Saturday, July 22, 2017

I will be a national hero

One of my very first blog posts from 0ctober, 2005. Sadly I never did start that campaign.

The trouble with Americans is: they can't spell. I suspect this is the root of all their irritating little habits, like eating too much and waging war in foreign lands. It gives them a deep sense of inferiority.

I shall start a campaign to bring good spelling to the US of A. It will change the path of world history and I will be declared a hero and have a day named after me. They will call it ... oh, perhaps they'll call it Spelling Day, and it will be on my birthday. Or maybe, as no doubt it will be a long process, on my deathday. 

There will be a national holiday and everyone will go to ice cream parlours and eat prettily-coloured cones with their neighbours.

Until then I must remember that the spellchecker is American and thus cannot spell.

The interesting thing about this topic is that I tried to post it once and it disappeared into the ether. It is probably residing in the CIA's database even now and I will be rounded up whenever there is a threat to American security. I have seen 24; I know what their computers can do in the blink of an eye. The question is: will I be allowed to post it this time?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Those were the days - cleaning day part 4

wooden floorWhen we first moved to this house some 29 years ago I loved the wooden floors in the hall and dining-room so much I would get down on my hands and knees and polish them regularly. (Well, a few times.) Today they're lucky if they get a brush over them. 

It's not that I love them any the less it's just that I've taken Shirley Conran's advice - life's too short to stuff a mushroom - to a new level.

This house was built in about 1952 for a doctor and his family; we bought it from them. Because of his profession they were able to have more wood - it was still restricted by rationing - than most people but only enough for the two areas. The rooms are also higher than in other houses of the same period again thanks to more generous rations allowed for those working in the field of medicine.

It may sound crazy but he did have his surgery in his home so it does make sense.

So we're only the second family to live in this house in the 64 years it's been built. We like it. I'll always remember a woman who called doing a survey. She commented that as she was walking up the steps she felt, 'This is a happy house.' It is.

People in town - cleaning day part 3

The trouble with cleaning is that, inevitably, at some point you have to stop actual cleaning in order to 'sort out stuff'. So it was while I was sorting out stuff that I came across a bundle of photos. I'd taken them in town one day many moons ago, I think, with the intention of using the characters as spurs for stories. Going through them today I could only find two that seemed even halfway interesting.
people in town

people in town
I particularly like the second photo of the miserable or maybe tired woman in front of the children's roundabout. If I had time/enthusiasm I could write a story about that. Pretend I'm still a writer as I was in 2001 when I got paid real money for it.
a cop for christ

The dish cloth episode - cleaning day part 2

Dish cloth
Husband called me, 'Where's the dish-cloth?'
'I don't know.'
'Are you washing them?'

tea towel versus dish cloth
Tea towel 

I gave up trying to clean the bathroom and went down to the kitchen.
'There it is,' I said, pointing to the sink where Husband had put the dish-cloth in a bowl of soapy water.
'No, not that! Those things,' Husband pointed to the towel rail where we keep the tea-towels.
'Tea-towels you mean?'
Husband paused only momentarily before replying, 'No. Dish cloths. They're cloths that we use to dry dishes. Dish cloths.'

Considering spatial awareness - cleaning day part 1

spatial awareness
I mean, why would you want to work this out?
Cleaning day today. Have I mentioned that I hate cleaning? So today will be a day of many blog and Facebook posts. (I need little rests.) With a bit of spatial awareness thrown in for the sake of those who find cleaning incredibly boring. Like me.

* * * * * * * 
Husband looked at the quilt and at the suitcase. 'It's not going to fit in there,' he said.
'Yes it is,' I said.
He laughed.
'I took a double quilt out of it so another double must fit into it.'

What I wasn't taking into account was the fact that the quilt I'd removed from the suitcase is about three times thinner than the one we're trying to put in.

We gave up.

I should know better than to argue with Husband about such things; he has much better spatial awareness.

Apparently it's a man thing. Whoops, that's probably sexist. But that's the way it is in our house. I suppose I am quite behind the times in feminist thinking in that I do most of the cleaning, shopping and cooking, and all of the washing while Husband does gardening, decorating, and fixing things. But that's the way we both like it and it works for us. 

And I should add that today he's cleaning the kitchen!

A quick google confirmed that research has shown that men do tend to do better at spatial awareness tests than women, however, there was a suggestion that education can change that. A bit late for me I think. I shall continue to call Husband and say things like, 'Will I get everything in this saucepan in that jug?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I thought I was going to need a man

There was a little bush just where I didn't want a little bush. I had mentioned it to Husband and suggested he remove it but advancement was slow. As in not happening. So I set to and attacked it myself.
Digging up a bush
Having stuck my fork in and worked my way around it several times without any obvious progress I began to think that I might need a man for the job. However I was forgetting I have WonderWoman capabilities.
I don't have a photo of me sitting on my bottom when it finally gave and I fell backwards. (That's George's back end you can just see: he likes to watch and encourage.)

I said to Husband, 'We could have a little arch and grow roses over it!' (I've been inspired by my visits to gardens recently.)
'Nah, it would spoil the view.'
'We'll get some of those nice big daisies then.'
'No, they're too big.'

I would argue some more but Husband is the grower in our family. I am the clearer/destroyer. But for the moment it can stay empty. Elder Son and family are down this coming weekend and I'm planning a treasure hunt with real buried treasure!

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Today before lunch and bible study in Zac's we did some gardening in the house across the road. It's been empty for years and gets very over-grown - and many of our friends use it as a rubbish bin for their cans and bottles so it seems appropriate that we should do something to clear up.
The workers.
The cuttings and rubbish.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I had a panic attack

panic attack
Probably not what would be medically defined as a panic attack but it was by my standards.

I went cold and faint, my tummy dropped to my feet and my brain filled with storm clouds. The worst symptoms eased off gradually but the storm raged all day. 

What was worse is that it's the first one I've had for ages, years even. My pills keep my anxiety under control most of the time so I'd almost forgotten what it was like. Even now writing about it - and it happened two days ago - I begin to feel fretful. I can't go back there. I won't go back there.

P.S. Having googled panic attack I see that my attack was fairly typical, which is sort of a relief: it makes me feel less of a fraud.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Warrior princess Gwenllian and me

family tree, Rhodri Mawr, Princess Gwenllian
I mentioned that I have some illustrious ancestors. Husband spent a long time working on my family history and stumbled across a link to a tree created by an academic in Welsh history. From this link he was able to draw up my tree to show the link between me and numerous famous people including Welsh princes and princesses.

As I say, the original appeared to be a fairly well-researched and academic investigation and is probably quite reliable back until the twelfth century. Following William the Conqueror's invasion more birth/death records were kept, certainly of the nobility, and lines can be traced through time. Before that family history is more about possibility and guesswork than fact so my links to Joseph of Arimathea and indeed Julius Caesar are slightly more suspect. 

One wall of our spare bedroom is covered with one branch of my tree consisting of a few hundred people; in the whole tree there are thousands.

The arrows pointing to the yellow boxes at the top left indicate the presence of Rhodri Mawr or Rhodri the Great. Rhodri gained the epithet Great  both because his kingdom stretched from the north, Anglesey, to the south, Gower, and because he was a fierce warrior.

Leap forward a few centuries and you find Gruffudd ap Rhys, prince of Deheubarth, who was married to Gwenllian, daughter of the king of Gwynedd.

At the time the Normans, who had built Kidwelly castle as a defence against the Welsh, were in possession of it and Gruffudd set off for North Wales to plead for help from his father-in-law to defeat the them. While he was away Norman reinforcements landed and marched to the castle. 

Gwenllian seized the opportunity to prevent the extra troops arriving and gathered a small army to go and do battle, a battle in which she was defeated and her son killed. She was immediately ordered to be beheaded. Although she was unsuccessful it is her spirit and bravery that have ensured her a place in the annals of Welsh history. And I am ashamed to admit I knew nothing of her until our visit to Kidwelly castle on Friday
Later ancestors actually lived in the castle but it all gets a bit confusing so I'll just sit back and relish a warrior Welsh princess as my 22nd great grandmother.

Friday, July 14, 2017

There be dragons!

But first, last week's outing to Aberglasney.

The house had many good old days when it was owned by numerous rich people but by the twentieth century it was becoming too costly to maintain and first parts of the grounds were sold off and then eventually the house and its gardens were left to rot.

But in the 1990s a trust was set up and thanks to a rich benefactor the house and gardens were bought and are now run as a charitable trust. The gardens were first to be restored. Work is still being done on them and on the house, very little of the interior of which has been restored as yet.

It's been proven that the cloister garden seen in the photo above existed in Tudor times.
Sunken garden

Upper walled garden (the lower walled garden is given over to fruits and vegetables)

The yew hedge/tunnel dating from the eighteenth century
Refreshment report
No oldies' outing is complete without tea and cake in this case, welshcakes. Sadly disappointing. they were served warm but had been heated in a microwave so were vaguely soggy and sorry for themselves. They were served with a pat of butter, which is unusual, but I used it to try and improve the experience. It didn't.

But a very lovely setting for the cafe overlooking the pond.
So that was last week. 

There be dragons
This week it was off west again but this time to Kidwelly castle. Now I didn't even know that Kidwelly had a castle but it turned out to be a large and well preserved structure with loads of windy steps, rooms, cellars and towers to explore.

What I had forgotten but Husband reminded me was that this was at one time the home of my ancestors. (I must do a blog post about my illustrious past.)

So it was only fitting that I should sit on the ancestral throne (or possibly a carnival prop).

'You're being very brave,' Husband commented as I made my way up the third storey of winding narrow staircase. I don't do heights well. Or bends. Or dark closed-in spaces.

'I'm getting old,' I said. 'I have to do these things. Even if it is on my hands and knees.'

And there were dragons!

The mum is called Dwynwen and her babies are Dylan and Cariad. Apparently following the arrival of their offspring mum and dad had a falling out so Dewi, the dad, has stayed behind in their old home. He's not the only one who's had his nose put out of joint. Cedric, the resident Kidwelly dragon, has had to be locked away in a dungeon while the babies are here and and as you wander around the castle you can hear him roaring that he doesn't like it one little bit.

Leaving Kidwelly in search of our second tea break of the day we visited Burry Port. There's not a lot there.

But I did have a most delicious scone with jam and clotted cream in the Harbour Tea Room.
Not that I'm obsessed you understand but when we passed some road signs on the way Husband remarked on the sign pointing to Pembrey air field and I picked out the one pointing to Pembrey tea-room.

Actually Husband shouldn't have been surprised to see Pembrey air field. The last time we passed through we discovered that Amelia Earhart had landed in Burry Port in 1928 becoming the first woman to fly the Atlantic (although that time not as pilot). They'd meant to land the plane in Ireland but had missed in dense fog. 

Other little things
On the road to Burry Port we passed two warning signs telling us to be careful 'Otters crossing.'

If you were going to open an Indian restaurant in Burry Port what would you call it?
The Curry Port.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Last night in Zac's

Monty, one of our leaders, said, 'The good thing about your articles in The Bay magazine is that they're not too long and one page is mostly photograph anyway.'
'Um, thank you, Monty,' I said before I slapped him.

There's a man who often drops into Zac's but doesn't usually stay for the bible study. He's always clean, smart in his way, and when I've heard him speak he's sounded intelligent, or at least, less typical-rough-sleeper. Last night he did stay for the study and at the end he was sitting alone so I decided to go and talk to him, try and find out a bit more about him.

When my gran was in a nursing home it took me a while to determine which of the normal-looking people were fully functioning: they often appeared with-it until they started talking to their imaginary friends. (Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against imaginary friends. I have several of my own but I tend not to speak aloud to them.)

It turned out to be the same thing last night. 

It began well. 'I find some things in Christianity confusing,' he said.
'That's fine,' I said, 'so do I,' and I leaned forward so he could tell me which bits in particular he found puzzling so I could provide the answers and we'd all live happily ever after.

And that's where it all unravelled. We went via tunnels to grandparents to wars. I have no idea what he was talking about but I have perfected the smiling 'um, yes,' technique - with occasional head-shaking and 'oh dear-ing'.

I should stick to making cakes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

I went to a ceilidh and no-one would dance with me

Aberglasney house and cloister gardenOld Folks' Day Out, this time to Aberglasney, the garden that time forgot. (Just googled that phrase and apparently there are numerous gardens that time forgot. Time must be very careless.) More about that later.

In the evening there was a fund-raising ceilidh at Grandchildren's school. I love ceilidhs! But Husband wasn't feeling well so I went on my own, thinking my grandchildren would dance with me. Really I should have known better. I did manage one dance where I grabbed a small girl and made her promenade with me - until her friend turned up and she escaped. Big sigh. 

Up early for British Lions' final test match against the New Zealand All Blacks where at one game all  in the series there was everything to play for. Tense and dramatic it lived up to the hype and ended in a draw leaving Lions' supporters relieved in a slightly anti-climactic way.

Then it was off to Surrey to visit the other Grandchildren and meet the new GrandDog, Toby, who's a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or Toller for short. Toby is delightful and very good except still a bit of a nipper!

GrandSon1's 6th birthday party in an amazing soft play centre. Spent much of the party chasing GrandSon1 and another little boy - who I hoped was an invitee and not a complete stranger - around the different levels. They quickly learned that if they crossed the wobbly bridge I wouldn't follow. It took me slightly longer to realise that if I just stood my ground they would eventually make their way back to me when I could roar and make tickling hands and they would disappear again.

Disappointing and surely unbelievable to read my FitBit at the end and discover I'd only done 3,000 steps but as Husband and Elder Son pointed out, 'Crawling doesn't count as steps.'

I am so proud of all my children and their cooking/baking abilities. GrandSon1 had two birthday cakes: the gruffalo on his birthday and superman for his party, both made by Elder Son.
And on Saturday Elder Son barbecued delicious short ribs and leg of lamb, and we returned home to pizza made by Younger Son. 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Vlogging with God

So 8.30 this morning I am sitting in the hairdresser's when Mark suddenly stops cutting my hair. 'Is that your phone?' he asks.
'What? I don't know. I can't hear anything. I suppose it must be if you can hear it.'

(My excuses: it was 8.30 am; the radio was on; Mark was cutting my hair noisily . [?])

It was Husband who had dropped me off in town. 'Have you got my keys?'
'No. Possibly. I don't know.'
'Well look.'
I rummaged in my bag. 'No, I haven't.'
'Where are they then?'
'I don't know. You've just driven home; you must have them.'
'I didn't switch the engine off. Are you sure you didn't pick them up? Have you checked your pockets?' (I should explain that you don't have to put the key in to drive the car, just press a button to start.)
I checked my pockets. 'No, I don't have them.'
'Where are they then?'
'How should I know - oh wait, they fell under your seat on the way here.'
Moment's silence while he looks. 'Oh yes. How did you know that?'
'I must have seen them ...'

Anyway I was in the hairdresser's at that ungodly hour because it was the only time this week I could fit it in. But while I was there I had a brilliant idea. I know, I know, it's a talent I have. Don't you wish you had as many brilliant ideas as I do?

I was reading an article about Zoella who apparently is something like the second-most-viewed person on youtube. Or something like that. She's young, rich and making money having fun. And I thought: that's what I need to do! Become an overnight success vlogger. 

But I need an angle, a target audience, and who could that be? Christian women. At least those who would like a slightly offbeat irreverent granny dog-walker. Yes, I even thought of a name for my vlog: Granny and George get Jesus. Or for alliteration, Granny and George walk gyrate groove across Gower with God. 

I told Husband about my idea on the way home. He said, 'Why?'
'Because I want to be rich and famous.'
He looked at me doubtfully. 'Why do you keep trying to think of more things to do? You're busy enough already.'
'Because ... because I feel I have stuff to say. And I think I can make it entertaining and worthwhile as well.'

I don't know. I just feel I want to get it out there. I am a communicator of sorts. Not in everyday conversation where I stutter and can never think of anything to say - or say the wrong thing - but in the written or spoken as in recorded word.

People generally have been complimentary about the vaguely Christian articles I write for The Bay and in the past I've written, along with my daughter, for a Christian magazine. (We had a monthly column called The Generation Gap.)

And I'm fed up of being rejected for my novel-writing. 

So we're having a day out tomorrow and then we're away for the weekend (after the rugby final test of course) but after that, watch out, world!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Toilet, lav, loo, bog, john - what do you call it?

Last weekend was the Wales Air Show (I watched the Red Arrows and the Spitfire/Lancaster fly past. Red Arrows amazing as always and when the spitfire flew over I was immediately there, in Reach for the Sky and numerous other British war films. The sound of their engines is so evocative.

Anyway driving to Sainsburys this morning I noticed the many portaloos lined up along the promenade and thought, 'I must be getting old as I could not go anywhere that would require me to use a portaloo.'

Reconsidering I realised it was nothing to do with age: I have always been fussy about toilets. 

I wouldn't go all day in school because I hated the toilet block and even, more recently, when I worked in Linden I would try to avoid going until I got home because I didn't like the toilets in work. In fact i don't really like to use any toilet other than my own.

It probably goes back to my childhood - as most things do it seems - when my gran would always tell me to put toilet paper down on the seat of a public toilet so I wouldn't 'catch anything.' I don't think she ever specified what it was I might catch but she didn't need to: I was terrified. For years even with paper on the seat I'd perch above it precariously.

And now I would rather go for a wee in the woods than use some of the facilities offered. If only I could get the hang of balancing so that neither my feet nor my knickers get wet ...

By the way, I recall from Jilly Cooper's book, Class, that toilet is very lower class. Or it was when the book was first published in 1979. Ever the wannabe-snob I tried then to stop using the word and calling it 'loo' instead but you may take the girl out of the toilet but you can't take the toilet out of the girl.

My grandfather called it the lav but I don't think we ever referred to it as the lavatory and certainly not bog, ugly word. Auntie Dusty, who'd lived in America since the war, called it the john.

What do you call it?

What is your necessary madness?

Dawn Jung and Yong Mi, two young Korean women who've been coming to Zac's, are talented artists and this last weekend they put on an exhibition of their art work at Zac's Place. Entitled Necessary Madness many of the pieces featured Zac's regulars.
Necessary madness
Carry your dreams

Necessary madness
What is your necessary madness?

Me, Dawn, Young Mi and Sean


Sunday, July 02, 2017

Women Wanted

Never one to resist the call. And, yes, women must have been smaller in those days: I couldn't even get the dress across my chest let alone do it up. And this is the closest I'll ever get to being a nurse. For which the world should be grateful.
dressed up as a nurse

'Don't give him your name, Pike!' 

The dog lounge outside the cafe, comfortable but I think George would have preferred to be closer to the food.

You can tell, no doubt, that I know exactly what I'm doing with my croquet stick.

Pensioners' Day Out

We made it! Husband and I had a day out in Dyffryn Gardens. A Date Day if you like. ('Why are you calling it that?' Husband said. 'It's not a date; it's a day out.' Honestly, I don't know why I bother.) Having failed to spend the day together the previous Friday we made a special effort this week and went to Dyffryn Gardens, a National Trust property near Cardiff.

We were there last year in the Spring and I wanted to go again to see the summer flowers. On that level it was a bit disappointing as again the gardens seemed to be in-between their best but it was still enjoyable.

Best bits. The gardens.
Dyffryn House

A travelling puppet show took place over the course of the afternoon that explains the flamingo in the morning room, the nuns on bicycles and the ostrich in the billiard room.

The sculpture trail. The family owning the house at the beginning of the twentieth century made their their money from coal. These two images reflect that, the first showing the contract between the beauty of the gardens and the ugliness of the industry while the second pays tribute to the families of miners who lived in dreadful conditions (while the mine owner lived a life of luxury).
Sculptor: Lyndon Mabley

Sculptor: Mandy Lane
The final piece on the trail is this one on the south terrace. Atop is a butterfly egg while on the sides are 187 butterflies made of lead from bullets collected from the battlefields of the Somme. Each butterfly represents one million lives lost in wars since the end of the 'war to end all wars'.
Sculptor: Glenn Morris