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) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why not celebrate Halloween?

It's one of my less favoured aspects of American life that we have adopted in Britain. Along with West Wing, House and muffins, Halloween has taken this country by storm. When I was a child it was a non-event but gradually it grew in popularity until today I should think it's one of the top 'holiday' revenue earners.

And I think that's regrettable.

As a parent I am appalled at a tradition that encourages children, on one night of the year, to practise what they'd be told off for doing at any other time: you give me something nice or I'll do something horrid to you. In the adult world isn't that known as extortion?

And as a human being I dislike the practice of celebrating evil. 
'Oh, it's only a harmless bit of fun.'
I know people who've had their lives ruined by ritual abuse; that wasn't a harmless bit of fun.

Anything that lessens evil by making it seem fun or attractive is a threat. Cigarette advertising is banned now; why? Because images of good-looking men and women lighting up and looking cool drew people into smoking, which is now known to be bad for you. 

Yet we seem to be happy to promote witchcraft. And, yes, I'm writing this as a Christian and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I've never written about Halloween on my blog before I think because I was nervous about what reaction it would bring. So let's see.

An act of worship

As the final bit of the study we've been doing in Zac's looking at the early church last Tuesday we talked about worship. I took along a piece I wrote about 15 years ago on  the subject. At the time I was suffering with anxiety and depression where even a trip to the supermarket had become a major event for me, yet we read in Romans that the best thing we can do for God is to lay our everyday lives before him as an act of worship.

This then was my act of worship.

Got up. Made porridge and sandwiches. Dressed. Took children to school. Went to Sainsburys. Came home. Resisted temptation to leave shopping on kitchen floor and unpacked bag after bag after bag of shopping. Listened to the Archers. Walked the dog. Fetched children from school. Cooked dinner. Took son to football training. Fetched son from football training. Watched TV. Came to bed. Fell in gratefully, relieved to have got through another day. Thank God.

To read the whole piece please go here.

Wedding prayer

I realised that I hadn't shared with you the prayer I wrote for Younger Son's wedding. It was a great honour to be asked to write and read a prayer for such a special occasion.

Father, I pray that today will be forever etched in our hearts as the day that something exquisite came into being: an unbreakable bond crafted by God and sealed with love.

I pray that with the love, support and understanding of each other, Neil and Sabina will grow into the fullness of the people, the children of God, they are created to be: unique, individual, precious, beloved.

I pray that the home Neil and Sabina build together will be a refuge, a shelter for them and for others, a place of laughter and tenderness, of honesty and passion.

And at the beginning of this adventure I entrust their well-being to God, secure in the knowledge that his love for them is wider and deeper and stronger than we can imagine. 

A good home for the poo

Our new composter alongside our old compost bin. We got the new one for £18 saving about £15 on the retail price by ordering via the council website.

We needed a safe one for the horse poo - safe in so far as George can't get in it and eat the manure.

They come in different sizes - we needed the largest - and start at £12, so if you need a composter, it's worth checking out your council website.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

First it was Nestles

Then all of a sudden it became Nestle. Now, according to Andrew Marr, Genghis Khan, the great Mongolian warrior, isn't Genghis with a g for goat but Genghis with a g for general.

The things you learn from television.

I also learned from Mr Marr (History of the World, BBC1 Sunday evenings) that to raven means to plunder. I'd never even heard of the word before, not in that sense. 

My education is sadly lacking in so many ways.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's your priority?

Our trip to Dinefwr Park this week reminded me of one of my favourite monologue characters. She doesn't have a name but she does have very strong views about 'Historic Attractions'. 

"Our basic needs met. That’s all folk really want out of life. It’s all very well listing your Ancient Monuments, which have their place, I’d be the first to acknowledge. Bernard and I like nothing more than a Sunday afternoon drive out to an Historic Attraction, but an old ruin is not much use if you’re taken short. I've found, even when visiting the great Heritage Sites, that you can’t depend on the facilities being up to scratch. Edith and I went on a trip to a Stately Home with the WI last year and we found the Powder Room sadly lacking. I said, ‘It’s a shame they haven’t spent some of their Lottery money on the simple things of life. It’s all very well spending millions to clean up some old painting, but what really matters to the visitors? One old Master or a delicately fragranced Powder Room?’ Priorities, that’s what it comes down to."

The Oxford Murders

I've just finished reading The Oxford Murders and I really enjoyed it. There's a lot about maths and logic in it but I skipped those paragraphs - logic and me don't inhabit the same world. But brilliant twists so when I returned it to the library today I borrowed the dvd.

I've just looked at some reviews on Amazon (where I went to get the image) and perhaps I should have read those first. 'The most dreadful film I have ever seen.' 'Dull, dull, dull.' 

To be fair there were more slightly better than average reviews than truly bad ones. I did wonder how they could make a film of a story in which maths is discussed so frequently but tonight we'll be able to make up our own minds. 

Anything with John Hurt can't be that bad surely?

It wasn't that bad. One of the criticisms was that it jumped around a lot and I admit, if I hadn't read it, I might have been confused - but that's fairly normal for me - but Husband coped with it. I occasionally felt the script-writers must have used a different book from the one I read but the basic premise was there and the end faithful to the book.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

High tea and low life

From the CADW sign, "Dinefwr Castle is of great symbolic importance in Welsh history as the ancestral seat of the rulers of Deheubarth, the ancient kingdom of south-west Wales. From 1163 it was the principal stronghold of the powerful Rhys ap Gruffudd" - who happens to be my ancestor, so it was a bit like visiting family you haven't met for a long time. Except they're all dead.

Here I am laying my claim to my castle.
I was exceptionally proud of myself. It may not look that high but I'm not good with heights and especially not good with narrow, dark spiral staircases with the wind whipping through them. I did a lot of squeaking.
It must have been a very good site for a castle, with views all across the surrounding countryside; you'd have seen invaders coming from miles away.
Included in Dinefwr Park estate is Newton House, built originally in 1660 but later remodelled. In the late 18th century the park was landscaped with some help from Capability Brown who commented that there was little he could do to improve on nature.

During the war the house was used as a temporary hospital for wounded servicemen and one of the rooms is as it would have been then. On the bedside table we found this little book. 

Travellers today would do well to heed its advice, such as 'Don't criticise the French army's defeat,' and 'Don't drink yourself silly.'

The table laid for afternoon tea - not for us but for the lady of the house. How very civilised. As was the tea room, where we enjoyed home-made cawl for lunch (unusually made with ham but quite nice thought 'not as nice as yours, dear,' as Husband reassured me - after I'd kicked him in the shins) and cake and tea for, well, afternoon tea. that wasn't so enjoyable. The tea had a strange tang and the cake was disappointing.
 The park boasts a herd of fallow deer, which were too timid to let me get any nearer with the camera.
So we had a lovely outing! It was such a change as it's something we just don't do. We walk George in all sorts of lovely places but that takes time and with everything else in our lives we tend not to make the effort to do something out of the ordinary. So a lovely day.

And now I'm off for night shelter training so I can volunteer again when the night shelter runs through the winter. From high tea in a mansion to rough sleepers on the streets. Makes life interesting.

Such fun!

We're members of the National Trust but this year, because of babies, weddings and life, we've not managed to get to visit any of their properties - and thus take advantage of our membership that gives you free entry. So, today, Husband and I are going for an outing!

Just like proper retired people (Husband is anyway) we're off to visit Dinefwr Park and Castle. Such fun. Really I should pack fish paste sandwiches and a thermos of tea but I expect we'll force ourselves to call into the tea room and partake of cake and coffee.

I'll report back later!

(Waves gaily.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I may have to leave Linden

There's a new sign at the bottom of the drive advertising the community cinema that happens on the last Saturday of each month at Linden. A new feature that's been introduced is the afternoon showing of films suitable for children as well as the main evening movie.

So the billboard announces 'kids films'. Which is why I may have to stop going to Linden (which is unfortunate as it's my place of work as well as 'worship').

I had to do a double take when I first saw it. (Not advised when you're driving.) I couldn't decide the greater crime: using the word kids or the lack of an apostrophe.

Now I realise that my intense dislike of kids is a very personal thing and I don't expect others to play along with my pet hate, but apostrophe misuse is another thing altogether. 

But then I started wondering: should there be an apostrophe there? The film is for children not belonging to them; does that make a difference? Is the word k*** simply describing the film? Like action movie. I can't decide and it's driving me mad. I'm normally so clear about apostrophes and I can't think what to look up to check it.

What do you think? HELP! 

P.S. Why does Google  which is, I presume, American, question the spelling of movie? Why does it not even acknowledge it as a word? Perhaps that's one of Google's pet hates. We all are entitled to our little foibles.

A load of old bull

We come over the brow of the hill and this is what is waiting for us:
And Husband chooses this moment to say, 'Did I tell you about the woman who was killed by a herd of stampeding cows recently?'

As we get closer he says, 'That looks like a bull.' And he's a man who knows about these things having worked on a farm in a previous life. 'No, it can't be,' he reassures me. 'Let's give them a wide berth anyway,' he says, worrying me. He always pooh-poohs my cow fears. As a rule.

George chooses this moment to run down the slope towards the cows/bulls startling them, making them jump. I spent a childhood watching Rawhide; I know what sudden noises do to cattle. I get a brief vision of what it would be like to be trampled by hundreds (well, tens) of cow hooves. 

But they settle down and resume chewing. I smile and say, 'Nice moo cows,' and we all live to tell the tale.

We were on our way to Pobbles where the best driftwood gets washed up. I needed some to make a cross for Zac's; the last pieces we'd gathered were too big I'd decided. Sadly, as well as the driftwood and seaweed, the beach was littered with plastic of all sorts. Please recycle it!
From Pobbles you can walk up the hill and look across beautiful Three Cliffs bay.

Sometimes Husband forgets I'm a girl

He thinks I'm Eric Idle or John Cleese.

I'm cleaning the bedroom when he calls up to me, 'Will you come and help me, please?'
I obediently trot outside and he says, 'I just want you to pull this tree down.' Yes, he's up to his lumberjack tricks again.
These conifers have grown out of control. He's trimmed them in the past but they need serious pruning as they keep a lot of light out of the garden. Hence Husband is spending his spare time up a ladder, chain-saw in hand. 'Here, wrap this rope around you. I need your 9 stone to stop this quarter of a ton tree falling into next door's garden.'
I try not to watch: it's far too scary. Even when I was pulling on the rope I kept my eyes averted. But all went well and one tree is now in branches on the floor. At least the top of it is.
Only 3 more to go ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to be the perfect salesperson

Imagine you're a saleslady in the lighting department of a big store in town. Sales have been down recently so when you see a woman intently studying one of the floor lamps you go over to her and say, 'Can I help you?'
She says, 'I'm wondering how I would get this back to car park.'
What do you say?
'It's quite heavy and an awkward shape. I wouldn't want to carry it any distance.'
'It's not as big as it looks. It comes in half. And it's not really very heavy.'

Assume you say the latter. The woman then says she'll take it, oh, and she'll have a table lamp too. Do you point out that it's going to be a trifle difficult carrying a huge box and a carrier bag with glass lamp shades in?

Or do you tell herself she's a grown woman who must know her own capabilities?

Oh, and do you wait until she's paying before you point out that you don't have the bulbs in stock?

Do you give her as much as a second thought as she's struggling through town, banging into people, her fingers just about breaking by the time she reaches her car?

No, I thought not.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ten Top Tips for Church Administrators

1. If you drop the handset when answering the phone do not panic. Retrieve it and answer calmly as if there were merely interference on the line. Do not shout, 'Oh flip!' or worse and giggle helplessly as you answer. Most of all, do not say, 'I dropped the phone.' It makes you sound like an idiot.

2. When creating a new page for the website do follow some form of instruction. Do not attempt to make it up as you go along: it may appear to work but come the day you need to change it, you won't be able to remember how you did it in the beginning. You probably won't even be able to find it.

3. When you have to call someone on the phone, concentrate while waiting for him/her to reply. Do not start thinking about other things. Most of all, when he/she answers do not say, 'Sorry, who am I phoning?'

4. When writing the weekly notices do not allow your brain to take you on a journey of inventiveness. For example, if your guest speaker is named Julie Andrews, do not attempt to bring every song title from the Sound of Music into the notices. This will only lead to a sense of failure when you cannot think of a way to use edelweiss convincingly.

5. The photocopier does not think like a woman. Do not try to understand it. Accept there are some things that you need a man for. Trees should not have to die for your pride. 

6. Do not assume that people using the building will be interested in your theory about leaking tea-pots. They are only being polite.

7. Also do not assume that people will ever understand what you are talking about at any point. Their train of thought may not run along the same lines as yours so making giant leaps is a little like cockney rhyming slang. 

8. Climbing onto the porch roof to get a signal for the mobile phone probably breaks health & safety guidelines. So if you do it don't tell anyone.

9. Choose good headlines for your website/blog pages to attract readers. Titles like 10 Top Tips or How not to etc pull in the crowds. Don't let the fact that you don't have ten top tips deter you: once the 'punters' are in they will be so entertained by your writing they won't mind. Or they'll never come again. Either way they've pushed up your stats. Which what your boss wants.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The totem pole of old London Town

We followed our trip to Devon in the week with a trip to Surrey this weekend and today we walked in Windsor Great Park. When they say 'great' they mean great: it's enormous. And very popular with dog-walkers and families.

It would also be wonderful for foragers as there were loads of sweet chestnuts - just lying around, not being collected by roast chestnut stall holders from the streets of old London town - and several different sorts of fungi.

You expect to see statues of men on horses studded around a royal park but you wouldn't necessarily expect to come across a totem pole.
En route to Elder Son's, just going over the hill before getting to them on Saturday, we passed several horse riders and 2 Ferraris. Husband said, 'If we lived here we'd have ... (I expected him to say a ferrari - in your dreams, dear) plenty of horse poo.'
That's my man.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tagged by the CIA

We had a make-do meal tonight. Because:
a) Husband had a bad stomach on Wednesday night and was supposed to be starving for 48 hours;
and b) I was going to have beans on toast.
a) Husband couldn't go without eating;
and b) we didn't have any bread.

So when a hunt through the fridge revealed left-over gnocchi and left-over squash dinner became gnocchi gnacchi (copyright me). In other words I roasted red onion, courgette, garlic and squash then added a tub of Husband's home-made (and home-grown) tomato and chilli sauce, before topping the lot with cheese and serving it with gnocchi. And very nice it was too. Although I've come to the conclusion that anything made with butternut squash tastes nice.

* * * * * * * *
I've been followed around all day by a beep-beep. I've come to the inevitable conclusion that I must have been, unknowingly, tagged by the CIA (because British security forces would never do something so sneaky) and my battery's running out.

I can think of no other feasible explanation.

* * * * * * * *
Driving past the playing fields the other day I said to Husband, 'Oh look, those goal-posts look as if they have shrunken heads at the bottom.'
Husband glanced across (it's all right: we were waiting at traffic lights at the time) and said, 'They're wheels.'
'So they can move the goalposts easily.'

That's the story of my life: I keep thinking I've got it and they move the goal posts. Husband did add, 'I'm glad I have a wife with an imagination.'

I like to think he was serious.

* * * * * * * *
In work today a woman phoned me on behalf of a drug awareness something or other. (I must try to listen properly when people introduce themselves and not turn off as soon as they say 'I'm from ...') She said I'd agreed to sponsor a school to enable them to receive a supply of drug awareness books and dvds.
'I did?'
'Are you sure?'
'You're Liz Hinds?'
'Then yes.'
'I don't remember.'
'It was back in May.'
'Oh okay.'
'Did you have a particular school in mind to sponsor?'
'As I can't even remember agreeing to sponsor I think that's unlikely.'
'Well,' she mentioned a local school we have links with, 'are in need of a sponsor.'
'Oh, okay.'
'So the basic pack is £179.'
'Whoa, wait.'

I am so innocent. Or stupid. The thought that sponsorship might mean money hadn't even entered my head.

I got out of the conversation by saying I'd have to check with people in our youth cafe, maybe they knew something about it. 
They didn't.

Which leaves me wondering: did I agree to sponsor? Or was it a scam? But if it were a scam it's not a very good one. It would have to rely on administrators having bad memories and being useless at their jobs. There can't be that many of us about.

Things you shouldn't say in Zac's

In Zac's this week one of the 'congregation' took my hand and exclaimed  'It reminds me of an old man who used to sleep rough!'

I hope he meant because it was cold otherwise I need to invest in some serious hand-creaming time.

Over the last few weeks we've been looking at church as it was originally - and how we want Zac's to be. This week Sean commented that in some of the more traditional churches, if you arrive late, particularly if you're the worse for wear, you can be subject to dirty looks. 'We try not to do that here,' he said. 'I hope we always make people feel welcome.'

He should know better, really he should, than to say something like that in Zac's.

Just before we finished, just before the final prayer, two people, definitely the worse for something, marched in and began a loud conversation with one of the guys already there, before ordering coffee at the counter. This encouraged someone else, a first-timer, to decide to get up and ask for coffee too. 

It was almost impossible to hear Sean say, 'Could you just wait? We've nearly finished. Let's just pray ...'

For when you need prozac

GrandDaughter shows signs of being a great forager. We collected acorns on our walk to feed the piggies and she was spotting them - and unearthing them - half-buried in the mud. We discovered her Peppa Pig umbrella made a good transporter too.

When not gathering nuts she was issuing commands to Granddad to find num-nums - blackberries. The intention was to take them - or at least some - home to bake with but somehow they all ended up in GrandDaughter's tummy.

For a child brought up with parents determined to ensure they don't stereotype, she has turned out to be a very pink, princess and jewel obsessed little girl. Her favourite princess is sleeping beauty or Auw-woa-wa as she calls her. I love it. Don't you wish you could bottle these treasures to bring out whenever you're feeling down? There'd be no need for prozac.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guess what?

Guess what?

I've started writing my next novel!

It's an idea I've been thinking about for a while on and off - in fact I think Husband suggested it originally -and, suddenly, this afternoon the opening lines came to me. Now, normally, I'd just ignore that and keep them in my head until ... until, but in today's energised mood I've written it down. 

Now I'm going to create a new folder in my NewNovelist program and start building up characters and worlds. How exciting!

* * * * * * 
Writing the word 'until' reminded me of my aunt's funeral 20 years ago maybe. The priest talked about the word 'donec', which is Latin for until, but a fuller more complete term. I think he meant that she was just waiting until, biding her time until, living her life until. 

She was married to my uncle and they had one son, a spastic, as he was called in those days, who died about 30 years ago. My aunt devoted her life to caring for him, I think, to the exclusion of all else except her Roman Catholicism. So, according to the priest, when he died it was as if she was merely existing ... donec. Until she would be with her beloved son again when he would be perfect. I remember hearing those words and finding the idea of a life spent in waiting sadder than death.

Gosh, that's gone downhill: from a very excited start to a gloomy end.

Not to worry, I'm about to 'enjoy' low-fat venison in red wine. I'll report back.

P.S. The venison was:
enough for 2; 
not helped by me leaving it in the oven too long so the gravy and the meat dried up;
a reminder of Bambi. (I don't think of calves with big brown eyes when I eat beef so I'm not sure what this manifestation was but it put me off.)
Good job I'd filled up on Fingers. 

the back of my mum's head

We went to see Greg Davies in the theatre last night. He's a very popular comedian at the moment so, even though I booked as soon as the theatre brochure arrived, the only seats I could get were up in the gods. Fortunately he's very tall (6'8").

I was really looking forward to seeing him but it turned out to be a bit disappointing. There were very funny bits that made me laugh out loud and lots of amusing bits that made me smile, but not enough of either. He's quite early on in his tour and I guess it's a work in progress but I can't help feeling it should be a work 'still on the computer'. It needed editing and tightening I felt.

And while I don't mind swear words generally there are some that are still over the edge for me. Which is a shame as he seems like a really nice man. I kept thinking, 'Ah, I bet there are lots of women who'd love to take him home and look after him.' He was that sort of man. You know, ah, bless.

Sometimes only the real thing will do

Yesterday I resisted the temptation to buy Cadburys Fingers in Sainsbury's even though they were only 84p. Today I had such a craving for chocolate I succumbed - and in the local Sainsbury's they were £1.02!

But I am having low calorie venison in red wine a la Rosemary Conley (slimming guru) for dinner. Sort of except for the ingredients I didn't have and the bits I added instead. And the fact that the recipe is meant for 4 but I suspect it will be divided between 2. I am convinced the claimed 'portion' the chef in the video put on the plate was not a real portion. The only reason it is low calorie is that there is so little of it. Like Weightwatchers chocolate biscuits. Which are surprisingly nice and work usually as an evening treat. But not today.

I came back from slimming/exercise class feeling energised and I've worked hard today - so I deserve a treat. Not that I need to convince most of you I'm sure. Not when we're talking Cadburys Fingers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Things to do before I'm 60

With Ric's birthday meal on Friday my thoughts have been on my rapidly approaching birthday. There's a part of me that says, 'I don't want to be 60!'

But in my 50s I feel that I finally grew into myself and my life has been better than ever. I've had more confidence, enjoyed myself and generally felt good about life. I've seen my children married and grandchildren coming along; I've published my novel and people have enjoyed reading it, Husband has retired and we get along just fine. So what's there to dread about being 60? Life can only get better.

So I will embrace it wholeheartedly, celebrate and make sure the whole world knows, 'I'm 60 and proud of it.' (Not that I am until next month by the way!)

But while I was walking on Saturday I was thinking, I should have a list of things to do before I'm 60 ... but I can't think of anything to put on it! Or even to put on a 'before I die' list.

I have no desire to bungee jump or leap out of a plane; there are places I'd be happy to visit but nowhere I must go; in short, there's nothing I have a desperate desire to do. Am I boring? Or, as I prefer to think, just content with my lot?

Now I'm going to settle on the sofa with a cup of tea and Husband and watch some television. Sounds good to me.

Happy 60th birthday, Ric!

From the sublime to the cor blimey

I ask you: is this a meal for a grown woman?
Quite often of a weekend M&S does a Meal for 2 Deal. You get a main course, a side dish, a dessert and a bottle of wine for £10. It's a good deal and a simple dinner for a Saturday so we've done it a couple of times. 

Yesterday I chose chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and spinach with carrot and swede crush. But seriously? It probably should have been enough but it looked pathetic. It was fine when I'd filled the plate with extra broccoli though. And we did have blackberry and apple tart (with custard) for dessert so I shouldn't grumble. But it would be better if they allowed you to have 2 side dishes instead of a dessert. But then I'd feel obliged to do that while now I just HAVE to have a dessert. (Yes, I could have chosen the fruit salad but, well, I didn't.)

It all tasted nice too.

And a small meal would have done me good after celebrating Ric's 60th birthday on Friday evening at Peachy Keen's. I think it's a national chain so maybe you're familiar with it but it's an eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet with a huge variety of foods including Indian, Chinese, British, Italian and Thai. There are dishes you can help yourself from or you can choose what you want and the chefs cook it in front of you. What made it good for me was that I could try loads and loads of dishes, just a little bit of each, and not have to choose one thing, then see what someone else had and wish I'd chosen that. 
But, of course, the temptation is to pick and pick and pick ... 

And, there's a chocolate fountain and an ice cream machine. What can I say? You have to try these things.

If there were a prize for foolish

This morning in church at the end there was an opportunity for people to 'share' (hideous Christian word) if there was something they felt they should say. So I stood up and said it was a good job that God uses the weak and foolish because that's me. (there was a bit more to it than that but that was basically it.) Andre also 'shared' but his words were more prophetic and powerful, you know the sort of thing? Deep and meaningful.
Afterwards I was standing near Andre when another man came up to him and said, 'Great words, Andre. Spot on.'And gave the sort of fist-punch of approval. Then he noticed me standing there, and, bless him, felt he had to say something to me. 'You did well too,' he said.

It reminded me of a family party when I was a teenager. I had (still have) a cousin who is 6 months older and a million months better in everything that I thought counted in those days. A great-uncle saw my cousin and introduced her to someone as 'my favourite niece.' Then he spotted me and quickly added, 'And my other favourite niece.'
Yeah, right.

But back to this morning. One person did genuinely say that she likes it when I stand up to say something because she knows I'm someone who's on the same wavelength as her. So that was nice.

I dithered before standing up and I did that test thing with God: if I'm supposed to say it, then if Richard shares anything I'll get up too. And, of course, he did. Which if you're a regular at with Linden you'll know is almost a given. So I wasn't testing it very hard with God. Maybe I should have said, 'If Richard doesn't stand up ...'

And I did mutter something along those lines when I was standing out the front and maybe I shouldn't have ...

See what I mean? I'd win the prize for foolish.

Paddling my own canoe

Husband went kayaking yesterday with a group of people from church with Breakout Adventure. I organised it but decided this was one adventure too far for me. (My real fear was that I'd lose my paddle or get left behind and generally be an embarrassment.)

Anyway George and I walked round the cliffs instead while they set off and we spotted them on our way back. That's them in the photo. Honest. See those little dots in the middle of the sea? I knew there was a good reason for me not to go.

We had a lovely walk and enjoyed the view as we sat on Pwll Ddu to munch on our snacks: apple for me, stick for George.

I had to take off my shoes and socks to cross the river running down into the sea but I refrained from removing any other clothing unlike this lady. But, to be honest, I think I was braver than her because I was paddling in bitterly cold fresh water while she was just swimming in the sea, which as everyone knows is warmer.
 And I had my own adventure: there are places where the cliff path is precariously close to a sheer drop.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A gas man who speaks my language

'You see,' he says, 'the pump stops, and the boiler thinks to itself, "My, I'm getting hot. I'd better switch off."'

Much better than all this nonsense about valves and thermocouples and vents.

A spare for everything

You know what I'm like: when I'm going away  even for 2 days, I take spares of everything, just in case. But, wouldn't you know it, the one thing I needed yesterday I didn't have.

In Devon the morning's rain had stopped and the sun was even trying to make an appearance so we took the grandchildren and dogs for a walk. We were halfway down a Devon lane when splish splosh, pitter patter. Only it was more like thrash, thash, bash, bash.

Grandchildren were all right: they were fully covered in the pushchair. The dogs were all right - although happy to get home. Only Husband and I were wet down to our knickers. No, I had spares of those; it was an extra bra I hadn't thought to bring. 

Next time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When will Husband learn?

Back to slimming class this morning for a strenuous 30 minutes of boxercise. My weight had gone up 1 lb since I last went in August (but down 3 lb from last week's scale-horror moment). I said to Husband, 'It's okay,  I can live with this weight. I think my body's okay.'
'Your body's good,' he said. And if he'd stopped there he'd have been my favourite husband. However he continued, 'For a woman of your age.'

He realised, as he was saying it I think, that he should have stopped sooner.

Will he ever learn, do you think?

Monday, October 08, 2012

And Husband's version

The things you find in charity shops

How cool is this?
 My latest charity shop find: a large Brio train set. Put together by my own fair hands. All I need now is a man to work out how to make it into one complete circuit ... 

I've left Husband to it.

'Tis chocolate and curry week

I thought you'd want to know that.

So I suppose we should all be eating chocolate and curry. But not necessarily together. 

On a separate note the Linden boiler saga continues. Where did I get to in my telling of the sad story? No matter, I'll just moan. The gas man was supposed to be coming on Friday to fit a new part. He finally turned up at 4.20 in the afternoon. I suspect he had forgotten and a mad rush followed my multiple phone calls: Is the gas man coming? When is the gas man coming? The gas man is coming today, isn't he?

Anyway he came, he fitted and he left, smiling, and therein lies the crux. You see, he lulled me into a false sense of security: he had that calm assurance that he knew what was wrong causing me to have faith in him. To believe, to have hope. There's nothing worse than shattered hope.

So when the boiler wasn't working today I simply collapsed into a little heap on the floor, sobbing softly to myself. (I didn't of course. My granny would have disinherited me, had she not already been dead and, anyway, had nothing for me to inherit.)

So he will come back with another part tomorrow - or maybe Wednesday, depending.

And that was my morning. My afternoon could only get better. You'd think?

Wrong. It was off to see the nurse for a routine smear test. 'This is Mandy,' she says. 'She's learning. Do you mind if she watches?'
'Feel free.'
'Now let your knees flop out and relax.'
Relax? Seriously? 
'Now cough.'
Wait a minute. Isn't that what they ask men to do? I would look at the nurse to see if she looks confused but it's hard to stare in the face of someone with her head between your legs.
'Now, Mandy, you see that ...? And the bits of string? Good. Okay, thank you.'

And that's it. For another 3 years all being well. 

Now it's just the dentist and kennel cough that needs doing.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Saturday stroll

Husband's been poorly for over a week so when he decided he was fit to walk again but didn't want to do anything too energetic we wandered along the sea front - just as far as Ripples ice Cream Parlour (where, incidentally, I discovered they sell nutella ice cream).
I stopped to enjoy the view while Husband did the David Bailey bit - mostly snapping scenery not me, you understand. Scenery's much more interesting ...

These little birds almost blended in with the background. It was only because they moved that we saw them at all.

It's not everyday you come across Ganesh on Swansea Beach.

My attempt at an arty shot. Entitled 'Rocks with Swansea'.

And another attempt, this time trying to catch the sunlight on the water. Husband stood with his arm held up to stop the sun shining directly into the lens.

We stopped to see what this photographer was after.  

It turned out to be a wheat-ear, a migrant visitor just passing through on its way to Africa. (We were told this somewhat reluctantly by the surly photographer.) Husband, unembarrassed by the photographer's huge lens, insisted on getting our camera out too.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Blowing the cobwebs away

It feels as if I've been on the go non-stop since last Thursday  so, as the sun was shining today, I decided that George and I deserved a bit of fresh sea air. I bundled him into the car and we set off for Crawley Woods and Nicholaston Burrows. He is the laziest dog in the world; other dogs jump into cars: George, if I'm lucky, will put his front paws in, leaving me to lift up his bum. I was watching two dogs charging about on the beach and I thought, 'Perhaps George needs a playmate,' but then I remembered when he goes out with Willet or Holly he just sits down and waits for them to come running to him. As I say, bone idle.

Here we're wondering if it's a bomb. Well, I'm wondering; George is wondering if I'm about to give him a treat.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A foyer for church indeed!

In a conversation with two people this evening one of them said, 'Well, Zac's is a foyer for church really.'
At that point we were interrupted and had to move and it wasn't until later on my way home that I realised what he meant: that Zac's is an entrance, a gateway, into other 'proper' churches. What a cheek!

Zac's is a church. A church for ragamuffins. Not a stopping off point. Well, it can be that for people in need of rest but it's a church in its own right. It's not a place where people can wait, be prepared, made ready, until they're good enough for a 'real' church. And I shall jolly well tell the speaker so - politely of course - when next I see him. Huh!

Not sure how well the Bruce Springsteen quotation went down with the older church people in prison tonight but it doesn't really matter. It only matters how it went down with the guys - one of whom, coincidentally, it turns out was on security at the last Springsteen gig I attended in Cardiff. 

Come to think of it, my rendition of 'Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run,' may not have impressed them either. Or my impromptu Jewish dancing.

And my dinner plans went awry again.

A big shop in Sainsburys this afternoon with steak and salad planned for dinner. i bought the salad but it wasn't until I was nearly home that I remembered I'd forgotten the steak. 'Not to worry,' I said. 'I can get it in Tesco's on  my way home from prison.'

Which would have been fine if I'd remembered to take my purse.

Giving lift a new meaning

'Do you want a lift?'
It was noisy and I thought I'd misheard Martin. 'What?'
'Do you want a lift?'
I was confused. Why would I want a lift? I was getting a plate to take to the kitchen; had I missed something? Was I supposed to be going somewhere?
'Do you want a lift with anything?'
'I don't know what you're talking about!'
'Do you want a lift with anything in the kitchen?'
I stared blankly at him. 'Do you mean do I want help?'
'Yeah,' he said as if it were obvious.
'I've never heard that expression before.'
'You haven't? Everyone knows it, don't they?' he asked Pilky, a visitor from oop north. Pilky nodded his agreement.
'Maybe oop north they do but we talk proper down here.'

Last week Martin introduced me to the sound recordist from Radio Wales as 'posh totty'. It took me four days to come up with my response (which you'll admit is dazzling repartee ...) - which I shared with him last night: 'If I were posh I certainly wouldn't be talking to you!'

By the way, the sound recordist was getting clips for a programme Sean did for Radio Wales  All Things Considered programme, which you can listen to here. (I'm not sure how long it will be available though.)

P.S. And when I corrected Steve Porter when he said less instead of fewer it was meant more as a muttered reminder to myself and is don't think warranted the phrase, 'Grammar Nazi'. A bit like Grammar Tourettes.

P.P.S. There's another man who keeps telling me long and apparently funny stories but i can't understand what he's saying. So I laugh when he does and occasionally raise my eyebrows and say, 'Well, well.'

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

More like Canute

My Canute impersonation was less successful this morning. Still we were in the woods so I could run from the shelter of tree to tree. Which made me feel like a cowboy so I galloped. And fired off a few rounds of bullets at the baddies. 

The advantage of playing cowboys by yourself in the woods is that you don't get shot.

Man and beast as one ... almost

Back to Thrive circuits last night after a three week break. Lots of leg work. Which made this hill look even longer and steeper than usual this morning. But, I tell myself, after my recent weeks of excess that resulted in a 'Waaaah!' moment at the scales this morning, it can only do me good.
We come back via the beach and the golf course and have to cross the main road. I tell George to sit and wait until the Green Man appears; he does so and then he walks obediently next to me. I am just thinking what a fine example we are of an in-tune owner and pet when George walks the wrong side of a lamp-post. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

My Canute moment - only more successful

Was it really on on Saturday that I last posted? It seems like ages ago. So a quick catch-up.

Friday, work, and the return of the recurrent intermittent boiler problem. It's been fine all summer - because we haven't had the heating on. I phone gas man 1 and leave a message. Within 15 minutes he returns my call. I throw my papers in the air with delight. My delight is short-lived as he spends 15 minutes telling me why he can't or doesn't want to come and look at our boiler. I eventually get him off the phone and call gas man 2 and leave a message. (As of today no reply has been received.)

I call gas man 3; he will come Saturday morning. I dance around the room.

Friday evening and it's off to the restaurant for a meal with Great-uncle, family and friends. The bad throat that Husband has been fighting for a few days is worse but he manages to eat three courses.

Saturday morning the gas man comes. He spends a long time in the boiler room and then tells me he knows what's wrong with the boiler. I await his prognosis anxiously afraid that if he says it's the thermocouple I may tell him what to do with it. He says, 'It's a faulty valve.'

Husband has been saying this for months.

Apparently other things are wrong too: dodgy settings and the like. 'So it's a faulty valve that is causing your problems,' he says as he smiles and turns to walk away.
'Um, wait, can it be repaired?'
'Oh yes,' he says before taking another step.
'And can you do it?'
'Oh yes.' He is walking away now! I fear I may have to tie him up and keep him in the cupboard until he agrees to repair it.
'Will you do it then?'
'Oh,' he sounds surprised. 'Fiona-in-the-office said you just wanted someone to tell you what's wrong.'
'No, we want someone to fix it too.'
'Oh right.' 

He will search out the part and get Fiona-in-the-office to work out a price for us. I am relieved. In spite of his apparent reluctance to do the work he sounds as though he knows what he's talking about.

Saturday afternoon I continue my preparation and panicking prior to speaking in prison on Sunday morning. I am reasonably calm until Husband reminds me that the last time I spoke there was almost a mini-riot.

Saturday evening I go to see The Help. (Linden is now running a monthly community cinema show.) Husband's throat is much worse so I'm on my own and have to eat all the chocolate buttons and popcorn I buy because it's being sold cheaply. The film is okay but not as good as the book. It seems they have a technical problem and can't get rid of the subtitles. It is almost impossible to not look at subtitles, which draw my attention away from the film so it might be better than I have given it credit for.

Sunday morning it turns out I'm not speaking in prison. 
'You were supposed to be here last week,' the chaplain says.
'No, this week,' I say.
'No, last week.'
'No, this week.'
'It was changed, remember?'
'Yes, to this week!'
'No, to last week.'

I am convinced I am right but I apologise and we sit and listen to the speaker for the day. Not me. He's very good. When I get back I check my emails: I am right. It wasn't my mistake; that is a great relief as mistakes usually are mine.

Then it's off to the lunch party with 93-year-old Great-aunt, 91-year-old Great-uncle and his lady friend, 86-year-old Uncle and several of his lady friends. Speaking causes Husband great pain so he doesn't come although not much speaking is required from us when we attend a gathering of my relatives. I take him home a doggy bag of delicious food and he grumbles because what he really wants is a sandwich. And sympathy. He gets neither and I walk George in the pouring rain.

Monday morning, work, and the gas man can come on Friday to repair our boiler. It will cost about £250, which is a small price to pay for my sanity.

Monday afternoon and time to walk George. When Husband walks George he almost always takes a coat 'in case it rains'; when I walk George I almost never take a coat (unless it's cold) because 'it's not going to rain.'
We have gone about 50 yards in a fine drizzle when George says, 'Should you go back and get a coat?'
'It's not going to rain,' I say.
'No,' says George, 'it's not going to rain: it is raining.'
'No, they're the wrong sort of clouds for rain,' I say.
The not-rain-drizzle persists until we reach the tip then there is a sudden downpour. I yell, 'No!' The rain stops instantly. The rest of the walk the sun shines.

I feel like Canute only more successful.