Monthly Archives: September 2007

Z was planning to do something else this morning.

I woke early, remembered it was Saturday and stayed in bed reading for some time. It was half past eight by the time I ambled into the study to check emails … oh, okay, I admit it, to see if there were any comments here, for who would have emailed in the last eight hours?

Margaret had. There was a slightly startled message to say that we had been offered more places on the Highgrove* visit and what did I think?

I wrote about this some weeks ago, and was thoroughly reprimanded by Dave. We were only offered 25 places and there were over 40 applicants: I said that we were having a draw to see who would get a place and he pointed out that I was cheating by putting myself at the top of the list. I had to agree.

We also had to send in names and addresses a fortnight in advance, to make sure we don’t belong to terrorist organisations or have been caught buying weedkiller or eating non-organically-fed chicken. The visit will be next Thursday, so evidently they are prepared to waive that rule and do the checks in a couple of days.

I rang Margaret and we decided to go ahead. There are only 8 spare seats on the coach and, because of cancellations, I have 10 people left on the waiting list, so there’s a reasonable chance I can fill them. It wasn’t the way I expected to spend Saturday morning, but there we go. I’ll just stick in my contact lenses and get dialling.

*The Prince of Wales’ house. He offers tours of the garden to respectable groups of nice people. Though a few slightly louche ones can get in, as long as they pass the police check.

Update – I was planning to do something else this bloody afternoon too. Other people, it appears, have a life at the weekend. They go out. They do not answer their phones. I have filled five places and sent off confirming letters (letters of confirmation, Dave, unlike you I am not qualified to administer sacraments), have left two answerphone messages and have one woman who doesn’t use a messaging service to remember to ring this evening.

None of this actually took a vast amount of time, of course, but I’ve sort of been hanging around not doing much in the meantime. Except, I had a phone call from Al. His deliverer, who has a shop key had, unaccountably, left all his delivery on the pavement outside the shop. A 40 pound (weight) box of bananas was missing, and a sack of carrots of about the same weight. We are looking for a strong monkey riding a donkey.

Anyway, he had received more bananas from his other supplier and could manage for most of the day, but he wanted me to go into the Co-op and buy a few kilos of carrots. Fortunately, they were English and about the same price as he sells them for, so at least he won’t lose anything – he certainly won’t pay for the missing stuff. He’s probably run out by now, but you can’t not have a staple veg on a Saturday morning. It’s the way to lose customers.

Z drove to Norwich and met Dave!

I drove through Boringland. That is almost its name, and periodically the road sign is changed with spray paint to show its real nature – obviously, it’s probably lovely to live in but it is frightfully tedious to drive through. Just past the first roundabout there were road works and traffic lights. I waited behind several cars until the lights turned green and we slowly moved. The car two ahead stopped and the young man waiting at the bus stop (oh yes, that’s a good idea in the middle of single-lane traffic, no question of moving it for a week or two?) moved towards the beckoning finger. He took an envelope and put it dutifully into the pillar box. The car moved off. I laughed (out loud, yes indeed).

I had Errands to do in Bonds – or, as it’s now called, John Lewis. As ever, the assistant was charming and carried my purchase to the till, although it was well within my capabilities. Having spent some time there already, I decided to repark, because I was likely to stay long enough into the time when the car parking charge went from ‘ooh, how reasonable’ to ‘fuck me, how much?’ by the time I left. I had to get into the car through the passenger door, as the Bonds multi-storey is incredibly badly designed and gives very little space between the Meccano-like metal structure to actually park the car. I can park well enough, but I do not always allow room for opening the door on my side, because that’s the side I go by when I’m judging distance. As I slid into place, I got a dusty streak on my white top. I did indeed get out of the car and head towards the shop to buy a new one before I came to my senses and simply brushed it off. I might still have looked a little grubby. This is good for humility and I accepted the probability.

As I drove around the new car park, I received a text message from Dilly

‘Hello, are you ok? are you there yet? bit worried about you…’

I returned a calming message.

‘Take care and enjoy lunch x’ she texted back.

Look, Dave’s okay. He may come across as a miserable bugger, but he’s much nicer than that. And he brought me jamjars. What a sweetie. He did all the talking, except when the waitress came mid-anecdote (mine) and I lost the thread and had to interject several other vaguely relevant stories until I remembered what the hell I’d been talking about. But after I’d told my story, I shut up and deboned my sardines. I started with aubergines and he had gravadlax, and then he had lamb. I finished with crème brûlée and he with raspberry (? I think?) pavlova.

Later, back in the car, I texted Dilly again.

‘Safely alone again in my own car! x’

‘Thanks for letting me know – hope all went well -sorry to be all protective – I know what weird people you can meet online! x’

‘Indeed. Like husbands for instance’ I replied.

‘Exactly! x’ she replied.

Which is not to scare Dave, but Dilly and Al did, indeed, meet online.

The Sage didn’t fuss, of course. Sound, the Sage.

And I’m early, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVE!!(!)

Z quashes her tendency to be Raucous

The catalogue has gone to be printed and I’ve taken the photos for the website. I still have to go through them all before passing them on to Ro, and then there are hundreds of envelopes to fill, but it’s looking good. There’s no hurry as we don’t want to post the catalogues until the end of the month.

I went out to dinner tonight. A group of us meet once a month – I’m the youngest by at least ten years, most of us have been friends for ages, although a few extra join the group every so often. Others leave, for one reason or another. The organiser of the happy occasions is a retired headmistress of a smart school for clever and awfully pukka girls in Surrey. Sand1 T0ksv1g is a former pupil of hers. M. will celebrate her 90th birthday in January, but has lost none of her powers. At present she is on holiday so a couple of us were entrusted with Jobs. Mine was accosting each lady and writing down her menu choices.

Apparently, M had some qualms about leaving us to ourselves. She hoped that we would amuse ourselves but that the laughter should not become raucous. She doesn’t quite like raucous laughter at the dinner table. “I expect it was me, last month,” I admitted. “I can become quite loud.” “Ooh, so can I” chipped in Rita. “That’s true”, I said. “You have led me astray.”

We were quite well behaved and no one danced on the table at all. But I did eat my whole plateful of chocolate cheesecake with praline ice-cream, as it was awfully good, and it was something of a mistake. Three hours later, I still feel very full.

Norwich again tomorrow. This is twice in one week, which is quite cosmopolitan and exciting for me.

The Wailing Mall

I went over to Norwich this afternoon, to buy a new vacuum cleaner for the church. I’d decided, after talking to Jeni, the cleaner, to buy a Dyson and checked the website…then a few other websites. I plumped for John Lewis, which was far less expensive than buying it direct, but it wouldn’t be delivered until next week so, having rung to be sure it was in stock, I went to fetch it. It was actually £20 cheaper in store than online.

The assistant, who looked like a very young version of Martin Freeman, carried it out to the car for me. Oh, the joys of middle age. Time was, I’d have been sent to the pick-up point and expected to carry it myself.

I had to get some keys cut so whizzed down the hill (Norwich is awfully hilly, for Norfolk) to the market stall. On the way, I was alarmed to hear a frightful noise. As I rounded the corner by Debenhams, my expectations were surpassed. Not only was a bloke playing ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes, he was in full kiltish fig. My teeth were hurting. I scuttled along on the other side of the road, and was nearly beset by a couple of chuggers. I avoided them adroitly, unlike one polite young man who was stopped and shown papers and a badge, and I saw him shaking his head ineffectually.

Having got the keys, I crossed the road to the stationers. The bagpipes still keened plaintively. I bought box files for the Sage and came out again, to blessed silence. I realised what had happened. Someone had given him money to pack up and play in the next street.

Z is alone for the morning

The Sage is out, viewing an auction. The phone has been ringing all morning with people desperate to speak to him. No one wanted to speak to me.

“Is it too late to put a few pieces in the next sale?” enquired one caller. I said I wasn’t sure and, indeed, it will depend on what they are – the Sage accepted a piece last night, but that one is a bit special and worth moving things around for.

I’ve just delivered Meals on Wheels. One old lady, well in her nineties, is losing her memory. She looked anxious when I went in and, as I always do, I cheerfully said I was from Meals on Wheels and had brought her lunch, before she had to ask me. “I get confused” she said sadly. I said, sympathetically, that when she doesn’t go out, it’s hard to remember what day it is and who is going to call. She was grateful that I took it seriously, maybe she’s had people trying to jolly her along.

It’s a sad stage to go through, that she knows there is something wrong but can’t do anything about it. A year or two back, she showed me her diary. Her daughter, who visits daily, had written who would call, what should happen that day, the night she played whist, the day she had lunch at the pub, the evening she went to Bingo. Other evenings, she had written “You do not go out tonight.” A few weeks ago, she showed me the diary again. “You do not go out in the evenings” was written. But she still has callers, the home help, the hairdresser and the chiropodist, and she still has her Thursday fish and chips at the pub. She is clean and tranquil and loved. But her mind is going and her body isn’t. She has a lovely face and looks far younger than her age.

She put her hand on my arm gratefully, and asked if she should put the food on a plate. Then she hesitated. I dished up the food – a beef pie with cabbage, carrots, peas, mashed potato and gravy, followed by apple crumble and custard. The cafe does lovely food – the veg were not overcooked and I, who am fussy about quality, would have enjoyed eating it. There was a jug of orange squash ready on the table, covered by a plate and labelled, so I poured some in a glass, took the trayful to the living room and gave it to her. Before I went, I put my arms round her, hugged and kissed her, and she was happy and thanked me for my kindness.

But she is a sweet old lady and invites kindness. I hope, as her mind drifts away, she doesn’t become more agitated. Her daughter loves her very much and looks after her well, but it must be a constant anxiety to her. But I’m sure she is glad to have her mother still.

Z’s gavel and other images

Today, pictures. I haven’t loaded them from the camera to the computer for a while, so some of them date from a couple of weeks ago.

The view from Snape Maltings concert hall. It’s a lovely tranquil place.

We went to Southwold. From the beach just below Gun Hill, the pier was on the left and Sizewell nuclear power station can be seen down the coast.

Slightly chipped.

Our little girl.

My boy and his boy.

When I lived in Lowestoft, this was the view from the clifftop 100 yards from my house. The church is on the edge of the cliff, although in Victorian times it was half a mile inland. The erosion has stopped here but continues down the coast and up in Norfolk. The church used to be two semi-detached churches. It was bombed during the war and lost its internal fittings and thatched roof, but the structure was saved.

Chicks and their mother.

A keen little bantam laid an egg. The larger ones are smaller than hens’ eggs, this one was tiny. When I cracked it, it was filled with albumen and had no yolk.

The Sage took a break from lotting the china.

The sunset across the field in front of the house.

Time on my hands…

…whether or not it’s on my side

As I am a conplete sucker for quizzes and it is my birthday (did I mention my birthday already?), I whiled away a few minutes with this one.

I came out as ‘spontaneous’, ‘facts’, ‘hearts’, ‘introvert’ and, overall, Peacemaker. Which is probably fair enough.

Z prepares for her Birthday!!(!)

A single day isn’t enough for those in our family. Dilly, Phil and I had a joint jollity today, with a cheery salutation to Pugsley too, who will be 1 at the end of this month. We had cake, I had presents, and there was even Pass the Parcel, for we have regained childish ways in the past few years.

I was also childish enough to require a brief nap afterwards…

The past year has been excellent and I’ve been particularly happy. I’ve regained the confidence to make plans for the future which, 18 months ago, I didn’t expect to want to do again. At that time I felt safer to live in the present and refused to look ahead and felt quite comfortable with that, but now I realise that it wasn’t as healthy an attitude as I thought it was.

54 sounds quite old -I prefer the odd numbers. But I console myself that the older I become, the more my antique-loving husband appreciates me.

z sits in Judgment

This morning, I lost my car key. I parked the car, took some carrier bags to Al, who demands that his customers use their own bags or else recycle supermarket ones, went to the cashpoint and the butcher, then back to Al for some calabrese and, while I was about it, served a customer with a chilli pepper, two limes, a bunch of spring onions and a head of garlic, which cost £1.53 (this last to demonstrate that, while I may be scatty, I do have some sort of a memory). While I was doing this, I lost the key. I turned my bag out twice – Sarah and Amy were particularly bemused by the gavel – and retraced my footsteps. I am in despair.

I expect you think I am the sort of woman who has no idea where her spare key is, but I know what a fool I am and so make provision for it, and I was able to phone the Sage, direct him to the key and Dilly came in to deliver it.

I went to judge the Domestic classes at the next-door village Autumn Show. This was most enjoyable and allowed the bossy and decisive part of my nature full rein (I am, normally, sweet and biddable of course). Of course, one has to taste everything. The classes were Fruit Cake, Shortbread, Apple Pie, Bread Rolls, Canapés, Marmalade, Mint Sauce, Chutney, Pickles, Eggs (these, being au naturel, I did not taste, but I cracked one of each on to a plate to judge the quality), non-alcoholic Summer Drink and the gentleman’s class, a Lemon Drizzle Cake. Men were not, of course, excluded from any of the other classes.

I ate a bit of everything. Including nine different chutneys. The standard was very high and it was hard to choose. Afterwards, I was given lunch. Of course I ate it – it was Denton, where the food is fantastic.

However good it all is, though, there is usually one outstanding item, which demands first place. It’s the later places that are harder to evaluate. The chutneys were all so different and it was hard to judge one against another so I had to go through them all again. The best of all were a courgette chutney and a mango chutney with sultanas and almonds and I liked them both equally. I gave first prize to the courgette, as it used local ingredients, gave a splendid flavour to a not-very-flavourful base and helpfully used something that comes in a glut at this time of the year. The lemon cakes were gorgeous and the two best were outstanding. Far better than any cake I make. I did the drink last, by which time four people were standing watching me. One, who had been helping with the labels, stood back as her drink was among the entrants. I tried them all, twice (including the one I didn’t much like, in case it was hers). Then I tried some of them again. I picked an elderflower cordial, a lemonade and an iced mint tea (this was actual tea flavoured with mint, not a herb tisane). I tasted them for a fourth time. Everyone was vastly impressed by my rigour. I gave the elderflower first prize, the tea second and the lemonade third. After the cards had gone on, my helper beamed. Hers had been the elderflower…

I’ll prepare supper tonight, as the children, all seven of them, have gone to Southwold. We’ll eat next door with Al and Dilly though, so that they won’t have to leave to put the children to bed. El trotted out in her lunch hour yesterday and bought smoked trout, hare and goose terrines from Fortnum & Mason, so we’ll start the meal with those. She also bought some kudu biltong, just to give me something I’ve never eaten before. I feel quite shockingly decadent, to be sampling a South African antelope, but it is very tasty.

With one bound, Z may or may not be free

I have a slight, startled feeling that there might be the start of a pincer movement around me. You may remember, a couple of weeks ago, that I put up the agenda of a meeting, to demonstrate why it wasn’t all going to be discussed and finished in an hour.

We are supposed to change jobs every three years and this is the third year for several of us. However, after last week’s meeting I received an email suggesting I should remain as chairman for an extra year. I replied, pointing to the terms of the constitution, that the job should last no more than three years, ‘except in extraordinary circumstances’ and those didn’t apply. The reply said “but if all are agreed,as we are at the mo…’,” (that I should carry on). This is news to me. No one, until last week, had said anything to me and I though this person was speaking for himself.

Now I don’t know what to say. I can see the sense of it, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s good idea, quite apart from the fact that it isn’t actually allowed.

I’m off now to the church. There is, every year, a sponsored cycle ride on behalf of the Norfolk Churches Trust. Each county holds one, and the money raised is divided between the local Trust and the parish church which each rider designates. I have done a rota of volunteers to go in and greet the cyclists and sign their forms. The bishop has, with a surprising lack of foresight, decided to hold a licensing ceremony for new lay readers today, so we won’t be the only church with people going to that instead of cycling or helping.

After that, I’m going to judge the domestic classes at the gardening club. Then I’ll have to do some shopping for tomorrow’s lunch for the person being licensed. I’m not going to that, as we’ve got a family lunch planned, but I’ve said I’ll sort out the drinks. Unfortunately, it seems that one person will get landed with serving them single-handed, but I’m sure the sweet-natured people of the other parishes will help her.

I’d better find something to take with me to the church, so that I can have some breakfast while I wait for cyclists. It won’t be very busy, as we’re slightly out of the way here and never have more than twenty visitors in the whole day.