Saturday, January 20, 2018

So these tree fellers came to the door

So, on Thursday, Husband called me and asked me to get some money on my way home. Nothing unusual there. What is unusual is that Husband paid men to cut down a tree.

Husband has lumberjack leanings. Any tree in the garden that has needed pruning or something more drastic he's done it. He loves swinging from trees with a chainsaw in his hand. Or giving me a bit of rope and saying, 'pull on this.'

Actually we did get men in once to cut down an awkwardly placed tree. They broke our garden furniture and generally made a dreadful mess.

Our garden has lots of trees and bushes so any passing self-proclaimed tree feller tends to come and knock on our door. The usual answer is 'no, thank you, I have a man who does that,' so I was amazed when Husband informed that since I'd left the house two hours earlier men had come to the door and he'd employed them.

'They seemed to know what they were talking about,' he said. They agreed a price to prune the large cherry tree in the front garden, 'But when they got up there they found it was rotten and branches were liable to fall off at any minute so it needed to be severely chopped back.' So a new price was negotiated.

I got home to find a decimated tree and a large pile of branches. 'I'm coming back on Sunday evening to shred those,' one of the tree fellers told me.

Husband has paid them in full.

I'm taking bets on whether we'll ever see them again.

(Photo shows tree - in front of another one - at the top left and huge pile of branches, front right.)

The finest comedy in recent memory?

Toni Erdmann
You may remember that Husband gave me some dvds for Christmas. One of them was a German comedy called Toni Erdmann and we watched it this week.

It was ... unusual. I'm not sure how much of a sense of humour Germans have; they're generally not regarded as great gigglers I think. And that maybe is why I didn't find the film 'outrageous'ly funny as it says on the box.

It's about a woman who's a consultant for an oil company in Bucharest. She is very focused on work and her father who is a shambling sort of person with a tendency to play practical jokes worries about her when he goes to visit. In his attempts to help her lighten up and to re-establish his relationship with her he pretends to be someone else i.e. not her father, when they are in company. 

And that's it really. You don't really feel at the end that he has achieved much - although their relationship is improved. There is a completely random and weird sex scene and I was going to say there didn't seem to be much point in having it but I suppose it emphasises her lack of interest in anything except work. Also I say it's weird but bear in mind I have very limited knowledge of what is really weird.

It was moderately enjoyable but don't expect to laugh much. 'Finest comedy in recent memory'? I don't think so.

One of those days

A dog tooted at me yesterday.

I was walking past when he tooted the horn. Unusual, I thought.

Anyway I have lots to do although not necessarily today. But it does mean I should get dressed rather than sit here procrastinating.

But I'm finding it really hard to shift myself.

P.S. I blame the damp grey weather. And the fact that I have lots to do.
P.P.S. I will try to come up with a more interesting post later.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Because it's what mothers do

At about 11.45 yesterday morning my phone rang. 

I was in Zac's leading bible study so I ignored it. About twenty minutes later when we'd finished I checked my phone to find I had a missed call from Husband. 'Why is he calling me when  he knows I'm in bible study,' I wondered. My first thought was 'Oh no, perhaps something has happened to one of the children.'

The phone was nearly dead so I couldn't call him straight back so I planned to plug it in in the car and ring him from there but I was still clearing in the kitchen at Zac's when one of the women came in and said, 'There's someone here to see you, Liz.'

My heart leapt to my mouth. 'It's Husband. He's here to take me to hospital to see my injured (dying?) child!'

It turned out to be a woman who wanted to put up some posters.

I phoned Husband from the car. 'What is it?' I asked. 'Why did you phone me?'
'I wanted to check if you'd had the message.'
'What message?' (Heart, be still, be brave.)
'That I've got men in cutting the tree and I want you to get some money to pay them.'

I wonder if you ever stop worrying about your children.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I just want a pert bottom

Exercise class last night was fairly brutal. Why I thought it would be a good idea to choose a stronger tension band is beyond me. (Sorry, I mean resistance loop bands. I just googled to find a photo and discovered a tension band was something completely different.)
exercise using a resistance band
The exercise we did was a bit like this except we began with the band tense i.e. like he is in the top image. You might be able to look nonchalant, as he is, at that point - but not when you start stretching it out even further. 

Trust me.

Teacher says I'm 'ace-ing it' though. Which is nice to hear even if she is making allowance for my advanced age. I am more than twice as old as the others in the class, nearly thrice possibly! But I try and I probably get points for trying.

It's a Legs, Bums and Tums class and apparently all the young women want bottoms like that Kardashian woman. I don't want a big sticky-out bottom; I would be happy if my bottom just stopped its downwards progress towards my knees.

Spot the deliberate mistake

GrandSon4 loves diggers. Adores diggers. Is crazy about diggers. And machinery generally. At the Botanic Gardens last week while his mummy and I were oohing and aahing over the plants GrandSon4 was attracted by the hosepipe, the socket adaptor, and the man with the blower.

So when I saw this in a charity shop in Egham ...
I had to buy it.

Of course it didn't work but that will be easily resolved with new batteries, I told myself.

Well, it was and it wasn't. The lights flashed and it made lots of noise but it didn't move or raise the digger bit. So Husband took it apart.

I wish I'd taken a photo of it in pieces. I honestly thought there was no way it would go back together. But once again I'd underestimated Husband's brilliance.

The digger bit still doesn't work. 'The cog is broken,' Husband explained. 'I tried sticking it and I hunted through all the Lego to find a piece that might fit it.' (You have to admit he's dedicated: we have an awful lot of Lego.) But it does go forwards and backwards now. 

In reverse.

A different perspective

My mother had one brother so I had one uncle and aunt. But growing up I called loads of people auntie or uncle because they were either friends of my mum's or more usually my great-aunt/uncle. My grandmother was the oldest of eight so generational lines were blurry.

The cousin I visited this week is really my second cousin (I think - my mother's first cousin) and she's in her late eighties, while I have one second cousin who is younger than me. Yes, it's confusing. 

I was thinking about another cousin in particular last night after reading a post on Jimmy's blog about different perspectives and how people remember things differently.

I have one cousin who is six months older than me in age but a school year ahead and a lifetime older in sophistication. As we were growing up she was chatty and confident while I was shy. She was the pretty and funny one while I was the clever one. (In reality I wasn't that clever but I did better at school than she did.) And I would have given anything to be her instead of me.

We were both only children but her parents owned a shop while my mum was a single parent. She had all the latest clothes, which as she was also taller than me, were passed down to me in due course.

A few years ago we met again for the first time in decades  and she confided that she'd always felt that I was the favourite one. I don't think I expressed my amazement at that statement at the time because she still talked a lot and I didn't get a chance. But I know she was the favourite.

I must have been about twelve when we were at a family celebration in a local club. My cousin, with me tagging along in her wake, walked up to the bar where one of our uncles stood. He saw her and introduced her to the man he was talking to as, 'my favourite niece.' 

Then he spotted me standing just behind. 'Ah,' he said, 'and this is my other favourite niece.' It was a good recovery but it was too late.

It wasn't just that incident although that is the most obvious; it was a sense of being different, a little set apart, not really one of the family. There was nothing in particular that anyone did that made me feel that so maybe it was all down to a child's imagination and a different perspective.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I resolved to be dynamic today

I wandered into the bed and carpet shop, took a quick look around then approached a salesman. 'I'd like to buy a bedhead and carpet, please.'
'A headboard you mean?'

I pointed out the ones I wanted and the salesman said, 'That was a quick decision; have you looked around before?'
'No. But I have been in Dunelm all morning and I have no thinking/decision-making capacity left.'

So far so good. Then he checked stock of the carpet. 'Oh dear,' he said. 'I'm afraid that won't be available for three weeks.'
'Okay,' I said, 'what about that one (a slightly different colour)?'
'That's the same,' he said. 'You see they've been on sale at half price since Boxing Day so it's all sold out.'
'Show me some other cheap ones then, please.'

It was the same problem with each carpet I chose: apparently I have the same good taste as the rest of the carpet-buying nation.

Finally he found me some. It was in stock and cheaper. 'I'll have it,' I said. 'After all it's only going on the floor. Nobody notices carpet.' Which perhaps wasn't the most tactful thing to say to a carpet salesman whose whole waking life and possibly dreaming life too revolves around carpets. But he was just pleased he had such an easy customer. 

It was a lot simpler buying carpet than it was buying curtains and bedding for the spare bedroom. I'd tried to memorise the colours but faced by a huge array of shades and patterns my mind went missing. If you recall the room is very pale yellow and pale green. So I bought purple curtains. What can I say? I was desperate by that point. I'd already walked one and half thousand steps back and for around the bedding and curtain aisles, muttering to myself, and wondering what exactly Oxford pillowcases were.

But I've done it. I've bought everything (almost) I need to finish the room plus I visited my cousin June, who is now being called Olive, and I did my Sainsburys shopping. All in all a good day's work.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Winston, Clementine, Franny and Zooey

the letters of Winston and Clementine
A few times recently I've been in the car and caught snatches on the radio of the letters of Winston Churchill and his beloved wife, Clementine. They are so romantic! 

At one stage they have just got engaged and are in the same house (Blenheim Palace) but write letters to each other during the day - and have servants do the running in between of course. 

If you can find it on the BBC website and you have the opportunity it would be well worth listening to, just to get a different perspective on the man that I only vaguely remember, and that's mostly because of his funeral.

I think I might see if they have it in the library. I also want to check if the library has something called Franny and Something (I think) by JD Salinger. 

On a gloomy grey day

Lying in bed this morning Husband and I were talking about our holiday two years ago in S.E. Asia. Outside the bedroom window the trees were being blown around by the wind and the rain was pelting down so memories of a warmer time were rather pleasant.

Our holiday began in the Perhentian Islands where Younger Son and Nuora had set up an environmental project. Tiny islands with no cars or roads to speak of, but sand, sea and sun.

Perhentian Islands
From there it was on to Vietnam, firstly Ho Chi Minh City then Hoi An and cooking with Mo - wonderful experience - and more sun, sea and sand.

Hue was next before Hanoi and then a cruise on a junk around Ha Long Bay where there was plenty of sea and sun but a bit less sand.

Sometimes you just need to remember there is another world outside this currently damp and grey one.

The most excitement a woman can have

I realise I forgot to tell you the most exciting news of the weekend: I shopped in Waitrose!

Let me explain for those unfamiliar with the name: it's a food store but a posh food store. A level up from M&S perhaps but definitely down from Harrods. Swansea is too poor an area to be considered for a Waitrose so when they opened one in Egham near Elder Son's home I couldn't wait to visit it.

Turns out it's just food but a bit more expensive. That's probably an over-simplification. They undoubtedly stock items not normally found in our local Sainsburys but I was with GrandDaughter1 at the time so slightly distracted and not able to appreciate their Harissa Chicken, Cauliflower and Chickpea Meatballs or their vegan Sweet Potato and Chipotle Sandwich. But I did manage to pick up a copy of their free Waitrose Weekend newspaper - in which I found those delights I missed.

It's a newspaper with the emphasis on food especially that sold by - yes, you've guessed it - Waitrose but it does have interesting articles and snippets. One feature suggests 12 New Things to Try in 2018, one for each month of the year. The idea for August was the one that intrigued me.

Try open-water swimming
Try an open-water swim.

Now I've heard a lot about wild swimming over recent years and I've been intrigued and slightly puzzled by it but it seems that open-water swimming is simply swimming in the sea, lake or river. Which is what most of us grew up doing.

Now however the article advises that you consult your doctor to find out if open-water swimming would be safe for you. Because it's cold. Colder than a swimming pool. (They obviously haven't swum in our pool.)

As I've said before, I grew up swimming in Swansea Bay before it was declared polluted and they forbade us to eat cockles gathered in the bay. (I did that too.) And Husband who lived in the Midlands spent his youth swimming in murky rivers. And we've both survived. Whether it affected us only you can judge ...

Into the dome ...

It's 1.18 pm and I still haven't done anything. Not quite true: I have showered - finally - and I'm dressed. I've also begun writing the story of The Frog, the Boy and the Princess. For posterity you know.

I'm taking a day off. Not often I do that and it's a bit of a shock to the system. I'm having to try really hard to do nothing. (That's a lie for a start.) So we'll walk soon but before that I'll blog a bit more.

About twenty miles to the west of Swansea you'll find the National Botanic Garden of Wales and during the month of January they're offering free weekday entry. As it normally costs about £10 that's a bargain we couldn't ignore so on Friday Nuora, GrandSon4 and I set off on a cold frosty morning.

National Botanic Gardens Wales
The futuristic dome houses microclimates from around the world - and is a pleasant change when it's chilly outside.
Not a lot of colour in the gardens but lots of friendly robins. 

The buffalo statue stands on an area turned over to plants of the American prairies and similar Welsh terrains.

As GrandSon4 fell asleep in his buggy we were able to enjoy a quiet walk around the park reaching parts I hadn't seen before.

One of my favourite bits of the gardens is the part given over to 10 ancient tree stumps from Ghana. The Ghost Forest was the idea of artist Angela Palmer who was horrified to that rainforests were disappearing so rapidly. The idea is that the tree stumps are 'ambassadors' for rainforests. (Ghana was chosen because it now sustainably manages its forests.)
I am amazed to discover I don't have any better photos of the tree stumps. It really would help if I named my photos not relied on my memory.

But what became of the horse?

A weekend in Surrey for GrandSon3's birthday party. We took two of our Swansea grandchildren with us so the weekend was less about relaxation and more about hyper-activity and over-excitement.

The grands loved: 
seeing their cousins;
Uncle Rob's pizza;
that they could jump from bed to bed in our hotel room;
the reading light over the bed;
hotel breakfast where they could help themselves;
honey on croissant (GrandSon2) and yogurt from a bowl of ice (GrandDaughter1);
watching aeroplanes come in to Heathrow;
the story of The Frog, the Boy and the Princess.

'Wouldn't you like to play on your tablet?' I asked.
'No! We want a story!'
'We could listen to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'
'No, we want you to tell us a story!'

I have not missed my vocation as a story-teller. Only grandchildren are forgiving enough to understand when Granny gets the names mixed up and Bert the postman turns into Bert the milkman in the course of the adventure. Or that she forgets the horse.

Elder Son made a very dashing Mr Todd though.
He also made an excellent Peter Rabbit cake.
Peter Rabbit birthday cake

And Daughter-in-law organised a great party with loads of Peter Rabbit themed games and activities. Much fun was had by all.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Remember my boots?

Finally feeling slim enough and post-op-tenderness-free to wear my leggings to show off my sparkly Doc Martens to their best.
It's okay but I still can't help feeling that I'm walking around naked. And pulling down on my jumper.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

How many kiwi spoons does a woman need?

The de-cluttering continues apace. I've started on my kitchen drawers. I've managed to throw away a lot of 'stuff' but some questions have to be asked. Such as how many kiwi spoons can a woman use in her lifetime? 
kiwi and grapefruit spoons

They were - probably still are - giving away a spoon with each pack of four golden kiwi. In answer to the question I initially decided one but then thought, 'what if I serve kiwi to guests at dinner? I'll keep four. But a) I have never yet served kiwis to guests; and b) would I give guests a plastic spoon? No. So I've thrown away six and I'm keeping one.

The thought only now occurs to me that I might serve plastic spoons if we were barbecuing and eating outside. No, no, no, I cannot keep things on the off chance that I will have guests, kiwis and a barbecue all on the same day.

Another question to be asked: how likely am I to use grapefruit spoons given I can't recall using them since I've been married? Okay they can go to the charity shop in the hope there will be a Hyacinth Bucket somewhere out there who wishes to impress. (Mrs Bucket is a character from a sitcom Keeping Up Appearances.)

Then there is this assortment. 
Not likely to be used but pretty so I shall keep them. Don't tut at me. I am doing my best to be ruthless.

It's just dilemma on dilemma

We've started decorating the spare bedroom. (Royal 'we' in that I choose the colours and Husband does the work.)

It's quite a dark room with a window at the side of the house and last time I decided to go with that and used a rust sort of colour on two of the walls and yellow on the other two. This time I'm opting for light and space - as it says on the tin.

'You realise this is almost twice as expensive as other emulsions,' Husband said when we went shopping.
'Yes, but it's got twice as many little bright things in it to make the room seem light.'
'You've bought the hype you mean?'
'No, it must be true or they couldn't say it.'

I chose Morning Light and Nordic Spa and planned on doing one wall in the greeny colour and three in the yellowy. Except ...
Husband came downstairs after applying one coat of Morning Light. 'That is very expensive white emulsion you chose,' he said. 
'It's not white,' I said. Then I went upstairs to check it out. 'Oh. It is quite white, isn't it?'
Dulux Light and Space paint
Later I raised the subject again. 'It needs another coat so perhaps we should buy a darker colour?'
'Which means,' Husband pointed out, 'that we bought incredibly expensive undercoat.'

But look: it doesn't look white here, does it?