Friday, 31 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 21 - Dave is disconcerted when Z loses her temper

Good to have a day when there wasn't any likelihood of rain. Dave worked steadily all morning, but I had a few interruptions and so didn't get as much done as yesterday and we decided not to have a final mixing of mortar as it would have taken a long time to use it up.

During the morning, when the Sage was out for a while, we were talking about the days we're free next week. Dave had already said he couldn't manage Monday "and the Sage is busy on Tuesday and Wednesday". "This is the first I've heard of it," I said, startled. "Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it," he worried - "no, he should have mentioned it to me!" The air turned blue for a while (sorry, Dave) as I gave my opinion on the matter. Then I asked if he knew where the Sage was going? "He said something about picking china up" said Dave, who was playing it neutral, straight and cool - I said "ah, take some of that back, he's going to London on Tuesday. I unsay the effing. Hang on, I don't know about Wednesday though."

I explained my reasoning regarding getting cross. I do it while the Sage isn't there, usually when I'm on my own (sorry, Dave). Then, when he returns, I ask pleasantly what is going on? This is also a failsafe against making an embarrassing mistake. So I asked. It turns out that the Sage is planning to stay in London overnight and then do another business call on the way home. "So that's why, when I said last week that I'd like to come to London with you, that you were tying yourself in knots trying to put me off without telling me why?" He tried to deny it, but I know him too well. "When would you have told me?" Monday. Hm. I chose to laugh and kiss him.

Much as I dislike the Sage's habit of keeping secret things that he knows I need to know, for as long as possible (and he'd hate it if I did it to him), I'm quite looking forward to a couple of days to myself. My main quandary is always this - do I use his absence to not bother to cook, or do I cook something that I love and he doesn't?

Anyway, the pictures, one from each side of the wall. Today's ornamental brick marks about the half-way point in this main section - in fact, I've just been out to do some rough measuring.

The first section is about 18' long and that's done apart from the capping, which the Sage and Dave are talking of doing while I'm away in a couple of weeks. Today's ornamental brick comes in at about 24' of the main length and more than half of the bricks are laid of the next 6' - 10 rows out of 16 - with about 25 bricks to fill in between the two ornamental bricks. Then there's another 18' virtually unstarted of this length. It's possible to get that done in the next month if we have about 10 sessions and, since pillars have to be built up to; that is, you can't just build a pillar but have to stage the bricks either side for support, we'll have to go round the corner as well. There's about another 35' of that section, most of which won't be done until next year. Once we get to September, the time available for bricklaying will diminish drastically.

Dave and I (we haven't mentioned it to the Sage yet - well, he was out at the time - think there should be a party this year when we finish bricklaying - will you come?

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 20 - Dave is taken in by an Imposter

Things went very well again. I had spent a long time yesterday assiduously scrubbing bricks - all the ones lying loose which, fortuitously, would be about the number needed for the morning bearing in mind that Dave would be fitting another ornamental brick, which takes a long time. The forecast was iffy but generally we were hopeful of a morning's work.

Imagine my surprise darlings, if you will, when I read Dave's blog, which seemed to have been taken over by someone writing in the style of a lesser-lettered Z. Yes, I know. My mouth would have dropped open if I had any slack-jawed tendencies. You may require a comparison - here you go. Now really - is that, for one minute, anything like me?

Dave was wearing a rather fine pith helmet when he arrived and looked slightly out of place in a Norfolk garden rather than a Cameroon jungle. He cowered slightly when he saw me, which was quite inexplicable. I gave him a cup of Earl Grey, which had rather a lot of tea leaves floating in it unfortunately and he gradually relaxed enough to remove his "protective headgear" as he called it and start work. We were doing well until 11 o'clock when the first drops of rain fell. We covered the mortar and sheltered under a tree. It wasn't a long shower and we finished at 12.30, pleased with the morning's work. Since I counted the bricks (I didn't mean to, but when you stack you can't help counting and multiplying, can you?) I knew that we'd laid 67, plus the ornamental brick and the half-bricks around it.

Pictures? Of course. Here you are.

I've mentioned that the bricks are not all exactly rectangular - here's an example. The top brick is sitting on another which is the reason it looks larger, but you can see that there is a definite curve. Some of them are more bowed than that, and the lower one is cracked but not broken - all part of the hand-made charm. The wall will look old and weathered from the start, which is just what we want. Furthermore, it nicely disguises and excuses any mistakes we make.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dave is busy having fun, so no bricklaying today

The good news of yesterday night was a post on Honey's blog to say that Pema is joyfully born and is healthy and strong. She's received many messages of congratulations - thanks so much for thinking of her and wishing her well.

Yet again, I'm reminded how necessary it is for me to take on obligations. If not, I'd do very little at all, as this morning indicates. Even I, however, am starting to think that I've been ambling round lazily or sitting reading the paper and listening to music for almost long enough and am considering doing something useful. There are several options. I have a letter to write, which I will certainly do at some point today - but that hardly counts, because I have promised to do it today and I am quite reliable at fulfilling obligations.

Otherwise, I have a whole lot of stuff to sort out to hand over to someone - it's probably 2 hours solid work, plus a list - an aide memoire - to write which will probably be added to over a couple of days. Housework is an ever-present option - this is not the sort of house where it's ever finished.
And I am considering cleaning bricks. Not all the piles of bricks were deposited on their pallets, which means that they've been sitting on the ground for the past year or so and the bottom ones have to be scrubbed. This takes the Sage a long time. He's sweet-natured and doesn't mind, but it seems fair for me to take a turn at some time.

I wonder which, if any of them, I'll do. Of course, there's time in the day for me to do some of all of them. Heh heh. And how likely is that?

I've just been reading in the paper how schools and nurseries have been advised to stop small children sharing crayons and toys during the flu outbreak. Does anyone in government know anything at all about small children? Have they ever been in a state primary school? The children sit around tables doing things together, not at rows of desks. Pre-school age children are tactile and cuddly and instinctively share things and hold hands. You can't stop them, certainly not for months on end. You can be diligent about hygiene, but I suspect most nurseries are already - you only have to spend a short time in a public lavatory to notice how many people don't wash their hands at all, or give the most perfunctory rinse. Those wretched unhygienic hot air driers don't help at all.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 19 - I rely on Dave for information

We got a lot done in our 2 1/2 hours today. Not that I joined in from the start, as I was looking after the children until 10 o'clock. The first photo shows (to the right about from the yellow spirit level) what was done today.
The second shows what we've done so far.

Dave is busy tomorrow and the Sage has a couple of things on too so, weather permitting, we'll be back on the job on Thursday. I'll be filling up the lower levels to 9 courses (not including the footings) and Dave will get on with the next decorative brick and the higher ones. Then I'll move on to the other side of the pillar so that Dave can finish that off. The Sage is kept busy supplying mortar and cleaned and wetted bricks.

During the morning, Dave mentioned that the Sage has now decided to have pillars at the ends: that is, that we'll add a couple of extra courses of bricks on each pillar before putting on the cappings. Dave suggested this some weeks ago but the Sage reserved judgement. He still has said nothing to me. I'm waiting, I'm patient. When he finally refers to it in passing, he'll have completely forgotten that he hadn't consulted me at all stages. I'm used to it. On this occasion it doesn't matter at all as it's his choice, but it would be all the same if we'd definitely decided together about something and then he'd changed his mind. One has to make a decision about how much this sort of thing matters, as a principle. The simple thing is that he spent 36 years as a bachelor and he became used to pondering things through by himself. If a further 36 as a married man hasn't changed him, nothing will. Having said that, he has improved. Time was, he'd not have talked about it to me in the first place about the original decision, let alone before he changed his mind.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Honey and Pema

I've been reading Honey’s blog for a long time and, although she'd not updated for ages, her life had taken a turn for the better after great distress and difficulties and she had sounded optimistic and positive about the changes she had made. It was shocking to read, a few weeks ago, that she was very ill with breast cancer. She was also 5 months pregnant with her baby Pema, who will be born by Caesarean section on 28th July.

Honey is going through a very tough time and is on morphine - Pema will be born with symptoms of addiction and will need treatment for that as well as the care needed for a baby born 10 weeks early. Honey is receiving wonderful treatment and consideration and all possible is being done to ensure that she and Pema will be kept together, bearing in mind their medical needs.

Do think of them both on the 28th please, and of Honey's two older children and Pema's father Mr Man. The knowledge that candles are being lit all over the world for them on that day means a lot to Honey - will you join in please?

I'll republish this post when I write another, and keep it at the top until Pema is safely born.

All the best, Honey - let one of the kisses you give your beautiful baby be from us.

Z is sensible. No, really, I am.

It rained again, so Dave didn't come over and I went to Norwich instead. Weeza wants to buy a sewing machine and we went to inspect a couple of models she's likely to choose between and then we had lunch together. The sun came out for a couple of hours, but then there was another hard rain shower - I was driving along the dual carriageway at the time and all the cars had to slow right down as the visibility was so poor.

In other news ... no, that's about it. I'm doing some serious unwinding at present. I feel a bit mean actually, though only a bit. The church runs a holiday club during the summer holidays for a week, starting today - there's a paid youth worker and several volunteers to help. The youth worker developed flu a couple of weeks ago and won't be taking part so they're quite short of helpers. I haven't offered. Indeed, I've said I'm sorry but I'm not offering to help. I thought about it and decided it was just too much, I needed a break and I'm taking one. It would mean a whole week I wouldn't be able to do any bricklaying - true, Dave and the Sage could get on without me, but I realise that I've been banking on taking several weeks off from most of my usual out-of-family obligations and the thought of gearing myself up to doing whatever Bible-based activities are planned (not my cup of tea anyway) is not at all tempting, even to help out really lovely people, most of whom are friends of mine. Furthermore, of course, once you've taken part once, it is a given that you will be heavily involved forever. And the next thing is that I'd be asked to help with the weekly youth club. I can't take on a single more thing and that's that. I don't know if I'm being unreasonable, but I'm being self-protective and sensible, albeit with a mildly guilty conscience.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Dave still has a certain amount to learn when it comes to teasing. This morning in church (on fourth Sundays there is a breakfast café between two short services) I read a headline to friend Anthony (a retired church minister, as is Dave) "Women are getting more beautiful". "Hope for you yet, then," he replied genially. "...while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors" I quoted back at him. Teasing is more vicious in the Church of England than among the gentle Methodists, i think.

However, his mention of a house attached to a brewery reminded me of our children's weddings. We had a party here after both Al's and Weeza's wedding, with marquees, a hog roast and a ceilidh band each time. Our village pub (which has its own micro brewery in the garage) provided kegs of beer and by the end there was some left. A clearing-up party the next day still didn't finish it all off, so for the next few days it was most enjoyable to stroll outside clutching a beer mug and fill it from the barrel. It's the best way to drink it and I rather wish that we could find excuses to do it regularly. Sadly, the 40 pints (I think) that a keg contains is far more than we could manage to drink while it's still fresh, and most of our friends drink little more than we do.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Z winds down a notch too far

A delightful family lunch out today - Al was working and Dilly and the children had other things to do, but the other 6 of us went to a pub not far from Weeza's house - attached to a brewery, it has good food and drink and is popular. Very enjoyable - the Sage and I have been thinking it's Sunday evening as we feel far too relaxed for a Saturday.

Mind you, i came home and spent a long time mowing the lawn, because the weeds from the area around the original lawn, now being mown into submission, had grown quicker than the grass and were tall and getting tough.

Ro remembered this evening (we dropped him off at his lodgings in Norwich) that he hadn't taken his cakes back with him. I've wrapped them individually (I kept one back for the Sage) and have put them in the freezer for next time we see him. He didn't realise iced cakes could be frozen and was most pleased. I think the little sugar flowers may go soft but it won't matter.

I haven't looked at the music for tomorrow and I haven't picked up my clarinet for at least a couple of months. Indeed yes, I should practise. Odds are I won't and will just wing it tomorrow morning. After all, what's to go wrong? It'll help if I know the songs of course, maybe I should check that. And look at the music to see if I can transpose at sight or will have to write it out. Oh dear. Suddenly I feel less relaxed.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 18 - and Ro's birthday

A sunny morning - we used the last of the cement so it was a short one as far as bricklaying was concerned, but things are looking good. None of us has much planned for the next few weeks so, weather permitting, we should be able to crack on a bit.

Here's the state of play today.

And a picture of Tilly, looking plump.

And, with his permission, one of Ro on his 25th birthday. Dilly and the children made the cakes and they were as tasty as they looked. Ro was very pleased.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

And so ad infinitum

Today is the anniversary of our move to this house 23 years ago. I think that also makes it the 23rd anniversary of Prince Andrew's and Fergie's wedding, I seem to remember it being on television while I was doing last-minute packing.

I remember the date because it was the day before Ro's 2nd birthday. We had exchanged contracts and completion day was 1st August, but we offered to let our buyers have the keys a week early so that they could move at their leisure. We'd had a lot of work done here and we'd told the workmen ages ago when their deadline was, but they didn't believe us. They thought we'd give them an extra day at least. However, I was adamant that we would not move on Ro's birthday and that we would give Barry and Rachel the week we'd promised. They rigged up an emergency electrical supply from the bungalow next door (then empty; it's where Al and family now live), we had the Aga and, since our new bed, El's and Ro's were being delivered the next day, we slept on our old one (to be Al's), Ro slept in his cot and the other children slept on the floor. Roy the painter came in for the next few weeks to finish decorating and all the bits and pieces were completed around us.

We'll probably be here forever - the Sage was born here and would certainly like to live out his days here, but that's not the reason for the title of this post. Fleas are the reason.

I mentioned a while ago that all the rabbits that have been making merry all over the garden and field had given Tilly fleas for about the first time in her life - they don't like her thin coat - and a few weeks ago we gave her a good spray with a product that is supposed to kill all the fleas over a few days and then protect from reinfestation for 6 weeks. What was interesting was that the larger fleas all died or left her first (I've been doing a search and destroy job every time she leaves her blanket) and that they've been getting smaller and smaller. The tiniest fleas are the hardest to crush and kill, so presumably they're the toughest. I've just sprayed her again in the hope of getting rid of the last few.

While I'm on the itchy subject, the easiest way to be sure of killing any fleas you pick up, since they can be hard to crush, is to put a blob of hand cream on a tissue. As you catch each little beastie, wipe it into the blob, making sure it's covered so can't jump. At the end, fold it up around the fleas and that's got 'em.

When we'd first sprayed her and lots of sick-looking beasts were leaving her, I couldn't get to sleep that night. Every time I shut my eyes I could see fleas. And I don't like killing things, even pests. It's not been at all pleasant.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 17 - nearly 3 weeks later

It's been a long gap since we last did any bricklaying and we have acknowledged how quickly the summer is passing. We still hope to get the long part of the wall finished this year, but much depends on the weather. You don't get a lot done in 2 1/2 hours, which is about our working time of a morning. However, if we get some dry weather in August there's a good chance of cracking on and getting a good stretch done in the next few weeks.

Dave fitted another ornamental brick, whilst I started at the bottom of the next section. Next time, Dave may begin the next pillar so that I've got that to work to - he has to be careful of his back so is better with the higher sections, which I'm too short to complete. I suppose I should do the lower part of the pillar actually.

It was sunny all morning and very hot some of the time - lovely after all the rain we've had recently.

Yes, the summer house does need work done on it. That is not scheduled for this year, unfortunately. There's not time.

During the morning, I phoned friends to confirm that I'd pick them up to take them to our lunch engagement. The phone was answered by one of the sisters, sounding woeful. They aren't feeling too well and it may be flu - just in case, they've cancelled lunch. I'm very sorry for them, but also relieved that the symptoms showed now rather than after I spend an hour and a half in the car with them. At least it means that, not having to pick them up, I can look after Zerlina in the morning while Weeza goes for a haircut. Being used to a London hairdresser, she's a bit apprehensive at the prospect of sampling the local salon - she still has her London Ways at heart. Though she doesn't miss the Tube or the crowds.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Bringing on the ... oh, it's raining

Indeed, I dressed to bricklay this morning, but then the rain started. So we'll give it another go tomorrow. The forecast had been dry in the morning and rain by 4 pm, which is no doubt the reason it's now the best it's been all day. Rather worryingly, because I value my idle nature, I felt obliged to cycle in to town a couple of hours ago even though it wasn't quite dry, because I was almost out of fruit and plain yoghurt. Virtuous isn't a word adequate to describe me. Hard to think of one that is, actually.

I was ordering some office supplies for the Sage the other day and needed to spend a few more pounds for free postage, so I bought myself a foot rest - an adjustable sloping plastic job. I've been trying to work out how to manage this unobtrusively for a while - with my little short stubby legs, the chairs provided at meetings are always a bit high for me to be comfortable, especially if I have to have papers on my lap, so I tend to cross my legs which isn't a good idea. Legs uncrossed, the papers (and occasionally the coffee cup) fall all over the floor and my toes only just reach the ground. Now I've decided to be quite upfront about it and take my foot rest about with me. It's a bit bigger than I expected, measuring about 14"x18", but one gets away with things if one displays aplomb. Or maybe I mean panache. Should that have a circumflex accent somewhere? Hm. Maybe it's all right in English.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Now wash your hands

I woke up this morning to hear a chap disputing that the moon landing 40 years ago happened - missed some of his arguments, but it seemed that he was arguing that the photos had to be fake because of radiation and no condensation. Or something. Gosh, don't we all feel gullible now?

And then a health expert and a government spokesman were tying themselves in verbal knots regarding advice to pregnant women and flu (I really want to write 'flu. but that seems just too pedantic; actually my fingers type ful, because that's more naturally instinctive if you touch-type, but that's another matter). First the expert said keep out of crowded places, then when pressed, backtracked completely. No, he didn't advocate not going to work in a busy environment, nor not going to work on the Tube. Just wash your hands a lot. "So, the advice to pregnant women is the same as to anyone else?" "er, yes".

Thing is, if they start saying don't go to crowded places, then tourist spots and busy shops will suffer, and they'll get wrong, as we say in Norfolk, for having panic-mongered.

Then I looked at my watch. It had stopped, several minutes before. Just about when the conspiracy-theorists had been talking about the faked moon landing. I checked that the little winder wasn't pulled out, which it wasn't, pulled it out, corrected the time and pushed it back, and it started again. Spooky.

After a couple of weeks off, we're due to start bricklaying again tomorrow. "Sunshine and showers" said the weather forecast, unhelpfully. Right now, we've got the sunshine. Later, the Sage is going off to fetch china for the next sale in October, to be photographed before it's put into storage.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Lost Teabowl. Not that it actually was.

Yes, the sale. There have, over the past 25 years, been remarkably few problems. Once, a good friend helped the Sage unpack the china - a piece was missing. In something of a panic, the Sage drove home - rather more than an hour later, he arrived back again, without it. It was a tiny miniature coffee pot, very rare and valuable, about 2 inches tall. It was found - he'd packed it in tissue paper inside a teapot (full sized) and the friend hadn't realised it was there and had put the paper aside. Nowadays, I'd have told the Sage that he'd never make the mistake of leaving a piece behind and searched first, but we were young and impulsive in those days and we did panic. I've never taken part in the packing or unpacking - it's asking for trouble when two people are involved and neither knows exactly what the other has done.

Another time, someone put a teabowl down too hard and broke it. Poor chap, he'd just got his first pair of bifocals and had misjudged the distance to the table. He was awfully embarrassed, but the matter was discussed amicably and he paid for the piece, had it repaired and sold it for just as much - it was already cracked and a good repair didn't reduce its value. It's the only time an item has ever been damaged at a sale.

On Friday, the viewing had been going on for more than an hour when someone asked if there was a mistake in the catalogue? Lot 43 was listed as a teabowl and saucer, but there was only a saucer on view, although the condition report said that the bowl was slightly stained. Careful searching of the boxes found nothing. Was it a mistake in cataloguing? I was going to go in search of the internet, when Weeza reminded me that she could look it up on her phone. We have pay-as-you-go phones, so such splendidness is beyond our ken - and indeed, the picture showed the teabowl. The Sage said he'd withdraw the piece, apologise to the owner and sell it with no vendor's commission next time (it was no big deal, only worth £150) but we were both upset. Then I decided to check everything carefully - remembering that the Sage is not careless, so more likely that the piece hadn't been carelessly left out when he packed up several weeks ago.

When we arrived, the tables and chairs were all set out, but not quite as we wanted them, so we spent half an hour getting it all right, so we were only just ready when the first people arrived to view. And - this was the real problem as it turned out - someone came to ask the Sage's advice on a couple of pieces of china. If not for that, I'd have got him to check carefully the layout against the catalogue. As it was, we were too busy. Now, the first 8 lots each had between 2 and 8 items in them, of damaged china. When I got to Lot 4, I could see at once the missing teabowl. The Sage had run out of numbers and put on a separate 4 and 3, and the 3 had fallen off. So it was unsurprising that he hadn't realised. And neither of us had checked china against catalogue. Which we normally always do.

I felt a bit jagged after that and had a cup of strong black coffee. Which was awfully good of me, as I went into the unstaffed bar (with permission) to make it. I could have had anything. Anything. Gosh, I'm professional. Anyway, no harm done and we didn't fuss and it's taught us yet another lesson. Although I was a bit shook up. Nevertheless, when adding up totals at the end, I was no end pleased that the books balanced, to the penny. This doesn't always happen, especially when I have to count money and give change. I'm not good with big notes, I lose track sometimes. And I can only add up by hand, I get awfully confused with a calculator.

Thank you so much for looking up hip resurfacing for me, I really appreciate it. You are so kind. I met a woman, who came along with a friend of ours (the Sage and I have both known him far longer than we've known each other!) who remembered me and my sister from school, which was a bit embarrassing as I didn't remember her - neither did Wink, when I spoke to her later, which probably means she's in between our ages ... anyway, let's face it, we lived in the nicest house in the village by far and everyone must have known of our family, although Wink and I were quite unaware of that. Towards the end of the viewing, I was walking limpily and she recognised the symptom of dodgy hip - so she told me of a friend who'd had his hip resurfaced some 4 years ago, by the chap I mentioned in yesterday's comments, and it's been a resounding success. I've heard of the operation, but I understood that the long-term results are as yet unknown as it's only been done for about the last decade, and the technique is still improving. For this reason, it's not likely to be available on the NHS.

I have no problem with that - after all, how much do people spend on a luxury cruise, on cosmetic surgery, on a new kitchen or a car? Or perhaps on a painting or piece of china, come to that. I told the Sage, after I'd looked it up. "You can't put a price on health" he said with the light of hope in his eyes. He's so protective, you see, he hates it that he hasn't been able to do anything to make me better. I'm not inclined to bother my doctor right now - I think the local surgery is probably quite busy enough with people asking about flu symptoms, but I will toddle along sometime in the next few months. It may not be suitable and it may be better done in a year or two, but I'm reasonably hopeful.

Saturday, 18 July 2009


Does anyone know much, from your own or a friend's experience, about hip resurfacing?

Do Z and the Sage feel lucky? Well, do we?

All went well thank you - although there was something of a hiccup at one stage when we thought we'd lost a piece. I may tell you about it, too tired now, I don't want to relive anything worrying.

What's really lovely is that all our family help out. Weeza and Zerlina came over in the early afternoon and Phil drove up from Ipswich where he works (he usually goes to work by bike and train, but took the car for once) and took z home for bed so that Weeza would be free for the sale itself. Ro came by train from Norwich after work to do the bidder registration and accounts, and Al drove over, also after work, to 'show' the lots during the sale - that is, to hold each item up for potential bidders to see during the sale. Afterwards, he left to finish clearing up the shop and get ready for the morning and to put in his orders - he arrived home after 11pm, having started work at 8am. Dilly had her own children to care for, but let Tilly out a few times during the day and fed her. We're so lucky to have such a family.

We're also lucky to have such obliging bantams. The Sage took a tray of eggs to the shop for sale this morning, so when I suggested bacon and eggs for lunch there was only one in the rack in the kitchen. He went out to see if there were any more laid. He was several minutes. Then he returned and gave me two eggs. One was still warm. "She laid it for me while I waited," he explained, grinning.

There was just one glassful of wine left in the bottle. We shared it, but funnily enough both our glasses were rather more than half full.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Going, going

It's been pouring. Fortunately, we packed the car before it rained. The Sage is just sweeping the water out of the porch (this has never happened before the last few days) and then we're off.

He's ready - we're gone.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Last day

For Squiffany that is, at her nursery school. She had made cards and keyrings for all the staff and strode in ahead of me to put her bag on its peg and rummage around for them. She took each to its recipient and told them it was a little present because it was leaving. I felt all poignantly emotional, which was quite absurd - after all, Pugsley will be starting there in September ... I suppose it's because she seems so little to be starting school in a few weeks. Only half days to begin with, but then she will be only four and a half.

She's really grown up in the past couple of months though and it's been interesting to see. She had been, for a few weeks, tearful (though uncomplaining) when left there, and anxiously asked to be handed over to a teacher rather than left to play or start one of the activities. Then, at a trip to the dentist, she was told that she should stop sucking her thumb (which she didn't do a lot, mostly to get to sleep) as her teeth were starting to push forward. She and her parents talked it over and they bought some of the bitter liquid for discouraging nail biting, and also did a star chart. But it was neither of those things that stopped her, she just decided to and did it. She forgot a couple of times the first day, and then just didn't put her thumb in her mouth again. So the star chart was used for not crying at nursery - and with that little bit of encouragement, she decided not to cry. Being a practical little girl, she chose to start playing with another child whom she liked and she's not looked back. On Thursday, she was so busy playing that she forgot to say goodbye to me and I was left waving to the back of her head.

Tilly is lying on the sofa, wagging her tail at me. She's exerting Power of Tilly, because she wants me to tickle her tummy. Now she's rubbing her head with her paws. She knows I can't resist. The tail is wagging again - I'll have to go.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Problem dealt with

Update on the eBay business - having sent a very stern letter (though still polite and factually precise of course) and quoting Rog's views on the subject (thanks again, Rog), at the end of which I said this was my final word on the subject; that the sale was off, I received a phone call from the gentleman himself this morning. And by then, having thoroughly researched the subject by looking through a lot of sales catalogues, he agreed that I was right and that I was entitled to back out.

Of course, my next step would have been to complain formally to eBay - but as it is, all is fine and we had a friendly conversation with mutual assurances that we now agree that each feel that honour is satisfied.

Tonight, our friend Daphne, who I went to visit a few weekends ago in Kent, is here for a couple of nights. She used to live near here when she was a little girl and her parents and the Sage's parents were friends, so the link between the families goes back over 55 years. The people who now live in her childhood home have built a chapel in the grounds - they are Russian Orthodox - and the official opening is tomorrow morning - it's complete coincidence that she's here at the same time, but they have invited her to the ceremonious service. It'll take a couple of hours and there are few seats, so she's going to arrive early in the hope of claiming one of the few.

Tomorrow, Al and Dilly are leaving early (5.30 and 6.45 respectively) so I need to babysit at an absurd hour of the morning. So I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Z is a bit of a wuss and is unrepentant about it

I thought we were having a Dave moment when I went out into the porch and found the Sage valiantly sweeping out the flood waters with a broom. The garden wasn't flooded, it was only that the downpour was more than could drain away at the time. With my priorities intact, I hastened back in for my camera - I thought I'd got it set to 'movie' so that you could see the Sage in action, but I hadn't. But here's what it looked like.

Yes, the porch has hideous metal-framed doors and windows and we long to replace them - you'd never be allowed to put them on a listed building now - but we are too frugal to take them down while they are still serviceable. However, we neglect them as much as possible and the inside metalwork has never been painted in the 23 years we've lived here.

It was a hot and sunny morning, so I hadn't expected it to start raining when I was shopping in Yagnub. I gave up as it became heavier and ducked into the Post Office doorway to phone the Sage and ask him for a lift. I was wearing a longish, full skirt which isn't that easy to manage on a bike at the best and I really didn't fancy the final mile over open country. I thanked him a lot of times. I had two heavily full panniers on the bike and wasn't wearing a jacket, just a tee shirt (and the aforementioned skirt of course) It was after I arrived home that the deluge started.

Dilly isn't having the best of weeks - Pugsley is poorly (not with flu, we think it's one of those nameless viruses), Squiffany had her first ever dose of nits and Dilly can't wait for the end of term. She only has Thursday to go and then she can start to relax. She's making plans for her time off over the next year - one thing she wants to do is to learn to cook. I mean, she can cook but she wants to gain confidence and knowledge. I can see some happy hours ahead browsing in cookery books for her to see what takes her fancy, then cooking sessions together. It'll be fun. The children are old enough to join in too.

I haven't heard back from my auction vendor. If he doesn't answer by tomorrow morning, I'll have to bite the bullet and phone him to confirm he's accepting the situation. Though mind you, I think silence speaks for itself; nevertheless, wuss though I may be I'm a dutiful one.

After my nearly sleepless night, I'd meant to have a nap this afternoon, but I didn't get around to it.

Caveat emptor versus caveat vendor

Oh dear, oh dear. I've had a bit of a tricky exchange of emails. I bought an item on *well known online auction company* and, too late, realised that the description was inaccurate - that is, it was a piece in two parts (might have been a cup and saucer but it wasn't) and that they didn't match. If that's so, the correct description is 'cup and a saucer' - the "a" separating them from being a pair.

Thing is, he'd bought it from a reputable - indeed, prestigious - auction house and had used their description. Since my bid was considerably less than he paid, my surmise was that he realised they didn't match and decided to sell on. Anyway, the toing and froing went on for some time and I wanted to discuss it reasonably - I felt a lot of sympathy for him in the matter and, as I pointed out, if he'd gone to the auctioneers at the time and said there was a mistake, his money would have been refunded. I told him who I was and that auctioneering is my business. Finally, he just said pay up and shut up, so I've spent 20 minutes on the phone to *well known online auction company's* helpline. On their advice, I've written to him cancelling the transaction and recommended that he contacts the helpline himself to confirm what's been said.

But I hate this sort of thing. I had an almost sleepless night - I got up after 2 wakeful hours, read until 4am, and was still awake half an hour after that. If only he'd accepted that I had a point - he hasn't denied it in so many words but avoids agreeing with it - I'd have done my best to reach a compromise, but he was quite forceful in his manner. Actually, the helpline chap recommended I phone the vendor, but I said I'd try emailing first. I hate conflict, more so as I get older, and I don't want an argument.

So, let the buyer beware that he's not buying a pig in a poke, but let the seller beware that he's described what he's selling accurately.

Anyway, the book I was reading in the night, as it happened to be on the cloakroom bookshelf, was Arthur Ransome's Peter Duck. It must be well over 40 years since I read it. Most enjoyable, for all that the plot's entirely fanciful. A ripping yarn you might say, and none the worse for that.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Bowls Club, anyone?

Gorgeous I've been, all day since applying The Face, although I didn't manage much gardening afterwards. There was too much else to do - it turned out that 8 people had earned top scores in the Photo Trail, so the prizes had to be redistributed, first in intention and then in practice. I offered to sort out all the pictures so that they could be returned to their owners, which took a surprisingly long time, and cycling round the village takes ages - ages, honestly - as one keeps stopping to speak to people. All good and no chore at all, and something I should do more of.

When I delivered the prizes, one was to a girl I last saw when she was a pupil at the village school. A girl answered the door - "Are you Beth or Hannah?" I had to ask - but she took it in good part. What lovely teenagers they are, too. Although I (rather belatedly) heard the sounds of cutlery in the distance, so I'd evidently interrupted their tea, Beth was happy to have a chat and I put in a few *good governor* interested questions too, so that means I multi-tasked. Splendid.

Next resolution - be the community-minded person I meant to be. I often used to visit the pub - not so much for the drinking *cough* as for the company. I must start doing it again. And join in other things - there's not a lot going on in this village, but everyone's so lovely, it'd be really good to try to join in what there is.

At present, I'm not so much a pillar of the community as a flying buttress. And I pinched that (he was referring to the Church) from, I think, Winston Churchill.

Excellent as the weekend was, I wish I'd been free to watch the Test Match. It sounded quite thrilling, in a nail-biting way. The articles in today's paper are hilarious - the description of Monty Panesar, for example, as too poor a batsman to be called a rabbit but rather a ferret - because "ferrets go in after rabbits" and poor old Ponting huffing about gamesmanship - sure, dear heart, they were time-wasting, but all the same, your team still couldn't bowl out two tail-enders. I'm not partisan (well, hardly at all) and generally speaking have the softest spot for the underdog while applauding fine players, but this was sheer nerve-wracking entertainment. Especially if you're not Australian, of course.

What happened to yesterday?

I forgot to write. I'm so sorry darlings, I didn't neglect you intentionally. But is it worse to have forgotten you entirely?

Anyway. It all went off well yesterday - the festival continued with the photo exhibition/competition, plus cream teas in the church, plus a photo trail round the village. There was a service at 8 am and another at 5 pm. Yes, some of us were there for everything. I made the Sage come round the village with me - he was quite keen to start with but rather lost interest and, as I had to get to the church to serve teas for a couple of hours, I finished it later on my own. Dilly, who with a friend took the photos and organised the competition, marked it last night and there are 8 winners. I don't know if the Sage and I are one of them, but fortunately the prizes donated were very generous (eg, one is a £20 voucher at my favourite café in Yagnub) and there will be enough to go round.

After the service, I went to the pub to pick up the entry forms that had been dropped in there. I stopped for a glass of wine and a chat, which was only polite. When I came out - literally as I opened the door - there were Dilly and Squiffany, come to join me. So we all had a drink and some crisps in the pub garden. It was a lovely evening, very warm. "It'll have to be pizza tonight" I admitted. "We had spaghetti bolognese and there's plenty of sauce left, you can have that" said Dilly. I like living next door to her. Squiffany and I had a long discussion about spiders. She was on splendid form and enjoyed her evening out with the girls. We agreed we'd like to do it more often.

Now - let's see, nearly quarter to ten and I haven't brushed my hair yet. It'll take an hour or two to make myself gorgeous, and then I'll go and do some gardening.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Z is Fêtalistic

By 7 o'clock, we'd fed 12 people dinner and they had left - Weeza and co. had to get back for Zerlina's bedtime. Al and Dilly took their two home for baths and bedtime too. The Sage and I looked at each other, went and cleared the table and settled down to read the papers. And that's what we've done with our evening. Well, I read a book as well. I need little encouragement to lounge around doing absolutely nothing.

Yesterday and this morning had been busy, but after I'd done my stint in the church kitchen, I was free from 2 o'clock and, although I'd offered to be ready to man a stall if necessary, there were plenty of helpers. So I chatted to friends, was bought beer, bought a round of beer - John puts his prices up to allow for the rigid plastic 'glasses' he uses for the beer festival, but only to £2.50 per pint, so I spent the afternoon merrily quaffing, in between eating burgers (lamb and mint) and icecream (a 99). I bought books and plants, and listened to the bands. It's a splendid wheeze, making the beer festival part of the village fete, because it means that people are happy to stay on the green rather than go home. The weather was pleasant, warm enough, though the sun only came out occasionally and we were happy to stand there. I tried sitting on the grass, but it was a bit lumpy and, unusually, I was more comfortable on my feet.

Did I mention that Ro came with them? He received a warm hug from his mummy, who hadn't realised she misses him. Actually, his father misses him more. The Sage keeps asking wistfully if I've heard from the boy. However, we'll meet again next Friday, because he's coming to do the paperwork at the auction.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Not to be read if you get upset

Too different a subject, so you've got three posts today. This is more of a pouring out, so I suggest you go to the first of the day and appreciate Jaywalker instead.

I was just leafing through the day's papers when I came upon a report that a woman, a mother of two small children, had died because the wiring in the rented home her family had just moved in to was incorrectly wired. She was having a bath, turned the tap for more hot water and was electrocuted. Her husband, at the inquest, said that steps should be taken to ensure that standards are met.

But steps are - or they should be. I've a few charges, such as the energy efficiency survey, that I resent paying for at my two London flats, but the ones I don't mind at all relate to the annual check on the electricity and gas. It's worth a few hundred pounds a year to know that I'm not going to be responsible for someone's death. Five or six years ago, two young men died over Christmas in Yagnub at an over-shop flat they were living in because the gas wasn't properly ventilated and they were overcome with fumes and died in their sleep. I was terribly upset, though I didn't know them, because it just shouldn't have happened. There are rules that are not made to be broken.

But that's only part of the reason I was upset by today's report. When I was a child, we had a car accident. We were on the way to my mother's godson's christening - it must have been 1962, so I was 8 or 9, depending on when at the end of the summer it was. We were hardly out of Lowestoft, driving along the A12 towards Kessingland, when my father pulled out to overtake a Morris Minor pootling along. We were in plenty of time, so we weren't going that fast ourselves and, for some unknown reason, the driver behind us tried to overtake us too. There wasn't room - he hit us, we hit the M M, spun round and went on the verge. If that had been clear, we might have got away with it, but there was a telegraph pole and we hit that and ended up in the ditch.

I remember sitting there, wondering if I was hurt, deciding I wasn't, looking at my parents, deciding they were still alive and moving, feeling relieved and then looking across to my sister and seeing all the blood. It wasn't as bad as it looked at that moment - is it lucky or unlucky to get cut by glass at the side and above your eye, when you could have been blinded? My father also had been cut in a minor way and my mother had whiplash, but I was unscathed. I always was. It's not just marrying the Sage that has brought me luck; I've always had it.

We were just outside a little pre-fab house and the family came out to help. My sister had to go to hospital, so when the people offered to take me and look after me until they got back, the offer was gratefully received. I don't remember much. The mother asked if I was all right, I said yes. She was looking at my hands and I looked down and they were trembling and shaking. When I knew they were, I could stop it, but I hadn't known. We had lunch, boiled salt beef and carrots. It was delicious, but I doubt I ate much. Afterwards, we played a board game. The girl nearest my age (there were several children) was particularly kind and friendly. I don't remember her name now, but I remembered it when I saw it in the paper a year or so later.

Her father and a friend had rewired the house. Something wasn't quite right. One evening, the girl went upstairs for a bath. While she was in the bath, a kitchen appliance was turned on. She reached for the tap for more water. Wires touched and she was electrocuted.

I'm still awfully scared of electricity. I take no chances. If I'm doing more than changing a light bulb, I turn off at the mains. How that poor kind father must have felt still haunts me, when I think about it.

Z is not inspired

It was something of a wasted visit to the school as the music teacher wasn't there and the supervisor sent couldn't cope with a few of the pupils. I got them doing something constructive while she was out of the room, but I know my limitations and that I get more with patience and good humoured acceptance of what I can't control than by getting annoyed. When it was decided that all the class would watch a film instead of doing any work, I politely said that I wasn't going to be much more use and left. My ears are still mildly deafened from the drumming - one lad, who's actually a very good drummer, uses knocking nine bells out of them as a ploy "but I'm making music, miss" to avoid listening to a teacher - I know that I just have to wait until he stops as, if I shouted or tried to take the drumsticks away, I'd only look pathetic; but the supervisor didn't.

I arrived home to find an email reminding me of a meeting at 2 o'clock that I didn't know was happening. Oh joy. I'd better go. You miss something, you never catch up.

I'd better get on. I may add to this later, if anything interesting happens.

Z is rendered breathless

Jaywalker always writes wonderfully. This, today, hit me right in the chest.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

School Daze

The Sage was very sorry to see in the paper that an old school friend of his had died suddenly. They had only seen each other occasionally, but had know each other for nearly 65 years. Today was the funeral and off he pootled in his elderly red van. Several hours later, he came back saying how many old friends he had seen - there's something about the Norwich area, people tend to stay here or else, if they've moved away, gravitate back as retirement beckons. Anyway, he seems to have quite enjoyed the post-funeral get-together, at any rate.

It made me think. If I met a whole lot of people I was at school with from the age of 8 to 13, I wonder how many of them I'd recognise. Not many, and of those, I'd remember fewer names. I am still friends with a couple of them - once, whom I remained in touch with throughout, now lives in Kent and the other moved to Yagnub from London a few years ago. One, I saw in the Times, died about 6 years ago at the age of 50. I can't remember her married surname, but I recognised her maiden name, as well as her brother's name which, being Errol, was a bit unusual in Suffolk in the 1950s. Another friend died about 3 years ago - it's disconcerting when someone of your own age dies of natural causes.

I think I drifted through much of my schooldays in something of a daze, however. If I didn't see someone for a bit, I hardly recognised them. I'm not all that good with faces anyway - I'm much better now, which makes me appreciate that it's not something I couldn't help at all, but that I didn't concentrate enough. In fact now, I sometimes disconcert people by remembering more about them than they remember about me. I try hard, by associating facts with a name and face - it's not that it's easy.

My sister, on the other hand, is brilliant at it. A couple of years ago, we were at a wedding together. We had been on holiday to Cornwall, and she'd been invited to the wedding of the daughter of a schoolfriend, in Devon, so I was, kindly, included. We drifted apart, doing the social round, and after a while, on my own for a few minutes, she waved me over to where she was chatting with two couples. She introduced me to each person by name and mentioned an interesting fact about each of them. There was a stunned silence. "Gosh," said one of the women. "You are my new best friend, I realise."

It's never occurred to me to want to get in touch with people I knew at school. After all, if we'd been that bothered, we'd have stayed in contact all along. Some schools have reunions of course - mine wouldn't have. Frankly, no one would have gone along. We were very laid back and didn't take the place seriously at all. It closed down a year after I left, actually. I'd propped the place up for 13 years and they couldn't manage without me. It was a convent school - the convent itself was next door to the school. Funnily enough before it became a convent, it was the childhood home of my grandmother.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Most of today was cancelled

I spent half an hour printing out photos for the snapshot competition at the festival this weekend. I should have had them properly printed of course, because they'd have looked better professionally done rather than by my bog-standard printer - but there it is, they're done and I've expended a fiver to support the display.

At 8.30 this morning, it was raining a bit, so I texted Dave to say we'd best call off bricklaying today. Rain threatened all morning and there were a couple of showers - not as heavy as we've had in the past days, but enough to have made it a tedious stop-start affair. And Dave has a sore throat, which the Sage does not wish to catch (if it's catchable), as his auction is on Friday week and he shouldn't strain his voice. This afternoon, when it was supposed to rain, it became sunny, which was rather a pleasure. Weeza and Zerlina came over to babysit, so we all relaxed together and went to the playground when Dilly came home in the afternoon.

I also had a message to say my hairdresser was unwell, so my appointment was cancelled. I am rather shaggily hirsute by the time my 5-weekly appointments come round, so I'll be trailing round with hair almost down to my ankles within a couple of days.

Yesterday, I went with the high school headteacher to be told all about the latest Ofsted guidelines for school inspections. During a break, he was discussing with me the emphasis on the monitoring role of governors, and how they should have high expectations and make sure they're met rather than simply being supportive - "not brown-nosed, but hard-nosed" I agreed helpfully. "*The chairman of governors* wouldn't have quite put it like that" he said, suppressing a chortle (unless it was a shocked intake of breath that I misinterpreted). I assured him that if he wants an interjection of vulgarity, I'm the woman to provide it.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Z is not trampled by cows

Again, heavy rain showers with sunshine in between them. We keep checking the online weather forecast, trying to decide whether it's worth bricklaying tomorrow - it can go from one to the other in a few minutes so looking at the sky in the morning, unless it's pouring then, is no indication of the day.

The farmers came to fetch 3 of the 5 cows on the fields yesterday. Big Pinkie and one other are left behind, but the others are expecting their calves in about a month and they'll be given extra feed in the meantime. They were all fetched onto the Ups and Downs (descriptive of the field which is mentioned on maps as 'Anglo Saxon earthworks' and has probably, apart from some gravel extraction in a few places, not been dug up since), some railings were put in place to guide them, and then Johnny noticed that the wire was low at one place. "I'll stand there" I offered. "Would you mind?" he accepted and I stood, slightly nervous of a couple of tons-worth of cows jostled for position around me. They were all emptying bladders and bowels in preparation for their journey -you can see that they are all seasoned mothers, isn't that what we all told our children to do before a car trip?

The grass, which had been close cropped and browning last week, had already started to grow again, especially in the dips in the fields. Pinkie and the other cow, whose number I didn't notice and who hasn't been named, wandered over and accepted some apples. They will be pampered in the next few weeks.

Some good news tonight - Wink rang to say she'd had a message to say that our friends in India have had their first baby today. Her name is Aisha. It was to attend their wedding that I first visited India. They've been hoping for a baby for several years, so this is an especially joyful occasion.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fête intervenes

I looked at my watch. 6 o'clock (pm, that is). Time for a drink! I went to the kitchen - and returned with a pint of water. Yes, I am virtuous beyond bounds. I doubt I'll be able to keep it up once I don't have the sunshine to remind me - unless the feeling of health and well-being people talk about is more truth than myth.

I've been unjustifiably lazy today. I have all sorts of jobs to do, and have ignored them. However, I have done some paperwork that's been hanging over me for some time, including two items which had been requested by 1st July - however, that was the sort of deadline suggested more in a spirit of hope than expectation, and the acknowledgments I received sounded appreciative that I'd done it at all. Having often sent out emails requesting help, information or opinions and had little if any response, my conscience pricked me into responding, even if belatedly (having had a reminder, *cough*). Indeed, having sent out a request for volunteers to help at the village festival this weekend and had one reply between Tuesday and Saturday, someone who'd been on holiday then told me I'd not attached the rotas. No one else, it appears, had noticed. At present, needing 8 people to serve teas at the church on Saturday, I've had one chap, when approached, agree to do an hour. I've put myself down for 2 hours, but I'm busy on the village green, as are the 5 people most likely to offer (all of whom are helping on Sunday) and besides, I want to go to the rest of the festival myself - John takes over the village hall with his excellent selection of guest beers and I need to sample a few. Also, I can't join in village activities if I'm not there, wallet open, supporting everyone's stall and watching the dancers and musicians who are giving up their Saturday afternoon for us. Last year, when the High School music teacher asked if anyone would like to join in the djembe drumming, I was the only volunteer (I was at an advantage as I had had a go already at school) - but there it is; while the wind band was playing it rained for a few minutes; they carried on regardless and so everyone stayed to support them, whereupon the sun came out and stayed out.

But this is a difficulty - everything, apart from our own business, that I'm involved in depends on volunteers. And people who volunteer are often already quite busy. And you can have a team of people who always join in, that falls apart for one reason or another. That's what's happened here - one lady's father has died and her elderly mother needs a lot of support, and she's adjusted her working hours so that she can be with her mother a lot in the week and work weekends. She needs no additional pressure at all. Another couple; he's just started a new job which involves a commute in the opposite direction from hers, and they've only got one car. She's not very well and they have two family members who need back-up at the moment. Nor do they. Another is recently out of hospital, one has moved away from here, another is not well. The people left are feeling that they are on their own - which includes me. This is not a complaint; indeed, I'm sympathetic and can see that people are doing everything they can. They are right to put their families first, too. No one has stepped in to replace them, however - though again, everyone is busy, what is supposed to give?

I remember, a couple of years ago, being very pressed for time with a lot to do, and work for the Sage was part of it. I spent several minutes having a moan - "I've got this and that, and then there's a deadline looming and so-and-so is relying on me..." I whinged. "Then there's your work - of course, you take priority". I saw his shoulders, which I hadn't noticed were tense, relax. I was so glad that I'd said that - it's been an enduring lesson to me; of course it's true, but it's also something that can be not said. We both sometimes feel that the other is always so busy that we don't have time for each other, but we know what and who matters most when it comes to it.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Evergreens at Christmas. What? Yes, I know it's July

Kaz’s description of the ham salad of her childhood reminded me of a conversation I had yesterday about becoming part of the community and how long it takes. That could be a post for another day, but Kaz reminded me of one of the signs I cited; of having been asked to help prepare, serve and wash up for the Evergreens' Christmas lunch. I apologise for the use of the C word in July, of course.

I turned up, not knowing what to expect, to find that the tables had already been laid in festive manner, with crackers and the like, and preparations were going on in the tiny Village Hall kitchen. To be fair, actual cooking was hardly possible there - the layout and equipment is much better now, but it's still small and awkward.

It's the menu I'm thinking of. To wit -

Large vat of soup, made by putting catering-sized packs of dried vegetable and dried onion soup into boiling water and simmering for quite a long time until there was a dark brown ring round the top of the pan, then adding more water until the spoon didn't stand up in it any more, then stirring, realising it was a bit thin again and simmering until just right, then serving.

Appropriate number of slices of excellent quality ham and turkey from local butcher, who home-cooks all the meat he sells cold. We rolled the ham to look pretty and put it, with a slice of turkey, on each plate.
Tins of new potatoes, which were heated up in another large vat, put into serving dishes and had butter pats put on top.
Large packs of frozen peas which were put into boiling water rather a long time before any of the guests arrived so that, when they were eventually dished up, they looked nice and yellowish-green, like tinned peas do. They were then put in tureens with more butter.
On the tables, we put dishes of sliced pickled beetroot from jars, bowls of pickled onions and mustard. There was no salad cream or chutney - this is Christmas dinner, not Sunday tea, remember.

As we were serving the main course - giving each person a plate with the cold meat on, serving hot peas and potatoes from the tureens and letting them help themselves to pickles, the Christmas puddings arrived. There were half a dozen huge ones, home-made by Mrs B, and they'd been simmering in and on her Aga all morning. We boiled more kettlefuls of water, put the water in the washed-out soup vat and stirred in a catering pack of instant custard (that is, it didn't need to be made with milk). We opened a huge tin of mixed fruit salad for those who didn't eat Christmas pudding and put a small carton of cream into a jug. We put the puddings onto plates and served it into bowls, then took them round to the guests,

We put small cellophane packs of cheese onto plates, small foil-wrapped packs of butter onto plates and mixed crackers onto plates and put them on tables. We made instant coffee, pots of tea and served them.

The entertainers had been given lunch too of course, they then entertained while we washed up. Then Father Christmas arrived with his sack of presents, he bore in the Christmas cake (also made and decorated by the splendid Mrs B) and it was brought back for us to cut up and serve with more tea.

Everyone received their present, including the helpers, and we washed up again.

Oh, and everyone received a glass of sherry on arrival, including the helpers. We sort of polished off the bottle while we were washing up, too.

I've got somewhat carried away and described the whole thing - but what bemused me in those far off days when I was a young and innocent thing of about 43 was the juxtaposition of cold meat with hot vegetables and cold pickles. After a few years though, I learned to rather enjoy it. But what I'm wondering is, is (or was) this normal?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Z Parties On

Indeed, two parties today. Actually, I should have gone to a third, but something had to give. The first was a 90th birthday, the second an 80th birthday and the third was an ordination, but lots of people were going to that and I sent a card and an apology.

So, all in all a jolly day. It had started with Al ringing to ask if we'd got some cucumbers in the greenhouse, as he'd forgotten to order any. I was still in bed at that point, but dutifully went down and out and picked cucumbers, and globe artichokes while I was about it. Things improved after that, but it was actually too hot for me to want to hang around in the kitchen for the water to boil for tea and for toast to cook. So I had dry bread and water for breakfast. I know. Even this afternoon, I couldn't face the kitchen so drank more water for tea. Caffeine deprivation is no problem however. I bear it manfully. Actually, when I went to make coffee last night I discovered I had run out, so inspected the cupboard carefully in the hope of finding a squirrelled-away packet of beans; what I found was a pack of spiced orange coffee that I'd acquired somehow a couple of years ago. I made a pot, and it was as disgusting as it sounds. I'll be coffeeless for a couple of days.

Yesterday, I asked the Sage to pump up my bicycle tyres. Yes I know, I should do it myself. But I'm a weak and feeble woman, especially where my arms are concerned, and a man is so strong and masterful and enjoys helping, so I do him a favour by being grateful. The result is, of course, that I whiz around like a speedy person for days afterwards, as I'm not riding along on half-flat tyres. There was a race on today - the local cycle club is very keen, and the village bypass has a convenient straight 5 miles or so to the next roundabout, though this time they were cycling into Yagnub as well. I was overtaken by fit looking men - no women - wearing Lycra and those strange-shaped helmets, on bikes with a rear wheel without spokes but solid instead. I plodded along regardless. I don't mind being overtaken, which is just as well.

Anyway, the parties. Very jolly. One is our opposite neighbour (we have fields all around, so each neighbour is quite a way away, but he's nearest) and he's lived locally all his life. I was glad I'd worn a skirt to show my slinky hips when I saw that one of the guests was my doctor, who ordered me to lose weight. I didn't talk to him as it happened, though I had a chat with his wife. He is Town Reeve this year; a prestigious local appointment, rather like a Mayor (there is a Mayor too) but a more ancient office. The Sage's father and two uncles were both, in the past, Town Reeves, though the Sage won't be as he hasn't ever had a business or lived in the town.

This evening's party was for the elder brother of a lovely friend, who, with her husband, has been friends with the Sage for over 50 years. The men (birthday boy and his brother in law) used to shoot with the Sage at Bisley. A couple of people remembered my father and grandfather - it was a Lowestoft party. My grandfather died before I was born, in 1952, and my father died in January 1970, so it's not often that someone comes to me and speaks affectionately of them. I was very moved, it was lovely. On the 10th of this month, it's the 99th anniversary of my father's birth.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 16 - Z and the Sage are frustrated

It didn't go well from the start. The Sage reminded me that I hadn't prepared the new Meals on Wheels sheet in time for the first of the month, so I spent some time doing them for the rest of the year - I usually do several months at a time, but we've had some uncertainty; one old man in failing health (he's since died), another recovering from an operation in a convalescent home, and a couple about to move house, so I was doing them month by month to save alterations. Because of that, I didn't have breakfast, so thought I'd grab something while the cement mixer was going.

Dave had just arrived and was helping the Sage carry bags of cement from the van when I received a call from Jeni, who lives across the field, asking if one of our cows was missing. I went and told the Sage and set off on my bike to check - the cows were on the other field across the beck where I couldn't see them. It was apparent that she was one of ours; for one thing, the other four were clustered together talking to her anxiously. I cycled back to tell the Sage, who had been getting hammer and staples together, and cycled back while he was walking across the field. Fortunately, Brian the Cowman and Ollie the Cowman's mate happened to arrive on their daily check of the cows, so they helped get the girl, whose name is 386 but whom I call Flossie for short, back in. "I must tell you," said Brian, "Ollie said 'that's the Sage's wife on her bike up ahead.' 'No it isn't', I said, 'that's a young girl' ". I was indeed duly complimented, although I don't think Brian's eyesight's what it used to be. We couldn't find where Flossie had got out, but hammered in a few random staples and went back to work.

Oh, I forgot to mention that before Jeni rang, Al had phoned to ask if his father could fetch the day's mushrooms as he was so busy. So that's what the Sage did next, leaving Dave and me with a load of mortar.

It was very hot and humid, and after half an hour's work, Dave and I stopped for breakfast - that is, I'd eaten a slice of dry bread and I suppose Dave had had something early that morning, but both of us felt a bit exhausted. So I made toast and tea and opened a pot of last year's strawberry jam (I haven't made any this year but still have plenty left) and we were relaxing on the lawn (not in a lounging way, we were sitting at the table like proper people do) when the Sage returned. We all started work again, and then Dilly came out. "Someone called Daphne says that one of the cows is out". I got back on my bike and the Sage set off on foot. Flossie was on the path heading towards the road, so I headed her right back, and then the Sage found where she'd got out and politely invited her back in again. He needed a heavy hammer and another post, so I stood guard while he went to fetch them.

Frankly, by the time we'd done all this we didn't want to do much else. We gave the cows some cabbages, corn and cauliflowers (Jeni had given them their daily apples), finished using the load of mortar and called it a morning. If it hadn't been for Dave, not a lot would have happened at all. However, at least the end of the longest length of the wall has its full height of bricks, although the capping is to come.

Weeza and Zerlina came over as we were finishing and joined us for lunch. z had her usual expression on her face. She was particularly happy to see Tilly. Those two really love each other.

In the afternoon, Pugsley was going to go to nursery school for the first time. He was blowing hot and cold about it, but his mother encouraged him to look on it positively. She came home and reported that he'd strode in and announced "I'm Pugsley. Squiffany isn't going to be here this afternoon so I'm here instead." He introduced himself to everyone and bade her a casual 'goodbye'. She and Squiff, Weeza and z went to the swimming pool to take Dilly's mind off her son.

Later, I went through to see how he'd got on. He was upset when I went in the house - it soon transpired that he thought that meant I was going to babysit and Dilly was going out. We reassured him - I explained that if that was happening, she would have told him already. But it's so clear that, however good the arrangements and however valuable good nurseries are, what little children really want most is their own mother or father looking after them most of the time.

By the way, Weeza has officially resigned from her job in London. She's now a justahousewifeandmother - since she's enjoying that and they're managing financially, isn't she lucky?

Oh, and I decided that I needed another lift. So now I'm up to 11 mm in my shoe. One more is half an inch. Since I initially thought 8 mm was enough, in March, it seems that my hip is failing faster than I'd expected - still has a few years in it I expect. I hate the thought of visibly built-up shoes, but there's a limit to what you can put inside a shoe and still get it on your foot.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Is it July already?

An interesting day, and I enjoyed it. A beautiful setting for the house, which has been beautifully and sympathetically restored. It belongs to Sir Henry M00res (of the L11tlew00ds family) - who was there today himself and came and had a chat. I liked his collection of Chinese artetfacts and the Folk Art section best.

The Sage had my dinner cooked for me when I arrived home. He greeted me at the door with a glass of chilled wine. How well he knows how to please me, and how effectively he does it. He then sent me down the drive with the green wheely bin as, he said, dinner was at a critical stage and he couldn't go himself. I had rather planned for my first visit to be to the loo, but I managed to contain myself for a few more minutes.

Tomorrow. Yes. Oh blimey, the year carries on regardless, doesn't it? Does everyone feel as swept away by it as I do?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 15 - Dave shows his knees

The second ornamental brick was put in today. After careful measurement and experimentation, the Sage and Dave decided to put it in the same way round as the first because that would make the better fit.

Dave wore shorts. If the heatwave lasts, maybe one day I will too. Not that I'll look as good as he does.

Today's work

The first ornamental brick - you'll see that Dave put in a deeper mortar bed the second time, so that the slice of brick on top wasn't required.

I know it looks on the huh, but that's my photography

Kenny came to call, with some of his 90th birthday cake.

Al shut the shop today: or rather, he didn't open it, and they all went off to the Norfolk Show. They took plenty of drinks and sun cream and a sheet to cover the children when, separately, they had a nap in the pushchair. They also spent quite a lot of time in the wooded area where there are displays of country crafts, such as bodging, so they came home looking quite cool and comfortable.

I had a governors' meeting, which I hadn't quite realised I was going to chair. Still, nothing if not adaptable. After dinner, Weeza phoned to arrange to come over on Friday. The Sage spoke to her first, then handed the phone over to me while he went outside to shut up the chickens. He returned. "Can you help? There's a cow out." Indeed, just outside the door was a large cowpat and a (larger) cow was eating the lawn. The Sage went to open the gate to the field while I stayed and chatted to her. Then her face brightened as she saw a box of chuck-out apples that the Sage had brought home from the shop to give the cows. She reached for one, knocked the barbecue and panicked a bit when it started to fall - I caught it, but she ran to the other side of the lawn where she saw a plastic golf ball the children play with. She started to eat it, I sprang forward, she panicked again (panic is a relative term, she tossed her tail and hurried for a step or two but didn't actually stampede) and the Sage got worried. "I'll get Al" he said and went off. "No, please don't go," I said, but it was a bit late. The cow wandered off towards the hen house, and I went around the back drive to head her off if she made for the road. As I rounded the fork in the drive, she appeared coming towards me and stopped uncertainly. I could hear the Sage returning, so I took a couple of steps back, she followed me, and then went around the drive, just as I wanted her to, towards the field gate. What a good girl. I found the spat-out ball on the lawn too, so all was well.

Yesterday, we had the first tomato from the garden. Oddly enough, it's ready before any of the ones which have grown in the greenhouse. It's a Gardener's Delight. It was also a blackbird's delight - I'd seen in the morning that it was ready to pick and I should have then. Still, the Sage, I and the blackbird ate it between us. We also picked the first of the french beans.

Tomorrow, I'm going out on a jolly, here. It's a NADFAS trip, but not the society I belong to but the other Norwich branch - they had some spare tickets. I invited the Sage and Dave - either or both of them - "my treat" I said, but they didn't think it would be enough of one and turned me down. You'd think one of them might have kept me company - as it is, I'll have to make some new friends.