"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toilet/cottage for sale

This morning, I came across this article during my web-trawling.

It is a current trend to close public conveniences across North Wales, and other areas of the country, no doubt, because councils view it as a convenient way to save money. (You see what I did there?) This goes hand in hand with an expressed desire to encourage people for the rest of the world to visit Wales. One of the stated aims on this website is

'to adopt a customer-focused approach which understands and responds to market needs'.

Well, I don't know about you, but one of the things I view as pretty essential on a day out is somewhere reasonable to answer the call of nature and no, this does not include a hedge or nettle patch, which will be the only alternative in many places, if this policy of closing toilets continues. I have blogged before about the short-sighted custom of having public toilets closed on bank holidays, and that was back in 2004. At the current rate of closure, there will soon not be any left, open or closed, and that must surely have an impact on tourism and, as usual, it will be the disabled, elderly and people with children who will be hardest hit.

So, local councils of North Wales, what do you think people are going to do instead?

I leave it to your imagination, but the end result may not be pleasant!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Friends across the Pond

No, I'm not talking about friends in the USA, but in Canada, near Toronto, to be precise. Dale started his blog (now defunct) at about the same time as I started mine, 2004. It was called 'Musings from Mimico' and was full of beautifully written, reflective, often humorous posts, which I enjoyed reading and commenting on. He joined the list of 'Blogs I like to visit' on my sidebar and I joined his.
Fast forward to this summer and Dale and I were finally able to meet face to face, as he, his wife Colleen and daughter Ivy, made a trip over here, to spend a week in Wales, a week in the Lake District and a week in Scotland, where Colleen's family originated.

It's quite intriguing, meeting someone with whom you have been on 'writing terms' for so long. You have read and commented on things they have written about their lives, interests, travels, work and sometimes, problems, and they have done the same, so you have built up a friendship already and you feel as if you know that person pretty well. 

So, the time we spent together was filled with talk, laughter, catching up, asking questions and even, Dale got to have a tour round Keith's famous shed workshop! 

Even so, there were still so many things we didn't get round to talking about. Twelve years to catch up on is a lot of catching up! Maybe next time ...
When Colleen takes photos, she means business - with a tripod and remote control. 
 And here we all are!
(How did it happen that the men are sitting and we are standing?)

Paddy and Toby loved their Canadian neckerchiefs.
However, Toby did hear Colleen say that he was welcome to visit 'any time'. He is still waiting on the doorstep with his red spotted handkerchief on a stick over his shoulder ...

Maybe I'd better tell him to come back inside.

The power of Twitter

Since early June, the playing field at the back of our house has been sadly neglected. Rumour has it that the Council suddenly discovered that there was no longer enough money to cut the grass - anywhere. Twitter was full of tweets from locals complaining that grass verges, playing fields and other public spaces were growing wild, which in some cases, was potentially dangerous, as there were places where pulling out from a side road onto a main road was akin to playing Russian roulette, because it was impossible to see oncoming traffic over the grass on the verges.
Having tweeted myself to the Council about the parlous state of the playing field near us, and received no response, I decided to phone them instead. 
"If you were to put a small child down in that field," I said in my best deputy head voice, "You would have difficulty finding it again!"
The man on the other end of the phone remained unmoved and unconcerned.
"Well, I expect it's because of the cut-backs," he said. "I'll pass on your concern, but I don't know if it will do any good."
He was right. It didn't. Since then, the grass has been cut  just once, by a machine so small that it had a similar effect to cutting a lawn with a pair of nail scissors.  Even Toby got tired of having to jump around the field instead of charging round in circles, as he normally does.
At the same time, someone had decided that the only remaining refuse bin on the field could no longer be used to deposit bags of dog poo. They had already removed another bin some time ago, and according to one of the council workmen, they wanted to 'encourage' people to take their little plastic bags home with them. I don't think so, mate!
Back to Twitter, where someone had tweeted that the special dog fouling bins in another part of the area had not been emptied for some time and were now overflowing. My question to the Council was, why did that area have special bins and we didn't? The reply was that they no longer supply dog fouling bins, so the general bins can be used instead.
As far as I was concerned, that was permission to do what I had continued to do anyway, and use the general bin for Toby and Paddy's little plastic bags.
And the grass has been cut again. Success!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

This deserted town

Several years ago, when Elder Daughter was a student in Sheffield, I remember being in the town centre and commenting on how desolate it seemed. 
"Oh, this is the result of Meadowhall,the new shopping mall," said my daughter.

When I first came to Wrexham, it was a busy, lively market town.
Then, someone decided, in their wisdom, that what it needed was a shopping mall, out of the town centre, where the 'beast market' had been in bygone times, and lo and behold, Eagles Meadow (Dol y Eryrod if you're speaking Welsh) was built to the south east of the town centre.

There were three problems:
1. People expected a covered shopping centre and have been disappointed ever since that it isn't. 
2. No-one bothered to put up any signs in the town centre to tell people visiting the area where it is and that you can, in fact, access it via a footbridge.
3. (This is the worst problem) Many shops decided to up-sticks and move there, leaving empty premises in the town centre. This, combined with the closure of several more, thanks to the recession, has left the town itself looking more like a ghost town. If you don't believe me, take a look at the photos.

The street where these photos were taken is Henblas Street. Yesterday, BHS closed its doors for the final time and soon, the post office will relocate to the first floor of WH Smith. Yes, I kid you not, a town the size of Wrexham will no longer have a post office in its own building.
Yesterday, the local press ran an article about complaints from local businesses about the high business rates in Wrexham, which must also be adding to the problem, but my overall impression is that, if they had set out to deliberately run the place into the ground, the council, town planners etc could hardly have done a better job.
Not everything can be blamed on the recession.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The 'study'

Now that life is a bit calmer again, I have begun to go through some of Dad's folders of articles, notes etc that are presently stacked up in what I laughingly call the study. I say laughingly because 'cupboard' would be a more accurate description. The room itself is undeniably tiny and to make matters worse, is crammed with two bookcases, a filing cabinet, desk and swivel chair, clothes airer and Keith's fat machine. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a large machine which he bought online in one of his crazier moments, in the (vain) hope that using it would break down excess fat. It doesn't and he hasn't even looked at it for about three years. But every time I suggest getting rid of it to some other idiot interested person, he demurs. Persuading him to dispose of anything - clothes, shoes, holey socks - is like pulling teeth, so if I think I can get away with it, I do occasionally sneak things out when he's not looking. Generally, this works quite well, but this time, I need to be more upfront.
'If we could get rid of the fat machine,' I say, 'I could move the filing cabinet into that corner and be able to get to the built in cupboard without having to move the clothes airer and the swivel chair.'
Sadly, he still remains to be convinced and as it's too big and heavy for me to sneak it out when he's not looking,  this is still a work in progress.

'Slow and steady wins the race' ...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The violence of the elderly?

When I was travelling around on buses in my youth, it was expected that a younger person, and especially children, would get up and offer their seats to older or pregnant adults who were standing. I used to hate doing it, simply because it made me the centre of attention, albeit only for a moment, and I just wasn't keen on that. However, I used to comfort myself with the thought that when I was old, youngsters would do the same for me. It hasn't happened of course, as in I haven't got old yet ...
(Pause for polite agreement) and youngsters, if they even notice you at all, would trample over you in the rush to get where they're going.  Proof of this was brought home to me some time ago in Chester, when a young woman with a baby in a buggy dashed out of a shop and straight across my path, without even seeing me, whereupon, she was mildly chastised by her partner.
"Watch out, you nearly knocked that old woman over!"
They both definitely noticed me when I explained quite forcibly that I was NOT old and did he perhaps need a visit to the optician in the near future? (OK, I didn't say the bit about the optician.)
We 'baby boomers' are not favourably viewed on the whole. We're the ones who 'had it all', which is true to a certain extent. We have been lucky. We grew up in a time when attitudes were changing, jobs were plentiful and, for the first time,  young people had a disposable income and the freedom that went with it.  Now, one of the few advantages of being of a certain age is that we have reasonable pensions, which the next cohort are less likely to have, although any savings we might have will almost certainly be swallowed up  in due course in care costs. 
But when I see this about over 75s being responsible for over half of all physical assaults on NHS staff, firstly, I find it  impossible to believe (think Saturday night in any A&E in the country) and secondly, I can only feel sorry for all concerned; the often confused elderly and the overstretched staff who don't have the time they need to explain things and go at a slower pace to suit the patient. 
Barring accident or terminal illness, we'll all eventually arrive in that land of old age but of course, the politicians, who should be doing all they can to make the experience more manageable, will be cushioned by the private care which their wealth will provide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The daily round

Yep! I know, it's ages since I last posted. The more spare time I have, the less profitable use I seem to make of it and I don't know why that is but there you are. 
It's just over five months now since Dad died and a lot of that time was taken up with sorting out his affairs, clearing the house, getting it ready for sale and  fortunately, managing to sell it for the asking price to a nice young couple who, I hope, will be happy there. Paddy and Toby still pull on the lead to turn into the garden whenever we pass by and I still have to remind myself not to check whether the lawn has been mown as I drive past. 
 Then I spent a week on Welsh summer school in Mold, which was great, a chance to meet fellow learners, share our experiences of speaking Welsh, or trying to and learning that I could get through a week of classes where Welsh was spoken ninety percent of the time and understand it!
I also learned that I find it a lot more tiring doing a full week of classes than I did fifty odd years ago . Who knew!
The other small item of news is that, as well as not being able to hack a full week of studying, it appears I am no longer able to step outside the front door without tripping over the mat and going flying.
Just when you think life is getting boring!

Monday, February 08, 2016


Years ago, people used to talk about ‘passing away’. I remember when I was about eight and my grandfather died, my grandmother saying to someone who enquired, “Oh, he, er,  passed away” which I thought was an impressive, grown - up way of talking about a death, so when my teacher asked me how  my grandfather was, knowing that he had been ill,  I too replied with, “Oh he, er, passed away” and felt terribly grown up. I imagine the teacher turned away to hide a smile and the tale was told in the staff room at the first opportunity.
In recent years, the ‘in’ word is ‘passed.’ I have wondered if this is part of the modern tendency to shorten and simplify everything but actually, I don’t really understand why we can’t simply say that someone has died.
On Thursday, four of us sat by Dad’s bed as his life drew to its close. It was laboured and he was not really aware of what was happening around him and in that respect, it seemed not unlike the process of birth. Earlier in the day, the Methodist minister had visited to say prayers, at their usual times, the carers had been to make him comfortable and the district nurses had called to adjust his medication.
We will miss him, of course we will, but we will also remember that he lived a full and interesting life and achieved lots of things he wanted to and many that he never expected to and that will be his legacy.


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