Monday 31 March 2008

Z packs her iPod

So, tomorrow we're off to London to have a preview of a sale coming up in a few weeks - hang on, link alert... ... ... here. Start at Lot 210, because we will, although if you could do with some porcelain asparagus servers, check out the earlier lots as there are some splendid examples there. We are taking a friend and whizzing up there and back, spending a mere 4 hours in the Metropolis. Were it all down to me, I'd make a leisurely day of it and visit art galleries and meet chums, but the Sage and our friend are purposeful and so I obey, with good cheer and a willing heart, as ever.

What a lovely day today. I biked into town wearing, on top of normal attire of course, a light jacket and no gloves at all, for the first time since I started this exercise and healthy living nonsense (no, I'm no better for it: a little fitter and thinner, but still the same Z, you will be relieved to know).

I seem to have committed myself to go to a meeting in Liverpool in May. I should have booked a hotel room several months ago, like everyone else. I'll end up in some dive in a back street. Is Liverpool safe for a small and unfeisty (that's how I look, honestly) woman like me?

Sunday 30 March 2008

Springing, a leek.

A week ago, we were in winter. Today, it was a warm and sunny spring day. Whatever one thinks about English weather, it is always interesting.

Of course, today the clocks changed to British Summer Time - an hour lost, but in all other respects, all to the good. If I support the cause of Scottish Independence, which I do (only I call it English Independence), then one of the reasons is that then each country would be able to make a decision regarding the bi-annual changing of the clocks according to its own interests.

Gardened in the afternoon, and am paying for it with a very uncomfortable hip this evening, and then cooked. The Sage dug up some leeks, which are still lovely, although they will all need to be eaten before they become woody in the centre, and we had some this evening with the roast chicken (freerange, from Sutton Hoo), roast potatoes and cauliflower (which, like the potatoes, was grown 6 miles away). I have made soup with the rest of the leeks, and a Bolognese sauce with the beef I bought on Saturday. Since I'm expecting a busy week, I am feeling awfully smug at the thought of all the meals I've prepared ahead. Though tomorrow, the meat will be stripped from the chicken and the bones will make stock for more soup. A frugal soul I am, and we eat the better for it.

Having said that, the garden is getting away from me badly. I just can't do the digging any more, nor can I even carry anything heavy - fine if it's bags by my side, but I can't carry anything much ahead of me in my arms. Most frustrating, as I am perfectly well and strong. We know how we'd like to solve the garden problem, but it's a pipe dream at present and not to be resolved yet. I'll just have to teach Squiffany and Pugsley how to garden. Pugsley is good at filling seed trays with compost, and Squiffany is reasonably adept at sowing seeds in them, but I think they need a rake, a hoe and lessons in telling weeds from vegetable seedlings.

Saturday 29 March 2008

Shame about the Boat Race? - not at all...

The Sage was in London today so I had to amuse myself. Happily, he arrived home before 5 and has amused me ever since.

I watched the Boat Race. The Sage supports Cambridge and I support Oxford. We are both highly partisan, but extremely polite and so have to pretend not to be interested at all. Cambridge were on the side of the river that should have ensured they won, but they didn't. I casually told the Sage, giving The Other Place (my father would actually not mention its name and I never visited Cambridge in his lifetime) full credit for a valiant attempt. When I was a child, a bottle of champagne was placed in the fridge on Boat Race day and fetched out in time for the race - but if Cambridge won, it was silently put away again. Since Oxford rarely won in the '60s, the champagne mostly lived to sparkle another day.

Friday 28 March 2008

Look at ME, Granny...

Dilly was out today, so I looked after the children, who behaved impeccably. We played in their house and mine, they bounced on my bed, played hide and seek with two duck-shaped pencil sharpeners and a small wooden Indian elephant, had lunch and, in Pugsley's case, a nap and played with Playdough for an hour until Dilly came home. Then she and I wanted to talk, so Squiffany became noisy and boisterous, as she was no longer centre of attention. It wasn't that she was receiving none at all - we were talking to her too and joining in their games, but our minds were drifting away from babyness and she didn't appreciate it.

The catalogue of an auction in London arrived today, so the Sage has been engrossed in it most of the day. We're going to have a look at the china next week - not the official viewing days for a few more weeks, but if you ask nicely, they'll put it on show for you. Three of us are going together, so it'll be worth their effort - it's certainly something we do for clients.

Not much else - horrible weather and I stayed home. I haven't sown any seeds in the garden yet - vegetables will be late this year. No point in doing so when the weather is so cold and I am not too bothered about it. Now that August is a fairly exciting month in this family (two weddings in three years and, this year, a baby to come), I have more to do than water greenhouses and pick the crops and I'll do what I can and not worry about the rest. The kitchen garden is designed to be neglected once in a while without becoming unmanageable.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Just call me Lucky...when you consider the alternative

Friends of ours called in this evening to look at the china for the next auction. She has severe rheumatoid arthritis and can't get about easily, although she is younger than me, so it is helpful for her not to have to rely on being well enough to come to the sale. The first time they came, they had never handled a piece of L'stoft before, so I sat them down and took them everything, a piece or two at a time. The best way to learn about china is to handle it and look at it, and now they know a great deal.

"The Sage says that you had a bad fall?" I said sympathetically. She started to tell me about it "...of course, this was while we were still living away as our house was being repaired..." "whoa, I don't know about this," I interrupted.

Now, if you or I ever complain about a run of bad luck, compare with this before feeling hard-done-by.

In November, cracks appeared in the walls - in one bedroom, the ceiling and the wall parted company, so that the roof was not really being held up by anything at all. Subsidence was blamed and the insurance company sent the builders in. Our friends thought the large willow tree on the other side of the road, on council-owned land, might be to blame, but the insurance company reckoned it was the shrubs, dwarf conifers and escallonia, euonymous and that sort of thing, none above 8' high, in the garden and required them all to be removed.

While the work was being done and pile-drivers were being used, the vibrations made a ceiling fall down. At the time that the house was built, Artex ceilings contained asbestos, so they were told they would have to vacate the property until the work was finished. They had to have their furniture put in store and move out. A water pipe was also cracked by the vibration, so the parquet floor was also damaged.

They moved into a house by the river near Norwich. They have stayed there before, the Christmas before last, and like it very much and were able to book it for three months. Unfortunately, within a few days A, the husband, slipped as he came out of the door. One leg shot sideways and the other forward and he landed heavily on his knee. He hadn't broken anything but it was severely strained and (he is a teacher) he had to have the last fortnight of term off.

In January, D, the wife, came out of the house to drive to her appointment with her rheumatologist, and slipped on a piece of wood that keeps the door from opening too wide. Just like A, her fall was broken by railings, but unfortunately it was her face that met them. She severely bruised her cheek and broke three front teeth, as well as badly bruising her legs.

When they went back to their own house, they found that the storage company, chosen by the insurance company, had damaged most of the furntiture, with lost bits of veneer, scratches and the like. It's all antique and can't simply be replaced.

His knee is better, but still not right.

She still has a strapped right wrist, a bruised and painful right cheekbone and her teeth are loose. If she needs dental surgery, it will cost several thousand pounds and she will have to sue the owners of the holiday house - they're insured, but it's embarrassing.

This week, their vacuum cleaner broke down, so their cleaner offered to bring in her Dyson. Within moments, it had torn a banana-shaped and sized piece out of the carpet. Dyson is quibbling and is sending someone round to check the machine, interrogate the cleaner, look at the contents of the Dyson and see if there's any possible way of blaming anyone or anything but the machine (I've nothing against Dyson, I'm just reporting).

A and D are remarkably cheerful under the circumstances.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Power of Tilly

She really can make me do anything, can my little dog. She decided it was dinner time, some three hours early. She doesn't bother me, she never whines nor paws me. She looks at me and wags her tail, and if I tell her to go away, she goes. On this occasion, I held out for half an hour.

I obeyed in the end, though.

Maybe, later, she'll let me come on the sofa with her for a cuddle.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Sooty and Sweep

I know that there's not a blogger in the world who doesn't, or at any rate hasn't read Dooce. And I wonder all the more why Tilly wore a hole in the carpet in one corner a couple of years ago, when there really was nothing there. When she stared at a cupboard, we cleared it out until a mouse ran out, which Tilly managed to miss. No, I don't know where it went. But the innocent corner? ... anyway, we don't ignore our dog when she's trying to tell us something, but it's never likely to be a raccoon living in our chimney.

Squeezing the poor until the pips squeak*

The church treasurer has been round with forms for me to sign, to change standing orders to pay the church administrator and cleaner. Both of them, part-time workers (one with another part-time job too) will receive less money in future, although they received a cost-of-living wage increase in January.

You remember last year's Budget, the last that Mr Brown prepared? At the end, he announced that the base rate of tax would go down from 22% to 20%, quite wrong-footing the Leader of the Opposition who had to give an instant critical reply - and wrong-footing the Leader of the Opposition is an absolutely appropriate thing for the Chancellor to do. But not, I think, by leaving out an important fact, which I read about in the paper the next day. The 10% tax rate for lower-paid workers was being eliminated and, as soon as they had enough to pay tax at all, they would pay 20% like the rest of those of us who are on basic rate.

This means that, from this April, people earning enough to pay tax but less than £15,000 per annum will pay more. Helping people out of the poverty trap? I don't think so.

*Denis Healey denies, by the way, saying "Squeezing the rich until the pips squeak", but says that Lloyd George said it back in the 1920s. However, I suspect it will remain indelibly associated with him.

Monday 24 March 2008

Ooh, photos!!(!)

It was a beautiful sunny morning but there had been, unexpectedly, a snowfall in the night. I trotted out soon after 8 o'clock to take a picture, and it was already starting to drip from the trees. A few minutes later, Al's front door opened and he came out with the children and they started to build a snowman together. Dilly had gone to spend the night with her sister as they had something on this morning and she didn't want to make an early start in the frost.

There are better photos, but they show the children's faces, and Al's, and I don't think he would like me to post them. I am tantalising you with a glimpse of the mysterious and wonderful Sage.

My sister and I were grumbling about increased costs this morning and agreeing that we were both thinking before we spent money. A couple of years ago, for instance, when I first bought my present car, it cost £40 to fill it. Last autumn, it crept above £50. Now, it costs £60. Then I read this in the paper. And we shut up and wiped our eyes.

She's at work tomorrow, so she left for Wiltshire after breakfast. It's been duller without her...

Sunday 23 March 2008

Easter Sunday

It's snowing!!(!)

It missed us all winter, but now Spring is here, it's snowing.

Build a lovely snowman, darlings, and I hope you have a very happy Easter.

love from Z

Saturday 22 March 2008

Z drops by, briefly

Today, I've been flower arranging, babysitting, cooking, eating, drinking, playing games and chatting.

Not much time for writing. I haven't even read the papers.

I have, however, already prepared the vegetables for tomorrow's lunch, so I'm feeling quite good-housekeeperish.

Numerous annoyances of the smaller sort in the past few days, so best to shut up now before I start to whinge about them all.

Happy Easter, darlings

xx Z

Friday 21 March 2008

Most bemusing description...

...of the Last Supper that I'll ever read, I should think. From The Times television pages -

Jesus enjoys a final meal with His Disciples before being betrayed by Judas.

Enjoys a final meal? Sounds more like a stag night than anything I've ever read in the Gospels.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Happy Birthday, dear Squiffany...

Our little girl is 3 today.

Last night, she helped Al and Dilly wrap a couple of presents for Pugsley, so that he would not feel left out (and not try to help open hers). This morning, she was up bright and early at her parents' bedside, wanting to give them to him. They went into the sitting room. She was chattering happily "Look, Pugsley, here are some presents for you because it's my birthday, come on and open them." "What about your presents, Squiffany?" said her father. She looked around. A chair was adorned with balloons and piled with parcels. "What's that? Has Father Christmas come?"

It had slipped her mind that you receive rather than give presents for your birthday. She soon adjusted to the idea though, and started unwrapping.

"Oh! That's lovely! It's just what I've always wanted - is it a game, Mummy?" Everything she opened was 'just what she'd always wanted'.

She's having a succession of small parties - one at toddler group this morning, another in the early afternoon and a third later on, when another friend is home from school. We're going at about 3 o'clock, when I get home from lunch.

I decided to buy art & craft-y things and some books. I went to both the toy and the art department of the only large family-owned department store left in the centre of Norwich. Everything aimed at small children was emblazoned "No Mess!", being designed to offer as little creativity and fun as possible. I put together some glittery paint, coloured paper and card, coloured pipe cleaners, tissue and crepe papers, some templates, pens and coloured pencils, playdough with cutters, glitter, confetti, cotton wool balls, a sponge and some brightly coloured brushes, wooden lolly sticks, a book on craft ideas (aimed at a rather older child, but there just wasn't anything and her mother can simplify it), a couple of story books and a cook book and have wrapped them all in bright paper with no sticky tape (so she can reuse it) and arranged them in a box.

A little book (The Owl and the Pussycat) and some coloured pencils and a colouring book for Pugsley.

And I'll offer my services for when they want to get messy. Fortunately, their mother and father are all in favour of creative mess.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Z loses it again

I've been losing things again. I thought I was all set for this afternoon's meeting, until I looked for the paperwork, which the chairman had gone through with me thoroughly last Thursday. It could only have been in one of three rooms, but I couldn't find it. I quickly eliminated the drawing room, because it was quite tidy and anything out of place would have been obvious. The kitchen was also tidy by my standards, so a search didn't take long. The study took longer. Ages. I'd been going through some papers over the weekend, so the usual vertical structure had been disturbed - and then, when I was printing out the address labels for our auction catalogue, with one page to go the printer decided it had run out of ink (my old printer was polite enough to squeeze out just enough ink, but this one is a beast, although it's the same make) and I had to take a tottering pile of *stuff I need* off it to open it up. Eventually, I gave up and went and searched all the places I'd already looked and then, as a last resort, looked at the place the Sage keeps Stuff in the kitchen, and there it was.

At the meeting, amongst other matters, we discussed the recent Ofsted inspection - the result is officially out today, although it's the last day of term, so the pupils and parents haven't heard it yet. At a later stage in the meeting, I mentioned the recent school production of Jesus Christ, Superstar, which was superbly done. The Head said that he'd firmly led the inspector in to a rehearsal -"just for five minutes" he told his colleagues. Forty-five minutes later, they sent for him. He declared it "Outstanding." "You can tell he works for Ofsted," mused a governor. "Anyone else would have said 'Great, superb'". "I expect he says that to his wife, too," I added "when she serves a particularly delicious meal". The Head looked a bit alarmed. "I wondered what you were going to say then". I can't deny it, the first thought that had come into my mind was a touch less suitable for a governors' meeting. However, as ever I went on the attack. "You'd not have thought that if Mary had said it," I accused.

Later, I chatted to Dilly, and told her about my missing papers. It wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't been chairing the meeting, but I'd have been stuffed without them. I told her where they had been found "Ah. That was me. I cleared the kitchen table on Saturday for lunch...sorry". I assured her that I didn't mind at all. I was only glad that it wasn't I who had put them in the wrong place.

Lunch with my luncheon club, for I am that sort of Laydee, tomorrow. Actually, it will be a sad occasion. One of our number, a lovely person whom we'd known for nearly twenty years, died last week following a fall down concrete steps. Although in her 80s, she was in good health and cheerful spirits and it's been a great shock for us all. We particularly feel for her sister, who was with her at the time.

On the 20th year of using a Mac

Dilly emailed me last night to ask how to put the dots on my name. I replied that, on a Mac, it's alt+u, then the letter - e for a diaeresis or u for an umlaut, but I didn't know for a PC. I googled to find out. For a ë, one way of doing it is Alt + 137. But each letter has a different combination of three numbers and, capitalised, another set again. Unless you use them all, all the time, you couldn't possibly remember them. But the Mac makes sense - it's the option key and c for a cedilla, because you're most likely to want one under a c and Alt+e for an acute accent, and so on.

I wonder, if Macs hadn't been there, whether PCs would be so easy to use now as they are?

Tuesday 18 March 2008

The best medicine?

Okay, to cheer us all up...

When my mother came out of hospital, we felt quite cheerful - only a few days earlier she had been very close to death, but a stent and a couple of litres of blood had perked her up no end. She, my sister and I coped with it best with black humour and there were a lot of funeral and cancer jokes - though that was between the three of us; when a quite close friend tried to join in the hilarity we felt it hit the wrong tone entirely.

One day, the phone rang. Mummy was in bed and Wink and I were both sitting in the elegant but not very comfortable Edwardian armchairs in her bedroom. Mummy picked up the phone - it was evidently someone wanting to send her raffle tickets to sell for charity. She listened politely and then replied "I'm afraid I'll have to say no - I'm rather ill and only just out of hospital". "We've got until December 17th before the draw takes place," said the caller brightly. "Unfortunately," said my mother fruitily, but with great kindness, "I may not have until December 17th myself."

Embarrassed apologies and goodbye and the phone went down. All three of us fell about laughing. We were still chuckling when the phone rang again a minute later. Mummy picked it up and said 'Hello." A squawk of dismay and another apology from the horrified chugger, who had been so flustered that she'd redialed.

We nearly cried with laughter. For days later, one of us would recall it and snort again with mirth.

Monday 17 March 2008

Five years

As you may know, I only note good anniversaries on the whole, but the exception is today, it being the fifth anniversary of the death of my mother.

She'd lived with us, in a Granny annexe, for 15 years, though she didn't much enjoy it - she felt that she'd rather lost her identity, living in her son-in-law's house, amongst other things, and she'd not been well at all for several years. She had numerous tests, but it was not until she became acutely ill in the September that a secondary cancer was found in her pancreas and we were told that the longest she could hope to live was 6 months. She had a stent put in to keep the bile duct open and was given painkillers and sent home. This was fine, I could look after her and we accepted the situation.

I've sometimes wondered whether to write about it all, but I'm not sure what I'd be doing it for. But I will say this - those final six months were fabulous. She became remarkably well and even was able to drive again. I cooked all her food - she had to have a very low fat diet and had become rather faddy about food in the years when she had cancer somewhere in her digestive system, so was often ill after eating: she blamed the food rather than her body because so many tests had come up negative. I'm adept at managing any type of diet as a result and never forget an allergy or preference. You want no gluten, no dairy, high protein, low GI, no nuts, fish or sugar, I'm your girl and will incorporate it into a meal with none of the other diners being aware of it.

Anyway, she was fine and, as the doctor had told us, she died quickly - she felt unwell on the Wednesday evening, was finally given a morphine pump on Saturday midday and died soon after midnight on Sunday morning. Quite a weekend, that, for another reason too - I'll probably tell you about it some day. I could also tell you about her funeral, which was exceeded in complexity only by that of the Queen Mother.

I don't know if you've noticed, but doctors like a neatness in their estimations. They'll say "it might be three days, it might be three weeks", for example. In her case, when she asked - as you do, I think it's irresistible even though you know it's pointless - how long she might live, the young doctor said "six weeks to six months". It just so happened that he said that on 17th September 2002, which was a neat coincidence.

Sunday 16 March 2008


As ever, the Sage was marvellous. I left a request that the pork should be put in the oven at 11 and the potatoes at 12.30. I finally arrived home at 1 o'clock, to discover that the potatoes were coming on nicely, so were the parsnips (which I hadn't mentioned as I expected to be home somewhat earlier) and that he had decided that the meat was cooked and had removed it from the oven. He was right.

Lunch was on the table at 1.30 sharp (I plan food to be ready on time, I can't help it. Synchronised cooking is a habit too ingrained to break). We ate in the kitchen, as the dining room table is occupied at present. The kitchen table seats 6 and there were 9 of us, so a small mahogany table was brought in from the drawing room and Pugsley used a high chair so that we could all sit together.

The loin of pork weighed 3.6 kilos at the start, but an hour later there was nothing left but bones, and great bowls of vegetables vanished too*. Pugsley unexpectedly discovered that carrots are delicious and ate a great deal of them.

Everything got washed up or stacked in the dishwasher as it was finished with. Usually, I find a few dismally forgotten crocks on the dining table the next day.

Several members of the family have birthdays in the next few weeks, so Squiffany and her mother had made and decorated a lemon cake, which we ate on Saturday. Come to think of it, the weekend rather revolved around food.

A busy few weeks coming up. If I had any sense, I'd concentrate on work and not blog until after Easter, at least.

See you tomorrow, darlings.

*The vegetables. The bowls were left.

Saturday 15 March 2008

Z is excited

"Will you tidy up for my visits, when I've left home?" enquired Ro. "Probably," I answered. He'd noticed. El and Phil are visiting this weekend and the kitchen was looking markedly less clutterful. "Maybe you do it because of Phil" he mused "...but then you don't bother for Dilly. Must be because it's a special occasion." I agreed. Once he's moved out and it's a treat for him to visit, then I'll tidy. Right now, he adds to the clutter.

He's got a large bedroom, but somehow he needs to spread out a bit. I went into the spare bedroom to dust it this morning and found his clean washing spread out all over the bed, presumably so that it won't get creased before he gets around to folding it. This is perfectly sensible and I don't mind in the least, but it would be good if it had occurred to him to put it all away last night.

I'm just off to tidy the bedroom, I've got half an hour before leaving for the station. It's lovely when the family comes to stay.

Friday 14 March 2008

Z is left holding 28 very big babies

I left for the high school in adequate time, but I arrived a few minutes late - first I was stopped by a friend who had some papers for me ... I said I'd call back ... and then I was held up by roadworks. The road was so narrow that there wasn't room for me to go on the inside of the queue of cars. At one point, I did, but then would have delayed the car I'd over (or under) taken. I looked back and a smiling lady was waiting, but I waved her on. I'm not that cheeky.

There was a written exercise this morning so the teacher, with exceptional trust, left me with the class for a few minutes while she went to do some printing for tonight's performance of the school play (which I saw last night and was superb). Of course, during that time the head called in and looked amused to see me in sole charge. He left me to it - another one who overestimates my power over 14-year-olds. They were all behaving themselves at the time, mind you. A couple of lads are trying to push buttons, quite good-humouredly, but there's no chance of me rising to the bait. They didn't get a lot of work done, but most of the class did. The teacher says that they are the trickiest Year 9 class this year, but I must say that they are a good bunch. Some of them don't have great attention spans, but there's no malice and no bad behaviour apart from general mild exuberance. One lad, addressed by name, tried to convince me that his name was another one...sure, good try. I explained that there are some people whose names stick in the mind quite quickly. One girl, on the other hand, showed me her work at the end and asked if it was all right. It was neat, beautifully presented and had good content and I was impressed.

Dilly had yet another hospital appointment - her MRI scan was inconclusive and the consultant was apologetic. A biopsy comes next. She's fine - I'll tell you about it when I know what's what.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Matt is kind to Z and Matt is kind to Z

I bought fish from the market and chatted to Matt, the fishmonger for a few minutes. I said I'd forgotten it was Thursday, so was glad I'd happened to come into town in time to see him - he usually starts to pack up about midday. I went and fetched fruit and veg from Al and then, as I packed it all in the panniers, he called again "Was it you who asked me for bloaters* a while ago?" No, it wasn't, but I'd have some if he'd got them, I replied. I love bloaters, they remind me of my Lowestoft childhood - although bloaters are most associated with Great Yarmouth.

He took a pair and started to wrap them. I reached for my wallet. "No, that's all right, have them on me." He was adamant and I could only thank him.

Next, I cycled up to the bike shop as my bicycle needed some adjustments. The back mudguard was catching the wheel slightly, as I had one heavy item to take home the other day and a weight in one pannier only must have shifted things a bit. The back wheel needed a tweak too. Matt in the cycle shop opened the door to me. I'd expected to leave the bike while I went to my meeting, but he said he'd see to it straight away. Ten minutes, and he was done, having also oiled the chain and pumped up the front tyre. He put the panniers back on. "Blimey, they're heavy." I explained that that was a normal day's food shopping - we eat a lot of vegetables..." I took out my wallet - "No, that's all right, no trouble" he said. "Are you sure," I asked, feeling embarrassed, "it took you some while." He wouldn't take anything and, again, all I could do was say thank you.

I trust their generosity doesn't send them out of business, I'd feel awfully guilty.

*I suspect few of you young people have ever tasted a bloater. They are smoked herrings but, whilst kippers are split and gutted and smoked, bloaters are smoked whole, and the guts give them a more gamey flavour. I'm sure my mother used to cook them whole too, but I take the innards out before I cook them. They are very bony, but delicious. Buckling are also smoked herring, but they have received a hot smoke, so can be eaten without further cooking.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

No rest for Z

The Sage has just left to catch the 9.17 Diss to London train. It's blowing a gale and I've asked him to phone once he arrives at the station. I don't think I'll stop worrying until he arrives home this evening.

I'm staying put right here. He's gone in my car and I can't bike in this. I have no excuse at all not to catch up with all my work.

I went to bed early last night, before 11 pm. You know the saying that each hour's sleep before midnight is worth two after? Well, it needs to be. Whenever I'm foolish enough to have an early night, I'm awake for ages in the small hours. Glad we moved the bed though - a howling wind from nearly 20 feet away is quite different from one right behind your head.

It's odder than I thought it would be, being on the 'wrong' side of the room. I am, of course, on the same side of the bed, but it doesn't feel like it.

I'll go and make breakfast now and read the papers. No need for an early start, is there?

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Z relinquishes the reins

The other thing that marked yesterday was a change in position for me, both literally and in my mind. Not that the Sage has any idea of the significance of this, because it's not as if it *matters* - but there's some symbolism in there somewhere.

You see, for the past 33 years, I've always slept on the side of the bed nearest the door. I can't remember which side I slept before, because it didn't matter, but from the time that we had a child sleeping in another room, I've always been near enough to get out quickly in case of an emergency. It wasn't always me who got up, by the way; the Sage took his turn when illness struck (a child wails and the first to wake rushes off to help) but ..... well, I suppose I saw the night watch as my responsibility.

I like moving the furniture around periodically. At one time, I used to do it frequently, and when the Sage worked full-time he never quite knew what he'd come back to. I'd edge a huge piece of furniture onto a bit of carpet to give me some purchase and heave it across the room, or into another room come to that; preferring to do it by myself so that I could try it out and see if it worked and if not, put it back so that I wouldn't be a nuisance by bothering someone else with my whims. So the bed wasn't always on the same wall, and the same side wasn't always to the door. But, right or left, that was 'my' side, even when the children were grown up and gone.

This time, on moving the bed, I casually asked "which side?" and the Sage chose left, which is where he'd been already, and so now he sleeps by the door. And I've let go.

No big deal, really. Just thought I'd mention it.

Monday 10 March 2008

Z & the Sage hope for a quiet night

What I wrote yesterday, with your thoughtful comments, reminded me of something I've been meaning to mention; though it isn't directly linked, merely a nudge to my mind.

I want to be quite careful not to imply more than I mean to see, although I don't at all need looking after, and I wasn't thinking or talking about me in that post, there are things I've recently been finding it awkward to do. I can't carry heavy things in front of me, for example. And it's brought out a very protective and caring side in the Sage.

I've mentioned before that he's quite a few years older than me, though bouncing with rude health as ever; but I've started to look after him a bit more over the last couple of years - I don't let him up ladders too often but climb them myself, things like that. But now he's started to look after me. He wouldn't let me carry the hoover upstairs this morning, for example - or down again (he let me use it, however) and when there were drawers to remove and put back from a chest of, he insisted on doing them all himself. We were moving furniture at the time.

He isn't overprotective and doesn't fuss - I'd hate it and it isn't his way - but I can see that it is quite bringing out the manly caring side, and it's awfully sweet. You see why I don't want to overstate this: in no sense am I suggesting that he 'likes' having me a bit less capacitated than I used to be, only that he's remembered how he likes to look after me, when we'd got a bit more used to me looking after him.

Anyway, the furniture moving. Our bedroom is a bit of a nuisance. On one wall, there is the door to the attic, the door to the cupboard staircase (Tudor house, used to have 8 or 9 of them), the fireplace (boarded over - removable board because birds fall down the chimney sometimes) and what was a large cupboard, now a shower cubicle which, between them, take up the whole wall. The two walls at right angles to that have a window in each, one has a large built-in wardrobe and the other has the door opening onto it; both have the uprights holding the central beam halfway along. The fourth wall has the door to the landing. We move our bed periodically from the first (in front of the fireplace) to the fourth wall, which are the only two options. Trouble is, when there's a gale, the wind whistles down the chimney and shrieks into our ears behind us and keeps us awake. So I decided today was the day to move it from Wall 1 to Wall 4, as the present high wind is likely to continue for a couple more nights. The bed itself is sizable - not unlike this one, if 5" means kingsize, but ours doesn't have drawers, or a headboard come to that (it's the same make and model, but a couple of decades on) but the most awkward thing to move is a very heavy washed Chinese rug, 12'x9', which takes up a fair bit of the room between the bed and the opposite wall. We have to move the furniture, roll up the carpet, move the bed, pull the carpet across to the other side of the room, move more furniture, unroll the carpet - hoovering all the bits that are usually hidden, turning the mattress and all the other useful things one does at these times. I was going to hold a competition and ask you how many books were on my bedside table (it's a Victorian commode, actually, but not used as such) but I'm too embarrassed, so I'll just say that I'm in the process of reading seven of them.

Anyway, the whole job took two hours because I took the opportunity to sort through clothes as well. I'd intended to do ironing this afternoon, but I sort of couldn't be bothered (I'm minding my language, because Dave is a good influence) so I've been listening to music and catching up on blogs. I could have cleaned more of the house, but, well, was that ever likely?

Sunday 9 March 2008

For once, not all about Z

I cycled past a friend, who was walking her dog, and we waved to each other. Several years ago, her husband, who was then in his mid-sixties, had a severe stroke and she looked after him for several years before he had to be admitted into permanent residential care. She still visits him frequently, but has had to rebuild her life.

It can't be easy, can it? He wasn't an easy person even before he was ill, but afterwards it was hard for an independent and proud man to accept constant help and support, even from his nearest and dearest. When he first came home from hospital, she was offered help by social services, but she was so pleased to have him home and was optimistic, and turned it down. As life became more of a grind, she wished she hadn't - it can be more difficult to get help when there isn't an apparent increased need. He'd lost the use of one arm and was given physiotherapy and exercises to do, but he didn't like them. She told me that, once, he succeeded in moving his arm, but said it had hurt and he wouldn't try again; but the best chance of regaining movement is in the first year and if it's left too long a permanent disability remains. It's hard to understand why he would rather bear that than go through temporary pain, but it can be easier to criticise than to comprehend.

Eventually, as I said, she couldn't cope physically and he has settled down into nursing care. And I've always wondered how she felt as time went on - is relief tinged or even blighted by guilt? It shouldn't be; she had done absolutely all she could and still cares for him as much as ever. But friends whose spouses or parents have died after a long illness have found the same thing: that having your life back isn't as simple as it sounds. It can be difficult to learn to enjoy yourself again.

Saturday 8 March 2008

Z the Busker

I found a message on the answerphone when I got home at about 4.30, giving me the hymns for tomorrow. Now, I'd only been out for an hour - that's a bit late to give the organist the hymn numbers, but I'm easy-going and I don't really mind. I'm interested to see, however, that I don't know any of them. It was too late for me to feel willing to go down to the church and practise, and my piano is still away being repaired*

I looked at the music a little while ago and all except the last look quite playable at sight, so I'll go with it. However, if I don't know them, neither will most of the congregation. Should be fun, I'm quite happy.

I was chatting to the assistant whom Al has engaged for alternative Saturday afternoons - I hope he will offer him more hours before long, because he is a Good Lad. When I told him I'm a governor at his school he said, with a measure of enthusiasm, "Cool!" He has put his name down for the BTech in Construction at the ... oh sorry, I fear the Power of Google, so I won't say the name ... it's a purpose-built establishment, offering courses in Construction, Engineering, Motor Mechanics, Hairdressing and Catering; all 2-year courses which, successfully completed, equate to 2 GCSEs and it's run by Lowestoft college for students from Yagnub and Selcceb. We talked about bricklaying, and I admitted an interest in several of the courses, having been shown round the centre. I can cook and I don't want to hairdress, but the others interest me vastly. I'd love to have a go.

*actually, I suspect it still hasn't been touched, but there is still 10 months to go before the Wrath of Z is engaged.

Friday 7 March 2008

Dumb and Dee?

I realised that I needed to alter the timeclock so that the church heating would come on early on Sunday, for the monthly 8am service, so I cycled into Yagnub for the key to the church rooms (another story, won't digress). I discovered that the heating was on, and was told that the Youth Group had something on in the church later.

At about half-past nine, I got twitchy. I had an uncharacteristically unlazy urge to go and check that the heating had been turned off again, so pedalled off to check. It was embarrassing that the Fellow and his lovely wife hadn't left yet, and I had to own up that I was checking up on them. They laughed at me, which was entirely deserved, and the Fellow wondered if he should have told me about the event. Of course not, I reassured, and then remembered to mention that someone was coming in to check the sound system the next day, so I'd removed the microphones from the safe and left them in the locked vestry (that was the reason for the Lending of the Keys). "Ah," he said in a 'that explains it' voice. "You put them back" He had. He went to get them out again. Lovely wife noted that we are, as churchwardens, two of a kind. I suggested that our control freakery is increasing to the extent that we may never let anyone take over from us.

I can't remember why I mentioned to him that he is, for blogging purposes, known as the Fellow, but he looked slightly startled. Later, I emailed to explain that I don't talk about him much, and quoted what I'd previously said (nothing personal and always complimentary).

In other news, Al's brief slot on Radio Broadland* went well and was noticed, it seemed, because he has been asked to appear again next Monday, and has been promoted from 7.30am to the afternoon show. I trust the publicity will not go to his head.

*Link for Dave, who CBATG.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Video will never kill the radio star

The hot news for tomorrow morning is that Al will be on Radio Broadland around 7.30, when he will take part in the quiz on Rob'n'Chrissie's show, 'Over, Under, Or.' Apparently, they will ask how many plastic bags Al has saved in the six weeks he has been plastic bag free. He keeps a tally, it seems, and knows. So the question will be asked and his interview will give the answer. This splendid show, which I've not had the pleasure of listening to yet, because I'm a Radio 4 girl at heart, is available live on the internet, so you can all listen to him, darlings; assuming you have read this before 7.30 am GMT on Friday.

Otherwise, I've been mightily annoyed by the vicissitudes of life, mainly technology, but it's all sorted now and I have mellowed nicely. My iPod, which seemed for a while to be terminally buggered, is working again and I have finally persuaded the camera and the computer to live together in harmony. A large pine tree, which we were rather worried might fall on the house, has been felled and had a large crack vertically through the trunk, so we're mighty pleased that we learned from the near-disaster of one barely missing Al & family's house last winter and cut this down in time.

Dilly is taking on the chin the news that she has carpel tunnel syndrome in her right arm, although it wasn't actually what she was being tested for - a sort of bonus, really, you might say.

Wednesday 5 March 2008


I have done no work today. Nothing. And then I needed to find something, so went through the pile on my desk - I found it, but now have lost everything else. The chronological integrity of the pile has been disturbed and all sense of structure has gone. This means that I'll have to tidy it all properly tomorrow.

The good news is that I've finally got around to putting photos onto the computer that have been hanging around since October, so I'll finally see my Loire holiday pictures.

I went off to the Year 9 Options evening at the high school, which helps to inform the choices of the unfortunate children who have to decide what GCSEs they wish to take. They have to take certain subjects but can choose the rest, within limits; that is, not all combinations of subjects are available because there are 1000 pupils in the school and timetabling is complicated, but every effort is made to be helpful.

I can't say anything about Ofsted, because I'm not allowed to, sorry. I did make the Head sit down and eat a sandwich though, which was probably the first thing he'd eaten all day. I didn't watch him eat it, though I threatened to, but I hung round near his office for a good five minutes afterwards and he didn't come out, so I'm reasonably sure he had something to eat. I know what it's like, he'd gone way past hungry, but I explained that I expect him to be back at work within 12 hours and that he should be fit for it. I normally would go down the motherly route, but he's hardly younger than I am, it isn't appropriate; nor is flirtatious (unprofessional), so I was simply bossy. I mean assertive.

The children, whom I babysat most of the day, were adorable as ever, although Squiffany was annoyed when I wouldn't let her watch a DVD at 10 am. She is good at self-control and wasn't rude or tearful, but stomped off to her bedroom where I heard her muttering to herself crossly. I went through after a few minutes suggesting a walk to the playground with Tilly, and she was pleased with that...later, I suggested that there was a half-hour free for the DVD, so I put myself right back in favour. After our walk, with swing, slide and seesaw, we came home for orange juice and biscuits and a bounce on the bed - I need show little imagination in our recreation. "Biscuit, biscuit" said Pugsley, until he saw the orange in my hand ... "Juice, juice, juice!" he corrected himself enthusiastically.

He's not bad on self-control, either. His mother popped out to move the car seats from her car to mine, and he thought she had gone away without saying goodbye. "Mummy will be back in a minute" I told him. "In a minute, in a minute, in a minute..." he muttered, over and over until he had convinced himself, so he was smiling when she came back and was able to wave her goodbye.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Z feels confused

My meeting this morning took place on the further side of Norwich, so the host gave us lunch afterwards to restore us before our journeys home. Therefore, it was getting on for four o'clock by the time I rolled home, where I was greeted by the Sage saying "tea?" Fine man, the Sage. Tilly politely wagged her tail, also saying "tea?" but she was hoping for a meal.

I sat down to peer at emails, one of which asked if I'd be free tomorrow evening instead of a night in the wilds of'll get it out of the way, I suppose; it's governor duty. My mind was still full of the business to be done as a follow-up to this morning - but the Sage was waving sheaves of paper. On one was the hand-written catalogue which needed to be typed up quam celerrime and on the other was a message from M, the chairman of governors, asking for some information from a meeting in November. M rang back. I was able to find the notes and email them to her, and we talked through the meetings, remembering more specific details as we went. There's going to be an Ofsted inspection tomorrow, you see. Just a quickie; one day, with specific areas they are targeting. Fortunately, one of them, which is a new requirement (A Community Cohesion policy) just so headteachers and governors have plenty of work to do, we had not only talked about but put it on record as a target for the year, with success criteria and monitoring arrangements and everything. Hah.

I've typed the catalogue, but it's still to be proofread - and then there will be the condition report and all the photos. Ro will update the website; I'll let you know when it's ready.

Babyminding tomorrow, as Dilly has a hospital appointment. I could get up early and catch up with the rest of the work, I suppose. Not very likely, however.

Monday 3 March 2008

'Dah' made all the difference

Three-legged Cat
has written a post which brought back memories of my younger son, Ro, when he was a baby. He grew up to be relaxed and good-humoured, but he was certainly the least happy of all my children at the start. He seemed to both want and reject me at the same time; he woke frequently at night and appeared to be generally frustrated by life.

When he was ten months (or whatever age children are when this happens) old, he learned his first word. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't 'mama'. It was 'dah'. This proved to be vastly useful - it meant 'water'. There are few more useful words than water. When thirsty, he could ask for 'dah'. When it was raining, he could point at the window and comment knowledgeably on the weather. We lived by the sea, and he could remark on the scenery. He was, at last, able to communicate and he loved it. He was also able to talk to his father by name, because if you can say 'dah' you can say 'dada'.

Things improved further as time went on and he became more independent. We bought him a slide, which he enjoyed, but the matching swing wasn't so popular - he had to be lifted into it and then be swung. We moved house the day before his second birthday: the friends who bought our house had a little girl of about the same age and she loved the swing, so we gave it to her as a housewarming present. He hated the car seat and screamed every time he was put in it - car journeys were miserable times. When he was three, he developed severe car sickness, so I suspect this was a major part of his distress.

What still seems remarkable to me was the change in his nature as he grew older. When he was born, and in view of the 8-year age gap between him and his older brother, we were thinking in terms of having a fourth child. But when he was a month old, I looked at the Sage and said "we won't be having another, will we?" Thank goodness for a doting elder brother and sister, who took a good deal of the strain off me - they became thoroughly neglected themselves, as there was only so much time and emotional energy I had. But by the time he was three, he was absolutely lovely.

I suppose, as a baby, he must have thought I was extremely thick. No wonder he was frustrated. Learning his first word, and realising we could understand him at last, transformed his life.

Sunday 2 March 2008


Al and Dilly decided to go to a car boot sale today; indeed, they were going to have a stall themselves. They asked if we could look after the children; fine, I said, I'm not playing the organ so I'll take them to church. Um, we'll have to make an early start, added Al.

Fine. I set the alarm for 6am and was walking up their garden path at half-past.

The children were sweet. I always get to the church an hour before the service as there's a lot to do - today, I was helping with coffee and responsible for the Mothering Sunday flowers, as well as the usual things that crop up, and Squiffany and Pugsley were amazingly good-humoured as I bustled about. They started to suggest it was about time to go home at about the time the service was starting, but were still cheerful when I explained. During the service, they cheerily proffered hands to shake and Pugsley clapped at the end of each hymn, and they helped hand out the bunches of flowers to everyone, including men.

On the way home, Squiffany fell over and cried first for Mummy and then for Daddy, but she was brave and allowed herself to be comforted; I carried her the rest of the way. We decided that a good bounce on my bed would cheer her up, and talked about endorphins ... she knows quite a lot about 'dorphins because she's watched Finding Nemo.

Ro cooked lunch, and excellent it was. Roast chicken, which was perfect and moist and herby, sausages, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes cooked with shallots and cumin, carrots and broccoli; and rhubarb crumble and custard to follow. He cooked the rhubarb in orange juice and a very little sugar. Squiffany and her mother had made cakes to eat with coffee.

I slept for over an hour in the afternoon.

Saturday 1 March 2008

Can't help lovin'...

The Sage is entirely adorable, and never more so than when he's screwed things up.

He paid his car insurance, and a couple of weeks later, realised that his car tax was due and his insurance certificate had not arrived. He phoned, and was told that a replacement would be sent out at once, but it still hadn't got here yesterday. "Never mind," I said, "I'll pay for it online; the DVLC are notified by the insurance company and you don't have to produce the document." The trouble was, he also hadn't had a reminder for his car tax (what is it with the postal service?) and so he didn't have the reference number. "what about the log book then, that'll do?" He searched. He couldn't find it. He tried to ring them, but the line was constantly engaged (no queue, just an engaged signal) from 4 pm yesterday and we concluded that the weekend had started early.

I tried to think where the registration document might be. "Where's the MOT certificate?" I asked. He tapped his pocket. "Okay, where was it before you put it in your pocket?" He looked boyish. "I couldn't find it, I got a replacement from the garage."

Today, the replacement insurance certificate arrived, but the logbook still is nowhere to be found. He went to get an application form for a replacent...which will cost £25.

We're working on the catalogue for the next sale. There are a few pieces from one seller which didn't go in the last sale, which are being re-entered this time. The Sage was worried. Three saucers, but no matching teabowls. And two cream jugs were missing. He was still fretting about it when we went to bed. "Look," I said. "We didn't leave them behind in the saleroom and the owner didn't take them away" (he'd phoned to check). "So they're here. You just put them in a different box." "But there was plenty of room in that box, so why weren't they together?" "When you find them, you'll remember why you packed them separately. They aren't lost. You are careful and you would never lose a piece of china that belonged to someone else."

This morning, of course, he found them. They were in a box that has divisions, in which they fitted perfectly; which is the reason they were there.

I love it when he's fallible. He never complains when I lose or forget things but is pretty reliable himself - usually. It's rather a pleasure to be the one to comfort him.