Z gives the News. Lots of news

Scrabble’s chicks have hatched. I think she has six, but I’m not investigating too far at present. I went to feed the cats this morning and peeped through a gap in the coop where a plank has slipped, and could see some babies. So I went to fetch a box and ask Tim for help, then set up food, water and grit in the run and we went back to the coop (which is under cover in the Dutch barn, very safe and comfortable but not suitable long term) to fetch the family. Scrabble was sitting, all her brood beneath her. I’d seen four chicks, I thought, but perhaps there were more still hatching and moving them now could be a mistake. So I replenished food for Scrabble and chicks as well as water for all and we left them.

It was chill and windy later, so I decided another day or two under cover would do no harm. Scrabble looks devoted to her babies and it’s not cold and they are safe.

Wince works so hard, it’s unbelievable. He’s weeded the entire bed on the kitchen garden side of The Wall – it’s incredibly dry. Sedums were wilting. Rain was forecast as a possibility and it must have rained somewhere, because it was in the air – putting me off painting – but it remained dry apart from a few desultory drops in the early evening. Wince also found time to cut back weeds on the path to the back door, so we don’t have to fight our way past any more.

None of this is the news. The bad news will have to come before the good, because that’s the order in which things will happen. Rose has decided it’s time to branch out and leave the Zedery annexe. She’s a decisive woman and it’s all happened quite quickly, once lettings were allowed by our astonishing government, and she moves on Monday. Her Boy and his Girl have already moved out – peculiarly, since he’s enjoyed my hospitality for several years at no charge, he didn’t come to say goodbye, but there’s the young for you. Rose and I, on the other hand, had an illicit hug, with averted faces. We couldn’t not.

So this is the end of a lovely time. For nearly six years, we’ve supported each other and it’s a wonderful friendship that I treasure. We will still be friends, of course, there’s no change there.

The annexe would be empty, however. We didn’t want to rent it out to anyone as it’s part of our home. But we don’t really want to leave it empty, which seems wrong. I suggested that perhaps my sister Wink would like to have it as a holiday home? And then things fell into place. Maybe she would like to move here. At once, this felt right and happy. Tim felt so too and, if he hadn’t, the suggestion would not have progressed. But we wholeheartedly agreed and, when I phoned Wink to ask, she said yes as well. We are so excited.

Her original intention had been to move to Norwich once she retired, but we all feel this is better. The whole family is looking forward to her coming back to us. She is visiting later this month, which will also give her the chance to meet baby Perdita for the first time and we hope to make arrangements then.

Z ponders unprofessionalism

I had an email from my dentist this afternoon. Dentists are permitted by the government to open from next Monday, under strict conditions. My dentist explained that neither the opening nor the conditions were discussed with actual dentists in advance. They heard about it on the news like the rest of us.

The unprofessional lack of respect, courtesy and ability from the government reminded me of my dentist and doctor from childhood, in two respects. The dentist was a friend, though not a close one, of my parents. They met at the same parties, they had mutual friends, though they never visited each other’s houses. That level. Apparently – I don’t know if it’s true but it was what my mother said – he’d started as an army dentist and, basically, pulled out any teeth he couldn’t easily fix by drilling and filling. She was quite disparaging about him. Yet she sent her precious children to him. What? The pressure of social acquaintance, I suppose. Surely a specialist children’s dentist could have been found, or at least a better one? My dentist once remarked to me that I’ve got a surprising number of fillings, considering that I’ve got strong teeth and look after them well. I knew the reason.

I don’t much remember our original family doctor, whose name was David Boswell and whose son was called Charles and about my age. Very nice boy. I didn’t know him well but he was likeable. Dr Boswell retired to Aldeburgh and we had another doctor, who was a friend of my parents’ and he was old-fashioned, but not in a bad way. Good, solid and reliable and he delivered my son Alex at home, which shows trust on my part – however, there was a time when my sister felt under great personal stress and went to him for professional advice. Before she got home, he’d phoned to tell my mother about it. What? There was hell to pay, my mother was more furious that my sister’s personal problems had been shared than that she had them.

Well, anyway. What I’m getting at is that standards are higher now. Thank goodness for that. Mistakes are made and, unfortunately, lessons are not always learned because they are often covered up. But they’re rare and, if found out, investigated.

As for today, it’s been a lot cooler and we’ve cracked on well with the fence. C can’t come tomorrow and we’re busy on Friday with our Zoom chat with the family. So I might do some more or it might be left until next week.

I hooked some blanket weed out of the pond and dumped it next to the pond so that any creatures caught would be able to crawl back. But then it occurred to me that blanket weed is quite dense and they might get stuck, so I spent half an hour carefully going through it all and rescuing any live thing I found. That included two young newts and three newt tadpoles, just getting their legs. It lifted my heart, darlings. I love newts. They remind me of my childhood, which is a tale I have probably told you and I should resist anecdotage.

Ladies in waiting

I’m not sure if I said, that Eloise cat’s knee is no better and the suspicion that it’s the cruciate ligaments has been deemed to be correct. An x-ray would confirm, but there’s no real point. Sebastian the vet and Tim and I all agree from experience. His is the greater and backed up by training, of course, but we had it happen last year. So he contacted the specialist vet, we had a phone call back and Eloise is booked in for Thursday of next week. In the meantime, she’s mostly caged but we let her out several times a day, either indoors or out. If she’s out, one of us follows her. She isn’t thrilled about that, but remains polite because she’s a sweet-natured cat.

It has been exhaustingly humid today, but we still got things done. Tim made a fabulous roasted tomato and butternut squash soup for dinner, I did some gardening and some paperwork and C and I spent another couple of hours painting the fence. We’re about a third of the way along now, maybe a little more. I’m tired out by the time we’ve finished but I think it’s the heat rather than the work.

Lovely fruit from Simon Greengrocer today, including nectarines, cherries, apricots and strawberries. This is a wonderful time of the year for fresh food, isn’t it?

Still no sign of chicks from Scrabble. I don’t know when she started sitting because I didn’t make a note of it, so I am not sure if she’s got much hope.

Lost and found 2

I could have asked for something at any time and would have been given it, or the money to buy it, but I never did. I was an undemanding child. Books were regularly bought, of course and I was uninterested in clothes whereas my mother loved them, so she tended to choose my clothes anyway. Sweets didn’t get bought, though ice cream did in the summer, so being given sweets or chocolate was a huge treat. I made them last a long time. As I had no money, occasional gifts of it were spent carefully, usually on presents, as were book tokens when I was of an age to buy presents for my family instead. It puzzles me now that no one seemed to notice that I produced a bought present when I had no money to buy it with. No one, rightly, would ever have thought I’d have stolen it.

Looking back, my sense of honour did become blurred once a year. It started when Pearson and I found a few coins down the back of an armchair. It would have been pennies, a thrupenny bit at most. If I’d told my mother we’d found it, she would have told us to keep it, there’s no question of that. But somehow, the secrecy became the point.

Pearson was my mother’s godson and he lived with his parents and sister Lyndal – I’m not sure how it was spelt – in Basingstoke. He was about my age and he came for several years to spend the summer holidays with us. I got on with him well. I didn’t play with dolls, which I thought were girly – the funny thing was that when any boys came round, they loved a dolls’ tea party and we had to make do with cuddly toys. I liked going to their houses because they had cars and trains.

Anyway, we found some money and then we found more pennies in a drawer of odds and ends. There was no question we’d look in a handbag, pocket or purse. It had to be lost money because that didn’t have an owner, and we’d go down to the village and spend it on sweets and biscuits on the day before Pearson was due to leave and we’d have a private feast. The fact that we bought that sort of food was the reason for the secrecy, of course, because it would have been met with disapproval.

By about the third year, we were running out of places to find the coins, but I suppose we were growing out of it by then anyway. I was about 12 the last time he came to stay.

My mother tended not to use cash anyway, because they had accounts at all the shops they used regularly. And if I was sent shopping, I just asked for it to be put on the account and breezed out with the goods. One could phone and the order would be delivered the same day.

Funnily enough, I just broke off from writing this a minute ago to answer the phone. It was the deli in Yagnub, where I emailed my order a couple of hours ago. I’ve emailed my greengrocer order too and I’ll pick both up tomorrow. I’ve gone back 50 years. The fishmonger called this morning and we bought crabs (Eloise cat was very pleased) and halibut. And I’ve ordered a case of wine and another case turned up the other day from our local vineyard as our annual benefit as members of their supporters’ club.

There are changes coming up at the Zedery, which I’ll tell you about in a week or so. In the meantime, C and I are going to spend a couple of hours painting the fence.

Lost and found 1

I’m not sure how the subject came up, after dinner. Tim and I chat and one thing leads to another. It was something to do with pocket money and the buying of records and that I couldn’t because I didn’t receive pocket money.

My parents were quite well heeled when I was a child and they were generous and I certainly could have received pocket money, except for one wretched child called Bob the junior conman. My sister took the school bus from the age of five, which called at the bottom of the drive up to the hotel my parents ran. Our father took her down the drive on the back of his motorbike. Helmets were not involved in 1953. Once Wink was a schoolgirl, she was given pocket money, which was hers to spend without supervision – there was a little village shop and garage at the bottom of the drive where she could go and buy sweets or a comic while she waited for Daddy and the motorbike.

After a few weeks, it was noticed that she never had anything she might have spent her money on. She didn’t mention it until delicately questioned when, wide-eyed with anxiety, she told our parents all about *poor* Bob. He sat next to her on the bus and let her know all about the poverty of his family, they had nothing to eat and dressed in rags and…..kind, gullible Wink handed over her pocket money every week.

Once this deception had been uncovered, Wink was never entrusted with pocket money again. More importantly, non-gullible Z, who was taken to school by car as there wasn’t a bus, wasn’t given any either.

This is the preamble, darlings. I don’t seem to have touched on the substance of the post yet. I’ll add 1 to the title and come back to it tomorrow.

Z is helped. That is, Z will be helped.

Now that the fence all down the drive is in place, it has to be painted with wood preservative. I checked the shed, because I knew I had some, and found it was just one big tub, 5 litres, which would certainly be nowhere near enough. The local shop where I bought it isn’t open at present, so I checked online and found that the price has risen startlingly. I finally found a 20 litre, I think it is, tub that is still nearly double what the other cost, but was the best value. The date I was due to receive it was 8th-10th June and I actually got it yesterday. I nearly didn’t buy it because it would take a fortnight to come rather than the day it actually took. When it was delivered, it was left outside the porch door and I meant to carry it indoors. I couldn’t lift it. Nor could Tim when he tried. It’s not the weight, but the awkwardness of the wire handle, but it will certainly be decanted into smaller tubs.

I’ve a lovely friend in the village who, when I mentioned the intention on Facebook, cheerfully offered to come and help. She is one of the best and nicest people I know and she meant it. I’d call on her if I were in trouble, that’s how much I think of her. I’m not a great caller-on, this is a bigger thing than it sounds. Anyway, next week we will get started. I have already looked out my old and scruffiest trousers to ruin and have a ditto dress in case it’s just too hot to work in trousers.

Once that is done, there are a lot of other fences and sheds and so on to paint. They were all done about three years ago but I’ve been noticing that they’re due another coat. So being home, unable to visit the places I’d like to go to this summer, does at least mean that I have no excuse to neglect this sort of thing. I won’t let C. know this of course, imposition goes only so far.

I have asked my friendly local builders to come and paint the gable end at the front of the house, too, as well as soffit boards and so on. I can’t manage the job myself, it’s too high up, especially as some repairs to the woodwork are needed. I do have some scaffolding, if it’s required. This was left behind several years ago after a job was done and, though I reminded the people two or three times, they never picked it up. So I’ve taken pity on it and given it a good home.

Which reminds me, the barn cats didn’t turn up for breakfast or tea yesterday. I wasn’t worried exactly, I supposed they’d had a good night’s hunting, but usually at least one comes along to make sure I don’t forget to put food out. Two of them have visited today, so that’s all right. I’d have worried by now, however needlessly. I’m putting out food and water for hedgehogs too. Not that cats know cat food is actually hedgehog food, but I’m putting it right outside the house door, where they’re too timid to come. It vanishes by the morning, so I hope it’s hedgehogs. It’s so very dry, they will struggle this year.

Z wants to go back

The conversation ranges at dinnertime with LT and me and we were talking about restaurants and it came to Glasgow, which we’d both visited some years ago – the circuitous route isn’t relevant, so I won’t go into those details, but it then turned to museums and art galleries, and those we’d visited that we dearly want to go to again.

My top place goes to the Burrell Collection. I don’t often have an absolute favourite, but I do here. If you’ve never been, do. Just go. When it opens, booking will be necessary and so on and Lord knows when any sort of normal life will resume, but go. It is the best museum I have ever been to and I had one morning there and would have gone back every day of my Scottish visit, if I could have. I blogged it at the time and I’ll look and put up a link to the post at the end.

Another one is the Kröller-Müller museum in the Netherlands. An art gallery with an amazing collection of van Goghs and other artists and a sculpture garden, with a park that you can cycle round on borrowed bikes.

There’s the Last Invasion Tapestry in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire in Wales. I’ve been there twice and could visit any day. It’s upstairs in the council office and you go through the library to get there. It’s a community project. It’s wonderful. You see something clever and witty and new every time. I can’t recommend it enough.

During lockdown, Ronan completed a jigsaw that I’d bought him on that Dutch trip, which was just so damn difficult that he had given up at the time. It’s the Panorama Mesdag, in The Hague. This is (I blogged this at the time too) a circular painting of the beach at Scheveningen in 1881. It was one of those things that you don’t have high expectations of, so its fabulousness is a greater surprise than you expect. Saying Scheveningen is a test of your Dutch pronunciation, by the way. Mine isn’t great but it’s better than most English people, because I had Dutch au pairs to teach me and I was a mimic. Rubbish at vocabulary, good at pronunciation.

Here are the posts about the Burrell

So there we are, darlings. Not the most prestigious galleries but some of the most enjoyable and quirky. More are coming to mind as I write, so this subject will be returned to, I am sure.

Z levels up

In the bottom picture of yesterday’s post, you might have noticed a small galvanised trough full of water. You might even have observed that it was brimful. This has been a nuisance because it has overflowed constantly on several occasions in the last three or four years. We’ve shored up one end, tied the ballcock at the feed-in end, bent the bar holding the ballcock (Jonny the farmer did that, it was beyond my strength and even LT’s) and it only helped for a while. But the tank needed to be cleaned out anyway, so Wince the gardener kindly bucketed out the water, I having tied up the ballcock (I do hope everyone knows what that is and doesn’t think I’m being rude. While we’re about it, don’t you think that cockchafer is the Best Bug Name Evah?) and then I tipped it on one side to scrub and rinse it.

It turned out that it wasn’t possible to add bricks at one corner to build it up, as I’d planned, but I was able to remove a piece of concrete slab from the highest corner to lower that end instead. This seems to have sorted it out, though it’s still got a higher water level than I really want. Anyway, I’m pleased to have it done, though I smelt a bit funky for the rest of the day. I said to Wince, it reminds me of the river mud I used to frolic in as a child. I didn’t mind the smell, though it was just as well Tim isn’t here to be obliged to politely not notice.

My usual keenness over cooking has escaped me. I’ve had cheese for lunch and a thrown-together meal in the evening. Tonight’s was straight out of the freezer, in fact; salmon and roasted vegetables left over from a meal before lockdown. When Tim is away, I eat the single portion leftovers I’ve frugally frozen, but he’s not been away for nearly three months and several of them are languishing there. I’m genuinely considering buying an everyday freezer and putting the big chest one down in the workshop, even though I know that would be really stupid.

I don’t think freezers are very well designed, in truth. Upright ones hardly hold anything, whereas with big chest freezers, most stuff gets lost in the bottom. I haven’t got a better design myself, though there should be one.

Scrabble is still sitting and the coop awaits her and chicks. Neville, who is putting up the new fence, found a clutch of three eggs yesterday and showed them to me. I thought I’d leave them, to see if a bantam is laying there currently. She is. Today, there are four. I’ll mark them tomorrow and start taking one every day. I really don’t want more chicks. It’s not exactly a lot of work, but it is a good deal of bother. I can find homes for surplus chickens, that’s not the problem, though surplus cockerels is and there are always more boys than girls.

Eloise cat has spent the night and day in her crate, except for a few times when I’ve let her out into the room. She doesn’t walk more than a few steps and that’s at a hobble. I have little hope that it’s just a strain. Unless there’s a marked improvement over the weekend, I’ll phone the vet on Monday and ask to be booked in with the specialist.

I also did some weeding in the front garden, which always comes last in the pecking order. I weeded until I was bored, strimmed away some weeds until I was bored, and so on. I have a very low attention span, but quite a lot was done in half an hour. I’m pleased with my battery-driven strimmer. It’s a girlie’s tool really, it has a plastic ‘blade’ instead of a spool but the battery lasts well and I can’t manage the weight of a petrol one. I’m happy to be a girlie, albeit a very old one.

Eloise is finally pawing away in her litter tray. She has lasted for 36 hours without using it. Cats are fine using one after the first time, but can hang on for ages initially.

Z gives the good news first

Let’s start with the good news, because we all need to tell each other what’s good. This is all what’s taking place in this little neck of the Zedery woods, which probably washes right over your concerns, but let’s be cheerful, darlings, whenever we can manage it.

LT has gone down to his house in Reading. It’s nearly 3 months since he was last there, his neighbour has kept an eye on the place, his gardeners have kept it tidy and all has been okay. But he’s felt the need to visit and, besides, his insurance policy stipulates that the house shouldn’t be empty for more than three months. He has taken all the food etc he needs and will only leave the house for his morning newspaper.

I have done a lot more gardening, mostly planting out. Only some sunflowers and tomato plants to go, plus a few seeds to be sown. Although it’s so dry, as I was saying yesterday, that I don’t know if seeds will germinate. I did see the first runner bean seedlings have come up, though.

Being busy outside is getting me through this. I know I can overthink and so what if I do? It’s only me with the sleepless nights. However, getting on with digging, planting, cooking, caring for plants when I’ve wanted to care for my family, it’s a help. I have seen all my children over the past week, which has also helped immensely.

The new fence alongside the drive is almost finished. It’s a wooden railed fence rather than wire and the posts are on the drive side so that, if cattle push against them, they are on the stronger side and it won’t collapse. I’ve got a new hardwood gate and the one I bought a few years ago is being repositioned, to make a way through behind the vegetable garden so that deliveries are easier.

Ro has kindly upped the upload limit so that I can post photos again.

Dry grass. It’s not usually this dry in August.
Across the field
A barnful of wood
From the doorway
The new fence
And the new gate. It doesn’t look like £500sworth, but it’s hardwood, unlike the last one
The last of the wood, waiting to be split

The chimney sweep sent a message today, so I’ve booked him for early August. Then the Aga service chap phoned and he’s coming next week. All very nice and normal.

However, the day fell apart rather at about 9.30, when Eloise cat mewed to be let in. She has her teaspoon of homemade yoghurt with our breakfast – she won’t touch bought yoghurt – and then goes out. When LT left, he said to give Eloise her love and he’d be back by the weekend. I passed on the message, to be met by sad, pain-filled eyes. She was limping. I panicked and phoned the vet at once.

You may remember that she ruptured the cruciate ligaments in her left hind leg a year ago. Now, she might well have done the other leg. I have put her in her cage and the vet has advised to let her out to walk, three times a day, to see if it improves with painkillers and rest. If not – and he found movement (in a bad way) in the joint, she’ll need another operation. Last year was £2,000 (plus x-ray and checkups) and a month in the cage, followed by a fortnight indoors. But there. It’ll either improve in a few days or we all need to cope with it again. She is the most expensive pet I’ve ever had, who’d think it of a moggy? But we both adore her.

The good news is, our care over her diet has paid off. She has lost a kilo in the last six months and only has another pound to go.

Z in the garden

I went to dig the weeds out of a flowerbed, because I’ve a number of plants needing a home. Alongside the Wall and against the drive, the larger bed is fairly established now but the other one, which is about 20 foot by 6 foot, still needs some planting up. It is, I discovered, incredibly dry for this time of year. A rose bush that had young leaves and flower buds has quietly dried up. I hope it will survive but I’m not at all sure. Irises are doing well and so is a rosemary and a lavender, as well as a clematis and a few other things, but it’s desperately dry overall. I walked down the drive later and took photos of the Ups and Downs on the way back. The new fence has been taking ages, so cattle have not yet been put on. There’s not much point now; the ground is dry and the grass has died off (rain will change that, you don’t kill grass roots that easily).

I’m watering and mulching, but it’s going to be hard on plants unless we have a wet summer, which brings its own disappointment, of course.

I spent some time mending one of the chicken coops, because Scrabble is sitting on a lot of eggs and I haven’t got anywhere suitable for her to go, if and when she hatches any. I knew, but hadn’t taken into account, how incredibly maternal these bantams are, when I decided to raise a few chicks last year. They keep laying away and hiding until the chicks hatch or are nearly ready to – when I haven’t the heart to disappoint the mummy – and I have yet another coop of chicks to look after. Anyway, I’m now nearly prepared for Scrabble’s brood, assuming there is one. I’ll finish getting it ready in the morning.

The other domestic preparation is the massive amount of firewood being cut up. There were a lot of trees near the river that have been neglected for quite a while, with the result that remedial work was required. I’m told that the total will be some 35 tonnes/tons of wood stacked in the barn.

I’d show you pictures, but I keep being told that the images are bigger than this blog allows. They’re just bog-standard phone photos, so I can’t think why, as I used to be able to upload them. Sometimes, I think I should just go back to Blogger – yet I don’t trust Blogger either. Anyway, darlings, imagine it. A workshop that’s at least 12 foot by 9 and around 10 foot tall, full to ceiling height. When we start removing logs, I trust there won’t be a landslide.