Monthly Archives: April 2007

Left eye, right eye, and a cuckoo

I’ve just, this moment, heard the first cuckoo!

Well, my first cuckoo. If you don’t live in England, you may not know that Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is one of our little obsessions and there is always an excited letter in the paper saying “I heard it first.”

I’ve been to the opticians for an eye test. I came out happier than I went in.

For the last three years, I’ve been wearing multi-focal contact lenses, as I am slightly short-sighted. This has been fine until recently, and still is most of the time, but I’ve realised in the last few months that my right eye has been a little more near-sighted than my left, and since I’m quite decidedly right-eyed, this is inconvenient. I explained this. She checked my right eye. Then she asked me to read the chart with my left.

“It all looks out of focus!” I said, startled. I closed my eye and tried again, she checked to see if there was anything in my eye, and then she took the lens out. “Er, you had it in back to front,” she said. It was a new (monthly) lens yesterday, I must have been wearing it the wrong way round for two days.

At the end of the examination, she agreed that my right eye wasn’t so good, but she thought it might be a bit of eye strain, from reading small print. I told her that, if I know I’m going to have to read a lot of small print, I only put in one contact lens (the right one), as I know it can be a bit difficult to see. “If I give you a stronger lens, you might be back in six months saying it’s got worse again,” she said. I felt worried. She pondered.

Then, she suggested giving me a weaker lens for my left eye. This will make it easier to read small print and, since I was unaware that I had blurred vision all day, I probably won’t be aware of it. It will give my right eye a chance to recover and take over as the stronger eye again. She’s ordered two lenses, -1 and -1.5 (I normally wear -2 in both eyes) so that I can see which is better.

I think this is a marvellous idea. I hope it does the trick.

No time for photos yet

Oh damn. I’d been planning to skip the school governors’ meeting this week, as I’m really pushed for time, but now I actually get around to reading the agenda, I see we’re having an OFSTED inspection next week, so I don’t suppose I can.

OFSTED stands for something like the OFfice of STandards in EDucation and is the government department that inspects schools. REcently (sorry, that’s getting to be a habit), they changed from a week-long inspection with several weeks notice to a snap one or two days, with very little warning. There is a lot more self-evaluating in the meantime. I’m fine with self-evaluating, so it’s all right by me. Even better, I will not have to be involved next week. The last inspection, I was interviewed by two daunting inspectors. I’m quite good at sounding self-critical while putting across the message I want to (as you know. Even here, you see, I could be disingenuous) and it went well and so did the whole inspection, so no reason for it not to this time.

I’ve also got the Annual General Meeting of the Parochial Church Council tonight. I am writing the churchwardens’ annual report, and have to check that all the paperwork that should have been done while I was away actually was. I have also been asked to chair the meeting. *Sigh*. This is better than last year, actually, as I was asked to start the meeting off (at the last moment) and the chairman couldn’t get away from his concurrent meeting and never arrived and I had to bluff rather a lot.

The most awkward thing, at present, is that one of us has to be at home all the time, as we’re getting a lot of phone calls about the sale next week. The Sage and I are used to being Wild And Free, so it’s a bit restricting. Oh, the catalogue is up. Here. Before you look, however, be warned that the first thing you see is the Sage’s actual name, so if you prefer a mystery, don’t go there.

Even after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, marriage has its moments

Penny asked me to say more about my answer to ‘Things I can do’ in this meme – that is, that being a wife is the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done.

Once your children have grown up, there is a feeling of a ‘job done’. The next stage of one’s marriage is an opportunity to make of it what you want, if you choose to take it. I remember, when our youngest reached 18, thinking that we’d finally done it – brought them all up to adulthood and now our responsibility was of a different, voluntary kind. 8 months later, when my mother died, it was a completion of another responsibility. A couple of months later, we celebrated (quietly) our 30th wedding anniversary. At last, I felt that we could say that we had a long and (goodness, this feels like tempting fate, but I’ll say it) successful marriage.

At the time, actually, I felt pretty low. It had been a difficult few years and my resilience had been strained. Part of my ‘job doneness’ was just relief that it was over and I had no more obligations – this sounds a bit awful and I’m reluctant to write it down, but I think that some of you will know what I mean, so I’ll say it – I could, if it came to it, die with a clear conscience that I had not left a job uncompleted. I had a bit of a death-wish at the time. I was tired and drained and a bit depressed. I’m over it now.

A bonus of this time is the Sage’s and my appreciation of each other. It’s rather lovely. And, in conversations with other long-together couples, I can see it in them too. You’d think that, after all these years, a partnership (for not all my friends are married, nor all couples of different sex) wouldn’t need to grow any more, but it can, if you want it to. There are a lot of us about, you know, more than you might think. We asked friends in Mousehole round for dinner one night last week* and it came up that one couple is about to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The others are about 18 months behind. We went to a wedding on Saturday – the bride’s and groom’s parents were there, looking happy and united, and the next day we had lunch with other friends – I’ve known L. all our lives, as his parents were best friends with mine. He and his wife got married the same year as we did, when he was 22 and she was 32. In all these couples, the deep unity is palpable and heart-warming.

Funnily enough, at the wedding breakfast (do you call it that in other countries? It is ‘breaking the fast’ following the wedding, so can take place at any time of day), I sat next to a schoolfriend of my sister’s and of the bride’s mother. She is a nun and has lived in Rwanda for most of the past 40 years. At one point, she asked me, and this could have been disconcerting, what is the most important, to me, thing I have done, and what ambition do I still have. It was not disconcerting at all, of course, because I had my answer ready, and she was quite impressed by it. She told me, when we said our goodbyes, that I must tell the Sage what I had said. Heh heh. I might. If I feel smoochy enough one day.

Over 30 years, we’ve gone through periods of taking each other for granted, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in itself, if it indicates trust and comfort rather than indifference and complacency. We have been, more recently, very appreciative of each other. We have time to think about each other now that we don’t have to worry about children or careers or, now the offspring are independent, money.

Is this an achievement, luck, hard work, complacency? Luck, for sure, and I don’t underestimate that at all and am deeply grateful for it. For a start, we’re both alive, and I’m not being facetious. Too many of my friends and family have not been so blessed. I guess I could sound complacent – but that’s why we (all we long-married couples) don’t talk about it, you see. We don’t want to sound as if we’ve done better than others, that we’ve ‘succeeded’ and some have ‘failed’, because that’s not what we think. We all know all the downsides as well as the ups of life and sometimes the smallest factor can make the difference between staying or leaving.

I’ve always said I’m the luckiest person I know, and if it were to end tomorrow, that wouldn’t change. And I am not being complacent in saying that it’s the care that the Sage and I have put in to our marriage that makes it a good one. I’ve not put as much effort into anything else – bringing up my children, yes, and they are our dearest treasures, but they are a credit to themselves more than to us.

Dammit, I’m stopping now. I said this wouldn’t be too long. I wouldn’t want to start getting sentimental or anything.
Glad you asked, Penny? ;-D

*Cornish asparagus risotto followed by gurnard flavoured with chilli, ginger and spring onions (okay, scallions), baked whole en papilotte with white wine, with Cornish new potatoes and salad, then cheese – Cornish Yarg, of course.

The flesh is weakening

I do have time to write, but I’m flagging a bit. The Sage hopes his meeting will be over about 8.30, so I’m planning dinner for 8.40. Very simple: grilled fish, new Cornish potatoes (from Al, not brought home by me) and spring cabbage, then raspberries, strawberries and blueberries (all Spanish, of course) with clotted cream, which I did bring home. Astonishing that I remembered, as it has been kept in three different fridges on successive nights, and remembered each morning.

I don’t usually buy strawberries out of season, but just for once…

I spent some of the afternoon in the greenhouse, potting up aubergines. I have 27 plants, which is more than I’ll need, so Al can sell some. He’s sold all the spare tomatoes, and has potted up side shoots, which are rooting. Most things are fine, except that the flat french beans (variety Hunter) didn’t germinate very well. I am sure that is because it was too hot. French beans are quite temperamental, regarding temperature. I’ll see if I can get some more

The farmer has brought a couple more cows – there were 4 originally, 2 of them heifers (cows which haven’t yet calved, although these are – hopefully – in calf). One of the new ones isn’t very well with a lung infection. She has been treated with antibiotics, but still has a bad cough. She came here last year and calved successfully, but hasn’t done well over the winter. The farmer is giving her a last chance, by sending her on holiday to our tranquil fields, but he is concerned that she will not make it. We’ll cosset her. The weather is mild and the land free-draining, so this is a good place for her.

Squiffany was happy to see me. I brought her books, a shell from a beach and a small bag of chocolates … she didn’t really know about chocolate until this Easter, when she suddenly developed a taste for it. Dilly has rationed them out, at one per day, but now she thinks that every day is chocolate day. However, generously, she gave one to her mother and one to me, which I shared with Grandpa, not to take too many of them. She asked, most charmingly, for a second one for herself – “Ask Mummy” I said cravenly. Mummy agreed that a second chocolate was permissible for a special occasion. They had brought me flowers, isn’t it lovely to be welcomed home?

Time to scrub those potatoes. The next post – whether today or tomorrow – will be on the Value of My Marriage, which Penny asked me to write several weeks ago. I’ve had time to think while I was away which, you’ll be happy to know, will shorten the earlier-written draft considerably. Because it’s simple, really.

Z’s back! …

… which I intended to link to this, but seeing the picture again, I find I’d have to call it ‘Z’s side!’ which would be meaningless, so I won’t do it.

I’ve had a perfectly lovely holiday, thank you, and will force you to look at pictures over the next day or two. I spent the whole of both solitary journeys listening to albums you lovely people have recommended to me. I left my car at my sister’s in Wiltshire and we drove the rest of the way in her little car. Thank goodness we did, West Cornwall is no place for my estate car. I’m not sure I could have made the turn into the car park in Mousehole.

While I was away, the lilac, the bluebells and the may came out and Al is keenly planting out tomato plants in the greenhouse. I was earlier than the Sage expected (no traffic hold-ups at all) so he was out when I arrived, but he said “I’ve missed you*” when he did arrive, so that was all right. He has hoovered, cleaned the kitchen sink and worktops and washed the kitchen floor, and didn’t even mention it (there’s modesty for you). I did, however, appreciatively, so I’m sure he will be keen to do it again soon, maybe even when I’m home…

… Al just went past carrying a tankful of tadpoles, on his way to the pond to change the water. I followed him and we found a dove in the pond, under the heron-deterring netting. I’m not sure how the poor bird got under the net, but it’s lucky we found him when we did. He was able to crouch partly above the water line, but couldn’t get out. I picked him up, disentangled him and put him on the ground. He waddled away, looking totally shocked.

I’ll be back later (I’ll have time as the Sage has a meeting this evening), but the garden is calling me.

*Well, so I should hope!

‘My bag is packed and I’m (almost) ready to go’

I spent three hours in the greenhouse this morning and that’s fit to be left for ten days as long as it’s watered, the heating is put on and off night and morning, and observation is carried out for the possibility of frost, so that extra-propagator plants can be covered if necessary. I have planted out lettuces, cabbages, broad beans, potatoes, spinach and swiss chard and netted the first two against pigeons and doves, giving advice that the spinach should be observed so that it can also be covered at first sign of attack. I have made polite suggestions as to what preparations in the veg garden and the other greenhouse would absolutely thrill me, if done by my return, so that I can plant out more stuff. I have sorted out the tomatoes, lettuces etc that are surplus to requirements for Al to sell.

The house is a bit of a tip. It will be more so by the time I return. I meant to change the bedlinen yesterday and wash it, but ran out of time. I have turned the duvet and pillows upside-down. Hey, we both bath every night, the Sage won’t even notice. No danger that he will change the sheets.

I meant to leave at 1, but I’ve still got wet hair, a bare face and I’m eating brie and cucumber. I’ll leave at 1.30.

I have packed, including 8 books, 2 back editions of Tough Puzzles and a bit of paperwork that has to be done and posted by tomorrow. However, all sale-related stuff is completed.

You know, for years I didn’t bother going on holiday as it was too much work to get ready before and catch up afterwards. Now, I’ve much less to do but it still seems an awful lot.

Take great care of yourselves whilst I’m not here to look after you. I will, of course, think of you in a protectively talismanic sort of way, and miss you most dreadfully.

Lots of love,


Well, yes.

I’m 1969 really, but Cary Grant may have held me back

You Belong in 1968
If you scored…

1950 – 1959: You’re fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

1960 – 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule – oh, and drugs too.

1970 – 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you’re partying or protesting, you give it your all!

1980 – 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You’re colourful at night – and successful during the day.

1990 – 1999: With you anything goes! You’re grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It’s all good!

Second only to 1968/1969, I am, of course, a girl of this very moment.

Thanks to Rob.

Z is a bad bitch-mother, but she celebrates

Heh heh, that’ll mislead the unwary googler.

Tilly suggested politely that it was time for her dinner. I went to the kitchen and, on my way to the fridge for her food, remembered that we’d drunk all the chilled champagne and other effervescent delights. I fetched another bottle, put it in and … went back to my desk.

Some fifteen minutes later, after having waited with the trust of Patient Griselda by her bowl, she came to me and wagged her tail. Truly, she is the most polite dog you could imagine.

Anyway, we need champagne tonight. I have completed the china condition report and sent it off and I’ve sent the photos too. By the end of the weekend (Lynn took time off to go to Venice for Easter – what? when there was Z’s work to be done?) the catalogue will, I hope, be on our website and I’ll put up a link.

The condition report took me four hours, and my eyes hurt by the end. I was asked what is involved – simply, it’s a careful inspection of each piece in a good light, noting down any damage or repair. One has to be particularly careful to notice good restoration – there’s one saucer that I felt must have been repaired, but I can’t see it. I just know it’s there. In fact, some people bring torches and repairs and cracks show up under UV light, but I don’t do that. I put in a disclaimer, to say that I’ve looked carefully but don’t give a guarantee. Caveat emptor* is the watchword of the bidder at an auction, although misdescribed lots should be refunded. There is a good deal of trust in the honesty of an auctioneer.

Not only have I finally finished the catalogue work, but tonight we are having the first home-grown asparagus of the season. So you see, champagne is a must. I have also picked spinach to go with our salmon.

I am supposed to be going to a concert in Yagnub tonight, and I would like to, but I’ve decided to give it a miss. I haven’t watered the greenhouse yet, nor started to cook dinner. And I’m out to dinner tomorrow night with some girlfriends and off on my hols the day after, so I should spend an evening with my sweetie.

Oh yes, another reason for the champagne – my latest Amazon order arrived, which is very quick and I commend them. I’ve bought Ian McEwan’s latest book, Chesil Beach. Mixed reviews I’ve read – I always find that he is a very good writer but there is a clunking plot flaw in every book that really annoys me. I also bought The Tenderness of Wolves – reservations again there – I’ve a feeling I’ll find it overhyped. Then I bought Scarlet and Other Stories from All About Eve, because Stegbeetle likes it. In the same post, from, came ‘Layer Cake’ which I haven’t seen before and I have another CD to come from them, which I think is Gershwin. So I’ll have stuff to listen to during my trip on Friday.

Time to put the greenhouse to bed before opening that bottle.

*Any excuse to put in a subjunctive, you see

Charging trains

Hm. I’ve just been checking out the price of the train fare to go to my sister and the cheapest return fare is £45. That will be more than the cost of the petrol, and in addition my husband will have to drive me 15 miles to and from the station and my sister will have to drive 9 miles each way, and there will be the fare across London too. And it will take at least an hour longer.

There seems to be no incentive at all to use public transport rather than the car, does there? I know there’s the wear on the car tyres, but I’m not sure that this is enough to sway me.

And if going by train is not the most economical option for one person, how on earth would a couple or a group of friends justify it?

I think that every MP should resolve, for a year, to use public transport, the Health Service and state education and, in the case of the transport, should pay for it out of their own pockets. And I mean public transport, not taxis, unless there is simply no other way, such as transport to or from a station to somewhere not within a mile of a bus route. Furthermore, they should have a child in a pushchair with them on at least one journey in ten, and be confined to a wheelchair for a similar proportion of trips. They should receive no special treatment or queue-jump, nor go First Class. Those who live in a city should exchange places with country dwellers for half the year.

This is not suggested as a punishment, just so that they understand what it’s like for the rest of us. I think things would improve very quickly.