Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Final Stone in my River...

…and a bit about the family too

This morning I placed the final small stone into my river. I did it! I completed the River of Stones January 2012 Writing Challenge. Some days I had to root round for an idea for my small stone while other days a small stone appeared on my computer screen without hardly a thought.

My final ten stones are listed out at the bottom of this post and, as with my earlier posts, I’ve selected two that hold a special meaning for me. This time the selection was easy and it’s no surprise that it’s all about family.

Odd to begin with a failed stone but interesting that the more emotionally involved I was to the stone, the harder it was to find the words to express exactly what I felt.

A failed small stone. I can’t find words to describe the aching tiredness in my body after an exhausting weekend with my post-operative daughter.

Just over a week ago my daughter had an op as a day patient at her local hospital. She was still very much under the influence of the anaesthetic for several days afterwards and needed a lot of t.l.c. She was hoping to bounce up and be back at work by now but, as with many things, it’s not been as straight-forward as we expected, although but hopefully she’s now on the mend.

My other special stone is no surprise.

A first. My little grandson said, “Here yar Mamma” and gave his dummy to the phone. He called me Mamma and it melted my heart.

He’s only 22 months old and I thought for a start he was talking about his Mum but he then said, “Mummee car.” So I’m Mamma. That’s so cute except that after I’d been talking to his Dad for a while he shouted “Bye bye Mamma” and waved at the phone.

Diabetes update: I mentioned in an earlier post that my grandson had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a few months ago. It was a great shock to all of us, not least because he’s so young, but now things are settling into a routine and, although his levels are still up and down, he’s coping really well with his new regime, including his four injections a day! 

Some of my blogger friends have been asking how Mr A's health is these days. Thank you for asking. He has fully recovered from the stem cell transplant and the levels in his blood are, thankfully, stable right now. We're keeping everything crossed.

My final ten small stones:

22.1.12  A failed small stone. I can’t find words to describe the aching tiredness in my body after an exhausting weekend with my post-operative daughter.

23.1.12  The dunnock knocks leaves from the gutter seeking out insects that had mistakenly preserved their juicy bodies for his breakfast.

24.1.12 Raindrops hit the puddles sending circles ever outwards, moving too fast for me to see, but I can hear them on the conservatory roof.  

25.1.12 T-shirts with bows, sequins, ribbons or stripes.Trousers straight or boot leg, on waist or hips. So many choices and now I’ve spent too much!

26.1.12 The frozen lump of beige soup softens in the pan. I take a taste, still can’t identify quite what I put in it but it’s surprisingly tasty.

27.1.12 Firm, white, shiny eggs in the bowl. I press down with my fork. Yolk appears, mayonnaise spreads. White and yolk mix. Egg sandwiches.

28.1.12 I stand in the dark at the landing window. A familiar silence surrounds me. At a nearby house lights shine, people chat, children play. My silence suffocates.

29.1.12 A first. My little grandson said, “Here yar Mamma” and gave his dummy to the phone. He called me Mamma and it melted my heart.

30.1.12 I run wet hands across cold clay. It softens and shifts beneath my fingers, warming to my touch, gently inviting me to mould it.

31.1.12 I wake to the perfect pitch of a blackbird greeting the morning. I smile even though he’s really issuing a warning, “My territory!”

For those who have missed my earlier small stones, I've poured the whole River onto their own page. Please click on the River of Stones tab on the green band at the top of this post.

Friday 27 January 2012

Turn it off!

They're talking about the beginning of the Universe!
Our galaxy in the vast Universe

Every morning we listen to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. This morning I heard them mention the Hadron Collider and suddenly realised that they were talking about the beginning of the Universe. I ran and turned off the radio. This is one issue that I just can’t get my head round. But it was too late because now I’m revisiting questions that are always lurking in that dark part of my mind:
  • If there was a beginning of the Universe then what was here before?
  • If we could travel and travel then would we reach the edge of the Universe?
  • If there’s an edge to the Universe then what’s outside it?
  • If the Universe was to be destroyed then what would take its place and how could there ever be nothing?

I do have faith in the beliefs of my religion but I still can’t work out all this Universe business. Is it any wonder that I throw myself into my writing? It stops me from thinking about these brain-exploding issues.

Is it just me or do other people have trouble thinking about this sort of thing?

Sunday 22 January 2012

Soduko, Bridge and More Small Stones

Collecting small stones is all about looking carefully at one thing each day for the whole of January and writing down what I see. It’s a fascinating activity. I’ve never done it before and I didn’t expect to get this far. I’m well over half way and think that I might just make it to the end of the month.

I’ve chosen two number-related stones to talk about and listed out my others at the bottom of this post. [I posted about my first nine small stones here.]
Wednesday 18th January: 1 to 9, 1 to 9, 1 to 9. Looking for patterns. Always different. My evening Soduko never fails to fascinate.
Thursday 19th January: Shuffle and deal. Sort the cards. *sigh* No bid… again! #Bridge 
Why does Soduko fascinate me so much? In theory it’s completely pointless. It makes no difference if I fill it in correctly or not, but in practise I’m quite passionate about it, almost as passionate as I am about Bridge.

Bridge also relies on working out numbers, counting the high card values in your hand, making a calculated estimate of how many points your partner has according to the bids of your opponent. I’m not sure if I do it to keep my brain active, or to keep me from thinking about life’s worries. Probably both if I’m honest.

Do you have a hobby that you’re passionate about?

My small stones from 10th to 21st January: 
10th  It has a rich red base with black lines forming diamonds, circles, elaborate shapes, each one filled with blue, beige and red. This is the Turkish rug that I never see beneath my feet. 
11th  A rotund pigeon approaches our tree, thrusts legs forward, leans back on an air current, flaps wings wildly… and he’s landed. 
12th  I slice the cucumber so thinly the light shines through. My knife slips. I should hide the half slices but where? In my mouth!
13th  The car wash guys have raw red hands and yet they chat and laugh as they wring out leathers, spray on soap, hose down suds. 
14th  A thousand tiny fireflies have been skating all night on our frosted car roof to the tune of The Bolero. I know because I can see the lines their skates have left behind. 
15th  A line of steam escapes from beneath the saucepan lid and gathers like dewdrops on the cold kitchen window. 
16th  Yellow tulips dip over the rim of my vase like ballerinas bowing for applause. 
17th  Pasta bows, soft and shiny, covered with sizzling cheese and spinach for Popeye-style strength. Supper for one. My choice.
18th  1 to 9, 1 to 9, 1 to 9. Looking for patterns. Always different. My evening Soduko never fails to fascinate. 
19th  Shuffle and deal. Sort the cards. *sigh* No bid… again! #Bridge
20th  Two spikey-haired cats miaow at me as if I can stop the rain. Sorry girls. 
21st Chocolate ice cream with real chocolate chunks, smooth and crunchy, cold and creamy. The taste lingers :-)   

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Computers? They're easy once you know how.

Why is it that the computer has a way of making itself appear incredibly difficult until you know how? I’ve had friends who, not so long ago, were bewildered about how to use an email account but now they’re emailing as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, which of course it is… when you know how. Some of my friends are now wary of launching themselves into the blogging world because they’re not sure they know how. One of those friends has successfully dived in and you can find her at Thinking of the Days talking about everything from music to her allotment, cooking, family, life, the lot. Hopefully the others won’t be far behind because it really is easy once you know how.

Some time ago I set up a website because I wanted to connect with other writers but yet again it’s all about what you know and I now know that blogging and tweeting are the best ways to network, raise your profile as a writer and make lovely friends while you’re at it. So when the bill for next year’s website hosting arrived in my inbox I decided it was time for a restructure. Within the month my website will cease to exist. I’m transferring some of the content onto this blog. You’ve probably noticed that tabs have appeared above the title of this post. Of course, you won’t have noticed how many hours it took me to work out how to set up those tabs and additional blog pages and yet it’s simple now I know how.

Talking of lovely blogging friends, I’ve received some awards. Annalisa Crawford from Wake up, eat, write, sleep gave me the One Lovely Blog Award over a month ago. Apologies for the delay, Annalisa, but life’s been a bit hectic here.

Annalisa is a writer and fitness instructor and a lovely chatty blogger so please go and visit her blog. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I’m passing this award to my friend Bridget at Thinking of the Days for being brave enough to dive in.

My other award is from Ruth who blogs at Out on a Limb. I met Ruth through Rachel’s Platform Building Campaign. She writes YA and she’s a chocolate lover, a blogger after my own heart, so all you YA writing, chocolate loving bloggers please go and visit her blog. It’s a must read.

Ruth has given me the Versatile Blogger Award and said that the rules insist I tell you seven things about me that you didn’t already know. Gosh! I doubt that there are seven things you don’t know about me so, as usual, I’m going to bend the rules and tell you about five firsts.

My first LP record was by Dionne Warwick
My first car was a turquoise Austin A40 Farina
My first holiday abroad was in Benidorm in the days before it was a TV series.
My first teaching post was as a History Teacher in Loughborough
My first published piece of writing was a short story called Waiting to be Rescued published in Best Women’s Magazine and if you’d like to click on the above tab marked short story you can read it.

I’m passing this award to my friend Maria at First Draft CafĂ© who, as @MariaAsmith, has done so much work to set up the #UKwriters group on Twitter.

Friday 13 January 2012

What if you couldn't read?

For several years I taught adult literacy and yet I still can’t truly imagine what it would be like to not be able to understand the written word. The nearest I’ve come to experiencing it is when I’m in a foreign country and even then I can have a go at deciphering words, especially if they use the same alphabet as us, because I have the decoding skills.

But without those decoding skills I’d be lost... literally when it comes to travelling. Which is the correct bus stop? Which underground train do I want? What street am I walking down? Where is the nearest public toilet? How can I order food in a cafe or restaurant? The list of obstacles is endless.  

We were once in France and went into a Moule Restaurant. I now know what Moule means and I’ve also learnt to say “Mon mari est mal avec des moules.” He’s allergic to muscles so I hope that translated correctly. They seemed to understand because they showed us the door.

Which brings me to the kitchen. What’s in that packet? Does it contain wheat? Is it still in date? Are the little pictures clear enough to show me how to cook it? And how would I remember what I need to buy from the shops? I could dictate a shopping list onto my mobile but how do I do that? It’s hard enough to work out how to use all those obscure facilities on mobile phones even with the ability to read the screen! And listening to a shopping list is really not the same as scanning my eyes across a piece of paper.

I could go on but I think you’re getting the gist by now, so I’d like to say a big thank you to my teachers for teaching me to read and to my Mum for instilling in me a love of reading. Books meant everything to Mum, especially as she got older. They helped her to escape from a world of illness and immobility. Once she entered the pages of a book she could be anyone and go anywhere. Everyone reading this now can do that too. Aren’t we lucky!

Monday 9 January 2012

Me, David Hockney and Small Stones

I had an amusing realisation last night as I watched Country File on the TV. Me and David Hockney have something in common. Hockney spoke about the way that people don’t really look at things. As an artist he takes in every fine detail of the world around him and transfers it onto canvas. I'm trying to look at the world around me for the January small stones project and I'm transferring it to the computer screen, which brings me to another similarity. Hockney is into modern technology too. He uses an iPad which he says does the job far better than the old fashioned sketch pad and pencil.

But now we come to the differences. Apart from the obvious fact that he's amazingly talented and world famous, he sees colour where I see black. He sees fine blades of grass where I see a patch of green. I’ve a way to go before I’ve grasped this small stones activity but I’ve stuck with it. I’ve been tweeting them out each day this month and one or two have even been retweeted by kind followers J

Thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for running this project at Writing our Way Home. I’ve listed out below my first 9 of 31 stones [it's only for the month of January] and I’ve chosen two of my favourites to talk about.

Waving arms together, clapping hands, hiding under the table and… boo! The joys of skyping with my 21 month old grandson.
I'm not sure if this is, strictly speaking, a small stone but it was such a precious moment that it had to be included. My little grandson has been seriously ill. In December he was rushed into hospital and spent five days in the High Dependency Unit, what we used to call Intensive Care. The doctors diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes. He now has to have four injections a day. For a start it was traumatic for him, and for his Mum, Dad and sister, but the jabs are now called ‘tickles’ and he’s accepting them as part of his life. He’s grinning and playing and running around again and, with much thanks to the Doctors, we have our lively little grandson back... but sometimes life seems so unfair.

A furry grey paw, chenille-soft, stretches across my lap. I stroke it. Mabel purrs and, if I could, I would purr too.
When Mabel arrived from the cat rescue centre last March she was traumatised and spent all her time hiding under the table. Her sister, Charlie, was traumatised too but she's more trusting. She’ll sit on anyone’s lap and insists on being stroked the whole time [like now while I'm trying to type this!] Mabel is more suspicious. She has not yet sat on a lap but she’s gradually moving closer. She now sits either next to me on the settee or on the back of the settee by my head and every now and again a cart-horse sized paw [she’s a big girl!] reaches out and she lets me hold it and stroke it while she purrs contentedly.

My First Nine Small Stones 

1st Jan Bamboo canes, sturdy and black against delicate lime leaves, move to the rhythm of the wind like arms at a rock concert.

2nd Jan The smear across the microwave door, a rainbow drained of colour.

3rd Jan A hazy potato print against a marine blue sky. The moon has insomnia again.

4th Jan With eyes closed the wind in the trees becomes waves on a shingle beach. 

5th Jan A sparrow wipes his beak on the branch once, twice, fluffs out his sodden wings, nibbles a feather and he's away 

6th Jan Metal wings slash white lines across a blue sky, tally marks to record yet more pollution.

7th Jan A furry grey paw, chenille-soft, stretches across my lap. I stroke it. Mabel purrs and, if I could, I would purr too.

8th Jan Waving arms together, clapping hands, hiding under the table and… boo! The joys of skyping with my 21 month old grandson.

9th Jan With Hockney's words in my head I looked at small stones. They are grey, white, yellow, blue, black, orange and green. They are shiny, rough, flat, oval and round and everything in-between.

A small postscript for those who are interested: JOur local newspaper, The Leicester Mercury, rang me up last Friday and interviewed me about my opinion of David Cameron’s statement regarding his intentions to see improvements in hospital care. This is the resulting article here: Plans to improve nursing

Friday 6 January 2012

A Woolly Yarn

I often go on nostalgia trips in these posts, remembering the ‘good old days’, but this one’s different. I was out with a knitting-loving friend and we popped into the wool shop. I prepared to glaze over but...

Wool has been born again. There were balls containing sequins, balls made of ‘rag rug’ pieces, balls of thick flat yarn that fanned out to create lace scallops. Using needles that resemble frankfurter sausages, a scarf can appear in a single evening. How different from Mum’s fine needles and even finer wool, click clack click clack. Every few months a garment would emerge and next day there’d be different coloured wool and, click clack click clack, she’d be off again.

Life today is all about quick and easy, like the microwave. You can make a delicious steamed pudding in three minutes, no spluttering saucepan with string and cloth covered basin rattling around for hours. Grandma would never have believed it.

And then there’s the computer. Can you remember when you had to type out a manuscript or document with carbon paper for your copy? If you made a mistake near the end of the page you had to type it all over again and it’s not that long ago!

Those who know me well will be amused to hear that I was seduced by that wool shop. I’m knitting a chenille scarf, one of those ‘knit up in an evening’ ones. I’ve been on it for three days now. I’ll let you know if it’s ever completed! 

For those who would like to buy some of this amazing wool, the shop is called Craft Corner Knits. It's at Thoresby Courtyard. Here is the link to their Facebook Page. and this is the link to Thorseby Courtyard.

Sunday 1 January 2012

An Alcoholic Admission

When I was in my twenties I tried very hard to drink wine but it always made me sick which was a shame because it’s such a sociable thing to do. When I met Mr A he declared that it was because I’d only ever tried cheap plonk. Being a bit of a wine connoisseur (a posh way of saying he liked an occasional glass) he lavished upon me the most expensive of wines. Still I was sick. So I’m making an admission to you all now. I’m standing up as I type this and I’m saying loudly and seriously, 
“My name is Rosalind Adam and I am a teetotaler.” 
There I’ve said it. I can hear you all gasping and yes it does mean that: 
  • I’m always the designated driver home.
  • I never ‘get’ the jokes that are bandied about in the latter part of a sociable evening.
  • And there are only so many glasses of juice that any one person can drink in an evening.

  • I never get a thick head the morning after.
  • And Mr A hardly drinks at all now which is just as well in view of his kidney problems following his stem cell transplant. Had I been fond of a glass or two we could well be downing a bottle a night by now.

Last night, surrounded by my friends, I toasted the New Year with a glass of lemonade while they sipped at Champagne. We had a lovely evening and I drove home afterwards. Today I shared a delicious lunch with friends and washed it down with their infamous and highly non-alcoholic ‘red juice’. We had a lovely day and I drove home afterwards.

I don’t need alcohol to have a good time and I’m now raising a cup of tea in a toast to the New Year. May the rest of it be every bit as good as the first 24 hours have been.