Monday, February 29, 2016


Have finally got round to submitting to two more agents novels 2 and 3. I've posted before on the complexity of submitting with agents having different requirements so I won't bore you with that again. And I'm ruling out those who say they will only reply if they're interested: that's just not polite!

Also ruling out agents who want hard copies submitted. Waste of time, money and bad for the environment. Then take out those who've already said no and the list gets shorter by the minute.

Hey ho.

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I looked up from my keyboard yesterday to see a spotted woodpecker (of the greater variety) on the peanuts outside the study window. Out of the fourteen photos I took only one captured his head. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
* * * * * * * 
On an afternoon stroll along the beach - yes, okay, on our way to the ice cream shop - Nuora and I commented on the amount of plastic debris washed up. I said, 'If we were creative we could make something arty out of that.'
'Mm, yes,' Nuora replied dubiously.

On the way back from the shop - where we sat outside because of George and froze - I felt led to pick up a discarded laundry basket, which, truth be told, was better than mine, and proceeded to fill it with plastic bottles, lids, gloves and assorted plastic goods. Then we stopped and made Mr. Octojollypus.

There is a serious point to this: plastic not only looks horrid when it's washed up, it can lead to poisoned water, death and disease in marine creatures. Which in turn affects not only our environment but also our well-being.

Last week we walked on Whitford Beach and in a just a couple of minutes collected this pile of plastic.

Younger Son and Nuora feel very strongly about this and have started a #freefromplastic campaign. As part of it - and to help fund Blue Temple Conservation, their environmental project in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia - they're selling sturdy 100% cotton tote bags as well as stainless steel and bamboo water bottles.

If you'd like to do your bit for the environment and order one, please email me liz dot hinds at btinternet dot com.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Turns out the hair straighteners has an Off switch

You know it's going to be a good evening when the raffle prizes include a whip and line dancing classes.

Sadly/luckily I didn't win either of those but it was a great night with music from Captain Cat and a ceilidh called by the inimitable Nigel Mason. The event was in aid of Circus Eruption: a Swansea-based charity that aims to be a place where, using circus skills, young people can challenge their fear of failure in a safe, non-competitive environment. The twmpath, as it's called in Welsh, was part of a western skills weekend Circus Eruption was holding where skills taught included lassoing and knife throwing. Fortunately there was none of that on the night.

So, what else happened this week?

Well, there was the minor matter of Younger Son heading off back to Malaysia for six months without Nuora. She's staying with us for an extra week before heading back to Italy to stay with her family until after Baby is born. She booked her Swansea to airport coach ticket this week and, amazingly, it costs only a few pounds less than her air flight. I can't decide which is more shocking: the high price of the coach ticket or the low price of the air ticket.

After seeing him off Nuora joined me in Zac's for the women's group that this week hosted an art workshop.

And then there was the matter of my hair straighteners.

I've had them for a few years as you can see by the wear on them but I was annoyed when I went to use them this week and found they weren't working. I don't use them as frequently as I used to but I had bed hair and was willing to try anything.

As I was shopping for reading lamps for Uncle - more later - I thought I might as well buy a new straightener at the same time but just to be sure asked Husband to check it, to make sure 'the fuse or something like that isn't working.'

He did so and reported that the straighteners was working fine. 
'How did you do that?' I exclaimed.
'I switched it on,' he said.

Turns out there's not only an On/Off switch but a temperature adjuster too. 

All these years and I never knew.

So, yes, Uncle and his new reading lamps.

He struggles to sleep at night but finds the bedroom light too dim to read by so off I set for B&Q with one thought in mind: to but a lamp and suitable bulbs.

I never want to go through that experience again. Do you know how many different kinds of bulbs there are? 

Back when I were a girl, it was simple. You had a choice it's true but only whether you wanted 40w, 60w or 100w etc and, of course, the bigger the number the brighter the light. Not any more. Today's energy saving bulbs - which I applaud wholeheartedly - are available in different wattages but each measurement is equivalent to a bigger wattage which in turn equals so many lumens, which don't necessarily relate proportionally to the wattage. And if you didn't understand what you just read imagine how I felt in B&Q.
I was the epitome of batty old woman wandering around talking to herself. (I know that's hard to believe ...)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The best sort of week

Rushed home from Zac's women's group on Thursday to go to GrandSon2's birthday tea party. As Younger Son's birthday is happening when he's on the other side of the world he decided he wanted a party before he left so Elder Son and family came down for both parties.

In fact Elder Son did the cooking for YS's birthday lunch - his special lasagne x 2 to include a gluten-free version plus a veggie one for Daughter. They disappeared so fast I didn't get any photos unfortunately but Husband did get one of the birthday cake.

So it was a week of much celebrating - see previous post too - over-eating and fun family times. The best sort.

The first and the sixth

Seven years ago on Mother's Day Daughter and Son-in-law gave me a present and then said, 'There is another one but you'll have to wait until November for it.' I sat there, slightly bemused, wondering what it could be that I'd have to wait months for.

A couple of years later, this time, at Christmas, Elder Son and Daughter-in-law handed us an envelope: it was a card with a teddy bear on it. 'That's an unusual Christmas card,' I thought.

Last week, just  seven days before Younger Son and Nuora were due to leave for Malaysia, YS announced, 'Nuora's not coming back to Malaysia with me. She's going back to Italy to stay.' All kinds of catastrophes rushed through my head. Then he added, 'Because we're having a baby.'
The sneaky pair had been secretly visiting the doctor and the midwife and had had a scan. Beautiful baby - and my sixth grandchild - is due late August and I am one hippy happy hoppy bunny!

Sadly the expectant parents will be apart for the next six months as YS has to go back to the islands to finish his PhD research - thank goodness for skype - but he will return for the birth (obviously) and we will booking a holiday in Italy for early September!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What? No honeycomb?

You'll notice that this blog is sub-titled 'The thoughts of me and my dog etc.' but you may have also noticed that George doesn't say much. I have come to the conclusion that he is less articulate than Harvey although it may be his age: he may still be in the bolshy teenager stage.

Why speak when you can stare sullenly? 'Of course I'm not speaking to you. What do you expect? you made me move off my rug.'

I'll try to get more contributions out of him - when he's in a better mood.

* * * * * * * * *

I was in a bad mood yesterday. Or rather I was downhearted. A setback we hadn't been expecting in our Zac's initiative. What I needed was ice cream.

Ice cream is always good but I was just a tad disappointed with this. I wanted apple crumble ice cream but the girl at the till said they didn't make it in winter. That would have been okay if I hadn't later seen it in the freezer selection.

My praline pecan was nice but the honeycomb ice cream I had with it didn't contain one tiny piece of honeycomb! Which, let's face it, isn't what you want. I think I may email Verdi's in fact.

Anyway, as my fitbit was reading less than 3,000 steps I decided I'd walk home, a distance of about two miles along the prom. Nuora joined me and the walk went so much faster with company. I shall miss them both very much.

And then I went to Thrive circuit training as well! (Which was a clever trick I played on myself telling myself I wouldn't go and then only deciding at the last moment so not giving myself time to be miserable in anticipation.) (I do enjoy exercising - after it's over. Just not the looking forward to it. Or the pain of doing it.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rumpole was never like this

We've been watching and enjoying The Good Wife for a while now. One of those smart and attractive series that Americans seem to do so well. Nothing too horrendous or morbid with occasional snatches of humour (unlike The Bridge, which is probably my most favourite television series of recent years) it's an easy watch.

But I am becoming increasingly depressed by it, or rather by the actions of would-be politicians and the realisation that that is probably what it really is like. I say politicians; the heroine is standing for States Attorney - which I don't think is a political post but she has to be voted in - and so there is all the behind-the-scenes spinning. Totally innocent events become scandals and jokes must not be made because they'll be taken seriously by somebody.

And that's just the politics. Before that I was depressed by the 'get our client off whether he's guilty or not' mindset. It doesn't matter if it's by a loophole, just find something that will let us get him off/make us money. Anything goes if it pays enough. 

Is it just American law? Rumpole was never like that. Or am I naive?

Friday, February 12, 2016

George and the birds

Younger Son has been eating a gluten-free diet but I was still surprised when Husband announced that the bird seed he'd bought was wheat-free. It seemed a bit extreme.

Turns out the lack of wheat is supposed to make it less attractive to pigeons. 

It doesn't.
Just about all the birds that visit our front feeder are pigeons.

Except George who strictly speaking isn't a bird but likes to eat peanuts.

Talking of George, the whole expanse of Swansea bay to frolic across and he still manages to home in on the dog treats dropped by another owner.

That was just before he ingratiated himself with an elderly dog owner who told him and his own dogs to sit. George's bottom was on the sand before you could say periwinkle putting the man's dogs to shame and leading to more treats. 

He knows to whom to cosy up.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I tried to be the little engine but I couldn't

"I think I can, I think I can ... oh no I can't."

In prison on Sunday with Sean as the guest speaker. It was supposed to be me.

It's taking me a long time to shake off my post-Christmas stupor and as I tried to think what to speak about I began to panic as my mind was quite blank. And more importantly empty. So I messaged Sean and said, 'Help!'

Now asking for help does not come easily to me. I will do just about anything to avoid it. Even if someone offers I usually turn it down. Pride, arrogance, I can do this, I don't want to admit to weakness, all of this combines to make a strong taskmaster.

But I couldn't do it. 

Last week I visited Shirley, an old blogging friend, and one in whom I've confided my weariness. She gave me the wise advice to prioritise and maybe sometimes even put things aside or say no. Again I'm not very good at taking advice but I'm glad I did on this occasion.

Sean, of course, was brilliant. He used the scripture about giving the whole of your heart, soul and mind to God. It's something I've always struggled with believing I've too many other things in my heart, soul, mind, to be able to give it all to God but Sean said he'd come to look at it differently. He used the example of the widow's mite, that she gave what she could and was blessed for it. God takes what we give, flawed as it may be. It's the willingness, the wanting to want to, the trying but not believing it's enough - the poverty of spirit - that matters. 

God bless the ones who know they can't, the ones who acknowledge their failures, the ones who know they need God.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Fitness freak

George went for a walk with Nuora and his best friend, Willett, on Friday so I decided to take advantage of having a free (of course I could have been cleaning ...) morning and walk to the library.

Not a bad way to get to the library
Going there was fine; coming back into the wind that was howling and the sand that was swirling was a little tougher until I left the beach and went onto the prom. Where they have a fitness trail! Needless to say I had to have a go at some. Well, at those I could work out what to do with.

This was my favourite. You stand on it and sort of swing back and for - at least that's what I did. Very good for the hip joints I'm sure.

This one ... maybe to have a rest on?

And fun as it is to pretend to be a bus driver there's only so long you want to do it if you're not actually sitting upstairs in the front seat of a bus.
And as I crossed the threshold upon reaching home my Fitbit on my wrist buzzed excitedly as I'd reached 10,000 steps.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Young Montalbano, Husband and Fitbit

Yesterday evening I did 7,000 steps while watching Young Montalbano.

This morning I was telling Younger Son when Husband interrupted saying, 'It's not the same though, walking back and for in the corner of the room.'
'I know but it's better than doing nothing.'
'Yes, but it's not the same. Look up your statistics.'
'It's still 7,00 steps and better than nothing.
'Yes, but ...'

At that point I sulked out of the room.

Husband is unlikely to be alive to watch any more Young Montalbano if he keeps this up.

The Dress Shop of Dreams

I can thoroughly recommend The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, A delightful tale full of lovely characters. A bit of a mystery interwoven with magic and love. Super duper.

Why I hate pastors' wives

Back when I was a church administrator, every Christmas we (the church) would receive a card from a larger church signed, 'from the pastors and their wives.'

Quite apart from the implied sex discrimination it's offensive and I think it's a peculiarly religious thing. You don't get cards from the doctor and his wife or the accountant and his wife. You'd like to hope their wives wouldn't stand for it. I mean, what woman wants to be or is happy to be an appendage?

I assume it's to do with man and woman in marriage becoming one in the eyes of God. But if that is the case then surely the woman must have the same authority and power as the man. Which, of course, she doesn't. She is just the wife. Useful no doubt for making tea.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

No foot rot for me!

After at least 2 years of complaining and putting up with both holey wellies and walking boots I've finally bought some new wellies. It was a close thing: I even took a trip to town to buy myself some but lost interest after looking in a couple of shops.

It was being with GrandSons in their brand-new wellies at the weekend that spurred me on. I was so frustrated at not being able to splash through puddles with them that I came home and ordered myself some. 

But not until after some serious browsing and investigating. All the wellies I've had over recent years have been comparatively cheap and bought, as Husband put it, more for style (if you can have stylish wellies) than sturdiness. So we googled dog-walking wellies and I finally decided on these.

I'm really hoping these will be comfortable for walking - most wellies give me flat feet ache if I walk in them too much - and long-lasting. They cost enough!

Smart eh? I was very happy until Younger Son peered at them and said, 'They're not waterproof.'
'What do you mean? Of course they're waterproof. It said so on the website.' (I believe everything I read.)
'But the leg bit is made of wetsuit material and they don't keep the water out.'

So I set out to test them

They passed the squelching through mud test.
And they passed the wading through the stream test - even though the water came above the rubber bit. And I had to stay there long enough for Husband to take a photo with his phone and then realise it wasn't working so take one instead with the camera I was carrying. In other words I was standing there for a good few minutes.

Smart, warm and comfortable. All that needs to be tested now is longevity. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Anteaters have long tongues

Spent the weekend with Elder Son and family in Surrey.

While pretending to be dogs I point out to 4-year-old GrandSon1 that dogs have longer tongues than people so can lick water out of bowls. He nods but says, 'But not as long as an anteater's.'

You can't argue with that.

Terry's Old Geezers

Back when I had to get up early in the mornings to get the children to school I listened to Wake up to Wogan on Radio 2. The phrase TOGs (Terry's Old Geezers) came to be the name for his listeners who would write in to tell Terry of their latest age-related calamity. The lucky chosen few of those whose letters he read out on the show received a t-shirt or later on a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words, 'Do I come here often?'

The one and only time I wrote (emailed actually I think) in was to tell Terry my joy at discovering that after I had spent best part of a year believing I was, say, 47 - I can't remember how old exactly -  I was in fact 46 and wouldn't be 47 until my next birthday.

Doing the school run meant my listening to the show was interrupted so I missed my email being read out! But I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks later when I received a parcel from the BBC.
Sir Terry Wogan will be missed.