Monthly Archives: May 2009

Vote early, vote often, but who for? (or for whom, if you prefer)

When Ro went to university, he registered for a postal vote and he hasn’t altered the arrangement. This year, we have county council elections and the Euro elections on the same day. The candidates for the local election were in the paper a couple of weeks ago, but I still haven’t read anything about the EU poll or its candidates. I wasn’t too pleased when the system changed to a single transferable vote last time – you vote for a party and the votes each have received determine how many of their candidates, in a pre-determined order, are elected. In this part of the country there are seven seats so each party can field a maximum of seven candidates, but the electorate cannot vote for their person of choice or split their vote; they vote for a party with its list of candidates.

I was interested to see his ballot paper, as I don’t know the name of our Euro MP and I’ve never seen anything in the newspaper about him or her. Ro held up a long piece of paper. There were candidates for 16 or 17 parties on it, many of which I’d never heard of. One was called ‘Animals Count’. Another was a Christian party. Several proclaimed their patriotism. One candidate is an Independent. The usual parties are fielding seven aspirants but some of the minor ones have fewer. I have never heard of any of the candidates. This gives little impetus to people to exercise their democratic right and obligation – yes, I will vote, but I have little idea, at present, to which bunch of idiots I will give that vote.

Anyway, that’s still a couple of weeks away. This morning, I woke up at quarter to five and couldn’t sleep again. I didn’t want to get up that early, so read for a while and got up an hour or so later. I went out in the garden with my scythe again. I’ve got a good deal done today. In the end, I didn’t have time to get any planting done but plenty of weeds will be smothered this summer.

Oh, and Ro is looking forward to trying his hand at bricklaying on Monday.

Three squares, and a prime twice

Okay, it was more confusing than I expected it to be ( I should have mentioned from the start that the Sage hasn’t had a birthday yet this year), and a few of you muddied the waters even more, mischievously. He was born in June 36, so was 36 when we married, 36 years ago on Sunday in May 73, and he’ll be 73 next month. It’s all a pleasant linking of numbers – well, so I think anyway, although numbers don’t appeal to everyone as they do to me. Also, 36 is a square number and I’m particularly fond of those. As I am of prime numbers.

I’ve been planting squash plants today. 40-something done, which is about one-third of the total. They cover the ground and are no trouble and although Al can get plenty of traditional Hallowe’en pumpkins and butternut squashes, other varieties are harder and more expensive to come by, and he can sell all I can grow. I just hope that people don’t use my lovely fruits only for decoration rather than eating.

I noticed, when moving the tomato plants that are due to be planted outdoors, that the first fruit has set. They are a bush variety that I haven’t grown before. It was nearly 7.30 before I finished working in the garden (I’d also been scything, which deeply impressed and rather scared the friends who called round) so it was decreed that fish and chips would be the order of the day. Ro was quite relieved, as he’d been steeling himself to eat bloaters.

Z and the Sage’s Special Day

In a few days it’ll be our wedding anniversary. I know, again. We seem to have been married forever. However, this year is a special one, numerically speaking. I celebrated being married for longer than I was single many years ago, and am heading for the two-thirds mark before too long, but now at last the Sage will have been married for as many years as he was a bachelor.

Some of you will know the answer and the rest of you can work it out quite easily, but if I tell you that the Sage was the age of the year of his birth (in the sense that Dave, last September, pointed out that he was born in ’54 and he was 54 years old and, a year earlier I, born in ’53, was 53) when he got married and on Sunday he’ll have been married for half his age in years…

What year were we married?

Bringing on the wall, Day 5 – Z learns from her mistakes

We’ve done about half of the first section, and so have built nearly one-tenth of the wall. Approximately. You can see what we did today because the fresh mortar is darker than the rest. I was a bit slower than I should have been because I’d made mistakes last week. I hadn’t been careful with my joins, so had occasionally made them too wide. Not by much, but these mistakes had to be corrected or else the final brick wouldn’t fit in the available gap in each row where it had happened. I started by making tight joints, but then decided to rub two bricks together (they are very soft bricks) end to end to make them minutely shorter and gradually correct the problem that way. Then the Sage helpfully filed a bit off the occasional brick and that made all the difference. You probably can’t tell, but the final brick in the course that’s completed; that is, the one in the middle of the gap, has rather a lot of mortar holding it in place because I’d been over-correcting for some time. Oh well, never mind. This short section is our first attempt, and I hope that by the end my workmanship will have considerably improved.

The other thing to observe, apart from my lovely husband, is that for the first time I was able to remove my sweater and work in my teeshirt. The forecast showers did not materialise and the sun shone most of the morning.

This was the second and last morning I had free this week, but we hope to crack on well next.

The Sage was upset today, to hear that an old friend had died. He had been the neighbour of a young family back in the ’60s when he lived in Ipswich and their young children had rather taken to him. They were much the ages of his niece and nephew, and he’d often been invited in for meals. Later, they moved to Melton Mowbray and he moved to Lowestoft but they always kept in touch. Ken had a debilitating stroke quite young, in his 50s, and Katie looked after him for many years, until he died a few years ago. She rang a few weeks ago to say she wasn’t too well and was out of hospital for a weekend, and today their daughter rang to say she’d died. She was only in her early 70s and it’s so sad that she and Ken weren’t able to enjoy their life together once their children had grown up.

Tilly was rather pleased with herself this afternoon. She asked for dinner so I gave it to her; later the Sage mentioned that he’d fed her (before I had). I don’t know why he hadn’t told me, as usually I feed her if I’m at home, but she got two full meals in the space of half an hour. Little rascal.

I swear

I have indeed sweared and been sworn in. Specifically, I’ve solemnly and sincerely declared that I will faithfully and diligently discharge my duties. As churchwarden, that is. I realised that I was saying it all for the last time, which was almost poignant, except that I’ve been saying for a long time that I’m looking forward to giving it up.

But this morning I went to a remarkable lecture. It was given by Ant0ny P3nr0se, who is the son of the surrealist artist Roland P and his wife, L33 M1ll3r, the photographer. it was not so much a fine-art lecture, although it included some fascinating photos and some awful (in the shocking sense, fine as they were) ones and some interesting art, as a memoir of his parents and the people they knew, who included all the well-known modern artists who were prominent in the 1930s. Tony knew nothing of his mother’s work as a photographer until after her death, when he and his wife found an attic full of boxes of negatives, and it was as a result of that that she has become so famous again. If you ever get a chance to hear him, do so. It will bring you near tears, but there are some stories that should be heard. At the end, getting up to give the vote of thanks, for the first time in four years I made no attempt to talk about the lecture or to describe my reaction to it. I simply said that the visual and verbal images said all that was needed and thanked him for a magnificent lecture.

Afterwards, I went to get some keys cut and then went and bought a pair of shoes. One of the pairs I bought a month ago is so wonderfully comfortable and good-looking too that I have bought it in a different colour. If it had come in several colours, I’d have bought them all.

Then I went to see Weeza, and babysat while she was at the dentist. A highly amusing thing happened, in a slightly shocking way. Zerlina, who was nine months old yesterday, had a temper tantrum. She was furious with me. She’d had a nap and I’d given her some fromage frais (I think that has a circumflex accent somewhere, just add it mentally if so, will you?) and we’d played for a bit, but then she started to get edgy so I realised she was still hungry. Weeza had left her tea, which was a concoction of potato, chicken, peas and sweetcorn to judge from the lumpy bits, and I heated it up and gave it to her. She had a feeding cup of water which she helped herself too when she wanted it. But halfway through the meal, she picked it up back to front, so the water tipped away from the spout and she wasn’t getting a drink. So I removed it from her hands and offered it to her the right way. Well, she bawled. Tears of fury appeared and she shouted at me angrily. It was quite startling, because she clearly wasn’t just unhappy or frustrated, but furious with me for taking her drink. It didn’t last long and she ate the rest of her tea, but when Weeza came home I told her the story. “She did that with me yesterday,” said Weeza. “I read the same book twice and it’s her current favourite so she wanted it again, but I was bored with that one so got another, and she lost her temper with me. It’s not as if I exactly pander to her every whim, but she’s mostly good-tempered, so it was quite a surprise.”

She seems to have reached the Terrible Twos some fifteen months early.

Oh, I forgot to mention the Archdeacon’s Charge. That was something to behold.

Bringing on the wall, Day 4 – only 1 picture though

It’s so useful having a clergyman and a churchwarden on the bricklaying . Not that we have a hotline or anything, but it hasn’t rained all day, although yesterday showers were forecast. The first course of bricks has been laid, the second only lacks a couple of bricks because we ran out of mortar (making another batch would have meant lunch being late – no brainer, don’t you agree?) and the second pillar has been started.

It’s overgrown and weedy on the left of the picture because that was where one of the three compost heaps used to be and, just out of sight, is a greenhouse. Against that stretch of wall a potting shed will, if we get around to it, be constructed. We’re hoping to get the whole wall (this is only the first and smallest stretch) constructed by the autumn if all goes well, though sense goes before sensibility here and if it doesn’t get finished we’ll just do what we can and finish next year. Still, although I’m only free on Wednesday this week, I’m free every morning but Tuesday next, so we’ll see how it goes.

I bought some lovely sea bass from Paul the Travelling Fishmonger, this morning, at fairly vast expense, and didn’t go shopping otherwise so I had to scout around. Fortunately, I had some broccoli and some potatoes, with which I decided to make a favourite dish: Spicy Masala Potatoes. I checked the recipe. Hm. It was already well after 6 pm, but worth a try… I phoned the shop. Al was still there. “I need a few more things, can you bring them please?” He was relaxed about this. Well, this is the lad who, at just before 9am, rang his father and asked him to go to the mushroom farm any time such as right now. “A chili, an onion, some ginger and some fresh coriander, please.” I had the other ingredients, but I somehow feel that without those a certain something would have been lost. Well, I’d have improvised, of course.

Anyway, Dave has met the whole family now, except my sister. We have plans for the children each to take on a course of bricks in order of their height. Tilly can carry the bricks on her back (she’s the dog, BTW) and the wall will be built in No Time.

Z cooks (but not for Monday lunch, which will be cheese again)

I described dinner to Ro – lamb, pot-roasted on a bed of tomato, onion, carrot and aubergine, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, cauliflower and his face brightened. “You’ll miss us when you’re gone” I said, “tee hee”. He’s a good cook, I know from his photos of the meals he cooked at university, but he’s never cooked a meal for us in the four years he’s been home again, I don’t think. He helps me occasionally and, when I was away once and Dilly suggested everyone took it in turns to cook for everyone else, he co-ordinated the arrangements, which apparently let him off the hook.

I didn’t go to the street market as I was looking after the children in the afternoon. The weather was windy and showery – bright sunshine interspersed with brief downpours of rain. Al was very busy apparently. Dilly was too – it’s Maths GCSE time tomorrow and some last minute tutoring, frankly, is probably too late, so she spent her time consolidating things that were (or should be) known and raising confidence rather than trying to teach anything extra.

The weather forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday is sunny intervals – fine, but it all depends what comes in between. I suppose, unless Dave has a better guess now than I do, we’ll have to wait for the morning and see how it looks. I’ve only got two spare mornings this coming week, and if it rains I can’t put off my other engagements. Dave and I are both keen to get on, so we’ll be disappointed if it does rain.

We also have to write up the catalogue for our next sale this week. Weeza is coming over again to help with this. She was here on Friday for the same purpose, but ended up looking after me as I languished on the sofa recovering from the vapours.

You should see the other fellah…

I’ve realised that I must have fainted twice, as I’m unaware of having hit my face on the pavement and the second time I was being held by Al. But this is what I woke up to this morning.

Eye closed

Eye open

Fortunately, as you see, most of it is hidden when the eye is open.

I rang Al to ask if he wanted the rest of the broad bean plants – he did, and he also wondered if I had any more tomato plants as they’re going quite fast. I sorted out the final couple of dozen, and runner beans, aubergines and chilli peppers as well. I’ve been potting up and sorting out the rest of the plants I’m keeping to plant outside, and all I have to send in now are some more courgettes that I’ve potted up – Al has discovered that if the plants are big enough to have baby fruits on, he can get double the price for them. Tomorrow is Street Market day – one of the town’s streets closes and is full of market stalls for the day. This happens three times a year and the May one is for plants and garden-related stuff. Al wants to be open – he’s not far from and in sight of the street – but Dilly is tutoring all day, with people anxious about forthcoming GCSEs who want a spot of extra help, so he’ll be looking after the children too. I’m sure that the Sage will lend a hand. I can go in later, but I’m busy all morning at the church. I can’t take the morning off as I’m playing the organ, and I can’t swap as the other organist is on holiday in Portugal.

Oh, and those baskets. They’re made in Kenya. They’re great, and they smell all haylike and lovely. I’ve bought two of them from Al and I will get more as you can use them for all sorts of things as well as shopping. I think several people will be receiving them as presents. Rather than take pictures, I’ll show you the website. When Al’s arrived, he put Squiffany in it and carried her around town to test its strength. So, although the sizes of them vary a bit, they’re big and strong enough to carry a 4-year-old.

Drama at the Buttercross

I’d spent the morning at the school at a music lesson in the usual way. One lad, who isn’t very confident and whom I couldn’t get to do what was asked of him a few weeks ago, particularly shone. He had to be persuaded and encouraged to perform his part – really nice that the other lads in the group showed kindness and understanding – but afterwards he was happy and friendly to me. At one point, chatting, I made a silly mistake and apologised and he grinned in a moment’s real friendship .

Some time later, I called at the library, paid the fine from some while back, when I forgot the week my books were due and took them back a whole 7 days late, which cost me ¬£6.30, took out more books and cycled down to Al. I talked to him, and admired the lovely new woven shopping bags he has. Someone rang him the other day and asked to send a sample, and Dilly and I both said immediately that he must stock them. They’re made in Uganda, or the palm leaves are grown in Uganda and they’re made in Kenya – I”ll have to get back to you on that. Anyway, after a few minutes chat, I said I must go to the cashpoint and then I’d come back for my vegetables.

I put my card in the cashpoint, keyed in the PIN and the amount I wanted, and then started to feel woozy. I would have liked to sit down at once, but both card and money were locked in, so I had to wait. As soon as I had them both, I went to sit down, but couldn’t quite control my legs and banged my forehead (not hard) on the wall. A woman came up and asked if I needed help. “I feel a bit faint” I explained. “I just want to sit down for a few minutes.” Actually, I wanted to lie down and close my eyes. Al appeared looking worried as she offered to get me a glass of water. I accepted with thanks.

I shut my eyes and was startled, on opening them, to find several people clustered round. I was helped into the bank and given a chair – offered the office, but I said I was all right. I drank some water and rested my head on the desk – and heard someone say an ambulance had been called for. “I’m all right,” I said, “really, I don’t need an ambulance.” I explained and was as coherent as I ever am, so they phoned again and it was decided that a paramedic would come. A friend came into the bank and offered me a lift home, which I accepted, but then I was told my husband was on the way, so when she returned, having transacted her business, I thanked her again and said I had a lift. A few minutes later, the Sage, Weeza and Zerlina appeared. Yes, it was embarrassing. I also had to ask to go into the office after all, so that I could lie flat. The manager had to vacate it.

I started to feel better when I was lying down, and then the paramedic, Neil, arrived, took my blood pressure – it was low, wouldn’t you have guessed and then I sat up and he took it again, and then he wrote down all my details – the Sage started to intervene helpfully, but I suggested that perhaps checking that I knew my name and age and all was part of the checking procedure. Then I decided to lie down for another little rest before I fell over, so he checked my blood pressure again, which had dropped further, and then he checked my blood sugar level, which was fine. It was agreed that I’d simply fainted and I needed to rest.

Actually, I didn’t realise I had fainted. I thought I’d just closed my eyes. But Al said that when he arrived and sat down and put his arm around me, I leant into it and my eyes rolled back and I went limp. He was awfully worried, until I started to snore gently. Mm, yes, that’s what I wanted to hear, isn’t it?

Finally, I said I was ready to go home and I tottered out of the bank, remembering to thank everyone. “Take it slowly” said Al kindly. “Actually, I need to go as fast as I can so I’m in the car before I fall over again,” I explained. My head was thoroughly swimming. But by the time I got home I started to feel better, and went from being too hot to chilly. Weeza got me some lunch, because it was getting on for 3 o’clock and I knew I should eat even if I didn’t feel like it, and I spent the afternoon on the sofa.

When I went out to get dinner ready, I found that the assortment of veg that Weeza had provided was new potatoes (Cornish), calabrese and, puzzlingly, two bunches of watercress. I realised that she was feeding me iron. I made soup, it took less than 25 minutes, and we had the potatoes and the calabrese with smoked mackerel, which I filleted while the soup cooked. I’d meant to have salad, but the message didn’t quite get across.

Anyway, I’m all right now, but I’ve discovered that not only do I have a scrape on the right side of my forehead where I hit the wall on the way down, but a bump on my left eyebrow and a scrape on my left cheek, where evidently I hit the pavement.

I’ve done about the most embarrassing thing I shall ever do in public with my clothes on – or I hope so, at any rate. I’ve found, yet again, that people are kind and helpful and anxious to lessen my embarrassment as much as possible, while doing all that they can to look after me and, perhaps most important of all, that however slowly you take it, you should never get on your bike straight after giving blood. It’s the car in future, even if it’s only 2 miles from home. I’m not sure that my half-litre of O Rh+ is quite worth all the drama.

Z outsmarts the rabbits

We’ve got a lot of rabbits in the fields around us. The numbers have been building up in the last few years. Last year, they ate all my french and runner bean plants; I had none left although I sowed twice and put plastic netting around. Al thought we might as well not bother this year, but I’m a stubborn and persistent type and it’s an odd thing, that although Al gets in locally grown runner beans from the wholesaler, as well as ones that local people bring in from their gardens for him to sell, french beans seem to come from Kenya or a similar far-flung place all year round.

By next year of course, all will be well, because the wall and greenhouses will surround three sides of the kitchen garden, and we’ll put wire along the fourth side.

I told you in the post I put a link to yesterday, that I’ve 6 beds, 38 feet x 4 feet with concrete paths in between. In the last couple of years we’ve constructed several more beds, shorter and wider, in the new space I described. So yesterday the Sage went and bought a roll of wire netting and we’ve wired off two beds together, so there’s a path in between. Another two will be done separately.

I’m growing a very limited range of vegetables this year; broad, runner and two varieties of french beans, swiss chard, spinach and courgettes and, in the greenhouse, tomatoes – 8 different varieties, bell and chilli peppers and two sorts of aubergines, purple and white, and cucumbers. Some of the tomato and aubergine plants can go outside too. The rest of the space will be used for squash plants. Loads of squashes. I just put them in the ground and leave them until autumn, and then I pick them up, we eat some and Al sells the rest. I’ve also got globe and jerusalem artichokes and asparagus. Oh, and I’ve just remembered I’ve got some cavolo nero plants which I grew from seeds I bought in France. I must plant those out. Suitably protected against pigeons of course. I’m also going to grow some white sprouting broccoli because you can hardly ever buy that and, much as I like purple sprouting, the white is lovely.

When I have more time, another year (not necessarily next year you understand) I’ll go back to growing a wider range of veg, but for now I go for easily grown, trouble- and pest-free things, where Al will take the surplus off my hands. If I aimed for more, I’d fail, and doing your best and it not being quite good enough is one thing but being a bit inadequate is another.

Still, for now, at least the rabbits are thwarted. Dear little things. It’s lovely, coming down the drive on my bike, when bunnies, bantams, pheasants and pigeons scatter before me. They don’t need to, but few are brave enough to stand aside and not scamper.