Sunday 28 February 2010

Z prefers marmalade to dates

Looking in my diary, I've not got a lot on this coming week.  Quite a lot of the sort of things that don't go in the diary - I've made a to-do list, which I only do when things are really piling up - but not much that's out of the house.  So I think that the time has come to make marmalade.  It's probably about the last week that Al will have the oranges, in any case.

I was talking to someone the other day who had met her husband over the internet.  I know several couples who have got together that way, either via blogging or dating websites (when I say "know", some of them I only know through blogging, but I do know two couples personally).  A friend of hers, whose life was shattered a couple of years ago when her husband walked out without warning, has been dipping her toe into the deep water of dating again - but, fifteen years on and with young children, she hasn't the confidence to go out looking.  So far, her dates have not been wildly successful and she asked Our Mutual Friend for advice.  OMF said that she and her husband didn't meet very soon - they corresponded for quite some time first, and felt that they had a rapport and that they would like to be friends, whether or not romance might follow.  The Ex-Wife admitted that she had gone by photos, whether she'd liked the man's smile and his eyes.

It occurs to me that I am very lucky to have hung on to the Sage for yet another reason.  It's not been long since I was last propositioned, in fact (no one you know, darlings) but I don't think I could face ever starting over again with another serious relationship.  In fact, if ever he throws me out and I start casting my beady eyes around, don't take me seriously, will you?  I'm afraid I would be quite unreliable.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Three Years?

Lemon Gin Recipe

  • I litre bottle of medium quality gin
  • 200 g white granulated sugar
  • 3 unwaxed lemons (just the rind, avoiding the pith)
  • Make space in the bottle for the sugar and lemon by pouring off at least 200 ml of gin (reserve this).
  • Gently pare the lemon rind from the lemon. Be really careful to avoid the bitter pith (at a pinch use a zester – although the results are not nearly as good).
  • Add the peel to the bottle.
  • Using a funnel add the sugar to the gin and shake well. Top up the bottle with the reserved gin. Find a use for the surplus (I usually mix myself a large gin and tonic at this stage).
  • Label the bottle. Wrap it well (bubble wrap is ideal) and place securely in the boot of your car (The alcohol will not allow the bottle to freeze completely in cold weather).
  • Drive the car hard for three years.
  • Remove the bottle. Taste and taste again.
I was looking on my computer for a recipe that I'd been given for vodka flavoured with Seville orange. I couldn't find it, and I think that I was told it and didn't write it down.  However, I think that this recipe, which I did find, could be adapted satisfactorily.

But three years?  Don't think I can wait that long.  Maybe I can just give it a regular shake and wait a few months.

I don't know who gave me this recipe.  Any of you?

Not you, Dave, I know that already.

Friday 26 February 2010


A couple of days ago, I was looking through Blogger and found that one can now email a post directly to the blog. When I was last staying with Wink, I went down to her local library and found that I couldn't write on the blog, not even a comment - they were blocked. So I was just checking that it worked. I was going to take it down again, but several keen people sent in comments, so it didn't seem polite. Anyway, it's of limited use, but if you're using a hospital network or a school one or anywhere where usage of some sites is blocked, it's a good thing to know.

I'm a slow learner when it comes to this sort of thing, and it takes me ages to work anything out. I sometimes think back nostalgically to when I bought my first computer, which came with a surprisingly helpful manual which told me stuff. Now, it's all about clicking on 'help' and asking questions, which usually give nil returns, or looking through a list of topics which don't seem very relevant.

A few months ago, I was struggling to change a document which had been written by Excel by someone else and sent to me - the trouble was, previous people in her job had set it up and then altered it, and it was a complete mish-mash - I was having to change each thing individually and then it kept wanting to revert back to the original. Weeza happened to visit while I was still complaining about it, and she showed me that if I removed all formatting, I could then redo it how I wanted. How was I to know? The person who now writes that document does it in Word, which is just as annoying. Actually, it's worse. For instance, when it arrives in a font I hate and which won't fit anyway once I've done my alterations, why, when I've selected all and changed it, does it keep putting any new writing in the original font? I've tried everything. I don't understand it (btw, I've got an elderly version of Word, because I'm not buying anything new and it doesn't come with a Mac). Another thing I look back nostalgically to is my first computer, when I used Clarisworks. Lovely Clarisworks. It was brilliant. It did exactly what I wanted to and I only had to ask once and it remembered but it never imposed anything. Honestly, it was even better than a husband, in many respects.

No, of course not in every way. In nearly ten years, it never once took out the bins or brought in a bucket of coal.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Second best

Then, of course, there's the other side of the coin. Things that we often buy to use, which actually are better home-made but are just too much trouble to make all the time, or which require a level of skill which one may not have.

In my case, the first among these is pastry. I almost always buy it - quite forgivable with puff pastry, I think, but I buy short crust too. Simply, it is one of my more puzzling failures as a cook. I've tried every way recommended, and it's never very good. The best is if I make it in the food processor and don't actually touch it with my hands at all until it's rolled out - but it's still not as good as other people's, and it's all pretty messy. In fact, I'd usually make a scone or crumble topping and avoid the pastry issue altogether.

Something that is better home made is mayonnaise - but how many of us always have a jar of bought in the fridge? I certainly do, though I will sometimes make mayo for a nice meal - won't bother if it's to dip chips in, though. Chips as in french fries, that is. Not potato chips, ie crisps. Although, of course, chips are made of potato.

Tins of beans (plain haricot, blackeye, kidney etc) and chickpeas - they aren't even hard to do, one just has to start them off the day before and then actually cook them. And fresh are better than tinned. But I often get out a tin.

Orange juice. Freshly squeezed is far, far better. But the supermarkets sell an awful lot of tetrapaks - and there's one in my fridge right now.

Yoghurt. This is no longer the 1960s, which was the last time I made yoghurt.

Muesli. Now, why does anyone buy it? It doesn't take long to make your own, enough for weeks at a time, and you can get the proportions you like. But I don't.

Biscuits or cookies. Home made are far better, far cheaper and not that much trouble. And I did make flapjacks yesterday - but generally, I'm likely to buy biscuits, especially savoury ones. British flapjacks are not the same thing as American ones, by the way. You melt sugar, butter and golden syrup and stir in rolled oats, then put in a tin and bake, then cut into slices. I can't remember what American flapjacks are.

Bread. Time was, I used to make all my own bread, but that was a long time ago.

Mustard. I have several jars of different ready-made mustards, though I do like fresh mustard made from mustard powder (especially with roast beef), but it never all gets used and goes rock-hard in the mustard pot and has to be repeatedly soaked out. So I only make it occasionally. Interestingly, Martina reckons that mustard is better bought than made.

I'd have reckoned that I make most dishes from scratch, but now I look at this lot (tip of the iceberg, I'm sure), I realise that I could do an awful lot more. I also realise that I'm not going to.

Again, comments (or admissions) will be added to the post.

Frozen roast potato (for one, he points out) Dave
The best French mustard - Sarah
Bread sauce - Jane Goth (I only ever made bread sauce to go with the Christmas turkey, but we haven't had turkey for years, so I haven't made bread sauce).
Rice pudding - Martina, who says it's better than the pudding she makes, and cheaper. I think there must be more to rice pudding in the US than there is here, as it's just rice, sugar and milk, with nutmeg, cinnamon or whatever you like to flavour.

The real thing

I've been thinking about recipes where the only proper thing to use is a convenience food rather than making an ingredient from scratch - for example, an obvious one is that real custard is made from Bird's custard powder - sure, you can use cornflour and an egg in an emergency, though it wouldn't be quite right, but in a trifle, making a 'proper' egg custard would just be wrong. Oh, and making the cake for it is a bit dubious, too. Bought trifle sponges or boudoir biscuits are fine. By the way, powdered custard which you make up with hot water may be kept for when you are desperate, I suppose, but it's pretty rubbish. It has no body or substance to it and tastes of artificial sweetener. It has no place in trifle. And is barely passable on a treacle pudding or jam sponge. I agree with Sarah that tinned custard is fine though - and, for a trifle, it has the advantage of already being cold.

Salad Niçoise in a smart restaurant is a case in point. Seared fresh tuna is wrong. It has to be tinned. And those pallid salted anchovy fillets from the deli - no, it has to be the dark brown ones from a tin or jar. Anything else just disappoints. And, in fact, it's not even correct.

My mother used to make proper Boston Baked Beans, about once every five years. I did, once or twice, many years ago, and tasty it was. But it's hardly the real thing. Beans, it has to be said, meanz Heinz.

I don't often use tomato ketchup, but there are times when nothing else will do. With shepherd's or cottage pie, for instance. And fish fingers. And fish cakes, come to that.

There are foods which we remember from childhood, which are still a (possibly slightly guilty) pleasure, but that's not quite what I mean - it's foods or dishes that are actually more authentic when a tin or a packet is used. I thought I'd come up with a whole long list but, now I'm writing it down, I can't think of many. Any suggestions? If so, I'll add them to the post. Credited, of course.

Stock cubes (Sablonneuse)
Milk from a bottle rather than straight from the cow (Dave)
Oven chips (Mrs Rine)
Marmite as a flavouring agent (Allotment queen)
Worcestershire Sauce (Wendy)
Packet jelly (Wendy)
Tinned custard (Sarah)
Amoretti biscuits (Sarah)
Fish stock (Sarah)
Campbell's Tomato soup (Martina & Luckyzmom)
Wyler's Chicken or Beef crystals (broth concentrate) (Martina)
Heinz Catsup/Ketchup (Martina)
Ground mustard (Martina)

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Z chuckles

I do apologise for three posts in one day, especially before 2 pm, but do go to and search for Real Snowman. Scroll down for full description of Thor the Snowman, and also for questions & answers.

It's the first one on the page, the only actual snowman. All the others are models and costumes. There are several pages of q&a, which are very amusing.

Thanks, Dilly, for telling me about it.

Just testing

Seeing what will happen

Hiplog again

Pamela has written an interesting post here about travelling by public transport with a new hip, specifically in London as it's where she lives. There are some very useful tips in it. I found, before my operation, that the Tube was the worst as there is so much walking and so many stairs. One time, I wanted to go to an exhibition at Tate Britain in Pimlico, travelling from Islington. I looked up the route online. There seemed to be no way of getting there without a change at a station where the escalators were not in use. The alternative was three buses. I tried to look up a route without stairs and with limited walking and the effort made the site crash. I didn't get to the exhibition.

I'm not up to a day in London yet, because it would be too tiring, but I think I'd feel fairly confident about a bus or a Tube ride. I'd certainly take a stick - it makes sense to warn people visually that you aren't going to be quick or agile and that you might be grateful to be given a seat. I've already said how very helpful people are, as long as they know you need a hand.

My friend Sally had a new hip just before Christmas. She had a bad fall and broke her wrist and the top of her femur, poor love. I expect she's finding things quite restricting, but for me it's the opposite. I was already so restricted in what I could comfortably do that any limitations now are much less disappointing than they were before.

I've noticed I've gained stamina in the last few days - I had an afternoon meeting and an evening meeting yesterday, which would have wiped me out for today, not so long ago, but I feel fine (although I slept badly last night, the Sage and I are still both finding this difficult). I'm getting heartily fed up with the limitation on movement, though still being patient about it - I can break the rules if I want to, but then can't blame anyone if I dislocate my hip.

This is still my greatest anxiety. Sometimes, in the dark 3am recesses of wakefulness, I've reduced myself to tears of worry - yes, this is silly but haven't we all got things out of proportion at 3am? It's because of my mother's experience - in brief, 3 months after a successful hip operation, when she was completely recovered, she had a bad fall which dislocated her hip. In the next 7 years, it dislocated 7 times, each time pretty well spontaneously. Not surprisingly, she became a nervous wreck. Other health problems were dismissed by medics as hysteria (you might as well say) and I suspect that she was thought to be bringing on the dislocations as a form of attention-seeking. It wasn't until she finally asked for the hip to be pinned that an x-ray was taken from a different angle that showed that the joint had been damaged in the first fall and that was the reason for the dislocations. She had another operation, which was successful - but we had all been through hell - I can't begin to talk about it all - and by then the cancer which had been looked for and not found (no blame, just a statement of fact) was about to spread fatally, so it was all too late to improve her life. I'm very glad to have had a youngish non-white surgeon, because she found her middle-aged, English, awfully charming consultant quite impossible to be assertive with - he should have investigated more thoroughly much earlier.

Anyway, I'm afraid of doing something silly or having an accident and dislocating my hip, which I believe would ruin my life and that of my family. In view of what happened, it's not completely irrational, but I can't tell the degree to which I'm over-concerned. I realise that the best thing to do is talk to my consultant about it (not in an emotional way, I'll be perfectly sensible I promise) and find out any sensible restrictions I should bear in mind for the long term, while not being over-protective of myself.

Anyway - the scar has healed beautifully, but still feels both numb and tingly when I rub it. I do rub and massage it, as that helps break down scar tissue apparently. It is slightly swollen compared to the other thigh, but this is gradually going down. I can feel some pain across the front of my thigh sometimes, presumably where the bone was cut off - it can be sharply prickly if I've moved about a lot or walked far without a stick. I can't in any way feel the new hip, as such - there's no sensation in the bone of a foreign body being there. It's all far less than the pain and aching I had before.

I can't test the full movement of my hip, but I've certainly got far more movement than I did have. i put my foot on a box for the Sage to tie my shoelace yesterday - I'd have found that very hard and sometimes impossible to do before, but my only care was to make sure I didn't have an acute angle of the joint. I am fine in cars and on firm chairs - I wouldn't try sitting in a low soft chair because of the angle and the difficulty of getting up again. If the chair is a bit low, it gives me some discomfort and I can deal with it by leaning back and stretching my leg out for a greater degree of angle - my knee should be lower than my hip. Having short legs is a help here.

Right leg still slightly long. I take a stick if walking any great distance, but actually I'm starting to find it a nuisance to use. I am taking great pleasure in walking very fast - possibly too fast for entire comfort, but it's been so long since I could walk briskly that I can't resist. I don't mind if my leg aches a bit afterwards as a result. I haven't walked *that* far at a time - not as far as a mile, say, though I'm sure I could, because it's cold and it keeps raining and snowing when I've got time for a long walk.

Around the house, I am getting on fine. I can bend as long as I stand on my left leg and put my right leg back in the air (it's the 90º or more angle that has to be watched). I can put washing in the machine, but taking it out isn't so easy because you have to reach right in for the last little things that stick to the drum. Similarly, I can put things in the bottom oven of the Aga and push, but you have to go lower to get them out again, so the Sage does that. Light housework is fine, heavier stuff depends on what it is and i can't move furniture about much yet.

The rate of improvement has slowed, but that's because I'm nearly better (it'll be 5 weeks on Friday since the operation). I was told to expect to be pretty well healed at 6 weeks and back to normal in 6 - 12 weeks. My follow-up appointment is 8 1/2 weeks from the operation - that's a bit longer wait than I'd have expected, but I'm rather assuming that the consultant is having a holiday - and I'm hoping to be told that, apart from some sensible precautions, to pretty well get on with a normal life then.

I know not to do certain things, like dig the garden, for instance, for 12 weeks, but it's movements that I want to ask about, with dislocation in mind. For example, sitting on the floor with outstretched legs or knees bent upwards, sitting in a chair with crossed legs, squatting, sitting cross-legged on the floor - those have an increasing degree of risk and if I ask that, it's short and straightforward. My joint hasn't been cemented - this is good, as it will grow in and make a stronger bond (often, people have to have another operation, not because the joint is worn but because the cement is breaking down), but it possibly means a less secure fix to start with - I don't know. I know I'll be able to run again, but I'd like some advice on what degree of exercise is sensible - weight-bearing exercise is good, but I want to balance being active (I never knew that I'd look forward to not being a lazy bastard, but it's not being able to do things that makes you want to) with wearing out the joint. I'd like to play tennis, for instance, but that means quite a lot of darting about. Mind you, I'm terribly uncompetitive and really can't be bothered to chase every ball. "Good shot" is a phrase that rings out quite often on my court.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Z prises open the cage door

Finally, I formally tendered my resignation as churchwarden, which means that a new one will be elected by the congregation in April, appointed by the PCC at the AGM and licensed by the Bishop in May. I'm feeling freer already. Still a couple of meetings to go, but then I'm leaving the PCC altogether, after quite a number of years - I can't remember how many, somewhere between 15 and 20. Too soon to plan an exit strategy from the governors, but another 5 years or so and I might be free.

I'm not complaining - these are all voluntary jobs and if I didn't want to do them, I should never have got involved. They do suck you in, rather. I have pondered over the reasons for me choosing to be a volunteer rather than apply for a paid job - for one thing, I think, I have to take some control over my time as I'm sometimes quite busy and it would be really awkward to need to be somewhere for fixed hours. For another, I have to acknowledge that I'd not find it too easy to work for someone I didn't like and respect and have no choice in the matter - if I don't like it, I know I can walk. I never have - and I must say, I've put up with things that I wouldn't have tolerated as an employee - but the element of choice plus obligation seems to bring out the tenacious side of me. In addition, I know I am lucky and I suppose I feel the need to give back. We chose a way of life we like over a bigger income many years ago and we're extremely fortunate that the work we do is one that we enjoy so much.

And finally, I'm a fidget. I need to have fingers in a lot of pies as I'd get bored with just one. Sad to say, if the choice is between doing very well at one thing or getting by at several, I'd go for the latter. I'm a perfectionist at wallpapering, but at very little else.

Come to think of it, it's nearly 12 years since I last did any wallpapering.

Monday 22 February 2010

Feeding and reading

Since I started to use a feed reader, I've used Bloglines. However, not all blogs update in it - some are several days late and some don't update at all. Google Reader is much quicker and more reliable - but is this because Bloglines isn't efficient, or is it being unfairly squeezed out? Sometimes I can help things by unsubscribing and then resubscribing with a different link, but not always.

Recently, several bloggers have moved servers and the matter has become worse. Now, I have nothing against google except that it's so damn big. I like to support someone other than the market leader - but I often miss updates because I've got a good many blogs marked and I don't get around to clicking onto them on the offchance that I haven't been notified of a new post. it's got to the stage that I have a number of blogs marked in both readers, which takes a whole lot more time to sort through.

One thing I'm not fond of in Google is that one has to scroll through every post or mark all as read, or else they remain highlighted, even if I've clicked through to the blog - which I usually do - I like to read a post in its proper setting. Otherwise, I don't much care about the details. But if I change completely I've got an awful lot of blogs to change the settings on. Some of them haven't been updated for ages and may never be - but I don't want to lose them, just in case.

Sorry, this is something of a non-post. But advice or explanation gratefully received.

Z has not taken a photo of the lawn today

Weeza sent me a link to this website, which gave me a fine chortle. Who knew that minimalism made you so solemn?

If anyone is hoping for a photograph of a lovely lawn, I should explain that very little has happened to the area since. I have two relatively free months of the year - February and August - and so they are good times for a project. The year after the lawn was enlarged by clearing the scrub, the Sage was left to mow it. Inexplicably, he only mowed the original area and left the cleared part - I explained that mowing would kill the weeds, especially ground elder which was all around the roots of the laurel, but he seemed incapable of doing so. So last year, I bought a lawnmower of my own so that I could do it.

I should explain that the Sage has no objection to my using his lawnmower, but it has a pull start and the cord is so long that I can barely manage it. One has to put a foot on the mower to steady it as you pull, and it is not designed for a short woman. I used to manage, just, but last year I didn't have the strength in my leg to balance while I hauled.

Only trouble now was that - well, there was more than one trouble. One was that the brambles were starting to grow back, although I'd cut them down several times. I just mowed them and I daresay they'll die back in a few years time. Another was that there were several clumps of plants that I don't really want to lose, but I don't quite want to dig up and transplant, in case there's any ground elder in the roots. I know that what I have to do is take cuttings or root small pieces, keep them in a pot until I'm sure there's no ground elder and then transplant them, and I will - but in the meantime, I'm just mowing around them. The third thing is that the small patch of evening primrose has spread mightily. It's a biennial and so evidently, the first year, it seeded well and the second year there were lots of plants (that I couldn't dig up and transplant because of the ground elder roots) but that I didn't want to mow down. So it all still looked quite scruffy.

I saved seed from the evening primrose, by the way. Pity I've no idea what I did with it.

It snowed steadily for quite some time this morning. It's still snowing lightly, but starting to thaw as well. I'm staying indoors today. Far too lazy to brave the elements. Brrr.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Never too late

It seems that these pictures date from August 07. I mentioned the work in progress at the time, but by the time it was all finished, it seemed too late to put up pictures of diminishing undergrowth. Not for the first time, it seems I was wrong.

It's an odd garden, with no cohesiveness about it. There are some beds in a gravelled area in front of the house, a smallish lawn (for the size of the garden overall) at the side, separated by the drive from the beds, and the kitchen garden is the other side of the lawn and separated from that by the other side of the drive, which encircles the lawn (more of a tear-drop shape than a circle). Then there are various barns and a rough grassed area, and a scrubby shrubbery - it could be made beautiful I daresay, if you threw enough time and money at it, but we quite like living in the middle of a bit of wilderness and we'd sit uneasily in elegance and beauty.

Nevertheless, once in a while, one realises that something drastic needs to be done. The growth around the lawn had got quite out of hand, and trimming only showed that there was a whole lot of rubbish behind, which had been planted in front of rather than being cleared out properly (bad grammar? Indeed. Makes sense though). I had, the previous winter, cut the much-disliked laurel hedge to about 3 foot in height, but it had only made me realise that it had to come out altogether. It was so thick that it needed 15 or 20 feet of height to give balance, and it overshadowed everything and encroached on that side of the lawn. On the other side of the lawn, some lilacs would have to come out, which was a pity, but they were a thin border in front of a lot of dead wood.

This is the sort of thing I mean. Much of the wreckage was only visible once we'd cut down the lilacs. I cut them down with my trusty pruning saw and a helpful friend dug them out. The pictures showing the old fence were taken from the drive side. We were sorry to lose the old laburnum, which was ailing, but when it was cut down we realised that it wouldn't have lived much longer anyway.

In one of the pictures, you can see the granite blocks that now edge some of the paths in Dave's garden. You can also see the footings of the wall, which were put in a long time before we started building last May.

In another, you can see some dead elm saplings - the big elm tree fell victim to disease years ago, and since then suckers keep growing and then dying when they start to become trees, which is the fate of all English elms now. You can also see the wire we took out, remains of various fencing - the earliest, the Sage thinks, dates from before the drive was put in as when his parents bought this house in 1928, there was only a wire and a hawthorn hedge separating it from the field. The hawthorn was completely dead and almost rock-hard.

I left a fringe of lilac between the lawn and the field, which has thickened up in the past couple of years, and the little pightle at the pointed end of the tear-drop remains (a pightle is, in Norfolk, a small remnant of land, usually triangular in shape), which Weeza and Al remembered playing in when they were small, visiting their grandparents.
Stripped of ivy, the trunks of the wild plum trees are smooth and twisted.

That August wasn't all work - we went with the family to Southwold one day.

While I was having fun hacking and chopping, the Sage was busy preparing for the next auction.

Saturday 20 February 2010

The Sage kisses Z

he slept badly last night. He wants me to sleep in our own bed tonight. He would rather be kept awake by me than stay awake without me because he misses me so much.

Honestly, we're like newlyweds (apart from the sex, obv, because it is specifically forbidden*), but we're being all sweet and appreciative and loving all the time we're alone.

Quite sickening to be around us. So we put on a polite façade for visitors.

*Equally obv, because we're far too old for that sort of thing**.

**This reassurance is for my younger and more easily freaked out readers. Obv.


The Sage has gone off to an antiques fair in Norwich. he wasn't sure whether to bother, but I encouraged him. I also suggested he should look out for something for himself as a treat, from me. I have my cheque book poised in case he succeeds.

I've only been in the greenhouse once this year, and that was to cast a dismayed look at the clearing up to be done before I can start sowing seeds next month. I used to start things off in the propagator very early, but I've not done so in the past few years - it's a lot more work, with my improvised heating system, and a mild spell at the end of winter followed by a cold snap in spring could make it very tricky to keep everything alive and well. I'll start by getting some of the hardy vegetable seeds in and leave the tender ones for a couple of weeks. By the time everything needs to be planted out, I'll be able to kneel and do everything necessary - mind you, the beds out in the veg garden haven't been prepared yet. We really could do with some regular help in the garden, but it's not easy to find someone suitable. My daughter thinks I should have help with the housework, but I'd rather spend the money on a gardener, if only we knew someone who is happy to get on with the heavy work. And the boring work. I only do things I want to, unfortunately. Consistently, that is. I'll do weeding and tidying once in a while, but I'd much rather nurture seedlings, attack with my pruning saw and encourage daisies to grow in the lawn.

If you've known me long enough, you may remember that I took out a lot of overgrown rough shrubbery around the lawn, which was probably about 18 months ago now. I might find some pictures if I put my mind to it. I found a lot of dead hawthorn, which had been a hedge back about 80 years ago when my in-laws originally bought this house. It was a lot of work to remove it, but I enjoyed it - there was also a tall laurel hedge which I'd disliked for many years - we had it cut back to ground level twice and I'd tried to keep it in check, but it was too vigorous. So we got in a pal with a JCB and had it hoiked out. The cleared area was intended to become part of the lawn, but the bantams keep scratching the ground up and they have got rid of all the grass. On the whole, I think their needs are more important than a bit of grass, so I don't mind. The other side of the lawn, where I took out the hawthorn, there is now an open space where the lawn faces (across the drive) the wall, which will have a flower bed in front of it. The bantams tend not to venture across that way very much, it's just beyond their comfortable range, so I don't think they will give me any problems.

I don't think I put up many of the photos at the time. I have looked them out now, and am pleased all over again with what we did - and a lot of it, I did myself. Just think, it won't be long before I can be all keen and energetic again. Do you mind if I post some of them tomorrow, in a self-encouraging sort of way? Of course, if you prefer, I can just tell you what the weather is like or something just as enthralling.

The Sage is home again. He didn't buy anything.

Friday 19 February 2010

Moving swiftly on

The bed has been moved upstairs. Boooo. I loved having a bed in my drawing room. It turned out to be NVG for sleeping in all night, but it made the wakeful small hours very pleasant, with the Winter Olympics being on until 5 am and all.

Disappointment reigns, as Wink isn't able to come for the weekend after all. However, Ro came over with Weeza today, the first time I'd seen him for nearly a month, so that was most jolly.

There is to be a meeting here in half an hour. There will be six of us, will two bottles of wine be enough? Obviously not. Fortunately, I have already had a glassful from a third part-drunk bottle, and there's some rosé in the fridge too, now I come to think of it. I think we'll be fine. I take the notes at these meetings - since I have to sit in a chair by the computer (the only chair high enough), I might as well write them as I go along, straight on to the old ones - which I just update each time, I don't do proper minutes for this particular group. We organise the village festival each year, so a lot of it follows the same pattern, and much of the notes form an aide memoire.

Anyway, ignore the previous post. I resolutely drank a draught of sherry - ooh, do you think they still make schooners, in a glassware sense? - and ate G&B cherry chocolate until I felt cheery and we finished the condition report and Weeza has taken it away to get to work on the layout of the catalogue.

Christopher made me think of Tom Lehrer. I shall put on a CD later and hum along.

Z talks herself out of a low spot

I took more care with pillows last night - to sleep comfortably on my back, I need 6 pillows arranged behind me (as I found in hospital, raising the back of the bed is not the same thing, I'm better with pillows), another pillow under my knees and a cushion under my feet to save me from sore heels. The Sage took the small area of bed remaining. I was very comfortable. Didn't mean that I slept later than 5 o'clock, though. 4 or so hours sleep a night isn't enough, and I'm very tired today. Unfortunately, so is the Sage, who has admitted (only when I asked him for complete frankness) that sleeping next to someone banked around with pillows is not too restful in itself. So, vastly regretfully, we've agreed that I'll sleep in another room for a while.

All in all, I feel a bit low today, and keep wanting to cry. This isn't like me, but I've sort of been expecting something like this because one always has a downswing sooner or later, and I think the best thing is to explain to the family why I may be a bit snappy or overreact to a small perceived problem. Today, we're doing the condition report for the sale, but we've a break at present as the Sage had a funeral to go to (a friend has died of cancer at the age of 48 - please don't think I'm complaining about my situation, I have nothing at all to complain of and everything to be grateful for) so Weeza has gone to call on a friend in the village. Her lovely mother-in-law is over for a few days, so is looking after both Phil, who has taken a day off work, and Zerlina - they'll all be loving that time together, whilst Weeza is enjoying a few hours of freedom, even if we are making her work!

Actually, just writing that last bit has done me good. I feel okay. Do you think a small glass of sherry would complete the cheering process? Or possibly a smidgen of chocolate. Hmm. Sherry, chocolate, which is better?

There's only one way to find out. Chaaarge............

Thursday 18 February 2010

Z is up early

Well, that wasn't a total success. We happily snuggled up to each other, went to sleep - and half an hour or so later, the Sage started chasing rabbits or something in his sleep and his twitching woke me up. And then I wasn't very comfortable and we both moved around, him half-asleep and me awake, until I dozed off again. Then I woke with an aching back at 5 o'clock and read for a while until discomfort forced me out of bed.

There was a study last year that found that couples sleep better in separate beds. Years ago, I couldn't sleep without the Sage - if he was away, the only way I could finally drop off was by cuddling his pillow in my arms. But I have to admit that now I sleep like a top when he's away. I like sleeping with him next to me, it's just that we wake each other every time we move, and it isn't conducive to a sound night's sleep for either of us.

Just as well I was up early, however, I've got a lot to do today.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Z crumbles

What does a woman do to show her appreciation for a man on such an occasion? I'd normally cook him a lovely meal, but he's master of the lovely meals at present. I thought that maybe a cake would fit the bill, but then I saw the beautiful pink forced rhubarb. So I made a crumble. And he's happy. I expect he'll give me a kiss later...

It's a bit awful to admit, but I've continued to sleep downstairs all this time. I was going to have the bed moved upstairs ten days ago, but Wink counselled against, and then again last weekend but Weeza advised me to keep it down here for my afternoon rest - and I was going to sleep in our own bed, but as I was so tired yesterday I couldn't quite summon the energy to sort it all out. But tonight's the night. I'm a bit doubtful, actually - I really wanted the bed to go up so that I could have a night or two in it before braving sleeping with my husband - for the last six weeks before the operation we disturbed each other quite a lot, and not in a good way, and I'm also a bit anxious that I'll automatically cuddle up to him and turn on my side in a forbidden manner. Still, I miss him a lot and it'll be wonderful to hold on to him as I go to sleep, even if it is with a pillow between my knees. *Sigh*.

In fact, I think I've blurred too much the space between being up and being in bed and it's affecting how long it takes for me to get to sleep. In the first place, my trouble was being cold, but the nights are getting milder now and it's not a problem. But I watch television, listen to music, fiddle with apps (currently working on national flags, which I find incredibly difficult to remember, as my brain learns by words, not pictures) and read when I wake during the night, and then if I've had a disturbed night, I get up late.

I've downloaded a book reading programme on to my phone - Weeza said that she tried one but didn't like it, as she doesn't like the back-lit print. But I don't mind. It's not like reading a book of course, but it's a very useful substitute, especially when travelling. It's often very inconvenient - I can't bear to be caught without a book and, especially on holiday, have been found frantically searching for anything in English (or French, at a pinch) because I have read everything I've taken. I'll usually take 6 or 8 books for a week's holiday and always run out. Even for a train journey, I want two books, just to be on the safe side. The books on this app are all out of copyright, of course - at present, I'm reading Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier and Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, but it's very good for reading in bed under the covers.

I've a feeling that you book-lovers are frowning at me.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Z goes back to bed

Excellent to see so many friends today, really lovely. It was a meeting of the society I used to chair, so everyone knows me and it's all very enjoyable. Afterwards, I did a very small amount of shopping - half a pound of tea from a most excellent shop, Wilkinson's, which is the only place in Norwich I know that I can buy Rose Pouchong, as well as various interesting other teas and coffees. They have a huge choice and lovely staff.

After that, a brief errand for the Sage and I walked down to the cathedral, where he was picking me up, and we came home. This afternoon, however, I was exhausted. I went to bed for a nap and slept for two hours. Actually, I then had supper in bed and have only just got up in time to get undressed and go right back there. I know I'm going to sleep badly tonight though as a consequence.

I'm sure it's anaemia, exacerbated by the anticoagulants - I feel full of energy until I actually do anything much. This morning, I stood chatting for about half an hour - not in one place, I was moving around to see different people - but by the end, I was glad to sit down. Then I sat for an hour, then walked half a mile, tops. It really isn't much to lay me low so thoroughly. But when my HB level was down around 9, many years ago, I was given iron injections, though I felt much worse then and at least now I don't feel in the least low or depressed (I don't know what it is now, but it dropped from 12.8 to 9.2 following the operation). I've been guiltily admitting laziness, but maybe I'm just not quite up to more than I'm doing. Well, not much more, anyway ;-) At least I cooked the Sage's lunch - it was only scrambled eggs, but a gesture, anyway.

I want to make marmalade next week, while Al still has Seville oranges. We're on our last pot from two years ago - I made enough then to not have to bother last winter. I've always done it by squeezing the oranges, slicing the raw peel etc, but I'm wondering whether to have a go at cooking the oranges whole and then cutting them up afterwards. It seems as though it would be quicker and less effort, but a great deal messier because of fishing out all the pips from the sticky fruit. Anyone got a view on the subject? I've tried using the food processor to slice the peel but I haven't found it entirely satisfactory, and I don't want to chop it as I like shreds of peel and clear, not cloudy, marmalade.

Random shoe in Tombland (this is the road outside the cathedral, there are no visible tombs)

Monday 15 February 2010

Z gets to work on a Social Life

Today, I've mostly been arranging transport. I want to go to Norwich tomorrow, so friends are taking me and the Sage will fetch me home. On Thursday, I have a lunch engagement, and another friend who lives nearby and is going to the same lunch will do the driving. I've still got another month to go before seeing the consultant again - I'm not going to drive until then. A friend told me the other day that she started driving a month after having her new hip - all I can say to that is that it's a good job she didn't have an accident, however irrelevant her operation might be to its cause, because her insurance would not have been valid. I didn't say it to her, however.

I had my insurance renewal quote today. I spent ages looking online last year for it and I was rather hoping that I wouldn't have to bother this year. However, it's 20% higher and has a £50 greater excess and a £25 greater windscreen excess, which I think is too much, so I'm going to have to go through all that miserable form-filling again. I'm wondering if it's worth paying for a protected no-claim bonus again - if they overcharge for renewals and you have to shop around each year, it may hardly be worth it, as obviously a protected no-claim bonus won't work if you get a quote from anyone else. Anyone got any advice here, please?

I'm not in the least frustrated by not being able to drive. At present, I'm just getting used to the pleasure of walking freely. I went round the village today, down to the post box and home by a different way, and I enjoyed striding along briskly instead of being jarred at every step. I've asked the Sage to take me into the town on Wednesday - there are various things we're getting low on and it's easier to get them myself than make out a list for him - for example, I want washing powder, and I don't mind which brand I have to an extent, but there are a couple that my sister is allergic to and among the rest I'll see what the prices are - if you're used to doing it, it's straightforward, but if not then it must seem randomly picky - "you can buy X, Y or Z, unless they happen to have W, which is normally the most expensive, on offer, in which case I'll have that. Otherwise, buy the cheapest but not A or B. Oh, and I know I call it washing powder, but get the liquid as powder doesn't always dissolve and I have to de-clag the dispenser. Remember to check how much you get for your money as least money may mean a smaller pack." Easier to just go myself, isn't it?

Yesterday, I woke up early. Some nights, I can't get to sleep for ages - I think it's because I'm unused to being this relaxed and rested - but a couple of nights ago I was, as a consequence, really tired and was asleep soon after 10pm. Of course, I woke at 5.30 and didn't sleep again. So in the end I decided to make myself useful in the kitchen by preparing soup for lunch. The Sage doesn't keep as many vegetables in hand as I do, but I found an onion, a shallot, some garlic, three carrots and two potatoes, and this became the basis for the soup, with the addition of a couple of rashers of bacon. I thought I might add some tomatoes, but we didn't have any, tinned, juiced or even puréed. Nor fresh. The store cupboard looks quite bare. However, the soup was good and lasted two lunches. The Sage is cooking fish tonight.

After weeks of talking about my hip, to an extent that even bored me, and then (as nothing else was happening to write about) reminiscing, I've quite lost my usual blogging rhythm. I wonder if there was a halcyon time when my writing was good. But I rather doubt it.

By the way, as I'd used all the vegetables, we had chips and peas with our pork chops last night. The Sage was very good-natured when I told him there weren't any left.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Z was a Pretty Star

I was terribly impressed. It reinforced my certainty that I was on the right track.

Yes, it's genuine Victorian. And I knew quite enough, even then, to appreciate that he'd ruined its monetary value by writing in it (not shown), and that this indicated True Love.

I'm not expecting flowers, a card or the like today. He's been showing quite enough love, for better, for worse etc, to take him through the rest of our lives, whatever happens. It's a lot of work, marriage - however, in the long run ...

... it's worth the effort.

And, in other news, Winter Olympics! Yay (except for curling and speed skating)!!(!)

Saturday 13 February 2010

She sees Seychelles on the sea shore

The thing I remember most about the flight is flying over Egypt and being terribly excited to see the Nile. I prodded the Sage, who was asleep, and told him. He made a sleepily polite *pretending to be interested* sound and went back to sleep. He was awake when we arrive at Addis Ababa airport, however, and we all filed out on to the tarmac while the plane was refuelled. This is still the only time that I have stood on the African mainland. A small plane lay crumpled a little way away - apparently, it had overshot the runway some days previously, crash-landed and they'd not got around to moving it yet. I still appreciate that relaxed attitude.

We landed again, can't remember where - presumably it was in Mozambique or South Africa, and a number of South Africans embarked. The landing at Mahé was interesting - the airport, which had only been opened the previous year (replacing a much smaller one) was built parallel to the shore so that you felt that you were approaching a narrow landing strip by the sea. Which you were, come to think of it, though I'm sure it has been widened since. We were sprayed with insecticide before landing - apparently, there were no poisonous creatures in the Seychelles and no malarial mosquitoes, and they wanted to keep it that way.

The Sage's brother had visited the islands the previous year - he had a friend who had moved there and had gone to see him - and recommended it as the most wonderful honeymoon destination he could imagine. And indeed, it was gorgeous. From the moment you stepped off the plane into the warm tropical air, it was a delight.

Many jumbled memories here, and maybe I'll write them down one day. But for now, there it is - the story of when the Sage and Z were first married.

Tomorrow, something for Valentine's day, and then normal service (ie general wittering on) will be resumed.

Z is not tweeting - but is alarmingly close to it

The Sage is completely happy. He's sitting in an armchair, laptop in front of him, watching today's auction at Acle online, live.

I'm going to go and make him a cup of tea and make his day complete by adding to the tray a chocolate biscuit.

Friday 12 February 2010

Leglog - 3 weeks

As an aside from the story of my three-month wedding celebration (honeymoon coming along tomorrow - the actual honeymoon, that is, not the undirty weekend), a quick update on how things are going.

Put simply, fine. It's been steadily improving all week and, last night, I walked across the room without a stick and, the Sage confirmed, I didn't limp at all. My right leg still is a shade longer than my left, but either that is lessening or I'm getting used to it, because I hardly notice it. When doing exercises, which I do standing at the bar of the Aga, I can't freely move my right leg as my foot catches on the ground, so I stand on tiptoe on the left foot, which is fine.

I've not been getting out much and walking as far as I should, because the weather has been iffy and I don't want to slip on frosty ground, and when the weather has been fine, I've been busy. However, today I walked to see Kenny and Muriel - I suppose that's about 350 yards each way and it was quite all right. Further, next week. I'm supposed to walk quite a lot. I've got completely out of the way of it, the last few years, because then I wasn't supposed to have too much weight-bearing exercise.

Talking about weight, I'm still eating enough chocolate.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Pyjama party

I spent much of my time in the next few weeks in preparation for our wedding party - sending invitations, booking this and that, choosing stuff - but the pressure was off, as far as I was concerned. Funnily enough, I didn't mind the thought of being the centre of attention at the party, it was the actual wedding ceremony that had seemed so off-putting.

I can't remember many specifics about the next three months - I know we had a trip up to Derbyshire to the Sage's school Gaudy, where former classmates were surprised to find this fairly confirmed bachelor with a very young wife in tow. He was quite roundly teased and I fielded that for him - for someone as shy as I was, I had pretty good social skills, I suppose because in a fairly impersonal social setting one can put on a façade and not have to reveal much of oneself. We stayed, on the way home, in a converted watermill. The next morning at breakfast, I heard an American woman say to her husband, "this is the best cup of coffee since we arrived in England." Since the coffee was of indifferent quality - as was most coffee in this country at that time - I felt for her, and also warmed to her good nature in putting the best spin on things.

We didn't have a wedding present list, something that was just becoming popular then. Sensible though they are, I don't really care for them. Pa and Ma bought us a china dinner service - after many years' use as 'best', it's now used all the time. My mother bought us Victorian silver flatware (cutlery, darlings), at an auction that the Sage was conducting. He became quite squeaky as the price rose. Again, that service used to be hauled out for best, but we now use it every day.

We never bothered to put the photos from the party in an album, though our parents did, so they're around somewhere. They were taken by a friend from childhood of my father's, who was a professional photographer. My father had been best man at his wedding. I have got one photo to show you, however, which my sister-in-law gave us on our 25th anniversary, in a silver frame. It's come out a bit fuzzy, but then so am I after all these years.

In order, Pa, Ma, the Sage, Z, Mummy, Wink. Only the other day, someone saw the picture and said "is that your two sisters with you?" She'd have been pleased to hear that! She was, in fact, 49 at the time. And the hair colour is natural.

As for pyjamas, which was asked about a few days ago - on discovering that everyone was going to be in DJs or long dresses, my sister-in-law, who didn't have a long dress, went shopping. She is a frugal shopper and was reluctant to spend much on a frock she didn't think she was likely to wear again. So she bought a pretty nightdress with long sleeves and a high neck and came to the party in that.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Before we go to Bannockburn by way of Beachy Head. Or whatever. I should look up quotations before using them.

It had been damp and drizzly when we left, but the sun came out and it became a beautiful day. I remember we stopped and sat in a field, maybe we had a picnic. We arrived in Settle and asked directions from a middle-aged traffic warden with, unsurprisingly, a fine Yorkshire accent. He explained that we should turn at the Cenotaph - funny the details that you remember - I enjoyed the relish of the short 'a' in 'Cenotaph', while musing that, at home, we'd be much more likely to say 'war memorial'. Because I remember this, I also remember the quiet appreciation with which he inoffensively eyed my cleavage.

We stopped at a pub with bedrooms to let advertised and a quite surprisingly camp young man showed us to an unsalubrious room. We made our excuses and left. We found another, much nicer place and booked in for the night.

The next morning, we did a tour of the local antique shops. The Sage bought several silver vesta cases. he was very pleased and said I was bringing him luck.

Later that day, he said in a casual way "You don't mind if we go home by way of Bristol, do you? There's a picture I want to look at." I was a bit startled. Bristol is the other side of the country from Lowestoft and both are quite some way from Yorkshire. I couldn't help wondering why we'd gone there - the Cotswolds or perhaps Wales might have been a more convenient choice. However, I didn't mind and the next day we drove south-west.

There were posters up, advertising that weekend's Cider Festival. It was mid-afternoon when we neared our destination and we started to look for a place to stay. There was not a room to be found. Everywhere had been booked for weeks. But I was to find out for the first time the full force of the Luck of the Sage. We stopped, unhopefully, at a charming little hotel by the bank of a pretty little river and went in to enquire. As we approached the desk, the proprietor, who was just dialling a number on the telephone, put the receiver down to answer our query. "I was just dialling the local Tourist Board," he said, "to say that a party of three haven't turned up, so I've got a double and a single room left." He reckoned that they could be the only rooms unoccupied in the area. It was a small hotel, I can't remember how many rooms, but two unoccupied when he had turned people away because of a prior booking can make a lot of difference to a small business. It's no wonder that many hotels take a credit card when you book nowadays and charge for no-shows.

We had a drink in the bar before dinner and chatted to an elderly resident - a retired chap of military bearing who lived at the hotel all year round. In conversation to the hotelier later, we gained the impression that this was a mixed blessing.

The Sage had made an appointment to see the painting, which belonged to an elderly couple. They started off on the wrong foot, poor things, when they assumed I was his daughter, which probably stood him in good stead, for their embarrassment factor, when a price was being negotiated. However, he did a fair valuation - he's an auctioneer, not a dealer, and doesn't take advantage of lack of knowledge - but, when a price was agreed, they then produced an odd little oil painting of an old man sitting at a table counting his gold coins greedily. It put me in mind of Molière's l'Avare, which I'd read the year before during my condensed French A Level course. The Sage didn't want it, but they were insistent, and in the end he said that he could only offer them £5 which, to his embarrassment, they accepted. Later, he told me that he hadn't been able to offer more or he wouldn't have had enough money for petrol to get home! I expect the lovely little hotel had been quite expensive.

And that was my first honeymoon.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Sparks Fly

I'll just go back briefly to January - there was a big art exhibition in London called Fanfare Into Europe, to commemorate Britain's entry into the Common Market, as it was then called. The Sage and his friend Arthur, both very interested in pictures, decided to go and the Sage asked me if I'd like to come along - no ulterior motive, he was just being friendly. As I've said, he had been a good family friend for three years.

We got on really well and enjoyed the day, and next thing was, the Sage asked my mother if he could invite me out - he was being scrupulous here, not Victorian, as I was so much younger than him and he wouldn't want to behave inappropriately. I have to say, he was a wonderful change from the boys I had dated before. I say "boys' advisedly - although older than I, usually by about three years, he was the first man. And I was charmed to realise I was being courted. It wasn't long before we were besotted with each other - but there was a clear background of knowing and liking each other as 'just friends', so agreeing to marry him three weeks later wasn't quite as imprudent as it might seem. I wasn't bothered by the age gap - my father had been 13 years older than my mother and I was a bit impatient of convention - and yet, not in the way that was fashionable then. I'd not have been tempted to go off and "find myself" on the hippy trail, for example - I thought that was nothing but taking part in the then fashionable stereotype and that it was more interesting to know who you were, or at least not bore the pants off everyone with the discovery.

I was an odd girl. And a bit intolerant, but honestly, the earnestness of it all, as each of them expounded on philosophy and self-knowledge and the rejection of their parents' middle-class values, while accepting all the benefits of the middle-class lifestyle. I was already far too realistic for flower power.

Anyway, in mid-May, the wedding invitations had not yet gone out, and we rapidly decided to retain the reception, but to call it a Wedding Party (or something like that) instead, and changed the wording to invite people to a celebration of the marriage of... After all, the honeymoon was already booked and I'd made the cake.

My mother and I had already been to London in search of clothes and found nothing I liked. So we went off to Great Yarmouth and I shopped for all I wanted in a few hours. My wedding dress was short, yellow and white (big splodgy white flowers on a yellow background, I believe) with a big white collar and a deep V neck. I had an oatmeal-coloured coat. The dress cost £5 and the coat was quite cheap too.

And so we got married in Lowestoft Registry office, which is not the prettiest of places. The weather was overcast. My mother-in-law gave me a gold brooch in the shape of a dragonfly to wear on the coat. The Sage gave me a gold watch (which I still have, obviously) for a wedding present, and I gave him a portrait of myself - yes, honestly! - which I had painted by an artist and restorer who lived in Chedgrave,near Loddon. I wore my favourite evening dress, which was black velvet with a white collar - when added to my pensive expression, it looks like a portrait of a child in mourning! If you've been in my dining room (Blue Witch has, but I'm not sure that Dave has entered the room yet) it's hanging on the wall there.

We were married on a Thursday - as the Sage was a partner in his firm, he didn't need to ask for time off and it was not inconvenient for him to take a long weekend. Our honeymoon was booked for August, so we decided to have a few days in Yorkshire. Pa and Ma took my mother out for lunch, and we set off.

Roses wants the story in one go, but it can't be done. I have delighted you for long enough already. Anyway, I've got to remember what happened next.

Monday 8 February 2010

The Sprout becomes a Sage

The next day, Mummy (indeed, childish perhaps but it's what I called her) and I were invited over to Pa and Ma's house - right here, where we live now, in fact. We had visited before, we were asked over every so often for tea or a meal, but things were rather different now. I began to realise quite quickly that I was marrying into a whole family. The Sprout had a brother and a sister; she was married with two children, and there were numerous cousins who lived locally. In our family, there was my mother, my sister and me.

We soon started to consider all the necessary details for a wedding - booking the church, wording the invitation, thinking about the guest list and where the reception was to be held. We wanted it to be at the Yacht Club, which had been the main venue of our social life for so many years (apart from friends' houses and our own, of course). They hadn't done a wedding reception before, but the managers, a married couple whose names I can't remember right now, were very excited and pleased about the booking.

I was only 19 (sorry, that's a song, isn't it? Um, hang on ... that's right, it's the Old 97's - the apostrophe is in the name, it's not my idea). "Nineteen is not the age of reason." True, but I didn't have any doubts about getting married, although I was quite alarmed by the planning. I left as much as possible to my mother and Ma. I elected to make my own wedding cake and my sister arranged to get it iced at a bakery in Loddon, near where she worked. As far as I was concerned, however, I just wanted to marry the Sprout and I didn't see that it was anyone else's business. I was extremely shy and hated the thought of being watched as I walked down the aisle. However, we went along with it all, and the Sprout and I spent as much time as possible with each other. He lived in a large, three-storeyed terraced house in South Lowestoft, not far from the seafront. It had been in a poor state of repair when he bought it and he'd knocked through the two main rooms on the ground floor and put an arch between them, and filled the walls with his painting collection - mostly 19th century landscapes and and Dutch seascapes. It was always very tidy, which made me think I'd have to buck up my casual ideas when I moved in.

After three months, the planning started to get to the Sage too. He came to me and said I'd been right to want a quiet wedding and did I still want that? I certainly did - and as for my mother, she'd said from the start that, if we wanted to elope, she'd hold the ladder. But what about his parents? They were rather more conventional, and they were the ones looking forward to all this. The Sage brightly suggested that we get married the next Friday, on the 25th May. They were going on holiday to Scotland that day, and we could follow them up and give them a splendid surprise.

I wasn't convinced. A really bad shock, it seemed to me, and I didn't want to start a relationship with my in-laws in that way. So, I said that he'd have to tell them, and we'd make the wedding on the 24th instead. That meant we could invite them (as I said yesterday, they'd not attended or known about their other son's wedding, couldn't do that to them twice). However, I drew the line at inviting anyone else but Mummy. I knew that the Sprout's sister would insist on doing the whole confetti and tin can routine which I so hadn't wanted in the first place. I told Wink about it, but explained why she couldn't be there. She took it very well, considering.

The Sage went off to get a special licence and to tell his parents. My mother and I went to buy a wedding dress.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Z received a Proposal

In the spirit of frivolity, I thought I'd tell you of when the Sage and I got married. I can't remember how much I've said before about this, but since no one generally reads archives anyway (except Mago - but surely not of blogs?), not even I in my own blog, I'll tell you anyway.

It's about now*, 37 years ago, that we got engaged. We'd been to a picture exhibition in a gallery at Long Melford and presumably had dinner either when coming or going. We'd been seeing each other regularly for quite three weeks so had, both of us being astute judges of character and more impulsive than we looked, become decidedly smitten. We stopped for some conversation on the way home, in the course of which the Sage proposed.

Well, he said "Will you?" and stopped. And I said "Yes." And he said "Will you?" and I said "yes". Third time lucky and he managed to pop the question. And I said "yes."

The next day was a Saturday and I went to work at the library, having arranged to meet each other in his office at lunch time. I didn't say anything at work, being the subtle and secretive type. When I got there, he asked me if I'd like to choose an engagement ring or if I'd like a family ring. I'd always rather have antique than new, so I chose the latter, whereupon he produced a box from his pocket, that contained a Victorian sapphire and diamond ring which he put on my finger. It fitted perfectly.

Afterwards, I went back to work and still didn't say anything, although after a while it was noticed...

Over lunchtime (I can't remember if we went to the Yacht Club just opposite for lunch or if we just stayed and talked), we talked about getting married. He owned his own house, which simplified matters, and neither of us was in favour of a long engagement. I preferred a quiet, simple wedding as soon as possible - I saw no point in waiting. Rather like making the decision to have my new hip, when I phoned the doctor the next day, I see no point in waiting once the decision is made, unless it's for a practical purpose. However, he was a bit worried about that. His brother had rather shocked their parents the previous year by suddenly getting married while travelling in Australia to a woman whom none of the family had met and about whom they'd heard little if anything, and he thought his mother should have an occasion to enjoy. We agreed that August would be a good month and it would be the full monty in church and all.

It was one brief anecdote I was going to tell you, of which I was reminded by the setting of tonight's Antiques Roadshow in Bath. But now I'm putting it in context, I'll inflict the whole story on you. Heh. It may take days.

* I've just looked up the dates for 1973. It was the 9th February when we became engaged. We've never marked it - we're not too bothered about anniversaries.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Z doesn't care

It may give you an indication of how relaxed I am, that I have stopped wearing a wrist watch and I mislaid my diary for a fortnight and it didn't bother me. I'm wearing no make-up and I often receive people in my pyjamas (I'm wearing the pyjamas, in case there is ambiguity there). It's remarkable.

In some small defensive last stand, I might mention that they don't much look like pyjamas, and the tops are actually long sleeved tee shirts. The trousers are plain and not overly baggy. I was quite startled, upon investigating M&S nightwear section, to discover the cost of the things - bottoms were around £20 for a plain cotton knit number, and the tops were £15. I went downstairs to the casual womenswear section and found that tee shirts were only £7, which leads me to suspect a rip-off somewhere. I'm not quite so far gone as to stay in the same garments night and day, by the way - I do change for bed.

The slight downside of having no diary meant that I was very pleased when two friends dropped in yesterday afternoon, and rather surprised when I found that they had come for a meeting that had, apparently, been arranged three weeks ago. A fourth arrived a few minutes later (I being number 3 of course) so we had our meeting with me reclining for my afternoon rest on the bed. Quite without shame. I'll never live it down. Furthermore, the Sage and I have agreed that the bed will stay in the drawing room for another week. Heh. I love it, actually. It's splendidly comfy and it's lovely to go to sleep with a fire still flickering in the grate.

Weeza and family are coming over tomorrow. She is going to help us with the preparation of the catalogue for the next auction and Phil will look after Zerlina. He is planning to cycle over and meet them here. His idea of fun is not mine, I confess - he cycles some 15 miles a day as part of his commute (the middle section is by train) and he can think of little more enjoyable to do on a Sunday than cycle another 22. Well, presumably he'll then bike home again, so 44 miles.

This evening, I finished the bottle of wine that I started on Tuesday. I'm glad to report that I feel no healthier for this relative abstinence. Glad, because it means that I don't need to feel I have to remain at this frugal level in future.

Friday 5 February 2010


Excuse me if I do a 2-week update - I'll forget, you see, however much I now think I'll remember, and be annoyingly vague when people who are about to have the same operation ask. As they will. I did. This is long, I'm afraid, but it's not gruesome - however, I will write something totally frivolous tomorrow to make up for it.

It's now two weeks since the operation. The wound has almost completely healed to a thin pink mark. It feels somewhat numb around that area and, comparing it to the other thigh, it's still a bit swollen. When I got home, I took paracetamol for five days, a total of 16 doses.

I'm sleeping pretty well on my back, and I think the key to this is plenty of pillows so that my back can slope and is well supported. I also have a pillow in the bed which, to start with, I put between my knees so that I wouldn't accidentally turn on my side and now (because I don't, and as I'm not lying completely flat I can't do in my sleep) I sometimes have it under my knees, sometimes under the length of the leg if it's uncomfortable, and sometimes under my feet if the heels feel sore.

I'm walking easily with one stick and don't limp. I can walk without a stick but I limp slightly as my right leg is a bit longer than my left - I still think this will correct itself and am not bothered about it. I also find that walking for long without a stick puts too much weight on my operated leg, so it's more comfortable with, but if I want to carry something in each hand it's quite possible. I must not bend that leg at an acute angle - less than 90º - but I can bend over, standing on the left leg and putting the right one behind me in the air. I can pick things up from the ground that way. What I can't do is dress my lower body without tools - I use a grabber and a sock-aid. I can't take off my own socks - or not off myself, at any rate. I have a long-handled shoe horn, but haven't used it yet as I've only worn a pair of slip-on shoes and slippers.

It's starting to be possible to sit on a lower chair, though if I do, I need to remember to stretch my legs out and lean back a bit. I'm supposed not to cross my legs at all - it's really hard not to cross my ankles so I try to keep my left leg a bit ahead of the right when sitting, so that if anything crosses it's left over right. After six weeks, the hip is much less likely to give trouble and I can have a bath, ride a bike and various other things. I've an appointment for a check-up in mid-March and can't drive until then. Hm. After twelve weeks, it should be pretty well completely recovered, although if there's anything that's still not comfortable then, I shouldn't assume that's as good as it'll get - it will continue to become stronger as I use it more.

Before the operation, I had a lot of pain in my knee. My hip was usually more or less sore and sometimes I had other aches or pains in my leg. Occasionally, my other leg hurt. This was not acute pain and I didn't take more notice of it than it deserved - I blanked out a lot of it and can't really evaluate it. I'd had pain in my leg for eight years, so was used to it. I rarely used a stick in the house but used one increasingly out of doors as last year went by. My limp was getting a lot worse in the last three months and I walked a lot slower, though I could keep going a long way if I needed to. I avoided it when possible though. For the last 6-8 weeks I was woken several times each night by a painfully aching hip. Sometimes this kept me awake for a few hours, but other nights I was able to turn over and get back to sleep. I slept with a cushion under my 'upper' knee to support it, whichever side I lay on - usually, lying on my back was too uncomfortable.

The first night after the operation, I had that familiar bad ache, but I felt I'd had sufficient medication and didn't want to ask for more, so I bore it. It's never been anywhere near as bad since. Since I arrived home, I've slept very well and now realise how much my sleep had been disturbed for a long time. I put my feet up for an hour or two every afternoon and about twice a week I find I need a good long rest. After that rest, I have found a big improvement, which has been sustained. In fact, every few days I've seen a jump in what I can do or how it feels. For example, to start with, I sometimes wanted a bit of help getting my bad leg into bed at the end of the day as it was a lot of effort to lift both legs together, but this has improved in stages and now I hardly notice it.

As far as pain is concerned, of course the arthritis is gone, and so I no longer have any problems in my knee or any part of my leg. I can always feel my hip, but that is certainly the healing scar tissue and not the bone - I do feel that sometimes when I'm walking but, after all, the top of my femur was removed and that is still healing and adjusting to an artificial addition - it is a lot less uncomfortable than one might think. Most of the time, I don't feel it at all.

Peering at my eye, I know I'm still quite anaemic, but I don't feel at all unwell. I'm taking an anti-coagulant for a month - I hardly feel it is necessary but it seems to have no side-effects except for a slight tendency to mild nose-bleeds, so I'm not unwilling to take it. Notwithstanding the chocolate - good quality, mostly plain - I am eating a very good diet with lots of vegetables and more protein than usual and, as I said, I'm getting enough rest. I know that, if I get exhausted, it takes me ages to get over it, and I want to remain well.

The main reason I wanted to put off the operation was because I know it will need to be revised in future, and the count-down has now started. I've been told 10-15 years - I know that some hips last a lot longer, but in view of my comparative youth and therefore activity, I'm more likely to wear it out. However, it could well be that the first revision, at least, will only need to be to the plastic socket and not to the ceramic ball and pin. This is extremely hard and durable, more so than metal, as long as I don't have a bad accident as it can shatter - it doesn't have the flexibility that a metal ball can have. On the other hand, wear can cause metal ions to enter the blood stream. Pros and cons in everything. There is metal in the socket which supports the plastic. One can have ceramic against ceramic - again, this is extremely hard and durable and probably more suitable for someone very active, but it can make a sound as you walk, and any wear means that you can only have china replaced with china, as any other material would wear out too quickly.

I found it hard to decide to have the operation. It was my decision when to go for it and in September I was still pretty confident I could go another year to fifteen months. But by November it was becoming appreciably worse. It was when I arrived home from my holiday in Portugal, looked at the itinerary for my booked visit to Glasgow in May and realised I couldn't do it then, let alone in six months time, although I'd been okay to do it when I booked a couple of months earlier, that I decided to go ahead. It was a good thing I did, as it got worse subsequently - mainly, in how much I was woken in the night, how slowly I had to walk and how often the joint gave way briefly. I never had the awful grinding pain that some people describe, which is probably the reason I didn't accept that it needed doing. I had to reason it out, I didn't feel it as unbearable.

Once I'd been told the likely date, only a fortnight after my visit to the consultant, I decided to choose a positive attitude to the operation itself. This worked really well - but when I'm indecisive, it's in early stages. Once I have made a decision, I go with it whole-heartedly. It was spectacularly successful in fact - being so positive about the operation that I wanted to be awake, for example. I still have a sneaking regret that there wasn't a mirror so that I could see it being done - but of course, that would have been risky in case I'd been horrified and I am sure it wouldn't have been allowed. I don't in the least want to see anyone else's operation, by the way, I'm only curious about myself. I also really would have liked to see what was being put in me, and the bone that was taken out. I wish I'd asked.

I almost forgot to mention the unexpected pleasure of being able to dress standing up. I haven't been able to do that since last summer, when my balance became too uncertain to do safely, and then it became impossible anyway. Once I'm quite over this, I'll be so much quicker at everything. It's lovely.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Z is green and black and fat all over

T’internet reception, always pretty poor in Norfolk, has been abysmal here for the past couple of weeks. It takes several goes just to read emails, because loading is usually timed out repeatedly. Blogspot, for instance, hasn’t loaded yet as I write, after several minutes waiting – I’m writing this offline and will paste it in.

Today, I’ve mostly eaten chocolate. Oh dear. I did walk all the way down the drive and back, and did some housework that didn’t involve things I’m not supposed to do, but I hardly think it will have made up for it. And I made more soup, using oddments of vegetables that I suspected the Sage wouldn’t get around to serving, and the rest of the tomato juice that I feel no obligation to drink now that I’m on good red wine again. Still the one glass per night, but I look forward to getting slightly wasted in a few weeks’ time. When I celebrate being able to take off my own socks of a night, perhaps. I wonder what the Sage will celebrate most when I’m back to my normal behaviour.

I said *my* normal behaviour, before anyone says anything sarcastic.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Z plans

Ro phoned this evening. He'd checked in here, just to see how things were going, and was quite impressed by the picture of the leg. So much so that he had no need to read anything I had written, which is fair enough. We chatted about music, films and the most recent website he's been working on, also possible future holidays - not together though. It's five years since I last went to India, and I'm thinking that next year would be a good time for a visit. When Wink rang last, she mentioned that she'd been to London to meet the daughter of her friend of nearly fifty years, who lives in Chennai, and she said "when are you going to visit us next?" I said to Wink, funnily enough Weeza and I had just been talking about that. Wink was thrilled. I think we have a Plan. The seed of it is germinating, at any rate.

When Ro rang, he woke me up, for which I was grateful. Falling asleep at 6 pm is not a good idea. I knew it was going to happen - I'd gone for a walk earlier, round the garden, in the hope of waking myself up but it didn't work. I went to look at the depressingly untidy kitchen garden, which I can't do anything about at present. The Sage didn't put the chickens in there after all, because we didn't get the wire sorted out - not so much to keep them in, as there are no foxes about at present, as to save them pecking things such as globe artichoke plants.

It's noticeable, actually, what a shortage of foxes there is. I suppose that now there isn't hunting as an incentive to allow them to live, and they are being shot or poisoned. Certainly, the rabbit population has shot up, although they must have suffered too in the snowy weather. While it was cold, the Sage put plenty of corn (wheat, that is, not maize) in the chicken's feeder so that wild birds could help themselves too, and I daresay rabbits were glad of it.

I was checking through the seed order the other day and I'm looking forward to getting on with sowing. Not for a while yet - I used to start everything off as early as possible, but I'm more relaxed about it now. Still, when I'm able to stand and work for longer I'll have a go. Mind you, the greenhouse needs a good clear-up first.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Z is treated as a Child and thinks of sunburnt mirth

And a very small child, at that. Even Squiffany, who is not yet five, is allowed to go across the drive between her house and ours unescorted. As the Sage was to be out this evening, he arranged with Dilly and Al that I should eat with them, and he relayed the message that I was not to go alone, but that Al would come and fetch me. In the event, a cautious Sage took me himself, as he had to go out before Al arrived. It transpired that he had, himself, asked Al to fetch me. "As if I'd let you walk here on your own," chortled Al.

It's not frosty any more, I should mention. Wet, but not frosty. And I can't remember the last time I fell over. Even when I walked funny.

Al escorted me home again afterwards, too.

Then I went and, using my favourite corkscrew (it is splendid, I must show it to you some time) opened the bottle of Provençal wine I'd left in the kitchen, put on the kettle, made a pot of coffee, poured a glass of wine, put all on a tray and carried it through, fetched a miniature bar of Green & Black's dark chocolate with cherry and sat down to watch an episode of Deadwood, which I can't watch in front of the Sage as he'd hate it, and with purple-stained mouth, enjoyed the rest of my solitary evening.

I've had enough of being alone now though. I hope he isn't much longer.

Monday 1 February 2010

Z has no shame

After a really lazy weekend, I was full of energy today. And Weeza and Zerlina came to visit, so I was glad of it. Zerlina added to her repertoire of joined-together words - she'd picked up a napkin (yes, darlings, it was indeed a double damask dinner napkin) and played peep-bo with it. Then, putting it down, she remarked "went 'boo!'"

This afternoon, I went in the car to the surgery to have my dressing removed. I decided I could just use one stick, so as not to be conspicuous and, the screen saying '0 minutes' delay, I actually was called in a couple of minutes early. The two nurses and I were pretty impressed with how my hip has healed and I now don't have a dressing on at all. Hooray! I can have a shower.

Indeed, darlings, I throw modesty to the winds. Weeza said "are you going to put a picture on your blog?" I admitted that I probably would, and she offered to take the picture. I have cropped it for modesty, but that means it is a bit startlingly close-up, so I've done it small and recommend that you don't enlarge unless you feel very prepared. And I'll put it at the bottom (heh) of the post by some way, so that if you don't want to see it at all, you don't have to. She also measured it and it's 6" long. 15 cm, if you prefer.

Afterwards, it felt a bit unprotected and, in case it hurt later, I trotted over the road to the chemist for some paracetamol, and then went into Al's shop to say hello and buy some fruit. The Sage thought I would get vegetables too, but I reminded him that he was in charge of cooking and it was entirely up to him. Besides, potatoes and greens were all out of my reach, being low down.

What was really good was to just go about in a reasonably normal way. I've been sometimes using a stick for a while, so this wasn't too odd. We went over to the bakers afterwards for macaroons, to celebrate. We bought a gingerbread animal decorated with Smarties for Zerlina, too. And later on, Dilly brought Squiffany and Pugsley in for the cousins to play together, so the day could hardly have been better really.

Later, I quite wanted a little lie-down. But I didn't, because I knew I would fall asleep and then I wouldn't sleep tonight. That reminds me, after all the kneeling shenanigans last night, although I recorded Mad Men, I watched it at the time anyway, so needn't have bothered. Still, no harm done, hey. And I haven't felt inclined to take any paracetamol, so that's good.

I am not, I confess, going to last much longer without a drink. I'm not sure life is worth living. The anti-coagulant I'm taking for a month might, among numerous side-effects, impair liver function. Well, it only says 'might'. And I eat a pretty low-fat diet, so that should help the liver. One little glass a day should be okay, don't you think?

Right. Photo to follow. Stop here if you don't care for bruised thigh.