Monday 30 June 2008

Dinner was late

We were all relaxing on the lawn, the Sage having washed down all the garden chairs which he had inexplicably decided to move under trees: trees where birds had both roosted and crapped.

I asked the Sage if he'd watered David's plants. Some of them, he said. We realised that meant that the rest would need to be done this evening, otherwise they might not survive the night after a hot day in the greenhouse. We got into the car and set off. "Only 20 minutes" I said. "Then I need to get dinner on."

David's son had called into the shop earlier on, to ask Al if he would like to pick the produce that he would, otherwise, have bought. The Sage had been along to his house to check how much there was.

So, we arrived at around 6.30, to find David's son and son-in-law busy watering. We got out, introduced ourselves and said how sorry we were for their loss. They are two lovely men, one lives just down the road from us and the other, with David's daughter, in the next village. There is another son too, who is quite ill - they had all been more worried about him than about their father, although they knew he had slowed down a bit of late.

They were starting to clear up - D was the sort of chap who found a use for everything and never threw anything away. They'd taken a load of plants out of the greenhouse and laid them on the lawn - a couple of hundred, easily. They were putting aside what they wanted to take, but there's loads to deal with one way or another. We've said we'll pick all the fruit and veg and flowers we can and Al will pay them at the end. There are 4 really good compost bins, at least 2 of which I think Weeza and Phil will want to buy (the family is not bothered about money, they just need to deal with it all as soon as they can) and we will take and look after all the potted plants. There are hundreds of pots and seed trays and we said we'll take them too - it's a fair bit of work we've let ourselves in for, but what can you do? They dearly loved their father and would hate all his work to be thrown away, and we know what they mean. The pots will be used, over the next few years.

There will be a church service and then a cremation - I said that, if they want hymns, I will probably be the person playing them. Dave was the same age as the Sage; far too young to die. His wife had died of the same illness their son now suffers from, 15 years ago.

Annie called round to say how sorry she was. She spoke hesitantly, not typical of her, because she was upset. He had given her and her husband many plants for their garden and he was a good friend.

Sunday 29 June 2008

The port has been named Isaac

Sorry, darlings, all a bit religious.

The sidesman waved a port bottle at me. "Only *this much* left" she cried, which meant we might run out. It's my job to provide the communion wine, i.e. reasonably decent port. I sped off home to fetch the spare bottle I had in the larder. Unfortunately, it was sherry. There was a bottle of port, but it was extremely good 20-year-old vintage stuff. I hesitated, for several minutes. I looked again. No other option - and Weeza and Phil had borrowed my car, and there was no time to bike into town.

I decided. The good port would be used as the symbol of Christ's blood (no belief in transubstantiation in this blog, thank you). It was a waste, frankly, but in a good cause and it would be given willingly. I went out and locked the door.

Al was just going across the drive, and he came to greet me, grinning at the sight of the bottle in my hand. When I told him the tale, he produced his car key and said he'd drive me in to get another bottle. I genuinely had been going to give it though, so I think I've earned the points in St Peter's big book.

Dave* had to tell me his neighbour, David*, had died suddenly yesterday. He hadn't arrived to pick up a friend, so friend had called round and found him. I'd seen David on Friday afternoon - he grew salad and stuff for Al and he'd dropped in to the shop with a box of gooseberries. He'd promised to come back in the morning with half a dozen lettuces - but he didn't live to cut them. We're all shocked and sorry. The list of ill friends has continued to grow, too. There are so many people who have received awful shocks in the last few weeks.

I felt tense and depressed during the service. I've been losing it a bit - too much to do and too many people to worry about. However, I (unusually) had read a passage in the Bible this morning - St Paul's 1st epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, which I'll put at the end. And then, the Gospel reading was Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25 - 37 - which I'll give in a modern translation this time.

Okay, I'm no believer in signs and symbols, but all the same, I decided to focus out rather than in. It helped.

*honestly, both of them. All the best ones are called David.

Don't feel obliged to read them, the point is that the subject of both is love

St Paul's 1st epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if I have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, if I have not love, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and deliver up my body to be burned, if I have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love acteth not rashly, is not puffed up: Doth not behave indecently, seeketh not her own, is not provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth: Covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. And when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall vanish away. When I was a child I talked as a child; I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. And now we see by means of a glass obscurely; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know, even as also I am known. And now abide these three, faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25 - 37

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?"
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[b] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[c] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Saturday 28 June 2008

Z receives her comeuppance

You may remember, a while ago, Al was quite embarrassed when a fellow-businessman in the town mentioned that he had read this blog and recognised who we were. Al denied knowing about the blog at all, which was not exactly strictly accurate and something equivalent to sticking your fingers in your ears and going 'lalala' to avoid hearing unwelcome news. He was a bit iffy about it, but I refused to give in and stop blogging.

As you know, if you've read back a bit, he has started his own blog now (hah!) about being a newbie beekeeper. I found yesterday, when I went in to man the shop so he could go to his daughter's sports day (poor kid's only 3, really, these schools, prompted by our control-freak government, don't half push the little children in their care), that he had a poster on his wall, with a splendid photo of massed bees, giving the web address of his bee blog. The one on which I've left comments. He has had his revenge and outed me in his turn.

Oh well. Hello, folks. You're more than welcome to tell me who you are.

Z is to visit the Dark Metropolis!!(!)

I've booked the train ticket and Ronan is coming with me. We'll get into London at 4.30 on Monday 4th August and leave on Tuesday at 2.30 - not long, but they were dirt cheap tickets. We'll be occupied for a couple of hours in the evening, but footloose otherwise - that is, with or without each other as circumstances call us.

If the baby is born a few days early then hey, more important matters will take my time and Dave might be able to use the ticket.

Weeza and Phil are here for the weekend - that is, they are here Right Now, taking my car in the morning and I will see little of it, or them, for the next couple of days. The good news is that Phil has been offered the job he was interviewed for on Wednesday, and he has accepted it. It'll mean a 5 mile bike ride to the station every day though, and the return journey is uphill. I couldn't do it - but he is young and strong. He'll be fine, after the first agonising month.

Friday 27 June 2008

Z wonders what to do

Hm. I've been invited to go with a member to an evening at the British Museum in early August. Very tempting, but it's the week that Weeza's baby is due, so should I be on hand here? Mind you, I'm hardly going to be useful exactly unless, possibly, the baby comes a week or two early and I'm on cookin' & shoppin' duty - but then she has a more than capable husband to help there too.

I could make my mind up later, but by then the price of the railway ticket will have shot up. Furthermore, I'd be available (being footloose and all that) to meet any of you lovely people who might have time to spare, and that would be jolly for me.

Thing is too, it might be the last opportunity for me to use their London flat to stay in. It'll have to be either let or sold before long and either way it won't be available any more, and it has been lovely to have a pied à terre in Town.

Anyone interested in buying one or two very small, but splendidly-situated flats in Islington, by the way? - well, it worked with the bricklaying.

Beating time, but time is beating me

It was Kenny's birthday yesterday, and today he came round to visit the children. I arrived as he was settling back into his nim cart to go home again and I went to say hello and say happy birthday. "Eighty-nine" he remarked. He looks the same as ever, you know, and if it weren't for his irretrievably damaged spine - he spent too many years working too hard - he'd be feeling well too. However, he told me that there's blood coming from somewhere, the doctors aren't sure where but it doesn't look too good. "Can't go on forever," he said matter-of-factly.

I had been into school for a Year 9 music lesson. West African drums today - asked for countries in that part of the continent, one boy did impressively well. I joined in and it needs a good degree of concentration, especially when different groups are playing in different rhythms. A few shrunk back from trying too hard and a couple of boys, who take private lessons, were particularly good and I noticed them watching the others and deliberately giving them a strong lead. I mentioned it to the teacher afterwards.

It rained last night, sunny again this morning. I should be working or outside. I'm neither.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Like steam giving way to sail

I suppose it was because I became so physically tired that I found it so annoying. It became harder to deal with as the day went through. Dilly and I each pushed a pushchair (although the children walked some of the time) and no one seemed aware of it at all.

I'm not one of those who finds people discourteous on the whole. Of course, it does happen, but the reasonable behaviour of the majority and the helpfulness when it's needed more than make up for it. But at the Norfolk show, the usual awareness of people's surroundings seemed to disappear. When you are wheeling a pushchair with a toddler in, it's not that easy to stop and change direction unexpectedly, yet everyone was so dozy at best; downright obstructive most of the time, that I became awfully tempted to just keep going right into their ankles and just trip them up. I didn't of course, and I kept smiling, but it was with the insincere rictus of a Miss Mapp.

In all other regards, all went well and we had a very enjoyable day. The weather was fine and the suggested rain did not fall and Squiffany, in particular, was adorable all day. Pugsley drifted a bit, but he's a bit in that in-between age. He was very taken with a large African tortoise (though only half grown, I suspect) and cried when we left, so we had to return to say goodbye. Squiffany liked the pink pigs best; I have a weakness for the Berkshire and the Gloucester Old Spot. I was also drawn to the goats. The Sage was tempted, at one time, to keep goats but I reminded him of all that goat milk and he was, thank goodness, put off.

And Squiffany thinks I have pretty knickers. So I have, of course. Why buy them, if not?

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Z looks at the garden and worries

The Sage and I went out into the garden and solemnly discussed what needs to be done. It's depressing. I mean, it was quite positive in that we agreed on the first things to do -some of those 5' tall weeds that Al mentioned on the bee blog must be cut down and cleared, then we can finish (or nearly finish, there's another section that has Jerusalem artichokes over it at present) making the concrete paths. We will also decide on the size and position of the shed that Al and I want to make. It will be a lean-to against the wall, and we'll be able to keep pots and tools in it.

We also agreed that we need to clear the bit between the soft fruit and the stream, so that we can put up rabbit-proof netting.

There's some problem regarding the wall. It was meant to be a 4-year project, but this is the 4th year and the Sage kept vetoing bricks until last autumn, when he finally found some he would accept. I just can't face another 4 years while we build it slowly, but the alternative seems to be getting a brickie in to do it in a great hurry - as taking his slow time while I *help*would also waste it and that's too expensive - and I'm reluctant to let go of this project. I'm not at all happy about it, but I'll let it mull.

The area around the lawn which we cleared last autumn was not entirely completed - there's some stuff I can't shift, and the Sage is a keen starter but not, I'm afraid, a completer of tasks; he thinks that 90% is enough, whereas sometimes it's the last bit that makes it all pull together. I am a completer (though not too good at getting started) and this has always been hard for me to cope with. Anyway, we've agreed on the way forward there, and also to get a new smaller lawnmower; either electric or at least with a key start, so that I can mow the grass as I want it regularly. I think that there's nothing more counter-productive than nagging and husbands, like children, have a hair-trigger 'off' switch when they're reminded of something too often. Better to work out another way to solve the problem.

The front field has been simply mowed for hay for some years, but we'd quite like to have it grazed. It needs to be fenced before this can be done, and water provided. He's busy sorting this out and that will be excellent. The grass was mowed yesterday and it looked an excellent crop. It's lovely quality hay, as it isn't fed and watered but grows naturally, so has very good flavour. Or so I'm told. I haven't tried eating it myself. We finally seem to have got rid of the ragwort, with several years hand-weeding (a tedious job in a 4 acre field) so it's safe for animals to eat.

Anyway, yes, it was positive in that we decided what needs to be done most urgently and we agreed on everything except the wall, which we have agreed to wait and see how I feel in a few more weeks about, but there's just so much to do and we're both very busy and one of us is a bit lacking in physical strength and neither of us (one more than the other) is as young as we used to be. But although I'm feeling a bit anxious about the amount to be done, what we are doing is going to make things better than they are now. So I suppose it's positive overall. In its way.

The other thing is that Phil and I, having worked very hard for the past few days, got used to a lunchtime (short) sit-down with a can of beer. I rather want a drink right now as a consequence. Also, it might get me wildly cheerful again and thus able to go and tackle some of the garden instead of worrying about it. I think that'd be a good idea, don't you?

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Radish munchers

Nothing happening but painting, so there's not a lot to write about. Every room is painted, although when I left at 6.45, the bathroom needed at least one more coat. Phil has an interview for a new job tomorrow, so one of us will give him a lift to that and then to the nearest station, as he's going back to London in the evening.

I haven't read the papers from last Friday onwards. I don't know if I'll ever have time to catch up. I suppose the world will be no better or worse for me reading about it.

I filled the car this evening (with petrol, that is). There was probably the better part of a gallon and a half still in it, and it cost £63.74. In April two years ago, it cost the low £40s to fill it; a year ago it was £50 and three months ago, £60. Shops are the sufferers, I'm afraid, as I no longer visit them except for essentials. I've been shopping twice in Norwich this year; once for Squiffany's birthday present and once for clothes for me in a smaller size.

Have I mentioned our rabbit problem this year? They have eaten two lots of runner bean plants, but almost ignored the french beans. When we first moved here, there were a huge number of rabbits, but they got myxomatosis, twice, and then some foxes got most of the survivors, so the rabbit-proof netting around the veggie garden gradually got done away with as it was enlarged. We plan to get the wall built this year, which will sort out one and a half sides of the patch and greenhouses deal with all but one side. The Sage, who is a crack shot (he used to shoot at Bisley), got one, but hasn't time to sit in wait. Actually, he only enjoys target shooting; he is no hunter at all and prefers to see wildlife going about its business, but some things are classed as vermin, including squirrels. He loves birds and is upset to see them taking eggs and babies from their nests. We don't mind rabbits at all, as long as they restrict themselves to eating grass and flowers. They're welcome. But not when they take the radishes and beans...we didn't even bother to try lettuces this year.

Monday 23 June 2008

Bee is for blog

I asked if I might link, but I haven't had a reply yet, so I'll put the link in and take it out again if they say no. The bee blog is Al's final descent into the baleful influence of his mother. He may kick, he may scream, but he has become a blogger. Heh heh heh.

Buzz if you like but don't sting me

All went smoothly with the bees.

I'm off to start painting again now. See you later.

Sunday 22 June 2008

If a picture paints a thousand words, then it's no wonder this house has a lot of bookcases, because Z can write and read, but is no artist

I should be working. I've been reading blogs. I'm sorry if I haven't visited you recently, or if it's been a flying visit with no comment, but I've not got much time at the moment - I've still got three days' newspapers to catch up on, apart from the work (did I mention that I've got to finish some tonight?)

Having said that, as priorities go, all is fine. I spent the day with Phil and his dad Dave (have you noticed that almost everyone is called Dave?) painting the house. It would have gone easier if the room designated for the baby had not been painted a quite intrusive shade of blue, rather dominating a small room. So far, it's had 5 coats of white paint and is down to ice-blue. Two or three more coats and it may lose the bluety. Ironically, Weeza and Phil's room has been painted en elegant grey-blue.

Dave had to leave at 6 pm for the 4-hour drive home, ready to be up at 6 for work the next morning. I carried on an extra hour and recommended to Phil that he call it a day too. One has to pace oneself. I'll go back tomorrow morning and we'll see how much more we can get done. 3 bedrooms, bathroom, landing stairs and hall, sitting room, dining room, kitchen. Doable in 4 days, if not for this wretched blue bedroom. I hope we'll get the second coat of the hall etc, plus the living and dining rooms done tomorrow, then (apart from at least 2 more goes at baby's room), only the bathroom and kitchen to do. Phil also wants to mow the grass with his new lawnmower. I expect he'll have done that this evening.

Saturday 21 June 2008

Z went on the Motorway!!(!)

113 miles, door to door, in 2 1/2 hours. All went well and on our return we bought the paint and I left Phil and his dad ready for an evening of painting ceilings. I hadn't taken suitable clothes to be bespattered so came home, promising to return promptly the following morning.

The bees have had a cheerfully busy day exploring their new territory. I only looked at them briefly, as I'd been with the children for a couple of hours. I went in at 8 o'clock, bearing breakfast, make-up and contact lens. Dilly asked if I could pop into the shop quickly, as Al had gone off with her car keys in his pocket. I stuck the lens in the general direction of my eye, it lodged in an appropriate place and a few minutes I returned - as I drove slowly past the shop, Al chucked the keys through the window; couldn't have been quicker.

Children were adorable of course. Pugsley is just starting to string words together on the way to sentences; a new thing in the last two or three weeks. It had been one word sentences, even if connected. "Elephant. Huge. Huge. Enormous. Elephant." has given way to "Where Squiffany gone? Daddy? Not bed. Where?" - he had woken up to find that his sister had absconded to their parents' bed, but Al's head was under the bedclothes so he was not visible.

Off again early, more suitably dressed, to help with painting.

Best beehiviour

I went into town to fill the car up for my journey to London tomorrow and called in at the shop for empty boxes, to be filled at Weeza and Phil's flat. The phone rang; it was Dilly, saying that the bee man had rung to say he'd bring the nucleus of Al's hive during the evening. Al looked harassed. "I haven't started shutting up, I haven't done the order list; I won't be home until at least 7 o'clock" he protested. They were all ready. They were coming, ready or not.

I offered to shut up shop, but after some discussion we agreed that I'd do Al's deliveries and then go home and start scything the long grass. Al arrived home by 6.30, leaving much of the clearing up to be done later. He was quite surprised at the inroads I'd made into the sea of nettles and docks. I'd said grass, but there was little of that. It was a large area that had been occupied by chickens for several years and only the inedible weeds were left. Blue Witch had given me advice last year on a good area to put the beehive (her first choice, which I rejected, was the tennis court) so I knew roughly where to cut. Nettles over 4 feet high are placed just right to catch you as they fall. Both arms and, through my teeshirt, much of my front were tingling within moments and I was itching from the clouds of gnats that rose from the greenery. The Sage got stung by a horse-fly in the same area the other day; his arm is still swollen.

The Sage was sent off for fish and chips, as I no longer felt like cooking. We all trooped out to see the bees being put into place later. They are in a box - about 2,000 of them with their queen - and as soon as the plug was taken out, they started to come out to investigate their new surroundings. If the weather is good, Al will transfer them into the hive, which he will put in the same place as the box is now. It's all very exciting. I will not be here, I'll have to get someone to take photos. If I can find the lead for the camera, that is. I've got the part that plugs into the computer, but the one that recharges it wasn't where I expected it to be.

Friday 20 June 2008

How Ronan strangled Bobby

Did I ever tell you about Great-Uncle Ronan? He was my paternal grandfather's elder brother and he was the District Commissioner for Nairobi about 100 years ago. He's our family hero and we have the leopard to prove it.

Like many people in the Colonial service, he became devoted to the country he was sent to. He lived as one of the ruling classes of course, as was normal at that time. I'm not making any judgment, comment or anything else on British or any other colonialism - that was then, this is now, it would not be appropriate now for an Englishman to rule an area with a load of African servants and I'm not justifying it. But he did care about the people under his care and felt them to be his responsibility, personally as well as professionally.

One evening, he was going out to dinner so had given all his staff the evening off. He was putting on his evening clothes when he heard screams coming from the kitchen. He ran down and found a leopard attacking his house boy, the only other person in the house. Ronan had a revolver in his room, but if he fetched it, the man would be dead by the time he returned. He grabbed the leopard by the throat.

It was a fight to the death.

Once he was better, he carried on with the programme of getting wells dug, to bring fresh and clean water to outlying areas. Unfortunately, he had to drink the local water in the meantime, he caught cholera and he died. In the attic, we've got the series of telegrams telling his mother of his illness, finishing with the black-bordered envelope. There is also a scrapbook of press cuttings, including the ones of his funeral. A colleague of my stepfather went to the cemetery in Nairobi and found his memorial some years ago, don't know if it still exists.

I don't know a lot else about him. His name is Gaelic, chosen by his Scottish mother. He was married, but divorced his wife on the grounds of her adultery. It was a bit startling, browsing through the Times archives, to find the court case of their divorce. He had no children and died in 1913. We named our second son after him - sorry, Ro, it's never been easy, having a name everyone gets wrong.

Bobby, the leopard, is in the rafters in one of the garages. I've been meaning for a long time to get him hauled down. If he's rotted away, he'll be burnt. If not, he'll be fumigated and brought indoors. I've known him all my life, he lived on the landing in my family home and I used to say goodnight to him when I went to bed.

Thursday 19 June 2008

Z is a touch euphoric.

The happiest discovery of the day, thanks to Dave, was how to do an apple.  - like this. It has, sad little woman that I am, become my signature du jour.

I'm feeling pretty good today, in fact. All those things that have been hanging over my head for weeks - they're done. Not that I've not got a lot still on, but there are no more deadlines. No more speeches. No more performances. No more meetings to chair until September. They've all happened. It feels wonderful. I don't care whether they were done well or badly; they were done. When I arrived home today, there was a message asking me to play the organ at a funeral next Thursday. I will say 'no'. Unless the weather is nasty, I shall go to the Norfolk (and good) Show. This Saturday, I will go to London to fetch boxes of Stuff as well as Phil, who will be delivered to Norwich as he will spend the next four days painting. I'll go and help (though I've been forbidden to go up ladders; I'm sturdy and sensible on ladders, but I obey my daughter and am glad she cares) and have said I won't be available for church. I've done it, I don't have to do it.

Family promises, babysitting and the like are a joy. Paperwork has been building up and must be completed, but will be. The garden is a disaster because we are plagued with rabbits at present, but never mind. It's nature. We may swear but we can't completely control and that's not at all a bad thing.

What a lovely evening. I must go and close the doors to the greenhouses. The green wheelie bins must be wheeled down to the gate (they are chocker; no one did it a fortnight ago). Then, a delicious ripe peach. And a pear. Then coffee. Yes. It's good. The Sage will be happy later; I'll be charming to him. The darling man went to a funeral today, in Northamptonshire, which is a long way (anywhere out of Norfolk and Suffolk takes half a day to drive to). It was someone whom he had known for over 60 years and her husband was so pleased to see him. He had been a schoolteacher at the Sage's prep school and she had been Matron. They were both lovely people and I'd have gone too, if it hadn't been for the last of my obligations.

Have a good evening, darlings.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Ab scone ded?

I did my SEN governor duty today and spent the morning in the Learning Support department. They have recently bought a new program for helping children who have difficulties with reading, or with literacy generally. This one. It's very good and has engaged the pupils' interest. There is plenty of supplementary work as well as what they do on the computer - there were two boys reading a book about POW camp escapes afterwards and, with the teaching assistant, we all talked about it with interest. All the pupils doing the program have increased their reading and spelling scores; one lad's spelling age has gone up by 2 years in a matter of weeks!

Afterwards, I had lunch at school and stayed for a meeting, which led to another one, and we finally rolled out at 6 o'clock. At least there had been buttered scones with cream and strawberries to keep our spirits up. The Sage, however, rather wondered what had happened to me and whether I was coming home at all.

This evening, I watched 'The Lives of Others', with Ulrich Mühe and Sebastian Koch. Mühe died not long after the film was completed; he was only 3 months older than me. Good film. I'm not too clever at watching films with subtitles as I find it hard not to read while I watch television, so I put it on the computer where I am more likely to concentrate.

A friend phoned a while ago, asking to come and stay tomorrow night, which will be a pleasure. She's giving a friend, over from California to visit her elderly mother, a lift to Lowestoft and she'll come on over here after that.

I'm dismayed that I was stupid enough not to buy a ticket for me when I bought Ro's for the Latitude festival in July. The splendid Okkervil River will be playing. Now the tickets are all sold out. Woe.

Tuesday 17 June 2008


Random facts about me - I've been thinking about this for a couple of days, which gave me time to forget a couple of them. Inspiration is sure to strike as I write.

The rules

1. Link to the person who tagged you - that's lovely Stegbeetle
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

N. I remember, when I was a child - maybe 7 or 8 - tinned celery hearts being served as a vegetable. This didn't exactly strike me with glee, as I've never been that fond of cooked celery, but that wasn't to say it was not edible and I generally ate what I was given, albeit in small quantities. For some reason, my mother and I were alone (no doubt the reason she hadn't prepared fresh veg) and she had to leave the room for a couple of minutes at just the time I sliced my celery heart open. In the centre was a slug. A very dead, cooked slug. I pondered briefly. My mother wouldn't care for that at all. She would be quite revolted. We were eating (this was indeed rare, and was again because we were alone) in a small back room that had been a scullery and was later turned into a little sitting room, with a coke-burning stove. I opened the stove door, chucked in the slug and heard it sizzle. Then, for what else could I do?, I ate the celery. I figured that the canning process had removed any germs.

O. I learned numbers from watching the football results on television. On a Saturday evening, my mother left me watching tv while she prepared my tea after my bath. I would have been 2 or 3 at that time. After a few weeks, she was surprised to find that I could recognise numbers. I suppose I didn't learn how much they represented, but i could match the sound to the shape.

R. When in doubt, I say yes. This doesn't mean I can't and don't say no, but I'm far more inclined to go for it.

M. I never put my iPod on shuffle, as I prefer to listen to the whole album.

A. Horses like me. They find me soothing.

D. As a child I had a sardonic, blackish sense of humour. I loved Saki, Tom Lehrer and the Addams Family cartoons. I have never been cute or adorable - that is, I am because hey, I can't help radiating sweetness, but I resist it. My most disliked nursery rhyme was the dreadful 'sugar and spice and all things nice' for little girls, while the boys had the much cooler slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails. Not that I wanted to be a little boy.

Rules 4, 5 and 6 - I'm rubbish at tagging. I never remember who hates tags and who likes them. If you do it, let me know please?

Pretentious? Zoi?

Oh dear. I got a bit carried away by enthusiasm for today's lecture and didn't resist the temptation to quote poetry. At least it wasn't too well known, so if I made any mistakes it's not that likely anyone noticed. It was a damn fine lecture about the history of photography, and I do love really old photos. I don't mean so much the staged ones of the awkward -looking Victorian people being snapped, very slowly, for posterity, but the ones taken by early enthusiasts, many of whom had the artist's eye as well. There was a very early one by Fox Talbot which I loved - the back of a house with an open shed door and a besom broom leaning against it, and a picture, taken from a low angle, of several flights of worn stone steps, curving and converging, at Wells Cathedral. There was a poignant one of the Valley of Death (sorry to be melodramatic), bare and bleak except for scattered cannonballs, a picture of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, a cheerful Rossini and a pair of Scottish fisher girls from a century and a half ago. Fascinating. I'd love to have them in a book to stare at and study.

Anyhoo, I duly did my speech, all 3 pages of it - yes, I wrote it out verbatim although I didn't actually read it out, but there were too many people to thank and too many specific things to say, to just do bullet points and hope. Well, so I claim. It was a formalish annual review. Enough excuses.

Afterwards, we took the speaker for lunch, which was a pleasure.

And now, as the sun still shines, I'm going to ride statelily into town to fetch vegetables for dinner. I don't know what we're having for dinner yet - doesn't bother me, I had lunch out. Heh heh.

three-quarters of an hour later Oops! It's the Sage's birthday. I'd forgotten. *heads out for the freezer to find something easy to defrost and delicious*.

Z met the deadline

So now I can go to bed. Shouldn't leave starting work until 9 pm, should I?

Monday 16 June 2008

Whether or not

I wrote this on 15th April. 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. A friend was amused when he was given a lift and his directions to his own house were ignored in favour of the satnav's. Which got them there quite satisfactorily, he reported. I suppose this sort of thing was at the heart of my resistance.

Anyway, the weather. Dave's absolutely right, it's awfully changeable round here from one place to another. We used, as you know, to live in Lowestoft and my in-laws then lived in this house, half an hour's drive away. We used, often, to have Sunday lunch with my mother and stepfather and then come over to Pa and Ma for tea. It was noticeable, in the winter (in those days, snow came more reliably each year) that the depth of snow increased as we came inland; between L'toft and Beccles and between Beccles and here. On the other hand, the spring was earlier as we came inland in equal measure. It was much windier, as you'd expect, on the coast and, once we'd moved, we'd set off for a day by the sea and find that we should have remembered the woolly cardies. Where we used to live, on P@kef1e1d cliff, if there was a beautiful sunny day, it was often followed by days of unremitting fog, whereas a mile or two inland the sun broke through and it was hot again.

It was the bands of rain that we always remarked upon though. I think it's because of all the rivers around here. Generally speaking, it's the driest area of the country in terms of rainfall, although as so much water flows through, it's one area that has never had a hosepipe ban in summer. Household water comes from underground aquifers rather than reservoirs. Around the rivers, there are often broad areas of water-meadows or marshland, used for grazing animals, to soak up floodwater. These are unsuitable for building on or cultivation and farmers receive grants for keeping them in good order for wildlife and the environment - for example, by not using nitrate fertiliser.

I've gone off the point, sorry. Rain. Yes, it's not unusual to drive into a band of rain across the road which, a few miles later, vanishes again. A while ago, I was with Dilly, north of Norwich and we drove in and out of black clouds and pouring rain, alternately with a blue sky, fluffy clouds and bright sunshine. It was odd.

There are particular villages where, if it's going to rain, that's where it starts. This one tends to be dry. It always rains at Barnby. Boringland (which starts with a P, but sometimes has its initial altered, to general hilarity) is likely to be wet. A thunderstorm sometimes rolls round the Waveney Valley for hours, seemingly trapped by the curve of the waterways.

The North Norfolk coast is supposed to be particularly sunny. Cromer, on the North-East corner, is said to be sunniest of all - I daresay there are records to back this up but, I have to say, this has never been my experience. Every time I visit my sister-in-law there, it has been dull and often drizzly.

The sun is shining now. I'm going to put washing on the line.

Sunday 15 June 2008

Z is told where to go

So, Weeza and Phil have chosen carpets and other flooring and paint colours, and booked fittings. Furthermore, their tenant has moved out, so the house is properly theirs. I started to feel excited as soon as I walked in again from waving her goodbye, but it took a while for the slow big grin to spread above Weeza's face, as it started to sink in. She's still pacing herself though; it'll be a few weeks yet before she finishes work and moves here, leaving Phil to finish packing up and loading the heavy stuff and leaving the London flat empty. I will so miss my overnight London visits - I usually go up on a Friday, spend a day doing this and that, meet them for dinner - El is a whiz at finding good restaurants with half-price offers - and then we have a day together before I come home on Saturday evenings - but the pleasure and excitement of having her within 20 miles and the prospect of the baby to come more than makes up for it; indeed, it doesn't matter at all.

We thought a barbecue last night. Sadly, the weather forecast was accurate and it rained, until I served up steak in the west-facing dining room, whereupon the sunlight streamed in again. Today, another lovely morning, but it rained at lunchtime, so it was just as well that we hadn't tried again with the outdoor eating. We drove over to the house and then to the station for a cup of tea before the train came in, and it started to tip down yet again as I was about to leave them. It wasn't that far to the car, but I was wet through and my hair was dripping, so that I had to comb it back and the unaccustomed sight of my pale bare forehead startled me.

I tried out the new satnav and am a happy convert. I am a Luddite at heart, rejecting most innovations, but I rather liked the unnagging tone of the directions and, although I ignored the voice at one stage and went my own way, there was no fuss but a few seconds of quiet reconfiguration and then a polite suggestion of the next turning, which was the one I wanted to take all along. On the way home, it was entirely good-natured and caused no dissent at all, unlike Dilly's sister's, which tried to send her several miles the other way to the main Lowestoft to Norwich road, quite unnecessarily. Next weekend, I'll be driving to their London flat and I've got lost doing that before (on a rainy November night; the only other time I've driven there I was all right) and I just don't want the anxiety: which is the reason for the satnav.

Saturday 14 June 2008

Where everyone knows your name

Hard not to snap back to good humour when you go into Yagnub. Helped by the westerly wind behind me, I pedalled hard up the hill by the post office and was puffing a bit as Penny crossed the road in front of me. "I'm slow, you've plenty of time," I called. "Mind that hip!" she returned. I went into the butcher and asked for thick sirloin steaks. Adrian remarked that the Sage had enjoyed the meat he'd bought himself for his lunch the other day (he'd been eating fish or veggie all week and maybe felt a little deprived). I said that he'd offered to share, but I'd already cut a lovely artichoke from the garden. Tracy in the bakery started to put my rolls in a bag and then said "Ooh, better not, Alex wouldn't like it!" I agreed, and said I'd get the blame. "Mind you don't drop them as you cross the road." "If I do, that'll be Al's fault."

I went along to the library - I forgot that I'd been in last time on a Friday, so I had a 75p fine to pay - and stocked up on canvas bags for Al, who sells them at cost price in the shop. Then I went back and picked up some lovely local lettuces, Webbs Wonder and Cos, for tonight and chatted to several customers, including Penny who had worked her way round town and was getting her heavy vegetables last. An elderly car was parked on the yellow line and the traffic warden was standing there. "That's Bill's car," said Al. "I know," he said. "Go on, then, give 'im a ticket!" The warden grinned. "I've warned him often enough." "He's in the butcher, he'll be out as soon as he spots you." Bill saw him and he shot out and into the car. "I have told you, you know, this'll have to be a final warning." Bill didn't believe him, you could see. "You're parked on the pavement drop too, for wheelchairs, that's worse than just the yellow line," I said and, to the warden, "You're a good, kind man." "Hm, up to a point..." he replied. "I'm not buttering you up, I'm on my bike," and he grinned at me.

There's a link I want to put in to a newspaper article, but the EDP's search is really quite poor and I've never found out how to find a particular thing I need to find. The town and the person and the date doesn't do it - I'll have to have another try later. I must go now to fetch my girly and her chap from the station.

Later The local paper only puts in headline news on the day, you have to pay for an e-edition to get the whole of the paper's contents, which is all right, because the article was in yesterday. But it doesn't seem to be there yet. Maybe they don't update at weekends.

Friday 13 June 2008

There's always the weekend to look forward to

The Year 9 music pupils in today's lesson were having their work recorded, for playing back and evaluating at the next lesson. It's been an ambitious project - each class was split into small groups, usually of 4 or 5, and they had to write, arrange and play a piece of music in their chosen style. Some of the groups tackled this with a lot more confidence than others, but I've been impressed by the work they've all put in and the results. It's not the way we were taught music when I was at school.

I was tired and had to walk up the hill to the school. I knew I looked drawn and miserable and I couldn't help it - it was all right when I was with someone and had an animated expression, but in repose my face drooped. On the way home, I noticed the gardener in the churchyard mowing the grass and I went along to tell him the date of the festival, so that he could cut the grass and tidy up in the week before. As I came back, an old lady was walking through the side gateway followed by her granddaughter (I suppose) who had driven her there. They were both carrying flowers. The older woman's were bright, pretty colours of summery flowers and it made me cry, to think of her visiting her husband, with nothing to express herself with but pointless blossoms that he wouldn't see her carefully arrange and lovingly water.

This afternoon's meeting, which was to confirm or disallow the permanent exclusion of a school pupil, was straightforward, but depressing.

Tomorrow, Weeza and Phil are coming up to meet the carpet fitter at their house in Norwich, to where they are moving next month. The train service has been horribly delayed by track problems all week and the lastest thing was a derailed goods train yesterday. They will be bused from Colchester to Ipswich and the journey will take nearly an hour longer each way. I'll ferry them around to do some shopping - paint and the like - take them to the house and also buy the Sage a birthday present for next week. We'll celebrate on Saturday evening, while we're all here.

Al panicked this morning when he discovered an order on the board for stuff he didn't have - lollo rosso lettuces, endives, several pineapples, 20lbs of tomatoes, herbs, 15 lbs of strawberries --- it went on. He rang and there was no reply, so the Sage went out to visit the customer and see whether they were for today or tomorrow. Her husband was there. "Um, no," he said, "the order's for next week." The Sage went back and reported to Al who had, by then, noticed the date clearly written and who has meekly accepted the description of 'plonker.'

Z's had enough

Another day over, thank goodness. Tomorrow won't be an easy one either. Today, that is, as it's after midnight again. And one piece of upsetting news after another this week - nothing personal to me, you understand, but affecting friends. Though I did just find a rather cold and withdrawing sort of email from someone, out of the blue which, as I was already low, has upset me. I sent a slightly too polite reply, rather formal - if I'd left it until tomorrow I might written in a different style but fuck it, why should I? I'm always the smoother over and the one who absorbs other people's moodiness and I don't feel like it tonight. I can't be bothered.

Oh damn, I'm going to go and have a lovely hot bath and then I'll wake up my husband and he will cuddle me and I'll feel all right again. Sorry darlings, I'll be better once tomorrow afternoon is over.


Thursday 12 June 2008

English scones (since you ask)

Plain Scones

These are not very sweet or rich, but if I'm putting jam and cream or butter on, there's no need for them to be.

8 oz self raising flour (or plain flour with baking powder* as recommended on the pack)
1 ½ oz butter at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons white sugar
pinch of salt
5 fluid ounces milk
A little extra flour for rolling out.

Sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter in until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, ad the sugar and the salt, then add the milk, stirring in with a knife and then making a dough with your fingers.
Turn the dough onto a floured board and roll out gently to about ¾ of an inch – don’t make them too thin, but thicker is all right. Cut out with a pastry cutter or knife, put on a floured baking dish, bake for about 12 minutes, depending on size, at gas 7, 425F or 220C (not sure what you use!). When cooked, they will be golden brown and look cooked underneath too. Cook on a wire rack, eat while slightly warm.

Fruit scones

6 oz self raising flour (or 3 oz white SR flour, 3 oz plain wholemeal and 1 teasp baking powder*)
½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1 oz soft brown sugar
1 oz butter
1 ½ oz mixed dried fruit, or just raisins
1 large egg
2 – 2 ½ tablesp. milk
Make as before, adding the cinnamon and fruit before the egg and milk, which you beat together.
They take 15 -20 minutes to cook.

Cheese scones

6 oz SR flour (or as in previous recipe)
½ teasp dry mustard powder – if you don't have that, a little prepared mustard mixed with the milk.
½ teasp salt if you wish
1 oz butter
3 oz grated strong Cheddar or similar cheese
1 large egg
2-3 tablesp milk

Mix dry ingredients, rub in butter, add most of the cheese (reserve about 1 tablespoonful), mix to a dough with the egg and milk beaten together.
Cut out the scones – it’ll make 6 – 8 – and brush the tops with milk and sprinkle on the reserved cheese.
Bake (same temp as before) for 15-20 minutes, serve warm with more butter if you like.

Exact proportions don't matter with any of these, I just chuck it all together until it feels and looks right. You can't go far wrong, just don't roll them too thin and if you accidentally do, call them rusks.

*Baking powder is a mixture of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda – for half a pound of flour you'd need 1 level tablesp., which is 15 ml (sorry to switch to metric suddenly) baking powder. If you're mixing your own, it's 2/3 cream of tartar to 1/3 bicarb. I said to Yoga Gal that I replace some of the milk with buttermilk or plain yoghurt, but I didn't mention that, if I don't, I might add another teaspoon of baking powder, even if I've used SR flour.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Z is sad

Oh, I thought I'd written a post - I just came on to alter the date to just before midnight; but I haven't. It was typing out those recipes for Yoga Gal.

Right. Um, I didn't do a lot today - just a meeting this morning, for which I have to write up notes ...that reminds me, I've got some from last week too because the secretary forgot the meeting and so I did minutes. I looked after Pugsley this afternoon, cycled in for fruit and veg - I'd asked the Sage to take my car this morning and fill it with petrol as Weeza and Phil are coming for the weekend and need to use it - and then biked in again for a new intake evening at school. One father seems to be interested in becoming a governor and I gave him my email. One of the other governors came in at about 20 to 9 and said it was just started to rain, so I hastened home (yes, provident woman that I am, there was a raincoat in the pannier and -AND- I'd remembered to put new batteries in the front light.

Actually, I'm a bit gloomy at present, because I heard today of a third friend who has died. None of these were young; one was just 86, one was 70 (that's pretty young really) and this one was 85. She and her husband (an old teacher of the Sage's) live some 120 miles away and the Sage is pondering whether he'll manage to go to the funeral. I can't, I've got an engagement that day.

In addition to that, two friends have just found they have cancer - both of them are around 80 - worrying news.

But, to finish on a happier note, a hen pheasant has been proudly bringing her babies to show us. She has nine of them and they've had several fine days to give them a good start in life. The rain this evening was only a shower - but it gave me a good excuse to get home in time to watch the final of The Apprentice. As ever, Siralun chose unwisely and will deserve all he gets.

(A few minutes later) - back again to backdate this to yesterday - it's 1 am, but you wouldn't want two posts on a Thursday, would you?

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Z did the washing up

I arrived at the shop at 8 this morning, which does help as there's a lot of plants to get out at this time of the year. I went out at 11.30 to do some shopping for the doo this evening, bought some chops for the Sage and Ro's dinner and a ham and salad roll for my lunch from the bakery. As my bike panniers were crammed full, I was glad to see the Sage (with car) outside the shop and handed it all over for him to take home. Dilly arrived soon after Tim left at 12.30 and she served while I bunched up asparagus (if you leave it loose, customers break it as they handle it and a lot is wasted) before my meeting.

We left the Chairman of governors with a lot to do, I'm afraid, but in a supportive sort of way ;-) and then I went back to the shop, advised Dilly (yes, she did ask first) on the contents of a regular fruit box and went home. Al was going in to help pack up and the Sage and Ro would look after the children, while I prepared food.

First, I put on eggs to hard-boil, then I made a batch of scones, then I sliced a cucumber into quarter-inch slices, then I whipped cream, then I took the eggs off the stove, then - nearly too late - I removed the scones from the oven. I decrusted and buttered a small loaf, mashed the eggs with seasoning and mayonnaise, packed panniers and left for the church. There, I switched on the water heater, topped bread with smoked salmon, more bread with egg mayonnaise, cucumber slices with Boursin cheese, scones with cream and strawberries and, as other food arrived, put it on plates. I'd brought biscuits, crisps etc, but didn't open them as there was loads.

The bit that nearly scuppered me was having been asked to play for a hymn at the start. But it did give me a sit-down, and I had a quick swig of port at Communion time and belted back to make coffee. I'd already put out cups and saucers. Sue and I put out the food - we had put that outside, as chairs were in the meeting room and the hall isn't big enough. I put milk outside too, to force people out.

45 people emptied 4 cafétières, 3 teapots and nearly a litre of milk. Afterwards. they went in for their meeting while I washed up. At the end, I stood bearing foil plates and plastic dishes and asked people to take more food with them. As it was a meeting of religious types, I pointed out that it would have to be thrown away otherwise, and by the end very little was left. I finished washing up and left for home at 10.15.

I'm glad I won't be doing it again tomorrow.

Monday 9 June 2008

The Sage forgot about Z

I know, you can hardly believe it and nor can I. But I was stood up; not with disdain aforethought but through sheer amnesia.

Al went to work this morning, but I was not surprised when he returned after an hour, so I went in to help Tim. Monday mornings are always busy - for one thing there's always a big order received as so much has sold out on Saturday and then there is a lot to check and possibly throw out; and it's often a busy morning as people need to stock up after the weekend. However, I was home by 12.30 and ate a quick but delicious lunch of granary bread (unadorned), raspberries, plain yoghurt and cherries. The yoghurt is a bit of a slog actually; I bought it a week ago, two 500g pots, but as they were out of whole milk stuff I bought fat-free and, to be honest, it's a bit too worthy. I've taken to adding a spoonful of Greek yoghurt to perk it up, but it's still taking some getting through.

I drove to the blood donor clinic in case I felt woozy and not like cycling the 3 miles home - I was fine, but was a little tired when on my way to the hairdresser later; I had to stand on the pedals to make it up the hill. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon in the shop - Tim offered to stay until the end of the afternoon and I gratefully accepted. I had a front door key, and the Sage said he'd call in at 6 o'clock with his key, to lock the back door.

At 6.20, I phoned home. No reply. I phoned Ro's mobile. Little chance of a reply there, he usually leaves it on the kitchen table once he gets home from work. Finally (I was tired and hungry) I phoned Al and asked if Dilly could bring in a key.

Two minutes later, my mobile rang. "Are you still at the shop?" asked the Sage cheerfully. I knew he was at home, as the display showed "Us". "You were supposed to call in half an hour ago to lock the back door," I reminded him tersely. "Oh! My meeting went on a long time." "It was the last thing you said to me when I left the house" - I was stern. He was abashed. Legless for standing purposes.

Five minutes later, having warded off Dilly, he drew up. I was smiling by then (mercurial isn't in it - I am the mistress of the mood change). "There's a bottle of pink in the fridge; have a glass poured for me"

And he did. Even better, Dilly and Co had only eaten half their chicken for dinner and she gave me the rest, with potato salad and coleslaw; I hastily washed a lettuce, sautéed courgettes to add to leftover couscous and dinner was ready 15 minutes after I started preparing it. The Sage also used a particularly nicely-shaped glass for the wine, which makes such a difference to one's enjoyment. I don't often use good glasses, as I put them in the dishwasher, but he is unaware of such things and that's fine with me.

Sunday 8 June 2008

Z sorts out her Diary and is still Gung Ho

Okay, plans for the week change a bit. Al has now got The Bug. Ro and I, the only ones unscathed by it, are very nervous. Trouble is, Al has a shop to run and Eileen is still on holiday. So...I've a free morning tomorrow, so I can go in early and set up and stay to work with Tim, because Monday mornings are often busy. He can manage in the afternoon, when I've a trip to the blood donor clinic and then a haircut booked and then I'll take over again for the last hour or so and pack up. Right, that's sorted.

Tuesday, I can cancel the morning appointment; the afternoon one is a bit more tricky but it can go too. I'm supposed to be doing food for a meeting in the evening, but I can always do it ... er.... oh, never mind, it'll be fine. Wednesday isn't too busy, so Tim can spare me for an hour or two for another meeting. I'm free in the afternoon. Thursday, I hope Al is better and he'll have to be on Friday because I have something on at 2 o'clock that I'm needed for - a school thing that's confidential but has a time limit and statutory conditions and, while I personally don't matter, it'll be awkward to find someone else.

If I'm ill, I suppose I'll just have to not eat and drink, because that's what causes the problems. I'm relying heavily on alcohol to keep me well. I've drunk all the wine (except the good stuff and the raffle prizes) so have moved on to gin. Unfortunately, there's no ice and no tonic. I used sparkling apple juice, which was a bit sweet so I added the juice of half a lime; this made it taste a bit odd so I added another slug of gin and it seemed to improve it a bit, anyway I drank it.

Update, 11.15 Alex came in a while ago to say he feels better. The Sage gave a hollow laugh after he'd gone, saying that he felt better each evening for 8 days, but there was a severe recurrence of symptoms in the night (actually, he didn't say all those words, as he doesn't speak like an 18th Century pedant, but I've added the last 11 of them to explain what he meant). We'll see what happens. I hope Al's optimism is rewarded.

Z flexes her fingers

I went in for the papers after church and arrived home just before 9.30. The Sage was on the phone being sympathetic to someone (a friend of a friend; we've met her sister but not her) who has come over from California to visit her mother who is very ill. I was on the way to the kitchen to put the kettle on when the other phone rang. It was Andy, who was due to play the organ at today's 11 o'clock service. "I've just been called out," he said dolefully. "I'll play, no problem," I said. He's an undertaker - well, someone has to be and he's a very helpful one, but he's often on call at weekends. My mother died in the early hours of a Sunday morning too, and the undertakers arrived by 10am, only a couple of hours after I rang them.

So I'll be off again as soon as I've had breakfast, to run through the hymns before everyone else arrives.

The good news is that the sun is out. It broke through the clouds shortly before 9.10, as I was on my way to fetch the newspaper.

Saturday 7 June 2008

Zed bed

I fell asleep on the sofa, while watching Have I got news for you - only for ten minutes, but I'm still sleepy. I should go to bed, but I'm a bit reluctant as I'm not good at the early night. It's such a pleasure to be asleep before 11, but then I might be awake by 3 and not able to nod off again.

Anyway, another day ticked off and I've the whole of tomorrow afternoon free. If the weather is a damn sight better than today's, I'll take the newspapers out on the lawn to pretend to read them, and actually sleep all afternoon.

I apologise for not putting up the books I read last month in May's Book Binge. I took some of them back to the library, having carefully written down their titles and authors, and have mislaid (no, not lost, I just don't know where it is) the card they're written on. I'll look tomorrow, in between coming home from church and flopping on grass or sofa to sleep. I'm wondering how memorable were those library books, if I can't remember even what three of them were.

Right, I'm off to bed. I'm an exciting Saturday night companion, don't you think?

Friday 6 June 2008

The Z is out of joint, though not literally

I've given up a bit on keeping the plates spinning - I've just balanced them very carefully and am hoping they stay there until after the weekend. All this week's jobs have been done, I'm reasonably sorted for tomorrow's wedding and after that (bearing in mind I have to be in church at 7.30 on Sunday morning) I'll start thinking about next week. I'm slightly tetchy this evening, so will keep out of the way in here for a bit so that I don't say anything I'll have to apologise for.

Damn. I've got to send an emergency email to the PCC. hang on, I'll be back.

Right, done that. It's about next Tuesday - didn't think I should leave it until Sunday.

I read in the paper yesterday that a friend's father has died, and another friend's mother's funeral notice was in the paper today. He had been extremely ill and had outlasted his strength several weeks ago; but his daughter looked after him to the end. She (the mother) was only 70 and I didn't know she'd been ill. I'm very sad for both families - and sorry that it means two more funerals to go to.

I've just had one reply to emergency email, which offered help. How lovely people are.

I had to see a friend just outside Norwich this afternoon, so took a back road or two to cut out the ring road. Unfortunately, I came upon a whole twinkling of police and various emergency cars, had to turn back and make a five mile detour. When I returned an hour or two later, there was a great deal of sand strewn all over the road, so it must have been a collision in the rain. One never sees the accidents one has come upon reported in the press; it's always other and often minor ones, so I suppose I'll never know what happened; but then it's none of my business anyway.

Remembered to reply to another email. I'm not so good at switching off. And another. Damn. Or good, less to do later.

Sorry, you're getting an insight into my mind. This is what it's really like being me. When I apologise to my family for the horror of it all, I remind them that they're lucky really. They just have to live with me. I have to live with BEING me.

I'll listen to the Old 97's until I feel relaxed and gentle.

I'm still well, I only have to last another 30 hours and it won't matter nearly so much, except that next Friday is vital, and this a 9 day bug. Hm. Whisky. I'll broach the Laphroaig, as no germs can live through that.

PS - I just bobbed back to the Kitchen Witches, to cheer myself by reading their happy news again - they've had their first baby, a lovely little girl - and I read all 39 messages of congratulation, and I feel very cheerful and a bit emotional. Things are still good, when so many people care and lovely things still happen. Best wishes to all three of you Kitchen Witches.

Mood transformed, I'll drink my whisky and go and kiss my husband. Have a good weekend, darling friends.

Z's grandchildren love films

Steady rain today, which is getting heavier. I stayed in bed late, to be woken up by the Sage calling cheerily up the stairs that he was just off to fetch the asparagus. He received a reproachful answer (and apologised later, when he arrived home) and I dozed off again. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Dilly, wanting me to let Kenny (ex-gardener, who will be 88 this month) not to call round today, which he often does on a Friday to see the children, in case he catches the Bug. She also wondered if we had any Weetabix, as Pugsley was asking for it.

I dressed hastily and went through with the Weetabix. Pugsley was sitting crying in his high chair. I held up the packet. He stopped and, as soon as it was in his bowl, dived his spoon in, even before milk was added. He ate two, but before he had finished Squiffany was through, asking to watch the scary film. I looked quizzical. "Ghostbusters" admitted Dilly. "I didn't feel up to doing a thing with them yesterday and they've seen all the children's films we have, and you can only take so much CBeebies." "Scary film, scary film!" chanted Pugsley excitedly. Evidently, the love affair with Labyrinth is over for the time being. I wonder how they'd take to Some Like It Hot?

Thursday 5 June 2008

Among the eels

I spent today in Ely. If you don't know it, it's not far from Cambridge, in the fens; that is, marshland; although a good deal of drainage has taken place, Ely is still, technically, an inland island. It's famous for its cathedral, which is impressive without and lovely within, and also contains a museum of stained glass which is brilliant. We had a guided visit and it was so interesting. The cathedral tour was ably led by a lady in her 60s, I suppose, who was quite portly but had slender and shapely ankles and calves (look, these things matter) and the museum tour was taken by a young academic called Rosie, who was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions.

I arrived home at 10 to 7, just in time to belt down to the church to join in the preparations for the wedding on Saturday. They are so happy and in love, does my old heart good to see them. They've invited me to the wedding reception - I hope my posh frock fits; it might be a bit big, I'm looking forward so much to the wedding that I'm forgetting to be terrified, which is not wise. I'll practice assiduously all tomorrow morning and be note perfect. We've established the length of the voluntary that will greet the bride - it needed to last about 30 seconds, but not sound as if it was cut short. I've abbreviated and then cut out a chunk and gone to the coda...if I knew how to record on to the computer without larking about on YouTube, I'd give you a tinkle, but I don't.

Anyhoo, the family are, apparently, much better, but have cancelled this weekend's trip to London, for fear of passing on germs to Weeza - she can do without a stomach bug at 7 months pregnant. I am keeping up my alcohol consumption, which I (and the Boy) reckon to be the best protection against bugs. Not having eaten much for a few days, my system has ground to an entire halt, which is not to suggest that the squits would be in any way welcome.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Send in the Clones

Dilly isn't quite better after all, so I took Squiffany to her nursery school today. She looked very sweet in her little red and white gingham dress, clutching her blue book bag. It took me a few minutes to persuade her car seat into my car, as I haven't shifted it for a while, but we arrived on the dot of 9. Several other little children were trotting towards the gate with their mothers or daddies or, in one other case granny, and it made me, unreconstructed 60s hippy chick that I have never realised I must be, a little sad.

Some years ago, there was a move away from uniforms. Most primary schools, apart from the private ones, gave them up altogether and so did some high schools; or at least there was a colour scheme rather than an actual uniform, but the mood has shifted over the last ten or fifteen years and now most schools have uniform. But these are 3-year-olds and the reasons for a uniform - that it promotes a sense of unity and pride in the school, tidiness, minimises competition for the newest and smartest clothes, makes the pupils more identifiable, etc, don't really apply here. What it did for me, as I watched these little identically-dressed tots trot in through the gate, was to indicate that they were part of the system, losing their individuality, expected to conform; and I think they are simply too young to have to learn that dreary lesson. At least, for painting, they still use an old shirt of their dad's, round the wrong way with the sleeves shortened. Won't be long before the parents are expected to fork out for a regulation artist's smock, I daresay.

Since then, by the way, she has developed similar symptoms to her mother, brother and her (now recovered) grandpa. Ro, Al and I are looking at each other in some trepidation. It would be most inconvenient for me to be ill any time before the 23rd, when I have a few fairly free days. Any time is very awkward for Al, especially if I'm not free or able to take over the shop, and any stomach problem gives Ro terrible migraines.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Z is nearly asleep

A few more things ticked off the list and I'm winding down nicely. Today's meeting and lunch were fine - I decided at the last minute; that is, about 5 o'clock yesterday evening, that hot food would be much simpler than cold and so it was. The Sage was on fine form at lunchtime, which was lovely as he wasn't well for a week - one of those bugs which goes around making a nuisance of itself; Pugsley and Dilly have had a milder version of it over the last couple of days, although they're better now too.

After everyone had left, at about 3.30, I said that I was going to see how Dilly was and opened the door. A strong whiff met me - Tilly, emboldened by the fuss everyone had made of her, had been and rolled in a cow pat. She was miffed when I wouldn't let her in. I did after a while, to feed her, but then shut her in the porch while I went to play with the children. Later, I had to go to another meeting (and found myself taking the minutes, boo) so cycled cheerily past the Sage and Ro, who were just directing Tilly towards a bucket of water and some shampoo, and I apologised insincerely but truthfully for not having time to help. Now, she is lying beside me on the sofa with a sweet-smelling and glossy coat. She's probably mortified.

Ro's car needed some work done on it before it passed its MOT - since it stood him in at some £450 two years ago and he spent about £100 on it last year and £150 this, he feels he has been doing rather well at cheap motoring. He wishes he could bear to go to work by bus, but it just takes so long - the last few days has reminded him how dull it is to spend an extra hour and a half on his daily journey and how short the evening is after he gets home. He came home early this afternoon so that he and the Sage could fetch the car. I spent £40 in the local Co-op yesterday (wine, mostly) to get him a 4p-per-litre-off voucher - I suppose they put it on to take it off, but with diesel at £1.30; that is, £5.50 per gallon, he doesn't want to drive any distance for cheaper fuel.

D'you know, I think I'll have an early night. Goodnight, darlings.

Monday 2 June 2008

An Owl of Dismay

The chap from the Barn Owl Trust has called to check our owl box and see if it's inhabited. There are owls around, but I don't know if that's where they live.

I went, a few months back, to an information day about church maintenance - I learned a lot about gutters and drainage - the general principle is that if you keep your gutters and drainpipes in good nick, that's most of the repairs saved, except major structural ones, and many of them are caused by water in the wrong place anyway. Most of the questions were about bats in churches. Their droppings are very acidic and can damage, for example, marble monuments and wooden furniture, and pews have to be kept covered apart from service times, too or else people will sit on batshit and be displeased.

A local church (not in our village) has a big problem with bats - they are protected, of course, so nothing can be done to risk injuring them. Apparently, it started when the big house (the Old Rectory, in fact) next to the church caught fire. The bats had lived in the attics and, displaced, they moved into the church. They hadn't lived at the Old Rectory that long, in fact. A barn in the next field had been converted into a house. It seems that this left the bats homeless, until they found a new place to live...

There are a lot of bats about here, and I like them very much. Occasionally, one will get into the house. Of course, they can avoid you and there's no risk of being divebombed, but they are very small and impossible to catch and creep into the tiniest of cracks behind furniture, so it's hard to get it out again.

Anyway, about the bats in churches. One person said they had found the answer. They left the lights on overnight for a few weeks. This didn't harm the bats, but they didn't like it much, so they moved out. Once they had found somewhere else to live, the lights could be left off again.

Report back on the owls. A startled tawny owl flew out, but it was just sleeping there rather than nesting. There are pellets around, so it's evidently a regular roost. They were quite encouraged by this, as it's the first owl they have come across today after a morning of box-visiting.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Unforgettable, that's what Z ... isn't

I met a woman a couple of months ago - she was charming and friendly but quite the biggest fact-dropper I've ever met. In a few minutes, and quite irrelevantly to our conversation, she had let me know the origin of her surname (far posher and more ancient than it sounded), that she was not only a Doctor but a retired hospital consultant and that she found it 'psychologically interesting' when people she knew came across her serving coffee (in her capacity as a volunteer) as they were so startled to see her out of her social milieu and working in a servile capacity.

I met her again a few days ago and this time she showed me her late husband's medals (she just happened to have them on her) and told me that he had spoken six languages, dropped into the conversation that her car had a 3.2 litre engine and referred to another friend as Dr *John Smith* ... PHD she added.

The harder she tried, the more I became fond of her, in fact, because she seemed really quite needy, though she would be horrified to know that. The first time, I'd been amused - and marked down that she may have been a consultant, but she was not a surgeon or she would have dropped the title "Dr" - surgeons are rather too grand to need such a handle to their name. This time, I wondered why. She is attractive, well-spoken, obviously a 'lady' but maybe, now that she doesn't live in London and doesn't have the status of her job, feels she has something to prove?

Friendly and charming as she was, she showed no sign of recognising me, however. Now, whoever would forget me?