Monday, March 31, 2014

When there's no-one else to argue with

I was arguing with myself this morning. Well, I had no-one else to talk to in work.

In the run-up to Mother's Day I searched t'internet for quotes and cartoons appropriate for the weekly notices and naturally I was distracted by loads of self-help type quotes. You know the ones. They're to be found in abundance on pinterest and facebook. So I'm yeah, yeah, (there should be a like in there somewhere, shouldn't there?) I know but this morning one of them was haunting me. 

I say one of them; it wasn't actually one, more an amalgamation of several all saying basically the same thing. But now I come to write it down I can't think what it was exactly. Perhaps I made it up, perhaps I ... what's the word? Extrapolated, that's it. Extrapolated from other quotes. 

In which case I should be a therapist and have my quote recorded for posterity. Are you ready? Here it is:
If you tell yourself you're rubbish then you'll start to believe you.

So back to this morning, I'd done something stupid - nothing unusual there - and I was walking up the stairs telling myself I was stupid. Which was when I began the argument. 
'I'm stupid.'
'No, you're not.'
'Yes, I am.'
'No, you did something stupid but that doesn't make you stupid.'

It's a good theory. if only I can keep it up.

I didn't ejaculate, 'good afternoon.'

There was a woman walking her dogs by the river today. A very loud woman. I heard her rather than saw her at first. And she sounded like the sort of woman who would start a conversation with a dog-walker.

Now when I'm out with George that's it. I don't mind exchanging pleasantries but conversation with strangers is a no no. I like to retire into my own world where the only people I speak to are George and me. I'm not that fast a walker but obviously faster than she was and I was soon catching up with her and it got to the point where I had to make that decision. The 'do I speed up and stride past with an afternoon nod' or 'do I slow down to give her time to get away from me'?

Dog walkers are notoriously bad at doing what you hope they will do so I usually opt for the speeding up option although then it becomes less of an afternoon nod and more of an afternoon gasp as I pass.

It was particularly crucial this afternoon as I was working on the plot of novel 4. As I mentioned on Facebook it is so convoluted you could remove a cork from a wine bottle with it. Ah yes, a question: can mobile phones be traced just because they exist? Even if they're switched off? A question for the writer's friend, Google, methinks.

I'm good (I think) at writing dialogue but less good at description. I don't mean pretty sunsety type description but description of the action, telling the reader what is happening. (I know show don't tell is the rule but you have to tell to a certain extent in order to show.) When I do include it it sounds a bit flat.

I've looked at other novels I've enjoyed, ones of which I like the style, and action is usually written in those in a similar way. Basic he did this, she did that sort of stuff. Maybe it's like 'said'. Again one of the oft quoted rules is not to use a lot of fancy verbs when said would do. For example, "'That's amazing,' she ejaculated." It can detract from the story and is unnecessary. Normally if a word is repeated a lot the reader will pick up on it and possibly start to get annoyed but 'said' becomes almost invisible. So perhaps when describing action it works the same way: simple is best. At least in my sort of writing. I'm not fancy.

Or maybe I should write a screenplay.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mother's Day

I thought I had three children but it appears I only have two: one in Devon and one in Malaysia. I shall be amending my will accordingly.
(Card on the right hand-made by GrandDaughter.)

Now, as the sun is shining, I will do a bit of gardening - but nothing too strenuous you understand. It is Mother's Day after all.

My starter: cockles, bacon and spinach on toasted roast garlic bread, topped with grated cheese. (Husband's own invention)
And my main course: Husband's take on Gary Rhodes' shepherd's pie, which is probably the best shepherd's pie in the world.

It's not you it's me

After breakfast in bed served by Husband I took George for a walk while Husband went to Sainsburys to buy the ingredients to cook my Mother's Day meal. He is a lovely man who spoils me.

So while walking I decided I'd pray for the people in Zac's (and it took me the whole walk to cover everyone). What was interesting was that in some cases I realised I was the one who needed prayer because it was my attitude to people that needed changing. I need patience with the one who irritates me and a way of responding to the one who tells sexist jokes without simply blanking him - probably not the most effective way of dealing with it.

There is someone with a variety of problems and potentially a threat who comes now and again to the bible study but who, last Tuesday, was ... different. If you're a pray-er, please pray that the tiny flicker of hope is fanned into a huge blaze of change.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Devon and further afield

'Okay, I'm going to the toilet now,' I say.
GrandDaughter stands up and waits for me. 'Come on.'
'I won't be long; you stay here.'
She shakes her head and holds out her hand.
'Can't I go to the toilet on my own?'
GrandDaughter looks at me, a puzzled expression on her face. This does not compute. She shakes her head to dismiss the thought. 'Come on,' she says.
I give up.

* * * * * * * * *
While we were in Devon it was Younger Son's birthday. He spent it diving and barbecuing on the beach with local children. This morning we skyped him. He said it had been a good week for diving.
'We swam with a turtle, we saw a moray eel and (other fish) and a shark swam past us.'
'A shark?'
'Yes, we were diving at Shark Point.'
'Shark Point?'

There are some things you shouldn't tell your mother.

For a while Younger Son seemed to lose his way in life. He drifted and dabbled and seemed aimless and unhappy. Then he returned to university, found a subject that interested him, met the girl who would become his wife and turned his life around.

Now he and Nuora are in the beautiful Perhentian Islands in Malaysia where they've set up their own marine conservation project. He has started work on his PhD and is working hard creating a home and a future for them both. We are incredibly proud of him. He and Nuora took a huge step when they decided this was what they would do and they're working hard together to make it a success. And when it is it will be of great benefit to the local community and the marine environment generally.

We love them both very much. (But, yes, I wish they were a bit closer.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You can tell I'm a mother

I have well-developed mother's logic. 'If it's not there it must be somewhere else,' I say - to myself on this occasion as all my children have left home (finally) (temporarily).

The problem is that I have the habit of removing my bra in strange places. A limited number of strange places  and, I should stress, all within the house rather than Sainsburys for example  but nevertheless inconsistent placement. 

After a fruitless search in all the obvious places and a few less likely it eventually turned up at the bottom of my wardrobe. My idea of tidying I seem to recall.

Come on a journey on my train of thought

Apart from Carry On films I watched a lot of cowboy programmes in my youth. I was thinking about this when I was wandering through Clyne Gardens. For some reason I don't recall I'd just made the oo-oo oo-oo  noise usually associated with creepy films but today, in my head, it turned into the theme from Rawhide.

Most of the television shows I remember were cowboys and I was wondering why there were so many of them. I suppose because most were made in America and cowboys were American history. So there was the Lone Ranger, Laramie, The Virginian, Rawhide (Rowdy Yates), Wagon Train, Bonanza (Little Joe), and later the High Chaparral (Manolo{?} was my favourite over Blue) and even later, jumping on the Butch Cassidy bandwagon, Alias Smith and Jones. I'm sure I must have forgotten some; what do you remember?

From there my mind leapt to whittling. I have to do some whittling later on and when I made my first attempt a couple of weeks ago, I found it a lot harder than I expected. Possibly because I had a rubbish knife and I was petrified of cutting my finger off. 

When I was in grammar school at about the age of 13 I had the chance to learn basic first aid in the lunch-hour. My friends signed up for it so I did too. I got through the first lesson okay but then the second week the teacher, a Russian named Mrs Staples, asked what we thought was the most common injury for butchers. It turned out to be cutting open the artery in their leg with their meat cleaver. 

That was enough for me. I was on the floor before you could say, 'You look pale, Liz; are you feeling faint?'

Afterwards Mrs Staples encouraged me with Slavic stoicism to keep coming to class and fight it. But I didn't. I knew she only wanted me as a living model for her 'what to do when someone faints' class. And I've been fainting ever since.

The people around me always seem more concerned than I am when I faint. But it's not a big deal. Not that pre-faint isn't horrible. Both the feeling and the panic: should I make a fuss now or will it go away or should I embarrass myself by asking to lie down or ... oh oh, too late, booomph. 

I don't think the pet cemetery in Clyne was what made me go oo-oo oo-oo. Isn't it annoying when you can't remember stuff?

Fallen rhododendron blossom
P.S. Bronco. I can't believe I forgot Bronco Laine!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mustafa a piece of cake

A youth-hood spent watching Carry On films has had its effect on me. When introduced to a man named Mustafa my brain goes walkabout on its own and I have to bite my tongue so hard it bleeds.

* * * * * * * 
On a different note I will never lose this weight I've put on if I don't resist my cravings. Like the craving I had this afternoon for cake. So I made one.

But when I went to sprinkle sugar on it I found the lid of my shaker was bunged up. 
After poking a few holes through I decided I really should wash the lid. Which is where the problem arose: the lid was stuck on. 

It's a cunning little device, a sort of r shape, that ensures the lid doesn't fly off mid shake, but stare at it as I might I could not fathom which way I should turn it to take it off. I tried both ways but it was no good because it was stuck and because it was stuck I couldn't tell which way I should turn it. Stick with me; it gets worse.

I published the photo and asked the question on Facebook and everyone seemed to agree it should be anti-clockwise. However what I and the majority of the rest of the world don't seem to be able to agree upon is which way is anti-clockwise. 

For the life of me I cannot see how turning it left is turning it anti-clockwise. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere.

P.S. I did get the lid off eventually but when I tried to work out which way I'd turned it I couldn't even remember which was left and which was right. It's been a long day. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A de-cluttering I will go

About a month ago I read an article about de-cluttering. The top 5 hints were really good and I resolved to act on them.

So ... weeks later as I'm cleaning the bedroom I finally think about getting rid of some of the umpteen jars of make-up stuff that litter my bedroom shelf. All the miracle rejuvenating creams that I spent a fortune on and that may have worked if I'd ever got round to using them, the eye creams, the anti-ageing serums, oh, yes, I am an advertiser's dream: I believe it all even though I have proved to myself many times that my hair will never be silky smooth whatever conditioner I use.

I get each bottle down one by one from the shelf, consider the unopened packaging ... and put it back on the shelf. Well I spent good money on that; I may use it one day. And that was a free gift with something so I have to keep that.

As a gesture to decluttering I am throwing out a bottle of nail varnish remover bought for the one occasion in my life that I used nail varnish and a bottle of body lotion from a Christmas gift set at least 12 years old. I sniffed it and it definitely smells funny.

It's a start.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Getting back on the horse

Have just submitted Novel 3, about dogs and their owners, to another agency. I realise that the last rejection I had, which though positive was still a rejection, was last November so I need to get myself up and at 'em again.

I also realise that Novel 2 has been with a publisher for almost a year now. I queried it in October and they said it was still under consideration. I suspect they've now lost it but I don't want to ask because while I don't hear I still have hope.

I suppose I could submit that to an agent too as I'm sitting here with the list of agents in front of me. Can I face it?

Let's prepare for the rejection roundabout.

Now where did I put ...

So I have everything ready for my walk with George and I head for the back door: it's locked. I reach for the key in its usual place but it's not there. I look around and not finding it call Husband.
'You locked up last night; where did you put the key?' (I am delighted that for once I know I'm not at fault.)

A long conversation follows along the lines of 'usual place' etc etc before he refuses to believe me and comes to look for himself.

We then conduct a thorough search including the rubbish bin in case it fell in. Eventually Husband goes upstairs to look in his other trouser pockets in case he left it there. And that's when I remember the key I put in the camera bag a few minutes previously ready for our walk.

'Um, it's okay, I've found it,' I shout up the stairs.
'Where was it?'
'Er, I'd rather not say.'

* * * * * * * *
Last Monday I arranged to meet a plumber at Linden on Tuesday afternoon. It was Wednesday morning before I remembered. 

I called him and apologised profusely and tried several times to re-arrange but he ignored my messages. 

On Monday I gave up and arranged to meet another plumber at Linden today at 1.00 pm.

To say I am neurotic about this meeting is putting it mildly. I have set the alarm on my computer, left myself notes in prominent positions and even got Carolyn from Linden to email me this morning to remind me.

I have a fear of being blacklisted by every plumber in Swansea

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I'm a heroine; get me out of here

Last November I took part in NaNoWriMo and managed to write 50,000 words of a novel. Come the first of December I put my novel aside to concentrate on real life that gets a little hectic at that time of year, and aside it stayed until a few weeks ago. Again an attempt or two to pick it up and get on with it weren't really successful so, in true Baldrick fashion, I came up with a cunning plan.

Setting targets or deadlines for myself never seems to work; I need an external stimulus of some sort. So I'm using Lent as that stimulus. In the past I've given things up for Lent or used it as an opportunity to be thankful; this year my aim is to write some novel - or do something connected with novel-writing - every day.

I began well but then missed four days - trip to Devon and rugby and general ennui - but picked it up again yesterday. My heroine, who was languishing in a lock-up, is waiting eagerly to see how I'm going to get her out of the pickle I seem to have written her in to, and I must confess to being rather curious myself.

A flaw in my thinking

Miserable Git smiled today. (To clarify, not Husband but a dog-walker we often see.) His dog still growled at George though. Not in a ferocious way but more of a 'I'm your boss' way, to which George responded with, 'Whatever.' He has nothing to prove. 

A nice long walk including a big hill the morning after a strenuous circuit training session wasn't the best idea. By halfway up the hill I was in need of a power snack and wishing I'd brought some of those cookies with me. It was only the thought of marmite on toast that kept me going. And a banana. And a cookie. Or two.

Which sort of defeats the object of the nice long walk. Tuesday is Weigh Day but I refused to weigh this morning as I didn't want to depress myself. But now, having had a long walk I feel justified in eating lots. A definite flaw in my thinking somewhere along the line.

A baking frenzy

You may remember that a few weeks ago I made a birthday cake for Steve Porter.
Two days later he had a heart attack.

Last week he had a piece of the birthday cake I'd made for others.
This time his tooth fell out.

I am not going to let him eat any more of my cake. I cannot be responsible for his well-being.

This week we have tray-loads of cranberry and chocolate cookies for Zac's. I also made a teisen lap for Nigel, the winner of the raffle prize, a cake a month for a year. Except it's not really a teisen lap, which means cake on a plate.
The birthday cake from last week was the very hungry caterpillar - did you recognise it? Minus its deely-boppers in that shot as I didn't have any pipe cleaners. I had to stop at the newsagents on the way to Zac's and pay £1.99 for a pack of 50 when I only wanted one. I was so irritated that I forgot where I'd parked the car and went the wrong direction. Sadly my creative attempts were unappreciated at Zac's as very few people there knew about the very hungry caterpillar. I'm wasted I tell you.

(No, unappreciated is the wrong word; people appreciated my cake just asked, 'What? Why?')

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The ramblings of a confused woman

One week I announce I'm leaving Linden in favour of Zac's, the next a tragedy occurs in Zac's.

And now I have time to think I realise that in stepping out of Linden I'm leaving the safety zone. In abandoning the safety net of numbers and familiarity and middle class politeness where I can be just another masked woman I'm distancing myself from the edges of a room to put myself with the edges of society where the vulnerable and damaged are more easily identified. They exist in every church - in all of us - but the wounds and scars are more visible in some places. 

Linden has played a huge part in my life and the gap that I find between it and me is of my making, I know that. I could have played a fuller role there - to a certain extent - but I chose to follow a different path. And it's going to be challenge: I'm not a natural people person and my innate selfishness will always be a problem causing me to question my motivation and desires. And what makes me think I'm the person for this? Wouldn't I be better just sitting in a quiet corner mouthing the words, talking the talk?

But today I talked to God, handed it over to him, asked him to help me a better person. The person he created me to be, the person I could be. To help me not make me; I've got to do my bit too.


I have sat and looked at this empty 'page' for a while now, knowing what I want to write but not wanting to write it. Not understanding, not wanting to feel.

I don't feel as a rule. My emotions are kept under locks. I blame the medication. And early experiences. Far simpler to watch from a distance. To care but not to feel. There's a difference. But the edges are blurring and I don't know how to deal with it.

It began yesterday. As usual I blamed it on hormones, tiredness, eating too much, feeling fat and thus unhappy. But then slowly an idea began to emerge, an idea so shocking that I still don't believe it. Could I be grieving?

Andy's funeral was on Friday. Sean took it and did a wonderful job. So far, so under control. Up till then I'd been busy, occupied. When Ric told me what had happened I was stunned but Andy had been a vulnerable individual and while it was horrendous it was maybe always a possibility. So life went on. And I thought, with the funeral out of the way, that everything would gradually drift back to normal. I wasn't expecting to still have this heaviness needing but not finding a way of release.

But I wasn't that close to Andy. Yes, I've known him probably as long as I've been going to Zac's. I've seen him pass through dark times and celebrated with him only last summer when he was baptised and found a new hope. But we weren't close friends. I've talked to him and laughed with him but I knew very little about him in honesty.

So, no, it's probably not grief; it's just edginess, uncertainty. My life is about to change: I've stepped out of Linden church life and soon I'll be leaving Linden work life. I'm on a cusp and I'm unsure. That's all it is undoubtedly.  

A gardening we will go

When weeding I tend to work on the principle that if something has survived a year in my flower bed it's almost certainly a weed. To paraphrase Polly Garter, 'Nothing grows in my garden except weeds and grannies bonnets.'

There's a lady - I assume it's a woman because they're a very female sounding flower - who lives at the other end of Clyne woods, near Killay, who claims to have Britain's national collection of Aquilegia. I don't mean to cast doubt on her claim - I'm sure she does - but, whereas no doubt she carefully tends hers, we can't stop them shooting up everywhere in our garden. 

However I am proud to announce that the tubs I planted a week ago are still alive!
And not a Grannie's bonnet in sight.

Nor thankfully any skunk cabbage arum lilies.
It's amazing the difference a week of sunshine has made to the flowers in Clyne Gardens. These skunk lilies were merely shoots last week and are now in almost full bloom. They make a beautiful picture in the bog garden but you wouldn't want to get too close to them; they smell much as the name suggests.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

What to do on a Sunday morning

I'm not a proactive sort of person. There've been a couple of things in my life of which I've been at least part instigator that I'm proud of but on the whole I'm more the sort that life happens to. When I wrote to the leaders to say I was taking time out from Linden I genuinely meant that. I was going to have a few months away and see how I coped. But it was read as 'you're leaving Linden.' And being me I just went with that.

So this morning I had my first Sunday since speaking to the church when I could have been in Linden but wasn't. I plan to spend the time I free up walking George and meditating/thinking/day-dreaming but today was such a fabulous day that I dragged Husband out with us around the cliffs. He's been working so hard on the house that Younger Son and Nuora bought that I don't see much of him so it seemed right to spend some good time together (before the game this afternoon).

The fact that ice cream was involved was hardly premeditated at all. We just happened to have some money with us and I might just have mentioned the possibility.

And I'm not going to mention that England beat Wales or that we deserved to lose.

Everyone knows the Welsh hate the English

At least they do according to English wing Jack Nowell, who was speaking ahead of this afternoon's game against Wales. And it's nonsense of course.

Yes, the game against England is the one we want to win more than anything else but it's nothing to do with hatred. I suggest the same is true for the other Celtic nations. It's our history, our psyche; things that happened centuries before we were born, that are barely remembered now, have somehow affected our DNA, our genetic make-up. We can't help it. It's not a particularly attractive feature wanting to beat 'the old enemy' with every fibre of your being but there it is.

But it's not hatred. It's passion and a desperate longing that culminates in 80 minutes on a rugby field once or sometimes twice in a year. And even there it's not personal as such. The banter is good-natured, the energy focused on the game.

There's a great article on the BBC website about the huge rivalry with an interview with the father of Sam Warburton, the Wales captain:
"I'm very proud of being English and have never wavered. Sam wore England shirts when he was younger, he supported England in the World Cup in 2003. But I remember the day I realised Sam and his twin brother Ben had turned over to the other side.
"We were watching England play Wales at Twickenham in 2008 and Mike Phillips went over for a try to clinch the victory. They really let rip and I felt quite disappointed inside - I had finally lost them.
"I used to think that if I had a child playing for any other country against England, I would want them to play well but for England to win. But I desperately want Wales to win on Sunday."

Which leads us to the furore over Sam Warburton's allegiance. Apparently in a press interview he told reporters that when leading the British Lions he told people his nationality was British. A Welsh MP tweeted his fury saying Sam shouldn't be leading the Welsh team if he didn't think of himself as Welsh.

There are so many idiots out there!

And now excuse me. Husband and I will be sitting, metaphorically speaking, on opposite ends of the sofa for the game that kicks off in 20 minutes. Just take a deep breath and sing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"It's a miracle" - or is it?

Arriving at Zac's last night I found the room already crowded; by the time study was about to start there were 33 of us (including Baby) and we had to bring extra chairs in from the hall. I say we but, of course, I'm using it in the royal sense: the men did the carrying.

I muttered to Steve,' They're all out tonight,' meaning all the more eccentric regulars/occasionals were in attendance: with me leading the study this had the makings of a disaster waiting to happen.  

Steve managed eventually to get everyone's attention and he did the opening prayer while I, who was in a cold sweat by this time, sent up my own fervent/fevered plea for help.

And the evening went ... really well.

We were looking at Jesus, the miracle worker, reading the story of the first recorded miracle, turning water to wine. Lots of people joined in the animated discussion, there was disagreement but not discord, and a number of interesting and thought-provoking points were raised. And I only had to yell twice. (Although me yelling is about as effective as a banana trying to take control so I was grateful for the intervention of Kay and, more surprisingly, Golly, who also had some really good points to make.)

The thirty or so pancakes I made for Shrove Tuesday went down well too with a little sugar and lemon.
Quite often after I've led the study I'll be unable to sleep as I toss and turn fretting about all the things I should/shouldn't have said; last night I couldn't sleep but not because of what I did. But rather because God took charge. How cool is that?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What the future holds

It seems I was the only person to be surprised by the course of events but now I've fallen gracefully on my sword I am really looking forward to retiring in 4 or 5 months. It can't come soon enough: I have such great plans for what I will do with the extra time.

I'll become a published best-selling author; I'll throw myself into life in Zac's; I'll keep the house spotlessly clean (okay, maybe that's a step too far even for my imagination); I'll wear George out with huge long walks; I'll have amazing adventures with my grandchildren; I'll pay more regular visits to my elderly relatives. And all this in an extra ten hours a week!

And you and I both know what will happen to my plans. But that's fine because life is good and I enjoy being surprised by it.

You've never got a Swiss army knife when you need one

'Have you got a Swiss army knife?' I asked Husband.
'No. One of the boys had one but I don't know where it is. I've got a sheath knife though from when I was in scouts.'
'You'd be arrested for that these days.'
'Fourteen-year-old boys needed to carry a knife in case they felt like whittling.'
'Or skinning a rabbit.'

Thirty minutes later it occurred to me: 'You weren't in the scouts. And I wouldn't have thought there'd have been many whittling sticks or rabbits on a housing estate in the city of Derby.'
Husband just grinned.

So I had to take a scissors on my walk with me deflecting somewhat from the frontiers-woman image I was hoping to create.

I wasn't planning on cutting down camellias or rhododendrons from Clyne gardens you understand. I just needed a bit of washed-up rope. As it turned out the scissors was next to useless but fortunately I found a stray length I can use.