Friday, 31 October 2008

Z is out of it, but sociable

There's no good reason for me to be strangely comforted by getting a migraine today as well as yesterday, except the thought that maybe I'm a bit below par and that accounts for my forgetfulness. I was helping Al in the shop at the time so didn't say anything, just popped over to the chemist and bought some Migraleve. I usually have them with me but used the last ones yesterday.

I also went to Wightmans and bought some new fingerless gloves. It took me several years of serving in an unheated shop with the door open to succumb, but by last year I couldn't take it any more. I trotted along to the Chocolate Box to introduce myself to the new owners. It's good being related to Al, as everyone likes him and so his relatives get an immediate welcome.

On my way home, I went into the bank to see if the rent for the flat has been paid in yet. It hasn't. Boo. Not that I'm vastly bothered as most of it will go straight out in a cheque to the agents, who also kept the whole of the first month's rent. So the slower they pay it to me, the longer they'll wait for the rest of their fee. Having spent quite a lot on various necessary checks and upkeep, I'm hoping to break even round about the end of the year.

I'm going to have the pleasure of Squiffany and Pugsley's company this afternoon. I might suggest making soup. Nice warm job for a chilly afternoon.

Just had a call to remind me I'm down to do refreshments for next Tuesday's WI. Indeed, I haven't forgotten and have been considering the menu for several days. No cup of tea and a biscuit for us. It takes up to three people to prepare a sumptuous array of snacks sufficient for 30 or so people. I usually skip dinner on WI nights so that I can do justice to it all.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Z seems to have bedeye, too

I think I'm cracking up. I just discovered I didn't put in my lens again today. Again, I didn't notice all day.

I'm going to bed.

Z has bedhair

Oh dear, it's true. The phone rang very early this morning and the Sage answered. It was a wrong number, but the caller could hardly be convinced. "What number are you after?" asked the Sage. "Well, this is 2468". The man had meant to dial 9478 - that is, he'd inverted one number, got another wrong and switched them over. Easily done, if you're a local, I suppose (I don't use 'local' there in a complimentary manner). I was far too indolent to get up early, lay there until I should and then promptly went back to sleep. I was woken by a knock on the door. I put on a dressing-gown in a modesty-preserving way and opened the window. The postman clutched a parcel which needed to be signed for.

I was impressed. I only ordered the things yesterday and I only paid for normal postage, not first class or recorded, but that's what I got. Indeed, I'll give them a mention on the strength of it - Liz Earle.

So, after signing for the parcel, hurrying to get dressed and getting on with things, it was only as I'd put on my face that I realised I forgot to wash my hair. So I'll spend the rest of the day looking as if I've only just got out of bed. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Z relents

Ach, I was a bit grumpy there. In fact, I've spent the best years of my life being surprised yet again by what the Sage does know and can do. For example, a few years ago, he built me some cupboards in the bathroom. This had the added advantage of covering over a perfectly horrible brick fireplace his parents had, some 5 decades earlier, had done. I said I'd go and buy some wooden doorknobs for them. He went out. A few minutes later, he returned. He had toddled down to the churchyard, pruned a yew and turned four knobs from the pruned branch. I had no idea he could turn wood - he has a lathe, but that's for metalwork, as he did an engineering apprenticeship before learning the auctioneering business in London.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd venture to ask him if he knew who wrote, for example, Oliver Twist, just in case he doesn't. It's perfectly possible. He certainly hasn't read it. And he knows nothing at all about music. He'll come with me to a concert to be friendly and he may even enjoy it, but he won't know whether he's listening to Mozart or Chopin.

Sometimes, I wonder how we ever ended up together, because it's not for our shared interests. That is, I share his interests - a fair few of them anyway - but he doesn't share a single one of mine. It must just be his personality that attracts me.

Mind you, I still think he could have had an inkling of what an ATM is for. After all, they are normally referred to as 'cashpoints'.

No charm and clarity here

No, more muddle-headedness instead, I'm afraid. I spent most of the day in a state of faff. The Sage and I went to pick some beetroot, with permission, from a neighbour's garden and when I was in the shop getting more quinces I realised that I hadn't got my handbag. It wasn't in the car and it was far more likely that I'd left it behind than that I'd lost it. We went back; that was what happened, but I'd been so flummoxed that I forgot all the rest of my shopping (no, I didn't have money, just a husband with a wallet) and had to go back into town.

I've just had an irritated few minutes, the extent of which I hope I hid, explaining to the Sage what an ATM* is for. I'd needed to check if a cheque had been paid in and rather than go to the bank, I used said machine. I told him disappointedly that the money is not there yet and it took a long time for him to catch on to the fact that I hadn't needed to go to the bank, queue and ask. "I don't have a credit card, so why should I know?" I left aside the detail that you don't, except in an emergency, use a credit card in an ATM (because it was reasonable not to know that) said that they've been around for long enough for their purpose to be general, not specific, knowledge.

If you're as old as I am (and I know, darlings, hardly anyone is. I have, in the past few years, moved from being younger or about the same as most people I know to being quite considerably older, especially in the Land of Blog) then you had General Knowledge tests at school. If there were a few minutes spare at the end of the lesson, of if it were a wet playtime, then there would be a swift round-the-class general knowledge or mental arithmetic test. You were expected to know stuff. Now, most people don't, or so it seems. And knowledge has become so focused that anything outside your immediate sphere of work is far too abstruse to be expected to know. For example, an intelligent and well-educated woman of my acquaintance, agreeing to take minutes at a meeting, said "Although I'm a Biology teacher, you know, not English, so I can't do spelling and grammar." Likewise, a mathematician explained that she knew nothing, of course, of history, geography or poetry.

The Sage is a bit of a master of this himself. He knows a vast amount about an array of things that interest him, and has a wide range of abilities as well, but he has no idea of the simplest of things outside those. And he isn't interested in knowing anything for its own sake. I don't get this at all. I think just about anything is interesting. I don't at all deny that this makes me a dilettante and a flibbertigibbet, but it keeps me amused, and that is, after all, a fundamental purpose of my life.

Anyway, the money hasn't been paid in. This isn't important, as all it meant that I didn't write a cheque for most of it, and I will do that when it has been. However, if it had been there today, I would have been instantly jollied into going out for lunch. I had it all planned. Instead, I went home and ate toast.

I have cracked the USA, Canada and the Middle East, but have still to perfect Africa and Eastern Europe. Then I'll move on to Asia, the State capitals and the English counties (when I can find a suitable quiz). I don't think I'll ever be able to learn Wales. I've never even got my head round the current names of the counties. They are still Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire to me, and I don't know how to spell Clwyd.

*Obviously, I didn't call it that. Obviously.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Z is a fuzzy-eyed optimist

Five pots of quince jelly made and four of cotignac. Squiffany, having helped, bore her pot of jelly proudly back home. I'll probably make more as Al still has lots of quinces in the shop - unlike in Mike's neck of the woods, there has been a good crop here. Al says he's never had so many brought in for him to sell.

When I put in my lens this morning, it hurt, so I took it out again, peered to make sure it wasn't back to front, rinsed and put it in again. It still didn't feel quite right, so I refilled the little pot I keep it in and took it with me, in case I needed to take the lens out. I forgot about it during the morning. This afternoon, cycling home, I noticed a child walking along the pavement and looked to see if I knew him and should say 'hello'. My sight was quite fuzzy. Shutting one eye and then the other, I realised that my right eye was blurred, so I must have the lens in back to front after all, I thought. Later, I got the pot out and opened it, ready to put the lens away. There was the lens, where it must have been since I rinsed it. Just as well I hadn't driven today.

Goodness, how I do not scintillate. Sorry. Maybe tomorrow I will entertain you with wit and charm. No, go on, it could happen.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Stocking up

I was given some quinces today, so I cut them up to make cotignac, which is a preserve made by simmering quinces with quartered oranges, taking out the oranges, puréeing the quince and then cooking it again with sugar before bottling it. It's not over-sweet and is good with crème frâiche. I also set about making quince jelly, I left both simmering as I was going out, with instructions to the Sage when to remove them from the stove. He remembered the cotignac but forgot the other quinces simmering in the preserving pan - I don't suppose an extra hour or two will matter. When it had all cooled down, I looked for the jelly bag, which is simply a muslin bag in which one puts fruit to drain out the juice - jelly is jam without the bits. I couldn't find it anywhere. I'm wondering now if it had got so ancient that I threw it out last year. Anyway, the quinces needed to be done - easy enough to make another jelly bag, but I decided to improvise with a ready sewn nylon tube...a stocking. In the first place, I was going to look for a laddered pair of tights and cut off the good leg, but then I couldn't be bothered so got a perfectly good stocking in a not so interesting shade and sacrificed it.

I discovered the advantage of a tights leg when I started to fill the stocking. The opening really isn't quite wide enough. After a few minutes, I picked up the mushy quinces in handfuls and stuffed them in, ending up with using a funnel to hold it open while I poured in the liquid. I hung it up to dry on a convenient hook in a beam in the kitchen, nailed in many years ago for just this purpose and it dangles fatly, dripping tears of quince juice into a bowl. Tomorrow, I'll measure it, add sugar and boil it until it's ready to set.

I do slightly regret the stocking, not being a wasteful sort of a Z, but I wear them less now than I used to, as they really don't go too well with a bicycle. Chilly. And a bit revealing. And I have plenty more pairs for when I'm feeling frivolous.

Weeza came over with Zerlina, who slept most of the afternoon. When she woke, Squiffany and Pugsley had come to call. Squiffany went to give her a kiss and z smiled. Pleased, she bobbed forward again, and z smiled again. Squiffany was entranced and they chatted together for some time. She smiled at me too, but I had to blow raspberries at her to obtain the reaction - the first time, a startled look came to her face and she blinked and frowned before grinning.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Too D*** Hot (we're talking about church, leave out that D word...)

Every year we hold a church service on a Sunday near All Souls Day, for remembrance of loved ones and to comfort the bereaved. Invitations are sent out and it's well supported. People can light candles, and most do. I didn't, myself - it isn't part of my 'thing' - that is, I don't object and I sometimes have, but more because it would sometimes make me stand out not to and that would be unfriendly. It's all part of the 'having been to a Roman Catholic school' thing I suppose; to me, lighting a candle for prayer or in remembrance is a Catholic thing and not mine. I don't mind, it just doesn't mean anything. Today, I skulked at the back and so not lighting up wasn't noticed.

Last winter I never got the church heating quite right (we don't rely on candles). I had actually been given slightly misleading advice, which has now been clarified. So I turned it up full pelt for today and people were almost too warm. I've moderated it slightly now - should keep something in reserve for really cold weather. I also had to alter the time clock for the change to BST. I've no idea how. but I managed to make it think it was Saturday. It took quite some time to persuade it to change again. This is, of course, a Good Thing, because now I understand a bit more about how the system works. Yes, I am a relentless optimist. There is always a silver lining. Well no, actually there isn't - but one can still choose how to react to most situations.

Z prepares to annoy a shop assistant

Ethan is out of special care and doing quite well, considering all. As I said on Friday, he was born with one kidney - the problem with the other one was that it was greatly enlarged, to the extent that the doctors were afraid that it would cease functioning, but this has not happened and he is better. They are doing tests to find out the extent of his physical disabilities and the mental ones will become apparent in due course. This is the syndrome he has been born with - his mother has it and her second child (of four) died from it. Her parents are lovely people who have helped her to be as well and capable as possible and they, like us, were none too pleased that her partner, caring as he is in many ways, put having a large family ahead of her or her babies' health. However, he's born now and she can't have any more, to her parents' relief.

The first rain for ages, today. I need to buy some new boots. My red boots, that I loved, finally fell apart last winter after five years of stalwart service. I'm going to have to be careful as I'm finding comfortable shoes quite difficult to find. It's not the fit but that some shoes that seem fine for the first few minutes make me limp badly after that. Low heels can be worse than high. I haven't worked out quite what the problem is. Today, the narrow 2" heels and pointed toes were fine, the 1" broad heels and rounded toes of yesterday's court shoes weren't, the 1" walking shoes of Friday were very comfortable. I suppose it's the part of my foot that takes the weight. Shoe shops, with their carpeted floors, don't test comfort enough and I've often made mistakes. I suppose I'll have to allow plenty of time and just explain to the assistant that I'll need to stroll around the shop for ten minutes or so.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Thrift, thrift, Horatized (this is a reference to using the vegetable cooking water in the risotto and apologises to Shakespeare and Hamlet)

So, tonight is the Best Night Of The Year, and the only thing that makes it worthwhile not having British Summer Time all year round - I have to say that if there were a referendum on the subject, I would totally* vote for Scottish independence, just so's* the English and Welsh, and very likely the Northern Irish MPs could vote for us not having horrid dark afternoons. Not that they literally bristle** but they feel as if they do. In short, the CLOCKS GO BACK TONIGHT, which means you either have an hour's extra sleep or an hour extra to do fun things on a Sunday. I have not yet made up my mind which.

I went to cut some artichokes for Al to sell - the plants I grew from seed this spring have cropped enthusiastically, though the artichokes are not very large - and observed that there were a few small squashes that had been missed in the general harvest, so I picked them and decided to make a squash risotto. It was not without incident, though nothing untypical of my normal cookery routine.

1 Time for a drink. I open a bottle of sparkling pink wine and pour a glass for Ro and one for me. A few minutes later, the Sage comes in and I wave the bottle at him. He pours himself a glass and goes all convivial. I crack and eat a walnut.

2 " May I help myself?" asks Ro. I am impressed. I haven't drunk mine yet. He refills all three glasses. Moments later, the Sage puts his empty glass down. I am impressed. I crack and eat a couple more walnuts and offer the bag around.

3 I go to the kitchen. I have already grated the squash and chopped the shallots, so I start to cook the latter in butter while I look for the risotto rice. I find all sorts of things in the cupboard, including 2 packets of opened sultanas, 3 opened (better English) packets of couscous, an unopened packet of chamomile and spiced apple tea, which rather made it unnecessary that I bought another one the other day, and various other things I didn't know I had. Finally, I looked in another cupboard and found two packets of arborio rice, both opened and part-used, which weren't the unopened pack I noticed the other day, but hey ho.

4 I put them both into the slightly browner than intended shallots, stirred them and went to look for the dry Martini I usually use in risotto. I remembered it had all been used. I used vodka instead, as otherwise I'd have had to have used my remaining half glass of wine.

5 I add the squash and the leftover gravy from the other night's chicken. It wasn't thickened; just meat'n'onion juices, sherry and veggie cooking liquid plus a spoonful of vegetable stock powder so that wasn't peculiar. I continue to add hot vegetable stock.

6 The Sage comes in. "I peeled the sprouts" he said helpfully. Risotto and sprouts. Hm. Pfft. Fine. I thanked him and gathered him into my arms for a kiss. "You smell smoky" I said approvingly. I actually said "Yoo is smokayyy", which makes it clearer that I approved, and I kissed him again. He had been tending a stray bonfire, just to attract my attention. Lapsang Souchong, Laphraoig and kippers/bloaters aren't the only smoky things that appeal to me. I keep him young, you know.

7 Having gone out in the meantime, the Sage comes in again. "Can I help?" he asks, helpfully. "Well, you could stir the risotto," I said, 'but I would just stand here saying 'gosh, you stir a mean risotto, ooh, you are marvellous, yum" because I don't actually have anything else to do." The Sage grinned. "I've time to make a phone call, then?" I agreed that he had. I cooked the sprouts, a few minutes in advance so that I could use the cooking water in the risotto. No waste in this house.

8 Ro came in. "Anything I can do to help?" It seems that the chaps are getting hungry. I'd been grating cheese and I put it in the risotto. "I'll taste it before adding more" I said, passing him a spoon too. "I put in goat's cheese and your father doesn't know he likes goat cheese, and the rest is cheddar." Ro chuckled. I told him that the other night's soup had contained celery. He knew. His father didn't. He thinks he doesn't like celery soup. I added the rest of the cheese, Ro added pepper and dinner was ready. While it was being carried through (TV dinner, darlings, we hadn't lit a fire in the dining room) I opened a bottle of red wine. Well, one bottle of fizz between 3 doesn't quite do it, does it?

9 Eats risotto.

10 Eats second helping of risotto. Decides against second glass of red wine. Relaxes.

*said ironically
**horrid means bristling and is not a synonym for horrible. Read Milton if you don't quite believe me. Or ask Dandelion or Dave, both of whom know Latin.

By the way, it occurs to me that I haven't reminded you of Ro's website recently. It's still here and not all of you have posted pictures yet.
join the newspaper bag project
Go for it, dear people. You know it's a fine thing to do.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Z kept score

So, tonight was the Church Quiz. No, there was nothing religious about it, it was just being done as a fundraiser. Judy did it all, the food, the drink, the questions and the organisation of everything. Her husband Brian and I helped set up the room and Brenda did the washing up. Brian and I ran the quiz itself while Judy was busy in the kitchen. She said, not without respect, that I was bossy. Well, I don't think so, but people like to know where they are, don't they? As Sally was leaving, I told her that I'd been called bossy. "What? No! Who said that?" I told her I loved her, and said "Judy." "Judy?"chuckled Sally. "Pot - kettle..."

The interviews went well this morning and, interestingly, we all picked the same candidate but expected the others to pick the other candidate. In fact, they were both good so it was a matter of 'fit' - since we all know the department well, I suppose that it's not so surprising that we chose alike.

Two friends' grandsons were born today - that is, two completely different families and, coincidentally, both little boys have been called Ethan. One of them, I'm sorry to say, is ill. They knew there would be a major problem so he was born by planned Caesarean section as childbirth would have been too much for him. He was born with one kidney and the other one is not fully formed. Positive thoughts for him, please? The other little Ethan is fine and will be home tomorrow. He's the first baby in the family and the first grandson.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Time for food

By the way, that deli where Weeza and I had lunch yesterday is Clark & Ravenscroft in St Gregorys Alley. It's right in the middle of Norwich, only a couple of minutes' walk from the marketplace - if you go down Upper Goat Lane by St Giles car park then it's opposite the church and the little open square. Huge bowl of delicious soup with granary bread, a generous sandwich with proper lettuce, not the prepacked stuff, a pot of tea and a big breakfast cup of good coffee was £9.60 and good value. Most people take out, I should think, as there's not much room to eat in and I suppose that's cheaper as they don't have to charge VAT.

So tonight, Ro approved of his dinner, which was fillets of sea bream. "Straightforward to eat, you see. Delicious and not all those bones. This is a sensible fish." "Not as canny as the herring, surely?" I suggested. "Why would a fish want to be easy to eat?" We debated why a bloater, being exactly the same fish as a kipper, seems more bony (according to Ro). I thought perhaps the splitting before being smoked might dry the bones out and make them easier to lift.

Squiffany stayed for Harvest Lunch at her nursery school today. The children made bread, vegetable soup and apple crumble. When I went to fetch her, she was brandishing a party invitation. In the car, she read it out to me. "Florence and Christian invite you to come to their party because they would really like you to come," she said. "There is a picture of a cake with five candles." I looked later. The invitation was from Mia in fact, but there were indeed five candles - though I suspect Mia will be four. Later, Dilly showed her various times on a clock jigsaw. Up to 3 o'clock, she knew it, after that she counted, but she could do them all. She can write all the letters in her brother's name now, though does them in the wrong order.

I've let this week drift and got nothing done. Tomorrow, I'm interviewing in the morning and helping set up the room for a quiz and supper in the evening. I'm helping with the marking and scoring, not taking part. I'm not doing the cooking either.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ro likes bananas ...

Ro wonders, a bit grumpily, just why bloaters need all those bones. After all, they taste so good - why does a herring seem to have so many more bones than most other fish do? I have no answer for him. I don't mind bones. The smaller ones, I simply eat. I am more than half dog, after all and have a robust digestion and no qualms about overburdening it.

I finally ventured into Boots in the town today, for the second time. The first occasion, the week it was opened, I was deeply unimpressed, but it wasn't fully stocked then. I wasn't much more pleased this time. The thing I wanted wasn't there and I had to get a lesser substitute and I didn't care for any of the toothbrushes. All I want is a toothbrush with a medium or small head and without irregular bristles, and they didn't have one. Not even the ones costing a ludicrous amount of money were acceptable. I went to the Gay Shopper next door and bought one cheaper than any of them that is fine.

Ooh, apparently Bob in the sweetshop/stationers has found a buyer who has taken it over, stock and all, and the changeover has already happened and I missed it. Bob lives in the same village I do so no doubt I will see him around. I'm glad that the shop will continue at any rate.

Zerlina enjoyed her shopping trip to Norwich and very much appreciates her presents. She was a good girl and cleverly needed changing or feeding when there was a suitable place to do it, so the occasion was not stressful at all. Weeza found a very good little deli for lunch, where she had a smoked duck sandwiich and I had spiced lentil soup and both were delicious and the proprietor was charming. Judging by the name and the fact that they are doing the food for the local launching of a new book next week, we think that she or her partner must be an offspring of the late lamented John Peel.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Z forgets what she meant to call this post

Today's lecture was about German expressionism. It was a subject I knew virtually nothing about beforehand, though I did know some of the pictures illustrated, but I know a little more now and I gave an appreciative (deservedly so) vote of thanks using an interpretation of what I'd learned. Winging it a bit, admittedly.

I was chatting to Georgie afterwards, who works there, though won't for much longer. I told a friend the circumstances of her gaining her new job. "She was headhunted - the hotel where she had her wedding was so struck by her that the owner contacted her afterwards and offered her a job." Pretty impressive, I think. I told Georgie that I'd tell people that a friend of mine had been headhunted at her wedding --- and now I have.

Then I went to spend a couple of hours baby-cuddling. Zerlina is much happier this week - she had some vaccinations last week and was not quite her sunny self for a few days afterwards. Today, she lay on my lap for quite some time, looking at a book. It's a Ladybird book - this one. She really looks at it and enjoys it, concentrating for quite some time. When I put it down for a few minutes to eat lunch, she was not pleased and I had to pick it up again. I've had decades of experience in eating while looking after a baby so holding it up for her didn't stop me. She fell asleep in the end, so I felt I'd done my grandmotherly duty. I'm going over again tomorrow and we're going Shopping! Granny's treat.

Tonight, I was pouring myself a glass of wine and offered one to Ro. He decided against. I did some little bits of cheese on corn cakes and took them through to the drawing room as a pre-prandial snack (yeah, I allow for it in the rest of the food I eat, I'm still losing weight), taking 3 for me and leaving the other 5 for him. I don't eat much cheese now, so what I have is flavoursome and delicious for maximum impact. This week, I've bought a blue goat cheese and a blue sheep cheese (the cheese is blue, not the animal *sigh*) and the piece I cut of sheep cheese was the larger, so was on 6 of the bits of corn cake. After a few minutes, Ro coughed. "I shouldn't have had the stronger cheese last. I think I need a glass of wine to take away the cheesy hit." I poured a glass. Later, I offered him more. "Ooh, all right then, this is nice. Just half a glass."

Oh, by the way, today I had some of that new drizzly Marmite. Sure you don't need butter any more, but where is the flavour? In a blindfold taste test, I wouldn't have known it was Marmite.

Also by the way, I gave a plug for our study day on the rise of modern art. When I looked out to the foyer afterwards, there was a small queue of people buying tickets. Hah.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Z scored 46 out of 50

Weeza rang at 9 o'clock this morning and was surprised that I was still in bed. I can't think why, she knows well how lazy I am and, although I'd been awake early and cuddled my husband and then read a book, I had snuggled down for another nap as I hadn't got any appointments today.

You might think I'd been feeling romantic, but the cuddle was necessary. You see, the Sage had turned on to his stomach and when he does that, he occasionally has a twitch in his leg which makes the knee flex, the lower leg rise and then thwack back on to the mattress. This is maddening, as you can imagine, and the simplest way to stop it (for it seems churlish to wake him) is to drape my limbs over his so that he can't do it. He was very pleased when he woke up and found me and I didn't tell him.

Anyway, by the time Weeza and I had chatted and I'd washed my hair and dressed and then answered a few more phone calls, the morning was half over. This afternoon, I needed to go out to one of the nearby villages, which was actually a bit further away than I'd thought, so I was a bit panty by the time I got back to the shop. Tim was amused. Then it rained. I discovered that my new jacket is, indeed entirely waterproof, but that the hood is a bit big and kept falling over my eyes so I couldn't see where I was going. I had to turn back the cuffs, as it were, for my own safety.

I'm relearning geographical locations. I have never quite got my head round all the present European countries, and am finding it quite hard, so I am starting with the easier option of brushing up on US states. I mostly do know them, but have a strange forgetfulness about a few; notably Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas. I also get Massachusetts confused with Connecticut if I'm not careful and am always surprised how far up Missouri is. Al taught them all to Ro when he was a little boy and had a whole lot of little memory tricks to help him. I never quite knew how they were devised - one example was that Californians enjoy pizza with Oregano (Oregon) on top and then there was something about a nice New Jersey and Delaware/Tupperware, but I didn't know what they were about. I did once say, when learning African countries, that I mixed up Kenya and Uganda - "Kenya's on the Koast" he replied laconically, and also pointed out that all the countries with a Z in them are in the south. He'd not have the patience to be a teacher (it's not the teaching he'd not have patience for but the recording and paperwork) but he is brilliant at it. He had Ro adding and subtracting before he was 3 years old, using flowerpots.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Z is sometimes confused

I'm typing on Dilly's laptop as I'm babysitting this evening, and I realise that I don't know how to drag the window across or make it bigger with one of those little pads, so this is all a bit annoyingly small for me. Oh, hang on, I'm experimenting.

Right, got it. That's better.

The price list is up on our website now, if you're interested. The link is on the sidebar. It was an interesting sale, we've never had so many items reach into the thousands of pounds before. It had a lowering effect on the last lot, which we'd thought would make more than the lower estimate, but there were only a few unsold pieces of Lowestoft, and overall it did extremely well. It could well be that some people thought that their money would be as safe in antiques as anywhere else. We already have nearly the whole of the next sale in April sorted with some fine pieces of china. If you think this is all desperately trivial when people are worrying about their mortgage, so it is, but so are many other things, such as astonishingly wealthy, though no doubt vastly worthy and compassionate, young men having a motorbike jolly across Africa and wanting people to give money to cheer them on. I'd rather have the link with my home town 250 years ago and the items those forgotten artisans, craftsmen and artists were responsible for.

So, I'm looking after Pugsley. He's never gone to bed without his sister before and we were in some doubt if he'd settle. Squiffany said her goodbyes to him lovingly this evening, getting on her knees to hug and reassure him - you can see how they are used to being spoken to by their parents! He was fine after they'd gone, choosing various games and jigsaw puzzles from the cupboard and saying "Well done, Pugsley, good boy" with satisfaction after finishing a particularly complicated puzzle. He blotted his copybook rather when I'd put him in his pyjamas and gone to warm his bedtime milk, by doing an unmentionable activity in his nappy - not five minutes after sitting briefly on the potty and assuring me there was nothing to come. They use reusable nappies mostly, but a disposable is more comfortable and absorbant for the night, and my frugal soul was dismayed at the waste of a new nappy; furthermore it was the last, so he's in one of his usual ones after all. His father was out of nappies day and night soon after reaching the age of 2, so let's hope Pugsley emulates him soon.

Afterwards, I read him 4 bedtime stories (usually they have 3 but he wanted Fox in Socks and who could resist?), tucked him up in bed and I haven't heard another sound in the past hour and a half.

You do appreciate, I'm sure, that I write as I would speak; that is, mostly nonsense. If I refer to a bottle instead of a bunch of flowers, just be glad that you only have to interpret me. Just imagine how confusing it is actually to be me. You may spare a compassionate thought for my family, but on the other hand they have the joy of my constant and enlivening presence, so they are most awfully lucky, by and large.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Z takes it easy

I realise that I can't tell you all about the sale, as the prices haven't gone up yet on our website, but I can say that it all went very well.

We usually have 4 hours of viewing, but this time the Sage decided to go for 5 hours and it was just as well. We were busy from 2 o'clock until just before the sale started at 7. Zerlina has attended her first sale, though her father had to take her out when she became noisy - her mother was up on the rostrum, sitting beside the Sage, at work. I was squeaky with excitement sitting beside Charmian, ready to receive the money.

Lots of people came and a good number of them were ready to buy. 79 people registered as bidders and all those and a good many more wanted to see the china - come to think of it, many of the registered buyers were couples, which accounts for the 150 or more in the room. We have it all on display on tables covered with blankets and tablecloths, with a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of tables around so that people can sit and see and handle the china. Several of us fetch and carry as requested. After a few hours of turning back and forth, our feet ache and I find I have to eat regularly or else I become dizzy and a bit faint.

It went well. I'm so pleased, we all work hard but the Sage is the one whose prestige and professionalism is on the line. A quite important collection was up for sale and he'd had to convince the vendors (the late owner's family) that he was the best person to sell it. We've had a lot of publicity, so a lot was at stake.

I haven't done a lot today. I cycled in to town and bought vegetables and flowers and champagne and cycled gingerly home - several bottles of wine and two bunches of wine amongst the potatoes and cauliflower and all the rest in my bike panniers made me heavy and unstable and I was careful, and also overtaken by a young lycra-clad woman.

Otherwise, I haven't done a lot. I sniffed the cork for Dave and opened another bottle to drink for the Sage. It's been lovely weather so I've pottered tiredly about and I'll have another boringly early night. I have not neglected telling the Sage how splendid he is.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Z drinks tea and whisky and goes to bed early

I'll tell you about the sale tomorrow. I'm so tired now. We had an hour's extra viewing and it was pretty busy throughout, though I did have a break while Zerlina slept on me - as always, she was asleep with a few minutes of my soothing presence.

I was disappointed not to buy Stephen's cartoon (see last Sunday's post - I'm sorry, I really can't link at present as my brain doesn't work), but the bidding was spirited (as we say in the auctioneering business) and I kept finding myself the underbidder; nevertheless I pushed it up past the point at which I was rather banking on being taken out. Not that I think it isn't worth the £160.02 paid for it and next year I will try harder.

Lowestoft has, as I told you after the last sale (well, I probably did and lets face it, neither you nor I can be arsed to go back and look), a peculiar attitude to parking. The long-stay park closes at 9 pm and the longer-opening one is only available for 3 hours at a time, so if one needs to be there all afternoon and evening one has to repark. I did go in the long-stay one this time, as it was likely I'd be finished in time. I trotted over the road at 8.45 to find the gate locked. I went back and asked the parking man chappie, who was walking away, if the 'out' gate was open. It was. I said, oh good, because my daughter's car is in there too. He asked if I knew whose was the third car, but I didn't. I said I was sorry to keep him waiting, because if the car park were empty, he could simply lock up and go home, but he said he's on duty until midnight anyway. I said that when I went back, I'd ask everyone if their car was the third one (ooh, The Third Car, does zither music come to mind?) and he thanked me, isn't that sweet? So, Lowestoft is a bit rubbish but the people who live there are not, they are lovely.

I came home, drank two large mugs of Lapsang tea and drank two drams of whisky. Now I'm taking the daily papers to bed. Oh, by the way, the sale was mentioned in the Daily Express today, complete with a picture of the Tulip Painter jug.

And thank you for your kind comments about the photos. You'll have seen (whether or not you noticed) that there have been a few photos of me, complete with face, recently, when previously any Z pics were either from a great distance or obscured views. It's all part of my new positive self-image. After years of feeling apologetic about my appearance, now I take myself as I am and am cheerful about it.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


It was a really lovely lunch and, in response to a request, I took photos of the cake. Lilian and Jo, who are sisters, made and decorated the cake which was both beautiful and delicious. The flowers are made of sugar - isn't it impressive?

I had the job of giving a name badge to the 9 former members, some of whom I hadn't seen for 10 or 15 years, and I'm happy to say that i recognised every one of them, which says as much for their youthfully unchanging appearance as it does for my memory. I was particularly happy to see Florence looking so well; she left us on the grounds of increasing age several years ago, and is now 97 and still pretty and cheerful and walking on her own two feet. She recognised me too and we had a lovely chat. I had my picture taken helping to cut the cake, as I'm secretary, but I doubt you'll ever get a look of that. However, I will put up another picture of us Sage family girls - taken at z's 6-week celebration (as you saw last week; I've only just got around to uploading it).

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Wagging Tongues

Right, simplicity rules again. A basic background. I was only teasing...

One forgets when a child gets onto each stage of development and of course they vary hugely as well. Pugsley, at just two, has a large vocabulary and uses quite complex grammar - that is, he puts in pronouns, adjectives and so on accurately and constructs proper sentences - but he doesn't yet know colours. Zerlina, who is just coming up to two months old, came to visit this afternoon. Her latest entertainment is having raspberries blown at her by her mother. She thinks that is most amusing and watches and listens with interest. Weeza stuck out her tongue. Zerlina stuck out her tongue right back and they did that several times. It was certainly Zerlina responding to Weeza and not the other way round. I was really surprised - I would have thought she was far too young to copy an action, wouldn't you? I've no idea when any of my children did something like that.

The lunch club I go to (yes, I am that sort of person; that is, I go so I must be) is celebrating its 20th anniversary tomorrow and I've promised to help with various little items. I have put everything I've said I'll take in the car; the chairman is 90 years old, a retired headmistress of a girls' private school in Surrey and her air of authority still stands as staunchly as when she retired 30 years ago. I have agreed to arrive 45 minutes early - for no good reason at all that I can see, although there is a small job that will take all of 10 minutes to do. Still, I'm sure it will be great fun and we'll have a marvellous time. There will be Cake.

Al is getting better. He was back in the shop this afternoon. Dilly has booked a week's holiday for them all at Centre Parcs in January. She will be working for a couple of days that week, but it's near enough to her school to commute and it will be much less crowded, and vastly cheaper, in term time. So I've put it in my diary too and will look after the shop that week.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Edward Carrot Hands

Oh, before I forget, the list of apple and pear varieties

Pear -
Doyenne de Comice

Apple -
Early Wilson
Rev Wilkes
Cox's Orange Pippin
Norfolk Royal
Worcester Pearmain
Charles Ross
Suffolk Pink
Howgate Wonder
Laxton Epire
James Greave
Granny Smith
Ida Red
*unknown variety, grown in customer's garden*

I was a bit late in this morning, as the envelope I'd thought contained my papers for this afternoon's meeting didn't and it took me ten minutes to find it. Well, to be strictly accurate, the Sage finally found it. But Eileen had done what she could, which was a great deal but didn't include putting up the shelves as she's several inches shorter than I am and it's all a stretch for me.

In the afternoon, the chairman and vice-chairman were re-elected. This could have been worse; I could have been *promoted*.

Tim was absolutely lovely and got in everything while I counted the (meagre) takings. Half yesterday's - but yesterday was a good day. It balances.

Ro came in and asked if he could help with dinner? "Ten minutes late?" he wondered. But no, I found him a job preparing carrots. He wondered whether to prepare the whole bunch. I pondered. "I'll eat three" I said, "do what you think for Dad and yourself, oh and I'll eat a couple more while dinner's cooking. Would you like some cheese on a corn cake, I've just had some?" "Oh, it wouldn't be fair to tempt you." "That's all right, I won't be tempted. I'll have carrots." So he prepared the carrots for me and I prepared the cheese for him and poured us each a glass of wine. But I was greedy. I didn't stop at two or three raw carrots (he'd done the whole bunch after all).

When I turned round, he snorted with laughter. "It is a bit Edward Carrot Hands, isn't it?" I admitted. "That's what I was thinking, you're holding those carrots out like fingers.

Al is a little better now, but still feels a bit woozy, not surprisingly as he hasn't eaten for a couple of days. I have offered to go in in the morning and he can see how he feels and maybe come in later to work. If he were employed, he'd certainly take the rest of the week off, but the self-employed don't have that luxury. On the other hand, they are their own masters, and that's worth more if that's what you value.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Reading newspapers in the bath

Whenever Dilly or the children, all of whom are in contact with school and pre-school children, catch something, Al gets it too, only worse. Since we all caught a nasty infection back in the spring, he's caught anything going and gets it worse than anyone else. Today, he was scheduled to be home with the children anyway until 4 o'clockish and he took a duvet on to the sofa and let Squiffany look after him and her little brother.

"Daddy's got a bug" I said. Pugsley, who has discovered the joy of language and being cheeky with it, said "Daddy's got a spider. Daddy's got a scary spider. Daddy's got a fly, yuck. Daddy's got a big black beetle. Daddy's got a wiggly worm. Daddy's got a creepy crawly".

I blame his father. He always did have a way with words.

I offered to go in and take over the shop from Tim, and Al must have been feeling rotten, as he agreed. I had a meeting in Norwich first, so I did a bit of shopping before I came home (clothes! Little clothes in yet a smaller size!), heated up some minestrone for lunch - yes, there's still a good quart left - and cycled in to the shop. Lovely Tim took in the notice boards and the pumpkins to save me time later.

D'you know - Al is selling 19 different varieties of apples in the shop at present, all of them not only English but grown in Norfolk or Yagnub. He's also selling 3 or 4 varieties of English pears. I think that's pretty damn good.

A friendly customer stayed chatting until nearly half past 5 and it was 6.30 by the time I arrived home, then took the takings and the list for tomorrow through to Al, had my offer to open up tomorrow accepted, came indoors, answered a comment on the other blog, printed off various papers and left for the next meeting. I got home half an hour ago to find that the Sage had cooked dinner for me.

Apart from writing up notes from tonight's meeting, sending a couple of emails and getting ready for tomorrow afternoon's meeting (a third committee, none of them connected with another), I shall relax for the rest of the evening. Unless there is something in the newspaper to annoy me.

Oh, by the way, the reason I find all available background colours too bright has just occurred to me. Macs are bright. It's a deliberate ploy to impress potential customers.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Z bids

Have you heard about this? I wouldn't have if it were not for the fine blog of Stephen Collins, who is a most excellent cartoonist and who kindly sent me a Christmas card of one of his cartoons last year because he offered to, via the blog and I boldly said 'yes please'.

I'm putting in a few bids, it's for a very good cause and there are no extra costs - the envelope comes mounted and framed and postage is free, and all money bid is going to the charity.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Saturday of Z

"The Radio of Damocles" said Ro as he came into the room. I'd just put iTunes on shuffle (always a mistake) and I thought for a moment he was talking about 'Making Plans for Nigel' (XTC) which happened to have just taken over disconcertingly from Sidney Bechet. But he was right. I had a radio hanging over my head.

This house has thick walls and can't receive a digital signal everywhere, and recently I moved the table a bit (and can't move it back or the printer lead won't reach the computer) and I had had to hold the radio up when I wanted to listen to it. But there's a hook in the beam, so finally that was where I put it to receive a good signal. But I turned it off when Any Questions came on, as there's too much dissension and bad temper and I don't want that in my life.

I decided to make soup and cycled in for the ingredients. As I came home, there was a dove in my path - there's only a few yards of cycle path, but a car must have hit it and spun it from the road. It was still alive and its wing fluttered. I couldn't leave it and stopped and got off, wondering how much force was the minimum I needed to use (awful to make it suffer worse, but what would cause bloodshed, almost as bad? Sorry). Between my stopping, and picking it up, it died. I put it over the fence in the long grass.

Certainly a sign of winter, however sunny the day had been, when I feel the urge to make minestrone. A substantial soup, followed only by baked potatoes and cheese. And now, as I sit here, coffee. Next, I will cuddle my dog and read the papers.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Taking stock

So, I had a meeting in Bury St Edmunds today, which was due to start with a sandwich lunch at 12.15, with the formal part at 1 o'clock. It takes about 45 minutes to get there and I had to allow 10 minutes to park and walk, so I had plenty of time to do this'n'that before leaving. However, it was a bit of a surprise to notice it was 5 past 12 and I hadn't dried my hair yet. I started aiming the drier at my head, then realised I had all the papers to print out for the meeting - anyway, I was still in the car by 20 past so that was all right.

Or so it seemed. Every slow lorry in Norfolk and Suffolk was being taken on the A143 today and most of them were in front of me. I was patient, as what's the point in belting past one when you can see half a dozen more in front going no faster? A few miles from the Bury bypass, a police car came up behind, lights flashing. We all moved over as far as we could, and a few minutes later came to a car stopped by the side of the road, a police car behind it, with the offside front wing stoved in and an elderly woman in the passenger seat. In the next field there was a yellow Air Ambulance helicopter - but the car didn't look badly damaged. A couple of hundred yards later, on the other side of the road, a car was off the road, tipped into the ditch and against the hedge. In the next few minutes, two more police cars and two ambulances sped past from the Bury direction. I couldn't help thinking that they just didn't need all those police officers and paramedics, but I suppose better too many than find yourself wanting. Anyway, I was quite glad I hadn't left home much earlier and I was even less inclined to overtake.

I socialised purposefully before the meeting proper, and then one of the items of business was for each chairman to give a verbal report. Darlings, there was a veritable plethora of chairmen; twenty-four of them, although one was a Chair of Chairs and gave his report later. Since my branch of the society starts with W, mine was the penultimate report and I chatted away happily for a few minutes, enthusing about what we'd been doing in the last few months and ... oh you know, how I usually talk, but I was actually saying something and not just waffling. As I stopped, with a mention that this year is our 20th anniversary and we're celebrating at the Christmas lecture and we haven't finalised the arrangements yet, but it's highly likely that there will be Cake! - the Chair of Chairs said "thank you, Z, that was delightful." Oh I say, I thought, and I thought I'd been talking too long.

I had taken the precaution of wearing a bright pink shirt, which I'd ironed specially, so that I would be highly recognisable too. Hah.

I went into town to get some vegetables and arrived in time to help Al pack up the shop and then went to buy some wine. I opened a particularly nice bottle the other night, and discovered that I drink less when it's good wine, as I sip and savour rather than cheerily glug, so I spent more than usual with the reasoning that it would cost no more per night as it would last longer. When I got home, I toasted nearly the last of the loaf I bought yesterday (what happened to the rest? I wondered) and cut it into snippets and put on bits of the cheese and terrine and took it all, with the wine, into the drawing room to cheer the Sage before dinner. I was very cheerful, which is also good, because it encouraged him to kiss me. Later, Ro came home, so I toasted the very last bread and did more snippets for him. He was frightfully impressed, and asked what was for dinner. I told him about the organically-farmed salmon and said that, as it was delicately flavoured, I would poach it in a court bouillon. "Huh?" "A court bouillon. " "Yes, I said 'huh?'" I told him that I would cook some vegetables and herbs in water and then cook the salmon in the resultant broth. "Right. You mean stock then."

Well anyway, I used carrots and shallots and fennel, and separately poached more carrot, spring onions and the rest of the fennel (because they were neatly sliced and lightly cooked) and then cooked the fish, arrayed it on the vegetables and then reduced the stock (okay, Ro, have it your way) and added saffron and butter for a sauce.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Z is greedy

The cheese stall on the market is awfully good. I bought a piece of Bleu de Basque which I've had before and awoke a most overwhelming cheese craving then (yeah, bright, aren't I, to buy it again?) and also decided to try a hard mature goat's cheese from Swaledale. He cut a piece for me to try and it was delicious. The same people also make ewe's and cow's milk cheese; I will try them another time. He also cut a piece of a blue goatsmilk cheese from Ribblesdale (I think) which he described as like Roquefort but less salty and that was wonderful too. I bought a loaf of bread and a pack of biltong, which he said a friend of his makes, and then noticed the coarse pork terrine, so of course couldn't resist that either. I'm so greedy. I thought it was £12 well spent, and bore it home in triumph, along with some salmon (farmed, but organically, with no colouring fed to the fish), a couple of whole smoked mackerel and some mussels. The Sage is not fond of mussels, so I cooked them for my lunch and tried just a little of the terrine while the shallots were cooking. It was delicious. Really, like home-made. The pork was chopped rather than minced and quite chunky, the terrine was lined with bacon and the whole thing was succulent, beautifully seasoned and I've not tasted any terrine so good since my mother used to make them. After I'd eaten my mussels, with some of the bread, I decided it had really been a very virtuous lunch, so ate a little cheese as well.

My diet is totally stuffed for the weekend. I won't be able to help myself. Or rather, I'll keep helping myself until it's all eaten.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Don't panic

Okay, enough about babies, a moment of weakness only.

I had some twinges of anxiety this afternoon. I went to get petrol - oh, I say, it took less than £60 to fill it up, when it had cost me £65 until recently. The fact that it was £40 when I bought this car 3 1/2 years ago is a passing happy memory. Anyway, I stood there, nozzle in hand, pondering how to pay. I had cash, but if I spent that, I'd only have to go to the cashpoint sooner. Credit card or debit card? I've been hammering the credit card this past month, spending money on the London flat and since I won't receive any rent until the agents have taken out their commission, the Sage will probably insist on paying the bill - well, he may have to, in fact, though in any case he hates to think of me being short of money in case I have an extravagant whim (I very rarely do, but he enjoys it when it happens). So it seemed less than polite to stick him with paying to fill my car too. I decided on the debit card. Only it wasn't there.

I keep a few cards in a pocket in my purse, as I am using quite a small bag at present which isn't large enough for a wallet as well as all the other necessities of a woman's life - 8 sets of keys, a corkscrew, screwdriver, Oyster card (I'm not planning a trip to London any time soon), diary and so on - so I don't have to switch things round too often. And whatever else gets taken out, the debit and credit card don't. And I wasn't exactly sure when I last had the missing card. Not for at least a week. I imagined my bank account being emptied. I considered phoning to get it stopped. I pondered whether I could have left it behind when I used it last. While doing all this, I paid for the petrol (credit card, sorry, darling xx) and decided that the odds were I'd dropped it at home.

And when I got back, some three hours later, so I had.

I bought a new waterproof coat in Norwich for cycling in during the winter. It was very boring. I also bought a new diary. That was positively depressing. I shall, in the next few days, spend some time filling it in with meetings already booked.


It is so interesting, observing a baby. Zerlina was 7 weeks old on Monday (if only I could be arsed to label posts, I'd be able to track this and look back, but I really can't be bothered after all this time) and today I was left in charge for a while because her mother had an appointment.

She'd just been fed, but was a little windy, so I held her on my shoulder while she waited for some relieving burps. After they had happened, I put her on my lap and talked to her and smiled, and she smiled back and replied. That is, the sounds she made responded to my voice and, to a degree, mirrored it.

When I'd arrived, she was asleep and Weeza, who was holding her, gave her to me while she got ready to go out. After a while, Zerlina woke. She gave such a double-take on discovering she was lying on me and not her mother as she expected. Her bottom lip stuck out and wobbled, though she didn't cry.

These changes have happened in a week. I hadn't expected to be responded to so early, which shows how soon one forgets.

She is now 8 pounds, 8 and 1/2 ounces. Still, at nearly 2 months old, not the birthweight of Phil and Lisa's baby, but she's outgrown her first lot of tiny clothes, bought hastily by her other granny and is growing steadily, and feeding and sleeping well.

Morning after

Do you ever, I wonder, write a post and afterwards worry about what someone will think if they happen to visit your blog for the first time on that day?

Oh. Just me then.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


Several of us on the committee had been on the visit to London last week. At today's meeting, we were talking about how it had gone (this is not just chat, this sort of discussion is part of the meeting) and it was observed that a fair number of men have rather fallen for me.

I was embarrassed, but it's true. I seem to appeal to the over-70-somethings.

One delightful gentleman arrived half an hour early to claim a seat on the coach next to me. He was one of the first in the coffee queue - I was the other side of the room chatting - so he could get me a cup of coffee. Another approached and blurted out, well, I thought he said I looked lovely, which was startling enough (simple black trousers and jumper) but J said he said I was lovely, which is probably a bit worse. Fortunately, I was manifestly more taken aback than gratified, as a first reaction. Gracious thanks as a second, if you are wondering.

I've explained, this is what happens when you are chairman, or rather chairwoman (but I don't think that is a word unless used by the Chairwoman herself; that is, Katy's lovely mother [if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, sorry, neither of them blogs much nowadays so I don't think it'd be helpful to link]) of the committee, so I now expect a small queue hoping to supersede me next summer.

It's a funny thing that all of the lovely men who read this blog are younger than I, most of them by a considerable margin. I should like to reassure them that I do not expect romantic adoration. Raucous laughter is, I agree, more likely.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Six weeks

Last week, when Zerlina was six weeks old, we took her photo against a photograph of her mother and me, when El herself was six weeks old.

I remember the day particularly; I had an appointment at the doctor for my six-week check-up and El had to be fed and changed first, but then the photographer arrived. He was a friend of my parents and had known my father since childhood, and their parents were friends too. Now, his son and wife are good friends of ours and their children went to school with El and Al and are still friends in their turn - in fact, Susie has already visited El and little z.

His name (the photographer's), rather splendidly, was Wallingford; known as Ford, and his studio was just on the North side of the bridge in the centre of Lowestoft, if any of you ever visited the town in the past. One of his sisters was called Waveney, after the river.

Anyway, El was a bit fractious because she was hungry, but she stayed cheerful for long enough for the photos to be taken.

This is a week ago, BTW, little z is 7 weeks old now.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Brownies, blues and a celebration

It's been a funny sort of day. I went to bed early because I was really tired, and the first time I woke up in the night (I wake up during the course of most hours of the night at the moment, which is probably the reason I'm tired) it dawned on me that, as it has been so cold this week, I probably should have turned on the church heating for this morning. I decided to go in at 8 o'clock so that at least the radiators would be hot and people would think it was warm in there.

In the event, it was a mild day but extremely wet. I actually drove the 200 yards to church. Yes, I know. But it was absolutely tipping down and, even with an umbrella, my trousers would have been soaked. I'd had to change once this morning, and that was just going from the car to the newspaper shop.

There were only 8 of us in church, including 2 ministers, the organist, the organist's wife, the sidesman, the churchwarden and the person reading the lesson (the churchwarden read the second); so that left one person there because she chose to be. Afterwards, I went home and made brownies.

There was to be an ordination in one of the churches this afternoon; that is, Reg was to become a fully fledged Ordained Local Minister (that's a real priest, only unpaid and licenced to work in the benefice he lives in) and so the Bishop was visiting again. Afterwards, there would be tea. My contribution to the feast was to be the brownies.

I decided to make two batches, so that the Sage and Ro would know I cared. I had just enough chocolate and butter and dark brown sugar, but not enough self raising flour. Plenty of plain, so I could add baking powder. It was only after I took them out of the oven and thought they didn't look right that I realised I'd forgotten the baking powder. I tasted a bit. It seemed fine. Pfft. I'd take them anyway. While I was in the drawing room reading the papers, Ro came in. "What's with the brownies?" he asked. I said I'd made an extra batch and explained the mishap - "They're fine" he said. "You took one?" "I could tell they weren't counted." "16 in each batch. You took one from the round dish?" "Yes" "That's all right then - mind you, I'd just have given blame where it was due."

The service was fine - lovely, actually, but I was shocked, when talking to a friend I hadn't seen for a few years, to piece together bits of a family tragedy that she evidently thought I knew about. Afterwards, I asked someone else, and it transpired that about 3 years ago, their eldest grandson killed himself at the age of 17. I only saw that boy once, when he was a cheerful platinum-haired toddler and you can well imagine how I feel for him and his family, and I didn't know so never said anything to them and now I can only do so if I write and maybe bring it up afresh.

Afterwards, the tea went fine, and all my brownies were eaten. Towards the end, I was talking to another churchwarden, who I had noticed earlier looked pale and drawn. I asked how she was, and (it was a day when people assumed I knew what they were talking about) she said that she still felt pretty rough and she was glad that at least the funeral wouldn't be at her church, and kept talking in that vein. Again, it seemed better to make the right noises and not actually ask - it turned out that her ex-husband had been found dead at his home, having died in his bathroom no-one quite knew how many days before. They had been married for 33 years and divorced for 5 - I rather gathered that she had finally left him because his behaviour had become impossible to live with, and since then his drinking had only got worse and worse. I said that, after such a long marriage, she would still be his widow and grieve for him, but that she would not get the sympathy and support due to a widow - she said that this was how she felt, but I wondered if I'd been too outspoken?

Afterwards, I congratulated Reg. I am so glad for him. His wife was desperately ill in the first year of his training and he had to extend it while he looked after her, but she has made a good recovery and now looks healthy and happy and very proud. I kissed him and told him we were proud of him, and he looked pleased and kissed me.

Oh, and this morning, with only 5 in the congregation, I felt obliged to sing hymns loudly. I usually spare people the sound of my voice, but I know how disconcerting it is for the organist to not be able to hear anyone, and if someone sings it encourages other people, so I sang my little heart out. Actually, all that breathing out made me feel a bit faint, so I had to take my coat off and get too chilly to faint. I could feel the heat of the radiator, but not quite enough to go without a coat.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


I looked after the children all morning, as Dilly was helping with a charity stall under the Buttercross and Al was, as always on a Saturday (unless I take over) at work. Little angels, they were. They were still having breakfast when I went through, then Squiffany dressed herself and I helped Pugsley, then we came home and they bounced on my bed while I worked around them to change the sheets and tidy the bedroom. Then I told them I'd bought them some new paints, so they painted at the kitchen table while I cleaned up around them. Squiffany is very into rainbows at present, and wanted to know the order of the colours, which she painted carefully and accurately. She wrote her name on the page - she can write all the letters but does not yet know that the order matters. After that, they ate cheese straws and jam rings and I squeezed orange juice for them, and we came and played Lotto. I needed to wash the kitchen floor, which I'd left until after the painting was done, so they watched television and played alone for a bit, and then we went out into the garden. It was windy. After that, they had lunch and then their mother came home.

Squiffany was going to a party in the afternoon, so Pugsley came to me again. He did some more drawing - we both drew a tiger and an elephant. He was so impressed by my stripes that he overlooked the fact that I'm not sure what a tiger's ears look like. We read a book three times. I wanted to read a different book, but no. For tea, I cooked him fish fingers, chips and peas. I would like to think that this does not make me a Bad Granny. In fact, he fed me most of the chips, grinning mightily, ate the fish fingers - three of them - and left the peas. I looked at him and thought how like his father, at the same age, he looks.

In between times, I cooked carbonnade of beef for dinner. It is apparent that the weather has changed. I want to be in the warm kitchen, cooking. It's very windy tonight. We ate it with sprouting broccoli, mashed potatoes, courgettes and carrots. I ate my share of carrots raw, while I was peeling potatoes.

The Bishop is coming again tomorrow - I know, darlings, you wait all year and then all your bishopings come together. The service is at a different church and the organ, and organising, have nothing to do with me. I will make chocolate brownies as my contribution to the tea.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Heh heh

I went into the kitchen this evening to make some coffee, and the Sage was in the study next door on the phone, and I realised that his rich and dirty chuckle is just like mine. So what I'm wondering is, has he taken on my laugh over the years or have I taken on his?

I went into a music lesson today. It was good. The teacher wants Year 9 to have a go at some music composition, but most of them wouldn't have the confidence or knowledge to do that now, so this term she gets them to arrange a piece of music of her choice, next term one of their own choice, and in the summer she will have them, in groups, writing their own. The piece she has chosen for this term is Word Up, by Cameo

I can't play the drums or the guitar, but I can teach enough to get by. It's good and I enjoy it.

Afterwards, I spent the afternoon with Weeza and Zerlina. z slept on me for quite some time, enabling her mother to clean the house - Phil's family is visiting this weekend. She had to wake z to have a feed at 6 o'clock and z fell asleep again afterwards. Weeza says she is always very relaxed after I have visited. I explain that I bore her to sleep and that it should last all evening...

Family photo

Yes indeed, as Dave has already observantly observed, the Sage is in the paper today. If you see the EDP, it's on page 22 and if not try here.
He's also got a half page spread in the local paper and a piece in the Lowestoft local paper, both page 2.

If you'd like to see the whole catalogue, this is our website.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


Last night, I went to bed and set the alarm for 6 am, because I had to leave early for another trip to London. Last time I looked at the clock before going to sleep, it was just before 12.45. At 1.17, the Sage and I were woken by the sound of the burglar alarm. The Sage sighed and started to climb out of bed. "Thass not th'alarm, issit?" I mumbled dozily. He said it was, and went off downstairs to shoo the spider off the beam and reset the alarm. That it might be a burglar seemed highly unlikely, as Tilly takes her duties as guard dog with a completely professional attitude.

A few minutes later, the Sage reappeared. "It's a bat" he announced. "In the dining room". "What? Oh bugger. It'll be a devil to catch, they always know where you are," I said, rather wider awake by then. I got up and shambled downstairs in my dressing gown. In the dining room, nothing stirred for a few moments and then the bad swooped past, too quickly for me to follow it with my eyes. It did it again. Then nothing. I went to open the shutters, then the window and then started to peer all around the room. We couldn't find the bat, which was hiding. The Sage wound up his torch, turned off the light and shone the torch into various potential batcaves.

After several minutes, we gave up, shut the window and went back to bed. Today, the window has been left open and we hope it went out again at dusk - the alarm is set in that room so that if it's still there we should find out about it before bedtime.

But it's a bit bemusing. We didn't use the dining room yesterday and the doors weren't opened. There is an opening between the hall and the dining room, but the hall is divided into two with a door between and the door is only opened when we go upstairs and then shut again. The front door had not been opened and nor had any upstairs windows. I did leave the hall door open for about five minutes, but the door to the porch was not open at the time and it was mid-afternoon, before bats were about. There is a chimney, but it's lined and the flue goes to the woodburning stove, which is shut.

So, how on earth did a bat get into the dining room?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Hanging on

My new tenant phoned today. He's been trying to get a phone line and internet connection set up as soon as possible. You'd think it would be quick and easy, but it can be extraordinarily time consuming. He's working abroad this week, so he hasn't actually moved in yet. He rang as I was rather his last resort. He was told that he'd have to pay a £50 deposit, which he accepted - but his credit card wasn't, because it isn't a British one. He's European, from a country in the EU, and has just come to live here, as a posting from an international firm he's worked for for several years. He was told he could send a postal order (when was the last time you used a postal order?) but that would take 11 working days to process and only then could he be given a date for the line to be set up. This is a line that has only been closed for a couple of months - though mind you, Weeza and Phil had to go through the whole malarkey for a line that had been closed for one day, and were unable to keep the same phone number.

So he rang me to ask if I'd pay the £50 and he pay me back. I agreed - poor bloke, what's a person to do? He said he'd phone BT again and ring me straight back with a direct line to make the payment. He was not, obviously, wanting my card details himself.

Several hours went past. Eventually, he rang again. He said that he'd finally got everything done, the sales person at the end of the phone filled in all his details - and then her internet connection went down and it was all lost. He had to wait for a bit and ring again. This time, it went smoothly and at the end he mentioned the deposit. "Oh no, no deposit's necessary" he was told. He's been given a date of 10th October, and has been assured that both phone and internet will be set up on the same day.

Apart from the hours it has taken him - almost a whole day - it's all an extraordinarily unwieldy procedure. I don't understand it at all. Back in the day, there was a shortage of phone lines. Do you remember party lines? Two households had to share a line; they had different numbers but if one person was using the phone no one in the other house was able to. That was all my sister was able to get at one point. But now it isn't a shortage of lines and there is no setting up to do, as the line is already wired in. So what takes the time?