Monthly Archives: February 2011

Z is thinking of a holiday (but not planning one)

Having said what I don’t look for in a holiday, I should consider what I do – although I am pretty easy-going, so it arguably made sense to eliminate the few things I wouldn’t choose.

I like cities, and will happily spend a few days exploring one on foot.  I keep a general idea of where I am, but don’t mind at all getting lost and chancing upon interesting buildings or parks.  I seem to have a friendly face and people often smile at me, but I don’t mind at all if I don’t exchange a word with anyone all day – although, since I evidently look at ease, it’s not unusual for tourists to ask me the way – but, being a boringly sensible person, I generally have a map, so can often help.  Locals always pick me out as English though, at a glance.  I think that just wandering around helps you to get the feel of a place and I like quirky details – architectural ones, such as interesting windows and roofs, and amusing ones, such as the small pool with fountain in Krakow, where I watched a well-behaved dog, on its lead, wallow to cool itself down and then, with astonishing self-control, walk away with its owner rather than follow the instinct to shake itself – the amusing part was when a young man, a couple of minutes later, came and filled his drinking bottle from the same pool.  In cities, I also like visiting art galleries and museums, churches and so on.  I’d rather have ‘culture’ than go shopping, although I love local markets, especially food ones.  

I like rivers.  If ever I did go on any sort of cruise, I’d rather it was a river one.  I like a leisurely pace, prefer rowing to sailing and, when Weeza lived in London opposite a canal, rather envied the people living (or maybe just staying) on the houseboats.  I like being on the bank looking at the boats, the birds and insects and watching the fish, or being on a boat watching the scenery drift by.  I like looking at a rushing mountain stream, but would not have the least interest in doing anything like white-water rafting.  I can’t imagine anything I would like less, in fact.  The best boating trip I’ve ever been on was a magical 23 hours on the Kerala backwaters.  If any of you have the opportunity, do take it.  A traditional rice boat, with an engineer, cook and guide, cost Weeza and me about £100, six (I think) years ago, which included all meals (Keralan cooking is spicy and delicious) and no other passengers – each booking is for the whole boat.

I have no objection to an organised holiday as long as I’m reasonably confident of the company.  I’ve been on several run by the Nadfas branch whose committee I used to be on.  An advantage was that I didn’t have to sort out all the timings and everything, I am quite happy to leave that sort of thing to others.  The main disadvantage can be that too much is planned in the time and there’s no flexibility.  I found that in Spain, where three hours in Segovia was nowhere near enough, and in Scotland last year, where I would have loved to spend longer at the Burrell collection instead of going on to something else rather less interesting.  In addition, the day we visited Edinburgh, I’d had no time to myself and opted out of a bus tour round the city, instead staying in the National Gallery for an extra hour or two and then buying lunch and eating it on the grass outside in the sun.  One wasn’t supposed to, which I thought was a bit mean-spirited of the city fathers, but several hundred other people had also climbed over the barriers and were enjoying themselves too.  What was lovely about these trips was, when abroad, groups of people meeting up to go off for dinner together – we had a lot of fun, no one ever had to be alone and it was all arranged quite spontaneously, so you met new people.  The last visit, the friend I was sharing a room with was feeling a bit insecure and rather stuck by me – I didn’t really mind, but I’m not really one for too much togetherness and found that I didn’t get to know so many people that trip – when alone, someone always comes up for a chat.

When Weeza and Al were quite young, before Ro was born, we had a family holiday on Jersey (this is a Channel Island, Dave, not an item of knitwear).  They were aged nine and seven and there were lots of things to do.  What I loved most were the beaches on the rocky coasts, where there were rock pools and caves.  I spent a lot of time there watching sea anemones, hermit crabs and so on.  They are the sort of beaches I like best, I’m not one for sunbathing and I’m not that fond of sand.  I don’t mind relaxing on a lounger for the odd few hours, however, as long as there’s an umbrella for shade.  I don’t go to seaside resorts, I grew up in Lowestoft and the beach in summer didn’t appeal, far too crowded.  I liked it best in the winter, especially when it was stormy.

When I had a bad hip, I got out of the way of walking for pleasure.  Actually, I rather lost that many years earlier, when I had small children and walked at their pace.  Stopping every few years to examine a colony of ants or watch fish in a stream or counting the cracks in the pavement rather destroyed a previous enjoyment of hearty walks , although I do like going for a walk with a friend – you can chat or walk in companionable silence, and since everyone is more observant than I am, it increases several-fold the chance that I’ll have a chance to see something interesting.

I like playing but I don’t like sport.  I’ve never had the least inclination to go skiing, and am happy that it is now forbidden me (with an artificial hip, a proficient skier can continue to do it, but it’s not a good idea to take it up).  If I went anywhere snowy, I’d like sleigh rides and frolicking, not skating and skiing.  I have to be careful of sun, but I’m fine with heat.  I don’t mind not speaking the language where I am, which is just as well.  I don’t mind a long aeroplane flight, give me books and, ideally, a film to watch when I want a break from reading and I won’t move for hours.  I love trying different foods and don’t mind what I eat.  In the evening, I like the theatre, concerts, walking and eating, preferably not all at the same time, but if I’m in a country area, I’m quite happy with a pub or bar, and a book.  I like some company but I don’t need it.  I have to take loads of books on holiday or I don’t feel secure.  It’ll be interesting, when I’ve got an iPad, to see if electronic books will substitute.

Okay, I think I can sum up here.  I’d like to be within reach of a city with theatres and museums,, a river, some countryside with historic buildings or beautiful scenery and I don’t want to do the same thing every day.  And I don’t mind if a town has hills, but if the countryside is hilly, I’ll go by car rather than walk.

Have I left anything out?

The perfect holiday?

What makes a good holiday for you, and how do you choose it?  Or even a really good day out?

It’s only reasonable for me to go first, of course, and think about what I like – and there’s not one ideal.  Probably the type I’d enjoy least would be the one that Dave says he looks for – “magnificent ruggest mountains or rolling moorland.”  I might have enjoyed a rustic tramp in my younger days (no, stop sniggering) but I’m afraid that the novelty would quickly wear off nowadays.  When I’m on holiday, lovely scenery is a bonus, but it’s something to look at, that’s all.  If I were going on a rural holiday, I’d not choose mountains or moorland.  I’d want trees and water, partly for their own sake and partly for the wildlife they attract.  And I’d sit for ages watching them.

Beach and sun holidays have never really appealed either.  Again, I’ll enjoy it for a day or two, but I’m not very good in the sun anyway, lying on sand isn’t that comfortable and it gets boring after a short time.

I’ve just been realising what a short attention span I have.  Hm.  And also that this isn’t supposed to be about imperfect holidays – although now I think of it, there’s another sort of holiday that hasn’t appealed to me, and that is a cruise.  Most of the ladies with whom I lunch every month are the fairly well-heeled sort, retired professionals (I got in because they like me) and a number of them enjoy cruises and have asked me if I’m interested in becoming one of a party.  I’ve always used as an excuse that the Sage is the worst sailor ever and can become queasy crossing a deep puddle in a strong wind, but the truth is that I don’t want to go.  I have a feeling that it’s too sociable.  I like the freedom to poddle off on my own, not meet up with chums several times a day.  And there isn’t enough time anywhere to get to know it – I like to explore cities at my own pace and make contact with local people.  I remember reading an account of a cruise that involved docking at Venice (there was a massive cruise ship blocking the view when I went there and I resented it vastly) and the writer said that the guide advised them on where was ‘safe’ to go shopping and eating.  Since on of the charming things about Venice is that you feel totally safe at all times, day and night, this looked like over-caution.

I’m going to have to come back to this, I’ve got stuff to do tonight.  But for a start on what I do like, I enjoy getting lost on foot in a city.

Z spends £121 (including postage)

I’ve just spent half an hour booking four return train tickets  – although that does represent three different journeys.  The cost varies considerably, depending on what time you travel, between £8 and £35 for a single journey.  So my solo visit will cost £16, the Sage’s £52 and the two of us together is also £52. It’s  worth booking ahead, they’re all a lot cheaper than buying on the day.  They’re all quite short visits for specific purposes, although I have kept 3 hours for myself on the afternoon of 10th March.  I’ll have to see what’s on.  The book launch is in a gallery near New Bond Street.  I’ve only ever read one of Lynn’s poems, and I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m sure to order several copies.  I’m very pleased for her.  It’s not the first time her name has been in print by any means; she’s an artist and art historian, and an expert on picture frames, but I think it’ll be her first published (in book form, that is) venture outside the world of non-fiction.  It’ll all be way over my head of course – I”m a bit of an oik and I don’t often read poetry nowadays.  I’m too impatient.  Poetry has to be read slowly and I’m a skimmer.  I have to read it aloud to slow myself down.

Train of thought

I took Charlotte over to Beccles after lunch to meet a friend, with whom she will stay in Lowestoft for a few days and the Sage and I have had a quiet evening.  I’ve been watching a DVD and he’s been watching eBay.  It’s been a splendidly different week, I said to her that it was the ideal week for her to come as, rarely, I didn’t have to work in the evenings.  Since I also have had some days out and so on, it feels as if I’ve had a holiday.

And that’s made me think about holidays, and I’ve a suspicion I probably won’t have one this year because there will be more lovely things going on here.  If I get to the stage of feeling impulsive, I might have a couple of days in London or somewhere, but no more.

And that reminds, me, I must book train tickets for a couple of visits to London.  The first one will be to see my friend Lynn.  She is having a book of poetry published and has invited me to the launch.  I thought, how jolly.  I haven’t seen her for ages and would love to.  Then we’ll be going to an auction – that is, the Sage will.  I shall go with him to view it a couple of days beforehand, but I shan’t go to the sale itself.

I should get round to reading blogs again over the weekend.  Sorry I’ve not been about much.

Z talks to monkeys

Another delightful day and the sun shone in the afternoon.  Al and I drove over to the zoo and met our friends there and we spent the day together – their son is Pugsley’s age and they go to the same nursery school and they have two daughters, the younger being the most placid baby I’ve come across in a long time.  She smiled, she looked about, she fed or she slept, and never made a sound.

Nick and I were talking about otters, I think, and he mentioned the large grass snake in our garden … “I know, because it was how I found your blog…”  Some time ago, I found a three-foot long snakeskin  in the greenhouse and put pictures here, and looking for information on local wildlife, he came across this blog.  I was rather charmed – a couple of years ago, even, I’d have been a bit nerve-wracked, but now a lot of friends know I have a blog, whether or not they’ve ever looked for or read it, and it’s quite interesting when someone finds me by way of it – it’s pretty easy to identify me if you know me already.

The children were all really good and had fun together.  We pottered around for several hours, letting them spend time in the playground, having a leisurely picnic lunch and so on – if you can relax into a child’s perspective of time, it makes everything so much more enjoyable than trying to hurry them up.

On the way home, we discussed the animals and asked Squiffany what she’d enjoyed most.  “The dinosaur,” she said.  Oh, okay.  It wasn’t actually a real one, as you might rather suspect.  Al and I reckoned that the giraffes were the most beautiful animals and we’d loved watching the fur seals – in the morning they were enjoying the attentions of the zookeepers, the petting, feeding and swimming, but in the afternoon sunshine they were having a lovely bask.  Their pleasure was infectious.

Granny’s being taken to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow

… as Julie Felix didn’t sing.

I abandoned Charlotte today, because I went to see a friend for lunch.  I did make her a sandwich for her lunch though.  I didn’t mention, she badly hurt her hand a couple of months ago (forgot you’re supposed to pick up a carving knife by its handle) and it still isn’t better – that is, the skin has healed but she can’t use it yet.  Can you imagine, living alone and not having the use of your right hand?  Obv, if you’re right-handed…

Even to butter ready-sliced bread, you need to steady it with one hand while buttering it with the other.  So anyway, I slapped on butter and smoked salmon.  That was it.  I cut it into quarters, covered the plate and put it back in the fridge.  Full hostess mode, hey.  I’m going out again tomorrow, and she plans to go into town and hit the charity shops and also to do a recce at the local takeaways, because she says that dinner is on her.

We’ve talked and talked.  The Sage startled me by talking broad Norfolk to her – of course, I knew that he could, but that didn’t mean I’ve ever heard him do so.  I’ve told her of the few but, to her, precious memories I have of her beloved Granny, who died in January 1963 and that led on to more conversation about all sorts of people from our pasts.

And, as implied, I’m off with the family to the zoo tomorrow morning.  If I were to sneak into the monkey cage, do you think anyone would notice?

Ooh, I almost forgot.  I got the highest word score I probably ever will get at Scrabble, this evening.  TRILOBAL on two triples, 140 points.  If Rog beats me now, I shall be deeply impressed.

Z becomes excZited and is Zhocked

It’s been quite a day, one way or another.  It started with an invitation to the zoo, went on to a reunion with an old friend and finished with a startling experience on Facebook Scrabble (look on Rog’s Facebook page if you want to know more, I’m not saying another word on the subject).

Charlotte and I have known each other forever, she’s a bit younger than I am, and our families have been friends forever – that is, for generations.  She lives in Holland, where she grew up, although she often used to visit her English grandparents as a child, and has lived both in England and the Netherlands.  The last time I saw her was at her mother’s funeral several years ago, and when my mother was desperately ill in hospital I had phoned her to come over to visit her one last time – my mum wrong-footed us there by rallying and living with cheerful vigour for another six months.

She phoned this morning, she’s travelling around the country for a few weeks and catching up with friends, so she’s staying with us for a couple of days.  The Sage had a meeting this evening, so she and I spent the whole time talking, and at one point she mentioned having corresponded  with Benjamin Zander, the conductor, and meeting him when he invited her to a seminar as his guest.  I became extremely excited – well, darlings, you know what I’m like – and described a concert I’d been to several years ago at Snape.  You may remember that I wrote about it?  That is, two or three of you might: anyway, I looked it up for her, and here it is.  My usual laid-back blasé attitude, as you see.

Charlotte was keen for me to send it to him on Facebook; I demurred but I did let her email him the link.  We’ve spent quite a long time this evening watching him on YouTube this evening.  We meant to phone Wink, but never got around to it.  Tomorrow.


I embarrassed myself.  The Sage and I were emptying the dishwasher and he was putting the cutlery away. As he put a tablespoon into the drawer, he remarked on how pleased he was with his eBay purchase.  “Yes,” I said, “the difference between Georgian and Victorian silver is quite apparent to the touch, isn’t it?”  He agreed, stroking the spoon, and I heard myself and quietly curled up.

I was, in addition, hit by the guilt of many years when I read the Peanuts cartoon in today’s local paper.  A little blonde-haired girl whose name I can’t remember was saying to Charlie Brown “what are the words you hate most to hear?” Snoopy, sitting the other side of him said in a thought-bubble”You stay home now and be a good dog.”  Oh, the times I’ve said that to a dog with hopeful eyes and pricked ears and watched the whole-body droop or, worse, the desperate hope that I might change my mind and pick up the lead after all.

Bedtime, darlings.  For me, that is.  You party on, do.  Put the guard in front of the fire when you leave, won’t you.

One computer, two computer, three…

I’m sitting here typing at my computer, with the Sage’s laptop on my lap, my iPhone to hand for emailing and the printer churbling away behind me.  It feels a bit extreme, although I could easily get used to it – when I watch a DVD it’s always on the computer and I’ve always read or played cards or sewed or used the computer or something while watching television, and I like to have the full range of options all the time.  They say that this is a fault of children and young people now, that they never give their whole attention to anything – I could always get engrossed in a book but otherwise I found doing just one thing a bit of a bore.

The reason for this appliance overload is simply that Weeza brought the draft catalogue over on a memory stick, but it hadn’t loaded up properly, so she emailed it instead.  Because of its size, she couldn’t do it simply as a PDF (not on a free programme, that is) so did it on Publisher and I don’t have that on my Mac.  And I was exchanging emails with her and others, and didn’t want to have to fiddle around so did it on my phone, and then I thought I’d write here while the document was printing – gosh, won’t it be fun when we’ve got an iPad to play with too?  Like having an armful of very well-behaved babies.

No one is interested in taking on a small Jack Russell, 6 years old, which has never been very well trained and so has behaviour issues, I suppose?  Ro has been asked by a friend to ask around.  I’m not sure where the friend lives, I don’t think he’s local to here.  Ro said, he didn’t think I’d be able to take it on, and I’m afraid not.  We haven’t got any way of keeping a dog in the garden – that is, the garden has no solid boundaries and there are fields all around and it could get onto the road

Dinner went very well and Zerlina was extremely well behaved and ate lots.  She climbed on her chair, sat still, remarked “Oh, here’s my napkin,” and put it on her lap and ate neatly.  It all went very well, I cut the potatoes into 1 inch dice and roasted them, also roasted peppers and garlic, sautéed courgettes (I never let water near a courgette in the cooking), cauliflower and spinach.  I marinated the beef, browned it on all sides and then roasted it in a very hot oven for ten minutes, then let it rest while I dished up the veg.  The Sage, who likes meat on the browner side of cooked, cut off a chunk to be roasted a couple of minutes longer and it was ready by the time he’d served everyone else.  There’s some cauli left (I suspect tomorrow’s dinner will feature cauliflower cheese) and we didn’t quite finish the pudding, but all other plates were emptied. Phil and Ro even made inroads into the cheeseboard.  We didn’t drink much, by the way, not even a bottle between us.

Tomorrow, I’ll retake a photo for the catalogue which, now we look again, realise we didn’t get at quite the right angle, and take a few more pictures.  The catalogue has 22 pages, and needs either two more or two less, but there are no illustrations that the Sage wishes to lose.  So I hope it doesn’t rain.  We’ve got until Friday, but Weeza works Monday to Wednesday and doesn’t really want to spend more time than she can help on the computer on those evenings.  We’ll proof-read too.  And I’ll do the Nadfas stuff I’ve been neglecting.

Housework and gardening?  Probably not.  I’m hoping to go and visit a friend towards the end of the week, though.   And Ro has given me some films he’s finished with, so I may spend an evening or two gaining square eyes.

Z takes the weekend off

I took the day off, mostly.  I did have one letter to write, which was to the members of my dining club (yes, I dine as well as lunch) giving them the dates of this year’s meetings, which start next month, and I’m up to page 16 (of 36) of a legal document relating to the school becoming an academy, but that was it.  I’ve read and relaxed, and went to visit John in hospital this afternoon.  He is doing really well and is coming home on Tuesday.  He can go up and down stairs and has good movement in his arm.  The reason for the walking problem, in case I didn’t explain before, is that his broken upper arm is the side he normally uses his stick, without which he can’t walk.  Using a stick in the other hand doesn’t give so much support.  However, he’s determined and receiving really good care, and a carer will come in night and morning to help him, which will support his wife too.

Weeza angled for a dinner invitation when she found out about the fillet steak.  Fortunately, I have enough for them too.  Then Al and Dilly asked us to look after Squiffany and Pugsley tomorrow evening, because they’re going to Dilly’s mum’s birthday party.  So I’ll suggest they come and eat with us too, so that they can play with Zerlina.  The fillet won’t stretch to them*, so I’ll go and buy something for the children in the morning.  Since everyone enjoyed the Queen of Puddings at Christmas, I’ll do that again.  We eat in the kitchen in the winter, usually, and the table won’t quite take all of us – it seats six comfortably, eight at a pinch but it won’t take nine so we’ll put another table on the end.  It’ll be fine.

I’ve just noticed that I was down to do the church flowers this weekend.  Whoops.  I’ll buy some in the Co-op and do them quickly in the morning.  Andy has volunteered to play the music, which is brilliant.  He’s getting on really well, but it has to be said that Gill is getting exhausted.  Not only is she looking after him, she’s getting ready to move house and she’s not had a break since mid-November when he first became ill.

A spot more relaxing with the papers before bedtime I think, darlings.  Goodnight.

*I have more in the freezer, I bought a whole fillet last week, so when a host of hungry blog-readers turn up, I’ll be able to feed you all