Wednesday 31 October 2007

Please write anything else

I'm still being rather thoroughly spammed, but I've decided to live with it. After all, the comments are always polite and complimentary, except the one that pleads "Please write anything else". If, on the other hand, you prefer word verification or comment moderation, do let me know and I will take a majority verdict.

My daughter is marvellous. She has come up with the most interesting and, it seems, illegal suggestion yet, which could combine my desire for a cheap thrill with the purchase of a new bicycle. I have the Daily Telegraph to thank for this (although the headline is somewhat misleading), for I would never have thought of it. I still haven't quite worked out the logistics, even for the gentleman's use, but it has potential.

The most exciting thing that happened yesterday was that, while I was working for Al in the shop in the morning, the Sage swept the chimney. Soot had gradually solidified around the top of the chimney pot and it had no longer been possible to get the brush through the remaining aperture, but a friend had a suitable tool that would grind it away and he did a sterling job. No soot at all in the drawing room (nor even a whiff of it - he could certainly make a sound living as a chimney sweep) and a lovely fire in the grate last night. As a result, I didn't get my written work of the evening done. But I did read the papers all through.

There is new advice that one should stay thin all one's life and not gain weight after the age of 21. I have two alarmingly thin sons - I rather hope they will be a little more solid by the time they are 40 although, of course, by no means fat. A woman should drink no more than one glass of wine per day, or possibly night. Arses. I've re-upped my consumption. And I don't want to be a size 8 again, it's too thin for me now and it wouldn't be healthy.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Z is open-mouthed and chortling, which is not an attractive sight

Did you see this on Channel Four news?

You only need to watch the start to see what I mean - whoever authorised that music? Was that Jaqui Smith, the Home Secretary, looking so totally po-faced and 'what the hell?'

Will there be hell to pay, or will it be brushed under the carpet? I watched both the 10 o'clock news on the BBC and the 10.30 news on ITV, but neither of them showed it. A bit of censorship, maybe.

Well, what helpful angels you all are

I had a multitude of helpful suggestions. A few of them were a little tongue-in-cheek, I suspect, though some of those did not specify whose tongue in whose cheek. The first appeals to me, but is in the realms of fantasy, I'm afraid. I'm hastily bypassing 2, for obvious reasons. I like the thought of 6, but I remember how bruised my mother was and it's a little off-putting. 7 was taking the piss. I am strictly non-combative, so 8 is out, and I'd spend my time in 15 negotiating between the two sides. Several of them I already do, but maybe not with quite enough 'attitude'. I note that no one suggested I might reconsider on this illicit sex thing and look further afield. Probably wise.

More ideas would be appreciatively received, but I think my way forward has been shown. Thank you.

Here is the list, in no particular order.

1 Drive-by shootings

2 Gorge on rich sauces and delicious cheese

3 Hard drugs

4 Cycling

5 Rock'n'Roll

6 Archery

7 Bungee-jumping

8 Boxing

9 Grand theft auto

10 Quad-biking

11 Skate-boarding

12 Wake-boarding

13 Free-running

14 Tank-balling

15 Battle-re-enactment

16 Trampolining

17 Vicious flower arranging

18 Vicious cake decorating

19 Illicit sex with my husband

20 Blogging as a vice

21 Peeing with the door open

22 Drinking milk straight from the carton

23 Rock and roll

24 Let my hair down at gigs, but go straight home afterwards

25 Rock and roll

26 Become a fag hag, but not necessarily use the term

27 Enhance my minor vices

28 Take up woodwork

29 Illicit sex with my husband

And a late entry at number 30 - Pole dancing!

Crunch, crunch

Crunch. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The Sage and I are having tea*. He is eating a chocolate biscuit. I am eating celery and carrots.

Tilly covers her ears with her paws. She has had her dinner and her hide chew and she has nothing to crunch.

Catherine came in the shop today. Before we knew her name, she was the Hat Lady, as she always wears one. A few years ago, she developed an allergic reaction to sunlight and now she has to stay covered up. She is cheerful and enthusiastic and loves vegetables, especially our home-grown ones. She uses encouraging words - "super" and "marvellous" a good deal. She asked for some celeriac, and I fetched the newly-delivered bag from the back. I looked through them to find just the one she wanted. "That's really groovy," she said.

Everyone was happy today. The sun was shining and people were bustling about doing their shopping. If you have time for it, the social intercourse of traditional shopping holds great charm. Friends meet and chat for a few minutes, go their separate ways and then laugh when they meet again ten minutes later in the next shop. "We've got good taste," they agree. "We meet in all the best shops." There were lots of mums of young children and they looked happy too. The children helped count out the oranges and admired the purple cauliflowers, and the mums chatted and agreed to meet at Mums and Tods the next day. We're always being told how boring it is, to bring up young children, and I was glad to see that some people know it's only lonely if you don't have the opportunity to talk to other people. As some don't, of course. We're lucky, living here.

Although I had lunch late (corn on the cob, a small baked potato and some yoghurt), I was hungry by four o'clock and rang Al. "Dad's calling in soon" I said, "Can you send him back with some celery and carrots, please?" The Sage was home within ten minutes. Apparently, Al had made it clear that it was an emergency.

I'm being teased rotten about my intention to ride to Yagnub every day.

*this is afternoon tea, of course, not our evening meal.

Monday 29 October 2007

Z looked through all seven deadly sins and doesn't do any of them - Help!!(!)

As my youngest child progressed through his teens, I became quite excited. I reckoned that, once he reached his 18th birthday, I had fulfilled my contract. Anything after that was overtime. I could be irresponsible, decadent - hell, I could even die if it came to it, because I'd done the job I started 28 years before.

When he reached his birthday, I was too busy to be frivolous, so I set my sights on my own 50th. I spent some time considering a fresh vice to take up. I considered smoking - I had never been a smoker. Then I got a nasty chest infection and actually felt so ill that I went to the doctor about it. He thought I was developing asthma at first, as I was wheezing so much. It put me right off the Evil Weed.

I've never been interested in illegal weeds either. And I already drank quite as much as was good for me. Furthermore, I was a respectable married woman in a small town, with a husband I still actually rather fancied.

I'm not much of a gambler. I don't see the point. I do take a keen pleasure in poker, as a matter of fact, and the boys and I often used to play, but we had a pot of small change and, at the end of the evening, all the coins were swept back in, because we didn't care who won, except in the confines of the game itself. And I haven't had anyone to play with for a long time - I've no interest in the online stuff.

So I swore quite a lot, in a decorous manner, and listened to loud music, though at quite a low volume of course, as one wouldn't want to be inconsiderate, or injure the old eardrums. Vice lite, you might say.

And now I have gone from sedate to so dull I'm even boring myself. So I need a vice. Please come up with an idea or two.

Advice, anyone, please?

How do we know is asking for help with AdSense. Can anyone help her? I don't actually know what it is.

I'll be asking for some advice on my own account later, by the way.

Z buys a bike!!(!)

I do not hang about, once a decision is made. Having broken the news of my intentions to Ro and the Sage last night, I went and accosted Matthew in his shop this morning. He started asking me helpful questions to narrow down the sort of machine I wanted, and I had to explain that I didn't care much, my main requirements being something that could carry shopping as I don't intend to go for bike rides for fun. "I hate cycling," I explained, helpfully.

He found one serviceable-looking machine for me, but noticed that it only comes in a 20" frame (whatever that means). He showed me a similarly-sized bike in the stock. We agreed that I would not be able to ride it. He had a second suggestion, but it cost rather a lot more. So, of course, I ordered it at once. Here it is. It should be in by about Thursday.

I do not intend to look up online prices as that's not relevant to me and I'd rather not know. I may want after-sales service and I'm willing to pay to keep local shops going. And I won't ask for a discount either - his in-laws are friends of mine! His pricing is pretty keen anyway and he usually offers a discount if he's able.

My reasoning is that this is the only bike I'll ever buy, so it has to be good enough. And having spent actual Hard Cash (for I will, so no credit card charges for him), I will want to get my money's worth, which will be an incentive to actually use the bloody thing. Honestly, I hate cycling.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Z is drinking water

Yes, it's worthy of remark. It's seven minutes past seven in the evening, and I have a pint glass in front of me, half full of water. I have drunk the other half already. Oh Lord, it's dull, being a Reformed Character.

One of the hymns I played this morning was dull, too. I've forgotten its name, but it was one of those modern ones that is mostly sung on one note. One holds it for five or six beats, then repeats it once or twice more before venturing slightly up or down. I said to Jo "That's a bit of a dirge, isn't it?". She was shocked and assured me that the words are beautiful. That might well be true, I hadn't looked at them, but the tune was dreary.

I went for lunch with a friend, who took me completely off guard. He asked me if I'd consider taking over from him as Lay Vice-chairman (the Rector is, automatically, the Chairman, but with six PCCs to consider, rarely takes the chair) of the PCC.

Now, I'd not be entirely surprised if, at some time in the future, someone else suggested it, but I hadn't expected this at all from him. However, you may remember that I took the minutes at the meeting last week, and also had several reports to give, both from me and on behalf of absentees. I took the opportunity of explaining the workings of the church Trust, because I had realised that most people were a bit hazy on it and I wanted (devious bastard that I am) to have an excuse to put a couple of things in writing. With all this talking, and sitting at the table next to the chairman, I confess I almost forgot I wasn't taking the meeting and had to pull myself up when I realised that.

The dear chap not only didn't resent that, but also sent me an email saying he thought I'd managed things well. And then, as I said, followed up by asking me to stand in his place when elections take place next spring.

I was, genuinely, charmed by the compliment. I know that, as matters stand, he wouldn't suggest it to anyone else and would rather stay on than risk anything going awry. Yet he also knows that I wouldn't be his 'voice'. A while ago, he wanted to change the wording, rather too much, of some minutes I had written and I gave him a full and frank opinion of quite a lot of what he said - although accepting the rest, for I am not at all pig-headed*. I also know that there is a slight feeling among some other people that it is about time for a change, and that in many ways I am an obvious choice.

So, in Jane Austenish fashion, I said that I was most sensible of the honour he did me, and asked for time to think about it. Which I'm doing now. And which will probably keep me awake tonight, because it doesn't take much, does it? One can go blithely to bed and to sleep and then, come three ay em, one is wide awake bothering one's pretty little head about things that will simply sort themselves out and are not that important anyway.

I haven't said anything to the Sage yet. He'll think I'm barking even to consider it. I have told him that I'm going to buy a bicycle though. I hate cycling. But the doctor is right and I am at all times a model patient.

*Oi! Shuddup, I'm not.

Saturday 27 October 2007

Z is wasting time

The Sage has gone to get new tyres for his car. How sensible he is. I am pretending to work, as I have minutes of one meeting to write (largely from memory as I was talking too) and the agenda of another meeting to plan (which I do in some detail, for I am Efficient). However, I'm not getting much done. I write a few sentences, then read a blog or two, make another cup of tea, look at the paper, write a bit more...I'm wasting a sunny morning, to tell the truth.

This afternoon, I'm going to venture up the ladder to pick more apples, but I'll wait for someone to be here, just in case I plummet dismally to the ground. The forecast is none too splendid for tomorrow, with a high wind expected and, just in case it's accurate, I don't want all the apples to fall and be too bruised to keep.

Yesterday was Ro's last day in his job and he starts a new one in Norwich on Monday. There was the usual collection followed by a little gift-giving goodbye ceremony. The IT department is very small, just him and his immediate boss, but of course Ro has contact with all the office staff. His boss asked him, a couple of weeks ago, to choose a couple of possible presents and suggested a choice of values. Last Monday, he asked him to choose another. More than double the cost of the more expensive one had been given. Ro was very touched indeed. A couple of years in that job was enough, not because it wasn't a good place to work but because there wasn't any room for promotion or growth in it. He's going to have a much earlier start and finish, as he plans to take the bus and will have to walk or cycle to Yagnub, which is a little more than a mile (2 km) away and then have nearly an hour's journey to follow. At least he can relax and read on the way. And it will be cheaper than driving, quite apart from the parking fees.

The sun shining through the windows reminds me that they need to be washed. What a pity that this is no one's designated area of responsibility. Let's hope for some good driving rain to make them clean again.

Friday 26 October 2007

Z apologises

To you, darlings. I've had to turn on word verification because I've received rather a lot of spam today after several trouble-free months. I'll turn it back off in a day or two. No one, I assure you, hates wv more than I do.

I dream of cheese. Toasted, mostly

CBATG for the exact quote I'm afraid, but it's Ben Gunn in Treasure Island, in case you can.*

A conversation that Blue Witch and I are having in the comments column from a couple of days ago has prompted this post, which is on the thorny problem of losing weight in middle age, and what weight you should be.

I was quite slim - size 8-10 (English size, of course, I think that means 4-6 in Transatlantic terms) and I've always eaten properly, just not very much. When I started to cook for my mother too (which I did on and off for the last nine years of her life) the style of what we ate altered to accommodate her needs. Because there were various things she was unable to eat, I did more of the things she could - not at all an interesting subject to go into and I won't ... basically, nothing wrong with any of it but not the pattern that suited me. Furthermore, she became unhappy and depressed and I was the person on the spot, and it was quite difficult. It was, perhaps, not altogether surprising that I gained a couple of stone over a decade.

Thing is, that's not much in a year. Negligible difference over a week or two. Quite hard to reverse. And there have been some advantages. When I was thin, I didn't have much stamina. I was strong and energetic, but when I'd used up the strength it took days to recover. And if I got up too quickly, I got dizzy and had to sit down again. Sometimes, I was so woozy that I had to lie on the floot until the buzzing in my ears went away and the room stopped spinning round. Now, I can keep going for ever and am never dizzy. So I'd come to terms with the downside, which is a measure of distinct porkiness. It used to be said that, after forty, you choose between your face and your figure, too - I know a few people who have lost weight in middle age and they gained a lot of wrinkles. I also achieved a cleavage for the first time, going from an A cup to a discreet D.

There's another thing that reconciled me. My father died suddenly when my mother was 46, and she lost a lot of weight. She wasn't that big but she became very thin in a few weeks and she retained most of the weight loss. In later years, although her bones were otherwise strong, she lost several inches in height and her back became quite bent. I'm sure a lot of this was due to what equated to a crash diet at a tricky age. I'm short enough already and don't want to lose what I've got.

The doctor is insistent that I eat healthily and not lose weight quickly - I suspect he reckoned he had said enough already and decided not to mention bone density on this occasion. I won't eat such fripperies as chocolate, biscuits, pastry etc - but they aren't actually a major part of my diet anyway. So I've cut out cheese. That's dairy products gone then, as I don't use milk except in cooking, and not often that (cheese sauce, mostly, so that's gone). Dark green vegetables, kidney beans and the like, yes, but that's not enough calcium.

Oh damn. I'm off to buy plain yoghurt and some calcium tablets. And maybe the butcher will give me a nice juicy bone.

*Oh, hell, I've looked it up. "many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted, mostly". I wasn't far out.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Z is virtuous (in a strictly food-related sense)

The coffee morning went well, I think. Apart from the fact that I seem to have politely expressed an interest in joining a Latin class - the person trying to set it up has three people including herself on her list, so with any luck it won't get off the ground. No, I love Latin. But I'm a bit doubtful here. She specifically said that she is not interested in Roman literature, and I am.

Anyway, I did my little piece and afterwards they stayed and chatted some more, which was a good sign (that I'd not talked too long). I refused biscuits, which caused some curiosity, so I explained to closest friends. Afterwards, I came back and picked up lovely vegetables, and excellent fish from the market. The Sage had already had lunch, so I stir-fried onion, garlic, ginger, two chillies, fennel and tomatoes with four splendid fresh prawns, added lime juice and ate it all. Then I made stock with the duck bones from last night, and a big pot of minestrone. This was all very virtuous food, but whether weight is lost is another matter.

The Sage has asked me out!!(!) There is an antiques fair this weekend at a fairly local private school, and he has tickets. Free tickets, I might add. Still, a date is never to be sneezed at. Tomorrow, it will only be one week until our auction sale. I am all excited. I love auctions.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Z is prepared to be informative

Yes, well, we'll move on, shall we?

Tomorrow, there is a coffee morning for New Members. In previous years, the previous chairman gave a little talk, about the society and about the National Association of the societies. It seemed unreasonable to continue to ask her to give her time, so I'll be doing it.

Informal and spontaneous is how I'm described. A polite way of saying untidy and unprepared.

I rely on my hopeful smile, as ever. It's my trump card. I have a worried air and people genuinely don't like to upset me.

Squiffany suggested that one of her dolls might like to accompany me. It is a charming little rag doll in a green dress. Her name is Dolly. Squiffany has another doll, whose name is Dolly, and a third, which looks younger, which is named Baby. This seems perfectly appropriate. We have a few dozen bantams, all of which are called Girl until they have chicks, when they are called Mummy or Auntie, depending on whether the sitter actually laid the eggs. There is, of course, one male bird, who is named Cocky.

I took Dolly and her vacuous but good-natured smile rather won me over and I gave her a hug. I haven't brought her home with me though. After deliberation, it was thought that she might be nervous, away from home, and she is spending the night with Squiffany.

Do excuse a somewhat fluffy and flappy post, but I drank two glasses of wine which, after a couple of days of virtual abstinence, has rendered me skunklike.

Z cried

In the doctor's surgery, what could be more embarrassing? I've known him for years, our children were at school together.

Anyway, the good news. He says I don't drink too much!!(!)

He also says that my blood pressure is normal.

On the other hand, my suspicions are correct and I have arthritis in my right hip. He observed (absolutely politely) that I've put some weight on over the years and wondered if it was when my mother died? That was when I cried. He was most upset and apologised and put a kind hand on my arm.

Anyway, he suggests losing a stone in the next year* wouldn't be a bad idea and to see him again in a few months.

*er, and another one the year after...

Later I've thought of another good thing. I wasn't making a fuss about nothing.

Darling daughter sent me flowers. I cried again, but it was different.

I'm fine, pissed off and I'll get pissed (in a low calorie sort of way) tonight, but my usual good cheer is reasserting itself. I'm only fifty-fucking-four though, and I don't see why I've got to get this dreary sort of thing so young. Still, I'll be bragging about seeing my ribs soon. Hope I don't lose the D cup though.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Little more than bullet points, as I'm going to bed early

Fourteen jars of quince jelly, five jars of quince jam and four jars of cotignac. Yum.

I spent an hour this afternoon climbing up and down a ladder picking apples. The Sage helpfully moved the ladder and took my basket from me when full, to save me extra trips up and down. We'll hardly eat any of them ourselves, as I don't do puddings usually - well, who does? - but I wasn't brought up to. Many more to pick, but some of them are too high for me so the Sage is constructing an apple-picker.

Only seven of us at the PCC meeting tonight, so I advised that one third is a quorum. The PCC numbers 18 at present, which sounds a lot but there are a lot of ex-officio members, including me. I don't know if one third is the actual quorum, but it is now.

I've got a whole long list of things to do as a result of the meeting, including writing minutes from very few notes, as I joined in the discussion quite a lot (and I'm usually so quiet, aren't I Dave?).

I finally made an appointment with the doctor about my dodgy leg, and I'm going tomorrow. I can't chicken out or you'll berate me.

Shop-work tomorrow morning, which is good as my leg will then ache realistically. Once I'd phoned the surgery, it stopped hurting nearly so much.

I've a church service at 11 on Sunday (playing the clarinet) and at 3 (playing the organ). In between, my chum John and I have decided to go out for lunch. My treat this time.

Another evening without wine, this is a slightly worrying development as I don't miss it. I did, however, prepare by having a small glass at lunchtime, just in case I lost the taste for it. I am drinking quantities of tea instead, and have realised that most of my liquid intake is normally alcoholic.

Goodnight xx

Monday 22 October 2007

Z has a relaxed afternoon

It was the weather. It was quite peculiar. A frost, and then it sort of rained in the morning - but it was more of a wet mistiness without the actual fog. Water hung in the air, but puddles showed no tremor of raindrops.

The shop was quite busy all the same and Eileen and I took most of the morning to do all the extra work, as well as serving customers. The housekeeper of a local Lady came in with a cheque to pay the account. She said that her (the Lady's) signature is becoming more shaky and this might be the last time that she signs the cheque herself and her husband might have to do it in future. I sympathised - it's such a sad thing to watch, the gradual failing in someone's abilities. Harder still, of course, to endure oneself. "She has gone from a plate with a knife and fork to a bowl with a spoon," she said. "The next step will be to feed her, and that is something none of us wants to have to accept." She is a lovely woman, the housekeeper, and must be such a support.

This afternoon, I'd planned to ascend a ladder and pick Bramley apples. It had stopped not-raining, but drops hung from all the leaves and branches and I have left it to another day. I was going to make a couple more batches of quince jelly, having dripped the juice in a jellybag overnight, but Dilly phoned to ask if I could sit with the children for a while as she wanted to go to Yagnub and Pugsley had just gone to sleep. Squiffany and I played and chatted, and when Dilly came back we asked if we could carry on playing in my house.

So, no work and lots of play. This evening I had a meeting, to which I was driving, so no alcohol either. When I came home, I had a sedate cup of rose tea. Maybe I should go to bed, so that I will not succumb to the single malt out of mild boredom.

If I haven't visited you recently or commented much, or replied to emails or written actual letters (all these things I'm guilty of with some of you) I really am sorry. I am trying to catch up with everything, but it may take a week or two yet.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Z and a Blue-Arsed Fly have a little more in common that is, perhaps, desirable

As the radio, on its timer, went off at 8.15, I fell asleep. I woke with a headache, slept again, dreamed fitfully and busily and woke again, realising it must be 9 o'clock. I squinted at the clock. 9.30. Ah.

I hurried about the bathroom affairs, but did not take the ultimate time-save in the shower. By 10, I'd drunk tea, dried hair, applied makeup, fumbled in contact lenses and replied to two emails and a comment. I shot off to church, clutching the numbers of the hymns I'd not looked at in my hand.

I switched on the electricity, unlocked various doors (not that of the church, which is ever open) and went to check the hymns. I didn't know one. I played another, decided the key was too high and found it in another book of tunes and wrote down the number. I learned the new hymn and played the others.

The sidesman came in and went to get everything ready for Communion. "Where's the chalice?" she called. "It's not in the safe." I'd unlocked the safe and nothing was wrong with it. "I don't know, I haven't been here for the last two Sundays." "I put it away myself last week and it's not where I put it." I trudged down the aisle to check. I didn't panic. I reached in the safe. The chalice was there, in its baize bag. "Here it is, darling, the microphone was in front of it." The safe is about 1 foot cube. It would be hard to miss a mouse in there. She speculated on the dismay of losing a chalice for several minutes. I put the microphone out and the numbers up. I filled the urn and the kettles. I put out the mugs and the caf├ętieres. "I've put out twenty wafers, is that enough?" "A few more, I think". "The box is empty, we haven't any more." I trotted back to the cupboard and fetched one of the three boxes of wafers in plain view.

When the service started, I hit the notes of the first hymn. "Ah. Sorry. I'm playing the wrong tune." I found the right tune (83, not 81 as I'd written. Rightly, Troy, the child in the front pew, laughed.

After the service, I apologised for my carelessness, drank a mug of coffee and ate a chocolate cake. locked up and went home.

Later, I wrote up notes for the PCC meeting, cleared twigs and stuff off the lawn ready to mow it (sometime), picked a couple of boxes of apples and had lunch. Then I made a batch of quince jelly, prepared fruit for quince jam and cotignac, looked at the peelings, went to the shop for more quinces, cut up fruit to add to said peelings for more jelly, made the jam and cooked dinner. Oh, and ate it. And emptied the dishwasher, filled it, put it on, emptied it again and have half-filled it. The Sage and I agreed that we will need a new dishwasher soon and I suggested buying it before *the event in three months time that it's too early to mention* as the last one that went kaput did so on *the event in three months time that it's too early to mention* Day, in the evening, when it had just been filled.

I've just finished making the cotignac, which is cooling ready to be potted. In a few minutes, the quinces will go into the jelly-bag to drain, ready to make more jelly tomorrow afternoon (I'm working in the shop in the morning). It's after 10 pm and I haven't looked at the paper yet.

I don't have a proper job. What am I doing wrong? Day of rest, MY LEFT FOOT.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Look up

Before I leave the subject of the exhibition, just a remark on the setting.

Some years ago, there was a smaller exhibition on the Terracotta Army, also at the British Museum. I went, and remember a darkened room with only the objects lit up.

This time, there are far more artefacts. There has been a great deal more research in the past ten years, and many more discoveries made. Instead of one warrior being sent, there were about twenty figures, including horses and bronze birds. There was a model palace and a display of the production process, and a great many artefacts.

Many of you will have visited the British Museum since its remodelling - the Great Court has been covered with a most beautiful geodesic dome, designed by computer to fit exactly around the existing building. Extra building work was added judiciously, to blend in with the stone. The Reading Room, which housed the British Library, had been made redundant when the Library was moved to a building at St Pancras. Since, it has been used to house the museum's own archive of books.

It is a gorgeous circular room*, with a fabulous domed ceiling. It is lined with bookshelves and the original desks are still in place, radiating out from the centre. It was decided that, emptied, it would be a splendid setting for the exhibition.

However, it was discovered that the benches and the ventilation system were constructed together and could not be separated. So they built a false floor. You walk up a slope and then steps and the exhibition has been constructed half way up the wall! The advantage of this, of course, is that you are considerably closer to the beautiful dome and can see it more clearly. So, when you go to the exhibition, do remember to look up.

*before any of my quirky commenters mention it, it is not a complete sphere.

Friday 19 October 2007

Z's day out

Yesterday I went with the society wot I'm chairman of to the British Museum, to see the First Emperor exhibition. It was wonderful, do go if you have a chance. They've sold out of pre-booked tickets until December I gather, but there are some available on the door each day (go early) or book for early next year.

The organiser passed round various press cuttings on the coach, including one from I know not which newspaper, where the reviewer said rather grumpily that he (or she) found the terracotta figures something of a disappointment and, although it was an impressive exhibition, the main feeling at the end was that the regime was a triumph of mass-production. Another, on the other hand, was wildly enthusiastic.

I agree with the second. I loved it. I found the figures incredibly moving. They were indeed mass produced, although made from a combination of various styles of heads, bodies, clothes, hairstyles etc and then personalised with moustaches and other variations to facial features, but I did not expected to feel a sense of personality from them. I felt the sensation that they were waiting, in patient expectation, as they have been for over two thousand years.

I think there are two reasons for this - first, that they are life-size. There are several horses - ponies, really. A man was conscripted once he reached the age of 16 and was 4' 11" tall, so a 12-hand horse was probably big enough. They looked like horses. But two bronze half-size chariots had also been found - in pieces, requiring careful restoration, so the originals were too fragile to travel and a replica had been made. Half-size horses had been made to pull it and these, though as realistic as the larger ones, looked like models, or toys.

The second reason is that the colour has gone. They were originally fully coloured, and some traces remain, but the effect of the air on the lacquer under the pigment made it lose its stability and the paint vanished - some of the more recently excavated ones still have pink faces as conservation techniques are better now than they were. There is one newly-made model, which has been painted, and he doesn't look nearly so human.

A correction - there are other factors too. Each man is doing something. He might be an archer, an acrobat, a groom, a civil servant (standing neatly with each hand tucked into the opposite sleeve), and his tool or weapon is long gone, but the position is realistic, not wooden. You feel that they were made with feeling, which is incredible considering how many had to be made. You look into their eyes and you feel a connection - yes, I know I'm being fanciful, but haven't you looked at the face of a beloved (whether or not by you) teddy bear and seen its personality?

The Emperor Qin was an astonishing man. A complete megalomaniac, and a genius. He made one country out of the various provinces of China within 13 years of ascending the throne of his own province and then imposed a single currency, which was still in use more than 2,000 years later, and a single style of writing, so that even if different people spoke different languages, they could all recognise each other's written characters. He build vast miles of roads, numerous palaces and connected various sections of walls to make the first Great Wall. Countless people were conscripted or forced into labour and thousands died, but he achieved incredible results. And the vast Terracotta Army was surely proof that he was, in addition, barking mad. He spent much of his reign searching for an elixir of eternal life - it's possible that one of the concoctions he tried actually poisoned him.

He invented mass production and the assembly line, as well as quality control. Workmen's names, and those of their supervisors, were marked on objects so that anything sub-standard could be tracked back to the person responsible. Weapons, and everything else, were made to an exact standard, so that if, for example, you broke the point of your lance, you could fetch a replacement tip and know it would fit exactly.

He died suddenly, 11 years after becoming Emperor, and a palace coup brought an end to the dynasty soon after. The weapons held by the warriors were looted from the pits and much damage was done - no model has been found undamaged, as the wooden roofs had collapsed. But, although the country descended into civil war, Qin's changes lasted. No attempt was made to portray him as a hero - though I think a little more could have been said about the civilization that had existed before he came along - but he was certainly the author of a remarkable and impressive achievement.

I dunno, perhaps some of it

Found it at Steg's place.

This would have been very accurate five years ago. It seems to focus rather on what stress you're under and I don't feel unhealthily stressed at all. I'm happy. I've reached that stable and peaceful situation they mention, and am enjoying it.

Here we go, anyway...

ColorQuiz.comz took the free personality test!

"Seeks an affectionate relationship, offering fulfi..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Z's day was Jolly Super

I've been up since 5.30 and in London all day, but I would have written if the Sage had not been waiting with a chilled bottle of champagne on my return. It distracted me...

I'll tell you about today tomorrow.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

There were not three in a bed

Having been quite annoyed a couple of times about inconsistencies and stupidities described in the paperwork of today's governors' meeting, which was nothing to do with the school and related to diktats from the government or the local authority, I cheered myself up markedly on the way back to the carpark with my muttering of "The left tit doesn't know what the right tit is doing."

This morning I picked all the squashes, because a frost is forecast for tonight. There were over a hundred last year and sixty-four this, which is much what I'd expected from the cold and alternately too wet and too dry spring and summer. A few of them were very small, so I chose three of the smallest, all different varieties, to roast for dinner tonight, with coriander seeds and whole garlic cloves. They accompanied cauliflower cheese - I ate a lot last week and rather craved something simple.

It was slightly odd, being the third party in a holiday, but my sister Wink and her chap Bod made me very welcome and I hardly ever felt like a gooseberry. There was a slightly alarming over-acquaintance the first night in fact, as Bod had booked a cabin, which had two beds and a sofa-bed. I sort of thought we'd not get properly undressed and discreetly just lie down for a rest, but no, they both blithely undressed. I sighed and did too, being heartily glad I'd actually brought a nightdress as I usually don't wear one. I pretended very hard not to be embarrassed.

I tended to wake early in the mornings, as I was going to bed much earlier than usual, so I was always ready when Bod tapped on my door on the way down to breakfast. After a few days he remarked on the fact that each night he went to bed with one woman and the next morning he came down with another...the staff seemed to take it with no more than a raised eyebrow...

It was a family-run hotel on the outskirts of Azay-le-Rideau, newly done up, very comfortable, and the food was very good. The waiter seemed quite lugubrious for the first day or two, but he unbent considerably as the week went on and - look, does this surprise you one bit? - started to tease me rotten.

We went out each day and arrived back in the early evening, to bathe and change for dinner, either at the hotel or in town. I don't know what came over me, but I took the opportunity for a protracted sleep too. Honestly, I never slept less than half an hour, and up to an hour and a half. Then I'd sleep another six or seven hours at night. Occasionally, I dropped of in the back of the car too. I was quite a quiet companion, as for the rest of the time I was gazing dreamily out of the window or reading one of the nine books I took.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Z gets back into the Swing

I went to hear a lecture this morning, in the usual monthly way - and it was absolutely brilliant, by the way. I'm not sure what our frightfully nice members thought of her clumpy shoes, baggy jeans and rugby shirt: I knew what to expect as I'd met her before, and in any case they were certainly won over by the learned yet brilliantly funny lecture.

Anyway, before it started, the technician whom I had not yet met came to introduce herself. "You are," she started cautiously, "the one who stands on the stage jabbering away* and thanking the lecturer?". I admitted it and looked a little downcast. "Oh no, it's good" she explained. "It makes it all seem not so highbrow and I can make some sense of it."

Oh heck, the child doesn't even know me and she feels able to say this. I hope this is a good thing. I can feel myself starting to be a caricature of myself and it's a little frightening.

The Sage left at larkfart to catch the London train, so I was in no great hurry to come home. Depressingly, I couldn't be bothered to go round the Norwich shops and shopped at a different supermarket instead. I say depressingly, because shopping for basic foodstuffs is surely nothing of a treat at all. I usually go to local shops and, for a trolleyful, the local Co-op, but this time I went to Waitrose!!(!). One always buys frightfully nice stuff in Waitrose, I find, because it would be just too embarrassing to come out bearing packets of poptarts or cheezy wotsits. Not that I buy such things anyway, of course...

On the way home, I called in to pick up some fruit from Al. He has bought some attractive baskets to put the produce in, instead of the plastic ones he used to have. "They've been there for ages, haven't you noticed?" he said airily. I reminded him that I'd been away for ten days. He'd sort of forgotten. He spent last Sunday painting the woodwork at the front of the shop - it can only be done on a Sunday of course, so he has to do it himself. This means he loses his only complete day off of the week, but there's no help for that. The masonry needs to be painted as well, and this will be quite a big job. Not that it's a big shop, but it's detached and so there are three sides to do.

Woo-hoo, my darling has just arrived home. I must go and prepare to be kissed.

*I can't remember exactly what she said but, startlingly enough, it was something very like this

Monday 15 October 2007


Hello, darlings, I'm home. And I've had a delightful time, thank you. It started unpromisingly, when the railway line in Essex was closed as I approached because an acetylene tank being carried on a fire service lorry which caught fire was in danger of blowing up and both the road and the nearby railway were shut down. I ended up going on a taxi ride through the delightful villages of the county with three young men and an older chap (who was the taxi driver) and I was only an hour and a half late for my connection. I caught the next train and that was the end of my possible disaster of the holiday (I may have mentioned before that things go wrong all around me but they always finish satisfactorily).

There appear to be no internet cafes in the Tourraine and so I was not able to keep in contact (unlike my sister, who was found texting away busily at regular intervals) and I have well over a thousand posts to read, according to Bloglines. This may take me some time. I have spent the afternoon catching up with emails and phone calls, and with booking a ticket for the Sage to go to London tomorrow - what? Already? At least he's not staying overnight this time. He is going to have to extract his ticket from a machine on Diss station and I've lent him my credit card for the occasion. Have I ever told you that the Sage does not have a credit card, nor even a debit card? He says that the cheque of a gentleman is enough for anyone ... though he takes the precaution of having me along on occasions when young and inexperienced staff might not appreciate the fact.

There will, indeed, be Pictures, when I get around to loading them. Not for a day or two, perhaps. Things are a little busy round here and I seem to have agreed to be nominated as vice-chairman of governors again, even though I have stoutly declared that I may step down next summer anyway. Or I may not. I don't know, genuinely.

I hope all's well with you all, and I'll visit you soon to see what I've been missing.

xx z

Friday 5 October 2007

A slice of life

ILTV tagged me weeks ago, but I've been too busy to finish. Sorry, darling. I couldn't leave it another ten days until I come home again, so here we are...

"players - you must list one fact, word or titbit which is somehow relevant
to your life for each letter of your name"

She kindly gave me the option of my long or short name, but one letter would give a Z-fact too much
significance, so I’ve gone for the full razorblade. I thought of using my own name, but O and E are quite stinky
letters too, so I needed a few more to flesh it out a bit.

Right. Razorblade

Rivers. I love being by or on the water. On the bank or in a dinghy, watching the wildlife and enjoying the air. I grew up messing about in boats but was never drawn to sailing or to motors. I don't particularly need to get anywhere and I don't want to make a noise and scare away the creatures.

Artichokes. Globe artichokes, that is, because I love messy vegetables that have to be eaten with the fingers, such as asparagus, corn on the cob, samphire ... I'm probably better not watched as it may be quite yukky to look at. I pick the artichoke and tap it on a post to shake out earwigs. Then rinse thoroughly, gather up the rest of the earwigs and let them go and boil until the scales can be pulled out. A happy ten minutes ensues as I pull out each scale, dip it in butter and scrape the flesh off with my teeth. Then scrape away the choke to leave the gorgeous treat of the heart.

Zorro. When I grew up there was much derring do in children's television programmes. William Tell, Robin Hood and Zorro. He left his mark at the scene of his deeds, by slashing three marks with his sword to make a Z. Sadly, I identified with this no end. I still like having a name which starts with a Z.

Ox-eye daisy, because I like wild flowers best.

R - the Sage's name starts with the letter R. I've known him for more than two-thirds of my life. I've been married to him for more than three decades. He's lovely.

Books, because they have been, at some times, vital to me. I lived through books at one time, and thought that any time spent not reading was wasted. I'd keep, as a child, a book at the foot of the stairs so that I would have something to do on the way up. One in the upstairs loo and one downstairs, one by my bed, a couple more on the go about the house. I read at least one book every day. Except the downstairs lavatory one, because it was a bit cold and dark there. Plato's Republic lasted me a good couple of years there, as I only read a page or two at a time.

Laziness. The ability to relax without guilt is a vital part of me. I'll work hard if there's work to be done, but I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing at all. Some years ago, in the Yuppy era, people used to boast about how they were so busy that they never had time for themselves. I need time for myself, and to myself as well.

Antiques. I've hardly ever bought any new furniture. Beds are new, although we used to have a splendid old half-tester bed which I liked very much as it was high and you had to climb up to bed. It was too tall for our bedroom here and we sold it. Our dining table is one we had made from some rather wonderful oak planks, with legs from an oak tree which fell down in 1988 (all the trees around it had gone in the 1987 gale and it must have felt exposed) Otherwise, all old. And mostly a bit scruffy. Like me and the Sage.

Dogs. I'm more of a dog than a person at heart.

Englishness. Oh, I'm so English. I couldn't live anywhere else.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Z is silenced, in two ways

Well, the day culminated all right, and I can't tell you about it. I asked the Sage if I could put it on my blog and he said he'd rather not. That took the wind right out of my sails and I wished I hadn't asked. It isn't fair even to hint. Damn. It's good.

But the whole day has been good. The Sage had Success in London and I had a good day in the City. If you are in London right now and have time to spare, hasten to Goldsmiths' Hall for the Fair. It is absolutely wonderful and well worth a visit. I spent two or three hours there and would have appreciated longer. Some beautiful items, individually designed and not overpriced by any means. If it were not for the fact that we have spent money today, I would have been very tempted, and I will certainly be back another year, preferably with a Sage and his chequebook...

We also had a guided tour round the Mansion House. I can't remember if I've told you that I've been to a couple of banquets there before. I didn't see a thing, however, as I was unborn at the time - in Coronation year, my father's cousin was Lady Mayoress and he and my mother were invited to a couple of doos. Most considerately, the silver-gilt candelabrum given by my great-great-great grandfather was put in front of them. Sadly, although I looked, I didn't see it today.

My voice has gone. Vanished. I am talked out. I had to ask, huskily, Shirley to give the vote of thanks to the organiser of the day.

Then I arrived home, to find a gift waiting for me from Julie in Athens. Thank you so, so much, dearest Julie. It will be listened to first thing tomorrow. I cannot tell you how happy I am.

Tuesday 2 October 2007


I said that boys' toys were more fun than girls' toys and that I'd have liked to have had a train set. If I had, I wonder how much I'd have played with it? Impossible to know now. But I never had Meccano, cars, a train, a toy gun - I did have a toy bow and arrows, which was probably about the time when my parents took up archery. I was given one doll for a birthday present and I was quite polite to her, but she wasn't cuddly like a teddy bear and I didn't really play with her.

I think that, by 'fun', that I mean that they led to more activity. Other girls did dolls' tea parties, played house, had dolly prams and played skipping games with rhymes and routines. Boys did adventurous things and it was all right to make a lot of noise. A group of siblings or a mixed-sex group would run around, play tag, whatever, but if you had just boys or just girls, they resorted to stereotypes. Once in a while a boy-child came round, and he was rather intrigued by the notion of a tea party and I fetched out all my soft toys and we played with them, but if there had been two boys it would have been embarrassing for them, and I certainly never did it on my own.

Things haven't changed all that much, funnily enough. I was in a well-known toyshop a couple of weeks ago, one that prides itself on its good quality toys with educational qualities. There was a dollshouse. For small children, I think that small family figures in a house with furniture is quite a good toy for a boy or a girl - but this had a lot of pink and heart-shaped cutouts in the decorations. Anything designed to appeal mostly to a girl is relentlessly pink. Why, for goodness sake?

If you generalise, boys play rougher than girls, on the whole. But not all of them do. Mine didn't, particularly. And we weren't very noisy. Both El and Al had a play house, exactly the same. They also had a clockwork train set and Scalextric. As they became older they had different things as their tastes changed. Both my sons are quite happy playing quite violent video games, which I can't even watch. When they were little and had the shoot 'em up type of thing, I liked playing them too, though I preferred games that relied more on skill. Later, there was a degree of realism I couldn't deal with. My daughter quite soon became bored with games consoles and certainly would have hated the aggressive ones.

I'm not sure that I'm reaching much of a conclusion, except maybe to say that I think that many toys are even more sharply gender-specific now than they were when I was a child. Girls' things are, as I say, very very pink, all hearts, flowers and glitter. Boys' things often have quite a violent undertone. There doesn't seem to be much place for the ungirly girl or the gentler boy, but it would take quite small differences to change that. Just do away with the vivid pink fluffiness on the one hand and the emphasis on fighting on the other.

Z is lonely

Blimey - the list of things to do before I go away is getting longer. I've had to cry off from WI this evening - I know, my main social life (since I don't meet Dave for lunch every week) vanished before my eyes.

The Sage is away. He hasn't spent a night away from home for years. Literally. He's in London. I'll be in London too tomorrow, but for a different purpose, so we won't meet.

I had a meeting this morning and came away with two frozen trout, as did all the other committee members. Our hostess was glad to see the back of them, as it means there is now some room in the freezer, as her husband brings them home every week.

Ro and I are going to have a stir-fry tonight, with lots of chillies. More than the Sage could tolerate. Then I'll start work.

There may be another post tonight, as I am not very diligent when it comes to work and might be glad of distraction.

I can listen to the radio all I want in bed tonight, as I'll be on my own. *Sigh*

Monday 1 October 2007

Z frets about fruit in the Small Hours

It's all got a bit busy this evening and I'm distracted. It wasn't helpful that I woke up at 2.30 this morning, worried about pears. Doyenne du Comice pears, which I had assured Al I'd got in stock (English ones, from Kent). but that I then worriedly realised I'd confused with Beurre Hardy pears, which a Local had brought in from her tree. I finally got up at 2.50 and rang the wholesalers to order them. Even more dismally, I remembered the phone number. I hardly ever remember phone numbers. I then twitchily (not least because I was starkers and it wasn't that warm) read a few blog posts, left a few comments and then returned to bed, where the Sage, with astonishing politeness, put his arms round me to warm me up. I still didn't sleep for another couple of hours though and, sadly, this was not because of canoodling but because I couldn't relax.

The Sage is off to London tomorrow morning and I have got a meeting in the wilds of Norfolk, so I have to look up the route because we only have tiny winding country roads round here and jovial bumpkins spend their spare time turning the roadsigns round so that we drive the wrong way. I'm picking up my lovely and darling friend Bette at ten past nine and she lives twenty-five minutes away. This is an early start for me - yeah, yeah, I'm spoilt. I've never denied it.

Ro went for an interview for a new job, was offered and accepted it, and tomorrow has to tell his boss. He's not looking forward to that. The good thing is that the new job is in Norwich and it looks as if the bus is the best way to get there, which will please Ro. He does not like frantic drivers on their daily commute. He'll have to leave home earlier, but at least he can veg on the bus.

I can't concentrate. I need to do some work. Can I rely on another sleepless night? Probably. Bother.