Monthly Archives: April 2008

Music to my ears, but preferably nothing else

I’ve finally got around to clicking on iTunes, and even now, my music is being copied onto the computer, all two thousand-odd items. It’s vastly cheering, as I can’t any longer be bothered to fetch CDs and put them in a player, but always play music on the computer or iPod, and have been missing it badly, especially as my ears are still distracted by the slight whirr of the Mac, which is at a different pitch from the previous machine. Macs are quiet but not soundless and I find ‘wrong’ noise very intrusive.

For this reason, one of my pet hates is windchimes. I sit in a friend’s garden on a pleasant summer’s day and all I can focus on is the tinkle of unnecessary bits of metal in the breeze. I’m not good on artificial ‘water features’, as they’re called nowadays, either. The sound of running water is fine if it’s a stream or waterfall, but the splash of a little fountain or other pumped water makes me tense, until I manage to tune it out. My mother was fond of clocks and had three in one room. They all ticked at a different pitch and speed and I hated it, never mind the cacophony of the strikes, which were all slightly out of synch with each other – just as well, I suppose, as at least it reduced the potential noise level.

It’s deliberate artificial noise, I think, as I don’t mind the sound of animals, general sounds, people, at all. Music is fine, but not as background – I listen to it, so I don’t care for the bland sort of stuff that is often played in public places. I’m rather the same with scents. I can’t stand air fresheners. A pong is one thing, but a pong partly masked by artificial flower or fruit or pine scent is unpleasant. If there was no bad smell to start with, why add a cheap and nasty one?

Years ago, I went to the theatre one night and was miserable because of the olfactory blaring of numerous cheap perfumes. The next night I went to a concert at the Aldeburgh Festival and was hardly made any happier by the range of expensive ones that all the women were wearing. Since then, out of consideration for others, I have not worn perfume in a crowded place. A woman sat next to me on the train on Saturday wearing a perfume I didn’t like. I was unpleasantly aware of it for the entire journey.

Again, I like natural scents. I like to savour the air when I arrive at a destination – each place has its own flavour and, as long as it isn’t next to a sewage farm or a sugar beet factory, I don’t mind what the smell is. But adding extra, artificial and pointless smells jangles my senses.

Thanks to Hey Bartender, I have developed a regrettable taste for certain styes of country music. So the first track to be played on the new Mac has the honour to be … Stoned, by the Old 97’s.

Actually, talking about my favourite bartender, I hadn’t read her blog for three weeks, and have just been catching up. She is brilliant. Do visit. I’ve been chortling happily for the past ten minutes.


According to Greavsie, cats walk backwards while they are being sick. Dogs don’t. They stand still and then, belatedly, go to the door and ask to be let outside.

Tilly is rarely ill. I have known it – Christmas day one year, when she had evidently nipped across the field and raided a neighbour’s bin for the fatty remains of the pan juices. that was a good’un. She was so taken by surprise that she didn’t have time to get off the sofa, though she did at least lean over so most of it went on the floor. Today’s offering was only a few minutes after she’d finished her dinner; I expect a hair was caught in her throat because she was anxious afterwards, for she is a polite little dog and never one to waste food, but not ill. Now, she’s curled up next to me looking as demure as usual.

We’ve got an explosion in the rabbit population. There is nothing up in the vegetable garden as they’ve eaten all seedlings as they emerge. I’m afraid that this probably means an outbreak of myxomatosis in a year or so, as that’s what happens when the burrows get overcrowded. We used to have rabbit-proof netting round the veg garden, but it has been gradually removed as it hasn’t really been needed for some years.

Any suggestions as to what I should replace my car with (another car, obviously. I am not cycling to Norwich and beyond)? I don’t care about cars, so matters of design and technicalities are a matter of indifference to me. Mike, who is splendid at finding cars at a low price – Ro’s cost around ¬£400 and has lasted for 2 years with no problems so far – doesn’t quite get the notion that I rather want something less than 15 years old, so I might have to look myself and I’m awfully, awfully bored at the thought. The only thing that consoles me in my car debacle is that I cannot lose more money than the original owners, as I paid less than they lost on their 3 year old car, so I don’t want a new one. I need it to be comfortable as I ache enough already, with infinitely changeable seat positions as I’m short, like to sit bolt upright but with room to move my legs. I want a smaller car than I have now, but not too small – a hatchback or estate so that I can fit in stuff – with good legroom in the back as most passengers are of an age to not fold up very small. Mike will suggest something reliable but ancient, but I want power steering and central locking and a good CD player, which is not something he’d think matters. You see, hardly technical. Most of all, reliable.

May I mention, by the way, in reference to the horrid (it did bristle a bit, as it was fresh) initial subject matter of this post, that the Sage did all the clearing up? First he approached with a shovel, then he came along with a cloth and washing-up liquid to wash the carpet. I merely wrung my hands and thanked him. I’m good at that.

Z chose a Mac – well you knew I would

So, the Sage thinks it’s so good that he came along with a wad of cash in his pocket (no vulgar comments, please, darlings; he’s always pleased to see me), Ro thinks I am a slave to style and Al thinks it’s a poser’s dream come true. I am happy. I have decided to treat my new Mac as a portable and so am now sitting comfortably on the sofa rather than in the office, with the computer – I don’t say screen because the screen is the computer) several feet away as it’s so large that my little brain is overwhelmed at the armslength distance that I usually use. I will probably use my cordless mouse; this one is fine but I like the cordless one, but I haven’t decided yet about the keyboard. This is small but comfortable to use and I may keep the other in reserve in case I spill my wine – which is not a euphemism – but I have found that I sometimes type the wrong number because it’s slightly cramped and they aren’t where I think they will be.

I went to school today for a music lesson in a class I haven’t visited before. Each Year 9 class has quite a different character. This contains the humorous lot. “Had a good day, so far?” asked the teacher with a good nature. Various murmurings, including “I look forward so much to Mondays, because I get to go to school.” One boy had arrived this morning, but had to go home “He was as white as a ginger bloke can be”, commented a lad, who was a ginger himself, so can’t be accused of gingism – okay, maybe you had to have heard this one, but it was funny.

The group I stayed with was musical and enthusiastic, but there was something of a clash of personalities. After the lesson, I explained to the teacher what the background to the lack of co-operation was. “At least”, I said silver-liningly, “they were disagreeing about the music; it wasn’t personal.” A Year 13 student, who had come in to speak to the teacher, chortled, not unsympathetically.

I should be working Right Now. But hey, I’ve said hello to hardly anyone for the past three weeks. I must have hundreds of RSS feeds waving at me for my attention. I’ll spend the rest of the evening catching up with you all. May not leave too many comments for a while though, and if not, excuse me please – so much to do, even if there is, in the long run, plenty of time.

That reminds me, I’m not going to the meeting in Liverpool next month – I’ll ring up Head Office tomorrow and tell them not to expect me. I haven’t got time. What a loss to Z’s range of life experience.

Lazy Sunday

A good London visit. The bus was waiting, with an inspector on board who was patiently answering questions from all the East Anglian yokels who wondered which stop to go to, so I settled down as we set off through the streets of the City, along Threadneedle Street to the Old Lady and the Iron Duke and westwards towards Charing Cross. The exhibition was splendid, and I’d recommend it – it was portrait photographs from Vanity Fair from 1913 to the present day, although the magazine was not published between 1936 and 1973. Fabulous photos from people of the day, from Monet and Augustus John to DH Lawrence and Chaplin, Anita Loos to Josephine Baker; later, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Cary Grant and Jean Harlow. Later photos gave more away of some of their subjects than, perhaps, they realised – because there was no need for them to be so stagey, it revealed a lot if they were. Liza Minelli put her shoulders forward to show off her collarbones, but it gave an awkward hang to her biceps and the lit cigarette drooping from her lip didn’t add any beauty. Scarlett Johannson and Keira Knightley were photographed naked together; while SJ was relaxed in her nudity, KK haughtily disregarded hers. There was the famous Testino portrait of Princess Diana and Prince William’s, by the same artist, looking pleased with himself. Margaret Thatcher, in 1991, had a fabulous complexion and Miles Davis, arms crossed to nearly hide his face, had a frankly gorgeous body, even in middle age.

Afterwards, we had a long lunch and chatted and then went out separate ways home. I didn’t sleep much last night – went to bed early as I was tired, slept briefly and heavily and then was awake for the next three hours. I meant to pot up plants this afternoon, but slept instead and revived for the evening.

Tomorrow, off to inspect computers. I’m taking the Sage with me, because I don’t like driving his car, and Ro is meeting us to give advice which, if I end up with a Mac, I’ll have not followed. Unless he is more impressed than he expects.

Z rambles

I felt a little het-up by the end of the day. I biked in to the school for a Year 9 music lesson and felt tired. When I got home, though, the children were in the garden on their climbing frame, which is a substantial wooden one with a house at the top and a staircase, which the Sage and Al made last year. They saw me and Squiffany called me over. “Granny, granny, granny” remarked Pugsley with enthusiasm and his sister came across the garden to meet me. I cheered up.

This afternoon, I had a governors’ meeting and had a couple of long conversations afterwards which were illuminating, but meant I didn’t arrive home until half past six. At least it’s downhill on the way home, because I had been almost too tired to pedal up the hill to the school. A week off from cycling and I’ve lost all my strength. “Too late for tea” said the Sage, pouring me a glass of wine. I prepared a dish of celery, carrots and cucumber, because I was vastly hungry, and went next door to read and reply to emails on Dilly’s laptop.

Tomorrow, I’m going to meet my sister in London. The plan is to have a long and boozy lunch, go to an exhibition – there’s something she wants to see at the National Portrait Gallery and then I’ll catch the 4 o’clock train home again. Actually, we’ll probably go to the exhibition before lunch, as we may not have time and be too pissed (in the English sense) afterwards.

I’m writing this on Ro’s laptop. He has a plastic crate which held vegetables to put it on when it’s on his lap to raise it to a comfortable level and not to get hot, but to fit it on my knees I’m having to lean right back in the chair. It’s not uncomfortable, but it feels odd as I always sit bolt upright at the computer. In fact, I sit on a stool rather than a chair as I never lean back.

Ro is doing a website for Al – the boy is endlessly good-natured, as he does this all week for a living and we all want him to do things for us in his spare time. It’ll be about vegetables, of course. And paper bags. He has perfected some splendid paper bags made out of newspaper, which he makes in odd moments when there aren’t any customers in the shop. Ro does the Sage’s website now, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it – it’s here. D’you like it?

Dave suggests I don’t write for three weeks while he is away, so that he doesn’t have to spend hours catching up on his return. He’s so charming. Because, obviously, the implication is that if I do write, he’ll read it all, however long it takes and however much I ramble.

Z prepares to throw the Sage’s money at all problems

So, it’s the motherboard and it’s more expensive to fix than it’s worth. On the other hand, the stuff that I’ve never bothered to back up (yes I know) is still intact and Ro will be able to download it. So all I have to decide now is laptop or desktop, Mac or PC. First decision is made; the length of time I sit at the computer, I need to be as comfortable as possible. I can’t really justify having both, so a desktop it will be. The second question, I haven’t decided yet. I suspect I will end up staying with Macs, as it will require the least decision-making and very little adjustment to use, but I realise that this is quite possibly more sentiment than sense and that I could quite easily learn my way round a PC.

The car should be back soon, but then I’ll sell it. I’ll forgive something breaking down once, but not twice. It’s larger than I need and expensive to run and I don’t want it any more.

Last night was the AGM of our church. All 6 churches in our group hold their AGM at the same time; we have the first part of the meeting together and then divide into parishes. Our chairman (the Rector is the chairman, but can’t go to every meeting of course so there is a lay vice-chair as well) had to attend another church’s meeting, so asked me to chair, and then I had a phone call from the secretary saying that she thought she was coming down with flu, so I took minutes as well.

I’m afraid I did nearly all the talking. I was awfully bossy. Yes I know, darlings, you will find this almost impossible to believe, but it’s true. From reading out the minutes of the last meeting (I explained that it was not worth printing out copies for everyone as they had already been approved) to taking nominations for the PCC, to reading out my Churchwarden’s Annual Report, I took over. I was a little self-conscious, but it didn’t stop me.

I was remarkably good and cycled to the meeting, having already been into town during the day, although it was quite some way. Coming home was rather more effort as it involved cycling up Bridge Street, which has a steepish little hill at the top; and it was nearly 10 o’clock at night by then. The battery in my front light was starting to get a bit dim, and as I hit the road out of town, I had half a mile without lights. Luckily, there are white lines in the middle of the road or I’d really have had to get out the batteries that I, being a sensible and provident woman, always carry in a pannier, and change them. I’ll get a better light by next winter anyway; this one is bright, but such a narrow beam that cycling along a dark road involves more sense of direction than accurate knowledge of my whereabouts.

The village school, where I used to be governor for 18 years, has just received the highest possible evaluation in its Ofsted inspection. I’m so glad. It is a wonderful school and being part of it, and having done some quite useful things there, is something I’m proud of. There has been a great deal of staff illness in the last 3 years (all quite unrelated to each other) and, indeed, two staff members have died, but somehow they have all pulled together and not only coped but reassured the children and kept spirits,as well as standards, high.

Computers and cars are useful when they work (pah), but one has to keep things in perspective. None of it matters after all, it’s all about people and relationships really.

Which reminds me, I had a most gratifying welcome from the Sage when I got home. Flowers, champagne, English asparagus, a steak which he cooked just as I like it, rare, although he doesn’t. I was leaning against a cupboard in the kitchen munching a lettuce leaf when he approached. “Am I in the way?” I asked, before hastily swallowing my lettuce leaf as I realised that he was all set for a Clinch.

We went next door to say hello, and Dilly opened another bottle of champagne which they just happened to have in the fridge. What sensible people we all are.

Z will tell you about Madrid soon

I spent most of the morning on Dilly’s computer, then took care of Pugsley for a couple of hours. He woke from his nap, then fell asleep again on my lap, so I took the opportunity to doze for a while myself. Afterwards, he sorted out some coloured blocks and shapes. I was impressed by the correct naming of ‘blue’ and ‘star’, but he got a bit carried away and started naming all the rest orange, which wasn’t quite so accurate. Then we talked about animals. He knows a lot of animals, although he thought a camel was a donkey. “Elephant” he said, and was right. “Trunk”, he pointed out. I told him about the time I rode on an elephant and had to grab a rope and climb up its leg. Then I remembered the time I was being driven through Madras and saw a chap riding an elephant along the pavement. They stopped and looked in a shop window. “It was remarkable” I said. “Remarkable”, he agreed. “Scary”.

Ro is being patient, but he wants his computer back. Hasta manana.

Z drops in

I’m home but still borrowing computers as mine has only gone to be fixed today. So all I have for you right now are a couple of quotes.

Heard in Islington: smartly dressed mother to small child – ‘Do you need to do a wee-wee?’ Small child – ‘Nyeah’. ‘You must tell me when you do, Douglas, rather than holding your willy like that.’

Said by Sue, in the Plaza Major, Madrid, after a very large gin and tonic:- ‘It’s not as posh as the Place de Vosges, but the Place de Vosges is not paved.’ Her diction was perfect, and this is, now, the approved test for drunkenness.

Z’s off

The good news is that Ro has found a program that is downloading files from my hard drive onto his computer, so if the worst comes to the worst, at least I’ll have all the stuff, like most of the photos and rather more other things than I care to admit to, that wasn’t backed up, even if it’s all relabelled and will take hours of sorting. This is a belt, braces and baler twine precaution in case we can’t get it all back as it should be.

Ro is being immensely kind and has taken a lot of time and trouble which I really appreciate.

The lecturer today couldn’t find where he was supposed to park because it’s a little side road leading to a private car park, and his SatNav didn’t recognise it. Although he had written instructions, he’s not the first person I’ve found to rely so heavily on SatNav that they can’t follow any other directions. We finally tracked him down and lurched heavily into the theatre at 11.05 for the 11 o’clock lecture. I nipped up on the stage, where Diane was entertaining the members, and explained and gave out the notices in so animated a manner that I managed to keep the lecturer waiting for a couple of minutes. He overran a bit and by the time of my vote of thanks I managed to lose the thread a bit and gave one of my less coherent utterances. I was exhausted by the end and I expect he was too.

However, I’ve packed, arranged to stay with friends tomorrow night, because I’ve got a day trip to London tomorrow (Tutenkhamun exhibition) and am off to Madrid on Thursday. I’ll be home on Tuesday evening, all being well. I have a remarkably small case, well under British Airway’s cabin luggage limit, and it isn’t even full. Somehow, I just don’t feel like having any unnecessary clutter.

By the way, if you’re waiting for a third mechanical thing to go wrong (car and computer), it already has. My daughter’s oven thermostat has gone wrong. In fact, her flat is falling apart (not literally, but there are several things) just nicely in time for her to have the bother of getting them put right before she moves out.

Have a good week, sorry I haven’t visited you all lately.