Wednesday, July 31, 2013

30 Day Photo Challenge Day 4: something green

In a few weeks these green berries will be fat, black, juicy and ripe for foraging.

Escaping bruised but unbeaten

I escaped from Dunelm today with only the things I'd gone there to buy instead of things I didn't want! Let me tell you this is a major achievement. I swear they pump something into the air that turns a normal shopper into a rabid maniac.

I collect the pillows and mattress cover I need first so I'm deliberately laden before I allow myself just a little glance at the merchandise, but then the competing factions of my brain have to battle it out. 
'Oh look, a folding step stool!  (You don't need one.) But it's a bargain at £4.99! And look at that: 6 pink plastic kitchen things for £5.99! Amazing bargain. (You've got all of those things.) Yes I know but they're pink. Like my kitchen. When I was fitting my kitchen nobody sold anything pink. Ooh and look at those desks for children! Aren't they so cute? (Nobody has space for one.) Now, look, things for the bathroom, really pretty things. What colour would be best, do you think? (Maybe you should decide what colour you're going to decorate it before buying fripperies.) That maroon is nice. But so is that pale blue. I don't know; what do you think? (I think we should leave now.) But I haven't been upstairs to the kitchen department. (There's nothing you need.) But there might be. I might not know I need it until I see it. (So you can take it home and put it in a drawer and never use it.) Well, we'll just go upstairs and take a peek. (No, we won't.) You're so mean. Let's go to the till via the pictures then. Is it getting a bit old hat to put writings up on the wall? (Does it matter? More important: where would you put them?) Packets of doggy bags, they're useful. (You get them free from the council.) Oh look, net of plastic ducks! (You've got some.) Little plastic things that I can't identify but they're nice and bright? Bag of mints? (Just pay and get out of here. You've nearly made it.)

'Thank you, Madam. Can I interest you in any cleaning items today?'
'Um ... (NOOOOOOOOO!)'

Last night in Zac's: the really good and really rather bad bits

A few weeks ago we were told about an Afghan man named Tamin who was, at the time, in a deportation centre in Oxford. He'd been living in Swansea and had become a Christian - as the result of the good treatment by all the Christians he'd met on his escape journey from his home land - and a movement had begun to fight his deportation. I think everyone in Zac's signed the petition and after the strength of national and international support became obvious the authorities relented. Last week when he had been scheduled to be on a flight back to Afghanistan where he faced death, he was instead brought home to Swansea. The case continues and the battle isn't completely over yet but it's a start.

Last night Tam came along to Zac's to say thank you. He is a very lovely and gentle young man and it was a privilege to meet him and to see the result of people working together. 

So that was the good bit; the bad bit came later.

If you've read my previous post you'll know we had a new visitor last night. At the end of the evening when there were only a few of us - and her - left, she asked if she could have a lift home. (She'd also asked earlier for £10 'for a bag'.) She said where she lived and it was in my direction. Everyone else was going the other way. But I kept quiet. 

I justified myself to myself by saying I didn't know her, she was a drunk heroin addict who was, if not aggressive, then certainly in your face, and my husband wouldn't like it. Truth was I didn't want to give her a lift; I was a bit scared. Not a very fitting end to an evening talking about treating your neighbours well.

The stranger in our midst

Why is it always when I'm in charge at Zac's that the - pause while I think of a suitably pc term - unusual character turns up? And it was all going so well too.

It was a warm sticky evening and the room was full. We were looking at the story of the Good Samaritan, the latest in the series of Difficult Things Jesus Said - being love your neighbour. We were enjoying a good discussion without any real arguments and, as I say, it was all going so well. 

Then our visitor arrived. Not so much arrived as swept in on a hurricane with all the resulting chaos, and before we knew it we'd not so much lost the thread of the story as lost the whole book. 

She was full of questions: which God? Where is he? What about the babies that die? And the nuns who beat me and forced me to go to church? And probably lots of more that I've forgotten with my brain on overload. Now if you want to ask questions, Zac's is the place to come. But if you don't want to listen to the answers there's not a lot we can do.

Each time I or one of the others attempted to answer her question she'd start again on another track, and then everyone would join in the general free for all. And then Rowland stood up. Rowland is a very quietly spoken and wise older gentleman. He didn't address any of her questions directly but spoke about the Samaritan and the bit of Samaritan and kindness in each of us. And our new visitor was completely quiet all the time he was talking. 

I thanked Rowland and began to say something - and she was off again! I glanced at my watch. It was 9 o'clock. I could draw the study to a close. I'd found a poem by Adrian Plass during my research and it seemed appropriate for the whole following Jesus theme so I said I'd read it even though I didn't think i had much chance of getting through it uninterrupted. But then I found on the same piece of paper another quote I'd discovered and read that first. I thought it was on this blog but now I can't find the original post on there!

The Adrian Plass poem is quite long and you can find it here. It's both entertaining and thought-provoking, and, amazingly there was quiet when I read it. But it turned out to be the first quote that was so surprisingly apt for the evening as I realised as the words came out.

Welcoming the stranger puts oneself and one’s community at risk. At best, the stranger is disruptive, bringing strange ideas and new, even wrong, ways of doing things. At worst, the stranger is dangerous, bringing disease, dishonor or violence. Welcoming the stranger is risky: everyone will be changed, host and guest alike…. And we cannot know ahead of time what the changes will be.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Difficult Things Jesus Said

Raspberry and white chocolate blondies for Zac's tonight. To calm people down after I've - or rather Jesus has - suggested we should love our neighbours. Really it was very kind of Sean to come up with a theme of 'Difficult Things Jesus Said,' just before he went away on holiday for a month.

30 Day Photo Challenge Day 3: clouds

A mixture today of light and dreamy and slightly more threatening - but they haven't come to anything yet.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Scones, penguins and procrastination

I was treated to rather lovely jam scones in work today by the equally lovely Elin Barham (except she wasn't crispy at the bottom). Which was just as well as I couldn't find the biscuit barrel.

Work goes quiet at this time of year so i began a major spring clean. It's what I do best: throwing things away. At least I could get into work today unlike last Monday when I was locked out and had to break in through the back door and set off the alarm.

With a party for 5-year-olds going on downstairs, it was a good job Elin was there to educate me on current pop singers. I am so out of touch, however, I am acquiring incredible technical skills. How's this for a penguin:


Ah, okay, so that didn't work. Maybe not such incredible technical skills after all ...

But I make a mean curry. Which brings me nicely back to where I started with food. That has a pleasing roundness about it.

I am rambling here in an attempt to procrastinate. An attempt? No, simply procrastination. Must do what I am trying to avoid which is send off novel 3 to an agent. 

Wish me luck; I could be gone some time.

P.S. How do you say scone? Long or short o? And which is the posh way? Elin and I disagreed.

30 Day Photo Challenge 2: what you wore

On 24th June, 1978
"A model gown of traditional design in white organza, trimmed with garlands of Swiss embroidered flowers, with full flowing train, a matching headdress and veil."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Up, 2 3 4, get 'em up 2 3 4

'Well, today I've spoken in prison, done the ironing and changed the beds; I think it's time for a Verdi's ice cream.'
'It'll be crowded,' says always-look-on-the-black-side Husband.
'No, it won't; it's raining.'

He was supposed to put up more of a fight than that. We're supposed to be on diets for goodness sake. I point this out to him as we head for the car.
'Okay, we won't go then,' he says.
'Oh, it's too late now. We're on our way.'

After enjoying a delicious honeycomb and apple crumble cone in the sunshine - they're only passing showers - I see Jo Hilborne. Exactly a year ago Jo decided she needed to take her weight and fitness in hand and has lost an amazing amount, is a weeny size 10 and runs everyday. 

Getting home I feel inspired to dig out my fitness dvd.
Before tea I put it on but not without objections from Husband. Not because he thinks I shouldn't do it but because 'You'll wear out the carpet!'
'Seriously? You think I'm going to do this so regularly and so fervently that I'll wear out the carpet?'

He takes himself off into the other room in a huff.

Soon it's me who's huffing and I'm only on the warm-up. I decide I won't worry too much about what my arms are supposed to be doing - I'm having enough trouble with my feet; I figure if I wave my arms around as if I know what I'm doing I can fool my head into believing I look cool. 

I manage to struggle through the slo'n'steady but it takes longer than I expect and dinner beckons so medium and fast will have to wait for another day. And I'm not sure if it's them or me but one of us can't keep in time ...

30 Day Photo Challenge - Day 1

Just browsing on Pinterest where I found this 30 day Photo Challenge:
I haven't done ABC wednesday or any other photo challenge for a while so I thought I'd have a go at this.

The first topic, self portrait, I took literally, hence this sketch of a terrified looking woman peering wide-eyed over her glasses, as she struggles to see herself in the mirror - no glasses needed - and quickly transfer that image to paper - glasses needed.  I seem to have ended up looking like a  badly-aged and slightly deranged children's television presenter.

I think from this little experiment we can safely conclude that I am not an artist. I also think my head should be a little bit squashed making my face wider and shorter. 

If you decide to try it too - the challenge not drawing yourself - although you may like to and would no doubt get better results - do tell me so I can cheer you on! And I won't feel so much like Lizzie No-Mates.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

'An opinionated bunch'

Because of the Springsteen gig I wasn't in Zac's last Tuesday. It was just unfortunate that the one week I know for sure I'm going to be away while Sean is on holiday happened to be the week that was a problem for the other 'elders' too. 

But a solution was found in the shape of Glenn Miles. Glenn, who works for Love146 in Cambodia, raising awareness of and fighting to end sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, was in Swansea and he wanted to see how Zac's works with a view to setting up something similar in Phnom Penh. I asked him if he'd lead the evening for us, talking about his work and finding out what the regulars think about Zac's to give him ideas for the future. Having been thus trapped he had little option but to agree ... 

But he asked, 'If a leader is there (Steve had agreed to come back from Bristol where he was based for the week so he could do the introductions and closing up) will they feel able to speak freely about what they think of Zac's?'
I laughed. 'Oh yes.' As if that would stop them.

Afterwards I asked a couple of people how it had gone and they said he'd been great and very interesting but that it had been a quiet night.

A few days later I saw Glenn again and I said I was sorry it had been so quiet for him. He raised his eyebrows and looked puzzled. 'There weren't that many people there but we had a good discussion and they asked me lots of questions.'
'Oh, good.'
'They're an opinionated bunch, aren't they?'

Thank goodness there weren't many there and they were quiet ...

My dangly thing is out of place

Am I the only person in the world whose dangly thing always ends up halfway around her neck?

Well-meaning people are always pointing it out and adjusting it for me. I've had more fiddling with my dangly thing that is usual in polite society I'm sure.

I never notice it happening on other people. So is it me? Is it something to do with the angle of my neck? Or the texture? Or am I a gravity-free zone? No, that can't be it, not judging by the way the rest of me droops irrevocably floorwards.

Another one of those mysteries that I'll have to ask God about when I meet him. Like why do teeth have nerves when I've got quite enough of my own without having to bother about theirs? And why do I need hair to grow on my chin? Will it stop me falling over and breaking something when the inevitable brittle bones/tendency to fall over syndrome sets in? Will it help me remember where I put my glasses or my keys, why I went upstairs, or what I wanted to google? And, by the by, why do scissors never stay where you put them?

I seem to have gone off the point. It's time for tea.

Hooray it's raining ...

I can start washing towels before the mountain threatens to topple over and cause a minor earthquake.

I've finally caught up with all the bedding washing resulting from a houseful of people but I've been putting off washing the towels until it rained. Now wait before you call me stupid.

Towels dried on the line aren't as soft as those tumble-dried but my environmental conscience - and the thought of the inevitable grumbling from Husband - meant I couldn't justifiably use the tumble-dryer when the sun was shining. So I've waited.

What do you mean that's not logical? It makes perfect sense to me.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An official statement from George

"It is with great delight that I can confirm that the new royal baby is named after none other than my humble self. Both parents are keen followers of my mother's blog and frequently comment - anonymously of course - approvingly on my 'antics' as my mother likes to call them, or adventures into the great unknown as I prefer to refer to them.

"Their decision to name their new son after me will possibly shock many but those who know and love me will not be in the least surprised. I have woofed my best wishes to them and anticipate regular updates on the progress of the baby I already consider my dog-son.

"Rumours that a knighthood is in the offing are slightly premature but I foresee a flurry of George-themed novelties hitting the shops - if they are not already there. But you may rest assured that I will only give my blessing to the most tacky of them.

"I have suggested to my mother that she should curtsey when addressing me in future but I am sad to report that her response was less positive than I would have hoped. However I have made it clear to her that a new purple velvet rug, as seen in the latest Dogs-R-Us catalogue, is an absolute must for the dog after whom the future king of Britain is named.

"I have to go and prepare myself as I am expecting the paparazzi any minute now and I can't let them see me with red wine on my head. Dear Friends, I want to assure you that any scandalous gossip you may read in the press about me in future days is untrue and spread by that poodle down the road who has always been jealous of my popularity.

"So, once again, I send my heartiest congratulations to William and Kate on their excellent decision to name their son after me. He could not have a better role  model and I will do my very best to live up to all the expectation, heavy though that burden lies on my dog shoulders.

"Your most humble and sometime obedient servant, George (I am dropping the Hinds as befits a dog of my fame and soon to be raised rank - but I say too much.)"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We're all having a summer holiday

I've had a quiet week blog wise as Daughter and family were staying joined at the weekend by Elder Son and family. Quiet blog wise, noisy, busy and wonderful otherwise!

Do you like the way I managed to dissect Elder Son's head in the photo above?

I'm just working my way through the washing of sheets and towels. It's amazing how many you can go through, not to mention toilet rolls and kitchen towel. Oh and food. I am all eaten out - or I should be, however my good intention to start the diet again today went to pot when I walked into the shop and smelled the warm French bread they were just bringing out of the oven. Ah well, there's always tomorrow. Or right now, I suppose, if I'm serious.

By the way, have I mentioned the printer and my problems printing booklets? Let's not. Let's just say I had to bring my work home with me and then it still involved a lot of muttering and eventually settling for 'as good as it's going to get'. 

I took the copy-ready booklet back to work today to photocopy and I couldn't get in. Not because of all the food I've eaten this week I hasten to add but because the lock wouldn't un. So I had to go in by the back door setting off the alarm and generally causing mayhem. A fitting end to the booklet saga.

Also by the way, I don't think I've mentioned that Daughter-in-law is pregnant again. We are naturally delighted and will await the arrival of GrandChild4 just after Christmas no less eagerly than the world awaited the royal baby. (Only ours will be far the most beautifullest.)

Oh, I've just heard that William and Kate have named their baby after our dog! What excellent taste. Speaking of George, he likes to get in on the action but sometimes the action - or in this case the wine, gets on him.

During the week, and as an excuse to get in out of the sun, I thought I'd make what Daughter and I had sampled at a restaurant recently: rhubarb cordial.

The rhubarb mush - a technical term - had to drip for a few hours.
The finished product, though not very well mixed in this picture, was yummy if a little sweet.

What a night!

Three and a half hours of awesome began full throttle with This Little Light of Mine and ended, after the E-Street Band had left the stage, with Bruce on his own singing Thunder Road.

It's the third time we've seen Springsteen and I think probably he just gets better and better. And he enjoys himself so much; you can't help smiling along.

The roof was on for the Millennium Stadium gig in Cardiff last night and it was hot and steamy in there but that didn't stop me - or thousands of others - from bopping along, clapping and singing ourselves hoarse.

We went to see U2 a few years ago on one of their much-vaunted tour gigs. It was okay but it was a show; with Springsteen you get the man, the band, the music; you get to rock!

The tickets specified no cameras so, like a good girl, I didn't take mine even though I knew most people would be using their camera-phones but I was glad because I could concentrate on watching instead of looking for chances to get photos. So we'll have to make do with a photo I've taken from the Wales Online site.
Thanks, Boss!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Not saying something stupid

I had the easiest time ever leading bible study at Zac's last night!

There was a good crowd but no-one drunk or too disruptive, lots of good discussion and nothing too off at a tangent. I didn't have to yell to make myself heard ... often and it was just really good. And, best of all, I didn't say something stupid!

There was a bit of a discussion about God or conscience telling you when you're doing something wrong and I thought, 'Or Jiminy Cricket,' but I didn't say it out loud! How impressive is that? (Well, actually I did but no-one heard me.)

It was Kinsley's 50th birthday but I forgot to take my camera so I don't have a photo of him with the cake but I do have a photo of the cake, plus the cake I was asked to make for Golly's mum's 70th birthday. He said, 'I want teeth on it because she's worked in a dentist all her life, and walking boots because she loves to hike.'

Son-in-law, who's a dental technician, was quite impressed with my teeth although he pointed out that I'd left out the incisors. I did try to make pointy ones but the point got squashed when I was sticking it in.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

National Nude Day

A fab day today starting with a Zac's canoeing trip. That is, it was meant to be a Zac's thing but in the end it was just me and Steve from Zac's (and Steve runs Breakout Adventure, and leads the canoe trips). Good job we dragged family along with us.
(Husband looks a bit odd because he's just run over to join the group after setting the camera on auto.)

But it was a glorious morning to paddle and drift around the salt marsh at Penclawdd. And we saw egrets, lapwings, herons and a red kite! Which was awesome.
Another bonus was that I shared a canoe with Husband and we hardly argued at all about who was paddling the wrong way.

As we arrived home the Red Arrows did a fly past, which was jolly kind of them. And then we sat in the sun, swam in the pool and I made some false teeth.

And then, and whisper this, in honour of National Nude Day we had a skinny dip in the pool. (Don't worry, our garden is very sheltered and our immediate neighbours are away on holiday.) I have to say, it's the sort of thing I could get used to ...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Those magnificent men in their flying machines

Which is what I suspect I called my post about the Wales Air Show last year.
 But anyway.

Now I know what I want to be when I grow up: a Red Arrows pilot! I can make the noises YEEAAWWW and steer so I'm sure I'd easily make the grade.

And Husband has spent a large part of today explaining to me how different sorts of aeroplanes work.
'You mean there are different sorts of aeroplanes?'
'Turbo and jet (and probably others he mentioned but I might have stopped listening).'
'So where do you think the engine is on the plane?'
'In that little pointy bit at the front, in front of the driver?'

Now I know that's not the case I shall be applying to the Red Arrows next time I see their recruiting stand.

The Battle of Britain Memorial fly past of the Lancaster (the big one), Hurricane and Spitfire wasn't quite as impressive but they did sound just like they do in the war films.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More precious than gold

You may have seen Bear stumbling around town. In his 50s he looks older as he weaves his way precariously from bench to bench. His clothes are stained and dirty; his body odour is ripe. 

He's sitting at a table in Zac's when I arrive. He struggles to get to his feet and signals that he'd like me to go outside with him. We stand just outside the doorway and he begins to tell his tale of money woes. My heart drops: I fear he's going to ask me for money. (An unwritten rule: we hand out clothes and food but not money.)

His benefit's been changed and his landlord is threatening to evict him because he hasn't been paying his rent. He looks sorrowful then he says, 'So I haven't got any money. I can't put anything in the kitty.'
I smile broadly and pat him on the shoulder. 'Don't worry about that. Yo don't have to.'
'But I feel bad not having anything to put in.'
'We're just pleased to have you here.'
'You know if I had it I'd put a tenner in.'

And I do know: he has done so. Some things are more valuable than money.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good grief!

Forty-two years after its release the film The Railway Children has been criticised for encouraging children to play on railway lines.

I am sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.

Who you think you're not

When we were walking today I said to Husband, 'Did you read my blog post?'
'What? The self-pitying one?'
'Oh, it wasn't meant to be self-pitying.'
'You've got to stop that.'
'What? Writing self-pitying posts?'
'No, thinking the thoughts. It's your lack of confidence. I blame your up-bringing.'
'Oh good, it's not my fault then.'

I don't mean to sound self-pitying but writing things out helps me to clear my brain. To a certain extent. I still get confused.

Husband said, 'Son lacks self-confidence, is bad at making big decisions and has a butterfly brain; he gets all those traits from you.'
'Oh. Doesn't he get any of my good ones? Assuming I have any good ones.'
'Oh yes, he's nice. You're nice and the people in Zac's like you because ...' He paused. 'You're ...' 
I waited with bated breath.
'Always making cock-ups.'
'Which is good; it means you're human.'

That's good. I think.

I saw that little logo thing on pinterest and it seemed apt.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A tour of Swansea parks

Or three of them at least.

Husband had never been to Cwmdonkin Park - though he's had much fun with the name over the years - so I decided it was time to remedy that situation. As I hadn't been there for many years, not since my children were very small, finding it was the first challenge.

Having successfully negotiated that we discovered a large sign at the entrance: Dogs must be on leads. We complied for a while but as there were several dogs running free and there were very few people in the park anyway, we eventually let him off. Just in time to investigate the Giant Pencil, or more correctly, Dylan's Pencil.
Dylan Thomas lived very close to the park, so close that "on summer evenings I could listen, in my bed, to the voices of other children playing ball", and some of his work, including The Hunchback in the Park is set in it. It's not a huge park but well kept and there's a short but pleasant woodland trail, on a path made up of cockleshells..  

We left Cwmdonkin to head for Brynmill, another new park for Husband. When I was a little girl I remember Brynmill Park for its animals. It housed a mini-zoo - very mini - probably mostly birds but I'm fairly sure I remember monkeys of some sort. Today the main attraction of this park is the large pond (or very small lake) that is carefully managed to encourage a wide range of life - except fish. They were all removed to allow the full development of other species of animal and plant life, including these lovely water lilies.
One small area of the park is given over to wild flowers. In an inspirational move Swansea Parks department has planted swathes of wild flowers along the roadside edge of the golf course, down the road from us. They're in full bloom at the moment and absolutely wonderful.


Across the road from Brynmill is the largest and most familiar to us of the parks we visited: Singleton. Thankfully in both Singleton and Brynmill dogs were allowed off leads.

It was still only late morning and the park was relatively empty so we felt - okay I felt - like the lady of the manor wandering her own private estate. (George always believes he's the lord of the manor.)

These standing stones - the Gorsedd Stone Circle - were first erected in 1925 and the circle enlarged in 1964. It is traditional for a stone circle to be built - if one does not already exist - when the National Eisteddfodd of Wales visits that place. The year before it happens the stone circle is the venue for the proclamation ceremony.

The long dark night of the soul ...

seems to begin for me at about 4.00 am so perhaps I should have called this post 'The quite short getting light morning of the soul'. But it doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

It's the second time it's happened after a tribal gathering at Zac's. The first time I woke and was tossing and turning gradually getting deeper and deeper into the dodgy 'what a waste of space I am/why can't I do anything right?' mire. On that occasion by 5.00 am I'd composed a post but when it came to writing it I realised how self-pitying it would sound so didn't. This time you're not so lucky. Stop reading now if you want to avoid a wallow.

Last night in Zac's was Sean's last for a few weeks as he's taking his family on an adventure through Europe. In his absence he told us that Steve, Martin and I were the 'elders' he was leaving in charge. Can you sense my head swelling already? On top of the baptisms on Sunday I was beginning to feel like 'someone'. The thing is that in Linden I am one of many. If anyone were to be asked for an opinion I wouldn't be the first to be consulted; I'd probably be about 54th. So responsibility at Zac's is something I am privileged and honoured to have. 

I am aware that people who are moderately stable, have been Christian for some time and are willing to be committed and take on responsibility in Zac's are few and far between, so really being included amongst them is more down to ticking some boxes than to choice in the matter. I tell myself if so-n-so was there then he/she'd be the one instead of me. But then I point out to myself that he/she isn't there so the fact that I am there in itself is valuable so I shouldn't knock myself. (If you're still reading are you following me? I get a little confused myself at this point.) So my mood swings from elation - and pride - to self-pity. 

Back to yesterday evening. We considered the verses where the disciples are arguing over who is greatest amongst them, quite appropriate considering my frame of mind. Then later on, when we're on the coffee and cake time, one of our sort-of regulars came up to me. He asked if I was okay as he felt I'd been a bit quiet with him.

I paused before answering: I could lie or I could tell him the truth. A simple choice. I opted for truth and said something along these lines: I was disappointed with the way you behaved the other week. (I don't know if you remember the incident but this is the man who had raised something that should have been a private matter in public when I'd been leading.)
He replied that he felt he'd been right.
I disagreed.
He said, 'Perhaps I'd better not come to Zac's any more then.' And left.

Well, you handled that well, Mrs 'I'm an Elder'. 

Pride and fall echo around my brain. Especially at 4.00 am.

Did I really say that?

After the baptisms on Sunday I was huddling into the bushes trying to get changed discreetly - not an easy task when you're on a promenade on a busy sunny Sunday afternoon - when someone who had to leave early came over to say goodbye.

He kissed me and I exclaimed, 'I don't have my knickers on!'

The look on his face suggested that was really too much information. But I might have got away with it - if I hadn't compounded it yesterday. 

Same person came to kiss me goodbye in Zac's and I said, 'I've got knickers on today.'

This time the horrified look on his face made me think he must have forgotten our previous 'conversation'. You'll be pleased to hear I resisted the temptation to run after him and remind him ...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Not a good sign!

The hotel we stayed in seemed to specialise in signs. I particularly like this one.

And Husband was so busy reading this one that he stepped backward and tripped over a step. 

I enjoy entertaining signs but do wish they'd invested a bit more money in employing a literate signwriter.

What a weekend!

And it all started with a big decision.

We spent the weekend in Surrey visiting Elder Son, Daughter-in-law and GrandSon1 and on Saturday morning I had the choice of going to the pub with Elder Son and Husband to watch the final Lions test or staying home and playing with GrandSon1. Now you know what a rugby fan I am but there was never going to be any other answer but 'let's play!'

And the two men in the family came home delighted with the victory so everyone was happy. 

Sunday morning we adjourned to the park down the road for some more fun. The park borders the Thames, which was busy with all sorts of craft including this very long barge.

We drove home in the afternoon - while apparently some Scot was winning Wimbledon - to find the temperature in the courtyard was quite high, which boded well for the baptisms we'd hurried back for.

Laura, Julie and Andy were baptised in the sea on the hottest day of the year so far. Cor, it could have been Ibiza!
I was privileged to be involved in the first two baptisms while Martin, whose association with Andy goes back a long way, helped Sean with Andy's.
Laura (and son)
It was a little bit worrying that the lifeboat turned up just as we were about to begin!
Before going in the water Sean shared a few words about the significance of baptism.

Afterwards Sean and Martin decided they might as well go in for a swim. I said, 'What? In that murky water?'
'Oh,' Sean said, 'and this from the woman who was just boasting about growing up swimming in Swansea Bay!'
So I felt obliged. And it was surprisingly pleasant - as long as you didn't look too closely at what was in the water. No, really, that's unfair. The water quality isn't too bad, certainly better than when I swam in it as a child, just before all the notices went up warning people not to eat cockles from the bay because of metal poisoning (from all the industry that flourished for a long time in Swansea Valley - and discharged its waste down the river Tawe into the bay). 

And afterwards we had a yummy barbecue with some serious burgers and sausages courtesy of visiting God Squadders, Dog and Jason. Thanks, guys.

Friday, July 05, 2013

My brush with death ...

I only popped out to the shop to get some milk. I couldn't have been gone more than 10 minutes and yet in that time I was almost victim of a suicide bomber/car-crasher and  I did fall victim to a loopy lady.

It will be easier if I draw you a picture:

I was driving up the hill when a car parked on the left pulled out. So far so good. Except the driver then veered straight towards me. I could see the whites of her eyes! See her eyes? I could see what she'd had for breakfast. At the last moment she took pity on me (see my face in drawing) and steered away, leaving me gulping for air.

Deep breaths later I arrive at shop where a packet of crisps is lying on the floor. I automatically pick them up and put them back on the shelf and the assistant thanks me saying everyone else walked straight past. You see: I'm a nice polite person. I don't deserve to be the victim of a suicide driver! (But who does?) Those crisps might have stayed on the floor for ever if I'd died.

Getting back in the car I prepared to drive off when an elderly lady peering at me signalled me to wait. Thinking she thought I was someone she knew - I wasn't - I stopped and opened my window. 
'I just wanted to warn you,' she said, laying her hand on my arm.
'Oh?' I smiled, thinking she was going to tell me about thieves and suicide drivers operating in the area.
'Do you use your mobile in the car?'
'That's good. If you do have to, make sure you pull over and switch the engine off.'
'Buses are a lifesaver, aren't they?'

As she was in imminent danger of being squashed by the one passing I wasn't sure whether to agree with her but as she didn't look like removing her hand from inside the car until she was ready, I just nodded and edged forward a bit.

I'm not leaving the office on a Friday morning again.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Mr Frog and Ms Cat

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours with a young friend in Verdi's this morning. Shortly after I got home I received a phone call from another friend asking me if fancied going to Verdi's this afternoon. It would have been rude to say no.

But something cropped up and my afternoon date had to call off which was doubly unfortunate as it meant not seeing said friend and removing my excuse for not cleaning.

Is it just me or do others have to select their clothing for cleaning knowing that it will end up bleach-spattered? Just me then.

So it was old shorts and even older t-shirt. And it wasn't until I was bent over the bath that I remembered why I stopped wearing these shorts: the builder's bum effect. Combined with my rather unlovely singing voice I created - well, you can imagine it for yourself.

But do look at these wonderful creatures.
Combined toothbrush holder and timer. I've bought them for the grandchildren but might have to get one for myself. 

And it's enabled me to prove to Husband what I've said ever since we had our new toothbrush: it doesn't clean for 2 minutes as it claims. It takes an extra 2 beeps to make it to 2 minutes. 

Speaking of Husband, he went to the doctor and chemist this afternoon. When he got back he said, 'I shouldn't be allowed to go to Sketty; I've bought peanuts.'
'Did you get me anything?' (I don't like the raw fruit and nut mix he buys.)
'No, you're on a diet.'
'So are you! And anyway, that's not the point. And, what's more, if someone buys you something it's only polite to eat it.'
As he well knows and only didn't to upset me - just because he had to go to the doctor because I thought I'd ordered a repeat prescription for him but it turns out I hadn't. As he found out when he arrived at the surgery to collect it.
'Why would you say you'd ordered it if you hadn't?'
'Well, obviously I thought I had. I mean I didn't deliberately tell you I've ordered it just so I could see you go there to find out I hadn't. that would be silly.'

Conversations in the car

'What does that little red light on the dashboard mean?'
'That the brakes don't work.'

'Oh look, that man's driving with his dog on his lap. Or perhaps the dog's driving. No, that's not very likely, is it? More likely that he's pretending to drive. Yes, that would be it.' (I don't need anyone else to have a conversation.)

'What's the word for ...? Oh I can't remember what it is that I wanted the word for. I think it was to do with the long dark night of the soul blog post I was composing in my head.'
'Oh I've remembered the word: it's literary device. Term not word. I think that's a term. But now I can't remember in what connection I wanted it.'

What I need is a thermos

If we're to be proper OAPs going on day trips we need a thermos. And quite possibly picnic chairs.

We took sandwiches yesterday as there are no cafes or food outlets on the island. You'd have been impressed: I actually cooked a chicken the day before so I could make chicken sandwiches. 

Normally part of the thrill of a day trip, for me, is the obligatory cake and cuppa at the tea-shop, but knowing that wasn't going to be possible I resolved that we would have a healthy lunch: chicken sandwiches on granary bread with apples and bottled water.

What they hadn't mentioned was that the little ticket office also sold chocolate and crisps. All good intentions went by the board, partly because of my shorts.

You see, unusually for me, I'd consulted the BBC weather forecast before dressing for our trip. it assured me that it was going to be full sun on Skomer for the afternoon. So i put on my shorts and t-shirts and alight cardigan. I took a think jumper mainly for the boat crossing but didn't anticipate needing it. 

By the time we arrived at the rather grandly-named embarkation point the sun that had been threatening to peep through was lost behind thick clouds. Everyone else buying tickets was dressed in walking boots, long trousers and warm waterproof anoraks and looked at us strangely especially the sombre German man I later on mistakenly accosted thinking it was Husband walking behind me. 

So feeling a bit chilly I decided that a Mars bar would warm me up. As would a packet of crisps. Hey ho.

And after all the walking around the island an ice cream on our return was only our just desserts.

Anyway, back to the thermos. I dislike tea kept in a thermos but I fear I shall have to overcome that prejudice, just as I have battled with my tea-bag in a cup abhorrence at Zac's. (I have my own tea-pot there but they always make a huge pot and never give it to anyone else but me so it seems such a waste that I've given up on it.)

I can see us now, Husband and me, sitting in our picnic chairs admiring the view, blanket over my knees, thermos at the ready. Only one step removed from those people who drive to Mumbles, sit in their cars on the sea front and stare at the view before driving home again having had 'a lovely run out.'

Just like OAPs

We went on a day trip! Having a week off from grandchildren-minding Husband came up with the unusual idea of a day trip - he's normally too busy in the garden to spare the time. we umm-ed and aah-ed about where to go and eventually settled for Skomer Island, off west Wales, a Wildlife Trust property and haven for sea-birds, especially at this time of year, puffins.

We caught the boat for the 10 minute journey here at Martin's Cove. See the queue on the path at the side.
On the journey across I was excited enough as puffins flew past. Imagine my thrill  on seeing these just up the steps from the landing place!
For some reason - I blame the publishers and the association with penguins - I didn't expect puffins to fly ... no, I don't have a photo of one in flight but take my word for it they do. (I know you'd never thought they didn't.)

Anyway the island  and one section in particular was swarming with puffins. It's not until one is standing with serious bird-watchers and photographers with lenses the length of Mumbles Pier that one becomes so acutely aware of one's tendency to squeak when excited.
But, honestly, who wouldn't be excited when you have a puffin within arm's length? Or bunnies hopping everywhere? Or a seal in the bay or a porpoise in the wake of the boat? And the birds and bunnies were quite unconcerned about all the human interest. The island is a mass of burrows for rabbits and sea-birds like the puffins who fly in with a mouth full of sand eels and zip into their burrow to feed their fledglings. 

Skomer Island is home to over 10,000 breeding puffins, the biggest colony in southern Britain. It also has the largest breeding population of Manx Shearwaters in the world - over 120,000 pairs. The Manx Shearwaters spend the day either in their burrows or at sea fishing so the only sign we saw of them was the huge number of remains scattered along the paths: victims of the predatory Great Black-backed gulls. (I'm not sure if my photo is of the Great Black or the Lesser Black.) In one section there were lots of rabbit remains too: they are vicious birds. Oh we did see a fledgeling in its burrow thanks to the live web-cam.

Large swathes of red campion cover the island in places.

This is a normal healthy puffin just lacking colouration. The warden said it was a bit of a star, coming out each day to be photographed.

A guillemot (above) and razor-bills (below).

The boat coming back to pick up passengers.

It's hard to believe, when on the secluded and peaceful - apart from bird squawking noises - island that just round the coast is the large oil refinery port of Milford Haven. There were several tankers anchored in the natural deep waterway to the north of the island.
It was a very tired but happy Lizzie at the end of the day, worn out with all the squeaking and skipping and galloping. More day trips, please.