Monthly Archives: June 2009

Z is increasingly well-heeled

The most useful thing I’ve bought this year is my little heel lift. It was helpful to be able to adjust it by as little as a millimetre at a time to end up, once I’d got used to it, with 9 mm of lift in my right shoe. It’s meant that I can’t wear open-backed shoes but that’s no problem. I’ve also found that the flat shoes I bought are too flat for me and that I’m best with a 1 – 2 inch heel, though I can wear higher once in a while without problems.

When I went to Italy at the end of April, I knew I’d be walking a lot and also travelling in a coach and by plane, with no chance to stretch my legs out, so I took a good supply of painkillers and took a dose every morning, which was enough to keep me quite happy. However, for the last few weeks I’ve been aware that I’ve started to regain a slightly rolling gait and my leg has hurt most of the time. Since I’ve had arthritis I’ve noticed other people with the distinctive walk – even when you can’t quite call it a limp you look like a hoary old salt on shore leave. Certainly, it’s noticeable – I’m often asked if I’ve hurt my leg, even when I don’t think I’m walking funny at all.

This morning, I remembered where I put the pack with the other layers of the lift and I’ve added another. It’s helped. Slightly depressing to accept that I’ve lost more from my hip though. Once I get to more than half an inch lost, I’ll add an extra rubber heel to each right shoe, but after that I suppose I’ll have to consider built-up shoes.

The other depressing thing is that I’m doing nothing to cause it. I’m not overweight – though nor am I thin, which maybe is the only next place to aim – I walk as much as is normal for a reasonably active person, and cycle for preference, I don’t do things that put unnecessary strain on my hip and, as the doctor recommended, I cycle quite a lot. Therefore, it’s not what I’m doing or not doing that is causing it to deteriorate, but just the natural effect of arthritis. It’s quite interesting really.

Anyway, in other news … yesterday, the Sage spotted a kestrel diving towards the chicken run, with the bantams making a commotion. He hurried over, but fortunately the baby phantam had managed to take cover. Now, she and her mother are in a coop on the lawn. Mother is still hopefully sitting on some eggs but, being half pheasant, the baby is quite happy running around a lot of the time and doesn’t mind not being under mum’s wing.

Otherwise – the hot weather is making me extremely cheerful. I love it. Different matter if you have to get to work and slog in an office all day, especially in a city, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the rarity of summer weather.

Z is well trained

I should have made it clear, yesterday, that of course I have had governor training about pupil exclusions – several times in fact; probably 3 times in the 9 years I’ve been a high school governor. In addition, I read every update to the guide to the law. I do take it all seriously. This time, it was a very in-depth training day for headteachers and other staff, as well as local authority officials – a barrister delivered 85 pages-worth of information to about 80 of us, who probably represented 35 or more schools (few primary schools would need this training around here, but Middle and High schools do).

I saw several people I knew, including a headteacher who used to be our Deputy Head and the Head of one of our middle schools whom I work with regularly. I also, when signing in, noticed the name of a man who used to teach at our village school and left several years ago – I was chairman of governors at the time and gave him a reference. I’d always wondered how he got on as he’d left us for a school with various problems, which I seem to remember went into special measures soon after he arrived there. I gave him a very good reference but wondered if I’d been doing him a favour or not!

At the break we had a chat and I’m so glad that he’s doing really well and is happy. He’s now deputy head at that same school and has obviously found his niche. He had evident potential when I knew him, but there wasn’t the scope for promotion at a little primary school. I think he found the challenge he needed and rose to it.

A very interesting day and, as I expected, our high school does all it’s supposed to. I’ve got a few things to check though, to make sure we’re up to date with, and I’ve got a lot to read up on. It’s the sort of detail I’m fairly good with though and that I remember (or at least, remember where to find again).

Lowestoft was hazy. When I arrived home, I discovered that there’s been bright sun all day and it’s been hot. This was often the pattern when I lived there – a day or two of sunshine and then the sea mist rolled in. It needs a breeze to keep the clouds away.

This evening, I’m mostly making Summer Pudding.

Z is here

A dreadful journey, for both Wink and me, and I’m not telling you all about it because I can’t bear to relive it, even in the telling. It was followed by a delightful weekend with excellent company. If you want a B&B within a few miles of Canterbury I can recommend one, and the Salutation garden in Sandwich is beautiful – I’ll put up some pictures tomorrow, by which time I’ll have fetched my camera out of the handbag 5 yards away.

The Sage is ever more adorable and I owe him yet more loads of loveliness. I will attempt to be lovely, bearing in mind I’m going to be out all day tomorrow on a training day about the law concerning school exclusions. I seem to have expelled a few pupils already without such a day, so I trust I’ll discover I’ve always gone by the book. I’ve always told my headteachers that I will support them to the hilt if they’re right (to the point of resigning, of course) but equally I’ll not uphold their decision if I believe they’re wrong. I’m impartial, as I should be.

Anyway, the journey back was smooth and quick – I left Canterbury at 2 o’clock and arrived home at 4.30, which is as quick as it can be without breaking the speed limit. Wink and I went to a service in the Cathedral this morning – a Christian should worship at Canterbury cathedral once in a while, surely. The Archbishop wasn’t there, but there was a good sermon about the significance of touch (it was relevant to the Gospel reading) – he pointed out that we all ‘keep in touch’ with each other. It’s noticeable that people are much more comfortable with the Peace (shaking hands or, if you like kissing, your neighbours and wishing them peace) than they used to be.

The Sage had been with Al, Dilly, Squiffany and Pugsley to Walberswick, crabbing, this afternoon. This is the most splendid fun for children of all ages. We had some rancid bacon in the fridge that I hadn’t got around to chucking out, which was ideal. The Sage and Pugsley joined forces and every time the Sage helped P to land another crab, P said “Thank you, Grandpa, thank you” which was splendid for family relationships. They won by one little crab.

I have a new and interesting burn on my arm, which isn’t the normal crescent-shaped Aga burn but is more L-shaped. It’ll take months to go. I have whole lots of Aga burns all down my arms. It looks as though I self-harm – I suppose I do, but not on purpose.

Z isn’t here

I’ve given the children cream cheese on crackers, a banana each and some orange juice and they are letting me not play with them for a few minutes.

Next I’ll pack, then I’ll leave, dropping off some cucumbers and artichokes to Al on the way.

Have a most splendid weekend and only miss me moderately. I’ll miss you terribly of course, but then I am a woman of strong and fond emotions.

Pip pip

Bringing on the wall, Day 14 – and making waves

Very hot today when the sun was out, though there was more cloud than yesterday. Some time was spent discussing the ornamental bricks – at present, it seems likely that they will be put in as the first one has been. A change was made, in that a part-brick (cut horizontally) has been put in to minimise the gap. Dave has researched Tudor brickwork and it is correct to think that the curl is meant to look like a wave – but there are two placings where that would work, so it’s a matter of fitting them in best with the other bricks.

During the morning, Weeza phoned to say that the toddler pool heating had been accidentally switched off overnight so the baby swimming class was cancelled, and she and Zerlina came to call instead. We slapped plenty of suncream on both of them, and them Dilly looked after Zerlina while Weeza laid her first brick.

And this is what it looked like at the end of the morning. We’ll go up to 9 courses and then put in the ornamental bricks, then finish this section.

You can see the gas tank which the wall is intended to hide.
Tomorrow afternoon, I’m off to Kent for the weekend. I may have time to post in the morning – but I may not, as I’m looking after Squiffany and Pugsley – and, of course, I may have nothing to say in any case. Otherwise, and I hate to break it to you, there will be nothing from me until Sunday evening.
Zerlina has learned to wave goodbye. She waved to the phantam, to Dilly and her cousins, to Tilly and to the Sage and me. Last week she wasn’t very well and it took Tilly being sweet to bring the first smile to her face, but now she’s completely better and was as cheerful as ever. She has also, for the last week or so, been talking – in time-honoured fashion, her first word is “mama”, but she babbles expressively as well and is obviously convinced that she is fully communicating with us.


Fabulous vegetables, Al has in the shop at the moment. I can’t resist. Tonight, peas, runner beans, beetroot, carrots, cabbage and asparagus (kept in the fridge for the last few days because it was the last of this year’s crop). While I was cooking, I ate Webbs Wonderful lettuce. For lunch, I had corn on the cob – this wasn’t actually local, as everything else was – indeed, it was from Portugal – but it was young and tender nonetheless, and a Honeymoon Salad sandwich.

The Sage showed the phantam chick to the children, so I took a few pictures. Sorry the close-up is blurred.
. It looks very like a bantam chick, although possibly the beak is a trifle longer and it’s barred like a pheasant – but not in an unbantamlike way. We assume it’ll look more of a mixture as it grows.

I enjoyed the interviews this morning, although we wished there had been another job on offer – sometimes it’s hard to choose. I cycled vigorously – a slight mistake as my knee still hurts, but better to wear out, hey? I have my car back from its service, which it went to a couple of months late – no time to deal with it before. I’m going to Kent this weekend and didn’t want a squeaky brake.

Local raspberries, the first of the season, now. I’m afraid I’m greedy. I don’t care. I’ve already eaten my daily chocolate. Hah.

Bringing on the wall, Day 13 – and rather a lot else, including a Phantam!!(!)

It seemed a long time since we’d done any work on the wall, what with the Sage having been away last week. It was a lovely hot day and (having also lain on the lawn reading the papers and then cycled into town and back) it’s worth the pink arms to have enjoyed the sunshine. Here are the latest pictures –

I know, it’s taking a long time, but this is a hobby, not a race.

While I’m about it, here are the photos I unsophisticatedly took of the Bishop’s garden. I’d rather like the backdrop of the cathedral to my garden, wouldn’t you? The tall purple plant with long sprays of flowers is a buddleia alternifolia and the one with lots of little white flowers has huge leaves and is crambe cordifolia – crambe means cabbage, so that’s its botanical family. I didn’t recognise the spiky mauve plant in front of the artichoke or cardoon, can anyone help me?

In other news – the rabbits are ever more unafraid. One can get within a few feet of them before they lope unhurriedly away. Sometimes, you have to clap your hands. This is quite sweet, but the downside is that their fleas have found Tilly. It’s not usually a problem of hers, as she has short, coarse hair with no undercoat, but I’m having to frisk her several times daily. I have powdered her, but don’t care to use powder anywhere she might lick and I’m not fond of the idea of systemic killers either.

Last night, the Sage went out for a final check on the chickens and found a chick on the hen-house floor. He brought her (all chickens are female until proved otherwise) to show me. A sweet little day-old chick – but we have no cockerel. Dave, this morning, became quite excited, first suggesting parthenogenisis and then a miraculous Virgin Birth, but I explained that the likeliest explanation is that she is a Phantam. That is, that the cock pheasant who has been much admired by the bantams is responsible. We don’t know which bantam is its mother, but the Sage popped her under one who has been hopefully sitting on a clutch for weeks.

It is bound to be infertile, unfortunately, as such hybrids are – but if it proves to be male after all, does anyone happen to know if it will behave like a cockerel – that is, aggressive to other cocks and will attempt to mate with females, or if it will be like a castrated male and not interested? After all, infertility doesn’t necessarily imply impotence, but it may do. I’ve a feeling that mules don’t have the frisky personalities of stallions, for instance. We’d like to keep it as a pet with the others, whatever its sex.

Tomorrow – babysitting from 7.30 until 9.40, when I’m off to the High School to take part in interviews. Interviewer, not ee. Oh, that reminds me. There’s a committee that hasn’t really got off the ground since the chairman left the governors a year ago. So I arranged a meeting for Thursday to get things going again, someone’s agreed to be chairman, although he can’t make the meeting – but he evidently didn’t think it was up to him to do an agenda. So I did, and sent out all the papers…and then it occurred to me that a couple of items heavily rely on staff, as non-staff governors don’t have the necessary info. This morning, I emailed a staff member asking him to lead those items – bluffing again, I didn’t even say sorry for the lack of warning. “Will do” was the cheerful answer. Isn’t he nice? I’ll take in some specially delicious chocolate biscuits.

Oh – English cherries are in season, and they are delicious and ripe and it’s a short season, so hot-foot it down to your friendly local greengrocer (there are still a couple of dozen of them in business throughout the land) and buy them while you can. They’re a bit horribly expensive, but our Kentish growers have to be encouraged – Al had 15 cherries on his tree and the birds have eaten all but 4 of them, although they were netted and not even ripe yet.

Z Ruminates (not literally; I am not a cow)

When I read all the words of the second hymn, I considered the small party of people from the local old people’s home who had, unexpectedly, joined the congregation this morning and wondered if it was a bit lacking in tact or might be rather a comfort (the third verse isn’t in our hymnbook). It was recommended with the reading this morning and the tune (Sibelius’s Finlandia) is lovely.

Mind you, I quite appreciate the idea of Christianity offering solace and encouraging fortitude rather than constant joy and happy-clappiness. I think that’s quite unrealistic and likely to put some people off completely. I said once here that one of the hymns I’d like for my funeral is this one which, similarly, asks for support through the difficulties of life rather than expecting them to be swept away – which ain’t going to happen and nor does the Bible suggest that they can or should be.

Mind you, I have some problems with those who think that everything can be put right through faith and prayer – it depends, for one thing, on your definition of ‘put right’ –

The mouse that prayed for Allah’s aid
Blasphemed when no such aid befell.
The cat that feasted on that mouse
Thought Allah managed vastly well.

– as Saki put it (forgive me if I’ve made any mistakes; I haven’t looked it up to check).

Z gets all Dressed Up

Ro is getting on fine at his new place. He says food costs surprisingly little – this is largely because he always cooks meals from scratch, rarely cooks meat and his landladies grow lots of vegetables. He would like to take some eggs back with him though – this is hardly surprising; I find supermarket eggs disappointing.

“So,” I said “you did the right thing moving out?” “Yeah”, he answered casually, not realising that he was supposed to be polite about it.

Very cheesed off to get my credit card bill today and discover that the day that payment is to be cleared by is today. I’ll have to ring up and tell them. If the Sage hadn’t happened to notice it, I’d have been charged interest. I trust they sensibly respond to reason (but I expect they will, can’t see why not).

Both the Bishops look very well and the whole do was very pleasant and hospitable. At one point, a chap came along with a microphone, and said he’d noticed that several cars were parked on the grass outside the Bishop’s House. “That’s not under our jurisdiction,” he said. “No tickets have been given out yet, but it’s only a matter of time, so if those people would like to drive in, they’re welcome.” Three men got up and hurried out. It was so much more pleasant than just being warned, don’t you think? Just as the Bishop of Norwich came in the marquee, it started to rain. Within a minute or two, there was a deluge. Conversation stopped as we couldn’t hear each other speak. A few people who had been caught outside came hurrying in, with or without umbrellas. Our party had done rather well, in fact. We’d arrived promptly at the start, been round the gardens and were early in the line for tea. When there was a queue of 50 or so, we felt pretty damn smug. I took a few photos but it felt a bit touristy for a guest, so only to remind me of particular plants. There was a gardener at work – “those ground elder in flower behind the bergenia are rather pretty – have you got them in containers for effect?” asked Bridget. “No, that area needs weeding,” he admitted.