Thursday, July 02, 2015

A positive rejection

I had a rejection today. I submitted the sample so long ago I'd assumed it had been rejected anyway so it doesn't really cause me any pain. In fact it brought some small pleasure.

"I've enjoyed reading these opening pages. The characters are interesting and credible. The heroine immediately stands out as someone whose story we would like to know more of and the family mysteries and complications are well thought through and will drive the plot forward. Unfortunately ..."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Why have you got hair there, Granny?

'Because ladies have hair there.'
I adjusted my swimming costume.
'I can still see it,' GrandDaughter said.

The trouble with shaving in the shower is that one doesn't wear one's glasses in the shower and thus one doesn't see stray hairs. Or potentially rampant hairs in this case.

I took a great deal of time and care in the shower this morning.

* * * * * * * * *
In the car on the way to Zac's last night I did a stand-up comedy routine. In an Irish accent. I was hilarious. At least I made myself laugh out loud.

I don't think the world in general is ready for my humour yet though.

* * * * * * * * *
We had out first lot of injections prior to our Malaysia Vietnam trip today. I had one in each arm and it was painless (almost). My left arm hurts now though. If I touch the injection spot. Or lift my arm.

We still have to decide what others we want. We could if we wished - and paid a lot of money - be protected against Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B and rabies. I think we might get the rabies one because, as Husband pointed out, I do have a tendency to want to feed strays.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What we did for our anniversary

So Husband offered to take me away for our anniversary. Better late than never. For our 25th he was off playing with the marines; on our 30th he was away on another fun-filled adventure trip. But now he's retired he had no excuse ...

So I waited for him to book a hotel. And waited. He kept finding reasons for not booking. In the end I booked a bargain break with Secret Escapes myself at Falcondale Hotel, just outside Lampeter.

The view from our room which is on the top floor on the left as you look at the hotel.
We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and after tea on the terrace we took a meandering walk along the river Teifi. It shouldn't have been quite as meandering as it was but I blame the out-of-date instruction leaflet for that.
Wednesday, our 37th anniversary, we spent wandering the cliff paths of Cardigan Bay, dolphin-spotting and - whisper this - skinny dipping. 

Our walk took us past this bay.
The water looked so inviting one of us said, 'what a shame we didn't bring our bathers.' To which one of us, possibly me, replied, 'We could go without?'

I then spent the next part of the walk convincing myself of this. By the time we arrived back at the beach (the next one along actually and a tiny bit less open to the coastal path and any walkers thereon) I'd done it. I reckoned that at 62 it was about time to do something foolish and that our anniversary would be memorable and it was very unlikely that anyone would see us. And if they did they wouldn't recognise us later with our clothes on.

It was a battle to get down what passed as a side-of-the-cliff path, overgrown as it was with brambles, nettles and holly, and by the time we got to the bottom my enthusiasm had waned somewhat. But Husband's sensibleness - 'there'll be other opportunities when it's warm and sunny and private' - took me through the sensibleness barrier.

Now when I say skinny dip I really do mean dip. It was in and out, blink and you'd miss it. Hopefully. It was also very stony!
The site where it happened
You can't be on holiday and not eat ice cream. (Unless you're Husband.) Apple and blackberry crumble and custard ice cream with honeycomb and butterscotch in case you're wondering. From Creme Pen Cei in New Quay.
And our anniversary selfie.

The next day we visited Llanerchaeron, a National trust property. The current house was designed for a gentleman farmer by John Nash at the end of the 18th century. Nash had a thing for symmetry and that led to false windows!
To make the house appear symmetrical from outside there is a false window on the left (as you look at it) of the front door. He wanted the music room inside to be symmetrical so there couldn't be a window on one end. He did the same thing with doors. In that music room there are two doors but one is a small cupboard. And the lady's boudoir, when the door is shut, is a perfect oval.
Llanerchaeron is also a working farm.

 Afterwards, after our tea and scone - very disappointing scone; one expects better of the NT - we took a walk in the surrounding woodland and came across this little vole. He was of the Harvey school of terror: if in doubt pretend you're a statue.

Unlike these little birds, baby house martins in the stable, who hadn't yet learned the meaning of 'be quiet, humans about.'

And when I said, 'Don't let me go near the bookshop,' I didn't really mean it! But Husband used it as evidence when I yelled at him for not reminding me.

Gosh, this must be one of my longest ever posts. So, where was I? Oh, yes, that was nearly the end of our brief holiday but we did make time to call into another NT property on the way home. Dolaucothi gold mine.

It's believed the Romans were the first to mine for gold in these Welsh hills. I mean the Romans definitely mined there but there may have been someone before. The gold that is found in the dirty quartz stone (and I'm not being rude: it's called dirty) doesn't come in nuggets but as dust making mining very labour-intensive.

Behind me you can see drams. To get enough gold for one wedding ring the equivalent of 10 drams of shale had to be removed in order to get one dram of quartz. So it's no wonder the mine  has never been very profitable or that Welsh gold is the most expensive in the world. 
We entered via the original Roman entrance to the drift mine. 
It took a lot of psyching myself up to get in there. Remember, I was the weirdo who had a funny turn in the catacombs ... But I made it and back out again safely. I even coped when we all switched our lamps off so we could see what it was like working by a single candle light and then in the dark. (Because the mine-owners in the 1930s refused to provide candles for the miners they had to take their own and the only ones they could afford were of animal fat, which soon started smelling badly so many men preferred to work in the dark.)

We also got to have a go at panning for gold. There is reckoned to be about one and half million pounds worth of gold still in the rocks and it's just possible some might be washed out ...
All that glistens is not gold, unless you're a fool. 

A cheeky little robin was hoping for a treat: he got dog biscuit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Bookseller of Kabul

I came late to The Bookseller of Kabul.

Picked it up in a charity shop and was intrigued. I've just finished it and once again I am appalled at my lack of world knowledge.

The character of the title is Sultan Khan and from the blurb and the way it described his efforts to keep selling books in spite of all the prohibition and threats of imprisonment, I expected him to be a wise, broad-minded liberal but in his treatment of his family we find he is no different from any other Afghan man.

I am appalled by the conditions the families have to live in under the various regimes and have tremendous respect for the way they accept their lot and make the best of it. However the treatment of women is unbelievable. Yes, I know it's the culture, history, tradition, whatever, but the unfairness of the whole system makes me so glad yet again that I was born in this country.

Oh yes and I'd give it 4*.

* * * * * * * * *
I think I mentioned that we'd ordered all six seasons of The Sopranos. We're well into the first season now and I'm really enjoying it. Husband is less keen. He says, 'It's more your sort of thing.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, it's about families. It's not Boardwalk Empire.'

All I can say is that you know it must be very good writing when you begin to feel sorry for a murderous gangster when the snooty friends of his next door neighbour patronise him. Which, as Husband pointed out, is rather a foolish thing to do with a Mafia boss.

The humiliation of the long distance skipper

Tonight for the first time ever our weekly evening circuit training session moves outdoors. To Underhill Park to be precise. Scene of one of the most humiliating moments of my childhood.

It's a lovely park, closest to where I lived as a child, and scene of numerous school sports days. 

I'd somehow managed to not be in a race: I was always last to be chosen when teams for any sport were assembled. Now, if I'd known then what I know now I'd have kept quiet but Little Miss Honest had to open her big mouth and tell teacher. This was my first mistake.
'Oh dear, well, let me see, where can we put you? We can't have you not taking part, can we?'
'Can't we?'
'Goodness me no. Here you are, dear. You can be in the skipping race.'

The day of the race dawned bright and sunny; I was doomed. I lined up with my rope and glanced along the line of enthusiastic skippers. 
'Ready, steady, go!'
And we were off.

After it felt like I'd been skipping for hours I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was behind me. This was my second mistake.

I tripped over my own feet and fell down. I'd have given up at that point but an encouraging teacher on the sidelines called to me, 'Get up! Keep on going!'

By the time I'd got up and untangled my rope everyone had crossed the finishing line. I glanced across to the teacher who'd cheered me on. 'Go on!' she insisted.

So red-faced - and not from exertion - I finally crossed the line, on my own and well after everyone else.

My gran who'd been watching said to me afterwards, 'If you hadn't looked back you'd have been all right.'
Yes, I suppose instead of coming last five minutes after everyone else I'd just have come last.

I am not looking forward to circuits tonight

Project Bombard begins!

Having received two rejections in two days (Friday/Saturday) for novel 4 I decided I'd going to have to take this thing seriously or not at all. So on Saturday afternoon I sat down, went through a list of literary agents and chose three lucky winners, each of whom would receive one of my three unpublished novels.

In each case a synopsis, the first three chapters and an introductory email winged its way through the ether and is even now sitting on someone's computer waiting to be read/rejected/recognised for the wonder it is. 

And then we went for a walk that led us to Verdi's. I repeat: if I get fat I shall blame literary agents.

What are the odds of receiving three rejections on the same day? If that happens I shall make myself a Knickerbocker Glory. 

The other day I was remembering Fortes ice cream parlour in Mumbles when I was growing up. There was a display window at the entrance in which they had mock ice cream sundaes, including a Knickerbocker Glory, which took on an out-of-reach quality. Only the very rich would eat one of those surely? (According to this article the KG was 2s 3d.)

I seem to recall that a KG would include some tinned fruit cocktail. None of that in mine. Mine will be ice cream (probably Kelly's Cornish clotted cream and honeycomb), strawberries, bananas, cream, chocolate flake and chocolate buttons, all in lovely luscious layers.

Mmm, I might have to experiment with different combinations ...

What a clanger!

With my newly-remembered knitting talent, when I saw the headline on the BBC website, Knit your own Clanger, I thought, 'Yes! My next project.'

Then I visited the page and read the instructions. They began:
Techniques I-cord: To make an i-cord, cast on your sts using double pointed needles, knit the sts and slide them to the other end of the same needle, pull the yarn tightly across the back of the sts and knit the sts again.

Now I come to think of it I haven't actually finished my first project yet ...

* * * * * * * * *

I visited the doctor this morning (for some time I've been thinking I have something in my throat - the doctor diagnosed it as Globus Hystericus i.e. I'm loopy) and had a long wait. Something odd definitely happens in a doctor's waiting room: time passes differently. Everyone else is in with the doctor for an hour; I'm in there for 5 minutes. But my real grizzle is about the decision to no longer have magazines in the waiting room. It's the only practice I've visited that obeys this ruling and as the only chance I get to read magazines is in waiting rooms or the hairdresser's I think it's most unfair of them.

Besides, without magazines to read I am forced to study every poster on the wall and by the time I get in to see the doctor I have developed at least another four different ailments.

* * * * * * * * *

On a lighter note it struck me that I would hate to die without ever having worn red high heels. 

Admittedly  when I do wear anything approaching a smart shoe I quickly take them off for the pain and discomfort they cause. And as I never wear heels I would undoubtedly fall off. But I think my next project must be to find some in a charity shop and wear them. Just once.

And on an even lighter note, when I was on the trampoline with the grandchildren yesterday my boob bounced clean out of my bra. I should not be let out alone.

On the other hand I didn't fall in the swimming pool as George did when he was trying to get away from Husband and the mower.

* * * * * * * * *

Our garden is looking very lovely at the moment. I can take no credit for this; Husband does all the work. My job is to admire it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's day lunch

Daughter said, 'On Father's Day you can come to us for a barbecue.' From there it somehow turned into, 'We'll come to you and you can make pie.'
PieMinister's almost Moo Pie to be exact. With PieMinister's minty mushy peas and mash. It would have been better if I could have got them out of the tins to dish up but they were firmly stuck in. It didn't look quite like the original but tasted jolly good. And Daughter confirmed that her PieMinister spinach, cheeses and pine nut pie was just as good. At least I think it was: she was first to clear her plate.

Daughter and Grandchildren made dessert, a yummy summer fruits pavlova.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I don't like being helped

I don't like being helped.

No, that sounds odd. Sometimes I need help and it's good to be helped but other times I would rather just potter along on my own. Maybe it's because I think the other person won't the job properly or, more often, I don't like the pressure and the feeling of being in debt it puts on me. Not that the other person is necessarily expecting any payback; in fact it's unlikely the thought has even crossed their mind. 

It's just me. I'm weird.

Anyway, this afternoon after women's study group at Zac's I set to doing some gardening in the house next door to Zac's. Let me explain.

It's actually the house on the corner across the lane from Zac's. It's empty and has been for some time, the garden is overgrown and a lot of rubbish has accumulated in it, much of which I suspect originated from some of our friends. Bottles and cans especially. I've wanted to get something done about it for some time and I even asked the local police officer whether it was okay to clear a garden belonging to someone else. (Strictly speaking not really.)

Then on Tuesday when I arrived at Zac's I found one of the men, who briefly squatted officially there i.e. he had permission from the owner, in the garden filling bags with rubbish. He was sort of volunteering; I couldn't quite work out if he'd been asked to or what.

Which is what led me to take the shears, rake and gardening gloves with me to bible study today. And I was busy cutting down ivy, raking up leaves and generally doing my best when I spotted a young man wandering into Zac's. I went and told him it wasn't open and when he saw what I was doing he asked if he could help.
'Um, not really,' I said, although it was painfully obvious I needed help.
'Go on, what can I do?' he said.
'Well, okay, you could rake that up while I try and find some bags if you like.'

And so we spent the next hour working side by side in the garden. He talked about his life as he worked and got rid of a lot of the bushes that I couldn't shift. He must have thought I'd been employed by the owners because he was amazed when he asked and I said, no, I was just doing it because Zac's regulars were probably responsible for a lot of it and I hoped that if the garden were cleared they might not be so quick to toss rubbish in there again.
'Seriously?' he said, disbelievingly.

I think it was beneficial for him to feel he was doing something useful, something that took up a bit of the long day before he went to the pub again.

And a couple of the locals commented how much better it looked. It can't be easy for them having Zac's in their street because the people Zac's exists for are amongst the most vulnerable and least welcomed individuals you could find. Sometimes the police have to be called; other times it's just noisy and there's drinking outside. So anything that gives Zac's a better image has to be good.

And as for me, I discovered letting someone help me wasn't that bad after all. God is gentle and uses the most unexpected people to teach us.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Diary entry -

On Friday evening Dr Baxter Kruger (from Mississippi not S. Africa as I thought) spoke at Zac's as part of his Dare to Be Loved tour. It wasn't quite what I expected and as he talked for well over an hour my brain stopped working fairly early on. Still I did pick up some good bits, or at least one good bit.

Saturday - can't remember much about. Think I was cleaning. 

Sunday had an amazing time in prison. Our speaker, Dustin Rubio, a Mexican grew up in American slums and narrowly escaped taking the same route as the majority of his extended family involving drugs and a lot of jail time. Instead he became a Christian, married a Welsh girl and now lives in Swansea (as all the wise men do). 

His talk was followed by the baptism (or christening in an Anglican ceremony) of four of the inmates. They'd completed the Christianity Explored course and wanted to be baptised. The chaplain offered to do it for them privately one afternoon but they wanted it done as part of the Sunday service so their friends and fellow inmates would be witnesses. It was a really special time and I was thrilled to be there to witness it.

In the afternoon I was off to a public swimming pool for another baptism ... but I got there too late. But as it happened it didn't matter as the woman I'd gone to support had changed her mind. I think she was a little scared of the water. Now she's going to be baptised in her church as part of a normal Sunday service with water on her forehead. Or as she said, 'The pastor said I could be baptised when we have the cremation next Sunday.' (She meant communion.)

Today Daughter asked if I'd like to meet her for coffee in Mumbles this afternoon. Or tea in my case. Or rather tea and white chocolate and raspberry blondie, which Daughter declared wasn't as good as the ones I made last week.
While in Cafe 93 Daughter fed Granddaughter2 and handed her to me for burping. She promptly vomited milk over my shoulder and onto the leather sofa we were sitting on. From where it trickled down and soaked my trousers. I spent the next half hour walking around the village (on my own as Daughter left at this point to pick up children) with a wet shoulder and bum. Without an obvious child to blame people probably put it down to my senility.

Home for the rest of a sunny afternoon and the first swim of the year.
It was okay after the initial shock!