Z’s ready to go

I’m clearly looking forward to this holiday very much – my bag was packed by early yesterday afternoon and we’re not leaving until after lunch.  I’ve just got a few odd things to do – drop some papers off at the school, post a letter, fill in another form and send it off (this is down as my job to leave if I run out of time, there always has to be one*), water the greenhouses and eat the last things in the fridge for lunch, which is a piece of smoked mackerel and some pineapple.

My sister Wink came up for a couple of nights to see young Rufus.  I bought monkfish fillets and samphire from Paul the Fish for dinner, but then Wink and Weeza decided we should all get together in the evening, which was a splendid idea.  So I rustled up some goujons from the fish, put the samphire back in the fridge as it wasn’t going to stretch to five, picked up some duck fillets and meringues I happened to have to hand, and we went on over after we’d visited Ro, Dora and Rufus.  He is adorable (the baby, that is) but I’ve rarely seen him with his eyes open yet, he sleeps soundly.

Weeza and Phil recently had a new kitchen fitted and I cooked dinner on their new induction hob.  It’s very good indeed and a beautifully planned kitchen – having lived in the house for two and a half years, she knew exactly what she wanted.  Usually, cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a bit of a learning curve, but this seemed quite instinctive.  So we had the goujons first, then stir-fried duck, then strawberries, meringues and crème frâiche.  It was a happy and relaxed evening, just lovely.  LT is very much part of the family, everyone says so.

Back in the days when the Sage and I used to go away together (he liked it best here, latterly, and I had to holiday without him), we could never just ask one person to look after things at home.  We had to have a house/dog sitter (when my mother was alive, this was also a grandma sitter), a greenhouse carer and a chicken feeder.  Now, Roses takes care of cats, chickens and the house and Wince the gardener looks after the garden.  We’ve never left the house empty, Russell never minded at our old house but was far too protective of this one, so I’ve followed his lead.

Once we’re back, we’ll finalise arrangements for the blog party.  I just need to confirm who’s wanting to stay over, so that we can rustle up enough beds.  And possibly negotiate who’s going to sleep on the sofa…

*I’ve even done that.  I’m on a roll, darlings.  Whatever that means.

Englishness

This morning, the weather app on my phone declared there was 0% chance of rain today.  It had, by that time, stopped raining so – yes, I’m a bit naïve – I more than half believed it.  And well, it didn’t really exactly rain, not in a raindrop way, just more like wet mistiness on and off.  And everyone ignored it and resolutely carried on anyway.

To our surprise, our stall was a resounding success and we sold out.  When there were three wrapped bottles left, a man bought two and won a bottle of Pimms, so I offered him the final one, half price.  He accepted, it was tap water, but he didn’t mind and we had the happy knowledge that no one else paid when there was no prize left to be won.  I put in the 50p, which meant that exactly £50 had been raised from our stall.

LT had never manned a village fête stall before – I should get him to work out how many firsts he’s enjoyed (hem hem) since joining me here.  We drank beer, ate fish and chips and home-made cake (didn’t get around to buying mine, we were too busy) and I introduced him to a number more of my friends and acquaintances.

At the end, the Rector asked if he could have the leftover bottles for another village fête next week.  I said yes, of course, but we’d emptied the water: I’d drop them off at the Rectory.  Then LT realised we’d thrown away all the screw caps, so we had to delve in two bin bags to find them.  Another first all round, that was.

Two pints of beer in the middle of the day is quite a lot for me, actually.  I may need a little nap later.

1936, this day

We’ve been getting things ready for the village festival, or rather, for our small part in it.  We were volunteered to run a stall – there are a number of wine bottles wrapped in paper; you pay £1 for a bottle of your choice and unwrap it to discover whether it’s a sealed bottle or one refilled with water.  I’ve no idea how popular the stall will be but if we sell out, we’ll make a profit of £50.  Actually, £49.99 but I’ll put the penny in.  And, through judicious buying (helped by Waitrose’s 25% off wine sale earlier this month) plus a few donated bottles, I’ve brought the odds down to 4 to 1 against winning.  It’s taken ages, though.  All those screw-top bottles of wine to drink!  And then to fill with water and wrap.  LT did the latter this morning, it took nearly two hours.

I’ve also made a couple of cakes – a fruit cake and a chocolate cake.  I suspect that LT might buy back one of them, actually – not that he need feel obliged, I don’t expect him to.  It’s just that he clearly liked the look of them.

Today would have been Russell’s 80th birthday.  He was so convinced he’d live into his 90s and beyond and I believed that too, until his short final illness.  Of course, I think of him daily – frequently every day.  I don’t know if or when that will ever cease and I don’t see why it should.  He was an open-hearted man and I hope and believe he’d want me to be happy with LT.  I know he’d be really pleased that I’ve shelved plans, thanks to Tim, to move from here – and that I’m keeping his old car for the time being.  I’ll keep it longterm if I can get it more reliable – the fuel supply, which is gravity-fed, peters out sometimes and the engine cuts out.  You have to pull over and wait for it to drip through again.  But it’s a lovely car to drive.

I continue to count blessings.  And think lovingly of those in trouble.

 

Z cooks

I made two chicken casseroles, one with carrots, onions, wine etc and one with Indian spices and yoghurt, a spicy sausage casserole, a straightforward lamb one, a pasta sauce with chicken, red pepper, garlic and cream, asparagus soup and Thai chicken soup.  Ro and Dora were very pleased, especially Ro, who is in charge of the cooking.  Then I spent three hours cuddling young Rufus, who is doing very well and gaining weight.

The worst thing is having to deal with three young cockerels that I can’t keep.  I must phone a friend about it but keep putting it off.  I’m so sorry but I don’t have an alternative.  I won’t have chicks again, this is too much and feels too unkind.

There are, of course, many good things and I keep my mind on them.  Foremost is that LT will be back tomorrow.  I won’t be here at the time, I’ll be out for lunch, but I’ve given him his own key now.  The only reason he won’t use it often is that we’re nearly always together, of course.

There’s some sadness and distress around, not for me personally except how it affects friends and family.  Too much cancer, in short, among other things.  I know we must take all the positive things we can each day, because it can all change in moments, but it is hard for those whose loved ones are suffering.

Z is alone…

Today, LT drove back to Reading to fetch his passport, hot-weather clothes, EHIC and to fill in and post his postal vote.  I’ve already done mine – fortuitously, he suggested several weeks ago that we both apply (I can’t remember if I’ve said this in a previous post) so that we weren’t constrained on the day, but we hadn’t expected to be out of the country.

I forgot to mention yesterday, among the armchair achievements, that I sold my old car – the one that developed a major fault, as a result of which I left it in Reading.  The engineer was going to phone me back and never did and I just kept putting off dealing with it.  But now I’ve had an offer and it’s all sorted and the money will come through this week.  Not big money but it would have been a big bill to put it right and no guarantee that it would work.  I will never again have a diesel car.  I’ve never liked them anyway, dirty things.

I’ve arranged to go over to Ro and Dora tomorrow, but realised belatedly that I’m due back here an hour later for a meeting.  So I’ve written apologetically to cry off, unless there won’t be a quorum without me.  I’ve chaired too many meetings to inflict that on anyone.  But I’ve played the Granny card, so hope to be all right.  I’ve spent the afternoon cooking for R&D and will finish various other things in the morning.  Most useful thing I reckon, providing a fridgeful of food.

Z does another round-up. But not of cows.

Yesterday having started – for us – so early (it actually started at the normal time, of course), we had a fairly early night and I slept brilliantly.  We’ve got a good deal done today and achieved quite a lot last week too, some of it without even leaving the armchair.  So, a round-up –

  • The big workshop has still not been cleared and the chap who bought its contents and promised to empty it, even of rubbish, into the bargain, has not contacted me all year.  But last week, a friend spoke to someone who knew, who thought he could help me and came round to look.  He wants a few items and is willing to dispose of the rest, some for scrap (they are huge saws, planes, lathes and so on, some of them, but do not come within current safety rules so could only be used by their owner.  Furthermore, some of them can’t be used with a domestic electricity supply and need three-phase).  So I texted my buyer, T, and he phoned back, expecting a bawling-out; but that’s not what I do.  I explained, said I saw a way through and it was agreed that he would phone P and they’d discuss the matter.  The next day, he rang back to say it was all agreed.  I’ve no idea of the full terms and I don’t care, I’ve had my money and will get what I want, which is a large, empty workshop.
  • Having gone to have dinner with Pam and Peter the other night, as I mentioned last Wednesday, they invited us to visit them at their house in Corfu.  I went to stay there a few years ago and had such a brilliant time – so we looked in our diaries and found a week later this month and made provisional arrangements.  I felt we couldn’t book before the baby was born, since it would be within a week of his expected arrival but, lying in bed that night and not yet asleep, I had a text from Ro to say they were in hospital.  Clearly, young Rufus is a helpful young chap and looks after his Granny, right from the start.
  • So, having ascertained that all was well and that Ro and Dora didn’t mind, LT looked on the website for aeroplane seats.  On our chosen flights, there were very few left – three one way and two the other, I think – so it was a good job that we hadn’t left it until the next morning.  I’d been too tired to do it, but he did, good man.
  • Next, I booked travel insurance and sent off for a renewed EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which is one of the perks of the EU – health care, if needed, on the same basis as that of a country’s citizens.
  • We have done loads in the kitchen garden: planted out nearly everything (still got squashes to go) and put greenhouse plants in their final pots.  The last will be done tomorrow, weather permitting.  Although I’m a bit later than I meant to be with some things, the wet weather over the weekend means that it doesn’t matter a bit.
  • The new shower is being installed – it’s a cubicle replacing a bath with overhead shower.  It’ll be large – about 5 foot by 3 foot.  LT likes showers, I don’t much but will need it when I have my hip operation, whenever that is.
  • Wince has cleared a big chunk of Roses’ garden, which had rather overgrown plants choked with weeds, mostly ground elder.  I took out some overlarge bits of a couple of conifers last autumn and, to our surprise, it killed the trees.  I have no idea why – but, although not large, they were rather in the way, frankly, and I’m not too sorry that they’ve gone.  Their absence has really lightened my study and given me a better view.
  • We’ve had the first broad beans from the garden and have picked more for tonight.  We’ve also had the first globe artichokes.

My phone just rang.  It was a Manchester number but, a second after I picked up, the line went dead.  “I suspect it’s a cold call, they’re trying to flog me something,” I said.  “They’re not making a very good job of it, are they,? replied LT.

Rufus and a round-up

Proud, if scruffy, granny, with young Rufus Russell.*

Dora expected to come home from hospital mid to late afternoon and we agreed that I’d come over once she was home and cuddle the baby a while, to give her a chance to rest and Ro time to cook their dinner.

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The reason I look so particularly un-camera-ready is that LT and I had been weeding the kitchen garden in the afternoon and were just finishing the second bed when thunder started to roll.  Now, if I’d just left and scurried indoors, all would have been well, but I thought I had time to feed the chickens and the barn cats and, halfway through doing this, it started to rain heavily.  Worse, I found that both drinkers in the hen house were completely dry and I couldn’t possibly leave them without water, so had to go and refill one of them.  By the time I got back to the house, I was drenched and so was LT, who’d come out with an umbrella to find me, but the brolly wasn’t much use in that storm.  So we both got changed and I dried my hair but otherwise just left myself au naturel.  Fortunately, I’m too old to mind too much.

This morning, Roses and Lawrence woke early, to find cows on the grass behind the annexe.  They weren’t the youngsters from our field and there were too many in any case, so she came through to call us.  All four of us hastily dressed and went out.  I hadn’t quite prepared myself for sixteen heifers, to tell the truth.  They were quite excited but in a partyish way, just out to have fun.  Lawrence went to shut the gate to the road (they’d got to here through another field, which is unfenced).  Clearly, putting them in with Johnny’s bullocks wouldn’t be a great idea, but I have another field which is due to be cut for hay and surrounded by a three-strand barbed wire fence.  So Roses went to open the gate, I scampered round the house to cut off their way through to my garden and the boys started to herd the cows.  I needed Roses to help with the blocking off as they thought they might come through the shrubbery, but it was fine otherwise.  They all hesitated at the gate but finally went through and I went to phone Johnny.  He knew the likely owner, contacted him and we all went back indoors.]

Roses and Lawrence went back to bed, LT made tea and I cooked bacon and eggs.  Later, I heard the trundle of a Land Rover pulling a trailer, went out and it was the farmer … who didn’t stop but drove round the drive and back out again.  I got in the car to follow but I wasn’t at the end of the drive in time to see which way he went, and had then to go to church as I was playing the organ.  By the time I got home, the cows had been removed – they must have been taken out by the gate they went in by and back across the arable field as they hadn’t gone by the road gate.  LT said no one had called and we were a bit surprised about it – but no matter, little trampling has been done on the field, which looks to have a pretty good hay crop, they were safe and didn’t get on the road and it was all pretty good fun from our point of view.  LT gets stuck in to this sort of thing with enthusiasm.  He says I’ve changed his life considerably – this just doesn’t happen in Reading.

 

*Kipper has been calling him Rusty, which I like but have tweaked to retain the Latin theme. Since Ro and Dora have called him after his grandpa, I’ll keep his second name as it is.

New grandbaby

I couldn’t write yesterday – there was only one thing to tell you and news wasn’t coming out until today.  So I said nothing.

At 12.45 yesterday morning, I had a text from Ro to say that Dora had been admitted to hospital for the birth of their baby.  I heard nothing more until noon, then at 3pm that she was having an emergency caesarean section.  The hole in the carpet became more worn as I continued to pace.  I bore it pretty patiently for a couple of hours, then just sat and worried.  But at last, sometime after 5.30, Ro was able to tell me that all was well.

I thought of a blog name for him weeks ago but I can’t at present remember what it is, so that can wait.  His real second name is Russell, however, after his grandfather – and his due date would have been Russell’s eightieth birthday; he was born a week early.  But what we all want is pictures.

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Here he is at about three hours old.

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And this is today.

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Close-up.

So happy and relieved, it is wonderful.  I hope to see him tomorrow and I’m so excited.

Z finds the Tots

Roses said that she hadn’t seen the little tortoises while I was away – this isn’t all that surprising, they are very well camouflaged.  Edweena is easier to spot because of her size – it’s not that she’s huge, she weighs about a kilo, but the babies weigh about four ounces each and are only about three inches long.  Anyway, today I went out to do a bit of weeding in their run and soon spotted Natasha, who was sheltering from the sun under some grass.  She wasn’t too pleased about being disturbed, so went under a deadnettle instead, which I left as it’s edible.  I also left forget-me-nots, dandelions and various other tortoise-friendly plants.  I found Anastasia a few minutes later, trundling along speedily, looking filthy.  Clearly, she has spent much of her time burrowing underground.  But later, all three were eating, so that’s all ok.  Natasha was munching on some hebe flowers and looked quite blissed out.

On the strength of this cheering news, I suggested we go out for lunch.  There has to be some sort of celebration every day, don’t you think?  There have been times in my life when I’ve rather needed that to keep me going, whereas now it’s for simple pleasure.

More pleasure is in store this evening, when we go to Pam and Peter for dinner.  I’ve got a music lesson first, so we’re meeting halfway and they’re taking Tim back home with them, for me to follow after I’ve finished tootling.  Evidently, they want to get to know him before I turn up.  If he finds this thought daunting, he’s manfully coping with it.

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while is update my European Health Insurance Card, you have to register on the website to apply.  The password had to have at least one upper case letter, one lower case, one number and one symbol and be at least 8 characters long.  So I worked one out and put it in, and it said it wasn’t long enough.  I counted again carefully and it was.  So I put it in again and it said it wasn’t.  So I bunged on a £ at the end and it was accepted. So, it seems, it has to be over 8 characters long.  With all those requirements, it’s impossible for me to be sure of remembering it every five years (of course, if we do exit the EU, we won’t be eligible anyway) so I’ve got it on the computer, which rather negates the point of a complicated password.

Time to feed animals, darlings.  I hope you have a lovely evening.

Wherever Z and LT lay their hats…

We’re back home again – which doesn’t mean a lot although, in this case, it means my house.  We came in separate cars this time, I having left Reading first and leaving LT to close down the house and follow.  Having admired what Roses had done in the garden, I unpacked the car and then heard a car draw up.  Naturallyish enough, I assumed it was Tim, but it wasn’t; it was Alex, who is the son of a friend and, it transpires, temporarily between jobs.  This is something of a godsend, I’ve got quite a lot of things that aren’t strictly gardening, so not within the remit of what I ask Wince to do.  So Alex is coming tomorrow and I’ll pay him by the hour and we’ll take it from there.

Wince has looked after everything in the greenhouse beautifully, Roses has looked after the chickens and cats similarly.  Everything looks lovely.  There’s a lot to do though, it’s a busy time of year in the garden.  And socially.  And at the school.

Tim and I have been sharing Soan Papdi, to give us energy.  I’ve bought a couple of big boxes, by the way, to put out at the blog party.  I spread the love, darlings.