Thursday 30 September 2010

Bringing on the wall ... stonewalled

Dave sent an alert comment this morning, pointing out that the weather was fine and suggesting a half-day of bricklaying.  We had some friends visiting this morning, so it was settled that he'd come at 1 o'clock.

The friends, whom we visited a few months ago in North Kent for lunch, came over and benefitted from the flapjacks (English flapjacks) that I'd made, with coffee.  We had a very jolly morning, until I had a phone call from the caff at half past twelve, saying that Meals on Wheels had yet to be delivered.  I hastened into town, puzzled that the reminder hadn't come up on my phone - by the time I arrived, I'd realised that the problem was a fifth Thursday.  I give everyone on the rota the same day of the same week per month, but there are three extra Tuesdays and Thursdays a year, and the latter are down to me - and I hadn't marked it down.

You know, if you apologise and say it's all your own fault, people are so kind and ready to wave it aside.  Far better than making excuses, which are quite irritating.

Anyway, I arrived back just before Dave arrived and made tea for him while the Sage got ready to mix the mortar.  We went to get more sand and cement - and found the wheelbarrow tyre was flat.  I went and fetched the pump - it was fiddly to attach, so the Sage had to be called.  It's been several rainy weeks since the last lot of cement was delivered and there is damp at one end of the bags, but there was some usable stuff.  Dave and I were chatting when the Sage called, asking me to reset the switch on the circuit breaker.  The cement mixer still didn't work.  I checked the freezer, plugged into the same extension, and that had just gone off - evidently the fuse had blown.

I'll not take you through the full sequence of events, but it turned out, after much effort, that the lead from the cement mixer is in very poor condition.  It's old and has always been kept outside.  After an hour of faffing about, it was agreed that there was no point in carrying on today.  We were all entirely good-natured about it - sometimes there's just nothing to fight against.  Fortunately, I'd made a cake as well as the flapjacks, so we went and had tea, having filled Dave's car with bricks.  Just for the fun of it, you know.

The Sage intends to get a new lead tomorrow and we'll try again on Saturday.

Later this afternoon, I took Squiffany and Pugsley to the park.  On the way home, we mostly picked and ate blackberries.  I counselled against picking the low ones.  "Why?" asked Squiffany, interestedly.  I explained that dogs might have piddled on them, which was a satisfactory reply.

I have invited them in for tea tomorrow, and Squiffany hopes to stay the night.  Pugsley is a little more doubtful about that, but we'll see when the time comes.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Pugsley Goes Fourth

Pugsley was really excited and happy about his birthday.  He was at nursery school until after lunch, so we went through in the afternoon with his presents.  He came rushing towards me, arms outstretched ... for the parcels - but he did thank me enthusiastically, and he found something very pleased to say about all of them.  While his parents were getting the party food ready, he and I made a Lego helicopter.  He's extremely good at Lego - needs a little help with the instructions, but the box did say age 5-8; I bought it anyway as I know he's able to manage it.  We walked to school to fetch Squiffany and then hurried home for the party.

About 18 children, aged from 2 - 5, plus several mums, about 25 of us all told.  Lucky they have a big sitting room.  All were very good and joined in and had fun.  I have spent the evening at their house too, as Al had a governors' meeting and Dilly was tutoring.

I wanted to copy an article from the newspaper yesterday but found that two colours of ink had run out, and I hadn't any of one left.  So I got online to order more ink cartridges.  I was very gratified when the order turned up today in the post.  I'd had the paper copied in school, by the way - it was for one of the staff and one of the governors, so it was quite legit (though I did offer to pay).

My bank debit card is due to run out at the end of the month, and it occurred to me last week that I should have had a new one in plenty of time, so I went into the bank on Monday.  The teller cancelled the replacement that had been posted last month (it hasn't been used, my account is okay) and said I should allow seven working days for the new one to arrive.  It actually arrived this morning.  Can't get better than that.

After having put off using the PDF rewriter programme as I didn't feel quite up to the stress of possibly not being able to do it, I found it quite easy after all.  I had to borrow the Sage's laptop because the programme isn't for Macs - if I did that more often, I'd have to find a reasonably high table for it.  Bending to see the screen (it's a large one, but smaller than mine by some way) gave me backache.  Still, good for me to get practice with using it as I have to think my way through the process every time.  Like Weeza, who grumbles every time she has occasion to use my computer as, to her, it's awkward.

Anyway, what with one thing and another, I'm starting to relax.  I actually could be quite up together with things by the end of the week.  Pity about the weather - we're almost giving up hope of getting any more wall built before it gets too cold for us fun-lovers to want to bother, but never mind.  It seems that our end-of-wall celebration will have to wait until next year in any case.  The good thing is that we should be able to hold it in the summer rather than the autumn.  You're all still invited, whenever it happens.  And always welcome to drop in in the meantime, of course.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Z's sins are scarlet but her blogs are 'read'

Not actually read, I'm afraid.  I've given in, marked 'all read' and will try to keep up from now on.  I'm sorry, I just couldn't catch up.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I was going to delete any blogs where I didn't feel a personal involvement, including those whose writers never commented on mine or acknowledged me - of course, I revisited any blog before I deleted it, and hardly any have gone.  I only read blogs whose writers I like or whose writing I like, so I can't be selective and decide whether you're 'worthy' of being written by the criterion of you getting around to commenting here.  That would be a bit arrogant of me.

Right, that's that out of the way.  But transferring to G-Reader from Bloglines meant some duplications and I've not been able to sort it out, so I'm starting again.

I spent most of the day at the school, in music lessons.  I am fond of 13-year-olds.  And, at this stage of the school year, they're all polite and respectful and they thank you for any help!  I'm not cut out to be a teacher, but I like helping voluntarily.   I'm jolly lucky, in fact because the voluntary work that I'm mysteriously compelled to do is, mostly, a pleasure.  There are a couple of things I'd like to ditch and another I rather wish I hadn't taken on, but no matter.

And now I realise that a couple of emails haven't yet been sent.  I must go, darlings, because I must write them this evening.

Monday 27 September 2010

Z's house - 1 - first in an occasional series

Today, I'm mostly focussing upon friends who have troubles of one sort and another - Christopher, Dandelion (who has too much on her mind to be reading this) and *the other one with problems*, you are in my most loving thoughts.  That there are three being thought of doesn't lessen the strength of goodwill to each of you.

I also thought I'd show you one of the tidy corners of the kitchen.  And, that I consider this tidy - albeit cluttered - maybe shows how there's no hope at all of ever clearing up.
This is where I keep tea and coffee, right by the kettle. You might be able to see that there's a jamjar containing infusers, so that I can make one mug of tea at a time, using the tea of choice from one of the canisters. Some of them contain teabags, most leaves. The pink tin contains coffee beans, and the small plastic lidded box on the grinder is where I put the ground coffee - you can't really grind enough for one cup, unless you have a machine to do it in.  The small cafetière was unwashed from last night.  The little tray is for receiving the teabag or contents of infuser.  At present, I have ten different teas on the go, eight to choose from and two more for those who prefer a more traditional cup.  That's not counting tisanes, of course.
The table-top cooker is for when the Aga is turned off - not that it was, this last summer.  So I put things on it.  I hang up pots and pans so that they're right there when I want them - life's too short to fish things out of a cupboard.

And that explains why I don't think it's untidy.  They're all there for a reason and they are all in frequent use.  Purposeful clutter isn't necessarily untidy.

And this is a cupboard in the bathroom, built by the Sage to hide a truly hideous fireplace and wallpapered by me.  I wallpaper with care and do it well.  The bathroom walls, floor and ceiling all slant marvellously and it took ages to get everything right.  It is all exactly perpendicular and all the patterns match and there are no bubbles. It needs redoing actually, it's getting grubby.  I still like it though, probably because it isn't in the least bathroomy.

The little wooden knobs were made by the Sage, there are four of them.  When he'd made the cupboards, he nipped down to the churchyard with a saw, pruned a yew and turned the knobs on his lathe.  The whole thing was done in half an hour.

The doors do fit - one was slightly open.  I thought that closing it before taking the picture would be cheating a bit, so I left it.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Domeztic Zqualor

So, how do you furnish your rooms?  I do it with books, the Sage with pictures.  I would like to be less cluttered than we are, but I lost the battle a long time ago.  If there's a space, the Sage fills it.  I'm not saying I like to be tidy, I'm a bit uncomfortable if it's too tidy.  The Sage doesn't notice anyway.

I think, in most marriages, one party does the tidying up?  Or grumbles if it's not to their liking, anyway.  Unfortunately, that's neither of us - well, I do the tidying up in the end, but only because the Sage never would.  This is quite all right, it's his house and his choice.  I wouldn't care for him to fuss around telling me to put things away and I don't do it to him; I'm not his mother-figure.  I do occasionally tell him that the level of squalor distresses me, and he wrings his hands and promises reform, but I know he doesn't mean it for a minute.  When he leaves something lying around, it's usually not for a month that I politely mention it and he immediately puts it away, assuring me that he was going to do it that very day, in any case.

Anyway, rooms - I don't see the point of chairs that are stylish at the expense of comfort. My mother would choose style over comfort, but I wouldn't.  But I'm not that practical.  I like a bedroom that looks like a sitting room that happens to have a bed in it, so there are Victorian chaise longues and settees in there and no dressing table.  And the bathroom, cloakroom and kitchen are all wallpapered.  Nothing clinical at all, no gleaming tiles.  Bare floorboards in the bathroom, that haven't been sealed and are, once in a while, scrubbed.

Mostly, comfort and togetherness.  When my children were young, their computer was in the drawing room.  A cluttered corner and sound effects from games was preferable to them being franked up in the hold of a far-away bedroom.  I played the games too, until they got too graphic and too difficult for me.  Just as I read children's books; we were part of the same family, until they reached the age of teenage (mostly) distance.

Now, my own computer is in here, in the drawing room, and a messy corner that is too.  I don't care, it's where I work.  And where I am now.  I could be in the study - and before wifi, I would have been, but that's hardly family-friendly (though actually, the Sage would probably be in there with me).

The only essential in every room is books.  I can't do without, even when I'm not reading them.  Like Rog, the internet has taken over to an alarming extent, though I still become engrossed if it's a good enough book.  I'm afraid that few newly-published 'literary' books are worth bothering with.  I've read too much well-reviewed, even prizewinning, dross and I'm not up for that much disappointment any more.  The most recent book I have bought for myself is about old vegetable and fruit varieties, which is really interesting.  'Forgotten Fruits', it's called.

The other thing I really like is the washing machine in a room of its own, with a drain in the floor.  Once you've had one flood in the kitchen, you don't want another.

I like clocks, but I don't like the ticking, so they're never wound up.  And I like a big table so that lots of us can all eat comfortably together.  And I like nice silver, but I'm not bothered about the glasses.  They always go cloudy from the dishwasher in the end, or else I break them, so I buy cheap glasses.  And I don't bother about matching mugs.  They are quite random, but at least I'll give myself the chipped one.  The matching cups and saucers are late Victorian, quite without value but delicate.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Zaturday night

I was quite flattered to be asked if I'd mind sending a copy of my notes, as they would be so useful. I gave the governor who had asked the copy I'd brought. I'd written the whole speech in full, four A4 sheets, although I didn't read them out. I followed the structure though. It seemed to go down well and the LA people beamed, because I (genuinely) gave the positive message about schools working in partnership that they were wanting to promote.

I suppose the time has come when I must finally work out a way of recognising which is David and which is Ed.

The nights are a lot cooler now and I'm sleeping correspondingly better. I thought I would. Still reading through the early hours, but less. 'Diary of a Nobody' at present - one can download out-of-copyright books free so, since I don't want to be too excited at that time in the morning (not by a book, at any rate) I choose books I've already read.

Friday 24 September 2010

That which we call a fish

Talking about names yesterday made me think of a woman I heard on her mobile on the train yesterday.  "I'm, Lizzie Herring," she said.  "Like the fish," she added cheerily, because I suppose she might as well.  It reminded me of how many people I know, or have known, whose surnames are the names of fish.  I have a friend called Fish and knew a family called Salmon, I know a chap called Haddock, used to know Mr & Mrs Trout - and now there's Lizzie.  I rather like it.  Of course, the East coast used to be a wealthy fishing area.  One of the surnames in Lowestoft - originally from a village just outside - is Catchpole.  So I suppose it's not unlikely that those fishermen should have become known by the names of their catches.  Unless it was the other way round and the fish were named after the people.  Hm.

When I got back to Liverpool Street yesterday, it struck me how completely wedded we are to our phones. The difference is that, around here, it's mostly youngsters texting.  In the city, everyone is speaking on their mobiles.  I went for lunch and sat by the window (a slight mistake when you're having hot and sour prawn noodle soup as it is impossible to eat tidily.  I was sorry that I must have rather revolted the assistants in the salad bar opposite) and at no time could I not see at least one person on the phone; this in a quiet side street.  I suppose it means one doesn't waste time as one walks somewhere.  Not that I'm criticising, I made my own share of calls and it was extremely useful to be away from the home phone yet still be able to email.  Few people know my mobile phone number - I always use that phone but friends and colleagues normally ring me at home.

I finished the document this evening - that is, re-read and re-tweaked.  Sadly, it can't be delivered in under 15 minutes.  I could abbreviate it by leaving out chunks of the narrative, but everything is informative and gives a coherent explanation of the history and current situation of our school partnership.  When I arrive tomorrow, I'll have a word with the organiser and check.  I have been asked for 15 minutes-worth but they might not expect me to talk quite so solidly for that time.  It was interesting to write it and find that, actually, I've been following the events of the past 2 1/2 years quite closely, when I rather thought that a lot of it had gone over my head.  I finished with a reasoned endorsement of partnership between schools - I hope that, when ours comes to its natural conclusion in 2 years time, it will be re-formed on new lines, between the high school and its seven feeder primaries.

I take all this worryingly seriously.  Maybe it gives meaning to my life, Dave?

Thursday 23 September 2010


I forgot you, darlings. I'm so sorry. I've spent the last couple of hours on that presentation I'm doing on Saturday and then I came to bed. Let's be glad of the iPhone, hey, for without it there would be no post at all.

A successful London visit, in that the boilers are serviced and checked and the certification delivered to the agent. By the time that was done, I wasn't in the mood for art so I had a leisurely, albeit light, lunch instead. I went back to Liverpool street and, as I went past the Swiss bank, three men came out with a purposeful lunchward air. So I followed them. I reckoned they'd know a good place and so it proved. So I had prawn and noodle hot and sour soup and green tea, which was light and tasty and just what I needed, though I'd thought to have salad. Afterwards, it was the shortest of strolls back to the station.

I received an email from a chap whose wife's name is Halcyon. I'm awfully impressed. Isn't that an excellent name? Wouldn't it be splendid if her maiden name had been Day? Surely, it must have been, though I shall never know. I can hardly ask.

Anyway, off to sleep now. Must get in that first vital hour before tossing and turning the rest of the night.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Z is reZolute

I wrote a whole long post, which was a bit of a rant, and then deleted it.  Some matters are best not shared on the open web, even if the intention is to delete after a couple of days.

I received a most apologetic phone call this morning from the lady I complained about yesterday, and all is well there.  I draw a line and now we're friends.  

I'm feeling a bit less friendly towards Bod, but I've worked out a way forward.  I resent letting his arrangements go ahead, as he'll think I was merely making a fuss, but it's better to be gracious than resentful.

I am mentally writing my talk for Saturday.  I have put a few words down, and I think that enthusiasm will carry me through.  I will write more, probably the whole thing in full, and then condense into bullet points which I hope not to look at when the time comes.

I haven't looked again at Nuance, the PDF rewriter.  This is stupid.  I must.  I'm avoiding, and this is, to repeat, stupid.  I haven't yet had all the forms back, which is a poor excuse.

I was awake half the night worrying.  This is also stupid, but I couldn't help it.

One can choose.  I will choose to be calm and relaxed, though possibly I won't be able to put choices into practice until noon on Saturday.

I feel better now.  If you have been, thanks for listening.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Life is simpler in Blogland

And tonight someone asked me for my address to send a cheque.  The address that, with my name, is on the booking form that I emailed out 5 weeks ago and again yesterday.  Honestly, darlings, one needs a bit of patience.  Though I don't get too fussed, usually.

I received a compliment this afternoon actually, from someone to whom I described the approximate form of the presentation I'm giving on Saturday (still haven't got it done).  She asked me what my job had been, evidently thinking that I used to do this sort of thing.  I confessed that I've never had a proper job and I'm not trained for anything.  Well, I say confessed, but it's nothing I'm bothered about.  As long as I'm not paid, I have nothing to prove.  I do my best and if it's not enough, I don't mind being told.  Anyway, she was surprised, which surprises me somewhat, as I very much admire her abilities - she can do what I can't, effortlessly.  I just bluff well.

Things seem to  be going a bit awry this evening, after a good day.  I've had a really quite snotty email - dictated to her husband, apparently - saying that she doesn't see why she should have the burden of sending me a lecture report form.  Okay, fine, I don't mind - why does she feel the need to be rude to me about it?  I have the feeling that she thinks I'm paid for this job (and, as I'm an underling, she's entitled to be high-handed).  In my mild-mannered reply, I've mentioned that I'm a volunteer too.

Also, I've had an email from Bod, Wink's fellow.  They would like me to go on holiday with them in November, and Bod has been enthusiastically making arrangements.  A couple of days ago, I reminded him that we've got an auction on the last Friday in October and I've got work to do after that, so if he wanted to leave that weekend, I needed to see if I could fit in.  He seems to have said that he's booked a flight from Gatwick, leaving before noon on Sunday 31st.  I can't possibly do that.  Sunday train services are dreadful from here to London and one is always bussed part of the way.  Then I'd have to get across London and over to Gatwick, by about 9.30.  Did I mention on a Sunday?  I very clearly said a couple of days ago, let me know the arrangements and if I couldn't fit in, I'd say so.  If he's booked, I won't be pleased.

Anyway, I had been feeling all cheery and relaxed.  I'm not, quite so much, now.

Monday 20 September 2010

It's not all Z's fault

I'd been blaming myself for not keeping things up to scratch, but now I've checked through thoroughly, I was in almost every particular.  Most importantly, I'd kept a record of the cheques  sent - and the cheques themselves, of course.  So this morning, I sent out an email to everyone who hadn't yet sent in their evaluation forms and/or their cheques - the former by email, the latter by post.

I've had several replies, most of them promises of answers pdq, but one was from someone protesting that he'd sent his cheque.  I've checked through, and he has.  But he put down West Suffolk instead of Bury St Edmunds on the accompanying form, so I credited it to West Suffolk, who hasn't paid up.  And another email was from someone who said that she'd sent me the details - which she has - and that their society treasurer is also Area treasurer, so he would deal with the finance direct.  PITY HE DIDN'T TELL ME, THEN.  Sorry to shout.  It's been a bit like that.

I also had an email from someone who didn't like a form having a yellow background in one section because of the extra ink involved printing it out.  He went all environmental on me.  I wrote back cheerfully suggesting he read it online and not bother to print it out at all, thus saving the paper and the ink (the reason it's in yellow is to show people where they may type, as most of it can't be altered). But you know, he was barely polite - frankly, I was treated as a lowly-paid employee rather than an unpaid volunteer like him ... but it's those who are paid less who deserve the kindest treatment - I don't mind being taken to task when I've screwed up, but I'm still doing it for free, you know.  I'm sorry, here I'm going to quote my great-grandmother, whom I never met.  She used to say to my (very young) mother "my dear, never be rude to those who cannot answer back."  There is no excuse for being lofty with someone whom you perceive as being in a menial position.  None.  That's flat.

The Head told me this evening that a North Norfolk titled bloke (no gentleman, I fear) was extremely rude to a young teacher who was giving up her weekend to take some of our children on a Duke of Edinburgh Award trip.  Whilst not wanting to make it Googleable, I'm going to name names because, apparently, he behaved like an upper-class shit.  She had arranged to camp on some of his many thousands of acres and, because a completely separate booking had left a mess, he chose to blame the schoolchildren who had been there too, but in a different area.  He was very intimidating and rude to her and accused her of not having booked at all - he'd evidently forgotten having spoken to her himself a few months ago when he took the booking.  For money, which was paid.  Lord W@lp0le may be a Baron, but he is no gentleman.  I think he'd not have spoken to me that way, because he'd have recognised someone on what he'd consider his level.  I can't bear the "class" thing and don't do it.  But I can do it, if it's necessary.  I'd have been what my children call "fruity".

Anyway, the Head has written a totally tongue-in-cheek letter of apology, which will make the Baron embarrassed if he has any shred of decency.  I don't know the fellow, so he may not.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Like a dog

I was just on my way to bed when I realised that something was lacking in my day.  So here I am.

I have got quite a lot done this evening actually - not the things I intended to do, but anything achieved makes one feel better.  And, having gone through the matters I referred to yesterday, there was actually very little that I hadn't filled in, it just needed checking.  Next time, I'll print out a paper copy first and make notes on that of what changes have been made as I go along.  I've been using different colours on the document, but actually I'm old enough to be reassured by paper and pencil, and it can be less fiddly than using several documents on the screen at the same time.

The main job is still to come, but I hope to concentrate on that tomorrow.  Several people have still failed to send me the information I need, so I'll start by sending out emails, and try to work out how to use the programme (it's a PDF rewriter called Nuance) in the meantime.  I can't remember if I said, so sorry if I'm repeating myself, but I'm going to have to use the Sage's laptop so have the added trickiness of using a pc instead of my Mac, so I have to think about how to do all the things that usually come naturally to me.  This isn't a pc/Mac argument, it's just what one's used to is easier, especially when learning something extra.

It's a funny thing, how perspective changes over a day or two.  Nothing has really got any more sorted, but I feel more in control again.  It's specious really - if I can't work out this programme I'll be in trouble - but I'm sort of assuming I can.  I can only be anxious for a while and then I just get over it.  I think that's true in general, our brains naturally try to adjust to circumstances and normalise whatever's happening.  It's only when you get beyond your ability to cope that you fail to do that - whether circumstances beyond your control take over or whether you are ill, depressed or overstressed.

I read a book on dog behaviour - that is, managing your dog's behaviour, and it said that a dog adjusts to new circumstances within four (I think) days.  So, if there's a major change, you might as well do it all at once, because otherwise, if you do it in stages, the dog will have to keep learning and being surprised.  I doubt we're much different from dogs, in that respect.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Z's learning curve is - um -curvy

Yes.  I've got a bit of a workload and it's rather my own fault.  People have been sending me information and I've been downloading it but not acting on it instantly, and now I don't know what I've done and what I haven't, so I'm having to go through all the emails and checking them off  - it's a bit of a nightmare.  I've got 23 different societies sending me information to correlate, some of them have a change of chairman and some are reasonably computer literate and some aren't.  One said that she couldn't save a form after she'd filled it in and there should be instructions - I've just done one myself, for someone who couldn't manage, and it was easy, so I don't actually know how to write instructions without sounding really patronising - anyway, quite a few people haven't sent in the info - or their cheques yet - so I was going to send out a reminding email when I realised I haven't altered the names to the new chairmen yet.  And, do you know, I can't be bothered tonight.  It can wait until tomorrow.  I was given lovely DVDs for my birthday (all of Black Books and all of The Wire - saw them when they were on television of course, but now I can enjoy them again) and I haven't had time for any of them yet.

So, for next time, I shall make every change as it comes in.  And make notes of what changes I've made.  As it is, I've got to spend tomorrow evening working at it too.

But not the day, because Weeza rang up this afternoon to say that Zerlina is asking to come over and see Granny and Grandpa.  Huzzah!  Very happy, as you might imagine.  So I invited them to lunch.  Al and family are here and there tomorrow, so won't have time to come to lunch, but I expect we'll see them at some time.

Al had a ceremonial lie-in this morning, as he hasn't got a shop to go to any more.  That is, he has, but not to run.  He was in later painting.  The new floor looks great and Tim has also been working hard, painting the shelves and units.  He's rearranging everything - Al did too, when he took over, you've got to stamp your mark on the place.  I said to Al, he and Dilly have got enough to get by for a while, don't look for another job until you're ready.  Unless, we agreed, an offer he can't resist drops into his lap.

I didn't feel too sharp yesterday and had a really bad headache.  My temperature control was all over the place too, I kept feeling too hot and then cold.  I slept quite a lot in the afternoon and went to bed early.  I put it down to very poor sleep for ages and then a really busy day, but I didn't feel 100% today either (I meant to cycle into town but was a bit anxious of getting wobbly so didn't) and Dilly and Zerlina were both under the weather, so maybe something's going around.  I'm over it now, I'm pretty sure.  All the same, I'm inclined to another early night.  I'd love to feel I'd had enough sleep.

Friday 17 September 2010

Acute accent, as Rog would put it

A friend called in this morning.  She and her husband live most of the time in New Zealand - their daughter and her then boyfriend took a trip round the world and ended up there, where they now live, married, with their three daughters.  Sandra and Graham loved it so much that they spent more and more time there; a couple of years ago their respective mothers died and now they live there and visit here, rather than the other way round.  The Sage and Graham are great friends and still have long conversations on the phone.  Graham always used to help on sale nights, showing the china (holding each lot up as it's auctioned) and giving it out to the buyers once they've paid.  Alex does this now.

Anyway, Sandra will be leaving again in another ten days - the Sage has promised to drop a catalogue in to her in a week's time when they are back from the printer but I won't see her for a couple of years, probably.  She's become very integrated into New Zealand life, even having gained the accent.

It's funny, isn't it, how some people adapt their accent to where they are living and others never do.  I wonder if there's a connection with how good you are at picking up other languages?  Or maybe it's if you are, in the rather old-fashioned phrase, a people person.  Sandra spends a lot of time with her granddaughters and they were born in NZ.  It's natural that she should adapt her speaking to theirs, in the circumstances (that she's living in their country, I mean).

Thursday 16 September 2010

Ups and downs

It seems that Dave likes the later years in a decade, as far as age is concerned, such as 46-the end of 49.

I quite disagree, without making an argument of it.  I visualise a decade topographically - starting on the plains, the years rise cheerfully to a plateau before sinking towards the nines.  So, as far as I'm concerned, the ages ending in 8 and 9 are the ones not to like.  Especially 9.  It's like standing with one foot about to drop for a whole year.

I can't say that this is reflected in the events of my life particularly, it's just a feeling.  I'm certainly not superstitious about it. I prefer not to pass a decanter of port the wrong way (not bothered about a bottle) but otherwise, I'm fairly free of superstition.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

We all want some figgy ice cream doesn't sound right, but it tastes good

I promised Julie the recipe for the fig and cardamon ice cream that I made the other day.  I'm afraid it's in metric measurements.  The cardamon flavour doesn't come through much, but you wouldn't want it to dominate - one could experiment a bit, but with all the cream and figs in it, you wouldn't want to risk an expensive disaster.  I think you'd only do it if you have access to cheap figs or grow them yourself, but it's very good for using up those that are ripe to the point of splitting.  Very easy to make, I altered the given recipe slightly as it didn't mention cooling the figs before adding the cream, which I thought was odd.

20 fresh figs
165g caster sugar
100ml water
1/4 teasp ground cardamon seeds
120 ml double cream (that's the sort that can be whipped)
120 ml single cream (which can't, still thicker than the sort you might put in coffee)
3 tablespoons blood orange juice (they're out of season here, but I used plain oj)

Remove the stalks from the figs, mash them with a fork.  Cook in a saucepan with the sugar and water for 20-30 minutes, stirring from time to time.  I then used a hand-held blender on the mixture as it was quite lumpy, but you could beat it with a whisk.  Leave to cool and meantime whip the double cream until it's floppy.  Add to the fig mixture with the cardamon, single cream and orange juice and stir thoroughly.

If you have an ice cream machine, churn according to the instructions.  If not, put in a container in the freezer and take out when half-frozen to beat, to break up the ice crystals.

It is delicious and quite unusual - I don't know if I'd have recognised the fig flavour if I'd been given it, as one doesn't usually eat puréed fresh fig.  The colour would probably depend on the variety of fig, mine is a rather attractive pinky-mauve.

Tonight, I made smoked haddock risotto, which was very good.  Made in the usual way, using the haddock cooking water as stock.

Things are going on well at the shop and a lot of the painting has been done.  A new floor will be laid tomorrow.  Dear Tim came along after work to lend a hand.  Everyone's being very kind and saying how glad they are that the shop will reopen next week.  Dilly says that a lot of the parents at the village school have come up to say nice things to her - it's occurred to her that they are concerned for her.  She's taken it all in her stride, however, and doesn't seem to be in the least put out by the speed of all the changes.  She says it's typical of Al, she knew what he was like when she married him!  She certainly is a wonderful girl - we're all so lucky to have her in the family.

I knew it was coming up in the next couple of weeks, but I realise I'll have to go to London next week to get some things sorted out at my flats.  I've emailed the gas man to make an appointment and hope he can do it next Thursday.  I usually try to fit in an exhibition or something at the same time, but I don't know if I'll have time.  Does anyone know what's on?

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Chapter 3 - not an end, but another beginning

As I said, Al had been considering getting another job for himself for the sake of his family life (just to mention at this point that there are no lines to read between; there is no marital crisis or disharmony here).  The shop is not failing.  He has, I will say, cut down on his hours this year - when his assistant Tim left for a full-time job, he didn't replace him and closed the shop earlier in the day, which meant he had more time at home with the family after school and the money not taken was counterbalanced by not paying out.

Just to explain - the shop is always busiest in the morning.  Then, it's very quiet between about 1.30 and 3ish, then it picks up again, but it really is hardly worth being open for a couple of hours, sometimes you might take only a couple of pounds in that time.  And after 4, it's quiet again.  Usually, that is, there's some random days when customers are queueing to give you their money at ten to five, but that's not the norm.

Back in the summer, Al was considering his options and came down to expanding the home delivery side - he has a website and offers free home delivery (and always has) but contemplated doing mail drops in local villages, each with a day for deliveries.  It would not, obviously, be feasible to employ anyone to do them, but he and his father would fit them in.  The other option (I've a bee in my bonnet, by the way, about "two choices."  Two or more options, one choice) was, as I said, to find a tenant.  Al owns the shop outright and he spent several thousand pounds doing up the outside last year.  Still some inside work to do, but it's pretty sound.  He had thought of shutting for a week or two during the autumn while it's quiet to get on with the repairs and painting.

It had all been a lot to think about and he, quite calmly, snapped last Thursday.  But it didn't mean he'd given up on the business and he still wanted to find a tenant to take it on as a going concern.  And one has come to him.

Tim worked for him for a couple of years.  He was self-employed and it was useful to have some secure weekly income.  But in the end, he decided to take a full-time job.  It so happened that, on Thursday, his mother dropped in to town and discovered what was going on.  Tim wasn't enjoying his job at all and she reckoned he might be interested.

In short, he phoned that night and came to visit Al the next afternoon.  He promised a decision on Sunday. And, reader, she married h... - oh sorry, wrong story - they have come to an agreement and Al is beavering away this week to get the downstairs ready (new flooring and a repaint) and it will reopen next week.

Al has made no decisions on his own future yet, but there's no hurry.  They have enough coming in to get by and it's early days.

The remarkable thing is the links between the events of now and eight years ago.  Derek made a snap decision to close (thank goodness there is no similarity between reasons - I'm sorry to say that his daughter died a few weeks later) and so has Al.  It was a chance visit by a customer (and parent of the shopkeeper-to-be) in each case and a decision and agreement was made within a few days.  It was, for the incomer, a huge opportunity to make a positive move from a less than happy situation.  It was a load off the mind of the outgoing shopkeeper, who was feeling really guilty about letting the customers down and losing a really important part of town centre shopping and community life.

Best of all, Tim is ideal.  He and Al know each other really well and there is mutual trust.  He knows the business and has realistic expectations - and probably ideas for opportunites too.

I can't wait.  I have been unable to buy supermarket veggies, I can't bring myself to do so, and Dilly says the same.  If I haven't got it in the garden, we've been having frozen veg.

I still can't get over the exact eight years - to the very week.

Monday 13 September 2010

Chapter two - the shop shuts, to save you reading to the end

Okay, as I've received the gentlest of reproofs from the Chairwoman, a woman I care for very much, I'll carry on tonight with the explanation.

It's not a complicated story at all, but it's hard to explain just how emotional we were at that time.  A new chapter was opening for Al as a self-employed shopkeeper, for Ro as a university student, I was in the middle of a really complicated situation as a school governor and my mother was desperately ill.  She was jaundiced and weak and I thought she was dying.  She was dying.  She went into hospital the day after my birthday and none of us expected her home.

Al opened the shop on the 16th and loved it at once.  He had to give a month's notice at his other employment, so worked in the mornings in his shop and in the afternoons and evenings in Norwich.  At least I had a meal for him in the evenings.  My mother had an endoscopy, and we were summoned to the hospital for the results - Wink was with us, of course.  It was a very young doctor, obviously being given some practice at handing out bad news.  He couldn't say the 'th' sound, so he kept telling us about a growf on her pancreas.  They found stomach ulcers too, and had given her two units of blood, and her bile duct was blocked, which had caused the jaundice.  They had put in a stent to open it up.

It was explained that there was nothing to be done, it was too far advanced and she was too weak.  She might have a few days or weeks.  One day I may write more about this, but I'm only explaining the whole situation here as a background, it isn't the actual story.  Suffice it to say that, remarkably, she rallied enough to return home after a few days and was amazingly well for another six months.  She finally died on 17th March, which was the longest estimate of life she'd been given.

I was falling apart, rather, though saying I could cope.  Ro got ready to leave and his father took him to university in Lancaster - hundreds of miles away.  I think he'd chosen it for that reason.  Ro had an awful migraine on the day he left and could barely function.  The Sage left him in bed in the hall of residence.

Al was doing really well, especially bearing in mind his double-shifting.  After the first week, he said "I don't know why people say being self-employed is stressful.  I think it's wonderful".  Bless.

I've given you enough background, I think, to appreciate the emotion and commitment we all felt at that time.  The first winter was incredibly hard for Al, but he never complained.  I gave him tights to wear under his jeans for warmth.  There was a lot of hard physical work, especially at Christmas.  In fact, Christmas has revolved around the shop for the last seven years.  The two days before, Al goes in hours early to get orders ready and the days are incredibly busy.  Squiffany's first Christmas, she had croup all night and they phoned NHS Direct on Christmas morning (too polite to bother anyone until 6am).  Al then phoned us.  "Don't worry when an ambulance arrives," he said, "the paramedics are going to assess her."

For eight years, Al has loved his work, but it's been hard and the hours are not good for a family, as he's always open all day on Saturday.  He'd come to the reluctant conclusion that he would have to consider doing another job, but he still felt a big commitment to the people in the town.  There used to be several greengrocers here - four, even when he started - but now he's the only one.  He hoped to find a tenant to take it on as a going concern.

A couple of weeks ago, he arrived to find the tills empty.  He left a float of £25 in each, normally, but sometimes there was more in change - he reckoned there was probably £75-£80 that night.  There had been no break-in.  The obvious suspect was one of the delivery drivers.  He phoned both his wholesalers, who vouched for their men - he knew one of them well, but the other firm had had a series of temps over the last few months.  However, it wasn't one of them that night.

Al changed the locks, but was very upset at the breach of trust.  It was just after that when he went on holiday.  I took all the money home each night.  Last Thursday, he arrived for work and couldn't unlock the door.  There had been an attempt to force it, which had bent the lock.

We have no proof, but we suspect that it was one of the temps who had had a key made, and had been helping himself to small amounts of money for a while - Al had kept thinking he'd made mistakes in accounting at the time - but, once he'd left, he had no reason for caution and had emptied the tills.  A couple of weeks later, he tried again and tried to force the door.

For Al, it was the last straw.  He seemed quite calm when I went in to see him as he waited for the police, but after the door had been opened he put up a sign inviting people to help themselves.  There was a box for money if anyone wanted to pay, but he wanted the shop cleared.  By the end of the day, it was, almost.

Dilly and I were at home, feeling quite stunned.

There is more, but that's enough for one day.  Toodle-pip, darlings.

Z explains. It may take some time

We're all feeling a bit peculiar, it's been an extremely eventful few days that has affected all of us.  The first thing was the one I was being mysterious about.

I'm sorry, but I need to go back eight years.  This whole thing may take more than a day.  Sorry, no one ever said I didn't give a full explanation.

Eight years ago, Al was working in a shop in Norwich.  He'd been living in a flat for a few years, then his landlady decided to sell up and he had to leave.  He couldn't find anywhere as nice for an affordable rent, so moved home while he looked.  His job was not that interesting, but he'd decided he liked a retail business and was looking for something better.  He had savings.  He was only interested in a shop selling things people needed, not luxuries.  He liked a constant throughput, not one lucrative customer per day.

Back home, my mother was ill.  Very ill and getting worse.  She had been to the doctor, who was very concerned and suggested hospital tests might be in order; he was going on holiday for a week and that was about how long it would take to arrange.

Ro was about to start university.

I was in the throes of major upheavals at the village school.  I can't tell you about it, but I can tell you that, at the beginning of June, the chairman of governors, a dear friend as well as a respected colleague, had dropped dead at the age of 62.  It was shattering, and I was vice-chairman to boot.  Things came to a head in early September, where a chairman's casting vote was the right decision, as has been proved, but controversial.

That's the background.  Now, the greengrocer, for ten years, had been Derek.  A lovely man, we'd been friends all that time, in a shopkeeper/customer way.  His daughter had been ill and her cancer had returned in a more aggressive form.  He and his wife decided to go to Scotland to nurse her for as long as it took, and both to give up their businesses.  He put a sign up to say the shop would close in a week's time.  The Sage saw it.  He knew the landlords, who had previously run the shop themselves, and went to get the key.  Now, the Sage is a subtle man.  He said to me, that the upstairs might suit Al as a bedsit.  So, I went with him to have a look.  It was out of the question.  Far too small, and couldn't be separated from the shop as the store-room was also the corridor to the stairs.  I said so.  But, what a fabulous location, I said.  In a few minutes, I had Al as a greengrocer.  Of course, so had had the Sage already, but he tests an idea by letting me think of it independently.

About 11.45, Al came home and was greeted by an excited me, who explained the whole story and is not subtle at all.  He and his father went to look.  They came home.  "I'm interested," Al said.  "How long have I got to make a decision?"

I promise, we hadn't rehearsed, but the Sage and I simultaneously looked at our watches.  "Ah", said Al. "I'll tell you in the morning".

So, at 9 o'clock the next morning, Al decided to buy the shop and he and his father went to negotiate with the owners.  Terms were agreed and they went to tell Derek.  I went in to town later and was slightly startled to be hugged and kissed by a very emotional Derek, who was thrilled.  Eileen and Jean were asked to stay on, having been given notice a few days before, and they agreed that they could cope with afternoons while Al served out his notice at his job.  We employed someone to help clean and paint the shop, which was closed for one week only.  It closed on 7th September and reopened on 16th September, a Monday.  Al's first order cost £250 - he'd forgotten a few things, but we all laughed at the thought of stocking a whole shop for that sum.

In the meantime, I phoned the doctor to tell him my mother was much worse, and asked if it was worth her going into hospital.  He was startled.  "It was a week ago", he said.  I said that she was so ill that it might be kinder to spare her.  Somehow, however, she lurched out on the day before my birthday to buy me a present.  It's hard to believe that I can't remember now what that was.  She went into hospital on the 11th.

Of course, poor old Ro was getting ready for university, and not a lot of support he got from us.  I explained to him that there was not room for us to think - anything he wanted us to do, we'd do, but we weren't able to think for him and he'd have to tell us.

Crumbs, darlings, I knew this would be complicated and long-winded, I'm so sorry.  I am leaving whole lots out, I promise.  And it is relevant - well, it is in regard to the events of the last few days.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Z finds it all too much

I've had to move all my bookmarked blogs from Bloglines, which is shutting down.  I'm not surprised, it's been not working properly for some time.  I 'exported' them in one go, but it made me look at them - there are an awful lot of blogs which I've read for ages but don't have any particular relationship with, and I think that some of them are going to have to go.  I keep adding a few but not removing any and I haven't caught up with all posts for a long time.

I don't mind if someone whose blog I read and comment on doesn't visit here, and some people rarely leave comments anyway and that's fine.  Though there are a few bloggers who complain when they receive fewer comments/readers than they used to, but never see it from the other side - that is, that if it isn't reciprocal, they can't really complain.  Plenty of people whom I've followed for ages have never given any indication that they return the favour - not that they have to, but one comment would be polite, I think.  I dunno, maybe I'm getting a bit of a stickler in my old age (just had a birthday, you know, a year older than last week).

Anyway, I'm starting to jettison some blogs.  I think I'm going to have to come down to about 100.  I can cope with that.  No one who's a friend, of course.  Even if we don't chat often.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Winking and Blinking

Everyone left except Squiffany, who was quite happy to stay and play on her own.  Eventually, her mother came and fetched her home for lunch.  Wink had phoned to say that she was on her way, so I expected her for a late lunch.  Then she rang again.  Assuring me that she was fine, she had been involved in a car accident on the M11.  A woman, driving fast, had lost control and swerved into Wink's lane - fortunately, Wink had seen her in her wing mirror, driving erratically  and had slowed.  The very front of Wink's bumper was grazed, not even dented - we think she was remarkably lucky, if she hadn't slowed there could well have been three dead people - the other driver, her teenage daughter and Wink.  Although delayed considerably, Wink was pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  It didn't happen, so no fuss.  Worse things have happened, no one was hurt and she drove away from the accident.

I was down at the church when she arrived, for the last hour of the Church Cycle Ride (you may remember, Phil, Weeza and I took part last year), so she came down to see me.  I was getting ready for tomorrow's 8 o'clock service while I was in the building anyway.  After we went home, she couldn't find her phone.  She thought she'd left it in the church, so we went back - several times, as we kept thinking of another place to look.  I phoned her, of course, but we couldn't hear it ring.
At last, we came back and gave up.  Then my mobile rang, and it was from her phone.  A lady had found it in a plant pot in the supermarket 5 miles down the road - Wink had stopped to buy me a begonia and the phone had evidently fallen quietly out of her bag.  I thanked her profusely and she said she'd hand it in - it was nearly time for the shop to shut.  We'll go and fetch it tomorrow.

The Sage was given a large quantity of overripe, though freshly picked, figs and home-grown peaches today.  I sorted through the figs.  Dilly took some, and then there were 60 squashy ones and a couple of dozen still intact.  I hastily looked for a suitable recipe, and found one for fig and cardamon ice cream.  I used the 60 to make three batches of that - at any rate, the first part of the process, which is simmering the figs with sugar.  I'll do the rest tomorrow.  And decide what to do with the rest of the figs.  I know I've got a good recipe but I can't find the book.  When I have home-grown figs, I usually just eat them.  They don't last long enough to cook with.

Friday 10 September 2010

Show Z the way to go home...I'm tired and I want to go to bed.... ...

This is from my phone as my home Internet connection is iffy again. So it will be short. Thank you for lovely messages, and now my age is again the product of two prime numbers, something I'm always comfortable with.

Slightly tired and a bit tiddled, you can tell.

Lovely relaxing evening, we've all had a difficult week and we all let it go and were cheerful. The three grandbabies are allcuddled in a double bed together.

More coherent tomorrow, possibly. Goodnight, darlings.

BTW, I'm tired more than drunk. Though, admittedly, a bit of both.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Z is distracted

The main reason for which, I'll tell you about in due course.  It's not by any means a secret, but it's only half a story at present and isn't my news in any case, so it can wait (I've blabbed on Facebook, but that is only read by 11 people, so isn't so public as here).

What with one thing and another, I didn't get everything done today that I'd meant to.  Much of that was because of the weather, which was delightful.  Warm and sunny, quite unexpected.  I kept on wandering outside for a while to speak to Dilly, who was doing some clearing in the garden.  I was rather wondering how I'd get everything done, but in the afternoon I discovered that I've unexpectedly gained an hour and a half tomorrow morning.  I hadn't got around to confirming the music lesson I usually go in to on a Friday morning, and when I finally did, was told that there won't be a Year 9 lesson at that time this year.  So we'll arrange a different day, assuming the teacher will still find me useful, and I'll start next week.  It wasn't really very convenient to go tomorrow, so this is good news.  I'll even have time to practise the hymns for the funeral I'm playing for tomorrow at 11 o'clock.

After that, Weeza will come and finish the condition report, I'll type it and label the photos and we'll choose the ones for the catalogue.  Apart from proof-reading, that'll be my part in the catalogue finished.  Weeza puts it together.  I have, however, in the next week, got to get to grips with a programme called Nuance, which I'm not looking forward to, largely because it's on the Sage's computer.  I can use a pc, but I'm not used to it and nothing is set out as I expect it to be.  I can work things out better than the Sage can, but that's really not saying a lot.  He wanted to look up a website the other day and was having difficulty.  I looked, and discovered he was typing the name into eBay.  "Um, that's  a website, not a search engine," I said and showed him what to do.  Today, he asked my how to answer a phone call on his mobile.  "I thought there was a button to press," he said.  I phoned him and found that you have to drag the screen down to answer or up to refuse it.  He still seemed to find it difficult, though.  Truth is, I think he rather wants my iPhone.  He's not having it, though.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Z prepares for a houseful, and goes to a nursery

Friday night will be lovely, because we will have a houseful of people staying.  Weeza, Phil and Zerlina, Weeza's friend Susie, I hope (yet to be confirmed) - Susie's family has been friendly with ours for more than a century and my father was best man at her grandfather's wedding - and Pugsley and Squiffany.  The three children will share a room.

What I like best is when there are lots of people to feed and look after.  Our dining table seats 12, though I have never quite forgiven the Sage for, when it was being made, changing his mind and having it 6 inches narrower than we'd agreed (without mentioning to me) because he thought it would make the proportions better.  I daresay it does, it's a lovely table, but the reason we'd decided on 4' wide was to seat 2 people comfortably at each end.  Now it's a squash.  In fact, the dining room is out of bounds at present so we'll have to have Friday night dinner at the kitchen table.  The children will be in bed by then but - again it'll be a squash - Al and Dilly are joining us so there will be 7.  If Ro and Dora announce they are coming over, I'll have to add another little table at the end.

Anyway, in preparation for all this we changed all the beds today.  I asked the Sage for help because of my bad back, but also it's good for him.  The phone rang part-way through it all and it was a call for me, and I needed to come downstairs and consult the computer.  The Sage followed me.  "did you finish the bed?" I asked.  "No, I didn't know where the things were kept, I brought down the linen to be washed," he replied.  I went back upstairs and showed him that the sheet was folded on the bed and the pillowcases on the pillows.  On the bed.  Hm.

We did the photographs for the catalogue this afternoon.  It was nearly raining, but I put on a coat.  Still staying with the sandals though, not intending to give them up before I must.  We've just been doing some alterations to the catalogue this evening, there were a few prices to be changed (sometimes, vendors are over-optimistic, but the Sage has persuaded them down a bit).  He's also changed around the order of a few lots.  I've had to print a copy out and send him to alter it, because my tired eyes don't want to fiddle around while he changes his mind again.

Dilly and I went to a lovely plant nursery this morning, which specialises in fruit, particularly peaches and similar, figs, grapes and citrus fruit.  She and Al want to buy me a peach tree for my birthday.  We're not actually ready to plant it yet, so will probably get it delivered in the spring when I've prepared the soil.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Dilly sums up Z

We spent some time this afternoon working in the garden. I do not call it gardening, more hacking and clearing. It was after 7.30 when we stopped, and it was agreed to have another session later in the week. The Sage, Al and Dilly said that they were free on Thursday evening. "I'll be out", I said. "can you manage without me?". "I'll put on a pretty skirt and strappy sandals and take your place", offered Dilly.

Monday 6 September 2010

A quiet evening

I'm feeling pretty good about life this evening.  The Sage had an email with the agenda for the PCC meeting tonight, yesterday.  It was news to him, he thought the meeting was at the end of the month.  I checked the minutes for him, they've put in an extra meeting.  And I am not on the PCC any more.  So I don't have to go  -  the one at the end of the month will have a single item on the agenda and I've been asked to go to that one, in fact, chiz chiz, but it won't be too much of an ordeal I hope.

We had dinner slightly early and then he left, instead of my leaving dinner for him, leaving before 7 to set the room ready, make coffee etc.  I have poured a celebratory glass of wine - the family of the lady who died sent a bottle for me, kindly, to thank me.  And the youngest son of the family came up to me at school and thanked me.  Pity I'm not a better organist, really.  Still, I did try hard.

So, it's quiet here just now.  I shall sit and read and do nothing else.

Sunday 5 September 2010

News from the pews

I'd been sent the hymns yesterday afternoon, and I didn't know one of them at all.  I looked it up, it was a modern one - more of a song than a hymn with a flowing bass line, and I had a feeling that it wouldn't go well on our church organ.  So I arrived early, rather expecting not to be able to sight-read it that easily, and that I'd have to spend a bit of time learning it.

When there are a lot of notes and no one knows the tune, it's easy for the extra bits to get in the way.  I spent some time working out a different arrangement, based more on chords, that would sound all right but suit the instrument and be easier to follow.  This sounds cleverer than it was.  I just left out a lot of notes, basically.

The sidesman appeared waving the bottle of Communion wine.  It was nearly empty.  We studied it and decided that someone had taken some to take to one of the retirement homes for a service, and hadn't thought to let one of us know.  "The Sage has got a bottle of port I brought him from Portugal.  I'll fetch some of that." I provide the Communion wine.  It's an entirely appropriate gift from me to the congregation, to buy decent port for the occasion.  You have to have a fortified wine, regular red wine tastes thin and doesn't keep.  So, I pedalled home and explained to the Sage, who was quite perturbed.  "You won't take much, will you?" he asked.  I told him that I wouldn't, and that I'd buy more next week for the church. 

I took it along and chatted for a few minutes to the people who had arrived.  Finally, "what time is it?"  "Two minutes to eleven", I was told.  "I'd better fill an awkward silence while we wait for the Rector and the rest of the conversation, then" I said as I hastened back to the organ.

It was noticeable that I'd practised in the past week, as I played better than usual.  The Rector arrived and came to speak to me.  "Everything all right?" she asked.  I nodded.  "I couldn't find the words I'd printed out for that new hymn," she said.  "Can you find something you know well for the second hymn instead?"

So, I spent a few minutes looking up the Bible readings and finding something suitable.  I did.  I've already forgotten what it was, but it was fine.  I've got another funeral to play for on Friday, so will be well practised by then.  I can coast along without much effort for weeks afterwards.

Saturday 4 September 2010

The Gardening Club Annual Show

Today, I have eaten 9 Victoria sponge cakes, 5 plates of brownies, 3 plates of savoury muffins, 2 plates of gingerbread men, a dozen pots of jam, 8 pots of chutney, 2 pots of pickle, 5 jugs of non-alcoholic summer drinks, 10 plates of fruit scones, 4 plates of cheese straws and 5 jars of marmalade, and cracked and inspected 4 eggs.

After that, I had lunch.

We had fish and chips for dinner, but I couldn't eat all mine.

I've got a slight overabundance of one of my children's birthday presents, and nothing for another.  It was Dilly's birthday while they were on holiday - I'd planned to buy or contribute towards a camera, but it turned out that her family were buying it.  So I bought things from her Amazon wishlist.  I bought little things too, so there would be something to unwrap on the day, and have the books here.  However, I received a text from her this evening, thanking me for my part in the buying of her camera, and it turns out that my offer was actually accepted by her parents, as they'd gone for quite an expensive one.

It seems that I have some of my Christmas shopping done already.

On the other hand, the things I've ordered for Phil haven't arrived yet, and it's his birthday tomorrow and we're invited over for a barbecue.  So I'll have to do some emergency booze shopping on the way.

Friday 3 September 2010

Keep it impersonal if you don't want to take the blame

Sad to say, it was the Sage's turn to lose keys today.  However, since I may sound critical of him later, I shall finish the story of my lost key yesterday.

When I arrived home last night, the Sage was already cooking dinner.  He came to greet me, looking a bit anxious.  "Is everything okay?" he asked.  "Fine," I answered.  "I nearly didn't make it, though."  He looked quite shocked, so I hastened to reassure - I meant, of course, that I nearly didn't even leave home.  It wasn't until he heard my story that he delicately told me that he arrived home to find the doors open.  "What, actually open?  Not just unlocked?"  Yes.  I realised, and explained, that when I went to try the key (from a different car) in the ignition, I hadn't expected it to work.  When it did, I must just have driven off, forgetting that the house was left open to the world.  I was quite embarrassed, but the Sage was more relieved that there was a logical, though rather foolish, explanation.

Anyway, tonight he couldn't find the key to the toolshed.  He'd last had it a week ago, when coal was delivered - the key to the coalshed is on the same tally, as are several other keys.  We always keep this group of keys in the same place.  We always have, for 24 years.  "It has been put in the wrong place," observed the Sage, irresponsibly.

He found them in the end, of course.  They were in a jacket pocket.

The rule is, when something is mislaid, the first place to look is the pockets of every jacket in the house.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Z loses a key and finds a spare

It's been a bit of a day, in one way and another.  I went off to practise the hymns and Jesu Joy and other voluntaries quite early, because a bit of time on my own is useful.  I tend to play carelessly the first time, because it makes me quicker-witted.  I find that, if I'm playing a piece I know well and make a silly mistake, I can be quite confounded, but if I am used to making mistakes I know how to cover them up.  I am a genuinely poor player and I need trickery to get by.

The family came in early and didn't follow the coffin, which meant that they would hear everything.  Bummer.  I played various stock voluntaries, checking the time every moment my left hand was free (only trouble with having a phone as a clock, the display turns off) and counted 20 after 5 minutes and started the intro.  I noticed, with interest, as I counted the final few silent seconds, that my hands were shaking.  I played through, got to the end and there was no sign of the parson.  I had planned for that and more-or-less seamlessly started again.  He came in, intoning, part-way through Page 2.  I'd planned for that too, and marked a section I could leave out and go to the final half page.  Remarkably, the timing worked perfectly. I entered the final bar as he spoke his last words and, with a held-on final chord, gave him time to reach his place and the pall-bearers to leave the coffin.  It rarely happens so exactly.  In due course, I launched into the first hymn and, when it finished, observed that my left leg was twitching jerkily.  I couldn't feel it, but nor could I stop.

It doesn't normally hit me this way, but they are a really musical family.

Anyway, it was all right and afterwards the churchwarden said that she wished I was their organist, so it must have really been all right.  And the Sage came up to say I'd played well, which was very kind (he's totally unmusical so he hasn't a clue really, but it was appreciated as he isn't free with praise).

I had said to him, if a family member invited me to the bunfight afterwards I'd have to go, but otherwise I wouldn't; he'd go anyway and could give my apologies.  And that's what happened, which meant I had time to come and let Tilly out and go and do some sorting out at the shop and phone in the order before my next appointment.

Later, I had a further appointment at the blood donor clinic.  I haven't donated since my hip operation, as I reckoned I'd want 6 months to be all fit and hearty.  I got home and drank a pint of water and had a mug of tea in preparation, then went and read the paper for a bit (I did other things but not a lot) and then realised it was 20 to 7 and time I was off.  I went for my car keys.  They weren't where they should be.  I looked in the car.  Not there.  I'd driven to the church, about 4 miles away, this morning, but cycled the 2 miles to the afternoon appointment.  I searched everywhere I'd been.  No luck.  I was running out of time.  Finally, as a last resort, I fished out a key from the Sage's last car, which had been passed on to him by Dilly when she got another one, and tried that.  It worked.  I drove to the donor place, left the car unlocked (I was sure the battery in the keypad must be flat) and they cheerily accepted me as the last appointment of the day.  I drank another pint of water (having fainted once, I'm not ready to again) and duly did my civic duty.

The Sage was cooking dinner when I arrived home.

We both searched for the key.  No joy.  Finally, I thought that the only place left to look was in the pocket of my jacket; I'd put it on to go to Yagnub in the afternoon but taken it off when I'd been too warm.  Indeed, there it was.  I had evidently picked it up automatically, even though I was using a bike not a car.  Fool.  However, at least I now have a spare key.  I shall get new batteries for both, tomorrow. I learn lessons.  I'm a slow learner, but I try not to repeat too many of my mistakes.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Z finds a penny and ... finds fifty more

 I wonder why it is that, when I sit down to write here, I have been tending to say what I'm going to do the next day rather than look back on the last.

Probably means nothing.  Not that I've got such a bad memory that I can't actually remember much of what's happened, oh no not at all nothing like that.

Anyway, it turned out that this morning's lecture was given by a retired bishop, and very good it was.  The mosaics weren't quite done justice by the photos, but that's not really surprising - they are stunning, if ever you have the chance, do go and see them.  There are several buildings to go to, it isn't just one.

On the way in, I observed a 10p and a 20p piece on the ground, so I picked them up and put them in my pocket.  When I left, I popped over to Al's shop for some fruit, and saw two women (a mother and daughter, I think) approaching the door and looking disappointed when they saw the notice in the window.  "It won't be open until Friday," one of them said.  "I'm just going in," I said, "I'm Al's mother - you're welcome to come in."  They wanted some eggs and potatoes, so I sold them.  The till was empty, but we managed the right change between us.  I went to get my stuff and another woman came in.  I explained again and sold her three chillies and a bag of greengages.  A minute later, in came a customer for some mushrooms and a bunch of bananas.  They were all really pleased.  As I looked for the key, I felt in my pocket and found 30p.  Not remembering where it came from, I put it in the till.  I locked up and left, and a few yards on, found another 20p and a penny on the ground.  I picked them up.  I meant to put them in a charity box, but my lunchtime sandwich required an odd 15p so most of it went towards that.

I ate lunch in the churchyard, sitting in the sun.  Pictures?  Of course, darlings.  They're neither good nor interesting, but that is hardly likely to stop me.

Right in the middle of the town, this is.  The second one is of the hairdresser and flat that were burnt out a few weeks ago.