Monthly Archives: February 2008

Z is cuddled

It must have clouded over in the course of the evening. A couple of hours ago, the full moon was straight ahead of me out of the window and now it’s not visible at all. I think there’s a lunar eclipse tonight, but not for a few hours yet.

Having my desk facing the window is a pleasure, but it has its disadvantages; notably that the sun shines straight into my eyes in the mornings. It’s worth the squinting though, to watch the birds in the garden.

I babysat Pugsley this afternoon as usual while Dilly took Squiffany to dancing class. He’s a remarkably easy child. He was almost ready for an afternoon nap and sat on my lap to be read to for a while. Abruptly, he started to rub his eyes and yawn, I carried him into his bedroom, lay him down and left him until he shouted for me after an hour. I had time to read various documents, write out some music for Sunday, read the daily paper and fit in a short nap for myself. He was still sleepy when I fetched him back so we cuddled as I read another book. When Squiffany came in, she wanted to join us on the sofa and we all hugged together. All most enjoyable.

I’ve just been booking a train ticket for the Sage’s next journey to London – I won’t be going with him that time. He was wondering whether to buy a railcard, but it works out cheaper to buy two cut-price single tickets (£24 against £24.40, not including the cost of the railcard) so he won’t bother. I am supposed to be going to a meeting in Liverpool in May – I really must get on with booking a hotel and all that. I could do with an assistant for that sort of thing, which I have an unwise tendency to leave until the last moment. I’ve never been to Liverpool; I might stay an extra day to look around. If the Sage can manage without me, that is.*

Our friend in hospital wants me to clear out her little freezer. I suspect that she has been shoving everything in there that she hasn’t got around to eating for the last few months – she realises, now that she’s getting better, how poorly she’s been coping. When I looked in her fridge, some things had been there for months, including vacuum packs of meat. She can stay in the lovely cottage hospital for another fortnight – I’ll cook and freeze some meals for her, so that we can stock up her supplies and she’ll not have to cook for a while. She admits to having lived on tinned soup for a few weeks. She kept buying fruit and vegetables, but we now realise that this was to have an excuse to ask the Sage to deliver, so that he’d call for a chat.

*This is a slightly edgy remark, as he never goes away and I have to holiday without him

Click on the link and go

By the way, if you haven’t already, hot-foot it to Mike’s, where he’s running his ‘Which Decade is Tops for Pops?’ poll. As ever, highly entertaining nostalgia-fest, where you discover which tunes have lasted and which once-loved music is completely embarrassing to listen to again.

Start at Number 10 of course, which was on Monday.

I appreciate Mike.

Z Connects with the Son

“hi” “hi”. “What did you see?” “Juno.” “Good?” “Yeah.” “Have you eaten?” “yup.” “I’ve just made some coffee, would you like some?” “Yes please, half a mug is fine.” “That’s enough for me too, we’ll share the small pot.”

“By the way, the new Mountain Goats album arrived today.” “Oh yes, it’s out today. Have you listened to it yet? Lyrics are bleak, aren’t they.” “Yes, and yes they are, but I haven’t got them all yet. Would you like to borrow it?” “I’ve listened to it online, it’s really good. Yes please.”

I feel all happening and where it’s at, whatever I might mean by that.

I also bought an ‘Old 97’s’ (sic) album, because the track ‘designs on you’, which Julie sent me, entertains me every time I hear it. I didn’t think I’d ever buy anything which iTunes labels ‘country’, but it is pleasing me mightily.

Z appreciates a Man who Barks

You see? The title is so much more interesting than the post will ever be.

It was really foggy this morning, and very cold. I was struck by the beauty of the frozen cobwebs draped on the bushes and car mirrors. Al tried to start his van, but the battery became less and less willing to respond and eventually, with an apologetic cough, it expired.

He had to go to Norwich this morning. He wondered, hopefully, if he’s insured to drive my car? Unfortunately not. I used to have fully comprehensive insurance, but now only three named drivers are permitted, which is inconvenient when I’ve got six people I’d like to insure. So I offered to drive him. We don’t spend much time together, it’d be a pleasure.

The reason for the trip is the new bank charges he was going to have to pay. With his tiny shop, he’d be paying £800 in a year for nothing much. He’s always in credit, and the bulk of it is to pay over cash, which he has counted already. So he rang his wholesalers and asked if it would be all right to pay his monthly bills in cash. They didn’t mind. So, clutching two bags of money, he enjoyed the luxury of my nice car instead of his Postman Pat van and I took him over. After a while, he got out his phone and worked a few figures out. “You know, I’m saving £45 in bank charges today” he remarked. I was astonished. The last month has been one of the least busy of the year (this is normal for January, February and November) and it seemed a lot of money.

The fog lasted for the first five miles, and then the sun started to break through. We went to deliver the two lots of cash, and then picked up a new bed for Pugsley – yes, he’s going to leave his cot and have a big boy’s bed. He’s not 18 months old yet, he is so little…

The sun was shining so brightly that I was dazzled and had to put on sunglasses. But then, in the space of about 50 yards, it all changed. We were back into thick fog. I took off my glasses and turned on the car’s headlights. Thia change happened several times more in the next half hour and we arrived home in fog again, after 12.30 pm.

The Sage was interested in something on eBay, but he’s a little excitable on the computer, so I tap the keys for him. He’d already put on what I thought was a high price, and I had to leave before the sale would end. What would his final bid be? He hedged and didn’t say. Finally, I had to go. “Put on another £100” he said. “Another £100?” “Oh, I won’t have to pay it.” “You’re barking, darling,” I said, tapping at the keys. “Oh” he said, in a hurt voice. He had momentarily forgotten that, from me, that is by no means an insult.

He bought the item, but had to pay full whack. After returning from my appointment, I went to Harleston and bought three pairs of shoes. I spend almost exactly half the cost of his frippery. However, I wasn’t in competition. And I like a little exuberant extravagance in a chap, once in a while. Frivolity is what matters.

It was suggested that Z is bossy

Some years ago, an extension was built onto the back of the church, which houses a hallway, a loo (big enough to take a wheelchair and baby’s nappy-changing stuff), a kitchen/meeting room (at present a kitchen/office) and another room, which will seat 50 or so. Coffee is served after, and sometimes before (no rule here, if someone wants it they put the kettle on and make a potful, because the aroma draws everyone else) services and we stand around chatting for a while before wending our way home. Or wherever.

We’ve always tended to stay in the hallway, but someone mentioned at a PCC meeting that it would be more friendly to go into the main room, because it’s more comfortable, there are chairs and it’s where visitors tend to go, so it would be better if we all were in there rather than a couple of people going in to make sure newcomers don’t feel left out. We decided to use the room in future. But no-one did. So last week I chivvied a bit and this week I asked Judy, who was making coffee, not to open the hatchway into the hall but to direct people straight into the main room. I put out chairs, put on the heaters – and was accused of being a control freak. Largely because I was asked whether the hallway radiator should go on, and I said no.

Yeah, but they did it AND agreed that it was much more comfortable.

As we left, my good friend John said that he was going out for lunch and would I like to join him. Well, I had got plans for the afternoon – but “yes please”. I biked home and he drove to pick me up. Later, when pondering whether to have coffee, he asked if I had time. I said that the company of a friend was more important than odd jobs – which was the right thing to say, for it pleased him; and it’s true, too.

I’m happy to say that this evening’s dinner is as locally sourced as I’m likely to find at this time of the year. The leeks in the soup come from the garden, the lamb was reared in the field 300 yards away, the potatoes, carrots and cauliflower travelled 6 miles, the parsnips less than 2. Wine would let the side down – I shall drink beer from St Peter’s brewery, which is 5 miles away.

It’s all prepared, and the meat and potatoes are cooking. Another hour and they’ll all be done.

The Sage takes his foot out of his mouth

The Sage arrived home, having been to feed and let out our hospitalised friend’s chickens and do a delivery for Al. “That wind is cold” he said cheerfully. “I just saw John and Betty arm in arm to keep each other upright.” I intimated that perhaps that put the kybosh on my cycle ride to get the weekend veggies. He paused. He realised he’d made a tactical mistake, for it is his mission in life to keep me pedalling. “The wind’s dropped now. D’you see, the sun’s come out?” “You’re just saying that. I’d better go in the car.” I was teasing. I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it.

He held the bike while I scrambled on. It was an east wind again, so in my face on the way in. I came home with potatoes, sprouting broccoli, a parsnip, turnip, swede, some beetroot, a cauliflower, a large mushroom, two small butternut squashes, four bananas, eight juicing oranges and four stalks of forced rhubarb. And two garlic bulbs and eight shallots. The Sage dug up some leeks from the garden. I made a venison casserole and a pot of leek and potato soup, and am planning roast lamb with the vegetables we haven’t eaten yet, and beetroot risotto which, though good, is not the most very delicious risotto but is the most startling colour. I will poach the rhubarb, cool it and then sprinkle it with sugar and blowtorch it, in a bruléeish sort of manner to impress the Sage and Ro into not noticing the absence of cream or crumble.

I’ve nearly finished preparing the propagators, and may sow some lettuce seeds tomorrow – not in heat, but in trays in the greenhouse. Assuming no one takes me out for lunch.


So, I’ve had two offers to help organise the festival and the same two people, plus one more, offered to help with church sidesman duties. No one has yet offered to take on the flower rota and I’m not holding my breath. All I do is write up a chart for the year (starting at Easter) and leave it for people to put their names down. If no one puts their name down, there will be no flowers (I would clear away dead ones, of course). This hasn’t happened yet, but I said from the start that I’ll not remind people nor ask them.

There are six long-tailed tits in the garden. I love to see them. The other day, they were all on the broom (the shrub that is, not a brush) a few yards away from the window, and four of them are hopping about in Al and Dilly’s garden now. A blackbird is building a nest in the ivy covering the fence outside the other window. I must clear surplus weed from the pond so that the frogspawn, when it comes, isn’t sitting on it and tadpoles will have room to swim. The first daffodils are just out in the drive.

The other thing that marks the end of winter is the Denton Pantomime. This has been an annual event from 1984 and the same people arrange it, with most of the village joining in one way or another. This year they did a panto version of Midsummer’s Night Dream, which was duly hilarious. The acting ranges from slightly wooden to very good and the script is excellent. Gill, the scriptwriter and director, was despairing on Sunday as no one knew their lines, but most of that had been ironed out by the first night – though a particularly funny moment came when someone paused, the prompter prompted and the actor said “what?” There wasn’t much left of Shakespeare – though “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania” proved too good a line to leave out – but the plot was all there and then some.

There’s a cold east wind today, but the sun is out (rather belatedly; I had a cold ride to Yagnub this morning). I’ve said to Dilly and the children that I’ll go swimming with them this afternoon, but if it’s still sunny afterwards I’ll do a bit in the greenhouse. I’m not ready to sow seeds yet, but maybe this weekend.

Z is respectful

I want to tell you about one of the doctors in our local practice. He was my mother’s doctor, and very kind to her. His compassion goes way beyond its professional requirements. He visited her the Friday before she died and came again on the Saturday, even though he was not on call that weekend. He called again to see me the next day, as she had died in the night.

He’s the doctor of the Sage’s friend in hospital. She had been in for three weeks and had been moved from the Cardiac ward to a general geriatric ward, where she was very unhappy. There is, a couple of miles from here, a wonderful cottage hospital, which is owned by the local Anglican convent but affiliated to the NHS and this would be an ideal place to recuperate, but places are at a premium.

The Sage rang the surgery and asked for the doctor to phone him, which he did. He hadn’t known that his patient was in hospital and immediately said he’d go to visit her. The hospital is 19 miles away – he went in the evening. The Sage happened to arrive when he was still there.

He made an appointment with the hospital administrator and asked the Sage to go too, to add weight to his request for a bed to be made available. Together, they arranged it on Monday and she moved in on Tuesday. She is eating more than she has for weeks and is keen to walk and have physiotherapy to prepare her for the move home. She can stay for 2 weeks on the NHS and a third week if she pays – by that time, she’ll either be able to manage, with help, or it will be evident that she will need more care.

This doctor still manages somehow to think of his patients as, individually, his responsibility, which is an attitude that the Powers That Be has been steadily discouraging. We’ve got a very good medical practice here; I like my doctor who knows me surprisingly well, considering that I generally see him every five years or so; you can see a nurse whenever you want to and a doctor within a day. In praising one, I’m not disparaging the others. But I think he is great.

Z is outmanoeuvred

I stayed in bed late this morning, still being in holiday mood. I was contemplating a leisurely bath when the phone rang. The Sage called upstairs that it was for me. The upstairs phone is several decades old (really, it has a dial) and quite crackly, so I dusted a dressing-gown and went downstairs. Then I had breakfast. It seemed a bit late for a bath, so I dressed, pottered a bit and eventually roamed back upstairs to wash my hair.

I got myself all ready to do some work, thought ‘stuff that’, prepared for a lazy day … and then something made me get out my diary. A meeting in the village at 10.30, which I’d said I go to and take notes for. Unfortunately, it was already 10.45.

Towel still round wet hair, I rang to apologise and said I’d be another 15 minutes. I don’t know how, but I’d dried my hair, put in my contact lens, applied make-up and printed out the notes from the last meeting within 5 minutes. The Sage had kindly put my handbag in a pannier and attached it to the bike, so I was all set to shoot off down the drive.

The meeting was to plan the Village Festival in July. Diana had asked, at the last PCC meeting, if someone other than her could take notes, as she’s done it for several years. I said I would – seemed to be quite a reasonable sort of job. Sue introduced me as the new organiser of the church’s contribution to the festival. “Er?” I said – “well, co-ordinator” she amended. Clever. A nice shuffle of a job. I was too lost in admiration to protest, so I seem to have found a new role – which, for a start, involves me in getting together a group of people to decide what the church is actually doing. Oh well. I don’t do all that much in the village at present, it’s fair enough and I like all the people on the committee, one of whom did me a favour last week with kind heart and good will.

Another lovely day, but there has been a change in the weather. As I pedalled into Yagnub, an easterly wind blew in my face and I could feel the mist rolling in, and this in the early afternoon. I had put a big silk scarf on, which I’d started by tossing flamboyantly over my left shoulder, but it made me feel too much like Isadora Duncan and unnerved me, so I wrapped it a couple of times more round my neck and tucked it in. When I was ready to leave, I put it over my head and then round my neck and peered at my reflection in the shop door. “Does it look just too odd?” I asked Al. “No, it’s fine” he said insincerely. “A bit of a refugee from a bandage factory, but in a good way.” “I’d been aiming for Jemima Khan, but I think it’s more Lawrence of Arabia” I said dismally.

I left it in place. I didn’t look behind me, so I don’t care if people laughed and pointed.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the Denton Panto!!(!)

Naughty pictures

I phoned Martin. “You’ll get piles if you sit on that cold wall” he advised me. I looked about – I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I am the least observant person I know, and he had to tell me I was looking the wrong way. He and the divine Wendy were approaching from my left. They swept me into the rather smart restaurant at the Wallace Collection so that I could have breakfast – yes, I know it was nearly 11 am, but the freezing fog had necessitated an earlier start than I had expected and I was far too lazy to walk the length of the train to the cafeteria. I munched a croissant as they drank coffee – but, darlings, despite a tempting pat of French butter and two whole jars of jam, I ate it neat.

We admired the less ornate furniture and some of the china, and many of the pictures, particularly the Laughing Cavalier. Martin seemed slightly embarrassed that quite so many of the painted ladies had their tits out, and rather wished to avert our gazes. He was shocked when I pointed out the extreme rudeness of the Fragonard The Swing, pretty though it is. They were both splendid company and I had a lovely time – thank you both. Pity we didn’t know Boy was on the spot at lunchtime, as he could have joined us. I expect I’d still have been the only one drinking alcohol, though.

I’d intended to go to another gallery in the afternoon, but it was such a lovely day that I didn’t want to go indoors again. I walked across Westminster Bridge, along the south bank for a bit, meandered across the river, walked along the Embankment, crossed again, just so I could back over the footbridge to St Pauls. I’d bought a couple of books on the way and read for a bit, and now bought a cup of tea and read some more.

I’d be bound to catch a bus to Islington, I thought, if I headed north, but Islington buses didn’t seem to stop at any of the bus stops. By the time I reached the Clerkenwell Road, I decided that I was more than half way and my quid would stay in my pocket and I’d carry on walking.

I reached the Angel and a young foreign woman asked me for directions to the British Design Centre. I directed her along Upper Street and, at the next junction, was engaged in conversation by a slender lady, older than I, who was bouncing a multi-coloured rubber ball.

All is well with El and Phil and the next morning I visited the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy. Fabulous – do go if you have a chance. It was pretty busy, so I’d suggest getting there soon after its opening at 10 am if you can, or maybe later in the afternoon.

I met the Sage at the auctioneers and we were shown the items we wanted to see. The Sage will go up for the sale in March; not necessarily to buy anything, but it’ll be interesting [though an auction is so much more fun if you’re bidding ;-)].

And we spent the evening with Al and Dilly and the family. I’ve hardly glanced at your blogs, and will have to spend the rest of the week catching up.

À bientôt.