Thursday, March 23, 2017

In which I am almost perfect

So the dentist says I need to have my teeth scaled. 'I will use sonar to remove the tartar,' she says. 'But I should warn you that people don't like it. It vibrates and there is cold water.'

'Phooey,' I think. 'How painful can a bit of sonar be?'
Ooo yee oww! 
The answer is very.

Other than that she told me I have excellent oral hygiene. And she didn't even add 'for your age.'

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

And he's definitely gone

'Is it odd to say I still can't think of him as gone?' 

Husband and I were in the car on our way home from Uncle's where I'd been sorting out some of his clothes. And it doesn't seem strange at all and I somehow think it should.

I've been trying - and failing - to print a photo of him to frame and the best one I have is the one that Husband took for the 2014 article in The Guardian. In it he looks happy and relaxed and well and it struck me how much he'd changed in the last two years, especially since last autumn, and that I hadn't noticed how dramatically he'd deteriorated. I suppose you don't when you see someone regularly.

He never got his appetite back after a bad chest infection before Christmas. I kept saying to myself, 'Once he starts eating again he'll pick up in strength, get his old enthusiasm back and will carry on to live for years.' This was even though he kept saying, 'Oh, I don't want live for years; I've had enough.'

We've been thinking that something may well have gone wrong in his gut: he had bowel cancer a long time ago. He'd been fine since but, in retrospect, it may have appeared again. And maybe Uncle suspected it.

The most poignant moment of the morning was finding his jacket with the handkerchief still just peeking out of the top pocket. Uncle was always a gentleman in manner and dress.

Husband said, 'No. Life's been too busy. I was thinking about him the other day and it struck me: he's gone. And I miss the old codger.'


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In which I come out of the closet

So yesterday I upset a friend. I didn't mean to but I did. So since then I've been thinking a lot and trying to clarify my thoughts - always a tricky job when it involves my brain.

There's been a lot of discussion - and pain - around the question of homosexuality and the church. I have friends on both sides of the argument: those who say homosexuality is definitely a sin and those who are equally firmly convinced it's not. I have been reluctant to give my views on the subject because I didn't want to upset either side but that's not being honest. 

So I upset my friend by saying I honestly didn't know if homosexuality was a sin to God. My head says yes but my heart says no. I read passages that seem to say quite clearly that it is but then I think of Jesus (who didn't say anything about it) and his attitude of inclusivity, and then I read articles about how the church is failing to disciple or teach its young people properly (and losing them in the process), and then I read other articles about love and I end up even more confused than I started.

So I thought I'd better try again to look at some passages myself.

My first thought was that not only does Jesus not say anything about homosexuality neither do the ten commandments (although there is a bit in Leviticus, which appears to be things God thought of after the first ten biggies, and which includes some quite severe laws and drastic punishments many of which would be laughed out of church today). 

What the ten commandments do is give us a guide to living. If we do the the things God says we shouldn't do they will cause hurt or pain to us or someone else - so that seems quite reasonable to me. Likewise Jesus in his manifesto (the sermon on the mount) gives us good advice for living: do good and it'll do you good.

What Jesus really doesn't like is hypocrisy: people saying one thing and doing another, especially those leading the church who should know better. The ones who care more about the rules than about the people in their care. He prefers the company of honest sinners. Yes, he tells them to go and sin no more but he's there in the dirt and the mud with them, helping them, helping us.

It's because we can't keep the law that Jesus came. We are no longer under law. 

So back to the subject. Some writers in the New Testament also express themselves strongly on the the topic. Often quoted are these words of Paul:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. etc (Romans 1:26-27) 

But if you look at verse 25 the people Paul is talking about are those who had:
exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator ...

The gay Christians I know know the truth about God and worship and serve him, so they are not the people Paul is talking about nor the unrighteous mentioned in a similar verse in Timothy's letter.

A lot of pro-gay people will put the cultural argument that the times Paul was writing in and about were times of sexual craziness where prostitution and abuse was accepted and even welcomed in temples, where people were used and abused and love had nothing whatsoever to do with it. And I'm sure that's true too. (Paul also said women shouldn't speak in church and frowned upon long hair on men.)

So my head is coming down more on the not a sin side. (When I say homosexuality I am talking about loving committed relationships between two people who happen to be of the same sex.) 

If it is a sin then it's between God and the individual. It's nothing to do with me as long as I don't see one individual using or abusing an another. My job is to encourage people to meet God, get to know him, accept his love. Anything more than that is down to God. And quite honestly I'm pretty glad about that. I have more than enough of my own sins to worry about.

P.S. As you can see I'm my usual wishy washy self on this, but that's okay, because there are loads of things I don't understand in the bible. But I know Jesus and he's pretty cool about that and with me so I'm not going to worry.
P.P.S. I also read an article by a man who considers what he'd do if one of his children came out as gay. He said he would love them not despite their sexuality and not because of it but just because he loves them. I hope the same is true of me and my gay friends.

When is a stool not a stool?

Remember my resolution to think before I speak?

Postman arrives with a parcel. I open the door and say, 'That doesn't look like a stool.'
Postman looks at me, smiles anxiously, and says, 'Sign here please,' before hurrying away.

Perhaps Husband wasn't talking about stools when he said he was expecting a delivery today. He could have made that clear to me. But is that the delivery he told me to wait in for? Or should I still be expecting stools?

Speaking of stools reminds me that I still have a bowel cancer testing kit to use. It arrived during the what-I-call difficult times earlier in the year and I put it to one side to 'do later'. Later has arrived. But I'm busy today ...

Oh yes, and I have a new knife! The same as the one that went missing. Happy woman.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Another short one

Okay so I've rewritten the blog post I was going to post yesterday but I'm not posting it yet. I want to have some details checked by someone I trust.

In other news, GrandSon4 is much improved and eating better.

I spent a large part of today walking to and fro between banks in the pouring rain trying to persuade them to accept a cheque. You wouldn't think they'd be so reluctant, would you? As an executrix I should have waved my wand, said the magic word, 'Acceptiamus!' and they'd have been saying please and thank you good as can be. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I can do magic

I am executrix of Uncle's will. I feel I should be able to do magic being an executrix. Instead I have to go and talk to bank managers. Disappointing.

And that's it, my token post for today. I was going to write a long thoughtful post but I confused myself and deleted it all. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So ... SuperSaturday

Came and went and really shouldn't have bothered.

Italy lost, then Wales lost and then England lost.

Not much more to say except the Wales France game lasted an extraordinary 98 minutes instead of the designated 80 and there was an inevitability about the end result that made you want to say, 'Oh just give them a try and finish this ordeal.'

The good news is that GrandSon4 has tonsillitis. Ordinarily that wouldn't be good news but he's been back and for to the doctor's for several days with changing symptoms and when Younger Son messaged from the hospital this afternoon to say the out-of-hours doctor didn't think it was meningitis but was sending him to the paediatric unit the rugby result became of secondary importance.

So now he has antibiotics and hopefully he'll improve soon. He's been unhappy and, most significantly, off his food so it will be good when we see him eating again.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Some unashamed self promotion


It occurs to me that some more recent readers of my blog may not be aware that I am a published author. (I know: you can't tell from reading my blog.)

After success with a number of non-fiction books I tried my hand at a novel. After twenty-seven rejections I decided to self-publish and This Time Next Year is the result. 

To give you a taste of it here's the blurb from the Amazon page:

When her decree absolute arrives in the post with her 50th birthday cards Alison Turner wonders if middle age life can get any worse. When the highlights of the last year include being told off by the plumber for 'putting feminine items of hygiene down the lavatory', and her husband leaving her for a 28-year-old 'bimbo', it's easy to understand why Alison exclaims in her diary, 'I do not want another year like that. I must get a new plumber.' 

But if the romantic aspect of Alison's life leaves a lot to be desired (including sex, which is something the rest of her family appear to be enjoying) the everyday aspect is full of incident. In a year of well-intentioned ineptitude, as Alison records in her diary, she is thrown out of a pub for the first time in her life, begins to diet eight times (at least), finds out twelve unappealing things about dogs and discovers that first impressions can sometimes be misleading.

This Time Next Year is available as a paperback or as an ebook from Amazon. Just click on this link.

It might be worth bearing in mind especially with Mother's Day coming up! Or as a present for yourself.

By the same author (as they say on the back of books): A Cop for Christ For Officer Mike DiSanza of the NYPD patrolling the harsh, unforgiving streets of Harlem and the Bronx, it was a near-death experience that led to an amazing turnaround in his perception of the world around him. 

Things that raise more questions than answers

One of the brown 'places of tourist interest' signs pointing to Mumbles has this symbol on it:
Younger Son and I discussed this and came to the conclusion that it meant 'interesting vase in the window of a house in Mumbles':
Today the question arose again this time asked by Husband.  He wasn't convinced by my answer. 
'I think it means wine bar,' he said, 'and that's a carafe.'
'Huh! That's far less likely than my theory.'
I pondered for a while. 'Perhaps it means crafts. Or old things like Roman stuff.'

Thank goodness for Google. It does indeed mean pottery or crafts. But did you know there are 93 different symbols that can appear on brown signs? No, nor me. And you can see them all here.

It doesn't however explain the logo for the National Waterfront Museum.
It's puzzled me ever since they first opened it. I've imagined it's people - slightly bent people -  looking at things.
'I think it's a factory with smoke coming from the chimneys, built on the letter M,' Husband said today. That would be reasonable as it's an industrial museum. But I still say it's not obvious.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The books wot I have been reading

I've just finished reading Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. It was a bit of an effort.

I started it while sitting overnight with Uncle but that didn't work. I quickly realised it was going to be a 'have-to-concentrate' book so I waited until afterwards to carry on. By that time I'd forgotten who all the characters were. I persevered but eventually went back to the beginning.

The trouble is that it's set in Greenland/Denmark and the names are unfamiliar but with effort I managed to keep up with and vaguely understand the plot. Then about halfway through the action moved from shore to on-board ship and that was the end of any hope for me of knowing what was going on. 

The entire cast of characters changed completely and ship language was used, which along with all the Greenlandic phrases and descriptions of snow and ice left me drowning. But I was determined to finish it because there was a mystery that I wanted to see resolved.

So it is rather unfortunate that I've now reached the end and it's not really any clearer. 

Ah well, Daughter bought it for me and wants to read it so maybe she can explain it to me later.

Meanwhile I've started on one of my library books, Real Murders, the first in the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris (? I think). I am fairly sure I've read it before but I have no idea whodunnit so I'll carry on. It's light and insubstantial and I need a bit of that after Miss Smilla.

Before that I read a Philippa Gregory historical novel called Three Sisters, Three Queens. I've mostly enjoyed Gregory's novels but found this one disappointing. The narrator, Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII, isn't appealing and, in a way, very little happens. That is, a lot happens but it's mostly too-ing and fro-ing and changing allegiances and vying for power and wealth.

Oh yes and I read Bridget Jones's Baby. More of a novella than a full length novel it's very flimsy and much as you would expect. Entertaining in its way but nothing much has changed. A nice little earner for Helen Fielding without much effort. Ooh, that sounds bitchy!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The revolution will not be televised

We're now on season 6 of Homeland and the opening sequence has changed. Now it's concerned with terrorism on US soil and a voice can be heard running through the sequence that may be familiar to many but I had to search to find its origin.

It's the voice of Gil Scott Heron reading his own work, The revolution will not be televised. He wrote it a number of years ago as a young activist and it's easy to understand why it became almost an anthem to disenfranchised and alienated youth. It's haunting and makes you want to say, 'Yes, let's do it!' And that's from me a respectable white middle-class woman.

Anyway, and I'll get to the point now, it's the first line that came into my mind last night: The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown. 

In bible study at Zac's we were looking at the story of the good Samaritan and who are our neighbours (answer: everyone including our enemies) and what it would feel like to be cared for by our enemy. Somehow the question of who would get into heaven arose and varying views were shared.

There's a popular view at the moment that absolutely everyone will get in (although I read a book that has been decried for saying it but as far as I could make out the author didn't actually say that). On the other hand you have the 'each of us is a sinner and we must repent, say the prayer, be baptised and live a good life,' viewpoint.

I am somewhere in between, admittedly with far more of a 'you're going to be amazed when you see who's in heaven' slant.

I believe there has to be some acknowledgement of what Jesus did by dying on the cross, an awareness that nothing we can do to earn God's love but that it's all his idea. But I believe that God gives us chance after chance after chance to meet him and accept his forgiveness. Even if that is on the deathbed - or later!

But there was a minor revolution in my brain last night when I accepted that a verse I've always thought of as being simple - Jesus is the only way (paraphrase) - if I look at it another way may not be as simple as I previously thought. 

Which meant a slightly sleepless night as I pondered.

But the emphasis I've always had is not that I believe in Jesus because that means I'll go to heaven but rather I'll believe in Jesus because I want his presence in my life, to help me get through it. 

Thank God it's his job to judge and ours to love and care for people regardless of their belief, colour, gender, or anything else that makes them different from us. To bring God's kingdom to earth.

Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbour as yourself.

When is a trowel a dangerous weapon?

So, I'm sitting at the back in Zac's and one of our regularish friends comes in. He can be erratic in his behaviour so the fact that he is wielding a very large trowel is slightly concerning.

He sits opposite me and explains that his dad taught him how to use a trowel when he was a boy. All the same, this is a very large trowel (of the cement spreading rather than digging kind) and, more importantly, a potential weapon.

Oh dear, should I ask him to let me look after it until the bible study has finished? He's in a good mood but that could change suddenly if he feels offended. I can't catch the eye of any of the God Squad lot to signal - although what I would signal is anybody's guess - I'd probably look as if I am doing the actions to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star - so I look around: is there anybody here with whom he might pick a fight? One possibly but he'd been off the drink for a few weeks and is sober and cheerful so unlikely. 

Of course there's always the possibility that trowel-man's mood could change or something could be said to upset him. But on the whole I figure it'll be okay. Which just leaves the question: why is he carrying a trowel?



A hazard to myself

I sometimes think I shouldn't be allowed out on my own.

I always struggle with bags, keys, scarf, and glasses. Last time I bought flowers I may just as well have paid for them, dropped them and jumped up and down on them the number of times they ended up on the floor on the way to going home.

And then today, as if that wasn't enough, I got in the car, turned on the radio and the music that came out was Rondo alla Turca by Mozart. The very music I chose to focus on during my long slow first labour. (Choosing music to sing along to/concentrate on to distract you from the pain was encouraged in those days; I don't know if it still is.) Instantaneously I was back in that delivery room breathing, panting, pushing, screaming. 

I switched the radio off.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Back to Zac's

After a long gap I'm off to Zac's tonight. So that meant cake-making, in particular a birthday cake for a 4-year-old who might not be there so it's a versatile cake. Candles can be added.
Younger Son follows a gluten-free diet so I occasionally buy him Mrs Crimble's coconut cakes. How hard can it be to make them, says I. The answer is not very but don't cook them for so long next time - even though I checked them 8 minutes before they were due to be ready. Not very sweet but okay. I was going to dip them in melted chocolate but YS has given it up for Lent.

Then because I had to open a tin of condensed milk  for the coconut cakes I decided I might as well as use it up with some admittedly misshapen white chocolate cookies. 


So my good intention to begin dieting today has already gone down the pan. (Also weighed for the first time for ages today and at 10 st I want to lose 7 lbs.)

Speaking of Lent (refer back three paragraphs) my resolution to write a blog post each day is going much better than my discard an item a day resolution. Mostly because I just forget. 

I'll go and do it now.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Good news

a) I have submitted my latest article for The Bay magazine - two days before the deadline!

b) After a hair-raising week of finding and losing teachers and nearly losing the grant it's been confirmed: I have the funding to organise a gentle fitness class for vulnerable women! Whooppee! Now I need a week to relax ... oh no wait, I have to meet the teacher, confirm timings, book the venue, design leaflets and posters, promote the class everywhere. Why do I get these good ideas? And why do I think they're good ideas?

So what is Mumbles?

S.J. Qualls also asked about Mumbles.

I was born and raised in Mumbles and after a short period away from Swansea now live just outside this seaside village in south Wales on the very edge of the Gower Peninsular. In 1956 Gower was the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Mumbles is famous for its pier and lighthouse but probably most famous for The Mumbles Mile.  It was considered something of a challenge especially for stag and hen nights to complete the Mumbles Mile, which involved drinking a pint of beer in each of the numerous pubs running from the village to the pier (20 in a 2-mile stretch). Now, thankfully some of us may say, a number of those pubs have closed so it's less challenging but in the past groups would come from all over to try to earn the right to a 'I've done the Mumbles Mile' mug or t-shirt. 

But let's concentrate on more attractive aspects. The village itself has a thriving community spirit again. After a long period when it lost its heart a new generation has arisen and revitalised the village with a host of posh shops as well as all the essentials. 

For good old-fashioned fun you need to visit the pier and its amusement arcade. After being in a state of disrepair for some years the pier itself is now being spruced up - and made safe! 
Before repair

Withe new lifeboat station 
Mumbles lighthouse from Bracelet Bay
And from the pier
For many years the lighthouse was manned and for some years a unit of soldiers was also stationed there. In 1883 the lifeboat was launched to go to the aid of a German ship. The crew was rescued but the lifeboat itself later got into trouble. Jessie and Margaret, the daughters of the lighthouse-keeper, helped rescue crewmen washed up in lighthouse waters and their actions were commemorated in a poem to be found here. And very recently a blue commemorative plaque was installed at the top of the steps leading down to the beach to the lighthouse.

Of course, Mumbles lifeboat has a proud and sad history. As well as the 1883 disaster in 1947 the boat and the crew of eight were all lost during a rescue. 


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beginner's guide to rugby

Okay, it wasn't a question so much as a statement. On my last post S.J. Qualls commented that she'd never seen rugby so I thought I'd do a Beginner's Guide to Rugby.

Rugby is the Welsh national sport. Don't listen to football (soccer) fans who argue otherwise. Rugby always has been and always will be the primary sport of Wales. It arouses great passions and causes much pain, both physical - on the pitch - and emotional - off it.

It's played by fifteen a side who try to score by scoring a try. A try is when a player places the ball on the ground over the try line - the penultimate line on the pitch. Five points are awarded for that. The kicker can then try to 'convert' the try by kicking the ball over the cross bar of the goals. That gets two points.
Dan Carter, All Black back

Sometimes if someone does something naughty a penalty will be awarded and the kicker may then try to get a goal, which is worth three points. But sometimes they'll decide to kick the ball off the pitch and then throw it in again (see 'line-out' below). A drop goal, which is someone kicking at random over the crossbar, is also worth three points. Got that so far?


The eight at the front are called forwards and the other seven are the backs.

The game is mostly played by throwing the ball from player to player - at least, that's the most exciting way. Oh yes and the ball has to go backwards i.e. not in the direction of play. Unless it's being kicked, in which case it can go forwards.

When one player has the ball the opposition will try to get it from him. To achieve this they tackle him. Maybe the best way to explain tackling in rugby is to compare it with a football tackle. 


You also have things called rucks and mauls. In both these you get a crowd of players piled on top of each other but sometimes the ref calls it a ruck and sometimes a maul and it seems to depend on where feet and hands are. Possibly.

If the ball goes off the pitch there is a line-out where the forwards (the eight less-attractive-looking ones at the front) line up and the ball is thrown in.


Forwards preparing for a scrum
Sometimes there are scrums. The scrum is a mystery to most normal-thinking people but involves the forwards going into a huddle and vying for the ball. If the scrum collapses the referee gets very annoyed and tells everyone off.

Occasionally you'll hear the phrase 'handbags'. This means there is a fight. Whenever a penalty is awarded the players all call the referee 'sir' and deny any wrong-doing vehemently. They can be seen on the television shaking their heads in disbelief.

Players can be sin-binned for misdemeanours. This means the ref waves a yellow card at them and they are out of the game for ten minutes. Unfortunately there is not an actual sin-bin, which I think is a mistake. I'm sure players would think harder about their actions if they had to sit in a box with a dunce's hat on their head. Very rarely, for serious wrongdoing, the ref will bring out a red card. That means that the player must go off for the rest of the game.

If a player bleeds a lot the ref sends him off to be bandaged up before he comes back on. If a player is dropped on his head the ref sends him off for a head test before he carries on.

By the way, this is rugby union. In some places, particularly in the north of England they play rugby league. I don't know much about league but it seems a bit more of a sissy sport.

So now you know all I know about rugby. 

Here's a sample from Friday night's game (with French commentary for some reason ...) and a link to another clip that shows more of the different moves.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dragons on and off the pitch

A good weekend rugby-wise for our household. Wales beat Ireland and England beat Scotland.

The Welsh game last night was brutal. You could hear the tackles - well, they weren't so much tackles as ram-raids. A tight game it was very tense but it was great to see Wales play with a bit of oomph. Today's game was something of a walkover and I stopped watching at half time. I am fighting - and beating - my inclination to cheer on whoever England's playing but there was a bit of me today hoping Scotland would win. But only because that would have left the championship open and Wales, I think, still in with a teensy chance, if everything went the right way. Probably a so teensy as to be impossible but now England have won the championship a week before the end of the competition. They'll be going for the Grand Slam next week while the rest of us play for pride.

But before the game today we went to view the Dragon Parade in Mumbles.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Only slightly funereal but not in a bad way

'A commando?!!'

I have taken two things from the events of the last weeks.

Firstly, tell people now what you think about them. In a good way I mean. At funerals everyone says such lovely things about the deceased it's such a shame they're not here to hear it. So I resolve to try to remember to encourage and raise up people.

Secondly, ask questions now. You won't get a chance to ask when the person is dead so find out as much as you can about family and the person's history. That way you won't be surprised when at the funeral it's revealed that your uncle was involved in the D-Day landings. Or when you get an email from an old friend of your uncle's who says, 'Of course you know he was a commando?'
'A commando?!!'


Nothing funereal today

Having said that I can't think of anything to write about.

Next day
And that was as far as I got. I meant to go back and add something but then it got to bedtime.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

How do you get him in the hole?

The hole had been dug. Husband said, 'Do you want to put the casket in?'
'Hm. Short skirt.No, I think not.'

Turned out to be a good decision as Husband nearly fell in and ended up kneeling on muddy ground to drop Uncle into the hole.

Uncle had had a good night the night before though. Jane, his friend, hadn't liked the idea of him sitting in our boot all night so she invited him in to sleep on her spare bed. But without the electric blanket and duvet that he normally insisted upon. There are limits.

Meanwhile back in Dorset, my cousin had been a member of the Beaminster Singers who sang this very beautiful prayer at her funeral.

Random jottings

Sunday: travel to Bridport, Dorset.
Monday: attend funeral; travel to Nottingham.
Tuesday: attend funeral; travel home.

Advice to young people: when choosing a spouse think ahead. Is this the sort of person who will drive you around the country to funerals when you are old?

Dorset is so posh they have deer and pheasants in their fields rather than sheep and starlings.

I wonder if the residents of Puddlebridge regret not building a higher bridge.

Is there an unwritten law that says that every Welsh/Welsh connection funeral must end with Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer? Four funerals, four renderings. 

Other randomness occurred to me while travelling but, needless to say, it didn't hang around in my brain.

By the way, this is yesterday's post today. The next post will be today's.

Monday, March 06, 2017

But I haven't forgotten the ashes

It's a good job I am aware of my own weaknesses.

Packing for our trip I thought I'd better pack a spare funeral dress in case I spilled something on the first one.

Just as well I did as, unpacking, I discover I haven't packed funeral dress number 1. Or my favourite funeral dress as I like to call it.

I had better make jolly sure I don't drop anything on it.

Speaking of clothes, we were driving out of Sainsbury's car park yesterday when we stopped to let a woman cross with her trolley. She was wearing a grey tweed skirt, black tights and boots, and a neat jacket. In other words she was dressed as I would have been had I been a solicitor. Only she was smarter.

Do people actually dress like that on their days off?


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Our own Bermuda triangle

So today after lunch we head off for Dorset.

Remember my post of a few weeks' back? About the unfairness of life and death? The cousin about whom I wrote then is being buried tomorrow. Fifty years old, the mother of a son with severe learning difficulties, with an ex-husband who left after their son was born, she didn't have an easy life and then was taken from it unexpectedly. Fair?

It will be added to my list of things to question God about. While I don't believe God makes bad things happen to us, he does let them happen, and while he promises to be with us through it all it can still seem pretty sh***y. Thankfully he also doesn't mind when we rant and rave at him.

Then straight after the funeral we'll be setting off again for Nottingham to grab a night's sleep before Uncle's memorial service and interment on Tuesday. Then it's home again and possibly back to some sort of normality.

Although I do have to sort out a minor problem with the funding of the fitness class I am going to organise for vulnerable women. Having been granted the money I then am told that the teacher has to be REPS registered, which she's not. But she's been wonderful putting me in touch with others who could possibly do it. And that would all be fine ,,, if I didn't have to meet the conditions by next Friday or lose the funding.

So it looks as though normal service i.e. running around like a mad thing, will be resumed quickly.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

I am the mistress of rejection

I've had short stories rejected. Long stories, articles, even ideas have been received with a 'thank you but no'.  I've had nice letters that show that the writer has actually read my submission; I've had anonymous pre-printed 'the editor regrets' slips. Fact or fiction they've all been spurned by those who think they know better.
You'd think when you have that many - and yes, I've kept them all - you'd be used to it. But it doesn't work like that. Each time I send out something I've written, whether it's fact or fiction, it's a bit of me that's going out into that big scary world to be put in a pile, ignored, laughed at, considered ... and finally rejected.

And still I like to think I'm a writer.

I probably shouldn't really find this funny ...

Half of Uncle John? Really?

I don't know how crematoriums work but I find it hard to believe that they know whose ashes are whose or whether it's a just a bit of burned wood they're giving you. Not that it matters.

Friday, March 03, 2017

My grandmother and me

My uncle was already working away from home when I was born. When his son was born two years after me it was discovered that he had tubercular meningitis meaning he needed constant care through his short (27 years) life and any journeys needed careful planning and could be cancelled at the last minute if he were unwell. So Uncle's visits home were few and far between.

But when he did come, oh, my gran laid on a feast fit for a prodigal. Or at least the 50s Mumbles equivalent: she'd open a tin of best red salmon. It must have been after a particularly trying journey that, with my gran fussing around him, Uncle finally snapped. 'I don't even like tinned salmon,' he declared.

I felt sorry for my gran then. And cross with Uncle. How dare he throw her desperation to please him back in her face? I was maybe in my early teens then and was angry with this stranger.

Four generations of women
It was unusual for me to feel sorry for my gran. She was a formidable character. As the oldest of eight children the care of both her parents and then just her mother fell mostly onto her. I grew up in a house with my mother, grandparents and great-grandmother. A very matriarchal house, the epitome of woman power.

Because my mother had to go out to work it was my gran who was largely responsible for my up-bringing. A job she took seriously. It wasn't that she didn't love me; it was about being loving. And being lovable. She was confident and liked to think she was better than others. At the same time she'd be ingratiating with those she looked up to.

She wasn't like Auntie Gay who had no children of her own and doted on and spoiled me. She wasn't like Auntie Vi who preferred gadding about, as my gran would call it, to cleaning her house but who could make you laugh at the grimmest of times.

She just wasn't cuddly or lovable. But maybe she couldn't be: maybe her life was too hard for her to demonstrate emotion. If you look at photos of her you see a strong facial structure, a way of holding herself, an undeniably resilient woman who perhaps has seen too much. 

I fear I have inherited many of her traits but not her best ones: her self assurance and magnificent singing voice. Or her pastry-making skill. Nobody made apple tarts like my gran.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

World Book Day

I dug out some old files from writing courses and browsed through them looking for inspiration but only discovered that that my old writing was far less inspiring than I remembered!

Thankfully Younger Son provided inspiration with his reminder that today is World Book Day. 'Write about your favourite book,' he said.

The first book that came to mind was one I've mentioned before: Brother of the More Famous Jack, the first novel from Barbara Trapido. But then I thought, 'What about My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises with its granny-I-aspire-to-be?' And what about all the Janet Evanovich 'Stephanie Plum' novels with their hapless but kick-ass bounty hunter - not to mention another model granny? Or Little Women with the feminist before her time Jo March?

And I realise I could list loads of books that I really enjoyed but none has stayed with me in the same way as Brother of so that's the one I'll settle for.

I was living in Southampton in the late 1980s when I bought and read this Whitbread-award-winning novel and I loved it so much I even bought it for a friend in Swansea for her birthday. (I very rarely buy books as gifts as reading taste is so personal but I was convinced she would love this and she did.)

It's about a girl from a 'proper' lower middle class upbringing on the verge of going to university and who becomes involved with her lecturer's family, the eccentricities of which are so far removed from everything with which she is familiar. And like her I aspired to be part of this family, to have that confidence, the assurance that was theirs by right. And I fell in love with the second son.

The author's other books never did it for me in the same way. I guess sometimes you just hit lucky

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A grave state

We took the coffin flowers up to the cemetery today. I used to visit the graves regularly but as you see from the state of this I haven't been or done anything to it for ages.


Unlike the grave of my great-grandparents. Uncle Bun used to take care of it I know and I think maybe his son Peter took over but it's certainly well-cared-for.

I used to be a writer

Or at least I used to call myself a writer. I've had articles published in national magazines, short stories included in magazines and anthologies, and I've had non-fiction books published. I've even self-published my own novel. And written another three. But ...

I've lost it. 

No, I refuse to believe I've lost it; I've just mislaid it temporarily.

Life has been so hectic what with one thing and another over the last months that the only writing I've done has been on my blog (intermittent) and for The Bay (twice). And none of that has been fiction. At least not strictly.

So my other Lenten resolve is to write everyday on my blog. It'll probably mostly be ramblings but may occasionally drift into fiction. I may - I will allow myself to - dig out old pieces and reconsider or revamp them, or, if I'm really short of time, post them as they are!

So that's part 2 of my Lenten resolutions. As for part 1 ...
Item No. 1 to go in my charity shop bag. A bit of a cheat as I only bought this butter dish from a charity shop last year for Uncle who already had another one by the time I gave it to him so I brought it home and kept it in the cupboard. Because it's pretty. But the occasions on which I would use a butter dish are ... I can't think of any so it's going.

This, of course, is after I've considered and rejected all the other pieces of useless china and ornamentation that I have in the same cupboard. I've had those longer; it will take longer to get rid of them.