Gustatory gusto

Today, Dora’s bridesmaids held a baby shower for her.  There is less than three weeks before the baby is due, so he might as well turn up any time – she looks very well but, now the weather is getting much warmer, she’s not particularly comfortable.  It was all great fun and I’ve eaten a lot of cake.  Delicious as it was, I’m supposed to be cutting down on food, having gained a stone in the last few months, for which  I don’t blame LT, I blame myself entirely.  Anyway, it’s churlish not to enter into the spirit of the event with gusto.

If Dora has the energy, she and Ro will call over tomorrow, at least for lunch and we may go out together afterwards – I will, anyway.  That’ll mean I’ve seen all my children except Dilly in a matter of four days, which is lovely.  Dilly had taken Squiffany to ballet when I went over there on Thursday.

The schools have finished for half term, which means that, by the time I get home with LT again, I’ll be in my last half term as a governor.  And I feel a bit melancholy – though I’m finishing by choice and this has been planned for the last few years.  All the same, it’s a retirement from something I’ve enjoyed a lot of the time, been challenged and stretched by, have battled on behalf of – I’m a Vicar of Bray figure, I suppose.  I work with anyone I need to (I mean, the *whenever* current government policies), agree with some things and cope with others, and take the balanced, long-term view, whilst recognising that going with the flow but doing your own thing quietly, under the current, is generally more effective than fighting against it.

This post was meant to be about Dora, not me nor the school.  What I really want to say is how much I love all my six children – because my in-laws are counted as my children – and I’m so thankful for them.  I’m also thankful that they like and accept LT as part of the family too.  Lucky Z.

Dyno-Zed

This morning’s achievement was an unlooked-for one, but was reasonably satisfying (and certainly necessary) all the same.  I’d left a pan to soak overnight and, this morning, I emptied the cooled water into the sink, where it stayed.  So I trotted outside to look at the drain, which was overflowing.  And I got a plunger and poked about a bit, without much effect, boiled a kettle of water and poured it, with some washing soda in, and the water moved down a bit but it was still blocked.  So then, being a sensible Z, I lifted the drain cover, a few yards away, and was very relieved that it was completely clear.  Evidently, it was a job within my scope, then.

After that, it only took about another ten minutes.  I managed to get the drain rod into place and waggled it sufficiently to clear the blockage, put down the rest of the washing soda, let the hot tap run until I could see the water in the drain ran clear, put back the cover, reboiled the kettle and had a cup of tea and sat down for a bit.  And reflected that Tim has found a Treasure.

I’ve started to put the bantams’ treats in their greenhouse run – it’s general food leftovers, soaked bread, greens and so on – and this morning (as I do it before letting them through) I didn’t shut the door behind me.  One of the black barn cats followed me and was very alarmed to find he couldn’t get out again, missing panes having been filled in by netting.  I opened the door wide but he was too anxious to realise (cats aren’t very bright, I’ve found), so I went to open up the chicken run, hoping he might go in there through the tunnel and then out.  But, unsurprisingly, once chickens started to come through, he retreated.  In the end, I had to ward them off with a broom, leaving the door wide open and, luckily, he found it.  Zain tried to come in, but he’s tame enough to pick up briefly and I shooed him out.  And a couple of chickens stood at the open door, but they aren’t used to going out now and hesitated long enough to be chivvied away too.

Another sit-down ensued. I haven’t got much else done this morning.  I’m going out now to stock up on food for the barn cats.  They like GoKat or dry food from the pet shop.  They won’t eat Co-op own brand.  When feral cats won’t eat something (they’ve been known to pinch some of the chickens’ soaked bread), it must be poor stuff.

Z fills the unforgiving minute

I’ve been most wonderfully sociable today, which I enjoyed very much.

On Thursday, my gardener Wince comes, so we discussed the jobs for the day and then I went to get ready to leave for coffee with my friend Mary in Beccles.  But a few minutes before I was due to leave, my friend Pam phoned (yes, darlings, I’ve got more than one friend!) and so – having been invited to dinner in due course, with LT – I left the house a bit later than intended, and then realised I didn’t have change for the car park (in this neck of the woods, car parks don’t give change and don’t take notes) so scurried round again, looking for coins.  After a quick text to Mary to say I’d be a few minutes late, I set off.

I hadn’t known how much the car park would be, but I had more than enough for £1.40 for two hours, so that was all right.  Then I spent a couple of hours, after lunch, potting up plants in the greenhouse and planting out tomatoes, before heading out to Al’s to give young Hadrian his birthday present.

I spent quite a while with Hay and Pugsley because their father was on the phone, sorting out a couple of new mobile contracts for him and Dilly.  “That was an hour and a quarter out of my life I won’t get back,” he said.  We had a few minutes to chat before the phone rang again – he’s even less sociable, normally, than I am, so it was unusual … in the end, we finished our conversation and I came home and shut up the chickens.  I was barely in the door when Roses came through in search of gin, which was willingly provided.  An hour or so later, as she was making going home noises, the phone rang.   “That’ll be Tim, ” she said – but it was Wink.

Half an hour later, I cooked dinner, at about 9 o’clock, and then finally rang Tim.  And we talked for nearly an hour.

I listened to Act 3 of Julius Caesar while I was planting tomatoes, and all five parts of Mary Ann In Autumn (Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City) while I was in the car.  Because you don’t get back time that isn’t spent doing something.  But relaxing is doing something too.

Two posts in one day – like the old days of blogging!

The reason is that I didn’t write yesterday, of course – this morning’s post is really yesterday’s.

Tim has headed back to his place, where I will join him next week.  I’ve got a lot to do here first though, mostly in the garden because, by the time we get back, everything that’s now waiting for better weather before being planted out will be bursting out of the pots.  I’ve got Thursday and Friday in hand – which hasn’t stopped me arranging to meet a friend for coffee in Beccles tomorrow.

Tomorrow is young Hadrian Swallow’s fifth birthday.  He is Al and Dilly’s youngest, an adorably solemn little boy.  Ro and Dora’s first baby is due in three weeks’ time – we’re all tremendously looking forward to having a baby in the family again.

I’m not going to bother to light the fire tonight – it’s not been warm enough many evenings to do without – but have put on the electric fire in the study.  Unless there’s anything I Must Watch on the television, of course, but that seems unlikely.  I may watch something via the computer, or listen to music – though LT and I both love music, he is deeply unimpressed that I listen on the computer or, worse, on my phone.  He doesn’t get how someone who is reasonably musical can bear poor-quality reproduction.  There’s no argument on the subject of course; he’s right.  I’m just not too bothered.  I’m musical but he’s a musician, that’s the difference, I think.  This afternoon, potting on tomato plants in the greenhouse, I was quite happy listening to Hoagy Carmichael on my phone.

And we each came home with a goody bag…

A day off from practical things – we went to the brewery and distillery in Southwold, in which I have a few shares.  They look after their shareholders very well – with good reason; a few years ago there was a hostile takeover bid which was voted down with the help of the individual shareholders, who appreciate the quality and good reputation of the company.  Twice a year, they offer a visit round the whole place – the brewery/distillery and the distribution centre a mile or so out of town, followed by lunch.  I knew LT would enjoy it and, though I’ve been a couple of times ago, I looked forward to it too.

The latest bit of kit is two astonishing copper stills, which look more like something out of a Jules Verne book than anything else.  Their unique quality as a distillery is that they don’t buy in the alcohol base, but make it from scratch – initially, it’s the same process as making beer, but without the hops.  The gin has become really popular, and they’re working on the whisky (which has to be matured for years, which is the reason little has been made available yet), hence the two new stills.  The process is described here.

After the tour, we sat down to lunch – I’ve been here before so knew that the sandwiches and canapés brought round were only the start – my neighbour (the other side of LT) didn’t and helped himself fairly liberally.  I paced myself…

When we got home, my cleaners had just arrived, so we sat down with the papers and dozed off to the sound of hoovering and scrubbing, which was jolly good.  And we just had a kipper and a slice of brown bread each for supper.  Though I had made it out to my clarinet lesson in the early evening.

Z lists just one. Which isn’t a list, really.

Being the cautious type, I didn’t put out the plants we bought at the street market – it wasn’t that I seriously thought there might be another frost, but we’ve had some cold winds and they can set plants back quite badly.  But, though it’s not reliably warm yet, we decided to plant up some pots today, with pelargoniums and so on.  We moved them about a bit first – there’s still more to do in this regard, I’ve got some old sinks that we want to plant up, but we haven’t found the right place for them yet – and so the place is starting to look ready for summer.  Tim is going back to his other home on Wednesday and we’re busy tomorrow, so this was the only chance, though I’ve got courgettes and so on to plant by the weekend.

That’s today’s only achievement, but one per day is quite all right.

Tomorrow, we’re going to a piss-up in a brewery.

Not too lazy Sunday

Today’s achievements

1 The roast pork had perfect crackling.  There’s some pork left, but none of the crackling.

2 About a third of the wood pile has been cut up and stored in the woodshed.

3 Not specifically today’s, I discovered it a few days ago – if I put food in the chicken run during the day when they’re in their greenhouse run, they go home when they’re ready, eat and roost.  At about 5 o’clock, all I have to do is go and shut the hatch to the tunnel.  It and the greenhouse aren’t fox-proof, so I have to close it.

4 Lovely friend in Seattle, who comments here as Kippy, sent me a letter in the night and I’ve written back.  I’m not a good letter correspondent at all, but I really wish I were.

5 I’ve read the whole of the weekend newspapers.  Just about to start on the crosswords.

What Z’s done

I’m unambitiously working on the principle of having something achieved every day, which might be quite a small thing – not feeding the chickens or other items of the daily routine, but an accomplishment, however modest, that makes me feel I’ve made progress.

Not that I’m knocking the fact of achieving everything in the daily routine, mind you, there are times when, for some of us in periods of tiredness, stress or depression, getting out of bed and eating something is enough.  That’s not a situation I find myself in at present, very much the contrary, but I’m aiming to find a balance between constant busyness and being lazy.

I am finding it difficult to get around to writing, not because I’ve lost my blogging mojo but because, now I’ve moved the computer back into the study, I don’t write in the evening unless I leave LT on his own for half an hour or so after dinner and neither of us wants that.  So I’ll come back to the “five things” posts, in the hope it’ll only take a few minutes and I’ll actually do that.

So here are five achievements of the week – not all of them done by me, however.

1 The bonfire heap, which was huge, has been cleared, four tree stumps hauled out, rubbish buried and ash spread and covered with topsoil.  The same man who dealt with the septic tank pipe and soakaway came with his small digger to do the job, which took most of the day.  I mentioned that he hadn’t sent his bill for the first lot of work but, as soon as I have it for the entire job, I’ll pay same day.  He said he knows I will.  Of any of his customers, he’d have least doubt of me.  “I’d trust you with my life,”he said, extravagantly but charmingly.

2 The last of the roof tiles (I have surplus of everything, darlings) have been put in the Dutch barn by my friend with a fork-lift on his tractor.  LT and I went to fetch an extra pallet to spread them out a bit more, they’d been rather piled up on four or five pallets from where they’d reposed for several years in the rough grass.  Then he shifted them, then we moved them again so we could reuse another of the pallets and they’re now all tidily stacked under cover.  We’ve got some kerbs to shift and some other bits and pieces, but they have to go on pallets first.  I’ll need help with that, but it’s lined up for next weekend, weather permitting.  And then, after a few more small items have been shifted, there will be a clear run for the mower.  It’ll be great.

3 Today, LT and I (after a little rest from our exertions in tile carrying) potted up the pepper and the squash plants.  Everything in the greenhouse is coming on well and I just want today’s chilly wind to leave us before things are planted into the garden.

4 LT had an evening in London, meeting up with former work colleagues.  So I went to Norwich for lunch, whizzed back to take him to the station, then back for two school meetings and home again to spend a solitary evening – dry too, darlings, because I was picking him up from the station again later.  Earlier in the week, we’d been to a Nadfas lecture, which was a first for him, and lunch in Norwich afterwards.  Such a social whirl, quite remarkable.

5 More of a social whirl, our good friend Revd Dave came for tea on Wednesday.  I made two cakes in celebration – and, for the greater achievement, he kindly took half a dozen eggs away with him and we had eggs for dinner, which meant we managed to use up 18 in a single day.  We took my old friend Jan out to lunch on Friday too and Weeza and co are coming for lunch tomorrow.  Splendid.

Startlingly, I opened the local paper on Friday to find we were pictured at the Street Market.  Just a random snap, I daresay it was my keenly pointing arm that attracted the editor’s attention.  Always a bit of a shock when you see yourself unexpectedly, like hearing a recording of your own voice.  Still, LT has made the local rag, which must make him an official resident.

Z is hopeful

Yagnub had its garden Street Fair today so I took two large shopping baskets and we set off.  Walking there and back is too much for my hip now (and carrying the plants that I had in mind to buy would be beyond us anyway, not enough arms for a start) so I drove most of the way and we parked on the Dam and walked the last few hundred yards.  The weather pixies had been kind and the whole road was packed with people walking very, very slowly, enjoying themselves.

It was fun.  Fewer plant stalls, I think, than last year, but there was still a good choice.  We bought various perennials, herbs and plants for tubs and had to make a half-time trip back to the car.  On our return, we bought lunch from our butcher’s hog roast stand and leaned against a wall to eat it, then went into a local pub/restaurant for a pint.  They’d got some rather tempting home-make cakes and so on and we each had a little strawberry tart.  We saw various friends – of mine, that is, I’m still introducing LT to people.

Later, we potted up or planted out everything that we could (not the more tender plants, I treat those pixies with respect rather than complete trust) and we feel remarkably self-satisfied.

Last night, we watched the BBC’s production of Henry VI Part 2/3 – they’ve condensed three plays into two.  I watched the first part last week on iPlayer, while LT was away and so had more than a vague idea this time of whose side people were on – neither of us had seen any of the plays before and I’ve only a moderate handle on the Wars of the Roses.  A lot of deaths, mostly the gory sort, which was very jolly.  I’m looking forward immensely to Richard III next week, which is a play I know very well.  I can almost sing along, as it were.

I’ve finally got around to writing my formal resignation letter to the chairman of governors.  I’ve still got a half term to go, but the scent of freedom is in the air.  I’ve really found the last 28 years of being a school governor fulfilling, though every successive government has been a challenge to work with at times (diplomacy still reigns) but it’s time to stop.  And then my time will be my own (and Tim’s) to a greater extent than any other period of my life, I should think.

Kindness

LT and I were chatting over dinner, which can go in any direction as we still have a lot to share about each other, and I found myself telling him about my friend Jeni and her kindness at a difficult time.

My mother was remarkably well, considering she had terminal pancreatic cancer, until she wasn’t.  And, coincidentally, the day the doctor told me that she had turned the final corner, her greyhound dropped his leg into a rabbit hole on the marshes and broke it badly.  So, the next morning, I had to take him to the specialist orthopaedic vet in North Norfolk.  I’d explained this to my mum and that a nurse would be coming to help her (with a morphine driver) at about midday, which was when I was due back – but, for some reason I can’t remember, Russell had to go out for a while and it was unavoidable.  So I phoned Jeni and she came.

She and mummy had as much fun as was possible.  Jeni knew my mother, to the last, liked to look her best, so she put her make-up on her and showed her in the mirror that she was pretty.

My mum died that night.  How lucky she was, to go gently.

And then, Jeni and my other friend Jenny helped me with the food for the funeral (which was the entry to the anecdotage with Tim) and that was another great kindness.