Thursday, January 31, 2008

George, the good and the bad but never the ugly

The Good
George went swimming yesterday! His first time.

He was wading in quite deeply so I threw a stick a bit further out in the deeper part of the river. He waded as far as he could and then, very tentatively, launched himself into doggy paddle! I was ever so slightly over-excited. It's a good job we were alone in the woods (apart from the fairies but they don't mind).

He brought the stick back and I sent him in again twice more. What a star! Then we walked on a bit further and he kept running to the water's edge and waiting. I was the one who was reluctant to send him in as the poor little thing is so skinny that he was shivering when he came out.

But then he lost his nerve. And would only fetch the stick if he could stree-tt-cc-h over and reach it without swimming. I think the trouble was that he was swimming with his mouth open - and under the water with a lot of resulting spluttering when he emerged.

Still, next time ...

Then this morning he brought some mail in to me that the postman had delieverd through the letterbox. Admittedly I think he only fetched it as he was planning on settling down to eat it but at least he's getting the right idea.

The Bad
He escaped again this morning. The wind in the night blew away my barricade and he was off. I think we need an electric fence.

He dug up the plants in the tub. Not the new ones that we bought to replace the ones he destroyed last week - they have an old metal mesh tray over them (from a freezer I think) - but the ones in the other tub that weren't covered. They - or what's left of them - are now - with a seed tray and a watering can.

Never the Ugly
Then he squeezes in between the desk and chair and puts his front legs up on my lap and looks into my face with his big dark eyes and I have to stroke his silky-soft ears and give him kisses and tell him how beautiful he is, and he lays his head against my chest and keeps looking up at me ... oh, he is so gorgeous.

Come for a walk with us

On Sunday we parked at Southgate and walked along the headland down into Pobbles. When the tide is out - as it was - Pobbles and Three Cliffs become one big bay.

This is especially for Sometimes Saintly Nick who said he would like to join us on a walk.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I have a tail

Not a tale, no. A tail. Currently I am walking around with a hot wheat bag stuck down - and dangling out from - the back of my trousers. I have back-ache!

I never have back-ache. I rarely have anything. I am the world's fittest hypochondriac. Which makes me a hideous bore when I do have something wrong.

At first I thought I must have overdone it in circuit training but it feels different today. I undoubtedly have a rare back disorder.

It feels as I imagine the dreaded 'cold in the kidneys', I was so warned about as a child by my granny, would. 'Cover your back; you'll get a cold in your kidneys.' And I find myself saying it to my own children, or when I see youngsters out on the town in mid-winter with bare midriffs. Even though I don't know anyone who's ever had a cold in their kidneys.

The pain is too low down to be my kidneys. Oh oh, excuse me a moment.

Back now. I've been spying on George. He escaped again this morning in spite of the bucket so i thought he must have found another way out, but it turns out he hasn't. I crept outside and watched him. He's manoeuvring his way around the bucket. Which for a dog who hasn't yet mastered four-wheel drive or braking is quite an achievement.

I've put an old body-board there now as well as a temporary measure (temporary as in, we'll finish decorating the hall soon, temporary). He's eating a lego-man now.

Oh, yes, I remember. Frog spawn.

I've been researching Thai drinks and one famous one is made with Thai Sweet Basil seeds. When they're put in the liquid they swell and the drink looks and feels like frog spawn.

Oh, bless him. he's sitting on the lawn looking up at an aeroplane he can hear overhead. He's much more aware of things like that than Harvey was. Harvey never showed any interest in the television but the other night an advert came on (he's testing my barricade - better go check - bother, he's taken my shoe! Have to hop - it's okay, it's impenetrable) and it had a small black dot wending its way through other arrangements of dots. George carefully followed the dot, getting up close to it. It was so sweet to watch.

And the other day he was standing up against my chair when a tiny squeaky little fart escaped from his bottom. You have never ever seen a dog look so surprised. He turned round quickly then got down and started circling on his own axis, trying to work out where the noise had come from, I imagine. He hasn't learned yet to deny all knowledge and blame dad.


ABC Wednesday - B

Last week, visiting blogs, I noticed that lots of people had joined in with ABC Wednesday, run by Mrs Nesbitt. The idea is to post a photo tying in with the letter of the week. A new alphabet has just begun so this week's letter is B.
I thought about posting a photo of my bed as that's one of my favourite places. Then I thought about Betty, my Beetle, as I love her. But instead I decided to post a photo of a beach - but not just any beach. This is Three Cliffs Beach, Gower, South Wales.

I've posted photos of it before but I don't apologise for that! It's regularly in the Top 3 of the World's Best Beaches. I'm not sure why exactly: it's not the longest; it doesn't have the whitest sand; it's not the most deserted (although it looks it here).

I'm biased, of course: I think it's wonderful. It doesn't have a cafe, souvenir shop, toilets or a car park. To get there involves a fairish walk (so that keeps all but the most dedicated beach babies away in the summer).

Maybe it's the peculiar rock formation - that isn't clear in this photo but that gives the beach its name - that makes it special; maybe it just has that something.


Is God menopausal?

Kicking the darkness until it bleeds light ... is, as Maria commented, a quote from a Bruce Cockburn song. Chris mentioned it on Sunday morning, which as I said, was brilliant.

Chris and Alun have been doing a series following the Jewish people from the beginning, using places as stopping points. At the moment we're in the Sinai desert, which is not at all as I imagined, being altogether hillier and bleaker. We'd reached the point that talks about God's people being a nation of priests. Chris asked for some definitions of the word and most agreed that a priest was an intermediary who pointed people to God and showed God to people.

At that point I was wriggling uncomfortably, thinking what a bad example I am. If people are looking for God in me they'll have to look hard; I'm altogether not good enough to be a priest, to demonstrate God; I have far too many failings; and so on. Then Chris said, 'Now some people are going to say that they've got far too much rubbish in their lives; they can't do that. But I think that's a cop-out. It's because of the crap in our lives that we can.'

Our crap that we've been forgiven; the love, grace and mercy that has been shown to us. In spite of us.

Then it was Alun's turn. 'Six thousand die from AIDs in Africa every day. That's two 9/11s.' He went on to list other horrors and insanities that go on before asking, 'Where is God in this? Why doesn't he do something?'

If we are God's priests, why don't we?

It ended with a challenge to make a difference. The same challenge was repeated in Zac's tonight. We can't change the world single-handedly but individually we can make a small difference to the lives of others, and corporately, we can bring about change. We have to believe that; we have to hope. We have to kick the darkness until it bleeds light.

* * * * * * * * * *

And because I can't be entirely serious for very long I'll also mention that Sean spoke about God not only forgiving our sins but forgetting them too. He said, 'When we go to God and say, "I'm sorry I've done it again", God says, "Done what again?"' And my first thought was, 'Don't tell me God's menopausal too!'


Bull semen £10 a shot

Prize-winning bull semen at that of course. Makes a great gift. Or maybe you'd prefer to encourage 'elderly people to retain friskiness'? (The two aren't, in this case, connected.)

They're both gifts from Their catalogue includes a huge number of very varied gift ideas for the person who has everything, such as the bull semen (improves the quality of livestock in third world countries) and the tea dance (organised by Help the Aged for elderly in this country).

All the gifts are supplied by recognised charities including Woodland Trust, Warchild, Unicef, Sightsavers, nspcc and so on.

Footballs for an African school, music therapy sessions, protect a penguin, elephant-stopping chili hedges. The ideas are so brilliant and wild and original, there must be something there you know someone would like!

And I'm not getting paid to promote this! We received the catalogue in work and I just loved it!

Struggling to focus

Our new camera has just arrived! (I apologise for the quality of the photos in the previous post; they were taken with the video camera.)

Husband ordered the camera after deciding that the old one would cost more to repair. It's not just that the flap doesn't; it also struggles to remain focused. A bit like me on most days: not flapping but slightly out of focus.

* * * * * * * * *

My editor phoned. (Do you like the way I drop that in?) He said, 'We've got some great photos of you and your husband. Send us money or we publish them.'

No, he didn't say the last bit. The good thing is that they will only appear on the web so aunties, uncles, friends and, most importantly, work colleagues of Husband won't see them.

George makes a break for it

Yes, that's right, George 'Don't make me go out of the front door on my own' has discovered the joys of 'other people's gardens'.

He loves the postman. As soon as he spots the post-van pulling up he gets excited, then, after the postman has been to our house (or made a fuss of him even if he isn't delivering to us), George stands at the front of the garden and watches him on his way.Our garden has a drop at the front as you see so he can't get out that way but, a few minutes after the postman had gone, I realised he'd disappeared. I wandered round the garden and house, calling, but there was no response.

Outside on the road there was no sign of him and he didn't appear when I called. At that moment, the postman came along, returning to his van. 'Have you lost him?' he said. 'Geeoorrgge!'

At the sound of the postman's voice, George comes round from the back of the next-door-but-one-neighbour's house, looking innocent as the day is long.

We - the postman and I - figured he'd squeezed round the very front of the wall separating the neighbours' garden from ours; I've put a bucket there temporarily until Husband comes home at the weekend and can fix it.

Our garden is beginning to look like it's been done-over by one of those trendy television gardening programmes. Wire mesh is the new decking, don't you know?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wonderful Woman

The lovely Amanda of 4kidsandadog (now resting and who can blame her?!) has presented me with a Wonderful Women of the Web award! Thank you, Amanda. Come back soon!

I have to pass it along. I haven't forgotten I have to pass along the Nice award too. I will have to check who already has them and then I will pass them on, promise!

Remind me later to tell you about the bull semen and frog spawn.

Bits and bobs

1. If I'd called this post, Tits and boobs, would it have attracted more visitors?

2. Over on Calum's blog there's a post from 22nd January (I don't know how to link to individual posts) all about growing up in the fifties/sixties. Apart from the fact that I thought he was younger than that, it's a great post for reliving memories if you're of that generation.

3. George was chipped on Saturday. We never had Harvey done but we were impressed with how simple a procedure it is. George didn't even notice. And what's more, the chip can tell his temperature! So no more thermometers up the bottom! I told George but he had wiped that memory from his head but he believed me when I said it was a good thing.

4. Church on Sunday was excellent! It's not often you will hear me say that ... I plan to write more about it but later as I must work first. But think on this: kicking the darkness until it bleeds light.

5. The man from the Evening Post (my editor!) was supposed to be phoning me yesterday to talk about what's needed; he didn't. My fear is that he's seen the photos and is rethinking his decision. But thank you all for your comments on the previous post. No, I don't get any free tickets to games; the daffodil is a symbol of Wales; we acquired the large blow-up daffodil after the last international we went to at the Millennium stadium - we didn't buy it, someone had left it behind!; I will be sure to blog the photo. I mean, how could I not after this?!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blow-up daffodils and the man from the paper

A photographer from the local newspaper came to take my photo today.

The Six Nations rugby competition begins next weekend when Wales play the old enemy, England, at Twickenham. I noticed that the Evening Post was advertising for a rugby fan blogger to cover the tournament so I applied. I suspect I was the only applicant so I got the 'job'. If I'd been the only applicant and had been turned down it would have been pretty depressing but I wasn't, so that's fine.

'So can we send a photographer to take your photo so we can introduce you to the readers?'
'Oh, yes, okay.'

I forgot to say that in my application I'd just happened to mention that Husband is an England rugby fan so they decided they'd like a photo of us both in our respective rugby shirts.

(When I told Husband this little detail, he groaned and muttered something under his breath.)

So the photographer came today. First of all he took some shots of me on my own then some of us together. Now where I probably made my biggest mistake was saying that we had a large blow-up daffodil and would he like me to bring that out with me (he took the photos in the natural light outside).

He stroked his chin thoughtfully then said, 'Eureka!' (Or words to that effect.)

So what do you think? Which photo will appear in the local paper? Me in sexy-in-rugby-shirt pose or me hitting Husband with giant blow-up daffodil?

I'll keep you informed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday photohunt - Old-fashioned

Our camera is broken so I couldn't take a photo for this week; I did, however, find this photo in my box. I didn't take it (obviously!) but my great-aunt is fourth from the right on the back row. It's Oystermouth Church of England School, 1916. There are some pretty old-fashioned clothes being worn!

Friday, January 25, 2008

George and the Trail of Destruction

You remember I said the camera was working again? Its time of remission was short-lived: it's broken again. The little flap thing won't.

So I couldn't take photos to show how George, single-pawedly, is destroying our garden (as well as our home).

This is only a short little video. Do watch it if you are thinking of getting a Golden Retriever puppy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soaking my thighs in red wine

Tonight, two lads from church are coming for dinner. On a previous occasion I invited a young lad to come for lunch as I knew he'd been feeling a bit down and thought he might like some looking after and a chat. When I invited him, he was most suspicious: I am convinced he thought I was going to seduce him, like some Mrs Robinson. Since then I've been careful not to invite single lads on their own! (Although Younger Son was also at home on that occasion - as I reassured my guest.)

Anyway I'm cooking coq au vin. It's the same magazine recipe I used for New Year's eve. I think prior to that I'd only made it once in my married life and that was in the early years. Coq au vin was probably trendy then but nowadays is regarded much like one of those prawn cocktail or gammon and pineapple dishes which were the height of sophistication in pre-Delia-et-al days. But now coq au vin's very retro qualities are making it popular again.

Of course, it's basically chicken casserole. But very tasty chicken casserole. My thighs are currently marinating in a robust Cabernet Sauvignon and herb marinade, and later, while the casserole is cooking, I'll put some vegetables on to slow roast (for slowly roasted vegetables sound far more tempting than just roast veg).

And we're having sticky toffee pudding for, well, pudding. The recipe I use for that was given to me by Jack in the Green, a country pub restaurant near Exeter in Devon. If you are ever in the area, go there! They have the best food, better than anywhere else I've been for many many years. We've been there a few times and, each time, every course has been just perfect.

When I say they gave me the recipe it sounds as if the chef wrote it out personally but it was pre-printed, by popular demand, on one of their recipe cards. They have other recipes on their website as well.

Talking about coq au vin reminds me that currently I'm reading Nigel Slater's new book called ... um... something about eating in England. (It's upstairs or I'd tell you the exact title.) I really enjoyed his autobiography, Toast, but this book is a little disappointing. He covers hundreds of topics such as Marmite, Penguin bars and school lunches, but there's only a paragraph or two about each so the book is a little disjointed and unsatisfying.

However, if you're not deterred here's the Amazon link.

Romans 8:1

I didn't go to Zac's last night as, thanks to my little breakdown, I was running behind schedule so stayed home to write about champagne cocktails. But I've meaning to write something about last week's meeting so I'll do that now before getting onto my muffins.

At the very end of the meeting, almost as a throwaway, Sean read Romans 8:1.
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ..."

If only he and she and you and I could really grasp what that means, the world would be a different place.

I was reminded of the verse again reading jmb's blog about music and its effect on her. On a Sunday morning we occasionally sing an old hymn, Before the throne of God above. The words were written in 1863 by Charitie L. Bancroft and it's the second verse that always gets me.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ..."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cats have ears too

A pensioner in Swansea is on trial accused of murdering his common law wife. He - allegedly -confessed to his cats.

Slimming and senility

I think I have some rare, probably as yet unknown and un-named, anti-wasting disease.

I walk for at least an hour most days and I do two hours of strenuous circuit training a week. I am trying to diet and yet I don't lose weight. I even dance around the kitchen while poaching my eggs, singing along with the CD, complete with beetroot-on-fork microphone.

So it must be a rare affliction I have. Perhaps they will name it after me. I have always wanted to be famous. Though I had hoped it would be for my writing.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Last night when we were getting ready for bed, Husband put my glass of water - instead of the tube of toothpaste - in the bathroom cabinet. I realised he'd done it and got into bed before him and asked him to bring me my glass of water. He went to the bathroom and, being unable to see it on the side of the sink, knew straightaway that it was in the bathroom cabinet.

He says it wasn't him who put it there but I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, why would he even think to look in the bathroom cabinet? That's not a place anyone would expect a glass of water to be; only the person who had put it there would know instantly.

* * * * * * * * * *

I realised I had forgotten to expound upon my theory and I know the world is waiting, so my theory is as follows.

I am not losing weight but I am very tired. It is my belief that my body has forgotten it is supposed to convert excess flab into energy and is draining my already depleted stocks of energy thus making me tireder but not thinner.

What do you think?

I have always been a bit dubious about those who have used slow metabolism as an excuse but a dodgy metabolism is a different matter altogether. I mean to say, I made half a leftover trifle last me two days; no-one could call that excessive, could they? At least not to my face.

Hey ho. Serious serious diet starts today. Sigh.

But am I a man or a mouse?

After breakfast, as George was completely out of food, I decided that if I went to the vets’ for more dog food, and to the shops for a few things I needed, first, I could settle down to work afterwards. I left the house at 9.15 expecting to be home in 30 minutes or so; I arrived home 2 hours later!

If I say I’ve been expecting it, that doesn’t mean that there was anything I could do to prevent it. And it has been over a year since I had to call out the rescue men. Yes, Betty broke down. Since winter began, each time she’s started again after stalling at traffic lights, I’ve given a little ‘yes!’ of delight, but this morning it wasn’t just that she wouldn’t start in the vet’s car park: she began to buzz. Loudly. Even after I took the key out of the ignition, she continued to buzz. I got out of the car, went round the back, opened the boot/bonnet and jiggled a rubber hose; she carried on buzzing.

A lady who had pulled into the car park next to me, got out and, together, we umm-ed and aah-ed. Betty stopped buzzing.
‘Try and start her now,’ the lady said.
I had scarcely opened the door before Betty began to buzz again. ‘Oh dear,’ we both said. ‘I think it must be something serious,’ I said, ‘like a um fan belt coming off.’ (I am very knowledgeable.)

I phoned the Rescue Men.
‘What’s the trouble?’
‘My car is buzzing.’

When the mechanic arrived, I turned the ignition key so he could hear the buzzing and there wasn't any. Instead Betty made a sort of rumbling noise.
‘Sounds like a flat battery,’ he said.
‘No, she wasn’t making that sort of noise before; she was buzzing.’
‘Sounds like a flat battery.’
‘No, I know what flat batteries sound like. They don’t make a noise.’
‘I’ll get my charger,’ he said.

It was a flat battery.

At least it wasn’t anything serious.


Go Pats!

As an honorary Pats supporter, I thought I should mention that 'our' boys are off to Arizona for the Superbowl on 3rd February. If they're successful, it'll be their fourth Superbowl title in seven seasons.

The video was made a few weeks ago so doesn't include the last two victories, including yesterday's defeat of the San Diego Chargers. The New England Patriots are the first team to go 18-0 taking the record from Miami who set it in 1972 with 17 consecutive wins.

Elsie sent me the video and she's the one who introduced me to Tom Brady. And I think it's American football they play, not that it matters if Tom's playing ...


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Do you have this problem?

Does your mouth start speaking before your brain has considered the implications?

Take yesterday morning for instance. It was mentioned that there was an urgent need for a volunteer to prepare food for the student lunch after church on Sunday. 'I'll do it,' my mouth said. 'How many students?'
'Usually 12 is the maximum.'
'But this week we have a team of 5 Australian student workers with us as well.'

None of the students are vegetarians and we don't know about the Aussies but, as Nathan said, 'Whoever heard of a veggie Aussie?'

So I'm making (currently simmering away nicely) a huge pan of bolognese sauce, and tomorrow I'll cook spaghetti and garlic bread, and with a green salad and a couple of large trifles, that should do. That will have to do.

At least it has taken my mind off the fact that we're doing a presentation in prison tomorrow. Usually we just go in to support the chaplains but once every 6 weeks, whoever is in, does a presentation i.e. takes the whole service. Twice, in fact, for different cell blocks. (It used to be 3 times as we did the segregated unit separately but it's been decided to unsegregate them for chapel.)

I phoned the chaplain yesterday to give our names for gate security.
'Just the two of you?' he said.
'You know you're doing a presentation, don't you?'
'It'll be fine, don't worry.'

It will be fine. Robin's leading the singing and I'm doing the talky bit. We can do this, with a little bit of help from God. Okay, a big bit of help.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Important

This week's theme, Important, was a difficult one, I thought. What or who on earth can I think of that's important?

Suddenly, in work today, I realised the answer was just before my nose. Surely some of the most important people in my life are the leaders of the church I attend. They provide guidance, pastoring, care, wisdom, direction, as well as answers to the greatest theological questions in the world; they set an example with their lifestyles; they are at the forefront of modern Christian thinking; they hold the cords that keep us together. So for my entry for the Photohunt this week, I offer photos of two of those leaders, men with all the qualities that you would look for in a guru, men who command the utmost respect. Fellow Photohunters, I present to you, Two Important Men.

And when they see these photos, I might have to leave the country.


Not ill just fat

I had an email from Shirl today. She was worried because I'd not blogged for a day or two. I am making up for it now, Shirl!

Must tell you that yesterday I booked tickets for the Wales Italy rugby game and Bruce Springsteen. Both at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium - but not together.

Last we saw The Boss was a couple of years ago in London. It was a difficult-to-get-to venue and we left just before the end because we knew getting a tube train would be horrendous. We won't have that problem this time so will be able to relax and go with the flow, man.

* * * * * * * * * *

Today in work i took phone call from 'John'. His wife was downstairs in the quilting class and he wanted me to pass a message on to her. John and his wife are part of our church and I know him well. That doesn't mean that I'm not going to slap him next time I see him. Asking me to take the message he said, 'As you've got a bit of extra meat on you, it'll do you good to run downstairs.'

What made it worse was that when I told his wife, she sighed (she's well used to John putting his foot in it) but as she did so her eyes travelled up and down my body - and she didn't say, 'What extra meat?' She didn't say anything!

I know I've put on weight but I'm still wearing the same clothes; it can't be THAT obvious surely?!!!!!

I need chocolate.

Shaken and stuck

We had a letter in work today and it had this groovy stamp on it.
"In 1952 Ian Fleming sat at his desk and created a character that 55 years later has reached mythic status. That character was James Bond, hero of 12 novels by Fleming, as well as two volumes of short stories. This first special stamps issue of 2008 celebrates 007’s earliest incarnations within works of fiction. The set consists of six large landscape format stamps, each one dedicated to the covers of a particular Bond novel, including the very first – Casino Royale."


Nice Matters

Dragonstar of Dragon Days has presented me with a blog award.

Thank you very much, Dragonstar!

I'll have to think about passing it on, so I'll do that later.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

We went exploring!

We need a name so I can write about our (whisper) adventures, just like Enid Blyton did. The Dynamic Duo has already been taken so I considered the Daring Duo, but that would be something of a misnomer.

Maybe the Dopey Duo? Or the Tremendous Twosome? Or the Twp Twosome?

We followed this path. Yes, it was a path, George ... no, it wasn't a river ... it's just been a bit - damp of late.

In and out of the corkscrew trees.

And we discovered that, given the choice between coming when I call him and licking clean an empty sandwich packet, the latter will win. George wasn't going to stop until the packaging was germ-free let alone crumb-free, even if I did go and leave him and hide.

And shall we have crumpets for tea?

Writing about crumpets gave me the urge, and you know what it's like when you've got an urge: you have to satisfy it.

First, the nice frothy batter. Then cooking on granny's griddle.
The finished product.
Not as holey as it should be but tasting nice, warm, with lashings of butter.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More cake, vicar?

I made a cake to take to Zac's last night. The lady who usually supplies it is in Australia (although she had left a supply - that's dedication for you!). When I took it out of the box one man, who wasn't there last week, asked, 'What sort is it?'
'URGH!!!!! I hate that!'

I was quite surprised at the strength of his reaction: I've never known marmalade to provoke such a response before. 'You don't have to eat it,' I said.

Then Sean cut it into slices and the man peered at it. 'Mar-ma-lade,' he said. 'Oah, that's the stuff you have on toast in the mornings, isn't it? I like that.'

Yes, you've got it: he thought it was Marmite Cake.

Later on I read a monologue I'd written and afterwards several people said to me, 'That was so descriptive. I felt I was there.'

I guess that answers my previous post.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Concise or too brief?

I've always been a concise writer. It's my style. I've had problems in the past writing enough words to meet story competition criteria. They want 1300-1500; my story's finished at 900. I fill it out with waffle and hence I don't win.

I'm not good at descriptive writing. My writing is sparse perhaps?

I was thinking about this when we were walking. I write my blog posts carefully, often composing them in my head before I get anywhere near a computer. But, sometimes, I wonder if I say enough. I know what I mean but is it clear to a reader?

In an earlier post I wrote about newspaper headlines. I finished the post with one word: Nice. I know what I meant by that but should I have explained it more?

I could have said this.

I am disgusted with both the press and the mother. The press because Diana is dead but her sons are alive; the mother because if her daughter were a whore maybe it was because she was searching for the love that had been missing from her life from her childhood onwards.

Is that what you read into my 'Nice'?

We're all going on a bear hunt

We saw a bear in the woods today!

Okay, it wasn't really a bear but for one instant I really thought it was a big brown bear. It was quite a heart-bopping moment. It was actually an upended tree but it looked like a bear with a little imagination. (But then again who am I to say how much imagination the bear had? He might have been highly imaginative, the Roald Dahl of teh bear world. He might have thought himself to be a rabbit and wondered why everyone ran away when they saw him. Who am I to judge?)

I've mentioned before I think that the council workmen have been doing an enormous job of clearing the wood of its rogue rhododendrons (they wear masks and hold up passing coaches at night). They've cleared just about all of teh undergrowth and it's very disorientating. So disoriented was I that we ended up in the wrong place. But what do intrepid explorers care about being lost? (George says it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't made him go outside of his own garden.)

You didn't get this view before. Now you can see - with the aid of a magnifying glass - where we live.

In the centre of the picture below the sea there ... (Oh, I just had a moment of complete panic: I could hear a phone ringing, wasn't sure if it was mine, ran around like an idiot following the noise, found it was my phone ringing and couldn't remember how to answer it.) ... are some houses. One is very reddish-looking and to its left,as you look at it, there's a yellow house. That's not ours. But ours is behind it. Now, was that worth it?

Seriously now

Is it normal to have to drag a dog through the gate in order to go for walkies?

He's not going to be able to do this much longer the rate he's growing.

Good morning, Baltimore

We watched Hairspray on Saturday evening. (Husband gave me the DVD for Christmas very proudly announcing that he had already bought it for me before I put it on my Amazon wishlist.)

It was brilliant! Very joyous and funny and smile-making. The leading girl was great: short, plump and with an innocent, slightly puzzled-by-the-world expression. Michelle Pfeiffer was an excellent evil bitch of a television station manager. The only thing I didn't understand was why they cast John Travolta as the mother. He certainly didn't have Mrs Doubtfire's realism. Maybe it's impossible to find a middle-aged fat woman in Hollywood.

Many critics compared it with Grease. It has the same want-to-singalong factor and the whole retro feel. What I loved about it was that it had a probably unrealistic ending where the fat girl gets the boy and there's full racial integration. While I enjoyed Grease I was so disappointed with the ending where Sandy's transformation from 'good' girl is signalled by her appearing, with attitude, in leathers and a tight t-shirt. In order to fit in she has to conform with the crowd. Sad.

So if you want a really feel-good movie, watch Hairspray!

The British press is wonderful, don't you think?

I'm supposed to be on a playwriting course now.

I did go but the place was all locked up and deserted. So I went to Sainsburys instead. After all I haven't been there since, um, Saturday.

In the petrol station outside the shop there is a display of newspapers. After all that Paul Burrell, butler to the Princess of Wales, said in his evidence at the inquest yesterday, what do the majority of newspapers choose to use for their front page headlines?

Diana was a whore says her mother.


Monday, January 14, 2008


In work this morning I had to do some VAT recording stuff. Value Added Tax is included in the price of goods except when the item is exempt or zero-rated. Food is zero-rated - except for some food and that caused me a problem as I haven't done it for a long time and I couldn't remember what was and what wasn't. For example, there's no VAT on biscuits unless they have chocolate on them. Jaffa cakes, which are chocolate-coated, have found a loophole by claiming to be cakes rather than biscuits. And having choc chips in them is all right too I think.

Basically VAT is on luxury goods, which strangely includes toilet rolls.

So, anyway, I couldn't remember if coffee or chocolate drinks had VAT on them so I decided to check on the web. 'There must be a simple little chart somewhere that will tell me what is what,' I said to myself.

On the government website, it said that the following foods are zero-rated:
The supply of anything comprised in the general items set out below, except -
(a) a supply in the course of catering; and
(b) a supply of anything comprised in any of the excepted items set out below, unless it is also comprised in any of the items overriding the exceptions set out below which relates to that excepted item.

Well, of course.

So I guessed. If I end up in prison for defrauding the VATman, please send chocolate.xx

What a clever baby!

Look at this lovely thank you card we had from Malachi! Not only was his foot used for the artwork on the front, he wrote the inside - and him not 4 months old yet!

He is obviously going to be a most brilliant, as well as handsome, child.

Truth or fact?

Chris and Alun, otherwise known as Morecambe and Wise (or Rod Hull and Emu though who is working whom is yet to be determined), were speaking this morning. At one point Chris threw the meeting open for people to express their thoughts on bringing up children. Do we 'indoctrinate' them, insist on them going to church etc, or do we go to the other extreme of deliberately avoiding anything that would smack of telling them what to think? There were all sorts of views expressed including those of one woman who vehemently believed that it was our duty to tell our children the truth.

Chris retorted (retorted? No, retorted isn't too strong a word) something along the lines of there being a difference between truth and fact. The truth we believe, we can't claim as fact.

I am so glad I am part of church where it's okay, in almost every case, for my truth to be different from that even of the person who is sitting next to me of a Sunday morning.

Cynical? Moi?

I was tidying my desk today when I found this book. I have no idea how it got onto my desk. There is nothing about it that is familiar.

I asked Husband if it belonged to him. 'No. You probably bought it in a charity shop.'
'No, I didn't. I wouldn't even pick up a book that didn't have a title on its cover or spine. There is nothing about it that would attract me.'

Now I've bought things before, put them away and forgotten about them but a memory - however vague - has always been triggered on coming across them again. But this book, A Cynic's Lexicon, nope, complete blank.

A quote at random: Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. (Joan Didion)

Best of Blogpower

Over on my sidebar you'll see I have a Blogpower logo and roll. jmb of Nobody Important has compiled a Best of 2007 roundup of Blogpower posts, nominated by the bloggers themselves or, in some cases, by jmb. Blogpower has a great variety of bloggers within its ranks and the posts are worth reading. You'll find the roundup at Blogpower HQ

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Manipulative? Moi?

I found this over at '>Grendel's site. Now I more convinced than ever that my mother lied about my birth date.

Your Birthdate: November 12

You're a dynamic, charismatic person who's possibly headed for fame.

You tend to charm strangers easily. And you usually can get what you want from them.

Verbally talented, you tend to persuade people with your speaking and writing.

You are affectionate and loving, but it's hard for you to commit to any one relationship.

Your strength: Your charm

Your weakness: Your extreme manipulation tactics

Your power color: Indigo

Your power symbol: Four leaf clover

Your power month: December

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Skinny

When Daughter was first being weaned she was very difficult to feed: the only thing she really liked was sweet potato. As a result her weight didn't increase the way it should have done and hence these skinny little legs - not helped by the enormous booties!

Incidentally according to we were ahead of our time!

"Traditionally babies have been started on cereal but nowadays pureed vegetables are widely suggested as being more digestible for babies’ tummies. And one of the best to begin with, and often recommended by nutrition experts, is sweet potato. These pink-skinned knobbly vegetables are easily available in greengrocers and supermarkets and have a subtle sweetness that babies love."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

He does enjoy walkies really

After the first 30 yards or so, he's fine. Well, okay. Getting braver all the time. We don't go out for (whisper this) adventures or to find exciting things; no, instead, we go out for a fun time and to see interesting things. He is happier with that idea.

I don't know if you can see in this photo how muddy he is. He wouldn't pose properly for me so I had to bribe him with treats. Oh, yes, and the camera is working again. I shook it a bit and fiddled with the lens thing that goes in and out and it did the trick.

But perhaps if I had given George his lunch before we went he wouldn't have felt the need to fill up on horsey poo.

* * * * * * * * * *

I've decided to leave the lights and tinsel up in the hall to go with the holly leaves. I expect we'll get round to finishing decorating one day.

I probably shouldn't have put the sparkly Christmas tablecloth in to wash with Husband's boxers though. I have warned him not to go to the Gents at the same time as anyone else: I would not like him to be mistaken for a Christmas fairy.

* * * * * * * * *

Talking about underwear, I have had a mammoth bra-wash today, soaping all my decent ones - and some indecent ones. I have had to wear an old one and it is driving me to distraction: it is sooooo itchy! It's a good job I am in the house today (except when I went out with George to the woods, which was people-free). It isn't done for a church administrator to be seen scratching in public.


I dropped the ... no, wait ... the digital camera slipped out my hand yesterday and has stopped working. Do you think if I let it slip out of my hand onto its other side, whatever it is that isn't working will start working again?

* * * * * * * * * *

George is very puzzled by the last video. He can hear my voice but he's worked out that I'm not speaking to him at this moment. So he bites me.

* * * * * * * * *

Driving somewhere this afternoon, thinking about Marmite, I thought some more about what Jenny had said last night. We both acknowledged that we do bad things (sin!) and that, what's more, we know in advance that we're going to do it, but it doesn't stop us; it just makes us feel guilty.

Then I remembered one of those witty little sayings that someone comes up, which are so simple and obvious that you wish you'd said it yourself but you know you're not clever enough to have done. It was something along the lines of: You can't disappoint God; he knows you too well to be disappointed by anything you do. Only snappier than that.

Now I'm going to watch Farce of the Penguins.

George gets homesick ...

4 yards from the back gate.

I'm saying he's being awkward because I thought, for the first time, he was going to be a good dog and come for a walk normally, just because I was trying to film him being a silly billy not wanting to go.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You love it or hate it

In Zac's last night, someone came up with the idea that Jesus was like Marmite: you either love him or hate him (at least according to the advertising slogans).

I was talking about this afterwards with Jenny.

We both know people who seem to be on a permanent high in their faith. They give the impression - although it isn't their intention - that to be anywhere else is not good enough.

I wouldn't say that I'm on a permanent low but certainly my faith is far less spectacular and exciting and wonderful and thrilling and ... you get the picture, than theirs. Mine is on a steady plane (plain?) with occasional highs and the odd troughs.

I like Marmite but not in great dollops. I prefer mine spread evenly over my toast. And that's okay. (In fact I've just noticed that it says spread thinly on the jar.)

And, sadly, I am rather suspicious of people who always spread it on thickly.

Share the Marmite, brothers and sisters!

The pleasure of poo

Our walk took us to the foreshore this afternoon. It was the first time I'd taken George there as it involves crossing the main road and I have this fear that his lead will suddenly snap, he'll run under a car and be squished! You know, the normal fears of a mentally well-balanced woman.

Anyway it didn't, he didn't and he wasn't, so all was well - once we got beyond the first 20-30 yards with him whimpering and being dragged along on his bottom. He is a most peculiar dog.

He enjoys being out really. He had a good romp on the seashore, playing with other dogs and being growled at and fussed over, and even fetching sticks. And he managed to find what was probably the only bit of horse poo on the whole of the five-mile stretch of foreshore (which is washed twice daily by the tide).

Now before I go I must ask you what would you think if you read this newspaper billboard: JUDGE ATTACKS CLUB BOUNCER.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Definitive proof that George has Harvey's genes

I let George out the front. I leave the door open so he can come in. George goes round the house and barks at the back door to be let in.

* * * * * * * * *

George doesn't see why he should have to stay in the boot. His place is in the front surely? He whimpers pitifully when we disagree. Then wriggles through the barricades onto the back seat.
On the way back I sit in the back seat to stop him coming through. He ends up sitting on my lap. Husband shouts, 'Push him back!'
As if.

A serious one

I've mentioned before that I ghost-wrote an autobiography of a New York cop. Soon after that was published, my editor at Hodder & Stoughton asked me if I'd be interested in ghost-writing the story of a woman who had left the Church of Scientology.

I travelled to London to meet her and her husband and when I left them, I had the impression from her that we'd be meeting again. However my editor later told me that they didn't think I was the right person for the job. (I guessed while I was with them that her husband felt I lacked the passion for their cause, and, also, he'd started writing the story himself and wanted to continue I believe.) As far as I am aware the book was never published, at least not by H&S.

But all that's just an introduction to what I wanted to say. One thing the woman and her husband both tried to impress upon me was that, if I took on the job, I would come under pressure from people who didn't want the book published. The woman had been targeted with all sorts of slurs. Well, I didn't have any secrets in my past so whether I was naive or stupid, I wasn't particularly concerned.

I was both relieved and disappointed when I didn't get the job. Relieved because I wanted to do my own writing, not ghost-writing, and disappointed because I would have been earning money, and the story was fascinating. How she'd got involved in Scientology, progressed to a high level, then 'seen the light' and left. As well as the problems she'd had since leaving.

It seems incredible that people can become involved in cults. That they can be so gullible as to fall for the stories they're told. (Yes, Dr Stu, I know I've fallen for the story of Christ!) And many of these people are intelligent. I think, 'how can they go along with this? '

But they do and I suppose it's because they want to, no, they need to. They're searching, desperately seeking answers, acceptance, love, and if these are the answers put in front of them, then they will grab at them with both hands.

Okay, because I can hear Dr Stu's voice, I'll say that, yes, I was searching, seeking something beyond myself. I was fortunate that I found Christ - or rather He found me. My faith isn't insidious, I don't believe. It doesn't make ridiculous demands of me; its basic message is a good one, one of love and unselfishness.

Those who fall prey to less humble saviours are easy victims. A saviour who shouts a lot about the state of the world but continues to enjoy its benefits and live by its principles isn't a saviour worth having.

Who is she?

Do you ever find yourself outside, looking at yourself?

In theory I was at the checkout at Sainsburys on Saturday; in reality I was reeling around in the ether, stumbling and stuttering in amazement. When did it happen? When did I become this grown-up woman with responsibility for running a home, cooking food, stocking up on toilet rolls, bringing up children, driving a car?

It must have happened when, to quote John Lennon, I was busy doing something else. I certainly didn't notice it. I'm not old enough for heaven's sake! Or responsible enough. How have these years gone by? Have I done okay?

I think I must have: I've fooled lots of people. Including me. Because that's not really me. I'm the girl who skips, who had adventures with Harvey, who gets embarrassed when there's sex on television.

I'm not the woman the boy on the checkout can see. The middle-aged, wrinkled, overweight, less-than-impeccably-dressed woman. The woman he feels he must make conversation to: Is it still raining out there?
I stop and think. 'I can't remember.' But it's not that I can't remember; it's because I didn't absorb it; it wasn't important.

You see, a grown-up woman would know if it were raining. She would consider that a piece of vital-to-know information. She'd have a sensible coat or an umbrella!

Yay, I'm not really grown-up! I don't have an umbrella. I hate umbrellas.

I can be Peter Pan - in my head - a little longer.

Hormones and Heather

You'll remember that, before Christmas in Neighbours, we left Susan Kennedy apparently having a life-threatening attack; it turns out that she's menopausal. So next time you have a funny turn, don't worry about it: it's just your hormones.

* * * * * * * * * *

You also may recall my shoe that George started eating on New Year's Eve. He's finished eating it as such; he prefers to use it as a chew now. Which leaves me with the question of what to do with the other shoe. There's really not a lot of point keeping it but I am loath to throw away - or give to George (his poo was littered with bits of strap for days) - a perfectly good shoe. I wonder if Heather Mills McCartney could use it as she's falling on hard times.

Monday, January 07, 2008


“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” –C. S. Lewis

I saw this quote on Matt W's blog and thought it worthwhile repeating. As is this one of Mother Teresa's.

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

An allegorical tale that isn't an allegory

There were rumblings of discontent. One of the leaders, a man of charisma, led the opposers. He claimed that the organisation was not doing what it had been created to do; it was deliberately heading away from first principles. Nothing the other leaders could say could convince him otherwise.

He left. Others followed him. There was great pain and sorrow on both sides of the divide. Some left the organisation to join the splinter group; some left to go elsewhere; some became so disillusioned they gave up entirely.

Gradually over the next ten years many of those who left returned. They realised that the things they were led to believe about the organisation weren't true at all.

So a happy ending? Maybe, except for those for whom the damage was too deep.

* * * * * * * * * *

Before our church split a lot of people stopped coming on Sundays because they were confused and unhappy. One evening during this time we had a guest speaker. His name was Jeff Lucas and he'd travelled from London to speak. He'd been invited a long time before everything had blown up and the leaders didn't want to put him off. I was amongst the very small audience who heard him. I have no idea what he said but I didn't stop laughing from almost as soon as he started until the end. It was wonderful to hear laughter in church again after a long time without it. It was just what we needed.

P.S. I meant to say that the point of this post is the old cliche, that nothing, however good or bad it is, lasts for ever (except perhaps The Sound of Music). And that - oh, I'm doing well on the cliches! - laughter is the best medicine!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Saturday Photohunt - Delicious

Picau ar y maen (Welshcakes)
Many countries have their own version of this sweet fruity cake cooked on a griddle or bakestone. I bake mine on the same griddle my grandmother used. She was an excellent cook and I think she would have been pleased that I have continued to make these traditional treats.
I'd offer you one now but to really appreciate them at their best, you have to eat one still warm from the cooking. Mmm, heaven.
1lb plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
10 oz margarine
6 oz caster sugar
8 oz sultanas
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
Pre-heat a greased griddle. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the marg and then add the sugar and sultanas. Add the egg and enouhg milk to give a stiff dough. Roll out to a thickness of 1/2". Cut into rounds and bake on the griddle, turning once. (About 3 minutes a side. If the griddle is too hot, the outsides will burn while the inside remains raw.)

Santos for President! Or John McClane!

Having watched West Wing I found the Iowa caucus far more interesting than it might otherwise have been. I understand a little of the process and what's going on. Now come on, let's get those voters out there putting their cross by the name of Matt Santos!

* * * * * * * * *

I watched the original Die Hard with some apprehension: would I be able to sit all the way through a feast of Bruce Willis and bloody violence?

I loved it!

Two was forgettable but three was excellent. We approached Die Hard IV with eager anticipation. And we weren't disappointed.

Die Hard has its roots in comic book stories I'm sure. Fantastic violence but you don't worry that anyone's really hurt. It's so unreal and over the top, all they need to do is add ZAP! and KAPOW! for us to know for certain it's just a fantasy, dreamed up by a nerdy boy who always wanted to be the hero.

Best line of the film: 'You just killed a helicopter with a car!' But of course. This is John McClane, after all. Even if he's not wearing a vest.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The wrong moment

George chose the wrong moment to take a friendly nip at husband's ankle; Husband was studying the Christmas credit card bill at the time.

It seemed prudent for both George and me to leave the house for a while so we went for a walk over the tip.

On unfamiliar territory George keeps very close to my heels. What's that? Oh I see. George says he is the rear guard, making sure no-one creeps up on us from behind. My hero.

I know it won't be long, however, before I am screaming at him, 'George, come back here!' as he disappears into the distance and these walks, with a dog at my side, are nothing more than a fond memory.

George hasn't yet learned the rules of dogiquette. He hasn't learned that he's not supposed to jump up at other dog-walkers even if he has sniffed out doggy treats in their pockets. Especially if the dog being walked is a fully-grown female Rottweiler who would have squashed George had she sat upon him.

Even though he's getting braver on his walks George still has his little moment, just outside the back gate, where he sits down and says, 'No, I don't think I'll come out with you today, thank you.'


Then there was Soames

Day by day George is getting a little braver when we're out. He is happiest on familiar territory or when we're on the way back home. Do dogs leave a scent? Or just recognise ones they've recently sniffed?

When I was mid-teens I had a dog called Soames. He was an alsatian cross. Probably with a wolf as he had that colour and look about him. When we were out people who didn't know him gave him a wide berth. He was a big dog and I was too weak both mentally and physically to control him. He wasn't the best choice dog for a young girl but he was just a fluffy puppy when we got him from the dogs's home. And I loved him.

One time I was lying on the sofa watching the television and my grandfather pretended to be hitting me. Soames wanted to protect me but obviously didn't want to hurt my grandfather. He came up with what was to him an ideal solution. He lay on top of me, completely covering me. I couldn't breathe but I was safe!

At the time I lived with my mother, grandfather and grandmother. When it became obvious that Soames was unmanageable, my mother took him back to the dogs's home and asked for him to be rehoused.

A couple of days later we heard that he had gone to live with a family in Morriston, on the other side of Swansea, up the valley, about 12 miles from Mumbles where we lived.

Two days after that I was in the house when I saw a familiar face at the gate: Soames was waiting to be let in.

He'd escaped from his new owners's home and had found his way back to us.

Not as impressive as the cat who found its way from Aberdeen to Exeter or something like that, but we were impressed. Impressed enough for my mum to let him come back to live with us.

We have no idea how he did it. We can only assume he followed the scent of the sea and some other built-in instinct.

I'd like to say the story has a happy ending but one day, about six years later, while I was in work, he turned on my grandmother. He didn't bite her but jumped up aggressively at her and was so heavy that he knocked her over. My mother was dead by then and my gran insisted that he had to go. This time when I took Soames to the dogs's home, the warden said he would have to be put down because of the reason we were getting rid of him. I cuddled my lovely dog as the warden injected him.