Friday, 30 June 2006

Playing granny

Dilly remarked that Squiffany is quite badly behaved by the end of the week. I admitted that it could well be my fault, as I am quite indulgent on the Fridays when I look after her. She took the confession kindly, agreeing that Al has much the same effect on his baby's behaviour.

I don't let her get away with bad manners and she is expected to say please and thank you, and to wave bye-bye to friends whom I've chatted to for 10 minutes in the supermarket while she sits patiently in the trolley seat. But when she waves imperiously towards the garden and expects to be let out to scrabble in the gravel, and spreads toys all over the drawing room and leaves them for me to clear up, I don't raise a murmur. I'm so pleased to see her face light up when I come in the room, to see her enthusiastically tucking into a meal I've cooked and to hear her repeat a word I've taught her, I disregard any minor naughtiness as 'sweet' and let her get away with nearly anything.
Mind you, she is better behaved with me than with her mum at nappy-changing time. I have suggested playing 'up ... down.' She enjoys this and does not try to escape, as she does with Dilly.
She is well behaved on the whole, I think. She knows she must not pick flowers, for example, so puts her hands behind her back to remove temptation while sniffing loudly at the scent and exclaiming at their prettiness.

I have escaped early alcohol-related disease. Apparently (and dreadfully) people in their 20s and 30s are seriously affected, by liver disease and binge-drinking. I have long been affected by the awful death of Bix Beiderbecke, who died, with horrible DTs at the age of 26, after several years of alcoholism. It seems particularly poignant when someone had such talent and, it appeared, so much to live for.
It's all right to fall apart in your 50s though, isn't it?

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Goodbye to all that

It feels a little odd. I've been a governor at the village school for eighteen years and have just been to my last governors' meeting. Things are going very well there, so I decided to quit, before the next crisis comes along.

I joined as a parent governor, a couple of terms before my son started his education there (this was all right, it's allowed for in the eligibility rules). The then Rector rang me up and asked me if I would consider being a governor - rather flattered (for I was young and naive in those days), I said yes. And then he asked if I would be clerk as well. I felt i could hardly say no. So, the first meeting I attended, I took the minutes for.

At that time, there were 24 pupils, aged 4 - 9, at the school. My son became the 25th. By the time he left, there were 56 children there, and a couple of years later there were 76. It is a tiny school on a very small site and, in a couple of years, a new school will be built on the field opposite - nicely in time for Squiffany to attend.

We've had our ups and downs. Four years ago the chairman of governors died suddenly. At the time we were going through considerable problems, with governor and staff resignations, a temporary headteacher and dwindling pupil numbers. I became chairman, I knew what to do (I'm good in an emergency, if at no other time) and, with support from parents, staff and the Local Education Authority and the Diocesan Board of Education, we pulled things round pretty quickly. I never want to go through a time like that again though, and that is why I'm going now. But I really don't know whether to be relieved or sorry.

I'm putting a brave face on it though, we're having parties!


I should like to make it clear to all enquirers that I kiss frogs, not toads.
Kissing a toad would be weird. I am not weird. Kissing a frog has royal precedence and is a not-unpleasant undertaking.
I have not kissed a newt for quite forty years.

And apologies for rather over-purple prose yesterday, I'm not sure what came over me. I'll leave it as it is, to teach me a lesson.

Further clarification
I have now received a suggestion that I am unfair to toads. This is not so. There are many animals I do not kiss. I am deeply attached to pigs, elephants and ducks, to take but three examples. I am fond of spiders and elephants, to suggest two more. I have never kissed any of these creatures. The animals I do, on occasion, kiss include dogs, cats, horses, very small lambs and chicks and, if invited, chimpanzees.
I also kiss people. Not all. Mostly ones whom I like, but occasonally, politely, I will include those whom I hardly know but who expectantly pucker up and dart towards my face.
Now that they know where my lips have been, they may not be so keen to kiss them again.

A further email has explained it all. Although couched in stern, almost aggressive, language (I have been accused of institutionalised speciesism), its anxiously unconfident undertone is only too clear. Through his specious accusation, my dear friend has simply displayed that he is jealous. Of a frog.

Walter dear, I kiss frogs because it's traditional. And I am ever curious, and ever optimistic of metamorphosisication. And frogs are adorable. They do not, I confess, particularly enjoy being kissed; not by me at any rate, but they are stoical little creatures and bear the ordeal bravely.

If I were faced with a sweet-faced frog and a hunky Wally and only one kiss to spare, it is only too evident where that kiss would go. Isn't it.


Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Beautifully blue

It is only eight days since I last took the Yagnub to Norwich road, but in that time two fields of flax have flowered. Is there a prettier flower for a farmer to grow? I hardly think so. It makes me as happy as does the sight of a rainbow. It's not a common sight around here; maybe, if it were, it would become hackneyed, but I don't think I could ever dislike it as I do oilseed rape. When that was uncommon (or when it was more likely to be a field of mustard which looks, in flower, the same), I quite liked to see the bright yellow splash. Now I am annoyed by its pungent smell and its brashness.

But flax will always be a pleasure I'm sure. And I'm going to Norwich again tomorrow, so can enjoy it afresh.

Many thanks to any witches, and warlocks (or are you wizards?) who influenced the weather imps. It was perfect. Sunny, but not too hot, except occasionally, which was pleasurable enough to make one stretch like a cat.

I bought a hat, some bacon and a wooden jigsaw for Squiffany. Alone, I'd probably have prowled more expensively around the food tent, but as it was, I enjoyed the company and the sights.

One of which was a display of tomato plants grown (I think) by the inmates of Norwich prison; of old and rare tomatoes. Old and rare tomatoes are delicious fruits which have only gone out of commercial use because they are odd in colour or shape, rarely because they lack flavour. I picked up the seed brochure of Simply Vegetables, from Suffolk-based Plants of Distinction. It is wonderful, with many unusual and colourful varieties and I will certainly order from them. It's a small company with five staff; their website is nothing yet except a picture of the catalogues and a request for a catalogue, but it can better to work within your means and grow than to be overambitious and fail.

When i was watering the tomatoes this evening, a tiny black froglet jumped out of a pot and hopped away. From now on there will be dozens of them in the greenhouse. I'll catch one sooner or later and take a picture for you. And kiss it, of course, before I let it go - no frog, however small, escapes a cuddle from me.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006


The dragonfly had just hatched from the pond and was still drying its wings. It flew away before I could take a better photo. There was a beautiful one in the greenhouse the other day - I had to catch it in my hands to let it out. Needed both hands to hold it, so I couldn't take a picture then.

Squiffany likes stones and will happily sit on the gravel playing with them for ages. We have to watch her though - she keeps wanting to sneak one into her mouth. She hasn't swallowed one yet, but I suspect that it's only a matter of time - like Petite's Tadpole did yesterday. You expect to watch a baby hawkishly, but as they grow up, you become more unwisely trusting.

PS. These pictures took all day, on and off, to load - I'm uneasily aware that they were hardly worth it. It's been like having to explain a joke, and then still getting a puzzled stare. I'm almost - almost - ready to resort to alcohol for comfort. The dragonfly shows up well when enlarged though, just click on it.

Blogger is having a few technical problems.

I took some photos this morning that I have, ever since been trying to upload. No luck. Maybe later.

Tomorrow, the Sage and I are going to the Norfolk Show. We will pick up his sister from the station at 9.20 and have a day out together. So please, any witches reading this, I would be most obliged for a Good Weather spell - you know what I want, no rain (or possibly the lightest shower while I'm in the food tent) but not blazing sun which will turn z into a sleepy zzz, and possibly a sunburned one too, were I foolish enough to let it touch my unwary shoulders.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Samphire, Sage and Duty

I meant to do lots today, but it didn't quite happen. No real reason, laziness took over; the sort of faffing around that means you are never actually idle but you are only too aware that you will finish with very little accomplished, which will be regretted in a day or two when you are truly busy.

Never mind, nice to chill a bit. And the fishman did indeed have samphire on his van (see yesterday, you don't need a link) and it was lovely. If you ever cook it, ignore the trendy anything-but-steaming-is-anathema school of thought, as it is really salty and needs plenty of water to tone it down. But it only needs a few minutes to cook. And then, hold it by the stalk end and suck off the flesh, leaving the stalky bit behind.
It's the finger food element; I don't know if it's more childish or sensual - they being, of course, somewhat self-contradictory. Well yes, I do know which.

I discussed a matter with the Sage last night, and he agreed, with remarkably little persuasion, that I was right (!) and duly sorted it this evening. And then earnestly told me the good reasons why he'd done that. "Er," I said, "I know. That was what I said yesterday."

He is adorable.

The difference between us is that I have impractical ideas and tell him about them with great enthusiasm. He usually enters into the spirit of the thing and, if it's really stupid, then does nothing about it. Or, if it's wacky but possible, we get on with it. Like my wall, which has still not been started as his job is to choose the bricks. This is fine, as mine is to build the wall and it suits me right now not to have to begin.
He, on the other hand, has an idea and acts upon it, with no exit strategy at all, a bit like Bush/Blair in Iraq but less damaging (no further comment, this is not a political blog). Sometimes this works magnificently, it rarely completely fucks up, but sometimes it fizzles out and never comes to a proper conclusion, and this is one of those situations.
I tell him that he still thinks like a bachelor and it's true. He sometimes talks to me first, but only if he wants to put a situation forward, knowing I will be bound to come up with the *brilliant idea* that he had in the first place.

I had a phone call from the High School this afternoon. They have a special tea party in July, where people who have won an award for effort, achievement, whatever - the sort of thing that won't get a Speech Day prize but is worth celebrating - receive prizes, mostly sponsored by local businesses or the PTA. Unfortunately, the governor who usually hands these out is not available. Nor is the chairman of governors. You probably have already worked out who is the vice-chairman (don't hold with chairwoman/person or Chair sort of nonsense, chairman is not gender specific). It's the afternoon of the lunch I'm doing for the Bishop and the Rectorship candidates. "You will say a few words? Just a short speech, saying how proud the governors are and that sort of thing." I sounded enthusiastic and pleased to step in. I lied.

But anyone can see he was born

Husband has an appointment with a financial advisor this week, who rang to ask him to bring in identity documents for him to photocopy. I passed the message on. "You'll need your birth certificate," I said. He looked gloomy. "It used to be in the *designated place for such things*," I said helpfully. "It isn't now, I looked." "When you take things like that out, why on earth don't you put them straight back again?" I grumbled.
"Good question" said he.
"Good answer" said I.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Vegging again

Lovely home produce for dinner tonight. Tiny new potatoes, the first courgettes and the first broad bean tops with tarragon flavoured omelettes, all vegetables had been growing less than half an hour before and the eggs were from our own bantams. Just delicious.

I can't remember where I first got the idea from of cooking broad bean tops like spinach, but I've been doing it for years. Elizabeth Jane Howard, who is one of Al's customers and knows a great deal, told him that it is a very old-fashioned country food, but I think I just tried it out one day and liked it.
Blackfly love broad beans, but if you pick off the tops before they get a hold, they just don't attack the lower parts of the plant. If you leave the tops on, the aphids smother the whole thing and the pods are stunted and distorted.
I've probably left it too late to tell you this year, because if you grow broad beans you may have already discarded the tops, but you cook them just like spinach; that is, rinse them and steam or simmer them with no added water in a pan. They do not reduce in bulk as much as spinach and have a similar taste, but with an elusive extra flavour of broad bean flower, which is one of my favourite flower scents. When driving through the countryside at this time of the year I will suddenly start to sniff - "Broad beans, I smell broad beans, open the window, where are they?" and everyone is expected to crane their heads around to find the field and point it out to me so that I can enthuse.
Used to drive my daughter to distinct irritation and, now that I've written this, I can see why.

Another favourite seasonal food coming up soon - samphire. Pronounced 'sampher' locally, it is usually sold by fishmongers. It grows along the East Anglian coast, but most of it is harvested in North Norfolk. I first tasted it in 1970 (I have a good and specific memory for important things, as you see) and, rather irritatingly, it has been discovered by smart restaurants in the last few years, which has put the price up and somewhat endangered its sustainability. It can only be picked for a few weeks, before it starts to coarsen and then flower.
The fishmonger visits us on a Monday morning; I hope he'll have some on his van tomorrow.

My obsession with food sometimes reaches ridiculous proportions.


When the Aga is turned off, I miss toast. Toast from a toaster is all right under a poached egg or a big black mushroom, but on its own, maybe lightly buttered, Marmited or marmaladed, Aga toast is the best.
I don't own a toaster any more, most of the year I don't need one and in high summer, when Agaless, it hardly seems worth finding room for another appliance for a disappointing gustatory experience. Bread toasted under a hot grill is all right, but it hardly seems worth pre-heating, and slow-cooked toast just doesn't cut the mustard. And, inevitable, one burns most of it too.
I have an Aga-toast-making implement, but only use it when I need to make eight slices at a time; normally I just put a slice or two straight on to the warm (simmering) plate. The useful thing about that is that, if I were to wander away and forget it, it doesn't burn. If left, it simply curls up and dries out, so the kitchen - the whole house, indeed - does not fill with the unmistakeable smell.

There are some smells that can't be anything else. Burned toast and boiled-over milk are two that fill the house for ages. The least whiff of TCP - I understand that you aren't allowed to have it in hospital as it is so pervasive that it upsets some people. We each have our own particular favourites or pet hates, but others, good or bad, are instantly recognisable.

I've got music to transcribe for the clarinet, then off to church, then off to the pub. This afternoon, I'll lounge on the lawn reading the papers if the sun shines or on the sofa indoors if not.

Have a lovely Sunday.

x z

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Still jammin' tonight

So much for jam-making this morning. I got up late. By the time I'd performed the usual ablutions, inserted eye-aids, painted a bright smile on my face and read emails, it was nearly time to go to the Rectory. Those of you who have long memories and have used them here will know that our Rector left us a few months ago. Although he and his family left the Rectory clean and tidy, it is not until all furniture is removed that one sees the dirty marks on the walls left by furniture, where one feels for the light-switch etc; furthermore, the garden had become overgrown and only the lawn had been cut. A working-party was called for.
It was called for on Thursday. I said what evenings next week i was free. Someone suggested Saturday morning. I said fine, and emailed likely parishioners to ask for help, and had several offers and three apologies, all with cast-iron excuses (one was working, another is on two sticks and the third is visiting Somerset).
Apparently, in the other parishes, some people were a bit miffed. Short notice, they said.
But if you rang and said "Time for a coffee and a chat?", would they say "yes," "no, sorry" or "short notice"? But a couple of them came anyway and the work got done.

And then I went to the pub for lunch, which took quite some time.

And then I came home and said hello.

And then I went to a party, but only for an hour.

And then I went to practise the clarinet for church tomorrow.

And then I came and cooked and ate dinner and watered the greenhouses.

So it was not until 9 o'clock that I started making jam.

Middle C

You are Ocean Blue

You're both warm and practical. You're very driven, but you're also very well rounded.
You tend to see both sides to every issue, and people consider you a natural diplomat.

Well rounded, yes, but maybe not in quite the way implied.

Friday, 23 June 2006

All her own work

Squiffany's first brushwork.

Can't write tonight, too tired. Glut of strawberries, hence manic jam-making. Only three more batches to go, that's for tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 22 June 2006


I received an email yesterday afternoon. Its title was, eponymously enough, TLC. 'Aw', I thought (should a thought have quotation marks? I'm not sure so, bet-hedgingly, I'll just put in one), 'someone is thinking kind thoughts and is sending them to me.' I opened the email. 'Reminder - TLC meeting tomorrow at 2.00. Look forward to seeing you there, *****.' *

Yup, Teaching and Learning Committee at the High School.

Maybe they will have sticky buns though, they have lovely sticky buns at the high school sometimes, with pink icing. And their quiche is gorgeous, far better pastry than I can make, more filling than pastry and just a touch more than a hint of mustard. Gilly and her team are great cooks, and their great cookery predates Jamie O's campaign.

Maybe I take Teaching and Learning rather less seriously than tlc?

* to preserve the anonymity of the sender, even though he didn't send it but asked a secretary to do it instead.

Unwisely (?) I have offered on an impulse to do lunch here for 16 or so, on the day of the interviews for the new Rector. I realise that the main reason I have done so is to have the opportunity to cast my own eye on the candidates. I was glad to offload the job of the interviewing itself, largely because I am not as churchy as it looks as if I am and I am not sure what I should be looking for.
I suppose the bishop is coming. Ah. Better get out the good wine then.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Losing some of its stuffing

A friend visited Get Stuffed today. And bought from them too. Al went there yesterday. At about 11.30, but Eileen was only in for the morning, so he wanted to have got through the pre-lunch rush and have eaten before 1 o'clock, in time for the lunchtime rush - siesta afterwards, then there is an about-to-pick-up-the-children-from-school rush, followed by the picked-up-the-children, getting-something-for-tea rush, then the jesus, shops-about-to-close rush (doesn't count as blasphemy if there isn't a capital J, anyway, god has other things to think about and doesn't care).

So, he visited Get Stuffed; at least, that was his intention. But there was no one in the shop, just a woman with her hair in a bandana, propping up the doorway with a cigarette hanging from her lip. Al was a bit disconcerted and kept walking. A few minutes later, he walked back. She was still there. He just didn't fancy a sandwich any more, especially an overpriced one (and that was before he knew about the cold bacon).

So that was another customer they lost.

I walked past at about half-past twelve today. No customers. Woman in bandana and man who was harassed were both behind the counter. I didn't buy anything, I went home for lunch.

Don't you love it when I get sentimental?

Not being very busy today, I have been catching up with some blogs. Of course, I read a few every day, but not all of them every day because there are too many I like, and I have work to do. Anyway, I missed a few posts from Anna, which one should never do because she's GOOD, especially because she asked a question, which I answered, and then didn't look at the follow-up for a few days.

That was the preamble. Here's the prelude. A comment, on little red boat, see number 6 from Damian, reminded me of an occasion 30 years ago.

My second child was born at home. At my mother's home, in fact, as it was bigger and easier to move in to for a few days. Whilst I can see the advantages of a hospital birth, and would see it as a lot less risky to have your first baby in hospital and all of them if there is any likelihood of a problem, having had three babies quite uneventfully (in a medical sense), the home birth was the best experience by far.

He was born at about 10.30 pm and, since all was well, the doctor left not long after. The midwife looked after me, as midwives do, while my husband and mother and stepfather cooed over the baby in my arms and we all bonded and were happy. By midnight, she was ready to leave. "Do you know," I said "I'm really hungry. Is anyone else?" Everyone was hungry. My mother had a cold leg of lamb in the fridge. She went and made a pile of sandwiches. We picnicked, minty lamb sandwiches and salad, next to the sleeping two-hour-old baby in his cot, and it was the most memorable meal I've ever eaten.
Tonight it will be pretty good though. Remember I posted a picture of artichokes a few weeks ago? Oh. Okay, I'll look it up for you. This is it. I cut the first three tonight. Oh I love artichokes.
Actually, I love food meant to be eaten with the fingers. Especially messily. Particularly vegetables. Asparagus, globe artichokes, sweetcorn, sticks of celery.
I'm going to put a pan of water on to boil. I'm salivating and it's time to cook.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Well, it's late and I was bored

Envy:Very Low
Pride:Very Low

The Seven Deadly Sins Quiz on
This is mostly accurate I should think, except I'd have thought I was more gluttonous than that.

A closed book

I haven't read today's paper yet. Yesterday's was read in the bath at 1am. Saturday's and Sunday's were left untouched. Not that I've thrown them out, I am sure I'll get round to reading them in a day or two.
What is happening to me? I do read every day, but instead of two or three hours of concentrated newspaper and book devouring, it's a casual glance at the paper, and five minutes with a novel while I'm waiting for the Sage to complete his ablutions and join me in bed.

Maybe I am just taking a break. I do hope so. Reading has been my refuge all my life. I remember, distinctly, the first book I ever could read to myself and my wonderment and sheer excitement, that the hitherto mysterious black lines on the page, made up of letters that I could pronounce, but in quantities I was daunted by, suddenly turned from abstract symbols into real words. In times of great stress I read voraciously, often a book I know well so that I am not distracted by too much uncertainty in the plot, tension, suspense - not what I need when I am anxious enough already. And, on holiday a couple of years ago, I read more books in a week than I have ever read before. On some days I went through four books. I read all three books of 'The Lord of the Rings' in two days. Reread them, I should say, but years after the first occasion so I wasn't skimming. And that week of relaxation healed me, after several difficult years.

So, when I simply read for pleasure, when I will go for a 'difficult' book, when I am not tempted to read the last few pages just to break the tension the author has spent hours and months in crafting, then I know that there is no hidden worry that is claiming my patience and my subliminal concentration, and that in itself adds to the pleasure.

But just now, I'm not really bothered. And I don't know why. I hope it doesn't last much longer.

Monday, 19 June 2006

Ugly Fruit

There is an article in today's Eastern Daily Press, saying that Waitrose are to start selling "ugly" fruit. This is not the same as the Ugli Fruit; they mean visually flawed or oddly shaped, it will be marketed as suitable for cooking and cost 50p to £1 less per kilo.
I suppose they will give their growers a reduced price too, but it is a big step in the right direction and far less wasteful of perfectly good food.
Last autumn, these carrots went down a storm in Al's shop. Dug up from a smallholding down the road on the day they were sold, they were delicious and flavoursome, but would not have been considered of marketable quality by most shops or buyers. But round here, a premium is paid for "dirty" Fenland celery too.

The other side of the coin is that, apparently, quantities of strawberries are being shipped in from the Continent. One of our growers told the Sage woefully that he is being paid 20p less per punnet by the supermarket, as they will not pay more for British strawberries than they will for imported ones. This puzzles me, actually. I would have thought that, given a choice, some shoppers would go for the English ones, some for the cheaper ones, so why not give them that choice? Or else if the supermarkets, who make mind-boggling profits each year, care as much as they say they do, they could decide to make a big publicity campaign about supporting home-grown strawberries, even if it costs a few pence more. But if this price drop is reflected in other areas, I can see more growers giving up altogether. It has been a dreadful season this year, starting several weeks late as the weather in May was cold and wet, and then in June it changed abruptly to scorching hot, which means that some of the fruit ripens unevenly and is spoiled.

Until now we've been eating our cucumbers, sometimes two or three a day. But today I cut 8 for the shop. Some lucky Bungalothians are in for a treat. All of them were quite straight, which will give rise to a grumble or two. Al's customers like the really curvaceous cucumbers.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

One of the lay-dees? Surely not.

I have no idea whether this is good or bad. But probably very dull.

You Are 72% Lady

Overall, you are a refined lady with excellent manners.
But you also know when to relax and not get too serious about etiquette

Writer's block

I have to write a piece for a newsletter. I've been attempting to for a couple of weeks now. How to say boring stuff not boringly in half a page sums it up. I left the work I've done for a few days, returned to it, deleted and started again. Not for the first time.
Deadline is on Tuesday. I'm going to a party today and will probably not feel like work when I get home.
Maybe I'll write better after a few drinks?
No, I tried that last week. That lot got deleted the next day.
I've a feeling I should have stuck with the first draft. I wonder what I said that time?

Nothing like a whinge for putting the backbone back in the back (huh? makes some sort of sense I suppose) as I got it done and respectfully sent it round to the rest of the committee for them to say "Pah! Write it again."
And I finished it after the party furthermore, which was an excellent do, thrown by friends, newly retired, who are selling up their gorgeous home and moving to France. They have bought a flat in Colchester too, which they will let, in case they change their minds and want to return home but the property market here has done another hike.
It turned out that I was the designated driver so I behaved myself.
Didn't want any dinner, but Al and Dilly were toasting marshmallows on the embers of their barbecue, so I wandered across and shared.
Still got my 'speech' - annual review, not a big deal really thank goodness, at least I don't have to be funny - to sort out for Tuesday but as long as I mention the right things and thank everyone by name and leave no one out, it'll be fine.

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Food, inglorious food?

There's a new sandwich bar in town. It's called 'Get Stuffed' which has already caused some outbreaks of DBM amongst the more politely spoken members of Suffolk society.

The day it opened, Al went in to try its wares. All the food was temptingly laid out. The proprieter appeared, looking harassed. "We're not open yet, come back in an hour." It was already around 12.30, but Al left it as long as he could before trying again. This time, the man was nowhere to be seen, so he read the price list while he was waiting. And then slunk out of the door and bought his sandwich elsewhere.
There certainly are people who will pay a higher price for a better, or at any rate fancier, product, but they are more likely to buy at the deli down the road, and those who want freshly made, perfectly acceptable filled rolls will surely go to the cheaper bakery, even if the service is a bit slow there.
I hope he will do well, though not being ready for lunchtime on your first day is not a good start. I mean, it's making sandwiches, I'd manage somehow and not turn away a customer, even if I hadn't had time to make up the full range of salad dressings or flake the fresh wild salmon. I'd apologise for an attenuated menu, knock off 10% as an opening offer and be so friendly that customers would forgive any shortcomings and come back again.
Maybe the name does reflect the attitude after all.

There is a new restaurant in Norwich, called 'Tasteless.' This has caused some bemusement, wondering if English is not the owner's first language perhaps and he didn't realise what he was saying (at least Get Stuffed has some connection with a sandwich bar). A columnist in the local paper published a picture of it last week. She has now had a sniffy communication from the owner, who says that the sign actually says 'Tasteless...taste the difference.' He explains "You know when you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks 'Was everything ok?' and you say 'No' for a joke? Well, we were trying to make it a fun thing like that. We are saying 'Are we tasteless? Come and taste the difference!'"
No, doesn't do it for me. But then I don't wind up waiters either.


Today is the Sage's birthday. As ever, he doesn't want a fuss made so we haven't, I've bought some particularly fine meat from the farm shop stalls at next village's Friday night market and we're having a barbecue this evening.

Everyone else has gone to more trouble than me and my children, it's embarrassing. Dilly has had a cake made and beautifully decorated and she and Al have commissioned a piece of china which will please him hugely, and about which more later. The china factory has made him a piece specially, which is immensely kind and which will touch him more than anything else.
He will have the metal detector from me, which he went and bought, I've since given him the money, I don't think Ro has got anything yet and will have to scurry out this morning, El is going on holiday today and so is relying on getting something ethnic from a muck'n'tat stall in north Africa and Al shines vicariously through Dilly.

We are just not into making a fuss. None of us likes being on the receiving end, so tend not to hand it out either. The men of the family take ignoring their birthdays to the absolute limit they can get away with, though El and I can take a certain amount of pampering. Christmas is better, as it's not all about one person and we all love a party and general celebration. We do tend to give each other ideas for presents though, as we all have, in our time, opened too many deeply unsuitable ones. My mother was once given a Max Bygraves LP - Swingalongamax - by a female friend 'I know you love music' and she was deeply offended, and would have thought it a studied insult if it were not for the fact that the friend never listened to music of any sort and probably found Max the height of suave charm. As maybe he was, but his music was not to our taste (I'm being tactful).

Of course, the best presents are still the wonderful surprises and we have all given and received some of those too. And the Sage has a few treats in store today. I think, having been unimaginative in the present line myself, the best thing I can do now is to go out with him this afternoon and wonder and exclaim at the thrill of metal detecting. Even if, in this neck of the woods, what one mostly finds are bits of shrapnel from the war and the occasional coin which has fallen out of a fisherman's pocket. Maybe I should hide something exciting and challenge him to find it.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Techlinks event Duxford

This is what I did today. I was a helper at Techlinks at Duxford airfield. My engineering chum talked me into it a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it sufficently to volunteer to go back each year. This year, I was helping with the Jitterbug.
Hard work though, 40 children in groups of 4 to see through an hour-long task, then a few minutes later, during which time you frantically refill boxes of equipment, another 40.
Some really great children this year, sometimes you have groups who can't work together, of don't listen to/read instructions, or wait passively to be told what to do, but this time most of them independently read the worksheet, checked the list of equipment, did the right thing in the right order and were happy to go off with their completed item.

So yes, all being well, I'll be back again next year.

What are the advantages of using an electric shaver verse a regular razor blade?

Search engines are very useful, and entertaining through those idle half-hours that those who spend chunks of the day sitting at a desk find themselves landed with, either through not enough work to do, or an understandable disinclination to keep up with work without a scarily near deadline to spur them on.
But they can give annoyingly or entertainly random answers to a simple question. 'What are the advantages of using an electric shaver verse a regular razor blade?' Well, I don't know, but Google it and my totally irrelevant blog is third. An irritated (I should think) Italian checked me out and, I suspect, found me wanting.
He (for I think it is more likely to be a he) should have checked further of course, but if he cares to look back here is my small opinion for what it is worth. Based on hearsay, of course, my chin is not hirsute.

Wet shave: +, you feel as if you've shaved properly, it enables you to look in the mirror and stroke your face proudly, it has just that touch of Real Manliness about it that can give you the moral high ground. I am told that it gives a closer shave, especially if you are the sort of person who sports an incipient beard by lunchtime.
-, likely to give you spots, you sometimes bleed, it takes ages, you can really only do it in the bathroom.
Dry shave: + much quicker and less messy and, if pushed, you can do it while checking your morning emails before leaving the house (this is a significant advantage, as I always put in my contact lenses while checking emails) or in the car park when you arrive at work. It is kinder on sensitive skins.
-, see pluses for wet shave and take the opposite view.

I sat down intending to write about something entirely different. However, always keen to oblige and be useful.

Only one thing. WHY AFTERSHAVE? It bloody hurts, and can't be good for your skin. How glad I am that many men nowadays use a soothing balm or lotion.

Update - Yes! Yes! First and second on Google.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Cynical? What, me?

You Are 60% Cynical

Yes, you are cynical, but more than anything, you're a realist.
You see what's screwed up in the world, but you also take time to remember what's right.

Well thank you very much Blue Witch. I hardly expected to be more cynical than you are, though I'm rarely surprised at anything nowadays.

So, am I lucky or what?

I didn’t think to ask Sal yesterday how she knows I’m so lucky. I’d love her, if she revisits, to tell me – in fact, please, anyone who reads this, am I lucky and why? Or do you perceive me as privileged, and is that the same thing?

I was chatting to a friend yesterday. She and her husband were farmers; they had inherited a small family farm. Sadly, the double blow of swine fever and foot and mouth disease in the country, though not on their farm, left them bankrupt and they lost the farm.
He got a job, but died suddenly last year leaving her widowed with three teenage daughters.
I found out in conversation last night that she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which first flared up in pregnancy, and left her nearly crippled for a time, with three infants.
“I’m so lucky though,” she said. “My family have always been so supportive, and the girls have been wonderful in this past year.”

I know a family in the village: there are four children, all of whom have learning difficulties, one with severe mental and some physical disabilities. They have a reputation, the children, as being a bit thick with short fuses (I report this reputation, I do not say I subscribe to it). But I admire this family more than almost anyone I know. Both parents have jobs, taken on at a time when they could have received about as much in benefits as they earned; they have worked incredibly hard and after about 20 years of marriage, you can see the affection they still have for each other. As a family, they all pull together and are protective of each other. The oldest girl is at college, and has nearly a 12-hour day, getting there and back on foot and by bus. They buy loads of fresh, cheap vegetables, so evidently eat as well as they can. I think they would call themselves lucky too, but to an outsider they would seem to have laboured under adversity.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

What I read

I may be too sensitive to let you know (yet) how many blogs I read, but there are other sites I look at when I need cheering up. Sometimes, several times a day. And, on some of them, you can always be sure of an update. These ones are all American, the first two are hilarious, the third cruelly (sometimes) funny - but some of the victims so deserve it - and the last is interesting and sometimes bemusing. This is not so often updated, in which case I randomly click on an archive date and see what happens.

1. Overheard in New York. So funny, and constantly updated. I have never heard anything half as good in Norwich or London; if some are embellished I don't care, many of them are so odd they surely can only be real.

2.Overheard in the Office, its sister website. Also very good, sometimes makes me splutter with laughter.

3.Go Fug Yourselfk. These are not usually just random shots of a celeb shopping without makeup and looking a bit rough. These are people who have really tried and got it so wrong. This can be quite endearing, or it can be - well, see what you think. They also do not approve of too much thinness, which has to be a good thing.

4.Tricks of the Trade. Some of these are really useful. The most bemusing one of recent days is "Here's how you chamber a round silently to avoid drawing attention to yourself," yes, something I always have needed to know.

Just thought of a fifth, and a British one at that.
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. I read about this ages ago when Stuart and Jenny were interviewed by the Sunday Times. And I like it enough to have bought the book. And taken it on holiday. And read out chucklesome bits to my son, but not often as that is really annoying and, since he is too polite, usually, to protest, I have to self-censor.

And if any of you become addicted, just think of me as a computer virus, but an apologetic one. On the other hand, you might go right off me.


Strawberries have been really late this year, because May was so cold and wet. This month, in contrast, there has been such a heatwave that, now they are starting to ripen, we will be inundated with them. We have three local suppliers.

The smallest producer rang last night to say there would be only two and a half pounds today, so his neighbours will buy them. However, they are the most popular as they are especially delicious and extremely local and we will take all he doesn't need.
One farm uses polytunnels so they are a little less affected by the weather. So we ordered plenty from them last night and picked them up this morning.
Now the other farm has rung to say they are picking now and there will be at least 15 lbs ready by lunch time. Since we have said we will buy their entire crop, we didn't say that we have already ordered elsewhere, so let's hope Al has plenty of customers this afternoon.
The outdoor ones are the very best and they are picked and sold within a few hours. Unlike Sainsbury's, where, as Jamie Oliver boasted in the advertisements last year, the strawberries are picked and on the shelves in 48 hours. Our standards are rather more rigorous, we don't think strawberries, if picked ripe, are fit to be sold 48 hours later.

Says I self-righteously!

Monday, 12 June 2006

And moving on

- because that's what you do..... if you don't know what I mean, read the previous post first.

I went to a meeting to represent the PCC* treasurer, who is working in Cornwall this week so thought she might as well have a few extra days, visit the Eden Project and the like. It's an awfully long way to Cornwall and one might as well make the most of it. I thought it was a good idea to go there for the weekend last October; enjoyed it very much but it was a hell of a lot of driving, best part of 1,000 miles for 3 nights stay.

Anyway, the meeting. Very financial. I put my hand up to make a comment. The Deanery Assessor listened politely, replied .... "in short," he finished, "I agree with you." Well, that was good, he is obviously an intelligent man because I wouldn't have said anything unless I was right (hm). And, since the revised, compromise, proposals he came up with took this into account, I probably will have to talk the PCC into paying over more money next year.
I sat next to a chap in a dog collar wearing not only white socks, but jesus sandals too. Yup, together. Pristine, the socks were, so he must have changed them specially for the meeting - a particularly stylish touch, I thought.

I haven't put a list of links to the blogs I read. This is for several reasons.

1. It would be a bit embarrassing to put in everything I ever read as there are rather a lot of them and it would show how much time I spend on this sort of thing.
2. If I just put in a few favourites, I'd be mortified if one of the others I read and enjoy dropped in and found him or herself omitted.
3. Some of the ones I read, so do all of you. I mean, I hardly need to mention Greavsie*** (just as one example), do I.
4. A few are a bit rude.

* the committee that runs the local church, the Parochial Church Council.
** Mind you, I was a Suffolk girl myself until 20 years ago.
*** Sorry Greavsie, can't emulate your stylish ways, so just copy your asterisks.

Visited by a fox

- and ten chickens are missing, presumed dead. We have found a few bodies, but it probably hid some for later retrieval. It happened in broad daylight at about 5 o'clock this afternoon.
Can't blame an animal for following its instincts, but if we have a sighting of it, we will shoot. Sorry, but it doesn't understand restraint, how could it, and it will be back for more.
The cock is wandering around on the Ups and Downs and won't come home. Luckily, the mother hens with young chicks are all right in their small runs, but the mother with half-grown ones was killed, with three of the youngsters and there is only one left.
Sad as it is, it's part of having free-range chickens in the country, and it's one of those things. The Sage is just relieved that none of his particular pets have gone this time, but the next-door field that doesn't belong to us has not been cut for hay yet and it's ideal cover for a fox.

Cool kitchen

It needed ten days of heatwave, but finally, this morning, I have turned off the Aga. It is done with reluctance really, as my alternative means of cooking are three table-top items, none of which is any substitute. There is an electric oven with two cooking rings, which is used for most of the cooking. However, as it has to go on the counter top, the rings are uncomfortably high and I can't see into the saucepans. Of course, I can't put it on the table, which is lower, because of the electric lead. There is a grill, which is fine, which can also be used as an oven, which is not brilliant. Then there is the microwave, which has a combination grill. Between them I can do most things I need to, but it's more effort and we have to eat off cold plates.

For the first few years we lived here, the Aga was on all the time as it was my only means of cooking and provided all our hot water as well. Then we had a run of very hot summers and my temper frayed. I'd spend an hour watering the greenhouse and picking the vegetables, then prepare them and cook a meal, by which time I was growling. I'd shove it all on the dining table and mutter 'give me a drink, I don't want food.' I'd settle down after a while of course, because I rather like food.
So we had an immersion heater put in, bought the mini oven (the other equipment had found its way into the kitchen over the years) and the Aga goes off in the summer. Though, after the first few puritanical years, it occurred to me that if I did want to do a lot of cooking for a couple of days, or make jam or something like that, there was nothing to stop me turning it on just for a day or two.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Relaxed Sunday

The Archdeacon visited, so all 6 parishes in our group joined for a service in one village church. It is in a village bisected by the Norwich to Yagnub road and, having parked at the village hall (where I'd dropped off my contribution towards lunch) I walked the half-mile to the church, glad that I had changed out of the frivolous shoes I'd worn earlier in the morning. Even so, I wished I was tall enough to be able to get away without high heels. It gave me the opportunity to notice how beautifully looked after all the houses and gardens are - I'd certainly let the side down if I lived there, as I don't notice weeds until they actually trip me up or until I can't hack my way through the undergrowth.

The church is really pretty too. It is usually kept locked, which is a pity as churches should be available to anyone who wants to visit them; understandable however, as it is set well back and not visible from the road. Either side of the archway between the nave and the chancel* are some really pretty wall paintings - frescos I suppose - with flowers, and angels above. In the chancel there are more lovely flower frescos on the window returns (I'm showing my ignorance of architectural terms here) and the wooden chancel ceiling is painted too. The church is beautifully cared for, with polished brass which you can see is always looked after; newly and occasionally cleaned items have a fleetingly different look to them, which you can recognise but not necessarily describe. Maybe I was in a particulary relaxedly mood-to-be-pleased, but I noticed that the altar cloth, too, was beautifully embroidered. The only things in the church I didn't particularly care for were some of the Victorian (I think) stained glass windows, which I found rather too heavily colourful for the delicacy of the rest of the decoration, though some of them were attractive in themselves.
I don't know anything much about stained glass in churches, by the way, having simply three recognisable categories 'old' 'Victorian' and 'modern'.

*Parts of a church - the nave is the body of the church, where the congregation sits, the chancel is the section where the choir and the minister sit and the sanctuary is the area around the altar. Churches always are built facing west to east, with the altar at the eastern end.

That's about it really, except that the Sage has bought his birthday present and cheerily announced how much I will have paid for it. Oh good, now he has what he wants, or will come Saturday, as I have confiscated it until then. Unfortunately, it's a metal detector, using which is, in my opinion but not his (obviously), one of the deadliest boring things in the world, so there is no danger of more togetherness in the Sage/Z household. I wanted to buy him some really nice tables and chairs for the garden, but I acknowledge that 'giving' something you really want yourself is not much of a gift. Maybe I'll buy them for myself as an advance birthday present instead.

Saturday, 10 June 2006

How to enjoy the summer

I have been considering my World Cup strategy. It can, of course, be ignored altogether, but that seems a little churlish for an event that is of such importance to so many people in so many places and means you cut yourself completely out of conversations in the pub.

So I will watch some matches. And I will choose a team to support in each. The nub of the strategy is, simply, to cheer on the underdog. I think this could be a great deal more fun than becoming dreadfully partisan and, since most of those I root for are doomed to lose anyway - not every match of course, but in their groups, there is little need to feel I am jinxing their chances.

So, yay, Ecuador, well done. And go for it, Trinidad and Tobago.

My summer jollity is assured.

Friday, 9 June 2006

The exciting thing about an English summer .......

is that each hot day could be the last. So, even though we will, any day, start grumbling that 'the garden needs the rain', we love it really.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Powerful but not Invincible

My husband overestimates the Power of Google. “Do you remember *Uncle* Shag?” he enquired. “You never met him, he sent us a carving knife set for a wedding present and he died not long after. Then, his daughter wrote to let me know when her mother died too.”

Well, I remember the name, hard to forget really.

“I’d like to get in touch with the daughter again, can you look her up?”
“What’s her name, where does she live?”
“I don’t know, I thought you could Google Uncle Shag.”
“Has he some reason to be immortalised on the internet? What was his first name, anyway?”
“I don’t know, what’s Shag short for?”
I played it straight.
“It’s not short for anything, it’s a nickname. Anyway, even if you knew, how would that lead me to his married daughter, when you don’t know anything about her?”

Well, I did my best. He knew Shag’s father’s name, but unfortunately it was William Wallace. You Google William Wallace and see where it gets you. I looked up the place where he used to work, but it doesn’t exist any more. I tried the 1901 census, and got sidetracked into looking up our families instead.

He says he will search his memory for a few more clues.

The sun shone

So we made hay.
A good crop this year, because of all the May rain. The farmer who keeps his dry (that is, very pregnant so not being milked) cows on the Ups and Downs cuts the hay and he says the cows love it, probably because it is neither sprayed nor artificially fertilised, and it is a tasty mix of four types of grass. When ragwort or thistles grow, we weed by hand. That is, pull them out before they seed, I wouldn’t want anyone to surmise that we go over a 4-acre field with a trowel.

And, although you've seen the wisteria already this year, the evening sun on the house always makes it the best time of day for a photo.
With a better view of the Tudor chimney and you can see the Victorian ones too. This house has had a good many alterations in 450 years.

Yes indeed, you can see the creeper growing over onto the roof at the gable end. And, you're right again, that is a bramble growing through the hebe in the foreground. Time to turn our attention from the vegetables and towards the rest of the garden I suppose.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Man of few words, but who needs more if they are the right ones?


I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing lettuce for a salad. I was going to a committee meeting followed by a lunch party and everyone was taking some food.

Ro came down the back stairs, we greeted each other and he rummaged in the fridge for his lunch, which he had packed up the night before. He picked up his car keys and then looked at me.

"Hm, nice dress," he said. "Yes. Nice."

Made my day.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Burning the candle..... both ends is one thing, it's when one heats it in the middle too that droop occurs. I'm not sure what has gone awry in the last week or so, too much slacking about planting vegetables I suppose. At this time of the year it is much more pleasant to be outside during the day, and I am very fortunate to work for myself from home, so I can choose my own hours. Not that typing at midnight is necessarily done by choice.

I've been looking after Squiffany today, which has been a pleasure as usual. She is not at present a particularly mischievous little girl and I don't expect mayhem if she wanders out of the room to rummage in the kitchen. I always find small babies a bit hard to look after; for the first few months they mostly seem to be demanding of time and easily upset, so that they cry a good deal and only stop if I walk around with them, which for someone as half-asleep as me is a strain. As they grow, they want entertaining, but can't do much. Once a child develops a vocabulary, or at least understands yours, however, it's a different matter.

I have a feeling that some babies don't enjoy their first few months very much either. My younger son was a most fractious infant, until he learned to speak. With his first word, which was "da", he became a different baby.
It was a useful word. It meant 'water' and extended its scope to indicate anything to do with the liquid. With it, he could ask for a drink, remark that it was raining, enthuse at the sight of the sea, tell me that he enjoyed his bath and, in being repeated, it became another word altogether and meant his father.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

What passes for news around here

Yesterday's pictures are just a little misleading as actually the artichokes are still tiny. They look as if they are almost ready to eat, but they will be weeks yet. I have cut the two largest cucumbers and one of them will be the centrepiece of tonight's meal, the other having been cut for Al, Dilly and Squiffany. Again, you can't really judge the size; the largest is about 9 inches long, but there are far too many for such a young plant and taking them off as soon as they are big enough to eat will save its strength. One year I tried removing the first few fruits, thinking it would help the plant grow quicker, but it seemed to discourage it and I didn't get any more cucumbers for some time, though I can think of no reason for that. Tomatoes have set but are still tiny, and some of the physalis are in flower. They have pretty pale yellow and brown flowers. I can't say that Cape Gooseberries are a favourite fruit, they are just not something to eat by the bowlful, but they have a pleasant enough flavour, look pretty and keep for ages.

The Sage has been to the farm to say hello to some of his favourite cows. Patty Pan, Big Pinkie and Foster are the ones he knows best and they came to say hello and were disappointed that he didn't produce apples from his pocket for them. He was remorseful and promised to visit again soon but I'm not sure that cows entirely appreciate anticipation. Foster will come and spend a few weeks on our field (known as the Ups and Downs as it was used for small-scale gravel extraction at one time and is very uneven) soon but the other two have fairly recently calved and so are doing their duty in the milking parlour twice a day at present.

The Ups and Downs are marked on one old map as Anglo-Saxon earthworks and on another as Anglo-Saxon burial ground - I don't know on what basis and no digging has been done on the land for the nearly 80 years it has been in our family. Yesterday I was explaining to Squiffany that, if you look at flowering grasses, you can see how many different varieties you have. She carefully examined the different grass heads and looked wise, but I suppose 14 1/2 months is a little young to expect her to identify Timothy, Creeping Fescue and the like with any certainty. She was polite enough to humour me, anyway, and I appreciate that. As it was half-term last week, I did not look after her (mother is a teacher so was on holiday too) and by yesterday she evidently missed us as she came marching up to the door and made herself at home.

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Mm, green

Mm, cucumbers.

Mm, artichokes

Friday, 2 June 2006

Home Alone

A Norfolk couple went on holiday, leaving their teenage son in charge at home. Unfortunately the house blew up. Oh dear. It was an accident, just one of those things and, as they said, no one was hurt.

Dilly and I were talking about our teenage years, when our trusting parents deemed us responsible enough to be left Home Alone. She had overheard a 13-year-old pupil boasting that his mum was going away for a long weekend and he had the house to himself. We hoped this was mere bragging and that in fact a neighbour would be keeping an eye on him at least, but if not, goodness she’s asking for trouble. Does she expect to come home to intact furniture and a single bottle of booze left in the cupboard?

When I was 15, my parents and sister decided to go to Scotland for an Easter holiday. Virtuously, I announced that I couldn’t possibly have a holiday; I would be too busy revising for my GCE O Levels. I was, I’m sure, insufferably smug about my self-sacrifice and studiousness, but I did have a more considerate streak in me, as I didn’t make anything of the fact (immediately apparent to me, as even then I worried a couple of jumps ahead of everyone else) that someone really needed to be at home to look after our seven dogs*. Yup, seven, no wonder we all sat on the floor; the dogs had all the best chairs.

I did study, in my own special way – really work hard on the subjects I liked and wing it on those I didn’t. I cooked proper meals, with vegetables. I walked the dogs – 4 on leads, 3 off and looked after them sensibly. My mother thought I might be nervous on my own so arranged for a neighbour to sleep in (I thought this was babying me somewhat but I didn’t demur as there was no point). After they had left they realised they had left me no money at all and a day later I received the first and only handwritten letter I ever received from my father

“Dear Z.
Herewith cheque for £5 which you can ask J.B. to cash for you.
Yours sincerely
M……... E. H………..”

Darling daddy, he didn’t really write personal letters!

It didn’t occur to me to have friends round, to drink or to throw a party. Now, I feel I was just a bit inadequate. Friends of mine went away last year, leaving their 16-year-old alone for one night only – she had been staying with someone reliable most of the time. Daughter invited her mates round for a bit of a bash. Now, my friends, M & N, had warned daughter O that she was not to consider a party. Not that they didn’t trust her, dah-de-dah-de-dah, but because of the danger of gatecrashers.

They arrived home to stained carpets and a fridge door hanging off its hinges. And black bin bags hidden in the garden, full of empties. I think it was the inadequately hidden debris that really upset them, the girl hadn’t even done a good cover-up and they had thought more of her intelligence. They had to buy new hall carpet and fridge and I don’t know if the whole incident is entirely forgiven, I don’t want to ask.

I relayed the tale of Me and the tale of O to Dilly. “My parents went on holiday when I was 16, they left me and sister P, aged 15, at home alone. The first thing we did was to cook a Sunday roast. We’d never been allowed to do it ourselves and we were really excited about it. It was roast chicken, it was really tasty.”

*Of course you will want to know more about the seven dogs. They were: Simon (Oulton Broad mongrel, incorrigibly randy, assuredly he still has many descendants. Huckleberry, Simon's son, beautiful golden retriever lookalike, sweetest natured dog I have ever known. My next dog will be called Huckleberry. Susie, a black labrador cross and my dog, she became hugely fat but was lovely and lived to 16. Jessica Gee, a border collie type, very needy and loving, to an irritating extent; she was a sweet dog but it wasn't possible to love her as much as she craved; she was also long-lived and survived to 17. Muldoon, Cleopatra and Nefertiti, siblings, offsprings of Simon and Susie. Muldoon was golden lab-ish with spots and he and my mother adored each other. Cleo was black and gentle and Nefi was black and playfully pugnacious; she put her head down and burrowed into you, we called her Battling Joe Frazier, who boxed rather like that.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

What's the opposite of Flaming June?

I blame the Government. Specifically, in this case (since we haven’t got all day), for saying that we were in the throes of a drought and banning the use of hosepipes in the South East. Not in East Anglia, by the way, apparently it’s the driest part of the British Isles, but our water board is able to supply us with enough water to keep us splashing away happily (but frugally, because we are responsible people and don’t waste the precious liquid) all summer.

Anyway, it has caused the wettest May on record. It is now June and it is still bloody cold. I’m sitting here with a coat on. This may be because I am unwisely wearing a tee-shirt rather than a sensible woolly jumper, but I hardly think I should need that either.

If the government had told the South East Water Board (whatever its official name is) to pull its finger out of whichever orifice it keeps it in, and instead use it to plug the myriad leaks in the elderly system of pipes that apparently waste enough water per day, expensively treated to drinking water standard, to fill Lake Windermere (not that you need to, it rains plenty up there), the mischievous deities of the weather would have had no need to be so provocative and the water board could have had a really sensible use for some of the many millions of pounds of profit currently residing in the bank.

This is, of course, the part of the country where the government also wants to build many, many more houses. They had a woman on the radio the other day who was being asked about the wisdom of this (I think she was an MP but I didn’t listen that carefully so she might have been a mere Spokesperson) and she said each person uses the same amount of water whether he/she lives alone or with others, so many houses each with one occupant would not use more water than fewer houses with several occupants. Amazingly, she was not challenged on this singularly inaccurate statement.

Absurd though it seems, I am going to go out in the rain now, to water the greenhouses. Cheerio, excuse the rant.

It's all about meme

I was tagged. By How do we know

I can't step outside myself and see what this says about me. Oh well. Here we go -

I am thinking about ….. now, and taking each day as it comes.
I said ….. a great deal. But nothing that mattered.
I want ….. my children to remain well and happy.
I wish ….. I were kinder.
I miss ….. people whom I have lost.
I hear ….. birdsong.
I wonder …… at people’s courage and optimism, whatever hits them or whatever they fear will happen. People are wonderful.
I am …… tenacious.
I dance …… awkwardly.
I sing …… when I’m happy. Particularly if I’m alone, as it’s only kind to spare other people from pain.
I cry ….. rarely. But when I do, it’s in bed, in the dark, quietly, and tears run down my face and coldly into my ears, which does not help me feel better.
I am not always …… to be seen with a glass in my hand, surprisingly.
I make with my hands …… expansive gestures. Which can be a bit disastrous when the glass is full. But as long as it's never half empty, who cares.
I write about …… everything that comes into my mind. But not about my real feelings, they are a secret.
I confuse ….. the names of all my family. They all know to answer to any name at all, even if it’s that of the dog.
I need …… books. I love language, thoughts expressed. I need to read, to lose myself in stories weaved by strangers, to be soothed, uplifted, enthused, informed.
I should …… stop reading and writing and do some work.
I start …… eventually.
I finish …… what I start.

Do consider yourself tagged. But not as an imposition.
xx z