Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Cool Party Days in Cwmbran.

Because of the blog title...
Jamie thinks I should show a little more of Wales.

Although it’s not Wrexham (centre of the earth according to Charlie), it's an amazing day out at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. In case you’re wondering…it’s a newish town about twenty minutes from Cardiff (capital city of Wales).

In the field across from the car park was a Rhea- the long-necked lovely is sometimes called the South American ostrich.

While the more familiar fowl made the most of the glorious weather in a manmade pond

As we were here to celebrate our granddaughter’s 4th birthday party, adults and children were admitted free. We ambled through a courtyard, past wooden picnic benches and a white gazebo lined with vibrant pots of paint- to a room festooned with “Happy Birthday” posters.

Fairy lights twinkled in the disco room, and pint-sized guests got the chance to strut their stuff

Pass- the -hat was a bit of a giggle, for they all wanted to wear the black, plastic hat.

'I wouldn't mind, but that's my hat!'

Then there was a stuggle with an unbreakable Pinta.

Before sitting down to scrummy Farmer Fred meals.

When you stop to think about it, factories would have spread like a virus across these vital green spaces -if plucky local people- hadn't fought to secure the land.

In the stables, where school learning materials are kept, youngsters got to milk a life-size demo cow!

But it was the goats-

inexhaustible appitites -that attracted most of the attention.

“Never mind that up close and personal palaver … where’s our grub?”

The piglets were also quite endearing

'Shouldn’t the goat be the one behind bars?’

'Nah, this side is much more fun.'

The farm had thought of everything to keep them amused – they even had a sheep shearing demonstations.

'Okay, okay, a haircut it is!'

'Now that tickles.'

'Are you sure it's a grade 3?'

'Apparently, it takes just one fleece to make a woollen jumper.’

“When asked if we could turn that woollen mountain into a zillions of Shreddies.’

‘We said, never in a month of Sundays!

"Rumbling around the farm on the tractor and trailer was part of the fun. On the other side of the tunnel, was a large adventure playground which looked perfect to soak up the area’s atmosphere. As part of the educational talk, provided by the driver- we learned that the food growing in the scarecrow- protected allotment was to serve the cosy little café at the farm.

The discovery of the bread ovens in the early 90s, led to the creation of the Alexander Cordell restaurant. In keeping with the times, the farm decided to cater for schools and young children.
Interestingly, a stone above the café’s hearth bears the initials of first farm owners Edward & Anne Jones. In those days, they used I instead of J, making their surname Iones.

Speaking of horses...and donkeys off course, they’ve come a hell of a long way since the farm belonged to the Adit colliery.
Because the colliery was important to the area, the 18th century farmstead was the only house with electricity for many a year.

By now we were growing to love the farm creatures- especially the calf that captivated hearts- with constant cries for his mother

Rex really was out of this world!

The water -squirting dragon- with red flashing eyes- originated from the Ebbw Garden Festival Wales.

'It really was the coolest party ever!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Queen of Swords

Charlie had an interview for a support worker yesterday. It would have been his dream job. And people who know Charlie say he’ll always go that extra mile when someone’s in need of help.
As it was World Tarot day, I said, I’d do a reading for him. Obviously, I wanted the cards to depict the dream job or mythical pot of gold at rainbow end. However, the cards refused to be part of this ready-made plan. Four of his cards were from the Swords suit. Oh oh, I thought, Swords with their elemental air can be sharp and oh so cutting. And to top it all, his outcome card – was the heartbreaking Three of Swords.

Another card that turned up in his reading was yesterday’s card of the day – The warmth-lacking Queen of Swords. I could see Charlie being interviewed by a woman who would be sharp witted, aloof, keep her distance and would put up barriers around herself.

The Queen of Swords is an intelligent, independent critical-thinking woman who has a knack of getting to the heart of a matter. She sees things for what they are, rather than what we want her to see

Naturally, the decisions she’ll make will be based on what feels is for the good of people, although they probably wouldn’t have chosen it for themselves.

And because of her superb communication skills, The Queen of Swords may be a therapist, journalist, teacher or spokesperson for an organisation or causes.

Above all, she admires honesty, why only a fool would believe they can pull the wool over this Sword Queen’s eyes. A negative trait of the Queen of Swords (this may be indicated by adverse or reverse cards) is her razor-sharp tongue and the ability to cut someone down to size.

Hidden beneath her façade is someone who may have suffered emotional pain and learned how to survive. So in order to protect herself, she draws her sword and raises her defences. If you’re lucky enough to melt her icy persona, you may see another side of the Queen of Swords. As the lady likes a laugh, has a wicked sense of humor and always has a witty retort close-at-hand.

For some, the Queens no -nonsense approach can make them feel awkward or ill at ease.
Charlie’s Queen of Swords did just, she sat stony- faced throughout the interview, while the other two women smiled and chatted and tried to put him at ease.

She asked what he had been doing with himself for the last five months – hello, it’s a recession-doesn’t she know there are no jobs in the area. He told her about the bus driving lessons, but didn’t go into it in details, he just said he failed his test and couldn’t afford to have more driving lessons.

Like the Queen of Swords, she didn’t mince her words, she said, he should have stuck at it, as bus driving is a job for life.

Pondering on the question, I think she probably wanted him to say that he’d been involved in some kind of voluntary work (which he’s now planning to do).

Charlie was told this afternoon, that he didn’t get the job. Although he came over well and had a good interview, the post was given to someone with experience.
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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Excitement is in the air

Art Nouveau TarotLo Scarabeo

Today, my card of the day was the card of swiftness - The Eight of Wands.

This card suggests excitement is in the air, and its full steam ahead for new ideas, goals and career moves. And with its fast–moving energy, obstacles are swept aside, and problem solving’s been given the green light.
And when the Eight of Wands appears in a reading there could be new opportunities or events that unfold fast.

But, with its main message being movement -travel, letters, emails or long distance communication are definitely on the cards at this time.

Reversed, you feel weighed down by the fast pace of events, redundancy, strikes, fights or travel delays.

Speaking of travel…

Last Monday morning, tears flowed freely as our two Thai students waited for the bus that would take them to London to catch a plane home. Weeks had flown since we’d welcomed Tan, 16 and 14-year-old Nuch into our house.
Seeing Bruno, our small terrier’s tail wag a greeting, Nuch went stiff with fear.
‘He doesn’t bite, I reassured her.

‘She can’t go near dogs, Tan said in broken English.

‘Does she have an allergy?’ I asked.

Tan shook her head, ‘She’s Islamic,’ Tan explained.

That night I studied their profiles. Nuch wanted to be placed with a Muslim family. Their they’d be hound free, wouldn’t eat pork and would remind her to pray 5 times a day

Being Catholic, (although not a practicing one) I understood her need for prayers, and while I can take or leave pork products, the dog rule was a mystery to me.

Trawling the internet I discovered that animals with wet noses were considered dirty. One Muslim girl said, dogs could be kept as pets as long as they remained outside or in a room separate from where you pray. Another stated that Muslims are not aloud to touch dogs because in their Qur'an (Islamic bible) the dog is believed to be impure. If touched, they were to wash their hands 7 times with soap.

But Bruno never quite got the message and would got out of his way to get a cuddle (it never happened) or kind word from Nuch.

Once, while we were sitting talking, he sneaked behind the sofa and licked her hand.

Nuch rushed to the sink and scrubbed at her hands, and Bruno was in the dog house. Although Nuch couldn’t keep a dog, she had a cat. Cats are constantly grooming themselves and unlike dogs they bury their faeces. I asked what her parents felt about dogs, she replied, my Grandmother kicks them if they come into our yard.

Nuch was given an upstairs room with telly, hi-fi and double bed, but after the first night, this was kept solely for prayers. Many a night or early morn we were woken by the sound of footsteps and the bedroom door closing as she entered the bedroom to say her prayers. Instead, Nuch slept on the sofa in Tan’s bedroom, while Tan huddled beneath crisp, clean sheets in the single bed.

Cooking was a challenge as they said from the beginning they preferred spicy food. Tan had brought her own bag of chilli pepper to make sure the food she received wasn’t bland.

Nuch’s Mother cooked a meal in the morning, and it was shared throughout the day. The only meal Tan’s Mum cooked that wasn’t spicy was breakfast. I like cooking so when the girls asked to cook for us I wasn’t too sure. However, they were so insistent, I finally gave in.

We ate papaya salad, dressed in a hot chilli and garlic dressing. Tom Yum Kung (Thai spicy soup), which was so hot it made the sweat pour from Charlie’s head, and it made little old chilli-lover Me, shed a tear. They also served sticky rice and red Thai curry with palm sugar, coconut Milk, kaffir Lime Leaves, fish Sauce, Thai Sweet Basil and red chillies. The meal was delicious; they served it to us and washed up afterwards.

In their bedroom was packets of instant Thai noodles. These would be brought out if the meal wasn’t on the table in time, or if there was English food they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. Not that they’d refused anything I put in front of them. Once they tried spicy cauliflower, but like most young girls vegetables were a no-go and they pushed peppers, mushrooms, and other types of veg to the side of the plate.

One night, Charlie asked the girls if they’d like to try an English meal - like beef dinner or fish and chips, (after all they were on a culture exchange visit) but, they shook their head and exclaimed NO! The only meal they liked (apart from Thai) was Kentucky chicken or Pizza with very few chips.

So I set about learning to cook Thai. I can now cook authentic Tom Yung Kung, Thai omelette, red and green curry, Thai fish cakes (small like their Mama’s would make) and Thai kebabs. Along with many other spice-laden Asian dishes.

At the time, deciding what to cook was a bit of a nightmare. But the beautiful, homemade “Thank you” card from the girls, more than made it worthwhile.

Carly came home from School the other day and told us her school wanted parents to host students from international countries. At the meeting, teachers pleaded for parents to take more than one student, and Charlie and I, (gluttons for punishment) looked at each other and nodded. So in June, we will once again, open our home to students from Asia or Europe for a week.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

If you want to know the way, ask a policeman.

Nic told me last week that I need to keep up… with my blog that is. The reason I’m lagging is that I’ve been tied up with children, cooking and a couple of Thai student’s - more on that later.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon was a bit weird. We were strolling along the canal path, when a trio of ducks, rose from the water like an airplane on a flight path. We stood stock still as the v -shaped formation soared towards us. And yes, you’ve guessed it...we had to duck! As they flew over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Charlie shook his head exclaiming, ‘I’ve never seen that before!’ Neither had I, but I now know how ducks got their name.’

Later that afternoon, I was in the kitchen when a police car pulled up outside our house. When Charlie called out ‘there’s a policeman ambling down our path,’ my imagination went into overdrive. For when a constable knocks on your door it’s usually because a crime has been committed or they’re bearer of bad news. I darted to the front door and before he could utter a word, ‘what’s happened?’ I gasped.

‘Sorry to bother you,’ he smiled, ‘but do you know where Emmanuel Grove is?’

Trying to calm a painfully galloping chest, ‘is it on Trevor Estate?’ I stammered.

‘That makes sense, he said. ‘I’ve been trying to figure out where it is on the map.’

It was only when he drove away that I remembered that there’s an Emmanuel Grove’s in Cefn Mawr (2 miles from here).

‘I’ve never before heard of a Policeman asking for directions before,’ Charlie remarked. Neither had I. Very bizarre, don’t you think?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Tarot Fool

Charlie thought the long tailed rat, crawling all over the BBC Breakfast couch- was probably an April fool’s joke. You can’t trust anything you hear on TV or read in the papers on April 1st.

Many moons ago, when “That's Life” presenter Esther Rantzen pronounced, “Rhino poo is good for your face and makes you younger. ” People would have given their back teeth for a handful of the stuff.

In Tarot however, the free spirited Fool is probably the most misinterpreted card in the pack. His title conjures up someone easily deceived or a person that’s five eggs short of a box. Historically though, the fool was the daring court jester who amuses his betters with tomfoolery, satire and razor-sharp wit. Clowns who brought laughter to the royal courts were often dwarfs, simpletons or freaks. Yet the Medieval fool although physically handicapped was very rarely mentally hindered.

It’s claimed that Henry VIII’s favourite jester pulled a fast one on Cardinal Wolsey by tricking him out of £10 (£4000 at today's prices). Wily Will Sommers then gave the minister’s money to the poor people gathering outside the Palace gates. Sommers is portrayed in a family painting that hangs at Hampton Court

Another clever jester who capered in the same motley garb is humpbacked comedian, musician and ballad writer Richard Tarleton. Tarleton a performer with the William Shakespeare's company is said to have been the model for court jester Yorick in Hamlet. Another bell on his cockscomb is that he was the Queen Elizabeth I favourite jester and the only person allowed to point out her faults

Naturally, the Tarot Fool has much in common with his medieval counterpart … with his childlike, carefree qualities; he refuses to adhere to the usual rules. This gentle archetype is a dreamer who sets out on a journey with the belief that you only have to wish to make something happen. With his backpack of worldly goods he tramps life’s highways and byways- before stumbling over a precipice into the unknown.

Fortunately for the free flying spirit the route was paved with wise and wonderful people that helped him gain knowledge and experience. And the right tools brought exceptional returns. Eventually the fool becomes a creator, explorer, inventor, scientist, pioneer, and entrepreneur. He discovers medicine, builds railroads, canals, aqueducts and bridges…The list is endless. Without him there’d be no glowing gas fire or burning light bulb. And we wouldn't have jetted all over the world, or walked on the moon… if someone … along the Tardis of time didn't have courage to take chances.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Can't Sleep, Won't Sleep

In case you were wondering, Charlie failed his test! It was something he’d really wanted to do, but unfortunately, his lack of confidence made him vulnerable behind the wheel of a bus. So, when fate intervenes, we have to go with the flow and realize - it’s probably for the best.

When we were 16, our cups runneth over on the work front. But now, there are barely enough vacancies to go around. Apparently, 900 jobs have gone from Wrexham since the beginning of January 2008. This I can believe because Charles has tried for jobs from road sweepers to refuse collectors, and received the same, sorry to inform you results.

Last night, I lay awake in bed pondering on what the future holds for us.

We did see a vacancy that looked kind of promising; it involved supervising the day to day running and opening of a castle. Since the successful candidate needed to wear many hats, we wrote and asked if we could job share. I had supervisory skills, but knowledge of collections care in a historic context and preventative conservation- in depth understanding of the 9 agents of deterioration (essential) was a different kettle of fish. So for the past week I have ate slept and studied the detrimental causes and their affects. And now, I can reel them off like I was reciting my times tables.

For me, a far more worrying aspect of the post is living in a supposedly haunted building. Imagine if you will, turning in for the night and meeting one of its past occupants on the stairs? In our house, there has been much debate over how our 13- year-old daughter would fare such secluded surroundings. And whether our 12- year- old Yorki cross, could cope in a 700 - year- old flat?

I've heard that if you really want something, you must imagine yourself there and it will come to pass. My imagination must be on overdrive as twice this week I have almost given poor Charlie a heart attack. Both times I was screaming ‘get away from me!’ to the windows and walls

The mind boggles. Is it any wonder that I can’t sleep?