Wednesday, 31 August 2011

First there is a mountain.

I once worked in a busy research department where I was very fortunate to be partnered with a lovely colleague, Maureen. Whereas I’m not blessed with huge reserves of patience and can get a bit ratty at times of stress, Maureen rarely lost her Zen-like state of calm.

‘First there is a mountain...’ she would say, when I was tearing my hair out, earning herself a look of sheer exasperation. What the heck did an old hippie song about a mountain that came and went have to do with my problems? Eventually, I grasped that the words weren’t about getting lost whilst hiking, but about the path to enlightenment. Or Path to Enlightenment if you’re that way inclined. I’ve heard Maureen’s voice many times this year which has felt like a constant uphill struggle and it’s reminded me to try to deal with the challenges as they really are, not as insurmountable peaks.

Renovating the house is driving me nuts; I hate the disruption and mess. But as we move from room to room using them in unaccustomed ways, I’ve got to know the place better and feel I truly live here. Seeing the flash of Bardsey lighthouse last night, and the blue hills of the Llŷn Peninsula reaching into the sea whilst we ate dinner in a different room made up for the break in routine.

One of my personal mountains this year has been a niggling health problem which has stopped me running. If I let nature take its course, I’ll be fine, so when I’m straining to get out and just burn up my frustration, I have to remind myself that there could be serious consequences if I do. It’s a valuable lesson in patience!

Work too, hasn’t been all plain sailing. After a real Second Book Battle, (first, there is a mountain) I delivered my novel in May, but with a couple of slight misgivings that I tried to ignore. Well, I’ve just received the report and now I see (then there is no mountain) that I’ve let a couple of subplots run wild, almost pushing the main characters off stage! Now it’s down to the business of putting things right (seeing the mountain with fresh eyes!).

And just as I was hoping that Ma was on the mend, she was in the wars again this week when a dustcart mounted the pavement, clipped her injured arm sending it flying upwards and caused her to punch herself in the face. My sister’s on the case with this one and we’re just relieved that Ma’s escaped with shock and bruising when it could have been so much worse. On a happier family note, we also caught up with Stepson One and his new bride and Lily and her fiancé, Russ. A wedding and wedding to come. Mountains, no mountains; life goes on.

Painting is 'High Preseli Mist' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Who lives...

... in a house like this?

Just before we moved into our new home, and after we’d signed contracts, I was given the happy news that the previous owner’s late husband had been spotted about the property. Not quite what I wanted to hear, despite being something of a sceptic, so when we moved in I visited each room inviting all previous occupants to leave. The mice didn’t hear me, but I’ve never been troubled by any ghostly presence, just a sense of sadness about the house which is disappearing as we make the place our own. One of the ways we’ve made our mark is by taking out the rather solid stone features either side of the fireplace, only to find that someone else has already left their mark on the wall!

Porky Pig, apparently.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

From a Corner of the Spare Room

I’m sure there must be some equation about how the rate of progress on a house renovation reduces the amount of space available to its inhabitants. Clearly, those folks who go off and live in a caravan in their garden know this, but it’s come as something as a surprise to me, but then maths was never my strong subject.
The fitting of new ceilings has turned the ground floor into a building site and our utility room has become a makeshift kitchen, soon to be kitchen/bathroom. It’s a bit like living on the boat again but with running water. Famous last words.

For now, I’ve gathered up my essentials, found a couple of wooden blocks my dad ingeniously made to raise his bed when he was terminally-ill (although a carpenter, he said he drew the line at making his own coffin) to make my keyboard vaguely ergonomically sound and retreated to a corner of the spare room. However, with downstairs lighting due to be fitted at any moment, I have a feeling that the house renovation equation is about to make its presence felt once again.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Hill of Beans

To misquote the world-weary Rick Blaine, in one of my favourite films, Casablanca, my small concerns about renovating the house or waiting for the verdict on Book 2, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. In the main, this blog does what it says on the tin; it’s about living and writing in west Wales. Over the last few weeks, however, it’s almost impossible not to comment on the craziness in the wider world. Not to wonder about the wisdom of hounding experienced police officers from their posts over phone-hacking, or the constant criticism of police tactics as too forceful one minute, too weak the next.

And before we point the finger at every young person and talk about the bad, we should also remember the good. My daughter, Rose, started volunteering at school and still donates an evening a week, working with a charity which provides emotional and practical support to families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. Stepson Two’s Gorgeous Girlfriend is jointly running a campaign to get more people to sign the organ donor register. Sign Up, Speak Up, Save Lives is one of the projects featured on Battlefront, an award-winning Channel 4 online, on TV project that follows young campaigners trying to change the world. Just two of the good news stories that are easily missed.

And finally, and on an entirely frothy note. It fell to me to nominate the Wednesday Hottie on Choc Lit Author’s Corner today, a task that was made much easier by the lovely Kim the Book Worm and her very kind review of Turning the Tide.

Epainting is 'Study View' by Tom Tomos, and features the view from my desk

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Let Them Eat Cake. And Onions.

The rewiring and replumbing works at Hotel H have had an expensive domino effect on the rest of the house. There’s a gaping wound in what was the kitchen where the old boiler was ripped out. New pipes and cables sit behind what have become free-standing kitchen units. Artex ceilings, in the style of a sludgy snow scene complete with swirls round the ceiling roses suggestive of sledge tracks, have had to be replaced for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. The bathroom – always an eyesore – started moulting tiles in its haste to be reborn, and the carpets – never the house’s strongest selling point – have been buried under Pompeii-alike layers of dust and plaster. ‘It will be lovely,’ we say, through gritted teeth, scouring the internet for bathroom and kitchen bargains. But, gosh, it’s quite scary punching in the pin code for yet another payment with cries of, ‘Well, we’ve gone this far...!’

Our workmen have been terrific; arriving at the Crack of Doom and working like demons on a diet of bacon sarnies, chocolate and an impressive amount of cake. Once they’ve finished the ceilings and downstairs lighting (ever tried taking out your contact lenses in the gloaming of a couple of Poundland LED press-on lights?) it’s down to me and Tom to do the rest of the work. Gulp.

Still, we can always escape to the beach and even in the height of the holiday season, we rarely see anyone else when we go for our morning swim. The garden’s coming on nicely too. Just as well, since we’ll probably have to live on our vegetable patch for the rest of our lives. Here’s a few photos to show what’s going on.

The epainting’s by Tom, ‘Swim at Penbryn’.