Reading stories on the Santa Specials!

Here are some of the books I’ve bought to read from during the Santa Specials at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway this December.

I left the railway a good few years ago for various reasons, but a lovely member gently twisted my arm a little while ago to read some stories during the Santa Specials.  I like reading stories to people, so I said I would do so!

They’re all fab books so far, but The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas is my favourite, most probably!  I’m reading the Christmasaurus, which is a jolly good read so far, but a bit long for story telling from perhaps.

Focusing on the positive

Being Star Wars-ed?

Well, now, where to start.  I know, I’m going to Star Wars you!  Here’s a quote from Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

“You’re focusing on the negative, Anakin. Be mindful of your thoughts.” – Obi Wan Kenobi

Over the past week or two, there have been numerous times when I’ve felt I’ve been in a Star Wars movie, being given advice about The Force.  However, the advice given by a dear friend of mine and my counsellor has been about focusing on the positive, good times and things in my life.   The counselling work has been about rebalancing my view of me and my life.  This has involved condensing the negative perceptions of myself and my reactions and thereby reducing their significance and expanding on the positive perceptions with evidence to support it.  The positive evidence, and focusing on the positive is not an easy thing for me to do.  To acknowledge my successes, my achievements, the times I’ve been praised and gained acclaim, these are times that are easily brushed aside.

All the same, I have endeavoured to focus on the positive.  I’ve made a concerted effort to write a list of good events, good feedback, things to be grateful for in my offline journal at the end of every day as I sit in bed before sleep.  I do write about problems, confrontations and so on still so that I can reflect on them, work my way through them, and come to a balanced perspective on them, but I have been doing my best to write down a gratitude list.  And even on the murkiest, darkest, trouble-beset days there are things to be grateful for.

Jedi philosophy, Buddhism, eastern religions … all seem to tie in, don’t they?  I remember seeing the first Star Wars Film – Episode 4, A New Hope.  It was the first time any kind of belief system had struck a chord within me, and though I knew the film was fantasy, the ideas would eventually ignite my own search for my personal brand of spirituality.  And it turns out that things for me aren’t too different from the Force!  Is this worrying?  I think not!

New phone

That time had come around again – the renewal of the mobile phone contract with T-mobile.  This time, I opted for a new phone rather than the £10 per month loyalty discount as the price for my tariff had plummeted considerably.  Essentially, the new bill is £20 a month, compared to £26 with the discount or £36 without the discount!  Brill!  And what phone did I get.  Well, the lovely chaps at T-mobile recommended the Motorola Defy to me, seeing as I have no idea about phones, am not interested in fashion statements and the like.  I wanted something that would be durable, easy to use, and they told me I also would want a phone that would let me use my unlimited internet allowance too.

Well the phone arrived, I was totally bemused for a while, but within a few hours was comfortable with it, and now find it a marvellous thing to have with me!  I certainly won’t get bored when waiting … I must remember to carry my glasses with me as I am getting eye-strain from looking at little letters on a little screen close to me.  Oh the joys of being long-sighted!

My favourite app so far is Google Sky, which was free for me to download and one of the student teachers at school was most disgusted at that as he’d have to pay to get it on his iPhone!  Result I think!  I also downloaded, amongst other things, a nice meditation timer which I’ve yet to use but is likely to prove useful in the future.  I’ve not got music on the phone yet, but there’s no rush for that either.

Having said that, the weather reports have been very useful given all the snow and traffic chaos that has ensued.  And it’s been nice to cwtch up nice and warm in bed and email/message friends rather than get drafty-cool sat at the ‘puter.

So, I march on into a new realm of communication, wondering why it took me so long!

Snow – bleurgh!

I’ve already mentioned the snow.  There’s not been too much of it around South Wales, generally, but enough to cause chaos at times with travelling.  The main roads have mostly stayed pretty clear and I’ve found it perfectly fine to get around, though I’ve not been to the higher reaches of the Valleys.

A bonus has been a couple of days at school with few pupils in.  Small classes, quiet, calm.  It should be like that all the time!  It’s amazing the difference it makes with just 5 or 6 out of each class – the mainstream class sizes then become around 25 to 27.  I’m a lot calmer, the pupils are a lot calmer too.  How on Earth class sizes have been allowed to creep up to such huge sizes.  Some days I feel like I’m engaging more in crowd-control than actually teaching.

New career needed … ideas anyone?

The good thing about smaller classes and the snow is that it reminds me of how teaching can be, how it would benefit the pupils and the teachers.

As I type this blog entry, it is now raining here.  I hope it washes away the snow and ice quick-sharp!

Arty stuff

I’ve not been able to settle to do much art in the last couple of weeks.  I seem to have been either tired or dashing around from place to place.  But that’s ok.  That’s how life is at times.

I have completed another auragraph for a lady, but I won’t post a picture of it until she’s had it and had a chance to show others it, if she wishes.  It is personal for her.  I have another two to do, and I hope to get one done later today.

Music and railways

Some musical events are coming up for me.  Firstly, I’ll be playing my flute with Marcus (of Marcus Music, Newport, South Wales) and his wife, Pauline, at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway on the 19th December.  Christmas carols/songs will be the order of the day.  Pauline asked if I would go and play with them again this year, which was really nice of her to do so.  That’s as long as I can get there given the weather conditions!  I always enjoy playing with Marcus and Pauline – no pressure on me with them at all.

There’s also the school Carol Concert coming up, where I’ll be playing flute in the orchestra and singing alto in the choir.  In years gone by it’s always been a stressful time for me and I often come down with tonsilitis, pharyngitis or some horrible form of ‘flu all brought about by the stress of performing in school, which goes back to my school days as a pupil!  I wish I could find a way to get over this … I really do.

However, it’s always nice to play with other people, and I do wish I could do so more often.  I’ve not found people to do that with … yet.

Things have taken an interesting turn concerning the railway and myself recently.  The creaking door that was still open by just a nano-metre has finally been closed.  To be honest, this is a relief to me.  I can now walk away from there without any guilt and find somewhere else to volunteer my time where I can learn and also teach others things.  One adventure has come to an end, many more await me.  That is perhaps a sign of a more positive me about me!  The only problem is getting me out there to take part in the adventures!

Sunday wittering


Anyone would think Mercury is retrograde with all the transport problems I’ve had lately!

Today it  continued.  I had a talk to give in Cardiff around 11am.  I’d checked train times and there was one from my local station at 10:09 that would get me there by around 10:30am – perfect!  I also have a talk in Merthyr this evening, and so was going to travel by train there.   I wandered down to the train station for around 10:00 to give me time to get tickets for both journeys.

I got there to find that all the trains between Cardiff and Treherbert, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Rhymney had been replaced by buses.

Wouldn’t have been a problem except the bus journey takes twice as long as the train and I’d be too late for the talk this morning.  So, I phoned the organiser (thank goodness for mobile phones!) who was gracious enough to say not a problem she’d sort something out.  I think phoned the organiser for this evenings talk, and she said she’d come and pick me up and bring me back again afterwards.

Its no one’s fault really.  I knew I should have checked for engineering works over the weekend, and didn’t.  Ho hum!

Personal Progress

It’s at times like this, when I recognise how I would have reacted in the past to these kinds of situations, that I realise how much positive work has been done through the counselling sessions I have.

In the past I would have been blaming myself, really taken myself on a guilt trip that would lead to a dark place.  I wouldn’t have slept, would have worried myself stupid, found it hard to organise myself or do anything by myself.

This time, and this is not the first time I’ve had a car die on me, I’ve coped really well.  I do need to find my insurance details so I can arrange the insurance for the Corsa. I need to find the log-book for the SmartCar so I can arrange for it to be sold for parts/breaking/scrap.  And I need someone who can take the radio out of the SmartCar and install it in the Corsa for me.  I’m fact, I’m quite pleased with myself, and that in itself is a big step forward for me too.


I have a couple of premature baby wraps and funeral gowns now made to send to Cuddles.  I have, and am, enjoying the process of knitting.  The book on Mindful Knitting arrived on Friday, and I’ve quickly scanned the introductions and some of the sections about how knitting can be a mindful practice, and I recognise much of it as a process I enter into when I find myself lost in art, not that I’ve done much art lately – wool, knitting needles, patterns, finished items and other paraphernalia of the craft cover the table I usually use to do art upon.  Today, though, I got a small wicker laundry basket that has a linen liner  to keep the yarns and stuff in in an attempt to have them easily to hand but also neatly in one place instead of scattered all over.  That purchase was one of the good things from not going to Cardiff this morning and walking through my town to do some shopping.  I don’t think the basket is big enough on getting it home, but it will help to organise things, so long as the puss-cat doesn’t decide they are there for him to mess with!

Catching up, customs, celebrations.

Catching up…

With the return to work last week, research and blogging has had to take a back seat, especially as my evenings and Saturday have been busy.  I noticed I’ve missed two days of  note in the calendar!

Two days of work and I’m shattered.  Mind you, that tends to happen being  a teacher.  The long summer break gives me the time to rest, relax and almost totally de-stress.  Unfortunately, it takes mere minutes for some of the good work to be undone.  Keeping up with my meditation regimen when I rise and before I sleep, and at lunch or during preparation time during the day usually helps me to keep the escalation of stress to a minimum, but it doesn’t eliminate it totally…not yet.  Recognising the automatic thoughts and reactions and then working to change them to more healthy versions is slow going, my mind has had a lifetime to reduce this self-talk to a susurrus that I have to be very cunning to clearly hear.

Isn’t susurrus a wonderful word?  It sounds like quiet, secretive whisperings.  A wonderful onomatopoeic word!  I like alliteration as well as onomatopoeia!

3rd September – Cromwell Day

On this day, The Cromwell Association commemorate his death with an open-air service in front of his statue outside the Houses of Parliament, London, where they lay a wreath there.  Only members of the Cromwell Association may attend, but the public can see and hear the ceremony from the public pavement.

70013 Oliver Cromwell is a Britannia Class (BR Standard Class 7) steam locomotive.

3rd September – Merchant Navy Day

Merchant seamen have long felt that their service’s significant contribution to the war effort has long been undervalued and it is one of the aims of the Merchant Navy Association to raise the profile of the Merchant Navy and celebrate its importance to Britain, both in the past and the present.  As part of this mission in 2000 they declared 3rd of September to be Merchant Navy Day.  This day was chosen as it also commemorates the sinking of the unarmed merchant vessel the SS Athenia on 3 September 1939, the first day of the Second World War.  All nineteen crew and ninety-three passengers were lost.

4th September – Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

On the Monday following the local Wakes Sunday (i.e. the first Sunday after 4 September, or Old St Bartholomew’s Day), the village and surroundings of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, England, UK, are visited by a unique set of dancers.  The team consists of six men, each carrying a splendid pair of reindeer antlers, plus a Fool, a Maid Marian (played by a man), a hobby horse, a bowman (who twangs a bow), a musician and a triangle player.

At 8 a.m., they set out from the village church and perambulates the parish, visiting key houses, farms and other places and at each stop they perform their dance.  It is thought to be unlucky if they do not visit your house or neighbourhood.  Around 8 p.m. they return to the village and perform their final dance in the street.

The horns are kept in the church when not in use.  They are genuine reindeer horns, mounted on wooden heads, with a handle protruding from below to allow the dancers to carry them as they dance.

There is a lot of speculation about the origin of the custom.  Many have connected it to a fertility ritual, an ancient ceremony to ensure successful hunting, or of some common right or privilege in regard to the chase, but none of these ideas is supported by evidence.  It may be that the hobby horse is older than the horn dance, and hobby horses were used in the C16th to collect taxes and dues owed to the lord of the manor; whether the horse made the collections or whether it was there to entertain and sweeten the process of money-gathering is not known.

4th September – Barnet Horse Fair

This horse fair was chartered in 1588 and for centuries was one of the busiest livestock marts in the region, although Barnet’s real fame lay in horse-racing which drew large and unruly crowds from London until it ended in 1870.  A mere shadow of its former self, Barnet Horse Fair is now held at Greengates Stables on 4, 5 and 6 September, unless one of those dates is a Sunday, in which case it continues on the following day.