Friday, December 31, 2010

Yet again the best laid plans ...

The last few years we've been out for New year Eve's but this year we were planning a quiet one. Younger Son and Girlfriend have gone to Cornwall so we have the house to ourselves. I work Fridays so Husband was going to shop and cook a meal for us tonight and then we were going to have a nice romantic evening together. That was the plan.

On the journey home from Devon last night we had a phone call from Sister-in-law who is on holiday in Lanzarote telling us Mother-in-law is in hospital. Husband had spoken to her the day before and she'd been okay then but obviously something had happened in the mean time.

So instead of our nice romantic evening we're off to Derby this afternoon. Hey ho.

But a very happy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We haven't had enough to eat ...

so I spent a large part of yesterday afternoon baking ham in guinness and red cabbage with pears.When I served it up (plus leftover turkey, of course) Husband said, 'Is that all we're having?' One day I shall slap him. Really I will.

I also made a birthday cake for Girlfriend who arrived back in the middle of the night. (Her toothbrush is in the bathroom so she must have got back safely.)
And we watched (on television) the Ospreys thrash local rivals, the Scarlets, 60-17. The Scarlets (used to be Llanelli) are doing well this season and are above Ospreys in the league so the game was expected to be closer. Always nice when you beat old rivals.

Best bit in the game though was when the ref said, 'Come on, boys, there's no need for handbags.'

And today we're off to Devon! Triple Yay!!!!! Do you realise we haven't seen GrandDaughter for three - yes 3 - weeks? So it will be Christmas all over again.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Religion and me

Over on his blog Dr Stu is having one of his regular rants about Christianity. If I were a different sort of Christian I might be offended; as it is I have to agree with much he says is wrong. It's fine to be offensive about religion, religosity and the bad face - that unfortunately seems to be the most prominent aspect - of religion. My God isn't in that.

My God threw the bankers out of the temple, likened the priests to whitewashed graves full of rotting flesh, wept for his friends, mingled with the down and outs. My God has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with humanity.

Wait till you meet him, Dr Stu: you could be surprised!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's a hard job but someone had to do it

There was just a bit of clotted cream left so someone had to volunteer to have a warm brownie with it ...I spotted a theme in Husband's presents to me this year. As well as a slankie (a blanket with sleeves for slouching around in) he bought me these slippers (?). The theme? Keeping me warm while turning down the heating.
When he gave me the slippers he said, 'Don't be concerned by the label ...'
I don't think I have to be: those slippers and a slankie would be enough to turn anyone off!

Or rather the feast of St Stephen

I think officially it's not Boxing Day until tomorrow. However December 26th is definitely the feast of St Stephen on which the good king Wenceslas looked out. It's also the day in Wales, traditionally, allegedly, that late sleepers and female servants are beaten with holly branches. One of the lesser-known Christmas traditions.

Stephen was, as you all know, the first Christian martyr, and Wenceslas was murdered, so good cause for a day of great jolliment and feasting.

(Is jolliment a word or have I just made it up? It's a good word; I like it.)

And to Boxing Day

Went to Zac's at lunchtime where the faithful who had prepared dinner yesterday also catered with fry-up and leftovers today. They are very generous souls who give up their Christmas lunchtimes to feed the homeless and those who don't have anywhere to go. Not a huge crowd yesterday apparently but those who were here needed to be so it was well worthwhile. Similarly not that many turned up today - although maybe word got out that I was in charge of the bubble and squeak ...

The best thing about it though was that I saw Glenn and his son, Isaac, over from Australia. Glenn and Ros and their family lived here for a couple of years but then went home two and a half years ago and started a Melbourne Zac's Place in a church foyer - and have just acquired premises outside Melbourne as a proper base for Zac's.

Glenn was telling me that one of the things he learned while he was over here that when someone gives up drugs and gets clean but then relapses and maybe ends up in prison, he/it shouldn't be regarded as a failure to be given up on. Rather it's a mistake, another end and another beginning.

He and Ros are a fab couple and I hope and pray that Zac's Place in Yass will be a huge success story, changing many lives - and I know it will be. (You may recall a story I related about Glenn when he washed the feet of a homeless woman.)

Since coming home I've watched the final part of The Nativity, the BBC 4-part adaptation, which was excellent. The final scenes were amazing (even if biblically inaccurate) with the sense of awe they created, and brought home to me the wonder of God in human form.

And from the sublime ... Younger Son and I played BeatleHero, which is like GuitarHero but using Beatle songs. I aced the vocals, scoring 100% nearly every time! (On Easy level and choosing easy songs but nevertheless ...)

And now I'm going to carry on with my Christmas jigsaw. I have to admit that I am getting emotionally involved with the characters in the scene. I have labelled them Young Master, Little Lord, Nanny, Brave Urchin, Ragged Child and so on. The poor little waifs with their noses pressed against the toy shop window while the Little Lord is pushed along in his perambulator by his starchy Nanny. Life is so unfair!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Christmas day

First of all, can you guess what this, our poshest present, is?Some pretty candle lights that came out surprisingly well in my photo I thought.
Let's raise a toast!
The pudding, pronounced by Husband to be 'pretty good - considering it was only made yesterday.' It can't have been too bad as he had second helpings. As did Uncle John. But nobody ate my brandy butter. (Sadly, by the time I got the pudding to the table and Husband took a photo, the flames had gone out so you'll have to take my word for it that it was aflame.)
We had some cans of Guinness, bought in readiness for my Guinness-baked ham. Elder Son got it into his head that nobody wanted to drink the stout so he made himself this Black Velvet cocktail consisting of Guinness and champagne. Uncle John loves champagne and we'd started it on it for the present opening so we managed to finish off 2 bottles - even though Younger Son, Daughter-in-law and I didn't drink any ...
And our posh present? This rather fine collection of knives. There's another layer underneath too consisting of a set of steak knives and forks and a huge butcher's knife. It makes the pate and biscuits I gave the donor appear a trifling pathetic
!

My best Christmas present

Not long after they arrived on Wednesday Elder Son handed Husband a card addressed to Mum & Dad. Husband said, 'Mum usually opens Christmas cards,' but proceeded to open it as I was looking over his shoulder.

It was a plain white card with a teddy on it. 'Hm,' I thought, 'that's an unusual Christmas card.' Inside was a slightly blurry black and white photo. 'That's a ... BABY!!! Waaaaaahhhhh!!!!'

Much hugging and congratulating followed. Baby is due in June.

I am so happy I fear I could burst!

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve!

It's about 6.15 pm and I'm ready! All the preparation I'd planned is done and my Christmas puddings are steaming gently in the slow cooker. (Husband said he's going to have brownies as he doesn't think a last minute pudding will work but I shall make him eat some regardless as it's only him and Uncle John who like it. Even when I made pudding well in advance he said it wasn't 'as good as Evelyn's' - a lady he worked with about 20 years ago! Huh, I think he is looking back through booze-blurred glasses.)

Anyway, we're off for our traditional Christmas eve curry soon. Once I've showered and changed that is. This year we're trying a new restaurant, the Anarkali, which, apparently has been nominated for the Best Curry Restaurant in Wales for the last 5 years. It's never won though ...

I am reminded on hearing the name that Anne and Andrew used to have a take-away from there every Saturday night. That in turn reminds me that it was on Christmas eve that Anne died, maybe 15 years ago now, leaving 4 young sons.

This afternoon, in the kitchen, making my pudding and preparing my veg (which always goes slightly against the grain as I worry about the vitamins that will have leached out of the veg by the time we get to eat it - but I tell myself it's only once a year) I listened, along with half the world if you believe the BBC, to the Nine Lessons and Carols on radio 4. One of the readings is from Isaiah and it contains the words, 'Of his kingdom there shall be no end.' And I cling onto the truth of these words, believing that, in spite of the way the world seems, the bad things that happen, the sad, the tragic, the wicked, Jesus has overcome the world and his kingdom is come.

And sometimes, just sometimes, we catch a glimpse of heaven here on earth.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas from Zac's

A good way to start the day

I woke up this morning, turned over in bed, opened my eyes and saw this ...
It's one of the images from the studio session we had with Essence Photography a few weeks ago. I framed it yesterday ready to give to Mother-in-law when we next see her and I'd left it on the window-sill.

How could I not smile?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Frightening myself with my efficiency

I am so organised I not only have my Christmas dinner menu planned but it's shopped for too!

I never even usually have a Christmas dinner menu. This year we're having:
fish parcels with dill and beetroot dressing;
roast turkey with sausage stuffing, roast potatoes, herby roast root vegetables, and sprouts with shallots and pinenuts;
Christmas pudding and brandy butter or warm brownie with clotted cream.

This is obviously the answer: tell myself whatever I'm planning for is happening a week earlier than it actually is. Do you think that would work?

Bah humbug? Not me

Sainsburys had sold out of Christmas puddings! (Not to mention cranberries, cloves and salt.)

So I'm making a last-minute one. It'll be fine. I'll make it up as I go along. How hard can it be?

So the good news is the Elder Son and Daughter-in-law arrived safely earlier in the week having finally made it out of London. They're here till Boxing Day and ... I can't tell you the rest yet.

Elder Son is in the kitchen at the moment preparing his traditional Christmas lasagne for dinner tonight so I've got a day off, and that's very pleasant.

What else? Oh yes, for those people who know me and worry about my Christmas dinner following my Christmas-eve-eve midnight supermarket turkey search a few years ago, I'm pleased to say that I've ordered a turkey from the butcher this year. Admittedly I only ordered it yesterday but he's a very understanding butcher.

It's still not really sunk in that it's Christmas the day after tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Belated birthday cake for Elder Son

Zac's Christmas party

We had celeriac and bacon soup and loads of goodies that everyone had brought. A large crowd turned out in spite of the weather and a wonderful time was had by all.
Kingsley is a professional children's entertainer. I'm not sure what this is but it's very clever.And this is my very own reindeer!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Shepherd's Tale

You have to pretend I'm a man for this.

Recipe for indigestion

Husband's lunch today: hot mince pies served with a large dollop of clotted cream.

A snowman with a difference

Built by Younger Son and Girlfriend.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The difference between men and women

Husband throws a snowball, it hits me on the back of the neck and I have icy cold drips trickling down my back; I throw a snowball and it disintegrates as it flops to the ground.

Husband shakes a snow-covered branch and I get covered in snow; I shake a snow-covered branch and ... I get covered in snow. Or sometimes George does.
This reindeer got stuck in the snow.

Wintry wonderland






Christmas has been delayed

So the best laid plans ...

Although these plans weren't really best laid. More on and off and on again. The idea was for the children to come home this weekend so we could have Christmas together. And then it snowed.

Daughter has lots of snow in Devon plus GrandDaughter is proper poorly with a cold so they can't come. Elder Son and Daughter-in-law were planning on travelling down today but much snow is forecast for the M4 between Surrey and Swansea so looks like they won't make it either.

Hey ho.

And it's Elder Son's birthday today! Happy birthday, lovely boy!
This photo was taken in the studio a few weeks ago. I haven't got round to ordering prints yet but plan to cover my walls with the wonderful photos Pete took. (Check out the Essence Photography website.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The nonagenarian - and his nephew

Great-uncle Woodrow and Uncle John shared a birthday on Monday. Uncle Woodie was 90 and Uncle John 85.
Uncle Woodie was the youngest of my great-grandmother's 8 surviving children and, while they all had their own little quirks, I can safely say that Uncle Woodie is the biggest character. He's both the stereotypical grumpy old man and a ladies' man.

This photo shows, from left, my great-uncles Bun and Woodie with uncle John. I think you can see from Uncle Woodie's face that he's going to be a charmer.
He was married to Megan until she died in the 1970s but being married didn't stop him philandering. As I child I would hear the great-aunts whispering but didn't really understand what it was about ... until one Christmas.

I lived with my mother, grandparents and great-gran so at holiday times everyone congregated in our house to party. The Honey family loved to party. It was traditional for the grown-ups to go to the Park Inn and then come back to our house where the men would be served their supper of cold meats and mash before the singing began. (I assume the women ate at some point.)

One year, in the early 60s, I was considered old enough to look after the younger children so we were all deposited in Auntie Gay's house, which was next door but three to the pub. The little ones were put to bed and I was left in the front room to read to my heart's content.

Some time during the evening I heard the front door go and, assuming it was someone checking that we were all right, expected a head to pop round the door any minute. It didn't happen. Instead the people - I could hear two voices - went into the back room.

I hovered in the front room for a bit, wondering what to do, and then - very bravely I think - went down the corridor and pushed open the back room door. Uncle Woodie and the well-endowed lady from down the road jumped apart guiltily. 'O! Elizabeth, we've just come in to ... get something. It's all right. Go back to the other room.'

I did as I was told and they left soon after.

I never told anyone about that. Even though I wasn't sure what was going on - I was an innocent child - I somehow knew it wasn't something I should talk about.

After his wife died, the grieving widower soon found solace in the arms of another who also happened to be married at the time. She's now widowed and she and Uncle Woodie are still together. She's a lovely lady and how she puts up with the old curmudgeon is a mystery to most people.

But his exploits - the ones that I know about - didn't stop there.

One of our friends is a teacher in a local school. We were out with her and her husband one evening about 10 years ago when she told us about the lollipop man at her school. He'd started flirting with her and writing her poems. She said, 'I wouldn't mind but he's about 80.'

Turned out to be Uncle Woodie. Our friend took to going the long way round to school to avoid him. This time I did tell on him: I told great-auntie Joan, his older sister. She laughed, 'The silly old bugger! Wait till I see him; I'll tell him!'

Then there was the time he tried to emigrate to USA but they turned him down because of his communist party membership ...

Uncle Woodie and his older sister, Joan, at the family gathering last Sunday.

Very nice but does it have to be this weekend?

Which is probably what Mary said when Joseph said, 'Aye up, lass, we're off tae Bethlehem.'

Good news to share

Lifeboatmen saved a cow who'd fallen off a cliff in Pembrokeshire this week. She was stuck in a tiny cove and they coaxed her into the water and encouraged her to swim after the lifeboat back to land.

And a middle-aged man who'd been threatening to jump off a building in Swansea was talked down and the bouncy castle that had been put in place, just in case, wasn't needed.

Big tongue syndrome

As part of Zac's carol service I told the shepherds' story again. Unfortunately:
1. I was sitting next to Gerry;
2. he'd had an argument with someone and was in a mood.

So my first bit of reading was done to the accompaniment of effing grumbling. I was quite pleased as I only lost my thread once or twice but then I had big tongue syndrome.

You know the sort of thing, when it feels as if your tongue has filled your mouth and you can't swallow. (What do you mean you've never had that? Everyone gets it, don't they?) For what felt like half an hour but was probably only 10 seconds I couldn't speak. Eventually my tongue returned to normal and I could continue and I'm hoping it just seemed like one of those dramatic pauses that Neil liked so much when I told the story to the elderly.

Later on I was in conversation with Blossum when he suddenly said, 'You're not really here, are you? Go home and get some sleep.'

Good advice.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will Christmas come early? Or will snow delay it?

Girlfriend flies home to Italy on Sunday and she took us out for a meal last night. She waitresses in a local Italian restaurant called Topo Gigio. It's been in the city for as long as I can remember but we'd never eaten there before, but it was lovely. We had a delicious meal and a lovely evening.

The plan is for all the family to come home this weekend so we can celebrate Christmas together before Girlfriend leaves but Husband is a gloom and doom merchant constantly telling me about the snow storms that are approaching and that may prevent Daughter and Elder Son coming home. Or worse may stop or delay Girlfriend's journey or flight. She only has a week at home because of work and uni commitments so she doesn't want to miss any of it.

And she's not very lucky with travel: last summer she missed her best friend's hen party because of the ash cloud.

Airs and graces

A man tapped me on the shoulder when I was in the butcher's today. He said, 'Hello, how are you?' In itself that wouldn't be particularly important but I haven't seen him for about 35 years. He was a lecturer in university but not in my subject. I knew him to say hello to because his wife's mother was the best friend of my great-aunt. (Did you follow that?)

Beryl, his wife, was just an ordinary girl from a little terraced cottage but she committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of the village: she put on airs and graces. 'Who does she think is? Just because he's a professor.'

I'm sorry for complaining, ducky

On Tuesday a message was left on the phone saying that my glasses were ready for collection so yesterday I went into town primarily to pick them up. I wasn't best pleased then to get to Boots and be told that all the opticians were at a conference and it was illegal for them to give out glasses without an optician being present.

There was no point being angry with the receptionists as it wasn't their fault but when I went back today I took in a letter of complaint for the practice manager. I wrote because I knew if I tried to complain verbally I'd end up apologising for being a nuisance.

(Fortunately the practice manager wasn't in today so I avoided a confrontation!)

Oh, yes, and the man behind the counter was ever so camp. And I have this chameleon-like tendency to adopt obvious mannerisms and accents so I found myself turning into Kenneth Williams.

And it calls itself a newspaper

In WH Smith's yesterday I noticed the front cover of the Daily Mail. It had an 'exclusive' photo of the children of the suicide bomber. Surely there are privacy laws, especially regarding children, that should prevent that? They certainly can't claim it to be in the public interest and it can only be bad for all concerned.

If I'd ever had any doubt about the despicableness of the rag that pretends to be a newspaper they were dispelled yesterday.

My boys dun good

A good day's work. Just the ironing left to do and that can wait a bit.

Right, so where to begin? With the prison carol services I think.

Monday night's was a bit hairy as someone had set the lights on a timer and it all went dark just before the service was to start. We had to make do with emergency lighting, which wasn't the best for the men who had to read their words. They coped admirably though (and no-one took advantage of the dimness to divest the Lord Mayor of his chain).

I was so proud of my boys. And they did even better the next night when they could see properly.

From prison on Tuesday I went straight to Zac's carol service. A simpler affair - no Sally Army band and songsters - is it compulsory to be able to sing to be in the Salvation Army I wonder - with readings and favourite carols. And, as Sean commented, most people managed to sing the right tune ... most of the time.

But back to the prison. Afterwards I asked one woman what she'd thought of it; she said, 'Ahh, it was lovely.' I was very tempted to say that she can't have been listening if she thought it was lovely. Honest, raw, painful, yes; lovely no.

For weeks I've been meeting with a small group of men and we've been talking about Christmas and what it means to us. One man shared his story, which we used in the service. This is it.

I needed help. My life was in a mess and there was nothing I could do about it. I was an alcoholic and I’d spent the last 25 years of my life in and out of prison. I began to talk to the Samaritans, managed to get the help I needed. I went through the AA 12 steps programme and I got clean. I was so grateful I wanted to start giving something back to the community that I’d taken from for so long. I helped on soup runs, feeding the homeless. Things were going good for me.

Then my dad died. He’d been more than a father to me; he’d been more like my best friend. I could tell him anything and we talked everyday. Until he died.

I went back on the booze. The only thing that helped me from giving up all together was that I had to stay fit to look after my young son. But Christmas was the worst. I’d grown up in a large family and Christmas had always been special. We’d read the story in the bible and go to midnight mass. My dad had taught me the real meaning of Christmas and I missed him so much. That year I just about managed to get through the day while I had my son with me. In the evening, when he’d gone, I went up to the cemetery to talk to my dad. I woke up next morning lying on my dad’s grave, an empty whisky bottle in my hand.

And now I'm back in here. And in prison I have a choice: I can stay in my cell and do nothing or I can try and sort out my behaviour.

I've got to make the right choice, for my son’s sake.

Lovely? I don't think so.


I'm not dead

I'm not allowing myself to blog until I've finished what I have to do.

So that could be next year ...

No, might be later if I'm lucky.

Of if I do what I have to do instead of sitting here wishing I were blogging.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What am I doing blogging at this time of the morning when i should be sleeping?

I tend to wake early when I've lots on my mind hence I'm blogging at this ridiculously early hour.

In prison this afternoon for the final rehearsal and preparation for the carol service, which happens this evening and tomorrow. Each night there'll be about 100 in the congregation/audience including the Lord Mayor, important people associated with the local prison service, volunteers and inmates. Most of the five men taking part haven't read in public before and particularly not in front of such a large number. They're not professional actors - one, in his thirties, only learned to read while in prison a couple of years ago -so it's a huge thing they're doing. Especially because the audience will include their peers.

I know they'll be wonderful and I'll be so proud of 'my boys', but say a prayer for them, please, for assurance, loud voices, a good reception. And that they don't rush through the words so that no-one hears what they're reading!

The last two carol services with which I've been involved have been funny; this one is much more from the heart of the men involved. It's poignant and speaks of loss and regret. (I'll post some of the pieces later.) I pray it shouts into the hearts of those who'll be listening.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Eating out and then some more

Some offices have Secret Santas. We have a secret sustainable salubrious sensual Santa. I've planned a sensual delight for my recipient but can't say any more than that.

We'll be giving and receiving at our Christmas 'do', which I think is tomorrow evening. I say think because I haven't had confirmation yet.

Tonight we're off out with 'the gang' (minus the 2 who are cruising through the Panama canal) for a Christmas meal then tomorrow lunchtime it's my uncle's family get-together followed by another meal out in the evening.

I'll just have to roll to slimming class on Tuesday.

Maltesers and G cups

I went Christmas shopping in town today. Which would have been fine if it hadn't been for all the other people. People who walk slowly, meander, stop suddenly and generally get in my way. The queues weren't bad; it was just getting about.

Husband drove me in and on the way we were discussing presents. He said, 'You're not getting much for Christmas.'
'That's all right as long as I get some of those little round chocolates that you can play marbles with.'
'I'm not playing marbles with you; you'd cheat and eat them all yourself.'
'I wasn't going to play marbles with you; I'm going to play with my invisible friend. She doesn't like chocolate so even if she wins I'll still get to eat the Maltesers.'
Husband patted me on the leg. 'Only you could lose to an imaginary friend.'
Well, she's very good at marbles.

As well as shopping I took my glasses into the optician's. There was much shaking of heads and oh dearing, so I've ordered new glasses. When Husband picked me up afterwards I was telling him this.
'It's nothing a bit of glue won't fix,' he said.
'That's only a stop gap measure. And anyway there was an offer to have 2 pairs of glasses for the price of one.'
'How much?'
'£79.'
'£79!!!'
'For two pairs.'
'You should get 25 pairs for that.'

I thought I might as well get it all over with so I said, 'And I paid £59 for a new bra.'
'That's cheap for you.'

Most of the weight I've lost seems to have gone off my boobs. I've gone from 34G at my finest hour to 34DD. It's very odd being able to cup one in my hand.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Student protests: the good and the bad

It has been good to see students protesting the proposed rise in tuition fees. It's about time. Back in the good old days, when there were no fees and we even had grants, students would protest at the drop of a beer can; today's generation are too busy working to survive their education years without too huge a burden of debt.

It has been bad to see a minority of protesters (whether they were students or not) rioting, causing damage and injury. It meant that the BBC News at Ten led on the story of the attack on the car of the Prince of Wales and the question of royal security rather than the scandalous vote to allow universities to raise fees.

But David Cameron surely signed Vince Cable's fate when he patted him on the back when he sat down in the House of Commons after speaking in favour of the motion. 'Good man. You're one of us.'

Thursday, December 09, 2010

'Armless

My glasses have lost an arm.

All I did was put them on. That is, I put on half a pair of glasses.

Husband says it's nothing a bit of glue won't fix.

This is where I should be living at the moment

Isn't she beautiful?

GrandDaughter and Husband enjoying breakfast together - sharing toast.
'Look at me! I can pull myself up now!'
'Me and my dog.'

But is it gold?

It's Great-uncle Woodie's 90th birthday next Monday and, as Uncle John is having his annual family get-together on Sunday, I offered to make a birthday cake. It's been maturing nicely, helped along by regular slopfuls of brandy, for the last couple of months, so on Tuesday I iced it. Which meant a visit to the cake decorating shop.

I am such a girl! I want all of the little tubs of sparkles they sell there. And the pretty flowery things, and ... ooh ... all the pretty stuff!

Then when I'm icing I have to stop myself covering everything in gold dust. You can't see the gold effect very well in the photo - in fact you can't see the gold effect very well full stop. I was a little disappointed by it. I asked the lady in the shop if the gold dust was gold. She sort of looked at me. 'That's what it says on the label.'
'Yes, I know but it looks a bit yellow.'
'It's gold.'

(It wasn't the same lady I asked about the upside-down candle you'll be pleased to hear. )

Anyway, I don't know how they get such flat cakes in shops; you can always see the lumps on mine.
And, as I was doing it, I iced a birthday cake for two of the regulars at Zac's at the same time. It was much appreciated: Paul wasn't there and Lucy didn't want any. Hey ho. Everyone else enjoyed it.

The trouble with libraries is ...

they're full of books.

Published books. Which makes me sigh as I think of my two novels, loitering unwanted in my desk drawer. (Or, more accurately but less romantically, on my computer disc.) Unloved except by me.

It didn't help that my visit to the library coincided with two rejections. Not rejections as such but 'delays'. Back in the summer you may remember I got very excited when a doggy mag said it wanted to use my article about Swansea Jack in its Christmas issue; come the issue no article. 'Sorry, there wasn't room.'

Similarly I submitted the psalm written by inmates of Swansea prison to the prison newspaper and was told it had been passed on to the editor with a view to including it in the Christmas issue.
'Sorry, there wasn't room.'

And as I'm considering these rejections I remember that I sent my redrafted first novel to a publisher a while ago and haven't heard anything from them. On their website in their guidelines they say it will take a long time but I can't help myself thinking, 'Surely if they weren't at all interested it would have been returned by now?'

And then I have to slap myself around the face the face a few times. 'No, no, no! Do not go there! Do not allow yourself to build up hope. It will be returned; they will not want to publish it.'

And I sigh again.

But then I remind myself that the men I'm working with in prison ready for the carol service think I'm a wonderful writer and two of them have put down their names for my book when it comes out. Bless 'em.

Bloodsucking fiends

Finally got to the library this week and returned The Return and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven.

The latter, Fannie Flagg's book, was a delight: a life-affirming story of nice people with a little quirky twist that was just delicious.

But I didn't finish The Return by Victoria Hislop. It was good, -ish, although she seemed to be trying a bit hard with the adjectives but it was partly set during the Spanish Civil war and I kept forgetting the difference between the Nationalists, the Republic, left, right, goodies and baddies. My excuse is that I read late at night when all I'm fit for is Enid Blyton. Having said that, I used to struggle to identify the characters in the Secret Seven.

This time, I chose total froth in the shape of Wendy Holden's latest, Gallery Girl. Completely frivolous it's well-written, and I've enjoyed her previous books. For something completely different, I opted for Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore. The author was recommended to me by my brother-in-law-in-law at the weekend. It's a funny fantasy novel so as I don't read fantasy or sci-fi, I shall approach this with trepidation.

My third choice was a small pamphlet of poetry. At the tea for the elderly on Sunday, Gary read two poems from a Gower farmer/poet, now deceased. I'd never heard of Cyril Gwynn who, apparently, composed poetry while ploughing and doing other farming-type thins, and was a popular guest events where he'd recite his stories. The book is called The Gower Yarns of Cyril Gwynn, and here's one of the poems Gary read. (Best read aloud dramatically, preferably in a singsong Welsh accent.) (And I'm not a big poetry fan but this is worth reading.)

The Widow's Reply
A bareheaded crowd in the churchyard stood,
In silent respect to the dead,
The birds were singing near by in the wood,
And the breeze wafted in from Worm's Head.

The widow looked down on a strong oak case,
With grief she was almost demented,
For him that was gone, she could never replace,
And her loss was sadly lamented.

A wonderful father and husband was he,
Small wonder indeed she was fretting,
As she thought of the children who'd played at his knee,
And declared she would never forget him.

The service now over the people had gone,
The widow sat down on a stone,
She told her friends and relations to go on,
And said she would follow alone.

But on the way home she paused by a gate,
And while in reflection she tarried,
A widower offered to share her fate,
He suggested they both get married.

The widow replied with many a sob,
"I know your intentions are right,
And I'm sorry to have to to refuse you, Bob,
But I promised Davy Robin last night."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Trying to blog while watching Lethal Weapon 4

In Devon babysitting for GrandDaughter. Really babysitting. Daughter and Son-in-law have gone out for a Christmas meal with S-i-l's consultant bosses. It's the first time they've been out for an evening since GrandDaughter was born - one of the drawbacks of breastfeeding and having a baby who won't take a bottle.

She's snuggled down safely in bed at the moment but she isn't a good sleeper so I'm on tenterhooks, sitting next to the monitor and wondering if I'll disturb her if I go upstairs to make sure it's working properly.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The pain of pedantry

On the drive home today I noticed a sign saying, 'Black labrador pup's for sale.'

It was very tempting to stop and ask, 'Black labrador pup's what for sale?'

Getting old

There's a phrase I recall from various American detective series I watched in my youth: justifiable homicide. After spending less than 24 hours with the in-laws I am of the opinion that there is not a court in the land that would convict Father-in-law if he murdered his wife.

Mother-in-law has a lung condition and she needs and is supposed to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. But she's stubborn and refuses to use it all the time. As a result her brain doesn't get enough oxygen and her short-term memory is all but gone. That's bad enough but she's also getting nasty with father-in-law, who has had a couple of strokes himself and isn't in perfect health.

And this has all happened fairly recently, or at least, it's worsened rapidly.

Father-in-law is worried about his own memory and not being able to look after his wife, and just takes it all quietly. My two sisters-in-law both live nearby and are being run off their feet - although Mother-in-law will tell you that no-one's been near her for days even though they'll have seen her earlier that day.

There are times I'm glad I'm an orphan.

Working backwards

I was complimented on my reading for the elderly by Neil (who, admittedly, as Husband pointed out, is always complimentary to everyone). He said, 'I particularly liked the pauses.'

The bits when I wasn't reading? Yes, that's about right; most people prefer me when I don't open my mouth.

No, I knew what he meant and I didn't disillusion him. I didn't say that the pauses were less for dramatic effect and more for me to scramble around in my brain to try and remember the next line.

I didn't do Joyce Grenfell but told the shepherds' story from the point of view of an old man looking back to when he'd been a boy out in the fields with his father watching the sheep. I started by telling the elderly that they'd have to imagine I was an old man. I said, 'You can probably get the old bit but the man bit might be harder.' As I was saying it I thought, 'Actually I probably look young to them.' Which was quite a nice thought.

There were about 12 old people - only one man - for the lovely tea, and they seemed to appreciate it. The group, taking time out of busy schedules to put it on every month, is doing a great job, picking up, spending time with, befriending and chatting to people who might well be lonely otherwise.

The temperature in the rooms the tea was being held in was tropical. Just walking through the door you could feel the wall of heat. Nerves added to my rise in temperature and by the time I'd read I had huge droplets of perspiration on my back. I said to Debs, 'Feel that!'

And it occurred to me straight after I'd forced her to touch my sweaty back that it probably wasn't a nice thing to do. It must have been stress; I wouldn't normally be so crass surely? Then again ...

When I got there I asked Elin why there was only grape juice and no wine and she said, 'they knew you were coming.'
'Excuse me, I don't drink!'
'Oh, no, well, it's just you behave as if you do.'

Friday, December 03, 2010

First peel a pound of chestnuts

It's been one of those evenings.
Husband spotted a recipe on the BBC website for roasted squash, apple and chestnut soup. When he offered to roast and peel the required chestnuts I said we'd have it tonight. We won't be having it again.

He didn't realise it would take him 45 minutes to peel the roasted chestnuts nor did I realise that peeling the squash after roasting, as instructed in the recipe, would be so fiddly and end up with so little squash.

I don't even like chestnuts. And then my packet Hovis granary bread mix sank in the middle.

I was in a bad mood with the soup before we even sat down to tea. (It looks quite posh though, doesn't it? And couldn't have tasted that bad as Husband, YS and Girlfriend all had second helpings. But that might have been because there was nothing else for dinner.)

While I was doing battle with squash Husband was spilling red wine all over my unwritten Christmas cards. He says it adds a special Christmas spirit to them but I'm not convinced although I can probably get away with the ones that have been written and are in envelopes by blaming it on the Royal Mail.

And we've just been wrapping presents ready to take to Derby (in the snow) tomorrow.

All I want to do is sleep ...

The Snow Dog

We went to bed in Devon on Thursday evening - after a lovely meal including sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream - and woke up to a snow-covered land.

Holly enjoyed rolling in the snow.



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

George, don't do that!

We're off to Devon tomorrow - which is also husband's 61st birthday. I'm taking him to Jack in the Green in Rockbeare in the evening. It's one of our favouritest restaurants and won the 09/10 title of Best Restaurant in the West.

Coincidentally the latest newsletter from the Rosemary Conley School of Slimming gives tips on surviving the Christmas season diet intact. They include:
not having butter with your bread;
opting for the less creamy dishes;
and not eating the chocolate mint at the end of the meal (thereby saving 35 calories).

I'll obviously be doing all of those ...

Then it's home on Thursday, work on Friday and up to Derby on Saturday to see the in-laws. With a family meal out on the Saturday. Coming home on Sunday in time for me to 'entertain' a group of elderly men and women.

Some people from Linden do a monthly tea for the elderly and, as it's the Christmas party tea on Sunday, they're making it a bit longer and providing entertainment in the form of someone reading poems and me reading ... something. I'm not yet decided.

I think it will be my Joyce Grenfell take-off, a monologue in a primary teacher's voice as she tries to explain Christmas to a group of young children. The good thing is that, as they're elderly, they will remember the original Joyce Grenfell monologues; the bad thing is that they have varying stages of deafness so may not hear it.

Now I'm wondering if it was prophetic giving George his name: did I 'know' when we named him that I would frequently be saying, 'George, don't do that!' (One of the best remembered lines from Ms Grenfell's schoolteacher monologues.)

Are drunks in Wales less worthwhile than abused children in Cambodia?

Chris and some others from Linden have just returned from visiting a family in Cambodia. The family lived in Swansea for four years while Glenn did his Ph.D. before returning to work with trafficked and abused children in Cambodia.

Chris was telling us about his trip and saying that the country had a very different feel, a bit like Africa but different again. He told us about the amazing people they met and the work going on there and said you can't imagine it unless you've been there.

A while ago I wrote about Chris returning from visiting the orphanage Linden helps support in Zambia and saying something along the lines of, 'Everyone should go there to get out of their comfort zone and see what real need is.' I wrote - and i spoke to him about it - that I felt it diminished the work done in this country e.g. in Zac's. My family and life commitments don't allow me to spend a couple of weeks experiencing what Chris sees as real life. More to the point, I have no desire to.

But that does mean anything I do here is less important?

Yes, sexually abused children have no say in their treatment and it's horrific; alcoholic grown men choose their way of life (to some extent). It's much easier to feel compassion for wide-eyed orphans.

I was talking to Husband about this when we were out walking George this afternoon. I always feel that he puts up with my do-gooding as it keeps me happy and wasn't sure what his response would be. What he said surprised me.

He pointed out that each individual is needy in their own way and, what's more, to suggest that someone isn't a good Christian because he doesn't go to Africa for example isn't very Christian. (Not that Chris was saying that.) And he said that he's very proud of me for what I do at Zac's and in prison. He's never said that to me before.

Some times I love my husband.

P.S. Then I think perhaps just by writing this I am showing my own prejudice, my guilt maybe, my need to be valued, my insecurities. Oh, phooey, a little therapy insight is a terrible thing.

A good funeral

It was the funeral of the 90-year-old mum of my friend today.

Maggi and I have been friends for almost 50 years since she moved to live just up the road from us. When we were teenagers and my mum had a brain haemorrhage it was Maggi who sat with me as we waited for news. Auntie Gay set us polishing the silver cutlery (which wasn't even silver) and we sat there quietly together, Maggi being a friend and support.

Our lives followed very different paths and now, in spite of living only a couple of miles apart, we see each other maybe once or twice a year. But when we do it's as if it were yesterday we last met.

It was good to be at the funeral today although I'd only seen Mrs T on rare occasions over the last few years. The church was packed, a tribute to her and her four daughters, and the words the vicar read about her were lovely. Not overwhelmingly sweet and unreal like the last funeral I attended but you knew from what was said that this was a good woman.




Girls can't get it

I should have explained more.

The proceeds from Sunday evening's unplugged acoustic music event (that i read at last month) were going to the prostate cancer charity and moustaches were the theme of the evening what with it being MOvember (grow a moustache for a month in aid of the charity).

I was behind the bar so naturally had to go moustachioed. There wasn't a lot of competition for the girls' title; just one other female had entered into the spirit and drawn on a moustache and she thought I should win. What could I say? I've never won a sash before.

My prize also included a lot of information about prostate cancer so if there's anything you want to know ...

P.S. Girls can't get it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Miss Movember!!

My aristocratic moustache won me the title of Miss Movember last night. I'm seen here with Mr Movember aka Sam Brown.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Minus 6 and all's well

The temperature dropped to -6 in the night but it was a glorious morning and I stopped on my way to church to take these photos (making me late needless to say). The photos don't do justice to the beauty of the morning but they hint at it.

There is the thinnest film of ice on the edge of the sea: you can see where it finishes.
There's snow on tham thar hills.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Aria or aristocrat?

I had to go shopping today. There was something I needed but when it came to it I couldn't decide.

The operatic singer was rather debonair while it's hard to resist a Mexican bandit. In the end it had to be the aristocrat.

Guessed what it is yet?

All will be revealed tomorrow.

* * * * * * * * * *
It's nearly time for the Wales All Blacks kick off.

How bad can it be, I ask myself - and then wish I hadn't followed that path.

It's times like these that a girl needs chocolate - and doesn't have any.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Why do I feel it only could happen to me?

Some people say that they can't think what to blog about. They should be me for an hour; my life is one long blog post. I mean, who else could make a loaf of bread like this?Note the coin-shaped edge to the sticky-up bit where the dough has come up against the roof of the breadmaker. That's what happens when you buy a ready-mix packet. I thought, 'This sounds a nice and even simpler way of making a parmesan and sun-dried tomato loaf.' That'll learn me, as they say in this part of the world.

I don't think it's meant to have two inches of uncooked flour at the bottom either.
Let's hope my parsnip soup - invented by my own fair hand - is better.

(I can hear the bells of doom already ... anyone for fish and chips?)

Postscript
The bread was quite tasty though its texture was a bit chewy and crumpet-like. The soup - slightly spicy - was declared a hit and Younger Son scraped the pressure cooker clean.