Monthly Archives: November 2009

Zeta the baby

Though I don’t think much seeing to will be necessary, because by the time I arrive to babysit tonight, Zerlina will be in bed. I’m staying overnight because I’m going to a study day on the history of silver tomorrow in Norwich. Weeza is coming over here to work on sale stuff with the Sage. The next sale isn’t until the end of April. This alarming efficiency is quite disconcerting. Today even I’m working, doing an inventory, but the Sage has just nipped out to keep an appointment so I’ve got a few minutes spare. It is lunchtime, after all.

By the way, I mentioned yesterday about how a dog cheers you up when you’re down but I didn’t refer to the great pleasure there is in enjoying the company of a happy dog. He loves to have fun and you don’t have to be miserable to appreciate that…

The Sage was caught out by his lack of knowledge about technical things this morning. He went to the post office to get his pension – he insists on receiving it in cash, which he has to do by having an account and using a card and PIN. He keyed in the PIN, and (for the first time ever) got it wrong. Not realising that it would get blocked, he kept indignantly putting in the number. Hm. Of course, afterwards he realised he put in the wrong double number – 1123 instead of 1223, as it were. He’s phoned up for a new PIN and is told that it’ll take a fortnight to be posted to him. Excuse me? The person at the end of the phone could do it there and then, surely and arrange for it to be posted – I don’t see why it should take longer than 3 days. As I remember, when I got a PIN wrong I ended up having to do myself a new one at the bank cashpoint myself, I’m not convinced that this will work anyway. I phoned twice for a new number, was told I was being sent one and only received the old one. It wasn’t until the third call that I was told the correct thing to do. Anyway. Different bank, maybe it’ll be a different procedure. I’ve explained to the Sage, anyway, that if he does it wrong twice to go away and think carefully what he’s doing wrong, because it’s probably not the machine, or him accidentally pressing a number too hard and making it come up twice. Fortunately, we can still afford to eat without access to his pension for a fortnight, but I suppose it would be all the same to them if we relied on it to live day to day.

Talking of efficiency, I’ve started to buy stuff for *you know when*. I think I’ve been influenced by LOM, who has already bought and wrapped all presents and written cards too. I don’t care for it, I prefer not to start until December, but since I’ll be away the last week in November and will, no doubt, wander around in a daze for a few days afterwards trying to catch up with things, this is highly sensible.

By the way, the friendly thing of sending holiday postcards to bloggers is a jolly one, and I’ll be happy to join in if anyone would like to send me their address. My blog email is on my profile, but to save you clicking, it’s zoesonholiday*at*hotmail*dot*com (with appropriate adjustments, of course). Martina, Dave and Dandelion, I’ve got your addresses.
Hm. I’ve taken my half hour lunch break. Come on Sage, time to get back to work.

Epsilon reasons for not having a dog

Dirty, messy, smelly, expensive to keep, particularly if veterinary care is required, need walking frequently, many want lots of exercise which you have to give them however busy or ill you are, limits your freedom to go away, has to be cleared up after unless you can always walk in the countryside, sits on all the best furniture and if, cruelly, you don’t allow that then it leans on it instead, making it grubby in a strip a few inches above the ground. Claw marks on the doors. Toothmarks on the chair legs and holes in the towels if you have a puppy, as well as stains on the carpets and puddles on the floor. All combine to make an excellent case for not having a new young dog, although of course a dog you’ve had for a long time, when you know each other’s ways and it’s trained, to a greater or lesser degree, to the extent you’re happy with, is fine and you tend to forget the difficult bits.

But. Be without a dog? Couldn’t bear it. It’s worth every minute of it.

I’m depressingly sensible and I’ve explained already (albeit in March) how it came about that we didn’t acquire a puppy in the last few years and why I’m not looking to get one now for Tilly’s sake. And I know it wouldn’t make sense to have a dog that needed a lot of walks before I have, and am recovered from getting, a new hip (though I reserve the right to be entirely silly and get one anyway) but simply, when it comes down to it, if a dog needs a home, I’ll give it a home and love it, and when our Tilly dies, which I hope won’t be any time soon, I am sure we won’t be without another dog for long.

There are enough indications, after all, that generally speaking people with pets are happier and more relaxed than those without, though I can’t believe that anyone would solemnly buy a cat or dog with the intention of being happy unless they actively wanted one anyway. I do know people who’ve bought a dog to make sure they have an incentive to get more exercise, but again you have to want one. There’s no doubt that a dog gives added security, both to the owners personally and to the house where it’s kept.

It’s still simpler than that, however. If you’re sitting alone in a room reading this, now think of doing it with a warm body on your lap or leaning against your leg. Imagine glancing down and seeing the warm brown (more likely than not) eyes looking at you with total trust and devotion. Think that, however much the exercise will do you good, you wouldn’t dream of going for a walk on a rainy winter’s night, but that you’ll do it without hesitation for the sake of your pet, and actually you’ll enjoy it and feel the better for it. Remember that, however bad you feel, whether through loneliness, depression, illness or because you’ve done something you regret, your dog will love you just the same, stupid loyal creature that he is. He will be on your side, no questions asked, even if you lost your temper at his naughtiness a few minutes ago.

I like cats and I have an affinity with horses, but it’ll always be a dog for me.

Delta winning hand

Well, I’ve been playing poker and listening to Black Sheep Boy, which is enough excuse, however contrived, for the title.

The Sage is home safely after a successful trip and we’ve had another firework party, this time a family one. We didn’t have a guy either time, in fact. Next year we’ll have to introduce to the grandchildren the full weirdness of making a model of a man and burning him in commemoration of a failed attempt to blow up Parliament several hundred years ago. Nice. Odd, the traditions that hold.

When Ro was a child, the village fête used to have a children’s fancy dress party. I can’t say that we are normally imaginative in this respect, but we used to put a lot of effort into this and Ro won it every time. One year, I remember, he dressed as a scarecrow and another as a chimney sweep. It was easy – all we had to do was strip some clothes off his complaining father’s back, dress Ro in them and bingo! – a winning scruffbag. I can’t remember other costumes, but anything involving dressing down came naturally to us.

Tonight, Phil cooked chilli and brought it and Al brought home potatoes for me to bake in the Aga. We had the chilli first, in bowls as we sat round the bonfire, then Al and Weeza took charge of the fireworks. They were mostly child-friendly ones, colourful but not too noisy, but one was called Witch’s Cauldron and this startled us considerably with a loud boom and all the coloured lights shooting out rather sideways. There was a moment’s shocked silence from all of us, and then Phil moved the baby’s pushchair further away from the fireworks. A sheep baa-ed in the field the other side of the church. Zerlina cried, but she was only taken aback. Not frightened, oh no of course not.

Everyone but the fireworkers ate their potato outside, and we handed Weeza and Phil theirs at the end of the display. They came and ate them indoors. After a few minutes, Weeza pointed out that eating a baked potato out of the hand plain and unadorned by even butter or salt felt a bit – well, 19th century Irish was her description. Dilly opened a bottle of wine and all was well again.

Gamma raderie on the internet

So blog friends have decreed that I’m to carry on with the alphabeta, and who am I to argue? Since, that is, there have been no dissenting voices, which probably means that the rest of you don’t read the post titles anyway.

I’ve been left by my husband again, flighty chap that he is. I can hardly believe that he hasn’t gone on holiday with me for years and years – well over a decade, I can’t remember how long. We went, the Sage, Al, Ro and I, to visit the West Country and stayed with Wink. The night before we were due to come home, we’d been out for dinner and he hadn’t had any wine. I thought that was slightly unusual, but the reason became apparent when he suddenly said that we’d better drive home that night rather than risk heavy traffic the next day. I argued (next day was a Sunday, how much heavy traffic was likely, and I didn’t want to go home anyway, it was when things were at their most difficult back there) to no avail and we got home at 3 in the morning.

Anyway, he phoned this evening sounding very cheerful. He’s very pleased with the china he’s picked up for the next sale and he’s fetching more tomorrow. He’s already got enough booked in for the next sale and the sale after is more than half full.

Instructions left were to give the chickens the bunches of grapes he’d left in a crystal bowl for their lunch.

So, darlings, it’s up to you to keep me my normal happy self. Or I might turn to the Demon Bottle. *Ahem* I might turn to ice cream and chocolate. I should mention that I fully intend to have one or the other tonight. Which shall I have?

Beta path to my door

I’ve got a problem here. I can’t get out of this alphabet thingy. I can’t even remember all the letters of the Greek alphabet in the right order ( I play the piano a bit like Eric Morcambe, too).

Anyway, I’ve just come in from a firework party. The village church has a youth club, mostly young teens, about 15 or so, and a few days ago I was asked (because of my Position of Authoritay) about where in the environs of the churchyard a firework display could be held. I replied with an explanation of where would be best, but also suggested our field would be better again, and we could set up the barbecue they wanted to hold too. This was all Fine and Dandy until yesterday evening, when I found out that the organiser was laid low by a bad back and couldn’t take part.

No problem I said, I’ll get the food and sort things. And the Sage would sort the bonfire. Today, I discovered that some of the youngsters’ parents and siblings could be coming. And there was no likelihood of anyone actually saying in advance if they were coming, so numbers were only to be guessed.

Well, I did overcater, but then I always do. And it went very well. I confess, I cheated by cooking sausages in the Aga in advance, to be charcoaled a bit on the barbecue afterwards, but that’s not a bad idea and they were very good sausages. One child was heard asking “does anyone actually live here?” and, on being told that someone did, “they must be very rich”. No dear, you’d change your mind if you saw it in daylight. It’s roomier than the average garden, but that’s about it.

We finished by toasting marshmallows on the barbecue and with some delicious flapjacks made by Avril. I didn’t get introduced to Avril but she makes excellent flapjacks.

This morning, I had the great pleasure of taking Squiffany to school for the first time. Even better, I had Pugsley and Zerlina with me, because their mothers were away in London overnight and Al was in charge of all three children. I took over at 7 o’clock this morning. They were all absolutely delightful and make me wonder why I found motherhood so hard when grandmotherhood is nothing but a pleasure.

The mothers arrived home, we all went to fetch Squiffany home from school (she goes mornings only this term) and then lunch was contemplated. I rashly offered pizza, but found I’d only got one in the freezer. We had pizza, meatballs and chips. A thoroughly balanced diet. Well, when you bear in mind there was also grape juice and orange juice, and tomatoes, onion and courgettes in the meatball sauce.

The rest of yesterday’s post is in preparation. I still haven’t quite decided what conclusion I’m coming to.

Alpha minute, what do I call this post?

No, I think we all need a break from the alphabet. I just couldn’t resist.

I was lying in bed this morning, resenting that it was earlier than I wanted to get up but light, when it would be dark so early this afternoon, and I started to think about the library book I started last night, and the one I started a couple of nights before. I had them in different rooms and I was up to about page 20 in one and page 50 in the other. And I thought, I’m not really enjoying them. One is okay, nothing to dislike but not the sort of read to engage and interest, but last night’s was less appealing. You could see the clichéd characters appear in the first few pages and it was a series of set pieces. Not unreadable, but I just didn’t care. And I thought, I’m not going to read it. Or the other. I can’t be bothered. I don’t have to.

I’m getting more inclined to give up on books. I think it’s because there are so many that just aren’t good enough. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, and I don’t flinch from a *difficult* book or from characters I don’t like, or from a style that takes a while to get into. But, you know, too many books are published. Whoever reads them all? I read a whole lot of blogs that are a great deal more interesting and engaging than published books, and I’ll include prizewinners amongst them.

While I was lying there – look, I’d no reason to leap out of bed and it was warm and comfortable – it further occurred to me that I’m getting more picky generally. What came into my mind was dogs.

I grew up with dogs and have nearly always lived with at least one. We didn’t have a dog for the first few years we were married, and after Simon died we were another four years before we got Chester as a puppy, and Tilly joined us several years later. When I was a child, I was used to knowing that dogs came first. It was a family joke that, often, we all sat on the floor because dogs were in all the chairs. I slept with four dogs on my bed – they were all large, labrador-type mongrels. I was adept at walking seven dogs at a time.

Things changed when I was married. I’ve never let a dog sleep on my bed since – my husband comes first in this house and always will (you’re allowed to tell the Sage I said that) and, largely because things got a bit out of control when my mother ended up with eleven dogs, I’ve always been sure I’d never go the way she did. In fact, and never say I don’t learn by other people’s mistakes and not only my own, I’ve been well put off getting a dog from the RSPCA. That was always where she went to rescue a dog, but the last two they gave her were totally unsuitable and, like some adopted children I know, were so disturbed that they should never have been foisted on someone who wasn’t fully prepared for the problems. My mother coped, but it was a pity that she had to give all the support to a dog, when the dog should have been a friend and companion to her. She became unaware of the burden and sort of needed it in the end – she’d have felt rejected by a normal healthy cheerful animal and wanted to have to give her pet all her attention, however much trouble it was.

I first noticed an alteration in my attitude recently, when chatting to a friend on the phone, whose son and his girlfriend had just moved to a place of their own, having been living with her for a couple of years. I asked how it felt and she admitted that she really misses his dog. (!) I said, do think hard before getting a dog of your own and curtailing your freedom, you’ve not been burden-free in so many years (her own beloved dogs died a few years ago and so did her cats). Now, all my life, I’ve thought a dog is far more important than being fancy free and able to go off at a moment’s notice. But I said it before knowing I was going to, you know?

I’ll have to come back to this and explain, once I’ve quite worked out, what I mean. It’s all getting a bit long now.

Z wary, all gingered up and listing

Zedoary is the only word I can find starting with Zed. Sorry. It’s rather like ginger but with a bitter aftertaste and is also known as white turmeric.

Actually, I really like bitter tastes. You know that stuff you paint on a child’s nails to stop biting? My mother tried that on me, several decades ago (obv) and I licked it all off. It wasn’t so much that it tasted good, but that it was intriguing. It’s like those smells that are so peculiar that you can’t resist another sniff to see if it reminds you of anything else yet. Or is that just me?

Right, shall we move on…

Today, I went to visit Dave. He did visit the doctor and I’ll let him tell you about that tomorrow. It took me a few minutes to find his house – I *almost* remembered how to get there (I’ve only visited him at home once before, when I also had the pleasure of meeting the charmingly suave Rog, and was shown Lily’s plastic box which she travels in for hygiene reasons. I didn’t meet Murph, a loss which I still lament). The turning to his road was nearly hidden by overgrown bushes, so I overshot a bit.

Actually, I nearly funked the germ thingy and didn’t knock, but I was brave in the end, and was glad I did. Poor lovely Dave – he’s looking quite thin and in need of much cake.

After that, I went on to a funeral in Norwich. The chap who’d died was only 46 but had been a dedicated smoker of various substances, most of them tobacco, for many years, and lung cancer got him. It was, I think, the third totally secular funeral I’ve been to (not all the religious ones were Christian) and was moving and very personal. Not saying more there, of course, there’s a loving family to whom it’s private, but I’ll tell you the music, because we’ve been talking about funeral music elsewhere (blogwise, I mean, brought on by the clergypeople who find some secular music hard to deal with at a somewhat religious ceremony).

As we came in – Rock the Casbah – Rachid Taha
While flowers etc were put on the coffin – Feeling Good – Nina Simone
While people were sharing memories – Chaconne – Bach
As the curtains closed – Sheena is a Punk Rocker – The Ramones
As we left – Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones

I hardly knew him, but he had dear and lifelong friends. ‘Bye, William, a lot of people will miss you.

Y did I ever start this?

I thought that W would be the sticking place, but it turns out that Z is. Z pronounced Zed of course. Yes, it’s my blogname, but that would be cheating.

Anyway, what I wanted to call this post was Wren will I see you again? Yesterday, the Sage went to fetch logs for the fire, which are kept in the front porch (What? Yes, of course it’s normal. For Norfolk). He came back saying he’d had to leave the door open as the wren which lives in the porch had flown in. Later, no sign of her (all wrens are deemed to be Jenny, just as robins are habitually Cock) so he shut the door.

I was in bed reading when he came in from the bathroom. He exclaimed something I didn’t catch, and then I became aware of a swooping flying creature – not a bat but the wren. They’re impossible to catch, you know. Far too small and they move in an instant. In the end, after padding nakedly and ineffectually round the bedroom (it’s a large bedroom and the bird was much quicker than us) for a while, we opened windows on both sides of the house (that part of the house is one room deep, so there’s a window both east and west) and huddled under the bedclothes. We decided that it was going to exhaust it to chase it any more, so it might as well roost in our room and then go out in the morning.

Luckily, the wind had dropped and it was not a cold night. Not cold for November, that is. But every time I woke in the night, my feet were still cold. No sign of the wren this morning. I haven’t been up yet to check for guano.

X for lunch. Poached

There’s no real secret to making perfect poached eggs. Just that the eggs must be absolutely fresh. I’ve tried various methods, but now I simply boil water, crack in the eggs and simmer gently (or take the pan off the heat and leave them in the hot water) until they look right. Which was what I did for lunch yesterday. Only thing I got wrong, which I didn’t notice until I was sitting down to eat them, was forgetting to toast the bread. Poached eggs on a slice of dry bread isn’t nearly as nice as on toast.

I didn’t go out at all yesterday, because the weather wasn’t very good. I did various dull jobs and watched television, which is v bad, as they say. Today turned a bit chaotic. I went to church in good time as I was both playing the organ (practise in advance? What a good idea that would have been) and making coffee after the service. I thought I’d just dump the milk and bikkies (Jammie Dodgers, which were all I had as it was raining and windy and I couldn’t face cycling in to the shops) in the kitchen, switch on the immersion heater and the hot water urn and do the rest later. However, I couldn’t unlock the kitchen door. I got my key out of my bag (I’d used the one in another locked room) and that didn’t work either. I was flummoxed. Fortunately, someone had forgotten to bolt the hatchway doors, so I climbed in through the hatch to try from the other side. I found that the cable from the urn was caught in the door jamb.

Eventually I got it out (we’ll go for the short version here) and unlocked the door and got on with things, but it all took nearly half an hour. Then I found that one of the hymn numbers written down wasn’t the one I expected to play and another hymn was one I can play on the clarinet but not on the organ – some of these very flowing modern hymns are okay on a piano but just don’t go on the organ and besides I’m a lousy organist if I don’t work hard at it – so I changed it, with no time, by then, to practise anything. It was okay. One hymn, I even played well. Would have been better if I hadn’t lost count of verses in the final hymn, but there we go. The art of humility is won through humiliation.

Today’s lunch was especially delicious, cooked by Weeza and Phil. Zerlina was still wearing her bee backpack and very happy. Tonight, we won’t eat much. Possibly soup – there’s still plenty left of the minestrone. Or there’s always a poached egg.