Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye to 2006

Today is the last day of the year.
Today I bear absolutely no resemblance to the woman who started the year. None what so ever. On the surface I may appear the same, but there is not a single part of me that has not been altered in one way or another. You know, for years I have ended the year saying "Thank heavens that is over. Next year cannot be as difficult / bad / challenging etc etc". I have posted about this before, and about how my daughter pulled me up short and said that bad things will always happen, and that it is how we respond to them that is the point. Wise child.

Last year, though, my prayer was simply that no matter what life threw at me, I wanted to retain the ability to smile, and to find something to laugh about. Such a simple wish. I thought. 2006 has been a doozie. A mega-doozie. And there have been times when even smiling has required herculean efforts. My head has been exploding. And I have learnt that just getting through one day at a time is the only possible way to do it. It is not all about me, and it never has been. It is about all the people who surround me, who love me, about the strength of my family, and the strength of my faith.

None of us are islands. We all live in community. With family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and even strangers. We are supposed to be accountable. We are supposed to be there for the hard times and the good. For the tears and the laughter. For the memories and the disasters. The unthinkable does happen, and it is how we cope with it that counts. I have learned things I would rather not have had to learn. I have discovered things that have hurt me. I have watched as some take a step towards you and some take a step away. I know what a feeling of isolation is like. I have learnt more about fear and anger and frustration, and alone-ness, and responsibility, and worry and pain and guilt than I thought anyone should know. And I have learned more too about love and empathy and determination and sacrifice and faith.

I have watched my three wonderful children grow up over night. I have seen the gentling of their spirit, and the maturity and acceptance of responsibility that loss brings. I have heard them say the words that sometimes we forget to say. I have seen them step up and stand alongside me. How great a gift is that. I am very blessed. And I have made the time to walk with them, talk with them and listen to them that perhaps might not have happened as much before.

I have learned to stifle impatience, and strive for grace and dignity. I have learned that I am not invincible after all, and that trying to do everything is simply not possible. Tears are ok. It is fine to cry. I have leared how hard it is when you have no idea what to do. I have had to learn how to trust. I have learned that sleep is an optional extra at times, and I have learned to say that I need time and space for myself without feeling guilty. I have also learned that my brain's capacity for learning is just fine. I know more about cardiothoracic medicine than any layman should know.

After 31 years as a stay at home Mum with 3 children, and a mother to look after, I have learned that I can get a full time job, and do it well. I am enough. Good enough. I can adapt. I can change. I can learn. Isn't that what life is all about? Change, growth and development? What I want and what I need are two separate things. I have what I need. What I really want is irrelevant. For 6 months, we have lived largely on faith. God has been good. Amazingly good. Maybe I needed to be tossed out of the boat, so that I would have to walk on the water in faith.

So how do I sum up 2006? A year of shock, sadness, pain and loss? Or a year of astounding growth and change? A year of memories and reflection? A year of financial chaos? A year of hope or bewilderment? A year that marked a turning point in all our lives? A year of development and discovery? All of them apply. Maybe to describe 2006 as a seismic year in my family's life would be most accurate.

On the 7th January, it will be just 6 months since Geoff died. 6 months is just 24 weeks really. Weeks. Just weeks. Heaven knows when the inquest will be and there is so much still to be sorted. My family is scattered across the world, and so, of course, is my heart. But I am looking back, and I am smiling, because we are creeping forwards, not marking time, not going backwards. I am proud of me. I am proud of my children. I think Geoff would be too. I have the most amazing sister in the world, and a Mum who is like a rock. I am eternally thankful for a loving community of friends and family who have made absolutely certain that we are not alone.

So here I am. A little battered and bashed. But my eyes are not on the mountains ahead, but on the God who loves me just as I am, and whose faith in me and plans for me are unlimited. And who makes those mountains just disappear. I am blessed.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

We are home again

Hello all..... I am back! I have tried to catch up with some of my favourite blogs this morning, and am sinking under the weight of all the unread news awaiting me. I need a holiday (another one) to catch up!

David and I got home last night after a week on Scotland. I am so glad I made the decision to go somewhere completely different for Christmas this year. It was just what we needed, and staying with my dear friends, who have known me since the beginning of time it seems, was just perfect. New memories made, and at a distance from all the old ones. I really wanted David to enjoy being 17 and normal. Sure, there were moments of sadness, but interspersed with moments of hilarity and joy too. It worked for us.

The turkey was cooked on the BBQ and was a revelation. An excellent idea, and having the oven free on Christmas morning is a miracle in itself. It was hilarious, as the fog was swirling about the patio, and there was the BBQ roaring away. Certainly amusing for my friends in the southern hemisphere! The table was groaning with all the wonderful food....Cheryl is an amazing cook, and I "supervised" from a chair in the corner. Really, she would not let me do a thing, and there I sat, just keeping a running commentary going while she worked. She said having someone to chat to was all she needed.

And I can heartily recommend Nigella's recipe for ham cooked in cherry coke. I know it sounds revolting, but it has to be tasted. Absolutely wonderful. (If you havbe not discovered Nigella Lawson's cookbooks yet, you are in for a real treat!)

I do believe that the most strenuous thing we did during the week was take a gentle stroll up the road through the village one evening. Hmm. Yes, that would be serious exercise. Scrabble in front of the fire, next to the chocolates of course, and mind-numbingly awful tv to watch, and huge comfortable couches, and more cake, more wine, more damson gin, rumpot, laughter and conversation, the lot. See.... I told you it was perfect. The boys disappeared into the loft to play the new computer games, and watch their DVDs, and only emerged when they ran out of chocolate. And I have to admit that there were mornings when I only crawled out of bed at 10.30. Ish. Maybe later. In time for lunch anyway! I was spoilt rotten. It was good.

The fog didn't lift until yesterday, so I am glad I took those photos the day we arrived. And yesterday brought howling gales and rain too, so the drive home was difficult until we got south into England. The wind was unbelievable, and we stopped a couple of times to rest as my arms were aching from the strain of holding the car on the road. Not pleasant driving conditions at all. I love driving, but this was different.

David flew in the front door, and immediately opened all his forgotten presents. It was actually really nice, as, for a short while, my living room looked like Christmas, with paper all over the place, and a happy son grinning. Cheryl and Robin had thoroughly spoilt us anyway, and he did not lack presents to open on Christmas morning!

I spoke to both my older children on Christmas day, and they were having a good time with family or friends. And to Mum and Marge in Switzerland as well. So many different traditions, and different places and experiences. But the most important thing is that we all made it through the first big hurdle, and celebrated the birth of Jesus with joy and thanksgiving, with people who are special to us.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stupid computer. Or stupid blogger.

Shriek................ here I am on a strange computer and I post something which I can see but no-one else can. I am abandoning all and am off to taste the damson gin. Again.

Merry Christmas!

Bonnie Scotland

Hello all.... we are here in Scotland, after crawling north through the abominable fog that disrupted the nation's travel plans. Complete with all the vital essentials, except for every one of David's presents. I forgot them at home. How bad a mother is that. The worst thing is that he thinks it is funny. I do not. I am appalled at myself. Oh well. He will have 2 Christmas present opening thingys.

We spent 2 nights with Ros and family outside Glasgow, and that included a dash into the city to get a couple of presents, and then headed east to Cheryl and Robin. These are views taken from their home. Absolutely stunning. Today the fog has caught up with us, and you can't see a thing, so I am glad I ventured out yesterday. That is Loch Leven, by the way.

I appear to have trapped a nerve in my back, which is not convenient at all. I do not recommend sneezing either. Not good at all. But the turkey is being brined, the damson gin is wonderful. The brussels are peeled, and the ham is being glazed. Now if I could just cease resembling a 170 year old crone, life would be just peachy.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Two more days to go

The last few days of school before the holidays....... Trying to get the kids to work is almost impossible at this time of the year, so work today was somwhat challenging. Emotions seem to be running high with some of the teenagers, but then Christmas is never an easy time for troubled people, is it. One more full day of classes left and then holiday time. Quite a few of the staff are leaving now, and so who knows what the new year will bring. More challenges, without a doubt!

After work, I had a meeting re the next stage of the hospital saga, and then went to visit the babes, and view their tree. Excitement levels in their home are rising by the minute! And Bekah showed me the most amazing drawing she did of Chinese New Year, which has been put on the front of the school calendar. The child is only 5 and is clearly an artistic genius, I feel. Not that I am biased or anything of course!

And happily, I can report that the last things have been posted for Christmas. I am an optimist. They can get there in time. I hope.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

3rd Sunday in Advent

Here is Marge's tree in her lounge. (see the post below this one)

This one is of the tree in the entrance hall. She has 3 trees, and they are all beautiful. Even her doll's house has the Christmas decorations up, and a lit tree in front of it.

Here is another view from her house. Just before I left, there were children playing in the snow on that field, and Marge said they looked just like the village scene she had built across the units in her lounge of lit cottages. Amazing.

And here are my 2 sons with my daughter-in-law. David is grinning as he was standing on tip-toes, to appear even taller. It is a great bone of contention that he towers over his older brother, who is about 6ft anyway! Strangely, my tree looks huge when I look at it, and here it is completely hidden by my children.

I love this photo.

And my daughter, in New Zealand. Just because she is on the other side of the world that does not mean she does not get to feature here too! (more double negatives, but I know what I mean. I am tired.....)

I have great kids.

An unusual weekend

Grrrrrrrrrrr..... I had just finished doing a post and the internet explorer thingy decided to close so I LOST it. I am not happy. Here we go again........

Popping over to Switzerland for the day is not something I would recommend. For longer, yes, of course, but a day?? Maybe not.

However, just look how lovely it is. It was the Engelberg leg of the World Cup ski jumping competition this weekend, so there were thousands there for it, and we had a bird's eye view from my sister's home.

I got a little closer to the action than I had anticipated when their dog, Naxos, ran away from friends who were walking him, and we all barrelled out of the house to go and find him. He was retrieved, I am happy to say, and arrived home quite pleased with himself.

The day started very early, with Louise fetching Mum and me at 4am to take us to the airport. Thank heavens we were early, and got through relatively fast, as the queues for check in and security were taking an hour each within 15 mins of our arrival, and the flight was delayed as half the passengers were caught in the chaos. So we arrived late, missed the train I wanted to catch, and had an extra hour in Basel, which we spent having coffee and croissants in a lovely warm cafe. Then on to Luzern, where Alex met us, and took us up the mountain to Engelberg, and my sister. Mum was so relieved to get there. There was more snow than I thought there would be, and and it really is such a beautiful alpine village.

I had 2 and a half hours to soak in the scenery, drink 2 cups of coffee, and then it was off to the station to get the train down the mountain, and make my way back to Basel and the plane. Marge's home is very Christmassy, and it is absolutely lovely. Here is a photo for you to see part of it. No, Blogger is refusing to load the photos. I will do another post then and add them there.

The flight home (it takes about 1hr 20mins) was early, and a friend fetched me. Everything was going smoothly until we tried to get back on the motorway to drive the 40 mins home. Hah. The slip road was closed for roadworks. So we followed the diversion signs, and headed south. Through the roadworks. To the next junction. Oh no. That slip road was also closed so we went south again, and saw the endless queues of traffic and decided to keep heading in the opposite direction to the way we need to go to the M25, and round to the A1, and up home. It took 2 and a half hours. I got home at 1am. My friend was a saint. And very tired too!

But Mum is now with Marge for the Christmas season, and I got there and back safely. Andrew and Ann arrived for the weekend yesterday, and took David to see Glynis in hospital, and then to Casino Royale, which they all thoroughly enjoyed. It was lovely to have them all here today, and this morning, they brought me tea in bed, and all camped out on it to chat. Now that is the best part of Christmas for me.

So tomorrow it is off to work again, and more meetings, and I must post my cards, and drop the local ones. And the list seems to grow daily. The washing machine is whirring, and so is the dryer, and I think the house is under control for now. Peter is back from South Africa with Matt, and so relieved to see Glynis for himself. 2 and a half more days of school and then it is holiday time. At last!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday thoughts

The week is flying by. Maybe you have noticed this too. How come time speeds up so much as you get older? Christmas is coming, and I may have a twinkling tree, but no time to sit and enjoy any of it yet. Finally I have got the next few days sorted. I am taking Mum to Marge on Saturday, I get 3 hours in Switzerland, and then fly home in the evening. Andrew and Ann will be here for the weekend, and I will see them for Sunday at least. Glynis is on the mend, and should be home soon, and Katherine is arriving back tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow........ letting the dogs out early, more phone calls to make, then work, collecting currency, home to get Mum to take her shopping to get the last few things she needs, visiting Glynis, feeding dogs, cooking, taking David to youth club, collecting Katherine, packing, washing hair, and maybe a few hours of sleep before we leave at 4am for the airport. I lead such a calm and unhurried life. Boring, in fact. Uneventful. What did you do yesterday? Oh I went to Switzerland. Of course. For coffee.

And remember how smug I was about my presents being wrapped in September? Oh yes. I was ahead of myself. Well, some of the labels have fallen off, and now I have no idea who the assorted presents are for. And although I got the few things I still needed, they have yet to be wrapped, and I will have to sort out everything again. And I only did my cards yesterday, and I have yet to post any. Not to mention the parcels I have not posted. I operate on the assumption that "final posting dates" do not apply to me. I have the idea that if I leave it really late, then my parcels will be the only ones on the plane so will get special treatment, and arrive in style. And the postmen will be bored with little to deliver, so will delight in taking my parcels to the addressee. Yes, well. I will see.

The parcels I wrapped still have to be delivered, and so do the local cards. Here in the village, we all walk around hand-delivering ours. Or drive, in my case, usually with my son doing the running back and forth with the cards. It all takes time. And time is what I am running out of.

I could hear tomorrow exactly what I will be doing at work. Intriguing, but a little frustrating waiting for them to make up their minds. I still thoroughly enjoy what I am doing and that is good. So here are the 5 things am thankful for today:
  1. Confirmed air tickets
  2. A job I love
  3. Family support
  4. Glynis's recovery
  5. Blogs that inspire me

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Heidi, hilarity and hospitals

Before I say anything....Heidi, I have been trying to comment on your blog and it keeps saying they don't recognise my password, but then mysteriously, I appeared logged on when I went to post this, so I may have left a few messages, or not. But I love your tree and butterflies! Very appropriate.

Today started with a hilarious class. The textile class had a supply teacher. Get this, we were making Christmas cards using fabric, glue etc. The supply teacher was about 26, 6ft 3" of very attractive male, rugby player, in his tracksuit. Turns out he was a PE teacher, who had never seen a textile class (or kids quite like this challenging 14 year old bunch). I do believe he had never used scissors in his life either. Or dreamt of making a card from fabric. I grinned and said..... I think you may need some help. Oh boy. Did he ever. Then the only fabric I could find was black, dull pink or orange. Not good for Christmas cards. I unstuffed a model and showed them how to cut snowmen from wadding (batting in the US), and hacked away at some netting. He looked on in horror. He had no paper out or glue, or pencils. (These kids never bring anything they need to class.) Between retrieving kids who tried to go walkabout, dealing with strange kids who decided to randomly join the class, and discovering that if you start talking loudly in a foreign language, the kids stop their unappealing behavior, we made it through the class. At one stage, they asked for sequins. Well, I said, if someone had not thought fit to toss the entire class supply into the playground, we would have had plenty. The next minute, all the girls had vanished. I found them crawling about the quad outside picking up sequins. I told you it was an interesting job, didn't I. And at least 3 of the 20 cards were vaguely recognisable as Christmas cards. This is good. It could have been 2.

This evening, after fielding dozens of calls re Glynis, I went to see her at the hospital, and she looked much better, though she is still very weak. She is waiting for test results, and has more scheduled for the next few days. I think she will be there for the rest of the week, and thankfully Peter will be back on Sunday. Katherine (her daughter) read her my last post. She was amused.

I still find it very difficult to be in the hospital though. And the worst was when I had to take her to the section where I took Geoff when he was admitted. I had not been there since then, and as I wheeled her along, I really struggled. I saw the place we had to pause for him to catch his breath. The place where his consultant was standing chatting. The desk where I checked him in, and the cubicle where I effectively handed him into their care. It was very very difficult. Once she was settled, I had to go outside for a walk in the cold air. Her cubicle was opposite the one he had. Isn't it strange how things matter. I told her about what I had felt today when I saw her. I am just glad she was so out of it at the time that she could not have seen my face. But I am ok, I hasten to add. These moments will happen.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A little tired.....

Ok, so I never did go to bed last night. I still haven't but believe me, I am on my way now. My friend got worse and at midnight, I took her to hospital, and we only got onto a ward after 5 in the morning, so after going to check her place, and sort dogs, contacting her husband on the other side of the world, and daughter too, there was no point in going to bed. I went to work, and we had yet another exam. I told the little angel that if I fell asleep, he was to prod me with his pencil before I made a complete fool of myself by keeling over onto the floor and causing a memorable diversion. He looked forward to the opportunity with considerable glee, but I stayed awake. I survived. Just. Now I am on my 44th wind I think. Not in the least tired. But Glynis is resting in hospital, having more tests, and much better, and friends are all rallying round the way they always do. I have said more than once that this is a great place to be, and our friends are exceptional.

At this point I will add that at some stage of the very long night, she did say in a whisper.....if you put any of this on your blog you are dead meat, or words to that effect. I would not DREAM of detailing the night. Not would I have dreamt of leaving her there alone. But when she is home and better, all bets are off!

Now I am going to crawl into bed. Night.........

Sunday, December 10, 2006

2nd Sunday in Advent

Hello. I am here. This has been a crazy weekend. Again. I thought I would be sitting in my lounge relaxing right now. Instead I am at a friend's home, looking after her, as she is not well. It is late, and I will probably stay the night, to make sure she is ok.

Today we were up early, as Ros and Martyn were here from Glasgow, and said they would pop in for coffee early. They did, and we did some catching up, before they left to see their parents and deliver parcels. Then Mum, David and I whizzed down to Andrew and Ann in London for lunch, bearing our parcels. We got there in record time, and had a lovely lunch with them, and spent the afternoon chatting and just enjoying all being together. They also put their tree up yesterday so it was all very Christmassy too. Ginny popped round with the most beautiful fruit cake she had made for us, and a basket of spring bulbs as well. Thanks so much Ginny!

Then back in rain and howling gales and traffic from hell to drop David at Liz to help move stuff, and home. The tree looks really lovely, and all the other decorations I am putting up are in place. 2 Mins to put the kettle on, and the phone rang and it was my friend to say she had had a lousy day, please could I feed the dogs. So I came, sorted the hounds, and settled her, and went back home. An hour later, her daughter called me to say she had just spoken to her mum and please could I go back, so here I am. Everything is ok, and she is asleep, so I found the computer and decided to say hello.

I have been sitting in the conservatory thinking. You know, this is a reminder of how I have always been lucky enough to have had the time to be there for my friends when I have been needed. I am the one people called to fix things, or help or sort. Until now. And now I am working, and I can't be there for everyone any more. I am finding this hard. I have been on the phone sorting out people to step in tomorrow if they are needed, but I am the one who usually does this. It should be me. I want it to be me. But I can't be everywhere, and so I am feeling a little displaced. By myself, if you see what I mean. Not in a controlling way, but it feels like I am losing part of who I am. I don't want to not be able to help (and I know all about double negatives!) And I am thinking of all the friends I usually have time to talk to, to listen to and who I have not spoken to in the last 2 weeks. Now I feel more guilty. I don't want anything to be more important than the people who matter to me. They need to come first. So how do I get the balance right? This is going to be a challenge. I need to get it right.

I am also aware that I am so busy at the moment, and have so much going on in my head, that I am shelving the tough stuff. I don't have time to grieve or be sad. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not that good. I wish I had just some of the answers. I wish I knew if I was doing the right thing. I just have to trust and keep plodding on.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I promised

Oh yes, I did promise a photo of the Father Christmas that drives all adults crazy, and keeps the babes in a frenzy. Here he is in all his glory. If I had a way to get you to "share" in the demented singing that starts when you walk past, bump the table, touch anything, believe me, you would be sharing. And he rises slowly out of the chimney and starts dancing about, and so do the babes. They came round this afternoon, and did indeed dance. Without pausing for breath. So help me, when we put him on the top of my display cupboard to have tea in peace, he started again for no apparent reason. More dancing and shrieking with delight. He may well find his way back to the loft in a few days.

My tree is up, and I am nearly finished putting up the lights and garlands in the kitchen. It has rafters and skylights, so they look great. And I am happy to report that we have hot water again. Thanks to Jane at work who suggested the fuse might be blown. It was. I fixed it! And the leaves are swept up in the garden and I am now going to doze in front of the TV.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Please note!!!

Beta blogger is not letting me comment on some blogs, so I am just here to say I am checking in, and will keep trying!

Here is a little silver tree, made for me years ago by my friend Lynda, when she first started working with silver. And it is engraved on the back. How special is that!

And this is one of the many many home made decorations I have made over the years, and given away too. When I go to my friends' homes, it is such a lovely warm feeling when I see the things I have made on their trees!

And here is my tree. It is all gold and has a zillion lights on it and a gold star on the top. The kitchen/family room is the brightly coloured part of the house! I have lights and garlands on the rafters, but that you can see when Boomama has her tour. Normally I have a lot more Christmas stuff out all over the house, but not this year. It still looks good though!

Christmas tree treasures

Morning Glory is hosting Christmas tree treasures today, and I had every intention of putting some of mine up for you to see, but MY TREE IS NOT UP. My boxes are not down from the loft. I am a failure.

Tomorrow our tree will go up, so I am going to post more photos then, but for now, I have one photo of my little scene of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on a donkey with sheep to show you. It is out as I speak, and it is so sweet. I bought it a few years ago in Switzerland, and I just love it. And don't even think about commenting on the dust. That is tomorrow too.

I hope I am not the only one who will be posting after the day. I will just add them to this one, so the linky thing will stay the same. Sorry, Morning Glory!

Update: The tree is up and it looks lovely. Here is a little Swarowski crystal angel, that I got a few years ago. Really special. And with the lights, it shimmers in the tree.

And here is one of my Hummel decoartaions that I just love. My sister and Mum got these when they went to Germany a few years ago.

Blogger won't let me add any more photos. Screech. I will post them with the next one up.


And I lay in bed last night thinking about my memories, and had to add the one when Andrew was about 7 and got a remote controlled boat. His father, grandpa and great-uncle wouldn't let him play with it in the pool until they had "tested" it. That meant until all 12 very large batteries had died. I have that on video! Poor kid was dancing around the 3 men pleading for his turn for ages.

Isn't it great... I had a comment from Colin, one of my childhood friends who used to be at those open evenings at my parents home, and he has great memories of a shared childhood too. They went on into our adulthood, and in turn, the children of those early years brought with them their husbands, wives and children too.

Right, I need to go to work. And so help me, the hot water has ceased. As in there is something wrong with it. I can't cope with that right now. Geoff always fixed those things. Later. I will think about it later.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Memories

MomRN2 is hosting a Christmas Memories day, and I am delighted to join her in her Quiet Corner with some of my own.

My favourite Christmas memory.....

I too have lived for over 50 Christmas celebrations, so there are many wonderful memories. My parents always had an open house on Christmas night, and usually there were about 30 - 50 people who turned up. No-one was ever invited, they just arrived, and the house was overflowing with people, kids in the pool and adults out on the veranda, around the tree, games played and tables groaning with wondeful food. Carols sung together and so much laughter and love. And noise too of course. Wonderful memories. There was always a present for anyone who came, and anyone was welcome. I grew up in the southern hemisphere, so it was the middle of summer, and life was very different then.

I remember how we had to get to church an hour before the 7.30am service on Christmas mornings, just to get a seat, and how there was always the sound of toys throughout the service, which was followed by a second one straight afterwards, and how everyone stayed outside to exchange greetings on Christmas mornings, with 2 congregations mingling. So many hugs and smiles. Walking to my grandparents afterwards for breakfast.

I am trying to think of one particular memory, and I can't. Too many crowd my mind. There was the Christmas when I was expecting David, and Geoff was on an oil tanker that was sinking off the coast, with a salvage team, and so could not be home. He called on Christmas afternoon, and said that he and another officer were bringing the Gemini craft ashore, so the kids and I raced down to the beach to meet him for an hour, and sat on the rocks catching up and showing Daddy presents before he had to go back. What a perfect gift for my children, seeing their Dad unexpectedly. The year our whole family went to my sister in Switzerland for Christmas. In fact, thinking about it, that was the very last time we were all together. Dad and Geoff were alive then, and we had a glorious time in the snow. I must find those photos. Last year, when we celebrated Christmas in Andrew and Ann's new home. Another special memory. More special now that Christmas will be so different without Geoff. Memories of all the people who have joined us to celebrate over the years. All special and so much a part of our lives.

I have been very blessed. I know this is disjointed and not one particular event. I just can't think of one year that stood out. They have all been the best I could have wished for. I have a wonderful family, and wonderful friends. There will be more beautiful memories in the years ahead too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I am an elf

You will be happy to know that my Christmas Elf Name is Chipper Twinkle Toes. Do not ask. I found that out on one of the bloggy things you can click on. Diana, you are Happy Sugar Socks. You will be delighted to hear that. Chipper Twinkle Toes. Good grief.

Today I came home to a welcome party of the babes and Jackie. What a lovely noisy happy surprise. They raced about the house, happy and having fun, and I flopped in a chair and just loved having them all around. Simon came in search of his family, and has valiantly agreed to check the Christmas tree box in the shed to make QUITE sure that there is no mouse, dead or alive in it before I allow it in the house this weekend. I don't do rodents, as I have said before, and after my close encounter with one in the summer in the shed, and my industrial strength rodent dispatching stuff, I want to be certain it worked. The dispatching stuff. The babes can't wait to see the Santa which emerges from a chimney and dances and sings when you bump the table. They remember it from last year. So does every adult who heard it. It was banished to the kitchen, and still it danced and sang. I did offer to lend it to Jackie, but she said she didn't have any room. Sigh. Don't worry. You will get to see a photo.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


And can I add that the little horror thought I was 65. I clearly need a make-over. Or something.

Exam lectures

Today's highlight was the RE exam. Same little darling. He finished in 10 mins, saying I don't know to all the questions. Hope departed. I discovered that making paper aeroplanes out of unused exam paper is definitely frowned upon. Him not me. He was removed for a stern telling off. I was heard to mutter plaintively that "there is nothing in the handbook about making paper planes being a mortal sin". Hmmm. He had no intention of throwing it. I don't think. Oh well. Oops. While playing noughts and crosses on the scrap paper for 1 hour and 50 mins, we had a whispered discussion about the necessity of being able to have an intelligent conversation when one is older. That means learning something in school. That means listening in class. That means studying for exams. I informed the little cherub that even cooking required English, Maths, Science and Art. He was horrified. Any ideas for the subject of the next lecture after tomorrow's exam???????????

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday mumblings

Christmas is no nearer happening in my home. I have nothing out yet, and I have good intentions, but not enough hours. Maybe tomorrow.

I have just come back from bookclub, which was excellent, and we managed to discuss where we are going for our 150th meeting in Feb. We are looking at renting a house in the countryside and have every intention of slobbing about in pjs all day with comfy chairs and books and plenty of wine and indulgent food. 10 women together for a weekend. Sounds fun to me. We definitely need a fireplace too.

Mock exams are on the go at school at the moment. That means sitting with individual special needs kids and reading the paper to them, and watching them write their answers. We can't help at all of course, but some of the things they write are imaginitive to say the least. The difference between the X and Y chromosomes is, you will be pleased to know, that the X chromosome has extra bits. The sweetest lad I was with today looked at me in the middle of the maths paper, and said..... maybe I should have listened in class. I grinned. There is hope.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent

Well, the weekend did not go quite as planned, and in a way that was good, but in a way not. Normal in other words. Today we were supposed to go down to London to see Andrew and Ann, but he phoned early to tell us that the boiler had ceased to work, and they were expecting the gas man to arrive, so I suggested we come another time, and they agreed. So I got to stay in bed a little longer and relax with my book. I have just finished reading "The Island", by Victoria Hislop, and I can highly recommend it to you all. It is one of my bookclub books (bookclub is tomorrow and I will amaze the girls yet again, because I have managed to read at least 2 of the books) and it is quite brilliant.

Not going to London was good for another reason too. The weather last night (and all today) was just foul. Torrential rain, gale force winds and hail. Louise and James are stranded on Jura as I speak, because the ferries cannot run. They may be there a while as the weather does not look like improving in the next day or 2 either. So I had a lazy-ish day. I contemplated getting the Christmas decorations down from the loft, but decided to wait. The ladder was wet. It is in the garden. In the rain. And flopping is good. We did light the first Advent candle tonight, though. Now it feels as though Christmas is coming at last. Morning Glory is hosting her Christmas Tree Treasures day on December 8th, so get those special ornaments and your stories ready. I have NO idea how to do the linky thingy, but will give it a go on the 8th.

On Friday, while I was battling the little darlings at work, Mum decided to be helpful, and empty the biggest cupboard in my kitchen. I have been talking about sorting the cupboards for months, I know, but she chose Friday. I came home to 3 inches of counter space available in the kitchen. Hmmm. Anyway, I leapt out of bed yesterday in a manner more suited to a 20 year old, and decided This Was The Day To Conquer The House. So I zapped through the new room downstairs, packing away craft fair things, and throwing stuff into the pile for the tip, and recycling bin. Then did the same with all the things out in the kitchen. All the ancient baking trays are gone. So are the mis-matched cups and saucers. Pot lids (do you also have zillions that belong to nothing?) old frying pans, breadboards etc. Gone. I made an epic trip to the tip, and came back, packed away all the woodwork things, and I now have my kitchen back. After months of alternative use. 5 loads of washing and more tidying, and taking a broom to the cobwebs around the ceiling..... the feather duster thingy is hiding somewhere..... and I was finished in time to watch Strictly Come Dancing, then out to dinner at friends. So you see, I deserved the lazy day. Not that it would not have been great to see A and A of course.

Tonight I have been preparing for house group on Tuesday, and finding papers I need to make calls about in my breaks at school. The calls, and paperwork don't stop just because I have to work. I will have to get out all the medical papers this week too, as the Hospital has to respond to my official complaint by the 12th, and it takes me ages to get back into the medical mode. I need to be ready for the meetings that will follow. Sigh. Oh, and David is walking Humphrey, Glynis and Pete's brown lab for the next 2 weeks, and I am still feeding Louise's cat, so that was another 2 trips on my lazy day as well.

And another book thing........ if any of you have NOT read "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat" by John Ortberg, then read it now! We are doing it at house group, and it is wonderful.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I lay in bed in a stupour last night, and I thought of endless intelligent and fascinating subjects to blog about. That was yesterday. Today I can't think of a single one. (Note to self: put pen and paper closer to edge of bedside table.) I am flagging after the first week at work. Today was volcano time at school. As in the pressure was released after the good behaviour of the inspection days, and with a high percentage of the staff absent, the kids had a field day. We were crawling by the end of school. I didn't stay for the celebration party, but came home to try to sort things here. I failed. It can all wait till tomorrow. Procrastination is good. has been a good week. I have met super people. I have survived a new experience, learned a lot and have enjoyed most of it too. I just need a few more hours in the day really. I will try to remember those fascinating topics for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Crazy day

It has been one of those days. I even completely mixed up times at work, and forgot tea break until I stood there wondering where on earth the children were, and realised I was an idiot. Sigh. I seem to have been moving at the speed of light all day. The inspectors have been and gone, and hooray, the school is OUT of special measures, so that is a dramatic improvement. Tomorrow will be celebration time.
Then I came home, and managed to have a coffee and chat to Mum for a few minutes, before I had to go and collect the new allotment key, pay the annual rent for the allotment, which is all of £5.00. Yes. FIVE pounds for a year. And go and feed Louise's cat. Then to David's school in the next town, about 12 miles away in rush hour traffic for the parent teacher conference. 3 teachers in 15 mins. Then home in more foul traffic to drop the car, and throw myself into Jean's car which had already been packed with the craft fair things in it, and go and do her school craft fair. Home at 10 and I am ready for bed. I don't think I sat down after 8am. I need to relax in a nice hot bath. One more book could well be about to be drowned.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Okay, I confess I do all these things when I see them on blogs, but never post them. However, this may make those who know me laugh. A lot. BUT........ I am calm and much quieter these days. I am changing all the time. That goal of serenity I had when I was very very young, just might not be as far off as I thought after all.

You Are Sunrise

You enjoy living a slow, fulfilling life. You enjoy living every moment, no matter how ordinary.
You are a person of reflection and meditation. You start and end every day by looking inward.
Caring and giving, you enjoy making people happy. You're often cooking for friends or buying them gifts.
All in all, you know how to love life for what it is - not for how it should be.


We have survived day one of the inspectors, though not without incident. Purely by accident, one managed to be drenched by a malfunctioning tap in a lesson, and left at top speed, unimpressed. Oops. I wasn't in that class, but the girls reporting the event were a little shell-shocked. But then, we all know accidents happen. Wrong day and wrong time and wrong place. A well developed sense of humour might have helped a bit.

Go and read Mel's Missing : Baby Jesus post. I was rolling around here. She has a wonderful way with words, and I guarantee you will howl with laughter too!

I am running so far behind at home at the moment...... I need to get sorted and try to restore some order to the tip, and hopefully this weekend will get some things done. And I must get out the Christmas stuff too, though that may have to wait till next week. Ummmm, this weekend , I have just realised is not blank in the diary. It is packed. In fact, most of December looks the same. And I still have to get Mum to Switzerland for Christmas with Marge sometime. Anyone know how to multiply oneself? Cloning...... but that would take too long. So WHAT am I doing on the computer when there is so much to do???

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Books (and other bits)

Barb has a book thing on her blog today and as everyone know how much I love reading, I thought I would do it too. (with apologies for the paraphrasing)
  1. Where do you buy your books? Online, secondhand or from Big name stores?Anywhere and everywhere, but I do like to browse and touch the books and read the backs, so I prefer real shops.
  2. If you buy on line, which do you prefer - Amazon, B&N or Christian stores online? Amazon. Never heard of the B&N one. England has other shops.
  3. Do you put your name in your books? If so, bookplate or stamp? Usually, I write my name, the year and place I am living in it.
  4. How do you feel re loaning your books to others? No problem lending them. I am quite happy to lend any to friends if they want to borrow them
  5. Do you ever highlight or mark your books? Not usually, unless the book is educational
  6. How often do you visit your local library? Not for a long time. I will be though. Soon. (Guilt)
  7. Do you collect any certain kind of books? No. I have a collection of craft books, but they are older now. I buy the authors I love, and I love biographies. Any books. I have far too many. My mother always said you could never be lonely if you had a book to read.
  8. What do you do with a book you no longer want? I give them away, take them to the bookbank or throw them into the recycling bin (if they are drowned ones...see no.10)
  9. Do you list or catalogue your books? You have got to be joking.
  10. Any other weird habits you would like to share? I am uncomfortable in homes where I can't see books anywhere. I read in the bath (and drown books regularly), and when I travel, I have to have enough books with me to last a millennium, just in case. i always need to know i have books waiting to be read in a pile somewhere. I am weird like that!

Other bits........

I emailed my Christmas newsletter (the one daughter made look so classy and professional ) to our friends and family yesterday, and I am really glad I did it now. I have had some lovely responses to it, but reading them closer to Christmas would not have been the best of ideas. So the timing was right. Christmas lights are starting to go up around the village now, and I imagine this weekend will see a lot more going on display. It is still so warm, though, and it feels weird to not be wearing jackets and coats at the end of November.

The inspectors arrive at the school tomorrow, and today was just crazy, especially as the intranet crashed, and none of the teachers could access their lesson plans etc. And there is a real possibility that no school computers will work tomorrow, which should make lessons somewhat... er... "interesting", shall we say. Now, when I think that when I started school, we still had pens with nibs, and inkwells and blotting paper........... chalk and blackboards and dusters and knuckles rapped by rulers......... and slide rules and log books..... I realise I am talking a totally foreign language here of course, but somewhere out there there has to be SOMEONE who also remembers all these things!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Challenges are good

I am here. I am still sane. I am still happy to go to work in the morning, even though today was trial by fire really. Today I met the class from hell. Or rather, a "challenging bunch of kids" with multiple problems. Domino effect in action. I spent the greater part of the day trying to help where I could, while at the same time trying to work out alternative forms of teaching which might possibly reach kids like these in my head. (An academic conundrum for me). This is not part of my job description, I hasten to add, but there has to be a way to connect with them that works.

The people I am working with are lovely, and are all so determined to make a difference, and there is a lot of laughter and support among the staff, which is good. I am just wondering how long it takes to become frustrated, disillusioned and to want to give up trying. Maybe I have a naive attitude to it all at the moment, but I look at these 13 year olds, and wonder what on earth lies ahead for them. They don't care. Thank God, there are people out there who do.

Somehow Mum managed to trip the electricity to all the plugs in the house while I was out, and didn't know how to get it back on, so had to wait till I got home this afternoon. She has now had a lesson, and has the phone numbers of people around to help if it happens again. In a way, she is the one whose life is changing the most, as I am not around the house during the day any more, but she always manages to keep busy.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Odds and ends

Today it was 16 degrees in Engelberg. Nothing wrong with that???? Well yes, there is. Engelberg is high in the Swiss alps, and the ski season started today. It is nearly December. In 3 weeks time, the ski jumping world cup is in town, as it is annually, and it is too hot to snow, or even make artifical snow. This is not good. According to our papers, Austria and Switzerland have a real problem with the warm weather and lack of snow and the ski season starting. And the next 3 days are all due to be 13 degrees or higher.

I did another craft fair today, which was fun, although the weather was so diabolical that few ventured out. Torrential rain then wind then more rain. Now, of course, there are clear skies. It is the middle of the night.

Bekah is reading beautifully. I babysat for the babes tonight, and she read me her school books. How did that happen?? She is growing up too quickly.

And something is giving me pause for thought. From when I was young (many moons ago) I have always said I would never teach. Had no desire to teach. Would do anything except teach. Didn't want to teach. It has always been the ONLY thing I would never consider. I always acknowledged that I would probably be a very good teacher. But me? Teach? No way. So why do I hear this faint laughter in the back of my mind? Am I imagining it? I have this vision of God rolling around, clutching his sides laughing, and saying...."Finally, finally, after 31 years, she realises what she was meant to do". Hmmmmm. I am not ready to admit anything yet. How long was Moses in the desert? 40 years. I am not there yet. My head hurts just thinking about it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Day 1

Starting a new job on a Friday is an excellent idea. You have the weekend to recover! It is, at least, better than waiting for the new week to arrive and worrying. I had a good day. The people I am working with are lovely, and I really enjoyed my day, bewildering though it might have been. The school is being inspected next week, so everybody is focussing on that, but I told them I require L plates to wear for those days. I do not need any inspector thinking I know what I am doing after only a couple of days!

This week I am fairly certain I will be in the textile and woodwork departments, as that is where there is the greatest need for extra help, and I had a ball in a carpentry lesson today. Once the boys realised that I actually knew how to use a saw, and to help get their lines straight, I was away. The time flew by. And I had fun!

So I survived the first day of orientation, and induction etc. And I am not running screaming for the hills just yet. And I am looking forward to Monday, so that is good. It certainly won't be boring. And thanks so much for all the lovely messages I have received. It is so good to know that people care.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A UK Thanksgiving

Well, I am having my own little thanksgiving party. That is me, coffee and chocolate. Today I went for an interview and got the job, and I start tomorrow. No letting the grass grow under my feet in any way here. I cannot tell you how many application forms I have filled in and sent off, and how few even bother to acknowledge your application or send an email to say you did not get the job. BUT...... I have a job. I am indeed thankful, and it is a case of right time, and right place. And right friends.

I will be working in a local secondary school, and have no idea what I will actually be doing. That sounds quite bizarre, but that is because they have a number of posts going, and want to see which is best suited to my skills. So they will be trying me out in different places I think. I will expound more when I have an idea myself. Learning support, learning mentor, then there is the fact that I have a degree in history, and can sew and do carpentry, and they are short of textile teachers and DT staff, so heaven knows. Probably a bit of each. And I like kids.

This week, I decided to stop worrying about finding a job, pray and leave it to God to sort, and then walk through the door that opened first. This is the door. I am walking through it. So I am on an adventure. And the best is that I get to have the school holidays to spend with my son, and that is very important at the moment. He won't be home for many more years. Just one and a half now before he is off to uni.

So, today I am truely thankful for:
  1. A job that challenges me
  2. An income
  3. The support of friends and family
  4. Encouragement
  5. A God who has great plans for me and whose timing is always perfect

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wonderful documentary

I have just watched the Young at heart Chorus documentary filmed by a British company on Channel 4. This is an American choir, or chorus, made up of men and women whose average age is 80, who love to sing, but not Gershwin or golden oldies, but ROCK! They are absolutely wonderful. They tour the world. Check the website out, and get to see them if you can, and I guarantee you will never moan that you feel old or tired again. I also want to prance across a stage singing rock hits when I am 80 odd. I feel it is the least I can do, and as some kids said after a concert, they look like they are all having fun. That is just the way it should be. And when they sang in a jail, the inmates (all young men) were blown away too.

Right then. That is settled. I will become a rock star when I am 80. I have decided. And I think we could start practicing now. I never had any intention of aging according to the rules. I am making them up as I go along. And I can get to tour the world too. Who needs knitting and afternoon naps.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Well, I am reading all about turkeys and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, but here we do turkeys for Christmas. So what do Americans eat for Christmas? More turkey? I don't think I could face 2 in 2 months. And all the leftovers. In actual fact, I have no idea why we eat turkey at Christmas. In Europe they certainly don't, and my brother-in-law is more likely to cook lamb. In Europe it is all about Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day is fairly normal. Christmas in an Alpine village is worthy of a post of its own.

We don't have Thanksgiving here, and I have said before that it is the one holiday I think the whole world should celebrate too. We all have so much to be thankful for after all. But in case I forget, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it this week!

When we were children, in South Africa, we were always convinced we would be the only children in the entire world with no tree, because my father used to bring ours home late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The excitement was unbearable, and the fear he would forget! We used to sit on the pillars at the end of the driveway waiting for his car to appear, hopefully with a tree strapped on the roof. We would decorate it and then after we had gone to bed, he would do the lights and we would creep through in the morning and the room would be full of twinkling lights and parcels. Magical.

In England, the trees go up round the beginning of December, and so do the house lights, which seem to multiply by the year. Given that the houses are very close to each other, it can be a very bright affair. Advent is important, and my sister in Switzerland, Mum, when she was in South Africa and I used to light our advent candles at the same time on a Sunday evening, in 3 time zones, so we shared the feeling of being together though so far apart.

And there is Christingle here too at the start of December, although I had never heard of that before we got to England. We collect money in a special envelope for children who are in need, and during the Christingle service, everyone gets a Christingle. It is an orange (the world) with a red ribbon around it (blood or love of Christ), dried fruit on 4 cocktail sticks (the 4 seasons and fruits of the earth), and a white candle in the centre (Jesus, the Light of the World). It is a lovely service, especially when the candles are lit during it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hair disasters

Owlhaven has had a bad hair weekend. I know the feeling. I remember when I was a student and babysat for a leading hairdresser. He always said "Come in and let me do you hair for you". He did all the hair in magazines and cost the earth to go to, so I thought go for it. Too good a chance to miss. Hah. He decided that my red hair could do with henna. You do not want to know the result. In the salon, with dimmed light, it looked In the bright african sunlight it blinded you on the spot. It was neon orange. My life was clearly over. I had to wear sunglasses to do it, and took to wearing scarves day and night. It is amazing how creative scarf wearing makes you. I did survive. Just. But it took 3 months of daily scrubbing to dim the hue.

And then there was the time Diana asked me to do her highlights. I did point out that I knew nothing about highlights and could not be held responsible for the result. She begged. I am a good mother. I did the highlights. Now have you ever seen anything so stupid as that little dolly brush thingy they tell you to squeeze the stuff onto? Well, I did her hair, and my daughter said "you need to get closer to my scalp. So I did what any intelligent mother would do, and squeezed a little blob onto the required places. (I am waiting to see what she comments here) It was a triumph. Except that she had little circles all over her head. And they grew down as her hair grew, in, as she called it, her dalmation look. Spotted highlights. "Don't worry mum, I am tall. No-one will notice, except for everyone on the top of doubledecker busses, every lorry driver, every man I know, everyone on escalators, and everyone looking out of a window. I will survive the humiliation of looking like a dalmation." I told her to go to a salon and get it rescued. The hairdresser took one look, and said "Who has been messing with your hair?". Sigh. Mothers can only try. And I don't think her psyche was ruined for life somehow. Hats are always good.


The hall looked lovely for Nicky's party, and all the candles flickering made it really special. On Friday Bob and I went to sort out the tables and set up everything with Jackie, Simon and the babes to help. Bekah counted out all the cutlery and was a great help, while the twins did some "circuit training" around the hall! On Saturday I got there early to do the finishing touches and light all the candles so it was perfect by the time Nicky arrived, and I was really pleased with the end result. Everyone thought it looked wonderful which was lovely. So we had a great evening and Nicky celebrated her half century in style. At one stage most of the book club girls were on the dance floor while their husbands sat at the tables looking on....... what is it with men and dancing??? The girls love it. Men don't. But it was good. We had fun anyway! It was also good to catch up with other friends we don't see often enough. By the time the clean up was over, it was after 1am, so I just fell into bed. Yesterday morning was really amusing. My phone started beeping with messages early, and everyone was lying in their beds sending text messages re the party. The thought of all those bodies half asleep all over the village sending messages was hysterical. I had no glasses on so heaven knows what I was actually saying.

The babes, their parents and Jean popped in in the afternoon for tea. They must have smelled the cake I just happened to have! David became the babes "toy" and spent much time under a blanket being a monster to their endless amusement. He was heroic, and never complained when little ones launched themselves at him. And last night I fell asleep on my bed at 7 and slept for 13 hours. Ahhhhh, I am getting old. Groan.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Village Christmas

I live in a village in the middle of England. Well, with about 6000 people, it is big enough to be called a town but we are a village. One of the best things about living here is Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, everyone wanders down on foot to the village square for "Carols on the Square", and with a brass band made up of anyone from one of the world's best trumpeters (who lives here) to school children learning how to play, we stand out in the cold and sing carols. All four churches in the village share the readings and there is a short talk too, and then there are fireworks from the churchyard on the hill afterwards. Father Christmas comes on his sleigh to collect toys to distribute to needy homes, and there is a collection for charities. The road is closed off, and the local services are all involved, like the firebrigade and St John's Ambulance, and it is a real village event.

Then we tend to wander off to each others homes for mulled wine and mince pies, and some of us return to the church for the midnight service at 11.30pm.

We go to carols no matter what the weather is like, and for a lot of people, this is the only time they are reminded of the Christmas story and this is perhaps the one time a year that our village is really united.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nicky's birthday

Nicky is celebrating her 50th birthday today. Happy Birthday to a special friend! And welcome to the select club of women who are clearly in their prime. Tea and scones this afternoon, with lots of laughter and chatter, and the party to look forward to on Saturday as well. Julia did a wonderful power point presentation of her Mum's life ....what a great way to remember a half century!

How rich are you?

Check this out. Momteacherfriend has a link to the Global Rich List. It is a timely reminder of just how lucky we are.

Beautiful trees

This is what the trees look like today near here. One strong wond, and all the leaves will be gone though. I absolutely love the autumn colours.

The table decorations are done, and I will post a photo after the party. They don't look wonderful on my kitchen table, but will in the hall with all the beads and white cloths and candles and glasses. My kitchen just may return to its original use after this weekend! I love making things look good. And the cutlery? Ikea. Do not ask. When I finally find the other lot, we will have enough for parties of 160. (And I apologise to those of you who DO have an Ikea....I see that it has arrived in the States, though not in the middle part yet!)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My loft

Is like the Okeyfinokey swamp. Things go up there and are never seen again. I have been up there all morning, with rising blood pressure, boxes everywhere and absolutely NO sign of the 72 place settings of cutlery I bought for party use. This is seriously cheap Ikea stuff, I hasten to add. (You in the States have no idea how wonderful Ikea is but I see it is about to arrive. Make sure you visit your nearest one, and you will see what I mean.)

Back to the cutlery. It is somewhere. I have turned out every cupboard in the house. The house now looks like the FBI have just swept through on a mission. My hair looks like I have been in a tornado, and my temper is fraying. I am so good at finding places to store bits that I have outdone myself this time and the cutlery will no doubt reappear in an archeological dig in 1000 years. This is most inconvenient. I need it for Saturday. Shriek. I wonder if we could eat dessert with fingers???? Maybe not.

Note to self: Get into that loft, empty it, and NEVER put back anything again. Unless it is essential, and labelled in a box with the label FACING the crawlspace I would be in.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Such lovely things have happened to me today. I have had a difficult time for the past few weeks, and because I tend to be the one who "fixes" things and people when things go wrong, I always say "fine" when friends ask how I am. I am stupid. They believe me. My sister and best friend said stop. Say something like " I am having a rough time at the moment, but it will get better". A compromise.

So I kicked pride into touch, and did what they suggested. What happened? Well, I had calls from 2 friends I told. Another went out of her way to help in a wonderful way. My son was an absolute star, and another friend arrived at the door with a bunch of flowers and bottle of port, and said she wanted to see me smile again. The world did not fall in, and I am still smiling. It is ok to show vulnerability, and probably, because I am generally seen as strong and capable, it is good for people to see I am not invincible. That can be scary I suppose. The newsflash is that I am human. I don't know what I am doing half the time. I am scared sometimes, and I hurt too. Not so strong after all. And admitting it was the best thing I could have done. It is humbling.

My friend Nicky is turning 50 this week and is having a big party on Saturday. I am doing the tables for her, and am just starting to get ideas sorted in my mind. I must also venture into the loft to see where I have put all my party stuff. When I turned 50 and had my amazing party, it was cheaper to go to Ikea and buy cutlery than to hire it, so I have enough to cater for 80 odd. Not to mention all the things I acquired when Andrew and Ann got married as well. And while I am up there, I might as well sort the Christmas decoration boxes as well. That is a smart way of saying find them. We had someone come round the other day to offer insulation for lofts to save power, and it would have meant getting rid of all the boxes up there. I informed him that the insulation we already had, together with about 200 boxes was quite adequate thanks. Do not ask what is in the boxes. I have no idea, but they are "important". I think.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blogging friends

You know, here in England, I don't know anyone my age or remotely close to it, who blogs. (Oops....I do have one friend who started but then sort of went to sleep.) My kids do and their generation is all out there in cyberspace. I have tried to encourage my friends to start, and no-one has as yet. I will not give up though, as they all have so much to contribute!

That was how I found my blogging friends. I wanted to read about mothers and people with similar interests. It took a while and I can't even remember who I found first, but I have a whole new set of friends out there, and they talk back too! I worry about them, and laugh with them. I offer advice sometimes, and I have so many stories to tell. I listen to their opinions, constantly learn from them, and essentially, we are all alike really, whatever our age or location. We are part of a community.

I love being creative, and I am finding that my imagination is really being fired up by ideas I read of, and then there are the money saving tips as well. And the funny side of life raising kids to grin about. And, as I said, I found a series of blogs written by widows, and that has been a great help too. I also check out books that are recommended, and traditions that are different to mine. And the beautiful scenery to look at in photos, of places I can dream of seeing for myself one day. The only downside is that there are not enough hours in the day to read everything I want to read, and still function adequately!

But what I am trying to say is that it doesn't matter which country you live in, or where you were born. It doesn't matter how old you are or what you look like. What matters here is that you identify with the compassion, joy and delight that these women show in their lives. We can add something to each other in a way that would have been impossible before the advent of the home computer, and for that I am extremely thankful.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance Sunday

It is Remembrance Sunday and today we watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph on TV.

So many people. So many stories. So many straight backs, and proud heads. So many tears and so many ages. So many reasons to give so many thanks for so many lives.

If only the wars could stop. And the killing end.

It is raining

Before you read any further, go to Barb's blog and listen to Josh Groban singing "You are loved". It is absolutely wondeful. Why have I never heard of him before?? I had to tell you and I still have no idea what I am going to write now, but it is playing in the background. What a glorious voice. His mother must be so proud. (This is what I say when I listen to Il Divo too!) And while you are there, take a look around Barb's blog. She is quite amazing, and a delight to read.

The weekend started frantically busy and ended quietly. Today is Mum's birthday, and we had a quiet day but nice. She had loads of cards and calls, and we had 6 blackouts this afternoon, which was intensely annoying to everyone, especially David, who was on the computer. This time last year she was whizzing around on Peter's trike in Switzerland. (There are a couple of photos of that in my archives for April 2006 on Friday 21st. ) And no, I did not bake that cake she is clutching. I bought it. I am a failure as a daughter, quite clearly. I did stick the candle in it though. She just loves carrot cake, and so do I. My recipe is stunning, but makes a giant cake, and I would be forced to eat it, wouldn't I, and then I would not be able to waddle. I did cook a roast dinner though. I am now almost word perfect singing along with Josh. Just as well the family is all in bed.

Diana is now in Nelson, South Island, on the start of her holiday with her friend. It was great to talk to her this morning, and she will no doubt have plenty of adventures to relate when she gets back to Wellington in a week. She has built a great life in New Zealand, and is so happy there. I just wish it wasn't quite so far away.

I can think of so many things I could talk about right now, but I am editing them out in my mind as fast as they pop up. I will just say that, as Christmas approaches, things get harder. I always knew they would. I will be taking Mum to Marge in Switzerland in the next few weeks, I think. So many things to think about at the moment. But there is so much to be thankful for.
  1. My mother
  2. Electricity that stays on
  3. Carrot cake for birthdays
  4. The ability to hear
  5. Friends who read between the lines

Friday, November 10, 2006

Blankets and other stuff

Just look at Mum's handiwork. She hates having nothing to do with her hands, so she has crocheted all these from her left over wool. Well, it is left over from other blankets, actually. I have them in every room, and over a duvet, they are the warmest thing around. All the kids away at uni seem to have her blankets too, and they love the bright colours, and now she has made small ones for kiddies, or knee rugs. They are bright and cheerful, and given the astronomical price of domestic fuel here, an essential if we are all to remain solvent. We will sit with our blankets and hats and scarves, (also knitted by mother) and ward off the freezing cold in winter.

The weekend is here, David is at youth club, and it is raining, and I want to spray the varnish on the last lot of tags, and can't till it is dry outside. This is where I could do with a garage, or shed I could actually get in to. Oh well, they will be finished tonight. I have nothing much to say today really. I have worked on the wooden things all day. And had a visit from Julia and coffee with Liz. That was it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Angels and other things

Everyone should have angels on their airers. (I don't know what they are called in the States. Metal contraptions you air, or dry clothes on) Here are some of the ones I have made from wood. The tags in a previous post are also wood. They are currently hanging among the washing on the airer because I am making more things. I just don't know when to stop, and the kitchen is still more like a workshop that food central.

The babes stopped by with Jackie after Christmas shopping. J walked in the door moaning that she needed coffee asap. I think the twins were a little too enthusiastic about the shopping part!. Today they got Granny to play in the bay window behind the curtain. This is their castle, I am informed. I took some photos of the shadows, and they thought they were wonderful. Digital cameras are perfect, aren't they.

Momteacherfriend has had an unfortunate encounter with a pressure cooker, and I told her about my one with a liquidiser, failure to put the lid on properly, butternut soup, and the need to repaint the ceiling, and also mentioned the cake I tossed at the wall at midnight once. She wants the story. Ah well, here goes!

When my kids were small, their birthday cakes were works of art. They have had castles, care bears, strawberry shortcake, houses, ships, you name it. One year, Andrew wanted a plane. With wings that stood up. As in not flat on the plate. Of course, I said not a problem. I was a fool. We have never used the fondant stuff they use here in the UK, but proper butter icing to decorate cakes. Fondant might have been easier. I tried everything to get them to be "off the ground"... even tooth picks. Nothing worked, and I did not want the child to realise that his mother could possibly be fallible. I had an image to maintain. I tried underpinning, angles. Nothing worked, and after hours of attempts, I lost it and hurled it at the kitchen wall. At midnight. And it slid ever so gracefully down behind the enormous chest freezer . Which I had absolutely no way of moving. I did what every self respecting mother would do. I phoned my best friend. At 12.30am. The best was that she answered the phone, I told her I had tossed the cake at the wall, and like the gem she is she said...." I know just how you feel". Not "you what? " or "you idiot". So at 1 in the morning, I was busy baking another cake. He had a football field instead. I told him it was a surprise, and only little babies had planes, and he was so grown up now etc etc etc. He bought it. And the cake behind the freezer?????? It had to wait a few weeks till Geoff got home from sea to move the freezer. I will not describe what it looked like by then. Lab experiments could have been conducted on it.

This is the great thing about blogs. I read someone's experience of the day and it triggers memories of things I had forgotten. Disasters. I have had quite a few of those. Cakes. Lots of those too! Like when my friend next door baked a cake for her dad as a surprise, and came racing round in tears to tell my Mum that something had gone wrong. We were about 8 I think. We charged round to see, and the child had put in 3 TABLESPOONS of baking powder instead of teaspoons and it exploded in the oven. Chocolate cake everywhere. Mum had to chisel the stuff off everything. I still tease my friend about it today. Right. Enough now. This could go on all night.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I officially dislike Amazon. As of today I intensely dislike Amazon. I decided to order some books as I had a gift voucher, (thank you, number one son!) and made sure all the books were in stock and coming just from Amazon, not their sellers. Hah. Then I get an email saying dispatch date is the middle of January. January?? I don't think so. So I emailed them. That in itself is an epic to try and find their customer service email. They sent one back saying no, it is out of stock. I check. It is still in stock on the website, so I called their number thingy.I think I was talking to India again, which does not thrill me greatly.I hate call centres. Yes, she says it looks like it is in stock hold the line. No Madam, it is not in stock, hold the line. Then we go through the cancellation process on line, hold the line, and I wanted to check if the gift certificate still had the correct amount in. Hold the line. This was like asking a fish to talk. She had no idea what I was talking about, and I could feel the blood pressure rising. Mine. 20 minutes of this while i am holding the line. And I am trying to have a calm and serene day. I am failing.

I do realise that in the greater scheme of things this is trivial beyond belief. I know that. I don't care. I need coffee. And chocolate.

Personality thingy....hmmmmm

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have high extroversion.
You are outgoing and engaging, with both strangers and friends.
You truly enjoy being with people and bring energy into any situation.
Enthusiastic and fun, you're the first to say "let's go!"


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have high agreeableness.
You are easy to get along with, and you value harmony highly.
Helpful and generous, you are willing to compromise with almost anyone.
You give people the benefit of the doubt and don't mind giving someone a second chance.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fun is a ball of wool

Do you know how much fun you can have with a ball of wool when you are 3 and a half? It kept the twins happy for at least an hour. They wound it round the house, themselves, the furniture and then deposited an end with Granny, and she wound it up again. Then repeat the whole process. Again. And again. The shrieks of delight were deafening. The Andrex puppy can't compete. And we taught Bekah how to knit too. Even more excitement. She is 5. I am not sure exactly what it is she is knitting, but it is going to be perfect. Jackie needed a crash course in knitting at the same time! Just so she can help B of course.

I am wondering how the US elections are going, and no doubt there will be blanket coverage tomorrow morning on the news. We discussed it at house group tonight. I have just read God's Politics by Jim Wallis, and it is a fascinating book. The misuse of "religion" to justify political decisions is more prevalent throughout the world today, and it is something we all have to challenge wherever we are.

An uneventful day really, except for the little ones' visit. Hairdresser for Mum, more letters and paperwork and phone calls for me. Grey skies and cold winds, and I assembled a quilt as well. Ordinary day. And 4 months today since Geoff died.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cold and frosty mornings

The sun is shining, as a new week begins, but the price to pay is the cold and frosty mornings. It is icy out now, and cars have to be scraped. Winter woolies are the order of the day. The weekend was busy, noisy and good. Having my 2 sons and my daughter-in-law home together was great, and Andrew has noticed what a change there has been in David too. They are more equals now, and actually listen to each other's opinions. And they cook too. What more could a mother ask for.......! A and A went running yesterday morning. In their lycra. I am not sure the village is quite ready for lycra yet. They have run a lot of 10k races, and are getting back into it again after a break.

I popped in to the end of the shared lunch yesterday after they left, but didn't stay for long. I did get to cuddle the newest baby for a while though. Little Hannah weighed 7lb 7oz , is a week old, and is the sweetest thing, and I absolutely loved cuddling her and marvelling over the perfection of her tiny hands. What a blessing each and every baby is. Last night I thought about not going to the expanded fireworks, but got a call from Jean to say the little ones would be very disappointed if I didn't show up, so I went and it was lovely. This year Mims didn't like the rockets, while Chris wasn't at all scared. I am not so good in crowds at the moment. I know it will get better, but I am tending to avoid larger gatherings right now.

I found a series of blogs written by widows by accident last night. I had no idea they were out there. Some say things I completely agree with, and most say an awful lot about personal feelings. I can't do that. Don't get me wrong, I am so glad to see what they say and to realise I am not the only one reacting the way I do to certain parts of my life. However, I know that people who love me, like my children, read this blog. Peter said to me this weekend, that anyone reading my blog would not have a clue about what I am really thinking or feeling. Perhaps he is right. I do a lot of talking, but like so many people, I think 99% of me is hidden. Until you have walked in these shoes, you can't really understand, much though you may want to, so it is better to concentrate on the living, and keep the rest under wraps.

I will say that it does matter that some friends move forwards towards you to be there no matter what, and some retreat to obscurity. It does matter that some think that 4 months or so have passed and that means things are back to normal. What on earth is normal? It matters that they never ask or that they don't really want to hear the answer. It matters that they simply don't think. It matters that they just see the surface and don't look any deeper. It matters when they say they are just a call away and then never answer messages. It matters when they haven't got the time to listen.

I will never be the same person I was the minute before he died. It is not possible. I will be a new person, different, but that is still under development. A work in progress. And the "A-list" of family and friends , (the 3 o' clock in the morning brigade) will be there encouraging me and believing in me all the way. Especially my kids.

And in case you were wondering what Ann was looking at in the photo, here are the Christmas tags/decorations I have made.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bonfire night

Tonight was the village bonfire night. Fireworks have been going off all evening. Dogs howling too. Guy Fawkes is actually tomorrow, but bonfire night is usually the nearest Saturday night to the 5th November. The procession of villagers sets off from the bottom of the village, and everyone walks with torch light, to the field where the bonfire is lit, pushing the guys along. This is away from the village. A long way away. For a very good reason. Some years ago, bonfire night and the firework display used to be on the Rec (recreation ground) in the centre of the village. The firemen lit the fireworks in a safe manner of course. Health and safety and all that. Then one year, someone forgot to close the case of fireworks waiting to be lit, and the first one landed in it, setting off the firework display to end all firework displays. Everyone was so busy ooohing and ahhhing, that they did not see said firemen diving for cover in the moat round the church. They did however comment on the short if splendid display. Yes well. So now it is a hike away. And it is freezing tonight.

Andrew and Ann are here, and they and David went down to the display. Mother and I stayed home in the warmth. Tomorrow night, the babes are having a mini fireworks night in the garden so I will go and join them for that. And to be honest, sparklers are always the best part, and I love seeing the babes having fun. So Happy Guy Fawkes!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Autumn reflections

Reflections seem to become more frequent as you get older. Memories mount up, and such odd things trigger reflections, and one leads to another and then another. Like leaves swirling in the road. I remember coming home from the nursing home when Andrew was born on a cold autumn day, and the leaves were blowing in the wind on the road, crunched by tyres, and getting caught under the windscreen wipers.

Then that reminds me of how, when I was expecting him, I bought a sewing machine, and sewed an entire maternity dress backwards. The machine was in reverse, and I thought that was the way it was supposed to go. I was very young. My mother laughed till she cried. How I decided to knit some booties for him, and Mum thought she would too, and she had finished booties, jackets and hats before I got half of one done, and tossed it into a cupboard in disgust. Then that reminds me of when he met his dad for the first time. He was 6 weeks old, and Geoff flew back from Norway, and at the airport, he saw me, and he ran straight to the carrycot, to pick up his son, before he even said hello. How I sterilised bottles by boiling them, and melted down the lot when I forgot them. I can still smell molten plastic. How, the first time I let my mother take him for a walk, I followed them, hiding behind trees, to make sure she didn't do anything silly like cross a road. She still grins at that one. I was so sure that only I knew how to look after him properly. This is the woman speaking who was so terrified of pricking him with a nappy pin, that his nappies kept unfolding like flowers. Towelling nappies. That was when disposable ones had not been invented, epidurals were regarded as newfangled and to be avoided, and computers were things the size of small houses, and needed cards with holes in them and lots of 0s and 1s.

How we sat on the floor in front of the new oven watching a chicken on the rotisserie for the first time, and forgot to tie it in place, and the legs fell off, then the wings and we laughed so much. How I had a dinner party and while draining potatoes, they all fell into the sink full of water. I rinsed them off and served them anyway.

I have more than 5 decades of memories that I can take out and turn over in my mind. Of my children as they grew up, and of the things I have dreamt of and how they have changed. The dreams. There is a long list of things I thought I wanted, and then discovered I didn't any more. Of pinnacles I thought I had to reach but then realised how unimportant they were. The moment your children are born, the "I" is relegated to last place forever, and all of a sudden, your life explodes with colour. 30 years ago, I was expecting my first child. 30 years, 3 children, 2 countries, 1 life, 1 000 000 memories.