Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Making good

Those of you who came to the Wall Party (or who have visited the house on other occasions) will have noticed the wall at the road end of the drive is in a poor state of repair, as is the tarmac.  Some time ago, on a frosty morning, an oil tanker was driving past on a very frosty morning, the driver's mobile rang and he pulled off the road to answer it, hit some ice and slid into the wall, completely demolishing it.  We tried to find bricks that exactly matched (there is a matching wall the other side of the gate) but couldn't find them, the insurance company wouldn't pay for both to be replaced, and eventually we came to an agreement about compensation and then succeeded in getting the wall, which had fallen down in sections, lifted up and jigsaw-puzzle-fitted together.  But the cracks still showed and the top rounded bricks needed to be put back.  In addition, the drain and tarmac needed attention as the former kept blocking and the latter had deteriorated badly.

So this week, that's what has been worked on.  First, a hole was dug on the field side of the drain, and it was discovered that there was no proper soakaway, just a few broken bricks at the end of a very short pipe.  So a large pit was dug, it's been filled with rubble, a better pipe was put on the end of the existing one, a cover was put over to stop earth filling up the spaces between the rubble and the earth was put back.  The drain cover has been reset because the concrete was broken (of course, it can still be lifted out) and weedkiller has been applied to the - well, rather obviously, the weeds.  The next job will be to smarten up the wall.

The kerbs have all been put in and preparation can be done next month for the tarmac to go down.  The long, straggly and lopsided lower branches have been removed from the yew, but it has been reprieved and the higher, more upwardly curving branches will been left.  We'll take the ivy off and either the trunk will sprout or remain bare, but it will be kept as a tree without low side branches.  It will look better than it did, as all the branches have to be cut back on the drive side anyway and those on the other side would have looked odd shortened, or messy left as they were.  There are still the stumps of those branches left, but a wood-turner friend of ours will come and cut them off and use them.   I hope that the trunk will sprout reasonably evenly, but we'll keep it tidy, whatever happens.  Yew can cope with being cut hard and it'll be better than cutting it down, which was the only practical alternative.

Today in London went well, tomorrow we're going over to see Weeza and co again.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ladies who Lunch in London

Norwich was fine, but the day would have gone better if the bag I saw in the first shop had been fine rather than perfect except for horrid straps.  We spent a long time trawling through other shops and couldn't find anything else I liked that my iPad would fit in, went back to the first shop, the bag was still perfect apart from the straps.  I'd also been looking for a present for Dilly, had written down clothes on her wishlist, couldn't find any of them in the shop except for one top that didn't look as nice as it did on the picture, so was wary of buying it unless she'd tried it on.

I did buy a skin cream I'd run out of from Body Shop, and we enjoyed our lunch.

If only that bag had been just right in the first shop - I deeply loathe shopping when it doesn't go right.  If I can get something I like straight away I don't keep looking just in case something even better is available somewhere else - it probably won't be and I'll just get bored.  Once in a while, I'll buy whole lots of clothes, just because I find them, they fit, I like and can afford them, but it may be months before I do it again.  I bought no clothes for this summer, for example, not even shoes.  Last year's sandals are fine.  I bought three pairs in one day (indeed, in one shop) about fourteen months ago.   In fact, I bought more shoes than usual last year because I was celebrating being able to wear what I liked again - both heels and flats.  Before I had my new hip, the only comfortable shoes had 1 1/2 inch heels.  So last winter, I bought two pairs of boots and two of shoes in the sales.  All in the same shop though, I have a very low attention threshold.

Tomorrow, we're going to London for lunch.  Really, just for lunch, we'll be with Kamala from about 1 to 3.30 and then we'll have to leave to catch our train back.

My downstairs tenant emailed today to say that his washing machine has packed in - I knew it would, it's 11 or 12 years old and the upstairs one, a year older, gave up in March.  He has this week off and is at home, so has offered to order, pay for and see installed the new one to save me going up.  Brilliant.  He'll simply deduct the cost from next month's rent, so it'll be simple.  And save me money.

Monday, 29 August 2011


I have pictures of the Viking raid, but it's too late tonight - sorry, I was reading and playing iPad games and talking to Wink (it's dull, doing one thing at a time, don't you think?) and I can't quite be bothered to put them on the computer now.  Something to look forward to, darlings.

We had an excellent day, although I still haven't managed to get Hadrian to smile at me.  I was reasonably philosophical about that until he beamed at Wink and kept chuckling at her.  Dilly kindly suggested it's because Al wears glasses and she sometimes does, so does Wink, and maybe he just likes people who have glasses on.  I'm not entirely convinced, but will borrow some and give it a try.  I carried him around for ages, nearly an hour, so he could look around and join in rather than just lie in his pram, so he should appreciate me more than he has.  He's over three months old now, hardly seems credible.

It was the Sage's sister's birthday yesterday and she phoned this evening.  She's been away most of the summer, first house-sitting for her son and his other half, and then going on holiday to Italy with them (I'm not sure who cat- and house-sits then) and also staying with her daughter and her children.  She will be 80 next year, which I can hardly believe.  She never seems to age in the least.  She can't drive because her eyesight isn't good, so we don't see each other all that often - she only lives in Cromer, the other end of the same county, but we usually meet in Norwich.  She'd love to see the babies, we'll have to get together soon.

It's late.  I'll date this before midnight yesterday (that is, Monday) and go to bed.  Well, go and lounge in the bath for a bit.  Going to Norwich tomorrow.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Middle aged but spectacular

The hog roast was delicious, as usual.  It takes the whole day to cook, so wasn't served until 9 o'clock - and I was second in the queue!  I managed a glass of cider, mixed half and half with lemonade, so felt I'd done my duty, though I didn't feel entirely at my best this morning.  However, I'd perked up by the time I was called upon to play the clarinet, and fortunately the tune I'd never played before turned out to be pretty easy, so it went well.

Lunch also went well, it was a very canny move to cook it in advance because I was able to get it on the table half an hour or so after arriving home, with just the potatoes and beans to cook.  Gus slept pretty well all the time he was here, except when he was being fed, which happened between our main course and pudding, and we all took it in turns to hold him.  They all went home mid-afternoon, with the plan to be back by the time he needed another feed.  Wink and I are planning to go to Norwich on Tuesday and call in once we've done our shopping and hope she'll see him awake then.  We're going out with Al and family tomorrow to a Mediaeval Spectacular.  We are prepared to be impressed.

In fact, Al and co went last year, just because it's a lovely place, and had no idea this was on.  They enjoyed it so much that they decided to go again and asked us to go too.  Kindly, they waited until Monday because we'd got the others here for lunch, so I hope it stays fine.  The forecast is dry until evening, but getting cooler.  Proper Bank Holiday weather then.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Showery outlook

The sky is blue now, but we've had sleet, hail and thunder.  Indeed, the thunder is still rolling around now. I daresay it'll clear up in time for us to spend an evening outside.

Wink rang an hour ago, she was only just off the M25, where the traffic is dreadful.  She was at work this morning so wasn't able to leave early as she normally would.  I have a feeling that she'll arrive just in time to change into wellies and leave for the party.

I'm supposed to be cooking tomorrow's lunch.  Well, I have, largely.  I've made a beef casserole.  But I've got pudding to make and a ratatouille to cook.  I rather fancy chocolate cake, but Wink can't eat chocolate, so if I do that I'll have to do something else too.  And if there's an alternative, some people will want that and so I'll have to do enough ... hm.  Anyway, while I'm mulling it over, I'll write here, and then I'll make the ratatouille and by then I'll have decided.

Ah, it's raining again.

I don't think I mentioned, Wink's friend Kamala is over from India at present.  They met in London last week, I'd decided against going because the baby had just been born - well, I'd said I couldn't make plans because the baby hadn't arrived and then wanted to be on hand.  It was just as well I didn't go, the trains were delayed in the morning and I'd have been late.  They want to meet again on Wednesday, so I can be free then.  I've got a meeting in the evening, but someone else will take notes for me.  There's a funeral I'd said I would go to in the morning, so I'll have to give my apologies.  It is one of the people I deliver meals on wheels to, he had been in hospital a month and I think we all knew from the start that he had reached the end of his life.  He'd had a long and happy one, it's no tragedy except to his wife, now nearing 90.  She is a dear old lady and has a loving family, their daughter lives in the same road, does her cleaning and has lunch every day with her and a grandson in Norwich visits every week.

The Sage has brought me a cup of tea and is going off on my bike to give some bantam eggs to a neighbour, another gentleman in his nineties.  It's not raining any more.  I'd better get back to my cooking.

Friday, 26 August 2011

No cyder inside her inside

Wink is coming to stay tomorrow.  I started to make a shopping list.  Wine, it started.  Well, that's as far as I got.  We might sink a bottle or two.  We're all going out tomorrow evening, in fact, to the hog roast at the next village.  It's the Cyder Club annual bash.  I have to say, I've given up on the home-made cyder.  I can cope with a glass of it mulled, on the annual New Year's Day walk, but straight and cold, I fear for my digestive system.  I was talking to Ro the other day (he and Dora are coming too).  "You can add lemonade," he advised helpfully.  "It's a waste of good lemonade, frankly," I replied.

However, the company and the food will be excellent.  Keeping our fingers crossed for the weather, it's quite changeable at present.  We have spent the day - well, the week really - out in the garden.  Gardening is completely the wrong term of course, we are still removing dead trees, pruning well-overgrown hedges and putting in the kerbs in the drive.  I reckon another month and we'll be about done there.  The good news is, however, that yesterday Jamie and the Sage spent some time on that bit of roof above the window where water comes in, they've added some more guttering to deflect the rain - and it works!  Woken by a bird (yes, yet another bird, darlings) coming down the bedroom chimney at 5.30 this morning, I lurched downstairs to investigate.  I'd been waking up every hour or so and heard it raining, but I finally managed to drag myself out of bed.  There was not a drop of rain.  And Jamie got the paving outside the door just right, there is no standing water at all where there used to be a puddle.

I realised, about 8 o'clock, that I had not got the bird out of the fireplace.  I went upstairs and looked, but no sign.  Poor thing will have to spend another night there.  Poor I will be woken at dawn.  The Sage usually sleeps through.  I'll hope to be able to catch it as soon as it comes down from the ledge it's roosting on, it'll be all right, but it won't have eaten or drunk for 24 hours.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Z takes pictures with Gusto*

*I trust you don't mind me pinching back my joke, Chris?

I was balancing Gus on my knee yesterday taking his photo with my iPad.  It's a very entertaining feature in an iPad2, by the way, you give it to someone to take a picture, then press the top right of the screen and they are shocked to find they're looking at their own face.  Very startling, never fails to amuse.

This picture is called "Oh no, it's Mad Granny with her iPad!"

And this hardly needs a caption.
I finally left him alone so he could get on with his nap.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A really happy Al

We used to have a postman who always brought biscuits for the dogs on his round, with the result that he was given a warm canine welcome.  One of our recent postmen is very wary of dogs and little old gentle Tilly had to be shut away before he'd come in to have a parcel signed for.  Al likes dogs and is used to them, but there is one at a farm on his round that is not to be trusted and he has to stay in the van and hoot the horn if a signature is needed.  I remember once delivering leaflets in Lowestoft, I can't remember what for - and there was a dog on the other side of a door who was determined to get my fingers and barked and snarled.  I didn't dare put the leaflet through the letterbox, so I walked away, delivered to the next house - and then nipped back and shoved it through quickly before the dog realised he had been tricked.  When he did, he threw himself at the door and I heard a loud thump and a furious yowl.  Heh.  

Machines are indeed coming, as Blue Witch says, to sort the mail automatically, but they aren't here yet.  Al gets all the post for his round and then puts it in order.  His initial online test before he had an interview was a sorting game, which any young man would find pretty easy, almost everyone under forty having been brought up on computer games.

Al's uniform includes shorts - he wore trousers one day when it was raining, but soon found he was far too hot.  He does keep towels on the van seat, but his waterproofs drip everywhere and it gets fairly messy.  He is very pleased with his trainers, he looked up the brand and they would have cost him £90.  He'll get a pair of stouter shoes or boots for the winter too.  They have Royal Mail on a red tag, so he has to keep them for work.

Our postman comes on a bike, and if there's anything but the smallest parcel it is delivered later in a van. Al's present round, though not far from Diss, is all small villages and a van is the only practical way of getting it done.  When he was doing his training, he spent a day or two in Diss and had a trolley then.  I don't think he had any particular opinion of it one way or the other, but he wouldn't have anything to compare it to.  His present round really belongs to someone else, who is off on sick leave just now, so Al has it while he's away.  He may get another round, or he may fill in on other posties' days off - apparently you apply for a round which comes vacant and the most senior person can get it, so that won't be him.

Straightforward, useful, non-office jobs are what Al likes.  Hard work and not very well paid, but that doesn't seem to bother him.  Zerlina and Squiffany were singing Postman Pat the other day and when it got to the bit "Pat feels he's a really happy man," I said to Squiffany "Is that why Daddy wanted to be a postman, because it would make him happy like Pat?"  And Squiffany said it was.  I think it was largely because he saw a vacancy and the timing works for him, because when he had the shop he was never home until well after 6 pm, but he's certainly happy with it now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Today's post

Al is enjoying his new job.  It's very endearing, how enthusiastic he is about new things.  I remember, after his first week as a shopkeeper, he came in and said "I don't know why people say it's stressful, running your own business.  I think it's wonderful!"  Now, he's appreciating doing a job that you complete every day.  He finds it satisfying, that he starts off with a jumble of mail to sort, he puts it in order, sets out on his round - and he says that you have to concentrate, there are a good many parcels (Amazon and eBay are keeping the Royal Mail going) and he has to remember when to go to fetch a parcel from the back of the van, but at the end of the day he has an empty van and has completed all the work there is to do.

He's finding it tiring, largely because of the early start.  He sets his alarm for 4.45 every day.  The advantage of that is that he's home by 3 most afternoons, but he's ready for bed well before 10 pm, and Al is even more of a natural night bird than I am.  And although the round he's doing at present is a rural one, so he uses a van, there's a lot of getting in and out and he feels he's used a fair bit of energy by the end of his round.  He's been mostly lucky with the weather, although he's had a few rainy days - going by van is a disadvantage is some respects in the wet, there isn't time to wait until the rain stops and his waterproof jacket wets the seat when he gets back in the van.  Today, he had a puncture.  It was not a good day.  He had to change the wheel in the rain, and then had forms to fill in back at the depot.

On Saturdays, he starts even earlier.  The round has to be finished in time to return to the post office by 12.30.  I noticed, as I went through Yagnub last Saturday in the late morning that a postman was running along the road, obviously anxious to get all the work done on time.  They work an 8 hour day but are only paid for 7, on the assumption that they will stop for breaks and lunch, but in fact there is no time for that, Al eats in brief minutes when he's checking the post at the start of a road to know which houses to call at.  If he eats at all, that is, he's noticeably lost weight, and he was thin to start with.  When busy, he forgets to eat or doesn't bother.  That used to worry me at the shop, at busy times of the year he didn't bother to have a meal during the day, and then was too tired to eat much in the evening.  But he seems robust, he's rarely off-colour.

Monday, 22 August 2011


On Sunday, Ro noticed that a game of Monopoly was out.  It didn't take up much room, being a travelling set.  Pugsley had asked to play it, having noticed it in the cloakroom cupboard.  I'd been surprised, but apparently there are children's versions nowadays, I expect he was a bit puzzled to find out how much more complex it was than the one he is used to.  It was especially complex because it was a Spanish version, and also because the print was so small.  I could hardly read the road names on the board and had to pick it up and peer every time one of us landed on it.  Some years ago, we started to collect different language versions when we were on holiday.  Weeza brought one home from Greece, which is the hardest to play.

The board we normally used was an American one, using the original Atlantic City road names, and Ro said that that's the one he thinks of as right - that is, to him it's Boardwalk rather than Mayfair and so on.  He said that at university he and his housemates played Monopoly a good deal one year.  They had league tables and everything.  I know.  So does he.  He was amused rather than defensive, however.  We agreed that the reason that games usually go on for so long is because of the house rules that each family devises, and permitting borrowing. If you go strictly by the rules, as they did, it's quite quick.

We talked about other games we used to play and who was best at which.  I liked number and word games, but the rest of the family were not keen on them because I usually won - I had learned all the two letter words in Scrabble, for example, which put me at an advantage - although only because I'd gone to the trouble, they could have too.  Al's speciality was Cluedo.  He had an intricate system of symbols which he used to note down people's answers and was able to deduce everyone's cards in minutes.  We could never understand how he got the right answer so quickly.  Weeza was good at games involving a visual memory, something I'm fairly hopeless at.  I remember what I've read, but not what I've seen.  Ro was always good at poker, something that stood him in good stead at university.  There's no fun in poker if you don't gamble, but I'm not interested in gambling (especially not against my children), so we had a tin of coins, shared them out at the beginning and put them back at the end.

The Sage never was interested in games, but the rest of us liked them.  Even when the children were well in their teens, I'd buy a new game at Christmas for us to play.  Dilly likes them too, so we sometimes play them at that time of year even now.  Pugsley, in the few weeks since we've last played together, has started to take them quite seriously.  He'd throw his dice, study them, and then solemnly give the answer.  "Six add five make eleven," he'd say and move his counter.   He doesn't count on his fingers, he does the sum in his head.  He is very much looking forward to starting school and has been practising his reading, writing and arithmetic in preparation.  For myself, I'm still enjoying the holidays, now I've finally got time to think about them.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

More pictures

Thank you all so much, you are very kind and it's lovely that you have all given Gus such a warm welcome.

I had a disappointed text from Ro this morning, as we had all expected to go over to Weeza's house to celebrate Zerlina's birthday.  He'd got presents and everything, and now was at a loose end.  I suggested he and Dora might like to come over for lunch, and invited Al and co. too.  This was at 11 o'clock, Zerlina has a nap sometime after 1, it was necessary to serve lunch about 12.30.

Kindly, Al prepared the vegetables, runner beans, courgettes and carrots.  I had a pound of minced beef and four pork steaks in the fridge.  By 12.35, a large lasagne and a pork, onion and red pepper stir fry had been prepared and cooked and I'd been to the supermarket and bought puddings (there are limits, darlings). The champagne was already in the fridge, the Sage and Ro laid the table.  Grannies are supposed to be able to put meals on the table at short notice.

I was just upstairs putting Zerlina to bed (all the children were adorable, ate their lunch and had second helpings) when Weeza phoned to say she was waiting for the all-clear to leave hospital, and it was agreed that Ro and Dora would visit with us this afternoon and the rest of the family another day.  She rang again when about to leave the hospital and we were over there about 4 o'clock.  She and Phil were very relaxed and happy, and Zerlina was thrilled to see her baby brother.  She was so excited when I told her he would be there when she got home.

Pictures, darlings.

He weighed 8 lbs 6 oz, which is a whole kilo* heavier than his little scrap of a sister did at birth - and she was 11 days overdue, too!  He is, as you can see, quite adorable.

In order of appearance, Ro, Ro, Dora, the Sage and z, Z and Z.  And the fat cat that z chose as a present puts in an appearance, too.

*Bilingual, you see


I did give a clue last night when I updated the sidebar, but even the eagle-eyed Dave didn't spot it.

Born about 10 pm on 20th August, baby unnamed as yet by his parents, but here he will be Augustus Bufo.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


One thing that makes having Zerlina as a house guest a pleasure is how well she sleeps.  This morning, she didn't wake until after 8 o'clock, having been asleep the best part of 13 hours.  I suggested that we walk into the town to buy her baby brother a present (no news yet).  It's about a mile and a quarter, or two kilometres if you're that way inclined and it was a lovely day.  There are four bridges over streams as we go along and so we peered over looking for fish and birds.  We saw a duck, a pheasant and various other birds, we picked and ate blackberries and I showed her the leaves of different trees and explained why a cow needs to chew the cud.  We went into the wholefood shop for some chocolate for Weeza, then into the gift shop and she chose a fat cat rather to my surprise, I thought she'd go for a teddy or a rabbit.  He's rather cute though.  Then we went to the sweetshop for an ice-cream each and sat in the sun on a bench eating them.

On our way back, we thought we'd go the down-river side of the first bridge, which was very lucky, because we immediately spotted five cygnets and a swan just emerging from the bridge.  A minute later, the cob joined them.  The mother was amongst the five, who are almost as big as she is, and the father brought up the rear, looking around protectively.  With parenting like that, it's not surprising that they raised their full brood - although there can't be any large pikes in the river, the best parenting can't protect a baby water bird against a pike.

I only had my phone with me, so the pictures are not very good, but here you are anyway -
She spent much of the rest of the day with her cousins, so she's had fun.

The Sage had fun too.  In town, we saw that someone we know had got his old car out and was polishing it, so the Sage went and had a chat with him.  It's far older than ours, it was made in 1911.  I don't know if he takes it out much, but it looks in immaculate condition.  If the Sage has any ambition that's likely to remain unfulfilled, he'd love to own a veteran car - which is one that was made before 1919, although to be eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, it has to be 1905 or earlier.

The thing about being married to the Sage is, the older I get, the more he likes it.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Still waiting

Weeza sent a text this morning, saying that she'd realised she had a midwife's appointment, and could I babysit?  I had already thought about it, and reckoned that she wouldn't feel like going out for dinner, so I went and bought fillet steak, vegetables, fruit and flowers and took some Schloer and some good beer from the fridge and took them over for their dinner.

It was small enough, but she cried on my shoulder.  That is very unlike my Weeza.  She pulled herself together rapidly, however and went off for her appointment.

All is fine, the baby is in the right place and fully engaged, we're reasonably hopeful that it won't be long.  I'm very on edge.  When your daughter is having a baby, it feels doubly worrying and doubly wonderful - I really can't think about anything else or settle to anything.  Zerlina has come back here again for the weekend, the plan is to go over on Sunday.  We're willing the baby to be born tomorrow.

Delicious food in the greengrocer's.  Have you come across little flat peaches?  I'd never seen them before last year and they are lovely.  Do try them if you come across them.  Also, Tim had cobnuts in for the first time this year.  I doubt they're Kentish ones yet, I expect they are French, but I didn't ask, I just bought enough for both Weeza and me (of course we're willing to share, of course, if there are any left).

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Happy birthday to Freya, Noah and Zerlina

Zerlina has had a lovely birthday. Her parents gave her a trampoline and she was thrilled. Weeza said that when she saw it this morning (her father spent three hours yesterday evening putting it together)she couldn't stop saying how much she loved it and thanking them. Dilly, the children and I went over mid-morning and the three children spent ages on it. When they had finally had enough, z opened her other presents and was duly very pleased with them - we had got her a jigsaw, a glove puppet and lots of painting and craft stuff. She loves colouring, drawing, sticking and cutting out and was particularly excited to receive some proper scissors. Child's ones of course, but they work well, unlike some. Also, fortunately, they work whether used right- or left-handed. We have the feeling that, like her father, she may end up being left-handed.

Weeza's bump is now so large that she has only one dress she can fit into. She slept poorly last night and can't lie comfortably. On the other hand, she is well and her ankles aren't swollen, all she can do is wait. Tomorrow is Phil and Weeza's sixth wedding anniversary - under the circumstances, they have made no plans, I will see if they would like me to babysit so they go out for supper, if she feels like it. If Phil goes to work, I'll probably go over at some time during the day to lend a hand.

Back here, they're getting on very well. I've taken a lot of rather dull photos, there's not a lot you can do with kerbs and Tarmac. There's a short stretch of privet hedge that had grown very tall, at least 15 feet, but all the leaves were at the top. I suggested cutting it right down to about 3 feet, so it will thicken up and put on a lot of new growth at the bottom. They have done that and also taken down more dead elm saplings. They grow for a few years, die and new ones grow from the roots, but a proper size elm tree has never grown since Dutch Elm Disease struck some 40(?) years ago. It's such a shame. I love elm and there used to be so many of them in this area that several local villages are named after them - Elmham, pronounced Ellum (as the tree is pronounced here), is part of their names.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Update, hip date, due date, birthday

I've been looking back to January of last year, when I had my hip operation.  Pamela has a brilliant website, which she started when she had to have a new hip at pretty short notice, and she contacted me when I wrote about my operation.  In a recent post, she wrote about what happened on the day of her operation and I offered to send her what I wrote about mine which, as most of you will remember, I had done under a spinal anaesthetic while I was entirely awake, without sedation.  It's a good job I wrote it down at the time, I wouldn't remember it in detail now.

It's rare that a day goes by without me thinking about my hip, but not because there's any problem.  It's pure gratitude, that I live in an age when a clapped-out joint can be replaced so straightforwardly.  My friend John (who has rheumatoid arthritis) has chosen not to have an operation, but he was fifteen years older than I was when our respective hips started to cause serious problems.  I understand and sympathise with his reasons not to get his 'done', although I don't think I'd have made the same decision.  Certainly it was making me older than I needed to be.  Now I can do what I want and have no pain or restricted movement.

No sign of the baby putting in an appearance.  Weeza having built herself up to its prompt arrival, has now relaxed and is resigned to waiting.  She hadn't made many preparations for Zerlina's birthday (the party will be next month) but we're invited over tomorrow - that is, Dilly and the children and I will go, the Sage probably won't make it and Al will be at work.  The whole family will go over on Sunday, unless that's the baby's birth day.

Work has been continuing on the drive, the Sage having decided to put in a kerb on both sides.  It's taking ages, but will be an excellent job.  I'll take some pictures in the next few days, I haven't for ages and one forgets what it was like beforehand.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Z guide to coming off a committee

I have done it, quite a few times.  It has happened, once in a while, that someone resigns abruptly, which can leave the group in a bit of a pickle, although sometimes personal circumstances make this understandable, sometimes less so.  There was one time, someone on a committee the Sage was on did almost everything.  Treasurer, secretary, most of the work, although no one had expected her to, she was determined.  The Sage was chairman.  I warned him, don't rely on her.  It's too much, it's "too hot not to cool down." No one can keep that going for long, and because of the person she is, she won't ask for help or acknowledge any problem, she'll just quit.  And so she did.

I always start planning my exit strategy in good time before I resign.  It usually takes at least two years.  My aim is not to be missed at all, not to leave anyone in the lurch (I still feel the responsibility to the organisation, after all) and to help a successor to feel confident.  Normally, I make a list of weekly, monthly and occasional events and how far in advance to plan them.  No one has ever done as much for me, I jolly well wish they had.  I involve the person who is to take over, so that it's not all new for them - I identify my successor as early as possible, of course, though not in secret.  If it's all discussed reasonably, then people accept the decision.  Even if they're horrified at the start, the idea soon gets absorbed into the brain.

It's different, being a volunteer in a position of responsibility to having a similar paid job.  There, the objective is usually to be indispensable, to keep your place on the slippery pole, and if you resign then the odds are that you will have nothing to do with your successor.  The difficult part about being a volunteer is that you have more of a moral responsibility - if you aren't enjoying your job, you aren't earning enough, you want more or less to do, you look for a new one and hand in your notice.  However inconvenient for your boss, you've every right.  But when things in a society, school or voluntary organisation are going pear-shaped, you are obliged to stay and help put it right.

The other time you can't leave is when there are so few helpers that it really would be a problem for the ones that remain.  Or if you have a skill that no one else there has.  That's why a treasurer can get landed with the job for a long time.  Or an organist.

PS - No sign of the baby yet.  He's still a very large bump.  Can't be long now though, surely!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The child is mother to the Z

It's a funny thing, but at school I never volunteered for anything.  I didn't join or join in, I kept my head down, I sat at the back of the class and rarely spoke.  It was partly acute shyness, but I was also pretty disengaged and had no inclination to participate in anything organised.  I was the opposite of a team player, but not because I wanted to shine alone, I just wasn't interested.  Outside school, I joined no clubs or teams - although I was a Brownie for several years.  I mentioned this once before on here, I joined under completely false pretences, because they went past our house once on a nature ramble and I thought this would be great - and in the next three or four years, this was never repeated once, we just did boring things and were expected to be keen and outgoing team players in really silly games and activities.  I didn't quit, of course, I didn't know that you could stop doing something just because you didn't enjoy it*.

My parents did voluntary work and often had coffee mornings, garden parties and so on to fundraise for good causes, so I grew up with an expectation that this was what you did.  One had obligations to help those who are less fortunate than oneself, and in any case, doing something selfless was a Good Thing.

So that's the background, really.  Looking back, I was always governed by a sense of duty**.  I remember when I was fifteen being phoned by a boyfriend and invited out, and I apologised that I couldn't, my parents were having a social evening for school governors and they would want me to pass round canapés and so on.  It didn't occur to me to ask them if I could be excused, I didn't even mention the invitation.  I'm not sure why I thought my presence would be so useful, I had no expectation of enjoying the occasion - I mean, I didn't mind but I didn't actually *want* to be there.  I'd rather have gone out for the evening with Jim.

And now, when I offer to do something I don't actively want to do, it's often because someone has to.  I've been in the situation many times when I need someone to volunteer and it's lovely when someone offers, cheerfully brushes off thanks and just gets on with it.  And sometimes I've looked round at the people available, seen that they are busier than me or have less specific experience than I do, and so I'm the one who needs to do the job.

The day job is the Sage's business and it doesn't engage me all that much.  He's been an auctioneer for 50 years and he still loves it, but I just do the admin and, whilst I don't mind that, I've done it for too long to find it very interesting and I find sale days exhausting nowadays.   I'll not miss it when he retires, whenever that will be.  I do love the china, that certainly interests me, and it's lovely to have a business that we can run together.  It's worked very well all these years, working together and we've made a lot of friends and had fun and had the privilege of handling many beautiful objects that we would never buy.  I've learned a lot and I really admire his knowledge.

It suits me, spreading my energies in several directions, I don't want to do only one job.  If I'm not stretched, however, I do find that I start to cut corners and go through the motions if I can get away with it - if 'good enough' will do, that's what I'll be.  So it's a good thing for me to drop one thing and start another once in a while.

Talking about going through the motions, this is what children are encouraged to do around here.

*Flash of revelation there, this is news to me.
**I'd never quite appreciated before how far back my sense of duty goes.  A bit thoughtful now.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Z is a pullover?

It's generally believed that I'm a pushover and that I can't say 'no' to anything.  That isn't quite true, actually, there are various jobs I've been asked to take on that I've refused, or ones that I could have become involved with that I made sure I steered well clear of (such as the Parish Council), although it's quite true that there were others that I would not have chosen.  When I first became a school governor, I used it as a reason to turn down everything else for several years and I was right to do so - although the job wasn't nearly as much work as it is now, I became clerk to the governors at the same time and had to learn everything from scratch.

It was about this time of year that it happened, probably the beginning of August, and the then Rector phoned me and asked if I'd consider being nominated as a governor at the village school where Ro was due to start in the coming year.  His birthday being in summer, he didn't start until after Easter - nowadays, schools normally take all children at the start of the school year in which they are five, then it was the term of their birthday.  I was quite pleased to be asked, naive little thing that I was, and agreed.  Then he asked if I'd be clerk (secretary) as well.  I could have said no, but it hardly seemed fair - that he'd asked the questions that way round and risked getting a governor but not a clerk was good of him, I thought.

I not only offered to become a governor at the high school, I actually stood for election, when Ro was in his second year there.  I'd never been a governor at the middle school, although I'd been secretary of the PTA - I'd been daft enough to go along to the AGM and had been nominated by a (slightly false) friend. So that was one thing I hadn't intended to do, but I didn't really mind, and there would be a time limit on it anyway, as Ro would only be at the school for four years.  I was still at the primary school, I was far too fond of it to leave at that stage.

The other thing I did get manoeuvered into was the PCC, the management committee of the church.  I had volunteered to play the organ, against my better judgement, but they were without an organist and the Rector had bought some ghastly taped music and I couldn't put up with it.  Several years later, I received a phone call from the Rector (not the same one; the first one was John, this was Sam).  He was quite anxious and asked to come and see me.  He said he had something to say to me, he didn't want to say it, he knew I wouldn't be happy but he had to do it.  I said, come straight round, but I was bewildered.  The only thing I could think of was that my pathetically bad organ playing had received so many complaints that he was going to give me the sack.  Sadly not - the secretary of the PCC had resigned and no one else could type.  I was so concerned about his anxiety that it was quite natural to say, reassuringly, that I didn't mind at all, of course I'd help.  Sucker.

Having written all this, I can see that I am rather a pushover after all.  However, I have learned one thing, and that is to quit when things are going well.  If the organisation, whatever it is, is struggling, then I feel mean to leave them in the lurch.  It's when I don't really want to go, because it's a pleasure and it's all running smoothly that I won't be missed at all and I can slip away and feel I've completed my job.  And, as inevitably happens, things start to hot up again after a while, I can feel relieved that I'm well away from it.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Marking time

It seems unlikely, but the baby is still not actually overdue, but due on Monday.  We were all so sure he would be early.  Weeza and Phil have been enjoying their time off by going to the cinema each day and relaxing.

We didn't go out in the end, except to buy a few ingredients (which is a favourite word of Zerlina's) for lunch tomorrow, so ate at home.  The electricity was off when we arrived back after shopping, but it didn't matter, there was nothing we wanted it for except, in my case, to boil a kettle for a cup of tea.  It came back on at 4.58 pm - I've always found that they are punctilious, if they say 5 o'clock it will be no later.  My good friend Sybil phoned to offer to take over my sidesman duties tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock, since I have Zerlina.  I accepted gratefully.  I'm still down for the 11 o'clock service, I think that Andy, who did the rota, forgot to put down a second person for later - I used to prepare the rota and it's very easy to do that.  I will go along and get set up and then may be able to leave someone else to clear away.

I wish I could relinquish all these regular church obligations I have to admit - I've been doing it for so long and there's nothing about it that I find enjoyable or satisfying.  I've always done voluntary work, since I was a child and was ferried around by my mother to help with Meals on Wheels.  It's a part of life for me, but I don't want to keep doing each job forever.  I think that, to remain enthusiastic and fresh, it's better to do something else every few years.  That seems to be accepted everywhere but in the church, where it's all a life sentence.  Next Sunday, I'll both be playing the organ and making and serving coffee, having arranged the flowers the day before.  I've come off the PCC, but am still roped in every time there is a discussion, and I'm the contact with the architect and builder.  I'm bored stiff with it.  I have no plans to move house, but if ever I did, I'd not admit to playing any instrument and profess to be far too shy to read a lesson and hopeless at organising anything.  If only I didn't have to take such drastic action to have any chance of breaking free.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Being Granny

The day has rather revolved around Zerlina, but it's all been very easy.  Phil has taken the last couple of days off, so all three turned up this morning.  I took z off with me to the hairdresser, so she didn't see her parents leave - although she'd been enormously looking forward to coming for her 'sleepover.'

She hadn't been to the hairdresser before, so was very interested in what was going on, though my cut and blowdry wasn't as exciting as some other hairdos.  Jo asked me what style I wanted.  "Whatever you like, as long as you make me look young and lovely," I said hopefully ... "who laughed?"  Another hairdresser owned up.

Afterwards, we did some shopping, came home and prepared lunch.  She helped me pod peas, which she enjoyed and then found that the tin of tuna I had opened was too tempting, so ate some of it while the pasta was cooking.  We also ate strawberries.  Then we went outside for a bit and she did some drawing before going for her nap.  After that, we made sausage rolls and jam tarts, which we had for tea.  She has fed the chickens, given an apple to Big Pinkie and rambled all over the Ups and Downs looking for cowpats, the largest of which we poked with a stick.  We've read books and spent rather a lot of time washing hands.  Squiffany was also fond of having a basinful of warm water and a bar of soap and spending a lot of time washing her hands at this age, too.

After going to bed, she chatted to her toys, Barry Bear, Pillow, Peppa Pig and Spot the Dog (who lives here, he was Ro's) for a few minutes and we've heard nothing further since.  Tomorrow, we have been warned that the electricity may be turned off, as work is being done.  Last time we had such a warning, it didn't happen at all, but at least we won't be caught out.

I might take her out for lunch.  It's such a pleasure taking a child out for a meal.  I remember an occasion when I took Squiffany out for tea and she was so happy, she sat taking tiny, neat bites out of her toasted teacake and sipping milk, on her very best behaviour.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A good innings

Today, I went to a hundredth birthday party.   Florence's birthday was actually on Saturday, and so far she has had a small family party, one for sixty people and this one, which her lunch club friends put on for her. She looked fabulous.  She walks without a stick and doesn't wear glasses.  She lives in a nursing home in the Cathedral Close but, apart from having her meals prepared for her, she can look after herself entirely - although, because she recently fell in her room and broke her wrist, she isn't taking her normal daily walk (uphill) to the city centre for morning coffee at Jarrolds at present.

I've remembered the finer points of Jimmy's look-see.  In fact, that was what he said.  Not "I'll take a look see", but "Jimmy will take a look-see," which was the reason the expression stuck. Glad to have got that one cleared up.  I will come back with more family sayings before long,  I'll start it off and add yours as they come in - excellent ones already, thank you.

Weeza will bring Zerlina over in the morning.  She can come with me to the hairdresser, then we will have lunch and then do our cooking.  Not quite sure how Sunday will work at present as I have to go to church twice (I'm not that devout, it's duty calling) and I think that Grandpa will have to be roped in to help out.  Phil and Weeza will come for lunch, assuming that the baby hasn't put in an appearance by then.  He has turned back to front, unfortunately - or rather front to front - he's correctly upside down but facing the wrong way so Weeza is uncomfortable.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Yes, Jane

I done a lol (copyright Vicus, I believe, whom I acknowledge with thanks) when I read the comments in Liz's post about her hamless sandwich.  It reminded me of a story my mother told, when she was a young woman in the Land Army.  Most of the farm workers were called up, and the farmers, who were two brothers, some once-retired men and the Land Girls worked the farm.  One day, they all sat down in the harvest field together to eat their packed lunches (my mother lodged with the farmers and their mother so Mother did the pack-ups) and someone noticed Old Bob gloomily peering between two slices of bread.  "What you got for dinner, Bob?" he asked.  "Piece of bread cut with a hammy knife," he replied.  Which expression, of course, entered family folklore.

Expressions do, don't they? Sometimes, it's something that's said that strikes someone as funny, sometimes it's a misused or mispronounced word, especially by a child - if the last of these, you have to be careful where you say it, as outside the family circle it looks as if you don't know how to say it.

In particular, we use expressions that refer back to old friends of my mother's, who lived in Wrentham (really can't be doing with putting that backwards) when she did.  Jimmy and Ruby.  Ruby loved to come up behind you, put her hands on your waist and give a tickle.  I loathed it, I have to say, and she finally stopped doing it when, overwrought one day, I cried.  Yes, I was nearer 40 than 30, but it just got too much.  Anyway, now, a little tickle is called Rubying.

Jimmy boasts two expressions, one bearing his name.  If asked a question that involved some checking - for example, the time, if there was a car outside, who was at the door, he'd offer to take a look-see.  So this became a Jimmy-look-see, shortened to Jim.  We all say it - 'I'll just go and have a jim, I'll let you know."

He also rather loved home-spun philosophy, and would treat the most trite expression as worthy of great respect, especially when uttered by my mother, of whom he was very fond.  Whatever she said, he would ponder for a while and reply, simply but meaningfully, "Yes, Jane.'  So, if you ever tell me something pretty obvious or come out with a cliché (not that my mum often did, but the expression exaggerates for effect), expect me to say, with just a hint of sarcasm, "Yes, Jane."

Terribly tempting to come back to family sayings, I probably will before long.

It's only fair to give you a picture of Jimmy and Ruby, in celebratory mood.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Nearly a baker's dozen

I thought that you might like to see the cupcakes.  Here you go...

I apologise for the unseemly amount of leg on display; I wasn't wearing that short a skirt but it seems to have gone for a ride.  Weeza's sitting room floor is not on the huh, it's the way she took the photo.  And Zerlina was allowed a dummy, which she normally only has in bed, because we thought she still might have a short nap - she didn't.

I'm also reposting a picture of the figs I picked from our tree a few years ago, I think it would have been in September.  I probably ate nearly all of them myself in two or three days.  I like fresh figs.

I've been debating with Dave, in the comment box, whether it is a greater show of self-discipline to refuse a cupcake altogether or to accept it but leave the icing, assuming you like icing.  For me, it would be the latter (although not in the case of a cake, because I am not bothered about icing, not having a very sweet tooth).

I have no difficulty with leaving food on my plate; once I'm full I am unable to eat more.  If that means that food is wasted I can't help that; eating food I don't want would still be wasting the food, it's just treating my stomach as a dustbin.  I'd rather not do that.  But leaving something that is both tasty and moreish, that I could manage, is not that easy.  I can refuse chocolate, leave it unstarted or eat a single chocolate (from a box or a square broken from a block).  But eating half a Crunchie/Mars/similar 'one serving' bar, I find extremely difficult, even though I'm not very fond of them - too sweet, and I prefer dark chocolate anyway.  I can cut it in half, share it and not miss the uneaten part, but breaking it in two, eating some and leaving the rest is a real test of willpower for me.

I only ate one cupcake, by the way.  Weeza said she had one of them for breakfast this morning - she recommends.  I have suggested that Zerlina come to stay on Friday for the weekend.  I thought we could make sausage rolls, with jam tarts from the pastry trimmings, perhaps.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Labourer in waiting

I spent the day with Weeza again.  It was the same when she was expecting Zerlina, she was glad of maternal support.  Last time it was her first baby, this time she has a nearly-three-year-old (and the childminder on holiday) to look after.  This morning, Zerlina and I made cupcakes.  Yes, I know that I normally say fairy cakes, in the proper, traditional manner, but they were made using a Hummingbird recipe, so I will call it what the shopkeeper calls it, because that's only fair.  Admittedly, we only made half the given quantity of icing.  The big thing about the cupcake fad is the quantity of icing.  More than cake.  Huge.  Tasty, but too much.

It all went very well and we each ate a cupcake after lunch.  Then Zerlina went for her nap, but she was too cheerful to sleep and she sang and talked to herself for nearly an hour.  Weeza gave her an early supper and I trust there were not tears before bedtime from anyone.

I offered to have Zerlina to stay, but I hadn't really thought it through.  The childminder returned from holiday today, and z is due to go to her tomorrow and Wednesday.  Those were the nights I'd meant to offer; I'm busy on Thursday.

In the garden, I noticed ripe figs dangling over Weeza's neighbour's fence over the footpath that separates their two gardens.  I mentioned them.  Weeza said that she had left them the first year and they had dropped, unpicked.  Since, she has rescued them.  We saved seven figs and I brought two of them home.  Well, *home* - they didn't last the journey, I'm afraid.  The Sage is not fond of figs, though I suspect it is only because he expects the hard seeds of the imported sort.  He did go out to check our fig tree and found that none was ripe, but eleven of his apples were.  He was very pleased.

I received several emails during the day = that is, several that counted as letters, so are very welcome.  I have to reply to the business ones tonight, but others will be answered, with much pleasure.  Thank you.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dainty Z

It seems that it's my tiny little delicate paws that are the difficulty.  I simply wasn't pushing the end of the pump hard enough on to the valve on the bike tyre.  The Sage has succeeded in pumping up the tyre now, and so I can go out and do my shopping by bicycle.  Yay.

You can probably tell, that was a yay said without much enthusiasm.  It's only because I wish to support my local shops that I don't buy everything on the internet.  It was jolly useful when Al had his shop, I could ring him up and ask him to bring stuff home with him.  He did deliver in fact, and one of his customers used to phone all the local shops, get them to deliver what she wanted to him and then he would take it all to her.  She was elderly and couldn't get out easily and it was ideal, saving time and trouble for everyone.  Everyone for Al, that is, but he was going to her anyway so it was little more bother.

I was talking to Weeza tonight on the phone.  I rang to see how she is: fine, still pregnant.  It's Zerlina's birthday in less than two weeks and we were talking about her presents and what to get her that she will be able to use with little or no help.  Weeza was a bit rueful about the thought that she won't get all the attention for much longer.  "You might not have thought much about having siblings when you were young," I said.  "You must be glad of them now though.  Just think, otherwise, your father and I would be your entire responsibility."  She acknowledged that it is a burden she is glad to be able to share.  Especially now that we realise how puny my finger muscles are.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Out of puff

My mother always professed herself unable to deal with any sort of technology.  "Not if it's got more than two working parts, darling," she would say.  She confided once that this started as a self-defence mechanism.  When she and my father were first married, they ran a hotel and, when short of staff, took over whatever job needed to be done.  She said that she would do anything except work behind the bar, and he had done everything short of chambermaiding.  She made sure that she wouldn't be expected to work machinery, however, by pretending not to understand it and, in time, became actually unable to cope with it at all.

I generally quite like getting on and having a go at such things - even with teenagers in the house I was first to learn how to programme the video, for instance - but pumping up a bicycle tyre has defeated me again.  I  used to have difficulty with car tyres, but finally mastered the machines at a petrol station through necessity.  However, today I set out to do my shopping and decided, by the time I got to the end of the drive, that the tyre was a bit soft.  Getting off and prodding it confirmed that, so I went back home and got out the foot-operated pump.

Ten minutes later, all I had achieved was letting all the air out.  The only consolation was that, when the Sage got home, he was unable to work it either.

I feel such a fool.  Last time I had the same problem, I tried to look it up on the internet, but it was too basic.  It's so simple that there are no instructions.  Indeed, when Phil showed me, I was able to do it easily, but there's evidently something vital I've forgotten.  I'll have to take the bike over in the car when I next go to Weeza's and get him to do it for me.  I have got a hand-operated pump of course, though I'm not sure where it is right now because, although I can attach it all right, my puny little arms can't actually put enough air into it to inflate it from scratch.

Seems that I may have to put one foot in front of the other for the next few days.  I don't mind walking, if I have to, but I can't be doing with carrying a whole lot of shopping about.  Either I drive or we go hungry.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Yew think about it

What happens in this household is, one of us has an idea and we all get quite excited.  Then we think about it and, indeed, sometimes the mere verbal expression of thought (impulse, quite often) makes the speaker pick all the required holes in the idea and it goes no further ... except that it forms a series of links and it is not uncommon for a more practical idea to come out of it at the end.  Once in a while, the first idea is the best.

I took Weeza to show her where we are thinking of putting the summerhouse.  It is not in a good position now.  It was all right when the laurel hedge was by the lawn, but since we removed that, three or four years ago (one of our better decisions, beastly thing) it has just looked odd.  And, to be honest, we never used it much because we prefer sitting on the lawn itself. Mostly it was used for storing lawn furniture, until the Sage started to put in old bikes and stuff too.  Anyway, moles have undermined its foundations and it needs to be taken apart, refurbished and re-erected, so that would be a good opportunity to move it altogether.

This is a large space overall, and you would think there would be a good choice of sites, but there isn't.  It could go on the edge of the lawn, but a lot of work would have to be done on levelling the site.  The Sage came up with an idea which was rubbish.  Then I suggested somewhere else, which might do, but isn't ideal for various reasons, mainly because it would mean removing a wall containing a raised bed; no great loss, but a lot of work.

So, being a sensible Z, I asked Weeza what she thought.  She suggested another situation which we are quite taken with - but it would be very close to the yew.  This is the yew.  The summerhouse would be just to its right, where the log pile is (that's the logs from the dead oak that fell down a year ago, waiting to be split).

If the yew were well sited in the first place, that would be one thing.  But you can also see the reason for it being cut hard back to the trunk on one side.
It's right by the drive, and has broken the edging.  I'm not quite sure why it was ever planted there, right by the kerb.  Or possibly, left there when the kerb was put in.  It has to be cut right back periodically, the last time was three or four months back.  It grows slowly, but all that bare wood will be covered in new growth by next year.

From the other side, this is how it looks -
In the foreground, the dead wood is a rosemary which, after twenty years, finally died back in the spring when it was so dry.  I didn't notice until it was too late.

There is about half a mile of hedge around our fields, all native British species and we leave it to grow naturally as far as possible, just cutting back as necessary against the road.  It really goes against the grain to consider cutting down a healthy tree, but sometimes it can be the most sensible action.  If we decide to leave it, it will need some more pruning to improve its shape.

Actually, I wish people wouldn't plant trees in the wrong place to start with.  My mother used to do that, she never took growth into account.  I used to point out how large one would be after twenty years, and she'd say that she would be dead by then.  I'd say that, even if so, that would mean that a healthy tree in its prime would have to be cut down because it was too close to the house.

Anyway, no hurry.  I'm going to keep looking for a good site for the summerhouse.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Questions, questions

Now, I should like to conduct a short questionnaire, if you would be so kind as to give me your opinions.

1. When you give their origin a few minutes of careful thought, which of these is the most gross?

a) eggs

b) milk

c) honey

If you would care to explain your reasoning, I should be most appreciative.

2. Today, it has been mostly rainy.  Still, it's good for the garden, innit?

3. We're considering cutting down the yew tree and re-erecting the summerhouse in its place - or rather, right next to it.  The reasons for cutting down the tree are that it would keep light from the summerhouse, the pollen is very dusty, birds eat the berries and there are really messy droppings in the area and that yew is extremely poisonous and I'd worry that needles might be accidentally ingested in our picnic.

Is this cruelty to trees and does it matter?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Little girl in waiting

We have seen Weeza several times this week already and she will probably come over here again tomorrow.  Less than a fortnight before the baby is due, with a very energetic toddler and the childminder on holiday, both she and Zerlina want distractions.

I'm wondering how you manage with the birth of your second child when you haven't got family on hand to look after the first.  Zerlina knows that she may be packed off for a day or two to us because Mummy will be busy having her little brother, and she's looking forward to it.  She is also looking forward to being a big sister.  Weeza has been putting in some work on that!  There had been a few 'incidents' recently, when Zerlina was reluctant to leave what she was doing to use the loo, so a star chart was drawn up and it's been quite a hit.  The only reward is stickers, but that's fine.  As well as the lavatory, tidying things away and lovely behaviour are mentioned, and it's having an excellent effect.  When I was there on Monday, she suddenly announced that she would tidy up all her toys and did so, and she didn't even ask for a sticker.  She already eats pretty well anything put in front of her, tidily and with cutlery, and she makes no fuss about bed or nap times.  It's pretty impressive parenting on Weeza's part, I think.

Having said which, she is very strong willed and sometimes, because she gets that from her mother, there are some battles of wills going on.   She was a little fractious this afternoon because she had got too hot while she was asleep.  Weeza went off to the hairdresser and z was a little querulous until I took her out into the garden, where she went on her swing.  She loves that.  Later, she did some painting, mostly on her tummy.

It has rained this evening.  It's still warm though.  I'm not complaining about the heat, at least it's seasonal.  I've done most of my work on the iPad, sitting outside in the shade.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Second names

While I was writing last night's post, the Sage came in the room for a chat - which was a pleasure of course, but distracting.  I quite forgot what was to have been my last example of name changing.

We were having dinner with friends, Alan and Sophie, some years ago, and her mother was about to move to a nursing home in the village.  Sophie told us not to be surprised that her mother would call her Janet, she being the only person who had not accepted her change of name.

Sophie was a nurse when Alan first spotted her, and he heard another nurse refer to her as Sister Sophie Ward.  He invited her on a date and, during the course of the evening, called her Sophie.  As you do.  Sophie explained that, at the hospital, each sister was called by the name of the ward she (probably she in each case) was in charge of, rather than by her own name.  Alan mulled it over.  "Actually, I think of you as Sophie.  The name suits you much better than Janet."  Sophie agreed and that's what she became.  This could, of course, be one of the most charmingly romantic things one could imagine or a bit of real control-freakery, that a man choose his wife's name.  Actually, it was the former.

As for me, I quite often get called Sophie, or sometimes Chloë.  Even among those who remember my name, it's not unknown for me to be Zo or Zo-zo.  A few of those who know me from here call me Zed. And, as for the name I called myself before I was two years old, it was Dodo.  But the only person who ever continued with that was my mother, and that was probably an affectionate link to her oldest friend, who had similarly been unable to cope with Josephine as a baby, but with whom the nickname had stuck.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Naming names

I was thinking, the other day, about given names and how keen so many of us are to change or ditch them,  at least when we're young.  I say "we" but that doesn't actually include me.  I'm not very name-minded.  I don't even name the chickens, and it was probably only the necessity to register our children that made us choose names for them.  At that, when Ro was a small child, he was more often called "Thing" (entirely affectionately) by me than any other name.  Three children and a husband - how on earth was I to remember all those names?

My sister, here, is called Wink.  But that's the name I actually call her by, more often than not, it being her childhood nickname.  It was my parents that called her that in the first place, when she was only a few weeks old.  Her name is Melanie, you see, but my mother didn't want to call her Mel and intended to use the full name - but it's fairly unwieldy for a small child so her babyhood nickname stuck.  Mine, which I used when I was too little to manage Z, didn't.  But then, Z is quite an efficient name so it was easy to say and write.

A lot of people abbreviate their names of course, at least when they are children - though often, it's mothers who insist on a full name being used and friends who shorten it.  Some reinstate the full name when they are older.  I know a Patricia and a Christopher who were Pat and Chris twenty years ago, for instance.  There were another two, hating their names, who changed them altogether.  One went from Dorothy to Jane, which was slightly confusing, as her mother and the rest of the family ignored the change, and I knew her through her family, so I innocently called her Dorothy for years because I knew no better, rather to the bewilderment of other friends.  Another woman changed her name to Zellah, with such success that I've forgotten the original.  Rather splendidly, she finally took the plunge and made the change in her late 60s.  Wink had to move nearly 250 miles to ditch her nickname.  I do make every effort to call her Mel when I'm visiting her, at least when we're in company.  Hardly seems fair otherwise.