Monday, December 31, 2012

Zac's 2012: reflections from the floor

I read a quote recently about New Year's eve. It was something along the lines of 'the world doesn't stop at midnight for a few moments, there's nothing special about it, but yet,' and it's the but yet bit that got me.

There is nothing special about this man-made date but yet it does offer opportunity to pause and think, about the past year and the one to come. So it's in meditative mood that I consider 2012 in Zac's Place.

It was a year in which nothing changed and everything changed. We ended as we began doing a weekly bible study (tribal gathering) during which anything can and sometimes does happen. Like a couple rolling in, midway through the study, dressed only in the paper suits they'd been given after the police had taken their clothes for forensic examination following a stabbing. Just another week.

Consistency isn't really a word I'd associate with Zac's yet there has been some this last year. Whereas when I first started going the 'congregation' would change on a regular basis we now have our core band of regulars who come, plus others who are frequent visitors as well as the the caller-inners. And our regulars are a real mixed bunch: from those who've been Christians for as long as they can remember to those who've rediscovered what they once had to those who are still searching;  from those with a good knowledge of the bible to those who can't understand why we keep talking about Jews; from those with a strong faith to those with none; from those who are fairly obviously messed up to those who are better at keeping it hidden. The one thing we all have in common is Zac's. And I suppose a spiritual thirst.

And it is these people that make Zac's what it is, that give it its character, that colour it red and purple and black but never grey. It's for these people - and because of them - that Zac's exists, to nurture, encourage, pray for, pray with, stand alongside, feed, respect and love. 

In a world where many fail to find either respect or love, Zac's offers a safe refuge, level ground, a place where the weary can rest, the weak can find strength and the unlovely find love.

Getting several mentions in one of the Archbishop's farewell speeches as well as being promoted nationwide as an example of alternative church as well as interviews with Sean on BBC radio and Sean speaking at various unlikely conferences has given Zac's a fame (in some circles!) of sorts and if more places like it rise up then it will be for the good but what happens outside isn't really what matters inside, from the floor. 

2012 was the year that Avril and Kay were baptised - and Avril is still clinging on, desperately. It was also the year that Baz, one of our stalwarts, died suddenly. Other friends associated with coffee bar at Zac's also died. But others have gone to rehab. Like any year it's been a mix of good and sad, funny and tragic.
Baz and Di celebrated their 25th anniversary in Zac's a few years ago

Just like the mix of ragamuffins that we are: crazy, bad, hopeless, hopeful, angry, determined, upbeat, downbeat, weak, wounded souls. Souls who need cherishing. But blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

A new year and a new adventure begins tomorrow. We're going to try having a monthly Sunday meeting, something some of us been keen on for years, to meet a need for those who find 'normal' church an unwelcoming or untruthful place. Sean is going to be taking time out to write his book leaving others of us to run occasional studies in his stead. And those are just the planned changes. God only knows what He has in mind for Zac's in 2013 but I have a feeling it will be wonderful, amazing, encouraging, and life-affirming. And I want to be in there for every bit of it.

Happy New year, Zac's! I look forward to enjoying the adventure with you all.

Leaping dolphin

It was Daughter-in-law2's birthday just after Christmas so we took her a birthday cake when we went to Devon at the weekend. From this angle you can't see that the dorsal fin is more like a side fin ... but if you think about it too much you'll notice that there's something not right. 
I think I shall rename D-i-l2; I'll use the Italian to refer to her. That's ... pause while I look it up ...
Nuora (according to google).

We went for a belated birthday lunch to the Sea Trout Inn in Staverton, a little village in the middle of nowhere. At one stage we thought we wouldn't get there as we faced a flood but, undeterred, Husband ploughed our way through it. The journey back was less eventful and as it had finally stopped raining we took a brisk walk around Brixham harbour.
Looking cold, with the Golden Hind replica in the background.

P.S. Very nice food at the Sea Trout.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jiggery pokery

Yesterday, after Elder Son, Daughter-in-law and GrandSon1 had left I felt a little despondent. Also, it's difficult, when you've spent the last weeks rushing around maniacally, to stop. The answer was obvious: get out a jigsaw.

I haven't done a jigsaw for ages and I do love them - but they are addictive. A few hours pass like minutes when I'm engrossed. So today, as it had stopped raining, some fresh air was called for. 

There were loads of surfers enjoying the post-Christmas swell. (But time enough to diet after all the chocolates have gone.)

Right now it's back to the jigsaw.

Why Husband will have a lonely old age

We had a lovely Christmas. Just wonderful. And because I could still remember the horror of night-time vomiting I was very careful not to over-indulge. It is now, however, becoming a more distant memory.

The only television we watched was Strictly and after that we played a Logo game. After a disastrous start I eventually won the third and final game. Let's face it, I would have insisted on playing until I did.

Uncle gave me Chanel No 5; Husband gave me Angry Birds computer game. Which explains why Uncle is enjoying his old age surrounded by attentive widows. I'm not going to say anything about Husband.

P.S. Husband asked me to say that he also gave me Plants versus Zombies computer game. He doesn't want you to think that he's mean.
P.P.S. He says it's for my own good. He's read that playing computer games keeps the brain alert and stops it atrophying. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Immature I know but

I had to take a photo of these bottles of beer.

Husband came to the prison carol service this year. It was his first time inside - probably because I'd never invited him before - so it was interesting for him to see what I get up to. (Thinking about it, some of the people I mix with have dubious hygiene habits so could possibly explain where I picked up my bug.)

The mayor of Swansea was in on the second night and he went round and shook hands with all the inmates. I've never seen a mayor do that before and I was impressed. Slightly less impressed with the fact that he asked Husband how long he was in for ...

Straight after the Tuesday night prison carol service it was back to Zac's for our carol service. Not quite as busy as last year's but a good crowd and a lovely atmosphere.

Desire costs

I decided to treat myself to a good quality pepper mill and, as they seem to come in pairs, a salt mill too. I was going to put it on my Christmas wish list but left it a bit late so when I saw some on special offer in Debenhams I didn't hesitate. 

Well, actually, I did. I went home, told Husband and asked if he wanted to buy them for me for Christmas and he said, 'Why didn't you just buy them?' So I went back the next day ... and they'd gone up by £5!

I'm almost embarrassed - but not completely obviously as I wouldn't be telling you if I were - to say that, even with the special offer, they cost £30.

My granny would turn in her grave..

I hadn't realised at the time that they were electronic; I just wanted some with a really good long-lasting mill action. And - wait for it - they each use 6 batteries! I can see I'm going to keep paying for my desire.

Be careful what you wish for

Remember I was grumbling about Husband having a worse cold than me? Well, we got home from Devon on Thursday night feeling fine, went to bed where I slept for about 2 hours before waking and spending virtually all the rest of the night with my head down the toilet.

Husband had a slightly dodgy tummy but wasn't sick and I would happily have changed places with him!

The worst thing about it - apart from the hideousness of vomiting on an emptied stomach - was that Elder Son and family were due to join us yesterday for a long Christmas break and we had to put them off. We're also missing Carol's 60th birthday champagne breakfast today, even though we're feeling better, in case there are any nasty little viruses hanging around. (I don't think it's the dreaded norovirus but rather just your average virus.)

So today we have to get Christmas tree - yes, I know it's only 3 days to Christmas but I've been busy, okay?

One plus to come out of sitting around feeling sorry for myself all day yesterday is that I watched White Christmas again. I do love that film.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'm making a list ...

and checking it twice. Waaaahhhh!!!!!!! Number of hours needed to complete all items on list is far greater than number of hours in day. My granny's words come back to me: don't panic, think of the Chinese.

Why should I think of the Chinese? Are they particularly good at not panicking? Do they have much to panic about? I neither know nor care. I don't have time to think of the Chinese. I'll blog instead.

GrandDaughter didn't find her birthday gifts of clothes very exciting - I'd have been delighted if someone had bought me knickers with purple fairies on them - and as I've bought her more clothes for Christmas I thought I'd better find some toys to go with them. A full frontal attack on Toys-R-Us was called for. I figured if I got there early I'd miss the crowds so at 10.15 (early for me) on Sunday morning I was pulling into their car park. 
'It's worked, I'm here before the crowds,' I told myself as a comparatively empty car park greeted me. I got out of the car and walked to the automatic doors and waited. And waited. I'm always suspicious when doors don't open: is there a button I'm supposed to be pressing? Are there people in the control room watching me on their monitors and laughing? (I'm not at all paranoid.) I moved around a bit in case i hadn't set off a sensor then I noticed the opening times.

It didn't open until 11.

I ask you, what sort of toy shop doesn't open until 11 on a Sunday before Christmas? Toys-R-Us for one, that's what sort.

And Smyths for another, as I discovered when I drove to the out-of-town shopping estate.

It was 10.33 now. I had two people to visit but knowing them I guessed they wouldn't appreciate me turning up on their door so early. Instead I drove to the posh garden cum gift centre and spent half an hour oohing and aahing over the pretty things - and gasping at the prices. 

When I got back to the toy shop they were queueing at the door.

But I was, for once, decisive, grabbed some toys, and paid at the customer-less till. So, eventually, it was a successful trip.

Unlike my search for celeriac yesterday.

Is there a world shortage of celeriac? Or is it just Swansea? I'd decided to make celeriac and bacon soup for Zac's carol service tonight but as of right now I don't have any celeriac. How does leek, potato and bacon soup sound? 

I'll be rushing from the prison to get to the carol service tonight. The prison carol service happens on two nights to allow more guests and inmates to attend, so my boys have to do their thing again tonight. They were good last night. Very good. A few mistakes but it didn't matter and they sorted themselves out and the congregation appreciated them, gave them a good round of applause.
My only concern is that tonight they'll be cocky following last night's success and be even less manageable. 

Waiting for it to start last night, D, who was sitting behind me, prodded me on the shoulder and said, 'Do I have to go up there on my own?'
'I can't f*****g do that.'
'Yes, you can.'
'I can't. I'll have a panic attack.'
'No, you won't.' I looked at the others. 'He won't, will he?'
'Nah, and' to D, 'you can't f*****g swear in church. Oh, sorry, miss.'

It's no wonder I have grey highlights.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My role model

I had a meeting yesterday with Sean, Steve and Martin about Zac's. Sean is planning to take some time off next year and he wants a back-up system in place - and he wants us three to be the back-up.

I can understand Steve and Martin being on the list - they have obvious strengths - but my only obvious strength is my ability to make cakes. But then I am a Welsh mam. Whatever the problem the answer is food. Has your girlfriend finished with you? Have a cake. Don't have anywhere to sleep? Have some soup. Someone died? Have a lasagne.

I came to the conclusion that we were - or at least I was - the best of a bad job from amongst a church of damaged souls. If there were anyone else, I tell myself, then you wouldn't be on the list. Blogging friend, Furtheron, will understand; that feeling that one day, soon, everyone will realise the truth about you, that you're not really fit for the job. So I was pondering this while walking George today.

And it occurred to me that Jesus could have had his choice of anyone and he chose what must have appeared to many to be a bunch of losers. And his main hope was in Peter. Peter? I ask you. Was there ever a man who tried so hard and made such a mess of things. (I've said before that he's my hero but maybe that's where I'm going wrong, modelling myself too much on him.)

The hope of Zac's is that it will be a close representation of the early church, a model that isn't much in evidence in some mainstream churches these days. Led not by expert teachers, theologians, lawyers, counsellors, but by the imperfect and flawed. So I'm going to hang onto that, that if Peter was good enough for Jesus there's hope for me. And when that little voice in my head gets louder and tells me I'm rubbish I'm going to try and quieten it with that thought.

And I see part of my role as being the one who comes up with stupid ideas that can be adapted, moulded and shaped by the others into something doable. But unlike Peter I must try to think first and act later.

Christmas fever

I've had a bit of a cold for the last few days. I don't often get ill so I make a meal of it when I do. But guess who also got ill? Yes, Husband, and, of course, he's worse than I am. So I haven't even been able to enjoy a few days of feeling sorry for myself and being looked after.

Anyway I don't have time to be ill. Although I may have Christmas fever: I went into town this afternoon just because I had to go shopping and buy stuff. It didn't matter what. Yes, I've reached that stage. Oh but I have saucepan envy. Is it natural to go into debenhams and drool over saucepans?

Daughter has some lovely pans but I keep telling myself I don't need new saucepans; the ones I have are adequate. They're just not beautiful.

I did use the being ill card as an excuse to sit down and watch Julie and Julia (I've only had it for a year). What a delightful film! And I'm currently reading The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. I have to say that the idea is becoming increasingly attractive. 

George isn't ill but did emerge from some bushes with blood splattered over his nose. We couldn't see any obvious damage so he probably scratched it on a bramble or was bitten by an angry hedgehog trying to sleep.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas wrapping

I left Husband to wrap some Christmas presents while I baked. Don't worry, that's not as foolish as it sounds: I wrote the labels and placed each one on the right gift, gave him the paper, scissors and sellotape and left him to it.

That is, I gave him all the labels except two. But - and I was impressed - he used his initiative and put those presents in gift bags. And it would have been even more impressive if one of the bags hadn't had a label stuck to the outside saying, 'To Liz from uncle John.'

We have a day trip planned for tomorrow: to Derby, a nice 8 hour or so round journey, to see the sisters-in-law. I know I won't be able to compete in fashion style or wrapping But I'm not going to worry. Too much.

Women in uniform

Final rehearsal this morning with 'my boys' in prison before next week's carol service. They were surprisingly well-behaved, read well and generally enthusiastic. I don't usually feel this confident the week before; I hope that isn't a bad sign.

My performers include five Scousers (Liverpudlians), two Irish and one non-reader. It'll be all right on the night even though one of them was worryingly over-excited at the thought of the females in the Salvation Army Songsters. Maybe it was the thought of women in uniform that got him going. I hope they don't flash too much leg ...

'Tis the season

Linden staff Christmas lunch yesterday. Began with a cold walk in glorious sunshine over Cefn Bryn (meaning Hill Hill) to Arthur's Stone (either a stone thrown by Arthur that magically grew or an ancient burial tomb) followed by lunch in the King Arthur pub. Food eaten, cards played and a jolly time had by all in front of a sometime roaring fire.

Secret Santa was very kind to me with this fab engraved spoon. 

In case you can't read it, it says, 'Everything stops for tea.' All presents had to be ethical or recycled or fairtrade or sustainable - you get the idea. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The most unusual decoration

Down in Devon last week where Daughter had volunteered to decorate the parent & toddlers group tree for the annual village tree competition.

The event is held in the local St. Mary's Church, a listed building dating back to the 15th century. 

Daughter prepared salt dough and the children painted and glittered them, as well as painting hand-prints. I thought the parent & toddler tree was the best of all - but GrandDaughter preferred the sweet tree.

But this must be the most unusual when it comes to decorations: it's not often you see ambulances, ear droppers and syringes on a tree. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Oh poops!

'Eeeww! Eeewww! Icky, icky!'
'For goodness sake,' Husband said. 'You've changed hundreds of nappies.'
'That's different. It's one thing being up to your elbows in baby poo; this is quite another.'

(See last but one post for context.)

* * * * * * * * 
I was rather proud of myself this afternoon.

I went shopping in the village and passed and exchanged smiles with a man I was in school with. Why was I proud? Because I dreamed last night about a school reunion and I resisted the urge to grab him by the arm and say, 'I dreamt about you last night!'

I was very tempted though.

* * * * * * * * 
It is one of the hardest things in the world to be a Wales rugby fan. I don't believe any other team puts its supporters through the extreme highs and lows that Wales does.

I won't go into details because I know most people aren't rugby fans and don't care - and if you are you will know the details - but we were winning against Australia last Saturday until literally the last minute when an Australian broke free and belted down the field to score a try and give Australia the victory.

I am only surprised that the will of Welsh fans throughout the country and the power of their screamed 'Nooooooooooos' combined didn't make him fall over before he reached the line.

Which means in the 2015 World Cup (yes, 2015) Wales have to play both Australia and England to get through the preliminary round. Could have been worse. But not much.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Happy birthday, Husband!

It was Husband's birthday yesterday: belated happy birthday, Husband!

On Thursday evening we went to Slice for a meal. Whenever we'd tried to go there before it had always been closed or full and, indeed, it was full on Friday and Saturday, hence the early birthday treat. But it was worth waiting for. A delicious meal (I had pheasant boudin followed by steamed brill on a bed of cockle and laverbread risotto) and great friendly service. They even decorated the tarte tatin plate. 

Then last night I cooked for him. We began with pan-fried scallops.

Followed by Beef Wellington (Husband's request).
Finished off with mini cheescake.
My timing, as ever, was a bit off but even I can't fault my presentation - well, I could but I won't.

And, of course  what made the day just perfect for him was England's defeat of the mighty All Blacks - with a record-breaking score.

I'm not going to talk about the Wales versus Australia game except to say I've never come so close to crying at the end of a rugby match.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the highs to the lows

I've talked a lot about the joys of being sixty - and I forgot to include cheap video rental from the library - but lest you think it's all a barrel of laughs let me mention the envelope that has been sitting on my desk since Monday and that I'm carefully trying to avoid.

Any ideas what it might be?

I'll tell you: my bowel screening sample pack.

No, not this week; I really can't face it.

I did it! (Dances round room singing loudly)

And then the doorbell rang twice (Husband said thrice) during the night of its own accord.

But enough of that, Zac's bible study went really well. Apart from one hiccup when a guest talked about his spirit guide we stayed on track, lots of people contributed, they stayed more or less on topic and there was lots of openness and honesty. So a good evening.

And now, my really big news: I did it! I completed NaNoWriMo! Written over 50,000 words in 30 days (29 actually). 

Considering I started from nothing except the vaguest idea and had to come up with characters, setting and plots in that time I am well impressed with myself. It was a good discipline to try to follow. I didn't write every day but most and I've written 4,000 words today to finish me off. Admittedly I had to push a character off a cliff but someone has to make a sacrifice for the greater good. 

I know there are time warps in it and it will need severe editing, amending and adding to, but I am thrilled I've achieved this much. Especially as it's one of the busiest months of the year, particularly this year with my long-lasting 60th birthday celebration and GrandDaughter's birthday weekend.

Now I may be able to do a bit more regular blogging. I'm laughing to myself as I write that: it's Husband's birthday on Saturday, Sunday I'm leading the service in prison - and I need to practise beforehand - and then Tuesday I'm back in prison to work with the men for Christmas - and before then I have to make sense of and write up some of the things they've said about Christmas - then we're in Devon and then ... so on and so on. One day life may slow down - and won't I just hate that?!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A funny sort of week

I arrived in the office yesterday morning to find my computer not working. I began to follow some of its suggestions but then thought it might be fibbing to me so told it to try again - and it worked. So far so good

But then I had to spend 5 minutes in the Gents' watching the urinal.

My boss told me the flush was continuously flowing and to get a plumber in. I'd arranged for the plumber to come when I thought I'd better check out exactly what was wrong so I'd be able to show him but when I went into the Gents' neither urinal appeared to have a constant water flow - although I could hear water running. I wasn't entirely sure how a urinal worked and how often it was supposed to flush hence, had you come in, you'd have found me sitting and a'staring for 5 long minutes.

After flushing it continued to drip for a while but only intermittently. I'm not sure how many drips per minute constitute a constant flow but I was fairly sure this didn't. So I cancelled the plumber. No doubt when I go in on Friday the Gents' will be flooded.

I left work as normal and was about to drive away when a strange woman pulled up and gave me four bras. 'For Africa,' she said.
'Oh,' said I.

One of those days obviously.

Today I had to go into the prison for the second week of our Christmas carol service preparations.  It was brilliant last week, apart from the fact that I had 3 Scousers (Liverpudlians) who talked a lot and I needed a phrase book to understand them.

I always assume that everyone knows the Christmas story: they don't. So we went through it and then the question was asked: what do we celebrate at Easter then? So it was a fantastic opportunity to explain Christ's life and ministry in 5 minutes ...

Well, today, my Scousers were back and we made a good start - when I could keep them on the subject - but then the prison went into lock-down. They thought they might have lost someone so all the men had to go back to their cells and I was left sitting there like a box of figs at Christmas. 

I wasn't allowed out so I had to twiddle my thumbs and remember how very grateful I am that, usually, I can walk out when the session has finished.

Tonight I'm leading the bible study in Zac's because Sean's away and we're doing the bit where we're told that no-one who lives in Christ keeps on sinning. Yeah, right, that's going to be easy to explain.

My week can only get better. (Whoops, I shouldn't have said that before Zac's.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

And then her head fell off

It's 5 am and you're lying in bed awake worrying about you're going to do the birthday cake; what do you do?

I waited until 6 then thought, blow it, I might as well as get up and do the cake rather than lie here thinking about it. Which is why, at 7.19 am, I was trying to work out how much water I needed for 100 g of sugar if 450 g needed 75 ml. Which had to be accurately measured it said, so I carefully measured 15 ml using a 5 ml medicine spoon and then slopped a bit more in for accuracy.

And it was all going well until I gave her a gobby mouth and her head fell off.

A quick revamp of the head and all was well. Eventually. And here she is: Aworawa (Sleeping Beauty), a birthday cake for 3-year-old GrandDaughter.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ironing out the difficulties

I was in the study when Husband called from the kitchen, 'How does the iron work?'
'It's not difficult.'

A few minutes passed and the he shouted something again. I went to see what he was doing and found him ironing a rug on the banister on the landing.
I left him to it.

Another few minutes passed then he called, 'I think I may have melted your iron.'
He came downstairs and said, 'I'm going to have to clean it for you; stuff came off the rug and got stuck to it.'

I went into the kitchen and looked at the base of the iron: it looked much as it had before. I didn't tell him; he can clean it if he wants to.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The biggest box of fingers in the world

I've had a fantabulous birthday weekend with the family. Everything was wonderful; I am so unbelievably blessed. A trip to the zoo followed by a delicious birthday party tea, wonderful presents and best of all, all my family with me.

Now I suppose I can't really drag my birthday out much longer - but I do have GrandDaughter's party next weekend to look forward to!

But now I have to try and catch up on my novel writing having done very little over the last two days. I'm just having a cup of hot Lemsip first - which may or may not help my writing ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Halfway through

On day 15 of NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words of a novel in November) I've reached a total word count of 26,421. So halfway through I'm just over halfway through. Yay me! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

And there's more

My surprise cake in Zac's last night.
And my flowers from Sean.

A grey day on the tip

We came home via the beach. I'd forgotten the bridge across the stream was closed for repairs. The diversion was boring so I convinced George that if we walked far enough out into the bay the stream would become jumpable.

Streams are deceptive: they are wider than you think. We gave up in the end and came back via the boring diversion. But to convince myself our detour wasn't a complete waste of time I took this photo.

Apropos of ageing

I found a pair of my knickers on the kitchen floor yesterday. I have no idea how they got there.

I know I recently confessed to discarding my bra whenever and wherever but, as far as I can recall, I'm not doing the same with my pants. Yet. I hope not anyway. 

Maybe this what happens when you get to be 60.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How many days can a birthday last?

What a great birthday I had! In spite of the rotten weather that stopped us going to Rhossili.

Beginning with croissants in bed again, followed by writing for NaNoWriMo (well, mostly blogging actually), followed by the new James Bond. I took my passport to the cinema to prove my age (cheaper for 60+) but the woman at the till didn't ask ...

But I might have happened to mention to her that it was my birthday when I was buying Munchies and Ben & Jerry's maple and pecan ice cream . She put it in a tub and I said, 'Oh, no, I meant a cone, please.'
She said, 'You get a bit more in a tub.'
'Okay, I'll have a tub.'

We went early because we thought it might be crowded: there were about 14 of us there. But it was excellent. I'm not a big Bond fan, especially the later films, but I can recommend it. But I wasn't expecting that to happen in the film!

We'd planned to go to Deep Pan Pizza just next to the cinema afterwards but it had closed down so we decided to go to Mumbles. Along the main road opposite the promenade are loads of restaurants. 'That one's closed. And that one. And that one.'
'We can always have fish and chips if necessary.'
'Yes, oh no, the chip shop's closed too.'
Fortunately Castellmare was open so Husband had gnocchi and I had a delicious wild mushroom risotto. You can tell I'm 60 now because I couldn't finish it. (Nothing to do with the Munchies, ice cream and bowl of bread I ate beforehand I'm sure.)

So that was my birthday. But my celebrations don't stop there, oh no.

Tonight we're having a little celebration in Zac's. I'm taking some soup and nibbles for us to share after the bible study. Then we're off to Devon at the weekend for a celebration with all the children and grandchildren. 

If this is what it's like being 60 I can cope with this.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why it's cool to be 60

Cheap cinema tickets, which are even cheaper in the afternoon - £5.10 instead of £6.75.

Free bus pass.

Winter fuel allowance.

60 is the new 40!! Yay!!!!!

It's my birthday!

It may be raining outside but I'm always Husband's Little Miss Sunshine! Tee hee! 

I am ridiculously over-excited for a 60-year-old woman!

The year of being 59

My novel, This Time Next year, begins with the heroine on the eve of her 50th birthday. On the eve of my 60th birthday, unlike her, I didn't make a list of resolutions for the coming year; I'm not that sort of person although to be fair neither is my heroine.

I'm more the sort of person that life happens to, reactive rather than proactive, but all I can say is that life has been pretty darn good to me.

While I was 59, my third grandchild was born, Younger Son got married and I published my novel. I celebrated my last day as 59 being looked after by Husband beginning with warm croissants and his home-made raspberry jam in bed. While I was in church he went shopping.
Then we had a lovely walk in the sunshine with George before he cooked me Gary Rhodes' shepherd's pie, which I'd requested because it's deliciously rich and full of flavour and loveliness. 

My life just keeps getting better and better. Bring on my 60s!

Let's put sex on the table

Yesterday evening we had a much-anticipated debate at Red Cafe. There are monthly  panel-led debates but this one covered the topic of gay love; should the church embrace gay people?

The panel was chaired expertly as usual by Jon Matthews  and the three panellists were Fuzz (our morning speaker), a gay Methodist man and a conservative Anglican vicar. Rather than the usual regime of the evening, because of the sensitive nature of the subject, people were asked to write questions down and the most interesting were chosen to be answered by the panel.

I left before the end because I'd had enough. I didn't hear anything that would convince me - or change my view - either way, and there weren't any fights to spice it up!

Unfortunately Fuzz turned out to be a let-down on the panel. I realise I may be the only one who thought that as, generally, the younger people - at whom the debates are aimed really - are big fans of his. He was, as I said in my previous post, good in the morning but he was the not the right person to put on a panel. It wasn't so much that he went round the houses when answering questions, more that he went round the country. I stopped listening so whether he actually answered the questions or not I couldn't tell you.

The Anglican was a caricature of a vicar who had an unfortunate habit of saying things that made it seem that he was comparing homosexuals to Hitler, Saddam Hussain and paedophiles. 

The gay Methodist came over the best although he did at one point say it was good to put sex on the table.

The whole debate will be available online and when I find it I'll put the link in for anyone interested.

P.S. The only good thing was that Sue couldn't believe I was nearly 60!

Stand by me

Usually on Remembrance Sunday in Linden we just have the token silence but we made an effort this time and three candles were lit by representatives of different generations. It reminded me of April, from Zac's, whose son was killed in Afghanistan. He and his best friend signed up for the army on the same day and were killed by the same bomb on the same day.

Remembrance has a very special significance for some.

Later, our speaker for the morning was an Australian called Fuzz Kitto who's had a 35-year worldwide mission. He spoke well and, even though he spoke for a lot longer than we normally have - I didn't get restless so that's a good indicator. It probably helped that he interspersed his talk with a few short videos including this one.
This is the song that turned a small group of individuals into a global movement for peace and understanding, Playing for Change.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Off to the badlands

Heading up to cowboy country this evening for a Zac's Place fund-raiser kindly hosted by the Tregib Arms. So we go through Clydach, turn left at Pontardawe, through Cwmgors until we reach Gwaun-cae-gurwen where we take the right to Upper Brynamman. 

If we reach Cwmllynfell we're in trouble. Just read what Gareth Jones wrote about Cwmllynfell in the Western Mail in 1933:
It was here that I was for the first time in my life taken prisoner by bandits and ransomed.  They were Welsh bandits, varying in age from seven to thirteen years, who seized me and took me to their tent.  I have no complaints to make about my treatment by these outlaws and they speedily released me from my captivity when a supply of chocolate was forthcoming as ransom.

Eve of the last-day-of-my-fifties

Husband has just gone to the shop. 'Why are you going at this time of evening?' I asked.
'To get croissants for your breakfast if you must know.'
Husband is looking after me tomorrow as it's my last-day-of-my-fifties. He's cooking dinner and, obviously, has breakfast planned as well.
I said, 'I should stop you. I should remind you how fattening they are and tell you not to go.'
'As if that's going to happen.' he said.

I'm making barbecued spare ribs for dinner except they're not actually barbecued but cooked in the oven and they've been a family favourite for years. The recipe comes from The Times Calendar Cookbook by Katie Stewart.

This edition was published in 1976. You can tell a good cookbook by the state of it. This is a very good cookbook.

Let the celebrations begin!

These beautiful flowers arrived this morning, an early birthday present from my uncle.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Husband is all a'tingle

It's now possible to see who's calling you - it's probably been possible for ages but I knew it cost money before and now it's free - so Husband signed us up for the service from BT. Now whenever a withheld or 08 number calls, or even a number we don't recognise we don't answer the phone.

Which is fine if I'm sitting at my computer when the phone rings. I have my glasses on and can see the number  If I'm not at my desk then ... I just don't answer the phone anyway.

* * * * * * * * * *
Do you remember being a little girl and aunties giving you hankies for Christmas? Usually embroidered  perhaps with your initial. And always three in a box. I used to think it was dreadfully boring but now I love it when I'm given hankies. Not that I am so when I saw these in the charity shop I had to buy them. Just for the memories.

* * * * * * * * * 
We had a lovely walk in the woods today, dry but not really crispy underfoot.
 Now how do you think this came about? These trees are really joined together.
* * * * * * * * * 
Husband had an appointment at the hospital today. He has tingling hands and feet. The doctor diagnosed him as having peripheral something or other, which means he has tingling hands and feet.

Today he had to have some electrical tests - and he failed.  But I told him that as long as he tried his best we're still proud of him. The blood tests didn't prove anything so, according to the doctor, it appears he 'may just be one of those people who has tingly hands and feet.'

* * * * * * * * * 

It's my 60th birthday on Monday; have I mentioned that?

We have a weekend in Devon planned but for my birthday itself it's just me and Husband (and George)  so I thought it would be jolly if Husband took me to eat at Maes-yr-haf, a hotel/restaurant that we first went to last year on my birthday and it was very delicious. Unfortunately it seems that the place has closed. 

Okay, so change of plan: what about if we go to Tredegar House, a National Trust property, look around and eat in their restaurant? Good plan except it's closed for November.

In fact, quite a lot of restaurants close on Mondays generally. Current plan depends on the weather: if nice we'll take George to Rhossilli for a walk and eat at the Worm's Head Hotel; if wet, we'll go and see the new Bond movie and have a pizza afterwards. We know how to live.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Steve Porter is jammy

As I told him last night in Zac's. He shrugged, 'It's just that God loves me more than he loves you.'

Steve was leading the bible study last night - you remember my head-under-pillow experience last week? - and you could have heard a pin drop. When anyone wanted to speak they put their hands up. 

If it hadn't been for the dog piddling on the floor every now and again you wouldn't have known you were in Zac's.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The quality of poo is not strained

It's awfully exciting writing without a plan or a clearly defined plot, just letting stuff happen. I'm getting attached to my characters already and I can't decide what fate to let befall the unpleasant husband of one: an affair or redundancy.

I suppose redundancy would hit him more even though she'd be affected whereas an affair would only be fun for him. Yes, redundancy it is. 

This NaNoWriMo lark is really good in forcing me to write and to write freely, to go with the flow. It's very hard not going back and picking out the faults and weaknesses but this is meant to be a first draft; once it's done I can go back and edit to my heart's content. In the meantime I'm letting the characters decide for themselves. Certainly letting them develop into themselves. And I'm finding out all sorts of things and getting the ideas for what comes next because they suggest it.

I had a very productive afternoon and have caught up with target. And I made a nutella cake for Zac's. And we had a lovely long walk out on the Southgate cliffs this morning.

Husband took his poo bag but for a long time we didn't come across any horse poo. There were mountains of cow poo, which led me to ask how he told the difference. (But if I'd thought about it I'd have remembered the little mole who knew it was none of his business and recalled that cows' poo comes in pats and horses' in apples.)

It also led to a discussion about whether cow poo would work as well and why no-one ever collected that. We surmised that horse poo was collected because there used to be horses and carts on the streets so it was easily accessible for town gardeners. 'But farmers spread cow poo on their fields,' Husband said, 'and it's digested differently. Cows have four stomachs. Horse poo is less digested and there's more fibre in it.'

On that basis you'd think cow poo would be better. Anyone know?

You'll be pleased to hear, however, that we did find enough horse poo to make the trip worthwhile. 

Can't even blame the heat of the moment

I long ago perfected the art of removing my bra without taking off any clothes. This comes in remarkably handy when - you know that moment? - you just need to be done with it and let them flop. What's unfortunate is that this feeling can strike any time, anywhere and, as a result, at this precise moment, I cannot find the bra I want.

I don't remember taking it off but as I usually leave it wherever I am at that time, you'd think the places it could be would be limited. But I've looked everywhere. (In the house that is. And as far as I can recollect I haven't begun removing it outdoors yet. Though come the day ...)

Right, let's try retracing my steps ...

P.S. Well, I wouldn't have thought of looking there. I mean, obviously I did but I wouldn't have done if I hadn't retraced my steps. Husband was hogging the computer yesterday afternoon so I went to work in the spare room on Younger Son's computer. And that's where I found my bra. The stress of writing 1,500 words must have been too much for me.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dear Doctor, I have a problem

A spotty cleavage. 

I blame it on my exercise bra that squishes bits together when I'm getting hot and sweaty. But what's the alternative? Letting it all hang loose is likely to cause major long-term damage not to mention the danger to eyesight from flip-flopping boobs.

A Playtex Cross Your Heart bra that lifts and separates sounds ideal but they don't do those in exercise format. Probably not at all any more in fact. I guess I shall have to put up with the itch.

* * * * * * * * * *
I watched The Dambusters yesterday afternoon. I hadn't seen it for ages, not since I discovered my great-uncle Horace was in the Dam Busters squadron. It makes a difference knowing someone involved. And what a great film it is. Dated, yes, and some of the special effects were chronic, but still gripping.

When the men were finding ways of spending the the day before they were going to fly my stomach was as tense as if I were going up in the aeroplane. It was incredibly successful but at a terrible cost: fifty-six men didn't return from that one mission. Reassuring Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, the flight commander said, 'I knew those men; each of them would have chosen to go even if they'd known they would never return.'

There were an awful lot of heroes in that war. (And let's not think about the German people who lost their lives as a result of the flooding from the blowing up of the two dams.)

There was a wonderful moment early on when Barnes Wallis was begging officials for a Lancaster bomber so he could experiment. The official said they didn't have enough and what could he possibly say to justify letting BW have one to which BW replied, 'You could tell them I designed it.'

* * * * * * * * * *
I am awfully excited.

Husband has just booked flights to and from Italy for next February  We're flying to Rome to spend a couple of days looking around before the Italy Wales rugby international, and then, after the game, we take the train to Venice - a place I've longed to visit for another day or so. How exciting is that?

* * * * * * * * * *
I'm just about managing to write a bit of my new novel each day so far for NaNoWriMo. I'm a bit behind schedule: on their website they have all sorts of clever graphs and statistic things, and according to that, at my current rate, I should finish my 50,000 (the aim) by December 2nd, which is 2 days late. So not bad.

I had only the barest idea for the novel when I decided to take part at the last minute so it's a case of sit down and see what happens today, which is rather exciting. 

(Oh oh, fireworks have started. Fortunately George is unconcerned. Harvey was when he was young; it was only as he got older that he didn't like them.)

* * * * * * * * * *
I didn't write much about taking the bible study in Zac's last week.

I went very well prepared with a cunning plan. I got a saucepan lid and a spoon from the kitchen and, when i began, I said I intended to bang it if the noise got too much. Well, it did and I did.

Everyone stopped talking.
They looked at me.
Then carried on talking.

Afterwards Mike, one of the regulars who in his other life trains people in various things, asked if I wanted lessons but he didn't specify in what. 

The perfect Christmas present

For women of a certain age, mothers, aunts, friends.

And men too!
"There are many many elements of great humour within the book - a couple of embarrassing laugh out loud moments which draw the stares of my compatriots on the 7:20 to St Pancras." (Graham H)

"Haven't laughed so much in ages. This book is outrageously funny! Love it!" (Sue E)

"Have just finished reading what I would say was one of the funniest diary/journals I have read." (Fiona H)

You can buy it for the Kindle from Amazon,
in paperback from Lulu
or direct from me for £10 including post and packaging. Just email me.

If you're in Swansea it's available from Waterstone's in Oxford Street or Cover to Cover in Mumbles - and if I get my act together, from Uplands Bookshop too.

P.S. I'm reminded of someone who bought two copies for her sisters-in-law. 'It looks like the sort of thing they'd like'  - but not the sort of thing I'd like obviously. (She didn't say that; she didn't have to.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Procrastinating? Surely not

Those of us who are writers - or who like to call ourselves writers - will be aware of a strange phenomenon that occurs with frightening regularity.

We are writers; we love to write. Yet when the time comes to sit down and write, the need to do the ironing becomes imperative. It must take precedence over all else.  It's a similar thing with the laundry, sorting out the wardrobe, and so on, not forgetting the essential task of blogging to tell everyone about it.

I'm only on day 2 of NaNoWriMo and already I'm procrastinating. I'll be fine when I get down to it ...

And I'm really hoping that I'll soon reach the stage when I'll be able to write NaNoWriMo without having to recall what it stands for and spelling out the initial letters each time. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Time for a long lie down

Sean's heading off to Australia so I led the bible study in Zac's tonight. Over dinner beforehand Husband gave me tips on how to deal with difficult situations, for example, if someone asks a question I don't know the answer to or we start going off topic. I listened and was prepared to put it all into action - if anyone had listened or even been able to hear what I was saying above the chaos.

Steve tried to encourage me by saying 'chaos is okay; life is chaotic.'

Now, excuse me while I go and lie down quietly with my head under a pillow for a week or two.


About a week ago I foolishly enrolled for NaNoWriMo. I blame Daughter-in-law: she mentioned it and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I filled in the form  and signed up. 

Now, with November just 1 day away, I'm wondering how mad I was. An email arrived form the organisers today telling me all the things I should be doing at this point, like telling all and sundry so everyone knows and will enquire regularly how it's gong, thus keeping me on my toes. Except I'm not sure I want to be kept on my toes.

One of the things that pleased me about the initial email I had when I enrolled was the phrase 'embrace imperfection!' In today's society where we're all so keen to be (or look) slimmer, prettier, younger, such a concept is an alien one but one I rather like. However what they mean is that I have to switch off my internal editor - and that won't be so easy. The idea is to write and not edit. Not at all. Not until you get to the end. I'm hyperventilating at the thought.

The aim is to write - oh, I didn't explain what NaNoWriMo was: National Write a Novel in a Month - 50,000 words in November. That's ... an awful lot each and every day. NaNoWriMo has been going for a number of years and I know people who've done it - or tried it before but as I have a new novel in mind and it's in the very early stages, now seems a good time to go for it.

I mean, why not add a little more pressure to my life? 

Is it a girl thing? I had loads to do this afternoon so I decided to add an extra two things to the list. Not absolutely necessary things but hey, I've only got a bible study to prepare.

Going to eat my home-made cheese and chilli bread and butternut squash soup now. (See what I mean? We could have had beans on toast)