Tuesday 30 June 2009

Z is increasingly well-heeled

The most useful thing I've bought this year is my little heel lift. It was helpful to be able to adjust it by as little as a millimetre at a time to end up, once I'd got used to it, with 9 mm of lift in my right shoe. It's meant that I can't wear open-backed shoes but that's no problem. I've also found that the flat shoes I bought are too flat for me and that I'm best with a 1 - 2 inch heel, though I can wear higher once in a while without problems.

When I went to Italy at the end of April, I knew I'd be walking a lot and also travelling in a coach and by plane, with no chance to stretch my legs out, so I took a good supply of painkillers and took a dose every morning, which was enough to keep me quite happy. However, for the last few weeks I've been aware that I've started to regain a slightly rolling gait and my leg has hurt most of the time. Since I've had arthritis I've noticed other people with the distinctive walk - even when you can't quite call it a limp you look like a hoary old salt on shore leave. Certainly, it's noticeable - I'm often asked if I've hurt my leg, even when I don't think I'm walking funny at all.

This morning, I remembered where I put the pack with the other layers of the lift and I've added another. It's helped. Slightly depressing to accept that I've lost more from my hip though. Once I get to more than half an inch lost, I'll add an extra rubber heel to each right shoe, but after that I suppose I'll have to consider built-up shoes.

The other depressing thing is that I'm doing nothing to cause it. I'm not overweight - though nor am I thin, which maybe is the only next place to aim - I walk as much as is normal for a reasonably active person, and cycle for preference, I don't do things that put unnecessary strain on my hip and, as the doctor recommended, I cycle quite a lot. Therefore, it's not what I'm doing or not doing that is causing it to deteriorate, but just the natural effect of arthritis. It's quite interesting really.

Anyway, in other news ... yesterday, the Sage spotted a kestrel diving towards the chicken run, with the bantams making a commotion. He hurried over, but fortunately the baby phantam had managed to take cover. Now, she and her mother are in a coop on the lawn. Mother is still hopefully sitting on some eggs but, being half pheasant, the baby is quite happy running around a lot of the time and doesn't mind not being under mum's wing.

Otherwise - the hot weather is making me extremely cheerful. I love it. Different matter if you have to get to work and slog in an office all day, especially in a city, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the rarity of summer weather.

Monday 29 June 2009

Z is well trained

I should have made it clear, yesterday, that of course I have had governor training about pupil exclusions - several times in fact; probably 3 times in the 9 years I've been a high school governor. In addition, I read every update to the guide to the law. I do take it all seriously. This time, it was a very in-depth training day for headteachers and other staff, as well as local authority officials - a barrister delivered 85 pages-worth of information to about 80 of us, who probably represented 35 or more schools (few primary schools would need this training around here, but Middle and High schools do).

I saw several people I knew, including a headteacher who used to be our Deputy Head and the Head of one of our middle schools whom I work with regularly. I also, when signing in, noticed the name of a man who used to teach at our village school and left several years ago - I was chairman of governors at the time and gave him a reference. I'd always wondered how he got on as he'd left us for a school with various problems, which I seem to remember went into special measures soon after he arrived there. I gave him a very good reference but wondered if I'd been doing him a favour or not!

At the break we had a chat and I'm so glad that he's doing really well and is happy. He's now deputy head at that same school and has obviously found his niche. He had evident potential when I knew him, but there wasn't the scope for promotion at a little primary school. I think he found the challenge he needed and rose to it.

A very interesting day and, as I expected, our high school does all it's supposed to. I've got a few things to check though, to make sure we're up to date with, and I've got a lot to read up on. It's the sort of detail I'm fairly good with though and that I remember (or at least, remember where to find again).

Lowestoft was hazy. When I arrived home, I discovered that there's been bright sun all day and it's been hot. This was often the pattern when I lived there - a day or two of sunshine and then the sea mist rolled in. It needs a breeze to keep the clouds away.

This evening, I'm mostly making Summer Pudding.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Z is here

A dreadful journey, for both Wink and me, and I'm not telling you all about it because I can't bear to relive it, even in the telling. It was followed by a delightful weekend with excellent company. If you want a B&B within a few miles of Canterbury I can recommend one, and the Salutation garden in Sandwich is beautiful - I'll put up some pictures tomorrow, by which time I'll have fetched my camera out of the handbag 5 yards away.

The Sage is ever more adorable and I owe him yet more loads of loveliness. I will attempt to be lovely, bearing in mind I'm going to be out all day tomorrow on a training day about the law concerning school exclusions. I seem to have expelled a few pupils already without such a day, so I trust I'll discover I've always gone by the book. I've always told my headteachers that I will support them to the hilt if they're right (to the point of resigning, of course) but equally I'll not uphold their decision if I believe they're wrong. I'm impartial, as I should be.

Anyway, the journey back was smooth and quick - I left Canterbury at 2 o'clock and arrived home at 4.30, which is as quick as it can be without breaking the speed limit. Wink and I went to a service in the Cathedral this morning - a Christian should worship at Canterbury cathedral once in a while, surely. The Archbishop wasn't there, but there was a good sermon about the significance of touch (it was relevant to the Gospel reading) - he pointed out that we all 'keep in touch' with each other. It's noticeable that people are much more comfortable with the Peace (shaking hands or, if you like kissing, your neighbours and wishing them peace) than they used to be.

The Sage had been with Al, Dilly, Squiffany and Pugsley to Walberswick, crabbing, this afternoon. This is the most splendid fun for children of all ages. We had some rancid bacon in the fridge that I hadn't got around to chucking out, which was ideal. The Sage and Pugsley joined forces and every time the Sage helped P to land another crab, P said "Thank you, Grandpa, thank you" which was splendid for family relationships. They won by one little crab.

I have a new and interesting burn on my arm, which isn't the normal crescent-shaped Aga burn but is more L-shaped. It'll take months to go. I have whole lots of Aga burns all down my arms. It looks as though I self-harm - I suppose I do, but not on purpose.

Friday 26 June 2009

Z isn't here

I've given the children cream cheese on crackers, a banana each and some orange juice and they are letting me not play with them for a few minutes.

Next I'll pack, then I'll leave, dropping off some cucumbers and artichokes to Al on the way.

Have a most splendid weekend and only miss me moderately. I'll miss you terribly of course, but then I am a woman of strong and fond emotions.

Pip pip

Thursday 25 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 14 - and making waves

Very hot today when the sun was out, though there was more cloud than yesterday. Some time was spent discussing the ornamental bricks - at present, it seems likely that they will be put in as the first one has been. A change was made, in that a part-brick (cut horizontally) has been put in to minimise the gap. Dave has researched Tudor brickwork and it is correct to think that the curl is meant to look like a wave - but there are two placings where that would work, so it's a matter of fitting them in best with the other bricks.

During the morning, Weeza phoned to say that the toddler pool heating had been accidentally switched off overnight so the baby swimming class was cancelled, and she and Zerlina came to call instead. We slapped plenty of suncream on both of them, and them Dilly looked after Zerlina while Weeza laid her first brick.

And this is what it looked like at the end of the morning. We'll go up to 9 courses and then put in the ornamental bricks, then finish this section.

You can see the gas tank which the wall is intended to hide.
Tomorrow afternoon, I'm off to Kent for the weekend. I may have time to post in the morning - but I may not, as I'm looking after Squiffany and Pugsley - and, of course, I may have nothing to say in any case. Otherwise, and I hate to break it to you, there will be nothing from me until Sunday evening.
Zerlina has learned to wave goodbye. She waved to the phantam, to Dilly and her cousins, to Tilly and to the Sage and me. Last week she wasn't very well and it took Tilly being sweet to bring the first smile to her face, but now she's completely better and was as cheerful as ever. She has also, for the last week or so, been talking - in time-honoured fashion, her first word is "mama", but she babbles expressively as well and is obviously convinced that she is fully communicating with us.

Wednesday 24 June 2009


Fabulous vegetables, Al has in the shop at the moment. I can't resist. Tonight, peas, runner beans, beetroot, carrots, cabbage and asparagus (kept in the fridge for the last few days because it was the last of this year's crop). While I was cooking, I ate Webbs Wonderful lettuce. For lunch, I had corn on the cob - this wasn't actually local, as everything else was - indeed, it was from Portugal - but it was young and tender nonetheless, and a Honeymoon Salad sandwich.

The Sage showed the phantam chick to the children, so I took a few pictures. Sorry the close-up is blurred.
. It looks very like a bantam chick, although possibly the beak is a trifle longer and it's barred like a pheasant - but not in an unbantamlike way. We assume it'll look more of a mixture as it grows.

I enjoyed the interviews this morning, although we wished there had been another job on offer - sometimes it's hard to choose. I cycled vigorously - a slight mistake as my knee still hurts, but better to wear out, hey? I have my car back from its service, which it went to a couple of months late - no time to deal with it before. I'm going to Kent this weekend and didn't want a squeaky brake.

Local raspberries, the first of the season, now. I'm afraid I'm greedy. I don't care. I've already eaten my daily chocolate. Hah.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 13 - and rather a lot else, including a Phantam!!(!)

It seemed a long time since we'd done any work on the wall, what with the Sage having been away last week. It was a lovely hot day and (having also lain on the lawn reading the papers and then cycled into town and back) it's worth the pink arms to have enjoyed the sunshine. Here are the latest pictures -

I know, it's taking a long time, but this is a hobby, not a race.

While I'm about it, here are the photos I unsophisticatedly took of the Bishop's garden. I'd rather like the backdrop of the cathedral to my garden, wouldn't you? The tall purple plant with long sprays of flowers is a buddleia alternifolia and the one with lots of little white flowers has huge leaves and is crambe cordifolia - crambe means cabbage, so that's its botanical family. I didn't recognise the spiky mauve plant in front of the artichoke or cardoon, can anyone help me?

In other news - the rabbits are ever more unafraid. One can get within a few feet of them before they lope unhurriedly away. Sometimes, you have to clap your hands. This is quite sweet, but the downside is that their fleas have found Tilly. It's not usually a problem of hers, as she has short, coarse hair with no undercoat, but I'm having to frisk her several times daily. I have powdered her, but don't care to use powder anywhere she might lick and I'm not fond of the idea of systemic killers either.

Last night, the Sage went out for a final check on the chickens and found a chick on the hen-house floor. He brought her (all chickens are female until proved otherwise) to show me. A sweet little day-old chick - but we have no cockerel. Dave, this morning, became quite excited, first suggesting parthenogenisis and then a miraculous Virgin Birth, but I explained that the likeliest explanation is that she is a Phantam. That is, that the cock pheasant who has been much admired by the bantams is responsible. We don't know which bantam is its mother, but the Sage popped her under one who has been hopefully sitting on a clutch for weeks.

It is bound to be infertile, unfortunately, as such hybrids are - but if it proves to be male after all, does anyone happen to know if it will behave like a cockerel - that is, aggressive to other cocks and will attempt to mate with females, or if it will be like a castrated male and not interested? After all, infertility doesn't necessarily imply impotence, but it may do. I've a feeling that mules don't have the frisky personalities of stallions, for instance. We'd like to keep it as a pet with the others, whatever its sex.

Tomorrow - babysitting from 7.30 until 9.40, when I'm off to the High School to take part in interviews. Interviewer, not ee. Oh, that reminds me. There's a committee that hasn't really got off the ground since the chairman left the governors a year ago. So I arranged a meeting for Thursday to get things going again, someone's agreed to be chairman, although he can't make the meeting - but he evidently didn't think it was up to him to do an agenda. So I did, and sent out all the papers...and then it occurred to me that a couple of items heavily rely on staff, as non-staff governors don't have the necessary info. This morning, I emailed a staff member asking him to lead those items - bluffing again, I didn't even say sorry for the lack of warning. "Will do" was the cheerful answer. Isn't he nice? I'll take in some specially delicious chocolate biscuits.

Oh - English cherries are in season, and they are delicious and ripe and it's a short season, so hot-foot it down to your friendly local greengrocer (there are still a couple of dozen of them in business throughout the land) and buy them while you can. They're a bit horribly expensive, but our Kentish growers have to be encouraged - Al had 15 cherries on his tree and the birds have eaten all but 4 of them, although they were netted and not even ripe yet.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Z Ruminates (not literally; I am not a cow)

When I read all the words of the second hymn, I considered the small party of people from the local old people's home who had, unexpectedly, joined the congregation this morning and wondered if it was a bit lacking in tact or might be rather a comfort (the third verse isn't in our hymnbook). It was recommended with the reading this morning and the tune (Sibelius's Finlandia) is lovely.

Mind you, I quite appreciate the idea of Christianity offering solace and encouraging fortitude rather than constant joy and happy-clappiness. I think that's quite unrealistic and likely to put some people off completely. I said once here that one of the hymns I'd like for my funeral is this one which, similarly, asks for support through the difficulties of life rather than expecting them to be swept away - which ain't going to happen and nor does the Bible suggest that they can or should be.

Mind you, I have some problems with those who think that everything can be put right through faith and prayer - it depends, for one thing, on your definition of 'put right' -

The mouse that prayed for Allah's aid
Blasphemed when no such aid befell.
The cat that feasted on that mouse
Thought Allah managed vastly well.

- as Saki put it (forgive me if I've made any mistakes; I haven't looked it up to check).

Saturday 20 June 2009

Z gets all Dressed Up

Ro is getting on fine at his new place. He says food costs surprisingly little - this is largely because he always cooks meals from scratch, rarely cooks meat and his landladies grow lots of vegetables. He would like to take some eggs back with him though - this is hardly surprising; I find supermarket eggs disappointing.

"So," I said "you did the right thing moving out?" "Yeah", he answered casually, not realising that he was supposed to be polite about it.

Very cheesed off to get my credit card bill today and discover that the day that payment is to be cleared by is today. I'll have to ring up and tell them. If the Sage hadn't happened to notice it, I'd have been charged interest. I trust they sensibly respond to reason (but I expect they will, can't see why not).

Both the Bishops look very well and the whole do was very pleasant and hospitable. At one point, a chap came along with a microphone, and said he'd noticed that several cars were parked on the grass outside the Bishop's House. "That's not under our jurisdiction," he said. "No tickets have been given out yet, but it's only a matter of time, so if those people would like to drive in, they're welcome." Three men got up and hurried out. It was so much more pleasant than just being warned, don't you think? Just as the Bishop of Norwich came in the marquee, it started to rain. Within a minute or two, there was a deluge. Conversation stopped as we couldn't hear each other speak. A few people who had been caught outside came hurrying in, with or without umbrellas. Our party had done rather well, in fact. We'd arrived promptly at the start, been round the gardens and were early in the line for tea. When there was a queue of 50 or so, we felt pretty damn smug. I took a few photos but it felt a bit touristy for a guest, so only to remind me of particular plants. There was a gardener at work - "those ground elder in flower behind the bergenia are rather pretty - have you got them in containers for effect?" asked Bridget. "No, that area needs weeding," he admitted.

Friday 19 June 2009

Here comes Z

And, as I type, Blogger is down. Ho hum.

Last night was the first I’ve spent alone in the house for years – I can\t remember how many. I slept toppingly and the day started well when I ignored the alarm and went back to sleep. I was reading happily in bed when the phone rang at 8.30, with friend B talking about arrangements for setting up the village hall for the quiz and supper tonight. It was agreed that I’d go along and meet her at 11.15.

I read for a while longer.

Eventually, I got up, made porridge and coffee and started to read the paper. The phone rang. Al wondered if I might have time to help a bit in the shop as, Eileen being on holiday, he was a bit rushed. Friday is busy anyway, and he also has several orders to make up. I promised to be there in 15 minutes. However, 5 minutes later Kenny arrived. He will be 90 in a week’s time and it’s always a pleasure to see him – but I didn’t really have time. I finally arrived at the shop and Al had time to finish putting stuff out on shelves while I served customers and filled my baskets with stuff for tonight’s supper.

The rest of the day was spent cooking and back in the shop, and I was ready to get changed – but it was time to leave, so I went in scruffy clothes and hair unbrushed. We came joint second. Al, Dilly and I should have taken that third bottle of wine. Barry was a splendid quizmaster, starting by giving the answer to the first question immediately after answering it, and reading out all the rest of the answers in the wrong order. It was great fun. I won a raffle prize, which was a fabulous little hamper with Fortnum & Mason caramel and nougat (hard and nutty!!(!) ), Himalayan tea from the Everest Tea House, in a little zip-up bag, no fewer than four little jars of Wilkin & Sons’ preserves, a small box of Guylian chocolates, a 200g tin of foie gras de canard (sorry) and a pack of superior biscuits. As well as a dear little wicker hamper.

The Sage had a successful trip and we’re both mightily pleased with my purchase (which was his birthday present). It is a collector’s cabinet; a nicely mid-oaky-brown coloured, albeit pine, chest of 10 drawers, just over 2 feet tall, each drawer dovetailed rather than pinned with dear little turned knobs. It is of a size that can stand on the floor or on a piece of furniture; I do not yet know his intention. He wishes to fill it with his collection of vestas, which he has been amassing over 40 years or so.

Tomorrow, I will go to the shop early with Al (early for me is late for Dave, admittedly: I mean at 7 o’clock) and then come home to load my computer (which, being a Mac, is highly portable) into the car to take to Norwich, for a little outing – it enjoys this sort of thing. Then I shall wander around for a little while and have lunch, and then take tea with the Bishop. After that, we’ll fetch Ro home for the weekend and have roast chicken for dinner.

Blogger is back! Here I come!

Thursday 18 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 12 -Wednesday

Sorry about last night. I needed to send a couple of emails, but googlemail was playing up mightily and it took ages, and it was impossible to get Blogger to let me write yesterday's posts. I didn't have time this morning either, as the day started with a phone call which sent the Sage out across the field and resulting him walking a mile, clutching a pitchfork and driving a black bull, whose ownership he didn't know, well away from our cows. He phoned one farmer, but this chap, though charming in person, resolutely never answers his phone - so the Sage put the bull in his field of heifers anyway (it probably does belong to him). One shaggy Highland-type cow had settled herself on our field, so we've left her there .

Meantime, I was babysitting as Al had to go out early and Dilly leaves for school at 6.45. Then I had Pugsley all day, so couldn't get to the computer. Anyway, back to yesterday.

Dave decided to keep going on the pillar one-third of the way down the longest stretch of wall, having sketched it so that he could replicate the pattern twice more in due course. So I built up the brickwork to support it. Probably, this is as far as we're going with this pillar for now; we'll next raise the end pillar and the wall in between to the same level and then start to put in the decorative bricks. We're going to put them in 1 row lower than we did before, so that there's 3 rows of bricks and then the capping on top.

I wished the Sage a happy birthday, but we'd decided to postpone celebrations until his present, which I was buying from eBay, arrived. He knew about it - I'd found it but needed him to decide if it was suitable for his purpose. He had two to choose from in the end; one was in Cambridge (60 miles away) and the other in Torquay (more than 250 miles) and he chose the latter. The cost of carriage by courier was only £16, however, which I thought was reasonable. I could have paid by PayPal and he'd have it by Friday.

So, imagine my surprise when he casually mentioned that he was driving down - which will, of course, cost considerably more and take an awfully long time. Up to him of course, and soon I was quietly planning what I'd have for dinner the night he was away - I am quite obsessed with food and it can be an opportunity to eat something that's more of a treat for me than him. He said that the owner could meet him part way - it turned out that meant Honiton, which is still in Devon and still must be 200 miles from here.

Back to the wall - here are yesterday's pictures -

After Dave had left, I was clearing away the lunch things when the Sage called me to see a moth he'd rescued from a spider's web. I didn't know it, so quickly took photos while it was still resting and looked it up.
Isn't it beautiful? It's an elephant hawk moth. Apparently it's not uncommon, but I suppose it normally flies at night? - neither of us recognised it. The adult particularly likes honeysuckle nectar; fortunately there's a sweetly-scented honeysuckle right beside it, and the caterpillar lives usually on rosebay willowherb or lady's bedstraw both of which are in our fields.

Later, having talked to the vendor of the piece of furniture, they agreed to meet at 4 pm and the Sage rang my sister in Wiltshire to bag a bed for the night. "Just ringing to finalise details," I heard him say, to her bemusement, as this was the first she'd heard of it. It took me half the evening to get the email to work to let Dave know - by the time I was ready to give up and phone, it was well after 10 pm and he wouldn't have thanked me for the call. I couldn't rely on having time to ring or email this morning.

Tuesday 16 June 2009


This is the card that I was given by the committee. How well they know me.

So, all went well although, having got to the last item on the agenda - that is, voting on the new committee; they'd each been proposed and seconded already, and had then been proposed and seconded for election en bloc - it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't taken votes on anything else, only proposals. So I did a rapid recap and made everyone raise their hands three times. Fortunately, they resisted any temptation to turn it into a Mexican wave. I'd love to think I've brought a pleasing informality to the running of the society, but I'm afraid the most I can hope for is lovable amateurism, and more likely is patient acceptance of mild incompetence.

I've been given a generous book token, and now I need to look for books on the arts (this doesn't have to mean paintings - eg, our talk today was on Saxon churches). Then we went out to lunch, where I wasn't allowed to pay, and then I came home in time to pick up Squiffany from nursery school.

She had cried every time she was left there since the beginning of term, but last week, after the dentist told her it was time to stop sucking her thumb, her parents set up a star chart to encourage her - she's the sort of child to respond very well to that. Indeed, she has tried very hard and seems to have broken the habit, although it hasn't really been put to the test yet. While they were about it, they suggested that other examples of good behaviour (she'd been a bit wilful recently) might be noted, including not crying when left, when everyone knew she likes nursery really. Reader, it worked. I was surprised, last week, when she didn't look tearful when I left her (as I didn't know about the chart at the time) and today, when we arrived, one little girl said to another "oh good, here's Squiffany". I helped her hang her things up and asked her what she wanted to do while waiting for everyone else to arrive. "I want to play with Megan," she said cheerfully and I left the three girls in the playground. Normally, she likes to be left with an adult.

I took her to spend some time afterwards in the shop with her father. Al had been slightly frustrated yesterday. It was after 6 o'clock and he was nearly packed up, and the phone rang. It was a customer who'd found a swarm of bees in the garden and was asking him to come and take them away - and he'd have loved to, but he didn't have time. He had to be at a governors' meeting at 6.30, so he gave them another beekeeper's number to contact. He's been wanting to have a go at taking a swarm, having lost his own.

Monday 15 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 11 -Dave's back

Oh I say. There's a thunderstorm, rather close - the latest clap of thunder made Tilly jump off the sofa and she's normally quite unbothered by loud noises - and it's raining torrentially (just as the forecast said, unusually), and the Sage is out on the Common in an open trailer. He's a Common Reeve, you see, and it's the evening for the official Annual Inspection. He'd said to expect him back around 8 o'clock, but I think he'll be rather earlier than that. Wet.

It really is tipping down, and if the lightning comes any closer, I'll turn off the computer.

Anyway, there was little sign of this earlier when we embarked on our 11th half-day of construction (I hope the mortar is well set by now as there's little point in my rushing out to cover it up now). Dave decided to work on the pillar one-third along the next stretch of wall, as he had been pondering on it all weekend. So as to keep an unbroken line of whole bricks along the face of the footings, the brickie had not tied the supporting pillar in, but had offset its bricks for some strength. We didn't think there was much use in doing this for its whole height, but some care was required in the design for appearance, strength and least brick-cutting possible.

A request has been made for a picture of Dave's rear view. So here it is.
I'd love to think that, one day, I'll show a bit of the garden that isn't scruffy. Yes, the summerhouse needs re-felting.

Anyway, this afternoon, when it was warm and sunny, I went in to visit Al. He had taken all the fruit off the shelves and was painting the wall behind. He had some lovely local vegetables and I bought some and then went and picked more, and some fruit, from the garden. Tonight, we have new potatoes, peas, tomatoes, carrots, broad bean tops, asparagus and globe artichokes, as well as Lowestoft herrings and gooseberries. Actually, I think this is a bit much and I may keep the tomatoes and carrots until tomorrow.

I've brought the speech down to 1400 words and I can do that, at measured speed, in 10 minutes which is all right. We only allow half an hour for the AGM and that includes time for visitors to come in at the end - we actually aim at 20 minutes. I shall ask the incoming chairman if she'd like to give the vote of thanks at the end - in any case, my duties will end at 12.15 at the latest. And then the committee is taking me out for lunch!

Sunday 14 June 2009

Wittering away, as promised

It was sometime around 11 o'clock last night, when I was dismally getting to grips with the rota that was already a fortnight overdue, that I remembered that it would be the early service today and I had to be in church by 7.30 this morning. This thought made me so depressed that I stayed up for hours, mostly listening to music by bands with names such as Slobberbone. I did do some work at the same time, but I didn't finish the rota until after 10 this morning, by which time I was due in church for the next service, An ordained life would never be for me. I have a low attention threshold and couldn't put up with multiple daily (albeit also weekly) church attendance.

My problem was, and the reason I'd been putting off writing this wretched rota, that I've been losing helpers in droves. Never mind decimation, it was more like quindecimation - that is, I'd lost about 50% of the people who used to help. No, I haven't driven them away. It's just several of *those things*. I may ask people if they'd be willing to always do the same thing on the same week of the month - that is, if it's the first week of the month, A reads the first lesson, B reads the second, C is sidesman, D plays the organ and E makes coffee - that way, I'd need fewer helpers overall and writing the rota would be simple, especially as some will both make coffee and read the lesson at any given service.

Anyway, after I'd printed them all off - well, not quite all as my printer ran out of ink with 2 to go - and marked them with a highlighter pen, and also emailed them out, I went back to church and grovelled to all the people on whose good-nature I'd presumed most, with such charming effect that they all smilingly agreed to do everything I'd asked and offered to do more if necessary. Manipulative? No, darlings, I just look worried and sincere. As I am, of course.

Al is very happy with his bees - I think I told the sad tale, briefly, that his bees swarmed a couple of days before he was due to divide the colony and he lost his queen. There were queen cells ready for a new lady to hatch out, so he divided them again, into two rather small colonies, and hoped for the best. He knew both queens had hatched because he'd heard them - Twitter is nothing new, honey bees have been doing it for a long time - but it wasn't until today that he checked to see if they'd been on their maiden flight (following which they are no longer maidens and there is one drone who dies happy, whilst the rest of the drones relax their lives away with nothing to do) and they had, for there were plenty of eggs waiting to hatch. He also managed to find and mark both queens. *Result* as the young people say.

Today, I cut the first cucumber - I could have picked it a day or two ago but it didn't go with the meals. Tender and delicious and it made me happy.

I was cycling home yesterday and the view from the dam (it's the road that separates the fields which are part of the flood plain) pleased me, so I got off and took photos each side. Nothing special as you see, but a pleasant place to live. As you'll have seen from my wall-building posts and the photos in them, we live a field away from the church with spire that you see in the latter two photos. What looks like long grass in the field is reeds, because waterways criss-cross the fields so that flood water drains away quickly. The water table isn't far below the surface and it doesn't take much rain for flooding to take place, although it's confined to the fields and, sometimes, to the lower-lying bits of road.

This afternoon and evening, I'm writing my valedictory chairman's address for Tuesday morning. Yes, I'm ahead of the game, isn't that splendid and most unlike me? Indeed, Dave would have had it done weeks ago, but I didn't need to do it weeks ago: I need to do it now. Or anyway, by tomorrow night. I have written 866 words so far and reckon I'm more than half done. The main thing is to thank people and to leave no one out, because you don't forget the obvious people but the unsung helpers who, modest though they are, might feel left out if they are.

Update at 11.55 - finished the speech - it's 1579 words long, which takes ten minutes to deliver briskly. I think I might do a little paring down tomorrow - at least I've got a day in hand to let it settle.

12.15 am - 1468, and better for it. I'm going to bed. Good night.

Saturday 13 June 2009


I don't know what to have for breakfast at present. I eat a fairly sustaining but plain meal first thing in the morning - in the winter it's usually porridge, made with half a cup of oats, half a cup of water, half a cup of milk and a pinch of salt. I don't add anything when it's cooked. At other times of the year, I usually eat dry toast and plain yoghurt. If I want, I might have some fruit juice or eat a piece of fruit, but usually I restrict myself to weak black tea - generally Rose Pouchong, Earl (or Lady) Grey or Lapsang Souchong.

Today, I didn't know what to eat. I felt dispirited at the thought of toast and on a lovely summer's day I didn't want stolid porridge. I considered cold cereal, but I can only eat the first few mouthfuls as I don't like it as soon as milk makes it soggy - besides, I'm not that fond of milk. If I'd had some lovely bread, that would have been fine, but I only had bog-standard sliced wholemeal. I didn't fancy an egg.

I would have had some fruit, but I only had apples and a banana, and I didn't feel like eating them. I considered Ryvita, but didn''t want it. I thought of adding Marmite to the dull toast, but it didn't appeal. I don't use butter on bread, only in cooking, and I don't want sweet toppings in the morning. I like muesli, but I don't have any in the house at present, and besides it's awfully high in calories and I don't like it so much that I want to put on weight for it.

So I didn't eat anything until after 10 o'clock, when I remembered some leftover granary rolls, heated one in the Aga and ate it with a bowl of plain yoghurt. It wasn't actually what I wanted, but I had to eat something, after all. I get bored eating the same thing day after day, whatever I choose.

Friday 12 June 2009

Z is fussy in the kitchen, in some respects

Weeza and I were talking today about levels of hygiene and scrupulousness/fussiness in the kitchen. We agreed that we all have things that just get to us. For example, a while ago I was going to visit a friend, and texted him to say I was shopping and could I get anything? As I was at the butcher, he asked for a small piece of pork. I took it along, he diced it and added it to vegetables in a pan. Then he washed his hands, made a pot of coffee and led me to the conservatory to drink it. But I was still staring at the chopping board, which was still in its usual place on the counter and, I knew, was covered in raw pork juices. I felt almost unsteady and found it hard not to take it and wash it up immediately, or at least leave it in the sink so there was no risk of anything else being put on it. I had to mention it in fact "Er, you won't forget to wash it before using it for anything else?" He was amused and slightly patronising as he assured me he wouldn't.

Weeza can't bear to see anything uncovered in the fridge. A lid, foil, cling film, whatever - she hates the risk of cross-contamination or unwanted flavours.

I can't tolerate a dishcloth or teatowel gathering germs. I can almost see them. I use J-cloths and wash them after a day's use at most (in fact, pretty well as soon as they've been used at all), in the washing machine. I greatly prefer crockery to be washed in a dishwasher so that I'm confident it's clean. On the other hand, if I drop something on the floor I'll give it a cursory wipe and eat it anyway. I'll pull a carrot from the ground, dust off the obvious earth and put it in my mouth. When my late dog, Chester, drank out of my friend Christopher's teacup and he shrugged it off and drank the rest of the tea, I didn't turn a hair - I'd not have hesitated to do it myself. But when Weeza commented that she couldn't bear to see someone touch raw chicken, turn on the tap to was their hands and then not wash the tap with soap afterwards (and wiping hands on a damp cloth instead makes her feel ill) I completely concurred. Indeed, when I needed new kitchen taps I chose ones with levers so that I could use my arm to knock it if my hands weren't clean.

Sell-by dates, pfft - that's the question Blue Witch asks about today. I prefer to make my own decision and use them as no more than a guide - and as a reason for merriment in some respects.

Weeza said she was relaxed about dust. Blimey, I don't even see dust until it's festooning the month-old cobwebs dangling in front of my face. One of the reasons I loved the Edwardian houses I used to live in was the high ceilings - I couldn't see the cobwebs at all. Here, I have to hoover the walls and ceilings. Occasionally. I remember the late cookery writer, Marika Hanbury Tenison saying how fanatical about cleanliness she was, and that her kitchen floor had to be washed twice a day. Um. I wondered why - did they usually eat off it?

In short, I'm casual about dirt but pretty fussy about hygiene. I recognise that my precise definition of 'hygiene' may not be yours, one way or the other. Anything that really gets your hygiene or cleanliness goat?

Thursday 11 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 10 - 20%+

Because it was raining at 8.45, Dave and I decided to wait and see how the weather looked in a while. By 8.55, it was fine here, and so it was all morning. But the decision had been made to go for it during the afternoon. It's been changeable. A couple of sharp showers, and thunder in the distance, with hot sunshine in between.

I did a few bricks while I just had Pugsley, but after I'd fetched Squiffany home too, I left it to the men and joined in again once Dilly arrived back. By that time, they'd finished the first section and were carrying on with the next piece at ground level, so I started building up towards the pillar that Dave had started a couple of weeks ago.

The first section isn't finished of course, as it will be capped, but all the bricks have been laid. We've decided to leave the ornamental brick where it is - probably - it can always be cut out and reinserted later if we want to. We have, however, agreed both to put them in sideways on to the first one, and to put them at least one course lower, as only two bricks being above looks slightly out of balance.

The Sage lays a few bricks, and he did the final one today, just before it started to pour with rain. I'd already covered the work I'd been doing.

Nothing more now until next Monday - weather permitting. So I can regale you with senseless witterings in the normal manner. Is that not a happy thought?

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 9 - preparing the Apprentices

The forecast rain did not happen and we made an early start. Both Dave and the Sage had, independently, decided that the ornamental brick's setting wasn't quite right, so they redid the top part and have more adjustments in mind for next time.

This was, except for the addition of one more brick, how it was left after this morning's work. The darker bricks have been on the ground and are more weathered; they'll all go like that in a year or so.

I was only able to work until 11 o'clock because I was expecting visitors.

We chalked on the paths, rode bicycles and watched the workers, and then decided to trim the hedge by the drive.

We also inspected the globe artichokes, the first of which are almost ready to eat.

After lunch and when Dave had left, Pugsley asked to use the rest of the mortar, which he calls "mint" for some unfathomable reason. Pugsley and Squiffany made brick sandwiches while the Sage laid one final brick.

This is all part of the plan. I mean to put the whole family to bricklaying before long.

Z is, indeed, a Green-eyed Monster

Your Eyes Should Be Green

Your eyes reflect: Striking attractiveness and danger

People find you to be: Passionate, intense, and unpredictable

Your best trait: You can read people easily and understand their true motivations

What's hidden behind your eyes: A vivid inner world

Thanks to LOM for this.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Z finds her fingers strangely interesting

I'm not sure which photo better displays the full horribleness of bricklayer's fingers, with flash or without. So here are both.

My dentist appointment was okay, and nothing needs to be done. Squiffany has been told to stop sucking her thumb, poor little thing, as it's pushing her front teeth forward. The dentist suggesting buying the stuff you use to deter children from biting nails, so Al went to the chemist for some Stop'n'Grow. "My mother bought me that when I was a child," I observed. "Terribly bitter, which I found intriguing, and I couldn't resist licking it off." But then I was always an odd child. I still like bitter flavours.

It's a pleasant, sunny evening. The forecast for tomorrow is still rain, however.

Although he hasn't said so in as many words, I suspect that the Sage misses Ro. He keeps asking me if I've had an email from him. I don't expect to - although apparently he phoned last night while I was out at a meeting. A bank statement arrived for him this morning, which gave the Sage an excuse to phone him at work to ask if he'd like it sent on. I have to keep looking in the paper to see if there's anything on television I might want to watch, when usually I rely on Ro telling me. There isn't. Funny, that the more channels there are, the less television I watch.

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.

It was raining this morning at 9, so we abandoned the notion of bricklaying for the day. Now, of course, the sun is shining. Ho hum.

Still, I've got a dentist appointment to look forward to this afternoon.

Monday 8 June 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 8 - Peep-bo

Now you see him
Now you don't
Peep-bo, Dave!
The Sage supervises
The Sage's special bricks came from a local grand house, Flixton Hall, which was demolished in the early 1950s. Someone bought these ornamental bricks and kept them for several decades, until the Sage bought them. They have been languishing elegantly in the barn for several more years, and the building of this wall seems the best time to use them.

Since we're planning to build a lean-to potting shed between the wall and the greenhouse, we've only put one in this section, and this was rather an experimental insertion as we couldn't tell exactly how much room the mortar joints were going to take up. Therefore, as you can see, the top mortar joint is rather deeper than we'd wish and we'll adjust it for next time. I say "we" but this will be Dave's and the Sage's job. I'll just carry on laying courses of bricks and keep quiet, apart from congratulating them every so often.

You might wonder, by the way, how I get past the nettles to the greenhouse door. There is a door at the other end too. Nevertheless, I must clear away the rest of the weeds. In fact, much of the garden is relatively tidy at present. I've sowed several trays of seedlings to start to prepare for planting the new bed in the autumn, or possibly in the spring - so far, hollyhocks, delphiniums, aquilegia and wallflowers. The surplus will be given to Al to sell next year - well, the wallflowers will go in the autumn, but the rest will be potted up individually and overwintered here. I like growing plants from seed and if I can get myself organised I can do this every year. I can't really manage more plants than I already grow in the early spring - I take up the whole greenhouse already with that, with five benches each ten feet long and another across the furthest end. Some of the benches have two levels as well. But once everything's planted out, I've plenty of room again. I can sow more in the autumn, but I'm not sure I could rely on remembering to water them during the winter. I'm a fair-weather gardener.

Talking of fair weather, the forecast still says 'light rain' for tomorrow. We'll hope for the best - at present, heavier rain is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday so tomorrow may be our best day for getting on.

Sunday 7 June 2009

They don't make cars like that any more

Yes, the old girl's been in the family a long time. The Sage's Pa bought it for him when he was still at school. It had already been off the road for some years, as it developed a fairly minor fault and the owner didn't have it repaired but just left it in the garage, for over a decade. Eventually, he sold it to someone who put it right, and at that point Pa bought it for the Sprig*.

For a while, the Sage used it regularly; first when he lived and worked 9 miles from home and then, briefly, when he moved to London to learn to be an auctioneer. But he decided he'd need something less old. Pa advised him not to sell it. "Everyone wishes they'd kept their first car" and so it moved back here and was brought out occasionally. It took the Sage's sister to church for her wedding in 1960. Sadly, something major went wrong about 10 years later on the outskirts of Norwich (I think it was the big end) and the Sage took the engine apart and took it to his friend Clarence, with whom he'd worked as an engineering apprentice. Now well in his 90s, Clarence is still working and knows more than most people have ever forgotten. When the Sage and I became engaged I was part-way through an evening class in motor maintenance - this was nothing to do with him (we'd only dated for 3 weeks before our engagement), I was going with my sister who had an elderly car herself. I think it was an Austin A40 - and we talked about putting the car together together.

Didn't happen of course, we were far too busy a year later with our first baby, and it wasn't for years that finally the Sage made friends with someone who was able to help him and the old car was restored. We lived here in Pa and Ma's house, they having both died, by then, and we used to have most jolly outings, with our three children in the dickey seat. It's a great pleasure to drive and surprisingly easy - you have to double-declutch of course, but it's a beautiful engine and well-made. The clock still works accurately and it has a self-starter. The brakes and steering are not exactly the most responsive, but point it in the right direction and it gets there.

She's a Rover 10, with a 25 horsepower engine. Top speed is 25-30; possibly more but one wouldn't wish to press the old darling.

More pictures will probably be added later, or maybe tomorrow. The camera's on the other side of the room and I'm far too lazy to fetch it.

*My husband didn't achieve Sagacity until he married me

Saturday 6 June 2009

Parp parp

The Sage's beloved since 1954, though she was more than a quarter of a century old by then. We didn't get her on the road for her 80th anniversary last August, because we're disorganised. But that's only a date. She's still not quite 81.

Rog is right, there's certainly something of Mr about the Sage.

Though for myself, I see him as more like my friend here
More kissable ;-)

Friday 5 June 2009

Link for D-Day anniversary

You should watch this. Tears in my eyes.

Preparing for a Wedding, and a loss

Dilly's dad has lost his seat on the council. He's been a hard-working and effective councillor for 20 years, and it seems tough that matters that have nothing to do with him have affected his election. I've sent a sympathetic email, but he and Dilly's mum are going on holiday on Sunday so I won't see them for a while. He lost by the barest margin at that, which must be pretty frustrating.

The old car has received a wash and polish, but it's been put away again so there won't be a photo until tomorrow. The wedding is to be several miles away (at Dave's stamping-ground-before-last) so I'll drive along with a tow rope, just in case. We'll allow plenty of time. Then we'll chug back again with bride and groom, of course. There's a family lunch, and the party is in the evening. It involves a hog roast - they're the farmers who provided the pig for Weeza and Phil's hog roast. It's just occurred to me that the dress I'm planning to wear, which I bought for a wedding last year, is none too warm if the weather is chilly. I don't think I've got anything suitable to wear over it, except a silk scarf. So it'll just have to be warmer than the forecast. I don't need to wear it for the day, as we're not going to the wedding itself - the Sage can't leave the car. It attracts considerable interest. On the way back, the bride and groom will have to decide whether to squeeze into the front seat with the Sage, or travel in the dickey. It's not that easy to get into - he'd have to lift her unless she has no objection to hoicking her dress up around her thighs, which isn't at all likely.

Anyway, all should be fun.

And in the meantime, Ro is moving out. I have local and seasonal food for dinner - lamb, fresh young peas and carrots, asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes and English, but not local, raspberries. The cherries are not English - too early - but everything else is.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Z saw Henry VIII

The chap I mentioned yesterday didn't come on the trip after all, which was something of a relief - don't know why, as he'd said he would, but I'm not going to ask him if I see him. Anyway, we had a splendid day. I realised, a couple of nights ago, that I'd be leaving before the polling station opened, and wasn't sure of the time of its closure - fortunately, it wasn't until 10 o'clock, so I was in plenty of time to vote. I had considered a frivolous vote for the nonsensical single party vote system for the 'Eastern region's' 7 MEPs, but I voted sensibly after all. I do, after all, value my ability to vote. As far as local elections are concerned, I don't take a party political view. If the sitting councillor is a good one, I vote for him or her, whatever the party - they're all Conservative or Lib Dem here, as it happens, so I've voted both those ways. Dilly's father is a Councillor - well, up until now; who knows if he will be tomorrow?

Al was pleased as he felt he'd done rather better than the market today. His lovely local strawberries were cheaper and his asparagus, although in smaller bunches, was also cheaper (same price by weight). His cauliflowers were not as good-looking but just as good and cheaper - all in all, he did very well. He's still selling a few plants, though I expect I'll have to find room for a few more tomatoes and courgettes in a while in our garden.

I fell asleep for a while on the coach, and when I woke up my eye felt dry, so I took my lens out, intending to put it back. When I looked, I saw a small tear - tare, that is, not teer - so I had to throw it away. My sight is borderline (but on the right side in daylight) for driving without a contact lens, so I was glad it was still light. I must remember to keep a spare lens in my bag for emergencies.

Early yet, but I'm going to bed. I'm babysitting tomorrow, early. Anyone seen a weather forecast for Saturday?

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Self-conscious? Zoi?

We have a friend who had a cochlear implant last year. It has transformed her hearing, although it's been a difficult time for her - the first thing that's done is any vestige of natural hearing is destroyed and she heard literally no sound at all for a few weeks, and then had to be driven to Cambridge from Norwich every week for months for adjustment and training. However, the operation has been a success and she can hear better than she has for years. Nevertheless, she finds it difficult to use the telephone and especially to hear messages. The Sage loves the telephone and keeps leaving her messages. Today's was to say he understands that she can't hear messages and he knows she prefers email. *sigh*

I'll be off in time to hear the lark's first breath tomorrow, as I'm due in Norwich at 7 am to leave for Hampton Court. Very jolly. Last visit, to the Royal Academy, I was taken to lunch at Fortnum & Mason by an acquaintance, and felt obliged to invite him to lunch in my turn on our next visit. He's a perfectly pleasant chap but, as I wrote at the time, he was slightly too possessive and I felt awkward and slightly over-burdened by company as he was waiting for me at every turn. It reached the extent that I was teased about it, not unsympathetically. Anyway, I have asked friends to stick fairly close so that I don't feel self-conscious.

I was talking to a friend today, and she mentioned that another mutual friend is getting married again in the summer. "Ah, I met him briefly just before Christmas" I said. But no, that was a different fellow. "I don't think I could do it all again," I mused. "It's taken me decades to train the first one, and why would I risk it again? She agreed. I know plenty of second or later marriages that have been a great success, mind you, but I can't think that I'd want to adapt again.

Ooh, I've just looked at my polling card. My number on the voters' register starts FU. Well I never.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Post prandial post

We were ready, but it was a close-run thing. The first person arrived at 9.30 and she was given the job of putting biscuits on plates - several of which I then ate (I don't normally eat biscuits) because I hadn't had any breakfast. I had put my face on but, after everyone arrived, and I looked at their unusually fuzzy faces, I realised I hadn't put in my contact lens, so it was quietly shoved in while no one was watching.

Anyway, the house is unnaturally clean and tidy, apart from the dining room which is still out of bounds. A bonus for my friends was a sight of the old car, which the Sage was taking off for its MOT. Once it has been cleaned and spruced up, I'll show you a picture of it. There is enough food left for me to be able to invite Al and family round this evening, if they're free, to finish it. The weather is due to change tomorrow - it was fabulous today, very warm but not oppressive - so we can eat outside, which means no work apart from carrying out plates and stuff.

The Sage was my little darling, as always, and helped willingly, not resenting (well, not outwardly at any rate) being chivvied occasionally. Though lazy and disorganised, I snap into full efficiency under pressure and then I can be hard to keep up with for someone accustomed to the normal (?) Z behaviour.

I've just made myself a cup of lovely Earl Grey, which I'm going to take out to the lawn, where I will relax and read the papers.

Monday 1 June 2009

Oh, blimey

I've just remembered I agreed to write a piece for the newsletter. The deadline is tomorrow morning. I still have to prepare lunch for 12 following a meeting which I'm chairing tomorrow.

Everyone else who writes for the newsletter has something specific to talk about except the chairman. I sort of say "jolly good show, isn't it all splendid, carry on chaps" and I can't bear that sort of thing. I like a specific thing to talk about. Worse, by the time everyone gets the sodding newsletter I won't even be chairman or on the committee any longer.

Maybe that second glass of wine was a mistake?

No, if not driving a second glass of wine is a benefit. Give me a purposeful half hour and I'll have done it.

Then I'll cook lunch.

Hope the weather's good. I'm a bit truly fucked if I have to clear the dining room as well.

Z gets the scythe out again

I meant to do some cooking, but it's been too hot. I'm not sure what I'll feed my guests on tomorrow. I've cooked a piece of ham and a chicken and I intended to buy a salmon from the fishmonger today, but he didn't arrive. His van must have broken down. Not much use if he arrives in the middle of my meeting tomorrow. I don't know what to replace it with (the salmon, that is) but I suppose I'll come up with something.

I cleaned the house; at least, some of it - this house is never clean and tidy all through at the same time - last week and it is filthy again. I should have left it and done it all in one go.

However, what I have done is a fairly big attack on the garden. Dave will be surprised when he comes next (this is Dave the Bricklayer. The Fellow has moved house), though not as surprised as he'd be if he were not forewarned. Of course, if the position was reversed, I would not be surprised at all. I am entirely unobservant and would not see any difference.

Now it's 4 o'clock and I have a lot of shopping, mostly for wine and salad, to do. Then I have to spend the rest of the day cooking and cleaning. However, I have mowed the lawn. I didn't enjoy it at all - unlike Dave, I rather like a lawn, but I don't appreciate cutting it. But now, having bought an electric lawnmower, it is my job, at least I can do it when I want to without having to mention it politely to the Sage.

Ro has taken his car off the road for a while - he's not moving until the weekend, but one of his colleagues will give him a lift from about 2 miles from here. From near the famous Chicken Roundabout, in fact. I've lent him my bike for the week.

There are more and more rabbits about. They are in the field and the drive all day, as well as during the night. They hardly bother to run away any more from us, especially the babies. I don't mind at all, now that I've got my beans netted.

I was scything this morning when a friend arrived to see the Sage (he was not called Dave. Neither of them is). They stood chatting, and when I stopped work the friend greeted me "Did I just hear a scythe of relief, Z?"

Oh dear. I've just remembered I've got a meeting at 5.30. My plans have just gone further awry.