Monthly Archives: August 2007

Z is resting

I’ve come in for lunch, but I’m too knackered to go and get it for a few minutes. I’ve been turning my attention to the rest of the hedge, carrying on from the area I was clearing a few weeks ago. I said I’d put up pictures, but I haven’t got around to it yet.

There are a few tall pieces of elm and hawthorn that have died, but I hadn’t noticed, because I am so very unobservant, that most of the healthy stuff in the hedge is actually ivy. There is some straggly privet, some lilac and some wild plum trees that have suckered, but there’s a lot of dead stuff in there. Little attention has been paid to it for the best part of 40 years.

The most annoying thing is the wire. I found old wire and posts that the Sage said were put in in the late 20s/30s*, and some slightly later chicken wire which, for no reason I can see, is topped with barbed wire. All this has become entwined with the bushes which date from much the same time and it all needs to be painstakingly cut out. No sign of rust, oh no. The old posts have rotted at the bottom, so once the ivy has been removed they can be heaved upwards and out. Some of the trunks of the elm and thorn are rotted enough to be pulled out too, but they are big and heavy and my mouth is full of dust and my arms ache.

This feels good. No, wrong word. Satisfying, in that I have a feeling of accomplishment.

I have now fetched lunch and am eating scrambled eggs on toast and drinking beer.

*The Sage, as some of you know, was born here – his parents bought the house in 1928, the year after they were married.

We can’t manage this in an hour

I can’t put down the agenda for last night’s meeting as it wouldn’t be appropriate, but here’s the one I’ll chair next Tuesday morning. We’ll start with coffee, so the meeting will get under way about 10.15. The time limit, as far as I’m concerned, is 12.30.

1 Apologies for absence
2 Minutes of the last meeting
3 Matters arising mostly covered in agenda
4 Dates of future meetings for the next year. I tried to get this sorted back in June, but no one else had a diary
5 Reports
a) Treasurer not much to talk about this time, just how much money is in the bank
b) Programme Secretary a big item this month as we’ll be deciding on the lecturers Sept 08-June 09
c) *Lecture Theatre* Liaison
• Gratuity
d) Visits Secretary 3 of these in a period of 6 weeks plus one booked for the spring and another to be decided upon
e) UK & Overseas Visits Secretary try to make this brief this time, discuss fully next month
f) Membership Secretary this may take a while, as memberships are renewed over the summer
• Signing in sheets
• Questionnaires
• New members
g) Study Days Secretary we’re trying a new venue, so she’ll want to talk about the arrangements
h) Young *name of national society* hold over
i) Newsletter hold over
6 Jobs for next lecture meeting
7 Administration
a New members coffee morning date to be decided and who will look after arrangements
b Societies’ Bulletin, August 2007
c Area Meeting, October 2007 information needed to be sent to that
d *National Society* AGM May 2008
e Annual Directory Meeting 2008
8 Correspondence
9 Any other business
10 Date of next meeting

1,2,3,4, in total – 15 minutes
5a 2 minutes
5b 30 minutes
5c 3 minutes
5d 15 minutes
5e 5 minutes
5f 15 minutes
5g 10 minutes
6 3 minutes
7, in total 15 minutes
8,9,10, in total 5 minutes

I wasn’t adding this up as I went along, but it comes to 1 hour 57 minutes, though we’ll do well if we finish in 2 hours. I’ve made notes to go with the agenda (not the ones in italics here) and sent them out, as well as relevant papers. Next year’s programme has been discussed by 3 of us in some depth, but everyone should have a chance for some input.

We have a similar agenda every month, although different matters are focused on each time. There are ten meetings per year, September to June. There are also ten lectures, on various aspects of the arts, also September to June, as well as visits etc. This will be my third and last year as chairman.

The days are holidays, but the evenings are all work

Yesterday got left out…I’ll come back to it. It was a good one, anyway.

Today was too. We went to Norwich, Dilly, Wink, Squiffany, Pugsley and I and bought birthday presents for three of us – though some of Pugsley’s have come from the car boot at Banham on Sunday. Ooh, bargains were had!

We arrived home soon after 5 o’clock. I had hardly sat down to check emails and comments (yes, that was the first thing I did, though had the Sage not already fed Tilly, she would have come first) when Ro rang. His hand-brake had jammed on and he couldn’t drive home. The Sage, who would have sorted it in an instant, was out, so I did the best I could. I got straight back in the car and drove to fetch him.

An hour later, I was staring blearily at the computer, reading the agenda for tonight’s meeting to discover what I promised to do 2 months ago. Then, at 7 o’clock, I trotted down to the church, fetched 4 tables from the shed, boiled 2 kettles of water, filled 4 jugs with water, filled 8 bowls with sweets, put the jugs and bowls on the tables, got out 16 glasses, cups and saucers, filled 2 jugs with milk and 1 bowl with sugar, put out 16 chairs, made 2 pots of coffee and was ready for the PCC meeting.

Which went well, although I received two items of news that I would rather not have heard: of an illness and a death, both of people younger than I.

And it was decided not to have a proper meal after the Harvest Festival, but jolly bits to pass around. This will save me hours of work, and I am grateful to the lovely person who suggested it and the equally lovely people who backed her up. I will do nice, delicious, plates of finger food and have not, as I expected, offered to cook a Sunday roast for 40 people.

Look after yourselves, darlings

Party time

Last evening we went to the annual Cyder Club party in the next village. Lots of home-made cider to drink and, in the tasting tent, those that were entered in the competition. The quality is variable – some rich and potent with a sherryish flavour, others somewhat acidic and some simply peculiar. The Sage is a member of the club, although he doesn’t make cider himself, but enjoys the social angle of the monthly meeting, when he goes along to help with the apple pressing, bottling or whatever is going on. My contribution is saving any screw-top wine bottles to donate. Jenny won the prize for the best cider.

When we arrived the cover was just being taken off the hog-roast contraption. Adrian spent a couple of years perfecting it -the spit is powered by a motor and he was using ash logs for the fire. He started it off at about 9 in the morning and it takes the best part of 12 hours to cook through. It tastes gorgeous. He did the hog roast for El and Phil’s wedding party – a local caterer did one for Al and Dilly’s which, though very good, did not have the barbecue flavour, having been cooked in the oven.

There were lots of people there and it was a great evening. Farmer friends (who provided the unfortunate, though tasty pig) introduced me to a delightful French girl who is staying with them for two months, while studying fairly locally (I didn’t catch where, but it is in a farming-related course). We chatted, and she asked about the band. I said that they were a local band, not professionals. “Is this traditional English country music?” she asked. “We don’t have music like this at home.” “Er, it’s sixties pop,” I explained. “About the same age as the people dancing to it.” “Hi, ho, silver lining” joined in the dancers, waving their arms in the air. We moved outside to continue our talk as the band moved on to the Stones.

I was circumspect in the quantity I drank. Young cider can be deceptively strong and quite acidic too and I had no intention of risking an uncomfortable night. Camille, having politely drunk a small amount, was avoiding it…however, when we went for some cheese, I noticed that she chose the Stilton and Cheddar over the Camembert, though she didn’t recognise Cheddar and had to ask me.

Today, my sister came for a visit, driving up from Wiltshire. We met at the pub – I went there from church to get the drinks in and the Sage, Al, Dilly and the children and Ro followed soon afterwards. Rosie, the landlord’s daughter, was behind the bar, home from her gap year of teaching in a village school in south India. I’ve known her since she was about ten, she’s a lovely girl. Our drinks, two pints of bitter, a pint of Guinness, a half of shandy, an orange squash and a large glass of wine, came to £10.90 (you see how I remember these things for you). Afterwards, we went home for a barbecue in Dilly and Al’s garden and sat there all afternoon chatting. Just a baked potato and some cheese for supper, and my sister Wink is already in bed and asleep.

Z was bugged

Yesterday. Hm.

I was seated at the computer, slice of toast to hand, when Al came in. Sarah had sent a text to say she was unable to work that morning. “No problem” I said, “I’ll come in.” “Don’t come in straight away, mid-morning will do” said Al.

The morning’s post necessitated phone calls and a letter, so it was nearly ten o’clock when I arrived. The shop was busy, so it was worth my time (especially when Al bought me another Chelsea bun, to which I am now addicted), but it was an unexpected way to spend a sunny Bank Holiday weekend Saturday.

I was home when Ro came in search of lunch. “Any eggs?” he asked. I said I’d go and raid the hen house, and found three new-laid eggs in a nest box. When I got back indoors, I discovered that wasn’t all I’d brought back. Crawling on my hand and arm were small creatures – I’m not sure whether they are mites or lice, because there are several chicken parasites and, to be honest, I wasn’t that bothered about being introduced to them by name.

I washed and brushed them off, but for the next half-hour I kept finding odd ones on me and feeling generally itchy. Finally, I combed my hair over a piece of paper and several more dropped out (I hadn’t been in the chicken shed, just to the nest box at the side). I’d hoped to leave the situation until the Sage arrived home, but this wouldn’t do…

I went into the pet shop, bought suitable powder, came home, took off my watch, found a box, a brush and a scraper, put on disposable gloves and went and cleared out the nest box. I dusted the powder liberally. I put the box of bedding with my gloves in a larger box, then in a wheelbarrow, walked indoors carrying a bucket, went to the laundry room, removed my clothes into the bucket, stalked naked through the kitchen, down the passageway, through the hall, up the stairs, into the bathroom for towels, into the shower in my bedroom and scrubbed myself clean. As I was about to apply shampoo, I wished I’d taken out my contact lenses. I screwed my eyes tight shut instead.

When the Sage came home, I told him – very nicely, under the circumstances, as they are his chickens. He was bewildered. He hadn’t noticed any problem, he said. Yes, he could see them now, in the box, but it could only have been in the last day or two or he’d have noticed. That’s true, actually, they are very tickly.

We’ll finish the rest of the hen house later. I’ll also fill a barrow with some nice dry ash and sand so that the bantams can give themselves plenty of dust baths, which is usually a very good way of keeping them free of parasites. They like to find an ants’ nest and lie with wings outstretched so that the ants dispose of the bugs.

Denying one’s age

Ro and I fetched our meals (lasagne for him, chicken and potato salad for me) and sat down. We ate slowly, as we were quite early, but the bar was not particularly busy in any case.

I noticed one of the women first, because of her fabulous legs. She was tall and slim, a few years older than me, with a relaxed blonde bob. She wore brown trousers, a pale gold sweater and dark red sandals. She was looking around anxiously, and the two people with her said “Oh, here he is” and a man joined them.

My attention had been caught by the other man and I looked at Ro, to find his lip twitching. “Bet you’re not thinking what I am” I murmured. “What are you laughing at?” “Well, anyone would” he replied, his eyes indicating the newcomer.

I hadn’t even noticed him. In the traditional garb of the man in his early sixties who has not yet quite noticed that it is not still the early sixties and so thinks that blue jeans and a leather jacket are the outfit for any occasion, for they make him feel eternally young and trendy.

I indicated the other chap. He had quite a small head, close cropped hair, rather a sweet expression with a small beaky nose and not a whole lot of chin. His slightly scrawny neck poked forward from his jacket. “Doesn’t he remind you of a tortoise?”, I asked.

We continued to watch them out of the corners of our eyes. “Tortoiseman goes with the woman in clogs” I remarked. And we continued to poke fun at the leather jacket. “It isn’t good quality” I said. “Probably got it off eBay” said Ro, “a lot of people buy clothes on eBay.” “Whatever he paid, it was too much” I opined. “Well, it might – no, you’re right. I was going to say, might only have cost a tenner but then I thought, would I wear that? And decided, not at any price.”

The leather was poor quality, although the couple gave no impression of poverty. There were a couple of marks on the back where it had scuffed – good leather should improve with aging, but this just looked as if it had had the surface scraped off. He was becoming slightly round-shouldered and the jacket hunched awkwardly, lifting above his buttocks.

“Ew, he just clenched and unclenched his bum!” I hissed. “I saw it through his jeans” “So badly fitting, his clothes, you can’t help noticing” agreed Ro.

Our attention turned towards a rather glamorous woman, in her mid-sixties I should think. I noticed her first because of the rather lovely shawl that was becomingly draped – though, personally, I’d prefer to get the drape to work without needing to pin it, she looked elegant. Her dark blonde hair fell in soft waves below her shoulders, held with a clip. Attractive though she was, to be honest there was a touch of 1661 about her. “I realised in my early thirties that I’d look better if I cut my long loose hair” I pointed out. She could, I guess, get away with it, just, but it was starting to look like denial. The rule is, of course, that if you ever look in the mirror and think, hopefully, you can get away with it for a bit longer, you can’t. You’re too old, too fat, too flabby or too thin.

Ten minutes later, she walked past again. Ro and I both recoiled with a faint hiss of dismay. The shawl had slipped from one shoulder, showing the strap of her sundress and her skinnny upper arm.

Thinking about them today, I feel rather sympathetic. It was easier when it was all right to grow old. When one fights valiantly and achieves some success, it’s so easy to be just a little over-confident.

But I’m not sympathetic enough not to poke fun, you notice.

Z has a little rant – and, by the way, receives Disappointing News

I didn’t find time to read the papers until I got into bed last night (the Sage was still splashing happily in the bath, I put the paper down as soon as he came to bed, for he is not a man to ignore) and the tone of this article on the third page irritated me somewhat.

Would you mind awfully going to the link and reading it before the rest of this, so that your mind is not sullied by my reaction but you have your own?

Thank you.

Did you notice how many time the word ‘claims’ or ‘claimed’ was used? Three times in successive paragraphs, which was then emphasised a few lines later by ‘ claims … boasting or wishful thinking’. Even though the research methods are quoted as “well-accepted as being valid”. If they are valid, why does the journalist make it so clear he does not believe them?

Mind you, Island Monkey has already made it quite clear, regarding an unrelated article, that he doesn’t think much of this particular sub-editor.

Do you remember the book Love in the Time of Cholera (not any of you young’uns, it must have been written nearly twenty years ago)? Frankly, it was a bit rubbish, but it bowled a lot of people over at the time. It was considered to be daring, magical, wonderful – basically because it was written by a foreigner (a bit of positive prejudice on the part of the right-on sort) who wrote of love including sexual intercourse, by Jiminy, between quite old people.

Why are people so incredulous? If I were old I’d feel quite insulted.

Update – I looked up the editor responsible for the piece. I think, maybe, he is not one of the fortunate over-sixties still to have a sex life. Whether the item was written by him or by a younger person, it does not come over as written or edited by someone with first-hand experience of the matter.

And the disappointing news – Bella is not expecting puppies after all. We’re all very sad. We’ll have to wait a little longer for an addition to the family.


The link for the ‘AQ’ test that most of you couldn’t access a couple of weeks ago is working again now.

I just did it again. The first time I scored 7, this time I got 6. Asperger’s is not my syndrome.

Z is a thief, but only because the circumstances seemed to warrant it

The accident that blocked the road was mentioned in the paper today: a tractor caught fire. This is what it’s like living in rural Norfolk/Suffolk. Even in town, come to that – driving home through the centre of Norwich on Monday morning, I was quite surprised to find myself along a tractor. A proper John Deere, looking purposeful, if a little lost.

Tilly woke me this morning jumping on to my bed. I was startled to find it was 8.18, particularly since I was due in the shop by 8.30. “I couldn’t wake you” said the Sage when I went downstairs, “so I thought I’d better send Tilly up.” I really don’t think he had tried very hard, frankly.

I could not leave without contact lenses and a face, but I was parked and in the shop by 8.35. There’s a lot to do at the start of the day, all the new produce to put out and old stuff to clear, and Al has to check wholesalers’ prices and amend his if necessary. In addition, runner beans, raspberries, figs, Victoria plums and raspberries were brought in by local growers and they all had to be weighed and noted. At the same time, customers were coming in and had to be served. We had some time to chat, however, and I told him about the Chelsea bun.

I had to go to Norwich first thing on Monday, but took over from 10 o’clock. Eileen and I were busy, and at one point a customer picked up a paper bag. “Looks as if someone has left their bread roll behind.” I checked the bag, and in it was a sugar-covered Chelsea bun. Hang on, I’ll look for one…. … … here you go. I put it on one side to return to the hungry customer when he or she returned.

But it was still there by 4.30! What was I to do? If it had been a packet of biscuits or money, I’d have left it to be reclaimed, but it would go stale by the next day, and I was hungry. Imagine, a nice coiled bun, seasoned with cinnamon and studded with raisins. I ate it, deciding to buy the customer a replacement when I found out who it was.

Anyway, I enthused about this bun, telling Al how delicious it had been, and when he went for his paper, he brought me another one. I offered to pay, but he said the bakery owed it to him – he’d let them have a couple of onions as soon as he unlocked the shop and before he could get to the till, so they said he could have a bun in payment. I also ate the most gorgeous fig. It was huge, ripe and luscious, and local too. The tree used to belong to H. Rider Haggard, who lived a couple of miles away.

No one has asked about the bun, by the way. This is why I am a thief.

Downs and ups

I felt unaccountably down today, for no real reason. This was not too good, as it hasn’t happened for a long time. So I resolved not to give in to it, ate toast and Marmite and went out to bash down the last of the fence.

This turned out to be harder than expected, as one of the posts had not actually rotted off. I cut off all the ivy, removed the fency bits and pushed, pulled and kicked, with no effect. I took up a sledge-hammer and delivered several resounding blows. It hardly even said ‘Pfft!’. I left it, got rid of the final post (which was only a nuisance inasfar as there was a whole lot of chicken-wire that had to be cut off first, and then, eyes narrowed, fetched a crowbar.

Five minutes later, I lifted the post from the hole. I still felt miserable, but in a manner leavened with triumph.

I was due to attend a Snape Prom concert tonight. Originally, I was going with a friend but he had to cry off. I decided to go early enough for supper, but I felt a little lonely…and then, five miles down the road, there was a police car and an ‘Accident’ sign and I was waved into the Saints.

Oh, the Saints. They are a scattering of villages, called Ilketshall Saint *insert saint’s name* or Saint *insert saint’s name* South Elmham (pronounced Ellum, like the tree is round here) and they are the Roads to Nowhere. Everyone gets lost. Even if you’ve lived here for years, you can wander round like the Flying Dutchman.

The two cars in front of me followed the road obediently, but a van driver and I were more wary. We didn’t want to go to Rumburgh, and when, after a couple of miles, there was a turning to the left, we took it. It was a single-track road and there was a quantity of traffic coming towards us, but it was the right way, and I arrived at the Maltings in good time. I ate a virtuous salad, with couscous, avocado and prawns, adding no dressing, drank a glass of white wine and scoffed a slice of cheesecake – because I hadn’t dresssed the salad and so deserved it. Besides, the Sage had lovingly tucked a couple of banknotes into my hand as I left, so I had to spend the money.

It was a fabulous concert. There were a lot of children there, some of them very young – like two or three, although there were also ten-year-olds. I was quite surprised to see a tiny baby Promenader – it can’t have been more than six weeks old, though it was alert and interested in the surroundings. It was quiet and no trouble at all, hope the parents have a good night!

The band was Kolsimcha, and they were great. Sort of jazz with Eastern European rhythms. They’d written their own material and it was bloody good. Fabulous musicians too, particularly the clarinetist, Michael, and the flautist, Ariel (good, aren’t I – the pianist was called Olivier, the drummer, Fabien and the double-bassist, Daniel. I remembered them specially to tell you), who had most of the solos.

I had been in two minds whether to go, but I’m glad I did. I’d swapped the spare ticket for another concert, and a 70-something-year-old man was sitting next to me. Good company he was too. He plays the keyboard in a folk group and his local church organ and his granddaughter is expecting her first child next month. He was wearing the same aftershave as my friend who was to come with me, which was a bit disconcerting – I rarely wear perfume myself and am quite sensitive to it on others, and it teased my mind all evening.