sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Some of you may be aware that I am very pernickety about the distinction between British English and English English. This is largely because I have spent much of my life having to be careful not to use my brand of British English in the presence of English people.

My mother tongue is, I suppose, a sort of creole; the vocabulary is mostly English, with exceptions, but the grammar and syntax is definitely a mixture. Although I can speak and write perfectly grammatical Standard English, I am always aware of it needing something of an effort.

The heart of the problem is that my family was not Welsh speaking, something my mother was also bothered about. She approved of her cousin sending her daughters to a Welsh medium school, partly because of the benefits of bilingualism, and was unhappy that at the time there was no Welsh school in London. She therefore did the next best thing, and sent me to the French school (if you want to see a real sight, stand by when I tell a French person that I learned French as a second-best option). I got the benefits of bilingualism, but that was all.

Fortunately one of the benefits is an ability to pick up the basics of a language easily. Unfortunately that didn't include Welsh. I made a number of efforts, one of which left me able to make sense of a lot of the Mabinogion but unable to ask for a cup of coffee, another leaving me able t6 ask for a cup of coffee but unable to understand what people said to me.

So I took advantage of the move to North Wales to sign up for an intensive course (only one day a week, but 3 1/2 hours). That started in September and I'm startled by the progress I have made. I now also go to a conversation group upstairs in a book shop (which connects into L-space) every Friday morning, and am saying a little but understanding a lot.

The interesting thing is that my perception of myself is changing. When I moved I went from being a non-Welsh speaking Welsh person living in England to being a non-Welsh speaking Welsh person living in Wales but am now beginning to be simply a Welsh person. It's liberating.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
...at least that's what it feels like.

It's over a year since I last posted, for a number of reasons.

First, my laptop was playing silly buggers and though I could comment using my iPad, for some reason I couldn't post.

Then life got busy. Basically, during 2015 I moved to a different country in the UK. It's less than a hundred miles but the differences are quite striking. The move took a lot of journeys, and fitting as much as possible of a quart into a pint pot.

There was also sadness: in the spring, my Jack Russell Toby died. We don't actually know how old he was, but he seemed old. As we are not going to move from the present house, he is buried in the garden, as is M and K's Sadie, who died shortly after, and also a friend's dog.

The there was Sidmouth, which kept me well occupied, and when I got back I became involved with the local museum, University of the Third Age (art and choir) and intensive Welsh lessons. That last has gone so well that after less than 5 months I'm going to conversation groups.

The final complication was that at the end of November I broke my right humerus just below the head. It's healing well, and mobility is coming back quickly, but I'm still having trouble sleeping, and it's really only this week that I have been able to type properly.

This has just been a quick update; now that I'm back in action, subsequent posts are likely to be more long-wind... er... detailed.

ETA thanks to all for their good wishes!
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Yesterday was swimming day - AquaFit, which is excellent (since I started in September I have lost half an inch off my hips and an inch off my waist). Afterwards, I had a look round the market in Ashton under Lyne and was heading towards the market hall. I noticed that the local regiment was doing some sort of PR/recruitment thing. Which, as it happened, was most fortuitous.

As I came towards them I tripped and fell, literally flat on my face. I was immediately surrounded by a small swarm of squaddies who helped me up, took charge of my bag, took me to somewhere I could sit down and one went off to get tissues for me to clean up the blood (big blue roll, part of which they moistened for me with water from a bottle.

As I got up I saw blood on the ground and assumed it was from my nose, which I was sure I must have broken, but it turned out not to be. Both my nose and my glasses were, remarkably, intact (apart from a small scrape on the bridge of my nose); the blood had come from my upper lip which had collided with my teeth. Which were also undamaged.

Apart from that, I had grazes on my knuckles, the worst on the right hand, and my right knee. After I had cleaned myself up I felt woozy and nauseous and was in fact sick. At this point they called an ambulance.

Given the risk of concussion, I was perfectly happy to go off in it, and in the short distance to A&E they went through a full range of tests, including ECG. I asked them about the results and was very reassured: blood sugar good, heart rate good, blood pressure fine ("given what's happened, I'm wondering if it was a bit on the low side before," the paramedic said) and I now have in my neckpurse a very nice, regular, healthy ECG trace.

I had a fairly long wait at A&E, but the further checks were also reassuring: the main thing being looked at was the risk of fractures to facial bones. None. Nor anywhere else. At my age this is extremely reassuring as it suggests my bone density is good.

I had phoned miapatrick, who called back while I was waiting to say that when they had finished with me I was to take a cab to her house as they probably wouldn't let me go straight home if I was going to be on my own. So when I got there we collected the dogs and some bits and pieces and I spent the night there. By mid morning I felt fine so am now back home - G is back now, and we're going over to miapatrick this evening so if I feel at all funny there will be people around.

The swelling on my lip has gone down and the cut on the inside is healing. My right hand is also improving, though as I suspected there was some swelling. What I'm not seeing is any purple bruises, which is also reassuring.

And very nice in its way was the paramedics after I gave my date of birth (in 1946); one said to the other, "I thought they [presumably the squaddies] said she was 50"

I'm extremely glad they were around. I suspect it might have broken the monotony for them a bit, besides being beautiful PR. Anyway, they were great.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
On re-examination of a specimen of Microbrachius dicki, a 385 million year old fish, it was discovered to be the oldest known vertebrate to have a male sexual organ.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
M has found a replacement for my minibus: same thing (ambulance type) but newer and better. Picking it up today.

Couldn't be better: we had been counting on the old one to go and look at houses in Llandudno and later to do the move. Very fortunately my pension has come through so I have ample money in the bank (part of pension as lump sum).

I hope it does us as well and gives us as much pleasure as the old one.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
The bad news came first.

M (named driver on my insurance) was driving us in to Bury in the minibus when a brand new Mercedes braked abruptly in front of us. We were in a bus lane outside bus lane hours but the other driver hadn't registered that, panicked when he saw a police car and tried to get out of the bus lane. It takes longer for the minibus to stop - in fact, we skidded a couple of dozen yards - and we went into the back of him. Damage to the Merc was not very great, but it looks as though the minibus is a write-off. Which means, since M is still waiting for the side car to be fitted to his motor bike, that neither I nor M and miapatrick have any wheels at the m0oment, though M set to work last night to hunt down a new vehicle for me. Fortunately I have enough money in the bank to get one asap. Even more fortunately, we were all wearing seat belts; miapatrick was worst affected by whiplash as she had no warning and she was sitting facing the engine, but without the seatbelt she would have gone through the glass partition between us and the driver position.

What with paramedics checking us out, talking to the police and waiting for the recovery vehicle, it was five hours before we got home. However, while I was talking to the insurance (thank heaven for smartphones), miapatrick got an email with an offer for the house. She phoned back asking for £2K more (but actually willing to accept £1K more); the buyers accepted the £2k more figure. There's no chain that end so things will move fast and we can now move to get somewhere in Llandudno; it looks as though the house M and miapatrick were really interested is still on the market.

So the move has changed from "eventually" to "soon".

What with having to get a new van of some sort and the likelihood of me moving early in the New Year, yesterday really was the first day of the rest of my life.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Toby the Jack Russell has not been well.

It may have been a dodgy tin of dog food that triggered it: I opened the first of a new pack, he ate his and was sick, Zoe (half JR half Papillon) wouldn't eat hers. After that Toby stopped eating and became extremely lethargic.

This was at the end of last week; yesterday I took him in to the vet. Vet couldn't find anything obviously wrong but took a blood sample (results tomorrow) and gave him a steroid injection to pep him up. He came home, slept afternoon, and when he woke up washed himself for the first time since the problem started. He then followed me out the kitchen where I did him a little bit of boiled chicken, finished it in record speed and looked up hopefully, so I gave him some more. In the evening he had scrambled egg with some boiled rice, finished it and investigated to see if Zoe had left any of her dinner.

This morning he had chicken and rice and cleaned his bowl. Zoe was annoyed because she got dog food; looked at bowl, looked at me, looked at bowl, looked at me and started to walk away but then went back and ate it because Toby was looking interested

So he went back to the vet again this morning, different one this time. She found a slight heart murmur which she said she didn't think was anything to worry about, and he's definitely not too comfortable with his joints. Once his stomach has settled down she agreed it would be worthwhile to take him to the doggy hydrotherapy.

There's a bit of a problem in that I don't know exactly how old he is, but I'll talk about that another day.

ETA Toby is much brighter now. He trotted (as opposed to ambled) into the kitchen at breakfast time and has just had words with Zoe - not sure what it was about as I was in the living room and they were in the kitchen, and when I went to investigate they both came to meet me looking as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Well, it wouldn't, past experience shows that butter goes from source to stomach at something approaching the speed of light.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
This morning, in the context of the result of the Referencum - in the context of relations between the UK and its constituent countries - within the space of 20 minutes the term "to welsh" was used TWICE.

In particular, Andrew Marr ought to know better.

THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Last winter I discovered that War Horse was coming to the Lowry. To my great disappointment I wasn't able to organise tickets. The disappointment continued for a few months, until I discovered that it had been so popular that the Lowry was putting it on again, after a startlingly short time, for a further run this summer. I moved fast this time, and got tickets.

I thought getting there was going to be easy: get on the Metrolink, go straight through to Salford then one stop up the branch line to MediaCity.

Unfortunately, there were Works going on. So on getting to our stop, I discovered we would have to go in to central Manchester, change to another line for a few stops then take a replacement bus. No way would that get us there in time, so we went into central Manchester and took a cab.

It was worth it. The production was staggering, and I kept on forgetting that the horses were not real. I greatly enjoyed the use of folk songs, most of which I knew - though the one I kept on humming when I came out wasn't one of them: "Home, Boys, Home" which is very much to the point. I have to say I'm glad I found out that my grandfather was involved with railways rather than horses.

An excellent experience. I've got the book on my Kindle but it will take some effort to read it. Under no circumstances am I going to watch the film.

ETA A disconcerting thing happened this morning. I was sorting papers and came across what must have been my grandfather's last letter to my grandmother, in January 1919. By the end of the month he was dead of the Spanish Flu. I haven't read it yet.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
The first weekend of freedom was splendid. I'd got the day of the Manchester Pride parade wrong; it was Saturday, so I went in and thoroughly enjoyed myself. This also meant that I could go out to Saddleworth on Sunday for the rushcart, or rather the latter part of the celebrations: good dancing to watch, and I bought an excellent book on Lancashire Pace Egg plays.

Weather on Monday was predictably awful (the BBC weather forecasters commented on the fact that the only area with decent weather was Scotland, which didn't have a Bank Holiday) so I didn't go out except shopping; food is a lot easier to organise now, bearing in mind this week that I shan't be cooking on Thursday as I am having lunch in Manchester and going out to Glossop on the Folk Train in the evening. They have a splendid system: they have an arrangement with a local takeaway, so take orders on the train, phone them in and the food is delivered half way through the evening.

The other thing I did was pack up my work computer equipment for return. It was collected yesterday, with a bit of a glitch; the White Van Man who had been sent from Leeds to take it back to Leeds had been told two boxes, and I had been sent three boxes. To get things sorted quickly I wedged everything into two, and off it all went.

That left me with an odd, light-headed feeling: that definitely drew a line: I couldn't work now even if I wanted to. I can now de-work the study, and have a big desk available for other things (contrary to what my line manager originally thought, the desk and chair are mine, paid for by me, and there is a lot to be said for having a good desk and very good chair available).

The weather looks as if it should be decent today so we may take all the dogs for a decent walk. I have to go in to the library this morning and need to pick up some more purple hair dye, so I'm not actually planning to start the full new routine until Friday; however, I haven't been lounging around doing nothing, and have been getting in some tin whistle practice. I think I'm all the more inclined to do so because of the lovely letter the person who did the workshops handed out at the end:

"I sincerely thank you for attending the tin-whistle workshop.

It was of enormous help to me that you allowed yourself to be cajoled into playing to a standard that will allow you to progress further and (maybe) enhance the lives of those close to you, and maybe not so close.

Keep on playing for many years more and perhaps we'll meet again at Sidmouth or elsewhere.

The pleasure I got from the sessions was due to the effort you made to work hard and be happy."

He was an excellent teacher: from a standing start he got us from "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms" in five one-hour sessions... and in one case, working out how to play "For he's a jolly good fellow" and in the case of the rest of us, able to join in playing by ear at the end. He already had the letters printed out, but was visibly touched - both by the tribute and by the degree of skill we had reached.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
I no longer work. I have indeed retired. Yesterday, for the last time, I went upstairs at 8:30 to do battle with the work computer system. For the last time I grappled with illegible handwriting. For the last time I went through all the time-consuming procedures that could take longer than the actual piece of work. For the last time I took my dogs for their walk at the one time I could do it rather than when the weather etc were most suitable. For the last time I had to get them indoors after letting them out during a coffee break so that I could lock the back door prior to going upstairs. Done. Over.

I felt very peculiar yesterday - I got butterflies in my stomach in the middle of the day, so bad that I couldn't eat lunch. So the day before yesterday was the last time when I had to cook a quick lunch in order to fit everything in, just as it was the last time when I had to get on with cooking dinner after finishing work at 7 (I went round to miapatrick last night; homemade burgers that were a total delight with homemade rolls). That is definitely something I won't miss; I've been preparing meals in advance for the days I worked, and all I'll say about that is that last week I got very, very bored with spag bol.

I'm not starting the full new routine till Tuesday - today I have to sort out the computer equipment to be collected on Tuesday morning, tomorrow I'm going in to Manchester for the Gay Pride parade, and there's a strong likelihood I'll be doing something interesting on Bank Holiday Monday, though the weather doesn't look very promising. But once the front bedroom has stopped being my office and become full time music room/studio, I shall be up and running. Apart from instrument practice, writing and painting, I have a project in mind: scanning in family photographs and putting them safely into albums etc. Investigation into family history is indicated.

The other thing I'm doing today is just plain unwinding. When I started working for the predecessor firm at the start of the century, the assumption was that I would retire at 60, so I've nearly 8 years of catching up to do. All else apart, I've got a lot of DVDs that I want to watch.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
... and very, very happy. Both G and I have been told we look five years younger, which since we both can normally pass for ten years less than our chronological age is nice, if a bit disconcerting.

I did all the things I wanted to, and more: learned the next stage in melodeon playing, learned to play the tin whistle and cracked playing tunes by ear. I met someone who had helped me make a quantum leap in playing the ukulele earlier this year and joined in sessions most lunchtimes. I sang, told stories and did as much Border Morris dancing as I wanted to - including joining in the torchlight procession on Friday night. I bought new cases for my ukulele and my guitar (which is now likely to get more use). I bought new clothes to go with my new look (verging on born-again hippie) and match my hair colour:

All around my hat I shall wear a purple garland,
All around my hat every day and everywhere:
And if anyone should ask me the reason why I'm doing it,
It's because the purple garland doesn't show against my hair.

Three days of work this week, three days next week, and I'm out of it and can concentrate on the new routine (heavy on instrumental practice, writing and drawing)
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
First I was going to retire last Christmas. Then it was after Upton Folk Festival (May Day bank holiday). Then it was in time for Sidmouth. Then it was the end of October.

Now I have grasped the nettle and put in for my retirement - last day at work will be 22 August. As I only work three days a week, have next Thursday off and will be at Sidmouth for best part of two weeks, this means a total of 8 working days between now and then.

I started to wonder whether I had made the right decision when I found myself doing something I really love yesterday (long translation), but a) I lost half yesterday afternoon to computer problems and b) lost all of this afternoon, three hours of it waiting for IT to call me back. If they don't get me sorted soon, it will be a question of whether it is worth it; when they send me new equipment (looks like the router is kaput) it takes so long that it's likely to turn up when I've got about 5 working days left.

It's probably about time. I had an eye test on Wednesday. Mostly all is well, but downer: "Slight signs of cataract." Further downer: "It is usual when ageing." On the other hand, earlier the optician had said, "I can't believe you're 67; you look as if you're nearer 50." He also told me the chief cause of cataracts is ultraviolet light so I should get reaction lenses. I said I'd been wearing them for 7 or 8 years, which he said had probably slowed things down. So on the whole I'm happy about it; but I don't want to work myself into the grave, and the stress at work is on line to contribute to that.

8 more working days and I am FREE!
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Time: a beautiful warm sunny afternoon on the first day of autumn

Place: a quiet cul-de-sac a hundred yards or so from our homes

Two (allegedly) respectable women in their late 60s are out playing with their new toy. It calls itself a "Speeder" but this isn't helpful. G called it a "Landlaufer" at first, because the movement involved is like that type of ski-ing (though I think it's more like skating); I suggested "Roadlaufer" because we don't go off road, and G said, "Let's go for English and call it a 'Roadrunner'." She is now going to buy some horns to make the appropriate "beep-beep" ("meep-meep?") sound.

What it is, is a sort of scooter, but V shaped, and steerable. You start off by scooting, then put one foot on one side and sway your body from side to side to keep it going. FUN!! We were playing with hers because I haven't had a chance to collect mine, which was my birthday present, so we took turns.

This is something I have wanted, without knowing it, for decades. Safer than skateboarding, less iffy than rollerblades.

(And the local shopping centre hasn't got round to banning them!)
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
Or steam room probably.

I've had three days of total relaxation (no papers, no TV, no radio, no internet, not even any mobile coverage) on top of a hill on the Lleyn peninsula, bracketed by two horrific days of driving.

On the way, the bus suddenly decided to go slow. I wondered about the clutch going but I've had clutches go in the past and it didn't feel like that. More to the point, after stalling (after about an hour of this) it started behaving again. Before that happened, though, someone cutting in in front of me on a bit with stripey white lines bollixed up my driver's side wing mirror.

Then about 10 miles before my destination, a fatal accident up ahead blocked the road both ways so I had to turn round and detour. In so doing I clouted a post with the other wing mirror and bollixed that one up. By this time I was extremely tired and once I reached my destination wasn't good for anything but putting up the recliner in the shade and opening a beer. Half way through the beer it struck me that if I hadn't been slowed down so much I might have been part of the accident, and given the size of the bus, possibly made everything even worse.

Coming home, having spent time on the wing mirrors with gaffer tape, all went well till past Chester, when I got the go-slow again. I found myself crawling up a hill at about 30 mph, which attracted the attention of the fuzz. We discussed the situation, looked at the road atlas, agreed that going off onto A roads wasn't really a viable option, so he suggested I give it a try and if I went down that low again, then go off. I managed to average 40 mph from then on; on the last leg of the journey stalled at the lights... and went back to normal. Memo to self: if it happens again, try stalling deliberately.

Somewhat shattered at the moment after stressful journey and getting all vulnerable stuff into the house or under cover. More on the good bits next time.
sollers: visigoth pendant (jackdaw)
I am utterly delighted that Tony Robinson is getting a knighthood. Not, I hasten to add, primarily because of his roles in "Blackadder", though that has been important to me. On reading Vegetius, I burst into uncontrollable giggles when I realised that the best translation of his repeated "Sollertia est" was "It is a cunning plan", which led me to adopt the gender-neutral (because third declension adjective) "Sollers".

No, the true reason is that he is, and has been for decades, the best bloody story-teller on screen. My daughters were still at school when he did a wonderful re-telling of the "Iliad", and he has continued to be excellent.

"A fo ben bydd bont" - "whoever is a leader should be a bridge". He has been a wonderful bridge to history to immense audiences; it takes a first class actor to ask for the umpteenth time for an explanation of crop markings, and each time sound as if he really wants to know, when by then he probably knows more than I did in the exam answer that helped get me the V. Gordon Childe prize.

In addition to Time Team, he has involved himself in historical programmes where he interprets the past and brings it to life, including the "worst jobs" series that must have had an element of masochism - not just the pongs, but having to overcome a dislike of heights that I sympathised with; I couldn't have done it.

None of this is the reason (at any rate on paper) why he got the knighthood, but this is why I'm so glad.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
All I wanted to do was find out how big Nerja was under Moslem rule. Now I've got a new chapter and a whole new character: Fatima the architect.

Centenary

Feb. 15th, 2013 02:27 pm
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
My mother was born 100 years ago today. This gives me a very weird feeling.
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
The Suez Canal, allowing ships bound for the East to bypass the Cape of Good Hope
The Panama Canal, allowing ships bound for the West to bypass Cape Horn
The Manchester Ship Canal, allowing ships bound for Manchester to bypass Liverpool.
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Sometimes television scheduling gets things more right than I could have thought possible. "Cat Ballou" AND "Support Your Local Gunfighter" on the same day

*reaches for chocolates*
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