Wednesday 30 January 2013


Thanks to those who commented yesterday - I'll try to explain further, though if I'm vague in any respect it'll be because I'm not at liberty to say more - this may be a personal blog but it's on the public internet.

Regarding the woman who's decided to back out - she was all enthusiasm a few months ago, but she says she didn't know what was entailed and it's more commitment than she feels able to take on and, in addition, she's only been a member of the society for a year and there's a lot she doesn't know.  I can't really argue with that: it was more work than I'd expected too, and the Chairman, who took over a year after I joined the committee, says the same thing, and we had a lot of experience in the society.

I agreed to do it in the first instance because I'd been on the committee of my local society for eight years, first as secretary, briefly as programme secretary, then as chairman.  I didn't want to stay on and take on another job, four years as chairman was a lot of work but I loved that committee and I rather wanted to stay involved in the society.  In addition, I know how dispiriting it is to ask a lot of people and be turned down so I'll help out if I reasonably can.

I haven't made the best fist of the job, actually, or I didn't to start with.  I am the secretary of the Area committee, which is the go-between of the National society and twenty-five individual societies in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.  That means I was dealing with Head Office, twenty-five chairmen,  requests to make some changes in the bi-annual meetings, a pretty well unworkable report form that the chairmen had to send in and those two meetings a year which take two months to prepare for.  I discovered that I'm better keeping my hand in all the time rather than leap in twice a year and then have too much work.  The previous secretary was marvellous and she had restructured a lot of the work, including eliminating almost all paper in favour of emailing, which made life far easier.  However, her way of doing things wasn't mine and it took a while for me to find my feet. Now, the report form has been simplified and made easier to fill in yet more informative, changes in the structure of the meetings (implemented by the chairman) have been well received, I've got to know people and, though I was vastly embarrassed at the number of mistakes I made to begin with - and that enabled people to be kind to me: I'm not above using sympathy - things are going very well now.  If they were not, I'd be reluctant to hand on a mess to someone else, but as it is we've got a smoothly running operation - and the AGM is at the end of March.  I shall make all the preparations, take the minutes and do any follow-up work afterwards and would then like to hand it on.

Doing the job for another year wouldn't be any huge hardship though I don't want to, but the chairman is also due to retire next year and it's obviously not a brilliant idea for the chairman and secretary to start together - it helps if one or the other has some experience.  In fact, that isn't a great problem this time round.  The vice-chairman resigned suddenly last summer for family reasons and the person who's taken over is very knowledgeable and will soon pick up the job - however, we risk creating a difficulty for the future.  Also, a three year commitment is meant to ensure that no one gets landed with the job long-term.

My disappointment is not so much that I don't have a replacement yet as that I thought I did.  There's plenty of time to look and a couple of committee members with a lot of contacts are doing just that.  In addition, I'll write to all chairmen and ask them if they know anyone who might be willing - advertise, as JaneRowena suggests.

On the other hand, I can't let them down.  We're all volunteers, we're all busy and we all pull together and help.  It's the way I work and not necessarily because I'm unable to say no - I often say no, I've said no to two long-term commitments in the last six weeks - though I'm inclined to look for a way to help out if I can.  This is a society I've belonged to for something like twenty-four years and I like it very much.  I'm not a dogsbody but I have a sense of responsibility.  If I felt I were not up to the job, if I were ill or the Sage asked me to stop, that would be a different matter, though I'd still try not to leave them in the soup.  They're my friends, I don't want to let them down.  We had a constructive meeting yesterday and a convivial lunch, everyone (including the lady who's backed out) was lovely.  And AQ, you're right, I'd be quite happy, if necessary, to help out someone who needed time to find their feet - though actually it's more a matter of being reasonably organised (not my forte, I'm efficient but disorganised by nature) than anything else.

To move on to other points, yes Mig, I can be very firm.  Zig, that's a good point about commitment.  Tim, xxx. Zain, you're very perceptive and you gave some very good advice, though I don't suffer from guilt as much as you think and I'm quite happy to accept my limitations.  Roses, tantrum, such as it was, is over.  Wine cures most ills, thank you.  Blue Witch, it's not so much that I need to be relied on or needed as that I need outside interests.  Housework (boring) and gardening (solitary) are not enough to engage me, or are you saying that I need a hobby?  Honestly, I'd rather do something interesting and useful that engages me with people.  As for the Sage, yes,  I give him a great deal of my time.  But we've worked from home together for many years and we both need outside stimulation too.  We're terribly dull as Darby and Joan and neither of us enjoys it.  Beryl, my tiredness in this instance was because of all Elle and I did in London, and we didn't sleep well, partly because of sleeping bags, noises outside and being cold (I sussed out the heating next morning, I'd accidentally turned it off instead of on a timer).  I've slept badly for the last couple of years, but that's another matter, it's stress that's nothing to do with work.  I'll need a new hip, but not for a while yet, honestly I'm too young to retire.  What would I do?

Having said all that, I realised that I have neglected my spare time interests too much in the last three or four years, which is why I've booked all those concerts at the Aldeburgh Festival, why I've already set things in motion for this year's blog party and why I'm going to have a dog (no, I haven't done anything about it.  Be patient, it'll happen when the moment arises).  I haven't been to enough exhibitions recently, something I enjoy very much and although I'm not planning the sort of holidays I took last year, I hope to manage a few short breaks.  Wink mentioned something in April when she was last here, she's coming for the weekend and we'll compare diaries.  And the children are all delightful and I want to make sure we see plenty of them - this is a brilliant house for children and a good meeting place because it's big enough for everyone, and we're consciously trying to build up memories of fun times with Granny and Grandpa.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

The seven year b.....let's not use that sort of word, eh?

A little grumble, if you will indulge me darlings.

Having been awake for hours as is normal for me, though the reason was mostly that my hip hurts - it results from the London trip, it'll be better in a few days, though it's odd that it doesn't hurt to do things but it does to relax, I decided finally to get up at around 6.30.  Inevitably, that firm resolution sent me to sleep, so it was just as well that I was mostly ready.  Ready for a 10.30 meeting? - oh no, I'm not daft, I was aiming for 10 o'clock to allow for earlycomers...who arrived at 9.45.  But I was nearly ready and it mostly meant that I forgot to soak the rice, which didn't really matter.

The meeting was fine, I had most sensibly taken the computer and printer through to the dining room (the joy of a Mac, a desktop computer is so portable) and so could type the minutes even more conveniently than on the iPad, and look up any information from past meetings as well.  And I whizzed out a couple of times to do things in the kitchen and there was only a 15 minute break between the end of the meeting and the serving of lunch, and the food was well received.  Although one man, the early arrival, and a third party to whom they gave a lift, had been driven by his wife who, though invited in, sat in her car and ate the food she'd brought with her.  I was a bit bemused, but apparently she is wary of finding surprises in food.  That's quite understandable, if only I'd known I'd have catered to her preferences, but I think there must be more to it than that because she wouldn't even come in for the pears and the cheese, so maybe she has an issue with eating in front of people too, or with more than a couple of people at a time.  But I did feel lacking in the hostess department, she was a nice woman and I didn't like to think of her sitting alone in the car, and I thought I'd considered nearly everything in the unwarned food preference line.

But things took a more dismal turn when I sat down with my plate of food, to discover the woman who's to take over me as Secretary after the meeting in March, in deep conversation with the Chairman. Who was to take over.  In short, she's backed out.  She's daunted and feels out of her depth.  No, I dunno either.  If I can do it, someone who's done this sort of thing for a living could - but she had made her mind up.

Not that I tried to change it, I accept that sort of thing and work around it.  It's rare for me to back out once I've agreed to something, I'm really quite resolute, whatever the pressure.  But if the other party changes their mind, I don't expect to talk them round so don't try.

But I have to say, I feel very sorry for myself this evening.  I enjoy the job, it's not that, but I'll have done my three years, I've found it quite a lot of work and, worse, the work comes at the times of the year when I'm most busy with other things.  I'd underestimated that when I agreed.  I don't blame her, she's under no obligation and it's very sensible to call a halt before the start rather than once it really causes problems - but I'm struggling not to feel let down, though I have no right to feel that.

What it is, darlings, and excuse me getting a bit personal here for a minute, I have always wanted to be reliable, to be the one you can come to for help or lean on when things are tough.  And yet I am ready to show my vulnerable side, to describe what I've found hard and say that sometimes I don't know how to cope either, but I try to put a brave face on it, because I'm not a capable know-it-all at all and I'd hate to be thought that and I'd be upset if I thought anyone would find me intimidating - and if you've met me, you'll know that I'm resourceful but inept and really - I hope - quite gentle.  I don't know, maybe this is complete wishful thinking.  I try to be kind, but not everyone finds me so.  And I'm afraid that I am not that bothered if someone doesn't like me.  I'm a lot more 'take it or leave it' than I used to be.

Anyway.  Enough of introspection.  It's no big deal really, it's just that a box that had been ticked has been unticked;  I'm sure we'll find someone else, but I'm feeling a bit of a need to be looked after tonight in a way that isn't going to happen (though the Sage has just gone to put the kettle on, which has to be a Good Thing).

It's just tiredness, however.  Better tomorrow.  And at least I had a use for my seven year post title.  

Monday 28 January 2013

Z sneaks in a blog post

That was embarrassing.  In 'replying to all' from my phone, I accidentally sent the message before it was finished.  So I did it again, with cheery apology - and sodding did it again.  I seemed to have an extra finger, or maybe it was my ham fist, that took over at an inopportune moment.

I've cooked far too much food, two meat dishes that will feed at least 20 in total and two vegetable ones, ditto - each contains a bean or a ... no, hang on, one contains chickpeas and the other haricot beans, and could be counted as a main course for a vegetarian, though none of our guests has mentioned being vegetarian, let alone vegan, which one dish is because - I can't help it.  I avoid nuts, dairy foods, wheat, anything that people are likely to be allergic to, in as many dishes as possible, which does limit me a bit (though there's quite a wide variety too because it's boring otherwise) but, I think, gives people who make the choice or have no option but to avoid certain foods scope to choose a decent range of dishes that lets them fit in and only mention it if they want to.

I lost interest a bit by the time it came to the next course and have poached pears in red wine and - oh, darlings, judge me harshly if you must - I have bought biscuits to go with them.  Very nice biscuits of the French and Italian persuasion, but ... bought.  And there's cheese.  Obv.

Damn.  I suppose I should have thought about biscuits to go with coffee before the meeting.  I'll have to check out the cupboard.  I don't eat them normally, so supplies are a bit random.

Anyhoo, moving on...

Year 10 Music today, which I enjoyed very much.  A lovely class, quite a small one - that is, few in number, about a dozen (one of two Year 10 Music groups).  I was observing in a governorish way rather than helping, but was able to give some advice (YES!!!!) on how to use the Cubase computer programme when needed - one pair couldn't remember how to import a vocal track on to their music one.  I knew.  Hah.

I have no business being here, I should be working and will be shortly.  I have slipped behind, there are three outstanding jobs, two of them important and one late, though not desperately.  But I'm a leetle bit tired tonight and I think I've ground to a halt, so if it isn't emailable, it isn't happening.  Which sounds tougher than it is, because most of it is emailable, though stuff has to be looked up first.

When I'm like this, I prob shouldn't blog.  I think I could do with a drink before long.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Z blows out the candles

Today, dear readers, is the seventh anniversary of this blog.  I usually ignore this date, but it seems to hold some sort of significance this time round, though I haven’t tried to work out why.  Maybe it simply seems a long time in a way that six years didn’t – I like odd numbers, perhaps that’s it.  I was terribly tempted to call this post The Seven Year Bitch but, since that would be singularly out of kilter with the way I write – this is a happy place, darlings, nine times out of ten (I do hope there are no statisticians out there: this is a figure of speech not a counted-up accurate figure) and I learned from a friend’s mistake years ago and rarely if ever (hah! Statisticians, hah! What you going to do with that, then?) bitch about anyone.  Indeed, sometimes I have a rant, and then delete it.  There’s a lot to be said for politeness – I’ll have to think of something else instead.

This weekend, Elle and I went to London.  I have a new tenant moving in on Monday and the problem of water dripping through the kitchen ceiling from the balcony has finally been solved – this was proved during heavy rain last night – and part of the ceiling was replastered.  I needed to paint the kitchen ceiling and re-seal around the bath, as the seal had become discoloured and mould had crept underneath.  However, as the new tenant wanted to move in ASAP, she didn’t mind that I didn’t have time to repaint (nor could I afford the jaw-dropping quote to get it done), so Elle and I could afford to take Saturday off.  We walked a lot though, worked hard today and we’re both pretty tired.  We’ve had a great time and I’ll miss her so much when she leaves – I know I go on about this a lot, but it’s only three more weeks and she’ll spend the next week with a friend, so I feel her slipping away already. 

I’m always the same, though, I worry and fret in advance.  Some amount of missing her, that I feel so keenly now, I won’t have to go through again – well, so I try to convince myself, but actually I don’t believe it’s true in this instance.  However, what I do have is a jolly busy fortnight coming up so I have to apologise again for visiting you and posting spasmodically.  After the middle of February, things should return to normal.

Friday 25 January 2013

Z's Life sentence

Absurdly, spam comments are now being published, even though John G's, with no links and a Blogger account, are being sent to the spam folder.  I'm going to be away for the weekend, darlings, so I'll turn on WV, with apologies.

You know I wrote the other day about Martin Gardner's mathematical problems, published in Scientific American back in the 60s and early 70s?  That is, that's when I used to read them, first my father's comment and then, after his death in 1970, my own.  I stopped taking the magazine in the end because I understood so little of it, though either it's become more accessible to the ignorant or else I've learned more since then than I used to know, judging by the occasions I browse through the school library copy.  Anyway - yes, there is a point, I just take a while getting there ... when I looked up his Wiki entry, I was taken right back to the days of the schoolgirl Z.  Flexagons, tangrams, polyonimoes and - the Game of Life.

Do check it out here and then come back to me.

I spent hours on this.  I actually used graph paper, filled in a design and worked out what would happen - reproducing, spreading out, dying out or becoming static or repetitive.  I can't remember how long my interest lasted, I've no idea whether it was weeks or months, though I know I went back to it periodically, but I do have the clearest memories of drawing it, adding the next generation or crossing out the dying one, drawing it again and I found it fascinating.  In Wiki, it says that it's interesting for computer scientists, physicists, biologists, biochemists, economists, mathematicians, philosophers, generative scientists and others.  I'm none of those named, so must be one of 'others'.  Later in the article, it mentions the computer game Populous ll, which I spent much time on some years ago, when I was in my forties (yes, I had a misspent middle age).  Now I see why I liked that so much too.  But the patience (and time on my hands) I must have had, this solemn child with her sheets of graph paper and a pen.

One other thing - my name, of course, is Greek for 'life.'  Ooh, spooky.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Z gives notice

I haven't had time to read your blogs for a few days - I catch up with a few once in a while, but I'm sorry you're not seeing me about much. It should be a two-way street and if you take the trouble to visit me, I want to return the kindness, but unread posts are up in the hundreds again. It's not going to get less busy for the next three weeks or so and I may well not get around to blogging some days either.  It's a combination of several things: school, NADFAS, the London flat, Lena's family visiting and the Sage's business are the main things - I usually keep going throughout but I'm flagging a bit and, for once, the 'blade will have to go lower in my priorities, much as I enjoy blogging and reliably as it helps me to wind down.  Apart from all the rest, I've a friend who has got some family problems and I'd like to have time to write to her frequently in the hope of giving some long-distance support.  I may, of course, write most days as usual, but if I'm not about, don't think there's anything amiss.

Today, for example, I had a mental list of things to do (writing it down just means that I'm in danger of forgetting - I write down appointments, in detail, but not what I have to do day-to-day) which fell to pieces when the post arrived.  Later, I had a long phone call that took the rest of the morning.  Then, I realised that one of the to-dos was a bit more complex than I'd thought, so I sent an email and haven't had a reply yet.  I did do the essentials and - well, loves, am I a woman to miss a deadline?  I'm on track, but not without difficulty.

I've often mused on my stupidity in not taking a proper job, where either I could take some control or else would just receive a salary and leave it behind in the evening.  But I didn't, and there's no point in reflecting on the wrong decision made 20 years ago.  Not that I can always resist the temptation, but I do try.  And it's not that things aren't interesting, in a good way.  I enjoy my work, but it's a bit disjointed and I can't do anything about that.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Z lunches

More snow in the night, but the roads had been cleared by the time I left home just after 7.30.  We'd had a frightful night's sleep, or rather lack of it, we both tossed and turned and, in the rare moments one of us slept we twitched, rolled over taking the bedclothes, kicked, you name it.  The bed looked in a right pickle when I left it and some major bedmaking will be required before we can sleep in it tonight.

And so I felt tired and dispirited this morning, not helped by the need to clear the car of snow, which took quite some time with a broom before I could even tackle the windows, and it seemed a jolly good idea to cheer myself up with a hot bacon sandwich on the train.  They're not mean with the bacon, I'll say that for them, and I ended up eating the rashers and leaving the bread.

This evening, Elle says that she and her friend are planning a joint party - Elle's leaving party and Em's birthday - next month and they've been trying to find a suitable venue, without much success.  Of course, they're welcome to use the bungalow again, I've said, so they're very pleased.

Lunch was at Simpson's in the Strand and I arrived first, so spent a little while in the National Gallery before going to waylay Wink outside Charing Cross station - and I missed her, so she got there first after all.  I was reminded, as I looked on the other side of the road, of the time I was, for some reason, in London on my own when I was about 17 and my mother needed me to run an errand for her at her bank.  I could hardly, at that age, have felt grander, sitting in a taxi and asking the driver to take me to Coutts (440, Strand, if I remember right) and please would he wait?  But then, on my way out I wondered if I'd recognise him because I had the worst memory for faces (and names) of anyone in the world ever - but it was easy of course, because I hadn't paid him and he made jolly sure he recognised me.  It was about my pinnacle of grandeur I'm afraid, I've steadily come down in the world ever since.

It was a 'literary lunch' we went to - my birthday present from my sister - and we had a very good time, not least because everyone was so friendly.  Neighbours chatted to each other - Barbara and Shirley were opposite us, Richard was on my right and we met a delightful man beforehand, though didn't exchange names, who lives near Guildford and enjoys the theatre but not the cinema.  Richard and his wife are expecting their first baby and he's slightly apprehensive about it, though looking forward to being a father.  He's 41, though looked a lot younger.  Barbara and Shirley live in Newbury.  There you see, I can remember casual conversations with people, and their names.  Usually, that's Wink's speciality and I'm hopeless.  Or I used to be.  I've worked on it over the years.  I've even got better at remembering faces.  

Monday 21 January 2013

Hip hip hip hooray

Yes, it's the third anniversary of the operation that gave me a shiny new hip and means that, when I walk, people have to scurry to keep up again instead of politely dawdling while I limp some way behind.  So, an update - not that there's a lot to say.  I can feel it sometimes, especially if I've been standing for a long time, either in the hip itself or deep in my femur where there's a porcelain spike.  I wouldn't call it a pain, just that I can feel it.

The other hip has deteriorated in the past year and it's interesting to notice the difference between the two.  I didn't get pain in the hip itself first time round, it hurt in other parts of the leg - I knew it was a hip problem because I'd been treated for bursitis, which I now think was a pre-arthritic condition, but this time the only place that does hurt is the hip itself.  It rarely twinges while I'm walking or standing, though sometimes, if I've been standing for a long time or carrying things a lot, it hurts afterwards for up to a week, but I'm more likely to feel it when I've been sitting for some time, especially in a car, or in bed.  I'm not sure if it wakes me, nor if it keeps me awake because I spend so much of the nights awake anyway, but it seems odd that it hurts when I'm relaxed and comfortable in bed.  I should add that it doesn't hurt too much, I'm not inclined to take any painkillers for example.   What is good that I am not hindered at all when I walk or even run and I haven't started to limp yet, and I can still wear heels.  I only occasionally get out the stilettos, though.

Because this one isn't going quite the same way as the last one did, and I wonder if the fact I weigh a couple of stone less than I did five years ago makes a difference there, I can't tell how long it's likely to be before I need another operation.  A couple of years ago, I said three to five years.  I'd still say that, probably.  So I can forget about it, most of the time, for quite a while yet.

We had several inches of snow last evening and during the night.  It took a while to sweep it off the car, though snow is a lot easier to clear away than ice, of course.  The school buses weren't running so there was no option but to close the school, but actually - whoops - it seems that when a new boiler was installed recently, something wasn't lagged correctly and we had a burst pipe and therefore no heating, so we couldn't have opened anyway.  Elle has gone to spend the day and the night with a friend, because I'm due to go out first thing tomorrow and she'd have had to walk two miles in the snow to school - not impossible of course, but better avoided.  The Sage and I had to drive to Lowestoft, which was okay, though the roads haven't been cleared as well as the other day and it's reassuring to be driving a Landrover in these conditions.  The sixth form centre was open for those taking exams, so I dropped in to cheer on the staff who'd come in, especially the caretakers who were working hard to clear the grounds.

Oh, that reminds me - I went into the bakery and a man was in front of me buying a hot bacon roll.  The assistant knew him and they were chatting.  I was being served and didn't listen for a while, until I caught him saying (he was evidently a plumber/heating engineer) "Yes, I cancelled my routine service appointments, but I've already had calls for four boilers, two burst pipes and a blocked toilet."  Later, I was talking to my London plumber and he agreed, he's been busy with emergencies too.

Oh, and I've got a new tenant - that is, it's all agreed and I've signed my papers, she has yet to do so.  The good news is that she is moving in on Monday.  The less good news is that I've had to agree to buy a bed and sofa.  I'm afraid they'll be rather basic ones.  It's worth it to get someone in so quickly.  I suppose.  *sigh*  I've got a few jobs to do first, so I'll go up at the weekend.  I'm also going to London tomorrow, weather permitting.  

Sunday 20 January 2013

Z is puZZled

Elle and I both resolved to finish our paperwork this afternoon and I set an alarm on my phone to give us a time goal to work towards.  Sometimes, an artificial deadline does work.  However, she received an email from her mum that distracted her: her French grandad had had chest pains and been taken to hospital.  So on to Skype to maman - it was not so bad, he'd been out in the garden cutting down a tree with a chainsaw (he's 83) and his wife, unable to stop him, had gone out to help - seems they're as bad as each other.  Later, he didn't feel too well, the doctor was matter-of-fact about it but took a blood test which showed something was awry.  It doesn't seem that too much harm has been done however and he's waiting to hear if he needs further treatment - Elle phoned him later and they were laughing together, so she's reassured.

This gave me time to catch up with my work which took longer than hers and we played various board games together.  Some of them hadn't been played for a few years, which I discovered when I hauled them out of the cupboard covered with dust and cobwebs.

Thinking about it, I've never really grown up.  My mother never played games of any sort, not board or card games nor outside sports either.   She never took us to the beach or swimming pool, I never saw her run, nor my father.  They did take up archery for a while when I was a child but that was all.  My father liked card games, crosswords and mathematical puzzles - I was brought up on Martin Gardner's maths problems in Scientific American and the puzzle books of Hubert Phillips and HE Dudeney.  I bet I can google them, let's see ... yes! Here and here.  Martin Gardner too, and he only died in 2010.  Oh, I'm totally thrilled, I must investigate further tomorrow.

These three were such a large part of my early life, I learned so much from them.  A peculiar and solitary child, I was quite happy covering pages with notes while I tried to work out how to solve maths and logic problems without much knowledge to make it possible without hours of dogged trial and error.  My school was rubbish at maths teaching and I had only the vaguest knowledge of how to apply what I'd been taught.  And looking at Gardner's Wiki page reminds me of the time that my friend Lynn and I spent hours making flexagons.  I'd almost come to think that a hexahexaflexagon was a figment of my imaginagination.  Oh wow.  I first heard of MC Escher in Scientific American, too.

It's too late at night now and I haven't looked at the newspaper today yet.  I won't skim through it now, I'll leave it until another day.  Yet again, I sat down with little idea what to write about and a completely unexpected subject has come of it.  Blogging is splendid, really.  I love it.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Chilled Sage

No more snow, but jolly cold in the wind.  I didn't go out much, though the Sage and I went in to town to do a bit of shopping at the greengrocer and bakery (I avoid supermarkets for fresh goods wherever possible).  He didn't wear a coat because he's peculiar.  I bought him a new coat as part of his C-word present and he says it's lovely and warm, but I've only seen him wear it once.  Not that I'm that observant, of course.

Elle and I went to the cinema - I know! Will the excitement never stop? - this evening and picked up fish and chips on the way home.  The Sage had built up the fire for our return, which was very welcome.  I've never lived in a house where I couldn't have a fire and I hope I never will.  I don't care that it's extra work, it's worth it.  Also, you can make toast and roast chestnuts and laugh - well, chuckle a bit - in the face of power cuts.

I've got a load of work to do this weekend.  I should make a start really, innit?  The family came over this morning and I did some hoovering and then took time off.  Or I could have a glass of wine, what do you think?

Friday 18 January 2013

Z doesn't mind growing old...

... but I refuse to grow up.  So I still make a snowman every year, if possible.  I've had to do it all by myself since Ro left home, which isn't as much fun, admittedly, as having company, but no matter.  I've got my inner child to keep me company, even if she's no damn good at building snowmen and I have to do all the work.

And here it is - The Anonymous Snownudedude

Apologies if you've already read this on Twitter, but the other momentous event of the day was having a snowplough come through the village.  I'm vastly impressed.  We pay the best part of £2,500 a year in Council Tax and I think we've just got our money's worth, for this month at any rate.  Not that it came down our road, but no matter.

I sent off my booking form for the Aldeburgh Festival a couple of days ago - I have indeed booked for whatever took my fancy - well, except one thing.  In commemoration of Benji Brit's centenary, they're performing Peter Grimes, both in the concert hall and on the beach.  I was vastly tempted to go to both, but wimped out in the end and just booked a seat at Snape.  I think that three hours sitting on a highly pebbly beach with no companion will just make me feel lonely and I don't intend to be in the least lonely.  I'm not going to all six events on my own though, because Weeza is coming to one with me, the Sage to another and we're taking the grandchildren and their parents to the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - at half an hour in duration, it's perfect for the little ones' first concert and we can do other fun things the rest of the day - it's near the end of June when the weather is often good.  Or so Blue Witch assures me.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Z buys the book

It occurred to us last night that we'd better up the heating in the bungalow, in view of the cold nights.  So we've had the heating on during the night rather than in the day, to be on the safe side.

It's rather daft, actually.  Two or three years ago, the bungalow needed a new boiler.  The plumber had the bright idea of putting it in the loft so that it wouldn't be in the way in the kitchen.  Good idea, except that now one has to get the loft ladder down and clamber up through the trapdoor whenever one wants to adjust the heating.  Especially bright idea when Dilly was pregnant and didn't feel able to do it.  Now, the job has fallen to me.

Just as well we went through to see if there was any post this evening, because we discovered that the trip switch had flipped and there was no electricity.  In fact, it was the laundry room light bulb that had blown and triggered it, but I might not have realised that.  And while I'm on the subject of light bulbs, does anyone else find that those so-called long-life bulbs may be low energy but are anything but long-life?  Although being more expensive than the old ones that actually gave off a reasonable amount of light, they last no longer, sometimes less time.  The one in our passageway has to be replaced every few months.  I hate them,  I can't read by them and have to have on an additional lamp.

Talking of reading, I wonder how you're all getting on with your Kindles and other reading apparatus? I see that the sale of real books has actually gone up over Christmas, and I have to say that I'm not surprised.  I do read on my phone and iPad, and I don't mind reading on a screen at all, but it's simply no substitute for a book.  One has no feeling of how far one has got through an electronic book - I know you can look to see what page out of how many, but it isn't the same.  And the price of new books is bemusingly high.  It's hardly cheaper to buy a downloaded book than a real one, but you don't own the download and it can be taken away from you - you can't lend it or bequeath it (not that too many books are actually mentioned in a will, but you know what I mean) and it didn't even have to be printed or transported.  I have read a lot of books on my screens, but the main dissatisfaction with it is that you can't flip back and forth.  I like to check details - having little memory for names doesn't help and I often want to remind myself who a character is, or what specifically was said or done, and what I have got is a good memory for the placement of words.  If you ask me about an article in the newspaper, for example, I might be able to say it was only a few pages from the front, on the left hand side in the middle at the bottom ... or whatever.  You just don't get the same feel on a Kindlish thing.

What's been said in the papers is that people take them on holiday and promptly drop them in the hotel swimming pool and are therefore without books for the rest of the holiday.  I say those people are pretty damn silly.  I take more care of my things than that.  I've never even dropped a book in a swimming pool, and I think it's a jolly good thing to have on holiday.  And when waiting in a queue or lying in bed unable to sleep.  But a book is, mostly, far better to my way of thinking.  And I've given the download every chance and will continue to do so, so I'm quite sure I'm not prejudiced.

Where they do come into their own is that out-of-copyright books are free.  That's jolly useful.  I've reread a load of classics over the last couple of years.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Z is snow angel

I put on the local radio station this morning and lay in bed listening to the list of schools in Norfolk that were closed.  It was a long one and included the High School and Squiffany and Pugsley's new school, though Zerlina's school and the village one here were both open.  Elle was amused to email her dad and tell him that English schools close when there's a few centimetres of snow - I'd explained to her that it's the buses that don't run, very often and also that it's quite a problem when it starts snowing during the day, as happened yesterday.  I'm entirely relaxed about it, I think that it's a poor thing if children can't spend a day playing in snow once in a while.  There's little enough carefree childhood nowadays.

The chickens huddled together but they were fine.  The snow even made the tennis court netting look pretty.

 We went for a walk across the fields later and it was lovely.  A clear sky was reflected in the snow, which was wonderfully blue and white and the air was cold but the sun shone warmly - you could feel the chill when you moved into the shade.  I'd tried building a snowman but the snow was too powdery, I couldn't even made a snowball.

We could make snow angels though.

It was the Classic Car Club Christmas dinner - that's last Christmas, I'm not presuming on this year's.  They always leave it until halfway through January, by which time everyone is up for a party again.  Quite a lot of people cried off in view of the weather and there were 33 of us, about half the usual and, since it's a carvery, actually this worked rather well as it took half the time for the food to be served.  Since the Sage is a member not me and I don't know many people and those superficially, I hadn't had high expectations, but actually I really enjoyed the evening.  The starting time was brought forward half an hour because fog was forecast, so we were home by 9.30.  There's no trace of fog yet though, but it's very cold.

260 Norfolk schools closed, it's just been announced on the news.  Pictures of happy children tobogganing, just as they should do.  

Tuesday 15 January 2013

English winter

I make no attempt to disguise it: the Sage and I are no end pleased and flattered that you want to come to our party.  You are all most welcome - it's you lovely people who make it fun, we just provide the venue - and a lot of food.

Today was a bit frustrating.  I went to a lecture on Freud (the artist, not his grandad) and Hockney and then trotted along to Jarrolds to do a bit of shopping.  I wanted some new boots because my long ones' zip had broken (that is, two boots, one broken zip).  I tried on a lot and eventually bought these* (no pic posting problems on Safari, though I understand those unfortunates who still use IE have to go round the houses) though they weren't exactly what I'd been looking for, but were gratifyingly well reduced in price, fit perfectly and - well, I need new boots.

It started snowing while I was in the shop and by the time I'd finished I was only five minutes short of that hour's deadline in the car park, so I didn't buy the books I'd planned to (book token for Christmas!) and headed back.

Darlings, I soon discovered that there was a problem.  Everyone was leaving Norwich early because of the snow, and Grapes Hill was closed - it appears to have been a scheduled closer, presumably because of roadworks and no one was undaft enough to open it again.  I ended up several miles in the wrong direction on the ring road, my least favourite road in the world (and I've spent hours stuck on the M25 and various other motorways) and I finally arrived home at 6.06 pm after a journey starting at 1.25 which should have taken half an hour.

But I am a positive and uncomplaining Z on the whole, and I took time to notice how pretty the trees were

I was, of course, stationary at the time I took the photos, as I was quite a lot of the time.

I also observed, as so often before, how lovely people are.  No one lost their temper, no one hooted a horn, even when someone was blocked from going ahead by a car that had space to move a bit and leave room, people paused to let someone in front or out of a junction.  I stopped to let three young women and an older one cross the road - the ice was treacherous and the older one fell and the others hurried back to help her up and walked on arm in arm.  Lorries lost traction, but fortunately everyone took great care and I saw no accidents, which was remarkable.

Have to say, though, what a stupid situation.  I've no idea what (apart from not shutting Grapes Hill) could have been done, because sending traffic control police out would have been a danger to them.  I have no plans to go far for the next few days until the very English winter weather eases.

*Looks like fat calves and tiny feet.  Neither is true - put it down to foreshortening

Sunday 13 January 2013

It's June in January...

29th June is the day of the party, as a few people can't make the July date.  Splendid.  I'll put a header post up in due course, but plenty of time for that.  And I'm usually the one who insists on spontaneity - though booking a day with a dozen or more people is better done well in advance.  I must be getting sensible.  Oh gosh.  Pause for thought there.  Is that a sign of maturity?  I feel like a ripe Stilton.  I hope I don't smell like one ... no, no, we're getting into the realms of absurdity here.

It's only five weeks until Elle leaves us, a thought that's making me rather sad.  We will really miss her. Not that she'll be here all the time until then, but don't you think there's quite a different feel to someone being away for the day or a few weeks, from them going away for good?  Though we're sure to keep in touch, we've become such good friends.  And Berlin is one of the many places I've never visited, so when I do I will be sure to meet her and her family again.

I didn't expect to wake up to snow today, but it would be nice to do so tomorrow.  Not that hopeful, it seems to be forecast to do its usual thing of petering out by the time it reaches the easternmost fringes of East Angular.  There wasn't even enough frost to have to clear the windscreen this morning, just a few snowflakes.  Elle was slightly surprised to hear of my enthusiasm for building snowmen, but ... well, you've got to, innit?  Though it might have to be a snowgnome this time.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Z wants a dog

Taken aback as I was to be compared to Truman Capote by Rog, I've decided that he meant it in the best possible spirit, though it's still making me ponder in the dark recesses of the night.  Regarding the party, a majority seems to be edging towards 29th June, though neither date has been ruled out yet.

I should explain about my dog hints - you are acute, you lot, one brief mention in the comments ... anyway, it was that trip down south at the end of September that really did it.  I kept on meeting lovely dogs and it hit me harder every time that, two years after Tilly died, I miss my dogs desperately.  For quite some time, I missed Tilly and Chester so much that getting another felt like replacing them: ie impossible, and it wasn't a practical proposition either, for several reasons.  But now, I've got to have one.  But my terms and conditions still have to apply, so I have to exercise some judgement, not that easy for your impetuous Z.  The main points to consider are:- 1) Grandchildren.  It must be good with children.  2) Chickens.  It must not kill or even chase chickens, once I've kindly explained once and shouted once that they're out of bounds. 3) Boundaries.  It must, in time, learn not to go out on the road or across the fields, even though there are no fences.

Back in early December, I did get so far as to go to look on the vets' noticeboard and I wrote down someone's name and phone number too, but I didn't actually ring.  It's hard to explain why, but I think it was because the notice was already a week old and I thought the dogs, two 7-year-old golden retriever sisters in urgent need of rehoming, would have been snapped up.  I funked it, in short, because I was afraid of being disappointed.  I'm not good with disappointment, I never have been.  There have been times when I've preferred realistic pessimism to the risk of disappointment, but that has been during periods of entirely understandable low spirits.

Anyway, it won't be long before I have another go.  But I'm quite relaxed about it, though really rather keen.

Friday 11 January 2013


Thank you for your enthusiastic responses.  The most likely date will be either the 29th June or 27th July, so let me know if you can't manage either of them and let's hope one day will suit everyone.  If you'd like to stay overnight, you'd be very welcome.  We have two double and a single spare room and another room where I could put a blow-up double mattress (if well inflated it's comfortable, I've slept on it many times) if Weeza can haul it out of her garage, where it's resided since she moved from London.  I can put at least two more couples in the bungalow, though I'll have to buy another bed first as there's only one in there at present.  A sofa bed could be a useful buy too - there won't be a problem about fitting people in, I'm sure.  Plenty of time to sort it all out, anyway.

I've turned off the registered user thingy for comments, because it's supposed to accept open ID and it doesn't.  It really only wants to take people who have a Google account and I don't think that's acceptable.  It's been a lovely break from spam, but that's my problem not yours.  I have comment moderation switched on for posts after two days so, even if you've subscribed to comment notification, you shouldn't get them in your emails unless they're on the most recent couple of posts. I can't guarantee that I won't turn on word verification if I'm bombarded, though, as I had been getting dozens of spam comments every day.

This morning, I met three new governors to go through the information folder - they're all very knowledgeable about school and governor matters and I came away with a list of items to do, check on or make sure they're mentioned at a future meeting.  I feel a bit overworked today as a result - so I do my blog housekeeping instead of getting on with the work.  May not be sensible, but it's human nature, surely?  So I can't help it.  Also, it's my lunch break.  Ho ho.

I haven't quite finished the Christmas Stilton yet though, so maybe I will have a sliver or two.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Z thinks about a celebration

The programme for the Aldeburgh Festival dropped through - no it didn't, we don't have a letterbox - was delivered this morning.  It's Britten's centenary this year so there are big celebrations, both there and in Lowestoft, where he was born.

I haven't said anything about the new year as yet because I've been deep in the past (where I'll return soon, I daresay).  And though I haven't made resolutions as such because they're better made when the thought occurs to you - oh, it just has! - so this must be a nearly-new year resolution - I'm going to carry on going to the cinema after Elle leaves and start going to concerts and the theatre again.  Because the Sage really doesn't enjoy any of it and, after all these years of living with me, the novelty has finally worn off and he feels able to say so.  So - and I've often done that before but lost heart for a while - I'll go alone.  One should always be self-sufficient in any case and ones own true friend.

Having said that, the first thing I did was email the family to see if they'd like to come to any, and I've takers for a couple of them already.

On 12th June, which I suppose is Benji's Happy Day, Lowestoft's fountains will be playing his music and the promenade will be decked out with banners.  Isn't that lovely?  Musical fountains, I wonder how they do that?  I've probably told you this before but can't quite be bothered to go back and check, so excuse the anecdotage, but young Ben's father was my family's dentist.  Daddy used to go for check-ups in the school holidays and always heard Ben fiddling in the room above.  It's maybe understandable that he was not one of my father's favourite composers: the association was unfortunate.

Anyway, I'm booking for anything that catches my eye and doing it soon (I'm a Friend, darlings, and have priority booking).  And it's made me think about a date for this year's blog party.  If you're up for one again this year, of course?  The weekend of the 1st June looks good.  Or any weekend in July except for the first, because our village festival is on the 6th July.  August is entirely free at present.  May and the rest of June, I'll have to firm up arrangements, as they say, at this end first.

If you've been here before you'll know about us.  If you haven't, do take this as an invitation.  Lovely people have come along, many of them twice (out of two parties, that is) and have been delightful and charming and friendly and have got on well enough to meet up since.  We've got a number of spare bedrooms and you're welcome to stay (until all bedrooms are taken) and I love feeding lots of people and take all preferences and allergies into account without any bother.  Entertainment, you have to provide, just by chatting to each other, though I daresay you might be sent into the garden to find where the bantams are laying or have to listen to "Eleven more months and ten more days" on the wind-up gramophone or even, if you're remarkably lucky, be introduced to Bobby the leopard.

Best of all, you would meet the Sage and our family.  We're looking balefully at 40 years of marriage this year and realising how old this makes us, but whatever we do on the day, you're welcome to celebrate it with us.

Tell me possible dates and we'll find one that everyone can manage.

Update - 29th June or 27th July are the best options at present.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Z hugs

I went to London yesterday to check out my flat, because my tenant has bought a house.  Yay James, and thank you for looking after the place so well.  Oven, bath and fridge completely clean, and they are the mark of thorough cleaning.  I've had to spend a full day cleaning a one bedroom flat, empty at that, in my time, so I appreciate not having had to.  Oh, and the windows were clean too.

If anyone is interested in paying me something approaching £1500 per month for a one bedroomed unfurnished flat, do get in touch.  Islington, opposite the canal, round a couple of corners from Upper Street at the Angel station end.

Ahem.  Advert over.

I can't imagine why, but I started walking from Liverpool Street and I just kept going.  As long as I kept North and followed my nose a bit, I was going to hit my destination - it's a couple of miles, I suppose.  But why I didn't just hop on a bus (205), I can't think.  And then I needed a couple of things and had to go and fetch them from the supermarket - forget your Tesco, in Islingto  Sainsbury's and Waitrose are side by side, opposite Gap one way and M&S the other.  I did go in Waitrose because I seem to be that sort of Z, but I hit Chapel Market too, because I'm that sort of Z as well.

I finished earlier than expected so took a bus back and was on the platform at 2.58.  Did I catch the 3 o'clock train?  Hell, yes.  I'm allowed to run to catch public transport, though no further because it jars my lovely three year old hip, and I made the most of it.  So I was home an hour early, which was just as well because I was surprisingly tired.

That didn't help me sleep, sadly, and nor could the Sage.  I wish it was a bit colder, I can't sleep in this mild weather with the winter duvet on.  So we had a long conversation at about 4.30 this morning about Life and all that comes of it, and I finally fell asleep around 6.  As a result, I didn't even hear the alarm and had to scurry around to be out of the house, teeth cleaned, by 9.

Later, home from the dentist (poorer but unscathed), I finished some school governor work that has been hanging over me for a couple of months.  I hasten to add - well, that's a figure of speech, actually I'm drinking coffee, eating chocolate (we were given rather a lot and someone's got to do it) and not feeling very hasty at all - that I'd done nearly all the work, it was just the review of one document and the writing of a letter, plus checking a couple of dates that were still to do.  But I've done it.  And the deadline is actually Friday morning, so I'm quite pleased with myself.

Later, the Head told me that our Finance Director and her assistant have both passed their accountancy exam, the CIPFA (I'll look up what it means in a while) which is jolly good, so I went to give them both a congratulatory hug.  Because I'm that sort of Z too.

Monday 7 January 2013

Z plans to skip

I've whinged before about my lack of reading libido of late.  That is, I read loads, but by the time I've read papers for various meetings, newspapers, blogs and so on, I don't seem to have much concentration left for actual books.  That I've been blaming it on the average modern novel has been given credence by the fact that, over the past couple of years, many of the books I've read with enthusiasm have been classics.  I've re-read War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Vanity Fair, La Peste and L'étranger, the latter in French, except for the words I couldn't be bothered to look up, Huckleberry Finn ... oh, I can't remember, but you get the picture.  But otherwise, I read a few pages and lose interest and it takes me ages to get through a book I would previously have read in a day.

I may have discovered another reason.  I'm being too thorough.  Read this, my darlings, and then come back to me.  Because I was talking to a friend the other day who said he had never been able to enjoy anything of Tolkein's, though he'd read The Hobbit to his children (when they were, they've grown up now) and they'd loved it, he'd been bored as a stiff.  I kept quiet, I enjoyed the books too - but now I realise that I skipped through a fair lot.  When it gets onto overly descriptive bits that interfere with the plot, my eyes go 'yeah, yeah' and whizz through until something interesting happens.

When I was a child, I read very quickly.  I zipped along, getting the feel and the mood of the book, and the story itself and, if I liked it, it wouldn't be long before I read it again.  In fact, sometimes I read the last page, turned back to the first and read it again straight away, taking in anything I'd missed.  I carried on reading quickly for years, until I deliberately slowed down when, buying three or four books a week and reading them in a couple of days, I realised I'd got a habit I couldn't afford.  Yes, I could have gone to the library - actually, I did that too.  I couldn't keep up with myself.

I've come to the conclusion that it's because of all the documents I have to read thoroughly: I pay a novel too much attention and a lot of them don't merit it.  So I'm going to try speeding up again.

By the way, that article - check out pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør's comments - so that I don't have to.  I was quite unable to read them, my eyes glazed and my tongue dribbled.  This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. 

Sunday 6 January 2013

Z pulls her weight

There are railings between the churchyard and the road.  Many such wrought iron fences were taken down during the War, to be melted down for munitions (I've read that most of them weren't used for this purpose at all and it was rather a wasted effort) but cattle were regularly driven past the churchyard to graze on the fields beyond and, since there are yew trees in the churchyard, it was felt too unsafe if there was no barrier.  Just inside the railings, there's a row of lime trees.  Electricity and telephone wires are strung above the pavement too.  And it was felt that the trees should be topped, because there was a danger of one falling onto the road which would have brought down the cables to boot.

The Sage was asked for advice and he spoke to someone we know - actually, he's the chap we employed to do our drive, which is his primary business, but people are always obliging and he agreed that a couple of his men could work for the church.  One of them was our good friend (and, for all too brief a time, gardener) Jamie.

There must be a dozen trees and Jamie, Jimmy, the Sage and I worked on the job for several weeks.  Jamie was the brave man who climbed the trees and wielded the chainsaw and the rest of us hung on ropes and lowered cut sections into the right place.  it was jolly hard work and quite tricky.  Experienced and careful as Jamie was, he didn't have all the equipment a professional tree surgeon would have - this was 25 years ago, you'd not take the risk now.  I came to admire him hugely during that time because he kept joking and never gave up.  After the job was completed, he admitted that he had been pretty nervous at times and the fear was cumulative.  I'd known it, I would have felt the same.

He reminded me recently of one occasion where a large chunk of tree wanted to fall one way and we were all hauling on a rope to pull it the other.  I was at the front of the rope and the others (including Jamie, who'd got down the ladder to come and help) were lined up behind me.  Suddenly, the chunk of trunk came the way we wanted it and we all fell over, me on top.  Jamie said that my presence had been appreciated, if you see what I mean....

Another time, we could hold the tree but not pull it, it was too heavy.  Being an 8-stone weakling at the time (I pulled above my weight, I was very strong, but the least useful person there) I was sent out into the road to find someone to help.  It just so happened that the coal lorry was going past at the time.  A man who can carry hundredweights of coal on his back isn't daunted by a bit of tree and he came and saved the day.

I love mucking in and getting a tough job done and none of the men I've ever worked with has ever been in the least sexist or patronising, even though I'm a girlie, strength-wise.  I pull my weight: it's just that I'm not all that heavy.

By the way, if any of you is having trouble with spam comments, mine have dried up altogether since I turned on Open ID, and I had been receiving several dozen every day.  But if it causes you a problem in leaving a comment, do let me know.  My email is on my profile.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Z rambles, rather

Six months after we moved here, my stepfather died suddenly.  He and my mother had breakfast, he went upstairs to shave and was gone a long time so she went to check and found him.  It was only a week or so before their tenth wedding anniversary and they had been very happy together.  He was a lovely man and was thrilled with the welcome he had received into our family.  My children loved him too, so much so that my daughter gave her son his name as a middle name in loving memory of Grandad.

My mother knew he had booked at a restaurant for a special celebration, but he hadn't told her where and she wasn't able to cancel it.  This bothered her - having been a hotelier in the past, she was punctilious about consideration and politeness to those in the hospitality business.  As a result of her telling me about this, I'm the same, especially in hotels.  I always leave my room tidy, wipe round the washbasin (toothpaste splodges are horrible) and bath, leave a tip when I go.  Mind you, we had a cock-up on the supper front a few weeks ago, booked for a meal at the Yacht Club and forgot to go.  I have sent the money (which they didn't ask for) but still felt awful.  Um, I digress.

My mother was still only in her early 60s, widowed twice and planning to leave the home where she and Wilf had been so happy.  It was tough for her and she faced it bravely, but I admit that I was anxious about her coming to live here.  I'd so enjoyed settling in and getting to know people, starting again with a new identity in a sense - no baggage from where I'd grown up - and half an hour away had been a good distance from her strong personality.  We did get on well, but I'd found an independence (yes, I know I had been married over ten years but I had remained in her shadow) that I relished.

Anyway, the alterations were done to the bungalow during the spring and Roy the painter came in to do the decorating in the summer.  We had a project of our own that summer, dismantling, mending and re-erecting the summer house.  I was in charge of repainting it.  I bought a hot air gun and stripped every scrap of paint from it, inside and out.  The exterior had been painted several times, layer on layer and it took a lot of work.  Roy told me afterwards that he thought I'd give up and call him in to finish the job, but I enjoy seeing a task through.  I've repainted the summer house a few times since, but sadly it's in a bad way again now.  Moles got under the runners (it's a revolving one) and we can't open the door more than a crack and it needs dismantling again.  I don't think there's any point in re-erecting it at present and I hope we'll be able to take it down (it's all bolted together, but it's very heavy and we need help) even if the sections are just stored for a while, because it's a mess as it stands.

I've always enjoyed getting stuck in to a project.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know about the building of the Wall, which was done over two summers, and there have been several other tasks over the years.  One of them was topping the trees in the churchyard.  

Friday 4 January 2013

Z hasn't done a lot

You know the radio programme 1've never seen $t@r W@rs, where people own up to several things that *everyone* has done and they haven't, and they then do it and talk about it?  Well, Macy was talking about the gym yesterday, and it occurred to me - not only have I never belonged to a gym, I've never even set foot in one.

It's a matter of good fortune, but I've never broken a bone.  That is, my right hip was sawn off three years ago, but I don't think that counts in this context.

I've never taken any illegal drugs.  Not a sniff.  Nor any legal but dodgy ones, either, nothing to change my mood in any way.  I'm clean, darlings, completely clean.  I know, child of the 60s, I should be ashamed.  But I'm a self-control freak instead.  I don't mind in the least what anyone else does, but I want to choose what I do.  I didn't smoke in my teens either (I've had the odd cigarette but never been a smoker) because of the peer group pressure.  I don't do peer group pressure and if everyone around me is doing something, that's quite enough reason for me not to.

It so happened that, the other day, Weeza mentioned that she'd never seen Titanic.  I can't say that, I'm afraid.  She said, maybe she should, but the rest of us suggested that she should take it as a matter of pride.  I'm trying to think of a film that I should have seen or that everyone else has, but I'll have to give that a bit more consideration.

I've never read a Mills and Boon novel, but on the other hand I've not read anything by George Eliot either.  I'm not sure why the latter omission, I read most classics in my teens.  Oh, I've never read anything by Salman Rushdie.  I stood next to him in the bar at the Theatre Royal in Norwich though, when Arthur Miller was doing a show - various actors were doing readings from his plays.  It was very good.

Exchanging emails with my friend Martina in Seattle the other day, it was mentioned that she's been to Pompeii.  I haven't.  If I was going to, I should have been there years ago when I'd have found it fascinating, but now I don't want to.  I've become more tender-hearted as I've grown old and the horror of it would upset me too much now.  Actually, we didn't get away much for years so the list of places I haven't been to is a very long one.

I've never owned a cat - if one can use the expression.  I've never lived with a cat.  I like cats, I don't mind the idea in the least, but I'd rather have a dog.

Anything I should have done that I might not have?  I'll answer all reasonable questions.  Or any admissions of your own?

Update - I'm prompted by Sir B into another admission.  I've never ridden on a motor bike, not even a moped or a scooter.  He suggests I might get a licence, but it seems a bit like running before you've tried standing on your feet.  Or possibly trodden on your own toes, which might be more my style.

PS - do click through to the comments which, as so often, are shaping up to be the best part of the post.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Rambling Zose

I did grow flowers to cut, but mostly I was interested in vegetables at the time, because I was greedy and because I loved sowing seeds and nurturing baby plants.  The three round beds in front of the house had some elderly rose bushes in, well past their best, so I dug them all up and moved them elsewhere, because I didn't have the heart to put them on the bonfire, and then planned what to put in their place.

I'm not sure how big the beds are and I can't be bothered to go out and measure them - say 12 feet diameter, but that's a guess.  3 of them. I've probably said that already.  There used to be an Anderson shelter there during the war where the family decamped when the air raid siren went off.  In the summer, the Sprig* slept out there in his little siren suit.  A line was attached to the front door knocker so that he could rouse his parents if he needed them.  I've no idea what it looked like or how safe it was: I'd have thought there was more protection from a bomb in the house, unless it was on fire.

Anyway, I went off to the marvellous local nursery, B100ms of Bress1ngh@m and got one of their catalogues.  I'm afraid that since the family sold it, it's become a poor shadow of its previous self.  They used to raise much of their stock and cultivate many new varieties, they had a vast range of interesting plants and a comprehensive and helpful catalogue.  Now the nursery and glasshouses are abandoned and the garden centre sells pre-packed and bought-in plants and a lot of garden-related stuff and it's a lot more expensive than it used to be.

What I wanted was a range of shrubs that wouldn't grow more than about 4 feet tall, had some variety in leaf colour and shape, that some of them would be evergreen and that they would thrive in poor, sandy soil and a sun-baked location.  I wasn't too bothered about flowers, though obviously some flowers would be an advantage.  I bought about 25 or 30 plants and spent £100 and some of them are still there.  Two of the beds are nearly all sand and stone and it's really quite difficult to get anything to thrive, but the third is almost as I planted it.  As planned, it needs little weeding and no watering after the first year or two.  I reckoned that anything that had to be cosseted was in the wrong place.  The few more unusual plants didn't survive in the long term.

In the house, we'd had a lot of work done before we moved in.  A new roof, windows, kitchen and bathroom, it was rewired and completely redecorated and we had an Aga installed.  Not all the rooms were painted before we moved and the local painter and decorator came along when he had a few free hours and did some work, usually by finishing early and coming here in the early evening.  We used to chat as he worked, if he was within talking distance, and we had a glass of wine together before he went home.  Nice man.  He retired a few years ago and he and his wife live in a village by the sea now.

*baby Sage

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Happy DayZ

There's quite a lot of ground here, but you wouldn't call much of it a garden because it's so bitty.  The front garden and the small lawn are separated by the drive and another part of the drive separates the lawn from the kitchen garden.  Then there are various outbuildings, quite a lot of gravel and a fair bit of rough grass.  The Sage's parents had always had a gardener, usually someone who'd retired from full-time work and wanted to work half days.  Kenny came to work for Ma the year after Pa died, he stayed on after her death to keep an eye on the place and he carried on with us until he was well in his 80s.  But he was still in his late 60s when we moved in but very tough and he never gave up on a job.  Nor do I, so we made a good team.

We did have help to lay the paths though and to erect the greenhouses as well.  In those days it was one of the highlights of my year (I know, loves, but it was before the days of blogging) to read through seed catalogues and I spent hours comparing varieties and prices and writing out my wish list, which was hardly cut down before I carefully filled out all the forms and sent off my orders.   I started sowing seeds as early as possible in those days, and it took a lot of care to keep everything alive and growing through the winter.  Nowadays, I reckon it'll all catch up and I don't sow anything in the propagator before March.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself, because we moved in late July.  After consideration, I decided to grow vegetables as normal at my old house and leave them for our buyers.  They were appreciative: we knew them quite well and Ro was about the same age as their daughter.  Actually, she was dismayed when they moved in and she found that we'd taken his swing, which we kept in the hall and she had loved playing in.  Ro wasn't that fond of it, because he was an independent little boy and didn't like having to be lifted in and out, so we took it back for Rebecca as a moving in present.

They asked us round when they'd been there a few months and showed us the changes they'd made.  Um...sorry, we didn't like them much. A lot of rather elaborate paint effects and gilding and tiling all over the place.  Not that it didn't need updating, we'd lived there ten years and, having done a lot to start with, hadn't changed much since - but it wasn't to our taste.  Still, it was a lovely house and you couldn't take that away.

I was still very close to my mother when we moved and it did me good to be out of our previous social circle.  Still only half an hour away, we saw each other often, not least because Al was still at his prep school in Southwold and he stayed with her and her husband, my lovely stepfather, a couple of nights a week to save a lot of travelling.  But I started to grow into my own skin, I made friends - making the effort to go out and do that did not come naturally to me - and I didn't hanker after the life I'd enjoyed in Lowestoft.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Undeterred, Z returns to the drawing board

Right, so now I've proved to everyone's satisfaction that I can't draw, not even straight lines, and you've roundly teased me for it, I'll continue with my story.

We moved in the day before Ro's second birthday, and this was also the start of the school summer holidays, which gave us plenty of time to settle in and start to get to know people.  I can't remember much about what we did, specifically, but I do recall a very happy time.  As I said, I felt at home straight away, rather to my surprise, and there was plenty to do in the house and garden.

The vegetable garden was not in a convenient place at all, and an ash tree overshadowed it.  I wanted a large greenhouse - this had been a stipulation when we moved here.  I'd had two in my last garden, one was 12' long and the other 8' and I wanted nothing less.  In the end, the best value turned out to be three  greenhouses, each 10' x 8', which worked out less expensive than two 12' ones.  We erected them end to end, with closable doors in between.  We removed the turf from an area of lawn where my father-in-law used to practise golf shots and stacked it to rot down, and prepared my kitchen garden.

And a picture will paint another thousand words here, so I've picked up my pencil again, and a ruler too this time (the left line doesn't look quite straight because I had the paper on my knee to take a photo and it sagged slightly).
The shaded areas are paths and the white ones the beds.  I drew it from the side, so what looks like a Z with an arrow beneath is actually N, showing the direction of north.  *Sigh*  Yes, I know.  Just think what it's like actually being me.  It's not very clear, so I'll tell you that what I've written across the bottom of the picture is 'Greenhouses divided by sliding doors.'

Each bed was 4' by 30-something ' - I can't now remember whether the length of the beds is 38' or the beds plus the paths at each end is 38': ie, the beds are 34' long.  You can deduce that each path is 2' wide.  The paths were made of concrete and this had several benefits - the obvious ones are neatness, not digging and fertilising areas that were to be walked on and (in this dry area and with our sandy soil, quite an important consideration) not watering areas that were not growing crops - indeed, rain ran off the paths onto the beds.  I wasn't going to have to walk on the beds often, as I could reach the middle from either side, and I could put fleece, cloches or netting over the beds easily.  They were easier to maintain: even if I didn't use one of the beds for a year, the weeds would not encroach on the rest of the garden and the digging and weeding could be done in manageable sections.  There was yet another benefit that I hadn't taken into account, which was that the concrete held the warmth of the sun and helped to warm the soil.  All in all, it was one of my better ideas.

Since then, the kitchen garden has been enlarged considerably, but this was the original set-up.

Once the paths had been laid, the rotted-down turves were dug in, along with a lot of cow muck, and I was able to start growing vegetables the next spring.  I grew flowers for cutting in those days too - cornflowers, sweet peas, all sorts of things, and had flowers in every room for much of the summer.

I loved my greenhouse and it became my refuge when I needed a break from the family.  Any of them was welcome to come and join me there and help with the potting up or whatever job I was doing, but total tranquillity was a firm condition.  If any child came complaining that they'd quarrelled with a sibling, they'd be chivvied straight out again.  If they just came to cool off and become relaxed again, that was fine.