Sunday, January 31, 2010

I was sold last night

For £33.

Or to be more accurate, £33.33 pence recurring.

There was an auction last night in Linden in aid of Mutende Children's Village, and two friends and I offered to do a Ground Force-style garden make-over. Those of you who know anything about me will know that I'm not good at growing things but I am very good at destructive gardening. Give me a patch of land to clear and I'll be in my element. Fortunately the two friends are good at the planning and planting bits so it should turn out all right.

And we were sold for £100. And worth every penny I'm sure. If only for my Charlie Dimmock impersonation ...

A cheap-squeak

Making winter root and apple soup for dinner, from the Sainsburys magazine. Accompanied by cheese and linseed scones. I'm a little worried as, apart from the fact that budgies eat it, the only thing I know about linseed is that it's used for oiling cricket bats.

So I might start to cheep but at least I won't squeak.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Memory loss? What memory loss?

I walked into the kitchen thinking, 'I must take the hoover upstairs with me.'
I walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs not realising until I reached the top that I'd left the hoover downstairs.

I don't have to worry about getting old and losing my short term memory. I don't have a short term memory to lose.

A little Grey's Anatomy is called for

I went upstairs to clean the bedroom this afternoon ... and I did it! In spite of bed looking very tempting. But as I only got up at 11 o'clock this morning I thought going back to bed at 2 o'clock might be considered a bit much.

So I've done lots of housework and I'm about to shower before treating myself to an episode - or two - of Grey's Anatomy. I was given Season 4 for Christmas and haven't watched it yet. When Husband worked away, Wednesday was my Grey's night but now he works from home most of the time, and he doesn't like medical dramas, I haven't had a chance. He wouldn't mind putting on his headphones and listening to music while I watch but that seems a bit anti-social, at least while we have other DVDs that we could both enjoy.

But Husband has volunteered to make us a curry for dinner so I'm going to put my feet up and enjoy a dose of McDreamy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I am feeling sorry for myself

Big 'Aaaah' please.

I should be in circuit training now but I'm poorly. Snuffling and sneezing but mostly tired. I went upstairs to clean the bedroom this afternoon but got into bed instead and slept for 2 hours. And I'm about ready to go back to bed now ...

Normal service will be resumed soon.

Two go beachcombing

George and I went to Pobbles as it's the best beach for driftwood but the selection was a bit disappointing. I wanted to make a cross for Zac's and I deliberately wanted to use material washed up amongst the flotsam and jetsam. I tried out a few pieces and finally settled on two that I brought home with me, along with some ragged rope. It's strange: when I picked up the wood I thought, 'This isn't too heavy'; by the time we reached the top of the hill it felt as if I were carrying a hundredweight of coal. It must be a gravity thing. Or something.
It's not really big enough though so I'll probably go down again at the weekend and take Husband with me. He's big and strong (although he has refused in the past to carry home some of the logs I thought would make wonderful garden features).

Visions and dreams

On Tuesday the guys in Zac's were asked what their dreams or visions for themselves or Zac's were . Some wonderful things were said about Zac's: encouraging, welcoming, supportive, non-judgemental (probably the most important one and one that most churches, even though they may try very hard, fail to achieve).

But my favourite comment of the night came from Gerry, our homeless alcoholic. He said, 'I comes here every Tuesday. I loses the chip on my shoulder.'

He gets his words and phrases mixed up sometimes - he often says correspond when he means communicate - so from that and from the other things he said, I took this to mean that, at Zac's, he is treated like an equal. And given respect - one of his favourite words.

And, what's more, he's into the third week of trying to cut down his drinking.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

George, the great white hunter

When we were out this afternoon George decided to adopt big fierce hunty dog mode. Which came a surprise to the pheasant that stalked across our path.

When George returned empty-mouthed I said, 'It's just as well, George. I'm not sure if it's pheasant-hunting season.'
'Pheasant-hunting season?'
'Yes, you're only allowed to hunt at some times of the year.'
'Correction: you're only allowed to hunt at some times of the year.'
I looked at him. 'What are you talking about?'
'I'm a dog; I can hunt at any time.'
'But I can't.'
'But you weren't hunting.'
'I'm not sure that would stand up in a court of law.'
'Why not? It's perfectly logical.'

Alas, poor George. He has a lot to learn about British law and its logic.


I was up early this morning and had a nice productive day planned. Now you know if I'm saying that that something must have happened to prevent it. Other people manage to write about very successful days; I write about what went wrong with my day.

Needless to say it was George's fault. Well, I blame him for beginning it and putting me all of a kilter.

He escaped and for about 50 minutes Younger Son and I were scouring the streets - in my case while keeping an eye on our house as a Sainsburys order was due - and even had the butcher and postman on lookout duty.

It turned out he'd gone to visit my friend down the road. She'd tried to phone me but, of course, we were out searching. And George didn't have his collar on so Linda wasn't entirely sure whether it was him or whether she had kidnapped someone else's dog.

(We've been taking his collar off while he's at home because his neck was getting a bit sore, but in future he'll be collared full-time.)

And that just sort of put me out for the day. It's George's fault. Without a shadow of doubt.

Let's hear it for curvy ladies!

Father-in-law buys the Sunday Times so last weekend I was able to read the story in Style magazine (see photo) about how curvaceous ladies are finding themselves acceptable again, even being used on billboards in New York.

And about time too say some of us.

It's long been said that men, on the whole, prefer women with a bit of flesh on them - as long as it's in the right places. And I'm pleased to say that mine is. There's a bit more in those places than I'd like ideally but still I have the curves and I know how to flaunt them!

However - and even though people laugh when I say this, it's true - I'm not the right shape for jogging. Or exercising generally if it comes to that.

A few weeks ago you may recall I mentioned the catastrophe with my exercise bra. In an economy drive - new kitchen, new car and Christmas have taken their toll - I chose to go to M&S for a new exercise bra rather than Madame Fifi. Oh but I am regretting it.

It may only have cost £14 but it clamps my boobs together, leaving me with a sweaty, itchy, spotty cleavage. Now doesn't that sound attractive?

I'm thinking about trying Bravissimo, as mentioned in the article, but buying without trying on is a bit risky, even if it can be returned. Does anyone have any experience of Bravissimo?

Meantime, ladies, if you've got it, flaunt it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy St. Dwynwen's Day!

Today is St Dwynwen's day, the day when all Welshmen valiant and true, should offer unto their love a leek as a symbol of their devotion. (I made that bit up.) Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers. I've written about her before (in 2007 I believe) but, in brief, she had one of those doomed love affairs that always feature in these stories.

She fell in love with a handsome young prince named Maelon but her father had already promised her hand to another. Dwynwen was so upset that she asked God to hep her forget her true love. In answer God sent an angel with a potion to make her forget - and to turn Maelon into a block of ice. (Which seems jolly harsh as it was hardly his fault. And rather ungod-like as well.)

Then God, rather like the genie in the lamp, gave Dwynwen three wishes. She wished that Maelon be thawed, that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers, and that she should never marry. (Which seems like a waste of wishes. Why not wish that she be relieved of the promise to marry another and marry Maelon instead? It makes me think she didn't really want to marry him at all, but just fancied the idea of being heartbroken.)

As a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God's service for the rest of her life. She sounds like a very confused young woman to me.

Anyway, she founded a convent on Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, where a well named after her became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Allegedly the sacred fish or eels that live in the well can foretell whether or not a relationship will survive.

So if you want to know if your love is true, no need to sleep with orange peel under your pillow; simply pay a visit to Llanddwyn and ask the fish.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How many husbands could say this?

'You don't talk enough.'

Husband has always grumbled that I don't talk enough to him. That I don't tell him my deep thoughts, fears, even dreams. but I don't talk much to anybody.

I'm not good at talking.

I have such a fear of being a bore that should I decide to tell a story, I speak quickly, jumble up my words and leave out great chunks - which inevitably turn out to be vital to the story so that when I finish, expecting my listener to laugh or respond in some way, I am greeted instead by a blank look, re-affirming in my mind the idea that I am innately boring and shouldn't talk.

That was a long sentence. Have you noticed that I usually even write short sentences, brief posts (the previous one being an exception)? Not that I worry about my writing: brevity is just the style I prefer. I am confident about writing because I can think and plan it out ahead.

My verbal inarticulacy probably goes back to my childhood; everything else seems to.

I was born into a large extended family of talkers (and drinkers incidentally) (social drinkers I mean, not alcoholics). I neither talk nor drink. I blame my quietness on never being able to get a word in edgeways. Maybe if I'd taken up drinking ...

Then again, if I talked as much as I write, I really would be a bore.

Angel Baby

Meri (or Dragonstar) has had as her status on Facebook a paragraph about Angel Babies (miscarried or otherwise lost children). It reminded me of a story I wrote a long time ago. (I don't think I've included it in my blog before.)

In between Elder and Younger Sons I miscarried at about 12 weeks into my pregnancy. My doctor at the time said it was probably to do with my hormones not being properly balanced and for ages I believed that it was my fault. By the time I was pregnant with Younger Son we had moved and had a different doctor. When I talked to him of my anxiety about the same thing happening again he said that most of the early - under 13 weeks - miscarriages were because there was something wrong with the baby. He described it as nature's way of preventing an unsustainable life.

Anyway, for a long time I couldn't write about losing my baby; the only way I could deal with it was in fictional form. And this was my story.

Angel Baby
It was Tuesday the 14th of May. I know that for sure because I wrote it on the calendar. I’m not very good at remembering dates so I wrote it down. I knew that one day somebody would ask me, when did you meet the angel?

I knew somebody would ask that, the same way that I knew it was an angel. That’s another question people always ask, how did you know it was an angel? I just knew.

When I woke up that morning it was as if the sun was shining right into my bedroom, directly onto my face. At first I thought I must have forgotten to draw the curtains before I went to bed. But I always close the curtains. I don’t like the dark creeping in on me. The curtains in the bedroom are deep red velvet. The lady in the shop called them cochineal. Before I bought them, I held them up to the fluorescent light. They keep out all the dark.

But this morning, this Tuesday in May, the room was full of light, a warm, gentle light. I wasn’t frightened. I knew the man sitting at the end of my bed had to be an angel. He wasn’t a fierce sort of angel, although he looked as though he could be. He had very strong cheekbones and deep-set eyes, the colour of the writing on Mothercare bags. His hair was black – Labrador puppy black. And it was a bit straggly.

He was smiling at me, a wide lovely smile. I couldn’t help smiling back.
I said, “You’re an angel aren’t you?”
He nodded.
“I can’t see your wings,” I said.
“That’s because they’re folded up.” He turned round and showed me. They fitted neatly together like the wings of a butterfly that had just come out of a chrysalis.
“Can I fly with you?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said.

For a long time we just sat and looked at each other and smiled. At last I said, “Do you want something? Do you want a cup of tea or some toast?”
He said, “No, but I’d like to go for a walk.”

So we went to the park. I don’t know what time it was but it must have been early. The grass was dew-wet on my bare feet and there was no-one else around. Except for one old man sleeping on a bench. We crept past him so as not to wake him up. We went as far as the lake, not talking much, just smiling at each other, and watched the ducks.

The sun was rising higher in the sky. I said, “Have you been there?”
“Where? To the sun? No,” the angel said, “it’s much too hot. You wouldn’t want to go there. You’d burn.”

We watched a mother duck lead her babies into the water. There was one that was smaller than the rest and he was struggling to keep up. He was making a strange little squeaking sound, more like a mouse than a duckling. “Listen to him,” I said.

But then I began to hurt. I said, “Something hurts, it hurts here.” I held my hand to my belly. The angel picked me up, and ran. As he ran, his wings unfolded and carried us up above the houses.

“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I feel safe in your arms.” I did. They were strong, sturdy arms, covered in soft dark hairs. I drew patterns with my finger in the hairs and rested my head on his shoulder.
When we got home he lay me down gently on my bed. I was tired. I hadn’t been up long but I was very tired and I ached.
He said, “Go to sleep now.”
I said, “Will you be here when I wake up?”
He nodded and stroked my head.

I must have slept for a long time because when I woke I wasn’t in my bed. I wasn’t even in my own bedroom. I was in a small square room, with high walls the colour of wild primroses. There was one window in the room, a long thin window; and through it I could see another just the same, with the same rusty-white paint peeling off the metal frame. The sun must have gone behind the clouds because the air outside was grey.

I looked around the room. There was a small sink and mirror on the wall opposite the bed. The angel was sitting in the only chair. When he saw that I was awake, he stood up and smiled.
“Where am I?” I said.
“You’re in the best place,” he said.

It didn’t look like the best. The chair he had been sitting on was fraying round the edges. There was an old bruised-red stain in the middle of the seat. The material was paler around the edge of the stain as if someone had tried to scrub it clean.
“It’s the shape of Africa,” I said.
He followed my eyes, “Yes, you’re right, it is.”
“It still hurts,” I said.
“I expect it does,” the angel said, “but it won’t last for ever.”
“How do you know?” I said.
“Because I’ve seen it before.”
“Will it be all right when it stops hurting?”
He looked sad and began to speak but the door of the room opened and he stopped.
“Ah, you’re awake.”
The two women who had come in weren’t at all alike. One was young with blonde unruly hair that peeped out at all angles from under her cap; the other was older and she had her hair tied back tightly in a bun, like a schoolmarm in a story.
“Let’s see what’s happening, shall we?” the schoolmarm said.

The young one moved the chair to beside my bed and sat down. She took my hand and smiled at me. “It’s going to be all right,” she said.
“What is?” I said.
She just kept on smiling. I looked from her face to that of the angel. He was standing behind her watching me, not smiling.

The schoolmarm lifted back the sheet. She said, “Hold your legs up a minute,” and she slid something underneath me. Then she put up a shield. When I tell people that, they say, ‘a shield? You mean a screen?’ They don’t understand. She didn’t want to look at my face. I looked at the blank white shield for a minute then I turned away. The young one patted my hand and kept smiling.

The angel said, “Don’t worry; I’ll be here, just over here.” He went and stood at the end of the bed behind the schoolmarm. As I watched him move, I caught a glimpse of the older woman’s face. She was frowning; her lips forming words, “It’s already coming away. It’s half out.”
I turned away and gripped the hand holding mine; it squeezed my fingers in return. I wanted to look at the angel but I didn’t want to see the woman at my feet so I stared at the young one. She had stopped smiling. She glanced towards her companion, then leaned and peered over the shield. Her face wrinkled and she bit the corner of her bottom lip. I wanted to say, “It’s all right, don’t worry,” but the words wouldn’t come out.

It was over. No time at all. The pain in my belly had gone. The woman took down her shield and pulled the sheets back into position. She tucked them in neatly. I looked beyond her direction. The angel’s head was bent over. He held something to his heart.

I said, “Is it all right?” He lifted his head. There were tears on his cheeks. He nodded.
The schoolmarm said, “Yes, everything’s fine now. Don’t worry. It’s all over. There’ll be other times, other chances.
I said, “I don’t want another chance, I want this time again.”
“Chin up,” she said, “someone will be around soon with dinner, I expect you’re hungry.”
“I’m empty,” I said.
“There you are then, soon be good as new,” she said.
The young one pushed back the chair. She was smiling again. “I’ll ask someone to bring you a cup of tea, shall I?” Then they were gone.

And it was just the angel, my baby and me.
The angel said, “I have to go now, will you be all right?”
“You know I will,” I said. I turned over so he wouldn’t see me cry. “You’ll take good care of my baby, won’t you?”

The clouds parted long enough to let a ray of light into the room. It was refracted off the mirror onto the bed. A fragment of rainbow lay just out of reach.

Ole, ole, ole o-lay, Ospreys, Ospreys!

Yes, the Ospreys won! In a nail-biting finish but they were well on top in the second half. Although apparently Leicester are citing them for playing 16 men for 1 minute. Well, let's face it, Leicester would know about cheating if anyone does.

Mother-in-law is home from hospital and on antibiotics. She has oxygen at home so she managed to persuade the doctor there wasn't any point keeping her in. She was a little bit confused by the whole thing though. At one point she asked me how my gran was: my gran's been dead for over 20 years.

I'm sure she'll be much happier at home.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Another busy day

Off to the rugby this afternoon to watch the Ospreys getting hammered by beating Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup. The Ospreys have to win to progress in the competition but after their resounding defeat against ASM Clermont Auvergne last week we're not holding our breath.

Then straight from the Liberty Stadium we're off to Derby. Mother-in-law is in hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy. It's especially bad as she has lung problems and needs daily oxygen.

So, another weekend and the kitchen not finished. Hey ho.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I'm a proper granny

Last week I bought myself a new cardie. I was meant to be looking for a birthday present for someone but got distracted by its lovely purple colour and when I felt it ... well, it was a done deal. It is so unbelievably soft and cuddly. I've worn it almost non-stop since.

Last night, getting ready for bed, I said to Husband, 'Feel this (no, my cardie I mean). Isn't it soft?'
'Mm,' he said, 'and sicky.'

Yay, I'm a proper granny: I have baby-sick on my cardie!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Driving home

Daughter bought me a box of Maltesers as a thank you. I said, 'Oh no, I'm on a diet!' But then I decided that the pleasure I get from a box of Maltesers far exceeds the calorie count.

* * * * * *

Driving home today I passed a van with fancy lettering on the side advertising Puss Free Catering.
'Puss Free? Puss Free?'

It took about 5 miles and a lot of brow furrowing before I worked out that it must have said Fuss Free. Then again some of these West Country folk do have strange ways ...

Thank you, Leslie!

With all the confusion and busyness before Christmas I forgot to say thank you to Leslie for the card and parcel that arrived. When I took the present down to Devon and Daughter opened it, we discovered Leslie (and Lorne) had sent a fabulous Canadian black bear comforter for GrandDaughter! Isn't it gorgeous? Aren't blogging friends great?

I'm back

I've been banned from putting the bathtime photo on my blog so I'll have to make do with this one of GrandDaughter, aged 8 weeks. When she awake I was too busy playing to remember to take photos. When she smiles, it begins with her eyes. Then one corner of her mouth turns up before her whole face beams and she chuckles. Oawh, I could eat her so easily. Silly Granny keeps hugging and kissing her, and tickling her feet, eating her toes, blowing raspberries on her tummy, and generally being a right pest!

When I got to Devon on Monday, Daughter's work hadn't arrived so we went for a walk by the canal and I got to push the pushchair! You cannot believe how long I have waited for that. But while we were walking by the canal we were harassed by a mean-looking swan. For no reason that I could see except that it was a nasty swan.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I have discovered the secret

Husband said, 'Now remember, if you have to put fuel in, that Minni's a diesel car.'
'But you should have enough.'

I checked when I got in and according to Minni I had enough petrol - sorry, diesel - to travel 391 miles. When I got to Newport, about 45 miles away, I had enough pet...diesel to travel 392 miles!

I was driving so economically that I wasn't just saving fuel: I was making it!!

Small portions

Someone told me that small portions are the answer so I had a small portion of cawl (stew) and dumplings for dinner last night. Then I went back and had another small helping.

By the way, for the first time in this blog's history, I've put word verifier on Comments. I was being spammed so I hope that will deter the offender.

Now I'm off to Devon! Yay!

Back either tomorrow evening or Wednesday. Have a good week: I will!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And this afternoon ...

I've had an exciting afternoon doing my accounts ready for my accountant i.e. Husband, to submit my tax thingy online.

It doesn't take that long to do my accounts ...

Whoops, got distracted. Remembered I had to order tickets for the Wales versus Italy Six Nations game in March, and for the crunch game between the Ospreys and Leicester Tigers (boo, hiss) next Saturday. And I suspect it will be a crunching game too. Better be worth all the money I've just paid out.

Oh, and do you know what I found in with my pay slips, bank statements and stuff?
A Wispa bar!
I don't know how long it's been there - or even what it was doing there - emergency rations probably - but it's best before end of January 2010, so I found it just in time.

I weighed this morning and hadn't lost any weight. Now that would have been disappointing if it hadn't been for the fact that yesterday I weighed and I had, apparently, put on 3 lbs. (I know you're not supposed to weigh that often but Husband was grumbling about the scales being wrong as he had put on 4 lbs so I got on to reassure him.) I suppose, if we put a nice spin on it, you could say that I've lost 3 lbs ...

What was your morning like?

We were doing a presentation in the prison this morning. When I say 'we', I mean 'I'. There were four of us on the original rota but the musician was sick, and the other two seem to have disappeared off the face of the planet. But that was okay; me and God could do this.

I'd spent some time preparing a different version of the pencil stuff and had everything ready. In spite of that, I woke in the night worrying and awoke early this morning. And I really needn't have bothered.

When I got there it turned out that the chaplain had forgotten it was a presentation morning and he'd prepared a talk too. ''Um, let me see,' he said. 'Shall we do your talk or mine?'
'It's up to you,' I said.
'Okay, I'll do mine then.'
'That's fine,' I lied through gritted teeth.

I can't help thinking that if I'd been Chris, his decision would have been different.

But is there a lesson here for me? Have I been getting too arrogant and sure of myself? Did I need taking down?

Things to ponder here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A silly question

Daughter is a self-employed, award-winning copywriter, working from home. At the moment she's on maternity leave.

Yesterday I got home from walking George and Husband said, 'Daughter phoned.'
'What's the matter? Is Grand-Daughter all right?'
'Nothing's the matter. Daughter has been asked by a regular client if she can do some work and she wanted to know if you could ...'
'...go down and babysit.'
'Yes, yes, yes.'
'You don't know when she wants you: what about work?'
'Pft, I can sort work out.'

So I'm going down on Monday. To look after Grand-Daughter and HollyDog. Yay!

Thanks, Lia!

Pea and ham soup.

And very nice it was too. And so simple to make. We enjoyed ours for dinner last night and I took a flaskful to hospital for my uncle. I hope he ate it as he's not been eating much since his op. He says he just doesn't feel like it but he's a tall, well-built man and will need his energy if he's to cope with his new knee.

Apparently they cut away the femur and tibia (is that the right one?) ones and put in a large stainless steel mechanism. But then they put his own kneecap back in because it was okay. I don't know how that works but it all sounds very gruesome. I was rather proud of myself in the hospital when Uncle was telling me - in great detail - about his op; I didn't even feel queasy, quite an achievement for me.

He's being assessed today. If he passes he'll be allowed home this weekend. One of 'widows' from Nottingham is coming down to look after him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Don't cry for me

George and I had just started on our walk today when I remembered two things I needed to do. One was to show Husband a photo I'd taken of an unusual bird in the hope that he could identify it; the other was to text a friend to congratulate her on an achievement. How on earth was I going to remember them?

That was when I had my brilliant idea: Don't cry for me Bird and Tina!

I'm so funny I make myself laugh. Or do I mean stupid? Anyway it worked. Insofar as I'm blogging about it. I haven't actually shown Husband the photo or texted my friend but that'll come.

* * * * * * * * *

The trouble with walking along rough woodland paths covered in 2" snow is that when you put your foot down you don't know if it's going to land on solid ground or a puddle. With my natural ability I managed to pick puddles most times but my tootsies stayed snug and dry. See, I knew it was worth paying 'How much?!!!' for my walking boots.

Have I mentioned how much I love my walking boots?

* * * * * * * * *
It's been really peculiar in Swansea. Yesterday areas of the city were gridlocked because of a sudden severe snowfall. In my bit there was nothing. Today, driving to the hospital to visit my uncle, I'd gone about 2 miles and it was like being in a different world, with pavements and gardens covered in snow and piles on the side of the road where it had been cleared. It was most odd.
* * * * * * * * *
I asked my uncle (who's doing very well) what hospital food was like. He grimaced. I said, 'I'm making pea and ham soup tomorrow; would you like me to bring you some in?'
'Yes, please.'
'Yes, please.' We all looked around to see where the echo had come from. It turned out to be the man in the next bed, the man who'd appeared to be asleep.
My uncle asked how I'd get soup to him. 'In a thermos, I assume?'
'Yes,' I replied, suddenly realising I don't have a thermos and have no idea how I'm going to get hot soup to the hospital.
Then again, if it comes to that, I have no idea how I'm going to make pea and ham soup.
I was in the butcher last week, in the cold, and I asked him, 'What would my granny have used to make a nice warming pea and ham soup?'
'I've got a lovely hock in the freezer,' he replied.
Then in Sainsburys I saw split green peas so now all I need is a recipe ...
I've tried both Delia and Nigella with no luck. But I'm sure Nigel Slater won't let me down.

My financial filing system

A bruised reed he will not break

Sitting in Zac's listening to those words of Isaiah, I find they take on a whole new power and reality.

As I look around I see examples of bruised reeds everywhere, from the obvious - the young girl, paralytic, collapsing off her chair - to the more subtle - those excluded or damaged by society or church.

There's not one of us there who hasn't at some time in his life struggled, suffered, doubted, wondered, hurt. For some the battle has been and continues to be major; others have found a peace with God and themselves, but still bear the scars.

In Zac's everyone finds a place of refuge, of safety and openness.

Many times I've been in church and been asked, 'How are you?'
'Fine,' I say smiling. 'And you?'
'Yes, fine.'
And we both know that, chances are, at least one of us is lying, putting on a mask.

Last night, Gerry, our regular alcoholic, said, 'I don't come here for the cake or the food but I comes here every week. I don't go to church on Sunday but I come here because everyone's honest. They listen and tell the truth and I thank God.'

Gerry told us that, that morning, instead of his usual 6 litres of cider, he'd only drunk 3. He was trying to cut down. He didn't think it would last but he'd managed to cope for one day. He was proud of his achievement and we were proud of him.

Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah foretold the coming of the messiah, saying when he came he would 'free captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness'.

Today we long to see these words being fulfilled more and more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Me and George have an adventure

It wasn't as dramatic as I had hoped around the cliffs. The wind wasn't blowing onshore, nor, thankfully, offshore; it was more along shore. This meant that some stretches of the path were comparatively calm. We did have one really hairy moment though.

We were on the highest bend and, as we rounded the corner, the wind literally blew me off my feet - thankfully into the rock face rather than off the cliffs.

Things weren't helped by George. He didn't like being battered and, naturally, blamed me so leapt up at me and then tried to clamber up the rock face.

For a few minutes (okay, about 20 seconds) we shivered and squeaked. My whole life flashed before me and I only had one regret: that I hadn't tasted the marmalade cake I'd made this morning.

That was incentive enough. 'For goodness sake, woman, get a grip!' I spoke sternly to myself. Then I grabbed George's collar and my woolly hat that had been blown off, and we edged our way forward slowly along the rocky path.

but there are two good things about walking the cliffs when it's wild and windy:
1) you don't see anybody else;
2) it's wonderful when you stop.

Do you know what taiga is?

'Is it taiga?'
'Is it taiga and tundra?'
Husband looked at me. I'd just woken up and this was my first thought of the day. 'I have no idea,' he said. 'I'm not even really sure what tundra is.'
'Well, you hear more about the tundra, but I'm sure there's a taiga as well.'
'There, there. Drink your tea, dear. You'll feel better soon.'

I just googled taiga: it's an evergreen forest band in north Eurasia, just below the tundra.

You see: subconsciously I am a genius. If only my genius were consciously. And more relevant to ... well, anything.

P.S. My next question was: And pi r squared gives you the area, doesn't it?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter weather

On the PM programme on Radio 4 tonight Eddie Mayer introduced a discussion about the phrase 'cold snap'. Apparently a listener had complained about it.
'About time too!' I shouted at the radio. 'It's a stupid phrase.'

But what the listener had complained about was its usage when the snow and ice had gone for over a week, saying that a snap should be short and sudden, not long-lasting. Eddie Mayer asked listeners for a new word to use instead.

Someone suggested span, as an anagram of snap; someone else came up with snargle. Most popular word for the weather at this time of year, though, turned out to be 'winter'. How novel. And sensible.

The Adventures of Minni the Mini

Mouse, Husband's new pride and joy, has been renamed Minni, because nobody except me thought that Mouse was a good name.
Today I reversed Minni into a post.
Only very gently.
I planned how I would mention it to Husband. 'You remember how you chipped my brand-new granite worktop?' Then Rob, from McBobo, suggested I should first make him appreciate the fact that I am safe and unharmed. But in the end I just told him. He was putting in petrol ('Diesel actually.' 'Petrol, diesel, it's all the same.') and I couldn't bear the burden any longer.
'Oh you stupid woman.'
Which was pretty mild. Although, as I said, it was a very gentle bump and you can't see a mark.
'You can feel it though.'
Tush! Hardly at all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I was having withdrawal symptoms

So we took a day trip to Devon. We hadn't seen Grand-Daughter since two days before Christmas and so we battled through the snow to get there.

Oh, she is so perfect! So adorable, so gorgeous, so absolutely wonderful. Not that I'm at all biased you understand.

And she's started to give proper smiles. So we spent most of the time making funny faces trying to get her to smile. Then when she did I was so excited the camera wobbled.

Flipping heck!

What an old misery! I got a bit carried away with my last post, sorry!

Anyway let me tell you about the ward my uncle is in. It is single sex and it's just as well judging by the man in the bed next to Uncle. He was lying there this afternoon in a shortie dressing-gown, fallen open to reveal ... boxer shorts (but I don't think he'd have cared if he hadn't been wearing any).

And now Uncle has phoned to ask if we can get him some shorts as he won't be able to wear pyjamas after his op. I shall make sure I get generously-cut long shorts!

Husband isn't sure if I can be trusted to go and buy them. When Husband was in hospital for weeks at a time having chemotherapy I thought he needed some new pyjamas. Nice bright yellow ones. 'To cheer you and everyone up!' I explained as he opened them.

It was years later he told me he hated them ...

Don't read this if you want cheering up

We took my 83-year-old uncle to hospital today ready for his complete knee replacement op tomorrow. I've told you about my uncle before: the guest list for his 80th birthday celebration was completely female. I tease him about his widows, one of whom was going to take him today but she was anxious about driving in what could have become nasty conditions so we took him instead.

The last time my uncle and I were in a car together on this route, we were returning from the hospital after my mother had died.

That's very nearly 38 years ago.

I was in my first year at university and was preparing for the start of the Spring term. I hadn't long gone to bed when I heard a noise in the bathroom, which was next to my bedroom. I got up and found my mother lying by the sink. I could see something on the floor by her mouth. My grandmother got there the same time as me and straightaway she said, 'Get dressed. Go and phone the doctor.' Then she bent over my mother, saying, 'Margaret, Margaret.'

We didn't have a phone so I had to run down the road to the kiosk outside the Post Office. The doctor (in those days night calls went straight to your own doctor) asked what had happened; I said I didn't know, but my mother was lying on the floor, 'like she's had a fit or something.'

From that description the doctor had the wit to call for an ambulance and I don't really recall much of the rest of the night.

The next morning my best friend came round and my great-aunt got us polishing brass (my grandmother had a large collection) and old silver forks when we ran out of dirty brass. When my uncle got home from the hospital, he said that my mother had had a seizure and that the doctors were doing their best. For some reason I couldn't remember the word 'seizure' and when local shopkeepers and friends asked me I said, 'She had a ... thing,' and they looked at me, sorrowfully.

I kept waiting for someone to say, 'Don't worry; it'll be all right.' But no-one did. Suddenly I was grown-up and nobody would lie to me.

My mother was in hospital and conscious but confused. The last thing she said to me was, ' You smell nice. You look like Peter.'

On our way back home from visiting her that evening we were involved in a car crash when a lorry came into the side of us. As a result the girl who was driving - she was my cousin's girlfriend - lost an eye, my grandmother sustained a broken leg, my great-aunt died - and I had a few scratches on my forehead.
The strange thing was that when we'd got into the car, leaving the hospital, I had climbed in behind the driver. My grandmother, as eldest sister, automatically took the front seat and then said to me, 'no, don't sit there. Let Auntie Gay sit there so the car's balanced.' My gran and Auntie Gay were both large ladies and my gran had this, what could be seen as a silly, idea that having two heavyweights on one side would make the car unsteady. But it saved my life. Or condemned Auntie Gay to death. Maybe if I'd been sitting there my smaller frame would have prevented too much damage. Who knows?
The day after we'd been in the crash the doctors operated on my mother to try and remove some of the blood still in her brain. While she was in the operating theatre she had another massive haemorrhage. She never regained consciousness.

My uncle and I spent the night after her operation in one of the small off-corridor sitting areas, waiting. At about dawn my uncle came to me and said, 'Mum's gone.'

Auntie Gay was resuscitated at the scene of the crash by a doctor who happened to be passing. She lived for a few weeks but was unconscious throughout.

I think those were the first bricks in the wall.

A day trip to Devon

Thursday, January 07, 2010

In the woods

Me and George. Bird or possibly ferocious raptor and millipede on a pogo stick.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Happy New Pencil

Sean was driving home from a funeral in Southampton yesterday (his third over Christmas) and knew he'd struggle to get back in time for Zac's so he asked me to do 10 minutes on resolutions or something. I decided I'd adapt the pencil meditation from last Sunday in Linden.

It was a grim night so there weren't many of us at Zac's, which was probably just as well as it turned out.

Let me tell you it's one thing to talk about pencils in a quiet meditative atmosphere in a Sunday morning service full of the sort of people who go to Sunday morning services and quite another to talk about pencils in Zac's.

What with Steve trying to clean his ear with his pencil, Jonathan sniggering about rubbers and Ric muttering about having lead in his pencil, it wasn't exactly the contemplative event I'd hoped for.

But it was Zac's and it was great. What was especially brilliant was that April, one of the long-time rough sleepers, stayed with us and joined in and opened up very enthusiastically and honestly about her hopes for the new year. (God, you know what they are; please help her.)

But it'll be good to have Sean back next week!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An almost snowy day in old Swansea Town

The Apocalypse and George

I don't normally bore you with my dreams - is there anything worse than hearing about someone else's dreams? oh, yes, actually, probably there is, like going to Skegness - but last night's was highly significant I suspect.

I dreamt it was the night before the apocalypse and that I was packing ready. I was dithering over which cookery book to put in my suitcase. I finally opted for Delia on the grounds that she covers everything that I will need in a post-apocalyptic world.

I think it's because I bought and used Nigella's Christmas book. (Although I still don't like to watch her on television.) My betrayal of the woman who taught me some of what I know has probably brought forward the time of the apocalypse. All my fault.

Actually the gates of hell may be open even as I write judging by the sulphurous smell wafting my way.

Oh, no, wait, it's just George. He stole 3 pieces of salmon and a steak last night, and that was after he'd eaten his tea, the little piggy. He's in a different room and his bottom is about 3 metres away from me. Is this a foresmell of the year ahead?

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Carry-On moment

So, I am getting ready for first week back at circuit training after 6 weeks absence (new GrandBaby and Christmas) and I have to dig out my exercise bra and shorts. Things are looking good: I can still get into my shorts! But then I remember two of the three hook-and-eyes on my exercise bra have given up the fight and disappeared - but that's okay: I saw out last year without them.

I put on my bra, stand up straight and PING!!! The strain on the remaining fastener is just too great and it drops to the floor with a defeated sigh, thus releasing my most precious assets that spring free - BOINNNG - with a perkiness they've long since forgotten they ever possessed. And soon regretted.

I fear a visit to Madame Fifi, undergarment specialist, is called for.

(And circuit training was most unpleasant as I felt I couldn't hold my arms across my chest without drawing attention to the problem.)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The dust of the rabbit

It was a brilliant morning in church today. I only went because it was a young man speaking in church for the first time; I was very tempted to stay in bed but forced myself out and I'm very glad I did.

The theme was prayer and reflection and it was a very different morning from the usual. Dan brought us so many lovely and thought-provoking readings and images, and we had the opportunity to scribble, write and paint.

He compared us to pencils in five ways - bear with me and I'll find the bit of paper I made notes on (and I never make notes!) ...
1. You are capable of great things.
2. You have to be sharpened i.e. you go through difficult times but grow through those (I know a pencil gets shorter not grows but you know what I mean).
3. It's okay to correct a mistake.
4. It's what is at your core that is important.
5. You will always leave a mark so be aware of what mark you are leaving.

He said, 'Look at the pencil in your hand. What is at your core? What has God given you to make a mark with?'

And it occurred to me that it is indeed a pencil that God has given me i.e. the gift of writing, and that I want to use that more creatively, expressively, extravagantly in the year ahead. I want the mark I leave behind me to be love-shaped.

Dan ended by reading a blessing that began something like this:
May you have faith in God and may you come to see that God has faith in you.
May you believe in Jesus and you may you come to see that Jesus believes in you ...

The final line was 'may you be covered in the dust of the rabbi, Jesus,' or as I read it, 'the dust of the rabbit.'

I can't be serious for too long after all.

I am so fortunate

I have such lovely and noble bloggy friends! So many of you offered to eat my Maltesers for me; I was deeply touched at your concern and your willingness to risk the weight-attack just to help me out. (Although, now I come to think of it, Maltesers used to be advertised - before there were rules about truthfulness - as the chocolate with the less fattening centre.)

There were so many of you to choose from that it became too difficult to decide the most worthy recipient - so I ate them myself. But thank you all.

* * * * * * * * * *

Much as it grieves me to admit it I fear Husband may have been right about the kitchen floor tiles: a darker colour might have been better. Not black slate as he suggested - much too dark - but something that hid a bit of the dirt. We are just not a pale-floor family. Nor am I a conscientious cleaner.

You'll be able to judge for yourselves soon. When the final piece of granite has been fitted I'll post photos. I know, I know you can't wait! After all the trials and tribulations of kitchen-fitting was it worth it? Absolutely. Just wait and see ...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Big Malteser Debate

Monday is B-Day - Begin diet and Begin economising. Now the problem is that I still have two large bags of Maltesers to eat; do I eat them today and tomorrow or do I do as Husband suggests and keep them as treats?

The problems with the latter are two-fold: I find it impossible to have an open bag of Maltesers and not eat them all; and if I know I have Maltesers in the house I will become a twitching caricature of myself.

So I think I'm going to have to eat them ...

We also have our Tower of Treats (truffles, toffees, mince pies and panettone) but they don't hold the same fatal draw for me as Maltesers do.

Ah, well, it's a hard life but someone has to eat them.


Pwll Du, New Year's Day 2010.

We can do the Brandy Cove to Pwll Du walk and see nobody; yesterday it was like Wind Street on a Saturday night. And I get very irritable with other people getting in the way on 'my' path! Flipping 'Sunday walkers'.

But it was very lovely nevertheless.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Can you touch your nose with your tongue?

George can.Thanks to Younger Son for the photo.

Extravagant ...

is a word that has been in my head for a few days. It's not a word I use regularly so I think it's significant, so significant that I'm going to make it my word for 2010.

I am loved so extravagantly that I resolve to try to be equally extravagant with my love and life. I know I'm going to keep needing to be reminded of this but if I can't make extravagant resolutions on 1st January, when can I?