Wednesday 30 September 2009

Z gives an opportunity to go "Ahhh"

I thought you might like a picture of a cat. After all, most readers go all gooey at the sight of a cat photo and, although Dave doesn't, Dave is not here.

Lowestoft made various animal: dogs, cats, swans, cygnets and sheep but they are mostly, apart from some standing dogs, fairly clunky - though the swan and cygnet get away with it - but the cats are lovely. You can hold it in your hand and feel the bones - the modeller had spend a lot of time stroking the factory cats. They are all cast from the same mould, although the positioning and the base has some slight variation, and they come in various catty colours. This is probably the least realistic colouration - when I first saw it I was a bit hmm but it has grown on me. Nevertheless, we won't be bidding. All the same, no representative collection of Lowestoft china is really complete without a cat.

I put in an extra afternoon at a music lesson today as the teacher was going to be away part of the time and it's quite demanding for one teaching assistant or non-music teacher. I was flattered to find she thought I'd be useful and pleased that she felt able to ask. It went well - I stuck to the piano/keyboard as, although I'm reasonably okay with drums I have no idea of guitars, and the piano part was quite tricky for groups of pupils if none of them could read music. I persuaded a couple of lads to have a go who hadn't wanted to (and the other teacher hadn't succeeded) so I felt pretty good about it. They were both absolutely fine and got it right after a few minutes, so I hope they felt a sense of achievement too.

I wanted to go to the exhibition at the Tate tomorrow, so I looked up the route - the Tube was suggested but there's a change at Euston and the escalators aren't working between lines. That's no good, I can't do all those stairs without hobbling for the rest of the day, and it's a bit of a walk at the other end anyway, and then the exhibition as well as another one I want to visit if there's time. So I checked a different route. Reduced escalator service at Green Park. No wonder I hate the London Underground. I don't get claustrophobic or twitchy about bombs, it's all the bloody walking. I looked up buses instead, but the site was fed up with me by then and wouldn't work. So, you know, I can't be bothered. Obviously, it isn't a good idea to go direct from Islington to Pimlico. I'll go to the British Museum instead.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Z has a high level of function

... according to the copy of the letter from the consultant to my GP, at any rate. I seem to have left him with the impression that I still want to pursue the option of hip resurfacing and that my doctor should expect me to go back to him, so I've just written to the doctor (no need to take up his time with a visit) saying that's not so, that I'm happy with the advice given and thanking him for his own good advice. It's not actually necessary to write, but don't you think that we're quicker to complain than to praise? Doctors must often only hear back if things go wrong, not when they clear up or the status quo accepted.

Tilly is lying on the chair next to me. Every time I looked up, she was gazing at me. To start with, I was quite pleased at the display of affection, but after a while I realised that this is not a Tillyish thing to do. Finally, it occurred to me that my breakfast yoghurt pot was on the table. I gave it to her to lick. She's curled up facing the other way now. She was far too polite to look at it, but just hoped I'd look at her properly and read the message in her eyes. It was very subtle though, she's such a trusting little dog and assumes my mastery of Dog is complete. It is fluent, but I'm not, of course, a native Dog speaker and occasionally the nuances don't get through for a while.

Today, I've mostly been listening to music. With pleasing randomness, I started with Schumann lieder, moved on to Jimi Hendrix and then Ella Fitzgerald.

More importantly, it's not only the birthday of Dave's twin son and daughter, but also Pugsley's third birthday. We've got him a farm set. Happy birthday, darling Pugsley

Monday 28 September 2009

Z has time to spare

Well, I've signed the petition. Thanks to Ally for the link.

Several things have pleased me in the paper today - Libby Purves, in support of binding pre-nups, referring to marriage as "a good gig" for example, and I laughed most of the way through Caitlin Moran's piece about what age to allow your children to do things such as swear, have a mobile phone, wear earrings and be informed that there are beaches in Normandy where the tide comes in faster than a galloping horse. I can't find it online - maybe they put Times 2 things up later? Anyway, it demonstrates that I don't have quite enough to do with my time today, as I have had time to read the paper. Both papers. I might even do the crossword later.

Of course, I could do a whole lot in the garden, which is a mess, or I could clean the house, in which most surfaces are covered in dust and I could tidy the house, which will just leave gaps in the dust or I could clean the windows, although that will just make the dust more visible. But it's been rather enjoyable to read the papers on a Monday morning.

And, if you do find and read Caitlin's article, I'd just like to mention that Ro, as a child, used to call me Swear Queen. With a certain mild disapproval.

PS - Martina has found the article and sent the link - here Thanks, Martina!

Sunday 27 September 2009


There were some 70 people in church today,more than the last few Harvest Festivals, so that was good. There was a short formal service first, then coffee, breakfast, newspapers and things for the children to do, and then an informal session in the church to finish up. What was particularly a pleasure to me was that there were all ages from small children, teenagers and adults right up to several wheelchair-bound ladies and a gentleman from the village old people's home. It all made for a cheerful and friendly atmosphere and there were a lot of gifts brought for the village schoolchildren to take to the homes of retired people tomorrow (they are invited to ask for this and it's a simple act of friendship). Of course, the children don't go alone.

In the afternoon, Weeza and family, with Ro, came over, and so did Dilly's parents and sister with her sons for Pugsley's birthday party. He won't be 3 until Tuesday and we'll celebrate again then, but several of us will be at work or school then. Pugsley was happily excited and all the children were lovely together. Squiffany organised the boys, as girls do, but none of them minded. Dilly and Al had made a splendid Spiderman cake as well as Shrek's swamp made mainly of green jelly and chocolate mousse.

The catalogue for our next sale is up on the website (link in the sidebar) though it's not been proofread yet and I know there's at least one correction to make. The cat near the end is the star lot.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Z empowers people

So. I've booked my train ticket for next Thursday. Frugally, I've got the cheapest deal I can which means I'm arriving in London at noon and catching the 8 o'clock train home. After doing what I need to, I'll go to an exhibition, maybe two. Unless anyone is free in the afternoon or early evening? - I'd happily forsake culture for friendship; unless of course we wanted to arrange both.

The church looks lovely. I opened up (the church is always open, but the rooms built on aren't) for people arriving early to decorate, and then went and raided Al's shop for lots of fruit and vegetables. Then I went to the florist. First I chose a bunch of lovely deep red alstroemerias (Dave, I changed the order of the words to make that good English, as originally I'd started with 'lovely') and then I sort of gave up. "Please give me £15-worth of flowers to go with that for an arrangement" I said vaguely, and Susan grinned and did just that. Even better, later I asked Sally to arrange them. I'd already handed over my fruit and veg to other volunteers to put in baskets and whatever. My brain was still not quite in gear. I spent my time sticking down a tarpaulin on the carpet with gaffer tape because of the potato prints which will be made tomorrow, and helping to set out tables and chairs. Undemanding and useful, while others did the real work. I think that is a step ahead. I completely let go - I don't actually find that hard normally but people don't think it's going to happen.

This afternoon, I cooked braised beef with onions and tomatoes, and served it with black kale (the only brassica I grew this year and, netted, it has mostly escaped the caterpillars and the birds) and mashed potato. I feel all proteined-up and really quite relaxed. Time to read the papers and cuddle a dog or a husband, whoever comes within my grasp first.

Friday 25 September 2009

Z and the Sage were Alarmed

The day didn't start well. I'd woken a couple of times in the night - the last couple of nights I've had a pillow in the bed to rest my leg on and give it some support; this works but then I turn over and my hip wakes me. However, I was pleasantly asleep and dreaming pleasantly when a burglar alarm went off. After a while, i realised it was ours. I got out of bed and peered out of the window. I didn't know that the alarm, which was replaced a couple of years ago, had flashing lights. Quite impressive. "It'll be a mouse," remarked the Sage. "Mm, or a spider," I agreed. I stomped into the bathroom for a robe and went downstairs and the Sage, not bothering with such a nicety, followed.

Of course, when it was time to get up I felt heavy and drowsy, but I did various jobs and left for school. Later, I went to the funeral of an elderly lady who had lived in the village for many years with her husband. She was large and heavy and suffered from diabetes and circulatory problems for some time, and for the last four years she had been afflicted with dementia. Her husband had looked after her lovingly. Back in February, when about to help her into bed, he felt unwell and realised he'd had a stroke. He still managed to get her to bed and the next morning got her breakfast. Then he called the doctor. Far too upsetting for her to have the drama of them both going to hospital in the middle of the night.

He made a good recovery, but had to admit that he couldn't cope while he was convalescing, so she went into a local nursing home. Actually, when I had dinner with friends last weekend the other guests were the couple who own that place. Peter said that the care that Peggy received could not have been kinder or more supportive and, once she'd settled down, he was happy that she was in the best place, close enough for him to visit every afternoon. They were married about 60 years. At the funeral, one of their daughters gave the eulogy, lovingly and movingly - at the end there was applause which is something I haven't come across before, but it was quite spontaneous.

There were lots of people there, and I'd already called on Peter at home and saw him again for a hug, so I didn't go to the bunfight afterwards, but went to the newly-opened garden centre nearby - it's only resited in fact, still under the same ownership. One of Al's customers has taken on the cafe there - she already has a small bakery business and Al and Dilly always buy one of her cheesecakes for celebrations. I went to order lunch and we had a chat, and when she brought my food she said, apologetically, that she recognised but couldn't place me. "I'm Alex's mother". "Of course, I knew I knew you."

I love being able to introduce myself as *member of the family's* mother or wife or granny and seeing someone's face light up.

I still felt pretty stupid all day after the disturbed night; had a migraine this morning and had to search for names at the meeting this afternoon. I had a nap around 6 o'clock and am better now. Didn't help that I aimed my contact lens at my eye and only realised an hour later when I wanted to look at something, that I'd evidently missed. I found it on my computer keyboard this afternoon. I wonder where my spares are. I've certainly got some.

Oh blimey - a programme about The Doors is on and I just caught myself singing along. Showing my age All Over Again.

Dull post. Sorry. If you got this far, my sympathy, but I don't think it'll get better with rewriting. Tomorrow, Z will be decorating the church for Harvest Festival which gives you something to look forward to. Heh.

Still watching the last few episodes of The Wire. I'm probably the last person in the country who is watching it not to have got to the end. Don't tell me what happens.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 30 - East is East and Z is Z ...

... and the twain met. This was very cheering. We've done sections that met before, obviously, but this is the very first time that Dave has started at one end of the row and I have started at the other and we've carried on until there was just one brick separating us, at which point I went to get my camera and Dave slapped on the mortar.

Dave would like it to be pointed out that this part of the wall runs north to south so he doesn't think the heading is accurate. I would like to point out that his surname is East and my name, here at any rate, is Z, so it is.

Here is Dave getting ready to lay that last brick. I'm the one at the start sounding like Boris Johnson (actually, Boris models himself on me, or so I've heard) and the Sage is the encouraging one at the end. The picture is of Dave.

And here are other photos of that brick, and of the wall as a whole.

And it really is a whole (yes, it has holes too) now, although there is still a course to lay before the top goes on. I thought it would be too tall for me today, but whereas from the kitchen garden side it comes up to my eyebrows, from the drive side it is hardly to my chin and still manageable. We have scaffold boards (and a Risk Assessment in place) for the final layers. I am tremendously excited; a few weeks ago Dave saw me lose my rag somewhat with the absent Sage (I had time to recover my temper before he arrived home) and today he saw me in excited mood.

When we'd finished, I went to make tea and while the kettle was boiling I took the plates, mugs and cake out on to the lawn. Three bantams came rushing hopefully to meet me. I was tremendously flattered as they usually only do that to the Sage. I had already planned to bring bread, so dumped everything on a convenient barbecue and went back to fetch it, and the tea. Dave, who is a Man of Steel, didn't flinch once as, from a couple of feet away, I kept flinging handfuls of breadcrumbs to hopeful chickens. I did, at least, throw overarm and not like a girlie. One chicken, a charming 4-year-old, ate from my hand.

Today I received the bill from the heating engineer for the London boiler, the bill from the hospital for the x-ray and the bill from the consultant. The Sage received one eBay purchase, an email to say another had been posted and he's already got his other two purchases. We've both spent about the same amount. I will revert to my practice of thinking of all money spent in terms of something not routine. Like, I want to buy a new fridge - that's about a Lowestoft sparrowbeak jug. Or a computer - that's a teapot in generally good order, if not in an exciting pattern. Going by that, the boiler cost a rather special teabowl and saucer and looking at my hip cost a Victorian vesta.

Actually, I was not dismayed by that bill. I told Al, when I'd posted off the cheque and phoned with my credit card for the x-ray. "That doesn't seem too bad," he said. "When I think what I paid the dentist this year, and what I paid the plumber." I agreed.

Adding a video to a post takes ages, but at least I could type in the meantime, and now I've just got to insert the rest of the photos. Well, soon. It's finished uploading and is now processing.

Ho hum. *Twiddles fingers*

We've had time to watch an eBay item finish and chuckle at the high price, especially in view of the fact that it was somewhat misdescribed as enamelled instead of a wrap-around. Buyer might be disappointed, we think.

Oh hooray. It took 35 minutes to upload that video.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 29 - Pillar of the -um-wall

A short afternoon's work today, and I wasn't sorry, from my own point of view. I woke up at 3 am, couldn't sleep again and eventually got up, and was stiff and achy all day. Still, Dave built to the top of the end pillar, except for the capping which we'll do in one go next week and/or the week after.

A treat today, a little glimpse of the Man Himself in action. Here you are.


And a couple of photos -

Dave is due to come back tomorrow afternoon (the Sage has found out that there's a chance I'll make cakes for tea if we're building in the afternoon, so he's encouraging that) but we're not sure there's much I'll be able to do. It's getting to a height I can only just manage, though I expect I can still do a dozen or so bricks before I'm sent back to the kitchen where I belong.

The installing of the new London boiler seems to have been sorted out okay, but as at any time when something is taken out and replaced, the fittings aren't quite the same, which means some making good will be required. I can't bother the tenant again - he's sent some photos which are useful, but I don't feel able to ask him to take measurements as he's put himself out enough already, and besides one just has to see and evaluate it. So I think I'll go down next week, do some preliminary work and measure up and the Sage will go down after that and do the carpentry. I want to go to several exhibitions this autumn so it will be no hardship as long as the trains don't get delayed or cancelled.

The Sage has been shopping again, both from a dealer and privately. He's spent about as much as I have on the boiler and gas checks etc. He's had more fun. I think I'll have to have a mini-spree myself. Mind you, I'm enjoying the music Ro passed on to me. For the last few days I've been obsessed with Tom Waits' Alice, which is fabulous. Yes, I know it came out in 2002 or something. That doesn't mean I have to have heard it before, does it? I'm usually at least a decade behind-hand, this is rather efficient for me. I'll see Ro at the weekend, I'll thank him again. Of the music he gave me, I still have to learn to love Nick Cave.

Z doesn't hang about

I had such a good time yesterday afternoon. The children came to visit while their mother was at the hairdressser and they were charming. I'd bought some stickers for them the other day, mildly monsterish faces with googly eyes and they were thrilled with them, rather more than the gift warranted in truth. Squiffany decorated her wellies with them and Pugsley arranged them on a sheet of paper. He said several times how much his mother would admire them. We did a jigsaw, played a game. went and bounced on my bed (I didn't) and Squiffany and I dressed up for my wedding. I wore a sari, which rather impressed her, and went and got out all my rings so she could put them on my fingers. Pugsley took a shine to a couple of rings and wore them while he rummaged around under the duvet on the floor, but I remembered to reclaim them.

Once Dilly was home and Al had shut up the shop, we went down to the new village school, which was holding an open afternoon from 4-6 so that anyone who wanted to could look around. It's wonderful. I felt quite emotional - look, you know me, this is hardly a surprise - as we'd all worked so hard for so long to get the funding and arrangements for the building to be built. When I left the governing body three years ago it was all agreed, but it's taken all this time for everything to be finalised. The former school is one of those lovely little Victorian purpose-built village schools, where 100 or more pupils from ages 5 upwards sat in rows, all in one room. It's been much altered from that - indoor lavatories were added about 22 years ago, an inner courtyard was turned into a library about 15 years ago and only 4 years ago walk-in cupboards were turned into extra teaching areas. Every inch of space in that little school was used. A third class was housed in a mobile classroom. The village church leased an area of field and fenced it for a playing field. It worked damn well too, Ro was well taught there and, most of all, it's a place for children to grow up happy and secure, with a good grounding for life as well as in education. But it was cramped and awkward and, however good-humoured the staff were about it, it wasn't easy to deliver a full curriculum. Indeed, we were told at more than one Ofsted inspection that, because of the limitations of the building, it was not possible to be given the highest rating.

So now it's got, or is going to have, everything we could wish for. There's still some fitting out to do in one room, with cookers and science equipment, and not everything is complete outside. The school will use the playing field for another year, all being well (we've got to ask to continue renting it yet) while theirs is levelled and seeded, but that doesn't matter. 18 years I put in at that school and I still sort of belong there. The Bishop is coming to open it officially next month and I'm very pleased to have been invited to the ceremony.

Anyway, I saw lots of people I knew, who were also having a look round, including former pupils and a former Head and his wife who also worked there for some years, although they weren't married to each other then. And someone else who I had a chat with about being a governor at the high school - when she agreed to stand for election I came home and wrote at once to the head and chairman of governors and have had a reply saying nomination forms for parent governors will go out today.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Z holds a conversation with the Sage (which would actually fit on Twitter)

"You know I'm not difficult, darling, don't you?" "Nyah." "What?" "Nyah." "Well, exactly."

Z writes a letter and has nothing for lunch

Half past one. The Sage arrives home. "Have you had any lunch?" I asked. "Not yet," he replied - what a world of expectancy in those two words. Pity. "Um. There's no cheese left." "I'll go out and get some cheese." "Or there's eggs, but there isn't any bread." "I'll get a loaf. And post your parcel." I wondered whether to mention that I have nothing planned for dinner. I decided that's a disappointment too far, as yet. Anyway, there's always food, if one uses a bit of imagination. It's just a question of how well you can bluff.

The children are coming through soon for a couple of hours, or else I'd go and do some shopping myself. Apparently, they're looking forward to bouncing on our bed. They're not allowed to do that at home. I think it's one of the things that Grannies should allow - after all, when you don't have to deal with the consequences, there's a lot of fun to be had from being over-indulgent with children.

I've just written a long letter, a rarity nowadays. It is an actual letter, not an email, but it doesn't really count as a proper personal thing because I typed it. I know. This is not a good thing at all. However, I hand-write so little nowadays that much more than a signature is beyond my powers of legibility. Besides, as we only write to each other occasionally, I only know what I've said if I keep a record - otherwise I'll say the same thing several times and leave something vital out altogether. Conveniently, our birthdays are a fortnight apart and so my thank-you letter can go in with my present to her. This year, I've given her a hip flask. I have no idea whether this is a good present or a peculiar one, for one middle-aged woman to give another, but I'd not mind being given one myself, so I hope it's the former. She and I were at school together and still are friends, although we don't see each other for years on end.

Monday 21 September 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 28 - Dave keeps his feet on the ground, but the Swiss rolls

Dave put in the last ornamental brick on the side of the wall we hope to finish this autumn, and I continued round the corner, building up towards the pillar. I can't go higher than 9 courses until I know where the first ornamental brick will go on that side, so I'll do another section next time.

This is my bit
And here is Dave's
Sorry the pictures only show the small sections we were working on. Next time, Dave will go back to building the pillar and I'll fill in between the bit he was doing today and the pillar at the end of the wall. After that, there are a couple of final courses to do along most of the wall, and then we can finish with the capping. We need to do that before the frosty weather, as if we leave it over the winter it'll have to all be protected from winter frosts and rain getting into and damaging the unprotected brickwork.

Feeling quite cheery and cookery-minded this morning, I decided to make a cake. Of course, Dave watches his waistline (well, as do all the girls too, trim and fit as he is) so I made a fat-free sponge cake; a swiss roll to be filled with homemade strawberry jam. I'd just put the sugar in a bowl and cracked into it several eggs when Weeza arrived. We hadn't known she was coming this morning, so it was a lovely surprise. I'd just made myself a pot of coffee so poured her a cup and then went back to my cake.

After we'd finished bricklaying, I made tea in my best teapot and took it out to the lawn with the cake, which Dave judged to be quite edible. Certainly, the bantams were quite happy with their slice and wiped their beaks neatly afterwards on the grass.

This evening, I babysat next door while Al and Dilly were at the bee society. The phone rang. It was the heating engineer who's been installing the new boiler at the downstairs London flat. He and the tenant have fallen out somewhat and he wanted to get his point of view over to me. When I came home, I had an email from my tenant. I feel a bit helpless and could only say soothing things all round, but it has driven me to chocolate. Two squares. Yes, you heard me - two entire squares.

When I go to have a bath, I shall light a soothing scented candle.

I've got a horrid feeling that I or the Sage will have to go and see to it ourselves.

Sunday 20 September 2009


Something that Dave said about the chap whose poem he has on his blog today reminded me of this.

When I was in my teens, among the people I knew was a family of several brothers - we used to all meet up at dances and suchlike. They were all at public school so I only saw them in the holidays. There was one younger than I, one about the same age and the rest were older - as time went by and one tended to pair up rather than get together in a gang, I saw them less.

One of the oldest boys had a serious illness in his teens and had to have brain surgery, and ended up with a metal plate in his skull, but he fortunately made a good recovery. Afterwards he dropped out somewhat, (in the sense that he became a drop-out as we tended to do back in the 60s. Some of us), and the next thing was that he vanished and we heard eventually that he'd run away and joined the Foreign Legion. A few weeks of the discipline there and he realised that maybe it wasn't the best move he'd ever made. However, he'd signed up and he wasn't allowed to resign, that had been made clear.

So he started to suffer from dreadful headaches. He put on a very good show and the doctor saw him, and the headaches got worse. Eventually, they were concerned enough to order an x-ray, and there was a piece of metal in his skull. He professed complete ignorance of it - he must have been good and they must have been pretty gullible - in the end they couldn't bundle him out fast enough.

Anyway. After church, a friend asked me out for lunch. I said that the Sage had been away and if he had arrived home in time for lunch I'd better be there. So we left it that if he wasn't home, I'd go and join the friend. I went back, the Sage wasn't there, I hung around until after 1 o'clock, then left a note and went. I cooked him dinner tonight though and he was not unhappy. Or maybe he hides it well... Anyway, he bought himself a present while he was away, so he's feeling cheerful about that.

Most peculiar - I'd put together a playlist on iTunes not long ago which I hadn't got around to labelling and, when I downloaded Mike's plinth mix, I found that everything had changed order on that untitled playlist. And now I can't alter it - that is, I can list it in alphabetical order by name, artist, album etc, but not in the random but carefully chosen order I'd put it in. I suppose I'll work it out sooner or later. Even if I have to do a new playlist and delete this one.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Z speaks to Al

I need money. Cash, that is, right now, and more than I can get out of the cash machine on one day. I phoned Al and asked if he could let me have £700 if he hadn't banked yesterday's takings yet. "What, now?" he asked. "Well, this morning." "Um, okay, I can do that." I explained, briefly, "just so you don't think I'm being blackmailed or something." "Ve haff your husband and the ransom is £700?" "Hm, indeed, be a bit of an insult really, wouldn't it?"

Friday 18 September 2009

Z has a social life of her own

Yes, much to my surprise. A friend rang up this evening to invite us round for dinner tomorrow night. I said that the Sage is away. Seems they'd like my company anyway. They live less than a mile away, so I'll bike there, just in case I'd like more than one glass of wine.

I spent the morning at the school in a music lesson, lunchtime (not that we got around to eating any) chatting to the chairman of governors about matters of considerable interest and the afternoon engaging Year 11 students in conversational French. A very engaging bunch and afterwards, to them and the teacher, I thanked and praised them. Not that easy for 15-year-olds to hold a conversation in another language with a stranger, out of the blue with the rest of them listening. Mind you, I never talk French myself. I was braver than they knew. Not as brave as I was to practise German with a previous class last spring, when I actually speak no German at all and don't necessarily know how to pronounce what I read. I bluff horribly.

Anyway, last night I woke early, as I do almost every morning at present and tried not to wriggle around too restlessly, but after a while the Sage woke up anyway. He took me in his arms for a cuddle, which was delightfully comforting. I still got up silly early, as I only dozed for a few minutes more. So I think I'll have an early night now.

The Sage has left home

Yes, he's packed his bag and gone. It was his decision but I've agreed with it. Not that I won't miss him of course, but sometimes you just have to state your case, make your mind up and leave.

Tilly and I are having a little cuddle right now.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Dancing along with the Untroubled Diva

Oh dear Lord, do tell me that you have this site bookmarked.

And congratulations to Fabulous Diva Mike for his dancing on the plinth. I had to explain to the Sage, when he arrived home at ten to seven, that I couldn't possibly start preparing dinner until after the hour was up. He took it very well - as soon as I mentioned the words "someone whose blog I read" he knew there was nothing to say, but that I had my priorities right.

Z accepts the situation

So, is it good news or bad to know that I haven't just been making a fuss, and that my own evaluation, that I don't feel I can wait until I'm over 60 for a new hip, is probably correct?

After a long consultation with the consultant - yeah, does what he says - although I can't do a balanced evaluation without hearing the other side, I'm accepting his advice of caution and not going to pursue the option of hip resurfacing. I'm not going to tell you all we said, because he was quite open with me (which goes down so well with me, I like to be treated straightforwardly even if I don't like what I'm hearing) and it would be no more right of me to say what he said than for him to talk about me. So, sadly, that's a closed book for me. I am a closet risk-taker by nature, but not against clearly explained advice from an expert in his field.

I wonder what my doctor said in his covering letter actually. Not that I'd ask to see it, I also trust my doctor.

Anyway, the x-ray shows considerable wear in my hip. The consultant said that I walk well and have good balance and movement considering how bad it is. If I asked for a replacement right away, he'd agree to do it. As to when I do ask, that will be my own decision. I said that many people have told me that they know when the time has come, and although it is considerably hampering me from doing what I would like to do, I know I don't want it yet. He agreed.

So in short, I got on fine with him, I liked him in a professional sense - that is, he instilled respect and confidence and was straight with me - and when I need an operation I'll be happy for him to do it. When asked, and I am aware that it isn't a fair question, he said he thinks I won't be back within a year but that I will be before I'm 60. It's something of a relief to know that I won't have to argue my case when the time comes and that it is as bad as it feels. I'm sure you can appreciate how depressing it is to be relieved to know it's as bad as I think.

I also asked him if he could see any reason for the arthritis - he said that the socket of the hip bone is slightly shallower than that of my left hip and so perhaps there has been more movement in that hip since birth. That's fair enough and reassuring - there's no sign of arthritis in my left hip and no particular reason for me to expect it - or not - that is, it may come with age but not yet.

Anyway, now I know, I'm sort of relaxed. It's already bad so doing whatever I'm capable of won't make it appreciably worse. I'm okay with pain and don't think it matters in this regard - please, if you suffer from something agonising don't think I'm making light of it - my point is that I'm well within my own pain threshold and it's more a nuisance than anything else. I'm fine with toughing it out until it would be silly to do so any longer and then I'll ask for a new hip. Isn't it lucky to have something so curable? And not to have to be braver than I want to be?

And not to have the prospect of paying £12,000+ for elective surgery in January.

Yup, on balance I'm okay with this and I'm glad I went and, because now I know where I am, it's worth the money I've spent today. Whatever that turns out to be, Astonishingly, when I offered to pay at once, they airily said they'd send the bill.

Wednesday 16 September 2009


Briefly the reasons that this painting caused so much scandal to the reputations of both the artist and the sitter were the dress - evening dresses at the time were pretty low-cut, but this was more so than most, as it was cut to look as if she wasn't wearing corsets. Indeed, she wasn't, but the dress itself was heavily boned. Then there was her complexion. She valued her pale, almost luminescent skin and actually dusted her face and decolletage with rice flour, which gave her an almost lavender paleness. She also rouged the tips of her ears as a contrast! But 'painting' was not what respectable women did, not visibly so at any rate. Another thing that was daring was the lack of jewellery on show, for a rich Society lady. She wore none but her wedding ring and a gold ornament in her hair, which has recently been observed to be Diana's (the Huntress) crescent.

It was a bold and provocative pose, and this would not have been so remarkable in an artist's model - Manet's considerably more explicit Olympia had been painted 20 years before - but this was a respectable married lady. But the clincher was something that, later, Sargent painted out of the picture. Her right shoulder strap was originally painted off her shoulder. Again, acceptable in a courtesan or model's painting, but incredibly provocative, especially bearing in mind the sophisticated dress and haughty pose. Her reputation never recovered, both she and Sargent were horrified by the (to them) unexpected furore and he moved to England where, funnily enough, he was more kindly received and never put the painting on show again until after the lady died, when he sold it to an American museum (another version is in this country) with the proviso that, since she had been so upset and from respect, it should not bear her name but be labelled Madame X.

Fruity & mellow

One of the compensations for the end of summer is the early autumn fruits. Al has had a lot of fresh figs brought in, and someone has had a fabulous crop of peaches this year - huge and juicy and really delicious. A few weeks ago, the Kent cob nuts were ripe and Al still has the last of those for sale, but today I ignored them, because he had something even better - fresh "wet" walnuts. I've come home with a big bagful. I've also come home with a punnet of autumn raspberries - I do have some autumn raspberry canes in the garden but they're a bit overwhelmed by nettles and I'm leaving them to the birds. Yes, think of me what you will, but I can't do much gardening at present.

This morning was the inaugural lecture of a new branch of this society - I've just come off the committee of one of its branches in Norwich. It was held in the local theatre and there was a very good turn-out, they had to bring in an extra row of chairs. It was an excellent lecture too - she'd come in at short notice as the original lecturer booked became ill and they had to scout around. It was about this picture, the subject and artist and why it caused such a scandal on being exhibited for the first time in Paris.

Oh, by the way, how do you pronounce 'eccentric'? "Essentric" or "excentric"?

Anyway, if enough people want to join it'll start up in January. I've come home and asked the Sage if he would join too and (once I mentioned a friend of his who was there whose wife is on the committee) he agreed. So that will be something we do together, which will be something of a novelty. Well, something that we go out and do together, that is.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

A little love story

You know, the loveliest thing of all, this past year or so, has been seeing Weeza enjoy so much being a mother - and also being a daughter. We've had our ups and downs over the years, and have long since put the downs behind us - we're both straightforward and emotionally honest people and we have agreed to differ if necessary and back away from disagreements before they become rows. If one were to develop, we'd talk it through and reach a conclusion and move right on. Neither of us bring up old quarrels. We don't sulk. Our relationship developed once I stepped back and acknowledged, as I should have done earlier, that she is capable of reaching her own decisions and is better let go. Likewise, she learned not to be defensive. Many was the time that we recognised an edge and changed the subject or one of us found a reason for leaving the room for a few minutes.

I suspect that she's forgiven me a lot in the last year, now that she knows how difficult it is to be a mother. Maybe especially a mother of a daughter? - I don't know. I do know that she does better than I did in the first year. I was only 20 mind you, and I'd never held a little baby before her. I'm not sure if ante-natal classes existed, I certainly never went to one and I learned mainly through getting it wrong. Zerlina visibly adores her mother and the feeling is mutual. And yet she's a determined little girl. She doesn't cry unless there's something wrong, and stops when it's put right - this usually means food or a nap - but she can certainly shout with temper. Weeza is equally determined and doesn't let her get away with it, but gets the balance of firmness, kindness and love just right.

She also gets things just right with me. We love spending time in each other's company and really miss each other if we don't meet up every week. And she loves it that I do the same with Zerlina as I used to do with her - give quick darting kisses all over her face and neck until we're giggling and breathless. It was Weeza's favourite thing as a little one, she used to shut her eyes, open her mouth and hold her breath.

Hm. Excuse me. I'm getting soppy. But we should count our blessings, shouldn't we?

Monday 14 September 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 27 - and Squiffany starts school

I went downstairs early and started baking. By the time Dave arrived at 20 past 9, the cakes were out of the oven and I made tea for us all. It felt quite strange to get back to bricklaying, as I’ve done so little of it for the last weeks, but I soon got into the swing of it. It seemed to go quickly too, as I was simply filling in between two sections and could slap enough mortar along for several bricks at a time. The weather started cool and cloudy, briefly rained (really briefly; a few big drops for just 10 seconds or so, then it stopped) and later the sun came out and made us unexpectedly warm.
Dave's bit

My bit

From the other side. I don't stand up straight so most pictures lurch slightly to the right.

I think the Sage and Dave were puzzled at the time I took to prepare lunch, as I’d said I was cooking omelettes. Of course, I was also icing and decorating a dozen fairy cakes. Since it's not his birthday until tomorrow, he begged me not to sing to him. Of course, if ever he heard me sing he would implore me never to do it again. I tried to light the candle, but it was too windy, so here is the best I could do.
Observe the bantams strolling across the lawn.

The other exciting event of the day was Squiffany starting school. As she’s only just four and a half, she will only go half days for the first term. She was smiling and happy when I hurried out with my camera to wave her on her way and posed for me outside her house.

Later this afternoon, I went to the hairdresser and called in on the way home for fruit from Al's shop. "How did she get on?" I asked (he'd been home for a couple of hours this morning). Weeza and Zerlina had come over for the day and had gone, with Dilly and Pugsley, to fetch her home. "She came stomping in before them muttering 'all this work to do' and went straight to her room. When I went in she was at her desk looking for something. I asked how she got on and she said 'I've got to do my homework, hundreds of work. Can you lend me a pencil, please?'" "She enjoyed it then?" "Oh yes, she had a great time. She said to Pugsley that she'd missed him and picked him up and gave him a big hug and he hugged her back and said he'd missed her too" Later, she was quite tired and cuddled up with Mummy and P on the sofa, and then, with Weeza, they made gingerbread men. So the day went rather well.

Happy birthday for Tuesday, Dave

Z counts on her fingers

My brief explanation has confused you more, so here's a fuller one. Today's real post (which includes pictures of the wall!) will come later this evening.

Right. Let's say that there is £100 to pay and there are six groups to pay it; they equally share the service it provides. To start with, because group A has more money than the others, it agrees to help out by paying most of it, but after two or three years (the composition of the group having changed somewhat) a new member points out that A pays £80 and each other group is paying £4, and this in no way reflects the relative incomes, nor is it fair. So she suggests that A should pay £50 and the others each pay £10; that is, that A pays half. She appreciates that this is a large jump and proposes that the amount that A pays should reduce over a period of 6 years, so that in year 1 they pay £75, year 2 £70 etc. At the same time, the other groups each pay the rest; that is, in year 1 they each pay £5, in year 2 £6 etc. This is agreed to be reasonable and is agreed.

After 5 years, a representative of the other 5 groups points out that they had expected to pay an increase of 5% each year, but it has always been a lot more than that. They start to feel hard done by and suggest that they pay the same amount as they did the previous year, although there is a contract to pay the full £100. They are too polite to say so, but clearly it's believed that it's Group A's problem, although by now Group A, whose income stays the same although other expenses have gone up, is finding it hard to pay its own bills by now and needs the full contribution.

The thing is, the total bill (100%) is being shared out differently each year, in that A's share reduces by 5% of the total each year and each other group's share increases by 5% of the total each year. But that doesn't mean that the actual money increases or reduces by 5% each year, because the percentage increase or decrease starts at a different number.

That is, A pays £80 (which is 100% of A's contribution) one year and £75 the next, which is (roughly, if anyone cares to do the sum it'd be great, but I can only do simple sums) 6.5% reduction on £80, whereas each other group pays £4 (100% of their contribution) one year and £5 the next. This is a simple sum - it's a 25% increase. Looks massive, doesn't it? - but they're still paying only 5% of the whole, even though it's 25% more than they did the previous year.

The actual sum involved is several thousand pounds and there's a cost of living increase each year, but the sum paid by each is still paid in the agreed proportion.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Z has had a long day

I was very disappointed, a few minutes ago, to discover it was only 6 o'clock. I'd thought it was nearer 7 and I could cook dinner, eat it and consider another early night (lights out by 10 last night). Not that going to bed early is much use to me. I fall asleep early and wake up a few hours later; I must have woken up 4 times for half an hour or more.

Anyway, the good thing about it being 6 o'clock is that it's time to open a bottle of wine. The Sage and I are sitting in a companionable manner, having eaten a cheese straw and everything - gosh, we know how to live.

I've been spending half an hour or so writing a letter to explain how, if one *person or organisation* pays 80% of a total and 5 others, jointly, pay 20%, then altering this percentage share by 5% a year until the first one pays 50% and each other pays 10%, there is never at any time an increase to the payment anyone actually pays of 5%. Being considerably less mathematically- or financially-minded than any of 6 treasurers, it's a wonder that no one else has actually understood the system but me. I'm simple, you see - I have to work it out to something I can understand in a small way rather than deal in big sums that confuse me. But that means I actually do it, because I need to understand it, whereas someone else will just work out their percentage increase and complain that it's 9% (this being several years into the arrangement) when he or she had expected it to be 5%.

If your head aches already, think of a bill of £100 and one person paying £80 while 5 others pay £4 each, and the next year one pays £75 and the others pay £5 each - the only place 5% comes in is the percentage of the whole, not to anyone's increased or decreased payment.

Anyway. Head aching more? Drink a glass of wine. Unless you don't drink wine, of course, in which case I suggest you eat a nice crisp apple or a piece of delicious chocolate. One of those appeals, surely?

Right, I promised you a few photos of the lovely Norfolk countryside. And its churches. A photo of Phil has crept in, and some of Zerlina's bike buggy. In addition, you can see that we grow sugar beet and maize in Norfolk. I can't be bothered to label them all, but you might also spot a pub, a glass of beer and an ice-cream. Sadly, for she adores ice-cream (no, she hasn't tried beer, what do you take us for?) Zerlina slept through this bit.

The pictures are in no particular order because, as you'll know if you use Blogger, they upload photos in reverse order (the last shall be first and all that) and I did it in several sets (they appear at the top of the post and you can just cut'n'paste).

A flavour of the day. The flavour of this afternoon has been lounging on the sofa, with first the Grand Prix and then Dave (the channel, not the friend) on TV. And now it's quarter to seven and time to start cooking dinner. Happy Sunday evening, darlings.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Le Tour de Norfolk

Well, a bit of it. We've all had a lovely day, the weather was perfect, hot and sunny but with a sufficient cool breeze for us not to feel overheated, and we decided on a route that would take us round several villages on quiet country roads, dropping at a very nice pub on the way back. I had various things to do this morning, including setting up our own church for visitors, and Weeza and Phil's time is rather governed by Zerlina's nap and feed times, so it was about 12.15 by the time we set out.

I was slowest from the start, and after about 3 miles I suggested that perhaps my bike tyres were a bit low. When we stopped at the next church, which was the delightful round-towered one at Little Plumstead, we decided to eat our picnic in the churchyard and Phil got his pump out and pumped up my bike's tyres. When he came to the rear tyre, he said "hm, it reads 8 psi." "What should it read?" I asked. "Between 50 and 60." Afterwards, I felt every bump in the road but cycling was a whole lot easier. The church was unmanned and locked, with a friendly note of apology and squash and biscuits left out. I wrote a note of thanks for the lovely peanut biscuits.

We continued on our way. A few other churches were unmanned but open (you sign their sheet to show you've been there and write on your own sponsorship paper the place and time), and the people at the other churches were friendly and welcoming. We were plied with drinks and biscuits. The countryside was delightful. Zerlina was well-cushioned in her bike trailer and perfectly well-behaved, Phil was patient and showed no annoyance at Weeza's and my slower progress and Weeza said several times what a lovely time she was having.

We stopped for beer and icecream at the splendid pub attached to the fine brewery at Woodbastwick, by which time I was aching rather. Just one more church to go and we headed for home, getting there at about quarter to five, just right for Zerlina's tea.

We only visited 8 churches as they were mostly rather spread about (I started at my own village church so had 9 marked) and went nearly 19 miles, about 30 km. This isn't much more than Phil cycles every day as the non-train part of his commute, but was a long way for Weeza and me. We visited Little Plumstead, Rackheath, Hemblington, South Walsham, which had 2 churches next door to each other, Ranworth, Salhouse and Woodbastwick, which are all villages north east of Norwich. Phil took photos and if he gets around to sending them to me, I'll post some tomorrow.

We had fun and will certainly do it again.

He's just sent the pictures of Zerlina - here's one of her eating her biscuit (not the peanut one), with her foot in the air like she don't care

Friday 11 September 2009

Friday already?

I've been thinking it's Monday all day. I guess it's because I was in school first thing this morning for a couple of hours, so it feels like the beginning of the week. I arrived home to find a present and letter from a friend - we were at school together and, although I've re-met some people from school in the past few years, she's the only one I've kept up with all this time. Her birthday is a fortnight after mine. We've been pretty poor correspondents the last couple of years, so I didn't know she's had a pretty rubbish summer in one way and another. I've sometimes wondered whether to tell her about this blog so that she can, if she wants, keep up with what's happening to me, but I hesitate. It would feel a bit odd. I make no secret, though nor do I talk openly, about this blog; a couple of people have asked its name and others have asked about blogging - they find it particularly peculiar that I've met fellow bloggers by way of it. Whereas we, of course, know that this is perfectly sensible and simply friendly. Anyway, I don't think I'll volunteer the information to Lynn at this stage,

Tomorrow, I shall load my bike in the car and drive to Norwich for the annual Churches Trust cycle ride/walk. Last year, I walked round Norwich and went to some fabulous churches - one doesn't have to have a religion or it to be Christianity, to appreciate a church, temple or any religious building for its beauty and history. The most stunningly powerful in its sense of goodness (really, I'm not in the least sensitive to atmosphere normally but that one almost took my breath away) was the Quaker meeting hall, the most fascinating historically was a little church I'd never noticed, where French refugees from the Revolution worshipped, and the most interesting was an octagonal Nonconformist chapel. This year, either Weeza and I will bike round Norwich or, if Phil wants to join us, we'll put Zerlina in her bike trailer and go round the villages near them. It's a sponsored thing, but I'm not one to look for sponsors so I'll simply send a cheque myself to the charity. Before going, I'll go and get the village church ready - there's a rota of people manning it all day to greet cyclists and offer them drinks and use of the loo - but I'll unlock the kitchen and put the paperwork out. Conveniently, we're lending various things - cafétières, cups and saucers and so on - this weekend so I can put things ready for collection and return.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Z has been made much of and is sleepy as a consequence

Ooh, birthdays should come more than once a year, although I suppose one has to be the Queen or Paddington Bear. I have been properly pampered and am slightly worse for wear - only slightly, because I'm not correcting typos as I type; that necessity being an ominous sign of non-sobriety.

Seriously, I wonder what teetotallers do to let their hair down? I don't doubt that they can and do, I'm just not sure how.

My internet connection is dreadfully slow tonight, after several weeks of being very well-behaved. Maybe everyone else is blogging at this very minute.

Um. I'm quite relaxedly cheerful and not capable of coherent thought. I'm due in a music lesson tomorrow, where the pupils will be invited to start work on an arrangement of Coldplay's 'Clocks' or the Kaiser Chiefs' 'I predict a riot'. Yes indeed. Neither of them a favourite of mine. I am sorry to have moved away from Cameo's 'Word Up', which I like. Anyway, I'm off for a bath. I've new stuff to use, including a fabulously soft and long bathrobe and I am too tired to type more.

Oh, when you've got something stuck in your throat, it's true that dry bread takes it down, even if it hurts to swallow. My throat is still sore, but recognisably as an after-effect, not because something's still there.

Goodnight, darlings, You are lovely.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Z is no longer a slave to duty (not that she was ever a pirate of Penzance)

The trouble is with writing a post in the morning that things happen during the day and I have the twitch to write in the evening. Of course, the trouble with writing late at night is that I'm tired out or I've written the post in my mind already, so don't have to actually put it down on virtual paper, or have forgotten all about it already. But 7.20 in the evening when, unusually, we've already had dinner, should come somewhere in between - if we disregard that I've already written today's post that is, and you indulge me. You don't have to indulge me of course, and I won't even know if you haven't, unless you write me a forthright note to tell me so.

Jonathan rang to say that he would be taking one cow back and bringing another to keep Big Pinkie company. If they happened to be on the Ups and Downs, could I put the gate across the beck, please, to keep them there? I went out. They weren't there. I went back to fetch a few apples to attract them and returned - they were there, 50 yards away on the field. I moved the barrier and went to give them their apples. They were both awfully pleased and stuck their big rasping tongues out as I held the apple halves on my palm. I know not to leave a finger sticking up for them to bite accidentally, but they drool a whole lot more than horses. They weren't inclined to follow me, but, as I looked back, 169 was licking Pinkie's shoulder affectionately, a move that Pinkie reciprocated a minute later,

Jonathan and Brian arrived and the cows thundered over the field to greet them. I fetched another apple and some carrots. 169 is expecting her calf in a few weeks, so she's going back to the farm, and we'll miss her. "She used to be a bit wild, you've gentled her" observed Jonathan. I gave Pinkie the credit. 169 obediently went into the truck as 202 came out. Pinkie and she looked at each other and were not at all pleased to see each other. They both lowered their heads and I took a few more steps back. I'd already recommended to Tilly that she wait outside the field. Pinkie and 202 weren't happy. We watched as they went towards each other and pushed heads and necks against each other. Then 202 moved away and Pinkie followed, sniffing 202's bottom. I think this was asserting her authority. Then they both started to graze, still tense but no longer actively unfriendly. It was interesting.

I did have my relax on the sofa, but the Sage took an earlier train home than he'd booked (you can usually do that, as long as you okay it with the inspector or the office) as he'd not bought anything. The description of damage in the catalogue was not incorrect but didn't quite tell the full extent, so he didn't bid. He went back into town to pay money back into the bank. Having run it past him, I rang the hospital to confirm my appointment. "There's your x-ray at 2.30" she said. "Really? That isn't mentioned on the appointment, only the consultant at 3" I said. "It should have been," she said apologetically. It's still all right, I can leave my lunch a bit early. I rang my friends to tell them I could take them but not take them home afterwards. That's all right, they can take the bus. I feel nervous already. I already regret doing this - yes sure, right thing to do and all that.

I screwed up somewhat yesterday (as every day as you know). I emailed my apologies for a meeting tomorrow, as we're going to Weeza's. It was a jocular apology, explaining that I'd had a better offer for my birthday. Only after I'd sent it did I realise that it went to every school in the pyramid - 15 or so - as well as the people on the committee. I had to follow up with a 'whoops' after-message. I will put a brave 'pfft' face on it and just sigh heavily in the background. Anyway, giving apologies for a meeting in favour of fun is a step forward for me and a sign that duty won't come first all the time in future.

Z is alone

I peer disconsolately into the mirror. I'm looking tired, which at my time of life equates with old. I try a smile. The Frankie Howerd jowls turn into thick creases round my eyes, which remain flat and unamused. I reflect that I will never look at my face without make-up on again, ever.

I'm not feeling entirely at my best. On Saturday, I got a bit of carrot stuck in my throat, which is the result of eating a lot of raw food and never properly chewing. The bit of carrot is still there. It's not moved up or down, and for the last couple of days has given me a sore throat and, since last night, a headache. This seems an unlikely side-effect, but I rarely have a headache and I went to bed with one, woke with it in the night, hadn't shed it by this morning and it all seems connected with the general throat-hurtiness.

However, today's post cheered me somewhat, as it contained several birthday cards and a present, and a postcard/birthday card from Dave. It also brought an appointment at the hospital in Norwich for next week, with a requirement for me to phone to confirm or change it. Ominously, they want my credit card number at the same time so that I won't have to trouble to pay the bill before I leave. Although the consultant will send me a bill separately. Lovely. At least I have a name now, so I can look him up before I go.

I'm all alone for the day, which is quite unusual. Even if I don't see Dilly and the children, they're usually there and so is the Sage, bustling in and out - he's always busy. But he left early this morning for London, and Dilly came in happily a couple of hours ago, saying that she'd decided to take the children back to the coast for the rest of the week, because the weather's so lovely. Her parents went to visit them and they stayed on in the tent, so it's still up and this (for Dilly is immensely polite) will save them having to take it down. Pugsley will have nursery school tomorrow and so she's planning to come back early, spend most of the day here, then go back again. Additionally, Squiffany is going to be visited at home by her teacher tomorrow afternoon, so they do need to be here. And, as Dilly said charmingly, they want to see me on my birthday.

Feeling stale, flat and unprofitable as I am, I'm most inclined to curl up on the sofa all day with an array of books and a big bowl of fruit, but the sun is shining and I mustn't succumb to this sort of self-indulgence. At least, not before lunch.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Z is very warm

Al and Dilly and the children had a lovely time in North Norfolk. When they left on Thursday, it was extremely windy and they had a lot of difficulty putting up their tent, which rather worried Pugsley, who imagined losing it in the Wash, like an odd sock or the Crown Jewels. However, after a day or so things improved and they've had fine weather. Al said that he never remembers being on Holkham beach in such perfect sunshine before.

It's been even hotter today. Still is. People have started picking the sloes on our hedge by the road, which is good to see. I like to think of the quantities of sloe gin being made in the village. There's not a lot else you can do with sloes, after all, because they're splendidly astringent. Al shut up shop early and was home by 4 o'clock, having been shut altogether yesterday; that having been his summer holiday. The Sage was in town when someone stopped and looked at the closed door in dismay. "He's not closed down for good, has he?" Not having just spent several thousand pounds on doing the outside of the shop up, he hasn't. I've put - just this moment - my camera in my bag and will take a photo if I'm in town tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the Sage is going to an auction in London so I'll do ... well, probably not a lot. Not if it's sunny. I'll pretend it's still the summer holidays and lounge around, once I've done essentials. Essentials don't comprise a lot, if I'm honest.

Monday 7 September 2009

The phantam prepares to flit

Tomorrow, the Sage is going to release the phantam. Here's a picture of her - I put one of her up when she was a chick, which I'll look for and link to if you like, although it was much like any other chick. Not a good photo, but she was very frightened and was running back and forth along the further corner of her run. Her foster mother went back with the other bantams a while ago, because she was taking most of the food but she hasn't become very tame, even with the Sage, and she's anxious to get out. She does look much more like a young hen pheasant than a bantam, but she's definitely a hybrid. We don't think she'll settle with her aunts and she'll be best simply let go, and hope that she'll come back to roost and feed to the extent she's comfortable with. The cock pheasant has been keeping her company from outside the run already and, since she's far too young to interest him as a mate, he evidently recognises her as a fellow pheasant.

The new village school opened today. Squiffany will be a pupil, but as one among those of the new reception year who will go part time to start with, she will start next week. It's very exciting for everyone concerned; this school has been a twinkle in everyone's eye for a long time. I really thought it would be built in my time as a governor, it having been considerably delayed by then, and I left three years ago.

I have to say, from the road at any rate, it is not an attractive building. An odd mix of different coloured bricks or wooden cladding in its various sections, it doesn't look very welcoming as a school or very modern as a design. More a product of the 1970s, perhaps, which is no great compliment. I haven't walked across the fields to see what it looks like from the other side, and at least the classrooms will look out onto playing fields and a farmer's field. The pretty Victorian school building it replaces was far too small however, with a small playground and no playing field at all (the church has rented a playing field for them) and it's wonderful to have been given the funding for this new school. Whatever it looks like from the outside, I'm absolutely sure - knowing the staff, governors, and children - that Squiffany will have a fine education and be very happy there.

Sunday 6 September 2009

What Z wore today

What Belgian Waffle wants, Belgian Waffle should get. I hope she didn't mean I should upload it to Flickr

I've been in jeans most of the week, but today I wore a skirt. The teeshirt and pattern on my skirt are black not grey but I couldn't find a black felt-tip pen and it's too blunt to show the pattern, and the brown is too dark, so here's a picture of it. I absent-mindedly coloured in down to the wrist on my left but I deliberately didn't try to do my hands - I'd made enough hash of my shoulders. My sandals are brown, which I forgot to colour. I'm not sure what went wrong with my right lower arm.

There. Other than that, it's the image of me.

Z overeats - or, the proof of the pudding...

It's an interesting thing - Victoria sponges or Bakewell tarts (or puddings, if you're from Derbyshire) each taste different, but a cherry cake is a cherry cake and one tastes much like another. That was the hardest - the first two tasted almost exactly alike, the third tasted the same but was slightly drier. All - there were 7 or 8 entries - tasted similar but in all but 2, all the fruit had sunk to the bottom. One was beautifully distributed and one was reasonably so. Sadly, the best looking wasn't the best tasting. This was the hardest decision of all. Marie and I deliberated, and finally gave it to the perfect looking one - it was still a good cake to eat and was, visibly, by far the best.

Anne had rather wanted us to share the items between us - one to do baking and one to do preserves, but neither of us fancied that, and we promised to hurry up and be decisive. Even so, we were diligent and examined jellies (preserves, that is, not gelatine desserts) for clarity and cakes for density and lightness of crumb before our careful tasting. Usually, we were able to decide swiftly on the top three or four, although we usually had to taste again before deciding on the final order. Marie would have overlooked the less than ideal looking entries, but I insisted on tasting everything, and indeed the best looking often wasn't the best to eat. After it was over and, having tasted 10 or 12 pickles and chutneys, faintly churny of stomach, we had a final swig of water and went for lunch - I left the ham and cheese and ate home-made onion quiche and salad, including a particularly good, fleshy yellow tomato I'm not familiar with - I'll have to ask around and see if I can find out the variety.

When all the names had been put out, I looked to see who we'd given prizes to. I was interested to see that De had won first prize for her drink for the third year. She's helped me judge for the last two years and stepped back, leaving it to me, for the class she'd entered in. She gave me no hint and I had no idea, but she won. This year, there was an elderflower cordial, two elderflower and lemon and one lemon and raspberry. The lemon and raspberry was deliciously tart, an elderflower and lemon was slightly sparkling and delicious and we tasted them a couple of times, before deciding that the lemon overpowered the raspberry and it was slightly too sour with raw lemon juice. The other was marginally sweet, but otherwise perfect and we gave it to that. Having once gained 19/20 points for my lemonade in an Area WI class, I reckon I know my soft drinks - anyway, as I say, De's was the winner as it transpired.

Ro was out on my bike (he had asked) when I arrived home. He'd gone to visit various friends, one of whose mother has just died. Another friend, who gave him a lift home from Norwich on Friday, lost his father to cancer a year ago - tough on these young men. My father died suddenly when I was 16; I miss him still, and it will be 40 years in January - and the centenary of his birth next July.

Anyway, we had an early meal of bacon (local), eggs (home-laid) and tomatoes (home grown) and I took him back to Norwich. I brought back a boxful of shot lettuces from his landladies' garden, for the bantams.

Today, there was a car treasure hunt and tea at the Rectory. I thought it my absolute duty as a good guest to eat as much as possible, since Brenda and Gill had cooked so much delicious food. I ate sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, sponge cake and fruit cake. Back to a redoubled diet tomorrow. Size 10 (English, darling American friends) has been determinedly re-won and will not be lost again.

Saturday 5 September 2009

The village show

Today, I'm going to one of the next villages to judge the Domestic classes in their annual Gardening Club show. It's the third consecutive year - I have to say that I'm terribly flattered to have been asked again. I know what a dismal old woman this makes me but I don't care in the least. I also know why they asked me back - it's because I do the judging in the spirit of the show.

I'd done it before, some years ago, with a friend. Now she took it on with the air of a professional, which she was. She used to be a home economist, worked on various glossy magazines, with well-known food writers/cooks and has written a number of cookery books herself. So she took the schedule seriously, and if it said a 7" cake, she wouldn't even taste the 6" one, but wrote 'not as scheduled' and passed it by. Similarly, if she cut it open and it was a bit underdone in the middle, she wouldn't taste it. After a couple of years, they quietly didn't ask her. She moved away some time ago so there's no question of offending her by asking me without her.

I taste everything, even if it smells funny. Even if there are 20 chocolate cakes or 17 jars of pickle, I have a go at all of them, then go back to the best few to finalise my decision. I know nothing, but we all know good food when we taste it; enthusiastic amateur describes me as a judge just as well as it does the entrants.

This year, they've cut down the number of classes somewhat, which is just as well, though I see that they've removed many of the savoury classes and left the sweet ones and pickles. When I arrive, the first thing I do is check the schedule for tasting order - more or less, savoury, followed by sweet as you'd expect - but the savoury pickles tend to be left to the end in case they spoil my palate, hem hem. The gentlemen's class is usually keenly contested. Last year or the year before, it was lemon cake. I hardly knew how to choose between the final two absolutely delicious ones, they were gorgeous. Much as I'd already eaten, I had to taste each of them several times.

So think of me from noon onwards (not for the whole rest of the day, darlings, let your minds cast a glancing blow any time between 12 and 2 pm). I will be tasting, in approximately this order, cheese scones, cottage loaf, sweet biscuits, cherry cake, victoria sandwich cake with butter cream filling, Bakewell tart, jars of jelly, lemon curd, chutney and pickles, non-alcoholic summer drink and evaluating new-laid eggs.

Stuffed and slightly nauseated, I'll then be given a delicious lunch.

Friday 4 September 2009

Family matters

Dilly and the children have gone away camping for a few days. It was blowing a gale yesterday, but they didn't leave until 4 o'clock, when Al shut the shop early and went to help them set up the tent. I had a text from Dilly later to say they were all tucked up warmly. Al will go and join them again on Saturday evening.

Ro is coming home this evening, just for a day. He's got various things to look out and take back, including his passport. He thought he knew where it was and asked me to look, but it wasn't in the drawer he keeps that sort of thing - he probably needed it for ID sometime and just put it somewhere afterwards - he'll find it easier than I would, I certainly don't want to start looking through all his stuff.

And Weeza and Phil have asked us round for dinner next week, for my birthday. Ro will join us, and we'll go early in time to play with Zerlina first. Weeza, who finds that routine suits her baby best, asked that we arrive before 6 or after 7, as if we arrive during the run-down to bed time, Zerlina won't want to go to bed when she usually does, and then she'll have a restless night. So we'll pick up Ro from work and go then.

Both Weeza and Dilly had the babycare thing sussed so much more effectively than I ever did. Mind you, I was only 20 when Weeza was born, and getting into a steady routine was certainly something I resisted. A bit more organised when Al came along a couple of years later for practical reasons, but I didn't want our life restricted by fixed times for a baby - you have to remember I was a 'child of the Sixties' and whilst I was by no means a hippy (too young, too sensible, and, though still so far in the closet that I didn't even know it myself yet, too control-freakish), I had something of the relaxed attitude to life and still do. It is restricting for Weeza and Phil, who will rarely stay out past Zerlina's getting-ready-for-bed time, but they are rewarded by a child who welcomes and enjoys going to sleep. When it's getting near nap time during the day, Weeza will get out Barry the Bear and little z reaches for him and gives him a cuddle. Then Weeza gets out the little pillow that someone just gave them from New Zealand, and z takes it and snuggles her face into it. Off they go upstairs to read a book, z goes into her cot and, though she may not go to sleep for a while, she rarely fusses but just lies there happily talking to herself before drifting off. It's remarkable. Well, it is to me. I love it that my daughter is a better mother than I was!

Thursday 3 September 2009

Once more, then I'll let it go

Just to wrap it up - Weeza did put the tooth in milk straight away, so if it could have been reinserted it would have been in a state to be. And now I've thought it through a bit, I suspect that the next tooth will edge over to try to fill some of the gap but if that proves a problem when her next front tooth comes through, the dentist can simply whip it out. And at least Zerlina is too little to know what's happened and not self-conscious, and Weeza says that she'll treat the whole thing as a badge of honour to show how tough she is when z is old enough to realise.

The Sage surprises Z

Weeza phoned a while ago. I had been going to ring her and offer to go over to see her and Zerlina, but she felt like being out of the house, so they're coming here. She said the ambulance men said that baby teeth can't be put back, and she afterwards looked on the internet and confirmed it - I'm not sure if it's theoretically possible, but it's not worth the difficulty of the operation and the risk of infection and it just isn't done. Little z was toddling across the room in her wobbly manner, lost balance as usual but toppled forwards instead of backwards. As to how the other teeth grow and the implications for second teeth positioning in a few years, we'll have to wait and see. And get to know a good orthodontist if necessary!

Anyway, I didn't sleep much last night. I went to sleep all right, resolutely thinking of something else, but woke up just after 1 o'clock and couldn't get off again. My mind wasn't dwelling on it too much, but only by thinking of other things which just made my brain over-stimulated. Eventually, I got up, read blogs (at last caught up on the backlog from while I was away with Wink) and had a conversation in comments and emails with Dandelion, who was awake too. Then I went and read, cuddling Tilly the while, and eventually slept on the sofa for a couple of hours, not waking until 8 o'clock.

And enough of that. We'll put it behind us and move on.

In yesterday's post, the Sage received a disc containing photos of china, so I put it on the computer and set up a slide show - "look, you just have to touch this arrow to move on or this one to move back". He's waiting for an email and kept asking me to check if it had arrived. "You wish you could use a computer, don't you?" I asked. "Maybe it's time to learn". "I'd have to have my own computer though," he agreed. Well my word. I never thought I'd hear those words from my beloved's lips. Isn't it great when someone can carry on surprising you? Anyway, it seems he rather hankers after a laptop and taking actual lessons in using it. I think he might as well get a pc, as that will simplify matters for finding someone to teach him, and also he'll be able to have things I don't - for example, Publisher, which Weeza uses for our catalogues.

When you think you're having a bad day...

Remember, it almost always could be worse.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Cheerfulness vanished

The Sage rang Weeza to go through corrections to the catalogue and she had bad news.

Zerlina has had a nasty accident. Standing, she wobbled as she usually does, but instead of sitting down, she fell forward onto her face and knocked one of her front teeth out. No, the ambulance men said it could not be reinserted. She wasn't much hurt otherwise, but we're all very upset.

Z is in a good frame of mind

I'm feeling quite gung-ho and positive today. In part, this is because I've been doing more looking-into hip resurfacing and have found a brilliant website run by people who've had it done, which includes articles written by surgeons who - oh joy - don't talk down to *ordinary people* and who evaluate their part in an operation not doing so well as it should have. I wish clever people would appreciate that we know well that saying what they could have done better (and have learned from that, so now do) increases confidence in them. It's made me appreciate that I've got a lot of responsibility in choosing who should do the operation (if it's suitable for me) to increase my chance of having a superb and long-lasting result.

My instincts go that way, in fact. I'm more interested in failures than successes - that is, you'll be told about the successes but you have to ask about the failures - and I want to know why they happen, if they're bad luck, surgeon error or patient misfortune or irresponsibility. To me, no surgeon who can't admit he ('he' includes she in my book, as in I'm part of mankind) got it wrong isn't going to be frank with me or learn. Not that I'd want a long list of failure... oh goodness, you know exactly what I mean and I'm not labouring the point any more.

It reinforces my wish to have it done privately and not push for the NHS though (not criticising the NHS, it's bloody good on the whole, look at the care Honey is getting for a start). It's a complex and precise operation, more than a total hip replacement, and I want as much control as I can get. I'm happy to stick with my £1400 car and my old-fashioned house and second-hand everything. I haven't got insurance - in view of my startlingly splendid health, that would have been a bit of a waste of money over the years - but we've always put money aside. In fact, unless I was literally on the breadline I would always live on less money than I had.

Ro is notably frugal in this way. He mentioned a few weeks ago that he's quite surprised, really, how little he spends on food. Since he's virtually vegetarian (he does eat meat, but not supermarket meat and butchers are rarely open outside office hours) and his landladies grow loads of vegetables which he's welcome to help himself to (he helps with watering, weeding and picking in return), it's not that remarkable.

Other reasons for feeling cheerful include having been approached with a view to someone putting a reasonable-sized collection of china in our sales next year. The Sage had decided to go with the usual two auctions rather than the three he had this year, but this could well tip the balance in favour of a third. And someone has made an enquiry about a couple of pieces she's got - we've asked for a photo - if it's what we think it might be, it's good news indeed. Well, if she wants to sell them, that is!

Other reasons? Oh, just general well-being, you know how it is. I'll come down to earth next week, when I'll be really busy again.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Z can't get at her emails

Is gmail generally down or is it just mine? Fortunately, when the email I'd spent some time writing didn't go on first sending, I copied it, as now I can't get the page up at all.

I bit the bullet and resigned from the committee (well, gave notice that I will stand down at the next AGM in a few months) and this has been accepted by the chairman - all I have to do now is tell people, which I will do within the next week or two. No vast hurry.

Wink has left and is spending the night with Weeza and family. Tomorrow, she has a funeral to go to in Norwich, that of her sister-in-law. She's taken an extra day off work to stay for it, but will drive home tomorrow afternoon. She took Dilly and me to lunch in Yagnub for our birthdays, which was very enjoyable.

Hm. Not much else to report. I'm going to Portugal for a week in November with Wink and the Bod - we debated for some time which of two weeks we'd go, and then when we thought it was all decided, Bod suddenly switched to a third week that hadn't been discussed. I'm distinctly doubtful of the weather in late November but hey, at least it will get me out of two meetings. You see how I'm already learning to switch off - not so long ago, I'd have turned down a social event on behalf of a meeting I felt obliged to attend. Unfortunately, it does mean that I won't be able to use the opera ticket I've bought. I'll have to check the website to see if the performance is sold out and whether I'll be able to get a refund if it's resold or whether I've got to tell the Sage to go in my place.

I must take a picture of Al's shop - it's all repaired and repainted now and looks very smart. Not that most of you will know what it did look like, but Badgerdaddy will.

Oh, Al and Dilly have got the eBay bug. It started when I was away and the Sage wanted to check on something he'd left a bid on, and Al came and helped him. Now they're happily buying and selling and it seems to take most of their spare time.

Right. That's about it. Goodnight.