Tuesday 31 October 2006

Am I getting a DBM?

Is it that one's face gets thinner, even if one gets fatter, as one ages?

I have a scarred upper lip. The result of being hit accidentally in the face by a perfectly pleasant, but quite beefy (not in the overweight sense, just tall and muscular) German girl called Leonarda Swirskis (I may not have the spelling right and I rather hope I don't in case she ever Googles herself) wielding a hockey stick. I was 14 at the time, I think, and I never engaged in a game of hockey again. I avoided the action. Fortunately, it missed my teeth, but I can still feel the scar on the inside of my lip, but until recently it was not visible to the outside world. Well, it was if you knew it was there, but no-one did.

Twice recently, I have looked in the mirror (always a mistake) and seen it. As a line extending through and above the lip. This is a precursor of a DBM which is the sorriest manifestation of female old age. Well, apart from incontinence.


Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.

Nothing happened for most of the day. I haven't had time to write anything imaginative or personal and I was going to let you all have a day off.

And then............

No, daddy didn't fall into the pond (I do hope you know this poem, or you will think I'm absolutely barking)

Dilly found a piglet in the road!! Oh, go on then..... !!!

She phoned me to ask what to do. I knew to whom it belonged - well, the most likely person. I said I'd ring.

Actually, that's about it. I phoned, the lady there (who was not the farmer, S & B were out) said she'd find someone to help and ten minutes later, Dilly stopped her car to pick me up on her way home - I was hotfooting it to go and help in case the piglet tried to get on to the bypass, not having appreciated quite how small it was - and said a young man "Well, younger than me" she said, had come from the farm. At that time it was frolicking in long grass so he was able to scoop it up with little difficulty. He said that they'd had a call earlier, but not been able to find it, so he was grateful that Dilly had stayed. It had walked about a mile, poor little thing, it was only one day old.

And Pugsley was weighed today. 11lbs 15oz. At a month and two days old. Well, my children all gained weight speedily too, nothing like mother's milk. I held him while Dilly was pottering round the room doing things. His eyes followed her all the time. Afterwards, while she was giving Squiffany her tea (she made a pizza at the baby-group) I sang nursery rhymes to him. He didn't seem to mind, maybe his eyesight is better than his hearing.

Monday 30 October 2006

Winding down

The weekend has been quiet but I am tired this morning. This is entirely my own fault, as I went to bed very late. Since the clocks went back yesterday it would have been sensible to go to bed an hour earlier rather than later.

I bought croissants and decadent stuff like that for breakfast on Saturday. El and I both got up quite late and I made a pot of coffee and one of tea and took a trayful into the drawing room so that we could lounge around and chat while we ate. We were impressed and happy to find that the Sage had lit a fire, the first this autumn. It has been so mild that we haven't needed one - we didn't then, really, but it was such a pleasure. I said that we'll want it every night now and the Sage said that we've plenty of coal and wood - use as much as you like, he said expansively, I've had my £200 pensioner's heating allowance.

I look forward keenly to pensionerhood and my free bus pass.

Later, Dilly came over with the babies and we all played happily together. I went and made plates of sandwiches, cheese and egg, which were about all that were left in the larder, opened wine and fruit juice and we relaxed for most of the day. Squiffany came with me to the station to take El to catch her train. "Choo choo," she said hopefully and was not disappointed. She has not had a train ride yet, there's not much point in taking a train to Norwich as it's nearly as far to the station as it is to Norwich. Maybe Beccles to Lowestoft in the summer.

I didn't feel like cooking in the evening, so we fetched fish and chips. Gorgeous.

Sunday, relaxed again. No church in the morning so I got up late, listened to the radio, read the papers, caught up on blogs. Eventually, I went to check the sale accounts and was extremely gratified to find that they were right, which meant that we'd given the right change and that I'd added the cheques correctly. Once, I had the embarrassment of having to ring someone and asking for the £100 that I'd undercharged him.

Pub at lunchtime - I was running late by then so I skipped lunch and had beer instead. Only a pint, however, as I was playing the organ in the afternoon. There was a service for All Souls' day, which isn't until 2nd November, but we have it on the Sunday before, in remembrance of people who have died. All Souls' day isn't particularly commemorated in this country (unless it is by Catholics?) but the last Rector started up this service a few years ago and it is very much appreciated. Invitations are sent to those who have been bereaved during the past year, and it is open to all of course. Fifty-something people came, including several children remembering grandparents and it was a warm and comforting service. Everyone who wanted to, which meant everyone in fact, lit a candle in memory of those they were thinking of. Tea and cakes and a chat in the church rooms afterwards. Churches should be, and actually often are, for helping more than preaching.

And in the evening, Roro and I did a jigsaw. Started it, anyway. Nice to have a son who is good-natured enough still to do that sort of thing in the evening once in a while.

The fishmonger calls on a Monday morning and today he had mussels. Yum (me), Yuck (the Sage). That's all right, I'll have them for lunch and all the fewer to scrub.

Sunday 29 October 2006

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part Three

The best is yet to come? Last cliché of the day, with any luck.

Do you go to auction sales? Whether as a buyer or a seller, they are very exciting. Even as a spectator you can feel the thrill and the tension. I should think that there is something of the same excitement as a gambler feels, except that at the end you have something to show for it.

I don't want to put in our website address as I don't want to tell everyone who visits it via Google about this blog. A girl has some modesty. Not much of course, but I prefer to remain a closet exhibitionist. So, if I tell you L*w*st*ftch*n*a dot co dot uk, I expect you can work out the rest and so, if you choose to, you can look us up. If you can't, email me and I'll tell you.

The sale started with a few books - there have not been many books written specifically about L/ft china, and they are all out of print, so there is a keen second-hand market for them. Then we went on to teapot lids. Yes, just the lids. So besotted are collectors that they are willing to buy the cover in the hope that, one day, they might find a matching pot.

I won't run through it all. I'll be writing a report for the website within a few days which will say a good deal more. It was a fantastic sale though. The Sage said that, busy as he was, it was one of the easiest sales he had ever had. Arms waving all over the room. Sometimes four or five bidders vying with each other at the same time. They were not always easy to spot as the room was so full. There's always something that goes bananas and this time it was a little vase. Only four inches high and in perfect condition, it was pretty and quite uncommon - certainly, it's rare to find an undamaged one. But this, estimated at £400-£600, rocketed up to £1,450 - plus the buyer's premium of 10%. The bargain of the sale, in my opinion (because I liked it), was a nice barrel-shaped teapot - Lot 36 if you look it up. There was a big chip off the spout and a crack which didn't really matter and it made £484 in total. Spend £50 on restoring the spout and it'd easily fetch £800.

You don't have to spend a lot, if you don't mind some damage and you want a hand-made, hand-painted item, well over 200 years old. A couple of pieces went for £55 each and another for just over £70. A teabowl and saucer in fine condition can be bought for around £400, which was the price of Al and Dilly's new washing machine. It might not be so useful, but instead of throwing it away in ten years time, you will be able to sell it at a good profit, and have had considerable pleasure from it in the meantime - which is the point of buying it. People who invest without pleasure for the beauty of the item miss a lot. I don't think there are many of those however, it's not that sort of china.

The thing is with much of this china is that it is accessible. It is not necessarily for the rich. I know lots of people who just have one or two pieces, because L/ft is their birthplace or their home town and it is a bit of their heritage. There are splendid pieces, many of them in museums, but it is a homely, domestic sort of china and was mostly made for use - which is why much of it is damaged.

However, some pieces were made to be decorative, commemorative and to be displayed proudly and handed down the family. And this is what happened to our prize lot, that was briefly left behind on the kitchen table. It is a small disc of china, carefully painted in underglaze blue. On one side it has a painting of a Chinese house and walled garden. On the other is a name, Th0s (short for Thomas) Anders0n and his birthdate, September 13th 1790. It is only 3 inches in diameter and is in perfect condition. These little commemorative b1rth pl@ques, which have one or two small holes to thread a ribbon through to hang on the wall, were unique to L/ft. There are, probably, around 25 of them still in existence, but I don't know of one that has been sold at auction in some time and we have never been able to offer one before.

We estimated it, rather conservatively we knew, at £8,000 to 10,000. I had a bidder on the telephone and there were several potential buyers in the room. One person, who did not want to be seen to be bidding, had arranged a code with the Sage. The bidding started at £7,000 - the Sage does not waste time by starting boringly low - and quickly rose. My bidder held back until £12,000 and then told me to bid. I waved my card. I was outbid. He told me to bid again, but there were two bidders in the room, and his bid had to be £12,600. £12,800, £13,000. The discreet bidder stopped, but there was still another buyer in the room. "The bidding's at £13,500, do you want to put in another bid?" "One more." One more was enough. Everyone applauded. I congratulated him, said goodbye and put the phone down. The end of the sale and a queue of people waving cash and chequebooks was forming. Ro printed off all the invoices and I got to work.

The man who had remarked on the friendly atmosphere had bought a piece. He looked at us. "Is this an entire family business, then?" he asked. Well yes it is, really, us and our three children, the Sage's cousin C, Dilly and Pugsley...... during the sale, Pugsley squeaked and Dilly hastily wheeled him out to be fed. "Ah, sorry about that," said the Sage. "My grandson just woke up."

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part Two

Things could only get better? Still riding the clichés.

I was running late. I had spent some time playing with Squiffany, to give Dilly time to catch up with chores. I hurried out to buy supplies of food. Sale days are the rare times when I unashamedly buy quantities of junk food. We are busy all afternoon and evening, handling items of fragile antique china and we need to keep up our energy levels, with only a few snatched minutes to eat. So I fill rolls with meat, cheese and salad and buy cakes, chocolate biscuits, crisps and sweet drinks - as well as bottles of water which I don't normally buy. I think the use of food miles and plastic bottles to transport fancy water, when every drop that comes out of our taps has been purified to drinking quality is one of the dafter examples of modern life.

We were ready to leave by one o'clock, which was all right. Half an hour to reach the saleroom, an hour to set up, half an hour in hand for unexpected problems plus, hopefully, a cup of tea and a brief break. Two miles down the road, the Sage said "You did put in the *star item*, didn't you?" "I thought you did. I put it in its box and waved it at you and put it down again." Ah. We turned the car around and headed home.

We left again at one-fifteen. And the Sage, most uncharacteristically, drove, if not recklessly, without his usual reck. We sat in silence for most of the way, each of us (Ro had taken the day off work and was with us) calming down in our own way. We unpacked the car and I headed for the car park, anticipating some difficulty in finding a space.

And this is where the day changed. As I approached the furthest corner, a car backed out of a space. I drove in and, as I put money in the ticket machine, three cars went past, drivers peering to see if someone was about to leave. More cars were driving in as I walked out. I said 'thank you' to my vastly appreciated guardian angel. No, really, it isn't superstition, I have a personal other-worldly assistant, he's fabulous and saves me from myself and from disaster. And, just occasionally, he finds me a parking space, when it really matters.

We were all ready by quarter to three, but people were already hopefully hovering. At five to, I started giving out the china to the ten or so people sitting at the tables and then, just as I was about to go round registering them with booking numbers, in streamed a dozen more.

How we arrange the sale is to have three tables, covered with blankets and then white tablecloths, down the middle of the room. Around them, with space in between for us to walk about, are more tables at which the viewers sit. There's probably room for about 30 people at a time. The rest of the room has rows of chairs for them to sit at during the sale. They ask for the china they wish to look at and we hand it to them. They are welcome to handle it - some people like to see it all, others only ask for a few selected lots. The viewing goes on for four hours and is constantly busy.

Our various helpers came and went during the afternoon, putting in a couple of hours each. Ro helped and also dealt with the registration. Al, Dilly and Pugsley arrived at about 6.15, after Al had shut up shop and done his Friday deliveries and El hurried in, having come on the 6.30 train. The saleroom was full, nearly every seat taken with a dozen or so standing. Many of the buyers have known us for many years and are friends, but there are new ones every time. On man said "this is very civilised and friendly, I've never known a sale quite like it."

At six-forty, I phoned the one person who had asked to make a telephone bid. I confirmed the lot numbers he was interested in. At six-fifty, the Sage reminded everyone to register and a couple more hopeful bidders-to-be came to the desk. There was an expectant feeling in the air. I wished I'd got around to visiting the loo at some time during the day, but decided I could hang on for another couple of hours.

The Sage taped his gavel on the table, welcomed everyone to the sale and announced the first lot.

Saturday 28 October 2006

What my birth date says about me? I wasn't born on my due date, however

Your Birthdate: September 10

Independent and dominant, you tend to be the alpha dog in most situations.
You're very confident, and hardly anything ever shakes you.
Mundane tasks tend to drain you - you prefer to be making great plans.
You are quite original. When people don't "get" you, it bothers you a lot.

Your strength: Your ability to gain respect

Your weakness: Caring too much what others think

Your power color: Orange-red

Your power symbol: Letter X

Your power month: October

Thanks, Wendz, for doing the '8 random facts' meme so brilliantly, and for the birth date quiz - yes and no. I'm not an alpha dog, but I trust myself, which probably means I'm confident. And I don't know what a power symbol is, but it would be X, if it were not already Z.

I'm fine with mundane tasks and I respect what people think but I'm not anxious for approval myself. If they don't 'get me' it's fine too, why should they, I don't matter (this is not negative, I love the fact of being a minute speck in the scheme of things. Each of us is both everything and nothing. Well, that's what I think).

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part One

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days? It was a day of two halves?

Whatever cliché I use, the day started particularly badly and we could only be thankful that it didn't end that way.

Al woke to hear Squiffany calling for him. He usually gets her up, as Dilly has to wake up a few times in the night to feed the baby and he lets her have a lie-in until he goes to work, if possible. He went into Squiffany's bedroom, to see her looking shocked. "Daddy," she said, "So sorry. Sick. Bed. Mess. So sorry, mess."

He took her through to the bathroom, undressed and bathed her, dressed her and found her a toy while he stripped the bed and put the sheets and her pyjamas into the washing machine. Then he went out to feed Goosey.

Goosey usually hears the back door being opened and waits, honking, at the gate. But there was no sight or sound of him. After a search, Al discovered the reason. A fox, or probably two had visited during the night and had killed him as he slept - there had been no sound and there was no sign of a struggle, just our poor goose, half-eaten in the grass.

Goosey had belonged to my mother. Some 16 years ago, she acquired two eggs from a poultry-keeping friend and one of our bantams sat - perched precariously - on them until one hatched; the other never did. Rather than keeping him alone, my mother further acquired a cockerel and two ducks to share his run and there they all lived amicably. In the end, his companions died of old age and Al inherited Goosey on his grandmother's death.

So, Al went back in the house, told Dilly what had happened, and then came to tell his father before going off to work. Later on, I went in to commiserate with Dilly. Squiffany was fine, no after-effects from the sickness, fortunately, but Dilly was trebly disconsolate. Upset about Goosey of course, but she had also just finished mopping up the kitchen. "The washing machine did the sheets all right," she said, "but when I put in the next load, it leapt out and pulled the hose out and the plug from the socket and now it doesn't work at all. I think it's had it, it's 11 years old and not worth repairing."

At least, I mentioned helpfully, it had washed that first stinky load before its demise, showing itself to have been, to the last, a loyal and helpful appliance. We also agreed that, if bad luck comes in threes, at least the worst had already happened.

Thursday 26 October 2006

It's the little things

I am in high good humour today. And for so little reason. I mean, no reason at all not to be cheerful, blessings are falling over themselves to be counted (if I allowed myself to think of the horrible backlog of work that will dismay me next week, my mood would plummet, but that's not for now. I am not breaking deadlines yet.), but it is the little extras that need to be appreciated. It is, sometimes, similarly little incidents that can plunge one into a miserable mood and so, if you have a tendency to melancholy, it is all the more vital to take every opportunity to be happy.

Ah. I've broken the thread and talked too much. Sorry, I'll start again.

I am in high good humour today. The smallest thing can tip one into cheerfulness, and today it was, simply, that the Sage had his mobile phone with him, charged up and switched on. I had a phone call, one of whole lots - what is it with phone calls? Have some people never heard of email? - and needed to check something with my husband. And I could. It took half a minute, I was able to relay the message and relax.

Otherwise, I would have waited anxiously until he arrived home, then he would have had to deal with the situation, having kept the person waiting in the meantime.....

Now, this doesn't sound a reason for great joy. It just sounds normal. But the Sage doesn't really like mobile phones as they apply to him. He likes being able to contact people on them, he expects me to have mine, just in case he wants a chat. He just doesn't really see that I might be equally glad to know how to get hold of him. He had used it so little that his Sim card was disconnected and I had to buy him a new one, plus £20-worth of credit. This will probably last him two years.

Anyway, I was able to give him a happy and praiseful reception when he arrived home and hope (oh, will I ever learn?) that this lesson will be remembered next time he wants to come home to a smiling wife.

The second thing that made me cheerful, indeed it made me Laugh Out Loud, was Anna's post today. It was over an hour ago that I read it, and I'm still chortling spasmodically, although the Sage is starting to look at me oddly and I maybe should go and do some work.

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Z's going soft and gentle. Won't last, make the most of it

It was, indeed, a good evening. Roro (this is Squiffany's name for him and I think it rather suits) had volunteered to cook a beef curry. He had been given a new recipe and some particularly splendid curry powder and wanted to try it out. I offered to cook a cauliflower and potato dish (phool gobi aur aloo ki bhaji, if that means more to you), which has lots of cumin in it. We had done the preparation and the beef was cooking when the family dropped by and so had time to spare.

We'd have spared the time anyway. Everything is dropped for Squiffany and Pugsley.

It won't, of course, all go as smoothly as this. But it is a lovely introduction for them to life as a family of four. Al has gone back to work now. This should be his half day - as he works all day every Saturday he sticks to the tradition of an early closing day midweek - but he will stay open later today. The shop is busy this week for half term. He sold lots of pumpkins yesterday - not surprising, he's undercutting the local supermarket and, he's been told, Tesco too. It's good that parents are bringing the children in to buy them fruit instead of sweets - there has been a visible change in attitude in the last couple of years. People are making an effort to eat healthier; I'm not sure that this will show much effect healthwise for a while, but it is a start. They are also trying hard to cut down on waste, returning bags for reuse or bringing their own. They refuse paper bags too if possible.

A friend is coming round for dinner tonight. He will help us with the sale on Friday (it's a family and friends business) and then he's off to New Zealand on Sunday. His daughter and son-in-law moved there a few years ago and, having visited a few times, he and his wife love the country too - she went out a month or so back. They have now gained residency and spend about half the year in each hemisphere, having sold their family house here and bought a flat instead. In the long run (they both have a mother to think of) they will spend more of the year over there.

I will make a roast pumpkin soup, braised shoulder of lamb in tomato, onion and carrot, pommes boulangère and whatever vegetables look nicest, and pineapple, which I probably won't do much to. There are some gorgeous pineapples around and there's no need to do anything elaborate. I may spoon some passion fruit onto it. I may even make a syllabub, but I'm not promising anything.

Tuesday 24 October 2006

Where? - Boo!

Squiffany loves playing hide-and-seek. Playing peep-bo is one of the first games you play with a baby isn't it - a cloth over their eyes for a moment "Where's baby? Where are you?" and then laughter when first you and later the baby takes it away. And then you do it to yourself too, "Where's Granny?"

One of her first useful gestures was an elaborate shrug of the shoulders, wide questioning eyes, and when she could speak she added the word "Where?"

Tonight, she taught Tilly to play. Tilly was rummaging in the corner of the drawing room, hoping to smell a mouse, and Squiffany was searching for her. Under chairs, behind cushions - there she is! - "Boo!" After a couple of times, we realised that Tilly was not mousing any longer (there was no mouse there but she is eternally an optimist), but was lying still and quiet until she was found. We were hugely impressed; Tilly was not brought up with children and has not had many chances to play with them. Then we tried it the other way round. Squiffany went to hide. "Where's Squiffany, Tilly?" we asked. Tilly sniffed the ground and trotted over to the corner. There she was!

Pugsley is growing rapidly. His face has filled out and he is gaining an extra chin or two. He will come, all being well, to his first auction on Friday. I wonder if he will put in any bids.

Monday 23 October 2006

To post or not? yeah, go on.

I haven't really anything to write about. I seem to write more over the weekend, unlike many people who take the weekend off. And, although quite a lot has happened today, not much of it is bloggable.

I will have more precious sweet time from now on. Al says that Dilly is quite able to manage the children, most of the time, so he will go back to work. I was in the shop this afternoon as she blithely accepted an invitation to visit a friend in Norwich before remembering that she can't drive yet. And, even if she finds driving all right (she was told to avoid it for six weeks and is now a little over halfway there, but six weeks? Just what can one keep up for six weeks? Jeez) she still has two children to lift and strap into their car seats. So Al went with her.

Precious sweet time, I said. But it's still redundancy. Woe.

Well, not that much woe. I can do the housework tomorrow! Yay!! (Ooh, one more ! and I'll emulate JonnyB).

The shop was very busy today. Lots of happy children choosing pumpkins to carve for Hallowe'en. Children are just so endearing. Sure, they can be a pain, but there aren't many I don't like - they are, usually, so straightforward and responsive. There aren't many of them, unless, perhaps, those with particular handicaps or illnesses, who do not respond to the way they are treated. There was one little girl with both her parents. She made a great fuss of her father, maybe he works hard and is not often there during the day. The mother smiled, enjoying the happiness. Another girl was with Granny. She didn't want a bag for her pumpkin, she wanted to carry it proudly, for everyone to see. One young woman has three boys, the eldest about 8 and twins a couple of years younger. They are lovely children, who carry a basket round the shop and take turns to put things in it. Another mother was a bit impatient with her daughter in a pushchair. I was sorry for her and the little girl, as the older son was just so annoying. He went and looked at the back of the shop, where supplies are stored. Then he came by the counter and looked at me. Most children, I'd have greeted in a friendly way. But somehow, he gave me the creeps. Funny, isn't it. I ignored him.

Oh, Bananaman. He comes in for a few vegetables, sometimes a lemon, but always a banana. He annoys Al and all his staff. Mm (preening) - he likes me. I am entirely sympathetic to his wish to check every price several times and to add the bill in his head at the end, because you can't really trust an electronic till. Al asked if I felt insulted, that he doubts what I ask him to pay. Not really, it's his foible, he can't help it. "You're happy" said Bananaman. I agreed that I was. "I can tell," he said, "you're always smiling."

I come home and snarl, of course. You can only smile for so long.

Sunday 22 October 2006

The family story – part 6– the distaff side

If you want to catch up, go to Search This Blog and put in family story, and you will find parts 1-5.

I left my father going to Weymouth in 1946. There, he would meet and marry my mother. So it seems a good point to stop and start again with the other side of my family.

I have already said, right at the beginning, how little I know about my maternal grandmother, Janet. So this is about my grandfather, David. I don't know much, but at least I knew him, which is more than I can claim for any of my other grandparents.

He was born on Trafalgar Day, so his first name was Nelson, although it was never used. He had two brothers, and they all joined the army soon after the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. His two brothers were strapping lads, topping 6 foot, but young David was only 5 foot 5. He was a superb horseman, however, and specialised in stunts, such as galloping, lance in hand, and picking up a small quoit on the end of the lance. And leaning from his horse, again at full gallop, to pick up a lady's handkerchief from where it lay on the ground. He paid for this agility in later years with acute arthritis in one hip. By the time hip replacement operations came in, it was too late for him and he walked with a pronounced limp, in spite of a built-up shoe, and was in constant pain.

He spent all the war years in Europe, in the trenches. He survived the war. His two tall brothers did not, mown down as so many were of that generation.

A few years ago, the details of those killed was put up on the internet, and my sister looked up our great-uncles. She discovered that they had not been killed outright, but that one had survived to be brought back to England and the other, too gravely injured to be moved had, nevertheless, been visited by his mother, who was with him when he died. To watch two sons die is beyond the imagination of any mother, but she was not alone and, somehow, she survived.

David and Janet were second cousins. In the way that things were done in those days, they courted for several years before they were married. Their first and only surviving child was born on Remembrance Day, 1923. In 1925, Janet died. Putting two and two together, I believe that she died of septicaemia, following a miscarriage. My mother was only eighteen months old at the time and, as her father was not able to look after her by himself, she went to live with her grandparents.

David's mother and Janet's father had both been widowed and, having known each other as cousins all their lives, it was a friendly and practical arrangement for her to go and live in his house and help to run it. It was not thought scandalous or immoral, nor was it. They were both over seventy (Janet was the ninth of ten children, born when her mother was well into her forties) and it was an acceptable arrangement to the society of the day.

My mother lived there for more than five years. They were the happiest of her childhood. It was an ideal home for a small motherless child, calm and loving, and she idolised and idealised her grandparents for her whole life. Her grandfather was a retired farmer, called John Farmer - try to get more English than that! - and they lived in what was then a small town (now much larger) in North Wiltshire.

A second slice of meme

How do we know tagged me. The first 4 random Z-facts went up yesterday and here are 4 more.

* I am not a perfectionist. I think somewhere between 80% and 95% is ample and if 70% will do, that’s good enough for me. There is always an exception, however, and any sort of handiwork should be as near perfect as possible because, as long as the work is actually completed, there is very little more work in getting it exactly right than in just wrong enough to annoy you forever.

* My special talent is in keeping small children quiet in restaurants while waiting for a meal to arrive. This does not mean I go round the tables entertaining them, god forbid, I refer only to children who are at my table. I teach them napkin folding – from Mrs Beeton. The two I do are fairly intricate, but attractive. One is a slipper and the other I call a waterlily, although I have a feeling Mrs B. called it a rose and crown or something. The other thing I do is teach them, from The Walrus and the Carpenter,

“The time has come,” the Walrus said
“To talk of many things.
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax,
Of cabbages - and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings.”

Which takes them ages to learn and entertains them mightily. You might not find these much fun, but small children do and a number of parents have been very grateful to me. As have whole restaurantfuls of customers who are glad to find they are not being disturbed by bored 5-year-olds

* I am not squeamish in regard to creepy crawlies. I will pick up any insect, arachnid, or scuttling creature except cockroaches, which receive no mercy from me and are exterminated at sight. I have not, in fact, seen a cockroach in this country for years (little ones in a hotel bathroom in Chennai didn’t bother me and I didn’t kill them – I was the intruder not they) but one year we had a delivery of coal to my parents’ house which must have contained cockroach eggs, which hatched in the warmth of the coal cellar where the boiler was also situated. They came up the pipes into the kitchen and were the devil to eliminate.

Nothing else bothers me, I’ll pick up slugs, spiders, blackbeetles and mice which I have pursued round the room and trapped under a cushion, anything that, if it bites me, will not cause any particular injury, because that would be unwise. When I was a little girl, I deeply resented the nursery rhyme

‘What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.’

I wondered why boys got the fun things and girls just had to be ‘nice’.

* I miss my long hair. I loved it. I used to hold it against my face and snuggle into it. As a child, I had long, blonde hair and it wasn't until my mid-twenties that I had it cut to somewhere just below my shoulders. When I was pregnant with Ro, I couldn't bear the thought of that backward lean into the basin, so I avoided going to the hairdresser and it grew very long again. Eventually I had it cut into a bob and, in variations of style and with the addition, a couple of years back, of a fringe, there it has stayed.

I miss being properly blonde. If I had all my hair, it would be, but it needs a few months of growth to make its mind to go to its real colour and so it's the sort of blonde that looks brown to someone who doesn't know what they are looking for. I did have highlights put in for a year or two, some while back, but two hours and quite a lot of money to have something done so subtly that my husband didn't even notice for six months seemed a bit pointless.

Because my hair was so long and I hardly ever had it cut, I was a virtual stranger to the hairdresser for many years. When I did go, I used to fall asleep. The massaging sensation, the stroking and combing, the repetitive snipping sound of the scissors was very soporific. I had to fight an overwhelming urge to go to sleep.

I seem to have ended on a slightly melancholy note, but there we are. Maybe when I am old and have silver hair, I'll let it grow again and twine it up in a chignon, and brush it out each night lovingly. Until then, it'll look better short.

I started by thinking that this was impossibly hard. But - or is it just me? - it's quite easy to write about oneself. I won't tag you by name, but I have several people in mind* ----------** so, if you have a go, please let me know.

*Yup, you ;-)

**yes, you too, sweetie

Bear with me, real life breaks in occasionally

A young friend of mine, C. is in hospital and I am extremely anxious about her. Her weight has dropped to a dangerous level. She (and I don't often see her and get this information from a mutual friend, S.) denies that she is anorexic, however, as she knows she is too thin and says she wants to eat, but she gets stomach cramps after eating most foods and so is afraid to eat - she associates anorexia with a mistaken body image. She has been tested for many allergies and illnesses, with negative results.

It seems to me that accepting her assertion that she is not anorexic is not helping her at all. It seems self-evident to me that she is suffering from an eating disorder, however you categorise it. She was in hospital a few months ago, but only because she collapsed; until then she had never been to the doctor at all about this problem. S. is much more comfortable with calling it a food allergy than anorexia, but I don't see why. It is an illness, there is no shame in it. If I had a nervous breakdown or suffered from bi-polar disorder, I should not be shunned because my illness was more of the mind than the body.

C's mother has tried to take the pragmatic route, which would be the way my mind works too - look, you may feel pain after food, but it is still nourishing you, just eat little and often and it will be doing you some good. But she can't, won't - and weighs about 4 stone. Which is 56 pounds. 25 kilos. If it drops more, she will die.

She is on a drip in hospital now, as she is so low in various vitamins, and on a fairly strict regime, told she has to eat 1500 calories a day and then build up from that. But until she understands the problem, she is not capable of breaking away from it.

My mother developed anxieties about foods and all I could do was try to accommodate her wishes as much as I could, while making sure she took in as much nutrition as possible. But she was in her seventies, and physically ill too.

C. is only thirty, strong willed, intelligent and independent. Can you help someone who denies that she needs help?

Saturday 21 October 2006

Saturday evening, and Z has been drafting.

I'm continuing with my family story, on my mother's side, and I know this is going to be difficult. I intend to say something that my mother kept secret all her life for one thing, and she was a strong-minded person, so I'm not doing it lightly. But I think it will release her from something which she blamed herself for, but which was so trivial - and so unkind - that it will sadden you that it meant a lot to her.

That's for another day. Tonight, we have had more lamb for dinner, This was a casserole of the tough bits, the neck and the shanks. I cooked them with onions and tomatoes until tender the other evening, and then took them off the bone, tiddled up the gravy a bit, and served them with gorgeous, newly dug turnips and curly kale, and, um, oven chips*. Well. I'd been busy, and didn't have any more time. And chips are tasty. Especially when sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt. My parents used to buy this from Fortnum and Mason in the '60s, and I still have never tasted a better salt, nor seen a prettier. Little pyramids, they are. Sweet**.

*For non-British readers, of course I mean French fries, not potato chips, which are crisps. Oh, American English. It's all right when it's pavement = sidewalk, as there's no room for misunderstanding. But the chips/fries/crisps hoo-hah, the pants/vest (which are, to us, underwear), shorts, suspenders kerfuffle, they could give rise to serious misunderstanding. If we were not all so sympathetic and intelligent.

**Sweet meaning adorable. They are, of course, salty.

8 Random Things About Me. A tag from How do we know

This is like being twelve years old at school and the teacher says you can write an essay on any subject you like and your mind promptly goes blank. I write fairly randomly in any case, about whatever comes into my mind as I sit here, and apart from a few pictures, taken to be posted, I rarely plan in advance.

Several refer to childhood, several contain verse, this wasn’t expected but has simply happened.

* When I am upset or emotional, my eyes become intensely green like a cat’s. This happens even if I don’t cry (where the contrast of green and red is unpleasantly startling) but, although I have seen it in the mirror many times (yes, when upset I am sometimes looking in the mirror, cause and effect might be cited here), no one else has ever mentioned it to me.

* When I was a child of 4 or 5, there was a song. My sister used to sing it to me. And not in a nice way. She teased, because that’s what big sisters do.

“I'm not a bat or a rat or a cat,

I'm not a gnu or a kangaroo,
I'm not a goose or a moose on the loose,
I am a mole and I live in a hole.”

My mole (one of many, I am considerably molier than thou) has been with me from earliest childhood and is situated in my armpit. I was deeply embarrassed by it as a child and never raised my right arm unless I was wearing long sleeves. Now it hardly makes me self-conscious at all, as I have so many other bodyparts to be embarrassed by.

* When I was a child, strangers called me Alice. Which is not my name. I was a dear little long-blonde-haired child with a winsome expression. Even when I was in my late 20s, the village shopkeeper decided to name me Alice. Yet, when there was a school production of Alice in Wonderland when I was 10, I was given the role of the Walrus. I wore baggy trousers with braces, a striped red and white teeshirt and, of course, I had to grow a droopy moustache. Or maybe I wore a stick-on one, I can’t quite remember. My friend Angela played the Carpenter, as her father was the school caretaker and had a splendid carpenter’s bench.

* When I am at the dentist, I do mental arithmetic to distract myself. Or practise times tables. My favourite times table is 17. I was pleased to be 51 as that is 17x3 which is excellent. 52 was good as it is a pack of cards. 53 is all right because, as I have mentioned before, I am now the age of the year I was born in, if you take the century for granted. I haven’t thought of anything good about any future year until 64, which, being both a square and a cube, is a very cool number.

When I’ve had enough of numbers, I turn to poetry. I learned this Shakespeare sonnet when I was 14. I decided to learn a sonnet and not one of the best known.

Those lips, that love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate.”
To me, who languished for her sake.
But, when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue which, ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom
And taught it thus anew to greet.
“I hate” she altered with a word
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who, like a fiend,
From Heaven to Hell is flown away
“I hate” from hate away she threw
And saved my life, saying “not you.”

Some years ago, I borrowed a slim volume of poetry from the library, which was called ‘poems to learn by heart’ or something like that. I only learned one, and it was about the shortest. It was by Rudyard Kipling, I think and was, of course, about James I (or James VI if you are a Scot).

The child of Mary, Queen of Scots
A shifty mother’s shiftless son.
Bred up among intrigues and plots
Learned in all things, wise in none.
Ungainly, babbling, wasteful, weak,
Shrewd, clever, cowardly, pedantic.
The sight of steel would blanch his cheek
The smell of baccy drive him frantic.
He was the author of his line -
He wrote that witches should be burnt.
He wrote that monarchs were divine
And left a son who – proved they weren’t!

Otherwise I recite bits of Milton and rather a lot of the poets I studied for English A Level in 1970, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth and the like.

This, you might have observantly noticed, is only 4 things. It is the length of the post that deters me from putting them all up at once, I feel that I have intruded onto your time enough for now. The rest tomorrow.

Friday 20 October 2006


Last weekend I harvested pumpkins, squashes and suchlike. These are most of them.

Including the sax

They have been digging up the pavement in the middle of town for weeks. I wouldn't be too happy if it was my shop right next to them while they are cutting up the concrete.

It is rare, in this country - or in this part of it anyway - for jerusalem artichokes to flower. Not spectacular flowers, but rather appealing, 10 feet above the ground. Or 3 metres if you prefer.

The butt

That is what I am. The butt of all the jokes. My meeting today in Bury St Edmunds is a case in point. The chairman of each society (for I am a chair of men as well as a chair of vice) was given three minutes for a verbal report. I might have overrun slightly, but I did have two extra Useful Points to raise, for which I was thanked by the Chairman (this is the overall chairman; the Chairman of chairmen, and if you are thinking that there might be more chiefs than braves here, you might have a point) and was also delayed slightly by an inexplicable outbreak of hilarity.

I had asked if other societies expected their members to sign in at meetings. At ours, about 250 people at a time turn up so it isn't really possible to ask them nicely, individually to tick their name off on a sheet, although we make it as easy as possible. And quite a few of them don't bother. The bright idea was that it would help, in the case of a fire alarm, to ensure that everyone had left safely and gathered at the Assembly Point to be counted. Unfortunately, I explained, when just this eventuality happened (it was a false alarm, I'm glad to report), quite a few members wandered off to go shopping and never returned.

I wasn't trying to be funny, not even in the hope of ready money, but everyone laughed. Rather loudly in fact. Now, I'm more than happy to provide amusement, but was this so funny?

Afterwards, I set myself behind the tea trolley and poured tea for everyone, so now they all know me. And will be charming to me in future as they believe me to be both amusing and helpful and, as a bonus, to be someone who says sensible things and gets thanked by the Chairman.

Thursday 19 October 2006


Today, I did stuff that needed to be caught up on. Like paying bills. One day soon, I hope to pay cheques into the bank. But one has to prioritise. And there is one cheque I haven't seen since half an hour after I was given it a month or two back, so I really should look for it again.

I went shopping. The butcher and the supermarket - just the little local supermarket, to keep within my comfort zone for shopping. And I visited a friend, who had sawed up some fence posts and was giving them to us for firewood. Together, we loaded them into the car, 'nng'ing at their heaviness. I arrived home and told the Sage. He went and got the barrow and casually heaved them on it by himself. Hmm. Picking up from the ground is quite different from sliding on the level. Anyway, maybe even now he is wincing from the incipient hernia.

This afternoon, off to the High School for the governors' meeting. You know, the important one where my part in it didn't really matter. I had forgotten that it was election time. Or, for the chairman and vice-chairman, re-election time. Which am I? Well, the word 'vice' is the clue here, darlings. As you probably expected. In fact, the chairman is superb and I hope she will stay in post forever, or at least until I have a legitimate reason to quit altogether as I really don't want to make the time and effort commitment that she does. I come into my own when there is a problem. I am, actually, quite good at throwing myself into a tricky situation and playing a worthwhile part in putting it right. Then I rather want to relax for a bit, which would not be a good idea in this job. Having said that, I've been a school governor for eighteen years and, although I don't have any children at school any more, it seems a bit of a waste of all that effort to quit.

I have pictures to post, but I'm too tired, or possibly lazy, to go through the palaver of finding the lead, putting them on the computer, etc, etc, etc (crikey, I must be tired, can't be bothered to rabbit). Tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, Bury St Edmunds. That is a place, not a plan of action. I don't indulge in that sort of vice.

Wednesday 18 October 2006

A day or so in the life.

I have a morning off! I thought I'd be needed in the shop tomorrow, but Al says that, unless the weather improves markedly, Jean can manage on her own. A friend is coming to keep Dilly company in the afternoon, so Al can take over the shop. I can't as I have an Important Meeting. Well, the meeting is important but my part in it isn't and I'd have been willing to cry off if necessary.

We went to Gardening Club last night, in the next, and lovely, village. A most entertaining young man, Ben from Blacksmiths Cottage Nursery in south Norfolk, not far from Diss. 'We' were Al, Dilly, Pugsley and me; the Sage was at a picture exhibition and Ro was babysitting Squiffany. Everyone was enchanted to see the baby, who behaved beautifully. He squeaked for a minute, until he was fed, half-way through the evening and everyone looked at me, assuming that I'd made an unseemly noise. I grinned, mouthed a burp and excuse me. Well......... Anyway, he was, in due course, ceremoniously introduced as the Youngest Member so everyone (I trust) knew I had been joking. Joking, all right?

I haven't mentioned the play I saw on Saturday. 'A Voyage Round my Father' by John Mortimer. It started as a book and a radio play I think, and was dramatised on television. BBC, natch. Laurence Olivier played the father, we think. This time, it was Derek Jacobi, who was excellent. It is a tragi-comedy in its truest sense, we laughed out loud but the underlying sadness of the situation was not far away and the final scene was almost unbearable. It was not until then that I even thought of 'I Claudius' by the way, just for an instant. Just in one phrase.

That was a marvellous series. Do you remember it? It was on BBC4 (or one of those extra numbers, whatever) very recently, and has been repeated over the years. Sian Phillips as Livia, BRIAN BLESSED as Augustus, John Hurt as Caligula, and half the acting fraternity and sorority of Great Britain, who were all just superb. I have it on DVD, about time I watched it again. And reread the books. They are in the downstairs loo, no excuse that I can't find them. Maybe after War and Peace. Which is just so good. The battle of Borodino, oh goodness, painful to read. Still closing in on Moscow, but any day now. And Pierre's wife is such a bad girl. But then I've loved Pierre all my life. Although, on rereading, he'd have had to be a bit more coherent. Really, well-meaning but not exactly sharp.

A customer just rang. A regular at our sales, who travels all the way from Northumberland. He was phoning to apologise that they can't make it this year, as his wife has to have a major operation next week. Aren't our clients lovely, bless him. I hope all goes well, they expect to make the next sale in May.

Another chap rang. He was a little miffed. His catalogue had arrived, but there was a mistake! The website gave the May sale details. I sympathised, said it hadn't gone up until a few days after the catalogues were posted, but when had he checked it? Monday, he affirmed. Hm, last Monday week, I suspect. Anyway, I advised him to check again and ring back if there was a problem. Really, wouldn't you look before you complained?

This bit is unashamedly taken from the comments, but I did write it ......... The lamb was extremely delicious and tender. More fatty, it must be said, than would be acceptable to a supermarket, but it does add flavour and you don't have to eat it. Roast potatoes, cooked in the lamb fat which I had rendered down; locally grown, though not by me, cauliflower and beetroot, mushrooms from our field cooked with shallots, white wine and a dash of cream.
The last, probably, of the local raspberries. There may be a few more at the weekend, but the rain may spoil them. We ate most of them last night, but there are a few left.

No wonder I don't lose those few pounds. Well, several, potentially, but it's the first that are the hardest.

Oh, Pollyjollyanna. Allegedly.

Your Blog Should Be Yellow

You're a cheerful, upbeat blogger who tends to make everyone laugh.
You are a great storyteller, and the first to post the latest funny link.
You're also friendly and welcoming to everyone who comments on your blog.

Sometimes. I don't do funny links though, do I?

Z the butcher

Well, you won't guess what I've been doing this morning. Unless you've read the title of this post, which is a bit of a giveaway. I'll rephrase that....You might well guess what I've been doing this morning, but it's still a bit startling. And I suggest that all vegetarians or those who don't like to think where their food comes from stop reading right now.

I'll leave an extra line or two so that your eye doesn't stray. Goodbye, see you later I hope.

We have a field. A few of them in fact. One is for grazing dairy cows, two are used for grazing dairy cows in the later stages of pregnancy, when they don't need to be near to the farm for twice-daily milking, one is, at present, cut twice-yearly for hay and one, a little distant from the house, is lent to a friend to keep a few sheep on. It is a favour to both parties, as the grass needs to be eaten and, being by the river and prone to flooding, cows cut it up too much. It is a rather ancient piece of grassland and once, years ago, the Sage saw a bittern there, which was tremendously exciting (they are awfully rare) and I so wish I'd been with him.

The lambs from the sheep are there to be eaten. And, having been naturally raised - no supplementary feeding (the ewes have some in the winter), they grow at their natural pace and taste wonderful. We buy one each year. The local butcher would cut them up for a tenner, but does that sound like us? The Sage and I got going with cleaver, saw and knife and now the freezer contains neatly parcelled joints and chops. Not that neatly butchered, admittedly, but I wrap a mean joint.

It does make me feel a bit of a brute, but on the other hand I really don't care for the parcelled pieces in the supermarket that try to make you forget that you are actually going to eat a piece of an animal and that was its purpose, in living and in dying (I sense I am losing readers with every word here). I'd rather face it, once in a while, and remind myself that I'm an animal with no more sense than any other. Killing is a bit different however. Though I'm afraid I have a fondness for mussels...fortunately the Sage doesn't, so I only have to scrub enough for myself.

Tuesday 17 October 2006

Coining it. And rabbitting

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Actually, I don't think I would. But this might explain something. Thanks to Lionel d’Lion, from whom I pinched it. Well, shared it, as he has it too, like cake.

I was considerably cheered this morning. I drove to Norwich to hear what turned out to be an excellent lecture on Mantegna, the early Renaissance artist. I pondered on which car park to head for. I didn't have 45 or so minutes to spare to use the park and ride, so it would be the multi-storey, or the ground-level pay and display. I prefer the latter, but that doesn't take notes so, when stopped at the traffic lights, I checked my change. Enough.

Having parked, I started to feed in my money. £1 was rejected. I examined it. Was it a fake? A good one if so. Had to be. I asked an approaching woman if she could change a fiver. "Sorry, no, but let me get my ticket and I'll see what I can do." I checked my coins again. "How much are you short?" "80p" "I can do that," she said cheerfully, handing it over.

This simple kindness made my day. I said I'd put money in a charity box, she was happy about that, we left each other smiling.

I hadn't really prepared for my meeting today. I had left a list on the computer of the things I needed to take, but had notes to make, a form to fill in, a cheque to write, people to smile at and greet, an introduction and a vote of thanks to think about. I entered the theatre and was greeted by Sue. "You look a bit fraught" she said, concerned. "You came in the door, slumped for a moment, took a deep breath and put a smile on your face."

That was meant to happen before anyone noticed me, because we do, don't we, put on a suitable face. It's not that it isn't meant, but one can't go around in the usual scatty or sullen way when meant to be on show in some way. I wasn't particularly aware of it until some years ago, when friends asked us round for dinner. Newish neighbours were the other guests. Younger than us, they were a little nervous and shy and not very chatty. I was quite tired and rather felt like being entertained. The hostess was in the kitchen and conversation was hesitant, and I was silent. I was handed a drink by my host and suddenly became aware that hopeful faces were turned towards me. I took a slurp of my drink, sent it to my head and started to chatter cheerfully. I could read the minds "Whoopee, she's off, now we can have fun." Which was quite disconcerting but not unflattering. But maybe I should just shut up more. I listen to myself sometimes, goodness I rabbit on.

Oh, and when I got on the stage I discovered that the trap-door in the middle was open; worse, in fact, it was covered by an open grille. I had, of course, chosen to wear stilettos today and I was standing about a foot in front of this trap, which was about 2 foot by 5 foot, much as I am I suppose, well, if folded up a bit as I fell. I mentioned it as a forewarning in case I suddenly fell over backwards. The speaker said, afterwards, that she had been a bit anxious on my behalf.

I would have worn other shoes, but hardly any fit at present. I have been standing and walking almost constantly for the last few weeks and only my most generously sized shoes don't pinch. But these ones, though comfortable, are a nuisance. I have to look down as I walk as the smallest crack in the pavement can trap them, whereupon I either fall over or keep walking, shoeless. Well, one-shoed, as it's unlikely that both will get trapped during the same stride.

You see, I rabbit. If you were shy, you would, by now, be entirely at your ease. Since you aren't, you are probably wondering if I'll ever shut up.

Oh, by the way. A friend, to whom (grammar), I gave the address of this blog finally, after months - months, got around to reading it, and told me so. I asked, rather nervously, what he thought. "Well," he said, "It's your style, I recognise you in it. But you're funnier in real life."

Oh. Is that a compliment or not?

Monday 16 October 2006

Z calms down - but is wound up by watches

It was a good weekend, thank you, and a pleasure to spend time with children and sister. Also started to carry out my resolve to get to grips with London buses. As I explained to my daughter, catching them is easy enough, it's knowing where to get off that is the problem. Especially if you need to ring the bell in advance and can't rely on recognising just round the corner from where you need. However, all went well and I will, in future, take my A to Z so that I know where I am at all times.

Usually, the pleasure in a city is in knowing roughly where you are (which you always do in London), but getting enjoyably lost. I do like wandering around and finding your way back by chance and a bump of direction. When I visit my sister by train, I usually walk back from Waterloo to Liverpool Street - not much scope for getting lost there, when most of the walking is along the river, but when I get to St Paul's or Tower Bridge, I never quite follow the same route twice through the City.

I trust that I will sound a little calmer this week than last, although I'm not relying on it. There is still an absurd amount to do, which would be fine if I hadn't promised to keep shop for at least half of every day. I have, at least, been cracking on with War and Peace; I'm about two-thirds of the way through and, at present, Napoleon is closing in on Moscow.

I spent an annoyed hour this morning, trying to find out the dates of a couple of gold pocket watches that the Sage has to value. All attempts at Googling, or Yahoo!ing have failed. Easy to find silvermarks (which he pretty well knows by heart anyway) but gold is another matter. It would be easy for me to order, online, books on the subject, but just pictures of the date letters (very confusing to try to work out the shape of a letter from its description) must be out there somewhere. And the word 'date' gives the wrong impression altogether and attempts were made to direct me to websites of a different nature.

Thursday 12 October 2006

I can ramble even after a glass or two.

Truth is, I don't have time to go away. That is, I have time to go away or do whole lots of things that need to be done, but not both. Does anyone doubt what the choice will be?

Oh, for the days when had willpower. When I would just get on and do it all, and keep working until it was finished. Now, I do a bit, read a bit, chat a bit, do a bit more, think 'nah, that's boring' and do something useful but not urgent. However, I do have a most useful extra assistant. It may have taken a long time, but my husband has come up trumps. During the morning, I had three phone calls, asking most politely for information on the final details of completing my jobs that I had dumped on him because I was too busy decorating the church for a funeral tomorrow. He was wonderful. He thought of everything and then checked with me, just in case.

I am thinking of advertising for a PA. And then leaving the advertisement in a prominent position so that he will think that it seems a marvellous job and be tempted to apply for it. He would stroll through the interview. Other applicants would be completely bamboozled by my interviewing technique. A year ago, I gave a job to someone who was so wonderfully quirky that he would baffle the children in his care into doing anything he said. And it has worked. I chose him over the person who seemed fine, but I couldn't understand why her then employers were not re-employing her (as it was a situation that is becoming more prominent in schools) unless there was a hidden problem. I say that *I* chose, but there were three of us; however, I persuaded the others.

Oh, and my printer is annoying me so much. First it said it might not have enough pink ink to complete another document like the last one. So I replaced the pink cartridge. Then it said that the black ink was a bit low. Not out, but it would hate me to run out in the middle of a document (this was 6 pages after saying it had enough ink for at least 100 more pages). Replaced. Then it worried about blue ink. Once it had run out of all other excuses, it blamed yellow ink. Never mind that it appeared to be one third full, it might not print a page with grey writing. I have no yellow ink. I cannot buy yellow ink for this printer in the nearest town. I have to order it. Really. I am a little annoyed. My last printer at least gave the option of printing in colour or black and white. And I'd take the risk of it running out. This is very inconvenient.

I probably will not have time to write a post tomorrow, but I'll be back on Sunday or Monday. I'm afraid I'll have to turn on wv in the meantime, or I will come back to interesting anonymous comments. I say 'interesting' ironically, of course.

I wonder what clothes to wear and what book to take. I must remember to pack something to wear at night, as I will be sharing a bed. I will have to carry my bag all day Sunday so it must not be heavy. It is too dark in my bedroom to see clothes now so packing has to be done before 8 tomorrow morning. Shoes. Hmm. Have I got any garment that will take me through greengrocering, a funeral, dinner, shopping, the theatre, an exhibition, a pub and two trains? Something dark, so that wine stains will not show.

I will travel light. I love travelling light. Except, can I manage with only one book? Hmm.

Wednesday 11 October 2006

Um. What was I talking about?

Hm. I hadn't been drinking or anything. I think, in the last post, that I was just a touch unguarded and let you into the way my mind really works all the time.

Now, I have been drinking, and so I'll be far more circumspect.

The Sage found more mushrooms on the field today. As we walked home from the PCC meeting, he said that the weather was perfect for mushrooms. Since he doesn't even like them, I thought that was considerate. He picked about 8 of them for me. I cooked them, with shallots and wine, this evening. There was one small mushroom that wasn't quite like the rest. I cooked it, but I put a little bit on one side. Just in case Ro or I feel as if a coma is coming on tonight. I'm sure there will be an antidote.

And the odds are that it will be fine anyway.

Not that I have time for a coma. I've got a lot to do before I go to London on Friday. I mentioned my exciting Oyster card. I am studying bus routes, so that I will know where to go off the bus and not be swept off into the wilds of North London. I've driven to my daughter's flat a couple of times. The second time, I was alone, it was November, dark and rainy. I got lost. It was the rush hour. It wasn't easy to stop to consult the A to Z, useful book though that is. In the end, I rang her and she guided me the last couple of miles to her flat.

My bump of direction isn't bad, but you don't have much to go on with English street signs. Whether in the town or in the country, they lead you a long way astray. And then leave you flat, without any clue at all.

I remember an occasion, a few years ago, when I took Ro back to Lancaster University after Christmas. A friend, whose father lives in Lancaster, had asked for a lift. He hadn't seen his dad for a few months and it was a good opportunity to spend the night there, we could share the driving, be company on the road etc.

We got hopelessly lost in Lincolnshire.

Really. There were road works and we thought we could find a way to circumvent them without following a long and devious way through God-knows-where. Well, we went places God had never thought of. At each junction we stopped, consulted the map, decided which road to take - and then, half a mile down the road, none of the places mentioned in the last sign seemed to exist any more. We had planned to stop for dinner. In the event, when we finally found a main road, we stopped for a quick cup of coffee, rang our respective families and then hurried back, two hours late. When you add to this the unusual attitude to road markings one finds in Lincolnshire, it's not surprising that it is not my favourite county.

I found myself having to pass, on a blind corner, a parked lorry marked 'Motorway Maintenance' this afternoon. This was on a B road, the B1332 from Norwich to Yagnub, in a county that has never seen a motorway. This seems odd, but I will not question it. Not mine to reason why.

Some people never learn to reck their own rede

I needed, after I'd finished with my appointment in Norwich, to buy some lilies on the market. These cost £2.95 for 3 or £10 for 10, which is rather sweetly Normal For Norfolk.

Afterwards, I thought was a good idea to walk back to the car park by way of Jarrolds. The department store that is, at its heart, a bookshop. Oh yes. The woman who is currently reading at least three books, one of which is War and Peace with about 1.000 pages still to go, who bought nineteen second-hand books on Saturday and hasn't had a chance to start any of them, the same lass who still hasn't read yesterday's papers, let alone start on today's - and why do I *need* two newspapers a day anyway?- yes, this is the very person who found herself irresistably drawn to buy yet three more books.

I didn't sleep much last night. I suddenly started to worry about all the things I have left undone which I ought to have done, and it occupied my mind rather a lot. I have a moderately free afternoon now, so can get on with some of them. Of course, by 'free', I mean that I haven't anything written in my diary, in the way of appointments or obligations. In fact, there is so much to do that I am in danger of forgetting vital matters. It occurs to me, sometimes, to wish that I just had a job, a home life, maybe even a social life, and didn't take on a variety of different and mostly voluntary tasks. But I think then that I'd be too aware of my own limitations. By pretending that I can do these things, I can delude myself, and sometimes others, into believing that there is no end to my capabilities, if only I were not so busy.

I'm a fool. But it seems that is my chosen path. The primrose path to dalliance. Oh crikey, I hope that doesn't make me a puffed and reckless libertine. Or even an ungracious pastor. Which seems to show I've an urge to read or see Hamlet again. Or I wouldn't be quoting from it. Hm. Rambling.

Time for lunch. Camembert. Which will be sniffed cautiously, to see if it smells like Brie (sorry, in-joke. Jen knows what I'm talking about. As does IM, who put the information into my head in the first place).

Tuesday 10 October 2006

Outing myself

Yay! It's taken Lynn a while to get the catalogue onto the website - she is a busy woman - but it's up at last. If you want to see it, send me an email at zoesonholiday@hotmail.com and I'll give you the address. I'm far too shy just to put it up here for everyone to see.

Monday 9 October 2006

Z sips hot lemon and ginger

"Don't kiss her" said Al and Dilly simultaneously. "She's passed her cold on to the baby, and now we think we're getting it" added Al.

The Power of Squiffany seems to override seclusion from Granny. I have sneezed several times. I have a sore throat. It remains to be seen whether willpower and quantities of ginger overcome the effects of the cold. I do not, normally, acknowledge a cold until February, by which time I am rather ready for a couple of duvet days, dog cuddled up next to me, a blazing log fire in the grate, with a couple of books, a glass of whisky and a crossword puzzle to hand.

That reminds me, I should have downloaded the latest Tough Puzzles weeks ago. Oh, goody.

The shop went well today. Quite a busy afternoon. I had a meeting in the morning, which was also very useful, and I left the shop, soon after 5.30, hardly hobbling at all. I seem to be doing awfully well. Muscular development is particularly good and will become better, now that pumpkin season is coming in. Two large pumpkins have to be carried out in the morning and back in the evening. Of course, to be replaced as they sell.

I haven't looked at the pumpkins in the garden recently. There are loads of butternut squashes, but I don't know about the other sorts as I will need to wear wellies to get to them. Time to harvest soon I think.

Sunday 8 October 2006

It's all about humility. And there's so much to be humble about. So we never run out of ideas.

This evening, I'm feeling better. More relaxed. I'm afraid alcohol has a lot to do with it. But so do Schubert, Tom Lehrer and cooking. Not food, as yet, just its preparation. I'm making risotto, very soothing. I'm drinking red wine, very mellow. I'm listening to Tom Lehrer. Bracing. I like sardonic humour. I expect you realise that the name of this blog is a quotation from him (blimey, I hope he doesn't mind. I wonder if he'll catch up with me and expect royalties. Surely Tom Lehrer is far too cool for that sort of malarky?) and I slip in little quotes quite regularly. I don't expect you to look back and find them. If I ever do, I'll hold a competition. The prize will be that I don't blog for a week. Or a month, if you find more than ten quotations.*

Organ playing at church went well, considering I learned one hymn at 9.30 and played another for the first time on the organ soon after (I've played it on the clarinet). I go around looking capable. It's a good front and could seem intimidating. But it isn't, because I regularly cock up something that would be walkovers for more able people. And I look worried. It is disarming. Indeed, I am worried. Stitchwort made the absolutely valid point that Christianity is about charity, loving your neighbour and all that. And so it is. But, if any of you have ever attended a Christian service, it's all about failing. Not being good enough. Sin. Craftily, there are not only sins of commission (what I did wrong) but sins of omission (what I didn't do right, or could have done better) as well. Therefore, we are all doomed as impossible demands are made. This, of course, teaches humility. Humility is good.

* I reserve the right to change numbers if/when this comp is held. Up or down, whatever.

There's bags. And then there's bags.

"How are things with the new baby?" said a friend, giving me a carrier bag with a wrapped parcel in it: a present for Pugsley. "Fine, thanks, very well," I replied cheerfully. "So, what's with the bags under your eyes then?" he enquired.

Z just wants the problem sorted, not talked about

I'm off to church in a few minutes. I've spent two hours there already this morning. Another 2 hours or so to go. And then I'm jolly well going to the pub.

I arrived home to find, in an email, the saga of the coffee is still going on. A couple of weeks ago, the person (a lovely girl, she'd had a bad week) making coffee was upset because, there being lots of visitors and families to the Harvest service, she was asked to make coffee after the service as well as before. When I tried to comfort her and help, she shook me off angrily.

I've come up with a solution and a back-up solution in case anyone objects to the first idea. But everyone wants to have their say. Don't we all have more important things in our lives? I am so tempted to just say I'll make the sodding coffee myself, but I mustn't; for one thing it's easier to take on that job than give it up, and for another I will be saying I'm *better* than the ones who are complaining, and I neither think that nor want anyone to feel dismissed as unappreciated.

But it's hard for me to understand the problem. On that occasion, I'd worked, on the Saturday, for 16 hours to decorate the church, cook the Harvest supper, serve it and wash up afterwards. I'd spent another 4 in the church on Sunday, clearing up, getting ready for the service, playing the clarinet, preaching the sermon and being friendly afterwards. It wasn't a problem. I'm normally busy for 2 -3 hours on a Sunday on church matters. And I don't consider myself a churchy person at all. I'm not even very religious. I described myself to a friend recently as, not so much a pillar of the church as a flying buttress - though I did acknowledge that this is not my bon mot, I stole it from, I think, Winston Churchill.

I am not, though it looks as if I am, boasting about the time it takes me. Just that (except here and now) I don't go on about it. And I keep smiling, even if afterwards I go home and moan to my ever-loving Sage (who is just grateful not to be in the wrong himself, so listens kindly which enables me to get over it and regain my good humour). So if you offer to do a job, do it willingly and wholeheartedly, offer to do a bit more than you're asked to do, smile - and it will be a pleasure. If you do it begrudgingly and barely adequately - it will be a chore.

But I can't say that, as it will sound far too critical and, furthermore, I'll lose my miffed volunteers for the coffee rota.

Oh well. If you have been, thanks for listening.

Update, post pub, 2.15 pm Lovely bloke on the rota today quietly, without comment, made coffee cheerfully both before and after the service. I understood what he was saying, and it didn't need words.

Saturday 7 October 2006

My husband doesn't understand me -

- but that isn't important.

Today I went to work in the shop. Al and Jean arrived at 8.30 and the Sage gave me a lift in a few minutes later (I couldn't find my book and I worry if I am without a book. Hoho, what irony).

At 9 o'clock, the Sage called to us "they are unpacking boxfuls of books under the Buttercross*, you'd better go and have a look."

I smilingly served a customer (more like baring my teeth really, I wanted to look at those books) and then scuttled out. Indeed, there were about ten boxfuls of books, some hardly read. The local second-hand bookshop proprietor was going through the books, picking out what he wanted, from right to left. I started at the left-hand box.

A few minutes later, ten books in my arm, I waved to the Sage "Can you bring my bag and I'll pay". "No, that's all right, I'll pay." I went back to the shop, abashed to find there were five customers and Jean was alone. However, a happy face and effusive apologies have got me through life so far and everyone was understanding.

Not too long afterwards, the shop was empty again and the Sage came back. "They have unpacked four more boxes".......

This time, Jean and I both went and the Sage stood guard in the shop. Nine books later, I spied a customer and returned happily to my duties, leaving my well-gotten gains with the chap in charge for the Sage to carry out negotiations. And he did well.

Now, the Sage doesn't read for the pleasure of reading in itself. He is not obsessed with books. He does read quite a lot, but usually for information. He doesn't really understand the great joy of seizing a book just because it catches the eye, because a randomly-read paragraph appeals, because it's on a subject I know nothing about so maybe it's about time I did, because it is, simply, a bookful of wonderful words**.

But he encouraged me nonetheless, although he thinks I am, frankly, daft to have as many books as I have already. And as a result I've smiled all day. Mm, maybe that has something to do with it.

*The Buttercross is the ancient marketplace. On Thursdays there are market stalls there. On Saturdays, for a small fee, a charity can set up a stall there (one has to book months in advance) to sell bric-a-brac, cakes, second-hand books, whatever, for its good cause).

**'The Pencil' - a history of design and circumstance. Now, there's a title. It has never occurred to me to wonder who, and how, and why, and when, invented the pencil.
'Hand to Mouth' - a Paul Auster I've not read. I've never quite made up my mind about Paul Auster, but somehow I read him.
Two books by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette). I've read 'The Buddha of Suburbia' but that's all.
'Zorba the Greek' - one of those books you assume you must have read, but haven't.
A book called 'Zoë'. What, because I'm worth it?
A biography of Maria Montessori.
And others. Quickly chosen, there will be hits and misses. And the misses can go back to the next charity booksale, to find a better home.

Bum or cherry?

There is always, with each of your children, an outstanding feature which strikes you at once. Not literally, not unless you have given birth to Cyrano de Bergerac, but something that is, at once, noticeable.

With El, it was her pretty little mouth. It took us several days to name her and, until she was named, she was called 'Rosebud'. Yes, very Citizen Kane, but that was not in our minds.

With Al, it was his left ear. This turns over more than the average at the top. I was, until then, totally unaware that mine does too.

With Ro, it was the shape of his head. A very shapely head, had Ro. The word 'Mekon' came to mind, just a little.

When I first saw Pugsley, I said (oh, and am I a bad grandmother) "Blimey, what a bum chin!" His parents did look just a little startled. But there is a definite, if tiny, cleft to the chin.

But when I tested them, so had both his parents. And so does Ro. Not visibly, just in test conditions. Which are, of course, taking a firm grasp of the chin - sideways, not top to bottom - with thumb and forefinger (you can test yourself or someone else this way) and seeing whether the middle goes in (bum) or out (cherry).

Ro maintained that everyone is, at bottom, a bum. Until I proved otherwise. Then he said that his father must be a bum, for the tendency to have been passed down.

It must be a recessive gene. Like baldness, it can skip a generation.

The Sage and I are both cherries.

Friday 6 October 2006

Lurching, aching, but not complaining

I went to the kitchen to check on the dinner (which is ready), greeted the returning Sage with a telephone message and went back to the computer to finish my email, as he went to the phone. I lurched to the right. I pretended that I'd slipped on a cookery book that I'd carelessly left on the floor.

Maybe that third glass of wine on an empty stomach (except for a chocolate digestive, but that was just to lessen the liquid impact of a mug of Lapsang Souchong) was not the best idea.

But it's Friday night and I've worked very hard today. Being a shop assistant in a greengrocery is very demanding physically. Entirely enjoyable, but it makes a woman ache. Mainly in the pelvic region.

Thursday 5 October 2006

Kisses on the bottom

I wrote myself a letter. That is, I started one to a colleague on Hotmail and then, because I was going to send several attachments, decided to send it on Gmail. So I sent it to myself, intending to readdress it, add the photos and send it on.

Half an hour later, still waiting, I rewrote it instead.

An hour later, it arrived.

Dirty little stop-out.

I have just ordered an Oyster card. This is, my daughter assures me, the most useful innovation to London Transport since the demise of the hansom cab. I am going to visit her and her best beloved in a week or so, and it will save buying tickets at the station and let me forget the appalling price of a Tube ride nowadays. Also, if you use it enough in a day, it kindly lets you go free, though I didn't quite gather exactly how many trips you need to use it for first. Furthermore (yes, it gets better and better), it will automatically top itself up, using my credit card details, so I don't have to worry about running out of credit.

This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me in four days.

Wednesday 4 October 2006

Smith the Virgin

I was reminded, on reading Stegbeetle’s recent post, of my father's funeral. Mr Stebbings the gardener came in, the next day, for coffee as usual. "Nearly a tragedy, yesterday, after Mr Malcolm's funeral" he said. "Oh no, whatever happened?" asked my mother. "One of the gravediggers fell in. All sand and gravel it was, just caved in and, being double depth, they had a hell of a job to get him out before he was buried." "Oh no, that's dreadful," said my mother, nearly in tears. It was only a week since her husband had died of a heart attack, aged 59, in front of her. "Thass true enough," said Mr Stebbings. "Had it from a witness. Smith the virgin*. He told me so hisself."

My mother made her excuses and went and cried with laughter instead in another room.


Z delivered a sermon. Well, a talk. In church though.

The 'sermon' went all right, thank you for asking, Dandelion. It was Harvest Festival and the village schoolchildren came along - it is a Church of England school (although there is absolutely no admission selection on the basis of religion, nor is there indoctrination, we are totally against that). They brought their harvest offerings up to the altar early in the service and a bit later on, they came up again to sing a song. Because they were coming, I decided to base the talk on the three school rules, which are Be Polite, Be Kind and Work Hard. The children know them well, because they do talk about them in assemblies and think about how they apply to all aspects of school life.

So, I talked a bit about each one - Work Hard came first, and I talked about the work involved in growing food, whether in our gardens or on farms; what you get out of it, in terms of both the produce and the satisfaction, is related to what you put in; how vital the harvest is, although we aren't too aware of it in this country because we have all we need.

Be Polite - from their earliest age, children are taught to be polite, to say please and thank you, because it really matters that we are considerate to each other. Some people don't approve of Harvest Festival because they say it is not a truly Christian festival, it is pagan. This is true, it is not based on Christ as Easter and Christmas are, but that doesn't make it unchristian, but a more all-embracing thing altogether, because it links us to our pre-christian past and to other faiths and other countries - I mentioned that the last time I visited India, my friends were going to visit their family village to celebrate the harvest with week-long celebrations with special foods and ceremonies (I felt self-conscious here as there was a Hindu family in the church, whose children go to the village school - I hadn't known they would be there). So we should say 'thank you' to God for the food we have, and 'please', that people in other countries should have a successful harvest and enough food to live on.

And Be Kind. The harvest offerings are put in boxes afterwards and the children, with their teachers, visit old people in the village to give it to them. This is no longer a necessity, they all have enough to eat, but it is not the point - it is a symbolic gesture but appreciated as the people visited so enjoy it. It might feel embarrassing to knock on someone's door and give a stranger a present, but the friendly gesture of giving a gift and thinking of others is what matters.

And thinking about others, looking outside yourself and caring about more than just your own immediate concerns, is what the school rules mean, and Jesus, similarly, summarised the ten Commandments into two - love God and love your neighbour as yourself. And the school rules, in their way, say the same thing.

Bless her, you're thinking - a bit simplistic and it's hardly based on the Bible, but she tried hard. Yup, true. And I won't be doing it again. But I said what I had planned to, mostly in the right order, I didn't dry up and I wasn't overly hesitant, so at least I embarrassed myself only moderately. And the next time we have a Harvest Festival when we don't have a vicar, I won't be a churchwarden, so it won't be my job.

I had done a slightly foolish thing just before the service, by introducing myself to the head of Music at the High School, as I've just become the Governor link with the music faculty. She and her husband are fine musicians, and I then had to play the hymns on the clarinet and I felt thoroughly self-conscious. At least it wasn't the organ, more notes to go wrong there.

Tuesday 3 October 2006

300th Post

Ooh, I never expected to get this far. I didn't know what would happen, or what I'd write but what has surprised me with pleasure is how lovely you are. Sorry to be sloppy, but it's okay to be a girly as long as no one who actually knows what a hard-boiled, tough woman I really am reads this. And Ab and El (and Sh?) will just laugh at me whatever I say.

This evening, WI. Women's Institute. Jam and Jerusalem; except we don't do the Jerusalem bit. Once, we were coming up to a Big Meeting with outsiders, so we thought we'd better have a go at Jerusalem. I took along my clarinet for unmusical accompaniment, took a deep breath and some wag went ' One, two, a-one, two, three, four' and I laughed so much that I hyperventilated and nearly fainted during the second verse.

I was doing Food. Now, as you might expect, the WI I belong to doesn't go down the cup of tea and a Rich Tea biscuit road, but does nice food. It was a meeting to which we had invited Guests, so there were several of us doing food and I'd said I'd do savouries. Which I interpret as canapés. I think finger food is so much more tempting if it's pretty as well as tasty*.

Anyway, it was nearing 10.30 when I arrived home, so I took a bottle of wine out of the fridge and started to read and write emails, and catch up on blogs. It's going to take a day or two, there are loads of updates I haven't read yet.

Which brings me back to the start (look, I have Delivered a Sermon, I can do neat endings). I do like hearing from you, and thanks for reading this and commenting, whether it's regularly or occasionally. You make me happy.

* The food. Very simple, I didn't have time to be inventive.

I often use slices of cucumber as a base, as it looks pretty and saves everyone from eating bread and pastry with every bite. The other base I usually use is bread croutes, which are buttered (or olive oiled) on one side and baked in the oven until golden - far easier than frying and they don't absorb so much fat. They don't go soggy quickly as biscuits do. If I have time, tiny choux pastry balls are good with a savoury filling, but I don't bother with the sort of pastry that has to be rolled out, for individual bites. I also bear in mind food allergies and choices such as vegetarianism, so I try not to include hidden food ingredients such as walnut oil or non-visible shellfish.

1. Salmon, flaked with mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice on cucumber.
2. Ripe brie on cucumber.
3. Chicken liver pate - v. simple, the liver cooked in butter with garlic, a drop of brandy added and a little cream, mashed with a fork - on croutes.
4. Mushroom pate - cook shallot in butter, add mushrooms, cook again, add white wine, cook until evaporated, add cream, cook until the liquid has gone - on croutes.
5. Garlic cream cheese on cucumber, topped with prawns
6. Chicken breast, cut into 1cm(ish) cubes, marinated in yoghurt flavoured with chilli powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger, tomato puree and lemon juice. Soak cocktail sticks, put a cube on each stick, grill.
7. Tiny new potatoes, tossed in oil and then in a mixture of spices which I made up as I went along, then roasted, then put on cocktail sticks.

Each made about 25-30. Now I've written it down, it doesn't look very impressive, but I did say it was simple.

Monday 2 October 2006

Z is irascible

- and it's all because of Microsoft. Is anyone surprised? Windows *Live* Mail. More than Half-Dead mail if you ask me. I have had to email some photos. Because I *upgraded* - Hah - is it any wonder that I am reluctant to go on to Beta Bloggger until all you less cautious, more trusting individuals have complained bitterly about its shortcomings - to Windows Live Mail Beta, it no longer tells me when I am up to the pitifully small maximum size attachment I can send so, as I can't be bothered to add up decimals (I'm still a pounds, shillings and pence girl at heart) I have to go under rather than over, which means loads of emails. Half of which it can't be bothered to send so sends me a message to say that they *may* reply to a query.

This is quite sweetly frank actually. But I am so tense that I have turned to the 'easy listening' section of iTunes. I'm presently listening to Dean Martin. What does that do for my e-cred?

Okay, so I never had any. Fine, laugh.

That's enough, you can stop now.

That means you.

And you.


Back home

We had a wonderful weekend. El and Phil were home from London, and so were here when Dilly and the baby came home from hospital. Al left at 10 o'clock, saying that he had no idea when they would be back as there wasn't a fixed time for doctors to do their rounds at the weekend - one family had left on Saturday night at 8.30. This does seem odd to me; if there's one time when a family needs consideration it's when a baby has just arrived, and trying to manage childcare and transport can be hard enough without there being no way of telling, to within several hours, when you will be discharged from hospital does strike me as unhelpful.

However, this was no problem at all on this occasion. I took Squiffany to church with me, but the service had only been going on for 15 minutes when El appeared. They were on their way home already. So we abandoned church and hurried back.

However, Dilly will not be allowed to drive or to pick up Squiffany for several weeks, following her operation. Al will take all the time off work that he can, but it's not easy when you run your own business, especially when it's a shop. We'll manage as best we can and his customers will understand - it'll do wonders for his New Man credentials.