Monthly Archives: October 2008

Z is out of it, but sociable

There’s no good reason for me to be strangely comforted by getting a migraine today as well as yesterday, except the thought that maybe I’m a bit below par and that accounts for my forgetfulness. I was helping Al in the shop at the time so didn’t say anything, just popped over to the chemist and bought some Migraleve. I usually have them with me but used the last ones yesterday.

I also went to Wightmans and bought some new fingerless gloves. It took me several years of serving in an unheated shop with the door open to succumb, but by last year I couldn’t take it any more. I trotted along to the Chocolate Box to introduce myself to the new owners. It’s good being related to Al, as everyone likes him and so his relatives get an immediate welcome.

On my way home, I went into the bank to see if the rent for the flat has been paid in yet. It hasn’t. Boo. Not that I’m vastly bothered as most of it will go straight out in a cheque to the agents, who also kept the whole of the first month’s rent. So the slower they pay it to me, the longer they’ll wait for the rest of their fee. Having spent quite a lot on various necessary checks and upkeep, I’m hoping to break even round about the end of the year.

I’m going to have the pleasure of Squiffany and Pugsley’s company this afternoon. I might suggest making soup. Nice warm job for a chilly afternoon.

Just had a call to remind me I’m down to do refreshments for next Tuesday’s WI. Indeed, I haven’t forgotten and have been considering the menu for several days. No cup of tea and a biscuit for us. It takes up to three people to prepare a sumptuous array of snacks sufficient for 30 or so people. I usually skip dinner on WI nights so that I can do justice to it all.

Z has bedhair

Oh dear, it’s true. The phone rang very early this morning and the Sage answered. It was a wrong number, but the caller could hardly be convinced. “What number are you after?” asked the Sage. “Well, this is 2468”. The man had meant to dial 9478 – that is, he’d inverted one number, got another wrong and switched them over. Easily done, if you’re a local, I suppose (I don’t use ‘local’ there in a complimentary manner). I was far too indolent to get up early, lay there until I should and then promptly went back to sleep. I was woken by a knock on the door. I put on a dressing-gown in a modesty-preserving way and opened the window. The postman clutched a parcel which needed to be signed for.

I was impressed. I only ordered the things yesterday and I only paid for normal postage, not first class or recorded, but that’s what I got. Indeed, I’ll give them a mention on the strength of it – Liz Earle.

So, after signing for the parcel, hurrying to get dressed and getting on with things, it was only as I’d put on my face that I realised I forgot to wash my hair. So I’ll spend the rest of the day looking as if I’ve only just got out of bed. Oh dear.

Z relents

Ach, I was a bit grumpy there. In fact, I’ve spent the best years of my life being surprised yet again by what the Sage does know and can do. For example, a few years ago, he built me some cupboards in the bathroom. This had the added advantage of covering over a perfectly horrible brick fireplace his parents had, some 5 decades earlier, had done. I said I’d go and buy some wooden doorknobs for them. He went out. A few minutes later, he returned. He had toddled down to the churchyard, pruned a yew and turned four knobs from the pruned branch. I had no idea he could turn wood – he has a lathe, but that’s for metalwork, as he did an engineering apprenticeship before learning the auctioneering business in London.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’d venture to ask him if he knew who wrote, for example, Oliver Twist, just in case he doesn’t. It’s perfectly possible. He certainly hasn’t read it. And he knows nothing at all about music. He’ll come with me to a concert to be friendly and he may even enjoy it, but he won’t know whether he’s listening to Mozart or Chopin.

Sometimes, I wonder how we ever ended up together, because it’s not for our shared interests. That is, I share his interests – a fair few of them anyway – but he doesn’t share a single one of mine. It must just be his personality that attracts me.

Mind you, I still think he could have had an inkling of what an ATM is for. After all, they are normally referred to as ‘cashpoints’.

No charm and clarity here

No, more muddle-headedness instead, I’m afraid. I spent most of the day in a state of faff. The Sage and I went to pick some beetroot, with permission, from a neighbour’s garden and when I was in the shop getting more quinces I realised that I hadn’t got my handbag. It wasn’t in the car and it was far more likely that I’d left it behind than that I’d lost it. We went back; that was what happened, but I’d been so flummoxed that I forgot all the rest of my shopping (no, I didn’t have money, just a husband with a wallet) and had to go back into town.

I’ve just had an irritated few minutes, the extent of which I hope I hid, explaining to the Sage what an ATM* is for. I’d needed to check if a cheque had been paid in and rather than go to the bank, I used said machine. I told him disappointedly that the money is not there yet and it took a long time for him to catch on to the fact that I hadn’t needed to go to the bank, queue and ask. “I don’t have a credit card, so why should I know?” I left aside the detail that you don’t, except in an emergency, use a credit card in an ATM (because it was reasonable not to know that) said that they’ve been around for long enough for their purpose to be general, not specific, knowledge.

If you’re as old as I am (and I know, darlings, hardly anyone is. I have, in the past few years, moved from being younger or about the same as most people I know to being quite considerably older, especially in the Land of Blog) then you had General Knowledge tests at school. If there were a few minutes spare at the end of the lesson, of if it were a wet playtime, then there would be a swift round-the-class general knowledge or mental arithmetic test. You were expected to know stuff. Now, most people don’t, or so it seems. And knowledge has become so focused that anything outside your immediate sphere of work is far too abstruse to be expected to know. For example, an intelligent and well-educated woman of my acquaintance, agreeing to take minutes at a meeting, said “Although I’m a Biology teacher, you know, not English, so I can’t do spelling and grammar.” Likewise, a mathematician explained that she knew nothing, of course, of history, geography or poetry.

The Sage is a bit of a master of this himself. He knows a vast amount about an array of things that interest him, and has a wide range of abilities as well, but he has no idea of the simplest of things outside those. And he isn’t interested in knowing anything for its own sake. I don’t get this at all. I think just about anything is interesting. I don’t at all deny that this makes me a dilettante and a flibbertigibbet, but it keeps me amused, and that is, after all, a fundamental purpose of my life.

Anyway, the money hasn’t been paid in. This isn’t important, as all it meant that I didn’t write a cheque for most of it, and I will do that when it has been. However, if it had been there today, I would have been instantly jollied into going out for lunch. I had it all planned. Instead, I went home and ate toast.

I have cracked the USA, Canada and the Middle East, but have still to perfect Africa and Eastern Europe. Then I’ll move on to Asia, the State capitals and the English counties (when I can find a suitable quiz). I don’t think I’ll ever be able to learn Wales. I’ve never even got my head round the current names of the counties. They are still Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire to me, and I don’t know how to spell Clwyd.

*Obviously, I didn’t call it that. Obviously.

Z is a fuzzy-eyed optimist

Five pots of quince jelly made and four of cotignac. Squiffany, having helped, bore her pot of jelly proudly back home. I’ll probably make more as Al still has lots of quinces in the shop – unlike in Mike’s neck of the woods, there has been a good crop here. Al says he’s never had so many brought in for him to sell.

When I put in my lens this morning, it hurt, so I took it out again, peered to make sure it wasn’t back to front, rinsed and put it in again. It still didn’t feel quite right, so I refilled the little pot I keep it in and took it with me, in case I needed to take the lens out. I forgot about it during the morning. This afternoon, cycling home, I noticed a child walking along the pavement and looked to see if I knew him and should say ‘hello’. My sight was quite fuzzy. Shutting one eye and then the other, I realised that my right eye was blurred, so I must have the lens in back to front after all, I thought. Later, I got the pot out and opened it, ready to put the lens away. There was the lens, where it must have been since I rinsed it. Just as well I hadn’t driven today.

Goodness, how I do not scintillate. Sorry. Maybe tomorrow I will entertain you with wit and charm. No, go on, it could happen.

Stocking up

I was given some quinces today, so I cut them up to make cotignac, which is a preserve made by simmering quinces with quartered oranges, taking out the oranges, puréeing the quince and then cooking it again with sugar before bottling it. It’s not over-sweet and is good with crème frâiche. I also set about making quince jelly, I left both simmering as I was going out, with instructions to the Sage when to remove them from the stove. He remembered the cotignac but forgot the other quinces simmering in the preserving pan – I don’t suppose an extra hour or two will matter. When it had all cooled down, I looked for the jelly bag, which is simply a muslin bag in which one puts fruit to drain out the juice – jelly is jam without the bits. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m wondering now if it had got so ancient that I threw it out last year. Anyway, the quinces needed to be done – easy enough to make another jelly bag, but I decided to improvise with a ready sewn nylon tube…a stocking. In the first place, I was going to look for a laddered pair of tights and cut off the good leg, but then I couldn’t be bothered so got a perfectly good stocking in a not so interesting shade and sacrificed it.

I discovered the advantage of a tights leg when I started to fill the stocking. The opening really isn’t quite wide enough. After a few minutes, I picked up the mushy quinces in handfuls and stuffed them in, ending up with using a funnel to hold it open while I poured in the liquid. I hung it up to dry on a convenient hook in a beam in the kitchen, nailed in many years ago for just this purpose and it dangles fatly, dripping tears of quince juice into a bowl. Tomorrow, I’ll measure it, add sugar and boil it until it’s ready to set.

I do slightly regret the stocking, not being a wasteful sort of a Z, but I wear them less now than I used to, as they really don’t go too well with a bicycle. Chilly. And a bit revealing. And I have plenty more pairs for when I’m feeling frivolous.

Weeza came over with Zerlina, who slept most of the afternoon. When she woke, Squiffany and Pugsley had come to call. Squiffany went to give her a kiss and z smiled. Pleased, she bobbed forward again, and z smiled again. Squiffany was entranced and they chatted together for some time. She smiled at me too, but I had to blow raspberries at her to obtain the reaction – the first time, a startled look came to her face and she blinked and frowned before grinning.

Too D*** Hot (we’re talking about church, leave out that D word…)

Every year we hold a church service on a Sunday near All Souls Day, for remembrance of loved ones and to comfort the bereaved. Invitations are sent out and it’s well supported. People can light candles, and most do. I didn’t, myself – it isn’t part of my ‘thing’ – that is, I don’t object and I sometimes have, but more because it would sometimes make me stand out not to and that would be unfriendly. It’s all part of the ‘having been to a Roman Catholic school’ thing I suppose; to me, lighting a candle for prayer or in remembrance is a Catholic thing and not mine. I don’t mind, it just doesn’t mean anything. Today, I skulked at the back and so not lighting up wasn’t noticed.

Last winter I never got the church heating quite right (we don’t rely on candles). I had actually been given slightly misleading advice, which has now been clarified. So I turned it up full pelt for today and people were almost too warm. I’ve moderated it slightly now – should keep something in reserve for really cold weather. I also had to alter the time clock for the change to BST. I’ve no idea how. but I managed to make it think it was Saturday. It took quite some time to persuade it to change again. This is, of course, a Good Thing, because now I understand a bit more about how the system works. Yes, I am a relentless optimist. There is always a silver lining. Well no, actually there isn’t – but one can still choose how to react to most situations.

Z prepares to annoy a shop assistant

Ethan is out of special care and doing quite well, considering all. As I said on Friday, he was born with one kidney – the problem with the other one was that it was greatly enlarged, to the extent that the doctors were afraid that it would cease functioning, but this has not happened and he is better. They are doing tests to find out the extent of his physical disabilities and the mental ones will become apparent in due course. This is the syndrome he has been born with – his mother has it and her second child (of four) died from it. Her parents are lovely people who have helped her to be as well and capable as possible and they, like us, were none too pleased that her partner, caring as he is in many ways, put having a large family ahead of her or her babies’ health. However, he’s born now and she can’t have any more, to her parents’ relief.

The first rain for ages, today. I need to buy some new boots. My red boots, that I loved, finally fell apart last winter after five years of stalwart service. I’m going to have to be careful as I’m finding comfortable shoes quite difficult to find. It’s not the fit but that some shoes that seem fine for the first few minutes make me limp badly after that. Low heels can be worse than high. I haven’t worked out quite what the problem is. Today, the narrow 2″ heels and pointed toes were fine, the 1″ broad heels and rounded toes of yesterday’s court shoes weren’t, the 1″ walking shoes of Friday were very comfortable. I suppose it’s the part of my foot that takes the weight. Shoe shops, with their carpeted floors, don’t test comfort enough and I’ve often made mistakes. I suppose I’ll have to allow plenty of time and just explain to the assistant that I’ll need to stroll around the shop for ten minutes or so.

Thrift, thrift, Horatized (this is a reference to using the vegetable cooking water in the risotto and apologises to Shakespeare and Hamlet)

So, tonight is the Best Night Of The Year, and the only thing that makes it worthwhile not having British Summer Time all year round – I have to say that if there were a referendum on the subject, I would totally* vote for Scottish independence, just so’s* the English and Welsh, and very likely the Northern Irish MPs could vote for us not having horrid dark afternoons. Not that they literally bristle** but they feel as if they do. In short, the CLOCKS GO BACK TONIGHT, which means you either have an hour’s extra sleep or an hour extra to do fun things on a Sunday. I have not yet made up my mind which.

I went to cut some artichokes for Al to sell – the plants I grew from seed this spring have cropped enthusiastically, though the artichokes are not very large – and observed that there were a few small squashes that had been missed in the general harvest, so I picked them and decided to make a squash risotto. It was not without incident, though nothing untypical of my normal cookery routine.

1 Time for a drink. I open a bottle of sparkling pink wine and pour a glass for Ro and one for me. A few minutes later, the Sage comes in and I wave the bottle at him. He pours himself a glass and goes all convivial. I crack and eat a walnut.

2 ” May I help myself?” asks Ro. I am impressed. I haven’t drunk mine yet. He refills all three glasses. Moments later, the Sage puts his empty glass down. I am impressed. I crack and eat a couple more walnuts and offer the bag around.

3 I go to the kitchen. I have already grated the squash and chopped the shallots, so I start to cook the latter in butter while I look for the risotto rice. I find all sorts of things in the cupboard, including 2 packets of opened sultanas, 3 opened (better English) packets of couscous, an unopened packet of chamomile and spiced apple tea, which rather made it unnecessary that I bought another one the other day, and various other things I didn’t know I had. Finally, I looked in another cupboard and found two packets of arborio rice, both opened and part-used, which weren’t the unopened pack I noticed the other day, but hey ho.

4 I put them both into the slightly browner than intended shallots, stirred them and went to look for the dry Martini I usually use in risotto. I remembered it had all been used. I used vodka instead, as otherwise I’d have had to have used my remaining half glass of wine.

5 I add the squash and the leftover gravy from the other night’s chicken. It wasn’t thickened; just meat’n’onion juices, sherry and veggie cooking liquid plus a spoonful of vegetable stock powder so that wasn’t peculiar. I continue to add hot vegetable stock.

6 The Sage comes in. “I peeled the sprouts” he said helpfully. Risotto and sprouts. Hm. Pfft. Fine. I thanked him and gathered him into my arms for a kiss. “You smell smoky” I said approvingly. I actually said “Yoo is smokayyy”, which makes it clearer that I approved, and I kissed him again. He had been tending a stray bonfire, just to attract my attention. Lapsang Souchong, Laphraoig and kippers/bloaters aren’t the only smoky things that appeal to me. I keep him young, you know.

7 Having gone out in the meantime, the Sage comes in again. “Can I help?” he asks, helpfully. “Well, you could stir the risotto,” I said, ‘but I would just stand here saying ‘gosh, you stir a mean risotto, ooh, you are marvellous, yum” because I don’t actually have anything else to do.” The Sage grinned. “I’ve time to make a phone call, then?” I agreed that he had. I cooked the sprouts, a few minutes in advance so that I could use the cooking water in the risotto. No waste in this house.

8 Ro came in. “Anything I can do to help?” It seems that the chaps are getting hungry. I’d been grating cheese and I put it in the risotto. “I’ll taste it before adding more” I said, passing him a spoon too. “I put in goat’s cheese and your father doesn’t know he likes goat cheese, and the rest is cheddar.” Ro chuckled. I told him that the other night’s soup had contained celery. He knew. His father didn’t. He thinks he doesn’t like celery soup. I added the rest of the cheese, Ro added pepper and dinner was ready. While it was being carried through (TV dinner, darlings, we hadn’t lit a fire in the dining room) I opened a bottle of red wine. Well, one bottle of fizz between 3 doesn’t quite do it, does it?

9 Eats risotto.

10 Eats second helping of risotto. Decides against second glass of red wine. Relaxes.

*said ironically
**horrid means bristling and is not a synonym for horrible. Read Milton if you don’t quite believe me. Or ask Dandelion or Dave, both of whom know Latin.

By the way, it occurs to me that I haven’t reminded you of Ro’s website recently. It’s still here and not all of you have posted pictures yet.
join the newspaper bag project
Go for it, dear people. You know it’s a fine thing to do.