Celebrating another blog party

Lovely bloggers and ex-bloggers and other halves of bloggers and family members came along and the weather was more than kind again.  Some of our friends who usually come were much missed, but there’s always another year and it’s not easy at all to find a date that suits everyone.

Every year, this event draws my attention to how much I value all of you; whether you’ve ever blogged or not, whether you comment, whether I’ve met you yet.  It’s been remarkably friendly and it’s so much my gain.  You’re lovely, and thank you.

We have been given a large bottle of home-made scrumpy, with a warning not to drink it all at once.  Woo hoo.  Cheers.

Parties in the 60s. Not my 60s, in this case. *The* 60s

I had a sudden flash of memory, sometime during the day.  My parents used to hold parties quite regularly, which were always terrific.  My mother had a number of specialties and was always on the lookout for new ideas too.

The specific memory was of the day before the party – a number of her girlfriends turned up and they got on with preparations – putting out cutlery, preparing vegetables and salad, polishing glasses, making sauces (though for the most part, the cooking was firmly her territory) and she provided a sumptuous, though casual lunch and there was much chat and laughter.  It was known as ‘the party to get ready for the party.’

I was always given jobs to do from an early age, but by the time I was in my teens, my job was firmly to deal with puddings and desserts.  Gateaux were my thing, quite possibly because it was a niche that wasn’t already filled.  Lemon syllabub, sorbet, trifle, were about as much effort as she could muster.  The main course was another matter.

For a cold meal, she’d make a French raised pie.   This contained chicken, hard boiled egg, various other meats – I’m not sure, possibly ham, veal; certainly not beef.  She also made hand-raised pork pies.  Here are a couple of pictures of the French raised pie and its mould – I have copied the second one from a blog called flower pot kitchen, and hope the owner doesn’t mind.  It looks fabulous, just like my mum used to make.  The first is the mould, which was in three parts held together with split pins,  She had two of them but, after she died, I found them covered with rust and unusable and, reluctantly, I threw them away.  Hers was more waisted than this one, but very similar otherwise.

I never learned to make them, I think they required so much concentration that she didn’t want anyone in the kitchen watching her.  And I am fairly sure that now I never will.

Since BW has already guessed and I’ve mentioned it here before, here is the new house sign.  I’d ordered Ro’s birthday present and half of it had arrived, along with another package.  I assumed it was the second half, but was puzzled, especially when I unwrapped it and found yards, literally, of bubble wrap.  I just kept unwinding it.  There was only a layer or two left when I twigged – and LT put it in place today.  It’s granite with the name of the house etched in.



Z bustles

Yesterday afternoon, Rose suggested we sit in her garden and drink beer, so we did, though it wasn’t quite five o’clock at the time.  And then we suggested she join us for dinner, and it all got quite convivial and a bit boozy.

That sort of evening always puts a spring into my step, and I’ve been quite effective today.  I booked my car’s MOT for Monday – I have used a lovely local garage for years, but the owner has now retired and, sadly, the land is worth more as a building site than the business is as a going concern.  That reminded me that the car needs two new tyres, so that’s been done.  Between us, we’ve bought everything for the blog party, though a couple of things need to be picked up on Saturday morning.  Darlings, I’ve bought the puds from the local lovely cafe.  Gemma had a catering business before buying the cafe and still does outside work – we bought pâtés and desserts from her for our wedding, to lessen the cooking for us and, with the hot weather, frankly I can do without excess slaving over the stove and then having to keep everything in the fridge.  The fridge should be big enough, but two shelves are pretty well full of jars of sauces and jams and so on.  I suppose food has fewer preservatives than formerly, if it’s good quality, and my kitchen is quite warm usually, because of the Aga, but it does take up the space.

I’ve also made an appointment with the accountant to sign my tax return, watered the garden, been out for lunch, made the marinade for the fabulous spicy chicken – I can’t remember all I’ve done.  It’s been good to be busy.  I always used to be and, actually, it’s fabulous to have a lot less pressure nowadays, but pulling myself up a bit is a very good thing.

Something arrived in the post today that you’ll be sure to spot on Saturday, since everyone who’s coming has visited before.  If you don’t, you’ll be identified as even less observant than I am, and I don’t think that’s actually possible.

Charles rocks

We went to see Pugsley’s school play this evening.  Darwin Rocks, it’s called; a musical written for school performance and Pugsley played the title role, and did it very well indeed.  He looked so like his father and great-grandfather, it twisted my heart, and he sang a duet – a love duet, no less – with Emma Darwin-to-be.

I’m so much in favour of drama in schools, I wish it were not squeezed out in many secondary schools and I hope that Pugsley can keep it going.  Squiffany, who’s been at high school for two years, says that there are performances but the students most likely to take part are those taking Drama at GCSE and A Level, which doesn’t involve her – so we’ll see.

A jolly afternoon and evening, and we came home and ate omelettes.

Z likes it hot

After several weeks with no rain, one can see which plants are more resilient to drought in our sandy soil.  Unsurprisingly, plants like lavender, for example, still look quite fresh.  But a fortnight ago, I found that some sedums were flopping badly – succulents are usually fine without rain, but I had to water these.  A low-growing but spreading hebe has dead patches, and I put the hose on it for half an hour or so today and the hypericum next to it, while having fresh green leaves, has dried, brown flower buds.  In the kitchen garden, globe artichoke plants are a quarter of their normal size and the raspberries have stopped fruiting.  Courgettes and spaghetti squashes are fine, but the butternut squashes droop if they don’t get a good weekly session with a sprinkler.

We have some young fruit trees and it’s noticeable that the crab apple that was grown in a pot is managing less well than the trees planted bare-rooted.  Among big trees, horse chestnut leaves are already turning crisp and brown.  On the lawn, which hasn’t been cut for weeks and is never watered, the grass is still green where there’s shade, though completely brown elsewhere.  The fig tree loves the hot, dry weather.  I must check if any fruits are ripe yet, there’s a good crop.

When I do put the sprinkler on, I find it gets covered with pollen beetles.  Even insects need water.  I put a paint roller tray out near the greenhouse and fill it with water every day for hedgehogs, and anything else that wants it. The deep end holds quite a lot of water but small creatures can use the shallow part.

I am still enjoying the hot weather and haven’t the least wish for it to end, but a lot of people don’t feel the same way.  British people like rain, I suppose, being well used to it.  Those who complain assume that you will agree with them and I don’t argue.  It’s not going to change anyone’s view, and I’m not unsympathetic in the least to those who struggle.  My mother hated hot weather and complained bitterly whenever the sun shone, which was a bit trying when one was grateful for any fine day.  She wasn’t great with the cold, come to that.  There were only a handful of days that really suited her in any season.

In the garden

We sat out in the garden while a flock of starlings – yeah, we know it’s a murmuration but it seemed to try a bit hard –  wheeled and swooped above us.  LT asked if we usually have swallows, swifts and other summer visitors (apart from the cuckoo, which we heard throughout the spring and early summer) and I said yes, we usually do.  I have seen swallows this year, but not in the last few weeks – early evening is usually the time to watch them, but there aren’t many insects about for them to catch.  I’m not sure how bats are getting on either in the hot weather.  There have been no clouds of gnats, no biting insects at all – which is good for us, but not for the creatures which live on them.

One of the cattle on the field got out today – a neighbour knocked on the door; she and her other half had spotted him and made sure he didn’t leave the drive, and another couple were driving past and they parked their car across the drive entrance.  I thanked them of course, and they looked mildly disappointed when they saw how biddable the young bullock was.  I patted him on the rump and he strolled back down the drive.  LT stopped him going the wrong way at the fork, and then went to open the gate, but he hopped back through the gap in the fence … ah.  Tim temporarily mended it while I texted Johnny to let him know.  It all needs tightening up so that it can’t happen again. but they’ve plenty of food, even though the grass has all turned to hay, so they’re not anxious to get out: or anyway, they haven’t been so far.

What’s a bit worrying is that this all seems normal to me.  Tim copes splendidly, of course, but only because he is, actually, splendid. I don’t even realise that it isn’t what everyone deals with on a daily basis.

Z drives on a brand new road

We went to Cromer for lunch, to a favourite restaurant there, where we ate our second ever lunch out together; the first having been in Southwold.  Fish each time, as it happens, but then that’s not unlikely at the seaside.  I had fish and chips and LT had crab salad, but the relishes and salads are exceptional there – it’s a seaside restaurant, with a takeaway chippie, an eat-in fish and chip restaurant and the upstairs restaurant, where we were this time, which is a bit more cheffy.

We drove on the new Norwich bypass for the first time – the Southern bypass was constructed quite a long time ago – I’m sure I could look it up, but hmmm – which is actually South and East of the city, but the northern ring road has always been a slow-moving beast, which makes getting to the airport a bit of a worry at certain times of the day.  Weeza told me that the way to her house, which has always taken an hour, has had ten minutes shaved off the time, and explained how to get on to the road.  I bought a new map book the other day, which has it on it – Google Maps didn’t yet have it when I last looked, but that was a few weeks ago.  Anyway, it was just as well she’d told me, because it wasn’t signposted at all off the A47, only once you got to the next roundabout.  And we made it to Cromer in just over the hour (behind a number of quite dawdly drivers) instead of an hour plus going round Norwich, which might add ten minutes or might add an hour.  So we were very pleased with it, though the roundabouts are not very well signed and there have been quite a few crashes with people changing lanes.  I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong, compared to other roundabouts, but there is something not quite ideal.

And we drank pink sparkling wine this evening, made in the village at our splendid vineyard/winery, and I cooked scallops and prawns with home-grown vegetables, lots of them.  And there are English cherries for dessert, if we get around to eating them.

I’m updating the software and maps on my satnav, or at least I hope I am.  The computer says that the programme hasn’t crashed, but it’s been preparing device for map update (this may take a minute), which is step three of four, for an awfully long time and I’m a bit anxious.

Half an hour later…I had to check the helpdesk and it’s done now.  It had warned of dire consequences if I unplugged the satnav while it was being updated, but the update had obviously failed, and the workaround wasn’t working either.  So I had to eject it after all – and when I put it in again, it meekly downloaded the maps in less then ten minutes.  Why is everything designed to worry the clueless?

Saturday celebrations, times two!!(!)

Tim is home with me again, having been home in Reading for the last few days.  And it’s his birthday tomorrow.  I’d bought him a pair of garden chairs and a table – we’d been talking about the front of the house, which is on the west side, and that it’s lovely to sit there in the evening but we don’t have a table that’s suitable, though we could take chairs.  And Tim said maybe we should look for the sort of chairs that are linked by a table between them.  And he wasn’t suggesting it for a present, but the thought came back to me when I was shopping.  So, since I had to put them in place (having spent some time putting them together), they’ve been given and used on this lovely summery evening.  I’ve got another present for tomorrow, of course, because he must have something to unwrap.

Now, the other thing is that it’s only a week tomorrow until the blog party.  If you’d like to come, you’re most welcome.  And if you’ve already told me you can, or can’t come, then no need to remind me as I’m sure I’ve got the list right, only say if things change.  Only one bedroom is booked and there are three more, if you would like to stay.  If you haven’t come before, I’ll send directions and if there are dietary dos and don’ts, let me know.

Z finishes work for the week

The witness statement thing took ages, about two and a half hours.  And then I had a quite complicated meeting this afternoon, because the treasurer had not kept the accounts for the last couple of years and quite a lot had to be explained.  It’s been dealt with and the new person has got everything up and running again but I’ve written up the minutes while I still understand them.  I’ve sent ’em off now, so it’s up to the rest of the committee to correct them if they dare if necessary.

I’m still on two committees, but they’re both trusteeships and one meets once a year, the other (of which I’m secretary) twice, so it hardly counts.  I formulated a five year plan to remove myself from all committees and it only took fifteen years to succeed, apart from these two.  But I see no reason ever to succumb again.  It’s all jollity and ha-ha-ha-ha nowadays.

Tomorrow is a free day, I think.  I must wrap LT’s birthday present, pay some cheques into the bank and think what to ask Wince to do in the garden, but none of them counts as obligations.  The garden is so dry that the grass hasn’t grown at all for weeks.  There are nettles around the banks of the beck, but that’s cover for small animals and food for caterpillars, so they should stay.  I’ve got a bit of weeding to do, so I’ll ask him to help with that.  There’s a great big teasel in a flower bed that shouldn’t be there – I don’t like to think of the mess that the seed heads would make in Eloise cat’s fur.  There’s also a massive thistle on the Ups and Downs that I don’t want to go to seed.  But on the whole, the place is about as tidy as I want it to be, which isn’t very tidy at all.  I like a relaxed garden where small creatures can live.

The beans have grown a lot since I last looked, nearly a week ago.  I picked some french beans and the first cucumber, and ate them this evening.  I can’t grow cucumbers in the greenhouse, it’s too dry (I used to grow them in the chickens’ greenhouse) so I have them outdoors.  They’re the thick-skinned, prickly ones, of course, but they’re delicately delicious.  When I have a glut, which will probably be within a week, I’ll make lovely bread-and-butter pickle.  And I’m keeping my eye on the fig tree.  There should be a fabulous crop.

No Z is an island

I have a Lowestoft swan for the sale, which is quite exciting.  We’ve had a cygnet before, which was even better, but hey.

Tim has gone back to his place and I miss him very much.  But I’ve remembered to lock the doors, which is a good thing because I’ve been known to forget.  And I made a loaf of bread in the Baby Belling, and ate whole lots of it – with a couple of eggs and a courgette – for dinner.

I am, however, quite sad.  Because I’ll be signing a witness statement tomorrow against someone I know, who has defrauded either me or the company he worked for, I am not sure which yet, though I think it’s probably the latter.  Obviously, I can’t talk about it, but I thought of him as a friend and the circumstances mean that he did the dirty at a time when the Sage and I were vulnerable.  I know that it’s true, I have proof that what happened wasn’t what we authorised, and I grieve for him and his family because he, maybe his wife too, screwed up in a big way and I’m a small part of it.  The bell tolls, you know? Whether you ask or not.

So back to positives because we keep on going on –

Worldwide – those Thai boys and their coach, what a magnificent, heartwarming, fabulous effort it’s been.  No risks were spared – and a brave helper lost his life – and no money either.  If there’s a relief effort for the Thai government, I’ll certainly support it – however much time was given freely, it must have been very expensive.  And I wait to hear of the last three divers and the doctor, who are the last to come out.

Okay, let’s go with the football.  I don’t know if I’ll watch tomorrow, I managed the France/Belgium match tonight but I found it hard to care.  But yay us and all that.

There are some ripe tomatoes at last, but I’m being kind and virtuous and not picking them until LT is back where he belongs – which is not a geographical thing, obvs, but with me.

I made a loaf of bread in the Baby Belling and it turned out fine.  We bought bread the other day and it was quite all right, but I prefer my own – obviously that makes me a bit pretentious.  I took a few weeks to get it how we both like – now, I usually bake about once a week, we slice the bread once it’s cold and freeze it, then take out what we want every day.  No waste and I buy a wholemeal loaf for the chickens, who love bread and I usually give them a couple of slices, soaked, daily.  It’ll have to be the real thing in the morning as I haven’t anything else.

It’s LT’s birthday at the weekend and – whew – I’ve bought his present.  Nearly six years since I went to his birthday party and, as I was never going to meet any of the guests again apart from Tim himself, Mig and Barney, I was quite uninhibited and chose to be fairly life-and-soulish.  Not to an embarrassing extent really, just enough to give people the wrong impression.  Hey ho.  I’ve met a lot of them since and – apart from my calling myself Tim’s latest squeeze – I was restrained and totes adorbs, obvs.