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!