked Beans, on the other hand, are unlikely to die out. A staggering 1.5 million cans of them are eaten in Britain every day. And as we all know, Beanz meanz Heinz. The distinctive tin was even chosen as one of the products that best represents Britain to go in a time capsule for London's Business Design Centre.

I'm with the majority on this: they have to be Heinz and whether they're on toast, with bangers and mash, or cold straight from the tin, umm um.

I wonder if the Queen ever sits in front of the television with a tray on her lap, and a plate of baked beans on toast.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A bit of a hold-up

I got there at 9.45 am and there were already about fifty people in the queue. The ticket office was ten minutes late opening but I was kept entertained by Pete 'n' Dud behind me.

'Here, Pete, what are those metal things sticking out?'
'They're part of the stadium, aren't they, Dud?'
'What, to make it look pretty, is it?'
'No, no, Dud, they're part of the engineering, aren't they?'
'Part of the engineering, Pete?'
'Yes, they hold things up.'
'What, is that why it's taking so long for us to get our tickets then?'

A big day today

Tickets for the Ospreys versus Australia game go on sale at the Liberty Stadium at 10 o'clock. They advise getting there early as they anticipate a high demand.

I'm going when I've showered. Yes, and fed you, Harvey.

It will probably be a queue of me, three dedicated supporters and a man who thinks he's at the Post Office and only wants his pension.

Speaking of Harvey - who has just left the room - while shopping yesterday I bought an Oust air freshener for the kitchen. Old dogs smell. It's a fact of life. I am used to it and don't notice it in the way the you don't notice that your home has a particular smell - everyone's home has its own aroma, don't you think? But husband has been grumbling about it when he comes home from staying away (he's in Glasgow this week, in the red light district).

I've tried plug-in air fresheners before but couldn't stand the artificial smell they produced; Oust is supposed to get rid of smells not just mask them. We'll see.

Oh, yes, and I can hear again! I woke up yesterday morning with my hearing almost back to normal i.e. only slightly deaf. In the place of deafness I have a sore throat and a cold sore on the end of my nose (again). I look like Rudolph after a night on the tiles.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

For ladies' eyes only

Being a do-as-I'm-told sort of person, on Monday, I answered the summons to attend for my three-yearly smear test.

I hopped up on the bed, as requested, and waited.

'Now just bring your heels up to your bottom, let your knees flop apart naturally and relax.'


With a light shining up my nether regions and a smiling nurse in rubber gloves approaching wielding a shiny metal penis, yes, I'll relax. What is there to be tense about after all?

'Now give a nice cough for me.'

Cough? Cough?!! That's what men have to do; I've never had to do it before. Is this nurse confused? Should I leave now before irreparable damage is done to my married life?

It reminds me of a similar experience last year.

Then I was having my coil checked by the doctor.

Now normally it's a case of hand in, a quick how's your father, and, 'see you next year.' This time it was how's your father, how's your auntie and how's your granny's cat? And she's still rummaging.

Meanwhile Mrs Hypochondria is getting the first pangs of panic. What has the doctor found? Something fatal? Of course it is; that's why she's taking so long.

She speaks to the nurse. 'Bring the light a bit closer, please.'

It's too dark; that's the problem. No need for me to worry. I breathe a little easier.

The doctor calls the nurse. 'Nurse, come and have a look.'

Oh, no, she's found a tumour so big she can't believe her eyes; she wants the nurse to confirm what she's seeing. Ohmigosh, it's probably inoperable, too late. What shall I tell the family? When shall I tell them? I'll keep it to myself, there's no point upsetting them. They'll find out soon enough. I wonder if they'll cry at my funeral. I wonder if anyone will come to my funeral.

The doctor looks up and speaks to me. 'Have you noticed anything coming away?'
'Coming away?'
'Yes, anything ... unusual?'
'No,' I squeak.
She goes back inside.

I am just wondering if anyone will have anything nice to say at my funeral or whether they will simply list all the mistakes I made in my life - it was a short life but a stupid one - when she withdraws and switches off the light. She takes off her gloves and looks worried. She looks worried? I'm the one who should look anxious: how am I going to break the news to husband?

'I can't find it,' she says, after an age.
'You can't find it?'
'No, it seems to have disappeared.'
'Disappeared? (Panic always bring out the parrot in me.) But where could it go? I mean there's not exactly a lot of room for it to hide down there.'
'Well, it might have made its way somewhere.'
'Somewhere?! Do you mean I could be like a magician and produce it from behind my ear?'

The doctor tells me she will send me to the clinic for an ultrasound scan to see where it's got to , but, in the meantime, she suggests that I use an alternative form of contraception. It's my turn to look at her.
'And how long ago might I have lost it?'
She shrugs.
'And now you're suggesting I should use an alternative contraception?' Words like horse and stable-door spring to mind.
And I leave the surgery knowing that I really have lost more than just the plot.
P.S. I wasn't pregnant, as you probably worked out for yourself.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I didn't go to church yesterday

I haven't been to many Sunday meetings over the last few months for a variety of reasons. Prison, Xplore, visitors, away. Lots of good reasons. Or maybe they're all the same reason.

Disillusionment? With myself? With Linden? With God? All three? Or just me?

I know the place I'm in and I don't like it. But I don't have the enthusiasm to get out of it. If I go to church I might have to take action. Be forced into facing God and me.

The last six months have been mixed up. I've drifted and haven't cared. Linden has become the place I go to work rather than anything else. Not that it needs to be anything else. But maybe I need it to be something else, a place of focus maybe.

It's so easy to call on God when I need him and to put him at the back of my mind when things are hunky dory, or when I know he wouldn't approve of something. And there has been plenty to disapprove of.

A disapproving god: is that what I reduce the Father of creation to? Do I feel so little awe? Do I concentrate too much on the loving and forgiving God, take advantage of his love, forget his righteous anger? What has happened to me?

I know what happened; I could pinpoint the moment. The decision I took. But that's the past.

A new minute, a new day, new decisions. Now I just need the enthusiasm.

I have thought hard about posting this. I'm okay; I'm fine. Just missing something.

Another week, another appointment

I've just been to the doctor's.

I needed a prescription for my keep-me-sane pills (yes, Bluebottle, you can be as sane as me). They insist on me going to see the doctor every now and again to make sure I'm not thinking of committing suicide: these pills have suicidal tendencies as a possible side-effect.

The doctor said, 'How are you on them?'
I said, 'Wonderful.'
He said, 'Fine.'

Then I asked him about my continuing deafness in my left ear. He said, 'What?'
No he didn't but I wish he had. He looked and said, 'Tough. you'll have to put up with it.' Only in a much nicer way. It could last for another two weeks. Debris, apparently. Like the aftermath of a party without the fun.

I'm sure I was sitting next to my old Welsh Latin teacher in the waiting-room. I would have spoken to him but waiting-rooms have a forbidding air. You know everyone will turn and listen to you if you speak. Mr Evans introduced us to Horace and Catullus, as well as amo, amas, amat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rounding off a doggy day

Alun's dog, Saffi, a Tibetan terrier, recently had pups. Well, no, actually, she had one pup. Unheard of apparently. Alun was not best pleased as the cost of having her, um, mated, was more than the price they will get for the puppy.

I think it is Saffi's revenge. She did not enjoy her first (and only) experience of sex.

Saffi's baby, who is officially to be called Seren (Welsh for star), but is affectionately known as Moley, is now two weeks old.

Can you see Moley in the photo with her mum? Her little ratty bottom is just sticking out. She is still only a handful.

Check these out
An amazing photograph/ic effect. Taken by Sam Javanrouh, who published it on his daily dose of imagery site.
Also, read at the wedding I attended a few weeks ago, this poem says it all. I've searched the internet and found various versions of it but no author. So, if you wrote it, apologies and please let me know. (But not you, Tim Oakes, cos I know it wasn't you.)
If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loved ones are just too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook it as people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can do all these things,
Then you are probably the family dog.

Harvey doesn't like peas

Even as a young dog he left them in his dish. It amazes me that a dog like Harvey, with a lolloping great tongue, can have such control over what it sucks up. It's the same with tablets. Well-hidden or not, he spots them and leaves them.

Marley and Me continued

We made it to the river!

On the way there I tried to say to Harvey, 'Don't go before you've finished (weeing, that is)'; it came out as 'Don't finish before you've stopped.'

It was just as well that Harvey couldn't hear me, not that he'd have listened if he could.

But I remembered that I wanted to quote a bit from Marley and Me.

"Status symbols mean nothing to him (dogs). A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ... we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. ... Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see."

Marley and Me

I finally finished reading Marley and Me this morning.

I'd put it aside for a few weeks after Marley's first close encounter with death: it was all too familiar.

I normally read last thing at night and I couldn't face Marley dying just before I went to sleep. This morning, instead of going to the church meeting, I had a lie-in and, as I was about to pick up and start on The Other Boleyn Girl, I spotted Marley. Plucking up my courage, I opened it and continued.

Yes, I cried. But it's so well-written, and the author explains his emotions so sensitively and unsloppily, that it's manageable. A thoroughly recommended read for dog-lovers but I suspect it would simply confirm to dog-haters what they would see as the insanity of dog-owners.

And you might be wondering why you haven't heard from Harvey for a while: he's not talking to me.

Life has been so chaotic for the last few weeks that we've not managed many walks. Now actually that suits Harvey fine as sleeping and eating is all he really wants to do, but, like a lot of old people, he has a wonderful long-term memory but no short-term. So he looks at me, and remembers romping in the woods, chasing squirrels - never coming even close - leaping off the riverbank, swimming in the sea, sniffing his way around the cliff path, and coming face to face with foxes on the tip, and he wonders why I am being so horrid and not taking him there today, NOW!

He forgets that by the time he gets to the end of the road he is panting and dragging behind me; he forgets that when we return not only can he not manage to get up the front steps, he can't get down the six steps at the back, or up the two steps that lead to the back garden and his ramp back to the house. He doesn't even remember that he has a ramp. Instead he struggles into the bushes and stands there and barks, wondering when the garden wall that he is now standing on, got to be so high from the ground (it's all of 18").

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Talking about getting old

In the chemist today there was a sign advertising half-price home-testing kits. Now I'm sure you know you can buy pregnancy testing kits but did you know you can also test yourself for a stomach ulcer? Or chlamydia(?)? Or, best of all, the menopause?

Night-time sweats, hot flushes, irritability, forgetfulness, and increased hairiness not good enough for you?

You know you're getting old when

while drooling over one rugby player, you look at another and wonder if his mother knows he's out playing this nasty dangerous game.

Saturday morning shopping

I had to post a package and go to the library so I decided to do my shopping in the village instead of taking a trip to Sainsburys and spending more than I need. Now I know why women in the old days had so many children: they needed them to carry home the shopping.

By the time I had got the fruit, veg, fish, bread and meat that I needed for the next couple of days, I was struggling to carry it the few hundred yards back to the car.

It's probably partly having the tight narrow blood-stopping handles of carrier bags that made it such hard work. If I'm going to do this more often I must invest in a proper granny-bag.

There were lots of people in the village and I noticed that it was always me who gave way, stood aside, jumped into the road, pressed myself into shop windows, to make way for everyone else. If I didn't, would I just get battered?

From the library I borrowed The Other Boleyn Girl (I asked the librarian if they had the first one but she just looked at me blankly. As you are probably doing now.) Lots of people seem to be reading this book and others by Philippa Gregory. I haven't really done historical fiction since my youth and, no, not Georgette Heyer. What was her name? Um, it'll come to me. Mary Stewart, that's it. Or was she the Queen?

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

Took Younger Son to the surgery yesterday to have his dressing changed. He told me proudly that the nurse said it was the biggest one she'd ever seen. (You can add your own punchline; we did.)