Thursday, August 31, 2017

I've been thinking about swearing

I dropped a glass and it broke. 'Oh poop!'

Is that offensive? No, of course not. (If it is I don't apologise.) But if I said, 'Oh shit!' would that offend you?

Years ago, not long after I'd become a Christian I was talking to a Christian friend and I said something along the lines of, 'I was really chuffed to receive the present.' My friend bit her lip - she is a very gentle person and hates any sort of conflict - and said, 'I don't think you should say that.'
'Say what?'
'What you said. I think it's rude.'

Really? Even if I don't know it's rude?

{Incidentally I just checked with Mr Chambers and he has nothing unpleasant to say about chuffed. The Urban Dictionary on the other hand suggests chuff could refer to female genitalia or even back bottom, for want of a euphemism. And some people use it as an alternative to a 'worse' swear word.}

I don't swear. At least not aloud or in public. Only under my breath or when I'm alone. Some people get upset about it but it doesn't really bother me.

There's a school of thought that says swearing reveals an uneducated mind or a poor vocabulary. I don't believe that. Look at Stephen Fry. And I'm not entirely sure how a word can be offensive. The way it is used can be certainly but in itself what damage does it do?

When it's used as an adjective/adverb six times in a sentence the listener's brain tends to ignore it - or mine does. But on occasion it can be effective and even funny. As the opening sequence of Four Weddings demonstrates.

Sustainable blackberrying

After I'd been blackberrying last time Younger Son asked me if I was picking sustainably.
'Um, what?'
'You're not stripping the bush?'

Today his words came back to me as I blackberried again.
'Has he ever been blackberry-picking?' I asked George.
'Of course he has,' George replied. 'He's your son. You would have forced him at least once.'
'Then he should know that even with me picking the middle tier and you munching your way through the bottom layer we wouldn't be able to strip a bush let alone a forest of bushes.'

Just waiting for my blackberry cake to cook. Mmmm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In which I throw a wobbly

Threw a wobbly this afternoon and said I just couldn't think about food or dinner. Don't think Husband believed me as he was still asking what was for dinner at dinner-time.

When he realised I was serious he improvised and cooked the pizza I'd bought for the grand-children but hadn't used. With the addition of left-over roast veg from yesterday.

I am comfort eating: cold baked beans straight from the tin, lumps of cheese, coleslaw from the dish and toast and hummus. I'm not sure why I am seeking comfort but have been struggling with feelings of inadequacy for a few days.

Lunar affectation

Note for myself
The period in which I've been having very strange dreams is between the new moon and first quarter.

I've been meaning to check for a while as I tend to have occasional short periods when my dreams are more bizarre and vivid than usual. I wanted to see if they tied in with full moon, which seems to cause mayhem amongst werewolves. It used to affect Harvey too - and he was about as far removed from a werewolf as it is possible to be. 

So just curious.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I remembered why!

Lying in bed this morning, struggling to wake up, I remembered what made me start thinking about my first home yesterday.

I haven't been sleeping well - lots of weird dreams - and it's an effort to get up in the morning. The temptation is to stay abed. But I know I'll feel even worse if I do because that'll just make me feel guilty.

I didn't have those concerns when I was a teenager or even in my twenties. When Husband and I were dating, on a Saturday morning Husband would do his weekly shop at Tesco's, take the food home and put it away, and then drive across Swansea to see me. 

cream sponge
If he were lucky I would be up and dressed; more often I'd still be in bed. It would only be the thought of the cream cake I knew he would bring with him that roused me.

I think that weekly ritual revolving around food set the tone for our relationship and our marriage. I knew he was the man for me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's all about the house

For reasons I don't recall I was thinking about my first home this morning. The house I was born in and lived in until I was twenty-five and married. Albert House. 

Albert House was, as I once described it in a school essay, attached on both sides. The teacher crossed out my writing and corrected it: terraced. But terraced is too small a word for Albert House. Its very name is prepossessing. It was larger than the other houses in the terrace and looked straight down the road, Dunns Lane, to the sea.
As well as the big slate steps that led to the front door there was a drive, put in for my great-grandfather after he lost his leg and was in a wheelchair. Thinking about it, it was quite steep and he was a large man. It must have taken some pushing to get him up there.

Just before the bank at the end of the garden was the coal bin. The bank itself was a buried air raid shelter and a favourite place of mine to play. Up on top of that I could be Queen. After we sold the house one of the first things the new owners did was remove the bank. I would have loved to have seen whatever remained of the air raid shelter but, unfortunately, never did.

The little house, to the left in my masterpiece of a drawing, was originally part of Albert House, which had been a pub. It was tiny but big enough for Mr Shires, a retiring bachelor who lived there alone.

On the other side there were - are - four houses. The first house, which latterly was occupied by my Great-Auntie Joan, in my childhood was home to the Drewsons. We didn't speak to them. If my ball went over the wall into their garden, that was it. She was okay, apparently; he was the nasty piece of work. 

Then it was Mr and Mrs Peachey, a lovely old couple. They had a daughter, Marion, who was married to Derek, who to our eyes had film star good looks. 

The end cottage belonged to Mrs Dartnell, already a widow in my youth, and the other house was home to two boys. I can't remember their names but they were older than me and very scary. Scary insomuch as they were male. 

It's strange the memories that come back, some good some bad. But Albert House was my home and my refuge for a long time. It will always be dear to me.

In which Husband has a good idea

Freshly showered married womanNext year to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary Husband has suggested recreating our honeymoon. Sort of.

For our actual honeymoon we drove to the south of France in my Morris Traveller and camped; for the recreation we will stay in style - with Eurocamp. We took several Eurocamp holidays when the children were young. Basically you travel to the camp site where a ready-erected large well-equipped tent is waiting for you. They were very relaxing and enjoyable holidays although I did say if we went again I'd want a caravan (with its own toilet). It seems that most of the sites Husband is investigating have caravans but, 'we may have to stay in tents on one or two.' Hm, we'll see how many that one or two becomes.

But anyway I think it's a brilliant idea, travelling at a slower pace - and without children to be entertained in the back of the car - taking our time seeing France. 

I approve.

And with a bit of luck we won't come back from holiday on the verge of divorce this time. 

I didn't cope well with the heat and then the Moggy developed a leak in its radiator. That combined with the very hot weather meant not only stopping every few miles to top up her water but having to have the heating on in the car at full blast to reduce heat on the engine. Stress levels reached previously unheard-of peaks.

P.S. We actually spent the first night of our married life in the wonderfully glamorous steel-town of Port Talbot, ten miles up the road. 

A new cat on the block

Recently there's been a new cat on the block, meandering around along our front road, even venturing into George's garden. How very dare he?

At the risk of upsetting cat lovers there's something I've noticed about black cats: they all look the same. All except Julius. Even before his accident he didn't look like other black cats. He was fluffier for a start. And once he lost his eye he was even more easily identifiable. (He came home one day with it hanging out.)

This is Julius.
Fluffy black and white cat
I was probably in my early teens when he lived with us. Before him we had Sophie, a tabby rescue cat, called Sophie after Sophie Tucker apparently because she'd already had lots of babies. No, I didn't understand the reference either. And after Julius there was Tuppence and now here we are in the realms of 'they-all-look-the-same'.
I'm pretty sure he came with me when I was married but after him Husband said, 'No more cats. I hate cats.'

So it wasn't until we bought our current house, which came with resident cat, Toby, that we had another.
He'd been adopted by the previous house owners when their daughter, a vet, had brought him home saying she couldn't have pets in her flat. And it was the same when they moved on to an apartment in the Marina: no pets allowed. I'm not sure what delighted our children the most when we went home and told them we'd bought a house and it came complete with swimming pool and cat.

By the way, to explain Toby's photo, I should say that my sons collected hub caps. Only lost and lonely ones you understand. I'm not sure the policemen understood when, called to our house after the theft of Husband's bicycle, they couldn't help but see the large collection decoratively arranged in our back yard. (It was the middle of the night when Husband suddenly sat up in bed and said, 'That's my bike! Someone's stealing my bike!' It had a very recognisable squeak apparently.)

But to get back to cats, here's Charlie, Daughter's female cat.

You see what I mean? They all look alike. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A few quick book reviews

Not really reviews. For some reason I struggle to write reviews. I can mostly say if I like a book or not without really knowing why.

rush oh, whale fishing in twentieth century Australia
Rush Oh by Shirley Barratt
A story about killer whales who help whale fishers to catch whales. Yes, that does sound confusing but it works. Set in New South Wales in 1908 it's narrated by the eldest daughter of the fishing family and it's funny and violent and harsh and romantic. Highly recommended. ****

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
A woman disappears and two ten-year-old girls on the estate decide to find out what's happened to her. I got to the end of this book and very nearly did something I've never done before: start again from the beginning. I reached the end not really knowing what had happened or understanding the conclusion. There were a lot of characters and I struggled to remember which one was married to which etc. But I do read last thing at night so that's my excuse. I'd still give it ***

Larry and the Dog People by J Henderson
A widower, Larry, gets a dog and through him makes a whole new circle of friends. No, that makes it sounds like a cosy holiday read and that's not what it is. Larry talks too much and bores people until one of his new friends takes him in hand. The book is as much about the quirky characters who befriend him as it is about Larry, who incidentally ends up being mistaken for a revolutionary and being accused of conspiracy and murder. Up until the last two chapters I was really enjoying it. It should have finished then. ***

All the books I 'review' are at least three stars as I don't bother mentioning the others I finished but didn't really enjoy or the ones I just gave up on. The wonderful freedom of age that allows me to give up on a book if it's not enthralling or puzzling.

Possibly Ignatius and possibly Xavier

It was a strange sort of funeral. (I wore my little black dress since you asked.) Sean from Zac's was leading it and if it hadn't been for his words it would have been totally impersonal. Most unusual.

Also unusual but brilliant was the Korean blessing as the coffin was taken out. They sang amazingly and, although few of us had any idea what they were saying, it was the thing that moved people the most.

* * * * * * * *

There was an item on the news yesterday about a move to encourage schools to run lessons in mental health care. An MP who was supporting it spoke about her experience. She said she could tell herself how much she'd achieved and the good she'd done but still her head would tell her she was rubbish. I hadn't really thought of that as something that could be helped or even as a symptom of poor mental health.

I spend most of my time I hating myself. I assumed that was normal. Husband tells me it's not. He blames my early childhood - no father stuff. I'm not convinced that  is responsible for this particular peculiarity but he replied with the saying his father was fond of quoting, 'Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.*'

*Commonly attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit movement, although one source laid the blame at Aristotle's door. And yet another claims it was Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits - wait a minute, I thought that was Ignatius. Hey ho, maybe it was a joint founding. Somebody said it anyway. 

Not always George's fault ... but mostly

So I am sitting in the study and I hear a strange crunching noise from the hall. I go to investigate. George is eating a shell.
A day or so later I am once more at my desk and I hear a strange noise. 'George! What are you eating now?'

I go to check and find him sleeping peacefully.

The noise is coming from the kitchen. It is my chops on fire under the grill.

* * * * * * * 
At the start of the walk.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Advice for blackberry-pickers

Bramble bushes are very protective of their fruit. They don't want you to take any and they will fight you to the death. You know the gear bee-keepers wear? If you can get hold of a suit like that it would be ideal.

At sixty-four years of age you'd think I would have learned not to wear shorts when blackberrying. 'Oh, it'll be fine,' I say as I head out as unprotected as a new-born. Then as I do battle with the brambles I scold myself and George - for not reminding me.

At least this year I did wear socks and shoes which is an improvement on previous years. And I only fell down one hole.

But the satisfaction of getting food for nothing is worth the pain. But, oh the grief, of seeing those big fat juicy ones j-u-s-t out of reach.
advice for blackberry pickers
From the bush ...

to the plate. Blackberry crumble loaf cake.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Kermit and The Trees continued

Thank you to Elder Son for remembering our old Muppet Show record! You need to fast forward to about 33 minutes.

Listen a bit longer and you'll hear Kermit singing, 'It's not easy being green.'

I may have to de-clutter Husband

So my decluttering has reached the point where I have a suitcase full of old photos/memorabilia to be discarded.
suitcase of memories
In fact it reached this point some days ago. All that remains is for it to be discarded. And that's where it gets tricky. Because then I pass the point of no return. No changing my mind once it's gone to the tip.

So it's quite possible that the suitcase could sit in our bedroom for days, nay months. 

But this morning I came up with a cunning plan. I called Husband in.
'You see that suitcase? I need you to take it away when I'm not looking.'
'Take it away? 
'And do what with it?'
'Get rid of it.'
'Why do I have to do it when you're not looking?'
'Because I am emotionally involved with the suitcase.'
'So, what you need to do is take it away when I'm not in the room, like when I go in the shower - which I'm about to do.' Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

I then left the room and went and showered. 

I came back and ... the suitcase was still there. 

I guess Husband just doesn't do subtlety.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kermit recites poetry

Over on facebook, Rosalie, of Rose's Garden, mentioned a poem called Trees by Joyce Kilmer. She quoted the first line and I instantly thought of ... well, let me quote it here and see what your first thought is.

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

Well, any thoughts? 

Anyone else say, 'Kermit the Frog?'

I have a vivid recollection of Kermit reciting this. Unfortunately I can't find any record on Google - and if it's not on google it didn't happen. Or did it?

This would have been on The Muppet Show; I didn't watch Sesame Street

Please someone, tell me my brain isn't firing blanks.

Feeling fabulous for a funeral

I have to ask, 'Why do I bother?'

Yesterday I'd been invited out for lunch by Lily, from our women's bible study group. Before I went I made a cake for the birthday of one of our regular Zaccers. We had a lovely lunch then I came home and iced the cake nicely.

After bible study yesterday evening we lit candles and presented the cake to the birthday boy. He walked up, looked at it, said, 'oh,' and walked away again. He didn't even blow out his candles until I called him back to do so.

I didn't expect him to fall on my neck in gratitude but a 'thank you' with a smile would have been nice. Or even just a smile.

Mutter, mutter. To be fair though he was an exception. Most people are very happy with my cakes. 

* * * * * * * *

Feeling fabulous in a ball gown
On Friday I am going to the funeral of the wife of Rowland, Zac's 'tribal elder'. I didn't know her but know and want to support Rowland his daughter. We've been asked to wear 'something you feel fabulous in'.

I don't feel fabulous in anything. Except maybe a ball gown and that might not be appropriate. 

I feel quite good in my little black dress - but if I wear that it will look as if I'm dressing for a funeral not in something I feel fabulous in. Even if I almost do. Oh, the dilemma.

* * * * * * * *

For a few weeks I've been unable to locate my bible. I've had to use my old one or the internet. 

Last night I found it. In the airing cupboard. 

There is a sensible explanation: I'd spilled water on it and put it there to dry out. And forgotten about it, as is my wont. And that gives me an idea for my next article for The Bay magazine.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Flatirons, peaches and death

Almost reached the end of the photo sorting. Having been very ruthless initially I then went back through the suitcase and retrieved some originally for disposal. Just in case. And I was all ready to throw Uncle's war-time letters home away when Husband said, 'You can't do that. Maybe the museum would want them.'

Okay, perhaps there are one or two that mention interesting aspects of service life but on the whole they're very boring. So I've filed them in a drawer for someone else to decide after I've gone.

Anyway we used to have a peach tree - until it became diseased and died - and one year we had an exceptionally good crop. 

So we must have had good summers once upon a time.

But even when we went to New York it was humid and damp. Never got to the top of the Empire State because it was always covered in mist. Husband did make it to the top of the old Twin Towers before its destruction but I was stuck in a small hotel room interviewing my cop at that time.

But this is one of my favourite NY buildings, the flatiron.
Flatiron building, new York

We were talking about dying in bed this morning. Correction, in bed we were talking about dying. Husband said, 'I don't want a gravestone. But would you like me to put your name on one?'
'No, you can scatter my ashes from the cliffs. The only trouble is the wind is always onshore.'
'That's okay,' Husband said. 'I'll take you to your favourite place where you always like to fly and let your ashes fly away.'
'Of course! That's wonderful. Where you would like to be scattered?'
'I don't care.'
'On the boggy hill then.'
'Yes, okay, from the top where there's a nice view.'

Then followed a short argument about who was going first. 'It's a well-known fact,' Husband said, 'that women live longer than men so you'd better make sure the children know.'

So, children, please note. In case we never get around to updating our wills. Currently we leave our children in the care of grandma and pop but that may be invalidated now that: a) grandparents are dead; and b) children have children of their own. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Just an average weekend

Barbecue with Italian in-laws (Nuora's auntie and cousin) who are over for a visit. Husband lit chimera to keep them warm.

Prison, taking service. Great story from Mike, ex-con who's now a Christian, clean and happily married.
GrandSon4's birthday party in the afternoon. Awesome cocodrillo rainbow cake made by Younger Son along with rainbow fruit kebabs. Yummy.
Followed by very quick trip across the road to watch the annual Mumbles Raft Race. Miserable weather and choppy sea meant that many rafts were sunk almost before they set off. Or the crew was too drunk possibly.
Grandson4's actual first birthday. Celebrated with swimming at LC2. I took GrandDaughter1 and GrandSon2 along as well and we all had a most excellent wet time.

Then Husband and Daughter and rest of her family joined us in Croeso lounge in Mumbles for lunch. Just time then for Granddad, Granny and three grandchildren to explore the outside of Oystermouth Castle before running down grassy banks - Granddad sat out that bit. Or in Granny's case falling on her bottom down grassy banks.

It's no wonder I'm tired.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stone Skimming Champion of the World!

It is possible to be a stone skimming champion. And I never knew.

At last here is a sport in which I could participate and excel. Why did I not know this before? But it's not too late. I could still be a champion.

This weekend the All England stone skimming championship has been happening at Lake Windermere and Charlotte Greenway is hoping to be the first woman to win. It doesn't sound likely as her personal best is 45m compared to the 85 m from last year's (male) champion but she does hold the title of British Women's Stone Skimming Champion.

The fact that victory is measured by distance not hops could be my downfall. As could the fact that there have to be at least three hops as I've never actually got beyond three. Or even reached three but I keep on trying as this video from our 2008 holiday in Canada demonstrates.

But at least now I have an aim in life.

Conversation with me

Husband made the mistake of sitting in the room with me while we were drinking our tea. I thought I'd tell him about, well, listen. Or read.

'I was listening to a programme on the radio when I was in the car,' I said. 'Well actually part of a programme. There was a man on it - I think he was a DJ but I don't know him - and he was choosing his Inheritance Tracks. Records he'd want to pass on to his children. And the one he chose was by a group called ... Stinking Lips or something. That doesn't sound like a great name for a band, does it? Hang on, I'll google it.

'Stinking Lips ... no, stinky lips. Ooh, no, perhaps I won't read that page, it looks a bit rude. Perhaps it was something else then.'

'Sinking Lips?' Husband suggests. I google it. 
'No, nothing.'
'Sinking Ships?'
'No, it was definitely lips. I think.

'Well anyway, this song, the DJ said it was written by the lead singer after his friend died. I can't remember what it was called. But it was about, well, I'm not sure, but it's upbeat and cheerful. Except for this one line, Everybody you know will die, or something like that. And it made me think: everybody I know will die. I mean I know everyone dies but you don't think about people you know dying, do you?'

I think Husband had fallen asleep by then.

Of course I know loads of people who have died, some old, some young. But - I don't know how to explain it. I mean my grandchildren will die. Hopefully many many many years after I'm dead and buried. (Burned.) In some strange way it made me feel more accepting of death. Not that I think about it a lot or worry about it. 

I expect you've fallen asleep now. I don't blame you; I'm blathering on with no real focus. If I ever work out what I mean I'll come back to it.

P.S. A wonderful invention iplayer. I was able to check out and listen again to the programme. The band was called Flaming Lips and the song, Do you realise? Well I got Lips right. They are good words too.

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize we're floating in space,
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Do you realize, oh, oh, oh?
Do you realize that everyone you know
Someday will die?
And instead

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trouble in Haiti

A cop for Christ Mike Di Sanza NYPD
Some of you may know that, way back in 2001, a book I ghost-wrote was published by Hodder. Called A Cop for Christ it told the story of a NYPD cop Mike Di Sanza. 

I first met Mike when he came to nearby Port Talbot to stay with the pastor of a church there. The pastor's name is Christy Smith and, some time after A Cop had been published, Christy asked me if I'd be interested in hearing his story with a view to doing the same thing i.e. ghost-writing his autobiography.

So we met up and he began to tell me about his upbringing in Dublin and how disappointed his father had been when he became a pastor. 'He'd been hoping I would follow him into the family business: robbing.'

We continued to meet and I began to work on his book. Then he moved away and we sort of lost touch and the book idea was forgotten about. 

Some years later there was a knock at my door. I opened it and there stood Christy. In the gap between visits he'd had a brain haemorrhage - and he was only 37. We picked up where we left off but again distance and life got in the way. 

I think there was at least one other occasion when we met and swore we'd definitely get it done this time. In fact I even began contacting publishers and interest was expressed by Penguin Ireland ... if they could see the whole manuscript. 

Christy contacted me again a few weeks ago and said he had some time available and he'd be willing to come down and talk again. We finally managed to arrange a date that suited us both and he and his wife visited last Wednesday and Thursday and continued to tell me the story of their lives. 

Lives which take in Haiti, Kosovo, Macedonia, America, Estonia, Spain, Ireland, Manchester, Grenfell Park; you name it Christy was there. In his role as Police Chaplain and part of a rapid response team.

Christy and Linda in Haiti

So I now have a new (-ish) project to work on and this time we're determined. Apart from anything else the internet has made giant steps since we started and now we can skype!

I feel excited about this but also, having tried to make sense of my notes, a little daunted. Never believe yourself when you say, 'It's all right: I'll remember what all this is about.' Just a day or so later and you'll be saying, 'Hare Krishna? Erotic poetry? Mother of woman who ...? What does this mean?'

At the beginning of September I'm planning to go on  a week's retreat. To my study. I'm going to be unavailable (children, please note) as far as the outside world is concerned while I try to break the back of this jumble.

But I'm enthused. Even though I'm not sure how it'll fit in with the rest of my life ...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Staying at the Palace

Most of my holidays were spent in a caravan in Port Eynon on Gower. It belonged to a friend of my mum's who let us use it for a week a year.

Regent Palace hotel london
But one year my mum took me and my gran to London. All I can remember about it is that we stayed in the Regent Palace Hotel and one lunchtime in a cafe I chose an Open Sandwich. It turned out to be on dark rye bread and I hated it.
The camera I'm holding so tightly outside Buckingham Palace is a Brownie 125 bought for me by Auntie Dusty, my mum's Yorkshire/American friend. That's her in the photo with me in my nifty little swimsuit at Langland. It was my first camera and I loved it. In fact in the London photo I'm probably holding an empty case as I suspect this photo was taken with my Brownie.

Many years later my mum took me and my cousin, Lynne, to stay with May, her old WAAF friend, and her family in Cheshire. I'm not saying we were poor but I had to wear my school uniform summer dress while my cousin, six months and an attitude older, wore the latest fashions.
But we did get to 'Ferry cross the Mersey' and see the Cavern Club.

The gift of the gab

I've never had it. The gift of the gab that is. Very shy as a child so my mother sent me to Kate Kolinski for elocution lessons in the hope it would give me confidence. It didn't. All I got was this certificate for passing the exam. 
Then as an adult I tried kissing the blarney stone - at great personal terror, you understand. I had to walk around the castle three times telling myself it was perfectly safe to lie on my back across a hole with my head leaning backwards and down into nothingness.
kissing the blarney stone
That didn't work either.

I had better resign myself to the fact that I'm never going to get it.

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.