Monthly Archives: June 2011


I can’t remember if I said, a few weeks ago, there was a programme about Morecambe and Wise and we were really pleased when they showed a short clip of an episode in which a friend of ours appeared.  It prompted me to Google his name and, on IMDB, I found out which episode it was.  I promptly ordered that series from Amazon and squirrelled it away for a suitable occasion.  When Ro was at a loss for a birthday present for his father, I offered it to him.

Norman and Barbara were dear friends of the Sage’s.  They had an antique shop in London and often did business together; the Sage was a full-time auctioneer at that time and they bought a good deal of stuff from him.  Norman’s day, or rather evening, job was musician; he was a pianist and a composer and played at all sorts of events, night clubs, variety shows, the Ritz – he was the pianist there too, although I don’t think he ever overshadowed the soup and annoyed the chef to the point of violence*, he was far too considerate for that.

The year before I married the Sage, Norman and Barbara’s daughter Carole had her 21st birthday party at the Ritz and the Sprig** was a guest.  One of the highlights of his social life, that was, it was fabulous.  And the first time he took me to London on my own (we had gone there with his friend Arthur the week before to an art exhibition), sort of our first date, he took me to their shop to introduce me to them.  They were highly intrigued, he had never been seen by them with a woman before, and along he came with an extremely young girl (well, compared to him, that is) who hardly said a word, and no explanation!

Anyway, Norman died some years ago and Barbara is in her 80s now and has recently moved house to live near Carole, and we phone each other a couple of times a year.  The 60s and 70s were the best years, I suppose, he was earning and spending a lot of money and having plenty of fun.  He was absolutely lovely and we remember him with great affection.

I’ve just checked the DVD to find the episode with Norman in – if you happen to have the programmes, it’s Series 9, Episode 5, very near the start.  It was absolutely lovely to see him again, and I’d forgotten that the sketch lasted several minutes.  I shall put it on the Sage’s laptop later, he will love it too.

*Saki reference

**I have momentarily forgotten whether, immediately before marrying me, he was the Sprout or the Sprig.  In any case, he achieved Sagacity on marriage.

The Sage talks about the past

The Sage is such an enthusiast.  He has been reminiscing, rather beyond my capacity, I must confess.  I don’t have a bad memory, but to remember when something happened, it’s best if there’s something to hang it on, as it were.  For example, I know exactly when Miss Fitt died, because it was the year that Ro was born (she was thrilled to be able to hold and cuddle him, she loved children) and she lived to 101 years and 6 months, to the day.  Since I remember her birthday and how old Ro is, I can work it out.  But then he was asking me other dates and I have only a vague idea.

He started to talk about Mrs Dare, Miss Fitt’s blind sister.  He spoke of her with such warmth that I was puzzled.  “Did you meet her?’  “Oh yes,” he said, “I remember her well.”  Since I don’t, not very well, and he could only possibly know the family through us, I was more puzzled, and pondered for a while.  I finally  pointed out that she died well before he moved to Lowestoft, when I was still a child.  He tried to argue for a bit, but I had my facts marshalled by then, and so he had to agree that he never actually knew her at all.  He and I met when I was 16, in early February 1970 (I’m afraid I cannot give you the exact date in this instance).  “I heard all about her,” he protested.  “I feel as if I knew her.”

He does that, you know, and I’ve so often seen the look of bewilderment on someone’s face when he talks about someone as though about a friend, and it turns out to be someone who lived at least 80 years ago.  Most people are far too polite to challenge him, even when he starts to ask if they knew him or her too?  It’s very amusing to watch, though it drives me nuts when he does it to me.  I am boringly precise about verifiable details and uninterested in speculating on ones that cannot be checked, and he is rather the opposite.  Weeza can hardly bear to watch us when we have that sort of conversation, though the boys find it quite entertaining.

Socially whirling

The Sage has had a very jolly birthday.  All his children and grandchildren came to his party and, after lunch, he and his friends spent an hour or two looking at and talking about china, which is enough to make any auctioneer happy.

Looking at my diary, I see that we are going to another party next Saturday.  This is turning out to be the most sociable year we have had for a very long time.  I’m rather awkwardly aware that those to whom we ‘owe’ hospitality are not, in the main, the ones who have been here, so I’d better get going and find some free weekends to ask them over.  Although it has to be said, it’s rather safer to get near the time and phone on the chance they’re free – those things planned weeks ahead can become inconvenient in the end.  I don’t suppose that we’re in any way unusual, in that a free week can suddenly get booked up and the event at the end of it becomes difficult to fit in at all.

Our friend Daphne, who was unable to come today, has suggested that we have a party to celebrate the car’s 82nd birthday on 3rd August.  She has known the Sage for about 60 years and remembers when he bought the car.  I shall soon exhaust my pudding repertoire at this rate.

Wink has to leave very early tomorrow morning to get back for the Bod’s birthday celebrations.  She says that she will not wake us – although one or other of us is usually awake very early, even if we don’t get up straight away.

There was torrential rain today, by the way.  First a hailstorm, which was a bit of a surprise, and then several downpours, with a thunderstorm.  Rain is traditional at this time of the year, of course, but we don’t often get hail in mid-June.  Quite impressive.


I woke up early again, around 5.30 and listened, but there was no sound from the fireplace so I played Angry Birds for a while on my phone.  The sound an hour later was from a desperate, rather than an angry bird.  The Sage was still asleep, so I got up, moved the chest of drawers and uncovered the fireplace.  The dove was flopped in the grate, but it fluttered strongly enough when I picked it up and flew away when I released it through the open window.  I hope it found water quickly and has survived.  I wasn’t surprised; in my experience they do not leave the apparent safety of the fireplace unless you chivvy them.

Wink has arrived and brought pouring rain from the West Country with her.  I have made three meat dishes for tomorrow and will do two vegetable ones in the morning.  I have also made two of the three puddings.  I am quite agitated, however, in case there is not enough food.  This does not, you understand, indicate that there is not enough food, just that I am never entirely comfortable unless I have overcatered.

Dove dive

Rather splendidly, the major fuss I made here the other day has got it out of my system and I’ve been feeling better since then..  In part because there is too much else to do – once I took in that I haven’t time to hang about, there’s so much to be getting on with, I stopped dwelling on the frustration that the thing that we are waiting for has not happened.  And so I’m still burning the candles (just at one end) but I’m listening to music too in the evenings.

This morning, I had just woken up when, at around 6 o’clock, I heard the sound of a dove falling down the bedroom chimney.  I knew it was a dove because I could hear that it was a large bird, but pigeons never do fall down.  Maybe they just have a better sense of balance.  There is a board in front of the fireplace and a chest of drawers in front of that.  When we got up, we moved them and left the windows open and the door shut.  I don’t know if it got out as I went out for lunch; the Sage shut them later on the assumption that it had probably gone.  I hope so.  We will find out at first light tomorrow; if it is still there it will start to flutter again and I will get up straight away and let it go.  There are ledges in the old chimney where it was sitting when I looked for it this morning.  As you can tell, I’ve dealt with this regularly over the past 25 years.

We do occasionally have birds come down the drawing room chimney, but less frequently, and they are smaller birds.  This chimney is lined so there are no ledges.  Once, my cleaning lady came to tell me, in some agitation, that there were two black and white birds flying around the room.  A pair of swallows had fallen down.  We were able to get them out of the window, but there was a fair amount of clearing up to do.  At least, since we never light a fire in the bedroom, there is no soot.

Rambling Zos

I spent some more time this evening looking at photos.  Some of the few in existence of my grandmother, who died when I was two and whom I don’t remember at all.  She was holding my sister as a baby or standing by my grandfather and he was holding her.  It’s indistinct and I can’t really see what she looked like, but I don’t think she was bothered in the least about her appearance.  It was just as well, she had had cancer in her face and and radiation treatment, which I think must have been fairly haphazard at that time (I think it was the 1930s) had destroyed some of the bone, which periodically worked its way out, and she wore a scarf or bandage round her head to hide the damage.  Just a casual knotted piece of material.  It looked quaint, but I don’t suppose she cared, from what I have heard of her.

Although I’ve done a fair amount of reminiscing here over the years, I don’t look back much.  My mother told me a lot of stories about her and my father’s past, but I don’t think I have done as much to my children. It’s a bit late to start now, they’d think it was the ramblings of an old woman.  Er…

Anyway, I have succeeded in buying a birthday present for the Sage, which is rather a relief, as his birthday is on Friday.  It is a saucer.  He will love it.  Soon, I must start to think about his party on Saturday.  There will be 21 or 22 of us – though that does include the children, and I don’t suppose that Hadrian will take much part in the festivities.  I’m going out tomorrow, but I’d better allow time to do some shopping, and then cook on Friday.  I could have planned ahead really, couldn’t I.  Bit late now.

Pictures of Z!!(!)

Darlings, I know that there is nothing in the world that you want more at this moment than pictures of the young Z, is there.  Is there?  Oh.  Well, you’re getting them anyway.

As I said, I’m doing some turning out of my mother’s things and I was awfully pleased to come across her Christmas crib – she and my father bought it in Woolworth’s in 1947, the year they were married, when just about everything was in short supply or rationed and they didn’t have much money anyway.  No doubt, you will be shown it in six months’ time.  There was also the fairy for the tree, who isn’t very pretty, to be honest, and the last of the bird tree decorations that I loved so much as a child.  I didn’t know that she had kept one.

I also found several packs of photos.  Also, in a walnut box with some odds and ends I was surprised to find a lock of my hair.  I vaguely remember promising to bring it back from the hairdresser’s when I finally had my long hair cut, which I think was sometime in my late 20s.

Anyway, I have made you wait quite long enough, and here goes…

This is certainly me, but I don’t recognise the background or the dress and it isn’t a typical photo – I’m usually looking shy and winsome or else wild-haired and tomboyish in childhood pictures.

These are all of me in my twenties.  The first is me and my mother, at her house – not the house I grew up in, she and my stepfather moved house in the late 1970s.  It was before The Haircut.  The second was taken in 1981, when Joepie, our childhood au pair visited.  In the third, I’m with Miss Fitt (sadly, her real name).  She died in 1984 at the age of 101 and this was her 100th birthday party, so it must have been June 1983.  The next time is the same party, although the colour of my jacket is quite different – the truth is probably somewhere in between.  The last of these pictures was taken in our lovely Edwardian house in Lowestoft and my stepfather, Wilf, is in the foreground.

That’s all of me, but this picture of Wink is so lovely that I want to show it to you.  Isn’t she pretty?  That’s during the same visit made by Joepie (Dutch, short for Johanna, pronounced Yoopi).

Finally, Al with the Sage’s Ma at Miss Fitt’s birthday and Weeza and Al in 1981.  They must have been 7 and 5 at the time.  Sorry about the mark on Al’s face, I didn’t notice before I scanned the pic and I can’t be arsed to do it again.  Sentiment can only go so far.  Sheesh.

It just occurred to me that you might like the most recent photo of me, for comparison.  So here it is.

Z paces the floor and worries

This evening, I cannot find music to fit my mood, or else soothe it.  I’ve tried a range of stuff, and it all irritates me.  I have turned it off and lit a candle instead.

Usually, I don’t give it a great deal of thought, but let my choice just happen.  I listen on Spotify, mostly, largely because I want to get my money’s worth from my subscription, but also because, even if I’ve bought the disc, the artist might as well get the small sum from it being played.

I’m becoming a nervous wreck.  Time was, you got a longish period of notice of a school inspection, but you knew when it would be.  Then you got short notice (at one time, it could be no notice at all, they might just walk in, but I don’t think this happened to many schools).  This time, they told us that we’re in the pilot group, but not when they would come.  I am not consciously worrying, but my shoulders hurt because they are so tense, my face aches because I’m grinding my teeth and I wake every hour or so at night.  Even the Sage is irritating me, because he’s so cheerful.  Well, not just that.  Someone called in for a school business conversation and he monopolised the conversation throughout, with the result that we weren’t able to have our discussion.

I’m sorry.  It’s just that there’s so much to do, and this is holding us up.  I’m also attempting to do some turning-out, things belonging to my mother.  Yes, she died eight years ago, but this is stuff that stayed in a cupboard in Al and Dilly’s house for some time, so it’s only been in a spare room for five years or so and it just got left.  Now, I’m being a good example to the Sage.  He has a room to turn out, and he needs somewhere to put his things.  There’s no point in nagging, I’ve got to have a practical solution or the work will never get done.  Anyway, much of my mother’s stuff has turned out to be old papers, not interesting ones but newspaper cuttings and bank and tax papers, so it can all be burned.  But every half hour or so, someone calls or the phone rings and then I don’t get back to it.  I can see that this will take me quite some time.  So far, one boxful to keep, four to get rid of.

I cannot see that we will ever be in a position to downsize.  Having said that, Ro’s room is as he left it when he moved out, and it’s a huge room.  Lined with cupboards and shelves, it could solve all our storage space issues.  I wonder if he’d mind.


Now it’s raining properly, at last.  Showers were forecast yesterday – I went to London with a waterproof jacket and sunglasses in my bag, though only needed the sunspecs, because it was dry all day and sunny for an appreciable part of it.  It was lovely at 7.30 this morning when I first went out, not a cloud in the sky.

We had lunch with Weeza and co.  Zerlina does enjoy food.  She ate the sausage first, then the carrot and asked for more.  She cleared her plate (chicken, roast potato, chipolata, carrot, asparagus), picking up the asparagus neatly with her fingers, although eating the stalk first rather than the tip.  Then she ate ice cream.  After that, she wanted to have a go on her swing, so I pushed her for rather a long time.  Swings are rather more fun when you’re swinging than when you’re pushing.  Please read each part of that sentence entirely in its context, btw.  She is a tall and slender little girl with a lot of energy, but she also needs plenty of sleep.  Her mother ensures that she still has an afternoon nap, which is quite unusual in a child of her age (Weeza herself was impossible to keep in bed for a nap after 18 months or so) but I’m sure that it’s good for her.

I took a present for each of them; Adnam’s bitter for Phil, grape juice for Weeza and a book for Zerlina.  It is a book written by my friend Charlotte, who stayed with us a few months ago.  She only wrote and illustrated three books, as she had bad RSI and couldn’t draw any more; we bought the first one when Ro was young and we still have it, but the others were for younger children and I didn’t get it at the time.

I haven’t yet given any thought to the Sage’s birthday present.  He is terribly difficult to buy for.

I noticed, the other day, that I’ve driven 16,000 miles in my car since I bought it, 32 months ago.  How neat.  I still do not particularly warm to it, but it has to be said that Mercedes make good cars, or they did 13 years ago, anyway.  Well over 100,000 miles and it’s (regrettably) still going strong and I have no excuse to trade it in.  The Sage is working on his old Rover at present, almost everything is wrong with it.  He and his friend Mike (the *other* Mike and Ann, if you came to the party) spent all day on it, and got it working in the end.  It didn’t help that a mouse had made its home there.  The electrics are still to be done, but the plan is to have it on the road for August in time for its 83rd birthday.

To London, and home again

The day went very well, no delays at all and I walked from Knightsbridge tube station to meet Wink, who had arrived before me and was having coffee.  I have walked quite a long way, I suppose – well, it feels like it, though I don’t suppose it’s more than a couple of miles.

The tube back, it was about 5.30 and, although a Saturday, was very crowded.  We were jammed in and some people had to stay on the platform and wait for the next train.  A lot of tourists, who found the crowds good fun and were smiling.  There was a group of Spanish people and one of them was talking loudly to another, a few yards away.  Her voice was not only loud, but piercing and I tried to keep my head turned for her voice not to blast right into my ear.

I didn’t actually mind the crush, I’d found it more of a nuisance outside the Albert Hall where people who’d just exited with us were milling round getting in the way.  On the tube, we were all being good-humoured and considerate (apart from the Spanish lady, who wasn’t doing it on purpose, she didn’t know her voice could shatter glass*).

Standing there strap-hanging, I pondered – if asked, I’d say I don’t like crowds at all and I feel oppressed if there are too many people around me, but the only discomfort I felt was because I was too hot and wished I’d taken my jacket off.  I tried to think it through – I think it was the patience that made the difference.   There was physical consideration, people were trying not to touch, but being good-humoured if it was unavoidable.  Because we were all standing still – that is, swaying about a bit but not moving along – I wasn’t nervous of being knocked over.   Um.  Still doesn’t entirely add up.

Tomorrow, we are having lunch with Weeza and family.  She and Phil want to go and check out dishwashers without Zerlina, so the Sage and I will babysit after lunch (she still has a nap, so I must remember to take the papers to read, or a book).

* I doubt you should take this literally