Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Z talks and types

This afternoon I mostly talked.  To be fair to me, I was asked to.  There was a meeting at the church - we're planning some improvements, new doors mostly, and also an extension to the churchyard which is nearly full.  We die a lot around here, it seems.  The Sage will be going to three local funerals in three days and I'll be playing the music at two of them - being friends, I'd go anyway so I might as well be useful.

Anyway, I was making coffee and tea when the Rector came and asked me to explain to the gathered advisors what we want to do.  I was a bit startled, being completely unprepared, but fortunately a churchwarden had brought the notes saying what we'd said we want to do so I had a quick glance at them as a reminder.  So okay, all those poor front-legged donkeys are all down to me, so I went and improvised.  I must say, they were lovely, and extremely helpful.  To be fair to us, we had thought it through, and everything we wanted to do was an improvement, but English Heritage as well as the Diocesan Advisory Council was involved and they can be sticky.  Not in this instance, all advice was constructive and gladly received (I employed my best party manners and no one else was saying much).

Tonight, I suggested after dinner that we do a bit more work on the catalogue.  I was thinking of half an hour or so.  More than two hours later, we've just finished.  It was rather more work than I wanted to do at the end of the day (I was carrying bags of onions and carrots about at 8 o'clock this morning) and I am very tired.  Fortunately, the shop will be closed tomorrow morning.  Instead, I plan to go to a lecture about the mosaics at Ravenna.  I have seen them, they're beautiful.  In the afternoon, I'm having my hair cut.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Z is not good, but 'good enough'

I've been practising the organ this afternoon.  I think it'll be all right.  It's a funny thing, but once one learns a piece, it comes back quite easily, even if you don't play it for ages.  It won't be perfect of course, I can be an adequate player but will never be a good one.  Trouble is with accepting one's limitations is that one plays down to them.  I won't bother to practise more than I need to get by, because I know how little point there is.  Not something to recommend to the young and impressionable, but I'm neither.

Before that, Eddie 2-Sox joined us for lunch.  I'm not sure if it counts as a blog-meet after the first time, I think it's simply meeting a friend.  An old friend, of course, because bloggers usually know each other pretty well before they actually meet in person.  I sent detailed instructions to reach our house, which meant he ended up down a narrow track the other side of the field from the house.  He eventually arrived, having trudged across the fields and through the stream, covered with mud and bedraggled through brambles.*

Tomorrow, the Sage and I have found ourselves double-booked. I accepted an appointment to have the dishwasher mended in the morning, asking him to stay in as I would be minding the shop for some of the morning at least, but now we realise that he'll have to go to the mushroom farm.  He'd been planning to leave at 8 o'clock, helping me with the heavy outdoor shelf first, but he'll have to leave earlier, hoping they will be open, and I'll manage the shelf myself.  I can, I'm just being a girlie.

*Alternatively, he turned the car round and drove down the drive like a sensible man.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

August Bank Holiday -

- so, of course, it's raining hard.  Very showery this afternoon, starting with a sharp hailstorm and since then it's been sunny, windy and wet at intervals.  I was in the kitchen when the hail started and went to check Tilly was in - she was in her basket in the porch, so I brought her in to lie on her sofa and went back to whatever I'd been doing.

Later, I went back along the passageway and was startled to see a big wet patch by the wall.  First I blamed Tilly, though was surprised - but it looked too splashy at the edges ... so I went down on my hands and knees and sniffed it.  Yes, i know.  I must remind you that I'm more than half dog myself, so it comes naturally.  Anyway, it was just water.  So I thought I must have spilled some when I was taking the bucket to empty, having washed the kitchen floor.  But I thought about it, and I didn't.  Anyway, I'd have noticed. I'm not that unobservant.  Well, I am, but I knew I hadn't.  So finally, I realised that it had rained so far that the guttering had overflowed and the water had come in under the tiles.  It does happen occasionally and we've never managed to completely weather-proof the house.  I remember once a terrific thunderstorm and Chester (my late and still-missed setter) was afraid, but okay if he was touching me, and I was trying to hurry back and forth for towels, whilst not pushing him away.

Anyway, the weather forecast is better for next week, so I hope that Al and co have some good days out.  I'm glad they decided against camping.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Anxious bear

Weeza and family came over today and we made a start on the catalogue for the next auction.  And Al closed the shop early so that he could get back after lunch, because they are going on holiday.  Eileen and I will run the shop next week, but not every day and mornings only.  It's a busy week, actually, with one thing and another - nothing vital but lots of little things.  The main thing I'm going to have to fit in is a lot of organ practice for a funeral on Wednesday, on an organ I've never played before.  Every one has a different set of stops and a different feel, I'm not looking forward to it at all.  Especially as the grandsons of the person who has died are very musical.

Something of a mercy dash this evening.  I was just starting to get dinner ready, and then went to get Tilly to have her dinner first.  I went into the cloakroom to wash my hands and there was Barry, Zerlina's teddy bear.  So off I went to Norwich to return him.  The last thing I wanted was a distressed teddy bear missing his little girl.  Zerlina was asleep when I arrived, but Phil said that she'd be sure to wake during the evening, wanting Barry.  I guess they'd have coped overnight, but it wouldn't have been easy to get through the whole weekend.

Dilly will celebrate her birthday while they're away, so I took her presents through this morning to be packed, with a couple of DVDs for the children.  There are a lot of birthdays next month in the family - funnily enough, El's, Al's and Ro's other halves all have birthdays in September, as well as Pugsley at the end of the month.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Z cheers up with the Great Dane

I mean, how can I help it?

I bought a CD of his monologues in a charity shop when I was staying with Wink. A good buy, even better with video.

Z is tetchy

It hasn't been a brilliant week really.  A member of the family of very good friends died the other day - I shall be playing the organ at her funeral, not at the church I usually play at and they want Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, not my favourite since it was played for forever at a wedding when the register was being signed, when I was fourteen (I think they chased and caught the goose and plucked a quill before shaping it and returning in triumph to the church and finally remembering there was a legal document to be signed), as an intro.  Then, I found several unheard messages on the answerphone, one of which was to say another elderly friend had died and the other was from the husband of an unwell friend, asking for a return call, from two days ago, so I jumped to the wrong conclusion, as it turned out - but I was quite upset to start with.

I've felt unsettled all day.  It all seems to have built up.  It doesn't help that the dishwasher has broken down - no big deal to do the washing up and I don't mind, but I am finding myself irritated that it doesn't occur to the Sage to lend a hand.  In those far-off days before we had a dishwasher, he was working full-time but still thought it perfectly reasonable to wash up if I'd cooked dinner.

At least, having been tetchy all day, I cooked a nice meal this evening.

I do hate the BT 1571 service and there doesn't seem to be a way to switch it off.  For those of you who don't live in this country, it serves as an answerphone and also as a voicemail, so if you're already on the phone it offers to take a message.  However, there is no indication of this to the householder, but just a two-tone dialling tone when next you pick up the phone to make a call.  So, after a phone call, you're supposed to pick up the damn phone to check whether anyone has left a message, which of course you don't think to do, so miss it until the next time you make a call.  Again however, if you've got a mobile phone contract that includes calls, you don't use the landline, so it might be days before you find a message.

It was by chance, as it happens, that I did.  The phone rang, I went to answer it and it was dead.  I went to the plugged-in phone - missed the caller, as by then the (non BT) answerphone had kicked in and they'd put the phone down rather than leave a message.  So I went to investigate and it turned out that the cordless phone had been switched off.  The Sage had plugged in his own mobile to be charged, but not noticed the other switch was off.  When I switched on, I discovered all these messages.

Anyway, as I say, I've been tetchy.  The Sage is being very careful.

Dilly, Al and the children are going on holiday tomorrow.  They've rented a cottage for a week in North Norfolk.  Dilly will have her birthday while she's away, so I've made up a bag of small presents - what I'd meant to get her, knowing she wanted it, her parents are getting so I've had to order other stuff at the last, so there are just little things for now.  She won't take it amiss, she knows us too well.  I also, on a whim, ordered a couple of DVDs for the children the other day and they arrived remarkably quickly so I can give them to take, in case of a day when they are rained in.  Or an evening when they want to veg.

I'll be really nice to the Sage later, I promise.  He's taken the point.  We haven't quarrelled, I assure you.  Ahem.  I just told him what he needed to know.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Z makes cake

The day is going quite well so far.  The worst thing about it is the weather, which would be quite acceptable for March or October, but in August is just plain bad-mannered.  It's been a dreary heavy drizzle most of the day.  We had a piece of china to photograph; we've not perfected the lighting yet for the light box, so took it outside and did it in daylight in the box - we got wet but the china and camera didn't.  Weeza and Zerlina came over for the day and Weeza did the ad and sent it off to the antiques magazine.

Zerlina is completely recovered from her chickenpox - there are still a few spots on her body but none on her face or limbs and she's fine.  She's using much longer sentences, it's only nine days since we last saw her but a corner has suddenly been turned and you can tell that she's deliberately using a variety of words and finding two or three ways of saying the same thing.  She's putting in conjunctions and indefinite articles and grammarish sorts of things - for example, a fortnight ago she might have said "Give Tilly biscuit", now she says "I'll give a biscuit to Tilly".  She knows she's doing it and enjoys it.

Meals on Wheels was rather nice - look, I take pleasure in simple things - and everyone was cheerful.  I asked Lorna how her hip is, she had a new one last year.  It was the second replacement, she had it done first in her fifties, thirty years earlier.  "That's fine," she said, "it's my back and knees that are the problem."  She is philosophical about it and is glad that her health is otherwise well.  "You've got good neighbours all around," I said.  "Oh yes, I gain more friends if anything, they're often popping in.  'You know where the kettle and teapot are,' I say, and they help themselves and come for a chat".  It struck me, as before (when I wrote about a MoW survey) how happy most of these people are.  I can see why they get visitors, because they're a pleasure to call on.  I remember a couple of elderly widowed sisters who lived together, where my mother used to live.  They were very pleasant and loved visitors, but they couldn't bear people to go.  One of them edged in front of the door and they started to gabble new conversational topics the moment a visitor started to look at her watch.  "I must call on Kitty and Mary," my mother would say, "but I have to have a free afternoon.  An hour is never enough."  And so it got left another week, where a cheerful greeting and goodbye would have meant frequent droppings-in.  And then, of course, there are people who always have something to complain about.

My sister-in-law has a story about an old lady who used to live in the village.  My mother-in-law was very sweet-natured and generous, and a lot of people didn't have money for treats in those days, even small ones.  So she always made extra and sent one of the children, usually her daughter, to give a little present to one of the elderly villagers.  This particular lady was never satisfied.  If she was given a pot of strawberry jam, she'd really hoped for gooseberry jelly.  If it was a cake, she really would have liked a bowl of soup.  So once, June went prepared.  She took the jar of strawberry jam out and proffered it.  "Oh, how kind your mother is.  I would have really liked apricot, though."  "Don't worry," said June, smartly whipping back the jar.  And she got a jar of apricot out of her basket and gave it to her instead.  The poor old woman was quite embarrassed.  And June's mother was none too pleased with her for her rudeness - that is, for letting the old lady know that she had been rumbled.

Anyway, this afternoon, I made a cake.  Not for any reason, I just felt cheerful.  Squiffany had phoned to ask Zerlina in to play for a while, and it was just cooling when they got back.  They had to get back home for tea, so I cut off a large piece and gave it to them.  Weeza phoned just now (really just now, I was writing the previous sentence at the time) so that I could hear Zerlina say how much she liked the cake.  She was still eating.  "Yum, yum," she was saying in a loud voice.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Z has cheered up no end. Sleep every night seems not to be necessary.

You may (or may not, you have better things to do, after all) remember that I have taken on a new committee, as Area secretary of Nadfas.  It's just two meetings a year, with two committee meetings to plan them - but there's a lot of co-ordinating to do.  I'd say that there's probably something to do eight months of the year, with quite a lot for three of them.  Which is fine, I'm not talking about days'-worth of work, the odd few hours at a time and quite a lot of emails to deal with.

I do find it easier to get to know people online, I have to say.  With my poor (better than it was) memory for names and faces, it's easiest for me to get to know people by facts.  So I get away with it, everyone thinks I've a marvellous memory because I'll remember most things I've ever been told.  That I may look at someone blankly, because I have poor face recognition, can be overlooked.  And a woman can develop a reputation for being a bit luvvieish (easier than for a man) and call everyone 'darling' or similar while she's remembering their name.

I am loads better than I was in both these respects, because I have spent a lot of time working at it.  I remember, when I was secretary of the WI, I used to sit with the list of members on my lap, looking round the room (we sit in a circle) putting names to faces.  One can learn to improve, and it becomes easier.  It's especially easier if I have something written down, as that's the sort of memory, 'learning style' that I have.

Anyway (a written-verbal tic, I know, darlings), although it is quite a lot of work, I'm enjoying this secretaryship, because of all the emails - and the occasional phone call - that I get.  A sad excuse for a social life, but hey, it saves on the housework.  Ask people around and you have to clean up and cook and stuff.

There was a meeting here in fact, earlier on this evening, to plan the Harvest Supper.  I seem to have come off lightly, with a fruit salad - well, a fruity dessert, won't decide what until near the time - and a cheeseboard.  Squiffany and Pugsley were here at the time (I typed in Pugsley's actual name there, whoops, thought I was on Facebook for a minute) and they were very good but not entirely impossible to ignore.  They were playing with various apps on the phone - child-suitable, natch - and then giving each other rides on their backs round the room.  We didn't mind, but the Sage came and took them away.  Afterwards, we agreed, we're all grandmothers; they were quite happy and well-behaved, so we switched off and got on with our arrangements and didn't even notice them.

Z is a bit fed up

I've been awake since ten past one this morning.  I'm not tired, though I will be, but I am quite grumpy.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Z is satisfied and proud

It was GCSE day today.  A Levels went very well, but GCSEs went even better.  Ours is a genuinely comprehensive school, which resolutely doesn't take league tables as the be-all-and-end-all, so we have an open 6th form and don't go for easy marks over good education.  We do have some regard for the tables, one has to be pragmatic, and the pros and cons of these are a subject for a post I'm not going to write - if you know me, you'll know how easily I can get carried away on a subject I'm interested in, and this is (nearly) always a light-hearted blog.

But we did have the best results ever and, knowing how hard everyone has worked, I congratulate and appreciate all the staff and the pupils.  Whatever we say about league tables, exam results do matter and our 16-year-olds have got a jolly good springboard for whatever they're going to do next.

It's not up to the standards of a selective school or a good private or public one, but Yagnub has been described as a big council estate with a nice little market town attached.  And the surrounding areas are rural and not wealthy.  Wealthy people mostly send their children to the fine local private schools.  Weeza and Al went to two of them.  We sent Ro to the village school because it needed support, and then we carried on with the state schools because we were pleased with them.

So, our results were 86% grades A-C, 71% with both English and Maths.  English had 80% A-C and Maths 76.6%.  That's our best results ever, gained through hard work not through easier exams, and I'm proud of those who put in such hard work.

And as for me - yes, I do think that the 22 years I've put in as a school governor have made a difference.  I'm glad of the part I've played.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Season of Cobnuts. And mellow fruitfulness, of course.

The Sage didn't start the day well.  That is, he didn't end yesterday well, as I discovered at 5.30 when the window kept banging because when he opened it he didn't use the thingy that only Dave knows the name of - the sticky-up thing that keeps it where you want it.  I didn't go to sleep again, which was a pity.

It was all much fun this morning, because there were lots of people here; Dilly came in with Pugsley, Squiffany and the Sage and then Sandra called.  She and Graham are great friends who mostly live in New Zealand now, so it's a pleasure when they visit.  Our oldest hen, who is a pedigree bantam, came to us as a chick, years ago - we can't remember, but it must be 8 or 10 years - she's the one who, earlier in the year, came in the house whenever I left the door open.  She started spending most of her time in the hen house when the weather got hotter and she doesn't get out much now, but the Sage went and fetched her for Sandra to stroke - reluctantly, she likes dogs better than chickens.  We showed her Black Hen's daughter and granddaughter, too.

Quite quiet, after that.  This afternoon, I cycled in to town to buy more food for Tilly.  She's enjoying her expensive Senior Dog food, which is costing about £2 a day, plus her Scooby Snacks, which she eats a couple of packets of each week. However, she's a healthy little dog who hasn't been to the vet in years, so I can't begrudge it.

I saw a friend walking home, so I got off my bike and walked with him.  He's got two young daughters  - 13 and 11 - and he asked if I use Facebook.  I admitted that I've just opened an account, under a false name (oh gosh, I'll probably be drummed out now), but that I've blogged for years.  We talked about security, particularly when you've got young and impetuous daughters - not that he's got anything to worry about, except that he hopes they will take care.  When my children were young, which was pre-internet days, of course, the concerns were more about the time spent on games.  I didn't mind, especially as I liked games myself, but I kept the computer in the living room.  They were welcome to use it, but not to be shut away.  Weeza wasn't allowed a television in her room until she was 16.  Al never wanted one.  Ro, several years on, just bought one.  Times change.  Later, he bought a computer.  However, we don't really heat upstairs in our house, so use in the winter was governed by how long he could cope with the risk of frostbite.

Anyway, back to today - we were just finishing our chat at the end of my drive when a friend stopped to say she'd just been in the church and found that the wonderful flower arrangements put there for last Saturday's wedding had fallen down - the oasis had dried out and they were top-heavy.  She had to go and fetch her new computer, so I said I'd go to start sorting them out.  It started to rain, so Pete came in too, to help.  Poor chap, he was stuck for about 20 minutes until the rain eased off.

He asked what I blog about.  I reminded him that I have no difficulty talking for a long time about very little.

Oh, the other news of the day is that Kent Cobnuts are in season.  Yum.  On the other hand, that means autumn is round the next corner.  Hm.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


I went to bed late.  It's unsettling, being Sageless.  Then I couldn't sleep because I was too warm, and just dozed, on and off, half the night, before being finally woken soon before 6 o'clock by heavy rain.  I shut the windows, but couldn't sleep, and before long, Squiffany called through politely, asking if it was time to get up yet?  I invited her through, she unwrapped the pound that the tooth fairy had exchanged for her tooth - this has been a subject for excitement all day.  She took it to the party and told all her young friends about the experience of having a loose tooth, because she's the first of her circle of friends to have this happen.

After I left her at the party, I went on to Flixton Air Museum, for the  Open Day, which was a special one because of the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Britain.  It was, of course, the more special because of the blog-meet between me and Eddie 2-Sox, with his son Sam.   It took us a while to find each other - not that it's a very large place, but we were both looking in the wrong places.  I recognised them at once - or at least, I hoped so.  I mean, it's a bit awkward to greet people with confidence when you've only seen photos before.  Anyway, he recognised me right back, so that was fine and we had a chat, not as long as I'd have liked though, as I had to go and fetch Squiffany from her party at 1 o'clock.  We did a bit of shopping and came home to find Dave was fretting, bless him, because he thought I was ignoring him*.

The Sage arrived home from his visit to Gloucestershire and Wiltshire soon afterwards, so that was all right, and Weeza emailed to say they were on the way home from their visit to Phil's parents, and that Zerlina is getting over her chickenpox.  Al and family are due home later.  A mother hen likes to know all her chicks are safe.

All in all, a splendid day.  And the special topping, with sparkly frosting, was that the new levels on iAssociate 2 came out today, which I discovered around 7am.  Sad to say, I was unable to resist plugging away at the first of these until it was completed.  I wasn't alone, and am only just in the first 100 to finish.  55 out of 42,389 overall, however.  I will resist being competitive though, what's the point in finishing quickly?  Actually, they are getting easier.  It used to be that I didn't know a lot of the answers and had to look them up, but I haven't needed to do that for quite a few levels.  They need to get a few really tough challenges out to keep everyone interested for longer.

Tomorrow, Squiffany is going with the birthday girl to her second treat, to Pleasurewood Hills in Lowestoft.  Dilly is planning to go too, I think, in which case I'll look after Pugsley.  I need to check that Zerlina is sufficiently recovered to go to the childminder, or else I'll be looking after her too.  So I had better make sure I get more sleep tonight than I did last night.

I absolutely assure you that I won't give up blogging for Facebook.  I can't think why I would, they have a different feel.

*I know you were joking, Dave, it's all right.**

**Or were you?  Hmm.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Look what happens when Z is left alone

I'm not entirely alone, in truth.  Squiffany is, I hope, asleep upstairs.  That is, she's certainly in bed upstairs, all has been quiet since I kissed her and put her light out, so I hope she's asleep.  This is an important night for young Squiff, because her first tooth has come out and she's wondering if the tooth fairy will call.  The fairies have been pretty busy in the garden in the last few days and spent their nights (according to Dave) getting drunkenly stoned, but a Saturday night is a good one for getting back to business.

I haven't had dinner yet, either.  I can't decide what to have.  There's not a lot to choose from - all sorts in the freezer (not the liquorice sort, don't be like that - though actually, the thought made me remember the proper hard chewy liquorice sticks that are in a box that I've been slowly going through for the last year, with Ro's help, so I've just been to fetch one) and I'll probably end up eating an egg or two.  Bantam eggs aren't very large.

That reminds me, I'm often woken by the sound of clucking in the morning - by the chickens, darlings, whatever mental image do you have of my husband? - but all was silent today.  I went outside and didn't see any chooks, either.  So, I fetched their breakfast and went out nervously, a bit worried about what I might find.  One bantam came to greet me on the lawn, so I threw her some soaked bread and went, even more anxiously, to their run - which they can easily get out of.  I didn't shut them up last night, either - some of them roost in the trees and, as it's all so open, they're actually safer, many of them, left to their own devices.  The Sage can persuade them all inside, but I can't.  Anyway, although there were only a few there, they were alive and well, so I went back to the lawn and started calling, and within a few minutes fifteen of them were hurrying for their breakfast.  So that was all right.  However, they were noticeably quiet all day, and I can only think that the reason was the strong southerly wind (might be south-south-west) which was unusually warm and might have unsettled them out of their usual habits.  About twenty came for lunch and fifteen for tea (more probably arrived after I'd gone) so all is well.

I spent some time this afternoon with my pruning saw, which was hard work in this heat.  I was quite hot, although fairly unbothered, when I came back indoors.  I'm afraid I've left all the wood for the aforementioned fairies to clear up, but I assured them that it can wait a couple of days, I know they have other things to do over the weekend.

Anyway, what I'm coming to is that I've finally signed up for Facebook.  Absurdly, I'm so reluctant to do so that I've felt unable to use my actual name, so I didn't approach anyone, as they wouldn't recognise me.  However, I'll tell you, darlings (if you would like to work out why I'm quite happy to put all sorts of stuff here when I'm not via Facebook, I'd be interested to know.  Needless to say, I didn't put down my actual birthdate either).  I was going to put my initial plus my surname until I found that searches are done, rather as you'd expect, by surname.  So I've gone for one I've always rather hankered after after seeing it on the credits of a TV programme some 30 years ago.  It starts and ends with Z and has un in the middle.  I suspect there is only one of them (haven't looked), with three zeds, and it is I.

You are most welcome to come along, darlings, though I'll quite understand if you think I'm too odd for words.  I now have only to work out how to explain to my face-to-face friends (won't say real life, this is as real life as I get) who have sent me invitations why I am not who they expect me to be.

I don't enter into the spirit of things at all, do I?  Truth is, I'm not actually a joiner.  I'm a solitary, miserable fool by inclination.  Except as far as you're concerned, where I'm friendly and stuff.

Friday, 20 August 2010

It's very quiet around here

The Sage has gone off again on his journeyings - earlier in the week he was leaving on Saturday and returning on Sunday, but he seems to have managed to bag an extra day's leave of absence.  He's left me a couple of loaves for the chickens' breakfasts, some grapes and a melon, as well as a bag of corn, for their lunch, and some extra little treats for their tea.  In addition, he's filled their feeder with wheat and their bowl with water.

He's been and bought extra supplies of food for Tilly and made up some new frames for Al's bees.

I've checked his phone - he said he didn't know how to answer calls, it seems he didn't notice the two words in big print, one saying 'answer' and the other 'decline'.  He hadn't mentioned that the phone was on 'silent', however, which seems a more fundamental problem.  At least I know now why he never answered his phone.  I've also booked an advertisement in our favoured antiques magazine for the next sale.

He has kindly said I may use his laptop, as I've got to use a program that I've only got for a pc.  I hope it works all right, I've got to send a document to 25 people and the deadline is today, and I've not started work yet.  I'm slightly reluctant to get to grips with it, so am pretending it isn't there.   I will get it done, of course.  Al and Dilly have kindly invited me in for a meal, which we're having early with the children, so I'll have the whole evening to work on it.  I shall also play very loud music (well, louder than I play when the Sage is here.  He never says anything, but I'm sure he hates some of the music I listen to).

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 45 - Dave gets high

This morning, Dave reached the top course of bricks - only five of them, but it feels like another achievement.  He's also put in the first of the ornamental bricks on this section of the wall.

The ground sloped down on the drive side of the wall, and the footings are stepped down halfway because of it, by three bricks.  You can't see in the picture because there's some sheets of corrugated, as we say in these parts (it would be equally correct to refer to a sheet of galvanised), in front of it, but you can see that the grey bricks in the foreground are higher than the ones at the other end.  We hadn't taken into account those three extra rows in our calculations, so were prepared to have a step down in the height of the wall if we didn't have enough bricks - we need to do a count of the last palletful, in case there are many breakages, but we think we've got enough to take it to the same level all the way.  If we do so, I'll have to put in two more rows of bricks the other side of the pillar before the ornamental ones go in, so we need to be sure.

So, here are the pictures.
Turning the corner
Levelling off the end section.
Dave put in the ornamental brick and then we both built around it.
Dave said this went in very easily this time, they have been quite tricky up to now.

In the afternoon, we did more work on the fallen tree - not Dave, he went home after his sausages and chips.  I separated the logs cut on Sunday from the ivy cut off on Sunday and piled the latter, ready for a bonfire.  Then I went round to the root end and cut away rotten wood and cleared stones and earth, so that our friend had a clear area to cut with the chainsaw.  It was really hard work and is taking a long time.  I was pretty tired after a couple of hours, and covered with scratches and prickled by thorns.  I went in for a shower.  I'm not fond of showers, but needs must.  I was going out to dinner and I was filthy and dusted with sawdust.

There's still a lot to do.  The Sage reckons the whole tree probably weighs nearer two tons than one, and the more we clear away, the more apparent its size is.  At least we'll have enough firewood for a good long time.  Once all the logs have been split and stored, of course.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Most surprisingly, I'm planning to join a bike ride - an organised one - for the end of the month.  If the weather looks okay, of course,  The local Rotary Club is setting one up to go round the Saints - here we are, darlings, I've done you a link (links are so easy now, aren't they?  One used to have to do carefully-learnt HTML).  Assuming you can't be bothered to click it, the Saints are several villages, a few miles from here, which are notoriously hard to find your way around.  There is going to be a race and a more relaxed excursion - not surprisingly, the latter is the one I'm interested in and Phil and Weeza are willing to come along too, though Phil would have to start by cycling here, 25 miles on the back roads, because two bikes won't go in the car.  We're going to check the weather forecast first, though.  Zerlina will be in her trailer and none of us would enjoy it in the rain.

It seems that the whole family will be away this weekend, apart from me and Squiffany.  Al, Dilly and Pugsley are going to London on Sunday and the Sage is likely to be in Gloucestershire.  Squiffany is going to a party on Sunday, so will miss the visit, but it's to see a friend of Dilly's who's over from Australia, so not geared to children's events.  I'm hoping for a blogmeet, with Eddie 2-Sox and his son, Sam 2-Sox.

All being well, we're hoping to get in a morning's bricklaying tomorrow.  We've marked the places where the ornamental bricks are to go, so that's what we'll start on.  Well, Dave will, I've got some other bricks to lay.

I'm not sure that I ever told you the end of the story about the fire in Yagnub - it turned out that it wasn't a grudge against the landlord after all, and that the flat was empty but was not unoccupied.  Apparently, a young woman lives there, she had a disagreement with her boyfriend just before going on holiday.  So, in spite, he broke in and set fire to all her stuff.  He was arrested the next day.  I should add, of course, because the case hasn't come to court yet, "allegedly".  The butchery was shut for a week but is open again now and there's scaffolding up, I saw the builder and the landlord there on Saturday.  The landlord looked harassed, poor chap.

English cherries now finished, but the first apples are in, and there are plenty of plums.  We had some gorgeous local raspberries this evening.

We seem to have some fairly hefty fairies in the garden, who have arranged some of the logs into a ring to dance in.  Or whatever fairies do in rings.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Z and T

I went to visit a friend today, who was holding a tea party.  Of the eight of us, our hostess is in her nineties, one of the guests will be ninety next April, one is about sixty and the rest, except me, are in their seventies and eighties.  It was lovely.  They are all dear friends and I've never cared about age, I'd have been just as comfortable if they'd been young enough to be my children, rather than a generation above.

I was thinking about our friends Len and Laura.  Wink invited them to Sunday lunch ... they left after breakfast on Monday!  His 60th birthday is the day before my 57th, she has just had her 70th.  They married the same year as the Sage and I did - he was still 22 and she was 33 with three children from two marriages*.  They came, with his parents, to a dinner party my mother held, and someone asked her how old her daughter was - "thirteen" said Laura brightly, not mentioning her older son, or her younger daughter.  The expression on the face of the asker was priceless.  Laura looked quite ten years younger than she was and the answer was completely unexpected.

At the end of the evening, as they were all saying their goodbyes, I heard my mother saying quietly to Len "She's lovely, don't let her go.  You're perfect together."

My mother, bless her, was the very opposite of ageist and so, as a result, am I.  And, to do her total credit, Len's mother, who was a lot more conventional, welcomed Laura into the family too (his father, *Uncle* Bob, was totally easy-going and would have anyway).  Their son is 30 this year and they run a business with their elder daughter - they both look years younger than they are and are obviously still completely united and happy together.

All of which has little to do with anything, except to say that I don't care what age my friends are.

When I arrived home, Friend With Chainsaw was relaxing on the tree, having cut off some more bits, and cleared away the rest of the ivy, which brought home just how massive that trunk is.  If it were anywhere but right next to our drive, I'd say leave it to be climbed on, but as it is, we've somehow got to shift it.  It rather depends on whether or not the main trunk is hollow or not.  It could be a total bugger to move.

Pictures.  Here we go.  Taken on the iPhone.  As you know, iPhone cameras aren't really the point of it.  But it gives the general idea.

*I know it isn't correct to mix numerical words with numbers, but the sense still comes through, just bear with my bad use of language, hey darlings?

Monday, 16 August 2010

A family tradition

Zerlina has kept up a family tradition.  Weeza, Al, Ro and Squiffany all developed chickenpox over their birthdays (Pugsley caught it at the same time as Squiffany, so is the exception) and, soon after we all left yesterday, it was discovered that little z had spots.  Poxy spots.  She's feeling quite all right, there are several in her hair and a few on her body but she's not ill.  Phil has the week off, and today, when Zerlina was due to be at the childminder's, was to have been His Day, a precious day all to himself, but as it was, he had to look after his little daughter while Weeza was at work.

We've marked out the placings for the ornamental bricks and, if it doesn't rain, Dave will come over for a bricklaying session on Wednesday.  We're also moving the regular bricks, with a mind to starting to clear the place where they are - also, we want to know just how many we've got left.  We've shifted 155 so far and have another whole pallet to go.  At the start, we had seven palletsful of bricks, so it seems we have done eleven fourteenths of the project.  More or less.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


"Here comes the Sage" observes someone, as we were just preparing to leave the church.  "He'll be coming to check I'm on my way," I said confidently.  "We're due to leave for Zerlina's birthday party in half an hour."  I was wrong.  He was coming to tell me something rather more surprising.

He'd gone off in his van to fetch the Sunday paper from the shop a couple of kilometres away (neater than a mile and a quarter, don't you think?) and on his return, less than ten minutes later, he found his way blocked.

He has a way of telling things that always confuses me, so I got the wrong end of a very big stick at first, and thought that he was telling me that the big oak tree had fallen down.

The tree that has fallen died back badly about twenty years ago, so we had all the main branches removed, in the hope that pollarding it would stimulate it into growth again.  It didn't work, the tree did die after a few years and we'd just left it ever since.  It would have been a pretty large undertaking to remove it.  Today, it was not that windy - a gusty breeze, but the Sage said that some of the gusts were quite strong.  

As you can see, it was completely over the drive and had also brought down the fence to the Ups and Downs, as you can see here.

It was fairly evident that we were going to be late to the party.  The Sage had already phoned our lovely friend, who has a chainsaw and is quite kind and helpful enough to turn out on a Sunday lunchtime to use it - he was out, but expected home soon and his wife, who is as helpful as he is, cheerily said that lunch would be postponed while he helped us out.  Of course, Al and family were as stuck as we were, and we were also going to pick up Ro and Dora - in fact, a couple of other families were going to the party, which was mainly a barbecue,  and playing in the garden for the children as they are all very young.

Good Friend with Chainsaw arrived soon afterwards to inspect the situation, then went home for said saw and got back at 2 o'clock, by which time I'd cut off a lot of the ivy.  All the greenery you see is ivy, the tree is completely dead.  In fact, here is the root end.  It had powdered away.

The four of us - Good Friend, the Sage, Al and I - worked for three-quarters of an hour and cleared enough space to get a car through.  He'll come back another day and cut the rest up.

It made quite a hole when it landed.  Fortunate that it was on the grass, not the drive, and even more fortunate that none of us was in the way.
Parts of the trunk were hollow - it looked as if hornets or something had built a nest here at some time
So, an hour and a half late for the barbecue, but it didn't matter - Weeza's childminder had lent her her bouncy castle for the weekend and there were various other garden amusements, and after we'd eaten, the children played 'Pass the Parcel"and it was all very jolly.

One could say that we were lucky that no one was hurt, but really it would have been very unlucky if anyone had happened to be in the way at the time.  But it was quite enough drama for one day.

Not sure if there will be any usable timber - probably not, as it had to be cut up into liftable chunks.  But we'll have plenty of firewood for the winter.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Give and take

Today, there was a day of yard/garden/garage/table-top sales around the village.  One paid £5 to take part and buyers could buy a map of participants for £1 (I can't see why anyone would though, actually) and this money will go towards the fund to improve the village playground.

Dilly had a stall at the bottom of our drive, using a couple of tables from the church.  She mostly sold outgrown toys for 50p - £1, plus a few larger things such as a tricycle and took over £50.  Amazing.  The money raised has been promised to the children for new toys...

There was also a 'give and take', I think they called it, morning in the town, where that literally happened - you could take anything you didn't want to the hall and take whatever you wanted without charge.  The Sage took a few things, but mercifully didn't bring anything home with him.

I looked after the children for Dilly, which was a pleasure as usual.  Now that they are not at school for the summer, they are getting on extremely well with each other and are cheerful and well-behaved with us - it's not that I think that school is such a bad influence, but they get tired and therefore sometimes fractious.  We played some games and went into Yagnub to buy things for Zerlina's birthday party tomorrow - we've already given her her main present (we went halves with her parents for the play house/slide combo) but I wanted something to give her on the day.  We also visited the sweet shop and the bakery and I left them with their father while I walked round to the butcher.  As ever, I had a little moment of gratitude, because a year ago I wouldn't have chosen to walk that far, though it's only 500 yards or so.

Tilly was very pleased to have the children here and walked all over their board game and Lego, which they didn't seem to mind at all.  I'm trying to remember to feed her more often - she can't eat much at a time any more, and can't deal with biscuit at all so I'm feeding her food that's formulated for elderly dogs (lamb, rice and vegetables), which she loves.  However, she's been losing some weight and her backbone is starting to show.  So I'm gradually upping the amount of food, but cautiously, not wanting to overload her system for obvious reasons.  She's happy and gently active and enjoys the fuss being made of her.

Zerlina's birthday isn't until Wednesday, but the party is tomorrow - just the family.  The children she meets at the childminder's aren't that local (she goes to someone near where Weeza works, a few miles from their home) and she doesn't go to a playgroup or nursery school yet, so doesn't have particular friends of her own age as yet.  And she's too little to want a children's party.  It'll come, soon enough.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Minute Z

Yes, I've become a secretary again and took the minutes at my first meeting today.  I should be writing them up now.  *Shrugs*

A long shot, but I don't suppose Anyone Out There lives in the Ipswich area, is free on the first Wednesday afternoon of most months and is interested in joining a branch of the Decorative and Fine Arts Societies?  The Orwell branch is relaunching, in a new venue (Rushmere St Andrew) and moving from evening to afternoon.  Their first lecture is on 1st September and will be given by Andy McDonnell, of Antiques Roadshow, who will be giving an illustrated lecture on glassware - I don't know what the title of the lecture is.  In future, they will be having Neil Faulkner (The Greek Myth), who is brilliant, and Chloe Cockerill (Helms, Hatchments and Hedgehogs), who is too.  I'd go as a guest to the first one to support them, but it's on the same day as one of the societies that I belong to and I can't manage two lectures in a day.

If anyone is interested, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the chairman, or else be the middleman and book you in myself - just as a guest, no obligation.  I expect, for a one-off, it would be around £6 or £7.

I have found out what caused the problem with my phone a few weeks ago.  It was a glitch in an update to an app.  Guess how I found out.  Unfortunately, since I hadn't done any updating for a few weeks, there were 26 to be done and I don't remember, even, which ones.  I've been over to the Apple shop (I can't be doing with calling it the Apple Store, that was what I had it in the diary as and I didn't understand it.  As far as I'm concerned, an Apple Store is where you store apples) and had it wiped again, reinstalled everything and it's fine.  That's the thing, the app works okay, it's just the download that doesn't.  Very odd.  The only way of finding out will be, in future, only to do one at a time and do it by elimination.  I said to the chap that I'll be back in due course.

A lot of wet weather.  At least the garden won't need watering any more.  I must do the greenhouse tomorrow though, I didn't yesterday because I didn't feel up to it and I didn't today because I was out.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bringing on the wall - rained off

It was dry but cloudy first thing, but Dave emailed about half past eight to say that there were spots of rain over his way.  We looked out, and the clouds coming this way were from his direction, so it was agreed to put off bricklaying for the day.  It was just as well, it rained heavily, on and off, although it was sunny for part of the day.

I had a headache all day, which I assumed was caused by the oppressive weather, but it got much worse in the afternoon and an hour's sleep didn't help.  I felt really ill for a while and the pain made me feel sick - in the end I was, which helped and another sleep put me right.  I've got a lot to do for my meeting in Bury tomorrow though, so I should be doing that rather than this.

You come first, darlings.  Mwah.

Yesterday, Dave and I agreed that it's now necessary to start on the ornamental bricks.  The pillars can't be built up any more without knowing how far along the first one will be and we've only a couple more courses on one side of the central pillar, which one of us can do in a session.  We were, as I mentioned yesterday, looking ahead to see if we are likely to finish this summer - we would both like to, for several reasons,  but it doesn't really matter.  As I pointed out, extending the job will give the Sage and me the pleasure of Dave's company for longer (it's not that we can't see each other for sociable purposes, but we're not likely to so often).  "You could finish the job yourselves, of course," he said.  He explained with some care and waving of hands the knack he has worked out for putting the large bricks in - they are heavy and getting the level right isn't easy because the mortar tends to be squeezed out by their weight before it sets, so he now puts in small sections of brick to support each brick.  He explained with such care and detail that he started to sound a note of valediction.  "Either you think your health is going to recover sufficiently to go to work again, or else you reckon the job will take so long that you'll die before we get them all in," I suggested.  If Dave doesn't make it to the end of this project, a memorial will have to be incorporated into the wall.  On the East side, of course.

During the morning, I had another 'market research' call.  I said quite snappily that I was being repeatedly bothered by these calls and I was working and the man apologised.  Today, there was another.  The Sage picked up the phone this time.  "How did you get our number?" he said sternly.  He was told we won a telephone competition and pointed out that we hadn't entered one.  He, being polite, was ready to extend the conversation so I held out my hand for the phone and said that they were not welcome, please will our number be deleted from their list.  The man said it would.  It wasn't a foreign call in this case, the Sage dialled 1471 to find out the number where the call came from, and was surprised to find it wasn't withheld - it was 08887052280.

On another subject entirely, I thought you might like to see a picture of Wink.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 44 - Back to the wall

Our backs aren't really to the wall, of course.  If we don't get done this year, there's always 2011.  And we still might get it completed, given a fair wind and a bit of mutual spare time.

I had the children this morning because their mother was working for a while.  It was the first time she'd tutored this particular boy and he looked very nervous.  People are often surprised when they see her - we think that they expect to see some sort of Victorian governess figure, and she's young and pretty (she looks younger than she is, even) with a cheerful Norwich accent.  She admitted to him that she was nervous too - it's always a bit nerve-wracking to go to someone for the first time, wondering if the work you've prepared hits the right spot.  In fact, she said, he's a bright and willing boy, but can't do mental arithmetic as quickly as his teacher requires, so is struggling a bit, so some one-to-one tuition should help, and she'll teach him a few multiplication shortcuts.

Pugsley and Squiffany played with Lego and stuff for a while, then asked to watch my Horrid Henry DVD.  They sat together on my armchair and I put it on the computer.  I'd given them each a biscuit and they were perfectly content - Pugsley turned to Squiffany and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  He rarely kisses.  Boy-kisses are given only to his mother, sometimes.  Squiffany, surprised but pleased, kissed him back on the side of his head and then looked at me.  I did an open-mouthed, wide-open-eyed look and a thumbs-up and we grinned at each other, Pugsley not noticing.  I went back to my cooking.  I was making rock buns.

I haven't made rock buns for probably 30 years, so getting the consistency right was guesswork.  Well, not entirely.  That is,  I knew when I'd got it slightly too wet, so added a bit more flour and decided that was probably all right.  I couldn't find any mixed peel in the cupboard - it'll be there somewhere, but probably rock'ard - so added 2 oz of sultanas and 2 oz of raisins instead, didn't seem to have any mixed spice so used allspice and grated enthusiastic quantities of nutmeg.  While they were cooking, I mixed a Victoria sponge mix and put it in the Aga cake baker.  I usually use sandwich tins, so (instead of looking it up, sensibly), guessed the timing - and took it out too early.  It was bulging enthusiastically, but pallidly, at the top of the tin so I shoved it back, set the timer again and when I went back it was cooked with a deep dip in the middle.

Ho Kay.  I tipped it on to a cooling rack and, when it was done, cut a circle out of the centre, cut it in half across, sandwiched it with jam, put it back together and slapped cheery icing on the top.  It would be fine.

Dilly and I sampled the rock buns and approved.  I went to the church to play the organ for the funeral.

It all went a bit disorganised after the service.  I got back - oh actually, I'm wrong, it was then that I iced the cake because it wasn't cool enough before.  Then Dave arrived, so I made me and the Sage sandwiches, Dave and me tea and we chatted while waiting for the Sage, who was still at the church talking to people.  As I said yesterday, Reggie, who had died, was a village man and so lots of long-time residents had come, people that the Sage has known all his life so it was quite understandable that he wanted to talk to them.

He arrived home in the end, ate his sandwiches and drank the tea I made him and then the phone rang - it all took a while but he ended up being interviewed live on the radio.  I'll have a look and see if I can find it for you - Dave and I tried to listen but couldn't get it either on my phone or his car radio.

It was more than an hour after Dave arrived when we finally started work, but we got a good amount done.  And here are the pictures.

Next time, we'll have to start on the ornamental bricks.  Well, Dave will.  They're a bit tricky.

I couldn't get a very good angle for the pictures I'm afraid, but at least this shows how fabulously accurate our straight lines are, hem hem.

You will observe that I've given up weeding the pumpkin/squash beds.  There was little weeding to be done when I left here, nearly a fortnight ago, but it's rained a lot since.  It isn't going to happen now, I'm afraid.  If I get around to it, I'll cut flower heads off before they seed, but that's the best I can offer.

As you see, we're mostly at the level of the ornamental bricks - those in the final section will be a couple of courses lower than the rest as the ground drops away - we should have enough bricks for that, we think.  We've got seven ornamental bricks, but we'll have to see if that looks too busy.

After we'd finished for the day, I went to get the cakes.  Tilly was lying asleep in the drive and she was so still and limp that I was anxious for a minute.  I went and stood looking, saw the rise and fall of her ribs and then, sensing I was there, she looked at me in a "What?" manner - I reassured her and went indoors.  Noticing on the way that there was no table on the lawn, I remembered that it's still in Al and Dilly's garden, as we've had a couple of family parties there.  So I took the cakes and then asked permission to have tea with them and, of course, invited them to join us.

After a while, I realised that Pugsley was looking at me.  "Would you like another piece of cake?" I asked.  "Yes please."  He hadn't been doing the hard stare that his father did as a child (his Paddington stare) but had been very polite, merely hoping.

Al was surprised that the rock buns could be demolished quite easily.

I give you 'before' and 'after' photos.  I insisted that there should be something left for our elevenses tomorrow, assuming it doesn't rain.  Rain is forecast, but that doesn't necessarily mean much, as it doesn't rain as much in this village as in some others.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Baker Z

We're expecting to start bricklaying again tomorrow - just as well we didn't opt for today, because it's been raining.  The Sage had several things to do - he had a sale he wanted to view in Beccles, he needed to see a couple of people about things (I don't ask, if he wants to tell me I'll listen) and then he went to fetch Dora's car for her, which needs major repair because of poor advice given her by breakdown recovery people.

Tomorrow morning,  I shall have to make a cake or scones or something on those lines for Dave's tea, because he will arrive after lunch.  I have a funeral to play for at noon.  The mother of the old man who has died was born here, in this house - it was originally one, then divided and there were two large families living here 100 years ago.  When we first lived here, there were still several elderly ladies who told me that this was their first home.  I used to deliver meals on wheels to his mother and his aunt.  They were quite different, his mother was very neat and extremely clean, always had plates warming and the table laid and the right money ready.  His aunt's house, in the same road, was always rather dark.  She was a smoker and there were two or three ashtrays full of butts lying around.  She was much vaguer and didn't always have everything ready - though I was so sorry for her, because she used to tell me anxiously that she knew she was losing her memory.  Indeed, eventually she had to go into a home because she couldn't manage on her own.  Her sister lived alone for a long time, but eventually she started to forget to expect us - I knew that she wasn't going to cope at home for much longer after that.

I've known so many people through delivering meals on wheels - which I've done almost all my life because, in the school holidays, I used to go around with my mother.   I became very fond of some of them.  It's funny, isn't it, how you're drawn to some people?  Just a few minutes - three or four - once or twice a month and you find yourself firm friends, while others remain on politely amicable but fairly impersonal terms.

Any particular sort of cake you'd care for, Dave?  I am here at your service.  

Monday, 9 August 2010

Z is coldly polite

You know that work I was talking about yesterday?  I hin't done it, as we say in Norfolk.  I have done stuff, I cleaned the kitchen and hoovered the drawing room and I watered the greenhouse and picked vegetables, but I only answered a few emails and not the tricky ones.  Well, not that tricky.  But there was a bill to the church that I queried in writing and the bloke looked me up and phoned - I pointed out that I'd not put in my phone number because I needed a written reply for the records - he said he'd check out things and write, but three months have passed and a new copy of the original bill has turned up, with no covering letter.  I'm none too pleased.  I'll email my reply - reluctantly, as I don't really want to send out my address, but nor do I want a new one to have to keep checking - as I really can't be doing with more phone calls.

The other email I know I have to reply to is another nice lady whose china is not Lowestoft and I'm going to have to tell her.  I'll do it tomorrow morning, I promise.

I've had several annoying phone calls in the last few days.  We're registered with the Telephone Preference Service for both our phones (not had any problems with the mobiles as yet)  but I had a phone call on the internet phone on Saturday and two on the landline today, each from the same marketing company wanting to carry out a survey.  I've checked, they aren't covered in the TPS regulations.  In each case, the caller has been Indian and I've been brusquely polite - twice I've put the phone down and once it was put down on me.  Tonight, I was cooking dinner when the phone rang again and the Sage answered.  A minute or two later, he brought it to me and an Indian man was starting to ask questions.  I said that my husband had just given me the phone, was he from a marketing company?  He said, oh no, he was phoning on behalf of my telephone provider.  Okay, I replied, who is that?  He didn't want to answer, but when I pressed, he said it would be either TalkTalk or BT.  Neither of those is my telephone provider, I'm registered with the Telephone Preference Service not to receive cold calls and I don't want to answer any questions, I said.  And put the phone down.  I used to be polite - well, I'm not rude in the least but I am not welcoming.  I am heartily fed up with this sort of thing.  I do have sympathy for the people phoning, poor devils are up all night as India is 5 1/2 hours ahead of us and it was 7.10 when he phoned - but that's not my problem, I'm afraid.    Next time I'm phoned by that marketing company, according to the advice on the TPS website, I have to ask them to take my number off their calling list.

Al and Dilly have looked after the greenhouse beautifully, tied up the cucumbers which were in a right pickle, and weeded thoroughly.  I have picked a lot of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and chillies, and made ratatouille this evening.  It was about half a pound of each vegetable-worth, and I thought I'd add a little chilli to give some zing.  I nibbled the end of a small one, which was okay, so I cut off the other end and tasted again.  I just touched my tongue to the bit I'd cut off.

I downed my glass of wine rather hastily.

It was a very small chilli that, deseeded, I added to the pan of ratatouille, but when we came to eat it, it was still notably spicy.  Very good, but not quite classic.

Tonight, I'm going to watch University Challenge (I'm sure I've mentioned that Bamber Gascoigne was my childhood heartthrob so it's a sentimental thing, though Paxo isn't the same at all) and then read.  Possibly an earlyish night.  Maybe not.  I've got lots of books to read, more buying and borrowing than reading recently.

As I said in the comments earlier, the rumour that the fire in the flat at the weekend was started deliberately has been confirmed as a fact.  Some people are horrible, aren't they?  A minority of course, but a nasty one.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Z, fortunately, remembers where she put her pruning saw

I've avoided everything but personal emails for the past week, but tomorrow I'll have to get back to normal.  I've no work to do yet, that is, paid work - and I have passed business email messages on to the Sage - but there's always plenty of other things to get on with.

Wink phoned to say that she arrived home safely.  It's quiet here without her.  Not that she's loud, but there's an empty space.

We were having coffee after church today when Brenda brought in two women who had been visiting the church for a look round.  Turns out that one was Dutch, the other American and they are Mormons, staying at the Temple in London while they are spending a couple of years here, presumably going door-to-door.  They were very charming and friendly and asked to take a photo of us, which was quite sweet.  Such people (Mormons or Seventh Day Adventists, usually) occasionally make it down our drive, but we're usually forewarned, simply because they always come to the front door which, in true Norfolk tradition, we rarely use.  In the winter, the porch is used to stack logs for the fire and in the spring, a pair of wrens nests high up in the corner.

Which reminds me, now that the nesting season is well over and the hibernation season is still far away, there's an overgrown patch of shrubbery that needs attention.  Oh good.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Al has an unexpected day off

Al was woken by a phone call from the delivery driver, who had arrived at the shop to find that the flat above the gents' hairdresser opposite was on fire and the road was full of fire engines.  Of course, he couldn't get to the shop to make his delivery and Al, realising that he wouldn't be able to open up this morning, asked him to take everything back to Norwich.  He got on his bike and went in to find out what was going on.

Here's a photo I took from the church tower a few years ago - it's the right hand side of the white building in the foreground.  The flat is badly damaged - it's the one next to where Badgerdaddy used to live, and the roof of that one is damaged too.  The hairdresser is badly damaged by water, but it seems that the butcher's shop next door is all right.  He couldn't open up either today, of course.  There's speculation about how it might have started - it's untenanted and empty at present - but I daresay the truth will emerge.  Fortunately, it rained heavily in the night (I was woken several times by the noise) which probably helped to stop it spreading along the row.  I'm so sorry for Suzanne the hairdresser, but apparently she has already found somewhere to move to temporarily.  It was only a couple of years ago that the landlord had the buildings renovated - the same chap who did Al's renovations last year, he's really good and understands old buildings.

Al enjoyed his day off.  We went and had lunch at the cafĂ© at the garden centre.  The woman who runs it already had an established catering company and the food is jolly good.  Al and Dilly wanted to go to the cinema this evening, so I offered to give the children their tea.  Weeza and family were coming over, but ended up arriving quite late so I suggested we all ate at about 6 o'clock - fortunately, I'd bought a couple of pounds of sausages and some bacon, and I added carrots, chips, tomatoes and macaroni cheese to the menu. The children were all really good and ate lots.  Now that Pugsley has stopped being difficult about food, he's much happier and so are mealtimes generally.  They are also extremely good about going to bed, and each chose a book for me to read, I chose a third and then gave them ten minutes to read to themselves before switching the light off.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Z's back (and forth)

After our lengthy journey down, the one back was much quicker, only 4 hours driving time plus 20 minutes or so for a cup of coffee.  We caught the Sage out, he had done no shopping as he thought he had an hour in hand and the fridges were empty.  I put a pizza in the Aga and afterwards we went and stocked up a bit.

Al's van has conceded the defeat of old age - it won't pass its MOT and won't even be humiliated by an entry.  Al says he doesn't use it much - the Sage also has an elderly van and they can use that for things like fetching Christmas (sorry) trees and for doing the weekly deliveries.  Al is using Dilly's bike to get to work and he's not planning to replace the van, at least not until the winter.  

I'm just slightly disappointed to find that nothing has really happened here while I was away.  The Sage said he's tried to find another gate for the kitchen garden without success, so didn't get the one we have got cleaned off.  And nothing has been done to sort out the room which he had assured me was going to be done soon.  I'm not going to say anything.  He completely forgot and it'll only discourage him.  His week has ended better than it began, because he has bought himself a new rifle and hopes to compete at Bisley next year, presumably in a veteran class, at 800 and 1200 yards or whatever the metric equivalents are, because the calculation of allowances for distance and distortion (mirage) are what he enjoys.  I hope he does do it, he hasn't shot competitively for years but used to love it.

Wink's internet reception is as bad as ours is here, so it was quite difficult writing posts.  The connection usually vanished just when I wanted it.  However, I did what I could to keep in touch and hope to visit you in the next few days.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Z is coming home

We went to Bath today. The city, not the tub. We went to the best bookshop I've been in for years. It was brilliant in a way that has almost vanished now, not a bestseller in sight (I've nothing against bestsellers as such, but you can get them anywhere, they hardly inspire) and you can easily browse for hours and end up with a huge pile of books. I restrained myself - I've got a pile of books to read already and just bought one plus one for the children. I bought three books in Sherbourne yesterday and I've only read two and a half of those I brought down. The good thing is that there is another branch, which happens to be in Ely - this seems a bit odd placing for just two branches in the whole country but no doubt there's a good reason for it.

We called on Bod's mother for a cup of tea on the way home. Her other son, Tig, is staying with her this week and he and the Bod went to a cricket match at Cheltenham today. I think it's fair to say that Bod is even keener on cricket than Dave is. He and Wink have suggested that I go on holiday with them in the autumn, which would be delightful but I can only find one week in October and one in November that I could manage to clear. I've noted when they are and Wink will see how Bod is fixed.

We come home tomorrow. Wink is spending the weekend with us and then coming back here on Sunday.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Z tells it as it is

The Sage isn't having the best week, one way and another. He wasn't able to use his new phone because he'd forgotten the charger, but a neighbour has a similar one so he has borrowed it. Other cow-related problems that I think I'll gloss over if you don't mind. Altogether, he's not the happiest person this week.

We went to Shrrborne today for lunch and a friend called in for a drink this evening. Sorry about the typos, I one-finger type quite quickly pm the phone but it's a nuisance to make corrections so I don't bother. I use all fingers normally, of course. I 'can' touch-type but I generally look. Because I can, of course.

I've been reading "the diving bell and the butterfly". I've seen the film but not read the book before and it's very moving. As one does, one relattes it to oneself. Scrubvthat, I relate it to myself and realised he must have been about my age; indeed he was a year older. And he had his catastrophic stroke in 1995. Saddening.

As usual when I'm away, I'm reading a lot. I used to read all the time at all times, but have stopped. I've read too many books that were well reviewed but were not up to scratch. So now I read fewer books than ever before and am readier to give up if I'm not enjoying it.

Wink just came to say goodnight. "what would I do without you, kiddo?" she asked. "you'd be totally fucked" I said. Probably not what she quite expected me to say but she couldn't disagree.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Zed and Zig

The day started with a phone call. Wink has a slight prang with her car a couple of weeks ago and, in the nature of such things, this has turned into a larger event than expected. The damage was repaired but now they have found an electronic fault - anyway, the garage has lent her a car. But the call was to say that the tax disc has run out, they had the new one but she needed to fetch it. From 20 miles away. And she had an appointment in the other direction.

She phoned to change the appointment and went fir the disc and then I drove her to the appointment and then to Shaftesbury. Them home for lunch and off to Ziggi's.

I found the road, after driving past it once and then pulled in to call her to check the house - then spotted it so cancelled the call. I went up the drive and she was waiting for me. My first reaction, as we greeted each other, was how very pretty she is. Lovely as her photos are, they don't do her full justice. She is gorgeous and looks far too young to have grown-up children.

Home-made scones awaited me, made by Daughter, which were delicious and I spent far longer than is quite. Polite. Sorry about the typos. I met cats, rabbits and horses. I excused myself for sniffing the horses. The part of me that isnt a dog is a horse, I explained.

Thanks, Ziggi. It was such a pleasure to meet you. And the point at which the three of us were all twitching away at our iPhones was an especially memorable one!
We had a relaxing day today, both being tired. The Bod wad taking his mum shopping so picked us up and took us out to lunch - a curry at Waitrose! Then we went to check out the charity shops - Joyce wanted a white jacket or blazer to go with a navy skirt she intends to wear to a wedding, but she reckoned it was hardly worthwhile to spend much on an outfit she might not wear again - she doesn't get to too many weddings nowadays.

"I know just what I want," she said. Now, I never have seen anything of interest in charity shops, but I know lots of people who find very good stuff in them. So I shouldn't have been surprised when, in the second shop (Cats' Protection League), there was a white jacket, size 14, which she tried on, liked and bought for £4.

I bought a Victor Borge CD for £1. I remember being entertained by him 40 years ago, but I've no idea if the humour has lasted. Still, I might as well find out.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

This is not a posti

It is not even a chain-store post. It is an apology for a post. The thing is, Wink's lunch party went rather well. The Sage left afterwards and is now safely home. The other guests stayed for tea and supper and are now getting ready for bed in my bedroom, whilst I am sharing Wink's bed.

So there is no opportunity to write a post at all tonight. Sorry darlings xxx