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?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Wrexham’s pass rate for bus drivers is the second worst in Britain

Yesterday, when Charlie left for his first driving lesson in two weeks, I drew a card for us both. First up, effectively portrayed in Japanese Manga art is The Three of Wands (reversed).

The card shows a woman sitting on the riverbank with a fretful, far-away look on her face….Sitting and waiting is the order of the day with the Three of Wands. The roses in the picture promise new beginnings and hope, but the thorns suggest there could be a few painful problems to endure along the way.

This lucky card suggests that you should cast aside doubts and fears and have the foresight to tackle something different. Also if you trust in yourself, everything else will fall into place. Another aspect to consider is two things coming together make three- so you can count on teamwork and cooperation

The Three of Wands (reversed) portrays problems that could arise from lack of experience. Or there may be setbacks and careless mistakes

Second card of the day (drawn with Charlie in mind) is The Eight of Pentacles. In numerology - 8 symbolizes material accomplishment, power and success.

In Tarot the apprentice card depicts job training, learning new skills and having the discipline required to succeed in something new. It also suggests the chance to work with someone who will teach him new methods.

And Charlie was certainly taught new methods yesterday (a little late at this stage of the game, don’t you think)?

Crestfallen Charles told me he’d been with the instructor who'd boasted he made grown men cry. Consequently, the little confidence the previous instructor had built up rapidly ebbed away. After an hour, Charles said jokingly that he wanted to return home as nothing was going right. (unfortunately, the intense, infinitely tiring driving lessons last for four hours).
Trouble was everything he’d been taught by his previous instructor - from roundabouts to checking over the bus was wrong in the new tutor’s eyes.. At the end of the lesson, Charlie asked how he was doing?

F…… S… !The bully barked.

‘So, is it worth taking my test?’ Charlie then inquired. He was told he had nothing to lose (meaning you can kiss the money goodbye if you don’t take the test).

Bully boy then begrudgingly confided , the owner thinks you’re good enough. Peter thought you were good enough and I think you can do it…So you may as well take the test!’ Did he just give Charles a compliment?.

Another aspect of the Eight of Pentacles is the foundation laid may pay off…so like the instructor says, he’s got nothing to loose, except perhaps, a couple of grand.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday the 13th can actually be a day of considerable good fortune.

In last Wednesday’s post was Charlie’s new test date. But, because he’d been given the date over the phone, Charlie glimpsed at the letter and tossed it aside.

Jotting it down on the calendar, I almost had kittens. It was on (gulp) Friday 13th! Some superstitious folk will not leave their beds on this ill-fated date - but I’m not usually that gullible. However, after our series of misfortunate events it had to be a bad omen.

And this was not our only concern, Charlie had been ordered to attend a Back to Work Group Session. The hour long course was intended to give general advice to people out of work). But, with a mere, 186 jobs in our area (and only one in manufacturing) can the talks really dampen-down the dole queues? Or will they just deflate myriads of jobseekers who, through no fault of their own, cannot find work? Nonetheless, failure to attend could result in 2 weeks benefit loss -so like it or not he had to go!

Fortunately, when Charles phoned the training centre and told them his dilemma, he discovered there had been a mix up in the dates. . Phew, I was so relived I could have danced around the bedroom naked, (believe me it’s not a pretty sight). His test is now set for Friday 20th March…
For those of you sitting at home dwelling on the date, according to 600 B.C mathematical philosopher Pythagoras – the number 13 is a chance for evolution and change. And blessed Friday 13th was a holy day in the church. So, think positive and your luck could be dramatically altered on today.

For more fascinating Friday 13th facts, check out this great website

Saturday, 7 March 2009

‘Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em!’

Well I said he wouldn’t fail and he didn’t. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass either...

In hindsight I can see where the Death card came in, because Charlie killed the poor old bus. Well, it’s not exactly dead, but it is out of action for a few days. We’d discussed forking out for extra lessons if he failed -little did we know that we’d be paying either way).

Yesterday, Charlie’s face had been as pale as the Dover Cliffs as he headed for the training centre.On his pre-test, he conquered roundabouts big and small, reversing and manoeuvring the 35 feet long bus through the busy town.

It was at the test centre gates, my nervy husband turned into ‘Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em’ star, Frank Spencer.

For instructed to head towards the white line, Charles forgot the rigid, 22,000 pounds vehicle doesn’t corner like a car. As a result, gate hinges ripped though the side of the bus like it was opening a sardine can. (They’re made of a thin metal you know.)

‘F…ing Hell, Charlie,’ the instructor gasped. Charles felt terrible and apologised profusely.

To cut a long story short, it was decided the bus was just too dangerous to take out.

Back at the training centre, Charles learned an Arriva driver had made the same mistake the previous week (he shattered the windows on his bus).

The instructor also declared Charlie was doing so well he was sure he was going to pass.
But, Charlie was to upset to speak.

Back home the owner of training centre phoned and told Charlie to stop worrying, it could have happened to anyone.

So now, my Page of Pentacles husband has to phone on Monday morning to arrange another test...

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Friday, 6 March 2009

A cracking card to follow Death.

In bed this morning, I told Charlie, ‘you are going to pass!’ He said, he didn’t want me to mentioned the test (it’s this afternoon by the way.) So downstairs, I shuffled the cards and with my lovely hubby in mind, I drew was the studious Page of Pentacles. The careful and diligent Page has an out with the old, in with the new attitude - so it’s a lovely card to follow Death.

The card shows a Page of Pentacles in a grass coloured tunic with a certificate in one hand and a spray of plum and pink fuchsias in the other. The beautiful bobbing flowers denote faithfulness -and of course, Charlie, has really been devoted to the course. For he was up before 7: am, taking the car around roundabouts and following the test-route. So like our Page of Pentacles, he’s really is a homework buff.

With the focus on learning, our Page shows thoroughness, practicality and hard work will soon be paying dividends. And he could soon be presented with an satisfying opportunity on the job front. Wow, that’s a relief. Like most people, in these credit crunch times, we need a bit more money in the pot.

Another aspect of the earthly Page is that he’s a keen and persevering young chap. He’s also ambitious, practical, responsible, patient and kind, but on rare occasions- easily depressed. That’s Charlie at this present moment in time and he’s so down -in -the –dumps, he’s gone back to bed. So have faith, Charles, Page's do not give in easily, or surrender their dreams….

It’s funny the card was drawn today, as the Page of Pentacles can also represents news. And we’ve heard this morning that my lovely, backpacking -in -Australia stepdaughter - has got a job! Yay, well done, Nic! And as the Pentacles suit denotes money and earthly possessions – it should take a great weight off her mind. Her new, Page of Pentacle position starts next Wednesday.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

New buds on old branches-

Charlie went through a pre-test with his instructor today, if this had been a real test he was told, you would have passed.
But he is so nail-bitingly nervous, there’s nothing I can say to pacify him.
So shuffling my Tarot cards, I said, think of a question- it goes without saying what he requested.
And gulp…the card chosen was Death.
Death is the card that sends grown men dashing for cover. But in the Tarot it very rarely means the grim reaper will be knocking on the door.

The Death card depicts a major change is about to take place. It can mean that a job, relationship, project, or in Charlie’s case a series of driving lessons are coming to an end.

Interestingly, if we rewind a few week, we’d see the first stages of his life changing journey was staring to take shape. Change is on the horizon, for the card represents important changes and letting go of something that’s way past its sell-by-date. Althought scary in the beginning, by cutting out things that are no longer useful, a new life cycle can begin

So tomorrow when a new sun rises, a great transformation will be taking place. And if Charlie can hold his nerve, he stands a good chance of getting his bus drivers licence...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Yesterday Charlie came back with his head held high. His instructor told him, ‘for the last hour I haven’t had to tell you anything. Drive like that on Friday and you’ll be okay.’ So things are looking sunny again. Today, his instructor’s taking him on along test routes and through our busy towns. He’s told him ‘I’ll just tell you when to turn. If you go wrong I won’t shout.’ He’s very lucky to have this ex-army man for an instructor. The guy that’s off due to bereavement, told Charlie, that it’s his policy to yell and shout.

‘Sometimes,’ he admitted, ‘I’ve made grown men cry.’ That must go a long way to instilling confidence in his clients—I don’t think! To me, it’s obvious why two, learner-bus-drivers failed last week.

One of them is retaking his test today. Fingers crossed for him.

I’ve searched the house from top to bottom for Charlie’s glasses. And believe me, searching through our junk-laden garage, is like trying to get around a military obstacle course.

Admittedly, when the loosely screwed plastic bottle came tumbling from the shelf, I muttered some choice words. The smelly petrol shower resulted in everything -right down to my teddy slippers – being run through the wash.

Ah well, I hope Charles fares better…

Unfortunately, Charlie’s confidence was short lived. Because Tuesday morning, he looked like he’d rather go ten rounds with Frank Bruno - than travel with his instructor on the bus.

Trying to instil confidence I told him ‘you’ll be right as rain, with a couple more lessons.’
‘It’s no good,’ he’s says, ‘if you’re not born with it.’

He hasn’t learned that not many people are born with self-confidence. For most of us, it’s just an act.

Another worry for him is, he’s lost his specs. Fortunately, they’re the ones he uses for distance. We're the Jack Sprat of spectacles. I cannot see far and he can't see close up. Together, we have perfect vision...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

My card of the day was The Three of Pentacles

It predicted that hard work will not go unnoticed - sounds promising don’t you think? It’s certainly true in Charlie’s case as he’s in the back garden cutting down trees. Trouble is as soon as the chain saw started wining our neighbour came out. She told him, when they first moved into the house the 90ft garden was great for young kids. They could play outside all day where she knew they’d be safe. But now with her arthritis, she hasn’t a hope- in -hell of keeping the jungle down. She does however manage to pull up the weeds and keep on top of the lawn (with either a garden shears or an antiquated push mower. So Charlie thought he’d help out and lop off the overhanging branches of the silver birch. He was also willing to cut the the tops off the conifers that keep her three- bedroom house void of light. However, she prefers the trees (except her lovely forsythia) to have a bit more than a short back and sides. But for this Charlie would need to climb trees. But, my ever-so cuddly hubby is not an agile cat that can clamber to the top of the massive trees. This morning, he stepped outside as the sun came up, ‘it’ll only take a few hours,’ he said. It’s just after 5 pm, the sun is going down and he’s still out there! And V, bless her, is still supervising. Oh, well like the card said, his hard work is not going unnoticed…
Another Three of Pentacles aspect is specializing in something that will bring future monetary success. Or a good time to start a project. This is true as I’ve just signed up for an on-line Tarot for Writers workshop. Besides learning to utilize the Tarot on a personal level, it guarantees to open my imagination (the only thing wrong with mine is that I forget to use it). And best of all, it promise to boot the dreaded writers block out of the water. Oh well, onwards and upwards….

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Yes. Yes. Yes. The universe came through for us...

Yesterday Charlie came home with a spring in his step. The reason for this is a new driving instructor (his last had a bereavement in the family). It’s funny how some instructors have a flair for installing confidence and bringing out the best in people. This new guy has certainly buoyed up my self-doubting husband. He did however, make a minuscule mistake -he hit the kerb just once. An error he will not be repeating he hastened to add. Monday, his new teacher has promised to go through the dreaded reversing routine. Reversing is the bane of learner bus drivers. Two people have failed in as many days for failing to keep to line when reversing. Enough for now on Charles…

This picture was taken at 11 am, (it's in a field across from where we live.) As you can see - it’s a very grey morn- one that makes you envious of people living in hot countries. My stepdaughter Nic and her boyfriend Steve have gone backpacking in Australia...
They've already used up five weeks of the two-year permit. Needless to say, they loved the bones of the Sydney. And who wouldn’t? They were amazed at Sydney’s stunning Harbour Bridge. And full of admiration for the lovely opera house. Plus they adored the brilliant Blue Ocean and kilometre of golden sand on Bondi Beach. But with work being scarce they purchased a Volvo and camping equipment and headed up to Brisbane. (These will be sold to other backpackers when they head for home).

After Sydney though, Brisbane didn’t quite cut the mustard. There were myriads of back packers and too little jobs. Added to the mix was the area was considerably more expensive and Brisbane’s unbearably clammy heat. After a few sticky days, a phone call alerted them to a job opening in Sydney. Retracing their steps, they clocked up a massive 450 miles on route.

This is beginning not the end. And like us, you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out where destiny leads them…

Friday, 27 February 2009

Universe, Send Charlie Strength!

My husband Charlie is a lovely man; he would do anything for anybody and is loved by everyone. But like most people, he sometimes lacks confidence.Today, his self-assurance is at an all time low and kept him awake last night. And the reason is - he’s learning to drive a bus.
Before I go any further I have to say, he loves driving, and is a very good driver. His ambition was to drive a train, but being 52, it’s a no-go area with train companies.
So the goal posts shifts.
So with bus driving coming a close second in the aspiration stakes, his goal (after being made redundant) was learning to drive a bus.
At the driving skills assessment, Charles was told this could be done in 28 not-so-easy lessons.
His first four lessons (after learning to perform pre-driving checks) were spent learning to reverse. For this he has to pop his head out of the window (to check tyre positions) then reverse using his mirrors. Mirrors are the bus driver’s eyes, for the back window is either non-existent, or constantly foggy from dust.
‘Learning to drive a bus is not like learning to drive a car,’ he told me. ‘There’s no vehicle around to practice in.’

‘All you need is little self-confidence,’ I told him.

He didn’t look convinced.

So, he has another five days (weekend not included) of intense driving lessons to look forward to. Four of these twenty hours will be spent on reversing a 35 feet long, 22,000 pounds, extremely powerful, bus.
Next Friday is the day of his test.
Perseverance is the key to overcoming this rather large obstacle, but he can do it. I know he can! If he only has faith…

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Sometimes in life we have to suffer hardship…

It’s been more than 9 weeks since my husband, Charlie, was made redundant from Flexys Ruabon works. Initially, the shock of no money coming in kept us from sleeping. Then, there was news of an opening in another part of the works. He was told there were three vacancies, lasting a further two years. Not long I know, but it would steer us through the dreaded credit crunch tears. Many people, including his personnel manager put a good word in the manager’s ears. I prayed he’d be successful. But not leaving this to chance, I also asked the universe for help. (If it’s good enough for Noel Edmunds, it’s good enough for me.)

The nail-nibbling wait was horrendous. I had to know which way the job was going to go. So I consulted the cards. One card I’d rather not see the - five of coins (pentacles) came fluttered out of the pack. The pauper card warns of loss and uncertainty and difficult times ahead. And although I should be counting my blessings, a dark cloud floated over my head. I peeked at my cards twice more after this, and both times had the same earth-shattering outcome. Depressed, I packed away the cards, I couldn’t face further readings.

On the day of the interview, Charlie was feeling quietly confident and perhaps a little too nonchalant. As a result, didn’t get the job.

Being told they were making you redundant just two weeks before December 25th, takes the shine off Christmas.

So, at 52 he was -for the first time - signing on at the dole. If that wasn’t degrading and depressing enough, the guy behind the desk told him, there was not only no jobs in manufacturing, but no jobs full stop!

Not one to lie down and die, he contacted a Flintshire company about learning to drive buses. In the interview, he was told the intense course would cost around £1, 500. There was a little help from the redundancy Action Scheme with the Welsh Assembly (ReAct). It’s to help people gain new skills and gets them back to work A.S.A.P. With Charlie’s application being successful, ReAct will kindly provide us with almost half this amount.

The downside was he had to have a £90 medical examination first. And new glasses costing another £74. Then for the driving course, he first has to pay up front. Fortunately, his redundancy cheque (which shrinks a little more each month) will just about cover this.

The flip side of the coin is, there's a shortage of bus drivers. However, Charlie read somewhere the pass rate is not very high. If he fails his test we'll have to fork out the whole amount, or pay for further lessons. So as you can see, failing is not an option.

Charlie passed three written tests with flying colours on Tuesday, so today, his 28, intense, driving lessons begins...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Today, we ambled around Chester as there was a really old path hubby wanted me to see. The moss covered path was just inside the walls and around corner from the turbulent River Dee. Apparently, there's an old law that says if a Welsh person is found within the city walls after dark they may be "shot". Saying that, we have had a meal in Chester at night and lived to tell the tale.

In town, a class of young children were learning about the Romans. Armed with gold coloured shields the youngsters followed the battle clad Centurion (employee of the Grosvenor Museum) through the Roman Gardens

It appears that the gardens are on the site of a clay pipe factory, which manufactured smoking bowls from around 1781 until 1917. Factory foundations have been found alongside the walls.

More on Chester later...