Thursday, 28 February 2013

Tentative cheer and huzzah for friendship

Things are a bit better today - that is, I took Gill to see Andy and he's a lot better.  Fortunately, his vasculitis has not flared up and the chest infection is responding to antibiotics and he was able to chat to us.  And the little boy is responding to treatment too.  Because I took Gill, I didn't see my friend in Norwich (Andy is in Gallstone Hospital) but will try to call in tomorrow.

This morning, I met a friend for coffee and we chewed the fat for nearly two hours.  I come to value my women friends more and more - I always have of course, but I've always been reticent and self-sufficient for most of my life.  When a group of friends got together to dish the dirt, talk frankly about their lives and so on, I was the quiet one, and I didn't search out a confidante either.  But over the past few years I've changed a fair bit, realised that being reticent can look like being unfriendly and being incurious can look as if I don't care.  So I've become increasingly open, both to speak and to listen, and the kindness and love that I've often felt has been incalculable.  M and I talked and later G and I talked, nothing startling but in both cases mutually supportive.

And while I'm being soppy (I'm not really, I'm quite chipper tonight), thank you too, those who are so often absolutely lovely to me.  I do appreciate it.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Oh dear.  Things seem to be awry at the moment - not here, but amongst friends.  A good friend, whom I've been on holiday with several times, is very ill with duodenal cancer - she's had some time in remission, but this period ended before Christmas - Andy isn't at all well, two other dear and elderly friends are in abruptly failing health and the grandson of another friend, a little boy of seven, is in hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy as a complication of a chest infection.  And one of the hairdressers at the salon I go to has just had to have her 8-month-old puppy put down as the result of an accident: he was hit by a car.  And an old blog friend has said that his marriage has ended, sadly but inevitably.

We're fine, though I had a frustrated afternoon searching for an important piece of paper that I'd put in a safe place.  I know, fatal.  I have got it now though, finally.  I've got to use it now to do some writing, so I mustn't be long here.  Admin problems are put into perspective by far more serious and distressing things happening around us.

To end on a more cheerful note, my hairdresser is expecting her first baby in June and is very happy about it.  She's only planning to take eight weeks off, but it's her own salon and the self-employed can't let go the reins for long.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

News in moderately brief

1 Well, the Sage did get up this morning and took Ben for a walk, though it wasn't until nearly 8 o'clock.  I took advantage however and had a lie-in, though I didn't go back to sleep.  And later, Weeza rang to ask if I was happening to plan to go to Norwich this afternoon, because Zerlina's after-school childminder has the awful chest infection and bronchitis that I did (I reckon I had a mild dose, so many people are really ill).  I said, of course, that it would be a great pleasure to look after z for a few hours.  And so it was.  Darling little girl, she was lovely.  And I did a couple of odd jobs to save Weeza's time (or Phil's) in the evening, clearing and restacking the dishwasher and sorting and folding the dried laundry.  I asked what z had learned at school today that she hadn't known this morning, and she said that they had been taught about road safety.  So I suggested that she'd show me how to cross the road safely, which she did.  We'd just gained the kerb when a car came round the corner.  I asked her (knowing it wasn't entirely fair, she wouldn't have been told about it) what would happen if a car came round the corner when we were halfway across the road?  She considered the matter and told me that we'd both be run over and squashed flat.

2 Although I have hardly been to the cinema for several years, Elle's fine influence means that I've seen four of the films that won awards at the Oscars.  That is, Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Skyfall.

3 Today there were the interviews for the new Rector.  Only one candidate, he and his wife are very likeable.  However, since it's considerate if he's successful for his parishes to know about it first, we won't be told for a while.  I suppose, if he isn't, we'll be told sooner.

4 I didn't arrive home until five to seven, but had dinner on the table by twenty past.  Simple mind you, sea bass, french beans and fried potatoes, the last taking the longest of course, since I had to peel and parboil them to start with.  I'm afraid there were awful air miles in the beans, but Tim had bought a boxful and, since the air miles had happened, my concern is to help Tim sell them all - that is, by buying some, because I know that he has to sell nearly all to make any profit at all.  Zerlina had pasta, ham, cheese, cucumber and red pepper for her tea.  And grapes.  I was going to give her spaghetti bolognaise, but she chose the cheese and ham instead.  Obviously, if I'd been cooking for the family, she'd have eaten what everyone else had, just in case you're wondering.

5 I wore a dress for the first time since we've been looking after Ben.  Every other day, I've worn jeans with increasingly muddy bottoms.  I mean bottoms of the legs of course, not bum level.  That isn't muddy.  It's not that it's warmer, just that I was being a bit sociable at lunchtime.  Tomorrow, I shall have my hair cut.  Jolly good, it grows surprisingly quickly and, although I rarely look in the mirror, I'm generally aware that I look a bit haphazard and scruffy much of the time.  I did get around to putting my rings on this morning though.  I take the view that a bit of bling takes the eye from my lack of personal grooming.  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Take five

Five things

1 Ben barked at 4 am.  I came down and let him out, he lifted his leg against a tree for some time, so needed to go.  However, when he barked again at 7 and I came down again (I'd still been awake at 6, and hadn't slept at all until after 2), he just wanted to play.  The Sage slept through it all.

2 I cooked him* a massive marrow bone on Saturday, gave it to him today and he was thrilled with it and spent a long time gnawing it out in the passageway.  The carpet out there is now rather greasy, but it's nasty old carpet tiles, only still there because they are so easy to lift and wash.  Ten years ago, my mother couldn't understand why I didn't get something better, but they're dirt-coloured and so useful.

3 The Sage has started buying me flowers.  It's been tulips the last couple of weeks and today he brought carnations, freesias and pink roses.  Very charming of him, but quite disconcerting after all these years.

4 I opened a bottle of red wine which had lost its label.  I found that the cork was marked La Croix St André Lalande-de-Pomerol 1979.  It is delicious.  Just as well I hadn't realised, I'd have saved it for a special occasion which might never arise.

5 I made soup of onion, celery and potato flavoured with cumin seeds, cooked in vegetable stock and milk.  It was very good.  And we had sausages too.  We'd had bacon and eggs for lunch, I'm going for lot of walks and am permanently cold as a result.

*Ben, not the Sage

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Z sits back and watches television

I've finally realised why Ben is very like, but also very unlike Chester to look at.  He's like Chester in middle age, ten or so, not as he was as a young dog.  Chester was very skinny and whippy, it was the setter in him, and he was darker too when he was young.  Ben is much chunkier, though he's little more than a pup.

The Sage got up to use the loo at 6.30, which woke Ben and he barked to go out.  So I - yes, darlings, the Sage was ruthless about it - got up and walked into town rather earlier than expected.  It's not very far, not quite a mile and a half.

News about Ben's owners - Gill is finding it much easier to get about the bungalow using Andy's wheelchair and not trying to hop around with a walking frame.  Andy isn't too well, having developed an infection.  His health is precarious and Gill asked the nurse to contact his consultant rather than just give antibiotics, which might not be appropriate.  When she said the full name of his specific condition - a three-word phrase which I've forgotten - it was clear that the nurse wasn't familiar with it (not surprising, it's very rare) and was taking the situation seriously.

I've not done a stroke of work the last week.  I'll be sorry any day when it all catches up with me, but right now I'm feeling very okay about it.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Forty times Z

I also offered to write up the church rota for the next three months, which I used to do but is now Andy's job.  Sadly, there are so few of us now to do the necessary jobs that my first draft has my name down forty times.  Someone else is down fifteen times, another eleven and another three.  That's everything except the readings on Easter Sunday and the flowers, which I have a feeling will be done between two of us for the most part.  I should add that I'm waiting to hear back from two others and I expect they will take on a few readings, at least.  I'm down so often because, whatever else I do, I'll be playing the music until Andy is able to take his turn again.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but our Rector left last autumn to take on a new parish.  Apparently, we have a candidate for the appointment and we're meeting him or her on Monday - I'm not very involved in church things, whatever it looks like, so the news has just caught up with me and I've been invited along (as has the Sage, but he has another engagement).  I don't really approve of the way church appointments are made.  The Bishop chooses the short list, which often comprises one candidate, then there's an interview, but it's very much a supervised affair, so the churchwardens and other interested people don't really have a free hand.  And, not seeing the applications, one isn't given background knowledge and there might be reasons for putting someone forward for a post that don't put the parish first.  I'm sure the Bishop tries very hard to put a round peg in a round hole, but more openness would be better, not least because plans could be made for mutual support before problems arise - which usually result in parishioners having found another church to attend or opted out altogether.  Of course it can work the other way and a successful minister gives a feeling of spiritual and/or practical support and encouragement, which brings more people in.  It's not just a matter of bums on pews, but if someone comes along once in a while, they're quite sniffy if there aren't fresh flowers, a warm church and an equally warm welcome, with a tidy and well-mown churchyard to boot, even if they never give time or money towards providing or supporting them.  Right now, we only have one service a month when we can be sure of having double figures in the congregation, and then there are often at least forty - but it's a family do, very informal, we serve breakfast first and, although the people who come love it, they wouldn't come every week because young families are busy on a Sunday.  And most of the older people - except for a few who come with their grandchildren - don't like it at all.  I don't mind, but I'm easy-going, and even I don't feel as if I've been to church.  Anyway, tomorrow I'll be reading the lessons at the short formal service beforehand, helping with coffee and breakfast and then playing the clarinet.  And you'll notice I've not mentioned God at all.  Nor am I going to.

If you've lasted this far, Ben is getting on very well.  His main fault is pulling hard on the lead, so I went and bought a Halti, which my mother found was marvellous with her dogs.  And it did stop him pulling, but he hated it and spent a fair bit of time trying to get it off him.  So later, just taking him for a quick trot round the village, I didn't have the heart to put it on him and, instead, used Tilly's extending lead, and that worked pretty well too.  Whichever I find is best, I hope to have him a lot more controllable by the time he goes back home - Gill is going to be quite nervous of walking him for a while.   He's pretty well behaved otherwise and has an exceptionally sweet nature.  I'll walk him into the town in the morning to fetch the Sunday papers, unless the weather is awful.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The lodger

Well, I gave it a bit of thought yesterday evening and asked the Sage if he'd mind if we offered to look after the dog until Andy is better.  He agreed at once, and this morning I had a text from Gill to say that she's broken her fibula, so I replied at once suggesting that we have Ben for the duration and she was relieved to agree.

And here he is.  Yes, the bit of mud on the carpet is from his paw.

It'll be for a couple of months and yes, before you say anything, we may end up with him.  I know that Gill finds him far too much, but they got him for Andy so it'll be up to him.  So for now, we're looking after him and will do so for as long as needed.

He looks very like Chester actually.  A bit heavier-built and not quite so red - Chester was an Irish setter/bearded collie cross and was more orange than copper-coloured.  I'm making it clear that I'm pack leader and he's really being very good (although he just peed on the rug, not having asked to go out).  He'll need a fair bit of exercise, I can see that I'm going to get fit whether I want to or not.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

It never rains but...

Sometimes, it seems as if someone's luck has simply run out.  You remember my friend who, while on holiday a couple of years ago, became terribly ill and finally came home by air ambulance?  The hospital in Madeira treated him with antibiotics which nearly killed him and he was finally diagnosed with vasculitis, had to give up work (and so did his wife, to look after him) and he is permanently disabled, although he's come on very well since his diagnosis.

We went to his 60th birthday party last Saturday - they moved from a large house to a smaller bungalow just round the corner from us.  And I've just heard that he has had a fall and broken his ankle.  This is pretty serious of course because he now has terribly poor circulation.  In addition, he mustn't put weight on it but he hasn't the strength in his arms to bear his weight on crutches.  Even worse, his wife has hurt her own ankle while walking their dog, a young and boisterous golden retriever.

I've phoned and left a message - she's probably at the hospital.  I've offered to walk the dog for as long as necessary.  I don't mean one long walk, obv, but to take dog walking off their hands.  Or feet.  Oh dear.  Poor loves.  It's terribly worrying.

Update - have spoken to friend near Canterbury.  She has also had a fall, hurt her knee, which joint she had replaced a couple of years ago and landed smack on her face, which is a bit of a mess.  I've offered to go and fetch her, but she thinks she'll be okay.

If you have blessings, count 'em tonight, darlings.  

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Today's quick fiver

Busy today, so five things -

1 We got up late so had to scramble to be ready to leave the house before ten for our meeting with the accountant, but arrived with two minutes to spare

1 We had a very useful meeting and have made constructive plans for our financial future

3 I went to fill the car and stopped at precisely £50, as intended

4 I cooked bacon, egg and tomato for lunch

5 The fire is drawing really well today, there's a log blazing splendidly in the grate

Sounds as if it's been a good day so far - and yes, it has.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ztiff upper lip

I did go and look after Gus for the day.  He was better, but not right - temperature down but pale with shadows under his eyes.  Still, he was smiling and eating bread and Marmite when I arrived, so that was a big improvement on the day before.  Weeza had a very busy day at work, so it was a good job she went in - she works for someone who owns a great deal of land, including let cottages, farms and a business, and her job is managing the estate lettings etc. and being his PA - as it would have been very tricky for anyone else who didn't know the ropes.

There was quite a hard air frost this morning and the Sage cleared the windscreen of ice, then I did, then I had to stop halfway down the drive and clear it again as it froze as I drove.  It froze again in patches, but by sitting straight and tall I was able to look through a clear patch, and of course the de-mister sorted it out after a couple of miles.  Tall is a relative term of course, as you'll know if you've met me.  At least, with five grandchildren under 8 and Dora in the family (Dora is teeny as well as adorable), I'm no longer the shortest.

By lunchtime, Gus had perked up enough to eat a good helping of cucumber and red pepper while the pasta was cooking, which I served with pesto stirred in and grated cheese on top.  I know, darlings, the mark of the middle classes - indeed, I couldn't find the grater (turned out to be in the dishwasher) and so I shaved the cheese with the potato peeler, which is even worse.  Then he ate fromage frais and half a banana.  Which went further down the same route, but indicated he'd eaten a good lot overall,.  Then we went for a walk.  There's a nice little wood near their house, which I hadn't known about before.  Gus walked quite a long way, but if I held his hand he would suddenly pretend to stumble in a "Vic, I've fallen" way (which will only mean anything to you if you watched Vic Reeves' Big Night Out some 20 years ago.) and want to be stood up again, which was not amusing for me for quite as long as it was for him.  Eventually, I put him in his pushchair and in due course he fell asleep.  Sadly, he didn't stay asleep when I put him in his cot at home, but he was very good, only flagging for a bit at about 4.30.  I gave him bread and water, it seemed to do the trick.  I'd sung to him too, which he bore patiently.  I can hold a tune, though listeners sometimes mistake the tune I'm holding, but I'm no singer.  Nursery rhymes and music hall songs are mainly my repertoire, though I know quite a lot of tunes that I don't remember more words of than the first line.  Not only does it not interest me, but I can't hit the high notes, so am useless as there are gaps.*

He was a very good and loving little boy and, when I picked him up, he put his arms round me and hugged me tightly, making the hard carapace round my old and withered heart crack with love and almost soften.  So it's just as well that Weeza isn't working tomorrow, because I need to keep my defences up and two days could make me an emotional heap of affection.

*The alternative is singing alto.  'Nuff said.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Z thinks about springing into action

Today, we both slept through the alarm and I was half awake when my phone rang at ten past nine.  Better not keep that up or we'll sleep our lives away.  The Sage stayed in bed in fact, for another hour, though I got up and on with the day.

Weeza sent a text to say that Gus has a temperature and is still asleep, so she's had to take the day off work.  He's been under the weather but we hoped he was just teething.  I'm supposed to be in Norwich tomorrow, but if he's still not well I'll cancel and go and look after him instead.

Spring must be arriving because I've an urge to do some gardening.  This is quite disconcerting.  However, I might as well act on it.  In the first place, we need to consider what to do with the bantams. They've been completely free-range for the past couple of years and I've loved having them run up to the door every time I go out, but I'm afraid it's going to have to change.  They ruin the lawn: where I took out the old hedge, grass has never been able to grow because they scratch it up and they make holes in the lawn for their dust baths in the summer.  And they lay away and we hardly have any eggs at all.  So the Sage has gradually inveigled them into the big greenhouse and they're living there, nearly all of them, at present.  This can't last much longer of course, they'll be too hot as soon as the weather improves.

So, what we're talking about is maybe giving over half the kitchen garden to them.  I can't grow much, I haven't time for it all.  We've got the bungalow garden to look after now, and there's already more than we can do.  But I don't want to grow no vegetables at all, it's what I enjoy growing most of all, being greedy and fond of fresh vegetables.  So if we put some wire up, we can restrict them to some of the veg plot and they can roost in the greenhouse.  I don't need a 40 foot greenhouse at the moment, or at least I can do without the watering of it.  I'll still have the other greenhouse.  That is, we've two others, but one is derelict, I'm afraid.  We need to take a good look at it and see if we're going to resurrect it or not.  I used to have all of them full of plants and manage to find time for all the work too, but now it's not time so much as energy and determination.  I've lost interest.  And there's no point anyway, what would I do with half a dozen cucumbers, a couple of pounds of beans and far too many peas and courgettes, every day?  The picking of them would be a burden, even if I give them away.  I'm no good at the thing of sowing a pinch of everything each week, growing a sensible amount that we can cope with.  It doesn't suit me.  I do it on a bigger scale or not at all.  You've got to work with the kind of person you are, or can adapt yourself to be.

In other news...I've bought new telephones which have caller ID on them (that is, they'll be delivered within the next hour).  And from now on, the rule will be only to pick up the phone if we know who's on the other end, or at least if there's a number showing.  If someone is ex-directory, they'll have to leave a message and we'll phone them back.  There are so many cold calls, the Telephone Preference Service doesn't work any longer and I'm heartily fed up with it.  They always come at the most inconvenient times, and however terse one is in saying no thanks, it's a nuisance.  Mind you, the Sage will find it hard to resist.  He loves the telephone.

In other other news, it's car insurance renewal time again.  Oh damn.  The quote I've got from the company I use (LV) doesn't look bad, let's hope it turns out to be the best and I can simply renew.  All the trawling through different companies and price comparisons is so tedious, if necessary.  

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Z gives a recipe

A couple of you have asked for the courgette recipe - it's very easy to do and I normally have all the ingredients - that is, if I use canned chickpeas and a jar of pesto.  I know, darlings, convenience food at every turn.

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil (I probably use less, there's always too much oil in recipes)
1 small aubergine
350g/12 oz courgettes (I probably use more, I like courgettes)
150 ml/1/4 pint vegetable stock (I use Marigold powder, unless I happen to have made some)
1 can chick peas
150 ml/1/4 pint double cream (crème frâiche would be fine)
2 tablespoons pesto (whatevs, put in what you like.  You'd want that much fresh pesto, but commercial jars vary so it's best to keep tasting)

Slice the onion into thin rings, cook gently in a tablespoonful of olive oil for about five minutes, then turn the heat up a bit and allow it to colour a little - about another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, crush the garlic, dice the aubergine into 1 inch cubes and thinly slice the courgettes.  Add the rest of the oil and the prepared vegetables to the onion, cook, stirring, for five minutes, add the stock, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse the chick peas, add to the pan, stir in the cream and pesto and add, with seasoning.  Cook for a few more minutes to heat through.

The recipe suggests spreading slices of baguette with garlic butter, topping with goat's cheese and putting on top of the courgette mixture, then grilling.  I've never done this, though I have put some cubes of feta or goat's cheese on top to melt in to my plateful if I've had this as a main course.

I often do the first part of the recipe earlier, then add the cream and pesto and reheat at the last.  The previous time I cooked it, Tim was out of aubergines, so I used sliced mushrooms instead which was fine.

The recipe is from 'Simply Good Food' by Katie Stewart and Caroline Young, who used to live in the village.  She and her husband Stuart were great friends of ours, but after he died she moved to Sussex and we've lost touch.

Elle sent me a text soon after 8 o'clock to say they'd arrived in Berlin.  We parted with warm hugs and promises to visit each other.  It's very quiet here tonight, but luckily I've got quite a lot on this week - not much of it work-related - so I'll keep busy and not be lonely.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Z's in the kitchen

Elle asked me to cook a proper English roast last night, so I did roast pork, because of the crackling.  Because it's one of those things that they tend not to do abroad (actually, I don't know if they do crackling in Germany) and it's marvellous.  I'd have done roast beef otherwise, but a good rib of beef for just six isn't easy unless you all like it cooked the same, more or less, and I like rare and the Sage likes overcooked, so we're stuck already.  Elle's mother, Vee, is mostly vegetarian so I did a substantial veggie side dish, courgettes and aubergines with chick peas, cream and pesto (if you came to the party last year you may have eaten it, it's one of my favourites) as well as roast potatoes and spinach, in case she'd prefer to avoid the pork, but in fact she did politely eat a small helping.

Then I made Queen of Puddings because it's such a very English pud and you hardly ever come across it in restaurants.  And I served English, French and German cheeses.  Vee remarked that she'd never eaten biscuits with cheese before.  I did consider the matter, but resolutely served cheese biscuits and served it after the pudding, not before.  Englishness was the point of the meal (I know the courgette dish wasn't very English, but the other point of being English is that we take good things from anywhere).

Elle also wanted a proper English breakfast, so we had bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes followed by toast with local honey and home-made marmalade.  Tonight, we are having fish and chips, from the chippy.  And tomorrow, they intend to head for the local cafe in search of brunch.  I've got to play the clarinet in church tomorrow, so i can't go with them, but I'll be back before it's time for them to head for Luton.

The birds really do think it's spring.  Maybe it is.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Handful of Zedisms

A couple of bloggers are using the trick of remarking on five things that have happened that day - the idea came from Oprah Winfrey, apparently.  And since I have little time and less inspiration, that's what I'll do today.

1 There was a thrush singing in the pine tree by Kenny's shed this afternoon.  It had spring and nesting and suchlike in its mind, I could tell.

2 I measured myself today.  Bust a bit disappointingly small, waist ditto big, hips just right.

3 I went to get milk from the farm.  Jonny's Girls were being milked and, a few at a time, strolled relaxedly out afterwards, chewing the cud.  It has to be *the* cud, doesn't it?  You just can't say "the cow was chewing her cud," it sounds weird.

4 The Head's PA always makes me a cup of tea and tries to catch me out with the variety.  Today, she succeeded - it was Earl Grey with orange blossom.  Very pleasant.

5 Martina said such a nice thing to me in her letter last night, it quite made my morning when I woke up and read it.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fully fledged

Year 7 have been doing Indian music this half term, which I have enjoyed very much.  Composition is not my forte, though I can advise young children on the principles, but the raga and the tala, at a fairly basic level (we're talking 11-year-olds), are within my capabilities.   They're a nice age group too, interested and not afraid to have a go - in a year or two, some of them will be too concerned about making a mistake and feeling silly, something I can sympathise with because I felt like that too, when I was young.

Elle is packing an overnight bag and in half an hour I'll drive her to the station to catch a train to London.  She'll meet her mother, who's been working in Paris so is coming over by Eurostar, and then they'll meet up with her father and sister, who are flying over.  Tomorrow, they'll all come back here where they will stay for a couple of nights.  And on Sunday, she'll leave us for good.  And the Sage and I will finally, after all these years, be empty-nesters.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Z overhears

When the Sage and I were eating our lunch on Sunday, two elderly ladies came and sat down at the next table.  They were obviously good friends who hadn't seen each other for a while and were catching up on news, and then the younger (or at least less doddery) one said that her son and his family had given her an iPad for Christmas.  They talked about it for some time, the friend being very impressed that she had learned to use email and she had a lot of questions.  "It's such fun!" the lucky iPad owner told her.  "And it's easier to use than you'd think.  I can't quite remember my email address yet, but lots of people write to me and I've learned to reply to them."  "How much did it cost?" "About £400, I think."  "That's a lot of money."  "Yes, it is - well, it's a lot to me.  I was so excited when I opened it on Christmas Day.  I couldn't believe my luck!"

And I had tears in my eyes by this time.  But then I'm notoriously soppy.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Z eats out

Family friendships that continue down the generations are especially lovely, I think.  I've mentioned one or two before, such as Pam and Peter, whom I went to Corfu with last year.  And the other day, we had a phone call from Fenella, whose grandparents were great friends with the Sage's parents and whose dad is Ro's godfather (or dogdaddy, as he used to say as a very little boy).  She was going to be in the area for a hen weekend and wondered if we might be free on the Sunday evening?  We said we'd pick her up and take her out for supper.

Well.  Best laid plans ... would have been better if we'd done a bit more checking.  We picked her up from the wilderness beyond Diss and set off to find a pub.  An hour later - honestly, there were no pubs to be seen in miles! - we finally found one.  And it was closed.  Finally, we aimed for Diss itself, where all of one pub was open and it didn't serve food.  The Chinese takeaway was open! - and it had a restaurant!! - and it was fully booked¡¡¡ for the Chinese New Year!¡!¡ but the very nice waitress relented and said that we could have a table if we could please eat up and leave within half an hour.  Which we did, and many thanks to them for a very good meal, exceptionally quickly served.  And Happy Year of the Snake.

And today, to celebrate my more-or-less return to eating, we went out to lunch - I know, darlings, boundless enthusiasm for fun and jollity and ha-ha-ha-ha - and in view of the perfectly horrid weather (and that I can't eat much) we had soup, mine was carrot and the Sage's tomato and red pepper.  And the Sage bought me tulips, which was very nice of him.

I have also seized control of life by phoning an agency and arranging for two cleaners to come and spend an afternoon here tomorrow.  They don't know what's going to hit 'em - this is a beast of a house to keep clean, and I've not been equal to the effort for the last few weeks.  Once it's done, I should be able to keep it going for months again.  I've come to the conclusion that this probably suits me better than having someone in to do a bit every week.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tubular circles

The party seems to have been a success.  Half a dozen girls and one boy (the boyfriend of one of them) stayed until noon to clean the bungalow thoroughly, which seems a bit depressingly gender-clichéd - I should say, a number stayed over, don't know how many.  I went out to sidesman at the early service, then into town to pick up the paper and, coming back down the drive, one lad was just setting off on foot.  I picked him up, turned the car round and drove him into town.  A completely unsuitable denim jacket, he'd have been freezing.

My long hours of sleep have come to their natural conclusion and I slept for less than an hour and a half last night, disappointingly.

Baz the Rev was telling an anecdote about a recent visit to London, where he was quite disconcerted to be offered a seat by a young man on the Tube.  I laughed hollowly and said I'd had the same thing happen myself and been grateful to accept it (I'm some years younger than Baz) - and I know I told you the most recent times because it was when I had a bad hip (though it was usually on the bus, because I couldn't manage all the walking required on Tube journeys) - but I can't remember whether or not I've ever told you about the first time it happened.  And if I can't, odds are you can't either.

I had taken Ro to London for a day out - he was quite a little boy, four or so.  It might have been before he started school, that being the reason El and Al weren't with us.  We'd had a splendid day, though I can't remember what we'd done - probably his first visit to the Natural History Museum.  We had walked a long way and we were both ready to flop.  And we got onto the train and there was just one seat.  I looked at him.  "You sit down," I told him, "You're more tired than I am."  So he did, and a young man was sitting opposite him, wearing one of those massive rucksacks that goes right up behind your head, and I know that if I tried one of them I'd flounder under it and lie on my back like a stranded ladybird.  But he leapt up and offered me his seat.  I was embarrassed, said it was quite all right, but he was insistent, so I sat down.  Then, of course, I had to tell Ro to get up and give him his seat.  Then I invited Ro to come and sit on my lap.  It was the most farcical comedy of good manners you could imagine, heaven knows what the rest of the carriage thought about it.  

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Z zzzzzzs

Well, now I see what happens when I take advice to rest, I'll probably never do it again.  Once I started sleeping, I couldn't stop.  I spent the whole of yesterday in bed, most of it asleep.

The house needs a good clean and I can't face the thought of it, I'm going to phone an agency on Monday and hope to book a cleaner to sort it out.  Of course, it'll still be a fair bit of work for me, because some tidying is required too (the Sage doesn't do tidying, untidying is his speciality) but it'll be no end of a help.

Elle and her friend Em are having their party in the bungalow tonight.  I've no idea how many are going to turn up, but it could be a fair foo, as we say in Norfolk.  I've hauled myself up to the attic to adjust the heating (the idiot who thought the place to put the boiler was the wrong side of a loft ladder is cursed regularly) and provided loo rolls, teabags, paper plates and disposable cups and I took them to the Co-op to do some shopping, though I didn't quite feel up to going in with them.  I'll toddle through in a few minutes and ask if there's anything else I can do.

Oh, I weighed myself this morning.  I've lost - well, I've lost about four pounds since the last time I weighed myself, which was on 1st January, but when one takes into account the amount of January chocolate that was eaten, it's probably nearer half a stone in the last few days.  Actually, I weigh exactly what I want to weigh.  That is, about half a stone more than I was comfortable with back in my youth, but I've reached the age when being too thin goes to the face.  Also, one needs resilience - just think, if I'd been an 8-stone weakling at the start of this, I'd hardly be able to stand up now.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Z was too polite

I grew up before the days of routine snacks and treats.  We had three square meals a day and that was reckoned to be quite enough, although there was always fruit and, if hungry, we would be welcome to have some cheese or something similar.  My mother discouraged sweets and chocolate and a packet of crisps was a rare pleasure (Smith's Crisps, with the salt in a twist of blue paper, of course).

Once, however, I caught a bad dose of 'flu.  Actually, it started when I was sick.  Crossing the hall, I suddenly threw up onto the parquet floor.  And, rough though I felt  - ooh, this blog is going to be a confessional again, I've never told anyone this - I was so polite - so polite - that I cleared it up before going to tell my mother, and I didn't mention that I'd been taken by surprise and let her assume I'd made it to the lavatory.  I was probably about 12 at the time.  I was not afraid of her, she was the soul of loving kindness to me, it was embarrassment at having made an unpleasant mess and a reluctance for someone else to have to clear it up.

Anyway, I was duly tucked up in bed and later, trying to tempt my appetite, my mother brought a trayful of little bowls of snacks.  A few grapes, some crisps, sweets, nuts, all sorts of things. And I have the clearest memory of gazing at them all, treats beyond all my dreams, and not being able to eat any of them.

I was ill for several days, almost delirious that first night, but eventually started eating again of course.  And the frustrating thing was that it didn't occur to her to produce the goodies again, when I'd have been able to enjoy them.  And, of course, I was far too polite to ask.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Z looks forward

A good twelve hours in bed wasn't quite enough to put me right, but the short nap I took after taking Elle to school was.  I didn't go to the lecture, which I'm really disappointed to have missed, but I seem to be fine except for an inability to eat meals.  Chocolate biscuits and cake - and a green salad for supper - seem to go down all right.  Oh, and I've lost the taste for alcohol.  I trust that is temporary.

Elle brought home her report yesterday and a paper for me to sign confirming she is leaving the school. Each of her teachers had to sign it too and all of them said they'd refuse to do so if it meant that she'd stay.  I think it's fair to say that she's popular.  She's done wonderfully well, moving to a foreign country and staying with a succession of strangers, most regularly with a couple old enough to be her grandparents - well, in the Sage's case, great-grandparent - and taking several subjects and being successful in them.  She's coming back in the summer to take the second part of her Psychology AS Level, in fact.  And she may well come back again in July to go with her friends to go to the Latitude festival.  I suspect this will depend on whether her parents stump up the money for a ticket...  As for me, she assures me that her whole family loves me, whether they've met me or not.  That is, I've only met her dad as yet, though her mum and sister will be coming to stay at the end of next week.

The tickets for the Aldeburgh concerts have arrived, which is very cheering.  I haven't been for a while, maybe three or four years, and I never used to miss going there.  I didn't always go to the Festival, though, because June is a busy month - it will be again, but no matter.  Concerts at the Proms in August were easier to be sure I'd be able to go to.  For some years, it was very difficult to go away on holiday at all, and I treated Snape concerts as my summer holiday and went to as many as possible.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Z feels wobbly

Well, that was embarrassing.  I've been going into lessons at school this week, and today was a Food Tech lesson - it's not that I'm linked to that department but that I've been looking at Teaching Assistants.  I'd not met the teacher before, though I knew her by sight, and she was very charming and friendly and showed me one girl's portfolio of written work, which took about ten minutes, and then offered to take me into the kitchen to see the cooking being done.  I said I'd love to, but I was afraid I needed to sit down for a few minutes first because I felt a bit faint (though there was no 'bit' about it, I had about 15 seconds before I'd have keeled over.

I've got a chest infection and have been exceptionally busy, and this morning I had been up and down several staircases and been outside without a coat on, and then I went into a warm room and was almost undone.  I had to sit there, head on table, for quite some time.  The teacher wanted to call for help for me, but it wasn't necessary - anyway, eventually I felt well enough to go into the other room and soon after I recovered and was able to do the nosy governor bit.

However, I am going to bed early and staying there for twelve hours.  Approx.  I've got a busy couple of days ahead again and there's nothing I can easily miss.  Well, there is one thing I can miss, a Nadfas lecture in the morning, but I don't want to.

It's just occurred to me - maybe it's blogging withdrawal symptoms.  H'm.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Love and sympathy to Pat

I had a post planned for this evening, but plans have changed since reading about our dear friend Pat's loss.  Pat is my oldest (in terms of long standing) blog friend: she left the first ever comment here, nearly seven years ago.  Many of us have read her wonderful account of her and MTL's love story and know how they have appreciated every minute of their years together.  

Friday, 1 February 2013

Z doesn't look ahead

Wink and I went over to have lunch with Weeza and Gus today.  The Sage was invited to come, but got cold feet at the thought of all that togetherness and asked to be dropped off in Norwich instead, coming home on the bus during the afternoon.

I'm not going to fuss about the Hon Sec situation.  The AGM is at the end of March, but the next meeting is in October and, if the worst happens and I don't have anyone to take over from me this spring (I think someone will come along) then there's another chance in the autumn.  Not fussing is best.

Having said that, I had a bit of a heart to heart with Wink this evening that made me cry - again.  I'm afraid the waterworks have been turned on all too much of late.  In this instance, it was age-related...I'm approaching the age at which my father died.  If I live to the 25th March (disregarding Leap Years, I haven't done the math, as they say) I'll have outlived my father.  This gives me no feeling of satisfaction, rather the opposite.  Wink said the same: that she was very aware of her age at that time. We both adored him and he died far too young.  I'm so grateful that she was able to share my feelings and wish she'd been able to say the same a few years ago, though I don't know if I'd have quite understood.  Maybe some of you do.

Gus, in the last week, has gone from walking if you held his hand, and crawling for the sake of speed otherwise, to choosing to walk and being thrilled by the ability, in the week since I saw him last.  He's such a cheerful little boy, great fun.  His big sister is the same - very happy to have won one of the weekly class awards, the one for being kind and friendly and generally helpful (Angel), for the third time.  She's won the one for hard work and progress (Diamond) once, there's the biggest award (can't remember what it's called) that she hasn't won yet but, her birthday being at the end of August, she's the youngest in the school and it's marvellous that she's getting on so well and is happy.

Weeza and Phil's car was in the garage for a service today and they'd explained they had an appointment at 4.30 so it was vital the car was returned by 4 at latest.  5.15 it was returned, what a good job that I was there so they could use my car.  I have Weeza as a named driver, but she'd have been 3rd party insured anyway.  Not that the garage knew that.  Pfft.