Thursday 30 November 2006

Z spends Quality Time

This evening, Ro and I have been talking. I will not call him taciturn, though he is not the most chatty of individuals, but he does open out if the opportunity arises and he is good company. Really, I had quite a lot of work to do which I had foolishly neglected during the day - that which I did do was deeply boring and so I deserved some entertainment, as I am a flibbertigibbet and a dilettante, but I have also a dutiful and puritan streak that means I feel obliged to catch up eventually. But Quality Time with a family member is far more important.

So I am, as they say, All Behind Like A Cow's Tail.

I'm going to be careful in the future about posting a half-story. You all picked up on what I'd left out and quizzed me about it. That is fair enough and I enjoy not being allowed to get away with things, but maybe it should be a lesson learned. The thing is, I can say anything about myself, but I do try not to say things about others that I'd be sorry if they read. I slip from that sometimes, but I do bear it in mind.

Only half past nine, so I will finally get to work.

Laters, darlings.

Wednesday 29 November 2006

Z turns on the charm

A Business Call this morning on someone whom we've known for years but who has always rather disregarded me. This hasn't ever bothered me in the least as his business is with the Sage, not me, but today I decided to charm him. In an understated and unflirtatious way, but just sufficiently overt for him to know I was taking the trouble, you know?

Yeah, he really likes me now.

Tuesday 28 November 2006

A germ of an idea

Towards the end of the meeting tonight, my left-hand neighbour looked thoughtful. "I've just thought," he murmured. "Tonight, or around this time sixty years ago, I was conceived."

The new Rector was impressed by the part I took towards the meeting. Bowls of sweets, one between two people (so you don't have far to reach). "I've never been to a meeting where there are sweets before," she said. I resisted the temptation to say "Darling, you've never lived" and explained that there used to be biscuits, but either people had had their evening meal or were going home for it later and in neither event would they wish to chomp on biscuits. Jelly babies and Maltesers are different, however.

Lunch in Bury was good. We didn't go to the Angel, in the end. We went to a pub called the Fox. As we approached the door, I was confused by a sign that said 'Up your Sunday afternoon' and then quite relieved to see, after a few more steps, the almost-hidden word above it, that read 'Free'. Another sign offered 'Al a carte' menu. In fact, once we went in, my spirits rose, partly because it declared itself to be a smoke-free pub and partly because there was an appealing menu chalked on the board. They rose again when I asked for a glass of red wine and was handed a wine list. I had a good mixed mushroom stroganoff (would have been excellent had they been all wild mushrooms and not a good half ordinary button ones) and my chum had red snapper on a bed of crushed new potatoes with fennel.

Afterwards I pottered around while he went to try on trousers, and found how I'd managed to get completely lost last time I'd been there. I must say, Bury St Edmunds is not well signposted for pedestrians. A sign says 'Town Centre' so, slightly puzzled (for I'd thought it was another way), I followed it. A few minutes, it turned me right and then (this time I used my brain - at last - for there was no sign at all) right again. Ah, where I thought it was in the first place, I wonder why I'd been sent an unnecessary half mile. But I discovered that one shop faced the other direction than I'd thought, so when I came out last time, I had walked the wrong way.

The Rector and her husband met Ro, Dilly and Al the other night at the Quiz Night. She said how much they had liked them. "Your daughter in law is lovely" she said. "We said how much like you she is, anyone might think she is your daughter." I thanked them for the implied compliment and agreed that we do have a lot in common.

Time for an early night, I was just thinking. I looked at the time. Ten past eleven. By the time I'm ready, it'll be nearly midnight. Not so early after all, but not late anyway.

Monday 27 November 2006

Dinner is cooking

It smells good. Timatar wali macchi and Tahiri. And cabbage. If your Hindi is no better than mine, that's fish baked in a spicy tomato sauce and rice and peas cooked with onions flavoured with cumin. And cabbage.

I wrote whole lots at the weekend and I have been awake since 3 o'clock this morning, so I will give you and me the evening off.

See you tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will have lunched in Bury St Edmunds.

PS it was all most yummy. Even the Sage liked it, and he is wary when I cook Indian dishes, but I aim for Aromatic rather than Hot, so he enjoys the food really.

Sunday 26 November 2006

The family story – part 9 – the stepmother

My mother's stepmother is a shadowy figure to me. I don't even know her name. It is a sad story for all concerned.

My grandfather needed someone to look after his little girl. He had been shattered by the early death of his wife, and glad to have his mother and father-in-law to take in Jane and care for her. He adored his mother. When she died, he could not bear to have her hands stripped of the jewels she always wore and instructed that she should be buried with her rings on her fingers.

He always told Jane that he had remarried to make sure she was looked after. That is, if not for her he would not have saddled himself with a wife whom he did not love and who cared neither for him or Jane.

I suppose it seemed a sensible arrangement. She would have security and the status of marriage, and a pretty little daughter as ready-made family. He had a housekeeper and someone to care for him and his little girl. But it didn't work out. For one thing, Jane was unhappy and difficult. They did not make a good start, by dragging her away from her beloved grandparents, and she was not a sweet, biddable little thing. She was clever, independent and stubborn and she preferred books to dolls.

But it was not too bad for a time. Then, the stepmother, out of the blue, was left a large sum of money in a relation's will. The effect was to make her mean, resentful and positively unkind to Jane. I presume that this was because she was very angry at the realisation that she had married too soon, for security. If she had known and waited, she would have had plenty of money and not needed to marry at all - or could have married for love instead. Sadly, she took it out on Jane as well as her husband.

Mummy was always slightly claustrophobic. She said it was because her stepmother's favourite punishment was to shut her in a dark cupboard. She had to cycle to school every morning, whatever the weather, and remembered carrying her bike over snowdrifts - this was not unusual, in those days schools did not close for rough weather as they do now. But Jane had to bike home for lunch too, as her stepmother would not pay for a school meal, although ample housekeeping money was provided for her. A typical lunch was a small bowl of cornflakes and half a banana.

She used to lie in bed and hear them quarrelling. She used to analyse it. "Now, if he hadn't said anything when she said that, or if she had then said something neutral instead of shouting, the quarrel would never have happened." When I was grown up, I pointed out to her that the reason they quarrelled was that they wanted to, they were looking for an opening to pick a fight. She was surprised, she still saw it all with a child's eyes and had not realised that, but agreed I was right.

My grandfather was still away from home a good deal and Jane just had to put up with it. I suspect that she did so by despising her stepmother. By preferring intellectual pursuits and showing that she was cleverer and more sophisticated. It was the only way she could fight back.

She could only remember one occasion when they had laughed together. They had decided to make a lardy cake, a traditional Wiltshire delicacy made of bread dough enriched with lard, sugar and dried fruit. They spent a great deal of time and care on it, put it in the oven to cook and eagerly took it out and put it on a plate. Stepmother tried to cut it. She tried to chop it. She managed to saw it. It was rock hard and impossible to eat. They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Stepmother's sister Elsie was a different person altogether, affectionate and welcoming. She lived on a farm in Devon and Jane went to visit during the summer holidays. She was fed on lots of good rich, if simple, food, and used to help with the dairy deliveries. Each customer had cream at the weekend and sent in her own jug with a muslin cover, weighed down with a decorative border of coloured glass beads. They knew which customer owned which jug and delivered it, full, with the milk which was ladled from a churn. The surplus cream was made into clotted cream, made by heating cream on a very low heat until it thickened, and sold in little pots.

Mummy, not surprisingly, idealised 'real' mothers. She felt, keenly, her unlucky status as the only child she knew without one. She was shocked when any of her friends misbehaved at home - how could they upset the person who loved them best? She didn't dare misbehave and mischief wasn't an option. Her father and she had a good relationship and they went walking and cycling together and had a shared love of music. She played the piano (self-taught, her parents would not pay for lessons) and he could play any wood-wind instrument. However, home life was not bearable for anyone and, after seven years of marriage, her father and she left to make a new home for themselves in Weymouth.

Z looks in the mirror

Why are they called 'laughter lines?' Nothing is that funny.

I was quite amused though. The door to the vestry* has a doorknob and a latch, and also a lock. The latch is wedged so that it isn't needed, or else you need to twiddle three items at the same time to get in. A couple of weeks ago, the knob stopped catching and, so that the door would stay shut when unlocked, I unwedged the latch.

A couple of days later, someone came to me anxiously, to say that the door wouldn't open. I told her to try the latch and she blushed at having given up so easily.

Today, I had an email from someone else who assured me that someone had locked the door with an extra key, could she have it please. I emailed back to explain. She emailed again to say that, of course, she had tried all the latches and knobs and the door WAS DOUBLE-LOCKED.

I have told her that it really wasn't and I unlocked it yesterday and today with no trouble. I have also mended the catch so that she can use the knob again. I said, how puzzling that it didn't work for her and I couldn't work out what the problem had been.

I thought it was quite funny that she could not accept that she hadn't done it right, there had to be another explanation.

We cleared the guttering at the right time. It poured this morning. Fellow Churchwarden and I feel quite smug.

I'm listening to Django Reinhardt at present. Most cheering for a wet afternoon.

*That's the room in a church where the vicar puts on his/her churchy clothes - the vestments. It is also where you keep record books, wine for communion, that sort of thing.

Saturday 25 November 2006

You always knew it really

And if I tell you that I got this from Kitchen Witch from two years ago (and she found it at Blue Witch), you will know that I spend TOO MUCH TIME reading blogs.

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Hold the front page!

I forgot to tell you - the Sage and I were highly gratified to find that his sale report made the front page of the Ant1ques Tr@de G@zette, the must-have weekly paper for those in the way-beyond-second-hand business. Two photos and an article. He rang the editor to thank him. "I hope you don't mind me describing you as an 'enthusiast'" said the editor. "You sound like one."

No, the Sage didn't mind. He was chuffed, very.

On a totally different subject, I just opened to door to find a young starling hopping around outside. I can't remember the last time I saw a starling. There used, periodically, to be whole flocks of them, like something out of Daphne du Maurier, but not for some while. Or is it just that I am not very observant?

The family story – part 8– the motherless child

After her mother died, Jane lived with her grandparents, her mother's father and her father's mother, until she was seven. She loved them dearly and was very happy there. I don't know where her father lived - he was away a good deal on business; the late 1920s were a time of high unemployment and you obtained work where you could. It doesn't seem likely that he stayed with his father-in-law except for the odd night or two, but my mother never mentioned going to visit him, although he was obviously part of her life. It's the sort of question you don't think to ask until it's too late to find out the answer.

Her grandparents were getting old and infirm and could not look after little Jane forever. Her father remarried. In those days, little heed was paid to the feelings of small children, and it seems that there was little attempt to prepare her for her new life. She remembered being pulled away, screaming, from her grandma's arms. It was not deliberate cruelty; she was dearly loved, but it was believed that 'a clean break' was kindest in the long run. She went to live with her father and stepmother in North Bradley.

She ran away. She rode her bicycle all the way back home to Melksham. I've just looked at the map; it is a long way for a little girl to cycle, especially on her own. Her grandmother and she hugged each other and cried together, and then she was taken back to her new life.

She was a clever, hard-working child and when she was nine she took the entrance exam for Trowbridge Girls' High School. The normal age for entrance was eleven and therefore, when she passed the both the exam and the interview with the headmistress and was offered a place, her father was very proud of her. He bought her the latest, most expensive bike as a reward and she used it to cycle to school each day.

It was an excellent school and although she was, by far, the youngest pupil, she loved it there. She was ambitious, academically, and intended to go to university. Home life was not happy and school was her refuge.

Friday 24 November 2006

Z gushes a bit too much

I've been on the phone to my daughter for the last hour. We don't have girly chats every week, but always enjoy them. We can ooh and aah indignantly, have a giggle and ask each other for advice - we both value, and feel free to ignore, each others' opinions and don't usually butt in where not wanted. She is, quite honestly, perfect and I adore her.

Look, do forgive me for gushing, I've had a good day. All my children have been so lovely. Dilly and I and the children went shopping in Norwich this morning, Ro and I painted his bedroom (all done, rah rah rah) this afternoon, I rang Al at the shop to bring home veggies for a stir-fry this evening and he tucked in a hunk of ginger in case I wanted it - "Ooh, there's ginger in it" said Ro. "I love ginger in a stir-fry" and then I chatted happily to El. I didn't speak to Phil, but he was spoken lovingly of.

Tomorrow, I'd better do some typing. I've been too busy this week and I'm all behind.

And I must be sensible for a week or two. Not that I will be really, but I'll be sorry if I am not. I have bursitis in my hips and it has been particularly painful recently, largely thanks to crawling multiple times through Squiffany's play tunnel a few weeks ago. I've been rushing around in unsuitable shoes ever since and I can see a visit to the osteopath (no, it's nothing to do with bones but he is the Bizz!) for some ultrasound treatment at vast expense will be needed before long unless I behave myself.

Thursday 23 November 2006

Painting bedrooms and towns.

Ro has taken this week off and decided it would be a good opportunity to paint his bedroom. So yesterday I popped into the local very splendid hardware store for colour charts and then we had to discuss how much paint to buy. I decided, briskly, that a litre of paint would do one wall, by the time you'd allowed for built-in cupboards, windows and door you could subtract a wall. The ceiling would add as much again, two coats, allow a bit, call it ten litres. He spent more time working it out properly, then agreed.

Today we have been painting. He did the bulk of it with the roller and I did the corners and fiddly bits. Until we received an invitation to go and play with the babies. Things slackened off abruptly, especially when it was discovered that it was time to get ready to go to Bungay's special late night opening evening. There were all sorts of things planned, including flamenco dancing and 'ice' skating in the hardware store's car park.

It was, indeed, splendid, and Dilly and I spent a couple of hours toddling around the shops with the babies. Squiffany was suitably impressed - when Dilly asked her to fetch her coat, she had been very surprised. She is not unaccustomed to her parents going out in the evening and taking Pugsley, whose food supply is provided as nature intends. "Me? Coat? Dark, my coat?" - but she was happy to comply. She "wowed" and "oohed" cheerfully at all the entertainment provided, especially the fire-dancer, who twirled her fiery sticks with skilful abandon (don't try this at home).

A bit of a problem when the sound system for the flamenco dancers didn't turn up; arrangements were made but they took some time and, sad to say, we couldn't wait ... well, we waited for an extra half hour, but it was already way past Squiffany's bedtime and soon the baby, who had slept peacefully throughout, would want a feed.

Al, at nine-thirty, is not yet home. Bless him, he was not expecting to do much business - although it's useful publicity and people did buy nuts - but being right in the centre of town, he could not pack up early. He had decorated the shop beautifully and it all had to be dismantled. The shop opened at eight-thirty this morning, he works hard for his living.

Tomorrow, I'll spend a couple of hours painting, then off to Norwich with Dilly and the children, early shopping for their presents. No Norwich shopping in December is my rule, I buy local or online. I'm sorry, but I can't cope with crowds.

Wednesday 22 November 2006

In the stars, looking at the gutter

Well, what a fun morning. I staggered along to the churchyard at nine o'clock, minus contact lenses to give my overstretched eyes a break. I had, briefly, considered going without make-up too, as mucky work was to be done, but a glance in the mirror brought me to my senses. I compromised, leaving off lipstick.

On the way, I noticed that the drain at the end of the drive was blocked by grass. When I cleared that, I discovered that the whole drain was filled with earth. Possibly decomposed leaf mould, which would be wonderful compost, it is sure that winter rain would not be getting away in a hurry. I removed the drain cover and forked some loose, which I removed by hand, but it quickly became apparent that this was a job for another, less busy, day.

Actually, I had all the time in the world. I did a few odd jobs while I was waiting for Fellow Dave. At half past nine, I rang him. he had forgotten, but would come along. I chatted to the church administrator and she made me coffee. I did a couple more little jobs. Brian turned up, and we worried about the problem with the drains. I am a good and sympathetic worrier, but made it clear that drains are Men's Work and beyond my capabilities. I recommended getting in a builder and implied that a Man should ring him because then they could talk Men's Talk.

At half past ten, the Fellow arrived, apologetically. His motorbike had had to have (I stared at that, but it is more grammatical than it looks, I think) a new battery fitted and he had not had breakfast when I rang. I was sweet and cheerful - I am, really, people like me for it.

We went to get the ladders from the church gallery. I had not done this in advance as I am notoriously clumsy and also quite little and so long ladders can fall from my nerveless grasp and do unfortunate things, such as break bits that Cromwell's men accidentally left undamaged off the font (which they did knock the faces off, of course). We took the ladders outside, put them together and erected them, and I offered to mount them.

Happily, the Fellow said he would climb to the church roof. This was not patronising of him, as he is not like that, but it is true that he has a better height and reach than me and also would have felt a bit of a girly if he had hesitated on the ground while I strode up the ladders. I did, however, lend him my rubber gloves for getting the mucky bits out of the guttering.

We did a splendid job and were finished by twelve-fifteen. I came home and heated up the remains of the steak-and-kidney pie, a baked potato and a tomato. With a cup of elderflower and rose tisane (yeah, I know, no hope for me), a glass of sherry, a chocolate biscuit and an apple in addition, I was only able to manage a cup of black coffee and a single sticky bun with pink icing at the governors' meeting in the afternoon.

My job this evening is to make holly wreaths as Yagnub has a special Shopping Evening tomorrow and the shop needs to show its Yuletide Wares.

I need to start now. Have a lovely evening, or, if you read this tomorrow, I hope you had one.

Tuesday 21 November 2006

The substitutes' bench, home of much talent

yes, well, I may have said I was going to wear flats, but how many of you believed me? Nah, 7cm heeled boots, which were much better for me. I admit to being dumpily short, but why should I accept it? The cautious teeter up on to the M@dderm@rket Theatre's stage notwithstanding, I prefer not, in conversation, to be looked down upon from everyone over the age of 11. Just everyone over 5'7".

Today's lecturer substituted at short notice for one who was taken ill, and needed an emergency operation, when on a lecture tour of Australia, poor lady. This chap was a fabulous replacement, however. He was so good that many of us were taken aback when he concluded. We had no idea that an hour had passed and would have relished a bit longer - as many of our members are very conscious of car parking charges, we can't allow for much overrrunning. When I tottered back to the stage to give the vote of thanks, I was stopped twice mid-enthuse by audience applause. They were not clapping me, simply showing their appreciation. He had already booked a ticket to see the Vel@squez exhibition at the Nat. G@llery today, and gave it up* to help us out. And earn a fee of course, but he was extremely knowledgeable, interesting and entertaining and certainly deserved it.

I checked emails this morning and there was one from the chairman of governors at the high school saying she hoped the altered time of the meeting to 10 am was all right for me. Um, no, it wasn't. I rang her. It turned out that the other committee members couldn't do it either and it could not be postponed for another day as the external advisor was already on his way. I had to leave her with the options of changing the time back to 2 pm or finding a substitute. Luckily, she rang back ten minutes later, having gone for the second option. So I had a free afternoon. Marvellous.

Gardening Club tonight. All about pruning, apparently.

*well, he didn't really, he was able to change it to next week

Monday 20 November 2006

I ♡ my eyes

and should like to thank those stalwart little face-orbs for being so good-natured and forgiving. After all the dreadful abuse I gave them, having slept in contact lenses, they have put up with 15 hours of constant use with barely a complaint. The complaint was one falling out ten minutes after arriving at the cinema. I caught it, however, rested it on my tongue to stop it drying out (more abuse, you see) and fished out the pot of cleansing solution I had stashed in my bag in case I needed to remove them during the day (oh blimey, you can see why people think I'm organised, can't you. May I point out, yet again, that it is because I am not organised that I have to think of things like that, or life would be chaotic) and then got out my handbag mirror to put it back. Of course, that was the moment the lights went down.

This did not deter me. The lens went back in. I know where my eyes are, and I know to stop pushing when I touch eyeball.

A splendid day and, oh, how glad you will all be to know (heh heh) that I am, again, good-humoured. I have a limited capacity for spleen and sadness and bounce back, as one does if basically happy.

This evening's do at the castle was to celebrate the publication of a series of catalogues of paintings in non-private* ownership; it's intended to go through every county and ten have been printed so far, including Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fitzw....... Museum in Cambridge. We were promised a 'special' price on the evening, which turned out not to include post and packing -- er, we picked it up, no p&P, special price? Furthermore, no paperbacks were available. However, stoutly supportive as we were , many of us stumped up the £30. Including me; indeed I doubled it and bought both the Norfolk and Suffolk versions. These have been stashed away and will form the basis of the Sage's Christmas present, as he is truly impossible to buy for. He will love these, however.

I was quite charmed by the lady I paid. I asked to pay by cheque and offered to get out my card. "Wouldn't know what to do with it if you did," she said airily. I like being trusted. Unspokenly, I had been sent an invitation to a Prestigious (well, a bit) Do. Therefore, my cheque was good.

And so it is.

Later, after a ten minute speech to introduce someone who gave a fifteen minute speech to disguise the fact that we were waiting for the Guest Speaker whose train was late, I went and sat by by friends who had commandeered a small sofa, but kindly budged up to accommodate me. We were in a divine spot to see the lady who had been taking the money looking at a cascade of notes bulging out of the cash box. A younger woman went up, obviously offering to stash it in a safe place. She was presented with a double handful of ten and twenty pound notes and, cradling them carefully, wandered off with protectively bent back to a staff room. I got the giggles. I bent my head to my arms and wept quietly. My friends nudged each other, and then me, grinning. I didn't know how not to laugh aloud.

It doesn't even look funny now. But it was, it was. It was the loving embrace of the banknotes which were about to spill from her gently clutching hands.

*as ever, trying to save myself from Google.

The film was Little Miss Sunshine. If wondering whether to go, do - not many films make the audience laugh out loud quite so much. Could so easily have missed the spot, but it was wonderful and, at the end, the audience applauded, which is a rare occurrence at the cinema. Well, at the 'art' cinema it was shown at.

After midnight, no blogs read today, out again by nine tomorrow (yeah, I know, but that's early for me :-), you always knew I was a lucky girl), mad whirl and all that. Flat shoes though, I wore the rather nice red ones and they were, indeed, admired, but they were not intended for quite as much walking and standing as the day has entailed.

I'm off to bed. Night night.

For this relief, much ... relief

My right eye felt uncomfortable all day and I was not at all sure if the contact lens had come out. Several times, I ran my finger across the eyeball, trying to tell if it was there, but I couldn't feel anything. The Sage was very sweet and brought me a restorative glass of whisky as I reclined on the sofa in the evening, cuddling the dog and watching television. I sniffed the glass. "Ooh, you got out the malt, and the nicest too," I said appreciatively. He looked pleased. He doesn't like whisky and I was surprised he knew which of the three opened bottles was my favourite.

I stayed asleep as long as I could. I wanted my eye to have a chance to get better, or at least not to have to confront the problem as long as possible. But at last I opened both eyes, and was dismayed. The vision in my right eye was badly clouded, like, I should imagine, a cataract in the days when it had to grow thick before it could be cut away.

I looked in the mirror. It was slightly red and weepy. I wiped it and went to the bathroom, thinking that I'd have to listen to the optician nagging me about how I shouldn't sleep in contact lenses. And it would be pointless mentioning that I hadn't actually meant to, I thought I'd taken them out. I took a tissue and wiped the eye again and went to fetch my clothes. And, when I looked down, there on my hand was a crumpled contact lens, that had spent 24 hours somewhere in the inner recesses of my head.

The eye is fine now, which is just as well as I am going to Norwich in another half hour. A short meeting, then lunch with friends, then a flower show, then a reception at the Castle Museum, then the cinema with Ro, who has the week off work and who will come into Norwich at some time on the bus. Gosh, what a social whirl. And what to wear, darlings, what to wear?

Oh, by the way, and on a completely different subject, comments get sent to me for moderation as I can't take all the spam and word verification when I reply to a comment on my own blog is just too annoying. They get sent in an email. But I discovered by chance yesterday that this has stopped and I just get a notification on the Blogger dashboard. Silly Blogger. I'll turn on the wv for a few days, however, as I will be out most of the time.

Sunday 19 November 2006

Eyeless in Err sham*

For the rest of the day, I will pamper myself. I feel a bit needy and woebegone and, although it is my own silly fault, there actually is a reason this time.

I forgot to take out my contact lenses last night and slept in them.

I went to bed early as I felt both ill-humoured and tired - there was some connection between there, but it wasn't the whole story - and usually, if I don't take them out I realise as I get in the bath and have to trudge downstairs wet and nakedly and cold, or wrapped in a towel that is then pre-wetted for later use which is not nice; or else I feel them as I am removing make-up (in the bath) and go down wet-footed and disappointed after that. But I was unaware and went to bed.

You would think that I'd be aware of the difference in my vision, but it is not so. For many years, I wore glasses only to drive or at the cinema or theatre. Eventually, I became a little more short-sighted and found I was having to wear them more. It was when I found that, sitting at the organ, the music was too far away to read without glasses, but too close to read with, that I went for multi-focal contact lenses and they are, usually, fine. But I am so used to the world through my eyes that I don't notice whether it is clear or a little blurred.

At 5.30 I woke, and thought I had an eyelash in my eye. I tried winking and pulling the lid down, and all the things you do, but it didn't help. It wasn't quite bad enough that I had to get up - but later, the other eye started to hurt. I thought of lenses, but I was sure I'd removed them. I fell asleep in the end and got up late. It was only when I wanted to put them in that I realised...

The left one came out. The right one was nowhere to be found. I suppose it is somewhere in the bed, but I haven't found it. I hope it isn't somewhere in the back of my eye - I'd know, wouldn't I? I put in a new one, and replaced the left one and went to church and peered at the hymn music. Hm. Fortunately, the office is presently in the church room and I was able to photocopy it, enlarged. So I got through the service, squinting headachely at the hymns.

Now the lenses are out and will stay out until tomorrow. And I have had lovely home-made soup followed by a baked potato with garlicky cream cheese and I will go for a stroll with Tilly and then light the fire and read the papers.

Music - still Jimi, he suits my mood. Right now, 'Hey Joe'. Later, I think it;ll be Belle and Sebastian. I've only one album of theirs which is 'the Life Pursuit'.

Ooh, 'Foxy Lady'. Can I join in?

Heh heh.

*That's how it's pronounced but not how you spell it. Not that keen on being googled by a local.
Ah, just googled it myself, as one word. One cannot rely on the spelling in mediaeval records.

Saturday 18 November 2006

Glowering with a smile

I'm sorry to say that I am in an absolutely filthy temper. No one has noticed as I've been quiet and plastered a pleasant expression on my face. I really rather want to pick up my wine glass, half full is it is, and hurl it at the wall.

What is going on?

Purplish haze

Our friend was persuaded to stay an extra day and night, so we had a delightful day yesterday, mostly spent lunching and chatting, with a little light shopping thrown in.

In the evening, I had to go out briefly (or so I thought) to a small social gathering, so I prepared dinner up until the last half hour's cooking of the pie, while friend D went to lay the table. I glanced into the dining room. She had put pudding spoons and forks on the table. Ah. That had not occurred to me. Regular puds are not a feature in our family life, but I didn't want to disappoint. I decided to whip up a batch of chocolate brownies that could be served warm with cream. I knew there was a bar of good plain chocolate in the cupboard.

When, in mixing terms, I was past the point of no return, I noticed there were no eggs. Asked the Sage for eggs. He explained that, when he'd said that the hens were off lay, he had meant entirely off lay.

Rang Dilly next door. Luckily, she had three and I only needed two, so that was all right. Except that the do I went to was rather more generous in the food and wine department than I had expected, and I came home late and rather full. They were not troubled by this and used it as an opportunity to have second helpings.

Later, I had an email to tell me that small-but-meaningful-to-the-one-involved problems were getting more problematical and the one involved was upset. I had not, as I'd been busy, posted my letter to her, so I amended it to sound even more sympathetic - but unfortunately not, as far as she was concerned, more helpful - and worried for several sleepless nighttime hours.

Today, I have been listening to Jimi Hendrix in a fruitless attempt to regain a feeling of lost youth and, now that D has left, have time to sit and glower bad-temperedly. I should go and throw myself into some useful and destructive autumnal garden work, but maybe I will think beautiful thoughts instead.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Z is interrupted. But has returned to blather again.

I'm sitting here, glass of Cava at my wrist (that sounds odd, but it is - if it were at my elbow I'd be much more likely to knock it over), waiting for our guest to arrive.

I rather thought she'd be here by now, but it's all right, dinner isn't ready yet. She drove up from Kent - from where she lives it is a Good three hours - to see a friend and is staying with us overnight. I have prepared a simple meal, game soup, roast chicken and pineapple and I will stick with the Cava myself, though a glass of sherry wouldn't go amiss with the soup as there is already some in it.

Ooh, she's arrived. more later.


An odd thing happened today when I was on my way to Norwich. The way there is on a B road, quite winding in places, that goes through several villages. I was waiting at a roundabout when I heard a hoot behind me and saw a very large lorry angled as if to pass me. There was not room for two vehicles side by side and, as the side roads are small ones, I knew he must be taking the Norwich road and ignored him. Later, as we were going along in a 30mph limit, I noticed he had forgotten to cancel his indicator.

As we were getting near the end of the village, behind two slow-moving cars, he hooted again and started to move out. I could see cars approaching and there was not room for him to pass us all and, frankly, I didn't want to let him in, so I edged slightly closer to the car in front. I looked in my mirror and saw that he had stopped. He hadn't pulled in to the side of the road and no cars could get past him. I kept glancing back, eventually he started again slowly, then must have speeded up.

As I got on the approach road to Norwich I was stopped by traffic lights. He pulled up beside me, signalling to turn off to Great Yarmouth. As I glanced at him, he looked at me and rubbed his hands together.

Why? I was bemused and unsettled. When he started all this, I wondered if he was trying to warn me that there was something wrong with his car. Then, I thought he might be having trouble with his lorry. But it was evidently neither. So, ?.

Actually, as I write, one thought has occurred to me. It might have been nothing to do with me at all. it might have been a really annoying driver behind him who was trying to overtake dangerously and whom he was preventing from doing so. I rather hope so as otherwise he was creepy.

Oh. That turned into a bit of a non-story, didn't it. After midnight now, too late to start again.

By the way, Lynn has put up the report on the sale on our website. Well, so she says although it hasn't actually appeared yet. However, it should be there by the morning I hope. Under 'Journal.' I write it in the Sage's name, but it is all ME. As you'd expect - though it is done in rather more formal and polite style than this is.

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Z is a Good Girl

I know that, for the postman told me.

My Fellow Churchwarden and I had agreed to meet in the churchyard to have an autumnal clearing-up session. There is quite a long path from the gate to the church and it was bestrewn with pine needles. There are twelve lime trees along the railing beside the road and lots of suckery-type twigs grow from the bases of them and need to be cut back regularly. In addition, there were weeds growing at the edge of the path and dead lime leaves on the pavement. Also, when last we cleared the guttering, the north side of the church was still frozen hard and so it was left and now grass can be seen growing up there.

I arrived first and started raking. The Fellow joined me. "Where are you planning to put those pine needles?" "I'm taking them back home, I've brought my barrow." "Ah, that'll be why you're raking towards the gate rather than towards the church." "Yes, I thought of that." "Because, if you'd been going to put them on the church rubbish heap, you'd be better going the other way." "Yes, we are thinking As One. We are both of a practical frame of mind."

The pine needles filled the barrow and I took it home to empty. It is a very large barrow with two wheels and is beautifully balanced so can be wheeled easily even when extremely heavy. Meanwhile, the Fellow started to cut back the limes. Upon my return, I did the weeding and raked and swept the rubbish into piles. It was about now that the postman arrived and went up to the church, where there is an office for the Parish Administrator. He was gone for some time, so I suspect he was offered coffee. On his return, he gave me my own post (a small but welcome cheque) and complimented me on my goodness.

The job has been done, most beautifully. I am glad to say that the Fellow and I are equally thorough, as well as efficient, so we swept the path and the road as well as picking up the leaves, the branches and the earth that had mysteriously appeared among the leaf mould. However, we did not get the church gutters cleared. The leaf etc clearing took three hours and we had had enough.

People walking past had little chats (which were pleasant if they did not expect you to stop for more than a few seconds). Millie said "You want to watch, do you'll get arthuritis in your knees." I pointed to the kneeler (a piece of cardboard) I was using to protect those useful joints. On her return, she said "You'll ache after this."

She is right.

Tuesday 14 November 2006

I may not know much about anything, but I know a little about an awful lot.

What has happened to general knowledge? There used to be so many things that *everyone* knew. The capitals of countries. How many yards in a mile (a bit out of date, perhaps, but I wonder just how many know how many metres in a kilometre, even if the clue is in the name). Who wrote Oliver Twist and Daffodils. The date of the French Revolution and when Caesar invaded Britannia. When I was at junior school, we used to have tests in General Knowledge. You were supposed to know who Venus was and what was her Greek equivalent. How many inches in a hand, and at what height a pony became a horse. You couldn't revise for these tests, you either knew it or you didn't. I was lucky, even at ten I was a voracious reader and used to browse Encycopaedia Britannica for pleasure, and I usually did quite well. I also liked knowing that sort of thing - I had little practical knowledge or ability at anything, but I knew all about it in theory.

Now, only a generation or two later, no one seems to know any of this. It's gone. With nursery rhymes and a sense of history. I understand nowadays that girls don't 'get' Jane Eyre - "Why doesn't she just go out and get a proper job?" - without any sense of what it was like to live in the 19th Century. Even people of my age, largely, seem to have forgotten.

After the Anglo Saxon lectures last week, we chatted to the lecturer. She mentioned the complete ignorance of the heritage of Christianity that she finds nowadays among her university students. She was not talking about religious faith, but about basic ignorance of the facts, legends, fallacies, call them whatever you like - this is not a religious post. She said that it is impossible to teach history of European art to someone who has literally no concept of either the stories of the bible or the importance of religious faith in times gone by.

When I was a child, I read, for pleasure, stories of the Greek and Roman gods. A little older, I read Homer and Virgil. If I had not, when I took Latin A Level, how would I have known my Aeneas from my Elbow*?

The lecturer, Anna, said that the first thing she has to do is give students a copy of the New Testament and tell them to read the Gospels. And they find it really hard to understand, or to remember the references. Especially the students from countries such as (I am sure she said) Canada, where religious teaching is not allowed in schools. But without it, there is little chance of them getting to grips with Renaissance or pre-Renaissance art.

People are interested, more than ever before, about researching the past. Their personal heritage. And it is vastly interesting. But so is history, and culture, and what has made us who we are, and this seems to have been almost lost. I'm not being nostalgic, I don't automatically think that 'the good old days' were better, but I do feel that there is some loss in our lives.

*no need to worry, Anon, about lowering the tone (comments, yesterday)

Monday 13 November 2006

Tradition has the upper hand.

Tonight, there was a meeting to plan this year's Christmas carol service. This is always held at 6pm on Christmas Eve, by which time, if you haven't bought something it's too late, and you should be starting to relax as everything has been done*. However, for the last few years, and I suspect it is since Meetings have been held to plan them, they have been getting increasingly tricksy. With themes and playlets and things. A couple of years ago, I said that all people really want is to hear the Christmas story, listen to a gently uplifting talk and sing the carols they have known all their lives. But I was ignored, except that they agreed to have carols sung by everyone instead of only a choir.

This year, only four of us turned up. And two of them wanted to go down the simple route. So we are.

Not that I said much. I have no bent for this sort of thing really. I chipped in mainly to check on practical matters. I may well have got out of playing the organ - not that I mind doing that, the only thing to remember is to play a bit slower than usual as it takes longer for sound to go all round a full church (when someone is trying hard to be polite about my organ playing, the most truthful thing to say is that I don't hang about. Slow hymns are real dirges and most depressing, so I brisk them up a bit) and to hold the first note for them all to join in. Anyway, someone else certainly will play some of the carols. I have offered to accompany carol singers greeting people as they arrive, by playing the clarinet outside the church before the service .... or, if wet, I've claimed a spot in the porch.

Anyway, this has all been arranged and some people will not be happy, as they are deprived of their bits of drama. But, as I said to my traditionally-minded friend, they should have come along to the meeting then, shouldn't they.

*in my case, everything has been done** except the present wrapping, the cake icing and some of the cards delivering.

**Meaning, will have been done by then. I have not started yet. Obviously. It's not half way through November yet.

Sunday 12 November 2006

Mea culpa

I mentioned Miss Hopper yesterday, whose snappy remark hung over my mother's life. And, in the comments, said that teachers, in those days, would not have apologised to their pupils, even if they knew well that they had been unjust, unkind or plain wrong. They would have thought that it would undermine their authority. For that matter, many people are still unwilling to apologise, and only too willing to judge more harshly than they expect to be judged themselves. Many be frank, all of us on occasion and most of us sometimes.

If you know you've done something wrong and can put it right, that's one thing. But an unquiet conscience is a troubling thing. The biggest thing on mine? Not the worst thing I've done by any means, but the thing that I'm sorriest for happened more than thirty years ago. I was driving along a road in Lowestoft in my little Morris Minor, in the pouring rain one winter's day. I rounded a corner and was confronted by a vast puddle in front of me. No time to slow down, a car coming the other way so I couldn't drive around it, and an elderly man in a raincoat on the pavement. I can still picture the scene I saw in my rear-view mirror - a wall of water, head-height, engulfing him.

I couldn't help it. It was a true accident. But, and this is my wrongdoing, I didn't stop. I would now, I would at any time in the past thirty years. But I was young, afraid of his anger, without the self-confidence to do the right thing and stop, take him home, pay for the dry cleaning. Say sorry. I drove on.

And the moment passed. Nothing I can do. Telling you doesn't exonerate me. Poor man.

When I was about 15, I turned up at my school cookery class one day, complete with my apron and little gingham cap that I had made in dressmaking class, but with my long hair in a hairband rather than tied up. The teacher snapped at me for being untidy. She happened to be the sister of our next-door neighbour and, years later, I chatted to her at a party. She mentioned the incident. She said that she had regretted it ever since, that she had been so rude - she had said that I looked like one of the witches in Macbeth.

She apologised. I accepted the apology, saying that I had forgotten all about it and had not taken it as an unkindness. That was a polite lie, I had been upset and - whilst accepting that I had been untidy and deserved a rebuke - the hurt had, actually, lasted. But I so appreciated that she had remembered and been sorry, and had told me so.

A village decimated

I live in quite a small village. There are 400 houses, most of which have been built in the last 60 years - I should think fewer than 100 of them are older, although some may have been pulled down and replaced. The adult population of 720 has probably trebled in the last hundred years - more children were born, undoubtedly, than nowadays, but many of them did not survive to adulthood.

So, it hits me every year. In our church, the roll of honour, the list of those soldiers who died in the two world wars (no one from the village has died in the other wars that besmirch the world with such casually destructive regularity), is read out. And, in the 1914-1918 war, 25 men died. Roughly one tenth of the adults and, since that includes women and old men, this means a much higher proportion of young men. Most of that generation.

I wonder if we would be at war now if the elected leaders of our country had to lead the troops into battle nowadays. Or if President Bush's daughters and Mr Blair's sons and daughter were in the armed forces, on active service. It might have made them think twice.

Saturday 11 November 2006

The family story – part 7– today was my mother's birthday

My mother was born on 11th November 1923. Remembrance day. She said that her birthday was affected by sadness throughout her childhood - the war was still fresh in many peoples' minds. But it was only a few months before she died that she told me her shameful secret, as she saw it, that she had been afraid to tell, for fear of ridicule, all through her life.

And now I'm telling you. Not in disrespect of her, but for love and pity, that she was ashamed because of the thoughtless cruelty of her teacher, on her first day of school, as a motherless child already aware that she was different from the other children, sensitive and anxious.

She was asked her name. "Poppy," she replied. "Don't be stupid, that's a nickname. What's your real name?" My mother didn't know what to say, that was what she had always been called. Her second name was Jane, so the teacher called her that. And, from then on, she insisted, so did everyone else.

Her aunt's son, her only child, had been killed in the war. When the baby was born on Remembrance Day - Poppy Day* - she asked to name her.

I don't know why mummy (I know that is a childish name, but she hated mum and mother, and to her ma was her mother-in-law - not a compliment) took this so much to heart, but she was awfully upset when she told me. The only other people she had ever told were my father and stepfather, and my sister, W, found it out by chance - by coming upon her birth certificate - when in her teens. Mummy was so angry when she saw her reading it that W never dared tell anyone. "Don't laugh, don't mock me," she begged, when she told me. I was bewildered - "but it's a sweet name and anyway, how wickedly cruel of the teacher**. Don't tell me that she didn't have a list of the new children, of course she knew it was your real name. And it was nothing to be ashamed of anyway."

My mother, because she had never discussed it with anyone and was too upset about it to have thought it through for herself, had never thought of that. I wish she had confided in me before. It had only become shameful because it was a secret - and a secret because she was ashamed. If she had only talked about it, to a friend, to a daughter, she would have had it in perspective and been happier for it. So, in telling you, I'm freeing her. If she were still here, I'd ask her first, but she isn't.

*I'd like to make it entirely clear that her surname was not Day.
**Miss Hopper, also known as The Flea, teacher at Melksham village school in the 1920s, I am outing you. How could you have been so unkind?

Today, I laughed out loud

I expect you all read Salvadore Vincent already? If not, do read his Bathmatwatch, currently on Day 11. Go back to the start, also read all the comments - it is getting funnier by the day.

I see that someone's muesli exited their mouth onto the monitor. The other day I spat porridge onto my keyboard while reading JonnyB. It is not a good idea to read funny blogs whilst eating breakfast.

Why go for a single entendre, when you can get a double at no extra charge.

"I'll have some more of those Comice pears*," said a customer. "They are delicious. All that's wanted to make them perfect is to be unsprayed and English." "Don't know whether they are unsprayed," replied Al. "It's very expensive and demanding of record-keeping to be Soil Assured or Organic so lots of people don't bother, even if they don't use artificials. But they're English all right, they are from Kent. I can only get them for a few weeks each year and they work out expensive as they are so large, almost a pound in weight each so they cost about 50p. Well worth it though, they are the best."

He paused. Then he added "I wooed Dilly with these pears, you know. I met her in October and used them to impress her. She said that she had never seen such a big pear."

*Doyenne de Comice, as they are properly named.

Friday 10 November 2006

What Z did yesterday

I've been busy this week and I've not been at home much for the last couple of days; I'm dismayed to see on Bloglines that I have 186 marked posts unread. I think a few people must have republished or something as three of them each have 25 posts, so I hope it's inaccurate, as there are also quite a few people bookmarked but not bloglined whom I want to catch up on.

Yesterday, I spent an interesting day being lectured about the Anglo Saxons. I will confess that it was becoming a bit deep by the end and I didn't take it all in, but really enjoyed it all nevertheless. The lecturer was a rather lovely Italian woman and I am afraid that, once or twice, my mind strayed enough to wonder how old she was ..... I'm so rude. She had grey hair and a completely unlined, although mature, face - I mean mature in the sense that the dewiness of youngness with its subcutaneous fat (grotty expression, if you come up with a better one I'll replace it) had gone, but all that did was to show to advantage her lovely bone structure.

I gave her a lift back to the station afterwards and she was lovely. Later, a friend was at dinner who had also been at the study day and she said that she and others had discussed the same subject - what did I think? I said that she must be older than she looks as her children are in their mid-20s. And she had been kind enough to be surprised that I was a grandmother. Ah, women can be so nice to each other. Pushing 50 but looks younger was the consensus (46-52, if you want precision).

Afterwards, I shopped purposefully and effectively, most satisfyingly in that I bought a pair of boots, which I really need, black, high heels (haven't measured them, but I have to stand upright or I'll tip over). Also a pair of red shoes, two pairs of gloves, one brown suede, one purple leather, a black hat (for warmth more than fashion) and assorted underwear.

Ooh, do you mind if I rant for a minute about bras? Gentlemen, stop reading now, this is purely technical and girlie and will not interest you.

Why are so many bras padded? Not underneath, to give a lift and increase cleavage, but all over, so that they stay rigidly in place and don't move when you do? And why are so many in deeply unattractive colour combinations? I had half an hour by the time I reached the stage of buying such necessities, so I dived into M&S which was handily nearby. Knickers, fine - though gosh, how do they justify such prices in a mere chain store? Or am I just hopelessly cheap in begrudging £11 for a pair? After that I stopped matching up and went for the 3 pairs for a tenner option (look, never suggest that I tell you nothing about me). Anyway, I looked at these bras with increasing desperation. I am blessed with a 34D. Which is fine. Just right. They are not the first thing that anyone notices about me, but I can achieve an effective cleavage if the circumstances warrant it. I do not need a padded bra. Nor do I need a minimiser bra, which sounds uncomfortable. I do not want enough ornamentation to show through my clothes, but I was not after something entirely plain - I was in frivolous mood, after all.

Well, I did find a couple in the end. But I was only enchanted with one of them - which was why I bought the matching knicks.

Today, helped Al in the shop as his staff are engaged elsewhere, and then a concert with Dilly's mum in Norwich this evening. So supper was bacon and eggs at 10.45 tonight. Plus a couple of glasses of chardonnay - will I sleep tonight?

Hope so, back in the shop tomorrow morning.

'Night. Have a good one.

Thursday 9 November 2006

Z has the power?

I mentioned that I don't take it out on the Sage when I feel down. And I really don't think I do, I make a conscious effort not to. If I am feeling edgy or bad-tempered but it's nothing to do with him, I tend to apologise in advance - 'sorry, darling, I've had a rotten day and I feel very irritable, so if I snap, it's nothing personal, take no notice and I will say sorry afterwards.'

This is not, I hasten to add before my daughter issues a correction, to say that I am never bad-tempered with him, whether or not it is entirely his fault (for, surely, it is never entirely mine.....), though I do notice that when we are having a bit of a go at each other, my oldest and youngest child tend to side with him - my middle one doesn't say anything. I can understand this, as I remember sympathising with my father (silently) if my mother was being snappy. And of course we have a 'clearing of the air' once in a while.

But, with this proviso, I aim to be good-natured nowadays. Until a few months ago, I quite frequently had several unhappy days at a time but, although people could make it worse, they could not make it better and so I kept quiet about it. You see, I can say this now as it's over.

This long preamble - oh god, this is so like me, get to the point, woman - was setting the scene for what I'm really saying, which is that I have noticed many times that my bad mood might not upset the family, but my good mood certainly cheers it. Yesterday, as I said I would, I opened champagne, set out to charm, to engage Sage and Ro in conversation. And they responded at once. We all laughed, chatted, teased me when I said flutteringly that I wanted to be amused. Admittedly, my husband's idea of amusing me was to bring a whole lot of silver spoons and get Ro and me to check the hallmarks and date them, but it was togetherness in its way........and Ro told me lots of work anecdotes, which he rarely does....and we toasted marshmallows. They both complimented me, not only on last night's meal but the night before's too, which I had cooked but not been present to eat.

Is this the same in other families, I wonder? That the good mood of one person sets the mood of everyone? Not in a 'thank goodness she's not ratty tonight' way, but in a positively cheerful, without necessarily realising why, way? Or is it just me?

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Z loses patience and becomes decisive

Right. Champagne is in the fridge and butternut squash risotto will be prepared for dinner. I have had enough of drooping around and intend to laugh all evening. This will be very disconcerting to my family, who may well be tempted to lock me in the attic, but I intend that they will find me irresistible and have to join in.


I worked assiduously this morning. Not on what I'd intended to, as the Sage plonked a valuation on my desk to type up, but anytime I do work as soon as it is given to me feels like great efficiency.

I am chilly. The room is next to the Aga-warmed kitchen but it is, at present, unheated. Having become chillier during the morning, I have just lit two candles and fetched a blanket to go over my knees. It is not that cold really, it is just me.

I have realised that tomorrow I am going to spend the day in Norwich, until 4, and then have to be back there by 6.30. Norwich is half an hour's drive away. I wonder if it is worth coming home. Probably not and I might as well go to a café for a couple of hours. Or shop. I only really care to start Christmas shopping in December, but it is a busy month. I also have a not-shopping-in-Norwich-in-December policy, which I instituted some years ago when parking and, indeed, moving, became impossible. I tried parking and riding, which is fine if you are after a jolly or business, but is hopeless for real shopping as you need to decant parcels every so often. Shopping is not done in half measures.

I wonder if the second lunchtime glass of wine was not a good idea. It cheered me for a while, but now I'm gloomy again. Chocolate hasn't helped. Nor has music. Damn.

The Archers has just started. Wisely, I listened to it online last night as high drama was promised - the night when daggy Ruth was to embark on her dirty midweek with her cowman. Wise, as there was a fully descriptive review in the paper this morning. Why is Ruth such a deeply unappealing character? David is rather too perfect, albeit a tad dull, and her voice is truly dreadful - and don't tell me that, after nearly 20 years away from the North East, her accent would not have softened to some small degree - but surely that's not enough?

I'm not depressed. Just pissed off. Damn. If I'm not over it by tonight, champagne will be needed.

The good news is that I got a bank statement and I have whole lots more money than I thought, I don't know why.

Tuesday 7 November 2006

Three meetings in a day proves too many

I make a crap chairman. I even took my gavel to a meeting, but it seemed rude to use it. Very bossy, banging a gavel.

Do you know, sometimes I really feel I'll be glad when I can quit. I devised a five-year plan to come off all committees. Within a few weeks, I had agreed to join another one as the secretary was moving away from the area and they really needed someone at once.

This happened five years ago last June. Last July, I left one committee. I still have a five year plan.

I suppose it would be useful to have a proper job at which I was visibly busy every day, so that people wouldn't think I have plenty of time to spare. I know I appear capable, confident, articulate, but not domineering. I explain that I am also lazy, disorganised and casual, although efficient. This is absolutely true, but saying so is sometimes mistaken for modesty.

I will feel less grumpy in the morning.

But I will still rather want to quit.

Monday 6 November 2006

An afternoon of being granny

This morning, being a dutiful governor at the High School. Sat in a history lesson as an observer and then went to talk to the folks in the Learning Support Department. And remembered to make an appointment for my next visit, as good intentions are not enough and it's easy to find that half a term has gone by and I haven't done a thing.

Dilly rang up. Squiffany would really love to go for a walk, but Pugsley had just gone to sleep on her. Well, it just so happened that, not only would I enjoy a walk too, but I had some things to deliver in the village. We took Tilly -unfortunately, forgot a plastic bag. Fortunately, had some tissues wrapped in plastic. Unfortunately, then had to carry steaming handful. Fortunately, only for 100 yards or so, as the village is well equipped with bins designed for the purpose of depositing doggy deposits.

Squiffany has, over the last week or so, started to use short sentences. Previously, they were a succession of one word comments, but now she will say things like "my nice juice"' and "where my nice hat please?" You will see the generally cheerful nature of these remarks, I don't think she has a 'cross' vocabulary yet. When upset or tired, she just cries. Not today, I'm glad to say, when she started to rub her eyes she lay on the sofa for a couple of minutes but then got up again, so I asked her if she would like to go for a ride in the car, to send her to sleep. She thought this was a good idea and so it was.

Time to cook. Then, time to work as I haven't done my desktop duties today. Three phone calls and an email do not constitute a day's work.

PS ... 7.36pm ... I eye the inch of wine in the bottle worriedly. I really hope it is not I who have drunk all that, as I don't remember having done so. Dinner will be ready in five minutes or so, frightfully Englishly it is roast loin of pork, local leeks and sprouts, roast potatoes...the pork has crackling of course, which is the point of pork. Why do some countries cut the rind off pork?*

I'm sure that someone else has drunk some of the wine. It wasn't I; for one thing my grammar is not desperately astray and nor is my spelling, and for another there have been no typos to correct. But the thought of two hours work later (minimum) is not a happy one.

*Not countries as such; the butchers or cooks in said countries.

Sunday 5 November 2006

Z is the envy of Ben Gunn

He dreamed of cheese, toasted mostly, if my memory deceives me not. I had a yearning too, and promptly gave in to it, with toasted cheese, soup and a glass of sherry for lunch.

I didn't get down to the pub today. It was after 1 o'clock when I left the church. We had spent some time searching for the silk poppies that assist the flower arrangements for Remembrance Sunday. After clambering awkwardly through the hatch into the attic, looking in the bier shed and all cupboards, I finally spotted them. In a vase, on a windowsill, behind a drawn curtain. Oh.

I arrived home to find a note from the Sage. He is out, making business calls. A self-employed person is never off duty, even for Sunday lunchtime. So, a snack lunch and a look in the paper to see what is on television. Oh. I glanced through the satellite channels, to make sure that I was not missing anything by not subscribing to them. I am not.

So, the Sunday papers and some music it will be, then. Mozart (and Süssmeyer)s' Requiem, to start with, to soothe and uplift. Not that I vastly need it, but I hate that sodding loft ladder.

No, I will not think of it again. Requiem eternam, instead.

Saturday 4 November 2006

This evening...

...I feel nostalgic.

I wish I were in India.

Z puts her feet up

I'm glad to say that the Bishop was awfully nice and gave a good sermon (and not too long into the bargain). There were, disconcertingly, more clergy in one country church than I've ever seen before. Whole piles of them. No one was wearing their most elaborately embroidered vestments; the Bishop himself was in a tasteful shade of maroon, topped with black, then white - all this would not be for me as I'm far too vain and that many layers would make me look Fat. When shaking his hand for the second time, I was holding my stave which is about 7 foot long and since I am little (heightwise, at any rate) it wavered and nearly came to blows with his Crook (I guess there is a proper name for it but if I ever knew it I've forgotten. Unless it's a crosier. Which it could well be). He looked momentarily alarmed, as well he might.

I redeemed myself later, when he arrived at the village school where food and drink were on offer. No one else hurried to meet him so I bobbed up greetingly and offered to get him a drink. He brightened considerably as he noticed the glass in my hand and asked for red wine; I used the opportunity to get a refill.

We had a list of guests for whom we had reserved seats as they had to say a Few Words, so each of us looked out for the ones we would recognise. I had the pleasure, after my lamentations the other day about an inability to remember faces or names, of greeting several people by name, who looked startled because they didn't know who I was until I told them. This included our local Member of Parliament, but I spared him by saying "we have met, but you won't remember me, I was the governor who showed you round *my village* school a couple of years ago." Mind you, decent bloke though he is, he has a little way to go yet to match our last MP John M@cGregor, who remembered everyone to a disconcerting degree. Once - he was Secret@ry of St@te for Educ@tion at the time - he quizzed me about my opinions and then, rather gratifyingly, used them in his next House of Commons speech. I'm not sure what they were, it was a long time ago.

By the end of it all my legs were not working very well, as I wore entirely impractical shoes and stood in them for rather over five hours. The first two times trolling up and down the aisle were not too absurd, but self-consciousness kicked in on the third occasion and I felt entirely foolish.

Today, I remembered - with more than a week to go, yay! - to ask a suitable person to read the Roll of Honour at the Remembrance Sunday service tomorrow week. And check that someone has ordered a poppy wreath.*

A bonfire party tonight. We'll have a few fireworks tomorrow I expect. And make a guy. The Sage's father's name was Guy - we always celebrated his birthday on Bonfire Night, though after his death we found his birth certificate and found that wasn't his birthday after all, it was the day before!

*Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall. I checked around to see if there was anything else I should do. "Bugler?" asked Sue. I know no bugler. I hope someone does - or has a CD. I just don't think the Last Post will sound the same on a clarinet. Or a saxophone.

Friday 3 November 2006

Doing time

I pottered around for a while this morning. Tidied up, read and answered emails, wrote letter and readied it for the post. It was not until twenty to ten that I thought about breakfast. For the first time this autumn, my mind went hungrily to porridge.

The Sage and I often have porridge for breakfast in the winter. But rarely do we cook and eat it together. Apart from the fact that, today, he had breakfasted and gone out long ago, this is for several reasons.

I cook it quickly, boiled fast so that the grains don't break down and there is still some texture as I eat.
He likes to simmer it gently for a long time, so that it is smooth and - is there a non-oily word that gives the same effect as unctuous? Without me actually mentioning wallpaper paste?

I add a pinch of salt before cooking.
He, virtuously, does not.

I make it with half milk, half water, as little as possible so that it is not too sloppy.
He makes it with half milk, half water, but plenty of it so that it is not too dry.

I add a few grains of dark brown Muscovado sugar, for flavour more than sweetness.
He adds a spoonful of white sugar for sweetness.

I add a few extra drops of milk, just enough that it doesn't actually set.
He adds plenty of milk.

It would be just too poncy to stand stirring two pans of porridge at the same time, but really, neither of us likes the way the other cooks it. Though we will be polite and eat it of course, if it has been, kindly, made.

Better to breakfast alone really.

However, if you do make porridge, maybe best not to take it back to the computer and idly read a few blogs as you eat. Not JonnyB, at any rate. A sudden laugh catching you unawares can eject a mouthful. Porridge is not easy to remove from a keyboard and must be done at once. Otherwise it sets, with properties not dissimilar from concrete.

Thursday 2 November 2006

This and that

Random bits tonight, as I have spent a long time wrestling with a post that won't be ready for a day or two.

Have I mentioned the new Rector? She will be Instituted and Inducted tomorrow night, by the Bishop of Norwich no less, in a church not far from here (not my village, but the same group). We had a practice the other night. The churchwardens (of whom I am one) have to shift themselves up and down that sodding aisle no fewer than three times. I suspect we will look total idiots. We will be carrying Staves. At one point, my lovely fellow-churchwarden and another male CW will have to shift the Bishop's chair, as he won't need it any more. So I'll have to carry two staves and will, undoubtedly*, trip over one or both of them.

Do you know anything about this? Honestly, it brings out the worst in the Church of England: the love of ceremony.

First they dress up like Total Twats. Sorry. But they do. All church dignitaries are actors manqués and love dressing up. They prance up and down aisles as if anyone is looking at them. Well, we are, but in disbelief. I'm not saying this is not a meaningful ceremony; of course it is, but surely less can be more. It's like weddings. Often, the more elaborate the wedding, the shorter the marriage (I can say this as I have been married for ages and ages and had three guests, two of whom were witnesses, at my civil ceremony) will appreciate that I generalise for effect and am not wishing to cast aspersions on anyone who has had a Dream Fairytale Wedding, but I have known a few where the wedding was the be all and the marriage was the end all.

Then they have too much meaningful stuff. The Rector to be has to be introduced to the door of the church, the bells, the font (and handed the Water), the episcopal seal, the chair, the altar, the oil, the bible, the bread and wine - really, it's like Alice in Wonderland, or an Australian tale I read as a child called the Magic Pudding.

The good thing is that, at the end, we all disembark to the village school where there is food and wine (and coffee, pfft) laid on.

In preparation, this evening, I had said I'd take forty chairs from our church room to the church in question. I borrowed Al's van - it's a little Postman Pat van - and took it to the church. I thought, rather dismally, that I would be spending a couple of rather hard-working hours alone....but then, out of the woodwork, appeared three helpful men who let me marvel at their muscularity as they dealt with most of the work. They were marvellous. The whole thing was done in 45 minutes.

What else? I've done a couple of simple but tedious tasks that I have been pretending not to have time to do for a couple of weeks.

Ah yes. A breakthrough yesterday. Squiffany asked, for the first time, to use the potty. "Daddy, poo. Potty.**" He took her into her room and she started to play and to inveigle him into playing too. He thought she was taking the, um, poo, and went back to the highly important job of plumbing in the new washing machine. But a few minutes later, she called him again and this time, she followed through. Much praise and ceremony. I have a feeling that so many children are still in nappies now because disposables are so comfortable. I know a few three-year-olds, and one child of nearly five - mind you, his house-husband father is hopeless, though sweet - still in nappies. It may be no coincidence that Squiffany is in proper washable nappies and doesn't really like them wet or dirty.

Um. I've probably delighted you long enough.***

*I was affronted, yesterday morning, to hear on the Today prog on Radio 4, some government chappie say, clearly and inaccurately, "undoubtably." Really me.

**Endlessly interesting, the English language. Poo is what is done, pooh is the aroma. Pooh, of course, is the bear.

***I do trust that you all follow my literary allusions.

Wednesday 1 November 2006

Whatever is in a name, I can't remember it

I went to the hairdresser today. I generally look fairly unkempt in a reasonably tidy sort of way, so it might be hard to believe that I have my hair cut every five weeks, but so it is. At least I look okay for one day in thirty-five.

The person before me had been held up and was late for her appointment, so I had time to sit and contemplate Life in general, and the conversations going on in particular. What I like about my hairdressers is that the chat tends to be general, you might exchange a few words with your own coiffeuse, but if the subject is a good one it gets spread throughout the room and can be very entertaining.

As one person left, she called out "Goodbye Ginnie!" And one of the hairdressers turned and waved. This puzzled me as I had always thought her name was Nicki. But sure enough, not long afterwards, someone called her Virginia.*

I pondered my inability to remember names. Many people find it hard to put names to faces. Others find it hard to put faces to names. I cannot, without great difficulty, remember either.

Not long ago, there was an article in the paper about *the latest syndrome*, which demonstrated that some people, however hard they try, simply haven't got the mental equipment to recognise people easily. There is, apparently, a test you can take. At one point, they bring on a series of pictures of people whose pictures have been doctored to eliminate the hair. The journalist taking the test - and her mother and her daughter - reacted with laughter. Impossibly to tell them apart. This reaction, it appears, is in itself a vitual diagnosis that you can't recognise people by their features alone.

I don't think I'm that bad, but I am not very good. Unfortunately, I'm awful with names too. I do try, very hard, and I have vastly improved over the years. When I moved to this house, twenty years ago, I had to make a whole new circle of friends and I really didn't want anyone to think I didn't care enough to know their name. I joined the WI and I used to spend meetings looking round the circle (we don't sit in rows), putting names to faces. I became secretary of various committees, so that I would have names in front of me that I could use as aides memoires.

What I do usually remember are facts. If you were to be introduced to me, I would be listening to what you say. I might, therefore, not know your name or your face, but if you told me the names of your children, your opinion about an issue of the day, that you loved eggs Benedict but were allergic to nuts, that your dog was born on Christmas Day 2001, I'd know all that about you forever. Just not, unfortunately, who you are. Or what you look like.

I am not good about asking personal questions. If you don't tell me your name - and why not? Why not, for goodness' sake? I tell you my name, and I'll remind you of it the next time we meet** and how we last met furthermore, because it's embarrassing to be looked at blankly, but just how many people return this favour? Not enough. Really, not enough.

Funnily enough, contemplating writing about this, I read a few blogs and came upon today's from Stitchwort. Who is finding much the same as me, but as a more recent phenomenon. Though I suspect it is because, at present, she has too much else to think about as she remembers facts etc. as usual.

However, I have always wondered what would happen if I ever were to develop Alzheimers. How would anyone ever know? What difference would there be to notice?

*Actually, afterwards I realised that another hairdresser is called Nicki. I just had them a bit mixed up. Look, I always told you I was disorganised.

**This is, of course, assuming that I know who the hell you are

"I woke up this morning" - the 1st November Blues

I woke up this morning, it was 5.22
I woke up this morning, it was five twenty-two.
It was already light and I felt blue because at 5.22 this afternoon it will be dark and that is really absurd.

Stuff GMT, I want British Summer Time all year round.