Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not forgetting the game

'We don't need to buy our tickets before we go; we can get them in Rome.'

So said Husband. And we did but only after spending the best part of half a day wandering the lesser-known streets of Rome trying to find somewhere that sold them and ending up going to the Stadio Olympico itself for them. On the plus side our bus tickets gave us 10% discount so, in spite of the rain, the long bus journey and the fear that we wouldn't manage to get any, Husband was pleased because he got a bargain ...

Before the game began an Italian supporter came up to me and asked if we could swap hats. I said, 'No!'
'Okay, then,' he said, 'we make a deal. When Italy wins you give me your flower; if Wales wins I give you my hat.'

We shook on it. Husband said, 'That was a bit brave of you,' but I had confidence in my boys. Well placed confidence. It wasn't a brilliant game - the terrible rain prevented that - but we got the right result. So afterwards, as my new friend was showing sudden reluctance I marched up to him, prodded him in the shoulder and held out my hand. He sighed. 'Um, er, what do I say? Um, congratulations'
Then we swapped hats in the spirit of good rugby nations and posed for the cameras.
Incidentally if I was hoping that my daffodil hat and red jumper would make me stand out from the crowd - and possibly get on telly - I was badly misjudging the enthusiasm of Welsh supporters for showing their Welshness. From dragons to flags to kilts to leeks to onesies, they were all there in all their glamour.

Some things never change

'Let's go and visit the catacombs,' says I. 'The ancient underground burial site for Christians.'

You see, I knew what it was so why the fact that we had to go underground to see the tombs should surprise me is anybody's guess. I don't like heights and I don't like depths. We'd gone about 5 minutes with our guided tour group into this underground warren when the reality hit me and I whispered to Husband, 'I don't think I can do this.'

As I couldn't have found my way out on my own I didn't have a lot of choice but I was starting to get panicky - bit like when I went to the opticians' but that's another story - but Husband said, 'Yes, you can. Just concentrate on what he's saying.'

The guide must have thought I was a hugely interested and attentive listener as I focused all my thoughts on him and tried to ignore the sweating and slightly sick feeling.

Anyway it worked although if he'd said, 'Now we're going down to the third level,' I'd definitely have thrown a wobbly. A fascinating place, these particular catacombs are said to have contained the body of Peter, the apostle, before Christianity was legalised and his bones moved to what is now under St. Peter's Basilica.

And the things that never change? When the catacombs were excavated they found graffiti on the walls. Not your usual Sally loves Johnny type stuff, but prayers to Peter and, I think, Paul. Photos weren't allowed to be taken in the tombs so I've had to rely on postcards.
Back then there was nothing the typical Roman family liked more than a day out at the Colosseum to watch a  few men killing each other. It was a long day so the families would take picnics or barbecues as well as craft work, music or writing. 

But then as now, put a group of men together supposedly in the name of sport and they'll drink so, as Martial recorded, wine was rationed to avoid trouble on the terraces. 'Twas ever thus.

(The arena sat over 40,000. Below the 'main stage' you can see where the animals or prisoners were kept before being brought out to face the braying crowd. Below, an artist's impression of how it might have looked.)

It happened on the way to the Forum

Thought I might as well get the two old ruins joke out of the way. On Capitoline Hill where everyone who was anyone lived back in the day.
With a street name like that I just had to gallop.

The Bird Lady of Derwen Fawr. In front of a cafe in Piazza San Marco, Venice, where, allegedly, you'll pay more for a cup of coffee than anywhere else in the world.

Art and all that stuff

More willies than you could shake a fist at. In the Vatican Museum.

 Unusual tomb decoration here.

Is this where Dali got his inspiration from?

Don't Look Now

A homage.

(You have to be a certain age to get the reference here.)

Some of my favourite things

My favourite ice cream. In Rome, from La Dolce Vita in Via Cavour (conveniently just across the road from our hotel - although Husband kept repeating GrandDaughter's mantra: just one a day.)
 My favourite starter. Or one of them. Vegetable antipasti from Cafe Royal opposite the Colosseum in Rome.

My favourite thing in Rome. The ceiling of the 130 metre long Gallery of Maps in the Vatican museum. Although seeing the finger God man thing on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed) was pretty special too.
My favourite thing in Venice. The Grand Canal.

And crossing the lagoon to the isle of Burano.

The prettily coloured houses on the lace-making island of Burano.

My favourite main course. Tagliatelle with prawns, clams and courgette in La Porta D'Acqua in Venice.

I'm back! Ciao!

We had a wonderful time in Rome and Venice. We brought back about 520 photos lots of which are rubbish and will be deleted but it still leaves me with very many to choose from. But don't worry: I'm not going to inundate you with pics. I'll be very selective ...

Someone who gets over-excited by paper slippers in the hotel in Rome

is going to be hyperventilating when upgraded to a suite in Venice.

I was very tempted to buy this calendar of sexy Italian priests.
Or maybe some of the not sexy pasta (but look closely at it).

Why does 'ciao bella' sound more deliciously attractive than 'hello gorgeous'? Not that anyone said either to me, you understand. I'm just wondering. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

We should be on our way by now

The plan was that we travel to Surrey today, stay with Elder Son and family and then drive from there to Gatwick tomorrow morning  However, Elder Son has come down with the tummy bug that GrandSon1 suffered with last week. He said we could still stay but we decided not to take the risk.

So we're left with a sort of empty afternoon ... and fridge. So we'll have to pretend our holiday has really started and go out for a meal tonight too. 

It's a hard life but it's got to be done.

Happy birthday!

To GrandSon2 who's 1 today!
Incidentally Cadel was an ancient king of a Welsh region, son of Rhodri Mawr, and one of my ancestors. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm making a list ...

and checking it twice.

I have a young friend who is about to set off for 10 months travelling through India, Malaysia and China. He is packing 4 pairs of pants and 4 pairs of socks.

I am going to Italy for 8 days. If there should be an underwear emergency while I am there I will have enough knickers to supply the adult female population of Rome.With some to spare.

I like to be prepared.

So I have t-shirts in case it's hot or to wear layered below several jumpers if, as is more likely, it's cold. I have said jumpers plus cardis in case, plus a couple of respectable tops to wear to restaurants. I have a mac, woolly hat, gloves, scarf (2 - one woolly and 1 smart). I also have a red Wales hoodie and, of course, my daffodil hat.

And still I rummage through my wardrobe, finding tops I haven't worn for years and thinking, 'I wonder if I should take that, just in case.' Just in case of what is anybody's guess.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The smoke turned puce!

When I told them in Zac's that I would be in Rome next week they asked if I were going for a job interview.

Can you imagine the headlines?

"Shock! Horror! Smoke turns puce! Whole Roman Catholic world in uproar as cardinals elect the first married, female non-Catholic for Pope."

On the plus side I'd get to ride in the popemobile and I'd have a chance to mug up on my Latin. On the downside I'd probably have to get up early every morning to pray and I'd have to give up chocolate for Lent. I'd also have to listen to people droning on a lot about their problems and be expected to come up with a wise thought now and again. Then again I'd get to wear loose flowing robes so wouldn't have to worry about dieting.

But on the whole I think it's probably best if I turned down the offer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"I haven't had a period for three years but ...

I had one last month." 

Not the sort of comment you get from your 'congregation' during most bible studies. Especially as it had no relevance to anything whatsoever. Sometimes there's just nothing you can say. So it's a good job Kay is there. Kay can always find something to say, in this case, go and see the doctor. 

So that sorted we move on. 

It was that sort of evening really. Beginning with a rip-roaring rendition of Delilah and ending with me feeding mouldy bread to a guest. Inadvertently of course. (She didn't notice - and, in fact, asked for more.) And in between being asked, 'Haven't I seen you in prison?'

All that aside, it was a special night with a number of people opening up and being very honest about painful subjects. It's God turning up and hearts responding that make Zac's such a special place.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why my bra made me late

We always arrive for circuit training just in verging on almost late time. It's my fault. I know it is. I never leave enough time to get ready. Or more precisely I never allow enough time to put on my bra.

I have a proper expensive exercise bra that holds everything in place very well - when I've got it on. The problem comes in the on-putting. 

It has four hooks at the back. I do up hook 1, fine; I do up hook 2, still fine; I do up hook 3 - and hooks 1 and 2 come undone. I continue and do up hook 4 whereby hook 3 comes undone. I start again at hook 1 and hook 4 pops open.

I need to allow an extra 10 minutes when I put it on.

Pagan Christianity

I've just finished reading Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. It was first published in 2002 so I'm a little late coming to this; my excuse is that I don't often read Christian books. This one was loaned to me by Sean and is very relevant as we consider and experiment with different ways of meeting in Zac's that will strengthen, build and support the church that exists there.

The first thing I have to say about the book is that the authors should have employed a good editor: it is incredibly repetitive. I think the message could have been got across in a book half the size. And now that's out of the way I'll tell you a little more about the contents.

The authors look at the church as it was in the New Testament and how it is now and how things have come to be done the way they are. A lot of the points they make are obvious but the historical explanations are fascinating. It seems we owe a lot of what is commonly thought of as religious ritual - that must be followed, of course - to Constantine (the Roman emperor who made Christianity the religion of choice in the third/fourth century) and all sorts of leading Christian characters through the centuries. For example the first church building was constructed by Constantine; the church referred to the NT is always a group of people, never a building.

Pastors, liturgy, choirs, tithing, Sunday school, steeples and spires, communion, they all get checked over - and are found wanting. It doesn't take a lot of reading of the book of Acts to see how very different the church was then but the point the authors make - and get very worked up about - is that all the ritual that has been added on to church simply serves to take away from what should be an every-person participating, mutually edifying living organism.

Some bits of the book are less interesting than others; some are based on little evidence; all is fascinating. A lot of it is less relevant to me as I don't belong to an Anglican or Roman Catholic church but thinking about a typical Sunday meeting in Linden it's not that dissimilar to the order of service laid down by Calvin and before him Luther, who in turn based his on the old mass.

That church isn't as it should be is evident from all sorts of reports of decline and scandal. Pagan Christianity suggests a return to what church was meant to be. I pray that at Zac's we can journey down that road a little further. (But stopping just before martyrdom preferably.) 

That time of year again

Annual review time. With my review to begin at 12.30, at about quarter to twelve I thought I'd better check what it was I was supposed to have achieved during this last year.

It took me a while to find a copy of my last review and to realise that two out of the three targets remained uncompleted with one still ongoing. So it wasn't all bad. But ...

I fell at the first fence. Turned out the review I was consulting was the one for the previous year. (It's 2013 this year, Liz.)

Apart that little hiccup all went well. I'm reviewed and new targets are set including raising my profile (as church administrator that is). I suggested a large portrait of me next to our driftwood cross but Andrew and Chris seemed to think dressing me as an air stewardess would be more effective. Or more fun anyway.

When I told Husband about it all he, encouraging as ever, said, 'You don't take your job seriously enough. Your target should be to be a good administrator.'

Friday, February 08, 2013

One of those days

It just hasn't been my day today.

I went to the village and walked up and down the main street three times because I kept forgetting things. I went to two shops twice and then I came home and realised all the things I'd forgotten.

So I went to the shop again. 

To make the chocolate cheesecake Daughter had requested for her birthday tomorrow I needed 400g chocolate digestives. I was very pleased when I found them on special offer in the co-op: 500g for the price of 400g. Which would have been wonderful if by the time I arrived home and started baking I hadn't forgotten and then puzzled over why there seemed to be so much crushed biscuit mixture. I took some out of the tin (and ate it by the spoonful) and it still didn't register.

I shall be glad to go to bed tonight.

My little daffodil cheers me up though!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Cupcakes galore

So, I went along to the cupcake workshop in the library last night. 

Sara, the girl who was demonstrating, runs her own business, the Happy Cupcake Kitchen, in her spare time, and as well as providing cupcakes for people and events, runs classes too. She was very friendly and natural and a good teacher.

She showed us how to pipe a twirl and then how to pipe it so it looks like a rose.

Then she made another rose but this time using fondant icing. And then it was our turn. She provided each of us with a cupcake, the piping bag and icing and told us to be confident!
Step 1

Step 2
Step 3

Not bad for a first attempt during an hour-long workshop.

What it's like to be Sean Stillman

Last night at Zac's I had just a glimpse of what's like to be Sean.

A was bending my ear about B while B was doing the same about A; C was grumbling about D and E was droning on relentlessly on his favourite topic. And F was making sexist comments (jokes?). " I have a dishwasher at home; it's called the wife." Am I supposed to laugh at that? Although maybe Sean doesn't have to put up with that as he's a man.

Don't get me wrong: I love them all. (Pause for a moment's thought.) Most of the time. And I am passionate about this crazy chaotic church I'm part of. But I'm so glad I'm not Sean, having this every week.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Nutella, mmmmm

In honour of World Nutella day I've made some coconut and nutella cupcakes for Zac's tonight. Recipe courtesy of Dani, an Italian living in China.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Bread of heaven

The first game of this year's Six Nations rugby tournament, Wales versus Ireland,  was very depressing if you're Welsh.

After losing their last 5 games Wales went into it not exactly as favourites. My head told me they wouldn't win but my Welsh heart hung on faithfully in hope.

With Wales 20 points down at half-time and playing awfully I was seriously dreading the next half but they came out of the tunnel like men possessed, a different side, who were actually trying to play properly. It wasn't enough to win but at least it wasn't a totally shameful defeat. And they showed courage, patience and determination, which is enough to restore that hope.

Although as they're playing France in Paris next Saturday I won't get too hopeful. (Not until Saturday anyway when my Welshness will overcome my sense again.)

P.S. The boy in the BBC Wales trailer has his hair done at the same hairdresser that I go to!

A basket of hope

It was a glorious Spring morning, ideal for a walk to Pwll Du.
 Where I hand-picked about 30 big and 30 small stones to bring home. Husband, trying to be helpful, grabbed a big handful and dropped them in my bag. 'No, no, they can't be just any stones; they have to be just right.'

And here's my basket of hope for Zac's this afternoon, our very first Sunday meeting.

A Poem for Husband (assuming he dies before me)

When my time to die has come and I become a star
I hope someone will catch us both and keep us in a jar.

I composed that in my head in bed this morning. I recited it to Husband and asked if he were deeply moved. He said yes but I think he was lying.

And that's why I'm never going to be a poet. (I just thought: I should have kept this for my Valentine's day offering.)

Friday, February 01, 2013

Barbie loves Elvis

I saw this today in the stationer's.
Isn't it brill? I was so tempted to get it for Granddaughter - who was appalled to find a BOY in her ballet class today! - but decided she probably wouldn't appreciate it. I didn't ask how much it was but I've just seen them on the internet for £100!

They also had this one:

It's a strange sort of stationery and art shop with its glass-topped counter filled with bits of china and odds and ends. And Elvis dolls.