Monthly Archives: September 2008


Dandelion was a bit bemused by my idea of an evening meal, which was half a packet of corn cakes and a can of lager and cup of tea (she provided the tea, which I kept forgetting to buy), so she plied me with chocolate, which I don’t often eat but enjoy when I do. I kept stopping painting to answer the phone; evidently people missed me back at home.

On Saturday, I took the Tube to her house. It’s a bit exhausting, managing a heavy suitcase on the Tube, but a nice lady who worked there called me ‘love’ when she held the gate for me, which was cheering. I was dismayed when I found a flight of steps, but a kind young man helped me with my bag and I thanked him. On the next, long flight of downwards stairs, a young woman, having just climbed them, turned back to carry my suitcase and I only just got my voice back under control by the time we reached the bottom in time to thank her too. The kindness of strangers indeed.

At my destination, I managed to get my case down the stairs, while an older man, also with a bag, and I bitched about the fact that no London tube station makes any concession to people with heavy baggage. There are no ramps at all and often stairs between lines or at the exit.

It was a great party and I met lots of people. I had to leave early because I had a timed train ticket and couldn’t miss it. Sure enough, someone helped me yet again at the next set of stairs (though she was daunted at the weight too, and we lugged it along together), and again at Liverpool Street. It’s a bit shocking, to realise how evident it must be that I’m struggling to manage – but I’m old and quite small and it really was a heavy bag.

Thanks to having set off before the rush hour, I arrived at the station early and went to ask the man at the barrier if I might go and ask the guard if he’d let me travel early. He said he couldn’t let me through before my due time. I said I quite understood and turned away – he relented and called me back to let me through. I walked the length of the train and finally the guard appeared and I asked him if he minded me catching an earlier train? He said that he didn’t mind but if there were an inspection I’d be in trouble and I really should have the ticket endorsed at the ticket office. There wasn’t time for that, so I decided to board the train anyway. When he came to check the tickets, he said I shouldn’t be there. I said that he’d said he didn’t mind, but he told me that he’d meant it personally not professionally as it were. I apologised and suggested I get out at the next station and wait. He sighed and stamped my ticket anyway. I asked if he was sure? – I’d willingly get out – but he didn’t make me.

Weeza and Phil and Zerlina picked me up from the station and we went to the pub. I was a bit of a lightweight, only having a half pint of bitter, and later a small glass of wine with dinner. I slept long and deeply that night and drove home the next morning to play the organ for the Bishop.

Kindness, indeed, I received nothing but. It’s a bit hard but probably good practice for the future, to accept the need for grateful humility.

Z is Struck (but not in a dumb or injured way)

Several things struck me – not literally, although I did find two bruises on my arm and no recollection of how they might have been obtained – while I was staying in London. The first was that it’s getting harder to find real useful things to buy in Islington. I went out for paint. On the way, I meant to call in at the internet cafe to find firms to check gas and electricity (no break-downs, but you need a sustificate before you can let out anywhere, and I have no problems with that at all. Two many people have died from fumes in unkept-up rented accommodation and the checks are necessary, although eye-wateringly expensive) but it had vanished and been replaced by a café. I kept going, pulling my suitcase (empty) towards Chapel Market. The paint shop had gone too. I went into the key-cutting place to get some keys cut and asked if there was an internet cafe locally. I was directed to a dodgy-looking game-playing place that was, in any case, closed. I kept going and found another small DIY shop and bought the paint and asked again, and was told of an internet place in the next road. Indeed, it was there. About 15 new and smart looking machines; I obtained permission to park the case (now containing paint pots) in a corner and seated myself at a machine. Half an hour later, I had made three appointments (I looked up firms and phoned them there and then) and checked vitallest emails and replied to a couple, but resisted blogging; too much to do. I went to pay. 50p. If they charge so little, they will surely not be in business long. The young man at the desk was startlingly handsome, with deep black skin and a charmingly shy smile.

Oh, I’ve omitted to say, when I was first thwarted in my attempts at paint-buying, I thought I’d try Woolworth. It isn’t there any longer. A sign says it is to be replaced by Waitrose. What a good idea. Sainsbury next door, M&S round the corner, another supermarket is just what is needed right there.

Anyway, I headed into Sainsbury to get a few cleaning materials and some food. I had taken yoghurt and corn cakes so that I would have something for breakfast, and a kettle but had forgotten tea. I forgot it again.

I went back to the flat and started to get ready to paint, but it wasn’t long before the man arrived to fit the new aerial, so I let him in, showed him up the two flights of stairs to the balcony and went down to let in the electricity man. They were both delightful and we chatted in between times. The electricity man found a small problem in the original set-up, but he said, kindly, that he wouldn’t charge extra to fix it as it would only take half an hour. Then we went outside to the downstairs flat and I let him in. I have a charming tenant, but I’d never been in the flat until this trip (I’d called in the night before to explain that people were coming round and okay them coming in) and he has got it looking gorgeous. Awfully stylish, and he has a Mac too.

So, it wasn’t until the afternoon than I made a start, and I seemed to make slow progress. I sorted out the bathroom and bedroom and texted a friend to say how dull it all was. Several texts later, I accepted her offer to come and help, and cracked on with renewed vigour.

The next day, I got on with cleaning and painting. It wasn’t that the flat was dirty, but that a tenant is entitled to expect every corner to be newly scrubbed, and it was. In the afternoon, rather later than booked, the gas man came. He was not quite so chummy but unbent a bit in the face of the relentless Z charm (hem hem). Then I went off to the agents and signed the documents. By the end of the year, after all the expense, I hope to actually be earning something from the new tenant.

I meant to go out, but it was later than I’d wanted to leave and I was suddenly exhausted. All I did was recharge my Oyster card, get some food and a mini bottle of wine, and I was lying on the bed eating and drinking by 5.15, not having had more than a bread roll all day so far. Then I went to sleep. Later, I read. I’d meant to spend the rest of the evening working, but was too tired. I only drank half of the one-third bottle of wine (I brought the rest home) and read and slept the rest of the evening. I couldn’t even get up early the next morning and was 15 hours in bed all told. I was cross with myself for the wasted time, but sleep was fitful every night, not helped by not having sufficient bedclothes. There wasn’t room in the case for a sleeping bag, so I brought a duvet cover and a shawl and warm pyjamas and a pair of the Sage’s socks, and thought I’d be fine. I wasn’t. I added my bathtowel and jacket and on the second and third nights kept on my long sleeved tee shirt. As I draped each removed garment on top of the pile I felt like Eliza Doolittle when, arriving home after an evening selling flowers, her preparation for bed was to remove her skirt and blouse, add them to the pile of clothes and shawls on the bed and climb in underneath them. Well, so I remember from reading the play 40 years ago anyway.

On Saturday morning I still had the kitchen ceiling to paint and the kitchen cupboards and floor to clean, as well as photographs to take for an inventory (still to be written), the downstairs passageway floor to wash and the stairs to give a final coat of paint. I tidied everything away, took my bags downstairs and my final action was to paint my way down the stairs. My hands were dirty but I couldn’t do anything about it; I wiped them on my jeans, changed, texted Dandelion to say I was on the way, but late, slapped on some emergency make-up and set off.

Too long a post, I’ll add the rest of what struck me tomorrow.

Not too late to
join the newspaper bag project
by the way. I hope you’re all busy making your own bags and sending photos to Ronan.


You may have noticed that I stayed away an extra day, but I was back in time to practise the hymns worriedly and, in the five minutes before the service started, choose the incidental music. Then, when it came down to it, I suddenly changed my mind for the closing voluntary and decided to play something flamboyant. Well, wouldn’t you?

I’ve had a very productive few days and now know every inch of the flat extremely well, having painted and cleaned it all. That is, I didn’t paint all of it myself as I had some help from a lovely and fabulous friend, who turned up at after 7.30 in the evening, cheerily worked for several hours and then stayed to chat, to the extent that the last bus was gone and she took an extremely expensive taxi. That is, it must have been, but she paid for it so I don’t know.

I finally gave the stairs their second coat of paint, having presciently brought all my stuff downstairs, and changed into clean clothes in the hallway. Of course, I couldn’t wash my painty hands, so had to wipe them on my jeans before changing. I was, by then, half an hour later than the latest I’d meant to me, so I arrived at my next destination half an hour late as well.

I don’t usually arrive at parties dotted with paint, but endeavored to behave as if my appearance was normal and everyone was too polite to say anything about it, and I had an extremely jolly time. Sadly, I had to leave early (terribly rude, arriving late and leaving early) to catch my train. I hope I shall be forgiven and invited next year, when I shall be better prepared and take scones and strawberry jam, or maybe Party Rings and a bar of chocolate.

I have been on the receiving end of vast hospitality and kindness. Thank you, dear Dandelion.

Z is a New Broom

One only has to do one thing before the deadline to feel brisk, efficient and on top of things. If only I were. But I have renewed my car tax, a week early, because I have a feeling it won’t be at the top of my to-do list when I get home and I’ll forget. I’ve also remembered to send my friend (from schooldays) Lynn a birthday present, which is not bad going for me. It’s not unusual to send it apologetically on the day itself. She is exactly a fortnight younger than I am. Furthermore, I wrote a report for tonight’s meeting yesterday. This is almost without precedent.

I am also about to book a short holiday for next April. I’m not sure what’s coming over me. It’s with the same society I went to Madrid with, and I was unsure if I’d be able to join them as it might have clashed with our next sale date, but the Sage has said he’ll change the date so that I can go. It saves me wistfully asking him if he fancies a holiday next year (which he won’t), but is very sweet of him.

Right. I must get on. This feeling of getting things done mustn’t be dissipated by spending the afternoon blogging.

Picture of Zerlina! (and a paper bag)

Weeza has put up a fabulous picture on Ro’s site, which is join the newspaper bag project
if you’ve forgotten about it. Do go to the Gallery and look at the Flickr pictures – I think you might know which one it is. Ro hadn’t even asked them to make a bag because he thought they wouldn’t want to bother, with a 5 week old baby and all.

I’ve been busy on paperwork today, with more to do but the worst is done. I must spend a fair bit of tomorrow cooking, because I’ve promised to stock up Weeza and Phil’s freezer again.

I also need to think what I’m going to take to London, and I’m wondering if I can really work fast and spare Friday afternoon to go to the Goldsmiths’ Fair. I don’t know, there’s a lot to do, but it’s marvellous, really – do go along if you have time (and can get to the City of London, obv). There are loads of things to see and the prices are by no means outrageous. Everything is designed and made by the exhibitors – I can’t enthuse enough. It started today and next week there are a whole new lot of exhibitors. I really do want to go. It’s open until 7 in the evening, so if I can work hard on Thursday and Friday and finish for the day before 4, it would be possible. There’s only four rooms, how hard can it be? Oh, and the landing, hall and two staircases. Hm.

I’d better get back to work. Laters, dearests.

Z is to live like a Hermit

Yes well, we were a bit dilatory in getting the flat sorted out – there are a few minor things to attend to but we thought we’d have plenty of time before we got a tenant in, but we had a phone call from the agent yesterday afternoon, three days after being engaged to find a tenant, to say that someone wants to move in on 29th September, which is Monday week We’d said to Weeza and Phil not to worry about redecorating, we’d do it. Er. This means me, next week. Fortunately, and rarely, I have three days that I can clear, so I’m planning to go up on Wednesday evening and stay until Saturday, hope to finish by lunchtime, go to a social (blog-related but not a blogmeet) occasion and get home on Saturday evening.

I think it will be a bit odd really. The flat is completely empty, though the water and electricity are still on. I shall take an inflatable bed and a sleeping bag but nothing to sit on, nothing to amuse myself with apart from a book and radio. A kettle and mug and plate but nothing to cook with. When I finish working I will go out for dinner and if I want a break in the day I’ll go to the pub, but that’s it. No one to talk to, nothing to do but work or lie on the bed reading. I feel a bit lonely already at the prospect, and yet it surely will be pretty unstressful. I will go to quite low-key places to eat, being on my own, and I will just get on with the work and chat in a friendly way to myself and argue with the radio. I must remember to charge up the iPod.

Oh, and the stairs need repainting. That day, I won’t be going anywhere.

Linking, lurking and liking

Since the only people I link to on my sidebar are my sons, I felt that I was going rather too far in asking you to link to Ro’s new site. I vastly appreciate your good nature in overlooking my non-linking and, yourselves, linking to Ro. I did explain my non-linking decision some 15 months ago and I’ll draw your attention to it, as it still applies – here it is.

Having added lots more blogs that I read and enjoy since I wrote that post, there are far too many to be able to link to without a load of differentiation and explanation. I have over 150 blogs which I subscribe to on Bloglines – yes I know, what can I say? However, some of them haven’t been updated for ages – for all I know, some of those may have been removed, I ought to check some time. Others are people whom I like very much but who very rarely write, but I don’t want to lose touch in case they do update. Of the rest, I do call in to everyone whether I comment or not. It may be a week or two sometimes in between visits (unread posts are running at several hundred at present) but I never mark them all as read and start again, I do catch up.

I’ll now spend the next ten minutes reading your posts as I put on my Sunday face. Have a good day, everyone.

Harvest Supper

The children behaved impeccably (that they did not sin seems quite appropriate for a churchy sort of doo). They happily did jigsaws until it was time for dinner, ate their dinner nicely (Pugsley did make a slug on the tablecloth out of half a bread roll, some ham and some cucumber, but he was quite tidy about it. At the end, he decided it was a ladybird and ate it) and joined in with conversations cheerfully and politely.

It was a jolly evening all told. There were thirty of us and have I mentioned (this is a conversational nicety, Dave; I have) that I did not have to help with the arrangements at all? I did make a bread-and-butter pudding, which I sampled (along with a few other puds) to make sure it was good. It contained a loaf of buttered bread, two and a half pints of milk, eight bantam eggs and sultanas, sugar and vanilla essence. Ten minutes before we were due to leave, I took it out of the bottom oven, discovered it was still runny in the centre and shoved it back in the top (hot) oven again – it was ready by the time we were.

Interesting developments regarding the flat in London; it seems the agent has Pulled His Finger Out and found a tenant. Rapid redecorating required. More news on that to follow.

I did a splendidly large pedestal flower arrangement and a smaller one to balance it to go on the altar, and have draped grapes still attached to the vine around a cross, arranged a home-made loaf against it and will add a jug of wine tomorrow. Lots of flowers and greenery were brought as well as plenty of fruit, vegetables and packeted and tinned food, all carefully arranged. The village schoolchildren made paper flowers to decorate the pew ends. The church looks cared for.

I don’t have to play the organ tomorrow, but I do next week, when the Bishop is coming. Hmm. The Rector has promised to let me have the hymns by Monday evening. It’ll be fine. At the worst, the Bishop will have a fine opportunity to practise Christian virtues of tolerance and forgiveness. Moi, je suis une autocrate. C’est mon metier. Le bon Dieu me pardonnera. C’est son metier*,” as Catherine the Great (reference books disagree, but she’s the earliest credited) said. That fortifies me quite often, when I’ve fallen by the wayside in a metaphorical sort of way.

Thanks to those who have sent photos to Ro’s website. He is really pleased – he wasn’t sure if anyone would, and that you’ve gone to so much trouble is very lovely and warming.

*I didn’t check it and I rarely write in French. You’re welcome to correct it.


join the newspaper bag project

Ro is really pleased that so many people have visited his site and thanks you very much. It led one of his employers back here – I thought it might. I have never met either of them and now I think I’m a bit reluctant to; not that he took it amiss or that I said anything out of turn. As if, dears, as if. Ro was able, truthfully, to say that he’s never read this blog – he makes a point of it in fact. Better not to know, is his attitude.

And thanks to Dandelion for pointing out places where the instructions could be better explained. We’ve known about these bags for so long and, although we haven’t made any before, we’ve watched Al’s twinkling fingers so many times that we hardly needed the instructions, so it was really helpful to have someone completely new to it have a go.

If you make a bag as a gift bag, maybe in a larger or smaller size (broadsheet newspaper, sheet of wrapping paper, magazine pages) then I’d try it with a tabloid size newspaper, according to the instructions, first and then do it again, adjusting by eye. The reinforcement at the top – the cardboard strips – are only needed to strengthen the handles so aren’t needed if it’s for something very light.

Weeza and Zerlina came over this afternoon. Little z is one month old today. She has gained more than a pound in weight now and is awake a lot more of the time. She looks around and waves her arms and legs and her expression certainly changes when she sees her mother. You can see the loving recognition in her face. She seems to like me and usually falls asleep on me after a few minutes. I looked after Squiffany and Pugsley this afternoon too, and we all played hide and seek in the garden, including z. Won’t it be lovely when all the cousins are old enough to play together? This is a great garden for hide and seek. I used to do treasure hunts for my children, with cryptic clues appropriate to their then ages. That was good for birthday parties too. One year, I did a picnic birthday tea in the garden on rugs, which was a step into informality too far for 6 year olds. Most of the food was trodden into the rugs. Still, at least I never lost any of the children which was quite good going. Mind you, I could run pretty fast in those days.

Fruitful mellowness

They’ve been on the wholesaler’s list for a while now, but Al didn’t order them until now. Brussels sprouts. I didn’t buy them, much as I like sprouts they are late autumn and winter fare for me – I don’t really think it’s time for a sprout until after the first frost.

However, I came home, for the second day running, with a bag of fresh walnuts and I have eaten more of them than I care to admit to (not all of them though, we all love them). Indeed, I ate very little for lunch so that I could overindulge this evening. I will ascend a ladder this weekend to pick Bramley apples and I have been picking squashes – not finished that job, it made my back ache and I got bored at 86 squashes, with 20 or more still to go. They will not take us through the winter, although I will keep some, but Al will sell most of them and make a Handsome Profit.

It seems appropriate that this weekend we will celebrate Harvest Festival. There is to be a jolly supper tomorrow, and I am making a bread and butter pudding, but otherwise I’ve had no part in its organisation. Isn’t that splendid? Three people offered to take it in hand, so I’ve left them to it, thus proving that I can. I am, however, helping to decorate the church tomorrow, mainly with vegetables and fruit. Did I ever tell you that, for Al and Dilly’s wedding party, the marquee was decorated with baskets of vegetables? They looked gorgeous. Colourful and beautiful and completely appropriate.

I am doing a big arrangement of flowers too; the person I intended to ask has had to go away this week, because her father has died suddenly. Luckily I hadn’t said anything so she hasn’t had the worry of having to ring me to back out.

Still making bags, of course. I said that it’s a competition between Ro and his employers; however it takes some time for results to show up in Google rankings, so don’t expect news on that front for two or three months.

join the newspaper bag project