Thursday, April 21, 2016

Preserved for perpetuity in a pas de deux

We're off on holiday on Saturday. To Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. I plan to sleep, eat ice cream, read, swim, eat, you know the sort of thing. A good relaxing time. I feel I need it. Since January I've had two bad infections and I just want to rest! However Husband has other ideas.

'We're going to walk up a volcano,' he says.
'A dormant one?'
'Oh, yes. I don't think they've had an eruption for a long time.'
'So they could be due for one about now?'

Hmmm. I consider this.

'But the experts will be keeping an eye out for rumblings, won't they?'
'Oh, yes, but it will be suppressed.'
'What do you mean?'
'They won't want to put tourists off so they'll be made to keep quiet.'

Seems depressingly likely. So, instead of worrying about the possibility of being killed by lava I decide to look at it another way.

'We need to plan a pose then.'
'What?' Husband is confused.
'Well, if I am to be preserved for perpetuity I want archaeologists of the future to dig me up and wonder what I was doing.'
'Oh yes, well, we'd be in each other's arms obviously.'

Romantic but how much more interesting if we were preserved doing a pas de deux?

Husband then points out that if the boiling lava gets us we won't be preserved but burned to a melting blob of fat and charred bits. No imagination some people.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

An unexpected proposal

It's amazing what ironing can do for the brain. I was merrily pressing t-shirts when I thought, 'Suppose David proposed to Alison? That could lead to a whole series of disasters! And another book!'

Aliss, the heroine from This Time Next Year, my first novel, has her own blog and her own Facebook page but both have been sadly neglected for some time. It doesn't stop Facebook from reminding me though when it's the birthday of my friend, Alison. Which was, in fact, a couple of days ago. Hence my thoughts on what would happen if David, the hero, had proposed to her on her birthday.

To find out what happened, visit Alison's blog, also called This Time Next Year.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A girl's got to do ...

You wouldn't think it were possible to lose a dirty great cast iron griddle/bakestone, would you? But apparently it is. 

The replacement is a modern thing and not half as good as my granny's. The heat is very hard to get right so my welshcakes are either burned or crispy because they've taken so long to cook. But I'm forcing myself to eat them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Press me

Today Husband and I took our first day trip of the year, possibly of two years. We're pensioners and it's what pensioners do, y'know, visit stately homes, local attractions and the like. anywhere really as long as they sell tea and cake, and have plenty of toilet facilities. The impetus for going today was that, as it's National Garden Week, Dyffryn Gardens, a National Trust property in the Vale of Glamorgan, had free entry. So off we tootled. That's also what pensioners do, they tootle here and there.

First stop, cafe for tea and a very restrained welshcake. Yummy. Unlike the scone with which I ended my day. Next time I must remember that the NT doesn't do good scones in my albeit limited experience.

In between we 'did' the gardens and house.

The garden is lovely and huge with loads of different areas and 'rooms'. Sadly we'd missed the daffodils at their best and we were too early for most of the tulips and late Spring flowers. We'll probably try to return in summer when the garden in full bloom should be magnificent.

The house is still very much a work in progress although a number of rooms have been opened and decorated in the style of its Victorian splendour. 

Once you've finished your family ironing you may care to take an iron to the billiard table.

The stained glass over the Great Hall entrance to the house.
From 1940 to 1999 the house was out of private ownership and used as a conference centre and, according to one of the guides, it was quite true: a parrot sexing course was one of the first to be put on.
Could you resist the urge? I couldn't - and nothing happened. So I started to run away in case I'd set off an alarm.
Fortunately I was caught by another one of the guides who explained that, if I'd looked up, I'd have seen some of the original wallpaper from before the house became a conference centre and the ceilings were lowered.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A post it's taken 45 years to write

Some time ago my friend, Shirley, sent me a writing prompt pamphlet, called Writing the Family Album. It wasn't until some after I received this kind gift that I actually opened it and read it properly. By then it was the week before Mother's Day and I noticed that one of the prompts was: write about your mother, and it occurred to me then that i had never written about my mother.

I've written about my past, either as fact or as barely concealed fiction, and I've used several members of my extended family in short stories and novels but I had never, in all that time, written about my mother. It surprised me and I decided I'd write something in time for Mother's Day. It seemed appropriate.

I should have thought it through; the fact that I'd never done it before should have rung bells. Procrastination stopped me beginning and stilted prose prevented me continuing. It took an enforced rest (did I mention I've been poorly?!) and a concentrated effort on my part to begin and, days later, to finish - and later still to publish - the words I finally came up with. I'm not sure if it's what I wanted to say but I hope it's honest. 

At the end of the writing prompt pamphlet it notes, 'What you can't remember - invent!' I don't think I've done that. 

It's longer than most of my blog posts so I'm starting it here as a taster for you with the option of reading it in full on my The bits that are too long blog.

My mother, my hero?

The question mark is important. As on my Finding Life Hard? blog title, leaving it out changes the whole meaning significantly.

My mother was tall. At nearly six foot, she struggled to find clothes to fit her and mostly shopped by post through a catalogue for Tall Girls. She enjoyed her monthly magazines. Not for her the likes of Woman’s Own though. She read She and then later a new magazine, Nova I think it was. Glossy and fashionable, the thinking woman’s Vogue.

I write in the past tense because my mother died when I was nineteen. Still, nineteen years of knowing her should give me plenty to write about, comment on, anecdotes to relate, family stories to tell. But I know more about her reading habits than I do about her.

Most of what I know of my mother I have gleaned from relatives and friends. A loving woman who enjoyed life, was good to her parents and loved her daughter very much. She must have done: she was a hero to keep me, her child born out of wedlock without a man on the scene. And this was the 1950s. Episodes of Call the Midwife have made me realise just what she must have gone through: the shame, the gossip, the turned backs.

She had to work to keep me. Financially I mean. I don’t know what if any arguments she had with her parents or whether she considered adoption – my great-auntie Grace wanted to adopt me I know. So she worked five days a week as personal secretary to the General Manager of South Wales Transport and was highly thought of by everyone. When she died we had letters of condolence from ex-directors and top executives. At her funeral flower tributes lined the long path to my grandparents’ home. One, a pretty posy, was sent from a woman who worked in the company canteen. On the card she wrote, ‘Goodnight, sweet lady. Sleep tight.’ It seems most people knew her better than I did.

No doubt that was partly because of the circumstances. Her long working days meant I was raised primarily by my slightly ferocious and very domineering grandmother but maybe she had to be after her daughter gave birth to a bastard child.

Continued here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The other Twin Towers

One night and half a day in the unbelievably humid air of Kuala Lumpur was just about enough. The Majestic Hotel with its colonial history was the most palatial of posh hotels we stayed in with a jazz pianist in the cocktail lounge and afternoon tea served in the Orchid Room but even they weren't immune to a power cut meaning the television over the bath didn't work. Really, we expect better!

The hotel was close to the Orchid and Bird Gardens so we wandered there briefly visiting the Orchid Garden (free entry but wrong season) and deciding against the bird garden because it was expensive (compared to prices we'd been used of late) and just too sticky. Instead we headed for the air-conditioned and high security Petronas Twin Towers. 

Then it was back to the airport and finally a flight home.
I could get used to this.

The Twin Petronas Towers in the distance, from the Orchid Garden.

I had an inordinate amount of fun - and amazement - with the holographic guide at the start of the tour. It was just like being with Doctor Who.
Husband on the sky bridge. On the 41/42 level the world's highest two-storey bridge isn't actually attached to the Towers but just slots in to allow for movement in high wind.

We made it! Level 86, the Observation Deck.

I'm not entirely sure what this was but if you waved your ticket in front of it it showed you and ... stuff. More fun.

Ha Long and thanks for all the fun

After all that city life it was time for a change of pace and a coach ride to Ha Long City to board our junk for two nights of cruising in Ha Long (Dragon Descending) Bay.

Lunch followed by kayaking followed by a massage followed by a spring roll-ing class, followed by a barbecue dinner followed by early bed ready to rise at 6 for tai chi on deck. 

The largest moth I have ever seen joined us on deck for dinner.
A trip to the most amazing caves followed by transfer to our own personal mini junk - just the four of us on board - for a private cruise to a pearl farm, followed by more kayaking, lunch and then to a deserted bay for snorkeling, swimming and sun-bathing. I could enjoy my own yacht. (When I say yacht, of course I mean gin palace with staff to drive, cook and tend to my every need.)

Impossible to capture the grandeur and sheer awesomeness of the caves. I spent the entire time with my mouth open going, 'Wow!'
Implanting what they hope will grow to be a pearl.
The smaller junk was able to take us to less crowded places.
Next day after more tai chi it was 421 steps up a hill to a tea house then swimming in the welcome rain before back to the junk for lunch and a vegetable cutting display.

421 steps and they didn't even serve tea in the Tea House! 
Then it was back to Hanoi for a night before returning to Kuala Lumpur, where it all began.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Heart of Hanoi

Another flight, another city. This time Hanoi, a crazy city bursting with energy and life. And scooters. Even more than Ho Chi Minh if that were possible. And in the centre a beautiful peaceful lake.

Scary as it was to cross the roads - just step out, don't make eye contact with the drivers and don't veer to avoid the scooters - it was my favourite urban landscape in Vietnam for the sheer life force of the place.

Our hotel was in the heart of the old district, in amongst the shopping area, where each street specialises in one thing e.g. coffee or shoes or party goods! But at Daughter's request we set out for the fabric market, an incredible huge warehouse-like place with stalls piled high with barely room between for one person to pass at a time.

We did manage to get safely to the Women's Museum - lesson learned: don't mess with a Vietnamese woman - and the old prison - lesson learned: don't mess with a French guillotineer - and we ate some seriously good food.


Everything you need for a party!

It may be graffiti but it was accurate!
Yes, those are mattresses.

Don't mess with a Vietnamese woman!

On the first floor of the fabric market.

Not as easy as it may appear! And my baskets were empty.

That's the Hue it goes

Less impressed with Hue as a place but I did have a wonderful long head and body massage for £10 so mustn't grumble.

We spent the morning at the Citadel in the old Imperial City, taking a bike ride there and once more being unable to lose our very helpful drivers. So helpful they even took our washing to a very reliable washerwoman they knew. I was a little concerned at the ease with which Husband handed over a large bag of our clothes to two relative strangers but, true to their word, they returned with our clean clothes. 

Meanwhile I'd been making the most of the hotel pool (and massage parlour).

In the evening we ate in the French Quarter at Les Jardins de la Carambole - taxi ride a bargain at 75p - where I thoroughly enjoyed my Boeuf Bourgignon. 

The Royal Opera House, performances daily

The next morning it rained! But not until we were the only passengers on a boat ride on what would be the Perfume River at a different time of year.

And proving just how many people use Tripadvisor in the Serene Restaurant we bumped into an Aussie couple we'd spoken to in our hotel in Hoi An.


A little worrying when you notice the driver of your boat is taking a nap.