Monday, July 21, 2014

Zac's without the bikers

We had Zac's baptisms on the beach yesterday. In the slightly murky waters of Swansea Bay. At least these days they're safe to swim in. I grew up swimming off Mumbles just before the authorities announced that you shouldn't eat cockles collected from the bay as they were likely to be high in various metals, washed down the Tawe from the Swansea valley, a souvenir of its industrial heritage. Still it didn't do me any harm ...

But anyway to get back to the baptisms. Sian and Tony were dunked and it was a fantastic honour and delight to be involved.

But today I realised that none of the bikers who come to Zac's attended the baptisms (except Sean obviously). I assume they were away or had other things on but it didn't matter. I didn't even miss them until I thought about it - not that I don't love them of course.

When I first started going to Zac's bikers, guys from God Squad, were the mainstay. They're still an important part but they're not the whole. They form an entity, a group, with its own uniform and a common interest. But it was fantastic yesterday that the people who turned up for the baptisms were all regulars, all part of the church, the family, of Zac's. A diverse collection of people with Jesus in common. At one time a gathering without any bikers would have been paltry; yesterday it was just right. 

I've won!!!

I never open boring letters. Anything vaguely official, even if it says Personal, I leave to Husband to open. So when he opened one today and said, 'You've won,' I said, 'What? Does it involve chocolate?'

(I'd just come back from Sainsburys where I'd spent a good two minutes, standing in front of the Cadburys Fingers offer of 2 boxes for £2, arguing with myself. [I lost and bought Ryvita instead.])

'No,' Husband said, 'money.' He said it was from a building society and I'd won a prize in their monthly draw. 'There are three prizes of £100,000, a hundred prizes of £1,000 and a thousand prizes of £100.'

'And what about the small print?' I said. I've been caught out like this before. You know the sort of thing. A supermarket gives you a scratch card, you scratch it and find you're definitely a winner. 'You may have won an all expenses luxury holiday for four in the Bahamas or a 100" television or a Fiat Panda (in very small print) or a £1 off money saving voucher for your next shop.' No prizes for guessing what scratching my card always reveals. (Ooh, that sounds rude! Ooh, I sound like Miranda!)

I read the letter and there didn't seem to be any small print so Husband, who was keen to find out what I'd won suggested we go straightaway to the building society and request to see the manager, as instructed by the letter.

On the way there we both tried to convince each other that we wouldn't be disappointed with £100 while secretly thinking, surely if it's just £100 they'd simply pay it into my account rather than make us go through this procedure.

This secret thinking was further encouraged when the nice young man at the building society said he'd get the manager for us as soon as possible. At which point I realised that at any moment I could meeting the woman who'd phoned me when I'd complained about the anti-homeless spikes outside their offices. But whether she recognised my name and refused to see me or whether she really was busy, we were passed on to the Business Manager and shown into an office, which looked rather like a prison cell albeit an upmarket one, which was a good thing, I think, as it meant they were spending more on their customers than on foolish fripperies. 

Then began the checking procedures: checking I was who I claimed to be, checking I was in the country at the time of the draw, checking my blood type (no, not really but they were very thorough) before the Business Manager was finally satisfied and put a call through to the Prize Draw office. And it all began again.

All this checking was serving to convince me that I must have won at least £1,000 and more likely £100,000. My mind drifted between what to do with the money - give lots to the children but keeping enough for a luxury 4 week holiday in Malaysia - how I would react when given the news - a dignified gasp or squeaky jumping up and down (and we all know which is more likely) - and whether the parting on the side of the Manager's hair was really a parting or one of those shaved line things.

At last he looked up at me and said, 'It's £100.'
'Oh, thank you.'

More checking, signing, and authorising until we were able to leave approximately half an hour after we'd entered. 

Outside I said, 'So I've won £100.'
'Let's go and have a cup of tea to celebrate,' Husband said.
'Our parking will be up soon,' I said. 'Let's go to Verdi's for ice cream instead!'
So we blew a whole 5% of my winnings on ice cream. And very nice it was too. But now I have to think carefully about what to do with the rest ...

No begging letters please.

Glorious Gower

Crawley Woods down to Nicholaston Burrows


The remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked November 1887.

From the Explore Gower website:
Rhossili was not a stranger to profit from shipwrecks, previous centuries had witnessed the violence of the Rhossili Wreckers - who lured in unsuspecting ships caught in troubled seas to be smashed against the rocks, in order to acquire their cargo. Such purposeful wrecking confined to the past, the locals would still always make good use of the wreckwood from the beaches, and nearly all of the surviving old farm buildings down the far end of the peninsula are constructed from such reclamation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

There's hot, hotter and really getting silly hot

It was the Gower Chilli festival yesterday and I decided that rather than be boring as we usually are we should make an effort and go along. So we did.

That is, we went after Husband had spent two hours trying to set up a Facebook account for himself. He's resisted the temptation up till now - in fact he didn't find it a temptation although he always read my page - but a few things had happened that had made him decide to enter the world of online friendship, most particularly the opportunity to re-establish contact with a friend he hasn't seen or heard of since our wedding.

So, the chilli festival. It's the second year it's been held and obviously focuses on the wonder of chillis.There were plants for sale, all kinds of relishes, sauces, beers, chocolates, even welshcakes with a hint of chilli as well as hot food and craft stalls, and a freestyle chilli cook-off.

Each competitor had his - now I come to think of it they were all men albeit with lovely lady assistants - own tent and had to provide the means of cooking as well as everything else he needed and had four hours to prepare and cook a pan of chilli, which was judged on flavour, colour, afterbite and general all-round chilli perfection.

The winner goes forward into the British finals and the winner of that gets an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for the World Finals. Last year's winner was hoping to repeat his success with his secret recipe that includes figs and all sorts of interesting ingredients. 

This gentleman told us he has his own freezer to accommodate his love of offal, which he was incorporating into his dish.

While some of the competitors were highly motivated and fanatical about the subject others took it more casually.
We had george with us so couldn't hang around for the judging. We also didn't have much money, which turned out to be for the best as we might have got carried away on the cheese stall. As it was we ended up bread and cheese for dinner.

Have you been strimming?

The Barham Babes invited me to join them for an evening with Dawn French on Friday. (The person who was supposed to be going couldn't so they had to find a replacement: a single person who wasn't doing anything on a Friday night. Choice was limited.) Anyway a jolly evening was had by all.

Dawn French isn't a stand-up comedian but rather a raconteur telling us the story of her life - with accompanying pictures. The girls had both read her book, Dear Fatty, so many of the stories were familiar to them but new to me, as was the term norks for breasts. Fortunately there was a large diagram of the human body displayed with the word Norks pointing at the appropriate piece of anatomy so that wasn't a problem. No, the problem for me came much later when Ms French - or Dawn as I feel I can call her now I know so much about her personal life - talked about the time she had hepatitis A and her mum came to look after her. Her mum asked her how she'd got it and Dawn said it was probably a dodgy sandwich. Her mother, however, wasn't having any of this. 'Don't give me that, young lady,' and accused her of ... I'll add two letters to the front of the word so I don't get any dodgy visitors ... strimming.

The whole audience erupted with laughter. I joined in as enthusiastically as the rest although I didn't have a clue what the word meant. I guessed it was probably something rude but my imagination wouldn't stretch that far.

Walking back to the car afterwards I hesitated: should I ask the girls what it meant? I'd like to think they're young and innocent but ... they are medical students so may be able to enlighten me. So I asked. And they burst out laughing.
'Are you sure you want to know?'
'Yes. No. I don't know. Yes.'

So they told me. Ooh, I wish I hadn't asked.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Get lost!

We went exploring this morning George and me. In other words, we got lost.

I usually walk a variety of routes but always in the same general direction; if I go the opposite way I'm confounded. Familiar landmarks look different back to front. Which is how I came to find myself walking on a bike track.

This is problematic for two reasons:
a) I might get knocked over by a speeding mountain biker;
b) more worryingly, most of the tracks seems to end in thin air with a leap over a precipice.

On the plus side it was good fun pretending to be a mountain biker - but with an engine as you have to make a noise or it's not real - until I fell off.

George wasn't entirely convinced this was the right way down.

Some of old winding gear long ago abandoned.
And this beautiful damselfly posed nicely for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Are you suffering with hearing loss?' 'What?'

'Well, I've never had one of those phone calls before,' I exclaimed to Husband before relating it to him.

'Hello, Elizabeth Haindes?' (Said with northern Midlands accent.)
'Er yes.'
'Our computer brought your name oop as someone who has worked with industrial machinery in't past.'
'Um no.'
'You've never worked with heavy machinery?'
End of phone call.

'He sounded so convinced he was right he had me doubting,' I said to Husband. 'Where would he have got my name from as someone who's worked with machinery?'
'It's a scam,' Husband said. 'They just phone people at random.'
'Really? But that's ... that's naughty.'

The closest I've come to industrial machinery is my rangemaster oven. I wonder if he meant that.

A history of knickers so brief it should be called a thong

So I was wondering: why do we call them a pair of knickers? A pair when it's only one item? A quick google and I have the answer - not from Wiki but from more reliable double-checked and compared sources I should add.

It wasn't until the end of the eighteenth century that women began to wear a form of drawers adapted from those worn by men, with legs gathered below the knee and lacing at the back around the waist. Prior to that women didn't wear anything on their nether regions. 

Now the relevant bit of this is that these weren't so much crotchless panties as ... well, more like individual leggings. The crotch seam was open from front to back, of necessity I assume, as who'd want to struggle with laces when you had a pressing need to wee? A bit later they began to be called knickers from the knickerbocker trousers which were becoming fashionable. And this is where I am doing my 'Elementary, dear Watson' bit: I guess they were called a pair because to all intent and purposes they were in two pieces.

'Closed' drawers with a side-waist opening didn't appear until the end of the nineteenth century but now knickers were becoming prettier and more colourful - and made of silk - if you could afford them. And so it has continued over the years with more and more time and money being spent on designing and marketing tiny triangles of material.

And there you have it. Everything you need to know about knickers in one short blog post. Next time DIY brain surgery for beginners.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to feel inadequate without even trying

At the checkout a headline on the magazine: Four kids, one husband and a £14m business. I hate her already.

I arrive home from Sainsburys - having resisted the 2 boxes of Cadburys Fingers for £2 offer - and Husband says, 'You need to do some accounts. Find out how much you earned from sales via Lulu.'

I oblige and find that during the tax year 13/14 I sold 5 copies of my book via lulu and from that made the magnificent sum of 80p. And I won't be paid that until the total is the equivalent of $5. I could go to my grave never receiving it.

I really wish I had bought those Fingers now.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What we did at the weekend

Just back from a flying visit to the Midlands for the joint 60th birthday celebration of my sister-in-law and her partner. It was good to see people we nowadays usually only see at funerals!
The siblings, with the birthday girl in the middle looking sensational at 60!

Their garden backs onto a field that they've adopted so Husband and I had to have a wander around, me to enjoy the swing and Husband to investigate an old shed almost hidden in the bushes. (He's inherited his father's tendency to have to explore interesting-looking places.)

But nettles and bare legs shouldn't go together so I kept out on this occasion.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Road signs for intellectuals

"Site access/egress". At first glance I thought it was Welsh. (Most of our signs are bi-lingual.) Then I thought, 'No, wait, egress is a bird.' But that doesn't make sense.

Much pondering - by which time the traffic lights had changed and I had driven past the sign in question - led me to the conclusion that it was neither Welsh nor a bird but a real English word meaning 'the way out' (thank you Mr Chambers). 

If it takes me, a reasonably articulate woman for whom the word egress does actually ring a bell, that long to decipher the sign may I suggest that it's perhaps not ideal?

On a similar note i.e. little used words, I recently spotted a van advertising 'fortnightly sales of furniture and chattels.' And I instantly had an overwhelming urge to attend a sale of chattels. 'May I interest you in this pre-loved chattel, madam?'

On a completely different note I caught a snatch of a news report yesterday about a woman who was persuaded to smuggle 20,000 euros in a condom inside her person. I cringed.

P.S. Husband pointed out that the sign should have read ingress/egress rather than access. It constantly amazes me the range of stuff Husband knows.