Thursday, May 31, 2007

Linden Dreaming

Over on James's blog, he talks about interconnectedness. It reminded me of a piece of artwork that hangs in Linden. I'm afraid I took this picture of it in its glass frame so it's not very clear but you should be able to get the general idea.

One of the artists from Linden painted this. It's called Linden Dreaming and, in aboriginal art form, it tells the story of Linden's history through places and people associated with it. I'm trying to remember the details because it was done a few years ago, but the dots represent people and meeting places and the way they are linked.

In the bottom left-hand corner you can see the shape of Mumbles Head and the lighthouse sticking into the sea. Linden itself is the big yellow blob in the grey blob on the left. The big grey blob on the right is the city and you can see the way the lines go out into the sea showing how people have left and headed out in all directions.
Thanks to the wonder of the internet, the links from Linden, and from each of us, radiate much further.

The artist is called Nigel Mason and he works in glass and stone too. He also makes digeridoos and plays all sorts of pipe instruments. And he wears sandals in all weather.


I would have bet money - 50p at least - that Simon would have been fired from last night's The Apprentice show. Now there are five candidates left and I don't think any of them are as 'drop dead shrewd' as Sir Alan requires. After hating Tre initially, I've come round to him. I think he's learned something from this process and could end up as the winner. Husband thinks it will be one of two girls.

* * * * * * * * * *

I've decided it's the scales that cause the problem in my dieting so I've hidden them away.

* * * * * * * * * *

Good news for a change! The people who run the cake-baking website that I wrote for liked my articles so they've asked me to do another site, Kids and Cooking. I shall have to put aside my deepset prejudice against the word 'kids', but I'm willing to do that for money.

* * * * * * * * * *

Which reminds me of my uncle. He and two lady friends were going to Germany, crossing by ferry. When he phoned to book one twin and one single room for the overnight crossing, he was told that it was £200 cheaper to book a deluxe family room for five. He asked the ladies if they would mind sharing with him; both of them separately replied, 'For £200, I'm anybody's.'

My uncle is 81 and the ladies are in their seventies.

They're going to France next.

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

Harvey thinks I am getting too serious in my posts. He says that I am more concerned about attracting readers than I am about being true to myself. Harvey is very perceptive. By the end of today this site should have received 10,000 visits. That is an awful lot. Not by some people's standards but it is for me when I say it aloud. Ten thousand. Gosh, and all over the world. I know some people come by regularly, and some people I consider friends, but lots come by Google's very strange referral system. Today's include 'lenny henry cat flaps'. Now why that would have led them to me is a - well, what do you know? A dog just came in and pooped in our garden! The little ratbag! - where was I? Ah, yes, Lenny Henry. Now I've lost my train of thought.

Oh, yes, referrals. Another one is to the Native Intelligence site. Let's look there. Good heavens, they've used one of my posts as an example of Nature (as in nature v nurture) but I'm not entirely sure I understand why. I obviously don't have a lot of native intelligence.

I wonder who will be the 10,000th visitor. The time it's taking me to write this post, what with invading dogs and getting distracted googling, he/she could have been and gone by now.

I am writing for myself, Harvey, but I'm also writing for readers because that's what writers want: to be read.


As I said, I was helping at the community cafe yesterday. It's run in Red Cafe, the property owned by Linden Church and the home of our youth project.

Red Cafe has been running for six years now. It's in the middle of the Mumbles Mile - a procession of pubs along the sea front - and was opened to provide a safe meeting place for young teenagers. Since then it's diversified and offers alternative education - music making, environmental issues, outdoor pursuits, etc - for teenagers on the verge of being excluded from school.

Since last summer the cafe has been open during the day in school holidays as a community cafe, with a special focus on being child-friendly. The cafe is still manned by volunteers but in spite of our occasional slip-ups, our clientele is steadily increasing.

It's always been Red policy to encourage an ethical lifestyle, offering choices that include organic and fair trade goods. And much of the furniture is sourced from local manufacturers who use recycled materials.
One half of the cafe is a typical cafe with tables (made from old washing machine drums) and chairs, while the other half has a play area and sofas (made from I-don't-know-what-but-something).
The counter is made from old bits of wood and re-created glass, and its surface used to be cups from vending machines and plastic bottles.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yum yum - I think ...

As it's half-term the community cafe is open again, and I'm helping in the kitchen there today. I've made a carrot cake to take with me and, before you say it, I know it looks more like a yellow chilli-pepper cake but that was because I didn't have any orange food colouring. My cake decorating skills go from bad to worse.

I'm only one step away from marmite-topped cake. (If you saw the Vicar of Dibley repeat on Sunday evening, you'll know what I mean.)


Caw said the crow

I was in work alone this morning. As it's half-term Alun is on holiday and there are no classes on. I work upstairs in the office and downstairs are the large hall and several rooms. At one end of the hall is the noticeboard and I was pinning up some new posters this morning when there was a banging noise from the other end of the hall.

I looked around, thinking something must have fallen - although why it would have done I don't know - and there was nothing there. I carried on pinning. The crashing clattering came again. It sounded almost like ... someone breaking in! And there was me, all on my ownsome with just a packet of push pins with which to defend myself.

I courageously crept down the hall - along the wall furthest away from the noise. There it was again! It was getting closer. Aaahh!

And then I saw it. There, banging on the window, was a huge black Siberian hooded raven! Which as you know are infamous for eating small dogs and daffodils. It was knocking so hard the top window was rattling. I only had time to see the glint in its eye before I turned and ran away upstairs.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Regarding responses to 9/11, I can't help thinking that Springsteen's The Rising was an altogether better one than George W's.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


There were only three of us in circuits tonight. As we were all 'experienced', Jules decided to prolong and vary the warm-up. By the the end of it I was thinking, 'If the world has to end some time soon, now would be a good moment.' And that was before we started on the circuit.

Summertime and the living is easy

Brian and me on the top of Cefn Bryn this afternoon.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Just a typical weekend

Bank Holiday weekend weather has been typical: rain and more rain. Fortunately it didn't start until Saturday evening. I say fortunately because we had a barbecue at Linden on Friday evening for the youngsters from youth club, their parents and anyone from church who wanted to come along.

There must have been 100 plus people there and Husband and I were in the catering corps. Husband was cooking burgers; Mike, another volunteer, was serving them; I was taking orders, taking money, spreading out serviettes, dishing up buns - doing most of the work in fact. But who gets all the praise and thanks?
However a young man did compliment me on my buns. And, hey, when you get to my age, you take your compliments where you can.

It was also fortunate that the people attending the barbecue were honest as I kept forgetting to ask for money.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Sunday morning we had a guest speaker from Canada in church. I was rocking baby Rowan when the speaker shouted, 'If you don't have your bibles with you, shame on you!' I pinched Rowan then and made him cry so I had to take him out. (I didn't really; it was the speaker shouting that made him cry but it was a good excuse to leave.) He'd already given us a few 'You shoulds...' and 'You shouldn'ts...' Not my kind of speaker. I took refuge in the creche.

And no-one had told him that we have 20 minute sermons: he went on for 50. It's a well-known fact that people can't concentrate for that long. Particularly not Linden people.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's bright and sunny today. In between heavy showers. Husband has taken the cover off the pool.
He said, 'I found two little bugs in the primal swamp but no crocodiles.'
A little later he came in and said, 'You remember what I said about not finding any crocodiles?' Then he held out his hand to show me this.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Around Gower on a quilt

As I said, we have several quilting groups that meet at Linden. Swansea Quilters recently won first prize in a national competition, for a group entry, which is now hanging on the wall inside the church building. It's a collection of individual quilted 'postcards' from Swansea and Gower, so come, take a tour of our beautiufl area.


Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory

You know me: I'm not a cry-er. But I almost cried today.

It was nearly the end of the game and Wales were one point ahead; we had the ball and we were in Australia's half. All we had to do was hang onto the ball for 50 seconds. And GARETH COOPER KICKED IT TO AUSTRALIA! Who went on to score.

After the slating the Australian press gave the Welsh team before the game, morally it was our victory. But that's not will go down in the record books. I have been whimpering quietly to myself all day. And I've had to buy an enormous bag of Maltesers.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday Photohunt - Colourful

A quilting group meets at Linden and we have several of their group quilts hanging on the walls. There are four covering the seasons: this one is summer.

Writers' Friend

People's Friend magazine is also the writers' friend: they reply very quickly to submissions.

I posted a story to them on Tuesday; as I drove home from work this afternoon I decided that their reply would probably be waiting for me at home. And it was. 'Thank you but no.'

But at least there was a bit of an explanation why not, and that's more than I usually get, so it was almost as good as an acceptance. (I am telling myself.) It means I can work some more on it to improve it and submit it again or elsewhere.

Also this afternoon I received an email saying I hadn't won the short story contest I entered on Monday. I'd already decided it was a bit gloomy. I do gloom, depression, madness and death well; unfortunately that is not the stuff of popular magazine fiction. It's strange because I am a cheery person. Which is just as well otherwise I would be suicidal by now.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wagons ho!

To mark the diamond anniversary of Wagon Wheels, the world's first Wagon Wheel rolling championship is being held near Slough this coming Saturday, 26th May.

There are three categories for entrants: the ‘expert rolling’ category where entrants must bring along pre-made gadgets to aid rolling; the over 60s; open.

As well as the title and a monetary prize, the winne gets a case of Wagon Wheels.

If you want to take part, go along to the Black Horse in Fulmer, between 12 noon and 3pm on Saturday. And make sure you post a photo for us to see afterwards.


Tony Blair had a good moan on US radio about the inability of ‘people overseas’ to make a good cup of tea. I’m afraid that when he is relieved of office and becomes ordinary again, he’s in for a shock: you can’t get a good cup of tea in this country either.

With a Costa or Starbucks on every corner, coffee-lovers can take their choice. Even in other cafes, they’re able to choose between latte, espresso and anything in-between. But ask for tea and you get a mug of hot water with a tea-bag dangling in it, accompanied by a pot of UHT milk and a straw of sugar.

How has this happened? Brits are renowned for tea-drinking. In an emergency no one ever says, ‘What you need is a nice hot, sweet cup of coffee.’ But it wasn’t always thus.

It was actually in a coffee house in London in 1657 that tea went on sale for the first time. Thomas Garway, the merchant selling it, claimed it was “wholesome, preserving perfect health until extreme old age, good for clearing the sight.” He also said that it cured “gripping of the guts, cold, dropsies, scurveys” as well as helping to “make the body active and lusty”.
A lot of people must have believed him because by the end of the seventeenth century, tea was being sold in more than 500 coffee houses in London.

However, for a long time, it was only men, who frequented the coffee houses, or the rich who could enjoy this expensive luxury: tea was considered so precious that it was often stored in a locked caddy with the only key being kept by the lady of the house.

But then in 1864 the manageress of a bread shop began to serve refreshments. Soon people were flocking into her shop to buy the tea she was dispensing. From here the teashop grew in popularity, but somewhere on the way to the twenty-first century, it disappeared from our major cities.

So come on, Tony, do something for which we can remember you fondly: crusade for proper tea!

The winner of the Top Tea Place 2007 award is Peacocks Tearoom
in Ely, Cambridgeshire, with the Dorchester winning the Top London Tea award.
In an on-line Pet-Lovers Tea-Drinkers' Survey, when asked who they would invite to their dream tea party, most people chose Rolf Harris, followed by Johnny Depp, then The Queen.

Experts have found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack and that, contrary to popular belief, tea is not dehydrating.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

grace and vodka help you sleep at nights

In Zac's, Sean mentioned - it might have been a quote - the eccentricity of Christianity. The foolishness of it. The way it's all about grace. God's generosity. It's not something we have to earn; it's not something we can earn. There's nothing we can do to make God love us more; there's nothing we can do that will make God love us less.

It's all down to God's wonderful, overflowing, abundant love for us. Giving us what we don't deserve instead of giving us what we do deserve.

All we have to do, as with any gift, is reach out and take it.

* * * * * * * * *

Christine's doctor has changed her medication (her happy pills). The new ones don't help her to sleep. After a few sleepless nights she took two instead of the prescribed one; that didn't help. The next night she washed them down with vodka; that made her to sleep. But the doctor was very cross.

It's what I was born for

In church on Sunday (have you noticed how often I am mentioning that I was in church on Sunday?) I had a cwch with a four-week-old baby: I was born to be a granny.

If anyone who has the ability to make me a granny is reading this, please take note.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now if you're thinking of conducting an experiment let me save you the trouble. I can tell you with no shadow of a doubt that imitation suntan is a lot harder to get off carpets than it is to wear off skin.

Who on earth chose pale carpets for our bedroom anyway?

Past my best-by date

For those who wonder how I can have written so many posts this one should give you a clue: it is typical waffle.

Yesterday afternoon, having spent the entire afternoon writing previously-mentioned short story, when tea time came, it was a case of 'what's in the freezer, I wonder?'

The answer was 'not a lot.' Apart from ice cream, peas and chillis, the best I could come up with was a packet of chicken pieces. A rummage in the pantry led me to some jars I'd bought for just such an emergency. I dusted the top of the first one and discovered its sell-by date was April 2004. The other two weren't so bad: they were January 2005.

Scrapping the chicken idea, I moved on to the pantry itself. A tin of corned beef and baked potatoes. That would do. Except the corned beef was 18 months out of date and only one of the potatoes wasn't mouldy.

I really must sort out the pantry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My 1,000th post!

I originally started this post this morning under the title of Thwarted! but then I noticed it would be my 1,000th post (yes, that is an awful lot of waffle) so thought something more uplifting or memorable would be more appropriate.

For a time I feared that might be the end of my blogging days - if I have to wait for something memorable to occur - but what do you know? Here I am again.

This time with a tale of tragedy into glory!

Late this morning, with my new-found determination, I visited a website that my writing magazine (this month's) assured me was running a monthly competition for stories to appear in a magazine. They give the first line and you write the story. Okay, that's a start. Except the closing date for the current competition was ... today.

Hence my prospective post under the title Thwarted.

I was bemoaning this fact to Elder Son via Messenger and he said, 'well, write one today.'
'Don't be silly; I can't sit down and write a story just like that.'
'Why not?'
'Well I can't.'
'Yes you can. Go on.'
So I did. A 1,500 word story completed and emailed off to the competition.

It is probably complete rubbish but that doesn't matter. What matters is that I did it. For me to write 1,500 words in one day is pretty amazing; for me to write 1,500 words of fiction in a story I hadn't even thought of before today, when I've not written any fiction for ages is totally amazing. I am quite delighted.

And a fitting 1,000th post, even if I say it myself.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Putting down and picking up

If you've been reading this blog recently you may have noticed a certain dis-ease, a dissatisfaction with various aspects of life. On the whole I am totally spoiled and have a wonderful life, but there are bits that need sorting.

And they're not really to do with outside me but inside me.

I am feeling and behaving like a fat flighty butterfly, not settling anywhere or with anything, while grumbling about it all the time. It's probably my hormones - most things are, or should be - but that can't keep on being the excuse.

I want to write; I have days supposedly dedicated to writing but at the end of them I have nothing to show for it. Except an excessive amount of blogging.

So what is the path forward?

Okay. Taking the advice of yesterday's speaker, i shall put down 'the novel'. It's been rejected by enough people; it's suffering from low self-esteem (and one of us with that is bad enough); and feelings of failure. It's time to allow it to retire gracefully.

But what instead?

I have a new novel brewing in my head, just between the question of whether it's too soon to make another cup of tea, and the words of 'Guide me O thou great Jehovah'. But, let's be honest, what I would really really like is to earn some money from writing. Beginning a new novel isn't going to do that. First I need to earn - in my own mind - the right to spend time on it.

Feature articles I could try but I'm fed up of being ignored by editors.

Short stories for the women's magazine market: that has to be the target. I've had literary stories published in literary anthologies and magazines; I've submitted loads of stories to women's weeklies and all have been rejected. I'd like to think that means I'm just too clever for that market but the fact is that I can't crack the secret.

My stories seem to fit the criteria they ask for in their guidelines but I must be doing something wrong. That must be my aim: to write to fit.

So this is my plan.

I will concentrate on writing short stories aimed at the popular market. (Actually writing any fiction will be something of a challenge as I've not written anything of late.) I will study the magazines, take advice and give this a serious chance.

In between times, I'll make notes in hand-writing for my new novel.

I will also, when I have a chance, investigate markets for my collection of Christian monologues (at a time when publishers say there is no market for monologues unless your name is Alan Bennett).

The last two I'll do instead of playing Solitaire.

This all sounds awfully challenging. But I've blogged it in the hope that it will act as a reminder to me of what I want to achieve.

And now it really is time for a cup of tea.

A load of balls

I was in church yesterday. You're probably thinking, yes, well, you would be what with you being a Christian and it being Sunday, but it is something of an unusual occurrence. I'm either away or in prison or in bed most Sundays.

So, anyway, the speaker, Steve, illustrated his talk with a bag full of balls. He threw them to a hand-picked volunteer who was supposed to keep hold of them. He managed for a time and then they started coming faster and he began dropping his balls.

Apart from providing entertainment for all those of us who were breathing a sigh of relief that we weren't the ones chosen to volunteer, it proved to be a good illustration of life. How we can't move on and face new challenges if we're hanging on to things way past the time when we should have put them down. Whether that's emotional memories, regrets or hauntings that need dealing with - or that have been dealt with but we keep clinging on - or physical ties.
I suppose he was talking in a moving-on-with-God sense but I'm choosing to put it into practice in my life generally.

A good start to the week

I had an email this morning telling me that the All Blacks have chosen my article on rugby and football fans to go on their website! That makes me almost an Honorary All Black.

I wonder if they would like me to cover their World Cup games. It wouldn't cost them much, just tickets for the games (two for each as Husband would have to come to carry my bags), and, of course, air fares and hotel accommodation. A bargain if I say so myself.
Oh, and an interview with Doug Howlett.

I can make you thin ...

is the title of a book by Paul McKenna. Well, I haven't had any success making myself thin so if he can do it, I'll be delighted.

Although I bought the book - complete with CD - for 50p in a charity shop; that rather suggests that the previous owner didn't think much of it. Then again perhaps it worked so miraculously that he/she no longer needs it and wants everyone to benefit from it. Then again, the fact that it looks unread is less promising.

I'll let you know.

When I get round to reading it.

The long and the wide

When it's spring again

Every year at about this time we visit Clyne Gardens. They're only a very short walk away but most of the year, while walking Harvey, we've kept to Clyne woods. He's been able to run freely there, whereas the gardens tend to be full of elderly ladies and gents who don't always look kindly on being knocked down by hairy slobbery big dogs.

But during May Clyne Gardens is 'in bloom'. It's renowned for its collection of rhododendrons and azaleas that blossom about now, so this afternoon we set off for our annual pilgrimage, but, sadly, without Harvey. He's no longer able to manage more than a gentle meander round the field; a march up the hill followed by another hill would have finished him off completely so we left him to sleep at home and dream of chasing rabbits.
It wasn't the same without him. At every step it was, 'Harvey would love this', or 'Harvey always did that', or 'do you remember when Harvey ...?' etc.
A lot of the bushes had already passed their best but, with a brass band playing in the park beyond the trees, Husband and I did enjoy a quick quickstep below the rhodies when no-one was looking.

To make Sultana Bread

Some people have asked for the recipe for the 'pretend bara brith' shown below. It's not a real yeast-bread but more of a quick cake-bread. It is very moreish.

Put 12 oz sultanas in a pan with 2 oz margarine and about 13 fl oz hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes, then allow to cool a little.

Sieve 13 oz self-raising flour together with ½ a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. Mix in 9 oz sugar.

Stir the fruit mixture into the flour and add 2 beaten eggs. Mix all together well.

Put the mixture into a greased and lined large loaf tin and cook in the oven at 180 C or gas mark 4 for about 50 - 60 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If it looks as if it's getting too brown, cover with foil.

Turn out to cool and serve sliced and spread with butter - there's only a little fat in the mixture so you can feel justified in having it thickly spread!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday Photohunt - Cooked

Bara brith (speckled bread) is the traditional fruit bread of Wales. Sliced and spread with butter, it's delicious. Strictly speaking what I make isn't the true bara brith, but a version of sultana bread that goes down well with all the family. This one - that I made this morning - won't last long!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

C'mon the ... um ... blues

So Manchester United play Chelsea today at the new Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup. These aren't details that would normally enter my brain but Husband has said that perhaps, this year for the first time in years, he will watch it - as it's the new stadium - and Younger Son has strong views.

Husband is going to support Man U while I will cheer on Chelsea. Younger Son, an Arsenal fan, is also supporting Chelsea - as the lesser of two evils - for complicated footballing reasons. My reason is simple: Sir Alex Ferguson chews gum with his mouth open. And he wasn't nice to David Beckham.

It's quite possible that Mourinho chews open-mouthed as well - it is a football manager cliché - but I haven't seen him so that is justification enough for me.

Of course, I might just fall asleep.

A strange coincidence

In work today we received a DVD from Freedom Television. Called Panorama Exposed, it claims to show examples of the BBC's bias against various religions/cults. In the accompanying blurb it gives examples of the BBC picking on, amongst others, Catholics; it doesn't mention the latest Panorama show that investigated the Church of Scientology. (See earlier post)

There is no clue as to who Freedom Television is; the only information about it on the letter is the address, which is in East Grinstead. Which, strangely enough, is also the UK home of the Church of Scientology.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sense at last!

Now if Tony Blair had dedicated his time to promoting good British tea and how to make it properly, instead of invading Iraq, his premiership would have left such a better taste in the mouth.

P.S. It occurred to me that I might have been alone in hearing the news report about our Tone in Washington. Apparently, on a radio show he was bemoaning the inability of people abroad to make a proper cup of tea. A fact with which I agree wholeheartedly.

I bet Mrs Tiggywinkle never did that

The saucepan containing my hankies just boiled dry. More than boiled dry, burned black. Harvey slept in the hall, in a cloud of smoke, oblivious to it. The smoke alarm didn't go off either. Perhaps both were overcome by the fumes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't panic!

Argh, I just had one of those spider-on-the-leg moments! You know, when you're convinced you have a spider crawling up your leg ... don't look at me like that, it's perfectly normal ... it probably does happen to you, Harvey, you just don't feel it ... because you're hairy ... No, I'm NOT!

So, I made a plan. First thing I was going to do was to send off my children's story to a competition I'd seen advertised in my writing magazine.

I thought I'd better check the rules so I went to the website: the competition closed last October. I'd been reading an old mag.

So, on to Plan B. Um.

How could you?

I've mentioned before Harvey's lately-developed tendency to sit and bark for no reason. Husband deals with it by splashing him with water; that usually stops him. I've tried it but I chicken out at the last moment and the water goes over the floor, leaving Harvey barking but now with a puzzled look on his face.

This morning he'd accompanied my entire dish-washing session (double-length) with his woof, woof, woof. I had a milk bottle to put out so, on my way past him, I tipped the drop of soapy water left in the bottom onto his head.

Stunned into silence, he stared at me, then got up and walked into the hall. In the doorway he turned and gave me this reproachful look. 'How could you? I thought you were my friend.'

Is there anything worse than a look from a reproachful dog?

P.S. You'll notice the decorating in the hall isn't finished yet. I've resigned myself to living like this until autumn at least. Well, you can't decorate when the sun is shining.

Rugby v football

There is an old saying that "football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen".

For more on this, go here.

10% off and free delivery

Husband asked me if I wanted to place an order.

If it had been Johnny Depp now ...

The answer

I was very edgy yesterday.

I was fed-up of trying to write and not succeeding; fed-up of trying to diet and not succeeding; fed-up of wanting to diet; and fed-up of the silly snuffles that are hanging around after my cold.

Then it came to me: the answer.

The answer that every woman is born knowing, an unspoken truth that is passed from mother to daughter through the generations, that is written in our chromosomes for eternity.

I went and bought some chocolate.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Meet Walker Bear

He was present from Husband. Now Husband may be many things including kind and generous and lovely, but he is not prone to impromptu gift-giving, so I wondered if teddy had come free (especially as he bore the name of the hotel in which Husband was staying while he was working in Winchester); he did.

The Wessex Hotel was part of the MacDonald chain and was one of those sold to another chain, hence the need for them to rid themselves of merchandise indicting their previous owners. Husband being a regular guest - so regular the barman had his order waiting for him each evening - was one to benefit. And so, thus, was I.

I have no complaints: he is a very lovely bear. With an interesting story to tell.

He is named after William Walker, the diver who, according to King George V saved Winchester Cathedral "with his own two hands".

In 1905 several cracks appeared in the south and east sides of Winchester Cathedral and it was feared that, in time, the building might collapse unless major underpinning of the foundations was carried out. The task was made difficult because of high water levels preventing access to the 11th century timber rafts. William Walker was employed to work up to six hours a day, often in 20ft (6m) of water, and in total darkness for a period of some six years.

After the 50th anniversary celebrations of this event a statue of Walker was commissioned for the Cathedral. Unfortunately the sculptor, working from a group photo, gave him the wrong face.

It was 2001 before a new statue – with the right face - was unveiled (thanks to the efforts of the Historical Diving Society).
This is the statue with the wrong face.

Which is scariest?

Trying to write a story or tidying Younger Son's bedroom?

Yes, I know YS should be doing it himself but he doesn't and I can't stand it much longer. In fact the source of my long-living cold/ear infection is probably his room.

The alternative is to start to write a story. I haven't written a story for a very long time and I am scared. Scared I won't be able to do it, scared it will be rubbish.

Why is writing so frightening? Why would I rather do anything than attempt it? I get the ideas in my head but then there's this horror at the thought of putting them on paper, where they will be shown up for what they are. While they stay in my head, they're safe - they have promise. They're still could-bes: could be great; could be amazing; could be wonderful. Or could be disasters.

I'll need at least one black sack for the rubbish.


I was looking for something else when I came across this piece of writing from a few years ago. Sometimes I surprise myself with what I find I have written. Does that happen to you?
It took the builders three days to knock through the wall of my bedroom to put in a window. Day after day, they chipped and hammered and swore until the hole in the four foot thick wall was scarcely big enough to let in the sun, but bigger than the view of Polly Garter’s next-door garden deserved.
My bedroom was at the back of the house in the part that had already withstood eight generations. In my great-great-great-grandfather’s day it had been a public house. Years later, when it was finally rid of the smell of ale and gin, my great-grandmother wanted the front, which at that time still bore the legend, ‘Albert Inn’, fashionably pebble-dashed. The work had scarcely begun before the village bigwig came thundering to the door, ‘What are you doing, woman? This is sheer vandalism, destroying our heritage.’ My great-grandmother didn’t give birth to twelve and raise eight children to be told what she could or couldn’t do with her own home — especially not by an upstart village boy — and she told him so.
That house, the place of my birth and my home for twenty-five years, stands in the middle of a terrace in the heart of the village. It was a matriarchal household: throughout my childhood there were four generations of women living there. My great-grandfather died the year before I was born; my grandfather sat quietly, smoking, in the corner, keeping his head down and his hearing-aid switched off; and my father, well, he was a character in one of my library books. On the rare occasions when I felt well-disposed towards him, he was the heroic Mr March away at war; most times he was the unseen parent who packed his daughter off to boarding school and sold her pony the moment she’d gone.
For a long time I believed my mother when she said my father worked abroad, like my great-grandfather had done. He, my great-grandfather that is, had worked on Ford’s first factories in America. When the hiraeth became too strong, and he returned home to Wales, Henry Ford himself came to our village and begged him to return, offering to transport the whole family back to the States. Or so the story goes. If my great-grandfather had accepted, then this story would be as imagined as I am.
But I am as real as the pen in my hand, so what more of home? As I said, my great-grandmother had eight surviving children and her presence in my growing-up home meant a constant flow of visitors. The encompassing of me within this extended family provided a shelter, the walls of which were stronger than bricks and mortar, and it was easy to ignore the non-existence of one person, to have only a vague awareness that something was missing but that it didn’t really matter much. I was surrounded with love and its synonym, good home cooking. When there were lots of us, the family, there for dinner we would pull out the table and I would squeeze onto the bench next to the wall. This was my favourite place, where the bricks I leaned against were warmed by Mr Shires next door’s fire. I sat quietly in the glow of conversation and knew that here I was safe.
In 1964 I passed my eleven plus and the door to another world, a more precarious world of Latin and physics, was opened to me. There was one other fatherless girl in the class but her father had had the decency to die. I explained to those who wanted to know that my father worked abroad. The summer of love was still to come and, in any case, free love only applied to the beautiful people out there, not the parents of good grammar-school girls in South Wales.
My French teacher was called Miss Henry. She was softly-spoken with a gentle face and greying uncontrollable hair. In her lesson we go round the class answering the question, Est ce que faites votre pere? Thirty-three girls sitting in rows waiting for their turn, or in my case, for the bell to ring, please, before Miss Henry gets to me, please don’t let her ask me. Shall I lie, make up an answer? Il est un medecin. Tres bien, where does he work? No, I’d blush, stutter, be caught out. Mon pere est mort. Convenient but they all know. The bell rings, the problem goes away for today, and I go home to steak and kidney pie and rice pudding.
It stands out in my memory but when I stop and think, try as I might, I cannot recall one unkind comment, not one slur on my parentage through the whole of my childhood and adolescence. If that was as bad as it got, then surely the family did its job well.
When I enter the house that is now my home, I breathe in the same sense of security that my first home gave me. I think my children feel it too; they continue to return here.
Since it was sold by my uncle some twenty years ago, Albert House has come on the market several times. Each time one member or other of the family views it with barely-concealed desire. But it’s never really suitable: too big, too small, no garage, no garden.
I was the last of the family to be born in Albert House and I linger over the link with the past. I’ve looked on old maps, tried to locate the public house that was to become my home. I’ve never been able to find it.

At a different angle

The trouble with an ear infection, is that after you've given it 2 poufs, you have to walk around with your head on a tilt for at least 10 minutes.

I am not consistent: sometimes I write 2 and sometimes I write two. I should decide on my house style and stick with it. But then again, when it's written as the numeral (2), does it have more impact? If it's the number that's important perhaps that is what is needed; but if the number involved is one of the less important aspects - which it was in my first sentence - then maybe I should write the word (two). Perhaps that should be my house style.

It's only 10.30 and so many difficult decisions already. Must be an indication that a cup of tea is needed.

There's life in the old dog yet

Last night Harvey stole a pair of my pants from the laundry basket!

He hasn't done that for ages. He always used to steal clothes (pants, t-towels, socks) and scatter them around the garden - except for the socks. He ate those.
Harvey in fitter and windier days.


Travolta, Cruise and me

Panorama last night was about the Church of Scientology.

I haven't seen Panorama for ages, certainly not in its 30-minute format, and if last night's show was a typical example of its reporting, then I won't be watching again for ages. There was nothing new; it proved nothing; it was just nonsense.

I decided to watch it because a few years ago I was asked to consider ghost-writing a book by a woman who had come out of Scientology. It was just after my ghost-written 'autobiography' of a New York cop was published, when my editor at Hodder asked me to go to meet this lady.

I spent some time with her and her husband and she and I got on well. I suspect it was her husband, with whom I didn't click, that led to me not being asked to do the book in the end. I think he wanted to do it himself but, as far as I know, Hodder never published it.

One of the things this lady asked, was, would I be prepared to have my life, and anything I'd ever done wrong, be made public as that was how the Church of Scientology would be likely to respond, by trying to discredit me as well as her. At the time I said it wouldn't worry me, but would that have been foolish or brave?

Actually they wouldn't have to look very far. Just reading my blog would give them enough to discredit me!

Monday, May 14, 2007

30 ways to change your life for the better

Two of the 30 suggestions from a magazine article:

1. Get up 15 minutes earlier each day in order to do one household chore to keep on top of those niggly little jobs.

2. Invest in a dimmer switch - it's the greatest sex and beauty aid known to woman.

Now, let me think: which one shall I do?


The doctor said I have an infection in my left ear. He did tell me what it was called but I couldn't hear him. He also said my right ear is completely blocked; I hadn't noticed.

He's given me antibiotic pills and spray for my left ear and sodium bicarbonate spray for my right. Last time he gave me sodium chloride spray: I wonder what household chemical they will suggest next time. Bleach maybe.

He asked if I do a lot of surfing; I said, 'Well, yes, I do actually. Does that make a difference?'
'You can pick up a lot of viruses like that.'
'I didn't realise they could affect me.'
'Oh yes.'
'Like earworms I suppose.'

P.S. That last bit didn't happen although he did ask if I surfed.

Meet Shambo

Shambo is a sacred bull living at Skanda Vale Temple (also known as the Community of the Many Names of God),
near Carmarthen in South Wales.

Shambo was given three tests for TB and after two negatives the third was a reactor, meaning he could develop the disease. Under the law he is due to be slaughtered a week tomorrow but the Hindus at the temple, who say the killing of bulls and cows is against their religious principles, is urging the Welsh Assembly minister to reconsider.

"We have been advised that there is provision both within the Animal Health Act 1981 and the more recent TB Order Wales 2006 for permission to treat and vaccinate any animal identified as having TB with the prior consent of the minister for the National Assembly of Wales."
Shambo has been placed in quarantine in a shrine in one of the three temples on the site, and strict measures are being taken to ensure that he is kept away from the other animals there (which include water buffalo, an elephant and peacocks).

A Welsh Assembly spokesman said every effort would be made to treat the case as sensitively as possible. But, referring to the slaughter policy, he added: "We fully understand this can be distressing for the owners, but these measures are in place to protect public health and animal health and prevent the further spread of the disease."

Hindus from all over the country have vowed to travel to Skanda Vale to form a human chain around Shambo if the order to slaughter is given.

Meanwhile Shambo is rather enjoying all the extra attention and nuts.

For more details, including a report straight from the bull's mouth, go here

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last night ...

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Last night it was treat-time on television with a biopic of Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca. As a teenager, I loved Rebecca; it was one of my favourite books - although my enthusiasm was possibly helped by the televised series, with Jeremy Brett as the is-he-really-horrid? Max de Winter.
I read others by du Maurier but none came close to the haunting of Rebecca.
Daphne du Maurier lived in Cornwall so there were frequent shots of wonderful crashing waves and deserted beaches, but quite apart from that the film was shot in the style of, I suppose, the fifties. With recreated Pathe news reports and wonderful American society parties with the ladies in fabulous gowns, drinking martini and chatting with Noel Coward, it was all quite delightful, dahling.
I didn't know that Daphne was bisexual ( that was the way it was described in the Radio Times); she herself said that she had the heart of a boy. Her first and truest love was for Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her American publisher. Ellen told her sadly that she couldn't love her 'like that'. Trying to get over Ellen's rebuff, Daphne embarked on a passionate affair with the actress, Gertrude Lawrence, who'd also had an affair with Daphne's father.
I don't know whether it was her struggle to repress her sexuality or the lack of a mother's love in her childhood, but she wasn't a jolly character. I think she only smiled twice during the film and certainly didn't laugh. I can't really relate to people who lack humour so the film didn't endear her to me.
But the film itself, oh yes. Just the way to spend a lovely Saturday evening. Sensual, beautiful, intelligent, informative - du Maurier had to go to America to defend herself against a charge of plagiarism - evocative, stylish: can you tell I enjoyed it?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday Photohunt - Five

This little piggy went to market;
this little piggy stayed at home.
This little piggy had roast beef;
this little piggy had none.
And this little piggy said, 'Oh, there's another one!'

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Well, that was weird.

Last Friday I tried to get Youtube to put my video, The Quiet Canary, up on my blog. It wasn't working so I eventually managed how to embed it myself - it was quite easy actually.

This morning I checked into my blog and at the top was The Quiet Canary. Not once but three times. Youtube must have done what it was supposed to do - eventually.

I've deleted them so as not to confuse you ... or me.

So, I've been tagged by Mauigirl with this meme. This was rather a nice one to do. Made me think a little.

1. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
To make people laugh occasionally. If there is something I would want to accomplish as such, that would be it. If the question means ‘why do you blog?’ then it’s a different answer.

I started blogging about 18 months ago having been introduced to it by my son, and I am now totally addicted – just ask Husband! I am a wannabe writer and – if you've read much of my blog you’ll know about my prodigious rejection rate - this is a way of getting my writing read by others. It’s also a way of emptying my brain when I get little thoughts that won’t go away in my head.

Of course what I would really like is to be noticed by an agent/publisher, be made an offer I can’t refuse, and become rich and famous on the back of my blog.

2. Are you a spiritual person?
Hmm, I suppose the answer is yes. I don’t spend a lot of time meditating and wandering around in a long white robe scattering petals as I walk, which is what I sort of think of as a ‘spiritual person’.

I believe in the Trinity.
I believe in the creator God who is everywhere in everything around me. I only have to look at the variety of grasses on a tiny piece of wild land to see God.
I believe in Jesus, God and man, who through his death and resurrection made it possible for me to know forgiveness.
I believe in the Holy Spirit of God, who is in me and in the world, and working in me - and what a hard job he has!

I talk to God as I would to a person at any time and in any place. I chat, I scream, I laugh, I am grateful.

I don’t know if all that makes me spiritual …

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you?
In the eyes of many people, dogs count as things, so I’ll have Harvey (is that cheating?)
A proper flushing toilet
Brother of the More Famous Jack, book by Barbara Trapido and one of my absolute favourites, to read on said toilet

4. What's your favourite childhood memory?
Jumping off the top of my slide and trying desperately to fly.

5. Is this your first meme?
No, I've done 'What's weird about you?' and probably others.

Now I'll tag Ageis and Furtheron. I know I'm supposed to tag 5 but I've tagged people before and don't want to be a pest!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tell me again - email is a good thing?

I'm not entirely convinced.

At least in the time of snail mail, there would be at least a few days between posting off a query or submission, and getting a rejection. A few days of hope. Now hopes can be raised and dashed in minutes. Hey ho.

On a different note, do you know what similarity there is between a woman's cleavage and a man's moustache?

Both can gather tasty titbits that can be eaten later.

Note to self: must stop eating handfuls of dry Frosties straight from the box.

And you think you've got computer problems

This photo was sent to me in a circulating email so you might have seen it, but I thought it worth showing here. Watch out, Lee (as you seem to be the most prone to snakes!) xxx

Back to Zac's

Back to Zac's last night for the first time in a month: the wedding, the holiday and my cold have stopped me going recently. Lots of familiar faces, some new ones. One is Mark. I haven't seen him since before Christmas; then he taught me a valuable lesson as I wrote in my blog at the time.

"There's a new face in Zac's (new to me anyway). He's of slight build, wearing a red coat, and with alcohol on his breath. He sits at a table and his eyes are focused somewhere way beyond the confines of the room. I guess that he has stumbled across the place and is grateful for somewhere warm indoors to spend an evening; I think he will be asleep before long.

"We're continuing in the run-up to Christmas with a look at Mary. Redcoat isn't asleep but is following intently. Several times he interrupts and in a rambling, drawn-out fashion - the pauses typical, I think, of a drunk getting his thoughts together - makes a point. Given the chance, I would exchange knowing smiles with someone. If I had been in charge I would have been tempted to step in, in one of the pauses, and carry on with what I was saying, hoping he would get the message, but Sean waits patiently until he is sure he has finished. Others speak up and acknowledge the truth of what he is saying, giving him respect.

"Then Sean asks me to read. At the end of my reading the first person to come and speak to me is Redcoat. 'That was incredible,' he says. I am humbled."

Last night I was amazed at the difference. He still has a slight air of not being quite with it - but I think that's just him. He was really very alert. He has a job labouring and in the evenings, he gets home and works on the house he and his partner are doing up. He's part of a local church and has come on so far from where he was back in November. He remembers that time and says he was struggling then. He is an inspiration.

Dee, who is usually very quiet, also spoke up last night. Very honestly she recounted her battle with depression. It took a lot for her to say it but as Sean said, it demonstrated the trust and unity of the community that is Zac's.

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

I am in prison next Sunday. Yesterday I saw Trevor, who has been in with us on one occasion, and he asked if he could go in again next Sunday.

After his previous visit, the feedback I received was that the chaplain wasn't happy because he had been dressed very scruffily, in a t-shirt full of holes. Now we might not necessarily agree with the chaplain's rules, but the prison is his domain and he has the yay or nay on whether we can go in or not. And sometimes he has very good reasons for his rules. So I tried to suggest tactfully to Trevor that he might want to make an effort to dress respectably. To which he replied, 'I shall wear whatever God tells me to wear. And if they don't let me in so be it.'
Oh, dear.

I rather suspect that Trevor has his own agenda for wanting to go in so maybe it's best if he doesn't come with us! Pray for me: I am going to have to deal with this issue this week.

Husband suggested telling him that when God said 'holey t-shirt', he meant 'holy t-shirt'.

One with this motto on it maybe.

Or perhaps he'd prefer this holy thong.

(It's amazing what you can find on the internet.)

Death by association

In an attempt to escape profundity and resume normal service, here's a sweepstake for you.
At the wedding, after his lovely and touching speech, Elder Son presented both mums with potted orchids. As he said, 'Twenty-five years of parenting rewarded by a £5 plant!' (At which point, the bride tugged his sleeve and gave him a look; no doubt the first of many in their married life!)

I have mine in the study with me; you can see how beautiful and healthy it looks. Husband has said that he will care for it but knowing the way that even being in the same room as me can kill a plant, what chance does this poor orchid have?
I will be generous and give it three months; anyone else want to have a guess?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Seville Communion

One of the books I read on holiday was The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I'd enjoyed another of his books - The Flanders Panel - very much. This one was quite different but equally good. Well-written, engrossing, and with good characters.

Two of the main characters were priests. One was young, good-looking and part of the Vatican's MI5 equivalent; the other was an elderly, traditionalist priest in a tiny little parish in Seville.

The Vatican priest saw himself as a soldier: there to follow rules and obey orders. The Spanish priest thought his role was to help those who needed help.

Neither of them acknowledged the need for God - or faith in him - in their vocations. For the man from Rome, it was enough that he had signed up, committed himself to this life; for the priest in Seville, the faith that his parishioners had was enough.

I know this is fiction but I can't help wondering, from this and from statements various Anglican clerics have made over the years, whether belief in God is necessary for a clergyman, or whether it has become - or is becoming - as much of a secular job as that of social worker.

I don't have a lot of knowledge about Catholicism (or anything really!) but there are a couple of points in particular I am curious about.

1) Why do Roman Catholics pray to the saints and, in particular, to the Virgin Mary? We have the same God and the same Bible and I can't see where that comes from. Jesus himself told us to pray to Our Father.

2) Why do people have to confess to a priest? Only God can forgive sins. But I was thinking about this question in the shower this morning, and actually confessing in the presence of someone else can be a good thing, especially if the sin being confessed is an ongoing problem/addiction. If the other person is good and trustworthy and is willing to act as support - even doing spot checks to keep you on your toes! - then that's good. I know I am far more embarrassed to be caught doing something wrong by a friend than by God (who knows what I am doing anyway!)

Most of my knowledge of confession is garnered from novels and films where it seems to be the case of confessing, being forgiven, and then going straight out and doing the same thing again.

True confession should surely mean repentance - a turning away from. That's the difficult bit. Easy to say sorry; hard to change.

But it's a good book. Highly recommended.