Z isn’t hangry but it’s a near thing

The music was very fine but I was glad that the last piece had melody, something to hum on the way home.  Showing my age, I daresay.

What Snape has got wildly wrong this year is the food.  Last week, we arrived at 6.45, for a performance at 7.30, which should have given plenty of time for a light, one course meal.  We didn’t quite fancy the roast beef and other hot dishes, on a warm evening, so went to the salad bar, where there was just one helping of salad left.  So we said, that’s okay, we’ll share it.  She lumped the potato salad and the beetroot salad on one plate.  So I said, er, can we have two pieces of crab tart, please?  And she put two pieces on the one plate.  Er, two plates?  She was embarrassed to say that she only had the one plate.  But she then found a small side plate and we were, of course, kind and polite, and I then went to pay and – unasked – some charge was taken off for the absence of salad.

Anyway, this time we cannily left quarter of an hour earlier, but could see that the salads were just about sold out again and they only had cold sliced meat to go with them.  So we thought we’d check out the hot food.  We both liked the idea of the fishcakes and joined the queue.  “Only three fishcakes left,” I said.  Tim thought he’d have the vegetarian lasagne otherwise.  But, as we neared the front, we could see that was sold out.  And the person in front of us chose one of the – by then two – fishcakes, so I said I’d have fish pie.  The only other option was a beef curry.  And, once we’d been served, there were only enough helpings of anything for four or five people.  As we sat eating our supper, we could see people being turned away.

Years ago, the food was one of the appealing things about going to concerts at Snape but it’s been wayward for quite a while now.  I don’t think it’s acceptable to run right out of food, 40 minutes before the concert starts.  Sure, gauging how many theatre-goers will want to eat there is always going to have an element of guesswork, but they knew it was a sell-out performance and so surely experience should have given a good idea.  Plates of sandwiches in reserve might have been a good idea.  And anyway, a vegetable lasagne and a potato-topped fish pie are really cheap to make, if not to sell at £13 and £14 respectively, so a bit left over wouldn’t have been a great problem.

We’re going again next weekend and we’re taking our own food. I think it’s pretty sure to say that the people who went hungry and didn’t have an opportunity to eat anything until after 10 pm won’t take the risk either.

Z looks forward and back, and forgets as well

It’s peaceful here.  I can hear a couple of birds still singing, at 9.20pm, but nothing else except the tap of my keyboard as I type and LT’s pen writing answers to the Guardian crossword.  I’ve less and less capacity for sound except in its place.  Tomorrow night, we’re off to the Aldeburgh Festival again – Aaron Copland’s music features, plus a couple of composers I’ve not heard of, one of whose piano concerto is a world premiere.  That means the composer will, very likely, be there and take a bow, which is rather a joy to me.  I think myself into his place, hearing the piece I spent so many hours on being played by a wonderful orchestra – the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in this case – and the applause from the audience, and I feel warmly towards him.  Or her, of course, but I’ve never been at a premiere for a woman composer’s work.

On this day last year, we were in London at the funeral of my goddaughter, daughter of my dear schoolfriend, and I think of their grief which hasn’t started to feel less raw.  Lynn wrote a book of poetry in Sophie’s memory, which she’s selling on behalf of St Martin in the Field’s fund for homeless people.  It’s the big church in Trafalgar Square and does a lot of good work.  Lynn and Adrian were married there, their children were christened there.  They thought Sophie would be married there too, not buried so young.

Last night a year ago, we were at Aldeburgh (the concert hall is at the village of Snape, in fact, a couple of miles away) too, for a performance of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It was excellent and we enjoyed it, but I can’t remember much, the events of the next day have driven it from my mind.

Writ on water

The book group meeting was here this evening.  There are eight of us, new members come along by invitation when one of our number leave.  Two of us joined the year before last: one person left and another died so fortunately neither of us specifically replaced our friend who died.  She and I were at school together as it happens, she was a year above me and we didn’t meet again for many years.

I made spinach soufflé with tomato salad and roasted pepper salad and homemade bread, then served cheese and fruit.  Very simple apart from the timing of the soufflé – but it’s so easy to make, and I just whisked the egg whites and slammed it in the oven for half an hour when the last guests arrived, which gave plenty of time to discuss last month’s book and for me to give my choice.

Last month, Adèle chose The Go-Between, which we all enjoyed.  We’d either read the book or seen the film before, apart from one of us.  I found it hard to finish – I knew what disaster was in store and didn’t want to get there; but that’s no adverse criticism.

We don’t meet again until October as we’re busy in the summer, so the June host chooses two books, possibly with a linking theme.  I chose Waterlog, by Roger Deakin, and Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.

Z has been listening to Julius Caesar (Shakespeare’s version) and is inclined to let slip the dogs of war

I’m going to have to stump up for the https thingy, I suspect.  It’s a nuisance and this is already a secure website, but most search engines insist on it, or will do soon.  Apologies if you’re getting warnings that I’m dangerous, I’m not.

Today, I’ve mostly been weeding the vegetable garden.  It’s been a month or so since I did any weeding, I’ve no one to blame but myself, but it’s a bit of a tedious job.  Still a couple of beds to do, but the most easily swamped plants are no longer surrounded by unwanted stuff.  We had the first courgette with dinner tonight – of course, in a couple of weeks we’ll be desperate to give the surplus away, but the first few are a great treat.  Globe artichokes will be ready by the weekend, a couple of weeks later than last year.  I noticed a lot of wild strawberries, self-seeded for several years in the bed by the wall, but usually the birds get them.  I must pick some tomorrow.  So delicious.

RasPutin the tomcat, father of the barn cats, disappeared for several weeks and turned up again yesterday morning, looking very thin.  All the same, he turned up his nose at Whiskas and pushed his son away from the remains of Eloise cat’s food.  I take her leavings from the day before to augment their breakfast.  I’ve got a pouch of her food down there, in case he turns up hungry, which is stupid of me but I can’t help being soft.

Update on the footpath thingy – I’ve now had a letter from the guy who was on my doorstep, apologising for the imposition of turning up unannounced (with my name thoroughly misspelled) and asking formally that I will consider a permissive route across my land.  I sat on it for over a week while I thought about it.  In the wee small hours, I drafted various replies, most of them very long-winded and detailed, but I wrote back fairly simply saying that I did not accept that the footpath should be diverted at all and that I had not been given enough information to … actually, I’ll quote it.  Here’s the very note, this is what I wrote:-

I received your letter asking for a permissive footpath across my land and will explain the aspect of you and your colleague’s visit that I was not happy about: that no notice was given of your “big ask,” as you put it, and that you did not clearly explain the circumstances around NCC’s wish not to repair the footbridge, nor what options had been considered.

The current path is a public right of way and, if it were on my land, I would be expected to keep it in good repair.  It has always been in regular use and, even after the bridge collapsed, it was still used until you blocked it with a gate this spring.  

Closing or diverting a public footpath is a legal process and consultation is required before it can be considered.  The NCC website states that there is a temporary diversion in place and that repair work may last for several months: there is no suggestion there that you wish to close or permanently divert the footpath.  I have no reason to accept, at this stage, that permanent closure is necessary, as your letter gives no information at all. 


This is the screenshot from the NCC website, which I took in case they change it.  I feel that I’m being set up.  If they apply for a diversion, having persuaded me to allow it, the villagers will blame me for facilitating it, but if the whole thing is closed, the council will make sure it’s known I refused a diversion.  The whole thing smells bad.  I have been told that, although the Environment Agency wants absurdly big foundations, a temporary scaffold bridge does not hold that requirement.  Although temporary, it can last for years.  I still don’t see how foundations for a footbridge can be said to cost more than the building of a house.  But I haven’t gone into that in my letter, I’ve swatted the ball back into their court.

The electricity here is now guaranteed up-to-date.  I haz a sustificate and everything.  I asked him to look at the annexe fuse board and that needs replacing too.  Jolly good job I’m a pensioner now and so can afford all these luxuries.

Totes ridic

I took cuttings from the tomatoes I bought at the street fair, as I said the other day.  Five days later, roots were already coming out of the bottom of the compost from four of the seven and now they all need to be planted out.  A job for tomorrow, I hope, assuming the weather is suitable.  Everything is growing very well, after the cold spring and I think it’s true that a period of cold weather is good for a lot of plants.  The roses are fabulous now.

A friend who’s coming to supper on Thursday phoned, to ask if I minded her bringing her own food – she’s on a strict elimination diet, advised by her doctor, so doesn’t want to break it.  That’s fine of course as far as I’m concerned, though it’s not much fun for her.  I’m thinking, at present, of making spinach soufflé, as long as I don’t panic at the last minute-ness of it, with a salad; intentionally light.  It made me remember, years ago, our doctor discussing Weeza’s migraines, which she suffered from in her early teens.  He suggested keeping a food diary as his wife, as a result, had discovered that her occasional weekend migraines, always after a dinner party, were the result of drinking red wine and eating chocolate on the same day.  An association you might not notice unless you’d written everything down.  Weeza’s were nothing to do with food, as it happened, and cleared up and I don’t think she’s ever had one since, by the way.

Lovely Tim and I have been talking about the concert we went to at the Aldeburgh Festival last night, and then went on to live shows and the people we’d seen and heard over the years.  As so often, my breath is taken away at how we’re in harmony.  Ridic, darlings.  Esp at our age.

Z is sociable four times in one week and needs a lie-down

It’s been sociable at the Zedary for the last few days.  LT’s brother and sister-in-law were up from Devon, via Kent where they’d been for a friend’s birthday party.  They have a motorhome, so it’s not much trouble to extend their range and make a proper trip of it, and they haven’t been up this way since our wedding.  So we met in Southwold for lunch, then they came to spend the night here.  Wink was able to stay on an extra day to see them and left on Friday morning.  Then we all went off to meet LT’s sister and brother-in-law for lunch at Reedham Ferry.  They went over the river on the ferry with their vehicle as they were staying at the adjoining campsite, but we parked and went across on foot.  We were ready to proffer our 50p each, but the ferryman said that, as we were going to the pub, it was free.

It was a sunny day and we sat outside with our drinks, enjoying the reed beds and the view of the river, with the chain ferry, just big enough for two cars at a time, going back and forth.  It must do quite well, it is a very long way round by car and it’s a valuable service.  I haven’t been across for many years, but we had a good lunch and will bear it in mind to visit again.  On a fine day, we think visitors would enjoy it too.

Today, it was young Rufus’s second birthday and we had a party here.  Ro and Dora brought the food, mostly, and we set it up.  Both families came, plus a couple of Dora’s friends from way back – they were bridesmaids at their wedding – with their husbands and babies.  27 of us altogether, the weather held and was pleasant, if not sunny, and we had a lovely time.  Last year, they held a tea party here the week before the blog party and it was very hot.  We learned from that and put the tables in the shade for the blog party, which was on the second hot day of the summer.

Tonight, not much is happening.  We’ve eaten some cheese and we’re reading the papers.  I suspect an early night is on the cards.

Live wire

The rooster was uncatchable and spent the night on the shed roof (the shed is inside the chicken’s greenhouse, he wasn’t out of doors) and, of course, he was fine this morning but a bit anxious about his wives.

The electrician came today to fit a new fuse box, which took quite a while, because the old one was very old and predated the rewiring of the house back over thirty years ago.  He asked me – “which is the back passage and old larder?” (which turned out to be the big dining room, for which I can see a reason but anyone who didn’t live here wouldn’t have) and “which is Hilda’s bedroom?” and we went up to the attic and down to the garages and still there were a couple of wires spare.  He’ll do the other fuse box tomorrow and then install the new lights.  He’s done one, but ran out of time.

Sadly, internet shopping saves too much time and, if I say that, not having a day job, it must be all the more true for most people.  We needed a new hose reel – a second one, that is – and, having looked in Yagnub shops for the first one last year and failed to find anything suitable, we”d have had to go to Norwich and then still might not have got what we wanted.  So I bought it online.  I do buy what I can locally but I’m not at all surprised that so many shopping chains are in trouble.  LT and I were listing reasons and there are just so many of them.  It’s always been a wonder to me that any shop that employs a lot of staff can keep going at the best of times.  The overheads must be huge.

I got out of the way of shopping – which never interested me that much anyway – when my hip was bad and I couldn’t walk far.  But even 20-plus years ago, I wouldn’t go to Norwich in December because of the traffic and lack of parking.

I might have mentioned, all the banks and building societies have now closed in Yagnub, which, having a photogenic town centre and articulate shopkeepers, has made the national newspapers.  The big N&P premises has been empty for the last few months and various rumours have gone around now that it’s been relet.  But it seems to have been confirmed that it will be a florist.  This florist is one of two that’s already in the town and is only moving 100 yards or so, but it’s still an ambitious move.  It is a sizeable shop with two big windows and will get a lot of morning sun; not ideal for flowers.  Everyone is very pleased though – except the other flower shop, I daresay – and glad it’s not another junk or charity shop.

Z drinks champagne, just because

Wink’s “I’ll be with you by lunchtime” turned out to be soon after 9.30 this morning, as she left at the same time as Weeza and the children.  We’ve chatted today, mostly, and drunk the pink champagne that she brought (but not until this evening).

The cockerel went with the others into the shed but then skipped out again when the brown bantam squawked as I picked her up.  She’s limping, though I can’t find anything wrong,  and doesn’t walk unless she really wants to get somewhere, so I’m carrying her to roost and off again.  But she decided to be panicked this evening, so Crow the cock came to see what the matter was.  Of course, he wouldn’t go back in again and is roosting on the shed.  I’m debating whether to go out and try to catch him.  He’s high enough up that he should be safe, but I’ve had so many unpredictable disasters in the last year and a bit that I’m overanxious about them all.

I had a phone call from a long-term china client today – that is, his wife was the china collector and they both came along to our sales for years.  She became ill a few years ago, just before Russell had to give up auctioneering, and A phoned to say she has died.  I didn’t know she had motor neurone disease and it’s been a gruelling five years.  He wants me to look at her china, which I’m happy to do of course – my colleague and I will go down next week to their home in Essex.  She was delightful and the two of them always had a happy glow about them, I’m so sorry about her illness, a particularly horrid one.  She was a bit older than me, I should think, just a few years.  Probably about my age when she became ill.   One really can’t hang about waiting for the good times, can one?

We’ve got some new light fittings to be installed and have had them for several months.  I texted the electrician at the end of last week (the arrangement had been that he’d contact us), enquiring if he was too busy, in which case I’d find someone else – he texted back saying that he was planning to come the very next week! Hm, heard that one before … still, he’s coming in the morning and, since I owe him for the previous work he did (he didn’t send a bill, saying he’d charge when all the work is done), it’s his loss so far, not ours.  We fished out all the fittings to check that we remember what goes where, and I’ve set an alarm for the morning so that we don’t oversleep.  Not used to this first thing in the morning malarkey any longer.

It isn’t very dark out, but it’s after 10 pm, so I’ll have one try at rooster-catching and if it doesn’t work, he’ll have to take care of himself for the night.

Z gets it wrong

I thought that Wink was coming back with us today, but I was wrong.  She’s coming along tomorrow, having spent two nights with Weeza & co.  It doesn’t matter, except that we have to remember to put her crab in the freezer (and I’ll make crab cakes next week).  Eloise cat was very pleased that we were having crab for dinner, it’s one of her favourites.  She had her own plate on the floor.

We arrived at the venue, a pub in the middle of Norwich, at 11.55.  Just checked indoors to make sure no one else had yet arrived, went out again and there was Ro, just walking up.  As we greeted him, along came Wink and Weeza and, moments later, Dora and Rufus arrived.  We were punctual in the knowledge that Ro just had an hour free for lunch, as he had a meeting scheduled, but it was pleasing that we all arrived within three minutes of each other.  It appeals to the tidy part of my mind – my mind is the tidiest thing about me, I might as well say.

I said “gets it wrong.” In this neck of the woods, “gets wrong” means something else altogether. “I got wrong” means that I got into trouble with someone, and it needs to be said with a richly Norfolk accent.  I never came across the phrase when I lived in L’stoft, fifteen miles away.

When we arrived home from our early visit to the local plant nursery, and much to our indignation, there was a car parked across the entrance to the drive.  I asked the man working on the house opposite if he knew anything about it, but he didn’t.  I stayed there, ready to accost and terrify a returning miscreant, whilst LT went back to the house to see if there was anyone there.  There was.  It was Rose’s other half, Lawrence and it was his car, which neither of us had recognised.  We might as well be one person, faults as well as everything else.  And, not only did he have an explanation but he’d been extremely helpful too.  He was just leaving when he saw one of the bullocks that lives on the fields being encouraged along the road by two helpful people.  He went back with them down the drive and they managed to steer him (geddit? Steer?) back into the field.  Lawrence couldn’t find how the bullock had got out and neither could I, so I hope it won’t happen again.  They were all relaxed and munching grass, not trying to test the defences, so I’m not going to worry unduly yet.  Not yet.  If it happens again, then yeah.

Z and a wildlife garden. Which means untidy, to tell the truth

This is never going to be a perfect, or even a tidy garden.  I don’t mind that and I don’t think Tim does either.  We strolled about the demesne (heh) yesterday and I pointed to the thick bank of nettles alongside the beck, in an approving gesture.  Plenty of cover for small creatures, food for caterpillars, fodder for aphids that feed birds and ladybirds, and a general mild untidiness that I completely approve of.  Overall, it’s reasonably tidy, nowadays.  You can walk around without wearing wellies, at any rate, though it takes a degree of vigilance.

If you’ve been here, you’ll know that there’s a patch of rough grass by the side porch.  There used to be a lovely cherry tree and another small tree – can’t remember at the moment, though it’ll come to me.  Anyway, they both died abruptly three or four years ago, so now it’s just grass, with bulbs and wild flowers in there.  I love it.  There are just marguerites in flower now, along with the seeding grasses.

I appreciate grass very much.  I had a long chat with a farmer friend once, whose university dissertation had been on grasses.  When I mentioned that to Tim the other day, he said that a retired lecturer friend had been a Professor of Grass, which made me quite excited until I realised that I couldn’t sustain a conversation on the subject for more than a minute or two.  I could barely listen intelligently.

Years ago, the school my older two children went to had a social evening at a local hotel, owned by the parents of a couple of pupils.  It was a lovely summer’s night and we all ate outdoors and sat chatting.  I found myself next to a nice chap, who was shy and tongue-tied, until someone mentioned bees.  His face lit up.  He knew about bees.  And that’s what he talked about for the rest of the evening.  I brought out all I knew on the subject to keep in with what otherwise might have been a monologue.  At some point, I realised that everyone else at the table – including his wife – had quietly slipped away, and only I was left to nod and smile.  I decided to take it that I’d made his evening a success and that this should be my reward.  His surname was Strange, as it happens, which is totally a coincidence, because he wasn’t.  Just shy, and he needed something to make him confident to be able to engage in conversation.

Anyway, I have met Tim’s friend and he does have other subjects of conversation and is good company.  But back to the rough grass.  It’ll have to be cut down in another week or two, but it’s still green and lovely.  All the same, I did cut a foot’s width around it today, to stop it flopping onto the drive and the paving.  I’m not sure if that’s giving in to convention.  But no matter.  I gave the cut grass to the chickens and they were thrilled.  They ate a lot of it, which probably included insects too, and scuffled the rest around their house.

We’ve worked out a system for watering pots, at last.  We’ve got quite a number, near the house, and it’s always quite a nuisance to lug up watering cans or extend a hose, to keep them going.  Life has to be easy nowadays.  It’s no good pretending I’m going to bother with something that’s more effort than it seems to be worth.