Friday 31 December 2010

December leaves, January prepares to bud

I finally went shopping.  First time I'd left here since Christmas Day.  I went to the bank first, to pay in the money from the Christmas services at church - they are really cheerful and helpful, the tellers in our local banks.  Then I went to get some food for the weekend - I could manage on what we have, really, but I had to get something to take Andy.  Then after that, I remembered that I hadn't been able to find my wellies when I'd wanted them last.  This was a mystery as I never leave them anywhere but the porch.  I can only think that we lent them to someone and we've all forgotten about it.  They are nowhere to be seen, anyway, so I went to the big store just a couple of hundred yards away, next to the church, and have bought myself  a new pair.

I only stayed with Andy about 20 minutes, by which time he was tired.  He's lost a lot of weight (not overweight to start with) and speaks quietly, but his mind and spirit are as always.  He is going to spend tomorrow at home, which he's really looking forward to.  It'll be a long time before he's able to manage stairs and he's been advised that living in a bungalow or having a stairlift would be a good idea, so Gill has already been house-hunting and has found somewhere suitable, in this village (they live a couple of miles away in Yagnub).  An estate agent is coming round to measure their place next week.  Although the property market is pretty flat, the small modern estate where they live is very attractive and houses usually sell very quickly.  On Gill's suggestion, I took bananas (low potassium levels) and Lucozade, and added a box of Maltesers, chosen because they're small and appealing and not wrapped.  His face lit up, he asked me to open the box and he put it on the bed by him!

Then I called on a friend, the one who wants an iPad, from whom I'd had an email asking if I'd be free next week to have another go - the weather turned against us last time.  We're hoping to go next Tuesday.  After that, the Sage and I went next door where Al and Dilly were having a family party, with her parents, sister and family, Weeza and family and us.

And that's our evening.  I'll still be up at midnight and might turn on the television to see the London fireworks, but I'm not in the mood for New Year's Eve television antics.  I started the crossword earlier (a friend and I have got into the way of doing it together and moaning to each other by text when we can't get a clue) but have yet to read the paper, and will listen to music, I expect.

Tomorrow, we're going for the New Year's Day walk in Denton - the last one, I couldn't join in as it was impossible for me to walk far, so I stayed in Gilly's kitchen stirring soups for lunch.  The previous year, I'd had to do the short, 2 mile walk, having always done the longest one before that.  This is what I need wellies for, by the way, it's very much a country walk.  I'll put out the puppy word on the route, the Denton grapevine extends far and fruitfully.

I hope that this year has been a good one for you, friends, and that 2011 will be even better.

Thursday 30 December 2010

News about Andy

There is a diagnosis now - he has vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels.  There are still tests going on to show specifically which parts of his body are affected and how badly, but he's being treated with cortisone now and is showing some improvement.  It is a chronic condition, but there is every hope that the symptoms can be considerably alleviated.  I'm going to go and visit him tomorrow, just to pop in for a quick half hour, which is about as long as he'll want to cope with a visitor.  It's hoped that he can be moved to the local cottage hospital soon, which will be much more home-like, it's lovely there, and he'll be able to make frequent home visits.  

I spent the morning with the children.  I didn't sleep a whole lot last night, and in fact spent a while exchanging texts with a friend who couldn't sleep either.  Dilly and Al had to go to Norwich, where the lease was to be signed with the new tenants at their house.  I helped Pugsley finish his complicated Lego castle.  

This afternoon, we're not doing a lot actually.  It's been foggy all day, although mild, and I'm not going anywhere.  I'm enjoying the peace.  It's rare to have nothing that I have to do, it'll be soon enough that I'll have deadlines to meet and work to prepare, but I'm taking the rest of the year off from it all.  Tomorrow, we're going next door (after I get back from the hospital) where various family and friends will gather - not sure who or how many, though I know Dilly's parents and Weeza and co will be there.  It'll be families with young children, not a midnight do.  

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Z is fairly mean

I don't think I've ever relaxed quite so much.  I've been getting up late - not waking particularly late, but if I get up before the Sage, it wakes him, so I only do so if I have to.  Then, when he finally wakes up and wants a cuddle (this doesn't imply I don't), I then snuggle down for a bit once he has got up, so I'm even later.

Then, the Sage went out to a party - it was a general open house, I hadn't been specifically invited and I am still in the mood to relax alone, so I didn't go, and instead cooked myself a substantial lunch which included, but was not limited to, two fried bantam eggs which were so fresh that the yolks sat well on top of the whites, and i, in my turn, sat on the floor by the fire to eat it, with a glass of white wine.  Then I read the papers and then I watched the last episode of Series 3 of The Wire.  The next series is about the kids, as I remember, and Prez becomes a teacher.  And I guess that Chris and Snoop will become truly scary - does it include the buying of the nail gun?  That is the most hilarious piece of the whole series.

The Sage went out again later, to show his present to more friends - he is so thrilled with it, it's like finding the last ever pair of naked mole rats have had babies, in its rarity and also its ugliness.  I, having temporarily (I hope) taken charge of the church cheque book, made out several cheques, one of them to me (two other people signed the cheque, because that is Correct) and so all bills have been paid.  I have to visit the bank this week, unfortunately, I'm sure the queue will come out the door.  Maybe next Tuesday will do.

I have not drunk an injudicious amount of red wine, but if I have any more I might wish I hadn't in the morning, because it's very red and so hangover-inducing.  Maybe I should move on to something paler.  Or maybe it's time for coffee.  Yes, that's the best thing.  Coffee.  I'll see if the coffee fairy is on form this evening.  The bin fairies bloody aren't.  I did half their job for them, putting a bin bag by the door, and it's still there.  I wasn't pleased.

That reminds me, the Sage is on an official warning, though I'm not sure he realises quite how perilous his position is.  I've explained how vital it is for the dishwasher filters to be cleaned frequently, but he hates the job.  So, when he clears the dishwasher (this is not a specifically designated job, either of us might do it), I ask if he's cleaned them, so if he hasn't he has to do it.  Now, he's had a bright idea.  "I've cleared the dishwasher - but I haven't cleaned the filters," he says, brightly, as if remembering that the job needs doing is the point.  I've been letting him get away with it for some time, but now I've pointed out that this is a cop-out and no excuse.    Next time, there will be a polite request to take his turn at a job neither of us likes.

Putting stuff in the dustbin isn't my job, so it doesn't come into negotiations.  Any more than doing the washing, which he has never mastered.  I may be mean, but I'm quite fair.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Frozen toez

Lunch went very well yesterday.  A socking great 16 lb rib of beef, with all that goes with it, and the pudding was a hit too.  I decided on Queen of puddings - most of you will know it, it's a Victorian recipe I  think.  Not that even I quite recall it from those days.  For those who don't know it, you heat milk, add breadcrumbs, a little sugar and lemon zest and, when it's cool, egg yolks and then bake it like egg custard.  When set, you top it with warm jam and, when you're about to start your meal, whip up the egg whites with sugar - less sugar than for regular meringues - spread on top and bake gently again.  I did a double quantity and it all went.  Squiffany had a second helping, which was a rarity and, when Zerlina was asked if she liked it, she didn't stop eating long enough to reply but just nodded.

I cooked the beef for ten minutes to the pound, which was rather guesswork but which was fine.  Most of us like it on the rare side.  There's some of it left, but everything else vanished except half a dozen sprouts - though even Pugsley has decided he likes sprouts now.

Zerlina has been enjoying Christmas.  She loved the idea of an Advent calendar - Weeza has a chest of drawers for Advent, and she puts a little present in each, she did it first for Squiffany and Pugsley one year.  Just a balloon, hairclip, sweet or suchlike - but with that, and doing the rounds of the family for several days, the first day with no parcels to open came as a disappointment to her.  When we were over there, each present offered to her was opened with a hopeful "Might be chocolate?" - fortunately, there were some chocolate coins, so she wasn't disappointed.

Something always breaks down at Christmas time, so we were more disappointed than surprised when it turned out to be our new electric blanket, which was only three weeks old.  £65, it cost, bought online from John Lewis.  I was glad that I'd bought it online, as it meant I didn't have to trail back to the shop with it, but could email.  The blanket itself seems to be all right, it has dual controls and it's one of the leads that has stopped working.  The one on my side of the bed.  I snuggled up very affectionately to the Sage to keep warm, but after warming me up thoroughly, he insisted on us swapping sides and taking the cold side himself.  A gentleman, he is.  I emailed John Lewis customer services department last night.  I was surprised and gratified to receive a reply first thing this morning - it being a bank holiday, I hadn't really expected one until tomorrow.  I was less happy that, with apologies, they said it was out of stock so they couldn't replace it at present, but offered a full refund with no need to return the blanket.  They also gave me two London branches that, at the time of writing, still had some in stock.  I haven't followed this up, as I have now put on a blanket from the spare bed.  I'll see if the local electrician can do anything with the lead - the working lead is fine either side of the bed, so it isn't the blanket itself.  If not, I'll replace it when stocks come in again.  Though, presumably, at a higher price as VAT will have risen by then.

Monday 27 December 2010

Aural (and nasal) sects

People are in one of two camps - either like it or can't bear it - background music, that is.  I'm not talking about muzak, because I can hardly believe that anyone likes that, of course.

As I said yesterday, I'm not a fan.  I listen to it if I like it, and if I don't it jars on my ear intolerably.  There was one occasion when I was in Al's shop on a Saturday.  I know it was Saturday because his then Saturday girl, Laura was there.  The Sage had just been in too and then said goodbye and left.  In those days, Al used to have the radio playing on a local station (of course, this had to end when the then government decreed that any business doing such a thing had to pay for a licence).  Whenever I was in the shop alone, it was turned off, of course.  Anyway, Travis came on singing 'why does it always rain on me,' a song I have no fondness for.  "Oh go away, you dreadful irritating man," I snapped, and then realised that Laura was gaping at me, horrified.  "Well, I can't bear that song," I mumbled.  Alex was snuffling with mirth in the corner.  "She thought you were talking about Dad," he chortled.

On the other hand, if something came on that I liked, I would be completely distracted because I wanted to listen to it.  And yet, if you are listening to something, whether music or the spoken voice, on the radio, people don't think it matters if they interrupt you.  My mother had that knack of speaking at a critical moment.  She was quite firm if I went in and she was watching something on television, I had to wait quietly until she was ready to speak to me, which was fair enough.  But if she came here and I had the radio on, she'd start talking immediately.  It nearly always seemed to be at a vital moment, when a mystery was being unveiled or a news item announced.  By the time I'd said, hang on a moment, it was too late - without a picture to give context, you had to hear every word or you lost the sense altogether.

I don't like wind chimes, either.  I find them very irritating because they are intrusive.  And I'm iffy about running water )of the 'water feature' type) in the garden.  It depends on how splashy it is.  Natural sounds are different.  Obviously, a constantly yapping dog is not a good sound (and Dave isn't too keen on our chickens squawking as they sometimes do) but normal outdoor sounds are fine.

Then there are air fresheners.  Now, if there's a bit of a whiff, then squirting around something to disguise it is all very well, I suppose, but those plug-in ones, that keep on puffing out at regular intervals are dreadful. I dreaded it when my friend Caroline took me anywhere in her car, fond as I was of her, because she had the air conditioning turned to 'too cold' and she had a dangly fruit-scented air freshener in her car.  I have no idea why, she didn't smoke, or even smell like rabbits, as Dave does.

I'm more intolerant than any of you thought.  Sorry about that.  Of course, whatever you have in your own home is fine.  I'm talking about other people, naturally.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Scents and sensitivity

I rarely wear scent.  This is not because I don't like it, but out of consideration for other people.

Many years ago - twenty or twenty-five years - I went to a play at the Theatre Royal in Norwich, and the next evening went to a Prom concert at Snape Maltings.  I sat in the circle on the theatre evening, as I remember, towards the right hand side as looking from the back.  The theatre was full and it was a very warm night, and I could hardly breathe because of the mingled smells of poor-quality perfumes.  I was not at all comfortable.

The next night, it was a classical concert - again, I sat towards the back.  I had not yet realised that the sound is very good wherever you sit, so you might as well get cheaper seats, and I was in the middle-ranking seats.  Again, a very warm night and the place was full - and my poor nostrils were assailed by the smell of expensive perfume.  The difference in quality was marked, but it didn't make it a pleasant experience.

Since then, I have never worn scent to the theatre or anywhere that someone sensitive might be uncomfortable with the smell, not just of my perfume but by the mixture of every other woman's.  It's not that I am allergic to anything, just that I notice smells and so they can be too much distraction.  It's the same with music.  If there's music, I generally listen to it, so I don't have it as a background.  That is, I will play music while I type or read blogs or something like that, but I can listen at the same time.  I don't have it on if there's conversation going on, because I'll have to choose which to listen to.

Saturday 25 December 2010

The floozie

I had taken a much better photo than this, but I can't find the camera lead, so this is from my phone.  Squiffany decorated the tree yesterday, with some advice from Pugsley, and I put the Floozie in pride of place on top.

Happy Christmas, darling friends.

Friday 24 December 2010

Chester's first Christmas

Chester was born in mid-October, so he was 8 weeks old the week before Christmas.  We didn't get a dog for Christmas, but it just so happened that our puppy was ready to leave his mother in time for Christmas.

I will recap, darlings, because I do like to tell a story from the beginning.  I went to coffee with a friend - it was one of those charity things where the first person asks 8 people, each guest asks 4, those ask 2 and they each ask a friend, everyone concerned giving a donation.  I don't think I did, I just gave the money, because I wasn't going to ask a friend for a cup of coffee and expect her to pay for it.

Anyway, Bridget was there, and I mentioned that we were looking for a mongrel puppy, and she said that the man who delivered their horse feed had said that their dog had had puppies, and she might have one.  I asked her to pass on my phone number, and a day or two later, Z phoned.  I didn't phone myself of course, that would be silly, her name is Z too.  Anyway, we went to visit and there were four black pups, three of them female, and three blond boys.  The largest and palest, they were going to keep.  In the car, I'd said to the Sage that I hoped there would be a blond boy.  There was a choice of two, almost identical.  One had a few white hairs on his head.  I wanted him.  Without saying so, I asked the Sage for his choice.  He said the same pup.  They were three weeks old then and, Z being hospitable, we went to visit every week.

That Christmas was, intentionally, a quiet one.  We didn't have a tree, because we thought that would be asking for trouble.  There is an oak beam holding our ceiling up, I just asked the Sage what the upright beam is called and he said a wall plate, and the curved bit joining it and the beam is called a knee.  We nailed a fir branch into the knee and decorated that.  I forgot all about that and, a couple of years later, thought we'd got some damn big woodworm.

To the end of his days, Chester adored Christmas.  Most of all, he loved opening presents.  We bought him various treats and wrapped them, but soon discovered that it was the unwrapping that he most enjoyed.  So we'd wrap individual biscuits, or sneak back the same hide chew and rewrap it, just to see his excitement at receiving another present.  He never touched anything belonging to another member of the family, but pounced excitedly on the parcels he was given.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Fair's fair

I didn't want to give the impression that Weeza complained about her childhood Christmases, or that I was upset about what she said, we were both amused by our not-quite-parallel perceptions.

However, there was one thing I certainly did get right, and I didn't know that either until that same conversation.

Dave may upbraid me for this, but we did give the children several presents. I think it's cheering, seeing whole lots of parcels under the tree and, as I said before, I didn't want present-opening to be over and done with in no time.  When Weeza and Al were little, we didn't have a great deal of spare money and my children didn't know for years that being given socks and pyjamas and other necessaries was a bit of a cop-out.  In those days, I started shopping for their presents early.  The Early Learning Centre only had two shops and so did a lot of their sales by mail order, and I had their catalogue early and ordered all sorts of things.  Then I browsed book shops and often the Sage and I made things for them, and eventually I got everything together and considered what was for whom.  Board games, jigsaws, Lego, books and suchlike, they would both use anyway, and I wasn't keen on girly toys so tended to avoid dolls, so although some items would be bought with one child or other in mind, there were always some things that would be equally suitable for either.

I never wrapped anything until I was satisfied that there was enough for them both.  And then I carefully apportioned everything out, making sure that each pile had the same amount of presents, that they roughly equated in size, style and price, and then finally wrapped and labelled them.  Weeza and Al never commented on this at all - but when I referred to it a few weeks ago, Weeza said that she and Al had always checked.  They'd gone through all the wrapped gifts in the days before Christmas and counted them out, and they eyed each others' pile of stuff to check we'd been fair.  So, it was just as well I'd taken that trouble, wasn't it?

Even now, I still try to be roughly equal.  And I try to include a present that's fun.  Not necessarily silly, although it could be, but something that you can play with on the day.  It doesn't always work out that way, but I like it to.  And ideally, I like to spoil them a bit, because that makes them know that their mummy loves them.  The Sage knows it already, so I can get away with giving him a rather ugly cracked mug from 1795.  Which he's already taken to show the local history expert, he's so pleased with it.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Family planning

It's an interesting thing, different people's perception of the same thing.  A few weeks ago (too early to tell you about it then), Weeza and I were talking about childhood Christmases.  I recalled my careful time plan that scheduled in several stops during the morning, so that I could spend time with her and her brothers, so we could open presents, play with new games and they wouldn't be left, as I was as a child, with my mother in the kitchen working all morning and becoming very harassed while the rest of us hung around disconsolately out of her way, not allowed to open any parcels because that was a whole-family activity and when, after the meal, she spent the rest of the day in the kitchen again while we had to be quiet because of all the elderly people who were invited to spend the day, sometimes several days, with us, who didn't want to be bothered by excited children.

I was convinced that I hadn't made this mistake.  I kept everything simple.  Everything possible was done in advance and I had my schedule to be sure that everything would be perfectly cooked at the same time.  Even so, there was a lot to do, but I always thought that I was relaxed and gave the children my full attention for half an hour at a time, until noon when, our other guests having arrived (always my mum and stepfather, normally my sister and her husband when she had one, sometimes another person), I brought in champagne and we sat down for an hour, chatted and opened presents together, and then I went and did the rest of the cooking.

The thing is, I'd always found Christmas Day a slight let-down.  Eagerly looked forward to, of course, but I really wanted my mother there.  I didn't care about the vast meal, the huge turkey with two stuffings and a dry breast, the whole ham, loads of vegetables and then a massive Christmas pudding that no one liked which was later fed to the birds.  Looking back, I'm not sure what took all the time.  She always decorated and laid the table several days in advance, so we couldn't use the dining room, the meat took hours of being largely left to its own devices - yet she was always busy.  Actually, to tell the truth, she was terribly hard-working, but I've wondered since just how efficient she was.  I'm very lazy, so have to use my time cannily to have plenty left to do sod-all, but I suspect she was the opposite.

My reasoning was - that the family would miss me if I wasn't with them much of the time.  That I didn't want to miss out on the fun.  That it was a good idea to open a few presents at a time, because of the feeding frenzy that children can't resist, left to themselves, so there's ten excited minutes while paper is ripped off, then the flatness of being surrounded by a whole load of stuff, no more parcels and a mother getting cross because they didn't take any notice of who gave what, which makes thank-you letters awkward.  I thought I'd got a pretty good compromise, and it took care and planning, giving them my full attention when there were things to be done.

Weeza's recollection is different.  She remembers the frustration of only being allowed to open one thing at a time and then having to wait until the next break in my time plan.  Her friends did the feeding frenzy and that was what she'd have preferred too.


Tuesday 21 December 2010

A miss isn't necessarily quite as good as a mile

I mentioned, briefly, back on 11th September, that Wink had had a very near miss on the motorway while driving to visit us.  I took a photo of her car the next day, but never got round to posting it here.  However, reading Christopher's account of the horrible skid they had on a busy, icy road (black ice, Blue Witch, he wasn't driving too fast for the conditions as far as he knew) reminded me.

Just to recap - Wink was driving along the M11 when she glanced in her rear-view mirror and saw a car overtaking another and going out of control.  She braked, not knowing what was likely to happen.  The car shot alongside her, hit the central crash barrier and shot across her bows almost at right angles to her car.  On the hard shoulder, it righted itself again and was brought to a stop some way along.

Piecing it together afterwards, it appeared that the driver of the car being overtaken had been intending to pull out himself.  He looked in his mirror, it seemed okay, so he signalled and started to move, looked again, and a car was coming along very fast in the overtaking lane.  He stayed where he was, but the woman driving the overtaking car may have thought he was pulling out, swerved,  and was going so fast that she couldn't control the car.

This, they discussed while waiting for the police to arrive.  They couldn't ask the woman, who was sitting in her driving seat and didn't get out.

Wink was surprisingly matter-of-fact about the whole thing.  It hadn't happened, it nearly had but it didn't.  So no need to get worked up.  We offered to come and fetch her, of course the motorway was closed but we could have met at the next service area and I bring her car back while the Sage drove Wink.  But she decided against it.  She did stop and have lunch, but then carried on.

Once she was here, she realised she'd lost her mobile.  She'd had it at the service area, but not used it since. We tried ringing it, but no reply.  However, not long afterwards, I had a phone call.  Wink had stopped in the next town to here, to buy me a pot plant.  The phone had dropped out of her pocket into a flower pot and another woman had just found it.  Since she didn't want to wait, she said she'd leave it at the supermarket.  She phoned me because she checked the last caller.

So, two non-events, in one sense.  But it was a near miss.  Check out the picture.

The car was that close.  Wink braked just enough.

Monday 20 December 2010

Tenazious and bozzy

Up even later this morning.  I feel as if it's Christmas already, with all this self-indulgent behaviour.  Terribly naughty.  The Sage took me out to lunch, to the local caff.  He goes there regularly, and takes me about once a year.

A lot of people are rethinking their travel plans.  The snowy weather seems to sweep up and down the country - at present it's in the South and the West Country.  I spoke to Wink last night, she's due to come here on Sunday until Tuesday (yes, it's a long way to come for a short time, but she's seeing Bod and Bodsmum over Christmas and working on Wednesday) but this is looking doubtful.  It's not worth it for a difficult journey.  Apparently she went a bit overboard on the present front this year so can't possibly come by train - besides, that would be a pretty dire journey, too.

The daft bantams went to roost in trees yesterday afternoon, and by the time the Sage went out to shut them up, it was too late to do anything about it.  They all huddled in early this afternoon, he went out and gave them the pastry from our lunchtime steak pie and then shut the door on them.  They're all fine and quite cheerful.  There are plenty of places for them to scratch about out of the way of the frost, and they all keep together and find any sunshine they can to bask in, although there has been none of that today.  No more snow, although it's forecast for later in the week, from Wednesday onwards.  Not having to go far, I can be relaxed about it, but there's not a lot of choice really.  A friend who is anxious whether her parents can make it up from Somerset has already had several invitations - she really wants to see them of course, but if it can't happen, she won't be alone and I bet they won't be either.

The Sage and I solemnly exchanged cheques for each other's Christmas present, though he wouldn't let me pay full whack for his.  I showed him my bank statement to demonstrate that I could pay, but he wouldn't take it.  And I went and bought as many veggies as could conveniently keep fresh, so that it'll be less to do later in the week.  "£20" said Tim.  I fixed him with a steely look.  "And?"  "Ninety-one pence," he admitted.  I gave him the extra pound.  I'm not taking discounts from him, dear chap.  He gave me 10p back with a flickering glance, so I laughed and accepted it.  It seems that I do take discounts.  He assures me that he has the shop under full control, I think he should let me come in.  I've said, I'll be in every morning at the end of the week to see how it's going.  I know how hard the work is, and he'll be on his knees by the end of it.   And customers will only wait so long, it's important to keep the shelves stocked all the time - well, he knows it too, his brother is going to help.  I explained that I am a motherly control freak and I can't help it.  Funnily enough, I don't do this sort of thing with my own children, I'm more afraid of being overbearing than anything, and I trust that they will ask if they want me. Well, I don't think I do.  But I probably can't help it.

It's all Weeza's fault.  I used to be very mild and unassuming, until she once called me "strong".  Startled, because I had no idea, I've played up to it since.  I realised eventually that a mixture of pride and embarrassment stopped me from ever asking for help, so it was assumed I didn't need it.  I wasn't strong so much as tenacious.  But now, yes.  No pride left, so I accept all the help offered and even ask for it, but I'm afraid that strength has turned to bossiness.  But I'll take no for an answer.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Looking up at the stars - Z is a guttersnipe

If you don't have to go anywhere, this weather is really restful - obviously, if you do, it's very worrying and stressful, whether you have the journey from hell or whether you cancel.  I'm one of the fortunate ones.  There's been nothing that was any problem to cancel and I had enough food in.  Let's face it, we could eat for a month, although we'd end up with interesting unlabelled items that had been in the bottom of the freezer for a couple of years.

I was asked to choose carols for the service this morning, and did so carefully.  I used to do it regularly but am out of the way of it, so it takes a while.  Although, Christmas carols, there's a limit to how many are appropriate to go for at this stage of Advent.  I couldn't resist putting in my favourite, "It came upon the midnight clear" with its gloomy yet hopeful lyrics and the uplifting word "glorious" in the second line, and "See amid the winter's snow" because of the weather.

We got up thoroughly late this morning.  The Sage, unusually, has been sleeping in.  I've been awake long before him, but if I get up it disturbs him so, if I've nothing I have to do, I lie there reading and playing games.  Eventually of course, he wakes up, wraps an arm round me and then goes back to sleep - and so do I.  So it was quite late when we were dressed and downstairs.  This was fine.  It was Sunday, after all.

There's a certain degree of pride in those who get up early, I've always noticed.  Also in ones who go to bed late.  Few do both.  My father did.  He never stayed in bed once he woke up, but got up and did - well, I don't know, he was always up a long time before me.  But he never went to bed before midnight either.  I like early mornings in theory, but the evenings appeal too much.  I'm at my most cheerful and lively at night.  If I went to bed at 10, I'd miss that.  It's when I'm just getting chatty and interested in things.  But people who love to see the dawn think that this is a decadent idea, compared to their healthy lifestyles.  This may be true, it equally may not - but in any case, I have a feeling that the moral high ground may not be as much fun as the immoral flatlands.

I bought several bars of particularly nice chocolate the other day, meaning to share it among my children.  I'm having great difficulty in resolving to give it away.  I wish I'd bought double quantities.  I look at the descriptions and whimper with desire.  I'll resist, of course, I didn't buy them for me.  Dammit.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Z slides and is about to cast a die

It has been a very jolly day.  We received a phone call first thing, asking if we could look after the children as Dilly and Al needed to go out.  I was still in bed actually - I'm awake early but up late, thanks to my phone and, as far as last night and today is concerned, to the new levels of iAssociate.  Still so addictive.

The Sage went next door and babysat until I had put all sorts of stuff on my face - I considered counting the different products but thought that way led to humiliation, considering that the aim is to look fairly untouched at the end, except by time which is inevitable.  Then I went and suggested that we go and frolic in the snow.  Squiffany perked up and went straight to get her boots and gloves, while Pugsley did the "Noooooooo" of despair.  He's not the most outdoor of children.  So he came here with Grandpa, whilst Squiff and I had a lovely time.  We threw snow at each other - not really snowballs as the stuff was just too powdery.  Then we trotted across the Ups and Downs to look at the dip, and decided that there was not enough snow for a toboggan but that there might be for a bag or tray.  So we came back, found the waterproof cover that had been used when Tilly was not quite reliable on the sofa any more and took that.  I was cautious, but still quite abandoned (story of a good life, darlings) and slid down turn by turn with Squiffany.  I don't care how much I ache tomorrow.  Having spent several years being achy and necessarily careful, I don't want to miss out on anything silly and fun that I can possibly enjoy.

We came back and played board games and then had lunch, and then we went out again, leaving Pugsley playing quite happily with Lego - he knew where we were, within calling distance.  Squiffany says that, when the baby is born (she and P both rather hope for a sister but we don't know yet) that there will be a Gang, of the three of them, Zerlina ... and ME!  She will casually say to her mother that they will take the baby out for a while, it'll be all right because Granny will be there, and then we'll go to secret places and have fun.  Can you imagine how pleased and flattered I am?  Can you?  No, try.  Yes, that's more like it.

As for casting the die, we've received our invitation to the New Year Walk in Denton, hosted by good friends - last year, of course, I was within three weeks of receiving my hip and (interesting, I don't care about my clapped-out old one, it's the new one that's part of me, poor old lost bone) stayed at the house to stir soup rather than walk.  We'll accept of course, but I've said to the Sage that, if all right with him, I'll say to them, put the word out that we are looking for a pup.  Chester came from Denton and there's a fine neighbourhood network there.  They are well placed to hear of a bitch that has gone a bit wayward and is expecting mongrel puppies.

In further news, I have a Christmas present for the Sage.  I am rather thrilled to find that I am spending nearly four times on him what he is on me.  I adore a demanding husband.  Makes me rise to the occasion.  Although I think, damn, I should have demanded an iPad right back.  He has chosen a cracked mug, dated 1795.  It isn't even Lowestoft, never mind any other recognised factory.  A connoisseur's piece, darlings, indeed.

And finally, I have received by bill from the Inland Revenue.  Sigh.  There's a weird thing, if you're self-employed, that they demand a payment on account for the next year, based on this year's amount owed.  So this year I'll pay twice as much, but next year I'll owe very little so it won't trigger the extra demand, until the next year - well, that seems to be how it works.  I expected it, so have the money.  Damn them.

Oh, finally finally, the reason Dilly and Al were out was to meet prospective tenants for D's Norwich house. All is well and they will move in in a fortnight.  So that's good.

Friday 17 December 2010

Z doesn't fall over

Having said we wouldn't have a tree, it's turned out that there's a spare one.  Al bought one for the village school, delivered it and now that term is over has brought it back again, and there isn't a suitable branch for us to take off.  This wouldn't matter, we can get a branch of fir anywhere (and we're not very bothered, to be honest) but he and Dilly decided that they might as well use it, and that leaves the little tree in a pot going spare.  So I said, okay, it can go on the revolving bookcase and we'll put the floozy and a couple of decorations on it.

If you didn't know me last year, you won't have been introduced to the floozy.  It'll probably be as simple to take her picture again and put it up as to refer back to last December.  She is an honoured, if not a respected, member of the family.

I didn't get to the end of term jollies at the high school.  I didn't want to get the car out and then walk on the slippery ground, frankly.  We had an electrical problem at the church and I walked there and back four times, which was quite enough - the drives weren't too bad, but the road was terribly slippery.  The last time, carefully as I walked, I slipped several times and it was both caution and luck that kept me upright.  I'm probably reasonably safe from dislocation except from a bad fall, but if it were to happen I'd be dreadfully upset.  I'm still scared of it more than is quite proportionate, although from my mother's experiences it's not surprising.  Anyway, I do go out and I haven't fallen.  I had to climb on and off tables and chairs several times, about a dozen, and my hip has hurt a bit this evening, which is interesting - after eleven months, you'd think that wouldn't happen.

I had to phone the electrician, being unable to deal with it myself.  He is a lovely young man.  He was on his way to Norwich when I rang, but cheerfully said that he'd call in on his way home, and phoned with 20 minutes warning for me to meet him.  Then he quickly diagnosed the problem, said he'd nip back to the shop and get the part and come back, so I left him a key (the church isn't locked, but the meetings rooms are) and fetched it later. He is busy with appointments, but since this is easily dealt with (and his parents are  devout Christians, so he knows that everything has to be in full working order at this time of year) he made sure he fitted it in and phoned through to his later appointments to let them know he'd be a bit late.  I don't think you can beat a good local firm, especially family-run.

I feel that I have copped out, because I've wrapped most of the presents.  A couple haven't arrived yet, and I still have a couple to buy, but otherwise they are wrapped.  I think it takes the fun out, but I'd have to put everything away otherwise, in case the children come in and start poking around.

Still no diagnosis for Andy.  He is being taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more specialised tests next week.  No prognosis until there's a diagnosis of course.  Poor Andy, poor Gill.  So worrying.

Thursday 16 December 2010

The Big O, plural

Delicacy will not permit me to tell you how our day started; suffice it to say that I had to change the bedclothes, and that neither of us was ill or incontinent.  Even that is rather TMI, I realise.  We took Pugsley to nursery, picked up Ro and I went to the dentist, from where he and Al walked into the ci'ee, then the Sage dropped me at the little Riverside shopping centre while he went to visit a friend.  I bought various things, including three pairs of shoes and a pair of boots, which I have passed on to him for my Christmas present (romantic presents happen sometimes, but aren't always necessary.  I'm very pleased with this one) and we arrived on the top floor at Bonds on the dot of noon.

Hebe (actually, shall we drop that? The Sage's sister's name is June) ... June is great fun.  She has never been known to complain about anything and is always cheerful.  She mentioned that she had built a snowman - all by herself, for the pleasure of everyone where she lives, which is a sort of retirement complex of individual cottages around a big courtyard, in Cromer.  It's great to have someone else as daft as I am.

Her daughter and family aren't joining her for Christmas this year in fact, but her son and his partner are, complete with their neurotic cat.  She has opted to go by train and meet them there, which surprised them a bit, but she confided that she really doesn't want a carsick, doped cat on her lap again.  June had us in fits of laughter as she told us about the forthcoming "Big O's" - the first is to be next December when Simon will be 50, then it'll be her 80th, then Sarah's 50th.  We started comparing Big Os (excuse the apostrophe, I'll leave it out now that you know I'm talking about the letter O, plural) and realised that they can carry on for the next five years, between us all.  Ken, Simon's partner, had his Big O the year before last.

My teeth are fine, and so is my mouth.  I paid quite a lot of money to be told so, and for a three minute polish.  It rained on and off all day, but when the Sage looked out a while ago, it had started to snow lightly.  If you have to travel darlings, I hope it isn't too difficult.  The roads will be treacherous.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Z plans to go down the ci'ee

They still haven't found what's wrong with Andy.  Two MRI scans, the lumbar puncture, an endoscopy and numerous blood and other tests have come up with nothing conclusive.  They've sent blood to Cambridge for more specialised tests.  It's still a mystery.  Whatever it is, it's over and above the strokes.

I called on Gill's mum today.  She's a delightful lady who never stops talking.  I shall refer to her as Mrs Honeyman.  She was born a month before my own mum, I found out, and her late husband shared Mummy's birthday, but he was a year older.

Tomorrow, we're going to meet the Sage's sister Hebe for lunch and to exchange presents.  We give her a Stilton, and have done each Christmas for decades.  Every so often, we check that it's still what she wants and she says she relies on it.  She normally rents a cottage for a week, somewhere between her two offspring (one in Oxon, the other in Bucks) and they all muck in together for Christmas day.  She's a lot of fun, Hebe, and we're very fond of her.  She lives in Cromer so we normally meet up in Norwich - Hebe has glaucoma and so had to give up driving, so comes by bus usually.

There was a bit of a cock-up on the catering front this evening.  I had bought sausages, and decided that the Sage would continue to love me if I made him toad in the hole.  So I got them frizzling away while I made the batter, and then found I was 2 ounces shy of plain flour.  I knew I was running short, so had bought ... self-raising flour.  There was still half a jar left of that in any case.  It was past the point of no return with the batter, so I looked for the strong bread-making flour that I expected to have, but didn't, and only came up with some buckwheat flour that I use for blini.  I decided that I'd use a little of that and a little of the SR and that would be fine.  Well, it wasn't.  It didn't rise at all and was heavy.  Nice enough flavour, but we just nibbled a bit round the edge and the rest will go to the chickens.  They won't mind.  The Sage was highly amused by my mistake and promised not to think less of me.

I've done most of my shopping, except for the Sage, but I am out of inspiration for Squiffany.  I've got her a couple of things, but not as much as I have for Pugsley, and I think his presents are more fun.  In fact, I think that boys' presents are more fun than girls, on the whole.  When Weeza was a child, I got them the same sort of things, I didn't treat them differently on account of their sex, but the whole thing seems to be so much more rigid now, and nearly everything seems to be invisibly labelled - well, not so invisibly, because everything "for girls" is a relentless pink.  I asked Dilly for more ideas, and she said it's difficult because Squiffany spends most of her time reading and writing.  Dilly suggested buying clothes or else tickets for the pantomine in Yagnub, which is a thought if I'm really stuck, but it won't help on Christmas Day when Pugsley is enjoying his cool toys and Squiff is looking at pieces of paper.  Ho hum.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Ring on Z's finger

I wore my 20th birthday present today, a ring that the Sage bought me on our honeymoon in the Seychelles.  They are beautiful islands, I expect it's a lot more commercial now than it was in 1973, but they won't be less beautiful.  I showed Sean my ring and warned him about the sudden chilly downpour that often happens in the afternoons before dusk, before the beautiful balmy evenings.

This afternoon was the village school nativity play and carol concert, and I played the music for the carols. The littlest children acted out the nativity scene - you can be as unreligious as you like, it's still a magical tale that catches anyone with a heart.

I phoned Gill this morning, Andy has had MRI scans and today a lumbar puncture was scheduled.  She had the impression that they know what they're looking for, but would rather not say until they have proof. He has been up, and walked across the ward on a frame, and he can eat a little and drink normally.  All medication has been withdrawn until they know what they are treating.  Apparently, it's likely that his fever was caused by an inflammation or an infection; the former would be treated with steroids and the latter with antibiotics and it would be dangerous to get it wrong.  In Madeira, he was given antibiotics and was delirious and terribly ill - Gill thought she would lose him - so that indicates it may have been the wrong treatment.  He has had at least two strokes.  She needs nothing herself, other friends and family are rallying round, so I suggested that I might visit her mum.  Gill is calling in every evening, but only for a little while, and she thought that was a good idea, so I rang Mum and have invited myself round tomorrow afternoon.  Anything for a free cup of tea, darlings.  She's a charming lady, and very talkative.  I will not need to say much.  Anyway, I thought that I could call in once or twice a week while things are tricky, and regularly after that.  She lives close to the High School and I'm there often enough, after all.  No trouble to pop in afterwards for half an hour or so, it's doing something that takes half a day that needs to be scheduled.

I've been given the carols for the Christmas Eve carol service, most of them are fine but one has a calypso-ish rhythm that doesn't go too well on the organ, so I'll play that on the clarinet.  I need to do some practice.  I will have some free time, I must make sure I do it.  I've offered to spend some time helping Tim at the shop, he'll be on his knees by the end of next week otherwise.  I'll talk to him about Christmas orders.  Al prided himself on doing them at the last moment so that everything was absolutely fresh - Derek before him used to get non-perishables ready days in advance, but if it was cold, they could be damaged by that and I used sometimes to find the odd rotten orange or potato when I picked up my Christmas order.  But Al went in at 4 am on the two days before Christmas and it was exhausting for him - I was all right, I'd go in until 8.30 and then beetle off home.  He'd be there until the last customer left sometime after 5.30 pm.  Still, we all loved that shop.

Monday 13 December 2010

Z is reliable

It all went very well tonight and the guest speaker was marvellous.  She's in her early 30s, an 'old girl' who, having been disappointed by her A level results and having found her university place through clearing, worked hard to make a success and now has fulfilled her ambition to be a BBC journalist.  She spoke really well and was inspirational for our students.

I was fine, did the job I was supposed to do, didn't draw too much attention to myself and made no verbal howlers.  Got a couple of intentional laughs, but didn't make an attempt to be too funny.  Glanced at notes, didn't read them out.  Made some eye contact.  The Sage came, but I couldn't see him, though I was looking.  I introduced him to  the Head, afterwards, they've each heard a lot about each other but had never met.

I asked Sean what he was doing over the holidays, he said he's going to the Seychelles.  "We spent our honeymoon in the Seychelles," I squeaked excitedly and he said "haven't I told you?" and explained his son is getting married out there next week.  I must remember to tell him about the sudden temperature drop that happens at sunset, before a balmy evening.  I'd love to go back there, they were beautiful islands.

I went to Norwich this morning to have lunch with a friend.  She asked me for 11 o'clock, and offered me coffee first.  I drink coffee black normally, but she was measuring out a cup of milk and one of water.  Okay.  She heated them, added Gold Blend and we went and sat down in the dining room.  She added generous top-ups of Bailey's to each cup.  Fine.  I can rise to most occasions.

Later, I ate an enormous lunch, fish pie and crème brûlée, a dish remarkable for three different accents which I hope aren't represented by little squares in your browser.  They all work in Safari, anyway.  I am getting worryingly fat.  I can't get into all my size 10 clothes any more (that is, I can wear some of them, I'm wearing a 10 skirt now).  I can't bike in this frosty weather, I'm afraid of a fall.  I could always eat less, I suppose.  Oh dear.  Bit of a last resort, that.

Sunday 12 December 2010

982 words

It's always the same - when I know I'm going to have to get up early, I wake up even earlier than I need to. I'd set the alarm for 6.45 and was awake an hour earlier.  I'm still ploughing on with the Forsyte Saga (and still spelling it Sage) but not enjoying it so much.  Long purple passages are there to be flicked through, and there was a truly dreadful bit about the thoughts and emotions of the very young Jon.  Still, within a hundred pages of the end (on the phone they are very small pages, 2647 of them), I shall finish it tonight.  There must be another whole book though, there's too much story to go for it to be finished in a couple of chapters, from my memory.

I have written my speech - that is, I started with last year's first and last two paragraphs and written the middle section new.  It is not impossible that the Sage might decide to come along.  I suggested it, expecting an excuse, and he's asked what time it will take place.  He's welcome, but it's fine if he doesn't.  We're fairly laid back about these things.  I did once tell him, rather forthrightly, that I had never received any support when I have to take a lead - he protested that he'd applauded, at a lecture when I'd introduced the guest speaker.  "You could hardly not applaud, when everyone else was clapping." I pointed out acidly.  "Besides, they weren't applauding me, they were welcoming the guest." He argued no more, he knew it was true, and remembered to wish me well next time I was going to do a similar thing.  It's not that one needs a hand held, but a friendly gesture would be nice - I've been so self-sufficient, it's not surprising that it didn't occur to him.

Gill did come to church this morning.  It's all going to take a while.  They have still not found the cause of the original illness.  I'm not sure how badly affected he has been by the stroke, she said that he's struggling to manage his mobile phone to ring her.  She thinks he will not be able to resume his former demanding job and will have to take early retirement, or at least work part-time - too early to tell.  They have eliminated various causes - she was slightly startled to be assured that the test for HIV was negative; that is, she wouldn't have expected it to be anything else, it was the test that surprised.  Anyway, at least he's on the mend.

This afternoon, I turned out a small cupboard, which I'm going to use to keep the children's games in.  They are fond of board games and jigsaws now, and I've been keeping some of them in a box and some just in a pile.  Unfortunately, I've now a boxful of the stuff I've taken out of the cupboard to go through.  I may hide it until the new year.

982 refers to the words in the speech, not in this post, which is shorter.

Saturday 11 December 2010

News on Andy

Excuse a second post, darlings - I've just had an email from Sue, who has been speaking to Gill again.  Andy is a lot better now - God knows how useless that hospital must have been in Madeira, because it's taken the NHS one day to have him sitting up and eating a light meal, and off all the drips he'd been on for nearly a month.  They have found that he had a slight stroke and they're doing further tests - there is an implication that the illness caused the stroke, not the other way round, but we'll see.

Z's Christmas spirit has come early

Two weeks to go, and the first gives me a full diary and the second an almost empty one.  This is brilliant.  I'm feeling that I'd like to frame it.  My intention is to do all my remaining business work this weekend, as far as possible, do the rest of the shopping on Thursday when I'm going to Norwich, and actually save that last week for remorseless jollity - well, actually it'll be used cleaning the house, but my standards are terribly low nowadays, so it won't take more than a couple of days to do that.  I'll probably use a shovel.  If the snow returns, I'll build another snowman.

I haven't felt so relaxed about it all for years.  It must be not making those damn holly wreaths any more.  I have been on various websites ordering various presents and, apart from that one Norwich visit (I have a dental appointment and am also meeting the Sage's sister for lunch) I will not shop anywhere but Yagnub.  I have even wrapped one gift, for Phil's parents, and given it to Weeza as they are visiting them in Lichfield next weekend.  One or two to be posted, the others will be done in the final day or two, because that's far more fun.  Also, one doesn't have the nuisance of forgetting exactly what is in the parcels and having to unwrap the ends to check.

I think I told you that Phil has a new job? - he has left his old one, yesterday (office party too, which is a good one so he was glad not to miss it) and starts in Great Yarmouth on Monday.  He'll have a longer cycle ride, but a shorter train journey, and also a cheaper one.   Dilly's tenant has left the Norwich house and she and Al are getting it ready to be let again - good job he has time on his hands, this would have been impossible until January if he still had been running the shop.

Latest news from Gill is that Andy has to have all the tests re-run that he had in Madeira.  Standards don't seem to be very high there and they give no useful information.  Furthermore, he has bedsores as well as thrush in his mouth, so even nursing care isn't up to scratch.  Gill very much wants to see her friends and is coming to church tomorrow and then to Sue and Barry's for lunch.  We were decorating the church today, which is very early, but it's the village school's nativity play and carol concert on Tuesday.  I'll be playing the music, and have been brushing up on carols.  I must remember to speed up my playing - I like playing fast (yes, darlings, and loose) but it depends on who's in the congregation - as a rule of thumb, the older the average age of the congregation, the slower you have to play.

Friday 10 December 2010

Z is listening to New Orleans jazz

This has turned into a surprisingly wasted evening.  The Sage had a meeting, so I cooked dinner early - earlier than I'd intended, in fact, because I thought it was 6.30 when it was only 6 o'clock - and I thought I'd do things while he was out.  Instead, I was asleep by 6.45.  And I woke a couple of times, unable to rouse myself, and zonked out again.  I slept for an hour in all, and was still incapable of movement for a while after that.  I can't remember the last time I had a reasonable night's sleep, and I suppose it caught up with me.  I'm afraid it's scuppered my chances of sleeping much tonight, too.

Anyway, the bank teller was extremely helpful this morning, and she's a PCC secretary herself so she caught on to the situation very quickly.  And there's quite enough money in the account, Gill had underestimated herself - she'd actually topped up the money before she went away, and had forgotten.  No news today, I called round this afternoon with a letter explaining the money situation and knocked on the door just in case she was in, but she wasn't.  I won't bother her for a bit, I may see her on Sunday and, if not, I'll speak to her then on the phone if I can.

I have to get a speech written for Monday evening.  I'll haul out last year's and rejig it a bit.  It'll be fine.  It's the school prizegiving - my job is, largely, to do a bit of a recap, with thanks, for the year, and I like to speak to the pupils directly - I do write it all out, because I'd be bound to leave someone out, but I try to not actually read it, but sound natural, if I can.  I can hear the difference in my voice when I come to a bit I have to read out.

Another funeral today, someone in the village who has been severely disabled by a stroke for some years.  He was never reconciled to his situation, and very angry with life, which rebounded somewhat on those looking after him.  I don't think he was the easiest man, even before that, but a very honest and intelligent person, well read and knowledgeable.  I sat on my organ stool for several minutes after the service, because two women were standing in the aisle, the older one comforting the younger one.  Eventually, they went to sit in a pew to talk, so I left them.  They were family, I suppose a stepdaughter or a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.  I'm fond of Harry's wife, I will call and see her.  In fact, before he was ill, she used to come to church regularly and the Rector says she may well come and join us again.

And the title - well, that's what I am doing.  Nothing too demanding, tonight.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Wave A Knee Em Pea comes up trumps

Gill phoned this evening at about 5.30.  She was on her way from Stansted with her step-daughters; by the time she reached the hospital, Andy was due too.  I may have mentioned that she is PCC treasurer; the reason she phoned was, having been away a fortnight more than expected, she is concerned that the current account could be overdrawn or nearly empty, various regular standing orders having been paid out.  Although I'm not on the PCC, I'm regularly available to sign forms and cheques, so I'm still a signatory.  I've said that I'll go in tomorrow, find out the situation and pay money across, either from the deposit account or, if they won't let me do that without a second signature, from my own account.  It's typical of her that she is dealing with this sort of matter when she's got far more important problems.  She also remembered the rota, so I've explained that I've dealt with that already.

I didn't ask a lot of questions, but she told me how she finally found someone to help her.  Her brother in law is a political journalist, and has the private email of Gill and Andy's MP.  Gill wrote an email explaining the situation on Tuesday and, half an hour later, he was in touch to say that the insurance company and the hospital had agreed to alter their attitudes.   Good for him to drop everything and deal with it at once, disgraceful that he had to intervene - and that they capitulated so quickly indicates that they were just being obstructive without sound reason.  It wasn't that the hospital didn't have a bed, just that they didn't want to guarantee it, I suppose, in view of the cold and icy weather.

Next week is filling up rather rapidly.  I must start Christmas shopping sooner or later, I suppose.  Although there's plenty of time, still more than a fortnight to go.  One doesn't want to rush into these things.  In fact, 'start' is misleading, isn't it.  I've already got Zerlina's present, and Pugsley's.  Almost done, then.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

QuiZZical again

I was wondering, what do you do if the phone rings just as you are about to eat your dinner?  I mean, it's on the plate in front of you, it's too late to put the dishes back in the oven to keep warm.

The obvious alternatives are -

a) leave it.  They'll ring back if it matters
b) leave it to the answerphone and phone back
c) answer, explain you're about to eat and offer to phone back or ask them to
d) let your dinner get cold while you take the call
e) eat as you listen, while the caller listens to you chew

Tonight, I'm drinking Seville orange vodka and feeling warm.  I don't think I was quite the thing, yesterday.

Tomorrow, I'm going out for a Christmas lunch.  Probably it will be my only turkey/Christmas pudding combo this year, as it's not our choice for Christmas day (no one in the family, that is) and I'm not booked for any other organised festive meals, that I remember about right now.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Z judges by appearances

Just starting with an update about Andy and Gill - the insurance company finally agreed to pay up for the air ambulance.  Gill had to contact her solicitor, the Consulate and her MP to get results, however.  She had to sign a disclaimer, too - not because there is a pre-existing condition that they hadn't declared, but in case there's something that the GP knew about but hadn't flagged up to them.  The next problem was finding a hospital bed.  Neither of the two nearest hospitals here have a vacant bed in Intensive Care.  I don't know what's been sorted out there, whether he'll go to a different hospital or whether they'll sort it out when he arrives or what, but the return flight is now booked for Thursday.  Maybe there will be a bed locally by then - I'd have thought that the problem with a high dependency bed is that you can't always tell when it's likely to be needed or for how long.  Anyway, a couple more days and at least they will be back in this country.  We can only hope that the cause of the illness is soon found and can be treated successfully.

I arrived back home after lunch today and sat down in the drawing room to read the papers.  After an hour, I realised I was extremely cold.  The room wasn't that cold, must have been me.  In the end, I went and had a hot bath, and it took me about twenty minutes in it to warm up.  Very odd.  I'm okay now and don't feel as if I'm coming down with anything.  Actually, it was really cold this morning, I think it was the coldest night yet.  It took me four attempts to defrost the windscreen, as it kept freezing over again, and this was at 10 am.  The chickens are quite all right, and we are getting the odd egg again - that is, one on Saturday and one today, which isn't that much between 30 of them, but shows willing.  The cock pheasant is often to be seen keeping watch across the field, standing on a pile of logs.  He's a very good guardian.  We're going to have to get another cockerel next year, or at least some eggs to set under a broody hen, as many of them are getting a bit elderly, we keep them for their natural lifespan.  It will put the pheasant's beak rather out of joint, I'm afraid.

I'm sorry, this is no end dull tonight.  I feel dull, boring and slightly irritable.  This last isn't like me, but I've had to make an effort to be polite and patient with the Sage all evening and he\s done nothing wrong - well, not a great deal...  I will be in a meeting with someone who may well be pretty irritating tomorrow morning, it'll be quite in order for me to be sharp if necessary, but not bad-tempered, obviously.

Anyway.  Hm.  I've been reading the Forsyte Saga (I typed Sage, couldn't help it!) on my phone the last few nights.  When awake in the early hours, I tend to read something I've read before, that's quite easy to keep track of and not overly demanding.  Of late, this has included Sherlock Holmes, Mark Twain and Jane Austen (I note that I wrote the character rather than the author in the first of these, but then he was the common character in all the books of Conan Doyle that I read).  Rereading a book always gives a different reaction in some way, I find, or else I notice something new - I was struck, as I hadn't been when I read it before, years ago, by the statement that "Soames was a great novel reader".  He's not been mentioned picking up a book to read for pleasure, only his reaction to those he has read - which seem mostly romantic ones, and that seemed a bit unlikely.  Just coming up to the Bosinney/Irene crisis.  I was unable to watch the tv dramatisation of a few years ago, because the girl who played Irene looked so wrong.  It wasn't only that she was dark-haired rather than blonde, but that she was too thin - I dunno, I don't quite know why it jarred so with me, but now I do reread it, I see that thinness is often referred to disparagingly, and it's quite clear that Irene's figure was both full and slender, not at all angular.  Of course, the girl may have been splendid in the part.  I'll never know.

Monday 6 December 2010

Z huffs and she puffs and - a candle is burning

I was pottering about relaxedly this morning when I remembered that I was supposed to leave the house by 9 o'clock.  I did, shame there wasn't time to wash my hair, but it took me several more minutes to de-ice my car.  Freezing fog, although it wasn't so cold in Norwich, but the frost hadn't lifted by the time I arrived home at lunchtime.  I say lunchtime, but I only had a few minutes and ate a couple of biscuits, there being nothing useful in the fridge and no time to cook.

The Dragon's Den thing was jolly interesting.  Each group had 5 minutes for a presentation and came back at the end for questions - ideally, we'd have asked them as we went along, but the teacher wanted to be quite sure that there was enough time for all the presentations, and we did carry on for a couple of minutes past the bell, so it was just as well.  Not surprisingly, the ideas were good but some of the financial matters hadn't been fully thought through.  For example, I asked if public liability insurance had been costed for the indoor bike track and it hadn't.  And only a couple of them had allowed for time for the business to build up, most of them assumed that the world would beat a path to their perceived gap in the market.  There were two that did stand out, one because of the excellent presentation and the other because it actually was a good idea and we could genuinely see it possibly being a goer.  The second half is next Monday, postponed from last Friday; fortunately, all of us can make it.

Roses' comment about the baby being a Taurus made me think - all three of my children's other halves were born in September, as was I, but Dora is the end of the month.  I got quite interested for a minute, thinking they have all the star sign as I am and if that meant anything, but she must be Libra.  Actually, though, if it comes on its due date or around it, the baby will be Gemini, like the Sage.

The most pleasing thing of the day was when I arrived home to find a John Lewis bag in the hall - the new electric blanket had arrived.  We've been jolly cold, the storage heater in the hall has blown its fuse and we haven't got round to turning on any heat upstairs.  There has been ice on the inside of the bedroom windows.  We hope we've got the fuse mended now and we've got the blanket too, so I'm hopeful of comfort, whether it's with sleep or without. I was pleased with the service, I ordered it on Thursday afternoon, by the way.

I'm afraid there's no good news about my friends stuck in Madeira (the Portugese island off the African coast, Dave, not the fortified wine).  He is still critically ill in intensive care, they think they've tracked down a kidney infection, but I don't know if that has caused the problem or has resulted from it.  They haven't got a specific diagnosis or a reason for his illness.  And the insurance company is ignoring medical advice to airlift him back to this country and the family is having to take legal advice.  We're extremely worried, and desperately sorry for his wife, too.  They are Andy and Gill, spare them a thought and good wishes please.

Sunday 5 December 2010

And - the result

It was not an early favourite, but C proved the popular vote in the end.  So that's it, Dilly will have to have a baby in the summer.

Fortunately, she is.

Moving to Norwich wasn't much favoured.  No, they're not.  They're staying here for now, and whilst we'll completely understand if they ever decide to move, we love them being here.  And it is a great place to bring up children, with freedom to roam and explore, always someone on hand to look after them, and jolly good local schools.  B - a puppy was a popular option, but it's me who wants a dog.  The rest of the family wants me to have a dog, rather in the way I love being a grandmother - the pleasure without the responsibility.

I'm not going to put on hold the getting of another dog.  I have been there, and I wish I hadn't, although there were good reasons at the time and, in fact, in view of my hip problems, it was just as well we didn't get one earlier.  When Chester died, I meant to get another dog the next summer, but them Al and Dilly got married and held their reception here, so it wasn't a good time to have a puppy.  And then Squiffany was born the next year and Weeza and Phil got married and had their reception here.  Then a possibility of getting a puppy fell through, and after that I felt it wasn't fair to an elderly Tilly.  But, whilst I completely agree with what Pat said about the problems that arise when you have a puppy and a small baby at the same time, I can't wait another year, and it won't be me looking after the baby and they won't be living in the same house.  But I'm not doing anything about it right now, not unless opportunity strikes.

They have been talking about possibly having another baby for a while - I didn't ask if a decision was made, of course.  But I'm really pleased.  They've had the first scan, so know that it's not twins and that all seems fine.  It's due at the end of May.

As for D, which was also popular except with Blue Witch, who pointed out the pitfalls - well, I haven't asked what their longer-term plans are.  Dilly does love teaching, and has appreciated the individual impact she's able to make with her one-to-one teaching, which she's doing both privately and in schools at present.  Al certainly isn't going to try to make money out of the bees and growing vegetables, BW is right - a lot of work for little profit and not many people can live from it - I know someone who does, but the chap who supplies the shop's honey expanded his hobby in retirement, so doesn't rely on the bees to live.  I don't know whether or not he'll get a job, and I don't know whether or not Dilly will carry on working.  I haven't asked, it's not my business - which is to support their decision.  Of course, if asked for a view I'd give one, but I'd only dive in with a point of view if I really felt strongly that there was a pitfall not to fall into (like, trying to earn a living as a beekeeper, perhaps!).

As for option E - thank you, Rog.  I wondered what the singing was from next door.

Saturday 4 December 2010


Today was very jolly.  Weeza, Phil and Zerlina and Ro all came over for the day.  We had lunch - lamb chops, chipolatas, baked potatoes, carrots, peas, tomatoes and mushrooms, followed by chocolate pudding (the sort that inverts itself and ends up with the sauce underneath; it went down very well) and enjoyed each others' company.  Well, I did.  Either everyone else was very polite or they did too.

Ro is going to London next week to see Zain.  I've lent him my Oyster card and we had a look to see how much it cost to go out to Zain's place.  I have assured him that he's welcome and I don't want him to pay me back, it tops up automatically, but he wanted me to check how much credit I have at present so that, if he uses it a lot, he will have the option to pay me rather than feel guilty.  Then I recommended he pre-book his railway ticket.  We had a look and he was a bit dismayed to find that it would be £43.80 return to Zain's station.  I suggested it might be cheaper to go to Liverpool Street Station and then use the Oyster - well, yes.  He could get £10 single tickets, with £2.something off-peak and £4.something peak rate - he's likely to use one of each.  A no-brainer, as the young people say .. or said back in 1995 or something.  Anyway, he said he'd book tonight.

Dilly and Al had an announcement, and herein lies the quiZ.  What do you think they have told us?

a) Al has a new job and they are going to move to Norwich next year, where they already own a house
b) They are going to get a puppy after Christmas
c) They are going to have a baby in the summer
d) Dilly has a full-time job starting after Christmas and Al will stay at home to be a bee-keeper and market gardener and househusband

Of course, all of these could be true.  But not all of them are.

Friday 3 December 2010

The dragon waits with bated breath

Yes, the school was shut today.  It was the difficulty the bus company is having, getting pupils to school, apparently.  Hard to tell whether it was the right decision, there was freezing fog this morning, and snow in the night but none since.  I haven't been out at all today in fact, though the Sage has.  I've been doing stuff in the house, very slowly and lazily.

Tomorrow, Weeza and co and Ro are coming over, which will be excellent.  I did see Ro on Monday when I gave him a lift from work to his home, but I haven't seen Weeza and little z for a couple of weeks, and Phil for longer.  I don't somehow think that Phil will bike over.  Ro will be driving Dora's new car for the first time and he enquired carefully about the state of the roads.  I advised him not to drive down Church Road, which is still very icy, but our road is all right.  Dora, I think I mentioned, is visiting her brother in Thailand and she has lent him her car.  He hasn't driven it yet, he relinquished his parking place at work when he moved to Norwich and he walks the mile and a half.

He phones sometimes on the walk - a friend was saying the same thing, her daughter has a 20 minute walk home from work so she knows when to expect the phone to ring...

I finally caught up on blog posts.  And then again today.  And just looked again and there are another 20 - who said that blogging is a diminishing pastime?  It's no good, I'm not deleting any blogs from my list, I don't mark any that I don't like.  And now I have facebook too, not that it takes extra time because I only use it on the phone when I have a few minutes.  But it's all that I feared all those years ago, when I resisted the siren call of the internet.  Our village didn't have broadband for years, so it didn't get out of hand to start with.  Now - well - it isn't so much that I can't do without it.  It's just that I don't.  And I don't want to.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Z cancels being sociable

I was going to have coffee with one friend and go to Norwich with another, and then go to the Christingle service in the evening.  I did none of them.  The roads were quite clear, but it was a blustery day with bitingly chilly snow showers, so the Sage lit the fire in the morning and I got on with those letters.  In fact, I'd been writing one of them from the early hours as I couldn't sleep.  I lay in bed for quite some time, and then realised I had a runny nose.  There seemed no good reason for that, and it was really quite drippy.  It suddenly occurred to me to wonder if I had a nosebleed and so I got up.  Yes, it was.  And another later in the day.  Very odd.  Let's hope it doesn't happen in company - it only lasted a minute, but would have disconcerted an onlooker.

I think that we can expect a change in the weather some time next week, because I have ordered a new electric blanket and it will be delivered within five working days.  It is bound to prove unnecessary.

Tomorrow is the day when I make my Dragon debut.  I am slightly apprehensive, I have to admit.  There are a range of criteria we are judging under eight headings, with a ninth marked 'other' and there are prizes in four categories: best business idea, most coherent and businesslike plan, most entrepreneurial group and most professional presentation.  There will be about eighteen groups - well, I say groups, most of them are in twos or threes but there are a couple of individuals as well as one or two fours.  Then we'll do it again on Monday afternoon with the other half of the year group.  It looks as though they will all be in the room all the time, as they will also be marking each other - I think this will put the first few at a disadvantage, but we'll take that into account, I would think.  We're all people who work well together, I am certainly the amateur here but it'll be fine.  I absolutely won't be the most nervous person there, that's for sure.

If you will excuse me, darlings, I think I will have an early night.  See you tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

A measured response

I've been remembering back to something when I was a child.  I used to have piano lessons, half an hour twice a week.  Two ladies were business partners and Wink and I went one day to one and one to the other.  Neither of us ever did that well, to be honest.  We were more dutiful than enthusiastic.  Wink stopped her lessons before me, probably because I'm stubborn.  Not stubborn enough to work hard, just enough to not stop.

Anyway, what I was remembering was a time I was given a new book of exam pieces, just before a holiday.  I hated piano exams.  I didn't mind theory exams in the least and got top marks in several of them, never less than 96 out of 99, but I was so shy that the practical exams were a nightmare.  This exam book - it was probably the Easter holidays, I can't remember, but it can't have been as long as the summer - there was one piece I rather liked and I practised a lot.  I got quite keen and played all of them, but I was note-perfect in this one by my next lesson.  And I played it and waited for comments - I played too fast.  That was all she said.  I didn't care much after that, I did get through the exam eventually, scraping through as usual, but I had lost my enthusiasm.

Friends of ours have a daughter of Ro's age, and they decided to take her from the local high school for the 6th form and send her to the girls' private school in Norwich (which Weeza attended) as they thought she'd get higher grades at A level with the extra push of a very ambitious school.  The first time I saw them after she'd started, I asked how it was going. "It's marvellous," my friend said.  "The first work she handed in, it was marked and given back and she was told  'You're not going to get A grades with this.'"  "Was that all?" I wondered.  Indeed, it seems that this was the gist of the initial feedback.  My friend was very impressed.  I wasn't.  "But  how about being given some positive feedback? Just being told it isn't up to standard isn't very helpful, especially with a girl who's just joined the school and doesn't know what style or form of homework the school wants.  How does she know how to improve - and surely some of it was good, why not mention that?"  Her daughter was appreciative.  That was just her reaction, she said, she had felt discouraged and embarrassed.  My friend hadn't thought about it that way, but she could see what I meant.

I have two letters to write.  I won't do them tonight, though I probably should make a start.  But they are both ones that have to be done right.  I won't send them the day I write them, in any case.  I don't draft blog posts, but I do letters.  I know some people who dash off over-hasty emails, and that can really cause bad feeling.  In fact, it's because one has (to someone else, although I was sent a copy of it; I think that 'reply to all' is inappropriate if you're going to be sarcastic) that I am going to write.  I'm hoping to oil a few wheels.

The other letter is an awkward one that no one on the PCC wants to have to write, so they've roped me in.  Hm.