Tuesday 30 April 2013

Steady Z

Today has been a bit intense in some ways - there's a lot I want to say, but whether it'll be for publication is a different matter.  I don't know yet - let's see.

As I mentioned, I'm moving towards finding a replacement as chairman of governors.  There's bad news - but not entirely.  There had been reaffirmation of commitment and support, which is wonderful. However, that's been it.  Okay.  More strings to bow.  I've been thinking it through, bottom-linewards.  I still feel quite strong and capable, it's all right for now.

I had lunch with M, who is vice-chairman and also, and quite irrelevantly to that, broken her leg.  We're tremendous friends and we talked about things, which has given me some clarity of mind and her also, I hope.  And I may come back to this - I'd love to know your take on things, but if I tell you, it has to be written down all in one go.  If I save a draft, I delete it later.   It's like conceptual art but without the money - once expressed, it's done with.

Anyway, I was cooking dinner later - salmon kedgeree, if you're interested, and queen of puds will follow because leftovers will rule in this house for the rest of the week - and Gill, Ben's missus, phoned.  Andy's leg isn't fully healed because the steroids he has to take have inhibited bone growth and mending.  She can get about the house without a stick, but it takes backbone not to limp.

I'm a rock, darlings, my role is the supportive one.  You can rely on me if you're in a fix.  I've assured her that Ben is fine here, we love him and will look after him for as long as they need us to.  It's clear that she's not sure if she can cope with him again - that's up to them.  She and Andy need to talk it through and make their decision.  If it's to have him back, of course that's fine and if not then they can talk to us and we'll say whether we are willing to keep him or whether we'll look after him until he can be re-homed.

The Sage and I have had a brief chat on the subject and our reaction is decided, but no more on that at present.

Never has 'pfft, it'll be fine' been a better path to follow.

But I was just about to send this out when the phone rang.  It was Marian, saying that our friend Elspeth has died.  This was not unexpected as she had lung cancer - I last saw her 6 weeks ago and then she knew that this was her last remission.  She's been in a hospice for three weeks.  Pfft doesn't cut it here, does it?

Monday 29 April 2013

Blog award

An award has been doing the rounds of late attached to a short meme and Scarlet has offered it to me.

To accept it I simply have to answer four questions and then nominate several bloggers who've recently inspired/moved/touched me.  Although I'm not sure about that, most people seem to have been sent it already and there aren't many of you left.  But I'll come to that later and answer the questions first ...

1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I'd give the Sage perfect health.  I'd trade anything I might want for that.  I have to say, this is something I worry about far more than he does, but he brushes aside all signs of ageing, says he feels as well as he ever has and takes little notice of my attempts to look after him.  He does let me do the heavy work in the garden and carry the shopping though, so it's not all bad... 

However, something for myself - I'd love to regain my ability to lose myself in books.  It grieves me immensely that after half a century of being immersed in reading, I've simply lost that quality of absorbedness and, try as I do, I can't get it back.  

2. If you could repeat any age which would it be?
I can be very specific here.  It would be the first six months we lived in this house: that is, July 1986 to January 1987.  

3. What really scares you?
I'm terribly afraid of deep water.  I've tried very hard to overcome it but I'm getting worse and I can hardly even manage a swimming pool any longer.  I simply can't go out of my depth and have to hold on to the side at all times.  As you can imagine, sea bathing is out of the question - that is, going in any deeper than the waist.  Such a nuisance. 

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
Oh darlings, I'd be a dog of course.  In fact, I might never change back.  

As I said at the start I think most of you have been nominated already.  So I'll go at it from a different tack - if you are a reader but not a blogger, please give your answers in the comments.  Because I know some of you and the REALITY acronym certainly applies to you.  Thanks, darlings.

Sunday 28 April 2013

It's complicated...

Lunch went really well and it was great to see our friends.  Distant cousins and in addition, Jill is my late mother-in-law's goddaughter, her sister Sarah's is the Sage's sister's goddaughter and their brother Paul is Ro's godfather - or, as a very young Ro put it, dogdaddy.  Jill and Sarah live in the Sheffield area and we hadn't seen them for years.  The Sage's sister June hadn't visited us here for a long time either, she doesn't drive now and lives in North Norfolk and we usually meet in Norwich.  The whole family came too and it was fun.

The Sage is due to go on a tour of Adnams tomorrow - he had booked himself in without inviting me too, hmm - but then, being carless, he belatedly asked me to go with him.  Initially I accepted, but I've had second thoughts.  It's a precious free day and I can get work done as well as spend a while just doing nothing.  Being on my own, doing nothing much has always been hugely important to me
and there hasn't been very much of it recently.  I don't have to be completely idle, that is, just letting my mind relax.

It used to be the greenhouse.  When we first moved here we had three children aged 12, 10 and 2.  It was all pretty lively and continued to be so for several years.  The greenhouse was my refuge.  I spent hours there looking after seedlings and larger plants.  Anyone was welcome to come and join me, but only to be a cheerfully quiet companion.  If one of the children came to complain about another, they were bundled out straight away.  Only tranquillity was allowed.  However, in the last few years I haven't needed that - as far as the children are concerned, not for  many years and not as far as the Sage is concerned either, because he's a restful person to live with on the whole.  But I've lost the knack of letting go and being tranquil and I'm not sure how to get it back.  Doing something that needs concentration but not thought or worry, I think.  I'm not sure I'll manage it tomorrow, work being something that expands to fill the time available, but I'll try.

Oh, I'm not letting the Sage down - he can borrow my car. 

Saturday 27 April 2013

Saturday Five

1 I'm sorry, whingeing as ever, but another almost sleepless night - asleep for an hour, awake for at least three, the soundest hour's sleep after the radio alarm comes on.  This afternoon, I was told I looked tired.  No, really.  REALLY?

2 Brace yourselves, you're getting a look at my next passport photo.  If I tell you this is probably the best passport photo I've ever had, do feel for me.  One isn't allowed to smile nowadays, of course.  But I'm convinced that I still don't look so old and I know I don't look so frightened as in the picture that was taken ten years ago.

I know.  I'm not claiming to look good.  But you'd not mess with me, right?

Anyway, the point is, I popped into the local photographer's to make an appointment.  "Oh, I think Phil could do it right now if you like?"  I nearly ran for it.  But I asked for a mirror and used a comb instead and the deed was done.

3 Equally good service was received at the local garage.  Yesterday, I heard a knocking sound from the back of the car - no, no one was locked in the boot.  So I toddled in, and Graham came for a turn round the block with me to listen for himself.  He has a couple of ideas and doesn't think it's serious.  But it's a bit more today than it was yesterday, so I went in to book an appointment.  They're fitting it round my social life, darlings, can anyone be nicer?

4 This afternoon, we went to the memorial service of a lovely, lovely man.  He was 93, it was more a time for loving memories than great shock and grief, though his wife and family must feel it sorely.  But it was a fine service.  Afterwards, we went back to the house for tea - there was a marquee on the lawn.  Tea there was, but most people headed for the other table and picked up a glass of Pol Roger.  I know.  No pretension I assure you.  It comes naturally to them.  I've a feeling that the truly classy went for the tea, but I didn't.

5 Picture of Augustus.  So delightful, how soporific eating can be for a small child.

Friday 26 April 2013

Z spends time with the Sage

I'm way behind in correspondence, so if I owe you a letter, please accept my apologies.  In some cases it's beyond the point of rudeness and I must catch up tomorrow morning.  I blame it on the weather - well, you've got to have something to blame.  To save heating the study, and it really does seem wasteful to this frugal Z to heat this whole big house for two of us, I moved my computer into the drawing room for the winter and only moved it back a few days ago - as a result, in the evening I have to choose between sitting with my husband or catching up on what the day hasn't left time for.

Of course, it helps when I can't sleep at all, as then I can write emails on my phone in the small hours, but my old eyes are getting too tired for that sort of thing.

The Sage being carless, he needed a chauffeuse and it was lucky I had a free day so no juggling was required.  It was nice, in the pleasant sense - I drove him over to Attleborough to do an appraisal for possible future sale of some china. On the way home we stopped for lunch at the village pub at Hempnall.  We went marvellously retro with scampi and chips in a basket.  When we got home, I took Ben for a run on the marshes.  A friend came by with her dogs and Harvey, a pale yellow labrador, was as keen as splashing in the water as Ben is and they had a great time.  Then I took the Sage to Southwold to fetch the catalogues for his sale in June.  More about that another day.

We're up to 16 for Sunday lunch, which is a lot less effort than it sounds.  It's just a case of preparing more vegetables.  And borrowing another table, but I'll take the wheelbarrow to the church for a folding one, assuming I get permission to do so (I will).  I've bought a big joint of pork and will make a triple-sized pud.  Do you remember the '80s when we all cooked elaborate dinner parties?  And the '60s come to that - I remember my mother making everything from scratch, mincing liver two or three times for a pâté and so on.  It's simpler now on the whole - well, it is in this house, especially for Sunday lunch.

In fact, the shorter the notice and the more people turn up, the simpler it is.  I mean, if you invite two or four people a couple of weeks in advance and at least some of them are excellent cooks, it takes a lot of self-confidence not to feel the pressure to do something elaborate (I'm old enough not to care, mind you, most of the time).  But if some people drop in during the afternoon and you feel drawn to ask them to stay on, it's pot luck.  Frankly, they'll be impressed with being fed at all and if it's reasonably tasty they'll be more than happy.  And if you run out of plates and someone eats out of a frying pan, that doesn't really matter either.

On the other hand, having set the date for the blog party several months in advance, a plea of not enough time to plan is not going to hold water.  The only thing I know is, it won't be a barbecue.  I've learned that lesson.  

Kittens! Er...Dog! Doesn't sound quite the same, innit?

Ben showing bear the bear.  He hadn't been playing with his teddy and went to look for it, so it's tempting to think he recognised the species.

He loves a splash in the water, though he doesn't normally swim, just frolic.  I think he must have trodden in a hole or on something as he seemed to stumble and then went back to look.

Both should embiggen - sorry the still pic is rather dark, but it was evening and Ben blends in rather well with the colour scheme.  There's a box bottom right of the video to enlarge.

Thursday 25 April 2013

A sudden lack of suspense...

The day started really well.  I'd kept back a number of my mother's clothes - please let it never be said that I've a vestige of pride and we always used to swap clothes around - I spent some time this morning trying things on and it's fair to say that my future winter wardrobe is assured, albeit with rather longer skirts than I might have bought myself.  The dresses I kept were few but splendid - from the early 1970s, I should think, one had a Fortnum and Mason label in and the other is Susan Small - I don't know if I'll ever wear either but I can't possibly let them go.  There's another I haven't tried on yet, marvellously early '70s with geometric patterns in orange, black and white, and another in red chiffon, simply because I remember she looked lovely in it and I can't let it go either.  Maybe there's a trace of sentiment in my soul after all.

My friend came for coffee and I was afraid he was going to resign - he didn't, it's fine.  We had a straightforward discussion, that was fine too.  I'm stripping away any edging round a subject - just say it nicely and it cuts out a load of waffle.  The Sage popped in at one stage to say he was going out, and politely removed our coffee cups.

Later, I ate some lunch - well, of course ... I had a hard-boiled egg, toast and Marmite, a banana, took Ben for a walk, went off for my meeting, which was interesting and may lead to something even more so, then another meeting when I surprised a governor - but possibly more of that considerably later - and then yet another meeting.  I apologised and explained why I hadn't done something - no edging, as I said.

When I got home, the Sage's car wasn't here, so I assumed he was out - but the door was unlocked.  "Where's your car?" I asked.  Oh darlings, the poor Sage had such an awful time.  Driving home from Lowestoft, it suddenly collapsed, the suspension having gone for a burton.  He had to get the police as he was blocking the road and they called a breakdown lorry which brought him home and took away the car.  It's a write-off, my lovely old Mercedes - the roads are terrible after the bad winter which has left so many potholes and I know other people have had trouble with suspension in their cars.  No harm done physically and the Sage wasn't too upset.  I suggested he have a rest and he didn't argue however, so he must have felt quite wiped out.

Friend with hedge trimmer came to cut the privet hedge round the tennis court.  No problem with nesting birds, it's almost denuded of leaves though many are in bud.  He cut, I cleared up.  After a couple of hours, I was knackered, darlings.  Still, the long side is done and I can clear up the short side another day.  The grass is growing worryingly quickly, and where the chooks have been, the ground is very uneven.  I won't let the Sage do it with a strimmer though.  I take care of him, don't want to take risks with his health.  I'd do it myself but a petrol-driven strimmer is so heavy.  I don't know.

Anyway, it's been gorgeous weather, the warmest day of the year and I've really appreciated that.  Just lovely to bask in sunshine.

And maybe I'll manage an early night.  I'm reading more at last, some days recently I haven't picked up a book and I've concluded that's part of my lack of settledness.  I need equilibrium, and I'll get it somehow.

Numbers for Sunday lunch are going up - great!  Fourteen so far, two more to hear from.  One borrowed table plus our own, that's fine.  I so love to feed lots of people, don't you?  One feels so friendly.  It's not a matter of what one cooks (I have two bringing puddings - I've already said I'm not proud) but being hospitable is, to be soppy, how you show love and friendliness.

Ben watched the wildlife programme this evening.  When the grizzly bear came up on the screen, he went to get his own teddy bear and show it to the television.  He's such a sweet dog.  Albeit quite naughty.  But naughty's not bad, innit?

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Third leg

Another funeral to play for today, though I'd have gone to it in any case.  I didn't know Norman well, but he was a lovely man.  His mother lived in the village - so had he at one time - and was renowned for once, being the railway crossing keeper, flagging down a train and preventing an accident, rather in Railway Children style.  Norman's wife Jenny died horribly early in her early sixties and I met him several times at that period. They had got married when she was 18 and he was 22 - early marriage is out of fashion nowadays, but those of my friends who married young seem to have done quite as well as those who left it until later.

I'm pleased that Andy will be able to take over funeral organist duties again.  I hope I take a professional attitude but I find it emotionally very difficult at times.  Today, although I played for fifteen minutes or so before the service, I didn't need to play as the coffin was brought into the church and taken out again because Norman had chosen music to be played from CDs.  So I was sitting there when the undertakers came to take the coffin out.  Two family members wanted to take their part and so some care had to be taken that all went smoothly, and it was when - I don't know why - the pallbearers had the coffin securely on their shoulders and one said "Right, gentlemen," to start them going when  I had to turn away - the organ is at the altar end of the church, by the choir stalls (we don't have a choir) and I'm in full view and tears were running down my face.  The last couple of years, I've been so over-emotional and I wish I could get over it.

Anyway, after that I took the dog for a walk and he had a lovely splash in the river, I had a short sleep, I took him out again - oh, having had a chat with Wink on the phone in the meantime - and then went out for a meeting.  There was wine and food afterwards and I had chatted to various people and was about to leave when I had a phone call from a lugubrious Sage, whose own meeting had gone on a lot longer than he'd expected so was only just home, but had found that he'd left his keys in the house.  He hadn't eaten, so I made him a swift tomato and cheese omelette with salad, which he ate with a packet of crisps and a glass of cider.  He was perfectly happy with that and it makes me wonder why I spend an hour or two cooking every night when ten minutes seems to do just as well.

Tomorrow, friend Brian is coming round for coffee - I've a feeling I know what he wants to talk about and that I won't really want to hear it - and then meetings in the afternoon.  But then Friday is free, so I might go and visit a friend who has broken her leg.  Yes, another friend, this isn't Gill or Andy.  Still, things go in threes they say, so let's hope that's it.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Z's day improves

As predicted, I was awake most of the night again.  Pah.  At 4.30, I was writing an email to Martina, having given up on sleep altogether, though I did have another couple of forty winkses after that.  And I had a rather disturbing dream, one of the sort that, every time you drift off for ten minutes or so, you go back to and carry on with.  I won't bore you with it, don't worry.

At about 10 o'clock this morning, I had a horrible shock when I realised one of my earrings was missing.  The ones I wear most of the time are gold studs with a little diamond chip in, but it so happened that I was wearing the diamond ones that Weeza gave me for my birthday once - I think it was my 50th.  It was a lovely and generous present and here they are, though rather blurred - they're set in white gold.

They being studs, I hadn't taken them out last night. To start with, I thought they must be in one of the places I'd been this morning - that is, my bed/bedroom, the landing or bathroom, the stairs or hall or the kitchen or study, and the Sage and I searched.  Then I started to worry that I'd lost it yesterday.  I couldn't remember whether or not I'd touched them at any particular time.  I went to the supermarket, petrol station, walked round the village and so on.  Or if it had fallen off in the bath, it might have gone down the plughole.

You'll understand my distress.  And Debs and Fi, the cleaners, were coming today - so I left a note asking them to look carefully and to empty their vacuum cleaner both before and after use so that I could check through the contents.  And then I had to go off for my lunch in Norwich.

Betty was feeling a bit fragile, but determined to go to the lunch.  I and another friend, Janet, parked at her house and she'd booked a taxi (she's very generous, there was no question of offering to pay for that or the lunch).  We were greeted with the offer of wine, went through for lunch with about 35 others at 1 o'clock and it was, as expected, a quintessentially English meal.  Starting with Norfolk asparagus, then roast beef, then apple pie, and excellent it was.  More wine, and I thought it'd be okay to have a glass, I wouldn't be driving for at least a couple more hours.  I didn't expect the port though.  Decanters were put on the table (passed to the left, obv) and - well, what the heck.  I toasted, in very small sips, the Queen, St George and someone else - maybe it was the dragon - obediently with the rest, and then drank black coffee.

When we were in the taxi again, I checked my phone and found that the Sage had tried to phone at 1.30.  That seemed a hopeful sign so, as I was leaving Betty's house just before 4 o'clock, I rang him.  And the earring had been found, under the rug in the bathroom in a crack between two floorboards.  I passed the news on to Janet - I'd tried to put the whole thing out of my mind: I'm used to compartmentalising, but I had told her - and she was so pleased for me that I cried with relief.  Just for a moment, doesn't do to get emotional.  By the way, going out and being sociable did Betty good, she was very cheerful and chatty, though I expect she'll be tired tonight.

And this evening Al, Dilly and the boys came for tea, Squiffany being at Brownies.  It was a jolly little party and they're coming again for Sunday lunch, when we've got some other people coming too.   I think there will be eleven of us, so we'll all fit round the table (unless more of the family decide to come, in which case I'll have to add another table).  No doubt I'll tell you about that later in the week.

Oh, and a couple more things have been ticked off the outside list.  

Monday 22 April 2013

Z is a wrinkled old retainer

When looking at myself in the mirror, I've been quite disappointed by what I've seen for the past few days.  I looked pale and not particularly well - I usually take the rough with the smooth as far as my appearance is concerned, but I was actually drawn to apply concealer and blusher, which hardly ever happens.  My make-up, though applied daily, is minimal.  Well, three items are applied and it takes a minute or two.  However, this morning, I looked - well, I looked as if I'd had a good night's sleep, which I had.  Even now, at the end of the day, I look better than I have the last few mornings.  I was awake for a couple of hours in the night, mind you, and woke several times, but I was in bed for eleven hours altogether and must have slept for eight, and that's such a rarity nowadays.

Today, I moved back into the study, having had my computer in the drawing room all winter.  It's been too cold in here and it's silly to heat this whole big house for two of us.  We have four living rooms, five bedrooms as well as the rest - and now we have the annexe too, of course.  Mind you, I'm going to use it.  I'll have my piano in there, I've moved some books already and I've offered the Sage this room (it'll be a wonder if he uses it, but if he doesn't then words will be said, as it's a lovely room and I'm being quite remarkably nice) and will have a study through there.  We're paying council tax for the place, so might as well use it..

We have had a Broadband upgrade, so should have speedy and good internet from now on.  I've trotted all over the house with my phone and got a connection everywhere, which we didn't have before, even with a booster.  It's only one bar in most places mind you, but it does work (bar in connectivity terms, please understand).

The BT chap was very nice.  He is ex-Army and has lived in Germany for 18 years, which he loved - in between secondments to various wars, of course.  Imagine a wry face there, dear hearts.  We had a really interesting chat while he worked.

And tomorrow, the house will be cleaned - woo-hoo!  It's so absurdly tidy, by my standards, that I could give it a quick go-through in a couple of hours, never mind two women at the same time.  I'll be out, having been invited to a St George's Day lunch at the Norfolk Club by my friend Betty.  Betty is in her nineties and is a darling.  She has many ailments and isn't daunted by any of them.  Anyway, I suggested to the Sage that I make a note of what I want them to do - not that I'll write much, I want them to clean the house and they know that already.  But there are a few things that a non-cleaning member of the family won't understand.

I did my once-in-a-while turnout of bottles for the village bottle bank.  I also bagged up all those clothes of my mother's because there's a clothing bin there too, in support of Scope.  Jolly good, saves me going to charity shops, because there were several binbags-full.  When we were loading them into the car, I said hang on, where are those two bags of bottles (8 in each, but not all booze, darlings, and it's been a while anyway and I needn't say what length of a while) I left by the door?  He showed me.  Alongside the several other bags that I'd left for him to take to the bottle bank and he hadn't bothered, that's where.  Honestly, it's such an uphill struggle, I feel like Sisyphus (ah, Saki lovers, remember the Envy of Sisyphus, because it goes quite nicely uphill if you push it?).  Anyway, all safely crashed or fhwoomped home, out of my hair.  I admit to having reserved a few garments to see if they fit/suit me, mind you.  Wicked waste makes woeful want, as Aunt Abbie put it (if anyone has read those Dane Chandos books, we are practically sisters.  Or brother and sister.  Whatevs.).

You see, darlings, how jolly I am when I've had enough sleep?  Of course, the downside is that I'll hardly sleep for a week because I'm not deprived enough.  But it's been a good feeling.

The rest of the good feeling is opening up the house for the summer.  North and East wings, marvellous.  

Sunday 21 April 2013


I'm overcome with tiredness after a nearly sleepless night, a busy day and having been pulled over by Ben painfully enough to warrant painkillers which, taken rarely, are all the more effective for that. I'm sitting on the floor, he's sitting on my lap. All is harmonious but I must go to bed.

I've several postsworth in hand, too. Still, most of them will remain unpublished.

Tomorrow, loves

Zoë xxx

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday 20 April 2013

Sunshine? Warmth? Is it time for Z to spend a whole day indoors sorting things out?

Big Pinkie is here!  Her arrival is a harbinger of Spring of course, but the joy wasn't quite as unalloyed as usual, because she had fallen down in the trailer, or possibly sat down for a little rest, and she and the other two cows had christened it exuberantly: in short, Big Pinkie was covered in shit.  So of course I got a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge to give her a wash-down.  Sadly, she didn't appreciate this and after a few minutes she swished her tail and walked away.

I changed my top and sponged down my jeans.  They weren't very much splashed.

I've been busy today, taking books through to the annexe.  We're having our internet connection upgraded on Monday and, if it reaches through there as I jolly well trust it will, I'm going to have my study in there.  In any case, it will be furnished - the annexe, that is - and books furnish a room.  I do have a couple of rooms here without bookcases admittedly, but they're dining rooms, so I hope that's okay - anyway, I've put a couple of hundred or so books in the annexe sitting room, which makes a start at least.  That almost empties one bookcase, which is to go into the study.    If the Sage has his way, a few thousand will go through there.  The only other thing that has gone through so far is my music stand, that he made for me for my 40th birthday - it's walnut and has a brass thingy that means you can put it up and down and is lovely.  It's one of the several good presents he has given me over the years, though I asked him for it, admittedly.  He's not very imaginative, present-wise, though he can do well if he's told what to buy (especially if one of the children does the shopping for him).  While I was doing that, I was sorting things out, as one does, and found various things, including a framed photo of me playing the clarinet at the village school Saturday music club end-of-term concert, that I really didn't enjoy taking part in at all, but did to encourage the children (yes, I was the only adult pupil), where I looked solemn, puffy-cheeked and really quite hairy.  That is, my hair was short then (my music teacher gave the picture to me for my fortieth birthday)  but it was really thick and rather blonder than it is now.  I think I've got a better haircut now, I have to say.

It having been sunny and warm, I went and cleaned the clothes line and put it to good use.  Three washes are dried, another is out there and a fifth still in the washing machine.  I only do the washing once in a while, when I can group things together according to colour and material, which needs good timing to line-dry them successfully.  But it usually works out.  Today, being warm and sunny with a reasonably robust breeze, was perfect.

I know, you come here for information on my laundry.  Or maybe not.  Sorry.

The other big news of the day is that Squiffany won another gymnastics competition.  Isn't she splendid?  Here's the trophy.
I don't know that she did that, though.  Looks a bit tricky.  

Oh yes, the other things I found were books - well, obv, but I mean I hadn't realised where they were.  The copy of Pilgrim's Progress that I unwisely slogged through at the age of 8.  Squiffany is 8 now, perhaps I should try her on it.  And A Cambridge Childhood, by Gwen Raverat, that my mother gave me when I was a child - not my copy though, which was softback with a pink cover - I haven't seen it for years but remember it clearly, having loved the book and read it several times.  I'm rather charmed to discover that she owned it herself (in a different edition) but liked it enough to buy it for me too.

I found many books that I want to read or re-read, but I'm finding it hard to give time to books, for the first time in my life.  Yet another indication that it's time for change.

42 spam emails today (and one that wasn't but was deleted accidentally with the rest).  I may have to turn on wv again soon, I'm sorry.

Friday 19 April 2013

Z winds down and makes plans

1 I've just counted the spam comments received so far today - 31.  And it's not 4 o'clock yet.  Why on earth do they do it?  Not one of them is published, they all go in the spam folder.

2 Doing some strategic planning.  Not that I'm thinking far ahead generally, far too depressing.  Just in a specific area.

3 The sun is shining but I'm skulking indoors.  I fell asleep after lunch, though not for long - ten minutes or so is enough.

4 I came in the room this morning to find Ben sitting in the Sage's armchair, looking relaxed and pleased with life.  I was in a hurry to go out and didn't argue with him but left him there.  I trust he doesn't try this sort of naughtiness when he goes home.  I love having a lapful of dog to cuddle, mind you, when I have a dog it will be allowed up.  And dog hairs on clothes are fine, what's the problem?  The day I have an immaculate home will be when I'm old, unloved and have nowhere near enough to do with my time.  Not that I believe this applies to everyone of course, it's all a matter of priorities and what makes one comfortable.

5 The Sage is out doing a valuation in Lowestoft.  Apart from taking the dog for a walk, I've had a lovely peaceful time getting on with stuff on the computer and listening to music.  Mozart and Prokofiev so far this afternoon.  And now I feel like listening to the piano.  I've not listened to enough music of late.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Fish and eggs

1 I have my car back.  The borrowed Fiesta was perfectly nice to drive, but ordinary cars are so low down, I feel as if I'm sitting on the road.  I think having a landrover has spoiled me for anything else.

2 In a letter to Martina last night, I used the phrase 'storm in a teacup.'  She queried it - apparently, down her way, it's 'tempest in a teapot.'  Well, well.  Never come across that one before!

3 It's jolly windy. And (it's now quarter to five) it's started raining.  Although when I drove home from Beccles I saw that dust was blowing off the fields, it's been very dry since the flooding ended.

4 We were going to have fish for dinner, but we were given fish for our set-menu lunch, so I think it will go in the freezer.  I've got some chicken, but I'm not very hungry after a two-course meal and the Sage went down the caff for shepherd's pie, so I think I might put them both aside and cook omelettes instead.  The bantams are laying well now and I've got at least a dozen eggs today.

5 I've got an almost free day tomorrow, after a meeting with the Head at 9.30.  Unfortunately, housework beckons.  Although the cleaners are coming next Tuesday so I'll tidy to get ready for them rather than do much cleaning.  I mean, one does have standards to keep down.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Z and the Sage get out and about

A friend who, with his wife, retired to France seven years ago was visiting friends and family this week and called in today.  He hasn't changed a bit except to look more relaxed now he's out of the rat race.  They've always been great animal lovers and at present have five dogs - the latest arrival is a Portugese Podengo - not a breed I'd heard of but I've a dog app on my phone so was able to look it up.  He looks very like a fox apparently, with red hair and pointed ears, but his tail is not bushy.  They're hunting dogs, and he hasn't dared let it off the lead yet.  So he wasn't at all put off when Ben greeted him enthusiastically.  Ben responds well to people who understand dogs and settled down very quickly.  Though he did take a quick lick from the sugar bowl.  W wasn't put off by that either and cheerily spooned sugar from the same bowl into his coffee.  No wonder I like him.  I don't think I mentioned that when Ben learned to open the fridge a few weeks ago he got his teeth into a piece of raw fish.  I washed it of course and made sure it was my portion and the Sage got the unmouthed one, but I ate it all right.

Having revolted half of you (I would never do such a thing with anyone I was feeding I absolutely promise you, I do not impose my casualness on anyone else and am scrupulously hygienic when cooking for guests too), move on swiftly...

We both went to our funerals and saw a lot of people we knew - I said to Marian, the 95-year-old friend I gave a lift to that one of the best things about her birthday tea was that we saw so many old friends at a happy occasion instead of a funeral, which is what usually occurs.  She invited me in for sherry when I took her home, so it was later than I'd expected when I left - I phoned the Sage and he reminded me that he was going to a meeting of his vintage car club, which also reminded me that he'd asked the other day if I'd like to go with him.   I don't get an offer like that every day and it included dinner - so I said I'd drive straight to the pub and meet him there.  We had a swift half hour for a delicious beef stew with dumplings and then a very convivial time at the meeting.

And home for a glass of whisky.  Having been driving, I've been rather alcohol-deprived today.  Cheers, darlings.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Z adds up

Another art lecture today, on the start of Modernism.  Very good - ignorant as I am, I learn whenever possible.  I arrived in good time so that I could chat to friends and came away having put my name down for two more events -  a visit to the Fishmongers' Hall and the Middle Temple, and a tea party to celebrate 25 years of our society.  I wasn't a member from the start, but joined within the year.

My car needs a new fuel pump, which hasn't arrived at the garage yet so they've lent me a car.  Replace the petrol you use and please don't have an accident, the man said cheerfully.  I realise now that I've left my satnav in my car, so will look up my destination for tomorrow (my satnav doesn't have churches on it anyway, so I have to know where in the village I'm heading) and see if I need to pick it up on the way.... and now I have, I've decided to go retro and take a map.  Amazingly, I went to the bookcase where it was supposed to be and it was right there.

The Sage had a visit to the hospital before Easter - the cardiologist doesn't think there's much matter for concern but has put him on beta blockers for an irregular heartbeat and offered a chest x-ray, which was done there and then - I phoned the doctor's surgery this morning to see if there was any follow-up from that, but I don't think there is.  They'll phone back if he needs another appointment.  Boring, isn't it, this ageing thing?  The Sage doesn't like to admit to any infirmity, though he's been known to be completely wiped out by the slightest hint of man-flu, so I have to go with him to medical appointments or else he'd claim to have the health and fitness of a man of thirty.  Mind you, I didn't know him when he was thirty.

Al and the family came over this afternoon and I cooked sausages for tea.  Young Hadrian's vocabulary increases week by week and he's a sturdily cheerful little boy.  His cousin Gus is also a happy child - he's three months younger - but they're quite different in appearance.  Gus is tall and skinny, Hay is stockier, though not fat.  All five of the grandchildren are such a delight.  When blessings are being counted, I have quite a number of them.

Monday 15 April 2013

Gold medal in the family

1 I've mislaid my middle-distance glasses, dammit.  They're probably in this room, maybe in the kitchen, but that's less help than you'd think.

2 I went to a fabulous lecture this morning, given by Maggi Hambling and illustrated with loads of her portraits.  Hugely impressed.  I hadn't realised that she's the sister of someone I know, who arranged for her to come.

3 I'm feeling some clarification about the timing of my retirement as a school governor.  Carrying on as normal for a while yet, though.  It'll be twenty-five years in September, but for several of those years I governed two schools.

4 Meetings went on until 3 o'clock, when I was finally able to have some lunch.  I made a salad of cherry tomatoes, avocado and Roquefort cheese and ate it with oatcakes and a glass of red wine.  It was a very nice Bordeaux and reminds me again to drink better wine all the time.  I mean whenever I drink it, of course, not that I'll drink all the time.  Obv.

5 Squiffany entered a gymnastics competition yesterday and won her class.  Woo hoo!

Update - I've found my glasses under the armchair.  That's a relief, the computer is just at the wrong distance nowadays.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Z displays roundness of tum

Another day of getting things done, quite remarkable.

When our mother died ten years ago, Wink and I dealt with clothes and personal papers straight away.  However, she had a lot of clothes and didn't have enough room in her wardrobes (several of them) for everything, so used to have a seasonal switchover, taking those that were temporarily redundant up to the attic and hanging them there.  Since she died in March, her summer clothes were still there, along with quite a lot of books and various other things.  We didn't deal with those, there was too much else to do, and once Al and Dilly lived there, they changed the use of the dressing room to a study and put in various pieces of furniture that made the extending ladder to the attic inaccessible - there's another attic too that they were able to use.  So all those clothes and everything else were still there.  Now, while the annexe is almost empty, I want to clear the attics and so today Wink and I made a start by bringing those clothes down.

There are a few jumpers that Wink has taken away to try on, a couple of things I might, and the rest has been divided into two piles, one for the recycling bin by the village hall and one for a charity shop.  There is only one dress where we were hit by sentiment, and that's the one she's wearing here, at the Sage's and my wedding party.  She's second from the right, in pink.
A few of the clothes we couldn't remember her ever wearing and wondered why on earth she'd bought them.  One, we suspected that Wilf, our stepfather, had brought back from a business trip abroad because it was brightly coloured and pattered and pretty well shapeless, and we couldn't imagine her choosing it.  But almost as odd was this extraordinary outfit -
As you can see, it's tight on me, so I'm sorry to inflict the photo on you (I'm sure that thick tights add at least a centimetre to one's thighs, aren't you?), but that's not the worst of its crimes against fashion.  And she never wore trousers of any sort, she didn't like them - that is, she occasionally bought them but only wore them for walking the dog in very cold weather, and this outfit was certainly not a dog-walking set-up.  
I guess it dates from about 1980?  Why did she keep it?  It was in a bag, not hung up, but even so.  It reinforces my opinion that sizings have changed considerably over the years, by the way.  Size 12, it was marked as a 24 inch waist and 36 inch hips.  A current size 10 is roomy on me and this is a good size smaller than today's 12, I could only just do it up.  She and I were much the same size in those days, which is a few pounds less than I am now, but she'd never have worn anything so clingy.  Nor would I have worn it, except to poke fun at myself.

We went to the pub for lunch, first having a drink in the bar and enjoyable conversations with a local chap and his son-in-law, then ate excellent roast beef.  Then our friend called round, having borrowed his brother's Transit van and Wink and I went with him to Ro's house, where we loaded it up with all the stuff he's cut down from his very overgrown garden.  The big van was stuffed full and I was nearly overcome by exhaustion at one point - the weather has suddenly become hot and I was dressed in jeans and a cashmere jumper when I'd have been better off with a t-shirt, working so hard in that weather.  Anyway, we did it and Wink left to go to Weeza's house while we came back here and dumped the branches and undergrowth on the bonfire to be burned when the wind is in the right direction.  

Saturday 13 April 2013

Z keeps her clout firmly in place

1 When walking the dog yesterday,  I saw the first blackthorn that is coming into bloom.  The may won't be out until May this year.

2 Today the bees are flying from Al's hives - I haven't seen them until now (though I've only looked on sunny days and there have been few enough of those) and was afraid that all three hives were dead.  I think one of them is, haven't seen any sign of life at all.  Al will have a look next time he's over - I'm thinking I'm going to have to learn to look after them too, at least the rudiments.  I've never had ambitions to be a bee-keeper, but I don't mind.  I found last year that I'm not afraid to help out - unsurprisingly, some people are.

3 I've reminded the Sage that the deadline for getting outside junk disposed of is the end of the month or I'm getting a skip.  He looked worried.  He's starting to believe I mean it.

4 Ben went into the downstairs loo and had a little chew on a toilet roll.  It was almost new, of course I didn't throw it away.  Wicked waste makes woeful want, as they say.  So we are using loo paper with teethmarks in.  That still work, as we say in Norfolk.

5 Having sent out the final address list of Nadfas contact details, someone then told me he moved house in February.  So I sent out a correction.  And then someone else sent me another correction.  I sent this address list out at least twice previously this year and they didn't tell me then.  It makes me look inefficient, but I can only give out information that I've been given.  I take the view, however, that the more incompetent I look, the keener they'll be to find a new secretary.  

Friday 12 April 2013

Z is ready for the weekend

Well, the evening went very well - there were ten of us.  We meet up once a month except during the winter - if everyone is there, we number 17 but that never happens.  I'm the youngest by far but that's fine, I've never taken any notice of age.

I drove home, down the drive and round the corner to the place where I park and the engine stopped.  I restarted, put it into gear and it stopped again and wouldn't start.  So I left it until the morning, when Jonathan kindly popped round from the garage, couldn't get it going and said he'd arrange for it to be towed away.  I chose to be grateful that it had brought me all the way home.  And I don't really need it this weekend and it isn't until next Wednesday that both the Sage and I are going to be out in different directions at the same time, so really need two cars.  Sadly, we're each going to a funeral, mine in Norwich, his near Ipswich.

I wanted to book Sunday lunch at the village pub and it seemed only polite to have a drink while I was there, so I sat down with my half pint to chat to the only other drinker in the bar.  A few other people came in later and three of us were sitting at the same table - darlings, take my word for it, I'm not going to do that too often.  By the time I'd been bought a couple more drinks (I hadn't had any lunch)  I was feeling quite pie-eyed.  It wasn't the beer I usually drink but another of John's home-brew (he has a micro-brewery in what used to be the garage) and I suspect it was a little stronger, though I shouldn't think by much.  Anyway, in the end I bought a round for the others, made my excuses and stumbled home.  I'm not drinking this evening, you'll not be surprised to learn.

Wink will be here for the weekend and it's her birthday on Sunday.  She's with Al & co now, we're visiting Ro tomorrow and she's spending Sunday night with Weeza & family, rather than everyone coming here, the point being that two of the three have just moved house and she hasn't seen their new places yet.  That's the reason we're going to the pub on Sunday, doesn't seem worth cooking a big meal for three.  I'll do a nice meal with champagne tomorrow night for her birthday.  She's declared she doesn't want me to buy her a birthday present, she'd rather we go to a play or exhibition in London, which is fine by me.

Oh, and the programme for the prom concerts at Snape has arrived.  In the days I couldn't easily get away, I counted that as my summer holiday venue.  I sometimes went to ten or more concerts during the month, it was fun.  August evenings were also warmer then, by the way, and it was only twenty years ago.  Very odd.  Now I have holidays, I only go to a few - none for the past two or three years, I became discouraged at always going alone.  That is, I don't mind going on my own, but once Ro was in Norwich and the Sage wasn't bothered (he doesn't see why he should do something he's not very interested in just to keep me company), it started to feel a bit of a drag.  But not doing things is more of one, so I'm back in business. 

Thursday 11 April 2013

Fame at last

Blue Witch is marvellous, she's found a brilliant site.  Called Geograph, it aims to collect photographs of the entire country, every bit of it, and invites people to submit their photos.  Over 80% of the country is represented so far.  Here's one of the latest pictures - and of course, I had to look up this area and found one of our house.  Old Manor House, indeed.  No, it was never that, but it made me chuckle.

It's been a most fine day, because Roses came to lunch.  Ben instantly adored her, as you might expect, but she dealt with that very capably and we talked non-stop for hours.  We took Ben for a walk on the marshes too, and he had a brilliant time, coming back wet and muddy from splashing in the river.  I should have taken a picture of the long line of cows walking back to the farm for milking time - I was more concerned about the chances of Ben getting in their way, but he was perfectly well-behaved - and besides, he then noticed one of his dog friends being taken for a run, so went off to say hello.

And this evening I'm out to supper.  The mad social whirl, darlings.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Z shops, but not for myself

I spent most of the day with Weeza and the children - Weeza has been immensely helpful and kind (I say 'has been' but it's an ongoing thing) to her old mum and dad, busy as she is, and Gus is taking a long time to get over the general state of unwellness that has afflicted him for a while.  One cold has led to another, he's quite a skinny lad at the best of times, so when he's unwell and loses his appetite, he looks quite peaky.  Anyway, I suggested we spend a day in Norwich.  Weeza has become so marvellously slender that she keeps shrinking out of her clothes (she's thinner than I am, boooo) and I wanted to buy her something.

She was able to buy new jeans - skinny as, darlings - and a top in Gap and then we went for lunch.  It's such a pleasure, taking any of my grandchildren out for a meal because they are charming and well behaved, and in any case I've a couple of party tricks for bored children waiting for food and was, for a couple of minutes, drawn to use one of them for Zerlina.  But then the food came, so that was fine.

I asked little z what she would like me to buy for her and, after consideration, she thought she could do with a new party frock.  Her mother agreed, she hasn't got such a garment that still fits and one never knows when a party may come up, so has to be prepared, and we thought that Laura Ashley might have something (it was just round the corner) - and so it (one can hardly say 'she', can one, so long after the lady's death? Did she fall downstairs, poor woman, or is that my faulty memory - CBATG, I'm afraid) did.  It was the first dress that z tried on that fitted the bill, and it had 40% off.  Oh joy.  £24 the original price, um... ... ... £9.60 off ... must have been £14.40, and it was certainly a bargain.  Then we went to Jarrolds and discovered that the toy department was rather nicely set out nowadays - they've had a bit of a revamp since I was last there before Christmas, I'm sure, and the children played happily with wooden toys and Lego for some time.  Sadly, Gus suddenly became tearful again and we had to beat a hasty retreat, just when I was about to buy him a toy.  I owe you, Jarrolds, I shall not forget.  I'm the one who made the Lego horse, though it would have been a camel had I had five more minutes.

Weeza and I chatted at her house while Gus napped and Zerlina played with James-next-door.  When I left, I called on Ro and stuffed the back of the car with some of the branches we'd cut down last week.  There's an awful lot more, he's going to see if he can find someone with a trailer to take it away.  I pruned a nice rose bush while I was about it, but I'm afraid the clematis is beyond help and we'll have to cut it hard back and see if it will survive.  It cannot be simply pruned - I tried.  I failed.  

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Create, construct, destroy

Can I say, cautiously, that this seems to have been a good day?  I'm not at all sure why because it's not been that eventful, but I slept for hours at a time last night so that's probably it, because it's been a bit dull in many ways - paperwork related, darlings, need I say more?

As an example of dullness, I took a couple of photos of where the greenhouse no longer is and of what it's reduced to.

The snaky branch near the top of the first photo is a grape vine.  The chickens can eat the unripe grapes this autumn, I can't bring myself to destroy it yet.  I'm not good at the slashing and burning thing, I construct rather than destroy by preference ... ooh, at last an idea for a post, I knew one would happen if I waffled long enough.

I was having a conversation a few weeks ago with a couple of friends and, I'm afraid, we were rather pulling to pieces another person.  It was agreed that both of them are creative/artistic types, but that she is ultimately destructive.  She's one of those persons who, if she breaks a cup, she'll say to her (innocently on the other side of the room) husband, "Look what you made me do!"  Everything has to be someone's fault, yet it's never her own.  In the garden, which is large and would look lovely informal, everything is ruthlessly cropped into shape.  It's not that straight lines rule, she does have an eye for beauty, but that it all has to be relentlessly tidy - we concluded (oh dear, three women and a bottle of wine) that it's the cutting back and destruction of the clippings that attracts her most.

Me?  No, I'm not creative.  Not an artistic bone in my body.  It was agreed that I'm constructive and, as a practical Z, I was quite happy to go along with that.  But let's face it, you're nicer to the people you're with than those you're talking about, so I may have been unduly flattered.

Monday 8 April 2013

Z hasn't quite got over an annoying morning

I should be working, but I had a very frustrating time looking for my wallet, the one that holds membership cards and so on.  Eventually found it where it had fallen behind the bureau.  So now I've finally changed my blood donor appointment, which clashed with something else, though I'd had a free day when I made it back in January.

Don't you find that's the way with appointments though, of whatever sort?  You can have a free week except for one vital thing, and that's bound to be the day that someone invites you to a non-alterable party.  I booked a range of concerts for the Aldeburgh Festival and it's the day I have two, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, that Wink asked me to go to a literary lunch in London that I'd really have liked to attend.  Similarly, all work piles up at the same time, even if you think you've planned things quite nicely.  Only too often, it's the social side of life that has to be jettisoned, though I'm trying hard not to let that happen too much any more.

Deciding not to grow vegetables will save me a couple of hours a day all summer, I realise.  But since that's often the time I enjoy most, the realisation doesn't give me any satisfaction.  Although it's not as simple as that really - I love growing things, but the weeding gives me the pip.  And for years, the weeding, watering, picking, then having to prepare the vegetables, then cook the damn meal was rather more than good nature could necessarily stand, every day for months on end.

I'm quite annoyed to have received a cheque in the post relating to the Nadfas meeting the week before last, from someone who hadn't got around for paying for lunch in advance as I'd reminded her several times to do (this is the only real negative feeling I have about this job: the necessity to nag, which is so tedious from my point of view and the recipients').  So the last time I wrote, I asked her to send it to the Treasurer instead of me as I'd hand all cheques to him at the meeting.  So I'll have to pay to send it on and bad cess to her, really.  I can see if the bank will pay it into the account, but I very much doubt it, a third party cheque into a different bank's account.  


Sunday 7 April 2013

Game on!

It's been a productive day.  I only had the hymns for today's service first thing this morning, so decided to wing it, except for not recognising one of them at all - nope, didn't know it, but hey, sight reading is how a lazy person gets by.  So I did.  Then I spent some time taking photos of all the lots for the next sale in June - since them I've cropped and occasionally straightened them and in one case edited - there was a lot number on one from the last time it was auctioned (it's surprising, the number of collectors who don't take them off, nor even wash the china if it's dirty) and neither of us noticed.  I'd put everything away ... so simply edited it out.  Everything has a full description of damage and restoration, I hid nothing except a sticky label.

The greenhouse has been demolished and the brambles all removed.  Next, the wire will go up on the side and a half of the veg garden that has neither wall nor greenhouse, then the chooks can roam.

And this afternoon, Hannah and Sam brought young Rupert to visit.  He is adorable!  Absolutely as delightful as he looked in his FB photos.  Ben was hopelessly overexcited to start with, so in the end we took them both outside and they had a whale of a time.  Although Roops is tiny compared to Benj, he wasn't at all afraid and they romped about.  When Rupert was chasing Ben was the funniest time, but I was laughing too much to think of taking pictures.  But here they are together.

Rupert is 8 months old now and will come here at the end of July for a couple of weeks - I expect we'll have Ben until the end of this month at least.  This is such fun, though the house is a complete shambles.  Still, it doesn't matter, does it?

Saturday 6 April 2013

Sh is for shining

1 The sun is shining again.  How unusual, to have the best weather at the weekends.

2 The descriptions and condition report for the auction in June are just about done, now the photos must be taken, then the catalogue can be set out ready to go to the printers.

3 Great quantities of brambles have been hacked back and a pile is ready to be burnt and the greenhouse is in the process of being dismantled.  I'm sad, it's my favourite greenhouse, but the decision makes sense for several reasons.

I'm beyond being sentimental, although I expect we won't dispose of the pieces yet.  Just in case...

4 A year ago, I was in India.  Nandini and Joe's wedding was first in Chennai on the 8th April and then in Vellore nearly a week later, on the 14th (two ceremonies: she's Hindu and he's Christian).  The temperature was over 40º C in Vellore.  I'm reminded of it by my Facebook picture, which is still of me talking to a temple elephant.  I should change it to something more recent.

5 The Sage is out and the dog is asleep.  It's marvellously quiet here.

Friday 5 April 2013

Smother love

Five things -

1 I seem to be making a habit of early-hours online conversations, but it really does while away the hours of insomnia in good company, so thanks to Zain and I hope you slept eventually - I did, right through the alarm, so just as well I didn't have any appointments first thing.

2 I don't think I can replicate Facebook videos here, but if you're on FB, do look at my page (befriending me first if need be, of course) and check out Rupert, who is adorable.  I should say, ADORABLE because .. well, you'll see.  I love him even more than Ben - not that I've met him yet - and have told Hannah it'll be hard to hand him back after their holiday.

3 Ben had a bit of leftover salmon from the fridge.  I only turned my back for a moment.  Little tinker.  Well, socking great bit tinker.  I can't remember how I trained Chester not to steal food, but I did - I just explained to Tilly and she promised never to do it again, and didn't.  At least he didn't get the leftover pork'n'leek sausages I was intending to eat for lunch.

4 The four 'affordable rent' houses next door are nearly ready, the utilities will be laid on next week and they're putting in the driveways etc - they look lovely.  Two are three-bedroom, the other two two-bedroom.  There was an open day at the village hall a few weeks ago and we went to find out the criteria for applying for one - very pleased that residency, now or in the near past, was the top requirement.  I'll probably write more about that at some time, but it comes close to the more-or-less political sort of thing I normally avoid, so may steer clear.


We all knew he'd end up on my lap.  He really is a bit big for it, but I've never known a dog who minded that.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Going around

My parents bought all their furniture at auctions in Dorset when they were first married and had no spare money at all.  They ran the hotel but took no wages and it was barely profitable - the price you could charge for meals was restricted in times of rationing after the war and, although they made money in the summer, it was mostly drained away during the winter.  My mother used to say that she put down £2 a week for flowers and picked them from the garden instead, and that was the only money she had, although they lived 'free' at the hotel, with a flat and all food provided.  This was no cheat, it was their hotel, originally belonging to my grandfather until he gave it to them on their marriage.

This was the money she used to furnish the flat.  At that time, as now, Victorian furniture was thoroughly out of fashion and it was worth very little.  So you could pick up good, solid stuff for a few pounds.  Her lovely, elegant four-poster bed cost £8, for instance.  One of the pieces was a revolving bookcase, an attractive one inlaid with satinwood with a central shell motif (you can tell I'm gearing up to write a sale catalogue, can't you?)  I was always very fond of that as a child, though not allowed to revolve it because she liked to keep the furniture in the same place and the wrong books would be at the front - later, when we had a portable television rather than a large one, it stood on top of the bookcase so it couldn't be turned then because of the wires.

I wrote in a post before Christmas that the Sage is often fairly rubbish at buying presents but that occasionally he came up trumps, and one year he bought me a revolving bookcase which, if you've been in my drawing room, you'll have seen.  I was very pleased - it's not as pretty as my mother's, but I like it all the same and it's extremely useful.

A couple of weeks ago, he came in saying he'd got a birthday present for Weeza - you've guessed it, the third revolving bookcase in the family (my sister now has the family one).  She was slightly surprised, I think, but the more she thought about it, the more pleased she was, not only because it's a nice one but because she was so touched to think that he went out and found it for her.  Present-buying is usually left to me.

I did go and buy her some presents in fact, more for Zerlina and Gus's sakes than anything, so that there would be PRESENTS! to open.  I bought lots, eight of so, of little things, some handcream, jars of nice food, sweets and chocolate, just odds and ends.  And after lunch, z and I made cakes.  Cupcakes are a lot bigger than proper fairy cakes, aren't they?  But at least they don't occupy the oven, tray after tray, for ages.  And then we decorated them, of course.  And you want pictures, innit?  Okay, I'll add them later - sorry, just noticed the time and must go and start on dinner.

Well, the pictures were remarkably similar, each to the next, so just one -
Enough candles to give a sense of occasion, but who, after leaving their teens, needs the exact number?

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Rambling Rosez

 Of course, I made a fundamental mistake with my list.  I didn't put anything simple down - well, one thing for the Sage to do, but everything else is a two-person job at least.  I won't bore you with the whole thing (though I have bored darling Martina, who is much too nice to admit to it) but here are a few items to give the flavour  - 'Fence the vegetable garden for the chickens', 'dismantle old greenhouse' (this is sad, but it's not worth repairing it, especially with two other greenhouses that we don't fill), 'take down summerhouse.'  Oh, and 'gather up all metal junk for scrap metal merchant.'  I've got a deadline for the end of this month for disposing of this and other junk, otherwise I'll order a skip and fill it (this is my compromise, but I'm a fool to have made it).  I prolly should add to the list the things I can do myself, to encourage me.  And add a column to mark each job's priority (ok, this is getting nerdish, I won't do that).

It was much colder this morning, so just as well I was going to a Nadfas lecture and not planning to work outdoors.  This afternoon, I had typing to do ... so faffed around doing not a lot except read the papers and play my current favourite iPhone game.  Yes, I know.  Well, I like games and if I want to waste time, it's my own.  In a few minutes my alarm will go off, reminding me that I have a date with the hairdresser.  I'm afraid that I smell of woodsmoke and probably have a lot of grit in my hair, but I didn't wash it this morning - h'm, probably have a pillow smelling of woodsmoke now.  Oh well.  I'll turn it upside down, not changing the bedclothes today.

Do you remember, you who are my sort of age, that we used not to wash our clothes and towels constantly?  Before the days of electric washing machines, when I was a child, when clothes were hand washed, *you* (your mother) sponged off marks and washed what was actually dirty.  In our case, we sent sheets and towels to the laundry, but we were very lucky to be able to afford it, it was much more work otherwise.

A few hours later

I had my hair cut.  I like going to the hairdresser and it was pleasantly relaxing.  I should get my photo taken for my new passport before I wash my hair and it goes to hell in a handcart again.  If hair can do that without me, that is.  Hell in a handcart sounds quite fun, but probably is a bit more rollercoaster than is pleasant.

I'm booked to play the organ for another funeral next week.  It's all making me ever so introspective.  This is a friend, actually, or he was until he withdrew into himself and didn't really want to see anyone. I'll be glad when Andy is able to play for funerals again.

Oh, and we had a letter from the cleaning agency saying that they came and couldn't raise us.  Sorry?  We were here and waiting.  I'd spent quite a long time tidying in preparation and stayed in all afternoon in case they were late.  No, I don't know and I can't be bothered to talk.  I'll email.

Darlings, I've foolishly drunk the third glass of wine (I only half fill the smallish glass so that it's a unit at a time, but all the same) and I'm tired because I don't sleep, so please ignore the short paragraphs and bitty nature of the post.  Tomorrow, Weeza is coming over with the children and we're looking forward to that, but the forecast is jolly cold so we're not sure what to do.

Oh, and Ro and Dora have booked a holiday in France which is very good, but sadly and without realising, they will be away for the blog party.  Ro (we didn't see Dora yesterday) is genuinely disappointed.  He would have loved to see you.  

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Happy Al day

1 It's Al's birthday today.  He's in his prime.  Weeza's birthday is on Thursday, when she's the product of two primes - well, the Sage and I were young then.  Actually, I was young, the Sage was the age that Al is now.  Which is comparatively young

2 I listened to a mild altercation between a customer and a shopkeeper over a matter of change.  The customer thought she'd been given a fiver too much, the shopkeeper was quite sure she'd been given £10 so the change was correct.  That each was so anxious not to diddle the other was rather lovely and typical of this town.

3 We went to visit Ro and I took my pruning saw.  His and Dora's house has various trees and shrubs in the garden that were planted when the house was built, mostly too close to the house itself.  Ro wanted my advice, which was either 'hack it back' or 'chop it down.'  So I did.  Ro took a while to saw through one branch and thought the next one was a bit much for me to manage.  He learned his mistake.  I have a two-handed technique that makes short work of a two-inch branch, even a dead one.

4 Sleep.  That'd be nice, hey.  Or more than an hour's worth at a time, anyway.  I'd have got up, but Ben would have wanted to go out and I didn't quite have the energy.

5 We took him with us to Norwich, just as well because he christened Al's garden appropriately - it was all right, I carry a plastic bag in my pocket - and it would have graced the passageway otherwise.  Unfortunately, it turns out he isn't that good a traveller and he had a little chunder on the way home.  I'd put a waterproof liner in the back of the Landrover with a comfy sheet on top, so unpleasant clearing-up wasn't needed, just a pick up and dump job.  All the same, only short car journeys from now on.  We had a nice lunch at Ro's local pub and left him there waiting to meet a friend, drinking Guinness and looking really rather relaxed.

Monday 1 April 2013

Z is a fool, as ever

We attacked outside this morning - I can't really call it a garden and 'the grounds' sounds absurd and pretentious for what it is.  Two hedges, box and privet, have been pruned quite hard (I wasn't there when the box was being cut back and it's twice the height I'd said.  I expect I'll do it myself next year and cut it to the ground because it is now at the height we want it to be eventually, which allows for no growth), a fence has been taken down and burned and some general tidying up has happened.

I'm not the ruthless type, in truth.  My natural inclination is live and let live, look before you leap, choose your cliché or your proverb.  But I've not kept an eye on the Sage and he is a hoarder, and somewhat slapdash to boot, nowadays.  He loves a new project and so do I, but I complete them and he loses interest and goes on to the next thing.  But I have had to give in, take it on board that I have no say at all in the most important areas of our life, so have to make the best of things.  It's a losing battle - those of you who, like me, are fans of Saki, think of The Mappined Life.  Decision-making and choice are so often a delusion, but one is happier when one doesn't know it.

In short, as you'll have gathered, the outside gets me down but I'm trying to make the best of it.  A good deal has been done and I'm going to make a list of the most essential jobs this month.  I'll attempt a rule that if it's not on the list it has to wait unless it has been discussed, though the Sage doesn't follow rules and, on the infrequent occasions we have help in the garden, he says what goes.  He calls me out, asks what the priorities are, I say there's no point because he'll do something else, he insists so I say - and nothing I say gets done and I wish he hadn't gone through the false consultation.  It did today because I was mostly there and I got stuck in, I like hard work and it's far better for me to do it than the Sage because he takes medication for his heart nowadays and I won't have him working too hard.  I take a lot of care of him, drive when it's more than half an hour or so, carry anything heavy, go upstairs if something is needed - all the obvious, but he'd be oblivious, if you'll excuse the play on words.

Fed up?  Oh yes, not at the work but at its overwhelming nature.  Every year we start out with good intentions, but it's too much.  Frost all year round might stop the grass growing but, even after the winter (and spring so far) that we've had, I can't see that happening.  Many tons of concrete is a serious temptation.