Monthly Archives: July 2008

Z is supplanted in the Sage’s Affections!!!! !

There is nothing to be done. My husband has transferred his loving attentions to Another.

Big Pinkie is an elderly cow. She has reached the age when she would not normally be bred or milked. Normally, such a cow would be sent to the abattoir. However, Jonathan loves her – as do all of us. He wants her to live out her days in peaceful retirement. So she’s come to live with us.

Also living with us are quite a lot of pheasants. There have been several nests this year.

The Owl Trust chap visited again this morning. He found a lot of barn own pellets around the box, but no sign of youngsters having been reared. Maybe it’s a young bird that has taken over the box and there will be a nest next year.

Welcome, Big Pinkie!!(!)

Martin’s comment reminded me of the time when my father, as a very young man in the 1920s (he was born in 1910) was had up in front of the magistrate for speeding. The magistrate was his own father. He was found guilty, fined half a crown and the Major, before leaving at the end of the session, paid the fine himself.

He was a pretty hair-raising driver himself, was the Major. He thought that allowing more than half an hour to get from Lowestoft to Ipswich was very dull. He had a chauffeur, Eddie, but often used to drive himself. Eddie would have looked after the cars, driven my grandmother and driven them both to more formal engagements.

Anyhow. Back to here and now; or rather to yesterday evening. Squiffany prepared dinner last night, a splendid salad with lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, celery, spring onions and peppers, hot-smoked salmon, cheddar and feta cheeses and ham. She then helped her mother with a rice salad. It’s all very convivial, having dinner on the lawn together, and good for the children who enjoy an occasion being made of a meal. They always do eat properly – although Dilly has recently found that putting their lunchtime sandwiches into a lunchbox is more tempting than a plate on a hot day, when appetites are low. They both are adept at using a fork and spoon and Squiffany is reasonably skilled with a knife too. We mostly ignore the occasional help given by fingers.

After getting the food ready, there was a short time to wait until Al arrived home, so I sat down and replied to a couple of emails and got on with the minutes of a meeting. Ro’s voice wafted through from the passageway. “Dad, a chicken’s just walked in through the door. Oh. She’s just done a poo.” The chicken was picked up and taken outside again, and fed a morsel of cheese. I saw no sign of guano when I went through, so evidently the Sage had already disposed of the evidence.

Earlier in the day, I’d looked after Pugsley when his mother and sister were out. He’d had lunch but not a sleep. He was playing with some Lego. He bustled about the room looking purposeful while I read the papers. He didn’t say a word, although he looked at me once in a while. His expression was pleasant but unsmiling. After some time, I started to address a few remarks to him. He didn’t reply. I asked if I could eat the piece of cucumber left over from his lunch. He came over and took it, but didn’t really want it. I put it back in the box, assuring him I’d leave it for him later.

I put him on his bed. He immediately curled up ready to go to sleep. He was still asleep an hour and a half later, when Dilly and Squiffany came home.

The Sage has just come in. Big Pinkie has come to live with us!

Didn’t touch a drop, honest

Friends called round yesterday afternoon, for tea. I’m afraid I hadn’t made scones, as the Sage only told me they were going to come ten minutes before they arrived; mind you, that wasn’t his fault as they turned up half an hour earlier than we thought they were going to. After they left, I sped into town for my shopping before the shops shut. On the way back, as I turned into the road where I live, I saw Peter standing in his drive. He stepped forward and waved, so I stopped to speak to him.

He wanted to tell me that his wife had gone into hospital the day before – he has cared for her for some years through increasingly poor health, which has become harder in the last few years because of her gradually increasing dementia. At the weekend she found it very difficult to walk with her frame. She weighs a lot more than he does and, if she were to fall, he couldn’t pick her up. In the end, he asked the doctor to call and she found a place in a local cottage for her temporarily while she is assessed and, I suppose, so is he.

In some ways, it must be a relief to him to have some respite, little though he’d ever wanted this to happen. We chatted of this and that for a while and then he asked, delicately, if the reason I’m always cycling around town nowadays is that I’ve been banned from driving?

Can you imagine the look on my face? Dear oh dear. My goodness. Dangerous driving? Drink driving? Z? Health and fitness and the saving of petrol, I assured him and added, with perfect truth, that I’ve never had so much as a point on my licence in my life.

I wonder, now, how many other people have made the same assumption.

Z listens

I vastly appreciate it when someone recommends music to me. It takes some confidence, I think, as music is so personal. A couple of years ago, it took much persuasion for Ro to agree to let me listen to some of his music. Finally, he asked why I was so insistent. I explained that he came with me to classical and jazz concerts, enjoyed and discussed them with me and was open-minded about what he listened to, even if it was not something that he would buy himself. I respected his taste and would like to repay his courtesy by being introduced to the music he liked. Finally, he got it and agreed, asking only that I listen to whole albums, not single tracks. Thus, I was introduced to Neutral Milk Hotel, Grandaddy, Lali Puna and, most appreciatively, The Mountain Goats, amongst others.

When someone lends me a CD, I always make a point of buying another album by the same band (or at least one of the bands on the CD) if I like it as I think that’s only fair. I rarely if ever buy anything by someone particularly well-known (that is, so thoroughly in the charts that they even pierce my lack of interest), so they should have my financial support.

Since then, and I don’t understand it at all, it’s not that my taste has changed exactly, but it’s expanded to a degree I can’t explain. What I’d have dismissed as a noise, a few years ago, I now listen to with pleasure and interest. I gave up on popular music back in the early 1970s. In fact, it was the Osmonds that I blame. And Gary Bleeding Gl1tter. Suddenly, music was performed for or by children (Teenyboppers gave way to Weenyboppers, rather like CBBC and CBeebies now), or else it was T Rex or Slade, neither of which did it for me. I stopped listening for 33 years and reserved my affections for classical music. Later, I turned to jazz as well, but three decades of current music passed me by almost entirely, exceot for sometimes dips into John Peel for the man himself, didn’t make head or tail of what he played. I have a depth and breadth of ignorance that would surprise you. This is fine with me, it means that I have heard of hardly anyone and come to it with a genuinely open mind, and I don’t even know enough to be embarrassed by what I don’t know.

Several of you have kindly suggested albums or artists I should try, and what I’ve written so far is a preamble to my thanks to Mike (Troubled Diva, that is – or do you want a link?). I have become a bit obsessed with Shearwater’s album, Rook, which he suggested I try, a couple of weeks ago and which, of course, I promptly bought. In the way of good music, it took me a few listens to thoroughly like it – sometimes, what I like to start with can grate after the fourth time of playing ( a mark of my tentative taste) – but now I play it most days. Jonathan Meiburg has the most stunningly assured counter tenor voice and the band are excellent instrumentalists.

I was playing it when I started to write, but now I’ve moved on to the Old 97’s. I like contrast. It’ll be some Britten next (Benjy Brit, as the eponymous high school is called in the town of his birth).

Oh and, listening again, I forgot to mention how beautifully he phrases the lyrics. Commas and all, although not intrusively.

Coo, that funny rained*

I’ve been toddling around gently this morning, having been kept awake for a long time in the night by a rather splendid storm. Ro and I watched the weather forecast at 11.30 last night and the midnight forecast picture was heavy rain over most of the country, with East Angular in the thick of it. We peered out at the sky. “So, where is it?” wondered Ro. It was still dry an hour later when I went to bed, and an hour after that when I went to sleep. An hour later, however, it was quite spectactliar. I trotted downstairs to make sure rain wasn’t pouring down the walls (this sort of thing can happen in an old house) and unplugged the computer while I was there.

All is calm, all is bright this morning. Tilly is gently snoring on the sofa next to me. I am hungry, being too lazy to go and find any breakfast – the French plums and greengages are delicious at present. I have a bowl next to me that contained cherries last night, but I scoffed the lot. Tut.

Ro and I debated the advisability of paying up front, at a discount, for a year’s DVD hire. “It means I’d have to stay living here for another year if I wanted to watch the films,” he said. “After all, you’d take weeks to get around to watching one, it isn’t worth it just for you”. It seems that his mind’s been dwelling on this living at home thing. It’s hardly a time to buy, with the prospect of house prices dropping, but otherwise he has the choice between renting and saving and he likes to watch his bank balance going up.

*When I was a child and moved to Lowestoft, I found it very odd that ‘funny’ was used to give emphasis – “Do that hurt?” “That funny hurt”. I haven’t heard it for a while though, I wonder if it quietly died out?

Z lazes and does as she is used to

I’m on holiday this week, I’ve decided. Other than the five days I spent in Madrid in April, I haven’t made any plans to go away this year and so I shall holiday at home for a few days. I took breakfast – plain yoghurt, a banana, a nectarine and some apple juice – onto the lawn with the papers and I only came in a while ago because the phone was ringing.

The phone rings only six times before the answerphone cuts in, so I ran. I ran yesterday too – just down the aisle of the church, because I was both playing the clarinet and making the coffee (this was my own fault because I cocked up the rota) and I needed to get into the kitchen before a queue of coffee-seekers formed. A twenty-yard run may sound unimpressive, but it’s more than I’ve been able to manage for a year. It isn’t just that it hurts, but I can’t physically do it as, by the second step, I’m lurching so awkwardly that it’s quicker to walk. So I’m very cheered by this improvement. I know it doesn’t mean anything; that is, it’s not going to get spontaneously ‘better’. But, while I like walking in the ‘going for a walk’ sense, I’ve always run when I’m on my way somewhere. Plodding down the garden to pick some vegetables is boring. So I feel splendidly normal, in an ordinary sense, at present. I think I’ll go and start on the Times crossword to celebrate.

Carless an’ grassier

We went out for lunch today; Al and Dilly’s birthday treat for Ro, in which they kindly included the rest of us. I ate no breakfast in preparation and tucked into a full plateful, only passing on a roast potato to the Sage and a piece of Yorkshire pudding to Ro. It was very hot. We sat outside in the shade of big parasols, and when we arrived home some of us went to sleep. A couple of pints of Adnams aided my own happy slumber.

I’ve lent my car to Weeza. They’re intending to buy one, but to get about and look they really need a car in the first place. I checked my diary and I don’t need it until Thursday week, as long as the Sage gives Ro and me a lift to and from the station for our London visit. I must book somewhere for dinner for Monday week. Being a canny sort of a girl, my daughter always books among the special offers (usually half price food) on Top Table. We’ve found some excellent restaurants that way.

I have hardly anything in my diary for the next week. I have no excuse at all for not catching up on paperwork, housework and gardening. On the other hand, I don’t need an excuse for doing nothing, except relaxing on the lawn with a long, cool drink and a book. If the weather remains hot, that’s what I’ll be doing, mostly.

Z needs a little lie down

I feel a little queasy. I tasted everything, every entry in each class*. Some of them had to be tasted more than once, especially the cheese and onion quiches. By the time I got to the eighth, I’d rather forgotten which was which. The dozen or so chutneys was the same, and not so easy to eat by the spoonful. There were ten bread and butter puddings, two of them chocolate. Fortunately, there were only two entrants for the chocolate truffles but, as it was, I could hardly bring myself to taste the rows of pots of jellies and jams. The standard was really high though – fortunately, as I had to taste it whether it was nice or not. I had a helper, who fetched and carried and wrote down the winners, and she tasted her way round the table too. When it came to the elderflower cordial, she said she couldn’t say anything about them, as one of them was hers. There were five and all were good – I decided on the two fourth prizewinners (well…) and the third and then said it was between the other two. I was tasting again when my phone rang. It was the Sage.

I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned our friend who has recently had a cochlear implant, but she found the whole thing a bit of an ordeal, not helped by having to be driven to Cambridge every week for weeks on end. But today, she telephoned and the Sage was so excited he had to tell me about it. For years we’ve had to email or phone a message service, where a clerk types out your message and it’s printed out by the phone (I am hazy here, as I haven’t actually seen it). Finally, she can hear well enough to have a telephone conversation.

After I put the phone down I had one last taste of the two yummiest cordials and made my decision. D didn’t say anything for a while, but when we were tasting the truffles, she told me that I’d given her drink first prize.

After all the judging, we had lunch – yes, I know, how could we indeed? I had some green salad and a piece of bread to remove the jamminess from my mouth. Then we took a stroll round the whole show.

As I was gazing at the potatoes, I realised that I was standing next to a celebrity. Not JonnyB, nor Dave, not even Murph. It was ‘im off The Archers. Neil Carter’s real self, who lives in the village. His potatoes had won second prize.

*except the raw eggs

A Z come to judgment! yea, a Z!*

Well, I don’t know. I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep for all of an hour, lay for another expecting to doze off again, spent yet another hour doing, by torchlight, the foolishly frippery puzzles on the back two pages of Times2 and then got up. I’m slightly disappointed as I will be busy later in the day and won’t have time for a lovely little nap.

Yesterday evening was amusing, though. Dilly and Al had had one of Those Days, which started when the children both woke up and went along to their bedroom at 5.30. It took some time for threats of awful doom if they didn’t go straight back to bed to work and the day went somewhat downhill after that. Al dropped a 3lb box of button mushrooms on the shop floor, a whole tray of raspberries, freshly delivered, was not fit for sale (he’d ordered 5, but he could have easily sold them all) and things were generally slightly out of kilter. Back at home, the children were fractious and Dilly was running late – though her day improved as they all went out with Weeza and did enjoyable things in the just north of Norwich Broadland sort of area. When she arrived home and I invited them all round to dinner, she was pleased.

The Sage went out to light the barbecue, I went to take washing off the line and put more on and at that moment a light rain started to fall. ‘Won’t last’ we agreed, and I pegged out the washing, pleased that I’d rescued the dry stuff. The rain stopped. The Sage lit up. I took stuff out to the table. Rain started again. “That’s all right, look at those broken clouds” the Sage assured me as he left to fetch Al home – Friday is his late opening night and he doesn’t close until 7.

All was well when I started cooking and it was not until we were seated at the table in the garden that a fine but steady rain came down. We huddled under the parasol and giggled. Pugsley wanted to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ro again – it wasn’t his birthday and he wasn’t there, but we obliged; well the females did. The Sage and Al raised a couple of eyebrows. The parasol proved it wasn’t a parapluie by allowing a thin mist through. Dilly lent Squiffany her cardigan, which she draped over her head and shoulders. A gathered pool of water on my side of the parasol overflowed onto my chair and I squeaked. We observed how very English we must look, all doggedly eating our dinner in the rain – though we’d have got wetter as we ran for cover.

By the time we’d finished, the rain had cleared and some of us chatted and others frolicked.

Today, I am going to judge the Domestic (ie cooking) classes at Lovely Next Village’s Gardening Club Show. I am prepared to enjoy breaking my diet for it, as of course I have to taste everything. This is what I will judge:-

33 Coffee Sandwich Cake, not iced
34 Plate of 6 Meringues
35 6 Chocolate Chip Cookies
36 Cheese and Onion Quiche
37 Loaf of White Bread
38 6 Chocolate Truffles
39 1 Jar of Jam
40 1 Jar of Jelly
41 1 Jar of Chutney
42 l Jar of Pickles
43 6 Eggs
44 1 bottle of Homemade Elderflower Cordial
45 Men’s Class Bread and Butter Pudding

Last year, there were four entries in the pickle class, which were all so different but all excellent, that I gave four first prizes. No one minded, it’s that sort of village. There is no such thing as Not As Scheduled, each entry is judged on its taste first and foremost and such matters as size of baking dish is left to the entrant. The men’s class is usually wonderful. Last year, it was lemon cake. It was hard to choose, especially between the first two, which were the best lemon cakes I’d ever tasted.
The eggs will be still in the shell and uncooked. I will crack one from each plate and inspect the contents, but not eat them.

* An pat on the back for the first to give me the next line.

Family bonding

Before I left for Norwich, I put some monkfish in to marinate in a hastily concocted mixture of lime juice, olive oil, ground cumin and turmeric, a mixture chosen almost at random but not quite. Weeza took little persuasion to come home for the evening and we called in at the supermarket at Riverside on the way home. To my surprise, I liked M0rr1son, maybe because I had taken a rare trip to Tesc0 the other day and not liked that at all; it was enormous and confusing with a poor layout. I was slightly less pleased when we left, as the traffic lights further on held up the traffic on the road so that there was never any room for cars leaving the car park to join the queue. I finagled my way in, in the end, with a ditzy blonde routine.

Dilly had made salads, so I just made a quick tomato salsa and we took plates and cutlery out, and glasses and wine of course, and the Sage cooked dinner. Ro didn’t know his sister would be joining us so he was pleased. Later he went in to Yagnub to meet friends.

Today, it being Friday, his bosses will take him out to lunch. Yes, that’s their Friday thing. They then all finish up the week’s work, so may finish late or early, in which case they all play a computer game. Ro is happy in his place of work. He’s going to spend the weekend with his sister and then they’ll come back on Sunday and we’re all going out for lunch.

Late last night, we spent a bit of time looking at websites – villages, small businesses etc. and Ro gave his professional opinion on them, which was highly entertaining. He was a bit scathing about those who quote relatively high prices and whose programming didn’t meet his standards. One firm boasted 25 years’ experience “Sure,” he said “and it shows, a lot of that experience is 25 years old.”

And so, after half an hour’s cheerful carping, to bed.

Today, Weeza is having a day out with Dilly and the children. Splendid.