Monthly Archives: July 2009

Bringing on the wall, Day 21 – Dave is disconcerted when Z loses her temper

Good to have a day when there wasn’t any likelihood of rain. Dave worked steadily all morning, but I had a few interruptions and so didn’t get as much done as yesterday and we decided not to have a final mixing of mortar as it would have taken a long time to use it up.

During the morning, when the Sage was out for a while, we were talking about the days we’re free next week. Dave had already said he couldn’t manage Monday “and the Sage is busy on Tuesday and Wednesday”. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” I said, startled. “Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it,” he worried – “no, he should have mentioned it to me!” The air turned blue for a while (sorry, Dave) as I gave my opinion on the matter. Then I asked if he knew where the Sage was going? “He said something about picking china up” said Dave, who was playing it neutral, straight and cool – I said “ah, take some of that back, he’s going to London on Tuesday. I unsay the effing. Hang on, I don’t know about Wednesday though.”

I explained my reasoning regarding getting cross. I do it while the Sage isn’t there, usually when I’m on my own (sorry, Dave). Then, when he returns, I ask pleasantly what is going on? This is also a failsafe against making an embarrassing mistake. So I asked. It turns out that the Sage is planning to stay in London overnight and then do another business call on the way home. “So that’s why, when I said last week that I’d like to come to London with you, that you were tying yourself in knots trying to put me off without telling me why?” He tried to deny it, but I know him too well. “When would you have told me?” Monday. Hm. I chose to laugh and kiss him.

Much as I dislike the Sage’s habit of keeping secret things that he knows I need to know, for as long as possible (and he’d hate it if I did it to him), I’m quite looking forward to a couple of days to myself. My main quandary is always this – do I use his absence to not bother to cook, or do I cook something that I love and he doesn’t?

Anyway, the pictures, one from each side of the wall. Today’s ornamental brick marks about the half-way point in this main section – in fact, I’ve just been out to do some rough measuring.

The first section is about 18′ long and that’s done apart from the capping, which the Sage and Dave are talking of doing while I’m away in a couple of weeks. Today’s ornamental brick comes in at about 24′ of the main length and more than half of the bricks are laid of the next 6′ – 10 rows out of 16 – with about 25 bricks to fill in between the two ornamental bricks. Then there’s another 18′ virtually unstarted of this length. It’s possible to get that done in the next month if we have about 10 sessions and, since pillars have to be built up to; that is, you can’t just build a pillar but have to stage the bricks either side for support, we’ll have to go round the corner as well. There’s about another 35′ of that section, most of which won’t be done until next year. Once we get to September, the time available for bricklaying will diminish drastically.

Dave and I (we haven’t mentioned it to the Sage yet – well, he was out at the time – think there should be a party this year when we finish bricklaying – will you come?

Bringing on the wall, Day 20 – Dave is taken in by an Imposter

Things went very well again. I had spent a long time yesterday assiduously scrubbing bricks – all the ones lying loose which, fortuitously, would be about the number needed for the morning bearing in mind that Dave would be fitting another ornamental brick, which takes a long time. The forecast was iffy but generally we were hopeful of a morning’s work.

Imagine my surprise darlings, if you will, when I read Dave’s blog, which seemed to have been taken over by someone writing in the style of a lesser-lettered Z. Yes, I know. My mouth would have dropped open if I had any slack-jawed tendencies. You may require a comparison – here you go. Now really – is that, for one minute, anything like me?

Dave was wearing a rather fine pith helmet when he arrived and looked slightly out of place in a Norfolk garden rather than a Cameroon jungle. He cowered slightly when he saw me, which was quite inexplicable. I gave him a cup of Earl Grey, which had rather a lot of tea leaves floating in it unfortunately and he gradually relaxed enough to remove his “protective headgear” as he called it and start work. We were doing well until 11 o’clock when the first drops of rain fell. We covered the mortar and sheltered under a tree. It wasn’t a long shower and we finished at 12.30, pleased with the morning’s work. Since I counted the bricks (I didn’t mean to, but when you stack you can’t help counting and multiplying, can you?) I knew that we’d laid 67, plus the ornamental brick and the half-bricks around it.

Pictures? Of course. Here you are.

I’ve mentioned that the bricks are not all exactly rectangular – here’s an example. The top brick is sitting on another which is the reason it looks larger, but you can see that there is a definite curve. Some of them are more bowed than that, and the lower one is cracked but not broken – all part of the hand-made charm. The wall will look old and weathered from the start, which is just what we want. Furthermore, it nicely disguises and excuses any mistakes we make.

Dave is busy having fun, so no bricklaying today

The good news of yesterday night was a post on Honey’s blog to say that Pema is joyfully born and is healthy and strong. She’s received many messages of congratulations – thanks so much for thinking of her and wishing her well.

Yet again, I’m reminded how necessary it is for me to take on obligations. If not, I’d do very little at all, as this morning indicates. Even I, however, am starting to think that I’ve been ambling round lazily or sitting reading the paper and listening to music for almost long enough and am considering doing something useful. There are several options. I have a letter to write, which I will certainly do at some point today – but that hardly counts, because I have promised to do it today and I am quite reliable at fulfilling obligations.

Otherwise, I have a whole lot of stuff to sort out to hand over to someone – it’s probably 2 hours solid work, plus a list – an aide memoire – to write which will probably be added to over a couple of days. Housework is an ever-present option – this is not the sort of house where it’s ever finished.
And I am considering cleaning bricks. Not all the piles of bricks were deposited on their pallets, which means that they’ve been sitting on the ground for the past year or so and the bottom ones have to be scrubbed. This takes the Sage a long time. He’s sweet-natured and doesn’t mind, but it seems fair for me to take a turn at some time.

I wonder which, if any of them, I’ll do. Of course, there’s time in the day for me to do some of all of them. Heh heh. And how likely is that?

I’ve just been reading in the paper how schools and nurseries have been advised to stop small children sharing crayons and toys during the flu outbreak. Does anyone in government know anything at all about small children? Have they ever been in a state primary school? The children sit around tables doing things together, not at rows of desks. Pre-school age children are tactile and cuddly and instinctively share things and hold hands. You can’t stop them, certainly not for months on end. You can be diligent about hygiene, but I suspect most nurseries are already – you only have to spend a short time in a public lavatory to notice how many people don’t wash their hands at all, or give the most perfunctory rinse. Those wretched unhygienic hot air driers don’t help at all.

Bringing on the wall, Day 19 – I rely on Dave for information

We got a lot done in our 2 1/2 hours today. Not that I joined in from the start, as I was looking after the children until 10 o’clock. The first photo shows (to the right about from the yellow spirit level) what was done today.
The second shows what we’ve done so far.

Dave is busy tomorrow and the Sage has a couple of things on too so, weather permitting, we’ll be back on the job on Thursday. I’ll be filling up the lower levels to 9 courses (not including the footings) and Dave will get on with the next decorative brick and the higher ones. Then I’ll move on to the other side of the pillar so that Dave can finish that off. The Sage is kept busy supplying mortar and cleaned and wetted bricks.

During the morning, Dave mentioned that the Sage has now decided to have pillars at the ends: that is, that we’ll add a couple of extra courses of bricks on each pillar before putting on the cappings. Dave suggested this some weeks ago but the Sage reserved judgement. He still has said nothing to me. I’m waiting, I’m patient. When he finally refers to it in passing, he’ll have completely forgotten that he hadn’t consulted me at all stages. I’m used to it. On this occasion it doesn’t matter at all as it’s his choice, but it would be all the same if we’d definitely decided together about something and then he’d changed his mind. One has to make a decision about how much this sort of thing matters, as a principle. The simple thing is that he spent 36 years as a bachelor and he became used to pondering things through by himself. If a further 36 as a married man hasn’t changed him, nothing will. Having said that, he has improved. Time was, he’d not have talked about it to me in the first place about the original decision, let alone before he changed his mind.

Honey and Pema

I’ve been reading Honey’s blog for a long time and, although she’d not updated for ages, her life had taken a turn for the better after great distress and difficulties and she had sounded optimistic and positive about the changes she had made. It was shocking to read, a few weeks ago, that she was very ill with breast cancer. She was also 5 months pregnant with her baby Pema, who will be born by Caesarean section on 28th July.

Honey is going through a very tough time and is on morphine – Pema will be born with symptoms of addiction and will need treatment for that as well as the care needed for a baby born 10 weeks early. Honey is receiving wonderful treatment and consideration and all possible is being done to ensure that she and Pema will be kept together, bearing in mind their medical needs.

Do think of them both on the 28th please, and of Honey’s two older children and Pema’s father Mr Man. The knowledge that candles are being lit all over the world for them on that day means a lot to Honey – will you join in please?

I’ll republish this post when I write another, and keep it at the top until Pema is safely born.

All the best, Honey – let one of the kisses you give your beautiful baby be from us.

Z is sensible. No, really, I am.

It rained again, so Dave didn’t come over and I went to Norwich instead. Weeza wants to buy a sewing machine and we went to inspect a couple of models she’s likely to choose between and then we had lunch together. The sun came out for a couple of hours, but then there was another hard rain shower – I was driving along the dual carriageway at the time and all the cars had to slow right down as the visibility was so poor.

In other news … no, that’s about it. I’m doing some serious unwinding at present. I feel a bit mean actually, though only a bit. The church runs a holiday club during the summer holidays for a week, starting today – there’s a paid youth worker and several volunteers to help. The youth worker developed flu a couple of weeks ago and won’t be taking part so they’re quite short of helpers. I haven’t offered. Indeed, I’ve said I’m sorry but I’m not offering to help. I thought about it and decided it was just too much, I needed a break and I’m taking one. It would mean a whole week I wouldn’t be able to do any bricklaying – true, Dave and the Sage could get on without me, but I realise that I’ve been banking on taking several weeks off from most of my usual out-of-family obligations and the thought of gearing myself up to doing whatever Bible-based activities are planned (not my cup of tea anyway) is not at all tempting, even to help out really lovely people, most of whom are friends of mine. Furthermore, of course, once you’ve taken part once, it is a given that you will be heavily involved forever. And the next thing is that I’d be asked to help with the weekly youth club. I can’t take on a single more thing and that’s that. I don’t know if I’m being unreasonable, but I’m being self-protective and sensible, albeit with a mildly guilty conscience.


Dave still has a certain amount to learn when it comes to teasing. This morning in church (on fourth Sundays there is a breakfast café between two short services) I read a headline to friend Anthony (a retired church minister, as is Dave) “Women are getting more beautiful”. “Hope for you yet, then,” he replied genially. “…while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors” I quoted back at him. Teasing is more vicious in the Church of England than among the gentle Methodists, i think.

However, his mention of a house attached to a brewery reminded me of our children’s weddings. We had a party here after both Al’s and Weeza’s wedding, with marquees, a hog roast and a ceilidh band each time. Our village pub (which has its own micro brewery in the garage) provided kegs of beer and by the end there was some left. A clearing-up party the next day still didn’t finish it all off, so for the next few days it was most enjoyable to stroll outside clutching a beer mug and fill it from the barrel. It’s the best way to drink it and I rather wish that we could find excuses to do it regularly. Sadly, the 40 pints (I think) that a keg contains is far more than we could manage to drink while it’s still fresh, and most of our friends drink little more than we do.

Z winds down a notch too far

A delightful family lunch out today – Al was working and Dilly and the children had other things to do, but the other 6 of us went to a pub not far from Weeza’s house – attached to a brewery, it has good food and drink and is popular. Very enjoyable – the Sage and I have been thinking it’s Sunday evening as we feel far too relaxed for a Saturday.

Mind you, i came home and spent a long time mowing the lawn, because the weeds from the area around the original lawn, now being mown into submission, had grown quicker than the grass and were tall and getting tough.

Ro remembered this evening (we dropped him off at his lodgings in Norwich) that he hadn’t taken his cakes back with him. I’ve wrapped them individually (I kept one back for the Sage) and have put them in the freezer for next time we see him. He didn’t realise iced cakes could be frozen and was most pleased. I think the little sugar flowers may go soft but it won’t matter.

I haven’t looked at the music for tomorrow and I haven’t picked up my clarinet for at least a couple of months. Indeed yes, I should practise. Odds are I won’t and will just wing it tomorrow morning. After all, what’s to go wrong? It’ll help if I know the songs of course, maybe I should check that. And look at the music to see if I can transpose at sight or will have to write it out. Oh dear. Suddenly I feel less relaxed.

Bringing on the wall, Day 18 – and Ro’s birthday

A sunny morning – we used the last of the cement so it was a short one as far as bricklaying was concerned, but things are looking good. None of us has much planned for the next few weeks so, weather permitting, we should be able to crack on a bit.

Here’s the state of play today.

And a picture of Tilly, looking plump.

And, with his permission, one of Ro on his 25th birthday. Dilly and the children made the cakes and they were as tasty as they looked. Ro was very pleased.

And so ad infinitum

Today is the anniversary of our move to this house 23 years ago. I think that also makes it the 23rd anniversary of Prince Andrew’s and Fergie’s wedding, I seem to remember it being on television while I was doing last-minute packing.

I remember the date because it was the day before Ro’s 2nd birthday. We had exchanged contracts and completion day was 1st August, but we offered to let our buyers have the keys a week early so that they could move at their leisure. We’d had a lot of work done here and we’d told the workmen ages ago when their deadline was, but they didn’t believe us. They thought we’d give them an extra day at least. However, I was adamant that we would not move on Ro’s birthday and that we would give Barry and Rachel the week we’d promised. They rigged up an emergency electrical supply from the bungalow next door (then empty; it’s where Al and family now live), we had the Aga and, since our new bed, El’s and Ro’s were being delivered the next day, we slept on our old one (to be Al’s), Ro slept in his cot and the other children slept on the floor. Roy the painter came in for the next few weeks to finish decorating and all the bits and pieces were completed around us.

We’ll probably be here forever – the Sage was born here and would certainly like to live out his days here, but that’s not the reason for the title of this post. Fleas are the reason.

I mentioned a while ago that all the rabbits that have been making merry all over the garden and field had given Tilly fleas for about the first time in her life – they don’t like her thin coat – and a few weeks ago we gave her a good spray with a product that is supposed to kill all the fleas over a few days and then protect from reinfestation for 6 weeks. What was interesting was that the larger fleas all died or left her first (I’ve been doing a search and destroy job every time she leaves her blanket) and that they’ve been getting smaller and smaller. The tiniest fleas are the hardest to crush and kill, so presumably they’re the toughest. I’ve just sprayed her again in the hope of getting rid of the last few.

While I’m on the itchy subject, the easiest way to be sure of killing any fleas you pick up, since they can be hard to crush, is to put a blob of hand cream on a tissue. As you catch each little beastie, wipe it into the blob, making sure it’s covered so can’t jump. At the end, fold it up around the fleas and that’s got ’em.

When we’d first sprayed her and lots of sick-looking beasts were leaving her, I couldn’t get to sleep that night. Every time I shut my eyes I could see fleas. And I don’t like killing things, even pests. It’s not been at all pleasant.