Thursday, November 26, 2015

God the great upcycler

I've always thought or sort of assumed that the root of the word salvation came from save. It doesn't, which makes sense when you realise that there's no L in save.

Anyway according to Chambers Dictionary it comes from the word salve meaning to salvage. I love this idea: that God reaches down into the wrecks of our lives, picks up the usable pieces and turns them into a new and beautiful creation.

Today it's very fashionable to salvage furniture and make it into something new; shops are opening up all over the place. It's reassuring to know that God was upcycling before it became trendy. And will continue to do so when it's no longer fashionable.

Happy Thanksgiving

I made a birthday cake for someone in Zac's. Afterwards the recipient said, 'The last time I had a cake and people singing happy birthday to me was twenty-nine years ago when I was in a psychiatric unit.'

There are so many things I take for granted and so many things for which I am grateful. To be able to have a proper birthday celebration with people I love is just small one.

Thank you, God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The difference a minute makes

I had to phone the surgery for the result of a test. I wasn't worried because the doctor wasn't so I phoned expecting the receptionist to say, 'No problem.' I didn't expect her to say, 'You need to see the doctor.'

That was yesterday afternoon. I had to wait until this morning to see the doctor by which time I was planning the hymns for my funeral.

I went into the doctor's room with leaden feet feeling both sick and faint. (I am not good with anything that might involve hospitals or tests you understand. And I'm slightly neurotic.)
The doctor read the notes and said, 'Fine, it's benign.' She looked puzzled. 'Why have you come to see me?'

I hugged her and wept on her shoulder. No, I didn't really but I did skip out of the surgery. Suddenly life looked very good - and precious again. And too short not to eat that KitKat that's been sitting in the kitchen.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Life is too short to decorate a strawberry

A word of advice: if your daughter ever asks you to make some fairy toadstools for a party say no. If asked why not, answer misquoting Shirley Conran: life is too short to decorate a strawberry.

If you are thinking, 'it can't be that bad,' and are tempted to say yes don't say I haven't warned you. But here to convince you is the story of my morning.

So a while ago Daughter sends me a picture and asks if I'll make some fairy toadstools for GrandDaughter1's 6th birthday. I have a quick look at the picture and say, 'Of course, no problem.'

Come this morning I have gathered all I need: strawberries, marshmallows and a tube of Sainsbury's white icing* and I begin.

Have you ever tried to balance a strawberry on a mini marshmallow AND make it stand up? I think maybe I just need to make lots and cram them all together so they support each other so I persevere.

What's more, no matter how much you pat them with kitchen towel strawberries have a natural moistness, which makes it almost impossible to make the icing spots stick on. That irritation plus the fact that I felt the arrangement of the spots was perhaps not botanically correct cause me to go and look for the original picture and instructions.

That's when I discover:

a) that the toadstools are meant to be stuck on cocktail sticks not to stand on their own;
b) and that they're not mini marshmallows;
c) and that I was supposed to use *melted chocolate not icing for the spots.

I make some executive decisions. I shall merge my idea with the original and go retro by covering half a butternut squash in foil in the way cabbage was used in the 70s for cheese and pineapple on sticks.

What seems like a brilliant improvisation turns out to be flawed.
If the stick isn't vertical it will gradually work its way through the strawberry flesh and the fruit will fall off and there are only so many upright toadstools you can get on the end of a butternut squash.
Seven in fact.

I could go on listing the problems but by now I hope you will have got the message but just in case I'll repeat it for you.
Never agree to make fairy toadstools for your grand-daughter's birthday party.

Eating the body

Went with Uncle to RC mass again last night. This time we managed to get him and his wheelchair into the car (thanks to Husband) rather than wait for a taxi.

I struggled a bit more with the service this week as it was focussing on transubstantiation and the sermon used a lot of words that I didn't really follow. Don't think Uncle was wild about it either as he fell asleep during the homily. He was sitting in his wheelchair in a gap between the rows and I was sitting behind him so I prodded him gently when it was time for the offering. 
'Did anyone notice, do you think?' he asked me afterwards.
But I think it was only his old neighbour who's also his friend and she understood.

Preparations are well under way for his party, which is now only three weeks away and apart from the fact that he seems to be confusing his guests all is going well!

But this afternoon it's GrandDaughter1's birthday party. She's six tomorrow and has invited a number of little girls for the party. No boys - except her little brother - allowed. Oh and granddads and dad.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Back to the future, I mean the past

It was a last minute spur of the moment decision to go to my old school reunion but I'm glad I went.

It was a lunch party held in Sketty Hall and the food was excellent - except perhaps the mille feuille had a bit too much pastry and was very sweet - but of course I ate every last morsel. What was especially good about it was that I was one of the youngest there!

In the circles I mix with these days I am usually one of the oldest so that in itself was a treat. I'd guessed I would be as shortly after I left the school went co-ed and was swallowed up by the nearby boys' school, Bishop Gore.

There were only two of us at the reunion who started at Glanmor in 1964: me and Molly Clement. We didn't know each other as we were in different forms but Molly said she recognised me when we looked at the old school photos on display.
Molly is self-employed making ceremonial outfits for various events and people worldwide, including royalty. I spent most of my life being a wife and mother. Two Glanmor girls with very different stories. It would be nice to find out what happened to all the rest of our year.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry

A wonderful wonderful book about a book store owner, an orphaned child, a gentle policeman and an undeterred publisher's rep.

I noticed it in Waterstone's today and it appears the title has been changed to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Whatever it's called it is an easy and beautiful read. *****

I gave up on Lady Chatterley's Lover. Didn't like the style or the characters so stopped. (Before reaching any naughty bits.)

But I did enjoy The Poet and the Private Eye by Rob Gittins. It's a fictional tale based on true events. An investigator is employed by a New York magazine to follow and find out the dirt on a visiting poet who has threatened to sue them because of what they've written about him. The poet is Dylan Thomas and the events that take place in the story all happened but have been condensed into one visit rather than the four original. Written from the investigator's perspective we're drawn into his crumbling private life as well. 

Again an easy read and enjoyable - although Thomas's behaviour is horrendous. ***

I took another two books back to the library today. One was a light murder mystery and the other ... I can't remember. It must have been really good. (Actually I'm sure it was; i wish I could remember.) (And if I could log in to my library account I'd find out but it won't let me.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Paris bombings

I collected GrandDaughter1 and her friend from school yesterday and took them to gym class. In the car I listened to them discussing what they'd thought about during the two minute silence 'for the people who were killed.'

Friend said she wondered why her granddad had died before she could meet him. GrandDaughter1 said she'd thought about a man being killed and then a woman being killed and then a baby dying because there was no-one to feed him.

I suppose it's good that the school should deal with topical tragedies but I wonder if the children should be given time to dwell on it. These girls are only five years old and while they both seemed to be coping with their thoughts I don't think that would necessarily be true of all children especially the more imaginative or anxious ones. And I wonder how much they'd actually understood about the whole very complex situation. As an adult I struggle to get my thoughts around it.

Maybe I'm just naive or over-protective but I'd like to shield them a little longer. 

Attempting coitus

My plan to take a different path through the woods in the hope it would be shorter and drier turned out, like many of my plans, to be flawed.

It was just as wet.
It wasn't shorter, in fact, after meandering it rejoined the long bit of the original path.
It involved tiptoeing across a rotten tree trunk over a boggy marsh with the inevitable resultant wet feet.

At which point I said, 'Blow it. I shall resign myself to wet feet.' Oh yes I have holes in my boots. Yes, the same boots I said the same thing about last year and quite possibly the year before. But this year I shall definitely buy some new ones. I expect.

Then all I had to do was avoid the falling and hanging-on-by-a-twig branches. Which raises the inevitable question: if a tree falls on my head in the wood will anyone hear me scream?

I survived to tell the tale and of George humping another dog on the beach. Noteworthy because he got both the right sex and the right end. There is hope for him yet.

Monday's post on being clever

My excuse being that I wrote it in my head yesterday but didn't have time to progress it any further.

So, I am of an age that sat the 11+. I passed and went to grammar school thus putting myself in the grouping labelled 'brighter' children. 

In the 'top' class of my year I sat maths and English language O-levels a year early.

After sitting the rest of my O-levels I went on to sixth form, with probably just under half of the year group, the rest leaving to find work.

I think most of those in sixth form went on to university or further education of some sort putting us amongst the select (in those days) few.

I've even got a Master's degree. La crème de la crème as Miss Brodie would say.

So you'd think I'd be clever, right?

Husband insists that I am intelligent but I am a butterfly, getting distracted easily, and that I've never practised or had to be smart. That is, I've never worked in an environment where I've had to apply my intelligence. To use it and find out what I'm capable of.

Personally I think Husband is being generous. I've got by and scraped through all those achievements, although I do know when to use a colon. 

Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking for praise or denial! I know I'm not stupid in spite of what some people think and is evidenced from the way they've treated me. And quite often I play up my foolishness for effect. But I'm just amazed at what I don't know and how I managed to fool so many other people ...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Roman Catholic for a night

The taxi turned up. Twenty minutes late but the driver was apologetic and he made sure the office put him down to pick us up afterwards as well and he was spot on time.

So, mass in a Roman Catholic church. One thing I discovered is that congregations are alike everywhere: everyone huddles together at the back. But a major difference between the service and what I've grown accustomed to is the silence. Everyone came in, took their seats and didn't speak, or if they did it was in a whisper. And at the end nearly everyone got up and left without chatting.

Uncle got lots of welcome back kisses and I think he was pleased to be there. I managed to follow the service pretty well from the printed sheet except when the congregation went 'off piste' and said things I couldn't find. And it gave very clear directions - stand, sit, kneel - so I wasn't caught out. That aside it wasn't that much different from the Anglican service I am so familiar with, having grown up attending the local Church in Wales services. Except of course I didn't join in the Mary prayers or take communion (and it was only the bread, another strange thing I find).

We're hoping Uncle will be able to find someone in church to give him lifts in future. I don't mind going but it's a pain waiting for the taxi and it costs £16 altogether each time!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Back to normal today

After two days of being looked after it's back to the grindstone today, trying to catch up with cleaning and 'stuff'. My to-do list seems to get longer faster than it gets shorter. If you see what I mean.

We're trying again tonight to get Uncle to church. The taxi company that failed to turn up in time last week is the only one in Swansea that has wheelchair-accessible cabs so we're a bit stuck. We might have a go later in the week at getting Uncle into our mini but I don't think we'd be able to get his wheelchair in even if we got him in. And out.

Finding out that life is not simple for the disabled. But that still doesn't justify the number of disabled parking spaces compared to parent and toddler!

* * * * * * * *
Looking out at the rain - the edge of Abigail I believe - today it's hard to remember that it was only two months ago that we were sitting by a lake in Hanoi being drawn.
You can't tell from that photo just how very hot and humid it was.
Quite a crowd gathered as the artist did her work.
Including another artist who decided to draw us too.
Which one do you think is best?
The one we paid for?

Or the one we didn't pay for? (Of course we did pay for it too in spite of Husband's grumbles.)

If you look at the first photo you can see Husband is actually smiling. Slightly. It's just that his resting face is grumpy.

And this is Friday's post

Loved The Lady in the Van. Rest assured, if you have read Alan Bennett's writings about Miss Shepherd you will not be disappointed: Maggie Smith IS Miss Shepherd.

The small afternoon audience consisted entirely of elderly couples who sat very quietly waiting for the show to begin. I felt positively youthful and had the urge to giggle loudly. I guess that if I were put into a lit room with the other viewers and a young person came in, that yp would fail to see any difference in the ages of those already in the room, tarring them all with the same 'old people' brush, but I don't feel old! 

Anyway after the adverts the rather annoying man who was telling us what to do - switch off phones etc - could hardly contain his excitement: 'Now comes the bit we all love - the trailers. And don't worry, they are all appropriate for this showing.'

So I sat there waiting for a Star Wars clip and what I got was trailers for Carol (about a lesbian love affair) and The Danish Girl (about a transgender pioneer). It was only because it was my birthday treat that Husband agreed to come and see The Lady in the Van; even though he enjoyed it I can't see him rushing back for either of those.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

63 today

63 today, I've got the key of the door, never been 63 before.

Although that's not strictly true as for much of my last year I thought was 63 so actually becoming 63 today is less of a burden. Not that birthday's are ever a burden. I love my birthday as my family will tell you. I have a tendency to get over-excited.

So my day started with a phone call and a rendition of Happy Birthday from GrandSon1 in Surrey. He was nearly as excited as me and told me of his plans for the cake he would make when we go for a pre-Christmas visit. 'With a chocolate sledge and a chocolate Father Christmas and chocolate reindeers,' I am looking forward to it!

Then it was breakfast in bed: as a special treat a Variety-sized box of Frosties with fresh passion fruit for starters. Then my cards and then Husband led me into the dining-room to open my 'surprise' present. (I knew what I was having but not exactly.) Here it is tastefully concealed in an old dog blanket.
And this is what was hidden inside.

I've had my food processor for thirty-something years and it's beginning to crack so I requested a replacement and after careful research i.e. a visit to the library to study Which reports, Husband ordered this. It looks very wonderful but I am a trifle nervous that my much-acclaimed (by others I should add) cake-making skills may belong to my food processor not to me and when I try to make cakes with my new mixer they may be a complete disaster! Watch this space.

Then it was off to Zac's for women's bible study. Six of us meant great discussion and honesty as we looked at the gospel of peace and what that means for us.

After our pasta bake lunch we ate strawberries and then Evelyn disappeared to return with a cake with candles. How lovely to have a cake not made by me! And super cards and presents too.

Dawn and I appear to be the only ones who took seriously the words 'now a funny face photo!'
Home to a lovely birthday tea, complete with jelly and Malteser cake made by Daughter (and GrandSon2). I am now full to the top of my ears and may struggle to squeeze in even one or two birthday chocolates.

But my birthday's not over yet. Tomorrow Husband is taking me to see The Lady in the Van and then cooking dinner for me. I am a very lucky bunny.

This is really Wednesday's post ...

but I didn't have time to write it then.

Even though it's only short.

Today (Wednesday) was a day of minor annoyances. A visit to the dentist uncovered an old filling that needs replacing so I have to go back. And I had a letter from the doctor saying my smear test didn't have enough cells so I have to have it repeated.

As I say, minor but still annoying. 

But I'm not going to worry about that as it's my birthday tomorrow (today, whenever).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Good Christian behaviour? Yeah right.

It was nearly my ninth birthday and i was to have a party. I wrote out the invitations and took them to school to hand out. I gave one to Linda. She glanced at the other invitations in my hand and said, 'Are you inviting Jane?'
'Yes,' I nodded.
'I'm not coming then. And neither will Susan.'

I'm ashamed to say I didn't give Jane her invitation, even after my mum told me off. But I'm a grown-up now and I don't give in to blackmail so easily. Especially not to words or actions implying, 'I'm not coming if she's going to be there.'

Why? Because you're judging her and finding her less worthy/more of a sinner than you?

It's strange how often people believe - and I think they really do believe - that God supports their prejudices, that what they are doing is what God wants them to do. 

Recently there was a Billy Graham quote going around on Facebook. I've edited it slightly:
It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict - us of our sins not the sins of others.
It is God's job to judge - us not set us up as judges of others.
It is our job to love.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Trying to enjoy circuit training

I am trying very hard to convince myself I really want to go circuit training this evening.

I'm not succeeding.

It's hard in the winter when the nights are dark and it's cold and windy and all you actually  want to do is curl up in front of the fire. Mind you, it's hard in summer as well when it's too hot to be running about and getting sweaty. And when I do it in the evening it hangs over me all day like a visit to the doctor for a smear test. But when I do it in the morning I have to get out of my nice comfy bed ...

Basically I don't really like circuit training. I do it because it's good for me, I need the exercise and the alternatives (running or the gym) are worse. And I always feel great - very pleased with myself - when I get back.

The various exercises in this circuit aren't too bad; it's the four-minute extras in between stations that finish me. Things like twenty treadmills followed by ten squat jumps over and over again for four minutes. Okay, not over and over again that many times for some of us. It's not so much the treadmills themselves but the standing up again in between that slows me down.

I am also the oldest and least fit woman in the Monday evening group but I have to say, last week I was partnered with a girl (child) about 45 years younger than me and I kept up fairly well.

I should go and get changed now. Where everyone else wears lycra and sporting type clothing I wear my Eric Morecambe shorts and a baggy t-shirt. You'd be proud of me, really you would.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

And the winner is ... ME!

Husband and I had a leaf-catching contest in the woods today. Believe me, on a breezy day it's harder than it sounds.

I won and here's the winning leaf.
Husband caught one eventually but he wasn't really trying. His method was to wait until one landed in his hand while I skipped around, squeaking noisily and flinging myself at passing leaves. So mine is the moral as well as  the actual victory.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The day started okay, went to bad, then improved and then ...

Very cross tonight.

We'd gone to Uncle's so I could accompany him in his wheelchair in a taxi to RC church. It would have been his first visit since before he went into hospital at the beginning of July and he was looking forward to it but was also anxious because he was now in a wheelchair.

We've only found one taxi company that has wheelchair-friendly cabs and we've used them a few times in the past. They've not been very punctual but we hoped that ordering the taxi well in advance for 6.05 pm for a short journey - maybe 10 minutes plus the getting in and out bits - would have got us there in time for the 6.30 pm service.

By 6.25 pm they'd not turned up and we gave up. 

Uncle was very disappointed.

So I've fired off an angry email to them and now I'm trying to calm down again. It's extra annoying as I started the day with the return of stressful anxiety, tense stomach and the feeling that I may cry at any moment (which as I don't cry is even more frustrating than if I did) but a brisk stroll, skip, gallop around the cliffs sorted that out. Unfortunately it's a bit dark to try that remedy now ...
Nothing like a few negative ions to refresh your soul.

In other news:
enjoyed fireworks and hot dogs at daughter's tonight albeit briefly, fitting it in before waiting for a stupid taxi that didn't stupid well turn up;
the new disc has arrived - have I mentioned that my main storage disc had died? - and Husband's hoping that it will be the answer to the problem;
my Facebook account was hacked by someone in China.

It amazes me that a hacker can work out my password when I can't even remember it. I obviously need to keep a 15-year-old nerd on hand. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Are you a pharisee or a prostitute?

Take a damp November night, a small stuffy room, thirty people, one child, one baby and two dogs and you have the perfect setting for a typical Zac's bible study.

Add a hint of aggression and offensiveness, and an underhum of continual noise, and somehow out of the chaos rough diamonds suddenly sparkle.

Just when you think an evening is going to be a waste of time someone unexpected says something moving and you understand better the parable of the two brothers, that Jesus uses to describe the different attitudes of the Pharisees, the law-keepers who knew it all in their heads but failed to let it reach their hearts, and the prostitutes, who acknowledged their sinfulness and so allowed God to deal with them.

And today in the women's group, although there were only four of us, we had a wonderful time of openness and honesty. Again the difference between head knowledge and heart actions were at the for as we acknowledged our need for God.

My favourite time of the week

Thursday, 5.15 pm.
I love this time of the week. For a short period I can slow down. (If I ignore the things about the house that need doing.) I don't have to be preparing, planning, cooking or going anywhere. I can stop, put on my jim jams and just breathe. And that's enough. A little refresher to set me up for more busyness either planned or unexpected.

And today I have left-over leek and potato soup and cheese scones for dinner. Plus a pizza that is only one day out of date for Husband who doesn't like - no, I can't say he doesn't like it, rather that it's not a soup he'd choose - leek and potato.

And I'll worry about all the phone calls I have to make, washing I have to do, arrangements I need to change ... maybe tomorrow. (No, I won't; I'll start tonight because I can't just ignore it completely.)

In the Zac's opening prayer on Tuesday Sean spoke about the fact that we'll all have had different experiences during the week. 'For some it'll have been a good week; others will have struggled; for some it will have been relaxing ...' Sean carried on but I thought, 'Relaxing? Yes, I remember that. I think.'

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Baby birthday

One year ago I had moved temporarily to the east side of Swansea to look after a young lad while his mum was in hospital having his little brother.

Last night in Zac's we celebrated his first birthday.
And his big brother blew out his candles.

Lady Chatterley's numerous close friends

That Lady Chatterley was a bit of a goer, I've discovered.

Browsing in the library yesterday I came upon D.H. Lawrence's novel and picked it up. I was eight when Penguin Books was prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover, a little young - in those days certainly - to have an understanding of indecency or the importance of the case. I'm sure it must have been circulated, certainly by the time I got to grammar school, under wraps by teenage girls keen to find out what all the fuss was about but it passed me by. I was an innocent in those days.

So I thought maybe it was time to read it for myself. I flicked it open to assess the readability: I read last thing at night so can't cope with anything too literary. By some coincidence it fell open at a 'dirty' bit complete with 'penis' and much grasping of buttocks - and it wasn't even with the gamekeeper. I closed it quickly; the library isn't the place to have a hot flush.

"The key factor in the decision to prosecute was that Penguin proposed to sell the book for 3/6; in other words, to put it within easy reach of women and the working classes. This, the DPP's files reveal, was what the upper-middle-class male lawyers and politicians of the time refused to tolerate."
(From The Guardian)

And now it's on a library bookshelf without even a warning that it may cause middle-aged women to blush furiously.

I'm only on chapter four so I'll let you know how things progress ...

P.S. Please pretend this was written yesterday otherwise my intention to write each day in November (for NanoWriMo) will have fallen at the first garden shed.

Monday, November 02, 2015

NaNoWriMo by any other name

Oh my, life is so crazily hectic at the moment.

I've just come back from visiting a community hall to see if it was suitable for Uncle's 90th birthday party. I originally intended to hold it at our house but as he's in a wheelchair and we have steps up to our house that didn't seem a good idea. There would have been several strong men around who could have carried him in but he might not have liked that indignity.

So, the hall. I'd provisionally booked Bishopston Hall by email when Husband said, 'I thought you were booking Murton Hall.'
'It's the same thing,' I said.
He frowned, 'Are you sure?'
'Yes. Almost.'

I googled it but that wasn't very helpful. It was still possible that I'd booked the wrong one of three halls.

I hadn't. So all's well but try telling my brain that in the middle of the night.

* * * * * * 
I locked myself in the car last week too.

The little lock thing was up suggesting it was unlocked but it wouldn't open.

Panic! How was I going to get out?

Ah, wait, I have the car keys in my hand; I can unlock it magically. Phew.

* * * * * *
Tuesday and Wednesday last week we popped up to Egham to see Elder Son and family. I was delighted to see that GrandSon1 had found a stick and painted it appropriately.
He's definitely got my genes.

On Wednesday we visited The Lookout, a hands-on discovery centre. Great fun although it's the sort of place you need to go again without children.

The weather was fab and the autumnal colours between Egham and Bracknell were sensational. As were the numerous mansions, which were dotted alongside the road (carefully screened behind high hedges and gates). It is a seriously rich area.

* * * * * * *
I've not done any creative writing other than Facebooking and the very occasional blog post and I've not submitted my novels anywhere since I've come back from holiday - which seems an age ago now. This month, as every November, is NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month challenge). I'm not going to be so stupid as to attempt it this year but I will try and write on my blog every day. I need to get back into the habit. Admittedly I haven't got off to a very good start as I missed yesterday but hey ...

* * * * * *
Had a bit of a baking frenzy the other weekend making Uncle's birthday and our Christmas cake. With the left-over mixture I was able to make another small/spare cake and fortunately it was on this one that I tipped the remains of a bottle of brandy that I discovered too late had gone off. That didn't stop Husband eating it though.

I asked him if it was okay. He said, 'Disappointing.' Which isn't promising for the other cakes I made so I am dosing them liberally with brandy (fresh) each week between now and December 13th.

* * * * * * *
And as if winning the world cup and being Man of Final wasn't enough, Dan Carter also won World Rugby Player of the Year for the third time.