Monthly Archives: November 2009

Sigma self to sleep

It’s always the same when you know you have to get up in good time. Couldn’t sleep at all the last night of the hols. Silly thing was that I hadn’t set my alarm for any earlier than I usually woke naturally. Anyway, having dozed occasionally, I was awake for good at 4. I lay for a bit, humming sotto voce – obviously, I wouldn’t wake my next-door neighbour, who had had no such scruples a couple of nights earlier, when the bathroom was visited at 2.30 and 3.30 and the bedside drawers were loudly opened and shut at 6 o’clock, several times. At 7.30, he or she had a shower. I felt highly miffed. Nevertheless, I didn’t retaliate, not turning on the bathroom light (which started the fan) or flushing or turning on the tv. I didn’t even shower until 7.30.

Anyway, after a rather unnerving drive on a wet and blustery M3 (not a large section of the journey but the least pleasant), I arrived home in good time. The Sage had missed me so much that he’d turned out the larder and washed the kitchen floor. The chickens had kindly laid me some eggs for lunch.

It was a lovely holiday and the temperature was just right really – low 20s/70s, depending on which scale you use, so not so hot I had to cover my tender pale skin but warm enough to be very pleasant, although the shock of coming back to icy rain was not so nice.

And now I’m going to have an early night and cuddle my lovely husband in my own lovely bed. Won’t need much rocking tonight, I think.

Rho Ving still

This is the last full day in Portugal, I’ll be back in England tomorrow afternoon and home on Monday afternoon. Wink asked me if I could stay an extra day and go with her to Bath on Monday as she’s taken an extra day off but I have a meeting on Monday evening I shouldnºt miss. Dutiful to the end, you see.

Sorry I can’t get all the accents right. Different keyboard and all, can’t always be bothered to go back and change.

All very enjoyable here and it’s warm and sunny. Wink and the Bod were going for a long walk this morning along the beach to the next village and I cried off. I’ve walked rather more than enough this week and Iºm resting a bit for the last couple of days. Some people hardly leave the poolside I think (It’s a bit late in the season to spend the day on the beach). It seems a mildly odd thing to me, what creatures of habit most of us are. Many of them anxiously bag their favourite sun lounger early in the day rather than risk having to move a few yards. I like to ring the changes in most instances. I fear the rut.

Anyway, I hope all’s well with you. I did briefly visit Dave, to make sure heºs alive as I emailed him on Saturday and he wasn’t at all well then. I was slightly frustrated on Saturday. I visted my sisterºs splendid local library, only to discover that one can no longer blog from their computers. I wasnºt even allowed to leave a comment. I can only assume that there has been Abuse of the Internet in the last few months, as I could last time I was there at the end of the summer.

I must read some emails. I’m afraid there are several hundred of them – we email because we can, don’t we? Mind you, so do we blog.

See you next week, darlings. I miss you frightfully.


Another significant birthday, another present – 50

My forties were not quite what I had hoped for. Let’s not go there, hey. My mother died in the March and all her affairs were sorted out during the course of the summer. There was some left-over money at the end which my sister and I shared, and I decided to buy a piece of jewellery for myself, in memory of my mother and for my birthday. The Sage wanted to be part of this, so in the end we chose a nice ring and went halves.

Didn’t do a lot for the day, I think we had a family dinner here.

Fifties have been pretty good so far. Great, in fact.

Z throws a party for her 40th

It’s the only time I ever have decided to have a party for myself. I was looking forward to being 40. The 30s had been good and I was very happy, with lots of friends and a social life (gosh). I planned it all and invited lots of people and it was all very jolly. Weeza was working in Greece at the time and I spent half the evening on the phone trying to get through to her.

I decided on a present for the Sage to give me this time. He had made me a wonderful oak box, a scale model of a 17th century coffer, which sits on the mantlepiece Even Now. It’s all pegged together and the panels slot in and the only nails are ones he made for the hinges, also hand-made by him. To age the oak, he got hold of some pure ammonia (not self-made) and – this needed great care because of the fumes – the oak was put in a tin with the ammonia and it darkened it naturally. It was such a labour of love. I asked him, this time, to make me a music stand, having recently started to learn to play the clarinet. It’s made of walnut with a brass adjustable rod which, of course, he’d devised himself. Before taking up the auctioneering trade, he was an engineer and still has his lathe and stuff.

My clarinet, by the way, was my grandfather’s and is a Boosey and Hawkes Regent, made in the early 1950s, and so about as old as I am.

30, and Z is on holiday again

We didn’t really do family holidays very much, but we’d booked a fortnight in Jersey at the end of August and beginning of September. Weeza was 9 and Al was 7. We decided to fly from Norwich for the convenience. Sad to say, the Sage’s father, Pa, had become ill as a result of a respiratory condition brought on by the field of rape growing behind the house. He died in the middle of August. However, Ma insisted that we go away as planned and she had her daughter and Hilda (I’ll tell you about Hilda one day) to look after her.

While we were away, the Sage wanted to know what to buy me for my birthday. I’m rubbish at this sort of thing as I never know what to ask for, but I had the good idea of a gold chain. We looked at all the chains in the shop but none was exactly right until the man brought out a tray of second-hand jewellery. One was just right. It was slender enough to put a pendant on but wide enough to wear on its own and it was the right length and colour.

The other shop we loved was one selling stones and fossils. Weeza and Al were fascinated and we went back there several times. We did like Jersey – I’d always lived by the sea but East Anglia has sandy shores and I really like rock pools and caves. I spent happy hours watching the sea anemones and hermit crabs on Jersey.

From the rock shop, the Sage bought a huge piece of bluejohn. This is a stone mined only in Derbyshire. Therefore, as a re-import, no tax was due on its arrival in England. This had been arranged in advance but we had to go through the “something to declare” channel. The Sage and the customs men got on very well and chatted for ages. I was in a dilemma, knowing that my mother and stepfather were waiting for us, but unable to go until we’d actually been let go. So I joined in the conversation, laughing loudly so that my mother would hear and know that, at any rate, we hadn’t been arrested.

I liked being 30. I felt grown up at last. Back when I was at school, my lovely Latin teacher Mr Lamb mused once that he believed he had been born middle-aged and it gave me a shock of self-knowledge. I realised that I had not yet grown into the age I was meant to be and this was the reason I felt awkward.

Once we arrived home, Ma told us that she had decided to move from the house she’d spent nearly all her married life in and where her three surviving children had been born. The Sage told me this as we were sharing a plate of sandwiches at the Yacht Club in Lowestoft. It was one of the times I spoke and listened with interest to know what I was going to say. It was as a result of this that we moved to this house. And Ro was born, though that was the Sage’s suggestion, received very well by me.

I remember being 20

The Sprouting Sage and I were on our honeymoon in the Seychelles at the time. We’d been married several months, but that was because a six-month engagement was far too long for those of short attention spans and we became impatient.

It was before the revolution there and Jimmy Mancham was the President. One day, we saw his Rolls Royce parked by a restaurant at a beach, but we didn’t see him. It was an idyllic place – haven’t been back since so can’t say what it’s like now. We stayed on the main island, Mahé and visited some others; Cousin, which was a bird sanctuary, La Digue, where there were no cars and we travelled by ox cart and Praslin, where coco de mer palms grow. We flew to La Digue in a pre-war biplane with 9 seats, including the pilot’s. Rain came in through the canvas. Someone asked about a finny shape in the water below and we were casually told that it was a shark.

The Sage bought me a ring for my birthday, locally made. It is gold with blue enamel, red coral and either pinkish garnets or rubies, can’t remember which. It fits on the middle finger of my left hand.

I was shocked to be no longer a teenager. Leaving my teens seemed to me to be a bigger rite of passage than getting married.

Double figures – 10

I don’t remember my tenth birthday either. I might have had a party, but we were all growing out of them by that time. I found them an ordeal, I must say. I was an unsociable child and very shy. You may find that hard to believe now but, at least until I was sixteen or so, I was the shyest person I have ever met and even after that it took me many years of effort to become not shy.

However, that’s not relevant to my tenth birthday. If I didn’t have a party, we had a family day in London. Family days in London were normally spent mostly shopping with my mother, who loved London shops (there weren’t the good provincial shops in those days) plus a visit to a museum or some such place.

At this time, I was about to enter Junior 5 at my school. I was a year young for the final year of junior school but Junior 4 was the Remove, and the older pupils in the year were, if deemed academically able, skipped past it. I know that three of us, all with birthdays between September and December, did this (we were Z, Lynn and Julia) but I remember nothing else about it. I must have been taken from classmates going back five years and put with bigger boys and girls, and I went from being the oldest in the class to one of the youngest but I can’t remember a damn thing about it. I was an accepting sort of child, I didn’t understand what was happening so it was simplest to just take it and run, or amble slowly, with it.

My main achievements in the year were passing the 11 Plus and being the Walrus in the school play. I never took the 11 Plus, but I was deemed fit to enter Grammar School. My mother thought Grammar School was unsuitable however. She also thought that a half-decent school was unsuitable, so I continued my half-arsed education in Lowestoft. One of the regrets of my life was, when I went to the no-longer-Grammar School, it having been overtaken by comprehensive education, discovering that I could have learned Ancient Greek there. I couldn’t help wondering why I’d been obliged to spend all those years in a pretty inferior private school when I could have gone to an excellent state one. Many years later, I mentioned to my mother that, as I was a girl, my education didn’t matter – she was furious and denied it, but it was true. All the same, being as I say an accepting child, I just got on with things and was happy enough.

The Walrus – ah yes, as I’ve mentioned, I was the shyest person anywhere, evah. In the past (each year did a play for the end of term concert) I’d always been given non-speaking parts as it was assumed I’d have stage fright. In fact, as many actors will testify, they are not shy on stage, because they are not having to be themselves. One teacher got this, and proposed me, not as Alice (she wasn’t quite that brave) but as the Walrus. Actually, I was the very image of Alice, with long blonde hair and an – wait for it – Alice band. So that would have been boring.

It was fine. The only person who lost his nerve was Vincent, the Bart Simpson of the class, as we might say nowadays, who played the Mock Turtle. I wore a handlebar moustache, baggy trousers with braces and a red and white striped teeshirt.

First, I was born – 0

If anyone can identify that quotation (minus the zero) from a published book I will be mightily impressed. If it’s the same book I’m thinking of, of course.

I know, darlings, that you will miss me terribly while I’m away. So here are a few posts of Memories of Z’s significant dates.

Obviously, I have no memory of the day I was born. But I can tell you a little about it. To start with, I was a much wanted second baby, born more than five years after my big sister. My parents had rather given up hope, which is part of the reason I was given a name meaning ‘Life”. Mind you, I should have been a boy, for family reasons (whole family name has died out now, apparently). I was a great big baby, weighing 9 lbs or 9 1/2 or 10 lbs, I can’t remember what I was told, and I was very long. My parents expected me to grow into a six-footer. I don’t think I grew much past the age of six months or so, however and was tiny for many years. Now I’m just short.

At the time of my birth, my parents owned and ran a hotel in Weymouth, on Bowleaze Cove. It’s a rather splendid Art Deco building – if you’ve seen the Poirot series with David Suchet, the white-painted buildings featured in that were from the same era. They were reluctant hoteliers; it was force of circumstance. We moved to Oulton Broad, now part of Lowestoft in Suffolk, when I was four years old.

My mother looked after me when she was free, but I had a nursemaid called Alice (I think, I don’t remember her) as she had to work long hours at the hotel during the summer season.

Pi Napples

Have you noticed, in the last few years, that pineapples are much sweeter than they used to be? Time was you had to sugar them unless you had a particularly robust tastebud, but now you really couldn’t. They’re easy to grow from the crown of the fruit of course, but not easy to get ripe fruit from. Back in the long ago, my father grew a pineapple in the greenhouse but I don’t think it ever ripened. A pleasant memory I have from my childhood was when the Head Gardener of Lowestoft corporation nurseries took me all around the greenhouses. He was immensely kind. He was a shortish Scot called Mr Campbell and he told me about all sorts of things and gave me plants and picked me a lemon from a huge tree that grew on the end brick wall of the biggest greenhouses. I wonder if that lemon tree exists now. Mr Campbell had a reputation of being quite abrupt, but he was obviously dedicated to his job and extremely kind to a shy little girl. I remember him with affection.

I’ve done most jobs and only have a letter to write (a pleasant one but formal. which will take some care) and some practical things such as putting petrol in the car. Oh, and packing. Pfft. It’ll be fine. I mean, the worst that happens is that I forget something and have to buy it. It’s not as if I’m off to the back of beyond. I’ve got insurance, with medical issue duly declared, and the Sage is checking such things as tyres, oil and water for my initial journey. I find it almost impossible to get anxious as I just assume it’ll all work out and I have a quite unwarranted confidence in my ability to catch up. I’m slower than I used to be – that is, no I’m not, I can still go into scarily efficient speed, but only when I have to, and I find it hard to carry on doing practical work in the evenings.

Following a conversation yesterday, I’ve decided that my shorthand for relationships is this –

1 (to husband and family) You come first.
2 I respect your right to make your own decisions. I may proffer advice but don’t expect you to take it.
3 Thank you for your advice. I will take it into account.
4 (to husband and family) You are right unless I overrule you. Then, as it’s rare, I am right.

I think that’s about it, in addition to my three Golden Rules of Life, the first two of which are Be Polite and Be Kind and the third is between me and my husband. Ahem.

‘Course, one falls short, does one not? But one continues to try.

Omicron ic inability to keep my mouth shut

Life could be so easy and pleasant. However, is that what life is meant to be about? Well, I don’t know, but I do have a fairly developed sense of social responsibility and I think that giving until it hurts, whether in terms of time, money, effort or whatever one is able to do, is a Good Thing. Not, mind you, until it hurts those you have responsibilities for. And one is responsible for oneself, so getting the balance right is a matter of consideration.

All the same, my policy is to help if I can and to push myself if I can without my family being *too* unhappy. I’ve not always got the balance right, I know. I remember once when I was whining to the Sage (some of you will already have heard this, sorry) about all I had to do, and I itemised them and it included work for him. And I added, fortunately, “of course, you come first”. And his shoulders, which I hadn’t realised were tense, relaxed. Taught me a lesson, it did. But at any rate I said the right thing without him having to ask.

Anyway, upshot of all this is that (no need to congratulate me) I’m now chairman of governors, and very aware of the difference between a 70 pupil primary school and a 1000 pupil secondary school. I’ve been stepping up the action in the past year, but there’s still a lot more to learn and do. I also don’t want to drop my other involvements in languages, music and learning support, though it would be sensible to do so. However, it’s been for good reasons that I’ve been cutting back, by coming off the Nadfas committee and giving notice that I’m standing down as churchwarden and from the PCC in the spring. Of course, now the Sage’s business is bigger, having increased by 50% this year alone, but as long as Weeza and I can override his inclination to let things slide and do it all in one go at the last, we should be all right.

I’ve been asked to join another committee, by the way. The Sage is advising against and he’s right, but I may do it anyway. I’m not very good at not multi-tasking. I think it’s a chronic inability to concentrate on just one thing and do it well. I rely on doing just well enough in several. I’m a born amateur.