Wednesday 31 October 2012

Failing better

It's turned out to be a rather brilliant day, actually.  The Sage and I went over to Lowestoft this morning, various business things, but it all went fine - no reason why not, but sometimes things go awry and one has to note and be pleased when they don't.  And this afternoon, Elle and I went over to Norwich with the intention of seeing the new James Bond film, Skyfall.  We arrived at the Riverside car park and there was a massive queue at 3.30 in the afternoon, but the electronic sign promised 83 spaces in the Castle Mall carpark, so we decided to go to that cinema instead.  When we got to the desk, the 4 pm showing only had front row seats left, so we gave it a miss, bought tickets for 4.30, and popcorn, and sat down to wait.  Somehow, it seemed to be a Diet Coke moment, and while I was buying that (blimey, they charge enough, innit?) several more people came, rejected the front row and bought tickets for 4.30.

Ooh, it was good.  We both enjoyed it immensely, squeaked a few times, were heartily amused at the woman next to me who stated the obvious at various points in the film (eg "oh look, it's James Bond") whilst eating a massive tub of popcorn without offering any to her partner and then starting to chomp on a packet of crisps and headed off home, quite surprised to see that it was already 7.30.  I took the precaution of phoning the Sage to ask him to put the sausages on to cook.

As we left Norwich, we were surprised to see a big queue of cars waiting to get in off the ring road, especially the ones queueing for County Hall.  No idea.  As we drove through Boringland we were charmed to see the cheerful groups of children, each with caring adult or two, going Trick or Treating - I explained to Elle that no child ever braved our long dark drive on Hallowe'en.  And we got talking about spooky things and I said that if you didn't believe in any religion, how could you believe in spooks or ghosts and so on? And we agreed to take a walk round the churchyard.

"What are we eating with the sausages?" I said, the leftover ratatouille.  Ah, it seems that Elle had that for lunch....okay.  I've got vegetables.  That's all right.  In the end, it was cauliflower and peas and some potato crisps.  And I introduced Elle to brown sauce.  "There's red sauce and brown sauce, you eat them both with the same things, pretty well.  Liking brown sauce is a test of Englishness."  "What's in it?"  "Er, vinegar, mostly, I think."  Elle likes brown sauce.  She likes ketchup .... do you know, in Germany they call mayonnaise 'white sauce'?  I explained that white sauce over here means béchamel.  And we pretentiously call it, when mixed with ketchup, Marie Rose, which she thought was very funny.  As it is.

So, after dinner, off we set to the churchyard, and I led her around the church, then into the 'new' churchyard and I told her a few stories about people who I knew who had died, showed her the Sage's family's graves, then we went into the church and I showed her the organ.  And she sat down and played, and it was brilliant, really good fun.  I took some short films of her, but I haven't told her about the blog so I don't think I can post any because it wouldn't be fair.

And then we came home and ate trifle and the Sage has made coffee.  Tomorrow, I'm meeting Eddie Two-Sox in Norwich.

Oh, and I sketched a child's chair.  Badly, but it doesn't matter in the least.  Actually, it's truly rubbish and all on the huh.  I don't care.  I can draw.  Very badly indeed, but so what?  Next time, I'll still fail.  But maybe I'll fail better.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Musing. One day, I'll aim to be amusing.

Well, that was a very good surprise.  I went to a Nadfas special interest day today, which was really ... um ... interesting - excellent, in fact.  It was about drawing and painting, delivered by an artist and her art college lecturer husband - here is a link to her name.  She has a website too.

Her husband made the point that all children draw and paint, it's later that they become discouraged or self conscious and start to think that they are no good at it, but that actually anyone can draw.  He's right of course, you just put your lips together and blow ... no, you know what I mean.

I don't know how things are nowadays, but in my schooldays the only teachers who were actively discouraging, whether they meant to be or not, were art and games teachers.  That is, people who had a problem such as dyslexia could be called stupid or accused of not trying (that didn't happen in my school actually, but it's been reported by many) ... I suppose what I mean is that those were the teachers in whom favouritism was expected.  Games lessons were, on the whole, pretty well miserable for me.  At least I wasn't fat, but I was small, not fast (one might have thought I would have been, but I was always rubbish at running quickly and I wonder now if my malformed hip sockets are the reason for that, not that it matters), a bit short sighted and had a rubbish aim.  So, when the girls who were best at netball or whatever ghastly team sport - oh, that was the other thing, I had no team spirit and I wasn't assertive - were inevitably picked as team captain, I was always among the last three chosen to be on any particular team.  And I'm not a bad shot now, how was it I was never, ever given five minutes coaching at throwing a ball into a net?  Nor was I told to go off and practise until I got better?  Why was someone who was keen but not that good given the opportunity to be team captain for once?

And Art.  I disliked the Art teacher.  She was hearty, not discouraging but she scared and intimidated me, without in the least trying to of course.  I've nothing against her in truth, not as a person but she dismissed me early on as useless because I couldn't paint in the style she wanted, which was big and splashy.  I couldn't do it - not only was I desperately shy and inhibited and a whole big sheet of paper was far too big for me, I couldn't get any sense of proportion, of the size of things.  What I'd have liked was to have been taught drawing.  Painting ruined it, I only liked to draw, on a small sheet of paper.  I wish that had been allowed - actually, I really do.  I've just realised that, or possibly remembered it.  On the rare occasions I do draw or paint anything - actually try to, that is, it's usually a single flower or something like that.  There have been a few hands-on WI meetings when I've done that and, actually, I've not been entirely unhappy with the result.  I'm very limited in my ambition, but even that was discouraged when it might not have been.  I can't remember the teacher's name, but bad cess to her for making me hate Art lessons.

Ghislaine said that she paints a small picture, something from the news, every day - she started a few years ago as a year-long project and those paintings formed an exhibition, but she's kept it up - and I'm sort of tempted to draw something every day, but I doubt I will.  It'd be for myself only if I did, but I'll forget all about it, I expect.

Anyway, back to the good news.  I'm due to finish as Nadfas Area secretary after the next meeting in March, but I had no idea of whom to ask to take over from me.  And someone else on the committee has come up with a very nice woman called Celia who is quite keen.  Isn't that brilliant?  I've not been the greatest success in this position, to be honest - I underestimated the amount of work in the first place, or rather how I'd deal with it.  But I've done quite a bit of work on streamlining the job and simplifying it, and getting people to work with me helpfully (they're all lovely, but some of them were a bit bossy and rather forgot that I'm a volunteer as much as they are) and I think I'll be passing on something that works quite well.  That's been my aim this year in fact, not to hand on a tricky job.

And now, darlings, it's time to go and cook dinner.  I'm going to stuff some chicken breasts and serve them with ratatouille, French beans and the rest of the rice (cooked with lemon juice and turmeric and tossed with toasted mustard seeds) left over from last night.  

Monday 29 October 2012

Mixing and mismatching

Sorry, Nigella, but chocolate pasta, even with pecan butterscotch sauce, is just plain wrong.

It's a funny thing, isn't it?  I like pretty well all foods, there is almost nothing I dislike in itself although, of course, some dishes I'm not too keen on - though that's probably the way they've been cooked.  I only once tried jugged hare, for instance, and it was disgusting, but I'm quite prepared to blame it on the cook.  Roses said the other day that she's tried oysters several times - raw, cooked, smoked - and still doesn't like them and that's quite fair enough.  And then there are foods that are taboo to you - which may be pork to a Muslim or dog to an Englishman, meat to a vegetarian or honey to a vegan.  There's little I wouldn't try - a few things, mind you, I have my prejudices - but there are still some things that I can't take, even if they taste all right.  Chocolate pasta is a case in point.  Just plain no.

Take a crumpet, for instance.  I love a toasted crumpet.  I've even been known to make them, quite a pleasure if I'm in the mood, though I can rarely be bothered.  But they are to be eaten with butter.  The Sage adds Marmite.  I love Marmite, but not with a crumpet.  No, I haven't tried.  The taste is irrelevant.  A poached egg is fine and I suppose topping it with cheese and toasting it is permissible, not that it's right, but that's all.  Maybe a freshly-picked field mushroom at a pinch.  Or (not and, don't be silly) a smear of strawberry jam.  But a buttered crumpet is perfect, it can't be improved upon.

Oh, and what's with adding fruit and stuff to cheese?  I was persuaded to buy some ginger-flavoured cheddar once.  I couldn't eat it.  That is, I tasted a bit and it was perfectly nice, but it was wrong.  As is cheese flavoured with apricot, cranberry and the like.

I once watched a daytime cookery programme and the unfortunate amateur cook used cheese with his fish dish.  The Italian judge wouldn't even try it.  Fish and cheese were wrong together and that was that.  And Belgian Waffle wrote the other day about a macaron baking class she went to, with savoury macarons - she gave examples, but my mind won't retain them because they were perfectly horrid.  Bristling with horror, darlings.

And you, dear hearts?  Puzzle me or make me squeal in agreement, why don't you.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Oh bugler

I trotted down to the newsagent and bought the papers and took them to church because it was the café service today, where bacon, sausage or toasted cheese sandwiches are served, crafts provided for children and newspapers for anyone who wants to read them.  Later, there's a very informal service including songs - not really anything you'd call a hymn - where Andy plays the keyboard and I play the clarinet.  And Andy greeted me with enthusiasm, which is always slightly worrying, because it was evident that I was going to be asked to do something.  Would I, he asked, be available for Remembrance Sunday?  Well yes, that wouldn't be a problem, I always go to the Remembrance Day service and it so happens that the Sunday is the 11th November this year so it's the right time on the right day.  Would I play the Last Post and the Reveille? asked Andy.  We haven't got a bugler this year.

Well, I could hardly say no, though I'm not sure how they will sound on the clarinet.  But I'm a bit daunted.  I'm okay with accompanying or playing in a group, but I don't like anything that approaches a performance - not that this is, of course, but it'll be dead silence apart from me - indeed, I'll break the silence and if I make the smallest error it will reverberate round the church and ... oh blimey.  I'd better spend the next fortnight practising like some sort of dedicated musician.  Yes, scales and stuff, the lot, sort of thing I don't usually do because I normally dive straight into Mozart.  You know where you are with Mozart.

Right - as ever, it's just telling the tale that gets it out of my system.  Backbone in place again, darlings.  As I always say, it'll be fine.

But oh bugger.  If it is, they'll nobble me every time they can't find a bugler.  And if it isn't, I think I'll have to leave the village.

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Zedary turns blue and sparks fly

No, no fireworks, nor even cross words.  I didn't notice when I referred to the clocks changing in the last post, nor even when I was talking about the church heating with Sybil, whom I met in the Co-op.

It was when I was thinking about altering clocks - 'the television and our phones will alter automatically,' I thought.  'It's only the microwave and the bedside clock ... oh, bugger.  Oh buggering bugger.  Oh fuckety buggering ....' ... you get the picture.  I continued to swear for several minutes, to the Sage's amusement, while I put my coat on and fished out some keys.  He offered to come down to the church with me, but I'm not scared of the dark nor the churchyard and was quite okay to go alone.

I'd altered the time clock for the church heating earlier in the week, but did I take the clock change into account?  Like hell I did.  My only consolation is that I remembered it at 9.15 pm and not around 3 am tomorrow, when getting up and shambling down the road would have been a serious test of my willpower.

The Sage had a snifter waiting for me when I got home.  That is, a wee dram.  Oh darlings, a glass of whisky.

Seriously, I hate the biannual clock change.  Dearly as I love Scotland and the Scots, I want independence for England and Wales over this.

That reminds me of the time, soon after Al was born, when my mother (whose two children were born five and a half years apart) asked if I intended to continue to have biannual babies?  Honestly, it wouldn't be as nature intended.  To be fair, she did realise her mistake when I gave her a funny look.  That is, I laughed.

Z is stale, flat and distinctly unprofitable

Today, I stayed in bed.  I was awake long enough in the night to give up on sleep altogether and go to the spare room to read for a couple of hours before I finally drifted off with the light still on, but then when I woke again I refused to stir.  At 9, I woke for the last time to find a lukewarm cup of tea by the bed and the light off, but I didn't get up for another couple of hours.  I listened to the hail and the wind and snuggled down reading.

Of course, the upshot is that I've felt strangely lacking in energy all day, but I think it was the right thing to do.

I had to get up because the Sage was doing a china valuation - the china was being brought to the house - so I typed it all up and emailed the inventory and valuation to the owner.  I cooked bacon and eggs for lunch, we called on friends in the afternoon for a little while and then went to the supermarket to use two £8 off vouchers that would run out tomorrow.

Otherwise, nothing at all.  I'll be terribly sorry tomorrow when I realise I've got two days' work to do in one, but it can't be helped.  And the clocks change, which is always a cue for me to get completely out of kilter with the time for the whole winter.

Oh, I've just had an email with the music for tomorrow's service.  Yes, it is a bit late.  And the odds are that I won't be able to find music I've already transcribed for the clarinet (it's pitched in B flat so one has to rewrite it up a whole tone) so will have to do it again.  Practice?  No, I can't be bothered.  I last played the clarinet three weeks ago, I can't have forgotten it all yet, surely.

PS - half an hour later - amazing what a good grumble can do.  I'm getting on with some work now and feeling almost cheerful.

Friday 26 October 2012

Silver threads

The day didn't go as planned - that is, the afternoon didn't.  The Sage and I had an appointment in L'toft in the morning, and then he was being given a lift to his afternoon engagement while I chose between lifting tender plants so that they won't be caught by frost or finishing the minutes of Wednesday's meeting.  But the friend's car gave trouble, so I drove the Sage.  And I've hardly done much work as a consequence.  Still, I keep Saturdays in hand, ostensibly to potter about and relax but actually to have free to do what wasn't finished during the week.

On the way back this morning, we called in at an antique fair.  Less furniture this time, more jewellery. And a stall selling silver that rather hit one in the eye.  Silverware of any ornateness has tarnish in the crevices but this had all been cleaned to the rafters, with the consequence that it all looked brand new.  I didn't care for it.  I like antiques that show a bit of age.

That reminds me, I saw someone I know in his 70s during the week who has always had suspiciously black hair.  The other day, it was startling to see that it was light brown.  Now, it's certainly not fair that it's okay for a woman to have her hair any colour she likes, and it's fine for a young man to dye it any which way, but for an older man to hide the grey just doesn't do it - but then, men aren't aged by grey hair in the way that women are.  The fairness in my heart says it should be all right ... but it isn't.  I refer you to the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

Thursday 25 October 2012

High Zociety

Elle is spending the weekend in Germany as there is a family wedding, so I saw her on to the coach for Stansted and then spent the afternoon with Roses.  And how lovely that was, she gave me lots of tea and much love and we're planning to meet up before long for Sunday lunch with our other halves.

I've suddenly got an almost overwhelming impulse to eat chocolate.  Oh dear.  Will I eat chocolate?  I don't know yet.  I have chocolate, obv.  I mean, well, of course I have.  Why wouldn't I have chocolate?  But it's in another room and I'm a bit overwhelmingly lazy this evening.  So it's a toss-up between greed and indolence.  Oh dear.  They should go together, innit?*

I'm also in the course of arranging a meet-up with Eddie Two-Socks.  I'm being a sociable Z.  John G and I are hoping to meet before long, though he's a little further away - wondering if I can find an excuse for a mini-holiday taking in his direction if it's a bit far for a day trip.  Just looked it up.  135 miles.  That's doable.  So is a night or two away.  H'm.  I'll see what the Sage says - not that he can't do without me.  He appreciates the peace and quiet, also the total joy of my return, of course.

*Tim, darling, I hope you appreciate me

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Z is patient

I wore another ancient jacket today.  And I did take a photo, but it came out really dark.  One day, perhaps.

This was another of my mother's cast-offs.  My stepfather Wilf bought it for her on a business trip to the Far East, can't remember which country.  It's quilted, orange and green on a cream background, double buttons all the way up to a high neck, close-fitting, waist length.

It was never her taste really, but she wore it once in a while to please him and it did look good on her slender frame.  Eventually, she gave it to me, after he had died, because she didn't think she would wear it again.

They got married the February before Al was born and he will be 37 next April ... I can't remember whether it was before or after their marriage, but it must be 35 years old at least.  She gave it to me 20 or more years ago, and today is the first time I've ever worn it.  But I was never inclined to throw it away.

Have no fear, dear hearts.  I shall not lose too much weight.  Health and strength matter to me.  I'm not vain, nor am I silly, nor do I feel I have anything to prove.  As one gets older, I think a few pounds more is healthier than being very thin.  But, if you have been, thanks for listening...

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Z wears a really old jacket

Ah.  It seems I'm to be director of another company.  Unpaid of course - but unqualified come to that, so it's okay.  Though I did manage a clever bit of delegation - one of the other Academy directors was taking notes for minutes, so I asked her to write a vital letter as she had all the info.  She was boxed in a corner, bless her kind and capable heart.

Tomorrow, it's the biannual Area (Nadfas, that is) meeting.  I'm secretary, taking that on was a mistake and the Sage warned me and he was right.  I've sort of enjoyed it, but am only just getting to grips with it (that's not all my fault, but I underestimated the work at the start) and someone else would be far better at the job.  I'm not holding my breath at finding a volunteer, mind you, in time for next March.

And so it's time to be positive and happy, because that's what this blog is for.  And indeed, I can do positive and happy on this occasion - in respect of clothes, which makes it even better.

More than 30 years ago, the Sage took me shopping for my birthday.  In advance of my birthday that is, shopping really isn't a biggie in my life.  But on this occasion, he found that he was buying me a green skirt in diagonal checks and a dark green velvet jacket.  The skirt was worn for some years and I suppose was eventually disposed of, but the jacket, less worn, found its way to the back of the wardrobe.  In due course I became too fat for it (its a 10, which is smaller than today's size 10) and it languished.  I never threw it out, though.

Today, I wore it and it fits.  And I'm wearing a skirt that is over 20 years old too, also grown out of for a while.  I'm wearing the necklace of green stones that I bought in Malta the year before last, so not everything is ancient - but I'm really happy to have lost so much weight that I'm almost the size I want to be.  And I've done it really, really slowly, which is very good.  I'm finally at the weight my doctor told me to be 5 years ago and within half a stone of the weight I feel myself at.

Monday 22 October 2012

Z is a little bit proud

I'm feeling a bit jagged.  The internet is being a bit of a bugger and so is the Sage's computer.  He is starting to use Skype to call a friend in New Zealand - the problem is that, whilst we can hear the friend (whom I shall call Graham because that is his name), Graham cannot hear us.  So I installed Skype too (which I never have before because I'm not a telephone fan and can't be arsed to use it) and called the Sage's computer - and he could hear me and I couldn't hear him.  I don't understand pcs, I haven't a clue what to do.  And the internet goes up and down like a ... thing that goes up and down, insert your own metaphor.

On the other hand, the National Health Service is proving itself something to be proud of.  Elle needed an appointment at the doctor's - a nurse would have done, but we went to explain things to the receptionist, she gave us a temporary registration form and suggested a doctor's appointment an hour from then.  The doctor was kind and helpful, and suggested that a blood test would be a good idea though he thinks it will probably prove negative - still, you can't take chances, innit?  While we were waiting to go in, I told Elle that a local woman had given £250,000 towards the building of the health centre because she would rather the money was well used during her lifetime (a couple of decades previously, she had given a similar amount to ensure a new library could be built), and after the doctor's consultation, we spoke to the receptionist again to book the blood test next Monday.

"Do we pay now?" Elle asked me.  I assured her there was nothing to pay.  "But how is it paid for?"  ... 'Does everyone pay health insurance?"

I explained.  I'm so damn proud of the NHS.  And I told her a little story from getting on for 45 years ago.

I can't remember the original contact with Martina's family, but it was probably something similar to Lena's: a friend of a friend.  Martina visited us a couple of times, she lived in Stutttgart.  One day she went to the beach with friends and, once she was back, came to my mother in tears.  She'd left her purse behind, it contained her passport, her money, everything.  "Don't worry," said my mother, "I shall phone the police station.  It will have been handed in."  Martina was doubtful, but my mother assured her it would be Fine.  And so it was.  Not a penny was missing, the kind finder had gone a mile to hand it in, everything intact. Martina was dead impressed and my mother was equally relieved.

I'm happy to report that England is as damn good now as it was 45 years ago.  I like England, I'm glad I'm ... well, I'm British as well as English.  My great-grandmother was Scottish.  They can have independence if they want to and welcome, but I'm very attached to Scotland too.

Sunday 21 October 2012

21st October

Until 1968, today was my grandfather's birthday - that is, he died the next summer.  He was born on Trafalgar Day, so given the first name Nelson, though he never used it and was always called David.

Today, there were 14 of us for lunch, the Sage and me, Elle, Weeza and Phil, Al and Dilly, Ro and Dora, Squiffany, Pugsley, Zerlina, Hay and Gus.  We had roast rib of beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, broccoli, peas and then German cheesecake made by Elle and English trifle made by Dilly.  We drank champagne, red wine, white wine, sparkling elderflower, apple juice, lager, Guinness and sparkling water, though no one drank all of those.   Everyone ate something of everything though, with the result that we all ate rather too much.  The Sage lit fires in the drawing room, sitting room and dining room (not in an arsonist sort of way, in the fireplaces as one should) with the result that the house was actually a bit too warm, a rarity.  It was all great fun.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Norwich to have coffee with a friend.  Well, with several friends, at the house of one of them.  I'm looking forward to it very much, they are all people who used to be (still is in one case) on the Nadfas committee I used to chair.  It was a happy time and place.  Well, it lasted several years, so it wasn't one of either, but you know what I mean.  I look back on that time with great affection and a little nostalgia.

Friday 19 October 2012

Z's favourite things - 3

My school was a bit rubbish, has to be said.  Lynn and I took English and History at A Level and Lynn took Art as well.  We were talking about that when I saw her a few weeks ago, actually.  She said that the teacher didn't have a clue what to do and gave her a pile of books on artists that my mother had recently given to the school and told her to do her research on Art History with them.  So passing the exam was all down to her and not to the school at all.  I'd have quite liked to take Biology but I'd have been the only one, so it wasn't possible.  So I went to the local high school for a third 6th form year.

It was only its second year as a comprehensive, it had been the Grammar School.  When I went to the school I was quite devastated to discover the range of subjects I could have taken and would have loved to take - years later, Al took Ancient Greek (a group of boys had taken Latin a year early so filled in their time before A Levels with Greek) and I was a bit envious.  In fact, I'd given up French and failed Latin O Level (twice!), but pulled myself together in my first attempt at the Upper Sixth (at this stage, having taken English after one year I was only taking an exam in History, though I was going to English lessons to keep Lynn company - you're following me?  Darlings, you're marvellous.  I thought I was losing you for a moment there).  I took up both French and Latin again and passed both O Levels with good marks.

Actually, dropping French wasn't a bad thing - well, not altogether.  They didn't quite know what to do with me - it was a kind school, they were very accommodating - and so suggested I went to the Business lessons: ie I learned to type.  It has been so useful over the years.  I couldn't be bothered to learn shorthand, but I can touch-type like a good'un.

So my bright idea was to take French and Latin A Levels the next year.  Didn't see why not - I have to admit, I thought I was rather brighter than I really was, but it's always been my way to jump straight in and see if I could swim (as long as it isn't real swimming mind you, I'm afraid of being literally out of my depth, and feel ashamed to have to admit it because I think if you're afraid that's all the more reason to do it).  And it can be done, but it's not a very good idea, but I did scrape through with a grade E (having been dumped by my boyfriend a few weeks before the exams probably didn't help all that much, either).  But (there is a point, darlings, I've been setting the scene up to now) some girls I made friends with were studying Russian - it really was a tremendous school with a very impressive curriculum - and so I spent my spare time reading Russian, French and other foreign novels. In translation, apart from the French ones, of course. And the one I was most impressed by was Crime and Punishment.  Oh, apart from La Peste.  Blimey, I was a miserable git, wasn't I?  The story of a murderer and his conscience - though mind you, the victim was horrible, you saw his point - and the detective determined to prove the truth; and the story of a plague-hit town in Algeria.  No, actually, I'm going to sit and ponder for a moment here.

Yes it's true, that was me.  It still is, too.  I like miserable stuff.  

Thursday 18 October 2012

Z does the mousework

Last night I received a text from Elle.  I say last night, it was actually 20 past 4 this morning.  She could hear a strange noise in her bedroom and wondered if I was awake?  I was, of course, and trotted through to apologise and say I'd fetch a mousetrap.  I went downstairs to where the Sage had set it the night before, emptied it of dead mouse, rebaited it and put it in her room.  This morning, I emptied it of dead mouse again.  The Sage went out and bought four more mousetraps.  Elle is taking it very well, in the circumstances.

Blue Witch commented that her dishwasher isn't proving entirely satisfactory, although it's a make she's found good in the past.  I agree.  I have to pay more attention to cleaning this dishwasher's filter than I ever have before, and my theory is that it's because it uses less water.  I suspect that the water is run through several times rather than fresh being used (though obviously the rinsing water is fresh), or else there's less used in the wash so it gets dirtier.  It stands to reason - and if it boasts about how little water it uses (not the dishwasher, obv, the blurb about it) then that water will carry more debris.  And I do rinse off anything that's likely to clog the system and I don't overload it.

I spent most of the day at school, first a meeting, then lunch, then Year 7 Music, so I haven't a lot to report.  Except that I'm off the wagon again.  I'm sure that four days is more than adequate if I needed a break and I felt neither better nor worse in health for it.  I just had a small glass and a half with dinner, nothing before or after, terribly sensible.  

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Z gets jobs done

Day four without booze and I'm bored.  I still don't miss alcohol itself, but dinnertime is just so uninteresting.  And the grape juice is far too sweet.  Why do drinks have to be sweet?  A sweet drink doesn't go with savoury food (unless it's a Big Mac of course, in which case nothing but Diet Coke will do).  I think this will have to be the last day.  It's taking me two hours to get to sleep and I'm still awake for two or three hours in the night and can't sleep past 7.30 in the morning.  I'm sure my liver is as bored as I am, with nothing to do.  It's usually such an energetic organ, always cheerfully busy.

Oh dear, I've been sitting here for several minutes assigning personalities to each of my organs.  I think I'm cracking up a little bit and had better pull myself together.

In fact, I've been quite sensible and purposeful today, dealing with various bits of domestic admin, writing letters, making phone calls.  I'd planned this, as I'd succeeded in catching up with almost everything else, but was nearly waylaid by the dishwasher.  It's been struggling a bit recently, you see.  It's not very old, about four years I think, but for several weeks there has been water left in the bottom of the machine at the end of every wash.  I'd press the reset buttons and it drained away, but it was not at all satisfactory.  I'd got to the stage of having to clean the filter and the rotor arms after every use, sponge out the last of the water or else it got gungy after a day or two, and rinse crockery before putting it in, or the cleaning wasn't good enough.  I was sure that there was something blocking it, but there seemed to be no way of cleaning it completely.

So today, before giving in and phoning to get it serviced, I decided to make one last effort.  I consulted the manual.  I know, darlings, a last resort indeed.  And it took a long time, because there was an awkward little screw that needed an Allen key, but I did the job and removed a surprising amount of limescale (surprising because we have a water softener and I use dishwasher tablets that are supposed to mean you don't have to use salt, so there shouldn't be limescale) and I hope it'll be okay now.

What I don't get, though, is why they make them so difficult to keep clean.  Those rotor arms, for example.  Things like mustard seeds and melon pips get caught in them and block the holes. Why don't they make them so you can take them apart?  I have to poke out blockages with a pin and bang it against the sink to shake the bits out.  And the filter, you have to be able to bend right down to take it out to wash it.  What if you can't?

Year 7 Music again tomorrow.  Whoopee!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Z rides the wagon

I went to a lecture today about the Bloomsbury Group.  At the start, we were shown a 'family tree' that linked, not only those who were married to each other, but those who had affairs with each other, colour-coded for heterosexual and homosexual.  Very useful.  I thought I knew a bit about the BG people but I ended up a bit overwhelmed by detail.  Interesting, as a friend said to me afterwards, that such talented artists didn't have many original ideas, their paintings were quite derivative.  I agreed (look, I can keep my end up in a three-minute conversation about Art), saying that their styles didn't so much develop over the decades as change completely according to whom they admired at the time.

Afterwards, I mooched about in J@rrolds for a bit (a large department store, still family-owned, in Norwich).  I'm keeping my eye out for a new winter coat, but I didn't see anything I was tempted by.  I liked the colour of one, but it was too short and the style far too young.  Most of them - black, camel, maroon, red, the occasional bright blue, brown or grey - were a bit 'same old,' I thought, but I'm not the keenest shopper and didn't examine the racks carefully.  I bought some books instead - nothing special, just what took my fancy - and made mental notes of others to have up my sleeve in case anyone asks me what I'd like, we don't talk about that in October.

I was meeting a friend after lunch, so had an hour or so spare and wasn't at all in the mood for more shopping.  So I just bought quite a lot of coffee beans and went to Waitrose to buy some groceries that I can't get in Yagnub (including Lapsang Souchong.  Why on earth can't one buy Lapsang in Yagnub?  No idea) and have some lunch too.

My purchases included tomato and grape juices (not from concentrate.  I rather like the thought of the grapes being individually squeezed, but I suspect I'm being fanciful) and ginger beer.  Yes, I'm still not drinking alcohol.  There isn't any particular reason for this, just that I was starting to look forward to gin or wine o'clock and you know how I resist both habit and need.  Although there's also the thought that it will be interesting to see if, over the course of a few days (this will not last longer than that, I'm quite sure), anything is different.  So, a bit of a diary...

Sunday evening.  Drank slimline tonic water.  Didn't miss the gin.  Slept quite well, though I do usually manage a couple of reasonable nights' sleep each week out of sheer exhaustion.  Probably slept the best part of six hours in total, waking only two or three times.

Monday.  Felt fine, energetic...ish, it's Z we're talking about here.  I had lots to get done but every email and phone call gave me more to do and we had several callers, the Sage needed a lift, I managed to leave my phone in a local shop and had to go back to retrieve it, so it took far longer than I planned so I decided to work on after dinner.

Monday evening.  Drank tonic again.  I took the computer into the drawing room so that the Sage and I could tap away side by side - well, not quite, we like our elbow room.  If I'd had a couple of glasses of wine, it would have been very unlikely that I'd have been able to concentrate on the work.  On the other hand, I would have written a blog post.  I was tired when I went to bed (I'd had a good break after finishing work, I don't think it was that) but couldn't sleep for at least two hours and was awake quite a lot in the night too.  Usually, I sleep soundly for the first hour and rather rely on that.

Tuesday - as I've already said.  I started to get a headache as I drove home from Norwich.  I don't often get headaches, though I used to in my younger days - hang on, I didn't drink much in my younger days.  Hmm.  Maybe it's just because I'm tired though.

Tuesday, 5.30 pm.  I don't have to wait for gin o'clock, I can have a drink Right Now.  Tomato juice, though.  Thank god for Worcestershire Sauce.  

Sunday 14 October 2012

Z takes a tonic

I've spent the last hour or two going through the annual report and financial statement that has to be submitted by the academy.  We've just had another set of papers sent to us too, a massive undertaking as it has to be completed and audited by the end of the year, it's a huge document with no guidelines, the accounts are onerous for our small three-person finance department (who have to keep up with day-to-day business too, of course).  Public money though, it's right that the scrutiny is rigorous, though the powers that be keep changing the documentation when they find they haven't got it right, it's all quite chaotic and we have to deal with the sharp end.  I've been going through the governors' report, of course, not the financial detail.  Anyway, whilst I was about it I became thoroughly nit-picking, changing several semi-colons to colons, rewriting sentences to avoid too many apostrophes, I feel as if I've spiralled down into pernicketyness.  And I've just this moment had an email thanking me from our finance director - she shouldn't be working at 6 pm on a Sunday!  It's all very well for me, I'm not paid so there's no reason I should ever take time off.

Oh, that's all right, she sent it from her iPhone, at least she wasn't at her desk.

Anyway, I've rewarded myself with a glass of tonic, ice and a good squeeze of lime and ... no gin.  Nor vodka.  Yup, I make no promises regarding an alcohol-free evening, but not before dinner tonight.  I've been too busy and too tired and under some strain and drinking has crept up.  Not horribly, but it's time to re-tweak down again before an extra glass or half-glass in the evening becomes normal.

Elle has been staying with a friend for the past week and will return sometime in the next few days.  I've missed her, I'm looking forward to having her back.  Mind you, come to think of it I haven't changed her bedclothes yet, I mustn't forget (yes, I'm missing a trick, she should do it herself and be treated as a member of the family rather than a guest, but hey, I'm in loco grandparentis* here and we're allowed to be indulgent).  She's popping back to Germany at the end of next week for her father's wedding, but just for the weekend.  Then she'll be with us for half term, but is hoping to find some work experience or something voluntary to fill her time as all her friends have jobs outside school and won't have much free time.

Have I mentioned that Ro and Dora are in the process of buying a house?  Very exciting, and also quite ageing for the Sage and me - our baby!  I'm afraid I'm going very grey, I looked in the mirror in a good light this morning, always a mistake and I was quite disconcerted.  Worse, I'm reaching the age when my personal thermostat is a bit haywire - yes, I'm a bit late to this but find I'm not ready to face its approaching significance.  I'm happy to be middle aged, okay with contemplating old age, but the prospect of being menopausal - no, that's not something I feel able to take on board.  I'm looking at it with a surprising degree of loss.**

However, I won't end on a dismal note.  Um...oh yes, I've been making quite a lot of cake recently.  It all started with Elle's birthday and I've just carried on.  I'm trying not to eat it myself though, I wore a skirt the other night that I've been keeping for years until I shrank into it and it fitted and I'm not letting my weight creep up again.  It's sugarfree tonic I'm drinking now, by the way, not that I approve in the least of artificial sweeteners but I can't contemplate fizzy drinks full of sugar either.  Which is one of the reasons I drink wine, of course.   I've never found a soft drink that will do, I'd rather drink water.  But I'd rather drink wine really, obv.

*Anyone who has a problem with my Latin will be soundly kissed until they stop complaining.

**TMI, I'm afraid - you see, I can be as indiscreet without alcohol as with.  I'm always expansive in the evenings, it's the time I'm most awake.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Z's favourite things - 2

Apart from Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, the period in literature we were studying was the early 19th century.  In History we studied the whole of the 19th century, extended to include the French Revolution and the First World War.  So it tied up quite nicely and it was a natural follow-up when I picked up War and Peace.  Our copy had a pull-out list of the families who appeared in the book, which needed to be referred to frequently, to start with.  When I read it most recently I couldn't find my copy so bought a new paperback one.  I was very annoyed to find that it had been edited to give male and female characters the same surname - Rostov, for example rather than Rostova for the women.  I thought it quite rude to the Russians and patronising to the readers, that we would apparently be unable to comprehend the structure of Russian names.

I enjoyed the rhythm of the book and, because there was such a large cast of major characters, had to read it slower than usual - normally I used to read very quickly.  I deliberately slowed down my reading some years later when it was becoming too expensive.  When my children were young I used to walk the mile or so into Lowestoft and never failed to come back with a book or two a few times a week.  It was all I bought for myself, I couldn't afford clothes and mostly wore my mother's cast-offs.  When Weeza was in her teens, I wore her cast-offs.  I was unwise enough to work out a rough and ready budget once and was very pleased to see that the books balanced almost exactly, until I noticed that I'd allowed nothing for clothes.  Nor for holidays, but that was all right because we never took them, not for several years.

That was long in the future, of course.  I read War and Peace, that first time, over several weeks and immersed myself in the stories of Natasha and Pierre, of the Napoleonic invasion, of life and death and privation and riches.  I've come back to it several times since though there was a long gap, probably twenty years, before I read it most recently.

A year or so after reading the book for the first time, I got a Saturday job in Lowestoft Borough Library.  It was my dream job, really.  It must have been 1971.  1970 had been horrendous, starting in January with the death of my father, going on to the evaluation of all my parents' possessions so that my mother could pay Death Duties on everything, the collapse of a company (after the share values had been taken into account, unfortunately) that my father had a fair bit of money invested in because he was supporting a friend who worked there, which left my mother severely strapped for cash, then a serious accident to my sister who spent weeks in hospital as a result.  There's a lot about the year that I've forgotten, but there were a couple of upsides.  One was meeting the Sage - the Sprout as he then was - for the first time and the other was first tasting samphire.  

Friday 12 October 2012

Z's favourite things - 1

I thought I'd take you through the interests on my profile.  I kept it brief, I'm not that interesting - or maybe -ted.  But it was Liz's thoughtful, entertaining but not entirely complimentary review of one of my 'favorite' books that made me think I could get a post or two out of this.

I'm not going to review the books - which, to save you looking it up are Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment but, rather, to tell you how I first came to read them - all within a couple of years of each other as it happens, all in my impressionable mid-teens.

P&P came first, when I was sixteen.  Emma was a set book for English A level that year.  That is, it was if you were planning to take it after one year instead of two.  Although there were a number of us in the Lower Sixth - between 12 and 15, I think - most of us weren't taking A levels and the school begrudged paying two teachers just to teach English and History to Lynn and me.  They couldn't back out, they'd promised our parents, but wanted us to speed up and do the work in one year instead of two.

It's possible to take English in a year and get a decent grade but not History, by the way.  We didn't even attempt it.  In fact, I got a B in English and was perfectly happy with that (I was the casual sort) but Lynn got a C so the school had to keep Mr Baker for another year just for her.  I went to the lessons and did the work to keep her company, but I couldn't be arsed to take the exam.

Anyway, I can't imagine how it was that I'd not read Jane Austen before.  I suppose I thought she'd be staid.  I read voraciously and was sometimes really quite pretentious, but I'd simply left her out.  But I enjoyed Emma  - not that I particularly liked many of the characters, but they interested me and I certainly liked Jane Austen.  And so I read all her books within the next few weeks - I would have, even if I hadn't much enjoyed the first, because I always did.  I thought you had to read a good many books by one author to be able to write about the set book.  I was astonished, years later, to find that not everyone thought that.

I loved them of course and reread them all a few times that year, and have continued to do so ever since.  Well, I don't bother with Northanger Abbey.  And I read some more often than others.  Actually, it's about time I went through the whole lot again.  But I have reread Pride and Prejudice within the past year and I do love it.  Again, I'm not sure that I like any of the characters that much - I certainly wouldn't identify with any of them.  But I don't think that matters.

Thinking about it, I wonder how many characters I've ever really liked.  Another favourite book set in a similar period is Vanity Fair  - and yes, I've returned to a lot of much-loved classics in the past year, largely because so many modern novels have deeply disappointed me and I wanted to know if it was me or the books that had got small: it is the books.  And Becky Sharp is one of the most unlikeable 'heroines' of all.  But she's compelling, all the same.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Z nods off

I did go straight upstairs (after playing my turns at Scrabble) and only read briefly in the bath because I was too tired for the long soak I'd promised myself.  Asleep soon after 9, of course I was awake by 11. But I did fall asleep again, briefly ... and was woken by the burglar alarm.  Of course, the little thief will have been a mouse, I stomped downstairs (I did peer out of the window first, just in case there was a burly figure in a striped teeshirt carrying a bag marked 'SWAG' climbing in a downstairs window), turned off the alarm and returned to bed grumpily.  I slept a bit fitfully after that.

This morning, I received the appointment for my eye operation.  The day of our next auction.  It would be, wouldn't it?  Anything else, I could cancel or change.  So I phoned - I don't know if it's just the eye department at the Norfolk & Norwich, but again it was marvellously efficient.  The phone picked up on the first ring, my details speedily checked and, within a minute or two I was offered another appointment on the next working day after the original appointment.  I've accepted it of course, Dilly will take me to the hospital and then I have two offers - either she will wait with me until I'm ready to come home or otherwise she can leave me there and Weeza will pick me up after work.  Plenty of time to see which is more suitable.  It'll be Monday 19th November, so not too long to wait.  A bit unfortunately, I've got a couple of things on that week - a Nadfas study day and a governors' meeting where I shall, undoubtedly, have to explain repeatedly what's wrong with my eyelid.  Never mind - as I said before, if that's the worst that's wrong with me I can only be grateful.

I was very tired again today - fine until lunchtime, when I cooked myself bacon and eggs (I'd only had a couple of mouthfuls of plain yoghurt for breakfast, the Sage had eaten out and, much as I like cheese and salad for lunch I'd had that every day so far this week) and afterwards I had to curl up in an armchair and go to sleep again.  Is it food that's doing it?  It's just occurred to me that last night and today I was wide awake before eating, had to sleep afterwards.  I'm going out to dinner tonight and have to drive home, so I rather hope not.

I'm assuming it's just this time of year, of course, because I'm used to having a drop in energy in the darker months.  Our friends Pam and Peter, with whom I went to Corfu back in the early summer, spend several months in Portugal to get away from the cold and dark.  I can quite see their point of view.  And the clocks haven't gone back yet, when things take a distinct turn for the worse.  Changing the clocks twice a year seems an absurdly old-fashioned ritual.  British Summer Time all year round would drop a heavy enough hint to the weather, surely?

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Z can hardly stay awake

So, chairman of governors for another year.  It wasn't a surprise.  Unless anything unexpected crops up, I'll carry on as long as the Head does, see in his successor then opt out.  He's good enough to deserve that much commitment, though if I had any sense I'd leave now while someone else has time to embed themselves.  But the job - his, that is - is multi-faceted enough and an area of stability is a good thing.  I'm good at being stable and reliable, it's what I do.

The Sage had a lovely fire waiting for me in the dining room so there was no hurry to leave the dinner table, though I'm so tired now that I'm quite seriously contemplating a long soak in the bath with a book or two and then an early night.

I'm pleased to say that I'm reading books again at the moment.  I finished an ebook - that is, read it from start to finish - the other night, which does say a bit about lack of sleep but also a certain amount about not losing concentration.  I found a message on my phone to remind me to buy a book called 'A Handful of Earth' the other day, recommended to me by Mig and Barney, but I can't remember the relationship ... can you tell me, Mig?  It arrived today, that's the one I'm going to start next, ignoring the two I already have on the go.  Actually, my resolution for the month (yes, I know it's a third through) is not to start a book and not finish it, not unless I decide it's not worth finishing.  I've been altogether too flippy recently and I've got a string of bookmarked volumes that I have to read to the end.

Really loves, I'm so tired.  I'll just catch up on Scrabble (I see I have six turns waiting for me) and then I'm off.  With the newspaper as well as a handful of earth.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Z moves on

I said too much yesterday.  Sorry.  Um...let's see...

Elle is going to stay with a friend tomorrow for a couple of weeks, then back to Germany for a long weekend, then she has various things lined up.  It's great having her here, it's giving us zest.

Otherwise, not a lot of news - it's only too apparent why I retreated into the past, and I'm aware that I never finished off the dog saga and must do that next.  I found a photo of Chester in his old age, lying on the sofa and will show it to you.

I had a haircut today.  My hairdresser has opened a second salon in Beccles, so I drove over to support the venture, paper the house, as it were.  My hair was washed by a young girl on a day's trial - she had applied for an apprenticeship.  I don't know if she will be taken on, there was a slight problem with the shower hose and, when my hair had been cut and was nearly dry, my hairdresser stopped.  "It hasn't quite been rinsed, do you mind if it's washed again?  Have you time?"  I had, though I was cutting (heh!) it fine with the car park, and so now my four times washed and twice conditioned hair is about as soft as it has been since babyhood.

Tomorrow, it's the governors' AGM.  I fear there is little likelihood of a challenge to my chairmanship.  However, I have to acknowledge that it gives me purpose ... I do have an exit strategy and I am planning my retirement.

I'm quite pleased with my haircut, actually.  It's shorter than usual, which makes me feel efficient.  But I won't be efficient this evening.  One more email, then I'm going to sit by the fire and read the papers.

Monday 8 October 2012

Z thinks of changing the Sage's name. Basil? Lovage?

I had a talk with the Sage yesterday about future plans, as a result of which I was sunk into too much gloom to rise above it and write.  He and I want completely different things in the next few years, which seems quite a pity.  I'd have liked to think we might do more together, apart from plan his china sales.  However, it seems that I must still gear myself up to doing things I enjoy, alone.

We have always both had an independent streak mind you, and I think that's a good thing.  Being a desperately gloomy person by nature, I've always been only too aware that one of us will eventually be left alone and I've always made sure that we both have some separate interests and friends.

Although the Sage is a lot older than me, I don't assume that he'll go first by any means.  My parents' and grandparents' average age at death was around 62, I'm not sure what his grandparents' were but both his parents lived into their 80s so I have always taken the view we're both likely to pop off pretty well together, which actually means that his determination not to retire until he's at least 80 is pissing me off quite a bit.

We may have been married for 39 years, but the Sage doesn't know me very well.  I asked him what I enjoy doing and he said "well, there's your school work."  I said that was work, could he suggest things that I most like doing apart from that.  "Shopping," he said.  "No, try again."  "Er, driving.'

Wrong and wrong.  His next couple of attempts were better, if vague, but honestly darlings, you know me better than he does.  Apart from talking (thank you Barney), I'm sure you lovely people could suggest something I enjoy and get it right.  Apart from Lowestoft china which is a sore point around here right now.  I bet you'd get it more right than he did.

I gave him full credit for his loveliness in welcoming blogfriends here and also for his warm hospitality in welcoming Elle.  I wouldn't want him to think I take him for granted.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Z puts her lips together

At the coffee morning I went to (which raised over £2,000 for MacMillan Nurses, btw) last Friday week, I bought one of those key fobs that, when you whistle, bleeps to let you know where you lost your keys. Actually, the Sage could do with a few of these. He's been losing things in the garden. Anyway, we've been trying it out. And pretty soon, I hung it up by the door where it couldn't annoy us any longer, because it seems a bit over-sensitive.  But that seems to have made matters worse. So far, it reacts to Elle's voice, sometimes to my voice, the cockerel's voice and, once in a while, to nothing at all.   Oh, it does bleep when you whistle, if it's at the right pitch. But I don't think the Sage is inclined to carry it around attached to his keys.

Today's journey went fine, remarkably speedy. And it has to be said, London drivers are awfully courteous these days. Also, thank goodness for satnavs, which enable complete lack of dither. Well, almost complete. And we had bacon sandwiches and good coffee for lunch.

Good coffee has been one of the Splendid Things that has come out of the last 20 or so years, don't you think?  Time was, it was undernourished instant almost everywhere. Now, that's just at the average church hall (I'd like to make it clear that you get delicious coffee and home-made cakes here at Z's church).

And that reminds me, it's Harvest Festival tomorrow. I did my effort on Friday, with a basket of vegetables in front of the choir stalls and an arrangement of fruit by the font. I left flowers in a bucket for others to arrange. I spent £45, which may sound quite a lot for fruit'n'veg but not a lot for flowers, but I'm ever the practical Z and I thought the recipients of the produce would like something they can eat. I'm also supposed to make cakes for the lunch after the service. As well as play the clarinet and the organ. Better not have a lie-in tomorrow, I should say. 

Friday 5 October 2012

Z gets out the satnav again

We're going to London tomorrow - business rather than pleasure, and Weeza is coming too.  So she's going to stay the night and we'll drive down tomorrow.

I don't usually drive to central London, but we looked up the train prices and times and there's work on the line scheduled so we'd be bused part of the way, adding considerably to the length of the journey, and the cost for three of us is appreciably more than fuel too, so we might as well drive.

I like travelling by train, but they don't make it easy, nor to go by any public transport if you live out of a large town.  I miss being able to turn up at a station, buy a ticket and get on a train - one has to plan ahead nowadays if the cost isn't to be prohibitive.  And I'm not even trying the bus.  The Sage is quite enjoying his free bus pass, but he's got more time to spare than I have and bus fares are expensive too.  Ro discovered when he lived here and worked in Norwich that the cost of the petrol and the cost of the daily fare were then about the same.  But then, for anyone of pensionable age, it's completely free - I've talked to pensioners who say that they'd be quite happy to have a half-price fare or pay for a bus pass, but if the pass were means tested then they'd be much less likely to use the bus at all.

It's a funny thing, by the way, that I've noticed that nearly all young people (young means under 45 or so, darlings, after that you're youngish until you're about my age when you become an old dear) who I know don't drive are men - usually because they live in London or another large city and don't have need of a car, which is fair enough of course, but they then have to rely on their wife when they want to go anywhere.  I know one bloke who never got around to learning to drive, lives out in the sticks and - well, if I were his wife I'd not be best pleased about that.  It's quite a burden if you've got children - there are so many after-school and weekend activities.  I'm certainly finding a lot of extra time taken up by ferrying the Sage around, not that I mind because actually it makes us spend more time together, which has to be a Good Thing.  In addition, however, it's that I have to do extra things that he used to if necessary, such as shopping and Meals on Wheels, and if I can't do MoW I have to swap with someone else.  And all that hoo hah at the hospital yesterday - I left here early as I said, Weeza had to get her after-school childminder to take Zerlina to school, it all took almost as long as if I'd gone by bus.  And when I do have the op done, I won't be able to drive back home at all, so either I'll have to see if Dilly's available or ask Weeza to bring me home - and then my car will be at her house or else she'll need a lift back the next day ... oh dear.  Maybe I could stay with her overnight and hope to drive back the following day.

Should I stop worrying about it?  Does this explain why I lie awake for hours every night?  Why do I have a compulsion to think round every aspect of a problem and a possible solution in advance, just so I have mental resources spare to react effectively to things that do crop up and can't have been foreseen?

I used to say to the Sage in the days when I wore glasses for driving and constantly mislaid them, he might find it a bit of a trial to be married to me, but just think what a trial is was to actually be me.  Not that he complained.  Unfailingly polite, the Sage.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Z loves the NHS

I did my dreary hour's sleep, five hours awake, hour's sleep thing again last night.  I wasn't consciously nervous, but you can't hide from yourself in the early hours.  I had to get up early and leave the house soon after 7 because Weeza was driving me to the hospital (which reminds me, I clean forgot to offer to pay her extra childminding costs.  Whoops).

I get my worrying done early, you see.  It's quite good really, because it means that when I have to go for the (extremely minor) operation, I'll have done with all that anxiety nonsense and will be looking forward to it.  Today, it was just for my eye to be looked at.

I've got this thing on my eyelid, as you'll have noticed if you've met me.  It's been there for a few years, although I'm so vague and unobservant that I don't know when it popped up.  It's a little - well, it's not a wart but it looks a bit like one, and it's on the top lid of my right eye, in the corner.  I've wished it wasn't there ever since it's been there, but I didn't do anything about it until (because I check frequently) I discovered a month ago that it had grown quite a bit, not visibly from the outside but about half a grain of rice sized under the lid.  I was on to the doctor the next morning, made an appointment for the day after tomorrow (today being the day that was tomorrow yesterday, this was about a month ago) and received my hospital appointment within the week.  I was pretty impressed with the speed of it all.

Today, I was even more impressed.  The letter had a bar code to self-register on arrival, but there was a nice man there to help if necessary.  I was called by a nurse ten minutes early to have my eyesight checked, waited another ten minutes and was seen by a doctor, who agreed that the lump should be removed.  He also observed that there's a discharge, which I was unaware of.  And he explained that, at present, they are only allowed to remove things that are giving concern - ie, that they might be malignant, which this isn't in his opinion (nor in mine, for what it's worth).  But, since it would be checked anyway, he would put on the form that it does give cause for concern, because otherwise there would be many pages of forms and a delay before they got authorisation for the operation.  So I'm not to worry about what the letter I will receive says.  And I'll lose a few eyelashes, is that okay?  I said I could live with that.  He said they would use a local anaesthetic.  I'd expected that, said it was fine.

Weeza asked how long before I can drive again and how long it would take to heal.  Next day, and a week or so, though it might look a bit sore for a few more days.

We left the eye clinic at 20 past 9 from a 9 o'clock appointment, which was fantastically efficient, and I'd been treated with courtesy and kindness throughout.  I'd asked Weeza to take me, just in case they put drops in and I wasn't able to drive for a while, but I'd have been fine as it happens.

Actually, I hate the thought - who wouldn't? - of sitting there with my eyes open while one of them is attacked by a scalpel.  But it'll be interesting, anyway.  And I'm working myself up to being quite excited about it.  I'll be so glad to get rid of that wretched thing - I'm not a vain woman, but it takes an effort not to be self-conscious.  Anyway, I'm as lucky as anyone can be - if that's the worst thing wrong with me, I can only be vastly grateful.  

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Last Sunday

After a jolly good breakfast that left me wondering how much I'd be able to eat for lunch, Mig and Barney got ready to leave for lunch with their daughter, for a delayed birthday celebration.  Well, several birthdays.  They suggested I follow them to meet the family and I'm alwys up for a jolly as you know.  So off we set in the Reading direction.

I've no idea what the family made of this strange, almost silent (oh yes, Barney, you see I can do silent) who smiled and smiled and left quite soon because I had a lunch date.  Big hugs for darling Mig and Barney, and now I know where you live I might call again....

And I knew already where Tim lives, and I knocked on his door at an altogether suitable Sunday lunchtime time and - oh darlings, it was so good to see him again.  Lovely.  And, well, I'm not sure if he's ever blogged about his cooking, but he's a cook.  Anyone who can make wholemeal pastry taste delicious is a damn good cook, because it's difficult (which means, for those who read between the lines, that he makes better pastry than I do).

I had an easy run home, just under 3 hours, and the Sage was all ready with a glass of wine and a dinner menu.  I still feel a bit fat, three days later, for all that greedy noshing, bur I have nothing but the cheeriest memories of the lovely company.  Thank you darlings.  Sorry for talking too much.  

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Dodo's birthday

Mel had to work on Thursday morning, so I went to meet her at Sherborne, leaving my car and going in hers because Dodo lives in a narrow lane with limited parking space and my Landrover would take up a lot of space.  Dodo was in great form.  There were five of us, more than six would test the limits of her sitting room.  Her nephew and family were going to visit at the weekend.

We chatted, ate cake, drank tea, sang Happy Birthday - as I observed, we all started in different keys but ended up together.  Here's a picture of her card from the Queen.

In the evening, we met Wink's friend Mandy at the pub.  The next day Wink had an appointment so I went to a coffee morning in her place, then drove to the house where she was dog and cat sitting for the weekend.  The dogs were a yellow and a black labrador called Rufus and Billy, the cats were a ginger called Hobbes and a tabby called Wicket.  On Saturday, another coffee morning, or rather a bazaar, where I won a bottle of port in the tombola.  I reckon the two fundraisers did rather well from me overall, but I did come home with some goodies, including whole lots of books and some brand new loppers.

We met another of Wink's friends (she's the sociable one of the family) for lunch and then I set off for Zig's house.  It was lovely to see her again, we last met three years ago and a lot has changed since, but she's as completely delightful as ever.  And she made jolly good scones when I saw her last and delicious banana cake (was there grated chocolate in there?) this time, and I met dogs and cats and chickens and talked too much, as ever.

And Mig came too, and I followed her home to find Barney unscrewing the gin bottle and cooking dinner - which was a joint effort though I had nothing to do with it, and it was all totally delicious.  Barney described me as "talky" which is fair enough, but I do hope I demonstrated that I can listen too, because I do have a worrying tendency to think it's up to me to keep the conversation flowing and a blogger's assumption that a monologue is fine, but not all the time, especially when people have interesting things to say.

Later, Barney went to bed several hours earlier than Mig and I did, which gave me the opportunity to make friends with Tosca, and it was after 1 when I went to bed.  We seemed to have left rather a lot of empty bottles behind, I'm afraid.

The next day, Barney cooked breakfast.  Why didn't I take a picture?  I'm a fool, perhaps?  Yes, you're right.

Going agley

I was such a fool, not only to make a plan but to put it in writing.  Of course it didn't work out.

It was 12.50 am and the Sage and I were peacefully slumbering when I was woken by a noise on the roof.  When something falls down the chimney, it's usually a pigeon, but it wasn't that this time, so I could only think it was a squirrel.

Funnily enough, last week I had a conversation about such events with Wink and some others, about the problems of bats in the house, squirrels down the chimney, various creatures making their way in and causing havoc.  And I said a squirrel wasn't likely to get into our house by the chimney route as the pot is 6 foot tall.  Oh, bitter irony, I thought, in the small hours, as the animal bashed about trying to get through the board that blocks the fireplace.  It settled down later however, and I went back to sleep for an hour until it tried again.  There was also a bleeping sound, which was probably something with a running-down battery (I haven't found that yet, must look again).  So I decided to sleep in the next room and crept out, the Sage still being asleep.  However, he'd shut the door on that room in the hope I wouldn't notice that he'd put a whole lot of Stuff in there (I was well aware, obv) and, as that door is slightly warped, opening it is a bit noisy.  I may well have woken him, I'm afraid.

I put my book, iPad and iPhone under the pillow (these are necessary, they're my security blankets) and had quite a good night's sleep after that, but I didn't get up very early.  And then, having got a towel and a pair of gloves, we opened the windows and shut the door and cautiously took the board from the fireplace.  No squirrel.  Instead, a barn owl, which immediately took refuge up the chimney.

The Sage suggested leaving the fireplace and windows open, but I've been caught that way before, because there's no way of knowing if the bird has left or not, so we balanced the board back and agreed to have another go later. And later, he went out and Dilly and Hay came round for a chat and it wasn't until they left that I realised that Elle, who had a free period first thing, should have been downstairs for breakfast by then and I went up - but I glanced in the bedroom and there was the owl on the windowsill.  When it saw me, it flew to the other window, thwacked into the glass and lay stunned.  Anxiously, I went across and picked it up.  Darlings, you know how beautiful a barn owl is and I feel quite lucky to have held one.  And it was all right, thank goodness, though a minute later it shot its back legs out, intending to fly away (but I was holding it securely) and the claws went through my jumper, into my shoulder and one curved claw got caught.  It was so curved that I couldn't extricate it so went down in search of Dilly for some help.

It weighed remarkably little, far less than a pigeon although it was larger.  Incredibly soft feathers.  That chimney is never used and isn't sooty at all, thank goodness, so no mess.

It was all right, it had disentangled itself by the time I got outside, I put it on the table and it flew (or flue, as Rog put it) strongly away.  And Elle's alarm hadn't gone off, so I woke her and she had to hurry, but still had time for breakfast.  And I've done Meals on Wheels and the first letter of all the work I have otherwise still to do.

Later, possibly, depending on what's happening around here, I hope to come back and tell you about my holiday.

Oh yes, pictures....

What an oddly wrinkled thumb I seem to have.
It didn't try to peck, which was quite a relief.  I'd rather handle an owl than a squirrel, though I suspect I'd come off worse against an aggressive owl.
It's a very small puncture (please excuse the glimpse of Zunderwear).

Monday 1 October 2012

Z synchronises her apps

I started the day a bit late, to the extent that the Sage came upstairs about 9.30 and rather pointedly offered to bring me a cup of tea.  I'd been awake for a couple of hours mind, you, just didn't feel like getting up for a bit, especially as I knew that the house required a fair bit of cleaning and - well, frankly, I couldn't be arsed.

But I did in the end of course, changed four bedsworth of clothes (the spare room bed didn't need changing, but I was switching duvets around, so did) including the little room next to ours where either the Sage or I decamp sometimes when one of us is restless so the other can't sleep (which one of us leaves the marital bed, as it's rather oddly called, depends on whether the restless one is awake or asleep at the time) and hoovered, dusted and cleaned sinks and so on, did shopping and ended up at school for an open evening for prospective pupils and their parents, which last kept me on my feet for three hours at a time when I'd rather have been putting them up.  So by the time I'd come back and cooked and eaten dinner, I was too tired to do much more than spend the evening drinking beer then wine and reading the papers.  And so I'm afraid my tales of Wilt and Berk shires will have to wait another day.

Tomorrow, I will crack on early.  Elle isn't going to school until 11ish and the Sage has offered to walk a friend's dog while she's away so he'll be off first thing, so I'll have a couple of hours on my own.

Oh, I've remembered why I was tired this morning.  I updated my phone and pad software while I was away, which was useful as, reviled as the new Apple maps are, they turned out better at small detail than my satnav, so I was able to find the place I was staying on Friday night.  But I'd not had time so refused the offer to update the iTunes software on my computer before I left, and it wouldn't acknowledge that it needed an update when I tried.  And it wouldn't back up the phone and pad without the update and looked as if it was going to remove data altogether.  I spent a silly amount of time on it when I'd have been better with an early night, as I intended but didn't get.  Anyway, in the end it succumbed to the force of my disapproval and did the job.  So now it's fine.  And, for once, all apps are up to date.  But for a while I thought I was going to need some help.