Monthly Archives: December 2007

Doesn’t time … go at its usual steady and even pace?

I always think the whole New Year’s Eve malarky is a bit overrated and artificial. Whilst Christmas is, when it arrives, usually a family occasion and doesn’t have to be an orgy of overindulgence, the whole point of NYE seems to be wild celebration of … what? The stroke of midnight? It doesn’t actually feel like a fresh new year, burgeoning with possibilities, with any disappointments or mishaps swept away. It’s just another day, and usually a cold one.

I’ve had some splendid NYEs of course, usually at friends’ houses – though one occasion I remember was considerably marred by the unfortunate bout of flu that our hostess suffered from. We went for dinner and she had grimly cooked a delicious meal, which we ate at about 9.30 and finished around 11 and then we all sat trying to pretend that she actually wanted us to be there – one can hardly break up the party early on that particular night. A particularly delicious single malt was produced at midnight, we all slurped it down appreciatively and then sloped off at about 20 past – leaving her husband to do the clearing away before his early morning start … as a livestock farmer, a morning in bed was out of the question.

We had a party ourselves on New Year’s Eve 1999, which did work well. There was an hiatus around 2 am for a while, for a brief rest, before we set off in a body for the East coast, to see the dawn of 2000. We took a camp stove, bacon and eggs and thermoses of hot water and we all breakfasted on Dunwich cliff. This is a few miles south of Ness Point in Lowestoft, the most easterly point of the British Isles, but there is nothing interesting or decorative about Ness Point. There were lots of other people at Dunwich too, on a similar mission. The bacon was not very crispy – we hadn’t quite allowed for the chilling effect of the wind in trying to heat a frying pan, but no matter.

Tonight is another family doo. We are invited to fireworks and chilli at 6 pm, so as to include the children, and then a convivial evening is promised, to include the delightful company of Dilly’s family.

Tomorrow, we will go to another party, which starts with mulled cider (the local Cyder Club’s best efforts), continues with a walk – I’ll tell you how many miles when I get back: up until now I’ve always done the long walk … we’ll see – and then goes on to gallons of home-made soups, cheese and rather a lot more to drink.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Z tires herself

There was just one church service in the benefice this morning, in our smallest church in the six parishes. It stands alone in a field, with a track leading to it, a mile or so from the village it serves. It has no electric supply and is heated and lighted by gas and candles, and someone pumps the organ by hand*. It is warm and welcoming and a pleasure to visit.

The Sage expected that I’d cycle. It’s three or four miles away, I suppose, which may not sound a lot, but bear in mind that I am fat and unfit and it’s winter. However, I clambered awkwardly into the saddle and set off, promising to bring the papers on my return some three hours later.

And so I did.

I have rewarded myself with a slice of toast and Patum Peperium – Gentleman’s Relish, if you prefer. Not quite so rewarding was the soup, which was made from six carrots, two sweet potatoes, a red pepper, a chunk of ginger and two oranges, quartered; all cooked in ham stock and then liquidised, the oranges having been removed. I think it was those last that didn’t quite work. It’s all right, but I suspect will prove a little unusual for the Sage’s taste, and I’ve at least four pints of it. Still, no need to wonder what I’ll have for lunch for the next week.

I think, since I am unusually free for the time of day, I’ll pop down to the pub for a pint of John’s home-brew.

*Look, please read no dodgy meaning into this at all. I am not being crude or suggestive here. A church organ is powered by bellows, usually electrically operated, but in this case manually worked with a lever.

Z’s still here

I’ve been having a rare episode of being sociable with my family and have had no time to write. El and Phil have gone back to London now and are vastly missed, and Wink is leaving tomorrow morning. However, we have been enjoying our convivial evenings next door with Dilly and Al and plan to carry on for a bit with those.

Al has two Saturday girls, who are sisters – one comes in every week and one on alternate weeks, because Eileen also works alternate Saturdays. The alternate-week girl has got another job, which is understandable – very sweetly, she offered to continue until Al has a chance to find someone else. But he has let her go – not worth her risking the loss of the new job. So I’ll be in alternate Saturdays until he finds someone else, which may not be an easy thing to do.

It was a very cold, dry windy day today, with a bright blue sky and delicious clear air. I helped set up the shop for a couple of hours, and then went for coffee, where a schooldays friend of El’s was helping out – her mother was looking after her two children for the morning. It was lovely to see them all. Carola mentioned that it was about 20 years ago that she and El had first met, which meant that she is now the age I was then – strange the difference in perception, when then I was relatively old and now she still thinks she is young!

I haven’t been replying to comments as I usually do. Sorry. Normal service will be resumed before long.

Z didn’t forget!!(!)

I remembered one deadline today, something that had to be posted for receipt by the 31st. Since I’d lost a vital piece of paper, which included the address, a couple of weeks ago and not had time for a search, it’s been on my mind.

I also remembered Meals on Wheels, which I had been resigned to forgetting.

We’ve put in our seed order, via the gardening club which gets a substantial discount.

Tomorrow is Lord Bruin’s annual party, one of the highlights of the season. Admission will, as usual, be by Bear only and under no circumstances will a Rabbit be accepted as a substitute. We are all invited, but since it’s always on a working day, Al usually can’t go – however, since he is a particular friend of the lady who arranges the party (both she and Lord Bruin are now 91 years old) – I have offered to man the shop for a couple of hours to let him and the Sage go. I’m not sure if Al will accept the offer however, as three whole days with the shop shut are a long time for him and he might not be able to drag himself away. He should; it’s a splendid party and there are many competitions for happy teddy bears. One year, Ro’s bear won the prize for Most Loved Bear.

There is a slight feeling that normality will soon return, whatever that may mean. It won’t mean a visit to the January sales, although I do need a pair of boots as I only have high heeled ones and I didn’t have time for shopping in the autumn. I don’t like shopping much. Not the trawling around searching for the right thing. If it isn’t right there in front of me, I lose interest.

Z hopes there will be enough to eat

It appears that the ham that I bought for tomorrow’s lunch weighs 20 lbs, which is just over 9 kilos. Hm. It has been soaking in the kitchen sink for several hours. I looked in several cookery books to work out the cooking time, but the half-hour per pound in one (far too long) and the half-hour boiling on the cooking plate followed by 20 minutes per pound in the simmering oven, in the Aga book, didn’t seem to help – my ham pan won’t fit in the oven, for a start.

Finally, I brought down Mrs Beeton. For a ten-pound ham on the bone, she said helpfully, cook 4 hours. For 15 pounds, 5 hours. A really large ham will need to be boiled for 6 hours. That sounds fine. Depending on what time I get up tomorrow, lunch will be about seven hours later (it has to come to the boil first and, at the end, be glazed in the oven).

I trust I’ll be up earlier tomorrow than we were today. We fell asleep wrapped in each other again, and didn’t wake until 10.

Tomorrow, the whole family will be together for lunch. Wink arrived in time for lunch and El and Phil came along during the afternoon.

Christmas Day

Happy Christmas, darling friends.

I’m running late as the Sage and I, woken by the radio at 7.30, wrapped our arms around each other and fell asleep again until after 9, and I’m due in church in another ten minutes.

Being entertained for Christmas dinner is splendid. No work to do. When I get back, all I’ll have to do is play with the children.

Have a lovely day xx

love from Zoë

T’is the night before….

So, what puzzles me is, who is still shopping for basic foodstuffs at 5.30 pm on Christmas Eve? Al had it all sorted in his mind – he’d start packing up between 4 and half past, and be out of the shop, clutching a wad of cash, by 5, ready for the Carol Service at 6. This is a kind concession to his wife and an unspoken but, hey, we all know it’s there, charming gesture to his mother. He dashed home at 5.45, having had difficulty getting rid of the last customers. One of them, in the last half hour, spent £28. What would she have done if he’d been shut?

We started, again, at 5.45 this morning and checked the first delivery. No parsnips and no chestnuts. He rang the other company, and found that they’d packed 5 x 5 kilo boxes of parsnips, out of the 6 he’d asked for (from each firm) and all the chestnuts – which meant he’d have 40% of one and half of the other.

Yup. I went to a supermarket in the next town and stocked up. Can’t disappoint the customers.

I expected to deliver the stuff (it was now about 9) and leave, but it was really busy, and one of his 16-year-old assistants hadn’t turned up. I finally got home at 2.

But everything’s done now. I might as well go to bed.

But, only half an hour to Christmas! Ooh, exciting

Z plans her schedule

Yesterday finished early for me. I flagged completely by the evening and gazed helplessly at a fridgeful of leftovers which will need attention to turn into meals. The Sage suggested fish and chips. Good plan.

I sat on the floor by the fire, reluctant to go to the comfortable sofa in case I went to sleep, so I went upstairs instead. We have a 6-foot long bath (mine is 5-foot long, but I only use it for showers as we share bathwater) which accommodates the Sage’s length nicely, but it’s too long for me to lie back and relax in without the risk of slipping underwater. But my back ached, so I stretched out, one toe reaching the enamel, my shoulders against the other end, and lay there steaming gently.

I went to bed, read for a few minutes, and was asleep before 9 o’clock. I slept for 10 hours.

Now I need to hurry. It’s near-freezing fog and I’m not cycling to Yagnub in that – bad for the lungs. I’ll get to church early instead, practise my music, get things ready and, this afternoon, look after the babies so that Dilly can help Al get the shop all ready for tomorrow. In the morning, I’ll go in early again to set up the shop and finish the orders. Then I’ll pick up the ham, buy the Sage’s presents, we’ll set up the tree and I’ll start to get ready for the carol service in the evening.

On Friday, most people were writing valedictory posts, because they’ll be far too busy having a good time to write blogs. *Cough* My idea of a good time includes writing blogs. I’ll still be here.

Z does porridge

Last night didn’t quite go as planned, in that, having set the alarm for 5 a.m. and switched off the light about 12.40, we didn’t sleep. Initially, the reason was that the Sage put his arms round me, and a choice between him and sleep is easy to make; however, later I couldn’t sleep at all. He dozed fitfully, but I didn’t. I finally got up, made and ate porridge, cleaned the kitchen, sat and stared at the computer for a while and went to help Al around quarter to 6.

I left to help decorate the church 4 hours later and shambled wearily home after 1.30. I wanted something hot and sustaining to eat, but couldn’t face the cooking…I made another bowl of porridge.

Al confesses he might be flagging a bit later this afternoon, so I’ve said I’ll go in and help close the shop.

I discovered that two of the carols I’m playing tomorrow are really quite tricky. I may have to resort to the clarinet for one of them.

Presents are wrapped!!(!)

Al and Dilly spent three hours making up vegetable orders tonight, arriving home after 11.30. The Sage babysat. I wrapped presents. This is remarkable – I don’t think I’ve ever wrapped presents this early before. Still, at least we haven’t got a Christmas tree up yet, so there isn’t too keen an air of preparedness.

I haven’t bought the Sage a present yet either. Pfft. Still two shopping days left. Well, three I suppose, but I won’t have time on Sunday.

Al and I will go into the shop at 6 tomorrow morning to set things up. All his assistants will be arriving at 8.30 – with five of them, there will hardly be room for customers.