Wednesday 30 April 2008

Z will spend next month with Head in Book

book binge

Please let Mary P know if you're joining in.

Music to my ears, but preferably nothing else

I've finally got around to clicking on iTunes, and even now, my music is being copied onto the computer, all two thousand-odd items. It's vastly cheering, as I can't any longer be bothered to fetch CDs and put them in a player, but always play music on the computer or iPod, and have been missing it badly, especially as my ears are still distracted by the slight whirr of the Mac, which is at a different pitch from the previous machine. Macs are quiet but not soundless and I find 'wrong' noise very intrusive.

For this reason, one of my pet hates is windchimes. I sit in a friend's garden on a pleasant summer's day and all I can focus on is the tinkle of unnecessary bits of metal in the breeze. I'm not good on artificial 'water features', as they're called nowadays, either. The sound of running water is fine if it's a stream or waterfall, but the splash of a little fountain or other pumped water makes me tense, until I manage to tune it out. My mother was fond of clocks and had three in one room. They all ticked at a different pitch and speed and I hated it, never mind the cacophony of the strikes, which were all slightly out of synch with each other - just as well, I suppose, as at least it reduced the potential noise level.

It's deliberate artificial noise, I think, as I don't mind the sound of animals, general sounds, people, at all. Music is fine, but not as background - I listen to it, so I don't care for the bland sort of stuff that is often played in public places. I'm rather the same with scents. I can't stand air fresheners. A pong is one thing, but a pong partly masked by artificial flower or fruit or pine scent is unpleasant. If there was no bad smell to start with, why add a cheap and nasty one?

Years ago, I went to the theatre one night and was miserable because of the olfactory blaring of numerous cheap perfumes. The next night I went to a concert at the Aldeburgh Festival and was hardly made any happier by the range of expensive ones that all the women were wearing. Since then, out of consideration for others, I have not worn perfume in a crowded place. A woman sat next to me on the train on Saturday wearing a perfume I didn't like. I was unpleasantly aware of it for the entire journey.

Again, I like natural scents. I like to savour the air when I arrive at a destination - each place has its own flavour and, as long as it isn't next to a sewage farm or a sugar beet factory, I don't mind what the smell is. But adding extra, artificial and pointless smells jangles my senses.

Thanks to Hey Bartender, I have developed a regrettable taste for certain styes of country music. So the first track to be played on the new Mac has the honour to be ... Stoned, by the Old 97's.

Actually, talking about my favourite bartender, I hadn't read her blog for three weeks, and have just been catching up. She is brilliant. Do visit. I've been chortling happily for the past ten minutes.

Tuesday 29 April 2008


According to Greavsie, cats walk backwards while they are being sick. Dogs don't. They stand still and then, belatedly, go to the door and ask to be let outside.

Tilly is rarely ill. I have known it - Christmas day one year, when she had evidently nipped across the field and raided a neighbour's bin for the fatty remains of the pan juices. that was a good'un. She was so taken by surprise that she didn't have time to get off the sofa, though she did at least lean over so most of it went on the floor. Today's offering was only a few minutes after she'd finished her dinner; I expect a hair was caught in her throat because she was anxious afterwards, for she is a polite little dog and never one to waste food, but not ill. Now, she's curled up next to me looking as demure as usual.

We've got an explosion in the rabbit population. There is nothing up in the vegetable garden as they've eaten all seedlings as they emerge. I'm afraid that this probably means an outbreak of myxomatosis in a year or so, as that's what happens when the burrows get overcrowded. We used to have rabbit-proof netting round the veg garden, but it has been gradually removed as it hasn't really been needed for some years.

Any suggestions as to what I should replace my car with (another car, obviously. I am not cycling to Norwich and beyond)? I don't care about cars, so matters of design and technicalities are a matter of indifference to me. Mike, who is splendid at finding cars at a low price - Ro's cost around £400 and has lasted for 2 years with no problems so far - doesn't quite get the notion that I rather want something less than 15 years old, so I might have to look myself and I'm awfully, awfully bored at the thought. The only thing that consoles me in my car debacle is that I cannot lose more money than the original owners, as I paid less than they lost on their 3 year old car, so I don't want a new one. I need it to be comfortable as I ache enough already, with infinitely changeable seat positions as I'm short, like to sit bolt upright but with room to move my legs. I want a smaller car than I have now, but not too small - a hatchback or estate so that I can fit in stuff - with good legroom in the back as most passengers are of an age to not fold up very small. Mike will suggest something reliable but ancient, but I want power steering and central locking and a good CD player, which is not something he'd think matters. You see, hardly technical. Most of all, reliable.

May I mention, by the way, in reference to the horrid (it did bristle a bit, as it was fresh) initial subject matter of this post, that the Sage did all the clearing up? First he approached with a shovel, then he came along with a cloth and washing-up liquid to wash the carpet. I merely wrung my hands and thanked him. I'm good at that.

Monday 28 April 2008

Z chose a Mac - well you knew I would

So, the Sage thinks it's so good that he came along with a wad of cash in his pocket (no vulgar comments, please, darlings; he's always pleased to see me), Ro thinks I am a slave to style and Al thinks it's a poser's dream come true. I am happy. I have decided to treat my new Mac as a portable and so am now sitting comfortably on the sofa rather than in the office, with the computer - I don't say screen because the screen is the computer) several feet away as it's so large that my little brain is overwhelmed at the armslength distance that I usually use. I will probably use my cordless mouse; this one is fine but I like the cordless one, but I haven't decided yet about the keyboard. This is small but comfortable to use and I may keep the other in reserve in case I spill my wine - which is not a euphemism - but I have found that I sometimes type the wrong number because it's slightly cramped and they aren't where I think they will be.

I went to school today for a music lesson in a class I haven't visited before. Each Year 9 class has quite a different character. This contains the humorous lot. "Had a good day, so far?" asked the teacher with a good nature. Various murmurings, including "I look forward so much to Mondays, because I get to go to school." One boy had arrived this morning, but had to go home "He was as white as a ginger bloke can be", commented a lad, who was a ginger himself, so can't be accused of gingism - okay, maybe you had to have heard this one, but it was funny.

The group I stayed with was musical and enthusiastic, but there was something of a clash of personalities. After the lesson, I explained to the teacher what the background to the lack of co-operation was. "At least", I said silver-liningly, "they were disagreeing about the music; it wasn't personal." A Year 13 student, who had come in to speak to the teacher, chortled, not unsympathetically.

I should be working Right Now. But hey, I've said hello to hardly anyone for the past three weeks. I must have hundreds of RSS feeds waving at me for my attention. I'll spend the rest of the evening catching up with you all. May not leave too many comments for a while though, and if not, excuse me please - so much to do, even if there is, in the long run, plenty of time.

That reminds me, I'm not going to the meeting in Liverpool next month - I'll ring up Head Office tomorrow and tell them not to expect me. I haven't got time. What a loss to Z's range of life experience.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Lazy Sunday

A good London visit. The bus was waiting, with an inspector on board who was patiently answering questions from all the East Anglian yokels who wondered which stop to go to, so I settled down as we set off through the streets of the City, along Threadneedle Street to the Old Lady and the Iron Duke and westwards towards Charing Cross. The exhibition was splendid, and I'd recommend it - it was portrait photographs from Vanity Fair from 1913 to the present day, although the magazine was not published between 1936 and 1973. Fabulous photos from people of the day, from Monet and Augustus John to DH Lawrence and Chaplin, Anita Loos to Josephine Baker; later, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Cary Grant and Jean Harlow. Later photos gave more away of some of their subjects than, perhaps, they realised - because there was no need for them to be so stagey, it revealed a lot if they were. Liza Minelli put her shoulders forward to show off her collarbones, but it gave an awkward hang to her biceps and the lit cigarette drooping from her lip didn't add any beauty. Scarlett Johannson and Keira Knightley were photographed naked together; while SJ was relaxed in her nudity, KK haughtily disregarded hers. There was the famous Testino portrait of Princess Diana and Prince William's, by the same artist, looking pleased with himself. Margaret Thatcher, in 1991, had a fabulous complexion and Miles Davis, arms crossed to nearly hide his face, had a frankly gorgeous body, even in middle age.

Afterwards, we had a long lunch and chatted and then went out separate ways home. I didn't sleep much last night - went to bed early as I was tired, slept briefly and heavily and then was awake for the next three hours. I meant to pot up plants this afternoon, but slept instead and revived for the evening.

Tomorrow, off to inspect computers. I'm taking the Sage with me, because I don't like driving his car, and Ro is meeting us to give advice which, if I end up with a Mac, I'll have not followed. Unless he is more impressed than he expects.

Friday 25 April 2008

Z rambles

I felt a little het-up by the end of the day. I biked in to the school for a Year 9 music lesson and felt tired. When I got home, though, the children were in the garden on their climbing frame, which is a substantial wooden one with a house at the top and a staircase, which the Sage and Al made last year. They saw me and Squiffany called me over. "Granny, granny, granny" remarked Pugsley with enthusiasm and his sister came across the garden to meet me. I cheered up.

This afternoon, I had a governors' meeting and had a couple of long conversations afterwards which were illuminating, but meant I didn't arrive home until half past six. At least it's downhill on the way home, because I had been almost too tired to pedal up the hill to the school. A week off from cycling and I've lost all my strength. "Too late for tea" said the Sage, pouring me a glass of wine. I prepared a dish of celery, carrots and cucumber, because I was vastly hungry, and went next door to read and reply to emails on Dilly's laptop.

Tomorrow, I'm going to meet my sister in London. The plan is to have a long and boozy lunch, go to an exhibition - there's something she wants to see at the National Portrait Gallery and then I'll catch the 4 o'clock train home again. Actually, we'll probably go to the exhibition before lunch, as we may not have time and be too pissed (in the English sense) afterwards.

I'm writing this on Ro's laptop. He has a plastic crate which held vegetables to put it on when it's on his lap to raise it to a comfortable level and not to get hot, but to fit it on my knees I'm having to lean right back in the chair. It's not uncomfortable, but it feels odd as I always sit bolt upright at the computer. In fact, I sit on a stool rather than a chair as I never lean back.

Ro is doing a website for Al - the boy is endlessly good-natured, as he does this all week for a living and we all want him to do things for us in his spare time. It'll be about vegetables, of course. And paper bags. He has perfected some splendid paper bags made out of newspaper, which he makes in odd moments when there aren't any customers in the shop. Ro does the Sage's website now, I don't think I've mentioned it - it's here. D'you like it?

Dave suggests I don't write for three weeks while he is away, so that he doesn't have to spend hours catching up on his return. He's so charming. Because, obviously, the implication is that if I do write, he'll read it all, however long it takes and however much I ramble.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Z prepares to throw the Sage's money at all problems

So, it's the motherboard and it's more expensive to fix than it's worth. On the other hand, the stuff that I've never bothered to back up (yes I know) is still intact and Ro will be able to download it. So all I have to decide now is laptop or desktop, Mac or PC. First decision is made; the length of time I sit at the computer, I need to be as comfortable as possible. I can't really justify having both, so a desktop it will be. The second question, I haven't decided yet. I suspect I will end up staying with Macs, as it will require the least decision-making and very little adjustment to use, but I realise that this is quite possibly more sentiment than sense and that I could quite easily learn my way round a PC.

The car should be back soon, but then I'll sell it. I'll forgive something breaking down once, but not twice. It's larger than I need and expensive to run and I don't want it any more.

Last night was the AGM of our church. All 6 churches in our group hold their AGM at the same time; we have the first part of the meeting together and then divide into parishes. Our chairman (the Rector is the chairman, but can't go to every meeting of course so there is a lay vice-chair as well) had to attend another church's meeting, so asked me to chair, and then I had a phone call from the secretary saying that she thought she was coming down with flu, so I took minutes as well.

I'm afraid I did nearly all the talking. I was awfully bossy. Yes I know, darlings, you will find this almost impossible to believe, but it's true. From reading out the minutes of the last meeting (I explained that it was not worth printing out copies for everyone as they had already been approved) to taking nominations for the PCC, to reading out my Churchwarden's Annual Report, I took over. I was a little self-conscious, but it didn't stop me.

I was remarkably good and cycled to the meeting, having already been into town during the day, although it was quite some way. Coming home was rather more effort as it involved cycling up Bridge Street, which has a steepish little hill at the top; and it was nearly 10 o'clock at night by then. The battery in my front light was starting to get a bit dim, and as I hit the road out of town, I had half a mile without lights. Luckily, there are white lines in the middle of the road or I'd really have had to get out the batteries that I, being a sensible and provident woman, always carry in a pannier, and change them. I'll get a better light by next winter anyway; this one is bright, but such a narrow beam that cycling along a dark road involves more sense of direction than accurate knowledge of my whereabouts.

The village school, where I used to be governor for 18 years, has just received the highest possible evaluation in its Ofsted inspection. I'm so glad. It is a wonderful school and being part of it, and having done some quite useful things there, is something I'm proud of. There has been a great deal of staff illness in the last 3 years (all quite unrelated to each other) and, indeed, two staff members have died, but somehow they have all pulled together and not only coped but reassured the children and kept spirits,as well as standards, high.

Computers and cars are useful when they work (pah), but one has to keep things in perspective. None of it matters after all, it's all about people and relationships really.

Which reminds me, I had a most gratifying welcome from the Sage when I got home. Flowers, champagne, English asparagus, a steak which he cooked just as I like it, rare, although he doesn't. I was leaning against a cupboard in the kitchen munching a lettuce leaf when he approached. "Am I in the way?" I asked, before hastily swallowing my lettuce leaf as I realised that he was all set for a Clinch.

We went next door to say hello, and Dilly opened another bottle of champagne which they just happened to have in the fridge. What sensible people we all are.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Z will tell you about Madrid soon

I spent most of the morning on Dilly's computer, then took care of Pugsley for a couple of hours. He woke from his nap, then fell asleep again on my lap, so I took the opportunity to doze for a while myself. Afterwards, he sorted out some coloured blocks and shapes. I was impressed by the correct naming of 'blue' and 'star', but he got a bit carried away and started naming all the rest orange, which wasn't quite so accurate. Then we talked about animals. He knows a lot of animals, although he thought a camel was a donkey. "Elephant" he said, and was right. "Trunk", he pointed out. I told him about the time I rode on an elephant and had to grab a rope and climb up its leg. Then I remembered the time I was being driven through Madras and saw a chap riding an elephant along the pavement. They stopped and looked in a shop window. "It was remarkable" I said. "Remarkable", he agreed. "Scary".

Ro is being patient, but he wants his computer back. Hasta manana.

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Z drops in

I'm home but still borrowing computers as mine has only gone to be fixed today. So all I have for you right now are a couple of quotes.

Heard in Islington: smartly dressed mother to small child - 'Do you need to do a wee-wee?' Small child - 'Nyeah'. 'You must tell me when you do, Douglas, rather than holding your willy like that.'

Said by Sue, in the Plaza Major, Madrid, after a very large gin and tonic:- 'It's not as posh as the Place de Vosges, but the Place de Vosges is not paved.' Her diction was perfect, and this is, now, the approved test for drunkenness.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Z's off

The good news is that Ro has found a program that is downloading files from my hard drive onto his computer, so if the worst comes to the worst, at least I'll have all the stuff, like most of the photos and rather more other things than I care to admit to, that wasn't backed up, even if it's all relabelled and will take hours of sorting. This is a belt, braces and baler twine precaution in case we can't get it all back as it should be.

Ro is being immensely kind and has taken a lot of time and trouble which I really appreciate.

The lecturer today couldn't find where he was supposed to park because it's a little side road leading to a private car park, and his SatNav didn't recognise it. Although he had written instructions, he's not the first person I've found to rely so heavily on SatNav that they can't follow any other directions. We finally tracked him down and lurched heavily into the theatre at 11.05 for the 11 o'clock lecture. I nipped up on the stage, where Diane was entertaining the members, and explained and gave out the notices in so animated a manner that I managed to keep the lecturer waiting for a couple of minutes. He overran a bit and by the time of my vote of thanks I managed to lose the thread a bit and gave one of my less coherent utterances. I was exhausted by the end and I expect he was too.

However, I've packed, arranged to stay with friends tomorrow night, because I've got a day trip to London tomorrow (Tutenkhamun exhibition) and am off to Madrid on Thursday. I'll be home on Tuesday evening, all being well. I have a remarkably small case, well under British Airway's cabin luggage limit, and it isn't even full. Somehow, I just don't feel like having any unnecessary clutter.

By the way, if you're waiting for a third mechanical thing to go wrong (car and computer), it already has. My daughter's oven thermostat has gone wrong. In fact, her flat is falling apart (not literally, but there are several things) just nicely in time for her to have the bother of getting them put right before she moves out.

Have a good week, sorry I haven't visited you all lately.


Monday 14 April 2008

Happy Birthday Wink!

What I didn't mention is that my car is out of action as well as the computer. It's all a bit bothersome. There is, as ever, a good side to this, as I'm going on holiday, so I'll have to leave the Sage to sort out the car and Ro the computer; that is, I won't have to.

But enough of that - it's only machines and it'll be put right one way or another, although probably rather expensively. The important thing is my sister's birthday. Yes, my lovely sister Wink is 60 today - she won't mind me saying so as she has had major birthday parties and everyone already knows.

I was really sorry not to be with her this last weekend, though in one way it's just as well, as undoubtedly my car would have broken down on the way. I missed an excellent party though.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Z is quiet

A bit of a problem on the computer front, which is rather a bugger as I still have a couple of pieces of work unfinished which I can't get at. May be back in a day or two, may not. I'm borrowing Ro's laptop at the moment.

Friday 11 April 2008

Z goes to a Quiz!!(!)

Little did I know, as a dedicated Hanna Barbera cartoon watcher in the early 60s, that knowing that Mr 'I hate meeces to pieces' Jinks was the cat that chased Pixie and Dixie comes in useful in quizzes.

I didn't know I remembered the name of the computer in Red Dwarf.

It was surprising how many people didn't know, in a Food and Drink round, what deglazing is.

It was even more surprising that we won - with two rounds to go, we were a quarter of a point in the lead. It was BBC TV comedy and Trivia that let us romp home.

We have a wooden plaque! With little shields, on one of which will be etched our name (that is, the name of our parish)!! Not only that, and rather embarrassingly, we won £10!!(!) - which we decided to put in the church plate on Sunday.

Z's face can be Read Like A Book

I went to lunch today for a friend's birthday lunch - she was 87 last week. There were 18 of us, mostly old friends - there was only one couple I hadn't met before - and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

It was a lovely spring day and I trotted along Castle Meadow with an anxious frown on my face as I worked out what to say in the awkward phone call I've got to make within the next few days - can't do it at the weekend, it'll have to wait until Monday. Someone accosted me - not like that, it turned out to be a chum and we had a brief chat while I reassured him that I wasn't actually sunken in gloom, but that I always look like that when I'm thinking.

Towards the end of lunch, there was a torrential downpour of sleet and we were all, in our light clothes, rather dismayed. It had stopped when we left, but rained as I walked back to the car. I couldn't run as I can't run, and besides I was wearing new shoes for the first time (not the first time I'd ever worn new shoes, just those ones except for trying them on in the shop)* and I was carrying a flower arrangement as well, so I simply got wet. I won the flowers - a helpful friend of the Birthday Girl had done table decorations and BG put names in a metaphorical, or should that be virtual, hat and mine was one of the names drawn out.

I was wearing, by the way, a cast-off skirt that my mother gave me about ten years ago - I still wear some of her redundant clothes - but that I never wore as it was not quite 'me' at the time, and then I grew out of it anyway. Now I've grown back into it both in size (though in a reduced sense) and age, so I hauled it out of the wardrobe and put it on. Charity shops don't do too well out of me as my clothes rarely get too worn out for me to carry on using them and if they don't fit now, well, sooner or later...

Earlier, I bobbed into the Co-op to spend £40 and thus gain a 4p-off-per-litre** token for petrol. A man was collecting for charity - properly licensed, badge and all - and I said I'd give him some money when I came out as I only had £20 notes. When I returned, I fumbled in my purse, emptied out the change and put it in the tin. "You look like you'd be fun to have around!" he said unwisely. I probably looked startled. "I mean, you looked cheerful and friendly, I noticed when you came in,' he dug harder. He only meant to be friendly, it wasn't a chat-up line - but a bit naive to say it quite in that way.

Another £60 on petrol, four weeks after the last time. Hmm.

*It has come to my notice that I often don't make myself clear; I'm attempting to rectify this.

** 'cough, cough'

Thursday 10 April 2008

Z does not have an early night

I arrived home from dinner and did a few things and chatted to the Sage and then just sat here listening to music and writing. I decided to have an earlyish night, but it was a bit too early, as I'd wake in the small hours if I was asleep much before midnight. Then Ro came and chatted a bit while he was getting his lunch ready and the Sage asked me to let Tilly out before I went to bed, so I said I'd only be a few minutes and asked Ro when he was going for a bath. He said at half past, at which time I realised it was nearly half past eleven, which isn't very early, and now it's ten to twelve and I haven't let Tilly out yet nor, of course, in again and locked up and so I won't be going to bed early after all, since I won't sleep if I don't have a bath and wind down a bit.


Lucky some people are organised

Honestly, some people can be quite inconsiderate. It's my sister's birthday on Monday, so I thought it was quite helpful of me to arrange delivery of her present to her workplace for tomorrow, as I know she's taking the day of her birthday off and it's always a nuisance to have to toddle down to the post office to pick up parcels. I rang her, to check the address.

"Oh, I'm taking the day off tomorrow too."

What? Really, didn't it occur to her that I leave things as late as possible - but, on the hand, not to the very last minute? Doesn't she know, after all this time, for she's known me all my life and most of hers, that I rely on people doing what I expect although I reserve the right to du different* myself?

Anyway, it's all right (it always is) because she's going into town on Saturday to go the hairdresser so can pop into the office and pick it up.

I had a phone call from the electricity chappie, who was down at the church, wanting to make an appointment to put in a replacement meter. After a brief chat, I suggested that the best thing would be to lend him a key to the room where the meter is - the church itself is always open and I leapt with awkward agility on my bike and went to meet him and show him around.

Yes, I looked at his ID before entrusting him with the key.

I noticed that I used my most professional helpful manner, to the extent that I remembered his name and used it when saying goodbye (you think this always happens? My memory is rubbish). Natural charm would have been quite sufficient, but I was doing the full "it's my pleasure."

*this is what we do in Norfolk. It's our motto.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

El is my Little Darling

So although there is no problem, it has been decided that one more scan will be done as a final check and, as it's the day after I return home from holiday, my daughter has invited me to go with her. So we'll get back from Madrid on the evening of the 21st and, instead of going back to Norwich with the rest of my party, I'll abandon my luggage - pfft - and head for El and Phil's flat and stay the night with them.

This is all vastly exciting. When I was expecting Ro, scans were just coming in and I had one done but it didn't show much except that there was something wriggling in there and one wasn't routinely offered a picture. It's very thoughtful of El to ask me and I'm thrilled.

I've had a couple of busy days with meetings and have been given extra work to do with no chance to catch up on the backlog. I'm giving myself until 9 o'clock to do what I can and then taking the rest of the evening off. Tomorrow, I have a free morning and then am looking after Al's shop in the afternoon and out in the evening, and on Friday I'm pretty busy. Some intervening deadlines, but all must be done by Monday night as I then run out of time - Tuesday afternoon is for wondering what I'm going to take on holiday and wishing that all my nicest clothes didn't have to be handwashed and carefully ironed. I have taken the precaution, however, of buying some new clothes, *just in case* I don't get around to it.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Z is emotional... a happy way. El has just sent photos of her baby and there's a lovely profile with the features clearly shown.

Dilly and I were talking and she said it made her feel quite tearful too. "If it were a friend's baby, I'd be interested and pleased, but I wouldn't feel like this," she said. "It's different when it's family, isn't it?"

And it is, so I won't go on about it here - though I won't promise not to show you a picture when the baby is born.

Monday 7 April 2008

Z loses the Plot

I'm plugging away at my list, which I mentioned the other day, and I'm actually doing quite well with it. A friend came to stay the night - she had to come to Cambridge, so it wasn't far off her route (we're about an hour and a half from Cambridge and she lives about 3 hours drive both from there and from us). I'd made a kedgeree the day before, so that I wouldn't have to spend valuable chatting time cooking while she was here.

This morning, knowing I had a whole lot to do, she went into town to do some shopping and I prepared lunch for oneish. She finally rolled back about two o'clock, admitting that she'd lost track of time and had received a parking ticket as a result. She brought a box of chocolates, amongst other presents, and congratulated me on my weight loss - not quite thought through there, I suggest. I have given them to Ro and asked him to keep them well out of my sight.

I'm feeling mildly hysterical because of multi-tasking, which is taxing me to an absurd level and makes me feel at least my age (maybe older, but how am I to know what that feels like?). One vital item hasn't been touched yet and I haven't picked up the clarinet, and am too drunk (I'm not drunk, but have to be entirely sober to play) to do it this evening. However, I'm doing well otherwise. Sadly, I have a meeting tomorrow morning which will result in more work, and one in the afternoon which I hope will not, or not much. Of the 9 items I mentioned, 6 are done and one is more than half done. "course, there were things I didn't mention...

It took me three hours to complete a reply to one email because I kept having to move on to other things, and when I finally pressed send it said I'd been signed out and I'd have to send it again, whoops, they'd lost it. I didn't know whether it had gone or not as, I discovered, it was in my sent rather than draft box. Why do they do it? Efficiency is all I ask for. I sent the bugger again with an apology if it was received twice.

Anyway, it snowed again this morning and is really quite cold now. I've left the heating on in the greenhouse for the last two days, but at least a lot of seedlings are up. I'll go and breathe on them tomorrow - breath is awfully good for plants, I find.

Haven't sorted out holiday insurance yet. Oh damn.

Sunday 6 April 2008

They said it might snow

I didn't think it was likely. But they were right.

Saturday 5 April 2008

Z is Startled by a Flap

I woke this morning, after a slightly disturbed night (the Sage was restless and kept rolling over, taking the bedclothes with him), to the sound of a bird in the chimney. I lay dozily listening for a while. Not a pigeon, nor a little bird. A dove at a pinch, otherwise blackbird or starling size. At last, I got up, drew the curtains on one side of the room, one curtain on the other and opened the window, and then realised that the sound didn't come from the chimney at all, but from the attic.

I don't ever go in that attic. I think my wedding dress is in there, but it's housed many generations of mice by now I expect. There is, I know a copy of The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollingsworth which, at the time of printing, was a book I didn't care for my then very young children to read so I was obliged to hide it, and it's never emerged.

But I moved the box of Christmas decorations from the third step and climbed the stairs. At the top, a starling was flapping desperately at the glass and didn't fly away at my approach. I grabbed, caught one wing and was thoroughly pecked after three despairing squawks, before the bird resigned itself to imminent destruction. Carefully carrying it, I held it at the window and it successfully flew away.

Once I was dressed, I spent the morning typing (and reading a few blogs, hem, hem)and then made a few phone calls. The Sage came home. "I had to shelter in Al's shop for a while" he said. "A real April shower." I had been planning to bike into town, maybe the weather was too unsettled? He changed tune at once. "Oh, no, it's cleared up, look, there's more blue sky than grey." I mentioned that the thing about April showers is that they can come almost out of a blue, I'd be fine, he told me.

Yes, I cyled in, and cold it was. A nasty North wind blowing at my left side. On the way home, it rained, too, making my back right teeth ache.

I bought barracuda from the fishmonger on Thursday, as well as some lovely raw prawns from which I made a divine risotto with fennel. I've never cooked or eaten barracuda, but decided it was probably quite robust, so made a base of onion, celery, carrot, red wine and tomato, browned the fish and then cooked it in the sauce. It was good and, indeed, robust.

Several things ticked off my list, although one of the phone calls turned out to be an answerphone message. Can't bother her on a Sunday, so I must remember next week. Yes, I know that Sunday is the first day of the week, but one doesn't treat it as such so I'm counting Monday as the start of the week.

That reminds me. I don't know whether I'm in school on Monday or Friday. Excuse me, I need to send an email.

Friday 4 April 2008

Listening and losing track

I had a long discussion this morning regarding a PCC matter, which has clarified things nicely for both me and the person I was talking to, but it's left both of us with quite a bit of work to do within the next week. I haven't even looked at the minutes of the meeting I chaired at the end of last term at school, and I need to okay them before the clerk can send them out. Then I have three people to contact before a committee meeting on Wednesday and I mustn't forget to ring someone else because I didn't send her a reminder for something on Thursday, so I must give her some warning. Tomorrow I've got to spend an hour clearing away the Easter flowers in church and doing new ones, because no one has put their name down on the flower rota this week. Someone else has invited me to her special birthday lunch next Friday, so I must find out if it's a significant birthday - she's specified no presents, but I don't even know the exact date of the birthday and it may be her 90th. I can't remember what the other things are that are becoming quite urgent, but they'll come to me, probably in the early hours of tomorrow. I must, from now on, try to put in at least an hour's clarinet practice every day or I won't be ready for the wedding in June.

I can't help feeling that a proper job would make life easier. I wouldn't have taken on the other things and I'd have fewer distractions during office hours - being at home, there are phone calls and callers and housework to do and I'm very easily persuaded to faff about doing anything at all but work.

It's been a pleasant day today, though. I looked after the babies this afternoon, and they were charming. They decided on pasta with cheese sauce and carrots for tea, and their mother arrived home in time to wipe off the debris. The Sage discovered a hen sitting on eggs last week - she had hidden behind a piece of wood leaning against the shed, out of the run; they go where they like, those bantams - and they started to hatch today. There were two out this afternoon, with a third beak just breaking through, and there were four or five tonight, with another one half out. Still four more eggs to go. Once they're all out, we'll pop them safely into a coop so they can't be caught by any predators.

Tonight, Ro and I went to a concert of, mostly, early Britten music, including a string quartet and two Poèmes that he wrote when he was 13 and which had not previously been performed. The second Poème was a bit overambitious, not that I know anything, but the first, which was actually Number 4, I enjoyed very much - a bit Richard Strauss-y and Debussy-ish, I thought. I liked the quartet too. The first piece was his Simple Symphony, which he wrote in his early 20s, but he had actually written much of it between the ages of 9 and 12 and orchestrated it later. Then there was a series of songs in 8 movements, each based on a different poem with a different instrument solo accompanying the tenor, with the unifying subject of Sleep (I've left the programme in the car or I'd tell you what it was called) - and that was written much later. It was also played and sung at Britten's funeral - he died in 1976 at the age of 62.

Thursday 3 April 2008

PINning down a problem

So, I've sorted out some of the PCC business, but it took a while as it involved a long and sociable chat on MSN. Then I phoned about my credit card. Can you spare a couple of minutes while I tell you the whole story?

About a month ago, I left (I thought) my credit card at home and then needed to pay for £50-worth of petrol. I put my debit card in the machine, put in the PIN and it was refused. The checkout girl said that the 'enter' button was a bit dodgy, so do it carefully. It was refused again, she tried pressing it a third time and it was disallowed. I wrote a cheque instead.

Later, *cough* I discovered that I'd left the debit card at home and so had actually put the credit card in the machine, so it was my mistake as I'd used the wrong PIN.

I phoned the helpline and was kept on hold for more than 20 minutes. Finally I got through and the woman said that the card was fine. I said I'd tried to use it, just to check, and it was refused. She then discovered that there was a 'watch' on the card, which she removed.

A week or so later, on trying to use the card, it was refused again. I rang again. Another 25 minutes listening to a ghastly non-music for 12 seconds followed by an 8 second assurance that my call was important, please hold. Over and again. Every time the voice came on, I had to listen to be sure it wasn't an actual person, but the 'music' was too nasty to listen to and I had to hold the receiver away from my ear. It's not a freephone number, by the way, I was paying for this.

Eventually, I got through to a helpful man with an Indian accent who said that the easiest way to sort it out was to send me a new PIN.

A few days later, I received a reminder of the same PIN. I sighed. This was a couple of weeks ago. In that time, I've used the card several times to buy things online - DVDs from Amazon, train tickets and the TV licence - with no problem. However, it was refused at the wine merchant yesterday.

I phoned again. Is there a policy that makes it always between 20 and 25 minutes on hold before you speak to anyone? I explained quite forcefully, though politely of course, the whole story. The woman said that they can't send out a new PIN, all they can do is send a reminder. I said the man had told me I'd get a new PIN, he evidently didn't know that. She said that I have to take it to one of their ATMs and it will say the PIN is blocked, and that if I enter the correct number it will unblock it. That's the only way to unblock it, they can't do that for me.

I said that evidently some of their call-centre staff don't know this. Please could she pass the word on that this should be explained? I also said that, as a security measure, it is not effective as the card itself can still be used online. She said she'd pass that on too. She sounded helpful, genuinely apologetic and entirely capable. I hope she is.

I want to keep this particular card, because N@t10nw1de has one of the few accounts that doesn't charge extra for using their cards abroad, and I'm going to Madrid in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the nearest branch is 10 miles away from here. Nevertheless, it would have been quicker to go there in the first place.

Wednesday 2 April 2008


I feel just a tiny bit overburdened at the moment. We both had appointments at the dentist this morning - I was fine, but it still cost £50...the Sage was told that a crown is on its last legs and should be replaced, which is rather more money. However, money, poof, it's time that matters, isn't it?

I looked after the children this afternoon, as Dilly had an appointment. They were lovely as always, though I did suddenly find myself in need of a nap. Squiffany fell asleep too and Pugsley (I had taken the precaution of switching on CBeebies - yes, Bad Granny) was quite happy and seemed to find us quite amusing.

My friend R, whose wedding in June I have agreed to play at, came at 5 to talk about music. I don't really do weddings, too stressful - she doesn't want traditional wedding music, so I've said I'll have a look and a think. The hymns are fine, and I'll play a couple on the organ and a couple on the clarinet. For the rest, I'm thinking one rousing, one gentle and one with a bit of swing and pace, so that they can dance down the aisle on the way out. I have until June.

I am involved with PCC stuff. The AGM is only 2 days after I arrive home from holiday - I'm leaving in 2 weeks. There's stuff to sort out. I've just arranged a Friday morning meeting to sort it out.

I've school stuff to do. It's well into the second week of the holidays. I need to get on with it.

Nadfas business. No, I haven't booked the hotel in Liverpool yet. I've a committee meeting next week, and I've three people to contact before that and Stuff to do as well.

I suddenly remembered that I hadn't renewed the TV licence. I couldn't find the reminder letter, but at least I had a licence from a couple of years back so had the number so could do it online. Yes, darlings, I've achieved something today. I remembered it too, albeit slightly late.

A bottle of bubbles was cracked in honour of Al's birthday - we also played Musical Bumps, Musical Statues and Ring-a-ring-of roses. "Party bags?" enquired Squiffany. Grannies rustle something up at no notice at all.

Ro suggested a takeaway. Oh, yes. And another bottle.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Z is denied

Not in any pre-cock-crowing sense of course, but Al denied all knowledge of me, or about this blog at any rate. It's true that he's never read it, but he does know it exists and has done for a couple of years.

I've been discovered, you see, and the discoverer, who is co-proprietor of one of my favourite businesses in town, popped in to the shop to mention it to Al, which was courteous of him. Like most people who don't read blogs, Al can't understand why I write one, or read other people's either.

So, hi Steve *wave*. I'll blush when I see you next...I see how you found me, I've tracked back...