Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mug Shot

All the staff now have those dangly plastic identification things with their photos on, and it has been decreed that the governors must too.  I’m rather regretful at this.  Partly for the obvious reason that it meant having my picture taken, partly because it means me giving up wearing my name badge (also dangly, but from a metal chain rather than a ribbon) that has a green smiley face sticker that my friend Caroline in Learning Support gave me.  However, I dutifully got my picture taken after the committee meeting last Thursday and picked the badge up on Friday … and put it, unlooked at, in my bag.  I didn’t look at it the next day either.  I finally hauled it out on Saturday at the quiz and passed it round the table.  I look strangely thin-lipped, which I’m not, but otherwise, though not flattering at all, I have to admit that’s probably much what I look like.  A bit depressing, that.  Anyway, I asked for, and got, the dots on my name.

Today, I have a vital day for getting stuff done at home.  No housework will be involved, past the daily stuff. If I do well, I’ll make marmalade this afternoon, however.  I bought enough oranges for two more batches, and that will certainly be enough for the year.  It might well be more than the the jars I have.  I remember one year my father, who was the marmalade maker in our family, used glasses when he ran out of jars.  We had loads of glasses, it didn’t matter, and the marmalade did look very pretty, especially as he added a few almonds and cherries at the last for cosmetic purposes.

One of the things that the Sage was happily showing Mike yesterday was the ugly mug I gave him for Christmas.  He’s so pleased with it.  I saw last night that he hadn’t put it safely away, and I’ve just spotted it now where he left, it, on an armchair.  Although there’s no reason to think it won’t be safe there, I’ve had to move it.  Too many years of having dogs and children plonking themselves onto chairs without looking, I can’t overcome my inbuilt caution and I was feeling extremely uncomfortable.

The fishmonger calls on a Monday morning.  I have bought kippers, especially for Christopher.  I shall open the window and waft the aroma in a southerly direction tonight.  I’ve just made coffee, but I’m tactfully not wafting that Roses’ way in case she’s still not permitted caffeine.

Z the lightweight

Last night, three of us polished off three bottles of wine.  I matched the other two glass for glass for a while, but had to admit defeat after the first glass of the third bottle.

This morning, I decided not to go to the pub, but give my liver a chance to recover a bit, and cycled in for the papers instead.  I’ve spent most of the day reading, actually, books and newspapers.  All that busyness and sociability had taken its toll and I’d reached my limit.  I was quite happy to be on my own.

At about three o’clock the Sage mentioned that he’d invited a friend round.  So I said, quite pleasantly, that I’d make them some tea and retire to the kitchen to read. The Sage was awfully disappointed and I think he thinks I wasn’t quite polite – he said I could sit reading while they were talking.  I felt that would be really offhand, and in the event I did greet the friend and explain cheerfully that I’d leave them to it.  Mike didn’t mind a bit, but the Sage was a bit twitchy.

The thing is, though, that he doesn’t do anything with me if he doesn’t want to.  For example, the quiz last night – he doesn’t really enjoy them and I do, so he was quite happy to back out, and I go with Al and Dilly, and another friend of theirs.  But he is a bit disappointed if I do the same thing although, conversely, he doesn’t necessarily feel the need to include me if it’s something he wants to do on his own.

He’s used to my independence and occasional solitude, but also to me backing him up and he doesn’t expect me to want to be backed up.  This is fair enough, and mostly suits us both.  For instance, this morning he vanished for three hours, visiting a friend and it certainly didn’t occur to him to ask me if I’d like to go.  But this afternoon’s visit was in respect of a couple of things that I’ve heard about over and over, and I just didn’t want to have to be falsely interested yet again.  But to say that, he’d be hurt that I’m not interested any more (I am in a sense, I just don’t want to talk about it any more).

I should say, we haven’t fallen out and we’re not going to.  He’s just brought me coffee and all is cosy and friendly in the Zage household.  And Dilly and Al asked us in for dinner, and we’ve just got back.

Out and about

Ro was moving house today, and a few things were surplus to requirements for now, although not necessarily in the future, so we’ve brought them back here.  We have stalwartly resisted using his bedroom to put our stuff in, but it’s a huge room so there is plenty of room to keep whatever he wants.  As I said yesterday, I suggested going out for lunch and, in the event, the Sage decided to come too.  I was rather glad of that, as it means I don’t have to feel guilty at not having got in anything for him for tonight, when I’m out and he’s babysitting – although, in fact, there are still sausage casserole and smoked fish risotto leftovers in the fridge, so he won’t have to forage too far.

In the afternoon, we called on Andy and John.  We each visited one and then swapped over!  Both are doing very well.  Andy is actually getting really excited at the thought of retirement – it’s pretty brave of him really, he still can only walk a few steps in a shuffle using a frame, and may never walk independently again, but he’s choosing to take a completely positive attitude.  His son-in-law, who is paraplegic, has offered him a spare electric wheelchair and he’s looking forward to whizzing around the village.  He’s looking forward to playing music again – don’t think he’ll manage his guitar for a while, but he can play his keyboard once he leaves hospital on Monday week.  He has various plans to do voluntary work.

A digression – there is no doubt that a strong religious faith helps people get through such times, and accept what’s happening to them.  That is, what went wrong “just happened, one of those things”, whereas the things that are going really well now are God-led and he’s thankful for them.  The point is, it doesn’t matter in the least whether you think he’s deluded or what, but that it’s taking him out of a possible self-pity, for which no one could blame him, and helping his recovery and well-being.  And if you think it’s a delusion, please don’t sneer, or not here – he still is choosing his positive attitude, and if he’s being buoyed by faith, then good for him.  

Since they’ve been home, things have gone remarkably well.  They put their house on the market – photos were taken and particulars put out by the agent on Monday.  On Wednesday, a couple came to see the house, put in an offer very near the asking price, which they accepted.  They put in an offer on a bungalow in this village, which was accepted.  The couple have sold their house, are living in a rented house and have all the money in the bank, waiting.  This could be the fastest transaction it’s possible to have.  Andy is now waiting to hear about his disability allowances, and to be released from his employment contract.  I said to him, “well, you’re not a lot of use to them at present, are you?”


I came up with a suggestion today that, momentarily, silenced the Head, until he pointed out a fatal flaw – though with a certain regret, because he recognised the brilliance (not saying it was good, but it was brilliant).  I’ve just realised, and emailed him to say, that the flaw is not necessarily fatal, having done a bit of remembering from yesterday’s meeting – I had actually made a note of the relevant point, having no idea of its relevance at the time.  However, I think it’s too radical a plan – though it’d be fun and would completely wrong-foot certain unhelpful people.

You know sometimes, when there’s a problem, you suddenly have a brilliant idea which doesn’t quite hold water, but which opens up other pathways (waterways?), either in your brain or the other person’s, that might float all the boats, though?*  The Sage is excellent for bouncing ideas off – I rattle away excitedly and he listens with an indulgent air.  Usually, by the time I’ve talked through it, I’ve noticed the impracticalities myself.  But sometimes, the project takes off (this is how the wall idea started, with me saying “Wouldn’t it be fun if…”).    I do appreciate people who don’t dampen enthusiasm.

I’m writing early this evening, because I’m going out.  In fact, Dilly and I are both going to visit a friend, and being picked up by another.  We’re also, with three other of Dilly and Al’s friends, going to the next village to a quiz and supper tomorrow night.  This is terribly unusual for me.  I might celebrate by going to the pub on Sunday.  I haven’t had a pint of Lightweight for ages.

A few minutes passes…  Goodness, this is getting to be a social whirl.  Ro just phoned and I’ve suggested I take him and Dora out to lunch tomorrow.  I’m awfully excited.  This is lovely.  I do enjoy this sort of thing, I wonder why I don’t do it more often?

*terribly sorry for that laboured and slightly implausible metaphor

Marmalade recipe, using whole oranges

I’ll put the link to the recipe using a pressure cooker at the end.
Prep: 40 min, Cook: 90 min


10 Seville oranges (weighs about 3 lbs, 1.5 kg)
 2 lemons 
1.5 litres water 
2 kg sugar


Put some saucers in the freezer.  Simmer the whole oranges and lemons, covered, in the given water until the skin is very soft; this takes about 40 minutes depending on the fruit.  Use a smaller upturned saucepan lid that fits comfortably inside the pan or a plate weighed down with a tin, to keep the fruit immersed. Piercing the oranges after about 20 minutes encourages sinking, and rotate the fruit if not fully immersed.  A large saucepan makes this easier than using a preserving pan at this stage.

Lift the soft fruit into a colander over a bowl and leave to cool. You can speed this up by cutting each fruit in half and putting them onto a plate. Quarter the soft, cooled fruit. Use your fingers or a teaspoon to pinch out the seeds and hard membrane into a bowl. Slice or chop the peel in your preferred thickness. Do not worry about the thick pith as this will melt to thicken the marmalade.

At this point there is a choice.  If you are quite sure the peel is cooked through, add the sugar to the liquid in the pan and stir, heating gently, until it’s completely dissolved.  If it boils before it dissolves, it will become granular. 

Or, if any of the peel shows a white layer, cook very gently for a few more minutes in the liquid until it’s cooked through.  Once the sugar is added, the peel won’t soften any more.

Put the seeds into a sieve and push with a potato masher, The purée will come through, leaving the seeds behind.  Put the purée in the pan (any odd seeds will float to the top later and can be skimmed off). If you haven’t a masher, just chuck in any purée you can isolate from the pips and abandon the rest.

Bring the marmalade to simmer over your largest burner stirring thoroughly and constantly with a long wooden spoon to avoid sticking points. Once the marmalade begins to simmer, increase the heat and boil hard, stirring occasionally, until setting point is reached. This varies depending on the fruit and previous evaporation and takes about 5 – 15 minutes. purée

Once it begins to look syrupy, test by placing a teaspoonful on an icy saucer. Cool, then push with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s done. Leave the marmalade to settle for 5 minutes. Stir again and pour or ladle into hot, sterilised jam jars. Leave for 5 minutes, then cover and cool. Wipe any spillages off the jars while they’re still warm and it’ll come off easily.  Label and leave for 24 hours to set before storing. Ready to eat immediately.

I have a preserving pan so would use that for boiling the marmalade.  If using a saucepan, it must be large enough – the boiling mixture will more than double in volume.  If it’s too much, halve the quantity (you could do the initial cooking, then halve for the final boil).

Link to Cottage Smallholder’s recipe for marmalade using a pressure cooker

Analgesic Sage

I should have been writing about something quite different, but I was reminded, by means of Facebook, about the birth of Ro.  By the way, his girlfriend Dora has just received news of a new baby nephew, so congratulations to her and the happy parents.  So maybe this is appropriate after all.

Ro was due in August, but in the early hours of 24th July, I woke feeling uncomfortable.  This continued for the rest of the night.  I didn’t get ‘false alarms’ so I reckoned that things were happening.  It so happened that I was due a check-up with the gynaecologist that day, so I packed a bag, asked the Sage to drive me and arrived at the local hospital, and waited for my appointment.  Waited, my left foot.  I was left apologising to the Sage for giving up an entire morning.  No idea what went wrong, but it was hours before I was called in.  A few women had young children with them, they were in despair and the children inconsolable at being kept in a crowded waiting room.  Anyway, eventually my name was called and I went in.

When Weeza was born, this chap had delivered her.  Al was born at home under the care of the family doctor.  This was lovely, but he’d retired.  I asked my doctor if he did home deliveries, but he didn’t and I really liked him and didn’t want to change, so opted for the consultant I’d known ten years before (who didn’t remember me, but then he sees a lot of rear ends and I don’t suppose one stands out more than another).

I said to him, I was having labour pains and had had for eight hours.  He didn’t reply, but said he’d have a look.  A painful few minutes later, he said he’d see me in a fortnight.  That still rankles, twenty-six and a half years later, that he didn’t actually address a word in answer to anything I said.  I’ve favoured non-white/female/non-posh-voiced consultants ever since. (Any combination of)

I stalked out, we went home, I felt uncomfortable.  At 3 o’clock, it moved up a gear, I phoned my mum who came straight over.  I remember waving to Weeza and Al, standing looking anxious in the drive.  We drove ten miles to the hospital.  On the roundabout in Yarmouth, the car sounded as if there was a flat tyre. I was wriggling uncomfortably, the Sage was annoyingly calm.  We discussed it and decided it was the road surface, which it was.

We got to the hospital and the Sage said that the dog needed to be fed (that was Simon, you don’t know him) and buggered off, leaving me feeling a bit … left.

Anyway, things progressed, I’ll get to the point eventually.  I was assigned two lovely midwives and taken to a room and they popped in regularly, but basically I was left.  Which was fine, I’m better on my own.  Eventually, I said politely that I would like my husband to be phoned.  They did so, but there was no answer.  I started to feel a bit desperate, I really wanted my Sage with me.  It was rush hour, they said he was probably stuck in traffic. Finally, we couldn’t wait, they started to help me on to a trolley to get me in to the delivery room.  I was very uncomfortable.

The Sage arrived and put his arms round me.  And as he put his arms around me, the pain vanished.  I promise you, this is literally true.  I felt all pain drain away – not vanishing in a moment, but steadily leaving me and draining away.  And, although the contractions carried on happening, and I suppose it must have been quite a strong feeling, they never hurt again as they had.

I’d have made a good Scientologist mother, you know, I used to bear childbirth in silence.  I cope better by focussing than letting it out.  All the same, it was the Sage who brought me through that so easily.  And I was quite looking forward to waving my new son at that rude obstetrician, but he didn’t appear again.  No great loss, we didn’t need him.

Burned out

My three half-days in Learning Support are done.  I’ve been in such lessons before of course (SEN governor) but it was more concentrated than usual and, in addition, I was asked to fill in an observation sheet for each lesson as well as the sheet for the governors’ records.  If you’ve noticed a certain distraction the past couple of nights, it’s been because that has taken ages, and much thought.

I sent a cheerily friendly email to a friend yesterday whom I haven’t seen for months.  He and I are really good friends but rarely bump into each other and, now not being on the same committee (we’ve both left it), we haven’t got any particular reason to phone or email each other.  I had a short reply (saying ‘to be continued’, however) describing the Burns Night party he and his wife went to last night.  Everyone was expected to sing or recite something appropriate.  I do know some Burns by heart, but I’d so not do that.  Really.  Goodness.  What for?  A few would enjoy it, the rest would find it an ordeal at best, totally appalling at worst.  I’d be in the “what for” brigade of refuseniks.

No, actually, I’ve just thought, I wouldn’t.  I’d quote Rudyard Kipling’s brief, twelve line poem about James I/VI.  Which I should know.  Not googling, so may not have it word perfect –

“The child of Mary Queen of Scots
A shifty mother’s shiftless son
Bred up amid intrigue and plots
Learnèd in all things, wise in none.  
Ungainly, babbling, wasteful, weak,
Shrewd, clever, cowardly, pedantic.
The sight of steel would blanch his cheek,
The smell of baccy drive him frantic.
He was the author of his line.
He wrote that witches should be burnt.
He wrote that monarchs were divine,
And left a son who – proved they weren’t.”*

Yup, a good antidote to all things Scottish.  Not that I’ve a thing against them.  My middle name is Buchanan.

Regrettably, that’s true.  If I’d been a boy, I’d have gone to school at Glenalmond.

* I learned this, years ago, while the Sage drove me to Wells Next The Sea.  It was the year I decided to learn a poem.  It was the shortest I could find.

Zedtective work

I’ve spent the last couple of hours searching emails for the Sage.  He is a friendly sort, you see, and likes to keep in touch.  Sometime last year, he called on someone (who lives in the same village as Ziggi, as it happens) and he wanted this chap’s phone number.  They had got in touch with each other via eBay, said the Sage.

The Sage said he’d called on him during the autumn, but I knew that couldn’t be right – I’d visited Ziggi in August, after the Sage had called on his friend.  By a great feat of memory, the Sage remembered his name, *John Smith*, but that wouldn’t be given in the title of an eBay email.  I spent some time looking, without success.  I finally tore the Sage away from his computer and he went to look for last year’s diary.  That gave a date, and finally he remembered the item he’d gone to look at.  I searched every damn email for six months and finally had to say I couldn’t find it.  I looked on for the chap’s phone number, but he’s ex-directory.

“What do you want to speak to him about?” I asked.  “Oh, you know, just for a chat.”

The Sage dozed off.  I thought about it a bit further.  And thought, maybe he contacted us direct, it was nothing to do with eBay.

Two minutes later, I was waking the Sage up with the news that I had the full correspondence, including address, email and phone number.

He couldn’t cope without me.  No one else would do it for him.  Lucky he’s worth it.

Zycling again

I’m waiting for the train website to process my ticket order.  I suspect it isn’t going to happen tonight and I’ll have to do it again tomorrow afternoon – very little chance that I’ll do it in the morning.  I’ve got to leave here by 8.30, which isn’t what I’ve been used to recently.

The tickets aren’t for me, the Sage is going to London in a couple of weeks to sort out a few odd jobs in the flat, and also evaluate the getting out of the washing machine.  It’s on the first floor, the stairs have a bend and the passageway is very narrow at one point.  Weeza, who used to live there, frankly doubts that it will come out.  I didn’t see it going in, but it must have, unless the builders got it in through the window … surely not.  Anyway, after more than 11 years without so much as a service, it’s done well.  Of course, then there will be the getting in of a new one…

The website, which moved quickly through the booking form, isn’t going through to process the order.  I’ll give it until I’ve finished this post.

I cycled in to the school this afternoon, and was not surprised, though quite shocked, by my unfitness.  It’s only a couple of miles each way, but I really struggled on the hill.  Thinking about it, I went on holiday in early November, only cycled into town once or twice on my return, then the bad weather started and I am fairly sure I haven’t done it since.  It was colder than it seemed when I left, I was wearing a hat but my ears were bare and when I returned home, I had various whistles and bells in there for a while.  Not sure if I can face it both tomorrow and the next day, and yet I’m going to have to get myself cycling again, because I don’t want to use the car and I do want to be a bit more active.  Not that I enjoy it.  I don’t get any pleasure from exercise, as such.  Phil, my son-in-law, cycles 23 miles every day as part of his journey to and from work – sometimes, on a Friday afternoon, he cycles all the way home instead of taking the train, which adds about another 15 miles.  He loves it.  He also loves not having to watch what he eats – he reckons that 100 miles a week is enough to keep him trim.  I’d be satisfied to get up to 20 again.

The aconites are in flower, by the way, I meant to mention it before.  It’s silly to think that winter is nearly over when it isn’t even February yet, but it’s hard not to, in view of the snow we had last month.I didn’t get around to sending in a seed order with the gardening club, so I must get on and do it soon.  I’m not sure what to grow this year, now I don’t have to grow for the shop.  It’ll be smaller amounts, but I can grow a wider variety of things if I want to – I’d simplified it way down.  On the other hand, I might give myself an easy year and grow mostly potatoes!

Z gets set

I made marmalade this afternoon.  Other bloggers have been saying that for a couple of weeks ago, but Tim only had Seville oranges in for the first time yesterday.  I know I’ll be busy next week, so I thought I’d get a batch in at once.  I used the method I tried for the first time last year, which means cooking the oranges whole – it’s Lindsay Bareham’s recipe from The Times last year (well, I think so) but I’ve made a couple of changes, just because I don’t think she always explained it in full, so if anyone would like it, let me know.  A couple of people have excellent recipes using a pressure cooker (I can do a link to one of them), and the traditional method I used to use is also very reliable – but takes longer and is more work.

I’ve been thinking about anniversaries again, but this isn’t one of them, deliberately.  I only mark good anniversaries, and my stepfather and father both died in the second half of January – not on the same day but not many days, although a good many years, apart.  24 for my stepfather, 41 for my father.  I feel the loss of both of them.  Whether you believe in an afterlife, in whatever form, or not, there is surely some sort of after-life in being remembered and missed by people who knew you.

Next week, I’ll mostly be at school.  It’s a governors’ link week, which means that the governors linked to a department go in to lessons, meet the head of faculty, talk to pupils, that sort of thing.  The music teacher has been ill with flu, and I will not bother her with visits – I’ll send her an email shortly, suggesting we leave it a couple of weeks until she’s back into her stride – but I’m also Special Needs governor, so I’m going into a Lexia class, an Asdan class and an Outdoor Education class.  Then I’ve got a morning being educated by the Local Authority on the pros and cons of being an Academy, a committee meeting, a meeting with the Head, another committee meeting and a lunch with governors and heads of faculty.  So that’ll be how I spend my week.  Housework has to be done on Monday morning, when all the business emails come in (so, lucky the Sage has learned how to reply to them) and then there will be no time, not if I want to visit friends in hospital too.  This is otherwise known as not having a job.  Oh, and a friend is holding a Bodyshop party on Friday night, so Dilly and I are going to that.

I’ve just realised that I’ve mentioned everything I might have blogged about next week.  Bugger.  What shall I talk about, then?  Or maybe I should take a week off.

I don’t think it’s likely.  It’s bad enough not having anything on the radio just after 7 o’clock to get used to.  I don’t want to listen to The Archers, I genuinely don’t care and actively want not to get involved again, but I’m always cooking at 7 o’clock – well, normally – and now I do it in silence.  I always listened to Front Row until dinner was cooked, and now I don’t listen to that too.  So it’s quiet around here nowadays.