Monthly Archives: September 2009

Z writes a letter and has nothing for lunch

Half past one. The Sage arrives home. “Have you had any lunch?” I asked. “Not yet,” he replied – what a world of expectancy in those two words. Pity. “Um. There’s no cheese left.” “I’ll go out and get some cheese.” “Or there’s eggs, but there isn’t any bread.” “I’ll get a loaf. And post your parcel.” I wondered whether to mention that I have nothing planned for dinner. I decided that’s a disappointment too far, as yet. Anyway, there’s always food, if one uses a bit of imagination. It’s just a question of how well you can bluff.

The children are coming through soon for a couple of hours, or else I’d go and do some shopping myself. Apparently, they’re looking forward to bouncing on our bed. They’re not allowed to do that at home. I think it’s one of the things that Grannies should allow – after all, when you don’t have to deal with the consequences, there’s a lot of fun to be had from being over-indulgent with children.

I’ve just written a long letter, a rarity nowadays. It is an actual letter, not an email, but it doesn’t really count as a proper personal thing because I typed it. I know. This is not a good thing at all. However, I hand-write so little nowadays that much more than a signature is beyond my powers of legibility. Besides, as we only write to each other occasionally, I only know what I’ve said if I keep a record – otherwise I’ll say the same thing several times and leave something vital out altogether. Conveniently, our birthdays are a fortnight apart and so my thank-you letter can go in with my present to her. This year, I’ve given her a hip flask. I have no idea whether this is a good present or a peculiar one, for one middle-aged woman to give another, but I’d not mind being given one myself, so I hope it’s the former. She and I were at school together and still are friends, although we don’t see each other for years on end.

Bringing on the wall, Day 28 – Dave keeps his feet on the ground, but the Swiss rolls

Dave put in the last ornamental brick on the side of the wall we hope to finish this autumn, and I continued round the corner, building up towards the pillar. I can’t go higher than 9 courses until I know where the first ornamental brick will go on that side, so I’ll do another section next time.

This is my bit
And here is Dave’s
Sorry the pictures only show the small sections we were working on. Next time, Dave will go back to building the pillar and I’ll fill in between the bit he was doing today and the pillar at the end of the wall. After that, there are a couple of final courses to do along most of the wall, and then we can finish with the capping. We need to do that before the frosty weather, as if we leave it over the winter it’ll have to all be protected from winter frosts and rain getting into and damaging the unprotected brickwork.

Feeling quite cheery and cookery-minded this morning, I decided to make a cake. Of course, Dave watches his waistline (well, as do all the girls too, trim and fit as he is) so I made a fat-free sponge cake; a swiss roll to be filled with homemade strawberry jam. I’d just put the sugar in a bowl and cracked into it several eggs when Weeza arrived. We hadn’t known she was coming this morning, so it was a lovely surprise. I’d just made myself a pot of coffee so poured her a cup and then went back to my cake.

After we’d finished bricklaying, I made tea in my best teapot and took it out to the lawn with the cake, which Dave judged to be quite edible. Certainly, the bantams were quite happy with their slice and wiped their beaks neatly afterwards on the grass.

This evening, I babysat next door while Al and Dilly were at the bee society. The phone rang. It was the heating engineer who’s been installing the new boiler at the downstairs London flat. He and the tenant have fallen out somewhat and he wanted to get his point of view over to me. When I came home, I had an email from my tenant. I feel a bit helpless and could only say soothing things all round, but it has driven me to chocolate. Two squares. Yes, you heard me – two entire squares.

When I go to have a bath, I shall light a soothing scented candle.

I’ve got a horrid feeling that I or the Sage will have to go and see to it ourselves.


Something that Dave said about the chap whose poem he has on his blog today reminded me of this.

When I was in my teens, among the people I knew was a family of several brothers – we used to all meet up at dances and suchlike. They were all at public school so I only saw them in the holidays. There was one younger than I, one about the same age and the rest were older – as time went by and one tended to pair up rather than get together in a gang, I saw them less.

One of the oldest boys had a serious illness in his teens and had to have brain surgery, and ended up with a metal plate in his skull, but he fortunately made a good recovery. Afterwards he dropped out somewhat, (in the sense that he became a drop-out as we tended to do back in the 60s. Some of us), and the next thing was that he vanished and we heard eventually that he’d run away and joined the Foreign Legion. A few weeks of the discipline there and he realised that maybe it wasn’t the best move he’d ever made. However, he’d signed up and he wasn’t allowed to resign, that had been made clear.

So he started to suffer from dreadful headaches. He put on a very good show and the doctor saw him, and the headaches got worse. Eventually, they were concerned enough to order an x-ray, and there was a piece of metal in his skull. He professed complete ignorance of it – he must have been good and they must have been pretty gullible – in the end they couldn’t bundle him out fast enough.

Anyway. After church, a friend asked me out for lunch. I said that the Sage had been away and if he had arrived home in time for lunch I’d better be there. So we left it that if he wasn’t home, I’d go and join the friend. I went back, the Sage wasn’t there, I hung around until after 1 o’clock, then left a note and went. I cooked him dinner tonight though and he was not unhappy. Or maybe he hides it well… Anyway, he bought himself a present while he was away, so he’s feeling cheerful about that.

Most peculiar – I’d put together a playlist on iTunes not long ago which I hadn’t got around to labelling and, when I downloaded Mike’s plinth mix, I found that everything had changed order on that untitled playlist. And now I can’t alter it – that is, I can list it in alphabetical order by name, artist, album etc, but not in the random but carefully chosen order I’d put it in. I suppose I’ll work it out sooner or later. Even if I have to do a new playlist and delete this one.

Z speaks to Al

I need money. Cash, that is, right now, and more than I can get out of the cash machine on one day. I phoned Al and asked if he could let me have £700 if he hadn’t banked yesterday’s takings yet. “What, now?” he asked. “Well, this morning.” “Um, okay, I can do that.” I explained, briefly, “just so you don’t think I’m being blackmailed or something.” “Ve haff your husband and the ransom is £700?” “Hm, indeed, be a bit of an insult really, wouldn’t it?”

Z has a social life of her own

Yes, much to my surprise. A friend rang up this evening to invite us round for dinner tomorrow night. I said that the Sage is away. Seems they’d like my company anyway. They live less than a mile away, so I’ll bike there, just in case I’d like more than one glass of wine.

I spent the morning at the school in a music lesson, lunchtime (not that we got around to eating any) chatting to the chairman of governors about matters of considerable interest and the afternoon engaging Year 11 students in conversational French. A very engaging bunch and afterwards, to them and the teacher, I thanked and praised them. Not that easy for 15-year-olds to hold a conversation in another language with a stranger, out of the blue with the rest of them listening. Mind you, I never talk French myself. I was braver than they knew. Not as brave as I was to practise German with a previous class last spring, when I actually speak no German at all and don’t necessarily know how to pronounce what I read. I bluff horribly.

Anyway, last night I woke early, as I do almost every morning at present and tried not to wriggle around too restlessly, but after a while the Sage woke up anyway. He took me in his arms for a cuddle, which was delightfully comforting. I still got up silly early, as I only dozed for a few minutes more. So I think I’ll have an early night now.

The Sage has left home

Yes, he’s packed his bag and gone. It was his decision but I’ve agreed with it. Not that I won’t miss him of course, but sometimes you just have to state your case, make your mind up and leave.

Tilly and I are having a little cuddle right now.

Dancing along with the Untroubled Diva

Oh dear Lord, do tell me that you have this site bookmarked.

And congratulations to Fabulous Diva Mike for his dancing on the plinth. I had to explain to the Sage, when he arrived home at ten to seven, that I couldn’t possibly start preparing dinner until after the hour was up. He took it very well – as soon as I mentioned the words “someone whose blog I read” he knew there was nothing to say, but that I had my priorities right.

Z accepts the situation

So, is it good news or bad to know that I haven’t just been making a fuss, and that my own evaluation, that I don’t feel I can wait until I’m over 60 for a new hip, is probably correct?

After a long consultation with the consultant – yeah, does what he says – although I can’t do a balanced evaluation without hearing the other side, I’m accepting his advice of caution and not going to pursue the option of hip resurfacing. I’m not going to tell you all we said, because he was quite open with me (which goes down so well with me, I like to be treated straightforwardly even if I don’t like what I’m hearing) and it would be no more right of me to say what he said than for him to talk about me. So, sadly, that’s a closed book for me. I am a closet risk-taker by nature, but not against clearly explained advice from an expert in his field.

I wonder what my doctor said in his covering letter actually. Not that I’d ask to see it, I also trust my doctor.

Anyway, the x-ray shows considerable wear in my hip. The consultant said that I walk well and have good balance and movement considering how bad it is. If I asked for a replacement right away, he’d agree to do it. As to when I do ask, that will be my own decision. I said that many people have told me that they know when the time has come, and although it is considerably hampering me from doing what I would like to do, I know I don’t want it yet. He agreed.

So in short, I got on fine with him, I liked him in a professional sense – that is, he instilled respect and confidence and was straight with me – and when I need an operation I’ll be happy for him to do it. When asked, and I am aware that it isn’t a fair question, he said he thinks I won’t be back within a year but that I will be before I’m 60. It’s something of a relief to know that I won’t have to argue my case when the time comes and that it is as bad as it feels. I’m sure you can appreciate how depressing it is to be relieved to know it’s as bad as I think.

I also asked him if he could see any reason for the arthritis – he said that the socket of the hip bone is slightly shallower than that of my left hip and so perhaps there has been more movement in that hip since birth. That’s fair enough and reassuring – there’s no sign of arthritis in my left hip and no particular reason for me to expect it – or not – that is, it may come with age but not yet.

Anyway, now I know, I’m sort of relaxed. It’s already bad so doing whatever I’m capable of won’t make it appreciably worse. I’m okay with pain and don’t think it matters in this regard – please, if you suffer from something agonising don’t think I’m making light of it – my point is that I’m well within my own pain threshold and it’s more a nuisance than anything else. I’m fine with toughing it out until it would be silly to do so any longer and then I’ll ask for a new hip. Isn’t it lucky to have something so curable? And not to have to be braver than I want to be?

And not to have the prospect of paying £12,000+ for elective surgery in January.

Yup, on balance I’m okay with this and I’m glad I went and, because now I know where I am, it’s worth the money I’ve spent today. Whatever that turns out to be, Astonishingly, when I offered to pay at once, they airily said they’d send the bill.


Briefly the reasons that this painting caused so much scandal to the reputations of both the artist and the sitter were the dress – evening dresses at the time were pretty low-cut, but this was more so than most, as it was cut to look as if she wasn’t wearing corsets. Indeed, she wasn’t, but the dress itself was heavily boned. Then there was her complexion. She valued her pale, almost luminescent skin and actually dusted her face and decolletage with rice flour, which gave her an almost lavender paleness. She also rouged the tips of her ears as a contrast! But ‘painting’ was not what respectable women did, not visibly so at any rate. Another thing that was daring was the lack of jewellery on show, for a rich Society lady. She wore none but her wedding ring and a gold ornament in her hair, which has recently been observed to be Diana’s (the Huntress) crescent.

It was a bold and provocative pose, and this would not have been so remarkable in an artist’s model – Manet’s considerably more explicit Olympia had been painted 20 years before – but this was a respectable married lady. But the clincher was something that, later, Sargent painted out of the picture. Her right shoulder strap was originally painted off her shoulder. Again, acceptable in a courtesan or model’s painting, but incredibly provocative, especially bearing in mind the sophisticated dress and haughty pose. Her reputation never recovered, both she and Sargent were horrified by the (to them) unexpected furore and he moved to England where, funnily enough, he was more kindly received and never put the painting on show again until after the lady died, when he sold it to an American museum (another version is in this country) with the proviso that, since she had been so upset and from respect, it should not bear her name but be labelled Madame X.

Fruity & mellow

One of the compensations for the end of summer is the early autumn fruits. Al has had a lot of fresh figs brought in, and someone has had a fabulous crop of peaches this year – huge and juicy and really delicious. A few weeks ago, the Kent cob nuts were ripe and Al still has the last of those for sale, but today I ignored them, because he had something even better – fresh “wet” walnuts. I’ve come home with a big bagful. I’ve also come home with a punnet of autumn raspberries – I do have some autumn raspberry canes in the garden but they’re a bit overwhelmed by nettles and I’m leaving them to the birds. Yes, think of me what you will, but I can’t do much gardening at present.

This morning was the inaugural lecture of a new branch of this society – I’ve just come off the committee of one of its branches in Norwich. It was held in the local theatre and there was a very good turn-out, they had to bring in an extra row of chairs. It was an excellent lecture too – she’d come in at short notice as the original lecturer booked became ill and they had to scout around. It was about this picture, the subject and artist and why it caused such a scandal on being exhibited for the first time in Paris.

Oh, by the way, how do you pronounce ‘eccentric’? “Essentric” or “excentric”?

Anyway, if enough people want to join it’ll start up in January. I’ve come home and asked the Sage if he would join too and (once I mentioned a friend of his who was there whose wife is on the committee) he agreed. So that will be something we do together, which will be something of a novelty. Well, something that we go out and do together, that is.