Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A peculiarly British habit?

I never used to worry about cows. That is until Daughter told me stories of people who'd been chased and even killed by cows. Even then though I didn't believe her really. Until the cows chased me.

Okay, it's possible they just happened to be running in my direction rather than rampaging at me but I wasn't taking any chances and hid behind a tree with GrandDaughter1 in her pushchair. Since then I've treated cows, especially with calves, with great respect and a lot of space.

So I wasn't pleased today to see the golf course covered in cows including this one who was obviously planning a surprise attack.
Cow peeping over hillock

But the one who was blocking the path completely was a different prospect.
'Come on, dogs,' I said. 'We can do this. We'll just edge towards her quietly.'
The cow looked up, glanced at us, saw our predicament and kindly moved into the bushes.
'Thank you so much, dear cow. That is most gracious of you.'

Pah! Scary cows? Nonsense.

By the time we'd reached the beach, hurried around the headland before the tide came in, and turned into Pobbles the rain had caught up with us.
That wasn't supposed to happen until I was home and dry not when I still had a long walk ahead of me. Without a coat.

Now is it a peculiarly British habit to leave one's belongings unattended on the beach?
I've done it since I was a child, left all my worldly goods including my purse and watch, and, more importantly, my towel in a pile on the beach. And I've never had anything taken. Does that mean robbers don't frequent beaches?

I wanna win big

If I've learned anything from watching television, in particular law drama, Suits, it's that if you wear a tight enough dress and high enough heels you can march in anywhere and demand what you like.

I explained this to Husband when I told him how much compensation I thought we should claim for the problems we're having with Uncle's flat. He thought I'd be laughed out of court but I pointed out that if you're determined enough - and you have something with which to blackmail the company - you'll be the one laughing.

On reflection though I may be lacking something: a pert sticky-out bottom. Mine is more on the droopy side.

Okay, back-up plan, Husband goes as Harvey Specter.
Harvey Specter quote win big

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tea at Auntie Gay's

When I was born my gran's sister, Auntie Gay (Grace), and her husband, Uncle Dan, who were childless, wanted to adopt me but my mum decided to keep me. Here they are at their silver wedding party.
They lived in the next street so we saw a lot of them and Auntie Gay was devoted to me. Uncle Dan worked at Mumbles pier on the skee rolls, which I loved - and he used to let me have free goes.

On Christmas morning I'd open my presents in bed before going into my mum's room to show her. Then I'd go downstairs and show my grandparents what I'd received. Soon after that Auntie Gay would arrive and out would come the presents again. And about once a week I'd go to Auntie Gay's for tea. We always had tinned fruit and Farmer's Wife bottled cream as a treat for afters. I'm not sure how they preserved the cream in bottles but it had a distinctive flavour.

In 1972 when my mum was in hospital just before she died, my cousin's girlfriend, Anne, who could drive, took us to visit her, us being me, my gran and Auntie Gay. When we were getting in the car to leave the hospital I climbed in behind Anne but my gran, who as eldest - and bossiest - was sitting in the front passenger seat, told me to sit behind her 'so the car will be balanced.' (Two larger ladies and two young women.)

On the way home we were involved in a crash with a lorry with the driver's side taking the brunt of the impact. We were near the hospital and there happened to be a doctor in the traffic behind us and he was able to resuscitate Auntie Gay initially but she died a few weeks later.

As a result of the accident Anne lost an eye; my gran broke her leg; and I had a few scratches.

A story with so many what ifs.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Is it any wonder I'm a hoarder?

These are letters my grandmother kept. The largest pile at the back is from my mother when she was in the WAAF during the war and afterwards working in London. At the front on the left are letters from Uncle, most of which begin with an apology for not writing sooner and end with a request for washing or money. The final pile comprises letters from my grandfather when they were courting - he lived on the other side of Swansea so they didn't see each other that often.

I have been fairly ruthless with the old photos: if they are of people I don't know or can't see clearly enough to identify I'm throwing them out. Letters are different though. One day when I'm in a care home and the grandchildren don't come to visit I'll go through all my mother's, sort them and write a novel based on her experiences. Maybe. I'm assuming I'll have time then.

I also found a letter from Auntie Dusty. She was my mum's friend from the WAAF. A Yorkshire girl she went to work in New York State after the war and lived there until she died a few years ago. Her letter dates from December 1952. It's in response to the letter my mum must have sent telling her of my arrival. In her letter Dusty admits she was shocked but the arrival of an illegitimate child makes no difference to their friendship. And so she proved; she visited the UK every few years and always came to see us, even after my mum died. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Distracted? Me? Never

It all started with grace and ended up standing on the sea front with Munch the cow.

You see I was writing my article for the next issue of The Bay and I wanted to describe grace. (The grace of God that is not the natural elegant grace some people - not me - are born with.) And then I realised I only had about sixty words left of my allocated word count in which to explain it. 

As Monty said to me in Zac's, 'Philip Yancey needed 300 pages for his book Amazing Grace.'
'Huh,' I shrugged. 'He obviously doesn't have my way with words. Just because he's a best-selling author ...'

I am good at writing concisely. Much better in fact than writing ... whatever the opposite of concisely is. Wordily maybe. 

Some time ago I submitted a short story for an anthology and was asked for a biography in about 100 words to accompany it. I duly wrote my life story and it amounted to sixty words. This inspired me to write a short ditty. Bear with me, I am getting to the point. So I thought I'd include said ode here on my blog. But do you think I can find it anywhere on the computer?

In fact I discover that I can't find any of my old writings. I summon Husband, who Knows About These Things. He looks in all the same places I've looked then says, 'Don't know.'

They must be there somewhere. I hope. In the meantime I am amusing myself getting distracted by writings I'd completely forgotten about, some I am fairly certain I didn't even write. But how are they on my computer then? Anyway I shall no doubt publish some of these wonders from my pen - possibly - over the next weeks. And if you recognise anything as yours please tell me so I can credit you appropriately.

Munch the Cow who wants to be a moosician is worthy of publication I have no doubt; others are just odd.

I did find my little ditty eventually. I used it in the introduction to Dear God, letters to God from a mother (published by Kevin Mayhew) in 1998 - that's nearly twenty years ago! Lumme! So here it is.

My life
My life fits in to sixty words
the who, the what, the where.
But where in that is me?
The why, the how, the who of me
the hopes and prayers
the dreads and fears
the thoughts and deeds
the lies and truths
the real and lost ...
the glimmer within
that dares to dream.

My life fits in a thousand years,

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Invisible spies

We pretended to be spies and had to run from tree to tree so people wouldn't see us. Fortunately GrandDaughter1 found some magic leaves that made us invisible so we were able to run unseen across the open grass part of Brynmill Park.

I say run; in my case it was more of a trying-not-to-lose-my-sandals while hanging onto my boobs sort of jog.

That was after we - being GD1, GrandSon2 and me - had been to a painting workshop at Hobbycraft (GrandDaughter1's was better than mine) and to Tesco for lunch. Incidentally I only stole a few chips that Grandson2 didn't want. And GD1's pizza crusts. 

While feeding the ducks we saw an eagle on the lake. Well, GrandDaughter1 thought it was an eagle and it wasn't a duck or a seagull so I think she was probably right.

Then I came home and made a cake.
lily on cake
For Lily's mum, Mary, who was visiting us in Rubies.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Pavlova was a ballerina

This morning I finally stripped the bed that Elder Son and Daughter-in-law slept in when they stayed two weeks ago. It reminded me of our visits to the in-laws.

On the morning of our departure Mother-in-law would have our bed stripped, the sheets washed and out on the line before we'd left. Now that is a housewife to aspire to. Or perhaps not.

* * * * * * * * 
I just read a note I'd left for myself as I NK. 'What's that mean?' Careful thought. 'Oh wait, it's ink. I need to order ink.' Or toner as Husband insists on calling it.

* * * * * * * *
I've started wearing my long glasses for driving. In the past I've only used them for rugby matches in New Zealand. I should like to reassure those whom I drive around that my eyesight without glasses is still better than Husband's with glasses so you're safe with me. as far as eyesight goes. Admittedly Husband is a better driver ...

* * * * * * * *

Have nearly finished my article for the next issue of The Bay. Just have to write the God bit. And I am sitting here at my desk where I seem to have stalled. Not just in writing but generally. Lots to do but can't decide the order.

What I should do is what Husband suggests. 'If it's not important just pick one and do it.' Then again he says the same thing when I'm dithering over menu choices in a restaurant. And we know how disastrous a bad choice of food can be.

Which reminds: it's lunchtime. That's what I'll do next!

I made a good decision yesterday with my raspberry pavlova sundae.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Slowing down time

I really shouldn't listen to Pick of the Week on Radio 4. I inevitably end up thinking, 'Oh, I wish I'd listened to that.'

I suppose nowadays, thanks to the wonder of iplayer, I could listen but it's not quite the same. Anyway yesterday they played a clip from a programme about time or rather about one man's efforts to be late.

Poet Ian McMillan likes to arrive everywhere early. Half an hour early. Which makes him unpopular with a lot of people. After visiting a time museum and discovering that factory owners used to change time he decided to visit a therapist to see if he could be helped to arrive on time. 

I have just the opposite problem. I am invariably late. I don't mean to be and I don't want to be and I get very stressed when travelling somewhere watching the clock knowing I'm going to be late. But I don't like being early either and with all the variables involved it's almost impossible to be just on time.

Today for instance I was meeting an old school friend with whom I'd recently linked up on Facebook and I determined to be early. In the event I found myself not leaving until about twelve minutes before the meeting time and having to rush. I say 'I found myself' as if I had nothing to do with it. 'It wasn't my fault. Time just went without warning me.' Which is nonsense. 

Must try harder. Change the habits of a lifetime. 

P.S. Had very good catch-up with Vivien who has lived about five lifetimes compared to my rather boring existence.

You just can't get the mangelwurzels these days

We last went to the Gower Show many years ago when our children were small. It's the local agricultural show held on the first Sunday in August and this year we decided to go along and see how it had changed.

I think it's bigger but only in the sense of having more stands selling things. Mostly vaguely agricultural type stuff but also sweets, crafts, double glazing, agas, and the other odds and ends you see in farmers' markets. And there was a huge food area but not one of them was selling hot pasties. (So we had to settle for tea and cake from the WI tent.)

But the proper part of the show I can't help feeling has shrunk. There weren't many pigs entered and not that many cattle. Plenty of sheep though. And whereas before I remember being able to walk in between the stalls we were kept away by fencing this time. I suppose it's hygiene and health concerns but it felt different.

Again I remember there being sheepdog trials, and birds of prey, as well as the horse-shows. This year we had what was called terrier racing that involved dogs chasing a bit of plastic bag on a string. The dogs were all volunteered by members of the public and generally made a complete hash of it so it was entertaining. We didn't take George as the smells (of other animals and food) would have driven him to distraction but we tried to imagine what his reaction would have been had we let him off his leash and told him to chase a plastic bag. He doesn't like plastic bags; they frighten him. Plus he's lazy. 

Then it was time for the Welsh Axemen.

In about eight minutes this block was transformed ...

into a beautiful seat for a child.

The traditional way of cutting down tall trees involved cutting slices into the trunk and inserting a wobbly board (not the proper name) for the axeman to balance on in order to cut another higher slice to stick his wobbly in until he has worked up the tree to a point at which he can begin felling. Danny, this axeman, only used two boards and that was precarious and scary enough.
 When we were courting I had a maroon Morris Traveller  and Husband had a blue MGB, just like these in the vintage section

When it came to the animals I was rather taken with this magnificent specimen. 
Not forgetting this delightful little face.
And while it was good to finally discover what a mangelwurzel looks like ...
it was this sign that most amused me.

I've got 99 problems but maths ain't one

There's a brilliant performance poet by the name of Harry Baker and one of his poems is 99 problems but maths aint one.

I've always thought that I am quite self aware, that I know my faults, but last week I was surprised when someone said I was arrogant.

I worried about it and asked Husband, 'Am I arrogant?'
He thought for a moment and then said, 'You can be quite dismissive.'
'What do you mean dismissive?'
'You're very quick to dismiss other people's ideas as stupid.'
'Do I?'

I suppose it's good to be made aware of these tendencies - and to try to correct them - even if I can no longer say, 'I've got 99 faults but arrogance ain't one.'

I've always 

It's Little Women all over again

I am not happy.

Gilmore Girls
We've just finished watching Gilmore Girls - a year in the life, a ten-year-later sequel to the final series. I had my plans; I knew who should end up with whom. And it didn't work out. All we were left with was the circle beginning again and unrequited love.

As a young person I read Little Women as least ten times and each time I reached the same conclusion: Jo should have married Laurie. She didn't and I was left disappointed.

And now history is repeating itself. I am not happy.

And later on this evening I shall continue to watch I Know Who You Are, the Spanish drama currently showing on BBC. I have no idea who dun it or even if anything has been done but it is fascinating although possibly threatening to get a little too clever for its own good.

And Suits. That's our other Netflix fare. I've always enjoyed it although some of their actions and morals have been questionable in the past. This series though there is no doubt: they're willing to go to the dark side to achieve their aims. And I'm not entirely comfortable with it.

But back to Gilmore Girls. I've just read that there are plans for a second 'year in the life' series. I'd say, 'Don't bother. If it's going to go down the same disjointed, I really wanna be a musical route, then it's time to call a halt.'

Much as I long to see Rory finally settle with her soulmate, Jess.


Our weekly date day was double-barrelled last week. In the morning we popped along to the 1940s Swansea Bay Museum where we were greeted by a man in flat cap playing a ukele. He was delighted to accept our donation: my mum's WAAF jacket, modelled in the photo by Flight Sergeant Hinds.
The museum is a small family-and-volunteer-run affair but is excellent nevertheless. It covers most aspects of life in Swansea in the 1940s and despite the rather tatty accommodation does it very well.
air raid shelter rules
I was rather disturbed to learn that animals weren't allowed in the air raid shelters. It makes sense as there could be fifteen to twenty people taking refuge in just one very small shelter but still ...

The make-do-and-mend attitude covered everything including this wedding dress made from parachute silk. And I have to admit I probably use the equivalent of one week's ration of butter on a slice of fresh bread.
In the afternoon, well away from air raids, we took George to Penllergaer woods.

The woods were originally under the ownership of local gentry but over time became very over-grown and forgotten untila trust was formed, money raised and immense improvements made, making it a delightful and popular place for a walk.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hugging posts and weaving willow

Had an ultrasound scan this afternoon. Then as a special unexpected treat they decided to do an internal scan as well. Oooh. 

I still have my sausage and they still don't know what it is. But it's not changed size and not giving me any pain so I won't worry too much just yet.

In other news George ate a huge lump of pink salt dough that the grandchildren and I had been making this morning. As a result he drank a lot meaning that when we came back from the hospital and Sainsburys we were greeted with a big puddle. A very big puddle. 

Coincidentally the radiator in the kitchen also leaked - a much smaller puddle - but I don't think the two incidents were connected.

In other other news yesterday morning, with a bunch of ladies from Zac's women's group, I went willow weaving in a wood. It turned out to be a very wet wood but we all enjoyed ourselves.
willow weaving

willow weaving
Add seeds and lard and you have a bird-feeder.

As Younger Son pointed out there's not a lot of weaving involved in the making of this star but all the visible tying is done with willow.
And if I could remember anything else that I've done recently I'd tell you but my mind is blank. Possibly because I walked into a lamp-post. Well, not so much walked into it as gave it a hug.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Burglar Bill, Rosie and the Avocado Baby

When my children were in Parkland junior school I ran the bookshop there. We must have had an event for which I made this banner.
I don't recall having a book bus there but I am rather impressed with my artwork!


Fungus the Bogeyman

Burglar Bill

Mr Magnolia


Avocado Baby

Ice cream for lunch

Tempting as it may sound, I opted not to go for dog ice cream settling for a Mr Whippy 99 from the pier cafe instead. 

A baby gannet was sitting outside the new lifeboat-house on the pier. I assume it was lost/injured/confused as it just sat there. Somebody called the RSPCA and we were pleased to see the inspector complete with net and large box heading to the rescue.
The RNLI is an amazing organisation funded only by donations from the public. The men - apart from the cox - are all volunteers and put their own lives in danger going to the rescue of ships and swimmers lost at sea. Mumbles has had three lifeboat disasters in its history, in 1883 (four dead), 1903 (six dead), and 1947 (whole crew of eight dead).

But on a lighter note they've a fun machine in the lifeboat station allowing people to 'be' lifeboatmen for a moment. And in complete safety and warmth.

Back when I was hideous

The de-cluttering continues. With some surprises.
Here I am, on the left, in my DVLC working days with my friend, Sue. Three interesting things about this:
a) I haven't seen or been in touch with Sue since about 1979;
b) I made that dress myself - with my own two hands I pinned, cut, and sewed, yes, sewed, and it was probably the only thing I ever made;
c) I can't believe I looked so good.

Most of my life I spent looking at myself and thinking how fat and unattractive I was. It's only in later years that I've gained in self-esteem and been reasonably happy with my appearance. Now I look back at me in bikinis and think, 'Wow! You were all right, you know.'

So much time wasted feeling like rubbish and I'm sure I wasn't alone in that then or now. If only we could tell our younger selves to stop worrying, to relax, to just be ourselves, that we're okay. Then maybe there'd be less depression and fewer eating disorders amongst young people.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

It was a dead mouse

I just realised I didn't tell you the source of the smell. We found we had a dead-some-time mouse in the trap.

We've been aware that we've had mice in the attic for a while; they've been nibbling all sorts. Including the tube of mouse killer.  
Husband has tried humane traps, poison and latterly old-fashioned mouse traps but had no success until now. I just hope the odour of death deters them.

My grammatical error

I hear you. I know what you're saying. You're saying, 'Liz? Make a grammatical error? Impossible. She is such a grammar pedant.' And I know, I know. I am flaying myself as I write.

grammar naziThe latest edition of The Bay magazine is now out and with it my most recent article on why you should never listen to what your head says at 2 o'clock in the morning.

And horror of horrors I've realised I made a grammatical error in my article. Excuse me now, I need to take a pill and lie down in a darkened room.

I smell death

'I smell death.'

Coming down from the attic I grumbled to Husband, 'We need to sort out up there: I smell death.'

On Friday, as it was raining, instead of a day out Husband and I spent the time together clearing out the attic. Or rather beginning the process of clearing out the attic. And we have a very strange result: the attic looks very much the same as it did before we started but the rest of the house is now covered in piles. A pile for throwing away, a pile for charity shops, a pile that needs a good home, a pile that is possible museum quality (yes, it's that old), and several piles that have to be sorted into other smaller piles based on some criterion or other.

I'm still trying to find a home for my wedding dress. There are a few places that use old wedding dresses to make special funeral robes for tiny babies but they all say they're not currently accepting.

Of the thirty or so jigsaws I am reluctantly getting rid of the local dementia group is taking five. Only twenty-five to go.
jigsaws need a good home
I also came across:
my old physics A-level notes;
an early article of mine in the 1968 school magazine;
and my grammar school report book.
Could do better is the story of my life really.

I went to Glanmor Grammar School when given the choice after passing my 11+. It was the school my mother attended thirty years earlier.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

You're not stupid; you're Einstein

I apologised to Younger Son for not getting gluten-free bread for the beach barbecue. 'I'm so stupid,' I said.
Both Sons instantly said, 'You're not stupid!'
'You mustn't say that ... you're forgetful not stupid.'
'And,' Younger Son added, 'they say forgetfulness is a sign of intelligence.'
Elder Son looked at him doubtfully but didn't say anything.

I love my children.

P.S. Younger Son directed me to this link as proof. According to new research forgetting is a key part of learning. "It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that's going to help make decisions in the real world."

It puts me in the same grouping as Einstein.

P.P.S. But I don't know why this post is highlighted in white. But Einstein probably wouldn't know either.

My Fitbit isn't broken and I didn't fall out of a tree

My FitBit isn't broken. It's just that I can't read what it says. And I can only charge it if I hold it between my fingers for two hours. So I can't. Apart from that it's fine.

And I didn't fall out of a tree. I just misjudged the distance to the floor. My shoulder still hurts two months later but Husband says that's normal.
older woman climbing a tree