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Helen's journal and online home
In which an old dog attempts to learn new tricks.
I am quarter of the way through my Welsh learning goal and I am on target for numbers of hours spent doing something useful to improve either speaking, listening, reading or writing. So that long-term project is still progressing well. One aspect, making videos in Welsh and putting them on a YouTube channel is progressing extremely slowly, so I've decided to make a separate long-term goal for it.

New long-term goal
1) By the end of 2019, I will have posted 12 videos in Welsh to my YouTube channel. I have two strands to this project. Some videos will be about travelling on the railways of Wales, both the preserved steam railways but also the normal mainline trains. The other strand will be about visiting an interesting place, going for a walk around it and explaining what there is to see.The videos will be aimed mainly at people learning Welsh, especially those that don't live in Wales and who would like to see more of the things that don't make it onto TV documentaries and travel programmes. (This is a SMART goal because it will be easy to see whether I've achieved it or not and I've set a deadline for achieving it. It should also be achievable and realistic as it's only 1 short video per month.)

2) Understand the obstacles: Taking the video is OK, but I need to practise speaking direct to camera. Editing is slow, but should speed up now I'm more familiar with the software.

3) Being positive: I need to become more confident when taking videos. I feel shy and embarrassed trying to talk to the camera and I haven't yet tried interviewing anyone, though that would add interest to the video. I need to think of myself as someone who successfully makes videos so if anyone asks what I'm doing, I can answer confidently.

4) Stay on Task and Show the world you can do it: I will set up reminders in my diary for the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 milestones so I can check that I'm on target. If I find the posting schedule is slipping, I'll reassess my goal and also look into ways of speeding up the video making process. I think my LiveJournal and (possibly) Facebook will be the best places to reflect on my progress so I have a record of what went well and what didn't go so well. I'll also post updates in here. Making my goals public helps with accountability. I've declared I'm doing this, if no videos appear, I'll have to explain why!

(This update is based on a challenge I run in Habitica in the Long-Term Goal Accountability Guild. The idea is that by stating your goal clearly and publicly, you are more likely to stick with it. There will be occasional updates here and links to the videos (which will have subtitles in English) when they're uploaded.)

Current Mood: determined determined

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8/52 for the group 2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: H is for Hygge

The warm and cozy lifestyle that hygge promotes has been a key part of Danish culture since the early 1800s when the word first appeared in the written language (it's derived from a Norwegian word for "well-being").

You don't need anything special to make your life more hyggelig (hygge-like), it's more of an attitude of mind.

Just take a little time out, put down the phone and chill out with a hot drink, a comforting snack and a book.

The craze for hygge may have now passed to be replaced by konmari minimalism, but you don't need anything special to make things hyggelig.

Taking a break
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During our working life, we have more than once turned G's hobby into our job. What had once been fun suddenly became pressured and turned into hard work, so I find this article a refreshing change from the usual, "Follow your dream," advice.

Adam J. Kurtz, author of Things Are What You Make of Them has rewritten the maxim for modern creatives:

"Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally."

More recently, when I was made redundant, I did take some steps towards trying to sell the things I crocheted, but people won't pay a realistic price and so even a huge amount of work doesn't generate an adequate income. I now just crochet and knit for myself and occasionally make gifts if I'm sure they'll be appreciated.

Even more recently, after decades of dreaming of being a professional writer, I decided to write fiction just for fun. When I was in my 30s, I fell into the trap of feeling that payment for stories was validation and also believed the old quote from Samuel Johnson, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." I wasted many many hours polishing stories for submission when I'd have had more enjoyment out of writing the next one. Basically I turned what had been a hobby when I was a teenager into hard work and never ended up making more than a few pounds from it.
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(I'm trying to keep politics out of my LJ because it's an online haven of calm in the midst of all the stormy social media, but these thoughts have been going round in my head and I wanted to make a note of them.)

Reading Ian Dunt's recent post on the current state of play in May's attempts to push Brexit through, I've realised that the basic problem we are facing right now is that people are liking the idea of things, but don't like any of the real, practical steps necessary to get there. It's like the person who says they want to write a novel because they like the idea of being a writer, but they won't sit down at the word processor day after day to actually do it. Or the person who fancies running a marathon and boasts that they'll do it one day, but won't actually get out of bed early in order to go for a run to train before work.

Leave won the referendum because people liked the idea of being free from the EU and able to pursue their fantasy future where Britain bestrides the world like a colossus. But the minute any version of "leave" is pinned down in detail, it's not acceptable to a large swathe of Leave voters and the only way they can cope with the very real downsides to leaving the EU is to declare it "project fear".

The same now applies to parliament. The majority of MPs don't want No Deal, but they won't support the motions that would prevent it nor push to take real steps to remove it from the table. The Leave supporting MPs still like the idea of leaving, but won't vote for May's withdrawal agreement which, given the red lines she was given to work with, is the best deal available.

Politics used to be called the "art of the possible". Somehow that got forgotten and now our political system is completely broken.

Current Mood: sad sad

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7/42 for the group 2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: G is for Gather

I'm a bit late with the weekly photo, but there is a good reason this time.

It's my turn to set up the meeting room for our local Quaker meeting tomorrow and we always have a bunch of flowers on the table in the middle. I don't have any flowers in my garden at this time of year, other then the ivy on the wall, so that will have to do. Obviously I didn't want to gather it too early or it would have wilted by Sunday.

I do find ivy interesting because it's backwards to most plants. It flowers in the autumn and has its berries in late winter/early spring.

Gathering ivy
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6/52 for the group 2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: F is for Fifties

As I had nothing from the 50s, I had to think of a different way of interpreting the theme. Other people had done 50s memorabilia, £50 notes and 50p pieces, so what was left?

I had actually given up and decided to use the off-topic shot of the tiny daffodils (which of course I don't post to the group, but I do add to my album), then I spotted these in the Co-op on Saturday evening while shopping for something for dinner.

50 teabags
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I've spoken quite a lot of Welsh this week. There was the usual lesson on Monday morning, the Wednesday morning chat in the cafe, plus the Merched y Wawr meeting in the evening.

Then, on Thursday, I chatted in Welsh for nearly an hour with my young Skype partner in Australia. Due to time zones, we start at 9 a.m. in the morning UK time which is after work for them. It works out really well because my brain works better in the morning than late at night.

This morning we tried something a little different and asked one another questions. This might seem an obvious strategy for language practice, but the SSiW course creator pushes the "just go down the pub and have a chat" approach and I've seen people on the forum being dismissive of what they called the "evening class" method of asking prepared questions.

However, aiming for a free-ranging chat about whatever comes to mind at the time might work for extroverts who do socialising naturally and have lots of things in common that they're happy to talk about, like sport, but it doesn't work very well for introverts who find socialising difficult enough in their first language. We will therefore continue using questions as prompts because it produced a much better flow of conversation with no awkward pauses.

In other news, I won a some little daffodils in the raffle at Merched y Wawr. They're the variety tête a tête and are sprouting nicely.

Tiny daffodils
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I am mostly keeping my LJ free of politics because it makes a nice calm haven from the frantic Facebook and Twitter debates. However, I just thought I'd post this.

We were in the anti-Brexit protest that was going on outside the Labour Party conference in September 2018. There were lots of Labour party members and voters in our march and rally. In the conference, they passed a motion setting out how to proceed. Here's a well-argued article wondering why Corbyn isn't carrying out the members' wishes.

"It is true that during the 2017 election Labour campaigned to deliver Brexit. But Labour lost that election. In light of current events, the priority must be how to take the matter forward in a way that promotes the party’s goals while preserving the unity and strength of the movement.

During its 2018 general conference, it was agreed that Labour would seek to trigger a confidence vote in the government, press for a general election and, short of that, ask for a second referendum. It was also agreed that the party would do all it could to avert a no-deal Brexit. The party has delivered on the first two and it needs to do the same with the third."

The problem is, Corbyn seems to be as keen on Brexit as Farage is, so how to get the party to unite as a pro-Remain party?

Meanwhile a happier story from Wales...

It may look like a piece of graffiti to some, but the "Cofiwch Dryweryn" message ("Remember Tryweryn") painted on this wall is an important reminder of a historic injustice. Last weekend some idiot painted over it. There are now calls to protect it from vandals who think it's a laugh to cover it up.

Thankfully the memorial is as good as new again. Apparently it gets overwritten every so often, but as soon as the students at nearby Aberystwyth University spot it, it gets renewed.

Here they are in front of the restored message.

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5/52 for the group 2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme was: E is for Easy

I would never have bought this yarn myself, but when we were clearing my cousin’s house after she died, I found a bag with some balls of it and a scarf just started. I therefore decided to finish it. It's the easiest possible pattern, just rows of knit (garter stitch), but it's not actually all that easy to do.

The yarn is horrible to knit with as there’s no give and I have to knit as loosely as I can. (I’m naturally a tight knitter.) But the result is soft and pretty and it will make a nice scarf in due course.


Current Mood: creative creative

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4/52 for the group 2019 Weekly Alphabet Challenge

This week's theme is: D is for Dust

When our old vacuum cleaner needed replacing, we bought a Henry. More recently, we bought what is officially called a Dustbuster Flexi, but we like to call her "Henrietta". :)

Henry & Henrietta

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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