Saturday 31 October 2009

Happy Hallowe'en

As an Xtra post, pictures of Al's Hallowe'en shop display.

W'd think would be twice the work of single

Not in the case of beehives. Al hasn't updated his site since June, so I'll tell you how they're getting on.

His single hive came safely through the winter, something he was very anxious about. The temptation to keep checking them is one to be resisted, as letting in cold air can chill the bees fatally. In the spring, he prepared a new hive, ready to split the colony by taking the queen and some workers away, leaving queen cells behind. However, on the day he went to do it, he found he was too late and she'd already left with her own swarm. He can only do this sort of job on a Sunday as he works every other day, and if the weather isn't right one week, he has to wait. We looked for the swarm but couldn't find it. He was cross with himself - he said that if only he'd left the new hive there ready, she probably would have crawled right in there.

Anyway, he decided to split the hive anyway, and took half the frames, including some queen cells, to the new hive. It was a bit risky as neither, weakened, colony might survive. But they did and they've flourished.

It turns out to have been the best thing that could have happened. Last year, checking the hive each week was quite a trial as the bees were not at all sweet-tempered, and no work could be safely done in the vicinity of the hive unless you were all tricked out in a bee suit. A bee-keeper's suit, that is, not a stripy yellow and black number. But these two queens are lovely, calm and good-natured. In fact, they are a pair of little honeys. And the nature of the queen sets the mood of the hive. So looking after them has been a pleasure. I gather that, if you find yourself with a bad-tempered queen, it's best to cut your losses and get rid of her, but as it was his first experience of beekeeping he didn't know how moody she was, and besides I don't think he could have borne to. It would be different for professional beekeepers with dozens of hives, I daresay.

Not that he's taken any honey this year. He's using the excuse that they need a year to build up, being starter hives again, and I'm sure he's right, but he was glad of a reason not to tackle the job. He isn't looking forward to that part of the whole enterprise. Funnily enough, he isn't keeping bees for the sake of the honey. He just likes bees.

Zerlina also likes bees, if her reaction to her new rucksack is anything to go by. She adores it - although she can't see it while she's wearing it, of course - and is terribly proud of herself, not wanting to take it off when they arrive home. When the Sage and I called round the other day she stood there expectantly for (duly delivered) admiration. It has a little waterproof hood with antennae, which looks sweet but is rather large, and she sweeps it off as soon as you've had a chance to exclaim over it.

Friday 30 October 2009

V for Regina

by all means, but her youngest son seems to have inherited his father's sense of tact. Odd thing to say, don't you think?

I started to sort out the heaving pile of papers reposing by my chair. I filled the waste-paper basket twice and put all the school-related stuff in box files which I loaded into a big plastic box, but then I rather lost interest and shoved everything else in one more pile. There was one folder of stuff that I didn't find at all, so I'll have to turn my attention to what's on the other side of the chair, which I'd rather hoped to avoid touching for a bit. Still, at least Pugsley will be able to get to the bookcase now. I used to keep stuff properly filed, but it got away from me ages ago and I'm not sure that I'll ever catch up.

Otherwise, I made chicken stock and then soup. I asked the Sage if he'd like the rest of the casserole from last night or the soup for dinner. "Yes please," he said happily. "What, both?" "I'm hungry." He was also cheery because his picture was in the paper today (the article, without picture). I'd not like to have my picture in the paper at all, being stupendously unphotogenic (the picture on the sidebar is rarely flattering), but he doesn't seem to mind. He doesn't look hideous in nearly all photos however, which might have something to do with it.

Did I mention that Weeza and Phil are getting a conservatory? The construction of it is starting on Monday. In an unusual move, it will double as a spare bedroom, so only complete exhibitionists will be invited to stay.

Thursday 29 October 2009

U for tide be stuck by now, didn't you?

Wait a couple of days, then you will see me flounder (all fish-based comments cheerily welcomed).

We were sorry to receive a message from Dave that he is ill - these final few days of bricklaying are proving problematical, but it'll get done. I couldn't have joined in anyway this morning, as I was looking after the children because Dilly was working, doing a Maths Challenge at the local library. I don't know what parents send their children to this sort of thing in the holidays, or what sort of children enjoy doing it - I was quite reasonably studious as a child but holidays were sacrosanct and I'd not have appreciated being dumped on a maths teacher at half term. Anyway, just as well for Dilly's pocket that other people don't agree with me, as she's been quite busy with tuition.

This afternoon, we went to Norwich, to the Castle Museum. We met Weeza and Zerlina and all had a splendid time. We saw the Man With Dirty Feet (check out the Iceni), the Disembodied Hand (cut off in a duel in 1600) and the Lowestoft Cat. I regretted, again, that they've got most of their Lowestoft collection put away, apparently in the name of making the remaining collection more "accessible" - that is, less museum-like. Nowadays, most museums have lovely displays, but not much in them and most of it aimed at children. Seeing my family's enjoyment, though they are quite small, I try not to be curmudgeonly about it. Certainly, it's an enjoyable place to visit and the staff are lovely.

A bit of a cock-up on the opera front - our friend Daphne rang, months ago, to say that a friend of hers is playing the lead in Falstaff in November at the theatre in Norwich and would we like to go, if she came up from Kent. The Sage doesn't care for opera, but I said I'd go, and Daphne has another friend in Bury St Edmunds who also wanted to go - later it transpired that another friend of the latter's wanted to go too. So I booked all tickets and Daphne paid me for the three. However, later it turned out that this weekend would be the start of my visit to Portugal, so I had to cry off. Then the friend of a friend did, and the friend is not at all well, and may not be able to come. Poor Daphne had the prospect of a three-plus hour drive to go to the opera on her own. However, good news. I asked Dilly and Weeza if they were interested - "I love the opera! Yes please!" said Weeza. "I've never been to the opera, I'd love to!" said Dilly. All sorted. A bit more liaising to do, and we don't know if friend Sarah will be well enough yet, but the evening is saved. I'd love to go myself, but I'll be staying near Bournemouth airport (it was news to me that Bournemouth had an airport) en route to Iberia.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

T for a bit of a nuisance sometimes

This year, the Sage has had several long, uncomfortable and expensive visits to the dentist. He hasn't needed anything much doing for ages before this, but they all seem to be giving trouble at the same time. Think of him at 4 o'clock, preferably when you're not eating a toffee.

Before that, to cheer him up a bit, I'm taking him to look at laptops. Not with an idea to buy one, just so he can decide what size screen he wants. He looked at Dilly's a bit anxiously last week and said he didn't think it would be big enough. I assured him he can have one as big as he likes. After that, he's made an appointment with the curator at the museum in Norwich to look at their Lowestoft cat and compare it with the one from the sale before it's delivered to its new owner.

I see that there's an exhibition of 19th century photography at the British Library. I absolutely love early photography. Not the stilted studio photographs, not that I've anything against them as such, but the sense of time and place in them. I must get to it - it's on until early March so there's plenty of time, but I'll try to set a date before Christmas because I know what it's always like - I'll put it off until the last minute otherwise and then not get around to it. Actually, I had to look up where it is as I've never been to the British Library. It's free too - do go, darlings, if you can. It'll be marvellous.

Anyway, with a rare example of efficiency and earliness, I'm off to the Post Office to tax my car for the next year. With two new rear tyres, it passed its MOT and so I might as well get the job done while I think of it. I'm not doing it online - I did that last year and they apparently sent the new tax disc but it never arrived, nor did its replacement. After three weeks, they finally sent it special delivery. Since I'd sold the car by then and just wanted it back to get a refund, it was a pain in the neck. I'm not playing that sort of game again. In any case, the nice couple at the post office are despondent enough at the thought of the reduced business because of the strike, so I'd rather give them my custom.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

S a bit of a farmyard aroma around here today

Pig muck is being spread in the vicinity somewhere. It's a mild, damp day with little breeze and the pong hangs heavily in the air. I don't mind, it's a natural smell and there with a good purpose - one can't agree with farmers using manure instead of artificial fertilisers and then complain about the smell. Well, people do, usually the sort who move to the country for the peace and quiet and then discover it's just as noisy, only different. But we're easy-going round here and take things as we find them, usually.

This village doesn't have much outward community spirit, in fact. There's an annual Village Fête, the Bowls Club, a football team and the village pub, but the town is only a mile away and hardly anyone both lives and works here and they tend to go to Yagnub or Norwich for entertainment. The church isn't exactly the hub of the community, although the school receives strong support. A few years ago there was a bit of a problem there and we discovered just how much the village thinks of their school. Otherwise, there's never much going on here. However, it's all friendly and pleasant, and somehow people do seem to know what's going on and be ready to help out. They just won't bother you. Or complain about every small problem.

Quite gratified that the first of the ordered items - well, several, three parcels-worth - has turned up already. Two of the other three orders have been sent so I expect they'll arrive tomorrow. It's retail joy around here and I can feel the wrinkles soften already, even though the face stuff is what hasn't been sent yet. I expect it will have been by close of play today though. They're very reliable. As it is, I've got a lovely lot of stationery to unpack, including several reams of paper. It seems absurd that it can be cheaper to have paper delivered than go to buy it myself, but there we go. And it saves me having to carry it, and my petrol.

Monday 26 October 2009

R for night's sleep

Hardly that, in fact. I woke up after a couple of hours and couldn't sleep again. I was awake for more than four hours, much of which I spent blogging. Today, I've mostly been quiet. Though I did take time to delete some rambling pages of typing which, fortunately, I'd only saved and not inflicted on you.

The good thing about being tired is that one sits and catches up with paperwork. I've brought our mailing list up to date, emailed Australia (not the whole of Australia, just one person, but it was business and therefore needed a disciplined mind to get on with) with the price of sending out china and ordered a whole lot of dull stationery supplies, as well as - well, actually, it's coincidental in view of yesterday's post - various creams and lotions to stave off the effects of old age and bricklaying for a few more weeks. I looked at travel insurance (I'm going away for a week next month) but since I will have to admit to my dodgy physical condition, it seems that I can't just fill in an online form but have to phone. I've also booked my car in for its MOT tomorrow and, even better, arranged for a friend to fetch it and deal with it for me. He's the splendid chap who found it for me in the first place, so he owes me numerous favours. Forever.*

After all this, I needed to do a bit of comfort shopping, so the debit card has taken a bit of a knock. Debit card, you notice, so that I don't need to receive a bill in the post, in case there isn't any.

The Sage has been trying to get to grips with telephone banking. He has his business account with a bank that doesn't have a branch in this town and it isn't always convenient to get over to Lowestoft. He was sent two cards, a four digit number and a PIN. He carefully memorised them and followed the instructions to key in his 16 digit account number and then the 4 digit number. Then he was asked for another 16 digit number. While he was hesitating, someone came on the line and sorted out what he wanted anyway. Then he was sent another 4 digit number in the post. So today, he tried again. Exactly the same thing happened. He isn't at all sure what this second number is., but maybe it's the other card. He'd only wanted to ask for a new chequebook, it hardly seems worth all the security.

Tomorrow, if things go as planned, we're bricklaying again.

*no air conditioning, specified as a requirement, no CD player, a stupid foot-operated hand brake that's nearly caused me to run backwards on many a hill and caused anxiety every time I park. I generally leave it in gear as I don't trust the beastly thing. Oh, and I don't think I ever told you about the time the radiator blew up. If it were not for a complete lack of interest in cars, I'd have got a different one months ago. But it works, apart from when the radiator is going 'whumf' and issuing a puff of steam, so I don't quite care enough. Also, it was surprisingly affordable which, at the time, was a factor as I hadn't scheduled replacing my car in my calculations just then.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Q Wing down the Drive

We all arrived home in three cars at the same time last night, although Al had left earlier than the rest of us to phone in his orders from the shop for the next day. The drive went from dark tranquillity to a blaze of headlights. I took the bag of money and cheques and it was put away safely and I put the kettle on for tea, but I never got around to making it. I opened a bottle of Rioja first and we lounged around talking instead.

Ro's hair has grown long and Weeza was asking him about his beauty routine. He hasn't really got one, he said. She advised him on haircare and recommended a hairdryer with a diffuser. Then she wanted to know about his face. "You do moisturise?" she asked sternly. "No" said Ro, looking alarmed. Weeza tutted. "You are reaching the age when you can't neglect your face. What do you use to wash with?" She was unsatisfied with the answer. "Wet or dry shave?" Wet, and at least he has a shaving cream of choice - he couldn't remember the name but it's Italian. "What kind of scent do you like", she enquired.

We were all in fits of laughter as a bemused Ro answered politely. Eventually, Weeza went to bed and so did the Sage. "How does Phil cope?" demanded Ro. "If this is what marriage is like, I think I'll stay single. I'd forgotten that living with Weeza was like this" We decided that Phil lets it all wash over him and takes no notice.

The next morning ... "Do you exfoliate?"

Wink was taking Ro back to Norwich as she was visiting someone for lunch. As I was kissing him goodbye "Check out his complexion," she advised. As if I'd do such a thing - anyway, there's nothing wrong with his complexion. After they'd left, Weeza chuckled. "It's a lot of fun, winding up Ro," she said. "He takes it so seriously."

Nevertheless, I suspect he will receive a full set of skincare products for C*******s.

Saturday 24 October 2009

P for Peregrine! Huzzah!!

Welcome to Sarah's son, who has no idea he is being immortalised in Blogland, but in future years will be terribly gratified by this.

If this post wasn't named for him, it would be P for bearing, please darlings, as I rarely miss a day but was both tired and sociable last night, and it's rare that so many of my family are gathered together at one time. It was lovely.

Weeza and Zerlina came over from Norwich, Ro also came from Norwich by train after work, Phil drove up from Ipswich after work, Dilly and Al drove over because D's sister Philly looked after the children and Wink took the day off and drove 230 miles from Ziggiland. Splendidly effortful (thank you all, darlings, your father etc and I do really appreciate it) and it made our 25th anniversary sale all the more memorable.

All went excellently, thanks, and the little cat was sold for over £9,000, which is damn good. Actually, the Sage had been left a bit for quite a bit more but, like on eBay, you only pay one bid over your rival's highest bid, so the top bidder saved nearly £1000 on what he was willing to pay. Overall, it went very well and we came home happy.

Very funny conversations between Ro and his sister, which I'll describe tomorrow if I can somehow link them with the letter Q. Weeza stayed over last night, Phil and Zerlina having gone home earlier, and she said it was the best night's sleep she'd had for 15 months. Tonight, little z is staying with Dilly et al, so Weeza and Phil are alone and carefree (good for a night, lonely after two). Tomorrow, it's Phil's turn - apparently, he'll remain in his pants (underpants, that is) and play on the XBox or whatever the current console is, all day while all the rest of the family have lunch here.

I'm hoping to speak to HDWK on the phone as she passes through England en route to India.

Wink has led me a bit astray this evening, and I'm a bit tiddly. But the good news is, Weeza has almost talked me into buying myself an iPhone. All I need to do is to venture into the new Mac shop in Norwich and I know the debit card will be waved. I just know it.

Might not go for a while though. Deferred gratification is all the sweeter, isn't it?

Wait for it ... wait for it ... mm, yes............................

Thursday 22 October 2009

O for the garden wall

Have I mentioned this? - I know I've said it to Dave - I've suggested to the Sage that the chickens might like to spend the winter in the kitchen garden. I think they'd love it. Of course, the bits that aren't walled will have to have netting put up, and I've got some vegetables that'll have to be protected, but they can sleep in the biggest greenhouse and we can go and chat to them and feed them little treats. Chris the snail will have to make sure he stays well up on the wall though, or he might meet an untimely end.

There will be some tidying up done in there by the spring - the good thing is, of course, that if we do some digging it'll make the bantams very happy as they will have lovely insects and worms to eat. Some years ago, we (rather too quickly) dug new beds for fruit, put in bushes and paths and a fruit cage. After a couple of years, it became apparent that we hadn't cleared the area well enough, we hadn't allowed enough room for the bushes to grow and it was getting too much for us. For the last couple of years we've almost abandoned it. Now, we think the only thing to do is to prune the currants severely and move them, giving more room to the raspberries and gooseberries. While we're about it, we've having the asparagus bed dug up.

It's not that I want to stop growing asparagus, of course. But the plants have been in over 20 years and they are on their way out. I did put in some more crowns about five years ago but it was a dry season and although I watered them, they have never come to much. I'm going to have to decide whether to move them and give them another chance or dig them up too and start again completely. In any case, they aren't enough. Again, some perennial weeds have become established in the bed and I think the only thing to do is clear the bed and carpet it for a season to clear it, then manure it heavily, plant potatoes for a season and so get it thoroughly fertilised and dug.

For the rest of the garden, I've still got to keep it easy. Next summer we'll still be bricklaying and I'll probably be contemplating an operation (unless things don't go well, in which case I'll be recovering from one) - either way, I don't want a lot of gardening. So it'll be squashes, tomatoes, beans, that sort of thing again - stuff that will cover the ground, be easy to pick and quite undemanding. I will grow lots of plants from seed because I enjoy that, but mostly for Al to sell.

What I can do, though, is think about planting the bed next to the wall...the section of the wall that will have been completed, that is. Not the side that the bricks are stacked, which will be a flower bed, but the narrower bed the other side. It will face East, mind you, but be sheltered from the North and get light from both East and South. The final piece of wall will face South. The bed is only about 3 foot 6 inches wide and, of course, it will have the problem of dryness that you'd expect, but it will be quite warm and sheltered there. Some cordon or espalier fruit trees might be possible - we've got room elsewhere for good-sized apple trees (most of our apple trees are elderly and we've got plans to plant more) - I'm tempted by the thought of peaches and apricots but maybe pears would be safer on that side - any ideas? Also, I want to put in some flowers, particularly ones that will attract bees. This will be a secluded spot once the wall is finished and I think I might hide myself away there quite often.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

N tertained by Damian

Today I was in London at the Wallace Collection, where I was able to see Martin's favourite painting and many other fine pieces of art. I'm not sure that the current exhibition quite qualifies as that- I thought it does work as a coherent exhibition and I'm glad to have seen it, but frankly some of the actual art was pretty poor. If you go to the link and the sideshow, I liked nos. 2,3,4 and 5 best and thought that the single skull and the glass jug with roses were reasonably well executed - the butterflies seemed to be but he'd just stencilled them on - a typical short-cut which one has to simply accept as what he does - after all, most of his conceptual art wasn't actually executed by him at all.

Anyway, the place will always be dear to me because it was where I first met Martin and Wendy. I say "first", although there hasn't yet been a second meeting - but of course there will be. Friends don't have to meet regularly, although it's lovely when they do. I was on an organised visit today (had to leave home at 6.15 - it was still dark, darlings! - to catch the coach from Norwich) so couldn't offer to meet anyone.

It was mostly dry in London, but raining when I left home today and still raining when I got back. Good job we did this week's building already. I phoned the Sage to tell him what time to expect me home and when I arrived he'd cooked dinner, opened a bottle of good Beaujolais and, having swept the chimney during the day (no spilt soot, the place is as clean as I left it), lit a lovely fire. Since, he's made me a dear little pot of coffee.

Do you find, by the way, that the better the wine, the more satisfying it is, so that one wants to drink less of it? Two small glasses, and I was not at all tempted by the offer of a third.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 35 - Z is banned from the garden

I arrived home from a most interesting lecture on the Parthenon and its marbles - the best preserved of which, of course, are residing in the British Museum and over whose eventual fate I am not partisan (and the lecturer did not express an opinion either). Dave and the Sage were already starting work. "It's too chilly and windy for you," opined the Sage. "I don't mind," I said. "I do," he retorted. Dave agreed with him. So that's that. I've come indoors for lunch (egg and chips) and to make scones (in the oven now) and i'll add the photos when they've done. They're just adding the cappings to the first section right now, which is quite exciting as it will be the first fully completed bit.

I'm feeling better today thank you, largely because of all the sleep I've had. I've been waking many times most nights of late - not in great pain but not being able to find a position that's comfortable for long. So I've bought some long-lasting (12 hour) painkillers - just ibuprofen, which seems to work best, but in a slow-release form. I'm disinclined to take anything at all, but I have found in the past that there seems to be a sort of cumulative effect - that is, if I have occasion to take pills for several days, even if only once a day, then it's much easier as the week goes by. So maybe I could take a 4-hour dose in the morning and a 12-hour dose in the evening and that would keep me going without me having a dismal feeling of being poisoned. Anyway, I do accept that Dave and the Sage are right that I'm probably best indoors at present - I don't feel ill but I've still got a real graveyard cough. I had a pocketful of unwrapped lozenges this morning, so that I wouldn't be taken unawares during the lecture.

Oh - I've been approached to join another committee next spring. It would be as secretary, and would be occasional bursts of a lot of work. I'm considering it. I don't feel obliged, but I might be interested. However, I do remember that, three years ago, it was said that there was someone else interested in future, so I'll remind the chairman of that first.

Photos to follow. I'll take the scones out of the oven and then (wrapped up warm) I'll take the camera out to get some pictures of Men At Work.

Here are the current ones - you've got live-action blogging here, darlings (now 3.08pm, BST)

Just put one of the church in because it looks rather pleasant with the autumnal trees around. And you see that the wall has a resident snail, even before it's finished. Evidently, there is a housing shortage around here.

There are a few videos to come, but they take ages to upload so I'll publish this in the meantime.

Here's the first -
and the second -
and the last one.

Dave is wearing a snug hat to keep his ears warm. The Sage phoned him to say it was chilly up on the scaffolding and to bring a hat.

A few more photos to come.
There was enough mortar to put on one of the hats but not the others, so the Sage laid a few bricks himself.

The finished part of the wall

And the builder

It had been intended that a piece of tile should just out either side of the capping, but then the men realised that water would run into the mortar, as some of the tiles curved down (this isn't a matter of 'should have put them in the other way up', they curved all over the place) so decided to run the mortar down the line of the slope and bring it to the edge instead.
After all was done, the Sage said "goodbye" to Dave. "Don't I get a cup of tea?" asked Dave, disappointedly. "I was promised a scone."

Monday 19 October 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 34 - The chill of Autumn

Dave and I agreed that it's not quite so much fun, now that the weather's getting chillier. We've still been really lucky - if the dry weather holds to the end of the month we hope to be ready to call a halt until next spring. Late spring, when it's warm again.

Dave and the Sage decided that all the tiles would be laid and then putting on the triangular caps will be the last job of all. I'm still plugging away at the pillar, which I find very tricky - making sure all the bricks are exactly level and not overhanging one side or the other, and finishing off the mortar is awkward too, as it drops off as you try to smooth it round the corner. Still, I think I'm starting to get the knack a bit better.

So, here's today's Record of Achievement *ahem* -

This is the section that Dave did

This is what I was working on, from each side. Yes, the kitchen garden is looking very untidy and end-of-yearish. The nearest bed had squashes in, they've been harvested but haven't been cleared yet. You can see that some of the Jerusalem artichokes are quite droopy with the dry weather, but some of them are in flower, which is the sign of a long autumn. Where they're planted used to be the end of the kitchen garden, so you can see by how much it's been enlarged.

The Sage and Dave putting the finishing touch to an end pillar.

In other news, as they say, I seem to be getting a chest infection. I've been really tired all day - I've had two long sleeps on the sofa and I've got a painful cough from deep in my lungs. It's come on quite suddenly, I was fine yesterday and haven't had any sign of a cold. I went to get my hair cut today and drove in, not wanting to breath in all the cold air first thing in the morning on my bike. I don't think I'm getting flu because I don't have a temperature and I haven't stopped eating. Or drinking. Mind you, a bit of a disaster when I discovered that I'd used (well, I should have known but I'd forgotten) that I'd used all the white wine in the risotto last night. I thought I'd got a bottle of vodka in the freezer but it was gin and I hadn't anything I could drink with gin. Fortunately, I knew there was a can of beer in the dining room. The Sage offered to get it, as I was cooking dinner at the time. He came back clutching a can .. of Dave's Pepsi Max. Really, how unworldly can a chap be? - can't tell the difference between Carlsberg and Pepsi. Not that either of them are exactly epicurean drinks and I doubt my husband has ever drunk either of them, but all the same.

Sunday 18 October 2009

M barrassed Z. Fortunately, no one knows about it

"I haven't time to go in for the papers, could you get them please, on the way to give Pinkie and Scarlet their breakfast?" The Sage said he would, and I left for church a few minutes after he had gone out. I was a bit surprised that Essie wasn't already there, but I got the safe unlocked, the Bible marked with the readings, went and put the water heater and the urn on, and it occurred to me that the radiators weren't *that* warm. Oh. It was 20 to 10, not 20 to 11.

I went home for another hour. I didn't mention it to anyone, no need to look silly is there?

I've bitten the bullet, in that I told the people who'd be most dismayed that I'm leaving the PCC. It isn't happening for 6 months, but I like to plan ahead. For someone as impulsive as I can be, this might sound surprising, but the decision was made suddenly, and thought just reinforced its rightness. Sometimes, on the other hand, I don't know what I'm going to say until I hear myself say it, but I trust my instincts when that does happen - even though that usually leads me into a new direction that a more sensible person would back away from.*

Anyway, one of the people, who was the one thinking "d'oh! I should have done that." wonders if there's a way I could stay on the Finance committee, and I've suggested she asks the Rector if it's possible, because I know I'm the equal third most able person there, and therefore useful. I'd make that concession.

Tonight, pumpkin risotto, because we've got the pumpkins and the rice and the stock. Actually, it's beef stock because that's what I made the other day, so I've added some bacon to the shallots. I'm normally a bit purist about risotto, which should be vegetables only for my palate, but I'm not at all sure about beef stock - usually I make chicken or veg - and I think the only way of standing up to it is to add a bit more flavour. Also - short cut alert - it's way best to grate the raw pumpkin or squash, but it's also a fair bit of effort, so I eightthed and roasted it and chopped it after that. We'll see. If it's not up to scratch, I won't do it again - but I love risotto and have high standards so it won't necessarily mean it's no good at all.

Although actually, I find a lot of recipes just a bit too rich. It's a creamy and unctuous dish because that's the way the rice goes, and I have come to the conclusion that all the extra butter and oil added are not necessary. As I say, I adore it, so I want to pig out. And if you've put a quarter of a pound of butter and a large quantity of Parmesan in, then it's rich and fattening, no question about it, but if it makes it more filling then I'll still have several helpings so I might as well just omit the butter. I like butter, I just use it sparingly, and I don't use nasty emulsified low-fat spreads. I prefer dry bread. And austere risotti.

*No one have a go about the grammar, hey? "From which a more sensible person would back away" is lousy English too, and stilted to boot. "Down which no sensible person would tread" is better English but really - this is colloquial, this blog and I've only known one person who'd actually say that, and she, on observing a fabulous (uh oh, it was a real not a mythological one) sunset, said to her small daughter, "If you were to paint that, no one would believe your palette." With the accent on ette. So think yourselves lucky.

Pee Ess. I saw this and thought of Dave's comment box (if you don't read Dave's blog, look in the comments and click the link.

Saturday 17 October 2009

L thee happy cows

I thought you might like to know a bit more about the farm* where Pinkie and Scarlet live. If you live in Norfolk and take the EDP, there's a double-page article about Jonathan in today's agricultural supplement, but I think that can only be accessed online the same day if you subscribe. The Sage went to visit the girls again this morning - Brian was surprised when not only Pinkie but Scarlet too went to him for their breakfast. "She won't take food from your hand," said Brian "... oh, she just did." The cows shared a cauliflower, some sweetcorn and a few apples.

It was raining this morning, which wasn't on the forecast I heard last night and so, although it didn't last long, timings and stuff mean that we won't bricklay after all. This means that I'm doing pretty well nothing instead. I've cleared a week's worth of bottles from the kitchen and put on the washing machine. Um. That doesn't sound quite enough effort for a morning, in truth. Fortunately, I do not suffer from a compulsive need to be busy so I shall continue to relax with the papers.

* I have to say, I think a close relationship with his vet has improved conception rates. sounds a bit dodge, but it's all earnestly meant.

Friday 16 October 2009

'K for a few minutes? Excellent

Lovely to see you. What can I get you to drink? Dinner won't be long.

While I'm about it, think of Non-Working Monkey at 5 pm tomorrow, Montreal-time (which is probably half-past never anywhere else) as it will be the time she starts to get married. She's one of the many bloggers I visit and comment to regularly, even though they never visit (as far as I know) or comment in return, which means a) that I'm a lovely person and b) that she's worth the effort.

While you're in the wedding mood, raise a glass to Sheer Almshouse and her new husband.

And, though this wedding isn't for nearly two more weeks, please drink another toast to Martin and Wendy, who MET THROUGH THIS VERY BLOG. Yes, really. It is my proudest moment as a blogger, because they are both absolutely lovely (yes, I've met them so I know 'tis true) and so deserve each other, in the best possible way.

Anyway, now your glass is empty after all this toasting - let me top you up. Twiglet? Cheese straw (of course they're home-made, if not by me)? Interesting little baked thingy straight out of the oven? Ooh, another swig of gin will sooth. No, spit it out on the napkin, I won't even notice.

Scarlet and Pinkie have gone back to the farm today. The Sage called round with some corn on the cob for them and they are fine, and send their love. Pinkie is the oldest cow on the farm, at 12 years old. She may well calve by the end of the month; I'll let you know. Scarlet's calf will arrive next month. We won't, probably, have cows on the field until next April to give the grass time to grow, but there's plenty of good hay and silage for them and they will be well cared for. Graham, Jonathan and Brian are excellent farmers of the cows in their care and they know every animal on the farm well.

Winter draws on, as they say, and Al has pumpkins for sale at the shop. For myself, I'm into smart little skirts, which unfortunately means I can't wear comfortable shoes any more. It's not that my shoes don't fit, just that walking shoes and sandals are so comfy and nothing else quite matches up. Still, appearance is everything, don't you think?

Lovely music and French lessons today, I had a great time. I do think teenagers are worth spending time with.

Tomorrow, weather permitting (the forecast is good), we're bringing on the wall again.

Thursday 15 October 2009

I for got the letter

How random of me.

I had lunch with friends today and then went to visit Weeza and Zerlina. Zerlina is walking very steadily now, but she's into everything. She isn't destructive and knows what she's not allowed to do, but she climbs over everything and teeters precariously on every edge available. The sitting room floor is wood, so it's quite nerve-wracking, seeing her clambering onto a chair and balancing on the side, ready to plummet backwards onto the floor. She is unbothered, even when she takes a tumble, however.

As I was walking out to the car after lunch, a small group was talking about the planned postal strikes. These ladies were all in their 70s or 80s, only a couple of them used to using the internet, but none of them was too bothered. It was agreed (assuming that it drags on for another month or two) that they love to receive Christmas cards (funnily enough, no one said how much the writing of them was appreciated) but they could all manage without, and would phone or email instead. They would send presents by mail order and let the companies work out how best to get them delivered. I've rarely seen quite a strike that is likely to backfire quite so much. Use of the postal service has, apparently, declined by 10% this year alone - I've a feeling that if it weren't for eBay, it would have gone down rather more. If mail order companies start to use courier services and find them satisfactory, they may well not go back to the Royal Mail (is it still called the Royal Mail, I wonder?). If we start receiving more business communications by email (my preferred medium already, unless I actually must file the papers) then it will become accepted practice. If we go a year without Christmas cards, will we all bother to go back to them, or will we realise how few are really important? We've asked our postmen here what they think, and they're against the strike. And we've got a week's statutory notice of the next one, on Thursday and Friday. So we've got time to make preparations.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 33 - Dave spends a Day on the Tiles

On top of the bricks, there will be a couple of rows of tiles, which are wider than the bricks so as to help to deflect rain away. On top of that will be a final, triangular brick to finish it off.

The tiles are the original ones from the front (west) side of our own house and are between 400 and 450 years old. When we were planning to move here (the house belonged to the Sage's parents: when his father died, his mother had built the bungalow where Al and Dilly now live) and then we had the tiles taken off, as the roofing felt and some of the timber needed to be replaced. It was discovered that the tiles were held on more through sheer Norfolk tenaciousness than anything else - all the nails had perished and some cement had been shoved in for strength, but that was adding more weight than body to the whole thing. They had been turned over a hundred or two years ago already and they were not really fit for the job any longer. So the Sage did some investigating and found a firm in Sussex that still manufactured hand-made tiles and, after getting the requisite planning permission, we had them put on instead.

He kept the tiles of course, and a while ago let a friend have half of them for an extension to his house. But we've still got a couple of hundred left and now they're being incorporated into our garden wall.

Dave started on the first section - when that's done, we'll get a longer run of scaffolding up and he'll do one section and I'll do one. He says it's the trickiest job he's done so far, which is a bit worrying. In the meantime, I built up a single layer of bricks along to the pillar, and I'll work on that next time too, I think.

Scarlet and Pinkie were very interested in the whole affair and spent the entire morning standing at the gate watching us. They are quite irresistible and we had to keep going to feed them. I found some apples and carrots, then we gave them hay and, afterwards, the Sage went in to Alex's shop and raided the throw-out bin and came home with a box of slightly yellowed sprouts. I cuddled the cows affectionately - they are in fine condition, the extra hay has been good for them and so has the additional grass, which has sprouted quickly after the rain of the past week. Pinkie is bagging up well (sorry, this is farmer-speak for she looks nearly ready to calve) and so they will both go back to the farm in a few days, ready to have their calves in the next few weeks.
I didn't get a huge amount done, as I had a couple of phone calls to deal with. Five 6th form pupils from the high school were involved in a car accident on their way to school - it's a tricky bit of road. The details of the accident aren't known yet, but four of the young people are not badly hurt, one is, but is expected to recover fully, and the driver of the other car has a similar description. Everyone at school is very shocked and we cancelled this afternoon's governors' AGM. The front seat passenger (the most badly hurt) was trapped in the car and so was the other car's driver; they both had to be cut out and were air-lifted to Norwich hospital. I'd seen the air ambulance go over, earlier.

Could be so much worse, a dreadful thing to happen, but on the local news tonight there were several reports of enquiries into road deaths and at least we don't have that on this occasion.

Oh, do you know, I had an email from my friend A yesterday - we aren't on the same committee any more so email now we don't see each other much - he replied to what I said and then said that nothing fascinating had happened so he'd nothing more to add. What? No, really darlings. No, really. If I waited for something fascinating to happen, I wouldn't have a blog. And then how much poorer would my life be?

I've written back, saying nothing much has happened. That is, if he wants me to talk to him, he'll have to talk to me. Not that I said that, of course.

Oh, hello, A. Mwah.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

"J D", said the Sage

"If you go on ahead for the car," I said, "I'll meet you at the end of the road." "No, you sit on the bench on the platform and I'll get the car. I'll hoot the horn when I'm back." "I don't mind walking" "I am telling you," he said firmly. Gosh. It was quite a moment. The Sage was all masterful and imposing. I waited on the platform.

The day went fine, except that we weren't able to finish the work because it was more awkward than we realised to fit the shelf - by the time I could have considered leaving for the Tate, it was about quarter to four and I couldn't be bothered - it'd take me the best part of an hour to get there, then I'd have had an hour there and a trip straight back to the station, because there was nothing else for me to do even though our train tickets were for 8 o'clock. So we stayed together (the Sage had been on his errands earlier) and ended up in Burger King because they have the comfiest sofas on Liverpool Street Station. I haven't been in Burger King for years. We used to go there, my sons and me, after the cinema sometimes, because we got a money-off voucher - I can't remember if it was in the cinema or from the local paper - anyway it was the one in Norwich Castle Mall. Very convenient, right opposite the escalator. They were the moodiest staff I've ever come across in any corporate fast-food joint anywhere ever. Usually, they had blocked off most of the tables with a barrier of chairs and they obviously rather resented getting any customers at all. Then once, we went in and the whole seating area was blocked off, except for the bar facing the wall where you had to clamber onto a high stool. I scrambled up ungainly and unwrapped my burger. As I bit into it, a splodge of mayo'n'tomato sauce squidged onto the floor.

Reader, I left it there. From a polite and considerate sort of cove as I am, that was a hugely pointed piece of retaliatory up-yoursness. Anyway, it was the last time I went there, as the discount finished about that time, and there was no other reason to go and feel resented, not even for a Flamegrilled Whopper.

Monday 12 October 2009

This is an aside, not a post, so I don't have to think about a name for it

Each day this week, the Times and iTunes are giving a free download. Today's is called 'Eat raw meat = blood drool' and is by the Editors. I sent the link to Ro who, of course, already knew the Editors, which was more than I did. "If it's good I'll buy it" he said airily, not having iTunes on his computer and not, apparently, wanting it.

But really. In what set of circumstances is 'Eat raw meat = blood drool' a good name for a song? I rather like the song, though I've only listened to it twice so far and, as any fule kno, you have to listen to a piece of music a minimum of three times before you can evaluate it.

Tomorrow, I will be in London. Having come to the conclusion that Four Dinners doesn't read the comments on his own blog, I've emailed him. Of course, he could be ignoring me. Anyway, what we're doing is going up to the flat, finishing (DV) the making-good that I started a couple of weeks ago, then we'll do *whatever* for a few hours and meet at Liverpool Street, assuming *whatever* is not entirely together, get something to eat and catch the 8 o'clock train home. Dilly will look after Tilly and vice versa.

H for Learning

Of course, learning should be life-long. I do hope I never lose interest and curiosity and a wish to find out new things. Even when I'm in my dotage with no memory, it would be rather nice if my eagerness for the new is still there - after all, with so much forgotten, there would be so much to be surprised by, even if I lost it again within moments.

But today was the official opening of the new age for learning in our village school. The Bishop came (it's a voluntary aided church school) and lots of people who've been involved here, in one way or another. There was a former headteacher, a past chairman of governors (well, three of us) and the present head of the high school. Actually, it was a fairly select bunch and I was rather chuffed to be included.

Afterwards, I had a good and interesting talk with the Local Authority chap who's liaised between the schools involved in the whole project, 36 of them. It all started in 2001, and we were both at the first meeting - he was a headteacher himself then, and it was only upon his retirement from that when he was invited to apply for his present job. We've always got on well and, although he really is retiring soon, he is making sure that there are good prospects for future projects here.

Actually, I must thank and commend (though I rather trust none of them will read this) everybody who was involved in the new building of . It was first set up as a PFI (Private Finance Initiative) by the government, as a way of injecting a lot of cash into school building while never having to fork out the capital costs itself, but paying a lot of money, in the long run, to the consortium involved. The reasoning was to avoid it show up on the public borrowing figures (yes, I delved until I found that out). However, this folded when the consortium ran low on funds, so the government and local authority had to take it over in the end. The LA, with the help of Norwich churches education trust (not saying its proper title because of google) where relevant, have kept faith with all the schools involved and given everything that was promised. Finally, the project is nearing its end, with the last schools moving into their new premises within the next year. It has been a fine job, many of the schools involved are small village ones (ours is a 75 pupil school at present, although it will become 90 when there is another classroom built for two further year groups) and several are smaller than that. Ours, like some others, didn't have a school hall so the children had to do gym in the village hall. End of term assemblies and school plays and concerts were held in the church. A piece of land is leased by the village church for use by the school as a playing field. Even at that, rooms had to multi-task - a folding screen was taken back at lunchtime so that two classrooms were made into the dining hall. There was a mobile classroom, so children had to come outside and into the main building to use the cloakrooms and lavatories.

To tell the truth, we all loved that school. I'll miss it. But all the same, this is better in so many ways. It's wonderful. I'm writing to thank the head now.

Sunday 11 October 2009

G f'cook'n'bottlewasher:Z decides what to make for dinner

There's very little choice as I didn't go shopping for the weekend. However, the Sage came in bearing a box of fine potatoes - I didn't grow potatoes this year, but a couple of thrown-out sprouted spuds had grown and cropped and he'd dug them up from the compost heap. Then I've got half a bunch of carrots. A few shallots. That's all the vegetables in the house, although I've some cavolo nero-type kale in the garden, some tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chillis in the greenhouse and plenty of squashes. In the fridge, some cheddar, a small amount of Stilton and what looks like a tub of cream cheese but is actually garlic'n'herb flavoured tofu. The usual storecupboard stuff and, freshly made and still cooling, a big bowl of beef stock.

If I use only what's in the house and mainly fresh ingredients, I could make risotto, using shallots, stock and some cheese with the rice. Or pommes boulangère, with potatoes, shallots, stock and some milk. I could do a couple of eggs with that - the chickens are a bit off lay but there are a few eggs. I could make soup with potato, shallot, carrot and the stock, and do cheese scones to go with it. Or I could simply bake a couple of potatoes and serve them with a hunk of cheese. Hm. More choice than I realised, especially since I've not taken into account extra possible ingredients which are there for the picking. I'm sort of inclined to focus on the potatoes, since anything newly harvested tastes particularly good.

Pommes boulangère it is, then.

Last night, I was chatting to the daughter of friends, who has just moved up this way from London. She's about 30, tall and blonde, with two children of about 12 and 8. I asked how she liked living here, and she said they all love it and the children have settled down happily in their new schools. Her daughter, the older one, is finding it a great deal less stressful. Their father, who does not live with them any more, is black and she had been harried and sneered at for her appearance, which might seem unlikely in a London school where there is a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. But here, she's accepted for the person she is and no one cares what she looks like. "She loves not having to straighten her hair every morning" said her mother. "She was bullied if she went to school with curly hair in London". I don't know, maybe we're over-protective, but that would be called a racist incident at my high school, logged and reported to governors, and the pupils responsible would be reprimanded. But actually, it would be most unlikely to happen.

Right. Time to start getting those potatoes ready if I want dinner to be cooked in an hour and a half.

Saturday 10 October 2009

F for T'less Entertaining

It's no trouble, slapping food into the oven and on plates - actually (is this a guilty secret or does everyone know it?) the more people who are coming, the less bother it is. You might take hours on intricate recipes for 4 or 6, but if there are a dozen or more guests, you'll just make sure that the food is fairly simple, very tasty and not fiddly to make or serve, and do lots of it.

The only difficulty is deciding what to make. Specifically, what pudding. I've hardly made a pudding for ages, you see. I used to - in the days when we spent a month having weekly parties and then happily dined out on the return invitations for the next three, I'd probably make two or three different puds each time. And I used to make cakes and things for the family regularly, so it didn't seem hard. But now, I'm so out of the habit that it doesn't come easy any more. It's not that people don't come round, but the pudding is certainly not a major event any more. Indeed, if it's family or last-minute, I buy one with no guilt at all.

I've got an array of books in front of me and I've spent the last hour wondering what to cook. Several other people are doing puds as well, though I've no idea what they're doing. I bet there will be at least one apple pie or crumble, so I won't do that. It has to be pre-cooked, so has to be suitable to be served warm or cold, or be patient about being kept warm for an hour or two. I don't do shortcrust pastry, far too messy.

I'm toying with the notion of sticky toffee pudding, which is appallingly fattening but which people adore. Last-minute heating up of sauce isn't much bother. I could make a chocolate cake with a chocolate sauce. Bread and butter pudding is always popular and nice served warm. Or something fruity, perhaps. But not apple. Hm.

I'll go and peer in the larder and see if anything gives me inspiration.

Friday 9 October 2009

E for brick...

... Which should, of course, have been the name for yesterday's post, but I didn't want my themes to get mixed, if you see what I mean.

However, I will say that we chose the right day to lay bricks. It rained every other day, and is raining right now, and was decidedly chilly today and wouldn't have been pleasant for an effete pleasure-lover like wot I am to work in the cold. There was a frost, probably just an air frost, last night, which Al discovered when he went out to work at larkfart this morning, and he's harvested most, if not all, of the squashes tonight. Or, rather, this evening when it wasn't raining.

After my late-night chat with Dave, I was woken after a mere hour's sleep, at 2am, by the burglar alarm going off. It has been renamed. It is the mouse alarm, god bother'em. I couldn't even be arsed to put anything on, but stumbled downstairs, turned it off and came back up. My startled and relaxed knee hurt a lot. I wriggled myself into a comfortable position, the Sage cuddled up to me and I stuck an over-warm leg out of the bed. Then I got a tickle on my back. A spontaneous tickle, that is, not anything that anyone did to me. After a while, the Sage's hand strayed near it so I gratefully asked for a rub in the right place, which was lovely.

Today, I sang in a music lesson. I'm no singer, I was being a good-natured Good Example. Not a solo, I hasten to add. I was rather happy because a lad had approached me happily to say that he had practised and perfected the riff I taught him in the last lesson. That was really good, that he'd done it willingly and that he'd wanted to tell me.

Tomorrow is the Harvest Supper. I have said I'll make a beef cobbler (gosh, how retro. I haven't done such a thing in at least 20 years) and a pudding, each for 16 people.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 32 - and an intruder brings the Sage a present

Having tried out the capping for the wall, it was decided that the pillars would need to be a brick higher to provide a contrast. When you see the photos, they look a bit too high at present, but they won't in the end. Dave had a couple of pillars to finish and the final bricks to add to the others. In the meantime, I was going to be set loose on the middle pillar in the stretch of wall that is yet to be done. The foundation bricks are on two levels; there is a drop just beyond the pillar, so the first thing to do was to add three courses of bricks to make that level.

"I'll need half bricks, won't I" I said. Dave and I stood and looked at it. Yes I would, but it meant that there would be five mortar joints one above the other. Of course, if the brickie had staggered the row it would have looked less neat when the red bricks were laid upon the grey masonry bricks, and for added strength he had put in a metal tie so it won't make it a weak spot but it will look as if it is.

After I'd laid the first few bricks, I lost my confidence somewhat, and said that I'd rather build up the first course from the corner, rather than risk it being uneven. However, since there would only be enough mortar for me to put in a few more bricks, as Dave needs a great deal for filling in the centre of the columns, there wasn't much point in starting and, with apologies to Dave for being a slacker, I stood and watched him for a while instead.
Photos of the Great Man Inaction

Second one down is of the final brick being pointed.

When Dave arrived, Scarlet and Pinkie came over to greet him, so we gave them their breakfast. By the end of the morning, they were contentedly lying down in the sunshine, ruminating.

It was chilly at first, but turned out to be a gorgeous morning, warm and sunny. We decided we could have lunch on the lawn, possibly for the last time this year. We had bacon sandwiches. I squirted HP sauce on mine, but the chaps are far too classy for that sort of stuff. Most of my toast went to the chickens that came and clustered round.

Later, the Sage went to put his latest eBay purchase in a cabinet in the drawing room. When he opened it, he noticed a new arrival.
He rang Weeza, who denied knowing anything about it. Then he asked Dilly, who was equally innocent. He went to the shop to ask Al if he'd put it there. The thing is, it's a clever joke because it actually is a match holder and striker, if not the finest specimen, and the Sage collects antique vesta cases, which are Victorian/Edwarian match holders. This dog would have stood on a bar (it's got Guinness written the other side of the collar) and has a hole for matches on top of its head and a rough area for striking them in front of its neck and at the back of its head. Anyway, Al said he knew nothing about it either. We haven't asked Ro yet, but he's not been here for a couple of weeks and the Sage thinks he'd have noticed it since then. I've not opened the cabinet and might not have. It didn't occur to the Sage to ask if I put it there, but I didn't anyway. It's an amusing joke and still a mystery. The pottery dog has a small chip on the back - it was probably 50p at a junk stall or car boot fair.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

D formation

No really, it seems to be an untruth universally accepted that I drink a lot. I don't. I may be seen at all social occasions with a glass in my hand, but that does not suggest that it's frequently being emptied by me and refilled. Indeed, I distinctly remember (for I was sober all the time) at Weeza and Phil's wedding filling my glass, with infinite subtlety, only three-quarters full at the start and clutching it most of the evening. Since I took the occasional swig, it was assumed that I had had several glassfuls, but only the one. Until it warmed just too much, when it was quietly poured onto the grass and re-half-filled.

Nevertheless, I do avow that one of the biggest treats is drinking during the day. PURELY BECAUSE IT'S SO RARE (please excuse the rare excursion into Dooce-territory. Great girl, but she don't half shout a lot). So yesterday, when I had a glass of wine before lunch, was a delight.

Today was a delight too, mind you, though no alcohol was involved at all, because Weeza sent me an email this morning with a newspaper article about increased speed traps around and about, and particularly in Boringland (the first letter should be a P, but the village sign was defaced, not by me, some years ago and it does seem to suit, for drivers-through at any rate though I'm sure it's a truly delightful place to live. Really - I often use the shops and I know some nice people who live there). She was, googlemailwise, online, so I said a cheery 'hi', as one does (how come 'Hi' is an acceptable salutation for email when it Wouldn't Do for a letter? And when did 'Kind regards' be the norm for signing off, email or letter, if semi-formal to friendly?). Anyhoo, it transpired that she would be home by lunchtime, so I invited myself over. Very enjoyable. Zerlina has sprouted lots of teeth in the last week or so, having had only 4 (reduced to 3) for months. She is also walking steadily, although still holding her arms out, zombie-like, for balance. I advised on pruning of shrubs and various plants for winter, and also on planting of tulips. Can't be arsed to do it but I'm sound on advice.

Ooh! - Update - Weeza has just forwarded this. Another use for a butt

Tuesday 6 October 2009

C the wood for the trees

Unusually sensible, I drove this morning rather than cycle, although it was hardly raining. Bucketing down when I came home again, however. I was jolly hungry too, I'd been a bit short on breakfast stuff this morning and only had a thin slice of dry toast. I bought stuff from Al and came home. As soon as Scarlet saw me, she started to hurry towards the gate, so I got out and fetched her and Pinkie half a bale of hay. It was nearly 2 o'clock by then and I rather wished I hadn't decided to cook something that would take 20 minutes so I finished a bottle of wine while I was waiting for the food (2 large mushrooms, shallots, tomatoes, garlic and peppers, both sweet and chilli) to cook.

The weather has brightened now, but it's been rather good to have some rain. Fills the butts somewhat, for a start, which will please Dave immensely. He does appreciate a well-filled butt and he's bemoaned the sere condition of his for a few weeks now.

The summer crops in the garden are coming to an end. The last few tomatoes, the very last of the runner beans - still fresh and tender to the last picking. Soon, it'll be time to harvest the squashes. I'll keep a few back, but Al will sell most of them. Not all the french beans were picked, so I must remember to save the seeds before they get frosted.

Monday 5 October 2009

B for Z loses her patience with Big Pinkie

"Pinkie's out again!" announced the Sage provocatively. "I'll have to dry my hair first," I responded. Never accuse me of a lack of willingness, but I'm not prepared to get a cold head for the sake of a cow.

She's loosened a stake and keeps pushing her way under the barbed wire. Scarlet has more sense and a less tough hide and stays in the field. Pinkie has no wish to escape, she just wants to eat what she can from the hedgerow. I wished I'd had my camera with me when I fed her a bunch of grapes, her curling tongue was quite something to see. After she was securely in, they obediently followed the Sage back across the field while I went home on my bike. They weren't willing to cross the beck - they go back and forth several times each day, but they had a feeling about it this time. Indeed, we put the gate across afterwards, they won't be allowed on that field again but will have to stay on the Ups and Downs. However, the Sage had already been to the farm for some hay and some straw and they are, right now, tucking into some of it. And here are Pictures, so that Scarlet can see her namesake (this is a brilliant name for her, by the way. It suits her and it doesn't sound at all odd to call out "Here, Pinkie! Come on, Scarlet!).

Scarlet has a very pretty face
I gave Pinkie an apple, but didn't manage to take the photo as she took it from my hand

Scarlet is very appreciative of the hay
She is an exceptionally attractive cow, with a sweet nose and glossy hair.

Pinkie is rather more "about time too. Took you long enough to get the hint." She is older and heavier, with a strong character. Very friendly and good-natured, but independent of spirit. She's past her best milking days but she is much loved and will live her life out here and on the farm. She's in calf, due in December and so still earning her keep.

Sunday 4 October 2009

A is for cows

I was just leaving the church when the Sage hurried in looking flustered - almost unheard of, I'm the overexcitable one of the family. I'd left him in charge of lunch, and he (taking this gratifyingly seriously) wanted me to know that he had to desert his post as Big Pinkie had got out again. I gave him a bunch of grapes for her, left over from Harvest Festival, and went home.

I was on foot because, getting my bike out for me (the Sage is unbelievably polite and does this sort of thing all the time. In winter, he not only fetches my coat but warms it in front of the fire for me too), it was found to have a flat rear tyre. I suggested phoning Phil to ask him to bring his foot-pump, as it's a lot more effective than my bicycle pump. Phil said he'd bring his repair kit and mend the tyre too, which was awfully nice of him.

Anyway, I spent half an hour in fully-efficient mode, which I do well if rarely. I put the potatoes in to roast, cut up and par-boiled the parsnips, prepared the Yorkshire pudding batter, washed and prepared the carrots and the romanesco (it's a pale green cross between cauliflower and broccoli), took the meat out of the oven, put the Yorkshire pudding in, put the parsnips in, got all the drinks ready, laid the table and cleaned up the kitchen. Those who normally see the way I move find this sort of thing quite scary and have been known to assume I'm panicking. But of course it's just another manifestation of extreme laziness. Gives me time to lounge around before and afterwards.

After lunch the Sage took some carrots out to the cows. Pinkie was waiting at the gate and when Scarlet (newly and proudly named) saw us she came hurrying up. A handsome female running at full tilt is an impressive sight. They took the food eagerly, rasping my fingers with their tongues. The Sage said he'd go up to the farm and fetch them some hay - in fact, when he arrived there the farmer's wife was just getting in her car with half a bale in the boot for them. The girls were very appreciative.

Phil mended the puncture. I was very appreciative too.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 31 - Z does nothing but make tea and lunch

The final course of bricks along the longest part, at last. We'd all agreed that it would be best for it to be done in a single stretch from one end, rather than us working together, one from each end. So there wasn't anything for me to do, as it was easier for Dave, being taller, to do it rather than for short-arse Z. It made it a long morning for him however, and he didn't finish until after 1pm. Far too windy to enjoy lunch on the lawn so we ate it in the dining room.

I caught Dave unawares.

The third and fourth bricks had yet to be tapped down, after which the whole wall was precisely level.

Next week the Sage is quite busy, so we won't have a chance to get together with Dave until Thursday. There's a definite change in the weather this week - it so often happens that a new month brings about different weather - so I hope that we don't get too much rain. It's raining right now, the Sage says.

The most exciting thing that happened this morning, apart from the final laying of the last brick of this session, which one might refer to as a milestone, was when Daphne phoned to say there was a cow out. The Sage set out across the field and I went down the drive on my bike. We found Ann cuddling Big Pinkie (wash your minds out, people, Pinkie is a cow). We soon found where she had squeezed under the wire, as there were tufts of hair on the barbs. Fortunately, Stephen was going past (he's the helpful chap who saved me from the icy waters some years ago, did I tell you about that?) and he helped the Sage take down the wire, because there weren't no ways Pinkie was going back the way she'd got out. Ann went and fetched an apple, because you can't drive Pinkie, only lead her - she's an independently minded cow and she was quite happy where she was. 202, the other cow (you may name her if you like, she's more black than white and friendly with a non-raspy tongue) looked rather jealous. They are grazing some 7 or 8 acres, but it hasn't rained for months, there's little grass left. Either the farmer needs to bring hay or fetch them back to the farm. She reluctantly followed us back onto the field and gave 202 a shove for trying to share her apple.

Inside the small strange world of bloggers

Dave arrived. "Come in and have a cup of tea," I invited, clearing a pile of stuff from an armchair. The sofa was clear, but that's Tilly's. "How are you?" "Have you read my blog?" he replied - wasn't there a comedy show where one of the things was to answer a question with a question? "Had I better?" I responded, joining in with the spirit of the thing.

As he sat here, I was replying to his blog in his comment box and replying to his own comment in mine. This only seems odd to non-bloggers.

The phone rang. It was Weeza, replying to my invitation to lunch tomorrow. They've got a friend there for the weekend, whom we've all known all her life. She's a bit younger than Weeza - her elder brother was a schoolfriend of Al's - and the friendship between our families goes back a century. Weeza had waited to check if it was convenient with her to join us for lunch or whether she had something else planned, but it fitted in nicely. "I was thinking of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, unless you'd like something else?" I suggested. "Phil, what would you like? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, or something else?" asked Weeza, joining in, all unknowing, with the spirit of the game. Phil didn't beat about the bush*. "Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding," I heard, in an enthusiastic tone.

The Sage and Dave are doing a two-person job this morning and I'll be of limited use. So I'll go and do the shopping first. The weather is not conducive to al fresco eating, so we'll be in the dining room for lunch.

*I wrote 'beat about the bust'. Heh.

Friday 2 October 2009


Having seen over 70 Year 9s through learning the keyboard riffs to at least one piece of music, I've had enough of Coldplay for a bit. So I'm playing Schumann lieder again, even though the first on the CD is Melancholie and I avoid such a feeling.

I called in for various fruit and veg on the way home, put on a cob of sweetcorn to cook and brought a fig through here to eat in the meantime. I heard rustling in the cupboard (where we keep the coal scuttle and log basket in the winter) and then some clattering and, finally, an anxious squeak. There was nothing for it. I'd have to face the mousetrap.

Fortunately, the mouse, though caught by a paw, didn't look too badly injured - that is, no blood. And it's a plastic trap. So I picked the trap up. The poor mouse clung on with its other paws. When I let it go it crouched for a minute in the long grass before running off. I should have taken it further from the house, I hope it won't come back, but I didn't want to prolong its pain and fear, and I didn't much want to take it out of the trap and hold it in my hand. Unfortunately, there's no way of keeping mice out of an old house like this - too many chinks. And you can't just ignore them or you'd be overrun.

No, we don't set humane traps. Sorry. This will change. Disposing of a dead mouse is one thing, but a frightened little living thing - you identify with it and warm to it. We'll still have to put mouse traps in the attic, because it would be worse to trap a mouse and not visit it within a short time, but downstairs it will be humane traps from now on, even if they do come back in again. *Sigh*

The Sage has had a fabulous week. He bought another item on ebay and visited two more people and phoned another who are not only old friends (truly, the main reason for the visits) but promising contacts for future auctions. He's all happy, which means I am too.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Z's day goes well

It must be something about me. I bring out the polite in people. It's obviously the worn and haggard looks, as well as the walking stick. Walking pole that is. I know London etiquette of course, don't catch anyone's eye and if you do gaze vacantly as your glance sweeps past so you don't seem to have done it on purpose, and while it's quite all right to hold a door open or say a word of thanks, that's about the limit for normal purposes.

Not only have I had several people offer verbal assistance, one apologised for taking a seat ahead of me, not having noticed me (and there were two seats, he didn't even pinch the one I wanted) and the assistant in Starbucks told me to sit down and he'd bring my coffee. Yes, really. And then, I was waiting at a bus stop, and there were quite a lot of people as it was rush hour, and a chap walked along in a suit jacket and, I thought in a bemused glance, black tights When he stopped and joined the cluster of people waiting for buses. I stole another look and it was leggings, with stirrups (is that what they're called, the little straps going under your feet, my mind is a bit blank), which was almost as bad. He was older than I am, with skinny legs and it was so not a good thing to see, Anyway, the young man next to me murmured "remarkable" and grinned at me. "I shouldn't have looked, really" I murmured back. He must have seen the sweep of my eye and the twitch of my lip, but all the same, quite unexpected.

Mind you, on the bus the person behind me got up (I wasn't able to get a seat at first, then did) to let an elderly man sit down, so it's not just me people are kind to.

The day went well, I did the measuring up etc that I needed to - I do love those flats, it's such a lovely situation where they are. I called in the pub to say hello and beetled off to the British Museum. During the afternoon, I realised I'd left my phone behind and had to trail back again which was a bit stupid, but ho hum. As a result, I didn't go to a second exhibition, but mooched around a bookshop for a bit until closing time, then went for coffee before going back to Liverpool Street.

The Sage had good news during the day, of someone who is interested in selling part of his collection of china next year via us, so he phoned me to tell me about it. I dripped Polyfilla gently over the floor while we enthused together and had to clean up. I was highly gratified to see how clean and cared-for both flats are, I'm really lucky with the present tenants and hope they will stay for a long time.

I bought a smoked salmon salad, fruit salad and red wine at M&S to eat for supper on the train and Dilly was waiting for me at the station.