Monday, March 31, 2008

Mumbles mammaries

Nick asked where the name Mumbles comes from. One story is that when the Normans - or possibly the Romans - came here, the two islands that make the headland at the entrance to Swansea Bay, reminded them of breasts, mamelles, which led to the name of Mumbles.


George deprivation

Daughter has been complaining that we haven't had any photos of George for some time, so to put that right here George and Bungle cuddle up for a snooze. George had to make do with an Easter egg box - and you can see what he thinks of that from the look he's giving me!
George, all his attempts at squeezing through gaps in the fences having been foiled, begins to tunnel his way out. We should never have let him watch The Great Escape.
I was watching him in the garden the other day and I was struck by how scarily similar he looks to Harvey. Yes, I know all golden retrievers look alike but there are subtle differences.

When I used to walk Harvey we'd sometimes see Gus, another retriever who was a little younger than Harvs. Each time after we'd passed by, I'd whisper to Harvey, 'You're much handsomer than Gus.' Which he was. Gus's face was much squatter and he had a permanent frown. Harvey was handsome. And so is George.
The trouble is that now George isn't sure if his name is Georgedon'tdothat or Harvey.

Sunday afternoon stroll in the sunshine

On top of Mumbles Hill, high above the traffic and people that flood to the village on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I think of Mumbles as being made up of different parts. The bit immediately below us is Southend; the bit in the curve of the bay with the castle on the hillside is Oystermouth. A little further on and you get into Norton.To get ice-creams from Verdi's at Southend, we walked from the hill down Dickslade, this lane of prettified old fishermen's cottages.
Mumbles Lighthouse from the hill.

The hall saga continues

Husband was on holiday last week and roundabout the middle of the week he had a brilliant idea. Husband's brilliant ideas are nearly as good as mine.

He decided he would hire a sander and sand and varnish the hall floor. (Remember we started decorating February 2007?)

Every room in the house still has a thin film of dust.

But it was worth it. Here is the hall after 2 coats of coloured varnish and one of clear.
As you see, my holly is still there but the fairy lights have gone. I did think of painting over the holly with daffodils but I am now living in hope that the wallpaper may go up any day. After the paint has been ... um ... refreshed as it's got a bit scruffy over the last 12 months.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

George in a spin

Yesterday I was in the kitchen when I heard a noise behind me. I looked around and George was licking my pizza that was waiting to go into the oven. Hey ho. I figured it was going to be cooked so would be fine to eat.

I told a friend about it. She said, 'Now that's why I couldn't have dogs: you really have to love them, don't you?'

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - High

Nelson looks down from on high.
To join in with Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

Remember 1968?

On Radio 4, 1968 is being remembered in daily 5 minute chunks (this day in 1968 stuff). You can hear the podcasts or listen again for up to 7 days after the date.

Today, for example:
Martin Luther King led a protest in Memphis that ended in disaster, the first American F111 plane to be deployed in Vietnam went missing, and there were student uprisings in Poland, Spain and Japan.

It's all accompanied by groovy music too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A certain age

The postman brought a package from Sainsburys this morning: Free samples inside! Oh, goody, I thought, free chocolate.

No, not free chocolate. A leaflet (see left) and samples of a product specifically designed for women with a sensitive bladder.

Is this the future? Will I be receiving catalogues for walk-in baths (how do they work?) and stair-lifts next? Incontinence pants and funeral plans? Beige elastic-waisted slacks and crimplene dresses in pastel shades?
Big sigh.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Birthday!

My baby, Younger Son, is 23 today. Happy Birthday, sweetiepie!
P.S. I am too young to be this old.

Portrait of the artist as a young jelly-baby

So I'm struggling to pose sweeties, and muttering, 'Come on, jelly-babies, stand up for me, please,' when I suddenly think, 'You really should get a life.'

Either that or enter my jelly-baby picture for the Turner Prize. How does one go about submitting an entry I wonder. I must find out. I could be the next big thing in the art world.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ABC Wednesday - J

To join in with ABC Wednesday, pay a visit to Mrs Nesbitt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ah, when I was a girl ...

For the last few weeks I've been pondering on a post. I've almost written it several times but then the moment disappeared and it didn't get written. Well, I've just read something on Loose Ends that reminded me so I'm going to get it down now before it gets lost again. I also read something (Stop, hey, what's that sound) on Winston's blog that spurred me on too.

In the 1980s we lived for a few years in Southampton. Being taken out my safe and known environment was good for me. Several things of significance occurred:
1) I became a Christian (that probably deserves a post of its own);
2) I joined a Books for Children Group that led in later years to me setting up and running a school bookshop;
3) I joined Families Against the Bomb.
Oh, yes, and Younger Son, our token English child was born there.

Families Against the Bomb was what it says on the label. Except in our case as Husband wasn't. (An aside: it's a wonder we're still happily married as we disagree on most topics - or maybe that's why we're still married.) At that time Cruise missiles were sited at Greenham Common. My part in FAB was necessarily mostly background support. I was part of a telephone chain that was set going when manoeuvres happened. Some families took direct action by driving to the location and trying to disrupt as much as possible. I just passed on the phone messages.

I went to meetings with other young mothers who drank a hot barley drink that was quite revolting. I tried to drink it because it was the 'right-on' thing to do but really I much preferred tea. I listened as they earnestly and intelligently discussed action and legalities and empowerment.

I joined protest marches, and cooked and helped deliver food to the Greenham women at the camp outside the base but mostly it was just a small way for me to say, 'I don't like what is happening.'

The last protest march I went on was against the war in Iraq. The majority of the other people on that were my age and older. And this seemed to be the point of the posts on Winston's and Aileni's blogs. Was it the draft - rather than the war itself - and the deaths of so many young men in Vietnam that led to such huge protests? If a draft were introduced into America today would we see similar events taking place?

Without sounding too much like an old person - no, okay, I'll have to sound like an old person - there just doesn't seem to be the defiance and enthusiasm for protest amongst the youth of today that there was years ago. Maybe they've accepted they're fighting a losing battle; maybe they're too busy trying to survive; maybe the legacy of Thatcher's Britain is bigger and more deep-rooted than we thought.

Come on young people! Grow your hair! Take your clothes off (whatever)! Don't just accept things otherwise they will be inevitable.

They said it on Radio 4

Yesterday it was reported on the news on Radio 4 that mice cells had been cloned and used in the successful treatment of Parkinson's (in mice). The scientists used skin cells from the tail of the animal to generate customised neurons or as the report on Radio 4 said, 'Cells can be tailor made.'

* * * * * * * * *

Today on Radio 4 news the reporter talking about protests against the Chinese Olympics said, 'The woman protestor was roughed up by Greek police.'
Roughed up? Purlease. This is Radio 4. We don't have people roughed up on Radio 4: they are man-handled or forcibly moved on. But definitely not roughed up. I suppose all the proper reporters were on Bank Holiday leave.

Standards, BBC, standards.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No 1 Ladies'

Sunday morning I woke at about 6.10 and thought, 'Oh, bother, I've missed it,' and went back to sleep. But a very happy and belated Easter to everyone anyway.
Well, did you watch The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency last night? Oh, it was lovely. The lady playing Precious Ramotswe was a little younger than I'd imagined and her secretary a little more abrasive but all in all it made for a very pretty evening's viewing. Perfect Sunday night television.

When I first started reading the books it took me a little while to get into them but soon I was loving them. They do get a bit sameish by about the seventh one - the one something to do with purple shoes - but up until then, they're well worth reading. They have such lovely characters and gentle manners. Almost Barbara Pym in Botswana. No, not as acerbic as Ms Pym can be. But slow-moving, easy-flowing narratives.

Busy, busy, busy

Okay, life's been a bit hectic of late so I've not been visiting blogs. I've not even visited any of the Photohunters, which is unforgivable. I will try and get round lots in the next couple of days.

But first a quick catch-up. With my Lenten fast over, I ate 6 weeks' worth of chocolate yesterday. In fact, it's been a really bad-food weekend. Friday night we had fish and chips, Saturday takeaway curry and Sunday chocolate. My heart is fairly groaning with cholesterol overload. Back to sensible eating today. Or as soon as I've finished my Easter egg. (I had to have one as I needed to buy 5 and they were selling them 2 for the price of 1, so it would have been wasteful not to have bought 6.)

On Saturday, we (Husband, Elder Son, Younger Son, Son-in-law and Elder Son's friend - oh yes and me) went to the Millennium Stadium for the EDF semi-finals. The second semi featured the Ospreys, our local team and the only Welsh semi-finalists. We got super cheap tickets at £10 each and when we got there we found out why. They were 3 rows from the front - so on pitch level - and right next to the furthest corner flag. (See how close we were to the BBC interviewing Jeremy Guscott - who used to be quite dishy but who is a bit flabby-faced now. And who could say the same about me. About being flabby-faced I mean, not dishy.) That meant we could see well if anyone scored in our corner but for the rest of the game we had to watch the big screen. We'd have been better off at home in the warm!
But in the gap between the first and second game we found better seats and sneaked in there. Ospreys won 30-3 and now go to meet Leicester, winners of the first game, in the finals at Twickenham.
We also saw Jesus on the cross in Cardiff.


I saw these and ...

and thought of Dragonstar!

Some people hate graffiti. I'm not one of those. Sometimes, in the right place and done well, it can be fantastic. Like these dragons. They were painted on the walls of the car park where the bikers congregated in Bridgend. I think they're pretty amazing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Metal

There were Harleys aplenty on a bike run yesterday.

To take part in Photohunters, go and visit tnchick.

Hangin' with the bikers

Sean and the God Squad (Christian motorbikers) organised a bike run today. It was particularly to commemorate bikers who've died over recent years (Sean, as an ordained minister, has taken several funerals himself). But today's run was a little extra-special as it finished in a recreation ground in Bridgend, a town in south Wales that has gained notoriety over the last year. Since January 2007, seventeen of its young people have committed suicide.

With so much bad news and a sense of sorrow about the town the bikers wanted to say, 'we haven't forgotten you.' A floral tribute, in especially bright colours, was attached to a hedge in the recreation ground at the end of the ride. A message signed by many of the bikers was left with it.

There were about 70 bikes and many more bikers on the run. They came from as far afield as Sussex and Manchester, and God Squadders, members of the Christian Motorcycle Association and other bike clubs rode alongside Hell's Angels.

This is a very short (less than 2 minutes) film. Please watch it to get an idea of the day.

The music accompanying it is by Bryn Haworth, recorded at a gig he played in Zac's Place a few weeks ago.

P.S. I was just there to make tea!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not like in the movies

You know that cute Andrex puppy and how it steals the toilet roll and trails it around the house? Well, thta's not what real puppies do.

Real puppies shred toilet rolls.

They also shred mummy's best bra, which cost a ridiculously silly amount of money - and I know: it's mummy's fault for leaving it where a puppy could get it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It all depends

There's an Easter Sunrise Service on Swansea Bay on ... well, Easter Sunday. It starts at 5.30 am ready for sun rise at 5.50, and it's being organised by a number of churches across the city as part of Hope08. This is a nationwide initiative to bring hope to our towns and cities through community action. How a crowd of Christians meeting on the beach at a time when normal people will be in bed fits that criterion is beyond me but greater minds than mine came up with it. Admittedly one of those minds was Alun's, so you can probably begin to see a flaw here.

He asked me this morning if I was going to the service. I said, 'That depends.'
'On what?'
'Whether it's raining.'
'You fair-weather Christian you!'
'And whether I can be bothered to get out of bed.'

It'll be full of proper Christians anyway, some of whom might even have fasted beforehand. Not that I've got anything against fasting you understand. On the rare - very rare - occasions that I've tried it, it hasn't been God I've spent my time listening to but my stomach telling me how hungry I am. I am such a bad Christian! It's incredible that Jesus still loves me too bits! Isn't that comforting?

So I've been researching

Magpies mate for life but the female also likes a bit of variety. Research has shown that 1 in 15 magpie chicks is not fathered by the life-partner.
When you see lots of magpies together during the breeding season, it's usually one female, her mate and lots of hopeful hangers-on. At other times of the year they enjoy community living and help each other out.
There are many versions of a traditional counting rhyme that features magpies and fortune-telling.
One for sorrow, two for joy,
three for a girl, for for a boy,
five for silver, six for gold,
seven for a secret,never to be told,
eight's a wish, nine's a kiss,
ten for a time of joyous bliss.
All the versions agree that to see one magpie is to anticipate bad luck. To avoid such misfortune, if you happen to see a solitary bird, you can spit three times over your shoulder, or greet the magpie thus: Hello, Mr, Magpie, how's your lady wife today?
In America it seems the rhyme uses crows, which are commoner than magpies.

Titter ye not!

When we were walking along the river today a kingfisher flew out from the bank alongside and down the river. I've never seen one so clearly before: it was a-maze-ing! I've never seen a colour blue like it; it was awesome.

And speaking of birds, has anyone else noticed an awful lot of magpies about at the moment? I'm seeing them in titterings of 11 or 12. That's not normal. My theory is that it's the advance party of an alien life force. They are adept at shape-changing, which explains their remarkable success in inter-planetary invasion - they take the form of whatever is closest to hand when their space-craft lands. In this case it was obviously a magpie. An earlier invading force, on landing, took the shape of road workmen. This led them to believe that all humans read the Sun, and the proposed invasion was put off until we evolve a little more. However you will now find examples of builder's bum at the furthest reaches of the universe. And beyond.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Work or ...

I was going to go into work on Friday and take the time off another day but I'm going in tomorrow instead. On Friday I have the chance to hang out with 100 hairy bikers. A girl's got to grab her opportunities.

Church for ragamuffins

Zac's Place is sub-titled church for ragamuffins. That name comes from a book, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Sean explained that last night as there were a few new-comers at Zac's.

When Sean asked for a volunteer to read some Bible verses, Mary, a rough sleeper, spoke up, 'I'll do if you want a ragamuffin.' She stumbled over the words and left out bits. A coughing fit stopped her halfway through and Jimmy, another rough sleeper, offered to take over. He struggled especially when it came to Caiaphas. Mary shouted out encouragement to him. They were far from flawless and they were perfect.

These are the ragamuffins Jesus came for. Whether we live on the streets or in a detached house in a posh area of town, we are the ragamuffins. It's so simple. This is what Jesus is about. He is absolutely not the Jesus that is preached in some places; he is absolutely not the Jesus in whose name terrible things are said and done. (I was shouting this out as I hoovered and contemplated.) It's so simple it's impossibly difficult for some of us. If we could just remember what the real Jesus is about, our lives and the world would be transformed. If I could just remember.

At the end we had communion. Usually bread and grape juice is left out for anyone who wants it but, for a change, we passed it round. It was an incredibly moving experience.

Now just in case you think I'm getting all pious and holy, I'll add that, yes, I did check out who'd be drinking the wine before me and was happy that they would all have washed reasonably recently. Look, you can't have a childhood with a granny like mine, banging on about germs and hygiene, without thinking these things. I'm not perfect but I will be when I'm in heaven.

Is there a first aider in the house?

Steve, who runs Breakout, an outdoor adventure organisation, is teaching first aid to Big Issue vendors in Swansea, using Zac's Place as a base.

He was telling me that the dummies they use have different faces that can be changed around. I asked if you could choose the sex of your dummy too. Steve said, 'No, they're all male. The females cost a lot more.' I didn't ask any more.

But I couldn't help picturing a street scene.

A man collapses and his wife screams, 'help me, please. My husband's had a heart attack.'
The Big Issue vendor who is nearby rushes over. 'Step aside, I can do mouth to mouth.'
The woman looks at him. 'I don't think so; I don't know where you've been.'

* * * * * * * * *

Imagine having such a habit that the only place you can still inject is your neck. And you're seventeen.

ABC Wednesday - I

I is for Imagine. Imagine this is your life.

Me and Angie were in English class when sir said, ‘Today I want you to write a metaphorical poem.’

Angie and me looked at each other and she shrugged her shoulders and I said, ‘Please sir, please sir, is that like when yesterday I took my dog for a walk and I was in a great big field and the sun was shining and it was lovely.

But the way I was heading the only path out was twisty and narrow and overgrown with brambles and nettles and you couldn't see the path on the other side because it was dark because of all the trees. So I thought, “shall I turn round and go back?” but then I thought, “Don’t be daft,” so I carried on. But I was wearing shorts so my legs got scratched and stung but when I got through to the other side, the path was quite wide; it was dark but not as dark as it had looked from outside.

But as my mam says, “You never know who’s hiding behind the next tree”, so I had to be careful. I walked on for a bit then I came to a fork and I had to choose which path to take. I chose the bottom path because I knew it was shorter and I was getting tired. The path got a bit narrower and a bit lighter and then I came to a rickety old bridge. I crossed over and I was back in a field and the sun was shining again. And that’s a bit like life, isn't it, sir? Is that what you mean?’

And he looked at me and said, ‘Did I say metaphorical? I meant metaphysical.’

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What a nightmare!

I was dreaming as I woke this morning. in that half-wake half-sleep state I was aware that I was going to America and that I was leaving in half an hour. I hadn't packed, half my clothes were still in the washing-machine, I couldn't find my sandals and, worst of all, I hadn't shaved my legs.

I had to cancel my trip. I couldn't face America with hairy legs.

George in the woods

Wood anemones Marsh marigolds

We didn't see another soul when we were in the woods today which is how I like it. George, on the other hand, loves to see people and dogs. He especially loves to jump up at people when he has muddy paws and that's one of the reasons why I prefer not seeing people when we're out. The other reason is that I much prefer George's company to anyone else's.

I have led a sheltered life

I'm writing about Jungle Juice at the moment. I had to google it to find out what it is and what it is is lethal.

In the old days a man would just throw all the left-over Christmas drinks in a bowl, mix it with pop, stick some slices of apple in it and call it fruit punch; today there are recipes for it. Recipes that involve using something called Everclear, which is 95% pure alcohol, several bottles of vodka, schnapps, gin, brandy and pineapple juice.

And the main benefit of it seems to be that it gets people very drunk very quickly.
Younger Son and his friends went to the pub to watch the rugby and then stayed out drinking. By bed-time younger Son knew he'd had enough and got a taxi home. The others went back to someone's house to carry on drinking.

Yesterday Younger Son was told off by his friend's mum for not making his friend come home when he did!

It reminded me of a similar incident about 10 years ago. Daughter was out with her friend who was in a very bad way (so bad that Daughter wondered if her drink had been spiked). Daughter looked after her friend and got her home safely. The next day Daughter wasn't thanked by friend's father but accused of being responsible for friend's state. And accused of other things, and it's a good job I didn't come across him in the following few weeks or he would have been severely slapped.

Don't mess with my babies; I'm a tiger.

Something fishy

I was on my own in work today: Alun was off sick. Honestly he comes up with all sorts of excuses to avoid being in the office at the same time as me. If I wasn't so perfect I'd think he was trying to avoid me.
Anyway, after work, I went down to Mumbles and called in at the fish shop. The woman behind the counter is a miserable old bat. I have never seen her smile or exchange a pleasantry with a customer. Today she was laughing! It caught me unawares. I asked for some of the fish pie mix and she said, 'You've picked a good day for it: I don't usually put any monkfish in but i have today.' And she didn't stop smiling. It was most disconcerting. I wonder if there were hidden cameras somewhere.
So this is the pie I had for dinner. It would have been for Younger Son and me but he didn't turn up so I'll probably be having it tomorrow for dinner as well. Which is fine as it was yummy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grand Slam 2008

By beating France this afternoon Wales won their second Grand Slam in 4 years. It's their 10th in total, the first one being won exactly 100 years ago. And they completed this one in style beating France by 29 - 12.

Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy compete for the rugby Six Nations Championship each spring. To do the Grand Slam, a team has to win each of its 5 games.

Photo from the BBC website.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - I spy

To join in with Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

Slammin' it

Tomorrow afternoon Wales play France in the final game of this season's Six Nations Championship.

If Wales win, they get the Grand Slam and the championship title.

If France beat Wales by 20 points or more, they get the title but not the Grand Slam.

If France beat Wales by less than 20 points, Wales wins the title but not the Grand Slam.

When we did the Grand Slam in 2005 it was a bit flukey. Out of the blue. This year, although it wasn't anticipated pre-season, it is most definitely expected now. And we can do it!

Come on, Wales!
Photo: Mike Phillips, Wales scrum half

Friday, March 14, 2008

The things that matter

A local newsletter for our area from the Welsh Conservatives was pushed through the letterbox today. One of the main headlines is 'Discipline in Schools'.

Apparently the abysmal failure of state schools over the last 10 years has nothing to do with resources; it's lack of discipline. And their solution: school uniforms.

It's a bit odd actually as the schools in our area all have compulsory uniforms. The school my children attended is particularly strict. When Daughter was there I got involved in a wrangle with a deputy-head over the colour of her hair. Or was it the length of her skirt?

She was a grade A student, polite and a credit to the school, and they were being, as far as she and I were concerned, petty-minded over things that didn't matter.

And now George is eating the chair. Lack of discipline is rearing its ugly head in my home again.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Persian Pickle Club

Last night I finished reading The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas. It's a book I picked up for 50p from the secondhand stall at the community cafe. I didn't have my glasses on when I was choosing books and could just make out that this was something to do with living with depression in Kansas.

It's actually about a group of quilting women in Depression-era Kansas. It's about friendship and what women will do for each other. And it's a lovely read, improving as it goes along, with a marvellous ending.

I'd never heard of the author before - the book itself is an American edition (and signed by the author) - but she appears to have written a number of best-sellers. I'll look out for more.

By the way, Persian Pickle is another name for the paisley pattern.


Poor Johnny

Johnny Wilkinson's been dropped from England's starting line-up to face Ireland on Saturday. If he's been dropped on the grounds that he didn't have a good game last weekend, how come the rest of the team are still there?

Husband can't see Brian Ashton lasting long in the job as England's coach. He certainly looks too kindly. There's nothing ot the Alex Ferguson meanness about him, and he lacks the single-focssued eyes of Clive Woodward. I bet he's a lovely granddad though.

It had to happen

I had another really good writing day today - and then the Crit started. 'This is rubbish, you know. I don't know why you're bothering. Why don't you just go and get a proper job? Stop pretending to be something you're not.'

Yesterday I managed to tell him to clear off but today he is very insistent. The thing is to ignore him, isn't it? To keep going. Editing can come later. Of course it won't be perfect first time.
Just shut out the voice!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ABC Wednesday - H

After having our puppy, George, as the entry for ABC Wednesday last week, for the letter H, there can only be one subject: Harvey, our darling dog who died last July. This photo was taken of him by Elder Son in October, 2006, when Harvey was 14 years old.

To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit Mrs Nesbitt's Place.


Run, nose, run

My nose is in training for the Marathon.

The Novel - an update

I am fairly buzzing along! On fire! Cutting out loads of my favourite bits - because they don't move the plot along - and adding an extra dimension. And I'm enjoying it!

So back to the keyboard ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Luxury apartments for sale

On our way home from walking, George and I skirted round some new, posh flats. They look quite utilitarian from the outside but they're very expensive so I am longing to go in and see what is so special about them - although it's probably just the location and view. So as we passed, muddy-booted - and in George's case, muddy-everythinged - I said, 'Shall we go and ask to be shown round, George? I'll explain I'm an eccentric writer and you're my muse. The film rights of my novel are going to be sold for millions so we're looking for an investment property. What do you think, George? You and me? Shall we go in and ask?'
George sniffed and said, 'Will they have food in there?'
'It'll probably be plastic if they do.'
'Let's not bother then.'
'Okay, maybe next time.'

P.S. It was sunny and very warm out: I had to take off my coat. Walking up a big hill, sweating and panting, when you have a runny nose and a dry throat is not to be recommended. Oh, look, I think George's new bed is arriving!

George thinks he's a pussycat

On the window-sill smelling the flowers.

A picture speaks a thousand words

I do hope no-one saw me when I was doing Poo Patrol round the garden this morning.

In the same way as we have comfort food, I have comfort clothes. Did I tell you I've been suffering with man-flu? Daughter said, 'Wouldn't you be in bed if you had that?'
'No, that's the whole point: women with man-flu just carry on.'

I actually have real man-flu in that my symptoms aren't as bad as the fuss I'm making. I don't get ill very often so I moan a lot. In truth I just have a runny nose, a dry throat and earache, but it's enough for me to feel sorry for myself.

So, anyway, shall I paint a picture for you?

I have showered and even brushed my hair but that's it. I'm not wearing make-up and I never do anything without something round my eyes to give them a bit of definition and make them look less piggy. My black polo-neck - a definite no-no if you listen to Trinny and Suzannah, which I do normally - is on its third day of wear. Over it is 'old faithful' lilac cardi. Baggy and holey, I don't mind if George swings from it. Then it's pale grey jogging trousers, which could make Victoria Beckham appear fat. It's very wet outside so I've put on Husband's old brown work-shoes (minus laces that George has eaten) as they're easier to slip on and off than wellies. They're too big for me and you know how you have to walk in a funny way if your shoes aren't on properly ...? I'm also holding up my trouser legs to stop them dangling in the puddles, thus revealing bright pink socks.

How do you like the picture I've painted?

I really hope nobody saw me.

Back to the writing board

If you've been reading this blog for some time you might remember that I've written a romantic novel. One that has been rejected more times than Harry Potter was.

In fact most things - short stories, articles, ideas - I've written and submitted over the last few years have been rejected. I've joked about it but I realise it must have affected me more than I was willing to admit as I've done very little creative fiction writing for ages.

The year before last (I think it was) I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association. The subscription for the first year included a critique of an unpublished novel and I duly sent mine in.

Now you'd think that a critique being sent to a beginner would have something positive and encouraging in it, wouldn't you? Mine was negative from start to finish. The closest my reviewer got to a compliment was something along the lines of 'I think it is meant to be funny.' (I'm sorry if you've read about this before but it's important to the rest of the post.)

Fortunately she - and I'm sure it was a 'she' - was so totally disparaging and, I felt, out of touch, that I couldn't take what she said seriously. Just as well, really. If I had, I'd either have given up writing or thrown myself off the pier!

As well as criticising everything about my writing she said some things about the plot, such as 'It's implausible that a woman would forget to order a Christmas turkey,' and that 'A woman who knows she needs to diet would do it, not keep failing, as this character is.' Do you see my point, ladies? Out of touch?

But recently I've thought about my novel again. Because the review was too hideous to re-read, I didn't take on board comments that could have been relevant and valid. Now I can see things that are wrong with it, and ways in which I think it can be improved. I still think it is funny and not as bad as the reviewer would have me believe. So tomorrow, I'm going to pick up my pen and write again.

It's sort of scary going back to it. The old critics are still with me saying, 'Ah, well, it might sound better in your head now and you might think you have new and wonderful ideas but you won't be able to translate that onto the paper.' And, 'All those agents can't be wrong.' And 'What makes you think you can write anyway?' I have to silence them and the best way is just to sit down and do it.

I have ideas for another novel in my head too but they're still fizzing and formulating so I think it best to let them brew a little longer and concentrate on that which I already have in clear pictures.

So ... I'll let you know tomorrow if the pen stays in the holder or gets used (metaphorically).

Blogpower, I wonder?

I'm not sure if there is any point remaining in Blogpower. There are those on the list I visit and who visit me: that wouldn't change. I have visited everyone and usually try to leave a comment. The number of people on the list who have never come near my blog (to my knowledge) or who certainly haven't left a comment is far greater than those who do/have. I can't see that changing. While jmb and shades are doing a fine job of admin, Blogpower has lost its heart I think. Yet I am reluctant to give up.

The same goes for the Over-50 roll too I suppose. Perhaps I'll cut my roll down to people I like to visit. That makes more sense.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Magical Memory Tour

Roll up, roll up for the Magical Memory Tour.

Scientists at the University of Leeds are asking people to blog their memories of the Beatles to create the biggest database of “autobiographical memories” ever attempted.

The survey is aimed at anyone, anywhere who has a memory relating to the Beatles (you don’t have to be a fan to get involved!). You have to think of about the first thing that comes to mind from your life that is related to the Beatles. It may be a song, a feeling, an event.

The results will help scientists further understand how children develop a capacity for memory, how adults process memory and how memory changes in older adulthood.

Go here to blog your memory of the greatest band ever.

Bouncing along

Just reading a post on furtheron's blog and was reminded of something I meant to say.

Circuits on Thursday included a routine that involved alternating boxing and jumping jacks. I could see my reflection in the window and, afterwards I was talking to one of the other women. She said, 'I must get a proper sports bra.'
I said, 'I've wearing one and it's still, "Over my shoulder goes one ..."!'

Seven good things in life

I was tagged for this meme by Grendel a few days ago. There were a couple of good things that instantly popped into my mind but the rest I'm hoping will come to me as I write.

1. After reading the post on Grendel's site about the meme, I then read his next post which was about happiness. So then I got confused and began thinking that the title of the meme was 'Seven things that make me happy'. Allow me to claim that they're almost sort of the same thing, and include on my list my happy pills. I've written about them (seroxat) recently and explained how they changed my life. Anyway I definitely consider them a good thing.

2. Husband, children and dog. (I might change this and make it three separate items if I run out of ideas.)

3. A Wales win in rugby. Not so long ago it would have been a Wales defeat but not by too many points; right now a Grand Slam would be the very best of good things in life!

4. Chocolate. Which hasn't passed my lips for 33 days now.

5. Living on the edge of Gower, Britain's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

6. Bread and cheese.

7. Being able to make people laugh. If I were someone else and not me, or in a different life, I would love to be a stand-up comedian. It's great when someone says my writing made her cry (for the right reasons), but even better when it makes people laugh out loud (for the right reasons).

Now I've left out so many things. In Zac's the other night I looked around and knew that everyone I could see had problems of some sort or another. I'm happy and my life's great. To list merely seven good things about it is inadequate, so this list is just a random selection.

I will tag: cherrypie, jams, mutley (although that may be asking for trouble), and furtheron, if they want to do it.


When I was growing up, legend had it that the building in the centre of the photo (on Langland Bay) was a replica of Balmoral Castle. I've googled it today and the only connection I can find is that it was built in the Scottish baronial style as a summer residence for the Crawshay family, ironmasters of Merthyr Tydfil.
It was bought in the 1920s by the Club and Institute Union (CIU) and was used, until 2004, as a convalescent home providing subsidised breaks for steelworkers, miners and members of other workingmen's clubs.

It is currently being converted into 27 luxury apartments.
Well, it is quite similar ... although I was probably told it by the same great-auntie who told me that Mumbles Pier could support the Queen Mary liner.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cliff walk to Caswell

The first violets of the year. It's always a special time for me spotting the first violets peeking their heads up. There were loads of people round the cliffs this morning (because when we set off the sun was shining - by the time we returned it was hail-stoning) but I wonder how many of them noticed these tiny little beauties. Sunday morning isn't really a good time to walk the cliffs: they tend to be full of Sunday walkers, surly, "out for the fresh air and we're going to enjoy it if it kills us" walkers. George has the beach to himself.

Bad George!

George paid the price - no, rather Husband did - for his escape yesterday when Husband got up this morning to a kitchen floor covered - and I mean covered - in the after-effects of whatever George ate yesterday.

Husband said he knew it was going to be bad when he woke up in the middle of the night and could smell it from the bedroom.

George escaped again this afternoon in spite of Husband having filled every gap he could find. Tomorrow we are going to spy on him ...

Ireland 12 - 16 Wales

And Wales win the Triple Crown (which means they've beaten England, Scotland and Ireland). Next weekend they play France in Cardiff for the Grand Slam! Anyone got a ticket going cheap?
(Photo from BBC website)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Different

On International Women's Day, 2008, this Photohunters entry is dedicated to women who dare to be different, who dare to challenge and dream, to take action and hope.
From the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp website
"On the 5th September 1981, the Welsh group “Women for Life on Earth” arrived on Greenham Common, Berkshire, England. They marched from Cardiff with the intention of challenging, by debate, the decision to site 96 Cruise nuclear missiles there. On arrival they delivered a letter to the Base Commander which among other things stated ‘We fear for the future of all our children and for the future of the living world which is the basis of all life’.
"When their request for a debate was ignored they set up a Peace Camp just outside the fence surrounding RAF Greenham Common Airbase. They took the authorities by surprise and set the tone for a most audacious and lengthy protest that lasted 19 years. Within 6 months the camp became known as the Women’s Peace Camp and gained recognition both nationally and internationally by drawing attention to the base with well publicised imaginative gatherings.This unique initiative threw a spotlight on ‘Cruise’ making it a national and international political issue throughout the 80s and early 90s."
P.S. I couldn't find the badge I was looking for so had to add a representation of it to the photo.


I had a hearing test this morning.

I was fed-up of not being able to understand what my children say. I was also having to increase the volume on the television. I wanted a test to prove it was them not me.

I was told the test would take about one hour and turned up expecting a very high-tech digital-age test. The first thing the man did was hold a tuning fork to my forehead. Then he went out in the corridor and made sounds.

Finally I had to put on some headphones and hold up my finger each time I heard a noise.

After this extensive test, I am happy to say that my hearing is fine. So I can continue to grumble at my children - sons - for muttering. So that's all right.

Runaway dogs

I was working in work today; Husband was working from home. Mid-morning he phoned me. George had escaped again.

He's done it a few times this week and I haven't been able to spot how he's getting out. Normally I notice he's missing quite soon and he's usually just in next door's back garden. Today he was missing for about half an hour. Husband went out and searched for him but he came back eventually of his accord. With a bulging tummy.

We're keeping or heads down and if anyone says they're missing a guinea-pig we'll blame the foxes. 'We get an awful lot around here.'

Kate, my shiatsu practitioner, fears her dog's tummy may be bulging soon but for an altogether different reason.

Kate arrived a little late for our shiatsu session yesterday morning. She was flushed and explained she'd been chasing her on-heat dog, Saffi, who in turn was chasing a three-legged Jack Russell. 'Who could run surprisingly fast!'

I thought it was a little ungentlemanly of him to run away from a lady but then again maybe his disability made it impossible for him to, um, do what Saffi wanted.

Friday, March 07, 2008

5th sentence on page 123

Spotted this meme on James's blog.

Sitting on my desk, waiting to be added to my to-read pile is a hardback copy of Suite Francaise that I picked up in a charity shop this week for £2.50. And the 5th sentence on page 123 is:

Cecile had a round red face and lively brown eyes; Madeleine was more delicate, a blonde with bright cheeks, smooth as satin and pink as apple blossom.

(Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky)

If anyone fancies doing the meme, please do!

My treasures

I shouldn't be allowed out. I've got enough junk of my own; why do I feel compelled to buy other people's?

First up, these pretty plates. I bought these because ... they're pretty. There are three of Royal Albert Sweet Violets design and they're just perfect for afternoon tea, aren't they? I could just picture one with a piece of Victoria sponge on it.
Next, two pale blue storage jars. Daughter has some similar ones in her kitchen so I bought them with her in mind. If she doesn't want them, I'll find a use for them.
Finally, something I've never seen before: a butter softener. I had to ask the lady in the shop how it works. Apparently you put the butter in the dish and then pour hot water into the cover and the heat softens the butter. 'And it works,' she assured me. Again it's something that would look more at home in Daughter's cottage kitchen but I will have to try it out.
And all these bargains for less than £6. It could be worse. I could have a compulsion to shop in Debenhams.
P.S. Why is it so hard to lay-out photos in Blogger?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Last night

The event is due to start at 7. I'm running late.

At 6.29 I decide I'd better go to the loo before I set off. As I rush I trip thereby discovering that the trousers I bought today in the Debenhams sale are too long. At 6.30 I discover there's still a large label stuck on said trousers. I'm glad I spot this before I stand in front of an audience.

At 6.40, in the car on my way, I find out that the manufacturers of the trousers have kindly supplied me with spare studs. I'm not sure where they're supposed to go but I know where there are now: inside my trousers, half-way down my thigh, digging into my leg.

At 6.50 I arrive with time to spare.

I spot someone I know (slightly) and when I tell her I'm on my own she invites me to join her table. Phew.

I am down on the programme to appear fourth. The first 3 acts perform and, dry-mouthed and heart-thumping, I wait for my name to be called. 'Next we have Bea reading some poetry.' What? That's not me.

Bea reads and the next performer is announced: Brid.

I grab the compere as she passes and stage-whisper. 'Have you forgotten me?'
'Are you Liz? You're not here.'

I don't want to argue as this is a distinct possibility. The compere comes back and says I'm on next.

Well, fans, I was wonderful. The audience laughed. A lot. Loads of them came up to me afterwards and said how wonderful it was and had it been published and I should make an audiobook. I explained that, according to the BBC and publishers, nobody is interested in monologues these days. Unless your name is Alan Bennett.

(I like the idea of an audio-book. People commented that I read it well and most monologues are better listened to than read. Sean has previously suggested recording monologues as there is the equipment available at Zac's; I will have to look into this further.)
(You notice I had to wear my glasses? It was either that or make the print so large it would have taken me half a ream of paper to print.)

With it being called Women Centre Stage, and with all the acts being female, and the event being in aid of women co-operatives in Liberia, you're obviously going to get some women, both in the audience and performing, who live alternative lifestyles.

One of the singers sang three of her own songs and they were all lovely but especially the last one, which was a love song to her girlfriend. I spoke to them both afterwards and the singer explained that her girlfriend was her muse for all her songs, and that she was 'going to take her home and f*** her now.'
'Oh, good,' I squeaked, smiling sweetly, while my brain was rushing round screaming, 'Purlease! We don't say that things like that where I come from.' I feel another monologue coming on!

The woman who was on stage before me showed us three of her paintings of, and read us some of her poetry about, Sheela-na-gigs. I don't know if you've heard of these; I hadn't. And quite frankly I won't mind if I never do again. You wouldn't think it was possible to use the word 'vulva' 23 times in 10 minutes, would you?

They might be from ancient Celtic tradition and they might adorn the walls of very old churches, but if I never again see a carving of a woman with exposed genitalia, it won't bother me. I can't bring myself to put an image on here but if you'd like to find out more about sheela-na-gigs or vulva-woman, go here.

Cue stage left

Having spent the morning in the hairdresser's I'm now rehearsing the monologue I will read this evening at the Women Centre Stage event at the Dylan Thomas Centre. There's nothing quite like the thought of an audience watching you to make a girl aware of her grey roots! Vanity thy name is ...

The performers are each allowed 10 minutes so I've had to cut bits out of my mono. It was very difficult because each word is vital obviously! I think I've got it down to 9 minutes and 43 seconds. I do hope the audience laugh. Last time I read a section of it to an, albeit small, audience, it barely raised a titter. There should be a large crowd tonight and I know it's funny (I wrote it on my Masters course and it was highly praised and appreciated by tutors and audience alike) so I really hope they laugh aloud from early on otherwise my confidence will fade faster than my voice.

I haven't told anyone I'm taking part in this event. Apart from you of course! So I'll be a Lizzie No-Mates as well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

ABC Wednesday - G

There's only one subject I could possibly have for G: George, our gorgeous Golden Retriever puppy.

In the first photo we'd just had him at 8 weeks old; the second was taken last month when he was 5 months. Note the chair he's sitting/standing on; he's also known as Home-Wrecker.
For more information or to join in with ABC Wednesday, visit Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

One for Younger Son and Grendel


In which I am distressed

I have been downgraded.

I used to be part of Winston's Daily Bread but now I am a frequent stop. What has happened to my blog for it to lose its appeal for Winston?

Have I got too christiany? Too serious? Too stupid? Too much the same? How have I changed? Have I not changed enough?

Who will answer my questions?

Keeping the little woman in her place

There's a verse in the bible (Ephesians 5:22) that is sometimes used erroneously I believe.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

This has been used in the past to proclaim the right of men to dominate women as God-given; it's also been used by women who ask why they should follow a misogynist God.

The letter was written by Paul the apostle. Now Paul's not my favourite person and he is often accused of being a woman-hater, but, in this instance, I think the fault lies with our soundbite-style reading of his words.

A few verses further down he writes, 'Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church ...'

Just as Christ loved the church. The church he died for? That's asking quite a lot from our men!

Jesus always - always - favoured the underdog: the weak, the poor, the shunned, the sick, the unlovely. And women. In particular in the bible mention is made of an adulterous woman and a prostitute. He treated them with compassion and respect. He never treated women with anything less. The powerful, the leaders, the men in charge he had little time for. Does this sound like a God who wants to keep women in their place? Is this a God who condones injustice?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Let me present ...

The only known recorded example of daffs growing in captivity.
(With the reason for the wire mesh.)