Monthly Archives: October 2007

I dream of cheese. Toasted, mostly

CBATG for the exact quote I’m afraid, but it’s Ben Gunn in Treasure Island, in case you can.*

A conversation that Blue Witch and I are having in the comments column from a couple of days ago has prompted this post, which is on the thorny problem of losing weight in middle age, and what weight you should be.

I was quite slim – size 8-10 (English size, of course, I think that means 4-6 in Transatlantic terms) and I’ve always eaten properly, just not very much. When I started to cook for my mother too (which I did on and off for the last nine years of her life) the style of what we ate altered to accommodate her needs. Because there were various things she was unable to eat, I did more of the things she could – not at all an interesting subject to go into and I won’t … basically, nothing wrong with any of it but not the pattern that suited me. Furthermore, she became unhappy and depressed and I was the person on the spot, and it was quite difficult. It was, perhaps, not altogether surprising that I gained a couple of stone over a decade.

Thing is, that’s not much in a year. Negligible difference over a week or two. Quite hard to reverse. And there have been some advantages. When I was thin, I didn’t have much stamina. I was strong and energetic, but when I’d used up the strength it took days to recover. And if I got up too quickly, I got dizzy and had to sit down again. Sometimes, I was so woozy that I had to lie on the floot until the buzzing in my ears went away and the room stopped spinning round. Now, I can keep going for ever and am never dizzy. So I’d come to terms with the downside, which is a measure of distinct porkiness. It used to be said that, after forty, you choose between your face and your figure, too – I know a few people who have lost weight in middle age and they gained a lot of wrinkles. I also achieved a cleavage for the first time, going from an A cup to a discreet D.

There’s another thing that reconciled me. My father died suddenly when my mother was 46, and she lost a lot of weight. She wasn’t that big but she became very thin in a few weeks and she retained most of the weight loss. In later years, although her bones were otherwise strong, she lost several inches in height and her back became quite bent. I’m sure a lot of this was due to what equated to a crash diet at a tricky age. I’m short enough already and don’t want to lose what I’ve got.

The doctor is insistent that I eat healthily and not lose weight quickly – I suspect he reckoned he had said enough already and decided not to mention bone density on this occasion. I won’t eat such fripperies as chocolate, biscuits, pastry etc – but they aren’t actually a major part of my diet anyway. So I’ve cut out cheese. That’s dairy products gone then, as I don’t use milk except in cooking, and not often that (cheese sauce, mostly, so that’s gone). Dark green vegetables, kidney beans and the like, yes, but that’s not enough calcium.

Oh damn. I’m off to buy plain yoghurt and some calcium tablets. And maybe the butcher will give me a nice juicy bone.

*Oh, hell, I’ve looked it up. “many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese–toasted, mostly”. I wasn’t far out.

Z is virtuous (in a strictly food-related sense)

The coffee morning went well, I think. Apart from the fact that I seem to have politely expressed an interest in joining a Latin class – the person trying to set it up has three people including herself on her list, so with any luck it won’t get off the ground. No, I love Latin. But I’m a bit doubtful here. She specifically said that she is not interested in Roman literature, and I am.

Anyway, I did my little piece and afterwards they stayed and chatted some more, which was a good sign (that I’d not talked too long). I refused biscuits, which caused some curiosity, so I explained to closest friends. Afterwards, I came back and picked up lovely vegetables, and excellent fish from the market. The Sage had already had lunch, so I stir-fried onion, garlic, ginger, two chillies, fennel and tomatoes with four splendid fresh prawns, added lime juice and ate it all. Then I made stock with the duck bones from last night, and a big pot of minestrone. This was all very virtuous food, but whether weight is lost is another matter.

The Sage has asked me out!!(!) There is an antiques fair this weekend at a fairly local private school, and he has tickets. Free tickets, I might add. Still, a date is never to be sneezed at. Tomorrow, it will only be one week until our auction sale. I am all excited. I love auctions.

Z is prepared to be informative

Yes, well, we’ll move on, shall we?

Tomorrow, there is a coffee morning for New Members. In previous years, the previous chairman gave a little talk, about the society and about the National Association of the societies. It seemed unreasonable to continue to ask her to give her time, so I’ll be doing it.

Informal and spontaneous is how I’m described. A polite way of saying untidy and unprepared.

I rely on my hopeful smile, as ever. It’s my trump card. I have a worried air and people genuinely don’t like to upset me.

Squiffany suggested that one of her dolls might like to accompany me. It is a charming little rag doll in a green dress. Her name is Dolly. Squiffany has another doll, whose name is Dolly, and a third, which looks younger, which is named Baby. This seems perfectly appropriate. We have a few dozen bantams, all of which are called Girl until they have chicks, when they are called Mummy or Auntie, depending on whether the sitter actually laid the eggs. There is, of course, one male bird, who is named Cocky.

I took Dolly and her vacuous but good-natured smile rather won me over and I gave her a hug. I haven’t brought her home with me though. After deliberation, it was thought that she might be nervous, away from home, and she is spending the night with Squiffany.

Do excuse a somewhat fluffy and flappy post, but I drank two glasses of wine which, after a couple of days of virtual abstinence, has rendered me skunklike.

Z cried

In the doctor’s surgery, what could be more embarrassing? I’ve known him for years, our children were at school together.

Anyway, the good news. He says I don’t drink too much!!(!)

He also says that my blood pressure is normal.

On the other hand, my suspicions are correct and I have arthritis in my right hip. He observed (absolutely politely) that I’ve put some weight on over the years and wondered if it was when my mother died? That was when I cried. He was most upset and apologised and put a kind hand on my arm.

Anyway, he suggests losing a stone in the next year* wouldn’t be a bad idea and to see him again in a few months.

*er, and another one the year after…

Later I’ve thought of another good thing. I wasn’t making a fuss about nothing.

Darling daughter sent me flowers. I cried again, but it was different.

I’m fine, pissed off and I’ll get pissed (in a low calorie sort of way) tonight, but my usual good cheer is reasserting itself. I’m only fifty-fucking-four though, and I don’t see why I’ve got to get this dreary sort of thing so young. Still, I’ll be bragging about seeing my ribs soon. Hope I don’t lose the D cup though.

Little more than bullet points, as I’m going to bed early

Fourteen jars of quince jelly, five jars of quince jam and four jars of cotignac. Yum.

I spent an hour this afternoon climbing up and down a ladder picking apples. The Sage helpfully moved the ladder and took my basket from me when full, to save me extra trips up and down. We’ll hardly eat any of them ourselves, as I don’t do puddings usually – well, who does? – but I wasn’t brought up to. Many more to pick, but some of them are too high for me so the Sage is constructing an apple-picker.

Only seven of us at the PCC meeting tonight, so I advised that one third is a quorum. The PCC numbers 18 at present, which sounds a lot but there are a lot of ex-officio members, including me. I don’t know if one third is the actual quorum, but it is now.

I’ve got a whole long list of things to do as a result of the meeting, including writing minutes from very few notes, as I joined in the discussion quite a lot (and I’m usually so quiet, aren’t I Dave?).

I finally made an appointment with the doctor about my dodgy leg, and I’m going tomorrow. I can’t chicken out or you’ll berate me.

Shop-work tomorrow morning, which is good as my leg will then ache realistically. Once I’d phoned the surgery, it stopped hurting nearly so much.

I’ve a church service at 11 on Sunday (playing the clarinet) and at 3 (playing the organ). In between, my chum John and I have decided to go out for lunch. My treat this time.

Another evening without wine, this is a slightly worrying development as I don’t miss it. I did, however, prepare by having a small glass at lunchtime, just in case I lost the taste for it. I am drinking quantities of tea instead, and have realised that most of my liquid intake is normally alcoholic.

Goodnight xx

Z has a relaxed afternoon

It was the weather. It was quite peculiar. A frost, and then it sort of rained in the morning – but it was more of a wet mistiness without the actual fog. Water hung in the air, but puddles showed no tremor of raindrops.

The shop was quite busy all the same and Eileen and I took most of the morning to do all the extra work, as well as serving customers. The housekeeper of a local Lady came in with a cheque to pay the account. She said that her (the Lady’s) signature is becoming more shaky and this might be the last time that she signs the cheque herself and her husband might have to do it in future. I sympathised – it’s such a sad thing to watch, the gradual failing in someone’s abilities. Harder still, of course, to endure oneself. “She has gone from a plate with a knife and fork to a bowl with a spoon,” she said. “The next step will be to feed her, and that is something none of us wants to have to accept.” She is a lovely woman, the housekeeper, and must be such a support.

This afternoon, I’d planned to ascend a ladder and pick Bramley apples. It had stopped not-raining, but drops hung from all the leaves and branches and I have left it to another day. I was going to make a couple more batches of quince jelly, having dripped the juice in a jellybag overnight, but Dilly phoned to ask if I could sit with the children for a while as she wanted to go to Yagnub and Pugsley had just gone to sleep. Squiffany and I played and chatted, and when Dilly came back we asked if we could carry on playing in my house.

So, no work and lots of play. This evening I had a meeting, to which I was driving, so no alcohol either. When I came home, I had a sedate cup of rose tea. Maybe I should go to bed, so that I will not succumb to the single malt out of mild boredom.

If I haven’t visited you recently or commented much, or replied to emails or written actual letters (all these things I’m guilty of with some of you) I really am sorry. I am trying to catch up with everything, but it may take a week or two yet.

Z and a Blue-Arsed Fly have a little more in common that is, perhaps, desirable

As the radio, on its timer, went off at 8.15, I fell asleep. I woke with a headache, slept again, dreamed fitfully and busily and woke again, realising it must be 9 o’clock. I squinted at the clock. 9.30. Ah.

I hurried about the bathroom affairs, but did not take the ultimate time-save in the shower. By 10, I’d drunk tea, dried hair, applied makeup, fumbled in contact lenses and replied to two emails and a comment. I shot off to church, clutching the numbers of the hymns I’d not looked at in my hand.

I switched on the electricity, unlocked various doors (not that of the church, which is ever open) and went to check the hymns. I didn’t know one. I played another, decided the key was too high and found it in another book of tunes and wrote down the number. I learned the new hymn and played the others.

The sidesman came in and went to get everything ready for Communion. “Where’s the chalice?” she called. “It’s not in the safe.” I’d unlocked the safe and nothing was wrong with it. “I don’t know, I haven’t been here for the last two Sundays.” “I put it away myself last week and it’s not where I put it.” I trudged down the aisle to check. I didn’t panic. I reached in the safe. The chalice was there, in its baize bag. “Here it is, darling, the microphone was in front of it.” The safe is about 1 foot cube. It would be hard to miss a mouse in there. She speculated on the dismay of losing a chalice for several minutes. I put the microphone out and the numbers up. I filled the urn and the kettles. I put out the mugs and the caf├ętieres. “I’ve put out twenty wafers, is that enough?” “A few more, I think”. “The box is empty, we haven’t any more.” I trotted back to the cupboard and fetched one of the three boxes of wafers in plain view.

When the service started, I hit the notes of the first hymn. “Ah. Sorry. I’m playing the wrong tune.” I found the right tune (83, not 81 as I’d written. Rightly, Troy, the child in the front pew, laughed.

After the service, I apologised for my carelessness, drank a mug of coffee and ate a chocolate cake. locked up and went home.

Later, I wrote up notes for the PCC meeting, cleared twigs and stuff off the lawn ready to mow it (sometime), picked a couple of boxes of apples and had lunch. Then I made a batch of quince jelly, prepared fruit for quince jam and cotignac, looked at the peelings, went to the shop for more quinces, cut up fruit to add to said peelings for more jelly, made the jam and cooked dinner. Oh, and ate it. And emptied the dishwasher, filled it, put it on, emptied it again and have half-filled it. The Sage and I agreed that we will need a new dishwasher soon and I suggested buying it before *the event in three months time that it’s too early to mention* as the last one that went kaput did so on *the event in three months time that it’s too early to mention* Day, in the evening, when it had just been filled.

I’ve just finished making the cotignac, which is cooling ready to be potted. In a few minutes, the quinces will go into the jelly-bag to drain, ready to make more jelly tomorrow afternoon (I’m working in the shop in the morning). It’s after 10 pm and I haven’t looked at the paper yet.

I don’t have a proper job. What am I doing wrong? Day of rest, MY LEFT FOOT.

Look up

Before I leave the subject of the exhibition, just a remark on the setting.

Some years ago, there was a smaller exhibition on the Terracotta Army, also at the British Museum. I went, and remember a darkened room with only the objects lit up.

This time, there are far more artefacts. There has been a great deal more research in the past ten years, and many more discoveries made. Instead of one warrior being sent, there were about twenty figures, including horses and bronze birds. There was a model palace and a display of the production process, and a great many artefacts.

Many of you will have visited the British Museum since its remodelling – the Great Court has been covered with a most beautiful geodesic dome, designed by computer to fit exactly around the existing building. Extra building work was added judiciously, to blend in with the stone. The Reading Room, which housed the British Library, had been made redundant when the Library was moved to a building at St Pancras. Since, it has been used to house the museum’s own archive of books.

It is a gorgeous circular room*, with a fabulous domed ceiling. It is lined with bookshelves and the original desks are still in place, radiating out from the centre. It was decided that, emptied, it would be a splendid setting for the exhibition.

However, it was discovered that the benches and the ventilation system were constructed together and could not be separated. So they built a false floor. You walk up a slope and then steps and the exhibition has been constructed half way up the wall! The advantage of this, of course, is that you are considerably closer to the beautiful dome and can see it more clearly. So, when you go to the exhibition, do remember to look up.

*before any of my quirky commenters mention it, it is not a complete sphere.

Z’s day out

Yesterday I went with the society wot I’m chairman of to the British Museum, to see the First Emperor exhibition. It was wonderful, do go if you have a chance. They’ve sold out of pre-booked tickets until December I gather, but there are some available on the door each day (go early) or book for early next year.

The organiser passed round various press cuttings on the coach, including one from I know not which newspaper, where the reviewer said rather grumpily that he (or she) found the terracotta figures something of a disappointment and, although it was an impressive exhibition, the main feeling at the end was that the regime was a triumph of mass-production. Another, on the other hand, was wildly enthusiastic.

I agree with the second. I loved it. I found the figures incredibly moving. They were indeed mass produced, although made from a combination of various styles of heads, bodies, clothes, hairstyles etc and then personalised with moustaches and other variations to facial features, but I did not expected to feel a sense of personality from them. I felt the sensation that they were waiting, in patient expectation, as they have been for over two thousand years.

I think there are two reasons for this – first, that they are life-size. There are several horses – ponies, really. A man was conscripted once he reached the age of 16 and was 4′ 11″ tall, so a 12-hand horse was probably big enough. They looked like horses. But two bronze half-size chariots had also been found – in pieces, requiring careful restoration, so the originals were too fragile to travel and a replica had been made. Half-size horses had been made to pull it and these, though as realistic as the larger ones, looked like models, or toys.

The second reason is that the colour has gone. They were originally fully coloured, and some traces remain, but the effect of the air on the lacquer under the pigment made it lose its stability and the paint vanished – some of the more recently excavated ones still have pink faces as conservation techniques are better now than they were. There is one newly-made model, which has been painted, and he doesn’t look nearly so human.

A correction – there are other factors too. Each man is doing something. He might be an archer, an acrobat, a groom, a civil servant (standing neatly with each hand tucked into the opposite sleeve), and his tool or weapon is long gone, but the position is realistic, not wooden. You feel that they were made with feeling, which is incredible considering how many had to be made. You look into their eyes and you feel a connection – yes, I know I’m being fanciful, but haven’t you looked at the face of a beloved (whether or not by you) teddy bear and seen its personality?

The Emperor Qin was an astonishing man. A complete megalomaniac, and a genius. He made one country out of the various provinces of China within 13 years of ascending the throne of his own province and then imposed a single currency, which was still in use more than 2,000 years later, and a single style of writing, so that even if different people spoke different languages, they could all recognise each other’s written characters. He build vast miles of roads, numerous palaces and connected various sections of walls to make the first Great Wall. Countless people were conscripted or forced into labour and thousands died, but he achieved incredible results. And the vast Terracotta Army was surely proof that he was, in addition, barking mad. He spent much of his reign searching for an elixir of eternal life – it’s possible that one of the concoctions he tried actually poisoned him.

He invented mass production and the assembly line, as well as quality control. Workmen’s names, and those of their supervisors, were marked on objects so that anything sub-standard could be tracked back to the person responsible. Weapons, and everything else, were made to an exact standard, so that if, for example, you broke the point of your lance, you could fetch a replacement tip and know it would fit exactly.

He died suddenly, 11 years after becoming Emperor, and a palace coup brought an end to the dynasty soon after. The weapons held by the warriors were looted from the pits and much damage was done – no model has been found undamaged, as the wooden roofs had collapsed. But, although the country descended into civil war, Qin’s changes lasted. No attempt was made to portray him as a hero – though I think a little more could have been said about the civilization that had existed before he came along – but he was certainly the author of a remarkable and impressive achievement.

I dunno, perhaps some of it

Found it at Steg’s place.

This would have been very accurate five years ago. It seems to focus rather on what stress you’re under and I don’t feel unhealthily stressed at all. I’m happy. I’ve reached that stable and peaceful situation they mention, and am enjoying it.

Here we go, anyway… z took the free personality test!

“Seeks an affectionate relationship, offering fulfi…”

Click here to read the rest of the results.