Saturday, October 31, 2009

And October 2009 will be history in a few hours.....

The last day of October is almost over, and with the setting sun, no doubt the kids around here will be out to collect their loot. Some years we have no callers, and some we have streams of them. You can guarantee that tonight we will have streams as I have very few sweets on hand. It is the way things go.

Halloween is not a huge thing in the UK, but every year it seems to get bigger, and the shops have been full of paraphenalia this year. I have to confess that I am not a fan. I have no problem with the dressing up bit, it is the creepy side which I don't like. The churches have Light Parties instead, and I am far happier with that idea.

It is all about culture, and the way we grow up and the traditions of different peoples and places. We have Bonfire Night on 5th November - Guy Fawkes. Harvest Festivals at churches. We celebrate the bringing in of the harvest, and this I can identify with, particularly as I happen to live in a village in the countryside. Blending of cultures is always going to be interesting though!

I have been trying to get the garden sorted. It is a very slow process, given that my chief labourer is off at university enjoying himself. There are times when I really need his strength to do the heavy stuff. He is incredibly strong, and makes it all seem so easy. It was so funny to hear him issuing instructions re lifting to his mother when he was home in the summer - what not to do etc. I heard my own words over the years come back to me. At least he listened!

Ah well, it doesn't matter how long it takes. We don't have winters like my sister does. Putting her garden to bed for the winter is a mammoth task. Fleecing, barking, wrapping, protecting, tossing out all the summer plants, emptying pots, taking cuttings, saving seeds, putting away anything that may freeze, all the garden furniture...... it is an epic job. And she has a BIG garden.

I have the pots ready for the spring bulbs, and the builder behind has given me a bag of tulips he had spare too, so there is a lot to plant out. The pots are all in the squirrel fortress. I will not have those pesky things digging up all my bulbs this year. They have already dug up most of the ones in the beds. And I can't tell you how many peanuts I have found sprouting green things in the pots as I got them ready. I do not need peanut trees, or whatever they grow into.

So I may just have overdone things a trifle in the past 2 days. The couch calls. Strictly Come Dancing is on soon, and that is where I will be. On the couch watching.

Happy Halloween, to those of you who celebrate the holiday! Happy weekend to those who don't!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ta da.......!

The Happy Quilt. I put it on my mother's bed to take the photo. It is bright. Happy. Perfect for miserable winter days. If I were to become Prime Minister, I do believe I would issue an edict compelling everyone to wear bright clothes in winter, paint their houses instead of all the grey and brick around, and smile.

And now on to another project......

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday again.......

Well, we are reaching the home straight on the Happy Quilt. It is bright. BRIGHT. I went to our local patchwork shop to find the right binding this afternoon, and had to come home and fetch it to check colours, and the consensus is that it is "colourful". They liked it - well, the ladies on a course there liked it anyway - and I went with the majority opinion for the binding. I listen to advice. Hahahahahahha. I am learning to listen, that is. You will see it when it is finished.

While I was there, I mooched about drooling over the fabric, and found some wonderful pieces which I resisted buying. I have the sudden urge to make a leaf quilt. This is not on the plan. But it would look so beautiful with the autumn stuff in the lounge. Maybe I will put it on the list for next autumn. We will see. I have a few things lined up to do over the winter first, before the hands stop working.

Tomorrow is needle day again. Yep, I am back to acupuncture early in the morning. Glynis is taking me, and has tried to sweeten the pill by suggesting we have tea at a garden centre on the way home to check out the Christmas things. Sounds good to me. Thank heavens I have already had a few chats with friends, and we have agreed that, much though we love each other, we are going to cut out Christmas presents from now. What a relief. I have no idea what I am making this year. My recession heaters were a great hit last year, and now I need a new idea. One which will be stunning and cost me very little. Nothing would be even better. As in cost me nothing. I have a good stock of "stuff" to make things, so I am ever hopeful.

Missy, on the other hand, is sorted. I bought her present for this Christmas before she was even born. A doll and stroller. On sale. And we have also managed to secrete a few more bits in the cupboard over the year. Geoff would be grinning and shaking his head at this point. He thought my early shopping for Christmas was a little loopy.

Strange I thought of that right at this point. Of him. Next week, I am going to spend the day in the Coroner's court, at 2 separate Inquests for other people who died like he did at the same hospital. I have been asked to attend by the Coroner. Maybe we will be one step closer to answers. Who knows.

And now I am off to finish cooking some supper. I do it in stages, because standing is not the easiest thing in the world.

I will be back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nearly 40 years ago....

I was chatting to an old school friend on Facebook yesterday, and we suddenly realised that in 2010, it will be 40 years since we all matriculated. 40 YEARS. Good grief. The school we went to was an academic powerhouse, and all girls. Strict rules, and hard work. And, it has to be said, loads of fun. I loved my school days, and while I know there are those who were there when I was, who have less than stellar memories of the place, it played a massive part in shaping who we have all become.

Some of my friends and I have stayed in touch all these years, and we pick up our friendships with the greatest of ease when we all get together. The command of the english language was obviously something we all mastered back then. I remember the debating society meetings after school - did any of you have to do parachute debates? We certainly learned to think on our feet.

So I got out my photo album. I did a photographic diary of the last year of my schooling, and it includes the massed photo of our year. All 98 of us. Our hair had to be tied back if it touched our uniform collars, and so 89 of us have long hair. 27 of us have the name Ann(e) in our names somewhere. Everyone who applied for Matric Exemption (university entrance) got it, and 68 got First Class passes. As I said, it was an academic school.

We all had choices, and had to do 6 subjects for Matric. I did English, Afrikaans, Maths (all compulsory), History, Latin and Physics and Chemistry. I never did learn how to balance chemical equations. Sport was also very important, and inter-school sport was incredibly competitive. As was inter-house competition. And the extra-mural activities were many and varied, and I confess, I threw myself into the lot. Choir, Scripture Union, History, Science, Debating Societies, you name them, I was there.

Where was I ..... the old friends I have stayed in touch with over the years. Yes. We are friends NOT because of the school, but because we happened to meet at the school. We shared experiences, and discovered shared interests, and grew up together. Had we gone to a different school, I think we would have still become close friends.

But looking though the list, there are a few girls who names I had to look up, you know. I used to know them all, of course, but it is 40 years ago, and there were 98 of us! Girls I didn't know much about. Girls who were at school with me all those years - some of them all 12 years of schooling, and I have no idea of who they really are, or were. I wonder what I missed. What we may have missed. It intrigues me, you see.

Fiona and I can account for a great many of our old school friends. We also know that some have died. Way, way too young. Some never married, and others did, and there have been quite a few divorces too. Some are grannies, and some started their families much later than others. Lots have scattered to the 4 corners of the world - Canada, Australia, UK, USA, Europe, New Zealand.

There are a lot of doctors. Architects, business women, lawyers, teachers, professors, nurses, social workers, authors. Sporting stars, farmers, missionaries. Interesting women. Very interesting.

Hmmm. And me. All of a sudden I am feeling very insignificant indeed. There is a great gathering next weekend in Cape Town as quite a few of the farflung ones are in CT on visits, and they want to skype. Sigh.

Oh well. I can at least say I blog, and am on twitter, and facebook, and am clearly a techno whizz. Just do not ask me how to work an ipod. I am a COMMUNICATIONS expert!! I have just discovered this. Of course I am. I talk a lot. They won't know about feedburners, stats, stumbling etc, will they now. This is just as well, as I am also a little hazy on some of those parts too.

Hah. I am a modern woman. I think I need to get my hair cut before skyping them.

I have a week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Alternative warmth....

I have been looking at portable gas heaters today. As my woodburning stove dream is on hold pending a mythical lotto win, (forget the actual price of the stove - it is the chimney thingy and the labour which is astronomical) I decided that one of those gas heaters, where I can get refills for the gas bottles, may work better. I absolutely will not run the risk of another mega gas bill for the central heating in January. Here in the UK, our utility bills - gas and electricity, come quarterly. Last January I nearly had an attack of the vapours when it arrived.

My friend in NZ has these at her home, and they work brilliantly, so I am looking at what is around. This is particularly apt today as it is grey, chilly and damp, and it is the dampness which is the bit which gets to the bones. My bones in particular. My bones are not partial to cold and damp. AND I can move it around to where it is needed, which would be great.

In Switzerland, my sister buys her oil for her heating and hot water once a year. She pays for it, and then there are no unknown costs involved later to cause panic attacks. It is very reassuring to go and look at full tanks, and know you will be warm. Here we are at the mercy of the gas companies. Prices change all the time, and always seem to be spiralling upwards, and never down. When the oil price drops, nothing drops here. The price of petrol for our cars is outrageous. I just paid £1.08 a litre this morning. They have plenty of excuses - oh it is the government tax, oh, we need to improve pipe lines, oh oh oh. Sigh. And the British consumer is actually very docile. I am not of the docile variety. You may have noticed this.

So I am looking at gas heaters. Hah! They will then want to come and check and see if there is something wrong with my meter if it is stunningly low in January, I bet. I will show them my bottles of gas lined up instead, and yes, I know this is probably an expensive way of heating my house, but I will be controlling what I spend or use. I can simply switch it off and wear more clothes if I need to.

Our economy was widely reported to be about to come out of recession last week. The celebrations had begun. Until Friday, that is. That was when the actual figures came out saying that we were still in recession, with a 0.4% further shrinkage of the economy. The worst figures since figures began. Now it appears the economists got it horribly wrong, are possibly totally incompetent or that we are way worse off than the rest of the world. France and Germany came out of recession months ago. Us??? Hahahahhaha. America is doing better too. The UK is still in the quagmire. Unemployment is spiralling too. Gloom, doom and all.

I need chocolate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday fun.......

It is amazing what coffee out at my favourite garden centre with friends (Glynis and Jean) and a large bag of daffodil bulbs will do for the mood. The coffee was great, the company fun, and the bulbs an excellent find. Jean and I were going to buy a sack and split it, and then the checkout lady told us that even bigger bags, costing the same amount, were "buy one get one free". So we did. I think I have more bulbs than I have garden. But this way, the squirrels can't possibly dig the lot up, so I win! There will be daffodils in the spring.

I need to get into the garden this weekend and dig up all the dead stuff and hack back the rest. It needs attention, but the hanging baskets still look lovely and so does the Cosmos. Such a pretty flower.

This is what my lounge looks like in autumn. Having the cream couches means it is easy to change for the seasons, just using cushion covers and candles and throws. All the little autumny people etc come from Switzerland. My sister is the master bargain hunter, and buys up things on sale and Mum has crocheted autumn blankets for both of us - you can see mine on the arm of the couch - the squares. It is beautiful. I am looking for a cream rug to put on the carpet to lighten the room. The old carpets have to go. One day. After the heating system is replaced. And the stairs. And the bathroom. And I have redecorated. And after there is no chance of workmen and boots coming into the house. In my dreams.

And this is the little table at the entrance to the house. It is so easy to tie a few twigs together with raffia, stick in a couple of leaves, and wire a little pumpkin thingy and attach it to the pile. Marge showed us how to make them a couple of years ago. She is multi-talented, as I have said many times before!

I decided to make some bread yesterday. Doesn't baking make the house smell great? This bread is wonderful and keeps for ages without going stale. Then I made butternut and broccoli soup. Perfect for a chilly autumn evening.

And there you have a report of the last 24 hours. I am now retiring to the couch to finish the bright and happy quilt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

She's back!!

Ah, the Blog. The thing which demands attention. The one where I am actually required to sit down and write words. Words that make some sense. Nice blog. Pat. Pat. It has been a while.

Well, hello, everyone who is still out there, and thank you for all your lovely messages. Here I am, alive and (maybe not) kicking, and repeating myself once again. I seem to vanish now and then, re-appear and apologise. Rinse and repeat. Sigh. This is the nature of life, I suspect. Well, my life, anyway.

I have had loads of excellent intentions, none of which have sprung into action. "Action" and "Linds" are two words which do not seem to go together well right now. Autumn is rapidly developing a distinctly wintery chill, and I am still stuck way back in April, or thereabout.

And today marks the 4th anniversary of Diana's arrival in NZ. So much has happened in those 4 years, and she has had the most wonderful experiences down there in the bottom corner of the world. Let me emphasize "the bottom corner of the world" bit. Far far away. I always said I raised my children to fly. I just didn't realise quite how far they could fly.


This is a bit of a down day for me, I confess. The bounce has deserted me a little. I did not need to be reminded of the fact she has been away so long, even though she actually left home more than 9 years ago. First to go on her global trot in her Gap Year and then to uni for 3 years and then working in London for 2 years and then to fly away in an aeroplane. Sigh.

Add to that the fact that my neighbour's building project outside my kitchen window has taken on epic proportions and he appears to be constructing a garage and store room more suitable to Windsor Castle, which makes me want to either scream or burst into tears when I walk into my garden, or boil the kettle etc etc etc etc, and my mood tumbles further into the abyss.

I love autumn. I love the colours, the sounds of leaves crunching under foot. The idea of homemade soups, cosy fires (if one actually HAD a fireplace) and sorting through ideas of things to make for Christmas. So many negative things have been dominating life recently, and it is a struggle at times to keep grinning. Horrible things happen to good people. A friend had a stroke last week, 6 months into a much anticipated retirement, and that is just for starters......

My sister once told me that every hideous photo taken of me, or her, or anyone is real- you know the ones where the angle is wrong, the lighting too harsh, you were not ready and smiling in the proper way, your eyes look slitty and where on earth did the 7 chins appear from?????? You know the ones? The ones you delete immediatelybecause you look so hideous??? Yes, I thought so. Well, those ones - they are the real you. The "you" people see when they look at you randomly. The unsmiling you. The one frowning. The one with the intimidating expression. We all recognise those expressions from our experience of the people we live with, of course. There is not a woman alive who cannot catalogue her husband's many expressions. Or her children's ones. My sister threatens to take a zillion photos of me in that mode, so I can see what people see. Gee thanks, Marge.

So when I was walking around Tesco yesterday, with a pained expression on my face, I suddenly wondered what total strangers were seeing when they looked in my direction. At the very least they would not have been drawn to my bubbly personality. Random glances tell such different stories. At the lines and frown on my face, they may have thought - bitter and twisted old woman, or grumpy old cow, or miserable middle aged woman, or ugly old woman, or ...... the list goes on.

That would have been their impression of me at that moment. The head was not posed at the most flattering angle as I plodded up and down the aisles. Nor was I aiming to be the centre of attention. Nor was I grinning a cheesy grin. However, had I been grinning, they may well have thought I had escaped from some secure facility nearby. This was Tesco after all. And the basket was very heavy. I bought flour. To make bread, and you try managing a stick and a basket, and handbag which falls off the shoulder all the time, and reaching things on the shelves....... but I digress.

So there I was, having an epiphany in the middle of Tesco. Wondering what impression people would have of my expression. Knowing that I knew my face was screwed up and my shoulders were hunched because it HURT dammit, but they couldn't have known that. And wondering if it was right to fix that cheesy grin in place and pretend I was all sweetness and light. Or not. I probably looked as old as the hills.

I am caught in a conundrum, you see. I choose to keep moving, I do not want pity, I choose to hide what I feel inside, because I want to keep being me, Linds, the positive, optimistic and mobile one. And this, my friends, generates exactly the opposite. People (in Tesco and out there in the world) see me and make their own assessments, judgements etc, based solely on what is in front of them. If I had given in, I would be in a wheelchair.

I. Will. Not. Give. In.

If I had a wheelchair, people would understand. Sympathy, pity etc would be their first response. They do not understand determination, because it is invisible. Or the lines on the face are misinterpreted as miserable, grumpy, bitter etc, and no-one sees the jaw clenched to stop from moaning, as just that. Determination. They see ugly. It is understandable, because we are talking total strangers here. I get frowned at when I get out of my car in a disabled parking space, even though I have a badge. I look normal. And frowns hurt too, you know.

So is the hiding of emotions good? Or is it bad? Maybe we all need sisters armed with digital cameras to dog our footsteps for a day, to actually see what face we present to the world.

It is not the face you look at in the mirror. That one is the "pretty" one.

It is the "face" you wear when you are in the middle of yelling at your kids, the one showing your frustration, anger, exhaustion, worry, annoyance, irritation, being defensive, battling to thread a needle with wonky eyesight, hurt, laughter, while reading, chatting, cooking, gardening, thinking, whatever. Not the social face. The real face of each of us. Which is the face my children think of when they think of me? Which is the face my friends visualise? Colleagues? Doctors?

We never get to see those faces, because, so help me, they are not photo opportunities. Thank heavens. (Unless you have a sister on a mission.)

But maybe we need to see those faces. Need to know what others see. If we dare.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Needle time again.....

Session 3 of the acupuncture is over, thank heavens. I can honestly say that this is never going to be a favourite thing of mine. Never. The needle in my hand was vibrating all by itself. Bizarre. And the ones in the leg were less than pleasant. WAY less. But the nurse who does it is away for a while so I get a short break. Good. I feel like a pincushion, and leave the place yawning my head off. I know I need a nap right now.

It has been a quiet weekend around here. The garden is almost finished now, and just things like the leeks and peppers are still growing. The flowers keep blossoming and it will take the first frost to stop them I imagine. That is not here yet.

I have spent an inordinately long time on the couch just musing while quilting. It is a great way to keep warm. The musing has been about nothing in particular and everything in general, and there has been an element of melancholy to my thinking for the past couple of days. I have no idea why, but it has just been there. A quiet kind of melancholy. Resigned kind. You know what I mean? It could just be that I am finally accepting the limitations imposed on the way I live now. It could also just be that I am a little weary. Or that I have some big legal decisions to make, as I am reminded by great friends. Or that I hate inept officialdom. Or that I need something to look forward to. Or that it is just life. Why do things have to be so complicated and have many possible consequences you have to consider in minute detail????

I went to see if there was any sign of my glasses today. No luck at the ranger's office, and I tried a little part of the path just to see if a miracle would happen, but unfortunately, today is not my day for miracles. Sigh. I will have to do something about them soon. Maybe in a week or so. The energy levels are rock bottom. Everything can wait.

I sound positively comatose. That's it for now. I will be back when I can think of something to talk about.

Friday, October 02, 2009

And Friday pops up again.....

The forms are filled in. At last. And they have been posted, so now we sit and wait. What an ordeal. Glynis and I finished them this morning. She has been unbelievably supportive, and her help has been invaluable. Heaven only knows how people less mentally agile manage to fill them in. If 2 very bright and highly trained minds battle to make sense of the forms, I don't know how some manage at all. But enough of that. They are on their way now and I can't do any more.

To celebrate the end of the form saga, I have bought myself 2 new winter woollies. A lovely cafe au lait cardigan and a soft blue sweater thingy. This highly trained mind can't be bothered to think of more accurate descriptions right now. Thingy will do just fine. Is anyone else in the same position I am - everything I own seems to be beige, brown, olive green or black. Nothing to inspire one at all, and nothing pretty and feminine. Sigh. I try and then so help me, I am drawn to the practical.


I want pretty. However, pretty on me has a tendency to look ridiculous. So the blue thingy is more of a jewel colour, but at least it is not neutral. Baby steps. Note to self: You are allowed to have colour in your life. On your body.

I think Melanie should host a Fashion Friday for the Over 50s, personally. We need help. I need help. However, the poor young thing is nowhere near 50, so would not have any idea of the challenges we face. Groan. Gravity. That sinking feeling. The way our bodies develop minds of their own. Tragic. Just tragic. So until she starts her help-line for us, we are on our own. And WHO decided that horizontal stripes were the way to go this winter? They need hanging drawing and quartering, as any of you who have been out to try on the new season's styles would know. If you were of the "rounded" body shape. And those piddly little short jumpers????? They cover NOTHING.

I wish I had recorded my comments as I battled in the miniscule changing room, to try on something different. I swear those mirrors are wonky. The lady in charge was trying not to laugh as my head kept popping out the curtain looking a trifle bedraggled to moan. That could have something to do with the actual body trying on the clothes of course, but we are not going there. I need Gok. Send help asap. (And before you worry about the "naked" bit in his show title "How to look good naked" - I am not talking about that. Just his ability to make any woman with any shape look good. Every woman needs a Gok friend! Especially when she is over 50.)

And now for something completely different. I see Rio has won the 2016 Olympics, and even though Chicago had a strong case, it is about time the only continent never to host an Olympics got in on the act. Not to mention the fact that the cost defies belief. Rio should be fun.

In 2016.
That is a long way away.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October arrives....

We have had the most beautiful sunsets in recent days.......

The sky has been unbelievably beautiful.....

This tree is across the road, and last night, it was "on fire" in the setting sun. I love love love the softness of the evening sunlight - golden.
September is history now, and the very last day of the month was not one I want to remember. Or relive. Or anything.
I was coming back home from the supermarket when I turned onto a bridge nearby, and saw a young man standing on the wrong side of the railings. He looked straight at me, and my brain was trying to compute the fact that he was on the WRONG side of the railings. He was young - just a boy really. There were no cars about. Just me. What do I do? I slowed to a stop, and just then another car turned onto the bridge and the driver stopped next to the lad, so I zapped round the corner, and dialled 999. As I was speaking to the police, cars were slowing and turning, and I spoke to the other drivers, to keep the police dispatcher up to date with what was happening. Yes, he was still on the bridge. And the police arrived within about 10 minutes, so I could get off the phone. Thank heavens, I thought.
I turned the car around, and saw a man out for a run coming from the bridge, and asked if the young man was ok. "He stepped off the bridge" he said. "Then he is all right?" asked I. "No " he said "he stepped off onto the motorway below".
He was just a boy, really.
He looked at me with big dark eyes.
I don't know if he lived. I have no idea who he was. Maybe I taught him? What could have been so wrong that he thought this was his only option? He landed in front of a lorry. I don't know if it hit him. I can only imagine what the lorry driver is feeling.
It was a long way down to a very unforgiving road below.
The road was closed for a long time. Helicopter. Investigation. Broken lad.
I drove home, shaking. Could I have done anything else? Should I have spoken to him? Why? Did I do the right thing? Unanswerable questions I have no business pondering, because I know it is futile. But still the brain whirls round. Wondering.
What if.......
So I sat down on my comfortable couch, in my warm home, with my beautiful things all around me, a quilt on my lap to work on, coffee next to me, friends and family just a phone call away if I needed them, and I wept till I fell asleep.
Goodbye, September.......