Monthly Archives: March 2007

Saturday morning

Al spends a good deal of time in the morning perfecting the shop display. This was today’s – just a regular Saturday morning.

Saturdays are always busy, but this one started relatively slowly. At about half-past nine, Al remembered that a village a few miles away was holding its monthly farmers’ market. He had been annoyed to see it advertised in the local paper as being the only place one could buy local produce, when this is not true at all. The same newspaper is holding a ‘buy local’ week to support independent shops, and evidently hasn’t thought through a policy of accepting adverts with wording that is misleading and speaks against small shops just as much as against the supermarkets.

Having joined the EDP’s ‘local’ campaign, he was entertained to receive the ‘action pack’ in the post this morning. With a covering letter, it comprised five posters on bright yellow paper, five yellow balloons and seven ballpoint pens. Not quite enough to give away to all his customers, but no doubt he will do something resourceful and eyecatching. I’m not sure if the balloons will last all week though.

One of the regular Saturday customers, Robert, came in. He visits his parents and young niece and nephew every weekend and always comes in for a large order, £20 – £30 worth. He is very entertaining and jokes with all of us and a small queue builds up at the other till as Sarah spends ten minutes or more serving him. I glanced in the other shopping bag he’d left leaning against the counter. “I say, those look nice chocolates.” He took them out to show them to us. Absolutely wonderful-looking chocolate truffles, and a small box of milk chocolates of equally high quality. He’d been buying Easter presents at the deli. We agreed that a small amount of wonderful and expensive chocolate is better than whole lots of cheap stuff. He also had the delicious multi-grain bread made by a local organic bakery. It has a lot of poppy seeds in it, so you have to check your teeth after eating it in case you tip someone the black spot accidentally. “What cheese have you got?” asked Sarah, “how much was that?”

No wonder he comes back to us, week after week, with the polite and respectful reception he receives. He and his partner have recently moved to the North Norfolk coast, so it’s a long way to come, but he’s very close to his family. They are planning their civil partnership ceremony at present and Robert’s mother and father insist there should be a big party for which they’ll foot the bill, which Robert is very touched by.

Another snap I took the other day is of the menu of the splendid local caff.

Just look at all those breakfasts. How to choose? They also have a blackboard with the day’s specials chalked up inside, with at least one roast, shepherd’s pie, homemade quiche, salads. It’s all prepared from scratch in a tiny kitchen and I have no idea how they do it.

Mind you, I think the pricing of the hash browns is a bit cheeky.

Fuzzy world

I’m losing my marbles. Or is that something you knew already? I arrived for my afternoon shopkeeping shift and realised, when I couldn’t read any of the labels on the shelves, that I hadn’t put in my contact lenses this morning. I’m sorry to say that I’d just driven in to town without noticing that details were a bit fuzzy. Of course, when slightly shortsighted, one can see everything, it’s just that the edges are nicely rounded and out of focus.

It seems that the old Co-op shop, which has been empty for nearly two years, is to be opened as a factory (ie cheap) shop. This will be splendid. There is a branch of the same company nine miles ago and it does good business, so this should bring eager customers flocking to Yagnub and I’m sure that many of them will stay to stroll around, go to drink cups of tea and buy lots of local vegetables.

That reminds me, the first box of Norfolk rhubarb came in this morning and was nearly all sold by the end of the day. I meant to bring home the last few stalks but forgot. I did remember an excellent local (grown by Fred) cauliflower and that formed the basis of dinner.

More concrete path being put in tomorrow. There’s still rather a lot to do. I said I’d draw a diagram of the veggie garden and I haven’t yet. I realise that I don’t know how to post it once it’s done. I’ve an embarrassed feeling that I’ll end up drawing it on graph paper, taking a photo and posting that. I know I’m a fool.

I’ve also got a post for Penny in the process of being written. I know what’ll happen. I’ll spend ages drafting it, then ignore the draft and write the whole thing in one go. Spontaneity being my watchword and all that.

Back in the shop tomorrow morning. Saturday mornings are extremely busy, though at least there will be three of us – only two tills and scales, but at least there’s someone to stack shelves and carry bags to people’s cars.

It’s early I know, but after a relaxing hour listening to the divine Tom L., I’m ready for bed. ‘Night, darlings.

Ooh, I forgot to mention

I am very excited. I have bought a whiteboard and a dry marker pen. As I explained to the Sage, what we do now is tell each other what we are going to do during the day, we don’t listen to each other and then have to ask to be reminded while giving the impression that we have a bad memory because it seems rude to say we weren’t really listening. So all we need to do is not talk to each other, but write down facts instead.

I also bought a bag that I am quite sure is small enough to carry on to an aeroplane and a small suitcase on wheels, so that when I go through London on my way to visit my sister in a couple of weeks, I will neither have to take my big bag nor carry a smaller one heavy with the dozen books I need for a week’s holiday.

Did I tell you about that? We’re going to M0usehole in Cornwall. She has friends who have a guesthouse there. I’ve only been to Cornwall once and that was a brief visit to the Eden Project. I rang her to ask whose car she wanted to go in, as hers is a bit small and mine is a bit big, and we’ve decided on hers. So I’ll go by train. It will take longer – the train journey is about the same as the drive, but the journey to the stations and across London adds a lot to the time, but I’m thinking that I might be able to fit in a visit to a museum or exhibition on the way there and back. I fancy the Surreal1sm exhibition at the V&A for one.

Mouseh0le, if you abroad-people don’t know, is pronounced Mowzle. Funnily enough, the M0usehold in Norwich is pronounced M0usehold. It’s odd, because most place names in Norfolk are not pronounced the way they are spelled, like Wym0ndham and Happ1sburgh. And Norwich, come to that.

Anyway, if anyone is planning a visit to Yagnub in April, I hope it isn’t between the 13th and the 23rd, because I won’t be here.

Predictable as always

Today, lectures about the architecture of India. I have come home soggy with nostalgia and this was not helped by watching two overweight Englishmen doing a cookery programme in Kerala this evening.

As usual, I had to give the vote of thanks at the end of the day. I enthused, of course. I reminisced about visiting Jaisalmer, which is near the Pakistan border and is the only place I’ve ever been addressed, to my discomfiture, as “Memsahib”. My sister and I went to the bar for fortification and were asked what we’d like to drink. “Gin and tonic?” we said hopefully. The barman beamed. “Ah, yes, all the British memsahibs drink double gin and tonics.”

Afterwards, I drove the lecturer back to the station. “If you don’t mind my mentioning it,” he said, “you seem a very cheerful person. Are you always happy?”

I hadn’t had a drop, honestly. It was a good day, is all. Of course, he may have meant I had a scary rictus grin on my face and looked as if I’d ODed on my medication. But he accepted a lift from me, so he can’t have been too worried, surely.

Being Granny

Dilly and I spent the evening at a friend’s house. Last week, she came with me to Gardening Club. She feels that she can see a social life without babies looming. Indeed, I’ve offered to babysit if she and Al would like to go out to celebrate his birthday next week. This excitement is cheering her up a lot.

Pugsley is a cheerful baby, but he thinks that the days are for playing and the nights are for feeding. He eats small amounts of solid food during the day and wants to be fed by his mother every two nocturnal hours. Last night, they decided not to feed him between 10pm and 6am. Al went to him when he cried – Pugsley and Squiffany share a bedroom – but Dilly didn’t. He ‘only’ woke and cried three times, but for quite a long time…anyway, Dilly says he has had a lot more milk today and so she’s keeping her fingers crossed that two or three nights of this will be enough for him to learn to sleep through.

Of course, all good resolutions will go out of the window if they come down with chickenpox.

Apparently, rain is on the way. As we need dry weather to lay our concrete paths, and as I need the paths done before I can fork over the beds, I hope the forecast displays its usual accuracy. It was gorgeous again today, and Squiffany came to help me sow bean seeds in the greenhouse. One of the varieties of french beans is called ‘Matilda’, bought in Tilly’s honour. They are rather attractive black seeds, but when Squiffany dropped a few, they were quite hard to find. “Be careful,” I said, “You’re dropping them.” “Never mind, sweetheart,” she said, reassuringly. “It doesn’t matter.”

She enjoyed getting dirty and, afterwards, dipped her hands into the watering can to wash them. She is looking forward to having her climbing frame, which her father and grandpa are making for her. She is impressed with the thick layer of bark chippings spread underneath. I’ve explained to her that it makes an ideal hiding place for insects and we can search for spiders and woodlice. She will like that.


Tagged by the Brock Patriarch of Ludlow.

3 Things That Scare Me:

Driving through floods. I suppose it’s because I can’t tell the depth of the water, but I get really agitated.
Cats. I like cats and they usually like me, but I’m scared of them too, as I don’t understand their language and always expect the (apparently) friendliest cat to unleash his claws and gouge stripes of flesh from my arms at any moment. Sometimes, one does. For no reason.
Crowds. I’m usually okay, but sometimes I feel quite panicky. It’s never been so bad that I’ve not been able to cope, luckily.

3 People Who Make Me Laugh:
Michael Bond. I picked up a Paddington Bear book not long ago and browsed for a few minutes and I thought it was as funny as I did when I was a child.
Bill Bryson. I remember a train journey when I embarrassed myself by snorting with laughter at one of his books.
JonnyB. He makes it look so easy. It’s really hard, to make it that simple.

3 Things I Love:
Lying on the lawn on a summer day, reading.
Rowing down the river, watching the wildlife on the bank and in the water. I grew up by the river and have always loved it.
Hearing that first glug from a newly-opened bottle.

3 Things I Hate:

The sound of a dentist’s drill. Obviously.
Going to the doctor. I always start by apologising for wasting his time.
Word Verification. Really. When I brought up the matter before, some people said they didn’t like Comment Moderation, so I politely switched it off. Politely, you see. They only had to mention it and It Was Done.

3 Things I Don’t Understand: So much choice, I don’t know where to start.

When I type a few words into Google and instantly there are thousands of options of sites, some of which actually are relevant to the subject. How can it be so fast?
How anyone can drink B@card1 Breezer. I tried one once, all I could taste were the chemicals and I felt really rough the next day. It was the only alcohol I drank all day and it was about one and a half units, but I was nastily hungover.
Being competitive. It’s not in my nature. I’m tenacious and a trier, but I am a cheerful loser.

3 Things On My Desk: Plenty of choice here too.
A brass dog – a setter, just like Chester, that Ro gave me once.
A candle in a candlestick. Not lit for warmth as it was in the winter, but just to soothe. It isn’t lit now, only in the evening.
A cheque dated a week ago, made out to me, for £189.82. I must pay it in before the end of the month or it’ll mess up the accounts and the treasurer will not be pleased.

3 Things I’m Doing Right Now:

Eating a square of Fairtrade ‘Divine’ 70% dark chocolate.
Listening to Bix Beiderbecke playing ‘In a Mist’, a piano improvisation. He usually played the cornet but trained initially as a pianist, and showed great promise, except that he played by ear and his teacher wanted him to read music. Bix’s story is a sad one, and his end was pitiful, but his music is a joy.
Looking at a pair of bluetits hopping around on the clematis outside the window in Al and Dilly’s garden. I wonder if they are the ones whose nest is in the study roof. I hear them scratching away in there morning and evening.

3 Things I Want To Do Before I Die:

Get old. A year ago, I wouldn’t have said that. I’m glad I’m where I am now.
Sort out the contents of my house so that my children don’t despair at having to do it themselves.
Surprise people.

3 Things I Can Do:

Be a wife. For nearly 34 years, it’s been the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done.
Parallel park. Not perfect every time, but I’m not too embarrassed to drive forward and try again. I really can do without someone trying to help though “Left hand down a bit!” and suchlike advice completely throws me.
Convert from pounds and ounces to kilos accurately and instantly, remember the prices of over 100 items of fruit and veg (some of which change regularly) and subtract to give the correct change, all while chatting to customers. It sounds harder than it is.

3 Things I Can’t Do:

Make shortcrust pastry. Well, make it well. I have no idea what I do wrong.
Reverse with a trailer attached. Nope. My brain isn’t wired for it.
Roller skate. And I’ve never even tried ice. Nor skiing. No co-ordination. Anyway, my no-exercise-that-might-cause-injury policy has served me well for nearly forty years, a resolve taken after being hit in the mouth with a hockey stick wielded by a beefy girl called Leonarda.

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To:

Birdsong. Another of the pleasures of the spring.
A baby laughing. It is the most joyous sound in the world.
Some music that is recommended to you by a friend that is quite unlike your usual taste. Listen at least three times before you decide if you like it.

3 Things You Should Never Listen To: I’ve changed this to ‘3 Things You Should Never Have To Listen To:
Once we had to take Al to the local hospital as he had put a pebble in his nose (little rascal). We drove in behind an ambulance that had picked up a woman who had been rescued from drowning in the sea. The sound of her being resuscitated and barfing up all that seawater is a memory I don’t like to recall…but at least she recovered.
The sound of a bomb going off outside your office window. This happened to my daughter. Fortunately, she was on the 4th floor and she had the sense not to look out of the window.
That awful metallic sound when your car scrapes against another.

3 Things I’d Like To Learn:

I know I’ve talked about this before, but it will happen, honestly … bricklaying. Once we’ve got the bloody bricks. This wall will be 5 foot high and the best part of 100 foot long so by the time I’ve built it, I will know how to bricklay.
I’d like to be able to swim properly. I can’t co-ordinate all limbs at the same time, so I tend to flounder. It doesn’t help that I want to hold on to something at all times as I am afraid of being out of my depth. You never know, I might do this one day. I make no promises though.
Carpentry. I’d love to make things out of wood, well. A very unlikely one though as I’m a bit clumsy.

3 Favourite Foods:

Vegetables. Actually, all my favourite foods are vegetables, but I’ll put them together so that I can say other things too.
Risotto. As made by me. I’m sure you all make wonderful risotto too, but everyone likes a particular texture and degree of slop, so it’s best made for oneself.
Bacon. Proper bacon. Smoked.

3 Shows I Watched As A Kid:
The Addams Family. It made a lasting impression and has made me what I am.
Huckleberry Hound. I watched lots of Hanna and Barbera cartoons, but Huck is never mentioned any more. We called one of our dogs after him. “Huckleberry Finn?” adults asked? “Huckleberry Hound” I replied with disbelief at their ignorance. My next dog, if a boy, will be called Huckleberry, after all three of them and, also (aah with sentimentality), he’ll be my huckleberry friend.
Zorro. You know how he used his sword to carve his mark ‘Z’ at the scene of his daring and freedom-fighting crimes? Just think how much that meant to the young Z.

3 Bloggers I’ve tagged:
Julie from Athens (I’ve tagged you before, Julie, I hope you don’t mind)
Murph. I don’t know if dogs do memes, but let’s find out.

Z enthuses

Isn’t it a gorgeous day? I’m so sorry for you if you’re not in England right now, because this weather is the very best of an English spring day. This time last year, I was in Venice, leaving behind a cold and wintry homeland, but now I’m happy to be here.

I’ve been, too warmly, in the greenhouse, labelling pots and sowing seeds. I’ve got six or seven varieties of tomato and eight, I think of peppers, sweet or hot, and I am bound to mix them up sooner or later.

Ooh, the exciting news of the day is that we have frogspawn!!(!) Several clumps in the pond. I can’t see any in the stream, but it’s a bit scummy and weedy and so it might be there. I love tadpoles. Each year, I hope that hatching day will be when I’m not too busy to go out and watch for an hour or two. This year, Squiffany will be with me to enjoy it. She’ll love it.

Not many of my tadpoles survive, I’m afraid. This is a great pity, but I can’t help it. I can net the pond against the devastating harnser*, but in-pond predators are not possible to deal with, and the great pond diving beetle larvae and dragonfly nymphs chomp tadpoles in large numbers. Judging by the number of frogs we have in the garden, some survive, all the same, just waiting for the kiss of Z**.

*Norfolk for heron
**Does it work? you ask? Once in a while…

Speaking freely, if indistinctly

I’ve just got in from a meeting and I’m eating my dinner, so please excuse me typing with my mouth full. I fed the Sage and Ro before I left, but I didn’t have time to eat then, as it falls to me to get the room ready and that takes half an hour.

I treat the PCC (that’s the committee that runs the village church) very well. Tea and coffee freshly made, jugs of water on the tables and sufficient bowls of sweets to be within easy reach of each person, so that no one has to make a conspicuous lunge for the M1nstrel or the jelly teddy bear (tonight’s offerings). I go for quite childish sweets. If we were relaxed at home, it would be the sophisticated hand-made chocolate truffle or the petit four, but at a meeting which can, just once in a while, plummet to a nadir of dullness, then resorting to nursery sweeties cheers us up no end. Jelly babies are popular and so are Malte$ers. L1corice Allsorts, you either love or hate and I don’t serve toffees as they inhibit free speech.

Plenty of free speech tonight, as we were debating one specific item. All amicable, if sometimes quite heated.

I spent (ooh, back in time like Memento) the afternoon in the shop. I went in, just before lunch, clutching my lunch of ham and salad (particularly nice multi-grain) roll and danish pastry from the bakery. It’s an indulgence. Why do I not make my own lunch? can’t be arsed… do I hear quietly in the background? ‘Tis true.

Eileen was a little pink and panting. “It’s been hectic” she said. “I’ve been rushed off my feet, all morning. Sometimes, I had to use both tills at the same time.” I looked round at the empty shop. We agreed that, because it was such lovely weather (God bless British Summer Time), everyone had shopped in the morning so that they could garden or relax in the afternoon.

I’d taken Shaggy Blog Stories and Tough Puzzles to entertain me in quiet periods. Half way through the afternoon, the sun shone in the gap between the Gay Shopper and the pub and I eyed the warm sunlit patch at the front of the shop. I cleared some of the in-front-of-the-shop display, so that I could carry a chair out there. Of course, this was the signal for 20 minutes of keen shopping by the inhabitants of Yagnub. Eventually, I sank into my sun-warmed chair and read contentedly between customers for the rest of the afternoon.

In other news, Dilly’s little nephew Brock has chickenpox. He and his little brother Davison were over here last Tuesday for Squiffany’s birthday. I gather the incubation period is 10 days. We’ll know by the weekend. 6 months is, perhaps, a little young for Pugsley to be inflicted with an annoying illness, but he is robust and I’m sure he’ll be fine, even if he gets it. The son of a friend, the youngest of three, caught it early and had a post-viral infection that affected him for a long time.

I’ve finished eating and I’ve poured the last of the wine. I will not go to bed for an hour or two, lest I am inflicted with Digestive Disorders or the Cauchemar. Last night I did not sleep well. It was the inevitable result of a couple of nights of sound sleep. From long years of habit, if not totally knackered, I don’t really sleep at all.

The Sage broadcasts

By the way, the Sage will, briefly, be on television this week. He gets roped in occasionally as a china specialist – the edition of Fl0g It with him has been on four times now, and several friends assume it’s been four separate appearances! I don’t know which day and I’m wondering whether to tell you what I do know.

Tell me, do you rather like the mysterious ‘Sage’ or do you want to put a face and possibly a name (don’t know if they’ll give it) to the identity?

Two things – it’s daytime TV, and if it’s on today you might well miss it anyway!

Update Dilly took the children indoors for lunch. Suddenly, Squiffany said “Look! It’s Grandpa on the telly!” “But I’m here,” said the Sage. She looked from the screen to Grandpa, quizzically.

Sorry, Pat. If anyone was watching W0rk1ng Lunch on BBC2 today, that was him. I didn’t see it myself, I was at work. Dilly recorded it, though.

Ups and downs

More accomplished today than yesterday. After my usual Sunday morning efforts I spent most of the afternoon outside and in the greenhouse. Nearly all the seedlings that are ready are potted up now and I am slightly running out of space – it’s all right so far, but the next lot of seed-sowing is about to take place. French and runner beans, later broad beans, more peas (you’d think I could put them all outside, but our light soil and dry climate makes it safer to start almost everything off indoors), courgettes, pumpkin and squashes, cucumber, more herbs, sweetcorn, will all be sown in the next week or so. Most of these will appreciate a little warmth for germination, although the french beans are very temperamental. In the right conditions, they are easy, but too much or too little warmth and they rot.

It’ll be fine. I’ll talk to them lovingly.

The Sage and Al were busy too. They are making a climbing frame for Squiffany. It will be very splendid, but we realised quite early on that putting it on their lawn would both take up most of the lawn and be a nuisance to mow round. So we’ve taken an area that wasn’t used much, put down that permeable black membrane that allows water through but not weeds to grow, and covered it with a thick layer of bark chippings so that the children will have a soft landing when they plummet, and it will be sited there. The slide will come out sideways on to the lawn, but that won’t make much extra work.

It’s been a melancholy few days, in some respects. A friend of mine, who is waiting to go into hospital for an operation (routine, he’s all right) has now been given a date in April, which should be good news – but his brother is very ill and is likely to die at about that time, and my friend wants to support his sister-in-law. The hospital staff are being very kind and say that the operation can be postponed for a short time if necessary.

And yesterday, friends – not close friends, but they have bought from our sales for a good few years – rang, to tell the Sage that he has been given three months, at the most. He wants to sort out his affairs and get things straight so that his wife won’t have to face all that alone, as well as the rest that he can’t help. So the Sage will visit them next week to evaluate their collection and discuss its eventual sale.

Think, please, of Tim and Linda, of Peter and Maureen, and their families.

On the other hand, a friend emailed me happily to say that his son and wife have just had their first baby – some anxiety early on, so a relief as well as a joy. So spare a thought for Constantine and his family too.