Monthly Archives: September 2006

A necessary question, to which the answer is always ‘Yes’

The food is almost done. I’ve just got to make the fruit salad and cook the bread and butter pudding and risotto, both of which are prepared.

The menu is….

Spiced lamb casserole
Chicken with tomato and pesto sauce
Green pea risotto
Baked potatoes
Green salad (which someone else is bringing)

Lemon syllabub
Chocolate mousse
Raspberry bread and butter pudding
Fruit salad; pineapple, strawberries and passion fruit

I looked at it. I asked myself ‘Is there enough food?’ I answered ‘Yes, you fool, there is at least twice as much as we need.’

A consoling thought struck me. It is entirely appropriate, for a Harvest Festival supper at the church rooms, that there should be way too much food. Jesus overcatered, after all – when he fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, they gathered up the leftovers in basketfuls.

talking on the telephone

“Hello, darling. It’s now twenty-five to ……..umm……. something, I’m back at Notcutts in Norwich and I’ll see you at ……um ……errr….8 o’clock. ‘bye darling.”

I rang home. The line was engaged. I did this several times in the next quarter of an hour. Finally, I left a message (see above).

Ten minutes later (the line was still busy) I rang Ro’s mobile and asked him to pass on the word of my homecoming to his father. I was hoping that dinner would await.

It did. Happy Z.

The Sage listened to the message. Chuckling, he pressed replay. And again.

If he wants a fluffy -sounding wife, all he really needs to do is engage me in conversation, anytime.

I had a good day out, interesting sights, excellent company and splendid guides.

Back to the kitchen now, harvest supper to prepare.

Tribute to my patient and long-suffering credit card

As I said the other day, I don’t have the eBay gene. But I am developing a bad Amazon habit. If there was a book/music/DVD shop locally, I’d go there, but browsing online is a happy substitute. Not so much for books, for handling them is a large part of the pleasure, but there’s not much interest in a plastic case covered with cellophane. And then there is the ‘ooh, a parcel, for ME and it’s not even my birthday’ factor.

Surely I’ve got enough Bix Beiderbecke discs already? The lad died at only 28 and, prolific as he had been during the 1920s, there aren’t that many recordings from him. But a few tracks I haven’t got, or different recordings of those I have, so into the collection it has to go.

I had a bank statement this morning. More there than I expected, which is a relief considering the bills to come in this month……

Z is awake

I did know better, but I was tired. And I was in bed, asleep, by eleven o’clock.

Half past one and I was awake again. An hour later I came downstairs, made tea and started reading.

A friend, in a letter, enthusiastically suggested that I should take up singing. I am puzzled. He hasn’t heard me, or he would not have proposed it. I can hold a tune, mostly, especially if I sing in a key of my own choosing, but that no more makes me a singer than the ability to rule a line makes me able to draw. Isn’t it funny, the impression one gives of oneself.

Singing seems as if it should come naturally. You know you have to learn to play an instrument, but you use your voice all the time, and all children like to sing. Self-consciousness creeps in sooner or later, and in my case has never left. I couldn’t play the piano in front of anyone but my music teacher either and piano exams were torture. I flew through the theory exams with full marks and scraped past the practicals with a point or two to spare.

Another friend’s daughter plays the flute, and has just started the saxophone. In just a few months, her teacher assesses her at approaching Grade 5 level. He (the friend) wanted her to take flute exams but she is unwilling. I applauded her for sticking to her guns; I think the imposition of music exams, and the months of dull preparation for them, destroys for many children the enjoyment of making music. One can always catch up on the grades later if one wishes. He said that he wants her to do it so that he can frame the certificate and point it out to people, to make him proud. I do understand; he did not receive much praise in his childhood and in compensation lavishes it onto his children. But that doesn’t mean I agree.

Oh, by the way, the Sage went to the auction yesterday. He was outbid, but we weren’t surprised. The estimate was £700-£1,000, we were willing to go to £2,800 but it fetched £4,800, plus 20% commission plus VAT on the commission. A nice pair of spoons, but that was too much for us. It shows that the major auction houses haven’t much clue about estimating what some items are worth. When you see in the paper that something fetched far more than the estimate, it might mean keen bidding or it might just mean that it was undervalued and the dealers and collectors know more than the auctioneer.

“I nearly came home with a set of silver plates,” he said. “Ten of them were going for a couple of thousand pounds and I didn’t think that was dear. But I didn’t quite know what we’d do with them.” “Oh, okay,” I replied non-commitally. I knew what he meant though, I’m sure they would look lovely, but what would you do with them? You couldn’t use them or they’d get scratched. And putting them under china plates on the table would look pretentious. A pair or two on the dresser would be handsome, but ten is a bit OTT. Anyway, it didn’t happen.

Quarter past four. Still too early to stay up. I might as well have another couple of hours in bed and hope to sleep a bit more – of course, I’ll probably roll out of bed sluggishly at nine o’clock.

Good morning.

Z is moody

I looked in the fridge, for something for lunch. It has not been a fun morning – in fact the whole week seems at this jaundiced moment to be a bit shitty, though no doubt my opinion will be transformed when Dilly has the baby. She is still labourless right now, two days late, thank you for asking.

I found my hand curling round the bottle of rosé that was started last night. I hesitated. I remembered the funeral I am playing the organ for this afternoon. “Just the one glass then,” I said aloud.

Nothing I fancied to eat. I went to the freezer. No pizza. Plenty of raw (and frozen) ingredients, but nothing I wanted.

I am eating pretzels and drinking wine. I feel better. This is a little worrying. The only consolation here is that I ate three figs while I was thinking about it.

My usual comfort food is risotto. I love making risotto. The slow and patient cooking of it soothes me, even as I wait to taste its creamy texture. I like it a bit loose and sloppy, but just al dente – I rarely order it in a restaurant as I am ready to be critical of someone else’s taste; too much or too little cooked and I am disappointed.

However, today I am cooking other dishes (for Saturday, I’ve no other opportunity) and have not time to relax. Tasty, chewy and yet indulgent. Nothing fits the bill. Salami would do it, but I haven’t got any. Olives, ditto. I sigh. I want another glass of wine. I’d better start cooking again.

A bookish meme

I was tagged by Gordon. And it was very hard.

This probably is not what the question means, but it is a Ladybird early reader called The Farm, which was the very first book I could read on my own. I remember, still, the wonder of knowing what those black marks meant. I read it over and over. There was one sentence on each page, along the lines of ‘The farm. This is the farm. A cow. This is a cow.” But it was incredibly exciting and truly did change my life.

If that won’t do, then Milton’s Paradise Lost. Because of his wonderful use of language, which triggered a new appreciation of Latin as well as English when I was sixteen years old.

I’ve read so many books more than once. I do not reread nearly so many now. Time was, I thought there was all the time in the world. Now there are just all the books in the world and I’m never going to read them all, even the good ones.

A book that I still reread (and have this year) is The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. I adore it. “She was small and delicately put together, but she looked durable.” This is from memory, I hope it’s right. It’s a wonderful line.
Also, Philip Marlowe is Humphrey Bogart in my mind and he is my all-time film heartthrob. I think it was the sight of him falling in love with Lauren Bacall during To Have and Have Not.

That probably depends whether I get the Bible and Shakespeare too, because if I did, I’d certainly want some light relief.

I think I’ll go for the short stories of Saki (H.H.Munro) because I have enjoyed them for 40 years and they haven’t palled yet.

I have been known to snort helplessly with laughter, usually in an inappropriate place, with quite a few books. Bill Bryson comes to mind as a culprit.

However, I’ll nominate Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, because I only laughed once, but it was in sheer pleasure. It was near the end, when Pi was nearing the American coast and I was wondering how on earth a plausible conclusion could be reached – and then, in one bound, it did. It made sense, in a nonsensical way, of the whole book and was clever and enjoyable.

You either get this book or you don’t, I suspect.

I don’t really appreciate manipulatively weepy books or films and a tearjerker, even if it works, can be quite annoying. But, like Gordon, I will say The Time-Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I don’t even know if it was really that moving (except in a fourth dimensionally sort of way) or well written, because it gripped me so much that I lost my critical senses, but I cried an awful lot.

Anything by Jane Austen. I have to choose? Persuasion.

Oh goodness, if I read a book that was as unpleasant as that, I would have tried to forget it as quickly as possible.

I will say the Reader’s Digest Book of Look Up Your Symptoms And Diagnose Your Own Illness (whatever it was actually called), because it worried my mother a great deal, but she couldn’t resist reading it. I really wanted to burn that book.

Will and Me – how Shakespeare took over my life, by Dominic Dromgoole. Ro gave it to me for my birthday. I saved it for a week to enhance the pleasure of starting it (and, too, I was reading another birthday book, slowly and with great pleasure), so I’ve only just begun.

I haven’t read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, for years and it’s a book I love and I am intending to reread soon. I have lost my copy though and have to buy a new one.

This probably, however, means a book I haven’t read yet. And not one of those classic ‘should have read but will I ever?’ So, in that case, John Peel’s autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes. Wonderful John Peel; I and all my children, all three decades of us, were devastated when he died. “Well” said Ro gloomily, “I don’t suppose I’ll ever have a reason to listen to Radio 1 again.” I would have read the book already, but two of the kids own it and I was thinking they might lend……no, no, you’re right, I should buy my own copy.

Oh, this is the hardest, I think. I hate to ask, it seems an imposition. But there we go, treat it as an invitation and you are welcome to say no.

I’ll say:
How do we know – because she tagged me and we feel a friendly closeness, although we haven’t met.
Life of a Banana – because I guessed hairdresser, when some people were prepared to be shocked – or said they were.
Geena – because she is a darling, although she might not have time for this and so mustn’t think I’ll mind if she says no.
Diamond Weeza – because I’m the only person who comments on her blog and I can’t think why, unless it’s that she doesn’t update often enough.

And Al B., a pal who lurks daily and hasn’t a blog as far as I know. I offered him, a long time ago, a guest slot – this is it, honey. Email me and I’ll post the answers.

Z is tired, but still blogging.

Doesn’t miss a day? Always in the mood? If not in the mood, gets in the mood, by doing it and, ooh, that’s rather good, isn’t it?

It’s working already.

“HEYYO” shouted Squiffany, running towards me and planting several air kisses “MWAH, MWAH, MWAH!” “We’re going down to the playground,” said her mother. “Exercise might have some effect.”

The baby was due today. He will be late. Dilly feels that she has already waited quite long enough.

I am glad, in almost all ways, that I will never be pregnant again, that I will never go through the waiting, the childbirth, the exhaustion and the sleepless nights. But even as I write that, I find that it’s not true. We decided, when Ro was a month old, that he would be our last child (it sounds really insulting to him to say that, until he was born, we had meant to have a fourth, but he wasn’t an easy baby and we were not so young then as when the first two were born) and we never changed our minds, but a bit of me has wanted another baby for the last 30 years (and had my wish once, 22 years ago). If you are a man or haven’t borne a child, I’m sorry, and if you don’t intend to be a parent, this is not aimed at you, it is simply personal and probably brought on by sheer emotion, at the imminent prospect of the birth of my second grandchild.

There is nothing like feeling your baby kick inside you. Or the first contractions, or the later ones, unwelcome as they are – “Oh bugger, this is the time I wish I’d just said ‘no’.” Or that slithery feeling as all your baby is born, followed by that first cry, that primitive instinct to sniff, when what you smell is yourself, the essence of yourself. And breastfeeding (especially at first, when you feel your womb contract and think, satisfyingly, that your stomach is going down every time the baby sucks), the knowledge that this infant is totally yours and that although you are separate, you are still entirely one.

Yup. I miss it. I didn’t regret the decision not to have a fourth baby, but there is some little bit of me that will be, forever, broody.

And I had no idea that I was going to write that. If you read it, I even posted it. Well, well.

Oh, and having a baby and feeding it yourself is the best diet in the world. You can eat forever and lose weight. It is impossible to keep it. You can stuff chocolate cake and be a size 8, with a natural D cup*.

Yay. Lucky Dilly. Despite labour and the sleepless nights, I envy her.

*Still got the D cup. But not the size 8.

Are we nearly there yet?

This is something I’ve been avoiding for a long time. Getting an account on eBay. The Sage loves an auction – so do I come to that, but I have no particular urge to buy things just for the sake of it – and he is an inveterate collector. But, looking for something, nosily, that someone we know is selling, I noticed a teabowl and mentioned it – he was excited to see that he has a matching saucer. So I admitted that it is not hard to set up an account, and we put in a bid.

The close of the auction was 5 o’clock this evening. He was highly excited all afternoon, getting me to check continually to see if he had been outbid – and then, with half an hour to go, he fell asleep, exhausted with nervous tension, in an armchair, the saucer still clutched between his fingers.

He bought it. For less than his maximum bid. Some mean so-and-so put in a higher bid with 5 seconds to go, but not high enough. He is a happy Sage. But what have I started?

There is one good thing. He is completely disconcerted by the computer and doesn’t even know how to check his emails. So I have control. But I am just so easily cajoled……..

Z is feeling neglected

So. Where is everybody? I went out at about half past three, saying I’d not be home until five, and no one said anything about going out. But I returned to an empty house. Now, at nearly seven, there is still no one here.

Hmph. I bet they will burst through the door in ten minutes, demanding to know when dinner will be ready and what is it?

Corn on the cob. Roast duck and roast potatoes. Whatever other vegetable there is enough of to pick. Twenty to eight precisely.

And, being home and alone, what am I doing? Drinking red wine, eating pretzels, reading blogs, reading the paper, listening to Troubled Diva’s podcast* (which I downloaded days ago and haven’t had an hour free for until now). How about a little stimulating conversation here?

I sigh. I pour another glass of wine. I eat a fig. I sigh.

*Should I have put a link to that? Surely you all read and love Troubled Diva already.