Z appears to have been a snowflake for a long time

Whiling away the wakeful early hours this morning in casual thought, I found myself remembering an awkward situation I found myself in some years ago.  Having worked out that it must have happened within the last ten years, I looked it up here and, of course, I’d written about it at the time.  But the chances of many of you remembering, even if we were friends then, are not high and I’ll tell you again with the benefit of hindsight added.

It was when I was chairman of a society and we held a coffee morning for new members.  The committee members went around chatting, introducing themselves and being generally friendly, and Alan, one of our number, called me over to meet a woman whom he’d been talking to about the Latin language.  You’re interested in Latin, he said.  I agreed that I was but it wasn’t until we’d been chatting for a couple of minutes that I discovered that she was wanting to set up some Latin classes and needed to find others to join her.  I was rather alarmed when I realised that she thought I was keen.  What day would suit me?

I back-pedalled at once, I hadn’t honestly got time or inclination to take part in any such thing and I said, truthfully, that there was no day of the week that I could guarantee to be free and several when I certainly wouldn’t be, and not to count me in.  I hoped that was the end of it but, a few months later, she sent me an application form to join her group.  I didn’t think much of the attempt to railroad me and I didn’t care for her plan anyway – she said she wasn’t interested in literature, only grammar and I couldn’t see any fun in that.

So I wrote back to extricate myself and got a distinctly unpleasant reply.  I’ve looked it up –

Thankyou, but I don’t know if the class will run now. I had been counting on a minimum of four. I had not expected that anuone, having given their word, would make alternative committments.
I am sure you would not expect your members of NADFAS to do that,since they would perhaps find this unethical. 
Typos and spelling mistake hers, not mine.

So I wrote again, explaining that an interest shown in her plans (I was really surprisingly polite, considering she’d absolutely buttonholed me) in a casual conversation isn’t actually giving my word and I had told her so at the time.  I listed my regular commitments (not all of them, only those that actually involve work) and explained that the extra ones that have come up have to take precedence over things I do simply for my own amusement.

Her reply said that I’d dealt her a sledge-hammer blow.  She hoped I felt thoroughly uncomfortable.

I didn’t, I don’t, I was extremely relieved not to have got more involved with such a peculiar and frankly unpleasant person.  Her final word on the subject was “Beatae sunt quae ab ipsis occultare sapiunt”.  (They are happy who know how to conceal (or cover) themselves).

People aren’t very often unpleasant to me and when they are, I take it to heart.  And I really had not given her any encouragement, from the moment I found out what she was talking about.  I thought I’d forgotten the whole matter but it evidently had been in my mind somewhere – I had to look up the details of course, but the basis of it was as upsetting as it felt at the time.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t sleep much, if I’m as easily upset as that.  Clearly, Z is a snowflake after all, which is pretty silly of me.

Z’s day in a nutshell

  • Nadfas lecture today on Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Paris.  I’d agreed to give the vote of thanks.  She was a really good speaker, very knowledgeable and enthusiastic but she had, if anything, tried to fit too much in and tying it all up in a minute’s thanks was not the easiest task.
  • Then we went to the lovely tea shop and bought nice teas.
  • LT prepared dinner.  It was splendid.
  • I had an early bath.
  • Now I’m winding down for an earlyish night.

Z bites the bullet –

… which always sounds quite painful on the teeth.  Anyway, I’ve ordered a skip for Thursday and it will be very good to get rid of the rest of the rubbish.

When you say you’ve got a skip, people always assume that you’re going to dump in it things that are actually potentially wonderful and worth having and they want to rummage through it.  This isn’t the case with me.  That is, I do have some washbasins that we had removed from various places in the house back in 1985 and I assumed had been removed from the premises at the time – they are still intact washbasins, in pink and green and yellow, but we’ve not used them in 30 years and I doubt anyone wants them now.  If you do, please let me know by Thursday morning and pick them up by Saturday, because I will have pleasure in getting them out of the barn, one way or another.

Young Zain cat was nowhere to be seen over the weekend, or not by me.  I wasn’t bothered on Saturday but, by Sunday evening, I was a bit concerned.  It wasn’t like him to miss four meals.  Any of them might not turn up to be fed, but he’s normally the friendliest and the most present.  So at breakfast, we were planning to open up every barn and garage in case he’d got locked in – of course, there he was when I went out.  I’m such a sucker.  Roses says that he’s been frolicking on the field behind her house all weekend, he wasn’t absent in the least and had clearly been feeding himself.

The other thing we have done is set up the propagator in the greenhouse and started sowing seeds there.  It’s always a sign of hope, don’t you think?

Z is not a nurse

I’d been prepared to go and nurse Weeza if necessary, but her knee is doing well and she can get about quite steadily.  The dressing has to stay on for 72 hours, which takes us up to Monday afternoon and then she’ll see how comfortable she is.  I’ve promised to lend her my car, which is an automatic, until she feels ready to drive their manual transmission car again, so will take it over when she wants it and LT can bring me home again.  The knee makes disconcerting swooshing, gurgly sounds on occasion, which she wasn’t warned about at the hospital but she’s googled it and it is quite normal.

Young Rufus is nearly eight and a half months old now.  He isn’t starting to crawl yet but stands up quite steadily against a chair or table, supporting his legs against it but not needing to hang on.  He waves and claps his hands in response and is starting to make pre-speech sounds.  He sat on his father’s lap at lunch time today and ate bits of food he was given and – this was a first, they said – he drank from a sippy cup and swallowed the water rather than storing it up in his mouth and dribbling it out again.  He has very cute dimples when he smiles.  Young Gus talks proudly about “my cousin” – he’s very conscious of family relationships.  I didn’t really have cousins – my father had a half brother and we saw his family once in a while, but I never really got to know his son and daughter and, after my father died, we lost touch.  My mother was an only child, her mother having died young, and I only had one surviving grandparent when I was a child, so it’s marvellous to see all my children and their families getting on well.

And we’re back home again now and Eloise cat is sitting on LT’s lap, which makes me feel slightly jealous.  But at least it means I can type.

I’m very pleased with my new phone, which I’ve had for a few weeks now, and also with the fact that Yagnub and surrounding areas get a better internet and phone signal since the recent upgrade.  Indeed, Norfolk seems to have entered a new era – I was able to get a signal in previous blackspots today, even in Weeza and Phil’s village.  I’ve always had to use their wifi and an app to make phone calls up to now.  A few years ago, who would have believed that many of us would carry around pocket-sized computers which, as a bonus, even make phone calls?  Remarkable.


Who is being trained?

I bought 200 metres of horticultural fleece.  I wanted to warm up the soil and also to prevent pigeons eating my seedlings.  So today, we sowed pea seeds – I suppose I could say, we sowed peas – and broad beans and covered them over.  I also sowed some radishes and we’ve covered the spinach and swiss chard that have overwintered – they shoot again in the spring and, by the time they’ve gone to seed, the new crop will be almost ready to be picked over.

And then, because this is a day off, I took LT out for lunch at one of our favourite places in the town.  Quite possibly our actual favourite, in fact, the place where we took guests who were already in town to to our wedding-eve dinner.  After that, I bought a very good walnut and coffee cake from the deli and we visited our friends Mary and Peter.  Mary broke her pelvis skiing a couple of weeks ago and is still on crutches.  I know it was a good cake because Peter made tea and we ate some.  Clearly, I’m the type of person who takes someone grapes in hospital and then helps myself.

We are gradually training Eloise cat.  Obviously, the way to do that is by making her think that she is training us and rewards are involved.  But she jumps up onto her chair at the dining table when it is patted and waits for her share.  Tonight, we’re having smoked haddock, so I’m not sure if she will like it.  I have stopped putting down a water bowl for her in the kitchen as she never drank from it, preferring her glass on LT’s bedside table.  There happened to be a jar of water on the coffee table in the drawing room, which I’d given Zerlina for some art work she was doing – it was clean water, not painty.  And Eloise clearly thought I’d put it there for her, so I filled it.  Now, she drinks from it and approves.  This makes all three of us perfectly happy.




Weeza’s op

I couldn’t help but be anxious, though I didn’t admit it.  Weeza was having an operation on her knee today, having torn the meniscus – she didn’t know how but was having quite a lot of pain.  She was very impressed by the speed and efficiency of the treatment – however much the NHS may be struggling, it still performs very well in many areas, as proved by my hip operation and her arthroscopy being done promptly, safely and well.

I met her at the hospital this morning and picked up the children, came back for the day and delivered them back there this evening where Phil, having come by train from the town where he works and then cycled the five or six miles to said hospital, was going to drive them all home.  I knew I was tense from the ease with which z and Gus manipulated me into buying all the foods they liked for a treat, for their ‘picky’ dinner.  On the way home from the hospital, we’d stopped at the nursery and bought primroses and planted up several potsful to cheer Mummy up as she recovers.

This afternoon, Stevo and Noah tackled the big barn.  There’s no help for it, we’re going to have to get a skip – actually, this is a great relief as, until now, I’d been contemplating several trips to the tip and not relishing the thought at all. But there’s now simply too much stuff.  It’ll be worth the 150 or whatever quid to get it all dealt with and taken away.

Tomorrow will, quite possibly, be a day off.  Though we might sow some vegetable seeds, if we feel like it.

Z’s week

It’s been a busy week so far.  It’s the half term holiday and Zerlina and Gus have been to stay with me.  LT was down at his house.  As I said the other day, Stevo has been doing some clearing, so I’ve been juggling my time between entertaining children and supervising him, with some joining in on the part of all of us.  Gus especially is very good at practical things.

We went to Norwich on Tuesday afternoon – I’d thought we might go to the museum, but was rapidly put right on that and we went shopping instead.  And we went to the zoo yesterday.  The forecast had been for sun all day until the dull and damp morning arrived, then it said it would be dry between ten and four.  I looked at the weather app on my phone, where it said zero chance of rain right now, and then at the rain outside.  If it was raining, did they still want to go? I asked.  Yes they did.  So I assumed things would clear up but took a brolly anyway and the children had raincoats with hoods.

There was a surprisingly long queue actually and it took well over half an hour to get in, but I chatted to a nice mother and daughter, with a very beautiful baby boy in a pushchair.  He had huge dark brown eyes, long lashes and a charming smile.  His father is American, working in the Middle East so his mother had come back to England to stay with her mother for a few months.

Later, I asked the children what were their favourite animals.  “All of them:” said Gus expansively, while little z had a very long list, including meerkats (babies!!!), giraffes and the bald eagle.  I was enchanted to discover that the female cheetah, waiting to be fed, mewed in exactly the same way that Eloise cat does when she’s hungry.  And that the zoo donates to Namibia to fund the provision for guard dogs in farms, to fend off attacks by wild cheetahs.  Other highlights were the five month old zebra, the fabulous colour of the scarlet ibis and the beautiful markings on the giraffes.  And the lemur enclosure was brilliant!  They are free to roam around and quite happily sit on the railings while you walk past.   I suspect most of us are ambivalent about zoos but there are certainly animals that would be extinct by now if they did not exist, with effective breeding programmes.  And at their best, they give the animals a good life in as natural surroundings as is feasible.

Once I got home, I checked the *health* app on my phone (it’s just there, I didn’t download it) and discovered that we’d walked 7 km while we were there – and been on our feet considerably longer, of course.  As ever, I’m so thankful for my new hip.  I couldn’t walk a single kilometre – just over half a mile – before the operation, not even with a walking stick.

Afterwards, I drove to Norwich and so did Weeza and we met in a convenient car park to hand the children over.  I came home, fed the cats – I’d left food for the chickens as I knew I’d be back after they’d gone to roost – and went to fetch the post from the front porch.  As I returned to the car to fetch my bag and keys, I noticed RasPutin walking across the gravel.  He limps nowadays, a bit, he’s lost a few fights.  He was obviously going to check the food situation and I couldn’t leave him.  I knew his children would have finished the food I’d given them.  So I plodded over and dished out another half tin for them all, including him.

I’ve been tired out by the evenings.  One night, I was asleep by 9 o’clock and, though I was awake for an hour or so in the night, then slept until after 7.  That night, I’d munched the children’s leftover macaroni cheese and just fallen into bath, then bed.  The next night I did manage to cook a meal but was still too exhausted to do anything much else.  However, a good deal has happened here this week and LT – who arrived home this afternoon – is duly impressed.  There are more clear spaces and there is a Plan.  Wince, our lovely gardener, always asks every week what is my Plan.  Today, it was mostly supervising Stevo and Noah as I was going out to lunch, mind you.  But we’ve got the children again tomorrow and I needed some recreation.

Back in time

Russell’s parents bought this house in 1928 when they were newly married and lived here for the rest of their lives.  We moved here in the summer of 1986 but we had spent the previous year or so having repairs and improvements done.  As it’s a listed building, we had to get planning permission for all the changes.

Today, Stevo and I were tackling the big workshop – it had been cleared of most of the big machinery last summer but the end with the workbench still had a lot of stuff in there, much of it rubbish.  While Stevo was barrowing a load of paper and bits of wood to the bonfire, I found a lump of something odd on the floor.  
It took me a few moments to realise it’s a piece of the house.  The wood is one of the hazel (I think) wattles that are the wooden uprights, packed around with a mixture of clay and straw.  I don’t know enough about the construction of timber-framed houses to tell if it’s clay lump construction or wattle and daub, but this is what this house was made from, back in the 16th century.  The main structure of the house is oak, of course, and it was brick faced at some time – the bricks are old but not Tudor, except for those in the area of the oldest fireplace.

The wood is completely worm-eaten, quite powdery, but we did find a strong, intact piece back in 1984 and my brother-in-law made a walking stick from it, which I’ve written about here before.  Here it is.

I’ve kept the piece of clay of course, I couldn’t throw it away.   Better not let it get wet, though.


Z and LT have a houseful of children!

Zerlina and Gus have come to stay for a few days.  It’s half term and, though their parents could take holiday time to look after them, it’s a great joy and privilege that I’m able to help and spend time with darling grandchildren.  But my goodness, they have fine appetites.  I’d made a cake with jam, fruit and cream for tea and they were able to tuck into a substantial cold dinner afterwards – yes, the courses in the wrong order but they aren’t children who have to be coerced into eating the main course by the promise of a pudding.  I’ve always put them in the same double bed for convenience up to now, but they sleep better separately, each having their own bedroom at home, so that’s what they’ve got now.  They are enjoying the luxury of their separate double beds.

LT is away this week so it’ll just be the three of us.  I’m planning a couple of days out and a few treats – it’s the holidays, after all.  There was a modest amount of overnight snow but not enough to build a snowman, so that might be a pleasure that’s not to be had this winter.  We will take it philosophically.  Once we’re in the second half of February, the thought of heavy snow rather loses its appeal and we look forward to the spring and sowing lovely vegetable seeds instead.

Dog in the henhouse

I haven’t felt like writing for the past few days – I don’t now, truth to tell, but days can drift past and a blog be neglected too easily.

A dog tore through the wire of the chicken’s tunnel between the greenhouse and their run and, by the time Wince heard them and came running for me, and I ran down there, five chickens were dead and one of the cocks was badly injured.  It was a powerfully built Staffordshire bull terrier but, when I grabbed it, it let me hold it firmly while the men hurried off for a rope.  We tied it to a gate while I went to check the chickens but it bit through the thick nylon rope in moments.  Luckily, Tim was able to get it again and we took it into the porch while I phoned the number on its collar.

The owners turned out to be really nice people and the dog itself was well trained and well behaved, except in the obvious respect.  Their neighbours were having their hedge cut and the gardener came through to finish off from their side.  He left the garden gate open and they didn’t realise and let the dog loose.  He was gone in seconds and the wife was out in the car searching when I rang.  Of course I was nice about it, we were all upset at what had happened but I wasn’t upset with them or their dog.  I don’t often react with anger.  It rarely helps and it’s easy for it to spill into unkindness.  There’s enough of that around without me adding to it.

Having turned down their offer of compensation, I was touched when they sent flowers and wine later.  The poor little chooks.  We had to kill the cockerel, his leg was badly hurt and he was bitten too.  The survivors are still subdued but getting over it.  It’s a sad thing that the dog found  a place to get its claw or teeth into the wire, which otherwise seems to be very secure.  Thankfully, Eloise cat was in the house at the time and knew nothing about it and all the other cats, including Rummy, were fine too.

You usually come to me for a cheery bit of nonsense – apologies.  i’ll be back on form next time.