New diet regime in mind I bought a selection of Batchelor's Slim-a-cup-a-soup and the first one I tried was the broccoli and cauli variety, and, do you know, it's actually quite pleasant. And if you eat it with a teaspoon you can convince yourself there's a lot of it.
But it reminded me of the time my cousin, Sue, our friend, Lorna, and I went out for lunch.
We'd met at Sue's house and we were standing outside trying to decide where to go when one of Sue's neighbours passed. 'Can you recommend anywhere for lunch, Tony?' Sue asked.
'Oh, yes,' he replied enthusiastically. 'The Artful Dodger does a three course lunch for £5 a head.'
The three courses for £5 should have been a warning (even though this was a few years ago) but the restaurant was only down the hill so seemed ideal.
We were the only customers apart from an elderly couple out for their weekly treat and there was a hush about the place so intimidating that we talked in whispers. As soon as we'd sat down I think we knew we'd made a mistake but we didn't like to get up and walk out, especially as they didn't have many customers. So we quietly giggled and ordered the set menu.
The starter was soup, which I swear had been made from the leftover vegetables from the previous night. Probably scraped from plates straight into the pan. In spite of that, it wasn't totally unpleasant and they offered us bread rolls to go with it.
Main course I don't recall but for dessert we had tinned fruit salad complete with glacé cherry.
Somehow we managed to eat our meals, ask for the bill, discover the bread rolls were extra, and get outside before we exploded laughing.
We decided we needed a treat after that so walked further along the sea front to Verdi's for ice cream, and by the time we'd finished the rain had started.
By the time we'd walked back up the hill to Sue's house, we were wet through to our knickers and could tip water out of our shoes. Anyone seeing the three of us, dripping wet and laughing hysterically, must have thought we'd escaped from the asylum.
It was a dreadful meal but we had the sort of time from which great memories are made.
A few months later Sue died from the cancer that had eaten into her.
where they filmed Captain Corelli's Mandolin.There's a gang of us 'oldies' going for the wedding of the daughter of two of the gang. The downside is that we're being picked up in the minibus at 2 in the morning.
So you know what it will be: we'll get to Bristol airport for 4 and be surrounded by glamorous women in white slacks and Victoria Beckham shades, and there'll be me in whatever I could lay my hands on at 1.30 having packed all my 'best' clothes. (Ooh, that reminds me: I must show you my new sunglasses.)
Then I'll look around at all my fellow travellers and think, 'If the plane crashes, these are the people with whom I'll be spending my last minutes on earth.' (What? Doesn't everyone do that?) And then I'll cast them in their roles. He's the man who'll heroically pull a young girl from the wreckage; she's the woman who'll die just before the rescue crew arrives; he's the boy who'll cling onto his girlfriend for as long as he can before having to let her go. (Oh, come on, someone else must do this too?)
It's not that I'm scared of flying. These days the only bit I don't really like is the take-off. Oh, and then I do listen for strange noises. And watch the cabin crew. If they look relaxed, I don't worry too much. I get too excited trying to unwrap my little meal package and finding it's chocolate pudding, which I don't like.
So, anyway, I'd better go and pack now (my books are all ready). And remember to leave out something to wear.
I have an ambivalent attitude to holidays: I enjoy them when I'm there but never look forward to them. At least, not until I'm actually on my way. But the excitement has arrived early and I'm feeling rather jolly in an anticipatory way today. I'm also feeling organised, which inevitably means I've forgotten something. Husband does all the important official stuff - I am such a girly - and all I have to do is pack and sort out the house and do the washing and ironing and leave food for Younger Son and George and make flapjacks for YS and blog about my holiday.
So maybe it was PHT that made me impatient in Zac's last night.
There were lots of people - about 30 - but a few who just had to talk. And talk. And talk. And go off the point into irrelevancies. I suppose we always have our share of such but normally it doesn't bother me too much: I just stop listening.
My trouble is that I talk as I write: briefly. This makes me useless in discussions or even conversations, but I can't see the point in going over the same thing umpteen times in different ways. But I am a woman of small brain and it's a good job that everyone isn't like me.
Anyway, I wouldn't want you thinking that Zac's is totally perfect ...
But we had a good chat afterwards about the recent death of Gareth's scorpion, Kaiser, and about his collection of spiders. I now know more about the mating habits of the spider than is really necessary. After all, it's not something I'll be able to raise in dinner party conversations.
Which leads me neatly into Gareth's question: which ten people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to dinner?
When pressed, I said, 'No-one as I don't like people,' but thinking about it, I'd just be terribly boring and say my family (Husband, Daughter, Son-in-law, Elder Son, Daughter-in-law, Younger Son, Girlfriend, GrandDaughter, George and Holly) as they're the ones I am most comfortable with and can almost be myself with. Anyone else and the mask goes on.
When it's worked its magic I'll be epilating, showering, washing hair, conditioning hair, shaving legs, moisturising, tanning.
And, like painting the Forth bridge, by the time I've finished it'll all need doing again.
Husband showers. Full stop. And he didn't have to live through periods. His own that is; he suffered with mine.
* * * * * * * *
A girl came to slimming class this morning recruiting for carers. She works for an organisation that offers one-to-one care and prides itself on matching client and carer. For example, a man in his forties, severely disabled with MS, used to be a biker and has loads of tattoos. They found him a carer equally tattooed and with pink hair. they go to the pub together.
But my favourite was the 82-year-old lady who specifically asked for a good-looking young man to play on the playstation with her.
Flushed with my success last week (4lbs and Slimmer of the Week) I really wanted to top it by losing 3lbs this week making half a stone in a fortnight, as advertised on the Rosemary Conley website. Realistically I knew it was more likely to be 2 lbs.
So I was not happy losing 1 stinky pound.
For goodness sake, I've stuck rigidly to the diet. Some days, probably most days, I've consumed fewer calories than they suggest.
To make it worse, Husband has been steadily losing a pound a week and he eats enough for both of us. (I know it's the change of lifestyle for him, going from an office job to spending days working in the garden, but it's still really annoying.)
I blame 3 days sitting in a car doing nothing. Or maybe I'm not eating enough and my metabolism has slowed down because it thinks there's a famine.
We're off to Kefalonia on Thursday for a wedding. And a holiday of course. Yesterday I finally realised that I'd run out of next weeks. That is, I couldn't say, 'I'll go next week any more'; I couldn't put off shopping for a dress to wear to the wedding any longer. So I dragged Husband to M&S with me. (He needed trousers and a shirt too.)
It used to be that M&S catered for the, let's say, more shapely woman but not any more apparently. Just because they use skinny bints in their adverts they feel they have to make their clothes suitably skinny too.
Well, Mr M & Mr S, not all of us are flat-chested.
I tried on a lovely size 14 dress. It was loose everywhere except across my boobs where it wasn't just tight but uncomfortably tight. My choices: get a bigger size; choose another dress.
I chose another dress. No way was I getting a size 16. Not when I'm on a diet.
And I'm not the only one. I was talking to a friend of my uncle's who said she's a size 10 but the t-shirts she'd bought in M&S were too tight. They'd better sack their marketing people. It's all very well having adverts that get the men excited but it's the women who do most of the shopping.
Andy, one of Zac's regulars, will be in prison tonight. It's a familiar place to him.
The difference this time is that he's going in of his own accord and he'll be walking out again at the end of the evening.
He became a Christian when he was in prison over ten years ago now, and tonight, he's going in, with Sean, for the chaplain's hour, to talk to some of the men. Andy may not say much this time as the first visit back as a free man can be overwhelming, according to Lionel, the chaplain. 'It's the smell that get people. They think they're okay with going into prison but the smells and the sounds bring back buried memories.'
The people at Zac's do a fantastic job. (I'm not counting myself amongst them. Yes, I can feed people - and I know that's helpful - but I'm not good at getting alongside as Sean, Di, Baz, many others are.) But even with all that, it's not enough on its own.
We've been reading in the book of Acts about Saul's conversion, his Damascus Road experience. Saul was as good as a murderer with his rampant persecution of the followers of Jesus. He was so utterly convinced he was right and they were wrong.
Yet Saul changed from the extremes of the right-wing to those of the left, in a matter of days, following a miraculous happening.
This is what the friends of Zac's need. An irresistible moving of God in their lives. Scary, thrilling, life-changing. And soon. Before it's too late.
One week in to the diet and I've lost 4lbs!! That's the most I've ever lost in one week on a diet and I'm chuffed to little bits. And I feel very inspired to carry on.Rushing now so no time to write more but I had to share my exciting news!
The river Wye, at Hay, peaceful in the early evening. Earlier in the day this particular stretch had been busy with groups of canoeists of all ages and abilities. Including our motley crew.We were fortunate to have a beautiful day in between two wet ones. Also fortunate - for me - anyway - that we've had very little rain this year, meaning the river was low and calm. Even the 'rapids' we went through were little more than large ripples.
I took a waterproof camera with me but it's one of those now-antiquated film cameras so I've no photos of us on the river yet. Just take it from me that it was idyllic paddling gently down the river, appreciating the wildlife, including herons and loads of sand martins nesting in the banks.
Idyllic but flipping hard work!
I refused to go in a canoe with Husband as we've come to blows on the dance floor so thought it safer for each of us to be with someone we'd feel less inclined to yell at, allowing us to save our energy for the work. It looks so relaxed but by the end of the day my hand and arm were in agony.
We had a barbecue lunch but I took a slimming sandwich I'd prepared earlier and didn't eat the cake. How noble is that? My resolve weakened in the evening though and I had fish and chips. In my defence it was a group meal and everyone - well almost everyone - was having the same thing so it was simpler. And I'd canoed for 4 hours.
More importantly I didn't have banoffee pie, like Alice, or poached pears, like Neil, or plum and apple crumble, like Andy, or, most temptingly, blueberry cheesecake. That was Husband's and I had just a teeny tiny teaspoonful of it to sample: it was heavenly. Light and creamy and oooooh delicious.
One day, when I'm not on a diet, I'm going back there just for the cheesecake.
I've organised a canoeing trip for people from Linden on Saturday. My original idea was to go to Hay-on-Wye (town of books) while Husband was canoeing on the river Wye but this morning I had a funny spell and said I'd go canoeing instead.
Last night when we were talking about holidays - we're hoping to get to Ibiza in September to see Younger Son who will be working in the dive school out there - I said I'd give diving a try too.
This from someone who isn't even a strong swimmer.
I was serenaded on Tuesday. Admittedly the singer was drunk but it's not every day a girl gets asked if she minds being serenaded so we have to grab these chances when they come along.
When he'd finished the Gerry and the Pacemakers' song he said, 'I've had a funny old day,' and he proceeded to tell us about it. I'll try and tell you more or less what he said, not including slight diversions and distractions.
'Yesterday, see, I went to see my sister. When I got there her boyfriend said, '"There's a warrant out for you."
"A warrant? For me? What for?"
He didn't know so I left my stuff at my sister's and went down to the police station. I couldn't understand it: I hadn't been in trouble since before Christmas. I walked up to the desk and the copper said, "Hi Dave." They all knows me down there.
I said, "What's this about a warrant out for me?"
He didn't know so he went to find out and then the sergeant came out and he took me into a cell. This morning I was up in front of the magistrates. They'd taken my belt off me so I was standing there with my hands in my pocket holding my trousers up.
"Show some respect! Take your hands out of your pockets."
"I've got to hold my trousers up!"
"Take your hands out!"
I had to hold them up behind my back.
Anyhows then I got taken back to the police station and the sergeant gave me my plastic bag with all my stuff in. "What's this?" I said.
"You can go," he said.
"It's not you we want; it's your brother."
I walked out of the police station and down to Tesco's. I bought a drink and I was standing there drinking it and thinking, "Did that really 'appen?"'
Dave was shaking his head and laughing. And I was weak with laughter.
On our walk yesterday morning, as it was a narrow path, I was slightly ahead of Husband. We'd been talking about something when he said, 'I suppose it's ...'
I assumed he was formulating the sentence but after a minute's silence I looked around at him and he didn't have a in-the-middle-of-a-sentence look about him, so I said, 'Any chance of you finishing that sentence?'
He looked at me blankly. 'Did I start a sentence?'
We took George out for a walk yesterday morning and then Younger Son took him out again in the afternoon with his friend, Willit, the husky. George was so tired he had to be woken up this morning and then went straight back to bed after breakfast. When he finally dragged himself into the kitchen to see if there were any crumbs to be had from Husband's toast he fell asleep again.
Husband is a very trusting fellow: he always believes what the weatherman says. He's always checked the weather forecast at least once a day and since he started preparing for retirement it's been twice a day.
So I thought I'd get him a weather station as a retirement present. Initially I thought of one of those white boxes in the garden (I've since found out it's called a Stevenson Box) but as I investigated I decided a wireless electronic one would be more fun.
It's terribly complicated and involves different bits being set up around the garden. Here Husband is fitting the wind vane on the garage. Only problem is that it's reading back to front so if the wind is from the west it says east and so on, but I'm sure that's only a minor hiccup. Unless it brings unexpected snow. Husband is now checking - and telling us - what the weather is doing every twenty minutes. But I expect the excitement will wear off. I hope ... Me, I just look out of the window.
First-timers to the slimming class get this lovely little goodie bag! Anything to make you forget that you're dieting and that it's fun really. The fact that it doesn't contain birthday cake, sweeties or even a balloon does spoil the fun somewhat. What spoils it even more is that it contains a magic measure - a tape measure with little tags to record your decreasing girth rather than one that lies to make you feel better - and ...portion pots! Oh joy!
'I don't want to get up today,' I grumbled, snuggling deeper down under the quilt.
'Think of it as the first day of the new slimmer you,' Husband suggested.
'Or I could think of it as the first day of the chocolate-deprived me,' I moaned.
It was going to be a good day.
First I was joining a Rosemary Conley slimming and exercise class and then I was going to the dentist.
It was going to be a really good day.
As it turned out it wasn't that bad.
The exercise class was fun and easy compared to circuit training (although it did involve 30 minutes of aerobic activity, which we don't do in circuits). And the motivational chat beforehand was ... motivational. I came away feeling inspired and thinking, 'I can do this!'
That feeling lasted all of 20 minutes.
Never mind it'll be fine. I CAN do this; I WILL do this.
And the visit to the dentist was over in about 2 minutes. Everything's fine, although she did suggest if I'm getting trouble with sensitive gums, which I am, she could do a filling to cover the exposed bits. She said, 'Think about it.'
I've thought: I'll leave it as long as possible.
The tender bit is on my lower gum on the right. Last time I had a filling there, I had my mouth open for so long, it rebelled and wouldn't open properly again for months. I couldn't eat Ferrero Rocher chocolates at Christmas because I couldn't open my mouth wide enough; that's how bad it was.
The trouble is that, despite this hole in the mattress, it's still comfy.
The other problem is that we are arguing over a new bed: I want a king-size one.
When Husband worked away so much I got used to and enjoyed having lots of space to myself. Now I get edgy if I feel crowded. And I wriggle even more than usual. And I worry about waking up Husband. And the more I worry the more I become aware of wriggling which in turn increases my need to wriggle.
So really a bigger bed is the ideal solution but Husband says it wouldn't fit in the bedroom. I think we could make it. We could get rid of his bedside table, for example ...
For the last week I was on the Special K kick-start-your-diet diet. This involves eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast and lunch and having a normal dinner. In two weeks you're supposed to be down a dress size.
In one week I gained 3lbs.
In my disgust I got all enthusiastic about finding a new diet and said I was going to enrol for a Rosemary Conley class on Tuesday. No, wait, my real mistake was telling Janet I was going to enrol.
Today she asked me if I was still going and said she'd see me there. 'We can have a contest!'
I fear this is one contest I am destined to lose. Even when I really stick seriously to diets I never lose more than 1lb a week and it just drops off Janet. Phrw, can you hear me sighing?
But to get back to Special K.
In Sainsburys on Saturday I was browsing through cereals. I used to buy Frosties for Younger Son but he was feeling righteous and decided he'd have Special K instead. (However I noticed this morning that he put 2 heaped teaspoonfuls of sugar on his low-fat cereal!) Then I remembered our lodger who isn't dieting and would probably prefer something other than cardboard for breakfast so I thought I'd see what the options were.
I picked up the Rice Krispies box. Thanks to the handy little guide on the front I discovered that although Rice Krispies have 1 more calorie per 30g serving than Special K, they have less sugar and fat! Furthermore Bran Flakes have fewer calories than either!
The intrepid Linden Ground Forcers returned to the job yesterday and laid the turf. Or rather the men laid the turf. It was a man's job, apparently, so the girls were relegated to sprinkling soil in the gaps and treading it down. And a fine job we did of it too.
I made it until 2 am but then it was getting too depressing so gave up and went to bed. Only to get up to more depressing results.
At least Labour retained our seat but it was close; the LibDems were only 500 behind. They'd really targeted our area.We were receiving loads of bumpfh from them almost daily. Definitely daily if you count the emails I got, including several personal ones from Nick Clegg himself. I must be important, me!
I was trying to work out where they got my email address from. The only thing I can think of is a questionnaire they brought around several months ago, well before the election was called. I must have put my email on that. I didn't answer any of their questions just wrote in the comments: 'Please tell your canvassers to close gates! Our dog escaped because of you.'
And from that they thought I was a supporter?
They came again - and still didn't close the gate.
Right, I've been and gone and voted. I took my glasses in case but didn't them. But I didn't bother changing out of my slop-around-the-house clothes as I was only walking a few yards down the road to the portakabin. We must have looked a sight, the three of us: me and Younger Son scruffy urchins and Husband in his 'I've just been power-washing the greenhouse' clothes.
We had quite a choice including UKIP and the BNP. Our MP for the last million years has been Alan Williams, Labour. Okay, perhaps not a million but he's been there since 1964. Now he's retired and, apparently, there's a good chance that the LibDems will get in. In fact I understand that Swansea West is being viewed as a key seat.
At the last election I voted LibDem because I wanted to protest, largely about the war in Iraq. I'm still mad about the MPs expenses scandal and other stuff but if I voted LibDem they may get in. That would mean a seat less for Labour increasing the chances of the Conservatives winning.
Truth is, at heart I'm a Michael Foot sort of Labourite.
Now if I stay up for a bit tonight, does that entitle me to goodies and treats, a little party all on my own? That's the really important issue.
We went for a wander around Clyne Gardens yesterday. It's renowned for its collection of azaleas and rhododendrons and during May is in bloom. It was only just beginning to bloom yesterday but there were still some lovely sights.
Like this lime tree surrounded by wild garlic. And the bed of heathers with the view over the bay. We had no idea what this is: any suggestions? There were a couple of little ducklings making a quick getaway on this pond. I didn't try to go any closer as I didn't want George to frighten them. (Also there was a 'proper' photographer with a great big lens and a tripod on t'other side of lake and I didn't want to look like the amateur I am.) These bog plants are really pongy!
My reader numbers have fallen recently. I knew they would when I stopped doing Photohunt, ABC and other memes but after remaining steadyish for a while they're down again.
I'm not sure if this is a general trend or just me. I'm so busy I don't manage to visit everyone very often, even those I particularly want to visit, and I guess much blog visiting is reciprocal.
Looking at other blogs it seems the ones that get lots of comments (and I'm assuming from that lots more visitors) are those that deal with one or two specific topics that interest a lot of people, or they're either controversial or emotional. My blog doesn't fit into any of those categories being a mish mash of my thoughts, ramblings and stupidity. (No-one else seems to do such stupid things - or is it that you're just not telling?)
I'm not planning on changing. I was just pondering.
A week or so ago, in church, we were shown a DVD in which Steve Chalke, a famous (in Christian circles) Christian social activist, interviewed the leaders of the three main parties about the church, community and social action.
They all said the 'right' things, as you would expect.
The best I could say is that at least Gordon Brown appeared to know the difference between faith and religion. Nick Clegg was scared to use either word or 'church', and stuck to community instead. And David Cameron, well, David Cameron is a 'fairly active member of the Church of England', which says it all.
By the way I don't mean that God isn't always at Zac's because he is but sometimes he just makes his presence felt more than others.
We were reading about the high-ranking Ethiopian eunuch who was baptised and Sean explained a little about baptism and one of the rough sleepers, who'd been very quiet and attentive in spite of the surrounding kerfuffle, said, 'That's like being washed clean of your sins, innit?'
So many many times I have to rethink my ideas, readjust my thinking, learn not to judge by appearances. I am so privileged to be allowed to be part of all that is so good about Zac's. You'd be hard pressed to find a less likely looking church than us yet it's the very diversity of the people and their openness that touches and refreshes a soul fed up of niceties and masks.
If you come with an agenda you'll find credos to pick holes in but if you come with an open spirit you'll find God.
It looked like it was going to be a 'lively' night in Zac's. It was crowded both inside and out and there was a buzz about the place. One table was occupied by what I guessed were rough sleepers who were joined by two women, Kate and Ruby who used to be a regular. She came up to me and said, 'I'm drunk - but I'm all right.'
'I don't envy you, Sean,' I thought as he tried to call the group to attention. 'Good luck with this one.'
And soon it kicked off.
I - and no doubt others - prayed quietly for peace, for those present to hear something of the message of Jesus, that we all need to hear so much.
Then God turned up in an unlikely disguise.
Kate spoke. Her words screamed honesty and rawness, hurt and loss, desperate struggle and pain. And victory, tiny and incomplete but a beginning.
In amongst the foul-mouthed arguments and the aggression God whispered, 'I came to bind the broken-hearted.'
Back in January, Andrew, Carol and I, calling ourselves Linden Ground Force (after the similarly-named BBC garden makeover programme) were sold at auction for £100. Back in January the prospect of having to do any gardening seemed a long way off but, eventually, the day had to come when we had to earn that money.
The couple who bought our services wanted what looked like a small piece of ground cleared and turfed. Trouble was that there were two deep-rooted shrubs and hundreds - nay, millions - of bluebell bulbs just under the surface.
It looked like this before we started. (Oh, yes, I should have mentioned that recently-retired Husband was press-ganged into helping.) And this was after the four of us had put in three hours of hard work. Next week we'll go back and turf it.
The money, by the way, went to Mutende Children's Village in Zambia, towards the cost of a school that's being built there.
Husband has just taken George out for a walk but as we have Thrive (circuit training) tonight too I declined that option. Whatever happened to the idea of a nice relaxing bank holiday?