Monthly Archives: June 2007

Christians may be odd, but some people are even odder

There was quite a large congregation in church yesterday. As well as the usual suspects, there was a christening party, two couples hearing their banns read and a man, accompanied by two friends, whose late wife’s funeral was held here a couple of weeks ago.

Before the service, we served coffee to all comers. Most people clustered in the church rooms, later arrivals took their mugs into their pew (which they are welcome to do. I do it myself. I drink coffee during the sermon.).

The banns were read at the start of the service and the baptism, of two small children, came next. One of the betrothed couples used the opportunity to slip out. After the service, I counted the collection. There were some unfamiliar items: small denomination coins of French francs, Italian lira and Russian roubles. You will observe that some of these are obsolete and have been for some time.

We don’t take a collection. There is a plate at the back of the church. This is done, in part, so as not to embarrass non-regular churchgoers who might be caught out by a bag being passed round for money to be brought in. It should be, we think, freely given and not expected.

Now, I can see that someone might not want to put any money in the plate, but also not want to be seen not to, and therefore might put in something valueless. It’s pretty cheap – better to just pass the plate on – but I can see it. But this person actually put obsolete coins in his or her pocket – you don’t just happen to have a few lira in your bag, the Euro has been around too long for that – and, when he/she found that a collection was not taken, dumped them in any case. I suppose it was a deliberate insult, but for the life of me, I can’t see who the person was trying to insult, or why.

Z asks the right question

We went to a party last night. A housewarming, thrown by friends who left the village nearly 15 years ago and have now returned to the area. Chatting to other friends, I remembered to ask if Rebecca had received her results yet.

Good question. Modest mum had not volunteered the information, but her face lit up. “She got them today. A First!”

My other friend’s daughter, also reading Law at Cambridge, got a 2:1. Well done, Rachel and Rebecca.


Oh, and I meant to say, it was already light at 3 am today. I was tempted to get up and enjoy it, but the prospect of babysitting after an hour and a half’s sleep deterred me. I regret it. If I wake again at that hour, I’ll rise and appreciate the dawn.

Pouring cold water gently down the stream

Dilly hadn’t mentioned it before, but their boiler has been out of action for several days and they have had no hot water. The plumber came this morning to check it. I had already said I’d take the children for a couple of hours so that she could catch up on housework.

After a while, Squiffany bumped her head and cried – she wasn’t really hurt, but was inconsolably ‘I want my mummy’. So I rang her, for over-the-phone comfort. Dilly said, gloomily, that a new part is needed for the boiler that will take a few days to arrive.

Upshot was, she was on the doorstep a few minutes later, clutching shampoo and towel and spent a happy half hour having a good hot bath.

I’m not sure if I ever told you Squiffany’s first words. Not the traditional “mama”, “dada” or “good Lord, is that a third glass of wine in your hand, Granny?”. No, they were “oh dear.” Her mother was quite taken aback, to think how often she must have said it. For the past week or two, Pugsley has been saying his first deliberate words too. “Row, row.” As in ‘row the boat, gently down the stream.’

Squiffany has also been learning letters. She can write T for Squiffany, M for Pugsley and (I’m told but haven’t seen) E for Ellie. She is very proud of herself.

Blind Light

Prompted by I, like the View‘s comment to the post about my London trip, I thought that I would, after all, say a little more about my impression of the Blind Light installation itself.

I’d wondered if the vapour would be cold and clammy or warm and steamy. It was neither. It felt the same temperature as the outside air, or maybe it felt the same temperature as I was. However, when I left, it seemed slightly chillier outside for a second or two. I guess that it needed to be just a little warmer than the room temperature, not to feel cold. I watched from outside for a while – which is half of the experience. Some people plunged straight in, others (all female) sidled in cautiously, reluctant to lose sight of the wall. I decided to walk forward boldly… the woman I talked to later asked me if that would have been my natural reaction, if it hadn’t been a conscious decision. A perceptive question, I thought, and I pondered for a moment, before deciding that yes, it would have been. I might have decided not to go in but, if I was going in, I’d not hover at the edge.

To start with, I found myself automatically retaining an awareness of where I was in relation to the entrance, and I had to deliberately switch off and let myself get lost. The first thing I noticed was the swirling pattern like smoke in my vision. Not the mist, but the pattern seen but not noticed in my eyes. Like ‘floaters’ which, after a while, your brain doesn’t notice, but this was something I’d never been aware of before. The fog was thick and, if I breathed in sharply, made me cough. After a few minutes, my nose started to run. To start with, I couldn’t help putting my hands ahead of me, but when I discovered that I did see the wall before I hit it, I didn’t need to do that any more. Every so often, a shape loomed ahead of me and both of us gasped, or laughed, or said “hello” and veered away. I saw one tall man wearing a pink sweater a few times. He was with a woman in black trousers and they spoke to each other before parting, occasionally saying a word or two to keep in contact. I was content to be quiet. I stopped and held my arms out. I could see my hands. I could see the edge of my knee-length skirt and my legs below, but not my feet. I paddled my feet gently and it was quite splashy. I liked the silence. If the room had been larger, I might have felt lost but I knew it wasn’t far to the edge and I liked the sensation of being alone in the company of other people.

After ten minutes or so, I found my way to the exit and left. My hair and eyelashes were damp. I went up to the next level. Like I, Like The View, I loved ‘Matrices and Expansions’. I almost gasped with pleasure when I went in the room and wandered happily around for some time.

When I went downstairs again, I went back into Blind Light. This time, there was a group of teenagers and they talked to each other to keep in contact. I found another couple, and the man was flapping his hands ahead of himself to improve visibility. I didn’t really think either of these was the way to get the most out of the experience, but every man for himself I suppose. In one corner, a blonde girl was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondered where the exit was. Her companion said that they could always call for help. She said that it wouldn’t feel polite, and would be too dramatic. He chuckled, saying that he supposed she would collapse and die rather than be rude…he said it affectionately, it wasn’t an insult. When I went a few steps further, I found that we were, after all, right by the entrance. I left and went back out into the sunshine.

The weekend beckons

Unusually, every morning this week, not only have I been up before the Sage, but out of the house before he’s even come downstairs. He’s usually a fairly early riser, but he has been very busy recently and we’ve both slept heavily. Slightly cooler nights have helped in this respect, but I have woken before the alarm (which was set for between 5 or 6 o’clock) every day.

This afternoon, it caught up with me. I worked for Al between 8.30 and 1.30, came home, caught up on emails and blogs, then curled up in an armchair and slept for more than an hour. I feel a bit spaced out and distant just now.

This evening, Ro and I will be paying our last visit to this year’s Aldeburgh Festival. Gerald Barry (a piece written in 2005), Mozart, Britten and Beethoven. Should be good.

Snape is a fabulous venue and I’m lucky to live just 25 miles away, within 40 minutes drive. And the tickets are so reasonable. Mine was £12 and Ro’s was only £6, because under-27s get in half price (not many of them at the concerts I’ve been to nonetheless). These were the cheapest prices, but having tried sitting in all parts of the concert hall over a number of years, I concluded that there is no such thing as a bad seat.

We’ll have supper there first, the Sage is being abandoned to his fate, which might be last night’s roast chicken with salad, or might be fish and chips, whichever he fancies. Ah. I’ve asked. He said he has “bought himself a little piece of meat.” No need to ask more.

Life of luxury around here. Even the expected rain didn’t happen. I shall go and dress in understated elegance* and put on a quietly flashy ring.

*Yay! It works! Thank you, Wendz, darling. Isn’t she clever?


I do love London, you know. I like both the friendliness and the anonymity. We may not catch each other’s eye, but that’s not malevolence, it’s just busyness and respect for the other person’s space. If you do have occasion to speak to anyone, you receive a civil reply. London looks good nowadays. It looks more prosperous, though rarely in a flashy way, than it used to. It’s cleaner. There’s litter, true, but the air is, on the whole, cleaner than it was in the past. It feels like home to me. I could live there.

Forty years ago, you wouldn’t have let your dog splash in the Thames, by Hungerford Bridge (just up from Waterloo Bridge, by the South Bank Centre).

The fountain was most entertaining. The four girls pictured here were clutching each other and giggling, and passers-by were entertained too. Each wall starts to spurt at random – once the girls were in there, all twelve walls of water kept their flow going for a good couple of minutes, making them wonder whether to make a break for it – then one stopped, so they ran into that box. Of course, it started again at once and then the outside walls beyond (the wrong side for the girls) stopped next, so they were as stranded as before.

Diamond Geezer (Sunday 10th June), I, like the View, and Lettuce(Saturday 16th June) have told us about Blind Light, Anthony Gormley’s exhibition, which is on here.

I loved it too. It is a most engaging display, both in the sense of being likeable, and of drawing you in to it.

Read their posts. They have put it so well, I don’t need to describe it again. Just a few more pictures.

My train arrived a few minutes late, because they had had trouble closing the doors after the Chelmsford stop. I hopped on the Tube (we provincials get a little frisson of pleasure just by using our Oyster cards, we don’t even pretend to be cool about it) and, from South Kensington, trotted along to the V&A. As I expected, I adored ‘Surreal Things’. Afterwards, I spent some time looking for the door to the courtyard. Wonderlandily, I could see it but not reach it. Eventually, having walked all the way round, I discovered that the only opening door was so close to the exhibition exit that I hadn’t noticed it. I fetched a glass of ‘home-made’ lemonade (all right, but not as good as mine) and a chicken roll (nice, chewy bread) and sat down. So benevolently was I feeling that I surreptitiously fed bits of bread to the pigeons.

Afterwards, down to the Thames and the other exhibition. A woman talked to me while waiting to go into the ‘Hatch’ room, and we both talked to a couple of young American men. When we came out of the room, in unusually expansive mood, I assured the patient queue that they should wait, it’s worth it. Only two allowed in at a time, I can see the queue getting awfully long as the summer continues.

A cup of coffee and a gooey chocolate brownie, and a stroll along the South Bank. I showed the Millennium Bridge to a group of American visitors and said, regretfully, that it doesn’t wobble any more. They should have left it, shouldn’t they – it would have been such fun. I had, at one time, thought of visiting Tate Modern, but my mind was full enough and I walked over the bridge myself. On the other side, I bought a Big Issue and had a friendly few words to the seller – he asked if I’d had a good day. A very good day, I told him and wished him one too. He thanked me and called me ‘lady’. Well, he wasn’t English (didn’t recognise the accent though).

I had intended to walk through the city, but my legs were tired, so I hopped on a No. 11 bus and travelled back to Liverpool Street Station. I had a while to wait and found a seat, and did the Independent crossword until my train arrived.

Z said ‘Phooey’

I didn’t take an umbrella. Well, it would indicate a dreary degree of maturity, wouldn’t it? It was a lovely day anyway and I’d have been annoyed to have had to cart it around.

I’ve had a fabulous day. Everyone who says the Gormley exhibition is great is absolutely right. Do go, if you can.

I must go to have a bath. I am hot and tired and I need to get to bed and cuddle a husband. I think mine is available, if I act now.

See you tomorrow, darlings. xx

Flashes of brilliance

My desk is in front of the window, which faces east so I squint to see the screen on sunny mornings, unless I draw the curtain which always seems a waste. Tonight, however, it’s lightning that makes me blink. It was a fine evening until a couple of hours ago, but since then the rain has varied between steady and torrential, with rolling peals of thunder and sheet lightning.

I was babysitting, as Al and Dilly were on their beekeeping course. Tonight, they were putting together beehives. They are enjoying the course, though I don’t know how ready they might be to take the plunge into apiary. I told them Blue Witch’s suggestion, that they help a beekeeper for a year and learn the ropes that way, which they thought was a very good idea.

At seven o’clock, Pugsley was in his cot, asleep, but Squiffany had had a long sleep this afternoon and was in her pyjamas, washed and ready for bed except that she had not had her nighttime cup of warm milk, nor had she put on her nappy. We chatted and played for half an hour, then I suggested that it was bedtime. She drank the milk, used the potty, fetched the nappy and lay on it while I emptied the potty, I read her a story, took her to bed, read another story, put on Pugsley’s musical box, turned out the light, kissed her and left.

Never heard another sound.

I was up early this morning and will be again tomorrow, as I have to leave the house by 7.30 (yes, I know you commuters are well on your way by then, but I’m not) to catch the 8.17 from D1ss. My daughter assures me that it’s not likely I’ll have the same problem on a Wednesday as I did last Monday. “They kill themselves on a Sunday evening or a Monday morning, depending on whether their problems are at home or at work,” she explained. I felt depressed.

Fortunately, the forecast is pretty good for tomorrow. Warm and mainly dry, although there is the possibility of showers. I have put a brolly in my bag, for I have recently reached the dawn of a sensible age. Time was, I’d have said ‘phooey’ and chanced being rained upon.

Z is redundant but reminisces

The visit with my chum last Friday had another good result. In the course of conversation, we realised that Al needs another Saturday staff member, and he has teenage daughters. A word from me to Al, from chum to daughters, and one of them called in this afternoon to enquire, and the job is hers.

I’d be happy to go in on alternate Saturdays indefinitely, but I’m not really a substitute for a paid member of staff. I think of myself as a filler-in for holidays, illness or to give Al time off. In addition, his regular Saturday girl, who started when she was at school, has now finished college and has a job, but likes the shop work enough to continue with it (and it is a lovely place to work, I adore it) – but the day will come when she needs a full weekend for other things, and although she has promised to give Al decent notice, she is under no obligation at all.

All his staff are lovely, in fact. Jean, who retired in the spring, has been suffering from arthritis in her hands and feet, and asked him a while ago to look for someone else, as she didn’t want to have to quit suddenly and leave him in the lurch. it’s the new member of staff who has young children and can’t work on a Saturday

When Al took over the shop, and that will be five years ago in September, he took over the existing staff. The daughter of the proprietor was very ill and he and his wife decided to give up their businesses to look after her. To start with, the staff worked full-time to give him time to cope, but then he decided to shut up shop. This was hard for him, but the right decision and no one doubted it. I’m not sure if I’ve told you about this before and apologies to any long-time readers who may have read this already.

Five years ago, Al was working and living in Norwich. Then his landlady decided to sell his flat and he couldn’t find anything as nice for the same price, so he came home to live and commuted. One Tuesday in early September, I heard that Derek was going to close the shop, permanently, on Saturday. I told the Sage. He went to see the owners of the shop (not that he told me then). He came home and said that there were a couple of rooms above the shop, maybe Al could live there and let out the shop itself? He’d got the key, would I like to look round?

Off we went. We went upstairs. Pretty quickly, I said no. It would be far too small – possible, but would cost far too much to convert and it could never be rented to anyone else, as the only access was via the front or back door of the shop. But, I noticed, the site of the shop is the best in Yagnub. And Al loves the retail business. And he likes selling real things, that people want – not luxury goods that they might occasionally treat themselves to, but to provide a genuine service. Would he, I wondered, be interested in becoming a greengrocer?

You see why I call him the Sage? He was way ahead of me, but he had not given me a hint. He showed me the shop and that was all. If I had said no and nothing more, that would have been it, because he trusts me to be quite quick on the uptake, excitable, and imaginative if I’m given a starting point.

Al was working late that night. It was 11.30 when he got home. We sat down with him and told him the situation. The Sage took him in to see the shop.

Midnight. Al was interested. “How long do I have to decide?” he asked. I swear this is true…THE SAGE AND I LOOKED AT OUR WATCHES. Simultaneously. Unrehearsed. “Ah” said Al. … … … “Right. I’ll go for it.”

At 9 the next morning, he went to see the shop owners, with his father. They negotiated a price. Al bought the shop outright (we have a real problem with renting in our family, so we save up).

Next day, Derek was told. I went to visit him. Now, this was an odd experience. For ten years, I’d been shopping with him, and we had a very friendly relationship, but it was that of shopkeeper and customer, you know? Suddenly, we were hugging and kissing and crying with each other, for his emotions were everywhere and I felt for him, and, well, you know.

Al gave in his notice. We told the staff and asked them to stay on. A notice was put in the window, saying that the shop would be shut for a week. During that week, it was repainted and changed around a bit – well, you have to make your mark, don’t you. It reopened – Al was still working out his notice and I can’t remember how it worked out, as I had another matter on my mind, which I’ll tell you about in another post.

You can see why our attachment to that place is more than just a way to make a living, and why we love people, don’t you?

By the way, the first order Al put in to stock an empty shop cost £250. Not many other shops could be done on that shoestring, could they?