P is for Pollen

Hayfever sufferers like myself are not fans of pollen. It’s nothing personal 🙂 Our immune systems think pollen is a baddie and so overcompensate.

This is a snapshot of the metoffice.gov.uk website today for Wales. The pollen count is high, but I didn’t need to check the website to know that. I knew before I woke up. My eyes have been itchy all day, I can feel the tingling of a cold sore coming, and my nose is running. *sniff

Aswell as my antihistamine, and my inhalers, I have lip Vaseline, designated ‘nose only’ Vaseline and Zoviraz for the budding cold sore. I’m also wearing my sunglasses indoors as it helps with the itchy eyes. I am thankful for the good weather tho… so I’ll write a little ode to Pollen

Pollen Haiku
my poor eyes, they itch
a runny noise, tissue please
two words for pollen, bless you

O is for Overcomer

I’ve been taking Saturdays off from the AtoZ Challenge this year, instead of the traditional break on a Sunday. I’m finding Saturdays buy and tiring and Sunday evenings are far more relaxing…

So today’s word is Overcomer. In Romans 8, Paul writes,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The phrase ‘more than conquerors’ means the same as being an overcomer. But it’s not something we can do alone. We can only do it ‘through him who loved us.’ We see it regularly in Scripture – Jesus is the overcomer. Whenever we prevail, we do it through him and because of him!

In John 16:33 (NIV) Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John writes again in his letter, 1 John 5:4,5 (ESV) For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Have a listen to this fantastic Mandisa song on the theme. Turn it up loud, and dance like there’s noone looking 😀 x

See you tomorrow… A x

N is for Noise

I have a problem with noises. If I hear a noise, I have to find out where it is coming from. Also I jump at sudden noises. I know we all do, but I jump at every single sudden noise and most times will cry out in fear. Often I’m anxious for a time following the incident.

I have to put in a disclaimer and say that I have not been diagnosed with anything beyond, ‘anxiety with depression.’ I do intend to speak to my doctor when the NHS is not so stretched with all things Covid. Having read peer reviewed articles on line and some medical websites, it sounds like I might have some sort of Noise Anxiety or a form of High Functioning Anxiety Disorder. I am very happy to be proved wrong when I get myself checked out, but I do resonate with some of what I have read. I promise, I didn’t just look up Wikipedia 🙂

For many years I’ve had a fear of my home being broken into at night. It’s been with me since childhood. I rarely stay on my own at night, so if hubby is away, I’ll usually stay with friends, family, or have someone stay with me. On the occasions I have stayed on my own, I’ve stayed up until I cannot keep my eyes open. I check doors numerous times before going upstairs and make sure all doors are closed. This is all to do with noises. It so that if I hear a sound like a door opening, I’ll know it can’t be mine unless it was kicked in. If I hear what sounds like footsteps, they can’t be in my house unless the doors have been opened. I’ll watch tv in bed to distract me until I fall asleep. I won’t put on headphones or shower when I’m on my own at night, cos then I can’t hear if someone is coming.

I know it sounds weird. Writing it in the cold and safe light of day, it sounds weird to me. But alone at night time, my thinking is irrational and I cannot turn that off.

One of the most common things I’ll say to my husband, apart from, ‘I love you’ and ‘Where’s my phone?’ is, ‘What’s that noise?’ It could be him tapping. He is a tapper!!!! It could be the washing machine taking off. It might be a water pipe clunking. If there is a noise outside, I’ll always ask him if it sounds like it’s in our garden. We live near a big Tesco and we face the back of the building where goods are loaded in. I’m now used to the sound of the crash of the large entrance gate opening, and the various noises of goods being unloaded, but it took a while. Once I know what noise is I’m happy, but I have to know what it is before I can settle down.

So there you go. Ridiculous as it feels sitting here writing it, it is real and DREADful at the time. I do pray for God’s peace a lot and I trust him to help me. It’s just something I have to deal with…

M is for Monday is Monday

I remember this day so clearly. It was funny and embarrassing, so of course I’m going to share it… It was the day I found out that Monday is Monday 😀

You know when you actually start to worry about yourself! Well it was one of those moments. It was Monday morning and I was leaving for work. I walked past my neighbour’s house and he had his bins out. That’s strange, I thought. Bin day isn’t until tomorrow. What is he doing with his bin out on a Monday? So I kept walking. Just around the corner from my house, is my hairdresser’s salon. As I walked past the window I spotted all his lights were on, and there he was doing someone’s hair. But his salon isn’t open on a Monday. He only opens Tuesday to Saturday.

So I’m like, hang on. Peter, my neighbour, has his bins out. And the hairdressers is open. It must be Tuesday. I was sure it was Monday. How can it be Tuesday? How did I miss Monday?

It’s only a five minute walk to my office but I’m not kidding you, I was in sheer panic, all the way down the road.

What is wrong with me?

Have I lost it?

Is my memory failing me?

I’m sure I was in church yesterday.

Yesterday was Sunday, wasn’t it?

By the time I got to my office I was in a panic. I walked up to the receptionist with a wild look in my eyes

“What day is it?”

She lookedat me like, huh?

“No seriously,” I said tapping the reception desk, “what day is it?”

“Monday,” she said, with a very concerned look.

I went to my desk but it took me the whole morning to relax and calm down. As I thought about it, I saw how easy it was for me to be discombobulated. How quickly a couple of different things made me doubt myself, my sanity and my memory.

I’m a Christian but I live in a world where most of what I believe is challenged. Not only is truth challenged. But that truth even exists is challenged. That day, I was reminded that Monday is still Monday. No matter what .

And God is still God, no matter what. No changing circumstances can change that. 🙂

L is for Lockdown

Today’s post is a bit of flash fiction that came from a writing group prompt. I was delighted it was ‘Highly Commended’ in two different writing competitions. One locally here in South Wales, and one at home in Dublin. Hope you enjoy 🙂

The Perfect End to Lockdown

Kay slammed the boot of the car. “That’s it, Janice,” she said. “You wouldn’t get a bus ticket in there now. So, if there’s anything else, you’ll have to put it on your knees.”

“I think that’s it, except for this,” replied Janice, emerging from the house with a dustbuster.

“Well done you. I never would have thought of that,” said Kay, getting into the driver’s seat.

Janice tapped the side of her head. “You see? Watching all those old quiz shows has kept my brain alive.” She opened the back door of the car and a suitcase fell out. Janice picked it up and wrestled it on to the back seat, shoving the dustbuster in and slamming the car door, in one move. “Right,” she said. “That’s definitely it. We have everything.”

Janice got into the car and Kay started the engine. They exhaled a little sigh of pleasure as the engine of Kay’s Ford Escort came to life. “She never lets me down,” she said. “I knew she’d wait patiently.”

“And we’re off,” said Janice, as Kay drove out on to the main road.

Passing familiar landmarks of their hometown, they remarked on them as if they were new. The local pub had had a coat of paint. Much needed, Janice remarked. Old Mr Jenkins’ eyesore of a shed was gone, and a pretty small wooden construction was in its place. The flowers in the park had obviously been tended, and the friends gasped and laughed at the newness of some of the old places.

They drove past Kitty Jenkins’ house and fell silent. Kitty was the only other person they knew who loved crosswords and crocheting as much as they did. They were broken hearted to hear she contracted the virus and died only days later, then was buried with just one or two mourners.

After a while the travellers brightened up again and resumed their lively chat. They came to a junction and stopped at the red light. A police car pulled up in the next lane and Kay could see the occupants looking and pointing to her over-crowded back seat.

“Don’t look at them Kay,” said Janice. “Keep looking straight ahead.”

They sat like statues as the light went amber, then green, and both cars pulled away.

Kay freed the breath she’d been holding. “That was close, that was so close.”

“You know, I’m actually sorry, they didn’t stop us,” said Janice. “I would have loved one of the policemen to say, “And where do you think you’re going madam?” I would have answered, “Anywhere I blazes well want. The Prime Minister said I could.”

Janice cackled with laughter and soon Kay was laughing at the thought of it.

Before long they reached their destination.

“I have been waiting for this day for so long,” said Janice.

“Me too. I can’t quite believe we are here,” replied Kay, looking at the entrance with elation.

There was a queue waiting to be admitted, but they were happy to wait, and when they got to the kiosk, a slightly frazzled looking middle-aged man in a hi-vis jacket snorted a greeting and snapped, “NAME?”.

“Well I’m Kay, and this is my friend Janice.”

“Hello,” Janice sang, leaning across Kay and waving wildly.

“Booking name, I meant.”

“Oh, I am sorry, booked in the name of Kay Cavandish.”

“And what have you got with you?”

“Suitcases in the back seat there. A couple of small bags of electrical items.”

“Anything in the boot?” He snapped again.

“All cardboard,” said Kay still smiling

“OK,” he grunted, “Skip four for the cardboard, electrical items next in six and the cases in the last one, number ten.”

“Thank you so much,” said Kay.

“Yes, thanks for your help,! said Janice throwing herself across Kay again.

As they drove through the main entrance of the Recycling Centre Janice said, “I think the council staff are getting younger and ever more pleasant as time goes on.”

“Oh, I agree, said Kay. “They must be glad to be back here, because I certainly am.”

“Me too,” said Janice dreamily as they approached skip number four.

K is for Keratoconus

I had a check up today in the eye hospital. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I have an eye condition call Keratoconus in both eyes. I had a cornea transplant in 2010 in my right eye. My left eye is not bad enough for a transplant.

The doctor was great. He was very thorough and we went through options for my left eye. I was hoping one of those options might be another transplant, but I am grateful that it’s not at that stage. 🙂 He had a good look at the right eye and mentioned that the cornea transplant was excellent and the replaced cornea looks very good. I’m really pleased to hear that. I feel blessed to have contact with my cornea donor Brandon’s family in Indiana, USA. It means a lot to me that the cornea is healthy. I’m so thankful to have received it, and I want to take care of it.

I will be seeing a cornea specialist in a few months to have another consultation about the left eye. In the meantime, I can see, and I am grateful.

The picture to the right is an image I submitted to the Circle of Light photography project – which is connected to the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, where the cornea was sent from. I am holding my laptop with an image of Brandon on it. If you’d like to read an old post that tells some more of my cornea donation story, you can click here 🙂

J is for Jigsaws of Lockdown

I was never interested in jigsaws until I met my sister-in-law Linda, who is a jigsaw enthusiast. It has become a therapeutic help in difficult days and something creative-esque to concentrate on when words will not come. So here’s a few of the jigsaws from over the last few months.

This is my most recent one. I had done a lot of 500 piece jigsaws and wanted something a bit more challenging so went for this 1000 piece one.

It took some time. The trees were a nightmare. If I have lots of pieces in but I know they are not right, I’ll take a photo of the section and examine it closely against the lid, to see where I’m going wrong. The last 30/40 pieces of this came out and went back in quite a few times before I got it right!

The three jigsaws below are part of a set of four x 500 pieces puzzles. I didn’t do the fourth one as it was of the inside of the the green truck and was just rows and rows of tins. I hadn’t got the nervous energy for that one 😀

These three are from another box of four x 500 puzzles. The theme is seasons, specifically holidays within them. May Day, Harvest and Bonfire Night. I couldn’t bring myself to do the Christmas one!

This is my favourite one of late. A 500 piece puzzle that took almost as long as the 1000 piece up the top. I enjoyed it though. 🙂

Next up are these babies 🙂 I spent some birthday money on these second hand-beauties. One of them is still sealed in its plastic.

So any jigsaw fans out there?

I is for Inspiration

I have a terrible habit of waiting for inspiration to strike before I sit down to write, even though I know, I should just sit down and do some work! Thriller writer Helen Hanson, is quoted as saying, “Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.”

When I started writing, it was so much easier. Or it felt easier. I couldn’t wait to write. I had stories bursting out of me. These days, they are often dragged out of me. As I’ve mentioned before, lockdown has not been as productive for me as it has for others, but I’m not hitting myself over the head about it 😀

As tomorrow is a new school term, I’m going to use it to get back into a more structured week. So I’m going to complete the next quarter on my 2021 writing plan and I’m going to turn up at my desk regularly to see what happens! I love this quote from Peter Prange. “Instead of discussing with myself every morning whether I feel inspired or not, I step into my office every day at nine sharp, open the window and politely ask the muse to enter and kiss me. Sometimes she comes in, more often she does not. But she can never claim that she hasn’t found me waiting in the right place.”

Not sure I will be there every day, and I doubt I’ll make 9am but I intend to go in search of inspiration rather than wait for it to find me. Have you any tips for me? Where do you get your inpspiration from???

H is for Happy Birthday Da

I’m a bit out of it today. I had my first Covid vaccine on Wednesday and I have all the expected symptoms. I am very grateful for it tho, and impressed at the efficient organisation at the local vaccine centre.

Today I’m thinking about my dad (in between snoozes). He would have been 91 today. Lockdown would not have suited him AT ALL. He loved company and would have wanted to celebrate his birthday with as many as possible. I wish I had the brain power to tell a story. Instead I’m going to share a letter I wrote to him, a couple of years after he died.

I don’t think I’ve shared this before. Sorry if you’ve read it already.

Dear Dad,

I want to ask you something. Don’t worry, I don’t need money (this time).

It feels a bit weird to be writing to you, but of course I’ve left it too late to talk you about this. You’re not surprised though, are you? I know, I’m usually late. You must have come to expect it by now.

The last time I wrote you a letter (a proper one, not a post card or a note), do you remember Da? It was when I went to New Zealand for three months. We’d said goodbye with a silent tight hug. Tight lipped, nodding quickly and blinking. I wrote a letter to you before the plane landed in Auckland. You replied telling me that you’d waited until I left the house before you cried. 

So, I have finally gotten around to writing to you again—because I have to write to you. I can’t talk to you now, but to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to really talk to you.

Awh Da, your poor head. For almost 30 years you struggled to reach past the dent in your skull and make sense of the world. Sometimes you managed to do it. Every so often you’d start to talk or start to sing and there you’d be. Our Da. You’d be back—just for a few minutes. But by the time we’d acknowledged you were back, you’d be gone again.

I know you don’t remember that day. But I remember it well. I was thirteen and headed off on the bus to go stay with Aunty May. I just missed seeing you being flung into the air by a car. Next day I was told you had a broken leg. Did I know it was worse? How could I have known? Maybe it’s hindsight that makes me think I felt it was more serious. Either way—life was never the same and neither were you.

Sorry Da, I’m waffling and have gone off the point. What I wanted to ask was…do you know what you did for us?

There are so many things. The lesson in covering books stands out. You sat with us, showing how to measure the amount of paper needed. Using the least amount of sellotape. The difference between a stapled book and a book with a thick solid spine. Da! I’m an expert now. I could do it with my eyes closed.

And Christmas—your love and enthusiasm for Christmas was matchless. And of course, the covering books lesson was closely aligned to the wrapping presents lesson. Using paper to the most efficient level and again—less is more with the sellotape.

Music…Da, do you realise what you gave us in music? The love of singing a song. The delight in singing together. You loved nothing more than a room full of people who just wanted to hear each other sing, so we would sing and clap along. We still have it. The love of being a family. You did that. You gave us that.

I hope you know what you left us. I hope you loved how we said goodbye to you. We did it in the best way we knew how. With singing and laughing and crying and just being together.

We will always miss you.

From the shakin’s of the bag as you called me,

The baby, Annmarie xx

G is for Gang of Four

Based on childhood memories, this piece of flash fiction is inspired by my mother and her sisters. It’s based on a writing group prompt, Gang for Four

Gang of Four

They sat around the table every week, with strong opinions, loud voices, strict rules, and plenty of money. Purses bursted with coins. But no brown money. There would be no coppers in this game. On the table was a deck of cards and a bottle of brandy. In the fridge were salad sandwiches, and some fizzy orange for Aunty Teetotal.

They had grown up together in the same house. Shared a bed, clothes, pencils.  Then work and family life stretched their bond, sometimes almost to breaking point. It was never severed though; the tie of sisters rarely is. They were all married when they stared to meet on a Saturday night. Kids old enough to fend for themselves, husbands happy to watch the football or go to the pub. Over the years they became widows in turn and their connection deepened, returning to its childhood level.

Saturday nights were for playing The Queen, Trumps and On the Bus. The games were not to be taken lightly, though they laughed throughout.  They broke for sandwiches half-way through the evening, and it was time to sort the money out.

“I owe you a fiver.”

“Well I owe you seven, so you give that to her and I’ll only owe two.”

“But don’t you owe me ten?”

“I did, but then I paid for the raffle tickets, so you owe me six. Actually, you all owe me six.”

“I paid you for mine, didn’t I? I got you the round mince.”

“Right so, you give that fiver back and I’ll give you…”

The fiver would be passed around the room, more often than not, ending up back in the purse if came out of. When all was totted up, often only a pound or two was ever actually owed, but it had to be put right.

Watching and listening from the stairs, or if we were quiet, on a small stool near the table, we learned fairness, responsibility, the importance of fun and family, and the bond that four sisters can have throughout  a lifetime.

This gang of four did not change the world. But they made our world and we are grateful for it.