Monthly Archives: March 2009


When I arrived home, I sent a courteously forceful email to Alexander, telling him that if he didn’t sort everything out then the agents would have to, and it would be a charge against his deposit. Deposits aren’t held by landlords any longer, they are held by a central body and both parties have to agree to any charges or deductions. I hate to make a charge on a deposit. My children have been tenants and they’ve had tricky landlords as well as excellent ones, and I don’t care for the sort who use any excuse to make a deduction.

Alexander phoned that evening, in some dismay. He had arranged with the incoming tenant, he said, that everything he left would be taken over. “But you didn’t tell me or the agent, so how was I to know that?” I asked. In any case, I added, he hadn’t returned the keys. He said that his girlfriend had said she’d do that. He was in Spain, where he was – still working for the same firm – now based. I said I’d have to confirm it with the new tenant.

I’ve spoken to the tenant. He has never met A. He’s been to the flat this evening and there’s far more stuff there than he can take on. I’d said that it would have, in all fairness to A, be all or nothing as if he didn’t want the large items of furniture it wasn’t reasonable for him to take the wine, the robot floor-cleaning thingy, the nice lamp or the chunky glasses.

So I issued another ultimatum to A. He’s emailed back saying he’ll come over and sort it and wants the deadline extended by a day. He says he spoke to *someone* and presumably that person decided against renting the flat. More fool A for not telling me or the agent. He could well be telling the truth, but it’s not my concern.

Anyhoo, this has taken more time than I wanted it to. At least I’ve had a couple of conversations with the new tenant and he is being patient and good-natured about the situation. I suppose it could be argued that I’ve demonstrated that I’m both reasonable and tough, which is useful for a tenant to know.

My lovely downstairs tenant can stay as long as he likes. He may not know that I could be getting a lot more money for that flat, but a good tenant is worth keeping without putting his rent up, and I’ll keep it as it is for a while longer at least. He keeps it immaculate, deals with small problems without bothering me, and didn’t turn a hair when I had to tell him I’d burrowed through his cupboard, removing half his clothes (the ones hanging up, not the ones he was wearing) so that the electrical and gas safety checks could be done in the cupboard behind.

Z Whittington

I’d rubbed down some loose paint from the kitchen ceiling and Polyfillad it, and washed the wall where the sofa bed had left marks. They came off, so that meant I wouldn’t have to repaint. A few other marks on the walls also washed off easily. The freezer was somewhat iced up so I decided to defrost it. The oven, which had been reasonably clean but not perfectly so, also needed my attention. The tenant should have done the freezer but I’d agreed to call the wall fair wear and tear and the rest was my responsibility. I checked the bathroom, which was immaculate.

While I was waiting for the oven cleaner to work, I went out, bought a Sunday paper and read some of it in a café while drinking a cup of coffee. Breakfast had been Ryvita. Later on, lunch was Ryvita too, because I was meeting a friend later for dinner.

I left a note in case the tenant returned, but he didn’t. When I’d finished work, I went off to the Royal Academy to see their latest exhibition of works by Kuniyoshi. I’d been to a lecture recently on Hiroshige and Hokusai and, whilst Japanese art is never going to be a great interest of mine, I wanted to see more of it to reinforce what I’d just learnt. I was rather put off by the first room, which was all pictures of warriors, but it got a lot more appealing (if I’d written that when I was a child it would have been crossed out in red pen and replaced by ‘became considerably more’) with pictures of ‘beautiful women’, landscapes etc. Afterwards, I went along the road to meet my friend, who texted me a few minutes later to say she was at the RA. I resisted the temptation to recross the road, which was just as well because she did, and we met a few moments later.

We went for a drink and she went off to the bar to buy it. Them. And she gave me a present. Isn’t that kind? I didn’t open it straight away, but I knew what it would be. Then we went and had dinner and a lovely long chat. Blogfriends are great, really.

When we were walking along, I told her that I’d picked up a tuppenny piece from the pavement. Moments later, we spotted a penny. “That’s yours, Z” she said and indeed it was. It was calling out to me. I picked it up and put it in my pocket with the other coin.

The next day, I found other coins. The final twenty-pence piece, I picked up on the corridor of the train. So you see, the streets of London are paved with gold – well, money – even now.

Dandelion is so polite and helpful that she waited with me at the bus stop until my bus came. One might think that I, being old, should look after her, being young, but I know that she is right. My daughter would have done the same.

I did rather think that the tenant might turn up with a removal van the next morning, but he didn’t so I went down to the estate agent and spoke to Steve. He was quite surprised at the situation and checked if the keys had been handed in, which they hadn’t. He agreed that I was entitled to dispose of everything, get in a cleaner and get the locks changed at the tenant’s expense, and I said that I’d email the tenant, whom I shall call Alexander for that is his name, as soon as I arrived home. I’d left texts and voicemails on his phone, but the texts were still marked ‘pending’ so evidently he hadn’t received them.

The fly in every ointment has a silver lining

Yes, it’s true. The luck of the Sage still rubs off on whomever is in contact with him.

Hello, darlings. I’m home again and considerably richer. The streets of London are still paved in gold and similarly useful metals.

But I have a story to tell, and you want to hear it all, don’t you? *cough* Don’t you? Thank you.

We were tossed from the train at Colchester and expected to get on buses. Here I had my first experience of the Luck of the Sages. A charming man offered to carry my suitcase down the stairs and then up again. He brushed off my thanks – “the work-out’s good for me”. We were driven to Billericay!!(!) JonnyB’s own namesake town. I was terribly excited. We drove through a smart and prosperous suburb, with houses dating from the Fifties to the Noughties, all looking prosperous and cheerful. We got on another train and a mother sat beside me with her little boy opposite me. He was polite and affectionate to her and she called him ‘darling’ in every reply. It was charming. The coach journey had been so quick that we caught an earlier train than expected and so arrived at Liverpool Street Station early too. I caught a bus. It was either a 205 or a 214; either is fine. I sort of switched off for a few minutes and was taken unawares by our arrival and sort of got off two stops late, which meant that I ventured down Pentonville Road a short way, which was quite exciting in itself.

When I arrrived at the flat, I was only mildly surprised to find that most of the tenant’s furniture was still there. It was only 4 o’clock so I expected him to arrive back and pick the rest up. Soon, it poured with rain and so I was still reasonably understanding. I got on with my work and, at 6.50, left the flat for an early dinner. Saturday night, I knew I had to eat in good time if I wanted to be sure of a table.

There’s a little Chinese restaurant just round the corner, most of the one-dish items are centred round noodles and it’s cheap and reliable. When I went in, just behind another lone woman, she asked for a table for two and the waiter looked momentarily surprised when I said my table would be for one. Lonely and only, I would have felt if i were young or old or lacking in confidence. The middle-aged are most entitled to natural gung-ho, so I didn’t mind. I ordered a chicken, chilli, vegetable, black bean and noodle dish and a large glass of red wine (I’d usually go for beer but I really wanted red wine on that chilly evening) and when it arrived I remembered one of the reasons for choosing this place. You eat more slowly with chopsticks.

It’s hard to linger over a solitary meal, especially if, like me, you are used to eating as if it’s a race to catch the first train. I made myself put down my chopsticks after each mouthful and sip my wine slowly. I eavesdropped on conversations, incuriously. The woman who had come in just ahead of me, who was wearing lovely shoes, asked for a cup of tea while she waited for her husband. Her hair was nicely cut, but a bit uniformly dyed. One has to get coloured hair right. Nice colour but didn’t hit my personal spot. I suspect I’ll have to go grey in God’s good time as I couldn’t contemplate hair that looked as if I was trying too hard (my hair looks as if I don’t give a tuppeny damn, which is not good but not as bad as trying too hard and it not working. But then I’m a 60s chick and therefore relentlessly laid-back, hem-hem).

So, I ate and I stayed, while keeping an eye open so that I didn’t take up more than my fair space. After all, it’s not a large restaurant. It filled up. A couple came in while the waiter was busy and sat at a table for four, which left a table for two and one for four.

I finished my meal and sat contemplating the last inch of wine in my glass. When I’d drunk it, I wasn’t looked at in a *hmm* sort of fashion, but nevertheless I asked for some tea. I sat quietly, still listening, drinking a large cup of jasmine tea.

Another couple came in and the waiter showed them to the table for two. “Can we sit here?” – they went to the table for four. “Of course”, said the waiter hospitably, no doubt thinking ‘fuck you’. I’d not do that, you know. I know what profit margins are like. The last time I went to that restaurant, similarly on my own, maybe three years ago, there was a queue by 7.45. They need not to turn away customers.

Anyway, I duly paid and left, pleased that I’d managed to spin out my dinner to an hour and a half, including walking time. By the way, the woman with the nice shoes, who came in just before me? – she drank her tea, paid and left. She was as solitary as I was, just not able to admit to it.

But that silver lining. You know that I’d have paid £75 for a hotel room + breakfast but baulked at £99 without? Or something like that, pfft, you think I read back posts? I expected to sleep on a wooden floor.

Hah. No,darlings, really. HAH. I slept on my errant tenant’s comfy sofa-bed. I slept good. (excuse me, BW, but I slept well doesn’t quite convey the message. I slept good.)

It was a 3 day visit. There is more to come.

Z sneezes

I don’t have a cold – in fact, I’ve just got over one and it isn’t the sort of sneezing that heralds a cold, but it’s as if I’ve got an allergy. Not hayfever – I’d recognise that. Just half a dozen huge sneezes and then that’s it for a while. Last night and again this morning. Oh well.

Dilly rang me up to say that Al had terrible earache in the night, to the extent that he was crying with pain. They rang NHS Direct (this is a splendid service; I’ve never used it but Dilly and Weeza have several times and always had helpful advice, including ‘get straight on to the doctor’) and, especially as by then the pain had diminished but his ear was bleeding, their diagnosis of a perforated eardrum seems the likely one. He’s had an attack of laryngitis in the last few days and his voice has just about disappeared, which has not stopped him going to work (cold weather, unheated shop) and maybe a couple of days’ rest would not have been a bad idea. It’s difficult when you’re almost a one-man band and you don’t want to let down your customers – or, indeed, turn away business. Fortunately, he’s not working, until the end of the day, on Monday so he’ll have a couple of days break and I’ve got some time to spare next week so if he’s still suffering I’ll take over.

I’m nearly ready to go – I don’t have to leave for another hour and a half. I’ve packed plenty of painkillers. If I’d booked into a hotel I’d only have a little case, but as it is I’ve got a large suitcase, which means it’ll be a nuisance to go shopping when I arrive, so I’ve put in a packet of Ryvita which will be breakfast. I will, however, eat out tonight if I can be bothered. If ever I lived alone there is a considerable chance that I would become reclusive and peculiar. And very thin.

Anyway, what I won’t get around to is going to the local internet cafe, so I won’t see you for a few days. Have fun.

Z is firm, and so is her sleeping place

“Shall I show you how to do it?” I suggested, having told him our eBay password. “Not much point” responded the Sage cheerfully. “I’ll only cock it up.” “Yes, you probably will. Oh darling, you are sweet.”

The Sage is hopeless on the computer. He is completely bewildered by the cursor whizzing about as his hand roams the mouse around purposelessly. I’ve tried to show him; or rather, I’ve tried to encourage him to just keep practising. I do remember the first time I sat at a computer, some couple of decades ago. I had no idea what I was doing and it took a while to find out. But the Sage has a closed mind to it. He doesn’t believe it’s within his capabilities or interest. Yet I know he could learn to love it.

Just as well, perhaps. Although, on the other hand, it would justify the purchase of a laptop, which I can’t now, useful as it would be. No, I must be honest … pleasant as it would be. Frankly, what I want is to sit out in the garden blogging, isn’t it? Not now, it’s jolly cold. But how enjoyable in August.

In other news, I can’t find a hotel at a price I am willing to pay close enough to the flat to be bearable. I know myself well. I need to be close so that I’ll arrive early and get on. Dear and lovely Dandelion has offered to put me up, but I have to get to work first thing on Sunday morning, and it’d be too tempting to faff about and chat. I hope to meet her later in the day, however, and that is a very good reason for starting work early and getting it finished.

Don’t tell Weeza about this, will you? She has so sweetly said she feels bad about calling me pigheaded; which she did in the most well-meaning fashion possible; I didn’t take offence as none was meant. It was true. But, whilst I was willing to pay £70-something a night (sadly, that hotel is fully booked), I’m not willing to pay £100. It’s not worth it, just to lay my head for a few hours, and that’s that. I can get considerably cheaper rates – indeed, well under half that – but too far away for me to be willing to travel. I’m too weak-willed. I can only push myself if I’m harsh.

Z tried ineffectually to get organised

It was a bright and sunny morning when I went out, but cold and grey again when I came home a couple of hours later. I’m by no means warm enough. I rummaged in my wardrobe for a jacket this morning and came up with one I bought from a second-hand clothes stall some 20 years ago. It’s grey, Marks & Spencer, and I remember the reason I bought it was because it was nicely tailored and hand-finished. Even then, I thought hand stitching on a chain store item was pretty good, and of course you’d not get it, even for a lot more money, now. I wore it a lot for years but it’s had a decade’s rest so it seems new to me all over again.

I had a few spare minutes during the music lesson as the teacher had to put together all the recordings of the pupils’ work. They were told they could watch a film or play some music in the practice rooms. Every one of them chose the music, gratifyingly enough for the teacher. I used the time to make a list of what to take tomorrow and what to do before I go. It’s turning into a busy day. I’m becoming quite twitchy about it. Not that I need to be exactly, but it won’t be easy to buy things I forget. I left paint in the cupboard under the sink – I don’t see why the tenant might have thrown it out, but I’ll be a bit scuppered if he has as you can’t buy useful things in Islington on a Sunday easily. Chapel Market still has practical shops, but I don’t think the paint shop will be open. Woolworth’s closed to make way for Waitrose (still not opened up when I was last there a few weeks ago) even before the company folded.

It was lucky that I booked my return ticket for Monday and not Sunday, as I have been rung by the firm doing the energy efficiency check. This is a new certification that the government has just brought in. One has to have gas and electricity safety checks and a good thing too – I’ve no problem with that – but this particular one is a bit pointless. And expensive. Anyway, they haven’t been able to contact the present tenant, so finally got hold of me. I said I thought it had been done, since I’ve already had the charge on my credit card bill. No pleased about that but there’s little point in making a thing about that. I said I can be there on Monday morning only, so they are sending someone round.

Z prepares to be Blasted Out of Her Seat

Tonight, I’m off to see a school play. That is, a performance of We Will Rock You, which will be loud and extremely good. The school has great music and drama departments and they put on very professional productions.

Anyway, I have been at a governors’ meeting all afternoon and didn’t get home until after half past five, so I just shoved a pizza in the oven and have chomped that so that I won’t be all tired and listless by nine o’clock. I was pondering whether to go by bike (in the dark and the cold, woe) or by car (and not be able to park for half a mile) but the Sage has offered to drop me off, so that’s all right and I celebrated with a couple of glasses of wine, which has picked me up somewhat.

Time to go. Toodle-pip

Z examines herself

A good thing about becoming old and cynical is that one turns the jaundiced eye on oneself. I realised, on the way home from Weeza’s house, that I’d turned the subject of our conversation to the question of sleeping at the flat because, in truth, I wanted to be talked out of it.

I also worked out why I’d needed to be talked out of it, rather than taking the simple common-sense view that it’d be better not to. I said the other day that I’m too cheap, but I’m not mean really. If Al and Dilly were coming, I’d be more than happy to take them out for dinner and not spare the price (having booked the restaurant of my choice, hem hem) and that’s just as one-off a spending experience as paying for a hotel room. So, it had to be because it would be spending the money on me. True, there is a slightly puritanical streak in me, but I was not entirely convinced. I think, you know, that it’s partly because I’m so fond of the flat and I rather wanted to stay there. Anyway, it’s not on. I haven’t booked anywhere yet, but hey, it’s only Wednesday.

Weeza did talk tough to me. I’m okay with straight talking and few things give me offence. When I’m given what-for, my usual reaction is no longer defensive but, usually, to ponder whether the accusation is true. Then whether it’s levelled maliciously. Anyway, the whole thing went through with good humour and ended with hugs, kisses and a reiteration of the acknowledgment that Weeza is always right unless I overrule her, in which case I am.

This morning I went into the shop to let Al have a couple of hours off, but in fact we both stayed. He having taken a couple of days off meant that things weren’t quite up to his standard, so we did a lot of chucking out (he hates leaving the best produce in the back room while putting yesterday’s stuff on show, and that was the sorry state he discovered) and sorting. I took all the onions out of the rack, for instance, to get rid of the stray pieces of papery outer skin and check for soft ones. It needs to be done frequently – ideally, every time you top up. Afterwards, everything looked beautiful. New season English tomatoes are in and the price of celery (Spanish, at this time of the year) has suddenly dropped by a third. He’s not stocking sprouts any more, as the quality is going down, but sprouting broccoli is at its best.

Oh, last night I couldn’t sleep. I did to start off with, but woke up just before 2 o’clock and that was it until nearly 5. I turned on the light and read until I woke the Sage, when politeness dictated that I turned it off again (within ten minutes of finishing the book, frustratingly enough). He threw a loving arm and leg over me and went back to sleep. After half an hour, I surreptitiously turned on a torch and finished the book. This morning, of course, I overslept. Ro got up and dressed, but realised he didn’t feel at all well – dizzy, with a headache – phoned in sick and went back to bed. Squiffany was sick last night – fortunately, she called out and her father was able to bundle her to the loo in time. So we’re a bit of a plague-pit around here, in a minor sort of way. Well, very minor. Everyone’s fine again now, including Al who has completely recovered from his bee-stung bulges.


Al’s bulges are moving down the face. His forehead is getting better but his cheeks are puffy. He can open his eyes, which have big pink eyelids, but they feel scratchy and prickly and, whilst yesterday he couldn’t look up (when he managed to force his eyes open a chink), today he can’t look down. It’s getting better by the hour and he thinks he’ll be pretty well back to normal by the morning. I’ve said I can man the shop in the morning if a whole day would be a bit much for him. We’ll see tomorrow. It’s more likely that he’ll say that he’s okay.

Weeza is not too thrilled to discover that Zerlina thinks egg is delicious. Weeza thinks eggs are a bit yucky. This dates right back to her childhood when she used to go and stay with her friends Jacoba and Helena and they camped out in the garden and told ghost/horror stories to lull each other to sleep (or not). One of Jaco’s stories involved an Alien-like tale of an egg hatching in its victim’s stomach and afterwards neither of them could stomach an egg. Weeza has never really liked them since.

It is cold, but at least the sun came out this afternoon. I checked the greenhouse, just to make sure the propagator is working. It’s all nice and warm in there. I’ve got about 20 or so half-size seed trays in it as well as 11 pots with cucumber seeds. I’ll have to see what the temperature is like by the time everything needs pricking out – I suspect I’m not going to have to heat up the other bench. I use one of my greenhouses to start everything off as it’s the one with electricity laid on, and plant out into the other one. The third needs major repairs and it won’t happen this year I shouldn’t think. There are other priorities for our limited time.