About Me

Llantwit Major, Wales, United Kingdom
I am mother, librarian, avid reader, sf fan, writer (unpubished), singer(amateur), animal lover, needlewoman.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holidays are good

I am off work this week and having a lovely idle time. Sadly B now has the cold, as does Kate, which as tomorrow is B's 60th birthday is very unfortunate.

We went out for a meal with all B's kids last night to celebrate his birthday, and he got his presents from them last night. They bought a set of 3 paintings by a Pembrokeshire artist which you can see here, so it worked out at one picture each. He was absolutely thrilled with them. His actual birthday is 31 December, so I will give him his present from me then, but it isn't as exciting, though I think he will like it anyway. It is great that his kids put so much thought and effort into his present, and I like it that his best present is from them anyway.

we had a really good meal too.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


This is Llantwit Major beach taken on Boxing day, after the snow had gone, while we were still having a lovely day. It started raining about half an hour later, but we had finished the walk and were back in the car before it poured.
These oystercatchers were all on the campsite at Newgale. As you can see from the photos below the flooding in the field would have meant that any camping was out of the question. It usually floods in the winter in the middle but this year it is almost completely under.
The building in the middle is the pub, and the field to the left is the campsite, the van is marooned up to its axles in water in the car park
Another view of the campsite under water.

The weather is extraordinary this year. Floods in the autumn, snow and ice before the end of December. How can anyone not believe in global warming?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Added Christmas highlights

Highlights of Christmas day included:

smoked salmon and prosecco

playing Cranium which included Brian trying to spell 'fluorescent' by starting it 'ph' (too much wine perhaps)

Doctor Who on tv

nice walk with the dog to shake down the turkey

people being here

the cold skipping over the sore throat part

Lazy Day

Yesterday was a lovely Christmas day.

All my kids - including the new son-in-law - were here. We had stockings in the morning and presents before lunch. I got new Ugg boots for my present from the children which are lovely and warm and like wearing slippers outside. Extremely good for the cold weather we have been having. We had the whole traditional turkey dinner and lots of nice cheese and generally had a very indulgent day. It was great.

Today the kids are going to their dad's, though 2 of them are at work, so don't go till after work. Brian has his kids over to his house and cooks for them, so I have a completely lazy day when I don't have to do anything. There are plenty of leftovers to eat so I don't have to cook particularly. Another self indulgent day. However you don't get very many completely self indulgent days in the year, so I intend to make the most of it.

Nic works as an exercise rider for a race horse trainer, so we know a bit more about racing than we used to, and I have put a bet on one of the horses she rides in a big race today. (£5 each way so we aren't talking megabucks here).

I have changed my picture at the top. Stepping out into the future perhaps.

Monday, December 21, 2009

100th Post

This is my 100th post. My new year resolution to keep a blog for the year has lasted well I think.

We had snow last night. I woke up and saw the white garden with some surprise as I thought it had been raining.

We found a train for Adam to take to work, which got him to work only about 10 minutes late, so he will use that again in bad weather I think. He starts work so early (7am) that the roads are dangerous. However as he seems to have a tummy bug this evening i don't think he will be going to work at all anyway.

I hate this sort of weather. We aren't equipped for it as a country and it makes me really worry about everyone because of the dangers of driving. fret, fret.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Swindon not Essex

We went to Swindon, which did not have snow. And it was a good thing we didn't go to Essex because they had lots more snow.

We had a lovely time. We ate well, watched Strictly Come Dancing final, drank champers, and enjoyed ourselves.

On the plus side as well was the fact that I got home in time to go and sing in the carol concert.

Every year we (the choir I am in) sing as part of a service of lessons and carols in Ewenny Priory church on the Sunday before Christmas. Because of the family get together I was going to miss it this year, however this was the silver lining as I went along to sing. It was nice because lots of people said how glad they were that I was there, which is very nice.


This is the church we sing in, which is a medieval stone church, and despite 2 jumpers and a coat, was more than a bit chilly!. However we had a good sing and it is a real start to Christmas as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bloody weather

It is threatening more snow according to the weather forecast, so although we could get to Essex, we run the risk of possibly not getting back, so are playing safe and not going.

I am really disappointed.

we are going to Kate's tonight, which is nearer and not snowy, so we will cheer ourselves up there. In the meantime the Martins have enough food for 15 people and not that many to eat it. They may have to invite the neighbours in.

So instead of partying I have sorted out the house insurance, paid some bill and washed the kitchen floor.

Hmm. Not the most fun ever.

I shall go and have coffee now instead.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Family weekend

We are going to Essex tomorrow.

Tonight it is going to snow there. Heavy snow.

So the question is - will it be too snowy to travel tomorrow?

The next question is why didn't it wait till after this weekend?

Drat. I hate winter.

I want to have a nice big family pre-Christmas party. I also want to have a Strictly come dancing final party after that. I need to be in Essex to do both those things, so fingers crossed we don't have much snow.

I realise that for other countries we hardly ever get any snow worth talking about, but the inch or two we get seems to create total chaos as we are never equiped to handle it. Ho hum.

On an even less cheerful note it seems that all the high and mighty at the Copenhagen summit are much more concerned with their self images and politics than in the fate of the planet, and are so busy squabbling about little things that the big things haven't even got a mention yet.

We need to devise a system which doesn't need politicians to run it.

Other than a dictatorship.

Ho hum again.

I must go and pack, working on the theory that the weather isn't going to stop the party.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I am on my second Japanese car. Both of them have terrible polite horns. They give a polite, fairly high pitched, meep sort of noise. It is as though the cars, like the Japanese, are brought up to be very polite and self effacing. They don't say get out of my way, they say, excuse me please, may I trouble you to let me past? The various Renault cars have a hearty, loud, and very French parp noise, as if to say - gangway, I am coming through!.

I would need to do some research into this but I am beginning to think that there is a profound sociological study in the waiting here. Car horns as indicators of national character.

Profound, eh?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


That was supposed to say Cars yet again!

Care yet again

We spent most of last week looking cars up on the internet, to sort out possible cars for Ad as his will be written off. Not knowing how much the insurance company will pay out is a bit limiting but we found some possibles and went off to look at them on Saturday morning. Some places we couldn't actually find, but we did find a good car in the third port of call in Cardiff. We got a 2001 little Nissan Micra which only has 31k miles on it, and has clearly been used for local pottering only, which is all to the good. Ad liked it a lot, and we have bought it, the money being put up by Ad's father until the insurance company pays out. It was also a very reasonable price which is good. It is a curious light blue green colour, a sort of very pale kingfisher, but is down on the documents as grey. I don't know what sort of glasses they give people who write the log books.

Nic has been getting lifts for two weeks with a friend but as she works in the middle of nowhere, and keeps her horse near there she has been stretching the bonds of friendship especially as she has to do her horse before starting work at 7.30 am. Her car is still in the garage while the insurance company decide whether it is repairable after having been in a flood area. So we had instructions to buy her something mobile for less than £500 which we nearly did. She is now the proud possessor of a shed of and Escort with 6 months mot. However it drives nicely, and although the suspension isn't great it will be worse when she has driven it round where she works for a couple of months.

On another topic I have (no idea why) done my top 5 desert island book and music choices. Once you get past 5 there is too much choice, but many of these have been constant for years now

Handel - Messiah - lots of memories of Dad cooking Sunday morning breakfast, and I can sing it all without needing a score

Bach - St Matthew Passion - just sublime

Rachmaninov - Vespers - the first time I heard it I cried all the way through and it is sublime

Shostakovich - Both piano concertos

John Williams playing Spanish guitar music - we love this cd and play it a lot. Brian used to actually play a lot of the pieces on the cd when he was performing

and as a bonus
Vaughn Williams cd with Lark ascending, Variations on a theme of Thomas Tallis, Dives and Lazarus, and 5 Tudor Portraits (and if possible the Sea Symhphony)


Austen - Pride and Prejudice

Dickens - Bleak House

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - Good Omens (love it)

T S Eliot collected works

Big fat poetry anthology, though not sure which. I love the Rattle Bag and Other Men's Flowers but an Oxford one might have more in it.

After these the vary a lot

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cars again

Both cars are now in the same garage in Bridgend waiting for the insurance companies to make decisions. When Nic spoke to them yesterday they said 'I think we have your brother's car here too' It doesn't look like we have a very good record of looking after cars does it?

If they both get written off then I will be spending most of next weekend looking at cars instead of doing Xmas things as planned

Ho Hum.

Still come what may I will be putting up our tree and the decorations next weekend.

Tonight I need to write Xmas cards which I am late doing. Oh dear.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bad car day

Last week didn't improve a lot on Friday. I got a phone call from Ad at 7am to say he had crashed his car on the way to work. However, fortunately, he is absolutely fine, though the car is probably a write off. He skidded on a main road on black ice, and the car is a sad looking thing now. We should hear tomorrow whether they are going to write it off, and then we have to go get another one as he needs it to get to work. For this week he is staying with his dad in Cardiff, though Mike will have to get up early as there are no buses early enough.

Nicky took her car through a deep puddle (small pond) and it has since died. The garage suggested that she claim for it because the engine could be very expensive to mend, so she has done that and both cars are in the same garage in Bridgend waiting for different insurance companies to assess tthem.


However no people were damaged so that is the important thing

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bad news days

Yesterday was not a good day.

It is the anniversary of my brother's death, and it was only a year since he died, and part of me still does not really believe it.

Yesterday we got the news that a (not very close) friend who we have known for years died. She has had cancer for some time and had been in hospital but her death was unexpected. Although she was in her 70s that isn't old these days, especially not from the vantage point of someone heading to 60.

We also had news of another friend. This is a closer friend, and she is only in her early 40s. Her youngest children are still in primary school, her husband works away quite a lot. She had breast cancer a couple of years ago, but seemed to have recovered well and was back to usual. When I saw her a few weeks ago she had a very bad, sore and painful neck, and was scheduled for an MRI. I found out yesterday that there is cancer in the top two vertebrae in her neck and it is also in other areas. She is in hospital, getting radiotherapy and chemo, but it isn't something you can ever cure. She is feeling that this is the beginning of the end, which I sincerely hope it isn't. I hope that the treatment will bring it under control and give here more years of enjoying life, but who can tell? She is one of a group of 6 of us who started as a book club and have extended ourselves into a dinner club with books. we were due to go out for a Christmas meal in a couple of weeks, which we have cancelled because none of us feel like going with J in hospital.

It is truly awful.

There is another friend who thought her breast cancer was under control and has had more tumours appear, and is now getting chemo. She is being very positive, but who knows?

There seems to be so much cancer about. I don't remember my parents having so many people with cancer. Is it because we aren't having as many heart attacks that we are surviving and getting cancer later?

All I know is that it is awful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No progress yet

Still no progress on the computer front. The spate of emails between the IT department and Infor (th company who make the system) which were going back and forewards yesterday have ceased today Yesterday the emails were of the sort where many of the individual words made sense eg tunnel, firewall, etc the actual sentences didn't as they were totally in tech speak. After one email this morning talking about pcs nothing - an ominous silence.

Oh dear.

The weather is getting wintery. Ugh. I hate the wet, the dark and the cold.

My heating keeps not turning itself on for some reason and I keep having to trip it manually which is irritating. And now Adam is working full time I don't have my handy person at home to let the gas man in at any time, which means I would need to take time off to get them here.

However Christmas is coming and I love Christmas, so that is something to look forward to.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not flooded

Thankfully we didn't get flooded at work, but we are leaving a lot of boxes on tables until the water subsides a bit.

I am still waiting for the new Library system to let me on. There have been various emails between our IT dept and the system suppliers about tunnels, firewalls, ports etc, but as of 5pm tonight we still don't have access - sigh.

It is very frustrating.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A week later

The wedding went extremely well, and the only not perfect thing was the flowers as it happens. Here is the table with candles, little champagne bottles with bubbles to blow, gems and pearls scattered on the table, plus of course, wine and great food.
Here is the cake of cheese, which lots of people though was a weird idea, but was brilliant. It had Caerphilly on the bottom, Picos blue in the middle, and a light whipped creamy cheese on top, with heart shaped little bries and black little cheddars. Fantastic. We also had cup cakes - 120 of them, 5 different types, but although I made them all, I neglected to take a picture of them which was a bit daft, and they went well too.
This is what the flowers should have looked like. Brilliant orange lilies. However I have flowers all over the house now which is beautiful.

The speed with which everyday life takes over again is a bit disconcerting. We are getting a new management system for the library where I work, and I am the main project manager. We had our first training day this week so I feel like I am at the top of a slide and about to go whizzing down it. Unfortunately the actual system wasn't online on Thursday so we can't actually do anything on the system until it is, so I hope it works on Monday.

The floods in Cumbria last week were awful, and it is making us very nervous. We were flooded at work last year and were out of the office from September till May while they did all the repairs and a fair amount of building work. The field where the floods spread from last year are looking like a lake at the moment with lots of seagulls swimming around on them, the stream at the other end of the site is full up to the top, the roads have ponds all over the place, the drains are blocked - it is not looking good. We receive all the new stock in our office, so on Friday afternoon we put all the boxes of new books onto desks, tables, chairs etc, in case of flooding. Fingers crossed it won't be wet on Monday. Today has been fine and dry so maybe we will be lucky this time..

Poor Nicky is having car problems. She drove through a big patch of water which went up to the doors yesterday, and today when she set off to go to the christening of the baby of a friend the car started making odd noises. So she turned round to come home, very upset. We hope that if we leave the car to dry out for another day it will be ok. In the meantime I have put her on my insurance and she has headed off to Devon for the christening tomorrow.

The choir is singing at a ecuminical event in Monmouth tomorrow. Fingers crossed that the weather isn't too awful for that too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It is 5am on the day of Kate and Carl's wedding, and so far there are a couple of disappointments One of Carl's friends can't get here because of the flooding in Cumbria, where they are under feet of water, and a policeman died yesterday when he was swept off a bridge as it collapsed. Dreadful.

By comparison my disappointment with the flowers is minor, but nevertheless I am really disappointed. We spent£150 on flowers and (apart from the gypsophilia) they are all still tight shut and showing no signs of opening out at all. I am going to give them some warm water and a blast with the hair drier (2 tips found on the internet) when it is a more reasonable hour of the day to see if I can get them to open. Luckily that company couldn't supply the flowers Kate wanted for her bouquet so we got those from a local florist and they are fine. The calla lillies where also supposed to be for the buttonholes but are a bit too big, however the local supermarket had some nice orange roses which look lovely as the buttonholes. But I spent hours yesterday arranging flowers which were all green and all closed - virtual flower arranging!

Imagine what the arrangements will look like when the flowers open!

Why have actual flowers to arrange when all you need are bits of greenery!

What really pisses me off is that I could have done better getting the flowers from Tescos and the greenery from the back garden. At a fraction of the cost. I am really cheesed off.

I think that is why I have been awake since 3.30am, as it is one of those little niggly things which you can't do anything about, but your mind goes over and over in the hopes that it can figure a way out. So irritating.

Hence blogging at this hour of the morning.

However if that is the worst of our mislaid plans it isn't much to worry about.

We had a minor dress hiccup Friday morning because it is satin and wasn't sitting right, so I took the boning out of the bust and took it in about half and inch so it sits better and fits Kate better. So I was up in the bedroom and Carl had to give notice when he was coming upstairs which was amusing.

10 hours to go!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cake making day

I have been making cakes all day.

I have made 120 cupcakes (or fairy cakes), evenly split between chocolate with chocolate butter icing, plain with butter icing, coconut, lemon and plain with mascarpone and raspberries (though they don't get the topping till Saturday).

Tomorrow I do flowers

Today I also got my first postal delivery from the Oxfam shop - masses of things at bargain prices, and most of which I will probably keep. Excellent!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

4 Days to go

There are 4 days to go till Kate and Carl's wedding, which is exciting. I am making 110 cupcakes (or fairy cakes depending on what you call them - Brian and I got into a very serious discussion about it on the weekend) on Thursday, and I need to buy all the ingredients tomorrow. The flowers are arriving on Thursday and I am arranging them on Friday. Family arrive on Friday evening and I am looking forward to a very good evening.

I am not dieting this weekend. Although I don't intend to gorge I do intend to enjoy my food, after all what is the point of having an award winning restaurant provide the food if you don't eat any of it?

Saturday morning we are taking the flowers to the hotel and arranging them there, then I will go and join Kate and Nicky to get ready at the hotel, and then we have the wedding.

It should be lovely and I will put some pictures up next week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday (13th)

Today is Friday and although it is Friday 13th today has been a good day. I have now lost 2 stone 4 lbs and am thrilled with it. I am sitting with my (naughty) glass of wine and have a weekend ahead. Good.

It is 1 week to the wedding. This weekend I am getting my hair done and need to clean the house, draw up a shopping list and make sure I know what I am doing.

Very sadly the owner of the hotel, Court Colman, died last week. He was a charming man and was one of the reasons for chosing the hotel. It is very sad. He had been at an awards ceremony the night before where the restaurant won the best Indian restaurant award for the second year in a row, and died in his sleep. Very sad.

We are having rain, more rain, wind and more wind this weekend, so I hope it doesn't last till next weekend - we would really like it to be dry!! Here are crossed fingers.

Brian gave me a tripod for my birthday which I have yet to use, so I need to think about going out and using it to take some pictures. Possibly one of next year's resolutions. This blog was one of this year's and I have kept it up, not every day, but it is still going.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things I love

Chris was writing things she loved - though she gave up as she is in a bad mood - so here are some of mine

- family (of course)
- being thinner
- Strictly come dancing
- Terry Pratchett
-the glass of wine on Friday night to welcome the weekend
- singing, especially when the voice is really working and the top notes soar
- sunshine and warmth
- chocolate
- a nice walk on a nice day with lovely scenery
- reading in bed with a nice cup of tea in the morning
- tea
- clean sheets on the bed after a shower so that I am clean, my hair is clean, the sheets are fresh, it's lovely

These are in no order.

I have also finally decided on my desert island luxury. It has varied for years between tea, paper and pencils or a hot bath. Now I have decided that I want Ray Mears because he would feed me, light fires and build a boat to take us away and back to civilisation.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Catch up

I haven't written this for a bit because of being busy, but being busy with boring things so have had nothing really to write about.

Last week I was in Swindon for a user group meeting. we are getting a new computer system for the library and I am project manager for it, so I went off to a user group meeting last week. Swindon is where Kate lives, so I stayed with her and Carl instead of the hotel which was very nice. There were large parts of the meeting that made sense, and other parts that didn't we have yet to start using the system, so people discussing details went over my head rather. However meeting people was useful and I made some good contacts. There are 6 other Welsh library authorities using this system, and 4 of them had people there, and there was a tendency for the Welsh to get together, though a break time discussion of Welsh language was pretty exclusive anyway.

It is a small world though. The village where Brian's cottage is is tiny. There are about 30-35 houses. However Sue who was at the user group meeting from Pembrokeshire also lives in that village. I mentioned the village at lunchtime and Sue said - but I live there!! So we discovered a neighbour while in a meeting in Swindon - go figure!

The wedding preparations are all falling into place, although most of the falling is because Kate has pushed them there. Things are ordered, things are in line to do, so with only 12 days left we are counting down.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shopping and things

I have started Christmas shopping in earnest. I went out and got some of the things for the stocking fillers today, which doesn't sound like much but they add up - even the socks etc I love Christmas, even now that the children are grown up we still have stockings etc.

I also love the way ever family has a different way of doing Christmas, and of course every way is the only proper way to do it. We usually have baked ham and mashed potato for Christmas eve. The girls usually go out after dinner on Christmas eve because lots of their school friends who have moved away come back for the holiday, and they go out to the pub in the evening so they catch up with each other. Brian and I laze around the house instead, nibbling cheese and drinking wine. I used to go to midnight mass so I would stay up and go out at 11.00 to go to church, but it is much harder work now I am older, so I have given up that one.

Instead we head off to bed and I put the kids stockings outside their bedroom doors despite the fact that they are all still up after I go to bed. They do however ignore their stockings until the morning. In the morning I open my stocking and look at all the nice things the kids have given me. Brian and I have tea or coffee, then I will put the turkey into the oven and leave it to get on with cooking I will go to mass at 9.00 and Brian will head off to his house to get the presents for his own kids, which he will then take over to them at their mother's house.

The kids will be up when I get back from church. Well, the girls are, Adam isn't. Nic usually has been and done her horse, though last year she was working till about 11.30 (horses don't take Xmas off). Then we will have coffee and get the veg and stuff going. When we are all ready we open the Prosecco, get the smoked salmon, the thin brown bread and start the real Christmas stuff. Kate hands out the presents one at a time, and we all watch as everyone opens their own presents. We drink Prosecco, eat smoked salmon, cook veg, probably eat chocolates until dinner is ready, and then we eat it.

The we loaf, maybe walk the dog, maybe play a game, maybe watch tv.

I love it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Emperor's new clothes

We have just been to a bloody boring concert. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales are doing a series of 3 composer portraits of contemporary composers, and the first was Simon Holt tonight. It was crap.

We go to a lot of contemporary concerts because Brian is a contemporary classical composer. A lot of them are crap.

A lot of them are dull, repetitive and unimaginative.

There seems to have been little progress since the 1960s in some ways. While not saying that the very squeeky gate and aleatoric stuff produced then was long lasting, any more than the aleatoric writing of william Burroughs may be long lasting, it was (then) original, and provocative.

However now - in most art forms - we seem to be stuck into a state where repetition is acceptable, and regarded as creative. Rachel Whitemead continues to make concrete casts of buildings - perhaps once has an artistic statement, but to keep repeating it makes it no longer art, it makes it craft, like throwing pottery mugs on a larger scale.

All 4 pieces of Simon Holt's tonight were very similar. He either has frenetic string playing, or oompa brass playing, or both together. There was no actual music, nothing memorable, nothing narrative, nothing subtle, nothing original. We went for a drink to drown our sorrows.

Richard,Brian's middle son, is a film writer. He has written a script which various people have said is excellent, but it isn't a script which people want to make into a film because it doesn't fit into a niche which the accountants know will make money. At a party last week he met two girls who want to study fine art. They want to paint. The art colleges, while admitting that they have talent, tell them they cannot study painting, they have to create installations instead. Painting isn't art anymore.

The London Olympic bit had a significant arts strand and part of that strand was 'legacy'. They announced the first 12 successful bids last week and all of them are temporary, installation type pieces and apparently fill the 'legacy'commitment by saying that the people who took part will remember them.

More CRAP.

And expensive crap.

I know I sound like an old fart, but surely imagination, and skill, and talent should have a part to play in art. It shouldn't be like Damien Hurst selling empty nothings to people with more money than sense.

Sometimes I despair.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beautiful shoes

I have bought some beautiful shoes to wear to the wedding. They have snazzy silver heels and lovely sparkly stars - which sounds a bit naff, but they are lovely. So here is a picture of them.

I didn't get much else, though I did pick up a nice jacket for work from the charity shop (again).

It is getting wintery now, with wind and rain. The clocks go back tonight so we get an extra hour of sleep, but I bet I will just wake up an hour earlier. Ho hum.

Friday, October 23, 2009

2 stone down


I have now lost 2 stone.

I am now a size 14 (not quite round the bust but nearly - certainly am round the bottom half)

I am really delighted.

I have treated myself to a steak and 2 glasses of wine tonight, and tomorrow I will go and look for some new clothes.

I still have 1 stone to go, though I don't think I will reach that by Kate's wedding, I hope I may reach it by Christmas. The I will be at my target weight of 10 stone 8 lbs which is reasonable at my age and after 3 kids. That works out at half a stone per child above my lowest good weight.

Pretty impressive eh?????

I am happy bunny.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wedding outfit shopping

I took yesterday off work to go looking for wedding garments. The diet has worked (and is still working) very well, but I have lost more off the bottom half than the top half so far. I am hoping that this will even out, but at the moment I am not a 14 on the top. This made trying on dresses a very depressing experience.

I tried on LOTS of dresses. Part of the problem is that empire line and high waists are back in which if you have a big bum and small bust is flattering. The other way round - no. Not a good look. Plus the fact that in the run up to Xmas the shops thing everything needs to be black or red. Or very highly patterned. Or 60s smock type things which, if you have done maternity clothes, is not a look you want to go back to.

I also walked 5 miles. Out of curiosity I used the pedometer, and it was just under 5 miles by the time I finished, so who says shopping isn't exercise?

I tried on a couple of skirts which were ok, and then tried on a trouser/halter neck dress combo/catsuit thing (hard to describe but do not think Avengers here) which was really flattering, very comfy and I bought it. Black and silver. Not very mother of the bride, but as traditional mother of the bride was not a look I wanted anyway that is ok. Why do MOTBs wear suits they would never normally contemplate? They are all very similar and require the big hat to finish them off - I did look in one shop at MOTB stuff and fled quickly. Not me at all.

I also got 2 skirts (v unusual for me) , 1 pair of trousers and a top for everyday from the charity shops, which I am really pleased with, and which give me more choice for day to day now that so many of my clothes don't fit.

Very successful day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phone problems

My mobile phone - which I got in January - ceased to work. And by that I mean that the speaker had gone so I couldn't hear anyone at all, which was not helpful. So I sent it back to Motorola via an Orange shop in Barry and eventually (after chasing them) they sent it back and the speakers worked. Hooray. But....

the charger no longer fits. How bizarre is that? The shop and another shop were baffled, and a new charger was £14.99, whereas I could buy a new phone for £14, so I gave up with the jinxed phone and got the £14 one which is very nice actually. Weird.

We had a pleasant surprise Saturday night over the weekend. I do not mean that Saturday night was in itself a surprise as we had expected that, however we had no ideas about going out and socialising which was what we did. We went to Pembrokeshire to B's cottage for the weekend and Saturday morning we went to St Davids for a walk. There were signs for a concert of Rachmaninov's Vespers that night in the Cathedral, so we went. As we got there and found two friends there also, who don't live locally, so we went out for a drink with them afterwards as well. really lovely.

I must go as the ironing is waiting

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Management system

We are getting a new library management system and I am project managing the migration. Increasingly over the next few months I will be getting down into the nitty gritty detail of the new system as we decide how to use it and how we want it to work, what it will do and what it won't do.

At the moment we are getting really into the set up and mapping all the details of our system so that we can put all the data on the existing system into the right pigeon holes in the new system. Basically it is like packing up a house and you have to say exactly where you want everything put in the new house, including which drawers to put the socks in and how to fold the jumpers. It goes a bit beyond the "make sure you know where the kettle is". I have a horrible feeling that once we go past the wedding - people are interested in that and I can chat to anyone about it, that I am going to get very boring as I get more absorbed in computer stuff.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Puppy sitting

We have been puppy sitting this weekend. Nicky volunteered to dogsit for a friend who was going to a wedding, which was all fine and good. Except that she ended up working both Saturday and Sunday so Mum and Brother get to do the dog sitting.

The dog is a 13 week old Siberian Husky puppy who is as pretty as a picture, with beautiful markings and lovely blue eyes. She is very affectionate and friendly, with lovely soft fur, and all in all was a poppet except......

Although we were told she was house trained she is still so young that when she gets excited she piddles automatically. She did ask to go out, but she also peed on the hall, tv room and Adam's bedroom floor. Fortunately only one was carpted, however we decided to keep her to the kitchen and tv room after that and away from the carpets.

She loved the back garden and raced round and round and round and dug some things up, so as it was a beautiful day we left the back door open so all was fine.
Until bedtime.

At home she sleeps in the bedroom. I don't allow my dogs upstairs and the animals certainly do NOT sleep in the bedrooms, so Jess stayed downstairs. Adam went to bed about 3 and she started crying , then howling. By 4.30 in an effort to let Adam get some sleep as his room is over the tv room we gave in and Nicky had her in her room.

Nic then went to work at 7.30 and Jess started howling again, so Brian took her out to the garage (away from Adam's room) tied her to the lawnmower and let her howl until we got up at about 9. She is one very spoilt little puppy. The trouble is that she is going to grow into a fairly big strong dog, and she is getting away with being a lap dog now, but she is going to be too big when she is grown. Plus the separation anxiety thing kept me in the tv room all Sunday morning till 1.00 (by which time I thought it reasonable for Adam to be woken by the howling) so I did the ironing, and as the weather was awful today I couldn't leave the back door open.

I don't have a lot of patience with owners who spoil their animals like that because it isn't doing the dog any favours, nor the owners who won't be able to leave her with anyone, who can't take her anywhere unless she can sleep in their room - daft. Talk about making life difficult for yourself.

She's a lovely little dog, and very bright, she can already sit to command, and was hilarious when we walked her this morning. She only has a short lead so I borrowed a long lunge line from Nicky (used for lunging horses and about 10m long) to go out for a walk this morning and it turned out a bit like skipping with a long rope for Brian and I as she ran back and round and we had to keep jumping over the rope. It was very funny though.

Thankfully they picked her up at lunchtime, so I could escape to do some things in the rest of the house. She's a lovely dog, but we won't have her back unless she is taught to sleep alone at night.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Diet progress

Well I have now lost one and a half stone - which sounds a lot more than 21 lbs and am halfway to my goal. It is getting a bit harder in a way because I am losing less each week than earlier - which is inevitable - and the desire to eat other things is getting greater. However I am mostly still managing to stick to it, though I may start to cluck soon as I am eating so much chicken. I was at a work thing today which did provide lunch, though as I could eat absolutely none of it I decided to depart and go back to the office.

I am down to size 14 in trousers, and down a bra size, though I need to work on the bust and tummy which are the areas where I still need to lose weight, so am starting to do a few sit ups etc.

I am still painting sticks, silver and white and sprayed a lot of teazle silver last Sunday which looks lovely actually. I have only a few more sticks to paint and then I will focus on cupcake recipes. It is all fun though.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have a cold and am feeling sorry for myself. I hate winter colds. Actually I hate summer colds too.

Also it is really getting wintery in the mornings. The car has condensation on all the windows and needs to be wiped off. The grass is wet and you need wellies to walk the dog. It is cold in the evenings. It is dark when the alarm goes off. Soon it will be dark when I come home.

It has been sunny and pleasant during the day, but I was in an office so I didn't get the benefit.

I am feeling like Mrs Grumpy, so I will go and get some more Benylin cold stuff.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Painting twigs

I have been in the garden painting twigs this afternoon. It does feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland but am only painting them white to be feature decorations for Kate and Carl's wedding and the roses are left untouched. They are currently stuck into the ground around the garden which does look a bit surreal. It was so warm, warmer than it has been for a lot of the summer.

I had company because Saffy the dog is staying for a few days. She has been a bit poorly recently. Last weekend her back legs went out from under her and she was very unhappy. Off to the vet who thinks it is arthritis in her hip or pelvis. She is on medicine and is much happier now, but for a dog who has always been very springy it is proving a bit tricky to stop her jumping up. She is also on shorter walks so as not to overtax her hips.

I have also decided not to audition for the choir, not because of musical reasons but for commitment reasons. They often do tours abroad and I don't want to commit myself to that because I can't really afford it, and so have decided not to go ahead with it. Sad, but I actually feel the right thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I am taking my courage in both hands and am auditioning for a choir in Cardiff on Monday. I have been singing for years, but have usually managed to get away without auditioning, so I am very apprehensive about it. I have looked at loads of music and can find very little that I like to have as an audition piece. Most of the pieces I know are choral and therefore singing just the soprano line without the other parts sounds very thin and bodiless, plus without the other parts I keep going flat for some reason. Other folk songs and things don't have enough range for an audition piece, they aren't interesting enough and only span about half and octave so they are no use.

Plus I hate listening to myself singing alone - I am very much a choral singer. I don't mind being heard when singing with other people, I can sing my part alone if the rest of the choir is singing, but by myself I get self conscious and don't sing so well.

However the worst that can happen is that I don't get in.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sticks and flowers

I am pondering the flower arrangements for the wedding in November and as Kate is having an icy wintery theme I don't want to actually have too many flowers. Lots of arrangements for weddings are very flower intensive, with massed flowers bunched together and not much greenery and although they are often lovely, I don't think they are very wintery. So I have painted some long straight sticks white, white and glitter and silver and they are going to look good with maybe a few flowers inserted. I also sprayed some greenery silver this afternoon and that looks great and would be good mixed with actual greenery and just a few flowers as well. So I need to get a large can of spray paint to do more silver and then think about containers as well. I am having a really good time.

I signed up for a photography evening class which was to teach me all about my camera but sadly only 3 people signed up so the class has been cancelled. I am so disappointed as I was really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flowers and cakes

I am thinking lots of deep thoughts about flowers and cakes for Kate's wedding. We are having a cake of cheese and then fairy cakes. I am making the fairy cakes so on Sunday I made 3 batches of 3 different recipes and have asked the family and colleagues at work to do a taste test which they enthusiastically did, and the majority vote is for the easiest and cheapest of the three, though the next most favourite has the advantage of baking with a very flat surface so they are easier to ice. The jury is still out.

Flowers are the other thing we are doing ourselves, so I have started looking at the websites and narrowing down the actual choice of colours and flowers, then we need to work out how many arrangements we want and how many flowers in each one before we place the orders.

Oooh it is getting really exciting!!

Also the diet is going well. I have lost over a stone in 6 weeks, so it is really starting to be visible now which is encouraging.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lakes weekend

I went up to the Lake district to stay a few days with my sister and her husband in the cottage which they have rented for 2 weeks in Ambleside. It is beautiful there, with small, drystone walled fields, with sheep or cattle browsing, the mountains rising up around the lakes, narrow roads with pretty houses either slate or rendered. It is incredibly picturesque. In September it wasn't too busy, though there were still dozens of hikers around. Up above is a waterfall by Rydal House which was much admired by the Romantics.
This is Grasmere. The second day we went for a walk from Grasmere back to Ambleside. Grasmere is where Wordsworth spent much of his life, and lots of his family are buried in the Grasmere church (below). We didn't go into his house but did wander around the village for a bit, before going for our walk, and it is very pretty.
For some reason they pebble dashed the church at some time, which does not add anything to its beauty, and it is a shame because inside it is really lovely, very simple with mediaeval beams and mostly whitewashed.

We had a lovely time, and I felt I had had a real little holiday by the time I came home.

I live in a beautiful part of the world, but there are so many beautiful parts of the world that one is sometime spoilt for choice!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No horse photos

Nic asked me to come up to the stables and take pictures of her horse Fiveaside. Sadly she needs to sell him because she needs to get a new clutch in her car which is going to cost about £900 (!), and needs a picture to sell him in the magazine. As her car is non functional we went in my car, but he has a swollen knee because he fell over while (if you will pardon the pun) horsing around in the field. So she couldn't ride him and we couldn't take pictures. He went into the horse walker for an hour to walk off some of the swelling - he isn't lame - while Nic mucked out, and I read my book in the car. Then she bandaged his leg and off we went.

Nic is turning into a racehorse rehoming centre. Fiveaside is a failed racehorse, but will make a lovely riding horse, and went to Pony Club camp where he had a lovely time. A friend bought another one, gave him some training and has sold him on to a lovely family home. Now they have another one each, to teach how to be riding horses instead of race horses and then sell on to be happy hacking horses. It is quite amusing, but also well worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Diet going well

While not wanting to talk all the time about my diet, nevertheless I am please to say that I have now lost more than 1 stone. I'm not finding it too hard at the moment, mainly because it is working and I really like cold chicken.

It is now showing and my trousers are getting loose, which is a very good thing, although I now have the dilemma of whether to buy more clothes to fit now, when I am intending to lose more weight. I have bought 2 pairs in the sale, and that will have to do for now. I bought one pair which said they were a size 14 but turned out to be a size 18 which was sad, as they were nice trousers and have had to go back to Tescos.

I have also been ripped off by a company called PPW online who advertise on facebook. They say they will take £1.97 from your account to send information about working online, so I agreed to that. However they didn't send the information, and then took £49 out of my account . I am phoning the credit card company tomorrow about it. Very annoying though.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Garage tidying

TodayI have been tidying the garage. This is an annual event but not one that is high up the list of things you look forward to. It gets to the point where you can't walk across the garage or find anything and then it all needs sorting out. It would be sensible to keep it tidy but we aren't really very good at that, and with Nicky being the messiest of us and the one who has the most stuff. There is no tack room where she keeps her horse so a lot of horse stuff ends up there as well.

This time I am being really radical and I am going to throw out stuff that has been kept "just in case" including old tins of paint etc. I've done half of it, then went off shopping with Nic for bridesmaid dress, which was successful. Then we went to the supermarket. Now I am watching 'The Muppets take Manhatten'.

Friday, August 28, 2009

End of summer

So, summer is over and we are heading into Autumn. The last month has been more like autumn than summer anyway, with rain, wind and occasional bits of sun.

I can't believe what I am hearing. The Rugby Union in Wales are going to be importing 14 Canadians to help along the North Wales rugby teams. What?? Aren't there enough players in Wales already? This country is obsessed by rugby so why the need to import Canadians?

On a brighter note the new racecourse in Carmarthen, Ffos Las, officially opened today, with capacity crowds, and certainly Nicky's boss sent 6 horses to the races, so I must find out if he won anything.

My diet is going well and I am losing weight which is encouraging. I'm not allowed wine but I am having a G&T instead.

Hooray for Bank Holiday weekends!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Strictly back!

I am so excited that Strictly come dancing is back soon. September is looking really good as we have Strictly back so there is something to watch on Saturdays, and the new John Lewis shop is opening in Cardiff as well.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Complicated heaters

Brian and I had a fun weekend. He has ordered new, more efficient, storage heaters for the cottage so that when he retires he can be warm and it not cost a fortune. They came in nice boxes with the bricks outside - 6 bricks per heater. There were instructions with the heaters and instructions with the separate controller and receivers (so you can programme time and temperature etc). As usual the instructions were less than completely clear. It took both of us reading, and rereading, looking at the places we had to wire the cables to, and arguing about what we were meant to be doing most of the morning to figure it out.

The controller and receiver came without back boxes so we trooped off to Wickes to buy some and guess what - they aren't a standard size, so we couldn't do anything about attaching them to the wall. Why? Why send something out like that? The supplier is now contacting Dimplex to find out where we can get the boxes. But I think they should have come with boxes. You can't use them without so what is the point of sending them in their nice little cardboard boxes if you can't actually do anything with them until you buy a little metal back box?

Brian spent most of the weekend wiring the heaters up. They have a main cable going into the off peak electricity box. They have another main cable which plugs into a normal power point and runs the fan and the booster. Then they have another cable which attaches to the receiver which attaches to an isolater unit which then has to be wired into the mains. All these cables have to wired into a tiny area with stupid fiddly little screws. Why make it so difficult? We've been using electricity for a while now, can't we make it easier to wire things up?

So this weekend Brian gets to do the rest of it.

I am going wedding shopping with Kate instead and leaving him to it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

E reader

I had a look at the Sony e- reader in a shop at the weekend. It was actually quite impressive. It was the size of a large paperback but very skinny, 50mm probably, with control buttons on the bottom. It has the ability to bookmark your pages, select any of the books kept on it, vary the font size and the page looks like a paperback book, the page is off white with very clear black print. It comes with 100 classic novels and if you get a memory chip you can keep up to 1600 books on it. That is the good bit.

I read all the reviews on Amazon out of curiosity because - as a librarian - I wondered if we would be asked for download books in the not too distant future. Everyone loved the Sony reader. They all thought it worked really well and was extremely well designed, robust, readable etc etc.

There was universal condemnation of Waterstones who are Sony's partners in the UK. Their website is awful apparently, the prices of the e books is generally higher than their paper versions which, as there are no production or transportation costs, is pissing everyone off. The selection of e books is still poor with lots of books that people want not available in this country.

The digital rights management software which comes with the reader is apparently very clunky and not user friendly so lots of people are recommending alternatives, which are much easier and also work with Macs (Sony never make anything that works with Macs). One person who has not managed to come to terms with it has been reading the 100 classics and did say that he can see why they are classics as they are very good books.

It seems that the technology has outstripped the ability of the publishing and bookselling worlds to keep up (again). Publishers have still not managed to really come to grips with electronic delivery of serial items and the copyright laws are even further behind. But the main problem in the UK seems to be the lack of suitable books and suppliers. The USA is much better served in this area apparently, but because of copyright can't sell in the UK.

The idea of one of these really appeals to me because I would love to carry one slip item when I go on holiday instead of a bag full of books, but I would like to be able to buy the books I want to read, and I don't want to be ripped off on the price either. So I don't think I will be investing my £200 anytime soon, but when they get cheaper (as they will) and the number and cost of books improves I really think I would like one.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A little visual amusement

The guy is part of a drainpipe on a building in Oxford. I'm not sure whether the builder had a real thing about Alice in Wonderland, or perhaps Tenniel saw this and used it as inspiration, but he does look uncannily like some of the illustrations,
This is how not to open an umbrella. On a wet day I managed to open it with vim and vigour and pushed the slider past the clip, so it turned inside out. Here we have B trying to fix it, which sadly he failed to do so we abandoned the now broken umbrella to its fate and got wetter.
This chap is on a post by the dock at St Justinian's in Pembrokeshire. I have no idea why he is there or what he is supposed to mean, but he made us laugh, which is sufficient reason to have him there.

Today we are having a Barbeque for Kate's 30 birthday and the day has dawned grey and dismal. I hope that
a) it cheers up and the sun comes out later
b) it doesn't actually rain!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More about food

The diet has gone well in week 1 and I lost 5lbs. After the first few days I got less starvingly hungry and settled into it. Onward and downward!

However it has made me realise how many ads on tv are concerned with food!! So many with so much delectable nosh, making the saliva drool. It does heighten the awareness of how much we are tempted by food, and tempted by things we don't particularly need - cakes, sweets, boozeetc. It is a bit tantalising to me because of the diet, and for anyone on a diet - especially those with an unhealthy relationship with food - it is waving temptation under your eyes, but thankfully, not under your nose. Imagine how awful it would be if we had smellivision! Imagine watching those ads for roast and smelling a roast dinner, or chips, or bacon - it would be horrible and so very difficult to resist.

The other people who must find it hard are people who can't afford the food on the screen. Though that problem goes wider than food, and children's tv showing expensive toys has always posed problems to people with limited resources.

It is - if you will pardon the phrase - food for thought.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I have started a diet. This is another diet as I have done many over the years, and none of them have really worked. However as I am going to be mother of the bride in November I do have a serious motive. Lots of pictures which I cannot avoid being in are a strong incentive.

I am trying the diet regime which my daughter has used which is the Cambridge diet and it works on a very low calorie meal replacement, at varying levels of calorie intake as you progress. So I began yesterday and today I am hungry. I use the packets of prepared porridge/soup/shake for 2/3 meals and get to eat food in the evening, but the food available is fairly limited. I am a bit worried that I won't keep it up because I can't say I am very thrilled by the food so far. Months of cup a soups isn't terribly enticing, however as I get used to it and figure out how to make the food taste better I suppose.

Diets are strange things in themselves really. There is nothing like being told you can't have something to make you want it, and many people with a need to diet have a bad relationship with food, so in a way by going on a diet they set up additional stresses in their relationship with food. It does seem to be a Western problem that people eat too much and get fat, or use it as a weapon in a complex personal battle of bulemia or anorexia. Why is food such complicated thing ?

It can be a sign of love, of hate, of self loathing, of greed, of pleasure, of comfort, of need, to mention just a few. Some people have little interest in food and just eat to survive. Some enjoy food but find it easy to stop after a small amount. Others have a problem finding that stopping point and overeat, sometimes to extremes.

I watched part of a programme about a disorder where people never feel full and they will just keep on eating and eating, and will eventually eat themselves to death unless they are stopped. It was dreadful for them and for their families, but there are also people who do that to themselves without having a medical disorder and you see them on tv and just think 'Why?' What makes them so screwed up that they do that to themselves? But it doesn't happen overnight and things creep up on people without them being really aware of it, so they find themselves with a problem and sometimes find it very difficult to deal with, and you can see that the sense of whatever it was that made them overeat in the first place makes them less able to deal with the consequences of it and a vicious circle is created which they often can't break.

So I better stick to the diet and lose some weight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pembrokeshire holiday

We had a lovely 2 weeks in Pembrokeshire, very relaxing, very unorganised. The first week the weather was awful, the second week we got some walks in though, between the rain showers, though the rain was more like fire hose than shower. We saw a seal having his dinner, and here he is swimming off St David's Head.
We also saw some choughs. These are a picture of some of them. They are very rare members of the crow family with red feet and beaks, but there are quite a lot of them along the South Pembs coast, and we saw these while we were walking near Marloes. They are very social birds and very chatty.

This is just a fancy picture which I took at Marloes castle, through the hole in a wall.

We had a really lazy time and really did not want to go back to work. However ....

Statistic from the weather man yesterday - this July has been the wettest in Britain since 1888!!!!!!

I believe it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


We have been dogsitting a lot recently. Kate has been at work shows while Carl has been in the Middle East so we have had Saffy for a couple of weeks. It made a nice change because usually we have her to stay in the winter, so the walk before work - in the dark and the rain and the wind - is not so inviting. Whereas this time of year the walks have been lovely, the sun has been out, the skies have been blue, and the weather has been warm as well. It has been lovely.

Then Brian's brother has gone to visit his son and family abroad so we have had Megan to visit as well. She is a little Border terrier, about 13 years old, so she thinks she should only do what she wants to. She also hates the laminate floor we have in the tv room, so we have a variety of bits of rug on the floor because otherwise she looks at us as though we are torturing her, and walks like she is on ice. Mostly Brian has been walking Megan in the mornings, but this Sunday he went to London to visit his son so I got both of them on Monday morning. Saffy charging ahead, and Megan trotting in a ladylike way beside me. She does sedate little canters around the field but does seem to enjoy her walks still.

However Saffy was collected by Kate on Monday and they are off camping in Brecon, and Megan is off on Thursday so we have a dog free holiday ahead of us for the next two weeks. It is lovely how you are greeted and loved by dogs but on holiday they are more difficult to cope with than children because you can't take them into cafes, or art galleries, or lots of other places that you really want to go.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Warm and cold water

I went swimming in an indoor pool last Wednesday and did 5 lengths before feeling in need of a breather, then did 16 lengths altogether and felt good after it.

Friday I went into the outdoor pool, same size, on a hot and lovely day. it was cold getting in but it was lovely once past the first - ooh- feeling. However after 2 lengths I needed a breather and only managed 12 lengths in all, and felt really quite tired after it.

Brian suggested that cold water is harder to swim in because the water is sort of thicker, more dense as it is colder. It seemed to make sense but has anyone any idea if there is any real reason why it seemed harder work swimming in the outdoor pool? It has been puzzling me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weathered stones and trees

This was on a river bed, where the water from the mountain comes down fiercely in the winter, so although when we were there - near Fort William - in the summer there was barely a trickle of water in the river bed, you can see from the stone that the water has worn a great dip in the stone over the years.
This tree is growing out of the rocks. It makes me think of Treebeard and the Ents pulling apart Isengard in Lord of the Rings, but in this case the tree and the rocks seem to have a very happy relationship.

We saw some wonderful eroded stone in Northumberland. The local building material is sandstone, and with the wind and the weather on the coast the sandstone has started looking like a sponge with huge holes in places. The above picture is part of the frontage of Lindisfarne Abbey and and the pillar has been worn down to a sliver.

These two stones are from Bamburgh Castle and are just full of holes. Quite extraordinary.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Concert weekend

We had a very musical weekend. On Saturday morning we went to a concert which was part of the Lower Machen Festival. The concert was a violin/viola and piano duo who were extremely good. It consisted of 3 pieces, 2 by local composers who were both present. One of them was like listening to a foreign language conversation - you knew something was being said, but had no idea what it was, though B thought it was crap as well, so I felt that my judgement was pretty justified. The other piece by Peter Reynolds was very pretty, and I liked that. The third piece was by a very well known composer called Hilary Tamm, and didn't seem to have anything much to say at all really. I've heard a few pieces by her and none of them have seemed very special although she gets lots of plaudits they all seem a bit dull to me. The last bit was an arrangement for viola and piano of 6 sections of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet which worked much better than I would have thought it would.

We were discussing the number of concerts of contemporary music that we listen to that have unremarkable music in them. We wondered if we were missing the point, or if we were just like the child in The Emperor's New clothes story and were the only ones seeing reality. I suppose that there will always be pieces of well known music that I don't like which other people do (Wagner for instance) and that this is just an extension of that.

On Sunday evening we went to a different concert which was celebrating Tudor music. A Cardiff choir called Cantemus who are very good indeed and Ensemble Hercules (who perform at the Globe) doing a mix of sacred and secular music and it was excellent. The Ensemble played some instruments I'd never seen before eg a cornetto and were terrific. They did a mixture of Byrd, Tallis, gibbons etc and included some pieces by Henry VIII as well, which were actually lovely.
The church benches in both cases however were less than lovely to the backside.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summertime in Llantwit

All sorts of activities happen when the weather is nice. Though having said that these activities would still have happened even if it had been pouring with rain, which is not unlikely in Wales in the summer.

Here is the local horse show.

And here is the local Victorian Fair. This is held every two years and people get dressed in Victorian costume.
When it first started about 20 years ago lots of the public dressed up, but I noticed on Saturday that not even all the stall holders had dressed up, which is a pity. I think it should be compulsory for the people who take stalls to come in costume. The local supermarkets had everyone in costume in the shops so I really think the stall holders should make an effort. In addition to the stalls there were bands, a bike race, stiltwalker etc. It was great.

Why is Blogger such a pig about loading photos??????

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mother Nature

The scenery of Northumberland and northern Scotland is wonderful. Although living in Wales one does get used to beautiful scenery, because it is everywhere, the scale of Scotland and the Northumberland coast are breathtaking. There are a few photos which don't begin to do it justice - even the videos don't do it justice.
This is the view from the mountain next to Ben Nevis

And this is Ben Nevis.

We didn't see the red squirrels which the signs said were around but we did see an osprey hunting when we were sitting reading at the beach at Lossiemouth, which was exciting.

But the deer which stayed and grazed quite calmly and allowed lots of photos to be taken when we were by the loch was a real treat.

We didn't see Nessie or an golden eagle either, sadly. I did have my camera ready for Nessie as we drove the whole length of Loch Ness but not a sign of a prehistoric dinosaur.

This is the beach at Findhorn. The beaches along the Moray Firth are huge, sandy and empty. Admittedly we were there on a Monday and Tuesday during school term time so I expect that it gets a bit busier during the holidays, but I doubt if it ever swarms with people because the beaches are just so huge.
We had two days lazing on the beaches and reading which was lovely after the touring we had been doing in Northumberland. Then when we went to Fort William we found a fantastic walking area, though surprisingly full of Germans - by the coachload actually. However there was still plenty of room for us to walk in peace and quiet (apart from the jets - with RAF bases at Lossiemouth and Kinloss there are rather a lot of jets roaring around). I can recommend Scotland and Northumberland unreservedly.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Castles in Northumberland

Here are some of the castles we saw in Northumberland. There are lots of them, and many of them are enormous. This area has been fought over by the English and the Scots for centuries and the biggest family - the Percy family, once Earls and now Dukes of Northumberland have been there since the 11th century are still in Alnwick castle and still own it.

This is Alnwick.

This is Bamburgh castle which has been a school, a hospital as well as a castle and a house. It is right on the coast and whereas Alnwick has original Tintorettos on the wall, this one has a very endearing selection of things put together almost at random. Lots of weapons, miscellaneous furniture, and lots of really lovely porcelain which is very nicely labelled so you can decide if you are going to opt for Meisen or Sevres when you win the lottery.

This is Dunstanburgh castle which is a ruin and right on the coast. It is enormous though we didn't go round this one as we have done castle ruins elsewhere and thought we would lie on the grass and soak up the sun instead.

There are lots of other castles too, but we felt a bit castled out after these, and although we would quite like to have seen the castle at Holy Island we had a short time there because of the tides so it was only the Priory that we got to see.
What photos can't show you is the space there. It is a place where you can stretch out and not feel you are hitting the walls.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hadrian's Wall

This is the view from Housesteads Fort on Hadrian's Wall. The panorama is absolutely stunning and you can imagine a lonely Roman soldier loooking out over the miles of forest and hills waiting for the hostile and barbarian Picts to come charging in for the attack. We went along Hadrian's wall on a hot, sunny June day, so the Roman soldier would have been happy with the weather, a break from the cold northern winds, grey skies and endless rain, but the locals were mostly hostile this far north, although there were local villages attached to most of the forts where the local traders and other lived.

This is Chesters fort which is the most complete cavalry barracks left. This view is from the river up towards the bath houses. Each fort had latrines which drained into the river, bath houses with hypocausts - ie modern bathrooms. Pretty neat really. In fact the bathhouses may have been better than the very odd shower in the first cottage we stayed in.
The shower was one of those with a tap adapter, but no wall attachment, so that when you moved the height of the shower it got VERY hot or cold suddenly, so washing my hair turned into a two person job with B acting as the shower holder. We got the hang of it by the end of the week when we were leaving.

This is some of the drainage from the latrines and bathroom. You have to think that there will be very little of our drain systems in 2000 years. The London sewers were built in the 1850s and are already in a dire state in some places and in real need of some of the drains being completely replaced. At the time they were the pinnacle of engineering and Bazelgette, who designed them, was a genius in the way he got the gravity feeds to work over such a large area to drain the system towards the rivers. Yet the Romans had done it all way before and the system lasted much,much longer. We still don't know how they did all the things they did do which I find astonishing.

And finally these are some of the barracks. Each soldier had one of these rooms which are actually pretty spacious. I was surprised how roomy they actually were . The rooms faced each other over a colonaded central area with a drain running down the middle.

We had a fascinating day looking at the remains at Hadrian's wall and although we didn't get to Vindolana which is the other one we really wanted to see we still saw a lot, and it was one of the things on my list of things to see in Northumberland.

We had a brilliant holiday, and I saw lots of things in Northumberland that I really did want to see, so I shall roll them out to you in installments, sharing them gradually, as we saw them on holiday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On holiday soon

We are in mad packing mode.

B is packing up his whole house as the removal men are moving his stuff from one College house to another while we are on holiday, so his whole house is FULL of boxes. Today we also packed to go on holiday which seemed to involve a lot of ironing on both our parts.

We have finery to wear for the wedding on Saturday, we have picnic stuff, we have camping chairs, table and stove for the picnics, walking boots, food and things as we are staying in cottages - luckily B has a big car, it seems an awful lot for a fortnight really.

I have no idea if we have any internet access so the blog will go by the board for the next few weeks I expect, but there should be lots of nice photos in a couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed for fine weather for the wedding!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

OOh - a sunny day!

Today has been warm and sunny. It is as though the weather realised the wintery stuff it has been dishing up the last couple of weeks is all wrong and has relented to give some sunshine. It may be a false promise, but it is lovely while it lasts.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dinner not quite as planned

Yesterday was bookclub. This is a group of 6 of us who have been getting together once a month to swap books A couple of years ago the nibbles grew and we became a bookclub who had dinner, taking turns cooking. Last night was my turn, and I had planned what I was going to cook, but...

I got my days mixed up.

I came home, cooked my own meal, then Nicky came home and said 'didn't I have book club?' and I said no. Then I thought - what is the date? Then - oops.

A quick dash to the supermarket got most (but not all) of the ingredients for the starter and main course (someone else does the pudding). So Adam cleaned the kitchen and Nic vacuumed while I was at the supermarket, then Nic laid the table and things while I began cooking. She did the bruscetta (easy option starter) while I did the rest.

It was ok. The salmon should have been done in filo pastry but neither supermarket had any so I had to cook it in baking parchment which doesn't have the same effect. They had no fresh chillies either so I had to use dried and misjudged the amount so the rice was hotter than it should have been, however my audience was understanding and the pud was nice.

Oh well, can't win them all.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moving furniture

B and I went down to the cottage in Pembrokeshire, and on Saturday measured up the sitting room to see if we could fit the boudoir piano in. It is 145cm wide and 140 long so we found lots of places to put it, which means that we then moved the sofas and chairs around to see how it would look. The desk was standing in for the piano and did quite a nice job, so we sat in various places seeing how it would be, and really like the new layout, it is very cosy.

B managed to get the grass cut despite the rain, because there was also a strong wind which dried the grass out enough to cut it, though it was a bit blustery out there when he was doing it. However the difference it made was huge, as it transformed the cottage from looking really scruffy to looking very pleasant again.

Our next door neighbour at the cottage was an elderly man called Ray, who unfortunately took poorly around Christmas, and has had to go into a nursing home, so his house has gone up for sale. it is sad, isn't it. His daughter used to live in the village but died a few years ago from cancer, and his son works in Portugal so has been ordering his groceries from Tescos online from there for the last couple of years, but Ray couldn't cope any more on his own, even with help from other neighbours. Unfortunately his son's UK home is in Shropshire so he has had Ray moved nearer there so people can't visit from Llandeloy. It is sad.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

We went to see the Star Trek film yesterday (Spoiler alert!!!!! - don't read on if you haven't seen it and plan to)

I have been a died in the wool Trekkie from day one, and the fact that it wasn't on BBC Wales when I was in Aberystwyth was a disaster of no small proportions. It is tricky to take something which has been going since 1966 and has millions of very keen fans who probably know all the details in more depth than is actually good for them.

when the studios made Star Trek Enterprise I was unable to watch it because they created a prequel series which drove a horse and cart through the storylines which had gone through 3 different series, inventing new aliens, and generally making a nonsense of the history of the world created. It created a lot of fuss among people who objected to that.

I wondered how this film would manage because it has gone to the young Kirk and Spock and them getting together on the Enterprise, and at the beginning I did think - no they have that wrong, that isn't how it happened. But then... they have done something really clever by creating a time loop which has created an alternative history. The original Star Trek series has its plot lines going forward but the new film has its own plotlines in the alternative world which the timeloop has created, and it also means that they can go on making more films using these characters in this alternative timeline without in the least infringing on the original series. It is really clever and very well done.

The casting was good too - the actors playing Kirk and Spock (esp Spock) were excellent, and so even when you have the young Spock talking to the original Spock they are both very believable.
The other cast members work well especially Simon Pegg as Scotty.

I really enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would, but it won't mean a lot to anyone who hasn't watched the original Star Trek.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Concert went ok

The Saturday concert went ok, not great, but ok. Oddly I wrote a blog about it yesterday which seems to have vanished into the ether. We had a nice barbeque afterwards at Tom's house so the whole day was really pleasant.

Brian is moving house with College so the weekend was spent by him packing, and Sunday I gave a hand, and today I have brought back a car full of boxes and bubble wrap to assist.

My slug traps caught some slugs which was good, so I have poured more beer into them and hope to get more.

Other than that - nothing much happening

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Das Lied von der Erde

We had a very spontaneous outing last night. At 6pm I looked at the St David's Hall programme and discovered that Mahler's 'Das Lied von der Erde" was being performed - we thought it was on Saturday when we couldn't go. So two quick changes and 2 cheese sandwiches (eaten in the car) later, we were in Cardiff at the concert.

The first half was Beethoven's 4th which I don't know very well. He wrote a big symphony then a small one, and this is sandwiched between the Eroica and the 5th, which are pretty big and imposing neighbours to contend with. It was charming, inventive, light, very melodic, but doesn't engage the deep emotions that the 2 either side do.

After the interval the orchestra doubled in size, with the addition of some unusual instruments like a contra bassoon and 5 french horns, 2 harps and celeste. I'd never heard this piece before. Mahler had a deep superstition about writing his 9th symphony because no one since Beethoven had completed a 9th symphony, they had all died. So he didn't call it a 9th symphony, even though that is really what it is. It isn't symphonic in structure, having more than 4 movements and those movements not taking the usual symphonic structure. It is a setting of 6 Chinese poems translated into German, sung by tenor and contralto (can be a baritone but we had a contralto), and each poem is a different movement. It was absolutely stunning. We weren't actually seated in the best place because we were in one of the upper tiers so the soloists voices were being overcome by the orchestra when the orchestra really let rip, whereas had we been in the stalls i think the sound balance would have been better. Even so it was an experience.

Some of the movements are light and cheerful, but overall the words and the music are a farewell to life, and the final movement, which is very long, takes you through a range of sounds and emotions with the contra bassoon sounding like a musical foghorn with the very quiet singing , the french horns right at the bottom of their register, the flute, the clarinet, the piccolo all at various times playing duets with the singer. Then at the end the celeste plays with the really quiet singing of the contralto, and creates a complete stillness which lasted for nearly a minute after they finished playing, and the applause began. It was wonderful.

Music is extraordinary in its power to create that. How does something so dynamic as music, which is all about movement in one way or another create a sense of stillness, of stasis?

It was a fantastic concert.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Concerted effort

I still haven't caught many slugs, but the rats haven't been too noisy here. However Kate's rats are more than making up for it as one decided to die in her toilet pipes so the plumber had to come and remove the toilet to enable Carl to remove the maggot laden corpse. Then his friends moved back into the attic. The ratcatcher told her that last year he was getting a couple of calls a week from farmers at this time of year, now he is getting 50 calls a week from Swindon alone. They have poison resistant vermin. UGH.

On a less rodent laden subject, we are singing tomorrow.

This particular 'we' is the St Donats Chamber Choir, of which I am a long term member. We are a small acapella choir singing mostly renaissance music Which is fine. Unfortunately we agreed to sing at a fund raising day on Saturday. it is unfortunate because our conductor can't be there, so we are singing without her. It promises to be very ... very risky. I am not looking forward to it. Tom (person involved with the fundraiser) is hosting a barbeque afterwards, but as I am driving I can't drink, which is sad because I think I might need a drink after this one.

Oh dear. Fingers crossed - very firmly crossed.