Wednesday, October 31, 2007

So those welshcakes I was going to make.

I didn't have enough fruit.

Not to panic, I adapted the recipe to become teisen lap (cake on a plate) - sort of. Only I didn't quite do it properly. It looked all right but I thought I should taste it to check and I wasn't very impressed. (Although impressed enough to have eaten a quarter of it by this morning.)

Paying a late-night visit to the shop after Zac's, I picked up all the ingredients to make fruit cake, chocolate raisin slice, lemon cake and chocolate sponge - just in case.

Chocolate cake seems to be the most popular choice at the community cafe so I hoped to make one of those. I say hoped because the last one I made was a disaster. Admittedly that was about 20 years ago but I remember these things.

Getting up early this morning I made the chocolate sponge and while it wasn't amazing, it was adequate.

And just to be on the safe side, while that was cooking I made some chocolate raisin slice, which only requires melting, bashing and mixing and I can do all of those.


Don't pray for me, Margentina

Ruby in Zac's told me that, yesterday, she'd offered to pray with someone in work who'd obviously been upset and she'd had a really good response. I was reminded of a similar thing that happened to me some years ago.

A woman was telling us that her father was seriously ill and that she was very worried. I offered to pray for her. She was a leading light in the local Anglican church so I wasn't stepping much out of my comfort zone to do this, you understand. She said she'd be pleased if I would. So I said, 'Okay, let's do it then.' At which point she realised I meant there and then, burst into tears and ran away.

It's a knack I have.

That wasn't so bad

Sitting at my desk I can see people coming to the house - and they can see me. And I could tell by the woman's face that she had indeed seen me as she came up the steps, so it was too late to hide under the desk. I went to the door muttering under my breath, 'Oh no, oh no, oh no.'

I thought she was a gypsy - one regularly used to call on me and I have a collection of lace doilies to prove it - and I feared I was going to end up with yet another one. But she was a Jehovah's Witness. On her own. They always travel in pairs; that's what fooled me.

Now if I'd been a good Christian I'd have invited her in, given her a cup of tea and explained the error of her ways. But I didn't. But at least I didn't take up her kind offer of a free copy of The Watchtower. So that's an improvement on the past!

* * * * * * * * * *

Door-knocking is a horrible job. As a householder I hate the intrusion on my privacy, but as a sucker (see earlier post) I can't just shut the door on them.

Younger Son works for a company involved in encouraging council tenants to buy their own homes. Normally he's in the office but today and yesterday he's been out knocking on doors. Some of his calls yesterday evening took place in the dark and some of the houses had doors at the side, down unlit passages. He said, 'I knocked at one door, a woman answered it, saw me and screamed.'

Now, have you seen Younger Son? He is a big and hairy lad. I can understand how he frightened people! But he's very sweet really.

Apparently one person mistook him for rugby player, Colin Charvis, who is at least 10 years older - and black.

Still if he plays his cards right tonight, he might pick up a few treats.

Glorious Undead

Last night at Zac's we had a guest speaker (seen on the left with Sean). His name is Pastor Bob and he's American. As Sean pointed out, there tends to be a bit of anti-American bias at Zac's because of the behaviour of some of the US churches (prosperity preaching, hypocrisy etc) so it was a relief to know that Pastor Bob agreed with that summing-up.

Although he did qualify his agreement. He said he'd been grumbling to God about the state of the American church and God had reminded him that 'She may be a whore but she's still my wife.'

Anyway, Pastor Bob was/is committed to be on the edge - wherever the edge is. He spends most of his time with musicians - black metal, goth, vampire - and he says, 'I work with people just like me.' He's played and worked with plenty of successful bands and he's been a pastor for 32 years. 'At times I've had death threats and had to have bodyguards against Christians who've labelled me satanic.'

On this All Hallow's Eve, I'll finish by telling you about the church Pastor Bob has been involved with in London: the Church of the Glorious Undead.

Persephone for jmb

The Felixstowe to Ipswich Coach by Russell Sidney Reeve.I've mentioned this publisher before but I don't know whether jmb was around then and I think she'd really like their selection. Persephone Books "reprints forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of seventy-five books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups."

P.S. Not that this is intended solely for jmb but for anyone who enjoys a good read. It's just that jmb sprang to mind. And I think Welshcakes has heard me mention Persephone before. And ... I'll stop now before I dig a deeper hole.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shop early for Christmas

I received an email today from Amazon advising me to shop early for Christmas and pick up some of their great offers. 'That's a good idea, 'I said to myself. 'I can do that if I get organised.'
Myself replied, 'Who are you kidding?'

I might be stupid but at least I'm honest.

P.S. Should that be 'Whom are you kidding?'? I think it should in theory but it would sound really silly. Should I have two question marks? Is anybody still reading?

P.P.S. I think I'll make welshcakes.

Do you know what day it is?

I just had one of those Damascus road moments.

While in Sainsburys I remembered I was on the rota to make a cake for the community cafe for Wednesday. 'That's okay,' I said to myself. 'I can think about what sort of cake to make and get the ingredients next time I'm out.' (Have you spotted the flaw in this plan yet?)

I arrived home and started unloading the shopping when I realised: it's Wednesday tomorrow. 'Oh, bungee jumping!'

I blame it on Sainsburys. Time stands still in there.

And do you know what? You can get your flu vaccination there too. 'I'm off to Sainsburys to get some potatoes and a flu jab; I could be gone some time.' Certainly if I react to an injection the way I react to needles - or more specifically blood - I could be there a very long time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why do they do it to me?

When I worked (before children) I gave a lift everyday to a friend. He used to claim that I had 'Sucker' written on my forehead in the sort of ink that only other drivers can see. That was the only reason he could think of why every - and I mean every - car would pull out in front of me instead of the sales rep's car or the taxi or the bus.

And now in these days of Big Brother, I can only assume that my file that circulates virtuality has 'Sucker' stamped on the front in big black print.

In the last three days I've received two packs of Christmas cards, one from the foot and mouth people and one from someone else whose name escapes me. The return envelope included is only large enough for a donation - not to return the cards. I refuse to be coerced into buying cards I don't want and I don't see why I should go out of my way to find an envelope and pay postage to return them.

On the other hand I would feel too guilty if I used them so they are destined to go into my 'card box' until I die. And I'll still feel guilty.

But not that much.

P.S. I do buy charity Christmas cards but they're ones of my choosing, and I know the foot and mouth artists are very clever but I just don't like their cards. And now I feel bad about that. Which is stupid and disablist.

Leggo! I'm being sucked in by a whirlpool of tea!

Angelo collects Lego men and our place-holders provided hours of entertainment while we were waiting for food.

Remember what I said ...

about using terms that meant something? Like so many Australias instead of square miles? Well, on the radio tonight I heard a man saying that amount of sewage getting into the Thames per year was equivalent to 32 Albert Halls.

Apart from the fact that that is an awful lot, doesn't it give you a clearer image than saying 32,000 cubic metres (or whatever it was)?

Caught ...

with a mouthful of chocolate-covered strawberry from the chocolate fountain.

And the bridegroom wore ... flip-flops

We've been away for the weekend to a wedding. The groom, Angelo, did two and a bit years' voluntary work with Linden and for one of those years he was working with Alun and based in the office. He's a lovely boy and the laid-back style of the wedding suited him well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bad machine day

Yesterday I called into the bank to pay in a cheque. Our bank has been modernised, meaning machines have replaced people. If you're very sly, you can hover outside the door until the three little helpers in the foyer are all busy, then you can sneak in past them, down the side of the room, round the corner, and there you'll find a human being at a desk. But I didn't want to do that. As I've said before: I am woman; I am not defeated by machines.

I followed the instructions on the machine and stuck my cheque in. The machine spat it out. I tried again, very carefully making sure I had everything the right way up and round; the machine spat it out again. I muttered to myself and went and asked a little helper. 'Of course, I'll come and help you. Now, tell me, what do you want to do? Pay in a cheque is it? Right now just touch the screen, just there. Well done, that's right, and do you want a receipt?' And so on; she very patiently talked me through everything I'd already done, then she put the cheque in and - it worked.

In the car park afterwards I went to pay. Now there is always a problem in the car park as there are three machines and two invariably have hand-written notices stuck on them saying they don't accept notes. And the only one that does is at the opposite end of the car park. I went there, queued, then fed my note in. It spat it out.

I banged my head on the side of the machine then I took out my ticket, picked up all my carrier bags, stuffed my purse under my arm and stumbled to the attendant's office where the attendant was sitting with his feet up. I asked him for change for the machine. 'No,' he said, 'that machine will give you change.'
'No, it won't. I've tried it. It spat my money out.'
Reluctantly he left his comfy seat and we went back to the machine. We queued again then he put in my £10 note. It worked straightaway.

I'm just glad I didn't need to be resuscitated using one of those shabom!-machines. The day I'd had with machines I'd probably have blown its fuse.

Dumbledore again

In the hairdressers I was trying to work out why the news about Dumbledore had upset me so much. (By the way, I'm looking gorgeous now!)

I don't have a problem with Dumbledore being gay. At least I don't think I do. Do I? No, I'm sure I don't because it doesn't matter. Now, I know gay people will say that, of course, sexuality matters, and I agree that it does. And JK will say that it does matter for the character, but it can't matter that much or it would have been integral to the story. And it wasn't; it's cropped up some months later as an 'oh yes and by the way'. I think that's what has annoyed me. It seems somehow dishonest. She's said there were clues in the book but I don't think I'm the only one who's failed to pick up on them.

Over the last few years I've read Atonement (Ian McEwan) and Diary of an Ordinary Woman (Margaret Forster), and though both books were good and I enjoyed reading them - although the lead character in Diary was most unlikeable - when I finished, I felt cheated. I won't explain in case you haven't read the books, but I don't like books that leave me feeling like that. And this is a similar sort of feeling.

If it's important then it should be in the book and be relevant to the plot and be obvious. You know, have Dumbledore mincing down the corridor and calling everyone luvvie. (Some people can't tell when I'm joking: that is a joke.) If it's not, say nothing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A bit behind the times

I know I'm late with this but I only heard last night. Husband told me when he phoned that he'd read in the paper that JK Rowling has said that Dumbledore is gay. I felt a Jim Royle moment coming on. (For those of you not familiar with Jim he's a true-to-life character - rather like Homer Simpson - in a comedy show, The Royle Family. You can't help liking him. He has a catchphrase that has been absorbed into the nation's consciousness.) "Dumbledore gay, my arse!"

Precisely, Jim.

My thought is that now that she's finished writing the HP series, JK was worried that her source of income might dry up and so has decided to tap into the gay community. Her next book will be Hogwarts: The Prequel, in which it's revealed that the real reason Snape hates James Potter and Sirius Black is that, after leading him on and having their way with him, they threw him out of their love triangle. That will be followed by the pre-prequel, Dumbledore: The Fruiting.

Pah! Next they'll be telling me that when
Five Have Plenty of Fun, it's an entirely different sort of fun from that I imagined Dick, George, Julian and Anne having when Aunt Fanny wasn't looking.

And now, you see, I was so busy thinking about Dumbledore, I can't remember if I put any deodorant on. If I start smelling in the hairdressers, it'll be JK Rowling's fault.

Postscript: Daughter found this quote on the BBC news report.
And a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall added: "It's great that JK has said this. It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster."

Scrambled or fried?

Over at the Zac's Place blog, Sean writes this:
"... many church communities tend to be like a boiled egg or a fried egg on toast, where the edges are clearly defined - there's a yellow bit, a white bit - you can see the line that separates them and another edge onto the toast. It's safe, presentable and neat. Zac's however is most definitely more like scrambled egg on toast. There's yellow bits and white bits all mashed in together, it's cooked, it tastes good and it nourishes, but the edge of anything, even the toast and plate is almost impossible to find."

At Zac's last night, and afterwards, there was an idea fizzing round my head but I couldn't quite grab it to put substance to it. I'm not sure even now if it's properly formulated but I think the egg analogy is helping.

We're studying the gospel of John and last night we read the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews hated Samaritans and would have nothing to do with them yet Jesus went out of his way to meet one. He shocked her because he asked her for a drink of water. Now for a Jew to drink from the same cup as a Samaritan would have rendered him unclean and the woman knew that and said as much. The conversation goes on until the woman realises that this is someone special. She goes and tells other Samaritans who ask Jesus to stay with them and teach them. Which he does.

'What's the point of this story?' Sean asked.
'To show that it's for everyone, that no-one's better than anyone else.' The speaker, a young lad of about 22 maybe, hasn't been to Zac's before. I talk to him later and he says he only really came for the tea and food but that he's tried to read the Bible before and he couldn't understand it. Yet it seems to me that he's understood it better than some so-called religious people who discriminate on grounds that someone or something doesn't fit in with their theology.

* * * * * * * * *

And now I can't decide whether I should write this next bit or not. Ho hum. Oh well. You can only think the worse of me for it.

This young lad said he'd like a Bible he could understand. Someone showed him a copy of The Street Bible. He looked at it and then at the price and said he couldn't afford £9.99. I privately resolved to buy one and take it for him next week (if he's there). Later he said he wanted to phone one of the prison chaplains (he's only just released) but he didn't have the money or know the number. I suggested he talk to Sean who'd be able to put him in touch with the right people.

And now there's this bit of me that thinks he didn't really want a Bible but was hoping a soft-touch would give him some money. Or the money for a phone call plus a little extra. (I was tempted but that's not the way at Zac's.)

But there's another bit of me that thinks even if that were the case - and I don't know if it were - there was still the hope that something was stirring his soul, some connection was being made that was real and powerful. That he was being splashed by the living water.

Souper Trooper

As I am now a Souper Star I have decided to make myself soup and bread for dinner. As I write the bread is merrily making itself in the machine and I am about to delve into the depths of the pantry for possible soup ingredients.

I hope it will turn out better than the last soup I made at home, the vile taste of which was not improved by the presence of bits of glass.

Dying to eat

I've been researching Asian cookery for a series of articles I have to write on said subject. I had merrily written practically a whole article on the Indian kitchen and the sort of equipment it would have in it, like handis and tawas, when I came across these disturbing details.

In 2001 an Indian census estimated that 40% of rural homes don’t have a separate kitchen. As the main fuel used is biomass, such as cow-dung, and there is little ventilation, the resulting smoke with its dangerous gases and chemicals fills the house and is a serious risk to health, especially for women who spend most time in the kitchen. The WHO reports that indoor air pollution is claiming 500,000 lives (mostly women and children) in India every year.

The WHO also says that because indoor air pollution isn't sexy enough, people aren't willing to donate money to combat the problem. And it's not just lack of finance.

"Women are constantly exposed to chulha smoke in India due to several cultural mindsets. The men in villages would complain that the taste of food lacks their favourite burnt flavour if there was no smoke. They also don't want to create ventilation as they think it would compromise with their privacy. Some villagers think smoke would keep mosquitoes and snakes away," Hildebrand said.

Uma Rajarathnam from The Energy and Resources Institute said one person dies every 20 seconds from fuel-induced illness. According to the World Health Report 2002, indoor air pollution is responsible for 2.7% of the global burden of disease.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scabby lamb

On the lunchtime news they reported that some lamb and offal distributed by Welsh Country Foods has been recalled as it might contain traces of a chemical used to treat sheep scab. A spokesman for the Health Dept said risk to the public was 'very small'. Very small? They usually say minimal. If they say very small, it must be bad. Make note to self to avoid lamb for a week or so.

I found Andy's card!

I hadn't written it. It was still in its sellophane at the bottom of my pile of paper for recycling! If it hadn't been rubbish day, I wouldn't have found it for ages.

And, what's more ...
I had a phone call from the community cafe this morning asking how I made the carrot and coriander (aka stand-up-on-its-own) soup on Monday. They've had lots of compliments and wanted to recreate it. How did I make it? Um, well, this and a bit of that and ...

It's been a good Wednesday so far. (It is Wednesday, isn't it?)

In the garden

I'm sure it's too late for passion-flowers to be flowering. Especially at the same time as it's fruiting.
My latest crop of raspberries.

Doggy heroes

On last night's local news there was an item about Whizz, a 13 stone Newfoundland dog who is being trained to rescue people in difficulties in the sea. He's very strong and loves to swim. The report said he is working with the Maritime Volunteer Service alongside a 12-year-old girl. Whizz rescues the drownee (?) while the girl provides reassurance.

There is a video report here (as of right now, 24th October). Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be possible to link direct to the video or show it here and I don't know how long it will be on that page.

Whizz isn't the first Swansea dog to make a name for himself rescuing people. Back in the 1930s Swansea Jack made a name for himself as a hero.

Jack was a black, flat-coated retriever who lived with his owner William Thomas on land bordering the docks.

In 1931 the recovery of a twelve year old boy who had slipped off the edge of the docks was his first ‘proper’ rescue but it was the second rescue, that of a swimmer in difficulties between two piers, that brought Jack his first taste of fame. The event was reported in the local newspaper and the council organised a collection and rewarded Jack with a silver collar.

Following another rescue a few months later, Jack was made an honorary member of the national Tail Waggers Club, whose motto was ‘I help my pals’. The Tail Waggers featured Jack in their magazine and he received a silver medallion ‘For Bravery’.

Over the next few years Swansea Jack saved many more people from drowning including sailors, fishermen and swimmers. Many of these were reported in the local and national press and Jack’s fame spread.

Jack’s uncanny ability to spot trouble wasn't restricted to humans: a cocker spaniel stuck in the mud had reason to be grateful to Jack as did a sackful of unwanted puppies who survived thanks to Jack and the care his master gave them.

By September 1935, Jack’s total for human rescues was twenty one and he was invited to a special ceremony at Swansea Guildhall where he was presented with a shield from the PDSA and a bronze medal from the National Canine Defence League.

In November of the same year, Jack took part in an exhibition of ‘Brave Dogs’ organised by the Daily Mirror. He was one of very few dogs to receive the Daily Mirror collar for bravery and was included on the Daily Mirror Roll of Honour.

In September 1936 when he was chosen by the national newspaper to be ‘The Star Bravest Dog of the Year’ but just one year after this triumph, and aged seven, Swansea Jack became ill and died, seemingly as a result of eating rat poison.
When he died, Swansea Jack had been credited with twenty seven rescues. It’s true that there is no evidence to support some of these, but a large number were verified by witnesses or by the rescued person.

William Thomas buried Jack in a quiet spot at the end of his garden but three weeks after his death, due to public demand, Jack was buried again on the seafront. A fund to pay for a memorial stone was started and money came in from all over the world. One year later, in a service attended by the Mayor and other local dignitaries, the memorial was unveiled.
In 2000, Swansea Jack was named 'Dog of the Century' by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still apocalyptic

It was Andy's birthday on Saturday. On Friday I bought him a card. I think I wrote it but I have no idea what I did with it after that.

Today I opened Betty's passenger door and found a card down the side of the seat. 'Goody,' I said. 'Andy's card.' But I turned it over and found it was addressed to Deni.

It was Deni's birthday in September, and I didn't even know I'd lost her card.

There is very little hope I fear.

* * * * * * * * *

I do sometimes wonder if I am speaking a different language from others.

The email conversation (in brief) went like this.
Me: Please do this.
Me (some weeks later): Have you done this yet?
Her: When are you going to do this for me?

I used to work with an ex-public-schoolboy with Boris Johnson hair before Boris had it. He was fond of saying, as he ran his fingers through his floppy fringe, 'I despair!' I know what he means.

* * * * * * * * * *

In circuits last night, by chance, one of the songs playing was Can you feel it? by The Jacksons (I think). Jane Fonda used the same song on her workout record many years ago. To this day I can't hear it without clenching my bottom. Going for the burn.

Speaking of bottoms and circuits, when I box, my bottom wobbles.

* * * * * * * * *

I did the What movie? quiz again, with more questions and altering some of my answers: I still got Apocalypse Now. Alun says it is very significant. Until I find, and deal with, my shadow I can never be truly happy.

My arts therapist says much the same thing.

I think I'm happy now. But happy with myself? That's another story.

More ways to waste time

Thanks to Grendel I tried a What great leader are you? quiz. It turned out I was Bill Clinton, always seeking fame and to be the centre of attention. Well, that was very accurate (not - although I want to be a famous author so I suppose it is partly right). So then I tried the What movie are you? quiz, and this was my result. I rather like this! Now leave me; I just want to be alone.

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by

A bad day in the kitchen

The Community Cafe is open again for the next two weeks and I was on volunteer duty today. As it was the first day of opening we had lots of food to cook. I burned the vegetarian chilli and made soup that could stand up on its own. I should have stopped when I was ahead but I came home and made a sponge to take to the cafe tomorrow. It turned out little higher than two pancakes.

* * * * * * * * * *

You can buy your own wind turbine at B&Q! Doesn't that sound great? A little windmill in your own garden.

* * * * * * * * * *

I must try and conquer this phobia I have of odd numbers. When I set the post time, it has to be an even number. Unless it's 5, 15 or 25. 21's not bad either. But 22:07? No chance.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Daughter and Son-in-law had already spent one weekend digging and had laid out 4 beds and a sitting area. And Daughter had planted garlic and onions in one bed: she was very excited to see that they'd grown!
It's a very large triangular-shaped patch. The photo of Holly is taken from the sitting area looking down on Saturday morning before we started work. the other two photos show what it was like when we left there today with 8 double-length beds dug and a fruit cage frame erected. The last photo on the right is from the bottom corner of the patch. It is 53 woman-strides from one end ot the other. Pretty good, eh? And that was after S-i-l was called into work first thing this morning. (He works in the maxillo-facial department of the hospital and makes new 'bits' for people inured by accident or illness.)
In return for the hard work of Husband and me, we were fed wonderfully by Daughter who is a brilliant cook. We woke on Saturday to the smell of home-made Danish (or should that be Devon?) pastries baking, followed by home-made bread sandwiches and a bean and squash cassoulet for dinner. With scrumptious apple pie and clotted cream after the rugby to cheer us up.
For lunch today we had yummy leek and butter-bean soup with truffle oil - Daughter worked out the recipe after having it at a lovely local restaurant. Nigella? Pah! Daughter can do it without the simpering.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

England for the Cup!

Such is my devotion to a) blogging, b) rugby, that I have dragged my aching body to Daughter's computer tonight so I can post a photo of a rugby player and say, 'Come on, England!'

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What position?

Hey ho, it's off to work with we go

I'm not doing Photohunt this weekend (or next come to think of it). Next weekend we're off to a wedding and tonight we're going down to Devon to visit Daughter and Son-in-law and Holly Dog. I say we're going to visit but actually we've been invited to work. Daughter and S-i-l have recently taken on an allotment, a large and very overgrown allotment. So mum and dad have been roped in to dig.

I don't mind: it's the sort of gardening I do best, killing things.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

For Dr Stu

And any Calvin and Hobbes fans. xx

Just look at this!

It's a Romanesca cauliflower. They say.
I think it landed during the recent asteroid storm and is even now planning its takeover of the world.
It might be small and green but it has pointy bits.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not overweight

Daughter told me off for saying I was overweight (I am according to the charts - and my trousers). She said, 'You're not overweight; you're voluptuous.'

I like that. I think I'll get a t-shirt saying "I'm not overweight; I'm voluptuous."

Why does everyone hate the English?*

Find out here.

*Strictly on the sports field, you understand.

Dave and the Archers

'Mum, can I ...'
'Be quiet! Get out! Can't you see I'm listening the Archers!'

No longer will that scenario take place in our house. No longer will I have to plan meals around the sacred time of 7.00 pm. Not now I can sign up for the Archers podcast and it will be sent to me daily!

I've signed up. I think. I seem to have lost it already. But it must be there somewhere.

So, Welshcakes, you need never miss an episode again. Or any other number of programmes. It's so exciting. Almost as exciting as watching Dave last night.

Husband was channel-hopping when he came across QI. We settled down to watch it and after a while I said, 'Why has it got Dave written in the corner of the screen?' Husband didn't know.

Today I mentioned it to both sons, both of whom knew. It's a new channel. Called Dave.

Of course it is.

Mutant tit

I am convinced we had a mutant tit on the bird feeder. It had a very long beak, a nasty face and it kept spreading its wings in a nasty threatening manner when any other bird came near.
I was trying to take its photo through the window and the feeder was moving. And lots of other excuses for it being blurry.

Fatty Arbuckle again

As I wrote the title for the last post I realised I had no idea who Fatty Arbuckle was. I thought he might be a fictional character. It turns out he was a Hollywood star and initially one of the Keystone Cops. In 1921, Arbuckle signed a three-year contract with Paramount for $1 million - that must have been the equivalent of - oh, a lot - these days. He threw a party to celebrate, after which a young starlet died and he was accused of her rape and murder.

He was eventually, after three trials, cleared of all blame, but his reputation had been tarnished and he never really worked again. In 1933, on his first wedding anniversary, he died of a heart attack.

Fatty Arbuckle

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said at the weekend that the obesity epidemic could lead to a public health crisis on the "scale of climate change".
He said efforts to promote exercise and healthy eating had to go "further and faster" ... (
Online Telegraph)

Is it me? But what exactly can the government do that's not already being or been done to make people aware of obesity, health and a good diet?

Trans fats (hydrogenated fats) are used in fast foods and are believed to be implicated in causing heart attacks. The Health Minister is set to ban them. Okay, so there is something the government can do.

But anyone living in this country must be aware of the dangers of being fat, the need for a healthy diet and exercise, the harm that too much fast food can do. I don't believe anyone could possibly be unaware. Yet we're still turning into a nation of fatties.

I have a healthy diet and I exercise yet I'm over-weight. I know it and I try - on a daily basis - to change that. And most days I fail because I'm greedy, lazy or depressed. But that's my fault. All the food labelling or regulation in the world isn't going to alter that.

But, yes, the government should be making sure that food is as healthy - or less unhealthy - as it can be. And that advertising and how shops stock and sell their ware is done thoughtfully for the sake of the consumer rather than the shopkeeper. Other than that it's up to the individual, isn't it? I'm not blaming the government for trying; I'm just wondering why they're bothering.

But then again maybe there is something they can do...

They could urge the BBC to rewrite Eastenders. They could have Dot could giving Jim a nice bowl of All Bran for breakfast. Phil Mitchell could be seen eating a banana as he walks down the street. Ian Beale could convert the chip shop into a salad and baguette bar. Peggy Mitchell could don her sweat pants and jog round the square before dropping into the cafe for a freshly squeezed orange juice or smoothie. I think it could be a winner.

I can't claim all the credit for this of course. It was done years ago in The Archers (a radio soap based in the countryside). Part of its mission statement was to be a source of education and information for the general public and the farming community in particular.

And on that point I have some fantastic news for Welshcakes - but I'll start that in a new post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I went to get the milk in and ...

yuck, yuck, yuck!

Sorry about the blurry picture; I wasn't wearing my glasses.


Monday, October 15, 2007

World environment day

A very quickly put together video to show you my environment on World Environment Day. Long may Gower stay untouched and as beautiful as it is now.

None of his Business

We have a new baby in church. Now, as it's never too early to start a child's library, I bought him The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business.

Daughter introduced me to this book a few years ago and since then I've bought it for every new baby - or at least those whose parents I knew wouldn't object.

It's about a little mole who wakes up one morning to find a pile of poo on his head. He sets off to find out who was responsible. He asks the seagull if it were him; the seagull says, 'No, this is how I do it,' and proceeds to demonstrate. And so on. All the animals Little Mole encounters show him exactly how they do it.

It's great fun - children love anything to do with poo or bottoms - as well as being educational!

... Chicken, lay a little egg for me

The lovely James has mentioned me in his blogfocus this week. I'm not entirely sure it's complimentary but I will take it to be anyway.

Another of his posts looks at comparative food prices where he is and where we are. One of the foods he enquires about is the simple egg. Except it's anything but simple when I go to buy them in Sainsburys.

The egg shelf is the one place that is guaranteed to get me standing there muttering to myself. 'For goodness' sake.'

All I want is 6 large free-range eggs. I'm offered: woodland, organic woodland, barn, organic barn, eggs rich in omega-something, golden-yolked, rare breeds' eggs, brown, Old Cotswold, Prince-Charles-hand-picked-these-eggs.

I start to hyperventilate, grab anything that says 6 and large, and move on. (I'll worry later about what I'm going to do with a pack of condoms.) And don't get me started about bread ...

What the postman brought

I've had two strange pieces of mail recently.

The first is an invitation from the doctor to have a flu vaccination. It is recommended for those over 65 or with certain chronic conditions. I am neither. And that will be on my records at the surgery, so why have they invited me? Unless they know something I don't know ...

I'm pretty sure I don't have a chronic condition - I think I would have noticed - so the only reason that looks possible from the list in the letter is 'absence of spleen'. They must have read my blog and, seeing an absence of spleen, drawn their own conclusions.

I had better vent my spleen more often.

The other letter was also an invitation, this time to a workshop, to 'discover the secrets of making money through property investment'.

Now they must think I have money to invest. Presumably they've done some financial research to give them that idea - but if they've done financial research they'll have found out that I'm a part-time church administrator that even the tax-man feels sorry for. They need better researchers. Gissa job!

The Frenchman and the prince

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Better safe than sorry

When I'm showering and I'm in the house alone, I lock the bedroom door. I would hate for a burglar to walk in on me in the shower.

It's the same principle that makes me wear knickers under my nightie when Husband is away - no, wait let me explain. If I had to confront a burglar I would feel so terribly vulnerable without my knickers. Although the sight of me in the middle of the night in my nightie would probably scare the burglar so much he'd fall down the stairs, break a leg and sue me.

A man came to work on Friday to quote for putting safety film on the windows. He said he does a lot of work in schools and for the police and if, for example, a schoolboy, in a fit of pique punched a window, broke it and cut his hand, he could sue the school for not having safety glass. How ridiculous is that?

The game between England and France is about to begin ...

Especially for jmb

The rather lovely Johnny Wilkinson - and I heard him being interviewed today and he is just as lovely as he looks. xx

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A big weekend

Will it be
England or France?

South Africa or Argentina?
Or Argentina?Or Argentina?

Saturday Photohunt - Smelly

A few years ago I wrote an article for a national dog magazine about poo.
Responsible owners p-p-p-pick up the poo!
When the article was published it was accompanied by this photo of Younger Son. Smelly!

Can't see the wood for the trees

Walking on the bike track this morning, Cleo and I both carried sticks ready for the river.At the first opportunity I threw Cleo's stick; it got stuck in a tree. I threw my stick; Cleo retrieved it but then decided she didn't like it as much as hers so left it in the middle of the river. Meaning we had to find another stick.

You'd think that finding sticks in a wood would be easy. It's not. It was ever thus. I remember Harvey getting impatient, standing round barking ('That's not going to help me find a stick, is it?!') as I kept him waiting to chase. He was oblivious to the fact that if he hadn't eaten the previous stick he wouldn't have had to wait.

Now I come to think of it, in 15 years of stick-eating, Harvey probably managed to munch his way through most of the woods. No wonder there are no sticks left.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who'd have thought it?

On the Sabbath try and make no noise that goes beyond your house.

Cries of passion between lovers are exempt.

St Thomas Aquinas

It's like having a toddler again

When I go to the toilet, Cleo sits outside and scratches the door. She's settled down at night now though. The first couple of mornings we thought she'd wee'd on the kitchen floor but we decided it was slobber from her panting and trying to dig her way out.

She is the pantiest dog I've ever met. She rarely wees, not needing to as most of the fluid drips off her tongue. She's very sweet though.

She carries her stick all the time when we're out. I say, 'Let me carry it for you; I won't throw it.' But she doesn't trust me. She says, 'I'm not giving it to you; you'll throw it again.' Or rather she says, 'Iuumm nurhn, girbbing i t uuu etc' because she has a stick in her mouth.

Her paw is all right now but her mouth is bleeding. But what can you expect when you chew sticks? It's a good job Linda is back on Sunday. Cleo'd be a wreck if she had to stay with me any longer. (She's a bit of a pampered pooch at home.)


We saw a heron in the woods! It was a-maze-ing!!! It took off from the river and passed about 5 metres away from me. Wow! It was incredible.

I really wished I'd had my camera with me - although by the time I'd got it out, switched it on and aimed, the heron could have been in Timbuctoo. But we saw some lovely dew-dropped webs too. I must get into the habit of always carrying my camera.

Some time ago though, I took this photo of a signpost that has been put up in the middle of the woods.


Sicily and further

I think I'm supposed to mention here that I have a guest post up at Sicily Scene. If you're not scared of heights, you could go and visit if you wanted. There are lots of interesting guest posters keeping Welshcakes's seat warm while she's away. They look at topics including mosaics in Sicily, geraniums in Adelaide and kissing in just about anywhere.

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm about to start researching Asian cookery for a website. If you have any tried and tested favourites you'd be willing to share, I'd love to include them. Lee gave me a recipe for a cake that you'll find

'What sort of Christian are you?'

At Zac's last night, before we tucked into lovely soup and dodgy bread, Sean read a bit from the Bible about Nicodemus, and he said how much he disliked using the phrase 'born again'. It only occurs once in the Bible and that's in John 3:3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus, a wise old teacher, that no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

A few months ago, Chris, one of our church leaders, caused a furore in a meeting when he said something very similar to Sean, along the lines of 'I can't be doing with this born again malarkey.'

What they both meant was not that they disagreed with Jesus but that the term has become so associated with negative things about Christianity that they wanted to be disassociated from it. When people say, 'are you a born again christian?' you can almost hear them thinking, 'Oh, no, not one of those.' In many people's eyes the term has come to be associated with the happy clappy, greedy, hypocritical, televangelist type of person - usually, I'm afraid, American. And what some of these preachers say is enough to make Jesus get down from the cross.

I've read a few blog posts of late that are critical or unbelieving of Christianity. I would suggest that most bloggers' views of Christianity are based on their experience or what they perceive it to be through what they see. I would also suggest that that perception is an infinity away from what God intended.

God is passionate. About his creation, about his created beings. Evil rouses him to fury; suffering makes him weep. He isn't wishy washy; he isn't apathetic. He is strong; he's gentle; he is all-knowing; he waits to be told; he listens; he hears; and most of all he loves humanity to a depth and a height and a width that we can't understand.

God didn't send his son into this world to condemn it - or us.

Now I've forgotten where I started, how I got here and what I wanted to say. You see, this is why I don't try and write clever posts. So I'll conclude with Sean's answer to the title question. 'I'm one who tries to follow Jesus.'

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A short story for Mental Health Day

Black Marble
There’s a lot to be said for being a Catholic. You only have to look at their gravestones. Every one a mausoleum, with angels and harps and pedestals. And why shouldn’t you have grandeur in death? Especially if you were deprived of it in life. Glory and beauty.

I think they’re wonderful. Works of art. They’re my favourite pieces in the cemetery. I come here most days. Tom thinks I’m mad. He says I talk to the angels but I don’t. I just sit and think. He doesn’t understand. This is my place. I always sit in this exact spot with my back against this headstone. ‘Treasured memories of Richard Daniel Evans, dearly loved husband of Mary. And of the above Mary Jane Evans. Sleeping where no shadows fall.’

Sleeping where no shadows fall, I like that. No shadows, no darkness, just sleep. I like to sleep. Sometimes I fall asleep with my head on the grass. Or sometimes I think about Richard and Mary and wonder what their lives were like, wonder if they would like me, wonder if they mind me sitting with my back to them. I don’t think they would mind me resting on their stone. The stone seems to welcome me in.

Story continued here.

Biblical bread

i.e. it needs a miracle. (Got eaten though.)

In which Cleo has me sussed

Cleo has me sussed. 'If I keep the stick in my mouth then she can't throw it for me and her cunning plan to wear me out won't work, tee hee!'

On our way back from the woods we cross what I think must once have been an orchard; there are still a few apple trees there that crop heavily. Under one of the non-apple trees we found these mushrooms.

No-one could claim that we live in the countryside but it makes me feel like a real country girl, oh arr, to be able to gather mushrooms on our morning walk. (And I know they're safe to eat as Husband ate some at the weekend.)
* * * * * * * * * *
We pass a car on our way home. Its bumper sticker reads, 'Women of the earth reclaiming birth.' I didn't realise anyone was trying to take it away from us. Underneath the main legend it says, 'Hypnobirthing.' Whatever.

1 x Wales = Wales

Last night on Radio 4 I heard a show that is looking for geniuses (geniua? genii?), People are invited to send in their brilliant ideas and the genius of the week is chosen by that week's guest. Last night the judge was Germaine Greer so you can see the quality we're talking about here.

The idea that won was to resolve the prison over-crowding problem by making prisoners build their own cells from Lego. A short-term inmate would be given big Lego bricks; a lifer would get small. They could design their own cell, and privileges as rewards for good behaviour would include Lego televisions or Lego trees.

I can see its value but the runner-up was my personal favourite. He - and strangely, all the potential geniuses were male - suggested that instead of using hectare, square miles, acres etc to measure area, we should have units to which people can relate. Such as pinheads, thumb nails, up to football pitches, up to Wales and eventually Australia. So the United States, for instance, would be 2.25 Australias.

We'd have to retain actual measurements for accuracy but doesn't saying America is 2.25 Australias present you with a more realistic image of its size than saying that it's whatever million acres?

It could even be personalised to suit different countries or different groups of people. So car enthusiasts could use toy car to mini to Rolls Royce to articulated truck. I am really taken with this idea, and am thinking of launching a campaign to have it introduced. Are you with me?

Bread, but not as you know it, Jim

Last week I went to a fund-raising meal in aid of Zac's Place. As the price was a bit out of their range for most of the Zac's regulars, Wendy, one of Zac's Girls, suggested we have a soup and bread evening tonight so that people can contribute whatever pennies they can spare.

I said I'd make some bread. Not as noble as it sounds as I have a bread-making machine. I made a cheese and onion loaf in it but I thought for the other one, I'd do a shaped olive loaf. The machine does the mixing and kneading; I just finish it off, shape it and leave it to rise before cooking in the proper oven. I'd never tried this before. I probably should have tried on an occasion when it didn't matter if it went wrong. It's a bit like my bottom: spread and flabby rather than risen and firm.
I might have to go to Zac's via the supermarket.
I've been throwing sticks for Cleo when we're out but as it was intended to be a quick walkies this afternoon, I took her ball-throwing-thingy that Linda left with me. Have you seen them? They're quite ingenious and definitely the lazy person's throwing-thing.

You don't even have to bend down. Just lean over slightly and the hand grasps the ball. Then it's a tiny flick of the wrist and the ball goes off into infinity. Or at least further than it does with my girly throw i.e. more than 2'.

Our short walk turned out to be a bit longer than I'd intended as I don't do standing and throwing very well. We have to keep moving. But I'm fearful I might be making Cleo walk further than she is accustomed to: her front paw is bleeding and we've already broken her ball.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

mud, mud, glorious mud

Husband set off for Hook at 6.15 this morning. Cleo took this to be a sign that everyone should get up and started howling pathetically at the bottom of the stairs (we have a barricade across it). By 7 o'clock, I'd had my breakfast, written an email and read some blogs - and the sun wasn't even up.

We went out for a walk in the woods just as the dawn was breaking. We heard a bird I'd never heard before. Obviously one of those that catches the worm but apart from that I don't have any idea what sort it was. Its cry was a high-pitched 'e-whoop' (long e, short whoop). Any suggestions?

Cleo is a water lover too and unlike Holly (but like Harvey), she stands next to you to shake.

Comparative skills (out of 10 with 10 being best)
Watching which direction the stick is going in
Cleo 7
Holly 6
Harvey 5

Sniffing out the stick when it's lost
Cleo 2
Holly 9
Harvey 7

Eating the stick afterwards
Cleo 1
Holly 5
Harvey 9.5

Cleo (already known as HollCleo) did come back to look for me when I was slow as I struggled over muddy bits on the riverside. It was probably to laugh at me but at least I wasn't alone. When we were out there I was reminded of one incident many years ago.

At one point along the river walk there is a very muddy bit closely followed by a high steep-sided mudbank. Only about mid-thigh height but try kicking your leg up on that when it's wet. Harvey had skipped up it quite happily and was wandering on. I think a piece must have been washed away as we often walked by the river and didn't usually have the trouble I had that day.

I tried once to get my leg up: failure. I tried again. Again I failed. I looked around. There was an ivy creeper hanging down from an over-hanging branch. I grabbed it and jumped up onto the bank. I was still saying, 'Yay!!!' when my feet slowly started to slip back down. Slowly as in slow motion slowly when you know it's happening but there's nothing you can do about it. I was hanging backwards and my feet were were leaving me. Clonk. Back where I started. There was only one thing left. I took a run at it, leapt across the mud and flung myself at a thick tree trunk, hugging it for all I was worth. Then I gradually edged my way round from the mud side to the slightly solider ground side. And while all this was going on, Harvey was somewhere in the distance smelling the flowers.

I'm not very good at looking after other people's dogs. I mean, I can take care of them, but I worry about them being sad. It's obvious they're going to miss their families but I hate to see sad eyes staring at me. It makes me feel guilty. Cleo has been sticking close to whoever is in the house, staying in the same room and getting up and following around. I go in the kitchen to get a drink of water and she follows me. I try to explain that I'm coming straight back but she insists on getting up. I end up going without my drink of water because I feel so bad about it. Is it me?

Ladies who lunch

To find out more about The Meet, click on the link at the left.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Tomorrow's the Big Day.

Welshcakes, Shirl and I, three women who've met through the internet, will be meeting in real life. Shirl and I have met before. Our friendship goes back a number of years but started on a website. Neither of us has met Welshcakes yet.

Techy Shirl has set up a blog specifically for us to record this momentous event:

Wouldn't you like to be with us?!

Calendar Boys

Over the past few years I've written several monologues some of which feature a Welsh Valleys family. I plan one day to complete the series giving each member of the family a voice, but that's one day. Reading the comments on the photo of the naked rugby players reminded me of a bit of one of the already written ones.

It's from the monologue narrated by Mam. Barry, the son of the family, plays rugby and the local clubhouse is falling down. One night Barry tells his mother and father, Gwyn, that the club's going to do some fund-raising but that they don't have many ideas for it yet. Mam has recently watched the DVD of Calendar Girls.

"That’s when I remembered the VD. I said, 'Hey, you know what you should do: make a calendar.' Gwyn looked up from the telly again, 'What of? Pretty pictures of all the local slag heaps and pit faces, is it?'
'Don’t be daft,' I said. 'I mean the boys.'
'That don’t sound very exciting,' Barry said.
'It would be,' I said, 'if they posed in the nude. With artistically arranged balls.' Well that made them sit up."

This is Cleo

Cleo belongs to my friend Linda and she's staying with us for a week while Linda is on holiday. Last time we looked after one of Linda's pets, it got eaten. We are very much hoping that the same doesn't happen to Cleo.

She is a a little bit sad and missing her mum, but we're trying to keep her happy. In the photo above she is sulking because Husband made her get off not one but both sofas.
In the photo below, she is happy because she's out on a nice long walk. She pulls frantically when on the lead. Linda left her harness saying it's easier to control Cleo in that. Unfortunately she didn't explain - and I didn't think to ask - how to put the harness on.
Husband and I were both defeated by it. We used the lead.