Tuesday 30 September 2008


Dandelion was a bit bemused by my idea of an evening meal, which was half a packet of corn cakes and a can of lager and cup of tea (she provided the tea, which I kept forgetting to buy), so she plied me with chocolate, which I don't often eat but enjoy when I do. I kept stopping painting to answer the phone; evidently people missed me back at home.

On Saturday, I took the Tube to her house. It's a bit exhausting, managing a heavy suitcase on the Tube, but a nice lady who worked there called me 'love' when she held the gate for me, which was cheering. I was dismayed when I found a flight of steps, but a kind young man helped me with my bag and I thanked him. On the next, long flight of downwards stairs, a young woman, having just climbed them, turned back to carry my suitcase and I only just got my voice back under control by the time we reached the bottom in time to thank her too. The kindness of strangers indeed.

At my destination, I managed to get my case down the stairs, while an older man, also with a bag, and I bitched about the fact that no London tube station makes any concession to people with heavy baggage. There are no ramps at all and often stairs between lines or at the exit.

It was a great party and I met lots of people. I had to leave early because I had a timed train ticket and couldn't miss it. Sure enough, someone helped me yet again at the next set of stairs (though she was daunted at the weight too, and we lugged it along together), and again at Liverpool Street. It's a bit shocking, to realise how evident it must be that I'm struggling to manage - but I'm old and quite small and it really was a heavy bag.

Thanks to having set off before the rush hour, I arrived at the station early and went to ask the man at the barrier if I might go and ask the guard if he'd let me travel early. He said he couldn't let me through before my due time. I said I quite understood and turned away - he relented and called me back to let me through. I walked the length of the train and finally the guard appeared and I asked him if he minded me catching an earlier train? He said that he didn't mind but if there were an inspection I'd be in trouble and I really should have the ticket endorsed at the ticket office. There wasn't time for that, so I decided to board the train anyway. When he came to check the tickets, he said I shouldn't be there. I said that he'd said he didn't mind, but he told me that he'd meant it personally not professionally as it were. I apologised and suggested I get out at the next station and wait. He sighed and stamped my ticket anyway. I asked if he was sure? - I'd willingly get out - but he didn't make me.

Weeza and Phil and Zerlina picked me up from the station and we went to the pub. I was a bit of a lightweight, only having a half pint of bitter, and later a small glass of wine with dinner. I slept long and deeply that night and drove home the next morning to play the organ for the Bishop.

Kindness, indeed, I received nothing but. It's a bit hard but probably good practice for the future, to accept the need for grateful humility.

Monday 29 September 2008

Z is Struck (but not in a dumb or injured way)

Several things struck me - not literally, although I did find two bruises on my arm and no recollection of how they might have been obtained - while I was staying in London. The first was that it's getting harder to find real useful things to buy in Islington. I went out for paint. On the way, I meant to call in at the internet cafe to find firms to check gas and electricity (no break-downs, but you need a sustificate before you can let out anywhere, and I have no problems with that at all. Two many people have died from fumes in unkept-up rented accommodation and the checks are necessary, although eye-wateringly expensive) but it had vanished and been replaced by a café. I kept going, pulling my suitcase (empty) towards Chapel Market. The paint shop had gone too. I went into the key-cutting place to get some keys cut and asked if there was an internet cafe locally. I was directed to a dodgy-looking game-playing place that was, in any case, closed. I kept going and found another small DIY shop and bought the paint and asked again, and was told of an internet place in the next road. Indeed, it was there. About 15 new and smart looking machines; I obtained permission to park the case (now containing paint pots) in a corner and seated myself at a machine. Half an hour later, I had made three appointments (I looked up firms and phoned them there and then) and checked vitallest emails and replied to a couple, but resisted blogging; too much to do. I went to pay. 50p. If they charge so little, they will surely not be in business long. The young man at the desk was startlingly handsome, with deep black skin and a charmingly shy smile.

Oh, I've omitted to say, when I was first thwarted in my attempts at paint-buying, I thought I'd try Woolworth. It isn't there any longer. A sign says it is to be replaced by Waitrose. What a good idea. Sainsbury next door, M&S round the corner, another supermarket is just what is needed right there.

Anyway, I headed into Sainsbury to get a few cleaning materials and some food. I had taken yoghurt and corn cakes so that I would have something for breakfast, and a kettle but had forgotten tea. I forgot it again.

I went back to the flat and started to get ready to paint, but it wasn't long before the man arrived to fit the new aerial, so I let him in, showed him up the two flights of stairs to the balcony and went down to let in the electricity man. They were both delightful and we chatted in between times. The electricity man found a small problem in the original set-up, but he said, kindly, that he wouldn't charge extra to fix it as it would only take half an hour. Then we went outside to the downstairs flat and I let him in. I have a charming tenant, but I'd never been in the flat until this trip (I'd called in the night before to explain that people were coming round and okay them coming in) and he has got it looking gorgeous. Awfully stylish, and he has a Mac too.

So, it wasn't until the afternoon than I made a start, and I seemed to make slow progress. I sorted out the bathroom and bedroom and texted a friend to say how dull it all was. Several texts later, I accepted her offer to come and help, and cracked on with renewed vigour.

The next day, I got on with cleaning and painting. It wasn't that the flat was dirty, but that a tenant is entitled to expect every corner to be newly scrubbed, and it was. In the afternoon, rather later than booked, the gas man came. He was not quite so chummy but unbent a bit in the face of the relentless Z charm (hem hem). Then I went off to the agents and signed the documents. By the end of the year, after all the expense, I hope to actually be earning something from the new tenant.

I meant to go out, but it was later than I'd wanted to leave and I was suddenly exhausted. All I did was recharge my Oyster card, get some food and a mini bottle of wine, and I was lying on the bed eating and drinking by 5.15, not having had more than a bread roll all day so far. Then I went to sleep. Later, I read. I'd meant to spend the rest of the evening working, but was too tired. I only drank half of the one-third bottle of wine (I brought the rest home) and read and slept the rest of the evening. I couldn't even get up early the next morning and was 15 hours in bed all told. I was cross with myself for the wasted time, but sleep was fitful every night, not helped by not having sufficient bedclothes. There wasn't room in the case for a sleeping bag, so I brought a duvet cover and a shawl and warm pyjamas and a pair of the Sage's socks, and thought I'd be fine. I wasn't. I added my bathtowel and jacket and on the second and third nights kept on my long sleeved tee shirt. As I draped each removed garment on top of the pile I felt like Eliza Doolittle when, arriving home after an evening selling flowers, her preparation for bed was to remove her skirt and blouse, add them to the pile of clothes and shawls on the bed and climb in underneath them. Well, so I remember from reading the play 40 years ago anyway.

On Saturday morning I still had the kitchen ceiling to paint and the kitchen cupboards and floor to clean, as well as photographs to take for an inventory (still to be written), the downstairs passageway floor to wash and the stairs to give a final coat of paint. I tidied everything away, took my bags downstairs and my final action was to paint my way down the stairs. My hands were dirty but I couldn't do anything about it; I wiped them on my jeans, changed, texted Dandelion to say I was on the way, but late, slapped on some emergency make-up and set off.

Too long a post, I'll add the rest of what struck me tomorrow.

Not too late to
join the newspaper bag project
by the way. I hope you're all busy making your own bags and sending photos to Ronan.

Sunday 28 September 2008


You may have noticed that I stayed away an extra day, but I was back in time to practise the hymns worriedly and, in the five minutes before the service started, choose the incidental music. Then, when it came down to it, I suddenly changed my mind for the closing voluntary and decided to play something flamboyant. Well, wouldn't you?

I've had a very productive few days and now know every inch of the flat extremely well, having painted and cleaned it all. That is, I didn't paint all of it myself as I had some help from a lovely and fabulous friend, who turned up at after 7.30 in the evening, cheerily worked for several hours and then stayed to chat, to the extent that the last bus was gone and she took an extremely expensive taxi. That is, it must have been, but she paid for it so I don't know.

I finally gave the stairs their second coat of paint, having presciently brought all my stuff downstairs, and changed into clean clothes in the hallway. Of course, I couldn't wash my painty hands, so had to wipe them on my jeans before changing. I was, by then, half an hour later than the latest I'd meant to me, so I arrived at my next destination half an hour late as well.

I don't usually arrive at parties dotted with paint, but endeavored to behave as if my appearance was normal and everyone was too polite to say anything about it, and I had an extremely jolly time. Sadly, I had to leave early (terribly rude, arriving late and leaving early) to catch my train. I hope I shall be forgiven and invited next year, when I shall be better prepared and take scones and strawberry jam, or maybe Party Rings and a bar of chocolate.

I have been on the receiving end of vast hospitality and kindness. Thank you, dear Dandelion.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Z is a New Broom

One only has to do one thing before the deadline to feel brisk, efficient and on top of things. If only I were. But I have renewed my car tax, a week early, because I have a feeling it won't be at the top of my to-do list when I get home and I'll forget. I've also remembered to send my friend (from schooldays) Lynn a birthday present, which is not bad going for me. It's not unusual to send it apologetically on the day itself. She is exactly a fortnight younger than I am. Furthermore, I wrote a report for tonight's meeting yesterday. This is almost without precedent.

I am also about to book a short holiday for next April. I'm not sure what's coming over me. It's with the same society I went to Madrid with, and I was unsure if I'd be able to join them as it might have clashed with our next sale date, but the Sage has said he'll change the date so that I can go. It saves me wistfully asking him if he fancies a holiday next year (which he won't), but is very sweet of him.

Right. I must get on. This feeling of getting things done mustn't be dissipated by spending the afternoon blogging.

Monday 22 September 2008

Picture of Zerlina! (and a paper bag)

Weeza has put up a fabulous picture on Ro's site, which is join the newspaper bag project
if you've forgotten about it. Do go to the Gallery and look at the Flickr pictures - I think you might know which one it is. Ro hadn't even asked them to make a bag because he thought they wouldn't want to bother, with a 5 week old baby and all.

I've been busy on paperwork today, with more to do but the worst is done. I must spend a fair bit of tomorrow cooking, because I've promised to stock up Weeza and Phil's freezer again.

I also need to think what I'm going to take to London, and I'm wondering if I can really work fast and spare Friday afternoon to go to the Goldsmiths’ Fair. I don't know, there's a lot to do, but it's marvellous, really - do go along if you have time (and can get to the City of London, obv). There are loads of things to see and the prices are by no means outrageous. Everything is designed and made by the exhibitors - I can't enthuse enough. It started today and next week there are a whole new lot of exhibitors. I really do want to go. It's open until 7 in the evening, so if I can work hard on Thursday and Friday and finish for the day before 4, it would be possible. There's only four rooms, how hard can it be? Oh, and the landing, hall and two staircases. Hm.

I'd better get back to work. Laters, dearests.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Z is to live like a Hermit

Yes well, we were a bit dilatory in getting the flat sorted out - there are a few minor things to attend to but we thought we'd have plenty of time before we got a tenant in, but we had a phone call from the agent yesterday afternoon, three days after being engaged to find a tenant, to say that someone wants to move in on 29th September, which is Monday week We'd said to Weeza and Phil not to worry about redecorating, we'd do it. Er. This means me, next week. Fortunately, and rarely, I have three days that I can clear, so I'm planning to go up on Wednesday evening and stay until Saturday, hope to finish by lunchtime, go to a social (blog-related but not a blogmeet) occasion and get home on Saturday evening.

I think it will be a bit odd really. The flat is completely empty, though the water and electricity are still on. I shall take an inflatable bed and a sleeping bag but nothing to sit on, nothing to amuse myself with apart from a book and radio. A kettle and mug and plate but nothing to cook with. When I finish working I will go out for dinner and if I want a break in the day I'll go to the pub, but that's it. No one to talk to, nothing to do but work or lie on the bed reading. I feel a bit lonely already at the prospect, and yet it surely will be pretty unstressful. I will go to quite low-key places to eat, being on my own, and I will just get on with the work and chat in a friendly way to myself and argue with the radio. I must remember to charge up the iPod.

Oh, and the stairs need repainting. That day, I won't be going anywhere.

Linking, lurking and liking

Since the only people I link to on my sidebar are my sons, I felt that I was going rather too far in asking you to link to Ro's new site. I vastly appreciate your good nature in overlooking my non-linking and, yourselves, linking to Ro. I did explain my non-linking decision some 15 months ago and I'll draw your attention to it, as it still applies - here it is.

Having added lots more blogs that I read and enjoy since I wrote that post, there are far too many to be able to link to without a load of differentiation and explanation. I have over 150 blogs which I subscribe to on Bloglines - yes I know, what can I say? However, some of them haven't been updated for ages - for all I know, some of those may have been removed, I ought to check some time. Others are people whom I like very much but who very rarely write, but I don't want to lose touch in case they do update. Of the rest, I do call in to everyone whether I comment or not. It may be a week or two sometimes in between visits (unread posts are running at several hundred at present) but I never mark them all as read and start again, I do catch up.

I'll now spend the next ten minutes reading your posts as I put on my Sunday face. Have a good day, everyone.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Harvest Supper

The children behaved impeccably (that they did not sin seems quite appropriate for a churchy sort of doo). They happily did jigsaws until it was time for dinner, ate their dinner nicely (Pugsley did make a slug on the tablecloth out of half a bread roll, some ham and some cucumber, but he was quite tidy about it. At the end, he decided it was a ladybird and ate it) and joined in with conversations cheerfully and politely.

It was a jolly evening all told. There were thirty of us and have I mentioned (this is a conversational nicety, Dave; I have) that I did not have to help with the arrangements at all? I did make a bread-and-butter pudding, which I sampled (along with a few other puds) to make sure it was good. It contained a loaf of buttered bread, two and a half pints of milk, eight bantam eggs and sultanas, sugar and vanilla essence. Ten minutes before we were due to leave, I took it out of the bottom oven, discovered it was still runny in the centre and shoved it back in the top (hot) oven again - it was ready by the time we were.

Interesting developments regarding the flat in London; it seems the agent has Pulled His Finger Out and found a tenant. Rapid redecorating required. More news on that to follow.

I did a splendidly large pedestal flower arrangement and a smaller one to balance it to go on the altar, and have draped grapes still attached to the vine around a cross, arranged a home-made loaf against it and will add a jug of wine tomorrow. Lots of flowers and greenery were brought as well as plenty of fruit, vegetables and packeted and tinned food, all carefully arranged. The village schoolchildren made paper flowers to decorate the pew ends. The church looks cared for.

I don't have to play the organ tomorrow, but I do next week, when the Bishop is coming. Hmm. The Rector has promised to let me have the hymns by Monday evening. It'll be fine. At the worst, the Bishop will have a fine opportunity to practise Christian virtues of tolerance and forgiveness. Moi, je suis une autocrate. C'est mon metier. Le bon Dieu me pardonnera. C'est son metier*," as Catherine the Great (reference books disagree, but she's the earliest credited) said. That fortifies me quite often, when I've fallen by the wayside in a metaphorical sort of way.

Thanks to those who have sent photos to Ro's website. He is really pleased - he wasn't sure if anyone would, and that you've gone to so much trouble is very lovely and warming.

*I didn't check it and I rarely write in French. You're welcome to correct it.

Thursday 18 September 2008

Fruitful mellowness

They've been on the wholesaler's list for a while now, but Al didn't order them until now. Brussels sprouts. I didn't buy them, much as I like sprouts they are late autumn and winter fare for me - I don't really think it's time for a sprout until after the first frost.

However, I came home, for the second day running, with a bag of fresh walnuts and I have eaten more of them than I care to admit to (not all of them though, we all love them). Indeed, I ate very little for lunch so that I could overindulge this evening. I will ascend a ladder this weekend to pick Bramley apples and I have been picking squashes - not finished that job, it made my back ache and I got bored at 86 squashes, with 20 or more still to go. They will not take us through the winter, although I will keep some, but Al will sell most of them and make a Handsome Profit.

It seems appropriate that this weekend we will celebrate Harvest Festival. There is to be a jolly supper tomorrow, and I am making a bread and butter pudding, but otherwise I've had no part in its organisation. Isn't that splendid? Three people offered to take it in hand, so I've left them to it, thus proving that I can. I am, however, helping to decorate the church tomorrow, mainly with vegetables and fruit. Did I ever tell you that, for Al and Dilly's wedding party, the marquee was decorated with baskets of vegetables? They looked gorgeous. Colourful and beautiful and completely appropriate.

I am doing a big arrangement of flowers too; the person I intended to ask has had to go away this week, because her father has died suddenly. Luckily I hadn't said anything so she hasn't had the worry of having to ring me to back out.

Still making bags, of course. I said that it's a competition between Ro and his employers; however it takes some time for results to show up in Google rankings, so don't expect news on that front for two or three months.

join the newspaper bag project


join the newspaper bag project

Ro is really pleased that so many people have visited his site and thanks you very much. It led one of his employers back here - I thought it might. I have never met either of them and now I think I'm a bit reluctant to; not that he took it amiss or that I said anything out of turn. As if, dears, as if. Ro was able, truthfully, to say that he's never read this blog - he makes a point of it in fact. Better not to know, is his attitude.

And thanks to Dandelion for pointing out places where the instructions could be better explained. We've known about these bags for so long and, although we haven't made any before, we've watched Al's twinkling fingers so many times that we hardly needed the instructions, so it was really helpful to have someone completely new to it have a go.

If you make a bag as a gift bag, maybe in a larger or smaller size (broadsheet newspaper, sheet of wrapping paper, magazine pages) then I'd try it with a tabloid size newspaper, according to the instructions, first and then do it again, adjusting by eye. The reinforcement at the top - the cardboard strips - are only needed to strengthen the handles so aren't needed if it's for something very light.

Weeza and Zerlina came over this afternoon. Little z is one month old today. She has gained more than a pound in weight now and is awake a lot more of the time. She looks around and waves her arms and legs and her expression certainly changes when she sees her mother. You can see the loving recognition in her face. She seems to like me and usually falls asleep on me after a few minutes. I looked after Squiffany and Pugsley this afternoon too, and we all played hide and seek in the garden, including z. Won't it be lovely when all the cousins are old enough to play together? This is a great garden for hide and seek. I used to do treasure hunts for my children, with cryptic clues appropriate to their then ages. That was good for birthday parties too. One year, I did a picnic birthday tea in the garden on rugs, which was a step into informality too far for 6 year olds. Most of the food was trodden into the rugs. Still, at least I never lost any of the children which was quite good going. Mind you, I could run pretty fast in those days.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

The Newspaper Bag Project

join the newspaper bag project

R works for a company which does web development. It is a very small company, run by two people and Ro is their only employee. He's been there about a year, he likes it very much, because he likes the work, he gets on well with his bosses and he appreciates their high standards - it being such a small company means that every detail is carefully checked and got right. Ro has no problem when it's his work being checked - if there's anything that can be improved he'd rather someone found it before it's gone online.

They have tried to employ more people, but it seems that they haven't found anyone yet who will fit in so well as Ro. And they look after him, taking him out to lunch once or twice a week, sometimes booking him in for a back and neck massage so that the hours spent at his desk don't get to him and if, on a Friday afternoon, all the week's work has been done, it's not unknown for them all to spend the last hour playing online games against each other. But then, Ro will often spend an evening working on some tricky detail of programming that he would like to improve.

So, the most recent bit of fun that they've come up with is for each of them to set up a website and see who can get highest in the Google rankings. The two of them both came up with highly technical and very clever ideas, but Ro, who maybe is a bit less of a geek, went at it from the other end and thought how to get people to link to him, because apparently that's the best way to get a good score. Having done Al's greengrocer site, he went for the paper bag idea.

So, please, will you go to his site and join the newspaper bag project. As a bonus, you get a photo of Ro, his boss's cat, my bicycle and, in the video, the sight of Al actually making one of his wonderful paper bags. Look out for glimpses of Squiffany, who was very interested in the whole thing.

And then, if you could have a go at one of the bags, please send him a photo, because that will be the entertaining and interactive bit.

And then, I'd be most grateful if you would put a link on your own site, and if you could consider linking to him (just for a few weeks) on your sidebar, that would be even kinder. He wants to win, but I want him to have to acknowledge that bloggers are totally lovely, because I still get teased about blogging.

I'm not sure about a prize, because he hasn't quite worked out how to do the judging. But there is one in it for him, so maybe we should put him under some pressure if he wins?

Oh, and when you send in your picture, would you be kind enough to mention me, so that he knows whom he should appreciate?

Thanks, darlings. Lots of love, as always. MWAH!

Tuesday 16 September 2008


I found it a bit hard to get going this morning and lurched out of doors and into the car a bit later than usual. It was probably that which made me not notice the car seats in the back until I'd parked in Norwich. I phoned Dilly (at least I'd remembered to stuff my freshly-charged phone in my bag) to apologise and offer to come home again in time to return Squiffany's seat in time to get her to nursery school at 12.30. Dilly, being always kind and relaxed, said it wouldn't hurt Squiff to miss school for once, especially as she's not 100% at present, having a cold.

Later, she got online and ordered a couple more seats - the present ones will only fit Squiffany for a little while longer. There can be two in Dilly's car and two in mine, or else one in mine and one in Al's van and swap about. It's a bit difficult to remember as Dilly works Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week and Tuesday and Thursday the other. It's dawned on them how much more she can earn as a teacher than Al does as a greengrocer and they are pondering a bit.

Anyway, another splendid lecture, about the workmanship of the treasures of Sutton Hoo and the king who is (most probably) buried there - or rather was, the acid soil destroyed his bones. His name was Raedwald (pronounced Radwald; if you can do a nice gutteral thing on the R - that is, Hradwald - then all to the good). The fine workmanship on the jewellery, on belt, scabbard, epaulettes, bag etc, which is gold inlaid with garnets, has been replicated but not by the original methods. They do not know how these early Angles worked the garnets with such precision, cut and faceted and inlaid in their gold setting. They are done so precisely that there was no padding to keep them in place and they are as perfect now as they were in about 625.

Ah. The headteacher of the village school has just called round. She wanted to tell me, at the time she told the parents, that she has just handed in her resignation, although she won't be leaving until the end of this academic year, next July. She wants to move nearer her family, in short. I haven't been a governor there for a couple of years, but I was one for 18 years and she says she still thinks of me as part of the school and wanted to keep me in touch.

I wish I could tell you all about the circumstances preceding her appointment but I can't. I actually signed a confidentiality document, so I really can't. Sue has been a fabulous head and has brought the school through some difficult times (mainly staff illness, there was some dreadful bad luck there) and it won't be easy to find someone of her quality.

This post doesn't really go anywhere, does it? I will have something specific to talk about tomorrow though, when I will ask for your help and it will involve Ro. No, he is not causing problems. He's fine.

Monday 15 September 2008

A Second Helping (of school dinners, darlings, if you remember)

You know, I think that there are things that really stir the memories. I feel sorry for the few children (even in my day) who grew up without television, because one has an immediate link to people of the same age as oneself. Another childhood memory that seems to hit a chord is school dinners, and that even links the generations as we can compare and contrast.

My sister started school in the year I was born (in Weymouth), which was the year that rationing finally came to an end over here. Yes, it took 8 years from winning the war for the government to relinquish that bit of control. Maybe that's why, after so many years of making do on very little, the meals at her school were so dreadful, or so she assures me. Apparently, it got a whole lot better when, 5 years later, she started at the convent school in Lowestoft and was pleasantly surprised by the better food. I, on the other hand, had been dismayed.

However, it was not the quality of the cuisine that upset me. It was communal eating. We ate in the same dining room as the older girls, but earlier. It was 2 large rooms knocked into 1 - I'm trying to remember how many tables, but I suppose 100-150 people could all dine together at tables of 8. The serving area ran along one side of one of the rooms and then there was a smaller room where the puddings were served and we also took our empty plates.

I was, as I've said before, an exceptionally shy child. I was also very small. I wore the smallest uniform in the shop, but it was still taken up and in and still hung on me. I had been dressed up and taken to school twice (my mother got the day wrong) and taken down into a basement classroom - there was no such thing as playschool in those days and, as my sister was still in Weymouth for that term (we have no idea why) I was all on my own. Then I was taken to this huge room, a plate of food was given to me, cutlery put in my hands (what, no laid table? No napkin?) and I was expected to eat. I didn't. I didn't cry, I just sat there.

A few days later, my mother found out that these kind nuns were taking me to a room in the convent itself and giving me milk and chocolate biscuits. Now, I had no problem with that at all, and managed to eat quite nicely, but she decreed that I should eat with everyone else. So I sat there again. After quite a long time, a kind older girl came to help me and I remember her persuading me to eat - "open wide - down the red lane!" and I did. After a few days, I must have got used to it enough to just get on with it. I've no idea who she was or what she thought when she turned up for lunch one day and I wasn't there - was she disappointed or relieved?

Now that I'm reminded, I do remember the Spam, which I didn't mind. The salad wasn't exactly inspiring, but it was fine. I remember diced mixed vegetables, carrots, cabbage and peas. When my sister was little, apparently she asked our mother once if we could have "nice brown cabbage, like we have at school". Later, with more refined taste buds, she described it as "good food spoiled". I also remember gravy served from a jug. It was all right - made with gravy browning of course (we used sherry, meat juices and vegetable cooking water for our gravy), but at least it moved around on the plate.* Wink says that we had fish cakes - yes, of course we did. They were quite peppery and not very fishy. She says that there was a monthly Friday rota, with fishcakes, fish fingers, the nasty cheese and potato pie and the hard yet watery scrambled eggs. I never noticed the rota part of it. I'm sure we didn't have macaroni cheese, which other people have mentioned; I don't remember pasta ever being served and the only rice we had was in pudding and there were various milk puddings; sago, tapioca, semolina. Each bowlful had either a blob of jam or of dark brown sugar.

It was after my boycott of the school meals that chips were introduced to the menu. My timing was a bit off there. I think I used to eat hard-boiled eggs, mostly, and orange peel. My friend Lynn used to take a satsuma every day in season and her mother washed it so that I could eat the peel. I ate apples, core and all. I had a small appetite but I wasn't wasteful.

I haven't even got on to my children's school meals, which were far worse than mine.

*Thinking of Tony Hancock - "I used to think my mother was a bad cook, but at least her gravy moved around on the plate. Yours just lies there and sets." Hattie Jacques, with dignity - "That's the goodness in it!" TH - "That's the half a pound of flour you put in it." From memory, don't quote me. I think the episode was called 'A Quiet Sunday Afternoon at Home'.

Sandy has been kind enough to give me an award. I will have to see if I can import it. I had another a while back, but I couldn't so it was never handed on. I owe someone an apology for that, because it wasn't that it was unappreciated.

Sunday 14 September 2008

Z is not odd, even if behaviour might occasionally indicate as much

I sent an email to friends last night and mentioned that I'd met a friend of theirs who might have thought I was behaving a bit oddly. I had a reply from the husband, which said not-quite-comfortingly that she's used to odd people - what? I wasn't saying that I was odd, just that I'd been behaving a bit unlike myself. Really, people are peculiar.

You see, I was telling him about my visit to Norwich yesterday, and this walk around the churches. I did start by cycling, but it was foggy first thing so I only went to the five most local churches and didn't bike more than about 3 miles. Then we dropped Wink off to visit the baby and parked in the city centre.

One of the first churches went to was the loveliest. A non-conformist chapel, built in the 1760s, it is octagonal in shape, inside and out, and is quite beautiful. It's in Colegate if you ever visit. The children behaved beautifully, returned greetings politely and commenting on what they saw inside the churches. Pugsley was particularly taken with the stained glass, saying "goodbye, windows" as we left each building. We visited 16 churches altogether, including the cathedral, and one of the last was the Quaker meeting house. My friends, to whom I sent the letter, are Quakers and attend there. Having had our forms signed, and leaving Dilly outside with the children (not all the buildings are easy to take a pushchair into), I asked if I might look inside. As you might expect, it was very simple indeed, with a circle of chairs and a table and plain pale walls, undecorated by pictures or anything else. Two women were talking; one was expressing some disappointment. Apparently, she is interested in religion except that she can't stomach the thought of a god, and she'd rather thought that Quakers didn't believe in one. The other woman was explaining that they do believe in a deity.

When the disappointed woman left, the other one chatted to me, and I did hold a proper conversation, but I was a little less than normally fluent. It was the atmosphere of the room. I'm not sensitive to this sort of thing as a rule, but there was a powerful feeling of goodness there. I actually felt quite dizzy. It wasn't a religious feeling, but simply one of strength and peace. I told her how it made me feel - she didn't quite get it any more than my friend did when I tried to explain. I suppose they're used to it.

Anyway, I've briefly emailed back, telling him that I AM NOT ODD.


Saturday 13 September 2008

School Dinners

So, how were they for you? I was at school before the days of choice and one was expected to clear one's plate regardless - mind you, one did have a choice as to what went on it; that is, yes or no to each item. I have an abiding memory of a boy called Gerald standing at the end of the line with an empty plate, having refused each item as he went past. It's a snapshot memory, a mental picture, and I don't know what was done about it.

There was always soup, which was served out at the end after you'd got your main course so that you didn't spill the bowlful while your plate was being filled. I never ate this but once - it was made up from a packet and had no nutritional value and I had a small enough appetite without filling it before the main course. The time I did eat it was on a day when you could offer to have bread, cheese and soup and the rest of your dinner money went to charity. Because these were Roman Catholic overseas missionaries and I wasn't RC, I didn't usually opt in to it, but on the occasion I did I found that I had a much nicer meal than usual.

The main courses were not very appealing on the whole. On a Friday, we either had fish or a vegetarian meal. The worst by far was cheese and potato pie, which tasted sour. I can't identify what if anything else went into it, it seems to me that it was lumpily mashed potato beaten up with cheese with some grated cheese sprinkled on top, but that sounds quite edible so something else must have made it so nasty. We were given fish but it has mercifully been banished from my memory. The fish fingers were nice - you can't go far wrong with fish fingers, although a boarder swore that she had once, at a weekend meal, lifted the breadcrumb layer to find a thin streak of blue mould underneath. It's probably the reason for my good health and cast iron digestion now.

On a Friday we sometimes had scrambled egg. This - we assumed it was powdered egg made up - came in huge stainless steel pans and the top was hard curds of egg which became more watery as you got further down. It was served out with a slotted spoon and if you were unfortunate enough to be at the back of the queue you watched the serving lady fish around to scoop out a few curds among a sea of liquid.

We did get meat most days. One of the better options was the meat pie. This was minced meat between two layers of pastry and was quite good. The stew was a different matter. Gristly meat, thickened gravy and no vegetables. I was used to lovely casseroles with tender meat and lots of veg, and a carefully seasoned, unthick gravy at home, and this unpleasant gloop with no texture except the gristle and unexpected blobs of fat was hard to choke down. We had sausages - made by a local butcher whose daughters attended the school; I suppose they were all right although they were obviously cheap with as little meat as the law allowed. However, they wouldn't have contained the mechanically recovered meat which commercially manufactured sausages contained later, so we were luckier than we knew.

There always were vegetables of course, but I don't really remember them. I remember the mashed potato, which could have done with a bit more mashing, and the baked beans, but I expect the greens were overcooked, I don't see how they couldn't have been.

Things changed right around when it came to the puddings. They were universally delicious. Indeed, the least interesting was the jelly and ice cream, the only bought-in item, that we had once in a while. We had steamed puddings with jam, steamed chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, rice pudding with a dollop of dark brown sugar, fruit crumbles and pies with custard, treacle tart - every one a winner. Since we never had puddings at home, I looked forward to them.

My parents paid for the meals with the school fees. One could only opt out by going home for lunch and I didn't live close enough. It was before the days of packed lunches, but when I got to about 14, I rebelled. I was a very quiet rebel and no one noticed. I started to take in packed lunches and ate them quietly on my own, and was never caught. However, the idea started to catch on among the other girls after a while and lunchboxes started to put in an appearance. I don't remember that it ever became official though.

The older girls helped with the washing up. Although, by then, I didn't eat school dinners any more, I took my turn with the rest. There was a machine for plates and dishes, but we washed the cutlery. I have been extremely fastidious about washing up ever since - I can't bear using water that looks the least bit discoloured and it has to be scalding hot. I suppose it was seeing the murky lukewarm sinkful and finding bits of stuff still stuck between the fork prongs which was, as often as not, cheerily wiped off with the cloth rather than being rewashed.

In fact, I did better with my school dinners than my daughter and elder son at their prep school. I may come back to that.

Friday 12 September 2008

Z is on Governor Duty

I had a really good time at the high school today. I went in at 11 o'clock for a music lesson and happened to bump into the chairman of governors who was arriving at the same time, so we agreed we'd have lunch together if we both finished at about the same time. Later, she and the headteacher (they were touring the school together) came into the music room, and she told me she was staying at school for lunch, so I said I'd join her.

It was a new Year 9 class, all pretty cheerful and lively, and I ended up supervising a group of 8 trying out the drum kit. One of them is a really good drummer, none of the rest had had a go before. It took a while to persuade a couple of the girls to have a go but they all did after a while. Yes, it was in a practice room; yes it was loud.

This year, the school has moved to 3 lesson days; ie 3 lessons each of 1 hour 40 minutes. Since year 9 previously had one 50 minute lesson a week, the teacher was consulted as to whether she would like to share a lesson with another department (such as drama next door) or have them once a fortnight, and she went for the latter option. I think it's a good idea as they will get more done; it's hard to get around every group within 50 minutes, as well as explain the lesson and round it up at the end.

I must do a bit more work at home - I haven't got the same music program on my computer as they have (I have Garageband) but I should learn a bit more about it and I should get Ro to show me some guitar chords as I don't know any.

This year, another innovation has been that the Lower School (years 9, 10 and 11) are no longer allowed to leave the school premises at lunchtime - this means that they can't spend their lunch money going down to the corner shop to buy crisps and fizzy drinks. The lunch menu has been revamped to make it more appealing - the food was always good, mind you, as Gilly and her team are good cooks. A canopy has been put up outside the canteen so that in good weather people can sit outside and in bad, at least they've somewhere to queue in the dry. There are other plans too for outside seating with picnic tables and benches. Indoors, the tables now have tablecloths and the room looks more attractive and welcoming.

The school used to buy into the county school catering service, but they had become less than satisfied with it. They thought that the portions were too small for growing teenagers and charges were very high if food were needed for a function. They also didn't think there were enough fresh vegetables. It was decided to take it in-house and the bursar (properly titled Financial Manager or something I think) organised it because it was something she felt strongly about. It was reckoned that more and better food could be provided for the same money and the catering team has remained the same.

I had quiche, green salad and Waldorf salad. All very good. They are still working on getting the menu right - they have to have fish on twice a week and yesterday they did a salmon, broccoli and pasta bake, but not many children would try it. They like the vegetarian lasagne and they love the weekly roast dinner.

What I enjoyed most about the day was the cheerful atmosphere. All the staff and pupils I ran into seemed really happy and relaxed. There's a lot of helping out going on in the canteen - as there's such a bigger take-up of meals, teachers and support staff have been offering to help out with the service - the bursar was cheerfully ladling out vegetables today and the deputy head was dishing up puddings. They'll have to get that sorted out - these people need a proper lunch break. I chortled at the Head, brolley raised (not in anger, it was raining) supervising in the playground. I suggested that he should pull rank and get someone else to do it. Later, he suggested I might care for the job. Over my left foot, I replied. But I'm a dab hand in the kitchen. I can see myself dishing out the roasties if I don't watch out.

I was wearing a pair of Weeza's trousers, which are a bit long for me and my ankles are wet and so are my shoes. I really should go and get changed.

Oh, and my friend who doesn't reply to emails came online this morning to tell me he has dished his knee. A ligament or something. He woke in the middle of the night in agony earlier this week - it seems he turned awkwardly in bed. He's on crutches, waiting to see a specialist. Ouch.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Z and the Good Cause

Having said I'd take part in the annual Church bike ride (each county's Churches Trust runs it and proceeds are shared between the church of your choice and the Trust) this Saturday, and Dilly having said she'd join me, we've done nothing about it. I have had a route in mind, but the details had not been decided upon - it's not that it exactly matters except that I didn't want to find too many unexpected hills, as neither I nor my bike excel at hills. Dilly hasn't actually used her bike for the past four years.

Then my sister asked if it would be a good weekend for her to come up and meet Zerlina. Well, the best weekend for all of us this month as it happens. Then it turned out to be not an ideal day for anyone to look after the children.

So our plans have changed. I will whizz out for a couple of hours in the morning to take in the most local churches (most inconveniently, Suffolk churches won't be manned until 10 am, whereas the early-rising Nor folk will be ready for business from 9) and then we'll set off for Norwich, drop Wink off at El's house and then Dilly, I and the children will do a walk round the churches in Norwich - the city centre alone has dozens of them. This is within the rules, a walk is allowed.

The other fly in the ointment is that I am incapable of asking people for money. So I have exactly two sponsors as yet. I have, finally, sent off an email to churchy people, not actually asking for sponsorship but reminding them that the thing is happening. I don't really care much and will shove in a donation anyway - I am a bit iffy about this whole sponsoring thing, especially when you find yourself sponsoring someone's adventure holiday in the name of charidee, which has happened to me in the past.

I'm no good at this sort of thing.

PS. This is NOT a veiled request for money. Please don't even consider the notion.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

The sun shines on Z

"Happy Birthday" said the Sage, as I strolled, rather late, into the kitchen this morning. I apologised. Another year older; I'm not the woman he married any longer. "No, no," he assured me, handing me flowers, "You get younger every day, it's me who's getting older." I decided that we're both young and lovely (I didn't mention the failing eyesight.

Still, it's a sunny day. I think I'll go out and frolic for a while.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Win-win, it seems

Dilly came through this evening for a chat and to check on arrangements for the next week or two. She's working part-time for the next school year; her school has just moved to a two-week timetable so she's doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week and Tuesday and Thursday the next. Al is planning to spend a lot more time with the children but some juggling is needed as Squiffany has nursery school three half days per week; it's too far to walk and only one car seat can be fitted in his van, so I either need to take her or look after Pugsley while Al does. Nothing difficult to arrange, so long as we all know what's going on.

Dilly had a full timetable today and was quite tired by the end. Since she last worked, Norfolk has gone from a 3-tier system to a 2-tier one and so she was teaching Year 7s for the first time (age 11-12). She taught 2 bottom set groups and she said they were sweet; still of an age to try hard but some of them were really earnest and anxious to do well but found it very hard. The classes were small - a few children were away so she only had 10 in one class and so she is hopeful that she can give them some good individual attention, which should help a lot.

The children were thrilled to see her and made a big fuss of her when she came home. They are also enjoying having their father's attention so much. Al has been able to arrange more cover for the shop - this could all work very well. Dilly's parents and we are helping out too and it should be enough for everyone to enjoy and no one to be overburdened by. Dilly will be working very hard mind you, as the children will want every minute of her attention when she's home. She's also still doing some individual tuition with a couple of children and she doesn't want to give that up as they are both making good progress.

She wanted to know what's happening tomorrow for my birthday. I said that nothing was planned and that I've a meeting on at 5 pm. She says she'll see if Weeza, Phil and Zerlina can come over and she'll do dinner. I said I'll leave my meeting early if necessary to be home by 7 o'clock, as then the children can go to bed when they are tired after that. 7 o'clock is usually their bedtime, but they're always ready for a party.

Monday 8 September 2008

Z drinks a glass of wine and finds more than she'd expected

Little z has put on 5 ounces in the last 5 days, which is very satisfactory. She slept on me for a couple of hours. The child finds me restful.

Before that, I'd been to the New Members' Coffee Morning and so did a lot of cheery meeting 'n' greeting and Addressed the Assembled Multitude (20 new members plus the committee who already knew what I was like), which would have been embarrassing if I were the sort to be embarrassed. I am not any more, and I never cease to be surprised by that, having been at one time the shyest person I've ever met - or, I should say, shyer than anyone whom I've ever met. If you don't mind making a total tit of yourself, there's a good chance that you'll bluff it out, at least over ten or fifteen minutes.

Afterwards, someone asked me where I did my public speaking; I said nowhere. "But you've been trained." She didn't say it questioningly. I assured her that I hadn't, but actually I felt awfully complimented. The trick is to sound confident and friendly and not to say er and um.

Damn. Another fruit fly is drowning in my glass of wine. Fortunate that I'm not vegetarian, since I can't reach it to fish it out. That reminds me that all the wasps have died in the last few days. Until last Monday they were a real nuisance in the shop; for the next couple of days there were a few dozy ones about - so dozy that I could lift one by a wing from a basket of grapes with impunity - and then there were no more. Cold and wet, I suppose.

By the way, am I the only one to feel embarrassingly voyeuristic if I should happen to catch any of the Paralympic Games? I admire them, genuinely, and I think they embody the spirit of the Games in a way that has become rare in the Olympics over the last few decades, but it still feels as if I'm intruding. I know it shouldn't. Sorry.

Sunday 7 September 2008

All in the family

They were pretty lucky with the weather. It was showery, as it was here, but they managed always to be inside when it was raining. The children were very excited and told us about it all. They also brought me some Cheddar cheese - the capital because it really is Cheddar from Cheddar, rather than cheddar from anywhere else in the world. It is very good. It was matured in the caves. Al said that they were able to see the cheese being made and then went to a cheese tasting - yes, I know, but honestly, they really did and now I rather want to do it too. He said it was interesting how different the cheese tasted when it had been stored in a cave rather than in, er, whatever a cheese is usually matured in. A room. A more complex flavour altogether.

Tomorrow, I have a morning engagement in Norwich, then I'm going to see Weeza and Zerlina. z (little z, that is) is growing well now and sleeping well too. Weeza is putting it all down to the hypnobirthing experience, that she's so calm and well-behaved. She really doesn't cry much and has already, once, slept through the night. Usually she wakes once. To start with, she didn't like her Moses basket but now the nights are cooler and she can be wrapped more snugly in a blanket, she is fine.

Later in the afternoon, I'm coming home again to look after Squiffany and Pugsley as their mother will be out. Dilly will be teaching part-time for the next year and her dad, Al and I will share the babysitting.

Did I mention that it was Phil's birthday last Friday? Dilly, Phil and I all have our birthdays within a few days of each other, which makes for a deal of mutual congratulation.

Mmm, sleep...

I'm going to take Dave's advice and go to sleep this afternoon. Having woken up unnecessarily early at 6.45 and having a sleep deficit of at least 2 hours a night over the past week, I am now very tired.

I have added to this post though, just a few more items for your amusement. I like the oddities of English spelling and pronunciation, myself. If you accept them and look for the reasons, it can be very interesting. I like it that English has always accommodated words from other tongues so willingly. And many spellings have rules, if they were only taught - if you know the rule and learn the occasional exception, it all becomes much more straightforward.

Anyway, I'm going to remove my contact lens, curl up with the Sunday paper and not read it for more than five minutes.

Have a good afternoon, darlings.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Z hasn't quite let go yet

The Sage's head appeared out of the bedroom window as I clambered heavily onto the saddle. He offered to come and help put up the heavy outdoor shelving. I said, insincerely, that I could manage, but when he repeated the offer I accepted. He was at the shop before I was and I looked after him enviously when he passed me in the car. He's older than I am, by the way and it would not be reasonable to expect him to start cycling everywhere.

It was a lovely morning, until about 11 o'clock when the showers started. They were heavy, accompanied by squalls of wind and it was, frankly, annoying and tiring to have to keep checking what was being wetted by the wind that time - yesterday's rain came straight down so that things under cover did not get wet. I brought in the peaches, which should not get wet at all, and put Victoria plums in their place; later I put them in shallow boxes lined with paper to give them a chance to dry out and not rot. I did the same with the local Worcester Pearmain apples, which were picked yesterday and on sale within half an hour of being on the tree.

The Sage brought in spinach, peppers and tomatoes from our garden. I rescued most of the Black Russian tomatoes which are too delicious to let go.

It has not exactly been a high-earning week and I took about £150 less today than I did last Saturday. But that was not unexpected; last weekend was the last of the summer holidays and people were probably enjoying special meals; isn't it good that they include lovely fruit and vegetables in that? I've had to throw away a lot of mushrooms, funnily enough, as people just haven't been buying them as usual. It is an awful waste but there is little point in reducing prices as everyone wants everything to be perfect and when it isn't, you might as well chuck it away. They will sometimes buy soft tomatoes or ripe bananas cheaply, but not otherwise. I gave away some apples, each of which just had a bruised spot, as they were going to be cut up for cooking with red cabbage for Tom's 21st birthday on Monday. Happy birthday, Tom. Mind you, it seems a lot but the actual loss was probably about £10. I didn't make any major mistakes and things have gone pretty well.

Al and family have just arrived home, safe, sound and happy. They are coming through for dinner in a while; I'm cooking roast chicken, sausages, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots, broccoli and spinach out of the garden. Then there will be raspberries; the final two punnets from the shop - I'd had three left yesterday which were still fine today after a night in the fridge, so I did sell today's two boxes plus one; I also had left half a punnet of strawberries which I brought home. He needs to sell 13 out of 16 to break even (I reduced the price at his suggestion, the margin isn't usually this tight) so 15 1/2 does mean a small profit (before staff and other expenses) so I haven't lost him money there.

Excuse me sounding a bit obsessive here, I will wind down, eventually.

An extra little snippet, which amused me mightily - Ro received a leaflet from Auntie Wink which she wants him to add to a website. It is splashed with what are, unmistakably, red wine stains.

That's my big sister...

Z is reluctant

The Sage gave me a lift in yesterday because rain was forecast and after 11 hours on my feet, I didn't want the prospect of staggering home on the bike in the rain. In fact, it had cleared up by 7 pm, but I was still glad to come back in the car.

Today, rain is forecast again. But I've left it as late as I can and the Sage is still asleep. Sadly, I'm too polite to wake him.


On my bike, then. See you later.

Friday 5 September 2008

Z copies and pastes

The shop will be open today from 8 am to 7 pm so I have no great expectation of feeling like doing anything when I get home. So I've looked this rhyme out to entertain you for today. Enjoy, darlings.

"The Chaos"

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Pray console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear sew it.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

by Gerald Nolst Trenite' a.k.a. "Charivarius" 1870 - 1946 - a Dutch observer of English.

Another, in similar vein -

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.
Well don't! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead,
For goodness sake don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth as in mother
Nor both as in bother, nor broth as in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there's dose and rose and lose--
Just look them up--and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
Come, come! I've hardly made a start.
A dreadful Language? Why man alive!
I learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn't learned it at fifty-five.

I found this on the English Teachers Network (sic), ETNI, who I think should brush up on the correct use of the apostrophe before they call themselves English teachers.

This site gives more in similar vein.

Thursday 4 September 2008

Z's diet is completely smashed

Ooh, there's a lovely new stall on the market. It will be my downfall. Thank goodness it is only there once a week. It's mainly a cheese stall, but also has olives, pâtés, salami and bread - it's a little pocket deli, in short. The bread does not contain yeast - sourdough starter or similar I suppose; the making process takes three days. There are cheeses I've never heard of, including local ones. I bought 2 loaves of bread, a Basque blue cheese, a Norfolk smoked cheddar-type cheese (actually smoked, not injected with smoke flavour), various olives stuffed with nuts, sun-dried tomatoes or feta cheese and a slice of chicken liver pâté and spent £13-something, which was less than my excited brain had expected. There is a very good local deli in fact and I go in there once in a while but it's too tempting - everything is so delicious that I spend too much and then eat too much.

Cheese is my downfall.

I ate bits of everything for lunch and, in the end, had to resort to eating jelly babies to take the taste of cheese from my taste-buds. After a while, I ate some dry bread to remove the taste of jelly babies (which I bought for the churchwardens' meeting tonight). Then I found myself eating more cheese.

For supper, as I'm going out in a short time, I'm having more of the same. Not the jelly babies, the rest. I will also take Maltesers and grapes to the meeting, so as to satisfy all tastes.

Ro and the Sage will have fish. Wild sea bass. I will have my share another day. Well, tomorrow. But tomorrow is another day, after all.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Z Apprehends A Shoplifter and tells her mummy

It was a quiet day at the shop. I popped across the road to the bakers during the morning to get my lunch and met friends on the opposite pavement. They asked if I had time for coffee - I went back to check with Tim and said I'd be 20 minutes. I returned, eventually, and apologised for being half an hour or so. "Hm, and the rest" he said, checking the clock.

Wednesday afternoon is traditionally early closing day and, although not many shops do still close, it's still the least busy afternoon of the week. I sat and read the paper in between serving customers. Nina came in. She is elderly and depressed, and a ten minute conversation dampened my spirits considerably.

Later, I caught a movement out of the window (there is shelving outside which means I can see out better than others see in, but the view is partly obscured). A little girl had been by the outside display and was running across the road to a car. She handed two objects in through the open window; two hands accepted them and then reached out again to help her in the window. I stalked out and across the road, looking rather more carefully than the child had. "Excuse me?" I demanded. "Did that little girl take some apples?" The apples were thrust into my hands by a child whose face went from a smile to shock in an instant. I told her that she should not encourage her little sister to behave so badly and said other suitably telling-off things. I marched back over the road and told a customer who had just entered the shop about it. We grumbled to each other and then I went back to the car. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to tell your mother or father about this when they get back to the car" I said. "It wasn't me, I didn't tell her to do it, I didn't know" said the child, who was about 10. "You were smiling when she came back and you took the apples," I accused.

I did, too. I told her sympathetically and made it clear that it wasn't the apples, but that I felt she should know. I'm afraid those little girls will have got a rocket. Not only was their mum horrified (how embarrassing, I was so sorry for her) at what had happened, but she had left a child old enough to be responsible for her little brother and sister for a very short time while she popped into a shop, and the 7 year old had got out of the car and crossed the road, when she had told them to stay in the car.

You know, if that older kid had been brave enough and honest enough to say she was sorry, but she had dared the little one and she would take responsibility, I'd have given her a gentle ticking-off and probably even given them the apples (local Worcesters, probably worth about 24p), it was trying to dump the blame on the child that annoyed me.

Anyway. The takings were £100 down on yesterday, but that's how Wednesdays are. Tomorrow is market day (yes, a large fruit & veg stall) so the town will be a lot more lively.

Oh, and this week, after a gap of some 30 years, Boots the Chemist has returned to Yagnub. MacDaniells had been our chemist for years and years, until Mr Mac retired and sold out; the people who bought it already owned a small chain of fairly local chemists, but it's never been so good. Now they have sold out too. Boots used to have a shop here, which they rather strangely sited next to Mr Mac's; evidently trying to squeeze him out of business, but it backfired. Locals didn't care for this behaviour and pretty well boycotted the shop. All at least 30 years ago, now. Apart from the Co-op, now outside the town centre, and the newsagent, this is the first and only national chain store in Yagnub.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

On the I Cs without a paddle (this is meaningless and irrelevant)

Coming back to the phonetic alphabet, here are a few versions, which can be used to help or not, according to circumstances. They are all, I think, far better than the accepted versions.

And Happy Birthday Dilly!

Gordie came up with this one:

A for Horses
B for Chicken
C for Yourself / C for Miles
D for Kate / D for estation
E for Brick at ‘im
F for Vescent
G for Indians / G for Inspector
H for Consent /Concern / Drinking
I for Big ‘Un / The Engine
J for Cakes
K for Sutherland
L for Betty Spaghetti / Leather
M for Sis / for Mation
N for Lopes
O for Goodness’ Sake / the Wings of a Dove
P for Drugs Test
Q for the Toilet
R for Minute/ R for Ransome
S for Rantzen
T for Two / Gums / On Edge
U for Coffee /U for Me
V for Espana
W for Money
X for Breakfast
Y for Girlfriend

and, how to finish this off?

Zee for Cider
Zed for Zodiac Mark I
Zed for the Greek god of the wind

Ephelba suggested a Misleading Alphabet. A few gaps here, can you help? - and scope for improvement with others.

A - Aestivate
B -
C - Czar
D - Djinn
E - Effing
F - Floccinaucinihilipilification
G - Gnome
H - Honour
I -
J -
K - Knight or Kew
L - Llanelli or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
M - Mnemonic
N - Neurosis
O - Other
P - Pneumatic
Q - Qatar
R - Rigoletto
S - Scythe
T - Tzatziki
U -
V - Verisimilitude
W - Wriggling or writhe
X - Xylem or Xavier
Y - Ypres (pronounced correctly or as 'Wipers', each works)
Z - Bed

Caitlin suggested the Drinking Woman's Alphabet (men are welcome to join us). I gave up on a few and looked up cocktails; if you have better ideas please let me know.

A - Amaretto
B - Baileys
C - Cointreau
D - Drambuie
E - Eiswein
F - Frascati
G - Gin
H - Hock
I - Imbibe
J - Jack Daniels
K - Kirsch
L - Limoncello
M - Margarita
N - Newcastle Brown ale
O - Ouzo
P - Port
Q - Quagmyre (nah, don't fancy it)
R - Rum
S - Schnapps
T - Tequila
U - Urbinos (this sounds quite interesting; white wine, cognac and raspberry liqueur)
V - Vodka
W - Whisky
X - Xaviera (no, I've never tried it, I shirk cocktails that have whipped cream in)
Y - Yucka (now, this sounds delicious. Vodka, lemon, lime and sugar)
Z - Zinfandel

And I suggest one to confuse and mildly embarrass the charming young gentleman at the other end of the telephone:

A - Adore
B - Bottom
C - Charming
D - Delightful
E - Entrancing
F - Fondle
G - Gorgeous
H - Handle
I - Invite
J - Jerk
K - Kiss
L - Love
M - Messing
N - Naughty
O - Organ
P - Pants
Q - Quiescent
R - Respectable
S - Snot
T - Teasing
U - Urge
V - Vivacity
W - Writhe (too like Ephelba's idea, but such a nice word)
X -Xenophilia
Y -Yum
Z - Zestfulness

Another list, this time from Dandelion. I could not get away with using this, I'd sound quite off-colour. You have to be young enough (but not too young) or really quite old and I'm still in those in-between years.

A - Arousal
B - Breasts
C - Clitoris
D - Dildo
E - Erection
F - Foreplay
G - G-spot, Groping
H - Hanky Panky
I - Intercourse
J - Juicy
K - Kissing
L - Labia
M - Making Love
N - Nipples
O - Orgasm
P - Penetration
Q - Quim
R - Roleplaying
S - Sexy
T - Tampons, Titillate, Thrusting
U - Uterus
V - Vagina
W - Womanhood
X - X-static
Y - Yoiks, YesYesYes!
Z - Zip

Monday 1 September 2008

Z is glad she didn't ruin her Sunday finding out about this earlier

Oh blimey. Home for a few hours as Tim is in the shop until 4.30 (it doesn't need two people in the afternoon), I'm printing out the stuff I need for the meeting tomorrow. The membership secretary emailed me (she's just learned to attach documents) the revised membership list, asking me to print it out for the committee as she can't make it include emails, which are newly added this year. I set it all up and then, fortunately, looked closer before printing. Many of the addresses have gone all random, with villages in the wrong place (against the address that is, they haven't physically moved from one part of Norfolk to another).

I realise what she's done, after a few bewildered minutes, for it's not the new members (some of whom are on the list and some not) whose addresses have been changed. She doesn't know how to put them in alphabetical order, so she's done it physically, one by one, but not changed each and every cell. She'd have been in trouble if she had tried to put them in alphabetical order in fact, as she's been a bit random as to where she started typing the surname, with sometimes a space in front and sometimes not, so they'd have been sorted by that first.

Now I'm having to go through all 381 of them to check and amend. It's unbelievably tricky and quite a strain on the eyes, as I go from last year's correct list on the screen to this one's totally screwed one. I can't be annoyed, when I think of all the hours the dear woman must have spent patiently changing the list when it would have been so easy to do it the right way (apart from all those misplaced spaces). She is in her late 70s, still plays tennis, golf and bridge and, like many of us, muddles through pretty effectively with her computer - most of the time.