Sunday, March 31, 2013

R.I.P. Jams

I heard just before we went away last week that Jams (Shaun), another blogger, had died suddenly.

I've virtually known Jams for years: he was one of my earliest visitors and has stayed faithful, reading and commenting. I've got to know him and his cats well, and had glimpses of the lovingly-named not-wife. Shaun and Shirley have been together for over thirty years.

I pray that Shirley, as she comes to deal with the gaping hole that his death will leave, will find comfort in knowing that he was so well-liked and respected in the blogging world.

Just an ordinary Sunday

I'm not sure where I am at the moment. In fact I've been a bit zombified most of the day and it's largely down to getting up at 4.30 this morning. 

It should have been 5.30 and, indeed, that's what the clock said, but we lost an hour - although even if we hadn't I'd have been struggling with a 5.30 start.

Now, why, you're wondering, did she get up at that time anyway. I'll tell you: because my mouth speaks before my brain thinks. Which is how I came to be in Zac's at 6.00 am ready to prepare breakfast for those spiritual Christians who were meeting on the beach for a celebration Easter sunrise service.

About 60 people turned up for bacon rolls and, thanks to the generosity of the local Tesco Express manager, freshly baked croissants. He also gave us the bread for the butties so we're very grateful to him and for the support he's given Zac's in other ways since before Christmas.

Before the hungry mob arrived there were just 5 of us, the breakfast volunteers, in Zac's and the radio was playing an Easter music programme. As the song, Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia, came on it occurred to me that that was precisely why we, a disparate group of people, were there today or any Tuesday during the year.

Because he rose and makes a difference in our lives.


Sorry, I'm bringing back word verification as I'm fed up of anonymous spam commenters.

But apart from that, happy Easter! Hope you have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter: the big questions, Zac's style

Note - questioner is different each time.

(The first question was asked before the study started.)
Questioner: Who baptised John the Baptist?
Me: I've no idea.

Me: So we're thinking about Easter tonight.
Q: What's it called?
Me: Um, Easter.
Q: No, what's it called?
Me: Um.
Ric: Crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Me: oh yes, that's it.

Q: Why was it the snake? (We were talking about original sin, not completely off the wall.)
Me: I've no idea.
Kingsley: Cos he has a forked tongue?
Me: Yeah, why not?

Q: Where do Easter eggs come into it?
Me: Um ...
Ric: Paganism.
Me: Oh yeah, what he said.

Spot a theme emerging? When Sean reassured me, 'It's all right to say you don't know,' I don't think he anticipated my response to every question.

Still, a good night. In that I didn't have to yell, I didn't say the wrong thing (too often), the internet around which I'd planned a large section of the evening worked, and my unleavened bread tasted better than it looked.

Also because we had a good prayer time at the end with lots of people taking part. And we read the whole story from the last supper to the burial of Christ from Mark's gospel (The Message version) between us. Some people read well with dramatic flair, others stumble and trip through their bit; the important thing is not the performance, tempting though it was for me to give the readings only to people I knew would do well. It was about being community, God's people, family together, sharing a familiar story, the story that brought us together in fact.

And Easter eggs on our cake.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A plethora of palms

As a child I always loved getting a palm cross at Easter and I try to make sure I'm in prison on Palm Sunday as they're given out there too. I've gathered quite a little collection over the years but this year I thought I'd buy some for Zac's. I'm leading the study on Tuesday and we're going to be taking a look at Easter and I always - or usually - find visual aids helpful.

These particular ones were made by villagers in Masasi, one of the poorest areas of Southern Tanzania. From the website 

 Poor in everything except spirit and African dwarf palm plants, the entire population of Masasi village find a role in hand-weaving Easter palm crosses from single strands of natural palm leaf.

Sourced entirely from a village in one exceptionally poor area of Southern Tanzania,’s African palm crosses are woven in one piece by the men, women and children of the Masasi village. Harvested from locally grown and nurtured dwarf African palms, hand-woven crosses give the villagers a life-line income.

Weaving the strips of locally grown palm fronds into perfectly formed palm crosses, the villagers turned an ancient handicraft into a self-help opportunity to invest in the future health and education of their village. Through their distribution network ‘African Palms’, the proceeds from Masasi palm crosses are re-invested to meet basic needs and services that the developed world takes for granted. 

Proceeds from African Palm Crosses are invested in children’s eye clinics, improved seed stocks, HIV Awareness, water resources and environmental conservation. Through these programmes, funded in part by African palm crosses, the health and wellbeing of children & adults is a substantially improved. With the income and education from African palm crosses, villagers have the resources and knowledge to invest in their children’s future and in protecting their environment.

Feeling guilty

I haven't bought grapes for about 18 months, ever since I started going to slimming classes and found out how calories they contain. When I used to buy them it was three bags at a time and I could eat one bag in an evening without blinking. As I find it impossible to have grapes in the house without pigging out on them I don't buy grapes.

But yesterday I was wandering the fruit aisle in a well-known supermarket (I'm not going to say which; you'll see why) when I spotted some delicious-looking red seedless grapes. Now when I was going to buy them I used to taste one to make sure they were up to quality - I would excuse this act of theft by saying to myself that I would buy enough to justify a sample. 

Well, yesterday I was overcome by temptation ... and I stole a grape! And I wasn't even planning on buying any.

Oh the guilt. I am sorely tempted to go in and confess but I fear I might be laughed out of the shop. Or arrested.

Sometimes I worry about Husband

When I got back from prison today I said, 'I'll take George out for a walk now.' Husband is the middle of decorating so I thought it would give him a chance to get on with it.
'Okay,' he said, 'but I did take him out this morning.'
'You walked him as well as going to B&Q and fitting the skirting?' I didn't think I'd been gone that long.
He frowned. 'What day is it?'
'It was yesterday I took him out.'

Having said that ... as my lunch was going to be late I thought I'd take a chocolate bar with me in case I got all feek and weeble as I sometimes do if I am deprived of food for long periods (minutes).

With about 70% of the walk done I started to feel peckish and thought, 'Oh bother, I didn't get a choc bar from the pantry before I left.'

About 98% of the walk done I noticed a bit of blue sticking out of my pocket. I'd noticed it earlier but now I investigated it.

It was the chocolate bar I'd got from the pantry before leaving.

If they put Husband's and my brains together they'd be lucky to find 5 cells.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I pecan-ed too soon

When my chicken in cashews turned into chicken in pecans I realised what the problem was. Earlier in the day, when looking for Younger Son's degree certificate, I came across some of my old school reports.
See? Fifty years ago I was excellent or very good at things that mattered. Now I can't tell a pecan from a cashew. It's not my fault: I simply peaked too soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

chocolate biscuits and lions

Looking for agents to approach with either novel 2 or 3 I searched through my rejection letters to find the ones who'd said no but encouragingly. It seems most of them are now out of business. Does this mean:
a) their judgement was already impaired when they suggested my writing was good;
or b) if they'd taken me on they'd now be revelling in my success?

Hard to say but I suspect the former.

* * * * * * * * 
Husband spent a large part of the morning choosing his Lions 15. (For those non-rugby fans: in the summer the British Lions, a team made up of players from Wales, England  Scotland and Ireland, will tour Australia. Already there is much speculation about the make-up of the team. Everyone has their own thoughts on who should or shouldn't go.) Actually he chose 22 to allow for those on the bench.

So over dinner I said, 'Go on then, tell me.'
'Well,' he began, 'My choice for number 1 will be controversial. I'm going for Teddy Sherringham.'
'Uh, he's a footballer.'
'I said it would be controversial.'

(He meant Andrew Sheridan.)

* * * * * * * *
We had a dilemma this afternoon.

Sitting on the side in the study is an as-yet-ungiven wrapped Christmas present - a tin of Cadburys chocolate biscuits.

I said to Husband, 'The problem is they might have reached their best by date. It would be bad form to give them to someone only for them to be out-of-date. I'll have to get something else for the intended recipient. But what do we do with the tin of chocolate biscuits?'
Husband shrugged. 'I don't know.'
'We could eat them ourselves I suppose.'

I didn't need any more encouragement. The dilemma was resolved.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


As House is with vicodin so are we with House

For the last few years House has been our standby alternative when there's nothing on the television. It started as a West Wing replacement but is there now in its own right. As each series ended we'd wait anxiously, showing all the typical signs of withdrawal, until the new season's dvd was not only released in the UK but had been out long enough to become available second-hand on ebay (because Husband is meaner less desperate than I).

And now ... now we have only two episodes left! The final two episodes EVER! And I have to say I am not liking the way they seem to be going.

Do we spread it out over two nights? Or watch both together? Or never watch them?

When West Wing finished it was a natural progression. Once the focus shifted from the West Wing to the Presidential campaign it lost something; it was still good but not as it was so the end was, if not welcome, then acceptable. With House there isn't a natural stopping place. He can't stop being a brilliant diagnostic doctor; it's what he is. So will they kill him off? Send him back to jail? To the mental asylum? What will precipitate that? 

And what will I do without my fix of gorgeous grumpy man? 

Of all the things I've lost

As we were driving to the beach yesterday I mentioned to Husband that when I'd gone to slimming class the day before, a traffic jam caused by road works had led me to go a different way, and that I'd been completely disoriented and ended up going around the houses because I couldn't work out where I was. Husband said, 'I'm not surprised. You spend most of your time in a dream world only entering the real world now and again so when you do it discombobulates you.'

I'm not sure that's true but as I think Suburbia says on her blog, I live in my own little world but it's all right because they know me here.

Over the door to the kitchen in Zac's is a tiny plaque. You wouldn't notice it unless it were pointed out to you and it reads: Of all the things I've lost I miss my mind the most. We were discussing this in Zac's on Tuesday and I said, actually I miss my mind the least; what I miss the most is my pink jumper.

I last had it about 22 years ago in Derby. It was my favourite jumper, v-necked, soft and pale pink. And it disappeared. If I'd left in Derby then Mother-in-law would have sent it to me so I have no idea what happened to it.

Have you lost anything you really miss?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting to know you

This lunchtime I finished the first draft of novel 3 with 83,959 words, 89, 961 if you include THE END. Yay!

It's the novel I started in November (NaNoWriMo) writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Since then Christmas and holidays and life have got in the way but I maintained the challenge of not editing at all and just getting the story down and at last it's done.

Now for the editing, which will be a long process. I know there are things I need to add and corrections to make and probably stuff to cut out too, so it will be interesting. Main problem at the moment - though not immediately urgent - is coming up with a title. Husband suggested one while we were walking on the beach this afternoon. I wasn't convinced about it at first but now I've discovered that it was used by a popular author of romantic fiction only last summer I am certain it was the perfect title for my book!

We've been brainstorming over dinner and everything I like I find has already been used. Husband did have one other 'brilliant' idea though: that it should be called Getting to Know You and the front cover should feature two dogs sniffing each other's bottoms. I have ruled this out - although may consider it for the back cover.

This afternoon, to celebrate we took George to the beach. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

And the best team won

Woke this morning with the words thirty three going round my head. Having to fight the urge to say them aloud.

I don't want to gloat; it was just awesome, a masterclass. We needed to beat England by 7 and we beat them by 27.

I nicked this from Facebook where somebody had taken it from the television. The commentators after the game: spot the Welshman!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why I should have married a Welshman

Today Wales plays England in the penultimate game of this year's Six Nations rugby tournament. Every year it's a stressful game in our household what with Husband being English but this year, well, there is just too much riding on it.

England have won their first four games meaning a win today would not only give them the championship but a Grand Slam as well. Unless Wales wins.

After taking the Grand Slam in 2012 Wales had a really bad run, losing form and games, but after losing to Ireland in the first game this year we've regrouped and won three away games. Meaning if we win by 7 points or more then we not only prevent England taking the Grand Slam, we win the championship.

Okay, let's face facts. England has a strong young team; Wales has experience. I think we can win; I'm not sure about the margin. But taking the championship is less important than winning the game and beating England - or any other team. But especially England.

So today I will be practising deep breathing and being magnanimous in victory - or defeat.

P.S. I never went out with a Welshman.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beyond me

From a Facebook advert:
1 lucky lady will win a handbag worth £950 courtesy of Mulberry.

Tell me please, how can a handbag be worth £950? Even with my purse, mobile phone, camera and Zovirax in it mine is worth less than half that. (Even though a titchy tube of Zovirax costs a fortune.)

On a slightly different note, I am hardly disturbed at all by my novel rejection. Is this a good or bad thing? Does it mean I don't have belief in my writing or have I, sensibly, just given up hope?

The latter I suspect.

Retrospective study

Intermittently today, when not on my knees trying to relight the boiler, I've been thinking about last Tuesday's bible study. Mostly I've been thinking about what I said and what I should and shouldn't have said.

I missed Steve Porter's presence. He is good at digging me out of my messes.

I am good with my grandchildren. I should stay at their level and not try to do grown-up things like lead bible studies or work. 

Let me tell you about my day

I opened my eyes and yawned. I peered over at the digital clock. It was blank. Husband was showing signs of moving so I nudged him and said, 'What's the time?'
He squinted at his watch. 'Quarter to nine.'
My eyes flew open. 'Quarter to nine?!'
'I might be wrong.' He went to put the light on. 'Oh, no power. There must be a power cut.'
'I don't care about that! What time is it?'
He got out of bed and moved into the daylight. 'Yes, it's quarter to nine.'

I'm supposed to be in work at 9 - to 9.30ish. I leapt out of bed and ran into the bathroom, switched on the shower. 'Oh flip, no hot water, boiler not working.'
I raced around like a demented rabbit. 'I know: I'll go and boil some water so I can at least wash my face.'
I started to run downstairs before remembering the kettle's electric too. I stopped, breathed, had another idea, 'I'll boil a saucepan of water.'
But by now I was in such a state I couldn't remember whether the hob was electric. I knew either the hob or oven was gas but couldn't remember which.

It was time to surrender. I had breakfast instead. And, as the hob was gas, put some water on to boil. Going upstairs to clean my teeth while it heated I thought, 'Oh no, my toothbrush is electric too. No, wait, it's battery.' I hadn't had my first-thing cup of tea remember.

About 10 minutes later everything came back and I was able to shower but when I was putting on my make-up the phone rang. My heart sank. A call at that time on a Friday morning probably meant there was a problem in Linden. There was. No heating. I groaned. Husband reminded me of my resolution to be a good administrator and look for the best in all things. My lip curled and twitched.

The boiler is playing up again. And again and again. It went out 5 times during the day and that was just when I bothered to relight it. We have Swansea Quilters in there all day tomorrow and they are a fiercesome band of ladies who don't take kindly to being cold. I have spent much of my day trying to contact the gasman while sourcing electric heaters we can borrow in case.

Coming home I settled down to read the emails that had accumulated in my two days away. They included another novel rejection.

I have only been home 40 minutes and have already eaten 2 Weightwatchers chocolate bars. (And if I'd had any Cadburys it would have been that too.)

Banana in pyjamas

They were having a special morning in pre-school. The children were to go dressed in pyjamas, they'd have breakfast together and then the tooth lady would come and tell them all about tooth care. Parents and carers, similarly dressed, were invited to join them.

Daughter had a lot of work to do - which is why we were down in Devon - so she asked if I'd go with GrandDaughter. 'Only she might feel left out if all the other children have grown-ups with them.'

Guess what? Yes, you're right: I was the only adult visitor in pyjamas. 

There was a certain inevitability about that I think.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Submit to your leader ...

unless her name is Liz.

Not my best attempt at leading bible study last night in Zac's. We were looking at the passage in 1 Peter about submitting to rulers. There were good points to be made but I didn't put them over very well. As a result:
a) I sort of suggested that the Holocaust was God's idea;
and b) Kay isn't speaking to me (not because of a).

I did get a clap though - when I yelled, 'SHUT UP!!!!'

It was ironic that a passage about submitting to rulers/leaders made me realise again my failings in that area. But at least preparing for the study - I can't say 'taught' because that implies I have finally learned a lesson - reminded me of the ideal that is required of Christians: to be like Jesus and demonstrate God through our actions.

It's flipping hard though! Especially when God (disciplines) subtly teaches us lessons.

P.S. Lying in bed this morning I composed a much more articulate and lengthy post covering all sorts of related themes - but this is all I can manage right now.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

They don't make mixers like they used to

My hand mixer died on Tuesday so, in Sainsburys today, I bought myself a new one. When Husband saw it he said, 'Why did you buy a new one? I could have mended the old one.'
'It's 34 years old, dear. So I thought I'd go mad and spend £15.'

I'm delighted to have a husband who can mend things; but sometimes it's just not worth it.

Friday, March 08, 2013

A salmonella escape

I was sitting chatting to people in Zac's on Tuesday when one of our newish regulars came in and stood in front of me. 'You're not the only one who can cook,' he announced, before producing, from a carrier bag, 2 pies. Well, one and a half actually.
'Corned beef pie,' he said proudly. 'My mother taught me how to make pastry.'
'Oh, lovely,' says I. 'I love corned beef pie.'

At this, Kay, who was sitting near me, hissed between her teeth, 'Don't eat that!' 

Now I probably would have eaten some without thinking; Kay is a little more streetwise. Looking at it and the chef, I could see her point: his personal hygiene was possibly not up to what we might consider a reasonable standard.
'I'll take them in the kitchen and ...' I left the end of the sentence dangling.

After the study we had birthdays to celebrate with cakes and biscuits so I put the pie in the oven 'to warm up' in the meantime.

When there was no excuse left I brought the pie out and offered it around (quietly mentioning who'd made it and leaving it to individuals to make their own choice). Strangely enough not one piece was eaten.

Which made me feel bad so ... I broke off a small corner of pastry so I could at least say I'd tasted it.

And then I discovered he'd left anyway!

But I survived to tell the tale with no ill effects. This time. I must think in future.

Monday, March 04, 2013

My Lenten resolve

Yes, I know it's late but I've been away.

And I'm not giving up anything but setting myself the aim of:
a) losing 4 lbs;
b) finishing the first draft of novel 3;
by Easter. That is, in four weeks.

I'm struggling with both at the moment. I feel very tired and very hungry. If I had chocolate I would eat it now. And I am sitting here at my computer blogging about my intentions instead of getting on with the novel. I am procrastinating. 

I haven't looked at my manuscript for a few weeks and I know - I hope - once I get back to it I'll soon get in the spirit again, but right now all I want to do is go to sleep. And eat chocolate.

Whenever I think about my novel I say to myself, 'I wish I could be writing now as I have lots of ideas,' but as soon as I have the opportunity ... well, here I am blogging.

So I'll stop. Now. In a minute ...

P.S. 1,423 words done. Not bad. That takes me up to 75,724. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Toilet paranoia

Whenever I visit a new toilet I worry about how the door locks. I turn knobs and am not convinced that it's locked - but what if it is and it's like a dead lock so if I try to open it to check it will open anyway? And then, perhaps even worse, what if once in the toilet cubicle I can't get out again?

So I put my bag on the floor near enough to the gap under the door so it can be seen - just - but not so near that it can be stolen! But am I putting on a spot of dried-up wee?

Things weren't helped when we were in the Vatican Museum and I needed the toilet. I joined the queue and waited  Meanwhile the attendant was doing her cleaning rounds. Each time someone came out of a cubicle she rushed in, checked it and mopped the floor.

So one young woman came out and the attendant went in only to emerge a second later. 'Scusi, signorina.'
The young woman turned round and the attendant made it obvious that she hadn't flushed the toilet. The guilty one scurried back in, flushed and rushed out again.

We could give her the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe she had flushed but that not everything had been washed away. On the other hand she didn't wash her hands so I'm disinclined to that viewpoint. 

Anyhow, when one became free, I went into the cubicle with a certain trepidation. I think I would have stayed in there all day if necessary ...

Is it just me?

Friday, March 01, 2013

What did the church ever do for me?

I might have issues with organised religion - especially since reading Pagan Christianity - but that didn't stop me wandering around Rome and Venice with a permanently awestruck look on my face. You can't fail to wonder at the skill of the builders and the art of the craftsmen who created such fabulous monuments that have survived for centuries.

Whatever you may think about Christianity, religion or more specifically Roman Catholicism, the powers behind it did a great service to culture when they commissioned the greatest artists and architects of the times. Even if it was often more about power and 'I'm having a bigger one built than you did because I'm greater than you are,' than about glory to God.

St. Peter's Basilica

In the Vatican Museum

St. Mark's

It's just plain rude!

I was talking to an acquaintance today about the rudeness of people, in particular those who talk while others are speaking, particularly in classes we attend where participants insist on jabbering away while the instructor is trying to tell us what to do. As my friend said, 'It's just rude.'

But how often do we speak up about rudeness?

I recounted to her a recent experience of mine. I was queuing at a stall at the local farmers' market in that uncertain haphazard way of informal queues. The market is, on the whole, attended by young upwardly mobile couples, with or without children. They're the only ones who can afford the real price of good food. Anyway, I digress.

An older woman made her way to the front and stood next to another woman of a similar age. I huffed a bit but gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she was with the other woman. She wasn't.

And as soon as that woman had finished, our pusher-inner began to place her order. To make it worse she dithered and asked lots of questions, and even began comparing her oven to that of the producer. And all the time I was standing there quietly fuming. Mostly at myself it has to be said.

Why on earth didn't I say something? As soon as it became obvious that she was, in fact, pushing in, why didn't I say politely, 'Excuse me but there is a queue.'

I'm a grown woman for goodness' sake! I'm 60! What stopped me? 

I resolved that it will not happen again. Next time I will speak up. 

Maybe ...