Z is happy

We had a fairly quiet couple of days to start with. I didn’t feel jetlagged as such, but woke early. I’ve been sleeping really well, on the whole.

I must try to write up the whole trip with photos, it’s a faff on the phone though. But just a quick update.

I spent an afternoon with Sheila, my old friend who stayed with us several times over the year. She’s now 92 and hasn’t visited Britain for a long time.

we’ve visited Savannah, which is beautiful. We stayed at R’s house in Statesboro for a few nights and we’re now returning to Smyrna via Athens, where I was lucky enough to meet my blogfriend of many years, DB. She blogs as Hey Bartender, though that isn’t her job now. I’ve had such a great day.

I’ve also spoken on the phone to Guyana Gyal, who now lives in Florida. DB’s parents also live there and I’m already planning future visits to the States. I have so many people to visit and places to see.

Z leaves England

It was all fine. The test came through negative and everything else went smoothly.

They haven’t all quite got their respective acts together, though. There’s an app called VeriFLY, where you can upload all your documents and it’s really quick to check in. However, you can’t progress past the negative test until you get the result. That’s ok, if inconvenient, but you need an emailed or printed document with your name and details and a QR code. I got a letter without a QR code so couldn’t use VeriFLY. The people behind me had a piece of paper with the negative result QR on one side and their name on the other, and you can only upload one picture. There are a lot of companies doing the testing and they use different methods. So I had to join the slow queue. Which was fine but one couple had some sort of delay and took nearly an hour, so the line built up and up. I was all right, I had loads of time but some people were cutting it fine by then. So I let them in front of me and made them all happy. The BA staff were lovely. Patient and helpful and put the anxiety of the travellers way ahead of their own stress.

though while I wa being looked after, apparently a woman who’d got in the wrong queue lost her cool and started shouting and being rude. Then stormed off. The nice woman helping me and her colleague who was upset and came to tell her agreed that if she’d just waited and not yelled, they’d have helped, taken her to the right place and at the front of the queue.

anyway. No matter. I had a very nice brunch of avocado on toast with a poached egg and tomato salsa – lightest thing on the menu, which offered too much food in a helping to justify a £10 charge – and hung about cheerily for the rest of the time. No platinum jubilee memorabilia unfortunately, so I took the stuff I’d bought at home as enough and just added champagne.

and now it’s 7.30am and my hosts aren’t early risers, so I’ve been reading, faffing online and relaxing since I woke up a few hours ago. I’ll unpack a bit now.

So far, so good

I drove down to Reading yesterday, having invited friends for dinner (and resolved to buy in everything ready made). And, though it took a while to clear up this morning, it was a really good idea. I bought various startery things to have with some prosecco, then braised lamb shanks, squash and sweet potato, ready cubed, mashed potatoes (yes, mashed already) and a bag of spinach, then Normandy apple tart and crème frâiche. For someone who normally cooks everything from scratch, this was daring and exciting. The friends were excellent company as always and it was good not to spend last evening alone.

I’m at the Hilton at Heathrow now, just about to have a shower and then a leisurely, solitary meal. I was thinking of having another lateral flow test this evening, but I might as well not bother. I’ve got it booked for the morning and, if the worst happened and it’s positive, I’ll be advised on postponing my flight. There’s no reason to think it will be, I’ve escaped so far and I haven’t spent time with anyone for the last few weeks who hadn’t just tested negative. I am trying hard not to worry, it won’t help.

The other thing I did this morning was unpack and repack my suitcase, better and with a dress and some other bits and pieces removed. Too much stuff. I like to travel light. The main baggage allowance is 23k (about 50 pounds) and I’m about a stone short of that.

I’ll let you know how the test goes in the morning. Toodle-pip!

Z makes a booking

I’ve booked a hotel for Heathrow on Thursday night, which will cost little more than a taxi each way from Reading and give me peace of mind, whatever that is. I hardly remember. i’ve booked my test – if regulations change while I’m away, I can book from Atlanta. I’ve ploughed through most of today’s to-do list, including the most vital things. Unfinished stuff can start tomorrow’s list. I’m driving to Reading after Eloise cat’s vaccination appointment on Wednesday and going to Heathrow on Thursday afternoon.

Tomorrow, apart from the List, is laundry day and deciding what clothes to take. There’s a huge baggage allowance, which I certainly won’t need. Not until I buy presents for the family to bring home, anyway. I’m not fond of taking a lot of clothes that I never end up wearing, unless it’s because of a change in the weather so the sundress or the sweater weren’t needed.

Also on the lists is presents for my hosts. Not knowing anything about their house or their taste, this won’t be easy. I’ll take Sheila some Marmite, though.

Keeping up with the Zedses

This blog is a diary, a monologue, at best a conversation – anyway, I try to keep up to date with what’s happening.

I’m home again. A very sound chap called Simon came over from the house clearance company, we all liked him and felt he was capable. The quote he sent through was well within the sum we expected, so I accepted it and agreed on a date for the work. I’ve also booked a full ‘red book’ valuation for the house – it’s not as if the probate people care how much unnecessary expense people have at a worrying and expensive time, after all. My kind brother- and sister-in-law are going to come up from Devon to deal with all this and I appreciate all the help.

I have sorted out everything for my visit to Atlanta except for the pre-flight Covid test. I struggled the other night and, as a government update was expected, left it – the BA website doesn’t seem to have kept up and it doesn’t send me to tests any longer. i tried for an hour or more to find what I needed and gave up, in tears, in the end. I have to decide whether to book it in the morning of the flight and go by taxi or else stay overnight at a Heathrow hotel, which would be sensible and cost-effective if I can get parking while I’m away. I couldn’t do it because I kept being wildly side-tracked and it was actually not possible to sort out. I’ll try again over the weekend and have asked my sister to contact her friend, the travel agent, if I can’t manage it. I don’t give in all that easily but it made me crumple hopelessly this evening. Good that Wink was here, we drank wine and I made mushroom omelettes and a salad.

I worry every night about Covid, too. Not that I’m too anxious about getting it, I don’t think it would be too bad at all now, but that I won’t pass the test and will be denied my flight at the end. It still wouldn’t be the end of the world, i could delay by a couple of weeks, but that’s not what your mind tells you in the small hours, especially if you happen to sneeze.

I have paid bills, including my stupidly massive tax bill, which is a good deal more than is reasonable. It’s because I got a rebate last year, it’s huge this time and will be relatively small next year. They have not got the self-employed tax system sorted out at all. I still had an absurd amount of difficulty because of the different regulations of different banks’ websites. So I could pay a lot of money from one bank to another in one go, but the second one wouldn’t allow payments of more than £2,000. So I was in the silly situation of paying one £2,000 after another into yet another bank until Bank 2 decided that was enough for one day. Luckily, I could then manage the full amount from Bank 3, because I really didn’t want to faff around for another day. I’ll sort it all out tomorrow and remind myself never to rely on Barclays for a big bill to pay online.

Weeza and family are coming over tomorrow. We’ll all test and the small risk is worth it. I’ve bought in all the food. I’m in no mood to cook, apart from bread as I need to use most of the sourdough starter before I leave, so that Wink won’t be overwhelmed by the fruiting bodies.

Hard times

I had an odd feeling tonight. We are in Reading – Wink and me, Tim’s brother and sister-in-law. We were eating dinner. It’s been a busy day and I’ve felt quite intrusive into Tim’s life, sorting out things, not that anything was overly personal. Anyway, I felt his presence for the first time. He was behind me, in the corner behind my right shoulder and we were ignoring him. And if I’d turned round, he wouldn’t have been there, so I didn’t. Just odd and sad and I had to be very self-controlled. I miss him so much.

In the morning, a house clearance chap is coming round. There are things I’d like out of the way, just the sort of stuff one accumulates and rarely uses and that I won’t ever want myself. Furniture will almost all stay until the house is sold. It’s all very hard. R & V are being very kind and helpful and I’m accepting all the help offered.

One of the worst days yet, in fact. Don’t think they realise this, I hope not.

I’m not sure how I went from sauces to televisions. But that’s life at the Zedery

I made one of my easiest sauces tonight. it’s from a Josceline Dimbleby book called Favourite Food and it’s well named. You cut a couple of red peppers a bit, six pieces each or so and cook them in water with several cloves of garlic. When they’re soft, squeeze the garlic from the husks and whizz them and the drained peppers in the liquidiser, adding some cream, salt and pepper. That’s it. She has you adding prawns, chicken pieces cooked in butter and briefly cooked courgette, but it’s a sauce that will go a lot of places. I just added prawns. Cooked tagliatelle, mixed together. I had some leftover cooked spinach, so I put a line of that along the top to pretty it up. Added a salad.

The other sauce that is really simple is a tin of chopped tomatoes, some pesto and some crème frâiche. No more needed other than seasoning. If you haven’t got crème frâiche, cream cheese with a little water or milk, cream with lemon juice, Greek yoghurt, even. Goes with all sorts of things, including on its own with pasta.

Rose has had an early night and I’ve been watching tv. I’m really trying to get back into the habit, I sleep better after some entertainment. I tried the other way – no screens, low lights and so on, for a long time and it didn’t help. Tim and I rarely watched television and we talked all evening, sometimes listened to music. I still didn’t sleep. I’m a child of the tv age, it seems. I can’t remember a time without television because my parents bought one to watch the coronation, before I was born.

I do remember the first TV, a big cabinet with a small screen. When you got horizontal lines going up and up, you had to hit it on the top. It took a minute or two to warm up and, when switched off, the picture faded to a dot, which finally vanished. Our second television, sometime in the early ’60s, was delivered on a Saturday afternoon. We were all very excited. It was a big screen with no cabinet and the delivery man set it up for us. Turned it on and the wrestling was on. We all recoiled at the sight of huge, sweaty men grappling, albeit in black and white.

A few years later, our neighbours were the first people in the village to get a colour television. We were invited in to see it and golf was on. They’d turned the colour right up, so the golfers’ faces were bright pink and the grass was vivid.

Here we go again

I managed to get a few items of admin done today, having put them off several times because the thought of it made me ludicrously anxious. Of course, doing it is far easier than thinking about it. Wink and I are off to Reading in a few days, whilst Rose will look after things here. When she came over on Christmas Eve, Eloise cat was thrilled, so she will be very pleased to have Rose all to herself. Her housemate will look after the cats at their place.

Here’s to better times, hey.

Picture post

We went to Norwich today to meet Weeza and co for lunch and a walk. We parked both cars near the Cathedral – that is, the public car park next to the law courts and the Adam and Eve pub, which is convenient for all three places.

Being called for jury service must be a nice earner for Norwich council, actually. A friend who was called for jury service had no realistic option but to drive there and park for the day. Several times, she wasn’t selected and drove home again with most of her ticket time unused. I can quite see why the council doesn’t want to change the system to park for as long as you’re there.

We headed up the hill to the cathedral though, and I gave more than the suggested family donation because it seemed decent to do so as there were six of us, and strolled round for a bit. “A lot of pictures of Jesus,” someone mused, though that seems fair enough, for several reasons. A quick trip round the cloisters and we went up to the refectory for lunch.

This was genuinely impressive, for a sandwich lunch. Weeza and I both had chicken and avocado, which were such huge sandwiches that I needed a knife and fork. There was a nice salad to accompany it. Wink and Phil had sausage sandwiches, Gus had ham and cheese, plus a massive, homemade sausage roll and Zerlina had a ham sandwich. Various soft drinks and coffees, the bill was a shade over £50 and very good value, particularly for the food. I had to remove the top slice of bread, it was more than I could eat – there must have been half an avocado and a chicken breast in there.

Afterwards, remembering my guided tour about the Kett Rebellion back in the summer, I led the way round the back of the cathedral and down to the river. It was a mild day, cloudy with odd bursts of sunshine. It was nice. And here are a few pictures I took.

No one, other than I (and only once) had been along the river bank that way and, though damp December isn’t the best time of year, we all appreciated it. I told them about Kett’s Heights and recommended that, for a summer’s day.

Photos

Dilly looked up the birdhouses and found this

Z is ready

I’ve done nothing in terms of food for tomorrow, but roast dinner, how hard can it be? Wink invited me and Rose for dinner tonight and we relaxed, having swapped angst stories for a while first. Prosecco cheered us up. And Rose is staying over for the night. She sends you all her love.

I did all the housework. Everywhere looks pristine as long as you don’t open any cupboards. I’ve shampooed carpets and everything. I didn’t sleep much last night, so am due a sound night tonight. May not hear Father Christmas coming down the chimney, though he might not be thrilled at the fire still burning there.

John Greenwood (Publog) phoned. It’s his first Christmas alone since his dad died and he’s cracking open the Laphroaig and has brought home a plateful of roast beef from the pub. Zoe (My Boyfriend is a Twat) has had a spell in hospital but came home yesterday, to the loving care of Mike (Da Hat). We’re all coping and doing our best.

I think I might just pop a bottle of champagne in the fridge before I go to bed. Happy Christmas, wonderful friends. Blogging has brought me so much love and friendship. Long may it continue.