Friday, July 31, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Entertainment

Street musicians entertain the crowds on their way to the Millennium Stadium to watch Wales take on Australia at rugby. They are a Max Boyce tribute band called Boycezone. (Max Boyce is a famous [in Wales!] entertainer renowned for his love of Welsh rugby. It was he who originated the phrase, 'Oggi oggi oggi, oi oi oi!' with which I'm sure you'll be familiar!)
To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

Silly Week

Man in a Shed declared this to be Bloggers' Silly Week.

Yesterday, during a brief respite from the rain that's been blessing us almost incessantly for the last umpteen weeks, Swansea's council workmen were out on the streets - watering hanging baskets on lamp-posts.

Positive Day in the Blogosphere

Positive Day in the Blogosphere is the idea of a 12-year-old girl; you can read about its origins here.

I love my life.
I have a wonderful family, a good home, enough money, and a stupid dog.
I'm healthy, I live by the sea in Wales, and God loves me.
Is it any wonder I love my life?

Round the cliffs this time

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Persecution postscript

Why do bad things happen?

Sometimes bad things happen to us because of bad choices we make e.g. using heroin leading to illness or prison. Sometimes bad things happen because of decisions made by others e.g. corporate greed over the welfare of people. And sometimes bad things just happen e.g. Husband having cancer. I suppose fundamental Christians would explain it by saying that when Eve disobeyed God and ate the apple, evil was let loose in the world.

But if God hadn't created us with free will and the ability to make choices, be they bad or good, we'd be no more than robots living in a Stepford world. It's just unfortunate that with free will comes selfishness and greed.

There are so many things I just don't know or understand; I will have loads of questions for God when I meet him.

On Sunday I was talking to someone I respect, someone who had made bad choices and was going one way when he 'encountered God', became a Christian and turned his life around. I was saying how amazing it had been that the sun had shone for the wedding in the field the previous day when on the days before and after it there had been torrential rain. My friend said, 'God cares about the little things. I was doing my garden the other day and I'd just finished when the rain started. I went in and said to my wife, "Isn't God wonderful not letting the rain begin until my work was done?"'
'But,' I said, 'what about the man down the road who had only just started on his gardening?'
'Well, he should have started earlier when I did!'

Like many people who've made a dramatic change in their lives - smoker to non-smoker, steak-eater to vegetarian - he is full of fervour for the cause and everything is black and white. I have a lot of problems with some Christians.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Welshcake's Chicken

Saw this recipe on Welshcake's blog today and gave it a try for dinner tonight.

I used passata and chilli instead of making my own tomato sauce (as Pat does) and could have done with a bit more chilli. Also cooking it for 50 minutes left the chicken a bit overcooked so maybe my bite-sizes were too small. I liked the addition of the jar of roasted peppers though.

But you see, even with a Sicilio-Welsh recipe I can't get away from the British idea of meat and two veg dinners.

A plethora of pink (-y purple)

Flowers on the tip yesterday.
From left: Don't know; policeman's helmet; buddleia; teasel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Follow me and be persecuted

Nick over at nickhereandnow is a very good blogger. An intelligent writer who produces concise posts that are often thought-provoking. He recently covered the case of a woman who'd had a liposuction operation that had gone terribly wrong with the final result that she died, aged 42. Nick covered the topic well and included this sentence: This dreadful saga of incompetence and misfortune certainly undermines belief in some benign creator watching over us and keeping us from harm.

In my comment I asked Nick which religion he was talking about. In his reply he said: Certainly that's the understanding of most common folk, who consequently ask why so many disasters are allowed to happen....

If a blogger less moderate or wise had said that it wouldn't have worried me but the fact that Nick, who is clearly of an independent and liberal mind, was under the impression that God keeps us from harm, is of concern.

Jesus himself said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross.' (Matthew 16:24) The cross of Christ led to torture and death; for us to take up our cross doesn't sound like a promise of good times ahead.

I have often thought that God made a big mistake with his PR campaign. 'Follow me and you might get persecuted or killed' isn't the sort of slogan to attract followers. On the other hand, 'follow me and nothing bad will ever happen to you again' is a definite winner in my book.

But then again he is a god of justice so surely it would only be fair, if he promised us a good life, for him to expect something in return? Like, 'I'll look after you as long as you never do, think or say anything bad ever again.'

If those were his words I'd be screwed from the moment I got out of bed in the morning. Or even before that. My name would have been taken off the heavenly roll call before the ink had time to dry.

Thankfully, that's not what he says. He says, 'come as you are.' It's as simple as that. Shit happens and it happens to everyone. What Jesus did promise was to be with us always, to help us through the trials we all have to face in life.

Nick, in response to my comments, also wrote: I'm not sure that someone in a refugee camp or being tortured would get that much reassurance from the knowledge that Jesus is with them, but maybe they would see it differently....

I think the answer to that is that, yes, they would see it differently. I've never been tortured (unless you count having to watch Wales being crushed by England in rugby - you see, my tutor on my writing course told me off for doing that - she said 'you can't resist putting in a joke, can you? You build up the tension and then wallop, it's ruined!) but I've been through trials in my life and I've known the love and support of God through the bad times. It's not something that can be explained but it's real.

Corrie ten boom, a Dutch Christian who was in a concentration camp during the war, and saw her sister die there, has written books about her experiences. One of the stories she tells that I like best is about being a child anticipating a train journey. Her father wouldn't give her the money until the very last moment even though she asked him for it in advance. But he always gave it to her at just the right time. I'm hoping that if I ever face torture for my faith that God will give me the courage and strength I need. If I consider it now I suspect I would only have to have my feet tickled and I'd renounce everything but I truly hope that having God with me would make the difference if ever it came to that.

Which is slightly off the point that I started from. And I'm sure there was more I wanted to say about God being benign, yes, but also an angry God who hates injustice and evil. Jesus demonstrated the righteous anger of God when he overturned the traders' tables in the temple as they were obstructing the way of ordinary people who just wanted to get in to the temple to worship God.

Now George is nagging for a walkie so I'll think about this post while in the woods and see if I need to amend or add anything.

A close encounter

Yesterday, while walking through town, I got whacked on the nose by a pigeon.

At first I thought something had been thrown at me but then I saw the pigeon. A pigeon with poor navigational skills obviously. I assume it was the tip of his wing but it was surprisingly hard.

* * * * * * * * *

About three years ago we started looking at kitchens with the intention of changing ours, which is pretty tatty round the edges. And in the middles. Then Elder Son decided to get married so we put the kitchen off. Then it was the hall and the courtyard that took priority.

On Saturday Husband tried to repair the leaky kitchen sink. After a visit to B&Q to buy new washers, he discovered it wasn't the plug and pipe that were leaky: there is a huge crack across the sink basin.

So I suppose that means our kitchen revamp is going to be back on and sooner rather than later. And that means I have to make a decision about what style kitchen I want. I have some definites:
has to be easy to keep clean i.e. no fancy handles or whirly bits;
and - well, that's about it really.

I would like a pale colour scheme but that's totally impractical when we have a muddy dog and a slut for a housekeeper. But, if it were pale, would I be more scrupulous about cleaning?

I definitely don't want dark wood as the kitchen doesn't get a lot of light. And I don't want any of these shiny hard surfaces that show smears and finger-prints. And no glass because that shows the dust inside. (How does dust get inside cupboards?)

Thinking about it what I really want is a housekeeper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Monochrome Maniacs

To take part in Monochrome Maniacs, go here.

Me, the curtains and the wedding in a field

Silly pose is to show off the butterfly sleeves. And I've got a yellow daisy in my hair - but you can't see it. I'm not sure that anyone would want curtains made of out that though ... (Note: On seeing my dress first time, Husband commented that it'd make a good pair of curtains.)

Bride and groom, Ellie and James. The bride wore a beautiful long white dress - probably the most - or only - conventional thing about the wedding.
I helped prepare the buffet and was in charge of the cheese table on the day. Bad move to put a cheese lover in that position, especially one who's supposed to be dieting.

After the food came the dancing.

After several weeks of pretty bad weather it was a blessing to see the sun, and a wonderful time was had by all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Utensils

One of my most important utensils: my potato masher.
Daughter has always loved mashed potato - she's even been known to eat mashed potato sandwich - so my masher is well used. And my favourite potatoes for mashing are the red Desiree, which have a nice waxy texture that makes a firm and scrumptious mash.
To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's against the law

Just had a delivery from Sainsburys and one of my items wasn't included. The delivery man was very apologetic but he said, 'I'm sorry; it's against the law.'

I'd ordered 2 boxes of paracetamol and 1 of ibuprofen and he was only allowed to deliver 2 boxes altogether. Honestly, do they think I'm going to go to the bother of doing a Sainsburys shop and then kill myself?

There have been times in the past when I was tempted to kill myself to avoid having to go to Sainsburys but it's all right because I'm on medication now.

The law is very foolish sometimes.

Opanti - the ancient art of knicker arranging

I believe I have perfected the art of surreptitiously pulling up my knickers while walking without missing a beat.

Of course someone walking behind me may be thinking, 'Look at that woman pulling up her knickers!' But I am confident of my subtlety.

I suppose the answer is to wear knickers that don't fall down but I seem to be in-between sizes so they're either a little tight or a little loose, and, with those choices, I'll go for comfort every time. Alternatively I could opt for hand-made-to-measure silken drawers. Mmm, I can just feel the silk sensually slipping over my skin. Who couldn't feel wonderful wearing those?

But I can't afford that so I guess it's back to M&S for 3 for £5.

Do I have a knicker obsession, do you think? I am aware that the topic crops up quite a lot in this blog. But I'm a woman and the things that are important to women are family, dog, bra and knickers. And c*******e of course but I'm not mentioning that as I'm on a diet. Or as Husband calls it, a lifestyle change. Ptath. (I don't know how to spell the noise that is rather like an expanded raspberry.)

I might be a woman but I felt decidedly lacking in the feminine graces while walking in the woods in the rain today. I encountered the transvestite who works in a shop in town and is normally to be found wearing hot-pants. Even in the torrential rain he managed to look charming in full make-up while I'd only just remembered to wash my face before going out. 'Tis a lesson to us all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oggi, oggi, oggi

Arriving at the beauty clinic I noticed a big posh car outside. 'Is that your Bentley?' I asked my electrician.
'No!' she laughed. 'It's Max Boyce's. He's in next door having a meal.'
'Who's Max Boyce?' asked her young trainee torturer.
'Oggi, oggi, oggi,' I said.
She looked at me for a moment and then turned to her boss and said, 'Who's Max Boyce?'

Have I mentioned that electrolysis hurts? It doesn't get any better the more you have. And now she's trying to persuade me to have my lip waxed. For heaven's sake, do I look like a masochist?

Nice hair, shame about the ...

I was standing next to the counter in Zac's last night when Steve walked past. He said, 'You've had your hair done, Liz,' before continuing to the kitchen where he turned around and came straight back. 'It looks nice,' he said, proudly adding, 'I'm on lesson 2 in the Smooth Operator's Handbook: it's not enough to notice; you have to say it looks nice too.'

I'll have to get that book for Husband although, to be fair, he did say my hair looked nice. Although he would have got more brownie points if he'd looked at my hair before saying it.

* * * * * * * *

I am under instructions to take Betty Beetle next week. She's not been out since her right indicators stopped doing what they're supposed to do and my arm gets wet in the rain. The boys are bringing their meters and are going to sort her out for me. I knew there had to be some benefit from hanging around with bikers. (But nobody's offered me a ride on a Harley yet.)

* * * * * * * *

My apple surprise cake (it'll be a surprise if you find any apple in it) went down well even with Martin. 'That was okay,' he said. 'Not too sweet. You've almost got it right.' (He is so asking for a slap.) And Jim, who's very particular, gave me the thumbs-up, as did Freya Dog when I gave her the crumbs.

* * * * * * * *

Ah, yes, the bible study. A little disrupted. Just for a change. We've reached the bit where David finally becomes king of Israel. Will he go the way Saul went? Will he stop making mistakes? Is the pope Jewish?

After the reading and a bit of discussion Sean asked if anyone else had anything to add. Gerry, who'd just stumbled in, put up his hand. 'You're talking bollocks, Sean.' At least that's what I think he said; it was a little hard to decipher.

So, just another night at Zac's tribal gathering.

The canal in the sky

On Sunday we drove over to Llangollen, home of the world-famous international eisteddfod, with the intention not of seeing the town itself - pretty though it was - but to find the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Built over a ten-year period from 1795, the aqueduct carries the Llangollen canal 127' (39m) above the River Dee.

Designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, it was one of the earliest aqueducts to use a cast iron trough, and there are eighteen of these pillars, made of local stone. On one side of the trough is the footpath and railing; on the other thin air. I walked about a quarter of the way across the footpath (don't believe Husband when he says I only did about one tenth; it felt like a quarter) when my stomach contracted and I hastened back from whence I had come rather than carry on and risk a full-scale panic. Husband, of course, 'felt the fear and did it anyway'. Huh!
But I managed it quite happily when we took the boat ride across. And I still have no idea how to pronounce its name.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Climbing Snowdon postscript

"An estimated 500 people took part in what was the 34th International Snowdon Race.
The winner, for the fourth year in a row, was Andi Jones from England, who completed the 10-mile route in 1 hour 8 minutes."
From the BBC Wales

The BBC also reported that a 45-year-old man collapsed and died during the race.

* * * * * * * * * *

In 1998 Elder Son, who was then 17, took part in the Three Peaks Challenge. This involves walking to the top of Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell (England) and Snowdon (Wales) one after the other, in this case in 33 hours. Elder Son was one of a group of mainly young people attempting this to raise funds for our church youth project - this became Red Cafe. ES had his photo in the paper as the youngest in the group along with the oldest who was 73.

The attempt happened over the August Bank Holiday period and the weather was appalling. The poor things got soaked while walking and had to travel between mountains, wet and miserable, in a hideously uncomfortable minibus. Snowdon was last on the list and, sadly, they were only able to walk up part of it as expert advice deemed it too dangerous to continue.

Having completed just the Snowdon walk I am even fuller of admiration for ES and his chums for getting as far as they did. It was a truly awesome achievement.

Climbing Snowdon

'I'm not very good with heights. Or with edges of mountains,' I said. 'So I don't want a difficult path. On the other hand I don't want the longest path either.' With these requisites in mind we asked the man (youth barely out of his teens) on reception in our hotel to suggest a path.

There are six paths up Snowdon of varying difficulty and length; he recommended taking the pyg track up and the miners' track back. When we got to Pen-y-pass at the start of the pyg track we read the noticeboard: this is the most challenging of the paths up Snowdon. Oh whoopee!

Fortunately it was possible to make it less challenging by taking the 'easy' version of the path. The hard path involved walking along this ridge - seen from the 'easy' path we were on. If you look closely you can see tiny figures on the top. This was a serious ridge suitable for very experienced walkers.
'Tell me again: why are we walking up here?' I had to ask. At this point we're just about to start on the final, steepest, hands and knees bit into the mist.

Obviously this photo was taken from lower down but that's the mist we're about to enter. Abandon hope ...

Actually it was like sale time in Debenhams by now. We were queuing to manoeuvre the difficult bits. But finally we made it (see Monochrome Maniac photo below). Honest. That is the top of the mountain.
This year a new visitor centre/cafe was opened up there, much to the disapproval of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, apparently. Prince Charles can keep his opinions to himself because:
a) he doesn't even live in Wales;
b) I doubt he has ever walked up Snowdon and so wouldn't know of the need for a cup of tea;
c) it's very sympathetically built of granite so it blends into the surroundings. Not that it could be a blur on the landscape as the landscape is never visible!
Hafod Eryri, the visitor centre, replaces the old building, designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmeirion fame), which, because of its great age, had fallen into disrepair and had high maintenance costs.
While we in the queue for tea Husband remarked that we were older than most of the other walkers. We felt good about this - for a while - until we began the downward trek where we encountered the Snowdon Race runners. 'Ah, that's where all the old men are!'

Husband is of the opinion that men reach a certain age and voices in their heads tell them to 'run up Snowdon before it's too late'. They run up and down the 'easiest' path next to the little train track. Ten miles in all and the fastest do it in less than one hour.
It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to cover the 3.5 miles up, and 2 hours and 5 minutes to walk the slightly longer - 4 miles - route back. And considering the noticeboard said to allow 6 hours we thought that was pretty good.
My calves have just about stopped aching ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monochrome Maniacs

Not a good photo but an important occasion! In the centre of the top group of people, with hands on hips is Husband. He's standing on the cairn on the top of Snowdon, highest mountain in Wales. Yes, we did it! We walked to the top! But as you can see, conditions up there were not good.
Lots more details and photos of our long weekend in North Wales to follow, but, in the meantime, to take part in Monochrome Maniacs, go here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Great Toilet Roll Debate

We're off to North Wales tomorrow for a long weekend staying in Betws-y-coed, a pretty little village, in Snowdonia country. On three occasions we've stayed in North Wales planning to walk up Snowdon, the highest mountain in the principality, and each time weather has defeated us.

One time it was so bad we couldn't see the top of Snowdon; another time we decided to ride on the little train, which got about one third of the way up and then stopped because conditions were too dangerous. As I write this the rain outside is torrential. What chance of making it to the summit this year?

Daughter and Son-in-law (plus Holly Dog and Charlie Cat) are coming to look after George. We're waiting for them to arrive now.

So as I won't be blogging for a few days here's a question for you. How do you hang your toilet roll?

I'm an advocate of B. On the occasions (rare) when another member of the family replaces the toilet roll if they happen to hang it the 'wrong way round' I surreptitiously change it. I don't want to risk offence and put them off doing it altogether but I have to have it the right way.

So what's your view on the Great Debate? Incidentally I didn't know there was a Great Debate - I thought it was my little foible - until I happened to come across this image while surfing today. The internet's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's St. Swithin's day

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

So far so good. It hasn't rained, at least not since I've been up and that's what counts. Although it looks as if it might be saving itself for our walkies.

P.S. The Met Office has put this rhyme to the test and on 55 occasions a wet St. Swithin's day has not been followed by 40 days of rain.

But no neeps and tatties

I'm off out tonight to join others for a 60th birthday surprise meal for a friend. In fact, she only lives across the road but we see each other once a year if we're lucky. And then it's usually in Sainsburys. That's the problem when children grow up and don't need collecting from school, and mums go out to work; we lose touch with each other.

Husband is staying home - it's a girls' night out - and cooking his own dinner. He's having haggis that was discovered in my spring clean of the pantry. My uncle bought it back from Scotland for us about 2 years ago and it passed its Best Before date in March.

Ach, it's tinned; it'll be fine. And Husband has the malt whisky with which to toast it.

What do you wear to a wedding in a field?

Last time I went to a wedding in a field I wore 'wedding' clothes and looked like a twit. This time I asked the bride what I should wear. She said, 'Something floaty.'

So I've bought a long floaty dress, very 60s, retro, psychedelic. If it pours with rain, it will hide my wellies and not show the mud.

Daughter says I should get some non-hippy friends, but I like the ones I have.

First dress I tried on I did like but then saw my face. Old face, young dress. Didn't go together. I do hate those changing rooms that 'help' you by letting you view yourself from every conceivable angle. I don't want to see myself from there!

Although I did buy a Barbie t-shirt but sadly not in bright pink.

P.S. I thought Husband would laugh when he saw my dress so, to get that out of the way, I tried it on to show him.

He didn't laugh! He said it looked nice.

But he couldn't resist adding, 'It'll make a lovely pair of curtains afterwards.'

I'm thinking of putting him on ebay. One Husband, slightly worn but good about the house. That's a point: he's only halfway through fixing the pond; I'd better keep him.

For a while.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stuart: A Life Backwards

On his blog a few months ago, Furtheron did a review of a book called Stuart: A Life Backwards. He raved about it so I ordered it and am currently about three-quarters of the way through.

It's the biography of a homeless man told working backwards through his life, the biographer trying to find an answer to the questions of what made Stuart what he was and how he ended up as he did (dead at 34).

Alexander Masters, the author, says there are numerous types of homeless person, with people like Stuart, the chaotic homeless, at the very bottom of the heap. '... they are the worst face of homelessness and, when not the most hateful, the most pitiable extremity of street life.'

As Masters explains, the Stuarts of the world rend your heart one moment and the next you could happily kill them. Yep, I've seen that sort in Zac's and in prison. Masters also tells of the street community, the sense of belonging and camaraderie that I've witnessed amongst rough sleepers. It's a very real and authentic book as far as I can judge.

Most of all though, I suppose, the book reminds me that being nice, saying a kind word, baking a cake, doesn't change lives as screwed up as these. All the things we try and do may better the situation for five minutes but then it's gone. For chaotics like Stuart there seems very little hope.

Yesterday Furtheron emailed me to ask what I thought of the book. I replied with much of what I've said here, adding that, as a Christian, I should believe that God can make a difference. And I do believe he can. I just don't think he does very often. (Although life changing takes a response and desire on the part of the person; it's not just God flicking a switch and making us different.) Quite depressing really.

And then last night Sean, who was unaware of this conversation, emailed me a link to the Discussion Board on the Zac's Place Facebook. Sean had asked the question: what was your first experience of Zac's?

Mark had written:
My first experience of Zac's place..........hard to remeber. To be honest I was so off my face during that period ofmy life......? One thing that i will never forget is that it is where I first found Christ. Not in a head knowledge way but in a deep, heart knowledge. It was the first place I found Gods unconditional love, acceptance and grace in action. Not people talking it but people living it. Authentic faith and deeds in action.

Mark's now in Bible College.

Okay, God, I'm sorry I said you didn't change lives very often. (But you could still do it more often!!) (Please!!)

Monday, July 13, 2009

I am such a girl ...

when it comes to parallel parking.

It wasn't part of the test back in the good old days or I'd still be attempting to pass.

It's not that I can't do it: I can. It's more that it takes me a few tries Which is fine until some nice kind motorist insists on waiting for me to finish, ignoring my frantic signals to 'Pass, please pass!' I've been known to ignore spaces that would comfortably accommodate a double decker bus if there's a motorist on my tail.

And even when I accomplish the task one or more of my wheels is likely to be on the pavement. Or 3' from the kerb.

And talking of signals, rude ones are wasted on me.

A man on a mobility scooter made a strange arm signal to me today. I have no idea what it meant but, judging from the look on his face, it wasn't 'Have a nice day.' I don't know why: I hadn't done anything. I wasn't even close to him. Perhaps it was 'Have a nice day.'

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Monochrome Maniacs

To take part in Monochrome Maniacs, go here.

Red Arrows in Swansea

If you enlarge the first photo you'll see lots of alarmed seagulls.The building on the left is Swansea's newest - and not yet completed - high rise, with very expensive apartments (allegedly). I've been told it's the tallest residential building in Wales.
The little boy standing near us on the beach said this was the badge of the Red Arrows. Little boys know about these things.

And when we were waiting in between events I honed my grandma skills. Some talents you never lose.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Behind bars again

I'm in prison tomorrow. I think I'm in there more than some prisoners. I wasn't supposed to be in tomorrow but ... I am. And we're doing a presentation. There was a slight panic as, up till Friday, we didn't have a musician but wonderful Maureen, the Roman Catholic chaplain, found us an organist. Ande is doing the talky bit and I'll tie it all together.

Ande has said he's going to be talking on the verse in - um, can't remember - where the question is asked: who is this Jesus? I don't know what he's planning on saying but when I was walking in the woods I thought about the same question. I read my reflection in Zac's, and, apart from a couple of minor changes to make it flow more easily, I was happy with it, so I'll read this before doing the prayers in prison tomorrow.

Who is this Jesus?
He is mother, brother, friend, lover. He opens wide his arms and says, ‘Come, I call you by name.’
He is forgiver. He says, ‘Come, don’t be afraid. I may hate what you’ve done but I won’t stop loving you.’
He is healer. He says, ‘Come, with your broken body and your broken heart. Let me kiss you better.’
He is the beginning, the end and the middle. He says, ‘Come, I will be there for you. I have always been there for you. I am here for you right now.’
He is the assurance - no, he is my assurance that even a no-good like me is good enough.
He is my hope, my only hope.
He is my all.


Best before

I have never claimed to be the world's best housekeeper but even I was surprised, when spring-cleaning my pantry this afternoon, to discover a bottle 6 years past its Best Before date.

But it is anchovy sauce and I am of the belief that anything that contains vinegar will last for ever.

But why, you might ask, was I spring-cleaning my pantry on a beautiful July summer afternoon?

Because it was piddling down.

Our original plan was to walk to the promenade, just down the road, and watch the Red Arrows and other aviators do their stuff over the bay, as part of the Wales Airshow. We got as far as the prom, walked along the beach a little and found we couldn't even see the Guildhall, which at that point was about one mile away and is a fairly prominent feature of the Swansea landscape. So we came home again.

Or rather I danced home twirling the umbrella. I've always hated umbrellas but, you know, when you've got plenty of space they make a great accompaniment. I think I was born to be an umbrella-wielding pirouettist. Husband is of the opinion that Gene Kelly has a lot to answer for. He - Husband that is not Gene - and George walked as far away from me as they could.

The airshow is on again tomorrow. Let's home the clouds part long enough for a quick fly-past.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Garbage

One man's garbage is another man's cafe counter.

Our church owns a property in Mumbles and during school holidays we run a community cafe there. (The rest of the time it's used primarily as a base for our youth project work.) As far as possible we stock and use fairtrade, ethical and green products. The counter is made from 'found' wood with glass panels made from old bottles; the top surface was created from old plastic bags and mugs.

To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mourning the dead

So Zac's on Tuesday. I have been putting off writing this as I feel I should write something thoughtful and serious but nothing's coming to mind.

And why do I feel the need to be thoughtful and serious? Because we'd reached the bit in the story of David where he hears of the deaths of Saul (who was anointed king but had been trying to kill David) and his son, Jonathan, David's best friend. David writes a lament and commands that his men should learn it so that Saul and Jonathan would be remembered. From that we were considering how our society deals with death, a peculiarly apposite discussion coinciding as it did with the funeral of Michael Jackson. (Incidentally I didn't see any of that but heard it was a surprisingly dignified affair.)

And, of course, it was July 7th, 7/7, and the day a sculpture, commemorating those who lost their lives in the London bombings, was unveiled. (For a different and moving account of the day of the bombings, visit Lia's site.)

But most poignant for us at Zac's were the words uttered by one of the rough sleepers. David had instructed his people not to let the Philistines, the old enemy know that Saul had died as he didn't want them mocking and deriding the deceased king. 'Yeah, that's right, see,' said our rough sleeper. 'My mate died last week from an overdose. I found him. He was a big man and everyone was nice to his face but when I told them he was dead they all started bad-mouthing him. I tell you I never want to find someone dead again. The police think it's murder, that someone gave him the overdose.'

That in itself was bad enough but he continued, 'My sister died 1995, cancer, and I've never got over that.' He could only have been in his late twenties/early thirties, and he'd carried grief with him for fourteen years.

We don't deal well with death. I believe in Africa it's more of a ritual, with an open expression of grief - weeping and wailing - and then getting on with life. We get on with life but very often fail first to release the pain in an effective way.

The death of Diana saw a great public outpouring of grief, a very un-British outpouring that shocked both watchers and those involved. It was as if permission had somehow been given for people to let go and release sorrow that possibly had been buried for years but that found its way out, that was given an outlet that made it respectable.

I'm not emotional. As I've said before I'm a hard-hearted cow. Very little touches me. I suspect it's a side effect of the pills I take to keep my anxiety at bay. Or maybe it was experience that caused me to build the wall around my heart. I don't want to be this way: I want to experience the highs and lows that enable us to live fully. Hey, just a minute, how have I got here, bemoaning my own hard-heartedness, when I started with nothing to say?!

It was an interesting discussion on Tuesday and showed yet another side of David: he is wonderfully and reassuringly human.

And my date flapjacks proved very popular. I deliberately didn't say they contained dates as I knew someone would say, ' I don't like dates,' and not try them. Better to discover afterwards, as Di did, that she'd been thoroughly enjoying something she hates!

And I got a marriage proposal. I think they have a rota depending on the type of cake.

Dentist laundering

I am convinced our dental practice is in reality a launderette for illegal Eastern European immigrants.

Each time I go there I am seen by a different dentist, all of whom are female and Eastern European. The latest is called Ilyiana and is from Bulgaria. Still they're all very nice and seem to do an okay job.

I hate going to the dentist. When I know I have an appointment coming up it hangs like a black cloud over my week, so when I had my check-up on Wednesday and she said one of my old fillings needed replacing and would I like it done there and then, I said yes.

She began to get things ready and I asked, 'Am I having an injection?'
'No, I don't think you'll need it.'
'Are you sure?'
'I think so. You can tell me if it hurts.'

You think so? How sure is that? And by the time it hurts it's too late!

It didn't.

We struggled to find an NHS dentist when our previous one went private. The ones who still took NHS patients were completely full. It became such a scandal/crisis that the local paper started reporting when a new practice was opening but if you didn't phone within 5 minutes of the paper being printed, you'd be too late. Finally we were put on a waiting list and told when we'd been allocated to one. That took about 18 months.

I believe dentists stopped co-operating with the NHS over funding. But I've never seen a poor dentist, have you?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

This evening I felt like murdering someone.

No-one in particular, and I don't know why I should feel like this. (The feeling persists.) Assuming it's hormones and that I haven't developed homicidal tendencies all of a sudden, I should feel better in the morning.

I wanted to write about Bulgarian dentists and Zac's, as well as do some blog visiting, but I'm too edgy; it had better wait until tomorrow.

How much?!

The zip on my favourite skirt broke so I took it to the cleaners today to be repaired. (But I didn't tell Auntie Joan that when I visited her afterwards: she would have been shocked at my lack of needlewomanly skills.)
'That'll be £17.20,' the girl in the shop said.

It was only half an hour later, as I was returning to the car after doing some other shopping, that I realised that was more than I paid for the skirt originally.

90 today - or maybe yesterday

Auntie Joan (my great-aunt and widow of Uncle Horace) is 90 today. Although when I went to visit her, expecting her to have lots of visitors, she was alone, and from the number of cards she had already on display, and some of her comments, I was led to ask, 'It is your birthday today, isn't it?'
'Well, I found my long-lost birth certificate and actually I was born on the 7th July.'
Oh. And it seems that most people except me knew that. But she's not having her party until Saturday afternoon anyway.

And she was very pleased with my present (seen below - please excuse the reflection in the glass). 'Where did you get that photo from?!'

It turns out that the 'young Joan' photo was the one Uncle Horace carried in his wallet when he was in the RAF during the war.

Monday, July 06, 2009

If to err is human

As well as doing the weekly church notices on paper I do a short (1-2 minute) movie show highlighting upcoming events or things of particular importance - like birthdays. I always finish the show off with a funny picture and recently I've been working through the generous field of church signs.

The one I used yesterday, seen below, had me in stitches when I first read it, and I still chuckle each time I see it. After it had been shown yesterday, a very wise and Christian lady sitting next seat by one to me leaned forward and said, 'I don't understand it.'

As I explained it I thought to myself, 'And that just about sums up the difference between thee and me.

Thank goodness God has a soft spot for fools.

(Like me - in case there's any doubt about my meaning!)

(Thanks to

I am a freak of nature

It is confirmed. Not only had the beautician not seen hair growth like mine, she's also never seen a skin reaction like mine - lumpy and black.

I wonder if I should have told her about the St. John's Wort: when I took that it affected my eyesight.

And I haven't even shown her my toes and fingers.

On a more serious note, since becoming a beautician twenty years ago, she has seen an increase in hair growth when the opposite might have been anticipated. Very young children are being sent to her with excessive hair.

Is it something in the food we eat? The water we drink?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Answering questions

Saturday Photohunt post:

I was born with two bent little fingers and eleven toes. I am a mutant.

Food hygiene course:

The course was organised for those people who volunteer at the community cafe in the school holidays. As we sell food to the public it seemed like a good idea. In fact, I think it's actually a legal requirement that at least one person on duty has the qualification.

Not that it's going to change the way I do things at home! (Although I have bought two new coloured chopping boards: red for raw meat and green for fruit and veg.)

Monochrome Maniacs

One of my first attempts using the b&w setting on my camera.

To take part in Monochrome Maniacs, go here.

Can't spell for toffee

Blogger keeps accusing me of misspelling words that are blatantly not misspelled. Anyone else finding that?

And it seems to pick on words at random. Just one or two in a post. Most odd.

The pride of Lions

South Africa might say they won the series but on points and, more importantly, morally, the British and Irish Lions did. And I'm not in the least bit biased.

The third test on Saturday was a great game. In spite of injuries to many of the first choice team and replacements having to be drafted in, the Lions, and especially the Welsh Lions (again no bias there), far outplayed the Springboks. Oh, it was a great game!

We went to the pub to watch it but arrived late and the place was jam-packed. We ended up - Husband and I - at opposite ends of the bar, Husband leaning against a shelf and me peering in round the door. I have a stiff neck but it was worth it!

What's next now? The Autumn internationals I guess. we must try and get to at least one Wales game.

George! You BAD DOG!

This should have been half of a birthday cake I was making for a girl in church. Before George got at it. I didn't speak to him for the rest of the evening except to tell him how naughty he was. I was still grumbling at him this morning much to his bemusement.

I kept my second attempt well out of his way.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Pink

My bent pinkie.
To take part in Saturday Photohunt visit tnchick.


Electrolysis hurts!!

'Is the current all right for you?' the evil practitioner of the ancient art of hair removal asked.
'Yiip!' I squeaked feebly.
'It's at its highest level and it's working well.'

Apart from the pain and redness and soreness and the fact I've got to keep going regularly until she can get control over it, it was fine, honest. She was very nice and explained things to me.

I told her about my previous experience with laser and she was surprised it hadn't done a better job. I said I hadn't kept going partly because I didn't like the woman and partly because it was so expensive. She said, 'I'd have thought just 3 sessions, for £600, would have done it.'
How much?!!! And I thought £80 a session was too much!

She was surprised at my werewolf appearance though the hair growth isn't where it would normally be in menopausal women. She asked what creams I used as it had been discovered that lanolin encouraged hair growth. (A few years ago Oil of Ulay was rebranded and changed because it had contained lanolin.) Coincidentally I am using an Oil of Olay anti-ageing cream primarily on my neck where the unusual hair growth is happening. I shall stop using it just in case.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Food hygiene Level 2

Finally home after an intense 6 hours including an exam! A proper exam!! I don't do exams; I gave those up 35 years ago.

And I almost blew my chance of passing.

After completing the exam we were asked to do a course assessment and in the Any Other Comments bit I wrote: Please learn how to use apostrophes.

Which was a very fair comment - I thought - as the boxes on the assessment sheet were labelled Tutors name and Students name.

The tutor read my comment aloud and said, 'Who wrote that?' (They were anonymous.) Everyone pointed at me. 'It must be Liz.'
'Right, you've failed,' he said.

But when I made it clear that his PowerPoint presentation met my exacting standards and that it was the form produced by the college that was at fault, he relented.

Although it's not up to him as the exam papers are sent away to be marked. See, a proper exam!

And, as I anticipated, it's a wonder that anyone has survived after eating food produced by me in my kitchen.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oh so tired

I was supposed to be at another church meeting tonight. My official reason for not being there is that I ran out of time but really it's because I couldn't face getting cross again.

So what I'm supposed to be doing now instead is ironing. But it's too late and too hot and I'm too tired. I think I'll go to bed.

I'm on a food hygiene course all day tomorrow. I know I'm going to find out that it's amazing that nobody's been poisoned after eating food prepared by me in my kitchen.

I continue to believe that a bit of dirt is good for you.

What have you done today?

I've written 1,500 (and 33) words of my novel today. And I wrote 500 yesterday.

Better than housework.

Oh, and here's the jigsaw I completed. It just happens to be a collection of old Cadbury's chocolate adverts. Not pc by today's standards but fascinating.

Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin

I just slapped Husband's bald head.

'Why didn't you tell me I had a beard under my chin?'
'I don't notice these things, dear.'

I don't usually wear my glasses in the bathroom so I hadn't noticed either. I've booked an appointment for electrolysis on Friday.

You may remember that I had some laser treatment before. It did work on my chin but was very expensive (£80 a session - I didn't realise when I booked in - I thought it was £80 for the course of treatment). And I didn't like the woman doing it. Not that she was unpleasant; she just wasn't friendly.

So I've booked for electrolysis in a different place. I shall report back.

I just remembered ...

two signs I've seen recently.

The Mumbles fishmongers were advertising 'Fresh LOCAL shark'. Perhaps not the wisest thing to advertise in a seaside holiday resort.

And on our way to Hay we passed a sign for a chimp sanctuary. You have to wonder how many chimps come to mid-Wales seeking asylum.

But I didn't get a proposal

I try to take cake to Zac's and that's led to me receiving marriage - and other - proposals. Last week Nige said, 'I don't suppose you've changed your mind about not marrying me?' and Nick said, 'You should have moved in with me last week when my wife was away - and you could have cooked for me.' Um, yes.

Well, this week, not a single proposal of any sort. I said to Nige, 'What? My lemon cake not good enough?'
'I was late arriving and only had one piece; I couldn't base a proposal on that.'

Men are so flighty.

What do you think about Zac's?

When I arrived at Zac's last night Bas said, 'Oi you, I gotta talk to you,' and he nodded towards the kitchen.
'Oo er.'

It turned out that Sean was absolutely knackered and had asked if Bas and I could take the evening so he could stay home. 'He suggested we find out what people think about the study and whether it could be improved. Things like that,' Bas said.
'Oo er.'

So we did. Quite a few regulars were missing but the place was still full - and very very warm - and it turned out, as expected, that everyone loves it just the way it is. As Nick said, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Some of the points made were:
everyone is welcome from the homeless alcoholics to, well, me;
we're a community, a family, and we cover a huge spectrum of lifestyles;
we've developed and changed for the better from where we started;
it's not one person pontificating but everyone can join in;
different views can be shared and they're all respected.

Pete said he'd like more study; Raquel said she'd like some worship music; several people suggested something on Sundays; and everyone wanted to support Sean more.

As for me, yes, I love it: the place, the people, and what it gives me. I've learned so much and I was unbelievably thrilled to be asked to help Bas last night, to be trusted, to be considered one of the core, to be given such an opportunity.

We're in the middle of studying the life of David and we're using a book by Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message) as an aid. In it he writes, "When Christian communities are healthy, the 'little ones' aren't demeaned and dispirited into being followers and consumers but find themselves acquiring initiative and originality as their priests and pastors, deacons and bishops, friends and neighbours serve them."

That sums it up for me.