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?

F is for Flowers

I’m a pretty inconstant gardener, but over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed having a flower bed and some pots in our back garden, which was just an area of tarmac when we moved in.

My mother loved her garden. Our house might be upside down and she’d be outside, pulling dead leaves off the rose bush or inspecting the white alyssum. We had a beautiful blossom tree, and in the house, there was always a vase of daffodils when they were in season. She loved daffodils. So I had to start with planting some of those. Mine aren’t out like the ones in the picture here. These ones are in the other flower bed in the church grounds. They get more sun. But mine are getting there. 🙂 Daffodils always remind me of my mam. She loved spring time.

I confess I didn’t do enough research before writing this post. When I say research, I mean looking at the tag to remind myself what flowers my friend Karenne planted.

Yes, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that this work has not been done by me. My friend Karenne helped me pick the plants, then when we got them home she planted them. Oh, did you spot the sheep?

So this is Brian and Cully – my sheep. They are named after the two guys who maintain the church site. Cully gave us the large rocks to make the flower beds. The bright green plant above them in the bed is a bunch of Welsh poppies. I didn’t plant them there. Last year they were on the other side of the garden. They are great at migrating and are a beautiful yellow when they bloom.

I love my little garden and the flowers give me more joy than I ever thought they would. I’m not as engrossed in my garden as my mother was, but I can see why she loved spending time with her flowers 🙂 Tomorrow, I’m going to share some flash fiction that was inspired by her x

Pushing forward

Thank you so much to those who commented and messaged me about my last post. It’s great to know you’re still happy to read my witterings 🙂 Having completed the plan I mentioned in that post, I was quite daunted by a year’s worth of empty spaces. But already I have most of January filled, either done or preparing to do. It feels good, after a year of sitting around not doing much at all.

My experience of anxiety and depression doesn’t feel like any I’ve read or heard about. Maybe each journey is unique. I’ve come a long way, there are some days when I feel totally normal but others when I get a wave of anxiety every time the house phone rings or my mobile buzzes. Though why I’m worried about calls on the landline, I can’t tell you. My Amazon account is fine thank you very much.

I felt I’d levelled off in my recovery, the two main problems being headaches and not sleeping very well. So I arranged a chat with the doctor, and we tweaked my medication a bit. Already I can feel the benefits. If we weren’t in lockdown, the doc said she’d be advising me to get out and about. I’m sure it would aid my recovery to visit nice places. Meet with friends, have coffee and laughs. Maybe a couple of nights away with himself. None of that is possible at the moment.

But I have to do something. I was on the treadmill this morning for half an hour. After falling and really hurting myself last year AND the year before, I’m still very nervous about being outside. Especially in this snowy weather.

I need to move forward. I want to move forward. but I’m going to take my time and go at my own pace. I’m so grateful to God for the time and space that lockdown brought, but I feel ready to start making my way back in to regular face to face contact, that is NOT on a computer screen.

One step at a time eh?

Happy National Writing Day!

I had heard it was National Writing Day. First time for me, seem to have missed it over the last few years. I had no idea it was a thing. Unless I wrote about it last year and have forgotten. #possible

The idea of this challenge, shared with my by Sarah Davies (she who is super organised – I bet SHE knew it NWD today! 😀 ), is that we free write for 7 minutes on the theme, ‘I feel most free when…’

Now I love free-writing, most short stories I’ve written have come from raw material gathered during free-writing sessions. But here is the down side of it… when it asks you to be honest and you don’t have time to think about what you’re writing, and the truth comes out.
The truth will set you free, the Bible says. So let’s give it a whirl.

I feel most free when…

I’m alone.

Doesn’t that sound awful?! But yes, when I’m alone I feel I can relax and I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing, what I look like, what I’m saying…

My natural facial expression is a scowl. Seriously it is. Typing away here quite happily, I can just see my reflection in the screen (I’m outside and it’s sunny). I look very unhappy. When I’m in company I have to remember my natural scowl and ‘turn that frown upside down’. So if you know me, you may have thought, ‘ohh she’s not happy today, she looks miserable.’ Nope, it’s my resting face, sadly.

So… when I’m alone I don’t have to worry about it, or anything else. I can sing along to rubbish music, dance around, practise out loud for a talk I’m doing.

I’m the same when I’m walking. Though I enjoy stroll and a chat at times, my preference for my daily exercise is to walk alone, stomp out the steps to whatever music is playing in my ear and just get the steps done.

I feel I should be saying, I’m most free when praying, or when I’m in the presence of God, or when I’m in church on a Sunday; and though I wouldn’t enjoy being alone all the time, when I AM alone there is no act to put on, no mask to wear, no feelings to hide. I can just be who I am.

And it’s not that I’m happier when I’m alone. I’m not, but I am freer.

It’s something I should work on. Actually no, it is something I am working on. I think a lot of it comes from carrying a lot of weight for a lot of years. I’m addressing that now. So maybe I’ll be happier in my skin, and freer for other people to see me in it.

There we go, seven minutes of honesty.

If you’ve done the challenge, please leave a link so I can check out what you’ve written.

A x

Tired feet and a full heart

Following on from my last post – complaining about how busy I am, I thought it would be good to reflect on what I’ve been up to, and why the diary has been so full. I made it sound awful, to be constantly on the go and not have a minute to stop. But much of what I’ve been doing has been enjoyable, worthwhile and uplifthing. So I should quit complaining really.

One of the great things I did took place on Saturday 26th May. I took part in my 2nd Cancer Research UK – Relay for Life, in Pontypool Park. I was part of a team who, for 24 hours, walked to raise money for Cancer Research in Wales. I was privileged to be asked to start the ‘Survivors Lap’ with some actual real-life heroes.
It was an amazing experience.

 On the Saturday, I walked over 20k. I raised over £400, our team raised well over £2000; and we were just one of many teams. The weather forecast wasn’t great, but we managed to dodge the showers most of the time. It was the last hour on the Sunday morning when we were about to do our final lap, having received our medals, when the heavens opened and the rain fell. We were rushed into the marquee to escape the thunder showers. It took me about a week to fully recover but what an amazing 24hours it was.
Thank you! to all who donated and cheered me on.

I was also at a family wedding. It was such a beautiful day, with lots of beautiful people. The groom is officially some level of cousin by marriage, but in my heart he’s a nephew, and I was so proud to be part of his day.

As well as that, other events included:

  • a trip to Ireland (yes, another one)
  • I met up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time – one f2f – we spent a whole day together drinking coffee, walking and talking, also a virtual reunion with a friend in the US who is also my editor. She’s doing some work on my non-fiction WIP, so we got to catch up AND get some work done
  • at church we hosted a Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea
  • I also spent a couple of nights with the MIL while himself was away.

That is by no means, an exhaustive list (though maybe a little exhausting).

When I looked again at my diary, I realised how blessed I am to have so many people and events in my life. I shouldn’t complain about my to do list when it includes such delights.

2 weekends of inspiration and encouragement

I had the blessing of scooting off for two weekends, one after the other, on my own!

The first was a weekend in Dublin. I caught up with lots of family, with two dear writing friends, with one of the first Christians ever to make a real impression on me, and I went to a baby shower. It was full to the brim.

I had a bit of a revelation while chatting to my writing friends (neither of whom knew each other – so it was nice to connect them). I consider myself a failed writer – that’s not the revelation bit, I’ve always felt that. BUT, I’ve let it stop me writing. It’s like I’ve been waiting for someone to give me permission to put my heart and soul back into it, as I did in those lovely days before I cared whether anyone read what I wrote.

It was a liberating conversation in the middle of a fab weekend.

The following weekend I was in London, blessed to stay a couple of nights with a good friend, have chats and a hot chocolate with one of my smashing nieces, and join with other Christian writers for the ACW Writers’ Day with Glen and Emma Scrivener. What I took from it, as well as some great books and practical tips, was a confirmation of what my writing pals had told me the previous weekend. Get it writ! 🙂

I asked a question during the panel time. Basically, what if the crushing doubt that writers feel is actually valid in my case? What if I’m just no good?

The answer was like a welcome splash of cold water on my face. Basically it was to stop whinging. Amy Robinson compared my questions and hesitations to Moses when God called him.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:11-15 

I’m paraphrasing here, but what I heard Amy say was, if God had given me stuff to write, then I should stop finding reasons not to do, and just write it.
Whoosh!!! How refreshing.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. My #NaNoWriMo2017 novel idea has been shelved, and I’m going to write the non-fiction book that’s been forming in me for the last year or so. Will fill you in soon… 🙂

Thank you Amy Robinson! Thanks too, to the other panellists, James Prescott, Glen Scrivener and Emma Scrivener x

A couple of the ACW members have shared their take of the day – well worth a read. You can read them here and here.

Jam & Jerusalem, and Jane

I’m a total disgrace. This post has been sitting in drafts for ages – time has just been whizzing by and my diary has got way too full too quickly lately. So the writing time has again, been pushed to one side. It is now going in the diary, with all the other things, so at least my stories and blog posts get their share of my attention 🙂

So this post… After 2 weeks on holidays and 2 weeks of being ill, it took me a while to get back into the swing of things.  The hols were lovely; we spent 9 days travelling around the south of England, visiting some fictional places that turned out to be very real indeed.

Our first fictional stop was the village of North Tawton St. Peter. If you are a fan of the British sitcom ‘Jam and Jerusalem’, you’ll know it better as Clatterford St. Mary. If you watched the show, the low set walls that line the pathways around the church building are quite distinctive. The large main entrance door is the setting for a few hilarious moments on the show.

We had a wander around and found a door near the back that was open. We went in and saw the familiar pulpit where the Rev talks about his good friend Alan Titchmarsh, who he hopes to meet one day. The altar where they discuss the Harvest frog and the Harvest man, the organ console where Delilah plays the hymns in such a diabolical manner, it’s perfect! It is a place we’ve watched tons of times and it was brill to BE there.

We heard voices behind us and realised we were not alone. A group of women were sitting in the area just outside the main sanctuary. For a second I hoped it might be Sue Johnston and Jennifer Saunders. But it wasn’t. No disappointment though, these were the real ladies of the real church, in this real town.

It was their fortnightly coffee morning and we were invited to join them. They told us all about when the show was being filmed. Who were the really friendly actors, and who were the ones who kept their distance. Some of the ladies had very briefly been in the show as passers by. We had tea, cake and a great chat with these smashing women. They gave us directions to the house that was used as the home of Sue Johnston’s character, and we had a sneaky peak there too. I’ll never look at the programme in quite the same way again. I think I love it more, now that I’ve met some of its heart.

From there, we went to Bath, to do some Austen spotting. I have been immersing myself in all things Jane Austen. I’ve come to the conclusion that, although I would love to think of myself as Anne Elliot, mature steady woman who stays true to her course and finds contentment in the face of all sorts of adversity. I’m actually more like Elizabeth Bennett’s mother; neurotic, dramatic, never out of arms reach of the smelling salts.

But that’s by the by.

Our few days in Bath were wonderful. Now that I’m able to walk more than 5 mins without needing a rest, I was glad to pound the pavements of Bath and take it all in. I got to see ‘Royal Crescent’. We did the tour of ‘No. 1 Royal Crescent.’ In 2006 it ‘was acquired by the  Brownsword Charitable Foundation specifically with the intention of making it available to the Bath Preservation Trust.’ Click here for more details on its history. It is an amazing house with many artefacts from the Regency period on display. The people that Jane Austen wrote about were the people who lived in these houses. Again I experienced the blend of fact and fiction as I wandered around the house, and the streets.


I feel blessed to have experienced some of the reality that frames the ‘fiction’ I love some much. They say that every story is based on something or someone real. Jam & Jerusalem, and Jane’s stories are no exception 🙂

Back to busy-ness…

You’d have to wonder what gives a blogger the audacity, nay.. the temerity to wander off the reservation, leave her blog languishing for the want of a post; and then to saunter back and pick up where she left off – all the while expecting her readers to swoon and sigh with relief that she deigned to notice them again.

I reckon it’s my heightened sense of self-importance and a list of dazzlingly weak excuses 🙂 And the knowledge that there’s a lot of love and grace in you lot *imagine here a picture of me with an innocent smile – I don’t have one to post at present…*

For weeks now I’ve said… “as soon as I get settled,” or “as soon as that’s over,” or “as soon as I don’t have to think about that anymore… I’ll start writing again.” I’ve no idea where I got this crazy notion that I can only write when there is nothing else going on in my brain. I don’t normally have a taste for such luxuries. I realise that ‘the quieter day’ isn’t coming. In fact I heard an old lady once say, with great solemnity, “ah sure if it isn’t something, it’s something else.” Dagnabbit the woman was right!

I’ve been complaining to God about how little time and energy I have to write, as well as a lack of ideas, inspiration and you know… words. But instead of things quietening down, God has put me on a path that will make life a whole lot busier (and more exciting). I can’t tell you about it at the mo, but if what I believe is about to happen, actually happens… well I’ll be giving up all hopes of a quieter day, setting the alarm clock at least an hour earlier each day and, I trust, will be busier and more fulfilled than I have ever been. 🙂

Anyway, sorry for disappearing… again. While I wait to tell you about the thing I can’t tell you about yet… I’ll continue with the AtoZ – thanks for letting me know you liked it so far.

Next up is the ‘Omni’s 

A x


Is it safe to come out now?

Hello all 🙂

Sorry for my absence. Halfway through the A to Z Challenge we moved and it took 2 weeks to get the internet sorted. I felt like my right arm had been cut off.

The busyness of unpacking all the boxes kept me away from the keyboard for far too long. Thanks to those who were kind enough to get in touch and say you missed me. 🙂

I must admit that the build up to the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland also contributed to my radio silence.

In the end, the vote was about 2:1 – yes to no. So why did it feel like 200:1 everywhere I went? I’ve no problem with people disagreeing with my convictions. I’m well used to it. But the amount of disdain towards people on opposite sides was awful. Hurtful. Painful.

It’s over now. The people have spoken. The changes will be made.
I’m just not sure how long it will take for me to recover from realising how much many people I know, respect and love, don’t just disagree with me, but hate the things I believe. And hate the people who believe them.

Anyway… I’m back. Back on social media, back here on my blog. And hoping to continue, albeit a month late, the A to Z.

ttfn folks xx

J is for Just when you think you know what’s about to happen, something else happens!

JOK so strictly speaking, the title of today’s blog post is not a theological term. But then I’ve been trying to take some of these complicated sounding words, and make them more understandable. With this post I’m just doing it the other way around…

You see, today I wasn’t going to write a post at all. I was going to write it tomorrow, or cram two in on Monday. That’s because TODAY I’m supposed to be moving house. We’ve been staying with family since we moved to the UK and a few weeks ago we sorted out an apartment, and TODAY is, correction ‘was’, our moving day. After lunch yesterdat I got a call to say there was a problem, and to make a long story boring, there were numerous phone calls and emails all culminating in us NOT moving into our apt.

So as I type, almost everything I possess is packed away, my bed is stripped of all but a mattress cover (I suppose I should be grateful it hasn’t been taken apart and put in a van). All the stuff that was upstairs is now downstairs filling the hall and the music room of this lovely house we’ve been staying in. And I’ve no idea when we’re moving.

What’s the term for that then? Disaster? Frustration? Pain in the armpit?  It certainly feels like it. I’m trusting and hoping that it’s actually providence and God’s will. Just a bit confusing and seemingly pointless. This is one of those times when I apply the verse that says – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
It’s definitely not the way I’d have done this!

My fave verse from the old hymn, God Works in a Mysterious Way, by William Cowper.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

I’m ‘J’ust ‘J’olly as long as He’s still smiling at me 🙂

We take tomorrow off from AtoZ – am hoping to catch up on my reading of other blogs.
See you Monday x