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.