Monday, September 25, 2017

Things I cooked yesterday

Maple and pecan gluten-free cookies - slight fail on the texture but tasted nice
 and conkers.
I still haven't decided what I'm going to do with the conkers. The cookies have already been eaten.

* * * * * * * * 
collecting acorns
Acorns neatly lined up
You forget how long it takes to go for a walk in the park with a two-year-old who wants to pick up and look at everything. Well, almost everything. Some nearly buried acorns are irresistible while some perfectly bright and shiny ones don't warrant a second glance. There are fallen tree trunks to climb on, squirrels to spot, sticks to throw, and fir cones to collect.

How big is a pinch of salt?

A pinch of salt is an amount that can be picked up between the thumb and forefinger.

And that's about as much use as a sore a**e is to a tailor to quote my Great-auntie Vi.

I thought thank heavens for google. When you need an answer to a question like that it's so easy to just type it in and up will pop the answer. Much easier than trying to work out what I would need to look up in a book.

Except when google fails you. That's not strictly true. It's not so much that google failed me as the fact that there isn't a definition of a pinch. Not an accurate measurable one anyway. 

Then I tried referring to imperial weights and measures. It's probably one of those ancient words I thought, that we had to learn in school like gill and peck. No, it's not. I did discover however that the Scottish gill is a quarter of the imperial gill and that four Scottish gills equal one mutchkin.

I also learned the derivation of the folk song Good Luck to the Barley Mow, which makes sense of the fact that whenever I've seen it performed it involves the singer having to drink beer in between each stanza.

But no conclusive definition of a pinch.

I worry, you see, because the instructions for feeding the goldfish specify a pinch. Now sometimes my pinch is enough to feed a blue whale; other times it's not enough to feed a tadpole. I suppose it all balances out: the goldfish is still alive anyway.

I used to have an original Mrs Beeton's Cookery Book but it disappeared - at the time when my grandmother was selling everything to fund her bingo habit - but there doesn't seem to be any reference to the measurement in it other than in the ingredients.

But you know what it's like: you look up something on google and that leads to something else which in turn leads to something even more obscure.

So ... salt spoons were used when salt was brought to the table or in the kitchen as block. You also have marrow spoons - for scooping the marrow out of bones not for the vegetable as I first thought - moustache spoons and runcible spoons.

I thought the runcible spoon was made up by Edward Lear but it is a combination of spoon and fork, and a moustache spoon has a little silver strip above the bowl to allow gentlemen with handlebar moustaches to drink soup without getting it all over the place.

Incidentally if you decide to collect marrow spoons beware of forgeries. That's a marrow spoon in the photo.

And now I really must do something more practically useful ...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More books about old people that I don't recommend plus one I do

I seem to be stuck on a treadmill of books about old people.  Maybe it's my advancing age but also I think they are the trend in publishing at the moment. One I read before we went on holiday - and then forgot about and now owe a fine at the library - is called The Extraordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81.

From what I can remember he is an active person until an accident that leaves him needing home help for a short period. His relationship with his young carer is the focus of the book. Really quite average. ** and a half *

Hendrik Groen diary in a care home
The one I've just finished, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, is a much lauded publication. An actual diary rather than fiction it was broadcast on Radio 4 and I assume the broadcast version was much edited as the diary itself is very repetitive and quite boring. Not as funny as I'd expected either. I think the author wrote it intending it as an expose of retirement homes so maybe I shouldn't have anticipated humour.

It's set in Holland where I guess there are different laws on euthanasia and also they have Black Piet*, which I think is some sort of Father Christmas type character. (I should google that), but other than that I imagine a care home is much the same as one here.

I was going to give it another ** and a half * but at the end I noticed the author was writing a follow-up and I thought, 'I'll have to read that,' so maybe it was better than I thought. ***

The final book is the one I found on the shelf in our holiday cottage when I'd finished my books. I'd never heard of Sister by Rosamund Lupton, although apparently it was the winner of the Richard and Judy Book Club 2010.

It's about a woman and her sister who goes missing. The woman has been living in America until she gets the message that her sister is missing when she returns home and determines to find her. It's written in the form of a letter to her sister and it leaps from present to recent past to childhood memories. And it is excellent. Highly recommended. ****

* Black Piet, Santa's little helpers, blacked-up men and women, originally carried sacks to take away naughty boys and girls but now just help fill stockings. The custom has been the subject of mass protests over recent years.

Today my plan is ...

to take it easy.

I think I may have been premature in saying that I was fully recovered from my shingles. Although the rash has dried up and is no longer contagious I might have been overdoing it as my midriff was quite sore and achy yesterday afternoon and evening.

Apparently the pain can continue long after the rash has gone - but that's not going to be the case for me! I will not let it. And so today I will take it easy.

I will try and take it easy.

I am not very good at taking it easy. Not when I'm at home. I'll maybe take George out for a gentle stroll this morning and then settle down with Grey's Anatomy this afternoon. We'll see how that goes, shall we?

* * * * * * * * *
You know some days you cook dinner and it's okay but not good? Last night I made cawl (traditional Welsh stew, with lamb, root vegetables and leeks) and dumplings and it was delicious. And I followed it with baked pears and they were yummy too. It was a good food day. And there's enough cawl for dinner tonight too so that's easy.

P.S. I was looking for an image to go with this post and I thought of using a shingles picture - but really they are too horrible! So have a picture of cawl instead.
Cawl welsh lamb and leek stew
Not this weekend's cawl as it lacks dumplings.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


On holiday I discovered that I can skim stones!!

But only in Aberporth.

I put it down to the perfect stones for skimming.

* * * * * * *
Pay attention now please for a serious achievement. 

Chilli competition
From the Gower Cook-out in July
Elder Son was a competitor in the UK Chilli Cooking Competition today. He qualified after coming third in the Gower competition. (Usually it's 1st and 2nd that are eligible but the man who was first already had qualified.) So today he set up his stand and cooked up his chilli.

And he came fourth!! In the UK he makes the 4th best chilli!

Very proud of him.

We should have been there as Husband is an integral part of the team relied upon for putting up gazebos, transporting barbecues, chopping onions etc, but because Husband has been poorly all week we didn't manage to get there. Disappointing for us and extra work for Elder Son although his father-in-law stepped in. So even more proud of the boy.

More than conkerors

I met another old lady on the walk today. She also had a retriever, two in fact, and she too had a bag of conkers.
'I don't know what to do with them,' she said, 'but you've got collect them, haven't you?'
'Oh yes, yes!'

I don't know what's the matter with the children of today. I have found absolutely loads of conkers and it used to be that you had to get to the tree straight after a strong wind if you wanted to find any left. Now it seems that nobody wants them.

Except old ladies who don't know what to do with them.

I wonder if there are any good ideas on Pinterest ...

My brilliant invention

And why it turned out that it wasn't needed anyway.

I was in Sainsburys when I had my brilliant idea and I perfected it while I was walking George. All you need is a bit of cork and a wire.

You take the bit of cork and shape it so that it fits in your ear. You then stick the wire into/onto it. It has to be a long enough piece so that the other end will reach inside you jumper. And tra la ... there you have it: the perfect device for a talker-to-yourself. 

No longer will you look weird when you're out and you suddenly realise you're talking aloud to yourself - as has happened to me twice recently, hence my mind thinking along these lines. Everyone will think you're talking on your phone but without the hassle of a) having to take your phone with you; and b) actually having to talk to someone.

So that is my wonderful invention. A boon to Mankind. I was in the process of writing my Nobel Invention Prize acceptance speech - in my head of course - when it struck me: why is it considered odd to talk to one's self? And it undoubtedly is. The number of times I've had complete strangers say to me, 'It's the first sign of madness you know, talking to yourself.' Yes, and the second sign is answering, which I also do - because I've asked myself a question so it needs an answer.

But surely it's just thinking aloud. we all think and ask ourselves questions (or is it just me?) and sometimes it just helps to hear the answer aloud. For instance if I'm in Sainsburys (really I should get commission the number of times they get mentioned) and I'm trying to remember what I need it helps if I ask, 'Do I need baked beans?'
Then I visualise the shelf in the pantry and can answer myself. I can't be the only person who does this, so why is considered odd?

I mean sometimes I have to pretend I'm speaking to George. (Obviously I do talk to George but on occasion I have used him as an excuse as well.)

Actually it should be celebrated as a sign of an active, thoughtful, questioning, deliberating brain. A positive to be shown off proudly, especially when you get to my age.

So let's hear it for and from the talkers-to-themselves! Be proud! Speak out loudly! And feel sorry for those poor people who have to rely on phones and other people for conversation.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On the walk II: four tassels please

Preparing for bible study today I had cause to glance at Deuternomy. Now I am no bible expert and I am unfamiliar with this book but it lists various laws and one in particular caught my eye. Apparently Moses wrote this book, I guess on direction from God. So, on my walk today, I imagined this sort of conversation.

It's been a long day. Moses' hand is aching from writing and he wants his dinner. And then God tells him to write this: make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear*.

Moses starts to write this down and then stops. 'Are you having a laugh, God? Seriously, tassels? I mean now come on. I put up with the 'thou shalt not wear clothes of wool and linen together'. I put that down as one of your little quirks. But put tassels on our cloaks?'
'I just want to see if people are paying attention,' God shrugged. 'You can cross it out if you want.'
'No, it's okay. I've written it down now; it would just make a mess to cross it out.'
'Okay, let's move on to marriage violations now, shall we?'

*Deuteronomy 22:12

On the walk III: an alternative to flight or fright

As I said it's usually quiet on tip but on the way back we were approached by a dog-less man. (I always view those with suspicion.) This one was perfectly respectable and we exchanged 'afternoon' smiles. He had just passed me when - well, I can only put this down to my sensors being on full alert after the George incident earlier - I suddenly had an image of him stopping behind me and grabbing me around the throat.

I would, I decided in those few seconds, punch him in the stomach with my elbow, bring my foot up backwards into his groin and hit him in the face with the metal hook end of George's lead. By the time I'd walked a bit further I was Mohammed Ali in all but reality. 'Bring it on, if you think you're 'ard enough!'

In reality I would probably just have wet myself. 

Which might have proved to be a greater deterrent. 'Urgh! You've peed on my shoe! Argh!'

In fact I think this will be my go-to emergency action: in case of attack cede control of bodily functions. I could do that.

On the walk I: George throws a wobbly

Okay, actually it was me who threw the wobbly. I'm not sure what George threw.

We were walking on the tip. It used to be the municipal tip but thirty years ago they stopped dumping and left it to nature to reclaim. And Nature has done a very good job. It's a very pleasant place to walk now and usually very quiet. 

Today I was approaching a bend in the path. I couldn't see around it and George was walking behind me. Suddenly he shot ahead, and ran around the corner, growling.

It scared me to death!

It's bad enough when he suddenly stops, his hackles rise and he looks around warily; this was taking it to another level altogether.

He must have got a scent, strong scent of something but I couldn't see anything and he came out of the bushes and continued to walk as if nothing had happened. 'Good grief, George,' I said. 'Please don't do that again. You'll give me a heart attack.'

He looked at me and shrugged. 'A dog's got to do what a dog's got to do.'

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ceredigion versus Gower

Ceredigion is very lovely and we had a great holiday but for sheer beauty Gower is hard to beat. That's probably why it was the first area in Britain to be declared An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). And Three Cliffs Bay regularly gets voted on to Most Beautiful Beach in the World charts.
Three Cliffs Bay
Three Cliffs Bay

Tor Bay and Oxwich
Ceredigion does have dolphins and seals though. And on a more regular basis than Gower.

Lunar affectation ... or not?

Moon in waning crescent
6% Waning Crescent
So these peculiar dreams are happening in the third quarter just before new moon. Last time they were between new moon and first quarter.

I do find the charts slightly confusing as the new moon is completely black which flummoxes me. But it appears from my vast research - all two incidents - that my dreams are tied in with a new moon. Which obviously means something deep and philosophical.

But doesn't explain why in my dream:
Daughter is leaving home for places unknown and she won't tell us if she has anywhere to sleep so I am very upset;
and our women's bible study group, which is normally attended by four or five, was attended by about 30, including men, and lots of them had brought cake but refused to help clear up afterwards.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hooray for Mr Benn

Mr Benn
In the last post I mentioned Mr Benn. For those who don't know who he is let me explain.

He was a cartoon character from the 70s. Created by David McKee who also created Elmer the elephant, Mr Benn was an ordinary man who each episode left his home and visited a costume shop with a shopkeeper who appeared 'as if by magic'. Mr Benn would try on a costume and then walking through the changing-room door would find himself in an adventure.

Only 13 episodes were ever made and they were repeated twice a year for twenty years. Mr Benn still is regularly voted one of the most beloved children’s programmes of all time.

There was a certain amount of repetition in every episode and it's that familiarity that David McKee says is now missing from children's television cartoons. 

A 50th anniversary exhibition featuring fifty original Mr Benn artworks has just finished and it was in an interview in The Telegraph that the author made that statement. Now 82, Mr McKee said, '... as any parent will know, children want the same story repeated. My theory is that it’s security, they know what’s coming next and they feel safe with it.' He also claimed that modern animation is too frenetic and desperate to offer something different in every episode.

I used to love Mr Benn when I watched it with my children. Gentle and safe he was just brave enough but not superhuman, and it's true that children do love repetition. Every time GrandSon1 comes to visit, out of the large selection of books on the shelf, he always opts for the same few: Albert Herbert Hawkins, A Bad Week for the Three Bears, and, especially, Burglar Bill. And each one in turn has its own level of repetition. 

Bring back Mr Benn!

What Mr Benn has in common with my holiday reading

The first three books I read on holiday were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Size 14 isn't Fat Either and Notes to My Mother-in-Law.

The first two although very different had one thing in common: I began reading and quickly decided  I wasn't going to like them but ended up thoroughly enjoying them.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant (by Gail Honeyman) is a woman with a traumatic past that has led to her lacking social skills. The story relates how her life gradually changes and how she copes with it. It's both funny and tragic. ****

Mr Benn and the shopkeeper
I tried to find Size 14 Isn't Fat Either (Meg Cabot) on Amazon and ebay - for an image - but there's no sign of it anywhere, which is a little strange. I found it in a secondhand bookshop so maybe it was a magic shop a bit like the one Mr Benn used to visit.
Anyway I digress. While Eleanor Oliphant is sparsely written Size 14 bubbles over. It's a bit like me on this blog when I get distracted. The author is better-known for teenage and young adult books. The heroine is a part-time amateur sleuth - aren't they all? - and it's a jolly light-hearted story. Good holiday reading. *** and a half stars.

Phyllida Law, actress, wife of Eric Thompson, mother of Emma (and Sophie), wrote notes to her mother-in-law who lived with them when she began to go deaf. The book is in big print and hardly enough to fill a space on a shelf. It's fine as far as it goes. I read them expecting at least some of the notes to build up into some sort of story but they're all fairly unrelated and very ordinary. My conversations with George are more interesting. It does a glimpse into the ordinary lives of 'famous' people but that's about as far as it goes. And one can't help feeling that had she been anyone else the book would never have been published and certainly wouldn't have had the ecstatic recommendations from more 'famous' people on the cover. I'll still give it *** because it's ... no, I won't. I'll give it **.

P.S. Interesting to note that the more stars I award the less I write about the story.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

While I'm waiting for the chicken to cook

I've borrowed this from Treey who borrowed it from etc

1.What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
A cherry.

2. Where was your profile pic taken?
I can't remember what my profile picture is. Hang on, I'll try and find out. Oh, it's that little picture. Mumbles Post Office.

3. Worst pain you've ever experienced?
Every pain is the worst pain when I have it. 

4. Favourite place you've travelled?
Mwnt or Vietnam or New York.

5. How late did you stay up last night?
Not late.

6. If you could move somewhere else, where would it be?
The fairy tale house at the edge of Caswell bay.

8. Which of your Blogger friends lives closest to you.
Shirley in Bristol.

10. When was the last time you cried?
Too long ago to remember.

11. Who took your profile photo?

12. Who was the last person you took a picture with?
My dog, George.

13. What's your favourite season?
Spring because everything's waking up and new and fresh.

14. If you could have any career, what would it be?

15. Do you think relationships are ever worth it?
Of course.

16. If you could talk to ANYONE right now who would it be?
No-body. I don't like talking.

17. Are you a good influence?
Hm, you'd have to ask others.

18. Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Sort of.

19. You have the remote, what channel? 

20. Whom do you think will play along?
Anyone not upset by the bad grammar in that question.

21. What happened to questions 7 and 9?
They were abducted by aliens and even now are being probed for the recipe for yorkshire pudding.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Please look back at old posts!

Just to mention I've added photos to all my holiday posts. Now I'm home and have access to technology and a proper keyboard and stuff I've been able to do it. 

And, incidentally, all week we've walked around gusty cliffs - being very grateful that the wind was blowing onshore - and it hasn't rained on us. Then today we get home and walk in Clyne and it thunders and hails. 

We're home all right!

No need to tame a shrew

We met a tiny - probably baby - shrew on one of our shrew
* * * * * * * * 

There are some very old gravestones at the church of St. Michael and All Angel's in Penbryn. The church itself, said to be one the oldest in Wales, looks very like the one at Mwnt and indeed, they both have the same sort of roof/ceiling, the only two examples of its kind in south Wales and the reason for it being a listed building.

This gravestone caught my eye because it's unusual but it also has a wonderful tribute on it.
It's for a man and his wife, Margret who died April 1789 and  was 'distinguished for Meekness, piety and Charity, never known to turn a poor man from her Door Without relief and thus lived and died a ??? (stout maybe) Christian.'

What a fantastic way to be remembered.

In which George looks back on his holiday

Here I am keeping guard outside my holiday home. It was a cottage called Pencwnc near the village of Rhydlewis in Ceredigion. You didn't know I could speak Welsh, did you?
You can take the dog away from Gower but you can't stop him rescuing stones from the ocean. Where there is a stone to be rescued I am there!
Penbryn beach, ceredigion
They tried to get me to go further in this cave but I've read We're going on a bear hunt and I know what you find in deep dark caves.
If I'm looking a little weary here it's because they made me walk miles along a very windy coastal path to get to Llangrannog just so Lizzie could have an ice cream. And then we had to walk back!! I needed all the help I could get from St Caranog, that chap behind me with the staff.
Llangrannog, Ceredigion
'There's a church here somewhere,' Lizzie said, 'and it's supposed to be one of the oldest in Wales.' She had me scrambling through all sorts of bushes to find it.St Michael's church, Penbryn
I've saved my favourite photo till last. Here I am on the top of Mwnt, lord of all I survey. Bow me before me, minions!
Mwnt, Ceredigion
Okay, perhaps this is my favourite photo. Nothing like relaxing in front of a log fire after a long day out.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


So if you think it is catastrophic to discover you have shingles when you are on holiday imagine what it is like to have read three of your books and to find that you just can't get into the other two you have with you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sculpture, seals and chips - updated

Imagine a beautiful garden with lots of sculptures and it's free and dogs are welcome. Sounds perfect? Now add free refreshments including a selection of delicious home made cakes. Could it get any better?

Such a place does exist and it's called Sculpture Heaven.

It was a fascinating place with lots of nooks and crannies, tiny doors to open, and even an opportunity to try water divining - I don't have the knack.

Now if you saw an exhibit that said that you'd have to turn over the stone, wouldn't you?

Donations were suggested for the tea and cakes and all profits went to the Halo Trust that clears landmines in poor countries to enable people to return to their homes.

Ginger and almond macroons, lemon drizzle, chocolate brownies, cherry flapjacks - all yummy!

After this relaxing morning we continued on our way to Cwmtydu and just when you think the day can't get any better it did. There on the beach were several baby seals and their mamas. Excited? Muchos!

These seal pups were between 3 and 12 days old. They're born on the beach where they stay until they're about 21 days old when mama encourages them into the sea - where they have to fend for themselves! Up till then the mother will leave them to go and feed in the sea returning to allow them to feed from her.

The volunteers who do Seal Watch can identify the mothers who return to Cwmtydu regularly to have their babies. And the males who keep hanging around! The mum in the photo above they said was a good mother who last year had continued to feed her baby - whom they nicknamed Fatty - for longer than usual before she could at last persuade him to go and do it himself

By the way, there are a lot of hills in this part of the world and it seems to me that more go up than come down.

Our planned excursion to Newquay for fish and chips didn't go quite as planned. We intended to eat our dinner sitting on the quay trying to spot dolphins but heavy rain put paid to that idea. Instead we sat in the car just like old people. All we needed was a thermos of tea.

Last time we stayed in the area we had fish and chips and Husband declared them to be the best he'd ever tasted so our holiday this time was based around a return visit. We had to choose a holiday cottage that was close enough to Newquay to make it practical. Then when it came to it Husband decided to pay heed to the Tripadvisor reports that named another chip shop as serving the best so we had 'posh' fish and chips from the Lime Crab instead. I say 'posh' because they came in a box with a slice of lemon, tartare sauce and even a sprinkling of something green. (Verdict: the fish could have been crisper.)

And would you believe it? My camera battery died on me at the start of the day. Thank goodness for phones and tablets.

Speaking of which I am taking my five a day. Tablets that is. They are supposed to prevent or at least lessen the potential pain that sometimes follows shingles. So far it's manageable. I don't have to start on the paracetamol until late afternoon. It's mostly just sore and uncomfortable.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Climbing a Mwnt-ain

Mwnt, CeredigionIn the car this morning during a heavy shower Husband was glum. 'It's colder than yesterday too,' he said.
'It's going to be fine,' I said. 'You are just a pessimist.'
'Not pessimist,' he said. 'Realist.'

By the time we reached our destination, Mwnt, the sun was shining. I smiled smugly.
'That's the good thing about being a realist,' Husband said. 'When things turn out better than I expect I am happy.'

On top of Mwnt
I shrugged. 'If it rains I will just laugh.'
'That's because you're a twit.'

Apparently, according to a report in the New Scientist, pessimists live longer than optimists. Or maybe it just seems longer.

Me chickening out and refusing to take the seaward side path down from the top. You can just see the path - the bit of grass in front of Husband in the photo.
* * * *

'Was that a red kite?' Husband asked.
'Oh, I saw a red bird. I thought it was strange for a sea gull ... Are red kites red?'

I am very good ornithologically speaking as you can tell.

* * *
Lovely walk. Not as far as yesterday. I stopped when the coastal path became a little too coastal ie too close to the edge. I was worried for George you understand. I've marked it in red on the photo. The nice encouraging sign on the post helped too.

* * *
Husband is such a man.

There is a book of walks in the cottage. My suggestion that we follow one was pooh-poohed. 'We don't need to follow a book.'

Firelighters are provided in the cottage. After the fire had gone out for the second time I suggested he use one.
'Nah, I've got paper,' he said.

I have shingles

It's just what you want when you're on holiday. To find out the rash and the 'broken rib' are actually symptoms of shingles.

Well done to Sharon and Luna for working it out!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beach life - updated

Saturday evening we visited the closest beach at Llangrannog (above). Sunday we went to Aberporth and Tresaith again mostly for walks on the beach. We were breaking George in gently.

Unusually, at Tresaith, there is a waterfall on the cliffs.

The beach at Penbryn
Today we took him for a five mile walk from Penbryn to Llangrannog and back. I'm not sure who is most exhausted.

It's the first holiday we've had with George for years. I think he's enjoying it ...

I had suggested a shorter walk but Husband persuaded me into this one with the reminder that there was a good ice cream shop in Llangrannog. A scoop of salted caramel plus a scoop of raspberry and white chocolate kept me going long after the plum crumble tart I also had was just a memory.
The sea at Penbryn

And we're just about to sit down to Tesco curry. I could get used to this holiday life.
The cafe at Penbryn

In which I decide I probably don't have a broken rib

Monday and I've not yet had ice cream. What kind of holiday is this?

I have been getting a pain in my side. Not an internal sort of pain exactly but not an external one either. Mostly hurting when I am in bed and trying to sleep. Especially if I lie on my side. But it was better last night so I doubt that it's broken. My rib that is.

Co-incidentally a strange raised red rash appeared on my midriff. Hey ho, I am falling apart.

In other matters the cottage is very nice and comfy. On our bed we have a big furry rug making me feel like a Russian countess in a dacha.

But the ice cream problem is one that must be remedied today.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Falling on deaf ears

'I think that I shall never seeeeeeeeeeee ...a poem lovely as a treeee,' I trilled away merrily as I was dusting.
'I bet everyone wishes they could sing like me, don't you think, George?'
He didn't look up.
'George! I said I bet ...'
'Wait a minute,' he said, sitting up, 'let me take my ear-plugs out then I can hear what you're saying.'

Harsh, George. That's harsh. 'Just for that I'm going to make you move so I can hoover the rug instead of hoovering around you.'

A record-breaker!

I don't know if it's the increased frequency with which I am writing, the top SEO blogging tips I've been trying to follow, or just a blip in google's counter but this blog had 624 page views yesterday!!!

That's the most it's ever had. The number has been creeping up so that I was becoming blase about 200-300 views but when I hit 400 and something I was quite excited. 

I expect someone will tell me that page views aren't the same as visitors and I'm sure that many clicked on the page and instantly clicked out again on seeing what it was. But numbers are numbers and for want of a better system I'll settle for this and be jolly pleased.

I would be more pleased - of course there has to be a criticism - if more people left comments. I've tried ending with a question to inspire response but maybe my posts are too bland to encourage discussion.

Note to self: work on it.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Auntie Vi and the Women of Mumbles Head (Mumbles Myths III)

Joan and Gladys, my grandmother, were two of eight Honey children; another was my great-auntie Vi. She taught me two things for which I am grateful. She taught me to how to swear while remaining ladylike – she was, after all, an ex-president of the WI - and she made sure I knew my local history. Or her version of it anyway. And she did that by teaching me a poem.

The point where Swansea Bay ends abruptly at Mumbles is marked by a lighthouse. It was built in 1794, to warn passing ships of the Mixon Sands and Cherry Stone Rock, two huge undersea sand banks. 

The last lighthouse keeper retired in 1934, but it was the daughters of a previous keeper who went down in history as heroines, commemorated in a poem, The Women of Mumbles Head

On a stormy morning in January, 1883, Mumbles lifeboat was launched to go to the aid of a stricken German ship. In the middle of the rescue, the lifeboat itself was capsized and its crew thrown into the huge icy-cold waves. 

The poem begins:
Bring, novelists, your note-book! Bring, dramatists, your pen!
And I'll tell you a simple story of what women do for men.

It goes on to tell how the two women, clinging to each other, scrambled into a ferocious sea to save a drowning lifeboat-man. According to the poem, soldiers who were stationed on the lighthouse island stood by and watched while the women risked their lives.

The story of the women’s bravery in contrast to the soldiers’ cowardice spread rapidly across the country. The authorities, in an attempt to check these stories, said that the National Lifeboat Institution was considering rewarding one “Artilleryman Hutchings for the assistance he rendered in saving the lives of two of the lifeboat crew”. 

They went on to say that the women “rendered all the tender assistance that could be expected of brave women in such an emergency - that is they held the poor fellows’ heads and ministered to them as only the hand of woman can do”.

Try telling Auntie Vi that,

Gunner Hutchings was awarded a certificate and £2 by the Lifeboat Institute; the women were not acknowledged. Nevertheless, they received numerous gifts from the public, including gold brooches from the Empress of Germany.

Another village myth? 

Clement Scott, the author of the poem, didn’t think so. And nor did my Auntie Vi.

P.S. The women, Jessie Ace and Margaret Wright, are today commemorated by a Blue Plaque at the top of the steps leading to the pier beach. 
Jessie Ace and Margaret Wright, Women of Mumbles Head

Growing up in Mumbles (Mumbles Myths II)

Thirty-three years before my birth, my great-auntie Joan was born in Albert House. For the last years of her life, Joan lived in the house next door. Before she died I asked her about growing up in Mumbles.

Joan Honey, later Delve
She recalled, ‘Mumbles was a very happy and safe community; everyone knew everyone else and we had all we needed in the village. There were two cinemas – the Tivoli and the Regent – and a dance hall in the legion. In those days, the legion hall was on the sea-front, behind where Boots is now. It was a tin hut with a beautiful oak floor, wonderful for dancing. My sister, Gladys, and her husband, Jack, your grandparents (Auntie Joan points to me), were the stewards there and all us children used to go and help polish the floor. There was a buffet with chocolate biscuits and tea and coffee but no drinks: alcohol wasn’t allowed there. Doctors would play badminton in the hall during the week and there were three billiard tables that Jack used to iron.

‘I went to Oystermouth Church School and in the summer we’d have our annual outing to Collin’s field in Langland. West Cross and Newton seemed far away to us so this was a big treat. There’d be large enamel jugs full of tea and we’d have sandwiches and slab cake.

‘And every Saturday morning I’d go to dance class in the hut overlooking Rotherslade. It cost half a crown and at Christmas we’d go to the orphanage in Thistleboon to entertain the children. Billy Lockley’s dance troupe we were called.’

From the bedroom window in the last house she lived in Joan could look down on Dunns Lane and see Oystermouth library, which was built on the site of the old fire station. ‘I must have been about ten or eleven, when I watched, from my bedroom in Albert House, the Fire Station burning down! 

‘I left school at 14 and first of all I got a job in Ceaton’s newsagents, before I joined the Post Office as a telephonist in 1941. I used to catch the Mumbles train to work and each morning my mother would shout up at me, telling me I was going to miss it but from my bedroom I could hear it leaving Southend and then I knew I’d just have time to run down and catch it from Oystermouth Square. 

‘Then every Sunday afternoon, from when we were about 15, we’d go to fellowship in All Saints’. It was where I met Uncle Horace; it was where most of us met our husbands. And on Sunday evenings we used to go to Forte’s Ice Cream Parlour, when it used to be on the corner of the Square. Mr Macari was a lovely man. He’d say, ‘No need to go. It’s cold out there. Stay as along as you like.’ So we’d sit there all evening with just the one cup of coffee.’

Today the only Fortes’ ice cream parlour in Mumbles is at Limeslade. But the one on the corner of Oystermouth Square with its blue wicker chairs and glass-topped tables lives on in memories.

Ferocious Welsh Women (Mumbles Myths I)

I was born in Albert House in the village of Oystermouth in Mumbles. A grand-sounding address for what is, in truth, only a slightly-larger-than-the-rest terraced house in a village of terraces. But it wasn’t always just that, for, according to family legend, it used to be a pub. 

My grandmother frequently told the story of how, when she was having the front pebble-dashed, a local worthy by the name of Harry Libby, accosted her. ‘You are burying a piece of Mumbles history,’ he said. He was objecting to the fact that the pebble-dash was covering up the name Albert Inn, which was painted on the front of the house. (Which in itself seems to me to be a good reason to cover it up: after all, who wants thirsty strangers knocking on the door at all hours demanding their three-happence of ale.) Anyway Granny told him where he could bury his history and the pebble-dashing went ahead, leaving only a legend.

It’s certainly one of the oldest houses in the village with walls thick enough to keep out the Normans or the Germans, not that the Germans would have got as far as the house
with great-gran on guard at the gate with her carving knife. I come from a long line of ferocious Welsh women. 

Strangely enough though I’ve never been able to find a record of Albert Inn on any map or document. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my grandmother’s part; she liked her daily pint of stout. Or maybe, like the ice cream, it is just another of those village legends. 

Being born some years after the war, I was brought up on the story of Mr Macari of Fortes Ice Cream Parlour, and how, on the day war ended, he gave free ice cream to every child in the village. Can you imagine anything more wonderful to a child than being given free ice cream?  It was the knickerbocker glory of dreams. But then someone poured sour cream on my legend.

I was recounting this story when a lady much older than me said, ‘That can’t be true. There was sugar rationing during the war: they can’t have made ice cream.’ 

The truth or a myth? I know which one I’d prefer.

Introducing Mumbles Myths

A number of years ago I had a Good Idea. (I should write a book entitled Liz's Good Ideas That Never Got Anywhere.)

I live in a beautiful part of the country. Gower was the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK and is a popular place with tourists. There are various guides around and photo books about Gower but they tend to be quite factual and what I like to read is more personal, an insider's view or story. So my idea was to collaborate with a photographer and come up with such a book.

I spoke to one well-known local photographer and then another. Both expressed interest, especially the second, but neither pursued it eventually. In the meantime I'd got on and written a few bits and pieces to inspire their photographs.

I came across my writing the other day when I was looking for something else so I thought I may as well post it here. I'll subtitle all the different posts Mumbles Myths.

That's another thing about walking on my own: I write blog posts in my head while walking and then splurge them all out.