Monthly Archives: June 2011

Don’t read if you’re feeling sad already

It has really been a very sad week, and today was the most distressing of all. At the end of last week, one of the school caretakers had a severe stroke and he died on Tuesday. His wife also works at the school, so it was more personally upsetting for many of the staff. I interviewed him for the job, he was a really nice man and we always greeted each other in a friendly way.

Worse, however, was the news today. The head teacher phoned me this morning to say that a student had been found dead at his home by his father. He was 16, went to the Norfolk Show yesterday with his family and went for a shower when they arrived home.  When he didn’t come down again, his dad went looking for him.  I knew him from early childhood, though hadn’t spoken to him for years, he was a pupil at the village school. I always greeted his mother in the town, a very sweet woman. One cannot begin to imagine what it could be like. I will write to Aaron’s parents of course, but there is no comfort for them from me or anyone.

What is worst? Early miscarriage or late, death of a baby or a child or a young person? Being widowed young or very old? The death of a child or of a parent? Each is devastating, you cannot quantify it and yet, in some ways, surely this must be one of the worst things to happen, a young person who should have so much ahead of him, who dies so suddenly, from no illness or accident.

Brooding and ruminating

The brown hen has been coming into the porch for the last couple of weeks to lay her eggs.  The other day, the Sage went outside and shut the door, not realising she was in there and I found her a while later, pacing anxiously.  Today,  I heard a sound at the door and thought it was the postman.  I went out to discover that she was tapping from the outside, wanting to come in.  Later, I needed to go out myself and checked, and was rather dismayed to find her sitting, blissed out, in the straw-lined box that the Sage had kindly left for her.  I didn’t want to leave her, and I don’t want her going broody in such an inconvenient place (it gets very hot in there in the morning) so I picked her up, plonked her outside and left a handful of corn.  Fortunately, she stood up after a couple of minutes and began to eat it.  I’ve warned the Sage to keep an eye on her, but sometimes you can’t stop a chicken getting broody.  I feel so sorry for them, sitting on eggs that will never hatch.

In other animal news, I didn’t mention that Big Pinkie came to stay yesterday.  No. 400 is still here and they settled down together at once, both being placid and friendly.  Pinkie comes to the gate to be fed apples, as she always used to.  The grass has started to grow nicely after the rain, and the two of them wander round the field finding good grazing spots together.  It’s all very comfortable and bucolic.

All night long

The forecast rain arrived around half past three.  A few minutes earlier, the Sage used my phone to try to ring the auctioneers in Woodbridge and came through here to say the damn phone didn’t work.  I tried the number and I couldn’t get through either, but it didn’t seem to be the phone.  All the same, I suggested he use the landline and there was a ringing tone and the receptionist answered.  Asked if there was a fault, she explained that there had been a power cut during a storm.  A couple of minutes later, as they were still talking, the storm reached here and our own electricity was cut off.  And a few minutes later Weeza, with whom I’d been exchanging emails, said that she was saving her work in case there was a power cut when the oncoming storm hit.  So I can confidently say that it was moving south to north.

As usual when there is heavy rain, it leaked in above the window near my desk. I keep a towel on the windowsill, but had to get a couple more to deal with all the drips.  And then the phone rang.  People do choose their moments.

I grumbled to the Sage and he explained what needed to be done to stop the leaks happening again.  “So you know?  Couldn’t it have been done already, we’ve lived here 25 years,” I rather tactlessly enquired.  It is quite heartrending, watching the Sage appearing abashed.  He has promised to do it, or get it done, I’m not sure which.

Most dismayingly, I’ve been quite off alcohol in this humid weather.  One night, I just drank water, and other nights a single glass of wine has been enough.  I trust that this state of affairs doesn’t last too long.  The evenings seem to drag on forever.

Making a start

Weeza’s entry into the world of antiques came rather younger than Ro’s.  When she was six or seven weeks old, the Sage helped his friends Norman and Barbara, about whom I wrote last week, with their stall at an antiques fair at Earls Court for two or three days.  We took down our Victorian mahogany swinging cradle for her to sleep in, because six week old babies sleep mostly, don’t they – well, we were young and naive and knew no better.

She did sleep some of the time, but it was rather exhausting for me, nowhere to sit comfortably and I can’t remember where I retreated to when I needed to feed her.  However, she was very popular with the visitors, and quite a draw for our stand.

You know how it is, that people always say the same witticism as each other?  Like, when you’re seen kneeling, it’s “say one for me while you’re down there.”  If you are working in your garden, you are cordially invited to tackle the speaker’s flowerbed when you have done.  On that occasion, most people asked, if they bought the cradle, did the baby come free?  There were two or three other jovial remarks that were repeated rather a lot of times, can’t remember what they were at the moment.  You may have some ideas yourself.  One actually did make me laugh, however.  A man peered into the cot and observed “That’s not an antique.  It’s a reproduction.”

Bid for Fivedom

I was reminded, by reading Mike and Ann’s blog today, of the first time that I bid at one of the major auction houses and that, in turn, reminded me of when Ro started his buying career.  I told Mike that he was three or four, but I have checked the details with the Sage now, who looked up the sale and Ro was actually five, and the sale was in May 1990 at Sotheby’s.  Hug0 M0rley-F1etcher was the auctioneer (he still appears as an expert on Ant1ques R0adsh0w).  The Sage and Ro sat at the front and, when the desired item came up, the Sage touched Ro’s elbow and up went his hand. The bidding went up and up – they nearly got the piece quite cheaply, but then a fresh bidder came in and the price doubled in a few minutes.  It was a sparrowbeak jug in a Mandarin pattern, we still have it.  Finally, the auctioneer’s hammer went down.  “Sold!” he said, pointing, “to this young gentleman.”  Ro held up the card with the bidder number.  After the auction was over, the Sage told Ro to go and thank the auctioneer … and ask for a catalogue – the charge should have been £12 but he was given it.

Ro often went with his father to view sales in London.  At that time, we used to buy a family railcard and could take the children for £1 each.  We used to blithely let Ro handle the china, when he was very little this caused some anxiety once in a while, as he was reluctant to let go and had to be distracted – though it rarely happened, he was very good.  I remember once, I showed him a life-size china greyhound when he wasn’t quite ready to give me an item.

There was another sale that we viewed in Woodbridge in 1986, when he was not yet two years old.  There was a Lowestoft birth tablet in that sale and he was very tickled with it.  He picked it up and held it to his chest.  “Badge!” he said.  That was a rather worried moment before I was able to remove it from his hand.  It later sold, not to us, for £4,200 (this was a quarter of a century ago, remember, it has probably quadrupled in value now).

Ro never dropped or damaged anything and, remarkably now I look back, none of the staff ever suggested that it was the least unwise, letting him handle valuable china.  It would have been our responsibility if anything had been broken, of course.  He was, genuinely, extremely careful and trustworthy.  All our children handled china, almost from babyhood, and nothing was ever dropped.

Oddly enough, now he of our children has least to do with the china at our auctions.  He is in charge of the computer, registering the potential bidders, filling in the prices realised and printing the invoices.  Weeza helps at the view, taking china to be looked at and handled, and Al holds up each piece during the auction for people to be sure what they are bidding for.  None of them collects art or antiques, although Weeza, in particular, is pretty knowledgeable about Lowestoft china.

*I really hoped that he was three years old, and had the post title planned.  Still, wouldn’t want to waste it.

Z and the Sage dance

It’s really warm tonight, I think I shall have to make some alternative bedclothes arrangements or we will spend the night throwing off the duvet and panting.  And not in a good way.

We have just got home from a party, a joint 70th wedding anniversary.  That is, 40 years for one couple and 30 for the other.  We have known all four of them for a very long time and saw a lot of friends, including our last Rector and his wife and daughter.  They are really good friends, the sort that you just catch up with at once, however long ago that you saw them.

And yes, we did dance.  Energetically (barn dancing, with a caller) and I am shockingly puffed out.  Still, my hips are fine, so I am more than happy.

In fact, the release of tension has made me so relaxed and cheerful that I keep finding myself with a big grin on my face.  It’s too soon though really, I have a lot to do in the next month.

That reminds me, and will bring me right down to earth again, it’s Ro’s birthday in a month’s time.  No idea what he might like as a present.  I’ll go off and worry for a while before bedtime.

Looking back

Today has been quieter.  I’ve been catching up with emails and typing.  I went in to the school at lunchtime, walked around the field with the Head (he does the rounds every day and he happened to be going out as I arrived) and I saw the people I wanted to.  Hugs and chats and so on, and then I called in at the village school on the way home.  It had an inspection the week before we did, and now the news is official, that they have received ‘good with outstanding features,” which is marvellous.  I love that school, I was a governor there for 18 years and it will always be dear to me, although I left five years ago.  Don’t feel obliged, but if you want to read the report, it’s here.  This is an evaluation under the current framework and ours is under the new one, we’re one of 150 schools in the pilot.

We are having a piece of ground paved over, it’s on the east side of the house, open to the south but shaded from mid-afternoon.  The chickens having taken over the lawn, we tend not to sit and eat out there any more, so I suggested using this sheltered area instead.  I suspect we will use it during the day and, if we want to sit out, will go round the other side of the house in the evening, but we haven’t time for that at present anyway.

We had some sharp sand delivered and the Sage took the driver out a cup of tea and chatted for a few minutes.  The tray is one that my mother-in-law had made for us when Weeza and Al were little, with photos set in – nearly all of Weeza, actually.  In one of them, the Sage’s father, Pa, was holding her and the driver recognised him.  The Sage was really pleased to share memories.

It was one of our better decisions, moving here to the Sage’s childhood home.

Pulling teeth and drawing blood

A dentist appointment* and a blood donation session in the days when Ofsted visited has become my metaphor for the experience.

So, yesterday I, with other governors, had the Interview, and I’ve been in this afternoon to hear the verdict – which I am not at liberty to tell you, at present, so please don’t ask or speculate, because it really is confidential for the next few days.

And today, to take my mind off things, I helped clear by the hedge on the front field.  The brambles have built up badly for several years and, now that the partridges and pheasants have nested, it seemed a good time to get rid of them and let light and air through to the mostly hawthorn hedge.  In the afternoon, they moved on to the other hedge, along by the road (although still the field side, the road side is kept tidy).

About 10 or 12 feet of rubbish has been taken out.  We will, of course, still encourage wildlife, and birds to nest.  But the grass is in poor condition and will be improved by grazing, so we are going to fence the field, provide water (there is a stand pipe nearby) and have some cows or sheep on there for a while.

An oak that the Sage planted as a small sapling some years ago is doing well, and a self-seeded oak, only about three feet high, is down in the corner near the road end, but far enough away from the wall, the hedge and the road that it is never going to be in the way, so we will protect it from the animals and leave it to grow.

*No teeth were drawn or even filled, it was just a check-up – I couldn’t have given blood if I’d had work done of course.

Sweeping clean

The day never starts well with a dental appointment … still, just a check-up and nothing needs to be done. If it had been, I’d have had to cancel tomorrow’s blood-letting.  Dear oh dear, feels like a draining week.

I arrived home to find Al’s old Morris Minor (it is old, although not as old as I am) out of its garage.  Mike was taking it away to have a look at it.  Al has decided to sell it.  This is a big decision, it was his 17th birthday present and gosh, that is over half his lifetime ago.

*sits and ponders*

Anyway, it still has its original number plate, it’s quite possible that it is more valuable than the car is.

It’s a bit dusty.

An old broom

I’m looking out of the window at a broom in flower – not the sort you sweep the floor with, the plant broom, obviously.  I grew it from seed about 20 years ago.  I grew several, in fact, and I think this is the last one left.  It has grown into a small tree, which was rather unexpected as the rest stayed bushy and not very tall.  This one is 15 or 20 feet high.

If I had known it would grow so tall, I wouldn’t have planted it there.  It’s not in the way, exactly, but now it overhangs the phone line.  And, when it was windy a couple of weeks ago, a branch (that did not overhang the phone line) broke.  The wood split so it is still attached, and we can see, at the join, that there is a small amount of rot.  We haven’t cut it off yet, it was in bud at the time so I thought it might as well flower.  It’s looking rather pretty – the rest of the tree, that is – with a rather mimosa-esque air.  However, I think that we have had a warning and I’m afraid that severe pruning is in order.  It will sprout again; it has where we removed one branch that showered Dilly with rain regularly, as it was just above where she parks her car.  However, it will look fairly unattractive for quite some time.

I haven’t reported progress on the drive project for some time.  It’s all been rather bitty.  We need to get everything done as far as possible to the same extent before the whole thing is completed.  However, progress is being made and yesterday, the Sage and I walked around the garden deciding on priorities for the next jobs.  Richard is coming with his digger tomorrow, and both he and Jamie will be along on Thursday and Friday, so we can get a lot done.

It is indeed costing a lot, but we’ve not spent much here for years, so it’s about time.  Once the last of one’s children grow up, leave home and become financially independent, one realises how much they used to cost.  The garden can receive the benefit this year.

The whole garden, never mind the drive project, is rather bitty and so will never be a thing of great beauty.  It will be reasonably pretty, in parts, and enjoyable for children to play in because there are nice little hidden-away areas plus open spaces, it will still attract wildlife because there are large parts that we will leave as much as possible, and the chickens will still be free to roam anywhere but the vegetable garden.  I will, no doubt, be very frustrated when they eat my flowers, but I’d rather have happy chickens than flowers.  The new border will, if necessary, have shrubs rather than herbacious perennials in it.  I can grow them in the vegetable garden.  That is bigger than we need, now I don’t grow anything for Al to sell.

Oh, and there is a low wall for me to build.  I’m looking forward to that.  It won’t be a decorative one, or even a barrier.  It’s just to stop the lawn falling on to the drive and will be no more than a foot high.