Monthly Archives: October 2006

Am I getting a DBM?

Is it that one’s face gets thinner, even if one gets fatter, as one ages?

I have a scarred upper lip. The result of being hit accidentally in the face by a perfectly pleasant, but quite beefy (not in the overweight sense, just tall and muscular) German girl called Leonarda Swirskis (I may not have the spelling right and I rather hope I don’t in case she ever Googles herself) wielding a hockey stick. I was 14 at the time, I think, and I never engaged in a game of hockey again. I avoided the action. Fortunately, it missed my teeth, but I can still feel the scar on the inside of my lip, but until recently it was not visible to the outside world. Well, it was if you knew it was there, but no-one did.

Twice recently, I have looked in the mirror (always a mistake) and seen it. As a line extending through and above the lip. This is a precursor of a DBM which is the sorriest manifestation of female old age. Well, apart from incontinence.


Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.

Nothing happened for most of the day. I haven’t had time to write anything imaginative or personal and I was going to let you all have a day off.

And then…………

No, daddy didn’t fall into the pond (I do hope you know this poem, or you will think I’m absolutely barking)

Dilly found a piglet in the road!! Oh, go on then….. !!!

She phoned me to ask what to do. I knew to whom it belonged – well, the most likely person. I said I’d ring.

Actually, that’s about it. I phoned, the lady there (who was not the farmer, S & B were out) said she’d find someone to help and ten minutes later, Dilly stopped her car to pick me up on her way home – I was hotfooting it to go and help in case the piglet tried to get on to the bypass, not having appreciated quite how small it was – and said a young man “Well, younger than me” she said, had come from the farm. At that time it was frolicking in long grass so he was able to scoop it up with little difficulty. He said that they’d had a call earlier, but not been able to find it, so he was grateful that Dilly had stayed. It had walked about a mile, poor little thing, it was only one day old.

And Pugsley was weighed today. 11lbs 15oz. At a month and two days old. Well, my children all gained weight speedily too, nothing like mother’s milk. I held him while Dilly was pottering round the room doing things. His eyes followed her all the time. Afterwards, while she was giving Squiffany her tea (she made a pizza at the baby-group) I sang nursery rhymes to him. He didn’t seem to mind, maybe his eyesight is better than his hearing.

Winding down

The weekend has been quiet but I am tired this morning. This is entirely my own fault, as I went to bed very late. Since the clocks went back yesterday it would have been sensible to go to bed an hour earlier rather than later.

I bought croissants and decadent stuff like that for breakfast on Saturday. El and I both got up quite late and I made a pot of coffee and one of tea and took a trayful into the drawing room so that we could lounge around and chat while we ate. We were impressed and happy to find that the Sage had lit a fire, the first this autumn. It has been so mild that we haven’t needed one – we didn’t then, really, but it was such a pleasure. I said that we’ll want it every night now and the Sage said that we’ve plenty of coal and wood – use as much as you like, he said expansively, I’ve had my £200 pensioner’s heating allowance.

I look forward keenly to pensionerhood and my free bus pass.

Later, Dilly came over with the babies and we all played happily together. I went and made plates of sandwiches, cheese and egg, which were about all that were left in the larder, opened wine and fruit juice and we relaxed for most of the day. Squiffany came with me to the station to take El to catch her train. “Choo choo,” she said hopefully and was not disappointed. She has not had a train ride yet, there’s not much point in taking a train to Norwich as it’s nearly as far to the station as it is to Norwich. Maybe Beccles to Lowestoft in the summer.

I didn’t feel like cooking in the evening, so we fetched fish and chips. Gorgeous.

Sunday, relaxed again. No church in the morning so I got up late, listened to the radio, read the papers, caught up on blogs. Eventually, I went to check the sale accounts and was extremely gratified to find that they were right, which meant that we’d given the right change and that I’d added the cheques correctly. Once, I had the embarrassment of having to ring someone and asking for the £100 that I’d undercharged him.

Pub at lunchtime – I was running late by then so I skipped lunch and had beer instead. Only a pint, however, as I was playing the organ in the afternoon. There was a service for All Souls’ day, which isn’t until 2nd November, but we have it on the Sunday before, in remembrance of people who have died. All Souls’ day isn’t particularly commemorated in this country (unless it is by Catholics?) but the last Rector started up this service a few years ago and it is very much appreciated. Invitations are sent to those who have been bereaved during the past year, and it is open to all of course. Fifty-something people came, including several children remembering grandparents and it was a warm and comforting service. Everyone who wanted to, which meant everyone in fact, lit a candle in memory of those they were thinking of. Tea and cakes and a chat in the church rooms afterwards. Churches should be, and actually often are, for helping more than preaching.

And in the evening, Roro and I did a jigsaw. Started it, anyway. Nice to have a son who is good-natured enough still to do that sort of thing in the evening once in a while.

The fishmonger calls on a Monday morning and today he had mussels. Yum (me), Yuck (the Sage). That’s all right, I’ll have them for lunch and all the fewer to scrub.

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part Three

The best is yet to come? Last cliché of the day, with any luck.

Do you go to auction sales? Whether as a buyer or a seller, they are very exciting. Even as a spectator you can feel the thrill and the tension. I should think that there is something of the same excitement as a gambler feels, except that at the end you have something to show for it.

I don’t want to put in our website address as I don’t want to tell everyone who visits it via Google about this blog. A girl has some modesty. Not much of course, but I prefer to remain a closet exhibitionist. So, if I tell you L*w*st*ftch*n*a dot co dot uk, I expect you can work out the rest and so, if you choose to, you can look us up. If you can’t, email me and I’ll tell you.

The sale started with a few books – there have not been many books written specifically about L/ft china, and they are all out of print, so there is a keen second-hand market for them. Then we went on to teapot lids. Yes, just the lids. So besotted are collectors that they are willing to buy the cover in the hope that, one day, they might find a matching pot.

I won’t run through it all. I’ll be writing a report for the website within a few days which will say a good deal more. It was a fantastic sale though. The Sage said that, busy as he was, it was one of the easiest sales he had ever had. Arms waving all over the room. Sometimes four or five bidders vying with each other at the same time. They were not always easy to spot as the room was so full. There’s always something that goes bananas and this time it was a little vase. Only four inches high and in perfect condition, it was pretty and quite uncommon – certainly, it’s rare to find an undamaged one. But this, estimated at £400-£600, rocketed up to £1,450 – plus the buyer’s premium of 10%. The bargain of the sale, in my opinion (because I liked it), was a nice barrel-shaped teapot – Lot 36 if you look it up. There was a big chip off the spout and a crack which didn’t really matter and it made £484 in total. Spend £50 on restoring the spout and it’d easily fetch £800.

You don’t have to spend a lot, if you don’t mind some damage and you want a hand-made, hand-painted item, well over 200 years old. A couple of pieces went for £55 each and another for just over £70. A teabowl and saucer in fine condition can be bought for around £400, which was the price of Al and Dilly’s new washing machine. It might not be so useful, but instead of throwing it away in ten years time, you will be able to sell it at a good profit, and have had considerable pleasure from it in the meantime – which is the point of buying it. People who invest without pleasure for the beauty of the item miss a lot. I don’t think there are many of those however, it’s not that sort of china.

The thing is with much of this china is that it is accessible. It is not necessarily for the rich. I know lots of people who just have one or two pieces, because L/ft is their birthplace or their home town and it is a bit of their heritage. There are splendid pieces, many of them in museums, but it is a homely, domestic sort of china and was mostly made for use – which is why much of it is damaged.

However, some pieces were made to be decorative, commemorative and to be displayed proudly and handed down the family. And this is what happened to our prize lot, that was briefly left behind on the kitchen table. It is a small disc of china, carefully painted in underglaze blue. On one side it has a painting of a Chinese house and walled garden. On the other is a name, Th0s (short for Thomas) Anders0n and his birthdate, September 13th 1790. It is only 3 inches in diameter and is in perfect condition. These little commemorative b1rth pl@ques, which have one or two small holes to thread a ribbon through to hang on the wall, were unique to L/ft. There are, probably, around 25 of them still in existence, but I don’t know of one that has been sold at auction in some time and we have never been able to offer one before.

We estimated it, rather conservatively we knew, at £8,000 to 10,000. I had a bidder on the telephone and there were several potential buyers in the room. One person, who did not want to be seen to be bidding, had arranged a code with the Sage. The bidding started at £7,000 – the Sage does not waste time by starting boringly low – and quickly rose. My bidder held back until £12,000 and then told me to bid. I waved my card. I was outbid. He told me to bid again, but there were two bidders in the room, and his bid had to be £12,600. £12,800, £13,000. The discreet bidder stopped, but there was still another buyer in the room. “The bidding’s at £13,500, do you want to put in another bid?” “One more.” One more was enough. Everyone applauded. I congratulated him, said goodbye and put the phone down. The end of the sale and a queue of people waving cash and chequebooks was forming. Ro printed off all the invoices and I got to work.

The man who had remarked on the friendly atmosphere had bought a piece. He looked at us. “Is this an entire family business, then?” he asked. Well yes it is, really, us and our three children, the Sage’s cousin C, Dilly and Pugsley…… during the sale, Pugsley squeaked and Dilly hastily wheeled him out to be fed. “Ah, sorry about that,” said the Sage. “My grandson just woke up.”

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part Two

Things could only get better? Still riding the clichés.

I was running late. I had spent some time playing with Squiffany, to give Dilly time to catch up with chores. I hurried out to buy supplies of food. Sale days are the rare times when I unashamedly buy quantities of junk food. We are busy all afternoon and evening, handling items of fragile antique china and we need to keep up our energy levels, with only a few snatched minutes to eat. So I fill rolls with meat, cheese and salad and buy cakes, chocolate biscuits, crisps and sweet drinks – as well as bottles of water which I don’t normally buy. I think the use of food miles and plastic bottles to transport fancy water, when every drop that comes out of our taps has been purified to drinking quality is one of the dafter examples of modern life.

We were ready to leave by one o’clock, which was all right. Half an hour to reach the saleroom, an hour to set up, half an hour in hand for unexpected problems plus, hopefully, a cup of tea and a brief break. Two miles down the road, the Sage said “You did put in the *star item*, didn’t you?” “I thought you did. I put it in its box and waved it at you and put it down again.” Ah. We turned the car around and headed home.

We left again at one-fifteen. And the Sage, most uncharacteristically, drove, if not recklessly, without his usual reck. We sat in silence for most of the way, each of us (Ro had taken the day off work and was with us) calming down in our own way. We unpacked the car and I headed for the car park, anticipating some difficulty in finding a space.

And this is where the day changed. As I approached the furthest corner, a car backed out of a space. I drove in and, as I put money in the ticket machine, three cars went past, drivers peering to see if someone was about to leave. More cars were driving in as I walked out. I said ‘thank you’ to my vastly appreciated guardian angel. No, really, it isn’t superstition, I have a personal other-worldly assistant, he’s fabulous and saves me from myself and from disaster. And, just occasionally, he finds me a parking space, when it really matters.

We were all ready by quarter to three, but people were already hopefully hovering. At five to, I started giving out the china to the ten or so people sitting at the tables and then, just as I was about to go round registering them with booking numbers, in streamed a dozen more.

How we arrange the sale is to have three tables, covered with blankets and then white tablecloths, down the middle of the room. Around them, with space in between for us to walk about, are more tables at which the viewers sit. There’s probably room for about 30 people at a time. The rest of the room has rows of chairs for them to sit at during the sale. They ask for the china they wish to look at and we hand it to them. They are welcome to handle it – some people like to see it all, others only ask for a few selected lots. The viewing goes on for four hours and is constantly busy.

Our various helpers came and went during the afternoon, putting in a couple of hours each. Ro helped and also dealt with the registration. Al, Dilly and Pugsley arrived at about 6.15, after Al had shut up shop and done his Friday deliveries and El hurried in, having come on the 6.30 train. The saleroom was full, nearly every seat taken with a dozen or so standing. Many of the buyers have known us for many years and are friends, but there are new ones every time. On man said “this is very civilised and friendly, I’ve never known a sale quite like it.”

At six-forty, I phoned the one person who had asked to make a telephone bid. I confirmed the lot numbers he was interested in. At six-fifty, the Sage reminded everyone to register and a couple more hopeful bidders-to-be came to the desk. There was an expectant feeling in the air. I wished I’d got around to visiting the loo at some time during the day, but decided I could hang on for another couple of hours.

The Sage taped his gavel on the table, welcomed everyone to the sale and announced the first lot.

What my birth date says about me? I wasn’t born on my due date, however

Your Birthdate: September 10

Independent and dominant, you tend to be the alpha dog in most situations.
You’re very confident, and hardly anything ever shakes you.
Mundane tasks tend to drain you – you prefer to be making great plans.
You are quite original. When people don’t “get” you, it bothers you a lot.

Your strength: Your ability to gain respect

Your weakness: Caring too much what others think

Your power color: Orange-red

Your power symbol: Letter X

Your power month: October

Thanks, Wendz, for doing the ‘8 random facts’ meme so brilliantly, and for the birth date quiz – yes and no. I’m not an alpha dog, but I trust myself, which probably means I’m confident. And I don’t know what a power symbol is, but it would be X, if it were not already Z.

I’m fine with mundane tasks and I respect what people think but I’m not anxious for approval myself. If they don’t ‘get me’ it’s fine too, why should they, I don’t matter (this is not negative, I love the fact of being a minute speck in the scheme of things. Each of us is both everything and nothing. Well, that’s what I think).

Friday the Twenty-Seventh, Part One

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days? It was a day of two halves?

Whatever cliché I use, the day started particularly badly and we could only be thankful that it didn’t end that way.

Al woke to hear Squiffany calling for him. He usually gets her up, as Dilly has to wake up a few times in the night to feed the baby and he lets her have a lie-in until he goes to work, if possible. He went into Squiffany’s bedroom, to see her looking shocked. “Daddy,” she said, “So sorry. Sick. Bed. Mess. So sorry, mess.”

He took her through to the bathroom, undressed and bathed her, dressed her and found her a toy while he stripped the bed and put the sheets and her pyjamas into the washing machine. Then he went out to feed Goosey.

Goosey usually hears the back door being opened and waits, honking, at the gate. But there was no sight or sound of him. After a search, Al discovered the reason. A fox, or probably two had visited during the night and had killed him as he slept – there had been no sound and there was no sign of a struggle, just our poor goose, half-eaten in the grass.

Goosey had belonged to my mother. Some 16 years ago, she acquired two eggs from a poultry-keeping friend and one of our bantams sat – perched precariously – on them until one hatched; the other never did. Rather than keeping him alone, my mother further acquired a cockerel and two ducks to share his run and there they all lived amicably. In the end, his companions died of old age and Al inherited Goosey on his grandmother’s death.

So, Al went back in the house, told Dilly what had happened, and then came to tell his father before going off to work. Later on, I went in to commiserate with Dilly. Squiffany was fine, no after-effects from the sickness, fortunately, but Dilly was trebly disconsolate. Upset about Goosey of course, but she had also just finished mopping up the kitchen. “The washing machine did the sheets all right,” she said, “but when I put in the next load, it leapt out and pulled the hose out and the plug from the socket and now it doesn’t work at all. I think it’s had it, it’s 11 years old and not worth repairing.”

At least, I mentioned helpfully, it had washed that first stinky load before its demise, showing itself to have been, to the last, a loyal and helpful appliance. We also agreed that, if bad luck comes in threes, at least the worst had already happened.

It’s the little things

I am in high good humour today. And for so little reason. I mean, no reason at all not to be cheerful, blessings are falling over themselves to be counted (if I allowed myself to think of the horrible backlog of work that will dismay me next week, my mood would plummet, but that’s not for now. I am not breaking deadlines yet.), but it is the little extras that need to be appreciated. It is, sometimes, similarly little incidents that can plunge one into a miserable mood and so, if you have a tendency to melancholy, it is all the more vital to take every opportunity to be happy.

Ah. I’ve broken the thread and talked too much. Sorry, I’ll start again.

I am in high good humour today. The smallest thing can tip one into cheerfulness, and today it was, simply, that the Sage had his mobile phone with him, charged up and switched on. I had a phone call, one of whole lots – what is it with phone calls? Have some people never heard of email? – and needed to check something with my husband. And I could. It took half a minute, I was able to relay the message and relax.

Otherwise, I would have waited anxiously until he arrived home, then he would have had to deal with the situation, having kept the person waiting in the meantime…..

Now, this doesn’t sound a reason for great joy. It just sounds normal. But the Sage doesn’t really like mobile phones as they apply to him. He likes being able to contact people on them, he expects me to have mine, just in case he wants a chat. He just doesn’t really see that I might be equally glad to know how to get hold of him. He had used it so little that his Sim card was disconnected and I had to buy him a new one, plus £20-worth of credit. This will probably last him two years.

Anyway, I was able to give him a happy and praiseful reception when he arrived home and hope (oh, will I ever learn?) that this lesson will be remembered next time he wants to come home to a smiling wife.

The second thing that made me cheerful, indeed it made me Laugh Out Loud, was Anna’s post today. It was over an hour ago that I read it, and I’m still chortling spasmodically, although the Sage is starting to look at me oddly and I maybe should go and do some work.

Z’s going soft and gentle. Won’t last, make the most of it

It was, indeed, a good evening. Roro (this is Squiffany’s name for him and I think it rather suits) had volunteered to cook a beef curry. He had been given a new recipe and some particularly splendid curry powder and wanted to try it out. I offered to cook a cauliflower and potato dish (phool gobi aur aloo ki bhaji, if that means more to you), which has lots of cumin in it. We had done the preparation and the beef was cooking when the family dropped by and so had time to spare.

We’d have spared the time anyway. Everything is dropped for Squiffany and Pugsley.

It won’t, of course, all go as smoothly as this. But it is a lovely introduction for them to life as a family of four. Al has gone back to work now. This should be his half day – as he works all day every Saturday he sticks to the tradition of an early closing day midweek – but he will stay open later today. The shop is busy this week for half term. He sold lots of pumpkins yesterday – not surprising, he’s undercutting the local supermarket and, he’s been told, Tesco too. It’s good that parents are bringing the children in to buy them fruit instead of sweets – there has been a visible change in attitude in the last couple of years. People are making an effort to eat healthier; I’m not sure that this will show much effect healthwise for a while, but it is a start. They are also trying hard to cut down on waste, returning bags for reuse or bringing their own. They refuse paper bags too if possible.

A friend is coming round for dinner tonight. He will help us with the sale on Friday (it’s a family and friends business) and then he’s off to New Zealand on Sunday. His daughter and son-in-law moved there a few years ago and, having visited a few times, he and his wife love the country too – she went out a month or so back. They have now gained residency and spend about half the year in each hemisphere, having sold their family house here and bought a flat instead. In the long run (they both have a mother to think of) they will spend more of the year over there.

I will make a roast pumpkin soup, braised shoulder of lamb in tomato, onion and carrot, pommes boulangère and whatever vegetables look nicest, and pineapple, which I probably won’t do much to. There are some gorgeous pineapples around and there’s no need to do anything elaborate. I may spoon some passion fruit onto it. I may even make a syllabub, but I’m not promising anything.

Where? – Boo!

Squiffany loves playing hide-and-seek. Playing peep-bo is one of the first games you play with a baby isn’t it – a cloth over their eyes for a moment “Where’s baby? Where are you?” and then laughter when first you and later the baby takes it away. And then you do it to yourself too, “Where’s Granny?”

One of her first useful gestures was an elaborate shrug of the shoulders, wide questioning eyes, and when she could speak she added the word “Where?”

Tonight, she taught Tilly to play. Tilly was rummaging in the corner of the drawing room, hoping to smell a mouse, and Squiffany was searching for her. Under chairs, behind cushions – there she is! – “Boo!” After a couple of times, we realised that Tilly was not mousing any longer (there was no mouse there but she is eternally an optimist), but was lying still and quiet until she was found. We were hugely impressed; Tilly was not brought up with children and has not had many chances to play with them. Then we tried it the other way round. Squiffany went to hide. “Where’s Squiffany, Tilly?” we asked. Tilly sniffed the ground and trotted over to the corner. There she was!

Pugsley is growing rapidly. His face has filled out and he is gaining an extra chin or two. He will come, all being well, to his first auction on Friday. I wonder if he will put in any bids.