About Me

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas and dogs

We have had a lovely Christmas with all 3 children and one son in law home.  Ad was working on Christmas day so we had a late dinner.  Kate and Carl made a fabulous brunch with Eggs Royale and prosecco, then we had a relaxed day until Adam got home about 2.30.  We then did presents and my very generous children have given me an iPad mini, so I am very excited!  I also got some jewellery, a pretty necklace and some earrings, and a thing to make my iPod talk to the radio. So I did very well indeed.

We have had a visiting dog over Christmas.  A Jack Russell crossed with (we think) corgi so he has a very long body, very short legs and huge bat ears, but he is very cute.  Saffy does not think so, she thinks he is a young pest and is being a grumpy old lady.  He did give me a total panic tonight however.  I got back from work and he wasn't here.  After checking the house I went round the field calling 'Fudge' everywhere while Adam went down the road, and after half an hour of hunting round and now sign of him we were getting ready to phone the police.  However in the meantime Nic had phoned her friend who is a dog warden.  He gave her the number for the kennels who told her he was in Llantwit police station.  When I got there he was delighted to see me and I was equally delighted to see him!!

Our office flooded again.  2008 was the last time.  The new stock was  moved out to Barry library on Monday, and today we spent most of the day throwing things into a skip and arranging how we were going to squash ourselves into the workroom in Barry library.  Ho hum.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


We went to see The Hobbit last night.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as Bilbo, he was born to be a hobbit.  The characters from the previous films  fit well into the new(old) story seamlessly, and the characters they have added from background information and the appendices mostly are good too.  The characterisation of the dwarves work really well too, and they end up being much more individual than they are in the book - as far as I can remember as it is a long time since I read it.

The 3D is great.  I am still so thrilled to be able to see it, and don't understand why I can, but it is great and the depth of the pictures are really quite exciting.

It is too long.  There is too much of the group being scenic against the scenic scenery.  The scene where they escape from the goblins goes on too long too.  The baddy orc isn't very convincing, and as they are meant to be created by man why are they running an independent war?

The ending is at a sensible place, and I can see the second film, but am still completely at sea about what they are going to do with the 3rd one.

Not as good as LOTR because the story isn't as good, there is less drama, less intensity so it is less exciting.

Spoiler alert -Bilbo doesn't tell anyone about the Ring until LOTR and there is a moment when he almost tells, but Gandalf says something and looks at Bilbo as if he knows about the ring - and he doesn't, the whole point is that he doesn't know until he throws the ring into the fire many years later.  That was annoying

Flood fears are rising with the water levels around us, and we spend an hour or so today lifting 100 or so boxes of books off the floor and onto higher surfaces. Ho hum.  Fingers crossed

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not flooded!


Work didn't flood.  The car parks around and the fields did, the road further down did, but we - thankfully didn't.  I am very relieved.

We have left all the boxes on tables just in case though we aren't being rained on at the moment.

An odd and irritating consequence of my ordering splurge is RSI in my arm, which is ridiculously sore today, though why it has waited till after I have had a weekend odd is baffling.  Hope it goes away tomorrow.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cars can be pricy

My car radio died recently.  Usually you would just either get it fixed or else get a new one fitted.  Not if you own a Honda Jazz.  They have cunningly built the thing right into the dashboard and the fascia panel has the controls for the heater etc in as well, so you can't just replace the radio, and to buy a new Honda radio costs £350 which is nuts!!  So after a conversation with a repair place who looked at the car and went 'oh dear' and told me it would be at least £130 to fix the old one (if they could) I decided to get a new one.

It has been put into the glovebox and it has a remote control so I can at least use it when driving.  Hurray.

B, on the other hand, had a problem with his car, and had the nasty shock of it being £650 worth!  Just before Christmas too.

I have been poor at blogging recently because I haven't actually had much to write about  Life seems to be work, home and work, with some Christmas shopping, some social stuff, but nothing really writable about.

Work - hmm
We are worried about flooding again as it is soooo wet here, and the river near work was over the height pole on Friday so we put all the boxes we had full of books onto tables in case it flooded.  However as I haven't had a text to say I am assuming that it hasn't been flooded.

We are going to be starting a series of training events on how to use eBooks soon so we have put in an application to buy some eBook hardware which means we will have lots of toys to play with while we are working out how they all work.  That will be fun because I am a geek really.

I am spending money industriously because it is getting close to the end of the year and and I have been given extra to spend.  Spending and extra £10,000 sounds like fun, but - actually - it is surprisingly hard work because I have to make sure I'm buying things we haven't already ordered, that people will want to read etc etc.

I have done most of Christmas shopping though.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I have been out a lot recently.

Last week we went to see a live broadcast of Timon of Athens from the National Theatre in the cinema in Cardiff.  I think Simon Russell Beale (who plays Timon) is wonderful and when I read the reviews of the play I really wanted to see it, so when I discovered these live broadcasts were available and that there was one in Cardiff I promptly bought tickets.  It was wonderful.  It is slightly delayed so you are watching it about 15 minutes behind - something to do with how they stream it I suppose.  We also had a little film introduction about the play with the director and cast, plus an interview with the director in the interval.  The filming was wonderful, the picture quality excellent and the play every bit as fabulous as I had hoped.  The NT do these every few months, so I shall be going to see some more next year.

Friday we went to see Music Theatre Wales perform 2 new short operas.  One of them was very good, I enjoyed the music and the story, based on a Thomas Hardy short story held together very well, though it suffered from  being transposed to the current day.  The story centred round a husband and wife who didn't get on but in the Victorian setting they were unable to separate, whereas in a modern setting the wife came across as a brat who stayed with a husband she despised - why?  Money? We didn't find out, and that sort of marred it for me because I felt irritated by her..  The other one suffered from a poor plot, poor libretto and less interesting music.

Saturday we changed tack again and went to see the new Bond film which I really liked.  B was a bit less enthusiastic, but unlike Quantum of Solace this film has a plot, and humour, and characters.  Not as good as Casino Royale perhaps, but I thought it was really good.  Well worth going to see.

I felt quite tired after all that!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Harry Potter tour

I am being really lax about keeping this blog going.  So I will take more effort for a bit.

We went to the Warner Brothers studio near Watford to see the Harry Potter studio tour at the weekend.    We met up with family so there were 10 of us and we had a really good day. The tour is excellent and well worth the money.  There are the original sets for the Great Hall, the common room, bedroom, Dumbldore's office and many more.

The most impressive thing is the attention to detail, and the information about all the technical wizardry which goes into making a wizard world.  It was a great day.

I love the Harry Potter books and they are ones I will reread on a regular basis, as are the books of Terry Pratchett.  Both are fantasy worlds though they don't have much else in common except that they all tell wonderful stories.  They are complete worlds which are internally consistent, so that the characters are real and the situations in which they find themselves are real too.  It doesn't matter that there is magic, dragons etc because what happens to them is as real to them as me sitting here.  It has taken a long time for Pratchett to gain the respect he deserves and he is now recognised by the main literary fraternity as well as the SF world which has been devoted to him for decades.  The literary world hasn't given Rowling the credit she deserves for Harry Potter, and the jury is decidedly split on her new book.  I haven't read it yet, though I will at some point out of curiosity.  It will be interesting to see if she can make the transfer to a different genre.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's been a while......

Oh dear - how remiss of me.

I have been on holiday - 2 weeks walking in Northumberland, walking the middle bit of Hadrian's wall which was just great.

I was concerned - being the least fit of the 4 of us - that I would be huffing and puffing in the rear while everyone else hung around waiting but actually there was only one day when I struggled, and that was the longest, steepest and wettest walk, so all in all I feel proud of myself.

Other great pluses

- 2 weeks off work
- spending a leisurely time with  my sister and brother in law
- lots of cake
- lots of excellent meals with lovely wine and (mostly) good cheese
- beautiful countryside
- not too much rain
- sense of achievement
- unexpected concert with one of B's ex students performing
- learning lots about the Wall and the Romans in the truly excellent museums

Had a great time.

Thoughts of Hadrian's Wall

There was a missing of birdsong
only rooks, pheasants, kestrel and a solitary silent coal tit
inhabit Grindon and the Wall.
Marching with shadows of lost legionaries as our steps
lock on gravel
in time
out of time
past and present blurring
in a place where time blurs.

At Whinspear we marvel
and think of the Syrian archer shivering on the Wall,
his short sleeves, short skirt and thin leather boots
while we snug in Goretex complain
about wind and rain.
Only September, only rain,
winter still to come and the snow,
imagine the snow.
We think kindly of our softer Southern homes.

Views stretch and stretch
beyond eyesight
beyond binoculars
beyond words to express the sublimity.
It is visceral, not rational.
Living in memory as well as photographs.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Busy busy

It has been a bit busy this week.

Unexpectedly I was hosting Bookclub - which means cooking dinner for the 5 of us so that involved cleaning up on Monday night in order to cook and host on Tuesday.  And a pleasant evening was had by all.

The following day involved getting up at 5am.  Never a good thing. Then catching a train to York for a conference of the National Acquisitions Group - which is a lot of librarians who deal with acquisitions.  The trains all worked extremely well and I got to York comfortably by 11.30 which gave me time to have a sit in the sun before the conference started.  There is a big London Eye type wheel in York so I went on that and had fabulous views over the city.

The following morning I had time to go for a walk before the sessions started and discovered that you can get into Yorkminster for free at 8.30 in the morning.  It was lovely because it was so empty, with only a few people who clearly worked there around.  I have been in it before but it is still wonderful no matter how often you go in.  York itself is lovely and I had a lovely time pottering round before going back into librarian mode.

The conference was good in parts - some bits I already knew well anyway but there was enough to have made it worth while going.

Now we are getting ready to go and walk chunks of Hadrian's wall in a week.  Hurray

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hamlet on a Bank Holiday

Yesterday we went with some friends to see Hamlet in the open air at St Donats Castle.  The production was the Globe touring company(more info here).   We got there early and had a picnic supper for which Chris had done smoked salmon salad sandwiches, chicken and salad, and I had done fresh scones, clotted cream and strawberries.  It was really lovely.  We were so lucky with the weather because it was mild, actually quite warm and (trumpet blast here) dry!! 

It was set on the top lawn with the castle behind (Bradenstoke Hall and Lady Anne tower for those who know the place)  on a very basic stage which must have been similar to those used by Shakespeare's players when touring outside London during times of plague.

The production was very straightforward as you would expect with an open air play - there are few opportunities for great subtlety when trying to pitch your voice to the back of a very large lawn.  There were about 8 actors and the doubling was very well done with changes of coat and hat making a more than reasonable difference.   We were sitting quite a distance away but I could hear everything well, though Chris has a bit of a hearing problem so she couldn't hear much. 

We had all taken added layers of clothing so added jumper, then coat, then blankets as the evening got chillier, and gradually darker.  By the end of the play the bats had replaced the swallows eating the midges and you could hear an owl in the forest, and the sea  from down the hill which made it really quite magical. 

Earlier in the day we had gone to the Flower Festival in St Illtyd's Church which was, as usual , lovely.   That was after a walk down to the beach

Brilliant day

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Long time no blog....

I haven't blogged for ages, because there has been nothing much to write about. I have been going to work, coming home, doing stuff round the house, etc etc.  Life as it is lived most of the time.

There have been minor family crises - Nic's car needing over £1000 spending to get through the mot despite it being the newest car in the family for instance, but nothing to write about.

So is there a point in the blog?  Not really because only family read it, but although I started it to see if I could keep it up for a year, I actually enjoy doing it, so although sporadic, will continue with it.

Things happening in my life are mostly about work and family, because that is what takes up my time.  I am a bit peeved that the new agreement about pensions which means I won't be able to retire till I am 65 instead of 64 ( which is when the state pension kicks in).  B will then be 69 and it does seem to me that after 70 there is often less ability to have a completely full life as one gets creakier and less able to do things , so that is a potential disappointment.  But as B is having such a good time writing music that even if I was retired I don't think we would spend out time doing lots of stuff anyway.

I have a new guide dog in training for August, called Mr Jeeves, and he is a lovely dog.  I have had Saffy for the last two weeks as well because Kate and Carl have been on holiday, and the two dogs have gotten on very well, especially as Jeeves is so young and wants to play, but he learnt on day one not to pester her.   This week he is on his own at night and I think he is really going to miss Saffy.  She, on the other hand, won't miss him at all!

He may be the last guide dog I get because the trainers are  emigrating to New Zealand, and there won't be any trainers living in LM, so that would be sad, as I have enjoyed the two I have had.  However I have decided that the ideal size for a dog in a normal house is Saffy sized, not labrador sized.  He takes up way too much space in the kitchen and he really, really moults!  My black trousers are staying in the wardrobe until he goes!

I am looking forward to going to Hadrian's wall in September, though I haven't got fit(ter) as I had  meant to, so I will have to try to do some exercise in the 3 weeks before we go.  Otherwise I will be trailing in the rear!  Also we took Jeeves for a walk in a heavy shower today and both B's and my cagouls leaked so we were soaked.  We need to waterproof them before we go!

This is Jeeves

Sunday, August 5, 2012


We went to the National Eisteddfod today.

This is a cultural event organised every year in Wales and it moves round the country every year and this year it is here, so we went.

If you want to find out more about it you can do so here

There are lots and lots of competitions, for singing, reciting, brass bands, poetry, etc etc which go on through the week - all in Welsh and is something a lot of Welsh speakers get very involved with from a very young age.  We just went to look round, get the feel of it, and had a very pleasant few hours.  B attended a talk about some country poets which he sort of understood enough of to make it worth attending, and I trolled round with Jeeves.

Jeeves is the new trainee guide dog, and he was being a bit of a labrador while we walked round, attempting to hoover any food on the floor, but he does get people talking to you.  It was lovely.

I'm glad I went.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comedy of Errors

I went to see the Comedy of Errors performed by the RSC in Stratford today, Brian and I meeting Boo and Trev at the theatre.  It was brilliant.

The story is basically a farce based around the premise that two pairs of identical twins were separated as babies and end up in the same city.  And it was hilarious.  The actors who played the two Dromios (the servants) were absolutely wonderful, and the actress who played the wife of one of them was equally good.  There is a bit towards the end where she is describing all the mix ups of the day to the Duke which was a tour de force.  The timing and the use of changes of tone were so expertly done, and the timing thoughout - superb.

We laughed and laughed.  But the director had also given it a darkness because Ephesus (where it is based) had a Duke who will put to death anyone who comes from Syracuse (where the twins father comes from) and the father is at threat of death through the whole event, although he is saved at the end.  By setting it in a modern location, and making the threat of death real it gave an additional depth to what is otherwise a very light play.  It was very effective.

Then we went and had a cream tea which was excellent.

Now we are home and I have a glass of wine, Brian has a beer.  Brilliant.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic opening

Well done Danny Boyle.

I am not that keen on watching sport, and not really very interested so the Olympics are lower on my radar than on many others (the likes of my son in law for instance).   However I have been impressed by the torch route and the efforts to make in involve so many people, and have been curious about the opening ceremony since I heard Danny Boyle was doing it.  The Chinese reached the limit of marching bands and synchronised people so what next?  After our acceptance bus with Boris anything would be an improvement, and I think it took some vision for Coe to give it to Boyle and let him get on with it.

I thought overall it was brilliant.

I loved the opening film sequence from the source of the Thames, and then we had the horses and maypoles plus cricket as promised.  But the change to the industrial revolution, the forging and flying of the rings were stunning.  The use of the lights in the audience was genius.  Mr Bean was hilarious. Liked the drumming, the kids choirs (noted that the Welsh one was the only one singing in harmony).

Got a bit bored by the story and the journey through pop music, and think they should have left Paul McCartney off the end because it was so stunning up to then that he was - old Beatle fan that I am - a bit of a letdown.

To my surprise I had tears in my eyes when the people were announced who were carrying the Olympic flag.

I love, love love the cauldron, made by the kettles carried by every nation.

I loved the youngsters lighting the cauldron.

Loved James Bond, especially the helicopter flying through Tower Bridge.

It was original, some of it much too British for others to understand but - so what! 

It was inclusive of lots of people who will never achieve sporting excellence, or gain fame and celebrity which was refreshing.

I shall set the tv to record the cross country event on Monday while I am at work, and watch it when I get home (equestrian) and maybe see Nic who will be there.  I  like the horses and the gymnastics, and the rest will watch the highlights so I can see the exciting bits (I am someone who thinks all football matches should be penalty shoot outs).

Plus the National Eisteddod is taking place in Llantwit Major this year.  This is an annual celebration of Welsh culture with competitions for poetry, prose, singing, speaking(public), visual arts, and lots of other things.  It moves every year, one year in S Wales, next year in the north, and this year it is here.  Although I don't speak Welsh I will go next week when it opens, because it is a little like the local cultural Olympics.  The main tent is brilliant -  literally - because it is vivid pink and looks like it escaped from Disneyland.  Pictures to come.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I did on my holidays

Actually - a surprising amount.  It includes the following , which is not a complete list as I have left out a lot of stuff about shopping, cooking, reading, tv etc.

Saturday - went to RSPB sanctuary in Newport, bought my monocular (joint birthday present) and had a lovely walk round.

Monday - painted the bathroom

Tuesday - tidied under the stairs, the office, cleaned (really well) my bedroom

Wednesday - packed, drove to Pembs, went for a walk to join up two bits of coastal walk

Thursday - went to a concert given by the local junior school, with B's recorder piece being played.  He got given a big thank you card and 6 bottles of beer

Friday - long walk between Strumble Head and Goodwick.  With mist and a lot of mud.  Was heartily grateful to get into into the tea shop at the end.

Saturday - attacked the garden.  We pruned, weeded, planted and moved things.  It looked a lot better by the time we had finished

Sunday - nice weather, sat in the garden and read

Monday -  wet.  Sorted out Choir Tour photos

Tuesday - home for Nic's birthday supper.  Too much Chinese, but lovely evening.

Wednesday - Went to Hereford Cathedral (excellent), Leominster ( bit blah) and Ludlow (lovely).  Stayed near Ludlow overnight

Thursday - went to Presteigne (nice little town), Hay on Wye (lovely).  Went to Capel -y- Ffin (really lovely) then Llanthony Priory ruins (beautiful) then to Tretower Court which really could show Hampton Court how to present a kitchen.  It was brilliant.  They have made oak cupboards and chests, and had lots of stuff out.  Really excellent.  The to Usk for a pint in the sun before home (traffic jam in Newport)

Friday - art exhibition in Newport by friend of B which was worth going for even though we got lost coming out of the car park and wandered round Newport for 15 mins before finding the gallery again. Interesting exhibition with thought provoking pictures.  The on to Slimbridge Wetlands trust to wander round looking at birds.  Very entertained by the number of pigeons around who get near the water as  if to say - look, I'm a water bird, feed me too.  The another drink in a nearby pub and another traffic jam in Newport before home. 

i think we will have a quiet weekend before going back to work on Monday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Beside the seaside.....

Yesterday was sunny, though unfortunately I spent most of it packing or driving.  However when I got down to Pembs we decided to take advantage of the weather and go for a walk.  We have, over the past ???? years done lots of bits of the Pembrokeshire coast path.  We have done some bits a lot, and other bits once or twice.  Last year we decided to be more completist about the whole thing and join all the bits up, so we did lots of joining up walks last year.  We also used the shuttle buses that Pembs provides for walkers, parking the car, getting the bus to the start point and walking back to the car, and that works really well.  So by the beginning of this year we had done all the coast from Little Haven round to Strumble Head, except for a little bit which was awkward to get to.  As we had 2 cars yesterday we left one at one end, drove to the other, walked it, then collected both cars.  We also helped 2 straying German hikers find their B&B.

Today it has rained.

However B wrote a little piece for the recorder group which won it's class in the Urdd Eisteddfod, and today he (and I tagged along) was invited to the summer show, where the piece would be played.  It was great.  We also had a Pirate Adventure by the youngest kids, and a rather lacklustre choir.  Brian had to take a bow and got a lovely card and some beer.  Excellent.  The kids all got medals which they were wearing during the performances.  We decided to skip the second half though.

We are now ensconced indoors and remaining so for the rest of the day.  We may venture out tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bird reserve

 Yesterday we went to the RSPB wetlands reserve the other side of Newport.  It was created out of the lagoons where the power station used to put the waste ash, and is reed beds and coastal.  When they built the barrage in Cardiff they permanently flooded an area of wetlands - Site of Special Scientific Interest - so they have developed the Newport site instead.  It has a very good visitors centre and a very helpful chap helped me look at binoculars, and I bought a good monocular. 

This goldfinch was one of many on the feeders near the cafe - nice coffee too.
 We didn't see many birds I could get photos of.  We did see a whitethroat in the distance - or so someone told us when we were trying to work out what it was.  We also saw a reed warbler.  This is a juvenile moorhen.  There were lots of other helpful people who has set up big scopes for people to look through, and the local Ornithological society were doing a quiz.  We did on of identifying birds, and by a process of elimination we did pretty well.

This is the finished wind break.  The awning is attached with carabiners so I can take it down anytime, and it makes the deck under it surprisingly dry.   It  is also really warm and not windy under it, so I am really pleased with it.  Of course as soon as we finished it the rain started and has barely stopped.  We actually took the awning down on Saturday, but put it up again yesterday and did sit out a little bit.

I am on holiday at the moment,  but as the weather in not very conducive to walks and other outdoor activities, I decided to tackle some jobs around the house.  Today I painted the bathroom, and by the time I finished it the sun had come out!  So I had an hour or so with a cup of tea and a book in the garden which was both unexpected and very pleasant.  Tomorrow I am tackling some serious reorganising in the tips under the stairs and in the office. 

Looking at the weather forcast it is just as well! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Busy week

This has been a busy and sociable week, which has been lovely.

I went to NWR and we wrote limericks which was very entertaining.  During a discussion about the NWR archive Chris mentioned that she had looked into setting up a website to share things like that, but hadn't got very far with it.  I said a blog would be easier, and then agreed to set one up.  I have done it in WordPress instead of Blogger though, as Kate thinks it is much better.  I don't know if it is much better for setting up, but hopefully it will be quicker to load photos than Blogger is.  We shall see.

Then last night I had the book/dinner club and a lovely meal in very good company. 

I am on holiday for the next 2 weeks which is great, but I do wish we had the prospect of some dry weather.     All this rain is depressing.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


We are writing limericks for tonight

Here are mine

A young fashionista called Tess
Bought clothing and shoes in excess
When asked why she said
I covered floors and the bed
And I can't find old stuff in the mess

The hols of a family called Payne
Started off with delays on the plane
The hotel was twice booked
The food badly cooked
But what finished them off was the rain

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Catch up

Gosh - I'm not very good at keeping up with this......

I am watching the dedication of the memorial to Bomber Command on the tv, and find it extraordinary that it has taken so long to have something.  There is controversy about the saturation bombing of Germany during the war, but that was not the decision of the airmen, those who lived and those who died.  The airmen were doing something that they thought was essential to save freedom and save Britain from Hitler.  I remember my father talking about it, as he used to fly Pathfinder Mosquitos, leading the bombers and marking the targets.  He said as he grew older he doubted the morality of the saturation bombing of Germany, but he said that during the war he - and his colleagues - didn't have doubts, it was bad, but it was needed.  There had been bombing of civilian targets in Spain and Britain by German planes, the war had been going on for years, and Germany was the enemy.  I'm glad they have finally created a memorial.  And I am very glad that they have dedicated it to all civilians who died as well.

In the last two weeks I have been to London, built a wind break in the garden, been on holiday in Pembs where we managed one afternoon on the beach, made curtains, went back to work where I have spent a ridiculous amount of time wrestling with a misbehaving computer system.

I have decided to blitz curtains.  The tv room curtains are - when I thought about it - 30 years old and looking tired, so I have bought some new ones.  The rest will get a wash and brush up.   I'm not great at housework either........

Monday, June 18, 2012

War Horse

Last Thursday B and I went to London for a very busy day.  We had originally booked to see a new opera by Detlev Glanert - a German composer - called Caligula that B wanted to see.  As we were going to London I said I wanted to go see War Horse in the afternoon, so we booked that too.

We went to Kate's near Reading, so got to London good and early and went to John Lewis to look for curtain material for the cottage.  We have been looking for curtain material for a looooonnng time, because the original ones are really nice, but are stained and faded so need to be replaced.  However the windows are very small and very deeply recessed, so the curtain material needs to be very light.  We did finally find some!!  Hurray.

Then we had lunch at Jamie's Italian - outside - and it was lovely.  I had a seafood plank (antipasti) and B had the meat one. I had smoked salmon, smoked mackerel pate, cockles and mussels, deep fried little fish bits.  Fabulous.

War Horse was as good, if not better than everyone had said.  B came because I really wanted to see it but absolutely loved it.  It has everything.  It is imaginative, clever, uses music, drama, lighting, acting, puppetry, pathos, humour, narrative, everything.  I had read the book, and have watched the film, so knew the story, but that didn't matter.  Spielberg made the film more sentimental, as one would expect, though I thought he did a reasonable job on the film, and the horse in the film really did deserve an Oscar.  However the stage show is extraordinary.  The puppets are so realistic, and act so like horses.  It is stunningly good.

We met some friends for dinner, which we enjoyed, and then all of us went to the theatre to see Caligula.  We had a pleasant surprise when we got in because we got upgraded to the stalls - nice!  However......

The opera suffered from produceritus.  It is a very common ailment in opera - they feel they have to do something "different".  I think the subject matter was a bit iffy anyway, because using Caligula as an archetype for any loony dictator is a bit of a blunt instrument, however add a very unsubtle producer and it ruined any hope of an enjoyable evening.  The opera was set in a stadium with all the seating and an entry area.  It made all the rest of the opera nonsensical, which was a great shame.  If you shut your eyes and listened then the music was actually lovely and it was actually far more pleasant.  It reminded me of my reaction to Tristan a short while ago.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prefer Puccini

I went to the opera again last night and once again it was a glorious day - the first for ages - and so I go into the theatre.  What is it about opera and nice weather?

I did spend the day in the garden and got the weeding done and planted the plants I'd brought back from B's so the garden is looking quite pretty now, and much less weedy than before.  I have to weed after rain because the clay soil gets baked so hard in sunshine that the trowel just bounces off and you can't get near any roots.  As my garden is full of couch grass which is all roots I need to hit it when it has been rained on.

La Boheme was lovely.  All the singers were excellent and so was the production - quite stunning visually as well as aurally, so despite the uncomfortable chair it was fabulous.

Less fab was discovering that I will probably have to work till I am 65.

Up to 15 years or so ago I was due to retire at 60.  Then they decided to make women the same as men and for a long time I was  in the middle of the scale moving women to 65 so was due to retire at 62.5.  That is when the State pension would begin, up till now I could chose to retire from work under the terms of the Local Government pension at any time after the age of 60. 

Then the lovely (!**) government decided to  move the goal posts again and my State pension moved away from me so I wouldn't get it till just short of my 64th birthday (about 1 month short).  As my colleague who has a January birthday in the same year as my July birthday stayed at 62+ I did feel miffed (along with lots of other people I suspect).  As Brian has already retired it was more annoying, though I could still retire earlier and just not get the State pension till 64 (if I could afford to). 

There is a sense I find now, as I am approaching 60, of feeling that I need to make the most of the next 10 years before increasing age may prevent me doing things.  I may be lucky and be very fit past late 60s but  one can't presume that.  As B is 4 years older that adds to the sense of time slipping by.

Now the latest Local government pension scheme agreement has come out.  It isn't final yet, it has to go through lots of hoops before that but it seems likely that it will go through and in many senses it is very fair.  The one thing that made my heart sink is that they are bringing in a minimum retirement age of 65.  If you retire before 65 you will actually lose a percentage of your pension - so it isn't a matter of ceasing to add to your pension which is what would happen before, you will actually have some of the already accrued pension taken off you.   This means that I will now have to work till 65.

I know that those younger than me will have to work till 67 or more but I have a strong feeling of something which was nearly in my grasp being snatched away at the last minute.  Those a few years older than me have slipped under the bar and missed the changes, those more than 5 years younger than me have a bit long to acclimatise perhaps (though the idea of doctors, firemen, policemen and teachers working till 67 is madness!!!).

It has made me feel surprisingly depressed, more than I expected when I first read it on Thursday.  I know it is only one year extra, but .....

Monday, June 4, 2012


To be fair I haven't paid a lot of attention to the Jubilee, other than being glad of the extra day off work, but we did watch some of the pageant on the Thames yesterday and I did feel so very sorry for everyone.  The weather was so awful that you could see it coming down in torrents on the tv, which means it must have been much worse in reality.  For the Pageant Master (what a great job to put on your passport!) after 2 years work it must have been something he had no words for.  Nevertheless it was lovely to see all the boats and ships and the Thames full of craft. 

I was very impressed by the Royal family's ability to stand up for hours without terrible backache being apparent to the observers, especially the Queen and Prince Philip who are - lets face it - getting on in years!

I hope the choir don't all come down with pneumonia and lose their voices completely as they had got very very wet, and only one girl seemed to have had the sense to take a coat.

Today - in West Wales - has been glorious.  We went out for coffee and sat out for 2 cups worth enjoying the sunshine and - as it is in a garden centre - bought some plants.  Coming home we had planted the plants, including B's little tomatoes, dahlias and sweet peas which he planted as seeds.  We uprooted some of the rampant primulas which are doing a very efficient take over bid for the garden to make way for some other things and after all that we had lunch.

In the garden.

After lunch B continued to garden and I sat in the sun reading the new Hilary Mantel book all afternoon.  We had thought about a walk but - well, it was sunny, warm and lovely in the garden.  It may not happen again all summer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wagner or not?

We went to see Tristan and Isolde performed by the Welsh National Opera on Saturday.  I have never seen a Wagner opera and have reservations about him as a person because of the anti-Semitism and him being a not very nice person in lots of other ways too.  However I thought I should give it a try so off we went.

It was a little bit irritating that we were spending Saturday afternoon and evening indoors in such glorious weather.  We got into Cardiff a bit before 3pm and we weren't due to be in the theatre till 3.30 so we sat by the Bay and had a drink in the sunshine which was lovely. 

The WNO have a man called Simon Rees who is the Dramaturge (I'm not quite sure what that is) who gives a pre show talk before each opera.  He is erudite and knowledgeable and tells you the story of the opera, how it came to be written, something about the composer and the production, and he makes it interesting and always really funny.  We had booked for the talk and half an hour later knew a lot more about Wagner, Tristan and the production. 

We then had an hour to kill so had a cup of tea and then went in for the start of the opera.

Brian says that Wagner was a genius.  He pushed the boundaries of music and set the scene for the 20th century composers to go further.  He disliked the opera conventions of opera with recitative and aria.  The story was told in the recitatives - which are sung speech really - and the arias are the songs.  In the hands of Mozart the arias also tell the story, and you can have 6 characters all telling you their version of the story at the same time while they sing their own lines and it all sounds glorious.   What Wagner did was develop something called arioso which is a sort of combination between the two.  The story is told in a continuous sung line and there are no arias at all. 

I have come out of Tristan with a better appreciation of Wagner, and a genuine appreciation of the orchestral writing.  However what I don't like and have decided that this is why Wagner has never appealed to me is the whole arioso thing.  The characters never get any tunes to sing.  All the tunes are in the orchestra.  After the performance when we compared notes, both B and I had been spending a lot of time listening with our eyes closed.  The surtitles are telling you what the German means and because you are reading the text you are concentrating on the singer and not really listening to the orchestra to the same degree of attention.  By shutting our eyes we could still hear the vocal line but we could also concentrate on the orchestra and it is in the orchestra that you find the beauty of the music.  And it really is beautiful.  (though in a 5 hour opera there is a danger of falling asleep by the end of the night).  However I want the singers to have beautiful lines to sing as well.  I found the unending sung lines with no particular shape got tedious and it just doesn't appeal to me. 

The other thing that I didn't like at all was the story.  It was so dark and dismal.  Wagner wrote all the libretti for his operas and also did all the production etc as well -  he wanted total control.  The story is a bit different from the British one - Tristan and Isolde are given a love potion so hopelessly fall in love, and then spend all their time , or at any rate most of Act 2, saying that the only way to really love is to die.  Tristan and Isolde spend a LOT of time saying "I love you - let's die".  To the point where I wished they would get on with it and put us out of our misery.   It is really dismal and there is nothing to lighten it.  No humour, nothing. 

There were lighter moments, but unintentional ones.  Tristan sang well most of the time but he was older and stout.  As the design in Act 3 had him lying on a concrete ramp (which the text said was his bed!) he did have a bit of a problem getting up again.  The fight scene was really feeble and could have been improved by any primary school. 

Isolde was stunning and had immense emotion connection but the production had the lovers standing apart from each other, singing to the audience, while the music is is frankly orgasmic.  You couldn't have sex on the stage, but you did have it in the music. 

When the dinner interval (between Acts 2 and 3) came we went out and had our picnic on the Bay, and it was fabulous.  It was still really warm at 8pm and there were boats sailing, people walking, and we had a really nice picnic too.  It was really lovely.  We had a brilliant time and were so lucky with the day, however I won't be going to another Wagner opera.  I think if I wanted to listen to another opera I would listen to a cd because the staging actually distracted me from the music.  There is little actual movement on the stage - in this opera at least - and you wouldn't lose a lot in a concert performance.

We have looked at the programme for next year and they are doing Lohengrin, but we won't be going.  However they are doing Janack's 'Cunning little vixen', Mozart's 'Cosi fan tutte' and Lulu by Berg, all of which appeal a great deal more.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hampton Court

We went to Hampton Court last weekend.  Kate wanted to see it and we met my sister and husband, and my niece and her husband, and we had a lovely family day out.

Hampton Court is a fabulous building, dating from the 16th century though with large sections added later and it is huge.  They have arranged the public access in mini tours with a theme - Young Henry VIII, Georgian rooms, etc which works very well because people are going round different areas and stops everyone doing the same route at the same time.    The quality of the tours varied a bit so the Royal chambers were excellent but the kitchens were fairly poor, with some plastic pies and meat but not much else. 

The gardens are beautiful and extremely well kept with lots of topiary trees and colourful flowerbeds and you can easily imagine yourself wandering round in robes with Henry talking to Wolsey in the distance, Anne flirting....

History is sometimes a long way back but other times it is just round the corner.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Summer walking

 You can tell it is summer because I am wearing boots, gaiters, a fleece, cagoul and hat going for a walk today.  We wanted to seize the opportunity because the forecast for Monday is monsoons again.  It was lovely out, though a bit windy when you got onto the beach.  However one man's meat etc because there were wind surfers and beach buggies out making the most of the weather and they like the wind too.    This is me as intrepid walker!

The rest of the pics are just pretty ones which I took on the walk. 

However it must be summer because we saw lots of swallows.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Techy weekend

I spent a lot of Sunday playing with computers and gadgets.  We are having a push on the E Books service which we offer now, and to do that in a local government environment is complicated because the Co
uncil firewalls won't let you download things.

So we got a laptop which is thankfully unencrypted and not locked to an administrator's passwords.  This is after a meeting where we had an ancient laptop which was so old it didn't have an ethernet port so was useless, then we had a new one which needed admin privileges to do anything, so we gave up on that one, and I got hold of another one which I brought home at the weekend to sort out.

So after a while it connected to my internet, we got the software sorted out, and introduced it to my ereader so it would transfer books onto the ereader easily.

To download them onto an Apple mobile device (phone iPad etc) is easy once you have downloaded the Bluefire software from the App store.

I unwisely assumed that doing the same thing with the Android software would be the same.  Wrong!

I am pretty comfortable playing with computers but it took me about an hour to figure out what to do, and involved looking on Aldiko (the software)'s website which was singularly unhelpful, and then browsing round other websites till I found one that told me what I wanted.  It actually isn't that difficult but the website tells you to do something which is not in the least apparent.  It says 'go to my catalogues' and shows you a picture with a folder called 'my catalogues'.  No.  Actually the software doesn't display that, you have to go into the store and then find my catalogue instead. 


However at least when we are demonstrating the system we will now know what to do.

Cowbridge library got attacked by a tree yesterday when the tree was blown down in the gales.  There is now a hole in the roof, and the tree surgeon says the remaining half of the tree will have to come down because it is unsafe. 

Could have been nasty!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


We went to a concert on Friday which we had booked some time ago and was supposed to be Mahler's 4th Symphony and the other was a commissioned work for a first performance by the BBC Wales composer in residence Simon Holt  Unfortunately we got an email to say that the main singer for the Holt piece was unwell and couldn't be replaced at short notice so the Holt piece was being replaced by a Haydn symphony.

A bit of a strange replacement I thought, going from a contemporary work to a classical symphony, it would have been more understandable if they had replaced it with a more modern work.  However they did perform the Haydn beautifully, and I had never heard it before so that was lovely.

The second half was the Mahler which I have never heard live, and which was fabulous.  I had goose bumps and shivers through a lot of it.  Thierry Fischer was conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and he is really very good.  Brian was really impressed by his technical skill as a conductor (stick technique etc) and I was really  impressed by the emotion and how he gave the music enough space to be itself.  There is a fashion these days to play classical music really FAST, so  much so that I listened to a piece of Swan Lake and it would have been impossible to dance to, so it is refreshing to listen to a concert where the conductor isn't playing the music so fast you feel he wants to get the early train home.

It was also confirmation that the performance of Mahler's 1st we went to in the Millenium Centre was in completely the wrong venue because the sound was wonderful in St Davids Hall and dreadful in the Millenium centre.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pilates app

I found a Pilates app for the iPod last week and it is brilliant.  I have done enough Pilates to know most of the moves, but the only class at a convenient time for me (ie not in the daytime while I am at work) is very expensive, so I have stopped going to save money.  However this app gives you a number of routines for 15, 30 or 45 minutes and concentrate on different areas eg abs or back or whatever.  I started last week and and they are really good.  I am going to try to do a session most days, especially as my going up and down the cliffs at the beach is being rained off at the moment.

We have booked a 3 night break in Machynlleth in mid Wales in May as it is an area we don't know at all well.  At least, to be accurate, I know Aberystwyth very well as I was at University there, but as I didn't have a car then I don't know the area.  The Snowdonia National Park comes down nearly that far, and there are fabulous nature reserves and bird sanctuaries round there which will be lovely to see.  I am really quite excited about it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April showers?

It is April, it has been raining - quite a lot from time to time.

However even in Wales the river levels are really low, the fields and paths are dry despite pouring rain, so I can see why parts of England are officially in drought.

They are talking of selling water from one water company to another - it is yet another instance of the idiocy of having de-nationalised the utilities.  A service isn't something that should make a profit, it should be there as a service.  There is a hint int he word really.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dagger longlist

We have been long listing the nominees for the Dagger in the Library today.  We do it by email, having set a day when all the judges will be in the office and near email first.  We all put a list of top 5, next 5 and bottom 5, and see where we overlap and where we differ.  That usually creates a list of about 6-9 people we all agree should be on the long list, then we haggle to get the  list down to a reasonable length.

We have a pretty long longlist this year, with 3 authors who were being strongly supported by one or more but hadn't had lots of initial votes.  The list we have ended up with is very satisfying with a mix of long standing authors, fairly new authors, mixes of styles, and types of stories too.  Something for everyone in this list I think.

The list with links is on Facebook on the CWA site, but here is is on this blog
Belinda Bauer;
Simon Beckett;
S.J. Bolton;
Frances Brody;
Gordon Ferris;
Elena Forbes;
Nicci French;
Elly Griffiths;
John Harvey;
Susan Hill;
Shona MacLean;
Peter May;
Steve Mosby;
Imogen Robertson;
M.J. Trow;

If you like crime novels - dip in!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


We have done the garage door and it looks great!  It took 2 days and thankfully they were the two dry days over Easter.

Kate is here for Easter which is lovely, and is staying the week which is even lovelier - time to chat and chill.

Ad was 30 yesterday (!) and we went out to see 'The Woman in Black' in a weirdly empty cinema in a very empty Cardiff.  The film was very good and very scary and we all jumped repeatedly - I cannot see why it is only 12a because it would give a 12 year old nightmares I would think.  I read the book many years ago, so couldn't remember the details, but thought that the ending was different.  I looked up the plot summary today and I was right - they did significantly change the end. 

The longlisting day for the Dagger in the library is tomorrow so there is a last minute rush to try to read some (at least) of all the late nominations to see if they get to the longlist.    My top 5 are easy and have been fairly consistent for the last week or so.  The next 5 have a late entrant added and they are much harder to choose.  The bottom 5 were pretty easy.  It is all the inbetween ones that are hard, especially if you haven't had time to read more than one book by the author.  The idea of the longlist is that we then have time to read more by those authors before the final judging.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dogs and doors

I have had Minnie the guide dog all week.  She has hurt her back so the vet said she needed to rest it,  She hasn't been working all week, not has she been allowed to go for walks, she has instead come in to work with me where she has been a star.  She has wandered round a bit, but  mostly slept on her bed and not pestered me at all.  She must think I am the dullest dog carer ever though.  She is going back to Debbie tomorrow and back to work next week, and I'm sure she will be pleased about that.

We have decided to take down the roller door on the garage because it isn't waterproof, so we went and bought some upvc double glazed french doors from the salvage yard last weekend, and we will - hopefully - put them in this weekend.

(David Cameron is burbling on the tv so I have put the mute button on so I don't have to listen to him)

I am reading  lots and lots and lots of crime novels because we had a rush of nominations for the Dagger in the Library at the last minute lots of whom I have never read before.  We are doing the longlisting next week, so I need to have read at least 100 pages of each of them by then.  We are allowed to publicise the longlist now which we weren't allowed to do before.  Once we have the  longlist I need to try to read a couple of books by each author before we do the judging in May. 

Shame it isn't sunny - I'd have a really good excuse to sit in the sun

Sunday, March 25, 2012

And again

Pretty much a repeat of yesterday.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

What weather!

The weather has been glorious today.  I wore a jumper down to the beach but took it off when we got down there it was so warm.  Minnie and I did about a 3ish mile walk this morning.  As she doesn't know me particularly I couldn't let her off the lead, but they had given me an extending lead for her so she could roam around a bit more. 

She started off pulling quite a lot, which she isn't supposed to do, but she is young and still being trained, so we just had a bit of a stop and start beginning to the walk while I waited for her to stop pulling and come back a bit  By the end of the walk though she wasn't pulling at all.

In the afternoon I started in on the garden, with Minnie helping me by lying in the garden and from time to time sniffing round.  She and Adam had a couple of games of tug of war which were entertaining - I had a couple but she is so strong I am inclined to leave it to him. 

I have weeded about a third of the back garden, and began clipping back the ivy on the wall (bane of my garden - along with slugs etc) and did a few feet of wall when the clippers broke.  Hmm.  Task for B I think.

We had a short walk down to the supermarket to get a couple of bits, and of course Minnie came in with me.  It is very odd to take a dog into the supermarket!  She was very good, though I had to pull her back from sniffing at the meat counters, but I met a friend so we were chatting and admiring the dog, then the lad on the till leaned over to admire the dog too.  The end result was that when I got home I realised that he had forgotten to give me the stamps I had bought.  So I got into the car to go down and get them.

Minnie is now lying on the rug having a nap before she has her dinner, and then we will have an evening in front of the tv.  She likes watching tv, she was quite absorbed in something last night.

It is now 5.35 and getting cool enough to close the  window! 

Everyone you meet is commenting on how lovely the weather is.  But we had glorious weather last year in April, and the rest of the year was cool, cloudy, and rainy.   Too cold to sit out without a warm jumper all summer.  So everyone is saying how lovely it is, but we hope it won't be all we get like last year. 

Fingers crossed

Friday, March 23, 2012

Minnie visiting

I have got Minnie visiting this weekend.   She is a guide dog in training, and I am being introduced to being a guide dog boarder by having her to stay a few times over the training period here, sharing her with Debbie. 

At the moment she is sound asleep on the rug in front of me, and it is really nice to have a dog in the house.  I am lucky in having good weather this weekend and we will go to the beach and have a lovely walk in the sunshine.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Police brutality

This is true.

There have been thefts of dvds in one of our libraries, and the security people set a trap with the cctv cameras and caught the guy.  The police were called.  The thief said 'I'm going to be in so much trouble' as it isn't the first time he has been caught.

The police said to him he had two options.
one - he could confess, it would take about an hour and they would give him a life home.
two - he could not confess, they would have to go to a major  police station in the city about 12 miles away, and they wouldn't give him a lift   home.

In the light of such brutality - ie having to get home on the train or the bus instead of getting a lift in a nice police car - he decided to confess.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Best laid schemes

This morning I was a bit pushed for time so instead of going to the gym for my half hour which I was due to spend there, I decided to cycle up and down the hill a few times instead.  This would have been a fairly good plan as it would give me some excercise but only take about 10 minutes.  That would allow me to sort out the recycling, shower and wash my hair, have breakfast, make lunch, and get out in time to get to work.

The first time was fine.  The second time was ok and got me out of breath which was the aim of the exercise after all.  However I somehow managed to pull a muscle in the region of my right hip - probably by swinging my leg over the bike - and have been alternatively hobbling a bit or going ouch for most of the day.

It is feeling better now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Water water ?

Wales is officially not having a drought at the moment, unlike the south east of England, but we have had a dry winter and water levels are not high.

We went for a walk on Saturday up into the Vale of Neath where there are lots of waterfalls coming down off the Black mountains, and we went to look at two of them.  The waterfalls were very pretty but the amount of water in the rivers was at the sort of level you would expect in the late summer.  The river beds were not full, and the couple of feet of depth which you can tell would be the winter water level were high and dry.

If this is  officially NOT drought it is nevertheless a bit worrying

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home again

 Home again after a lovely holiday in Spain.  This is the Mediterranean near where we stayed with family.  We had a meal at a restaurant on the beach itself - fab.
 I urge anyone who hasn't been recently to go the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona because it is fantastic
This is the marina in Barcelona.  We went down there looking for the beach which used to be at the bottom of the Ramblas but it is now a marina and shopping mall.   Nice marina, but we would have preferred the beach.

We had a brilliant holiday, but we are both in the post holiday blues still.  It is odd how there is that glum feeling when you come back.  Whether it is going back to work, or just coming back to all the chores etc I'm not sure.  However I had a wonderful  mother's day present from Ad who had cleaned the house till it gleamed.  Seriously impressive!

We did have a really busy return though.  B had arranged to meet friends on the Thursday night, we both went to a concert in the Millenium Centre on Friday and then out to dinner with friends on Saturday.  Next week has no social engagements at all, which is probably a good thing as it will give me time to catch up with things.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy St David's Day

Happy St David's day to everyone.

We have daffs on the coffee table and welsh cakes with tea. 

Google did a very nice dragon with a daffodil in honour of the day.

Despite the fog till lunchtime the sun came out and the afternoon was lovely.

It makes you feel that spring is really on its way and winter is retreating - thank the lord!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Guide dog

I have met the guide dog I will be sharing with Debbie today.  As I haven't had a dog before I am going to be sharing Millie with Debbie to learn how to deal with the dog.  I walked over to her house to meet Millie who is a lovely yellow lab/retriever cross and very friendly. 

We took her for a walk over the fields where she met another dog and had a lovely chase round with him, but came back when Debbie blew on the whistle straight away which I thought was very good as she is young.  I will be having her for a week or so at the end of the month when Debbie has visitors, and maybe for a weekend as well.

We had a lovely weekend with Boo and Trevor and it was great to have time to catch up and chat.  Great.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eat drink and be merry....

A different diet.

I am trying the GI diet because if it works (fingers crossed) then it is something I can sustain forever.  So far it seems to involve eating more food than I was eating before, there are cakes you can make, it includes puddings, and includes carbs.

It doesn't include just any carbs or cakes however, they do have to be GI ones which are slow to digest eg porridge not corn flakes, wholemeal bread not white, no butter, but so far (week 1) I am loving it.  At the moment it feels a bit too good to be true but I'm enjoying the food so we shall see what happens.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One step forwards.....

Brian has put the updated version of iWeb which he uses to write his website onto his computer.  Unfortunately it has lost the hyperlinks to the scores which he has on the site.  Well,  the link is there - but invisible.  Why?????

He is upgrading to the next version up and fingers crossed it works. 

Why does something which worked fine before stop working with what is supposed to be an improvement? 


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Removal of clarinet

The BBC recording of Brian's piece 'Shadows of Memory' which was played last week has a wrong entry by a clarinet at a crucial moment - should be a silence but in comes a clarinet - and as it was a workshop it wouldn't be rerecorded.  However Brian phoned a friend who has a studio in his house - he writes film scores, tv scores etc (did Fireman Sam) and Ian said he could take it out.

We went round there yesterday and after an hour we have a new recording without the stray clarinet.  It is so clever that they can take a bit out like that. 

B has gone away with huge amounts of updating to the website to do this week so will be busy. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Year Resolutions

One month in and I am not doing brilliantly  on the resolutions.

I have been going to the gym and have managed twice a week most weeks - this is good.

I have started sorting out the photos on the computer etc - also good.

I haven't sorted out all the financial things - bad

I haven't lost weight - bad

I have done a bit of writing - good

A curate's egg of resolutions then - not bad actually

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shadows of Memory

Last week B had his piece called Shadows of Memory performed in a workshop with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, along with 5 other Welsh composers. 

It was very exciting though I didn't actually get to hear the piece live, nevertheless even in a rehearsal recording it sounds really  good. 

All artists have problems with getting in touch with the public, but it is probably worse for musicians than most others.  Painters, sculptors etc can hire a hall and get people to see the final product for a reasonable amount of money.  Writers these days can do it all for free if the publish as an ebooks - though getting actually published in book form poses more of a problem.  However all of these people can show their work to family, friends and anyone interested.  Film makers and composers however need lots of other people to get their work from the page to something that other people can appreciate.  An orchestra is an expensive beast.    

It was lovely to hear it

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tinker Tailor

We watched the new film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last night.  It has had lots of praise and I think Gary Oldman is up for an Oscar for playing George Smiley. 

It was nice to watch a film where the plot mattered more than the amount of blood and dashing around.  There was possibly rather more film of Smiley swimming in a lake than was necessary, and at times I thought they lost the tension a little bit by taking it too slowly.  It was a film you had to pay attention to otherwise you had no hope of keeping up with the plot.  However I wondered why Colin Firth was in it because he hardly had anything to say - there was one bit at the end where he actually had to act but the rest of the time he just had to be there. 

It is - I suppose - because of celebrity.  The more big names you get the  'better' the film. It isn't the case of course because sometimes a celebrity stuffed film is dreadful and a film where you have heard of no one is wonderful, but I do sometimes watch films because of the actor being in it.  Gary Oldman was very good, and conveyed a man who knew a lot while saying little very well.  I don't remember the Alec Guinness tv version but I am tempted to get it out of the library and watch it because I would be curious to see Guinness doing it. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Amazing women

I am feeling that I should start achieving things.

As my aunt had her 100th birthday recently and is off on her birthday cruise soon she is an inspiration.

At work this afternoon we were visited by a local author, a lady called Eileen Younghusband, who took her Open University degree at the age of 87, and at the age of 89 launched into a writing career.  Her first books was self published, but her second book was taken up by a publisher and the link is here.
She is great fun, and fascinating to talk to. She dropped an extra copy of her book round for us and stayed for a cup of tea - we had an hour long tea break this afternoon.

They are both examples of what can be done with some determination and effort.  I am looking to retirement now, in about 5 or 6 years, and am wondering what I should do as my next career.  B  is very happy writing music (though his computer is sick and being fixed so he is a bit bereft at the moment) so I need something to do too.  I think it needs to be more than just filling in time - I need to think of something I really want to do that will give me a sense of fulfillment.  I have a few years to think about it, but with women like that around it does give one a sense of inspiration.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wicked weekend

What a lovely weekend I have had.

Kate got tickets for the show of 'Wicked' in London for Nic and myself as our Xmas presents.  We went up to stay with Kate on Thursday, and then on the Friday got the train into London where we had a very pleasant lunch, followed by pottering round the shops and Covent Garden. 

I got a pair of boots reduced from £170 to £50 which are lovely!  Nic got a dress for the ball also reduced by £150 so we were very pleased with ourselves.

As we had some time to kill we went and looked at the Tudor portraits in the National Portrait gallery as Kate has a really strong interest in the Tudor period, and seeing the pictures in real life is much more moving than reproductions   in a book.  We also decided that we should go back for a longer visit sometime because the gallery is really very interesting.  It must be 40 years since I was in the Portrait gallery and it has changed a bit since then!

We met up with more of the family for dinner, finding Kieran and Alice at Embankment tube station which was an amazing coincidence as they had come up from Southampton.  The tube had delays so we started to walk but we weren't going to get to the restaurant in time that way so we caught a taxi (very impressed by Kate's ability at taxi hailing).

Dinner was in a Tapas bar and the food was very good, though it was absurdly noisy with the music much too loud so you could only talk to the people either side of you, so that was a bit disappointing as I didn't get to talk to everyone.

Then we went to see 'Wicked' which is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.  It very cleverly combines the story we know with the story of the Witch and why she isn't actually wicked.  Glinda the good witch was brilliant - she was really funny and her timing was impecccable.  Both witches were good singers and sang really well.  The staging was great and the effects were good too.  The actual music is very mediocre which is a shame, with only a couple of vaguely memorable songs but it didn't spoil the show.  We also had excellent seats in the stalls, and fortunately didn't really need the loo in the interval because the queue was the longest I have ever seen in a a theatre!

Nic then headed off to spend the rest of the weekend with a friend and Kate and I went back to her house, getting in a bit after midnight. 

A really excellent day.

This morning was very lazy, and I headed home about lunch time, stopping at M&S to buy a couple of skirts and a pair of jeans to go with my new boots!!!

I love family get togethers as we always have such a good time!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


We set out on a mission today

1) to buy 2 watches as retirement presents for 2 colleagues who finished work on Friday
2) to buy a mattress for the spare bed for the cottage

We also thought we might look for curtain material to replace the curtains in the cottage.

Mission 1 was accomplished fairly quickly - there are a lot of jewellers close together in Cardiff, so having eliminated all the ones that were too expensive (most of them) we didn't take that long to chose the presents.

Then we looked at curtain materials in John Lewis (after a coffee) but didn't see much we like really.

Ikea came up trumps with a mattress in the bargain corner so that was simple and cheap as well. 

So - more curtain hunting.

There are lots of places selling ready made or made to measure curtains, but far fewer selling material, and although we went to another 2 shops we didn't find anything at all that we liked.

The windows are very narrow and deep set so the type of material is very restricted,  but we didn't see anything that came close to being as nice as the ones already there.  The trouble is the existing ones are stained from where the window sills got damp, so....

The internet brought up some possibles so we have sent off for samples. 

Who would have thought it would be so difficult?

Though having said that it took me months to find the material for the curtains in my sitting room.

The penalties of being particular perhaps (very alliterative anyway)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Unfortunately my son has been victim of a computer scam today.  It surprised me because he is usually so cautious, and he said his first instinct was to hang up the phone but ....

It is called the ammy scam and there is lots on Google about it - someone phones up and says there are problems on your computer and they can fix it.  The remote in to the computer and then install some software, and want money from you etc etc.

So we have turned his laptop off, cancelled his credit card with the bank, and luckily he doesn't use that machine to do any purchasing so there isn't that  much information on it.  We need to reload the operating system and then the computer will be ok again.  Ho  hum.

Monday, January 9, 2012

More outings

We have booked even MORE outings.

2012 is the year of outings.

On 14 June we are now booked up to see the stage version of War Horse in the afternoon and then a new opera by Glanert called Caligula in the evening.  We are seeing a large variety of things that day.

We have also - finally - found a date where lots of the widespread family can congregate at Hampton Court to a) see it and b) see each other.  Last year it was Highgate Cemetery, and this year Hampton Court.  We will have to find another site beginning with H next year to meet at.

We are also going to masses of concerts this year - having had  little we wanted to see the last couple of years we have loads this year.  Expensive though.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Water tight garage?

Brian and I spent most of yesterday working on making the garage waterproof.  Most of this was B on the roof, recementing, putting down some more lead flashing, adding bitumen etc.  However I emptied lots of the garage and we discovered there were no leaks from the washing machine or associated pipes.  The soakaway seems to soakaway when the hose is running into it.  Our assumption is that it is coming in under the garage door, so we have put bricks in the way and are thinking of putting a different door - a waterproof one - on.

The ultrasonic rat repeller - powered by battery  - arrived on Friday so it is now in the attic, and I hope it will repel the furry little pests.

Ratatouille is on the tv as I write this - rats, hmm, the idea of a hero rat is not high up my list of favourite things at the moment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guide dog fosterer

I have been interviewed today to see if I am suitable to be a foster carer for guide dogs.  There are two local trainers for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and when they get new dogs to do the advanced training the dogs live with a foster carer and get taken out every day to be trained.

I have a colleague who does this, and as I miss having Saffy around it seemed like a good idea.  The trainer collects the dog in the morning and brings it back late afternoon, so I would have the dog evenings and weekends.  Plus they pay all the costs.  You do only get them for a short period of time and you  may only have a dog once or twice a year, but you are also doing a good job and helping in the training of a guide dog as well.

So I get to have a dog (part time) at no cost, and can pat myself on the back for helping others too!

Saffy gave me a good character reference, I'm glad to say.

It is quite exciting I think.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back at work

First day back at work was fairly quiet except for a couple of long phone calls. 

Those who know about the flooding problems we have had at work in the past will know that our office has flooded twice in the  last 15 years, the last time had us out of the building for 6 months.    So we are looking with some anxiety at the rising water level in the river by the building and the fields behind.  It is on a flood plain and - surprise surprise - is prone to flooding!  At the moment we only have water leaking in from the roof, and not much of it thankfully.

So I have a leaking garage, a leaking ceiling in work, worries about flooding and - are you getting the theme here?  Maybe I should live somewhere drier, like Essex.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bye bye Christmas tree

I have taken down the tree and put all the decorations back into the attic.

Aaah.  I always feel sad after that.  I love the looking forward to Christmas, and getting together and all the presents, and so on, so I always feel a bit flat in the new year.

The picture is the fen at Newgale, flooded by the rain. 

As we have been having lots of hail today it seemed topical.  I was thinking of going out to take some photos of the opening meet of the Hunt, especially as Nic was taking a friend's little boys on their ponies, using a lead rein on them, and it would have been very picturesque, but....

the weather is yuck so I didn't.

I have taken off the list of books which I failed to keep up to date last year, so will try again this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


2012 is here.

The economic crisis is worsening and the government is rubbish but I can' do anything about that so mostly intend to maintain an ostrich attitude to most of it, as far as I can, and hope it doesn't intrude too much on me and mine.  Selfish but achievable.

On a more mundane level the blooming garage roof is leaking again, so Brian will be looking at that next weekend in an effort to get it waterproof.  The people who built it added it to the side of the house and did a really bad job of the join, so the water comes in through the join to the house.  As we have the washing machine in there, plus lots of gardening stuff, the lawnmower and lots of horse stuff, we really do need to get it waterproof.

Task one for the new year I think. 

As Nic got given a saddle rack and a blanket rack by Brian for Xmas we also need to get the walls dry enough to put them up and not damage the tack.  The other thing I want to do is create a sort of boot room with drying facility in the garage so that we can remove the smelly, muddy, horsy, wet waterproofs and boots from the kitchen radiator to somewhere further from food preparation, and also have them cause less of an obstacle course by the back door.

Task 2 for the  new year.

Then there are the usual ones of lose weight, sort out finances, be tidier etc etc.......

Maybe or maybe not!

Whatever your tasks, resolutions or wishes for the New Year I hope 2012 is kind to you and yours