Monthly Archives: October 2009

N tertained by Damian

Today I was in London at the Wallace Collection, where I was able to see Martin’s favourite painting and many other fine pieces of art. I’m not sure that the current exhibition quite qualifies as that- I thought it does work as a coherent exhibition and I’m glad to have seen it, but frankly some of the actual art was pretty poor. If you go to the link and the sideshow, I liked nos. 2,3,4 and 5 best and thought that the single skull and the glass jug with roses were reasonably well executed – the butterflies seemed to be but he’d just stencilled them on – a typical short-cut which one has to simply accept as what he does – after all, most of his conceptual art wasn’t actually executed by him at all.

Anyway, the place will always be dear to me because it was where I first met Martin and Wendy. I say “first”, although there hasn’t yet been a second meeting – but of course there will be. Friends don’t have to meet regularly, although it’s lovely when they do. I was on an organised visit today (had to leave home at 6.15 – it was still dark, darlings! – to catch the coach from Norwich) so couldn’t offer to meet anyone.

It was mostly dry in London, but raining when I left home today and still raining when I got back. Good job we did this week’s building already. I phoned the Sage to tell him what time to expect me home and when I arrived he’d cooked dinner, opened a bottle of good Beaujolais and, having swept the chimney during the day (no spilt soot, the place is as clean as I left it), lit a lovely fire. Since, he’s made me a dear little pot of coffee.

Do you find, by the way, that the better the wine, the more satisfying it is, so that one wants to drink less of it? Two small glasses, and I was not at all tempted by the offer of a third.

Bringing on the wall, Day 35 – Z is banned from the garden

I arrived home from a most interesting lecture on the Parthenon and its marbles – the best preserved of which, of course, are residing in the British Museum and over whose eventual fate I am not partisan (and the lecturer did not express an opinion either). Dave and the Sage were already starting work. “It’s too chilly and windy for you,” opined the Sage. “I don’t mind,” I said. “I do,” he retorted. Dave agreed with him. So that’s that. I’ve come indoors for lunch (egg and chips) and to make scones (in the oven now) and i’ll add the photos when they’ve done. They’re just adding the cappings to the first section right now, which is quite exciting as it will be the first fully completed bit.

I’m feeling better today thank you, largely because of all the sleep I’ve had. I’ve been waking many times most nights of late – not in great pain but not being able to find a position that’s comfortable for long. So I’ve bought some long-lasting (12 hour) painkillers – just ibuprofen, which seems to work best, but in a slow-release form. I’m disinclined to take anything at all, but I have found in the past that there seems to be a sort of cumulative effect – that is, if I have occasion to take pills for several days, even if only once a day, then it’s much easier as the week goes by. So maybe I could take a 4-hour dose in the morning and a 12-hour dose in the evening and that would keep me going without me having a dismal feeling of being poisoned. Anyway, I do accept that Dave and the Sage are right that I’m probably best indoors at present – I don’t feel ill but I’ve still got a real graveyard cough. I had a pocketful of unwrapped lozenges this morning, so that I wouldn’t be taken unawares during the lecture.

Oh – I’ve been approached to join another committee next spring. It would be as secretary, and would be occasional bursts of a lot of work. I’m considering it. I don’t feel obliged, but I might be interested. However, I do remember that, three years ago, it was said that there was someone else interested in future, so I’ll remind the chairman of that first.

Photos to follow. I’ll take the scones out of the oven and then (wrapped up warm) I’ll take the camera out to get some pictures of Men At Work.

Here are the current ones – you’ve got live-action blogging here, darlings (now 3.08pm, BST)

Just put one of the church in because it looks rather pleasant with the autumnal trees around. And you see that the wall has a resident snail, even before it’s finished. Evidently, there is a housing shortage around here.

There are a few videos to come, but they take ages to upload so I’ll publish this in the meantime.

Here’s the first –
and the second –
and the last one.

Dave is wearing a snug hat to keep his ears warm. The Sage phoned him to say it was chilly up on the scaffolding and to bring a hat.

A few more photos to come.
There was enough mortar to put on one of the hats but not the others, so the Sage laid a few bricks himself.

The finished part of the wall

And the builder

It had been intended that a piece of tile should just out either side of the capping, but then the men realised that water would run into the mortar, as some of the tiles curved down (this isn’t a matter of ‘should have put them in the other way up’, they curved all over the place) so decided to run the mortar down the line of the slope and bring it to the edge instead.
After all was done, the Sage said “goodbye” to Dave. “Don’t I get a cup of tea?” asked Dave, disappointedly. “I was promised a scone.”

Bringing on the wall, Day 34 – The chill of Autumn

Dave and I agreed that it’s not quite so much fun, now that the weather’s getting chillier. We’ve still been really lucky – if the dry weather holds to the end of the month we hope to be ready to call a halt until next spring. Late spring, when it’s warm again.

Dave and the Sage decided that all the tiles would be laid and then putting on the triangular caps will be the last job of all. I’m still plugging away at the pillar, which I find very tricky – making sure all the bricks are exactly level and not overhanging one side or the other, and finishing off the mortar is awkward too, as it drops off as you try to smooth it round the corner. Still, I think I’m starting to get the knack a bit better.

So, here’s today’s Record of Achievement *ahem* –

This is the section that Dave did

This is what I was working on, from each side. Yes, the kitchen garden is looking very untidy and end-of-yearish. The nearest bed had squashes in, they’ve been harvested but haven’t been cleared yet. You can see that some of the Jerusalem artichokes are quite droopy with the dry weather, but some of them are in flower, which is the sign of a long autumn. Where they’re planted used to be the end of the kitchen garden, so you can see by how much it’s been enlarged.

The Sage and Dave putting the finishing touch to an end pillar.

In other news, as they say, I seem to be getting a chest infection. I’ve been really tired all day – I’ve had two long sleeps on the sofa and I’ve got a painful cough from deep in my lungs. It’s come on quite suddenly, I was fine yesterday and haven’t had any sign of a cold. I went to get my hair cut today and drove in, not wanting to breath in all the cold air first thing in the morning on my bike. I don’t think I’m getting flu because I don’t have a temperature and I haven’t stopped eating. Or drinking. Mind you, a bit of a disaster when I discovered that I’d used (well, I should have known but I’d forgotten) that I’d used all the white wine in the risotto last night. I thought I’d got a bottle of vodka in the freezer but it was gin and I hadn’t anything I could drink with gin. Fortunately, I knew there was a can of beer in the dining room. The Sage offered to get it, as I was cooking dinner at the time. He came back clutching a can .. of Dave’s Pepsi Max. Really, how unworldly can a chap be? – can’t tell the difference between Carlsberg and Pepsi. Not that either of them are exactly epicurean drinks and I doubt my husband has ever drunk either of them, but all the same.

M barrassed Z. Fortunately, no one knows about it

“I haven’t time to go in for the papers, could you get them please, on the way to give Pinkie and Scarlet their breakfast?” The Sage said he would, and I left for church a few minutes after he had gone out. I was a bit surprised that Essie wasn’t already there, but I got the safe unlocked, the Bible marked with the readings, went and put the water heater and the urn on, and it occurred to me that the radiators weren’t *that* warm. Oh. It was 20 to 10, not 20 to 11.

I went home for another hour. I didn’t mention it to anyone, no need to look silly is there?

I’ve bitten the bullet, in that I told the people who’d be most dismayed that I’m leaving the PCC. It isn’t happening for 6 months, but I like to plan ahead. For someone as impulsive as I can be, this might sound surprising, but the decision was made suddenly, and thought just reinforced its rightness. Sometimes, on the other hand, I don’t know what I’m going to say until I hear myself say it, but I trust my instincts when that does happen – even though that usually leads me into a new direction that a more sensible person would back away from.*

Anyway, one of the people, who was the one thinking “d’oh! I should have done that.” wonders if there’s a way I could stay on the Finance committee, and I’ve suggested she asks the Rector if it’s possible, because I know I’m the equal third most able person there, and therefore useful. I’d make that concession.

Tonight, pumpkin risotto, because we’ve got the pumpkins and the rice and the stock. Actually, it’s beef stock because that’s what I made the other day, so I’ve added some bacon to the shallots. I’m normally a bit purist about risotto, which should be vegetables only for my palate, but I’m not at all sure about beef stock – usually I make chicken or veg – and I think the only way of standing up to it is to add a bit more flavour. Also – short cut alert – it’s way best to grate the raw pumpkin or squash, but it’s also a fair bit of effort, so I eightthed and roasted it and chopped it after that. We’ll see. If it’s not up to scratch, I won’t do it again – but I love risotto and have high standards so it won’t necessarily mean it’s no good at all.

Although actually, I find a lot of recipes just a bit too rich. It’s a creamy and unctuous dish because that’s the way the rice goes, and I have come to the conclusion that all the extra butter and oil added are not necessary. As I say, I adore it, so I want to pig out. And if you’ve put a quarter of a pound of butter and a large quantity of Parmesan in, then it’s rich and fattening, no question about it, but if it makes it more filling then I’ll still have several helpings so I might as well just omit the butter. I like butter, I just use it sparingly, and I don’t use nasty emulsified low-fat spreads. I prefer dry bread. And austere risotti.

*No one have a go about the grammar, hey? “From which a more sensible person would back away” is lousy English too, and stilted to boot. “Down which no sensible person would tread” is better English but really – this is colloquial, this blog and I’ve only known one person who’d actually say that, and she, on observing a fabulous (uh oh, it was a real not a mythological one) sunset, said to her small daughter, “If you were to paint that, no one would believe your palette.” With the accent on ette. So think yourselves lucky.

Pee Ess. I saw this and thought of Dave’s comment box (if you don’t read Dave’s blog, look in the comments and click the link.

L thee happy cows

I thought you might like to know a bit more about the farm* where Pinkie and Scarlet live. If you live in Norfolk and take the EDP, there’s a double-page article about Jonathan in today’s agricultural supplement, but I think that can only be accessed online the same day if you subscribe. The Sage went to visit the girls again this morning – Brian was surprised when not only Pinkie but Scarlet too went to him for their breakfast. “She won’t take food from your hand,” said Brian “… oh, she just did.” The cows shared a cauliflower, some sweetcorn and a few apples.

It was raining this morning, which wasn’t on the forecast I heard last night and so, although it didn’t last long, timings and stuff mean that we won’t bricklay after all. This means that I’m doing pretty well nothing instead. I’ve cleared a week’s worth of bottles from the kitchen and put on the washing machine. Um. That doesn’t sound quite enough effort for a morning, in truth. Fortunately, I do not suffer from a compulsive need to be busy so I shall continue to relax with the papers.

* I have to say, I think a close relationship with his vet has improved conception rates. sounds a bit dodge, but it’s all earnestly meant.

‘K for a few minutes? Excellent

Lovely to see you. What can I get you to drink? Dinner won’t be long.

While I’m about it, think of Non-Working Monkey at 5 pm tomorrow, Montreal-time (which is probably half-past never anywhere else) as it will be the time she starts to get married. She’s one of the many bloggers I visit and comment to regularly, even though they never visit (as far as I know) or comment in return, which means a) that I’m a lovely person and b) that she’s worth the effort.

While you’re in the wedding mood, raise a glass to Sheer Almshouse and her new husband.

And, though this wedding isn’t for nearly two more weeks, please drink another toast to Martin and Wendy, who MET THROUGH THIS VERY BLOG. Yes, really. It is my proudest moment as a blogger, because they are both absolutely lovely (yes, I’ve met them so I know ’tis true) and so deserve each other, in the best possible way.

Anyway, now your glass is empty after all this toasting – let me top you up. Twiglet? Cheese straw (of course they’re home-made, if not by me)? Interesting little baked thingy straight out of the oven? Ooh, another swig of gin will sooth. No, spit it out on the napkin, I won’t even notice.

Scarlet and Pinkie have gone back to the farm today. The Sage called round with some corn on the cob for them and they are fine, and send their love. Pinkie is the oldest cow on the farm, at 12 years old. She may well calve by the end of the month; I’ll let you know. Scarlet’s calf will arrive next month. We won’t, probably, have cows on the field until next April to give the grass time to grow, but there’s plenty of good hay and silage for them and they will be well cared for. Graham, Jonathan and Brian are excellent farmers of the cows in their care and they know every animal on the farm well.

Winter draws on, as they say, and Al has pumpkins for sale at the shop. For myself, I’m into smart little skirts, which unfortunately means I can’t wear comfortable shoes any more. It’s not that my shoes don’t fit, just that walking shoes and sandals are so comfy and nothing else quite matches up. Still, appearance is everything, don’t you think?

Lovely music and French lessons today, I had a great time. I do think teenagers are worth spending time with.

Tomorrow, weather permitting (the forecast is good), we’re bringing on the wall again.

I for got the letter

How random of me.

I had lunch with friends today and then went to visit Weeza and Zerlina. Zerlina is walking very steadily now, but she’s into everything. She isn’t destructive and knows what she’s not allowed to do, but she climbs over everything and teeters precariously on every edge available. The sitting room floor is wood, so it’s quite nerve-wracking, seeing her clambering onto a chair and balancing on the side, ready to plummet backwards onto the floor. She is unbothered, even when she takes a tumble, however.

As I was walking out to the car after lunch, a small group was talking about the planned postal strikes. These ladies were all in their 70s or 80s, only a couple of them used to using the internet, but none of them was too bothered. It was agreed (assuming that it drags on for another month or two) that they love to receive Christmas cards (funnily enough, no one said how much the writing of them was appreciated) but they could all manage without, and would phone or email instead. They would send presents by mail order and let the companies work out how best to get them delivered. I’ve rarely seen quite a strike that is likely to backfire quite so much. Use of the postal service has, apparently, declined by 10% this year alone – I’ve a feeling that if it weren’t for eBay, it would have gone down rather more. If mail order companies start to use courier services and find them satisfactory, they may well not go back to the Royal Mail (is it still called the Royal Mail, I wonder?). If we start receiving more business communications by email (my preferred medium already, unless I actually must file the papers) then it will become accepted practice. If we go a year without Christmas cards, will we all bother to go back to them, or will we realise how few are really important? We’ve asked our postmen here what they think, and they’re against the strike. And we’ve got a week’s statutory notice of the next one, on Thursday and Friday. So we’ve got time to make preparations.

Bringing on the wall, Day 33 – Dave spends a Day on the Tiles

On top of the bricks, there will be a couple of rows of tiles, which are wider than the bricks so as to help to deflect rain away. On top of that will be a final, triangular brick to finish it off.

The tiles are the original ones from the front (west) side of our own house and are between 400 and 450 years old. When we were planning to move here (the house belonged to the Sage’s parents: when his father died, his mother had built the bungalow where Al and Dilly now live) and then we had the tiles taken off, as the roofing felt and some of the timber needed to be replaced. It was discovered that the tiles were held on more through sheer Norfolk tenaciousness than anything else – all the nails had perished and some cement had been shoved in for strength, but that was adding more weight than body to the whole thing. They had been turned over a hundred or two years ago already and they were not really fit for the job any longer. So the Sage did some investigating and found a firm in Sussex that still manufactured hand-made tiles and, after getting the requisite planning permission, we had them put on instead.

He kept the tiles of course, and a while ago let a friend have half of them for an extension to his house. But we’ve still got a couple of hundred left and now they’re being incorporated into our garden wall.

Dave started on the first section – when that’s done, we’ll get a longer run of scaffolding up and he’ll do one section and I’ll do one. He says it’s the trickiest job he’s done so far, which is a bit worrying. In the meantime, I built up a single layer of bricks along to the pillar, and I’ll work on that next time too, I think.

Scarlet and Pinkie were very interested in the whole affair and spent the entire morning standing at the gate watching us. They are quite irresistible and we had to keep going to feed them. I found some apples and carrots, then we gave them hay and, afterwards, the Sage went in to Alex’s shop and raided the throw-out bin and came home with a box of slightly yellowed sprouts. I cuddled the cows affectionately – they are in fine condition, the extra hay has been good for them and so has the additional grass, which has sprouted quickly after the rain of the past week. Pinkie is bagging up well (sorry, this is farmer-speak for she looks nearly ready to calve) and so they will both go back to the farm in a few days, ready to have their calves in the next few weeks.
I didn’t get a huge amount done, as I had a couple of phone calls to deal with. Five 6th form pupils from the high school were involved in a car accident on their way to school – it’s a tricky bit of road. The details of the accident aren’t known yet, but four of the young people are not badly hurt, one is, but is expected to recover fully, and the driver of the other car has a similar description. Everyone at school is very shocked and we cancelled this afternoon’s governors’ AGM. The front seat passenger (the most badly hurt) was trapped in the car and so was the other car’s driver; they both had to be cut out and were air-lifted to Norwich hospital. I’d seen the air ambulance go over, earlier.

Could be so much worse, a dreadful thing to happen, but on the local news tonight there were several reports of enquiries into road deaths and at least we don’t have that on this occasion.

Oh, do you know, I had an email from my friend A yesterday – we aren’t on the same committee any more so email now we don’t see each other much – he replied to what I said and then said that nothing fascinating had happened so he’d nothing more to add. What? No, really darlings. No, really. If I waited for something fascinating to happen, I wouldn’t have a blog. And then how much poorer would my life be?

I’ve written back, saying nothing much has happened. That is, if he wants me to talk to him, he’ll have to talk to me. Not that I said that, of course.

Oh, hello, A. Mwah.

"J D", said the Sage

“If you go on ahead for the car,” I said, “I’ll meet you at the end of the road.” “No, you sit on the bench on the platform and I’ll get the car. I’ll hoot the horn when I’m back.” “I don’t mind walking” “I am telling you,” he said firmly. Gosh. It was quite a moment. The Sage was all masterful and imposing. I waited on the platform.

The day went fine, except that we weren’t able to finish the work because it was more awkward than we realised to fit the shelf – by the time I could have considered leaving for the Tate, it was about quarter to four and I couldn’t be bothered – it’d take me the best part of an hour to get there, then I’d have had an hour there and a trip straight back to the station, because there was nothing else for me to do even though our train tickets were for 8 o’clock. So we stayed together (the Sage had been on his errands earlier) and ended up in Burger King because they have the comfiest sofas on Liverpool Street Station. I haven’t been in Burger King for years. We used to go there, my sons and me, after the cinema sometimes, because we got a money-off voucher – I can’t remember if it was in the cinema or from the local paper – anyway it was the one in Norwich Castle Mall. Very convenient, right opposite the escalator. They were the moodiest staff I’ve ever come across in any corporate fast-food joint anywhere ever. Usually, they had blocked off most of the tables with a barrier of chairs and they obviously rather resented getting any customers at all. Then once, we went in and the whole seating area was blocked off, except for the bar facing the wall where you had to clamber onto a high stool. I scrambled up ungainly and unwrapped my burger. As I bit into it, a splodge of mayo’n’tomato sauce squidged onto the floor.

Reader, I left it there. From a polite and considerate sort of cove as I am, that was a hugely pointed piece of retaliatory up-yoursness. Anyway, it was the last time I went there, as the discount finished about that time, and there was no other reason to go and feel resented, not even for a Flamegrilled Whopper.

This is an aside, not a post, so I don’t have to think about a name for it

Each day this week, the Times and iTunes are giving a free download. Today’s is called ‘Eat raw meat = blood drool’ and is by the Editors. I sent the link to Ro who, of course, already knew the Editors, which was more than I did. “If it’s good I’ll buy it” he said airily, not having iTunes on his computer and not, apparently, wanting it.

But really. In what set of circumstances is ‘Eat raw meat = blood drool’ a good name for a song? I rather like the song, though I’ve only listened to it twice so far and, as any fule kno, you have to listen to a piece of music a minimum of three times before you can evaluate it.

Tomorrow, I will be in London. Having come to the conclusion that Four Dinners doesn’t read the comments on his own blog, I’ve emailed him. Of course, he could be ignoring me. Anyway, what we’re doing is going up to the flat, finishing (DV) the making-good that I started a couple of weeks ago, then we’ll do *whatever* for a few hours and meet at Liverpool Street, assuming *whatever* is not entirely together, get something to eat and catch the 8 o’clock train home. Dilly will look after Tilly and vice versa.