Thursday, July 31, 2008

Still poorly

Husband has been off work for the week. This is completely unlike him.

He saw the doctor yesterday and he has a chest infection. Husband that is not the doctor. He has a wooden leg.

There's something amiss here: I'm the one who had the cough - which is much better now, thank you for asking, or it was until I started thinking about it - and he's the one with the chest infection. Hmm.

Message for Hippy Mama

I received your invitation but it won't let me reply! Is it me, you or Blogger?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My son the car thief

Betty Beetle had to go to the the garage today as her windscreen wipers don't work. Husband spent best part of an afternoon the weekend before last trying to fix them. At one point he called me for my assistance.
'Just hold down the bonnet, will, you?'
'But you're underneath it.'
'Yes, I know. Just do it.'
What could I say? But it didn't help, so Betty was booked in for today.

This morning there were two problems:
a) It was raining - and her wipers didn't work;
b) after searching every room, bag and pocket, I couldn't find her keys. And I don't have a spare.
Eventually Younger Son found them: in the ignition locked in Betty.
'That's okay; we'll break in,' says I. 'How hard can it be to break into a Beetle?'

After the knife down the side failed, we put the bonnet up. Husband removed the radio during his previous attempt so you can see straight into the car. Younger Son stuck some bent wire around the edge of the door. He said, 'This is how car thieves do it. And how they do it in movies.' I tried to help by leaning into the boot/bonnet and wiggling my bamboo cane through the hole to poke the wire into the correct position. Younger Son did better without my help.

But I don't think I need worry about a life of crime for him. Thirty minutes to break into a Beetle doesn't exactly show aptitude for the job.

And so the day continued in much the same vein.

I was helping in the community cafe in the afternoon. (Our church has a youth cafe that, during school holidays, metamorphoses into the community caff, which is run by volunteers of all ages.) Today I was there with Lynn, a lady of similar age and mindset, a student and two young teens, Ffion and Elin.

After a young male customer had left, Lynn said, 'He was good-looking.'
'Yes, he was,' I said.
'Ahhh, you can't say that!' Ffion and Elin were horrified at such comments from these crazy menopausal women who open the fridge and say, 'Why did I come in here?'
'We can say anything,' Lynn said, and I agreed.

The only reason the girls like me to be there is so they can laugh at me, and I like to be obliging. This afternoon I set fire to three toasted cheese sandwiches, and when I say fire, I mean flames shooting into the air. It was damage limitation time. 'Quick, close the kitchen door so the customers don't smell it burning!'

In spite of that I offered, and the girls, accepted a lift home. It was pouring with rain and my car was parked a short distance away. We started running but after a short sprint I told the girls to take the keys and run on ahead. 'I can't run,' I said.
'Yes, you can. Come on!'
'No, I can't.'
'Why not?'
'My knickers are falling down.'

ABC Wednesday - B

Continuing to live my life - or ABC Wednesday at least - as a musical with a Beatles soundtrack, I offer you Back in the USSR. Alternatively, it could be the lesser-known early song, Baby's in Black, as Younger Son posed for me and however old he is, he'll always be my baby.

To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit mrs nesbitts place or ABC Wednesday's own site.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Just back from Sainsburys where I was amazed to find, next to my usual Garner's Pickled Onions, Barry Norman's Pickled Onions.

What you may ask - I did - is the justification for a film critic having his own brand pickled onions? Well, thanks to the wonder that is the web, I can tell you that it is his own recipe, passed down from mother to child through the generations from about the mid-nineteenth century. They even have their own website, Pickleodeon. (I like that!)

But I didn't buy them. They'd have to be pretty special to better Garner's.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On our walk tonight

To get to the sea-front we have to walk down the road, past the playing fields, across the main road and the municipal golf course. On the other side of the playing fields is Singleton Hospital. If you have to be in hospital, you couldn't ask for a better view! All the wards are on the front, as you see them, looking out over the bay. George really doesn't like this walking on a lead bit but he was pretty good tonight. Except he gets bored and drags behind.

Here you can just see Mumbles lighthouse through a strange sort of mouth organ contraption.

Last night we walked the other way, towards Swansea, and as we strolled along we heard music coming from the beach (the beach is separated from the promenade by bushes). I said, 'That sounds like a gospel choir, don't you think, George?'

When we got closer we snook through the bushes and took a peek. George was very surprised. He said, 'Well, I could have sworn the singer was a black woman.'

'Me too, George,' I said. But it was just an average white band.

The university also fronts onto the bay.

Revenge of the Bees

They came back this afternoon. In the quiet of the day, as the sun was on its downward path and the simmering heat shimmered off the paving stones, they gathered. Slowly at first they arrived, one, then another and another until the air was black with fury. And then the whisper came, 'We - shall - be - revenged.'

Then one of the little buzzers stung me on the tip of my ear!

I did a very good impression of someone who has been stung by a bee. Ooh, ah, hop, jump, scream, hold ear, jump a bit more, 'do something!', oohhh, ooooo, 'it hurts', oh, oh, oh, oh, 'why did he do that?', eee, aah, ooo, ow, 'what do I do?', hop, hop, ooooohhhhh.

(For information: on being stung by a bee, having got the above procedure out of the way, remove the sting and then apply an ice pack. According to the net, none of the folk remedies, including a bicarb paste, work.)

The good news is that I did 100 lengths this afternoon!
That is very good for me but not quite as impressive as it might sound as:
a) it's a dwtty pool;
b) I had to stop every few ends to throw George's ball or have a kiss.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

But still gorgeous

Husband is poorly

Really poorly. I know because it is a beautiful day and he went back to bed at 1.00pm. Husband never takes to his bed unless he is really poorly. He makes me mad because he will say he doesn't feel well and then still do more work about the place than I do on a day I feel fine, so it must be real flu not man-flu.

I got up first this morning and brought us tea in bed. An hour later Husband said, 'Will you go and make me a hot Lemsip, please?'
I did as bid and didn't bother going back to bed again. I blogged, showered and decided to go to the car boot sale.

Before I went I asked him if he'd like a coffee. 'Yes, please.'

I went downstairs, made the coffee, took it back up to him.
'This is a bit strong. And it's not very warm.'
'Would you like me to go and warm it up?'
'Yes, please.'

Downstairs again, zap the coffee and back up.
'It's not very sweet. Did you put sugar in?'
'It's not sweet enough. You know I have one and a half.'

Downstairs again, put a half in and back up.
'It's not funny. I'm not enjoying this!' (All this said in a pathetic, I can't talk loudly voice.)
'No, dear. I'm going now. Goodbye.'

Because my Thrive circuits class finishes for August, I usually go to the gym for a work-out but Younger Son has been playing tennis recently so I said I'd go with him - and that will make a whole blog episode on its own I have no doubt. Trouble is my racquet is, rather like me, very old and wooden and heavy, hence my trip to the car boot this morning.

I came back with a cookery book, a Michaelmas daisy for the garden (after reading about them on a blog), 2 story cassettes for ironing, and a tennis racquet.

On one stall, I asked the young lad, 'How much is this tennis bat?'
He said, 'It's a squash racquet.'

There was a shortage of tennis racquets. The one I bought was the only one I saw. Well, the only one with strings. It even has a cover and it was a bargain at £1. Getting home I noticed that some strings are missing, but the way I play tennis it won't make any difference.

Saturday Photohunt - Hanging

Hanging from the London Eye.

Late edit:
A number of people have said that they'd be too scared to go on the London Eye. Believe me, you couldn't be more scared of heights than I am but I was determined to go on. We went early in the morning - the best time to avoid queues and too many people - and it was fine. I started off by staying on the bench in the middle of the pod but later on got braver and went close to the windows. The views are fantastic and it doesn't feel like you're moving at all. And there are no sudden jerky bits to frighten you. So do give it a go if you're in London!

To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

How I feel

I was looking for something completely different yesterday when I found this cartoon.
For more in the same style, visit

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How much expression can there be in a dog's face?

Usually when we walk George we take him where he can run free - the tip, river or woods, or in winter, the beach - but for the next 10 days he has to be walked on a lead.

Today we had out first walk on a lead: we both hated it.

George is better than Harvey was walking on a lead but he still doesn't understand why he has to. And I thought it was clouding over so would be cooler but it wasn't. So we are two grumpy grumbles.

And if I thought George had already perfected the 'how could you do this to me' look, I was wrong. He's added a whole new element to it. I might as well prepare myself for 10 days' worth of guilt.

Hey ho.

In for a swim now.

How cool am I?

I found this on Sally's site.

From the urban dictionary

1. (Verb) The act of being incredibly cool. Commonly misunderstood to mean "one who is attracted to homosexual men."

2. (Adjective) A positive attribute that one possesses, or can be gained by physical and mental labor, similar to coolness and beauty. "She is very much Liz."
3. (Noun) A disease that can cause you to replicate the child of joan rivers and shrek.

There were others but I didn't like those ...


My Sitemeter report came through today and for the first time ever I've hit 100 visits a day!! I am almost a superstar. Thank you all!!

Total ....................... 23,875
Average per Day ................ 100
Average Visit Length .......... 3:40
This Week ...................... 701

I know numbers aren't important - and I genuinely prefer regular visitors who comment and become friends - but ... that's what everyone says isn't it?!

On the weekly Sitemeter report my daily average has been about 60-70 for ages, so it's shot up suddenly. Is that due to George's leg-cocking or Bloghounds I wonder!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It doesn't bode well

The evening after his op - the one that was supposed to stop him roaming - a be-coned and stitched-up George tries to climb onto a wall so he can squeeze through a hole into next door's garden.

Maybe it takes time for the escape-hormone to stop circulating his body ...

Brilliant blog

Thanks to the Dotterel, I have a new award! It's very exciting being given awards and knowing that people like to read what you write, so thank you again, Tim (who has some wonderful baby photos!)

The rules on passing the award on are simple:

1.Put the logo on your blog;
2.Add a link to the person who awarded it to you;
3.Nominate at least seven other blogs;
4.Add links to them on your blog;
5.Leave a message for your nominee on their blogs.

You see the rules are simple; the difficult bit is selecting the award-winners. Let me think.

First off it'll have to be mary b of shorty pjs. Mary was one of the first bloggers I got to know. In fact it was Mary who was the first ever unknown commenter on my blog. She's a southern girl who's very busy working for the episcopalian organisation in New York, and her posts are always brilliantly written and memorable.

Oh gosh, I can't decide. I like all the blogs I visit regularly - although a couple have refused me entry recently and that's a bit disturbing - so it's really hard. I tell you what: if you're in my blogroll, please consider yourself awarded. No, that never really works, does it? I must try harder.

Dragonstar, Loose Ends and Sicily Scene - a Welsh connection there!
Kat's Cradle
Moments from Suburbia
Cherie's Place
And Stephen Noyle for his lovely photos.

There we are. I'll stick with that. Thank you all, and all those not named - for the pleasure I get in reading your blogs.

I am such a cruel mummy!

At the vets'

George is at the vets' at the moment.

When we took him in at 8.30, they said to call at lunchtime to find out when we could pick him up. At 11.05 our phone rang. I stared at it for a moment then answered it cautiously, 'Helllooo.'
'Hello, this is Tawe Vets.' Oh flippity flip flop, my heart did a bungee-jump towards the floor: why are they phoning me? Something's happened! Oh no ...
'George has had his operation and you can pick him up in about an hour.'
Heart sprang up again through my mouth towards the sky.
'Okay,' I squeaked.

Last night on the phone to Husband we were talking about George's pending operation.
'I shall tell him it's your fault,' Husband said.
'You agreed we should!'
'I didn't really agree. I didn't think we should but you seemed set on it.'

Then coming out of the vets' after leaving george there this morning Younger Son said, 'I've always said he didn't need this operation.'

Oh that's right, just put the blame on me!

ABC Wednesday - A

After seeing Mamma Mia last week, I resolved, on my blog, to live my life as a musical. Mrs Nesbitt read that and challenged me to do ABC Wednesday as a musical too.

If there were a soundtrack to my life it would have to be the Beatles. A child of the sixties, it was their music that accompanied my life - and still does today. So for the first week of the third round of ABC Wednesday, I present All You Need is Love - and a friend to cuddle.

To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit the site.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What a good ....!

George is getting very good at cocking his leg. I tried to take his photo when we were out on the tip this morning but he said, 'Why are you taking a photo of me peeing?'
'So I can show people how clever you are.'
'I don't want lots of people seeing me peeing.'
'But they all love you and and will tell you that you're wonderful.'
'Will they?'
'Oh yes.'
'Hmmm. But all the same, I can't perform when you're filming me.'
Flipping diva.

I did manage to get this sneaky one though. It's not his best attempt. He can do much better. Sometimes he doesn't even fall over afterwards.

When he successfully cocks his leg, I've got into the habit of clapping and saying, 'What a good c***, George!' Younger Son says I shouldn't say this. At least not in public. In fact, perhaps I had better asterisk the word: it might attract the wrong sort. And you'll know what it's meant to be, won't you?

I got my day all back to front and I went walking without showering - or even washing - beforehand. But that's okay as:
a) we don't see many people over the tip;
b) anyone who sees me in my Eric Morecambe shorts, pink Little Miss Sunshine socks and filthy falling-apart shoes would give me a wide clearance anyway. So not washing wouldn't matter.

As a rule. Today we saw, at the sweaty end of our walk, Miss Glamour Girl 2008. How can anyone look glamorous walking a dog?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't tell George!!

I've booked him in for 'the op' on Wednesday. I'm already stressed about it. I'd be less worried if it were Husband but George is so young and innocent ... and trusting.

But we're doing it because it said in the dog-training book that it's less cruel than allowing him to have urges he can't fulfil. And several people have suggested it as a possible way to cure the wanderlust.

And loads of dogs have it done. And they're all right. So he'll be fine. I know he will. Really.

Actually he's not my favourite person tonight as he must have rolled in horse poo when we were out and he's made the whole house smell. But still ...

Hello fox

This little fox didn't notice us for ages this afternoon. I had time to get my camera out of its bag and take several photos before it eventually spotted George.

Bye bye bees

Tom, the beekeeper, sounded just like a beekeeper should, so I was happy when he said they'd be round in half an hour. I thought they'd be impressed by my swarm but Tom's friend, whose name I didn't discover, shrugged, 'Oh, it's only a small one.'
I asked what would happen to the bees. Tom said they'd be integrated with an existing hive.
'So they're going to a good home?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, don't worry.'

Tom gave me a memento to keep. It is truly phenomenal the way bees can make these perfect hexagonals.

Back to the bees

We're fairly sure they are bees and that it started as a swarm and now the swarm has made its home in our tree. This is what the Beekeepers' Association website says:

If a swarm is in progress, you will see a lot of bees flying and milling about over about a ten to twenty metre area – the air will appear thick with bees. If you watch carefully from a safe distance you will see the activity is centred around a cluster of bees on a branch usually some way off the ground. Eventually, in an hour or less, the flying activity will more-or-less cease and the hanging cluster of bees will remain in place. Often this cluster will look like a rugby ball. This is a SWARM – it can be collected by a beekeeper and turned back into a productive honey-bee colony. Eventually, if left to itself, this cluster will fly off to a new home, usually within 24 hours.

Very, very occasionally you may come across a swarm cluster that has forgotten to move on and taken up permanent residence where it clustered, usually in a thick, well-sheltered hedge.

I love that description: '... cluster that has forgotten to move on ...' It seems somehow appropriate that, of all the bees in all the world, the stupid ones that 'forget' to move on are the ones that end up in our garden.

I've left a message for a local beekeeper seeking advice. The BA website says that, for several reasons, it's best to have the swarm collected by a beekeeper. The most compelling is this one: if left to itself, it will move on and become a wild colony. In this case it will almost certainly die within a year or so and act as a potential source of disease infection to other beekeepers' colonies in the meantime.

But Husband knows better. It's a man thing, isn't it? Knowing better than any expert on any subject? He wants to keep it in the garden. But I'm here and he's not, so who're we gonna call? Beekeepers!

P.S. I just remembered a book I read a year or so ago: The Secret Life of Bees. I should have paid more attention to the bits about bees. It's a good book though if you get a chance to read it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bloghounds II

I should have given a link to Bloghounds and explained it what it is. This is taken from the site:

We are a group of bloggers who wish to support one another in simple but effective ways: by visiting each other’s blogs, linking to each other whenever we can and, above all, through mutual encouragement. You will find us a friendly and positive bunch from many different walks of life.

Bloghounds would like to offer membership to authors of quality blogs everywhere.

For more information, go to the Bloghounds site.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I've recently joined Bloghounds and I'm included on the blogroll but, for the life of me, I can't get the badge and blogroll up in my sidebar. Cherrypie tried to help but I got distracted by a rash on my arm (I was in the middle of emilaing her when i noticed all these tiny spots under the skin of my right forearm. I rushed into the garden and showed Husband. He said, 'I notcied you leg was spotty' - we'd been sitting in the garden at lunchtime and I'd had my leg on his lap. I looked at my leg. 'Oh, no,' I said, 'that's not a rash; that's just my leg.')

So - you see I got distracted again - I'm copying the badge for now and will continue to try to get the blogroll up. I should mention that I have the old-fashioned template so some of my settings are different.
P.S. Now I've worked out how to get the badge in my sidebar too. Maybe tomorrow I can get the blogroll as well!

Missing honeybees

You remember the plight of the dwindling honeybee population I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago? Well, worry no more: I've found the missing bees! They're building a nest in a tree in our garden.

Please watch this short film (about 1 minute) and if you have any reason to think they're not honeybees, please tell me. I don't mind homing an endangered species but I might object if they turn out to be killer stingy wasps.

Mamma Mia II

I forgot to say: watch out for Colin Firth reprising his Darcy in wet shirt role.

Don't blink or you'll miss it.

It was a very girlie audience. Apart from husband, the few men who were there all looked ... slightly less than macho ...

But Husband thoroughly enjoyed the film too. Julie Walters is a scream, as you would expect, but Meryl Streep is very funny too.

Lindsay asked about the singing. I think Meryl Streep has a good voice; Pierce Brosnan is obviously not a singer but it doesn't matter, as he's not supposed to be and he copes fine with what he has to do.

Saturday Photohunt - What is that?

To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick. To find out what this is, drag your mouse over the 'invisible' text below!
It's the face of a model grey whale, hanging from the ceiling in the Natural History Museum in London.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I've never been in the cinema before when the audience has clapped at the end! And shouted for more!

But it happened tonight at the end of Mamma Mia.

I suppose I'd been vaguely aware that there was a film out called Mamma Mia but I didn't know anything about it and had no particular desire to see it. But I got home form work today and discovered that Husband was whisking me off to the cinema (after buying me fish and chips) as a surprise. He wouldn't tell me what we were going to see but he'd been reading reviews and he thought I'd like it. Husband is a genius!

I loved it!!! It's brilliant! I had a big grin on my face the entire time. It's a wonderful happy, funny film, set on a beautiful Greek island, and it's just terrific. I'd never make a film critic because I can't tell you anything technical; just go and see it!!

I'm going to live my life as a musical from now on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I am very excited!

I've just come to the first big revelation in my novel.

That's the one I'm writing I mean. Bits of information have been feeding out but this is a major shock for the heroine as well as the readers.

It's written in her voice and, oh, I could slap her uncle. He is such a ... well, anyway. It's amazing I've got this far having to leap up every five minutes to yell at George who has a new favourite escape route. When I make him stay in, he comes and sits by my chair and pushes his head under my arm and into my hand and looks wide-eyed at me. So I have to stop and tell him he's beautiful and give him a cuddle and a grape, and then, hard-heartedly push him away. Oh, evil woman!

He escaped this morning. He was playing in the terrier's garden. The American terrier-owner said, 'I'm sure he has other redeeming features but he sure is one dumb dog.'
I would have listed those redeeming features but it's hard to think when you're in your nightie and your hair's all on end. But at least I had my knickers on which is an improvement over earlier in the week.

So, anyway, I'm feeling good about my novel today. I have to record this to remind myself on those days when I say, 'You are useless. Whatever makes you think you can write? This is rubbish.'

It won't actually help but it's the sort of thing 'Write-a-Novel' books tell aspiring writers to do. Probably. I've never read a 'Write-a-Novel' book. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong.

Novel number 2 is completely different from novel number 1, which was a much-rejected light-hearted granny-lit novel. This one's all misery, madness and death, much more my style. I'm torn. I edit till I'm sick of the sight of my own writing and I go back and change things all the time. But, given my previous experience, should I start sending off the first few chapters of my manuscript for rejection now? Will it make any difference?

An eventful walk

(Bearing in mind that all things are comparative.)

First of all, George got himself scragged by barbed wire. It was his fault! He can't say I didn't warn him.

Then I stepped on some mud I thought was solid ... Then George was sick, bringing up bits of stick and grass that he'd eaten. At one point I feared I would have to stick my hand down his throat to dislodge it, but, thankfully, his body did the work.

My word, you must think I lead such a boring life. That's only because I've been banned from telling you about the alien life forms that take the shape of water-melons, and as for the space-ships I've been in ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ABC Wednesday - Z

Most Tuesday evenings I try to get along to Zac's Place for what's called a tribal gathering (a Bible study/coffee and cake meeting for friends). Zac's Place is also called Church for Ragamuffins, and on a Tuesday you'll find bikers, addicts, rough sleepers, alcoholics, ex-cons, along with a variety of other ragamuffins who all have their own reasons for being there. Some have found traditional church to be off-putting or unwelcoming; I went originally to offer support but receive far more than I could ever give.
The stained glass in the photo is above the main door. When Sean, who runs Zac's, commissioned it, he specifically asked the artist to use up all the left-over, broken, rejected, good-for-nothing bits of glass that were lying around the studio. And see what a beautiful picture they make when brought together.
To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit mrs nesbitts place.

Thank you, dear

I've had a cough for a few weeks now. It's only bad in the morning and at bed-time. I don't have any other symptoms so I'm just waiting for it to sort itself out (apart from taking vile medicine last thing at night).

Tonight, on the phone, Husband said, 'I was reading in the paper about a man who had a cough for a few weeks. It turned out he had TB.'
'Oh, thank you. That is just the right thing to say to a hypochondriac just before bed-time.'
'It's alright; I checked the list of other symptoms and you don't have any of them.'
'Anyway I've had my TB jab. Or has that run out? Does it last for ever? I had it done in school. That was years ago. Oh dear, do you think I have TB?'

My cough suddenly seems to have got much worse ...

Dreams and visions

While we were on holiday I had a really vivid dream. It stayed with me because it had been so incredibly real. It involved a friend of mine called Lynne.

It says in the Bible that 'young men shall have dreams,' and as Lynne's husband was in Zac's tonight I thought that, even though I'm neither young nor a man, I should tell him about my dream as I was sure it was significant.

I said, 'Steve, I had this dream and it was about Lynne and it was so vivid that I feel I should share it with you.'
'Oh yes?'
'Yes. In it Lynne got married to Rolf Harris.'
Steve said, 'Strangely enough, that's been a long-held ambition of hers.'
'See? I knew it was of God. You will tell her, won't you?'
'You're crackers.'
'Coming from you Steve, I consider that a compliment.'


We found a giant's pencil in the river! I wonder if we'll find a giant's rubber next.
* * * * * * * * *
One morning while on holiday I resolved that if I couldn't say something sensible, I would say nothing. So I didn't speak all day.
Next morning Daughter said, 'Are you all right? You were very quiet yesterday.'
I explained my resolution and she burst out laughing. 'We don't expect you to be sensible! That's not what you're about.'
That's all right then. I just wouldn't want to feel that I was failing to live up to expectations. So I shall continue with my inanity. And you can blame Daughter.

I forgot to tell you

Husband was in the greenhouse when he spotted George, sitting by the raspberry bushes, picking off and eating the fruit.

Husband says it's my fault for sharing my bananas, oranges, grapes, cherries, apples ... any fruit with George. I've turned him into a fruit-eater.

Other people need nets to protect their fruit from birds; we need a george-net.

And now I can see him and he's decided to dig a hole in the middle of our front lawn. George!!!!!!
At least he can't reach the peaches.

Banks, huh!

Yesterday Younger Son tried to make an appointment to see someone at HSBC Bank to discuss repaying his overdraft. After a right performance he ended up speaking to a French girl in India to make an appointment to see someone in Wales.

While he was on the phone she asked him if he'd like a credit card. Excuse me?!! He's discussing repaying his overdraft; the last thing he needs is a credit card. He doesn't have a job; he doesn't have any money.

When Elder Son was in school, at some evening jobs fair on school premises, he was asked if he'd like a credit card.

Husband said that's because students and low-wage-earners are the best ones to give credit cards to. We pay ours off each month and don't make any money for the bank; they spend money and are charged huge interest. But they DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY to pay it back!

These banks deserve to get into financial trouble.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is it me or is it Blogger?

My blog's gone loopy and won't show any posts!

But my jigsaw won't load either. So perhaps it's a t'internet problem. Apologies. I will get round to visit everyone soon. Right now I think I need to go to bed: I am having trouble interpreting word verifiers. I can't tell my g from my z from my k unless I stop and think very hard.

So that's what they do with them

Sell them in Auch.

And so to Lourdes

One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1858, a young girl named Bernadette claims to have been visited by a beautiful woman who identified herself as the Virgin Mary. She appeared several times to Bernadette and gave her messages to pass on to the priest.

The site has now become the most important Catholic Marian shrine in the world and is visited by millions of pilgrims - and tourists - every year. This year, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations, the pope is to visit the shrine.

Many of the pilgrims who visit are hoping for miraculous cures. The spring water from the grotto is believed to have healing powers and there have been 68 incidents of healing - out of 7,000 put forward - that have been investigated by the Lourdes Medical Bureau (set up for this purpose) and been declared scientifically inexplicable miracles by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church.

So we went along to see what all the fuss was about.

Lourdes itself is a town of hotels and tacky souvenir shops. (In our office we collect holiday tat; I had a very hard job choosing the tackiest souvenir to take back!)

Over the cliff and the grotto is built a large church, with a golden crown, but it's the grotto - or hole in the rock - that attracts people. We joined the queue, not knowing really what we were expecting to see; as it turned out it was a bit less than we'd expected. It was just a hole in the rock, a small cave.

People in the queue ahead of us were touching the sides of the cliff, crossing themselves, murmuring prayers. In front of the grotto rows of chairs were set out and they were filled with people, silently contemplating. The silence was impressive; the rest wasn't.
I'm not a Catholic but I went along open to being touched, affected by the emotion. I wanted to feel something. I felt nothing.

Except maybe sadness. For so many people for whom this was a last desperate hope. So many people who would go away disappointed.

That was moving but I have to ask: why do people reach out to touch a rock? Why do they fall on their knees and pray to the Virgin Mary? Why do they need to be there in that tiny place in France?

God is omnipresent. He lives in us and with us. He can act in any place and at any time he wants to. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he told them to say, 'Our father', not 'Our mother', 'Our Lady', 'Blessed Virgin'. I don't understand where that has come from.

I suppose some could say that praying to a rock is no less stupid than praying to an omniscient being but he's my omniscient being.
P.S. I notice a scandal is brewing regarding dodgy money-laundering in Lourdes.

What I did on my holidays

We swam in the Atlantic at Biarritz.

Biarritz, on the southwest coast of France, used to be a haunt of the rich and famous; now the young and beautiful linger there. It's a bit like an upmarket Newquay, with its surfing scene. Very upmarket though with its prices. What Biarritz lacks is fat tourists; they're all in the Canaries, Spain or Greece.

The water though very clear had a surface film of human-originated debris, which was a bit off-putting, but we suffered the hardship in order to cool down on one of the hottest days of our holiday.

* * * * * * * * * *
We visited Auch and climbed the 230 steps from the river up to the cathedral passing along the way the statue of D'Artagnan, the literary musketeer based on a real-life musketeer born in Auch. (I'm saving D'Artagnan's photo for the next round of ABC Wednesday!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Our holiday in France

Where to begin?

With the reason for going.

L'Etape, the amateur stage of the Tour de France, in which Son-in-law was participating.

The weather was terrible on the day. Down where we were waiting at base camp it was grey but dry and mild; at the top of the mountains it was wet and freezing. Son-in-law wasn't really prepared for that and because of that and a couple of other problems he didn't do as well as he had hoped.

A couple of days later we drove up the mountain in good weather - although the top was still above the clouds - to see what he'd had to do. All I can say is that anyone completing the event deserves a medal and as much praise as they can get. They probably need straitjackets as well but that's just my opinion as a non-cyclist.

He told us that on the way down Tourmalet, the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees, the weather was so bad, he could only see 5' ahead. It's a good job Daughter didn't know he was cycling not only furiously but blindly down edge-of-mountain roads; she was stressed enough without that information.

His final time put him in 2,046th position out of nearly 9,000 entrants, and we think that's pretty good.

How I know I'm home

I've been to Sainsburys.

We got home. Younger Son said, 'Welcome back. Did you have a good holiday? When are you going shopping? There's no food in the house.'

So I'm loading the shopping into the car when I find a garlic bulb in the bottom of the trolley. An unpaid-for garlic bulb. 'Oh fiddle,' I think, 'I spend enough here: they can't begrudge me a bit of garlic.' I threw it in a bag in the boot, returned the trolley to the trolley-park, got in the car and put the key in the ignition. I ate half a banana, took the key out of the ignition, got out of the car, retrieved the garlic from the boot and took it back to the shop.
'I found this in my trolley and I haven't paid for it,' I said to the girl on customer service.
'I wish everyone was like you,' she said.

I left 35p poorer but with a warm glow.

I'm home.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Off on holiday tomorrow

So no blogging for a week! How will I survive?!

Please don't forget me! Come back and visit after next Saturday, 12th.

Have a good week, y'all!

Auntie Maud

Auntie Maud died last week. It's her funeral next Thursday when we're away on holiday.

It was very quick in the end and mercifully painless.

The last time I saw her she was telling me that the doctor had asked her if she'd like to be moved to a nursing home in Dorset near her children. She'd thought about it and said she would. 'But I don't think I'll get there,' she said to me.

It was as if she just gave up in the end.

When I was a little girl, living in Mumbles, Auntie Maud and Uncle George and their children used to come and stay. They lived in Middlesex at the time. Then at some point later, there was a falling-out between my gran and Auntie Elsie, Auntie Maud's mother. As a result we didn't see Maud and George for a long time. In fact I never saw Uncle George, who was a darling, again.

When we came back to Swansea in 1988, after living in Southampton, they had moved here and Uncle George had just died. Auntie Maud babysat a lot for me and our relationship - which had been lost because of an argument that didn't involve us - was rebuilt.

She was always very intolerant of those 'old biddies' who lived around her and did nothing but grumble about this or that. I'm glad she never became one of those.

Romantic gestures

I've moaned a lot about Husband recently and his lack of romanticism. He's not one for small romantic gestures but I suppose neither am I. I may buy him a bottle of wine or a book from a charity shop (last of the big spenders, me) if I spot something I think he'll like, but we tend to express our love in more mundane little ways every day. But I don't want you to go thinking that Husband doesn't have a romantic bone in his body. He just prefers to save up the small spontaneous gestures and blow it all on the big ones.

As I said, we've been married thirty years. In that time there've been three BIG romantic gestures from Husband, roughly spaced at ten year intervals (he has to build himself up to it slowly ...)

Number one occurred one Christmas when the children were small. I opened a parcel and found a box of Maltesers. Yummy, my favourites. But when I opened the box there was a diamond ring inside. Pretty cool, eh?

The third - I'll come back to the second - took place a few Christmases ago when somehow Husband managed to get Betty Beetle onto the drive for Christmas morning for me without me suspecting a thing!

The second chronologically-speaking was absolutely the best and, I think, unsurpassable.

One Sunday afternoon, he returned home and walked into the kitchen holding in his arms the bundle of fluff that was to be known as Harvey.

The dog we'd had before had been rather snappy and couldn't be trusted with the children's friends, so we found her a new home on a smallholding. When she went, I was so upset Husband said we were never going to have another dog. I had no idea he was investigating possibilities until he walked in through the door, and brought Harvey into our lives, where he was to remain for the next fourteen and a bit years. And in our hearts forever.

I love my husband.

Holiday preparations

Husband collected my card for me today, however he didn't get Maltesers. He said, 'I'm not buying Maltesers on demand. I prefer the spontaneous gesture.'
'Yes, but you don't do that either.'

We went out looking for packa-macs this afternoon. First we tried to go to Millets but it wasn't there. So then we went to Wyevale where I tried on a pretty Joules mac-in-a-bag but it cost £29 and looked as if it would tear at the touch of a bramble. (And as I am prone to walking through brambles ...) So I haven't decided what to take yet: a woolly fleece (but no hood), my parka (thick and with furry hood), or a black plastic bag (Husband's suggestion).

P.S. He did buy me some Maltesers later when we went to Sainsburys.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What's happening to the bees?

According to Einstein, 'If the honeybee becomes extinct, man will only be able to survive for four years.' (Actually Einstein didn't say that. The words were put into his mouth, in the nineties, many years after his death, probably by French scientists.)

According to Doctor Who, about half the bees in the world are aliens and the reason they're reducing in number is because they're going back to their home planet.

While I personally wouldn't argue with the good Doctor, I was listening, on Radio 4 this afternoon, to a lady who would. One of the main causes she says, for the disappearance of the honeybee is the lack of biodiversity that exists today.

Apparently in America bees are trucked around the country, so they may spend three weeks in California pollinating hundreds of miles of almond trees before being trucked up to Washington State to pollinate apples or to the east coast to do their duty for the blueberries. With such a restricted diet, they fail to flourish - as we would if we had to exist for weeks on just one foodstuff - and they are less able to fight disease or parasites.

And did you know there are something like 250 species of bees in Britain? Of which honeybees are only one. But a vital one in that they are responsible for pollinating roughly one third of our food.

I thought the lady on the radio would be advocating a change in farming procedure to reintroduce biodiversity but instead she was talking mostly about developing stronger bees. But maybe she's realistic and knows she's fighting a losing battle when it comes to big corporation agriculture.

Radio 4 Material World

A card arrived for me today

From the Post Office.

It said that an item is waiting to be collected from the main sorting office because 'The sender did not use the correct postage.'

We'd worked out that this is what had happened to Husband's anniversary card to me. When promising that he had sent one he said, 'It was a big one too.'
'How big?'
'Not that big but bigger than normal.' He was pleased with himself.
'And did you put a Large First Class stamp on it?'
'What do you mean?'
'Large envelopes need special stamps.'
'Since when? Nobody told me that!'

Now I am supposed to pay the extra 6p plus £1 admin charge. As well as drive to the other side of town to pick it up. Husband, when I emailed him to tell him, said, 'I will understand if you don't bother.'

Wrong response, dear. You're supposed to say, 'I'll pick it up for you when I'm off tomorrow,' and buy a bunch of flowers at the same time!!!!!!! (Except we're going away so chocolates will do nicely.)

(I was reading some responses to a post Suburbia did and lots of people said 'you have to tell men exactly what you want or expect from them because they're men and they won't know otherwise.')

No wonder M&S is making a loss

The weather forecast for south-west France isn't good. 'What I need is a plastic mac!' I told George. 'One of those roll up in a bag ones.'

Do you know? You can't get a plastic mac for love nor money.

I went first to M&S thinking that's a sensible grown-up sort of shop that will sell plastic macs; they didn't. Obviously all their customers go to hot places for their holidays. Probably cruises. They had plenty of cruise-type stuff.

Then I went to a cheap and cheerful shop aimed at the younger market. That was a silly idea too.

So no plastic mac for me. I know you can get them in the garden centre but they're pull-over-your-head ones and I wanted a fly-open-in-the-wind one.

Ah well, looking at the expected temperatures, a thick fleece will probably be better anyway.

Ladies only

'I've been bleaching my upper lip for years,' my friend said, while looking pointedly at my moustache.

That was about six months ago. About three months later I bought myself a hair lightening kit and yesterday I finally got round to doing the deed. I had this awful fear that 'something will go wrong.' I'm not sure exactly what I thought would happen. Something too terrible to describe. So doing it just before I went on holiday probably wasn't the best idea ...

But it was fine. It tingled a bit when I put it on and I anticipated a bright red upper lip but all is well. Now if I could just get rid of the beard too.

Husband said I was the only one who could see a moustache but you know what it's like when you get an idea into your head: a faint shadow becomes a handlebar.

I say 'you know what it's like', but maybe it's just me ...

While on womanly things, tell me, do any of those creams work for you?

I have a cupboard full of anti-ageing creams. Everyone from Jane Fonda to Andie Macdowell swears by them; 99% of women who use them see a difference. I'm in the 1%.

Of course they might be more effective if, instead of leaving them in the cupboard, I actually used them ...

Or perhaps I've just left it too late.

And another thing. When oh when will manufacturers of anti-ageing products realise that women who buy them are on the slippery downward slope? Everything is either drooping or failing. So, I'm asking product designers from L'Oreal, Garnier, Nivea, Olay, and the rest (who all read my blog on a daily basis) to USE BIG WRITING on the box.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

George goes to the vet

He has infected dermatitis, a common ailment apparently for retrievers because of their thick coat. You can't see very well in this picture but he has a shaved patch on his back as well as two smaller ones under his chin and on his chest. It took all the strength of Younger Son and me to hold him down while he was being shaved. A treat held just above his nose helped.

Poor George.


Every year amateur cyclists are given the opportunity to ride a stage of the Tour de France. Not the same time as the professionals but a few days before I believe. This year L'Etape takes place on Sunday (6th July) in the Pyrenees, when about 8,000 riders will have the chance to cycle 102 miles up mountains.
One of those doing this mad deed is Son-in-law. Daughter fears she will be widowed and has insisted that we go out and keep her company while she stresses. So we have an apartment in Pau for the week. We fly out on Saturday (S-i-l flies out earlier) and after Sunday is done and dusted we can enjoy the rest of the week in the French countryside, eating delicious French bread and cheese and, in everyone else's case, drinking luscious French wine.
Lourdes is nearby and we're hoping to get over to Biarritz too. But mostly it's going to be about relaxing.
In the meantime, Daughter and S-i-l are worried because:
a) S-i-l works in a small lab and two people working there with him are full of snuffly colds;
b) there is a problem with the bike.
If you're a pray-er, please spare a prayer for s-i-l (Steve) for good health and a repaired and safe and roadworthy bike. He's trained long and hard for this event. Please pray for his safety on Sunday during L'Etape too. Thank you.

George likes to help in the kitchen

The new Doctor Who is

Okay, I copied the title of this post from someone else (sorry, don't remember the name - I only visited because I saw the title and then it was about something completely different!)

I have no idea what is happening with Doctor Who. Surely we've not seen the last of delicious David Tennant? They've kept it very secret if that's true. I shall sulk if we have. And does anyone else think Rose's chin is more sticky-out than it used to be? Is she really a dalek in disguise?

As I say I have no idea what's going on with Doctor Who but it is quite scary. I am almost expecting the end of the world to come next weekend.

* * * * * * * * * *

Last night I watched the DVD of Notes on a Scandal. Ooh, Judi Dench is a marvellous manipulative old hag in it. I think the young boy involved (a schoolteacher has an affair with a pupil) is too young-looking but apart from that, it was a gripping film.

And I've just read Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg (she who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, which I adored). The first half of the book was excellent; it fell off a little during the second half but still an entertaining read. I've read another couple of books too but they were unmemorable.

I picked up The Madness of a Seduced Woman in the heart Charity shop yesterday. I think I'll take it on holiday along with another serious and a couple of frothy novels.

A plethora of posts

That's what I have flying round my brain. It's no wonder I am struggling to do anything worthwhile today. I might as well resign myself to the fact that they have to get out and I'd better write them, else they may start chewing my brain.

Where to start?

With a photo of George? A ladies' only post? A what's happening next week post? Or a boring seen and heard post? Ho hum. Decisions, decisions. Let's do boring first - or last if you've started reading at the top. As most normal people are wont to do.

ABC Wednesday - X

I was struggling to think of something to use for X when Younger Son suggested 'X marks the spot.' In fact he said he'd dress up as a pirate and pretend to be about to dig but as I was taking the photo this morning, and I would have had to wait for him to get up ... So I dragged George down to the beach first thing. I say dragged because he was in my bad books as he'd already done a runner once this morning. I wanted to do a great big X but:
a) I was on a No Dogs Allowed bit of beach so I had to keep a look-out for men with big guns;
and b) more relevantly, George kept eating my shells.

Then when we were walking back this snail was meandering across the path.

To join in with ABC Wednesday, visit mrs nesbitts place.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

George here!

I asked my mum if I could have my own blog like Wilma but she said no 'but you can do a guest post on my blog if you want,' so here I am. I think it's time you heard my side of the story.

When my mum is busy I get bored. Sometimes I take myself for a walk. If mum sees me trying to get over or under or through the fence she shouts at me, 'No, George! Come back here!' Sometimes.

But other times she says, 'Stay there, George, while I get my camera.'

If she doesn't notice me and I manage to escape and set off down the road to visit my friends (they are my friends - I can tell by the way they growl at me) she comes running after me. Sometimes she shouts, 'Come back here, you ratbag!' But other times she says, in her nice voice, 'Come on, George, there's a good boy, come and have a treat.' Of course I go to her then!

So, you see, life is confusing for a 9-month-old puppy. Grown-ups change their minds all the time.

And as for chewing things, well, my teeth itch. She told me she had shown you a photo of what I'd done to my chair. Notice - MY chair! Anyway, it tasted nice.

And, what's more, she gives me her yogurt pot to lick but when I help myself to the empty - notice empty - beetroot pack she shouts at me. She doesn't know what she's doing! But I let her off; I put it down to her age. Dad says she's at a funny age.
'What? What you doing? Let go! Waah, get off me! Let me just press the publi ...'