Silly Saturday – Difficult Daemons

I have not read Phillip Pullman’s trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’ but we have been watching  the BBC series of His Dark Materials. Animal lovers will be entranced by the variety of pets that follow the characters around – but wait! These are not pets, they are daemons! Every human in Pullman’s world is born with a dæmon – a physical manifestation of that person’s inner self that takes the form of an animal.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07s8824

Once we have grasped this important fact questions come to mind.

What would my daemon be?

How do people avoid tripping over their daemons?

What would a rugby match be like if the players all came on with their daemons? When characters argue or fight in the story, so do the daemons. Commentators would be very busy in sport if there was a parallel scrum of assorted animals or an eagle daemon grabbed the tennis ball and prevented the opponent’s winning point. As for the Tour de France, can you imagine the chaos as they speed down those winding roads with rabbits, rats and cheetahs getting tangled in the spokes?

Would we take politicians even less seriously if their daemons were monkeys telling them what to say?

Children’s daemons take different forms until they ‘settle’ during adolescence. Lyra the heroine’s daemon seems to be swift and agile, usually a white ferret and small enough to cuddle in bed like a teddy. One chap has a cougar/leopard, another an eagled perched on his shoulder, but most of the adults have small animals. A horse would be handy for transport, but nobody has a giraffe, elephant or rhino – that would be a challenge.

Phillip Pullman did not invent the name; the Ancient Greek daemon referred to a lesser deity or guiding spirit. Nor is he the only one to reinvent the word; a daemon is a computer programme that runs as a background process, rather than being under the direct control of an interactive user. Have you got daemons lurking in your computer?

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I may already have a daemon, our resident robin does follow me round when I’m gardening, like a bluebird in a Disney cartoon.

What would you choose as your daemon?

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Flash Fiction Friday – Cul-de-sac

They first saw the house in late summer, the neat suburban cul-de-sac ‘Little Glades’ may have seemed a cliché, but to Helen and Sam it was their dream home. They did not dwell on the large deposit and huge repayments; Helen pictured pushing a pram, chatting to neighbours and admiring the beautiful front gardens. Sam pictured mowing the long lawn and throwing sticks to a large dog in the park. They both dreamed of peace and quiet after years of renting the cramped flat above an all night shop at a busy junction.

Even with heavy curtains, lights of every colour flashed into their flat; the neon lights of Price Saver below the bedroom window, the endless amber, red, green of the traffic lights. On the other corners the glowing cross of the twenty four hour chemist and the pulsating purple night club sign. Even the tiny kitchen-diner at the back was never dark, security lights glared until dawn. Then there was the noise; sirens, squealing brakes, dogs barking; supplemented at dawn with the arrival of delivery lorries and rubbish trucks.

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Autumn came and went, but at last they exchanged contracts, then completed the sale. They planned to spend Christmas alone, enjoying the peace and quiet of their new home – and it would be quiet, the asking price reflected the fact that there was nothing convenient nearby, no bus stop, shops, pubs, schools or railway line.

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It was quiet on the morning of December 13th as they drew into ‘Little Glades’ with the small rented van. All day they tidied, arranged, explored, determined not to set foot out of their home until it was time to return the van. The furthest they ventured was down the damp garden and through the little gate into the park. When it started getting dark they were busy in their new kitchen cooking together.

But something was not right.

‘I hope there’s not a fire,’ said Helen ‘I thought I saw a flashing blue light.’

Moving into the hall they saw colours moving on the ceiling, they didn’t need to open the front door to hear

SO HERE IT IS MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY’S HAVING FUN…

When they did open the door they did not recognise ‘Little Glades’ – they had been transported into a dystopian grotto. Neat semi-detached houses transformed into flashing cartoon parodies of their real selves. Monster inflatable snowmen swayed in front gardens, brightly lit sleighs and grotesque reindeer balanced on roofs and a sinister Father Christmas climbed up a lamp post.

An even scarier Father Christmas approached them, a mittened hand extended.

‘Gary, acca Santa, number six. We thought we’d leave you in peace to settle in and now… welcome to Glades Grotto on our opening night. Every night is party night till January the sixth. Every year we raise thousands for charity, visitors from miles around, hope you don’t want to get that van out till morning.’

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Silly Saturday – Season of Sustainability

Are you ready to recycle Christmas? Whether you want to save money or the planet the Xmas season is to be avoided. Our consumption of pastry and plastic increases drastically at this time of year, followed after Christmas by throwing most of it away. Even that which we cannot see, gas and electricity, is used in abundance. This is partly the fault of the earth’s axis in the northern hemisphere; it is winter and the nights are long, we need heat and light, but do we need all our houses lit up like Las Vegas with generators pumping air into giant inflatable snowmen? Bring back Scrooge…  Most people complain that their councils haven’t put up enough lights, not too many. Of course it is the colourful lights that make dark winter afternoons more bearable…

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Perhaps you can still have fun with a guilt free Christmas. One of the few things Prince Charles and I have in common is that our worries about the environment were laughed at in years gone by… My favourite part of Christmas is unwrapping presents carefully and folding the paper ready for ironing and reuse next year. Now even wrapping paper is bad, shiny and plasticised, we have to use plantain leaves instead.

And what gift is wrapped inside? Our love of cute and fun presents has encouraged the passage of thousands ( I don’t claim the statistics to be accurate ) of container ships full of plastic rubbish. Let’s all make our own presents and decorations or buy them from charity shops and give aunty back the vase you gave her last year which she dumped at the Red Cross shop. Last year we did Secret Santa for the adults, this year we are doing the same except we have to get gifts from charity shops – I’ll let you know in the new year if it’s a disaster!

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Last year I crocheted an advent calendar for a little person; I don’t claim to have designed it, I do claim it does not look quite like the picture in the Christmas crochet book I bought at the knitting shop. I made another one this year for his little brother, which looks even less like the illustration. The key point; it is in line with government policy on child obesity, there are no chocolates in the pockets; I cut little pictures out of recycled Christmas cards. My next project is knitted crackers – the sort with a joke inside, not the sort you eat with cheese.

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The best decorations are those our ancestors used for Yuletide, totally organic and natural, holly and ivy. If the holly in your garden bears no berries, creep round to your neighbours after dark and surreptitiously snip off some branches. You can also pick up odd branches that have fallen off the trees in the park during windy weather and stick a few sprigs of holly in to make a table decoration.

Whether you knit grandma a scarf with huge needles and chunky wool or create exquisite treasure boxes with your wood turning skills, home made presents show you care – or that you are flat broke. If you are an author you can give friends and family autographed copies of your own books, whether they want one or not. Cyberspouse says at least it’s one way of getting rid of them.

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If you don’t fancy DIY gifts there are still environmentally friendly alternatives. Have your children got too many toys? It’s probably a bit late for this Christmas, but start next year stashing away surplus toys; by next Christmas they will have forgotten them and you can rewrap them.

One year we gave the elderly relatives (who were always saying they didn’t need anything ) gifts from World Vision, but they were a little confused. This idea can backfire if the receiver is upset they aren’t getting a real goat to keep, or insulted that you have given them a toilet.

https://www.worldvision.org.uk/ways-give/buy-gift/

For more ideas to help the environment follow Carol Taylor’s regular blog.

https://carolcooks2.com/category/environment/

What are the best or worst home made presents you have given or received? Are you making your own decorations?

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Friday Flash Fiction 950 – Writer’s Retreat

‘…yes, but I’m used to being on my own, with Giles away half the time and I rather like it now they have all left home… I know Tammy won’t be popping in every week when I’m up there. That’s half the point. She won’t come round with the children anyway, while all the work is going on next door, because of their ears and lungs… Yes it is that bad, that’s why I demanded they pay me compensation, enough to be away from home… but it’s not as if I could join Giles in the Antarctic. No of course I can’t afford a luxury cruise; what you call my Victorian Villa is more of a millstone, always has been, like a hungry monster that constantly has to be fed… We WERE thinking of downsizing till Dave and Debs got in first and sold next door for a fortune; no one is going to even look at our house while the foundations are being shaken. Yes Dave and Debs did say they had sold to a nice quiet family, a nice family who for some unearthly reason want to live underground… and a wine cellar and entertainment room… Oh they’ve started again, can you hear that awful thumping, that’s the pile driver. I almost wish the whole place would implode down into the Central Line. Do you think we could claim on their insurance if our house was swallowed by the London Underground? … Northumberland… but not as cold as the Antarctic…  I won’t be roughing it, there is an oil tank, just no electricity. I won’t need to charge my phone, because there is no WiFi… Pen and paper, like writers have always used. Long walks, fresh food and making a start on my new novel… Well it was bad timing the car conking out, but that’s part of the adventure, go up on the train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, local bus to this farm and then the farmer take me the rest of the way… Okay, love to Phil, yes I will, if he manages to Facetime tonight, not quite Shackleton, but it’s not easy communicating with a scientist at the South Pole, even if he is my husband.’

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I should have started ringing round the rest of the family, but packing was my priority if I was to get to Kings Cross Station in the morning with one manageable rucksack.

Once the bus had dropped me off there was no turning back. I hoped it was the right farm gate I was standing by. I couldn’t even figure out how to open it, but just as I was wondering if the farm was occupied at all, a figure emerged from what I presumed must be the farm house. A voice hailed me, the only clue as to what sex the figure in green overalls might be. But when she strode up to the gate I was surprised to see a young woman with blond curls tied in a bunch and a huge baby bump. Already I was putting her into my novel. She introduced herself as Abby.

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After a cup of tea and home made scones, in a farmhouse kitchen straight out of the fifties, it was time to set off before it got dark. This was real life for sure. My home for a month had once been a tenant farmer’s cottage, a tied cottage. The family had done it up to rent out and supplement their income. The land rover was more comfortable than you might expect, even though it did smell of damp dog and cow manure.

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So there I was, by the cosy light of an oil lamp, in front of a wood fire. November nights up here were colder, that was to be expected. I have to confess Abby had already laid the fire earlier and got it going for me. She showed me the wood pile, the kindling, the oil tank that fuelled the Aga. Not that I was planning to do much cooking. There was no phone. I would not see anyone till next week when they would pop in with more food supplies. Abby looked rather doubtful when she asked if I would be alright.

I went to bed early. There were plenty of books in the house, how delightful to be Kindle free, but the evening felt long and I was tired after my journey and couldn’t muster the energy to start writing. It was so quiet, I hadn’t reckoned how much I would miss not being able to turn on the radio; still this was a good way get inside my character’s head.

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I woke up suddenly, in complete darkness, without any idea where I was. When I came to my senses I fumbled for my torch, but I had lost all sense of direction; the door and the window had disappeared. I felt an overwhelming longing for the intrusive street lights at home. All I could think to do was to feel my way outside, at least there would be moonlight. I stubbed my toes, banged my shins, nearly fell down the uneven wooden stairs. My watch was not luminous, I had no idea of the time without my phone to look at. I tried to picture the stairs in relation to the door. At last I felt the metal latch and heaved it up in panic.

There was no moon. The darkness was so thick you could slice it. The wonderful open fields that had surrounded me earlier had been replaced by dark nothingness and oppressive silence. With Giles this would have been an adventure, with a group of city friends it might have been a laugh. Alone it was turning into my worst nightmare.

For more stories I have four collections on Amazon.

Try Dark and Milk for only $us 1.28 or 99p.

Dip into the selection, what will you find, dark or milk, soft centre or hard, a moment’s pleasure or something to chew on? Stories for your coffee break or dare you read them at bed time?

Open the book…

 

Sending Sparks Flying

There are few jobs that women haven’t ventured into this century, even if they are still in the minority, but some of those jobs are ones girls probably didn’t know existed when they were at school.

At this time of year the shorter nights are ideal for enjoying firework displays, but in the dark we have no idea who has made them happen, perhaps vaguely imagining someone going around with a box of matches, but modern fireworks don’t need matches.

I interviewed Kellyanne Buckle who is a lighting technician and pyrotechnics expert.

 

What part of the country did you grow up in?

Tamworth near Birmingham.

Did you imagine when you were a child you would work with fireworks?

No, I didn’t even like fireworks.

What career ideas did you have at school?

I nearly went to catering college, but I grew up around the theatre and amateur dramatics so I decided to do a BTech in applied theatre technology, lighting and sound stage management. One of our projects was to do a production of Aladdin – we were given only £50, we asked Cadburys for free chocolate. We gave the show for a van company’s annual treat and they loved it.

What was your first job? 

I did an HND in media and communication; being a technician at a theatre for eighteen months I learnt a lot more than I had at college. I started doing casual work at Birmingham Symphony Hall and ended up working full time there for eight and a half years. I was the only female out of eleven on the team, but I just blocked out the banter. A couple of the older chaps probably just wanted to be helpful and not let me pick up anything heavy! In my last year I got interested in pyrotechnics.

What is the difference between fireworks and pyrotechnics?

Pyrotechnics are precisely made and always exactly the same so you can use them safely indoors.

What sort of shows did you work on?

Birmingham Town Hall also came under our umbrella so there was great variety. We did shows for Chris Rhea, Billy Connolly and pop bands on the way up or down. Also conferences and corporate dinner dances.

Did you get to meet many stars?

Not really, the sound technicians got more involved, but Jimmy Carr did a show every year and we got to know him. One time he noticed the usual stage manager was not there. When we told him the chap had had a triple bypass operation, Jimmy recorded a get well message for him.

What made you leave Symphony Hall?

The management changed and there was a staff restructure; I didn’t want to be stuck doing admin, it was time to move on and do something different. I had already been doing freelance work with a pyro and firework company; it was October, it didn’t rain, I enjoyed it.

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What big outdoor events have you worked on?

On the River Medway, Chatham, Kent in 2017 for the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway.  ‘Medway in Flames’ dramatically relived the Battle of Medway when Dutch ships launched a surprise attack on the English naval fleet moored at Chatham Dockyard. I designed the pyrotechnics that went with the video showing on giant screens.

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Firework spectaculars for cruise ships leaving Liverpool or Southampton usually involve long hours on barges, though when the three Queens left Liverpool I was up on the roof of Cunard offices.

I have also worked regularly at ‘Beating The Retreat’ on Horseguards’ Parade.

Does your work involve a lot of travelling?

Yes, often far from home, Porthleven in Cornwall to Scotland, but my furthest journey was to Spain to teach a safety course, though I don’t speak Spanish.

What led you to start your own company, Hillcrest Street Productions?

It’s good to be able to take control, working for yourself; as freelancers you can’t pick and choose the work. We are trying to do what no one else is doing, for example offer a display that can be done at a wedding and make the wedding photographs extra special. The happy couple can have a confetti cannon for the first dance or ‘dancing on a cloud’ with low level ‘fog’ or cold sparks for choreographed photos.

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How do you make cold sparks?

80% titanium 20% zirconium granules are heated at 500-600c, just enough to glow but not combust. They pass in front of the heater just before they are pushed out of the machine by a fan and are cool again less than a second later. You can put your hands in the sparks.

What was your favourite job?

A job I volunteered to do for free! When Westlife announced in 2012 they were splitting up I was invited to Cardiff to help with the pyrotechnics for their Last Ever Show, I certainly didn’t want to miss that. This year I went to their Comeback show in Belfast!

What are the hard parts of your work?

Working long days with a deadline, overnight set ups, working all through the night… Preparation takes a lot of time, then after a display, especially a large one, everything has to be packed away again.

What are the best parts?

Variety, not doing a nine to five job and having days off during the week.

Do you have different interests outside work?

If I had followed a different career path I would have liked it to be music. Two years ago I started learning the piano. I also enjoy ice skating and reading.

 What advice would you give to girls still at school who want to do something different?

If you want to do something don’t let others put you off.

Visit Hillcrest Street Production’s Facebook Page here.

https://www.facebook.com/Hillcreststreetproductions

Silly Saturday -November – Know or No

What are the pros and cons of going on holiday in November – in the Northern Hemisphere? If you plan to trek to the North Pole there are no pros, you had better wait till summer which won’t be much better… but for elsewhere?

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Pros

There are not too many people around, you don’t have to queue or worry you won’t find a parking spot.

You won’t have to book accommodation well in advance.

You can take advantage of last minute cheap deals.

You won’t have to book on line well in advance for places of interest.

Packing is easy, just your winter clothes.

You can work up a good appetite with the chilly weather.

You can enjoy sitting in front of a log fire.

There are plenty of hours to enjoy the night sky.

You will not get too hot when going walking or climbing.

It is invigorating walking by the sea or on a hill top.

It’s not the school holidays.

The autumn trees are a beautiful colour.

You can start Christmas shopping.

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Cons

It’s too quiet, there aren’t many people around.

Your hotel is empty and depressing, the staff bored.

That last minute bargain deal is not a bargain, the hotel was cheap because it’s awful.

The places you were glad you didn’t have to queue up for are closed for the winter.

Lots of places are closed for the winter.

The places that aren’t closed, close early, usually just before you get there.

Packing is hard as you have to fit in gloves, scarves, thick socks, hats and lots of everything in case you get soaked in the rain.

You can’t have picnics.

It’s hard to find somewhere open to eat.

It’s even harder to find somewhere open in the evening to eat.

The days are too short.

If you go walking out in the country you will probably slip in the mud or fall into a fast flowing stream.

If you go to the seaside to  photograph winter waves you may be swept away by a freak wave.

Children are at school, you’re surrounded by pensioners on holiday.

The trees are bare and depressing.

The shops have started Christmas too early.

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sunshine-blogger

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – 900 – New Shoes

He was there again, outside the station, selling the Big Issue. Giles never bought one because he didn’t want one, or at least he didn’t know if he wanted one; you could hardly peruse it then hand it back. On the tube Giles had The Times to read, he subscribed to it on his Kindle. He had also downloaded 563 books, 13 of which he had read. Occasionally he wandered into WH Smith for the pleasure of browsing amongst colourful, glossy magazines: photography, computers, music… perhaps buying…

‘Can I interest you in a half price Galaxy Sir?’

Yes, he would take a treat home for Judith.

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‘No thank you.’

‘Have a nice day Sir.’

Why did the Big Issue seller have to be so polite, making him feel more guilty?  There was a whole minefield of BI behaviour he had observed over the years, over the cycle of half a dozen sellers. One man regularly bought a copy and dumped it straight in the bin a few yards further on, others proffered a pound or a handful of change without looking the seller in the eye. This morning he observed a woman offering a shiny two pound coin, holding out her hand to receive the magazine.

Keep the change.’

‘They cost £2.50 each love’ the homeless one answered curtly.

Flustered, she hurried away clutching the coin.

Giles was glad to get out of the biting east wind, down into the warm depths of the underground, but he wondered where the Big Issue seller lived. Did he really have to sleep out on the streets in this awful weather, or did he slip round the corner and drive home in his Jaguar?

A truly good person would offer a homeless man shelter not just buy a magazine. Giles had spare bedrooms; well not exactly spare, where would Judith put her sewing and what about the computer?  Sarah’s bedroom looked much as it had when she left a year ago. A vision passed before him of the homeless one sitting on the pink bed clutching Big Ted.

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Over dinner that evening Giles said ‘Do you think we should downsize?’

‘What?’ exclaimed Judith. ‘We’ve only just finished paying the mortgage, we deserve to enjoy this house.’

‘But we don’t need four bedrooms.’

‘What if Simon and Tammy have a baby, we’d need room for them to stay.’

‘As Tammy isn’t pregnant yet and they are going round the world, we could help a homeless person get on their feet.’

‘Are you feeling alright Giles? You couldn’t wait for Simon and Sarah to leave home, now you want to… what are you suggesting?’

‘Imagine sleeping out on a night like this.’

‘There are hostels; besides, we’ve only got one bathroom and we’d have to hide our valuables.’

‘We haven’t got any valuables.’

‘Imagine explaining to the police or the insurance company that we invited a total stranger into our house and he rifled my handbag and your wallet for drug money.’

‘We don’t know that he’s a druggy.’

‘Precisely, we don’t know anything about him, I don’t even know if he’s a real person or hypothetical.’

‘Hypothermic probably.’

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He was there again the next morning. At least he’s survived the coldest November night for years, mused Giles. How would a stranger fit into one’s home, lodger, son… how old was he? Hard to tell with that woolly hat. If they went out to dinner would they leave something in the oven for him? Judith might take to him if he scrubbed up well; some of Simon’s clothes were still in the wardrobe. What would he do all day while they were both out at work, odd jobs perhaps?  If the real man emerged, clean, witty and intelligent, they would be proud. Judith might take a shine to him, too much of a shine, he could become her toy boy, like one of those novels they read at her book club.

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The idea came to him at lunch time when he was in the new shoe shop. He found a decent pair of comfortable black leather shoes for work.

‘Two pairs for the price of one sir, opening offer, today only’ said the girl at the till.

‘But I only want one pair, on second thoughts have you got another pair much the same?’

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He was there when Giles came out of the station concourse carrying two carrier bags, shoes and WH Smith. Giles almost lost his nerve. He mumbled to the Big Issue seller.

‘You’re on your feet all day, are these any good to you… have a Galaxy as well.’

The man looked suspiciously at Giles, but it was a start, perhaps tomorrow he would start a conversation, find out what the man’s situation really was.

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When Giles turned on television for the local news the next morning there was a picture of the underground entrance.

…and in further cold weather news, the body of a man believed to be a Big Issue seller was found early this morning by the locked gates of an underground station. First indications are that the cause of death could be hypothermia, but police are not releasing medical details until a post mortem has been carried out. They are keen to speak to commuters or anyone from the Big Issue Community, unusually the dead man was wearing a brand new pair of good quality leather shoes.

Read tales for all seasons in Hallows and Heretics – take a peek inside the book.

A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.

 

 

 

Wednesday in Welsh Wales

Due to an accident of birth which I blame on my parents, both of whom came from the same Surrey suburb, I am neither bilingual nor exotic. When we went to north Wales last week I was fascinated and envious of the Welsh speakers. Welsh is a Celtic language, the language everyone probably spoke on this island before waves of invaders. The lyrical accent and words also have similarities with Hindi, perhaps there are very ancient exotic origins for this language of poetry, music and Eisteddfods, but it is also officially recognised. Apart from Wales there is a small colony in Patagonia of natural Welsh speakers.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable.

You know you are in Wales when the road signs are in both languages. Only about fifth of people in Wales actually speak Welsh fluently, but in the north the majority do.

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We stayed in Porthmadog for four nights, a lovely town with mountains in the background, a harbour and lots of trains, including the famous Ffestiniog Railway, Rheiffyrdd Ffestiniog. Being winter some places were closed. Our pub hotel was rather gloomy inside; someone had bought a job lot of brown paint. The dining room was in darkness and the bar rather bleak, but on our first evening we found a cafe at the railway station which was open till eight and was warm and cheerful. A family birthday party was in full swing and they were all speaking Welsh, even the children.

The next morning at breakfast our suspicions were confirmed that we and four chaps on a photography holiday were the only guests. A Welsh radio station played in the background. The weather was mostly heavy skies and damp, but stayed clear for our trip on the Welsh Highland Railway. As it was winter the Ffestiniog was closed and most of the line for our train. We went half an hour out, stopped for the engine to be moved then back again, but the little steam trains are gleaming and lovingly looked after and the scenery is lovely. That night a roaring open fire had appeared in the bar so we had our meal in there amongst Welsh speaking locals.

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The next day was the planned trip to Portmeirion, the fantasy cliffside village designed by architect and local aristocrat Clough Williams-Ellis. It is famous as the setting where sixties television series ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed, one of those dramas where viewers had no idea what was going on, thus  making it a cult film. You have to pay to go in, but it is well worth a visit and it must be even better on a sunny summer’s day. Colourful strange buildings cling to rock faces. Various winding steps, slippery in the damp weather, take you down to the edge of the estuary. No one lives there. We went to the hotel that was the house of a previous reclusive owner before Clough Williams bought the land in the 1920s and had coffee in front of an open fire. It was quiet, but apparently they had had a hundred guests for breakfast, those staying at the hotel and others in self catering apartments in the exotic buildings. Behind the village woodlands spread up the hill.

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Back up at the main cafe after more clambering around and photography we talked to a waitress who only spoke Welsh till she started school.  Her granddaughter goes to the high school in Harlech where every subject is taught in Welsh, except for English. If young children or English children arrive to start school and don’t speak Welsh they are whisked off by taxi for an intensive six weeks tuition and apparently come back speaking fluent Welsh!

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https://www.visitwales.com/en-us/product/516165?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-seFl8f35QIVBJ7VCh0UiA-1EAAYASAAEgLLsvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

On the third day we drove to Llanberris through the mountain scenery of Snowdonia in mist and rain to visit the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Of course that was closed till March, but we thought it would be fun to see the station; I had always imagined it sitting at the foot of the mountain. It isn’t quite like that and with the low lying cloud and mist we were not quite sure which mountain was Snowden. Since 1896 the little rack and pinion railway has been taking visitors up the mountain and there is now a new visitor centre and cafe at the summit, no doubt welcome after the one hour trip. I wonder if anyone would be allowed to build such a thing today?

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The Game of Life Continues…

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs. Do not seek professional advice here either!

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The Game of Life continues with no rules; it is over a year since the Game of Life started  play on Tidalscribe. Worldwide people continue to be out of the game in war and disasters – natural and man-made; even the blame for natural disasters is now laid at the feet of humans. What happens to individuals in their little lives means nothing in the bigger picture, but the bigger picture is too much for us to take in so we talk about people we know.

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A storm, a phone call and an early Christmas card.

 We had a big storm recently, not a typhoon, hurricane or flood. Out of all the people in Dorset the roll of the dice went against one older lady, a tree was blown on top of her car.

When my old school friend phoned one evening with ‘sad news’ it wasn’t hard to guess her elderly mother had died, but it had still come as a shock to her because of the circumstances and because she had been her mother’s carer for a very long time.

Just back from our little holiday in Wales, Cyberspouse  browsed through the mail and opened a Christmas card. Without actually looking to see who the card was from he started reading the brief type written slip inside describing the peaceful death at home on Good Friday of someone’s husband. From the name I guessed, we only exchanged Christmas cards, but our mothers had been best friends when we were in infant school. Chemotherapy had not worked, but he had time to see family and another grandson born, loved ones take comfort from targets achieved.

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How many things can humans have fixed?

How many extra years does modern medicine give you? Cyberspouse met up with a friend he hadn’t seen for a while and was surprised to see him looking so well. Over a period of time he has had his rib cage opened up, heart surgery, cancer, other multiple conditions, plus various parts removed.

Death Jokes

‘Eighteen months at the most I was told’

Well seventeen, it was a month ago they told you that.

Wilko Johnson is an ageing pop star I knew little about, but a few years ago I heard him talking on the radio about being diagnosed with terminal cancer; he just made me laugh, after always suffering from bouts of depression he was feeling really cheerful, his calm acceptance of his imminent demise apparently impressed his friends and fans. He carried on with life without bothering about treatment. After doing farewell tours, circumstances led him to an oncologist who offered to operate with a 15% chance of survival. He survived.

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Appointments

Cyberspouse’s most recent scan showed everything still stable, nothing had changed since his previous scan and six months of no treatment, when we went in to see the oncologist she said ‘Oh, you’re looking well!’. Life carries on as normal; we’ve had trips away most months, north, east and west. There are no magic answers to cancer; if you are feeling okay you may as well get on with life and not waste time searching for ‘key lifestyles’ and new cures ‘overseas’.  If a diet of raw vegetables doesn’t appeal to you eat what you like. The Macmillan nurse said at the start of all this, keep moving and feed yourself up, words taken to heart by Cyberspouse. We don’t look things up, but I find Quora quite interesting or amusing when it pops up.

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, and edited by Internet users, either factually or in the form of opinion.

Cancer is understandably a popular topic and most of the answers sensible. There is no miracle cure that someone somewhere in the world is hiding so they can make money. If there were, the rich and powerful would not succumb like the rest of us. It is not one disease, cancerous cells can pop up anywhere and move round the body to anywhere, cells have their own DNA and this can alter; every patient is different as to how illness and treatment will affect them. Cancer is not a battle to be fought, if it was the young with everything to fight for would not die.

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People you don’t see, in laboratories, are busy researching, adding to the multitude of different chemotherapies and other treatments – adding new chance cards to the Game of Life.

 

 

Silly Saturday Stumped

If something can go wrong it will, especially for some of us and you know who you are…

Things didn’t work long before computers came into our homes. The stapler runs out of staples with only one more bundle of papers to go and the new strip of staples will jam as soon as you press down the heel of your hand.

We had a family heirloom hand sewing machine Jones, as supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra. Whether the wife of Edward VII used her sewing machine I have no idea; but ours was old and loyal, blessed with a few simple operations. I turned the handle and the needle sped up and down stitching clothes for my doll; but if the spool ran out or the threads jammed I was instantly infuriated with the machine and my father was the only one who could sort it. When we started sewing lessons at senior school we were confronted with treadles and electric machines. I never mastered the treadle action, let alone the sewing part of the procedure. I would pretend to be busy until an electric machine was available. I have sewn many things since, if my electric machine is running smoothly I can make anything (as long as it doesn’t involve button holes or fancy stitches), but if the fabric puckers or binds itself to the machine I am completely stumped.

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If asked to be the first to arrive and open up a meeting place I know for sure the key will not fit, or the door will remain shut tight. Pull, push, jiggle a half turn, but entry will only be gained when other people start to turn up and try for themselves, the door swinging open readily. Things are no better if there is a code to unlock the door. Did you remember the numbers, in the correct order, turn the knob the right way, or rather to the left not the right… the only way to conquer that door is to sneak up on it when it is not looking.

Perhaps I am not the only one for whom thing go wrong. A long queue forms at the one open till with a human; the other assistants are busy trying to direct reluctant shoppers to the scan your own machines or helping them when that robotic voice says Item not recognised, unbagged item…. Computers in various forms are unavoidable.

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For a long time I had no reason to be involved with computers, but writing and social media sucked me in to this love hate relationship. Unlike staplers and sewing machines computers are sentient beings; they know when you need to send an urgent e-mail, post your blog or print an important document.

The digital world of scanners and printers was preceded in the work place by photocopiers and before that machines such as The Gestetner. I dreaded being left alone with this mystery of rolling drums, scent of chemicals and ink which printed too faintly or leaked in the wrong places. But it was still mechanical and not totally beyond comprehension.

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Computers lull you into a false sense of security, The World at your finger tips, documents easily altered, unlike the bad old days of typewriters. Then things start to go wrong. You log into Facebook, but instead of pictures of your friends and cute kittens there are only blank squares waiting to be filled in while the tiny blue circle goes round and round…. You sign into your e-mail account and see you have sixty messages, but it won’t let you into your In Box. The lay person has no idea if the problem lies with their mouse, their computer, a real rodent gnawing at the Virgin cable, or if the World Wide Web has been switched off by – let’s not blame any particular country.

It’s all magic to us. My response to these first world problems is irrational rage if I’m on my own or to yell for Cyberspouse. He does not believe that the computer bears personal malevolence towards me and remains calm in a crisis, usually solving the problem by clicking on a button I didn’t know existed.

What do you do when things go wrong, or do things always work for you?

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