Sunday, 30 December 2007

Back on the Treadmill

I am always fascinated by working flour mills in this country. Continual grinding of wheat into flour; flour into bread and cakes and biscuits - the staff of life.

In my cupboard I have flour from two different flour mills: one is from Rudyard Kipling's home and the other is from Castle Carew in West Wales. I have yet to make bread or cakes or biscuits from either with my grandchildren, but when I do, I shall tell them stories about either origin so that the biscuits will taste all the more better.

Now that Christmas is over and there have been no arguments in the house, in fact, all has been very well; another good Christmas with my daughters. I now look forward to the year ahead, differently from the last two New Years when my heart was full of trepidation and fear. What else could befall me and turn my world upside down? This time, I feel that there are better times ahead; that I will find my purpose; my reason to go on; my raison d'etre. Am I just thinking wishfully? No. Not this time. I feel it in my bones. I will make headway this coming year and look forward, not back.

I no longer want to work for anyone, especially a large corporate organisation. I want to work for myself. I still have at least 30 years ahead of me and I want to do something worthwhile and for me as well as others. Positive thoughts. I hope they last.

When the children arrive with me for the last few days of the Christmas holidays I shall bring out the flour that originate from the old working mills and tell them stories from Rudyard Kipling and of battles of Castle Carew as we eat our biscuits and bread made from the wheat of nearby fields where men surely died in battle in years gone by.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Pride and Christmas

I've saved £s this year... making my own Christmas Wreath, making the family presents, pulling in last year's potted Christmas Tree, recycling old decorations and cutting my own hair. I've saved a few hundred pounds, much needed while my finances are poorly.

My car tyres have been replaced and the invoice will be sent via Royal Mail, who, with a bit of luck won't deliver until after Christmas and by the time my cheque arrives and clears, I could well make the end of the month without too much debt.

Some people don't like admitting they are financially curtailed - I've found in the past that men are usually too proud to mention money, and would rather use wealth or the trappings of wealth as a status symbol to show off to other males. Am I wrong? While we women tend to be more 'up-front' about our state of affairs. Again, I may be wrong, but it's how I see it based on my experiences with others who get uncomfortable when finances are discussed. I tend not to tell people exactly how much or little I have. It should be enough to mention that finances are difficult without going into too much detail, and good friends have understood without question.

I am so lucky to have daughters who despite my saying repeatedly over the years that I'm not a 'borrower', when I have been in difficulty, as is the case recently, one or more have jumped in, despite my protests, and have helped out. I hate taking loans and like most people, I have my pride. My lovely man would not have wanted to see me without anything, and he was the first to help out members of my family if they were in dire straights. He was also very forgiving, something many are not. We all have pride, some more than others. It gets in the way of many things, but, among good friends and especially at Christmas, all should be forgiven - even pride.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Let it snow

The sky was clouded over yesterday and the day before with a slight promise of snow flurries. Nope... not a flurry in sight as I stood outside shivering with the trusty car mechanic who was changing one of my tyres. My back, nearside tyre was completely bald on the outside circumference and definitely illegal. Would Renault cover the obvious fault in my Warranty? No, of course not, despite the mechanic speaking over the phone to one of Renault's service managers that there was an underlying cause; like suspension?

So now I have no car which has given me the excuse I needed to do all the little housey, decorating things I've been putting off. The tree is in, up and bedecked and at one point, amongst all the baubles and twinkling lights, a little kitten face appeared through the branches; eyes big and excited. No baubles have yet hit the floor, but he's working on it! He has ventured outside briefly, under cover of darkness, running back in at the merest sound or sight of anyone, or anything. He peers at me as if I'm stupid when I press the cat-flap with encouragement, so then I open the door and he will sit on the door step, sniff the air then prance back to the warmth of the log fire. Perhaps he'll go outside to pee in the Spring?

Without a car I can't take Banjo to the Vet, I can't fetch the boys from school on Friday, and I can't travel down to the coast to fetch my daughter and granddaughter. Nor can I do the Christmas shopping or try one last go at the Gym. Hopefully my car will be back soon. So, while holed up, it may as well snow, then my isolation will be complete, but no problem, I have warmth, water and food and two adorable felines for company, which is more than some folk will have this Christmas.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

I may look like a Swan,,,but,

I have been sorting Christmas decorations all day while cleaning rooms, putting away ornaments to make way for festive stuff, and battling with a not-so-helpful kitten. Like a Swan, I look elegant above water, but underneath, my legs are paddling away furiously.

Some of the decorations are several years' old, we bought them together when setting up home. We had nothing. Both left previous homes from previous lives with nothing much; I had a lamp which was a family heirloom and a suitcase that contained swimsuits and scarves, (I packed in a hurry)! He had some Disney videos and a few teddy bears. So we had to begin from scratch. We bought a Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve; it was the last one, but it looked good; small and with full branches. We were like two children searching for decorations for our first Christmas together, with not much money, no friends and quite a lot of enemies.

So now, when I pull these decorations out of the cold cardboard box, I'm instantly transformed back to the Christmas of 1996. They may be battered but I display them with love.

I have just discovered that my back, nearside car tyre is bald. How could this be? I've only had the car just over a year, from new. So, now I must make phone calls and see what can be done before I travel down to the coast to fetch my daughter and granddaughter for Christmas. And the expense!!! And what is the cause?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Unruly Santas

In the absence of photos of Oxford City while shopping yesterday, I have this one of frozen pansies instead. I would have liked to post a picture of a Father Christmas but, I was frightened off while on an escalator in a department store yesterday. I was minding my own business while peering over the moving handrail, gazing at some boxes of family games, thinking that they would make good joint presents for the girls... when a loud 'Ho, Ho, Ho' bellowed out behind me. I turned round quickly to be confronted by a huge red and white fur covered extended belly of a huge man with a fake white beard. He began talking to me about how exhausted he was after spending hours bouncing children on his knee and was in dire need of a coffee. I smiled and turned to face front as the stairs levelled out at ground level. He followed me. Still talking to me about his seasonal work. I said, "Well, never mind, you can soon have a rest until next December." To which he replied, "I can't not work until then... I have to make a living doing all sorts of odd jobs you know..." and added, "perhaps you'd like to make a contribution to a very tall, good looking chap?" He pulled down his elasticated beard to show his face and smiled at me. I turned sharply and walked quickly away and hid behind the display of family games, unnerved and uneasy. Was he mad?

I didn't take the photos I'd planned to, nor did I get the presents on my list, nor did I find a suitable top to wear for Christmas day. I did have some great dental work done which is the start of a four-month long treatment, which should take me nicely into April when hopefully I can get my leg fixed. All I need now is an injection of self-belief so that I can deal with unruly Santas when they crop up!

Bronx Boy Journal: Jerry

Bronx Boy Journal: Jerry

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Frozen cabbages and cockles

It was bitterly cold at 8 am this morning as I stood on the doorstep giving Pebble a friendly boot out. Ornamental cabbages looked as if they'd break into pieces of ice. Pebble ran round my legs and back indoors, then to his litter tray. I suppose it's too much to ask a kitten to dig a hole in the frozen soil?

The phone rang, "You have a Dental appointment at 8 am tomorrow morning". I negotiated 9 am instead, thinking of the freezing icy morning that awaits and the umpteen cat feeding and litter tray emptying jobs to do. So, I can't get my jumpy leg fixed yet, but at least I can get my teeth fixed soon; a cosmetic job, long awaited and needed, especially if I'm going to start looking around for an available, single, tall, strong, reasonably-looking, honest, caring, gentle man of similar age to me ... who am I trying to kid! I have as much chance as flying to the moon. When one doesn't have any friends in the area, no contacts, no social life and no clue how to play the dating game, the odds are that single is the status I shall remain in for the rest of my life; and seeing the domestic wranglings and discontent of some others, perhaps it's not a bad state to be in after all.

The fact that I'm thinking about dating is a good sign; I'm moving on and thinking about the future instead of the past. I'm thinking a lot of things lately; new business, new me... who knows?

There was the man from the wood yard who fancied me, but his dialect was so strong I couldn't understand what he was saying; I thought we were talking about a length of 4" by 4", but he started laughing and I got confused. My daughter says she thinks he is married; so I haven't been back. Then there was the man behind the fish counter at the Supermarket who tried to impress me with the size of his frozen cockles - again, the local dialect seemed to distort my understanding of what he was saying, so I took his cockles and haven't been back since. Then there was the man at the Gym who chatted me up in the Jacuzzi; he was quite nice, but then his wife joined us too! I don't think there are any men of the type I'm looking for.

Anyway, best not plan anything ... 'cos it all goes wrong when I do. Dreams shatter like frozen cabbages.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A new Dawn

I was woken at 0530 this morning by both cats scrambling about on the bed; I made the mistake of moving my feet only to be pounced on by Pebble who has grown considerably, as too his teeth and claws. So I got up. A little later, I opened my bedroom blinds to see this gorgeous sky heralding the start of another day, another dawn.

Various phone calls followed from one or other daughters all checking on who is buying what present for whom; as if I know! I had other things on my mind; I was off to one of the Oxford hospitals for a chat with a consultant about my 'jumpy' leg, ie damaged nerve in my spine. He said he was stumped; didn't know what was causing it and didn't know what to do about it either except re-prescribe some pills I'd had two years' ago and which didn't make any difference. Or, he said I could have a jab in my left buttock that might work. So, armed with his bit of important paper I went to the Receptionist to book my injection. "The earliest appointment..." she hesitated and I wondered if I could fit it in before Christmas... "will be April"! A man sitting in the waiting room gasped, and asked if the injection was coming from the other side of the world. I left. What does it matter, I've waited four and a half years for one of the medical professionals to come up with a solution, and even a diagnosis, so what's a few more months? One doctor a couple of years' ago suggested "your left buttock is weak causing the main sciatic nerve to 'dip', so could I build the buttock muscle up with exercise"? It's very difficult to exercise just one buttock, but nevertheless that's what I've done - to no avail.

Meanwhile continue to wear jeans and trousers so as not to upset anyone in the vicinity who might glance across at my leg which appears to have a dozen worms writhing under the skin - not a sight for the faint-hearted. Or, perhaps I will wear some sheer tights and a cute little skirt this Christmas and just smile when anyone stares at my inhabited leg.

Ah, well, the new dawn always fills me with renewed hope and optimism, but by dusk I've faced reality again.

Monday, 10 December 2007

A cold frosty December night

I often look into other people's gardens as I pass by and wonder what their lives are like. Do they have the same worries and insecurities as me? Are they content in their idyllic surroundings? Or are there all sorts of family and domestic problems afoot?

Another weekend has gone by... a lovely lunch on Saturday that lasted five hours; luckily an 'all-day' pub with good food and a roaring log fire as the heavens opened outside - again. Nothing but rain, wind and more rain, for months... in fact, since last spring.

Then a Sunday of washing, ironing, collecting papers, making the last of the Christmas presents and sitting at the computer. Oh how I loath Sundays. Oh how I long to do something different on a Sunday. There is going to be a heavy frost tonight, so the two precious memorial roses of my lovely man and which contain his ashes, have been covered in fleece; the greenhouse lined with bubble-wrap, and the pots of perenial plants moved to a sheltered corner. Kindling wood gathered and indoors, as too the coal and logs ready for a good fire tonight.

I swept out the Garage after bringing out all the boxes and bags of Christmas decorations. I suppose that sometime in the next week I shall have to make the effort and decorate the house, although daughter number two and my granddaughter will be helping out when they come here for the festivities. I wondered today, if this is how it's going to be from now on... years of bringing out the decorations, years of putting them back again. Years of wondering if I am destined to always be on my own, remembering the past, remembering him. It doesn't matter what I plan or don't plan, I know from bitter experience that just when you think you have your life under control, or you have a plan, something unexpected turns up and makes you turn 90 degrees in another direction. So, I ask myself, why plan anything? Why not just let the spinners of destiny do their work and shunt us from pillar to post, or more annoyingly just let us exist in a kind of non-world of nothing. I think I must be a little morose at the moment - Christmas is always a bad time for me, and probably for millions of others. Even those who purport to be happy have a hard time at Christmas - again, I know from experience; all those relatives, all those family games and family 'treading on glass' moments. I've had a few of those in the distant past. But now, I hope to have a good Christmas again with my girls; which I know I will have.

Anyway, back to the mundane; Banjo has decided to hit out at Pebble again. He took a few tentative steps outside the back door and was attacked by Banjo who resents his intrusion on her territory of the garden, just when she'd more or less accepted that he'd taken over the house. Will they ever just get on with it? Will he ever pee outside?

As I shut the gate I wave to my neighbour, also a widow but much older than I, across the lane and wonder if she is content and looking forward to Christmas. What goes through her mind on a cold December frost-predicted night?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Around the corner

You never know what's around the next corner. Burford is known as 'The Gateway to the Cotswolds'. It has a steep high street that is full of higglety-pigglety stone houses of varying shapes with saggy rooftops and curiousity shops. At the bottom of the High Street, roads take you to Bourton on the Water or to Stow on the Wold.
Around every corner and through little archways and alleys can be seen more old unique little houses in Cotswold Stone.

I arrived home to find an email from an old friend who will be in the area Saturday, so what better place to take her for lunch and a browse, than Burford? Now I have something to look forward to for the weekend. Thereafter, I shall be pounding the bustling streets of Oxford for presents for the family, taking my camera with me.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Fat Cat

It's official... Banjo is overweight and has to diet. I am supposed to be able to feel her ribs!! When she lies on her back, I can feel them, just as I can feel mine when I lay on my back!

The special and expensive biscuits that the Vet says I should dish out in small 35 gram portions once daily are doing the trick! Banjo detests them, so doesn't eat... and the weight is falling off her. Even Pebble doesn't like them.

Meanwhile, both cats are now socialising quite well; eating off the same tray and sleeping together under the sofa bed. So, I allowed them both to sleep on my bed last night; if only Pebble could understand that no-one else wants to run up and down the stairs at 3 am, nor do I want my shoulders washed or my hair eaten. And can I get him to go outside? No. For a wild cat, he prefers indoors. And today, Pebble was microchipped by a nice RSPCA man; so I haven't seen him since... he's gone to ground... under the sofa bed, while Banjo sits in the kitchen hoping for some decent food.

Monday, 3 December 2007

A Moment in Time

In the photo in front of me is a striking young woman with a flawless complexion, dark naturally curly hair piled high on her head and large limpid eyes that seem to look deep into your soul. She is wearing a lace blouse with high collar and brooch. She was my paternal grandmother whom I never met and who was never spoken about by my father. My face is of similar shape to hers. She looks kind and gentle.

Like a jig-saw puzzle, the family tree that has been constructed by daughter number three last year has put a name and dates to this photograph. Her name was Maud. She married my grandfather in 1909 at the age of twenty. They had two daughters and later, when aged 37 she gave birth to my father but sadly, died when he was just seven.

The only time my father spoke about his mother was to describe how desolate his life was when she died and that his father sat him on a stone bridge in South Wales; his legs were dangling over the side as his father gripped him hard while crying and saying 'sorry son'. My father knew he was about to be thrown over and into the torrent of fast flowing water below. He could still remember the feeling of absolute terror as he told me this story. Then, along the path, a woman was walking towards them. She began speaking to them, and my father was lifted off the bridge and away from what was to be his early death. Her name was Gladys and she became my grandmother whom I loved deeply.

When my father told me the story many, many years' ago, I could not understand why anyone would want to kill their own son and themselves. Now, having lost someone I loved more than anything in the world, I am there, in my grandfather's head and heart, feeling the desolation and loss intensely, knowing exactly why he stood on the bridge.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bleak weekends

Why do I dislike weekends and Mondays when I like Fridays? Is it because Friday heralds the optimists' view that anything could happen at weekends? Saturday mornings are okay, but by Saturday night I'm already down at mouth... Sunday I think I might lie in, but new kitten and a cat with crossed legs won't allow it. The weather this weekend is stormy, wet, windy and bleak - so no outdoor work. Nothing on the TV to get excited about; I can't stand The X Factor and don't much like Football.

The Gym was busy this morning as I pounded on the treadmill; did a few weight-lifting things and had a short swim in the pool. Off to do some shopping and back in the windstorm to home. Am I missing out on something else to do at weekends? Instead I do some research on the web and have playtime with the cats; wow, I really know how to live at the weekends. This is the lull before the storm of Christmas and the miriad of things to do, make, cook and buy; and so I should be grateful of this quiet time.

We used to love our weekends together; always out and about, or having dinner parties with good friends. We would go out for a drive on Sundays and have one or other of my daughters round for lunch. We would watch a DVD, cuddle up and maybe iron a shirt for the next day.

All that has changed. I'm still little Miss No-Mates despite living here for two and a half years and despite trying to make friends at the Gym. So no friends to invite round. No-one to go out and about with. No-one to go to the Pub or Wine Bar with. Just as well I have the Cats to talk to... pity they can't give their opinion on the Labour Party's cash donor scandal, or the school-teacher being sentenced in Khartoum.

Thank you daughters for keeping me sane and letting me visit, phone and shop with you despite your own busy lives.

One day I might really look forward to weekends again.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Yorkshire Vista and Entente Cordial

I love travelling; road, rail, air and boat. Not that I've travelled much in the last few years, due to my lovely man's illness and sudden death.

I have visited friends in South Hampshire, Essex and been on a Canal trip and a spent a week in Tenby. I have also visited friends in Yorkshire early in the year and visited Castle Howard with them. I would've visited again this month, only the arrival of Pebble has stopped me in my tracks.

However, there has been an improvement in the house; namely entente cordial between the two cats, who now skirt around each other without hissing, spitting and growling. The deterring water spray has been put away and both cats now feed from the same tray and seem to be tolerating each other's existence.

Another week and a half before Pebble is allowed outside; it won't be too soon either, as he tears up and down the stairs, in and out of all the rooms, jumping on and off all the furniture, prancing dangerously close to Banjo who raises her right paw in warning making him brake furiously hard before prancing off to attack the toy lion. It's too much to hope that Banjo will regain some of her youth and prance around the house with him; she is now officially overweight, due most likely, according to the vet, to ongoing depression after losing her sister to cancer and my husband whom she adored and moving house twice; all in recent years. Cats don't cry when bereaved, they become depressed. My grief probably contributed to her unhappiness too; I could've spent more time with her rather than submerged in my own unhappiness. Isn't hindsight wonderful?

Perhaps I shall be able to visit friends again in the New Year, once Pebble has had his 'Op' and his 'pebbles' removed; apparently this will calm him down considerably, (I've known a few men in the past who would've also benefitted from having their 'pebbles' removed).

While I can't travel much at the moment, I still have my many photos to gaze at and remember the excitement of the journey and destination and the accompanying anticipation.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Bath Revival

The full body massage and facial, followed by bathing in the thermal spa waters of the new Thermae Spa released all the pent up muscular tension and stiffness.

I felt uplifted, released, revived and renewed. My eldest daughter and I had decided to treat ourselves to a few days at Bath after the tensions that a family wedding can bring. It worked, and we both returned to normal day to day activities thoroughly refreshed and ready for anything.

The feeling of being complete, whole, relaxed and in control stayed with me as I saw old neighbours and people who were once my friends when I returned to the small town I'd lived in when bringing up my four daughters. So-called friends blanked me, remembering that I'd suddenly left my husband, home and youngest daughter over 10 years' earlier. They still had their prejudicial views, probably fuelled by much gossip at the time which must have distorted the actual truth.

Did I care? No... their opinions did not affect me. I smiled at them even though they turned their backs on me. I walked tall amongst them and didn't give a damn.

Everyone should enjoy a Bath Revival now and again.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Last holiday

The last holiday we had was to Prague. Cobblestones abound as do mannekins, russian dolls, waffles and cream and beers of all kinds in huge litre jugs. This view is from one side of the Charles Bridge which we'd walked across many times during our four day stay. It was here that he bought me a blue topaz ring, with matching ear-rings and necklace and which I wear regularly.

I have jewellry from many foreign places, something he loved to do, but the topaz ones are the most special. After he died, a clairvoyant told me that whenever I wear a special ring he will be near me. I don't really believe that. In fact I don't believe anything the clairvoyant told me while I was deep in early grief. I am too sensible, but was very vulnerable at the time and just wanted someone to tell me he was still with me in some way. I have spoken to two people recently who swear that their deceased husbands have come to them when they were at their lowest point. "How?" I asked. One said he sat on her bed when she was crying in the night and just smiled at her. The other said he had stood behind her in the hall while she was looking in the mirror and he just appeared behind her, and again just smiled. Is it me? Or does anyone else think that the appearance of one's deceased smiling partner is ironically cruel? Does the smile indicate that they are okay in a land unobtainable? I haven't seen even a smoky whisper of my lovely man, but... in those painful early days I thought I heard the front door close, then his footsteps bounding up the stairs and the bedroom door open. By this time I'd closed my eyes and was hiding under the Duvet, when I looked... nothing. I told myself it was because my mind was unbalanced by bereavement and grief.

If he does appear, I have some questions for him; like, where the hell did he put the tenon saw and mitre block?

Saturday, 24 November 2007

A quiet Saturday night

What do normal people do on a cold, windy Saturday night? Go out to the cinema or a meal? Have dinner with friends? Get in a DVD and snuggle up on the sofa for the evening? Or, like me, sit on the floor with a water spray in hand ready to spray whichever hissy cat decides to attack the other. But, I don't think it's normal to do this every evening, let alone a Saturday.

Yesterday was a no-pheromone day; I unplugged the diffuser and gave our senses a rest. I'm not convinced it's really helping relations between the cats; more a case of drugging us all up to the eyeballs. The kitten is getting bigger and soon he will retaliate. Do I wait for this or continue to be Diplomat of the Year, playing with them both, stroking and praising them for good behaviour, spraying Banjo with water whenever she attempts to bully Pebble?

Or, do I get a life of my own? How do I get a life of my own is more the question. I really don't want to join a Book Club; I don't want to learn to play Bridge; and I don't want to respond to the invite to join the Womens Institute.

Today I witnessed couples who were in love, couples who were bickering in a shop, husbands who clearly didn't want to be out shopping, children screaming and being pulled in and out of shops. Perhaps I should be grateful that I don't have any of the usual weekend family feuds... just the feline feuds.

Years' ago when I had the girls at home, the weekends were manic; shopping, cleaning, cooking, ironing, sorting out teenage feuds and marital discontentment, and I used to wish for calm and peace and quiet. Then I had weekends with my lovely man where everything we did was peaceful and great. Now I have calm and quiet... and loneliness. Me and thousands of others.

Adoringly Oxford

The very young couple in front of me were arm in arm, having eyes only for one another and with leg movements in perfect syncronisation. They were both about twenty years' of age. She looked adoringly up at his eyes as he spoke; they laughed a lot and bumped into people along the way, oblivious of everything and everyone around them.

When I was twenty years and four months of age, I was getting married. Why? Haven't a clue, except perhaps it was the 'thing' to do back then. Despite being in the seventies, living together wasn't an option for most of us. I'd only known this man a short while; I didn't know him at all, just that he was quite attractive, not very witty or funny, but, according to my fellow Wrens, 'quite a dish'. I remember saying to myself as we stood in front of the Registrar, 'if it doesn't work out then we can get a divorce.' I meant it too. That's how young, stupid and naive I was.

Two babies within seventeen months' later I knew I'd jumped into marriage too soon and for all the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, I decided I would make a go of this marriage and that (even more stupidly), I could change him. Two more babies later and round about when my Dad, then my Mum died I realised I didn't, couldn't and wouldn't love this man no matter how hard I tried.

Luckily, he spent most of our marriage away at sea while I thoroughly enjoyed my lovely babies who are now lovely women. It wasn't until I'd left him and had found my real love that I discovered what marriage should be like. For the first time, in my forties, I experienced affection, consideration, respect, laughter and wonderful, great sex that wasn't just sex. I gave and received love unconditionally; no bullying or controlling; no shouting or sulking. I thought of all these things as I walked behind the young couple in Oxford today, wondering if they would still be together in twenty years' time. I hoped they wouldn't jump into marriage too soon, but thinking about it, my first husband and I never walked arm in arm, never looked adoringly at each other, nor did we hang on each other's word.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Building Bridges

I have a photo of me as a girl of about 6 years standing in front of this granite stone viaduct in South Wales. This was taken recently; it is still strong and reliable; still supporting heavy engines and carriages; still a magnificent piece of architecture.

When my family fell apart; due entirely to me leaving my husband of 24 years back in 1995; I was unable to provide the strong support that my grown-up girls still required of me. Two of them provided shelter for me when I had nowhere to live; they provided me with support. Now, I hope I can still provide them with support when they need it; and they have helped me through the last 2 years of grief after my lovely second husband died. Real friends and close family are the granite of our lives; where would we be without them?

When I left my first husband I was condemned by many; those who only saw the facade of a family and marriage and who didn't know the truth of my existence. I am lucky in that three of my four daughters knew the truth and supported me when I couldn't live a lie any longer. I know of some women who would rather live out a lie than be honest and get out of a bad relationship. Which is the right thing to do? For me, I did the right thing and only regret the effect of acrimony and the resulting resentment of my youngest daughter after having thrust upon her the responsibility of looking after her aggrieved father and for whom she felt responsible and trapped.

Now, I hope I can provide the granite-type support for all of my daughters whenever they need it and that none of us dwell on all the hurt of the past.

Meanwhile, with a water-spray in hand, I can come between the two cats who are getting more assertive and aggressive with each other as the days pass. They don't say how to cope with feline tantrums and fighting in the Feline Advisory Website! Maybe the Plug-in pheramone diffuser has run out! I must remain a strong architectural structure myself and ensure they know who is boss around here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A journey more calm

Pheromones are abound in this household; cats are calmer and not so much hissing fills the air. The plug-in diffuser seems to be working, so I shall sneak off to the Gym while both cats sleep. I wish I could have had a plug-in diffuser to elimate the early months of painful grief.

Just six months' ago I wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind to look after a wild rescued kitten of just 9 weeks; it would've been all too much. It's only now that I can look back with reflection and see just how grief-stricken I have been while all the time pretending to be 'just fine' smiling and saying 'I'm okay' to anyone who was brave enough to ask.

It's only now that I can look back at my own behaviour with regret, after my father died leaving my mother absolutely grief-stricken after 35 years of marriage together. I didn't understand... I thought I had an inkling of what she was going through at the time and I thought I'd done all I could to help - at the time. Only now, having lost the only person in my whole life whom I've loved with all my heart, mind, body and soul, do I understand the enormity of the loss. If only I could go back in time and with this painful knowledge, do and say things differently for my mother. I may have been able to ease the passage of grief, and she may not have died just one year after my father. I'm so sorry Mum.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Wheels are (nearly) in motion

There has been a slight change in the dynamics between the two cats; Pebble is now more confident, a little bigger and is asserting himself by trying to pounce on Banjo. She is still having none of it though and I hear hisses now and then.

I have decided to just leave them to it; I have resigned as Cat Nanny and now want to get the wheels in motion for my new business. Lots of research still to do and people to talk to.

Two and a half weeks have been taken over by the new kitten; enough! I had my nose nibbbled this morning as he attempted to wake me at 6 am. No sign of Banjo whose job is usually that of early morning wake up caller. Pebble is taking over the place, and I came downstairs to find eight rows of knitting off the needle and in a jumbled pile on the floor.

Monday, 12 November 2007

It's a long road

To walk around the entire circumference of the Farmoor Reservoir is approximately two and a half miles. When I first took my two young grandsons there for a walk they moaned and groaned and said they couldn't walk that far. Two years' on they often walk and run around the track and don't think anything of it.

Pebble and Banjo still have a long road to conquer; I'm playing Referee constantly, separating hissing fits and intervening in long cat stares. Last night I gave up and went to bed leaving them the whole house to sort out their battles. I read for a while and as soon as I switched off my bedside lamp Banjo jumped up on the bed and assumed her usual and rightful position. I heard nothing of Pebble and wondered if he'd been mauled to death in the Utility room. At around 7am I felt rather than heard or saw a cat near my head and thinking it was Banjo about to put out her paw to wake me as usual, I stretched up my arm to stroke her. It was Pebble who immediately began purring; phew he wasn't dead, but had hidden away somewhere and miraculously, Banjo had allowed him on the bed. Growling has stopped but hissing continues.

I await a feline behavioural plug-in diffuser ordered from an online Pet drug company in the hope that it will render Banjo reasonably soporific and hence maybe accept Pebble. Apparently it gives off pheramones (don't think I've spelt this correctly); maybe it will do me a power of good too! But what does one do when loaded with pheramones? Walk around Farmoor Reservoir!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Destiny or not

When a white kitten with orange markings bounced around under my moving car I felt sick and useless. It had run out from the hedge at the side of the busy road straight under my car. I braked and in my mirror I saw it run across the road and into a disused industrial site.

I, along with some others who worked nearby scoured buildings and hedgerows but could find no sign of the kitten. A man said the kitten was wild and lived around the buildings.

And so, another call to the RSPCA; it would definitely have been injured, therefore unable to hunt for food and would most probably die shortly. I lay awake that night wondering why? On a long stretch of empty road, why did it run out under my car?

Do things happen for a reason? Or, is every living moment an unknown game of chance with no reason for anything? Why do animals and indeed people die when they do? Not being religious, I don't subscribe to anything being 'God's Will'. Existence is fragile and frightening with some good bits thrown in every now and then, unless there is such a thing as a plan or destiny for us all from the moment we are born. Who knows? I don't. I just cry when I am part of the demise of a lonely wild kitten.

I have saved one kitten, and have probably killed another...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Post Script to a Bridge Too Far

Post Script: My heart wants to keep little Pebbles because he is cute, affectionate and just lovely and I've come to love him in just 10 days. However, my head tells me that should Banjo still not accept him in the next few weeks, perhaps a month at the longest, then I shall have to find him another loving home to go to. This would break my heart - again! But, Banjo has been my loyal and constant companion through such awful times that she doesn't deserve this.

There are only two people I would entrust with Banjo should anything happen to me, but I know that Pebble would probably fit in anywhere warm and loving with kind people who would feed and play with him. Banjo comes first. So we'll see what the next few weeks bring...

A Bridge Too Far

I've done everything the Feline Advisory Bureau have suggested; rubbing the scent of one cat onto another and back again; rubbing scent into the bowls of my existing cat's food dishes, moving covers and cloths around that either cat has slept on; playing with both through the chicken wire partition... I'm worn out through play. Banjo still hisses and spits when Pebble makes the mistake of staring her in the eye. I wonder if they'll ever tolerate each other.

Whenever I've started a new job, the same sort of thing happened but without the hissing and spitting. We all skirted around each other, sizing each other up and the roles we had, who was more important in the work hierarchy, who was friendly, who was submissive. There have been some whom have never been to my liking, but for professional reasons I have had to tolerate them. Often I escaped into the ladies loo and hissed and spitted until my temper subsided, then came out smiling. After one particular incident, I was expected to shake hands and be friends with someone who'd 'done the dirty' on me; it was a bridge too far... I shook hands but could not be friends with this person, and I made that clear. So we skirted round each other for the rest of the years we were in the job, just managing to tolerate one another's existence. This is one of the reasons I want to have my own business rather than work for an organisation again. I'm not very good at working for those with no aptitude, intelligence or good leadership qualities; it's a fault of mine more than theirs.

So, Banjo, I can empathise with you and your feelings at this intruder into your idyllic existence; and understand how you are sizing up Pebble and where you will both eventually fit into the hierarchy of the house. I just hope that it will not be a bridge too far for you.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Male or Female

I thought so! Pebble is definitely Male; he is scared of almost anything and runs to hide in the most unobtainable places; he is also soft and very affectionate, not at all aggressive.

I suspected he was Male and the Vet confirmed it today; giving him his first jab and removed a nasty tick that I hadn't the nerve or expertise to attempt. I thought I was losing all sense of sexual observation when the Vet came to my rescue and assured me that it was very difficult to tell the sex of young cats and remarked that he was too pretty to be male ; phew! I was beginning to think I may as well give up on recognising any suitable male that may present himself to me in the future. He'd have to be well-groomed, have a cold nose, clean and like Pebble be very soft and affectionate; Oh, and a fewTiger-like qualities would be welcome too. Not that I'd recognise a chat-up line if it hit me in the face, as happened when shopping with one of my daughters; a man was asking my advice on hand creams in a very expensive French shop, so I duly gave him advice. He didn't seem to be listening to what I was saying, so I repeated my comments then walked away. My daughter told me how he'd been watching me and it was a chat-up line. I wondered why she'd yanked my granddaughter out of the way. Just as well... I wouldn't know what to do - it's been so long... and no, I can't ride a bike! It's not easy.

It's also not very easy finding Sainsbury's own kitten food pouches; especially when they're on an aisle nowhere near other cat food. I managed to grab the very last bag of cat litter; perhaps there's been a run on re-homing kittens in this area;(just thought - Fireworks, hence the need for more cat litter)?

I must go to the Gym... but kittens need a lot of attention... No, She, sorry, HE must do without me for an hour or two; must get all this into perspective.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

A Sunday found

A far better name would've been 'Tiger', but I'd already used the name for a kitten 30 years' ago, and a pebble isn't what this little kitten resembles apart from the grey and amber flecks. Pebble is the one on the right of this photo!

She has well and truly bonded with me now after just one week from being in the cold outdoors with her feral mother and siblings. She has stopped gorging her food and her litter tray breathes a sigh of relief too. Now that she trusts me, I am able to have a look at her private bits, however, I'm not totally convinced Pebble is a 'She'; maybe Pebble is a 'not very well-endowed' male; it's hard to tell, or I'm just so out of practice!

She has been wormed and de-flea-ed, so too has Banjo who is looking indignant at having to go through the same procedure when if fact she was absolutely fine! Banjo and Pebble are just not bonding. Hissy fits and growls fill the air when they come nose to nose either side of the chicken-wired, make-shift temporary door between them.

Today has passed so quickly, but then, I've spent most of it lying on the floor, playing with various toy mice, marbles and bits of string; laughing and cooing and absorbing the unconditional love and affection that this little mite is giving me. I have had so many 'lost' Sundays this past two years, it's so good to enjoy what is usually for me, the worst and most lonely day of the week.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Whizzes and Bangs

We've had a major breakthrough, Pebbles and me. I approached her, singing and pretending not to be interested in her as she huddled against the back of the dining room chair under the table. I put my hand close and before she could scamper off I tickled her under her chin and behind her ear - Yes! She liked it and began purring, then rolling over so that I could tickle her tum. That's when I noticed an engorged tick on the end of her tail. What do I do about a tick? I can't apply a lighted cigarette; a. because no way would this kitten allow me near with one, and b. I don't smoke! So, I phoned daughter number four, and on it's way to me is a tick remover which apparently resembles a miniature pick-axe. The kitten is gradually being de-wormed, although she doesn't know it, (through her food); any fleas will soon be zapped with magic kitten stuff; all courtesy of daughter number four who is a senior veterinary nurse and who is gradually treating me as her mum again after so long in the cold. The only thing left to conquer is Banjo... hmm.

Bonfire night approaches and I shall be staying in each evening, giving the Gym and miss until all the whizzes and bangs are over. Mind you, I wouldn't mind a few whizzes and bangs myself!

Safe House

The last thing I heard as I lay in bed last night was the hissing and growling of my cat as she'd finally discovered that another cat was definitely hiding out in the dining room. She'd had her suspicions all week, sitting outside the glass-panelled door peering in. Her suspicions were confirmed last night when she saw a small grey blur scoot across the room and onto a chair. I called downstair to her; saying firmly, "Banjo NO! Come to bed!" She did as she was told, taking a backward glance at the door in defiance.

In my semi-conscious state this morning I dreamt I was wading into a flooded area of ground to rescue a friend trapped in a submerged and very expensive car. He was trying to climb through the window and all I could see was his hand waving just above the water line. I swam as hard as I could but didn't seem to be getting anywhere near him. Then he bobbed to the surface and waved saying he was okay. I woke to the purring of Banjo by my head as her paw patted me on my cheek to wake me up and let her out of the house.

What do I do about this terrified kitten? The last of the rescued kittens is next door and is now happily playing with all the family, purring, cuddling up, and being cute; what am I doing wrong? Is it because she is so different in personality? Is it because of Banjo? Does she still not feel safe and confident in my warm house? Is it me?

Like my dream, I seem to be trying very hard but not getting anywhere. Perhaps like my dream, my little kitten will eventually wave her paw and say, "I'm okay."

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Window of Opportunity

For the last few weeks I've had ideas about starting my own business; embryonic ideas at the moment, which has prompted me to undertake research into websites, sourcing, costing, distribution and a whole load of 'new' concepts. While I don't have the finances to embark on a large retail project - yet, I am looking to start with a website-based business to test the market.

The new kitten has taken up more time than I'd like, but when providing shelter for a wild kitten, all normal day-to-day activities go out the window.

'Pebble' now uses two litter trays and very frequently. Within the confines of the closed dining room, he or she has found it's way onto the large sideboard and is huddled under the lamp, which I haven't been able to switch off for 24 hours as he or she hisses whenever I approach. I sing and pretend it really isn't there as I go in and out to change litter trays and top up the food dish. Just like a baby; little and often - both ends!

I have now constructed a large inner door frame of chicken wire, using old bits of wood and bamboo to support the wire. The construction will fit over the glass-panelled existing door to the room where Pebble has taken over. The reason? So that my existing mature cat Banjo and Pebble can see, hear and more importantly - smell each other; thus enabling a better chance of them bonding. I think this is going to be a long, long process; good for taking my mind off grief.

It reminds me of the first pair of rescue kittens we took in, back in 1997 and who spent a week behind the sofa, only coming out for food and the litter tray whenever we left the house for work. It was a long slow process then; one of them never did conform and remained feral while the other soon became humanised, loving and affectionate. It was hard for Him to understand cats; he'd always had dogs and could never come to terms with allowing them their independence; worrying whenever they were out too long or it was dark and they still had not come back through the cat flap.

Why do we do these things? Just when I'm looking into setting up a business...

Monday, 29 October 2007


This photo was taken by my daughter Suzanne

Our family has increased by one kitten; small frightened and with grey and white markings. He or she is in the dining room with its' own buffet laid out, soft toy sprayed with cat nip, two litter trays and soft blankets. Does it use the litter trays? No! Does it use the soft blankets? No! Does it eat the food? Yes! And does it cuddle up to the soft toy? Yes!

Twenty four hours ago this little mite was caught in a kitten trap; the second one to be rescued. The first went to a good home, this one is staying with me - (if it and my existing cat can live together without fighting). The third and last kitten was caught last night and is now in my neighbour's utility room; it too doesn't know what a litter tray is for. I have been able to get close enough to my new kitten to stroke it's tiny head, and I thought I heard faint purring, but all the while it kept its small dark blue baby eyes on me.

While I walked along the pebble beach at Porthkerry last friday before heading home from Wales, I stopped to pick up some large round grey speckled pebbles to admire. Yesterday when asked what I would call the kitten, I replied, "Pebble".

A trip down Memory Lane

On the way back to Oxfordshire at the end of an exceptional week of walking, exploring, visiting angora goat farms, chocolate factories, welsh love spoon makers and attempting to improve three children's knitting abilities each evening; we decided to stop off at Merthyr Mawr and Porthkerry. The first being huge sand dunes near the coast where as a child I ran and scrambled up and down until exhausted; the second is a place that my father took me early in the mornings whenever we stayed with his mother in Barry during the fifties and sixties.

These two photos were taken by my very artistic daughter using my camera. It was getting late in the day and we still had to make the journey home back along the M4. We were all getting tired but nevertheless enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

A week in the wild west

We didn't end up screaming at each other, nor did we suffer cabin fever in our large 12 foot wide caravan at Penally just outside Tenby in wild, unspoilt west wales. The sun shone warm on our backs as we walked along a path to Tenby, each with a chocolate muffin to keep us going until an inviting Tea shop beckoned.

Huge seagulls screeched above, the breeze gentle as we passed a large group of apprentice surveyors on the beach each doing 'things' with their measuring equipment.

As we climbed the steep incline of the west streets that skirted the cliff around the bay, a young workman was talking to a passer-by who must have commented on his strength, to which he replied, "I've had my Weetabix this morning." It wasn't what he said but the way in which he said it; very, very Welsh which stuck with us for the rest of the week and which we all tried in varying successful dialects to mimic.

Being slightly Welsh myself, (both parents were from Barry in South Glamorgan), I began to slip into the familiar lilt and sing-song way of speaking, as did my daughters, although at times our attempts sounded more Bangladesh than Tenby.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Cat Rescue

The small black and white female cat had been dead for about 24 hours when my neighbour, her son and I investigated the overgrown wasteland in our lane. We were looking for three young kittens who'd been seen the night before wandering in the lane. Could this dead cat be their mother; she looked too small to have littered and her small nipples had not been lactating. Rigor mortis was setting in, as too the flies. A small and still-pink tongue peeped out from her mouth like a petal emerging from a rose bud. Her eyes semi-closed and dully glazed over. I know the look of death, whether animal or human; the lifelessness; the emptiness; of a body being no more inhabited by spirit, life or of blood-coursing arteries and veins.

Later, I sat among the thorns and bushes hopefully awaiting sign of hungry kittens; two dishes of fresh cat meat nearby, along with my cat basket in the hope of catching them. Some hope! If they were wild, then no-way would they come near me, starving or not; motherless or not! I pondered whether to leave when a woman from one of the few houses in this remote little hamlet walked by and glanced at me as I sat half hidden by leaves. I didn't know her, nor she me; after all, I've been a recluse for the last two years, hiding away nursing my own grief.

Embarrassed, she looked quickly away and continued walking by. I called out, "I'm not really mad, just looking for some kittens." She stopped and looked visibly relieved. "Oh, I wondered ..." she said.

I suppose it's not often one sees a woman crouched in the bushes, goodness knows what she thought I was doing! We talked for a minute or two and I left the food for the kittens.

Later the RSPCA officer came along with a kitten trap. A large cat was caught; thought to be the mother and was whisked away to be speyed, then returned to the wild shrubbery to be back with her kittens. At some point an officer will return and try to catch all of them.

The little dead cat was removed. I no longer fear death, but it saddens me and brings home the fact that we are all mortal and here for such a short spit in time and reminds me that I must get on and do something with my own short life before rigor mortis sets in.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Twelve years

His little face lit up as I walked into the room; he staggered towards me unsteadily, having only just mastered walking upright for the first time. His eyes sparkled and the smile on his perfect round face gave away the pride and pleasure of his recently achieved skill.

"Who's a clever boy then?" I said enthusiastically; he staggered quickly to his mum putting his head against her leg in shyness, then I crouched down, opened my arms wide and said, "come to Nana..." Amazingly my little grandson; not quite 13 months, and not that familiar with me, ran unsteadily towards me and I scooped him up in my arms kissed him on both cheeks and put him down again. He chuckled in happiness. It was a magical moment for me.

The event may not seem of much importance, however, it was a step nearer to reconciliation with my youngest daughter after 12 years of being estranged; although the last few years have gradually been getting better, this weekend was a milestone. We all went shopping together; daughters number two and four and my newest grandson, having lunch and fun.

It wasn't planned; a phone call to go to my granddaughter's school firework display and the added bonus of daughter number four suggesting shopping and lunch with me... perhaps the next 12 years will be warmer.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Coming up Roses

It was good to rub the last of the jelly off my right breast after the Ultra-sound scan. All clear, no sign of anything nasty, just a false alarm. The mammogram showed a cluster of cells which turned out to be normal. What a huge relief, yet only a few months' ago I wouldn't have cared too much, thinking that it would be not that bad if I were to die. No more grief, no more thinking about him and the good times, no more wondering what the three spinners of destiny have in store for me. My girls are self-sufficient and strong and would survive without me. So what's changed?

The only answer I can give is that perhaps: I have!

Now I want to live - don't know why! Nothing much has changed; I still don't have a job; no friends nearby; no social life; no idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life. But... I'm off to Tenby for a few days at half-term holiday with two daughters and three grandchildren in a caravan, and I'm really looking forward to it. We may all end up with cabin fever and short tempers by day four, but it doesn't matter... we are going somewhere, and together.

I am grateful that my scan showed normal cells, unlike the brave woman in the waiting room with me who had a negative result and was holding back the tears as she and her friend left quietly.

A reminder that Roses have thorns...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel

I used to think that it wasn't a light I saw at the end of the tunnel, but a train speeding toward me instead.

Five months after he died I though I was doing really well and conquering grief. One year after he died I felt as though it had only just happened and that I'd been in some sort of time warp.

Eighteen months after he died I began to think of finding work, hobbies, friends, but a couple of months later I was back in the depth of despair and just wanted to curl up and die. When was it going to end? Was this normal? Perhaps I was depressed as well as grieving.

I'd seen various doctors about my continued fainting episodes and had all sorts of tests done; all knew that I was recently widowed but all they said was "how're you doing?" To which I could only murmur, "Okay", not wishing to even begin talking about it for fear of collapsing in tears in front of them. I suggested to one GP when discussing more results that returned absolutely normal, that could it be some sort of anxiety attack that makes me faint? She shook her head and said "Not unless you're having palpitations as well." Which I didn't remember at the time, but later I realised that yes, I had felt palpitations as well as feeling faint - then promptly fainted; several times.

Mind you, I have fainted several times in my life-time, often hurting myself, smashing teeth, bruising and banging various bones and my head in the process. My blood pressure seems to dip abnormally low at odd times, hence the fainting. If only I could do it gracefully.

Now, two years and one month after he died, I do see light at the end of the tunnel, which some days is brighter than others. And, just when I'm feeling okay and positive about me, life and my future, I receive a phone call to go into hospital this afternoon for another breast scan.

Is a train speeding towards me after all?

Monday, 8 October 2007

California Dreamin

I first saw the Californian Poppies growing wild on the banks of roads while we drove along the Gold Route in California a few years' ago. I bought a packet of seeds from a small shop in the Nappa Valley and since then have enjoyed them in my garden each summer. Petals like smooth velvet turning their faces to the sun, then closing up on dull days and in the evening.

I've been up to my neck in pond weed, nettles and thorns trying to clear out the little stream that runs along the road edge and my garden. Although I don't own it, I am apparently required to keep it clear. Frogs, snails, insects of all types and smelly mud have tried to frighten me off, but did I falter? No. The last bag of ripped-out weed has been taken to the amenity site where a rugged man heaved them into the garden waste bin.

Just the remaining hanging baskets and summer pots to empty and put away for winter, and nearly forgot, the mammoth task of cutting back my neighbour's encroaching hedge that has now become a bramble hedge instead of Beech. A task I shall need help with unless I keep at it for the rest of the winter months. Some of my neighbours don't DO gardening; they hire a man for the day.

If he were still here, he would say, "get someone in and I'll pay." Ahh, those were the days. Where's a good man when you need one? That's what I say.

Instead, a good woman has to get on with the job.

Niagra in Time

Niagra Falls in early winter 2004 where the temperature was minus 21 (it said so on the car thermometer). This photo was taken by my lovely man just a couple of months before he suffered a stroke. He was on a business trip researching a new communications system for our Police and which came into use in the UK shortly after. He was a work-a-holic and the pressure and tension he was under, both imposed and self-imposed was tremendous. He decided to retire on the 30th December that year because the pressure was becoming too great and his request to go part-time had been refused. We had visited Niagra before while on holiday and visiting my brother in Ajax near Toronto. It was a different Niagra then, with sunshine, leafy trees and deep blue waters emerging from the pounding falls. He was relaxed then; no worries and the future looked bright.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Cold Mountain

A few years' ago I read a book called 'Cold Mountain' by Charles Frazier; I believe it was his first novel. It took me a little while to get into his drift of writing, but when I did, I couldn't put it down. Then, shortly after I'd finished reading his novel, I heard that the film was in production. The film was a hit with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law and when I saw it for the first time I cried and cried. The film came out after my lovely man had died and emphasized too, too much the power of love and devastating effects on those left behind. What else can we do, those of us left behind? We struggle on and try to make a life of what's left. In the film, Nicole Kidman says that there were 'clouds and clouds, then there was sunshine.' I'd like to know when my sunshine will come? Perhaps it won't...

As an Optimist am I always deluding myself? Or, am I one of the few fortunate ones that is looking forward instead of backwards? Perhaps my sunshine will come after all...


Trying to book a week away for half-term holidays for two daughters, myself and three children is turning out to be a nightmare; it was so much easier back in the 60's when my young brother and I were carted off to a campsite in Cornwall.

I presume too much; how do I know it was easier. Who knows what complicated arrangements my parents had to make in order for me to think it all happened by clockwork. But then again, not everyone was going to Cornwall, unlike now when the world seems to have booked Center Parcs! All accommodation in all four sites are taken for the half-term week. I should have known!

Perhaps we could all go to a campsite in Cornwall instead?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

More than Petal-deep

I'm always amazed at the beauty and perfection in a lone flower or petal, whether its shape is misformed, damaged by weather or dying. I have a huge number of photos of all kinds of flowers, berries, plants and leaves which the viewing of, cheers me up on dull days.

As I get older I view people this way too, something I should have done when I was younger, but probably too arrogant, immature and proud to do so.

I am no beauty, as someone pointed out to me a couple of years' ago, when comparing me with a photo of my mother in her twenties. She was indeed a striking woman with high cheekbones, full pouting lips and thick, dark hair; nothing like me at all.

When I look at my four daughters, I see four very striking, beautiful women, who, like my mother, are all much more attractive than me. I must be a throwback to a hard-working, work-weary ancestor; of the tall, fair, plain variety. Nevertheless, I have managed to turn a few heads in my time; probably in disbelief, rather than admiration. And when someone has told me how attractive I am, I just don't believe them. He told me often how lovely and attractive I was, and still I didn't believe him, saying that he was biased.

I now think that we are all like the flowers and plants in my photos; no matter how weather-beaten, stunted, broken, misformed, damaged or dying; we are all beautiful in one way or another.

More than petal-deep.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The right word

I once bought a book for my ex, many years' ago entitled: 'The Right Word At The Right Time', in the hope it would resolve a few problems of communication we both had. Of course, it didn't help - it was a very large, thick book that neither of us read, so it sat on the bookshelf gathering dust.

Over the years, I have listened to comments, (although well-intended - I think), that have in some way, upset me, but not knowing how to redress the problem, or whether it was just me taking it personally, I kept silent. Looking back, I can see now that the real issue was me and the embedded experiences of my whole life that coloured my interpretation.

An example: Just after the funeral I received this comment: "D'ont worry, you'll soon find another man." It really upset me at the time, but now, looking more closely at the person who said it, I can see the words meant something slightly different to them, and that in their own clumsy way, they tried to tell me there was a future.

I no longer get upset by 'iffy' comments but look at the context in which they have been stated. The ensuing problem may not be the actual words, but what an individual interprets them to mean.

I know that I have also upset people with throw-away comments that I haven't taken the time or trouble to think about first; it is a problem for all of us, without exception. I have been thinking about some of the things I have said to my girls and friends both in the past, and recently, and wonder why I still don't think before I speak. I should know by now, that what I say, and what is understood can be so different. I am an idiot sometimes and hope that if I have offended them past or present, they will forgive me.

Dubious phone calls

A day like any other - I thought. Preparing for my friends' visit this friday; cleaning, shopping, tidying garden, deciding menus; then the phone rings. "Can you give me details of your massages?" "Excuse me?" I reply. The line abruptly ceased. Hmmm. Another caller who misdialled. It happens now and again. I have had about a dozen calls of this nature over the last two years, usually at the weekends, never on a Wednesday morning before. Two years' ago, after the first couple of mis-dialled calls, my son-in-law-(in waiting), did a bit of detective work and discovered that my phone number is similar, apart from one digit to that of an Oxford-based sex club. I had thought about changing my number, but that would entail so much hassle. Instead, I have answered the calls with undisguised surprise, sometimes I get an apology, most times the line goes dead. It isn't the only type of misdialled occurrence; on a monday morning usually, I receive calls from people wanting to make an appointment with a doctor; is it coincidence? Is there a link? Is a Widget involved?

I smile as I imagine the expression on the poor caller's face as he realises his mistake; and can almost hear the expletive after he has rapidly hung up the phone.

Perhaps I should re-train as a Masseuse after all!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

To bed, with my leg.

After the storm the sun emerged casting its bright life-giving rays over the battered flowers. The orange Geum quivered contentedly in the breeze, smiling despite the tear-drops of water on its velvet leaves; calm had returned.

The owls are hooting again, a fox calls and the nearly full moon struggles to peep out from behind the dark night-blue clouds. Here I am again about to go to sleep; left leg throbbing and twitching like a bag of worms; 'fasiculation' is the fancy medical term. A pinched nerve from the spine? Who knows? The doctors don't! Still, it amuses my two young grandsons. None of their classmates have a Nana with a twitching leg!

I am so pleased that my attempts at the weekend at pasting HTMLs has in fact worked! And, I have now managed to move the symbols to the right-hand bar - wonderful! Now I can sleep - left leg permitting.

Breasts, Sunshine and Lunch

Yesterday was a real moody monday; wind howling across the open field, battering my nurtured verbena bonariensis and bending the last of the chocolate sunflowers to the ground. Only one thing for it: sit at the computer all day and try and paste in HTML codes to my blog - what else would one do on such a day? It was a good day for a breast scan too. My first! Previous tales of squashed breasts against cold metal and of guaranteed intense discomfort preceded my arrival at the travelling van parked outside the Doctor's surgery. Nurses sat drinking coffee, asked me a few questions and in no time I was naked from the waist up and leaning this way and that while the nurse with cold hands squashed my flesh into different positions on the X-ray machine. I'm passed being embarrassed, so do as I'm told without a murmur. In just under ten minutes it's all over, no discomfort, no pain - very clinical and matter of fact - good! I can tick that particular box, but await the results before doing so.

Postman brought an invitation to an interview next Monday - part-time library work at one of the University Libraries. I must brush up on the Dewey Decimal System and the University itself.

Today the wind has subsided, the verbenas have bounced back and the sun is gloriously shining down on my little patch of garden, lifting my spirits as I prepare for lunch with friends at a pub about 45 minutes' drive away. Two friends and colleagues from my past life, when as a Police Trainer in the golden days I met him and fell in love. They have been loyal, funny and there. We have these lunches every two or three months to catch up, laugh and reminisce. A reminder that I was once alive and participating in every aspect of life; and a little hope that one day I will again.

While not a day for pasting HTMLs, it is a day for a short blog, long lunch and smiles.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

More blogging technology

Add to Technorati Favorites

I hope the gobble-de-gook above really works! Perhaps someone will let me know?

Meanwhile back at my ranch I am in the long process of re-writing my CV in the hope I am still employable. I have impressive qualifications and a few other certificates including my 100 yards swimming and fire-fighting for managers. However, I have toyed with the idea of re-training in useful skills such as plumbing, because there seems to be a shortage - especially when I want one.

My young grandson yelled down the stair well, "the flush has broken and it wasn't me..." The modern push-button, imitation chrome flush button had disintegrated into small pieces; hmmm... how could it possibly have done so on it's own I asked my grandson who nose was peering over the cistern. He shrugged his shoulders while not meeting my eyes.

Now this is where searching the web is really good; in no time at all I had photographed the push button flush, and giving details of the make of the bathroom suite, sending off to local plumbing distributors, getting a response of one in stock just a few miles away. With boys in car we sped along, fetched the push button flush and with careful instructions from the nice man behind the counter as to how to fit, we sped home again. Within just one hour and 54 minutes, the new push-button flush was in place and working fine. Had I called a plumber I would have had to wait days for his call-out, a lot of shaking of the head and rubbing of the chin then for him to say it would take a while to locate this particular make, wait another few days or even weeks for him to call back, take 2 hours to fit, and then present me with the bill...

Meanwhile, Grandsons have had a re-cap on the correct way to flush!

It's blogging hard for a Technophobe

Technorati Profile

I really don't know what I'm doing, but Sunday is a good day to try and get my blog listed on a directory, and so far this one seems to be going well. Some sites are difficult to understand - especially about site feeds and claiming... I don't always get it right, but what do you expect from a 'nearly silver surfer'? I say nearly; a few stray white hairs at the front and in a clump, a bit like 'The Mallon Streak' for anyone who remembers seeing the series many years' ago. Clairol and L'Oreal dye products have attempted to disguise the streak over the last few years, but it keeps coming back. Even more alarming is the emergence of one or two white pubic hairs, but no-one else is likely to see these, so I'm not worried.

I'm also finding it hard to think of passwords; do I keep the same one? Not very secure... Do I keep a list somewhere? I really ought to learn more about web-based activities and the terminology - I feel the purchase of a computer magazine coming on, or just keep searching the web.

Meanwhile, on with my attempt and I await the activity of 'spiders'. Is it me???

Saturday, 22 September 2007

More Cotswold pictures

The first picture was taken in the back streets of Bibury.

The photo at the top right was taken just south of Stow on the Wold.

The photo on the right was taken at the Rissingtons near Bourton on Water.