Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on my 2014

The year began brilliantly with the birth of GrandSon3 in Surrey, a second son for Elder Son and Daughter-in-law. Soon after this Younger Son and Nuora set off on the adventure of their lives when they left home to travel to the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia to set up Blue Temple Conservation, a volunteer and research project aimed at investigating and raising awareness of the potential damage done by tourists and in particular scuba divers to the marine environment (amongst other things). We are incredibly proud of them for their courage and enthusiasm but we do miss them very much.

Then we went through a long lull, including a holiday in Fuerteventura followed by a lovely seemingly never-ending summer at home, enjoying the peace before the ... return of both Younger Son and Daughter to the family nest. YS and Nuora were with us for about six weeks before flying off to Italy for Christmas before they return to their island paradise for the second year of the project. Daughter, who had delightedly announced that she was pregnant again, and family moved back in with us when Son-in-law changed jobs and returned to Swansea's Morriston Hospital to work. As they haven't been able to sell their house but had found a tenant, they stayed with us for a couple of weeks before moving into a rented house.

And then it was Christmas.

I was officially due to retire in July 2015 but, this year, when I told the trustees of Linden that I was taking some time out from church they suggested to me, in that case, they didn't think it would 'be feasible' for me to continue to work for the church; they suggested I go away and think about it. I did the gracious thing and opted to take early retirement. I think I was the only one surprised by the reaction of the trustees; the more cynical of my acquaintances asked me what I'd expected.

So, I admit, it was with some slight - pain is too strong a word - maybe hurt is better - that I left in the summer. But I have to say that it was the best thing and I am so happy now not to be working. I don't think I'd realised how much resentment about all sorts of stuff had built up within me. How much of that affected my original decision to take time out from church I'm not sure but I am at peace with both decisions.
Gathering for my farewell ice cream at Verdi's
Three rejections for both novels 2 and 3 this year: it has seemed like more than that! Must get back to submitting again. On the positive side, just before the beginning of November, I finally finished novel 4, which I began during the 2013 NaNoWriMo. As I've said before, this is definitely THE ONE that will make my fame and fortune! So I'd better get on with editing and perfecting the first three chapters so I can begin the submission ritual.

I have continued to blog though less frequently and Facebook and tweet. I must start to take the self promotion more seriously if I am to network and do the sorts of things people tell me I must if I am to succeed.

I decided to take time out from Linden to concentrate on Zac's and I don't regret that decision for a moment. However when people ask me how it's going I have to shrug and say, 'Okay you know.' In truth I - and my hopes and dreams - don't seemed to have moved on but that has partly been through circumstances.

By its very nature it is almost impossible for a year to go by at Zac's without tragedy. During the year I attended three funerals and there were other deaths from the Thursday night coffee bar too. Of the funerals  I attended two were suicides, young men who couldn't take any more. 

But there was good news too. In the summer we had a double baptism in the sea and, as I wrote at the time, though none of the bikers were in attendance there were still enough of the Zac's family to substantiate the claim we make to be church. We have a small band of regulars, very different in many ways, yet each individual being accepted and loved as he or she is. It would be good to see the group grow, for some of the occasionals to become regulars, but what is important is that Zac's is a living breathing community that is changing and developing healthily.

Through Zac's I agreed to help support a single mum with a year-old son. That support became more of a commitment when she fell pregnant again, and even more so when Baby was suspected of being Downs (he is) and having a heart condition (it seems to be all right). I've seen enough of the inside of hospitals this year to keep me going for a while, thank you very much. But as of now, Mum, Big Brother and Baby are all doing well. She is coping admirably and just gets on with life, putting her children first in all things. 

So in 2015 I hope to be able to really get going on plans to begin a day-time bible study for vulnerable women as well as reaching out into the massage parlours that are on Zac's doorstep.
All in all, 2014 was a pretty good year and my prayer for us all is that 2015 will be a time of wonderful blessing, good health - and fun!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

So before Christmas we had Christmas

On Sunday we had a roast rib of beef for our pre-Christmas Christmas dinner with Younger Son and Nuora before they left for Italy. From there they'll be going straight back to the Perhentian Islands so the next time we'll see them is when we visit, probably in September. And Husband wore his Christmas t-shirt (to avoid having to wear it on Christmas day).

I have to say that dinner was perfectly cooked - unlike my Christmas day disaster with the sprouts. I put them in to steam with the pudding but they were not only hard but also bitter and vile. Even Husband - who is the only person who actually likes sprouts - said so.

Christmas goodies

GrandSon1's influence can be seen in the decoration on the very last-minute cake. Cake made on Monday, iced on Wednesday. GrandSon1 pointed out that Peter Rabbit should have white inside his ears and he told me how I could do it and so we did. He also pointed out that I had only given him 2 buttons on his coat when there should be three.

The old familiar Christmas Day starter of fish parcel with beetroot and rocket salad.

But a different choice of dessert. Lemon posset and shortbread as an alternative to pudding or cake or chocolate brownie.

We made it!

'I think I'm going to have a heart attack.'
'I'm feeling faint,' Husband replied.
'Heart attack trumps fainting.'
'Not if you have a heart attack when I faint.'

True. Good job I didn't and nor did he. It was my first walk/exercise for at least a month, what with the lurgies, busyness and life of pre-Christmas, and it showed in the panting as I climbed the hill. But we made it to the top and home again - and before a hail shower - so we're back on track. Now all we have to do is eat all the leftover food and chocolates ...

It was a lovely Christmas season with two Christmas dinners - one before Younger Son and Nuora left for Italy and one on the day itself - plus loads of other yummy food including Elder Son's now traditional Christmas Eve festive lasagne.
And it was just wonderful to be together in various patterns although with everyone gone now the house does seem a bit empty and I'm wandering around like a little lost sheep. A Boxing day jigsaw was a great antidote though as was today's walk and later on the traditional local rugby derby between Ospreys and Scarlets. We'll be watching it on television because the only tickets left when I checked were corner ones, and they were just too expensive.

And I mustn't forget to mention my Christmas present from Husband who kept asking me what I wanted and when I didn't give him an answer came up with this:

A sonic screwdriver! The proper David Tennant one of course. (Universal remote control that takes a day to set up but then can be gesture or voice operated. Oh this is going to be fun!)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Not that I hold a grudge, you understand

Magazines and nowadays television programmes too are always telling us that nothing beats a home-made gift but I'm not convinced. Let's face it, on the creativity scoreboard I fall near the bottom bottom. Except for cooking. I'm a good cook and my brownies are, though I say it myself, world class.

I also used to make a pretty good shortbread biscuit too but I haven't made them for years. (Heinke from Linden makes THE best actual shortbread in the world.) As a young married I believed in all this home-made is best stuff plus I wanted to prove to my in-laws that I was looking after their son well so, for our Christmas visit, I made a batch of shortbread cookies and took them with us as an offering. (With 'proper' Christmas presents as well.)

On Christmas day when tea was laid out for all the family there on the table was a plate of shortbread biscuits - of the shop-bought variety. Of my home-made version there was no sign. In fact they didn't appear until we were about to leave when Mother-in-law gave them to me saying, 'You might as well take these home with you.'

I didn't bother again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Better than frankincense any day

So happy to be feeling better today that I sang and danced my way around Sainsburys. Strangely enough the other shoppers didn't share my joy. Until I inadvertently made one laugh when she spotted the look of horror on my face on being told the total cost of my shopping. 

And now I've cleaned the lounge and moved the furniture ready for the tree - and now I'm beginning to fade fast. Time for a little lie down I think. Don't want to overdo it.

* * * * * * * 
Yesterday in true Blue Peter style I fashioned two ... um, not sure what you'd call them ... sort of packaging out of two perfectly good boxes. Good but not big enough for my purposes boxes that is. I proudly handed them over to the Post Office assistant and she said I wouldn't get a Blue Peter badge as they didn't meet the criteria i.e. they were too big to be small packages. But that was her criterion and it could be said that I wasn't trying to meet it although I would have tried if I'd bothered to find out. Or even thought about it.
You may compliment me on my creativity of you wish.

* * * * * * * * * 
The old bible college next door to us has been taken over by a church from Singapore to use as a missionary college I think. They're in the process of doing it up and in the meantime they have a growing congregation. Yesterday two of that congregation knocked on our door and presented us with a Christmas gift.
Better than frankincense any day.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lying in bed fantasising

On the rare occasions - they are rare in spite of the fact that I always seem to be grumbling - that I have to take to my bed I can tell when I'm beginning to feel better because I start to fantasise. 

About fried breakfasts. In particular fried egg and proper fried bread.

When I was a little girl I would go to church on a Sunday morning with my mum. We attended the 8 o'clock service and would be home in time for Alistair Cook's Letter from America followed by the Archers omnibus on the home service. And my gran would do us all a fried breakfast.

I don't remember what else we had but my favourite thing was the bread, warm, crisp and oozing with bacon fat. Mmm, I'm salivating as I remember. 

But then as I grew up, got married, and had my own children, every day the media found new evidence to persuade us that we'd live longer if we changed our diet to exclude, well, most tasty things but especially animal fat. So fried bread became a thing of the past.

Strangely enough, my gran, grandfather, and both great-grans lived into their 80/90s in spite of their diets. In fact one great-gran reputedly responded to a neighbour commenting on the size of her grocery bill by saying, 'I'd rather pay the grocer than the doctor.'

A little of what you fancy and not too much of anything. Except maybe Maltesers.

Stop dancing, Granny

I have two new Christmas cds this years: Michael Buble and the Puppini Sisters (a bit like the Andrews Sisters according to the blurb - I wouldn't know being far too young to remember them).

We were listening to Mr Buble while GrandDaughter was having lunch yesterday and, naturally, I began to dance around the kitchen. GrandDaughter did not approve and told me in no uncertain terms to stop. I laughed and carried on and she said, 'I'm serious. This isn't funny,' which of course made me laugh and dance even more. But she really really meant it.

I didn't think my dancing was that bad ...

Remember I said ...

better busy than ill? Let's rewrite that to say just busy and ill.

A routine examination for Baby on Monday turned into emergency admission when he went blue. You can tell things are serious when there are a lot of staff working quietly and efficiently and smiling sympathetically and asking solicitously, 'Would you like to sit down?'

Baby's still in hospital and on oxygen but improving. I thank God he was in the right place when it happened.

The sore throat I had has gone ... but is now reappearing as a chesty cough. Not really advisable for me to breathe over sick babies right now.

* * * * * * * * 
Some time has elapsed since I began this post mainly because I've been bed-ridden and proper poorly. And now, just as I'm starting to feel better although still coughing, Daughter, GrandSon2 and Husband are all ill again. 

Husband went to the doctor this morning as it's going onto his chest. The doctor said, 'This is going to spoil a lot of people's Christmasses' and I know Husband can be grumpy but that's still not a nice way to talk about him. 

So we're all trying to avoid each other, which when you live in the same house is a trifle awkward. Although Daughter and co will be moving out soon. Younger Son and Son-in-law have spent the weekend traipsing between Devon and Swansea, packing and unloading a furniture van so they'll soon be off to their rented house - just in time for Elder Son and family to arrive for Christmas. 

Baby meanwhile was released from hospital on Thursday evening. I haven't seen them since - for reasons already explained - but I've not heard of any emergencies so I'm guessing he's much improved.

With a bit of luck Younger Son, Nuora and I will collect a tree tomorrow and it may start to feel a bit like Christmas.

We WILL all be better for Christmas; I am determined. I have bought several bottles of anti-bacterial spray and and aerosol and am busy zapping anything that is still long enough.

But right now I need a little lie down ...

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The plague cloud passes over

We are finally emerging from underneath the plague cloud that has been hovering over our house for the last week or so. It all began when Daughter and her family moved in with us last Sunday ...

First it was GrandSon2 with an ear infection then Daughter with tonsillitis and then me with tonsillitis too. Oh yes and Husband had a poorly stomach on his birthday (Monday) and even George joined in being very unpleasantly sick.

You know how it is sometimes: you can go for ages without seeing a doctor then you find yourself a daily visitor to waiting-rooms. 

The good news is that George and GrandSon2 are better and I am almost. Daughter is still suffering but mostly with back-ache, a side effect of pregnancy I think. Husband was better but has had a recurrence of stomach problems today - so much so that he did wonder if it were a repeat of last year's trouble i.e. an intestinal blockage, but now thinks it's probably not.

What else apart from sickness has been happening in our household? As I say, Daughter and family have moved in but are probably moving out again next weekend as they're renting a house (as their house in Devon didn't sell in time they're renting that out to give them time to look around). As we also have Younger Son and Nuora with us for another couple of weeks that means there are six adults, two children, two dogs, one cat and two fish currently in residence. Such fun!

On the plus side it's a good excuse to go and have Verdi's ice cream plus Daughter is a big Christmasaphile so I get to watch Christmas movies with her. Last night we enjoyed (well, she and I did) Christmas with the Cranks - and she has a whole box of dvds!

I'm sure there's more but the week has been a bit of a blur and this week with a variety of hospital and other appointments (not for me but the baby I've been helping to support) it doesn't look as if it's going to clear any time soon. But better busy than ill any day!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The toilet seat's in the sink

On Friday evening at about 10.10 the phone rang. I am old enough to dread late night (late for me) phone calls so I answered it tentatively. It was Elder Son.
'Oh hello.'
'My train gets in at 11.20.'
'... what?'
'Did you get my message?'
'Oh right, well, the train gets in at 11.20.'
'... tomorrow morning? Or tomorrow evening?'

Elder Son had asked earlier in the week if there'd be a bed for him if he came down (he was going to the rugby in Cardiff on Saturday with friends) and I'd replied yes but hadn't heard from him so assumed he was staying in Cardiff. I really should learn not to make assumptions where my children are concerned. 

Husband had already gone to bed while I'd stayed up late (10.00 pm) to watch Not Going Out so I tiptoed upstairs to tell him. 
'Does he want us to pick him up?'
'I said I would.'
'Do you want me to?'
'No, it's all right; I'll do it.'
'Are you sure?'
'Yes,' I shrugged nobly. So he turned over and went to sleep. And I went back downstairs muttering to myself, 'He was supposed to insist.'

Not the best game of rugby (Wales v South Africa) but finally the right result. And Husband volunteered to pick him up when Elder Son rang later in the evening to say he was on the train back to Swansea. (after being put right by me, 'You should have insisted,' and by Younger Son's shock, 'You didn't let Mum go to the station on her own at that time of night, did you?')

This morning it was back to the station again for Husband and Elder Son and then home to continue to prepare for the arrival of Daughter and family and the start of their live-in. Husband's main job was to repair the sparkly downstairs toilet seat. This involved taking it apart and scrubbing it - in my washing-up bowl.

Elder Son remarked that daughter-in-law would have had a fit if he'd done that at home. I shrugged again. I have become immune both to Husband's actions and germs.

But I will buy a new washing-up bowl. Today.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The trouble with lies

I grew up believing my parents were married but separated and that my father worked in India. At some point, quite late on, my early teens I think, my mother told me in a roundabout way that, in fact, she had never been married. I was a naive child and had never thought to question the things I was told, a situation that I suspect today's children would find hard to believe.

Discovering that lie, which had been the basis of my life up till then, threw everything into doubt. The Indian doll allegedly from my father, the £5 note my mother said my father had sent for me when I passed my 11+, how could I see them as anything but fabrication put into place to help maintain the story?

But now I wonder.

Husband's family history research has shown that my father did indeed spend time in India so it is possible he brought home a doll for me. And he might have sent me a reward for my first academic success: he was a barrister after all; maybe he thought I had inherited his brains.

He might actually have thought about me once or twice in his lifetime, not as a nuisance that shouldn't have happened but as a child of his. Not enough to want to meet me but maybe a little more than one of his neatly filed and finished-with legal cases. I'll never know. He, my mother and my grandparents, the only people who could have told me, are dead.

That's the trouble with lies: they undermine truth.

Good and bad service

Today I returned a £9 t-shirt to Sainsburys. As I didn't have the receipt I couldn't have my money back but had to exchange it. In its place I bought a £22 jumper.

Then, when I'd finished shopping I discovered that 'my 'branded shop today was £10.74 cheaper than Asda,' meaning I'd saved £10.74, which when added to the original £9 almost makes £22. Which means, if I'd bought and saved just a little bit more, I could have had my jumper for nothing.

That is what it means, isn't it?

Sainsburys is, like most reputable shops, good when it comes to exchanging items. Not so The Range as I discovered when I tried to swap a curtain track that was too short for a longer one.
'Do you have the receipt?'
'No, I'm afraid I couldn't find it.'
'Then you can't exchange it.'
'But I only want to exchange it for a longer one. I'll pay the difference.'
'Without the receipt you can't.'

The only way I could make the exchange was if I took in a copy of my bank statement proving my purchase. For goodness sake! 

I got home and penned an angry email to The Range. That was last Friday and I've not had a reply from them.

Then I found the receipt.

Once again I drove across town and presented the curtain track and receipt to Customer Services at The Range. 
'I'd like to return this, please.'
'Is there anything wrong with it?'

I had a full refund and I will go elsewhere to buy a replacement track. And I will write another email to the Head Office telling them I won't be using their shop again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A celebratory day!

Yesterday morning Husband said, 'As it's your birthday I'll put on some deodorant.' What more could a girl ask for?

Anyway I had a lovely day. The rain kept off long enough for us to enjoy a walk - and the odd jump - on the beach and then Husband cooked me a super dinner. I received lots of cards and lovely presents - including 4 boxes of Maltesers - and Younger Son and Nuora made me a Malteser and chocolate finger cake.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On being a single mother (for a week)

One of the women in Zac's went into labour in the early hours of last Monday (3rd). I'd agreed to go and look after her 18-month-old while she was in hospital so at 2.30 am - when Husband had finally heard the phone ringing and woken me - off I trotted. I thought I'd be there 24 hours, 48 at the most. I came home yesterday evening - 8 days later.

I'd forgotten how wearing it is to have a constant shadow especially when that shadow didn't like to go to bed in the evening until past my bed-time. But even worse than caring for a toddler was coping with a coal fire. My granny, who kept our home fire burning until she was in her 80s,  would have been ashamed of me. I'm afraid my language deteriorated slightly. I fear Toddler's first word may be 'crap', in which case I shall deny all knowledge. 

It is pleasing to know that, though I may have let down my granny, Great-auntie Vi, who could swear like a trooper, would have been proud of me.

With no internet access and mobile reception intermittent at best and seeming to depend on which way the wind was blowing I felt cut off and in danger of being swallowed up by the world of Mr Bloom, Mr Tumble, Mike the Knight and the inhabitants of 64 Zoo Lane.

Over on Facebook I listed a number of firsts for this last week; the list included burning my finger with a cigarette lighter. I hope that is now explained. Next on the list was being chased by a gang of swans, geese, ducks, seagulls and coots. It had seemed a good idea to take Toddler and the old bread to feed the birds on a nearby lake. How was I to know they would surround me and try to take the bread out of my hands? No amount of squeaking or saying, 'Shoo! Shoo!' while backing away deterred them so I ended up flinging slices of bread in the air and running. (By the way, Toddler was parked in his pushchair at a safe distance away in case anyone from Social Services is reading this.) 
Next came shopping at Lidl. It seemed appropriate, given that I was living on the east side, to pay a visit to the supersaver store. I managed to resist the cheap Belgian seashell choccies but gave in to the freshly-baked Tiger loaf, which was delicious.

Taking Toddler back and for to hospital (on the west side of town) to see his mum gave me plenty of opportunity to call into home for an occasional shower and brief respite when Husband took Toddler out in the pushchair. I could not have survived this week without Husband who is a truly wonderful and generous man. I'm also very grateful to Wendy and Vincent who stopped by on Saturday evening to give me a break.

On my forays home I usually remembered to pick up clean underwear but, at the end, had to wear the same knickers for two days. Shudder. I thought about taking Toddler to playgroup but couldn't face it knowing I was wearing old knickers. 

That was the final thing on my list but I should have added 'driven around with a banana on the roof of the car.' 

And as for being a single mum, especially those without family support, well, I don't know how they do it. 

I had a car, which at least allowed me to get around but, and here I'm going into rant mode, the number of parent and child parking spaces is woefully inadequate. Without wishing to sound disablist, if you're disabled there are plenty of reserved parking spaces everywhere and I'm sure there are more parent and children than disabled. In the whole of the hospital car park - the inadequacy of which is another rant in itself - there are just three spaces for parent and child parking. If you've ever tried to get a baby in or out of a car parked in a normal space you'll know how hard it is. And I know they don't encourage child visitors in hospitals but there must be times when it's important or unavoidable. When I was sitting in the queue slowly moving around the full car park I saw three families struggle getting out of cars.

If I had any energy left I'd start a campaign.

And in the midst of all this Younger Son and Nuora came home from Malaysia (good) and Wales lost to Australia (bad).

Still now things should return to normalish as I only have to visit Mum and children most days for the next two weeks and that'll be a doddle!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I'm not going to say in Zac's tonight

I've said before that Paul isn't my favourite bible character and in the bit we're looking at tonight (Philippians 1:12-26) he comes across to me as an irritating sort of man - the passage is all about rejoicing in difficult situations: he's in prison but still rejoices - the sort of man you can imagine having little sympathy.

'Oh, Paul, I've got such terrible toothache.'
'Well, praise the Lord that you've got teeth!'
'But they hurt like crazy.'
'Praise the Lord for dentists who can help you!'
'But I can't see a dentist until tomorrow morning.'
'Then praise the Lord for paracetamol. In fact, who needs paracetamol when you have Jesus.'

I can't swear that that's exactly what he said at that point because he did say it through a mouthful of teeth and blood after I'd punched him in the mouth. And I'll paraphrase what he said next.
'Praise the Lord for the opportunity to suffer alongside my brother!'

The final straw. 'And that, your honour, is why I am up in court before you today.'

I caught a leaf!

To be honest, it was more a case of the leaf dropping into my hand when I turned around after another failed attempt. I think the tree felt sorry for me. Or possibly embarrassed by my antics.

See an earlier post for reasoning behind this stupidity.

My heart nearly stopped

I very rarely get called on my mobile - to be honest I rarely receive phone calls and that pleases me as I don't like phones - but I'm currently on stand-by in case a friend goes into labour as I'm to look after her toddler. Her due date isn't for three weeks but she has been early before so I'm trying to remember to take my mobile everywhere with me and to keep it charged. (Possibly another reason I don't receive many calls is that I never know where my phone is so it could well be ringing away merrily.) (No, actually, that's not likely as I don't have many friends.)

Which is all a long way of saying that my heart nearly stopped just now when my phone rang.

P.S. It wasn't a call to action but Martin checking I'd be in Zac's tonight. I almost said, 'I will be as long as I don't get many more calls like this.'

Taking off my clothes

Arriving home from the theatre last night the first thing I did was take off my clothes.

It gave Husband a minor thrill but as I pointed out to him, 'You wouldn't have be so impressed if I'd been arrested after taking them off in the theatre.' In fact, that's maybe why there were so many policemen around: in case women began randomly discarding clothing.

It was hot in the theatre. Lots of people said that. But my overheating is more personal. And it's been happening on a regular basis for a while now.

I thought I was done with hot flushes. All that was supposed to be behind me; I thought I'd entered the period-free, PMT-free, best time of my life stage. 

But when I got home last night you could have used me to heat the Royal Albert Hall - and people would have been asking the management to turn down the heating .

So what the feck (to use a jolly little alternative) is going on with my body?

In which Husband sets off on an adventure

'I'm going to the bank - and I'm going to go on the bus!' Husband announced this morning.

He's had a bus pass for four years and hasn't used it - except in Derby where it shouldn't have been used but the driver didn't notice - so this is an adventure for him.

But so that it's not too scary he just spent twenty minutes checking all the bus routes and times.

* * * * * * * *
I had my own mini adventure last night: I went to the theatre on my own. Okay, not really an adventure and not something I haven't done before but it was scheduled to end at 11.00 pm so that was quite late for me to be out on my own. Plus I almost didn't make it into the theatre.

Swansea Council has taken to introducing in their car parks pay machines that require your registration number. No, I knew it; I've been caught out like that before. That wasn't the problem. No, the problem was the keyboard. Low down and poorly lit  and me without my glasses. It was only thanks to a man queuing behind me who put the numbers in for me that I was able to use it.

So anyway, I was at Swansea's Grand Theatre for the final three-hour stint in the 36 hour Dylathon. As it says, over 36 hours, with 15 minute breaks every so often, loads of famous and not famous people read poems, letters, articles and stories by Dylan Thomas as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Artistes taking part in the finale included: Sir Ian McKellen, Katherine Jenkins, Sian Phillips, Matthew Rhys,  Gillian Clarke (National Poet), the Wales Theatre Company and the Morriston Orpheus Choir. We also had Prince Charles (recorded), Carwyn James (Wales First Minister), the President of Ireland, and Ryan Jones (Wales and ex-Ospreys rugby player and all-round lovely boyo). And others you won't have heard of.

I'm afraid I have to admit I don't get Dylan's poetry but it's nothing personal: I don't get poetry full stop. But I thoroughly enjoyed his letters, Under Milk Wood excerpts and the short stories. Di Botcher, who is I think famous on the local arts scene, read The Outing and she brought the house down. She was really excellent. It was just a shame she wasn't reading A Child's Christmas in Wales. The man reading it seemed to think it was a race to get to the end - and, in fact, we were out of the theatre by 10.50 pm, partly I'm sure thanks to his speed-reading. I wanted someone - the producer/anyone - to stand up and say, 'Slow down!!!'

The talent of Sir Ian McKellen speaks for itself and even me, not getting poetry, couldn't help but me moved by his rendition of Do Not Go Gentle. But I still preferred his reading of Dylan's last letter to Caitlin, his wife.

Morriston Orpheus Choir rounded off the evening with the Reverend Eli Jenkins' Prayer from Under Milk Wood. This is Dunvant Male Voice Choir's rendition. And I've just noticed it's my Uncle Woodie on the right end of the second row.

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep Thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye - but just for now!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Despite Changing Rooms

Walking in the woods one day I was working on my novel. One of my characters was about to say, 'I have nothing but *** for you,' where *** is the noun from despise. You know like you have derision from deride? 

So I'm wandering along saying, 'Despision? Despite? Despitution?' None of them worked, and you know what it's like when you begin to think intensely about a word the word itself starts to sound peculiar, as if it's a word you've made up. 'Despise? Is there such a word? Why does it sound so odd?'

I still haven't thought of the word; is there one?

* * * * * * * 

Husband and I have spent two days recently transforming a spare room into a nursery for a friend. It's not finished yet but it's getting there.

The fact that there wasn't a camera team filming our every move didn't stop me from doing a Changing Rooms style running commentary (in my head). Please take note of the stools, table and bookcase put together by ME! The ease with which the stool went together lulled me into a false sense of my ability as a handywoman; the bookcase was an altogether different matter. It involved a screwdriver for goodness sake. And a lot of muttering.

P.S. I say 'we did the work' when actually it was mostly Husband, who is truly a wonderful man allowing himself to be let in for these things by his wife. Even if he did go round touching up the paintwork where my bits weren't good enough and putting extra paste on the wallpaper because I hadn't done it well enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

I first came across Fannie Flagg with her Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (before it was and better than the film) and I've read all her books since and this one, her latest, is probably the best yet.
The story flicks back and for between now and the second world war when Sookie, a middle-aged woman, discovers she's not who she thinks she is but was in fact adopted. Her adoptive mother, now in her eighties, is a very dominant character and Sookie's belief that she's never lived up to her mother's expectations is encouraged by her mother's comments and snobbishness.

It is by chance that Sookie finds out that her birth mother was a Polish Catholic WASP, one of a few American women who flew planes during the war - not in direct action but taking the place of drafted men and delivering planes from factories.

It's a great story with wonderfully likeable characters and I looked forward to reading it of a night-time; in fact I had to force myself to turn out the light so reluctant was I to put it down.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Catch a falling leaf in October

Whenever we visited the in-laws in autumn Grandma would always tell the children it was lucky to catch a falling leaf in October. Needless to say I was the one who threw herself into this pursuit most vigorously.

Let me tell you, if you've never tried to catch a leaf, it's not as easy as you'd think. A leaf doesn't just fall down like a stone. It meanders, enjoys the view, takes a few detours on its route to the ground. And that's just an average journey from branch to woodland floor; when the chase is on it's a whole new leaf game.

My theory is that as I run towards it I create a tiny draught that, just as I am about to grab my prize, causes the leaf to veer away from me, leaving me leafless and looking like a fool. And never tell me leaves don't giggle. An evil malicious sort of giggle at that.

Try it, why don't you? And prove that it's not just me. Please.

Remembering Albert House in the winter

We've been in Devon for a couple of days and while we're away Husband turns the heating down, meaning that we arrived home late yesterday evening to a cold house. And, more importantly, a cold bed.

I was sort of warm in bed but not properly and couldn't really warm up. I should have got my dressing gown to put over me but that would have meant getting up so I kept hoping I'd just warm up. (I didn't.)

Anyway that reminded me of when I was a child and would wear more clothes to go to bed than I did during the day to go out. Albert House was an old solid terraced house (or attached as I described it in a school essay once) with the original walls, at the back of the house, being 2' thick. It was a double-fronted house so we had two front rooms. Until I was about 11 one of the them was my great-gran's bed/sitting room, and the other front room wasn't really used at all until we had our first television when it became the television room. 

The kitchen with the cooker, food storage and preparation areas and sink, was a one-storied lean-to with a corrugated iron roof that we called the scullery. The room that we ate, sat, lived in, we called the kitchen, and it was in the kitchen that we had the main source of heat: a coal fire. When we had the bathroom installed upstairs a boiler was put behind the fire to heat the water. Before that we'd relied on a little Ascot heater in the scullery - and a hosepipe from it to fill the bath that was also in the scullery at that time. (Our bath was a full size one by the way: I didn't have to bath with my legs dangling over the edge of the bath in front of the fire.)

I guess my great-gran must have had an electric fire in her room and we certainly had one when the other front room housed the television, but, as I said, the only real source of heat in the house was in the kitchen. 

My bedroom was above the kitchen (and was cut in half to make space for the bathroom when I was in my teens) so must have benefited from some warmth from the chimney but you wouldn't have thought it seeing me going to bed on a cold winter's night. It was a good job I was on my own.

Monday, October 13, 2014

And then the bottom fell out

A visit to the Surrey grandchildren (and their parents) at the weekend. Most scrumptious time with lots of running around, playing and hugs. GrandSon3 smiled at me and didn't cry once - except when he thought he'd been left alone with me.

We enjoyed a walk (run) by the Thames opposite Runnymede with a huge conker haul! GrandSon1 didn't quite share Granny's enthusiasm for collecting though, but he'll grow into it.
Then on Sunday another river stroll but this time opposite Eel Pie Island, a private island in the middle of the Thames, that was famous at one time for the hotel where you could see the Stones or the Who, or later Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd perform. In fact just about anyone who was anyone played there. 
The bridge to Eel Pie Island. It's said Charles Dickens liked to drink on the island and even Henry VIIIth wasn't averse to calling in for some eel pie.
We were more fascinated by the beach park on our side of the river where an enclosed area has been turned into a beach with Viking ships and hidden treasure - replicas of archaeological artefacts that have been found in the area. (And they're attached to the ground so can't be removed in case, like me, you were wondering how they didn't get lost.)

Our journey home was slightly unusual. Early on the journey on the M4 we saw signs warning of traffic delays on the Severn bridge. That turned into 'an incident' and the bridge being closed. As it turned out by the time we got there there was no problem crossing - but we had been stuck in a traffic jam for about half an hour before that.

And then the bottom fell out of the car.

Not entirely, in fact, hardly at all but enough to make it sound as though we were in a wind tunnel. So we got home safely but noisily.

P.S. The incident on the bridge was a protest by anti-ISIS protestors who stopped their cars in the middle lane. While I am as anti-ISIS as anyone I can't see what good it does making a number of drivers angry - and particularly as we didn't know what the hold-up was until we got home and heard it on the 10 o'clock news.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sex stories?

'Sex stories? Um, why have you recorded that?'

We were trying to find something we could watch either on iplayer or that we'd recorded. We'd already watched most of the recorded stuff - Doctor Who, Would I lie to You? Have I got News for You? - but this one came as a bit of a surprise.

Husband looked bemused. 'I didn't record it,' he said.
'Well, I don't even know how to,' I said, 'so it certainly wasn't me.'
'I didn't record it,' he insisted.
'That's what they all say.'
'Oh no, wait, I remember! I recorded it for you.'
'For me?'

Then he explained. He thought it might be interesting for my research into massage parlours.
'But then I watched a bit of it and it was boring so I stopped the recording.'

I'm not going to say anything else. I'll leave that to you.

Who was that masked man?

I've been working hard this week trying to finish Novel 4. It's the one I started in last year's NaNoWriMo and it's nearly completed. And it's definitely going to be THE one, the one that is my breakthrough, the one that leads to a contract and fame and fortune. Well, okay I'd settle for a contract or even just one book published. And I know I've said this about each novel I've written but I really am convinced this time that it's different and funny and entertaining enough.

I've done over 80,000 words but I need a good finale. Yesterday I left the heroine kidnapped by the baddies (or as I said to Husband, 'The kidnap's been heroined,') leaving me today with the problem of how she was to escape. Husband suggested a ninja golden retriever or failing that a masked man. 'Then,' he said, 'the sequel could be Who Was That Masked Man?' Not totally convinced by either of those ideas I put it to my facebook friends who also came up with some useful thoughts including: Robyn's handsome prince, Steve's rapture (Christian end of the world thing), Rob van Tol tellingly having the heroine wearing a flouncy petticoat under which she has hidden a gun/sword/machete, or the thug having an undiagnosed heart condition and an attack - an unexpressed concern of Nick's maybe? (From which she saves him so he lets her go - that's a bit I added). 

None of those really worked for me although I will be considering for my next novel a mask-and-petticoat-wearing ninja princess with a sloppy dog and a large gun collection who persuades God that it's too soon for the rapture as she still has a thug to bring over to the good side.

So I had to turn to the old faithful paper and pencil to brain storm ideas. (I know brain storm is no longer pc but I don't know what the alternative is.)
With the result that I've got a bit closer to my finale but I'm not there yet.

One of the reasons that I've been able to spend time writing is that I have been putting off going to Sainsburys. Yesterday we had butternut squash risotto for dinner; today it was butternut squash soup.
Now I'm wondering if I can persuade Husband that butternut squash curry would make a good dinner for tomorrow.

And part of my reluctance to go shopping is down to the dreadful weather we're having at the moment. Summer has well and truly gone - though we were lucky it lasted as long as it did - and the storms of autumn have arrived.

Yesterday the sun was shining when I suggested that Husband join us for a walk around the cliffs. By the time we got back to the car after our walk I was wet through to my knickers, my Eric Morecambe shorts were clinging uncomfortably to my legs and my feet were squelching inside my trainers - and I wasn't even walking in the torrential streams running down the hill from the drain overload.

It was a moment when I regretted my thrift in suggesting we parked on the road rather than in the closer car park.

Apparently the storm and the winds were very fierce last night too but I wouldn't know as I slept through them.

P.S. I am DEFINITELY NOT going to enter NaNoWriMo this November. Keep reminding me of that if I seem to waver.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Cooking dangerously

Not dangerously in fact, but just differently. And not even different methods but simply recipes I hadn't tried before. 

I tear out from magazines recipes I like the look of but rarely get around to making them as I never have the exact ingredients to hand. Last week I took the recipes to Sainsburys with me, bought everything I needed and for four days experimented with new ideas.
Moroccan fishcakes with chermoula sauce. Probably over-cooked the fishcakes and it was all a bit dry. Make again? No.

Mozzarella meatballs with houmous and yogurt dressing. Husband not keen on the pitta bread but tasty meatballs. Make again? Yes. 

Raspberry swirl cheesecake. Took these as my offering to a party on Saturday. Looked prettyish but tasted like shop cheesecake. Make again? No.

Sausage nicoise salad. Husband thought it a bit plain. Needed some more sun-dried tomatoes. I liked it though. Make again? Probably a version of it.

I think all of these came from the Sainsburys magazine and I imagine the recipes can also be found on-line, if I haven't put you off.

What makes a good granny?

Or, more specifically, a suitable person to look after a child. I ask because tomorrow my suitability is to be judged. And by a 19-year-old boy. Okay, I exaggerate: he's probably in his twenties.

If they were to ask my grandchildren if I were a suitable person to look after them I know what their reply would be. 

But is the ability - and willingness - to sing, 'zoom, zoom, zoom, we're going to the moon', 83 times non-stop enough?

We shall see tomorrow. I've made a special effort and cleaned today but I don't think George would appreciate being deodorised. We shall have to be on our best behaviour and I must try not to say anything stupid.

Talking about stupid things have I told you about the latest fitness trend that has affected our circuit training sessions? It's called tabata and it's acclaimed as a fat-burning miracle - to which my fat seems immune.

Look it up on the internet and you'll find it associated with phrases like superfast, high intensity, fast and furious, bootcamp style. Got the picture? Jules, our trainer, introduced it to our sessions a good while ago now and he fits 3 tabata 4-minute extras in between our circuit stations proper.

If you fancy trying it here's one of my least favourite groupings.

So you're going to work as hard as you can for 4 minutes. There are 2 different exercises in this: squats and 'lie downs'. When you're squatting make sure your weight is on your heels and that your knees don't go in front of your ankles, and squat deeply. Do that 10 times.
Then stand up before lying down so that either your chest or your shoulder-blades touch the floor and then stand up straight again. Do that 10 times.
Keep on alternating between 10 squats and 10 'lie-downs' for 4 minutes - or until you can't push yourself any more.

You think it doesn't sound too bad? Lying down must be nice. You'd be right and wrong. Lying down is fine; it's the getting up that finishes me. You wouldn't believe how long 4 minutes can be.

After having to do that twice last week I'm really really hoping we're not going to have to do it tonight. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

A week in a flash

Each  year for about the last twelve my uncle (that's him in the red striped shirt in the family photo) has held a weekend celebration, usually timed to coincide with the Patrons' Concert by the Dunvant Male Voice Choir (of which he is a patron). Family and friends from all over the place come along to one or more of the events and this year there was an especially good turn-out as my uncle said it will be the last he'll organise. It's his 90th birthday next year so we're hosting a party for that instead.

So it began on the Friday night with a meal at Norton House Hotel, followed on the Saturday by the concert. We don't go to the concert but I'm rather sad we didn't go along for the after-concert champagne and shepherd's pie supper. Ken, the prof, seen in the photo with me played the piano to accompany a sing-along that lasted until gone 1 in the morning. 

It's no wonder there were some tired-looking people at the Sunday lunch party! By the time the photo was taken we'd eaten and drunk and everyone had perked up.

Ken's grandson went to Eton and his grand-daughter is in Charterhouse so it was a bit of cultural change for me on Monday when I went to Cookie's funeral. You may remember I wrote about Cookie a few posts ago and Sean asked me to read that during the short service. Let's just say it wasn't your average funeral but nobody came to blows. Quite

And today we've been on a cruise up the river Tawe on the community boat, Copper Jack. The gentleman giving the commentary was very informative about the old industrial history of the river. Very little remains of what was known as Copperopolis but in its heyday Swansea produced 90% of the world's copper. The television screens on board the specially-designed boat showed images of how it used to look with about 50 tall chimney stacks pumping out all sorts of vile fumes. 

Amongst other things the copper was shaped into manillas - like the one in the photo - which were used as currency by slave traders.