Wednesday, December 31, 2008
'Yes, they are.'
'No, they're not.'
'They must be; they're your size.'
'They're not mine.'
'Well, they wouldn't fit the sons.'
'Well, they're not mine ... so you must have a fancy man.'
I looked at him. 'Let me tell you this: if I had a fancy man the last thing I'd be doing would be washing his trousers!'
I'll tell you tomorrow if M&S food is any better than just food.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What about an Xtra-special favourite of mine?
No, that doesn't work either as I was trying to think of one this morning and decided I couldn't possibly choose a favourite. I loved the early Beatles songs because they were simple and fun. And, judging by comments I've received, easy to singalong with and remember. Impossible to forget is perhaps more accurate!
As I grew through my teenage years so the Beatles music grew with me, adapting and changing, becoming more varied, more political, more complex - but still wonderful. So that isn't helping. Instead I'll use the time of year and look back and choose Yesterday as my Xtra-special theme for ABC Wednesday.
And if I think back over 2008 the most immediate impression I have of it is that it was the year of the dog. George, who started the year by being scared to leave the garden, and who ended it by being determined to leave the garden by whatever means he can find. So indulge me, please.
They're short films but I don't want to force you to watch them: we're all busy. So I'll add this last photo as well.
Yesterday we walked over Mumbles Hill
To take part in ABC Wednesday, go here.
And now it's nearly New Year's Eve. Husband and I have pondered long on how to mark the coming of a new year with all the promise it holds. We've decided - or rather I've decided - that as most celebrations entail some sort of effort - Husband: we could go out for a meal. Me: Oooh, I'd have to get dressed up. - a quick trip to M&S (it's not just food; it's M&S food) followed by a quiet night in is what is required.
We know how to live.
P.S. And now I've set myself a punctuation poser. The full stops in the brief conversation above are surely out of place but how else could I do it? Write the sentence in a completely different form I guess.
P.P.S. I don't want to put a jinx on it but Husband has started to decorate the hall. I mean re-started. If you recall, he started two years ago ...
Monday, December 29, 2008
Just in case you're wondering what on earth's the matter with me and why the mournful previous post, it's because I was reminded of it by something I read on Calum's blog. I wrote it many years ago for a church meeting on the theme of hope. Does it sound hopeful? I hope it does. Finally.
Christmas was great for me. Hope it was for you too. I have eaten far more Thornton's chocolate-covered toffee than is good for a woman my shape but, hey, I'll diet in the New Year ...
Not many people have read - or commented on at least - my rugby post. Is that because you think it's about rugby? it's actually about knickers.
No. You’d shout if you cared. You rake half-heartedly through the ruins, searching for ... what? For something that will persuade you that this isn’t the end. For something that will make you believe in the impossible.
You’re bleeding now. Needle-sharp shards have pierced your heart, life is slipping away.
The light in your eyes grows weak. Your body is wracked by stabbing pain.
Then - something. At first you refuse to acknowledge the warmth but it’s there, just. You look but can’t see the source. It must be there. Now, suddenly alert, you grab wildly about you, scattering rubbish, shifting debris, cutting your hands as you dive into the wreckage. Just as you’re ready to give up, too weak to go on, you find it, camouflaged amongst the rubble. The wind that took your dreams blows softly on it and the darkness itself is lit by the glowing ember, the fire that can’t be extinguished, that’s always there, the hope that makes the difference between living and dying.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Elder Son and his bride asked Daughter to write and read a prayer at their wedding and this is the result: a prayer for the newly-weds. You'll notice Daughter struggles to read it (and has her hankie at the ready) and Elder Son is also battling by the end.
The Ospreys beat the Scarlets 20 - 6 yesterday evening in a packed (20,500 spectators) Liberty Stadium and I feel I really must take some of the credit.
Yesterday morning when dressing I was about to put on my red knickers when it struck me: 'Oh no! I can't wear red. I don't want to give the Scarlets any help.' I wore my black knickers and the result speaks for itself.
Husband did the videoing (not of my knickers). He took the camera off me saying, 'You get far too excited; you'll miss all the action.'
We were sitting right behind the posts so had a perfect view of Mike Phillips gliding easily over the line to touch down for the first Ospreys try. When I'd stopped jumping up and down I said to Husband, 'Did you get that?'
'I was too busy watching.'
Friday, December 26, 2008
Off to the rugby tomorrow: Swansea Neath Ospreys take on Llanelli Scarlets in the traditional Christmas fixture. It's a sell-out so it should be a good atmosphere at the Liberty Stadium. As for tonight, well, I think after we've had fry-up for dinner I shall sleep the rest of the evening - at least until Pirates of the Caribbean.
But first a few visits ...
Apart from that, and the fact that Husband, who's been fighting a cold for the last few days, gave up yesterday afternoon at half past five and went to bed, our Christmas was fine and dandy. Oh, yes, and except for the fact that in my attempt to be organised I over-cooked the veg.
But it was lovely to have family here and be given lots of super presents - including a voucher for a de-stress massage. I'll be using that very soon ...
Son and Daughter-in-law
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
A car reversed into me in Sainsbury's car park today. I would have tooted if I'd known where the horn was. I was desperately pressing the Vauxhall badge in the middle of the steering wheel (which is where Betty's horn - or, more accurately, squeak - is). Still it was only a gentle bump and no harm was done.
Elder Son and Daughter-in-law are preparing dinner tonight: festive lasagne. Then I'm cooking turkey to take to Zac's for hot turkey rolls. Another example of my mouth not waiting for my brain to think.
We'll get there in the end. And then I'll sleep for 99 days.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Currently on the landing we have a wardrobe, a television (broken), a digibox (broken), a television stand (not connected), a hoover, a sweeping brush, numerous piles of stuff to be recycled/thrown away/moved so I can put other stuff in its place, and a broken toilet door.
It's nearly four o'clock and still to be done are: showering; shopping; curry-making; cake-icing; circuit training; curry-eating; oh, yes, and landing-clearing.
So what am I doing sitting here blogging?
By the way, have you heard that Burger King has brought out a new perfume for men? Seriously, it's called Flame and is meant to capture the essence of burger love. I know you'll all want to rush out and buy it but I'm afraid it's only available in the US at the moment (or online).
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Chief Constable has written to me personally to ask for my opinion of the police. She says she is very interested in what I think. That's nice of her, isn't it?
And last night I met the man who might be the next High Sheriff. I am mixing with the crac-ac, you know.
Speaking of which I should tell you that we live in what is considered to be one of the better areas of Swansea (that's posh by Swansea standards of course). So it is with some concern that I note not one but two houses have been inappropriately and garishly decorated. Honestly the owners must think they're living in Blaenymaes. I'm surprised the local Neighbourhood Watch hasn't sent the boys round to have a quiet word.
Guess what everyone's having for Christmas this year?
I'd planned to go to the dentist and then call into a couple of shops on my way home. Then I realised that the dentist was in the other direction so what started out as a quick trip ended up as a three and a half hour jaunt. Admittedly most of that time was spent in Borders.
I feel rather like a frenetic monkey.
To participate in ABC Wednesday, visit Round3.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I don't have those voices. The voice in my head says, 'That's a good idea. Why don't you do that?' But what I really need is a little voice that says, 'That's a stupid idea! Don't do that!'
It's our staff lunch on Friday. Our Secret Santa gifts have to be ethical and sustainable: recycled, home-made or fairly-traded, you know the sort of thing. So today I decided I'd make Christmas cake. Instead of one big one, I'm making two small ones: one for my giftee and one for us (us being Husband as he's the only person who likes Christmas cake).
So first of all that meant going out and buying two small tins. But, I tell myself, they'll come in useful again for ... something.
And this time I've actually read the recipe in advance and put the dried fruit to soak. The recipe said to use 3 tablespoons brandy but that didn't look like much for a lot of fruit so I used 4 plus 3 tablespoons rum.
It's not as if I have anything else to do ...
* * * * * * * * * *
One of the chaplaincy team said that some members of the congregation looked a bit prim and tight-lipped during Joseph's monologue.
'No! The church-going guests.'
'Oh, phhtt to them.'
Said in love of course. (The standard Christian cop-out when you're being nasty to someone as in, "I'm saying in love to you that I think God doesn't like you having a tattoo/long hair/pierced ears etc.")
I don't know what could have upset them though. Joseph does say, 'An angel, my arse!' and talks about not having sex but that's quite Biblical. (Maybe not the arse bit.) Maybe it's 'No sex please; we're Christians.'
It was the first night of the prison carol service yesterday. People with fancy gold chains mingled with inmates, the Sally Army band tooted their hearts out, and my boys read their monologues brilliantly.
All my early waking and worrying was needless, although as more and more people filed into the auditorium (aka visiting area) I could sense my boys tensing, but as soon as they stood up and began, their 'professionalism' took over. One of them is a media graduate but the other had never read to a large group before; strangely enough it was the drama bod who seemed most nervous. Or maybe not strangely enough: drama students can be rather melodramatic!
At the end the Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan came over to congratulate them, as did a few other guests. And then it was back to their cells ready to do it all again tonight.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Right back at the start when I first went in, I asked the three men I was working with then (who over the course of the weeks changed into the completely different two I ended up with) about prison at Christmas. The first poem the boys read last night uses almost the exact words the first men you used to describe what it was like. I wrote the alternating lines to fit in.
Christmas is a special day.
Christmas is just another day in the big mansion.
I have an advent calendar and I count down the days to Christmas.
Time is irrelevant; I don’t keep track.
I love it when the Christmas adverts start on television.
The adverts start in October and all the jingles fry your 'ead.
I make a list of presents I’d like
Seeing stuff you can’t have
And things I want to buy for the children.
Knowing I can’t provide what I’d like for my kids.
And then Christmas Day itself, I love it.
Christmas Day does my 'ead in.
Being with the family,
Eating Christmas dinner
All the nice food you can’t have,
Phoning family who can’t be with us,
Feeling like I’m interrupting if I phone my family
And those unexpected surprises.
Knowing what you’re going to be doing on Christmas Day and every day after it.
It’s just a wonderful day spent with people I love.
I’d rather shut myself away.
I love Christmas and I always feel a bit sad when it’s over.
Best thing is to ignore it and wait for January. A new month is good – it means another one has gone.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
So I've phoned this lady, called Claire, and after talking to her for a few minutes I feel much more positive and reassured.
The last time I went to training classes, with Harvey, they were run by a fierce German lady. I came away from each class with a thumping headache and I dreaded going. Claire sounds much nicer - and isn't a trainer as such. In the meantime we'll try walking George more. And ask the vet if it's possible that his operation didn't work as he's showing far too much interest in bitches ...
Thursday, December 11, 2008
We'd all taken some nibbles or drinks and, at the end I was hovering near the food table, trying to grab the last few Cadbury's Fingers when a woman picked up the box and put in a bag. I thought she was taking it home with her but then she said, 'Do you know where I can get rid of this rubbish?'
Rubbish?!!! That was half a box of Cadbury's Fingers she was talking about! Kelly and I said, 'Yes, we'll eat them!'
What is the world coming to?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I discovered all this while listening to a radio 4 programme while ironing. The programme included an interview with Denis Healy, who was - I think - Harold Wilson's 'Alternative Minister'. If Harold had been killed by a nuclear bomb, but Denis had survived, authority would have passed first to him, before the letter. Lord Healy, as he is now, said he couldn't have condemned millions of innocent people to death.
I was talking about this with Husband. He agreed with Mr Callaghan: retaliate. I said I couldn't see the point. He said, 'If you don't then evil has won.'
George and I were discussing this in the woods yesterday. I told him all about the programme and the letter and the options and what Husband had said. Then I said, 'But I can't help feeling that, if a nuclear attack is launched, then evil has won already. and anyway, what would happen if we did retaliate? Would the perpetrator then say, "Oh, I didn't expect that. I'd better not fire any more." I don't think so. What do you think, George?'
'I think ... whoa, is that a squirrel?!'
It's difficult to have a serious conversation with George in the woods.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit mrs nesbitts place.
'Um, yes, but ...'
The fusebox is high up in the shed; it's dark and cold; and I'm not entirely sure I know how to.
So we've got a dark upstairs for tonight. That's okay. We can cope.
Tomorrow is another day. (Said with Deep South drawl.)
* * * * * * * * * *
For the last weeks I've been working with prisoners to produce some pieces to be read at the carol service next week. Today we had our final rehearsal. Because the chapel is being renovated, the service will be happening in the visiting area, so the chaplain took us over there for a dry run.
I started out with 3 volunteers; I've ended up with 2 completely different men. Watching them standing up and reading tonight I got quite emotional, and I don't do emotion. Next week on Monday and Tuesday they'll be doing it for real in front of 120 people each evening. That'll be a mix of invited guests, from volunteers to 'important ' people like the Lord Lieutenant, and prisoners, some of whom will be hoping for a laugh if their mates make a mess of it. 'My boys' will need extra courage next week.
Although I'm not sure why I'm worrying about them: one at least is in for violent crime and they're both able to take care of themselves! But they're such lovely boys.
My head says, 'No, I'm far too busy.'
My heart says, 'She's really needs help.'
My mouth says, 'Yes.'
Alun is going to give me lessons in saying no. His assertiveness training worked quite well; I boss him now.
So I replan my day.
I'll walk George, shower, help at the cafe, write some articles - oops, no, I'll go to the prison, then I'll write ... no, I'll have to go to Tesco's to get some food ... but then I'll write - no, I'll cook dinner before going to Zac's. Ah, well, there's always tomorrow. But first I want a drink of water.
In the kitchen I turn on the tap: no water comes out. 'What on earth ... oh, fiddle, they're turning off our supply today.' Oh, pooper-scoopers! So plan is changed again to include a trip to Linden to use the - manky - shower there.
I'm getting undressed and allowing the shower to warm up when I notice water on the floor. Whoops! The showerhead is pointing outwards. Still it's only a little flood.
I get the feeling it's going to be one of those days.
Monday, December 08, 2008
But I digress. When we'd finished unloading all the leftovers at various charity shops, we discovered a teddy had been left behind. 'I'll take it home for George,' I said.
Within 20 minutes this is what George had done to teddy.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
First off Sue told the story of Christmas, then the children coloured in cut-out characters. So far so good. Then Sue had planned that they'd make rice-krispie-cake mangers. All I had to do was melt the chocolate in the microwave.
A word of advice: always try to avoid burning chocolate in a microwave; it makes the room very smokey and smelly.
I blame the microwave myself.
As someone said, maybe it should have been called something other than a Christmas Fair as the area we're based in is predominantly Muslim/Indian ...
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
First of all there are the takers. The ones whose lives are so messed up that there's no room for giving or even thinking about it. Selfishness is almost an understood part of the condition. And that's fine; that's what Zac's is there for.
The next - very small - group take and could give but don't unless they really really have to. And, by the way, I'm not talking about financial giving.
The third group is the one I consider myself part of. I take but also try to give back when I can. The bikers belong to this group and I know they do a whole lot of stuff the specifics of which I'm unaware of.
And then there's Kev. Kev does it all. There are others like him but I'm picking him out specially because he's my co-organiser for Saturday's Christmas Fair. And if he hadn't been there I'd have really been wobbly on a straggly branch by now. (Sean and the bikers are away this weekend; yes, I know that's bad planning!)
Kev's done loads of manual labour in Zac's over the last months and he's well aware of the financial problems and wants to help. He doesn't have a lot materially and his life hasn't been easy but that doesn't stop him. We took some posters round local shops today and then flyered a couple of streets that hadn't been done. In that hour we saw a couple of Big Issue sellers and an addict and Kev knew them all by name. He hugged one and had words of encouragement for each.
He has a huge generosity of spirit that floods every aspect of his life - and a wonderful oop-north accent. Here's to you, Kev!
From the Retrieva website:
Fed up with their mischievous canines roaming too far and the increasing number of dogs being stolen, the founders of Retrieva have developed a solution to instantly locate your dog by linking a Retrieva collar to your mobile phone to show its position.
All you need to do is open the mapping application on your phone and request the collar’s location, which will then appear live on the map.
The ICyou is an automated monitoring system that will alert you if the dog leaves home unexpectedly.
Sounds ideal. Husband grumbled that it didn't give the dog a short sharp shock if he left the garden but the only problem I see is that my mobile phone is old-tech. Oh, and it costs about £250. As Husband said, 'It'd be cheaper to put electric fencing all the way round the garden.'
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Stage 1: mixing everything together. I made Younger Son come and stir and make a wish. 'I'm busy,' he grumbled. 'Why do I have to make a wish?'
'Because it's tradition.'
'But you've never made puddings before.'
'Traditions have to start somewhere. Just stir and wish!'
Stage 2: all lined up in my lovely new Lakeland plastic pudding basins.
Stage 4: a finished mini-pudding. Question: how do you tell if a pudding is cooked?
At the restaurant for his birthday meal, Husband chose the Christmas pudding for afters. He said it was quite nice but lacked texture.
'Yes, it was very sameish.' He went on to tell me about the best Christmas pudding in the world. 'Do you remember Evelyn, the Scottish lady who used to work with me?'
'Well, she used to bring in her home-made puddings and they used to have crunchy bits. they were the best.'
So no pressure then.
I've searched through lots of recipes and couldn't find any with nuts in, but if Husband wants nuts he shall have nuts. I threw some pecans in. Along with about twice as much rum as the recipe said. I didn't think it looked enough.
I shall let you know his verdict after Christmas.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
What do you see? A snow-covered valley maybe?
It's actually the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield, between Banff and Jasper National Parks. A huge stretch of 400-year-old ice. How huge? See the smudge circled in the photo below?
That's a snocoach, used to carry tourists onto the glacier. There are only 23 of these buses in existence: 22 are used on the icefield; one is owned by the US government and based in Antarctica. There are 6 wheels on each bus and the tyres cost $5,000 each.
Although the glacier is enormous it's only the edge of the Columbia Icefield and just up from where we were standing there are crevasses so deep that 14 buses - 7 down and 2 side by side - could be fitted in.
Meltwater from the Icefield flows to three oceans: Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic via Hudson Bay.
To take part in ABC Wednesday, visit mrs nesbitt.
Last Sunday she brought the shortbread to church for me. She said, 'There are two rounds and one is for you.' She knows how much I love it.
But, sighing deeply at my own nobility and generosity, I thought I'd give both to Zac's. Then I opened the packing and saw what Heinke'd written on it. 'For Liz (all for herself)'
Well, I couldn't' go against her so clearly stated wishes could I?
Monday, December 01, 2008