Sunday 31 October 2010

Time to spare

There's always time for blogging after all, isn't there? Especially where there is free wifi.

It's all been remarkably easy this morning. We strolled across from the hotel around 8.30 and were the first to check in (Air Malta don't do online check-in). The security people were friendly and chatty - my hip set off the alarm so I was well patted by the lady, while the man sang to me. We were greeted by various other staff in the friendliest way and our charming waiter, Jacek, who is Polish, chatted too. I'm assuming that the staff here like Sundays.

The Bod hasn't come with us in the end. His mum is still in Bath hospital, waiting for a bed to be available in Warminster, which is where they live. I think that if she had moved already she would have been okay, but as it is, she was quite scared of being left. He's right to put her first, of course, and he will get his money back through his insurance, but is very disappointed, of course. As are we. But we will have a good jolly, no doubt.

If I don't find there is free wifi at the hotel, it may take a while for me to check in with you all again. Take great care of yourselves while I'm away and not keeping my eye on you.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Z is too organised

I seem to have got everything done, which is quite disconcerting.  I even have turfed everything out of the fridge that I think the Sage might not use up.  I've emailed people about sales results and got someone to attend a meeting for me next week and done all my Nadfas stuff, including retyping the reports (no I can't scan them) that people unhelpfully gave me instead of emailing.  I finally booked holiday insurance, I've remembered to pack everything, I think, and I've checked the website for the stops.  Weeza will give me a lift to the station so I'll have to get an additional ticket from Norwich to Diss, but it'll save the Sage from giving me a lift.

I'm actually sitting around waiting to leave.  This is very surprising.  Evidently, if I need to get myself organised, I can.

Don't think I'll make a habit of it, however.  It's less exciting.

Friday 29 October 2010

All's good, darlings

The cygnet has gone to a good home, and I'll miss it very much.  I'm suddenly very tired.  It made £11,760, which was a good price.

A few little dramas, but all went well in the end, although it was a bit stressful for Ro when the damn printer jammed.  Still, no matter.

I had a little moment of good behaviour, when I was greeted by someone whom I'd met briefly in London back in June and whose name I'd taken to send a catalogue, and first I said "it's Steven, isn't it?" and then added his surname.  He was pleased to be remembered and complimented my memory.  I was able to reply that he'd evidently made an impression on me - so returning the compliment.  I've found always that nothing is so delightful as being remembered.  Recalling someone's name does not come naturally to me, I do have to work at it, but it's worth the effort.

Someone else came to the view - actually the Sage got things wrong there, because he got her name right but thought she was the daughter rather than the wife of someone ... ouch.  Worse, her husband had died.   He didn't get my *look* and in the end I had to say it, wife not daughter.  Anyway, I was really sorry to hear the sad news.  Mr Lamb had been my Latin teacher for only one year, in which I decided to change schools and take two extra A levels, one year after taking O level (the precursor of GCSE) - in Latin and French.  He was lovely.  A clever and erudite man and with an immense quiet charm.  I learned a lot from him, and not just Latin, he was wise and someone to look up to.  His first wife was in a mental institution, suffering from a degenerative condition (I don't know what, but I'm guessing it was something like Huntingdon's disease because his daughter died relatively young too).  He remarried after her death, a much younger woman and they had a son, who went to the same prep school as El and Al.

Anyway, I had a chat with her and said how sorry I was and - because I stick my neck out and if that puts my foot in my mouth, it's not meant to - I said that I knew he was a lot older than her and that I suppose she knew that she was likely to lose him, but that didn't make it easier to bear and that I thought the world of him.  I did, he became an antiquarian book dealer after taking early retirement from teaching, and so we kept in touch.

It was Mr Lamb who taught me to understand myself.  Once, when talking about Horace, he said "'ve always liked Horace.  They say you have to be middle-aged to appreciate Horace, but I think I was born middle-aged".  This was a bit of a revelation.  I suddenly understood why I didn't feel quite right among my own age group.  I hadn't yet reached the age I was comfortable with.  In fact, I started to feel at home when I got to 30.

Anyway, there we go.  Another sale over.  I'm going to bed.

Zpacking is done

I haven't got a lot left to do, remarkably enough.  A whole big lot of stuff to email out, much of which needs typing up first, which is a pity.  I should have done that this evening, but I didn't.  I took some time off instead.  If I have any sense, I'll get up and do it in the morning.  I think we all know that I'm going to be working on it at midnight instead.

I was quite pleased with myself that it occurred to me, when setting the timer for the church heating, that the clocks change this weekend, so I have changed that one already.  There was a programme on the radio this afternoon, apparently it is quite likely that it will be agreed to stick with Summer Time next autumn.  They're still intending to change the clocks and have double summer time the next year - I don't see the point of that, particularly, I'd rather just choose a time and stick to it.

Thank you for your advice, I feel very looked after.  I've packed and am all ready, which is quite unnerving.  I spoke to Bod this evening, his mum is much better but still in Bath hospital and hasn't yet moved to the cottage hospital near where they live.  He hasn't ruled out coming on the holiday but I don't think it's all that likely.  At least his insurance will pay out.  If he does, he's packed already.  He always does it a week or more in advance, he says.  My word.  How impressive.

Dilly went in to her bank yesterday, having had a letter about, it said, beneficial changes to her account.  She spoke to a helpful assistant.  "It says the terms of my account are better for me from January."  The assistant agreed.  "Lower interest rate on an overdraft and lower interest rates if I borrow money."  That was agreed too. "I've never had an overdraft in my life, nor a bank loan since I got my first job after university."  The assistant was looking at her details. "That's true, you manage your money very well."  "So, is there any benefit for me?"  "Um, no."  "But, according to this, if I don't have £500 paid into my account every month, I get charged?  Whatever balance I have in there?"  This was also agreed to be true.  So if, for some reason, Dilly has a month of low earnings, she will get several pounds deducted from her account, on which she receives no interest and for which she gets no benefit.  "You can change to another account without the charge," said the helpful assistant.  So, Dilly has to go to the bother of changing from an account which has been altered without her say-so or control to another one, and if she hadn't read the letter carefully she wouldn't even have realised it was necessary.  One really does wish one could do without banks at all, doesn't one?

Anyway,  I might write a post tomorrow, but it depends on how late we get back from the sale and how much I then have left to do.  I should drop in on Saturday though.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Strawberry grapes

It seems awfully early to think about it, but I am going to get my euros tomorrow.  As well as pay the car tax.  And I've drunk - well, we've drunk - all the wine again.

Last week when I went into the shop, Tim gave me some grapes from a bunch that he'd been given from a neighbour (of the shop's) vine.  Very unusual, quite pale pinky red with a distinct flavour of wild strawberries with possibly a hint of guava.  And grape.  This week, Tim has his daughters to stay, so Al is standing in for a couple of days or maybe three, and while I was dropping off something to him, Julian came in again so I praised his grapes - no, darlings, that's just rude.  Wash your dirty minds.  I did praise his actual fruity grapes, and he straightaway went home and picked some for me.  Isn't that kind?  I asked for the variety and he didn't know the name but did know where the vine had come from, which is Read's specialist fruit nursery at Hales Hall near Loddon and I have the catalogue.  It is actually called "Strawberry".

While we were alone, Al was telling me an anecdote about a customer who is really quite outspoken, and she asked how Al is keeping himself financially now that he hasn't got the shop.  So Al said he's all right thank you, this and that, and she said "but how, specifically?" which he thought was a bit off.  So he answered. well we've got the income from two rental properties and would you like the full details of our other earnings?, so she backed off rather smartly, as well she might.  But then in came a lovely lady who had a chat, and then Julian and then another customer friend, so it made me very aware of how much we've always enjoyed it there.  I'm so glad that Tim, who is such a friend, has it now.  It's still sort of in the family.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Z thinks of spring

I've been browsing a seed catalogue this evening.  For several years, I've been growing a limited range of stuff as I've been supplying the shop to an extent, and growing a lot of young vegetable plants for Al to sell.  But there's no need for that any more - that is, if Tim wants me to grow anything I will, but I'm not planning to unless he asks.  I'll grow enough for us.  A wider range of vegetables, but in smaller amounts. And I can grow flowers too, if I want.

One of the pleasures of this time of the year is looking through seed and plant catalogues, isn't it.  I'm not trying to wish the autumn and winter away, I take the seasons as they come and like them all,  but it's an enjoyable daydream, thinking of the fun part of gardening.  The weeding is the least fun part as far as I'm concerned - I know there are those who enjoy it but the weeds grow back too fast for me to find it anything but a real irritation.  It's worse than housework.

I did find a forgotten bar of chocolate (sorry to those who've read this already) - Montezuma's dark chocolate with orange and geranium, which is absolutely gorgeous.  I thought I must have given it to Weeza as she likes it as much as I do.  I also found peppermints, which I've eaten.  Yes, I pigged the lot.I can eat one square from a bar of chocolate, but not half of something, and one or two peppermints from a paper bag but tend to work my way through a tubeful.  Given a box of chocolates, I never eat more than two at a sitting and usually one.  I eat more if it's milk chocolate, though I prefer plain.

I must think about what I need to do before going away.  I really could do without leaving immediately after our sale as there is a lot to do the next day anyway, and that means I have to get ready by Thursday really, which isn't very me.  I must haul out summer clothes again, I suppose - I don't know what the weather is likely to be like.  I'm really not very good at the holiday thing.

Monday 25 October 2010

Z considers offering guest posting

I've finally sent off the minutes of last Friday week's meeting to the committee to be okayed.  Shockingly late, I agree.  I took the precaution of sending them to the whole committee, as the last ones I sent just to the chairman, he never replied to and I was left waiting, not knowing if it was all right to send them out.

The Sage swept the chimney, so we've a fire tonight.  I've still got the computer in the kitchen at present though - as I was in the middle of a job with all the papers around me, I didn't want to have to move everything.  The Sage couldn't get the rods all the way up, there was some sort of barrier.  He has a horrible notion that the stainless steel lining has become damaged and the brush has gone between it and the brickwork.  If that's so, it'll be a big job to have it repaired, I don't know how they'll ever get it out again.

My car is being MOTd this week - a small job to be done on it first.  I looked up the mileage from last year and I've driven about 5,500 miles since then. That's the least driving I've done in a year ever (since I left school, anyway) and it did include a visit to Wink, 230 miles away.  I don't think I'll be able to bring it down much more unless I really curtail my activities - I hardly go to Norwich any more as it is, unfortunately.  When my mother was in good health, we used to go out together regularly but she was always a more enthusiastic shopper than I am.  I may have to entrust the Sage with the job of getting my new car tax disc, though I'll try to find time to go to the Post Office.  I've got to go and buy euros anyway, I could do it all at the same time.  There will be an awful queue on Monday, it being the start of a new month means everyone will have the same job in mind.  Of course, I can renew it online but, apart from the problem I had a couple of years ago when it took three attempts for a disc to arrive (special delivery, in the end), I'd rather the PO had the commission.

We're not going to have an opportunity to do any more bricklaying this week.  If Dave is doing it on his own (with the Sage as labourer) it will take two more sessions.  I hardly think the weather will be suitable when I get back, so if there's a chance to go ahead they might as well.  Otherwise it will wait until next year.  If there is a possibility, I'd better give Dave posting rights so that he can take photos and write it up.  I won't expect him to call you all 'darling' and say 'actually' all the time.  Although he's welcome to if he likes.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Z is warm

I have moved my computer into the kitchen.  I will move it back into the drawing room when I feel able to sit there with my coat off.

Actually, it's very nice in here.  The only trouble is that I'm sitting on a stool at the counter and it's evidently not at quite the right height for typing; although I'm deliberately sitting upright, my back aches.  I stood to type for a while.  However, I'm well up with the minutes that I would have written a week ago if I hadn't had that cold and felt quite unwell for a couple of days.  And, although I haven't finished them, I've done other follow-up work connected with the meeting, so I feel okay about it.  I'll do the rest tomorrow.

I'm in Ro's good books, because I have been able to tell him that the Hold Steady will be in Norwich next February.  I was put on to them by Hey Bartender but saw from his Spotify list that he listens to them too, and he's gratified by my alertness and plans to book a ticket.  His email actually started "You are good".

Heh - I've been drinking some of the Seville orange vodka that I made back in February and offered some to the Sage. I warned him it was strong - he doesn't really drink spirits.  He liked it but it made him cough, bless him.  I persuaded him to have another sip, promising a kiss.  He fell for it.  It, and the lemon vodka, are very good but sweet - the lemon is a stronger version of limoncello.  Another time, I'll try it with less sugar.

Hard to believe that in a week's time I'll be in Malta.  There's some doubt whether the Bod will come, now.  I think I mentioned that his mum has had a fall and broken bones.  He won't come if he's not confident she's on the mend.  She's 89 and in excellent health normally, but this has shaken her a lot, of course.  She'll still be in hospital in any case, and his brother will be on hand for the week, but Bod is right to put her first, naturally.

Still loving iassociate.  Sad to say, I've completed 3 of the 4 levels that came out on Friday night.  The fourth is on tv reality shows, which is not my speciality, especially not American ones.  Still, it keeps me distracted from bad behaviour.  Not that I'd necessarily call that a good thing.

Speaking of which, time for bed.  Goodnight, darlings.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Z prepares to repeat herself. I said, Z prepares ... oh, never mind

It was Dilly's sister and new brother-in-law's wedding reception yesterday - they'd got married abroad - so Al and Dilly were out until late, and then I stayed chatting for a while.  That has to be my excuse for how late I got up - I woke at 7.30, it was dim and wet out, so I went back to sleep, for a very long time.  And even when I woke, I spent quite some time solving iassociate clues until my phone battery was about to run down - which I take as God's way of telling me that it's time to get up.

The weather did improve, so I cycled in to town to do the weekend shopping.  £40 and three shops, all around the Buttercross, and I was sorted with the necessities.

I've got a situation I've got to try to get sorted within the next few days...

When I agreed to become chairman of governors, I did a quick self-evaluation to the Head, because I thought it would be useful for him to know where he was.  I did a run-down of what I could do well, reasonably and what I skim over, and what not to expect of me, and explained where I really don't do well. And the thing I really hate is, when I talk through a problem with someone, agree on a way forward, and then the other person doesn't do it.  I'm then at a loss.

In this case, it's a specific thing; either it has been done or it hasn't, and it hasn't, so at least I can say so, but sometimes it's something less tangible.  And then, I find it hard to sort out.  Because I genuinely hate to keep on and on.  I explain, I will say what's wrong, ask for the other view, try to sort things out, make concessions and come to an agreement and keep my part of it.  But sometimes that's it, the other person either doesn't really get it or has just fobbed me off, with no intention of doing anything at all. And I haven't got a happily relaxed husband of 37 years standing (well, I do encourage him to lie down too) by nagging him, and I don't want to do it to anyone else.  But what can one do?

One little for instance of a tangible thing, which I can deal with.  We were having some building work done years ago, and an end wall was going to be plastered over.  But I loved those Tudor bricks, so I suggested they be left exposed.  The builder didn't care for the idea.  So we discussed and negotiated, and agreed that the ones hidden by a cupboard should be covered and the ones in a passageway should be left.  The Sage and I went out and, after the builder had left, came back to discover he'd plastered the entire wall.  Furious, I insisted that all the plasterboard would come down and I'd have it as I had wanted it in the first place.  We became good friends later, and I explained that I'd compromised, but he'd only said he would - so the compromise was off and I'd have it as I'd wanted in the first place.  And he took my point, though why he couldn't have done so in the first place is something I didn't ask.

Behaviour is a different and less easy to quantify matter.  And I hope you know the sort of thing I mean, because it'll be difficult to be too specific.  But let's say you've got a level of hierarchy - me on top (ahem) with A next, over B, C and D.  B, C and D, all reasonable and hard-working people, come to me and say that they are finding A very difficult to work with.  So, as they ask me to, I discuss the matter tactfully with A and A agrees that changes will be made in managerial approach, and then I have a meeting with A, B, C and D to discuss and confirm it all.  But things carry on just as before ... that's when I find it hard - actually, now I'd put in success criteria, which might be a bit jargonesque but at least give you something to evaluate and give the other person something to have to justify.

Anyway, that's all going back a few years, and the situation now is much more clear-cut.  But it still involves me repeating myself and I've explained the state of affairs in full already.  So it's a bit of a nuisance.

Friday 22 October 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 52 - the beginning of the end

There was excitement as I was nearing the last brick, and Weeza got out her camera and the Sage hopped up on the scaffolding next to me.  I was agitated.  I wanted to concentrate on getting it right, and it wasn't right.  In every section, we've worked on the pillars first and then joined up in between and it's worked out fine, with level brickwork, but this time it wasn't.  The Sage took the spirit level from me and held it - "no, it's okay, look."  I pointed out that he was holding the right end of the spirit level above the height of the bricks.  It wouldn't do.

I consulted Dave, who agreed, and I asked him to knock out three bricks so that I could put it right.

So, a few minutes later, I was all ready to smile as I laid the last brick.  Weeza took photos - these were the first ones I'd been in, as I'd always been the one with the camera until then.  I finished the pointing and then went and made a cake.  I felt that the occasion deserved some recognition.

Dave, in the meantime, was carrying on with the tiles.  There had been some debate about the relative merits of finishing one side completely or doing some tiles all the way along, and in the end it was decided to do the latter, as that would be more weatherproof if the weather turns against us and this is as far as we get until the spring.

Lunch was toasted cheese, bacon and cake.

And here are photos.  Including of Z and the Sage, rarely seen together.  Blogger seems to have messed up photo loading again, having been briefly useful, and it's all taking so long that I can't face reordering them, but I daresay you'll work out the correct order quite quickly.  Zerlina is seen holding the section of mortar that Dave knocked out - it was only laid yesterday, so wasn't hard to remove. Although in any case it is, correctly, less hard than the bricks.

Finally (I hope) there is a picture of the unused bricks.  There's about 100 of them.  I don't think there's quite enough to do another course of bricks which is just as well, because Dave would insist on taking off the capping and adding another row underneath.  Instead, we're thinking that our potting shed could be half-bricked.  After all, we'll all be at a loose end next year.

Bringing on the wall, Day 51 - whoops, no post

And just the one picture. You'll observe that Dave put the final capping on the pillar and finished the brick on its right side, and I got within a few bricks of finishing the other side before I had to leave. Dave tells me that they paused for lunch, whereupon the Sage consulted him on the cooking of a ready-made pizza - "Is it ready?" "You see those black bits at the edge? - It's ready". Afterwards, because there was still some mortar left, Dave carried on for an extra hour.
We harvested the squashes in the afternoon and then I went with Al into his garden.  He pointed out to the children that the bird feeders need filling.  Apparently, the birds poke grass stalks into the feeder in an apparent attempt to pull out the last few seeds.  That was news to me.

Today's work later, the internets is so slow today that it's taken me half an hour to write this and load two photos and I've no more time - off next door to babysit.  I'll be back later, I'm hoping to swap places with the Sage for a bit as I've got work to do here.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Z forgets

Whoops. I took photos of the wall and then forgot to write the post. Sorry, darlings. Two posts tomorrow. Unless I do two wall posts in one.

Dave will not be pleased with me.

Of course, I could get up very early and write it, but that's not so very likely. I mean, it doesn't really matter, does it?

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Z is a Lady who Lunches

Sad to say, having missed the Sage so much for the two nights he was away, he kept changing position in bed last night and woke me up after only a few minutes' sleep.  I wasn't at all happy about it.  I asked him quite politely if he was all right.  He assured me he was - "because you're wriggling about a bit,"  "Yes I am," he said, quite happily.  Hm.

Anyway, I had a meeting with the school Head this afternoon and I can't quite remember the context, but he remarked that I have a Look, at which he knows someone is in for it, usually him.  I should think so, it's taken years of work to get that Look perfected and none of my family takes any notice.  During half term, a party of school staff are going on a day trip to France, to the WW1 battlefields.  Well, one of them, I suppose, there's not time for more in a day.  I said something about a busman's holiday and he agreed, saying he's driving the bus - literally.

Oh, how we laughed.

My cold is in retreat and I feel much better now.  Tomorrow, if weather permits, we'll bricklay.  I'm going out at 11 o'clock, so will just work for an hour and then leave Dave and the Sage to it.  I'm going out to lunch.  You may not be surprised to learn that I belong to a ladies' luncheon club (not just any ladies, one has to have executive status - shuddup, no really, get off the floor where you fell in your mirthful paroxysm) and that is where I am going.  I am afraid that I lower the tone rather.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


I heard the rustling again today and then I saw the mouse again.  It wasn't a house mouse and it was looking worried.  I was worried too.  Now I'd seen it, I didn't want to set a trap to kill it - yes, I know about humane traps, but mice, when released, come straight back in again, so we've never used them.  I got a cushion and put it ready.

A while later, it came out again, and was moving very uncertainly.  I dropped the cushion over it and reached underneath to fetch out the little creature.  I fumbled for my phone to take a picture - as ever, I think of you first, darlings - and it sat in my hand with no attempt to get away.

It was a dear little thing, a vole rather than a mouse, and I carefully put it out in the garden, where it sat without running away.  I had to leave for a meeting, but got back an hour or so later and checked and it was still there, shaking hard.  I picked it up again and it seemed glad of the company.  The Sage was home by then.  "Maybe it's hungry?" he suggested.  I asked him to get some of the chopped maize we buy in for the chickens.  It was so sweet, it immediately picked up a piece - with its back foot - and started nibbling.  Thinking it would be easier to eat, the Sage went and fetched some bread, but it was too busy with the corn.

"Shall I put a box for it in the porch?" asked the Sage concernedly.  I discovered that the Sage is a kinder and more sentimental person than I am.  "Er, it's a vole.  A wild vole.  Let's not make a pet of it, hey.  I'll find somewhere safe for it and we will leave it."

I'm not checking.  If it doesn't make it, I'd rather not know.  As far as I'm concerned, I'm just glad I didn't kill it and did do something practical to save it.  But that's about it.

By the way, you know how mice haven't got sphincters and so, when you've handled one, your hand smells of wee?  Voles evidently have, because it didn't.  Fairy clean, as I used to say to my daughter after a bath (some 30 years ago).

I did wash though.  Obv.

Monday 18 October 2010

Z is lonely

I put off going to bed for as long as I reasonably could, and eventually huddled dismally in a nest of pillows sometime after 1 o'clock this morning.  Still couldn't sleep however, my feet were cold.  This morning, I was in no hurry to get up and lounged reading for a while.  I was feeling a bit sorry for myself because I developed a cold overnight - that is, it was coming on all day yesterday but I pretended it wasn't happening.

In the evening,  I was sitting here when I saw a movement across the floor.  Yes, it must be a mouse.  Less than a week without a dog and they are taking advantage.  Mind you, this is the sort of house where you can't always keep mice out and we have to set traps every so often.  Once, at about this time of year, when the days were getting colder but it was still possible to leave the door open, one scuttled in the open door and straight into the drawing room.  I chased it around the room and eventually managed to catch it under a large, soft cushion - then had to put my hand under and feel around to pick it up.  It's not the first time I've caught a live mouse, I did a similar thing once with a dear little mouse that had taken up residence in her conservatory.  I cornered it behind a geranium and grabbed.

In both cases, the mouse screwed up its little eyes tight shut and bit my finger, obviously expected to be about to breathe its last.  So I can tell you that tiny little mouse teeth don't draw blood.

This afternoon, I'm mostly doing laundry.  This is not a terribly hands-on job, of course - I have got a pile of hand-washable stuff to do at some time, but I'm not quite that bored.  But I've stripped the beds from when the family came to stay - I know that was about three weeks ago, but I hadn't done it - and changed towels and all that sort of stuff, so I'll have this evening free, once I'm back from dinner next door, to do the typing I haven't done during the day.

I forgot to give the chickens their bread this morning - they have half a large loaf, soaked, in the morning - and about 11 o'clock I heard insistent clucking outside the door.  My big brown hen and little pale one, both of which are friendly with me, were reminding me.  I got the bread ready and took it out to the lawn.  I counted up - there seem to be 25 of them, which is about right.  One died of old age a couple of weeks ago and, last month, we lost three of them to a neighbour's dog.

This should never happen of course, but does once in a while.  It is a Springer spaniel and normally the owners keep it on a lead until they're on the marshes and can let it go for a good run.  But the parents were out, the 13-year-old daughter took it for a walk and, pretty stupidly, let it off the lead on the road.  Which doesn't have a pavement, by the way.  It took off across our field and did what came naturally.  At least, being free range, the chickens can scatter, but they weren't all able to get away.  Springers are fine dogs if they are very well trained and given loads of exercise, but they can be quite unsuitable pets otherwise.

Just had an email from Weeza suggesting that she and Zerlina come over on Friday. That will be good, haven't seen them since last Monday.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Z is alone

This is a first for me.  I don't think I've ever spent a night entirely alone in the house in my life.  It may be almost beyond belief but, although I haven't had a dog for my whole life, in the few years I haven't, I had children at home so when the Sage was away, someone else was here.  I'm not afraid of being alone or anything - just saying.

Actually, I've just being screaming down the phone at the Sage for twenty minutes.  He was oblivious (I've got a really sore throat now) - he had put away his mobile without cancelling the call.  Since I pay his bill, I wasn't at all keen on the idea of paying for hours he hadn't actually used.  I tried ringing Wink's mobile and it was switched off, and in the end caught them when they got back to her place.  The Sage often does this when using my phone and doesn't believe me when I tell him.

Anyway, I've taken the wall pictures at last, and I'll add them to the last Wall post, day 50.  Dave is quite upset at the thought of losing a day's record - if I hadn't done it myself, I'm sure he'd have brought his camera along next time and taken photos.

It was Harvest Festival today and a lot of people turned up for the service, and all stayed for coffee and cakes afterwards.  Fortunately, I'd made lots and so had Brenda, which was very kind as I was on the rota for today and not her.  It all went well and then I came home, wrote a letter for the Sage and then he set off for Wiltshire.  He has a magneto that has lost its magnetism and there isn't anywhere locally that can put it right now, but he knows somewhere in Swindon.  It's for a 90+-year-old stationary engine.

I looked after the children this afternoon while Al and Dilly saw to the bees - they've been waiting for a sunny and reasonably warm day.  They were concerned that I'd be alone for the evening and wanted to invite me in for dinner, but they didn't happen to have any food in and weren't sure what they were eating themselves - fortunately, I'd bought a chicken which was a bit stupid for one person, so I cooked dinner for all of us.  They're doing lasagne for tomorrow and have invited me.

I shall go and add photos to BOTW - Day 50.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Zlow worm

I forgot to take the photos.  I've never done this before, always taken them on the day we did the bricklaying.  I went out first thing and bought a lot of fruit and veg, then flowers, then picked more veg and went to the church.  It only took us an hour and a half to get it all ready.  I did baskets of produce - I like to see plenty of vegetables at a harvest service.  They are all taken round to village pensioners afterwards by the oldest class at the school.  I also did a fairly exuberant flower arrangement - I hadn't been able to get the flowers I wanted and they were a bit random, so I went for the flamboyant look, with the view that I'd get away with it if I was confident enough.

Which is rather my philosophy, in my middle years, I admit.

I was right out of wine, except for the good stuff, and the champagne (actually just ordinary fizz, can't remember what) in the fridge, so I went to the supermarket, which was really busy (for Yagnub, that is) and then shopping for the weekend, and then came back to make cakes for tomorrow.  Have lunch and then make cakes, that is.  I fell asleep.

Anyway, all done now and I babysat the children this evening, as their parents went to a party.  This is the first time I've sat at the computer all day.  After this, I shall watch an episode of The Wire, which I haven't had time for all week.

As I haven't photos of the wall yet, I thought you might like to see the slow worm that a friend found in the road the other day.  I took the picture and there hasn't been a suitable time to post it.  If you aren't fond of snakes, of course this isn't one - it's a lizard.  I think it is very beautiful.

Friday 15 October 2010

Z isn't looking back, down or forward

I'm coming to the reluctant conclusion that I must enjoy being over-stretched.  Not in the sense of working at my peak or anything positive like that, but rather in taking on too much, in the full knowledge that I'll be rushing round in a couple of months, barely keeping up, feeling wildly stressed and not doing anything well for a bit until I magically seem to pull it all together at the last minute and forget that I felt out of my depth.

This is in no sense a boast.  I really would prefer to do things well.  Maybe I am looking for excuses.  Maybe I want to have a valid reason for avoiding housework.  I don't really know.  

I'm not going to tell you what I said that I wasn't offering to do, I haven't time, I said, but if it's the last resort and you genuinely can't find anyone else, come back to me.  I feel so completely aghast at myself for saying it.  Because I know that it was a really bad idea, to give anyone the least hint of a get-out.  

Anyway, let's move on to the positive, because it'll take my mind off other things.  The meeting that I have been floundering towards splashily for a while has happened.  There's a load of follow-up stuff, but I've got a fairly clear week coming up, except mornings, so I can do it all right.  I want to do it quickly while I still understand my scribbled minutes.  I'm pretty well up on governor stuff.  I've done the most essential following-up from the governors' meeting, thanks to the iPhone.  I've had a jolly day out yesterday.  I met really lovely kind people today and it was an interesting meeting, which has enthused me.  This evening, we went to discuss a collection of china which would be fantastic if we get it for auction, although it would be the most ambitious project we've done.  I'm gradually improving at using the Sage's laptop, although I'm more convinced than ever that I prefer a Mac.  Um.  Oh - the children have put flowers on Tilly's grave, which is really sweet if a bit weird.  I fortunately had smoked salmon in the fridge, so I was able to add it to scrambled eggs and make dinner in less than ten minutes when we arrived home at 9pm.  And I've been eating chocolate flavoured with lavender flowers.

Okay.  Onward we go.  I can't bear to look at the emails relating to today's meeting, I'm not even checking the inbox.  I'm going to have a final drink in the bath and have an early night.  Tomorrow, decorating the church for Harvest Festival.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Do the marth

I've never been to Kings Lynn before.  Within a couple of miles, but never visited the town until today.  And I was told that the Norfolk/Lincolnshire border is the North/South divide, as far as the long/short a sound is concerned.  Boston, in Lincolnshire, is only a few miles from Kings Lynn in Norfolk, but there they say 'bath' to rhyme with 'math', whilst in the Norfolk town they say barth, like every other good Southerner.  And most of the bad ones.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 50 - whoops, no pictures

Sorry, darlings, I was out until after 5.30 and I slumped with a glass of beer.  Because I only had enough wine for a single glass and that just wasn't going to cut it.  By the time I realised I hadn't taken the photos today, it was getting dark, so I'll have to do it another day.  Not tomorrow, I'll be out from 7.30 am until 9.30 or so in the evening.  Out most of Friday too, so I'm making no promises before the weekend.

However, I can give a verbal report - I had to get ready for my meeting this afternoon, so I only worked for just over an hour.  But it was enough to add a row of bricks, the penultimate row, on one side of the pillar.  Meanwhile, Dave finished off the central pillar.  He didn't add the cap, as it's quite heavy and he wants the mortar to be set firm on the pillar.  On the other side of the pillar, there are two courses of bricks still to go - but that's only one morning's worth of work.  We are actually within three days of finishing, we believe.

Whether all three of those days will happen this year is another matter.  We'd like to finish the brickwork, but if the weather turns, this may be it.  Last year, we did carry on until the 26th October and were abruptly halted by Dave's illness, although it was getting jolly cold by then.  We shall see.  I've got two or three days free next week if the weather's fine, don't know about the Sage.

In any case, we will have a party next year - May or June suit you?  You are all genuinely and cordially invited and we'll pick a Saturday to suit as many as possible, if you let me darlings, not yet.  Far too soon, the eggs aren't laid yet, let alone hatched.

It does look brilliant.  I'm so pleased with it.  The only thing for which I regret the thought of finishing is that Dave won't come and see us unless we give him a job to do.  He points out that a social call doesn't suit his workaholic ethos.  We could, of course, find a lot more jobs - there's a toolshed to be built, a boathouse to be demolished and reconstructed, a summerhouse to renovate - but no more bricklaying.

Still, we're not there yet.  Still a few days of fun to come.

Sunday - pictures added.

If you think that third photo is crooked, it's not that - the ground is sloping and, because the right side of the wall is at the full height of bricks and the left isn't, it gives the impression of being on the huh.  I took the next three photos at my eye level, from the leftmost brick to the rightmost, and then one of the ones on the wall at right angles to this one.  All level along the top.

The final one, I just stepped back a few paces.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Z's back to the wall

I'm going a bit scatty trying to sort things out - I have reports from 24 chairmen of different societies, nearly all labelled 'chairman's report' or something very similar.  Likewise, 'lecture report'.  Why on earth don't people automatically put the name of their society on the report?  I have them all in a folder and am having to open each, check which society it is, relabel it - and then some people have sent it twice, a couple not at all and I'm having to check and recheck against the list.  I know I haven't been as efficient as I might have been, but I didn't realise it was going to be so tricky.  I'll know better next time.

But - and sorry, I know I've said this before - I'm on several committees and have been secretary of quite a few, and it's always been obvious to me that a certain amount of information is useful in a label.  The worst I ever had was a list of useful phone numbers and addresses from the Rector's then assistant, labelled Bengen (as in benefice gen).  Months later, doing a search, how on earth was I to find it?  But Committee Minutes is as bad.  How about what committee and the date?  It just seems obvious to me.  Even if you put everything straight into folders, you need a different name for each document and if you want to find something, it's simplest to type the committee and date and do a search rather than physically open each document to check.

Of course, I should have done nearly all of this over the weekend, but other matters took my attention and I didn't have the heart to look at it last night either.  Midnight oil tonight, though.   Tomorrow evening is the absolute deadline and I hate to hit the wire (I received two more reports this evening, I couldn't send them out earlier).

So, obviously, I'm writing on the blog now instead of just getting on with it.

Music today, two double lessons.  There are larger classes than usual this year - another 40 or so pupils applied late and filled the year, after the timetabling had been done for nine forms, and so there are about 28 pupils in each.  And some of the pupils have learning and behavioural issues (though no bad behaviour at all so far, the lessons have been fine), so the teacher is keeping to a careful structure.  All the same, they have to do some independent work in small groups and so the class was divided into three for some of the lesson, so that each group in turn could learn their work on the keyboard, drums and guitar.  I'm finally mastering the guitar, in theory at least, and can show how to play it, although I'm not ready to give a demonstration.  I wonder if Ro has left his guitar here or taken it with him.  If it's here, I should ask if he minds me having a try.

Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful messages and emails.   They have meant a lot.  Thank you.

Monday 11 October 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 49 - two more rows of bricks and we're almost done

Dave fitted the last two ornamental bricks this morning, and we built the whole row above too, except for a few bricks that are part of the pillar.  Rather than work on that, we decided to leave it until Wednesday.  Remarkably, we've almost finished the bricks.  Just two more rows - the last three sessions have achieved more than I expected.  After that, there are the tiles and the capping bricks to add - the tiles are there to deflect rainwater from running down the brickwork.  They are the original tiles that used to be on this house.  We replaced them, with new hand-made tiles from a manufactory in Sussex, 25 years ago.  The Sage went down to fetch them in a borrowed lorry, and stopped off on the way at an auction to buy a cat - a china cat.

Weeza, Phil and Zerlina came over in the morning to make a fuss of Tilly.  She was glad to see them and wanted to be with us - she rested for some time in her basket, which Weeza brought outside into the sunshine.  However, Weeza could see the difference in her, after only a few days, and agreed that there wasn't any good news to come.  Later. "I'm on Tilly's sofa!" said Zerlina ... she's too little to understand, we'll have to fob her off until she forgets.

Zerlina laid a brick "put the bird poo here" said her mother, possibly unwisely - is it a good idea, to give the notion that guano is okay to handle and a useful building material?  - anyway, she slapped it in place, helped put down the brick and then banged the hammer to tap it into place.  Then, Weeza took over from me, so I went to cook lunch.
Lunch was slightly odd, admittedly, with a random assortment of food I happened to have.  No one but me fancied the beetroot in yoghurt sauce, but the baked beans and sausages went down well.  The grilled pork belly slices, we finished off tonight with yesterday's chicken casserole.

So, here are pictures.  I am really thrilled that we've got this far this quickly, over the last week and a half.  The wall looks lovely and I'm proud of it.

The Virginia creeper on the end of the house is beautiful at this time of the year, until we get a strong wind, when all we're left with is stalks on the house and leaves blowing in the door.

Tilly couldn't eat all day and was uncomfortable.  Not in pain, but not getting much rest. We arranged for the vet to come and help her out of it and she died quietly as I held her.  I don't have to tell you how much we miss her, and thank you for your kind messages.

Sunday 10 October 2010


I mentioned on Facebook how concerned we are about Tilly.

Back in the summer, she started to get an upset stomach, and we changed her food to pouches of  meat, rice and veg formulated for 'senior dogs'  (really, pc-ness for dogs, how absurd) which she loved; nevertheless she started to lose weight and her backbone started to show badly.  The week before last she started to be iffy about eating, for the first time in her life - having been underfed for the first 15 months of her life until she came to live with us, food was extremely important to her - and I had to sit and feed her with a fork.  By last weekend, I had decided to take her for a check at the vets' surgery.  As I mentioned the other day, I took her on Wednesday and she was put on antibiotics because she had a slightly raised temperature, and a blood sample was taken.

By that time, she wasn't really eating.  However, I cooked her chicken, rice and vegetables and she loved it, and spent the rest of the day coming back to her bowl, which I refilled - she had 5 or 6 meals that day.  The rest of the week, she gradually ate less, however, and by Friday afternoon she had pretty well stopped eating.  She would take a few bits from our dinner and eat her Bakers Allsorts treats and that was all.

The blood test indicated a problem with her pancreas, and the vet will phone tomorrow to see how she is and ask if I want further tests.  Well, by yesterday, I'd pretty well come to the conclusion that there was no point.  I know that it's only too easy, out of misplaced kindness, to keep a sick dog a day too long and that you don't know when that time is until it arrives and it is too late for it not to suffer.  This morning, she wouldn't eat at all - I'd cooked her an egg for breakfast and pretended it was for me and I was sharing - and I was in doubt whether to bother giving her her antibiotics.  I say 'bother' not because of the trouble, but because it's really hard to force her to swallow them, it's really upsetting for both of us and if they aren't going to help, I could spare her.

I did give them to her in the end.  I reckoned that, if they keep her temperature down, that's one way she won't suffer.  But I left for church heavy-hearted, quite sure that I'd have to call the vet in tomorrow.

When I got home, the Sage said he'd persuaded her to eat the egg.  I gave her some cake too (she surprised us yesterday by eating quite a lot of cake) and then she had some more Allsorts (which are meaty snacks).  I did chicken pizza for lunch, I had a bad headache and had no spirit for cooking, and also brought some leftover cooked chicken in here and she ate all the meat off the chicken thigh and all the bits of chicken off my pizza.

Ro came over - he was really upset by the news.  It looks like I'm making a fuss about nothing, she wags her tail and looks quite perky, but she is ill.  As I say, she never refuses food normally.  We fed her cake and she ate more than any of us.  I didn't have any in fact, I gave all mine to her.  This evening, I made a chicken casserole and she ate quite a lot.

So I'm hoping against hope for a reprieve.  I'll ask for the blood test and then at least we'll know.  If she has cancer, we'll call it a day.  But if not, we'll nurse her along.

Ro might drop in here - I told him I'd blogged about our day out yesterday - if you do, Ro, thank you so much.  I felt so much better by the time you left, you cheered us all up a lot.  Tilly has slept all evening since dinner, and I've still to give her her tablets, but she's had a much better day than I expected.

It's been a weekend for accidents - Wink's chap Bod's mum fell yesterday and broke her hip and elbow.  They can't operate at present as she takes Warfarin so they have to gradually withdraw it, as her blood won't clot - I'm not sure how long that takes to correct itself.  And my friend Brenda's sister fell and broke her wrist yesterday too - the complication there is that she suffers from osteoporosis and her bones are fragile, and the break is a bad one.

Saturday 9 October 2010

That magnificent man in his flying machine...

Today, we went to visit a Bond celebrity - the autogyro out of You Only Live Twice. And its inventor and pilot. He is now 94 years old and still flying. He's the life-president of the Sage's classic car club and always invites members and their guests over every year. He's a brilliant inventor and you are welcome to poke around his workshop and see all the autogyros and he loves to share his years of knowledge and experience. The Sage has been at least four times and this was my third visit. We took our friend J, who helped us when we were blocked in by the fallen tree, and M, another friend who is a mechanic with a particular enthusiasm for restoring vintage cars.

Here is Ken Wallis, talking to the Sage.

And here's Little Nellie herself.  In the film, it was Ken Wallis flying her.  It was adapted from an autogyro in military service - they have been very useful in a lot of surveying and other situations, though I suppose they're somewhat superseded now.  He built the first one in 1961.

(Blogger has really messed up photos recently by the way, and it doesn't seem to be possible to put them side by side any more, which had been a useful recent innovation.  They don't go where I want them to either, so are out of order.  Sorry - it's late and I'm not shifting around the order of the html now.)

One of the biggest treats is seeing the autogyro fly. He has to get his licence renewed in America, as he's deemed too old in this country.  This is the one he usually takes out, but it overturned last week - a wheel strayed into the long grass as he was on the way back to the barn and it fell over, smashing the rotor arms.  He had some grazes on the back of his hand, but was quite dismissive of them.

The one he was flying instead was much larger and heavier, with a sizeable Rolls Royce engine.

He pulls it outside, then removes the stays that keep the rotors from swinging around.  Then he primes the engine and swings the propellor and then gets on and straps himself in, and sets off towards the field.

His usual party trick is a "look no hands, look no feet" flypast, but that wasn't so easy with this larger machine; still, he showed its paces impressively and it was fun to watch.  I've a couple of short filmed clips too, to finish with.

Chris kindly found an article to link to - here - do click on it, it's an excellent article that really gives the way he speaks, and there's a film clip at the end too, which is worth watching.

Friday 8 October 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 48 - keeping to positive thoughts

Dave arrived on time this morning, but the Sage and I were running a little late.  The Sage had gone to fetch mushrooms for Tim (a job he always did for Al and still does for Tim - it's the same farm as the wholesaler gets them from, but they are fresher, not having been to Norwich and sent out again the next day - and cost more money.  I had found that there was a document that needed to be emailed out, and my connection was very poor and it took ages.  Anyway, we made a start before too long.

Dave put in two more of the special bricks, which leaves two more to go and, weather permitting, they will go in on Monday.  We're not thinking too much about finishing - it depends on the weather and how much time the Sage and I have free.  If the next fortnight is dry, it isn't out of the question.  Once we're up to the level of the top of the ornamental bricks all along, it will give a visual effect of a completed wall - it's surprising, the difference that a couple of days' work has made.

Afterwards, we had another session cutting up the oak tree.  Still a way to go.  And all that wood has to be shifted and then split.

As you see, Tilly was pottering about when I was taking the pictures.   The vet phoned this evening - the blood test report was inconclusive.  Some muscle damage was indicated, which could mean a lot of injections or blood tests, which she hasn't had, or a lot of lying around, which is more likely - she used to be an active little dog, but sleeps a lot more now.  And her pancreas isn't in good shape, though they're not sure why.  Another test could be done if it seems worth it and we're leaving it until after the weekend and the vet, who is a lovely Irish girl called Niamh, will ring again.   I'm not very hopeful actually, though I realise I tend to look on the gloomy side.  Let's not think about it for a day or two, hey?

Thursday 7 October 2010

Bringing on the wall, Day 47 - Dave reaches the top

You know I said that the vet says Tilly's teeth aren't in good shape?  They feel pretty sharp when your fingers are caught in between them.  She really doesn't like those tablets and, most unusually for a polite and gentle little dog, clamped her mouth shut when trying to avoid swallowing them.  Unfortunately, my hand was in the way.  Still, no harm done, and now I know better than to do them one by one.  I open her mouth with one hand and, with the other, shove all pills to the back of her throat until she swallows.  Kinder, as that way she doesn't get the taste.

Dave started by building the end pillar to the top, and then carried on for another few rows, just to get the sense of a job done - now all we have to do is fill in between.  The final tiles and capping bricks will have to go on right at the end of the job, but the pillar is complete.

In the meantime, I was working on the central pillar, up to where the next ornamental brick will go.  They are four ordinary bricks high, so that's as high as I went.

After that, we both did some filling in.  The forecast is good, so we're planning another session tomorrow morning.

Weeza and Zerlina came over for the day.  As the weather was so lovely, we spent most of it outdoors.  In the afternoon, we did more work on the fallen oak tree - more than half gone now, but it's a big job.  When Squiffany and Pugsley got home from school, Al took the children to pick some blackberries and the girls came back with berry-stained faces and hands.

After that, the Sage and I fetched bricks for tomorrow, opening the last pallet.  It was 6.30 when I took this photo on my phone, so it's rather dark. And here's one of the bricks, so you can see why the wall isn't quite as straight as it might be.