Friday, March 23, 2018

Being part of something bigger

It was my cousin's funeral today. Jimmy was nearly eighty-one when he died and, though he lived in Taunton, he was a Mumbles boy at heart and wanted to have his funeral and be buried here.

Jimmy was actually my second cousin; he and my mum were first cousins but, as I've probably explained before, the age gap between my grandmother and her youngest sibling was so large that the generations get mixed up a lot.

My great-grandmother, she with the eight surviving children, lived with us when I was little. Or maybe I should say we lived with her as it was her home originally. So family gatherings happened in our home at regular intervals. 

I suppose as a shy child I wasn't very impressed with this - mainly because I'd be sent around to kiss everyone - who had usually had a drink or two - goodnight but then, after my great-gran died, and the frequency of these gatherings slowed and finally stopped altogether, I realised how important they'd been.

Over the years I've almost lost touch with many of my cousins but Facebook has been a wonderful bringer-togetherer and we've been able to share news and commiserate or celebrate with each other, albeit virtually.

So today it was great to see, even under the sad circumstances, cousins gathering together to remember a lovely man. There seems to be a new family spirit. What was on the point of being lost is being restored. Maybe as we get older we recall the 'good old days' or maybe, as the number of the older generation gets fewer, we just need to feel part of something bigger.

So today I'm thankful for extended families.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Taking a sabbatical

There were lots of things I was thankful for yesterday:
the opportunity to take grandchildren swimming - and see Alun Wyn Jones (Wales rugby captain);
losing one pound in weight (in spite of the curry);
being fit enough to exercise.

I'm sure there were other things but they escape my memory at the moment.

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity Sean gave me three years ago to lead a women's bible study group. I have enjoyed much about it especially the necessity to do thorough bible research in preparation. In recent months though it's become a burden rather than a pleasure so today I led my last study (on joy) for the foreseeable future as I take a sabbatical.

Which will allow me to spend time writing. I am working on a project - a ghost-written autobiography - about which I am excited so I'm very happy.

Now all I have to do is write it!

Today I'm also grateful to Younger Son who came and cooked yummy chicken and vegetable curries for us for dinner.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Having old woman arms

Driving to Mumbles this morning I was in awe - as I frequently am - at the beauty of the bay. I am so thankful for the beauty of this place.

* * * * * * * *
Lovely curry last night with Janet and Mike at Mumtaz. A classy place with very nice food, a bit different from your average curry house. They even had a Health Conscious section. I had my starter - chicken tikka salad - from there but not my main course. It was all very nice.

I had decided to wear my pale pink jumper and I was just getting it out of the wardrobe when I stopped. 'Pale pink? Curry? Hmm, maybe not.' Instead I wore a tunic that wouldn't be ruined should I drop a smidgin of curry on it. (I didn't.)
The hair has gone today. With my cousin's funeral on Friday I made a spur of the moment appointment at the hairdresser's this afternoon. It doesn't look too bad in this picture but that's because you can't see all the grey roots.

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When I put on weight it goes straight to my hips; when I lose weight it comes off my arms leaving me with 'old woman' limbs. They weren't fat to begin with. And you can bet that if I tried to put on a bit to fill out my arms it would go straight to my hips again. Oh, life can be cruel. Cue the sad dramatic music.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Friends like these

This evening we're going out for a curry with old friends. We've been planning this for years. I mean that several times we've arranged it and then something has cropped up and made it impossible but tonight might be the night. One hour before we leave and it's still on so here's hoping. 
Here are Mike and Janet at Younger Son's wedding in Italy in 2012. They've been very good friends to us over the years, Janet especially. I haven't always appreciated her - mainly when I was working for her because I'm not good with bosses - but she, well, they are a special couple who have helped many people.

So I'm very grateful for their friendship.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The closest we get to snow

Great excitement lunchtime when snow started to fall almost nearly really properly! But not for long. Once again Swansea is omitted from the List of Places Snow Must Visit

Last night, hearing that heavy snow showers were predicted for south Wales, I suggested to my children that we go on a Snow Hunt today. My suggestion was met with less enthusiasm than I might have liked. Daughter already had plans; Younger Son said he and GrandSon4 would come but as GS4 is only eighteen months I wasn't sure how keen he would be to go sledging or throw snowballs. Although judging by the look of amazement on his face when he saw the snow flakes falling he would probably have enjoyed it.

But instead we stayed in and Granny and GrandSon4 had a jolly time in the warm.

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I've missed a number of gratitude posts. I think my last one was the Springsteen post so from there, in order, I was grateful for;
a sunny day and a walk on the tip, which is getting dressed for Spring;

exercise class - even though I dread it all day I always feel pleased with myself afterwards and I know it's doing me good;
finally making a decision about something that's been hanging over me;
the end of this year's rugby Six Nations Championship, which has been up and down and stressful for both English Husband and Welsh me.

Today I'm grateful for the flurry of snow, which is pretty, and, I suppose, actually thankful that we don't get the sort of snow that makes life very difficult and harsh.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Artificial intelligence and me

Elder Son spoke at a conference a while ago about artificial intelligence (AI) and he just sent me the video link. Husband watched it and tried to explain it to me.

'It's about teaching machines to make links between words and to ... blah blah blah.' (I got a bit lost or I may have stopped listening.)
'For example,' Husband continued, 'tell the machine to link quill and ink and what do you get?'
'No. Pen.'
'It could be writing.'
'No, you'd have to add action to the instructions as well. Try this one instead. Link banana and vegetable.'
'Fruit salad.'
Husband stared at me. 'No. Yam.'
'It could be fruit salad.'
'Because banana is a fruit and salad is a vegetable.'
Husband stared at me again and shook his head. My logic is faultless.

I think it will be a long time before they make a machine capable of thinking like me.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Grey and Dismal Green

Steve Spicer, a friend of mine - I hope I can call him that although we've never met - has written, illustrated and published a book called Grey and Dismal Green.

I'll quote from the cover: What it means to be a person who is depressed, anxious, or self-harming, and how you can care for them.

The title comes from the colours they paint institutions.

It tells a personal story of how depression and anxiety can take hold and dominate a life. I say personal; it's incredibly personal and must have been so hard to retell and relive. Indeed the story continues today. As I said in my previous post I only suffer mildly; this sort of suffering must be almost unbearable and proved to be on occasions when suicide was attempted.

And it must be horrendous to care for a person you love and see that person in mental agony and torment.

The majority of the book tells the sufferer's story in her own words and in amazing pictures but it also offers help, suggestions based on experience, on what to do if someone has a panic attack, is suicidal or self-harming.

I am so moved by it and am convinced it could be really helpful to people either suffering or caring for a sufferer.

It will be available from Amazon soon; in the meantime if you're interested and would like to buy a copy contact me.

Your own worst enemy

I was listening to Bruce Sprinsteen's cd, Magic, while scrubbing the sink this morning and one song in particular struck me.

'Your own worst enemy has come to town,' Bruce sings. I don't know what he means by this - and researching it nobody seems very sure if it's political or personal - but that's the great thing about Springsteen's songs: they speak to you and find you where you are. (Actually I think today I'll be grateful for the music of Springsteen.)

One commentator said, 'Self-loathing never sounded so gorgeous as in this.' I think I'd describe my own worst enemy in the way that Churchilll described him: the black dog. 

Let me stress that I suffer only very mildly from anxiety and depression. My condition is kept under control by just one pill and normally I'm fine. But every now and again I find myself feeling down for no especial reason and then my own worst enemy, self-loathing, comes to the fore. And then it passes.

But it's horrible while it visits and very difficult to resist. Which is a good introduction to my next post. I don't want to put it in with this as it deserves a post all of its own.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Is this what a cowbird looks like?


Mother's Day gratitude

Many years ago I saw a car sticker that read: If abortion had been legal then would you be here today?

I like to think I would but it must have been incredibly hard for my mother to have - and keep - me as an unmarried mother in the 50s. She must have been very brave.

But I'm thankful that she did.
I visited her grave yesterday. It's the first time I've been for over a year. Last time I went there I said that I must arrange for it to be spruced up. As you can see that's still on my to-do list. But I left some freesias, her favourite flowers.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Romance for the middle-aged

Today I'm thankful for the humour of Victoria Wood. I recently bought the cd version of her live show, Victoria at the Albert, to replace my old cassette version. I am weak with laughter every time I listen to it.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Thankfulness catch up

I've missed a number of days posting but I'll just add the most recent ones.

On Tuesday I was grateful for the Zac's family. We enjoyed celebrating communion with a bowl of cawl (Welsh lamb stew) together.
Yesterday I was especially thankful as it looks as if the heating in Zac's might - might! - be fixed at last.

And today I'm grateful for George. We had to take him to the vet this morning for a follow-up. The anti-inflammatories haven't made much difference so the vet has prescribed painkillers too to see if they help what is almost certainly osteo-arthritis. I found myself getting quite upset when we came out to think that all this time we've been calling him lazy when actually he might have been in pain. Also because the grandchildren take up so much of my attention I fear he feels he isn't loved enough. But we do love you, George!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Now the interesting bit

Over the holiday I read three books.

The Golem and the Djinni
by Helene Wecker
This magical fantasy (maybe) is not my usual sort of book but I really enjoyed it. I came to care about the 'people' and the history subtly included in it was great. A golem is a person made of clay and a djinni is a, well, genie. ****

Mr Chartwell
by Rebecca Hunt
A short novel - I read it in a day - nevertheless very enjoyable. A strange tale about a young woman who takes in a lodger, who is, in fact, a dog. The very same black dog that hounds Winston Churchill. Depression looked at in a very entertaining and novel way. 

I would have given it four stars but the author, who has obviously done a lot of research, fell into the trap of wanting to use it all and frequently mentioned things like the ornaments on the fireplace, which had no relevance to the story. ***

Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings
by Wendy Holden
Very different from the other two this is by an author whose previous works I've read. Light-hearted, slightly silly in places, great over-the-top characterisations and an all-round good holiday read. ****

(They appear to have changed the title.)

And finally ...

We stayed in Los Gigantes, so named because of the giant cliffs. It's not the best for beaches although it didn't really matter in this case as the wind and conditions made the sea too dangerous for bathing. One day we took a trip to Playa de las Americas. It's a more touristy area - especially for Brits. An Irish pub on every corner and every restaurant offering full English breakfast, English sports and fish and chips.

The day we went there the weather was very mixed. Standing on the prom you could choose which weather you wanted.

These two photos were taken immediately after each other.

More boring photos

We took a trip to Masca along very scary roads


La Gomera, the small island in the background. I include this photo because it's one of the rare times that I can see my mum in me - even though people often say I look like her

Granny + beach = sand castle, or in this case, sand volcano. It's black volcanic sand

Really boring holiday photos

Our hotel at Los Gigantes
Almost a pool to myself

Me looking slightly deformed indicating the cable car we would have gone on if it had been open
The great and the small

Mount Teide, pronounced tidy, volcano and highest mountain in Spain

The lava plain, the dark bit of lava you see is from the seventeenth century


Has a whole week gone by since I last blogged? A few days ago I had a surfeit of time to do nothing; now life is manic again. I must learn to pace myself ... And I would have been ironing now if the ironing board hadn't collapsed on me leaving me with time to catch up. 

On holiday I had a list of things I wanted to mention. I thought I'd remind myself by remembering the letters: I, E, E, O, and N. That's invisible, exercise, enjoyment, nationality and knobbly knees. No, I can't remember what the O stands for. And I only remember the others because I wrote them down soon after.

As I mentioned before, I wondered if I'd become invisible. Further proof: I was waiting patiently at the breakfast buffet for the chef to fry eggs. A man came and stood alongside me and said, 'Two eggs, please.' Fortunately the chef had noticed me and served me first but I was hopping. (But I didn't say anything of course. Much too polite.)

Anticipating a holiday doing nothing I didn't take my Fitbit. I didn't know we'd be on floor one while the exit, restaurant and swimming pools were on floor 6. Five floors and one hundred steps between us. Most days we did the up and down thing four or five times. On occasion I tried to beat the lift. We also had to walk a distance each day in order to get me an ice cream - my lunch. So it's no wonder I lost one and a half pounds in weight in spite of all the eating I did on holiday.

One evening as we left the restaurant we walked past the bar and I commented to husband, 'Gosh, some people really enjoy themselves on holiday.'

What I meant was that lots of people liked to have a drink, chat and watch the entertainment; our idea of enjoying ourselves was to return to our room and curl up with our books. We're a bit anti-social but we like it like that.

One of my favourite games in the restaurant was Guess the Nationality. If I couldn't hear them properly I based my decisions on appearance, style and eating habits. It's surprisingly difficult with people of a certain age. German, Dutch and British older men and women tend to look very similar but voices, even if I couldn't hear words distinctly, could be a give-away as Brits have a lower timbre (if that's the right word).

Back in February I made Daughter a caramel birthday cake and splashed some of the boiling sugar on my knuckle. It had healed well but suddenly on holiday my knuckle began to hurt a lot. I thought at first perhaps the burn had gone deeper than I'd thought - though why it should start hurting at a later date I don't know - but then I glanced at my bent knuckle and realised it was a little mountain! Oh no, arthritis I feared. But, hey, it's gone down now and doesn't hurt at all. 

I had to see the nurse on Tuesday anyway so I mentioned it to her. 'Did you strain it?' she asked. How do you strain a knuckle?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

And another pair tonight

Making five so far. Unbelievable.

Yesterday I was grateful for Ferrero ice cream. Today I am thankful for the reminder of what an awesome world we inhabit.

We took a trip up El Teide - pronounced tidy - and even though they cable car wasn't working so we couldn't get to the top it was a lovely day and we enjoyed walking and appreciating the wonder of it.

Tenerife as it is today is the result of volcanic activity. A ridge of volcanoes down the middle of the island forms the backbone. The island is, as it was described on an information board, a work in progress, a building site. It's still very young geologically speaking so the habitat is still developing.

I will add photos when I work out how to ...