Saturday, 31 March 2007

Saturday morning

Al spends a good deal of time in the morning perfecting the shop display. This was today's - just a regular Saturday morning.

Saturdays are always busy, but this one started relatively slowly. At about half-past nine, Al remembered that a village a few miles away was holding its monthly farmers' market. He had been annoyed to see it advertised in the local paper as being the only place one could buy local produce, when this is not true at all. The same newspaper is holding a 'buy local' week to support independent shops, and evidently hasn't thought through a policy of accepting adverts with wording that is misleading and speaks against small shops just as much as against the supermarkets.

Having joined the EDP's 'local' campaign, he was entertained to receive the 'action pack' in the post this morning. With a covering letter, it comprised five posters on bright yellow paper, five yellow balloons and seven ballpoint pens. Not quite enough to give away to all his customers, but no doubt he will do something resourceful and eyecatching. I'm not sure if the balloons will last all week though.

One of the regular Saturday customers, Robert, came in. He visits his parents and young niece and nephew every weekend and always comes in for a large order, £20 - £30 worth. He is very entertaining and jokes with all of us and a small queue builds up at the other till as Sarah spends ten minutes or more serving him. I glanced in the other shopping bag he'd left leaning against the counter. "I say, those look nice chocolates." He took them out to show them to us. Absolutely wonderful-looking chocolate truffles, and a small box of milk chocolates of equally high quality. He'd been buying Easter presents at the deli. We agreed that a small amount of wonderful and expensive chocolate is better than whole lots of cheap stuff. He also had the delicious multi-grain bread made by a local organic bakery. It has a lot of poppy seeds in it, so you have to check your teeth after eating it in case you tip someone the black spot accidentally. "What cheese have you got?" asked Sarah, "how much was that?"

No wonder he comes back to us, week after week, with the polite and respectful reception he receives. He and his partner have recently moved to the North Norfolk coast, so it's a long way to come, but he's very close to his family. They are planning their civil partnership ceremony at present and Robert's mother and father insist there should be a big party for which they'll foot the bill, which Robert is very touched by.

Another snap I took the other day is of the menu of the splendid local caff.

Just look at all those breakfasts. How to choose? They also have a blackboard with the day's specials chalked up inside, with at least one roast, shepherd's pie, homemade quiche, salads. It's all prepared from scratch in a tiny kitchen and I have no idea how they do it.

Mind you, I think the pricing of the hash browns is a bit cheeky.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Fuzzy world

I'm losing my marbles. Or is that something you knew already? I arrived for my afternoon shopkeeping shift and realised, when I couldn't read any of the labels on the shelves, that I hadn't put in my contact lenses this morning. I'm sorry to say that I'd just driven in to town without noticing that details were a bit fuzzy. Of course, when slightly shortsighted, one can see everything, it's just that the edges are nicely rounded and out of focus.

It seems that the old Co-op shop, which has been empty for nearly two years, is to be opened as a factory (ie cheap) shop. This will be splendid. There is a branch of the same company nine miles ago and it does good business, so this should bring eager customers flocking to Yagnub and I'm sure that many of them will stay to stroll around, go to drink cups of tea and buy lots of local vegetables.

That reminds me, the first box of Norfolk rhubarb came in this morning and was nearly all sold by the end of the day. I meant to bring home the last few stalks but forgot. I did remember an excellent local (grown by Fred) cauliflower and that formed the basis of dinner.

More concrete path being put in tomorrow. There's still rather a lot to do. I said I'd draw a diagram of the veggie garden and I haven't yet. I realise that I don't know how to post it once it's done. I've an embarrassed feeling that I'll end up drawing it on graph paper, taking a photo and posting that. I know I'm a fool.

I've also got a post for Penny in the process of being written. I know what'll happen. I'll spend ages drafting it, then ignore the draft and write the whole thing in one go. Spontaneity being my watchword and all that.

Back in the shop tomorrow morning. Saturday mornings are extremely busy, though at least there will be three of us - only two tills and scales, but at least there's someone to stack shelves and carry bags to people's cars.

It's early I know, but after a relaxing hour listening to the divine Tom L., I'm ready for bed. 'Night, darlings.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Ooh, I forgot to mention

I am very excited. I have bought a whiteboard and a dry marker pen. As I explained to the Sage, what we do now is tell each other what we are going to do during the day, we don't listen to each other and then have to ask to be reminded while giving the impression that we have a bad memory because it seems rude to say we weren't really listening. So all we need to do is not talk to each other, but write down facts instead.

I also bought a bag that I am quite sure is small enough to carry on to an aeroplane and a small suitcase on wheels, so that when I go through London on my way to visit my sister in a couple of weeks, I will neither have to take my big bag nor carry a smaller one heavy with the dozen books I need for a week's holiday.

Did I tell you about that? We're going to M0usehole in Cornwall. She has friends who have a guesthouse there. I've only been to Cornwall once and that was a brief visit to the Eden Project. I rang her to ask whose car she wanted to go in, as hers is a bit small and mine is a bit big, and we've decided on hers. So I'll go by train. It will take longer - the train journey is about the same as the drive, but the journey to the stations and across London adds a lot to the time, but I'm thinking that I might be able to fit in a visit to a museum or exhibition on the way there and back. I fancy the Surreal1sm exhibition at the V&A for one.

Mouseh0le, if you abroad-people don't know, is pronounced Mowzle. Funnily enough, the M0usehold in Norwich is pronounced M0usehold. It's odd, because most place names in Norfolk are not pronounced the way they are spelled, like Wym0ndham and Happ1sburgh. And Norwich, come to that.

Anyway, if anyone is planning a visit to Yagnub in April, I hope it isn't between the 13th and the 23rd, because I won't be here.

Predictable as always

Today, lectures about the architecture of India. I have come home soggy with nostalgia and this was not helped by watching two overweight Englishmen doing a cookery programme in Kerala this evening.

As usual, I had to give the vote of thanks at the end of the day. I enthused, of course. I reminisced about visiting Jaisalmer, which is near the Pakistan border and is the only place I've ever been addressed, to my discomfiture, as "Memsahib". My sister and I went to the bar for fortification and were asked what we'd like to drink. "Gin and tonic?" we said hopefully. The barman beamed. "Ah, yes, all the British memsahibs drink double gin and tonics."

Afterwards, I drove the lecturer back to the station. "If you don't mind my mentioning it," he said, "you seem a very cheerful person. Are you always happy?"

I hadn't had a drop, honestly. It was a good day, is all. Of course, he may have meant I had a scary rictus grin on my face and looked as if I'd ODed on my medication. But he accepted a lift from me, so he can't have been too worried, surely.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Being Granny

Dilly and I spent the evening at a friend's house. Last week, she came with me to Gardening Club. She feels that she can see a social life without babies looming. Indeed, I've offered to babysit if she and Al would like to go out to celebrate his birthday next week. This excitement is cheering her up a lot.

Pugsley is a cheerful baby, but he thinks that the days are for playing and the nights are for feeding. He eats small amounts of solid food during the day and wants to be fed by his mother every two nocturnal hours. Last night, they decided not to feed him between 10pm and 6am. Al went to him when he cried - Pugsley and Squiffany share a bedroom - but Dilly didn't. He 'only' woke and cried three times, but for quite a long time...anyway, Dilly says he has had a lot more milk today and so she's keeping her fingers crossed that two or three nights of this will be enough for him to learn to sleep through.

Of course, all good resolutions will go out of the window if they come down with chickenpox.

Apparently, rain is on the way. As we need dry weather to lay our concrete paths, and as I need the paths done before I can fork over the beds, I hope the forecast displays its usual accuracy. It was gorgeous again today, and Squiffany came to help me sow bean seeds in the greenhouse. One of the varieties of french beans is called 'Matilda', bought in Tilly's honour. They are rather attractive black seeds, but when Squiffany dropped a few, they were quite hard to find. "Be careful," I said, "You're dropping them." "Never mind, sweetheart," she said, reassuringly. "It doesn't matter."

She enjoyed getting dirty and, afterwards, dipped her hands into the watering can to wash them. She is looking forward to having her climbing frame, which her father and grandpa are making for her. She is impressed with the thick layer of bark chippings spread underneath. I've explained to her that it makes an ideal hiding place for insects and we can search for spiders and woodlice. She will like that.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007


Tagged by the Brock Patriarch of Ludlow.

3 Things That Scare Me:

Driving through floods. I suppose it’s because I can’t tell the depth of the water, but I get really agitated.
Cats. I like cats and they usually like me, but I'm scared of them too, as I don’t understand their language and always expect the (apparently) friendliest cat to unleash his claws and gouge stripes of flesh from my arms at any moment. Sometimes, one does. For no reason.
Crowds. I’m usually okay, but sometimes I feel quite panicky. It’s never been so bad that I’ve not been able to cope, luckily.

3 People Who Make Me Laugh:
Michael Bond. I picked up a Paddington Bear book not long ago and browsed for a few minutes and I thought it was as funny as I did when I was a child.
Bill Bryson. I remember a train journey when I embarrassed myself by snorting with laughter at one of his books.
JonnyB. He makes it look so easy. It's really hard, to make it that simple.

3 Things I Love:
Lying on the lawn on a summer day, reading.
Rowing down the river, watching the wildlife on the bank and in the water. I grew up by the river and have always loved it.
Hearing that first glug from a newly-opened bottle.

3 Things I Hate:

The sound of a dentist’s drill. Obviously.
Going to the doctor. I always start by apologising for wasting his time.
Word Verification. Really. When I brought up the matter before, some people said they didn’t like Comment Moderation, so I politely switched it off. Politely, you see. They only had to mention it and It Was Done.

3 Things I Don't Understand: So much choice, I don't know where to start.

When I type a few words into Google and instantly there are thousands of options of sites, some of which actually are relevant to the subject. How can it be so fast?
How anyone can drink B@card1 Breezer. I tried one once, all I could taste were the chemicals and I felt really rough the next day. It was the only alcohol I drank all day and it was about one and a half units, but I was nastily hungover.
Being competitive. It's not in my nature. I'm tenacious and a trier, but I am a cheerful loser.

3 Things On My Desk: Plenty of choice here too.
A brass dog – a setter, just like Chester, that Ro gave me once.
A candle in a candlestick. Not lit for warmth as it was in the winter, but just to soothe. It isn’t lit now, only in the evening.
A cheque dated a week ago, made out to me, for £189.82. I must pay it in before the end of the month or it’ll mess up the accounts and the treasurer will not be pleased.

3 Things I'm Doing Right Now:

Eating a square of Fairtrade ‘Divine’ 70% dark chocolate.
Listening to Bix Beiderbecke playing ‘In a Mist’, a piano improvisation. He usually played the cornet but trained initially as a pianist, and showed great promise, except that he played by ear and his teacher wanted him to read music. Bix’s story is a sad one, and his end was pitiful, but his music is a joy.
Looking at a pair of bluetits hopping around on the clematis outside the window in Al and Dilly’s garden. I wonder if they are the ones whose nest is in the study roof. I hear them scratching away in there morning and evening.

3 Things I Want To Do Before I Die:

Get old. A year ago, I wouldn’t have said that. I'm glad I'm where I am now.
Sort out the contents of my house so that my children don’t despair at having to do it themselves.
Surprise people.

3 Things I Can Do:

Be a wife. For nearly 34 years, it’s been the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done.
Parallel park. Not perfect every time, but I’m not too embarrassed to drive forward and try again. I really can do without someone trying to help though “Left hand down a bit!” and suchlike advice completely throws me.
Convert from pounds and ounces to kilos accurately and instantly, remember the prices of over 100 items of fruit and veg (some of which change regularly) and subtract to give the correct change, all while chatting to customers. It sounds harder than it is.

3 Things I Can't Do:

Make shortcrust pastry. Well, make it well. I have no idea what I do wrong.
Reverse with a trailer attached. Nope. My brain isn’t wired for it.
Roller skate. And I’ve never even tried ice. Nor skiing. No co-ordination. Anyway, my no-exercise-that-might-cause-injury policy has served me well for nearly forty years, a resolve taken after being hit in the mouth with a hockey stick wielded by a beefy girl called Leonarda.

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To:

Birdsong. Another of the pleasures of the spring.
A baby laughing. It is the most joyous sound in the world.
Some music that is recommended to you by a friend that is quite unlike your usual taste. Listen at least three times before you decide if you like it.

3 Things You Should Never Listen To: I’ve changed this to ‘3 Things You Should Never Have To Listen To:
Once we had to take Al to the local hospital as he had put a pebble in his nose (little rascal). We drove in behind an ambulance that had picked up a woman who had been rescued from drowning in the sea. The sound of her being resuscitated and barfing up all that seawater is a memory I don’t like to recall…but at least she recovered.
The sound of a bomb going off outside your office window. This happened to my daughter. Fortunately, she was on the 4th floor and she had the sense not to look out of the window.
That awful metallic sound when your car scrapes against another.

3 Things I'd Like To Learn:

I know I’ve talked about this before, but it will happen, honestly … bricklaying. Once we’ve got the bloody bricks. This wall will be 5 foot high and the best part of 100 foot long so by the time I’ve built it, I will know how to bricklay.
I’d like to be able to swim properly. I can’t co-ordinate all limbs at the same time, so I tend to flounder. It doesn’t help that I want to hold on to something at all times as I am afraid of being out of my depth. You never know, I might do this one day. I make no promises though.
Carpentry. I’d love to make things out of wood, well. A very unlikely one though as I’m a bit clumsy.

3 Favourite Foods:

Vegetables. Actually, all my favourite foods are vegetables, but I’ll put them together so that I can say other things too.
Risotto. As made by me. I’m sure you all make wonderful risotto too, but everyone likes a particular texture and degree of slop, so it’s best made for oneself.
Bacon. Proper bacon. Smoked.

3 Shows I Watched As A Kid:
The Addams Family. It made a lasting impression and has made me what I am.
Huckleberry Hound. I watched lots of Hanna and Barbera cartoons, but Huck is never mentioned any more. We called one of our dogs after him. “Huckleberry Finn?” adults asked? “Huckleberry Hound” I replied with disbelief at their ignorance. My next dog, if a boy, will be called Huckleberry, after all three of them and, also (aah with sentimentality), he’ll be my huckleberry friend.
Zorro. You know how he used his sword to carve his mark ‘Z’ at the scene of his daring and freedom-fighting crimes? Just think how much that meant to the young Z.

3 Bloggers I've tagged:
Julie from Athens (I've tagged you before, Julie, I hope you don't mind)
Murph. I don't know if dogs do memes, but let's find out.

Z enthuses

Isn't it a gorgeous day? I'm so sorry for you if you're not in England right now, because this weather is the very best of an English spring day. This time last year, I was in Venice, leaving behind a cold and wintry homeland, but now I'm happy to be here.

I've been, too warmly, in the greenhouse, labelling pots and sowing seeds. I've got six or seven varieties of tomato and eight, I think of peppers, sweet or hot, and I am bound to mix them up sooner or later.

Ooh, the exciting news of the day is that we have frogspawn!!(!) Several clumps in the pond. I can't see any in the stream, but it's a bit scummy and weedy and so it might be there. I love tadpoles. Each year, I hope that hatching day will be when I'm not too busy to go out and watch for an hour or two. This year, Squiffany will be with me to enjoy it. She'll love it.

Not many of my tadpoles survive, I'm afraid. This is a great pity, but I can't help it. I can net the pond against the devastating harnser*, but in-pond predators are not possible to deal with, and the great pond diving beetle larvae and dragonfly nymphs chomp tadpoles in large numbers. Judging by the number of frogs we have in the garden, some survive, all the same, just waiting for the kiss of Z**.

*Norfolk for heron
**Does it work? you ask? Once in a while...

Monday, 26 March 2007

Speaking freely, if indistinctly

I've just got in from a meeting and I'm eating my dinner, so please excuse me typing with my mouth full. I fed the Sage and Ro before I left, but I didn't have time to eat then, as it falls to me to get the room ready and that takes half an hour.

I treat the PCC (that's the committee that runs the village church) very well. Tea and coffee freshly made, jugs of water on the tables and sufficient bowls of sweets to be within easy reach of each person, so that no one has to make a conspicuous lunge for the M1nstrel or the jelly teddy bear (tonight's offerings). I go for quite childish sweets. If we were relaxed at home, it would be the sophisticated hand-made chocolate truffle or the petit four, but at a meeting which can, just once in a while, plummet to a nadir of dullness, then resorting to nursery sweeties cheers us up no end. Jelly babies are popular and so are Malte$ers. L1corice Allsorts, you either love or hate and I don't serve toffees as they inhibit free speech.

Plenty of free speech tonight, as we were debating one specific item. All amicable, if sometimes quite heated.

I spent (ooh, back in time like Memento) the afternoon in the shop. I went in, just before lunch, clutching my lunch of ham and salad (particularly nice multi-grain) roll and danish pastry from the bakery. It's an indulgence. Why do I not make my own lunch? can't be arsed... do I hear quietly in the background? 'Tis true.

Eileen was a little pink and panting. "It's been hectic" she said. "I've been rushed off my feet, all morning. Sometimes, I had to use both tills at the same time." I looked round at the empty shop. We agreed that, because it was such lovely weather (God bless British Summer Time), everyone had shopped in the morning so that they could garden or relax in the afternoon.

I'd taken Shaggy Blog Stories and Tough Puzzles to entertain me in quiet periods. Half way through the afternoon, the sun shone in the gap between the Gay Shopper and the pub and I eyed the warm sunlit patch at the front of the shop. I cleared some of the in-front-of-the-shop display, so that I could carry a chair out there. Of course, this was the signal for 20 minutes of keen shopping by the inhabitants of Yagnub. Eventually, I sank into my sun-warmed chair and read contentedly between customers for the rest of the afternoon.

In other news, Dilly's little nephew Brock has chickenpox. He and his little brother Davison were over here last Tuesday for Squiffany's birthday. I gather the incubation period is 10 days. We'll know by the weekend. 6 months is, perhaps, a little young for Pugsley to be inflicted with an annoying illness, but he is robust and I'm sure he'll be fine, even if he gets it. The son of a friend, the youngest of three, caught it early and had a post-viral infection that affected him for a long time.

I've finished eating and I've poured the last of the wine. I will not go to bed for an hour or two, lest I am inflicted with Digestive Disorders or the Cauchemar. Last night I did not sleep well. It was the inevitable result of a couple of nights of sound sleep. From long years of habit, if not totally knackered, I don't really sleep at all.

The Sage broadcasts

By the way, the Sage will, briefly, be on television this week. He gets roped in occasionally as a china specialist - the edition of Fl0g It with him has been on four times now, and several friends assume it's been four separate appearances! I don't know which day and I'm wondering whether to tell you what I do know.

Tell me, do you rather like the mysterious 'Sage' or do you want to put a face and possibly a name (don't know if they'll give it) to the identity?

Two things - it's daytime TV, and if it's on today you might well miss it anyway!

Update Dilly took the children indoors for lunch. Suddenly, Squiffany said "Look! It's Grandpa on the telly!" "But I'm here," said the Sage. She looked from the screen to Grandpa, quizzically.

Sorry, Pat. If anyone was watching W0rk1ng Lunch on BBC2 today, that was him. I didn't see it myself, I was at work. Dilly recorded it, though.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Ups and downs

More accomplished today than yesterday. After my usual Sunday morning efforts I spent most of the afternoon outside and in the greenhouse. Nearly all the seedlings that are ready are potted up now and I am slightly running out of space - it's all right so far, but the next lot of seed-sowing is about to take place. French and runner beans, later broad beans, more peas (you'd think I could put them all outside, but our light soil and dry climate makes it safer to start almost everything off indoors), courgettes, pumpkin and squashes, cucumber, more herbs, sweetcorn, will all be sown in the next week or so. Most of these will appreciate a little warmth for germination, although the french beans are very temperamental. In the right conditions, they are easy, but too much or too little warmth and they rot.

It'll be fine. I'll talk to them lovingly.

The Sage and Al were busy too. They are making a climbing frame for Squiffany. It will be very splendid, but we realised quite early on that putting it on their lawn would both take up most of the lawn and be a nuisance to mow round. So we've taken an area that wasn't used much, put down that permeable black membrane that allows water through but not weeds to grow, and covered it with a thick layer of bark chippings so that the children will have a soft landing when they plummet, and it will be sited there. The slide will come out sideways on to the lawn, but that won't make much extra work.

It's been a melancholy few days, in some respects. A friend of mine, who is waiting to go into hospital for an operation (routine, he's all right) has now been given a date in April, which should be good news - but his brother is very ill and is likely to die at about that time, and my friend wants to support his sister-in-law. The hospital staff are being very kind and say that the operation can be postponed for a short time if necessary.

And yesterday, friends - not close friends, but they have bought from our sales for a good few years - rang, to tell the Sage that he has been given three months, at the most. He wants to sort out his affairs and get things straight so that his wife won't have to face all that alone, as well as the rest that he can't help. So the Sage will visit them next week to evaluate their collection and discuss its eventual sale.

Think, please, of Tim and Linda, of Peter and Maureen, and their families.

On the other hand, a friend emailed me happily to say that his son and wife have just had their first baby - some anxiety early on, so a relief as well as a joy. So spare a thought for Constantine and his family too.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Z wakes up and is bewildered

What happened to the afternoon? Was it that second glass of wine? Was it the soporific effect of the lettuce? Or the rain at the window?

I slept. First, I slept for about twenty minutes. That is a nap. That is fine.

Then I slept again for a full hour. At the end, I had one of those vivid, pre-waking dreams - never mind what it was about, other people's dreams are boring - but in it my eyesight was really blurred and I woke up and my sight was blurry and I was alarmed. Not very alarmed, not like the time I went to bed with my contact lenses in and one didn't reappear all day, but I sat there recovering for a while. Tilly, who normally starts to remind me politely of her dinner in good time, just in case I forget to feed her, stayed, considerately, in her armchair, not wishing to bother me.

Anyway, the Sage is just off to the chippie as I can't be bothered to cook. Fish and chips would just fit the spot tonight. I can't remember the last time I had fish and chips. Mm.

I'm not a mushy peas girl though. I only tried them once and, hm, well, there wasn't exactly anything to dislike, but I didn't feel inclined to bother again. I don't normally add vinegar, either - oh, by the way, Dilly adds vinegar to sprouts! It is a family tradition (well, some deck the halls with boughs of holly...). It tastes all right, but doesn't exactly add to the experience. Sometimes ketchup, but the only place I actually find ketchup (tomato sauce, if you prefer) indispensable is on shepherd's pie, which is not at all the same without it. Or I might make up some tartare sauce. I always have capers and mayo and stuff in the fridge. Yes. That's what I'll do.

He'll be back in a few minutes. I'm quite hungry now. I didn't have a cup of tea, either, this afternoon, as I was asleep. Maybe another glass of wine? Got to keep up that fluid intake.

Z relaxes and is looked after

"Darling, can you spare a minute? The Sage is so polite that it's impossible to know whether this means good news or bad, a request for help or a rather splendid present.

In this instance, he was being wonderfully co-operative. He wanted to know what I wanted done in the greenhouse. I explained, he got going and I returned to the warmth of the house. And my second glass of wine.

Well...the clocks change tonight, of course, which means that I'll lose an hour's sleep. And I so need my sleep. Some time ago (well, it must have been last autumn at least), a friend and I agreed that we quite like the clock changing in autumn, for it gives an extra hour the next morning. "One can get so much done", he said, keenly. I admitted that I appreciate the extra hour in bed. Get more done? Phooey.

Having said that, I'd prefer to stay with Summer Time all year round. I know that we gave Greenwich Mean Time to the world, but I have no wish to eat my cake and have it too - the world can keep it, if they wish. I like light in the evenings. I don't have my eyes open much anyway on a winter's morning. I have every sympathy, of course, for the Scots, and have no objection to them doing their own thing.

Mind you, with a Scot as Prime MInister, a Scot in waiting to be the next one and a Leader of the Opposition called Cameron, I don't see any changes in prospect.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Z is chilly


I had meant to finish the greenhouse work today, but it's cold. The seedlings will be all right in the propagator, but it won't do them any good to be taken out, potted up, watered - I fill the watering cans and leave them in the greenhouse overnight so that the water isn't so cold, but it would still chill them - and generally bothered. It can wait. The forecast is good for the next few days and it'll all catch up.

Next week will be busy though. Our next china auction sale is coming up at the beginning of May and the Sage has been gathering all the lots together. Some are delivered, but he is a good-natured soul and goes to fetch them from all over Norfolk and Suffolk at no extra charge. It's a rather impressive bunch of china this time - this year is the 250th anniversary of the founding of the factory and he has been encouraging clients to make it a particularly good sale. We want to get the catalogue out by early next month, so next week we will be lotting up (that just means deciding on the order items are to be sold and putting on the lot numbers), writing the catalogue, taking photographs and getting the printing done. And then getting the catalogues filled and posted, quite a job in itself.

Years ago, this was a full-time job, when he had monthly auctions (all sorts of antiques, not our present specialist ones) and then, of course, he had full time staff. Now he has me.

I've also promised to spend some time in the shop. Jean, who has worked there for years - Al took over the staff when he bought the business - has retired today. Tim is taking over her hours, except that he's working Wednesday morning instead of every other Saturday - he has young children. So I'm doing a few afternoons next week to help out, plus Saturdays when I'm wanted, until Al decides what he's going to do in the long term.

Oh, and the electric blanket has stopped working. The Sage was obliged to breathe heavily at me to warm me up last night. Which was very sweet of him, as he didn't complain at all. I wonder if he will be so kind again tonight, or if I had better search out a hot-water-bottle.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Yay! Photos!!(!)

Squiffany and Pugsley, on Squiffany's second birthday.

Oh, all right then. Just because it's you...

Z is lazy and she doesn't care

Paul the postman brought me three CDs and a book (Shaggy Blog Stories). I don't think I'm going to get much work done today.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


Tomorrow morning. Really. When I'm sober.

I had a deeply serious meeting here tonight, discussing Health and Safety and Risk Assessment and Job Descriptions and stuff like that. It went very well, but I did produce wine.

Two bottles between three of us is okay. But one of us is on medication and, bless her, she's a bit of a lightweight anyway, so she had one glass. Ro took a glass up to his room. Pete and I drank the rest. And a pot of coffee.

As a result, no post tonight. Sorry. I'm going to light three candles and lie in a scented bath for a bit. Or rather, for never let it be said that I'm not pedantic, in a bath of scented water. And I'll be sober tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Wicked Pisser!

I did enjoy that. Thanks for joining in.

Today was Squiffany's birthday and she is now two years old. But I can't write about her in a post entitled wicked pisser, so I'll see if I can find a suitable photo for you, tomorrow.

Monday, 19 March 2007

I'll go for a P, Bob*

You know, 'piss' is an unlikely word to be so useful but, even if it's just a touch vulgar (like me, innit?) it has so many meanings.

In just the blogs I've read this weekend, several people have been pissed off - the off may be omitted by the Americans, but that seems to deprive them of the useful alternative meaning of pissed, meaning affected by alcohol.

This morning, I looked out at the sleet and commented that it was pissing down. Then there's an easy task, which is a piece of piss. You can, if pissed off, tell someone to piss off - a nice difference there.

Then there is the original and real meaning of piss, which I presume is an example of French onomatopoeia.

Half an hour later Now I'm giving the matter some thought (well, it's a Monday morning, what else is there to do?), there are lots more expressions.

Taking the piss. Pissing in the wind. Full of piss and vinegar. On the piss (on your way to being pissed, of course)**. Murph suggests, for a tall thin person, a long streak of piss, but I think he's making that one up***.

A bit later again - ooh, how about piss-poor - is that, so poor you don't have a pot to piss in or, alternatively, really pretty awful.

Several hours later thank you all for enhancing my vocabulary. A wicked pisser (pronounced "pissah") is New England for very good or very bad. If used without the indefinite article "This is wicked pisser" it's excellent. With the ind. art., "This is a wicked pisser" it's bloody awful. Oh, excuse my language, please.

Martin reminds me that if you can piss you can paint and petrified streak of piss - is that another tall thin person, Martin? I'm neither, by the way, another clue to my appearance. Oh, there's a photo of me in this blog somewhere, if you look for Venice photos.****

Wendz just pissed her pants, I fear. At least she pissed herself laughing, so it was worth the zig-zag puddle as she ran for the loo.

I worry what all this will do for my reputation in the search engines.

This one is still running - it's now Tuesday morning and I should be getting ready to go to Norwich. From Stegbeetle - "There's always what I did with any money I had during my teens and early twenties - pissing it up the wall. Obviously derived from the consequences of bulk intake of beer but meaning "to waste something". And Martin contemptuously adds I would not piss on them if they were on fire, which is, of course, another fine use of the splendid subjunctive.

Tuesday night - what did I start here? Murph knows a mean (in the parsimonious sense) bugger who "wouldn't give you the steam off his piss."

Thursday afternoon - how silly of me - I've only just thought of this one! Mind you, none of you got it either - he couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!

*I suspect only British readers will get this reference.. Ooh, at 8.30 pm, yet another update Yay! Here's a link!!(!). It has the signature tune and everything!!(!)*****
**I'm assuming you don't need definitions for these, do you?
***Murph, I apologise. I just checked it out on Google. It is entirely valid.
****I digress
*****JonnyB has, of course, the copyright on !! and a repeat of the second !. It is more than my life saving's worth to put !!!******

Sunday, 18 March 2007

A Day Out (I'd have said 'Grand' but the title has been used)

It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. London looked so pretty. The traffic, as we approached the City, was awful and the driver took us over Tower Bridge, down Tooley Street and back across London Bridge as that was the quickest way to St Paul's. When we got off the coach, several people asked me the way to go. I pointed, vaguely, away from the river and latched on to friends who actually had some idea where we were going.

We went to the Guildhall first. This is open to the public, except when it isn't. They don't publish in advance whether it is open or not, for security reasons if a Foreign Dignitary (or possibly even a Brit) is coming to call.

It was to be open in the morning. We read the sign. £2.50 entrance, or £1 for concessions. My friends, a little older than I, grinned smugly. I fumbled in my bag for coins. Straight-faced, the woman at the desk said "That'll be a pound each." I was mortified. Only a couple of weeks earlier, when we'd got a block booking for over-60s to Windsor Castle and I was the only one of 49 who has not reached this august age, I felt the need to wrinkle my face and let my chins down. Evidently I had not yet regained my normal smoothly unblemished youthfulness.

We went through the art galleries, which have pre-Raphaelite paintings, official portraits and some 20th Century art. Then we went down into the Roman amphitheatre which was brilliant. It was only discovered about 20 years ago and the restoration has continued until recently. It was really a pleasure to wander in the empty galleries, unobserved by attendants (although, of course, less visibly seen by the CTTV) and to see meetings carrying on in adjoining rooms. How enjoyable, to go to work and take for granted surroundings like those.

By this time my friend Sue and I were getting giggly and we exclaimed joyfully over the food on offer at the sandwich bar. Not a drop did we have all day, I assure you. We were high on springtime, perhaps? It was sunny and fresh and everyone in the streets looked smart and cheerful. And very prosperous. The City of London gives an impression, at present, of streets paved with gold. There's a lot of it about. Positively glistering, it is (are you going to quote Gray at me?).

Goldsmiths' Hall was great. There is a small exhibition on in the foyer, and we'd booked for a private tour. A most engaging chap whose name, sad to say, I didn't catch, showed us round and told us of the history of the Goldsmiths', one of the twelve Great Livery Companies. They are fifth in order of precedence, immediately after the Fishmongers, which rather appeals to me.

Gorgeous marbled halls, gilded and painted columns and ceilings, splendid candelabra - if you go to an evening reception in the Livery Hall, the 493 candles are lit in the 5 candelabra - all by one nimble chap, apparently - but they are wired too and we had lightbulbs. At dinner, silver-gilt rosewater bowls are passed around for the guests to rinse their fingers. Messy eaters, these City people, it seems.

Each year, in October, the Goldsmiths' Fair is held and most of us keenly put our names down on the mailing list - one friend who has been says that it's wonderful. Like the Guildhall, it is a working building and it's where silver, gold and platinum items go to be hallmarked (as well as to the other assay offices in the country, Sheffield, Birmingham and Edinburgh).

Don't you just love it?

That nicely mellow feeling of being mildly pissed, on just a glass or two of red wine on an empty stomach? I don't need to drink more really, I've had enough to enjoy.

I'll be back later. After dinner, which will be roast lamb, roast potatoes, ratatouille (I know it's wildly out of season apart from onions which are like kissing, but Al had some lovely aubergines (eggplant) in and I took it from there) and purple sprouting broccoli, of which my mum, most reliably, said each year "they're my favourite veg!". I have some rhubarb, which doesn't look forced but is surely somewhat protected - from Yorkshire anyway, mine isn't ready, but since I have been given chocolates and I always share, I might not do a pud.

See you in a couple of hours.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Aren't, Ain't, Amn't, Int I?

No votes for amn't I. Most for aren't, followed closely by ain't/int (I'm allowing for regional variations here) and one, slightly confusingly, for am I.

The reason I ask is that I only know two people, who don't know each other, who say or write "amn't I?" And both of them are gay men. I do not suggest anything from this, I'm just mentioning it.

Happy Mothering Sunday to any and all of you who have, or who ever have had, a mother.

It's just four years since my mother died. In her sleep, in her own bed, with me and my daughter asleep in the next room. Not at all a bad way to go and I'm not remembering it sadly.

Z needs to stop dithering and decide

I had decided. I'd decided to defer my decision.

I'm still going on about my veggie patch. I don't know what I want to put in there, or how much more room I really need or how to divide it up. So, for this year, I thought I'd make 8 beds, each a couple of metres wide and twenty-something feet long (I"m bilingual, you see and think in metres or feet, whichever is easiest at that moment) and see how it goes.

I went out to pace it out. And the Sage followed me, all cheery and smiling, to tell me that he has arranged the loan of a cement mixer and the help of a very good friend, and we can put in the (permanent) concrete paths within the next week or two.

This is like having a commitment-phobe partner who, after several years of fobbing off suggestions of moving in together, suddenly comes round with sheaves of property details to view, a wedding booking form, rings and arrangements already made for a honeymoon. You've wanted this for ages, so you can hardly protest now that you need a little more time and how about next year?

However, right now I'm off to church to make up Mothering Sunday posies to be given out in the service tomorrow. That's guesswork too - I sent out an email a week ago, asking for flowers, greenery and helpers. I've had two replies. I explained that I'd appreciate replies as I need to know what to expect.

I don't think I'm a control freak, it's just so much easier if you have some idea in advance. I've bought 18 bunches of daffodils and have picked more. One has to guess how many posies to make up anyway, so at least I'd like something as a definite.

Sod it. I'll take along a packet of chocolate biscuits. So at least those of us who do turn up can have a spot of self-indulgence (though, the amount of cake I've eaten in the past week, I have no excuse at all).

Friday, 16 March 2007

Z drinks champage and it goes to her head

Dear me, I'm not tired tonight, but I am totally smashed. It started with the champagne - only a couple of glasses but it goes straight to the head. It's the bubbles, darlings. I moved on to white wine of the still variety afterwards.

However, the good news is that the Sage kissed me before - the bad news - he went out.

He went out. Yes. Hm.


He'll be back.

Blimey, I am smashed, aren't I.

I would, by the way, like to conduct a poll on how many say 'aren't I' and who says 'amn't I'. Any takers?

Z puts in the plug

Pat is doing terrifically well, but she needs your vote. She's currently in second place and you only have until Sunday to vote for her. Here's the link to vote for Pat's Past Imperfect.

And while I'm plugging, I sullenly ignore most of the "Comic" Relief output by desperate celebs anxious to bring themselves publicity while not being very funny at all, but this is different. Please support Mike, who is quite wonderful and who has created this book from scratch in only a week. Do buy. You only have to look at the list of contributors to know it'll be splendid.

Z starts the day well

My son Ro has just left for work, which is not unusual at all at this time. However, not only did he come in to the study for a minute's chat first, but he also CAME ACROSS TO MY DESK AND GAVE ME A KISS!!(!) This happens very rarely and just shows the family bonding effect of helplessly giggling throughout dinner last night.

It slightly took me by surprise so I had to apologise for the marmalade kiss I gave him in return. He was, remarkably, completely unbothered by it, although I did read him Paddington Bear books as a child, so the idea of marmalade stains is not altogether foreign to him.

I will cook a special meal for tonight and serve champagne as that always cheers everyone up no end. There is a bottle in the fridge, there always is (for that's the sort of Z I am).

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Bombe Fromage

Tonight, we had cauliflower cheese for dinner. I'd been to Norwich for lunch and then straight back for a meeting and I didn't feel like anything inventive or strenuous, or even meaty.

I cooked the cauliflower whole, although I criss-crossed the base to speed up the cooking a bit.

Ro came into the kitchen to enquire about the progess of dinner. He peered in the pan. "Oh I say. Is this the latest fashion?" (I usually cut a cauliflower up, for then it cooks faster) "I couldn't be bothered to chop it up," I replied, with dignity. "Fair enough. What's that pile of cheese for?" "To put on top and melt in the oven. And to eat while the rest of the meal is cooking."

I put a pile of pasta and halved grilled tomatoes in a dish, plonked the cauliflower on top and poured on the cheese sauce. I sprinkled on the grated cheese. He chuckled. "I bet you'll take a picture and blog about it next. What are you going to call it then?"

I laughed too. "Looks like a Bombe Surprise!"

"Call it Bombe Fromage*," he suggested. So I did.

During dinner, the Sage was talking about someone we knew years ago - I remembered her name for him. "Her husband ran Yarmouth Stores, didn't he?" I was a bit surprised. "Isn't he a surveyor or something. Where is Yarmouth Stores, anyway?" "Er, in Yarmouth?" said the Sage, kindly. Ro nearly fell off his chair for laughing and choking on his delicious Bombe Fromage.

I will tell you about my day in London, which was Lovely, but I'm still really tired and I wouldn't do it justice.

*He says that it reminded him of Bon Voyage. But I don't see that having any possible relevance.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Z is indecisive

I have a newly cleared (by the chickens) piece of ground that measures about 35 feet by 50 feet. This will be an extension of the kitchen garden and will just about double it in size. I am finding it quite difficult to decide how to divide it up.

When we moved here, we turned a small lawn into the veg garden. We had the turf taken off and stacked to rot down and made beds 4 foot wide by 38 foot long (sorry, you are going to have to do the metric equivalents yourself. 1 foot = 30 centimetres, within a gnats crotchet). There are 6 of these, with 2 foot paths in between. At one end, against the greenhouse, is a 3 foot by 30 foot herb bed. At one side is a further area for jerusalem and globe artichokes, which is now part of the newly cleared area.

Since then, I've acquired 2 more greenhouses, one 30-something foot by 12 foot and one about 40 foot by 14 foot. I also have another area, about 45 foot by 12 foot, for growing squashes and pumpkins.

And another, for soft fruit. That's also 38 feet long and has three beds, each 4 or 5 feet wide.

It seems enough for anyone, doesn't it. But the soft fruit area was not well planned or executed and has become overgrown. When I was too busy to look after it for a couple of years, it got completely out of hand and I've now taken down all the netting, cut off the bits of currant growing through it and, in the autumn, will consider moving it altogether, or maybe everything but the raspberries which come up everywhere anyway.

What I'm finding it hard to do is decide how to divide up the new area. Two sides, a short and a long, will be against a wall once I've built it (once the Sage has come up with the ideal bricks) and I might put in some fruit trees, such as apricot or peach. One faces South and the other East. Another side is separated from the 40 foot greenhouse by a 2 foot path. The fourth is alongside the present kitchen garden.

It's much easier to deal with beds with permanent paths, for several reasons. One is that you don't dig, manure or weed where you aren't going to grow things. Another is that the rain comes off the paths onto the ground - useful on my light soil. The ground warms up early in the spring as the heat of the sun is absorbed by the concrete and released later. If for some reason you don't need all the garden for vegetables one year, it does not become badly overgrown, especially if you put down a mulch.

But four foot paths are not perfect for everything. So maybe five or more foot this time? Or maybe a couple of narrower ones for climbing beans? Or is that too restrictive?

Usually, I'd just grow potatoes for a year to clear the ground and let the plan form in my mind gradually. But the chooks cleared it for me and I need to decide quickly.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and decided it was just too dull to post. But tonight I'm too tired to write and I'd really appreciate some advice, if you have any, so I've changed my mind and am inflicting it on you.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Z is visiting London on a Coach

Off on another jolly tomorrow. Yes, my life is full of frivolity. I have earned my keep today, however, by looking after Squiffany this morning, working in the garden and greenhouse this morning and working on actual money-bearing work this evening, as far as one can when one has sunk half a bottle of red and is Merry.

I will leave for Norwich at 6.45, ante meridiem.

When I arrive back in Norwich, some 12 hours after I leave, I'll toddle down the the Assembly House for a private view (no, not just for me, it's not that private) of an exhibition put on by students at the City College - a group I'm on the committee of has sponsored it.

I have explained to the Sage and Ro that I will be too late for dinner and not to wait. I'll eat on the way home. This means either that I'll huddle at a Table For One or that I'll queue at MuckD for a takeaway. Or I could dream hungrily of bacon and eggs all the way home. I don't know. I'll let kind fate decide.

I'm going to visit the Goldsmiths' Hall, in the City*, by the way. I've not been there before, I expect to be vastly interested.

*near St Pauls

Z gets lonely

It seems very quiet around here now. Squiffany came to visit for only three hours, but I'm lonely without her.

We were very busy this morning. She arrived clutching a small pot of yoghurt and a punnet of raspberries, asked for a spoon and sat and ate them, giving me two of the raspberries. Then we went for a walk round the village. I had a key to deliver and Tilly was keen for a walk. As we set off down the drive, she charged across the field excitedly. She rushed back to us, galloped off again, went through the hedge onto the other field and vanished. "Where's Tilly?" asked Squiffany. Tilly belted back, wild-eyed and mouth agape, vanished into the field. She was gone for longer than I'd expect for a dog hoping for a walk. I was not surprised to see a rabbit hop through the hedge onto the drive and unhurriedly lop along towards the garden. Quite half a minute later, Tilly reappeared, sniffing for tracks. She really is the world's worst rabbiter.

When we arrived home, Squiffany asked for some orange juice. While I was squeezing the orange, I heard the computer 'ping' a reminder and realised I had Meals on Wheels to deliver today.

It's not especially awkward taking a child with you to deliver M o W. What is awkward is the car seat. One has to align three separate pieces of buckle simultaneously and clip them together. It needs to be tight fitting of course, or it isn't much use. I put her in the seat and fastened it, drove to the café, took her with me to fetch the food, clipped her in the seat, drove to the first house, took her out --- so it went on. She was very charming to all the old people, although quiet - too much attention for a little girl. When we arrived home, I asked her what she wanted for lunch, giving her several options. "I want to go upstairs, please, Granny."

I know what that means. Granny has a very bouncy bed. Also, Squiffany lives in a bungalow, so the stairs themselves are fun. While we were bouncing, I asked again about lunch. "Would you like pasta?" "I like pasta," she replied, "But not today, thank you." Everything I suggested received the same response. It was far too polite to take exception to. "Well," I said in the end. "I'm hungry. And I'm having chips. You can share them if you like." I put the chips in the oven (no, I don't normally give a child such naughty food, but hey, being a granny means you can get away with it) and we went off to feed the chickens. They are still living in the greenhouse, which is well ventilated, but if this warmth continues they will have to move soon.

Chips, egg and tomato ketchup went down very well. Some of it down her front, indeed. Afterwards, I rummaged through the bag Dilly had left. Clean clothes, fortunately. By the time Dilly returned to take her to playgroup, her face and hands were washed and she was wearing a clean top.

And now I miss her.

Monday, 12 March 2007

What's it worth?

Murph's comment on the last reminded me of the way I devised to justify any extra expenditure I might ever make. A couple of years ago, I spent a day shopping for clothes and stuff. I don't do this very often, but I found myself in the mood and in the happy circumstance that everything I liked fitted and everything that fitted I liked. So I bought them.

Now, my husband has never been one of those chaps who complains when bills come in. In fact, he's very pleased when I spend money - he doesn't think I spend enough on the whole. So when I came home and said I'd been shopping for clothes, he said "Good for you." "I've spent quite a bit. A teapot's worth, in fact." "What," he said airily, "about £900?" "Oh, crumbs, no. More like £600*." "A cracked teapot then."

Since then, every time I've spent money on more than necessities, I've thought of it in terms of Lo'st'ft china. A teabowl and saucer. A coffee cup. A nice little cat - maybe not, I could get a car for that. But a badly damaged piece could start at £20 or £30, so there's something to fit all eventualities.

*This is a lot for me to spend in a day, but it may be small beer to you, of course. Or a small fortune, on the other hand.

Dear Norwich

The dentist spent ten minutes looking at my teeth, my gums and my tongue*. He took two x-rays. He said I have good plaque management, which to me equates with my optician once telling me I've got good eye-muscles as I see surprisingly well for the eyesight I have.

The bill was £50. I took this in good humour. I have made another appointment, for 17th September.

I pottered around Norwich for an hour, for the first time this year. Norwich has made it clear that they do not welcome drivers and coming in by bus is more effort than it's worth. I still come for meetings and such things, but rarely to shop. I had a key cut at the market, visited two bookshops (bookshops, for me, prove to be more expensive than the dentist) and checked out the prices of fruit. Norwich market appears to be dearer than Al's shop. For example, he charges £2.97 per kilo for plums and the stall I looked at charged £3.30. He charges £1.60 for English Cox apples. It charges £1.80. Grapes were more expensive too. Clementines were the same each, at 20p, but he charges £1 for six. I was in danger of having my eye caught by that of the stallholder, so I did not look at the price of vegetables.

I had paid for an hour's on-street parking and trotted back on time, smiling cheerily at the traffic warden as I passed him. He had not a disappointed air nevertheless, as he had just filled out a ticket for another motorist who had overstayed his time.

The sun shines. I checked that the key works and it does. I shall eat lunch, change into gardening clothes and spend the afternoon outside. Maybe, later, the Sage will want me to help with more carpentry.

*I appreciate this. I have, in my time, known three people whose first signs of mouth cancer was observed by their dentist, who advised them to visit the doctor, urgently.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Just another Sunday

Sunday. It's not always the best day of my week, actually, but I've recovered now, due in part to the unexpectedly nice bottle of wine I bought yesterday, which has cheered me considerably and which I'll buy more of while the shop has still got it.

It started at 6.40, when I woke up and, much as I wanted to, found myself unable to doze before the alarm went off at 6.59.

At 7.30 I was scruffling down the drive on the way to church. By 8, I had put out the communion wine and wafers, fitted up the microphones, put out the brass candlesticks, cross, ewer and tray, found the pages in the Bible for the readings, unlocked the back door (fire exit), greeted a very small congregation and was ready for the service to start.

An hour later, I was clearing away again, ready for C, whose baby was being christened today and who was bringing sausage rolls and sandwiches and a gorgeous cake for the party. I put on the urn, got out coffee, tea (and associated cafétières and teapot) milk, sugar and biscuits, music stands, service sheets, practised the organ, practised the clarinet, made coffee and drank two cups and ate a biscuit (breakfast).

At 10.45 I realised we needed more milk. I walked home, changed my shoes, took a pint of milk from the fridge, drove to church (200 yards), hurried in, put milk in kitchen, went to organ, played a voluntary (introductory tune).

At 11.05 I played the first hymn.

At 11.15 I played the second hymn on the clarinet. Not long after, I played the third hymn.

At 11.30, I realised there was no one to read the second lesson. I read the second lesson. Soon after, I played the fourth hymn.

At 11.45, I belted out after the Rector to make coffee. I, with another, made and served 25ish cups of tea and coffee, washed up, talked in practical fashion about church stuff.

At 12.30, I must have been flagging slightly. Dave, the Fellow ChurchWarden, asked if I was feeling okay. "Don't I look okay?" "You walk as if you ache a bit." I denied it. The Rector came in and asked if I was feeling okay. I became anxious. "It's just that I'm used to evaluating stock" said Dave. "You mean, if I were a fat cow, you wouldn't put in a bid," I said. I mentioned that I was wearing flat shoes instead of heels. "That must be it," he said, reassuringly.

At 1 o'clock, I went home, opened the greenhouse, switched off the propagator and told the Sage that a Gentleman Friend had invited me out for lunch.

At 3 o'clock, I went home (nice lunch, thanks) and got changed and helped the Sage with carpentry work.

At 6.30, I asked him if he would prefer, for dinner, something done with the rest of last night's chicken, or steak. There was a long pause, while he looked for the catch. "Steak sounds nice," he said, cautiously.

I wasn't very hungry, myself, but I wasn't surprised at the choice. I scrubbed potatoes, washed HOME GROWN SPINACH (YAY - new growth from the overwintered stuff), peeled sprouts and washed tomatoes. I opened the aforementioned wine, poured a glass and drank.

At 7.40, dinner was served. I cheerily decided I liked Clare B@lding, who has jollied up Crufts no end. I booed, however, when her choice of dog (called something like Big Willy) won. I had been rooting for the laid-back bloodhound.

9.00. I checked emails and found one that cheered me considerably and which I replied to enthusiastically, if monosyllabically. Well, briefly. I didn't count the syllables.

There's my day so far. Now I'll read the paper.

I'm going to the dentist tomorrow. Boo.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

The slim man

Not long ago, Ro and I were talking about the amount people eat - being overweight, the effect on what you eat on your health - the sort of thing that young men are interested in nowadays. "You'll never be overweight," I said. "I've known that since you were a child." He wondered what I meant, so I explained.

For one thing, he never overate. When he was full, he stopped eating. He was not a fussy eater at all and ate most foods, but if he said he had had enough, even if it meant removing a half-chewed mouthful, that was it. I did, once or twice, encourage him to finish the plateful, or even the mouthful, but since it inevitably made him sick, I quickly learned it was best to accept the situation ... he very rarely couldn't finish a mouthful, mealtimes were not disgusting occasions in the Z household.

But the other reason, and this is the one that counts, is that he didn't eat crumbs. Tell me the truth - if you are eating something Totally Yummy and bits fall off it, do you not wet your finger and pick them up and eat them? If you are eating something with delicious nuts on, and one falls off, do you not pick it up?*

He didn't. Never mind how good it was.

I told him this and he was surprised. He didn't even know - well, I don't know if he hadn't realised he didn't do it, or if other people do (of course, this could just be me, I'm relying on you ... relying on you, you hear? ... to tell me it isn't) - but it was something he was unaware of.

Today, Al had in the shop bunches of red mooli. They were beautiful. Great red radishes, still with the leaves on. When he's had mooli (I don't know, ignorant woman, if the plural is moolies, moolis or mooli) before, they have been white ones.

He also had bunches of little radishes. I bought both, just so that I could show Ro a radish. "Call this a radish?" I brandished it. "This" - waving the mooli - "is a radish!"

I did him a nice little dish of mooli, radishes, little savoury biscuits and a tomato/chilli dip. He ate it and brought the dish to the kitchen. The bowl which had the biscuits in had a little pile of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Now, would you not have eaten them?**

He is 6 feet tall. He has a 30 inch waist. I expect he will retain it.

*Somehow, this reminds me of the Merchant of Venice..."If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
**You may be wondering if I did. No, I didn't. I put them in the hen-food pan.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Z bluffs

I mentioned that I'd tidied the study. Well bugger that. I'll not be trying that sort of idiocy again. I was about to leave for my meeting in Bury St Edmunds and reached for my papers. Half an hour later I finally left, having rifled through reams of tree-pulp, empty-handed.

"Drive carefully, don't go too fast" said an anxious Sage, knowing I'd be late. "That is a very unhelpful thing to say!" I snapped.

Of course, I'd not be late for the meeting. I'm actually pretty punctilious about punctuality. All I was late for was the lunchtime buffet. The two colleagues who were also going to the meeting were worried though. It was necessary to give a report and neither of them had a clue what to say. Neither had I, in that I hadn't prepared in advance, but you know that wouldn't stop me. Stand me on my feet (yeah, yeah, I'm not going to be standing on my hands, am I. Be cheeky though, and I might stand on your feet) in front of a roomful and I'll talk as if I know what I'm saying.

Someone asked what to do if a lecturer didn't turn up. I murmured to my neighbour "I've got a lecture, just no pictures to go with it." This is true. I went to a lecture back in September on my Specialist Subject and I could have done it, to a roomful of non-experts.

Anyway, the meeting finished early and I congratulated the Chairman, not only on the earliness but on his chairmanship. I meant it, too. I've known him slightly for some years and have always found him slightly distant, but he's terrific in this job. Very friendly, warm, but with excellent control of the meeting. Once introduced, he remembers everyone and makes sure he remembers something about them too, always a charmingly flattering thing to do.

Young Ro took the morning off work. He had the afternoon off anyway - a few months ago, his boss offered him every other Friday afternoon in return for an extra half hour four days a week. He came downstairs with a deeply croaky voice. I urged chilli and ginger upon him. He, doubtfully, has taken my advice and now can't tell where his tongue is. I am sure he will be completely recovered by tomorrow.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Waiting by the telephone, just the thoughts ramble

I suddenly remembered this morning that I've had my car a year so a) the MOT test needs to be booked for the end of the month and b) I haven't had an insurance renewal. I checked the policy - 3rd March - so I telephoned.

I've used the same company for years, because their agent, Steve, is a lovely bloke and they give good service at a cheaper price than the company we used to use. However, a year or so ago they decided to centralise everything and now Steve no longer calls. I still deal with them as their call centre people have lovely Manchester accents and are helpful.

A nice woman called Christine answered. She spent some time sounding puzzled and agreed that, indeed, my policy renewal reminder hasn't been sent out. She is going to phone back when she tracks down what has happened.

Which is why I'm writing, as I have to sit by the phone and not get stuck into other work that will distract me.

The post has just arrived, with my tickets for the Aldeburgh Festival this year. I was surprised when my son offered to come to a concert with me and my husband to another. I asked if they'd like to look at the programme to pick a concert. "Nah, that's all right" they said, "We won't know anything about it anyway."

I told Ro that, for under 27s, the tickets are half price. He was amused and wondered how old most of the audience are...and agreed to come to two concerts with me. Three visits are enough, in a fortnight, so none of them will be solitary ones. That'll be lovely.

Made me wonder a bit though, both of them actually volunteering for this - is it 'be kind to Z' week?

The other day, I needed to find something in a hurry, that could not be discovered in the piles of paper I call a filing 'system' I was obliged to tidy the whole study. I haven't actually filed everything in its proper place yet, but the room is fearsomely tidy. One thing I found, that had been missing for a bit, was my iPod recharger which is good. I knew it was in here somewhere.

Christine rang back. The department is still busy. She asked if it's still all right for me to wait. I think that was pretty helpful actually, not just leaving me waiting and wondering if she'd forgotten me.

I suppose I might as well do some work while I'm waiting. Ho hum.

Update - Christine now tells me they no longer do fully comprehensive policies, with anyone able to drive the car. Only 3 named drivers. That means I have to choose between five children, a sister and a husband. I'm plumping for the two children who don't have a car (and therefore can't drive mine on their own insurance with 3rd Party cover) and my husband. I need to give full details and I can't remember my son-in-law's middle name. I have emailed to ask him. Memory like a sieve, I have.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Another meme

This one's from Stegbeetle. It makes one go all introspective, which is a bit worrying.

1. Biggest fear: Water. Deep water. The sea. I can cope with a swimming pool but I can’t go out of my depth unless I have something to hold on to. My daughter didn’t believe me until we were on holiday together and I unwisely let go and then couldn’t get upright again without going underwater and she had to grab me. That was extremely funny actually – she said “I knew you were a bad swimmer but I didn’t expect to have to rescue you from the shallow end!” We stood in the water in fits of laughter - I could laugh about that, but to swallow sea water?
I’m most afraid of drowning in the sea.

2. Most megalomaniacal ambition: I am a reasonable woman. I’m easy-going and, if something matters to you, I’m usually happy to go along with it. Even if I disagree, give me a good argument and I may be persuaded. But if I still say I’m right, then I am and that’s all there is to it.
Therefore, the ambition is to be recognised as always right.

3. When you’re talking to your boss, you’re usually thinking about: I don’t have a boss as such so I’ll give my husband the honour since he is the expert in our business. I’m usually thinking ‘yeah, yeah, I’ll do it when I’m ready. First things first.’ And what they are, I’ll leave you to imagine.

4. Most disgusting habit: I don’t think it is odd at all, but I’ve never met anyone else who admits to it. When cuddling a dog, I sniff its paws. I love the smell of dogs’ feet. Each dog, of course, smells different. In another life, I was a bloodhound.
I also adore biting my nails. I don’t do it much, although I have a lifetime legacy of weak nails, but I enjoy it when I have an excuse such as a broken nail that’s catching on things.

5. Criteria for judging other people: How they treat other people. Particularly someone whose job makes them easy to disregard, such as a shop assistant or a waiter, who has to accept disrespect without reacting.

6. How do you measure up?: I hope, pretty well. However, there are times when I can’t remember the face of a person who served me, or whom I served and I am trying to learn to look at people as well as talking to them.

7. What do you think when you see a fat person eating fast food?: ‘Eat slow food.’

8. How about when you see thin person smoking?: ‘(S)he’ll look old before her/his time.’

9. When you meet someone of the same gender who’s more attractive than you, inside you think: I wish I had legs like hers. And that I was taller.

10. When you meet someone of the opposite gender who’s less attractive than you, inside you think: I don’t take much notice of appearance. I don’t think that what a man looks like has to be the most attractive thing about him.

11. The last lie you told was: I said I was busy last Monday night to get out of an engagement. In fact, I was out every other night of the week and I wanted an evening in, but I felt it wouldn’t be polite to admit that on that occasion (usually I’d just say it, but that time it wouldn’t have been appropriate).

12. Tell us about the time you read someone’s diary/hacked into their emails/went through their stuff: I read my daughter’s housemate’s diary, about 10 years ago. He was training to be a teacher and was writing an evaluation of how the course was going and how he felt about his chosen career. It was rather sweetly pompous. It wasn’t a personal diary at all.
I also once read a letter from my husband’s brother, to him and me, but the Sage hadn’t shown it to me. I understood why he hadn’t, it was a spiteful and bitter letter. The Sage neither wanted me to be upset nor to demonstrate what a person his brother had become. I have never told him I read the letter (he knew I had seen others, in similar vein but not as nasty, from his brother).

13. You know that person who you’re secretly jealous of - and there’s a part of you, that you can’t quite suppress, that wishes they would, just for once, get to taste a bit of your luck? Tell us what you hate about them – go on let it all out: There are some people (eg some politicians, ‘celebs’, journalists) whom I would find it hard to speak to, but that’s not personal.
I don’t know anyone luckier than me.
I can only bitch about someone spontaneously, I don’t want to do it in cold blood!

14. The most expensive thing you’ve ever stolen was: I can’t remember stealing anything. Except that I have a pen from Argos in my handbag, so I must have pocketed it. Dear God, what a prig I sound. I’ve a lot of faults, but stealing isn’t one of them.
Ah yes, I’ve thought of something. When I was a little girl, my mother’s godson spent a few weeks with us each summer. On his last day, we went and bought sweets and cakes and had a feast. Part of the ritual was that we had to use found money if we didn’t have any of our own. We used to look down the back of chairs and in drawers for pennies. We didn’t look outside the house or in a handbag, it had to be ‘lost’ money so we didn’t think of it as stealing, but it was a secret. It was about a shilling’s worth. 5p. A pound or two at today’s prices.

15. Even though all this is true, you’re still a really good person because… children and dogs and horses like me and they are excellent judges of character.

I'm not tagging, but let me know if you have a go at this one.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The family story – part 14 – When Jane met her in-laws

Jane and Malcolm, newly married, drove from Weymouth in Dorset to Oulton Broad in Suffolk, a journey of 200-odd miles. She must have been very nervous. She was quite unsophisticated and, although 23 years old, her teenage years had been passed in wartime and she had had no opportunities for travel or anything but local parties. Her husband was 36, well-educated at public school and Oxford, had travelled widely and spent six years in the army. She knew that he came from a wealthy family, although he didn't have any money at this time.

They were met at the door by the butler, who greeted them as "Mr and Mrs Malcolm" and ushered them indoors. The Major and his wife were waiting in the drawing-room, the Major still recuperating from a recent operation on his gall-bladder. The Major was much taller than his son, with a bigger, burly frame. He had dark hair and a red beard and moustache. His wife, Helen, I've only ever seen in indistinct press photos. I know that she had the dark brown eyes that her son inherited and that she had been treated in the 1930s for cancer in her face. This early radiotherapy had destroyed her cheekbone and she covered her cheek to hide the hole, which would not close completely as occasionally bits of dead bone worked themselves out (I'm just the reporter, I don't know how this worked at all. Sorry to revolt you all). She was careless of her appearance and simply wrapped any scarf round her face and tied it in a knot.

The Major greeted Jane warmly, invited her to call him Pa and poured everyone a glass of sherry from a cut-glass decanter. Jane felt more shy than ever. She never drank alcohol - once she had been plied with home-made cowslip wine by an elderly woman she was visiting and, having no idea of its strength, she became totally pie-eyed and could hardly walk home, but otherwise she didn't drink at all. However, she couldn't refuse and took a cautious sip and put the glass down on the table.

A few moments later, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a hand flash past with the full glass and down again with it empty. Moments later, Pa boomed out "My word, my girl. You enjoyed that sherry, didn't you. Better pour you another glass!"

I'm sure Malcolm had warned her that his mother was an alcoholic, but she hadn't expected that. Ma (mother-in-law Helen) was unable to control her drinking and so it was controlled for her. She was allowed a glass of sherry and half a bottle of wine a day and No Gin under any circumstances. She craved more and would sneak a glass if she could.

Jane and Pa bonded immediately. The visit only lasted a couple of nights - there was still a hotel to run and this was June, coming into the holiday season. It must have taken some getting used to - from her father's bungalow, attractive though it was, to a large house with a butler, cook/housekeeper, cleaner and maid, a chauffeur and three gardeners. It was the last remnants of a vanishing era.

At tea on the first day, she admired the silver tea service. It was engraved with the family crest and the lids of the kettle, the teapot and the hot-water jug were decorated with acorns and is very pretty without being fussy. When she arrived home in Weymouth, she went to unpack and found the whole service, complete with salver, in her suitcase. A little present from Pa to his beloved new daughter.

Monday, 5 March 2007

The family story – part 13 – When Malcolm met Jane

I left my father here, newly demobbed. His destiny was decided by his father.

My mother was planning her own future.

Jane had, after leaving school, trained as a secretary. The war had ruined her plans to go to university and she looked for a new job. She became secretary to the manager of the R1v1era Hotel in Bowle@ze Cove, Weym0uth. It was not long before he left and then word came that the son of the owner was going to take over as the new Managing Director.

She saw a man in his mid-thirties. Of medium height, with straight black hair which he combed straight back off his face. He wore his demob suit, which was too big for his thin frame. He had dark brown eyes and a pale face. He saw a young, slender woman with curly, dark brown hair and hazel eyes.

They got on well together. Malcolm had no experience at all of business or of hotel work. He knew what to expect of hotels from a guest's point of view, but that was all. Furthermore, immediately after the war, there was still rationing and price restrictions and no one had taken family holidays for the past seven years.

Jane had a boyfriend, whose name was Ted and who was a local photographer. He had his own business and her father liked him very much. They enjoyed a glass of beer and a chat together and he looked forward, one day, to Ted joining the family as his son-in-law. Jane did not have the same feelings for Ted as he did for her, however. She liked him and they had interests in common, particularly walking and cycling, but she had no thoughts of their relationship going any further. But it was while Ted was on holiday that Malcolm asked Jane out for the evening. I can't remember what I was told they did for the evening - the cinema, perhaps? - but they got on very well together and soon were going out every night.

A couple of weeks later, when they were kissing passionately in the car, Malcolm broke off. "I can't put up with this any longer!" he said.

Later that night, Jane had to explain to her father that she was going to marry her boss, as soon as he had obtained the special licence. A day or so later, she had to tell Ted. That wasn't easy. They were both pretty shocked and upset.

Malcolm phoned his parents to tell them. His father was just out of hospital after an operation and he was unable to travel. His mother was not fit to travel alone, but it was agreed that Malcolm and Jane would travel up to Suffolk immediately after the wedding. They took a couple of staff members to the Registry Office as witnesses and off they set as man and wife.

It is, by the way, a coincidence, that I'm writing this for my 500th post. It's worked out quite well though.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

A dialogue

"I don't want to disturb you," said the Sage politely, "But before you go to bed tonight, could you look at that piece on eBay for me please? Not yet. Not this moment." "I'm not busy," I replied. "I'm only reading blogs."

The Sage brightened. "Well, if you're only reading blogs..."

Still two days to go. It's not time to bid yet.

Update So he said. But he put in 50p all the same. Taken out again at once. Hm, interesting...
So, what's the opponent's top bid? Will we find out tomorrow, or will we wait until the next day and slam him with our maximum with 10 seconds to go?

That's what I'd do. But I'm ruthless, me.

Friday, 2 March 2007

A string of Gs

Ten things I like beginning with the letter G. As requested by Wendz.

Guffawing. Oh, I do like to laugh. A few types of laughter stand out though. Such as waking from a dream laughing - sometimes not even knowing what was so funny - it is so much fun.
Or a fit of the giggles, however inappropriate the moment. I remember a few years ago at a jazz concert - you know how each performer gives his* own little virtuoso bit, so that he milks that extra round of applause. I always wonder why they need that, when there is never a corresponding moment in the spotlight for the French horn or the clarinetist in an orchestra - on this occasion, we had dutifully applauded the pianist, the trombonist, the trumpeter, the double bassist and it was the drummer's turn. His drumsticks twinkled gleefully and we duly clapped ... but too early! He redoubled his efforts and we had to clap again ... but he still had not finished. I was finished, though, I chortled and chuckled and completely embarrassed my son who was sitting next to me. Luckily, I was in the seat nearest the wall and near the back, so not many people noticed my heaving shoulders.
And there's the sort of laughter that leaves you with aching ribs and stomach, when you need to stop because the laugh hurts so much, but you can't and as one of you starts to regain control, another snorts and everyone starts spluttering painfully again until you are weak and helpless.

*please always read 'or her' of course. If just for the fabulous Kathy Stobart (scroll down).

Grandchildren. You might have known I'd say that. They are a total joy. Squiffany knows she can get almost anything out of me. "Granny." "Yes." "Granny..." and I'm lost already. And Pugsley beams when he sees me. He's a friendly lad and probably beams at everyone, but I believe it's for me.

Grapes. In my younger days, I used to eat them by throwing each one up in the air and catching it in my mouth. I haven't done that recently. I wonder if I still can. Hang on.
The third attempt, it bounced off my tongue. The fourth, it hit a front tooth and ricocheted onto the carpet. Fifth time lucky. More practice needed, I think.
Come to think of it, grapes aren't the only fruit (oh, don't literary references abound?). There's greengages. I love greengages. I used to gorge on them when I was a child. I wasn't particularly greedy, but they were one of the fruits, only briefly in season, that I couldn't resist.

Gardening. Especially Greenhouse Gardening. Growing things. I know I've said this before, but I love everything about this. From sowing the seeds to the thrill, which still moves me after all these years, of seeing the first shoots. Then, when the seedilings are big enough, to tease each one gently from the compost and replant it into its first little pot. Later, to pot it on again.
I like all gardening, in fact, except weeding, which I don't enjoy at all. I know that sensible people hoe frequently, so that the weeds never become large enough to be a nuisance, but I am easily bored and I'm as likely to do this as I am to dust the furniture every day so that the dust never shows. Where's the satisfaction in that?

Grammar. I love a well-crafted sentence. I think my enjoyment of grammar is rooted in having learned Latin. It is a precise and economical language that appeals to anyone who appreciates perfection.
When I was a child, I used to read the bit at the back of the school dictionary that explained all the niceties of English grammar. It fascinated me. I was taught grammar at school, but even in the 1960s, precision was already being thought of as limiting to a child's imagination and I learned far more by choice than I was taught by teachers.

Gastronomy. 'The art and science of good eating,' says my dictionary. I'm not particularly greedy, though I have my moments, but I have a constant and keen interest in food. It is probably telling that I only really take gardening seriously when it comes to vegetables. The need always to be planning the next family meal used to bore me at times and there was a time when, due to dietary restrictions for two of my family (one vegetarian and one low-fat with various intolerences), I had to plan carefully and sometimes to do three main dishes to suit all of us, which was tricky and time-consuming.
Now I have none of these limitations and the fact that most of the cooking I do is simple and quite plain is because I enjoy the choice of ingredients as much as their preparation.

Grisaille. When I went to the National Gallery a few weeks ago, I showed you a picture that particularly appealed to me, that was painted en grisaille; that is, in shades of grey. ' We have a charming teapot, similarly monochrome, that I love. And, when I was at Windsor Castle the other day, there was an exhibition of photographs to mark the Queen's 80th birthday. One of the recent ones, in black and white,
stood out from the others. Monochrome photography has a clarity that, like a winter landscape, removes the distraction of bright colour and makes it unnecessary.

Graves. Rober Graves, that is, who wrote 'I Claudius' and 'Goodbye to All That'. One of the First World War writers, who survived the war and whose memoirs, like those of Siegfried Sassoon the poet, give a vivid picture of those days. 'I Claudius' is a fabulously enjoyable reconstruction of the early years of the Roman Republic, from Augustus Caesar (played memorably by BR1AN BLESSED in the BBC dramatisation) to Claudius (Derek Jacob1) himself. If the book can be believed, they were, in the main, a murderously barking set of megalomaniacs and if you haven't read the book, I heartily recommend it. And watch the DVDs too.

Ghostbusters. Yes, the movie. I saw it for the first of many times at a cinema in Great Yarmouth with my two elder children when I was pregnant with the third and I was absolutely confused. I couldn't tell any of the main characters apart - which seems odd to me now, when you think of them. Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson do not look remotely similar to each other.
When my third child was five, the sequel came out and he adored it. There was one occasion when we were travelling and called in at a roadside café with a jukebox. He wanted to play the Ghostbusters theme tune and we inadvisably agreed. Out it roared - "who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!" in the otherwise silent room and there was nothing we could do to turn it off or down. None of the other customers said a word, but neither did anyone smile indulgently.
I saw the film again recently and it's still damn good.

Gladness. The ability to give and receive joy and pleasure. And that needs no elaboration at all.

Anyone like to have a go? - who hasn't already been given a letter by Wendz, that is. Let me know if you do and I'll randomly pick your letter. It's more enjoyable than you might think and there's no need to say anything personal, unlike a lot of memes, which is good for those who are more modest than I.

Good for ginger

It's been a spring-like day today. Sunny, as was yesterday, but much warmer. We all went out to work in the garden. Al weeded the herb bed, the Sage and Dilly started weeding the asparagus (last year a whole lot of little perennial nettles got a hold and it's going to be the devil to eradicate them) and Squiffany and I worked in the greenhouse. Pugsley supervised. Much as I would have liked to give him a job, he can't sit up on his own yet, so he was excused.

I sneezed when I came in for lunch. I felt the prickling behind my nose that indicates a threatening cold. I only had one mild cold last winter so I was none too pleased to start the spring with one. I immediately squeezed two oranges and drank the juice, poured hot water onto chopped ginger with some honey and drank it and have asked Al to bring me home two chillies which I will eat in a salad with onion and some of the chickpeas which I presciently cooked a couple of days ago. I will also drink whisky* in medicinal quantities. I trust that the rheum will take the hint and leave. I have not, at any rate, sneezed since.

My little girlie and her beloved are home this weekend, just for tonight and Saturday. I'll probably do an early meal tomorrow evening so that Al and family can come as Squiffany's bedtime preparations start early. Usually, she has her tea first, then bath, books, cuddles, bed, are done by 7 or half-past and then Al and Dilly start making their own meal, but we can all eat together for a change if we do it early enough. I'm thinking of lasagne at the moment, but this plan may change in the next 24 hours.

*Yes, Maggie. You're quite right.

There was a gorgeous sunset last night. I took photos from the coach. It wasn't actually as dark as it looks. There was, afterwards, a beautiful full moon. I love the moon and the night sky.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Z smiles

It was a lovely day. I've never visited Windsor before, except for the station, which is very posh as you might expect. What I particularly liked was the understatedness of the castle - fabulous pictures on the walls, mostly unmentioned in the audio guide. Such as, I was strolling round a room and suddenly said - "Good Lord, that's a Rembrandt!" Unlabelled ... well, do you label the pictures in your house? Neither does the Queen. And the room matter-of-factly full of Van Dycks and Holbeins. And the wonderfulness of the restoration after the fire.

Another particularly enjoyable aspect was the company. I sat next to the husband of a friend and he was very interesting to talk to. A bit decided in his opinions, but I like that.

I went round the Castle and had lunch with another friend, whom I got to know better in the time. Her beloved sister died last autumn, having suffered from Alzheimer's, and we talked about her, and about my mother, and about her niece who will take time to recover from it all, and about ourselves. She is a dear, kind, wise person, which I already knew, but now we know each other better too.

I also chatted to the coach driver, Keith, who loves his job. I do enjoy people loving their job, don't you? Enthusiasm is a pleasure to hear about and makes for an interesting conversation.

I phoned half an hour from Norwich and again from the petrol station (not one of the ones selling petrol that seems to have damaged cars) to say when I'd be home, and a splendidly grilled sirloin steak, baked potato and purple sprouting broccoli were being dished up as I walked in the door. Furthermore, after yesterday's post, I found that they had put aside a bowlful of kedgeree for me last night. Not where I could find it, but the thought was all, and all is benign and cheery in the Z household.

And so to bed.

Well, in an hour or two.