Sunday 31 July 2011

Z searches for Big Pinkie

Things would have been simpler if Big Pinkie hadn't got out this morning. A neighbour phoned to tell us, but the Sage was quite sure it was a cow from another field, not ours. I'd just gone upstairs to wash my hair - I'd actually got the tap running when he called up the stairs and so went to help get her back. She is very friendly and will follow you anywhere for an apple or two, so it wasn't too hard.

Everyone was very sociable and chatty and the weather was glorious, so we were able to have lunch outside. Afterwards, almost everyone went for a ride in the car, the Sage driving each of us in turn round the village. The car behaved beautifully.

I knew I would cook too much food. Despite the valiant efforts of Ro, who took several containersful, there's enough left for several meals. No puddings though. There was a little left after the meal, but it all vanished at some point except for a small quantity of cheesecake, which the Sage and Daphne, his childhood friend who is staying with us, polished off tonight.

I must go to bed. Oh, hang on - Mike, our friends whom you stayed with at the farm down the road were among the party guests. I told Bobbie the name of the blog. So she might call in at some time.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Whipped, anyone might run

I seem to be having problems with dairy products.  First the yoghurt was too runny, now my syllabub won't whip.  It's inexplicable.   I'm going to freeze it and we will have lemon syllabub ice cream, and I'll start again in the morning with the topping for the trifle.

I've got a lot done today, but I'm tired now.  A friend has come to stay from Kent, which is lovely - but I hadn't changed the spare room bed from when Weeza and Zerlina were here a couple of weeks ago.  Yes indeed, it's usually the rule that the bed gets changed and the sheets washed straight away, but it didn't happen.  And the bathroom, though pretty clean, was a tip.  So the housework took some time.  And we had to do the condition report on the last 15 lots that just came in, so that Weeza could continue to work on the catalogue.  And then the Sage wanted me to do the lot numbers.  We've always just bought numbers, but someone said to him, why didn't he have his own ones printed with his name on?  I'm so sweet to him, I really am.  I spent ages looking for the right size labels and I can't find them anywhere, so I had to buy some about 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inch, and do two lot numbers to each label.  It took quite a time to get the sizing and spacing right so that they could be cut in half.

And now, I'm going to bed.  Roses is coming for lunch tomorrow, so I've got to spend the morning preparing.

Friday 29 July 2011

Pie-eyed piper

Sight of the day - the Sage walking towards the house, followed by an eager cluster of about twenty bantams and one partridge, hoping for an early lunch.  They received it.

For those of you who came to the party and can visualise it, the section of the drive between the house and the lawn is finished at last.  The gravel was put down this afternoon, all the hardcore having been tamped down and levelled this morning.  They are now working on the part of the drive between the lawn and the field we call the Ups and Downs, widening it and putting in a kerb so that the gas delivery lorry won't break down the edge again.  If you come again next year, there really should be plenty of parking space.  I hope you will.

I've typed up those final fifteen lots, although we haven't done the condition report yet because I need daylight to make the best of my eyesight.  Also, all the Academy paperwork was completed from our end yesterday and delivered, and has gone through today, so there is no last-minute panic.  We are independent, and it feels good.

I wonder how the local authority will fund the schools it's still obliged to, now that the larger, most successful and efficient ones have become academies.  They have relied on the money they make from us to subsidise them and, while we were receiving a good service, we were okay with that.  But the balance tipped too far.  We are not irresponsible, however, we want schools to be good, and it's particularly in our interest to look after our feeder primary schools.

I could have a bit of a rant but I won't.  The Sage and I knocked back a bottle of champagne instead.  Particular good news is that Jan is getting much better and sent a text to Lynn, her colleague, today.  She's still tired and headachy but on the mend.

The yoghurt tastes lovely but was very runny.  I strained it through a muslin cloth to reduce the whey.  I'm not sure if it's just that I'm too used to commercial yoghurt and that it should be so runny?  I'll have another go after the weekend and see what happens then.  The back of the Aga seemed to keep it nicely warm overnight.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Whey to go

I have heated and semi-cooled the milk, whisked in some yoghurt to start it and put it in a bowl on a trivet at the back of the Aga.  We shall see how it goes by the morning.

I went out for a couple of hours and was rather startled by the change when I returned.  There was a rough patch of grass with a couple of trees on it by the drive, and there are a lot of bulbs in it, mostly snowdrops, aconites, crocus and bluebells.  They are still there, I suppose, but the grass has all vanished.  It was pretty scruffy, admittedly, and since the soil removed to make room for the paving had been piled on it, I realise that there wasn't really any way of tidying it up acceptably without levelling it completely, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected.  We'll have to seed it in the autumn.  The chickens will enjoy the treat of grass seed.  I don't want to plant it up with shrubs, but I will go out tomorrow and get a couple of plants, just to soften the corners a bit.   Tomorrow, back to widening the drive, a job which has been left for a few weeks.  Heaven knows when the whole thing will be completed.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Z takes pictures

I've just finished editing the photos for the next catalogue - I haven't Photoshopped them or anything, just straightened and cropped them as necessary, added the lot number to each and sent Weeza 27 pictures for the catalogue; I shall let Ro have photos of all the lots on Sunday to go on the website, by which time I'll have added the last fifteen - those pieces are being brought here tomorrow.    It is very good to have that done.  I'm pleased with them, the day was perfect for taking pictures, being quite bright but not sunny.  I prefer to do it out of doors but in a lightbox.

I can't say that I enjoy the taking of the pictures, however.  So tedious, getting the tripod and everything just so, it takes ages to set up, although once that's done each item doesn't take long to photograph.  Thank goodness for digital cameras; at least I know within minutes if any of them is not good enough and can do it again.  That didn't happen this time, thanks to the Sage watching.  He saw, as I didn't, when a gnat flew in front of a piece of china just as I took the photo, so I was able to do it again at once.

Once we'd done the photography, we sat outside with Dilly and the children for quite some time in the sunshine.  I cuddled Hadrian, who has grown a great deal.  He is now two months old and has grown out of his little crib, so Dilly has passed it on to Weeza.  He's also grown out of all his first clothes.  I haven't seen him smile yet and asked if he does.  "He smiles at Al," said Dilly.  "I don't know what Al has that I don't, but he can always raise a smile."  She noticed that Hadrian was reaching out to touch the toggle on the hood of my jacket.

I must go to bed.  It's quarter to one.  I shall backdate this to midnight as this still counts as Wednesday, to me, in the same way as I reckon it doesn't become afternoon until I've had lunch.


Tuesday 26 July 2011

Country noises

I remember the first night I ever spent in this house.  It was soon after the Sage and I were engaged and his parents invited us over for the weekend.  I was put in the spare bedroom, which in those days housed two single beds, a wardrobe and dressing table - probably a chair or two, there must have been a stool at the dressing table at least.  Now, it has a single bed, a large desk, a chest of drawers with a mirror on it, a table and four bookcases, two of them ceiling height.  It is the room above the porch and the windows face east and south.

I never did sleep very well in an unfamiliar place, and I hardly slept at all that night.  It was the noise.  Cows mooed, owls hooted and, at dawn, birds squawked.  Incredibly loud for a town girl.

Mind you, although I did live in a town, and always had, the road was a cul de sac and we had a large garden - and I slept on the second floor (that would be the third floor to Americans) so I daresay it was very quiet.   In later years, when Weeza came to stay here from London, she always remarked on how quiet it is in this house at night, so it's all comparative.

I took Ro and Dora out to lunch today and she asked me about how the Sage and I met, so I've been thinking back a bit.  Not that we met in a romantic way at all, he was a family friend for three years before we started to notice each other in a new light.  Just as well, I reckon, I'm not sure that I'd really have become engaged to someone three weeks after the first date if I'd only just met him.  I may be impulsive, but only when it really feels right.

Sad to say, none of the eggs we were given have hatched and we don't think that they will.  The Sage is asking around, trying to find someone with bantams who could spare some fertile eggs, chicks or even just a young cockerel, but no luck at present.  Too many foxes around, most people who used to keep fairly free-ranging bantams have lost them to the sandy-whiskered gentleman.  We will strike lucky sooner or later, however.  The Sage is good at that sort of thing.

Monday 25 July 2011

Long ago and really quite far away

I've been thinking about myself (yes I know, no need to say anything about that At All, darlings) because Dave mentioned his membership (if that's the word) of Friends Reunited.  I remember my decision not to join Friends Reunited.  The idea, it seemed, was to contact people you had been at school, university or your earlier working life with and had lost touch.  My reaction was, you've lost touch for a reason, right?  If you cared that much, you'd have stayed in contact.

In fact, some years ago we visited an elderly cousin of the Sage's, and as a result we discovered that his daughter was a neighbour of a friend of mine from teenage days.  Pleased as I was to find this out, it was not quite enough for either of us to make contact with each other - and, I'm sorry to say, she died three or four years ago as it happens, so it isn't going to happen in future either.

I lived in Lowestoft after leaving school and have lived here, with the same surname, for 25 years (it was the anniversary of moving here on Saturday, as it happens).  I occasionally meet (bump into, not meet by arrangement) people I knew from schooldays, and one of them told me, a while back, that her mother is still a good friend of two of our teachers, who now are in their early eighties.  Which was quite interesting, actually, I might not mind meeting them again (and, funnily enough, I did keep in touch with several teachers after I left school, and wrote regularly to one until his death). But I have never been sufficiently engaged to make contact with anyone whom I've lost touch with.  Indeed, I do not put my school into Facebook or Google+ - if there's anyone who really wants to find me, they can by name.  Not because we passed uncaringly by forty years ago.

This is not because I'm so very unfriendly, or I don't think so.  I am not friendly like my sister, who does keep friends from way back, including school friends and people she worked with several decades ago.  And I wonder if that's partly because she doesn't have children - friends are all the closer to her - although I don't think I'd be different whether I had a family or not.  Anyway,  whatever the reasons, I was rather horrified by the prospect of people I hadn't seen for forty years getting in touch.  Apart from anything else, I might not remember them.  I've worked on my memory for faces and names very hard over the years, but back in my youth it was awful.  Embarrassingly bad, in fact.

There is better news from the hospital, by the way, where our school staff member was taken after her subarachnoid haemorrhage.  She has been out of bed, walking slowly around the room.  She still has a headache and is dreadfully tired, but this is really good to hear.

Sunday 24 July 2011

A family production

We spent a couple of hours today on the next sale catalogue, and that has cheered me considerably. Weeza is coming over tomorrow morning to help with the condition report - her younger eyes are better for spotting the smallest damage or restoration, although I'm normally fairly alert at observing restoration in china myself.  With her baby due in mid-August, she wants to get the catalogue finished this week, not to cut it too fine.  We certainly want that too, I don't fancy the job.  I do the typing, photography and proof-reading, she does the condition report and catalogue, the Sage, of course, provides the expertise, dictates the description of the china and the price estimates.  In due course, Ro updates the website.

It's Ro's birthday today.  We're planning to meet up for lunch, probably on Tuesday, as he and Dora both have the week off.  They are also coming over for our party on Sunday - I really must remember to ask the Sage exactly whom he has invited.  And decide what to cook.

I'm also hoping to hear about my piano before long.  The tuner said the end of July and we asked him to give us a week or so warning that he was bringing it.  In reality, I'm expecting a couple of days, tops.  If he has any sense, he will tell us in advance, so that we can have a cheque waiting for him.  I've no idea how much it will be, I'll have to play it a lot to get my money's worth, that I do know.  I'm never going to be much of a pianist again, I'm afraid.  Hammering out hymns on the organ for the last twenty (or whatever) years has ruined me.  Apart from anything else, keeping going has been the main thing - if there are too many notes, I just leave a couple of them out nowadays.  Instead of practising until I get it right, I simplify it until I can play it without too much trouble.

In addition, I'm about at a tipping point with the clarinet.  I've forgotten some of the notes and have to work them out - in fact, I can't do a couple of the high ones at all any more and am going to have to look them up.  I've had my clarinet serviced, at any rate, and it is much easier to play.  I was relieved to discover that the amount of puff I had to expend and the danger of the occasional squeak was down to the instrument more than the musician.  All the same, if I'm ever to get reasonably good again, hours of work are needed.  I don't know, maybe.

This afternoon, I looked out of the window and the partridge was clambering over the heap of soil removed to make room for the slabs.  She called for the Sage, but he was busy so I went to the door and she watched hopefully, so I fetched her a handful of corn.  I've got the awful feeling that I can't bear, at present, to worry the birds by introducing a dog into the family.  But then, I haven't got time or aptitude to train a puppy right now, either.  So I have to accept that we won't have a dog for a few months, at least, unless the unlikely event happens that an unmissable opportunity arises.


Saturday 23 July 2011

Z asks for advice

Jonny, the farmer I have mentioned before (it's he and his father whose cows graze our field) has started a new enterprise, selling milk from the farm gate.  The farm and cows have gone through the necessary testing of course, and he is licensed to sell raw milk.  Now, the thing is, I want to support him but I don't use a lot of milk and what I do, the milkman delivers.  Of course, I want to support doorstep deliveries too, so won't cancel that, and besides, not everyone wants to be given unpasteurised milk and I wouldn't offer it without telling them.

I'm not going to start taking milk in tea and coffee or drinking it, but I do make a point of eating yoghurt, for the sake of the calcium.  Yes, I have discussed a bone density test with my doctor.  But anyway, that seems to me something I can do with the milk, make yoghurt.  So I am asking you for advice.

I looked up Delia you see, who is always first point of call for basics, and she suggests bringing milk to the boil, simmering it to evaporate somewhat, cooling it and going from there.  That seems a bit of a faff to be honest, so I looked elsewhere and found a method that just brings it to the temperature you want and doesn't boil it at all.  Boiling the milk would seem to negate the benefits of raw milk - though I appreciate that it makes it possible for small children to use - and I've never been fond of the taste of boiled milk.  So, is it a good idea?  I have made yoghurt before, but not for 30 years and I can't remember what I did, or even how successful it was.  So I'd appreciate some advice, please.

Thank you, darlings.

By the way, I gather that this is already over Facebook and Twitter, but it's a genuinely unpleasant watch, whatever the back story is.

Friday 22 July 2011


It was Aaron's funeral today.  His form teacher was asked by his parents to speak, and to read out their message and that of neighbouring farmers (where Aaron would have started an apprenticeship in September) too.  He rose to the demands of the ordeal.  The Rector also spoke extremely well, a beautifully crafted and delivered address that must have taken hours to write, not that it sounded laboured at all.

I think that all the paving slabs have been laid - that is, when the piles of earth have been removed, we can see if the proportions look about right.  We still have some left.  At last we won't have a large puddle outside the door every time it rains, Jamie and Richard have been careful to have a slight and imperceptible incline to the side, away from the house.

Al has become a postman.  He did his first round today, under supervision, will still be supervised tomorrow and will have his own round next week.  He is looking forward to it, it's right up his street (see what I did there?).  Plenty of time on his own, but superficial friendly contact with people.  An early start in the morning, but an early finish too.  And paid holidays, which he hasn't had for the past nine years - not that he didn't enjoy being a shopkeeper, he did, but it was relentless hard work.

The Sage and I have a lot of work to do in the next three days.  It's time to start the catalogue for the next sale.  Weeza is coming over on Monday to do the condition report and she wants us to have it typed up by then, even if I haven't taken the photos.  My aim is to have pretty well all my work done, of one sort and another, by about the 7th August and then I can take some time off.

Thursday 21 July 2011

While I think of it ...

Madeleine (aka Pixiemum,  Lurking) was wondering how to post pictures from her iPad. I suspect that you can only do them one at a time, but it is possible if you go to the picture in your photo album, go to the little arrow at the top and then to email, then put in your blogger email address.  Not that I've actually done it before.

This is a few of the chickens on Sunday morning when the Sage was later than usual and they were waiting for their breakfast.  Yes, the door needs painting, but it's a horrid door and I'd rather have a new one instead.


Sent from my iPad

Z is locked out

I arrived home at 10 o'clock, having been out for dinner. I knew that the Sage was going out this evening for a couple of business appointments, but the second of those was at 7, half an hour away, and I didn't think I needed to take a key with me.

So here I sit in the car. The lights are off next door so I can't go there for a key, and I shall have to wait. I could phone the Sage, but that seems a bit naggy.

Fortunately, I have my phone and several newly-downloaded levels of iAssociate. So my time will not be entirely wasted.


Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Red wine and chocolate cake

The village fete having been rained off on Saturday, we met for our scheduled meeting this evening, at the pub, to decide what to do next, and have decided to rebook it for 15th October.  It'll mean forking out for the temporary licence and the insurance again of course, but there is money in the kitty.  The festival committee facilitates everything for the village organisations who run stalls and so on, and make money by leasing pitches to companies running bouncy castles, burger and ice cream stalls and to craft stalls.  This money isn't distributed but used for expenses the next year and we have a few hundred pounds in hand to allow for extras.

Of course, we've now got to meet a couple of times between now and then to finalise arrangements.  Which is a bit of a downer, but we think it's worth it, a lot of clubs and so on rely on this as their main fundraiser for the year.  We couldn't shift into the village hall on Saturday because the beer festival used that, but that won't be the case next time, although John the publican can use the VH bar if he wants.  I only ever offered to go on that committee to write up the notes and don't offer to do much more - this isn't a good time of year for me, and nor will be October.  I have a basic set of notes and alter them each time, with matters discussed and matters to be discussed in different colours so that they are updated year on year.

Otherwise, I've kept my head down today and been out as little as possible.  I've found my feet on Google+ and have had conversations there, which was as sociable as I wanted to be.

The title?  Lunch.

Tuesday 19 July 2011


You'll remember that we had our Ofsted last month and that same night, one of our caretakers had a stroke and died a few days later.  Then our Year 11 pupil died suddenly.  We have all found the last few weeks of term quite a strain.  But it got even worse.  On Sunday morning I had a message from a friend (who lives in  the village and is also a teacher at the High School) to say that the son of friends had been killed in a farming accident.  In his latish twenties, he was married with a baby.  His parents divorced and remarried many years ago and both extended families still live here.  His half-sisters go to school here, the eldest at the high school.

Already shocked, this made everyone feel terrible.  And yesterday afternoon, a member of staff (not a teacher) became seriously ill very suddenly and is now in Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge.

At the same time, it's the end of the school year and there are various awards being given out, sports days, staff leaving parties and all that sort of thing, for which we have to be upbeat.  And there's an awful lot of work to do, less than a fortnight for everything to be in place for the academy change.  It is legally set up, but we're still working our way through all the contracts we need for everything the local authority did.  And there's the end of year paperwork too.  The person who is ill is the financial manager's right hand woman so there's a practical problem as well as anxiety about a dearly loved friend and colleague.

So, nothing at all has happened as far as I or my family are concerned, we are fine.  But I'm shocked, grieving and so sad for the people whose lives are devastated.  Excuse me if I sound as if I'm wanting this to be about me, I really am not.

Today, however, has gone quite well.  Final music lessons (for me and for most of two Year 9 classes) were fun.  Interviews were extremely interesting, they will carry on later in the week and it will be a very hard choice.  Tomorrow, a staff/pupil cricket match after school.  I shall go and cheer on one team or the other, or probably both.

Monday 18 July 2011

Body paint

I have, I find, reverted to my old self and am unable to phone the friends we want to invite to our party in a fortnight's time.  The Sage is doing it.  I'm not, as you may have gathered, feeling very cheerful and I don't really want to talk to people very much.  I'm not great with the phone at the best of times, whereas the Sage loves it, so he doesn't mind.  I will, of course, be fine long before the party time, so I don't want to cancel it.

This morning, I woke at about 6.15, lay there for a few minutes feeling too hot and decided to get up.  Downstairs, I found that it was actually not quite half past five.  I've got some work to do that I didn't have time for over the weekend so I should have done that, but in fact I read the Sunday papers instead.  The result is that it's now 9 o'clock and I am not even dressed and haven't done any work, so early rising has turned out to be counter-productive.

And so now, I'm going to get dressed and then find the right music to put me in a better frame of mind.  Two of the letters I have to write are to give people good news, then a formal one confirming it, and then a letter of condolence.

After the things at the school this afternoon, I am going over to see Weeza's bump, which is being painted.  Yes, that's right.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Nothing here

Can't blog tonight, sorry.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Dynamic cyclists

Zerlina was very pleased to see her Uncle Roro and persuaded him to take her upstairs to play on the rocking horse, then to fetch her glass of water and to read her some books.

Weeza is getting regular updates on progress from Phil, who is cycling through Essex at present. She is able to track his whereabouts on her phone, don't know how that works, and he texts her every hour or so. Once he gets to Dunwich, after a ride of 200km, about 100 miles, he will then have to cycle here which must be another thirty, and that after a sleepless and energetic night. All seems quite remarkable to me.

It did rain, the beer festival carried on in the village hall, the craft exhibition, teas and cake stall were in the church but the rest was cancelled. Or quite possibly postponed, we will look at the possibility of holding it in September instead. We have a meeting on Wednesday.

I'm really flagging and will be very glad when the month is over and I will be able to relax a bit. If I could sleep more it would be a help - actually, I did sleep better last night, probably because it was cooler, but only for five or six hours overall. But too much has happened, good and bad, in the last month and I could do with just one thing to concentrate on, not a whole range.

This week, however, we will be putting together the catalogue for the next sale. And I shall be busy at school, as it's the last week of term. There's a tea and award ceremony, music lessons, a cricket match and two mornings of interviews, and also the final details of academy conversion. Roll on August.

Friday 15 July 2011


Just hurrying past, darlings, on my way to bed.  I've been chatting with Weeza all evening and now, having been awake since 4 am, I'm tired.

I've made a lot of cake.  None with fresh cream in, however, so they will not tempt Christopher.  They tempted the Sage and Zerlina though and there were not quite so many by the end of the evening.  Zerlina was very good and happy all day, finished her day with a good bounce on the bed and a ride on the rocking horse and went to bed.  I read her two books and left her with Barry, her bear, her giraffe and Spot the Dog, a soft toy that had belonged to Ro.  We decided he was excited at the prospect of cuddling a child again after all these years.  I'm afraid that I do tend to give personalities to cuddly toy animals.  I don't think I'm particularly twee in other respects, but they are not entirely inanimate as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday 14 July 2011


I'm concerned.  The weather forecast still talks of heavy rain for Saturday.  We've been holding these village festivals in their present manner (that is, including a beer festival) for quite some years and the weather has always been fine.  Even when there has been a pretty dreadful summer, the sun has always shone on festival day.

Tomorrow, Weeza and Zerlina are coming over and staying for two nights.  They have never stayed over before, it will be great.  We intend to pamper them, rather.  Ro and Dora are also coming on the Saturday, although I don't know if they will change their minds if it rains; they intend at present to stay for supper.  All will be splendid, except for the weather...

Weeza will call at the repair shop tomorrow to pick up my clarinet, which I took in last week for a service.  I'm very much looking forward to playing it again.  It's been quite difficult the last few times, the pads have been a bit leaky and it's needed a lot of puff as well as care to keep it in tune (that is, not to squeak).  It would require many hours of practise to play as well as I did ten or so years ago, however.  Not sure if I'll ever be that dedicated again.

Wednesday 13 July 2011


It has always seemed to me that, from sometime in May or June, I lose track of time, as if the year has speeded up and summer is over before I've had time to enjoy it.  Thinking about it, I have a theory.

There always is time to savour the spring, you see, and I think that's because the changes in nature are so visible.  Even in the winter, we are on the lookout for the first aconites and snowdrops, then crocuses, daffodils, tulips, leading on to bluebells.  Similarly, all the hedgerow flowers, from blackthorn to hawthorn and buds breaking on plum, cherry and apple trees - there's always something new to look forward to and enjoy.  We watch for the first swallow and house martin, listen for the cuckoo, enjoy watching birds forage for nesting materials and then bustle back and forth with beakfuls of food.  We anticipate the first home-grown radishes, asparagus, lettuce, strawberry and tomatoes and every few days is marked by a new event.

Then we get used to it, and there's not so much to anticipate.  And all the trees are in full leaf and, apart from anxiously watching to beat the birds to the cherries on the trees (normally won by the early risers), the countryside and the garden is just there, the latter needing to be watered and weeded.  And before we know where we are, it's mid-July and the year is more than half over and I always feel as if it's slipped past without me noticing.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Chopping and stirring

I made soup and risotto tonight, two of my favourite soothing foods.  Soothing to make, that is, lots of chopping and stirring.  I'd made stock yesterday, so wanted to use it up.  I'm quite in the mood for cooking but, as I said yesterday,  the kitchen is too hot at this time of the year to spend very long in there.  I've promised to do some cooking for Weeza for the freezer (that rhyme was unintentional) so that she has some easy meals once the baby is born.  Only another five weeks before he is due, she's glad to have started maternity leave.  She can't quite believe now that she carried on until three weeks before her due date last time, and was working in London at the time, travelling from Islington to Belgravia every day.

One helpful thing she did before finishing work was to help us register our septic tanks.  This is a new thing brought in by the Environment Agency, we didn't know about it but she did, because the people she works for own a large country estate in Norfolk and there are a number of houses, none of them on mains drainage.  I suppose they are contacting larger landowners before those with only one or two tanks, but we have got it done early.  Our septic tank is brilliant, it just digests away and doesn't need any attention at all.  And the water we use, having been duly filtered and so on, returns to the ground and isn't wasted by being piped away.

Monday 11 July 2011

Work in progress

The work being done outside here is progressing, although it looks as if not a lot has happened recently.  Trouble is, there's a lot to do and none of it gets finished.  So the drive hasn't been touched for a while, because we are waiting for some electrical work (if we fill in then a trench will have to be dug later), part of the paving has been laid but then, because it's a good time of year to do it, work has been done on the hedges around the fields and there were some fallen trees and branches to deal with.  I hope that has been done mostly and we can finish the paving, at least.  I'm tired of it looking like a work in progress.  Still, at least 'progress' is a good sign.              

The school's Ofsted report is online now if you want to read it.   We've had to call an extra governors' meeting for this week to wrap up final approval for various academy matters and am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a quorum.  Just another couple of weeks and I can wind right down for the summer.  It will be good.  I rather wish now that I was having a holiday, but there isn't any time.  I only had a few spare days, and now we've arranged a party for one of them - though in fact, it would have been such a rushed break that it wouldn't really have been a very good idea.  I'd just like to get away completely for a few days, that's all.

I must spend most of the next few days making cakes and so on, for the festival at the weekend.  The kitchen is too hot for really enjoyable cake-making, but I expect I won't mind once I get started.  Weeza and Zerlina are going to come and stay for two nights, which will be lovely.  Phil is going to do a bike ride - rather odd, it's an overnight thing from London to Suffolk.  Dunwich, I think.  I can't think why one would want to spend the whole night cycling, and I'm not sure how it works out - I think they must be going by bus to London and then be taken back to Norwich again afterwards.

Sunday 10 July 2011

BOG OF (as an acronym of course)

Am I alone in being fed up with special offers?  I can see the point with perishable goods, Al used them sometimes when he had a lot of ripe fruit that would not keep more than a day - but really they are just used to make you buy stuff that you don't want or need.  I remember some years ago one of the presenters on You And Yours on Radio 4 (I think it was Winifred Robinson, but am not sure) said that they are known, in her family, as Buy One, Throw One Away.

The wine shop chain Threshers had three-for-the-price-of-two offers for almost all their stock for several years.  But of course, they simply raised the price to allow for it, so you paid well over the odds if you just wanted a single bottle - such as champagne for a special occasion, or a bottle of good wine (compared to your usual tipple) as a present - and it was a specious bargain offer.  Of course, Threshers went bust in the end, so I probably wasn't alone in shopping elsewhere unless I actually wanted several bottles of wine.

I can see why bookshops have to have special offers and why they try to shift as many books as they can - the competition from Amazon and, for bestsellers, major supermarkets, is pretty crippling.  But I still don't want a buy one, get the second half price, or buy three for the price of two offers when I just want to buy a book.  It's annoying.  Amazon is still cheaper, after all.  Just give me the discount, even a slightly less 'generous' one, and I'll buy the book if I'm in the mood to buy a book.

If a bookshop is good enough, mind you, I won't even mind the full price.  I have mentioned before (nearly a year ago) that I visited Topping & Co. in Bath, and it was brilliant.  I didn't begrudge the full price and I found so many books that I wanted to buy.  I haven't been to Ely since, but when I do, I'll go with an open mind and a willing credit card.  I went to another bookshop when I was visiting the area (can't remember where it was) and it was, though smaller, almost as alluring.  It was also independently owned, which must be a tough way to make a living.

BOGOFs can have their appeal, admittedly.  Before Woolworth's went out of business, I used to check out their offers if I happened to be near a branch, because they were genuine ones.  It was worth stocking up on kitchenware and so on, if it would have returned to its full price in a week or two.  I thought of another example but the phone rang (for the Sage, as it turned out) and, Coleridge-like, the distraction has made me forget.

I have not forgotten, however, that I meant to finish on a different subject entirely.  While writing this (and doing some cooking and answering the phone and emails) I have been listening to Pick of the Week,  chosen and presented by Graham Seed, late of The Archers.  He is as delightful to listen to as he was when playing Nigel.  And no, I don't want to start listening to it any more.  It's just a soap, whose producer doesn't care about manipulating the audience.  So I opted out.  Bet I'm not the only one.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Z and the need for Excitement

The day has started unexpectedly well.  Going through some old papers, I found a pamphlet, which turned out to be a project that Ro did at Middle School about Lowestoft china.  It's spot on and very informative.  I vaguely remember him doing it (fifteen years ago) and he puts both me and the Sage down in the acknowledgements, but he certainly wrote it himself, there's a piece of information in there that I only picked up myself a few years ago, and the book he got it from is in the bibliography.   Although it was seen by the teacher, as there are ticks at intervals, there is no mark at the end.  I trust he got a good one.  There are several photos, taken straight from our most recent sale, but it's nearly all writing.  Very like me, that is, I remember feeling quite indignant as a child when I spent ages doing a piece of writing and someone else did a couple of pictures and a drawing with captions and got as high a mark as I did.  I always did prefer words to pictures, and besides it showed that I'd actually done the work.  No real surprise that I loathed 'projects'.  I would have been useless with examination coursework, I really couldn't be bothered, I'd have left it all until the last moment, if done it at all.  Nerve-wracking as they were, I preferred proper exams.  A lot of forward reading, memorising and thinking, a couple of intensive hours and you were done.

I was having a meeting the other day with the Head, and we were interrupted several times by messages coming in, all of which needed fairly prompt action by him.  "Always something extra," or something like that, I said, but he replied that he loves it.  "This job is never the same for two days, there is always something I need to react to and deal with."  He looked at me.  "You're the same, you wouldn't want a predictable job, would you?"

It's true.  I have a short attention span and need constant stimulation.

Better than never

I had to have an early night last night, so apologies if you were glaring glumly at the screen at midnight wondering where I was.  Bed by 10.30 didn't help me sleep, so I probably won't bother again, however.

In fact, I spent most of the night in the spare room.  The Sage gave the occasional little snore, so I left him to get on with it.  I know I have said it before, it's sad to say that I sleep better alone nowadays.  It's more than possible that he does too, he is certainly asleep still now, and it's after 8 o'clock.

Ro and I were talking about Google+ recently, and he sent me an invitation yesterday.  I suspect that Facebook will up its game in response - the thing is, you can choose how you categorise the people on it, so that they don't necessarily see everything you post.  This doesn't particularly matter for me, but there are those who come to regret being so outspoken.

The Sage has just come downstairs.  It seems that the day can begin.

Thursday 7 July 2011


I visited a friend in Norwich this morning for coffee, with two others - we all used to be on the same committee and miss our get-togethers.  Then, dropping my clarinet off on the way for a service, I went and had lunch with Weeza and Zerlina.

It looks as though the whole family will turn up again, first for the village festival on Saturday week and then for our party a fortnight later.  We have invited five other people so far, must crack on and ask more.

I used to find it the most difficult thing, inviting people round.  The Sage had to do the job.  I was so insecure, I was quite sure that no one would really want to come and I'd have the embarrassment of listening to them make an excuse or saying that awfully false "oh, how lovely."  I'm not sure where that insecurity came from or where it went, but it has gone.  Not that I do assume that everyone is desperate to come and spend time with me, but I am not afraid to ask.  Or, when I am, I do it anyway.

The Sage has had a bonfire of the brambles that were removed from the hedges a week or two ago.  A strong whiff of smoke hangs about him.  I like the smell of a bonfire as much as anyone, but I'm glad he will have a bath before bedtime tonight.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

And no pear tree in sight

The Sage has a new friend.

Yes, our side door does need painting.

A pair of partridges has nested before in our vegetable garden, but this year they were not lucky.  Magpies were particularly aggressive when the weather was so dry and they got all the babies, and they killed the male bird as well.  We are not fond of magpies.

Anyway, the family had been joining the chickens in their run to be fed, and now that she's alone, the survivor is becoming very tame.  She actually came into the porch today and the Sage thinks it won't be long before she feeds from his hand.  He has a way with birds, they always trust him.

This is turning into Party Year.  The Sage is throwing another party, this time to celebrate the car's 83rd birthday.  Having invited bloggers the first time, and Lowestoft collectors the second, this time we will invite some of our local friends.  Already, the Sage is talking about the next party - not this planned one, but another one.  I'm not sure what has come over us.  I'm also not sure what I'm going to do about food this time, I must start thinking about it.  Although, not this side of the weekend because we are going to yet another party on Saturday, the farmer that Big Pinkie and Whisper (as no. 400 has been named) belong to; that is the son of the farming partnership got married earlier in the year, and this is their wedding bash.  A hog roast, apparently.  Jolly fine.

Tuesday 5 July 2011


It's not, necessarily, that I have any difficulty in spending money, just that it is rarely on clothes.  I'm just not that bothered, and I never have been.  If in the mood or sufficiently desperate for something suitable, I might buy several outfits in one go, but that might not happen for a couple of years at a stretch.

My mother was extremely interested in clothes and took great care of them, always changing as soon as she arrived home, carefully hanging garments up and being quite unbothered by large dry cleaning bills.  When I was a child, she chose my clothes, partly because I didn't care and partly because she did.  When I was married with young children I had little spare money - I once, unwisely, did a rough calculation of our household income and expenditure and was gratified to find that they matched pretty well, until I noticed that I had allowed nothing for my and the Sage's clothing.  I allowed for children's clothes and for books, and this seemed more of a priority.  As a result, I simply didn't buy anything unless I had to, and was quite relaxed about wearing my mother's or my sister's cast-offs.  In fact, the youthful photos I put up of myself a few weeks ago, including ones taken at Miss Fitt's 100th birthday 28 years ago - the ones I didn't post of my mother, she was wearing a black and white dress that she later passed on to me: I still wear it once in a while.

It's not that I don't care at all what I look like - for that, look to the Sage.  I once, completely exasperated by the dreadful garments he was wearing to a reasonably smart occasion, told him quite snappily that, if I were dressed as scruffily as he was, he would be shocked and not want to be seen with me.  The Sage was quite hurt, although it was quite true, although not hurt enough to mend his ways, or sew on any buttons.  I aim to be appropriately addressed, and am gratified if I seem to have got it right, but I'm not sufficiently interested to spend a minute more time than I must in shopping.

My hair costs me about £5 a week, so I must care enough not just to have a chop twice a year, but I rarely give an opinion on its cut to the hairdresser.  "Whatever you want," I say to her.  A request not to cut my fringe too short, because I like it to hide my wrinkled forehead, is as far as it goes.  I can't be bothered to hide the grey, let alone enhance the colour.  Although, actually, that is something I would be fussy about.  If I coloured my hair, I would not let the roots show.  I'd be so rigorous about that, it would be far too much effort.  I seem to have the idea that it's far better not to go to enough bother and therefore fail, than to go to *too much* bother and it show.

Monday 4 July 2011

Z is careful not to worry

I'm not the only person who thinks a lot of our Headteacher.  I'm going to quote from an email I received today from another governor - "Concerning the very sad news of Aaron - I was with a group of sixth formers on Friday - I felt it was a real testament to the BHS family ethos as they discussed the moving assembly Sean had just delivered and the respect they have for him as Head ('he's amazing - he considers every pupil a member of his family'). I understand that the year 11 Prom in the evening celebrated a life with dignity - difficult times."  It's hardly any wonder that the staff and pupils are motivated to work so hard.  

I had an email from Ro this morning.  A car had pulled out from a junction on his way to work (he cycles the three miles into Norwich city centre) and, although he had slowed down, knowing that drivers don't necessarily see  cyclists, the car pulled out right at the last moment and he couldn't stop.  He is not much hurt, he said, a bruised arm, and he went on to work, leaving his damaged bike for repair.  The driver has agreed it was his or her fault (Ro didn't say which) and will pay up.  All seems quite civilised.  Ro assured me that he didn't hit his head (he is very considerate and wouldn't want me to worry).  Ho hum.  Bus for the next few days, I suppose.  Cycling in the city is fairly hair-raising, although there is a cycle lane along that road, it is also used by buses and there are numerous side roads.  We really aren't very geared up for bikes in this country.  There is no point in letting myself worry.

We have had some paving laid outside the house - it's only part done so far, actually, but I moved a table and chairs on to the part that is done and sat there for much of the day, working.  Not working very hard, admittedly, but enough for me to think I've got something done.  And it was extremely pleasant.  

Sunday 3 July 2011

Parp, parp

The Sage fetched back his car today. It will be 83 years old in a month's time.
We went for a spin round the village.

And then we went and called on friends.

The car had gone about ten or twelve miles altogether, and was a bit hot and bothered by the time we got back into the drive, and we had cause to call it the Envy of Sisyphus (see end of section 3).  It started again after a rest, however.

On quite another subject, I have been thinking about surnames, specifically fish-related ones.  I'm not sure if it's because we live near the coast, in an area of the country that used to be a major fishing locality.  I know or have known people called Fish, Trout, Codling, Salmon and, splendidly, Haddock.

Saturday 2 July 2011


I've been taking it easy today.  I didn't altogether take the day off, I've got a fair bit done, but I read both daily papers by mid-afternoon, which doesn't often happen with the bulky Saturday papers.  I spent quite some time finding out more about my iPad, which I bought last Monday in a hopeful burst of exuberance.  It has already proved very useful at meetings, where I haven't had to take along papers, but just read documents from the screen.

I mentioned, the other day, that I'd had to carry the brown hen out of the porch, when she wanted to sit on eggs and I needed to go out.  We had to give in, she was determinedly broody.  Fortunately, the Sage's friend Graham, who is leaving for New Zealand tonight, brought 15 fertile bantam eggs as a parting gift, so they have been divided between the broody ones, three or four each, and we will raise a cockerel to join the family as well as some young hens.  We always bring in an unrelated potential father, not wanting ours to become inbred.

It's typical of this girl that she has neither hidden away nor sat in the hen house, but has come as close as she can to us.  She is unperturbed by comings and goings, but still sharply aware of what is going on.  I heard some squawking this morning, which was probably two of them having a brief altercation, and went out to find her craning her neck, trying to see what was happening without leaving her eggs.  The eggs she had laid were, of course, infertile, so I reached under her yesterday, taking them all away and then replaced them with four of those that Graham brought.
When the eggs hatch, we will put each foster mum and her chicks in a separate coop.  It's too risky to leave them outside, the magpies would get them.

Friday 1 July 2011

Outstanding result

It has been the most up-and-down couple of weeks.  Last Monday week, we finally were notified that the school was to receive its Ofsted inspection, having been waiting for notification for over a month (we had been told that we were in the pilot for the new regime, but not when the inspection would happen).  We had spent a few days getting ready and the rest just getting haggard.

Then we had the inspection and were told the result, but were not allowed to tell anyone until the findings had been moderated and verified.  That was on Thursday evening.  On Friday came the news about the illness of our caretaker.  On Monday, we had a post-Ofsted get-together among the staff, and on Tuesday, the caretaker died.  Yesterday brought the sad news about Aaron, our young pupil, but the Year 11s were, with the blessing of his parents, going ahead with their end of year prom tonight.  We were still waiting for confirmation of the inspection, we could not be confident of anything and the waiting was nerve-wracking.

Just before 5 o'clock this evening, the Headteacher emailed me and all the staff with the news that the result is official.  We can go public.

If you have nothing to do with schools, it will not mean much to you, but our rural, comprehensive school with nothing apparently remarkable about it, run-down buildings and a lower than average attainment in its incoming pupils has sailed through its Ofsted and gained an Outstanding, the highest evaluation, gained by 10% of schools overall.  Proud?  Yes indeed.  I'm damn proud.  I have read the report, but it isn't online yet, so I'll just quote one sentence - "The school is a striking example of an integrated community with everyone working towards a single vision."

Oh, and a sentence from the letter to the students - "Your school is extremely well led and the staff work together well to support you and provide you with an excellent experience."

Twenty-three years, I've been a school governor, eighteen years at one school and nearly thirteen years at this one (do the math, darling, there was an overlap).  Both schools have always been good.  For the last six months, I've known we were outstanding and now we have corroboration.

And yes, we have lots of plans for improvement.