Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I've just been to the toilet

I knew you'd want to know that.

I'd wanted to go for ages but I kept putting it off. I know that's bad for me but I think, 'Oh, I need a wee,' and then not go until I'm desperate. I think it's just too much bother.

Now the snob in me just thought, 'You should replace toilet with lavatory.'
'But I don't say lavatory.'
'No, but toilet is very non-u. It will indicate your background and class.'
'I think it takes more than toilet to define me.'
'Until I was 13 we didn't even have an inside toilet.'

I was thinking about that in the shower this morning.

I was in circuit training last night and when I got home I showered. Then I watched a bit of television, went to bed, got up - and showered again.

When I was in my late teens I babysat for a rich couple. Rich compared to us. They lived in Caswell, a posh area of Swansea, in a big house. Driving past it these days, I realise it wasn't actually that big but it was new and modern and had TWO bathrooms, one up and one down, and in one there was a shower.

By then we'd only just progressed to an indoor bathroom. For most of my growing-up I went outside to the toilet and bathed in the kitchen. We were quite posh: we didn't use a tin bath in front of the fire; we had a plumbed-in bath in the kitchen. Although only plumbed in so far as we could let the water run out. It had to be filled from the Ascot water heater with a hosepipe. Sunday night was bath night and for the rest of the week the bath was hidden under a wooden cover that doubled up as a work surface.
Oh, look, the image I found of an ascot water heater is obviously from a museum!

Jesus is coming

I bought this card to stick up in the wall in work. Alun thinks we should photoshop it and replace the head with that of Janet, my boss. I said, 'Wouldn't that be a little sacrilegious?'
Alun just snorted.
But it's what we say in the office. 'Janet's coming. Look busy.' And it's the same with those little wristbands that used to be popular. You know the ones? You could get Make Poverty History and Breast Cancer ones, and all sorts. For Christians there was one with the letters WWJD, meaning What Would Jesus do? We always say, 'What would Janet do?'
I can't help thinking the Jesus on the card is a little cross-eyed though.
The card is from Paperchase, by the way.

Meeting Suburbia

Had a lovely day yesterday meeting fellow blogger, Suburbia, for lunch.

She lives in Bristol so we met up halfway in a pub in Cardiff and the time just flew by as we ate and chatted and discovered more about the names behind the blog. And I have to say that Suburbia is just like she is on her blog: bright and funny and cheerful and lovely!

I really enjoyed the time we spent together, so thank you, Suburbia!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Each peach, pear, plum

I was invited to Abby's birthday party on Saturday. She was three.

I only meant to go and drop off her present and say hello but I had such a good time I stayed.

I was sitting on the floor playing with wooden bricks with Aaron, who's nearly two. He knew rectangle and triangle and all the colours, and numbers. His mum reminded me that I'd bought him Each Peach, Pear, Plum when he was born. 'It's his favourite book,' she said, 'and he knows it off by heart.'
'I still do too,' I said. 'Each peach, pear, plum, I spy Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb in the cupboard, I spy ...'
'Mother Hubbard,' said Aaron.
His mum went on to recite the whole book and he got every one right - except the last line, which he deliberately gets wrong as a joke! It should be 'I spy everyone,' but Aaron says, 'I spy everyBODY!' and laughs.

I think he is quite possibly a child genius. And when he is a Nobel prize winner I hope he will remember my part in his development.

It is such a wonderful book. I have given it to lots of young parents.

You see, I am so desperate for grandchildren; I have to go and play with other people's.

Turning back the clock

About ten years ago our church split in a very destructive way. People on both sides were hurt and some still struggle with the memory.

The group that left started a new church just down the road and then, a couple of years ago, merged with another. Over the last nine months or so, people who left Linden have started drifting back, culminating yesterday in the return of the man who was one of the instigators of the split.

It wasn't a shock - he'd talked to our leaders beforehand and they in response had talked to us, seeking opinions and feelings - but at one point yesterday morning I glanced across the room and all I could see were 'returned' faces. It felt as if the clock had not gone forward an hour but leapt back ten years.

When Chris asked me how I would feel about this man returning I was able to say, 'Fine, no problem,' and I stand by that, but I hope and pray that we've all learned from the events of the past.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not just a woman thing

One day in work Husband felt like some chocolate.

There is a chocolate vending machine on one of the floors so he went through his pockets looking for change. He found none but by now his mouth was in chocolate-shape so he went down to the car where he knew there was some change in the little drawer in the dashboard.

When he got there he couldn't open the drawer. It's been sticking for a while so he kept twiddling with it, thinking it was bound to open eventually. It didn't.

Now the call of the chocolate bars was growing ever louder. Being all manly, and giving nay a thought to the consequences, he brutally forced the drawer open. Almost able to taste the chocolate on his tongue now, he grabbed money and flipped the drawer shut. It popped open again. He pushed it closed; it opened. 'Sod it,' he said, and that, dear reader, is why we have a permanently-open drawer in the car.

But Husband got his chocolate.

'Fine, thanks.'

I was just thinking that I should text a couple of people I hadn't seen for a while.

Every time I see one of them, I say, 'Hi, how you doing?' - and she tells me. Now I know I'm her friend and I want to be supportive but it would be wonderful if just once she replied by saying, 'Fine.'

But then again in all the time I've known her I've never had better than an 'Mm, so so.'

Happy birthday!

To Jams and Wendy! Have a birthday welshcake! xx

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Blogging in the dark

It's not easy blogging in the dark. If I'd been better prepared I'd have had more candles ready but being a bit out of touch with reality I only found out about Earth Hour at 7.45 pm.

From WWF's website:
WWF’s Earth Hour 2009 has one major aim - for people to unite and make a bold statement about their concerns about climate change, showing the world’s leaders that it is possible to take positive action.

On Saturday 28 March 2009 at 8.30 pm, we want a billion people across the world to turn off their lights for an hour - for WWF’s Earth Hour. Homes, businesses and iconic landmarks in more than 1,000 cities will go dark, sending a truly dramatic message to world leaders - simply by turning their lights off.

WWF Earth Hour

As far as I'm concerned it's a good wake-up call. Our house frequently resembles a lighthouse, with lights burning in every room. It's a waste of money and resources and turning off a light is simple. So why don't we do it?

But it's jolly difficult typing by candlelight!

What's afoot?

In Sainsburys this afternoon I wandered around the men's clothes section. They had shirts, trousers, jeans, ties, jumpers, pjs, boxers, slippers, shoes, everything ... except socks. I went to the Customer Service desk.

'I'm probably being very dense but where are the men's socks?'
'Oh, yes, of course they are ...'


I was doing the ironing in the kitchen when Husband walked through into the hall. After a minute or so he called, 'Can you move Betty for me?'
'No!' I shouted. 'I'm in the middle of my ironing!'
It all went quiet and then Husband came into the kitchen, a big grin on his face. 'I was talking to Younger Son,' he said.

Fiddle! A whole week's worth of assertiveness used up in one fell swoop. And wasted!

Husband came over and kissed me on the cheek. 'She's lovely, isn't she, George?'

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Hands

I love my baby (Younger Son) who's 24 today!
To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick

How to spot a terrorist

Is the government encouraging us to examine our neighbours' rubbish bins? If anyone looked at our recycling they'd think we lived on pizza and Frosties ...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Family legends

Over on oneminutewriter today's challenge is to write about tale that has been passed down through your family. I started to tell one story about my great-grandfather and then realised there were lots I could choose from.

My great-grandfather was born in a pub in Mumbles. At that time Mumbles was a popular haunt for wealthy yachting types and a Turkish pasha was amongst the visitors. One evening a conversation took place in the bar between the landlord, my great-great-grandfather, and one of his customers. It went something like this.

Customer: 'I hear that Turkish bloke's gone.'
Landlord: 'What, Pasha?'
Customer: 'Yeah, him.'
Landlord: 'No, he hasn't.'
Customer: 'Yes, he has. It said in the papers.'
Landlord: 'No, he's still here.'
The conversation continued along those lines until the landlord said, 'I bet you he's still here!'
The customer took up the bet - I don't know how much was involved - and the landlord went upstairs and brought down his newly-born son. 'Here he is,' he said.
'That's not Pasha!'
'Oh yes it is. Meet my son, Hobart Pasha Honey!'

(According to Chambers Dictionary, pasha is a Turkish title, abolished in 1934, given to governors and high military and naval officers.)

My great-grandfather grew up to become a plasterer who worked with different builders. One of the builders he worked for was called Mr Sparrow and he owed my great-grandfather a lot of money. One day Hobart Pasha was walking past a building and seeing Mr Sparrow on the top of it, took away the ladder before yelling, 'Your name is sparrow so now fly, you bugger, fly!'

In the early part of the twentieth century, he travelled to America and worked in Michigan on the building of the Lincoln Motor Company Plant in Detroit. After working there a few years he returned home but then went back out for another period of time during which Henry Ford took over the company. When he returned to Wales after that, Henry Ford himself (!) sent a man over to appeal to my great-grandfather to go back and work there again. By now my grandmother was married and Henry Ford offered to pay the passage for all the family, including my gran and her husband and child, to go as well. The offer was turned down but, just think, I could have been an American!

Procrastination is a wonderful thing

I was trying to work through my blogroll yesterday, catching up on my visits, but I really should tidy up my blogroll. Even better I should do that clever thing that lots of people have where you see if a blog's been updated.

There are people not on my list who should be, and people on there who haven't blogged for ages. But they were on there originally because they meant something to me and to remove them is like losing friends. Friends like Winston. For those of you who don't know, lovely Winston died suddenly last year, so, although some of the bloggers who've gone quiet might start writing again, there's no chance he will! But while his blog exists, he'll stay on my list.

So I'll procrastinate instead. I'm good at that.

* * * * * * * *

This morning I'm going to write a synopsis for my new novel and send it off. I have the first three chapters ready but I've put off posting them because I don't know what's going to happen at the end yet. So I'll make it up and start on the merry-go-round of rejections.

{I have a spot on the palm of my hand! No-one ever has spots on their palms! I am a freak!}

And I am so annoyed! In bed last night I started reading a novel I'd bought in the charity shop. It is so like my first totally-rejected novel that I don't believe it! In both writing style and things the author speaks of. Pah! And triple pah!!!

Never mind. Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Healthy eating and dopey dogs

I had low-fat hummus and ryvita for lunch, with tomatoes and beetroot, followed by a banana. And a piece of chocolate cake.
Well, some young people from church came round for tea last night and even though I gave them a large dollop of cake to take away with them, there is still some left. So I have to eat it. Don't I?

* * * * * * * * * *

We saw our first frog spawn today. There is some in the middle of the photo if you look hard, honest.
We had some in our pond last year but I think it was mutant frog spawn as, although the tadpoles grew very large, they never seemed to develop legs. Of course, it might have been the result of shock after George had jumped in the pond with them.
And speaking of George, I am a little concerned about him.
Yesterday morning when I got up and came downstairs he was lying in the hall. He didn't blink or twitch or show any sign of realising I was there until I spoke. 'Well, that's a nice welcome for me!' Then he started as if he'd had a kick up the bottom, leapt up and began to make a fuss of me.
He'd been up for a while so he can't have been that soundly asleep. Younger Son said, 'I think he day-dreams and forgets where he is.'
It's true that he often has that look about him. He 'll stop and stare in a 'What have I come in here for?' way; or, if I throw a stick for him, he'll run to it, and then turn round and look at me as if he's saying, 'Tell me again: what am I supposed to do with this stick?'
Now I could understand it if he were old or menopausal ...

George 'does' the dishes

Wednesday Writing

This week's piece of writing is a bit ... weird. It has been on my blog before but it was in 2006. I attended a day writing workshop a few years ago and one of the speakers got us brain-storming on the topic of ice, and then asked us to write a story. And this is mine.

Every night Alice had the same dream.
In it a huge block of ice glided towards her, dragging with it all the things she knew and thought she loved. It stripped the valleys of her childhood of childish things; the meadows of her youth it raked bare, and the hills of her history it eroded, crushed and reshaped. Characters from her life story became brittle cracked sculptures of themselves. And all around the ice a hundred thousand prisms sucked in red and violet stars and blew out laser white rays.
In her dream Alice watched the approach of the mammoth with fascination. But, always, before the ice reached her, she awoke.
(Find the full story on my bits that are too long)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get me to the church

Last night I dreamed I went to Manderlay ... no, I didn't; I dreamed I was getting married. We decided on Friday to get married on Sunday. Let me tell you that is not enough time to organise a wedding.

First stop was the stationery shop. I knew exactly what I wanted: white card and little silver hearts to make the place names. Do you think I could find what I wanted? I woke as I was on the point of calling off the wedding for the sake of a little silver heart.

It was probably just as well as I don't know who the groom was, and I hadn't even thought about a dress.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monochrome Monday

To take part in Monochrome Monday go here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Congratulations to the Irish!

I had nails (of sorts) on my fingers at 5.30 pm last night; by 7.30, they were in shreds.

The final game of the competition and the decider, the one on which it all - the championship, Triple Crown, Grand Slam - depended. And the tension lasted until the final whistle.

Five minutes to go and Stephen Jones kicked a drop goal putting Wales in front. Minutes later Ronan O'Gara did the same for the Irish. Then when we thought it was all over, Wales were given a penalty and Stephen Jones attempted a kick, from almost on the halfway line, to win the game - and the Triple Crown. He missed and it really was all over.

To be fair, and you know me, I'm not in the least bit biased, Ireland deserved to win, so congratulations to them on doing the Grand Slam for the first time since 1948. The fact that the cameras kept going to Jack Kyle, a member of Ireland's last Grand Slam-winning team helped. Ah, bless him, I kept thinking: wouldn't it be nice for him?

But it's been a funny old competition with erratic performances from every team. And there isn't one side that you could imagine consistently beating Southern hemisphere sides. But we've got a couple of years to continue to improve before the next World Cup.

The British & Irish Lions don't have so long to prepare for their trip to South Africa: they set off in May. The good thing is that S. Africa is roughly on the same time zone as us so we won't have to be in the pub at 9 o'clock in the morning to watch the games. (They're on Sky and we don't have Sky.)

Mothering Sunday

With two of my beautiful children. Elder Son had to stay in Newcastle and work this weekend, not even being able to go home and see his lovely wife in London.

Daughter cooked me a delicious lunch of mushroom risotto and I've just sat and put my feet and watched The Edge of Love, a DVD about two of the women in Dylan Thomas's life. It was ... okay.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Yellow

We all live in a Yellow Submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine ...
Apologies - I've used this photo before for ABC Wednesday, but I couldn't resist it again.

To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick

Thursday, March 19, 2009

George likes a challenge

George tried to mount a rottweiler today. I told the rotty's owner that George had had the op and she said her dog had too. It must confuse the hormones and scents. But, fair play, to mount a rottweiler is a challenge to set yourself. You've got to admire his audacity.

Later because he was fed up waiting for me to find a stick, he went and got his own from a tree. And insisted on carrying it with him.

My book and Authonomy

Right, I've taken my courage in my hands and uploaded the first three chapters of my first novel - rejected by at least 20 agents - to Authonomy, the HarperCollins website for authors and readers.

I had put it in a metaphorical drawer but having read about Authonomy in my latest writing magazine, I decided I had nothing to lose. Except all confidence when people say horrid things about it.

I had a Mills & Boon night last night. They celebrated their centenary last year and to mark the fact there were a couple of programmes on television before Christmas, and I finally got round to watching them. The first was a drama, set in three locations and time zones: at the beginning of M&B, with a new author in the seventies, and an up-to-date college tutor who lectured about the books.

This was followed by a 'How to write for Mills & Boon' documentary in which a well-known literary novelist, Stella Duffy, tried her hand at meeting the criteria set out for would-be M&B authors. She managed to wangle a trip to Tuscany for a writing course specifically for prospective M&B authors. I'd have done it for half what they probably paid her!

It was fascinating. Out of the 2,000 - 3,000 manuscripts M&B receive each year, they take on about 20 authors, and they sell millions of books worldwide. (Actually now I think about it, that's not bad odds. Comparatively.) Did you know M&B had an erotic imprint with graphic sex? And even the Romance imprint allows fairly raunchy sex.

Divorce, sex outside marriage and independent women are all allowed but the story guidelines are still fairly rigid.

Basically the hero still has to be strong Alpha male, probably arrogant and rich, who finally succumbs to the feisty female.

Just like real life then.

But that's the point. It was always intended as escapism for the masses. Making books available at a price the working man could afford was Mr Boon's intention. And that has to be admired.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saving pennies, saving lbs

I had a few minutes to spare before going for my massage so I popped into the charity shop. I came out with three books: one of the Alexander McCall Smith Sunday Philosophy Club series, a light-hearted mystery and the Easy GI Diet book.

I was able to afford the diet book as well because I'd just saved more than half the price of a packet of Cadburys' Fingers.

Massaging all my bits

I don't know if you can see from this photo but George has taken to chewing the name tag that dangles on his collar. No, you can't see it, but take my word for it: he has his name tag in his mouth.
* * * * * * * * *
I was privileged today to be invited, with others, to a meeting at Zac's to discuss what measures can be put in place to help Sean in the running of the Tuesday evening Bible study. At the moment he does everything at Zac's and, as he said, 'If I were to be run down by a bus tomorrow ...' Lots of ideas came out of the meeting and I hope it was helpful. From a selfish viewpoint, it's wonderful to feel useful and valued.
* * * * * * * *
After the meeting I headed off for the massage parlour.
For Christmas, Elder Son and Daughter-in-law gave me a voucher for a de-stress full body massage and I finally got round to having it this afternoon. Oooh, it was blissful. The only problem was staying fully awake to enjoy it.

Old and new

Clyne Valley, where George and I walk most days, has a long industrial history. The steam train to mid-Wales used to run through it and there were railway sidings, bell pits, a quarry, arsenic works and the old Killay brickworks. Today nature has successfully reclaimed its own and very few traces can be found of its past, except for occasional glimpses of the remains of old brick paths.

I don't know if you can tell from this rather blurry photo but the small green shoot has grown up through a crack in the dry dead leaf.

Wednesday Short Story

Snappy title that. But I have a collection of short stories so I thought I'd start putting them on my other blog, with a short excerpt here, and I'll do it on Wednesdays. If I remember.

I wrote this story a long time and Charlie is based on Harvey, our old dog. George doesn't have - or hasn't yet developed - Harvey's predilection for knickers. Today's offering is called:

A Proper Charlie
“Are these yours?”

The stranger who had knocked on my door had just the hint of a smile about his face. When I looked down I realised why. In his outstretched hand he held a pair of knickers.

Quick thinking was called for; not only were they my knickers, they were my most sensible cover-all pair. I studied them intently.
“Nooo, I don’t recognise them. Mine are much silkier ... and smaller of course.”
I looked up to see the hint of a smile getting dangerously close to a smirk. Quick thinking was never my strong point.
“Just as a matter of interest, where did you find them?”
“Your dog presented me with them as I came through your gate.”

(Continued on my bits that are too long)

Reasons why I should be considered for sainthood

1) Jenny, who comes to Zac's, likes to sit on the old church pew at the back of the room because she has a bad back and it helps.She also likes me to sit with her. The pew is hard and uncomfortable.

2) The man sitting next to Jenny kept sneezing and coughing.

3) The man sitting next to me smelled. Seriously badly.

Does the pope need any more reasons than that?

* * * * * * * * *

Other than that ...

Zac's was really good last night. Thought-provoking and encouraging. We've reached the second half of the last but one verse of the first letter to the Corinthians, where Paul talks about resurrection, and it lead to all sorts of fascinating questions and viewpoints on who would be resurrected, who would be judged, who will be in heaven.

Basically, we don't know.

Which is fine by me. I think we'll be surprised when we see some people in heaven and there'll be some people missing too. But Christ told us we had to become like children. I see that as having lots of questions but trusting. I can do that.

And being a Christian isn't simply an insurance policy for what comes after; it's about fullness of life now.

But I do hope there are hot showers and plenty of soap in heaven.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm turning into my granny

'Dinner's ready!' I called up to Younger Son.

He came down into the kitchen and looked at his plate, piled high with Welsh lamb chops, broccoli, carrots and peas. He didn't say anything.

We took our plates into the dining-room and sat at the table. At last he could hold it back no longer. 'This is the most boring dinner I have ever seen.'
'It's healthy.'
'It's boring.'
'We're supposed to be on a diet; it's good for you.'
'Look at it! It's boring!'

And then I said it: 'Think of the starving children in Africa!'

He looked at me and shook his head sadly.
I said, 'Um, I've left you some chocolate cake ...'

And for today's disaster ...

The thing about trying a cake recipe that you've not used before is that you don't know how it will turn out. It's okay if it's just for you but if it's to go somewhere, like Zac's tonight, you want it to look and taste good.

I was melting the drinking chocolate and butter for the fudge topping, and I must have been distracted, because I burned the drinking chocolate.

I scraped out the unburned bits as best I could - I had to as I didn't have any more ingredients - and continued in another saucepan. I don't think it tastes burned. In fact it tastes quite nice, in a chewy sort of way. It contains pecans and coconut so it's meant to have a texture - I think.

The icing looks a bit wrinkled and I wouldn't win any prizes for presentation but it'll do.

Have you noticed how often my attempts at cooking - or anything - end in disaster? Perhaps I should rename my blog: Catalogue of Disaster. Failed novelist, failed playwright, failed cook, failed dog-trainer. Someone once said to me, 'Have you ever thought that your sole purpose in life could be to serve as a warning to others?'

if I took this all seriously I could be very depressed by now. Good job I'm happy. Tra la. Happy and with chocolate cake ...

In the words of Springsteen, from his latest CD,

I'm working on a dream

Though sometimes it feels so far away

I'm working on a dream

And know it will be mine someday

And the yellow flower is ...

In the woods, today, wood anemone, violets and ... yellow flower. It could be a buttercup; I don't think it's a cowslip. That is the sum total of my knowledge of yellow flowers.

Too much excitement for one night

God's Squad has its own blog now. If you like hairy bikers, go and visit!

In one of the posts, Sean talks about his first motor-biking accident, and it reminded me of my first - and only - motor-biking accident.

My boyfriend at the time worked in London, and I'd gone up to visit him. He met me at the station on his bike, as usual, and we set off, back through Friday evening traffic to Croydon where he was living.

Peering over his shoulder, as we drove along a four-lane highway, I saw a car in the middle of the road waiting to turn right. It was one of those time-stopped moments. My thoughts flitted rapidly from 'That car's not going to pull across in front of us, is it?' to 'It is!' to 'There's plenty of room, it'll make it,' to 'No, it won't! We're going to hit it!' to pheeeeewwwwwww as I flew through the night air and landed head-first in the middle of the road.

Being carted off to hospital in the ambulance I said, 'My legs feel wet; am I bleeding?'
'No,' the ambulanceman reassured me. 'You probably wet yourself.'
Oh, thanks.

When they'd satisfied themselves that I was bruised but not broken I was allowed to go home. Or in this case to the local YMCA where boyfriend was staying temporarily. Now this was the 70s and there were strict rules in the YMCA about not having guests to sleep over. And even stricter rules applied about having a girl in your room at any time of the day or night.

By the time we got there it was the early hours so I had to be sneaked in surreptitiously but we made it to BF's room and settled down for a good sleep after what had been a trying evening.

Two hours later the fire alarm went off.

Two problems:
a) As I said I wasn't supposed to be there;
b) I was limping so badly I couldn't have hurried out of the building if the flames had been whipping at my bottom.

BF checked it out. Nobody was moving. If it were a fire they would all get burned in their sleep. Which sounded a good enough alternative to us. The alarm stopped and we went back to sleep.

I never stayed in the YMCA again.

Incidentally, thinking about it, that bang on the head could explain a lot of things.

What makes you green with envy?

Today's prompt on The One-Minute Writer is: what makes you green with envy?

This is my response.

Anyone who has more chocolate than I do. Anyone who has chocolate. Or grandchildren. Especially grandchildren. Most especially anyone who has grandchildren and chocolate.

George, don't do that!

Especially for Rose. Eighteen months' worth of reasons for not getting a Golden Retriever puppy!

At the weekend, girls from a local stable came round selling bags of rotted manure and compost. Husband scattered it around the rose bushes. George is currently outside, picking out the manure to eat.

Monday, March 16, 2009

George gets too close to the edge

Husband had the day off today so this afternoon he joined George and me for a stroll round the cliffs. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and the air was filled with the coconutty smell of the luscious gorse.

Monochrome Monday

For Monochrome Monday this week, I have a photo of a sketch.It was done by the artist, Frank Brangwyn, in preparation for the huge vividly-coloured panels he was commissioned, in 1924, to paint for the House of Lords in London. Five panels were completed but when displayed in the Royal Gallery became the subject of public controversy and criticism. They were turned down as being too colourful and lively, and now have a home in Swansea, in the Brangwyn Hall.

To take part in Monochrome Monday, go here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A good night on the box

Tonight, BBC, 8.00 pm, Lark Rise to Candleford, 9.00 pm Number One Ladies' Detective Agency.

Now that's my idea of a good night on television. And it reminds me I have the latest paperback in the Precious Ramotswe series waiting to be read.

Cheering for England

Wales beat Italy yesterday, but, good grief, it was a boring and lifeless game.

Unlike England's triumph over France today. 29 - 0 at half-time?! What happened to England, whose ill-discipline and lacklustre style has demonstrated itself over the last three games? What happened to France, after their last brilliant performance put paid to Wales' chance of a Grand Slam?

Actually I think if an English player had been sin-binned today, Martin Johnson would have killed him. Seriously. It wouldn't have been safe for the player to go back to the changing-room afterwards.

Now, it gets complicated. If Ireland beat Wales next week they get the Grand Slam for the first time since 1948 or something like that; if Wales wins they will wear the Triple Crown (having beaten Ireland, England and Scotland) but unless they win by about 13 points, Ireland will still take the championship.

All to play for.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Four

My four-legged friend, my four-legged friend,
He'll always let me down.
He's silly and stupid right up to the end,
My wonderful one, two, three four-legged friend.
To take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.


The number of the beast

The autobiography I ghost-wrote, A Cop for Christ, was republished last October with a new cover. Today I received notification of sales figures from Hodder. The total sold since republication is ... wait for it ... 666!

Does that make me the Beast?
Although it's set in New York, American publishers won't touch it. Apparently it speaks too much of the supernatural.

Red faced on Red Nose Day

Don't you just hate it when you're at the check-out, you've packed all your shopping, there's a queue of people waiting, and the girl says, 'Sorry, your card's been declined'?

Fortunately I was in the local co-op, I only had stuff for tea and I actually had enough cash on me to pay. Having any cash on me is a rare thing: I am so reliant on my card.

Flipping card!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A plague on their houses!

A doctor, speaking at a conference, is calling for a tax on chocolate, saying it slips under the 'bad foods' barrier but is a major player in the obesity game.


Thank you, hippy mama!

Look what arrived for me yesterday! Presents from the lovely Amanda! Choccie, a mobile phone pouch and Funny Bunny! Handmade by Hippy Mama (except the choccie!) Thank you!

Blowing away the cobwebs

Much as I love the cliffs in the sunshine I think I prefer them on wild days. Instead of miserable 'Sunday walkers' who scowl at you, you get loonies who grin and say, 'Lovely weather.' Although we didn't even get those today as the cliffs were deserted. Today the rain was being blown in off the sea, refreshing and rejuvenating. And we spoted our first violets of the year!!! Yay! I skipped the rest of the way.
When we got back to Langland, George spotted heaven: dogs on the beach. He went haring off but nobody wanted to play with him! He came back to me, looking dejected, but then said, 'I must have got it wrong. They will want to play with me,' and set off again. He returned, shaking his head, 'Five dogs and not one of them wants to play with me!'
I told him they must have been snooty Langland dogs, and it's not him, it's them.

Mixed reviews

The good bit: my play won the audience vote.

The bad bit: the judge said (of 4 of the 5 plays including mine), 'It felt like they were written on the backs of postcards in a lunch-hour, and a short lunch-hour at that.' Ouch!

The other judge was more constructive and I could see his point. He grumbled about the lack of drama - 'that's why it's called drama' - in all the plays. What I had tried to do was take a 12-minute monologue and turn it into a 30 minute play. What works in a monologue - following through one idea - doesn't hold up in a play. So that was quite helpful.

I'm not entirely sure what happens now. I think my play goes on to the Final but the whole future of the Play-offs seems to be in doubt, so we'll see.

P.S. The judge who talks to my cleavage spoke to me before the show and asked about what I was writing these days - and I didn't even mention my play! How noble/stupid was that?!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mair here!

Fancy that! They can't get anyone to play me! I don't know why: I'm hot totty me. Least I am when I've got a bit of slap on and I'm out on the town on a Friday night.

They said I'm too Welshy. They haven't got nobody who can do my accent. 'What accent?' I said. 'I haven't got an accent.'

If they want to hear an accent they want to listen to Billy Connolly. He don't have no trouble. My mam likes him. But he's a bit old now. I fancies Russell Brand. Tiff, she's my friend, works down the jobcentre, you know, I told you about her - she likes older men. Her last boyfriend was 29!

I not courting at the moment. Not that I haven't had plenty of offers, mind. Since I was on the telly I got boys queuing at the door. Begging me to go out with them but I said, 'No! You never wanted me when I was a nobody; you not having me now.'

Mam said I was being silly and I wouldn't get offers like that every day. She was right too. They never came back.

But that's okay, I don't want a boyfriend right now. I'm concentrating on my career. Hey, I'll tell you a secret, shall I? I've applied to be in the next Big Brother house.

They won't know what's hit 'em, they won't, when I get in there.

P.S. There isn't meant to be a picture, just sound.

George here!

Mum said if I behaved for 10 minutes I could do some blogging so here I am!

Not that I wasn't behaving before. I mean, if it's on the floor, it's mine, right? So if Mum puts a rug on the floor then she should expect me to scratch it and chew it. It's what i do. Just like if anything goes in the recycling bins they're mine. Mmm, I had a lovely Pedigree beer tin yesterday. Peach tins are okay for a lick but not so nice and chewy as beer cans. And sardine tins, mmmmmm.

Cereal boxes aren't so tasty but they're good fun to shred. And yogurt pots, if I can get one, are okay but once I've licked it clean and nibbled it, it gets a bit boring. Nothing like a beer can, which is the best chewy. I heard mum say that there is rugby on next weekend: that means I'll get lots of beer cans! (Did you like the way I used a colon there? Mum is very insistent on me using proper punctuation.)

I met Major in the woods yesterday. He's my friend. I saw him before mum did and I ran to meet him. But he's mad! He's just like my cousin, Holly. He leaps off the side of banks to get sticks from the river. I am more sensible and I find a way down the side. Best of all, I wait for Major to get the stick and then I take it off him. He growls at me when I do that but I know he's only playing.

Lots of my doggy friends growl at me when I try to play with them. I don't know why; I never growl at them. You'd think everybody would want to have fun with me.

I'm getting bored with blogging now. It must be time for mum to take me for walkies soon. Ooh, I can see mum's slipper under the desk. Oooh, I'd better get it. My teeth are starting to itch again.

I'll ask mum to put a photo of me on so you can see what a good-looking boy I am. (I just asked mum and she said I couldn't say I was handsome. 'Why not?' 'Because it's boastful.' 'But I am handsome.')

Tumble-drying the untumble-dryable

What do you think? Can you tumble dry things that say 'Do not tumble dry'?

I vary. Sometimes I won't; sometimes I can see no reason why not so I do. So far it's proved successful. But I have a blouse that I want to wear tonight and it's soaking. Do I risk it? Perhaps I'll just give it a little tumble dry and see how it goes. I mean how much harm can it do?

A cunning plan

It's P-Day today.

My play excerpt is being performed at the Play-offs tonight and as of 5 pm yesterday we didn't have a leading lady. So I have come up with a cunning plan.

The audience and the judges both vote for the winning plays. I can't do anything about the audience but I know one of the judges: he likes to talk to my cleavage. But the judges don't know who's written what so I will wear a low-cut top and talk to him beforehand just happening to mention the title of my play and then say, 'Oh, dear, are you a judge? Well , you must forget then that I said that my play's called Reading between the line-outs.' Good plan, eh?

* * * * * * * * *

I have made my butternut squash soup and the chilli and cheese bread is in the breadmaker so dinner's sorted. All I have to do now is think of a good last line that will make the audience want to know what happens in the second half ...

What a shame you can't portray dot dot dot so easily on stage.

Can you see the wind?

Sean has been doing Zac's Place for I don't know how many years now. Certainly long enough to know better than to ask a slightly-the-worse-for-wear new-comer who was querying how you can believe in someone you can't see, 'Can you see the wind?'

I'll leave his answer - and the ensuing conversation - to your imagination.

Jerry, our regular drunk, has had his moments of being disruptive but he took offence at someone else 'wearing his crown' and for a few minutes chaos threatened but then new-comer decided to go out for a smoke. Jerry followed ... and Steve went to keep the peace.

There were a few first-timers there last night and one of them knew Jerry of old. He said, 'He was a pain in the arse in school too.'

But you can't help loving him.

* * * * * * * * *

At the end of the evening there was a phone call from Glenn who went back to Australia last summer. I grabbed the phone so I could say hello. Or rather, as I realised afterwards, I shouted hello. I had to: he's a long way away.

I have a tendency to shout into mobile phones anyway as ... well, there isn't a wire.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hitting is sometimes good

T'internet was struggling to send an email.

I hit my modem. (Which is what I think that white box with little flashy lights is.)

It worked.

P.S. I only tapped it gently. I wouldn't want to be accused of modem abuse.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The ages of woman

Over on her blog, Sarah Lulu has a post about perfume, and it set me thinking about perfumes in my life.

When I was young, a teenager, I loved Elizabeth Arden's Blue Grass and Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps. I still do love them: they're light and flowery and make me think of summer, but they don't have any staying power. Not on me anyway.

When in my older teens and early twenties I babysat for a woman who was beautiful, slim, glamorous, and who wore Estee Lauder's Youth Dew. Hoping some of her glamour would rub off on me I began using it too. Was there ever such a perfume/wearer mismatch?! Once smelled, never forgotten.

Then came children and for a while I smelled of baby sick and playdough. As they grew and left that stage behind I moved on to White Musk, a warming fragrance from the Body Shop.

A few years ago, Daughter heard the inventor of a new perfume talk about it on the radio, describing it as a cereal and milk sort of smell. She straightaway thought of me and bought me some, and I wore Simply, by Clinique, until they stopped making it. I guess women preferred the smell of Poison to corn flakes.

At airports, once I've done the bookstalls and been banned from buying any more books as I 'have a caseload already!' I head for the perfume. I board the plane smelling like a tart's boudoir. Not that I know what a tart's boudoir smells like. But none of them ever grabs me. Not enough to make me say, 'yes, I must spend £30 on this.'

So now I'm a Chanel No. 5 woman, and I splash it on every day wherever I'm going, even though I can't smell it on me except when I do the dishes. Sometimes of an evening I'll use Chanel's Allure, which is stronger but not asphyxiating. I don't want my perfume to be overpowering but I do want it to be present.

One last memory: when I was in my teens, my mother bought me a bar of Chanel No. 5 soap. She died soon after that Christmas. I still have the soap in my underwear drawer.

Now, what's your signature scent?

P.S. I've edited this post to include White Musk, after Amanda reminded me of it.

Welly wonder

Do you remember those ridiculously expensive walking boots I bought for my Canada holiday? Well, through water, snow, mud and rugby matches they've kept my feet dry and warm. They're comfy and I love them.
But when it rains a lot - as it does occasionally in Wales - the river we have to walk through splashes over the top of them. So I bought new wellies. What do you think? Funky, eh?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Monochrome Monday

To take part in Monochrome Monday, go here.

A holy day

For me anyway as I was in three services this morning!

We were in prison and taking the first and third services and I decided to sit in on the middle one, the Roman Catholic mass, as well. (I like to keep my options open.)

I read the adulterous woman monologue as part of our services, the theme of which was forgiveness. They all looked as if they were listening but they could just as easily have been thinking about what they were going to have for dinner or wondering who'd won the football match. But one of them at least did pay attention if only for a moment.

Maureen, the Roman Catholic chaplain, introduced us and then asked the men to be silent for a moment to think about why they'd come to the chapel. (She acknowledged it could well be just because they wanted to get out of their cells for half an hour.)

It had been lovely when I'd left home and I hadn't bothered taking a coat but while we were in, it began to pour down, and the men got wet coming over to the chapel from their blocks, so when I stood up I confessed that I'd not been thinking as Maureen had suggested but that I'd been praying that it would stop raining before we had to leave at the end of the service.

When we got to the end, and I was shaking hands and saying goodbye as they filed out, one of the young lads said, 'It's stopped raining, miss.'

I hope my surprise wasn't too obvious ...

And if that's all he remembers from the morning, it's enough.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

For want of a star

You may remember that a play excerpt that I've written is being performed as part of the monthly 'Play-offs' at the Dylan Thomas Centre. It was supposed to be happening in February but that event was cancelled because of the weather so now it's being put on next Wednesday.

I haven't been able to go to the rehearsals for a few weeks but I went along on Friday night for what I thought would be the final read-through: it turned out to be the first (proper) read-through. The man cast as Da wasn't there so someone else read for him; Mam is a new-comer who read for the first time last night (but excellently); and Mair, the central character, was also read by someone who was standing in. And this brings me to the main problem: we don't have a leading lady.

The first girl cast as Mair could have done it in February but can't do it in March; the next one felt she was too English; the next one - well, there isn't a next one at the moment. The director said he'll sort it out.

Can you hear me sighing? At least I'll have plenty of excuses when my play doesn't win.

By the way, if the name sounds familiar it's because I rewrote my monologue (as seen recently on Youtube) as a play.

(The Play-offs feature excerpts from plays by amateur writers. These are not performed as such, but read through by actors, also amateurs.)

Taa dah!

It's taken two years but we finally finished decorating our hall!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Saturday Photohunt - Space

This blog is my SPACE. My space to empty my brain, to grumble, to confess, to boast, to share, to enjoy, to be more me than I really am.
If you'd like to take part in Saturday Photohunt, visit tnchick.


Today's cake disaster

As I was in the community cafe today, yesterday I decided I'd make a cake to take. Daughter had sent me a recipe for a 'lovely blueberry crumb cake'.

I'd just started making it when Wayne the Windows arrived to measure up. I pushed everything out of George's reach and left him in the kitchen while I took Wayne round to measure.

When I went back to mixing, George had obviously been investigating and trying to reach as I kept finding hairs on my fingers - or in the mix! I couldn't take that to the cafe to sell but I'd started so I finished. But really I should have saved the ingredients for a better day.
It was slightly burned even though I cooked it for 20 minutes less than it said, and then it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the tin.

How it's supposed to look.
How mine looks. (And this is flattering to it.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Well, what do you know?!

Today newspapers reported the decision of Cadburys to use Fairtrade cocoa for its Dairy Milk Bar! And to bring its other brands to Fairtrade as soon as it can.

Tuesday: I announce that I'm giving up non-Fairtrade chocolate.
Wednesday: Cadburys announces its going Fairtrade.

A coincidence? I think not.

Cadburys knew how much profit it would lose. I am an activist!

Speak to me!

Do I post too often to get many comments? Or are my posts not worth commenting on? Or is there nobody there?

I'm just curious. It won't affect the way I blog, which is my way of emptying my brain, and if someone reads what I write then it's a bonus. But I notice that some people frequently have lots of comments and I'm just a-sitting here and a-wondering.

And a big thank you to those who do comment regularly!

And, what's more, I've just placed my first ever online Sainsburys order!!! I feel very proud of myself. Of course I couldn't bring myself to order fruit and veg because I'm very fussy about that, and I haven't planned the weekend's menu so I couldn't order any meat, and I wouldn't order fish to be delivered. But that's all stuff I can get locally - and it'll be kinder to the environment and my local businesses.

So I think now I deserve to go and watch an episode or two of Grey's Anatomy.

Arrivederci Roma

I've just been to visit my great-aunt. While I was there my 82-year-old uncle called in. He hasn't long got back from Rome.

He said he'd gone to Nottingham for a lady-friend's 75th birthday party and 'the pair of us ended up in Rome.'

That must have been some party.

I hope I'm like he is when I'm his age.

Currying favour

I was going to make a proper curry - Tarahi Chicken - last night. The recipe called for dried mint and I was certain I had some in the pantry. I did. It said: Best before April 2004.

Okay, well, what else did I need? Fresh coriander. Didn't have any of that.

I gave up. I used curry paste. And a few extras. Younger Son approved.

A political joke

Oh, what a beautiful morning! The sort of morning that makes you want to go and knock on the door of the Kremlin and ask, 'Is Len in?'

What? You didn't really expect politics from me, did you? I apologise for the joke. It's the only Ken Dodd joke I remember; in fact it's the only joke I remember except for a shaggy dog one involving a rary bird that my cousin told me when we were about 10. And now I come to think of it I only remember the punchline of that.

But it was a glorious morning, still and quiet, warm and with that lovely clear spring light. Just me and George and the birds.

And the people chatting on the path.

We were heading down the hill from the wood when I spotted some dog-walkers on the main path below us. I knew that as soon as George saw them he'd be off like an express train. He only wants to say hello and play but the people were old and their dogs were old. George is young and big and bouncy. I had a sudden vision of a bowling ball with George's face getting a strike.

I decided we'd stop and play fetch until they finished talking.

I was not allowing for the talkability of some people. We gave up and carefully manoeuvred our way around them. I bet they're still there.

Womanizer? In his dreams

Over on his blog, James has a quote from Richard Burton.
"I rather like my reputation, actually, that of a spoiled genius from the Welsh gutter, a drunk, a womanizer; it's rather an attractive image."

I was recently talking to a man who said, 'I used to be a drunk and a womanizer.' (I mix in the best circles.) I looked him up and down. (It was okay; he didn't notice. He was too busy talking about himself.) All I can assume is that he's more attractive when he's drunk. Or maybe he just imagines he's a womanizer when he's drunk.

I'm sorry, that's horrid, but honestly some men. I mean I can see the appeal of Richard Burton but this particular one ...

Technology and me

I tried to text a friend at the weekend. I had a 'Number Not in Use' message. I wondered if she'd lost her phone. I tried again in case and got the same message.

When I saw her yesterday I mentioned it and she said her phone was fine.

This morning I tried to text another friend and had the same message. 'What is the matter with this stupid phone?' I muttered to myself. Then I had a thought.

Yes, you've guessed it: it was my phone that was not in use. Because I had no credit on it.

These new-fangled things, I'll never get the hang of them.

Zac's is ...

always surprising.

We continued with Paul's first letter to the Corinthians last night, looking more at speaking in tongues and Paul's instructions to churches. Quite heavy stuff for a mixed group of Christians, some damaged, atheists, don't knows, Buddhists ... you get the picture, when in off the street walked two young lads, maybe homeless, almost certainly vulnerably housed and on the streets.

They made a noisy entrance but when Sean welcomed them and invited them to stay for the Bible study, they sat down quietly. Then one of them spoke. 'Sean, will you pray for Dai? He got run over on the road up by there.'

Sean knew of Dai's death and he prayed for the family and loved ones, friends who grieved and struggled.

I am so thankful for Zac's Place. I am incredibly grateful that young men, living desperate lives and knowing little of God, can go there and be vulnerable enough to ask for prayer, can feel safe enough to say that maybe there is a God and maybe he can help.

Then at the end of the evening Sean asked if anyone would like to pray. Jerry, our 'resident' drunk instantly volunteered. And again it was a wonderfully moving prayer that expressed gratitude for Zac's and for being able to say each night, before he goes to sleep in the cemetery or park, thank you, Lord. And he prayed earnestly for Jade Goody, asking for another month for her to be with her young sons.

Then, being Jerry, he forgot he was praying and went off on a Jerry-ramble. It took several people saying loud Amens in any short pause in his rant to bring it to an end.

And later on it was noticed that the donations box was missing ...

Yes, Zac's is always surprising.

P.S. Sean thinks the box was probably missing earlier and he didn't think it was the young lads tonight who'd taken it. And in case you're wondering it definitely wasn't Jerry. He has his own strict code. I was talking to him afterwards and he said, 'I don't come for the breakfasts, see. I don't come for the food. I comes here on Tuesdays because I gets respect.'