Thursday, July 31, 2014

In which Husband discovers Facebook

Husband has discovered Facebook.

I say discovered but that's not strictly true: he's known about it and my obsession for a long time, and has called it a time-waster. But now he's finding out just how much of a time-waster it is.

It took him a good morning to set up an account and then several more hours in total asking, 'What's this? Why does it do that? How do I do this?' As I usually don't know the answers the hours quickly mounted up. But now he's there and having a great time. 

He's decided to post lots of photos so each time I come to Facebook I do so with some trepidation for fear of what he might have exposed next. When I had an email saying '...tagged you in a photo with fuzzy hair,' I groaned. Oh no, which horrendous photo had he used - the selection is wide after all. It turned out to be innocuous - this time anyway.

And of course he's started commenting on others' posts. Younger Son was complaining of a bad eye infection and Husband wrote GWS.

GWS? GWS? Younger Son and I both screeched in indignation. (Younger Son feels the same as I do about text-talk.) Husband reassured me by saying he had no intention of using text-talk for before or see you or any of the others. No, he's going to make up his own.

Can you hear me sighing?

We're alcohol free but you couldn't tell it from the way I ramble

Zac's was peaceful and calm this week. Mostly. It threatened to go off the rails early on but Steve rescued us that time.

Then later on one of our regulars came in carrying an open can of lager. Now Zac's bible study is an alcohol free zone and I was leading the evening so it was going to fall me to do something about it. A discussion was in progress so while that went on I fretted and panicked about how I was going to remind our friend about the no-alcohol rule. Silence fell and ... his mate said, 'You can't bring that in here; come on, I'll come outside with you.'

I could have hugged him.

I've noticed that when I lead bible study it always seems to be me who's being encouraged at the end by people who feel sorry for me. I tend to start sentences not really knowing where they're going and end up in a muddle or admitting to things a good leader probably shouldn't admit too. Hence the 'never mind, dear' pats on the shoulder that always seem to follow.

One of the guys is always saying I should be the first woman bishop (yes, I know, bless him) and he said this to one of the others who thought about it long and hard and then said solemnly, 'I don't think so. Not with some of the things she says.'

Probably the least of the things between me and bishoprics. 

George and Radio 4

Right, I've made a list of the blog posts I've been meaning to do for the last week so I'll try and catch up now before The Honourable Woman/Lady (can't remember exact title) (obviously) (and if I go to check I'll be distracted and never get these posts done) (which would, of course, be a desperate tragedy).

Not one of the aforementioned posts but I must mention George. Sometimes I throw a stick in the river for him and he looks at me and I can sense every fibre of his being is saying, 'Do I really have to?'
'Yes, you lazy lump. Go and fetch it.'
He sighs and and enters the water dramatically making sure I know this is against his better judgement.
Then he comes out and shakes all over me before tossing his head and marching off.

On a different note I tuned in to radio 4 lunchtime news when I was in the car yesterday. I used to be a regular listener to The World at One or the later show at 5.00 pm but haven't heard either for some time. And I don't watch the news but pick up what's happening in the world by osmosis - and Facebook. A few things about yesterday's broadcast struck me.

Quoting Usain Bolt the news announcer said the word 's**t'. At 1.10 in the afternoon. Even Facebook had bleeped/starred it out. Standards are dropping. Much like the 'explosive projectiles' being used in Gaza. Explosive projectile? You mean a rocket?

And, incidentally Mr Israeli spokesman, there is no such thing as a humanitarian 4 hour ceasefire. The moment you put a deadline on a ceasefire it stops being humanitarian.


Looking for something else entirely I came across this poem. I first included it on my blog back in 2005, the year it all began. (My blog that is not life or baked beans or even war somewhere in the world although it probably did.) It is still a wonderful poem although I am not as funny as I was back in those days. Have I used up my supply of funny? Does funny no longer happen to me? Anyway, here it is.

Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone

is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –

yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it

lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
 Mary Oliver 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Zac's without the bikers

We had Zac's baptisms on the beach yesterday. In the slightly murky waters of Swansea Bay. At least these days they're safe to swim in. I grew up swimming off Mumbles just before the authorities announced that you shouldn't eat cockles collected from the bay as they were likely to be high in various metals, washed down the Tawe from the Swansea valley, a souvenir of its industrial heritage. Still it didn't do me any harm ...

But anyway to get back to the baptisms. Sian and Tony were dunked and it was a fantastic honour and delight to be involved.

But today I realised that none of the bikers who come to Zac's attended the baptisms (except Sean obviously). I assume they were away or had other things on but it didn't matter. I didn't even miss them until I thought about it - not that I don't love them of course.

When I first started going to Zac's bikers, guys from God Squad, were the mainstay. They're still an important part but they're not the whole. They form an entity, a group, with its own uniform and a common interest. But it was fantastic yesterday that the people who turned up for the baptisms were all regulars, all part of the church, the family, of Zac's. A diverse collection of people with Jesus in common. At one time a gathering without any bikers would have been paltry; yesterday it was just right. 

I've won!!!

I never open boring letters. Anything vaguely official, even if it says Personal, I leave to Husband to open. So when he opened one today and said, 'You've won,' I said, 'What? Does it involve chocolate?'

(I'd just come back from Sainsburys where I'd spent a good two minutes, standing in front of the Cadburys Fingers offer of 2 boxes for £2, arguing with myself. [I lost and bought Ryvita instead.])

'No,' Husband said, 'money.' He said it was from a building society and I'd won a prize in their monthly draw. 'There are three prizes of £100,000, a hundred prizes of £1,000 and a thousand prizes of £100.'

'And what about the small print?' I said. I've been caught out like this before. You know the sort of thing. A supermarket gives you a scratch card, you scratch it and find you're definitely a winner. 'You may have won an all expenses luxury holiday for four in the Bahamas or a 100" television or a Fiat Panda (in very small print) or a £1 off money saving voucher for your next shop.' No prizes for guessing what scratching my card always reveals. (Ooh, that sounds rude! Ooh, I sound like Miranda!)

I read the letter and there didn't seem to be any small print so Husband, who was keen to find out what I'd won suggested we go straightaway to the building society and request to see the manager, as instructed by the letter.

On the way there we both tried to convince each other that we wouldn't be disappointed with £100 while secretly thinking, surely if it's just £100 they'd simply pay it into my account rather than make us go through this procedure.

This secret thinking was further encouraged when the nice young man at the building society said he'd get the manager for us as soon as possible. At which point I realised that at any moment I could meeting the woman who'd phoned me when I'd complained about the anti-homeless spikes outside their offices. But whether she recognised my name and refused to see me or whether she really was busy, we were passed on to the Business Manager and shown into an office, which looked rather like a prison cell albeit an upmarket one, which was a good thing, I think, as it meant they were spending more on their customers than on foolish fripperies. 

Then began the checking procedures: checking I was who I claimed to be, checking I was in the country at the time of the draw, checking my blood type (no, not really but they were very thorough) before the Business Manager was finally satisfied and put a call through to the Prize Draw office. And it all began again.

All this checking was serving to convince me that I must have won at least £1,000 and more likely £100,000. My mind drifted between what to do with the money - give lots to the children but keeping enough for a luxury 4 week holiday in Malaysia - how I would react when given the news - a dignified gasp or squeaky jumping up and down (and we all know which is more likely) - and whether the parting on the side of the Manager's hair was really a parting or one of those shaved line things.

At last he looked up at me and said, 'It's £100.'
'Oh, thank you.'

More checking, signing, and authorising until we were able to leave approximately half an hour after we'd entered. 

Outside I said, 'So I've won £100.'
'Let's go and have a cup of tea to celebrate,' Husband said.
'Our parking will be up soon,' I said. 'Let's go to Verdi's for ice cream instead!'
So we blew a whole 5% of my winnings on ice cream. And very nice it was too. But now I have to think carefully about what to do with the rest ...

No begging letters please.

Glorious Gower

Crawley Woods down to Nicholaston Burrows


The remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked November 1887.

From the Explore Gower website:
Rhossili was not a stranger to profit from shipwrecks, previous centuries had witnessed the violence of the Rhossili Wreckers - who lured in unsuspecting ships caught in troubled seas to be smashed against the rocks, in order to acquire their cargo. Such purposeful wrecking confined to the past, the locals would still always make good use of the wreckwood from the beaches, and nearly all of the surviving old farm buildings down the far end of the peninsula are constructed from such reclamation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

There's hot, hotter and really getting silly hot

It was the Gower Chilli festival yesterday and I decided that rather than be boring as we usually are we should make an effort and go along. So we did.

That is, we went after Husband had spent two hours trying to set up a Facebook account for himself. He's resisted the temptation up till now - in fact he didn't find it a temptation although he always read my page - but a few things had happened that had made him decide to enter the world of online friendship, most particularly the opportunity to re-establish contact with a friend he hasn't seen or heard of since our wedding.

So, the chilli festival. It's the second year it's been held and obviously focuses on the wonder of chillis.There were plants for sale, all kinds of relishes, sauces, beers, chocolates, even welshcakes with a hint of chilli as well as hot food and craft stalls, and a freestyle chilli cook-off.

Each competitor had his - now I come to think of it they were all men albeit with lovely lady assistants - own tent and had to provide the means of cooking as well as everything else he needed and had four hours to prepare and cook a pan of chilli, which was judged on flavour, colour, afterbite and general all-round chilli perfection.

The winner goes forward into the British finals and the winner of that gets an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for the World Finals. Last year's winner was hoping to repeat his success with his secret recipe that includes figs and all sorts of interesting ingredients. 

This gentleman told us he has his own freezer to accommodate his love of offal, which he was incorporating into his dish.

While some of the competitors were highly motivated and fanatical about the subject others took it more casually.
We had george with us so couldn't hang around for the judging. We also didn't have much money, which turned out to be for the best as we might have got carried away on the cheese stall. As it was we ended up bread and cheese for dinner.

Have you been strimming?

The Barham Babes invited me to join them for an evening with Dawn French on Friday. (The person who was supposed to be going couldn't so they had to find a replacement: a single person who wasn't doing anything on a Friday night. Choice was limited.) Anyway a jolly evening was had by all.

Dawn French isn't a stand-up comedian but rather a raconteur telling us the story of her life - with accompanying pictures. The girls had both read her book, Dear Fatty, so many of the stories were familiar to them but new to me, as was the term norks for breasts. Fortunately there was a large diagram of the human body displayed with the word Norks pointing at the appropriate piece of anatomy so that wasn't a problem. No, the problem for me came much later when Ms French - or Dawn as I feel I can call her now I know so much about her personal life - talked about the time she had hepatitis A and her mum came to look after her. Her mum asked her how she'd got it and Dawn said it was probably a dodgy sandwich. Her mother, however, wasn't having any of this. 'Don't give me that, young lady,' and accused her of ... I'll add two letters to the front of the word so I don't get any dodgy visitors ... strimming.

The whole audience erupted with laughter. I joined in as enthusiastically as the rest although I didn't have a clue what the word meant. I guessed it was probably something rude but my imagination wouldn't stretch that far.

Walking back to the car afterwards I hesitated: should I ask the girls what it meant? I'd like to think they're young and innocent but ... they are medical students so may be able to enlighten me. So I asked. And they burst out laughing.
'Are you sure you want to know?'
'Yes. No. I don't know. Yes.'

So they told me. Ooh, I wish I hadn't asked.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Get lost!

We went exploring this morning George and me. In other words, we got lost.

I usually walk a variety of routes but always in the same general direction; if I go the opposite way I'm confounded. Familiar landmarks look different back to front. Which is how I came to find myself walking on a bike track.

This is problematic for two reasons:
a) I might get knocked over by a speeding mountain biker;
b) more worryingly, most of the tracks seems to end in thin air with a leap over a precipice.

On the plus side it was good fun pretending to be a mountain biker - but with an engine as you have to make a noise or it's not real - until I fell off.

George wasn't entirely convinced this was the right way down.

Some of old winding gear long ago abandoned.
And this beautiful damselfly posed nicely for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Are you suffering with hearing loss?' 'What?'

'Well, I've never had one of those phone calls before,' I exclaimed to Husband before relating it to him.

'Hello, Elizabeth Haindes?' (Said with northern Midlands accent.)
'Er yes.'
'Our computer brought your name oop as someone who has worked with industrial machinery in't past.'
'Um no.'
'You've never worked with heavy machinery?'
End of phone call.

'He sounded so convinced he was right he had me doubting,' I said to Husband. 'Where would he have got my name from as someone who's worked with machinery?'
'It's a scam,' Husband said. 'They just phone people at random.'
'Really? But that's ... that's naughty.'

The closest I've come to industrial machinery is my rangemaster oven. I wonder if he meant that.

A history of knickers so brief it should be called a thong

So I was wondering: why do we call them a pair of knickers? A pair when it's only one item? A quick google and I have the answer - not from Wiki but from more reliable double-checked and compared sources I should add.

It wasn't until the end of the eighteenth century that women began to wear a form of drawers adapted from those worn by men, with legs gathered below the knee and lacing at the back around the waist. Prior to that women didn't wear anything on their nether regions. 

Now the relevant bit of this is that these weren't so much crotchless panties as ... well, more like individual leggings. The crotch seam was open from front to back, of necessity I assume, as who'd want to struggle with laces when you had a pressing need to wee? A bit later they began to be called knickers from the knickerbocker trousers which were becoming fashionable. And this is where I am doing my 'Elementary, dear Watson' bit: I guess they were called a pair because to all intent and purposes they were in two pieces.

'Closed' drawers with a side-waist opening didn't appear until the end of the nineteenth century but now knickers were becoming prettier and more colourful - and made of silk - if you could afford them. And so it has continued over the years with more and more time and money being spent on designing and marketing tiny triangles of material.

And there you have it. Everything you need to know about knickers in one short blog post. Next time DIY brain surgery for beginners.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to feel inadequate without even trying

At the checkout a headline on the magazine: Four kids, one husband and a £14m business. I hate her already.

I arrive home from Sainsburys - having resisted the 2 boxes of Cadburys Fingers for £2 offer - and Husband says, 'You need to do some accounts. Find out how much you earned from sales via Lulu.'

I oblige and find that during the tax year 13/14 I sold 5 copies of my book via lulu and from that made the magnificent sum of 80p. And I won't be paid that until the total is the equivalent of $5. I could go to my grave never receiving it.

I really wish I had bought those Fingers now.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What we did at the weekend

Just back from a flying visit to the Midlands for the joint 60th birthday celebration of my sister-in-law and her partner. It was good to see people we nowadays usually only see at funerals!
The siblings, with the birthday girl in the middle looking sensational at 60!

Their garden backs onto a field that they've adopted so Husband and I had to have a wander around, me to enjoy the swing and Husband to investigate an old shed almost hidden in the bushes. (He's inherited his father's tendency to have to explore interesting-looking places.)

But nettles and bare legs shouldn't go together so I kept out on this occasion.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Road signs for intellectuals

"Site access/egress". At first glance I thought it was Welsh. (Most of our signs are bi-lingual.) Then I thought, 'No, wait, egress is a bird.' But that doesn't make sense.

Much pondering - by which time the traffic lights had changed and I had driven past the sign in question - led me to the conclusion that it was neither Welsh nor a bird but a real English word meaning 'the way out' (thank you Mr Chambers). 

If it takes me, a reasonably articulate woman for whom the word egress does actually ring a bell, that long to decipher the sign may I suggest that it's perhaps not ideal?

On a similar note i.e. little used words, I recently spotted a van advertising 'fortnightly sales of furniture and chattels.' And I instantly had an overwhelming urge to attend a sale of chattels. 'May I interest you in this pre-loved chattel, madam?'

On a completely different note I caught a snatch of a news report yesterday about a woman who was persuaded to smuggle 20,000 euros in a condom inside her person. I cringed.

P.S. Husband pointed out that the sign should have read ingress/egress rather than access. It constantly amazes me the range of stuff Husband knows.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Catching up yet again

Last week passed in a bit of a blur. I must have been doing stuff but not sure what exactly. Oh wait, yes, I did spend some time looking for pirate accessories. But more of that later.

I led Zac's bible study on Tuesday and it was fine. After the chaos of the previous week, when Steve led it, everyone decided to behave. Or rather, the awkward ones weren't there. So that was fine. Until later when everything had been cleared away and a man came in saying he hadn't eaten for days and was there anything hot. I said I'd warm up some soup for him and put it in a polystyrene cup. Then he said he had two friends outside and could he have three cups.

Which would have been fine if, by the time I'd warmed up the soup, he hadn't got into argumentative mood with the result that I was left to clear up a puddle of soup and half a can of lager from the carpet. Then when I went outside I discovered most of the rest of the soup spilled on the road. It does make you wonder why you bother. But then you remember those who really are hungry and grateful. Not that we do it for gratitude but neither do we do it for ingratitude!

Saturday it was off to Surrey for GrandSon1's 3rd birthday party - pirate-themed.
Daughter-in-law had done a fab job preparing a treasure hunt complete with treasure that had to be dug for while Elder Son put together a pirate ship out of cardboard. Children of that age don't really play together but they all seemed to have a wonderful time running around and climbing in and out of the ship.

Daughter and family, who'd joined us in Surrey for the party, came back to Swansea as they needed to do stuff on Monday while Husband and I childminded. Sitting on my lap in the afternoon GrandDaughter whispered to me, 'Perhaps Mummy and Daddy will forget that we're going home to day. Don't tell them!'
But they didn't.

Today included a visit to Great-auntie Joan for her 95th birthday, although as she explained that even though most people think it's on the 8th July when she found her old birth certificate she discovered her birthday is actually the 7th. So now she manages to stretch out the celebrations over two days.

When I arrived she was in the kitchen making sandwiches. She'd already made a trifle and cooked a chicken - 'I'd never buy one ready-cooked: you don't know how long ago it was cooked' - and still had the sausages to cook before her family of ten including grand- and great-grand-children came for tea. 'I really should sweep up outside,' she said, 'but they'll just have to close their eyes to the mess.'

Her work ethic was instilled many years ago. When she was eleven her mum said, 'Right, it's time for you to start work,' and each day before going to school she had to go down on her hands and knees and scrub the front steps. 'I even had to get up at 6 and do it on my wedding day.'

In 1974 she had a mastectomy and I'd always assumed she'd been fitted with a prosthetic replacement but I found out today that she made - and still does make - her own out of material stuffed with cotton wool. Here she is four years ago with her little brother on his 90th birthday.

While I was visiting Husband was gardening and when he was picking gooseberries he came across this:
A snake had become entangled in some fruit mesh. After checking that it was a garden snake not an adder he spent fifteen minutes carefully cutting it free. The snake was very tightly squeezed through the holes so it needed a lot of care to slip the scissors in without damaging the animal. Snakey hissed at him but didn't try to bite.

What a hero Husband is. Although I shall be reluctant to venture into any overgrown part of the garden in future.