Friday 31 August 2007

Z is resting

I've come in for lunch, but I'm too knackered to go and get it for a few minutes. I've been turning my attention to the rest of the hedge, carrying on from the area I was clearing a few weeks ago. I said I'd put up pictures, but I haven't got around to it yet.

There are a few tall pieces of elm and hawthorn that have died, but I hadn't noticed, because I am so very unobservant, that most of the healthy stuff in the hedge is actually ivy. There is some straggly privet, some lilac and some wild plum trees that have suckered, but there's a lot of dead stuff in there. Little attention has been paid to it for the best part of 40 years.

The most annoying thing is the wire. I found old wire and posts that the Sage said were put in in the late 20s/30s*, and some slightly later chicken wire which, for no reason I can see, is topped with barbed wire. All this has become entwined with the bushes which date from much the same time and it all needs to be painstakingly cut out. No sign of rust, oh no. The old posts have rotted at the bottom, so once the ivy has been removed they can be heaved upwards and out. Some of the trunks of the elm and thorn are rotted enough to be pulled out too, but they are big and heavy and my mouth is full of dust and my arms ache.

This feels good. No, wrong word. Satisfying, in that I have a feeling of accomplishment.

I have now fetched lunch and am eating scrambled eggs on toast and drinking beer.

*The Sage, as some of you know, was born here - his parents bought the house in 1928, the year after they were married.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

We can't manage this in an hour

I can't put down the agenda for last night's meeting as it wouldn't be appropriate, but here's the one I'll chair next Tuesday morning. We'll start with coffee, so the meeting will get under way about 10.15. The time limit, as far as I'm concerned, is 12.30.

1 Apologies for absence
2 Minutes of the last meeting
3 Matters arising mostly covered in agenda
4 Dates of future meetings for the next year. I tried to get this sorted back in June, but no one else had a diary
5 Reports
a) Treasurer not much to talk about this time, just how much money is in the bank
b) Programme Secretary a big item this month as we'll be deciding on the lecturers Sept 08-June 09
c) *Lecture Theatre* Liaison
• Gratuity
d) Visits Secretary 3 of these in a period of 6 weeks plus one booked for the spring and another to be decided upon
e) UK & Overseas Visits Secretary try to make this brief this time, discuss fully next month
f) Membership Secretary this may take a while, as memberships are renewed over the summer
• Signing in sheets
• Questionnaires
• New members
g) Study Days Secretary we're trying a new venue, so she'll want to talk about the arrangements
h) Young *name of national society* hold over
i) Newsletter hold over
6 Jobs for next lecture meeting
7 Administration
a New members coffee morning date to be decided and who will look after arrangements
b Societies’ Bulletin, August 2007
c Area Meeting, October 2007 information needed to be sent to that
d *National Society* AGM May 2008
e Annual Directory Meeting 2008
8 Correspondence
9 Any other business
10 Date of next meeting

1,2,3,4, in total - 15 minutes
5a 2 minutes
5b 30 minutes
5c 3 minutes
5d 15 minutes
5e 5 minutes
5f 15 minutes
5g 10 minutes
6 3 minutes
7, in total 15 minutes
8,9,10, in total 5 minutes

I wasn't adding this up as I went along, but it comes to 1 hour 57 minutes, though we'll do well if we finish in 2 hours. I've made notes to go with the agenda (not the ones in italics here) and sent them out, as well as relevant papers. Next year's programme has been discussed by 3 of us in some depth, but everyone should have a chance for some input.

We have a similar agenda every month, although different matters are focused on each time. There are ten meetings per year, September to June. There are also ten lectures, on various aspects of the arts, also September to June, as well as visits etc. This will be my third and last year as chairman.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

The days are holidays, but the evenings are all work

Yesterday got left out...I'll come back to it. It was a good one, anyway.

Today was too. We went to Norwich, Dilly, Wink, Squiffany, Pugsley and I and bought birthday presents for three of us - though some of Pugsley's have come from the car boot at Banham on Sunday. Ooh, bargains were had!

We arrived home soon after 5 o'clock. I had hardly sat down to check emails and comments (yes, that was the first thing I did, though had the Sage not already fed Tilly, she would have come first) when Ro rang. His hand-brake had jammed on and he couldn't drive home. The Sage, who would have sorted it in an instant, was out, so I did the best I could. I got straight back in the car and drove to fetch him.

An hour later, I was staring blearily at the computer, reading the agenda for tonight's meeting to discover what I promised to do 2 months ago. Then, at 7 o'clock, I trotted down to the church, fetched 4 tables from the shed, boiled 2 kettles of water, filled 4 jugs with water, filled 8 bowls with sweets, put the jugs and bowls on the tables, got out 16 glasses, cups and saucers, filled 2 jugs with milk and 1 bowl with sugar, put out 16 chairs, made 2 pots of coffee and was ready for the PCC meeting.

Which went well, although I received two items of news that I would rather not have heard: of an illness and a death, both of people younger than I.

And it was decided not to have a proper meal after the Harvest Festival, but jolly bits to pass around. This will save me hours of work, and I am grateful to the lovely person who suggested it and the equally lovely people who backed her up. I will do nice, delicious, plates of finger food and have not, as I expected, offered to cook a Sunday roast for 40 people.

Look after yourselves, darlings

Sunday 26 August 2007

Party time

Last evening we went to the annual Cyder Club party in the next village. Lots of home-made cider to drink and, in the tasting tent, those that were entered in the competition. The quality is variable - some rich and potent with a sherryish flavour, others somewhat acidic and some simply peculiar. The Sage is a member of the club, although he doesn't make cider himself, but enjoys the social angle of the monthly meeting, when he goes along to help with the apple pressing, bottling or whatever is going on. My contribution is saving any screw-top wine bottles to donate. Jenny won the prize for the best cider.

When we arrived the cover was just being taken off the hog-roast contraption. Adrian spent a couple of years perfecting it -the spit is powered by a motor and he was using ash logs for the fire. He started it off at about 9 in the morning and it takes the best part of 12 hours to cook through. It tastes gorgeous. He did the hog roast for El and Phil's wedding party - a local caterer did one for Al and Dilly's which, though very good, did not have the barbecue flavour, having been cooked in the oven.

There were lots of people there and it was a great evening. Farmer friends (who provided the unfortunate, though tasty pig) introduced me to a delightful French girl who is staying with them for two months, while studying fairly locally (I didn't catch where, but it is in a farming-related course). We chatted, and she asked about the band. I said that they were a local band, not professionals. "Is this traditional English country music?" she asked. "We don't have music like this at home." "Er, it's sixties pop," I explained. "About the same age as the people dancing to it." "Hi, ho, silver lining" joined in the dancers, waving their arms in the air. We moved outside to continue our talk as the band moved on to the Stones.

I was circumspect in the quantity I drank. Young cider can be deceptively strong and quite acidic too and I had no intention of risking an uncomfortable night. Camille, having politely drunk a small amount, was avoiding it...however, when we went for some cheese, I noticed that she chose the Stilton and Cheddar over the Camembert, though she didn't recognise Cheddar and had to ask me.

Today, my sister came for a visit, driving up from Wiltshire. We met at the pub - I went there from church to get the drinks in and the Sage, Al, Dilly and the children and Ro followed soon afterwards. Rosie, the landlord's daughter, was behind the bar, home from her gap year of teaching in a village school in south India. I've known her since she was about ten, she's a lovely girl. Our drinks, two pints of bitter, a pint of Guinness, a half of shandy, an orange squash and a large glass of wine, came to £10.90 (you see how I remember these things for you). Afterwards, we went home for a barbecue in Dilly and Al's garden and sat there all afternoon chatting. Just a baked potato and some cheese for supper, and my sister Wink is already in bed and asleep.

Z was bugged

Yesterday. Hm.

I was seated at the computer, slice of toast to hand, when Al came in. Sarah had sent a text to say she was unable to work that morning. "No problem" I said, "I'll come in." "Don't come in straight away, mid-morning will do" said Al.

The morning's post necessitated phone calls and a letter, so it was nearly ten o'clock when I arrived. The shop was busy, so it was worth my time (especially when Al bought me another Chelsea bun, to which I am now addicted), but it was an unexpected way to spend a sunny Bank Holiday weekend Saturday.

I was home when Ro came in search of lunch. "Any eggs?" he asked. I said I'd go and raid the hen house, and found three new-laid eggs in a nest box. When I got back indoors, I discovered that wasn't all I'd brought back. Crawling on my hand and arm were small creatures - I'm not sure whether they are mites or lice, because there are several chicken parasites and, to be honest, I wasn't that bothered about being introduced to them by name.

I washed and brushed them off, but for the next half-hour I kept finding odd ones on me and feeling generally itchy. Finally, I combed my hair over a piece of paper and several more dropped out (I hadn't been in the chicken shed, just to the nest box at the side). I'd hoped to leave the situation until the Sage arrived home, but this wouldn't do...

I went into the pet shop, bought suitable powder, came home, took off my watch, found a box, a brush and a scraper, put on disposable gloves and went and cleared out the nest box. I dusted the powder liberally. I put the box of bedding with my gloves in a larger box, then in a wheelbarrow, walked indoors carrying a bucket, went to the laundry room, removed my clothes into the bucket, stalked naked through the kitchen, down the passageway, through the hall, up the stairs, into the bathroom for towels, into the shower in my bedroom and scrubbed myself clean. As I was about to apply shampoo, I wished I'd taken out my contact lenses. I screwed my eyes tight shut instead.

When the Sage came home, I told him - very nicely, under the circumstances, as they are his chickens. He was bewildered. He hadn't noticed any problem, he said. Yes, he could see them now, in the box, but it could only have been in the last day or two or he'd have noticed. That's true, actually, they are very tickly.

We'll finish the rest of the hen house later. I'll also fill a barrow with some nice dry ash and sand so that the bantams can give themselves plenty of dust baths, which is usually a very good way of keeping them free of parasites. They like to find an ants' nest and lie with wings outstretched so that the ants dispose of the bugs.

Saturday 25 August 2007

Denying one's age

Ro and I fetched our meals (lasagne for him, chicken and potato salad for me) and sat down. We ate slowly, as we were quite early, but the bar was not particularly busy in any case.

I noticed one of the women first, because of her fabulous legs. She was tall and slim, a few years older than me, with a relaxed blonde bob. She wore brown trousers, a pale gold sweater and dark red sandals. She was looking around anxiously, and the two people with her said "Oh, here he is" and a man joined them.

My attention had been caught by the other man and I looked at Ro, to find his lip twitching. "Bet you're not thinking what I am" I murmured. "What are you laughing at?" "Well, anyone would" he replied, his eyes indicating the newcomer.

I hadn't even noticed him. In the traditional garb of the man in his early sixties who has not yet quite noticed that it is not still the early sixties and so thinks that blue jeans and a leather jacket are the outfit for any occasion, for they make him feel eternally young and trendy.

I indicated the other chap. He had quite a small head, close cropped hair, rather a sweet expression with a small beaky nose and not a whole lot of chin. His slightly scrawny neck poked forward from his jacket. "Doesn't he remind you of a tortoise?", I asked.

We continued to watch them out of the corners of our eyes. "Tortoiseman goes with the woman in clogs" I remarked. And we continued to poke fun at the leather jacket. "It isn't good quality" I said. "Probably got it off eBay" said Ro, "a lot of people buy clothes on eBay." "Whatever he paid, it was too much" I opined. "Well, it might - no, you're right. I was going to say, might only have cost a tenner but then I thought, would I wear that? And decided, not at any price."

The leather was poor quality, although the couple gave no impression of poverty. There were a couple of marks on the back where it had scuffed - good leather should improve with aging, but this just looked as if it had had the surface scraped off. He was becoming slightly round-shouldered and the jacket hunched awkwardly, lifting above his buttocks.

"Ew, he just clenched and unclenched his bum!" I hissed. "I saw it through his jeans" "So badly fitting, his clothes, you can't help noticing" agreed Ro.

Our attention turned towards a rather glamorous woman, in her mid-sixties I should think. I noticed her first because of the rather lovely shawl that was becomingly draped - though, personally, I'd prefer to get the drape to work without needing to pin it, she looked elegant. Her dark blonde hair fell in soft waves below her shoulders, held with a clip. Attractive though she was, to be honest there was a touch of 1661 about her. "I realised in my early thirties that I'd look better if I cut my long loose hair" I pointed out. She could, I guess, get away with it, just, but it was starting to look like denial. The rule is, of course, that if you ever look in the mirror and think, hopefully, you can get away with it for a bit longer, you can't. You're too old, too fat, too flabby or too thin.

Ten minutes later, she walked past again. Ro and I both recoiled with a faint hiss of dismay. The shawl had slipped from one shoulder, showing the strap of her sundress and her skinnny upper arm.

Thinking about them today, I feel rather sympathetic. It was easier when it was all right to grow old. When one fights valiantly and achieves some success, it's so easy to be just a little over-confident.

But I'm not sympathetic enough not to poke fun, you notice.

Friday 24 August 2007

Z has a little rant - and, by the way, receives Disappointing News

I didn't find time to read the papers until I got into bed last night (the Sage was still splashing happily in the bath, I put the paper down as soon as he came to bed, for he is not a man to ignore) and the tone of this article on the third page irritated me somewhat.

Would you mind awfully going to the link and reading it before the rest of this, so that your mind is not sullied by my reaction but you have your own?

Thank you.

Did you notice how many time the word 'claims' or 'claimed' was used? Three times in successive paragraphs, which was then emphasised a few lines later by ' claims ... boasting or wishful thinking'. Even though the research methods are quoted as "well-accepted as being valid". If they are valid, why does the journalist make it so clear he does not believe them?

Mind you, Island Monkey has already made it quite clear, regarding an unrelated article, that he doesn't think much of this particular sub-editor.

Do you remember the book Love in the Time of Cholera (not any of you young'uns, it must have been written nearly twenty years ago)? Frankly, it was a bit rubbish, but it bowled a lot of people over at the time. It was considered to be daring, magical, wonderful - basically because it was written by a foreigner (a bit of positive prejudice on the part of the right-on sort) who wrote of love including sexual intercourse, by Jiminy, between quite old people.

Why are people so incredulous? If I were old I'd feel quite insulted.

Update - I looked up the editor responsible for the piece. I think, maybe, he is not one of the fortunate over-sixties still to have a sex life. Whether the item was written by him or by a younger person, it does not come over as written or edited by someone with first-hand experience of the matter.

And the disappointing news - Bella is not expecting puppies after all. We're all very sad. We'll have to wait a little longer for an addition to the family.

Thursday 23 August 2007


The link for the 'AQ' test that most of you couldn't access a couple of weeks ago is working again now.

I just did it again. The first time I scored 7, this time I got 6. Asperger's is not my syndrome.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Z is a thief, but only because the circumstances seemed to warrant it

The accident that blocked the road was mentioned in the paper today: a tractor caught fire. This is what it's like living in rural Norfolk/Suffolk. Even in town, come to that - driving home through the centre of Norwich on Monday morning, I was quite surprised to find myself along a tractor. A proper John Deere, looking purposeful, if a little lost.

Tilly woke me this morning jumping on to my bed. I was startled to find it was 8.18, particularly since I was due in the shop by 8.30. "I couldn't wake you" said the Sage when I went downstairs, "so I thought I'd better send Tilly up." I really don't think he had tried very hard, frankly.

I could not leave without contact lenses and a face, but I was parked and in the shop by 8.35. There's a lot to do at the start of the day, all the new produce to put out and old stuff to clear, and Al has to check wholesalers' prices and amend his if necessary. In addition, runner beans, raspberries, figs, Victoria plums and raspberries were brought in by local growers and they all had to be weighed and noted. At the same time, customers were coming in and had to be served. We had some time to chat, however, and I told him about the Chelsea bun.

I had to go to Norwich first thing on Monday, but took over from 10 o'clock. Eileen and I were busy, and at one point a customer picked up a paper bag. "Looks as if someone has left their bread roll behind." I checked the bag, and in it was a sugar-covered Chelsea bun. Hang on, I'll look for one.... ... ... here you go. I put it on one side to return to the hungry customer when he or she returned.

But it was still there by 4.30! What was I to do? If it had been a packet of biscuits or money, I'd have left it to be reclaimed, but it would go stale by the next day, and I was hungry. Imagine, a nice coiled bun, seasoned with cinnamon and studded with raisins. I ate it, deciding to buy the customer a replacement when I found out who it was.

Anyway, I enthused about this bun, telling Al how delicious it had been, and when he went for his paper, he brought me another one. I offered to pay, but he said the bakery owed it to him - he'd let them have a couple of onions as soon as he unlocked the shop and before he could get to the till, so they said he could have a bun in payment. I also ate the most gorgeous fig. It was huge, ripe and luscious, and local too. The tree used to belong to H. Rider Haggard, who lived a couple of miles away.

No one has asked about the bun, by the way. This is why I am a thief.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Downs and ups

I felt unaccountably down today, for no real reason. This was not too good, as it hasn't happened for a long time. So I resolved not to give in to it, ate toast and Marmite and went out to bash down the last of the fence.

This turned out to be harder than expected, as one of the posts had not actually rotted off. I cut off all the ivy, removed the fency bits and pushed, pulled and kicked, with no effect. I took up a sledge-hammer and delivered several resounding blows. It hardly even said 'Pfft!'. I left it, got rid of the final post (which was only a nuisance inasfar as there was a whole lot of chicken-wire that had to be cut off first, and then, eyes narrowed, fetched a crowbar.

Five minutes later, I lifted the post from the hole. I still felt miserable, but in a manner leavened with triumph.

I was due to attend a Snape Prom concert tonight. Originally, I was going with a friend but he had to cry off. I decided to go early enough for supper, but I felt a little lonely...and then, five miles down the road, there was a police car and an 'Accident' sign and I was waved into the Saints.

Oh, the Saints. They are a scattering of villages, called Ilketshall Saint *insert saint's name* or Saint *insert saint's name* South Elmham (pronounced Ellum, like the tree is round here) and they are the Roads to Nowhere. Everyone gets lost. Even if you've lived here for years, you can wander round like the Flying Dutchman.

The two cars in front of me followed the road obediently, but a van driver and I were more wary. We didn't want to go to Rumburgh, and when, after a couple of miles, there was a turning to the left, we took it. It was a single-track road and there was a quantity of traffic coming towards us, but it was the right way, and I arrived at the Maltings in good time. I ate a virtuous salad, with couscous, avocado and prawns, adding no dressing, drank a glass of white wine and scoffed a slice of cheesecake - because I hadn't dresssed the salad and so deserved it. Besides, the Sage had lovingly tucked a couple of banknotes into my hand as I left, so I had to spend the money.

It was a fabulous concert. There were a lot of children there, some of them very young - like two or three, although there were also ten-year-olds. I was quite surprised to see a tiny baby Promenader - it can't have been more than six weeks old, though it was alert and interested in the surroundings. It was quiet and no trouble at all, hope the parents have a good night!

The band was Kolsimcha, and they were great. Sort of jazz with Eastern European rhythms. They'd written their own material and it was bloody good. Fabulous musicians too, particularly the clarinetist, Michael, and the flautist, Ariel (good, aren't I - the pianist was called Olivier, the drummer, Fabien and the double-bassist, Daniel. I remembered them specially to tell you), who had most of the solos.

I had been in two minds whether to go, but I'm glad I did. I'd swapped the spare ticket for another concert, and a 70-something-year-old man was sitting next to me. Good company he was too. He plays the keyboard in a folk group and his local church organ and his granddaughter is expecting her first child next month. He was wearing the same aftershave as my friend who was to come with me, which was a bit disconcerting - I rarely wear perfume myself and am quite sensitive to it on others, and it teased my mind all evening.

Monday 20 August 2007

19th - El. 24th - Al

Nothing much has happened today, so I've nothing to tell you. Not that it will stop me talking of course, because very little does that.

I went back to the garage this morning, as they wanted to check the car 500 miles after its repair. I took the paper and sat and read for a bit - it only took 15 minutes or so. I listened to Mark as he answered the telephone - he's very good, you know. Pitches it just right, friendly without being over-familiar and genuinely helpful - not obsequious, nor just going through the motions.

After that, I spent the day in the shop. Very busy this morning, quite a rush. I served most of the customers, as Eileen was busy tidying up, but she helped when the queue built up. She was a bit tetchy in fact, as she reckoned there were untidy areas behind the tills. Yes, so there were - it was busy on Saturday too, and Al was on his own all afternoon and I expect that, by the time 6.30 came and he'd cashed up and all, he rather wanted to go home, after 10 hours solid work with no lunch break. Smiling throughout and all...

I arrived home to find an email from El, 'casually' mentioning their anniversary - too late to email her at work, so I've just rung. They haven't checked their answerphone messages yet, I've assured her she'll find a good one from her father. And also that an envelope will arrive during the week. She was good-natured about our lapse of memory: as I explained, it was not that we forgot the date, just applied it to the wrong offspring. The reason for the title of this post is that I can remember I noted it in a year's time and check.

I remembered to take my iPod with me, and as soon as Eileen left I turned off Rad10 Br0adland and turned it on, with the amplifier thingy. When I forget that, I have to unplug it from my ears when a customer comes in. I listened to Brahms clarinet quintet and Chopin's piano concertos, and then some Sidney Bechet. Customers remarked (are you reading this Al?*) how much more enjoyable the music was today than usual. The Geoff came in and, for some reason, started to talk about Jimi Hendrix - "Have you heard of him?" Goodness, he must think I'm young. I twiddled a bit and found some for him. "Ooh, that's a bit loud", he said.

Actually, on Saturday morning, Rad10 Br0adland had a first. "I've got that! That's never happened before" I said. "Are they improving their quality, by any chance?" "You listen to Evanescence?" asked Sarah (you could see she was impressed, well, she's at an impressionable age. I said that I do. "Mind you," I added, "when Ro heard it, he asked why ... 'a bit teenage Goth, isn't it?' he said." I was, I declared, unabashed. I like it.

*I know the answer - it's no.

Sunday 19 August 2007

It gets worse

Dilly and Al say it's not their wedding anniversary. This must mean that it's El and Phil's. Oh dear.

We* are mortified.

*This is not a Royal We. The Sage and I are both grovelling in a state of extreme embarrassment. El and Phil are out this evening too, but I bet they keep the Sage's awkward phone message to giggle over when they feel mischievous.

If I sit very still, all this restlessness might just go away

I've pulled over a couple more sections of the fence, but then got rained off so I haven't finished the job. Just one more piece to go, but there's a load of bricks and wood to shift, the cleared area to dig the roots out of and then that tree to come down. And, now that the lawn is visible as you come round the bend in the drive, the weeds by the laurel hedge I cut down (and which is about 4 feet high again) are very visible. I think the next thing I'll buy will be an electric hedge trimmer, because the laurel is already untidy, other hedges need to be cut and it will take forever with shears. I usually prefer to do things by hand, but one has to accept practicalities once in a while.

Anyway, now it appears that I have some unexpected time on my hands and, unusually, some impetus to do something useful. I don't know what though. I want to be outside, but all the vast amount of undergrowth that could usefully be cut is very wet and it's not the time to be waving around sharp implements, because I am clumsy at best.

I think it might be Al and Dilly's wedding anniversary today. I'm not very good at dates. They are out, possibly celebrating. I am a very bad mother, because it's the sort of thing women are supposed to remember.

The other day, I was working in the shop when Dilly and the children came in. As they left again, Dilly prompted Squiffany to say goodbye, but she went out without a word. Yesterday, Dilly said she had discovered the way her mind had been working. Later, after I arrived home, Squiffany said to her mother "Oh, I forgot to say goodbye to Granny this morning. I'd better go and see her now." Dilly didn't let her get away with it, but I was quite amused and somewhat flattered.

Yesterday, I took some vegetables home from the shop and delivered them as Dilly needed them for the children's tea (they like vegetables, fortunately). I stayed for a cup of tea and Squiffany asked winsomely if she could come home with me for a while. I agreed, adding that she could go and bounce on my bed...I know she'd ask to and prefer to make it look like my choice! She was pleased enough to wait patiently for me to finish my tea, just whispering "Shall we leave Pugsley at home with Mummy?"

Pugsley is finally starting to walk around the furniture. He has been standing for a long time, but hasn't managed to move his legs at the same time until now. He is not too good at crawling, though he can shuffle backwards, but Squiffany never really crawled either. This is not a bad thing, as a crawling baby can move pretty fast and have wreaked an awful mess before you notice they have gone at all. To encourage him, Dilly laid a raisin trail along the sofa and he edged along keenly, eating as he went. He's keen on food, though he doesn't like being spoon-fed. Mostly, he has finger foods which he chomps effectively with his four teeth. He likes using his own spoon, but hasn't got the knack of transferring food from bowl to mouth with it.

You remember I told you Squiffany's first words were "oh dear"? Now Pugsley can say it too. Dilly had no idea that she said it so much, but I don't expect she did before she had children.

Saturday 18 August 2007

Maybe it'll be the men who are naked this time

Yesterday, my daughter and I were exchanging emails and she mentioned that she and her other half are planning to go to the cinema this weekend. 'I fancy going to the cinema,' I was writing when, with Startling Synchronicity, an email arrived from Ro, saying that a David Lynch film is on in the arty cinema in Norwich and did I fancy coming with him. Well, such timing cannot be overlooked and so the arrangement was confirmed.

We are slightly apprehensive, however. Some years ago, when he was in his mid teens, we went to Mulholland Drive together. Quite apart from the fact that I was hopelessly confused throughout the film, I was absolutely confounded by the love scene between the two women in the film - not the scene itself, but being there with my young son. Afterwards, Ro and I agreed that, to a sensitive lad and his mother, sitting in the cinema watching a naked Naomi Watts and the other actress (sorry, other actress for not being sure at this minute who you are) embracing each other is embarrassing. "Don't worry", said Ro last night. "It's a 15, not an 18, so that won't happen this time."

But I've been thinking about it, and I don't think MD was an 18 either. So I IMDb'd Inland Empire and it mentions 'gratuitous nudity'.

Oh well. We're both older now, and we can take it.

Friday 17 August 2007

Eyes down...

...for forty winks. With extreme idleness, I sat down for a relax (as they say in these parts) and was woken ten minutes later by Tilly shaking her head, ears flapping loudly. Now the first batch of today's jam is cooling, the second boiling and the third still steeping. Only another hour or so and I'll have finished. I made twenty jars yesterday and, remarkably, they have all set.

The Sage has gone off to the Wilds of South Suffolk to pick up more china for the next sale. It's all going well at present. We will have to put the catalogue together in another couple of weeks. I'll have to work for my living for a bit.

Pause to take jam off heat Always one isn't there. This batch resolutely refused to set on the saucer. I boiled it a bit more and eventually, in desperation, added more pectin. If it doesn't set I'll use it in icecream (thick yoghurt and strawberry jam make splendid, almost instant icecream) and if it's like glue I'll warm it up and use it as sauce.

Pause to pot first batch of jam After I've done this, I'll go and attack the garden again. I wonder if the Sage will be horrified to come home and find the fence demolished? Probably. May not stop me though. My happy little shining face will mollify him.

Thursday 16 August 2007

On rambling

Of course, by the time I sit down here of an evening, either to read blogs and leave comments or to write to you wonderful people, I am usually tired, emotional or both. Therefore, a son of Belial, flown with insolence and wine*, I usually rabbit on blindly, making you all wonder what on earth I'm on about, or possibly what I'm on.

I'm sorry to say it won't be any different tonight.

I just heard the Sage, on the phone say "I (!)'ve been making 24 pounds of jam" Excuse me? That is not even the Royal I. Oh, there isn't a Royal I. Well...his part in the proceedings has been to hull about half of the strawberries (not quite half, but near enough) and cajole people to give him empty jars.

I might tease him later.

Oh, the rest of the jam will be made tomorrow, as I forgot to get more lemons. I'm in the shop working tomorrow morning, so I'll get them then.

I haven't had any cheques for the Highgrove visit yet, but I have had someone crying off. This is good, as long as no more than fifteen people do it, as then I'll be a bit perplexed.

My friend, whose tea party we went to today, will be ninety in January. She is celebrating for the whole of this year, it being her ninetieth year. Splendid!, as Greavsie would say.

My hip hurts more each day, and I've started limping. I got a self-referral form to a physiotherapist a couple of weeks ago, which is almost as good as actually visiting one (bet there's a long waiting list) but I am starting to think it might be sensible to visit the doctor, just so I can moan at him for a bit. I've a slight doctorphobia, so I am resisting that, but it's boring, having a dodgy leg. I found it really hard to sit on the unimaginably firm Snape seats for several hours. I took a cushion, but usually I take two, and I will next time. I was just glad I'd had the sense not to buy a Prom ticket - there, one does not stand, but sits on the floor. I went to buy a CD in the interval, after moving my car from the pit of doom I'd had to park in and from where I probably would hardly have moved from midnight, and the couple in front of me were hiring seats to go on the floor...except that at this stage there was only one left. I made a sympathetically amused comment to the friendly, slightly camp chap behind the counter. "I find that it's not enough to cushion your bum. Your back really needs support too," he said. Dead right, he was.

*Some people quote from children's feature films. Some from Milton. I like both

Z is in a jam

It having been cooler and a bit wet the last couple of days, Al had strawberries left over. Too many to throw away really, so I've been making jam. Three batches were made and potted this morning and three more are in bowls, covered with sugar, ready for doing tonight or tomorrow afternoon.

The Sage has been calling on friends asking to raid their cupboards for empty jars. The last lot I made, I ended up using glasses, so we're drinking mostly out of pint pots now.

We're just off to a 90th birthday party, so I'll tell you about Don Giovanni later.

Ah, I've still got a few minutes.

I went to hear Don Giovanni last night at Snape. Very good. It was a concert performance as there is not room on the stage for a set as well as the orchestra and singers, and no pit, but the splendid singers managed that with aplomb, although it can't be easy as it meant that they had to stay on stage for the whole 3+ hours. Orchestra great too, very young.

Really must go now, as I need to get petrol on the way.


Wednesday 15 August 2007

Some things you do for love, love, love

I sounded a bit ungracious yesterday, saying that a swiftly-put-together dish, however kindly meant and gratefully received, is not quite the same as a specially shopped-for and cooked fresh dish, but I was remembering a time when a friend had died. He was in his forties and had had a brain tumour, and left a wife and two young sons.

We went to the house before the funeral. Friends were calling to sympathise and offer support, and several had brought helpful dishes of food. "It's awfully kind of them," said the teenage son, carefully, "and I don't want to sound ungrateful in the least. But we have been living on shepherd's pie for days now, and there are still three or four of them in the fridge. Why is it always shepherd's pie?"

I went to a funeral today, of the Sage's cousin A. Her daughter and sons are coming to terms with being the oldest generation in the family now - it's a mental adjustment you don't realise you are going to think about until you find yourself making it.

The two sons are twins, now in their late fifties. It's quite odd, seeing middle-aged identical twins, especially men in dark suits as there aren't differences of hair and clothes between them as there would be with women. One is slightly shorter and thinner than the other, but they are very alike. I hadn't seen the children (A's grandchildren) for a long time - they are now aged between 18 and 35 (ooh, Ellie is expecting her A Level results tomorrow, spare her a thought please).

As we left, I told A's daughter, my good friend and cousin Charmian, not to be surprised if it took her a long time to feel herself again. It took me three years, I said. She looked shocked. I explained hastily, that I was not unhappy or in a state of mourning for that time, and it was not until I recovered that I realised that the pessimism that I had thought was absolutely understandable and keeping me safe from foolish hopefulness was actually the after-effects of looking after someone who had been both unhappy and unwell, and of bereavement. I had not needed treatment of any kind, just time and patience. My own patience for myself, that is. If I seem (for I am) self-indulgent, it is absolutely deliberate. I want to accept myself and be really quite kind and loving towards my faults. I want to take every bit of enjoyment from life that I can, but I want to like myself too, which means I must look after other people too, if I can.

I didn't go into all this, of course, but I did tell her to be gentle and not push herself until she felt ready. Her husband, who is a darling, will understand. He told me that when his mother died, he felt really guilty that he could do what he wanted on a Sunday morning instead of spending the time with her.

A will be lovingly remembered by her family - a pretty good legacy for a long life, really.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

This 'n' (as they say) that

Call me picky but, devoted as I am to 'For Better or for Worse, tuna noodle casserole, made with tinned tuna, I presume (nothing wrong with tinned tuna and it is correct in a salad Niçoise, where fresh tuna is Nice - ooh, you see the play on words? - but a bit poncy), would, assuredly, be fed to the chickens. I mean, I might make it in an emergency, but I would give, to someone who could do with a nice meal they hadn't had to cook for once, something a bit more, um, culinarily challenging. After all, if one was struggling a bit to get things done, a delicious casserole or soup that someone had taken time over would be more of a treat than tinned tuna with pasta.

However. This is not that.


I've had such a delightful day. I cannot tell you how enjoyable, and I hope my lovely new friends (ooh, bung in a hasty link) liked it too, for I talked far too much and walked them through embarrassingly overgrown garden. The Sage, who knows I'm barking but loves me anyway, joined us for lunch (which we went out for as I was too shy to cook as well) and afterwards, and he had a lovely time and is totally (Jen, that's your word) converted to the concept of blogfriends. We were given Genuine Blue Honey and good advice on bees, which will be passed on to Al and Dilly, though not the bit about the tennis court being the perfect setting for hives. Hmm.

This evening, I had a meeting which I thought would be both boring and contentious, for at the corresponding meeting last year I felt obliged to Have My Say, was not. I don't think I should say much more, but it demonstrated that middle-ranking C of E people are more pragmatic and useful than church hierarchy. And that they take on board people who speak up, if they make sense and are constructive.

I don't think I've got a lot to add here. Except that I am a bit miffed with the Royal Mail (though I don't expect it's called that any more). I ordered a CD from a website on the 1st August and had an email to say it was posted on the 2nd. Usually, it would arrive within a day or two. It actually got here today. The 14th. Pretty rubbish, for first class post. I will tell them so, for it could reflect on them and it is not their fault.

Oh, one more thing. It took ages to get all those 39 letters in the post this morning, for I unwisely decided to hand-write the salutation and signature. And ... oh, can't go through it all again. Fortunately, I got over it. And had a lovely day afterwards.

Z, it seems, is Warm and Fuzzy

I have been idling away a few minutes, as you do when you have a busy day coming so are putting off starting it, doing this test. I wasn't surprised to get a low score, but 7 was lower than I expected.

What did surprise me was the number of people with similarly low marks asking what they meant - they felt disregarded because the 12-and-unders were not evaluated (the higher the mark, the more your tendency towards the condition).

Surely, those are the type of people who should most be able to work out that a (rough and ready) test for Asperger's Syndrome is meant to evaluate just that? It wasn't testing for anything else, and if you don't have any trace of AS, you don't come into the evaluation.

On the other hand, maybe those people are just the sort to need to feel included in everything. Poor loves, I do feel for them.

Monday 13 August 2007

Z is a bit annoyed

The draw was held this morning for the 25 visitors to H1ghgr0ve (yes, Dave, 24 as my place is assured). There were 40 applicants in all.

After it was done, it occurred to me that I needed to write two letters - to tell people yes or no - and print address labels to the people concerned. I was too busy at the time, so I've been doing it this evening.

Finally, the letters were composed, so I set the printer to do 24 copies of the first and 15 copies of the second. I sat back and waited. Except for the first two copies, the printing is faint and patchy, but I didn't find that out until all the printing was done. I am rather put out. I have cleaned the printing head, with no effect except that I'm now out of blue ink.

I have the feeling that I'm going to end up replacing all the ink cartridges before it works again properly. And yes, they are branded cartridges, not own-brand ones.

Rain forecast for tomorrow. We've cleared another section by the lawn, which was a tough job as we discovered some large hawthorn stumps 5 foot high, dead, covered with ivy, that had to be dug out. Most of the undergrowth has been removed now, and there are just some roots to go, the fence to be pulled down and that socking great pine to be felled. It will take some time yet - and we're busy for the next few days, so Friday will be the next session, weather permitting.

I'm going to bed, where a cuddlish husband awaits.

Sunday 12 August 2007


It was a warm night and I was awake by 5.30 - rather reluctantly, it must be said, as that seems a bit unnecessary for a Sunday. I lay there dreamily for nearly an hour and was just drifting off again when my eyes slid sideways to the clock, which read 6.25. Since the alarm was set for 6.30 anyway, I got up. I felt remarkably chipper, considering that Peter and I drank a bottle of wine between us before dinner last night (I should remember not to drink alcohol when I'm hot and thirsty) as well as nearly another bottle between four at dinner. That's not much each though. There will be a glassful left to go with dinner tonight, which is so abstemious as to nearly count as abstinence.

Back and forth to church as usual on the second Sunday (as I'm sidesman at the monthly 8am service, as well as organist at the 11am one - and anyway, the Fellow is on holiday), but I did have time for bacon, eggs and tomato for breakfast in between times. I didn't have much lunch.

I heard that Brewster has died. He lived in the village for many years, until he had a stroke some time ago and needed nursing home care. He was an interesting, educated man, very knowledgeable about wildlife and books and, apparently, very good at his job. He had worked in the oil industry, in the Middle East and on the oil rigs. In these places, complete abstinence was required but, very sadly, he made up for it when he was home.

He took full responsibility and made no excuse for himself. Drinking, he said, cost him his marriage, his children, his health. The pity was, he told me, that he never suffered a hangover in his life. He could drink to oblivion but wake up a few hours later without a care in the world. Then he'd go off to apologise for his behaviour the night before.

You used to see him, cycling home from Yagnub, eyes glazed and fixed straight ahead. Sometimes he'd fall off and crawl for a bit. People used to stop to help, and the braver ones offered him a lift - not that he was aggressive, but sometimes he wet himself.

Once, I was in the greenhouse when I saw someone in the field. I didn't have my glasses on, so I went and peered across the stream to see if I knew who it was, and he came through the ford to greet me. His speech was slurred and his gait shambling and Chester, my dog, was suspicious. He stood close in front of me, his hackles up, growling with soft menace. Actually, I was awfully gratified. I'd never seen him in a situation when he thought I was in danger before and he was ready to protect me (he was friendly and soft normally). I said nothing to suggest his reaction was wrong, but spoke in a friendly way to Brewster and stroked Chester gently,who relaxed - though was still wary - after a while.

We walked round the garden, and he certainly knew his plants. He had been on the field to gather mushrooms. He was a pleasure to talk to and I feel such regret that he suffered from such an addiction. He was all right when he was away and could not drink - but he could never stop.

He was on his bike when he had the stroke, and fell into the road. People stopped to help and he went off in an ambulance and never came home, although he lived for seven or eight more years. His house was, finally, sold a couple of months ago, and the Sage and I were only talking about him a few days ago. Must have been about the time he died.

I do feel such regret for him. He was a lovely man and could have had a good life if he hadn't been an alcoholic. I know I tell you blithely how much I drink, but believe me, I would give it up tomorrow rather than go the way he and my grandmother went.

Most people called him Brewster. The Sage and I didn't. We called him Brian, because that was his name.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Z has a particularly eventful day

Ooh, I was busy today. I was out in the garden, still chopping and beavering, by 8.30 and our good chum came to help at 9. Not long afterwards, the Sage, who had already been to get the day's strawberries, joined us and we worked mightily for the next three hours. First we dug up a laburnum tree. This has been in the way, as it originally self-seeded into a path, for 60 years. In the past couple of years, I'd noticed it wasn't flowering so well, some of the bark was dying back and some lichen was growing on it - all a sign that it was not healthy. When, having dug it up (and pushed and pulled it over), it was cut up, we discovered it was hollow with rot.

Then we tackled the lilac next to it. Now, I felt guilty there. It was healthy, but it had suckered and enlarged until it was several feet in diameter and thoroughly in the way. It isn't now though. I sawed off the branches and C. dug out the roots, with me tugging until they broke through. After that, I went to make tea and lay tiredly on the lawn for ten minutes, but the indefatigable men didn't and carried on working. When I'd drunk my tea I joined them, putting plasters on my hand first to stave off the threatening bllisters.

All in all, the big pine is not down yet, but it will be and a large area has been cleared.

After that, I picked a basket of runner beans to take to the shop, and went to work there for the next five hours.

Al got back and I was giving him a couple of messages, when I saw grinning faces through the window. It was our great friends Pam and Peter.

This is a friendship of four generations, so far. Peter's grandfather and mine were friends, and my father was best man at his father's wedding. We are friends and our children are with theirs, having gone to school with them and kept in touch.

First, I said they should come back for tea. Then I asked if they could stay for dinner? They could! Fortunately, I had bought a leg of lamb at the butcher's - but a bowl of spaghetti would have been fine if not. I took the last of the beans, some strawberries and cream, some potatoes and broccoli and went over the road for lemonade - for whisky and lemonade is Pam's tipple.

We had an entertaining evening, at which the Sage displayed (because it was relevant) part of my birthday present - which is a doozer and fantastically brilliant of him to find. I looked at the relevant bit and resisted glancing at the rest, rushing out of the room when he started to tell them about it.

Oh, do you notice, he said 'part' of my present. I wonder what the rest is? I feel all keen and happy in anticipation. Ro has already (for we are extremely prosaic on the whole, and discuss prezzies in advance) suggested buying the new Okkervil River album for me, which pleases me mightily. He has flattered me also by asking to borrow the ones I already have.

Pam and Peter are off to their house on Corfu at the end of the month, and they suggested I go and visit. I checked my diary and I only have a chink of a few days, Thursday to Monday. I am a bit torn here, but might just check out flights...

Friday 10 August 2007

Hacking and slashing

I spent a hot day with my pruning saw, always a pleasure - if a rather sweaty one. Do you remember a tall pine tree fell down in a gale earlier in the year? It's made us look at the other pines in the garden, all of which are about the same age, were topped about 35 years ago and, since then, have not grown taller but have bushed out at the top, making them top-heavy. In short, they are coming down before any more fall.

The nearest to the house is being felled tomorrow (I promise you, it's not a fine tree and we will plant at least one more to replace it). In preparation, Friend with a Chainsaw came and cleared some undergrowth yesterday. This has left a space. Left, it will be filled with Stuff. Untidy Stuff, because the Sage is something of a magpie. I have learned, over the years (and I am untidy too) that the best way to avoid this is not to leave a space in the first place.

Between the Space and the lawn is a very old fence held up with ivy and some scrubby lilacs overgrown with brambles. It's all coming out. The lilacs have spread out over the years, dying back in the centre - which has let in the brambles. Oh, and next to the Space was a large, self-seeded 15 or more years ago, flowering currant. Was. I took it out this morning. This afternoon, I attacked the rest of the undergrowth. The Sage was startled when he arrived home. "We were doing that tomorrow, weren't we?"

I feel some regret taking out the ivy, as so many insects live in it, but at least it is not in flower and it's not hibernating time. There are many other places for wildlife in the garden, without worrying about the brambles and ivy right next to the house. I might end up with a more attractive garden, if I don't falter.

Thursday 9 August 2007


Of me and a strange dog (no more greyhounds for this family)

And Ro

I first found this when visiting Dave, but Badgerdaddy has it too.

I am, indeed, this demure.


This morning, I was reading Doc, who was explaining why she has been going outside for a smoke rather than blogging, as a way of keeping herself sane with three children at home. "You're invoking the Sanity Clause? " I thought. "But there ain't no Sanity Claus."

Imagine my startled brain a few minutes ago when sitting down with lunch and the papers, I read Ken Russell's column. He quoted the very same line.

Yesterday, I got a strong urge to listen to Pearl Jam. When I read Badgerdaddy, while the CD was still playing, he was reminiscing about their concert which he went to a few weeks ago.

I'd say I feel like Cassandra, but she was a prophet of doom and I only have happy thoughts. I know it's all well within the bounds of likelihood really, but it does feel spooky.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Back catalogue.

I slept straight through the alarm and didn't wake up until ten to nine. In my pre-waking dream, I swore twice in the final sentence, but I can't remember why.

It was WI last night, which must have been to blame. It was run as a village social evening, with a treasure hunt and supper to follow, but I shared my bottle of wine with someone else and still brought some of it home. Lots of people there, and very jolly. I hadn't known that the friend who picked me up (WI is in the next village, three miles away and uphill - for we do have hills in Norfolk after all) hasn't been at all well and, three weeks ago, put her back out.

Her daughter, fortunately, was able to come out on that occasion (her husband was away at the time, doesn't it always happen?) and first she, and then her grandson, came to stay the night. But next morning, once he'd gone to work, she became stuck again, and by that time she needed the loo rather badly. Her husband's secretary arrived for work and she called her upstairs for advice. The doctor was called, but there was still the lavatorial problem. "Whatever did you do?" I asked. "Well, she put a towel under me" (oh god,you peed on the floor? said my expression) "and went to the scullery to find an old jug. It still had cobwebs and dust in it, I realised later. Then she asked if, still bent double, I could fall forwards, and she put the jug under me. Of course, afterwards, I couldn't get up again. But then the doctor came and gave me some strong painkillers and a friend remembered she had rescued a Zimmer frame from a skip, and I was able to get about a bit more then. But I couldn't come downstairs for four days."

I've begged her to call me if she has any trouble again. I only saw her a month ago, and this has all happened since then.

I also spoke to the two people whose dogs have, they hope, been making babies together. It still isn't definite if Bella is pregnant but, if she is, the puppies will be due on 4th September. Five family members want a puppy, but we'll have the sixth if there is one - Bridget thinks that she might have a scan done, as Bella herself was one of a huge litter and she'd like to be prepared. My fingers are crossed hard, which makes for awkward typing.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Drought kicks in here in Norfolk

The Jerusalem artichokes this morning. Since then we have had some rain, for which I believe I have to thank Motherofthebride

And, for Martina, ground elder. If left, it has rather pretty white flowers in early summer. It also has white roots that spread alarmingly, break easily and, when dug up, will grow from a small fragment.

Gardening meme

I volunteered for a meme over at Ally’s place - Seven things about me and gardening.

1 I grew up in a household passionate about exhibiting. We had a full-time gardener when I was a child, and he and my parents discussed, endlessly, what was to be grown each year. They were all keen showmen and competed in local exhibitions, including the Royal Norfolk Show and the Suffolk Show. They won many prizes. In the run-up to a show, the best vegetables were kept back and we were only allowed to eat misshapen, overblown or imperfect food. After the show, much of the unchosen produce was past its best. Mr Weavers, the gardener, would think nothing of digging up a whole row of potatoes to find six exactly matching ones. In flower classes, they specialised in begonias and delpiniums. My parents went to the Chelsea Flower Show every year and went straight to the Blackmore and Langdon exhibit to see the new varieties. One year, my father held a dinner plate to a begonia bloom - the flower was larger and petals showed all round the plate. Mr Weavers would sit up half the night with a bucket of hot water and a bucket of cold, dipping the delphinium stalks in each alternately. This would encourage the buds high up the stalk to open, without making the lower ones drop. The prizes were money, which was always given to our gardener and his name as well as my parents' was on the entry card, although it was my father's name on the trophies won. I never enter shows as I am totally uncompetitive, but I love going to them and know exactly how to choose the best items. For example, it's better to have six matching specimens, even if they are not the biggest, than four magnificent ones and two slightly smaller. Size is not the most important issue, shape and quality is. Presentation is very important, but it's care that matters, not showiness. A dozen perfect shallots, properly dried off, their tops turned over, tied with raffia and neatly trimmed, in a shallow wooden box, nestling in sand, are a joy to see. They do not need prettying up, just showing at their best and being allowed to speak for themselves.

2 My father loved growing plants, but the garden and the greenhouses were Mr Weaver's territory, jealously guarded. So he bought another greenhouse and cleared a piece of land, just for himself. One year he grew loofahs and had his picture in the paper. We used the loofahs in the bath for several years, with the big black seeds gradually working their way out. I've grown loofahs a few times. They are just like cucumbers to grow, but you have to be extremely careful when drying out the fruits, as they rot if they get the least damage.

3 Once, my father took me to the Municipal Nursery. The head gardener, who was a short tubby Scot called Mr Campbell, was extremely kind to me and showed me round the greenhouses, which were fabulous. There was a fully-grown lemon tree against the wall in one greenhouse, full of flowers and fruit. He gave me a lemon to bring home. He also gave me several exotic pot plants. Mr Campbell was in charge of all the parks and public gardens in Lowestoft and Oulton Broad and they always looked beautiful.

4 After my father died and when we could no longer afford a gardener, my mother and I still grew all our vegetables. I have always been a completely organic gardener and never used any artificial fertilisers or pesticides. Proper gardening is a passion, not a fashion. I have always encouraged wildlife, which are a natural pest control. I live in an agricultural area, and get in lots of cow manure, which I let rot down for at least a season before digging it in. In fact, I usually spread it on top of the beds in the autumn and fork it in in spring. I also make compost. I do buy seed compost because I can't avoid it and because peat-based compost is best for seed-sowing, but good companies, now, make compost with recycled peat and claim to be environmentally ethical, so I hope that's true.

5 I used to love growing flowers too, but I have been completely discouraged by the ground elder that riddles a large bed that cannot be cleared. There are three round beds in front of the house and these used to have elderly, straggly rose bushes and bedding plants in my in-laws' day. I got the Bressingham Gardens catalogue (this was when it was still privately owned by Adrian Bloom) and went through it, looking for plants that would thrive in sandy soil, a sunbaked aspect and would grow no more than 4 feet high. I spent £100 on plants, 20 years ago. Most of them are still there and thriving, although a few died off young. I water plants when young or in extremely dry weather, but mostly I believe in having the right plant for the place and letting them fend for themselves. I chose plants that would look good most of the year, with variation in form and leaf colour, that would cover the ground and need little weeding.

6 I love growing things, but hate weeding. I'm best at the nurturing stage and then want to plant out and forget about it. For this reason, I always let weeds grow far too long before removing them, as I can't be bothered to hoe. However, one does find self-seeded gems this way. I have forget-me-nots and heartsease in the kitchen garden and haven't the heart to eradicate them. I let some vetch grow in a flower bed as it was pretty - this was a mistake as it's very tenacious. The worst mistake I ever made was to grow some tansy, which came in a collection of herb seeds. It is beastly stuff. It stinks, it roots deeply and is hard to kill and it seeds like a Victorian paterfamilias.

7 When my children were young and life was very busy, my greenhouse was my refuge of calm. I used to grow loads of seedlings, not only for our own garden, but to sell at fêtes and fairs for local charities. I spent hours in the greenhouse, pricking out seedlings and caring for the plants. The family was always welcome to join me, but my strict rule was that it was a calm and happy place. They were not allowed to come and quarrel or complain. I grow a good many tender vegetables, but have the cheapest propagator possible, it being a soil warming cable in trays of earth, on which I put the seed trays and over which I have a framework draped with polythene to keep in warmth and humidity. It works fabulously well. The cable is 150 watts, so it's like having 2 lightbulbs on at night for about 2 months, by which time I have enough plants to fill a 40x14 foot greenhouse, a 30x12 foot greenhouse, a 30x10 foot greenhouse and all the kitchen garden. Of course, as the plants get bigger I have to move them about to keep the most tender ones in the warmest place and allow room for everything to grow.

8 (Sorry, 7 was not enough) In the past few years, gardening has started to become a chore rather than a pleasure, and I am dealing with this by finding new and interesting varieties to grow and, paradoxically, by enlarging the vegetable garden. The best thing I ever did was to have proper paths put around the beds. We borrowed a cement mixer and mixed concrete for the paths, which are 2 feet wide around 4 foot wide beds. They are always clean and absorb warmth from the sun, which warms up the soil. Rainwater runs off and onto the beds, helpful in this dry place and on our sandy soil. If I can't keep on top of the weeding, at least I don't have a huge area of growth to deal with. I'm following the same principle in the new garden, but varying the sizes of the beds this time. Once my wall is built, I'm going to plant roses, jasmine and other scented plants on the drive side of it, and tender fruit trees such as peaches, plus cottage garden flowers like hollyhocks on the kitchen garden side. I am going to put down mulches early, so as to keep moisture in and smother weeds. I know my limitations and the limit of my time and enthusiasm, so I'll really try not to get carried away and be overambitious, and then disappointed later. I am determined to get the wall done by the winter and the paths finished by next spring, so that next year I will be able to start to realise my dream. I won't plant everything in one go, so as to extend the enjoyment. It's something I'm looking forward to enormously, so expect some enthusiastic posts in the future. With pictures.

Monday 6 August 2007

Z is fluent in Dog

I almost forgot to write, as I've been commenting almost everywhere today. I thought, earlier, what I was going to write about, and now I've forgotten. I have an impassioned post all formed, but I feel quite mellow now, so it can wait.

Like the Boy, we had salmon for dinner tonight. Farmed, however, for the Wild* Atlantic variety is not delivered to my door by the good fishmonger Paul. And beans and pasta. As I gathered together the final forkful, Tilly appeared by my chair, tail wagging. How did she know it was the final forkful? She's a dog. Dogs know.

I had, of course, put aside morsels of both salmon and pasta to share with her. She accepted them gracefully, without snatching. She breathed cowpat breath and we gazed at each other. Undoubtedly, she told me that she's got the message. Eating cowpats is acceptable, rolling in them is not. I stroked her, telling her how long and elegant her neck is without her collar (which, washed, is still in the porch). She leaned in towards my hand appreciatively.

She looked at me again. I took an extra piece of pasta from the serving dish. "It'll only go to the chickens" she had said.

You may think, by the way, that I pamper my dog. Chester, who died nearly three years ago, would disagree. He used to sit up at the table, on his own chair, to eat cheese. He had impeccable table manners.

*I'd have put in a quip about 'wild? it was furious', but it's been done before.

Sunday 5 August 2007

Bother you, Ian McEwan

It's always a good idea, on the hottest day of the year, to spend a couple of hours in an Aga-warmed kitchen, jointing, boning and marinading a chicken, ready for the barbecue. Why can't I just go and buy steak or sausages like most people*?

With luck, however, I will not be called upon to cook.

And I'll have a splendid bowl of chicken stock. And bits for Tilly, who will be happier today than she was yesterday.

Yesterday, she decided to roll in a fresh cowpat and was bathed by the Sage in water from the hose. I use tepid water from the tap. He also used liquid soap rather than shampoo. I didn't say anything, I was appreciative that he hadn't left the job for me to do.

Today, Tilly has been eating cowpat instead. Her breath is a bit stinky.

I finished the book I'd been reading and mused on the possible explanation for why, at present, I'm finding so many novels difficult to get through. I've always read voraciously, until the past year or so. I concluded, tentatively, that many books just aren't good enough. They may be well written, but with clunking plot-holes, or they may not be written well enough, but they rarely grip me any more. For the same reason, I watch very little television fiction now.

This particular book, for instance, was by Tracy Chevalier. It was written as if in the voices of each of the main characters, and she dealt with that tricky matter rather well. It was engaging and, having read most of it in bed, I brought the book downstairs to finish this morning, which was a good sign. However, like just about every work of fiction set in the past that's written nowadays, the spirit of place and time missed the mark and this irritates me considerably. The writer had researched, in some depth, the conventions of burial and mourning in Edwardian England (she described the niceties of mourning dress in slightly boring detail) but she missed the mark with the upbringing of middle-class children, and there were several incidents that jarred.

Similarly, I have never forgiven Ian McEwan for making Briony understand the explicit sexual language of the letter (which would never have been written, nor could the mistake have been made over its delivery) which was the pivot of the plot of Atonement. Everything about the vital parts of that story simply could not have happened and so it made nonsense of the whole convoluted story, however well it was written.

I've just (no honestly, I'm having it now) had a revelation. That bloody book did it. It's been ever since I read Atonement that I haven't enjoyed reading fiction. Unless it's preposterous fiction, that is. I can suspend disbelief like an acrobat, but I can't deal with being tricked.

*I don't care for supermarket meat is why**

**Please correct to 'is the reason' if your grammar-loving sensibilities are wounded

Saturday 4 August 2007

Granny's afternoon

Several things come to mind, to be written - including a meme that I have volunteered for over at Ally's. But a meme will take a day or two to do and there are things that can wait, so I'll write about the day.

"OH HOW UNUSUAL" you chorus. Pfft. Just like any other fucker, as you should know by now.

Squiffany was invited to a birthday party this afternoon, so I looked after Pugsley. It was a very easy afternoon. He was asleep when I arrived at 1.30 and he didn't wake until nearly 4. My kind of babysitting. I read the paper - I appreciated this article, which I think illustrates something that many parents understandably lose sight of, in their too-busy lives. When I first started to look after Squiffany it was something I had to relearn.

I mused about what a damn good parent my daughter-in-law is. I can say it with no boasting, for there is no credit to me. Al is a fine parent too, in fact, and I always knew he would be. He is eight years older than his brother, and, for both him and our daughter, it was love at first sight for their baby. I may have said this before, but it's worth repeating - once, talking about sibling relationships, I asked Ro (the youngest) if he remembered quarreling with the older two. He did not, ever. This says a lot about all of them. Ro is, off them all, probably the least volatile in fact. If he did get cross, as a little boy, he'd storm off saying "I'll be lonely then!". He'd disappear to his room for a while, then come back and apologise. Once, I had a letter saying 'sorry I was such a scuzz'. The other day, in fact, we had rare 'words' and, afterwards, he came and said he was sorry, it hadn't been my fault he was (rightly, we agreed) upset and he shouldn't have taken it out on me. I agreed that he shouldn't - and saw him overcome the impulse to argue that - but that I understood. He's a bit more sorted than any of us, and sometimes finds our chaotic household a bit hard to cope with, but it's good for him really.

Anyway, why did you let me digress? A hard stare would have brought me back to the subject.

At half past four or so, Ro came to the window with a message from Dilly, that she would be late and please could I give Pugsley a cheese sandwich for his tea? I invited him in, and a minute later he came in the room. Pugsley greeted him, then looked at the window, where he had last seen him, then back again. I gave him a pink teething ring. "Red" he remarked. I do not know if that was just a good sound or he recognised, more or less, the colour.

He tucked in to his cheese sandwich happily, later. Dilly says that, at present, he can't quite manage a spoon but doesn't want to be fed, so finger foods are a sensible option. He had had lots of vegetables and fruit at lunchtime, so I gave him fromage frais to finish - he had that happily from a spoon (if you ever wonder about the inbuilt sweet tooth that babies have, taste human breast milk and you will wonder no longer. Of course, for this, you either have to be lactating or on rather good terms with someone who is).

Eventually, we ran out of things to do. His latest interest is putting things in things. It reminds me of Eeyore, the honey pot and the balloon (I'm sort of assuming you all get the reference, tell me if not). I suggested we go and look out for Mummy and Squiffany returning. He held out his arms to be picked up (I picked him all up, not merely disconnected arms) and we went outside. As we reached the garden gate, Dilly drove up in her car...

We went back in the house and talked about our afternoons. I got up to leave. I bent to kiss Pugsley. "Say 'bye bye' to Granny" prompted Dilly. "Bye" said Pugsley. A first! "Bye bye" I replied. "Bye" he repeated. I kissed Squiffany good bye. "Bye" they both said.

Al just came in to speak to his father and added, to me, "We're just about to have dinner, but we haven't any wine..." I had half a bottle in the fridge "or you could have a bottle of red." "This'll be fine, thanks - but what about you?" "That's all right, I've already had the first half, that's enough for tonight." He grinned. "Maybe I'd better remove this from temptation all the same."

Children. No respect.

Friday 3 August 2007

Z has a ride on a Mobility Scooter!!(!)

Kenny calls round on a Friday morning, to say hello (especially to the children) and to pick up his pension. He worked for us for 22 years, from retirement until, at 87, he couldn't manage it any longer. He is, in many ways, as well as he ever was, but he is in constant pain from his back and he can't walk very well.

A few years ago, he started to use a mobility scooter. He let me ride it and I happily set off down the road. The (then) Rector drove past and I waved ... the look of dismay on his face was wonderful and I arrived home to find an email asking what was wrong with me, that I needed an invalid chair.

Recently, Kenny bought a new nim cart, as they are called in our family (because they do not go vroom vroom, they go nim nim. Yes, all right). He let me drive it, which was most exciting. I went zooming down to the church and back, practising u-turns, wheelies and hand signals (yes, there are indicators, but using fingers is much more fun).

On my way back, Billy passed me in his own nim cart. He looked at me strangely. He probably thought I was travelling under false pretences.

Thursday 2 August 2007

The Sage and Z go out on a Date!

The Sage and I went to the first (to us) of this year's Snape Prom concerts. Delightful it was. Not highbrow or heavy, but thoroughly enjoyable. Two Mozart Divertimenti and piano concerti by Haydn and Beethoven.

In the interval, we bumped into our friend Abe. He was on his way home from London to Southwold and had stopped off, economically of distance, to go to the concert. He is the image of President Lincoln except for a slightly less craggy visage and grey hair and beard.

The two Divertimenti were for strings only and the orchestra stood. One of the violinists wore, beneath her long black dress, the most fabulous black patent leather stilettos. I was vastly envious - though they would not have suited me. One would need long, slender feet, and mine are short and average, like the rest of me. Audacious to wear 3 or 4 inch heels while playing the violin, standing, on a public stage, and nicely understated to wear a long dress so that few people would notice.

I had a cup of coffee during the interval. I think it had been brewing a long time - it was strong and very bitter. I like strong black coffee, that feels as if the saliva is being sucked from your mouth, but this was too bitter even for me. I had to add both milk and sugar.

The Maltings is such a lovely setting. I wanted to take pictures to show you, but there were so many people about that I didn't care to be stared at, for once. Another time, I'll think of it before the concert.

During the interval (yes, it was a busy fifteen minutes, I get about when I have a mind to) I moved the car for a quick getaway. I find it mildly annoying that they keep the places nearest the entrance for those who come latest and send us who come for supper to the furthest reaches of the field. So I shift the car and make a quick getaway.

Hello, Babies!

Welcome to Samyuktha and Freya, who were both born last month and to Ab's grandson, as yet unnamed, who was born in Norwich this morning.

Call me a sentimental old bat, but the joy of welcoming a baby never diminishes. Two more dear friends are expecting first babies next month - you are always in my thoughts, darlings.


An exceptionally wet July, wasn't it? Record-breakingly so. June hadn't been much better.

Yesterday, the Sage and I were putting in the last of the leek plants. He dibbled the holes, we poured in water, I had the plants ready. After a few minutes, we gave up. The soil was so dry that the hole would not stay open long enough to wet it. I had to put the sprinkler on for an hour or two before the job could be finished.

It's a wonder anything grows here at all.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Z buys spoons!

I have the feeling that it's time I revamped my canapés. I've been doing the same thing for a few years now and (apart from the fact that sausages and smoked salmon sandwiches will never go out of favour with the wary nibbler) I need new ideas. So I asked El - who attends, and often organises, the sort of Do where these fripperies are served.

I like making canapés. I like eating them too, as long as they are delicious and not all stodge. I know many excellent cooks who find them a fiddly waste of time, but I can lose a happy few hours fiddling and enjoy making them look pretty and taste good.

El has kindly sent me some menus (no recipes of course, but it's the ideas I want) from various venues that do Dos. Many of the hot nibbles are a bit messy, though.


So I have bought lots of these

So now all we need is a party.

It just so happens that four of us have birthdays in September...

(the camera and the computer seem to have reconciled their differences and are on speaking terms again)