Monthly Archives: February 2007

Z feels harassed

It’s an odd week. I have a whole row of meetings and am spending half the days getting ready for them or doing stuff arising from them. I’m vastly intimidated by writing down everything I eat and today it’s been inconvenient to eat anything much at all, which gives a very bad example to someone with an eating disorder.

I made a particularly nice dishful of kedgeree for the blokes this evening, ate a couple of forkfuls and planned to have a proper meal when I got home at 9 o’clock. They ate it all. Shovelled the lot in. Gannets*. I ate a yoghurt and an orange and drank red wine and whisky. I do not deserve to sleep at all.

However, some considerable satisfaction this morning. Two varieties of tomato are up – Black Russian and Green Zebra, all three of lettuce and a tray of coleus. And Squiffany expressed considerable interest in the whole growing thing, so she sowed more seeds herself. Red cabbage, sweet peas, courgettes and globe artichokes. I have some globe artichokes I grew last year, but the chickens have pecked them badly and most of them haven’t survived. If I end up with too many, Al can sell the plants or they can go at the Village Festival in July (they’ll be in pretty big pots by then, mind you).

A couple of days ago, when the sun was shining, I walked through a whole cloud of midges. There was a housefly in the greenhouse on Monday and I just swatted away a fruit fly. I’ve never known this in February before. Absurd.

Tomorrow I’m visiting Windsor Castle. As a tourist, not a guest. Though a Guest of Her Majesty does not necessarily mean that one has been invited to dine at the royal table.

*As you gather, I grew up in the Tony Hancock era

The family story – part 12 – the Land Army, part 2

When I said “more another time”, I didn’t mean “in six weeks.” Sorry. For anyone who hasn’t been following the story, Jane was my mother.

I don’t think Jane ever had any romantic attachments at this time. She liked Bobby, who owned the farm, but just as a friend. He sometimes found it hard to be one of the few young men around who was not fighting for his country, but he had very poor eyesight and farming was certainly part of the war effort. There was one very sad story involving Bobby, though.

A young woman was visiting the farm and wanted to go for a ride. She was an experienced horsewoman and she and Bobby went off across the fields. When they were some distance from home, her horse, galloping, was startled by a rabbit, shied and she fell. Bobby went to help her and wanted to walk her home, but she laughed off the fall, saying she was fine, and insisted on remounting. Bobby did, at least insist that they walked the horses and made for home. But after a while, she paled suddenly and fell off her horse. “I do feel ill now” she said and fainted.

Bobby had no choice but to leave her and gallop back for help. She was taken to hospital, but she died. Her skull had been fractured in the first fall.

At the inquest, the coroner was critical of Bobby, saying that he should not have let her remount. He felt dreadful, remorseful and blamed himself – but, as Mummy said, what else could he do? It was too far for her to walk and she would have collapsed anyway. Of course, in hindsight, he could have ridden with her on his horse, holding her in front of him, but she was insistent that she was fine. If anything could have made it worse, she was an only child and her parents were bereft.

No riding hats in those days of course.

In the 1940s there were a succession of hot summers. Jane must have found that hard as she hated the sun. She had a fair skin and burned easily. She was strong, but she was not robust. She never gave in or complained of physical pain or fatigue, but she found the farm work pretty hard. She suffered badly all her life from migraines, but a ‘sick headache,’ in those days, didn’t gain you much sympathy. On the other hand, she liked the country life and would not have been suited to the hierarchy of the forces or the wearing of a uniform.

There was a good social life. They used to hold dances (‘hops’) in the local village halls. There were plenty of young men, many of them from the American Air Force stationed nearby. My mum always felt sorry for the local lads as they didn’t have much money, whereas the American boys had plenty and they could get treats like silk stockings, cigarettes and chocolate too. Jane didn’t care for the sort of girl who was tempted by that sort of thing – we all know the disgruntled description of American servicemen at that time “Overpaid, over-sexed and over here!” Poor lads. Still ready to die, thousands of miles from home.

One evening a young black man asked her for a dance. She was embarrassed and refused – she knew that her reputation would be in big trouble, even with just a dance. It was on her conscience all her life though. She really regretted it.

I suppose the lads had a few beers, but she never drank at all. They all had a whale of a time though and would walk back across the ploughed field, her dance shoes swinging from her hand, one foot on the ridge and the other in the furrow, giggling helplessly.

This all came to an end suddenly. She had been suffering from serious abdominal pain but, typically, said nothing about it for some time. When, finally, she went to the doctor, he told her she had acute appendicitis and sent her straight to hospital. The appendix was on the point of bursting and she was very ill for some time afterwards. It was decided that she could not return to her farm work and she was sent home to her father for recuperation.

Not long after that, she came down with measles. She was already quite run down and she was extremely ill and delerious. She went blind for several days. The doctor visited night and morning and ordered that she be kept in a darkened room. How lucky she was, however – and how thankful her father must have been; again, she was an only child and he was otherwise all alone – because, in the end, she made a full recovery. Her eyesight was superb (far better than mine!) and she didn’t even need reading glasses until she was into her sixties.

The measles came when she was twenty-one, so that must have been in 1945. So, by the time she recovered, the war was coming to an end and she was able to think about her future.

Battle of the Bloggers

Leesa has left me a comment to say her ‘Battle of the Bloggers’has kicked off. Do take a look, there are lots of blogs to look at, competing in pairs so you really do have to read them all to take part!

Thank you, Pat and Murph, for joining in. Don’t, please, feel you have to vote for me, I’m not mentioning it for that. It’s just for fun and to publicise some blogs you might not come upon otherwise.

By the way, at present Leesa’s links to the different groups don’t work, so here they are –
Eastern bracket
Western bracket. I’m in this one and so is Murph.
Northern bracket
Southern bracket. You’ll find Pi here.

You have a week to read them all and vote.

Monday morning.

This food diary is a bit of a thing. I’m out of bread so haven’t bothered to eat breakfast this morning and have just squeezed a couple of oranges and eaten a plum. I feel I should be a better example.

The Sage has letters for me to write, but he has gone out. Someone called round to see him, so I’ve said call back in a few minutes. Then the Sage will talk to him instead of telling me about the letters.

I feel that it is not going to be a very productive morning.

I will do housework until he’s ready for me to start. How dull and yet how useful. I will be glad of it later, I daresay.

Tilly, the dog with Two Tales

Following on from yesterday’s post…

We went back with Ro, who was back from school by then. I took a sheet. The dog was not very clean, the house was smelly and there probably were fleas. The poor little thing was frightened and trembled when we took her. Miss P warned us that she had only been in a car once and had been sick. I said she was welcome to phone to know how she was getting on. She was obviously fond of the little dog and reluctant to part with her.

When Chester, our Irish setter/bearded collie cross saw her, he was thrilled. He sniffed her all over, while she cowered, terrified. We put him in the house and fetched her some food, which she wolfed down. Then I got a bucket of warm water, gave her a bath and dried her. I decided to walk both dogs round the village, so that they could get used to each other.

It was quite embarrassing as she was so thin, it looked as if I was the one neglecting her. However, by the time we’d been round the block, Chester was less curious about her and she was not trembling so much. When we arrived home, it was time for Chester to eat and I gave Kilda another small meal. It vanished in no time and she eyed his bowlful enviously. She couldn’t resist. She darted in to steal a mouthful.

Darling Chester stepped back and let her.

You could see the thought going through her head. “The huge dog is letting me eat his meal? He’s not a threat! He’s – he’s a pushover!!”

It was as easy as that. From then on, they adored each other. He never licked his bowl clean again, but left a little for her to finish. She deferred to him, but was unafraid. He did fancy her rotten and she flirted with him, wafting herself past when he was lying down and then scurrying away as soon as he started sniffing her. For this reason, we had her spayed as soon as the vet said it was time. Afterwards, however, she couldn’t understand why she had lost her power to attract and this made her rather miserable. I felt bad that we’d taken away her femininity, but it was too late and we’d had no real choice anyway.

The first time we let her out of the house, she ran straight to the chickens and started to chase them. I called her back and told her to stop. The next day, I saw her rushing joyfully, feathers in mouth, chasing an indignant and frightened bantam. I shouted at her and, when she came, grabbed her and told her she must never do that again. She was very upset and never did.

For a long time, we had to be very gentle with her. She was afraid of children and I always wondered if the local kids at her previous home had made fun of her owner, maybe chased or thrown things. It was never necessary to say anything if she misbehaved – a look would do. She liked to curl up with me in an armchair, but she always wanted to sit behind me. I still tend to perch at the front of chairs, although she usually stretches out on the sofa nowadays.

Her name was changed within a day, when Ro called her “Kill” for short. We decided to choose a name that sounded almost the same as Kilda, not to confuse her. It came down to Hilda or Mathilda, so Tilly it is.

Oh – and Sage was besotted with her in no time. He’s given up arguing with me altogether. As I’ve pointed out, I’m a very reasonable woman. I’m always going to agree that he’s right – unless I am. And in that case, he might as well agree with me.


We’re watching a piece on eBay. The price is pretty high already – we haven’t bid and there’s half an hour to go.

“Will you bid?” I asked. “I ought not to,” he replied. “But will you?” “That’s why I said ‘ought’ not to,” he said with a grin.

“We’re two of a kind,” I said.

Tilly’s Tale

I thought I’d tell you how Tilly joined our family, nine years ago.

My mother and I went to a small town a few miles away, to buy some curtain track. While we were in the shop, a young woman came in with a small dog on a big chain. It was the sort of choke-chain more usually used to keep a Rottweiler under control. My mother and I looked at the dog and then at each other in horror. She was stick-thin, you could see her ribs, her hip-bones and her spine sticking out. Her tail was between her legs and she was shaking. Her teats were swollen with milk. However, her black coat was surprisingly glossy and she had huge dark eyes in her pinched little face.

Her owner looked poor. She had on a shabby overcoat, her red hands were chapped and she looked nervous. My mother spoke to her politely. “What a dear little dog” she said. “Has she had puppies?”

In the next few minutes, we were told that the dog was only fifteen months old and the puppies were six weeks; nearly weaned and the pet shop had agreed to take them, but the woman was moving to a council flat and she had been told she could keep her two cats but not take a dog. She had put a card offering her free to a good home, in the local supermarket, but to no avail.

Mummy and I looked at each other again. We completed our purchases and went outside with the young woman to talk on the pavement. “I know she’s a bit thin” she said. “I’ve doubled the amount I feed her, but she hasn’t put much weight on.” She, herself, looked as if she could do with a good meal. Her top teeth were worn to blackened stumps and the bottom ones were discoloured. She was quite simple and, it transpired, was moving to sheltered housing as she could hardly manage to look after herself alone. She wasn’t on the phone, so I gave her my number and asked her to phone in an hour.

Mummy and I talked on the way home. Her first thought was to take her, but her health was not very good and she already had a very large greyhound in her bungalow. She wondered if she should offer to pay a dog sanctuary to look after her, have her spayed and a new home found. I said I’d talk to the Sage.

It had taken me a long time to persuade him that we should have a dog. After our old dog Simon died, it took over three years to talk him round. Finally, he agreed, whereupon it took me nearly another year to find the perfect puppy…and that’s another story. I knew he would not be willing to have a second. I also knew me.

I told him all about it and asked him to look at the dog. “She’s timid and cowed,” I said, “but you can see what a sweet nature she has. I’ve got a really strong feeling about this and it’s not often I say that.” It was true and he agreed to come over to H@rleston with me, once the woman, Miss P, rang back.

She lived in a little flat behind an Indian takeaway. The kitchen was filthy, with gravy stains running down the cooker and a dirty floor. We told her that we had some shopping to do and would come back in a little while. In fact, we walked round the corner and talked.

I put my case. Miss P had said that the dog, Kilda, was obedient, housetrained and gentle. I could see that our dog Chester would not welcome another dog, but a gentle little bitch was a different matter. She needed a home, she had had a dreadful start in life and whatever would become of her? However, I said, you have the last word.

The Sage carefully evaluated what I’d said. He agreed, but he felt that it was too much of a commitment. We had only her word that the dog had a good nature. She might be sickly. He was sorry, but he voted no. I sighed. I went through my arguments again. I mentioned how well she would fit in the family. But you have the last word. “No,” said the Sage. I explained it all over again, reminded him of how rarely I made demands and how I always deferred to him in important decisions. “No,” he said again, with kindly face and furrowed brow. I explained once more about how much I wanted this dog. On the other hand, I was not looking for trouble. If she was difficult, sickly, bad-tempered, I’d be willing to look for another home for her, but in the meantime I would have nursed her back to health. However, I was sure that we’d want to keep her. But you have the final word. The Sage still demurred.

This discussion lasted a full hour. In the end, the Sage realised that, in this case, ‘the final word’ was “Yes” and I wouldn’t let go until he said it. Once he’d grasped that, he said “Yes” and we went back, told Miss P we’d take Kilda but that we needed to go home, buy a basket and a collar and lead and we’d be back later in the afternoon.

More to follow…

Flowers in the rain

The first few daffodils opened yesterday.

I know that many people think of the flowering currant as a weed, but I’ve always liked it. I don’t dislike the smell, which I think is quite blackcurranty, but some say reminds them of tomcats.

This is self-seeded. I had some little violas in the tub above this last year. My justification for not weeding very often.

The first lettuce seeds are starting to come up – just the beginnings of the stalks, not even a leaf yet. But I only sowed the seeds on Wednesday. For the last few years it has been an effort to make a start in the garden but this year it is a pleasure again. It may be because the weather has been so mild this month. Working outside has been enjoyable, not a chore. I decided, also, to think less about growing for sale and more about growing for fun. I’ve always grown vegetables. Even when I was a child and given a little patch in the garden, I put in beans, radishes and cress. When I was first married and had a pocket-handkerchief garden I grew cabbages and runner beans. I love flowers but, mostly, I plant shrubs and let them take care of themselves, and just put a few flowers in between. I used to do more. I used to grow all sorts of flowers for cutting and (this is hard to believe) do flower arrangements in every room. Simple summer flowers, like cornflowers and sweet peas. They only lasted a day or two. However did I find time?

To change the subject, back in October I wrote about a friend. She stayed in hospital for a long time, even over Christmas. She came to church this morning for the first time in nearly six months.

I was glad to see her, but shocked by how ill she looks. I also, as I hugged her in greeting, thought how brave she is, to come along, knowing that we’ve all been talking about her. It’s not easy for a modest person to face. But of course, we all greeted her in a normal and unfussy way and included her in our conversation.

She is still painfully thin and looks pale and shaky, but for the first time I think she might be starting to accept her condition and be willing to do something about it. Revd S, who was taking the service with her husband Revd B (yes, really) asked for people who would be willing to take part in a food survey as our friend, C, is researching how people eat. We will have to record all we eat over a week. I signed up, as did several others … that’ll make us think, won’t it. C. isn’t the only one who needs to understand what we eat and why, if not necessarily for the same reasons.

I wonder if we’ll have to put down what we drink too. Oh dear. I owe it to C. not to lie. If she’s going to face herself, I must let her see me too. How embarrassing that will be. Fortunately, I’m not too bad just now. I won’t quite say that a bottle of wine lasts me three nights, but two bottles lasts five.

That’s good, isn’t it? Huh? Why are you all looking at me that way?

If a post rambles, is it a walking stick?

A quiet Saturday at home. I came downstairs and opened the post. I was excited to discover the seeds I ordered from Pl@nts of D1st1nct1ion had arrived, only four days after I ordered them. It is a splendid small Suffolk company which offers lots of different pepper (capsicum) varieties and pages and pages of old-fashioned tomatoes, as well as the usual stuff. It was hard to know where to start with my choices and I was late with the order.

I was taken aback when I opened the next envelope. “Are you” it enquired boldly “over 65 and looking to broaden your social circle?” The envelope was hand-addressed, which made it all seem a bit pointed. “No” I said in a small voice.

When I had another look in the envelope, it transpires that this is a service being set up by the County Council and was sent to me as local WRVS organiser. It’s a sort of telephone-based friendship club for more-or-less housebound people – “phone-in coffee mornings” are among the delights offered. It’s an interesting* idea, I wonder if it will take off. I can’t think it would appeal to me, but if I was alone with no one to talk to, I might feel differently.

We’ve forked over about half of the vegetable garden and I’ve sowed more seeds in the greenhouse. Not outdoors yet, I’ll let the soil warm up a little more first. I looked at one pepper variety. ‘Georgia Flame’. Sweet pepper or chilli? I wondered. I put a seed in my mouth to taste. Mm, pretty hot… I took it out again and sowed it. I’ve looked at the catalogue since and the variety is from the Republic of Georgia rather than the American state.

Dilly and the children have had a sociable day. First her parents arrived. I bobbed out from the greenhouse to say hello and inveigled them in to see my little nursery. Later, her sister arrived with her two small children. They decided to go to the village playing field. “Hello Granny,” shouted Squiffany, excitedly. “We going to the SWINGS.”

A friend called in, to pick up a pair of Meissen figurines which the Sage’s china restorer had mended for them. While they were on holiday, a pigeon came down their drawing-room chimney and, poor creature, made a terrible mess of things before dying of thirst on the floor. What a sight to come home to. Horrible.

They have been beautifully mended and he was very pleased with them. He and his wife moved from the village about a year ago; not too far away but I haven’t seen them much since. He is one of the most good-looking men I’ve ever known. He’s frankly gorgeous. He and his wife – who is tiny, slim and very pretty – are a couple of years older than I am and he’s going grey now, but this takes nothing from his appearance. Not that I’m knocking the Sage, who looks good himself (even if bald!), but I couldn’t be married to a man who was so much more attractive than I am. I’d be eternally intimidated.

Tilly has got off the armchair and I can feel her looking at me. She is too polite to speak, but she would like her dinner please, as soon as I’m ready. I will go straightaway.

*’Interesting’ is one of those words to use when you don’t want to damn it but really can think of nothing to enthuse about.

Did they find what they wanted?

I’ve just been looking at my statcounter, to see what keywords people have used to find me. Usually people gleefully or disconcertedly report that worryingly anatomical phrases have been used, which I would not dream of quoting for obvious reasons. I, however, found this – what should i do today to cheer myself up but still feel like i’ve achieved something. Now, that’s the sort of cheering, positive message I’d like to give out in this blog!

I didn’t find what I was looking for, I’m happy to say. It’s not that I am secretive about my identity, but a few bloggers I know (virtually speaking) have been dismayed to be told they are discovered. “Can’t go to that pub again” said one of them. I know what he means. It’d be one thing for a friend to tell you and you’d appreciate their openness, but for an acquaintance to laugh about it, pass it round and make you feel as if you’d been caught out, would be disconcerting at least.

I told my family about it early on, which I’m glad of. I’d really not like them to hear from a third party, to find I’d been keeping secrets. My sister and daughter, whom I don’t see everyday, read it, but the rest of the family don’t bother, as they do. I suspect they have more than enough of my thoughts and opinions as it is. I do show bits to my husband, who cannot use a computer at all, so that, whilst he’d be welcome to read it, he never will. I read out comments, show him photos I’ve put up, to make sure he is not kept out of a part of my life which really matters to me. I find that quite an odd thing to say, but bloggers will understand me. It’s been unexpected. I like it.