Monthly Archives: October 2009

W’d think would be twice the work of single

Not in the case of beehives. Al hasn’t updated his site since June, so I’ll tell you how they’re getting on.

His single hive came safely through the winter, something he was very anxious about. The temptation to keep checking them is one to be resisted, as letting in cold air can chill the bees fatally. In the spring, he prepared a new hive, ready to split the colony by taking the queen and some workers away, leaving queen cells behind. However, on the day he went to do it, he found he was too late and she’d already left with her own swarm. He can only do this sort of job on a Sunday as he works every other day, and if the weather isn’t right one week, he has to wait. We looked for the swarm but couldn’t find it. He was cross with himself – he said that if only he’d left the new hive there ready, she probably would have crawled right in there.

Anyway, he decided to split the hive anyway, and took half the frames, including some queen cells, to the new hive. It was a bit risky as neither, weakened, colony might survive. But they did and they’ve flourished.

It turns out to have been the best thing that could have happened. Last year, checking the hive each week was quite a trial as the bees were not at all sweet-tempered, and no work could be safely done in the vicinity of the hive unless you were all tricked out in a bee suit. A bee-keeper’s suit, that is, not a stripy yellow and black number. But these two queens are lovely, calm and good-natured. In fact, they are a pair of little honeys. And the nature of the queen sets the mood of the hive. So looking after them has been a pleasure. I gather that, if you find yourself with a bad-tempered queen, it’s best to cut your losses and get rid of her, but as it was his first experience of beekeeping he didn’t know how moody she was, and besides I don’t think he could have borne to. It would be different for professional beekeepers with dozens of hives, I daresay.

Not that he’s taken any honey this year. He’s using the excuse that they need a year to build up, being starter hives again, and I’m sure he’s right, but he was glad of a reason not to tackle the job. He isn’t looking forward to that part of the whole enterprise. Funnily enough, he isn’t keeping bees for the sake of the honey. He just likes bees.

Zerlina also likes bees, if her reaction to her new rucksack is anything to go by. She adores it – although she can’t see it while she’s wearing it, of course – and is terribly proud of herself, not wanting to take it off when they arrive home. When the Sage and I called round the other day she stood there expectantly for (duly delivered) admiration. It has a little waterproof hood with antennae, which looks sweet but is rather large, and she sweeps it off as soon as you’ve had a chance to exclaim over it.

V for Regina

by all means, but her youngest son seems to have inherited his father’s sense of tact. Odd thing to say, don’t you think?

I started to sort out the heaving pile of papers reposing by my chair. I filled the waste-paper basket twice and put all the school-related stuff in box files which I loaded into a big plastic box, but then I rather lost interest and shoved everything else in one more pile. There was one folder of stuff that I didn’t find at all, so I’ll have to turn my attention to what’s on the other side of the chair, which I’d rather hoped to avoid touching for a bit. Still, at least Pugsley will be able to get to the bookcase now. I used to keep stuff properly filed, but it got away from me ages ago and I’m not sure that I’ll ever catch up.

Otherwise, I made chicken stock and then soup. I asked the Sage if he’d like the rest of the casserole from last night or the soup for dinner. “Yes please,” he said happily. “What, both?” “I’m hungry.” He was also cheery because his picture was in the paper today (the article, without picture). I’d not like to have my picture in the paper at all, being stupendously unphotogenic (the picture on the sidebar is rarely flattering), but he doesn’t seem to mind. He doesn’t look hideous in nearly all photos however, which might have something to do with it.

Did I mention that Weeza and Phil are getting a conservatory? The construction of it is starting on Monday. In an unusual move, it will double as a spare bedroom, so only complete exhibitionists will be invited to stay.

U for tide be stuck by now, didn’t you?

Wait a couple of days, then you will see me flounder (all fish-based comments cheerily welcomed).

We were sorry to receive a message from Dave that he is ill – these final few days of bricklaying are proving problematical, but it’ll get done. I couldn’t have joined in anyway this morning, as I was looking after the children because Dilly was working, doing a Maths Challenge at the local library. I don’t know what parents send their children to this sort of thing in the holidays, or what sort of children enjoy doing it – I was quite reasonably studious as a child but holidays were sacrosanct and I’d not have appreciated being dumped on a maths teacher at half term. Anyway, just as well for Dilly’s pocket that other people don’t agree with me, as she’s been quite busy with tuition.

This afternoon, we went to Norwich, to the Castle Museum. We met Weeza and Zerlina and all had a splendid time. We saw the Man With Dirty Feet (check out the Iceni), the Disembodied Hand (cut off in a duel in 1600) and the Lowestoft Cat. I regretted, again, that they’ve got most of their Lowestoft collection put away, apparently in the name of making the remaining collection more “accessible” – that is, less museum-like. Nowadays, most museums have lovely displays, but not much in them and most of it aimed at children. Seeing my family’s enjoyment, though they are quite small, I try not to be curmudgeonly about it. Certainly, it’s an enjoyable place to visit and the staff are lovely.

A bit of a cock-up on the opera front – our friend Daphne rang, months ago, to say that a friend of hers is playing the lead in Falstaff in November at the theatre in Norwich and would we like to go, if she came up from Kent. The Sage doesn’t care for opera, but I said I’d go, and Daphne has another friend in Bury St Edmunds who also wanted to go – later it transpired that another friend of the latter’s wanted to go too. So I booked all tickets and Daphne paid me for the three. However, later it turned out that this weekend would be the start of my visit to Portugal, so I had to cry off. Then the friend of a friend did, and the friend is not at all well, and may not be able to come. Poor Daphne had the prospect of a three-plus hour drive to go to the opera on her own. However, good news. I asked Dilly and Weeza if they were interested – “I love the opera! Yes please!” said Weeza. “I’ve never been to the opera, I’d love to!” said Dilly. All sorted. A bit more liaising to do, and we don’t know if friend Sarah will be well enough yet, but the evening is saved. I’d love to go myself, but I’ll be staying near Bournemouth airport (it was news to me that Bournemouth had an airport) en route to Iberia.

T for a bit of a nuisance sometimes

This year, the Sage has had several long, uncomfortable and expensive visits to the dentist. He hasn’t needed anything much doing for ages before this, but they all seem to be giving trouble at the same time. Think of him at 4 o’clock, preferably when you’re not eating a toffee.

Before that, to cheer him up a bit, I’m taking him to look at laptops. Not with an idea to buy one, just so he can decide what size screen he wants. He looked at Dilly’s a bit anxiously last week and said he didn’t think it would be big enough. I assured him he can have one as big as he likes. After that, he’s made an appointment with the curator at the museum in Norwich to look at their Lowestoft cat and compare it with the one from the sale before it’s delivered to its new owner.

I see that there’s an exhibition of 19th century photography at the British Library. I absolutely love early photography. Not the stilted studio photographs, not that I’ve anything against them as such, but the sense of time and place in them. I must get to it – it’s on until early March so there’s plenty of time, but I’ll try to set a date before Christmas because I know what it’s always like – I’ll put it off until the last minute otherwise and then not get around to it. Actually, I had to look up where it is as I’ve never been to the British Library. It’s free too – do go, darlings, if you can. It’ll be marvellous.

Anyway, with a rare example of efficiency and earliness, I’m off to the Post Office to tax my car for the next year. With two new rear tyres, it passed its MOT and so I might as well get the job done while I think of it. I’m not doing it online – I did that last year and they apparently sent the new tax disc but it never arrived, nor did its replacement. After three weeks, they finally sent it special delivery. Since I’d sold the car by then and just wanted it back to get a refund, it was a pain in the neck. I’m not playing that sort of game again. In any case, the nice couple at the post office are despondent enough at the thought of the reduced business because of the strike, so I’d rather give them my custom.

S a bit of a farmyard aroma around here today

Pig muck is being spread in the vicinity somewhere. It’s a mild, damp day with little breeze and the pong hangs heavily in the air. I don’t mind, it’s a natural smell and there with a good purpose – one can’t agree with farmers using manure instead of artificial fertilisers and then complain about the smell. Well, people do, usually the sort who move to the country for the peace and quiet and then discover it’s just as noisy, only different. But we’re easy-going round here and take things as we find them, usually.

This village doesn’t have much outward community spirit, in fact. There’s an annual Village Fête, the Bowls Club, a football team and the village pub, but the town is only a mile away and hardly anyone both lives and works here and they tend to go to Yagnub or Norwich for entertainment. The church isn’t exactly the hub of the community, although the school receives strong support. A few years ago there was a bit of a problem there and we discovered just how much the village thinks of their school. Otherwise, there’s never much going on here. However, it’s all friendly and pleasant, and somehow people do seem to know what’s going on and be ready to help out. They just won’t bother you. Or complain about every small problem.

Quite gratified that the first of the ordered items – well, several, three parcels-worth – has turned up already. Two of the other three orders have been sent so I expect they’ll arrive tomorrow. It’s retail joy around here and I can feel the wrinkles soften already, even though the face stuff is what hasn’t been sent yet. I expect it will have been by close of play today though. They’re very reliable. As it is, I’ve got a lovely lot of stationery to unpack, including several reams of paper. It seems absurd that it can be cheaper to have paper delivered than go to buy it myself, but there we go. And it saves me having to carry it, and my petrol.

R for night’s sleep

Hardly that, in fact. I woke up after a couple of hours and couldn’t sleep again. I was awake for more than four hours, much of which I spent blogging. Today, I’ve mostly been quiet. Though I did take time to delete some rambling pages of typing which, fortunately, I’d only saved and not inflicted on you.

The good thing about being tired is that one sits and catches up with paperwork. I’ve brought our mailing list up to date, emailed Australia (not the whole of Australia, just one person, but it was business and therefore needed a disciplined mind to get on with) with the price of sending out china and ordered a whole lot of dull stationery supplies, as well as – well, actually, it’s coincidental in view of yesterday’s post – various creams and lotions to stave off the effects of old age and bricklaying for a few more weeks. I looked at travel insurance (I’m going away for a week next month) but since I will have to admit to my dodgy physical condition, it seems that I can’t just fill in an online form but have to phone. I’ve also booked my car in for its MOT tomorrow and, even better, arranged for a friend to fetch it and deal with it for me. He’s the splendid chap who found it for me in the first place, so he owes me numerous favours. Forever.*

After all this, I needed to do a bit of comfort shopping, so the debit card has taken a bit of a knock. Debit card, you notice, so that I don’t need to receive a bill in the post, in case there isn’t any.

The Sage has been trying to get to grips with telephone banking. He has his business account with a bank that doesn’t have a branch in this town and it isn’t always convenient to get over to Lowestoft. He was sent two cards, a four digit number and a PIN. He carefully memorised them and followed the instructions to key in his 16 digit account number and then the 4 digit number. Then he was asked for another 16 digit number. While he was hesitating, someone came on the line and sorted out what he wanted anyway. Then he was sent another 4 digit number in the post. So today, he tried again. Exactly the same thing happened. He isn’t at all sure what this second number is., but maybe it’s the other card. He’d only wanted to ask for a new chequebook, it hardly seems worth all the security.

Tomorrow, if things go as planned, we’re bricklaying again.

*no air conditioning, specified as a requirement, no CD player, a stupid foot-operated hand brake that’s nearly caused me to run backwards on many a hill and caused anxiety every time I park. I generally leave it in gear as I don’t trust the beastly thing. Oh, and I don’t think I ever told you about the time the radiator blew up. If it were not for a complete lack of interest in cars, I’d have got a different one months ago. But it works, apart from when the radiator is going ‘whumf’ and issuing a puff of steam, so I don’t quite care enough. Also, it was surprisingly affordable which, at the time, was a factor as I hadn’t scheduled replacing my car in my calculations just then.

Q Wing down the Drive

We all arrived home in three cars at the same time last night, although Al had left earlier than the rest of us to phone in his orders from the shop for the next day. The drive went from dark tranquillity to a blaze of headlights. I took the bag of money and cheques and it was put away safely and I put the kettle on for tea, but I never got around to making it. I opened a bottle of Rioja first and we lounged around talking instead.

Ro’s hair has grown long and Weeza was asking him about his beauty routine. He hasn’t really got one, he said. She advised him on haircare and recommended a hairdryer with a diffuser. Then she wanted to know about his face. “You do moisturise?” she asked sternly. “No” said Ro, looking alarmed. Weeza tutted. “You are reaching the age when you can’t neglect your face. What do you use to wash with?” She was unsatisfied with the answer. “Wet or dry shave?” Wet, and at least he has a shaving cream of choice – he couldn’t remember the name but it’s Italian. “What kind of scent do you like”, she enquired.

We were all in fits of laughter as a bemused Ro answered politely. Eventually, Weeza went to bed and so did the Sage. “How does Phil cope?” demanded Ro. “If this is what marriage is like, I think I’ll stay single. I’d forgotten that living with Weeza was like this” We decided that Phil lets it all wash over him and takes no notice.

The next morning … “Do you exfoliate?”

Wink was taking Ro back to Norwich as she was visiting someone for lunch. As I was kissing him goodbye “Check out his complexion,” she advised. As if I’d do such a thing – anyway, there’s nothing wrong with his complexion. After they’d left, Weeza chuckled. “It’s a lot of fun, winding up Ro,” she said. “He takes it so seriously.”

Nevertheless, I suspect he will receive a full set of skincare products for C*******s.

P for Peregrine! Huzzah!!

Welcome to Sarah’s son, who has no idea he is being immortalised in Blogland, but in future years will be terribly gratified by this.

If this post wasn’t named for him, it would be P for bearing, please darlings, as I rarely miss a day but was both tired and sociable last night, and it’s rare that so many of my family are gathered together at one time. It was lovely.

Weeza and Zerlina came over from Norwich, Ro also came from Norwich by train after work, Phil drove up from Ipswich after work, Dilly and Al drove over because D’s sister Philly looked after the children and Wink took the day off and drove 230 miles from Ziggiland. Splendidly effortful (thank you all, darlings, your father etc and I do really appreciate it) and it made our 25th anniversary sale all the more memorable.

All went excellently, thanks, and the little cat was sold for over £9,000, which is damn good. Actually, the Sage had been left a bit for quite a bit more but, like on eBay, you only pay one bid over your rival’s highest bid, so the top bidder saved nearly £1000 on what he was willing to pay. Overall, it went very well and we came home happy.

Very funny conversations between Ro and his sister, which I’ll describe tomorrow if I can somehow link them with the letter Q. Weeza stayed over last night, Phil and Zerlina having gone home earlier, and she said it was the best night’s sleep she’d had for 15 months. Tonight, little z is staying with Dilly et al, so Weeza and Phil are alone and carefree (good for a night, lonely after two). Tomorrow, it’s Phil’s turn – apparently, he’ll remain in his pants (underpants, that is) and play on the XBox or whatever the current console is, all day while all the rest of the family have lunch here.

I’m hoping to speak to HDWK on the phone as she passes through England en route to India.

Wink has led me a bit astray this evening, and I’m a bit tiddly. But the good news is, Weeza has almost talked me into buying myself an iPhone. All I need to do is to venture into the new Mac shop in Norwich and I know the debit card will be waved. I just know it.

Might not go for a while though. Deferred gratification is all the sweeter, isn’t it?

Wait for it … wait for it … mm, yes……………………….

O for the garden wall

Have I mentioned this? – I know I’ve said it to Dave – I’ve suggested to the Sage that the chickens might like to spend the winter in the kitchen garden. I think they’d love it. Of course, the bits that aren’t walled will have to have netting put up, and I’ve got some vegetables that’ll have to be protected, but they can sleep in the biggest greenhouse and we can go and chat to them and feed them little treats. Chris the snail will have to make sure he stays well up on the wall though, or he might meet an untimely end.

There will be some tidying up done in there by the spring – the good thing is, of course, that if we do some digging it’ll make the bantams very happy as they will have lovely insects and worms to eat. Some years ago, we (rather too quickly) dug new beds for fruit, put in bushes and paths and a fruit cage. After a couple of years, it became apparent that we hadn’t cleared the area well enough, we hadn’t allowed enough room for the bushes to grow and it was getting too much for us. For the last couple of years we’ve almost abandoned it. Now, we think the only thing to do is to prune the currants severely and move them, giving more room to the raspberries and gooseberries. While we’re about it, we’ve having the asparagus bed dug up.

It’s not that I want to stop growing asparagus, of course. But the plants have been in over 20 years and they are on their way out. I did put in some more crowns about five years ago but it was a dry season and although I watered them, they have never come to much. I’m going to have to decide whether to move them and give them another chance or dig them up too and start again completely. In any case, they aren’t enough. Again, some perennial weeds have become established in the bed and I think the only thing to do is clear the bed and carpet it for a season to clear it, then manure it heavily, plant potatoes for a season and so get it thoroughly fertilised and dug.

For the rest of the garden, I’ve still got to keep it easy. Next summer we’ll still be bricklaying and I’ll probably be contemplating an operation (unless things don’t go well, in which case I’ll be recovering from one) – either way, I don’t want a lot of gardening. So it’ll be squashes, tomatoes, beans, that sort of thing again – stuff that will cover the ground, be easy to pick and quite undemanding. I will grow lots of plants from seed because I enjoy that, but mostly for Al to sell.

What I can do, though, is think about planting the bed next to the wall…the section of the wall that will have been completed, that is. Not the side that the bricks are stacked, which will be a flower bed, but the narrower bed the other side. It will face East, mind you, but be sheltered from the North and get light from both East and South. The final piece of wall will face South. The bed is only about 3 foot 6 inches wide and, of course, it will have the problem of dryness that you’d expect, but it will be quite warm and sheltered there. Some cordon or espalier fruit trees might be possible – we’ve got room elsewhere for good-sized apple trees (most of our apple trees are elderly and we’ve got plans to plant more) – I’m tempted by the thought of peaches and apricots but maybe pears would be safer on that side – any ideas? Also, I want to put in some flowers, particularly ones that will attract bees. This will be a secluded spot once the wall is finished and I think I might hide myself away there quite often.