Thursday, February 28, 2008

Malt and madonna

Husband has 24 bottles of malt whisky. I know because I just dusted them. Apart from the ones in the photo, they're all different, and even those are varied - Founder's reserve, PortWood and so on. Husband will probably argue that some of them are nearly empty ...
* * * * * * * * * *
Eugene Kutz, frontman for Gogol Bordello, is the star of Madonna's new film, and it's their music that is the soundtrack. That makes it worth seeing despite the critics.

The fridge is bare

A good excuse to have porridge for lunch. Yum yum. Not that I need an excuse.

I'm still a bit croaky after the game on Saturday. In Zac's someone asked me if I had a cold. I said, 'Not really, I'm trying to cultivate a sexy hoarseness. Do I sound sexy?'
'You sound as if you've got a cold.'

George and I are procrastinating. George is pretending not to be by curling up asleep but he is really. I am not pretending; it's the real thing with me. I am desperately trying to think of something vitally important to write about to put off the moment when I have to go back to cleaning ... I've failed. Oh lookity, a well-timed email from my writing buddy. Willl have to read and reply to that NOW!

The postman brought me a letter!

A proper letter! With a hand-written address! Someone was actually writing to me (as opposed to the rest of my mail offering me cheap money and free eye tests). I was so excited I tore it open!

It was an invitation to try out the latest technology in hearing aids.

Last week I was browsing on the web, finding out about hearing tests. I want to prove that it's not my ears that are at fault but other people mumbling. All I did on this particular site was ask where I could get my hearing tested. Now it's good of them to respond and write to me but they didn't have to pretend they were my friends; they could have used a proper typed envelope. Getting me all excited like that.

I'm not going to go with them anyway: their brochure has a picture of a man crawling in an ear. I don't want a man crawling in my ear.

Is there a hoover heaven?

I'm cleaning today. I hate cleaning. That's why I'm blogging.

I looked at the Hoover this morning. It's not something I usually do - look at the hoover. I just hoover with it. But this morning it cried out to me. 'Please don't use me! Retire me! put me out to dust-free pastures where I can spend my final days dreaming of sparkling stairs, rubbish-less rugs, and carpets so clean you could make mad passionate love on them without worrying about getting a bit of stick stuck in your back.'

It looks so pathetic if I were to put it in a jumble sale nobody would buy it.

Aside: do they still have jumble sales? Or have they been supplanted by car boot sales and charity shops? Jumble sales were the lynchpin of many a Save-Our-Steeple campaign so I wonder how small parish churches fund-raise now. There certainly hasn't been one for a long time in the Archers. I remember, as a child, buying lots of posh hats from a jumble sale. I don't know what I intended to do with them - and they probably weren't really posh at all - but I brought each one out to show my mum with great pride.

So anyway, after fixing today's hoover problem, I was happily hoovering the floor, talking to myself about jumble sales and hats, when George snook in behind me - leaving a trail of blood across my clean carpet.

I do love my dog and I wouldn't really swap him for a hamster. Unless it was very cute.

P.S. I washed George's paws and couldn't see any sign of a cut so it can't have been too bad - in case you think I am a very horrid person. And I even did it before I cleaned the blood off the floor!

Might as well be Smarties?

So the latest research indicates that Prozac and similar anti-depressants are little better than placebos.

I am one of the millions who take anti-depressants - in my case, Seroxat (another SSRI like prozac). I've been a 'user' now for a long time.

I'd always been a worrier but over a number of years I became obsessively anxious. Something - usually tiny - would set me off and I'd be unable to concentrate for long on anything except the fear and anxiety I felt. It reached the point at which I was constantly down, miserable with my family and with myself.

I'd seen doctors at various times about this problem and finally one realised the effect that my anxiety was having on me and my family and she prescribed Seroxat. It took a little while for me to get settled with it but since then I haven't looked back. My life was given back to me.

Depression - in my case a by-product of anxiety - is hard to understand if you've never suffered it. 'What have you got to be miserable about?'

Nothing, but that doesn't alter the fact that misery had become my middle name. No, that's not right: it's not misery. It's something else. It's depression. It's not being miserable. It's not something you can control. It's not something you do for fun or attention.

I've tried counselling. The doctor sent me to an NHS counsellor. She gave me a relaxation tape saying that if I practised it, I could learn to relax whenever I felt panicky. I don't think I ever got to the end of the tape: I fell asleep usually about three-quarters of the way through. Relaxing my body has never been my problem! The counsellor gave up on me fairly quickly.

I went privately for arts therapy. Although I learned to understand myself and motivations a bit better, I can't honestly say that it helped to control my anxiety.

And I've been prayed for. Numerous times.

Christians aren't supposed to get depressed. We have the peace of God. If you don't have it we'll pray for you. Being a depressed Christian is bad enough; being a depressed Christian for whom prayer doesn't work is unadmittable. And guilt-inflicting. 'I must be such a bad Christian.'

As the years have gone by it's become okay to admit it but even now, in certain churches, taking pills to deal with depression would be frowned upon. Because it's not a real illness - like any other that would be treated with medication. It's all in the mind. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, get more exercise, join a club, keep busy. Don't consider for one moment that your depression might actually be a result of a chemical imbalance that needs righting.

In the article in the paper, users are being advised not to stop taking their prescribed medication suddenly because of the report. You don't have to worry about me: I have no intention of stopping taking my happy pills. In fact I'll fight anyone who tries to take them off me!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ABC Wednesday - F

What great timing! Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday arrives at the letter 'F' during Fairtrade Fortnight! Our church, Linden, in Swansea, runs a community cafe during school holidays. This Spring, it was decided to open not only over half-term but for Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February - 9 March) as well.

Products used by the cafe are fairtrade or organic or locally-sourced as far as possible. We're also going to be maintaining a small fairtrade stall throughout the year. All sorts of things are now available as certified fairtrade including clothes, children's games, and footballs as well as many food products.

You might be able to see, amongst the items already available in Red Cafe, chocolate coffee beans, chocolate eggs, drinking chocolate and chocolate hazelnut spread. (And I haven't weakened in my resolve to give up chocolate for Lent. Just because it's occupying my thoughts and dreams means nothing.)

To be sure that the goods you are buying are fairly-traded, look for the Fairtrade mark.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation:
"Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives."

A damning report about fair trade was published this week . The Fairtrade Foundation says:
"The Fairtrade Foundation finds it extremely sad that the Adam Smith Institute has chosen Fairtrade Fortnight to publish an inaccurate report, claiming that Fairtrade does “more harm than good”. This completely contradicts our experience of working with farmers and workers in developing countries as part of a coalition that includes all the major development agencies in the UK. Releasing this report when thousands of people are trying to make a difference to global poverty by promoting Fairtrade products, is an insult to the effort and commitment of Fairtrade producers and their supporters in the UK." For the rest of the response, go here.

At the rugby again

The first obstacle to getting into the Millennium Stadium was a plastic bottle of water that had to be drunk or discarded before entering. (And I wasn't going to waste good water!)

The next obstacle was the ticket itself. Husband and I both peered at it. He had the wrong glasses; I didn't have my glasses at all. We asked a steward where Block UN was. 'There isn't a Block UN,' he said. He looked at our tickets. 'Ah, you want Block C.'

Later on, during the game, the big screen showed Warren Gatland, Wales's coach, drinking from a plastic bottle. I see. So it's one rule for them and one rule for those of us who pay to come in, is it? Really I'd have thought a frustrated rugby coach would have been more likely than I was to throw a plastic bottle.

Upsize where it matters

I've recently had a few emails that shouldn't have been being re-directed into my Spam holding bay. Fortunately I was alerted to the fact that I wasn't responding so I'm checking my spam more often at the moment - and it makes me laugh. A few subject lines:

10 ways to act in bed longer;
15 ways to act Longer in bed;
Why be a tiny cocktail sausage when you can be a mighty weiner?;
9 inches in your pants will make you the world's 8th wonder to women.

Do people really buy this stuff?!

Everyone out!

On his site, Grendel has written about 'Work your proper hours' Day. It reminded me of a post I was thinking about.

Husband and Elder Son both work in IT in the private sector. Both work hard and very long hours. Husband doesn't get paid for his extra hours; Elder Son gets half-time. I said, 'You mean time and a half?'
'No, half-time.'
'That's scandalous! Where's the union?'
'We're not allowed to join unions.'

Husband is in a senior position and is well-paid; I can sort of understand that with authority comes responsibility. Elder Son is just starting out. To not be paid a fair wage for the work he does is wrong. It's undermining and eroding principles of employment.

And it's not just about pay. Elder Son is young and newly-married. He works in London. He hardly sees his new wife during the week. This can't make for good employees. There've been lots of reports that say that the best workers are those who have time to spend with their families, to recharge, the ones who have the right balance of work and play.

Husband has done well in his career because he's good at it. He could have done better and advanced further if he'd been prepared to move frequently, to take work home with him, and to play golf and go drinking with the boss. I'm glad - and proud of him - that he didn't do any of those.

So, the rugby

It was great. A wonderful day out. The atmosphere in Cardiff on a match day is fantastic. The stadium is in the city centre so streets are closed to traffic and everywhere you look it's a sea of red. And it's wonderfully good-humoured.

It's true there was some abuse of the Italians. Some Welsh lads close to us were shouting, 'Tiramisu!' 'Pepperoni!' and, worst of all, 'Cinzano!!' Only the Welsh!

That's not a real Italian supporter in the photo by the way: he's English. Dragged along by his Welsh friend, who, like me, is probably still a little hoarse.

Three games played, three games won. We're on our way!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Now where did I put my brian?

On her blog - or maybe it was somewhere else - Welshcakes wrote about men being attracted by her brain. That's never happened to me. In fact last week, when George was under the desk, I asked him to see if my brain was there too. He couldn't find it but, knowing him, he might have mistaken it for a shoe and eaten it.

Don't you just love the way that, if you mistype 'brain' you get 'brian'? Brian is a much better word for what's inside my skull.

Oh, goody, Spellcheck is working again.

Early Mother's Day

Daughter and Son-in-law were down last weekend although, what with one thing and another, I only saw them for about 10 minutes. They brought me these flowers as an early Mother's Day gift; aren't they gorgeous colours? So exuberant and joyful.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wales 47 - 8 Italy

Me, with dragon-painted cheek, and, in the background, Cardiff Castle and statue of Aneurin Bevan, who was responsible for establishing the NHS.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Wooden

Last year I had the pleasure of making the wedding cake for Elder Son and his bride. The tiers are supported by little wooden sticks that are removed when you cut the cake. Usually.
Fortunately it was Husband who got this bit of wooden stick in his cake!
And, yes, he did bite it before finding out.


Who's old?

Yesterday while walking George I was pondering on what I hadn't done. For instance, I never became a librarian. Not that I wanted to at the time, but I made a series of bad decisions education/career-wise. It turned out fine as it happened as I met Husband and became what I really wanted to be: a wife and mum. But I took the wrong paths.

So that set me thinking about being a librarian. I love books and reading. Or a research assistant to someone clever; I like doing research. And I was vaguely thinking, 'Well, I could do something about it now. I could do a course on libraries, or look for a post doing something like that.' But then I thought, 'Hang on a mo: you're 55. You're too old for anyone to employ you.'

Now let me explain: I don't actually want a job. My brain was just meandering as it does when I'm out walking, when it came to this sudden halt as the reality of my age hit me. People younger than me are taking early retirement; Husband is eagerly anticipating his retirement in the next few years. Things should be slowing down but I'M NOT READY! I'm too young to be 55!!!

Most of the time I don't think about it; it's just every now and again that I realise or am forced to recognise that I am 'not as young as I was, dearie.'

Pah, nonsense, I am too. Last night there were only two of us in circuit training: me and a 16-year-old boy. And did I keep up? Of course I did.

And tomorrow, when we go to the rugby - did I tell you Husband and I are off to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to watch Wales play Italy? - I'm going to have a dragon painted on my cheek. Watch this space!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Loving the unlovely

Zac's last night was ... interesting. Different. Chaotic. Challenging.

As well as the usual crowd, two rough sleepers stayed for the Bible study. One, let's call him Tom, had recently lost his brother and was grieving. Sean explained that Tom and his brother had been been inseparable all their lives. Tom was unsteady on his feet.

The other, Harry, was alternating between caring for and abusing Tom.

In different ways they both disrupted the study. Tom seemed to be placing his trust in Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols - because you can't see God but you can see Johnny Rotten. Harry said he believed and that each morning he said a prayer to thank God for a new day. He didn't go to church though; he preferred to go to the Tenby (a pub up the road). He said he didn't wait on street corners for the soup run or the food hand-outs because - no disrespect to the people who do it - 'I've got some dignity.'

I said they were disruptive but I don't mean it as a complaint. I was glad for their input. it helped me to see a little, to understand a bit more. It also made me face an unpleasant fact.

In the church circles in which I move we talk a lot about being Jesus in the community, about being out there, doing what Jesus would do. Jesus would have walked alongside Tom; I couldn't. And do you know why? Because he smelled. I don't know what it was and I tried not to breathe too deeply when he passed but it made me draw away.

I can go so far - as long as it's just inside my comfort zone. Thank God he isn't so picky.

What we saw today

This could be an example of bracket fungus, or then again it could be razor strop fungus. It depends which source you consult. And whom you believe. So it's probably something completely different altogether. There's no doubt what this is though. I thought I hadn't seen him in the river for a long time; he must have been hibernating. (Do crocodiles hibernate?)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ABC Wednesday - E

E is for eyes.

I'm sorry it's a bit small. I don't know how to make it any bigger. I put it together in Photoimpact and didn't know what I was doing.

To join in with ABC Wednesday, visit Mrs Nesbitt's Place.


Betty's big ball end

There's another bit to the story of Betty's broken ball joint that I didn't include with yesterday's post. It would have made it a humungously long post instead of a just a long post, but I want to mention it as it's important to me.

Last week Younger Son couldn't use his car as he had a puncture and he didn't have any money to repair it, so he borrowed Betty to get around in. On Saturday he was paid so he removed his wheel, put it in Betty and took it to the garage for repair. While he was there, the tyre-man suggested that he keep an eye on one of Betty's tyres as that looked a bit dodgy.

Yesterday morning when I was opening the gate to get Betty out, remembering what had been said, I glanced at the tyre and noticed it did look a bit flat. (I am sorry to say that I am rather remiss about checking things like that normally.) Hence my trip to the petrol station and you know the outcome of that.

Now it could have been a serendipitous series of events that caused me to be parked rather than driving on a main road - or worse, trying to pull out across a busy main road - when Betty's ball joint went, or it could have been God.

P.S. Betty's ball joint is now repaired but I still haven't put air in the tyre! (Thanks, Stillers, for the free air information; I'll head there first next time I go out.)

I have nothing on today

I love Wednesdays. I have nothing on (although that does get a tad chilly). I don't have to go anywhere or be anywhere at all today or this evening. I have to take George out but that's fine. I have work to do but I mean I don't have to be anywhere by any specific time. It's the only day of the week that this happens and I love it. There is a church meeting this evening but I think it might slip my mind. Ah, freedom!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Remembrance Monday

Number 10 Downing Street has approved a petition that was launched requesting a new public holiday falling on the Monday after Remembrance Sunday in November each year. It's got three aims:
1. To emphasise the remembrance of those servicemen and women who have given, and continue to give, their lives for Britain
2. To remind people of the importance of protecting our nation and what it stands for;
3. To break that 3 month period between the August Public Holiday and Christmas when there are currently no long weekends.

If you agree to the idea, sign up to the petition

I know I've put on a bit of weight but ...

I didn't think I was that heavy.

I was due in the community cafe today. Before I went I made a chocolate cake for the cafe and that made me late but I really needed air in one of Betty's tyres. I pulled into the petrol station and drew up alongside the air machine. Then I saw that they wanted to charge 50p for it!

So I'm sitting in the car and trying to decide whether I have time to put air in all four tyres, or whether 50p for one tyre is wasteful, or whether it's against my principles to pay for air at all, when, all of a sudden - whooosh. There's a sort of deflating noise, rather like a hovercraft being lowered and I find myself closer to the ground than I'd been an instant before.

I got out assuming a tyre had burst but all the tyres were intact. However Betty was now leaning. At least I thought she was. You know what it's like: you start to doubt your own sanity. (Or perhaps you don't know what it's like.) Had she really sunk? She looked a little tilted but had she been like that before? I would feel very silly if I called out Rescue and there was nothing wrong.

I got in and started the engine. We edged forward a little. Squeak, screech. No, the tyre was definitely rubbing against the metal bit. I phoned Rescue. 'My car's started to tilt.'

The Rescue-man had to come and take her away on a lorry. I felt like a parent seeing a child into an ambulance. Oh, I went with her, of course; I didn't let her go alone. 'What's the problem?' I asked the Rescue-man.
'It's your big ball joint.'

Apparently it would have been bad news if I'd tried to drive it like that. Phew.

But really it is very disheartening when you're sitting in the car and the bit you're sitting in breaks under you. As if it just couldn't take the strain any longer.

George gets his head stuck

Anyone for cricket?

And I thought cricket was a gentlemanly sport.

The Indian Cricket Authority wants to ban sledging. Apparently the cricket field, that icon of English village life, is not the idyllic place it appears. Test match cricketers, sportsmen at the pinnacle of their game, representing their countries, like to indulge in sledging or 'Neh, neh, neh neh, neh, my bat's bigger than yours,' abuse of fellow players.

Henry Blofeld, a well-respected commentator, said, 'Where will they go from here? Will they try to stop gentlemen in a rugger scrum talking?'

Indeed, Henry.

* * * * * * * * *

On a slightly different note, is John Humphries losing it? On the Today programme he couldn't remember what Alistair Darling was. (Man with strange eyebrows?)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Boys will be boys

It's the same thing this time every year, the only difference this year being that we have a pond so we don't just have to look for it but we can take frog spawn home with us.

Sunday morning stroll

Elder Son and Daughter-in-law were down for the weekend. This morning, not having a lot of time before they had to set off, we all went for a leisurely stroll along Swansea Bay in the sunshine.

Going anywhere in the Mumbles/Gower direction on a sunny weekend morning is not advised unless you've plenty of time to sit in traffic jams. Even in February. So we just walked down and across the road onto the beach.

Come home to a real fire

Since I read a post on James's blog I've been thinking about apologies and nations. Then yesterday I read a post on Chervil's blog about the Australian state saying sorry to the country's indigenous people and it reminded me of the post I'd been thinking about writing. It's one of those posts that seem to be fine in my head, but I can't quite get it down on 'paper'. I don't know why but I do know that I need to write it so I can delete the thoughts from my over-crowded brain.

I'm not sure what I feel about state apologies. They're a gesture but can we or should we apologise for something we had no hand in, something our forefathers did? At best I suppose they're an acknowledgement, a starting point from which to move on.

Alun and I were talking about it in work last Monday and our discussion quickly moved on from Australia to more local issues.

Alun is from Cardiff. Cardiff is the capital city of Wales; many people think Swansea should have been the capital. There is also a certain resentment about the fact that, whenever money is avilable for big projects, it's usually Cardiff that gets it. Or it's seen that way by Swansea people (and the rest of Wales). So there is some rivalry between Swansea Jacks and Cardiff Taffs.

Take that down a level and you'll find areas of Swansea that look down on or resent other areas; up to country level, and you've only got to read the t-shirts to quickly get the picture. 'I support Wales and whoever England are playing.' (I've seen the same sentiments expressed on Scottish and Irish supporters's chests.)(And you can't expect good grammar on a t-shirt.)

I've written articles and probably posts about this subject before. It continues to mystify me why I, a mild-mannered, middle-aged woman who calls herself a Christian, can feel so antagonistic towards another country.

It's only in rugby you understand. I married an Englishman; I lived happily in Southampton; I have English friends. It's not English people that upset me: it's 'the English'. That strange entity that takes on a monster-like quality and becomes 'the old enemy'.

And it's not intentional on my part. I try, I really do try hard to support England and Husband. But last Sunday I had to leave the room before Husband noticed my involuntary cries of excitement when Italy got the ball in their game against England.

Is it the arrogance, perceived or real, of the English rugby team? Matt Dawson, Austin Healey, Lawrence Dallaglio come to mind. But the Welsh can be pretty arrogant when it comes to rugby!

Or is it centuries of history, of domination by a power outside our control, outside our own land? Is it time for England to apologise? And for Wales, Scotland and Ireland to acknowledge their grudges and be prepared to move forward?

No, I don't think it is. I think that would be a pointless and meaningless gesture that would fool nobody and make no difference. And really it's only during the Six Nations competition; the rest of the year we're fine. We're only joking, after all, when we support England's opponents. Really we're good friends. Just like the neighbours in Kenya who last month shared meals together and this month are killing each other.

When does the joking stop? We've seen all over the world examples of neighbours turning on each other because of tribal tensions. How easy or likely would it be for that to happen here? Impossible?

I tried to find a clip from Not the Nine O'Clock News but couldn't so I'll have to describe it. They did a take-off of a coal commercial, showing lovely hills and valleys, with a male voice choir singing in the background. As far as I can remember - and my memory's not that good! - the advert ended with the logo, 'Come home to real fire', and the image of a cottage burning. It was at the time when the Welsh nationalist extremists were setting fire to second homes.

No, it couldn't happen here.

And as for non-stick pans ...

I can't be doing with them.

They always stick and then you have to scrub them but you can't because they're non-stick and you're supposed to treat them gently. Pah, give me a pan that enjoys a bit of rough every time.

I'm a good scrubber. Just give me a dirty pan and a bit of wire wool and watch me work. Oooh, I feel the urge to get my rubber gloves on ...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Knicker elastic

It isn't what it used to be.

I recall Great-Auntie Connie telling us of the time she was walking through town when her knickers fell down. 'I stopped, bent over, picked them up and put them in my handbag. Then I carried on walking,' she said.

They don't make knickers with proper elastic like they used to. The sort that was threaded through a hem. I suppose there must have been warning signs when the elastic was going: slightly looser drawers and not so much ... well, elasticity, but going out in them was always slightly dicing with the death of embarrassment.

When the elastic goes in today's knickers it's much more insidious. You might be less likely to find them around your ankles but they can still make for jolly uncomfortable wearing.

You're out walking when you become aware of your knickers moving - not with you but on their own: they're slowly edging their way down your bottom. You try to pull them back up - surreptitiously naturally, although it's hard to be surreptitious while grasping your own bum. Once they've passed the most sticky-out bit of your rear anatomy you might as well admit defeat. They're on the home run now. Don't try and fight it but resign yourself to getting home as quickly as you can with knickers bunched up on a level with the top of your thighs.

Just be glad you're wearing trousers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Free

This is the library that was just down the road from where I lived as a child, and it was my second home. I even dreamed of what it would be like to live in it! What an incredible invention libraries are. I often take them for granted but the freedom and right to borrow books - to take them home for free - is such a wonderful privilege.
Today, of course, we can borrow DVDs from the library; we can use the internet there. But the greatest joy is still to be had browsing through shelf after shelf of books.
I searched for 'public lending library history' but, for once, Google let me down. What I did find out was that Scotland's first free Public Lending Library was Innerpeffray Library, which was founded by Lord David Madertie in 1680, when he made 400 of his family books available to the public. Madertie said that the library, and school founded at the same time, were "for the improvement and education of the population particularly the young students."

Libraries in some form or another date back more than 2,000 years but the free public lending library that we have today didn’t come into being until the second half of the 19th century when the Public Libraries Act was passed in 1850.
The Act allowed any municipal borough of 100,000 souls to introduce a halfpenny rate to establish public libraries - although not to buy books - as part of a movement to improve educational opportunities and facilities.
I for one am jolly glad the Act was passed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Language school

Is there somewhere George could go to learn dog-speak?

When a dog growls at him - as most dogs are wont to do when leapt upon by a boisterous puppy - George translates it as 'Will you be my friend and play with me?'

It is hard being a puppy who loves everyone.

This morning he went out to greet the postman. When he left, the postman went out of our gate, across the front and into next-door's drive. That was encouragement enough for George to charge at the wall, leap up on it, and from there, climb over the fence Husband erected, into next-door's garden.

By chance next door's children were just emerging to go out with their grandparents. George was ecstatic! Little children AND the postman: does life get better than this?

By the time I got round there - after retrieving my slippers that he'd stolen earlier - George was standing with his paws on the shoulders of the littlest one. She hasn't been walking that long but she was quite unperturbed.

We need a higher fence.

A performing artiste ... or Coco the clown?

Did I tell you I have a gig? Two actually.

Okay, it would be an exagerration - if I could spell it - to call them gigs but they're the next best thing.

On the Sunday before Easter I've been invited to visit a church in the valleys in the evening to read some of my monologues for a meditation, and on 5th March I have a slot in a WomenCentreStage event at the Dylan Thomas Centre. There are so many of us taking part that we each only have 10 minutes so I'll have to time a monologue and precis it if necessary. Shall I do my toilets or calendar boys, that's the question. I'd better time them and work it out from there.

Off to walk George now so will 'write' my next post in my head while I'm out.

And the Oscar goes to ...

Some time ago the lovely (and Welsh) Siani gave me the 'E' award. I've only just got round to putting it on site but thank you, Siani. Now that must be three awards I have to pass on! I must do it. In fact I'll do it now!

Let's see.

E for excellent, I shall give to: Mutley who makes me laugh; James who makes think; and MDM who uses bigger words than anyone I know. (All male because I have to nominate women for the next one.)

Wonderful Women, I'll pass on to: Maryb, who writes brilliantly; Maria whose lifestyle is one to emulate; and to Kris, whose blog is one of the most honest you'll come across.

Now for the Nice Matters. This is quite a girly one too. In fact awards are a girly things. So I'll hand this to: Leslie, cos I know we'd get on; jmb who writes wonderfully intelligent and entertaining posts; and Anna, because she's a wonderful cook who shares her creations.

Valentine's Day

It's Daughter and Son-in-law's anniversary today. I think she said it's 5 years. Is it really that long? It must be as Elder Son has been married almost a year. Doesn't time fly? Yes, you're right: it is time for them to have babies. I've been saying that since ... they got back from honeymoon. Not that I'm desperate for grandchildren or anything like that.

* * * * * * * * *

I'm pleased to say that Younger Son was also unable to open the DVD box. I'm pleased because that means it wasn't stupidity on my part; I'm not pleased because we'll have to break open the box to get at the DVD.

Last night I intended to watch one episode of Grey's Anatomy but it turned out to be a two-parter so obviously I had to watch both parts. It was the one where there's a bomb in the hospital (patient). I never watch hospital dramas as a rule as I'm very squeamish and susceptible to suggestion (after the last episode of Grey's Anatomy I did begin to wonder if I had the flesh-eating disease) but Grey's is so gruesome and so totally implausible, I can cope with it. If you see what I mean.

McDreamy is another reason for watching it. His acting abilities aren't tested; he only has one pose. You know the one? Head tilted a little to the left, the merest hint of a smile on his slightly open lips, liquid-eyes seeing into your soul. You know, just an ordinary everyday look.

P.S. I tried to post a photo but Blogger won't let me.

What book are you?

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

It's probably just because I said I liked snow.

Found this quiz over at Jams's blog.


I just did the quiz again keeping my answers the same except for the snow and now I'm Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

After stumbling down the wrong turn in life, you've had your mind opened to a number of strange and curious things. As life grows curiouser and curiouser, you have to ask yourself what's real and what's the picture of illusion. Little is coming to your aid in discerning fantasy from fact, but the line between them is so blurry that it's starting not to matter. Be careful around rabbit holes and those who smile to much, and just avoid hat shops altogether.

Now that's me!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ABC Wednesday - D

Harvey, our last dog, loved his food. One day he came in from outside and was delighted to discover I'd put some leftover scraps in his dish. He was so delighted he didn't notice - and didn't care - where he'd put his foot! (Apologies to those who've seen this photo before.)
George, our new pup, also loves food and loves to 'help' me unpack the shopping when I return from Sainsburys. However, where most dogs would sniff out the meat, George was happy to come across his favourite thing: broccoli!
So for ABC Wednesday I present two Dopey Dogs!
For more information about ABC Wednesday go and visit Mrs Nesbitt at her place.

Bad habits

I've been feeling very tired of late so this evening I decided I'd curl up and watch a film on DVD ... but I couldn't open the box! Cue my next story ...

When I worked in the bookshop Husband grumbled that I spent more money there than I earned. While our community cafe is running I do a day a week (voluntary) there. The cafe contains - at my instigation - a secondhand bookstall. Today I came home with four books.

On the top of the pile, staring back at me, is 'The 7 Bad Habits of Highly Ineffective People', with the tag, 'Harness the power of constructive inertia'. Now that's what I need to do. I expect. Although I'm not sure what constructive inertia is.

The problem with this book, like the 'I can make you thin' book that I bought a while ago, is that I won't actually get round to reading it, far less actioning it. Oh, I've just read the back of it! You see, that's another mistake I make: buying books when not wearing my glasses. On the back it says, 'By learning these simple bad habits you will be more mundane, average and less interesting than you've ever been.'

I've got to read it now!

101 ways to ...

Working in the community cafe today I overheard a conversation. A man said, 'I was on the suicides course.'

There are lessons in how to do it?!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gears and knobs

Aren't car designers clever? Putting little diagrams on the gear stick knob to show you where the gears are.

Younger Son's car has a flat tyre. He's broke and can't afford to get it mended so he's driving Betty. That means I have to drive Alfie Porsche. I haven't driven Alfie for months and months and I would have had no idea where reverse was when I was trying to get him out of the garage if it hadn't been for the little picture. If I'd had my glasses on and it hadn't been dark in the garage it would have been even easier.

1,501th post

On the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning they were discussing the trials of six of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. If found guilty of murder and conspiracy, they could face the death penalty.

An American official of some sort, speaking on Today said, '... for a crime of this magnitude ...'

So killing lots of people is worse than killing one? Lots of lives are worth more than one?

Don't get me wrong: I am opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances. That just seemed like strange justification.

And this is a civilised society led by a Christian. (Or should that full stop be a question mark?)

Monday, February 11, 2008

The eye of Electra

Doctors at Glasgow veterinary college have performed the first-ever cataract operation on a golden eagle.

Electra, the golden eagle, was being chased by a gang of crows when she flew into power cables and burned her wings. She was taken to a sanctuary to recover and it was there that the owner realised that she couldn't see. Naturally that's a bit of a problem for an eagle and would have meant her being put down, but when it was discovered that she had cataracts the college agreed to try the risky operation on her.

They removed one cataract successfully but the other eye was too badly damaged and they didn't want to cause her undue trauma.

She'll never be released into the wild as, with one eye, she couldn't survive, but she's being kept in the sanctuary in Mull. Happily they also have a male golden eagle there and there are hopes that the two might breed, if as the BBC reported last night, 'he catches her eye'.

Sad news

You might like to send a prayer or good thoughts to Elsie here as her dad died last week.

Weekend in Devon

Saturday, Daughter's birthday, dawned bright and clear (that could be a line from a story!) and we set off for a walk on Dartmoor, primarily to wear out the dogs so we could watch the rugby in peace in the afternoon. (Daughter was resigned to the fact that three of us would want to spend her birthday afternoon in front of the television.) It was glorious out on the moor. In the photo above, on the hillside, you can see a circle of stones that would have surrounded a settlement: some of the remains of huts within the village are still standing.
There's not a lot on Dartmoor when you get up out of the wooded hillsides, just peace. But there's always a pub! (See biggest white dot in the picture below.)

Younger Son made this very groovy scarecrow for Daughter for her allotment. They've named him Rocky but fear his smiling face may attract birds rather than scare them.
And I made a cake. Daughter is a big fan of The Good Life - both the television sitcom and living it, so I decided I'd make a cake like the daisy that is part of the title sequence. Of course I didn't check what the daisy looked like before I made it; I didn't have to because I knew what it looked like. It had large white petals and a small middle. Turns out it has medium-sized pink petals and a large middle. Ah well.
We had a lovely weekend. Oh, yes, and Wales beat Scotland.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Away for the weekend

It's Daughter's birthday tomorrow so we're off to Devon this evening for the weekend.

I couldn't say before but the reason Daughter was in London on Wednesday was for an award ceremony. She won Freelancer of the Year (Editorial) 2008! I was hoping I'd be able to provide a limk to a web-page about the event but they haven't put it up yet. The awards are sponsored by a freelance organisation and a marketing magazine.

And I've spent the afternoon putting together a birthday cake. You know the way sometimes you get an idea and it seems like a good idea but when you do it, it doesn't turn out quite as impressively as you expected ...

See you Sunday.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Alarm bells ringing

It's not just George who should have been chipped; I should have been too. So that when I try to go in Borders, alarm bells will start ringing loudly and burly security men will rush up and escort me off the premises. 'Sorry, madam, you know you're not allowed in here.'
'Oh but please, I only want a birthday card.'
'That's what they all say.'
'No, but it's true.'
'Come along, madam, please don't be difficult.'
'But ... but ...' I'm still protesting when the door is slammed in my face.
You can go on a chocolate binge and not spend much money; a Borders binge is another matter. But I did need all the things I bought, including the postcard on the left. Why did I need it? Because it made me laugh. This time though I didn't say as much to the young man on the checkout. Last time I pointed out a funny card, he looked at me blankly

In the woods today

Younger Son said, 'I need a long piece of wood. Will you look for one when you're in the woods with George today?'
'How long?'
'This long,' He stretched his arms out wide.

About one third of the way into our walk I found the ideal piece of wood and picked it up, completely ignoring the fact that I would then have to carry it the remaining two thirds, a task not helped by George periodically trying to eat it. The things we do for our children.

Speaking of children, Elder Son works and lives in London; this week he's in Brussels working. Daughter lives and works in Devon; today she's in London for work. Meanwhile Younger Son has made something amazing (but I can't say what yet). It's strange to think of these intelligent, creative and capable young people once having my been my babies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I've just realised ...

I've given up chocolate for Lent.

That wasn't a carefully-thought-out decision; it was a 'what can I take a photo of that begins with "C"?' decision. But now I feel sort of committed.

I was brought up giving up things for Lent. Chocolate, biting my finger-nails, sugar in my tea - the only one to last - and though it has no significance for me it is a convenient time period. A long time period. A very long time period if you've given up chocolate.

I know people who prefer to use Lent as a time for renewal, rethinking, rebirth. I wonder if I can put a positive spin on giving up chocolate ...

I will use this season not think on what I have given up (chocolate) but to meditate on what is important in my life (chocolate), what I choose to spend my money on (chocolate), and where I want to spend eternity (in chocolate heaven).

Forty-seven days to Easter Sunday. Oh my.

ABC Wednesday - C

I love Cheese. The orange-wax-covered truckle in this photo is made by the Snowdonia Cheese Company in North Wales. They make a variety of cheeses including my favourite Green Thunder (mature cheddar with garlic & garden herbs) and this one, Amber Mist, which is a medium cheddar laced with whisky. The Snowdonia Cheese Company were gold-medal winners at the World Cheese Awards 2006 and they do mail order!
Next to the cheese truckle there isn't any Chocolate, another of my favourite things, because I've given it up for Lent. Boo hoo.
To join in with ABC Wednesday, visit Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

In the woods

I went looking for a tree today.

Last week George and I saw a tree with a face. I looked on Saturday when we walked with Husband but couldn't find it and failed again today. The trouble is that we take lots of different paths and I can't remember which one we were on when we saw it. So you'll have to take my word for it that there was a tree with a face - until I find it again and can take a photo. Cos we won't give up, will we George? No, we won't.

When Harvey was little I didn't venture too far into the woods but as he grew we began to explore and now, even though George is little, we wander all over the place. So this afternoon I thought perhaps I should practise my self-defence skills. (You might not be aware of this but I am an expert in the ancient art of Ar Gkcho.)
It's probably simplest if I illustrate my actions for you. Here you see me and George walking through the woods.
A would-be-assailant (wba) leaps out from behind a tree. (He is possibly singing Marmee but that's not very likely.)
With my finely-tuned senses I am instantly alert and leap into action. Raising my arms in front of me, I leap threateningly towards wba while screaming Ar Gkcho in a fiercesome voice. I then take up the pose of attack - you see it's a strictly non-contact defence. At which point, my wba runs away screaming.
I don't go along with Husband's view that any wba would fall down laughing at this point. Husband has not seen me when my full power is unleashed. George jumped when I was practising.
It's true though that I need to brush up on some of my moves. The Ar Garchow for instance. This is very similar to the Ar Gkcho but the left leg is kicked higher towards the groin area. I really need to improve my technique on this as I am not convinced that landing on my bottom would look very professional - or scary.
My Eiiee Chpi however is pretty slick, even though I say it myself. This involves bringing both arms to shoulder-height and rapidly launching them forwards, pointy finger pointed, and heading for the wba's eyes, while screaming Eiiee Chpi (you see how well-named each move is?) This combined with the Ar Garchow never fails to render a wba uselss, or so I'm told by my instructor, who claims to have taught John Travolta all he knows.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Take cover!

My Six Nations blog was in the printed newspaper last night along with a photo of me. My uncle, great-auntie and friend all called to tell me they'd seen it. What is slightly worrying though is the fact that alongside my photo is the word BULLET. Does this mean I am a target for hitmen, do you think? An English rugby-fan-hitman maybe? They come in all guises, you know. They don't all wear black suits and fedoras. I shall be very careful when I am walking George. If we see any strange men in the woods, we will quickly turn and walk the other way. Or I will. George will probably run over and cover him in muddy paw-prints and kisses.

P.S. Do hitmen wear black suits and fedoras? It has been a long time since I saw one.

A significant date

Today is the anniversary of my mum's death; it's also, and more importantly, Pancake Day!

Now I thought carefully before writing that sentence. As I said, I write my posts in my head and I was in the shower thinking about this one. Do I sound callous? I can't honestly say I feel anything about my mother's death. (But then I don't do feeling very well.) I've seen other bloggers write with great tenderness and love about deceased parents and envied them - have I? I don't even know if that's true apart from the fact that I would have liked an Enid Blyton childhood.

It's 36 years since my mother died. Although I was 19 at the time, I hardly knew her. She had to go out to work to support us and it was really my grandmother who brought me up. (My mum and I lived with my grandparents.)

Even my memories of her are based on what other people have told me: how lovely she was, what a sense of fun she had. The only things I remember with any clarity are times when she told me off! Now, wouldn't a psychiatrist have fun with that?!

Now this is way too miserable. Let's think about pancakes instead!!!!

I was a stranger and you invited me in

At the beginniong of last week news was coming in about two deaths in Swansea. One was 17, the other a 37-year-old: both were known to regulars in Zac's. It's alleged that the 17-year-old had a history of addiction. The older man was found dead in his sleeping-bag on the steps of a church.

Unecessary deaths, wasted lives are always tragic but there's something unbearably poignant about dying at the door of a church.

I'm not blaming the church. (In the paper, church attenders say they've had problems in the past with rough sleepers.) There are plenty of reasons - to do with security, hygiene, health & safety, insurance, litigation - why churches can't be left open any more. And even if the door of this church had been open would it have prevented his death? I doubt it. But if it had been open and there'd been someone there to look after him?

The majority of rough sleepers have addiction and/or mental health problems. They're not easy to deal with. It's not like inviting you or me to spend the night. With the best will in the world you need proper facilities and carers who know what they're doing, not kindly souls who just want to help.

Yet when I was a little girl I remember my mum telling me about a vicar in Swansea, Reverend Leon Atkins, who opened the crypt of his church to the homeless. I don't know exactly how that worked - I've googled and can't find any mention of him (which is unusual as the most unlikely subjects turn up in a google search) - but having less of our 'expertise and knowledge about these things' didn't stop Leon Atkins making a difference. Maybe it even helped as he just did what his God told him.
'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Leon Atkins' church is just down the road from the church where the man died; it's an Indian restaurant now.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A writer's dream

From a letter in ... bother, I tore it out and don't know what newpspaer it is from. Either the Times (probably) or the Independent. Husband brings them home from hotels with him.

Anyway this letter was reminding readers of a headline from ... another newspaper, from many years ago when Michael Foot was chairing a group, in the EU, fighting to get rid of the nuclear bomb. The headline read, Foot heads arms body.

The headline writer probably never bettered that one.

* * * * * * * *

Blogger still won't spell-check for me. And MyBlogLog has lost my photo. Or possibly my identity. I am a non-person.

James, in the comments on the previous posts, says he thought he might have offended me with his dig at the Welsh. Well, James, I've read through all your posts and I can't find the dig. Am I particularly dense?

* * * * * * * * *

My friend is waiting for contact lenses. They are her first pair. She currently wears varifocals but these new lenses can cope with that by ... wait for it ... having one lens (in her case the right one) for long distance vision and one lens (left) for short-distance. She tried some out before she ordered them and said it was fine although it helped if she covered the spare eye.

* * * * * * * * *

Also in the paper, the 15 most important UK locations for slime have been identified by researchers.

Why can't Younger Son get a job like that?

Go Pats!

This is Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who's playing in the Superbowl tonight.
I read a post recently about abstinence. It was written by a Christian lady and advised married women to steer clear of soap operas and films to avoid the temptation of lust.
She didn't mention sporting fixtures.

More Six Nations

Husband banned me from posting the photo of us that the Evening Post didn't use.

Read part 2 of my Six Nations blog here.

This photo courtesy of the South Wales Evening Post.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

oh happy day

England 19 - 26 Wales

Oh very happy day! I have jigged round the living-room three times; I have hopped and squeaked for my country. I have risen from the depths - as Wales did like a phoenix after half-time - to the heights of euphoria.

It is twenty - that's right, 20 - years, since Wales beat England on their home ground at Twickenham. We were due for victory - but at half-time it didn't look like we were going to get it.

Wales were useless in the first half. It looked like it could only be a matter of time before the score would look dangerously one-sided. But second half saw a revived Wales - who started to play as if they actually wanted to win - and a collapsed England - who seemed to have forgotten why they were there.

I'm just too happy to write more!!! I'll just add that Husband is far more magnanimous in defeat than I am. He says he doesn't mind losing to Wales as 'it makes you so happy.'

Now it's 'Go Pats' for tomorrow!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Narrow

This was hard! It was difficult to think of something that would be narrow rather than thin. There was narrow-boat (didn't have any photos), narrow escape (ditto), narrow gauge (ditto); finally decided on narrow ledge. Don't jump!

Six Nations blogger

We got away lightly! Not only is it one of the better poses, the photo is so small we're almost unrecognisable. We do appear in the print edition as well but not much bigger.

If you want to find out what I wrote about Wales' chances against England tomorrow, you can read it here: Six Nations blog

Bad grammar?

A sentence in my previous post is bothering me.

I wrote: He was wading in quite deeply ...

Should that be deep or deeply? Does it describe the way he was wading? No, not really. So it should be deep. Should it?

Why has Blogger stopped spell-checking? Is it me? Or Blogger?

Too many dilemmas for a Friday evening.