Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playing with sand

Can you see our stick man?
A sunny day, what better to do than go to Crawley Woods?

The dunes are showing signs of erosion - at a worrying speed

Not helped by people running down them ... 

Although the climb to the top would put most off I'm sure. Only us serious dune runners would attempt it ...
A victory star jump (believe it or not my feet have left the floor!)

I could get used to this being cooked for

It was brilliant to come back from circuit training to dinner cooked by Younger Son and Nuora. Home-made tagliatelle, meatballs and tomato sauce, with equally home-made coconut and white cookies to round off the feast.

George doesn't move from the kitchen if food is being prepared.
And very delicious it all was too.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The end of the line-r

I came home from work on Friday to discover that someone had stolen our pool and left a dirty great hole in its place! (George is seen here sniffing for clues.)

The liner has needed replacing for a few years now but Husband put it off for as long as he could knowing it would be expensive - it is! But it has to be done. And we're in good company: apparently Alun Wyn Jones, Welsh rugby international, also had his liner replaced last week.

The spare bedroom also had to be revamped. Here it is, beautifully decorated and empty.
It's now full of Younger Son and Nuora's possessions. They only had a tiny flat in Paignton but they seem to have brought home a tardis load of goods. Most have gone in the attic or garage, thankfully. I had visions of opening the front door to greet people around a washing machine and fridge.

Offended by the world

From a Facebook advert:
Measles? No MMR jab? Claim now! The NHS misled you on vaccine risk  Claim compensation for your child's suffering and trauma.

I am speechless. It's not just money-grabbing lawyers taking any opportunity they can to increase their income; it's the whole 'I'm entitled to be compensated for everything' attitude that seems to be prevalent today.

Mutter, mutter. 

It was pointed out to me recently that you can get rid of the adverts* at the side by clicking on the little X box. When you do that Facebook asks why you want to be rid of this particular ad. In this case i ticked the Offensive box.

*You can't actually get rid of all the adverts as others leap up to take their place and there's a never-ending supply, but you can be rid of those that do offend, for whatever reason.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Articulate spam

Just had to remove a spam comment on my previous post but I almost didn't: it was so funny I was tempted to copy and paste bits of it. 

It was from an anonymous American man giving reasons why American men should boycott American women. Although it must only have given some of them as he has a blog that goes into fuller detail, I assume.

It was well-written, articulate and without the usual spammer grammar, spelling and punctuations flaws. All in all, subject matter aside, it was a pretty good comment.

Shame I had to delete it.

A miranda moment

I just had a Miranda moment.

I was on the telephone and the lady was explaining something to me. I said, 'Yes, I understand,' before turning away and mouthing to camera, 'I don't!'


Grey Van Man

Younger Son and Nuora are coming home today. Husband has just left, complete with grey van, to drive to Paignton to pick up their belongings. 

They'll be with us initially for two weeks before spending three months travelling Thailand, Cambodia etc, and then they'll be back in time for Younger Son to start teacher training. Probably. Unless things work out otherwise.

George will be very happy: he loves them almost as much as they love him. 
(I'll be pleased to have them home too.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just when you think it's going well

Sean was back to lead bible study in Zac's last night. After he did the introduction and he'd told us what page we were on I looked around the room; you could have heard a pin drop ... I sat and grumbled to myself. I swear he sends out a secret signal to all the noise-makers when he's not going to be there.

Anyway, we were talking about being bullied for being a Christian  A couple of people said they'd been laughed at or mocked but Gary, our most regular rough sleeper, said, 'I goes up the pub for a drink and when I says I'm coming down 'ere nobody laughs at me. And when I go back after they don't make fun of me.'
Sean said, 'They must be good friends you have then.'
To which Gary said, 'And if they do I tell them to f*** off.'

One of our other regulars was having trouble in work, being bullied. We'd all tried being encouraging, suggesting trying not to react. Our regular was doing well and then 'I just had to punch him.I felt much better afterwards.'

Having found out the identity of the recipient of the punch I can understand the urge.

This week it was Golly's birthday we were celebrating.

God the grand-father

You will be impressed to know that God is my 102nd great-grandfather.

Of course we're all descended from God via Adam and Eve or Flo, depending which version you opt for, but not many of us have the conclusive proof in writing. Yes, Husband has been digging into my forebears and he has traced my line right back to the very beginning. 

Or rather other people have traced the earlier lines and he's managed to link me in to them. 

As well as Lady Godiva, Boudicea, Old King Cole, it turns out I'm descended from both William the Conqueror and Harold, as well as Brutus Brwt, king from whom Britain takes its name. In documents dating back to the thirteenth century it is shown that Brutus came from the line of Adam who was, of course, son of God.

Husband does record one commentator as saying, "If the compiler did not draw on his imagination for parts of this pedigree he must have had access to records not now in existence," but I'm happy to go along with it.

Books for free!

I was ridiculously excited when I went to the library yesterday and found them giving away free books!
There was a choice of four different titles plus I got a bag, ball (?), torch key-ring and a teeny weeny notebook and pencil.

Apparently yesterday, Shakespeare's birth/death day, was World Book Night. I just googled it and found that the initiative is to encourage people who don't usually read, so having a stall outside the library seems a bit back to front. Although the library is in County Hall where people go for all manner of reasons, such as collecting extra recycling bags, picking up bus passes and all other manner of council business, so I suppose it could reach some of its intended audience.

I feel a bit guilty now though. Perhaps they should have:
a) publicised it more;
b) not given them to people holding library cards.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

School for husbands

'I'm fat.'

At first Husband doesn't say anything - bad in itself because, obviously I only said it to get him to deny it - and then he speaks, 'As you get old your bones grow more fragile so you need more fat to protect them.'

So I'm fat AND old?

Is there a school you can send husbands to?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In which George displays a certain intelligence

Or cunning perhaps. Yes, definitely cunning but it needed intelligence too.

In Devon this week Husband, after having his breakfast, left the buttery spread on the work surface. We were both then involved in sorting out grandchildren so the kitchen was left unattended briefly.

When I returned, the tub of buttery spread was near the edge. 'I'm sure Husband pushed it back away from the edge.' I looked in it - he had left the top off - and, although I couldn't be certain that there was less spread than previously  what was there was very smooth and rounded. Rather as though it had been licked.

I glanced across at George who was licking his lips.


I'm not sure how much he devoured but I couldn't help being impressed with his sneakiness. Licking it in situ rather than taking the whole tub - which would have been a giveaway - indicates a rather worrying leap up the evolutionary scale of cunning.

The busy life of an author

Been a busy week. Down to Devon on Wednesday morning for grandchild-minding duties, driving home earlier than usual on Thursday so I could skedaddle off to St. Peter's church in Cockett to speak to the Thursday Group about my book.

It's wonderful when your first attempt at humour goes down well. Sets the tone for the rest of the evening. A large group - about 30 - ladies who were very appreciative and laughed in all the right places. I sold quite a few books at the end too. 
[Husband: how many?
Me: I don't know.
Husband: well, how many did you take?
Me: don't know.
Husband: how much money did you take then?
Me: don't know because I got it mixed up with money already in my purse.
Husband: big sigh.]

Encouraged by my success I've been busy emailing people - WI, Townswomen's Guild, Mothers' Union - to try and get contact details for local groups who might be interested in having me speak to them. 

And Husband spent a long time this morning trying to work out figures and it appears that I'm in the black! I've actually making a profit on my books! Not a lot but it's better than a loss.

(Are you supposed to have ridges in your thumb nail? How peculiar. It looks as if I got my thumb trapped in a door.)

In which I come of Zac's age

Following the chaos of last week's bible study at Zac's I wasn't sure what to expect when leading it on Tuesday. I thought it might be quiet - you know, the calm following the storm - but walking through the door soon rid me of that idea. 

It was only 20 to 8 and already it was crowded and very noisy. Mainly because of a woman sitting at the bar singing loudly. That's okay, I told myself, she's just happy. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Aggressive? Yes. Angry? Yes. Happy? Not really.

The door to the kitchen was locked because R was there. It's important to keep him and knives apart. (I mentioned this to Husband who said, 'I wish you hadn't told me that!') Add several rough sleepers and some newcomers including one who was sitting where I normally sit when I'm leading and I didn't like to ask him to move, as well as our regulars, and we were set for a fine evening.

The atmosphere was already charged and loud lady was making herself more and more unpopular; Martin was talking about throwing everyone out and shutting up early; it was time to get this show on the road.

One advantage I have is that to make myself heard I have to shout and when I shout my voice goes all weak and squeaky so normally I get the sympathy vote. 'Let's have some hush, let the lady speak.' But loud lady didn't comply with the norm. Rather she took centre stage for a solo rendition of O Happy Day.

At which point one of the most disgruntled regulars, who can also be one of the most disruptive, took it upon himself to put her right. 

By now I'd tried about 3 times to make myself heard - or rather listened to. Finally, in a very brief lull, remembering what Sean says in these situations, I said, 'If you'd like to stay quietly and take part in the bible study you'll be very welcome but if not perhaps you'd rather go.' 
'I'll go then. And I'll come back when you've learned to live it.' (I assume she meant what we preach.)
But as far as I was concerned it'd been a win win thing. One, she'd left quietly; two, she hadn't hit me.

Then I had a round of applause! There can't be many churches who have to throw someone out of bible study and each time the door opened for the rest of the evening my heart leapt into my mouth.

The rest of the evening went very well. Preparing for the study I'd found one commentator who'd said that the passage we were on was 'one of the most intriguing and puzzling in the New Testament.' I shared my heretical theory - and was told it was heresy by a young man who said he was an ex-Christian but who was more knowledgeable and more convinced of most matters of faith then I am - and there was lots of good discussion, and some wonderful shared moments.

A bit later another stranger came in, took a seat at the back, then out of the blue and unrelated to the topic in hand declared himself to be an agnostic, and said he thought God was sleeping and waiting for the right moment. 'He must be asleep 'cos how could he see all the suffering and not do anything?'
Before I or anyone else could say anything one of the rough sleepers spoke up. He said, 'I know God's there and he answers prayers. I was dead for 5 minutes and this guy (he indicated the man with him) and Kinsley prayed for me and I lived.'
'That's right,' his friend said. 'He'd fallen and hit his head on the kerb, and there were ambulancemen just down the road, seeing to R, and they left him and came straight across and saved him. If we'd had to have called an ambulance out they wouldn't have got there in time.'

Coincidence? Maybe. But these two unlikely believers were convinced.

We rounded off the evening with birthday cake for Rowland, a very unassuming gentle man, who was taken completely by surprise, believing nobody knew it was his birthday the next day. But I have ways and means ...
I drove home saying over and over to myself, 'I threw someone out! Me! How tough am I?'

Driving a porsche: the problems

Problem 1: I am so busy being cool I forget to change gear.

Problem 2: My legs are too short to reach the pedals so I have to have the seat very close to the steering wheel, which means my head gets in the way of the sun visor coming down. A screwed-up face peering into the sunshine doesn't raise coolness factor.

Problem 3: Because it's an old car Dire Straits is on the cassette player. Playing air guitar to Brothers in Arms while at traffic lights severely diminishes coolness factor.

What I need is a little Aretha R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rational thinking at midnight

So I'm just dropping off to sleep when my brain, for no obvious reason, says, 'When are you speaking to the ladies' group about your book?'
'It's April now.'
'Late April.'
'Are you sure?'
'Yes ... no ... I don't know.'

I am fully awake now and the conversation continues.
Brain, 'Wasn't there something about it on the upcoming events in Outlook?'
Me, 'Yes, I think so.'
'Is it still there?'
Long silence as I try to visualise the screen. 'Don't know. I can see a birthday there.'
'Well, if it was there and now it's not you must have missed it.'
'No, a reminder would have popped up.'
Brain, 'Would it?'
Me, 'Yes.' Pause. 'I think.'
Brain, 'Don't you have to set it to give you a reminder?'
'I don't know. Do you?'
'I think so. Did you?'
'I don't know. Probably ... not. But wouldn't the organiser have sent me a reminder? Or phoned me if I'd missed it?'
Brain, 'You've been away. Have you checked the phone for messages?'
'Aaaahhh.' Long pause.
Brain, 'Why don't you get up, go downstairs, switch on the computer and check?'
'That would wake Husband and make him grumpy.'
'Come on, you know what a grumpy husband is like.'
'True. Let's think logically: if you've missed it there's nothing you can do at this time of night; if you haven't missed it then there's nothing you need to do.'
'So we can both go to sleep then.'
'You were the one who woke me up in the first place.'
'I apologise. Now go to sleep.'

Time passes.
Brain, 'Please stop tossing and turning; you're keeping me awake.'
'I can't sleep for worrying.'
'We've agreed there's nothing you can do at this time of night.'
'I know but ...'

And so it went on.

No wonder I wake up exhausted.

P.S. I hadn't missed my speaking engagement; it's this Thursday.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Farewell Lionel

It was the last service in prison this morning for Lionel, the retiring chaplain, so a number of volunteers, supporters and old friends were invited along for the event.

It began strangely when the various clergy in full regalia 'processed' down what passed for an aisle. A brief interlude of normality followed before one of the older prisoners, a regular and old friend, who sits in the front seat and usually has plenty to say for himself, fainted and slipped sideways off his chair. To be caught - magnificently I must say - by one of the other chaplains. Medical aid was summoned but he insisted he was fine to carry on sitting where he was and refused to leave and miss any of Lionel's final words. 

Later he told me he'll be getting out soon and is getting married. I'm a little surprised by this news as I wouldn't have thought he was ever out of prison long enough to form a relationship. Let's hope she is good for him and can keep him sober.

Also turns out that the boys who took part in last year's Christmas service for me have all recently been given heavy sentences for heroin trafficking. And they're such nice boys.

A breath of fresh sea air

A very wet morning but a dry(ish) afternoon so it was off to the cliffs for some much-needed fresh sea air.
There was a big swell and the surfers were out enjoying themselves too.

Not the first violets we've seen this year but crowds of them on the hillside.

How handsome am I?

Even when a little wet and bedraggled.

Friday, April 12, 2013

George, some mushrooms and the foxes

George stole and ate some raw mushrooms the other day. He didn't notice the lamb chops I'd left out as well. That's my boy.

He is really rather good these days. No, seriously, he is. Apart from the odd food frenzy. A couple we often see walking in the woods bring their left-over bread to throw into the trees for the foxes. George has worked out their usual place - they always throw it in the same place so the foxes will know where to look - and makes a beeline for it every time we pass. Husband has to yell sternly to make him desist in his pursuit of food. The first time he did it - we didn't know though we guessed food or something no-one but George would consider edible would be involved - he was gone for ages. We'd walked on a long distance and resorted to hiding behind a tree while waiting for him to catch up. The lick-lipping he was doing when he finally found us was the real give-away.

Meanwhile the couple think it's the foxes who are devouring their offering gratefully. Husband doesn't like to disillusion them.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oh what a night

With Sean away, Steve was in the hot seat at Zac's last night. I found myself a place on the back row and watched with growing delight as the evening progressed: every 'eccentric' that has ever been in Zac's turned up. It was chaos. But Steve coped brilliantly. (I say 'growing delight' not out of a sense of mean spirit but simply that it wasn't me in the seat!) (Well, maybe a bit of tee-hee-ing.)

We were continuing with the first letter of Peter and we were looking at the bit where it says get on with everyone and live in harmony with each other. Steve asked what the word harmony meant to us and that was where the trouble started ...

We had our resident homeless alcoholic 'peeing on the lamp-post', marking his territory simply because the homeless Irish 'Catlic' dared to open his mouth; we had arguments about peace and tolerance; we had God cast as Big Brother and us as puppets when we could get on better by thinking positively; we had the grieving man whose only family was the guy with whom he lived on the streets; and we had our amiable-except-when-he-has-a-knife regular who has a habit of chatting with imaginary friends. Oh it was fun.

Steve dealt calmly, pleasantly and respectfully with each and every one - when he could make himself heard - but I think it was with a sense of relief that he prayed the closing prayer.

But after what some Christians would consider the important serious bit of bible study, when, in-between cutting cake and making coffee, I looked around the room I could see the real heart of Zac's, of God, at work.

Now there was a quiet buzz. The aggressively-warring factions were apologising to each other; the verbose agnostic was listening to a quietly-spoken Scottish gentleman; the mourner was deep in conversation with a gentle female Anglican; the young Korean missionary-in-training was strengthening his developing friendship with the young lost-soul middle eastern lad; food parcels were being handed out; and one of our rough sleepers was being provided again with a blanket and warm coat.

Harmony reigned. This is what it is about. It was one of the best evenings at Zac's for a long time.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Pole or Polish dancer - it's all the same to me

'Come and stand in front of the mirror and pretend to be a pole,' I said to Husband. 'I want to see what a pole dancer would look like.'

The worrying thing was that he didn't even ask why.

I told him anyway. It's the birthday of one of our Zac's regulars and he has a ministry to pole dancers. Or, at least, he worries a lot about the temperature of their poles. So I thought this would be a good cake for him. I tried to draw a cartoon version based on wrapping myself around Husband but that didn't work out so I - very nervously - googled pole dance classes. Turns out there are any number of them - and flipping hard it looks too.

I found the silhouette image, printed it off and cut it out. I was about to start cutting the icing to shape when Husband said, 'Her boobs are too small.' 
'Probably because she's an athlete not an exotic dancer.' But I took his point and enlarged her bosom - and her bum as I was about it. 

I suppose I could have done a Pol(-ish) dancer but that wouldn't have been quite the same ...

Monday, April 08, 2013

In a funny sort of mood

I don't know how I feel. Just not quite right. I've been trying to cut down on my happy pills by taking half a day; perhaps I'll up it again. I obviously need the chemicals.

Anyway, what else? I've lost my blogging mojo. I think of things to write but then when I sit down at the 'puta I lose my enthusiasm. 

I had another rejection today for novel 2. It came as a surprise as I'd sort of forgotten I'd sent it to an agent and, initially, I just shrugged it off but I think gradually, during the afternoon, disappointment has crept in again.

Novel 2 is very different from This Time Next Year; it's a dark tale about a woman seeking her past. It's more literary - I like to think - but not proving any easier to get published. As Husband said when I was discussing it with him, 'Getting published seems to take more than talent.' And that's assuming I have talent! But it does: it takes the right person on the right day in the right mood to fall in love with your manuscript.

I'm waiting for my daughter and daughter-in-law to read and comment on my first three chapters of Novel 3, another light-hearted girly sort of book, before I start the submitting process. On days like this, in this sort of mood, I think, 'Can I really go through all that disappointment again?' But I know it's worth it because unless I get an agent/publisher I won't believe in my work. I may have published a novel that's been enjoyed but I still can't call myself a published novelist, not in my own head anyway. 

Big sigh. On to other things.

Speaking in prison yesterday I broke a cardinal rule: I asked a rhetorical question. In the chaos that followed, which felt like an hour but probably only lasted three minutes, answers were followed by questions such as, 'So was Jesus a Jew?' and 'What about Hitler then?' (No, I don't know what he had to do with the Easter story either.)

But I started my talk by saying sometimes it seems as if God ignores your prayers. I had a very swift godly rebuttal on that front.

There were a couple of lads in the back row, who during my introduction, were giggling and smirking. As we began to sing the next song I prayed that they would quieten down and not disrupt the others - or me as it doesn't take much to put me off my stride. Almost before I had finished praying two guards moved in and whisked them out and back to their cells. Not perhaps the ideal answer (which would be that hearing my words they'd realise their past mistakes and give their lives to the Lord, hallelujah, sister) but it'll do for me, thank you, God.

Oh yes, and when writing my talk I referred back to something in one of the bible readings we were having - except I'd decided not to include it after all and didn't realise until halfway through my talk. Hey, I handled it like a pro. 'Oh crumbs, are we on this song already? I meant to include ... but didn't so .. well, let me tell you a story.'

And all this with the new chaplain getting his first taste of what we, the little team that goes in to support, can offer him, should he choose to continue using us. 

I asked him afterwards if it was okay. He said, 'Yes, great,' but he would, wouldn't he?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Just a catch-up

I don't really have much to say at the moment: I'm a bit caught up in finishing editing novel 3. Then it'll be back on the agent-rejection-try-again cycle. Self-publishing is easy - until it comes to the marketing, promotion and sales, which is why I still want to go the 'proper' route. Having an agent/publisher also says that someone believes in you, thinks what you have written is worthwhile. And even though friends and other readers may say that, unfortunately it doesn't get you onto the shelf in WH Smith in airports.

It's not about making money but it is about selling books. Being a best-seller. Big sigh. I can dream.

So this morning, I was planning my sequel to novel 3, and just below the blurb on the back it says, 'the follow-up to the best-selling (whatever I eventually decide to call it)'. How cool would that be?

So, in the meantime, here are a couple of miscellaneous photos:
Looking across Swansea bay from Clyne Gardens today

Mr & Mrs Mandarin Duck in Windsor Great Park on Friday