Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Silver Linings

Sorry about the muffled protests in the background: it’s Mrs Hyde. I’ve had to restrain her and keep her away from the keyboard. It’s always the same when we’ve had visitors; she has terrible urges to be indiscreet and it’s the only way I can control her.

Worries about family and nagging pain have made me feel out of kilter with the world but I’m trying not to let the black cloud overwhelm me so here, instead, are three things which have made me feel better this week: -

My dear friend, Jill, has sent me a lovely book called ‘Quotable Dogs’ by Milly Brown. I particularly like this one by Agatha Christie:

‘Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.’

Hmm, on that basis I might have to become a recluse.

We had an unexpected visit from Mr and Mrs Parents-of-Tracy-Next-Door bearing gifts. Some of you may recall that Tracy’s dad was taken ill a few weeks ago when the couple were looking after the house and we were able to help. The good news is that a change in medication seems to be resolving the problem. It was lovely seeing Tracy’s dad looking so much stronger and incredibly sweet of them to bring us flowers and wine as a thank you.

Tom and I walked along the estuary late yesterday afternoon. The sun had come out and we sat down on the rocks to watch the tide creep in and the boats pick their way across the tricky Cardigan bar to return to their moorings. It was just glorious sitting in perfect peace with the sun on my face, listening to the oyster-catchers and watching the waves. A far better tonic than any medicine.

Oh dear, Mrs Hyde has broken free and is performing her post-visitor ritual of running round the house in her nuddypantness playing the Foo Fighters and Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ at full volume. I suppose I’d better do something before she scares the builders opposite – but that’s another story.

Hwyl fawr!

PS Don’t be taken in by the fact that the word count has stayed the same. There has been frantic activity behind the scenes and I now have several characters backed into a corner pleading for leniency.

Painting is ‘Black White Grey’ by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

On the Hard Shoulder

Friday 17 August. Frozen Stiff
For a couple of months now I haven’t been raise my left arm, say, to spray my armpit with deodorant, or reach behind my back, say, to undo my bra without seeing stars. What to do? Other allowing my BO and nunga-nungas fly free. I’ve worked out that I’ve got a frozen shoulder and that there’s not much to be done about it but, after a bad night, the pain is so severe that I am forced to take myself to the doctor’s.

Within an hour I have seen my GP twice and been for an x-ray – there’s efficient for you. Have also, to my surprise, cried twice during this process, once when my GP asked when the pain was worst and once when the very gentle radiographer offered, without being asked, to undo my bra for me! The good news is that there is no sign of osteo-arthritis but, given the lamentable state of my Mum’s back, I’m being referred for a bone density scan too. In the meantime I am despatched with a truckload of extra-strong painkillers.

I feel slightly shocked to be in this state, after all I take reasonable care of myself and exercise regularly but, hey ho, it’s happened so I’ve just got to get on with it. Back home I down my pills and, free of pain at last, madly rush round the house doing everything I haven’t been able to do.

Saturday 18 August: Frozen Out
Wake exhausted after crazy drug-fuelled dreams. Look, it’s not exactly Trainspotting I know but I don’t feel quite like myself. Slump on sofa to watch the Welsh rugby team do their very best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Sense of complete helplessness not eased when a very unhappy Rose rings and is clearly having a tough time fitting in to a different regime at her dad’s. Seems there are lots of unwritten rules that Rose keeps transgressing. I’m trying to be charitable here; I hope that it is just a change of regime and nothing more sinister. Poor kid – she has been there less than two days!

Tuesday 21 August: In the Doldrums
O me miserum!, as we used to say in Latin. Mind you we also used to say things like ‘The happy farmer loves the sailor’, and ‘Whilst I was swimming the dog stole my clothes’ and look where that got us. Ho hum! Have had a severe attack of the miseries today, so was most grateful to offload my troubles to Elizabethd, who was hosting coffee, and Westerwitch and Fennie who were also there. Thanks to all of you for your kind words of sympathy and advice.

And finally:
Acute observers of the re-write word meter will notice that the word count has gone down. This is because there are slaughtered ‘darlings’ all over the place (actually they’ve been consigned to a file named ‘limbo’ for possible recycling). I do hope there’ll be something left at the end of the cull or I’m in big trouble.

Hwyl fawr!

The painting is Tom Tomos’s interpretation of Pentre Ifan – for Fennie!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Noses To Grindstones

Friday 10 August: In the Basement
Spare a thought for Lily who has been down in the emergency room taking phone calls all week from farmers concerned about foot and mouth. Lily works for the Welsh Assembly Government and has volunteered to help see that callers get the information they need. So don’t shoot the messenger, folks, she’s doing her best! Actually Lily’s had some previous experience of dealing with all sorts of queries from the public when, after graduating, she did a stint working for BT and dealt with drunks phoning up to see what day is was (and then arguing back!) and lonely old people who wanted someone to talk to (what a comment on our society).

Sunday 12 August: On the Road
Stepson Two is putting the final touches to Clock’s debut album. In the meantime the band’s third tour has been announced, there are twenty-eight tour dates covering venues over much of the country. (see: ) Only those of you on far-flung islands will be excused. Do see them if you get a chance.

Monday 13: On the Wall
Tom, who is currently exhibiting at Art Matters, Tenby, The Apple Gallery, Godalming and St Dogmaels Gallery, is currently preparing for a solo exhibition at St Dogmaels. Look, I know I have a vested interest here but these are really exciting paintings so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that lots of people will come and see them (and, even better, buy them) when it opens at the beginning of September.

For those of you who live in Wales there was a really nice photo of one of Tom’s paintings in this month’s 'Pembrokeshire Life' in a feature about St Dog’s.

Tuesday 14 August: In the Black
One of the changes I’ve been asked to make for my rewrite is to make my work a bit darker. I’m currently feeling like the Fast Show’s Johnny Nice Painter making everything ‘Black! Black!’ I do have a dark sense of humour but have a terrible tendency to want to make all my characters likeable. Looks as if it’s No More Mr/Ms Nice Guy for some of them!

I’ve now rewritten three chapters; the word count is rather a crude guide to what’s actually happening as I’m busily ‘killing my darlings’. I’m finding that taking a knife to my book to cut out the parts that don’t move the plot forwards requires a steady nerve and some confidence that it’ll all work out in the end! Sheesh! I just hope it will be all right!

Wednesday 15 August: On the Coach
Sob! Rose is heading south tomorrow to resume the search for work. There’s only so much she can do on the Internet so she’s back to her Dad’s to look for vacancies in publishing. To any prospective employers out there, please find one bright, beautiful graduate complete with relevant work experience. She’s my baby so please look after her.

Hwyl fawr!
Painting is 'Steelworks, Port Talbot' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

High Speed Blog Approaching!

Friday 3 August:
Rose has been taking a well-deserved break after finals and graduation. The real world is calling but we’ve taken some time out together. Yesterday we raced off to Theatr Mwldan to beat the rush of people flooding in to see Harry Potter. Yes, there must have been, ooh, nearly a dozen of us in there. We’ve armed ourselves with a bag of sweets each from the Pick ‘n Mix so I have a brilliant time watching the film and scoffing Snowies, Dolly Mixtures, black and orange Jelly Babies and Shrimps.

Today we’re off to the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park just down the road, well worth a visit if you’re in this part of the world. We spend two and half hours wandering through beautiful scenery feeding very eager animals and, best of all, watching the seals. Both Rose and Lily loved farms when they were little so the visit brings back lots of happy memories. When we return the Foot and Mouth outbreak has been announced on the news. Not such happy memories.

Saturday 4 August: More Excursions
The normally quiet hours of the night are broken by sounds of lorries trundling along the road. In the morning I see a trailer of sheep being towed past, a herd of cows being moved along the main road and half a dozen sheep materialise on a spare field opposite.

Sunday 5 August: Chickens and Eggs
It’s been a difficult week for Tracy-next-doors parents who have been minding the house whilst Tracy and Jeremy are away. We’ve been round to help but Tracy’s dad is still unwell so they decide to return to their own house. I am now the Lady In Charge Of Chickens. Now, look, I know that many of you are experts at this but I am a Chicken Novice so I am a bit apprehensive at first. I quickly find that next-doors’ chickens are complete tarts, purring and cooing at me and making up to me shamelessly. Although they seem a bit disappointed that I only have hen food for them and no treats (I’m afraid of poisoning them!) they reward me with my first egg.

Wow! Isn’t that thrilling? I know it’s obvious, I mean that’s what hens do, but it still felt like a small miracle! I think I am a hen convert… just wish they wouldn’t keep pooing in their water.

Tuesday 7 August: Rewrite Progress
Thank goodness! I have finished a chapter. One chapter? Yes, I’m afraid there was a severe bout of nerves to overcome, not to mention the horrid inner voice whispering, ‘That’s rubbish, that is!’. One down, thirty four to go!

Wednesday 8 August: Far From the Boden Blogger
For all the lifestyle journalists avidly reading our blogs (or not, or we wouldn’t be described in such stereotypical terms) our model today is Chris (Biggest Indulgence: ‘Soaking my feet in a bowl of hot water’). Chris is wearing a pair of her daughter’s cut-offs (fallen upon with glee along with two pairs of jeans and a black skirt in bag of clothes Rose was throwing out) and an old Primark tee shirt. Now, would anyone like to take a photo of me for their aspirational magazine – or would that be too much like gritty reality for you?

Hwyl fawr!

Painting is 'Newgale' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Triumph and Troubles

Thursday 26 July: Rose’s Graduation

‘Oh, look at you lot. You’ve clearly had much better weather up there than we have,’ says Lily from beneath her umbrella as we load her bags into the car. She grumbles a bit on hearing that Rose and I owe our golden limbs to a tin and complains that we are making her look like White Leg Winnie in comparison. Once on to the motorway there are more serious considerations; it’s pouring with rain and the visibility is appalling. Thank goodness we have allowed plenty of time to get to Southampton.

Heroic Tom gets us there with time to spare so that Rose can do the necessary before her ceremony. Rose collects her gown and I fill up with tears then we head over to the Nuffield Theatre where the conferment of degrees will take place. Rose’s Dad, Stepmum and little Stepbrother turn up and pretend they haven’t seen us until I go over and break the ice. Rose’s Dad and I are shuffle off to take our seats whilst the others find a hall with a live link to the ceremony. I can’t pretend it’s not awkward but it’s Rose’s day and no one is going to spoil it if I can help it!

And there she is, my girl, her name is called, the Pro-Chancellor clasps her hands, says a few words (which Rose only hazily recollects!) and my baby receives her degree. Well done to her and all the other young people who have made their families so proud.

Saturday 28 July: Neighbours In Distress
After our whistle stop visit to the south and a round of catching up with parents and siblings we have a horrendous seven-hour journey back on Friday. Lily has returned with us for a couple of days and one of them has been spent largely on the M4! Tom and I get up early to do the shopping so I’ll have some time with the girls.

Alas, no sooner have we returned when it becomes clear there is trouble next door. Our neighbours, Tracy and Jeremy, are on holiday so Tracy’s parents are up to look after the house, water the plants and feed the chickens. I look up from unloading the car to hear cries of distress from Tracy’s Mum. Tracy’s Dad has had ‘a funny turn’ and they need help. I literally drop the bags and run next door and don’t surface until mid-afternoon! Tracy’s Mum has asked for advice from the weekend health service provider but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. One good thing about dealing with my Dad’s illness is that I am now a dab hand at ‘making a fuss’ and a GP comes out pronto. Inside I’m fuming that a frightened elderly woman has been ignored and it takes me, being bossy, to get results.

Sunday 29 July: Middle Aged Woman Mistakes Herself for Olympic Swimmer
We manage a walk on the beach before taking Lily to Carmarthen to catch her train but it’s typical that the sun doesn’t really come out until the afternoon when she’s gone. Tom proposes a late afternoon swim so we dig out the wetsuits and head for Mwnt.

I used to love swimming in the sea but then Lily and I narrowly escaped drowning off a boat in Greece and it’s taken me a long time to regain my confidence. Today it’s lovely; the wetsuit keeps off the chill, the waves are benign and the sun is shining. In no time at all I am swimming about like a mad eejit. Ha! Running, cycling and now swimming -at this rate I’ll be tackling triathlons! Goodness me, this is the life!

Later that evening there is a sharp pain in my ribs and I’m having trouble drawing breath, probably where I’ve pulled an intercostal muscle. At two o’clock in the morning I give in and down a couple of painkillers. My baby has just graduated and my ribs are protesting at an afternoon swim and I can’t help but wonder if nature is trying to tell me something… well, maybe, but I’m not ready to listen just yet!

Wednesday 1 August: And finally…
Rose has finished Harry Potter and kindly donated it to me but I’m itching to get my hands on the book she’s currently reading. Yes, Louise Rennison has produced a fab new confession of Georgia Nicolson, ‘Luuurve Is A Many Trousered Thing…’ What’s not to love?

August has arrived and, after a lot of limbering up, I’m about to start the rewrite of ‘Fighting the Tide’. I’ve installed a word count to show progress; it’ll probably go down before it goes up and I’m not absolutely sure I’ll end up with 120,000 words but, hey, it’s time to begin.

Hwyl fawr!

The photo of Rose is published with her permission.