Monday 31 December 2007

Doesn't time ... go at its usual steady and even pace?

I always think the whole New Year's Eve malarky is a bit overrated and artificial. Whilst Christmas is, when it arrives, usually a family occasion and doesn't have to be an orgy of overindulgence, the whole point of NYE seems to be wild celebration of ... what? The stroke of midnight? It doesn't actually feel like a fresh new year, burgeoning with possibilities, with any disappointments or mishaps swept away. It's just another day, and usually a cold one.

I've had some splendid NYEs of course, usually at friends' houses - though one occasion I remember was considerably marred by the unfortunate bout of flu that our hostess suffered from. We went for dinner and she had grimly cooked a delicious meal, which we ate at about 9.30 and finished around 11 and then we all sat trying to pretend that she actually wanted us to be there - one can hardly break up the party early on that particular night. A particularly delicious single malt was produced at midnight, we all slurped it down appreciatively and then sloped off at about 20 past - leaving her husband to do the clearing away before his early morning start ... as a livestock farmer, a morning in bed was out of the question.

We had a party ourselves on New Year's Eve 1999, which did work well. There was an hiatus around 2 am for a while, for a brief rest, before we set off in a body for the East coast, to see the dawn of 2000. We took a camp stove, bacon and eggs and thermoses of hot water and we all breakfasted on Dunwich cliff. This is a few miles south of Ness Point in Lowestoft, the most easterly point of the British Isles, but there is nothing interesting or decorative about Ness Point. There were lots of other people at Dunwich too, on a similar mission. The bacon was not very crispy - we hadn't quite allowed for the chilling effect of the wind in trying to heat a frying pan, but no matter.

Tonight is another family doo. We are invited to fireworks and chilli at 6 pm, so as to include the children, and then a convivial evening is promised, to include the delightful company of Dilly's family.

Tomorrow, we will go to another party, which starts with mulled cider (the local Cyder Club's best efforts), continues with a walk - I'll tell you how many miles when I get back: up until now I've always done the long walk ... we'll see - and then goes on to gallons of home-made soups, cheese and rather a lot more to drink.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Sunday 30 December 2007

Z tires herself

There was just one church service in the benefice this morning, in our smallest church in the six parishes. It stands alone in a field, with a track leading to it, a mile or so from the village it serves. It has no electric supply and is heated and lighted by gas and candles, and someone pumps the organ by hand*. It is warm and welcoming and a pleasure to visit.

The Sage expected that I'd cycle. It's three or four miles away, I suppose, which may not sound a lot, but bear in mind that I am fat and unfit and it's winter. However, I clambered awkwardly into the saddle and set off, promising to bring the papers on my return some three hours later.

And so I did.

I have rewarded myself with a slice of toast and Patum Peperium - Gentleman's Relish, if you prefer. Not quite so rewarding was the soup, which was made from six carrots, two sweet potatoes, a red pepper, a chunk of ginger and two oranges, quartered; all cooked in ham stock and then liquidised, the oranges having been removed. I think it was those last that didn't quite work. It's all right, but I suspect will prove a little unusual for the Sage's taste, and I've at least four pints of it. Still, no need to wonder what I'll have for lunch for the next week.

I think, since I am unusually free for the time of day, I'll pop down to the pub for a pint of John's home-brew.

*Look, please read no dodgy meaning into this at all. I am not being crude or suggestive here. A church organ is powered by bellows, usually electrically operated, but in this case manually worked with a lever.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Z's still here

I've been having a rare episode of being sociable with my family and have had no time to write. El and Phil have gone back to London now and are vastly missed, and Wink is leaving tomorrow morning. However, we have been enjoying our convivial evenings next door with Dilly and Al and plan to carry on for a bit with those.

Al has two Saturday girls, who are sisters - one comes in every week and one on alternate weeks, because Eileen also works alternate Saturdays. The alternate-week girl has got another job, which is understandable - very sweetly, she offered to continue until Al has a chance to find someone else. But he has let her go - not worth her risking the loss of the new job. So I'll be in alternate Saturdays until he finds someone else, which may not be an easy thing to do.

It was a very cold, dry windy day today, with a bright blue sky and delicious clear air. I helped set up the shop for a couple of hours, and then went for coffee, where a schooldays friend of El's was helping out - her mother was looking after her two children for the morning. It was lovely to see them all. Carola mentioned that it was about 20 years ago that she and El had first met, which meant that she is now the age I was then - strange the difference in perception, when then I was relatively old and now she still thinks she is young!

I haven't been replying to comments as I usually do. Sorry. Normal service will be resumed before long.

Thursday 27 December 2007

Z didn't forget!!(!)

I remembered one deadline today, something that had to be posted for receipt by the 31st. Since I'd lost a vital piece of paper, which included the address, a couple of weeks ago and not had time for a search, it's been on my mind.

I also remembered Meals on Wheels, which I had been resigned to forgetting.

We've put in our seed order, via the gardening club which gets a substantial discount.

Tomorrow is Lord Bruin's annual party, one of the highlights of the season. Admission will, as usual, be by Bear only and under no circumstances will a Rabbit be accepted as a substitute. We are all invited, but since it's always on a working day, Al usually can't go - however, since he is a particular friend of the lady who arranges the party (both she and Lord Bruin are now 91 years old) - I have offered to man the shop for a couple of hours to let him and the Sage go. I'm not sure if Al will accept the offer however, as three whole days with the shop shut are a long time for him and he might not be able to drag himself away. He should; it's a splendid party and there are many competitions for happy teddy bears. One year, Ro's bear won the prize for Most Loved Bear.

There is a slight feeling that normality will soon return, whatever that may mean. It won't mean a visit to the January sales, although I do need a pair of boots as I only have high heeled ones and I didn't have time for shopping in the autumn. I don't like shopping much. Not the trawling around searching for the right thing. If it isn't right there in front of me, I lose interest.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Z hopes there will be enough to eat

It appears that the ham that I bought for tomorrow's lunch weighs 20 lbs, which is just over 9 kilos. Hm. It has been soaking in the kitchen sink for several hours. I looked in several cookery books to work out the cooking time, but the half-hour per pound in one (far too long) and the half-hour boiling on the cooking plate followed by 20 minutes per pound in the simmering oven, in the Aga book, didn't seem to help - my ham pan won't fit in the oven, for a start.

Finally, I brought down Mrs Beeton. For a ten-pound ham on the bone, she said helpfully, cook 4 hours. For 15 pounds, 5 hours. A really large ham will need to be boiled for 6 hours. That sounds fine. Depending on what time I get up tomorrow, lunch will be about seven hours later (it has to come to the boil first and, at the end, be glazed in the oven).

I trust I'll be up earlier tomorrow than we were today. We fell asleep wrapped in each other again, and didn't wake until 10.

Tomorrow, the whole family will be together for lunch. Wink arrived in time for lunch and El and Phil came along during the afternoon.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

Christmas Day

Happy Christmas, darling friends.

I'm running late as the Sage and I, woken by the radio at 7.30, wrapped our arms around each other and fell asleep again until after 9, and I'm due in church in another ten minutes.

Being entertained for Christmas dinner is splendid. No work to do. When I get back, all I'll have to do is play with the children.

Have a lovely day xx

love from Zoë

Monday 24 December 2007

T'is the night before....

So, what puzzles me is, who is still shopping for basic foodstuffs at 5.30 pm on Christmas Eve? Al had it all sorted in his mind - he'd start packing up between 4 and half past, and be out of the shop, clutching a wad of cash, by 5, ready for the Carol Service at 6. This is a kind concession to his wife and an unspoken but, hey, we all know it's there, charming gesture to his mother. He dashed home at 5.45, having had difficulty getting rid of the last customers. One of them, in the last half hour, spent £28. What would she have done if he'd been shut?

We started, again, at 5.45 this morning and checked the first delivery. No parsnips and no chestnuts. He rang the other company, and found that they'd packed 5 x 5 kilo boxes of parsnips, out of the 6 he'd asked for (from each firm) and all the chestnuts - which meant he'd have 40% of one and half of the other.

Yup. I went to a supermarket in the next town and stocked up. Can't disappoint the customers.

I expected to deliver the stuff (it was now about 9) and leave, but it was really busy, and one of his 16-year-old assistants hadn't turned up. I finally got home at 2.

But everything's done now. I might as well go to bed.

But, only half an hour to Christmas! Ooh, exciting

Sunday 23 December 2007

Z plans her schedule

Yesterday finished early for me. I flagged completely by the evening and gazed helplessly at a fridgeful of leftovers which will need attention to turn into meals. The Sage suggested fish and chips. Good plan.

I sat on the floor by the fire, reluctant to go to the comfortable sofa in case I went to sleep, so I went upstairs instead. We have a 6-foot long bath (mine is 5-foot long, but I only use it for showers as we share bathwater) which accommodates the Sage's length nicely, but it's too long for me to lie back and relax in without the risk of slipping underwater. But my back ached, so I stretched out, one toe reaching the enamel, my shoulders against the other end, and lay there steaming gently.

I went to bed, read for a few minutes, and was asleep before 9 o'clock. I slept for 10 hours.

Now I need to hurry. It's near-freezing fog and I'm not cycling to Yagnub in that - bad for the lungs. I'll get to church early instead, practise my music, get things ready and, this afternoon, look after the babies so that Dilly can help Al get the shop all ready for tomorrow. In the morning, I'll go in early again to set up the shop and finish the orders. Then I'll pick up the ham, buy the Sage's presents, we'll set up the tree and I'll start to get ready for the carol service in the evening.

On Friday, most people were writing valedictory posts, because they'll be far too busy having a good time to write blogs. *Cough* My idea of a good time includes writing blogs. I'll still be here.

Saturday 22 December 2007

Z does porridge

Last night didn't quite go as planned, in that, having set the alarm for 5 a.m. and switched off the light about 12.40, we didn't sleep. Initially, the reason was that the Sage put his arms round me, and a choice between him and sleep is easy to make; however, later I couldn't sleep at all. He dozed fitfully, but I didn't. I finally got up, made and ate porridge, cleaned the kitchen, sat and stared at the computer for a while and went to help Al around quarter to 6.

I left to help decorate the church 4 hours later and shambled wearily home after 1.30. I wanted something hot and sustaining to eat, but couldn't face the cooking...I made another bowl of porridge.

Al confesses he might be flagging a bit later this afternoon, so I've said I'll go in and help close the shop.

I discovered that two of the carols I'm playing tomorrow are really quite tricky. I may have to resort to the clarinet for one of them.

Friday 21 December 2007

Presents are wrapped!!(!)

Al and Dilly spent three hours making up vegetable orders tonight, arriving home after 11.30. The Sage babysat. I wrapped presents. This is remarkable - I don't think I've ever wrapped presents this early before. Still, at least we haven't got a Christmas tree up yet, so there isn't too keen an air of preparedness.

I haven't bought the Sage a present yet either. Pfft. Still two shopping days left. Well, three I suppose, but I won't have time on Sunday.

Al and I will go into the shop at 6 tomorrow morning to set things up. All his assistants will be arriving at 8.30 - with five of them, there will hardly be room for customers.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Arotarotarota

I've just eaten the last disc of salty Dutch licorice, that my daughter brought back from her weekend in Amsterdam for me two or three months ago. *sigh*

I'm very partial to Dutch goodies altogether. When I was little, I had Dutch au pairs - two of them, one after the other. They were sisters and my mother thought of them as extra daughters. They used to send a box of goodies for St Nicholas day - yes, I should have written this post a couple of weeks ago. I loved the gingerbread and the chocolate formed in the shape of letters or wrapped as Delft tiles. I also learned, at an early age, to enjoy smoked eel.

I rewarded myself with that precious piece of licorice because I remembered - in time- to do next year's Meals on Wheels rota. All this efficiency worries me. It'll be all the harder when the forgetfulness of age strikes (which, as Dave knows, is already putting out teasing feelers), because people will be puzzled and then pitying when they realise. Until quite recently, I consoled myself with the thought that I could be well into dementia before anyone even noticed.

Tomorrow, I will cycle round the village delivering the rotas. And no one will have to ring and remind me. Not for at least another year.

Z expects...

Norwich was quiet again today - that is, there were people about, but it was hardly a pre-Christmas frenzy. I had to go to pick up some papers, so I also went into John Lewis, which has the worst-designed multi-story carpark I've ever come across. It was still an independent family-owned shop when it was built - many's the time I've been stuck for up to half an hour trying to get out of the place, and the parking bays are absurdly narrow. The mother and baby spaces are on the top floor where the lifts don't reach, so you have to take a pushchair down the car ramp.

As I drove in, my phone rang and then subsided. I checked it after I parked, and Al had tried to ring from the shop. The battery completely gave up, so I trotted down the hill to the phone box. Did you realise it now costs 40p to make a phone call? Blimey. The Sage and Al, it turned out, were concerned that I might not be back in time to see the fishmonger, and were offering to go to buy my salmon for me. I gesticulated to show the size I wanted and then had to estimate how far apart my hands were.

Not cooking Christmas dinner for the first time in 15ish years has left me with little to do. I've decided on salmon for Boxing day, when there will be 6 of us, and a ham for the next day, when there will be 10. I tried quite hard to order half a ham, because, with two small children, that would do, but I couldn't. Nor could I order a boned one. It has to be full size, on the bone, boiled then glazed and baked or it just won't do.

I was the only person in the Co-op with my own shopping bags, everyone else was filling their trollies with 'degradable' (don't think these are eco-friendly, they are worse than ordinary plastic bags) plastic bags. I had accepted a bag from Boots for a too-large (for my bag) item - I noticed that it was poked through from the corner of the box by the time I got back to the car, so that's one that won't be reused. I drove home, played with the children and then cycled in again. That was not in the least for 'green' reasons, but simply for the exercise. It was bloody cold. I was wearing a shirt, a cardigan and a quilted coat and I could still feel the wind against my skin.

Al was making fruit baskets, so was glad when I offered to stand in for a bit to fend off importunate customers. One asked if he'd be open on Sunday. Well, he'll be working in the shop all day Sunday, but he won't be open. I cycled home about 4 o'clock. It's now 7.30 and I'm still cold. I have fish and potatoes baking in the oven, and sprouting broccoli and carrots waiting to be cooked. I am still on my first glass of wine. I will make my husband and son entertain me with idle, possibly scurrilous, banter. I intend to giggle tonight.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Z keeps a promise, at last

I'm afraid I will bore you, because I have nothing to say. I'll say it at length of course, because that is what a mistress of small talk does, but it'll be as satisfying as eating candy floss - which I believe our Transatlantic cousins call cotton candy, but I know not why; except, of course, that this is also its name.

Anyway, I pedalled into Yagnub this morning and was extremely warm by the time I arrived, for the wind had dropped and the sun shone. I shopped for food and this and that and, as usual, could hardly cram everything into the panniers, nor lift the bike upright to mount it for the return journey.

I had, steaming gently along St Mary's Street, observed a large banner attached to the railings next to the highly dangerous zebra crossing ... there is nothing dangerous about the zebra itself, but the placing of the crossing is generally agreed to be wildly infelicitous for various reasons, mainly its proximity to junctions and the poor visibility it affords drivers, of people waiting to cross, which is made worse at this time of the year by the low morning sun which blinds those driving in the Halesworth direction. Poor David stopped to let one person across last week, then moved off, not seeing another woman already on the crossing - she wasn't badly hurt but everyone was very upset, she - naturally - most of all. Fixing an advertising banner to the railings (which are designed to stop small children from the primary school right beside from lurching heedlessly into the road) only hampers visibility more, which might be the reason for putting that particular item right there.

It prompted me, at last, to keep a promise I made to Stegbeetle some time ago, and after lunch I trotted off to the temporary blood donor clinic at the convent in the next village. I was slightly disconcerted to be invited to make my next appointment before even finishing the purpose of this visit, but there we go, I suppose I will be useful at last.

Afterwards, I drank some water and ate a ginger nut and discovered that the last of my sweet tooth has completely disappeared. It was only politeness that kept me from discarding most of it. I brought the other two from the pack home and gave them to the Sage.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Ding Dong!

Tonight was the school prizegiving and Martin Bell was the guest speaker. It was a good evening; the chairman of governors and headmaster gave fairly short (huzzah!) but eloquent speeches and there were a couple of superb musical interludes with, in turn, performances on the saxophone, violin and tuba. There's a wide variety of prizes, which are not all for academic excellence or sport, although of course the majority are.

Martin Bell gave the prizegiving speech I've been quietly rehearsing for many a year now - that is, he focused on the ones who didn't win prizes, who may not toe the school line, who will go off in their own direction or else, perhaps, plough a quietly straight furrow and who might find their strengths after school. He said quite a bit more (in a very few minutes, he kept it brief too), and spoke easily and fluently, with considerable humour, though no jokes, and there was prolonged applause at the end.

You know (unless you are Phil or Zahid) that I mentioned, the other day, the fair hair colour of young English children, which most of them lose as they grow up? I said that I'd noticed that boys, in that class at least, had darkened younger than girls. This evening, most of the prizewinners were aged 17-19, and there was no difference, proportionally, between the sexes for darkness of hair.

I did a useful bit of networking too, with local influential people and came home all cheerful. I'd gone cheerful too, by the way, as Dilly heard that I was pushed to have time to cook dinner, let alone eat it, and said that she had plenty of Bolognese sauce for all of us. Bless her, she had to cook four lots of spaghetti as we had to eat at different times, too.

Monday 17 December 2007

Z finds it feels good to be wanted

The society with which I went to Krakow last spring is organising another trip, this time to Madrid. As ever, the Sage declined my invitation to accompany me - delightful as he finds my company, a chap does need a few days break once in a while, if only to appreciate me the more on my return. There was a rather swingeing single room surcharge, so I asked if anyone was looking for someone to share with, and there was.

I know her, and she is friendly and delightful, but we've never had more than the briefest chat and I dithered all weekend about ringing her; for two reasons - one, did I want to share with her and two, did she want to share with me, and might I be putting her badly on the spot by asking? In the end I thought, sod it, it's a saving of over a hundred pounds for four nights and I like her, and so I rang her.

J was really pleased I'd phoned and will be delighted to share with me. We've both promised not to snore. It feels slightly weird, but then I shared a room with Wink and the Bod on the ferry to France in October and none of my bedroom arrangements will ever seem odder than that.

J's husband died earlier this year and she has been on holiday with friends since and she said the loneliest part was going back to the bedroom alone, at the end of the day to dress for dinner. This hadn't put her off another trip, but she'll be glad of my company.

Sunday 16 December 2007

Z is randomly weird

HDWK has tagged me.

1.Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2.Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3.Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4.Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

A good deal of what I write on this blog contains random facts about me - in the past couple of years I've said more about myself than I'd inflict on anyone if they were actually with me to hear it. But there's always something more if one thinks about it.

1 As a child, I had an incredibly small appetite. I thought of this when I wrote about how much Squiffany and Pugsley ate the other day. As the Boy says, where do they put it? With me, the remarkable thing is that body and soul stayed together. A sample meal - roast chicken. Mother, passing me a plate on which reposed a small thin slice of chicken and half a roast potato - "What vegetables would you like?" Z "Three peas and half a brussels sprout, please." And that would be the meal, for we never had a pudding. It still bemuses me, how much people can pack away and stay slim, when I rarely finish a plateful.

2 I have unmatching feet and hands. I know that everyone is asymmetrical, but while my left foot is larger than my right, my right hand is larger than my left.

3 My middle initial is B. My second Christian name is possibly the oddest, and certainly one of the most useless, that my parents could have thought of, whilst actually having a valid reason for choosing it. Both my sister and I have first names which, while very unusual at the time, are now quite popular. I didn't meet anyone else called Zoë until I was about 15, and then I met a girl called Zoe, short for Zohshka (I've no idea how she spelt it, but it's pronounced with a long o).

4 I have only stayed in hospital three times. Once when my daughter was born, when my second son was born (the first was born at home) and once to have a nodule removed from my vocal cords. If this gives you any suggestion that I am disgustingly healthy, it's true.

5 I am also absurdly lucky. More so than anyone deserves. I have an efficient and conscientious guardian angel who repeatedly saves me from myself and everything else.

6 I make my most important decisions purely on instinct. For example, and I think I've told you about this before too, there was the time we walked into a house, a couple of weeks after Al was born, and I said "I want to live here, can we buy it?", and we did, at the auction a couple of days later. When I said that, I hadn't gone further than the drawing room. And, eight years later, when I suggested we leave there and come to live here, I didn't know I was going to say that until I already had. My husband's response was, later the same day, to suggest we had another baby, and Ro was born 10 months later (it would have been nine months I daresay, but I was on the pill at the time of the conversation)

7 I have no hang-ups about food. For someone who likes pretty well everything, including olives, Marmite and brussels sprouts, who is unperturbed by raw meat and fish, who eats vegetables straight out of the soil (yes, I know this isn't a good idea, but it doesn't stop me), who loves the stinkiest of cheeses, the most flavoursome curries (this doesn't necessarily mean the hottest, it's the blend of spices, including the hot ones, that I like) as well as a subtle mousse or a gentle soup, for someone who will tuck into a Big Mac or fish and chips just as cheerily as the haughtiest of cuisines, there is no food I crave if I don't eat it. For the last few weeks I've been conscientiously dieting, and it's no problem at all to watch other people eat food, however much I like it, and not eat it myself. Or, to be polite, I'll have a small amount and leave the rest. I am gratified to discover that, if need be, I'll stop drinking and not really care, though I hope I won't have to.

I'm really hopeless about tagging people in case they don't like it - although I like memes myself, both doing and reading. So please feel tagged if you care to, but I won't tell you so that you don't feel obligated.

Friday 14 December 2007

Al the green grocer

I went to the weekly music lesson at school this morning, and on this occasion they were all in the classroom together. As I looked at them, a thought struck me.

Most English children have blond(e) hair, which usually darkens as they get older. This class of 13/14-year olds were two-thirds boys, one-third girls. Of the boys, one had ginger hair, one light blonde, four were blondish to light brown and the rest had dark brown or black hair. Of the nine girls, one had dark brown hair and all the others had fair or light brown hair. I scrutinised them, and one might have some highlights and another two might have lightened their hair, but (going by their eyebrows) only from mouse to blonde. No one was black or Asian.

Does anyone else know anything about this? Does boys' hair tend to darken more, or at any rate earlier, than girls? It's difficult to tell when they are older as so many women change their hair colour.

This afternoon I was most pleased, for I achieved a hill on my bike that I've never ridden up more than about a quarter of (ooh, grammar alert) until now.

And the other news of the day is that Al has put up notices in the shop, saying that from 28th January next he is not going to supply any plastic bags, even second-hand ones any more. He has agreed to blaze the Yagnub trail, because he is already known for nagging his customers to bring their own shopping baskets, as the whole town is planning to go plastic bag free in due course. He will have cloth bags for sale, at cost price, which will be £1, or bags made of cornstarch, which is biodegradable (plastic bags labelled 'degradable' only break down to fragments, they do not rot) for which he will charge, I think, 10p-20p depending on size. Apparently these bags are not particularly green to produce, so it's no good simply substituting them for free plastic bags.

I think it'll drive us all slightly nuts, but people will get used to it. I said that I appreciate him not starting this initiative at the beginning of January, as that's when I'll be looking after the shop while he's on holiday. He said that he had borne that in mind.

My cycle lamp is not really intended for cycling in the dark. It has a very narrow point of light. I like the dark and wish we had fewer street lights altogether, and that they were not on all night, but I nearly ended up in the grass several times.

By the way, there is an apology from Blogger for having altered their comments settings prematurely on accounts that were not testing the new system. In response, I suspect, to complaints and requests that we should, if we wish, still allow completely free and open commenting, there is now an option that a non-blogger can use 'anonymous' or a nickname, but someone with a non-Blogger blog can now use any open ID. Since that is what I'd asked for, I'm happy with it, but do tell me if there's a problem.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Who do you think was saved?

I went to Norwich for lunch today, so left home an hour early to do a spot of shopping first. I normally avoid the place throughout December, but it had to be done.

As I drove in, the electronic notice boards said there were spaces in all the major car parks, and I drove straight into the park underneath the library - I didn't have time to walk far. I visited several shops, largely because I couldn't find all I wanted, and not one of them was busy. Several were almost deserted. I don't know if this means that people shopped early for Christmas, will shop late or not at all, or if it's all been bought on the internet, but it really didn't have the buzz that you expect half way through December.

We were out again tonight, for the Sage's wood-turning club Christmas dinner. There is a competition, where people bring in the work they have done, and Linda and I went to have a look at the entries. I wasn't bending over the table, really I wasn't, and I was modestly dressed, but that didn't prevent me getting my bottom pinched by a (very) strange (indeed) chap I didn't know. When I turned round, he indicated another man and said he'd been bet...

Do you know, that's the third time this has happened to me. I genuinely don't understand it. I appeal to those of you who have met me - do you think I'm the sort of woman to get her bum pinched? And if I am, in what way do you suggest I change?

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Z stands her ground

This evening's meeting was the fourth in a series, one leading to another. I was the only person on all four committees, and at this one I was taxed exhaustively about certain decisions.

Although they were committee decisions and I was a mere-smear representative, we all knew that I'd played my part in the decision-making - though I will argue a case, once decided democratically, with due vigour even if I didn't actually agree with its conclusion. Nevertheless, my good and respected friend Dino made me explain and justify every aspect - and in some regards my ground was, if not shaky, not exactly rock-like either.

At the end, I suggested an alternative proposal from the one put by the committee, and this was agreed. When the meeting was over, I told Dino how greatly I'd appreciated his rôle as Devil's Advocate. I like someone who will challenge a point when it would be easier, and possibly more popular, to let it go. I appreciated his quick, in-depth appraisal and understanding of a complex matter - I can read a balance sheet too, but not understand its nuances as quickly as he does. His term of appointment is ending and he has offered to stand down - I said I would very much like him to carry on (possibly with a sideways shift to represent a different body where there may soon be a vacancy) as his experience and willingness to challenge is absolutely necessary and appreciated.

Afterwards, he invited us to his party in three weeks time.

I'm not actually argumentative, in fact. But I can, if pressed, and I am pretty damn good, and I love to find someone who can do it as well as I do. He argues in the same way as I do, tenaciously, logically, from the high ground and sticks to the point until it is addressed. No shifting of ground or digressing - or at any rate, we both return to the point if there is a drift down a byroad.

Anyway, yes, he was unnecessarily dogmatic - which he acknowledged - but his point was valid and worth debate, and I've agreed to take it back to the other committee (committee no.3, that is) for further deliberation.

When I returned outside, my bicycle saddle was covered in ice.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

The mills of parenthood grind slowly, but they grind exceeding well

I wasn't as solitary as I'd expected this morning, because Dilly rang up to ask if I had an hour or two spare to look after Squiffany...

If I'm too busy, I do say and Dilly strikes just the right balance, in that she feels free to ask but doesn't impose. Today, she had to visit the garage to have a new front light bulb fitted and then take Pugsley to the doctor for a vaccination.

Squiffany was quite happy to sit at the kitchen table painting, while I cleaned the kitchen. Then she bounced exuberantly on my bed while I tidied the bedroom. This took a while. I'm untidy.

I've rather concluded, as many grandparents must have, that while there are many pleasures and rewards to being a mother or father, the real dividends are paid when your own child becomes a parent. Grannydom is all pleasure. You can give little treats - mindful, if you have any sense, not to undermine parental rules - and have complete patience and good nature for you will give the lovely little creature back at the end of the day or the next morning.

They are easy children, I will admit. At one point, out of the blue, Squiffany started to say "I want..." she pulled herself up before she added Mummy. "Mummy won't be long, will she?" she said, in a self-reassuring tone rather than an anxious one. She is sensible and self-controlled, and Pugsley is happy-go-lucky.

I had them for several hours on Friday, which involved giving them tea. "Mummy has left some tuna and salad," I said, "Or I could do something for you?" "You please, granny," said Squiffany. I hadn't got very prepared. "I could cook eggs, or pasta..." "Yes please, I'd like spaghetti!" "I've got cheese, or I could do a meat sauce..." "Cheese and meat, please" I went and cooked.

They were both happy. "Delicious pasta, Granny, lovely tea" said Squiffany, several times. They had pasta bows, a slightly inauthentic Bolognese sauce, grated cheese, sweet potato chips and Romanesco broccoli. Then they each had a banana. They polished off a remarkable amount of food. Squiffany uses a knife and fork and sometimes a spoon and Pugsley aims with a spoon but mainly uses his fingers. I have become more relaxed about mess. I find food mess a little hard to watch, though I'm comfortable with paint and mud. However, they are so good about feeding themselves that it's worth the effort of not feeling slightly nauseous when they poke around in the pocket of their bib for the lump of dropped banana amid the pasta/broccoli slop.

Monday 10 December 2007

Half a century is nothing to the Sage

It's the Sage's turn to visit the Dark Metropolis tomorrow. He has, as ever, bought timed train tickets to enable to conduct his affairs in the least possible time, and it was only to please me, for I have been too often delayed by public transport, that he allowed an extra half hour which he confidently expects to spend cooling his heels on Liverpool Street Station. I usually work out train times at off-peak rates so that I can spend the most time for the least money, because there's always another museum or gallery or bookshop to visit, but he is rather less frivolous than I and is rarely side-tracked.

So I will be home alone - for the morning at any rate. There is much to do, but also many distractions.

I made some particularly tasty game soup this evening, which I served with cheese scones. "Cheese scones and cheese? enquired Ro, evidently thinking his mothers exuberance had got some way out of hand. I explained that there was so little cheese in the scones, so that I could explain away to myself the eating of one, that I felt I had shortchanged him and his father, so he forgave me the gastronomic tautology.

I spent a busy hour on Saturday Christmas shopping courtesy of the internet. I am going to Norwich on Wednesday to meet my sister-in-law for lunch and exchange presents, and have a couple of errands to run there. The rest I will buy in Yagnub. I cannot make a fuss about shopping, although I haven't any idea what to get for the Sage this year. The truth is that he's impossible to plan to buy for as the things that most of us think of as treats leave him more polite than ecstatic. All manly suggestions assume that every chap is a very large child or one who is fanatical about sport, or possibly alcohol, and the Sage is none of these. He is indifferent to music, reads to gain information and doesn't care for gadgets. He prefers old things to new, and particularly likes items he has had for years and is used to (he has never become entirely used to me, because I am mercurial and enigmatic, but then he wouldn't wish to become Dull). Someone complimented him on the suit he was wearing a couple of weeks back - he had had it made more than twenty years ago, which makes it one of his newer items of clothing. It still fits of course, but so does his Old Boys' Blazer, which, with his Old School Tie still gets hauled out for the occasional reunion, and he bought that back in the fifties. The nineteen fifties, that is.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Z Casts her Die

... I can never remember - is snake eyes good or bad? I think I'll stick to poker in future. You know where you are with poker.

Anyway, I have. I've emailed the Rector offering - offering, no less, such a twerp and a jackass I am - to carry on as churchwarden for another year. No, I don't know why. That is, I know the reasons and I explained them, but why I had a compulsion to do it right now, or at all without some serious grovelling by various good people, I can't imagine. You can never say that I play hard to get. Round-heeled isn't in it.

Anyway, she rang back within minutes - the Rector evidently spends her Sunday evenings, when not conducting a service, at the computer as I do. And said she has been praying that I'd make this decision. Oh thanks. That's all I needed. An answer to a prayer. No, really, I'm not too good with all this religious stuff, which is probably the reason the deity, whatever it is, and I are on quite good terms. My God is a mildly cynical god, in a most loving and accepting way - actually, I've just thought of this, think of Cosi Fan Tutte. Mozart's clear-sighted knowledge and acceptance of human frailty is ... bugger. Sorry. It may be a Sunday but I'm not doing religion for anyone.

Afterwards, I rang the Fellow (on another subject) and told him - and also said that I had yet to break it to the Sage. Who was in the room but, for he is a polite Sage and doesn't listen to phone calls unless they are his, not really listening. So let me tell him gently, in my own time. After all, the Rubicon is crossed and the bridges burned (I'm not sure that the one followed the other, but they sort of fit, if not actually historically) and he will be fine. He may not even notice.

Saturday 8 December 2007

Z appreciates the social side of cycling

The Sage woke up. "Do you have to be anywhere?" he wondered. "Don't worry, it's Saturday," I murmured, and we wrapped our arms round each other and relaxed dozily for an extra half hour. We heard the papers come, and Al leave for work and chuckled smugly, because we didn't have to move.

Later, Al came home to fetch another vanful of trees. I biked in to do my shopping. Mark, the friendly butcher, chatted cheerily about the joys of cycling. I looked at him without expression - largely because my face muscles were stunned by cold. I suggested he ask me again about the end of May.

I went and fetched lots of vegetables, plain yoghurt, kidney beans, rice cakes and bought several dozen Christmas cards. It all just fitted in the panniers, but was so heavy that I walked across the road before setting off home in case I wobbled and fell off (even when sober, I'm not all that steady). The rain had started by then and stung my cheeks icily. I was boring and dull enough to weigh the panniers when I arrived home - one was 19lbs and the other 15lbs. It wasn't something I was aware of when I shopped by car.

The water was high in the dykes as I rode across the dam. Yagnub is, on three sides, hemmed in with water meadows and a system of natural and man-made waterways, which feed the River Waveney. These often flood, but that's what they are there for. Sometimes, the surrounding fields look like huge lakes dotted with trees, but the water has to go somewhere and it helps to fill the underground natural aquifers which give us our drinking water - we don't have reservoirs around here, but nor have we ever had a hosepipe ban in this dry area of the country.

Although I was rained on, I was lucky that I arrived home when I did. Since then, it has poured.

The older women in the village are really pleased to see me out on my bike. I greeted three of them on my way in - they had all done their shopping and were on their way back by this time. Millie was fetching her bike as I parked mine. "Glad to see you've joined the club!" she said. I was fortunate enough to have a two-year-old child when I came to live here, which was a great help in getting to know people and start a social life. My mother found her entry into the village was in having a dog to walk. From the general air of warm approval and encouragement around me, using a bike is similarly engaging. If only for this, I'm glad I bought it.

Friday 7 December 2007

Thinking of my sister

My sister, Wink, rang tonight to say that our friend Dodo is in hospital. She is 95 years old, lives alone and hasn't been managing to look after herself very well for the last couple of weeks. Wink had been going to visit her last week (she lives about 50 miles away) but Dodo rang to put her off - she never says what's wrong on these occasions, just that she doesn't really feel up to visitors. She's never made a fuss and manages very capably normally, but - well, she's 95 and age is taking its toll.

Dodo was my mother's oldest friend. When they met, Mummy was 18 and Dodo was 28 and they were friends for over 60 years. She's Wink's godmother and they have always been close.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the death of Wink's husband Alan.

Love and hugs to you, Winkie darling.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Silly Bluggers

You'll be happy to know that many people are whingeing at Blogger, not only because their commenting arrangements have been arbitrarily changed but also because we have not been notified by email of the very few comments we now receive, since the commenting arrangements have been arbitrarily changed. I found, last time I checked, that the new 'anyone can put in their URL and register' thing has belatedly arrived among my options but, as I've pointed out, I don't expect people to register. I can't really be arsed with any bother - 'good enough' satisfies me (in most respects, there are instances where 'superb' is the least that will do, but in no way that need concern you) - but if it is not sorted soon I will switch. To what, I don't know and don't care, but Blogger is trying my patience.

There was a Chamber of Trade meeting last night, and there is a move afoot to make the town plastic carrier bag free. This will go down well with Al (from whom the report comes) as he has supplied none for several years, unless returned to him by customers. No problem to me either, with my bicycle panniers, which are remarkably roomy.

We have been talking about presents. I have received most of mine already, and since I am deliriously overjoyed with the least thing, I am very easy to buy for in any case. Ro has ordered his with his credit card on my account and Al wants bee-keeping stuff, but as the sale starts in January he is happy to wait. The rest of us have wishlists set up, except the Sage, who is impossible to buy for because he already has everything he wants, as long as I wrap myself in pretty paper and snuggle under the Christmas tree each year. Squiffany is majoring on bird stuff this year and Pugsley on farm stuff - I need a few more animals - so, as usual, I'm not going to fuss. My goddaughter and her bro will get money. Teenagers need and deserve money, bless them.

Ooh, the comment email thing has just come back on again. Silly tossers. Nothing was wrong until they started bluggering about with it.

Abe!



Acquired from Dave, thank you. It didn't give me an opportunity to correct the spelling mistake, but I was amused by the description.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Not the sharpest Z

I'm so slow. You know I've been meaning to take clarinet lessons again, but have been waiting until I've got time to practise a bit so as not to embarrass myself with my ineptitude. I've been told of a good teacher, but he's near Diss, 15 miles away, which is a long way to go. I've finally, finally realised it would be a good idea to ask the music teacher at the school for a recommendation. D'oh. Really, d'oh.

Excellent concert, really impressive. The kids are very good and visibly enjoy performing, without putting on any airs at all.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Season of celebration and lurginess

I've cracked the two-Christmas-dinners-in-a-day dilemma. I was so abstemious that I actually managed to leave two tables still feeling slightly hungry. I am glad of that, as I will have to do the same thing next week. Why did four societies plan celebratory meals on two days, I wonder?

I said Al and Dilly hadn't been too well yesterday - they just felt rough, nothing more and the children were fine. I spent two days with the children and I'm fine. Ro has spent the day in bed, except when he was throwing up in the bathroom. It so happened that he was working from home today; except he wasn't actually doing any work of course. Since stomach upsets, with him, turn into really bad three-day migraines, he has anti-sickness tablets from the doctor and they are, now, working. Poor bloke.

This evening, Dilly and I took the children to the Christingle service at the village church. They both enjoyed it vastly and Squiffany sang enthusiastically through the carols, undeterred by knowing neither words nor tunes. They both gazed spellbound at their lit Christingles, although Pugsley saw no reason not to put his fingers in the flame. I held it high to prevent him.

Tomorrow, it's the high school concert. I will, I know, be placed in the front row, where it is impossible to insert earplugs without being noticed. I enjoy it, rock band, jazz band, punk band, string quartet and all the rest, but my ears are unused to high volume.

Monday 3 December 2007

Z cheers Art and Z is the answer

I'm very pleased that Mark Wallinger has won the Turner prize. I wasn't sure at first if a re-creation of a protest site is an original piece of art in itself, but I was won over, not least because its installation is an important protest and statement against repression in its own right. Thanks to our present anti-democratic government's Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, the installation itself at Tate Britain, being half inside and half outside the 1 kilometre exclusion area for demonstrations, however peaceful, around Parliament Square, is in part illegal.

I haven't seen Sleeper, in which he was filmed wandering around, sometimes startling people, dressed in a bear suit, but I think Ecce Homo is the most affecting piece of work that has stood on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Very useful, by the way, to memorise who stands on the other three - hardly anyone knows considering how often the question comes up in quiz programmes.

Ooh, and I was the answer to a question on Mastermind tonight. And I fell asleep again the moment Nigella came on. She's a marvel, that woman.

The usual sort of day

I had a phone call from Al this morning, just before 8 o'clock, asking if I could go and open the shop for him as he wasn't feeling too good. I had offered last night, as both he and Dilly were under the weather then, but I sort of expected an earlier call and was settling down to eat breakfast. As it was, I dried my hair, poked various items of make-up in the general direction of my face, and was out of the house within ten minutes, taking my slice of dry toast with me.

An hour later, the shop was open, produce on the shelves and I was on my way to Norwich. I chatted to various people, drank black coffee, ignored a mince pie, asked the speaker about his credentials (fine ones, but I had to be sure of getting them right), introduced him, listened to a marvellous lecture about La Traviata, thanked him, drank two glasses of mulled wine, chatted to more people, 'interviewed' someone interested in coming on the committee, drove home, finished a letter, printed and signed it, ate a small piece of feta cheese and drove to the high school, having been in the house for five minutes.

I chanced upon the person to whom the letter was addressed, so rescued it from the secretary's office and delivered it in person, then spent the next 50 minutes with the Year 9 music lesson.

I came home and looked at emails. I even opened and read a few of them. Al rang and asked if I could go back to the shop to take over from Tim. He still feels queasy and dizzy, but better than he did. The children are fine.

I have eaten two rice cakes and am drinking tea. I feel empty but not hungry. I shall spend two more hours in the shop, come home, drink more tea, prepare and eat dinner and then start work.

I know you're all busier than I am, doing much more vital things. I merely fluff around on the surface. I'm not at all sure if I think we're marvellous, or just plain daft.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Fun at the fair

Since the good Daddy will have finished his race at least half an hour ago, I'm slightly disappointed that he hasn't yet told me how he got on. Perhaps he's busy signing autographs and stuff.

Yesterday, I went to the village school Christmas Fair (all right to use the C word now that it's December, I hope?). Squiffany and Pugsley both went to sleep after lunch, so it was getting latish in the proceedings when we set off and I didn't buy much on the stalls. I put my name to a few things though, which proved expensive.

Some years ago, the Sage was asked to auction some items given for the fair - you know, the PTA muggins goes round local businesses asking for raffle prizes, and so generous are people round here that there were more than were really needed. The Sage suggested a silent auction would do better, as it would attract people all afternoon - that is, put sheets of paper out describing the lots and ask people to put their name and the sum offered on the sheet. It can become quite competitive. The then Head didn't think much of the idea at the time, until a tableful of vouchers and prizes added a couple of hundred pounds to the takings.

So they've done it ever since. Tickets to the swimming pool, playbarn, zoo etc, vouchers from shops, tickets to an Ipswich Town football match, a couple of tonnes of gravel (a promise, it wasn't dumped in the village hall), as well as actual goods, like a large teddy bear called Brian (a very naughty boy, I understand), a vase and other goodies.

I came away with a leather shoulder bag and wallet, both slim and suitable for wearing when cycling (this has been a minor nuisance up to now), a voucher from the pet shop and a crate of St Peter's Brewery beer. Fortunately, I had my cheque book on me, as I wasn't carrying £40 in cash. Dilly spent another £20-odd, so they did well out of us.

There were knowing grins when I strode out carrying my crate of beer. I haven't, however, touched a drop as yet. It's still early though.

Run, B'daddy, Run

Today* is the Las Vegas Marathon, and our good friend Badgerdaddy is running it. In fact, he has had to rein back from the full monty (which has nothing to do with nudity, necessarily, btw) and is doing the half, but this is no less worthy of excitement and enthusiasm.

All the best, darling.

*This is slightly postdated, hem hem

Saturday 1 December 2007

Z loses her Rag

A couple of hours ago, I was in a most Filthy Temper. An hour ago, I was in despair. Now ... sheesh, I'm over it. I'll explain to the person involved - well, one of them - how she could better help me in future than to send a document in a format that doesn't suit it and which took me nearly three hours to rejig it in a way that nearly worked, before I decided to cut my losses and cut'n'paste into a different thingy (fuck, sod and drown at birth bloody Microsoft Office, may I add, by the way) which the person's predecessor had used for several years with no problem. Anyway, I'll do it nicely.

The other person who has caused my ire and despair approached me a few weeks ago ... no, that isn't fair. The person who had been stuck talking to her greeted me with vast enthusiasm (a disguise for his relief) and mentioned the subject under discussion. I allowed, with polite enthusiasm, that it interested me too, only for her to enthuse that she was planning to set up classes in this subject and she was so glad I would like to join her. By the time I realised what she was up to, I had little chance of reining back, and my so-called friend had buggered off, grinning evilly. She rang this evening, asking for my email address to send me more info and ask which days I'd be free. I replied, truthfully, that it would depend week by week - I have both regular and irregular-but-no-less-important engagements. The annoying thing is that I might be interested in the subject, were a different person to arrange it, but I did not take to her, and I am known as a person who likes almost everyone.

Anyway, having done the cut'n'paste, I've still got the work to do on the document I would have had at the start which, normally being a job I hate, seems almost a doddle in comparison to the rest of the day, which included changing my grandson's nappy. Fuck me! - that was a nasty one. If it were not for the Iron Grip of Granny, he'd have smeared it all over the bloody place too. The lad knows no shame.

You think I exaggerate? Ro has been joking to cheer me up (having previously said when, as a last resort, I asked him for help with my document, that it was in the wrong program altogether and he didn't know - and he knows more about Bloody Microsoft Office than any poor lad should have to) and he usually lets me calm down by myself.