Friday 24 March 2006

9 hours to go, time to pack

Off to Venice tomorrow morning. Just about to pack - I have been obliged to delegate all remaining work as I spent the afternoon and early evening asleep and shivering on the sofa, having come down with a filthy cold. A little better now; at least I am vertical.

I will be fine tomorrow. Isn't it a pity that cold/flu remedies just don't work; or at least not as well as the ads say they do.

Have a good week


Anus of Responsibility

I was slightly startled to see, in the newsletter from our dentist (whatever next), that they now offer facial rejevenation. Botox in fact. It's the Sage's dentist who is the practitioner so maybe, when he next returns from an appointment his whole face will be strangely smooth and unmoving instead of just his mouth.

But also in the post is a card (which of course I haven't opened) from lovely daughter for Mothering Sunday. As we'll be away together over the weekend, Ro is only too aware that the whole Anus of Responsibility (as El has always called it) is upon him for mummy's Happy Day.

All families have their quirky expressions don't they. Ro thought for many years that the correct expression was 'no holes barred', and why not. He is also responsible for Emergency Russians. We have an elderly, very Norfolk and very dear, friend who is convinced that in an emergency one raises a Human Cry.

Norfolk dialect is in the news at present as it's going to be taught in one of the county's schools. I was happy to hear the Divine Postie being played on Radio 4 news yesterday as an intro to the story. I don't have a Norfolk accent myself (I don't think) but surely everyone uses some dialect words. I didn't know that 'on the huh' (not straight; e.g. a crookedly hanging picture) wasn't mainstream English for years and bishybarnaby is an irrisistable name for a ladybird.

I'm never very aware of regional accents, although I remember as a child finding our gardener hard to understand, which I found inexplicable in later years, so it must have been about the time we moved to Suffolk. Accents I particularly like do zing through my consciousness however; West Country - the lovely soft letter R, East Anglia - rare to catch when you are away - and Dutch. We had Dutch au pairs when I was a little girl whom we loved like family and I suppose that's the reason.

Thursday 23 March 2006

Early night

Finished the catalogue.

Finished the whisky.



The Sage razored

I think I need a holiday. Fortunate I'm getting one. I snapped at beloved Husband today - apologised moments afterwards - explained why he was wrong (well........) but it was just the extreme frustration of the morning that make me crack for a moment.

I had an appointment at the university in Norwich this morning. This went well and I trotted off to the car park, where it took me 10 minutes to find my car. You do feel silly, trawling up and down the rows looking for it. I needed to buy numbers to change the lots that our vendor (who is a very nice man of course, I wouldn't want anyone to think I have a personal vendetta here) had got wrong. I spent an hour and a half and went to 3 large stores, 2 of them stationery & office suppliers. I could have bought white on black, white on blue, black on gold, tiny numbers, huge numbers, any useful size of letters, but basic 1-100 sheets of numbers that can be seen from 10 feet away but are not so huge as to obscure the pattern on a piece of china were nowhere to be seen.

In the end I bought plain white sticky labels and will write the numbers on myself.

But most of the morning and about 15 extra miles were wasted, all for a 99p pack of sticky paper.

I arrived home at 11.40 and went straight out again to deliver Meals on Wheels and when I came back again the Sage said we would leave the photography for the website until after my holiday. I said I'd rather do it now as I will have new stuff to do by then, he, oh poor dear, he didn't realise I was on the edge and, I can hardly bear to say it. He started to argue.

He stopped arguing pretty soon.

The photos will be taken this afternoon.

I've conciliatorarily said that I'll ask Lynn who does the website not to post the catalogue until the printed ones are ready to be posted too. I wouldn't want you to think that I'm unreasonable or anything.

The sun is shining and I've taken a long lunchtime.

Wednesday 22 March 2006

Really Me!

An excellent day, after we had overcome some vissicitudes because some twit forgot to leave a gate unlocked so that a couple of dozen cars were left stranded on Norwich's scary ring road for half an hour.

But now it seems that the much-valued vendor I mentioned the other evening has not quite been finished with. I'm not sure what happened, but having spent a strenuous couple of hours altering the catalogue, somehow I can't find the changes. I must have saved it as something else. I'm too tired tonight and will sort it tomorrow.

The air has been violently blue here this evening; I don't often swear in front of (and never, never at) the Sage, whose worst term of annoyance is 'Really Me'; but I have made exception and he didn't even look shocked but entirely concurred.

Never again will I rely on anyone else unless I know for sure that he or she is entirely reliable. My own fault, I should have triple checked from the start.

I'm now on draft 6a (version 8) of the parish profile. Which will probably be rejected by the parish reps and I will have to rewrite in in a couple of weeks. That's fine, they've every right and I will hardly grumble at all.

Haven't heard the news at all today, is there more tax on alcohol? If there is, I WILL PAY IT.


After 10 o'clock news.

No change on tax for spirits, champagne or cider. That's us sorted then.

Tuesday 21 March 2006

What a difference a day makes

Today was good, largely because I was out of the house and out of the office and I arrived home to find a bank statement that says I’ve not overspent on my holiday before I’ve even taken it.

The Sage was glad to see me and offered to help cook dinner, no need as I’d sorted it in advance (hah! after nearly 33 years I am still good for something) so he felt good for offering: and better for grateful reception for no work at all. Of such things are marriage made.

My ears are buzzing, not from tinnitus but from hearing 41 mini lectures in little over an hour and a half; also from long and cheerful chats with my good friend Ab who kept buying me quantities of food and drink and continued to entertain me throughout (and thanks for your advice on a previous post Ab; I've taken it and amended accordingly).

I've offered him a guest slot - will he take it? I hope so.

Back to London tomorrow morning, commuting is quite exciting to a Norfolk mawther.

Monday 20 March 2006

- No knickers

The day hasn’t finished with me yet. I found out at half past 9 that I’ve been sent, and duly catalogued, a list of 40 lots, but that they were in the wrong order. So I’ve had to match up photos with descriptions and cut and paste them into the correct order. Then do the same thing with the condition report. Not one piece matched its apparent number.

I phoned the vendor. He was bemused and didn’t know what I meant. Eventually, after much careful explanation, I could hear his brain clear: ‘I know what I did’ he said. ‘I sent you the old list, I’ve updated mine.’

Before I started the work I went to put on the washing machine. It wasn’t working, the previous load had stopped with 35 minutes to go. Fortunately Ro isn’t only good with computers and he discovered that the filter was blocked. And unblocked it for me. A good thing too, as otherwise I’d have had a pile of handwashing to do tonight as well, since I hope to have some clothes to wear tomorrow. The most essential can dry on the Aga overnight, I love my Aga.

I’ve made myself a pot of strong coffee. If it keeps me awake all night, that’ll be useful.

There’s one good thing, if this is to be the most frustrating day of the year, it’s nearly over. But I’m taking no chances, I’ll leave at least an hour for the 25 minute journey to the station tomorrow. The colleague I’m going with (who will have boarded the train at an earlier station) has my ticket, so if I’m late I will have to pay again. And the last time I should have travelled with him there was a road accident which delayed me so that I did miss the train – puffed onto the platform as it glided out.

Fur coat and?

I was talking to a friend on the phone tonight about the perils of AGMs when you are obliged to sit at a table onstage. A couple of years ago I was in that situation and realised that my knee-length, straight skirt had a tendency to ride up and, worse, I was wearing stockings. I skewered myself into the most modest pose possible and stayed there.

My friend had a similar story, but in a slightly shorter skirt and she received a complaint afterwards – ‘ I couldn’t concentrate on the meeting at all, your legs were much too distracting.’ She was mortified and never again sat at a higher level than her audience unless her legs were covered to the ankle.

I admitted that I would have taken it as a compliment.

In 3 months both of us will be on the same platform. Both modestly dressed no doubt. Or maybe I’ll provide an all-enveloping cloth for the table and spare all blushes.

It's Monday. Again.

The day is not going too well. I’ve got a list (a mental list) of things to do before I go away on Saturday and extras keep adding themselves while obstructions occur to blight my chances of achieving anything at all.

For example, I tried to book a Venice card this morning and all went swimmingly until the time came for me to pay, when up popped a page of unusable javascript instead of the form that should be there. I did the whole thing again with the same result. Now, if the problem had occurred at the start, at least I wouldn’t have wasted time filling in the rest of the forms.

And the Aga was serviced this morning; no problem there except that meant that after a weekend’s hard cooking I had to clean the kitchen first thing instead of after the office work was done. The floor was in no condition to be knelt on, poor chap would still be stuck to it. There is, of course, a good side to that: I’ve done it and won’t have to later.

Even the printer wouldn’t work this morning. Up came one of those annoying unhelpful comments telling me the number of the problem, which gives no indication of what to do about it. Fortunately I have been well advised by IT Son Ro and so tried turning the printer off and on. No success so I went in with all guns blazing, turned it back off and Restarted The Computer. This, thank goodness, did the trick so I hastily printed off everything I might conceivably want in case it is just a foretaste of a dire future blockage.
The only thing stopping me from replacing my ancient printer is that I bought, accidentally, an awful lot of ink cartridges a few months ago (got trigger happy online at Viking) and it’ll take me several more months to use them up. It is about 8 years old though and prints blue lines across the first page each time you use it, but that was my fault for carelessly dropping a pin in its innards a couple of years ago.

No one is in whom I have rung so now I am wondering whether to go shopping now or later, because assuredly they will ring back when I am out.

I’m away on Tuesday and Wednesday, two separate trips to London and so this restricts my useful working time to three days? Can it all be done? Probably not. But anything I drop, I’ll regret later.

And a nail just broke. I wasn’t doing anything at all and I feel aggrieved.

I’ll have an early lunch, do the shopping and return to my desk at 2, calm and serene.

Sunday 19 March 2006

Party time, with balloons

Although Grandbaby’s birthday isn’t until Monday, she threw a party today for all her little friends; that is, two other small children and fifteen assorted adults. And very enjoyable it all was, to the extent that Granny had a little nap around 6 o’clock. After the other guests had departed of course, I wasn’t the decrepit old dear comatose in the corner while everyone else frolicked.

Baby’s 2-year-old cousin enjoyed playing with the balloons. “Look” he declared, holding up a long thin yellow one. “Penis.”

And baby walked unaided for the first time yesterday. Properly, several steps, but she wouldn’t repeat the trick today and her daddy hasn’t seen it yet and nor have I.

It feels quite unnatural, using assumed names for my children. Now they all know I’m writing I feel I’m not being impolite to refer to them properly. So they will be El, Al and Ro, which is what I often call them anyway (being extremely lazy and reluctant to use whole lots of syllables when one will suffice). I like the Sage though, so that’s what my husband will remain. I’ll tell him some time, but he is, endearingly, totally computer illiterate so won't know what I'm talking about. “Will you Google someone for me please”, he’ll ask, meaning, please look up their phone number. And when there’s a business email from a stranger, “Where does he live?” I explain each time that the email address gives very little away, not always even the country, but I think he has the feeling that it isn’t quite correct not to head a letter with your address, even in an email. I write a journal for his website, as him - the main benefit from that is that everyone (except my website doer) thinks it's his fault that one hasn't been posted for several months.

Our oldest hen died yesterday. She belonged to the son of friends, who kept hens as a hobby when he was a boy (well, this is Norfolk). Once he started to work full time on the family farm, he hadn’t time to spend with them and his mother took over their care. Eventually, when there were only two left, they came to live with us. One died a year ago; well, we were visited by a fox and lost nearly half our flock; but the other lived out her proper lifespan of 15 years. She didn’t lay any eggs in the 3 years we looked after her, but she was a sweet, cheerful fowl and when she took to a nestbox a couple of days ago and didn’t stir again, we let her doze her life away gently.

Saturday 18 March 2006

Sagacity slips

I’m tidying my study. Correction: I’m having a break from tidying my study. Not the papers, they aren’t too bad, by my standards. I enjoy being untidy and disorganised, but not chaotic. For example, I tried a filing cabinet, but couldn’t be bothered to put things back, each in its neat little place, so now I use box files as each one can be untidy but I can still find things. This slips of course sometimes and so I also use vertical filing. The Sage believes in open filing but that takes up more room; i.e. he spreads his stuff out and I pile mine up.

The reason for this unaccustomed descent into order is that I should be typing the catalogue but we lost the lot numbers. I say ‘we’ out of kindness because, after much searching, which turned into the aforementioned tidying, they were found by the Sage in a place of such bewildering obscurity that only he could have thought of it. Having squirreled them away, it’s even more impressive that he ever found them again. But now he’s sticking them all on happily so when I’ve shoved the last few things somewhere I’ll start work.

And, if you notice the time this was posted and think I work late, I wrote it earlier and then forgot to put it up.

Friday 17 March 2006

Bob and (S)Cratchitt

Today my study is cold. I have lit a candle to give myself a smidgen of warmth and I feel quite Dickensian.

We sometimes have power cuts so there are always plenty of candles about. The electricity supply is more reliable now than it used to be, but we’d never rely on it as our only source of fuel. Even when the lights are on I burn candles however, usually in the bathroom. This started several years ago when life was a bit fraught; I hoped that it would be soothing. Perhaps it helped; in any case, the number of candles became a useful gauge of my stress levels. The candlesticks round the bath increased as I tried harder to calm down, but some nights I didn’t light them all. At peak times, I lit as many as five. Now I have two there, but usually light only one.

But if spring doesn’t arrive soon there will be a cluster of candelabra around the computer.

Last night Second Son came into the bathroom as I reclined, soothed by the glow of two candles and the warmth of the bath, reading Barry Humphries' autobiography. 'You can stop worrying' he announced. 'I've searched for an hour and I've found my passport.'

I had mentioned it earlier in the evening but he sounded relaxed - 'it's in my bedroom, no problem, I'll look it out.'

Pity he didn't find his driving licence or my daily contact lenses while he was about it. The licence will cost £19 to replace and I have a pack of 30 single-use lenses somewhere. I had left them for several weeks on the bedside table in the spare bedroom before deciding that was a silly place and I put them somewhere else, but I don't remember where and I've checked the usual places. They are so useful on holiday as you don't have to bother to take cleansing stuff.

It's a good job I don't mind 2nd Son walking into the bathroom when I'm using it as we will be sharing a bedroom in Venice in a week's time. Not sure how he will cope though.

Thursday 16 March 2006

I'm chuffed. Chuff chuffed.

Happy day, I’ve just bought Grandbaby her first train set for her first birthday on Monday; one may be considered a little young perhaps but, hey, her mum and day will have a lot of fun putting it together and (since the pieces are not too small) I am sure she will like it too. And the first train set is such an important rite of passage, I’m proud to be (with Grandpa) able to give such a meaningful present. There are lots of pieces of wooden track so they can do all sorts of layouts. And it’s not fiddly so I’ll like it too. Furthermore, sensibly, it comes in a substantial plastic box for storage.

I was browsing through books and a helpful assistant suggested various volumes – “this series is nice, here’s one about dolls and another about fairies, they would suit your little granddaughter.” “Yes, thank you. Very nice” I replied reaching for one on tractors in the same series. It’s not that I’m against femininity but I don’t appreciate such rigid targeting. When I was a child I didn’t, on the whole, have ‘gender related’ toys, mostly books, jigsaws and board games (I only ever had one doll and that was a birthday present from a schoolfriend; I liked it but didn’t know quite what to do with it) but the highlight of my year was a boy friend’s birthday party where I could play with his trains and cars. It wasn’t that my parents wouldn’t have bought me such things but they didn’t know I wanted them. I wasn’t a demanding child. Equally, when boys came to play with me they liked getting my soft toys out and having pretend tea parties and similarly ‘girlish’ things.

I think I’m becoming a grumpily reactionary old woman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not right – how is it that so many toys are so noisy? When my children were little they loved a toy telephone, pretending to phone friends and chatting to it. Of course now a similar phone would be hopelessly out of date, but all the phones I’ve seen make noises and play tunes. Quite apart from it being the most awful jangly muzak or tuneless clanging, it’s self-limiting for the child’s imagination.

Tuesday 14 March 2006

Unrepentant slider

A friend has accused me of being proud of leading daughter astray. Well, unrepentant certainly – what am I for nowadays? I nurtured them all lovingly until they were eighteen and now I can relax. Sometimes I need their support and sometimes they need mine; I need them anyway, but it’s not necessary to cling. I enjoy their independence.

When my youngest was approaching eighteen I planned to take up a new vice to celebrate the newly irresponsible years. Smoking seemed the most appropriate, for various reasons, but then I had a really nasty chest infection and it put me off. I already drink as much as I can possibly take (I am perfectly convinced that this is fine as long as it isn’t in secret and I don’t actually fall over or need, as distinct from want, alcohol). So it left gambling. I’ve been to the races but I couldn’t be bothered to actually bet. I didn’t care enough. I really like poker, but you need people to play it with. And I’m no fonder of winning than of losing.

So leading my children astray is a start at least. But it still leaves me with a naughty gap in my life, preferably to be filled with something that won’t damage anyone else. I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Bad mother

I have led my little girl astray. She has had time on her hands as her boss is on holiday. So I sent her links to websites and 'blogs and then, I confess, I suggested she started blogging herself. As a good daughter always does, she has taken her mother's advice and now her lunchtimes will be entirely devoted to writing her 'blog (for of course she would not so digress during working hours).

Monday 13 March 2006

The Misfit

I can’t remember how old my dishwasher is. It might be thought that this is a trivial matter, except to people who hold annual parties for their white goods, but it could demonstrate a troubling hole in my memory. My husband says it’s not very old; 3 or perhaps 5 years (and he is the Sage and I generally defer to him in matters of accuracy) but I remember it going wrong a couple of Christmases ago and we paid for a new motor, but were unsure whether it was worth it on such an old machine.

So that’s worse, if it’s not a hole in my memory it’s one in his and he’s the reliable one.

Our first dishwasher was bought with most of a small legacy from an old lady that my mother unwisely befriended in the early 60s. I say unwisely because she was already a crabby old bird and she lived until December 1984 when she was 101. And a half. She came to visit us every Thursday; stayed for lunch, tea and dinner (oh yes, we knew how to entertain) and was returned home for the night. Thursdays were not our favourite day of the week.

You may think I’m mean. I have justification – an example? My father died suddenly and, as soon as she heard, Miss Fitt, as I’ll call her, came to see my mother. Mother was surprised and touched to see her – how kind of her, she thought, to come straight to comfort me. ‘Yur’ burst out Miss Fitt, ‘now you’ll know what it is to be lonely!’

However, in her last year I brought her some pleasure by taking my new baby to visit her. She was delighted; held him upside down and called him David, which wasn’t his name; nothing like it, but no matter.

Anyway, why I thought it was a good idea to buy an electrical appliance with money from a malevolent old woman who had blighted my childhood Thursdays, I don’t know. But this machine went wrong with evilly timed regularity. You only know when a dishwasher has malfunctioned when it is full of dirty dishes, so it has to be emptied and the stuff washed by hand; no great job usually but it always happened at Christmas or when people were staying and it was extremely inconvenient.

Finally it was replaced. But has that one been superseded since? I do not know. 3 dishwashers in 20 years or only 2?

Thank goodness I’m going on holiday in a couple of weeks. Life is just too exciting here.

Sunday 12 March 2006

No razor for me

I’ve postponed getting organised for a bit. I did a piece of work and emailed it to the appropriate people who were duly impressed as it was one of those things that’s useful but never becomes urgent, so it’s made me look really on top of things. This effect will last for at least a week so everyone will leave me alone.

I have to spend tomorrow morning on the phone however booking a venue for a lecture as the place already booked will have the builders in unexpectedly. This is not something I look forward to; I used to be somewhat telephone phobic and although I have overcome that, I still am not entirely comfortable making lots of phone calls. Emails are an absolute blessing as they save me from the telephone.

This morning was busy as I was sidesman at one church service and organist at the next, so I had earned a visit to the village pub by 12.30. There are about 10 of us who fairly regularly go along before Sunday lunch (don’t know if the others go in the evenings as I don’t) and they were almost all there. One wife, who was dutifully at home cooking lunch, was missing. Even my husband arrived, which is a rarity. I’m not sure what it says about me that I’m the only woman who regularly turns up solitarily; couples come or he does even if she doesn’t but not the other way round. I don’t actually drink more than the other women, maybe (oh, pathetic I sound) it’s that some weeks it feels like the only purely social occasion I get. The solution is in my own hands, true, but asking people in creates Work For Me and I don’t always feel like letting myself in for this in advance. However, if I happen to have plenty of food cooking I love to sweep up people and bring them home for lunch, particularly enjoyable as it's an unexpected pleasure.
I do feel a little shy if I turn up at the pub and no one I know is there, but there's always someone to chat to (though in a country village pub taking pot luck company is not always interesting in a good way). The publican’s daughter is presently raising sponsorship money for a gap year teaching in South India (I’m glad to say the village church trust fund has chipped in a decent amount) and Anna the barmaid has offered a sponsored head shave. I have put in a fiver – is that small amount mean? It’s what most people have stumped up, and some less. I wouldn’t do it for worlds, especially if I had a fabulous head of curly red hair like hers. The landlord himself is losing his beard in the same cause so I will sponsor him too of course. But a little easier to cope with I should think? Though I wouldn’t be his wife dealing with the stubble as it grows back, far too abrasive. It’ll be interesting to see him clean-shaven, I never have in the 8 years they have lived here.

Saturday 11 March 2006

Sliding a little more than is comfortable

Things are piling up a bit. I may have to write a to-do list.

I don’t like doing that, it makes me anxious to see written down all the jobs that must be done. Of course I do the usual tricks, like putting something really easy at the top (though I don’t go quite as far as ‘write to-do list’) so that it can be ticked off at once. But I’m likely to start forgetting things and so the delicate balance between despondency at array of jobs and reassurance that I know what I have to do is about to tip.

This is the 4th year of my 5-year plan to come off all committees. Unfortunately it’s still a 5-year plan as I’ve not come off any and have added one. I will leave a committee this summer however, after a disconcertingly lengthy 18 years (how can one stick at anything except possibly marriage and parenting for 18 years?) and maybe that will stiffen my resolve.

Chatting online to a friend this afternoon, he suddenly said ‘have you time for a coffee?’ – and I had. Maybe, though I hadn’t said anything, he detected a slight downness from my usual cheery demeanour. Good to see him anyway, hadn’t for weeks and it brightened our day.

Friday 10 March 2006

Gargling with champagne

Elder son, the greengrocer, has lost his voice. This is not good news as customers will insist on being friendly and chatting or asking questions. Furthermore his assistant had to take this morning off for a hospital appointment and Friday is a busy day.

Good old mum. Until 11 o’clock that is when I had to leave for a meeting. I can talk audibly now but regrettably don’t sound in the least like Fenella Fielding, just as if I’d be better home in bed. I haven’t spoken to him since, but there’s not much point as he won’t be able to answer me. However, he has the luxury of two assistants on Saturday morning, which counts as Staff, so with luck his larynx will improve a bit.

Driving through town I stopped to let a car across the road, as there was a steady stream of traffic my way and a queue behind him. He flashed his lights to thank me, which isn’t unusual and so did the driver behind him, which is. Aren’t people nice? That little unnecessary courtesy kept me smiling for some time.

And smiling more this evening as my husband, the Sage, has in the last few days has had really good stuff coming in for our next auction in May. Such goodies, how will we bear to sell them? We will of course, it’s privilege enough to handle them and be entrusted with their sale and you can’t buy the stock; that would be greedy. Like a small shop competing with supermarkets, we gain customers, buyers and sellers, by personal contact and deep knowledge and love of the items we sell.
And a really low rate of commission, let’s be frank.
And we pay out quickly after the sale.

Thursday 9 March 2006

Mother love can go too far

My son Baz showed me a flyer from a local restaurant, advertising their Mothering Sunday lunch. Before each course there was a little affectionate filial homily.

The first was ok – ‘Red Roses for My Mother’

The second was truly dodgy – ‘Little Bit More than Love For My Mother’

Then followed –‘I Just Want to have you here Longer My Mother’
‘Love Can’t be Measured as a Weight My Mother’
‘You are Always in Our Hearts My Mother’

To start with (particularly after the second creepy message) I thought of Oedipus. But on second thoughts, it’s more Norman Bates really. I just don’t want my children saying things like that to me.

At the end it said –‘BOOK NOW FOR A NICE LUNCH WITH US DONT MISS THE LAST CHANCE OR EVEN DANCE’. Huh? This is an English restaurant, why do they write as if English is a foreign language – and there’s nowhere to dance anyway, except on the bar I suppose if you clear the beermats.

My daughter rang this evening. Her phone had rung; she heard my sister’s voice talking to someone else – evidently she was on her landline and had accidentally phoned daughter Rosie with her mobile. Rose was concerned for Aunt’s bill as she couldn’t get rid of the call. And she was too deep in conversation to hear yoo-hoos from the mobile. I suggested she unplug her phone. I first thought of that when I had one of those annoying recorded messages that goes on for ages, when I was waiting for another call, it’s the only way I can think of to cancel a call if the other person doesn’t put the phone down.

I have unwisely said I will make vital phone calls tomorrow morning and now realise I’m shopkeeping. Better take the phone book and hope for no customers.

Wednesday 8 March 2006


So, I said airily, I have taken the afternoon off. I didn’t think it through at the time (the malevolent combined power of Lemsip and red wine, perhaps) but of course, all that means is that you’ve got more to do the next day.

Smart people learn from their mistakes. Really lazy ones just shrug and go and play with the baby.

Tuesday 7 March 2006

bathing with books

An annoying morning trying to get travel insurance, went through all the hoops and then it said it couldn't print out the policy because of unidentified error 99999. Hm. I don't know if it has taken my money or not and emailed to ask. No reply as yet except a promise that an acknowledgement with a reference number has been emailed to me. It hasn't. They were fine last year when I wanted a year-long world wide policy, but a modest week for two in Venice evidently doesn't atract quite the same level of service.

No, I'm not going with my husband.

This afternoon I decided to take off, as assuredly I wouldn't go in to the office, yesterday or today, if I had one. So I've listened to music and rewatched a film. The music, which is on now, is piano duets by Schubert played by Sviatoslav Richter and Benjamin Britten and I love it and play it often. BB's father was my father's dentist and young Ben practised upstairs, with the effect that the drill and the viola were uncomfortably linked in his mind. The film is Criminal, with Maggie Gyllenhaal et al, which I first saw on a plane to India and have since bought. Lightweight heist caper but I like it.

Shamed, I admit that I dropped a book in the bath the other night. I know, I know that I shouldn't rest them on the edge while I undress but it doesn't stop me. I am drying it out slowly and ironing it but it will join the half dozen other crinkly books that have been similarly abused over the years. Grandbaby is in love with books at present and brings them over to be read. Her favourite amonst mine is one called 'Where is Bobo?'; Bobo being a knitted doll of unidentifiable sex or species who is the beloved toy of a toddler Sam. It's a charming book but as I could only whisper yesterday, thrice was twice too many times.

Each of my children had a favourite baby book. Daughter's was Smith the Lonely Hedgehog by Althea Braithwaite, Elder son's was Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss (he must have been a little older perhaps?) and Younger son's was Each Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Alan Ahlberg. I loved the Blackberry Farm books (can't remember who wrote them and I'm too lazy to look) which were still in print when my children were small; I read Mrs Nibble to baby (breathily) only yesterday.

Monday 6 March 2006

The rest is silence/the silence is rest

Today I’ve lost my voice. Yesterday it was husky, this morning it was a croak and now it’s hardly a whisper. I have a meeting this evening at which, luckily, I don’t have to speak at all except socially afterwards; I will just smile a lot.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been unable to speak. I used to work at the local library and the same thing happened one Saturday. By lunchtime I was silent and, unfortunately, was due to be at the little branch library 3 miles away for the afternoon. It’s not easy being in sole charge of a library when you have laryngitis – this was long before the days of computers and swipe cards and we needed to talk to our customers. Though librarians are universally lovely people and still talk to us even though we can now bypass them altogether by using the electronic equipment.

The next time was when I’d had an operation on my vocal cords. I was not, in truth, unable to speak but forbidden to do so, warned that vibration would cause scarring and permanently affect the sound of my voice. It so happened that my mother-in-law died suddenly while I was still in hospital (the last thing she did for me was to buy me a Roberts radio as a consolation present) and this meant that I couldn’t simply lie low for a few weeks as planned but had the social publicity of a large funeral.

It was the first time that I began to understand what it is really like to have a disability. Mine was trivial of course because of its short duration, but I became a non-person. I was not physically excluded from groups of people, but if I started to write a comment during the conversation no one ever waited to see what I wanted to say. Not my family, not close or distant friends. A few people talked to me, politely, but I felt that I no longer mattered. More, I realised that if I was so easily disregarded, I had not mattered in the first place.

There was one exception to this, my nephew (my husband’s sister’s son) who made a casual point of sitting down with me after the funeral for a long chat, unembarrassedly making most of the conversation but leaving opportunities for me to write my notes and then responding to them as if I’d actually written something interesting. He was only in his early twenties but demonstrated more understated understanding than anyone else.

I have always rather regretted having the operation in fact. I liked my husky voice and it was the only time I’ve ever been able to attract men simply by uttering a few words. Several men, otherwise reserved and unflirtatious, said, ‘my god, you’ve got a sexy voice’. What a pity it only lasted a few months.

Saturday 4 March 2006

(lack of) Memories

Not long ago my husband of several decades and I were having a conversation about domestically life-changing decisions. Admittedly, conversation is rather overstating it as most of the occasions I came up with ‘do you remember …….?’ had the reply ‘no’. Including some particularly fondly remembered and meaningful ones. Such as the decision to move to this house, which is the one he was born in. I know where we were (lunch at the yacht club in Lowestoft), where we were sitting, what we were eating and what we said. He told me that, his father having died a few weeks before, that his mother had decided to move. I said, would he like to move there? You know how it is when (as my sister says, often, but she’s an impulsive girl) mouth overtakes brain? I didn’t know I was going to say it until I heard myself, I loved my house, a big Edwardian old rectory.

Okay, so he didn’t recall it. What about the one a week later (gosh, 1983 was an eventful summer) when we decided that a new start was a good time to have another baby? Well, the baby certainly happened so he wasn’t denying it, but he didn’t remember actually talking about it. How about the decision, when he reached 50, to ease off, workwise, have less money but enjoy simple family life? ‘Huh? We decided that?’ Me not to take a job when youngest went to school? ‘?’

'But you're supposed to be the one with the good memory, that's why I'm able to forget everything.'

Finally, and I’m glad to say that we were both laughing by this time, I said ‘Do you remember asking me to marry you?’ He replied keenly that he did. ‘what do you remember?’ I pressed on. I’d hit the jackpot here. ‘Well, we’d been to Long Melford for the evening, I had an appointment at the art gallery there to look at some pictures and I bought a Henry Bright that I thought Nigel would be interested in, but he didn’t much like it so I’ve still got it. Never had anywhere to hang it though. It was on our way back.’

I knew we were driving to Lowestoft along the A12; or more accurately, we’d stopped in a layby when he brought up the subject, but this colourfully arty background had escaped me years ago. I was hugely impressed. So I asked what he had said. He could, of course, have bluffed, since obviously he’d asked me to marry him and I’d said yes, but he admitted that the details had blurred into time forgotten.

He remembered the year and the month, but couldn’t recall the date – neither can I come to that. It took us years to remember our wedding anniversary, we used to have to look it up. We knew we had only been going out together for three weeks when we became engaged, though then had a very long engagement of over three months, which I thought was a bit of a waste of time. I suppose my sister isn't the only impulsive one in the family.

Friday 3 March 2006

Limped trembling through the frozen grass

I went to a meeting in the village, only 3 of us remembered to go so it was more of a chat with coffee and chocolates. Our host's garden has a gap in the hedge to Lorna's drive, you cut through her garden, then across Sybil's lawn and by her garage to the road. Which is good if you carry a torch and I, recklessly, don't. There's a hard frost and no lights and I stumbled into trees and flowerbeds. The new moon lounged negligently on her back and, once back on the road, I walked with my head thrown back so that I could pick out the constellations. A barn owl hooted from the other side of the field.

I like walking in the dark and I think it's a pity that street lighting stays on all night.

I still haven't found the CD changer. I am going to have to admit defeat and ask at the garage. I must remind myself that being laughed at is good for me.

My television licence reminder came today. It offers, as an alternative to the full price yearly licence, the short-term licence for 74 year olds, which seemed a little pessimistic at first sight. Of course, pro rata until you are entitled to a free one at 75. Well, that's something to look forward to. Or there's the Blind Concession. It makes one quite grateful to be eligible to pay the full price.

It is, as of Wednesday, Lent and several of my friends, more sincere and less self-indulgent than I, have given up treats, most of them chocolate or alcohol. I haven't. I volunteered to give up Big Macs but it was felt unlikely that this was a serious deprivation for me, although I protested that I'd eaten one in January.

Thursday 2 March 2006

Too many Cakes, though nearly not enough

Greengrocer son, who I think I will call Baz, rang anxiously to ask if I'd been given two cakes recently. I had and fortunately have only started to eat one. He was relieved. I have to take one back.

His shop is just by the (once a week) market place. A lady brings fruit cakes to Geoff, one of the stallholders. Just because she is good-natured. Once Geoff wasn't there as the weather was bad so she gave the cake to Baz instead and he shared it with us. It's delicious. No eggs and no added fat, it contains sultanas, cherries, pieces of ginger, coconut and is moist but not too rich. So now she occasionally brings one for us too. But Baz gave me one last week and then forgot he'd done so (that boy has the attention span of a mature fruit fly, and he would agree with me; I'm not being rude here), so a few days later Dilly gave me one too as he'd taken it home with another cake that another customer had given them.

Anyway, point is, Geoff wants his cake. So, lucky I haven't scoffed it already. But aren't the customers lovely?

The sun is shining today and bluetits are keenly searching the shrubbery outside my window. I heard a tapping against the kitchen window earlier and one was having a go at the putty, or maybe finding a few spiders on the window frame. I need to clear surplus vegetation out of the pond before frogs start laying as it will all be tangled up and I won't be able to do it. We must build a good framework with wire netting to go across the pond for Grandbaby's safety - for the tadpoles' too as we've been visited by a heron on occasion and it hoovers up whole beakfuls of newly hatched tadpoles.

Wednesday 1 March 2006

Out in the cold

Hardly any snow though it's bitterly cold. I have my new car now; my husband went to give a lift to the couple we've bought it from from their home to the garage and brought it back; then I went with him to fetch his car left in their drive. We each had things to do separately but I found myself doorkeyless when I arrived home so I had to wait nearly an hour for him to let me in. I spent some time reading the manual of the new car and couldn't find the CD changer anywhere. Or rather, where it goes. It says there is a sliding panel but not where and I feel a fool, having searched the car fruitlessly. The book describes the whereabouts of everything else, even if it's glaringly obvious, but not the discreetly hidden.

Now I've got it I can't drive it until Friday as that's when the insurance changes, there wasn't any point in cancelling the other policy with a couple of days to go. I meanly put in £5worth of petrol into the old one; I don't have to go far tomorrow and I don't want to sell it with a full tank. That does sound parsimonious and it's small defence to say that there was probably a gallon in there already but I also didn't want it right on the red. The really shocking thing is that £5 buys only 5.5 litres which is about a gallon and a quarter. Pricing it by the litre does disguise the cost and over £4 per gallon would appal people.

Grandbaby came through to be looked after this morning while her mummy and daddy went to hospital. Daughter-in-law Dilly had an appointment for a scan; they are expecting another baby in September. Babe's latest accomplishment is to stack bricks one on top of each other; she's not quite had the co-ordination before although she's been practising. She expects, and receives, applause for this accomplishment and joins in enthusiastically. She and Tilly the dog are at ease with each other now; Dilly was concerned about hygiene to start with so we kept them apart, but now she crawls and puts everything in her mouth, cuddling a dog too will be a further boost to her immune system.