Tuesday 31 March 2009


When I arrived home, I sent a courteously forceful email to Alexander, telling him that if he didn't sort everything out then the agents would have to, and it would be a charge against his deposit. Deposits aren't held by landlords any longer, they are held by a central body and both parties have to agree to any charges or deductions. I hate to make a charge on a deposit. My children have been tenants and they've had tricky landlords as well as excellent ones, and I don't care for the sort who use any excuse to make a deduction.

Alexander phoned that evening, in some dismay. He had arranged with the incoming tenant, he said, that everything he left would be taken over. "But you didn't tell me or the agent, so how was I to know that?" I asked. In any case, I added, he hadn't returned the keys. He said that his girlfriend had said she'd do that. He was in Spain, where he was - still working for the same firm - now based. I said I'd have to confirm it with the new tenant.

I've spoken to the tenant. He has never met A. He's been to the flat this evening and there's far more stuff there than he can take on. I'd said that it would have, in all fairness to A, be all or nothing as if he didn't want the large items of furniture it wasn't reasonable for him to take the wine, the robot floor-cleaning thingy, the nice lamp or the chunky glasses.

So I issued another ultimatum to A. He's emailed back saying he'll come over and sort it and wants the deadline extended by a day. He says he spoke to *someone* and presumably that person decided against renting the flat. More fool A for not telling me or the agent. He could well be telling the truth, but it's not my concern.

Anyhoo, this has taken more time than I wanted it to. At least I've had a couple of conversations with the new tenant and he is being patient and good-natured about the situation. I suppose it could be argued that I've demonstrated that I'm both reasonable and tough, which is useful for a tenant to know.

My lovely downstairs tenant can stay as long as he likes. He may not know that I could be getting a lot more money for that flat, but a good tenant is worth keeping without putting his rent up, and I'll keep it as it is for a while longer at least. He keeps it immaculate, deals with small problems without bothering me, and didn't turn a hair when I had to tell him I'd burrowed through his cupboard, removing half his clothes (the ones hanging up, not the ones he was wearing) so that the electrical and gas safety checks could be done in the cupboard behind.

Z Whittington

I'd rubbed down some loose paint from the kitchen ceiling and Polyfillad it, and washed the wall where the sofa bed had left marks. They came off, so that meant I wouldn't have to repaint. A few other marks on the walls also washed off easily. The freezer was somewhat iced up so I decided to defrost it. The oven, which had been reasonably clean but not perfectly so, also needed my attention. The tenant should have done the freezer but I'd agreed to call the wall fair wear and tear and the rest was my responsibility. I checked the bathroom, which was immaculate.

While I was waiting for the oven cleaner to work, I went out, bought a Sunday paper and read some of it in a café while drinking a cup of coffee. Breakfast had been Ryvita. Later on, lunch was Ryvita too, because I was meeting a friend later for dinner.

I left a note in case the tenant returned, but he didn't. When I'd finished work, I went off to the Royal Academy to see their latest exhibition of works by Kuniyoshi. I'd been to a lecture recently on Hiroshige and Hokusai and, whilst Japanese art is never going to be a great interest of mine, I wanted to see more of it to reinforce what I'd just learnt. I was rather put off by the first room, which was all pictures of warriors, but it got a lot more appealing (if I'd written that when I was a child it would have been crossed out in red pen and replaced by 'became considerably more') with pictures of 'beautiful women', landscapes etc. Afterwards, I went along the road to meet my friend, who texted me a few minutes later to say she was at the RA. I resisted the temptation to recross the road, which was just as well because she did, and we met a few moments later.

We went for a drink and she went off to the bar to buy it. Them. And she gave me a present. Isn't that kind? I didn't open it straight away, but I knew what it would be. Then we went and had dinner and a lovely long chat. Blogfriends are great, really.

When we were walking along, I told her that I'd picked up a tuppenny piece from the pavement. Moments later, we spotted a penny. "That's yours, Z" she said and indeed it was. It was calling out to me. I picked it up and put it in my pocket with the other coin.

The next day, I found other coins. The final twenty-pence piece, I picked up on the corridor of the train. So you see, the streets of London are paved with gold - well, money - even now.

Dandelion is so polite and helpful that she waited with me at the bus stop until my bus came. One might think that I, being old, should look after her, being young, but I know that she is right. My daughter would have done the same.

I did rather think that the tenant might turn up with a removal van the next morning, but he didn't so I went down to the estate agent and spoke to Steve. He was quite surprised at the situation and checked if the keys had been handed in, which they hadn't. He agreed that I was entitled to dispose of everything, get in a cleaner and get the locks changed at the tenant's expense, and I said that I'd email the tenant, whom I shall call Alexander for that is his name, as soon as I arrived home. I'd left texts and voicemails on his phone, but the texts were still marked 'pending' so evidently he hadn't received them.

Monday 30 March 2009

Z is *sleepy*

The Sage has decided upon an early night. I've been away. Without him. I think I should go to bed too, don't you?

The fly in every ointment has a silver lining

Yes, it's true. The luck of the Sage still rubs off on whomever is in contact with him.

Hello, darlings. I'm home again and considerably richer. The streets of London are still paved in gold and similarly useful metals.

But I have a story to tell, and you want to hear it all, don't you? *cough* Don't you? Thank you.

We were tossed from the train at Colchester and expected to get on buses. Here I had my first experience of the Luck of the Sages. A charming man offered to carry my suitcase down the stairs and then up again. He brushed off my thanks - "the work-out's good for me". We were driven to Billericay!!(!) JonnyB's own namesake town. I was terribly excited. We drove through a smart and prosperous suburb, with houses dating from the Fifties to the Noughties, all looking prosperous and cheerful. We got on another train and a mother sat beside me with her little boy opposite me. He was polite and affectionate to her and she called him 'darling' in every reply. It was charming. The coach journey had been so quick that we caught an earlier train than expected and so arrived at Liverpool Street Station early too. I caught a bus. It was either a 205 or a 214; either is fine. I sort of switched off for a few minutes and was taken unawares by our arrival and sort of got off two stops late, which meant that I ventured down Pentonville Road a short way, which was quite exciting in itself.

When I arrrived at the flat, I was only mildly surprised to find that most of the tenant's furniture was still there. It was only 4 o'clock so I expected him to arrive back and pick the rest up. Soon, it poured with rain and so I was still reasonably understanding. I got on with my work and, at 6.50, left the flat for an early dinner. Saturday night, I knew I had to eat in good time if I wanted to be sure of a table.

There's a little Chinese restaurant just round the corner, most of the one-dish items are centred round noodles and it's cheap and reliable. When I went in, just behind another lone woman, she asked for a table for two and the waiter looked momentarily surprised when I said my table would be for one. Lonely and only, I would have felt if i were young or old or lacking in confidence. The middle-aged are most entitled to natural gung-ho, so I didn't mind. I ordered a chicken, chilli, vegetable, black bean and noodle dish and a large glass of red wine (I'd usually go for beer but I really wanted red wine on that chilly evening) and when it arrived I remembered one of the reasons for choosing this place. You eat more slowly with chopsticks.

It's hard to linger over a solitary meal, especially if, like me, you are used to eating as if it's a race to catch the first train. I made myself put down my chopsticks after each mouthful and sip my wine slowly. I eavesdropped on conversations, incuriously. The woman who had come in just ahead of me, who was wearing lovely shoes, asked for a cup of tea while she waited for her husband. Her hair was nicely cut, but a bit uniformly dyed. One has to get coloured hair right. Nice colour but didn't hit my personal spot. I suspect I'll have to go grey in God's good time as I couldn't contemplate hair that looked as if I was trying too hard (my hair looks as if I don't give a tuppeny damn, which is not good but not as bad as trying too hard and it not working. But then I'm a 60s chick and therefore relentlessly laid-back, hem-hem).

So, I ate and I stayed, while keeping an eye open so that I didn't take up more than my fair space. After all, it's not a large restaurant. It filled up. A couple came in while the waiter was busy and sat at a table for four, which left a table for two and one for four.

I finished my meal and sat contemplating the last inch of wine in my glass. When I'd drunk it, I wasn't looked at in a *hmm* sort of fashion, but nevertheless I asked for some tea. I sat quietly, still listening, drinking a large cup of jasmine tea.

Another couple came in and the waiter showed them to the table for two. "Can we sit here?" - they went to the table for four. "Of course", said the waiter hospitably, no doubt thinking 'fuck you'. I'd not do that, you know. I know what profit margins are like. The last time I went to that restaurant, similarly on my own, maybe three years ago, there was a queue by 7.45. They need not to turn away customers.

Anyway, I duly paid and left, pleased that I'd managed to spin out my dinner to an hour and a half, including walking time. By the way, the woman with the nice shoes, who came in just before me? - she drank her tea, paid and left. She was as solitary as I was, just not able to admit to it.

But that silver lining. You know that I'd have paid £75 for a hotel room + breakfast but baulked at £99 without? Or something like that, pfft, you think I read back posts? I expected to sleep on a wooden floor.

Hah. No,darlings, really. HAH. I slept on my errant tenant's comfy sofa-bed. I slept good. (excuse me, BW, but I slept well doesn't quite convey the message. I slept good.)

It was a 3 day visit. There is more to come.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Z sneezes

I don't have a cold - in fact, I've just got over one and it isn't the sort of sneezing that heralds a cold, but it's as if I've got an allergy. Not hayfever - I'd recognise that. Just half a dozen huge sneezes and then that's it for a while. Last night and again this morning. Oh well.

Dilly rang me up to say that Al had terrible earache in the night, to the extent that he was crying with pain. They rang NHS Direct (this is a splendid service; I've never used it but Dilly and Weeza have several times and always had helpful advice, including 'get straight on to the doctor') and, especially as by then the pain had diminished but his ear was bleeding, their diagnosis of a perforated eardrum seems the likely one. He's had an attack of laryngitis in the last few days and his voice has just about disappeared, which has not stopped him going to work (cold weather, unheated shop) and maybe a couple of days' rest would not have been a bad idea. It's difficult when you're almost a one-man band and you don't want to let down your customers - or, indeed, turn away business. Fortunately, he's not working, until the end of the day, on Monday so he'll have a couple of days break and I've got some time to spare next week so if he's still suffering I'll take over.

I'm nearly ready to go - I don't have to leave for another hour and a half. I've packed plenty of painkillers. If I'd booked into a hotel I'd only have a little case, but as it is I've got a large suitcase, which means it'll be a nuisance to go shopping when I arrive, so I've put in a packet of Ryvita which will be breakfast. I will, however, eat out tonight if I can be bothered. If ever I lived alone there is a considerable chance that I would become reclusive and peculiar. And very thin.

Anyway, what I won't get around to is going to the local internet cafe, so I won't see you for a few days. Have fun.

Friday 27 March 2009

Z is firm, and so is her sleeping place

"Shall I show you how to do it?" I suggested, having told him our eBay password. "Not much point" responded the Sage cheerfully. "I'll only cock it up." "Yes, you probably will. Oh darling, you are sweet."

The Sage is hopeless on the computer. He is completely bewildered by the cursor whizzing about as his hand roams the mouse around purposelessly. I've tried to show him; or rather, I've tried to encourage him to just keep practising. I do remember the first time I sat at a computer, some couple of decades ago. I had no idea what I was doing and it took a while to find out. But the Sage has a closed mind to it. He doesn't believe it's within his capabilities or interest. Yet I know he could learn to love it.

Just as well, perhaps. Although, on the other hand, it would justify the purchase of a laptop, which I can't now, useful as it would be. No, I must be honest ... pleasant as it would be. Frankly, what I want is to sit out in the garden blogging, isn't it? Not now, it's jolly cold. But how enjoyable in August.

In other news, I can't find a hotel at a price I am willing to pay close enough to the flat to be bearable. I know myself well. I need to be close so that I'll arrive early and get on. Dear and lovely Dandelion has offered to put me up, but I have to get to work first thing on Sunday morning, and it'd be too tempting to faff about and chat. I hope to meet her later in the day, however, and that is a very good reason for starting work early and getting it finished.

Don't tell Weeza about this, will you? She has so sweetly said she feels bad about calling me pigheaded; which she did in the most well-meaning fashion possible; I didn't take offence as none was meant. It was true. But, whilst I was willing to pay £70-something a night (sadly, that hotel is fully booked), I'm not willing to pay £100. It's not worth it, just to lay my head for a few hours, and that's that. I can get considerably cheaper rates - indeed, well under half that - but too far away for me to be willing to travel. I'm too weak-willed. I can only push myself if I'm harsh.

Z tried ineffectually to get organised

It was a bright and sunny morning when I went out, but cold and grey again when I came home a couple of hours later. I'm by no means warm enough. I rummaged in my wardrobe for a jacket this morning and came up with one I bought from a second-hand clothes stall some 20 years ago. It's grey, Marks & Spencer, and I remember the reason I bought it was because it was nicely tailored and hand-finished. Even then, I thought hand stitching on a chain store item was pretty good, and of course you'd not get it, even for a lot more money, now. I wore it a lot for years but it's had a decade's rest so it seems new to me all over again.

I had a few spare minutes during the music lesson as the teacher had to put together all the recordings of the pupils' work. They were told they could watch a film or play some music in the practice rooms. Every one of them chose the music, gratifyingly enough for the teacher. I used the time to make a list of what to take tomorrow and what to do before I go. It's turning into a busy day. I'm becoming quite twitchy about it. Not that I need to be exactly, but it won't be easy to buy things I forget. I left paint in the cupboard under the sink - I don't see why the tenant might have thrown it out, but I'll be a bit scuppered if he has as you can't buy useful things in Islington on a Sunday easily. Chapel Market still has practical shops, but I don't think the paint shop will be open. Woolworth's closed to make way for Waitrose (still not opened up when I was last there a few weeks ago) even before the company folded.

It was lucky that I booked my return ticket for Monday and not Sunday, as I have been rung by the firm doing the energy efficiency check. This is a new certification that the government has just brought in. One has to have gas and electricity safety checks and a good thing too - I've no problem with that - but this particular one is a bit pointless. And expensive. Anyway, they haven't been able to contact the present tenant, so finally got hold of me. I said I thought it had been done, since I've already had the charge on my credit card bill. No pleased about that but there's little point in making a thing about that. I said I can be there on Monday morning only, so they are sending someone round.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Z prepares to be Blasted Out of Her Seat

Tonight, I'm off to see a school play. That is, a performance of We Will Rock You, which will be loud and extremely good. The school has great music and drama departments and they put on very professional productions.

Anyway, I have been at a governors' meeting all afternoon and didn't get home until after half past five, so I just shoved a pizza in the oven and have chomped that so that I won't be all tired and listless by nine o'clock. I was pondering whether to go by bike (in the dark and the cold, woe) or by car (and not be able to park for half a mile) but the Sage has offered to drop me off, so that's all right and I celebrated with a couple of glasses of wine, which has picked me up somewhat.

Time to go. Toodle-pip

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Z examines herself

A good thing about becoming old and cynical is that one turns the jaundiced eye on oneself. I realised, on the way home from Weeza's house, that I'd turned the subject of our conversation to the question of sleeping at the flat because, in truth, I wanted to be talked out of it.

I also worked out why I'd needed to be talked out of it, rather than taking the simple common-sense view that it'd be better not to. I said the other day that I'm too cheap, but I'm not mean really. If Al and Dilly were coming, I'd be more than happy to take them out for dinner and not spare the price (having booked the restaurant of my choice, hem hem) and that's just as one-off a spending experience as paying for a hotel room. So, it had to be because it would be spending the money on me. True, there is a slightly puritanical streak in me, but I was not entirely convinced. I think, you know, that it's partly because I'm so fond of the flat and I rather wanted to stay there. Anyway, it's not on. I haven't booked anywhere yet, but hey, it's only Wednesday.

Weeza did talk tough to me. I'm okay with straight talking and few things give me offence. When I'm given what-for, my usual reaction is no longer defensive but, usually, to ponder whether the accusation is true. Then whether it's levelled maliciously. Anyway, the whole thing went through with good humour and ended with hugs, kisses and a reiteration of the acknowledgment that Weeza is always right unless I overrule her, in which case I am.

This morning I went into the shop to let Al have a couple of hours off, but in fact we both stayed. He having taken a couple of days off meant that things weren't quite up to his standard, so we did a lot of chucking out (he hates leaving the best produce in the back room while putting yesterday's stuff on show, and that was the sorry state he discovered) and sorting. I took all the onions out of the rack, for instance, to get rid of the stray pieces of papery outer skin and check for soft ones. It needs to be done frequently - ideally, every time you top up. Afterwards, everything looked beautiful. New season English tomatoes are in and the price of celery (Spanish, at this time of the year) has suddenly dropped by a third. He's not stocking sprouts any more, as the quality is going down, but sprouting broccoli is at its best.

Oh, last night I couldn't sleep. I did to start off with, but woke up just before 2 o'clock and that was it until nearly 5. I turned on the light and read until I woke the Sage, when politeness dictated that I turned it off again (within ten minutes of finishing the book, frustratingly enough). He threw a loving arm and leg over me and went back to sleep. After half an hour, I surreptitiously turned on a torch and finished the book. This morning, of course, I overslept. Ro got up and dressed, but realised he didn't feel at all well - dizzy, with a headache - phoned in sick and went back to bed. Squiffany was sick last night - fortunately, she called out and her father was able to bundle her to the loo in time. So we're a bit of a plague-pit around here, in a minor sort of way. Well, very minor. Everyone's fine again now, including Al who has completely recovered from his bee-stung bulges.

Tuesday 24 March 2009


Al's bulges are moving down the face. His forehead is getting better but his cheeks are puffy. He can open his eyes, which have big pink eyelids, but they feel scratchy and prickly and, whilst yesterday he couldn't look up (when he managed to force his eyes open a chink), today he can't look down. It's getting better by the hour and he thinks he'll be pretty well back to normal by the morning. I've said I can man the shop in the morning if a whole day would be a bit much for him. We'll see tomorrow. It's more likely that he'll say that he's okay.

Weeza is not too thrilled to discover that Zerlina thinks egg is delicious. Weeza thinks eggs are a bit yucky. This dates right back to her childhood when she used to go and stay with her friends Jacoba and Helena and they camped out in the garden and told ghost/horror stories to lull each other to sleep (or not). One of Jaco's stories involved an Alien-like tale of an egg hatching in its victim's stomach and afterwards neither of them could stomach an egg. Weeza has never really liked them since.

It is cold, but at least the sun came out this afternoon. I checked the greenhouse, just to make sure the propagator is working. It's all nice and warm in there. I've got about 20 or so half-size seed trays in it as well as 11 pots with cucumber seeds. I'll have to see what the temperature is like by the time everything needs pricking out - I suspect I'm not going to have to heat up the other bench. I use one of my greenhouses to start everything off as it's the one with electricity laid on, and plant out into the other one. The third needs major repairs and it won't happen this year I shouldn't think. There are other priorities for our limited time.

Monday 23 March 2009

Don't go by train on a Sunday

I wasn't proud or independent, but I was practical. I looked up what work is due to be done on the railway line next Sunday. The travelling to be done by bus doubled the length of the journey to nearly three hours each way. This is absurd. It meant that Al and Dilly would spend more time on the train than in London. So I am coming up alone after all - there's some bus travel on the Saturday too, but not for quite so long and service is normal on Monday. So what I'm going to do is clean the flat on Saturday evening - I trust it'll have been left clean, but you have to clean it yourself to be quite sure, don't you? - do the painting on Sunday, do something else on Sunday - probably go to an exhibition, I haven't looked to see what's on yet - go and do the second coat of paint and it'll either give me Monday morning free or time to sort out any problems.

I'll be sleeping on the floor. I'm too old to sleep on floors, but I'm too cheap to book into a hotel when I've got the prospect of another bill from the agency. Odd, the way one's mind works, isn't it? If I was having a jolly few days in Town, I'd stay in a nice hotel and not think about the bill, but because it's working in an empty flat, I think it'll be far too indulgent to stay in the cheapest dive. Though mind you, I suppose I could have a look and see what's available. It does rather make me ache to think about it.

In other news, Al got stung on the forehead by a bee yesterday and, since there's nowhere much to swell on the forehead, he found that this morning his left eye had swollen shut. He went to help Eileen set up shop and came home again, but now both eyes are thoroughly swollen and he can't see. He says he feels fine and he's taken anti-histamines, and promises to go to the doctor if he feels ill, breathless or just 'wrong'. But I can't take over the shop this afternoon as I've got an appointment, so it'll have to be closed unless he's a lot better in two hours time. The Sage will help Eileen shut up shop - Al can't do that if he can't open his eyes.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Z is Remarkably Cheerful

It's all gone jolly well today. Lots of families in church - mind you, free bacon sandwiches were on offer, need I say more? The funny thing is that we started with just a couple of rashers and five slices of bread, but after feeding dozens of people, some with second helpings, there was still a lot left over. Hmm.

This afternoon, we finally got going in the greenhouse. I know, terribly late, but that's the way it is. I'm old and lazy and busy, and whilst I used to start sowing seeds in propagators really early, I usually found that there was a cold snap and I had great difficulty keeping the seedlings warm. It is still a week or so later than I meant to be, but I don't care that much. I mean, I care, but not that much. It will all come good in the end.

Tonight, Ro is cooking dinner. I think we're having goat cheese tart, baked potatoes, roasted sweet potato, garlic and shallots, and calabrese. Ooh, that reminds me, do you say callabreeze or callabraisee? Or do you cop out and say broccoli? I had to get my own wine though. I asked for some, but the Sage forgot.

Tomorrow ... let's see. I'm meeting friends for lunch - that is, I'm picking up two on the way and six of us are having lunch together. Then I'm looking after the children for a bit. That seems enough for a day's work. Tuesday, I'm taking and fetching Squiffany to/from nursery school and I've a meeting in the evening, so I've no excuse not to do some work in between whiles. Wednesday, I'm having my hair cut. How often do you have your hair cut? Mine seems to get shaggy in no time. Then I'm going to meet Ro in John Lewis to look at televisions. Mainly for screen sizes. I keep telling him he can choose, but he insists on involving me.

Things smell good. I think Ro may be serving up. Toodle-pip, darlings.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Z is a fatalist

Last week, when I mentioned the lost dog that we'd have adopted if she hadn't been microchipped and therefore could be reunited with her owners, Martina said that she thought a puppy would be fun for Tilly and Dandelion asked how Tilly was when Chester died. So I'll tell you.

Chester had just had his 13th birthday and I remember looking at him and thinking how well he was. But a week later he became ill, and when it turned out that he had cancer the vet asked if we wanted him to operate. I said no. He was very ill and he was old, and it was a large tumour on his liver. He hadn't eaten for a week. I was sure it would be kinder to let him go and the vet agreed - actually, I think that if I'd said yes he'd have tried to talk me out of it. The vet came to do the deed here and I held Chester and we looked at each other, so that I was the last thing he would see. The Sage had spent the past week making an oak coffin - this went even beyond me for sentiment, but he was put in it. This was in the porch. Then we let Tilly and Khan out into the porch and they sniffed Chester's bed and then the coffin, so they knew.

It was only a couple of months later that Khan was run over and killed, so since then Tilly has been an only dog. And her personality has adapted to that. She used to be very much in Chester's shadow, in a good way. He used to leave food in his bowl for her, and she deferred to him in other ways. They were very good friends, and if Tilly wanted to go out, Chester would go to the door so that we'd open it for both of them. If someone came to the house, Chester was in charge of security. If I sat on the sofa, Tilly would snuggle behind me, or else Chester would sprawl along the top of the cushion like a leopard in a tree.

Now, Tilly is still too polite to ask to go out, she waits hopefully by the door, occasionally wagging her tail, until someone notices, unless she's really desperate, in which case she emits a single quiet whine. However, whilst Chester threw himself against the door with a thump to tell us they wanted to come in, Tilly scratches the door, which now has deep gouges as a result. She is also a guard dog now. Instead of hiding behind someone when someone comes to the door, she bursts out barking, hackles raised - which is an act of course, she's completely unaggressive.

We intended to have another dog after a while. I wanted a puppy again. In the summer would be sensible (although, since Chester was born in October we got him a few days before Christmas - he always adored Christmas). But then Al and Dilly got married that summer and the party was here, so it was put off. Then Squiffany was born the next Spring, so it was put off again. That summer, Weeza and Phil got married and the party was here, so that wasn't the best time to have a puppy. The next year, the excitement was that Pugsley was born.

However, by that time I was keeping an eye open. I have few requirements, mostly negative; that is, the dogs I didn't want to have. I've written about that before, I know. I prefer a mongrel, because so many dogs are have had ill health bred into them, and besides I'd be intimidated by a dog with a better pedigree than I have. Specifically, I don't want a terrier, especially a Jack Russell (more courage than sense and they disappear down rabbit holes), a greyhound (no rapport), a Springer Spaniel (they need too much exercise and are working dogs and misbehave when bored), a very large (don't want a dog bigger than me, and very big dogs don't live that long) or a very small (I'd fall over it) dog. I'd like a boy with long blond hair. I have to say that my children think a girl with short hair would be much more sensible. That is the only whimsical preference however, all others are based on sound common sense.

Anyway, I didn't hear about a dog. I didn't want a rescue dog this time - with small children about I didn't want to risk a dog that had been badly treated and I'd become less than trusting of the RSPCA, where my mother had always gone for rescue dogs. This had been fine at one time, but they'd stuck a couple of really difficult dogs her way and at this time of my life, I wanted a dog to be a pleasure, not a worry. It had to be trainable and trustworthy, as we have fields all about our partly unfenced garden, and we have free-range chickens, and I thought that although a puppy is harder work, it would be a better bet.

By this time, I was starting to think that it was high time - Tilly was getting older and I didn't want her to be so old that a puppy would exhaust her. Friends were hoping their dogs would have puppies together - one of them was a collieish mongrel and one a labradorish mongrel, which seemed ideal, although the pups would probably be black or black and white. Unfortunately the pregnancy didn't happen.

Tilly is 13 now, and although she's in good health, she's slowed down a lot in the past year or so. She loves her life and, although I think she could adjust to another female dog (though I also think she'd be jealous), I don't think it would be fair to bring a puppy into the house. She adores the children, but wants extra cuddling after Zerlina has visited, to make up for the fuss made of a baby. I think a pup would be more stress than pleasure for her now. She's a dear little dog and I wouldn't like to upset her.

Kith and kind

I'm likely to be coming to London next weekend. My tenant is leaving, so I want to read the meters, check the flat and do a few little jobs - the oven hadn't been thoroughly cleaned (it was okay but not perfect) before he moved in so I will do that, and I've got to repaint the kitchen ceiling and a wall where he leaned his sofabed - he told me about it and I said it was acceptable as wear and tear - I was being kind really because it was immaculate when he moved in only a few months earlier, but it won't take long to do and I don't mind.

Anyway, I'd asked Dilly if she wanted to have a weekend in London with the children and we could do a few things together and then, either in between times or after they left, I'd do the work. However, she and Al have evidently decided I shouldn't go up ladders on my own any more. It was all right last September, but apparently it isn't now. So now they both want to come, leaving the children with Dilly's parents.

It's lovely being cared about and cared for, but it's really hard to drop the proud independence thing. Mind you, it was lovely when Dandelion came and helped me in September, but that hadn't been arranged before and she was being enormously kind rather than looking after me. But (apart from the fact that I rarely engage in arguments I am doomed to lose) it's sometimes better to meekly give in and be grateful than be proud and determined and reject an expression of love.

I'm hoping they'll let me take them somewhere nice for dinner on Saturday though.

Friday 20 March 2009

Z keeps 'em guessing

This morning, I went to my music lesson (where I'm an unpaid teaching assistant) at the high school. At the start, the Year 9 class came in, dumped their bags in the corner and sat down. One boy didn't put down his bag and only remembered when the teacher was taking the register. When she was putting it away again, he chucked it (well-stuffed rucksack) over the heads of the other pupils and onto the pile of bags. It skimmed just above the head of a tall lad, who looked up, puzzled, stroking his head to see what had ruffled his hair. Only N, the boy who'd done it, a few children around him and I saw it. It was incredibly funny and I grinned. "Good aim, wasn't it?" he said. "Very good aim" I said mildly "but perhaps not a good idea, could cause an accident."

Later, the children were in small groups practising the musical arrangements they've been working on (they don't know it yet, but next term they'll write their own compositions) ready for recording and I went to help N's group with the drum accompaniment. It's just started to dawn on them that I don't behave quite like anyone else in the school. Last week a lad in a different class asked me what I do there, and today N asked the same question. I told him, I'm in to lend a hand as a teaching assistant, and I'm an unpaid volunteer. He looked bemused. "You can't tell us off though?" asked a girl. "That is, you didn't when N chucked his bag, you laughed." "I can," I explained. "I just don't have to."

Oh, by the way, and I realise this is a pathetic thing to think of as an accomplishment, but I finally made it all the way up the hill without having to get off the bike and walk at all.

Afterwards, I went to take over from Al at the shop for a few hours so he could go and help Dilly with Squiffany's birthday party. 8 little friends from nursery school, plus their younger siblings and their mothers. When Al returned so that I could join the end of the party, we chatted for a few minutes as I got ready to leave. He told me something that quite upset me. A nearby small town had a branch of Woolworths, which closed just after Christmas. The discount store QD is taking it over and they advertised for staff. They had 25 places. 1,000 people applied. Yes, one thousand. They were asked if they were interested in part- or full-time jobs. Nearly everyone said that they would accept anything at all. I wanted to cry at the sadness of their desperation.

When I got back, the party was nearing the end and 15 or so toddlers were milling around happily. Zerlina smiled to see me and I gave her a cuddle. She was 7 months old yesterday. "I'll give everyone 2 more minutes to finish eating tea" said Dilly "and then we'll have a last game of Musical Statues." She's very good - for each round she told them what they should do when the music stopped, such as be a dragon, be a princess, hop like a frog, hold up an umbrella like Mary Poppins. The children loved it and I felt all emotional again. Fortunately, this is permitted for a granny, being sentimental.

Oh, and another couple of pictures of Zerlina

A wry moment

Her more usual expression. No teeth yet, as you see.


My lovely little Squiffany is four years old today. I'll write more later, but this post is for her.

Happy day, darling. Granny and Grandpa love you very, very much.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Death of a pigeon

Sad to say, the most humane thing to do would be to wring the unfortunate pigeon's neck. That was the advice of Ro, whose office it was sitting outside; but in fact he was overruled and the others rang the RSPCA. By the time the officer arrived, the pigeon had keeled over - not sure if it was already dead, but apparently he looked pretty bemused, shook his head and left. Death was pretty well inevitable - a wing doesn't break itself and it had obviously been through a traumatic time already. Besides, it was a feral town pigeon and they are, actually, vermin. Ro asked his boss if he'd have phoned the RSPCA if it had been an injured rat?

But on humanitarian grounds, that isn't the point. When a wild creature is badly injured it's under considerable stress and possibly in great pain. It is very unlikely to live. Be brave and do the decent thing and kill it.

Anyhoo, the Sage is home and terribly excited to see me. He phoned me in the middle of my lunch meeting - I was sorry to have to turn the phone off unanswered, but really... "Sorry, I didn't know the time", he said. "It was lunch time" I said fruitily.

This evening, I cooked him a lovely dinner. He has poured me several glasses of wine and brought me ice-cream and coffee. He has also kissed me. We are very happy to be together again. I held things together pretty well in his absence, and hardly any disasters happened.

The worst one was that I thought my library books were due back today, rather than last week. I owe 70p per book. 9 books. Blimey.

On a book theme, I'm presently reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which won the Booker last year. Any of you read it? Especially my Indian friends? It's pretty cynical about India - I'd be very interested to know what you think. I'm halfway through at present so haven't reached a conclusion, in either sense, myself.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Unlucky with cars, lucky in love*

This arvo, as I understand the young people put it (though probably it's way outdated by now) I went over to see Weeza and Zerlina. We went to the local garden centre. When we went back to the car, because it was time for Zerlina's early afternoon nap, the car wouldn't start. It didn't even try. It lit all its warning-of-problem lights and did nothing else. Not a sound, not even a dismal whine. I tried several times and then we got a bit dismayed, then became practical, because we are. Weeza went and persuaded a random couple just returning to their car to give her a lift home (aren't people lovely?) and I said I'd stay with z and wait for her to return with her car.

After some minutes, I decided to try the car again. It started without fuss. Since, I've started it three times and driven 20 miles. I dunno. Do you?

Anyway, knowing I had to be next door early to babysit, I kept waking up last night, or maybe it was just aloneness. I didn't lie awake, but woke half a dozen times, finally just before the alarm was due, so I turned it off. Tomorrow I don't have to be about early so we'll see how it goes. The Sage is safely back with Wink after his Cornwall trip and expects to be home about lunchtime tomorrow. Sadly, I'm out for lunch (assuming the car starts, of course).

And a question. This is what Ro asked me...

If there were a wild (town) pigeon on the ledge outside your office and it was obviously injured, probably with a broken wing, what would you do?

He didn't give options, but I will -
a - Call the RSPCA
b - Call Norwich pest control
c - do nothing
d - try to catch it and wring its neck to put it out of its misery
e - something else - please specify

Whatever you say, I will not suggest you are an android.

*I know it's a misquote

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Z is an Abandoned Woman

An absolutely terrific lecture today about Bonnard. As usual I did the vote of thanks and for once I remembered the structure I planned and said everything I meant to. That is, I linked it to what we'd learned in previous lectures about Japanese art, particularly Hiroshige, whom Bonnard greatly admired, and German Expressionism, as that lecturer had demonstrated the use of colour with a colour wheel - something that anyone who has studied art knows all about but that was particularly appropriate in that lecture. Then I linked to another lecturer (yes I know, I probably spoke for too long, but it was only a couple of minutes, honestly) who advised focusing on one picture you especially liked, and deciding to remember it. I referred to three in fact, because I am greedy: a lovely standing female nude in a room with a couch with a patterned cover, another pattern on the wallpaper and sunlight coming through the window. She wore high heels and lifted her face to the light. The next was a naked woman on a bed with a nude man in the foreground. Beautifully painted and, as I said, we girls don't have half enough good male nudes to enjoy. The third was a view from a window of a mimosa tree in brilliant bloom. As I looked at it, I had a great longing to smell mimosa flowers - I looked on the market on the way back to the car but there weren't any for sale. I agreed with the speaker that Bonnard was a great, and now underrated, artist and said that if the pictures hadn't convinced us, the lecture and the speaker's enthusiasm would have.

I give praise where it's due, you see.

The thing is, I'm getting relaxed. Probably too relaxed. I'm finishing my stint as chairman in June, and then I can retire to happy obscurity and a mere three months away seems closer than it really is. I'll come down to earth when I have to write my annual report - the only written speech I ever deliver. I can't do that unscripted as there are specific occasions and people to mention and once someone was missed out (years ago, not by me) and it caused some offence.

Anyway, back to the title of this post. I could just as accurately have said that the Sage has left me, for both are true and yet quite misleading. The Sage has gone on a day trip to Falmouth. Falmouth, which is near the far end of Cornwall, is some 450 miles away and takes a long time to get to, so he's spending the night at Wink's house, which is halfway, driving down to Cornwall tomorrow morning and back in the afternoon - quite a long enough day, to be sure - staying with Wink again and then returning home on Thursday. I have a meeting tonight, but tomorrow Ro and I will cook something too spicy for the Sage, or else containing a lot of mushrooms.

We might have acquired a dog this week, but fortunately she has been reunited with her owners. A friend and his girlfriend were returning from Ipswich at the weekend and saw a lost dog running at the side of the road. She was scared and muddy, disheveled and hungry and they brought her home. Assuming they wouldn't be able to track her owner, they asked us if we would consider having her - we didn't make a commitment until we were sure of the situation. Fortunately, when they took her to the vet, it was found she was microchipped. She had been missing for more than a week and I'm so thankful on her owners' behalf that she was found by kind and responsible people. If she hadn't had the ID, yes, we'd have taken her and given her a home, but I'd rather she was with her owners - she was friendly and obedient and obviously loved.

Monday 16 March 2009

Norfolk 'n' cluckin' good

I say, it's tremendously exciting. The world-renowned Ch1cken R0undabout has its own website. Do take a look, darlings.

It's not all about chickens. There's the famous Leaning P0stb0x of D1tch1ngham and the Karate Nunn, too!

There's a deathly hush in the close tonight...well, all this week

It's going to be awfully quiet round here in the blogosphere for a few days, with Dave away visiting his mother. He suggested we all take a week off from posting, but let's face it - if we did that, we'd find again what we used to do with our lives before we ever started blogging and we'd never have time to come back.

It's all a bit dampening to the spirits round here though. As soon as I've written this (I'm all dressed and ready and tidy, which is why the best thing to do is sit quietly like a good girl and not get muddy and disheveled) I'm going to a funeral - not my friend Felicité's whose funeral is tomorrow, but Bob's, who used to be a pillar of the high school governors for many years. I didn't know him outside the governors' meetings actually, but I'm doing the very grown-up thing of being a representative: though I don't expect I'll be the only one of us, most of the governors have joined since he left.

And yesterday, Sybil came and asked me if I knew how Mike was - he's organist at another church and helps out once a month here for me. He was due to have a hip replacement and I had it in mind to phone in the next week or two and enquire how things were going. But Sybil had heard that he's just had a stroke. I've phoned his wife this morning; he's starting to rally in that he can now move his arm and leg, but he can't speak yet although he can make sounds and laugh at his son-in-law's jokes. He had his hip op a couple of weeks ago - not the side that's affected by the stroke.

My mum had a stroke when she was young - late 30s. It's one of the reasons I am careful to not let things bother me. I keep as unstressed as possible and, without bottling things up, don't mind about minor annoyances. I relax a lot.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Z spends £7

I went shopping yesterday. The usual weekend stuff, and I also went to the discount place, where the old Co-op used to be before the new one was built. I was looking for plastic shoes to wear in the swimming pool - this is not so odd. I'm short, wobbly and one leg is slightly shorter than the other, which doesn't make for good balance in an aquacise class. I couldn't find what I thought would suit, so ambled round a bit and ended up with a small assortment of items. It gave me great pleasure to buy a set of screwdrivers, a retractable tape measure, five retractable ballpoint pens, thirty-five pencils with rubbers on the ends and a pack of five tubes of extra-strong mints. All the pens work and I have sharpened one fifth of the pencils so far. I have eaten some of the peppermints and measured various bits of me.

Today was supposed to be spent in the greenhouse - this afternoon, rather; I was busy in the morning. But a friend invited me out for lunch. Seeds will be sown another day.

Of course, it's a waning moon and there is a school of thought which declares that seeds germinate better when sown with a waxing moon (whoops, I typed 'moob' first, which gives a strange mental picture). I've never found any particular difference myself; it has always seemed to me that the temperature and other physical conditions matter more, but I've never done a careful trial and there are always other things that could get in the way. I think one would have to test it over several years with a wide range of seeds. I suppose the obvious way to start is with weekly sowings of mung beans or mustard and cress, but I somehow don't think I'd ever bother to record the results carefully.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Z slept

In fact, I spent a couple of hours drifting in and out of sleep. I read for a bit, slept, woke, listened to the music I'd left on, slept again and finally surfaced properly a few minutes before 4 o'clock. I have no idea why I was so tired.

A couple of nights ago, there was a meeting at my house. It's an offshoot of the PCC (which is the committee that runs the church) and its purpose is to get things done. In the PCC meetings, held every couple of months, things get talked about but it's not unusual for a decision to be held over and this can take months while research is done, reports are made or sometimes forgotten - you can imagine the frustration for more decisive people. So, a few of us thought an Action Group, not a committee, would be useful - anyone would be welcome, it would be quite fluid, those who were interested in a particular subject - such as, some of our fabrics are getting perished because of 100 years of exposure to light and need to be replaced and the originals conserved, we need some more tables and chairs, what can we do about draughts?, how shall a legacy be spent? - can come to a meeting or do the research and put in a report. Apart from the Rector starting by saying that people with axes to grind should not be starting up a power base *sigh and explain carefully* (she's lovely but worries) it went well for a bit, but then didn't make any progress as Christmas approached because we were all busy. So, as we got near March, I sent out emails with suggested dates and a consensus was reached.

One person turned up.

Several sent apologies, several didn't, but there were only two of us. Still, it was nice to see him, we went solemnly through all the matters to discuss and we have a report for the PCC.

Since, I've sent out notes from the meeting with a choice of 13 evenings I can manage between Easter and the next PCC meeting in late May. I've had replies to say the notes have been received, but no one has mentioned any dates. I'm not sure that, in practice, people want to be consulted. I suspect that really they want *someone else* to do the work and just tell them in time for them to raise objections.

But if a couple of us just do that, will be be told we're setting up a 'power base'? And does it matter? Not to me, frankly, I have neither ego nor prestige set into this and I'll equally happily do the work or let it go. I'd rather people say simply if they haven't time to take it on and what they'd like to happen instead.

One more year. Then I won't be churchwarden any more and it'll be someone else's responsibility. I don't think anyone knows how much I look forward to handing it on.

Z is going to sleep

I'm tired today. I suspect that the afternoon will not be complete without a little cuddle on the sofa with Tilly - something bound to send me to sleep. I've been out on my bike today, so need have no guilt about it. Not that I would anyway of course. I only feel guilty, normally, if I've got a reason to be and if laziness doesn't worry me then there's no reason for tiredness to.

I've just realised that I'm playing the organ, being sidesman and doing coffee tomorrow. That'll be interesting. It wasn't planned that way of course, I'm helping out friends. Fortunately, I took several packets of biscuits down last week so all I'll need is a pint of milk.

I went to the physiotherapist this morning and we agreed that I probably don't need to go again. He's given me some tips on how to relieve sciatica if it occurs again, which I suspect it will. Mind you, I've forgotten one of the exercises already. I can probably look it up on the internet. I learn by reading or doing, not by hearing or seeing.

Friday 13 March 2009

Altogether ooky

"I wonder if hearses have a special gear for driving very slowly?" mused Ro. "Hm, I don't know if I'll get an opportunity to ask". "Well, I don't know anyone who drives a hearse." "I do." "Do you?...yes, I suppose you would."

Neat. Sweet. Petite.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Felicitous friendship

I wanted to tell you about my friend Felicité, whose death I saw in the local paper today. She was a member of the arty society I belong to, and she usually came on visits with us. She arrived by taxi, usually at the last minute, and she was generally the last back on the coach at the end of the day too. She was a small, rather dumpy woman in her 80s. About three years ago, she sat next to me on the coach and we passed the time of day politely, but I was tired - it was an early start - and slept a bit and read the paper, so we didn't have much to say. On the way home, we fell into a long conversation during our three hour trip back to Norwich and by the end of the day we were firm friends. We kissed each other goodbye, and sat together several times after that (though we didn't lunch together).

She had been an only daughter and her parents were approaching middle age when she was born. She lived with them, latterly looking after them until the end of their lives. She was well in her forties by then and never expected to marry, but several years later fell in love with a man and he asked her to marry him. She told me that her father would not have approved as he was not from the same social class as she and did a manual, if skilled, job - he was a landscape gardener - but of course that didn't matter at all to her or to him. His health was poor and he told her that he didn't expect to live long. They married and were very happy, and he lived a lot longer than he'd thought he would.

Eventually, he did die, and since then she had carried on with life, as one does. What I loved about her was her appreciation of her life, which might have been thought to be one of missed potential. Yes, she'd have liked to have had children, but she'd had the great privilege of caring for her beloved parents, and then been lucky enough to marry a man who had made her immensely happy, and who had grown-up children who had been friendly to her. He had lived far longer than he thought he would, so she was lucky to have been a wife so long, rather than unlucky to now be a widow. Her health wasn't good, but she could do the things she enjoyed if she took care.

I can't at all remember all we spoke of, but I found myself admiring this unpretentious, brave, stoical little woman who counted her blessings and accepted her hardships without complaint or grudge.

I hadn't seen her for a while - we never met outside our lectures or visits - and she hadn''t been on a coach trip for a year or so. I can't go to her funeral, as I'll be looking after the children that day, and there will be no one there whom I'd know. But I miss her.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Cosi fan (potentially) tutte?

I know several people who have ended their marriages, to the complete shock and bewilderment of their spouses. In several of these cases, the ender turned on the endee, blaming him for it all (not all the enders were women, but the blamers happened to be). Marriages do end of course, and sometimes that's for the best, and I'm not going into all that - and, before I go further, this is a judgment-free zone as far as I'm concerned and I'm meaning no more than I'm actually saying. It's just sad, that's all.

A few years ago, I changed hairdressers. The previous one was a nice girl, married young, with two children, and she used to chatter about family life. One visit, she did nothing but grumble about her husband. 'Hm,' I thought. 'She's having an affair or she reckons he is.' The next visit, she said she had turned him out of the house. The next visit, she told me the whole story. A bloke had stopped to let her across the road, with her pushchair and little boys and later saw her again and gave her his phone number. She was flattered and sent a text and it followed from there in the usual pattern. I heard the latest edition every few weeks and it got more cringeworthy every time.

I didn't stop going to the hairdresser from moral indignation, but because the whole thing was such a car-crash. It was obvious that the bloke had targeted her because she was obviously in a relationship, with little children and he thought she might be a. up for it and b. committed, in the long run, to her family - that is, he was safe from any demand for a long-term monogamous relationship. He then spent the next six months trying to get her to chuck him by being generally unreliable. It was embarrassing to listen to, because she didn't realise how much she was giving away in what she insisted on telling me, and her hair-cutting skills went right out of the window. It was half an hour's drive away, so in the end I found a local hairdresser, whom I like very much and who isn't nearly so chatty.

Other family break-ups seemed to follow much the same pattern. Either one of the pair started seeing someone else or, for whatever reason, decreed that the marriage was at an end, without any real explanation, and within a short time started seeing someone else (usually known to them already).

I came to the conclusion that their pattern of thought went something like this

1 I fancy someone else!
2 Goodness, I'm having an affair! (this may come later, in which case all the other numbers shuffle up and this turns into 5)
3 But bad people have affairs. But I am not a bad person. I have high moral standards and I always vowed I would be faithful within marriage.
4 Therefore, for me to do a bad thing, not being a bad person, there must be something seriously wrong with my marriage, or otherwise I would not even be tempted.
5 It's my spouse's fault, because I have already reasoned that I am not a bad person, and yet it appears that I have been made unhappy and discontented. The marriage is at an end, but I am entitled to make demands that might seem quite unreasonable were anyone else to make them, because it is all my spouse's fault that I have been driven to this.

Maybe a little more self-knowlege and cynicism might not come amiss. Perhaps for the sake of the children, at least? In every recent situation I'm referring to, the children were between 6 months and 7 years old.

In case there is any doubt I am not having, and am not planning to have, an affair. Indeed, I haven't even been propositioned recently. I mention the subject only because of a conversation I had with a friend this morning.

If you've come in search of Mozart, my sincere apologies, there's nothing for you here. But isn't soave sia il vento the most sublime aria ever written?

Tuesday 10 March 2009


We Dig For Victory!

Cheers, Ally.


The best news of the day is that my tenant has paid up for March too, and I haven't even finished spending January's rent yet - I was making it last in case I needed to. So I insisted - positively insisted, darlings - on paying the Sage's car insurance when the credit card bill came in.

I should add that whenever my bank account looks a bit lean I tell him and he bungs money my way. Such is the life of a kept woman.

With the bill was a brochure (couldn't think of the word for a minute, nearly wrote brochet - I'm the woman who thinks of little but food) with new terms and conditions. You know that the interest rate has been brought down by the Bank of England to 0.5%? Of course, it's entirely logical for Nashunwide to raise their interest rate on credit cards by 2% to 19.9%. Don't we love that .9? Not quite 20, you see. So it's hardly anything at all.

It doesn't affect me. I live within my means, whatever they are. Even when I was still at school, my father had died and my mother had very little to live on and all I had for spending money was a Saturday job, I never ran out of money. When I received my monthly pay cheque (I worked at the local library and got 3 weeks paid holiday a year, how lucky was I?) I first bought a contribution to the housekeeping, a small treat, usually steak or grapes, and then only spent money according to my self-imposed rules. 1 - only buy what you need, not what you want. 2 - only buy it if it takes no more than half your money. If it takes over half, wait until next month.

Usually, by the next month, I didn't really need it any more, as if I'd managed without for a month the moment of neediness had passed. Of course, there were real necessities, so I never actually saved money, but that didn't matter at that stage of my life. Not that I went to university because I got married pretty well straight out of school, but if I had I'd have had a grant which was enough to live on. That's what made the difference to my generation - no access to credit. If you couldn't borrow money you lived on what you had.

I'm not exactly G0rd0n B's dream girl. I don't borrow money. I'd live on bread and potatoes in an unheated house first. Mind you, I can't see him as a borrower either.

Monday 9 March 2009


A windy day. Someone remarked this afternoon that it hasn't been a very windy winter, and I think that's been so. It was sunny today though, and I thought I'd cycle into town until I went outside. I changed my mind. I know, very wimpish.

Al was going to do a Health & Safety check round the village school, so I went into the shop for a couple of hours or so. The price of bananas has rocketed since I was last serving there. I suppose it's the dollar/pound rate. Cucumbers and cauliflowers have come well down though and are back to the price they cost at the beginning of the year.

The Sage gave me a lift in, and this was the first time I'd been in his new van. I asked more about it - I knew that he'd taken it on to help Mike out, as he'd got it for his wife to take the dogs out in, but she hadn't liked it. There is slightly more to it than that though as I discovered today - Mike took the Sage's old car in exchange, and no money changed hands. Both were extremely satisfied with the deal - indeed, the Sage insisted on giving Dilly, whose car his had originally been, an extra £100 as he felt that, three or four years ago, he hadn't really given her enough. She didn't want to take it but the Sage wouldn't take a refusal, so she and Al bought a lot of plants for their garden. So everybody was happy.

Oh, and Al found a fire door that had been painted over. So that was useful. Mind you, the school has loads of doors and if one painted over hadn't been noticed for a while, it just showed it wasn't ever used. But he has displayed Keen Observation. A new school is being built at present, which will be ready by the end of the year, so it's not worth spending any money on the present building, unless for anything absolutely vital, but I suspect that unsticking doors comes in that category. Maybe a school governor with a Stanley knife?


I'm the only person awake. Zerlina needed a nap but the bedroom where her cot is is a bit cold, so Weeza is cuddling her down here. A slumbering baby sent Weeza to sleep. The Sage is napping in the armchair. Tilly is snoring gently in another armchair.

Dave, you should come and join them. Sleep is almost impossible to resist.

Sunday 8 March 2009

A short post for a lazy Sunday

It was a lovely sunny morning, but colder than it looked. The wind cut right through my wool jacket as I cycled into town, and on the way home my skirt blew up to my thighs. Not the best look for an old woman. Nor even for one wallowing deep in middle age.

I did a flower arrangement for the church yesterday for today's service (there was a particular reason for this, as we don't usually have flowers in Lent) and brought it home again afterwards., It's pink, purple and white and looks very fresh and pretty. It's giving me a good deal of pleasure.

I don't plan to do anything much this afternoon. I'm going to lounge on the sofa and cuddle my dog, and read the papers and listen to music, unless Ro puts the television on. I've got loads of washing to do, but I don't care. It can wait. The Sage has just told me it's starting to rain, so I've got a valid reason to wait until tomorrow because washing can't go on the line and if it can't tomorrow either it would have to go in the drier, as I have nowhere indoors to hang washing to dry. Socks on the Aga, that is, but not a lot more.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Z knows her limits

The Sage approached me, bearing a tilted bottle of wine and raising his eyebrows. I said I'd had enough to drink.

Remarkable. Yes, I know.

Actually, I had a particularly stubborn migraine this morning. When it started, with the jagged sparkling circle at the side of my vision, I took pills at once, which usually deal with it almost in time to stop the headache. They did, but the aura recurred for several more hours, which was a vast nuisance. As a result, Weeza did all the photography for the catalogue and website. Later, she and the Sage did the condition report, a responsibility I found it harder to relinquish. It's good for me to do so though. Let go, that is.

I took £200 out of the bank, but I've only bought food, wine and stuff for the church. I somehow think my saved money is destined not to be spent on me. Actually, quite a lot of it is to be spent on the flat. Unheralded, a new regulation was brought in at the end of last year that rented accommodation has to have a check on its energy rating. This is no use at all, but has to be done, at a cost of £115+VAT. I'm all in favour of checks on electricity and gas, because too many tenants have died because of unsafe electrical wiring or fume leakage, but this is pointless nonsense. However, it has to be done.

The reason for the migraine is probably a phone call I had this morning. I was relaxing in bed, having worked out my plan of action for the day, and having decided I could stay there and read until 9 o'clock. My 91-year-old friend phoned to thank me for having done some typing for her, and wanting me to check some details on the computer. "You're not too busy?" she enquired politely. 'No, I was just having a lie-in because it's Saturday and therefore the only day of the week I can, and it's only 8.45' I thought, but could hardly say. It's not good for me though, dashing around first thing. I'm better getting up slowly and pottering for a bit.

Ro was talking to Phil about televisions - he's been to a couple of showrooms to have a look. I'm so glad he's doing it for me. It would bore me stiff.

Friday 6 March 2009

Z has a productive evening

I have bought my car insurance, a whole two days and two hours before the current insurance runs out.

I have paid almost exactly half (35p less would be exactly half, to be exact) the quote I was sent in the post by my present insurance company.

This means I have saved £200 and I see no reason not to spend it. I probably won't of course (I don't often go shopping), but I can if I want to, because I had £400 in reserve for car insurance and I've only spent £200.

My tenant has paid last month's rent (he may have paid this month's too, but I haven't been notified of that yet). This means that I have told Ro that he may select a new television for my approval. He asked how much I was willing to spend and I hazarded a sum, having little idea what to say, and he said that was quite a lot. I said he didn't have to spend it all.

Anyway (do you ever notice how often I write 'anyway'? Frequently, I'm well aware, which doesn't stop me) thank you for reminding me about the insurance. I feel all calm and cheerful now.

Z resolves to be a Stoic

I'll explain why I'm stubbornly reluctant to go to the doctor again at present, just so you'll know I'm not simply being silly.

What do you go for?

1 Diagnosis
2 Advice
3 Treatment/drugs
4 Cure

1 I know what the problem is. Arthritis. The sciatica is a by-effect of it.

2 To slow down the onset of arthritis, lose weight, take exercise. I've taken and am taking this advice.

3 Take painkillers as required. Don't try to be too brave about this, they have an anti-inflammatory effect so will help relieve the symptoms as well as alleviate the pain. This I am doing. I don't care to take them all the time, but I am at present (just swigged one down with a gulp of wine).
Go to the physiotherapist for specific advice and exercises. I have been for the last few weeks and have another appointment next week.
Use a walking pole for rough terrain or walking any distance. Thanks to Badgerdaddy, I do.

4 It can't be cured, but the affected joint can, in due course, be replaced. It's better not to have that done yet if possible as it will wear out in a decade or two and the second operation will be more complicated. The operations are continuing to improve and it could well be that in a few years time a considerable advance will have been made in techniques, giving a better result and long-term prognosis.

He can say nothing more, so there's no point in going. What I can go for is to say it's more than I feel able to bear and I'd like to be referred to a consultant. But I'm not ready to say that, because it wouldn't be true. I know that the consultant would not operate yet, and I don't want an operation at this time. Like a filled, capped or veneered tooth, a replacement isn't as strong or good as the original used to be. It's not something to enter into lightly.

If I keep getting recurrent attacks of sciatica, and especially if they come on so painfully as it did the other evening, I'll go to the doctor. But there's no point right now (actually, there won't be anyway unless it's to ask to talk to a specialist). He can't help and he'd think I was making a fuss. I'm willing to make a fuss if I'm right, but I know I would be asking for something he's not able to do and I couldn't look him in the eye and deny I know that. Right now, I'm better asking the physiotherapist for advice, because he'll be better placed to give it to me.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Z has Accreditation

A long training session today - safer recruitment, it's the post-Bichard enquiry school training for teachers and governors*. Since I take part in staff interviews and the governors are responsible anyway for ensuring that the school does everything correctly, I thought I should do it, but it was 6 hours, all afternoon and half the evening. There was a test at the end and I'll get a graded accreditation - sustificate and all!!(!) A = 100%, D = 75% and I think I'll be somewhere in between, no lower. Anyway, it was quite demanding of attention. Fortunately, the chairs were the right height and comfortable, so I didn't suffer in that respect.

Tomorrow, Squiffany and Pugsley in the morning and then to Bury for a meeting, then the children again for an hour, and that's another week gone.

The insurance company didn't ring back, so evidently they can't come up with a better quote and reckoned they wouldn't bother to tell me. Okay, I'll go elsewhere. I must do it by the weekend though, as my insurance runs out on Sunday night. Remind me darlings, won't you?

It's Thursday, so it must be Dexter. Jolly good. Time to finish my wine and read the paper first.

See you tomorrow. Well, if you're not too busy.

*You'll remember the young girls who were murdered by the school caretaker who, it transpired, had been suspected of dodgy behaviour which hadn't been proved so didn't show up on police files, it's the enquiry which followed that which has given rise to extra safeguards in staff recruitment. Of course, there is always a first time for any abusive person, but it's not only about careful recruitment but also ongoing good practice.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Z hurt and sort of wanted to tell someone :-(

I looked after the children for a bit this evening, while Dilly was out maths tutoring. They were adorable and all went fine. They were both cuddled on my lap watching Nanny McPhee when their mother came home, and she said that she had seen Al's van parked outside the Chinese takeaway, so dinner would be served as soon as he came home. The Sage was cooking our dinner.

Al arrived and Squiffany went to help lay the table. I'm not sure what happened after that, but I reached for something, Pugsley still on my right knee, and suddenly I had the most excruciating pain just where the thigh bone's connected to the ... hip bone. At the front, not at the side where the hip actually is. I waited for a second for it to ease but it didn't and it was unbearable. I lurched to the right, and Pugsley and I fell sideways on to the sofa, and I said "sorry darling, I had to roll over". Pugsley wasn't at all hurt and laughed - "Granny fell over, we both fell over!" He got off the sofa and I lay there, the pain diminishing but I didn't quite feel able to move.

I really rather wanted to cry with the pain, although the time for that was past. Dilly asked if I needed a hand up, but I just wanted to rest for a minute. I didn't want to make a *thing* of it, and I didn't know what I would be making a thing of anyway. Eventually, I cautiously got up, and then I went home. My leg still hurts; at the front top of my thigh, my knee and my shin all the way down to my foot, but I'm used to that. The specific pain has diminished although its effect is still there. I don't know what I did to cause it and so I don't know how not to have it happen again. I'm sorry to go on about it, but darlings, you are the ones who get to hear what I have to tell someone but don't want to make a fuss here - I have described it to the Sage, as far as I can ... how do you describe something that has never happened before, that once the experience is over it's hard to explain? It hurt immensely, but not as a sharp pain, a dull pain or an ache. It was acute, agonising, but not exactly sharp, more overwhelming. Anyway, he was very sympathetic and immediately opened a bottle of wine, but he can't feel it, so can't know, which made him get all worried and he wanted to help but didn't quite know how.

Half a bottle didn't do a thing, by the way, and painkillers have been taken.

It hailed surprisingly hard this afternoon. I took a brolly against the hail when I went through to the children, but a few minutes later it hammered down. I took a dish to the door and held it out and it was half an inch deep in seconds. The children were fascinated and held the little balls of ice. "Frozen rain!" they said. When it was going to melt, I tipped it into a pot of hyacinths.

Favourite smells

I have blithely stolen this idea from the lovely Earthenwitch. They come in no particular order, and I've referred to some of them before.

1 Wet earth when it's been raining after a long dry spell. Indeed, after a long dry spell everything smells lovely, including tarmac. And new-mown grass of course.

2 The inside of a Morris Minor. Any leather-seated car smells good, but an old Morris is the best.

3 The toasty smell of a maltings. I know I've said this before - there was a maltings a couple of roads away when I was a child and it's one of those childhood smells. Other ones are of flowering currant - people say it smells of cat pee, but not to me. Norwich used to smell of chocolate before the chocolate factory was closed (the Chapelfield shopping mall was built on the site).

4 Smoky things - Laphroaig whisky, Lapsang Souchong tea, kippers, wood fires.

5 Dog's feet. It has to be a dog I love though or it's too personal to do and doesn't smell right. It's only been since I had a blog that I've admitted to the outside world that I cuddle up with my dog and sniff her feet. Mind you, if you really love a dog then it smells good generally. Ears and ... um, actually ... armpits. Sorry. And then there's puppy-breath, which is wonderful.

6 The smell of a ripe melon when you go into the greenhouse, and you have to sniff your way round until you find the one that has ripened overnight. The roots of a young cucumber plant smell of cucumber and when you tip it out of its pot to put it in a bigger one, the smell is an anticipation of what's to come. However, the roots of Mimosa pudica, the Sensitive Plant smell weird and unpleasant, in a way that makes you want to keep checking it to see if it's still as odd as you thought it was.

7 Horses. You know the Barbara Woodhouse thing, when they breathe at each other? Horses and I do that to each other. I love the smell of stables. Cowsheds are also good.

8 Broad bean flowers. Many flower scents of course (I've got a pot of hyacinths in here right now, which is wonderful), but that sudden and elusive scent in the spring has me winding the car windows down, sniffing the air to find the field of beans. My daughter thinks I'm annoying when I do this.

9 A baby, of course. I know I'm not the only woman who surreptitiously sniffs babies when given one to hold. They don't always smell good of course. Sometimes they pong mightily. But the smell of the clean baby is wonderful.

I may add a tenth. Of course, I've cheated and put a lot more than nine down already.

Z haggles

So, today I'm hanging around waiting for the phone to ring. I had my car insurance renewal come through a few weeks ago. I can't remember if I mentioned it here, but it seemed a bit high. As you'll remember (though come to that, why should you?) I changed my car last autumn and bought an older, cheaper one, though it was much the same size. I was a bit hmm about being asked to pay over £400 for insurance on a 10-year-old car that is only worth £2,000 - though of course there's more to it than that, after all I may crash into something rather more valuable. Mind you, I never have. I've claimed on breakdown insurance, but never for an accident.

Anyway, I spent an extremely boring time looking through price comparisons and the lowest quote I came up with was just over £200. However, that had a big excess and finally the two best all-round offers were in the £260 mark, including NCB protection and all that sort of thing. I also looked at my own company, and got £360 offered there. So I rang and told them. After some discussion, it was suggested I start again, buying it online at £360. I told them again about the other company's cheaper price. "So, you're really wanting us to look at another £100 less?" he said. Well yes, that's about the sum of it.

So their customer retention department is going to phone back. I wonder what I'll be offered. In fact, I'll pay more than the lower price to stay with them, I know they're good and prompt if you have a claim and I've had good service in the past. But I don't think much of having to bargain, frankly. I would prefer to be offered their best price, as a customer of long standing, from the start. I'd been very satisfied with my premiums until I got a bigger car 4 years ago, when they took a sudden hike.

The Sage has also changed his car. He now has a small red van, rather like Postman Pat's although, unlike Al's, it isn't ex-Post Office. When I was looking for insurance for myself, I looked for him too. I found that insurance for a van is much higher than a comparable car. "Why do you want it?" I asked. "You don't need a van, you could just get another small car." After a while tacking around the subject, the reason became apparent. Our good friend Mike had bought it for his wife, as she takes the dogs around in it. He'd done a lot of work on it and then she hated it. So he wanted to get rid of it in a hurry, and the Sage took pity! I think that's sweet.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Too much togetherness

Oh gosh, it's probably not a good idea to put this down because it's about someone else, and it'll look as if I'm making fun which I'm not and assuredly you'll make fun of me, but there we go. These things happen. I may remove it once you've had your opportunity to laugh at me. Or possibly tell me I'm a hussy. Or something.

I generally go on our *society I'm chairman of* visits, because they're well organised, they get me to places and exhibitions I wouldn't get around to visiting, I do something sociable as well as informative and interesting, often for less money than I could do it by myself, I meet members and make new friends, I see old friends. The Sage rarely comes but usually someone sits beside me on the coach and that's good. I realise that I'm fairly high-profile and so I've made the effort to get to know people which doesn't come naturally (you may find that not likely, but I assure you, I'm not as outgoing in person as in print. Even when I meet bloggers, I'm in my Z persona so it's easier to be relaxed), especially if they come by themselves.

A year or so ago, a nice chap sat with me and we chatted, and that was fine. Since then, he's made a point of sitting with me, and at last month's lecture he booked his place there, as it were. Which was still fine. When we arrived in London, I went off with other friends for coffee and then we met again in the foyer and he asked me what I was doing for lunch and I said, deliberately casually, that I hadn't thought about it and I'd see what I felt like doing. Silly, I should have said I was going with another couple. Anyway, later on while we were going round the first exhibition he suggested we have lunch together. I felt a bit twitchy by this point - I'm a loner really. I like being sociable, but I don't like being obliged. However, okay, I agreed.

When I came out of the exhibition I pottered around the RA shop for a bit and then went down to the entrance hall, where he was waiting for me. We went over the road to the *Queen's Grocer* as he put it and had lunch. He insisted on paying, to my embarrassment, and as I didn't have a lot of cash on me and had meant to pay by card, I couldn't insist on him taking the money so all I could do was thank him and say lunch would be on me next time *sigh*.

We went back, met my friends and had coffee together and then went to the second exhibition. Fortunately, for I like doing things like this alone, I'd booked an audio guide so we didn't stay together. However, and I stayed a longer time in the exhibition than he did, he was waiting for me again and wanted to take me for tea. Fortunately, we met other friends and all sat together, but I found at the end he'd paid for my tea too. No really, I don't care for this. I don't like being under obligations and I like to pay my way. I was so edgy during tea that I chatted to my (female) friend and left her husband to talk to him, and then another couple turned up so the conversation became general. I slept part of the way home, so chatted only intermittently.

As you can imagine, at today's committee meeting I was ribbed considerably. I was completely rueful and good-humoured about it, and admitted that I obviously have a not-at-all secret admirer - this is okay, I want to have friends of course and appreciate the fact that I've reached the age that no one is going to look sidelong at me if some of them are men, because it all gets easier as you get older. I'm not suggesting for one moment that he's going to make any inappropriate move nor even that there's a sexual thing to it (in fact it's that I'm 'safe' that is a lot of my appeal, I recognise). It's just that he is being possessive. I'm embarrassed for his sake more than mine. He's a nice chap and his wife doesn't want to go on day visits, so if he's alone and doesn't know anyone else very well, I'm perfectly happy to have him sit with me. I don't think anyone except committee members would have noticed he was being too attentive.

But I've had to say we'll have lunch together next time, and I don't mind - indeed, I have to buy him lunch. Fortunately, since my friends, for all their teasing, are sympathetic, I know they'll back me up if I ask them to join us for lunch. But it did mar the day somewhat.

No really, it's not always easy being completely adorable.

P.S. - Oh lord, I'm up to 168 unread posts again. I'm sorry if some of them are yours. I'll catch up. I do read you all, as long as I know who you are (that is, all commenters and followers, a lot of others, if I've ever commented the odds are I still read everything you write).

Say cheese

The story of Simon and the Stilton. Simon was our dog. He was named after the Oulton Broad mongrel puppy who came to us, because his previous owners couldn't cope with him, when I was five years old and who founded a dynasty. Simon II was one of the many dogs my mother had after I left home, when things got a bit out of control and she ended up with 11 of them. It was all a bit much and in the end my sister took Sam and we took Simon II. At this time we lived in Lowestoft, in a very big former Rectory and had two children.

It was Christmas Eve and we were expected at my mother's house for dinner. I went over with the children and the Sage was going to join us. However, he was late. It got to the stage of him being really late and I was fed-up. I was sure he'd called on friends in a Christmas-cheery sort of way and lost track of time, and that he was taking us all for granted.

Finally, the door opened and in he came. Fortunately, I didn't greet him with fury but asked reasonably politely what had happened.

He'd gone home to let the dog out before coming on over and opened the front door to discover that Simon had found and opened the Christmas Stilton. It was half of an entire cheese and Simon had scoffed the lot, rather untidily. A good deal was spread over the rug in the hall. The Sage had taken an hour to clean up. He'd then shut Simon in the kitchen, got washed and changed and come on over.

When we went home I found that he'd done rather a good job. There was no smell or sign of mature blue cheese in the hall and the carpet was clean. Simon appeared very happy. We shut him in the back scullery that night, thinking of possible effects on his digestion. And the next night. However, the only effect was on his coat which, over the next few weeks, became thicker and especially glossy.

Two lessons learned - when someone is late, don't start by complaining. First, say something nice and let them tell you the reason. And cheese is good for dogs. They can hardly have enough of it, even three or four pounds at a time.

A third thing. The Sage was wonderful. He didn't even grumble about all the clearing up.

Monday 2 March 2009

Today Z has a bad memory. Tomorrow Z will still have a bad memory, but that's by the bye

I thought of a splendid idea for a post a few minutes ago, then wrote an unaccustomedly sincere comment to Dave and now I've forgotten what I was going to say. Oh dear. Sorry.

Anyway, I went to the Royal Academy today, visited two splendid exhibitions, went to Fortnum and Mason for lunch (my friend A insisted on paying for my lunch, and my cream tea later, I owe him big time and have said I'll pay next visit which he was quite happy with - this is likely to be Hampton Court in the summer) and arrived home to sausages, bacon, baked potatoes and carrots cooked by the lovely Sage who will be rewarded by a specially affectionate kiss later. He's out just now. I can't remember what he said he was going to do.

I asked Derek if he'd like to be our next Treasurer, but he's pleading age at present. He's a mere (and very good-looking) 78, which hardly precludes him. However, if he turns me down (not many men have as yet, but it could be I'm losing my touch), I think Dave would be ideal. I'm saying this in all truth. Indeed, if he joined the committee (he'd have to be suddenly - ooh, bad grammar alert - interested in Fine Arts, but he would enjoy it) I'd try to wangle my way back on for another year. This has nothing to do with having or losing touch, I'm actually Telling The Truth.

Oh, the Sage went to see Al, who owed him money for strawberries, mushrooms et al (that's not the same as Al) and has Paid Up handsomely. I've been emailed the contract for my new tenant, which is very encouraging. I have had not information that Alexander, the present tenant, has yet stumped up. He's a bit of a twat, if you'll excuse the language or even if you won't, because the agents will charge for irritated letters and I will sue if he doesn't pay. I am tough and uninterested in excuses, for his income is at least four times mine (probably five times) and far more than our joint incomes. He's using a residential flat for business purposes which he has no permission to do and saying he can't manage personal affairs and his girlfriend did it before they split up, since when he hasn't opened anything but personal mail won't cut the mustard. If necessary, I'll go down and be maternal again. I'm hard to resist when being maternal.

I wonder what I was going to write about? Maybe tomorrow. Mañana, siempre mañana. As they say.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Z speaks Dog

I arrived in church to find it cold. The boiler had not come on. We've been in the meeting room for the last few weeks while the weather was cold and this was the first Sunday back. I'd set the timer for the Ash Wednesday service last week, which I didn't attend as I was in London and I assumed all was well or else someone would have told me.

I supposed that the pilot light had gone out and that I'd have to wobble down the steps in the boiler house to put it right, but when I checked the time clock, it was set to 'off' rather than 'auto'. I altered it and the boiler lit up. It was less than an hour until the service and the church wouldn't heat up in that time. It would take me all the time available to move everything back into the meeting room. I shrugged, turned on the organist's heater, and decided the congregation would be chilly.

Eventually, it transpired that the Rector's husband had helpfully come down at 4 o'clock on Wednesday, found the heating wasn't on, turned it to 'all day' and then to 'off' after the service. I showed him Wednesday's time clock, set to 4.30. He was abashed, poor dear man, and I hugged him sympathetically. It was agreed that only one person really needs to take responsibility for the heating and that the control freak of the parish should be it. So I suppose I have a job for life. I mean, I'd be happy to relinquish it, but that means someone keeping a note of every time it needs altering, doing it and then putting it back afterwards. It's a 7 day clock, so we can set it differently every day, up to three periods of use a day, and only change it once a week. Obviously, some weeks it doesn't need doing at all. But I don't see anyone else remembering when school assemblies etc are happening.

Anyway, it wasn't that cold and no one complained, least of all me with my electric heater.

Ro, Zain and Claire have gone for a hearty and scenic walk around Bath Hills. I have been getting on with some work - yes, really. Al and family have been gardening and the Sage is talking lovingly to his chickens. They are being very free-range at present (their run needs to be moved as they've eaten all the grass and in the meantime they're frolicking all over the garden) so it takes ages to make sure they're all in the run at the end of the day. Tilly looked at me, quite clearly asking for her dinner early. I looked back, asking with my eyebrows if she was sure? She said she was. My eyes said she could. She looked hopeful, but didn't jump up until I took my keyboard off my knees - maybe it's my accent. Chester used to understand every unspoken word. When I got to the kitchen, I found I hadn't got any tinned dogfood. A little goes on her dried food, which is dull otherwise. I couldn't disappoint her of course, so I grated some cheese for her. She didn't mind at all.

Al and family are coming in for dinner this evening. Roast pork and chocolate cake.