Monthly Archives: March 2009

Don’t go by train on a Sunday

I wasn’t proud or independent, but I was practical. I looked up what work is due to be done on the railway line next Sunday. The travelling to be done by bus doubled the length of the journey to nearly three hours each way. This is absurd. It meant that Al and Dilly would spend more time on the train than in London. So I am coming up alone after all – there’s some bus travel on the Saturday too, but not for quite so long and service is normal on Monday. So what I’m going to do is clean the flat on Saturday evening – I trust it’ll have been left clean, but you have to clean it yourself to be quite sure, don’t you? – do the painting on Sunday, do something else on Sunday – probably go to an exhibition, I haven’t looked to see what’s on yet – go and do the second coat of paint and it’ll either give me Monday morning free or time to sort out any problems.

I’ll be sleeping on the floor. I’m too old to sleep on floors, but I’m too cheap to book into a hotel when I’ve got the prospect of another bill from the agency. Odd, the way one’s mind works, isn’t it? If I was having a jolly few days in Town, I’d stay in a nice hotel and not think about the bill, but because it’s working in an empty flat, I think it’ll be far too indulgent to stay in the cheapest dive. Though mind you, I suppose I could have a look and see what’s available. It does rather make me ache to think about it.

In other news, Al got stung on the forehead by a bee yesterday and, since there’s nowhere much to swell on the forehead, he found that this morning his left eye had swollen shut. He went to help Eileen set up shop and came home again, but now both eyes are thoroughly swollen and he can’t see. He says he feels fine and he’s taken anti-histamines, and promises to go to the doctor if he feels ill, breathless or just ‘wrong’. But I can’t take over the shop this afternoon as I’ve got an appointment, so it’ll have to be closed unless he’s a lot better in two hours time. The Sage will help Eileen shut up shop – Al can’t do that if he can’t open his eyes.

Z is Remarkably Cheerful

It’s all gone jolly well today. Lots of families in church – mind you, free bacon sandwiches were on offer, need I say more? The funny thing is that we started with just a couple of rashers and five slices of bread, but after feeding dozens of people, some with second helpings, there was still a lot left over. Hmm.

This afternoon, we finally got going in the greenhouse. I know, terribly late, but that’s the way it is. I’m old and lazy and busy, and whilst I used to start sowing seeds in propagators really early, I usually found that there was a cold snap and I had great difficulty keeping the seedlings warm. It is still a week or so later than I meant to be, but I don’t care that much. I mean, I care, but not that much. It will all come good in the end.

Tonight, Ro is cooking dinner. I think we’re having goat cheese tart, baked potatoes, roasted sweet potato, garlic and shallots, and calabrese. Ooh, that reminds me, do you say callabreeze or callabraisee? Or do you cop out and say broccoli? I had to get my own wine though. I asked for some, but the Sage forgot.

Tomorrow … let’s see. I’m meeting friends for lunch – that is, I’m picking up two on the way and six of us are having lunch together. Then I’m looking after the children for a bit. That seems enough for a day’s work. Tuesday, I’m taking and fetching Squiffany to/from nursery school and I’ve a meeting in the evening, so I’ve no excuse not to do some work in between whiles. Wednesday, I’m having my hair cut. How often do you have your hair cut? Mine seems to get shaggy in no time. Then I’m going to meet Ro in John Lewis to look at televisions. Mainly for screen sizes. I keep telling him he can choose, but he insists on involving me.

Things smell good. I think Ro may be serving up. Toodle-pip, darlings.

Z is a fatalist

Last week, when I mentioned the lost dog that we’d have adopted if she hadn’t been microchipped and therefore could be reunited with her owners, Martina said that she thought a puppy would be fun for Tilly and Dandelion asked how Tilly was when Chester died. So I’ll tell you.

Chester had just had his 13th birthday and I remember looking at him and thinking how well he was. But a week later he became ill, and when it turned out that he had cancer the vet asked if we wanted him to operate. I said no. He was very ill and he was old, and it was a large tumour on his liver. He hadn’t eaten for a week. I was sure it would be kinder to let him go and the vet agreed – actually, I think that if I’d said yes he’d have tried to talk me out of it. The vet came to do the deed here and I held Chester and we looked at each other, so that I was the last thing he would see. The Sage had spent the past week making an oak coffin – this went even beyond me for sentiment, but he was put in it. This was in the porch. Then we let Tilly and Khan out into the porch and they sniffed Chester’s bed and then the coffin, so they knew.

It was only a couple of months later that Khan was run over and killed, so since then Tilly has been an only dog. And her personality has adapted to that. She used to be very much in Chester’s shadow, in a good way. He used to leave food in his bowl for her, and she deferred to him in other ways. They were very good friends, and if Tilly wanted to go out, Chester would go to the door so that we’d open it for both of them. If someone came to the house, Chester was in charge of security. If I sat on the sofa, Tilly would snuggle behind me, or else Chester would sprawl along the top of the cushion like a leopard in a tree.

Now, Tilly is still too polite to ask to go out, she waits hopefully by the door, occasionally wagging her tail, until someone notices, unless she’s really desperate, in which case she emits a single quiet whine. However, whilst Chester threw himself against the door with a thump to tell us they wanted to come in, Tilly scratches the door, which now has deep gouges as a result. She is also a guard dog now. Instead of hiding behind someone when someone comes to the door, she bursts out barking, hackles raised – which is an act of course, she’s completely unaggressive.

We intended to have another dog after a while. I wanted a puppy again. In the summer would be sensible (although, since Chester was born in October we got him a few days before Christmas – he always adored Christmas). But then Al and Dilly got married that summer and the party was here, so it was put off. Then Squiffany was born the next Spring, so it was put off again. That summer, Weeza and Phil got married and the party was here, so that wasn’t the best time to have a puppy. The next year, the excitement was that Pugsley was born.

However, by that time I was keeping an eye open. I have few requirements, mostly negative; that is, the dogs I didn’t want to have. I’ve written about that before, I know. I prefer a mongrel, because so many dogs are have had ill health bred into them, and besides I’d be intimidated by a dog with a better pedigree than I have. Specifically, I don’t want a terrier, especially a Jack Russell (more courage than sense and they disappear down rabbit holes), a greyhound (no rapport), a Springer Spaniel (they need too much exercise and are working dogs and misbehave when bored), a very large (don’t want a dog bigger than me, and very big dogs don’t live that long) or a very small (I’d fall over it) dog. I’d like a boy with long blond hair. I have to say that my children think a girl with short hair would be much more sensible. That is the only whimsical preference however, all others are based on sound common sense.

Anyway, I didn’t hear about a dog. I didn’t want a rescue dog this time – with small children about I didn’t want to risk a dog that had been badly treated and I’d become less than trusting of the RSPCA, where my mother had always gone for rescue dogs. This had been fine at one time, but they’d stuck a couple of really difficult dogs her way and at this time of my life, I wanted a dog to be a pleasure, not a worry. It had to be trainable and trustworthy, as we have fields all about our partly unfenced garden, and we have free-range chickens, and I thought that although a puppy is harder work, it would be a better bet.

By this time, I was starting to think that it was high time – Tilly was getting older and I didn’t want her to be so old that a puppy would exhaust her. Friends were hoping their dogs would have puppies together – one of them was a collieish mongrel and one a labradorish mongrel, which seemed ideal, although the pups would probably be black or black and white. Unfortunately the pregnancy didn’t happen.

Tilly is 13 now, and although she’s in good health, she’s slowed down a lot in the past year or so. She loves her life and, although I think she could adjust to another female dog (though I also think she’d be jealous), I don’t think it would be fair to bring a puppy into the house. She adores the children, but wants extra cuddling after Zerlina has visited, to make up for the fuss made of a baby. I think a pup would be more stress than pleasure for her now. She’s a dear little dog and I wouldn’t like to upset her.

Kith and kind

I’m likely to be coming to London next weekend. My tenant is leaving, so I want to read the meters, check the flat and do a few little jobs – the oven hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned (it was okay but not perfect) before he moved in so I will do that, and I’ve got to repaint the kitchen ceiling and a wall where he leaned his sofabed – he told me about it and I said it was acceptable as wear and tear – I was being kind really because it was immaculate when he moved in only a few months earlier, but it won’t take long to do and I don’t mind.

Anyway, I’d asked Dilly if she wanted to have a weekend in London with the children and we could do a few things together and then, either in between times or after they left, I’d do the work. However, she and Al have evidently decided I shouldn’t go up ladders on my own any more. It was all right last September, but apparently it isn’t now. So now they both want to come, leaving the children with Dilly’s parents.

It’s lovely being cared about and cared for, but it’s really hard to drop the proud independence thing. Mind you, it was lovely when Dandelion came and helped me in September, but that hadn’t been arranged before and she was being enormously kind rather than looking after me. But (apart from the fact that I rarely engage in arguments I am doomed to lose) it’s sometimes better to meekly give in and be grateful than be proud and determined and reject an expression of love.

I’m hoping they’ll let me take them somewhere nice for dinner on Saturday though.

Z keeps ’em guessing

This morning, I went to my music lesson (where I’m an unpaid teaching assistant) at the high school. At the start, the Year 9 class came in, dumped their bags in the corner and sat down. One boy didn’t put down his bag and only remembered when the teacher was taking the register. When she was putting it away again, he chucked it (well-stuffed rucksack) over the heads of the other pupils and onto the pile of bags. It skimmed just above the head of a tall lad, who looked up, puzzled, stroking his head to see what had ruffled his hair. Only N, the boy who’d done it, a few children around him and I saw it. It was incredibly funny and I grinned. “Good aim, wasn’t it?” he said. “Very good aim” I said mildly “but perhaps not a good idea, could cause an accident.”

Later, the children were in small groups practising the musical arrangements they’ve been working on (they don’t know it yet, but next term they’ll write their own compositions) ready for recording and I went to help N’s group with the drum accompaniment. It’s just started to dawn on them that I don’t behave quite like anyone else in the school. Last week a lad in a different class asked me what I do there, and today N asked the same question. I told him, I’m in to lend a hand as a teaching assistant, and I’m an unpaid volunteer. He looked bemused. “You can’t tell us off though?” asked a girl. “That is, you didn’t when N chucked his bag, you laughed.” “I can,” I explained. “I just don’t have to.”

Oh, by the way, and I realise this is a pathetic thing to think of as an accomplishment, but I finally made it all the way up the hill without having to get off the bike and walk at all.

Afterwards, I went to take over from Al at the shop for a few hours so he could go and help Dilly with Squiffany’s birthday party. 8 little friends from nursery school, plus their younger siblings and their mothers. When Al returned so that I could join the end of the party, we chatted for a few minutes as I got ready to leave. He told me something that quite upset me. A nearby small town had a branch of Woolworths, which closed just after Christmas. The discount store QD is taking it over and they advertised for staff. They had 25 places. 1,000 people applied. Yes, one thousand. They were asked if they were interested in part- or full-time jobs. Nearly everyone said that they would accept anything at all. I wanted to cry at the sadness of their desperation.

When I got back, the party was nearing the end and 15 or so toddlers were milling around happily. Zerlina smiled to see me and I gave her a cuddle. She was 7 months old yesterday. “I’ll give everyone 2 more minutes to finish eating tea” said Dilly “and then we’ll have a last game of Musical Statues.” She’s very good – for each round she told them what they should do when the music stopped, such as be a dragon, be a princess, hop like a frog, hold up an umbrella like Mary Poppins. The children loved it and I felt all emotional again. Fortunately, this is permitted for a granny, being sentimental.

Oh, and another couple of pictures of Zerlina

A wry moment

Her more usual expression. No teeth yet, as you see.

Death of a pigeon

Sad to say, the most humane thing to do would be to wring the unfortunate pigeon’s neck. That was the advice of Ro, whose office it was sitting outside; but in fact he was overruled and the others rang the RSPCA. By the time the officer arrived, the pigeon had keeled over – not sure if it was already dead, but apparently he looked pretty bemused, shook his head and left. Death was pretty well inevitable – a wing doesn’t break itself and it had obviously been through a traumatic time already. Besides, it was a feral town pigeon and they are, actually, vermin. Ro asked his boss if he’d have phoned the RSPCA if it had been an injured rat?

But on humanitarian grounds, that isn’t the point. When a wild creature is badly injured it’s under considerable stress and possibly in great pain. It is very unlikely to live. Be brave and do the decent thing and kill it.

Anyhoo, the Sage is home and terribly excited to see me. He phoned me in the middle of my lunch meeting – I was sorry to have to turn the phone off unanswered, but really… “Sorry, I didn’t know the time”, he said. “It was lunch time” I said fruitily.

This evening, I cooked him a lovely dinner. He has poured me several glasses of wine and brought me ice-cream and coffee. He has also kissed me. We are very happy to be together again. I held things together pretty well in his absence, and hardly any disasters happened.

The worst one was that I thought my library books were due back today, rather than last week. I owe 70p per book. 9 books. Blimey.

On a book theme, I’m presently reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which won the Booker last year. Any of you read it? Especially my Indian friends? It’s pretty cynical about India – I’d be very interested to know what you think. I’m halfway through at present so haven’t reached a conclusion, in either sense, myself.

Unlucky with cars, lucky in love*

This arvo, as I understand the young people put it (though probably it’s way outdated by now) I went over to see Weeza and Zerlina. We went to the local garden centre. When we went back to the car, because it was time for Zerlina’s early afternoon nap, the car wouldn’t start. It didn’t even try. It lit all its warning-of-problem lights and did nothing else. Not a sound, not even a dismal whine. I tried several times and then we got a bit dismayed, then became practical, because we are. Weeza went and persuaded a random couple just returning to their car to give her a lift home (aren’t people lovely?) and I said I’d stay with z and wait for her to return with her car.

After some minutes, I decided to try the car again. It started without fuss. Since, I’ve started it three times and driven 20 miles. I dunno. Do you?

Anyway, knowing I had to be next door early to babysit, I kept waking up last night, or maybe it was just aloneness. I didn’t lie awake, but woke half a dozen times, finally just before the alarm was due, so I turned it off. Tomorrow I don’t have to be about early so we’ll see how it goes. The Sage is safely back with Wink after his Cornwall trip and expects to be home about lunchtime tomorrow. Sadly, I’m out for lunch (assuming the car starts, of course).

And a question. This is what Ro asked me…

If there were a wild (town) pigeon on the ledge outside your office and it was obviously injured, probably with a broken wing, what would you do?

He didn’t give options, but I will –
a – Call the RSPCA
b – Call Norwich pest control
c – do nothing
d – try to catch it and wring its neck to put it out of its misery
e – something else – please specify

Whatever you say, I will not suggest you are an android.

*I know it’s a misquote

Z is an Abandoned Woman

An absolutely terrific lecture today about Bonnard. As usual I did the vote of thanks and for once I remembered the structure I planned and said everything I meant to. That is, I linked it to what we’d learned in previous lectures about Japanese art, particularly Hiroshige, whom Bonnard greatly admired, and German Expressionism, as that lecturer had demonstrated the use of colour with a colour wheel – something that anyone who has studied art knows all about but that was particularly appropriate in that lecture. Then I linked to another lecturer (yes I know, I probably spoke for too long, but it was only a couple of minutes, honestly) who advised focusing on one picture you especially liked, and deciding to remember it. I referred to three in fact, because I am greedy: a lovely standing female nude in a room with a couch with a patterned cover, another pattern on the wallpaper and sunlight coming through the window. She wore high heels and lifted her face to the light. The next was a naked woman on a bed with a nude man in the foreground. Beautifully painted and, as I said, we girls don’t have half enough good male nudes to enjoy. The third was a view from a window of a mimosa tree in brilliant bloom. As I looked at it, I had a great longing to smell mimosa flowers – I looked on the market on the way back to the car but there weren’t any for sale. I agreed with the speaker that Bonnard was a great, and now underrated, artist and said that if the pictures hadn’t convinced us, the lecture and the speaker’s enthusiasm would have.

I give praise where it’s due, you see.

The thing is, I’m getting relaxed. Probably too relaxed. I’m finishing my stint as chairman in June, and then I can retire to happy obscurity and a mere three months away seems closer than it really is. I’ll come down to earth when I have to write my annual report – the only written speech I ever deliver. I can’t do that unscripted as there are specific occasions and people to mention and once someone was missed out (years ago, not by me) and it caused some offence.

Anyway, back to the title of this post. I could just as accurately have said that the Sage has left me, for both are true and yet quite misleading. The Sage has gone on a day trip to Falmouth. Falmouth, which is near the far end of Cornwall, is some 450 miles away and takes a long time to get to, so he’s spending the night at Wink’s house, which is halfway, driving down to Cornwall tomorrow morning and back in the afternoon – quite a long enough day, to be sure – staying with Wink again and then returning home on Thursday. I have a meeting tonight, but tomorrow Ro and I will cook something too spicy for the Sage, or else containing a lot of mushrooms.

We might have acquired a dog this week, but fortunately she has been reunited with her owners. A friend and his girlfriend were returning from Ipswich at the weekend and saw a lost dog running at the side of the road. She was scared and muddy, disheveled and hungry and they brought her home. Assuming they wouldn’t be able to track her owner, they asked us if we would consider having her – we didn’t make a commitment until we were sure of the situation. Fortunately, when they took her to the vet, it was found she was microchipped. She had been missing for more than a week and I’m so thankful on her owners’ behalf that she was found by kind and responsible people. If she hadn’t had the ID, yes, we’d have taken her and given her a home, but I’d rather she was with her owners – she was friendly and obedient and obviously loved.