Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Husband puts his foot in it again

Husband said, 'Are you watching television tonight?'
'Yes, but I have to do my pre-holiday beautifying first.'
'So, no, you won't be watching television then.'

I glared at him and he thought quickly. 'I mean it takes you a long time not that you need a lot of beautifying.' 
I frowned doubtfully.
'I think you're gorgeous as you are.'

Hm, think he can get away with that?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

George is a wimp

When we take a path unfamiliar to George he likes to let me go first. He did so today and as I was walking I said, 'You don't know, George, the monsters could be watching us and working out that you're the soft touch and they'll pick you off from the back.'

As I said that I turned around to see him and, yikes! He'd disappeared!

Then he came trotting from the corner. Phew!

* * * * * * * * *

On Saturday I invited the Barham Babes to come to Caswell cafe in the evening for a ukelele gig. 'What time?' they wanted to know.
'I don't know. We'll just turn up.'

Big mistake. We turned up and the cafe was closed and shuttered.

So change of plan. We drove to Langland, had a little walk around the cliffs and then enjoyed coffee/hot chocolate/tea and cake in the cafe there.

Ffion had done something ridiculous like run a marathon earlier in the day so grumbled when I made them keep walking until we reached a suitable point to take photos. (But she's smiling and that's an achievement.)

Two women walking by stopped and one said, 'Would you like us to take a photo of you all together?'
'Oh yes, please.'
I gave her the camera, which she then handed to her friend saying, 'You're better at taking photos than I am.'
We posed and the friend took our photo. Then she said, 'I'll take another one to be sure.'

So it's very odd that, on checking when I got home, there were no photos on the camera of the three of us. It's not that they were blurry or she'd cut off our heads: they just weren't there.

But the custard slice was very nice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

In defence of anti-depressants

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a really bad headache or a pain in your chest? The sudden awakening combined with the ache for a moment convince you that you're dying and you experience what could be called night terror. Then you shake yourself, take some paracetamol/indigestion pills, quickly fall asleep, and feel fine when you wake up next morning.

Now imagine feeling that terror for 95% of the time.

It started when I was in my teens and peaked in my late forties. That's a long time to be living a part-life and at its worst a barely-life where, for example, I was too scared to go to the cinema just in case, and I had to psyche myself up to go to Sainsburys for the weekly shop. I was prayed for - and felt guilty when it made no difference - and I saw a number of doctors. I had counselling - she gave up on me - and tried therapy. That helped me understand myself better and see things differently but it didn't cure me.

The thing was that I didn't think of myself as having depression. Depression was a proper illness; I just worried too much. The slightest thing and I'd worry. Not just worry now and again but all the time. Thoughts would go round and around in my head repeating themselves incessantly. Until the next insignificant thing happened to give me something new to worry about. I carried out all the normal everyday tasks but my mind would be buzzing. It wasn't illness particularly or even death that scared me - unless it was one of my children that preoccupied my thoughts - but fear itself. The what-if fear. 

There was nothing logical about it and knowing that, as I did, made it even worse. 

But, no, I wasn't depressed, just anxious. I was simply stupid; I couldn't stop worrying and I was an idiot. I couldn't control my thoughts; my life and, more importantly, family life were adversely affected. I couldn't concentrate or enjoy the good times. And it was down to my stupidity. That's what I thought. It wasn't until I finally convinced the doctor that I couldn't go on living this caricature of a life that she prescribed anti-depressants. Little white pills containing serotonin. Magic pills that changed my life.

Yes, they do have side effects: my emotions are, well, drugged I suppose. I don't feel the highs and lows that others seem to experience but I can live with that. But having said that, for the last few months I've been halving the dose. I was doing really well so I thought I'd give it a go. (Doctors tend to encourage you to get off drugs if you can.) But recently I've noticed that my lows seem to be happening more frequently. I may start taking the prescribed dose again or I may go and chat to the doctor. One thing is certain, I'm not going back to that place of misery again. 

The reason I'm writing this now is two-fold. Elder Son posted a link to an article written by a journalist 'coming out' about his mental health problems. It's quite long but a very good article if you're interested. In it he says that when he eventually saw an expert he was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). 

Now when I think of OCD I think of people who have to keep washing their hands or checking they've turned off lights but in his case it's his thoughts that are obsessive and compulsive. And I see that his symptoms are very like mine. And that's a great relief. Not particularly to have a title or a name for my problem but to hear of someone else with similar experiences. Knowing I'm not alone. And allowing me to believe that maybe I'm not just stupid and incapable of controlling my own thoughts and mind.

The other reason for this long and probably boring to most people post is that recently it's been suggested to me or implied in conversations that I should give up my medication. 'What you need is God/fresh air/exercise.'

I would like to suggest that I have plenty of all of those - probably more than most - and they don't help.

If I were on blood thinning medication would you suggest that I stop taking it and run around more? If I were diabetic would you tell me to stop injecting myself and improve my diet? No, of course not.

I have a chemical imbalance that the drugs correct. It's no different from any other condition. Just because it's in my head and the symptoms aren't obvious to you don't make it any less real. Or life diminishing if untreated.

That's it. Rant over.

If you've got this far, thank you for reading. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Easter reflection

So it's Easter and one's mind naturally turns to bunnies and eggs ... oh no, wait, that's all those heathens out there. As a good Christian girl my mind should be focused solely on the death and resurrection of our Lord. (And the odd egg or two.)

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian year; it's the reason for our faith and no amount of chocolate can diminish that truth. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that gives us who follow him of life after death, going to heaven - whatever that may mean to you (my idea is pretty vague as you might expect) - and salvation. And therein lies my sermon for today.

Some very lovely and sincere Christians are wont to ask, 'Is your husband saved? Are your children saved?' I know what they mean and I appreciate their interest but the way it comes across  it seems to me that salvation is the be all and end all of our faith. (Yes, I know, strictly speaking, it probably is and I'm struggling to find the right way of saying this. I bet the Pope doesn't have these problems.)

I think my thoughts have been going around this subject since last Tuesday's bible study into Jesus as Lord. Someone - I can't remember who - said, 'If I confess that Jesus is Lord then I am saved.' And, yes, that's true. The last thing we want to do  for people - people who are in desperate need or difficult circumstances, with erratic lifestyles and problems - is to make turning to God seem hard: it's not. Like the father in the prodigal son story God is running out to meet us, arms open wide, and he throws a party for us. He wants us to turn to him. God doesn't want anyone to be lost. (But I don't think that means that we all will be saved; we still have free will and have to make a choice.)

But if salvation, life after death, is all that we get out of this then we're missing out. I haven't said eternal life when referring to after death because I believe that my eternal life has already begun and the phrase that I love, that keeps coming back to me, is that Jesus came to bring us life and life to the full. That means right now not at some later unspecified date when we die. (Hopefully much later in my case.)

So yes, if we're to have life to the full it means taking some responsibility too. It means trying to make the right choices - not always easy and I certainly make far too many wrong ones - and giving God a say in our lives. From the ten commandments onwards through the words of Christ, the 'rules' are there for our benefit. If we break them, if we sin, then someone, either us or someone else, usually gets hurt. I suppose one of my particular sins, or at least one I'm willing to tell you about, is gossiping or bad-mouthing others. It does me no good, although I might enjoy it at the time, and if my words were to get back to the persons concerned then it would certainly do them no good. 

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is that Jesus' life, the example he gave us, the lessons he taught, the love and compassion he showed the outcasts and most vulnerable in society, is of huge value. As we remember his death and resurrection let's not forget the bit before.

Now, where did I put that egg?

Photo round-up of my life

Okay, I've been quiet on the blogging front for the last week or so because Daughter and family came to visit and then real life just took over. So a brief photographic summary.

No visit to Granny's is complete without a trip to Verdi's. Granny says so.

Just before they were going out for the day GrandDaughter - in her best frock so very carefully - helped me make the cake for Zac's.

Once they'd left life returned to more or less normal and George and I had some lovely dog walks although George did miss Holly.

The wild bluebells are not in full bloom yet but lovely nevertheless.
Today, Easter Sunday, I was up at 5.45 am and it wasn't even George's fault. Christians from different churches across the city gather on the beach for a sunrise celebration and afterwards they're invited them back to Zac's for bacon butties and croissants. 

I set the alarm thinking it would give me time for breakfast and a shower. It wasn't until I had my dressing gown on and was about to go downstairs that I realised I'd be cooking - and having - breakfast in Zac's. So I could have stayed in bed for an extra ... ooh, 15 minutes. Not that it would have helped much: I woke at regular intervals in the night thinking, ' I have to get up soon; is it time yet?'

About 70 people came back for breakfast so we were very grateful for the donation of warm freshly-baked croissants from our local Tesco.

And this morning we saw both a heron 

and the Easter bunny. Or possibly the Easter squirrel.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

George is not popular

It's 7.15 am and George is whining. I pretend to be asleep in the hope that Husband will respond.
7.20 am, the whining increases in level and Husband is still apparently asleep.
7.25 am, I turn over and go to get out of bed.
Husband mutters, 'I'm ignoring him.'
'You can't do that; he needs to go out.'
'No he doesn't; he wants his breakfast.'
'No, he wants a poo.'
'He can wait.'
He's desperate!'

I get up and go downstairs to let George out. He rolls over when he sees me coming so I can tickle his belly. Mid tickle I say, 'Hey, I thought you were desperate to go out.'
'Oh yes.' He stands and goes to the door. I open it and he bounds into the garden and begins to bark at a passing stranger. I shout at him and he wanders around until he finds the perfect spot for pooing.

I make tea but refuse to give him his breakfast. 'You can wait,' I tell him and go back to bed.

At 8.15 am when he starts to whine again I shout, 'Shut up, George!'

As I'm up early (for me) I decide to hit Sainsburys before the crowds. Unfortunately everyone else has the same idea. You would not believe how many people are in Sainsburys at 10.00 am on a Saturday morning. Don't these people have beds?

Brushing all aside

So Husband is on the kitchen roof when he calls and asks me to throw up the sweeping brush.
As an obedient wife I do as I'm told. The extra big garden brush you note.
I'd like you also to note the position of Husband's hands. He is obviously not expecting me to be able to achieve this. 

And I don't. And the brush comes sailing back down. Straight into my nose. For an instance I think this is what boxers must feel like when punched in the face and I put my hands to my nose dramatically. Husband laughs.

As does Son-in-law when I tell him. 'Didn't you think to catch it or step aside?' he asks.
At this Daughter laughs. She knows full well where she gets her lack of co-ordination from.

I hoped I would have an enormous bruise for which I could gain sympathy and possibly chocolate but my nose stayed strangely pale though painful.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lost: 1 mojo

I'm sure I had it a few days ago but I've looked everywhere and I can't find it. No doubt it will turn up soon but in the meantime ... 

Pull yourself together!

Met with Sean on Sunday to find out what I was supposed to be leading the bible study on on Tuesday. He said to skip the end of chapter 7 of John's gospel, go to chapter 8 and look at the story of the woman caught in adultery. Use it to lead a discussion on the idea of Jesus is Lord. Okey dokey.

Tuesday afternoon I settle down to prepare and read the passage. Read it again. And again getting progressively more panicky. No matter how many times I read it I still can't find any mention of the word Lord. 

Wonder if I got the passage wrong but am convinced it's what Sean said. The closest I can find is where the woman says, 'Yes, sir.' Check in other versions and find it does indeed say Lord in some. Wonder if there's some other idea I can take from it but decide to go with it and hope that the bibles we use in Zac's say lord.

They don't. 

So I explain the problem to everyone and ask if we can just pretend it does. Luckily they are an amiable bunch and we talk about everything - except Jesus as Lord. No, we do cover it a bit but no-one seems to want to dig into it - or maybe it's just that the idea is unpopular: giving someone else control of your life. 

But Rowland, our tribal elder, is very complimentary at the end of the evening so I'm happy. (And I don't think it was just because he had a birthday cake.)

Meanwhile I have volunteered to be at Zac's at 6.30 am on Sunday to help prepare bacon butties for the people who come back after the churches together Easter sunrise celebration on the beach. I really hope I've found my mojo by then. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Part of a bigger picture

I called George to get his attention and when he was looking I threw a stick. He continued to stare blankly at me.
'Go and fetch it, you silly great plonker!'
'Oh right.' And he lolloped half-heartedly down the beach. 

I despair of my dog sometimes.

Following the winter storms there is a lot more sand on Swansea beach. There are also, coincidentally, an awful lot of tiny shells. I'm sure it coincidence as they were there before the storms.
It is wonderfully pleasurable walking on shells. I love the sensation and the crunchy noise beneath my feet but also the feeling that I'm part of something much much bigger. I'm doing my bit for nature, helping the erosion process so that my grandchildren (to the power of 10 at least) will still be enjoying a sandy beach. 

* * * * * * * * * 
Yesterday we enjoyed lunch at Verdi's with my 'old' blogging friend, Shirl and her husband, Pete. They called in on their way back from visiting family in west Wales and we were delighted to see them.

* * * * * * * * 
And now I'm off to prison for my weekly dose of inadequacy and feeling like a bad Christian. It's slightly worrying that I feel more at ease with offenders than I do with Christians, lovely though they are.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Pope is offensive?

What I was thinking in my head
The Pope upset a lot of people with his comments about the rich and bankers and how we should be looking after the poor. And a good thing too.

What came out of my mouth
'The Pope is offensive.'

It wasn't until, well, this morning that it occurred to me that could be misunderstand if you weren't privy to what had gone on in my head. Which no-one was.

I can't even blame speaking on the spur of the moment as I'd thought it about it for a while.

We were looking at a passage in John's gospel where Jesus says, 'Do I offend you?' My point was that sometimes some people will be offended by us if we're standing up for those unable to defend themselves. And that we should be 'offensive' in that way, the same way as Jesus.

Sean hastened to clarify things by saying that when we offend it should be for the right reasons and not just because we're being obnoxious superior Christians. And Ric said to me, 'Tell me when you're gong to be offensive because I really want to see that.'

Split infinitive alert!

Sean: What do you think it was about Jesus that attracted people to him?
Visitor: Probably wasn't drugs so was he giving away women?
Sean: That's one possible explanation but I'm inclined to think it was something else.
Visitor: Herbs and spices?

Definitely not your average bible study.

We celebrated Paul's birthday. And we would have celebrated James' too if he'd been there.
Afterwards another visitor asked me what sort of cake it was; I told him 'just sponge'. He ate it and then declared, 'That wasn't just sponge; that was wonderful sponge like my mother used to make.'

Oh yes, I make a tidy sponge.

As last Sunday was the first in the month we had our monthly gathering, which turned out to be unusual for me. We hadn't long started when Paul, who was standing outside chatting to Nigel, stuck his head around the door and said, 'Can we have a lady out here to talk to someone?'

I looked around expecting someone else to get up but realised I was closest and couldn't really offload it so went out. And then spent the next 30-40 minutes sitting in the foyer with a distraught individual. I had no idea what to say so, as I sat there, I prayed, 'Please, God, give me words to say.'

He didn't. Which I think was probably right. My role was to listen, let the individual talk. And I don't think any words on mine would have fallen on receptive ears anyway. But at least I don't think I said the wrong things, which in itself is a miracle. 

And I didn't make a joke. Why would I make a joke, you ask, in what was obviously a non-funny situation? Because it's my natural response. My writing tutor used to tell me off because after I'd created a poignant or dramatic scene I'd go and spoil it by throwing in a joke. I don't deal well with bad or sad. Sometimes, depending on the situation and people, a joke is fine; other times it's the worst idea in the world.

So in this instance I didn't joke or say what I felt like saying about the person who was causing so much pain. ('You tell me their name and I'll send the boys around.')

But this was the fourth instance of 'something different' since I've left Linden and committed myself to Zac's, the latest example of what it means to really be church and demonstrate Jesus in the community, to be truly involved. It's scary but I love it.

Daughter sent me this video about empathy and I was trying to recall what it said on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Answers on a postcard

Now take a look at this.
If you were setting the automatic cooking thingy wouldn't you think the hand would mean stop cooking time?It doesn't. In fact I'm not sure what it does mean but the empty dish is the stop timer. 

I'm not good at icons. We have a fancy photocopier in work that can do all sorts of things. I'm told. I use it for single and double sided copying and I had to be shown several times how to do the double-sided. You see you choose the function you want from a selection of pictures labelled 2-3, 2-1, 1-2, etc, and the logical meaning for each of those i.e. the one that makes sense to me, isn't the right meaning.

I had long arguments discussions with Alun who was working with me at the time about the irrationality of the icons. He understood them all perfectly, which just goes to show. It's a man thing. Or possibly a me thing.

It's probably why I'm not good at Guess the Emoji. For those who don't know that's a game on Facebook, a but like television's Catchphrase where you 'say what you see', except in this case you say what you see and then try and come up with something completely unrelated. Some of the clues are ridiculously easy and some - most - are unfathomable.

I should stick to what I'm good at which is ... um...

Monday, April 07, 2014

that's another fine mess

The wood walk is pretty muddy at the moment and there is one bit that is definitely challenging. I think it's where there was a small water flow that gradually has become wider and muddier. A few logs and stones provide some foot steps but the mud is taking over and the step up to the bank on the other side getting higher and higher. 

Today we'd reached the 'just throw yourself at it and hope for the best' stage. So I did. And promptly fell back down.

My shriek even made George look up though I suspect less out of concern for me and more in the hope that I may have dropped some treats that he would be able to get at before I could. (I hadn't.)

Emerging from the wood I fell into step this time with an elderly Irishman who was carrying his dog. He asked if I'd walked this way on Friday and had I seen the all the police cars. Apparently there were five policemen who all pounced on a man returning to his camper van. 'They handcuffed him so I'm thinking it must be serious.'

Excitement and I missed it. My Irish friend pointed out that he'd been walking this way for forty years and had never seen the like of it so chances are I never will now.

* * * * * * * * 
On a separate note I was having a discussion with someone about poo. Apparently there is a man in Linden who only poos twice a week. That cannot be healthy!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Eating like an Italian

Husband spends a lot of time listening to local radio while working on the house so when he heard the offer of restaurant vouchers worth £40 for just £20 he couldn't resist. We were fairly selective in the restaurants we chose to purchase vouchers for but still ended up with 3, which have to be used by the end of May, so, what do you know, we just have to go out and eat occasionally.

Last night we went to Salento, a new-to-us restaurant located in Swansea's marina. This is the view we had from our table.

And this was my main course, Linguine carbonara mare, which was nicer than it looks although I couldn't bring myself to eat the baby octopi.
The waiter/manager is Italian and he explained the ethos of the restaurant is to serve real Italian food as eaten in Italy by real people. He and the chef - who apparently doesn't speak English - come from the region in the heel of Italy that gives the restaurant its name. The menu was certainly different and had an authenticity about it. 

Sadly my aubergine parmigiana wasn't as good as that I had in Rome but the panna cotta was delicious. Husband, on the other, hand made excellent choices with his spicy seafood soup, which was laden with fishy bits, followed by traditional Salento lasagna made with meatballs.

Would we go there again? Oh yes, definitely. We shall be taking YS and Nuora there when they return home for a real Italian's verdict.

Another day, another rejection

Two in one week is pretty good going even for me though.

When I go to the library or bookshop I am encouraged to see so many published books especially when many are only as good as or worse than my novels. I am equally discouraged for exactly the same reasons. 

You think that if you're good enough you'll be recognised one day but do I really believe that? If I do does it mean that I'm not good enough? If I don't, why do I keep on trying? 

I'm sure that, just as there are hundreds of wonderful singers who sing out their hearts in local amateur productions, and hundreds of skilled artists who tout their wares in local craft shops, there are hundreds of very good writers who will never be professionally recognised and published just because.

Tomorrow I'll try again.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A short unexpected detour

'Have you got sat nav?' Shirl asked.
'No,' I said, 'but I've got a bit of paper with instructions on.'

Which got me to my destination just fine. It was the fact that some planner had the brilliant idea of putting a slip road on to a motorway immediately next to a slip road off the motorway just where I was expecting my left turn to be that caused my problem. 

Hence my trip to Bristol turned into a trip to Bath. Do you know how far it is from junction 18 to junction 19 on the M4? Fifteen miles that's how far it is. That's fifteen miles before you can get off and turn around and come back again.

Take a deep breath. Okay, my visit to meet Rosie to find out all about her project, Beloved, was brilliant, giving me loads of help, stuff to think about, pray about, and the offer to go back and out on a visit with them at some time. Masses to pray about in fact. But really exciting.

I came away from our meeting feeling so upbeat that, in spite of messaging Shirley earlier in the day and saying I wouldn't be able to call in and see her, I decided I had time after all. Which did mean the challenge of finding another location in Bristol, which turned out to be a doddle, to someone now an expert on the Bristol ring road.

So two fab visits in one day. How was your day?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The assassin in the park

Before Husband retired it was my job to walk George. On retirement he largely took over that role but since YS and Nuora left for Malaysia and Husband has been working on their house it's fallen to me again. Which is great as I need the exercise and enjoy the time out. On the plus side it means I'm getting fitter: I can make it to the top of the first lot of hill steps without stopping to 'admire the view'; on the negative side it means that I have to fit an hour and a half to two hours (if you include getting ready and the cup of tea and a little something afterwards) into my daily schedule. But, hey, I'd only be cleaning otherwise ... (yeah right)

Today we went on one of our new favourite walks: up the hill in the woods, across the top to Clyne Gardens and then down and back along the sea front. It's unusual to see anyone in the woods but Clyne Gardens is a very popular spot. Except today. While we were walking around we only saw a couple of people and that was at a distance. It wasn't until we were leaving that we came close enough to  say hello to anyone ... and he had killer eyes! Come to think of it he was carrying a bag that could easily have been a folded-down rifle. He didn't return my greeting, just looked at me. I'm glad I was leaving.

I have to have these mental adventures you understand; George isn't the most sparkling of conversationalists. In fact he can be downright rude. Only the other day I said, 'George, I'm starting to look very old,' to which he replied, 'What do you mean starting?' 

There's no need is there?

And he embarrassed me by taking a householder's friendly wave as an invitation to go and investigate her food waste bin. 

* * * * * * * * *
In other news, I can't be alone in thinking that Blandings should be on television every day. 

Monday evenings we do circuit training and afterwards, as a treat, we eat dinner on trays while watching television, the last six weeks our viewing pleasure being the episode of Blandings that we'd recorded the previous day.

Clarence, Duke of Emsworth is delicious, someone who knows what's important in life, and Constance, his sister, comes out with the most wonderful put-downs. But what are we going to do now it's finished its run?

P.S. Looking for the link for Blandings I noticed that it had some dreadful reviews. Don't listen to a word of them! True, I haven't read the original PG Wodehouse stories and they may be badly adapted but that doesn't take away from the delightful humour.