Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Last Day of September

We were never close but perhaps that’s hardly surprising considering I was born the year that she turned eighty. She was very deaf and had very little mobility when I reached comprehension. To a young child like myself she was just an old lady who spent most of her time in an armchair, saying little but watching us intently. When she did speak, she was often confused. I remember on one occasion she asked my father about her late husband who died a long time before, in the first year of his retirement. I think I was always slightly scared of her.

Her favourite colours were pink and green, and I once tried to write a parody of the Jenny Joseph poem ‘Warning: When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple’, to reflect this. I got as far as writing about how, into old age, she would dye her hair orange (another fact I had gleaned from her daughter, my grandmother).

As my adolescent years approached, she became even more frail and confused. One day she was rushed into hospital after falling in her flat and breaking her hip. After that, she was never the same again. We visited her in Fowey hospital, and I remember her commenting on my glasses, even though I had been wearing them for five years by then. When she had recovered, she was transferred to a care home. Visiting her at the care home was even more frightening than visiting her in her flat. She was always in the living room, surrounded by elderly people in armchairs, staring mindlessly at the television. I always felt shamefully relieved when it was time to go.  

I don’t know how long we visited her there, but her condition deteriorated to a point where my grandmother forbade us to see her, as that wasn’t how she wished us to remember her mother. My great grandmother, Nana Lillian, died in December 2004 at the age of ninety-five. I hadn’t seen her in at least eighteen months.

I never really felt I knew her, but I have always associated the last day of September with Nana Lillian, even after her death. My earliest readers may remember that last year would have been her hundredth birthday. Today she would have been 101. Happy Birthday Nana Lillian. On this last day of September. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Simply the Best!

Some of my favourites!

Simply the Best

Breakfast cereal: Crunchy Nut Cornflakes

Pastime: Writing

Pancake topping: maple syrup

Day of the Week: Friday

Colour: Blue

Song: Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer

Place to Visit: My home town and all my family and friends

Time of the Day: Morning - to have the whole day ahead of me!

Book: I could never decide

Boy's Name: Timothy
Girl's Name: Imogen

Film: August Rush
Season: summer
Singer: Leigh Nash
Book of the Bible: Job or one of the gospels
Hair Style: plaits
Author: Daphne du Maurier or Cecelia Ahern
Smell: freshly laundered bed linen or cut grass
Brand of chocolate: I don't know what the brand is but milk chocolate from Aldi - Spud and I can't get enough of it!
Hymn: As the Deer Pants
Sound: waves or the wind in the trees
Musical Instrument: piano
Sport: running
Type of weather: thunder storms
I've run out of time, but feel free to copy or even add your own favourites!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Dear Job Centre

Well, here we are at the end of the road. We both knew it would never last. I want you to know it's not you - it's me. You see, I've got a start date now, and tomorrow we meet for the last time. You know, in a way I'm going to miss our fortnightly get-togethers. Really? you ask. No, not really. I never felt we belonged, and you were just far too demanding. You never believed in giving something for nothing, and didn't even seem all that pleased for me when I announced I had secured a job. Do you have a start date? you asked. No, I replied, I have to get a CRB disclosure done before I can start. Your brow furrowed. That could take up to six weeks! you exclaimed, knowingly. If you still want my support you must continue your search for work, and keep seeing me fortnightly to review your case. I agreed, dutifully, but really I wondered what the point was. I'd worked so hard, and even if I did secure temporary work, by the time references had been secured and paperwork filed, it would be time for me to begin my other job. Surely I deserved a few weeks off. You didn't seem think so.

I cannot deny that your financial assistance has been invaluable. You have prevented me from dipping into my savings, in spite of the extra expenses that come from independent living, and for that I am truly thankful. I hope you can find it in your heart to be happy for me. Who knows, maybe we will meet again someday, although we certainly won't if I can help it. Maybe sometime in the future, you will meet a young man or woman of my likeness, and speculate the possibility that this could be one of my offspring. I hope that you will provide them with the assistance and support you've granted me over the last few months.

My very best wishes to you,


Saturday, 25 September 2010

My Environment

I have been living in my new accommodation for nearly three months now, and felt it was time to give you a little preview.

The first thing you will probably notice is that there are two beds. Treasure has been having people to stay for over 50 years, and normally her visitors come in pairs. Her visitor's book dates back to 1953. For the last 40 years she's taken in foreign students, who come to stay for a couple of weeks at a time. She's had to put this on hold for the time being, but I don't think she minds having more of a longterm visitor.

I normally sleep in the bed nearest the window (the one on the right) but ever since an eight-legged intruder (a big one at that) was last seen disappearing down the side of the bed, I have taking temporary residence in the other bed. Treasure is quite old fashioned in her ways. I don't have a duvet on my bed, but a sheet and a pile of blankets. The sheets get changed every 5 days, whereas back at home bedding was normally washed and changed every other week.

I have a lot of storage space. There are three built in wardrobes, plus drawers beneath the beds, and a bedside cabinet, all of which are very handy indeed!

My DVDs and CDs have taken residence beneath the dressing table. My mum knitted the two cats for me many years ago!

I have a table and two chairs, which are essential for my writing. Behind the table is a small alcove that functions as a bookshelf. I can just about fit all my books on there (well, all the books I brought with me - there are boxes and boxes at my parents' house).

My bedroom window overlooks the garden.

The rest of the house is fairly unimportant, although I am welcome to use any of the rooms. Treasure and I eat breakfast and lunch in the conservatory, and dinner in the dining room which also functions as a sitting room. The piano occupies what should really be the sitting room, so I think of it as the music room. Treasure doesn't use this room much, although she does play the piano occasionally. The room is at the front of the house and overlooks the tennis courts. I've been spending a fair bit of my spare time here recently, either playing the piano or waiting for Spud to arrive.

Friday, 24 September 2010


This post has been planned for a while, and I've only just got round to actually making it a reality. I've been in the blogging world now for over a year (almost two if you count my failed blog), and I felt it was time I showed some of you some well-deserved recognition. So, I created a blogging award. Here it is, the My Favourite Blog Award:

This award is intended for the blogs you follow most loyally - the ones you read before any others - the ones you click on first when you log into blogger.

And now, proudly, I would like to announce my nominations.

First prize goes to Anna of Beyond the Misty Stars. Anna and I have become really good friends through blogger. Her blog is so endearing and compelling, and almost always the blog that I read first each day.

Second prize goes to Carrie of [carrotspeak.] I've been following Carrie's delightful blog for about a year now. Her blog is deeply personal, and it has been a real privilege to follow her on her journey in life, cheering for her during her highs, and supporting her through her lows.

Third prize goes to Bethany of Empty Thoughts, Rewritten and Empty Dreams, Displayed. Bethany was my first ever follower, and she's stuck with me all the way. She provides excellent commentary on life, and always makes me think!

Fourth prize goes to Mariel of Unabashed Honesty. I stumbled upon Mariel's blog almost a year ago, and I'm so glad I decided to follow. Her posts are always so enjoyable to read, and normally accompanied by her excellent photography. When I read her blog I feel as though I am there with her, seeing the world through her eyes.

To collect your award, save the image and copy it into your blog. You can nominate up to four other blogs that you think are deserving of this award.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

This is the first novel I've read by Audrey Niffenegger, and I wasn't disappointed.

Her Fearful Symmetry is very much a ghost story, centering upon the atmospheric setting which inspired the novel, Highgate Cemetery. Mirror-twins, Julia and Valentina, are left a flat on the border of the cemetery by an aunt they did not even know existed. When the girls leave America to begin their new life in London, they walk into the lives of an obsessive-compulsive crossword writer, who cannot leave the 'safety' of his flat, not even to pursue the love of his life, and the mysterious Robert, their aunt's lover. Elspeth Noblin may be deceased, but her spirit is still present, and growing stronger by the day...

I think one of the strongest features of the novel is the characterisation. Each character is refreshingly original, and well rounded, even believeable. The plot, too, is clever, well structured and compelling, and the narrative lighthearted, but also deeply poignant. I also loved the sense of place and time. The novel has inspired me to visit Highgate Cemetery next time I'm in London. I got the impression that Niffenegger researched the setting thoroughly - apparently she was even a guide at the cemetery for a while.

This is probably the best book I've read this year. I couldn't put it down!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Cherry on Top

A few days ago, Bethany posted a blog entitled 'The Icing on The Cake' which was all about the things she really appreciates. I really enjoyed reading the post and was inspired to write my own. You can read about Bethany's icing on the cake here. Don't forget to leave her a comment :)

The cherry on top

* I appreciate being able to see Spud everyday
* I appreciate phone calls from my family
* I appreciate receiving letters in the post (amidst the usual bank statements)
* I appreciate curling up with a good book
* I appreciate productive days where I get several pages of my novel written
* I appreciate plans for romantic autumn picnics with my fiance
* I appreciate the piano

So, what is your icing on the cake, or cherry on the top?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, certainly met my expectations. When I read the opening chapter, in which Lucado addresses various world issues requiring our attention, I thought the book was going to be one big guilt trip, but it wasn't at all. The book isn't condemning in the least, but has the potential to provoke its readers into taking action. Lucado is positive and encouraging, and demonstrates that even the smallest act can change one person's life for the better.

Outlive Your Life is both readable and accessible. Each chapter is short but sweet, and follows a similar format. Lucado focuses on the book of Acts and the ministry of the apostles, suggesting how we too can administer to the needs of others in our daily lives. Outlive Your Life is a truly inspiring read, full of achievable ideas about how we can glorify God by serving people in need. The book contains a Discussion and Action Guide to encourage us to put what we've just read into practice. I came away from it with a real passion to do my part, and fully intend, in the coming weeks, to find out where my help is needed.

I review for BookSneeze

Friday, 17 September 2010

Pi-a Pi-a Pi-a-no

I first learnt the piano when I was five years old. Since the age of 3 or 4 I had been picking up and playing various tunes by ear, so perhaps my parents thought that they had a musical genius in the family. I never really progressed though. I learned the correct fingering and how to play with both hands, but I've always struggled with reading music. I just can't read it quick enough! Over the years I've found it much easier to learn a piece by heart and that way I could play it without music. During my time at home I thoroughly enjoyed my rediscovery of the piano. When I had nothing much to do I would sit on the stool and run my fingers across the keys, playing anything that came into my head.

It's midway through September and I haven't come up with anything outrageous to do this month, so I've decided to take up the piano again instead. My landlady, known from this day forth as Treasure, has a beautiful piano, and I've brought back one of my music books, Making the Grade 1, to work through. It's not really outrageous, but it's a bit different, something else to fit in my already busy routine!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Life Without You

If you weren't a part of my life, it's unlikely that my family would've eaten out tonight (a Wednesday). Most probably I would've gone to work at 4, and tumbled straight into bed on returning at 10 or 11 - no prospect of talking with you on the phone long into the night. Even if we had eaten out I would probably have pretended to myself that the young waiter's smile was for me. I would probably still be moping about the fact that I wasn't invited to a friend's wedding at the weekend (especially as I was the only one from that group of friends not to be invited). I wouldn't anticipate the long journey home to you tomorrow, or experience the small pang at leaving my loved ones behind. I would be wondering where my life was going, and what was waiting for me beyond the horizon without any certainty.

Conclusion: my life is considerably better for knowing you - I thank God for you every single day.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Girl Friends

People come and people go, but I think these two are here to stay...

We smile together...

We support each other...

We share secrets...

We giggle together...

We build each other up...

We sit and talk for hours on end in our favourite seafront cafe...

We are as close as sisters...

Where would a girl be without her girl friends?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

'Only God can Stop the Moon'

Just the other day we received some wonderful news. A missionary we knew of was released from 21 months in solitary confinement and reunited with his family. He and his wife were imprisoned for their faith and work, although his wife was released just before Christmas after a year of hard labour. The missionary, however, remained in solitary confinement for another eight months, as his court date kept being postponed to public holidays. This could have gone on in a never ending circle, but God intervened and worked a real miracle for his faithful servant.

Many of the public holidays out there are determined by the position of the moon, and so it is not always certain whether a holiday is to take place until the very last minute. On this particular public holiday the moon did not appear at all. Consequently, the public holiday was cancelled (for the first time in the missionary's recollection) and his court hearing took place. He was fined and released, although not supposed to return to England. Amazingly, God worked a second miracle, by delivering him into sympathetic hands. He was cared for and smuggled onto a plane to England under a different name. When my mum saw him in church today he told her: 'Only God can stop the moon!'

Saturday, 11 September 2010

As it Comes

A day in my life: Saturday 11th September

Prayers at Midnight

Saturday began before I'd even gone to bed. I had two people in mind that I felt compelled to pray for, so I sat up in bed and prayed for several minutes. It was a really heartfelt prayer, but towards the end my head began to droop, and I realised it was time to reach a closure and go to sleep, which I did.

A Positive Start

I woke up about seven hours later to the sound of someone moving around in the kitchen. I am currently sleeping on the sofa at one end of my parents' living room, and have slept surprisingly well considering this. It's not the most comfortable of beds/bedrooms, and normally my first few nights in a new environment are restless. Thankfully, this time, they haven't been.

I tumbled out of bed to discover, as I had suspected, that the intruder was my dad, and he was kindly making a cup of tea. We had arranged to go out to Tesco together as soon as I was up, as I needed to get some passport photos done (for work purposes). However, dad told me that I had a choice. I could either go to Tesco with him later on, or I could go up to town with him and mum, where I was bound to find a photo booth. So I went for the latter option, as town is always preferable to horrible old Tesco!

I returned to 'bed' and did my Bible reading for the day (I find it much easier to concentrate if I do it first thing, rather than last as I was doing previously). Breakfast didn't require much preparation. I had a banana, two small oranges/nectarines/satsumas (I can never tell the difference) in a bowl, and a cup of tea. I started my day with two portions of fruit, and surfed the net while I ate. Midway through my youngest brother, Dave, greeted me from the top of the stairs (the computer is at the bottom, on a desk in the hallway).

'What are you doing up this early?' I asked.

'Why? How early is it?'

'It's only just gone 8.'

Mum must have asked him the same thing as shortly afterwards I overheard him say to dad:

'So, are you going to ask me why I'm up this early, too?'

I then dressed and cleaned my teeth, so that I was all ready for the trip to town. I know my parents like to go very early, before it gets busy. They loathe shopping trips even more than I do. I glanced out of the window before we left, and the weather looked uncertain. Please let the sun come out, I prayed silently.

The trip was fairly painless though. We were in town for less than an hour. I got my passport photographs done first of all, as there was a photo booth in the post office (not far from where we had parked). Dad waited for me, while mum continued her 'mission', arranging to meet us in the library. We found her in the children's library. Her 'mission' was to find some books on farming to use with her class at school, but when we arrived she hadn't had all that much success. With the three of us combing the shelves, we managed to find a good supply of reading material. Our third and final stop was Marks and Spencers where mum bought grandma a supply of the tins she likes, as well as a card and present for my cousin. We got home at 10.30am. It had been a very promising start to the day.

'He bled all over my bed!'
We had coffee when we returned home (well, my parents had coffee, and my brothers and I had tea). I found Dave stretched out on my 'bed' playing on his Nintendo DS. He had deglected to put on socks and it was then that I noticed the welt on his big toe.

'What's that?' I queried.

'I don't know.' He hadn't even noticed it.

'It's bleeding! I hope you haven't got blood on my duvet!'

My keen eyes took in the small splodge of blood on the covers.

'Better get those covers in the wash before they stain,' mum said, when I had alerted her attention.

September Sunshine

I did just that - Dave cleared the way. He may only have had a blister, but he had left a trail of blood through the house. I returned to my now vacated 'bed' and, in the mood to meditate on scriptures, I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy and read the first chapter. I spent some time coping out various verses that jumped out at me into my prayer journal. I was particularly struck by 1 Timothy 1.18-19: '...fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience'. I was in a very reflective mood, so I turned my attention to Know and Tell the Gospel by John Chapman, a book I've been reading for my 'quiet time'.

By now the sun had come out, so I left the comfort of my 'bed' for the garden bench. I have spent many happy summers reading on that bench. The neighbour's cat was curled up, conspicuously, on the table at the bottom of the garden. Charlie looked so relaxed that I couldn't resist taken his picture!

I came back inside just before 12, thisty for a refreshing glass of orange juice. Dad had gone out to do the Tesco shop (poor old chap), and I was planning to make a lemon drizzle cake, following the recipe Golden Girl's sister wrote out for me, when he returned with my ingredients. We had, however, forgotten to put them on the list and when I rang dad I only got through to his voicemail. Thankfully, he remembered the castor sugar, and knew that there were one or two things more so he rang me back.

At 12.30 I made lunch for mum and me - beans on toast. Dad returned from Tesco with two pummets of strawberries (aside many other things) so I finished lunch off with a bowlful, and one of my favourite granola bars.

'Tension is a Passing Note'

For reasons that I don't wish to explain here, I felt slightly tense during the afternoon. The time I had spent in prayer and reflection really set me up, and the lemon drizzle cake was a good distraction. I concentrated hard on the new recipe, and was pleased with the result. While I baked, I listened to 'Divine Discontent', an album by my favourite band, Sixpence None the Richer ('Tension is a Passing Note' is one of the tracks on the album).

While the cake was baking, I did the washing up (there was quite a lot by that stage - the breakfast things, the lunch things, and what I'd used to make the lemon drizzle cake). When I had finished I surfed the net for a few minutes until the cake was ready. The drizzle took hardly any time at all. I mixed the juice of one lemon with castor sugar, and then poured it over the still hot cake.

Mum and I planned to visit my grandparents later in the afternoon, but she still had a few preparations to the coming week at school so I returned to my book for a while. I overheard her talking to dad about making preparations for the evening meal (my favourite, beef stew). I offered to chop the veg so that it was all ready, and so, armed with another Sixpence None the Richer album ('Fatherless and the Widow'), I returned to the kitchen. It didn't take me long to chop and peel 3 carrots, 3 parsnips, a green pepper, and a panful of potatoes, and by that point mum was ready to go out. I just had time to make dad (who was still working hard) a cup of tea and cut him a slice of lemon drizzle cake, for which he was very grateful.

'Old and grey and full of sleep'

Today my grandad was old and grey and full of sleep (Yeats). He is in the latter stages of dementia now, but seems content to sit quietly in his armchair with a blanket and soft toy, intended for a newborn - he likes the different textures. His head drooped, but when I moved into his line of sight, he gazed at me for a few long seconds, his chocolate brown eyes taking in my appearance. He didn't say anything, but didn't seem displeased to see me. I chatted to him amiably, unperturbed by his silence, even when his head drooped again.

Grandma was delighted to see me. She drew me into a warm embrace the moment we arrived, and said:

'How lovely to see you!'

She has, just recently, celebrated her 84th birthday, and the lemon drizzle cake was intended to mark the occasion. We all sampled a slice with our cup of tea, even grandad. He seemed to enjoy it. He is not always obliging when it comes to food, and will sometimes shut his mouth tightly when grandma feeds him. He made encouraging 'Mmm' sounds though. Grandma and mum were both highly complimentary, and both had a second piece.

We were there for just over an hour, and might have stayed longer, but Dave needed a lift to a friend's birthday celebrations. When we returned home, my dad had started making the stew, and while he dropped Dave off mum took over. I went on the computer and, aware oft he task ahead of me, began this blog post. I went on instant messenger for the first time in a while, and had a lovely chat with Darling Girl, who I will be seeing on Tuesday.

Dinner was ready between 8 and 9. I ate with my family in the living room, where they were watching X-Factor. The stew was absolutely delicious! There wasn't that much washing up so, having done two lots today (one at home, one at grandma's), and helped with the dinner preparations, I didn't feel too guilty about leaving it. I returned to the computer, and here I am now, at the end of the day. But it isn't over yet...

What Next?

I can more or less foresee the next two hours. Spud is due to ring anytime now, and so I will speak to him for an hour. I will then crawl into bed, after finishing the day with a chapter of the Bible and prayer. I have taken the day as it's come, and it has been a very good day indeed. That is the attitude I've tried to take each day, but today is the first day that this practice has really proved to be effective.

Friday, 10 September 2010


This morning I watched 'Little Women' which is probably my all time favourite film. Although I haven't seen it in a couple of years, I was surprised by how much I could remember of it. I found I instinctively knew what scene to expect next, and I also knew a lot of the lines off by heart. It's the one film that I can't watch without coming close to tears. Both book and film spark off my longing for a sister. I want to watch 'Little Women' again before I leave, but unfortunately I'm prevented from doing so by the fact that the video remote has gone awol, and without it I can't rewind the video!

Then, this afternoon, I had lunch with Golden Girl and her sister. Golden Girl is probably my oldest friend. We've known each other since we were about three as we went to playgroup together. She's currently studying for a degree in nursing, and returns to university the day after tomorrow, so it was nice to catch her before she went away. She's a lovely girl with the sweetest temperament (as is her sister), and she's always been a really good friend.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Time to Go Home

Tomorrow I'm returning home for a week, and this time alone. It will be strange being apart from Spud because we've seen each other every day for the last three months or so (real novelty for us). I guess it's back to talking on the phone each night, but only for a week this time! The nice thing is that from now on it'll be very rare for us to be apart, and such occasions are unlikely to be longer than a week.

I'm looking forward to seeing my family, and Dearest Friend and Darling Girl who are both off to university in the next few weeks! I will also being seeing Golden Girl before she returns to her studies. I won't be sleeping in my old room though. Instead I will be sleeping in my youngest brother's box bedroom, as when I left home he moved into my bedroom! I'm pleased for him because he's always had the smallest bedroom, ever since the day he was born (the curse of being the youngest! Lol)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lady of the House

My landlady has been away since Thursday, so I really have been able to sample independence this week. Although I do cook the occasional meal, my meals are included with my accommodation, and my landlady normally takes charge of my washing too. So this week I have been cooking and doing the laundry for myself, and believe it or not I love it!

I did my laundry on Sunday, as the weather was ideal (sunny and windy). I put my clothes in the washing machine before I left for church, and when I got back I hung them up on the line. They were dry within a few hours, and the task didn't take as long as I'd anticipated. Perhaps it was novelty, but it didn't feel like a chore either!

I have also really enjoyed planning and preparing meals. My landlady doesn't like pasta, so while she's been away I've taken the opportunity to cook loads of meals with pasta. I started the week with a pasta bake, and then yesterday just ate a simple meal of pasta with sauce and cheese. Spud has been over for dinner most nights, so I haven't been too lonely in the empty house either.

It's all good preparation for the future, because in two years time I will be doing all these things for myself 24/7!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Girl Behind the Blog

Bethany wrote something a while ago about how people sound different when they write to when they speak, and it struck me just how limited a view my readers have of me. I wanted to tell you a little more about what I'm like in reality.

The girl behind the blog is painfully self-conscious and doesn't like drawing attention to herself. She cares too much about how people perceive her, and worries about displeasing them. She is almost always on edge and doesn't know how to relax her body. Sometimes she thinks it would be quite nice to be invisible.

She is very shy, but doesn't normally come across as shy these days. She loves to meet new people, but finds crowds quite overwhelming because she can't often get a word in edgeways. She sits quietly, listening and feeling like she's part of a conversation, but unable to speak as she worries about cutting across someone else.

Despite these insecurities, she's quite at ease with life and the person she is growing into. She is very adaptable and has good coping mechanisms. She is also extremely determined. She strives to remain positive, even during the darkest times. And she knows that most of the people who know her real self think very highly of her indeed.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Farewell Ceilidh

A night of food, dancing, laughter and loved ones, before I moved away. And here, at last, are the photographs!