Saturday, 30 April 2011

Mo Z Art

When I was turning out a cupboard I found a drawing I did a few years ago, in my one and only sketching lesson (it was at a WI meeting).  The Sage, rather sweetly, was full of praise.  I think it will be only too obvious to you that it is entirely undeserved.  I can neither draw nor take photos.  I suppose I could have scanned it.  Anyway, just to keep up with the Daveses in displaying my "talent"....

Friday, 29 April 2011

Z moves tables and chairs

Today, I shifted all the furniture in the drawing room to hoover - when you come on Monday and observe how scruffy and untidy the place is, please remember that this is post-housework.  It was far worse.  I'm being submerged in papers, even though I throw away a lot.

Friends turned up this afternoon, which was extremely jolly.  Usually when this happens (about every five years - these particular friends, I mean), I persuade them to stay for dinner, but it was a bit early to make this a reasonable proposition, especially as I hadn't really got any food in (although one can always rustle up a meal).  They are away from next weekend, but have promised to get in touch on their return.  We had a good chat over a cup of tea, anyway.  I was in the middle of hoovering the carpet when they arrived and had to get rid of the worst of the detritus - I really ought to find a cleaner, I just can't be arsed nowadays to do much myself.  When I think back, I used to move all the furniture every damn week to clean behind.  Now there is too much furniture and I lost the habit a long time ago.

Anyway, another friend turned up, this time with a bottle of wine.  I'd written a report for her - it was no trouble and I knew she'd have found it tricky, and there was really no need.  Very kind, though.

Rog has been mashing me on Facebook Scrabble.  He's won the last several games, usually coming from behind in the last few goes.  This time, he's well ahead from the beginning.  I can only sit back and admire.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The squirrel's daughter

There seems to be a spate of partygiving at present.  We've just had an invitation for another one.  That's three coming up, not including our own.  Very jolly.  This one will be a barn dance.

It occurs to me that I have rather a lot of shopping to do on Saturday.  And cooking on Sunday.  I suppose I'd better start thinking about food.  I wonder if everyone will introduce themselves by their real names or blog names - if they are different, of course.

I've been going through old handbags.  So far, I've found about £8 and my driving licence.  That's good - the driving licence in particular.  I hadn't seen it for ages, although I knew what room it was in (this gives you some idea of how much stuff there is in this house).  I've been used to it all my life, mind you.  When I was a child, my mother's eyes grew wistful whenever there was a report of the police searching someone's house.  She thought it would be rather splendid for a policeman to come along with a search warrant.  She could follow him about, exclaiming with glee every time he came across something she'd "put in a safe place" months earlier and never seen again.  Here, I think it would take a team of people several months.  I trust they'd tidy up before they left.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wall party way

You will either come along the A road or through the town.  If coming along the bypass, look for the sign to the village and you will see the church spire.  Head for that.  If you come along Church Road, turn left at the church and immediately right into our drive; if you come down School Road with the church facing you, the drive is 50 yards short of the junction.  That's the road you will turn down if coming from the town; it is the first on the left, about 3/4 of a mile from the little bridge out of town. Our entrance has two curved brick walls, one in need of repair, and open wrought iron gates.  You can't see the house from the road; the drive forks but all roads lead to home so left and right wingers all welcome.  Don't carry on past the church (or turn left at the T junction) or you will end up down a bumpy track and have to turn round.

After the Sage's meeting tonight, there was a talk by an environmental officer about the Common.  He was very enthusiastic about the range of birds there and afterwards the Sage engaged him in conversation.  He is going to come and look at our land around here and advise us on anything more we can do to encourage wildlife.  There's already rather a lot, in fact.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Fun eral

It seems to have decided itself.  Despite my reservations about recorded music in church, I'm going with Tom Lehrer before the service starts and Tico Tico as I'm carried out.  In between, straightforward hymns - I still want Father Hear the Prayer We Offer, which decision has lasted eight years so far, so must be about right for me, and another hymn which hasn't quite been settled yet, so I'll probably do a shortlist and let the family decide.  Or they can go another way entirely if they like, as long as it is not All Things Bright and Beautiful, The Old Rugged Cross or Abide with Me. A wicker coffin, made by me or Sarah and little or no eulogy.  If I pop off unexpectedly, please point my family in this direction asap.

Today, I was back at work.  "Work" I should say, as it's voluntary and therefore counts as fun.  The consultation for academy status still goes on, but I have to say, I have thoroughly read everything I can about it and will vote in favour.  Something drastic and unexpected would have to occur to make me pause.  Some of the teachers are not in favour, some are, but the arguments against do not take into account the facts of the matter.  I should make clear, I am not in any way in favour of sponsored academies and I do not want to change the conditions of employment of our staff, who are really excellent and work fantastically hard.  I look forward to working more closely with them, in fact.  This sounds thoroughly big-headed, I know, but those of the staff who don't know me underestimate me.  I'm all fun and frivolity of course, but it thinly masks a lot of knowledge of school management and a worryingly tough cor blimey core.  The first thing I want to do is set up a staff/governor forum so that representatives from both can meet regularly to discuss current events and concerns.  I'm going to prove to sceptics that I mean what I say and that we can deliver what we intend.

I'm jumping ahead, of course.  The proposition may be voted down, or we may be rejected.  If so, it'll mean a lot of cutbacks in a couple of years and probably a restriction to our curriculum.

Oh dear.  Sorry.  Let me see, what's on tomorrow.  A meeting with solicitors at school in the morning, then a haircut, then playing for a funeral   The Lord's My Shepherd and Abide With Me.  Better than B&B, I suppose.  Then there is the church AGM in the evening, but I shall not go.  Z the little rebel.  The Sage has another AGM; he is a Common Reeve and is up for re-election.

Early for my own funeral

Further to yesterday's post (actually the day before yesterday's, but in the same way I call it morning until I've had lunch, I call the day 'today" even after midnight if I haven't been to sleep), I had touched on the weekend my mum died here and here when I was talking about her dog a couple of years ago.  Thank you for all your comments.

I haven't planned my own funeral as such, although I have given it a fair bit of thought.  If I pop off before the Sage, I suspect he might make my coffin himself from oak boards, as he did for Chester and Tilly (I think it's a bit OTT for dogs, but he wanted to), but I'd really like a wicker coffin.  Weeza found a website with lovely ones a few years ago and I bookmarked it, but when my last computer broke I lost the bookmarks and haven't tracked down the company again yet.  There are a few companies making English wicker coffins, but I particularly liked the shape of that one.  My friend Bobbie's father was buried in a woven coffin, I'm not sure of the material - seagrass perhaps? - which was imported from China - apparently,  being a soft material, they can be stacked one inside another and are light, so it is counted as eco-friendly despite the distance travelled.  On no account do I want a brick coffin, whatever Dave says.

I certainly want to be buried and not cremated.  Although I'm not big on ceremony (there were three guests at my wedding, for instance), I recognise the importance of a funeral and a really low-key one brings a feeling of incompletion.  I have the Bible reading I would like and a hymn, but there are several other options for hymns I'd like and I think it's fair to give my family a choice.  After all, they're the ones listening to it.

I don't really want to be talked about.  It makes me uncomfortable.  And there really isn't much to say.  Maybe I should suggest a couple of anecdotes and leave it at that.  Choosing music for the start and finish is always a bit of a problem, unless you've got a really good organist.  CDs often don't sound right in a church.  Last year, a funeral I played the organ for had the coffin leave to Bridge over Troubled Waters, which was actually very effective.

This could be quite jolly though, don't you think?  Not the best video, but I vastly enjoyed seeing the YOA a few years ago (I blogged it at the time) and I've got their CD.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

She left her heart...

My mother had six months to plan her funeral.  As she said to Phil, whom she met for the first (and only) time at her last Christmas, "I've received my death sentence, you know."  As a near-to-introductory remark, it was quite a show-stopper.  She spent a lot of time poring over the Bible, choosing the reading and even longer deciding on the hymns.  There was nothing untoward about any of the service, but the rest of the arrangements were rather more complicated.

My mother was married twice and widowed twice.  My father died when she was forty-six and she married again six years later.  Her second husband died ten years later when she was only sixty-two.  In each instance there was a double grave ready for her too - "double graves all over Suffolk," as she put it.  She lived next to us for the last fifteen years of her life, half an hour's drive from where she'd lived with my stepfather.  So, planning her funeral, she was in a quandary.  She reluctantly decided that there was no possibility of including her first husband in the reckoning.  After all this time, she didn't really want her funeral in Wrentham where she used to live.  Most of her friends had died or moved from there and she didn't know the minister, whereas she and our Rector here were good friends.

I must remember to tell you about when he visited her a week or two after she came out of hospital.

The final decision she came to was to have her funeral service here and then be buried with Wilf in Wrentham.  This was logical and really quite sensible, in its way.

You know when you go to a funeral in a church and then are invited back to the house or a local hotel afterwards, but the immediate family has gone off to the crematorium and you have to wait an hour awkwardly before they come back?  I didn't want that to happen.  If there's one thing I learned from my mother, and actually there were others, it was to put guests first.  So it was decided that the best option was to have the funeral in our church in the morning, then everyone come back here for lunch, then book the undertaker to return a couple of hours later and drive over to Wrentham for the burial.  The day before the event, I and various other people spent preparing food and then I was up again at 5 am cooking again, with an obsessive fear that there would not be enough.   Weeza thought I was a bit cracked and I probably was.  The funeral went smoothly, not that I remember anything about it, though it seemed a bit odd to walk out leaving the coffin behind.  The Rector murmured to me, when he joined us at home, that he had locked the church door.  A bit disconcerting for a chance visitor otherwise.

None of my children wanted to come, so the Sage and I left them in charge of the few remaining guests. I was touched that several friends did come with us, I hadn't expected them to.  Ian, the Rector, came too.  We drove behind the hearse for a slow 15 miles to Wrentham church.  The coffin was unloaded and borne in on the pallbearers' shoulders.  Up the aisle, with all of us solemnly following behind, up to the chancel ... then a swift turn-about and it was carried out again.  She'd wanted a final visit to the church. The cemetery is separate from the church, the graveyard having been filled many years previously, and the coffin was loaded back into the car again.

Our bewildered followers obediently climbed back into their cars - and found themselves driving only 200 yards before stopping behind the hearse again.  The Sage and I, with prior knowledge, walked.  We all trooped behind the coffin again, caution on the faces of the followers who felt that there might be another detour, but the grave was ready for her.  We finally lurched home in the mid afternoon.  The whole thing must have taken five hours.  We felt that, ideally, she would have preferred a timeshare arrangement in Oulton Broad with my father, Wrentham with my step-father and the churchyard here where she lived.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

LaZee Zed

Zerlina is extremely strong-willed.  We knew it, but she does try it on somewhat.  We were all barefoot today - well, she was bare-everything.  The Sage kept his shoes on, of course, and socks.  She wanted me to put my sandals on, so I put my toes in, but later on, after lunch when I was barefoot again, she instructed me to put my shoes on and I refused.  She told me repeatedly and firmly and I started to feel a bit got at.  It was quite funny though.  We all wondered ironically where she had got it from (her mother, since you don't appear to have got the answer right at once).

I've spent quite some time this evening drafting the Churchwardens' annual report for the AGM, which is on Wednesday.  Yes, I know I am not churchwarden any more.  I'm not even going to the meeting.  But I am, sadly, practised in admin and the present churchwardens, better as they are than me in most other respects, aren't.  So I've left them to look up various facts, such as how many weddings and funerals were held, and done the rest of it.  It has to be sent up to Diocesan House and is an official record.

Tomorrow, Weeza, Phil and Zerlina and Ro and Dora are coming for lunch.  Dilly's parents are coming over for lunch with them, so I expect the little cousins will play together in the afternoon.  We're having roast lamb.  And cake.  I spent some time this evening making little cakes and I shall decorate them in the morning.  I also have some raspberries (no idea where they were flown in from) and ice cream.  Bought.  I'm feeling lazy.

Friday, 22 April 2011

PaZZion

I had a post in my mind, but events have pushed their way in front of it.  So it will wait.  It's waited eight years already, and three since I said I'll write about it.

I was cooking dinner and Wink was reading the paper.  She observed that the first Indiana Jones film was on.  We realised that it couldn't all be watched, but I said that I could work dinner around the first few minutes - that is, leave it while the (rather awful, actually) tomb-robbing sequence was going on, then I could dish up and we could see the rest after we'd eaten.

I was just heading back to the kitchen when the Sage asked me if I could spare a couple of minutes.  My time is counted in individual minutes, I couldn't really but the Sage comes first so I went with him ... it was a not good idea which he and Jamie had cooked up while I was out.  I said, I don't think so, but let me dish up those slightly blackened sweet potatoes first and we'll talk about it.

The upshot was, I had a better idea and now he's all enthusiastic.  It is something for next year in my view, no hurry.  But he's happy again and that's the main thing.  It's the placing of the summerhouse, you see.  It is a very old summerhouse, that belonged to his grandparents.  It's a revolving one.  It was brought here from their garden some 60 years ago and, the year after we moved here, we took it apart, repaired it, put it together again (that was hard work) and I stripped it all down to bare wood with a hot air gun (that was hard work) and primed, undercoated and top-coated it again.  That was a lot of work and, actually, the top coat had to wait until the next year because I ran out of autumn.  It's back to square one again now.  I have repainted it in the meantime, but mole-works meant that its circular base slipped and we couldn't fully open the doors, and so didn't use it and it's degenerated again.  The Sage was doubtful that it needed to be on the lawn and I agree, but didn't like his suggested placing.  So - because quick thinking is my mezzo-forte, I came up with a better place.  So that may well be it.  But the project is a way off.  There was certainly no need to take me out for a snap decision this evening ... but, how can one mind enthusiasm?  I love enthusiasm.  It defines me, I think.  I am a passionate Z.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

And so to Zed

Wink and I went to Norwich today, first to my ladies-who-lunch lunch and then to John Lewis because Wink wanted to check out linen baskets and rugs.  We left, chastened by the prices.  Having rejected the baskets, the least expensive of which was £50 and not all that, I wanted to buy something small to get the reduced price on the car park.  I looked at Easter eggs and sweets and was really rather taken aback.  £9 for a small pack of sugared almonds, for example.  What looked like a small coffee cup filled with sweets was £5, which seemed all right until I realised the 'cup' was made of card and the fiver was for maybe 80g of sweets.  I bought a stain removing stick.

We moved on to the Chapelfield mall, mainly because we were meeting Weeza and the JL multi-storey is so badly designed and there are few mother and baby spaces and there is hardly room to park the car, let alone help a small child out of it.  We bought Wink her birthday presents and a bra for me.  I wonder why it is that there are so few in my size.  I have a very ordinary size, but there were lots of 30Fs and similarly impressive small yet big sizes, but not the more ordinary 34Ds.  Not in white, anyway, which was what I wanted.  I'd have bought two or three, including coloured ones, if I'd been able to find them, but I could only find a choice of two acceptable ones (I do not like padding either, it doesn't move when you do) and tried them on, one fitted so I bought it.  Later, I got over enthusiastic about odds and ends and then we went looking for clothes for Zerlina.  Weeza really wanted some plain teeshirts, but Zerlina was thrilled with a bright red raincoat, of all things.  It was marked down to about a third of its original price and I bought it for her.  I mean, it'll rain sometime or other, right?  Weeza bought her sunglasses and Wink bought her a dress.  We also had ice cream.  It was a good day.

Then I went to play the organ at the Maundy Thursday service.  I don't think I've ever been to a Maundy Thursday service before, so I don't know if it's the norm, but at the end the ministers removed everything they could from the altar and its surrounds.  They trotted back and forth while the congregation sat silently, and then they went and sat down again.  I wondered how long to stay.  No one moved.  It was 20 to 9 and I still had dinner to cook.  After five minutes, I got up and went out.  Well, someone has to.  And now I'm tired.  Goodnight.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mrs Ziggywinkle*

In case you read this in a feed reader, the official invitation is finally up on the blog - whether you've already said you're coming or not, if you need my address please email me and I'll send it.

Isn't the weather fantastic?  So hot and yet the air is fresh.  Just delightful, unless you're working out in the middle of it, of course.  I was some of the time, though not very hard, and wearing jeans which wasn't probably the best choice for the day.  No matter.

Wink is here for the next few days, which is highly jolly.  We are going out to lunch tomorrow, and then into Norwich shopping.  Weeza will probably join us, with Zerlina of course.  We're planning a family get-together over the weekend, on Sunday.

Squiffany had four little schoolfriends over to play today.  They were all so sweet.  Al had done a treasure hunt for them on the field and they all trotted out, with Pugsley in front.  I said to Al and Dilly, it looked like five little sisters, all much the same size.  I became momentarily sentimental about the thought of such a family.  Having the eldest child a girl does add a civilising influence.  We pondered about five 6 year old boys and a small girl.  Much as I enjoy the company of little boys, they would be altogether more rowdy, but the girls were good as gold.  They all wanted a rest indoors after their treasure hunt, it was too hot to be outside in the sunshine for long.

At least, as there was no dusty digging being done today, I was able to hang the washing out.  Five loads of it.  The last will stay out overnight.  And the sixth is still in the washing machine.   It's been a while.

*Not to be mistaken for our friend Ziggi

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Zentimental

The fishmonger calls on a Monday and I usually get fish for a couple of nights.  For today, I bought two trout.  I asked the Sage to pick up some vegetables to go with them when he was in Yagnub.  He came home looking happy.  The first asparagus of the season was in - we only ever buy English asparagus and it's only in season from the end of April or early May, depending on the weather, until the longest day, 21st June, when the growers stop cutting to let the crowns build up strength for the rest of the summer.  He had bought a bunch of ten spears.  He had also bought six Jersey Royal potatoes, again newly in season.  He said he wasn't going to tell me how much they had cost, but to relish every mouthful.

So, in keen and happy anticipation this evening, I put the fish in a roasting tin, each in its own square of greaseproof paper, with slices of lemon and a sprinkling of salt, a smear of butter and a shake of white wine, and wrapped them up to bake in their juices.  I trimmed the asparagus, frugally cooking the ends in with the potato water - soup will be made tomorrow from the ends and the cooking water - and scrubbed the potatoes.  I poured a glass of wine for myself while the meal was cooking, and remembered.

What I was remembering was an occasion, eight years ago and a few weeks after my mother had died.  One day, I bought a whole fish to bake, I can't remember what it was.  I picked broad beans and asparagus and dug new potatoes from the garden.  Two of the three were the first of the season, probably the beans and potatoes.  It was, to me, the perfect meal - not only because it would be simple, delicious and fresh but because the first of each seasonal vegetable is a celebration, and the lovely fish complemented them perfectly.  And, in the precise sense that I enjoyed it, my mother did too, we completely understood how each other felt, and no one else would in just that way.  And I felt such a pang of loss.  Today was the first time that I really felt that the Sage got it too.


After dinner, he wanted to go for a walk to investigate the boathouse, so I went with him.  The boathouse has been neglected for at least forty years.  We did have a boat, a dinghy, but the hut was already tumbledown so we kept it on the river bank.  The Sage has had a wish to get the boathouse back into use for a long time, but it's going to be a big job, largely because it's so awkward to get at.  However, he feels that it would be possible now, with Jamie's help.  I've stipulated that there are several more important things here to do first.  However, I do agree, it would be great.  The river is quite silted up in places, so we'd need something flat-bottomed.  It's a really quiet, tranquil place and I would love to have a little boat.  I grew up by the river and like nothing better.  He stayed on the path while I (who was wearing wellies) trod down the nettles and scrambled up onto the river bank.  I found the boathouse, but it was too dark to take a picture by then.  However, I had taken a couple of snaps of the river a little earlier.  It was dusk, but you can see the tranquillity.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Cup of Kings

We've been working on the drive all day, but I'll spare you pictures until something is completed.  At one point, when J and R were both breaking up rubble, I observed that they looked like members of a chain gang.  I've been feeling rather guilty about them doing that job ever since, although they look quite happy.  Jolly hard work though.

I tried again to load the video, but although Blogger doesn't specify the largest possible size, it doesn't load.    I could try doing it via Picasa I suppose, but I suspect that would take just as long.  I do put some pictures on Picasa, Flickr or Photobucket sometimes (don't ask me why I have accounts on all, I can't remember) but only if I want to share them with the family.  Otherwise, I don't bother.  They take an age to load too.  Anyway, then I tried to edit the video and split it up but it played sideways on, can't think why, and I couldn't work out how to change it.  I could have gone through the tutorial, but how boring that would be.   Reading a manual is one thing but being taken through stuff on the screen is not for the impatient.  Pity though, as the sight of Al blithely brushing thousands of bees off a tree is quite a good one.

I did take pictures of the marsh marigolds/kingcups or whatever.  The first shows just how overgrown the pond is - very little actual pond left.  The second shows the leaves, but the sun was so bright that the flower was washed out so I took a third, you lucky people.  I do hope you like multiple pictures of the same yellow flower.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bee-z-y does it

I had actually got the hoover out and ready to use, when Al came through asking for help.  There was a swarm of bees at the bottom of the garden.  It was from one of his three hives and they hadn't gone far, just a few yards to the nearest tree.  Dilly was out in Norwich with her mother and sister, shopping.  I know that a swarm of bees is normally a gentle beast, so I was quick to volunteer to help and went next door to dress in Dilly's beekeeper suit and my wellies.  Al couldn't find his camera, nor could I mine, so I've captured the whole thing on the phone.  Not a picture of me in the suit though, I'm afraid.

Pictures aren't going too well on Blogger at present, for a brief while one could arrange them nicely side by side, but now they seem to go in a line downwards again, so this may be a long post in every sense except the wooden one.  The long video is taking an age to load.
This is the swarm.  The text book way of securing them would be to tap them in one lot into a basket, or else cut off the branch and drop them that way.  However, they were clustered round in the crook of two branches of an elder, and it was not possible.  Al decided, instead, to brush as many as possible into the basket, trying to include the queen who would be in the centre, drop them on the sheet and they should then walk upwards and find the hive.
I was too interested in what he was doing to film it very well, but I got most of it - it seems that Blogger can't cope with 50 seconds of video however, and it won't load.  I'll try editing it into bits tomorrow.  A swarm of bees is not dangerous unless they think you are threatening the queen.  As you see, they are completely docile here.  They were bewildered but not angry.  I had my suit on, but my right hand uncovered to use the phone camera (and Facebook, because I was excitedly live-FB-ing it) and no bee settled on me or tried to sting.  Even though Al was brushing right into the heart of the cluster, the hum of bees never became an angry buzz.
video
Their instinct is to walk uphill, so they started moving into the hive at once.  However, they would be looking for the queen.  If they didn't find her, they would come out again, as you can hear Al explain to me.  Sadly, that droning voice saying "They're going in"..."Right" is me.

Al was the first to spot her, she still has her blue paint on - you mark your queen so that she's easy to find, but the workers try to clean the paint off so it usually doesn't last long.  I've zoomed in, you can just get a vague blue blur near the centre of the picture if you peer closely, though I thought I'd got her better than that.  Al chivvied her over towards the entrance, but she managed to get under the hive.  Luckily, she came out again a minute later and we both saw her walk in.  I was too interested in looking at her to remember to take a picture of the moment, I'm afraid.


And here are pictures of the rest of the bees following her, apart from those still on the tree.  On my way back to the house, I took a picture of the hive that the swarm came from.  The queen, before leaving, will have left plenty of eggs.  Some of those would hatch out into queens.  Al will go through the hive, destroying most of the queen cells - which are easily recognised, being much bigger than ordinary egg cells - because if more than one hatches at the same time, there will be another swarm.  If one queen hatches first, she will destroy the other queen larvae herself.  A newly hatched larvae becomes a queen by being fed royal jelly by the workers, as you probably know.

Twenty minutes later, we heard a loud droning noise (not me, that time) and Al was concerned that the queen had rejected the hive and left again.  He hurried down the garden to look.  But it was all right.  The signal had gone out that the queen was in residence, and the rest of the bees from the tree and in the air were all going to their new home, all in one loud mass.  Within a few minutes, they were tranquilly out foraging again.  This evening, we moved the hive to its new situation by the rest of the hives.  It was a slightly awkward job as we were wading through nettles on uneven ground, but it went without problems.

I've offered to be apprentice Second Beekeeper for the rest of this year.  Dilly is rather too pregnant to want to put on the suit and it would be upsetting for her to be stung, now or with a new baby to care for. I'm not afraid of things buzzing around, won't panic if I'm stung and do what I'm told quite nicely.  And the bees are fascinating.  I can see myself becoming as interested as Al, if I don't watch out.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Overgrown

I spent a while with Squiffany and Pugsley this morning as their parents were taking some things to the tip. Before leaving, they warned me that Pugsley was under the weather, which showed itself in a very short fuse.  There had been some shouting and crying that morning.  He was fine when I arrived, but soon proved unco-operative.  I was firm but cheerful, and got them both out into the garden to show them what work had been done and tell them how it would look at the end.  I asked them what they thought about the pond which, having been completely neglected for about three years, is overgrown with irises and some yellow flowers - maybe marsh marigolds, or don't they grow in ponds? - and there is a lot of duckweed.  Even the frogs have rejected it this year.  I asked what they think, should I clear it out, refill it with water and baby-proof it, or should we fill it in until the babies are older.  Squiffany said refill it and make it safe and Pugsley said fill it in.  He was more interested in keeping it when I mentioned tadpoles, though.

He did get upset later - I took them round to watch a tractor ploughing the field behind their house, and he pricked himself on a hawthorn.  I looked, there was no mark, but he bawled.  Squiffany was remarkably kind and patient with him, doing her best to cheer and distract him.  She wondered ruefully what having two little brothers would be like.

What I've been wondering is how minority parties will fare at general elections if the Alternative Vote wins in the referendum.  I think a lot of people, either from sympathy for a cause or in protest against the mainstream parties, would like to vote for a minority, but knowing it would be a wasted vote, take the sensible option of voting for someone who might actually get in.  But knowing that their vote would be counted again, they might as well give the Greens, the BNP, UKIP or whoever their first vote.  There would be no point at all in giving them second place.  Since none of the main parties is particularly in favour at present (though, of course, who knows what will happen in three or four years?) this could skew the results quite entertainingly.  I haven't heard anyone mention this factor - but I haven't exactly been devouring all the available information and opinions, I admit.

I've had envelopes from both my accountant and the Inland Revenue.  I'm even considering getting my papers together and getting it over and done with.  I'll probably get over the impulse, but I do have that time-on-my hands feeling during the school holidays.  In the evenings, that is.  I'm still hacking at brambles during the day.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Driving - Part 2

T
We have been working on both sides of the lawn.  The wall side, Jamie has almost finished the edging, he's left the end so that the digger can get in.  There's some brick rubble a few inches down which is quite a job to dig out, so we'll take it away by digger and bring in some better soil and some muck.  That's one of the next jobs.  I'm inclined to think that I'll put in annuals this year because I'm not sure how many of the perennial weeds will come up again and it'll be better to be able to dig it over thoroughly at the end of the summer.  I am wondering what I can put in that the chickens won't eat or pull up, and not that hopeful!  He's done more bricks than this actually, I evidently forgot to take a final picture.  At the point he's finished, the bed is about 6 feet wide and increasing.


The other side of the lawn, there used to be a big laurel hedge which was taken out five years ago or so.  I'd spent two decades trying to keep it under control, but it had become so wide that anything less than six feet high looked out of proportion, and at that height it was so strong it grew quicker than I could keep it pruned.  I don't mind losing some of the area to provide more parking space because the original intention of including it in the lawn has been rather thwarted by the chickens.  They are thrilled at the efforts we are making to dig over fresh earth for them, although the ground is so dry that there are not huge numbers of worms.  It's poor sandy soil too.










 My chicken amused herself by hopping back and forth over the trench.

















This is another of the bantams I'm particularly fond of.
Later, several of them were out turning over the soil.
And at lunchtime, several had a dust bath. Yes, this is the edge of the lawn.  Chickens come a long way above grass in order of importance.











The edging looks lower than the ground, but it won't be.  It's the same height as the kerb the other side of the drive, so we'll take some soil away. It will not be used in the garden, as it has ground elder in it.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Hiplog - the check-up

It's fifteen months since my new hip and I went for a check-up to the consultant.  It was a friendly reunion, he is a very nice man.  He immediately  (well, first he greeted me and asked how I and the hip am*) asked if I'm aware of the problems with and recalls of a lot of metal-on-metal hips.  Thanks to Pamela's Hip Headlines, I do indeed.  Several styles are now not used after failures, sometimes quite soon after insertion and they don't use them at all in Norwich, and hadn't done even before the problems were confirmed nationally and internationally.

His next question was whether I had any problems with my other hip and I said I suspect that I'm in the early stage of arthritis there too.  As the x-ray, although of my right side, would show both, he would look at it.

The passageway to the x-ray place is down a slope - I suspect it was originally built with stairs - and I remembered back to when it was so difficult to walk down when I was there in January 2010.  This time, I trotted down speedily and hopped on the bed with agility.  When I went back to see the consultant, he said that the new hip is perfect, and I could see that it was.  Text book stuff.  It looks fine, though I have to say, it's weird to think of that long porcelain spike inside my femur.  I suppose it's that long to add stability.

The other hip, he agreed with my suggestion that I'll need a new one in five or six years.  There's just the start of arthritic wear.  If I hadn't had one, I'd not be aware of such early signs.  He said, I do have unusually shallow sockets - the right one particularly so, which was why it went first, but the other one is shallower than average too.   I'm not thrilled of course, but I'd rather know - my regret is not that I'll need an operation, but for the gradual decline that I can expect to start in about three years time.  We talked it over, fairly briefly as we were in complete agreement, and I said that I'd rather have it done sooner next time.  My doctor had initially suggested waiting until I was over sixty if I could, and I'd got fixed on that - I knew a long time ago that I couldn't wait that long, but I could see the point of hanging on as long as possible, because of future revisions.  The second time, there's no point in waiting and I don't want to be hobbling round with a stick again.  Also, this hip cost around £12,000 all told and I jolly well don't want to damage it by limping heavily with the other leg.

So we shook hands and I thanked him, and he said that when I want to discuss it, to ring the hospital and make an appointment or, if I want to see him on the NHS, to speak to my GP and ask him for a referral.  In any case, he'll take a look at my operated hip in about five years, so the two events might even combine.          


*Slight grammar alert there, but I concluded that now the hip is part of me, I shall treat us as a single entity.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Z is rested and raring

I was sure that you would want to see a picture of my favourite chicken.  She always follows any of us when she sees us going to work in the garden, expecting us to dig over the ground for her and, of course, one cannot disappoint.  She ignored a wireworm however, and I had to despatch it myself.  Maybe they taste bitter. I haven't tried one.  Mind you, I've never eaten a worm, either, and have no plans to.

I was interested to see that they were making croquembouche on Masterchef this evening - and shocked to see Michel Roux blithely using a mould to shape it.  That wasn't what it said in the Cordon Bleu book.  Very much the easy way out.  I gave myself the severest of burns when I first made croquembouche, when I was fourteen, by inadvertently dipping my finger in the caramel.  I admit that, since then, I've used a dab of cream as glue to help the caramel as it sets - but not a stainless steel mould like a witch's hat!

It was interesting to observe myself, now that term is over and I have nothing to organise, that I actually went out with a notebook to discuss what is to happen in the garden and on what timescale.  The Sage, I'm sure, sometimes thinks I spend too much time on other things - but he had a brief taste of me concentrating on what goes on here, and I suspect he'll encourage my outside interests in future.  I actually did a job today (a written one on the computer) that I've been meaning to do for some time, unasked for but that will be beneficial for all concerned, that has seemed far too much bother for the last six months.  I evidently have rested quite enough and need something to do.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Foresight Saga

I did think ahead, although my prescience did not extend this far.

Years ago, before Broadband extended to this village, Ro bought himself a computer to help him with his school work.  It must have been when he was 14 and just starting his GCSE syllabus.  Dial-up was already a slight bone of contention between the Sage and me.  The internet connection was slow of course, and the phone line overrode it.  So, if I'd waited some minutes for a site to load and the Sage, who loves to talk on the telephone, picked up the receiver, I lost the connection even as he said "Sorry!" and hastily put it back down again.  I knew very well that the three of us wanting to use the same line would fall out badly.  I'd have been able to accommodate Ro better than the Sage, because I could do my work while he was at school, but the Sage spent a lot of time on the phone in the evenings and Ro's room was barely within shouting distance (this house rambles almost as much as I do).  So I suggested that we have another phone line for Ro.  We would pay the rental charge and he would pay the call bills.   This saved many an argument, I'm sure, and the arrangement lasted until we got Broadband and we were all able to use the same line concurrently.

The engineer came today and said that new H&S guidelines came into operation on 1st April and he couldn't climb the pole that he needed to get to the top of, and a cherry-picker would be needed.  To start with, he said that it wasn't accessible at all, but then the Sage worked out how it would be, so it was booked for tomorrow morning.  However, the van turned up, with three men and a cherry-picker on board, at lunchtime.  They had a look, but said that the junction box would out of reach - the obvious and easy way would be by ladder and that's what was used.  "Sometimes, you just have to use common sense," the man said.

Our line is no good.  Al and Dilly's, a mere 25 years old, is fine.  So is Ro's line.  So he's used that.  And he says that, from now on, our Broadband connection and speed should be a lot better too.  So we're very happy about it.

The other thing that happened today, the new washing machine was delivered (second attempt) to the flat in London.  They successfully managed to get it upstairs, a beastly job I'm sure, and in place, and the old one down again, but the hole for the pipe from the machine into the cupboard under the sink is slightly smaller than the new pipe.  I have no idea why they couldn't just enlarge it, but they couldn't.  However, my lovely tenant is willing to do it, and they have shown him how to couple it up and test it.  Embarrassingly, it seems, because they couldn't do the final fixing, I will be refunded my £25 installation fee, which was a massive bargain for that particular job anyway.  I'm so glad that I texted James to ask him to give them a tip each.  And I think that the next time I visit the flat, I shall leave a bottle of wine for him.  Still a bargain price.  Can you imagine having to get in a plumber, pay his call-out, get a train to London to let him in?  I shall have to spend a great deal in John Lewis in future in conscience money, and certainly all equipment for the flats will be bought from their Brent Cross branch.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Stupid bird

I'm feeling quite jolly, for no particular reason except that I'm ticking things off my 'to do' list.  It's a mental list, it's a sign things are getting on top of me if I write it down.

They are coming tomorrow morning to check the phones again.  Some wiring has been replaced, but maybe it all should be.  About 12 - 15 years ago, a lightning strike fried the phone line from the telegraph pole right back to the exchange and right down to our phones, all of which had to be replaced, and our phone was off for three weeks.  There is a suggestion that the damaged lines have finally given out.  In the meantime, my mobile is being used as a landline substitute again, which is a blessed nuisance.  I had to pull over to answer the phone three times on the way to Norwich again and once on the way back, all calls for the Sage.  He, I should say, rang up to complain this morning.  Later, I rang to sort it out.  His call had not been down as registering a fault, so I'm not sure what happened.  He doesn't always explain things in the most logical manner which, I'm afraid, I have told him more than twice.  Anyway, phone calls are being diverted to my phone again.  We've just had one from New Zealand.  I don't like to think what that is costing, but we don't count the cost of friendship, hey.

I think that I've finally put the school governor work to sleep for the moment - that is, replies I'll get to my last epistle will engender a response, but it'll be straightforward.  I've still got write-ups from classroom visits to do, but I have all the notes.  I have vague hopes of gardening between now and Easter, but not getting too worked up about it.

Oh, this morning's mini-drama was being woken up by, apparently, a gravel delivery lorry.  I got up and peered out of the window and nothing was about.  Then I heard loud scrabbling from the chimney.  A largish bird had fallen down it.  I grumpily retreated to bed for another hour, and eventually removed the chest of drawers and the sheet of board that covers the fireplace, and left the window open, all but one curtain drawn and the door closed.  Later, I went back and a dove was sitting in the fireplace, but it flew up the chimney, stupid bird.  Later again, I heard a racket from the bedroom and went to find it flying about.  I couldn't chivvy it to the window, so opened the other window and waved my arms a bit, and eventually the stupid bird flew out.  The chimney pot is 6 foot tall, it's no easy matter to cap it.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The eyes have it

I couldn't sleep last night, the usual result of an early (11pm) night - why do I never learn? and it occurred to me that gently stroking my eyelid might send the lens downward.  It didn't.  And, after a while, it further occurred to me that I might make it inflamed, so I stopped.  I went to the early service, came home, cooked the Sage and me poached eggs and I came to sit down and check emails.  I peered into a mirror, lifting my eyelid, and there was my lens!  It slid out easily, undamaged, as was my eye*.  I put it to clean for an hour - because I was due to play the organ at the next service, and have to wear a lens for that.  Yes, I will buy a new pair of glasses.  I tried my old ones, but I seem to have dropped and driven on them once too often, and they are decidedly misshapen, and very scratched, and no good at all.

I had some fairly vital documents to deal with, but I've done that and now feel that I can relax.  I've got quite a lot to do, but nothing to worry about.  It's a great relief not to have deadlines looming.  Apart from the party, that is.  I'm afraid you're all going to be sadly disappointed by my vegetable garden, which seems not to be happening this year.  However, at least, the next plan is to do a proper invitation with a link to my email so that I can send you my address.  I'm so looking forward to seeing you - well, some of you - that is, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone that can come, and very sorry that not all of you can.  But if you're hesitating, I assure you that lots of us won't have met each other before and that blogmeets are fun and not intimidating at all, although everyone** will feel a bit nervous.  But that means that we're all at an equal disadvantage, so it's all right.

Broadband has been up and down like a tart's drawers, and the telephone has gone down again, so I'll have to phone the service people tomorrow unless it's magically put itself right again.  Fortunately, the Sage has made and received all sale-related calls, so it's not too vital for the next few days.  And there's always the iPhone.

*which did not slide out, obv.  Really, darling.  Don't be absurd.

**Dave assures me he will not be nervous at all and that we can all rely on him to make the party go with a swing.  So that's all right, then.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Break a leg

It has been a very pleasant and relaxing day.  The Sage has spent much of it on the phone, giving sale results to sellers, commission-bid buyers and friends.  Weeza stayed overnight, with Zerlina next door with her cousins, and we all had a late breakfast together.  Mid-morning, Phil arrived on his bike - he'd gone down to Ipswich last night to meet up with friends from where he used to work, and stayed overnight with one of them about 20 miles from here.  They all went off about noon, little z already rubbing her eyes and looking sleepy, as did Barry Bear who was snuggling up to her.

I slept myself this afternoon.  It was lovely.  I stretched out on the sofa in the sunshine and napped for twenty minutes or so.  I'd have slept longer, but the phone rang.  I'd phoned a friend of mine earlier on, in fact.  I'd heard yesterday, from mutual friends, that she is in hospital.  When I saw her a couple of weeks ago, she was waiting for an x-ray.  She'd been to the doctor because she was in pain and could hardly walk.  He thought it was a groin strain and she waited for it to get better, then went to a physiotherapist who thought it wasn't a strain and thought it might be an arthritic hip.  The pain can come on very suddenly.  She went back to the doctor - she could hardly walk, and not without a stick - and he booked the x-ray, although he still didn't think it was arthritis.  It took a fortnight for her to get it, and the morning after, her doctor rang her.  "I'm sending an ambulance," he said.  "You've been walking around with a broken hip!" She has no idea how she did it, though she does remember stumbling and turning her ankle - still, quite a shock to find that something so trivial can result in a broken bone and a replacement hip.  Unfortunately, she then developed a blood clot and now is on Warfarin and not allowed out of hospital until they're sure she's over that.  She lives alone since her husband died, so will have to go to a convalescent home until she can look after herself.

She was in high good humour when I phoned, and told me all this without a hint of self-pity.  The final straw, she chuckled, was when she developed an itch on her leg and they said she has shingles to boot.  "I'm being fed calcium tablets for my bones - I've never had such marvellously strong nails!" she told me.  I said I'll call in and see her on Monday.

I've been remembering a couple of occasions when dogs of ours got grass seeds behind their eyes.  In each case, a long rye grass seed head vanished completely, and was only discovered when it started to poke out again.  They were much bigger and jagged foreign bodies, and yet seemed to do the dog no harm at all.  My contact lens hasn't reappeared, but is certainly still there as I can feel it, but my eye isn't red or inflamed.  If it doesn't come out by Monday morning, I'll go to the optician.  I expect it will, though.  I mean, it hasn't anywhere else to go.  Unless I blow my nose, of course.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Eyeless in Zedza

It's been the oddest day.  I can't really tell you about the morning, but something cropped up urgently around 9.30 that meant that it was just as well that I'd got well sorted in auction preparations the previous night, at a time when my eyesight, co-ordination and concentration were barely up to it, because I suddenly found myself with a lot of extra work to do.  However, I got it done.  I don't think that I've let anything go so far, although there is still more to do.    Deadline is Thursday.  I'll be done well before then.

Weeza came over during the morning and then to  Lowestoft with us in the late morning.  We were set up for the sale in time to stop for lunch.  I'd made a lot of rolls, filled with ham, salt beef or cheese and tomato or cucumber, and the rest of the food was unashamed junk.  The shopping is slightly embarrassing, I buy a load of crisps, biscuits, cakes, soft drinks, that normally never darken the door.  But we need fuel that's easy to eat and drink and gives quick energy, and that's that.

All went fine during the view and the sale, I don't need to go through it all.  I'm pleased to say that Weeza managed a decent nap in the bar during the afternoon, and I rested for a while and ate enough - years ago, I kept working through and then found myself getting dizzy.  Not good, when you're handling thousands of pounds-worth of china that doesn't belong to you.  Ever since, I have eaten regularly and rested when possible.  But around 5 pm, a problem developed.  My eyes must have become quite dry, and when I blinked, my contact lens (I only use one) blinked to the back and didn't return.  It was okay, I was fine with short sight and only distance was difficult.  However, it's still there, at the back of my eyeball.  I tried various things to bring it back, then and since getting home, and it hasn't worked yet,  Since the only way of getting professional assistance is to get someone to drive me to A&E, over half an hour away, wait for several hours and then undergo an unpleasant procedure, I will wait for it to shift.  It will.  But I'm mightily fed up.  If it's sore in the morning, I don't need to wear a lens, I don't need to drive and can manage without otherwise.  I can drive without, but that's borderline and it's better to be sure of the right side.

Still unwinding, darlings.  Years ago,I could be excited all evening, get home, go to bed and sleep at once.  Not now.  I have to relax first.  But it's fine, I allow for it.  85% capacity gives an allowance.  Don't plan 100%.  Keep capacity in hand.

If that sodding lens shifts, be assured that I will tell you.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Driving - Part 1

It occurs to me that *of course* you'll want to know about our latest project.  Our drive is 100 metres or so long, or maybe 100 yards, I haven't measured, and then it forks around the small lawn, meeting up in a wider area by the two houses and several outbuildings.  This latter area is gravelled and the rest covered with tarmac (whilst there may be no nouns that can't be verbed, I couldn't decide on the correct spelling of the past tense of 'to tarmac').  It is at least 40 years since this was last top-dressed, and for the past 25 has had a Calor Gas lorry driving on it regularly, which is slightly wider than the present drive.  Then there are tree roots that have lifted it in places, and we agreed last summer that we needed to get it redone.  The heavy frosts of last winter were the clincher.

Whilst we're about it, we'll widen it a bit.  Partly to make it better for larger vehicles and partly because we've got absurdly little parking, considering the space there is. A few years ago, I tackled a very overgrown hedge around the lawn and took out a lot of it, including a very thick, tall laurel hedge and some long-dead hawthorn which was surrounded by scrubby lilac - I was sorry to lose the lilac, but there was more on the South side of the lawn.  The plan had been to incorporate these areas into the lawn, but grass has never had a chance to grow because the chickens scratch it out.  So, instead, we're incorporating those parts into the gravelled area.

Jamie, our new gardener, has a nephew and a brother-in-law (not father and son) who will do the job, each having their own business.  The first part is to clear the edges of the drive ready for widening.  Then we need a foundation for the gravel or tarmac to go on.  We are putting in edging so that the grass doesn't come back on to the drive.

The end of the drive is also an issue, where it meets the road.  There is a drain with a soakaway, but there used to be three flowering cherries, which the Sage's parents put in to commemorate their 40th wedding anniversary in 1967.  Over the years, the roots grew into and cracked the drain, and also the soakaway didn't have a trap for debris to fall into, so it's always easily blocked.  The trees are gone for some years - one died and the others were not going to be far behind.  That will all have to be dealt with at the same time.

At the end, of course, Alan will come along to do the top dressing of tar and chippings and we'll have some deliveries of gravel to tidy up at the house end.  It mustn't be too deep or it'll be awkward for Dilly to push the pram on.

Here are a few pictures.  The rough grass at the base of the wall is going to be a flower bed.  There had been an umbrella pine which was cut down a while ago and now we're digging the stump out.  The final photo shows where the gas tanker has encroached on the verge and broken up the tarmac.





Wednesday, 6 April 2011

And so to Zed

I'll have to tell you about last night another day, I'm going to bed soon and I'm too tired to write.  It all went well today, except that they decided that a third person was needed to get the washing machine up the stairs, so I've had to make another appointment.  The very pleasant chap on the phone said he couldn't do a two-hour slot for a three-man appointment, so it would be between 7am and 3pm.  I said I had a two and a half hour trip and he very kindly has booked it for 10.30 - 3 instead.  However, I've just had a text from my tenant, and he is offering to be home on Tuesday so I don't have to be there at all.  That is enormously kind of him and I'll take him up on the offer.

It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny.  The courtyard at the V&A was delightful - if you haven't been there, there's a large, shallow pool in a grassed courtyard, and people are allowed to paddle.  One little girl, fully clothed, was completely immersed and having a great time.  I haven't been there for several years, and the jewellery gallery is new since I was last there.  Very impressive, whole lots of bling!

Our timed entry to the Aesthetic Movement exhibition was too late for me, I had to get on to the appointment at the flat, but fortunately someone else was happy to take my ticket, so I'll be reimbursed.  I said to the friend who organised the visit, let me know if it's something I shouldn't miss and I'll go again another time.

I had a long time to wait at the station, a couple of hours - I was already getting tired and couldn't be bothered to go anywhere else, so fetched my pre-booked ticket from the machine, read the paper, went and got some food and just waited.  The train left on time, but was delayed by a freight train running late and we had to slow down several times, with the result that we were nearly 15 minutes late getting back.  No one's fault, but it was the last straw to my tired back.  Still, James' text has cheered me up.  And the Sage made me coffee.

Tomorrow, I'm interviewing a prospective caretaker and later have a meeting with the Head.  Then, although the end of term is Friday, I won't be in that day as it's our auction.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Z and the Sage are very happy

The phone is not repaired, but this is not the fault of the repair man, a cheerful chap named Mitchell.  It was very lucky, because I should have been out all day but I'd received several phone calls on my mobile for the Sage (which I wasn't able to take) and so I popped home at lunchtime to tell him about them and ask him to ring back.  He wasn't there,  but while I was, the BT van arrived and I was able to let Mitchell in the house.  As I didn't have long to spare, I went next door to ask Al if he could come through, ready to lock up when the job was done.  I was quite surprised to arrive home again a couple of hours later to find him still there.

It turns out that the box inside the house needs to be replaced, which he's done, the line across the field is in poor condition and there is also a fault on the junction box in the lane the other side of the field.  He will have to come back tomorrow with ladders and more equipment to finish the repair.  The Sage is taking me to Norwich but will be back before 8 o'clock, so that's all right, and he won't need to work inside the house much of the time anyway.

The internet has been up and down again, but so it has been at the school two miles away, so I doubt we're the only ones.

I've had  a lovely time tonight, but I'll tell you about that tomorrow because it's late and I'm going to bed in a minute.  What I will tell you is our other good news, that I mentioned a week or two back as a possibility and a hope - that we have a gardener.  This is someone we have very much wanted to work for us for a long time, but it relied on him deciding to become self-employed.  He mentioned the likelihood a couple of weeks ago and we immediately offered him two days a week.  He will probably want to do some winter seasonal work, but that's okay with us - we'd honour the two days all year round, but don't really need it all winter.  This will be an enormous help to us, the garden and grounds are far more than we can manage and he doesn't mind what he turns his hand to and will do any odd jobs or anything we need.  It's brilliant, and he's a really good friend too.  We've been to each other's birthday parties, he and his wife were guests at Weeza's wedding, and he's someone we would turn to if in trouble.  Most recently, it was he we asked to help us dig Tilly's grave.  That sort of true and practical friend.

So darlings, when you come here in less than four weeks' time, you won't actually have to hack your way through brambles.

Monday, 4 April 2011

School dinners

I have always thought of my great-grandmother as a redoubtable woman.  Not that I have any reason, except that she was evidently proud of her Scottish heritage, because her first son (after whom my Ro is named) had a Gaelic name and her second, my grandfather, was educated in Scotland, rather than at the English public school of her husband's family.

I thought of this because a friend enthused, by text, about his first taste of venison today.  I enjoy venison too, but I never tasted it while my father was alive.  He couldn't bear it, and for a perfectly good reason.  At his school, near Perth, venison was a regular addition to the winter menu.  The local laird, generously, used to send deer as a gift, and the headmaster liked it high.  It was hung for quite some time, and apparently the school reeked of strong meat by the time it came to be cooked.  My father never developed a taste for it, and never ate it again.

The Sage, similarly, has had a lifetime aversion to celery.  His headmaster loved celery soup and a great deal of the vegetable was grown in the school kitchen garden.  You would hardly think that celery would influence someone's tastes that badly, but the Sage never puts any on his plate.  I do use it in soups and casseroles, but always judiciously so that the flavour does not predominate, and he likes my cooking, so he accepts it quite graciously.

I don't think I've got any food hang-ups.  My mother hated parsnips with a passion, but I don't.  I had a bad experience with jugged hare once and have never tried it since, but I suspect that was the cook rather than the hare at fault.  When young, I wasn't fond of gin, but I grew out of that a long time ago.  I'm not thrilled by cooked bananas, but that doesn't mean I can't eat them.  I deal with offal, stinky cheese and interesting flavours with enthusiasm, although I'm not altogether enamoured of the more snot-like consistency of some Chinese food, particularly the soups.  Still, nothing I can't handle.

My great-grandmother's name was Grace, by the way.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Z is back on line

I have no idea why my internet connection returned of its own accord when the phone still doesn't work, but I'm glad it did.  At least I've been able to email out all the papers I actually had worked on, but it was probably assumed I was making excuses about.  I don't do that - if I haven't done the work I say so.  Although I usually have, if a bit last-minute.

Mind you, my definition of last-minute isn't really right up to the wire.  i plan a day in hand for unexpected problems, and I include a few intentions that I know can be jettisoned if necessary. It helps, of course, that I have extremely low standards, so that I'm quite satisfied with a level of doneness that probably would be the starting point for most people.

We had a very jolly meal together, all eleven of us, to celebrate Al's birthday yesterday, Weeza's tomorrow and Mothers' Day today.  I haven't felt tired in the least and my cold suddenly left me this evening, so I'm going to put yesterday's lassitude down to not breathing properly for several days.  I should say, I hardly ever feel in the least ill  - the occasional cold or whatever excepted - and am lucky enough to be really healthy, as is the Sage.  The last year has been wonderful for me and I've appreciated every day since my hip operation.  It was only once I recovered from it that I realised for how long it had held me back, particularly in the final year or so when I was aware of every step I took and its discomfort.  Even so, I was grateful that it was just physical wear to a replaceable joint, not illness and not something I had to bear forever.  So take no notice if I whinge, I don't really mean it.

I'm sorry, I'm terribly dull tonight.  I shall try to sparkle tomorrow.  Um.  Okay.  Goodnight, darlings.  I'll have to backdate this to before midnight again.  Whoops.  Time for bed.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Zzzzz, mostly

I'm not sure what went awry today. I woke up and lay feeling tired for a while, then the Sage brought me a cup of tea and said he was going out, I fell asleep again and resurfaced to find it was ten to ten, and I was supposed to be in the church at ten o'clock helping to make posies. Surprising how quickly you can be dressed and ready when you need to be. I considered going out without make-up until I looked in the mirror. Frankly, dreadful.

I called to say hello to Gill and Andy afterwards. They have moved house, to just round the corner. This will be much better for him as it's a bungalow and there is no step so he can get out easily. He's walking a lot better, but needs a wheelchair to go any distance. It's half the size of their last house, they've some adjusting to do, but they won't be short of friends dropping in!

After lunch, I was exhausted again and slept for ages. I don't know how long, between one and two hours. I have no idea why, I've had a cold all week but there's been nothing out of the ordinary. After that, I made cakes - butterfly buns - and we took them through to say Happy Birthday to Al. Thirty-five, blimey.

The Sage misses his laptop dreadfully. He only uses it for the Internet. Without it, he is having to talk to me. But, after all these years, what more is there to say? He was pleased about the cakes though.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Quack wobble

I'm afraid that our Internet connection has gone down too, now. So I'm reduced to the phone on a slow connection. A lot of websites aren't very geared up to mobile phone use and it takes a long time to get anything done. I have really been quite frustrated and felt rather the fool of April.

Still, happy birthday to my friends Avril and Jo, neither of whom is likely to read this, and things improved this evening when I went out with Al, Dilly and Squiffany to a fundraiser at the village school. We had a good time (you may work out from the heading the sort of evening it was, perhaps?) and I won an Easter egg and Squiff won a chocolate cow and some Body Shop fripperies.

The phone and broadband won't be back on until Tuesday. I've had incoming calls transferred to my mobile - my just deserts for enjoying peace and quiet, I suppose. The company I use has much better reception than the Sage's here, which I hadn't realised when I took out his contract, so it makes sense for my phone to be used. I shall be sweet and adorable and leave it with him, if possible, when I'm out.

I may not be visiting much, however, as a consequence. Sorry, everyone.