Monthly Archives: December 2010

A miss isn’t necessarily quite as good as a mile

I mentioned, briefly, back on 11th September, that Wink had had a very near miss on the motorway while driving to visit us.  I took a photo of her car the next day, but never got round to posting it here.  However, reading Christopher’s account of the horrible skid they had on a busy, icy road (black ice, Blue Witch, he wasn’t driving too fast for the conditions as far as he knew) reminded me.

Just to recap – Wink was driving along the M11 when she glanced in her rear-view mirror and saw a car overtaking another and going out of control.  She braked, not knowing what was likely to happen.  The car shot alongside her, hit the central crash barrier and shot across her bows almost at right angles to her car.  On the hard shoulder, it righted itself again and was brought to a stop some way along.

Piecing it together afterwards, it appeared that the driver of the car being overtaken had been intending to pull out himself.  He looked in his mirror, it seemed okay, so he signalled and started to move, looked again, and a car was coming along very fast in the overtaking lane.  He stayed where he was, but the woman driving the overtaking car may have thought he was pulling out, swerved,  and was going so fast that she couldn’t control the car.

This, they discussed while waiting for the police to arrive.  They couldn’t ask the woman, who was sitting in her driving seat and didn’t get out.

Wink was surprisingly matter-of-fact about the whole thing.  It hadn’t happened, it nearly had but it didn’t.  So no need to get worked up.  We offered to come and fetch her, of course the motorway was closed but we could have met at the next service area and I bring her car back while the Sage drove Wink.  But she decided against it.  She did stop and have lunch, but then carried on.

Once she was here, she realised she’d lost her mobile.  She’d had it at the service area, but not used it since. We tried ringing it, but no reply.  However, not long afterwards, I had a phone call.  Wink had stopped in the next town to here, to buy me a pot plant.  The phone had dropped out of her pocket into a flower pot and another woman had just found it.  Since she didn’t want to wait, she said she’d leave it at the supermarket.  She phoned me because she checked the last caller.

So, two non-events, in one sense.  But it was a near miss.  Check out the picture.

The car was that close.  Wink braked just enough.

Tenazious and bozzy

Up even later this morning.  I feel as if it’s Christmas already, with all this self-indulgent behaviour.  Terribly naughty.  The Sage took me out to lunch, to the local caff.  He goes there regularly, and takes me about once a year.

A lot of people are rethinking their travel plans.  The snowy weather seems to sweep up and down the country – at present it’s in the South and the West Country.  I spoke to Wink last night, she’s due to come here on Sunday until Tuesday (yes, it’s a long way to come for a short time, but she’s seeing Bod and Bodsmum over Christmas and working on Wednesday) but this is looking doubtful.  It’s not worth it for a difficult journey.  Apparently she went a bit overboard on the present front this year so can’t possibly come by train – besides, that would be a pretty dire journey, too.

The daft bantams went to roost in trees yesterday afternoon, and by the time the Sage went out to shut them up, it was too late to do anything about it.  They all huddled in early this afternoon, he went out and gave them the pastry from our lunchtime steak pie and then shut the door on them.  They’re all fine and quite cheerful.  There are plenty of places for them to scratch about out of the way of the frost, and they all keep together and find any sunshine they can to bask in, although there has been none of that today.  No more snow, although it’s forecast for later in the week, from Wednesday onwards.  Not having to go far, I can be relaxed about it, but there’s not a lot of choice really.  A friend who is anxious whether her parents can make it up from Somerset has already had several invitations – she really wants to see them of course, but if it can’t happen, she won’t be alone and I bet they won’t be either.

The Sage and I solemnly exchanged cheques for each other’s Christmas present, though he wouldn’t let me pay full whack for his.  I showed him my bank statement to demonstrate that I could pay, but he wouldn’t take it.  And I went and bought as many veggies as could conveniently keep fresh, so that it’ll be less to do later in the week.  “£20” said Tim.  I fixed him with a steely look.  “And?”  “Ninety-one pence,” he admitted.  I gave him the extra pound.  I’m not taking discounts from him, dear chap.  He gave me 10p back with a flickering glance, so I laughed and accepted it.  It seems that I do take discounts.  He assures me that he has the shop under full control, I think he should let me come in.  I’ve said, I’ll be in every morning at the end of the week to see how it’s going.  I know how hard the work is, and he’ll be on his knees by the end of it.   And customers will only wait so long, it’s important to keep the shelves stocked all the time – well, he knows it too, his brother is going to help.  I explained that I am a motherly control freak and I can’t help it.  Funnily enough, I don’t do this sort of thing with my own children, I’m more afraid of being overbearing than anything, and I trust that they will ask if they want me. Well, I don’t think I do.  But I probably can’t help it.

It’s all Weeza’s fault.  I used to be very mild and unassuming, until she once called me “strong”.  Startled, because I had no idea, I’ve played up to it since.  I realised eventually that a mixture of pride and embarrassment stopped me from ever asking for help, so it was assumed I didn’t need it.  I wasn’t strong so much as tenacious.  But now, yes.  No pride left, so I accept all the help offered and even ask for it, but I’m afraid that strength has turned to bossiness.  But I’ll take no for an answer.

Looking up at the stars – Z is a guttersnipe

If you don’t have to go anywhere, this weather is really restful – obviously, if you do, it’s very worrying and stressful, whether you have the journey from hell or whether you cancel.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.  There’s been nothing that was any problem to cancel and I had enough food in.  Let’s face it, we could eat for a month, although we’d end up with interesting unlabelled items that had been in the bottom of the freezer for a couple of years.

I was asked to choose carols for the service this morning, and did so carefully.  I used to do it regularly but am out of the way of it, so it takes a while.  Although, Christmas carols, there’s a limit to how many are appropriate to go for at this stage of Advent.  I couldn’t resist putting in my favourite, “It came upon the midnight clear” with its gloomy yet hopeful lyrics and the uplifting word “glorious” in the second line, and “See amid the winter’s snow” because of the weather.

We got up thoroughly late this morning.  The Sage, unusually, has been sleeping in.  I’ve been awake long before him, but if I get up it disturbs him so, if I’ve nothing I have to do, I lie there reading and playing games.  Eventually of course, he wakes up, wraps an arm round me and then goes back to sleep – and so do I.  So it was quite late when we were dressed and downstairs.  This was fine.  It was Sunday, after all.

There’s a certain degree of pride in those who get up early, I’ve always noticed.  Also in ones who go to bed late.  Few do both.  My father did.  He never stayed in bed once he woke up, but got up and did – well, I don’t know, he was always up a long time before me.  But he never went to bed before midnight either.  I like early mornings in theory, but the evenings appeal too much.  I’m at my most cheerful and lively at night.  If I went to bed at 10, I’d miss that.  It’s when I’m just getting chatty and interested in things.  But people who love to see the dawn think that this is a decadent idea, compared to their healthy lifestyles.  This may be true, it equally may not – but in any case, I have a feeling that the moral high ground may not be as much fun as the immoral flatlands.

I bought several bars of particularly nice chocolate the other day, meaning to share it among my children.  I’m having great difficulty in resolving to give it away.  I wish I’d bought double quantities.  I look at the descriptions and whimper with desire.  I’ll resist, of course, I didn’t buy them for me.  Dammit.

Z slides and is about to cast a die

It has been a very jolly day.  We received a phone call first thing, asking if we could look after the children as Dilly and Al needed to go out.  I was still in bed actually – I’m awake early but up late, thanks to my phone and, as far as last night and today is concerned, to the new levels of iAssociate.  Still so addictive.

The Sage went next door and babysat until I had put all sorts of stuff on my face – I considered counting the different products but thought that way led to humiliation, considering that the aim is to look fairly untouched at the end, except by time which is inevitable.  Then I went and suggested that we go and frolic in the snow.  Squiffany perked up and went straight to get her boots and gloves, while Pugsley did the “Noooooooo” of despair.  He’s not the most outdoor of children.  So he came here with Grandpa, whilst Squiff and I had a lovely time.  We threw snow at each other – not really snowballs as the stuff was just too powdery.  Then we trotted across the Ups and Downs to look at the dip, and decided that there was not enough snow for a toboggan but that there might be for a bag or tray.  So we came back, found the waterproof cover that had been used when Tilly was not quite reliable on the sofa any more and took that.  I was cautious, but still quite abandoned (story of a good life, darlings) and slid down turn by turn with Squiffany.  I don’t care how much I ache tomorrow.  Having spent several years being achy and necessarily careful, I don’t want to miss out on anything silly and fun that I can possibly enjoy.

We came back and played board games and then had lunch, and then we went out again, leaving Pugsley playing quite happily with Lego – he knew where we were, within calling distance.  Squiffany says that, when the baby is born (she and P both rather hope for a sister but we don’t know yet) that there will be a Gang, of the three of them, Zerlina … and ME!  She will casually say to her mother that they will take the baby out for a while, it’ll be all right because Granny will be there, and then we’ll go to secret places and have fun.  Can you imagine how pleased and flattered I am?  Can you?  No, try.  Yes, that’s more like it.

As for casting the die, we’ve received our invitation to the New Year Walk in Denton, hosted by good friends – last year, of course, I was within three weeks of receiving my hip and (interesting, I don’t care about my clapped-out old one, it’s the new one that’s part of me, poor old lost bone) stayed at the house to stir soup rather than walk.  We’ll accept of course, but I’ve said to the Sage that, if all right with him, I’ll say to them, put the word out that we are looking for a pup.  Chester came from Denton and there’s a fine neighbourhood network there.  They are well placed to hear of a bitch that has gone a bit wayward and is expecting mongrel puppies.

In further news, I have a Christmas present for the Sage.  I am rather thrilled to find that I am spending nearly four times on him what he is on me.  I adore a demanding husband.  Makes me rise to the occasion.  Although I think, damn, I should have demanded an iPad right back.  He has chosen a cracked mug, dated 1795.  It isn’t even Lowestoft, never mind any other recognised factory.  A connoisseur’s piece, darlings, indeed.

And finally, I have received by bill from the Inland Revenue.  Sigh.  There’s a weird thing, if you’re self-employed, that they demand a payment on account for the next year, based on this year’s amount owed.  So this year I’ll pay twice as much, but next year I’ll owe very little so it won’t trigger the extra demand, until the next year – well, that seems to be how it works.  I expected it, so have the money.  Damn them.

Oh, finally finally, the reason Dilly and Al were out was to meet prospective tenants for D’s Norwich house. All is well and they will move in in a fortnight.  So that’s good.

Z doesn’t fall over

Having said we wouldn’t have a tree, it’s turned out that there’s a spare one.  Al bought one for the village school, delivered it and now that term is over has brought it back again, and there isn’t a suitable branch for us to take off.  This wouldn’t matter, we can get a branch of fir anywhere (and we’re not very bothered, to be honest) but he and Dilly decided that they might as well use it, and that leaves the little tree in a pot going spare.  So I said, okay, it can go on the revolving bookcase and we’ll put the floozy and a couple of decorations on it.

If you didn’t know me last year, you won’t have been introduced to the floozy.  It’ll probably be as simple to take her picture again and put it up as to refer back to last December.  She is an honoured, if not a respected, member of the family.

I didn’t get to the end of term jollies at the high school.  I didn’t want to get the car out and then walk on the slippery ground, frankly.  We had an electrical problem at the church and I walked there and back four times, which was quite enough – the drives weren’t too bad, but the road was terribly slippery.  The last time, carefully as I walked, I slipped several times and it was both caution and luck that kept me upright.  I’m probably reasonably safe from dislocation except from a bad fall, but if it were to happen I’d be dreadfully upset.  I’m still scared of it more than is quite proportionate, although from my mother’s experiences it’s not surprising.  Anyway, I do go out and I haven’t fallen.  I had to climb on and off tables and chairs several times, about a dozen, and my hip has hurt a bit this evening, which is interesting – after eleven months, you’d think that wouldn’t happen.

I had to phone the electrician, being unable to deal with it myself.  He is a lovely young man.  He was on his way to Norwich when I rang, but cheerfully said that he’d call in on his way home, and phoned with 20 minutes warning for me to meet him.  Then he quickly diagnosed the problem, said he’d nip back to the shop and get the part and come back, so I left him a key (the church isn’t locked, but the meetings rooms are) and fetched it later. He is busy with appointments, but since this is easily dealt with (and his parents are  devout Christians, so he knows that everything has to be in full working order at this time of year) he made sure he fitted it in and phoned through to his later appointments to let them know he’d be a bit late.  I don’t think you can beat a good local firm, especially family-run.

I feel that I have copped out, because I’ve wrapped most of the presents.  A couple haven’t arrived yet, and I still have a couple to buy, but otherwise they are wrapped.  I think it takes the fun out, but I’d have to put everything away otherwise, in case the children come in and start poking around.

Still no diagnosis for Andy.  He is being taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for more specialised tests next week.  No prognosis until there’s a diagnosis of course.  Poor Andy, poor Gill.  So worrying.

The Big O, plural

Delicacy will not permit me to tell you how our day started; suffice it to say that I had to change the bedclothes, and that neither of us was ill or incontinent.  Even that is rather TMI, I realise.  We took Pugsley to nursery, picked up Ro and I went to the dentist, from where he and Al walked into the ci’ee, then the Sage dropped me at the little Riverside shopping centre while he went to visit a friend.  I bought various things, including three pairs of shoes and a pair of boots, which I have passed on to him for my Christmas present (romantic presents happen sometimes, but aren’t always necessary.  I’m very pleased with this one) and we arrived on the top floor at Bonds on the dot of noon.

Hebe (actually, shall we drop that? The Sage’s sister’s name is June) … June is great fun.  She has never been known to complain about anything and is always cheerful.  She mentioned that she had built a snowman – all by herself, for the pleasure of everyone where she lives, which is a sort of retirement complex of individual cottages around a big courtyard, in Cromer.  It’s great to have someone else as daft as I am.

Her daughter and family aren’t joining her for Christmas this year in fact, but her son and his partner are, complete with their neurotic cat.  She has opted to go by train and meet them there, which surprised them a bit, but she confided that she really doesn’t want a carsick, doped cat on her lap again.  June had us in fits of laughter as she told us about the forthcoming “Big O’s” – the first is to be next December when Simon will be 50, then it’ll be her 80th, then Sarah’s 50th.  We started comparing Big Os (excuse the apostrophe, I’ll leave it out now that you know I’m talking about the letter O, plural) and realised that they can carry on for the next five years, between us all.  Ken, Simon’s partner, had his Big O the year before last.

My teeth are fine, and so is my mouth.  I paid quite a lot of money to be told so, and for a three minute polish.  It rained on and off all day, but when the Sage looked out a while ago, it had started to snow lightly.  If you have to travel darlings, I hope it isn’t too difficult.  The roads will be treacherous.

Z plans to go down the ci’ee

They still haven’t found what’s wrong with Andy.  Two MRI scans, the lumbar puncture, an endoscopy and numerous blood and other tests have come up with nothing conclusive.  They’ve sent blood to Cambridge for more specialised tests.  It’s still a mystery.  Whatever it is, it’s over and above the strokes.

I called on Gill’s mum today.  She’s a delightful lady who never stops talking.  I shall refer to her as Mrs Honeyman.  She was born a month before my own mum, I found out, and her late husband shared Mummy’s birthday, but he was a year older.

Tomorrow, we’re going to meet the Sage’s sister Hebe for lunch and to exchange presents.  We give her a Stilton, and have done each Christmas for decades.  Every so often, we check that it’s still what she wants and she says she relies on it.  She normally rents a cottage for a week, somewhere between her two offspring (one in Oxon, the other in Bucks) and they all muck in together for Christmas day.  She’s a lot of fun, Hebe, and we’re very fond of her.  She lives in Cromer so we normally meet up in Norwich – Hebe has glaucoma and so had to give up driving, so comes by bus usually.

There was a bit of a cock-up on the catering front this evening.  I had bought sausages, and decided that the Sage would continue to love me if I made him toad in the hole.  So I got them frizzling away while I made the batter, and then found I was 2 ounces shy of plain flour.  I knew I was running short, so had bought … self-raising flour.  There was still half a jar left of that in any case.  It was past the point of no return with the batter, so I looked for the strong bread-making flour that I expected to have, but didn’t, and only came up with some buckwheat flour that I use for blini.  I decided that I’d use a little of that and a little of the SR and that would be fine.  Well, it wasn’t.  It didn’t rise at all and was heavy.  Nice enough flavour, but we just nibbled a bit round the edge and the rest will go to the chickens.  They won’t mind.  The Sage was highly amused by my mistake and promised not to think less of me.

I’ve done most of my shopping, except for the Sage, but I am out of inspiration for Squiffany.  I’ve got her a couple of things, but not as much as I have for Pugsley, and I think his presents are more fun.  In fact, I think that boys’ presents are more fun than girls, on the whole.  When Weeza was a child, I got them the same sort of things, I didn’t treat them differently on account of their sex, but the whole thing seems to be so much more rigid now, and nearly everything seems to be invisibly labelled – well, not so invisibly, because everything “for girls” is a relentless pink.  I asked Dilly for more ideas, and she said it’s difficult because Squiffany spends most of her time reading and writing.  Dilly suggested buying clothes or else tickets for the pantomine in Yagnub, which is a thought if I’m really stuck, but it won’t help on Christmas Day when Pugsley is enjoying his cool toys and Squiff is looking at pieces of paper.  Ho hum.

Ring on Z’s finger

I wore my 20th birthday present today, a ring that the Sage bought me on our honeymoon in the Seychelles.  They are beautiful islands, I expect it’s a lot more commercial now than it was in 1973, but they won’t be less beautiful.  I showed Sean my ring and warned him about the sudden chilly downpour that often happens in the afternoons before dusk, before the beautiful balmy evenings.

This afternoon was the village school nativity play and carol concert, and I played the music for the carols. The littlest children acted out the nativity scene – you can be as unreligious as you like, it’s still a magical tale that catches anyone with a heart.

I phoned Gill this morning, Andy has had MRI scans and today a lumbar puncture was scheduled.  She had the impression that they know what they’re looking for, but would rather not say until they have proof. He has been up, and walked across the ward on a frame, and he can eat a little and drink normally.  All medication has been withdrawn until they know what they are treating.  Apparently, it’s likely that his fever was caused by an inflammation or an infection; the former would be treated with steroids and the latter with antibiotics and it would be dangerous to get it wrong.  In Madeira, he was given antibiotics and was delirious and terribly ill – Gill thought she would lose him – so that indicates it may have been the wrong treatment.  He has had at least two strokes.  She needs nothing herself, other friends and family are rallying round, so I suggested that I might visit her mum.  Gill is calling in every evening, but only for a little while, and she thought that was a good idea, so I rang Mum and have invited myself round tomorrow afternoon.  Anything for a free cup of tea, darlings.  She’s a charming lady, and very talkative.  I will not need to say much.  Anyway, I thought that I could call in once or twice a week while things are tricky, and regularly after that.  She lives close to the High School and I’m there often enough, after all.  No trouble to pop in afterwards for half an hour or so, it’s doing something that takes half a day that needs to be scheduled.

I’ve been given the carols for the Christmas Eve carol service, most of them are fine but one has a calypso-ish rhythm that doesn’t go too well on the organ, so I’ll play that on the clarinet.  I need to do some practice.  I will have some free time, I must make sure I do it.  I’ve offered to spend some time helping Tim at the shop, he’ll be on his knees by the end of next week otherwise.  I’ll talk to him about Christmas orders.  Al prided himself on doing them at the last moment so that everything was absolutely fresh – Derek before him used to get non-perishables ready days in advance, but if it was cold, they could be damaged by that and I used sometimes to find the odd rotten orange or potato when I picked up my Christmas order.  But Al went in at 4 am on the two days before Christmas and it was exhausting for him – I was all right, I’d go in until 8.30 and then beetle off home.  He’d be there until the last customer left sometime after 5.30 pm.  Still, we all loved that shop.

Z is reliable

It all went very well tonight and the guest speaker was marvellous.  She’s in her early 30s, an ‘old girl’ who, having been disappointed by her A level results and having found her university place through clearing, worked hard to make a success and now has fulfilled her ambition to be a BBC journalist.  She spoke really well and was inspirational for our students.

I was fine, did the job I was supposed to do, didn’t draw too much attention to myself and made no verbal howlers.  Got a couple of intentional laughs, but didn’t make an attempt to be too funny.  Glanced at notes, didn’t read them out.  Made some eye contact.  The Sage came, but I couldn’t see him, though I was looking.  I introduced him to  the Head, afterwards, they’ve each heard a lot about each other but had never met.

I asked Sean what he was doing over the holidays, he said he’s going to the Seychelles.  “We spent our honeymoon in the Seychelles,” I squeaked excitedly and he said “haven’t I told you?” and explained his son is getting married out there next week.  I must remember to tell him about the sudden temperature drop that happens at sunset, before a balmy evening.  I’d love to go back there, they were beautiful islands.

I went to Norwich this morning to have lunch with a friend.  She asked me for 11 o’clock, and offered me coffee first.  I drink coffee black normally, but she was measuring out a cup of milk and one of water.  Okay.  She heated them, added Gold Blend and we went and sat down in the dining room.  She added generous top-ups of Bailey’s to each cup.  Fine.  I can rise to most occasions.

Later, I ate an enormous lunch, fish pie and crème brûlée, a dish remarkable for three different accents which I hope aren’t represented by little squares in your browser.  They all work in Safari, anyway.  I am getting worryingly fat.  I can’t get into all my size 10 clothes any more (that is, I can wear some of them, I’m wearing a 10 skirt now).  I can’t bike in this frosty weather, I’m afraid of a fall.  I could always eat less, I suppose.  Oh dear.  Bit of a last resort, that.

982 words

It’s always the same – when I know I’m going to have to get up early, I wake up even earlier than I need to. I’d set the alarm for 6.45 and was awake an hour earlier.  I’m still ploughing on with the Forsyte Saga (and still spelling it Sage) but not enjoying it so much.  Long purple passages are there to be flicked through, and there was a truly dreadful bit about the thoughts and emotions of the very young Jon.  Still, within a hundred pages of the end (on the phone they are very small pages, 2647 of them), I shall finish it tonight.  There must be another whole book though, there’s too much story to go for it to be finished in a couple of chapters, from my memory.

I have written my speech – that is, I started with last year’s first and last two paragraphs and written the middle section new.  It is not impossible that the Sage might decide to come along.  I suggested it, expecting an excuse, and he’s asked what time it will take place.  He’s welcome, but it’s fine if he doesn’t.  We’re fairly laid back about these things.  I did once tell him, rather forthrightly, that I had never received any support when I have to take a lead – he protested that he’d applauded, at a lecture when I’d introduced the guest speaker.  “You could hardly not applaud, when everyone else was clapping.” I pointed out acidly.  “Besides, they weren’t applauding me, they were welcoming the guest.” He argued no more, he knew it was true, and remembered to wish me well next time I was going to do a similar thing.  It’s not that one needs a hand held, but a friendly gesture would be nice – I’ve been so self-sufficient, it’s not surprising that it didn’t occur to him.

Gill did come to church this morning.  It’s all going to take a while.  They have still not found the cause of the original illness.  I’m not sure how badly affected he has been by the stroke, she said that he’s struggling to manage his mobile phone to ring her.  She thinks he will not be able to resume his former demanding job and will have to take early retirement, or at least work part-time – too early to tell.  They have eliminated various causes – she was slightly startled to be assured that the test for HIV was negative; that is, she wouldn’t have expected it to be anything else, it was the test that surprised.  Anyway, at least he’s on the mend.

This afternoon, I turned out a small cupboard, which I’m going to use to keep the children’s games in.  They are fond of board games and jigsaws now, and I’ve been keeping some of them in a box and some just in a pile.  Unfortunately, I’ve now a boxful of the stuff I’ve taken out of the cupboard to go through.  I may hide it until the new year.

982 refers to the words in the speech, not in this post, which is shorter.