Monday, January 31, 2011

Husband is a brave boy

Husband had a tooth out today.

The dentist has been trying for months to save it by filling it but she had to admit defeat. She told him not to eat anything for two hours and not to have hot drinks either.

When we got home he said, 'I could probably have a yogurt though.'
'She said you weren't supposed to eat!'
'She said I could have drinks and that's all yogurt is really.'

Brave but stupid.

January nature

A posse of long-tailed tits gather on our feeder.
My reward for stopping to take this photo on the way to work this morning was frozen fingers. But it was worth it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fish and bits

Daughter has had the in-laws visiting today. A vegetarian, she decided to cook chicken for them. She phoned me on Friday and said, 'There's this bag of ... bits inside it! What do I do with them?!!'

* * * * * * * *

Younger Son and Girlfriend should be back in the country now. According to the website their plane landed on time so they should be getting home at about 4 tomorrow morning. It'll be a relief to see them, not because they were in Egypt but because I won't have to worry about remembering to feed Girlfriend's fish. The other night Husband got up at 2 to feed him. (He got up to go to the toilet but asked if I'd fed the fish and I hadn't.)

In which all becomes clear

I ordered a new bed today!

Yesterday we went to look at some, chose the one we liked and then found a better price on the internet. (I feel a bit guilty about not supporting local traders but not a hundred pound's worth of guilt.)

For ages I've been saying we should buy a new bed: ours has a hole in the mattress you can put your fist in! But I've put it off because 'our bed's so comfy.' But I've not been sleeping as well as I used to - I used to sleep easily and like a great heavy lump of wood - and it occurred to me that maybe when bed salesmen say you need a good bed in order to get a good night's sleep they weren't just using a line.

It had taken me some time but I'd finally persuaded Husband that a king-size bed would be perfect. Then I saw the super king-size and had pure bed envy. I pointed to the one in the shop, Autumn Mist it was called, 'That's really nice but it is expensive.'
'Well,' Husband said, 'you can get this one (Cypress Cove, the one I'd liked before seeing Autumn Mist) in super king-size too.'
'Really? And you think that would be okay?'
'Yes, if that's what you want.'

So we ordered it today.

I mentioned this on Facebook and said I was a little surprised at Husband's willingness to not only have an even bigger bed but to spend more as well. Then, as we were eating dinner, it all became clear.

'So,' Husband began, 'as you've got your new bed we can talk now about the new big television we need.'
''We don't need a new television.'
'We didn't need a new bed.'
'Yes, we did!'

But as Husband pointed out, the Six Nations begins on Friday and it's the rugby world cup this year. 'And if we ordered it today we'd get it in time for Friday ...'

Is homosexuality a sin?

You know what it's like when you wake up in the middle of night, your brain goes into overdrive.

After George had got me up I lay awake for ages worrying about the Knitted by Nanas post I'd done earlier. Did I make my point clearly? Should I have said more? Or less? Did I actually say what I meant?

Eventually I realised that my real concern was not what I'd said or even not said but what was implied. Which is that homosexuality is a sin.

Is it? I don't know.

Yes, the bible says it is but the bible also says that, in church, women should keep their heads covered and shouldn't speak. We don't pay any heed to that. We explain it away as being culturally relevant to that time and place but not today.

I know homosexuality is a slightly different thing but still ...

There are all sorts of things I don't understand; there are lots of things I'm undecided about. Is abortion always wrong? What about assisted suicide or euthanasia? (Or even simple suicide widely considered by many Christians to be a sin.) I think: I should think this - but I don't. It would probably be easier if I did, if there were a manual that listed clearly this is always right and this is always wrong. Maybe some Christians would argue that we do have a manual in the bible but it's contradictory in places.

Maybe, as usual, if I go back to Jesus I'll find out what's important.

Jesus didn't spend a lot of time telling people what they shouldn't do. As far as I can remember he never said anything about homosexuality. He was more concerned with what we should do: things like love one another.

I have lots of questions for God not just about all these points but the other obvious questions like why floods and earthquakes? Why do some seem to suffer so much? Why did Anne, a young mother of four, have to die?

There are far too many questions for my brain. Big questions, very big questions, that some people seem to have the definitive answer for. I'll never be one of those people.

There are some certainties in my belief. I believe in God, my creator, Jesus, my saviour, and the Spirit, my helper. Other than that, don't push me, okay?

Oh, yes, I meant to mention something I read on Facebook earlier that helped me. Mike Todd posted it but he's actually quoting someone else:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

What they wanted at Colditz

This is the hole - now boarded up - that George dug in the fence this morning to facilitate his fifth escape in as many days.
We thought he'd settled down, resigned himself to living with us, but the wanderlust has struck again good and proper.

I wouldn't mind if he was badly treated ...

The view from the bed

At 3 am I was wakened by George whining quietly. I waited to see if he were dreaming and I could go back to sleep but the cries grew in intensity and urgency. It was a beautiful starry night and as I stumbled downstairs I muttered, 'If you're getting me up just so you can go and howl at the moon, you are in serious trouble, dog.'

He hadn't. And there was the same necessity in his later morning toilet call. That time when I went back to bed with cups of tea I said to Husband, 'It's glorious out there. We should striding along the beach appreciating it.'
'It's -5 degrees.'
' ... but we can probably enjoy it just as much from bed.'

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Knitted by Nanas

I bought this birthday card today mainly because it made me laugh out loud in the shop. But really it was a fortuitous choice as it leads nicely into this post, which is a little more serious.

A few weeks ago there was a well-publicised case where a homosexual couple took the Christian owners of a guesthouse to court for refusing them a double room. Normally I don't comment on things in the news because others do it so well and this blog is all about ME and my little world but Nick wrote about it and my comment on his post was misunderstood so I thought I should clarify a little.

I'm not going into all the single room, twin-beds, contract that they wouldn't get up to naughties nonsense, which is all beside the point; instead I want to think about what Jesus would do.

I'd like to be able to disassociate myself from 'Christians like that' but I realise it's only the fact that their flaws have been brought to the public attention that make us different. Fact is we're all sinners.

The God I - and I believe the guesthouse owners - follow doesn't have a sliding scale of sin. Whether it's fiddling your expenses, taking paperclips from work or something we would think of as much much worse, it's sin in God's eyes. (And the reason we need Jesus.)

But Jesus spent a lot of time with those more commonly identified in human eyes as sinners - prostitutes & thieves - and he dealt with them with love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. Yes, he sometimes said, 'Go and sin no more,' but only after he'd helped them.

The ones he really couldn't stand and the ones he had the strongest words for were the ones who wore their religion like a badge, who were ready to judge rather than help.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." Matthew 23:27

I'm not saying this applies to the guesthouse owners but Jesus's comment, 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone' does come to mind. Our calling is not to judge but to care.

Peace and love, man

I had to go to the sheep shop to exchange Husband's slippers and look what I found!
Perfect for the space on the wall in the kitchen.

The Art Deco movement and my funny eye

I've had to take a short break from cleaning as I was suffering from Funny Eye Syndrome, and, as I was sitting in the rocking chair doing nothing - which is all I can do - studying the patterns in my eye, it made me wonder if the founders of the Art Deco movement were fellow sufferers.

It starts off quite innocently. You know what it's like when you look at something bright and it burns itself into your retina so that whatever you look at for a few minutes afterwards you can still see the burned image? Well, that's how it begins. Just a little diamond in the corner of my eye. Then over the course of about 20 minutes it arcs and grows until it finally grows out of my eye (which is the way I think of it).

It's centred over my left eye but I can see it with both eyes so I suppose that must mean it's my brain that is flipping not my eyes.

The first time it happened, about 20 years ago, I was petrified imagining this was the beginning of the end; now it occurs about twice a year on average and I know what to expect and can deal with it. Both the doctor and the optician said it's the kind of visual disturbance that migraine sufferers undergo; fortunately, if I do get a headache with it, it isn't too severe.

But as I was saying, the patterns it makes inside my eye are very Art Deco-ish. And now my head is just beginning to think about aching. Better finish the cleaning before it settles in.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How to achieve stress-free productivity - or not

Today in work I lived the dream - or at least the organisational flowchart.

While in Daughter's I picked up a book that I'd noticed lying around.

{Pause in the proceedings at this point while I venture out into the freezing cold night to search for stupid dog who must, somehow, have found a way out of what we thought was our unescapeable garden. I find him holding up traffic as he meanders across the road and into the bible college. Stupid stupid dog is lucky to be alive.}

Back to the book. It was called Getting Things Done: how to achieve stress-free productivity, by David Allen. (I suggest one good idea would be to Rid Your Life of Dogs that Cause Unnecessary Stress.)

Slightly put off by the first page that was full of indecipherable Americanese workplace speak, I flicked through it a bit more and discovered the answer lies, not in the soil, but in lists. Okay his lists weren't necessarily the scrap of paper you then lose lists but however high tech the method the idea is the same.

Of course, it wasn't just a case of making a list - although I can see the point of writing down everything that is cluttering my brain and that I am sure to forget - but what you do with the list afterwards. You Throw, File, Delegate or Do depending.

I started to 'action' my new stress-free productivity workstyle today in Linden. Meaning I threw away a lot of stuff and I created two new files as recommended in what I am coming to think of as The Book. Big box files that labelled Reference (i.e. things I have no idea what to do with but suspect may be important one day and probably shouldn't throw out) and Maybe Sometime (i.e. things that I may have to do something with at some point in time - currently empty).

Now all I have to do is introduce this undoubtedly failsafe system into the rest of my life.

Horsey horsey, don't you stop

You can't see very clearly in this photo but this leaping horse, outside the local farm shop in Thorverton, was very effective, especially as it was moving in the wind.We've been to the shop lots of times but I've never noticed it before. It's a good shop too, with lots of interesting goodies.

Feeding a cold

'Stop losing weight!' Ric yelled at me across the counter in Zac's. 'You're looking - the word that springs to mind is gaunt.'
'I do not look gaunt,' I must have shouted back at him as several people stopped what they were doing and turned to stare.
'You tell her,' Ric appealed to Sean (but not a lot). 'She'll listen to you.'
Sean looked at Ric and then at me with his eyebrows raised as if to say, 'You really think so?'

Anyway Ric will be pleased to hear that I have been taking the advice of my granny and other old wives and feeding a cold.

As we're regularly in Devon on Wednesday and Thursday now with the aim of looking after GrandDaughter so Daughter, who is an award-winning freelance copywriter, can get back to working more hours, we've agreed that I'll plan and prepare Wednesday night dinner so she can concentrate on writing. As a result I've been having fun browsing for good vegetarian recipes. My first attempt was spinach and ricotta gnocchi with a rich tomato sauce, served with rocket and freshly grated parmesan.
It was very nice - GrandDaughter liked it - but could perhaps have done with a little more seasoning (but not if GrandDaughter's going to be eating it).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Can't sleep at night? Is this why?

I've been researching vineyards and, in a roundabout way as ever, came across this wonderful quote from Sir George Sitwell, father of Edith etc.

"I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night."

I think I'll get a sign made for our front door ...

A lot of orange

Little orange dragon for Lara's birthday cake.
Lamb shank on orange stuff (squash, swede, carrot and sweet potato).

I don't speak italian

This thought struck me last night as I was feeding Girlfriend's fish. Younger Son had helpfully pointed out that he likes to be talked to so I was chattering away when I suddenly realised that he wouldn't understand me being used to Girlfriend's Italian conversation.

I said the first thing that came into my head, 'Ciao.'

Fish looked puzzled. I guess it was my accent. I tried again with the only other bit of Italian I know. 'Buon appetito!'
That did the trick; he enthusiastically attacked the food flakes drifting round the bowl. I said it again for good measure and left him enjoying his dinner.

It does mean our conversation will be rather limited but it's only for a week while YS and Girlfriend are on holiday so I'm sure he'll survive.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ring, ring

'Good morning, Linden Church.'
'Is that the Linden Tree?'
'No, it's Linden Church.'
'Not the Linden Tree pub?'
'Oh ... have you got the number for the Linden Tree?'

In work this morning I composed emails and letters to a number of PayPal chief executives and copied everything to everyone. I'd like to think that the PayPal President will act immediately he reads my email; unfortunately I suspect it will be a lackey reading it and sending me a 'The President regrets blah blah blah' response.

What is very telling is that PayPal has a special email address dedicated to complaints; it's called

It's so tempting.

And Liz is wearing

It's very difficult to find a good range of skirts in shops; has anyone else noticed this?

I battled on though. I went to Tesco's for spinach and came home with a skirt.

It's too big and too short but if I wear it on my hips it fits and it's the right length. I wore it today with my new purple tights that I bought to wear with my purple boots. (I haven't mentioned my boots for a while.)

And my new Tesco's size 10 jumper!

I may have, on the odd occasion in the dim and distant past, got into a size 10 skirt but a top, no. I am well-endowed in that region. But, rest assured, it's not that I have disappeared into thin air but rather that it's a loose-fitting baggy jumper.

Makes a girl feel good though ...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anything to put off the ironing

I have a huge pile of ironing to do so, in procrastination mode, I'm sitting here thinking of things to ramble about.

Younger Son and Girlfriend have gone swimming with sharks diving in the Red Sea this week. After a time when it looked as if they might not be able to go, and then, today, a flight delayed by 5 hours, they're finally in the air and on their way. So Husband and I have the house to ourselves for a week. I've just put dinner on to cook and it's very hard to cook for two.

Dinner tonight is of my own invention. Its working title is Moroccan Lamb Shanks on Orange Stuff although I think that needs a little thought.

What else? Ah, yes, book and CD reviews.

When I read that Ray Davies (of the Kinks) had a new CD out I put it on my Christmas list. Called See My Friends it features remakes of old Kinks songs sung by Ray Davies and friends (as the title suggests), including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and others I've never heard of.

On first listening I wasn't keen and wondered if it had been a good choice but it's grown on me and now I love it. All the favourites are there including Lola and Waterloo Sunset as well as less familiar (to me) ones. The new takes on the songs are great and the words, of course, remain excellent and as relevant today as they were back in the 60s.

Bookwise I've just finished One Dance in Paris, which can only be described as a fairy tale. It takes a tall skinny streetwise girl from Boston and makes her the star of the Folies Bergere in Paris via a circuitous route. She's a nice character and it's an entertaining story as long as you're prepared to suspend disbelief.

I still haven't read A Prayer for Owen Meany. Alun mentioned it when he was still working with me so it must be about 2 years ago now. He was amazed that I hadn't read it. Not read it? I hadn't even heard of it. I must check out the author and look in the library when I return One Dance. Also on my bedside table is Catcher in the Rye, another classic I haven't read. Husband gave it to me for Christmas. (I bought it as part of a 3 for the price of 2 offer in Waterstone's and gave it to him to give to me.)

Now I'm definitely running out of things to write and the ironing is shouting. Phooey.

When the red red robin ...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A chilly day on Oxwich bay

In spite of the temperature being a low single figure George needed to cool off in the sea.

S**** paypal

Husband found this wonderful site for me!

It gives names and home addresses as well as loads of personal email addresses for PayPal executives including the president and chief financial officer. And the basic advice is to copy your complaints to every one of them.

What is especially wonderful is that it means I'm not alone! Talking to the robots at 'Customer Service' can lead one to think that one is the only one in the world to have done anything stupid while setting up a paypal account (I have acknowledged many times that I made the original error) or to have any problem with paypal at all.

Now let battle commence!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Just a little rant

While putting off reading the letter from PayPal I read, instead, an evangelical Christian magazine. I probably shouldn't have done as it got off to a bad start with the Letters Page irritating me.

One letter complained about an article that had spoken of choosing the recipient of something or other by 'drawing names from a hat'; the writer of another letter objected to one of the adverts in the magazine saying that it came from a 'compromised ecumenical stable' (something vaguely Roman Catholic).

For goodness sake, do these people ever look around themselves and see the state of the world, of their community, of their neighbour? Have they nothing more serious to worry about than terminology and theology?

Rant over.

Reporting back on things

My boeuf bourgignon turned out well. Richly flavoursome and plenty of it. A teeny bit over-cooked in that the meat was in shreds but better that than tough and chewy.

Ffion - the boxing partner from hell - broke her finger while boxing. I'm sure there's a message in that somewhere but I'm not brave enough to tell her.

PayPal - excuse me while I hyperventilate - continues to be a pain in the wotsit. I arrived home from Devon last night to find a letter from them waiting for me. I refused to open it as I wanted to be able to sleep so took it to work this morning. Then I did everything on my list plus several things not on my list to avoid opening it for as long as possible. Then I bowed to the inevitable.

I read it, screamed, punched the desk and had to go for a walk outside in the sunshine to calm down.

I swear they didn't even read my pages-long explanation and complaint.

'We're unable to explain the complaint' - I don't want an explanation; it's my complaint; I know what it means. I want an apology and the £222.72 belonging to Mutende Children's Village in Zambia that you won't let me have. And I want someone who can write in proper English.

'If you're not happy with our response,' they said, 'you can go back to the Financial Ombudsman.' Too flipping true I'm going back to him.

I'm thinking of setting up a Facebook group: Make PayPal give the orphans their money.

Police called, riot van outside, a normal bible study at Zac's then?

The best way to describe last Tuesday's bible study at Zac's is to quote Sean's Facebook status:
The evening could only really pan out one way, when the first aid box is open before we start and there's a riot van out front ... Ah well, at least disorientation and confusion were all part of the story.

Damien, paralytic and barely conscious, offered to read some verses for the bible study. Through the incoherence of his mumblings some words stood out. They weren't in the section he was 'reading' but I guess he thought they should be. The words were Jesus, need and cry.

In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Slow cooked Boeuf Bourgignon

Following the disappointment of my last slow-cooked dinner I decided not to take any chances today. I put my Boeuf Bourgignon on last night.

My slow-cooker has one of those up down switches. One side says High and the other Low. The question is: is it on low when the Low side is pressed in? Or does that mean it's on High?

It's been so long since I used the slow-cooker I have no idea.

According to Delia Boeuf Bourgignon is a retro dish. One that used to be popular in bistros in the 80s. It was probably the 80s I last made it. I hope it's as nice as I remember it.

At least it should be well-cooked.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How hard can it be?

I am a world expert on head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, so why did I go to pieces when I only had to touch my head and hands and toes?

Jules, our circuit trainer, has a mean streak. He sets up a reasonable circuit and you think you're doing okay and then he introduces 'the extras'. Little sharp bursts in between the regular activities. And one of these tonight involved a jab and cross (boxing for the wisely uninitiated) followed by hands on head, hands together, hands on feet, followed by jab and cross and so on. For a minute.

You would not believe how many combinations of things I could touch in a minute and how few were the designated things.

It didn't help that I was teamed with the exercise monster from hell (aka Ffion) who kept yelling at me. Or that the first extra had involved jab, cross, duck, upper cut, upper cut, duck, jab, cross etc. My brain was tripified (adj. from the Latin, meaning turn to tripe) by the end of that; I didn't really stand a chance afterwards.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A self-indulgent post

In that it's only me trying to make sense of my thoughts. I want to work out if what I think I think makes sense to me when I explain it to myself.

So, in church this morning (I was in Linden! For the first time for ages. I was late as I didn't wake up until 10 o'clock but at least I was there.) Dan was continuing the series on prayer. I say continuing: it's the first one in the series I've heard.

Detour 1: Dan lives in his big brother's shadow. I wish he could believe that his shadow is just as big, separate, distinct and unique.

Back on track. Dan said a number of things that made me think and I pondered some more while walking in the woods with George this afternoon.

Detour 2: I sometimes wonder if George is a proper dog. He stood at the top of the steps and looked at me as I were an idiot, standing there, in the rain, waving his lead, saying, 'Come on, we're going for walkies. This is for your benefit: I'm not doing it for the sake of my health you know.'

Dan quoted from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. (I read the book a long time ago and remember being confused by it then too.) And he asked us to spend a few moments thinking about which parts of our lives we were living independently and which we needed to rely on God for more.

I sat and I thought. I turned over the stone in my hand (we'd all been given stones - I can't remember why now) and thought. I thought really hard. And I couldn't think of any answers.

Then Dan spoke about humility and read a Catholic liturgy he'd come across - and that hit home.

One of the problems of being a Christian is awareness of sin and guilt. Another is that there is a tendency to encourage self-analysis, therapy, loving yourself type stuff. And it can all leave a girl of little brain with what brain she has confused.

I'm selfish and vain. (Oooh, saying it aloud hurts.) I know my faults only too well. I want to be liked; I want people to think well of me; I want people to think better of me than they do of others (that was in the liturgy). I know my motivation for doing most things is for these and associated reasons and I hate myself for that. And I've tried to change. I say, 'I'm rubbish and I'm going to change.' A week later you ask me, 'Have you changed?'
'Why not?'
'Because I haven't tried.'
'Why not?'
'Because I'm rubbish ... I'm rubbish and I'm going to change.'
And so the cycle continues.

One of the points Chris mentioned when he introduced today's talk was the idea - that I'm sure a lot of people can relate to - that we can be aware something needs doing but we're always too tired/lazy/indifferent/busy playing computer games to do it. He was talking in his roundabout way about praying. We all say we should pray more; we should follow Jesus's example. We know our lives would be so much better if, in the words of the old song, we took 'it to the Lord in prayer.'

So this afternoon I did. In my usual distracted way.

Detour 3: how do you listen to God? I find that within 10 seconds of trying I'm thinking about something else. And sometimes I try too hard and make things up. Like I passed a house and could smell wood smoke and said to myself, 'Ah, that's God telling me my sins are burned in his holy fire.' Then I laughed at myself. I mean God could have wanted to tell me that but not in the forced way I imaginatively created it.

But strangely maybe God did speak to me - or at least helped clarify my thoughts. Take your mind back to half an hour ago when you started reading this post. I mentioned being independent and relying on God. That's what I wasn't doing. What I'm not doing. I'm trying - or more usually not - to change. Instead of living in the wonder of God's grace and allowing the change to happen naturally organically. I'm still trying to do God's job for him.

Does that give me permission to continue being selfish and vain? No, of course not. But maybe if I spent less time beating myself up for it and more time listening to him then I'd become less so.

I can only hope.

(Naturally isn't the word I want - 6 sentences ago - but for the life for me I can't think of the word I do want. Protein and biology keep coming to mind but that's not right.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do you tweet?

Do you twitter? Or tweet?

I've just read a three-page article in Writing Magazine about why writers should. It hasn't entirely convinced me mainly because I can't work out how you get followers.

That plus the fact I couldn't understand half of the so-called Twitter Basics, such as retweet and hashtags. The only bit I really grasped was the Fail Whale (shown when Twitter stops working).

Twitter should suit me as I'm a concise writer. I'm also a particular writer: I write and rewrite even my Facebook statuses in my head until I'm satisfied. (Usually.)

Perhaps I'll investigate a bit more.

George and the tapdancing squirrel

George likes to go back to bed after his breakfast so he can build up his strength ready for his afternoon walk, so when I put on my wellies this morning and said, 'Come on, George,' he looked at me in amazement, 'What?"!'

I explained that as Husband was away and I'd just made a hairdressing appointment for the afternoon we'd have to have an early walk.
'Yeurh,' he grumbled.

He came with me but for the first part of the walk he wasn't really there. The lights were on but 'please turn them off!' The fox and squirrels who meandered across our path could have performed the whole of Riverdance and he wouldn't have noticed.

In fact the only squirrel he did chase, towards the end of the walk, was up a tree.
'That's my boy.'
'Well I don't want to catch a squirrel,' George explained. 'It might bite me.'

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011: the year of best-laid plans?

I'm shouldn't be here.

Not because if I'd been sitting on the other side as I was originally I'd have been the one to be killed but because I should be on my way to Devon.

It was all planned: we were going down this evening so we could set off early on the train tomorrow morning for Plymouth and a trip around the aquarium with GrandDaughter. A train journey and sharks, what's not to love about that?

But ... Mother-in-law is in hospital again. Things are heading towards crisis point so Husband is going up to Derby tomorrow instead. There's no point me going as I can't do anything useful and I've plenty to be going on with here. However I've made a lasagne and a sponge cake for him to take with him. When Husband saw it he said, 'Pop doesn't like pasta.'

Mutter, mutter.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It's not everyone who has an upside-down chair in their hall. It's meant for the nursery as the rocking chair we originally bought has settled in nicely in the study. So we went back to the YMCA shop and found this pale green leather armchair for £20. It needs a little bobble over the foot of the leg screw but apart from that it's fine for our purposes.

The only question is how long it will be left standing in the hall.

Especially as the nursery painting will be put on hold as the shower, which Husband thought he'd fixed, just started leaking again. Seriously. All down the dining-room walls.

No wonder I've had to attack my hidden stash of Maltesers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm not divorced

I've had a good day today.

The bathroom cleaned this morning and a big chunk (comparatively) of my novel written this afternoon. Just over 2,000 words. Which may not sound much but I'd been struggling with getting back to it. I'm approaching a difficult bit that I'm trying to put off and haven't written anything of it for a long time, partly through lack of time but mostly because of unwillingness.

In fact it's been so long that I'd forgotten the name of my hero.

But now I'm back.

And I'm still procrastinating and taking detours. But that's okay as they're interesting byways I'm travelling down.

My day was made especially good as Husband confirmed that he hadn't divorced me when I wasn't looking.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm divorced!

I just obediently updated my Facebook page as they suggested I should and what do I discover?

I'm divorced!

On my Profile page, under Memorable Stories, it says this:

Liz Hindshas updated her blog. Visit it to read about my birthday, my husband and our divorce.

It can't have been that memorable a story as I don't remember it! (And now it's made my print go funny.) Also under Memorable Stories it says:
Liz HindsEvery time I lean forward my eyelid hurts; is that normal?

Now I remember that.

A sudden thought occurred to me as I was cleaning the toilet: maybe Husband has divorced me and decided that, as I spend so much time on Facebook, that was the best way to tell me. But it seems a bit harsh. I shall ask him when he returns from walking George in the pouring rain.

Letter to the church at Zac's

As I might have mentioned before, we've been studying the Book of Acts for nearly a year now. A lot of the book covers the adventures of Paul, who is also the writer of a number of letters to the early churches. Taking a leaf out of his book I felt inspired after last night to write this letter.

To the church at Zac's Place.

Your hair is long and straggly; you’re shaven-headed.

Your skin is scarred, tattooed, rough, soft as worn leather.

You smell of the street, of tobacco, of bike oil, of Special Brew.

Your clothes tell your story.

Your words, your thoughts, your actions revolve around you; your heart beats for others.

You could argue theology with the Pope; what you know of God is gleaned from the Christmas story.

You’re abusive to those who would help; you take without giving.

I think you know so little yet you know so much.

When I would judge you you surprise me with honeyed words of heavenly origin.

You’re dry, you’re drunk, you’re drugged.

You see things differently from me; we’re both seen through a mask.

Your life is in pieces, verging on the edge.

You’re straight, forthright, rude; you’re honest but must tread as if on glass lest you cause pain.

You’re artless and wise; you’re erudite and complex.

You change like the weather and you’re as constant as the sea.

You are all of this.

You have a past you’d rather forget.

You wish you were fifteen again, or ten or five - or any time before ...

You began at your beginning.

Your foundation is now, here, this minute, tomorrow, the day after.

You wish you hadn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t.

You wish you could.

You can.

You teach me, you support me, you encourage me, you lift me up.

You make me laugh, you drive me mad, you make me cry.

You are my church and I love you so much.

You are God’s church and he loves you so much more.

In which I make a culinary discovery - or two

Spicy parsnip soup. That was on the menu for last night's dinner. But then I found other things hiding in the back of the vegetable rack so it became spicy parsnip and miscellaneous root vegetable soup. And very nice it was too.

However, and this is where I reveal my discovery, it should be noted that dessicated coconut is not a good alternative to creamed coconut or coconut milk. Even after being whizzed in the blender, it was still possible to make out the bits of coconut in the soup. And get them stuck in between your teeth.

(And I am very impressed with myself: I spelled dessicated right first time.)

My second culinary discovery happened this afternoon.

I've been grumbling for some time that the lettuce, cucumber and even mushrooms in the salad drawers at the bottom of the fridge have been getting frozen solid. Today I found the little knob at the back of the fridge that enables me to turn up the temperature!

I've only had the fridge 14 months ...

Out of the comfort zone

'You're all creatures of habit.'

Cherie, our slimming class teacher was commenting on the fact that three of us who don't normally sit in the front row were sitting there. (Only because all the other seats were taken.) She said, 'It's the same when you're exercising; I know exactly where in the room to expect to see any of you.'

And it's true. I'm sure most people are like it: we stick to what we know and what's familiar. It's the same with the seating in church. For a start no-one sits in the front row; it might as well not be there. (Then again if we kept taking away each front row that didn't have anyone sitting in it we'd end up with all the seats in the kitchen.) And the 'older' generation sit on the left, while the students and younger couples sit on the right. The 'what do you mean middle-aged?' sit in the middle and those with babies sit on the floor at the back.

And it's the same in Zac's. Everyone takes up position. I always sit up against the wall ... except last night.

I laid my claim to a seat but then went to speak to someone and when I got back someone else was sitting in 'my seat'.
'I'm sorry, were you sitting here? Would you like me to move?'
'No, that's fine,' I smiled. 'I'll just move along next to you.'

But inside I was screaming. 'Aaaaaaarrrrhhhhhh!' You see all the wall seats were now occupied; my new seat meant I was surrounded - on four sides! - by people. 'Keep breathing, keep breathing, it'll be fine,' I was telling myself.

And, do you know, it was. In fact, once I'd allowed myself to settle down and I'd stopped worrying if I might be blocking someone's view or whether I might be considered impolite for sitting with my back to people or whether a woman of my age should wear such a short skirt, it was more than fine. It was only a tiny distance I'd moved but it changed my perspective.

I was no longer on the edge but part of it. Which is strange because I am very much part of it but - I can't explain it properly - I just felt a new awareness. And love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Not the most successful baking afternoon

We had a pineapple going soft so I decided I'd make pineapple shortbread for Zac's tonight but it didn't quite go the way it should have done. By the time you take away all the fallen-apart bits (that I had to eat) and the hard brown bits around the edges (that I had to eat) and the bits Husband, Younger Son and Girlfriend will want to eat there wasn't/won't be much left .So I threw some little double chocolate chunk cakes together. The good thing is that I don't like chocolate cakes so I'm safe dietwise with these.

Low fat mayonnaise and ryvita - yummy

Egg with extra-low-fat mayonnaise on ryvita is ... well, it's not egg with real mayonnaise on thick fresh white bread spread generously with butter. No, it's not.

I'd lost a pound and a half when I weighed in this morning so nearly back to where I was before Christmas. Cherie, our teacher, said that if you're always hungry and looking for food, it's your stomach telling you you need protein (because eating protein releases something that tells your head that it's full more quickly than anything else). The only thing my stomach tells me is that it wants chocolate.

Which reminds me about the box of Maltesers I've hidden.

And, on that note, I'm going to do some baking for Zac's. (And my resolution for this evening is to be very patient and to pay attention.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jesus in the toilet rolls

I had a strange sort of morning in work.

First I found baby Jesus where we normally keep the toilet rolls then I looked out of the window to find a flock of grazing sheep.

I know Jesus is called the Good Shepherd but it's not often that we get actual sheep at church. Afterwards I thought I should have made myself a piece of toast; I might have found a message from God on it.

(I know what you're thinking: why would a piece of toast be used as a divine messenger? I was wondering that myself. I blame Jams and his simulacra.)

Or perhaps the message was already there ... but I'm still struggling with the plot of last night's Zen so my brain is overloaded already.

You're all smart people; any ideas what God could be trying to tell me?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

How far would you go to stop a crime?

One of the guards in prison this morning fancied my purple boots.

He also said, 'Watch the door!' when he hurried to the front of the room to have a word with the chaplain. When he returned a minute later I said, 'I watched it but it didn't do anything.'
He shook his head, 'I don't know why I said that to you.'

I did wonder. I wasn't entirely sure what I was supposed to do if the men, seeing the door unguarded, had all made a run for it. Thrust my body between them and it?

I don't think so.

Anyway it was locked.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Million pound mud hut

Husband cooked dinner tonight. He did his speciality, Gary Rhodes' cottage pie with his own special twist. Delicious it was too. As it should be after it took him three hours to prepare ...

While he was doing that I wrote an article about building a mud hut and did my accounts for 2009-10. The latter took me all of 10 minutes including finding all my bank statements - my idea of filing is to thrust them into the desk and close it quickly before everything falls out - and putting them in order.

Mud hut or cob building is fascinating. Cob houses are literally made of mud with no bricks and no wooden framework. They've been built in Britain since before the 13th century and have recently come back into favour being very sustainable and eco-friendly. One modern architect-designed cob house, described as eco-luxury, recently sold for three-quarters of a million pounds.

Oh oh, hot flush alert!

The point I meant to make about my accounts is that I need to earn more money!

I handed my accounts over to my accountant (aka Husband) who submitted them to the Inland Revenue. They felt so sorry for me that they're giving me money. Which as I didn't pay them any is jolly kind.

Pink and more pink

I have about a million Nectar points. No, that's an exaggeration but I have a lot and Daughter keeps nagging me to use them but I want to save them for something special and that is good value. 'Like what?'
'I don't know but I can't just use them.'

So while we were in Devon Daughter suggested I take us out for a meal at Ask, a chain Italian restaurant that lets you pay in Nectar points. (By the way, Nectar points are Sainsburys' loyalty scheme thingy.) So I did. Begrudgingly.

But that's not the point of this post. On the way from car park to Ask we had to pass Habitat and they had a sale on. So, obviously, we had to call in on the way back to the car.

And look what we found:
A beautiful pink lamp for the kitchen.

And then I walked around a corner and ... 'A PINK CLOCK!' I screeched. Over-excited wasn't the word.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

See you soon

We're off to Devon today. I promise I will catch up on blog visiting when we return!

See you soon!

Same old same old

We've been studying the book of Acts for nearly a year now in Zac's - nobody can accuse us of not being thorough! - and, as Lucy said when Sean asked for thoughts on the first bit we read last night, 'it's the same old same old.' Jews want to kill Paul; the Romans don't know what to do with him. Yeah, yeah, let's get on.

I am far too impatient with people who ask the same questions and make the same points week after week. I'm not blaming Sean or them: it's me. Patience and staying power have never been my strong points, as Husband often reminds me.

Having said that, the reading was actually quite interesting giving an insight into politics then - which was very similar to today's. But, anyway, I'm just explaining why I stopped paying attention and began studying the two young lads in front of me.

Both in their late teens or very early twenties it turned out they were brothers. One has been coming to the bible study occasionally for some time; I hadn't seen the younger one before. They're both good-looking with kind gentle faces. The older one volunteered to read aloud part of the chapter and he read clearly and well. He understood the use of punctuation and his reading flowed.

After the study they rummaged in the small supply of clothes that is kept in the corridor. The younger one found a towel and held it up, delightedly, to show his brother. He smiled at me. 'It's pink but I can tie-dye it.'

I just don't understand how they get to be living the lives they are. I know drugs are involved; but that can't be the only reason. Or rather it can't be the root cause, surely? Where are their parents? (I don't know anything about their stories; I may be judging the parents harshly.) I can't imagine my children doing anything that would make me give up on them. I mean I can't imagine that I would give up on them no matter what they did.

Some of the older men who come in have been living rough for years; some choose it. It's heart-breaking to see young men and women at the beginning of their lives, when the future should be full of hope and dreams, scrambling amongst others' cast-offs for something as basic as a towel.

In slimming class yesterday morning our teacher said something that sounded profound at the time: If you want things to change, you have to change. It doesn't sound so deep and philosophical on reflection! But, nevertheless, it's true.

I pray God that those young brothers will want to change. I don't have to ask you to help them; I know you will.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

the end of an era

Today, on our first delivery of 2011, the milk came in plastic cartons instead of glass bottles.

I can't help wondering how long doorstep delivery will go on for. We still have 8 pints a week delivered on two days - it used to be 4 days then 3. I stock up on extra from the shop but even though it's more expensive I like the certainty of a milk delivery. And it's been part of my life forever.

As a child I remember daily doorstep deliveries. Eric was our milkman and a grumpy old fellow he was too. Short and stout he had a gnarled face that rarely broke into a smile.

Our order for Saturday would include a pint of sterilised milk especially for the Sunday milk puddings. the sterilised milk came in different-shaped bottles which had metal tops. (I can't find a photo of one as I remember.) On ordinary milk silver tops were the norm; gold tops I think meant channel island extra creamy milk.

Top of the milk after it had settled and the cream had risen to the top - and before anyone shook it - made breakfast cereal extra special. 'Don't shake it! I want the top of the milk!' Top of the milk was horrid in tea though.

Now with our standard semi-skimmed homogeneous milk there's no 'top' to look forward to. It's just another guilty pleasure from the past.

It's strange that glass bottles have finally been replaced. I'd have thought in our recycling-mad environment glass bottles would have been easier to clean, sterilise and reuse than plastic cartons. Probably have Health & Safety executives have pointed out that glass is potentially dangerous ...

Postscript (8th January)
Good news! Our milk came in bottles today! It must have been a temporary blip.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Mug commits suicide

Just before Christmas a note was left on Betty Beetle from a man called Joe who was interested in buying her.

If you recall she had gone to the beetle hospital for treatment but been sent home to ... well, the doctor said it was too late for a cure. Since then she's been sitting outside the house with a flat battery and, more recently, a flat tyre.

Husband phoned Joe today. He said he'd come this afternoon. I asked Husband if he sounded nice because 'I have to like whoever buys her.' Husband said that anyone who was interested in beetles must be nice, that he had a camper van himself and that he wanted to do the car up for his daughter.
'You must tell him that her name's Betty.'

Joe came with a truck to take Betty away on. I said, 'You'll look after her, won't you?'
'I've got a workshop and when we're not working on anything else we'll strip her down and make her good as new.'

After they'd gone I asked Husband if he'd remembered to say her name was Betty. He said, 'I wouldn't have dared faced you if I hadn't.'

And it was just after that that Husband's VW mug committed hari kari by leaping off the table.

At least that's Husband's story.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A foggy day in Devon

Daughter took us to Haldon Forest. She said, 'You get a lovely view from here ...'
It's a fascinating place though. Managed by the Forestry Commission it's very people-friendly with lots of marked trails, some of which are only suitable for mountain bikes. We followed the discovery Trail, which was fine for pushchair and had all sorts of interesting structures and secret paths running alongside it. I can't wait for GrandDaughter to be old enough to explore it with. One of the more ambitious features is this Fibonacci Spiral. Husband did explain it to me but ...
And just because we haven't had a photo of baby girl for a while.

Have I told you about my funny leg?

Back when we had snow I fell. I didn't admit it at the time because it was in the woods and nobody saw me. But ever since then I've had this strange little tingle just below my left knee. When I say tingle, I mean agonisingly painful twinge of course.

At first it only happened occasionally but since yesterday evening it's been happening every 20 minutes or so. It only lasts maybe 10 seconds but it's aaaarrrraawwggghhhh.

Could be worse. Mustn't grumble. But I just thought I'd mention it. So you know that I am in almost constant pain. I am such a martyr.

The Masked Woman

I assume the doctor was concerned that Mother-in-law might have swine flu, which wouldn't be good for a woman with emphysema (I think). So before they put her on a ward she was in medical assessment and when we visited we had to don masks. I was so excited!! It was just like being a real doctor ...

In my head I wasn't visiting M-i-l; I was treating a seriously ill patient who desperately needed my life-saving skills. Like House I was the only physician who could work out what was wrong and what was needed.

It's a good job no-one knows what goes on in my head sometimes.

The only problem arose when the nurse came to give some intravenous antibiotics and the little thing plugged in M-i-l's arm started to drip blood. Knowing my tendency to faint at the sight - or even thought - of blood, Husband came and sat next to me and whispered out of the side of his mouth, 'Are you coping?'
'Is it hot in here or is it me?'
'Why don't you go and see if you can get a newspaper?'
'I'll do that, yes, that's a good idea.'

I don't suppose that sort of thing happens to House.

Our New Year

Thanks for all your good wishes for Mother-in-law. We weren't sure what we'd find as the phone messages had made it all sound rather desperate but when we arrived at the hospital Friday evening to see her she looked and sounded better than she's been for ages ...

Saturday lunchtime at about 1.30 she phoned to say she could come home so Husband and Father-in-law went to fetch her. What she didn't mention was that she hadn't been officially signed out by the doctor and so they had to wait ... and wait. They finally got home at 7.30 pm - after spending the afternoon, bemasked, in a ward full of people with swine flu.

Mother-in-law has been in and out of hospital a lot recently as she needs oxygen but won't use it constantly, as the doctor has told her to, so gets breathless and in a state - and ends up in an ambulance.

So I spent New Year's eve and day doing what I do best: cooking. We've left them with a large piece of ham I baked but I'm not confident that they'll remember it's there. Lack of oxygen is affecting M-i-l's memory quite dramatically, and Father-in-law has had a couple of strokes so he can be forgetful too, although he's fine when he's allowed to get on with things quietly without being hassled. Unfortunately M-i-l tends to nag him a lot. The joys of getting old.

(To be fair, I've had to stop regularly and work out what day it is; these Christmas holidays have been very confusing.)