Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the last day of December

The last day of December and we still have geraniums in the garden.

I've just been to the chemist to collect an out-of-hours prescription for antibiotics. Let's just say I've been advised to drink plenty of cranberry juice. And we're going to a wedding today! Hey ho.

Ah well, better go and bleach my moustache; I don't want to frighten the bridesmaids.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Being me

The good thing about being me is that I don't realise what I've forgotten - until someone tells me. That's the bad thing about being in work; someone usually tells me. The god thing is that life is getting back to normal. I am no longer anticipating it but living it, which is always easier than the anticipation I think.

Another good thing about getting back to normal is that we can watch television - and hear what's being said now. When the children are with us they say, 'Turn the television down. It's too loud!'

And now I am sitting here at the computer next to an almost empty box of chocolates wondering if my dislike of coffee chocolates is greater than my desire to eat another one.

Of course there is always my store of Maltesers in the other room ...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just a phase?

While indulging in a wash-dry-iron bedlinen marathon I find myself becoming a little maudlin. Probably something to do with ironing duvet covers while suffering the indigestiony result of eating 6 cookies this morning but nonetheless ...

I always used to suffer post-Christmas blues but in recent years thought I'd got over it. I don't think it's blues now exactly anyway: I have far too much to enjoy in my life and stuff to anticipate. It's more a sense of realism: accepting that maybe 'Liz is a writer' was just a phase in my life. I'm never going to be a famous author.

There was a period in my life when 'it' was happening for me. Opportunities to write articles and even non-fiction books were coming along easily and regularly. They happened to me rather than me struggling to achieve anything. Now, well, now I blog, I write stuff for prison and Zac's, and I even get paid for the occasional online article. 

I love what I write - I mean I love the opportunities and enjoy writing these things, and I know they have their own intrinsic value - and, importantly, that they have sometimes meant a lot to others as well. 

I couldn't not blog; my head would surely explode. And the other stuff I write helps me to study and understand the bible better too. But ... I see my novel lying face down on my desk. I'd printed it out to send to a publisher but have been waiting because of a change of editor. GrandDaughter has used pages of it to scribble on. I don't mind that - it's easily printed again - it's just whether there is really any point.

Oh, don't mind me, old gloomyguts! I'll finish ironing soon and my tummy will stop aching and I'll pick myself up and start again. 

Maybe I'll go and watch one of the dvds I had for Christmas (most of which, incidentally, were children's cartoons ...)

P.S. I shall cheer myself up by reminding myself that at least I'm not like my Mother-in-law who would have the beds stripped, sheets in the wash and sometimes on the line before we'd even left the premises after staying with them.

Zac's Place carol service, part 2

Zac's Place carol service, part 1

Now and then

My cousin, Carol, and her husband of 50 years, Bob.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who's crackers?

Crackers come in boxes of 6. On 2 occasions I wanted 6 and then 8 crackers thus, by my logic, I needed 1 and a bit boxes twice. So I bought 4 boxes. 

Trouble is, I'd probably do the same again.

50 years ago today

We're off to my cousin's golden wedding anniversary celebrations this afternoon (5 - 8 pm, very civilised time!).  Carol and Bob's was the first wedding at which I was called upon to do my bridesmaiding duties. That's me sitting on the floor on the left as you look at the photo.
Puff-sleeved peach velvet dresses - on probably the coldest day of the year. See the photo below of my great-gran (4th from the left) and her children at the same wedding. Note the fur stoles and thick hats? Yep, that was one cold day.
Of her children only the two youngest, Great-auntie Joan (with eyes closed) and Great-uncle Woodie (peeping over my great-gran) are still alive. Both in their 90s now and will be at the party this afternoon. 

I was bridesmaid on two other occasions: to Uncle Woodie's daughter, Sue, and Auntie Joan's son, Spencer. I realise now as I think back that Sue and Spencer both died too young from cancer. Which is a gloomy point at which to leave this post, which should be celebratory. 

So I'll finish by looking forward to the party that will be a chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage and family life and say hooray for the enjoyment of the good times and thanks for the strength to get through the bad.
It was Fiancée's birthday yesterday so we went out for a meal last night. I called the restaurant to book; I needn't have bothered. There were only 8 people altogether in the large restaurant. The chefs must have been pleased to see us - or maybe not if they'd been hoping to have the night off.

Anyway Younger Son and Fiancée are back off to Paignton today and then, after a long Christmas season - it started 2 weeks ago on 14th December with the arrival of Daughter & Co - it'll be back to normal with just the three of us (Husband, me and George).

It's been a wonderful time, seeing and sharing with all the children, grandchildren and partners. And the celebrations aren't quite over yet ...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Man tin

I burst out laughing in the shop when I saw this. I resisted at first but ended up going back and buying it for Husband. It's a good size but - if I have anything to do with it - will be full very quickly!

Christmas desserts

Christmas pudding being set alight
 The alternative: hazelnut and raspberry meringue

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas greetings

Sorry I haven't been doing any blog visiting of late but I promise I will catch up in the post-Christmas calm-down.

Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a healthy and wonderful 2012.

Santa's reindeer

Last Saturday we went to get a Christmas tree and we saw Santa's reindeer! The farm that grows the trees also has the only reindeer herd in Wales. They're smaller than you would expect so it's no wonder Santa needs so many to pull his sleigh.

Christmas crafts

No prizes for guessing who's been making spinach pie. I am definitely retaining my title of Messiest Cook in the World. Whatever I make, a good percentage of the ingredients ends up on the floor. I've learned to allow for it now.
GrandDaughter's been staying and after watching Mr Maker make bugs on cbeebies I came up with the idea (patent pending don't you think?) for these reindeer. I was rather proud of myself I have to say. Trouble was that I went to the shop for some googly eyes and ended up spending twenty something pounds on craft stuff. 
No, I didn't make this festive tea-cosy, which was my rather lovely birthday present.

I can't help feeling that I've forgotten something major; I seem to have time to spare, time to sit and relax - and blog. Ah well, shops are closed now so whatever it is I've forgotten will have to stay forgotten. 

Monday, December 19, 2011


I seem to have cut up the wrong debit card.

You see I have 2 debit cards: one for our joint account and one that is mine, all mine. When a new card arrived and Husband gave it to me to sign I assumed it was to replace our joint card. But as I discovered when I tried to get some money out and it refused to recognise my PIN, it wasn't.

I'm going to have to explain this to the bank now.

Not your usual staff Christmas lunch

This is the Roundhouse where we were going to have our Christmas lunch but Helen thought it would be more fun to go deeper into the woods.
While Helen was cooking some of us made a den!
It's amazing how much fun grown men can have with a flaccid sausage.
The staff of Linden Church Trust after playing Mob!

Catching up

Good grief, it's been nearly a week since I last blogged ... and I find Blogger's gone queer. Ah well, hey ho, I'm sure I'll get used to it. Lots to catch up on but where to start? let's begin at the beginning with the prison carol service.

Minor panic on first night as one of the participants came into the room where the service was being held and had a wobbly. 'I can't do this! Not with all these people!' We talked him into it and he stole the show.

He's a lad from Liverpool with a truly scrumptious Scouse accent and as he was reading lines for Mary's father it added a certain something. In fact as soon as he spoke the audience burst out laughing.

The theme of the carol service was the ripple effect. A lot of the men have been doing a course on restorative justice - thinking about the victim and others affected by your crime -  so we carried this on using the birth of Christ as the stone dropped in the water causing ripples. We heard from the shepherd who declared that going to see this newborn baby was more important than his job looking after the sheep, and then from his boss who didn't agree and, in true Alan Sugar style,  said, 'You're fired.'

Our Scouser had gained so much confidence by the second night that, in his role as boss, declared, 'You're fired! Now p**** off out of here!' 

As one of the 'congregation' said, 'F***ing h***l, you can't use that language in church!'

Not your average church carol service.

We continued on with the ripple theme and heard the story of one of the men who took part in our carol service last year. He's now in another prison but I went to see him the week before and got his story, which he was happy for us to use. I'll put it on my long bits blog if you'd like to read it; it is very moving and hopeful. And even better is the fact that the man who read it introduced it by saying how pleased he was because he could relate to a lot of it and is going through a similar 'conversion'. I don't like the word conversion; it's more like redemption. 

Now let's see how I get this new-fangled blogger to post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thank you, Katney!

A new quilt for a new baby (due February) from Katney. Thank you so much!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

And then my straighteners said

I could have sworn this morning that my hair straighteners were wishing me 'masseltof' (excuse the spelling).

They've never spoken to me before but perhaps they were just waiting for the right opportunity.

Christmas has begun

It started today with our annual Christmas meal out with the in-laws ... in Derby. Three and a half hours each way is a long time to be sitting in a car but it was good to see Father-in-law. He's settling into the home but ... well, it's not his home.

I remembered I hadn't shown you our grotto!
Complete with stag at bay. Now why would you pay £80 when lights wound around a few sticks do just as well?!!
Tomorrow and Tuesday evening it's the prison carol services. We've got quite a few volunteers taking part this year, which is good, but I quite liked it when it was just a couple of lads - as it was on at least two occasions - and we developed a sort of Dunkirk spirit: we can do this! I was very proud of 'my boys'. It's not quite the same this year but I'm sure it will go well. Our Scouser King Herod might well steal the show.

Friday we have our works' Christmas do - more about that later - and on Saturday we're out for a traditional Christmas get-together meal with 'the gang'.

It's a good job I was poorly and off my food last week; the next few weeks will be non-stop eating.

Friday, December 09, 2011

A chill wind

I don't work on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday so if the window was to be replaced in my office you might think one of those days would be a good choice for it to be done.

When I arrived in work today, Friday, the entire window and frame was already out. Leaving a dirty great hole.

He was a very nice man and the sun was shining but it was still freezing. And later redolent of glue. Not to mention the difficulty in getting to my desk.

I spent the morning sorting out Christmas baubles and joining in with the quilters' Christmas partying. I did have a go at being arty with a string of red bally stuff but discovered that if I closed my eyes and tossed it randomly on the floor the final effect was about the same.

Then I gave up and came home. Now I'll have to go in tomorrow morning to do the essentials.

And before you ask, no, it wasn't me who arranged it.

P.S. Nigel Slater just promised me the recipe for the perfect pomegranate and Prosecco jelly if I buy the Observer on Sunday. I hope my children don't feel deprived because I've never achieved the perfect (or even considered an ordinary) pomegranate and Prosecco jelly at Christmas. So many undiscovered flaws in my life.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I can recommend

The trouble with going to Waterstone's for Christmas presents is that other things inevitably end up in my basket.

Like a copy of The Night before Christmas for GrandSon. Well, he has to have it and there's no point giving it to him for Christmas as it's too late then. So that's justifiable.

The copy of Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is sort of a Christmas present for me but the logic is the same as previously: I wouldn't want to read it after Christmas. And I've been poorly, y'know. It's a slight misnomer as it's a collection of short stories some loosely associated with Christmas and only one at the farm, but any disquiet I might have felt was dispersed instantly by the very first story, which is a delightful tale in the Miss Pettigrew/ Capture the Castle style. Absolutely charming and just what you want from a Christmas tale.

Things not to do when ...

you can't sleep and you feel nauseous.

1) Reminisce about when you fell asleep at the drop of an eyelid and worry if you'll ever sleep again.
2) Think about food.
3) Think about all the things you haven't been able to do this week ... and fret about how you're going to fit them in to your already full next week.
4) Wonder how Facebook can be worth £100 billion dollars and why anyone would Like a company page.
5) Consider the implication of being 'in the world but not of it' and whether you are one more than the other.
6) Compose a blog post in your head.
7) Realise that there are not many middle-aged women who feel the uncontrollable urge to skip while walking around town and wonder - for the first time - if you really are a bit odd.
8) Diagnose yourself using knowledge gleaned from Grey's Anatomy and House.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The secret behind Batman's success

After a morning of feeling much improved I've had a relapse.

Still it meant I could watch Ice Age 3 and a brilliant bit of Batman.

Robin: I think that was our closest shave ever, Batman. I was scared.
Batman: I wasn't.
Robin: You weren't. Holy cow, why not Batman?
Batman: Haven't you noticed, Robin, how we always manage to escape from the tightest of situations. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Robin: I guess it's because we're smarter, Batman.
Batman: I like to think it's because our hearts are pure.

Thinking about funerals ...

and what people would say. The good thing is that people are always nice at funerals, at least about the deceased. Fortunately it wasn't until this morning that I remembered that Chris and I had, after one particularly 'gooder than Jesus' funeral, resolved to tell the truth at our funerals - whoever went first obviously.

I imagine Chris would mention the time I wiped the Linden computer. Completely. Totally.

In spite of the computer's protestations.
'Are you sure you want to delete?'
Are you absolutely sure?'
'Yes, I just told you I did; now do it.'
A pause then 'Just let me be clear: you definitely want me to delete this information?'
'YES! Now do it!'

And afterwards, Chris saying, 'Well, we can reload the programs and I assume you kept back-ups of your files.'
'You did keep back-ups?'
'Well, I will do in future!'

I've been poorly

I have the occasional sore throat, cough or snuffle and I grumble a lot but I am rarely incapacitated as I've been for the last couple of days. I have been proper poorly.

Some sort of virus I guess. Not bad enough to be flu but enough to stop any activity. I've spent the time on the sofa feeling sorry for myself: I do not like being ill!!!

On the plus side I've sat through a Downton Abbey fest. I missed the television series but Daughter gave me season 1 for Christmas last year and I finally managed to watch it. And I finished The Girl Who Played with Fire so it's not all bad. Except lying on the sofa made me ache by bed time - heart attack type chest pains ache, so I went to bed thinking how inconvenient it would be if I died now just before Christmas. And then I launched into the old familiar 'what would people say at my funeral?' routine. That soon sent me to sleep ...

P.S. Don't watch House if you're feeling poorly: it's amazing how the most innocent of symptoms can mean the most obscure of deadly diseases. The only dilemma is deciding which 'longcomplicatednameillness' you have today.

P.P.S. Husband just came in and said, 'You must be feeling better if you're blogging.'

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Getting in the Christmas spirit

Now we've passed Husband's birthday (December 1st) we can start concentrating on Christmas. We began this morning by visiting one of the big stores that sells loads of Christmassy stuff. Husband bought some lovely lights for outside - preparing for the reindeer to come ... - and I bought these essential accessories.I am convinced that having grandchildren brings out the latent chav (translation: someone very into bling and tack).

I didn't buy this but was strangely fascinated by the idea of making my own snow.
And today I've discovered Spotify and I'm compiling a playlist of Christmas music. I'm having so much fun! Best title so far is All I Want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus.
Mine is a very eclectic mix with Ella in between Santa getting stuck up the chimney, a gospel choir and a wombling Christmas.

I've also started shooting turkeys in the hope that by Christmas I might actually hit one. Tomorrow is 'Make a reindeer day' or maybe that should be 'Try to make a reindeer day'. Or even more likely, 'Fail to make a reindeer day'.

It was all set off by nightmare last night. I dreamed it was 2.00 pm on Christmas Eve and I suddenly realised I'd forgotten to buy a turkey or any vegetables and all the shops had either moved or closed early. The closest thing I could find to a turkey was a blackened shot-riddled thing (guilt for all the turkey shooting I'm doing?)

When I told Husband he said, 'That wasn't a nightmare; that was a memory.' Which is a ridiculous exaggeration. It was midnight the day before Christmas eve that I had us driving around Swansea looking for - and not finding - a turkey.

I used an adaptation of that tale in my first novel and the woman from the Romantic Novelists' Association who critiqued it (and hated it) said that was ridiculous: no woman would ever do that. Huh, shows how much she knows!

Rapidly putting nasty ladies behind me, I'm so excited: can you tell?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Winter draws on

I worked different hours today so when I came out this afternoon it was cold, dark, raining and miserable. I got in the car and thought, 'I want to go home and never go out again.'

I quickly decided that might be a bit extreme but a week's hibernation is do-able, don't you think? no? Okay.

This is one of the rare occasions when I wish we had a television in the bedroom. Curling up in bed with some mindless tv or A Wonderful Life is just what the doctor ordered.

Actually the doctor ordered antibiotics but that's another story.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I'm used to there being no such thing as a usual night at Zac's but to walk through the door and be greeted by 'Fornication!' still managed to surprise me.

Then it was 'Jill, come here.'
I looked around; it was me she was talking to. I obediently did as told.
'What's fornication? Is it the same as adultery?'
'Um, not really.'
'What is it then?'
'Well, having sex.'
'So that American preacher on Friday night was wrong then.'
'I think so.'
'Is it like when you play with yourself?'
'Um, no, that's um ... (big gulp) (chicken out) something else.'

After that beginning demon possession was no big thing.

P.S. I thought I'd better check that I was right and the American evangelist wrong in his use of the word. According to Chambers fornication is sex between two unmarried people but can sometimes be expanded in its use to involve one married person. So we were both sort of right but I was righter.

I've never seen Titanic

On Sunday posts began appearing on Facebook saying 'RIP Gary Speed'. Who's Gary Speed I hear you ask; I asked the same thing. It turns out he was the Wales football manager and ex-Wales player. Only 42 he was found hanged at home with no suggestion of foul play. The inquest begins today but suicide as a result of depression is being suggested.

He was a happily married family man doing well in his job, liked and admired by many many people. He appeared on a football show on the Saturday afternoon before he died and seemed as normal. He must have masked his depression well but how deep must it have been for him to take his own life?

I obviously had no idea who he was until yesterday and can't pretend to mourn him in anything other than a 'that is sad for his family and a waste of life' way, and my level of depression bears no comparison with his but maybe I should talk about the experience. I was thinking this yesterday and then last night I went to an event and one of the speakers there mentioned his depression and the reaction it had got. And I decided I would write this post.

I didn't think of it as depression initially; I was just anxious. It was just me being stupid and I needed to pull myself together.

It began when I was a teenager, the first worries assailed me. What would start as a little niggle grew into an obsessive anxiety. And the anxiety itself became greater and greater until it overwhelmed me.

What was worse was that, by this time, I was happily married with young children. My husband had a good job and we had a comfortable home. In short I had it all. What was there to be anxious about? I remember Husband saying that if I didn't have something to worry about I'd invent something.

And that was true. The slightest thing would set me off. I'd get the cold shiver running through me, my stomach would drop and 'what if' would pop into my mind; from there it was downhill. I could tell myself as much as I liked that it was nothing, I was being silly and try and think about something else but my brain was on one track by then and there were no turnings off.

By this time also I was a Christian. That should have helped right? Doesn't the bible tell us not to worry as God has everything in his control? 'Well, yes, but what if ...?' Guilt number 1 (or maybe 2 if you include the fact that I had no reason or right to be miserable).

But I asked for prayer and dear and very lovely people prayed for me. And I felt nothing when they prayed and no different afterwards. Guilt number 3. I must get better - or say I am - otherwise I'm letting everyone and God down. And it must be my fault anyway.

Most of my concerns were about health, either mine or the children's. I'd go to the doctor who'd reassure me and for a time I'd be okay. But the time between panics got shorter and shorter. I tried the doctor again, this time explaining that I can't stop worrying. At first they say, 'Get more exercise. Take up a hobby. You've nothing to worry about.' Eventually one sends me to a counsellor who listens and gives me a relaxation tape.

I do my relaxation exercises religiously every night but never get to the end of the tape as I've fallen asleep. Oh yes, I had no problem relaxing while lying on my bed; it was putting it into practice when walking around Sainsburys when I failed. Going to Sainsburys became something I dreaded; I had to pluck up my courage to go and try to get around before the panic overtook me.

The counsellor gave up on me saying there was nothing more she could suggest.

The film Titanic was in the cinemas around now. Everyone was going and everyone said, 'You've got to see it in the cinema to get the full special effects.' I smiled and made the excuse that Husband wouldn't enjoy it but really I was too scared to go and sit in a cinema in case I had a panic attack.

My life by now was entirely controlled by fear. There was hardly a moment when I wasn't anxious about something irrational. I was gloomy and distant with my family. I asked Husband yesterday what I had been like. He said, 'You were always stressed and miserable.'

I remember standing behind the bathroom door hardly breathing, hiding from something but from what I don't know. I desperately wanted to curl up in bed and stay there.

I couldn't enjoy anything; I couldn't anticipate events with pleasure because 'I might not be here by then.' Honestly I was a right misery!

At last a doctor realised that I was serious when I said my life was controlled by anxiety and fear and prescribed seroxat for me. She said that depression could be caused by a lack of a chemical serotonin in the brain, and suggested I try these tablets to correct that imbalance. (I also had this sort of belief that anxiety wasn't a proper 'illness' whereas depression was, and surely I was just being silly and anxious?)

And, dear readers, if you've managed to stay with me this long, I have to tell you that a tiny little pill changed my life.

Since taking my happy pill I am a different person. No, not different, well, yes, different but actually the person that was inside the shell of fear, the one I was meant to be rather than someone less than that.

Over the years the doctor has suggested on occasion that I try to come off them and I have given it a go but the symptoms have returned and there is no way I am going back there. It seems to me if there was an imbalance in my brain then it's likely to continue. I suppose my brain could right itself but I'm happy with my little pill. And I believe that depression, a chemical imbalance, whatever it is, is just as valid an illness as a more obviously physical one. (There has been in the past - maybe not so much now - an embarrassment in churches about sufferers of a mental illness.) Husband, like thousands of others, has to take a daily thyroxin dose; what difference is there between that and my seroxat?

I realise that my case is far less serious than Gary Speed's or that of many others who suffer silently and invisibly, but I'm so glad I sought help and found it at the right time.

And I try to mention my happy pill sometimes - especially in church situations - because I want to see an end to the shame and the stigma. Christians get depressed too!

By the way, I still need God and call out to him and trust and rely on him; my happy pill hasn't made him redundant. He is the rock that underpins my life. He's also my creator and inventor of serotonin ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Afternoon tea

My friend got married yesterday. Second time for both of them, they wanted a very casual event and decided to have afternoon tea instead of a 'proper' reception and, as they were working to a tight budget, I offered to organise it for them.

I had lots of people making cakes and helping me do sandwiches - which take a surprisingly long time to assemble - and it all turned out fine in the end.
Except my resolution to be good and refrain failed miserably. Well, there were so many things that I just needed to taste to make sure ...

As a result I woke in the middle of the night of the night feeling sick. The thought occurred to me that being sick would get rid of all those bad fatty calories - but then I remembered I hate being sick. Next thing I knew I was waking up three hours later feeling much better. But I'm having a not-eating-much day today to let my tummy relax.

Now these two photos are mainly for Furtheron's benefit. The groom is a musician and has about 20 guitars. After the service he and the bride, who's a saxophonist, and the rest of their band played some jazz and blues, and these are the guitars he used.
He did explain to me what this one was but I've forgotten.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Husband's brilliant ideas

A few weeks ago Husband had a brilliant idea. He said, 'We won't put tacky Christmas lights up outside the front of the house; I'll make a grotto around the pond with lights and reindeer drinking and maybe a polar bear and ...'

He was getting carried away; can you tell?

Today he came back from B&Q and said, 'Do you know how much a polar bear costs?! So I've had a brilliant idea. (Another one?) Long threads of outdoor lights are very cheap so you can make some reindeer out of sticks and I'll decoratively wrap them in lights. How about that? Of course they'll have to 3 dimensional.'

Husband thinks I have as much time on my hands as he does. (And that I am capable of making a reindeer out of sticks that looks less like very bad modern art and more like a reindeer.)

Mutter, mutter

I've hurt my back. I don't know how that happened. I'm sure it can't be anything to do with helping Husband to carry a great big heavy old television downstairs and out to the car.

As we were struggling down the front steps the rubbish men happened to be passing. One said, 'Do you want a hand with that?'
'No,' says Husband, 'we're fine.'

Mutter, mutter. It's only a little ache; I'm sure I'll be better in time for circuit training tonight.

A bit flat today

How pathetic is that chocolate cake? It looks more like a giant cookie.Ah, well, filled with black cherry jam and cream it might just look good enough to fool people.

You know the way Google tries to match adverts with what you've written about? It decided an advert for concrete slabs would be most suitable for this post!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The dangers of dog walking, part 3

It's amazing how much thinking one brain can do while walking.

'Who is God?'
'If God is God then who is Jesus?'
'How can I tell God is really living in me?'

All fantastic questions but can't really be answered in 5 minutes during a bible study (on another topic) especially when the questioner is buzzing and not listening to any answers.

I was so very glad it was Sean in charge of Zac's last night. We had even more than our fair share of 'different' individuals and there was a constant hum about the place. That was during the study; afterwards it was just sheer noise! I was behind the counter as all the regular tea-makers were away and I had one conversation of which I heard nothing. I did that smile and nod bit quickly adapting it into a shake and tut if the talker looked puzzled at my response. I hope I haven't agreed to anything stupid.

Here's my two-pennoth-worth in answer to the questions.
'Who is God?'
Don't know. God is. That's all that can be said. There are plenty of words that could be used to describe God - father, creator, friend, saviour, comforter etc - but they don't tell you who God is. It's one of those questions we won't have answered until we meet him.

'If God is God who is Jesus?'
Far greater minds than mine have tried to explain the Trinity of God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sean used the analogy of water, steam and ice. all the same but all different. Someone once described it to me as like a woman who is daughter, wife and mother: all the same person but different roles. They're both useful ways of simplifying the Trinity but I don't think either really answers it. Another one of those 'wait and see' questions.

'How can I tell God is really living in me?'
Several people answered this last night by saying, 'You'll feel it. You'll be different. You'll just know.' That isn't my experience. For me it was a decision to have faith and believe; I didn't feel anything different.

There are amazing stories in the bible and from people alive today of the signs of meeting God. That must be fantastic - as long as it's accompanied by faith and a choice. Memories dim and if all a person has when he goes through a difficult time is the faded memory of an experience then he'll find it hard.

I don't deny I'd like to feel it a bit more but my faith remains although sometimes it means clinging on by my fingertips.

But for J who seemed so earnest in her desire last night I pray God that you will give her what she needs and the faith to maintain faith. Save her, Lord.

The dangers of dog walking, part 2

Coming back past the lake I spotted a man leaning forward slightly and fiddling with something. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and hoped he was trying to do up his anorak zip but just in case, I began singing loudly, to make him aware of my presence and encourage him to be discreet about whatever it was he was doing.

You see some strange sights in the wood.

Husband was telling me about something that happened when he was walking George and Holly in the woods over the weekend.
'Both dogs stopped suddenly and stared into the bushes. Then Holly came belting back to me, whimpering, and with her tail between her legs. George meanwhile rushed into the bushes, snarling and growling.'
'George did?!'
'That rules out plastic carrier bags and cardboard boxes then.'

Husband never did find out the secret of what was in the bushes.

The dangers of dog walking, part 1

Husband has gone to Derby to visit his dad so I walked George on my own this morning and that means I had plenty of time to compose blog posts, so wait for it.

Where to begin?

In prison yesterday afternoon for carol service preparation. Late again I rushed to get a car park ticket. Now bags have to be in lockers so i try to manage without one but that means stuffing papers, pens, notebook, glasses case, purse, passport and keys all in a manila folder, which just about works except when you're rushing.

The parking ticket was one of those that comes in 2 bits and as I was struggling to get it stuck on the window a bit - the important bit - blew away. Picture me chasing a little piece of paper around the car park scattering glasses, keys, papers on the floor in the process.

Sometimes I think I'm a walking ... disaster is to strong a word ... calamity.

Which reminded me that Nitwit has written about Calamity Jane. Did you know she was a real person? Who had a thing for Wild Bill Hickock?

Which led me to fairtrade. Yes, I know that's a big leap and, no, I have no idea how I got there. I put it down to having a creative brain. What others call 'different'.

My brother-in-law-in-law dismisses fairtrade and organic produce as 'a con' and 'a marketing ploy'.

I buy fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate because they're easy to get in Sainsburys. I buy some organic produce but I'm not consistent. It usually depends on whether I've been lectured recently by Husband about the need to live thriftily.

But it occurred to me that fairtrade and organic isn't expensive; it's the other produce that is cheap. And the reason it's cheap is because it's covered in chemicals and made by slave labour. Yes, I know that's a gross exaggeration (Yay! I remembered how to spell exaggeration!) but no worse than generalising by saying fairtrade is a marketing ploy. You get what you pay for usually.

Now what was next on my mind?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Escaping? Moi?"

"I mean, really, do I look as if I'm trying to escape?""Um, yes. You're outside the fence,"
"Nonsense, I'm just sniffing the air."
He wouldn't move while I was waiting so I had to go back inside and let him complete his break for freedom and then I was able to lure him back in with a treat. Easily bought, George.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh bottom!

I ordered a number of presents from Early Learning Centre last week, some for grandchildren for Christmas and one big one for GrandDaughter's birthday to be given to her on Saturday at the party. On Thursday we arrived home from Devon to find we'd missed a parcel delivery and when Husband phoned they said they couldn't bring it again until Tuesday.

The next day, Friday, another parcel arrived. Written on the side in large letters it said WOODEN GARAGE; I didn't bother opening it as I could see it wasn't GrandDaughter's birthday present. Nothing came on Saturday so I assumed GrandDaughter's main birthday present wouldn't get to us in time and gave her some of her smaller intended Christmas presents in its place.

Younger Son was in a similar position as the present he'd ordered hadn't arrived either.

Today, Monday, more parcels arrived for me. After opening them I was a little confused and thought I'd better check the parcel that arrived last week claiming to be a WOODEN GARAGE.

You know what I'm going to say, don't you?

Inside the box so clearly marked WOODEN GARAGE was GrandDaughter's main birthday present - not a WOODEN GARAGE at all. And now, finally, it occurs to me that I didn't actually order a garage, wooden or otherwise.

I would like to put the blame on Early Learning Centre for misleading information but can't help thinking that, maybe, just maybe, it's partly my fault ...

Was it the Straw Man who sang, 'If I only had a brain'?

A late November daisy

Remembering Mutley's howling monkeys

Out of the blue this morning I thought about Mutley's radioactive howling monkeys ... and I smiled.

I hope I leave a legacy of smiles.

I mean, it would be good to leave a million pound legacy but that's not going to happen so smiles and laughter would be the next best thing.

The lady who's my partner in circuit training (we're the two old dears slowing everyone down) was telling me that she gives each of her grandchildren a new decoration for their Christmas tree each year - have I told you this already? It sounds familiar - and that they can remember each occasion. I thought this was a lovely idea so bought decorations this year for GrandDaughter and GrandSon and gave them to them this last weekend.

I explained to my children the thinking behind it and said, 'So when I'm dead they can remember their old granny each time they look at the decoration.'
Elder Son exclaimed, 'You don't think we'll be putting these up when you're dead, do you?'

I've just thought: I'd assumed he meant because it would be too upsetting but maybe he meant they're so hideous we'll be throwing them away as soon as possible. (But they're not hideous so it can't be that.) (I hope.)

I'm doing my best to make sure my grandchildren will remember me: my dancing along to 'Everybody wants to be a cat' while playing an imaginary trombone/guitar/piano was fairly memorable. And raised comments along the lines of 'Please tell me I'm not really related to you.'

Walking back to podginess

I've put on half a stone since I lost weight so need to get my eating back under control. So today I'm starting my two-week kick-start programme again.

It's been hard with lots of celebrations and eating and chocolate and ... tonight I've resolved to allow myself only 1 chocolate after dinner. Can I do it? It will take tremendous will power. By lunchtime when I was driving home I was already thinking, 'Surely two wouldn't hurt?' I had to slap my own wrist.

'That's the kind of thinking that has made you put on half a pound, my girl!'

I'm still well within the healthy weight for my age, sex, height, hair colour but with Christmas pounding down towards us it could be dodgy. I don't want to slip slid away into podginess.

Poops, I've depressed myself now. And I have a hard circuit to look forward to this evening as well. Big sighs.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For my little almost-English boy

I wrote a prayer for my darling GrandSon ages ago but it's taken me until now to write it out neatly (-ish) on teddy-shaped card.

It begins like this:

For my little almost-English boy
May you grow strong in body and mind.
May you abound in energy and enthusiasm.
May you sleep at peace with the world and may your dreams be limited only by your imagination.
May you stretch out your hand and reach for the trees and the sky, for rainbows and shooting stars.
May you walk the path God has laid before you, your eyes fixed on him.

(Continued here.)

Fabulous fungi

I spotted all these fungi in the woods of Killerton estate in Devon last week. Unfortunately I know nothing about mushrooms except that some are deadly. I tried googling for images but that wasn't a lot of use. I got as far as ascertaining that the first one might be the common funnel mushroom or the brown beech or ... something else.

Any fungiperts out there who can identify any of these? The last two are probably the same; I just included the first example because it was huge!

Wonderful weekend

We gathered this weekend to celebrate GrandDaughter's 2nd birthday (which isn't for a few days yet).With the camera set to take a photo automatically this was the best we could manage with the dogs who were co-operating even less than GrandDaughter! (Notice Daughter's and GrandDaughter's matching Christmas jumpers, knitted by Nanna - definitely not me who can't knit for toffee!)It was wonderful to have everyone here together although I fear Younger Son and Fiancée could have got fed up of baby eating, sleeping and poo-ing discussions.

Now the only problem is that someone has to eat all the leftover party food ...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Panto in 3D!

Little Jimmy Osmond is the star of Swansea's panto this year. (Yes, we get all the big names down here.) I was still not too bothered about going until I found out that Sean's daughter will be dancing in the show. And, and this was the clincher: there will be special 3D effects!

I rush to tell Husband, 'The panto's got 3D; we'll have to go!'
He looks at me in that way he does. 'It's live theatre,' he says.
'Yes, I know,' I say. Does he think I'm an idiot or something? 'But they've got 3D!'
'It's live theatre,' he repeats slowly. 'Think about what you're saying.'

I'm still going ... (which means he has to too.)

My early morning adventure courtesy of George

All the children are home this weekend for GrandDaughter's 2nd birthday party so I decide to get up early this morning so I can go to work early and leave work early. I feed George and then potter about while he's eating.

Then it occurs to me that George has been outside a long time. Regular readers won't need telling what's happened: some things are as inevitable as finishing a box of Cadbury's Fingers in one go. Yes, he'd done a runner.

I leap into Minni and drive around to the adventure playground where I meet an early-rising friend. She hasn't seen George so I carry on patrolling his favourite routes. I see no sign of him - but I do scrape the side of Minni while looking for him rather than where I was going.

I get home and Husband tells me we've had a phone call: George is in a house in the road behind. I grab his lead and hurry off there.

When I arrive I see George looking out of the window quite unconcerned by his abduction. The couple tell me they spotted him walking towards the main road but they were able to catch him when he stopped to eat the contents of a rubbish bin. Since being in their house he has eaten 3 bowlfuls of their dogs' food.

And I assume it's for this reason that one of their dogs, who is standing behind me barking, decides to bite my bottom.

It seems churlish to complain when they've been so kind as to rescue George so I continue smiling, thanking and apologising in equal measures, before dragging George home.

And it's still only 8.15.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Get stirring

It wasn't Stir Up Sunday* but I made my Christmas puddings nevertheless.

Of course when I started I discovered that I didn't have everything I needed so I improvised. I used ground almonds instead of chopped and then added extra chopped mixed nuts as well. No mixed peel so in went apricots. Not enough brandy so it had to be Cointreau. ('You used Cointreau?!!' Husband was not amused. 'I like to drink that!') And I added dates just for fun.

The fish kettle was put to use.
The finished products.

*The last Sunday before Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, the day when Christmas puddings are traditionally made. The name comes from the words of the prayer for the day, 'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.' (From the Book of Common Prayer, 1549) This year it's on 20th November.

It's traditional for all members of the family to have a stir and make a wish so I made Husband do his bit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The first day of the last year

It began with breakfast (warm croissant and maple and pecan plait) in bed. Then my oldest - although she's younger than me - friend called in for a long catch-up natter.

After that it was off for a facial then a walk around the cliffs before eating out at PA's restaurant. The evening ended with a bit of Johnny Depp (On stranger shores) and Maltesers.

If this is what it's like being 59 bring it on!

Got all excited this morning

Called Husband, 'Come and look at this!'
Husband peered outside, 'What am I looking at?'
'Clothes blowing on the line on a sunny day!'

He didn't share my enthusiasm.

But our garden is quite sheltered so sunny blowy days are rare and clothes are so much nicer if they've had a good blow.

So that was my excitement for today ...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

On the road again

Pregnant Daughter is poorly so we're off to Devon early this week to look after her and GrandDaughter.

One day I'll catch up with myself ...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Who says there's no God?

How can anyone be certain there is no God? Certainty demands proof surely? No-one can prove there isn't a God any more than I can prove there is.

What I see as evidence for God's existence would be denied by a non-believer but that's why it's called faith. I have faith that there is a God. Sometimes I have doubts; often I question. But I believe. But I'm not sure I'm certain. At least I don't have the sort of assurance that the writer of this lamppost sticker seems to have.
And I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something wrong with the logic too. Is it suggesting you stop worrying about whether there's a God or about what you do? In either case my experience is that my belief in God means I can enjoy life.

Or am I just taking a lamppost sticker too seriously?

Monday's Odd shots

And I thought I had a spare tyre!

A horseman came riding by

A trip to Windsor Great Park during a visit to Elder Son, Daughter-in-law and GrandSon.Imagine having this as your front drive ... (that's Windsor Castle in the far distance).
Oh, not any old horseman but George III, whose statue stands at the end of the Long Walk (nearly 3 miles). The statue, commonly known as The Copper Horse, is actually made of bronze-clad iron.