Thursday, 26 March 2020

Z chatters about anything but what's on everyone's mind

What strange times across the world.  I'm blogging (in The Other Place) to take our minds away from it - this has its disadvantages in that I won't have the memories of how it feels to look back on, but I see my role in life as cheering people up, on the whole.  Anyway.  http://razorbladeoflife.co.uk, if you're looking for it.

Monday, 6 January 2020

HNY and all that...

Trying to comment on a friend's blog, I find I've been signed out of Google.  I haven't of course, but I do get signed out of Blogger and it's quite a trick to get back in again.  I come here and I'm signed in but I go elsewhere and I'm not.  Of course, Blogger is free at the point of use, so not important to the mighty Google.

Hope all is well with you.  I do have notifications of a visit a day or so and, though I assume they're from spammers, if you're a real person and prefer me to post here than on my other blog, I could do both.  Let me know.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Z remembers the house - er, hotel - where she was born

A friend said that blogging with Blogger is awkward on a Mac, so I thought I'd have a go; though in fact, she uses an iPad and I'm on the desktop.  The desktop iMac, that is, for you literalists out there.

We went to visit my sister last week, which was a lovely break.  We visited Weymouth one day, where I was born.  LT grew up a bit further along the coast, so knew the town rather better than I did; though everywhere has changed a lot in the past half century.  He decided not to go to his home town of Bournemouth, he thought it would be too depressing.  However, we were rather gratified to discover that Weymouth seafront and the old harbour were much as they had always been.


This is the old harbour. The side where we walked still has cars parked facing the water, but now there are huge sleepers to stop them rolling into the water as well as a kerb at the edge, which is very sensible but, perhaps, removes the little frisson of daredevilry that there used to be.






And here, in the random order that Blogger always loved, are pictures of the Riviera Hotel, where I was born and lived until I was three or four. It looks magnificent as you come round the bend and down the hill but is, unfortunately, marred by the funfair in front. It has been nicely maintained but it's not as smart as you'd think such a fine Art Deco building would be.


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Up and running

Not me, darlings, my other blog.  I just couldn't face dealing with it yesterday, though I had plenty of time.  I had a sense of despair at the thought of it.  I'd perked up by the evening however, so looked up the details and cracked on with it this morning.  It took quite some time with a helpful chap in IT support on the host website and now I've got a much better deal for less money.  He tried to point me in the right direction to set that up myself, but I knew that wasn't going to happen and pleaded uselessness.  Just as well I did because, it turned out, there was a fault after all and he had to disable *something or other* to get the blog back.

I appreciate this stalwart old blog, though, and was glad to use it.  So I'll double-post sometimes, for the benefit of those who prefer to come here.  The 'official' site is, again, razorbladeoflife.co.uk, all the same.

Thanks to you kind people for leaving comments while I've been here.

Monday, 11 February 2019

As the Bard said, what's .......

I can't now remember why, at dinner, Tim told me the Italian for onion.  I was intrigued though, because it's nothing like the French, which the English is derived from.  I looked it up in several different languages and I'm still puzzled.  It seems that both the Spanish/Italian/Portugese/Romanian come from the Latin, but so does the French, from a completely different word.

Time was, I'd have done all the research and discovered what I wanted to know.  Now, I'm not sure I can be bothered.  I will remain intrigued, without quite enough zest to mind.

We were talking about names, too.  I know several people who've chosen to change their name, for one reason or another.  Brenda was 70 years old when she finally decided to change to Zella and, such was the strength of her personality, no one ever called her Brenda again.  Sophie was called so by her husband-to-be, who mistook what her name actually was (not his fault) and said that Sophie suited her far more than Janet, and so it does.  Dorothy changed to Jane because Dot rhymed with Stott and she'd been teased for too many years - her mother (and Sophie's) never accepted it though, so which you called her depended on which side of the family you knew better.

Most people seem not greatly to like their given name.  I liked mine, growing up, because of the Z, mostly.  I enjoyed the slash - slash - slash of the Z, like Zorro (I was a child addicted to television, so have always been tolerant of computer games and so on), I liked the ë diaeresis, that the name was a Greek word, that it was distinctive and I didn't mind too much that no one knew how to pronounce or spell it, if they could remember it at all.  I quite happily answered to Snowy, Suzie, Zo or anything else, and still do.  Indeed, my friend Sophie and I were quite used, as adults, to answering to each others' name.

I really do call my sister Wink, or Winkie.  But her name is Melanie, though she's usually known as Mel nowadays.  Why she's Wink is quite another story, however.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Wince

Wince, our gardener, is such a nice man.  He's worked here for nearly six years, having been at the same job from the age of 15 until 60, when he was made redundant because the business closed.  He didn't want to look for another job, so decided to do odd jobs - just what we needed.

He rescued me, many years ago, when I fell into the icy river and, though I could stand, couldn't get out, and we'd always passed the time of day (what an odd expression, but you know what I mean).  He always lived at home with his parents, then his mum, never married, though he has got a girlfriend   and now he lives alone since his mother died a few months ago.  He's very interested in nature, conservation, photography, engineering and music, but it's not easy to know him well, he's quite self-contained.

He was such a help to me after Russell died.  I'd been really struggling to keep the garden going - mostly, the grass cut - for several years but, even though I thought I'd sell and move on, I didn't want the place I'd lived happily for nearly thirty years to be neglected.  So I bought some new equipment and Wince was very pleased with it.  He isn't as much of a gardener as I (theoretically) am, to tell the truth, and has sometimes dug up choice plants when he is carried away with the weeding, but that's accidental.

When he arrives on a Thursday morning, he wants to know if I have a Plan, and professes to be disappointed if I haven't.  I can usually tell what he has in mind, though, because he brings a wheelbarrow with any tools that I don't have and he does - today, it was a hedge trimmer because Rose had some tidying up in mind and Wince correctly surmised that I didn't have many jobs for him.  Often, I've mentioned two or three things that need doing, sometime in the next few weeks at his convenience, and he's done them all by the end of the day.  He just never stops.  Today, having done the pruning and tidying that Rose needed, it suddenly poured with rain - so he took himself off to the barn and split logs until the rain stopped.  Then he said he'd finished an hour early, so wouldn't take a full day's money.  As I said, such a nice man.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Food, glorious...

LX and Vagabonde have triggered more thoughts of proper English food - how could I not have mentioned scones?  British scones, not American ones, which are more like our drop scones, I think.  Simply butter rubbed into flour with a little sugar and mixed into a dough with milk.  You can add an egg and you can add some raisins or sultanas, but you don't have to.  Gently roll or pat it out, not too thin, cut into rounds with a cutter or simply divide into pieces with a knife, put on a baking sheet and into a hot oven for ten minutes or so, while you put jam and whipped cream or butter into dishes and make tea.  Simply perfect.

We love our cakes, the traditional English cooks.  They tend to be variations on a theme - whisked sponge cakes, either baked in a round tin or in a flat rectangular one, when the filling is spread on and they're rolled into a Swiss roll; or else creamed butter and sugar, egg added, then flour, with whatever flavourings you want.  The tradition is to cook in two shallow round trays, as a Victoria sandwich (you can sandwich with fruit and cream or butter icing) - but it was much this mixture that I steamed into a sponge pudding.  We loved fruit cakes, as everyday or rich as we wanted - I don't often make cakes, but when I do, the simplest is a boiled fruit cake, where you put the butter, sugar, dried fruit and some water in a pan, simmer it for a while, then cool and add eggs and flour, then bake.  There are pound cakes, Dundee cakes, Simnel cakes, gingerbread, parkin - parkin is a fabulous one, made with oatmeal - lemon drizzle, chocolate sponge, coffee and walnut ... it's a wonder we're not all fat.

Oh.  So we are.

We like preserves, too.  Do other countries make chutney?  I don't know if they do, to the same extent.  I've had mango chutney in India and some very spicy pickles.  Tim and I had pickled walnuts with our pâté and cheese for lunch.  I've never made them, because you have to have a walnut tree so that you can pick the walnuts when they're very young, before the shells have started to harden.  My father loved pickled walnuts but I didn't eat them for years, until I noticed a jar in the local deli.  Now, I buy them until they've sold out that season's produce.  Piccalilli (sp?) is one that I've never seen in another country.  I've not made that either, but it's mixed vegetables in spiced vinegar with the addition of turmeric, basically, I think.  My mother didn't make preserves generally, except pickled red cabbage.  I've not found the perfect red cabbage yet.  I made some, but I'd had to get a commercial mix of pickling spices and it had too much chilli in, it was wrongly proportioned and wasn't a great success.  We do make quite a range of chutneys and pickles, though.

I mentioned toad in the hole - the same batter is used to make Yorkhire pudding, which is so delicious that a lot of people nowadays eat it with any roast meat.  Correctly, it only goes with roast beef and is made in one big tin, not individual ones.  But hey.  Whatever anyone likes.

What I do love is a fresh seasonal vegetable.  I won't buy imported asparagus.  If served it, I wouldn't refuse to eat it, but it's one of the few things that, as far as I'm concerned, has to be locally grown and in season for me to buy it.  It's a traditional Norfolk crop, which is just as well.  I was telling Tin the other day about a meal I cooked in May or early June, coming up to 16 years ago.  I bought a whole fish from the fishmonger - I'm not sure if there were three or four of us, but it was big enough for the family and I baked it whole, seasoned with home-grown herbs.  I had dug up the first new potatoes, picked the first peas and some broad beans.  Everything was fresh and seasonal and simply cooked.  It was immensely special, as meals go, for that reason, and we all enjoyed it.  But, looking around, I realised that no one in my family knew why it was so special.  First potatoes and peas, all homegrown herbs and veg, perfectly simple fish, perfectly cooked - the only person I knew who would have felt exactly the same as I did was my mother, and she'd died in March.