Monthly Archives: November 2008


Yes, I know it’s not December yet and I apologise. Far too early for nativity photos. They’re not even very good pictures, either. Out of focus and too much reflection, including that of the camera itself. But look on the bright side – this gives you inspiration to get veggie-carving in time to make your own decorations.

The tableau

The Magi

with their camel

The donkey deserves a rest. The pigs would not normally be allowed near a Jewish stable, but it was a special occasion

When Alex dismantles it all, I’ll take another picture of the angel as it decided to fly a bit sideways and I couldn’t get a good angle.

One of the shepherds had to stay on the hillside to mind the sheep, but he could still watch from a distance

The sheep came right up to the Holy Family

Don’t they look proud?

The cat and the dog forgot their differences and came to join the donkey

And the star shone over

The Baby

And today, it has mostly — snowed.

Z makes a Complaint and finds herself in a Procession

The post arrived. Still no tax disc for the car, and I can’t sell the blighter until I have one. I phoned the DVLC in some annoyance. In their favour, I will allow that the phone is answered on the first ring by a person, once you’ve been routed correctly by pressing a couple of buttons. The woman at the other end of the phone was puzzled, assuring me that it had been posted both times, and asked me for my address. It accorded with their records. “You are living there at present?” she asked in a ‘let’s confirm the obvious and check the kettle’s actually plugged in’ sort of way. I confirmed that and said grumpily that I can’t use the car without a valid tax disc. She said I could pick it up today at my nearest DVLC office or she could send it by registered post. I opted for the latter, because I’m not catching the bus to Norwich, then catching another bus to the station before walking up the road to the office. I mean, after all, because I can’t drive there as it’s illegal to drive without a valid tax disc.

So I should have it tomorrow or Monday.

By this time, I was due to leave for the school music lesson. I asked the Sage if it was still raining. No, and the wind had dropped from the half-gale that had been blowing. Still cold though. He asked me what time I had to be there, and when I’d return – if he’d offered a lift I’d have accepted, but he didn’t and a vestige of pride stopped me asking.

At the school, a cover supervisor was there looking a bit worried. “We’ve just got to fill 15 minutes before the assembly” she said. The pupils didn’t behave all that well, but they were all right. She had a quiet voice and she didn’t have much for them to do – when we left for the hall, I was nobbled by the Deputy Head. “Are you here as Chairman?” she asked. “Er, I suppose I am, yes.” She sent me out (I know, darlings, like a naughty girl (well, not really)) to find the Head.

So it was that the Head and I stalked into the hall, in front of our most senior and best beloved governor, the Head Girl and Deputy Head Boy and a whole procession of Old Boys and Old Girls, for the Founder’s Day assembly. Fortunately, I didn’t have to give a speech – although extempore public speaking is not one of my weaker areas in fact, as you can probably guess. It was rather splendid. Bill, the senior and best beloved governor, who is a former pupil of the school, a teacher there for many years and since then a governor, and who has the distinction of having a room named after him (people are often surprised that he is still alive; that is, it sounds like a memorial but isn’t) spoke about the history of the school, which was founded in 1565. Actually, that date rings a bell. I think it’s the same date as the Norwich assay office was started – Norwich silver is very rare and I’ve never handled any dating from 1565, but I do know of a 1567 piece (not belonging to us).

Then the Head Girl gave a speech and then the Deputy Head Boy and then the Headteacher. In between, there was music; a piano solo, a performance of Blurs Girls & Boys, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which the music teacher had altered the lyrics of (ooh, don’t you love grammar?) for the Remembrance Day assembly last week, which was rather lovely, and then a piece from We will rock you which is the next drama production next term. All very fine and some of it really rather moving. I could have done without being sat out in the front, but fortunately I’d happened to put on some smarter than usual clothes; a very nice grey flannel skirt and a cashmere polo-neck and I didn’t look caught out.

And then we processed out and I went back to the music lesson for the final ten minutes. Not that it was particularly productive, but I went round each group asking them what instruments they were playing in the arrangement of Word Up and how they were getting along with it. Next lesson, they will be recorded playing.

I took the photos of the shop window and will put them up later or tomorrow.

Oh, and it’s absolutely perishing now. Cold north wind. No sign of snow though, as yet.

Al seems to have too much time on his hands

It wasn’t until I didn’t receive any comments on yesterday’s post that I realised I didn’t write one. So many things have a surprisingly simple explanation.

Al has done a fabulous Nativity scene for the shop window, for tonight’s Switching On of the Lights. There will be a lantern procession and dancing and the town crier and all sorts of jollities. I won’t be going, I’m afraid, as I have a meeting tonight (actually, I’ve got two and I could make them both but someone else has kindly said he will represent me at one of them, which means I’ll have time for a meal this evening) but I will try to nip in after he closes, to take a picture. His outside display means that I can’t get a good angle and it will look better lit up anyway.

His shallot and onion skin angel is something to behold. He said he looked through a whole bag of shallots to find one with the perfect skin. And his dumpy little Aubergine Mary is marvellous, as are the cauliflower sheep … no, I won’t describe any more. I’ll show you. If I get in to take the photos.

The children spent the day with me yesterday. They were charming. I gave them breakfast, supervised their dressing themselves, then they helped me put on make-up, played politely together while I had my breakfast, then we did this’n’that for a while, before deciding to make cakes. It got quite annoying when I took the cakes out of the oven. I’d just started to put them on the rack when the phone rang. When I finished with that call, the cakes weren’t so easy to get out of the bun tins, but I was managing reasonably well without losing many bits, when the phone rang again. When that call was finished with, the rest of the cakes had cooled and came out in pieces. Still, they needed sampling as a quality test, so it wasn’t too much bother. I cooked their lunch (fish fingers, chips and sweetcorn – yes I know, darlings, not even a pretence at goujons. Plain Birds Eye fish fingers. They ate two each. Squiffany had a couple of chips and some corn, but Pugsley didn’t. They both tend to go for the protein part of the meal first, which is useful as at least you know they’ll have eaten something reasonably nutritious. Then they ate yoghurt. For tea, they had pasta with cheese sauce, and fruit. The phone kept ringing all day. A dozen calls at least. I wished people would email me instead. I’m expecting a call now, in fact, but it hasn’t come yet, so I can’t do much but have to hang around for it.

Z is proud of the Sage

I got up before 6.30 this morning, to be ready to leave with Ro an hour later. Blimey, such an hour should not be counted part of the day at this time of year.

This morning I spent at a lecture on Lowestoft china (very good and interesting), then had lunch with the lecturer and after that friend Alan dropped me off at Weeza’s house. He came in to say ‘hello’ and Zerlina politely gave him a lovely smile. She is very happy and smiley at present, sleeping awfully well (the more she sleeps, the better she sleeps and the more active she is when awake) and very responsive, particularly to her mother. You may have noticed, in the picture I posted a few weeks ago, how adoringly she looks at Weeza.

Then they dropped me off in the city centre, where I met Ro, we went to see the Bond film and came home, to a jubilant Sage. He has had a double-page write up in the Ant1ques Tr@de G@2ette, with 10 photos – my photos. I’m proud. I’m a professionally published photograper! Unpaid and uncredited, obviously, but hey. The appreciative and detailed article is a real credit to him and I’m far prouder of him than of my pictures, of course. He seems to have committed himself to three sales next year, instead of two – he certainly has enough entries. He already has enough confirmed for the April sale and promises of china for one in July as well as the usual autumn one.

Oh, and Zerlina Buttercup is three months old today. Congratulations, little darling! You’d like pictures, wouldn’t you?

Z pretends to be busy when she is actually just Playing

I phoned the insurance company today, and my new car is insured. I haven’t got it yet, but I need the certificate to get the tax disc. I know I could get that online, but bearing in mind I still don’t have the tax disc for the old car, which I renewed nearly two months ago (oh, and it was only a few days ago I was writing about that, and now I’ll not be driving the car again), I’d rather trust my insurance company (which I choose for the lovely Manchester accents of their phone operatives) than the DVLC.

Ro will give me a lift tomorrow to Norwich, Alan will drop me at Weeza’s and she (I hope) will take me back into Norwich later, where I’ll go to the cinema with Ro and then he’ll drive me home. I don’t need a car again for a fortnight (I’m not saying I wouldn’t use one, but that I don’t have another appointment not in cycling distance) so now I’m all right.

I’m still assiduously learning places. I’ve cracked the USA, and know all the states and their capitals. I have brushed up on Canada, Central and South America. I’ve nailed all 53 countries of Africa including surrounding islands of Madagascar, Cape Verde, the Seychelles (where we honeymooned, *sentimental sigh*), São Tomé and Príncipe, and Comoros, and their 52 capitals. Western Sahara doesn’t appear to have a capital – maybe it’s a region, not a country? Anyway, I know where it is.

I know the countries (& capitals) of the Middle East and Asia. The capitals of the islands of Oceania are beyond me – frankly, it’s hard to care, but at least I know my French Polynesia from my Solomon Islands now. I know the countries of Europe, but am a bit shocked to find out how hazy I am on some of the Eastern European capitals, and that I’d never heard of Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.

Next, I will tackle the Caribbean. I expect to embarrass myself. I still haven’t found myself a decent GB quiz map. And of those I have found, some use county names (such as Rutland) and some go by administrative areas (such as Avon).

This is where I get my daily entertainment. Usually, it’s for 10 minutes or so before I go to bed, but some afternoons, well…

It seems that Z has another car

Not that I’ve seen it yet. The Sage and Mike went to Norwich today to look at it, have approved and bought it and Mike has taken it back to his workshop as the electric windows need some attention.

I asked about it – it’s a Mercedes, a very dark blue, started the Sage, and went on to describe more fully the colour. I explained that I don’t really care about colour. Nor make. Actually, that it works goes a long way for me.

So, it’s 11 years old (age is not a factor either), an estate (which I wanted) and 2000 cc (1600-2500 was my generous range, with a preference for the lower to middle end). I didn’t care whether petrol or diesel and had a slight preference for manual over automatic. I need enough leg room in the back for friends who aren’t that flexible. I want air con (this is a factor in older cars) and power steering (ditto), which Mike took some convincing of.

So, I probably won’t have it for Tuesday, but may get a lift with Ro and have breakfast in Norwich or may take the bus.

For those interested, I didn’t note the full details, but it’s something like C200*insert letter or two* Elegance. Not a word that has ever described me, but a woman can aspire. Looking it up on this website, I said to the Sage “does it have leather seats?” He said it does. I wonder if that means it will smell like a Morris Minor? A point in its favour if so.

Oh, I should add that I gave full decision-making powers to the Sage. I suggested that I only needed to look at it if he was not quite sure, otherwise I’d be happy to entrust him and Mike with the decision. I can delegate, you see.

Z would rather be Mary than Martha

Oh, this is interesting. I received the hymn numbers for tomorrow morning at 4 pm, which is a bit later than I can be bothered to go down to the church to practise. You may (or may not) know that my piano is living away from home at present. Four hymns, three of them unfamiliar to me – but then, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tunes are. I couldn’t find my music copy, so looked up the words. One by Graham Kendrick. Okay. I don’t know it then (that is, anything by GK that I know, I know I know). Another dates from 1978. Don’t know that one. Another is mid-Victorian – well, at least I’ll be able to sight-read it then. The fourth is Make me a channel of your peace and I’m on sure ground there.

Pondering over this and other church-related things while I was heating soup, I remembered that I’d turned off the heating after the 8am service last week, as the Remembrance Sunday service was elsewhere, and I’d not turned it on again. So, after dinner, I left my final [unless I change my mind 😉 ] glass of wine unfinished after dinner and pedalled busily off to turn it on again. Whilst there, I fetched the hymn book. So, Even As I Write, I am about to look at these unfamiliar hymns and see if there’s a hope in heaven of playing them. (Live Blogging!!(!))

1 The GK looks okay. 3/4 time always runs the risk of namby-pambiness, but at least it makes the rhythm easy.
2 The one I know
3 Broken for me looks deceptively tricky. It’s one of those ones with a flowing left hand and long pauses in the right, so I’l have to play it quite briskly so that we don’t all go to sleep. May be as easy as it looks.
4 Looks traditional and straightforward.

Only one other problem. If I don’t know them, the congregation won’t either. We don’t have a choir. Oh joy.

And so I’ll come back to this Communion what-have-you. There are two things. One is more personal, that is, I feel weird about the thought of it. I agree, it is deeply meaningful and spiritual and fundamental (if you happen to be a Christian, that is – if not, it’s just deeply creepy) but that means it isn’t something to do casually, without preparation, and I really shy away from that. I’m *cough cough* not worthy, if you like to put it that way. I don’t know how else to. I feel I shouldn’t. Mind you, I’ve received Communion from lay people who may be no worthier than I, but that’s not the point. I’m not comfortable with leading prayers either. When, a couple of years ago, the Fellow and I had to take a service, I rapidly volunteered to do the sermon so that he’d do the prayers. I was all right with that (and I did write notes; bullet points, that is, but I didn’t need to look at them), but it hasn’t made me want to do it again.

The second thing is that I’m busy already in most services. Last week, I was sidesman. Tomorrow, I will be organist. The week after, I’ll be playing the clarinet and making coffee (with my left foot, I’ll be cracking walnuts). Always, I’m on duty as churchwarden – and I’m not complaining, it’s part of the job. But I get nothing out of a church service, and haven’t for years. Where’s the still small voice? Drowned out by busy-ness, usually. If I take on yet another thing, even occasionally, it will be in addition to the rest, and I know how these things work, “oh, you’re deaconing, will you do the prayers tomorrow?”

There’s another thing, actually. I don’t actually go for the whole transubstantiation thingy. As far as I’m concerned, that’s for Catholics. It’s symbolic, that’s all. So I can’t say the words. I don’t go as far as the Nonconformists, mind you, with their individual glasses of juice. The symbolism of one shared chalice of wine is, for me, the point. Unfortunately, we do have individual wafers – I’d prefer a torn bread roll, for the same reason.

Z receives Permission

I don’t think I mentioned last week that Squiffany has learned left and right. She was taught it at her nursery school. I am quite impressed. I know an awful lot of school-age children who don’t know that. She knows that my left or right is diagonally opposite hers, too.

I was extremely surprised by a letter I received this morning from the Bishop. He says I can administer Holy Communion, and I hadn’t even asked to. I can’t do the consecrating of course, but I can dish out the bread and wine. Thing is, I don’t want to. I would feel most uncomfortable. Also, what if one dropped the chalice? So embarrassing. I’m going to have to try and dodge that particular bullet for the next three years.

Mike has decided that the car he’d been considering for me won’t do, so now he’s considering another one. I’ve told him what does matter to me and what doesn’t and I’ll leave it to him and the Sage. If I don’t have one here and insured by Tuesday morning, I’ve the dismal prospect of getting to Norwich by 9.30 on the bus, though I’d be able to come home with Ro. Things take a lot longer out in the sticks by public transport – I’d have to leave home an hour earlier than if I go by car.

Actually, that was mentioned at a meeting at the high school yesterday. There are several school buses and one of them takes 50 minutes to go all round the villages, dropping the final passengers off only about 8 miles away. The school gets the grumbles, but school buses are booked and paid for by the county council. It’s assumed that only the old, the young (school age) and the poor use buses in the country and as they matter least, the level of service isn’t important.

Z eyes an Iron Steak

Having put off the decision to choose another car – I’m not really indecisive, unless I don’t care much except that it matters if I go for the wrong thing – the little bugger has gone wrong again. That’s it, I’m getting another one and will worry about the present one being pretty well worthless afterwards. It’ll have to be a cheapie, as I don’t happen to have any money. The Sage will rescue me. C’est son metier. Friend Mike is on the case and at present it seems likely to be a Peugeot. The brother of a friend has a splendid-sounding Mercedes he’s about to sell, which the Sage was rather tempted to buy me (it’s 12 years old, but in excellent nick) until I pointed out the 3 litre engine.

Talking about having no money, I didn’t have to check my bank balance today. A cheque arrived for the Sage. *Sigh*. Although he made initial enquiries with the agents, we explained the flat is mine, and my name and signature are on the lease. I sent them my bank details for the payments to be made directly into my account. I’ll email the person I sent that info to in the first instance, and follow up if I’m not happy with her reply.

And I went to the blood donor clinic and my blood wasn’t good enough. I’m slightly anaemic. I’m going to go and get a supplement and give myself a boost. And eat steak. Lots and lots of steak.

People are better than wardens

Things continued to go not quite to plan. I cycled in to town and found the cashpoint was out of commission. No problem, I’d go to the one outside Barclays. I got veggies and fruit from Al and cycled round to the other bank, and found that the pavementworks which had left a path to it no longer did for the time being. So I went in the bank and enquired. The money is not in my account.

I got on my bike, rehearsing in my mind what I’d say in my politely assertive phone call, which I would just have time to make before babysitting. A few yards out of town, however, I saw two black labradors trotting, with ‘tee hee, aren’t we naughty?’ expressions on their faces and bodies, towards the town. I stopped and went up to them and told them to sit. They did, but then a car came along so the younger dog (not much more than a pup) went into the road. I hope the driver didn’t think they were mine. A jogger approached and joined me. Neither of us had a phone with us and the dogs only had phone numbers on their collars, not a name or address. I suggested that I walk holding a dog with one hand and my bike with the other, if he would manage the other dog – they were too skittish both to be managed by one.

So we set off. After a while (for I had the younger, more nervy dog), I looped the strap of my bag through my dog’s collar as a makeshift lead. When halfway to the village, a woman came along. She had seen them too and had gone home for leads and come back to help. We thanked the man and let him go, and proceeded to her house. Fortunately, she lives in the first house in the village.

She doesn’t have dogs now, but had kept the leads, luckily. We spoke sympathetically of the anxiety of the owner, who’d be searching for them. Both dogs were wet, they’d evidently enjoyed a swim (the river and streams are full to overflowing onto the watermeadows) but she cheerfully let them in through her front door. I read out the phone number and she wrote it down, and I thanked her and left her to it.

I was home in time to babysit but not to ring. It doesn’t matter; it’s the protest that matters and the lateness of the payment will not be altered by my irate call.

And the children were lovely and all’s well, really. Nice people, weren’t they? None of us was self-righteous – we’ve all had dogs go missing and we’re just grateful if someone helps, rather than complains.

Which reminds me, a dog was running loose round the town centre on Saturday. Someone caught it and took it into the pet shop. They gave it water and biscuits and tied it to the Buttercross, in the hope that the owner would find it. No one did. So they rang the dog warden. “Well, you can let it go or take it home. I’m not on duty. Not good enough? Pfft. Phone the police then.” So they did and the police have been able to return it to its owner.