Monthly Archives: August 2010

Z talks and types

This afternoon I mostly talked.  To be fair to me, I was asked to.  There was a meeting at the church – we’re planning some improvements, new doors mostly, and also an extension to the churchyard which is nearly full.  We die a lot around here, it seems.  The Sage will be going to three local funerals in three days and I’ll be playing the music at two of them – being friends, I’d go anyway so I might as well be useful.

Anyway, I was making coffee and tea when the Rector came and asked me to explain to the gathered advisors what we want to do.  I was a bit startled, being completely unprepared, but fortunately a churchwarden had brought the notes saying what we’d said we want to do so I had a quick glance at them as a reminder.  So okay, all those poor front-legged donkeys are all down to me, so I went and improvised.  I must say, they were lovely, and extremely helpful.  To be fair to us, we had thought it through, and everything we wanted to do was an improvement, but English Heritage as well as the Diocesan Advisory Council was involved and they can be sticky.  Not in this instance, all advice was constructive and gladly received (I employed my best party manners and no one else was saying much).

Tonight, I suggested after dinner that we do a bit more work on the catalogue.  I was thinking of half an hour or so.  More than two hours later, we’ve just finished.  It was rather more work than I wanted to do at the end of the day (I was carrying bags of onions and carrots about at 8 o’clock this morning) and I am very tired.  Fortunately, the shop will be closed tomorrow morning.  Instead, I plan to go to a lecture about the mosaics at Ravenna.  I have seen them, they’re beautiful.  In the afternoon, I’m having my hair cut.

Z is not good, but ‘good enough’

I’ve been practising the organ this afternoon.  I think it’ll be all right.  It’s a funny thing, but once one learns a piece, it comes back quite easily, even if you don’t play it for ages.  It won’t be perfect of course, I can be an adequate player but will never be a good one.  Trouble is with accepting one’s limitations is that one plays down to them.  I won’t bother to practise more than I need to get by, because I know how little point there is.  Not something to recommend to the young and impressionable, but I’m neither.

Before that, Eddie 2-Sox joined us for lunch.  I’m not sure if it counts as a blog-meet after the first time, I think it’s simply meeting a friend.  An old friend, of course, because bloggers usually know each other pretty well before they actually meet in person.  I sent detailed instructions to reach our house, which meant he ended up down a narrow track the other side of the field from the house.  He eventually arrived, having trudged across the fields and through the stream, covered with mud and bedraggled through brambles.*

Tomorrow, the Sage and I have found ourselves double-booked. I accepted an appointment to have the dishwasher mended in the morning, asking him to stay in as I would be minding the shop for some of the morning at least, but now we realise that he’ll have to go to the mushroom farm.  He’d been planning to leave at 8 o’clock, helping me with the heavy outdoor shelf first, but he’ll have to leave earlier, hoping they will be open, and I’ll manage the shelf myself.  I can, I’m just being a girlie.

*Alternatively, he turned the car round and drove down the drive like a sensible man.

August Bank Holiday –

– so, of course, it’s raining hard.  Very showery this afternoon, starting with a sharp hailstorm and since then it’s been sunny, windy and wet at intervals.  I was in the kitchen when the hail started and went to check Tilly was in – she was in her basket in the porch, so I brought her in to lie on her sofa and went back to whatever I’d been doing.

Later, I went back along the passageway and was startled to see a big wet patch by the wall.  First I blamed Tilly, though was surprised – but it looked too splashy at the edges … so I went down on my hands and knees and sniffed it.  Yes, i know.  I must remind you that I’m more than half dog myself, so it comes naturally.  Anyway, it was just water.  So I thought I must have spilled some when I was taking the bucket to empty, having washed the kitchen floor.  But I thought about it, and I didn’t.  Anyway, I’d have noticed. I’m not that unobservant.  Well, I am, but I knew I hadn’t.  So finally, I realised that it had rained so far that the guttering had overflowed and the water had come in under the tiles.  It does happen occasionally and we’ve never managed to completely weather-proof the house.  I remember once a terrific thunderstorm and Chester (my late and still-missed setter) was afraid, but okay if he was touching me, and I was trying to hurry back and forth for towels, whilst not pushing him away.

Anyway, the weather forecast is better for next week, so I hope that Al and co have some good days out.  I’m glad they decided against camping.

Anxious bear

Weeza and family came over today and we made a start on the catalogue for the next auction.  And Al closed the shop early so that he could get back after lunch, because they are going on holiday.  Eileen and I will run the shop next week, but not every day and mornings only.  It’s a busy week, actually, with one thing and another – nothing vital but lots of little things.  The main thing I’m going to have to fit in is a lot of organ practice for a funeral on Wednesday, on an organ I’ve never played before.  Every one has a different set of stops and a different feel, I’m not looking forward to it at all.  Especially as the grandsons of the person who has died are very musical.

Something of a mercy dash this evening.  I was just starting to get dinner ready, and then went to get Tilly to have her dinner first.  I went into the cloakroom to wash my hands and there was Barry, Zerlina’s teddy bear.  So off I went to Norwich to return him.  The last thing I wanted was a distressed teddy bear missing his little girl.  Zerlina was asleep when I arrived, but Phil said that she’d be sure to wake during the evening, wanting Barry.  I guess they’d have coped overnight, but it wouldn’t have been easy to get through the whole weekend.

Dilly will celebrate her birthday while they’re away, so I took her presents through this morning to be packed, with a couple of DVDs for the children.  There are a lot of birthdays next month in the family – funnily enough, El’s, Al’s and Ro’s other halves all have birthdays in September, as well as Pugsley at the end of the month.

Z is tetchy

It hasn’t been a brilliant week really.  A member of the family of very good friends died the other day – I shall be playing the organ at her funeral, not at the church I usually play at and they want Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, not my favourite since it was played for forever at a wedding when the register was being signed, when I was fourteen (I think they chased and caught the goose and plucked a quill before shaping it and returning in triumph to the church and finally remembering there was a legal document to be signed), as an intro.  Then, I found several unheard messages on the answerphone, one of which was to say another elderly friend had died and the other was from the husband of an unwell friend, asking for a return call, from two days ago, so I jumped to the wrong conclusion, as it turned out – but I was quite upset to start with.

I’ve felt unsettled all day.  It all seems to have built up.  It doesn’t help that the dishwasher has broken down – no big deal to do the washing up and I don’t mind, but I am finding myself irritated that it doesn’t occur to the Sage to lend a hand.  In those far-off days before we had a dishwasher, he was working full-time but still thought it perfectly reasonable to wash up if I’d cooked dinner.

At least, having been tetchy all day, I cooked a nice meal this evening.

I do hate the BT 1571 service and there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch it off.  For those of you who don’t live in this country, it serves as an answerphone and also as a voicemail, so if you’re already on the phone it offers to take a message.  However, there is no indication of this to the householder, but just a two-tone dialling tone when next you pick up the phone to make a call.  So, after a phone call, you’re supposed to pick up the damn phone to check whether anyone has left a message, which of course you don’t think to do, so miss it until the next time you make a call.  Again however, if you’ve got a mobile phone contract that includes calls, you don’t use the landline, so it might be days before you find a message.

It was by chance, as it happens, that I did.  The phone rang, I went to answer it and it was dead.  I went to the plugged-in phone – missed the caller, as by then the (non BT) answerphone had kicked in and they’d put the phone down rather than leave a message.  So I went to investigate and it turned out that the cordless phone had been switched off.  The Sage had plugged in his own mobile to be charged, but not noticed the other switch was off.  When I switched on, I discovered all these messages.

Anyway, as I say, I’ve been tetchy.  The Sage is being very careful.

Dilly, Al and the children are going on holiday tomorrow.  They’ve rented a cottage for a week in North Norfolk.  Dilly will have her birthday while she’s away, so I’ve made up a bag of small presents – what I’d meant to get her, knowing she wanted it, her parents are getting so I’ve had to order other stuff at the last, so there are just little things for now.  She won’t take it amiss, she knows us too well.  I also, on a whim, ordered a couple of DVDs for the children the other day and they arrived remarkably quickly so I can give them to take, in case of a day when they are rained in.  Or an evening when they want to veg.

I’ll be really nice to the Sage later, I promise.  He’s taken the point.  We haven’t quarrelled, I assure you.  Ahem.  I just told him what he needed to know.

Z makes cake

The day is going quite well so far.  The worst thing about it is the weather, which would be quite acceptable for March or October, but in August is just plain bad-mannered.  It’s been a dreary heavy drizzle most of the day.  We had a piece of china to photograph; we’ve not perfected the lighting yet for the light box, so took it outside and did it in daylight in the box – we got wet but the china and camera didn’t.  Weeza and Zerlina came over for the day and Weeza did the ad and sent it off to the antiques magazine.

Zerlina is completely recovered from her chickenpox – there are still a few spots on her body but none on her face or limbs and she’s fine.  She’s using much longer sentences, it’s only nine days since we last saw her but a corner has suddenly been turned and you can tell that she’s deliberately using a variety of words and finding two or three ways of saying the same thing.  She’s putting in conjunctions and indefinite articles and grammarish sorts of things – for example, a fortnight ago she might have said “Give Tilly biscuit”, now she says “I’ll give a biscuit to Tilly”.  She knows she’s doing it and enjoys it.

Meals on Wheels was rather nice – look, I take pleasure in simple things – and everyone was cheerful.  I asked Lorna how her hip is, she had a new one last year.  It was the second replacement, she had it done first in her fifties, thirty years earlier.  “That’s fine,” she said, “it’s my back and knees that are the problem.”  She is philosophical about it and is glad that her health is otherwise well.  “You’ve got good neighbours all around,” I said.  “Oh yes, I gain more friends if anything, they’re often popping in.  ‘You know where the kettle and teapot are,’ I say, and they help themselves and come for a chat”.  It struck me, as before (when I wrote about a MoW survey) how happy most of these people are.  I can see why they get visitors, because they’re a pleasure to call on.  I remember a couple of elderly widowed sisters who lived together, where my mother used to live.  They were very pleasant and loved visitors, but they couldn’t bear people to go.  One of them edged in front of the door and they started to gabble new conversational topics the moment a visitor started to look at her watch.  “I must call on Kitty and Mary,” my mother would say, “but I have to have a free afternoon.  An hour is never enough.”  And so it got left another week, where a cheerful greeting and goodbye would have meant frequent droppings-in.  And then, of course, there are people who always have something to complain about.

My sister-in-law has a story about an old lady who used to live in the village.  My mother-in-law was very sweet-natured and generous, and a lot of people didn’t have money for treats in those days, even small ones.  So she always made extra and sent one of the children, usually her daughter, to give a little present to one of the elderly villagers.  This particular lady was never satisfied.  If she was given a pot of strawberry jam, she’d really hoped for gooseberry jelly.  If it was a cake, she really would have liked a bowl of soup.  So once, June went prepared.  She took the jar of strawberry jam out and proffered it.  “Oh, how kind your mother is.  I would have really liked apricot, though.”  “Don’t worry,” said June, smartly whipping back the jar.  And she got a jar of apricot out of her basket and gave it to her instead.  The poor old woman was quite embarrassed.  And June’s mother was none too pleased with her for her rudeness – that is, for letting the old lady know that she had been rumbled.

Anyway, this afternoon, I made a cake.  Not for any reason, I just felt cheerful.  Squiffany had phoned to ask Zerlina in to play for a while, and it was just cooling when they got back.  They had to get back home for tea, so I cut off a large piece and gave it to them.  Weeza phoned just now (really just now, I was writing the previous sentence at the time) so that I could hear Zerlina say how much she liked the cake.  She was still eating.  “Yum, yum,” she was saying in a loud voice.

Z has cheered up no end. Sleep every night seems not to be necessary.

You may (or may not, you have better things to do, after all) remember that I have taken on a new committee, as Area secretary of Nadfas.  It’s just two meetings a year, with two committee meetings to plan them – but there’s a lot of co-ordinating to do.  I’d say that there’s probably something to do eight months of the year, with quite a lot for three of them.  Which is fine, I’m not talking about days’-worth of work, the odd few hours at a time and quite a lot of emails to deal with.

I do find it easier to get to know people online, I have to say.  With my poor (better than it was) memory for names and faces, it’s easiest for me to get to know people by facts.  So I get away with it, everyone thinks I’ve a marvellous memory because I’ll remember most things I’ve ever been told.  That I may look at someone blankly, because I have poor face recognition, can be overlooked.  And a woman can develop a reputation for being a bit luvvieish (easier than for a man) and call everyone ‘darling’ or similar while she’s remembering their name.

I am loads better than I was in both these respects, because I have spent a lot of time working at it.  I remember, when I was secretary of the WI, I used to sit with the list of members on my lap, looking round the room (we sit in a circle) putting names to faces.  One can learn to improve, and it becomes easier.  It’s especially easier if I have something written down, as that’s the sort of memory, ‘learning style’ that I have.

Anyway (a written-verbal tic, I know, darlings), although it is quite a lot of work, I’m enjoying this secretaryship, because of all the emails – and the occasional phone call – that I get.  A sad excuse for a social life, but hey, it saves on the housework.  Ask people around and you have to clean up and cook and stuff.

There was a meeting here in fact, earlier on this evening, to plan the Harvest Supper.  I seem to have come off lightly, with a fruit salad – well, a fruity dessert, won’t decide what until near the time – and a cheeseboard.  Squiffany and Pugsley were here at the time (I typed in Pugsley’s actual name there, whoops, thought I was on Facebook for a minute) and they were very good but not entirely impossible to ignore.  They were playing with various apps on the phone – child-suitable, natch – and then giving each other rides on their backs round the room.  We didn’t mind, but the Sage came and took them away.  Afterwards, we agreed, we’re all grandmothers; they were quite happy and well-behaved, so we switched off and got on with our arrangements and didn’t even notice them.

Z is satisfied and proud

It was GCSE day today.  A Levels went very well, but GCSEs went even better.  Ours is a genuinely comprehensive school, which resolutely doesn’t take league tables as the be-all-and-end-all, so we have an open 6th form and don’t go for easy marks over good education.  We do have some regard for the tables, one has to be pragmatic, and the pros and cons of these are a subject for a post I’m not going to write – if you know me, you’ll know how easily I can get carried away on a subject I’m interested in, and this is (nearly) always a light-hearted blog.

But we did have the best results ever and, knowing how hard everyone has worked, I congratulate and appreciate all the staff and the pupils.  Whatever we say about league tables, exam results do matter and our 16-year-olds have got a jolly good springboard for whatever they’re going to do next.

It’s not up to the standards of a selective school or a good private or public one, but Yagnub has been described as a big council estate with a nice little market town attached.  And the surrounding areas are rural and not wealthy.  Wealthy people mostly send their children to the fine local private schools.  Weeza and Al went to two of them.  We sent Ro to the village school because it needed support, and then we carried on with the state schools because we were pleased with them.

So, our results were 86% grades A-C, 71% with both English and Maths.  English had 80% A-C and Maths 76.6%.  That’s our best results ever, gained through hard work not through easier exams, and I’m proud of those who put in such hard work.

And as for me – yes, I do think that the 22 years I’ve put in as a school governor have made a difference.  I’m glad of the part I’ve played.