Saturday 28 February 2009


I had quite a bit to do this morning, so of course I've spent most of it faffing about. I did a bit of casual tidying in the drawing room, which consisted simply of chucking out a build-up of several days' papers. Naturally, ten minutes later the Sage came in asking for yesterday's paper. I directed him towards the bin. Fortunately, I'd been too lazy to go out to the green wheelie bin, so it was still in the kitchen bin. One of the four kitchen bins, that is.

Next, I'll have to go shopping for food, since all I have is unacceptable meat. This is, of course, a Good Thing as it'll get me on my bike. This morning, unsure as to whether the lifts in my shoes are quite right, I stood with my back to the Sage, first with my weight equally on both feet, then slightly to my left, then to the right and asked him when my spine was straightest. He had little notion but suggested the right. I did the same with Ro, who also didn't know but said the same. I took out one millimetre strip and tried again. They both became uncertain. I wasn't though, it was right. I'd known it wasn't, but by so little that I couldn't even tell whether to go up or down. So now I know, I've lost 8mm-worth of right leg length - which is the 0.3" that the physiotherapist had originally measured with the improvised 'stand on appointment book and telephone directory' method.

Anyway, shopping. Would you consider that work or play? The ever fine and splendid Diamond Geezer divides his life into Work, Play, Rest or Travel, and he counts Play as anything that doesn't come into the other categories. He points out that, as a single childless man, he doesn't have obligations, and I agree with him that that's what makes the difference. After all, when shopping for food I buy things I'm not going to eat, I cook meals I probably wouldn't bother to for myself, I'm the only one who cleans the bath and I tidy up after other people, so I think of all those as part of my job. I don't have a paid job - that is, I do in the sense that I'm the Sage's business partner, but I don't receive a pay slip and my income from it is a line on my tax return - so to me, housework, gardening, shopping, voluntary activities, all count as more-or-less work. On the other hand, I enjoy a lot of it, as I do working on our business with the Sage. I don't think I could possibly separate my life into categories, however general, without making notes as I go along.

Though come to that, how many of us can? A lot of people blog from work (not DG of course) or at least read blogs or surf the net. I do myself; when I've spent an hour typing I relax (and reward myself) by reading the paper, a book, or online. If I were in an office where this was permitted, could I still call it work as it's in office hours? I don't need to make this distinction of course, because if I waste time it's my own, I'm not being paid for it.

So there's the difference and the similarity between DG and me. He is happily unencumbered by family, so once he's finished work his time is his own. Whether he buys his food and other necessities, cleans the loo, goes to the pub, reads or does anything else, he does it, at any given moment, by choice, so he counts it as Play. I am happily encumbered by family and don't have an employer so, whereas I have various obligations and a pretty full diary, I can juggle my days pretty well as I wish. However, since much of what I do in those days does involve obligations, willingly taken on for no pay, I call them Work.

I think I'm tailing away without a proper conclusion here. I should be one of those fine bloggers who works out what they're going to say in advance, and does drafts and all that. Instead, I waffle on and then have the cheek to say I'm being spontaneous. Still, Dave says that no one reads blogs on a Saturday, so maybe I'll get away with it.

Friday 27 February 2009

Quid pro quo

Excuse me going on a bit here, but this equates to more than half of my income and so it rather matters to me - the agent rang today with an offer from a potential tenant; a bit less than I am receiving (oh, strike that, should be receiving if ever the dear chap pays his rent, which I trust I'll have good news about shortly *sigh*) but that would mean I have no period of vacancy at all, so it's worth a small concession in this period of "negative growth". So I've said yes, and if all goes well I'll get an agreement to sign by email tomorrow.

Weeza has taken over my job with the Sage rather, which is lovely as she's enjoying it and they get on so well together, so it's great to see them having a good time with planning the next sale. She's finding out how much she didn't realise she knew about the china and that's good too, so I'm happy to stay in the background. I like working with the china too, but it's not that much of a sacrifice when I see them working so well together. I'll probably still take the photos, unless she wants to, and we'll do the condition report together as I'm pretty good at spotting flaws (being hardened and cynical and all that) and, well, she'll become so good at it that she can take over from me altogether next time, unless she gets a proper job or something. She's not wanting to go back to her old one; not that she didn't like it, but Norfolk and Mayfair don't make for simple daily commuting, not if you want to see your baby awake. Still, that's a decision to be made.

I was seen cycling up the High School hill the other day which is good, because I walked most of it today.

The Sage asked me if I'd got a drink. "I had one" I said, "my glass and the bottle are in the other room." A few minutes later, he appeared with the refilled glass. "I wouldn't want you to be without a drink," he said, lovingly kissing me. "This is because I'm cooking steak, right?" I asked. He agreed. That's fine with me. Expressions of love - steak for me to him, wine for him to me.

And I bought pork for the weekend before remembering that Zain, who is Muslim, is coming over. Whoops. Mind you, he prefers to stick to Halal meat, so I usually cook veggie when he's here, so it doesn't matter as long as the pork is well wrapped. Ro has already amusedly told him that I bought it, so I don't need to worry about being tactless.

"Do you spell your name with a Z or an S?" asked Weeza of Squiffany, knowing the answer. Squiffany explained how to spell her name, saying the letters she knows and describing the ones she couldn't name with a pointing finger. It's quite good, she knows them all in order. And it's with a Z, as she knew.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Z asks pertinent questions

I hadn't given my tenant notice that I was calling - I should have, and I would have normally but the rent was unpaid for this month and I felt that if he'd broken the tenancy I wasn't under an obligation to observe all the normal courtesies. I rang the bell and he answered the door as he was working from home. The living room is set up as an office so I wasn't surprised (although he shouldn't really). Anyway, I introduced myself, we shook hands and I asked if it'd be all right to read the meters, which was fine with him. Afterwards, I went upstairs and he told me that three of the lights hadn't worked for the last couple of weeks. That was obviously a switch that had tripped, so I rang Weeza to find out where the fuse box was. Oh right, in plain view. We reset the switch, laughed about it and then I asked when he'd be leaving the flat and what about the unpaid rent?

Well, the explanation he gave was not unfeasible if you're used to young people, some of whom are astonishingly irresponsible, and when he showed me the stack of unopened mail I was inclined to believe him. I explained what I wanted, what could happen and whom he should contact, and we talked about how clean and tidy he'd leave the flat. When I got home last night, I emailed the person he was to contact, this morning I also sent him the additional phone number I'd (this is remarkably sensible for me) thought to ask for, and apparently he will send payment for two months quam celerrime, or tout de suite if you prefer.

Feeling things had gone well, I toddled along to the agents' office, had a chat with the chap dealing with finding a new tenant and thought about lunch. I wandered around for a bit, but what I really fancied - a cold glass of chilled white wine and a proper sandwich with crusty bread - wasn't on apparent offer where I looked, and then I remembered that among the unopened mail was a letter for the downstairs tenant and I'd forgotten to deliver it. So I went back to the flats. And then I thought I might as well call in the pub next door, so I had a pint and a packet of Twiglets for my lunch, as it was a bit late to be reasonable to ask for real food; it being about 20 to 3. I told them the tenant would be leaving in a month but obviously I didn't mention the rest.

Then I caught the bus to Trafalgar Square - well, actually, I walked from Shaftesbury Avenue. I must say, I got on well with the walking pole. It was a real help some of the time to have some extra support.

The exhibition was reasonably busy without being crowded, and it was brilliant. I really enjoyed it. One might think that £12 entry was enough without £3.50 for an audio guide, but unless you know a lot about Picasso, I'd recommend forking out the extra. Anyway, what's the value of the paintings there? How many millions or hundreds of millions? All in six rooms with you being close enough to touch - not that you would of course. I finally toddled out not long before closing time of 6 o'clock, took a bus from Charing Cross and had time to kill at the station. I bought food and drink at M&S - a salmon and cucumber sandwich, some parsnip crisps and a bottle of water (it was heavily discounted, all for £2, which shows how keen they all are to get our custom now), a small bottle of wine and a large pack of carrot sticks. I read my book and the paper and ate the carrot, crisps and drank the water while waiting and ate the sandwiches and drank the wine on the train. I didn't tell the Sage how little I'd eaten all day as he'd wanted me to have a lovely meal out, but it's not the same on your own, is it?

The Sage was waiting on the platform and drove me home, I made coffee, read and wrote emails and comments and was in bed soon after midnight. Today, I took Squiffany to nursery school, looked after Pugsley and entertained Zerlina (her mother is entertaining enough in her own right).

This morning, my new heel lifts arrived in the post. You can adjust them from 1mm to 12mm by degrees of 1 mm. I've got in 9mm at present. When I first put the lift in and walked across the room, Weeza said "you're walking straight and not limping for the first time in ages." I'm going back for more lovely ultrasound tomorrow, I'll see if he thinks I've got it right or whether I need to go up or down a bit.

Our television, which we can't remember how long we've had but must be at least 12 years, is starting to go on the blink a bit. I've said to Ro that if the promised rent comes through I'll buy the new one of his choice. He is very happy.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

She's off!

I haven't forgotten the film but I haven't put it on the computer yet and it's late and I'm tired. But I've got a picture for you, which Phil just sent me. Hot off the hotmail, as it were.

The title of the post is the title of his email, which he sent to me and his mum, tactful boy.

A very good day in London and I'll tell you about it tomorrow. I've just got to write a couple of emails now and after that I'm going to bed. Night night darlings.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Weeza and Zerlina visit the old folk

Weeza and Zerlina are here today. I've got a little film to put up later, don't let me forget...

In the end, I decided to go to London a bit later in the day and come home later, so I'll arrive about 1 pm and leave at 8. After I've been to the flat I'll get a bus to Trafalgar Square and, if the queue isn't too awful (or tickets sold out), I'll go to the Picasso exhibition which starts tomorrow, fortuitously. I'm going to the Byzantium and Palladio exhibitions at the Royal Academy next week (which have had lacklustre reviews but let's see; I've booked, anyway) so I may be a bit cultured-out after that for a while.

I strode around a bit with both poles, to demonstrate to Weeza, and it has to be admitted that that's the way to use them. They were very comfortable, even if I did feel like a complete tit. Not for town, I'm afraid.

I've also ordered some inserts for shoes - these ones - which just lift the heel so shouldn't interfere with the fit of most shoes. I hope, anyway. I've been most awfully good today, cycled to the pool and back, floundered ungracefully in it for three-quarters of an hour and will bike in to the high school for a meeting again in half an hour. I will be knackered by the end of it. I had an extra banana mid-morning to keep up my spirits. I don't know what we're having for dinner tonight, I have a fairly empty fridge. Hm. I think the freezer will be investigated, unless I make risotto. Hm.

Anyway, I won't labour the point as I don't want to sound entirely pathetic, but I will be about, free and thirsty, in the early evening tomorrow, somewhere between Trafalgar Square and Liverpool Street Station. I'll be the one with the walking pole, trying not to look as if I feel really stupid.

I've lent Weeza my copy of my favourite Madhur Jaffrey Indian cookery book. And her childhood memoirs, which are delightful. I bought the cook book, some time ago, because I loved the memoirs so much.

Monday 23 February 2009

Z has odd legs

Which I don't suppose you're surprised to learn. Nor was I, actually. I was going to ask if my walking could be improved. He measured me - there's the length of the bones and then the apparent length, which is influenced by such things as curvature of the spine, the ligaments, worn cartilage and such things. My bones are the same but my right leg is about a centimetre shorter than my left, which is not enough to need one's shoe built up but he recommends an insole. Great. Now none of my shoes will fit.

I can see that for when I'm going to walk far, I'll have to wear highly suitable (can't help equating that with 'unflattering') footwear, but when I want to wear something pretty, I think I might get away with a thin insole and getting an extra sole and heel put on each right shoe when I buy a new pair. That should help, shouldn't it? I asked if the arthritis has caused the imbalance or the odd legs has given rise to the arthritis, and he says it's likely to be the former, and that dealing with the effects early should help slow down the deterioration. So it's been highly sensible of me (how unusual is that?) to do something about it.

Anyway, I'm going back on Friday for more ultrasound. And I have picked up a leaflet with times of the aquacise sessions. There is one tomorrow morning. I wonder if I'll go. As last night, with my work/read/bed decision, I'm led by my whims and the decision itself is only part of it.

You're all agog, of course, to know what I did last night. Before I went to bed that is, for none of you would let thoughts stray to such distinctly personal matters as how long I read before turning the light out, for instance. Anyway, the newspaper went unread and I got started on the reports. Quite a lot still to do, but it's starting that's the hardest part, forming the initial phrases. After that, you get into it and the words flow.

Oh, and I cycled all the way up all the hills. Well, both the hills (that's Bridge Street and up to the swimming pool, Badgerdaddy). But I couldn't have done it a week ago when it was cold (and my bike tyres were a bit flat, come to that!). So the spirit of bloody-mindedness is flowing richly through my veins.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Z may get wet and isn't too happy at the prospect

Back to the physiotherapist in the morning. Afterwards, I'm going to - oh dear, now I'm telling you I'll have to - going to go along to the swimming pool to enquire about - ewch - aquacise classes. Apparently they're on Tuesday mornings and one evening and they are either shallow or deep water - with the deep water ones it's more energetic, apparently, and you have to book as the numbers are limited. I can't tell you how much I dislike the idea - both with being out of my depth and doing anything that smacks of a class. Still, as you know I have an iron will and no end of determination *cough, cough, cough*. No, the fact is that I haven't been to the pool for ages and I know it will be good for me and I need something in the nature of an appointment to force myself into it. Fortunately, I'm genuinely and unavoidably busy at least 2 Tuesdays of every month. 3 in March.

Now, it's 10.55pm. I'm going to start doing the report I've been putting off for the last 3 weeks, read the papers or go to bed. At this moment, I'm genuinely unsure which I'm going to do. What do you think?

A out-of-season photo

A picture of my house for Diane in Wyoming - the wisteria is fabulous in May if we don't get a late frost when it's in bud. And yes, there are brambles growing through the shrub in the foreground. We don't keep a tidy garden.

You may have seen this before, but Diane is a relatively new friend so she hasn't.

The two tall chimneys on the right (they are about 6 feet tall) are Victorian, but the joined-together ones to the left of the photo are Tudor.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Springy thoughts continue unabated. Huzzah!

A week or so ago, I had occasion to alter the alarm clock and I changed the hours back but not the minutes, which means it presently goes off (that is, the radio comes on) 15 minutes later than it did. Of course, the Sage and/or I generally wake up at the earlier time, even though the radio often didn't wake us for a while in the past. Anyway, this morning, the Sage got up and I fell asleep again just before the radio came on and woke up after it had gone off again an hour later. So I hope there hasn't been any news that everyone (but Everyone) is talking about, because I haven't heard it.

I went off to Norwich to have coffee with the other people who are going on the visit to Bologna in April. This was a very pleasant hour, but I'm a bit startled to have apparently agreed to book opera tickets online for about 8 of us. I offered for one person who doesn't have a computer and was overheard by another and the next thing was there was an orderly queue. Booking doesn't open until a month before, so I'll have to do an alarm thingy or else I'll forget all about it.

As we were saying 'goodbye' to each other, two people said they were going to the Castle Museum to see a sculpture exhibition - Hepworth, Moore and Nicholson, mostly. Being rather keen on this sort of thing (and having visited both Moore's and Hepworth's gardens, where there are permanent exhibitions of their works, in the last couple of years) I said I must be sure of going to it, so they suggested I join them. And so I did, which was an unexpected little treat. We had lunch afterwards - an excellent home-made quiche and salad for £3.50 and a tumbler of orange juice for 80p which I thought was good value.
Then I went and bought a postcard for Martina in Seattle (xx, Martina) and a jigsaw for Ro, who likes them, as do I, and as I still had a bit of time in hand on the car park, I went to a discount bookshop and bought several books for me and the children, which is all splendid.

So, when the Sage got a phone call from a friend and asked me, afterwards, how far it is to Falmouth in Cornwall (over 400 miles I'm afraid) I was all cheerful and made helpful suggestions, such as couldn't they meet halfway (which is just about where my sister lives) and how about he posts a few of the items from the collection of antiques the Sage is interested in buying, so that he can evaluate them? So he is going to ring back after the rugby. The friend is watching the rugby, not us. I didn't know there was a match on this afternoon. I know Norwich is playing at home though. I drove up Carrow Road just after 2 o'clock and all these cheerily hopeful Canary-watchers in their green and yellow scarves and shirts were converging on the football ground. I don't know who they are playing (actually, it's quarter to five now and the match must be just finishing) as I didn't see anyone wearing a different colour. I spotted two people I know, a father and his 16-year-old daughter. I may see them tomorrow in church (yes, she and her sister are teenagers who choose to come with their parents to church and look remarkably happy about it) so I'll have to find out the result, to know whether to mention it or not.

Ro (who is v pleased with his jigsaw and gave me a hug) has had an appeal for money from his university. "I only joined their alumni thing because the keyring was quite nice", he said. "I bet Zain will give, though, he's remarkably generous."

I put that in in case Zain is reading. Hi, Z.

Friday 20 February 2009

Great great news

It's all lovely and springlike suddenly. All sorts of flowers in bloom, the sun shining, chickens laying lots of eggs, all that sort of thing. Kenny called round to see the children - he used to be our gardener (he called himself the OJB - Odd Job Boy) for many years, only giving up in his mid-eighties. I think he'll be 89 this June and he doesn't get about too well now because he's got bad back trouble. He's in good health but in constant pain, which he'll only admit to if asked specifically. Ro was a baby when we first knew him. He told us that his great-granddaughter, who's in her early 20s, is expecting her first baby later in the year. Gosh. Isn't that amazing? I only knew one of my grandparents, who lived a long way away and didn't, as a child, realise what I missed. To have so many generations living within a few miles of each other is something to be treasured. Not that it's a huge family; Kenny and Muriel had two children, only one of whom had two children, only one of whom had two children so they're not responsible for a population explosion, even over several decades.

Thursday 19 February 2009


It was an accident. I'm glad to say that I laughed and came up with an alternative dinner plan within ten seconds and the food itself in less than fifteen minutes.

I made a bolognese-type sauce to go with pasta this evening. It was tasty, although it hadn't had the requisite long cooking. I called Ro down and asked him to carry the trayful of food through. I can't carry traysful any longer, not without demonstrating the Quasimodo Lurch. I carried the wine, cheese and glasses and he carried the tray with plates, cutlery, pasta and sauce and the sprouts (what? of course Brussels sprouts go with spag bol). I went first, to open the door.

There was a crash. I went back. The meat sauce covered a surprisingly large area of floor. Tilly shot past me, looking scared and embarrassed for having tripped Ro up.

I laughed. Ro looked stricken. "This will all have to be thrown out! What shall we have for dinner?"

"Put on the grill," I said. "We have bacon." Fortunately, I'd not put the sauce on the pasta and that dishful was still on the tray. "Carbonara sauce," I decided.

We always have ingredients for spaghetti carbonara, don't we? I'd even grated the Parmesan. While the bacon cooked, we scooped up the sauce and then called Tilly back to lick the remnants off the floor (may I make it clear, at this point, that Tilly is a dog? Don't let Dave mislead you, unless it is into naughtiness). I only had greek yoghurt not cream, but I cracked eggs, squeezed a lemon, ground black pepper and it took no time at all.

Ro is abashed. Tilly has got over it. I'll cook the meal again tomorrow, because Ro said it looked and smelled so good. The chickens will be thrilled at their meaty dinner in the morning.

Z plans to visit London

I've got to come up to town next week to take a look at my flat, where my tenant is still ignoring requests to pay the rent. The only day I can clear is Wednesday 25th. Before I book my ticket, which will commit me to times, is anyone free to meet me for a drink or a toddle round an exhibition or something? If I'm meeting someone it'll be worth a longer visit, but otherwise it'll just be a flying one.

Cheers, darlings.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Love is...

I had an email from a friend this evening, apologising in advance if she becomes a bit unreliable in weeks to come, as from now on she'll be looking after her 2-year-old granddaughter. I don't know her son or daughter-in-law but there's obviously something very wrong. I sent a supportive email back of course, aiming to be sympathetic and available but not asking questions she may not feel like answering, but I'm so sorry about the situation. I hope whatever the problem is, it sorts itself out without lasting damage, and at least, by taking the little girl out of the situation, Granny has done all she can to limit distress.

On a different note entirely, dearest Jen is finally off. She, her other half and her third half - their little daughter - are off to make a new life in the jungle in Belize. They've been wanting to do this as long as I've (virtually) known them but, unlike most of us, they've quietly planned their exit (should that be exeunt?) and taken the final step, leaving behind all that passes for life as we live it.

The Sage arrived home safely and has just toddled off to bed, where he'll find I've turned on the blanket already. Love appears to be measured by the warmth of the bed in this house. Pugsley was terribly excited when the Sage arrived home, and shot straight off to the table where he'd put some leftover toasted teacake which his mother had given him for the bantams. He fed Tilly, too. He is very fond of animals, and loves to watch them eat.

Squiffany and I played shoe shops today. I've never got into that sort of imaginative play myself, being singularly lacking in that quality, but she loves it. We took it in turns to be shopkeeper and customer. Both children had a good bounce on my bed, too. Then we went downstairs, read stories and watched The Simpsons. Al has recently bought a DVD of early (original) Star Trek episodes. Squiffany loves them and is looking forward to watching them with Ro. She'll hold his hand if there are any scary moments and explain who all the characters are.

Beeguiled and begulled

This morning I have been making phone calls. Two of the people I rang were out so I'll phone again. The first doesn't have an answerphone, which is quite straightforward (although I only wanted to leave a message) but the second did. "There's no one here, please ring again later," it went. Which is a bit pointless, isn't it? I'd rather not have had a reply than that.

The good news is that Al's hive of bees has survived the winter. When it was sunny on Sunday, thousands of them were flying about. He is very relieved.

When cycling home this afternoon, I heard an angrily screaming seagull. I looked up and a barn owl, misguidedly out during the day (it was about 2.15pm) was being chased by the gull. It was being outpaced too, despite weaving and diving to try to get away. Finally, it reached a small tree and took refuge, just in time because more gulls were appearing in answer to the screaming. I'd rather have owls than gulls on the whole, but I suppose they had right on their side. I wonder how a gull knows that an owl has no business out and about in the afternoon?

The Sage phoned a while ago (just before I went out, luckily) and I'm expecting him home in about an hour. I have looked after the place carefully during his absence and he will be reassured. He said he loves and misses me. Sweet, isn't it? We made a lot of kissy noises down the phone.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Got to love him

So, the Sage has been putting his foot in it with both hands recently. A few weeks ago (can't remember if I told you this already, but if I can't the odds are you can't either) we were invited to have dinner with friends. I took the phone call, which was fortunate, and happily accepted the invitation and then told the Sage. We never do anything on a Saturday night so I knew it would be all right.

"Oh. A bit short notice. I might want to visit A & J". A & J live in Cheltenham. I was a bit surprised. It transpired that he was planning to visit them at some time. Well, I might have implied that already. But I didn't know that hithertofore. Furthermore, he was going to stay overnight. Upon enquiry, it turned out that he might go at any time in the next few months. So, what was the big thing about the coming weekend? I asked.

Long/short - I gave him hell. I explained that we were going to have dinner with friends and have a social life together for once. And, while I was about it, I wondered why he was insouciantly planning a night visiting his friends when he was so staying-away-from-home phobic that he didn't even go to his son's graduation and I was the only parent sitting with an empty place beside me, and he hasn't spent a night away from home for more years than I can remember (at least 8, maybe 10). Poor chap didn't have a leg to prop himself up with.

Two more incidents, this last weekend, that have demonstrated that he doesn't take any notice of what I say, however nicely I say it. "Don't throw that gravy away, it'll go in with the partridge bones to make stock" isn't that hard, is it? Binned it was, although the rest of the post-dinner chaos in the kitchen was untouched. "I've left *this* dishful for the chickens, and *this*, in the colander, is for Tilly" was also straightforward. Naturally, Tilly was disappointed.

I explained that it isn't the wrong move but the not listening. He was abashed. Next time, I'll make him repeat what I said. The simple truth is that most men dismiss what women say. It goes right over their heads. They think it's all 'yakyakyak', however lucid the explanation.

Anyway, today he's gone to visit A&J in Cheltenham. So I've taken the opportunity to cook an Indian meal. Fish in a yoghurt sauce, a mushroom and rice number, a green bean with chilli and mustard seed dish and spicy cauliflower. Later, I will play loud and sweary music. Then I'll go to bed. He phoned at 7 o'clock. "I left the electric blanket on" he said. "I wouldn't want you to be chilly without me."

Oh, and he arranged for Al to feed the chickens. "Didn't he think I'd get it right?" I wondered. "I think he was worried that you'd fall over and get muddy" reassured Al. "It's a bit boggy just inside the gate." It's true. He spares me.

Monday 16 February 2009

Isn't it a nobby one?

Today has gone very well. Last night, I knitted together, in pairs, the last 16 stitches of my hat. I was, until the last few rows, undecided as to whether to sew it up or to unravel the whole thing and start again. It isn't perfect, to say the least. However, once I'd done, I encouraged myself to finish the job. After a good night's sleep.

And so, this morning, that is what I did. I had a cheery online chat with Badgerdaddy and then I did a bit of work and then I got on with it. I'd had a bit of difficulty in deciding when to start reducing the rows, as it was not easy to count - evidently, I should have used a marker. It seemed about right and, more vitally, I judged that the wool I had left wouldn't stretch much further, so I was glad when I put the unmade-up hat against my head and found it wasn't a bad fit. Once finished, there actually was some wool left over, so I added a few rows to the scarf, which I'd providently (not providentially, it was deliberate) left on the needle against the opportunity to lengthen it and then finished that off too.

Later, I cycled into town wearing both hat and scarf. This means I have resoundingly carried out one of my NY resolutions, which was to knit and wear something. I'm still working on the music one and haven't started on the others, but it's only mid-February so there's plenty of time.

But before that, I discovered that the post had arrived. And in it was a pair of most splendid walking poles, which were a gift from the company, or at any rate its PR people. I'm quite embarrassed about this, as I'm not exactly a target customer, but at the same time my good friend who arranged the gift was entirely truthful, as was I in my letter of thanks. It's only fair to give them a plug - the Vango Walker is what I have and although they haven't yet been used for more than striding around the house, they seem well designed and made (isn't telescopic always a pleasure?) and there's a little compass in the top, which is such a nice touch. I love gadgets and they just might have found themselves a new customer. Next time, a paying one.

Then I had my hair cut, which is always a pleasure.

Ro, who still has a cold, roasted himself by the fire tonight. His arm is quite red. I've been up to find my apr├Ęs sun stuff, which I didn't need at all last summer.

Tonight, Al and Dilly are at the Bee Club meeting, the first of the year. The Sage (who blotted his copybook on consecutive days, oh dear oh dear) is babysitting, but I expect I'll take over from him later.

Oh, there is one thing that has annoyed me. I bought a bar of Green & Black's cherry chocolate a while ago, and we've been eating it in the past week or so. Now, G&B chocolate isn't quite what it was, since it was bought out by a major brand (Cadbury's, I think, but am open to correction) - for one thing, they've added milk to their plain chocolate, and what's all that about? But anyway, what I like about this particular chocolate is the delish sour cherries. So, when I was in the Little Green Shop this afternoon, I bought a small pack of sour cherries, thinking that I could nibble on a few of those and bypass the chocolate. But when I got them home I read the label and found that they have added vegetable oil and sugar. What's the point of that, then? Is it because they are American and everything is high fat/high sugar in America? Surely not. Anyway, I ate a couple. They are too sweet and slightly oily. I'll probably hide them at the back of the cupboard for a couple of years and then throw them out. Not at all nice, and disappointing. Why call them sour if the sourness has been eliminated?

Sunday 15 February 2009

Ro and the Nasal Irritation

"Urgh" groaned Ro again. "Poor you," I said sympathetically. "Is it a cold or is it full-blown man flu?" "I suppose I am making a bit of a fuss," he acknowledged.

I'll miss him when he moves out, you know. Whenever that will be.

"You know when you get something packed in those polystyrene granules and a bit goes up your nose?" he said. "Well, no, but I have inhaled a feather," said I. "Well, it feels like that. As if there's some irritant that you've breathed in and it's right up near your eye." We talked about polystyrene. Apparently, he's inhaled it more than once. Stuff was often packed in it where he used to work and in the end he always got someone else to do the unpacking. Most odd.

Bouncing Baby

Saturday 14 February 2009

Z does very little

I'm absurdly relaxed. I'm gradually catching up on work but not putting much into it. I'm hoping that I'm just following my body, as it were, and that when I need to snap to it, I'll be all keen and ready again.

I was awake for a long time in the night, so I finished the book and started another. Reading books has settled me back into myself I know - but for ages they didn't hold my interest. Actually, yesterday's didn't really as I didn't engage with any of the characters at all, but the writing itself was good enough to keep me going.

Today, after getting up late, I went into town to pick up my contact lenses. The receptionist was just back from 3 months in Australia visiting family and we chatted for a long time. I was in there about 20 minutes. Then I went over to where I'd left my bike and chatted to friends who were buying their fruit and veg from Al and then I went to the bike shop to get my tyres pumped up. This is no sort of euphemism, they were quite spongy. I bought a pump while I was there. £2.50 seems reasonable for a bicycle pump. I went back for some kumquats, rhubarb, blood oranges and a melon and then to the wine shop, then to the deli. I was right out of coffee and couldn't quite face instant. Last night, I thought I made a cup of chamomile tea, left the bag in the mug and it was only when I was taking the first sip that I realised it was actually green tea and already getting bitter. I like it bitter, but not overbrewed. The coffee smelled so gorgeous that I had to make a potful as soon as I got home.

So now I've had a late lunch and have been reading the papers and listening to relaxing music - first Sidney Bechet and now Mara Carlyle. For dinner tonight, we'll have melon, roast partridge and something with rhubarb and kumquats. You need to cook the kumquats first - the skins are edible but tart so I usually simmer them until tender, then add sugar and cook again. Orange flavour goes beautifully with rhubarb and the liquid from the kumquat, reduced until syrupy, gives plenty of sweetness. I'll probably cut them in half as they can be very pippy.

Friday 13 February 2009

London Particular... what we had for dinner. I think that's brilliant, that pea soup gave its name to a filthy fog and the fog gave its name right back to the soup. I'd boiled a piece of gammon for last night and saved the cooking water, in which I'd put onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and coriander seeds. So today, all I needed to do was cook the dried split green peas in the (strained) stock, fry more vegetables and cook them all together for another hour. It didn't even need seasoning. The baker had sold, cheap, the last few rolls to the Sage for the chickens, but I heated them up for us. That sounds a bit mean actually, snatching food from under the chickens' beaks, especially since the dear little things have kept us in eggs all winter.

We never did cut back on eating eggs, by the way. Not that we often have them for breakfast, but I simply didn't believe the warnings about their cholesterol-raising properties. Actually, I did have a boiled egg for breakfast a couple of weeks ago. It was lovely. Come to think of it, I had one of the bantam's bread rolls with it then, too. Me bad indeed.

It's interesting, going in to a lesson in school once a week only, to observe how the students change over the months. Back in September, the year 9s (aged 13-14) were unsure in their new school and most of them were still children. A couple of tall boys, gangling and awkward or chunky and - awkward! - and some sophisticated-looking girls, but very young. Now, half a year later, they're much more assured and, some of them, potentially harder to manage. Not in the class I go to, they're fine and they're polite and surprisingly friendly, in a respectful sort of way, with me. I could equally transpose 'friendly' and 'respectful' - indeed, though some older pupils don't accept my authority to tell them what to do as they know I'm not their teacher, they are still polite and just grin at me. But the Year 9s, they do ask me for help - they also know my limitations mind you! - and ... oh crumbs, you know, they treat me kindly as a granny figure I suppose.

The other thing that gets me is how beautiful they are. Gorgeous, almost without exception. Appreciably better groomed than when I was their age, both boys and girls. At that age it comes naturally, too. I bet most of them have no idea and only see what they'd like to change.

At LOM's request, more details of the soup -
I think I could have used the veg I cooked with the gammon to make the stock, but I was afraid they would be salty (it was only one onion, a few slightly wizened carrots and a couple of outside celery stalks so it wasn't much waste. I also cooked swede, carrot and celery together as a vegetable so I saved their cooking water. Altogether it was a couple of litres once strained. I added 12 ounces (I use metric and imperial indiscriminately) of dried green split peas and simmered gently for half an hour. I chopped - actually I did it in the food processor - another big carrot and an onion and a stray shallot and a couple more celery stalks, fried them gently in a little oil for 10 minutes or so. Then I chucked them in with the peas and simmered again for an hour or so, then put through the food processor until small. This still has some pea texture, if you want it completely smooth you'd want to put it through a mouli.

You could use other vegetables, leek for example. I didn't put in so much carrot that it would change the colour.

I wouldn't use ham stock to cook beans that need soaking, as the salt would toughen them. I'd soak them overnight, then cook them (kidney beans, blackeye beans, chickpeas etc) in plain water until tender and then drain them and use stock for the rest of the recipe. Kidney beans need boiling for 10 minutes to destroy toxins or they give you stomach cramps, but are digestible after a preliminary hard boiling. Never think that beans will finish cooking in the recipe, cook them until tender first.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Z is being taken by her fancy

The Sage was in London today on business, so I set the alarm for 6 o'clock. That is, I thought I had, but it seems I made a mistake and set it for 7 instead, so he had to bustle about a bit to be ready to leave in half an hour. The bantams take most of the time available. I settled down in bed with a book and read for two solid hours. I got up, my pleasure increased by the frisson of guilt. On the sheep/lamb principle, I deep-conditioned my hair and strolled down to give a reproachful Tilly a belated breakfast.

Weeza and Zerlina came over later, then Dilly and Pugsley joined us for lunch. We spent the afternoon together, with Squiffany once nursery school was over. Dilly has to decide, before too long, whether to teach next (school) year or choose to be full-time mum. We debated the point with pros and cons - childcare and suchlike being one of the considerations.

I cooked a lovely piece of gammon for dinner, and served it with mixed vegetables (swede, carrot and celery), beetroot in yoghurt sauce and mashed potatoes. It went down well, which is more than can be said for the discovery that the Sage had gone around London - smart areas - in bright green gardening gloves. He was indignant at my protests. It's no wonder that we rarely go out socially together. I expect everyone assumes he's terribly posh, with his ancient tailor-made suit and peculiar accessories. Either that or they think he's a complete down-and-out with a splendid charity shop down the corner.

It was good to spend a two hours reading. I've been puzzled, after a lifetime of obsessive reading, to have almost stopped over the past couple of years. That is, I'll read maybe three or four books in a month rather than in a week, and if one doesn't grab me in the first hundred pages I'll probably abandon it. But I've read two books already this week and have started a third. I'm trying not to analyse it. I want to see where my fancy takes me.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Z is protected

My children are lovely, as I'm sure you've gathered. Since Weeza moved this way from London, we've seen each other pretty well every week and she and I have become very close - not that we weren't, but increasingly. Ro, this evening, unexpectedly hugged me again, which is not that frequent an event. The firm he works for is likely to be moving offices (more people work there and more parking is needed) and if it's to the other side of Norwich, he'll be looking to move that way. I'm supportive of course, and he knows it's genuine, while acknowledging I'll miss him. Maybe he'll miss us a bit too (not to mention the hot dinners that await him every evening, hem hem). And then there's Al, who came over all protective today when a good friend asked him for my address and he wouldn't let it out without my say-so - the point being that the arrival of the post was meant to be a surprise. Over-protective, but better than under-, so what can I say? (well, I've gently pointed out the lack of necessity, but can hardly be cross.) And then there's the Sage, who hasn't made any comment about my limp, my cycling, my weight loss or my occasional 'ouch' (or the fact that my hips aren't quite as flexible as they used to be - veil drawn and all that) but, I have discovered, had been on the phone anxiously to our offspring about me. As they are to each other, which I didn't know at the time.

Of course, the Sage never said a word when I put on weight, so there's no reason for him to remark when it goes again. Even a comment might indicate some sort of judgment, so he doesn't make it. Awfully polite, we are. Well, he is. No, we are. Yes, me too.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Z did her exercises

I've had a relaxed day, which was good. I read a lot and did my exercises. We had a leisurely breakfast with our guest, whose meeting (where he was doing a presentation) didn't start until 11, so he and the Sage, who had made an appointment in Lowestoft to fit in with giving a lift, left a little after 10 o'clock. I've hardly set foot out of the door today and have been lazy (although I did do my exercises). One of the good things about having someone to stay is that afterwards you don't have any housework for a bit as you've done it all.

We finished the fish pie for dinner, which didn't thrill Ro as he'd taken some of it for lunch today and he felt like a change. He said he'd prepare himself something, but I offered to make him an omelette. I suggested, rather randomly, shallot and cheese in it and then, as he was very hungry, offered croutons too. This somewhat combined two of my favourite omelettes; shallot and chilli, and cheese and croutons. I didn't have any fresh chillies.

The first is particularly fabulous if you've got a cold or feel cold - just chop and fry a shallot or small red onion in butter, then chuck in the green chilli, sliced into rings, then bung in the eggs beaten with salt and pepper. The chilli pieces can be hot enough to bring tears, if you're lucky, but because it's so quickly cooked the hotness doesn't permeate the eggs.

The latter is too fattening and I don't make it any more for myself, but my mum, sister and I used to cheer ourselves up with it sometimes after my father died. Fry some cubes of bread in mixed butter and oil, put on one side, dice some cheese to the same size as the croutons, wipe the pan and put in fresh butter, beat eggs with salt and pepper, tip into the butter when it's stopped sizzling but not started to burn (obv), when the omelette is half cooked add the cheese, then the croutons. Tip onto a plate while still runny in the middle but the cheese has heated enough to start to melt. Fold it over and the middle will continue to cook a bit so that it's not so runny and the cheese, eggs and croutons meld rather deliciously. God knows how many calories - you could do cubes of toast instead of croutons and do just a little cheese which would help but not be quite so gorgeous.

Anyway, I have knitted a bit more of my hat. I went for one with straight needles which is sewn up at the end. Embarrassingly, I discovered that my brain couldn't cope with going straight into ribbing - you know how the first row or two winds itself round the needle? - I got muddled and kept forgetting whether I'd knitted or purled 2 stitches, as I was supposed to, or 1 or 3, and I couldn't tell as it was too early and obviously if I got it wrong it wouldn't work at all. So I pulled it out and am just doing stocking stitch. Amazingly, I remembered how to purl. If it isn't quite right I'll pull the whole lot out again and make my scarf longer - I've taken the precaution of leaving it on the needle rather than casting off. It's a bit lowering to be so rubbish, I must say, but I daresay I'll get better at it. At the knitting, that is, I'm already proficient at being rubbish. But at least I did the exercises.

Monday 9 February 2009

Z delegates

I've got a sheet of exercises from the physiotherapist. Some of them are to do standing, a couple standing on a step and a few more lying on the bed. Two or three times a day, I should do them. I've managed one of them once today, I was busy. I feel guilty already, especially as I assured the nice man that I was highly motivated and would do whatever would help. Anyway, he gave me some lovely ultrasound and another appointment for a fortnight hence.

This afternoon, I got the Sage to do the hoovering. I just kept pointing him at another room and he politely kept going. He's not superb at it, admittedly - if there's a magazine lying on the floor, for example, he'll hoover round it and when it's picked up there's a pile of gubbins underneath, but this is a small fault and easy to overlook. I don't believe in being critical when someone is helping me. It's discouraging and ungrateful. Better to give total praise and then, next time, remember to mention in advance that it's a help in doing a really good job if you move stuff about a bit.

Ro helped me with dinner. We've got a friend staying and so I chatted over a glass of wine and was a bit late starting on a slightly complicated dinner - not elaborate, a simple fish pie, but there were a lot of separate parts to it. I asked Ro to mash potatoes and he didn't know where the potato ricer is kept. Evidently, he doesn't do quite enough in the kitchen normally. However, he did a lot to help and I was, again, grateful and appreciative. For a pudding, I meant to poach pears but Squiffany went to sleep so I had to babysit next door instead of getting on with some cooking while the children were here, so I made them into a crumble instead with a jar of quince preserve, which worked well.

I've been told again that swimming would do me more good than anything. I don't quite like to explain that I'm too timorous to take both feet off the bottom unless I'm holding on with at least one hand. I am very capable of floundering helplessly at the bottom of the pool, even when I'm not out of my depth. I hardly ever even lie back in the bath as when I relax I have been known to slip under the water and panic.

Ooh, the dinner must have been all right. I thanked Ro for his help, again, and he kissed me goodnight. This doesn't often happen. The Sage always kisses me when I make him a pudding, too. Isn't that splendid?

Sunday 8 February 2009

Z wonders on what date the Sage passed his driving test

I whiled away half an hour or so this evening getting an online quote from the company that offered the best overall deal yesterday, taking into account the extras given such as breakdown cover, windscreen replacement etc. It had said that there was a compulsory £100 excess and a voluntary £250 excess, but gave no info on how to remove the optional excess, so I thought that going to its own website rather than a price comparison one would sort that out.

Big mistake. It was the most absurdly overcomplicated form I have ever completed. It wanted to know the date on which I passed my driving test. And when each of the other named drivers did. This is not information given on your driving licence as far as I can see and when, as in the Sage's case, it's more than half a century ago, however does it matter? It offered me fully comprehensive insurance for all drivers or for over 25s or for over 30s, but then wanted me to name and go through the details of any person who could drive the car. it wanted notification of medical conditions - fair enough if it's anything that affects driving but there was a massive list and in my case, for example, the early stages of arthritis is hardly relevant, except presumably to bump up the premium (I put 'none' for each of us). Every other form, when asking for the occupation of named drivers, offers a few general types or else lets you type in the first few letters and then suggests options. This one, you had to scroll down hundreds. It wanted to know whether not only I, but all named drivers, were home owners or not, even though I'd put them down as occasional, casual users of the car. The Sage got a speeding ticket a couple of years ago. It wanted to know the date, the points and the fine, which is fair enough, but then it asked the date of the offence. What? How is one to remember that?

It looked to me suspiciously as if it would check out every little detail and if I'd put in that I passed my driving test on 14th April 1971 instead of 17th May (whatever, I don't remember the month, though the year is correct) they could refuse to pay out on a claim.

Anyway, I persevered out of stubbornness in the end, and finally got my quote. It was for £469.31. Now, this is the same company that, through a broker, offered £241.91 yesterday. Furthermore, it didn't tell me what I was getting for that. It didn't ask if I wanted courtesy car, breakdown cover and the like, or tell me what excess I'd be paying. My telephone number was a required field. I'm afraid that I'll tell the unfortunate call centre worker what I think of the website and the quote.

Z looks forward to lunch

Today is the Sunday when I am sidesman for the 8 o'clock service. I was so convinced I'd oversleep that I hardly slept at all. From about 1 am for half an hour, then fitfully, waking every half hour for at least ten minutes from 4ish, having given up and read for a long time in between. So I'm more than usually stupid today and, on seeing people's bewildered faces, had to cast my mind through what I'd just and correct it.

Home from the second service - I know, it's because I'm a wicked person that once isn't enough - and we're just off for lunch with Weeza and family. Hooray!

Saturday 7 February 2009

Meaningless, but why should everything have meaning?

I know this goes the rounds, or a variation on it, quite often but I've seen it a couple of times in the past few days (done by Lis and LizSara) so here we go...

1. Put your iPod or iTunes library, MP3 player, etc. on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the Next button to get your answer.

Making plans for Nigel - XTC

Nobody knows the way I feel - Sidney Bechet

Nothing better - The Postal Service

My melancholy baby - Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli

The only one -Evanescence (that needs a question mark to make any sense)

They all laughed - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (ain't that the truth)

I've found a new baby - Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli

- WHAT IS 2+2?
Judy - Hoagy Carmichael

Kansas City - Okkervil River

Clementine - Bix Beiderbecke

String Sonata no 1 in G minor (Rossini)

Future lover - Madonna

Keep it close to me - Superdrag

The sunny side of the street - Billie Holliday

Loving that girl - Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

The bends - Radiohead .

Dovunque al Mondo - Madame Butterfly, Puccini

Al fato dan legge - Cosi fan Tutte, Mozart

Z feels Un-Co-Operative

I had the notice to renew my car insurance a couple of days ago. It was over £400, which I think is a bit steep. So I went online to have a look around. The best (not cheapest) deal I could find - better in some respects but with a larger excess - is about £240. So I had a Jimmy-look-see at my own insurance company's website. Hm. Assuming I currently have a £100 excess (I'd have to go look up the policy to check that) it's £312.49. They do mention a 10% discount for buying online, but £95 is rather more than 10%. Evidently, I must ring up after the weekend and have a little moan.

We had a similar sort of thing in the church a few years ago. Well, it's not the same but it gives rise to a similar reaction. You see, our benefice (group of churches under one minister) always paid its quota in full. That is, the money we pay to the Diocese which covers the cost of the minister plus National Insurance, pension etc. and a bit towards the Diocesan admin and upkeep of the Cathedral - others know more about its reckoning than I do. But lots of churches don't pay in full and few pay very little. So the suggestion was made that the churches which do pay in full should pay more to cover the costs of the ones that don't, rather than the latter being called to account for it. There was a meeting where full and frank (but entirely polite) exchanges of view were made. My contribution to that meeting was to say that paying in full is what matters. If you do, you take satisfaction from that and you do your best to achieve that payment every year. If the amount asked is bumped up to an impossible level and you fail, even by £100, you haven't achieved your aim and you have to come to terms with that. But the next year, does it matter much, if you can't pay 100%, whether you pay 99% or 90%. And in a few years, even much less. Don't move the winning post too far, I suggested, or the bond broken may never be repaired.

It's a bit the same with my insurance company. We used to have a lovely bloke called Steve who came round and did the renewal for us in person. When we first, on the recommendation of a friend, asked him to call, he undercut Norwich Union by so much that we not only insured our cars but our house and contents with his company (CIS, if you're interested). And it never went up to an unseemly extent and they were brilliant if we had a claim, so we didn't shop around. But once I got a bigger and newer car, it took a big price hike, and by then their policy was to use the telephone rather than a person, so their valued personal touch had gone. And now that I've found they'll offer a lower price to a new customer, the loyalty I'd have for them is completely gone. So, even if we come to terms and I go with them after all, I'll check online every year. Which I'd rather not have to bother to do. Yes, arguably I should have been doing it for a long time already. But it's the degree of overcharging, you see. I'd certainly pay a few tenners not to have been bored witless putting in the details of this and that several times, but they have chanced their arm too far.

Friday 6 February 2009

Z is tired

Gosh, I couldn't do with being a teacher. Far too much like hard work. I managed last week and this week I only had a governors' meeting plus today in Music and German. I'd rather thought it was French, which I can speak (well, up to the standard of the average GCSE student I can) so it was a bit surprising. It was fine, year 9s and then year 11s, but when I left I was tired out. I went into town and parked outside Al's shop and saw that the nearest butcher's shop was still open. I staggered in. "Steak" I said, Homerishly. I bought three large hunks of meat for about a tenner and went for vegetables. Al had the shop door shut, which is a sign of extremely cold weather.

Not that we've had the snow some of you have had. Booooo. I'd not mind snow. I love frolicking in snow. I have no objection to the whole country coming to a standstill (preferably while people are safely tucked up at home rather than trying to get somewhere) so that we can all go out and play. It happens so rarely and we don't often have carefree fun.

Anyway, I came home, ate three rice cakes and ate a bowl of plain yoghurt and drank a mugful of weak milkless tea. I'm a woman who knows how to indulge myself. Actually, I've a bar of chocolate right here by my chair and I'll have two squares of it later. Iron will? Oh yes. Not that I'm boasting, I bore myself. I think fat people probably have more fun. Thank the Lord for alcohol.

Anyway, I babysat for an hour and a half and then came back and cooked dinner. I didn't eat all the steak, good though it was. I've read the papers and I need to book a train ticket for the Sage, who has to visit the Dark Metropolis next week.

Oh, and I have hiccups. I should chew food before swallowing.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Z's able to walk, quite easily

Blimey, our local health trust is good. I phoned on Tuesday morning for an appointment and was offered one, with the doctor I asked for, at 3 o'clock the same afternoon, which disconcerted me a bit as I thought we'd shilly-shally around possible times/days for a few minutes and then agree I'd have to ring back in a day or two. This wasn't for any dramatic reason, just that he'd suggested I call in every few months to say how I was getting along and I last visited a year ago. This sounds dilatory on my part but isn't really. He sort of wants you to have something to say, even if he hasn't made that clear. So I waited until I did.

In the summer, hip was fine, could dance until dawn and all that, but since October has been not so good, thus demonstrating that cold wet weather is not good for arthritis. Sometimes I limp heavily, which worries others more than myself. So I asked if this might strain my spine, knee and other hip. Sensible question, you see, and he suggested I self-refer to the physiotherapist at the local cottage hospital.

Next day, the Sage took the form in.

Next day (this morning, in fact) I was phoned offering an appointment on Monday.

Gosh. A bit fast for something completely non-urgent (and under the NHS, not privately). I'm terribly impressed.

Except, I don't actually care for this sort of thing. And it's suggested that I wear loose-fitting trousers (well, I 'might be more comfortable in') or shorts. Shorts? I don't possess any. And the only loose-fitting trousers I have are those I have shrunk out of, and they aren't the sort of thing it means. I am scruffy, but rarely casual. Fortunately, Weeza has a pair of what, apparently, are called 'jogging bottoms' (?) which she bought for yoga when quite newly pregnant. So they had room for growth. And I'm a size smaller than she was (how come she was slender while I am still pudgy? Damn short-arsedness!) Anyway, she's not only offered them to me, but invited us over for Sunday lunch to pick them up. So that's splendid on all accounts.

And I'm perfectly fit and well, just a bit limpy. And the doctor suggests, obliquely, for we understand what we mean when we don't quite say (this is fine, it's a 'same sort of people' thing) that I wait at least 5 years for a new hip if I can. So it's in my best interests to remain unattractively fit and become gorgeously slim. Size 10 now, size 8 beckons.

If a rainbow is in a wood, can you actually see it?

Your rainbow is strongly shaded green and brown.


What is says about you: You are a deep thinking person. You feel strong ties to nature and your mood changes with its cycles. You feel closer to people when you understand their imperfections. Those around you admire your fresh outlook and vitality.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Fresh outlook and vitality, I don't think so, and no one would admire me for it. I am awfully drawn to imperfection though. I particularly love fools, so I can't imagine why I'm so fond of you lot.

On the other hand, I married a Sprig and he became a Sage, so I do have some instinct to do the right thing.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Z's mood has lightened. What a difference a day (and half a bottle of wine) makes

The meeting went okay, the chairman turned up and we co-chaired it, partly because she hadn't been around much recently and also because she couldn't stay until the end. I've done no work this evening, to no one's surprise, but at least I've filled in the physiotherapist form (not psychotherapist, whatever Rog says. In fact, treat what he and Dave say with some suspicion. They aim to mislead, which is awfully good for the brain. Pathways and that sort of thing) and the Sage has delivered it. The local cottage hospital is awfully good. A friend of the Sage's is in there for a couple of weeks' respite care at present, so he's visiting every day.

Hoagy Carmichael tonight. I've appreciated him since I first saw 'To Have and Have Not' which remains a favourite film, largely for the pleasure of watching Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fall in love and for her nervousness. And simply for watching Humphrey Bogart. Don't bother with the book, it's one of those occasions where the film is far better. Anyway, HC is singing his own songs. Another comfort CD for me, very relaxing.

Indeed, as you see, I'm calming down. Can't be agitated for long, though 3 days is more usual than 2. I hope my new CD turns up tomorrow.

Z's mood hasn't lightened

I want to close in on myself for a bit. I'm being pressed for decisions, I have to fill in forms (is there anything more put-off-able than that?), write reports, take control of things that have been pushed on to me, make suggestions that I'll be involved in following up, take responsibility for things including my health - ain't it a bitch when you look around and realise you've been giving every appearance of capability for so long that people believe that you actually are, when in fact you're as hopeless and helpless as ever? What I really want is for someone to just take over the boring bits and let me be all happy and grateful, but it ain't going to happen, and there's no reason it should.

I've made the smallest possible of starts, by phoning and ordering some new contact lenses, but even there I have cocked up. I put in the last one a few weeks ago (they're monthly disposables) but I hadn't got around to getting any more. This morning, I noticed a roughening at the side of it and I touched it to check and it split. Thank goodness I noticed, a split contact lens in the eye is terribly painful and difficult to get out. So now I've got a -2 in instead of the -2.5 I should have, but at least I had one left from when I had a less strong prescription. There's so little difference that I can't actually tell - I'm very lucky, I didn't deserve to get away with that one.

Anyway, I'm going to get ready now for this afternoon's meeting, which I don't yet know if I'll be chairing or not (the Chairman hopes to get there and it won't be her fault, but more important family circumstances, which may prevent her) and I'll fill in a self-referral form for physiotherapy, and then I'll fill in the form I got this morning from the letting agents. Tonight, I'll start plodding through the rest after Pugsley and Squiffany have gone home (we're looking after them for an hour or so). Tomorrow, Weeza and Zerlina are coming over for lunch, so I'll go in to the market early and buy some lovely food.

If I say it, does this mean I'll do it? I'm pretending a bit, don't you think? Coffee first? That would be lovely. No, you sit still, I'll make it. Would you care for a nice raw carrot or a rice cake with that? I think I might indulge. Yum.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Z reminds herself to be humble

We're all so English, that most of us wrote about the weather yesterday. Today, here, it was fresh and cold and sunny, which was delightful. It was frosty this morning, and I fell heavily (not that I'm heavy, you understand) on Al and Dilly's path. The Sage, who was looking after the children, rushed out with Pugsley, wrapped in a blanket, in his arms. He hauled me up; my left hip hurt which makes a change and I have five cuts on my hand but no grazes and I brushed it off.

I realised, last night, that I had cocked up and missed a deadline and wrote to apologise and I've been reprieved. How kind. I will confess to those who were nearly affected, of course, because being humble helps others as well as oneself, although one would prefer not to have to be. Dammit. No really, I need God because who else would keep forgiving me? People, of course, because they're endlessly kind, but my stupidity goes beyond that.

Ho. Well.

There was a mean letter in the village magazine which has hurt me. I know who has written it; there is no name to it and that is not the editor's policy, but I understand the pressure which has been brought to bear. I'll have to write an answer and it must be inoffensive and not hurt (ing or ful). I will give it a day or two, I have a fortnight in hand and must consult others. Hasty letters are not good. Hasty emails should never be sent. If your fingers seem inspired to heights of rudery, print, save, reread the next day and then decide what to send. It probably won't be the angrily written email that seemed so inspired the night before.

Sorry, you won't have a clue what I'm writing about. Several things. Chocolate calls, I think. It won't be answered, for I am strong-minded. Dammit. Fortunately, I don't even try to resist alcohol. Thank the lord for alcohol.

No, I've had enough. Sigh. I'll cuddle the dog instead.

Monday 2 February 2009

Z stays indoors

It is, of course, snowing. Ro left for work before I was up, as usual, but was home again at 10. He'd stared glumly out of the office window, decided it was not getting better any time soon and he's now working from his armchair. It wasn't snowing here at that time, but now it's really looking rather pretty.

Fortunately, I have nothing in my diary for today, so am catching up on some office work. I have no make-up on. As the phone rang before I'd washed my hair and I had to bring the phone down to look up something, I haven't been able to face the cold of my bedroom to shower since. I don't have in a contact lens. I am dressed, at least.

Al says that the seed order has arrived at the shop, which is very exciting. Though I'm not sure that we'll grow so many vegetables this year. We were thoroughly discouraged by the rabbits eating all the beans last year and now the garden is rather full of pheasants too. Assuming Dave and I get our lovely wall built in the Spring (still up for that, David dear boy?) we can net in the rest of the veg patch, but that won't keep out the seven hen and two cock pheasants who so enjoy roaming the Sagacious Acres. I wouldn't dream of discouraging them.

Anyhoo, what I have in mind is to mostly plant squash and pumpkin plants, because they cover the ground and the fruit is highly saleable, and can all be harvested together, along with a few things I really want, have mostly cucumbers in the greenhouse with just a few tomato plants, and to grow lots of seedlings for sale. Veg seedlings, that is. I used to do flowers in the days before I got so enmired in practicality that I virtually stopped growing anything I couldn't eat. Time was, I used to grow flowers for cutting and I did flower arrangements for the house every week. I can hardly believe it.

It's snowed in every month since October, you know. I can't remember that ever happening before.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Thank you and goodnight

Pugsley, saying goodnight after having visited for Sunday evening...

"Sank you, sank you, happy ever ever afters"

Z Muses on music -

- though I have no connection with the Muse of music who is, of course, called Euterpe.

It hasn't occurred to me before now that music has always been a source of comfort to me at times of difficulty. I know it is nowadays, but I've just realised, as I listened again to that Adams piece on YouTube, that it could be a catalyst for a new appreciation for me of modern classical music. And then I thought back and remembered the record that introduced me to the operatic style of singing, which led to the realisation I'm talking about.

I'm thinking back to January 1970, when my father suddenly died. I was 16, my sister was 21 and my mother was 46. I don't have to describe what it was like, you can imagine or you might know. The year didn't get better, and one dreadful event piled on to the last and let's not dwell on that, hey. I can't remember on what whim my mother bought a record of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing operetta. Specifically, this. It was rather downmarket for this highbrow and magnificent artist, but as I never listened to opera, thinking it was a bit screechy, I didn't know that. From the first hearing, I loved it. So did my mother. We played it over and over. We have always, as a family, been obsessive readers but she was no longer able to read books, finding fiction a trivially manipulative waste of her interest and more serious books impossible to give any concentrated effort to. I could still read, and took refuge in books (usefully, considering that I was taking A levels at the time) but it was hard to take an interest in the spoken voice unless it seemed relevant to us in some way. So we listened to music, and particularly to that record. I stopped listening to the popular music of the time as I couldn't deal with anything too new or strident or annoying (can you imagine the effect The Osmonds and Slade, for example, had on my nerves?).

As time went by, of course I could enjoy other music too, and this now included opera.

The next time my nerves were in shredses was six or seven years ago, when things were going badly awry at the village school (and then the chairman of governors died suddenly and I had to take over from him), my mother was ill and had been both ill and desperately unhappy for quite some time, and then, simultaneously - that is, some of it literally and all of it within the same month, it all came to a climax at school (I made the right decision, the best possible and I so easily could have bowed to pressure and not done so, which knowledge gives me great gladness) and prospects picked up, my mother's terminal cancer was diagnosed, Al bought the shop and Ro went to university 300 miles away. We coped, as one does, and I became aware that my children were worried about me. I think they thought I was likely to have a nervous breakdown, which I wasn't, but I did become a bit intense. Ro suggested I listen to music more, as he thought it would sooth and calm me.

Most music irritated me though or was more than I could concentrate on. I couldn't listen to 'serious' music at all. I listened instead, over and over, to Prokofiev, particularly the Lieutenant Kije suite, on this album. I also listened to jazz, particularly Bix Beiderbecke. Well, at one time, exclusively. After a while, I discovered that I could also take Mozart's Requiem.

Furthermore, it's occurred to me that getting completely over all that drama and less than cheerful stuff coincided with my exploration of different music again. I asked Ro to introduce me to some of the stuff he liked, and he was quite reluctant to. Eventually, after my having pressed for this for some weeks, he asked why. I explained, simply, that he had always been willing to come to music concerts with me and listened to them appreciatively, even if it wasn't his chosen style, and that I respected his knowledge and would like to return the compliment; also that I would like to explore some new genres and didn't know where to start. He got this, chose some CDs and put them on my iPod ready for a journey I was taking to visit my sister (this was 2 years ago last August). It all carried on from there.

When I get some new music, I tend to listen to an album (always the whole album, and I can't be doing with Party Shuffle) over and over, particularly if I am unsure whether I like it. And now I'm in the mood to explore again which, I now realise, after this long explanation, shows I'm in a pretty good place at present. You know, emotionally and all that.