In our flat, we’ve been unlucky with water. Mainly this bad luck has come from above – the flat above us seems to be very leaky – although we’ve had a couple of incidents within our own walls.

First off was when the washing machine in our upstairs neighbours’ flat wasn’t correctly plumbed in – this caused a beautiful mess on our kitchen ceiling, and yet it took them months to admit it was anything to do with them. Then came the time when a pipe burst under their bathroom sink in the middle of the night – water pouring through the ceiling in four out of six of our rooms, and we had to get the police out to rouse them to get the water turned off, as they wouldn’t respond to our hammering on the door. Next was when the owner evicted the unwakeable lads and, while readying the flat for sale, emptied an immersion tank full of water over their kitchen floor – which then filtered through to make my kitchen extremely damp. Most recently, my newest upstairs neighbours have been renovating their bathroom. They removed the tiles from their bathroom walls but then carried on having showers in the tub, not realising that the water would run down the wall, onto their bathroom floor¬†and through my battle worn ceilings. And so I found myself, three days before a potential purchaser came to view the flat (she didn’t turn up in the end) up a ladder with some white emulsion, trying to hide the water marks!

Within my flat we have also had a badly fitted washing machine, which made a cupboard so damp it took months to dry out; a leaky toilet cistern which defied the efforts of several people to resolve; a fault around the seal of the thermostat in our immersion tank and a problem with the overflow of said tank which caused a constant drip out of the overflow pipe outside, at a time when I couldn’t really afford a plumber to sort it out and so it had to persist.

As you can imagine, all of this has made me more than a little twitchy whenever I hear a dripping sound. I have been known to leap out of bed at the merest hint of water being where it shouldn’t (ever since the ‘walk in shower’ effect we experienced in most of our rooms in 2004) and I experience mild panic when I see a drip on the underside of a pipe – is it a leak? Is it condensation? An unexplained¬†mark on the ceiling can hold my attention for hours, as I analyse it and watch anxiously for signs of expansion.

So I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lived anywhere near Indonesia today. Those poor people, only six years after the Boxing Day tsunami which caused such devastation and so many deaths in that part of the world, so far have lost more than three hundred more people to the capricious tidal waves. And also, think of Pakistan and the devastating flooding there. I don’t know whether it’s just that I am taking more notice of these natural disasters as I’m growing older, or whether there really are more of them. I feel the need to give thanks that I was born into such a stable part of the world, and I don’t have the worries about natural disasters affecting my family and friends that others around the world must live with daily.

Another part of my childhood has gone…

…with the news today of the death of Sir Clement Freud. He is synonymous in my mind with¬†mealtimes listening to ‘Just a Minute’ on Radio 4, giggling at his quick wit and ready ability to bring a smile to the lips, even whilst talking about the most unlikely subjects. I’m too young to have a clear recollection of his career as an MP, and wasn’t born when he did many of the things that he is famed for. However, those episodes of ‘Just a Minute’ are an integral part of my childhood memories, and it’s sad when another part of your childhood slips irretrievably away.

A glossary of alternative words

Do you know how, when you have a small child, they often get words wrong in their quest to learn to speak our glorious and descriptive language? And do you know the feeling (common to most parents, I expect) that there are certain words that you don’t want them to learn to say properly? Well, we are at this stage with Cheeky now (he is four and a half years old). He speaks very well for his age (so I am told) but in the course of his efforts to speak like all the grown ups around him he does make the occasional amusing mistake. And, being the mean people we are, we glory in these small errors and intend to try to remember them for the rest of our lives! I don’t think that I’ll be quite as mean as my Mum and Dad, who still remind me about the first time I read ‘swamp’ when I was about four and pronounced it to rhyme with ‘tramp’ rather than ‘stomp’! (I think that was a perfectly natural mistake to make, and they should look at the bigger picture; i.e. that I was able to read aloud at that point, rather than still attempting to humiliate me with the story TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER! OK, I feel better for getting that off my chest!!)

However, in the interests of perpetuating humiliation through the generations, here is a (non-exhaustive) lists of some of Cheeky’s more amusing faux pas, together with translations!

  1. Nibbles = nipples! As in “girls have boobies, boys have nibbles” – his definitive account of the difference between the sexes!
  2. Familiating = humiliating. Not sure where he’s had this from, but wherever he’s learned it, he can use it in the proper context, even if his pronunciation is a bit off!
  3. Forgetti = spaghetti – I love asking him what he wants for tea, as his favourite meals are lasagne and ‘forgetti bolognese’!
  4. Dark Vader = Darth Vader. An obvious one, but for some reason it still brings a smile to our faces and we don’t look forward to the day when he realises the correct way to say it!
  5. Snot Chocky Chocks = ‘Chop Suey Chooks’ – this is a children’s TV programme that they watch at the weekends, but I think his version of the title is far more entertaining!

The other reason that I wanted to list these little anomalies in my son’s use of the English language is because my memory is getting so terrible that I’m in danger of forgetting them as soon as he stops using them. And I love hearing his little mistakes. It probably makes me a bad mother for not correcting him, and allowing him to go on making the mistakes, but I think I can live with myself!

Lack of provision for Stroke survivors in Mid-Wales

I was disappointed but not unduly surprised to read today about the lack of rehabilitation and related aftercare that there is in Mid Wales for survivors of strokes. I grew up in Mid Wales, in the county of Ceredigion, and the local people grew accustomed to having to travel long distances for health care. My neighbour had a young daughter with arthritis; they travelled to Oswestry (a journey of several hours) regularly for her treatment. My friend Delyth in High School had to travel to Cardiff when she was younger for treatment of (I think) a heart condition, and when another neighbour was pregnant with some complications, she was transferred to hospital in Cardiff (3 hours away from her home) in order to receive the needed care. These are just a few of the examples – I could go on. However, due to the low population density in the area I think it is probably overlooked for some of the more crucial services as not being ‘cost effective’. Thus people who are already going through a lot in their everyday lives, coping with illnesses and disabilities are forced to travel many many miles to seek the healthcare they need.

My mother and father in law moved to Cardiff from Aberystwyth in May 2002. One month later, my father in law suffered a stroke, which left him without the sight in one eye, very much weaker on one side and greatly affected his voice (he used to have a strong, resonating bass singing voice, but after his stroke he couldn’t sing at all and his speaking voice was much weaker and less defined than it used to be). He was ‘fortunate’ in that he had his stroke after leaving mid-Wales and therefore had access to the facilities in Cardiff. He was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales immediately, and later transferred to the ‘West Wing’ unit for rehabilitative care. Although he never fully regained his previous state, he recovered as much as he was able in a relatively quick time, thanks to the great care he received from the medical teams at these two places. I dread to think how his final few years would have been (he passed away in 2006) had he not received prompt and efficient care directly after that stroke.

Bizarre university initiation ceremonies, or, more Nazis appear in Britain – should we be worried?

The BBC (amongst others) reports today about the initiation ceremonies undertaken by students across the UK in order to be accepted as a member of a university society (generally sports society, but it’s not exclusively athletics related). It has a video showing a group of students from the University of Gloucester being lined up against a wall by someone dressed in what looks like a Nazi uniform, being forced to drink alcohol and then throwing up before being walked in lines around the town.

I have never been a big drinker, and the thought of initiation ceremonies like this would definitely have put me off joining a sports team in university, had I been athletic enough to have been considered in the first place! I know many people, though, who have been put through these initiation ceremonies and it is nothing short of outright bullying. The other members of the society definitely think less of you if you don’t do it, and in their eyes it is far better that you drink until you need to be taken to A&E for emergency treatment rather than demonstrating an initial reserve and some common sense about the amount and the speed at which you consume the alcohol.

Exactly what is the point of this sort of activity? Can someone please enlighten me? How does your capacity to drink alcohol and to do stupid things whilst drunk relate in any way to prowess on a sports field? I would have thought that, if you want to put prospective sports club members through an initiation it would be far more apt to put them through a really gruelling, semi-SAS style fitness test. No? Just me? But seriously, please someone explain to me the attraction of this sort of thing!

I just don’t get it!

In a marginally related topic, it worries me that people are dressing as Nazis for this sort of thing. We’ve only recently heard about a Nazi rally in Somerset, and now another example of the image of Naziism returning with the wearing of a Nazi-style uniform by the student organising the ceremony in the BBC video. I know that we live in a (nominally) free society, but there should be tighter limits if this sort of thing is deemed acceptable. Have people forgotten¬†what it must have been like to live in 1930s Germany and through WW2 in Europe?

Women on the game


Ha! Now I’ve got your attention…you’re about to be disappointed about the lack of ‘ladies of the night’ in this post!

I was sent an e-mail with this information in it recently, about the results of a survey about women’s video gaming habits. It struck a chord with me as I do have a tendency to get a bit obsessed with a game once I start playing it! Husband recently bought me “Tomb Raider – Anniversary” and I’ll admit that for the first few days I did spend considerable amounts of time playing it when I should have been doing other things. And yes, I have, in the past, played computer and video games when, if I was a sensible girl I would have been asleep. So, do you identify with the results of this survey? (Obviously if you are male then there will be some technical hitches with you being able to completely readily identify with the objects of this survey, but you could offer a male perspective!). Comments, as always, very welcome!

Study Reveals Women Choose Video Games Instead of Sleep 


E for All and PoshMama.com survey investigates the untold video game habits of women


Framingham, Mass. ‚Äď September 23, 2008 ‚Äď Results from a survey recently fielded by Entertainment for All¬ģ Expo (E for All¬ģ),¬† the consumer video game expo held October 3-5, 2008, in Los Angeles, and PoshMama.com, an online community exclusive to women around the world, indicate some surprising trends relating to women and video games. Front and center: many women would rather play video games than catch up on sleep, according to the new survey which polled more than 120 PoshMama members on their video game habits. Responses were gleaned from the high percentage of female respondents (71%) who said that they play video games.


According to the E for All / PoshMama survey, more than one-third of those surveyed say that they play video games when they should be sleeping.  Women in the survey also say they play video games in other unusual circumstances, including: while on the phone (32%); while at work/in a meeting (20%); and, while preparing for work (12%).  When it comes to spare time, nearly twice as many women say that, if given an extra hour of free time at home, they would rather play video games than catch up on sleep.

Religion – public or private issue?

The start of this post is a reply that I wrote to a comment posted by Jalal Awan on my post relating to the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last weekend.

Jalal – I’m so sorry for the troubles which Pakistan is suffering. I wanted to reassure you that it is not the whole world that you need to convince of the basic peace loving nature of the majority of Muslims. My longest standing friend from high school has married a Pakistani man from Lahore and has converted to Islam and they are two of the kindest and most gentle, peace loving people I know.

There are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who terrorise innocent people around the world, and yet not all Christians are tarred with the same brush. There are extremists in almost all religions who mar the image of the followers of their religion around the rest of the world. As has been pointed out so many times, we need to remember that it is only a minority and that the rest of the world is quite content to live peacefully alongside everyone else.

I will be posting this comment and some other points as a blog post as I feel very strongly about acceptance of people’s beliefs and ways of life. I hope that Pakistan can find its way to a more peaceful future very soon and I pray that your family will stay safe.

When my friend converted to Islam there were some people who thought she was doing the wrong thing, that she should stay true to the religion of her childhood. Probably that her face didn’t fit in her choice of faith. However, she had researched widely into the Islamic belief system and way of life and decided that it made sense to her and was a way of life that she could happily sustain. And I can honestly say that since her marriage she has been more contented and happy than at any other time in the eighteen years I have been fortunate enough to have been her friend. Her conversion has not impeded our friendship at all. If anything, I have benefitted through being able to learn more about Islam from her. A few years ago I couldn’t have told you what Ramadan was about, let alone the name of the festival at the end of the month. I don’t know if I could even have told you the name of the Prophet (my religious education in school was sketchy, to put it mildly). And so she has helped me to widen my view of the world, to understand more views than my own and those nearest to me. Her branching out into the world has encouraged me to develop views and ideas which I had not taken the time to consider before.

Why should our faith preclude us from understanding and accepting the beliefs of others? I believe that my faith is a private thing. I don’t shout from the rooftops my religion and I don’t force it upon others whom I know to have differing beliefs. I know what I believe in and I take great comfort from that. This may well be the only post that I publish in which I refer to religion, and the intensity of my belief may well surprise even those close to me. I don’t attend church services as often as I probably should, but then I don’t think that this is necessary to be a good Christian. I know of many people who do go to church much more regularly than me who leave their Christianity and compassion at the church door when they leave¬†after Sunday morning service and don’t give it a thought until the next Sunday when they mutter the prayers laid out in their prayer books without a thought to the meaning of the words they are reciting. There are many people who regularly go to church services who are intolerant of people of different faiths, different sexuality and even race or skin colour. How is this consistent with the teachings of Jesus? As I understand it, in order to be a good Christian one must care for and respect everyone. Regardless of whether they too were baptised or not.

I’m not perfect, and I do find it hard to be tolerant of everyone and kind to everyone equally. However, I do not tolerate people less or treat people worse because of their way of life or their belief structure. I am far more likely to be less tolerant to people who are rude, unkind or (my pet hate) glorying in their own ignorance. I am working at my patience and temper, and pray daily for help in conquering these faults. I pray especially for help conquering my laziness and lack of will power, as well as help to be more patient and accepting with my family (I get cross with my children too easily!).

Obviously we will never have a perfect world. But in the nearest we could get to having a perfect world, I wish that everyone could sit down and learn a little about other faiths. I wish that people could see how much more we all have in common than we have separating us. I wish that we could all meet more people from different backgrounds and realise that we are all humans with similar agendas of living a healthy life and bringing up our families as best we can. I wish there could be some respite from all of this religious turmoil and conflict. I wish that the money being ploughed into continuing all of the wars across the world could be put into solving the problems of the millions who are starving, or the many diseases which could be cured or prevented given the research and resources. However, wishes are just more hot air, and we get enough of that from the world leaders. I will carry on living my life being the best person I can be and doing my best to instill respect into my children for their fellow human beings. Hopefully their generation will be able to solve these problems more readily than we can.