Monthly Archives: July 2011

Z searches for Big Pinkie

Things would have been simpler if Big Pinkie hadn’t got out this morning. A neighbour phoned to tell us, but the Sage was quite sure it was a cow from another field, not ours. I’d just gone upstairs to wash my hair – I’d actually got the tap running when he called up the stairs and so went to help get her back. She is very friendly and will follow you anywhere for an apple or two, so it wasn’t too hard.

Everyone was very sociable and chatty and the weather was glorious, so we were able to have lunch outside. Afterwards, almost everyone went for a ride in the car, the Sage driving each of us in turn round the village. The car behaved beautifully.

I knew I would cook too much food. Despite the valiant efforts of Ro, who took several containersful, there’s enough left for several meals. No puddings though. There was a little left after the meal, but it all vanished at some point except for a small quantity of cheesecake, which the Sage and Daphne, his childhood friend who is staying with us, polished off tonight.

I must go to bed. Oh, hang on – Mike, our friends whom you stayed with at the farm down the road were among the party guests. I told Bobbie the name of the blog. So she might call in at some time.

Whipped, anyone might run

I seem to be having problems with dairy products.  First the yoghurt was too runny, now my syllabub won’t whip.  It’s inexplicable.   I’m going to freeze it and we will have lemon syllabub ice cream, and I’ll start again in the morning with the topping for the trifle.

I’ve got a lot done today, but I’m tired now.  A friend has come to stay from Kent, which is lovely – but I hadn’t changed the spare room bed from when Weeza and Zerlina were here a couple of weeks ago.  Yes indeed, it’s usually the rule that the bed gets changed and the sheets washed straight away, but it didn’t happen.  And the bathroom, though pretty clean, was a tip.  So the housework took some time.  And we had to do the condition report on the last 15 lots that just came in, so that Weeza could continue to work on the catalogue.  And then the Sage wanted me to do the lot numbers.  We’ve always just bought numbers, but someone said to him, why didn’t he have his own ones printed with his name on?  I’m so sweet to him, I really am.  I spent ages looking for the right size labels and I can’t find them anywhere, so I had to buy some about 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inch, and do two lot numbers to each label.  It took quite a time to get the sizing and spacing right so that they could be cut in half.

And now, I’m going to bed.  Roses is coming for lunch tomorrow, so I’ve got to spend the morning preparing.

Pie-eyed piper

Sight of the day – the Sage walking towards the house, followed by an eager cluster of about twenty bantams and one partridge, hoping for an early lunch.  They received it.

For those of you who came to the party and can visualise it, the section of the drive between the house and the lawn is finished at last.  The gravel was put down this afternoon, all the hardcore having been tamped down and levelled this morning.  They are now working on the part of the drive between the lawn and the field we call the Ups and Downs, widening it and putting in a kerb so that the gas delivery lorry won’t break down the edge again.  If you come again next year, there really should be plenty of parking space.  I hope you will.

I’ve typed up those final fifteen lots, although we haven’t done the condition report yet because I need daylight to make the best of my eyesight.  Also, all the Academy paperwork was completed from our end yesterday and delivered, and has gone through today, so there is no last-minute panic.  We are independent, and it feels good.

I wonder how the local authority will fund the schools it’s still obliged to, now that the larger, most successful and efficient ones have become academies.  They have relied on the money they make from us to subsidise them and, while we were receiving a good service, we were okay with that.  But the balance tipped too far.  We are not irresponsible, however, we want schools to be good, and it’s particularly in our interest to look after our feeder primary schools.

I could have a bit of a rant but I won’t.  The Sage and I knocked back a bottle of champagne instead.  Particular good news is that Jan is getting much better and sent a text to Lynn, her colleague, today.  She’s still tired and headachy but on the mend.

The yoghurt tastes lovely but was very runny.  I strained it through a muslin cloth to reduce the whey.  I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m too used to commercial yoghurt and that it should be so runny?  I’ll have another go after the weekend and see what happens then.  The back of the Aga seemed to keep it nicely warm overnight.

Whey to go

I have heated and semi-cooled the milk, whisked in some yoghurt to start it and put it in a bowl on a trivet at the back of the Aga.  We shall see how it goes by the morning.

I went out for a couple of hours and was rather startled by the change when I returned.  There was a rough patch of grass with a couple of trees on it by the drive, and there are a lot of bulbs in it, mostly snowdrops, aconites, crocus and bluebells.  They are still there, I suppose, but the grass has all vanished.  It was pretty scruffy, admittedly, and since the soil removed to make room for the paving had been piled on it, I realise that there wasn’t really any way of tidying it up acceptably without levelling it completely, but it wasn’t quite what I’d expected.  We’ll have to seed it in the autumn.  The chickens will enjoy the treat of grass seed.  I don’t want to plant it up with shrubs, but I will go out tomorrow and get a couple of plants, just to soften the corners a bit.   Tomorrow, back to widening the drive, a job which has been left for a few weeks.  Heaven knows when the whole thing will be completed.

Z takes pictures

I’ve just finished editing the photos for the next catalogue – I haven’t Photoshopped them or anything, just straightened and cropped them as necessary, added the lot number to each and sent Weeza 27 pictures for the catalogue; I shall let Ro have photos of all the lots on Sunday to go on the website, by which time I’ll have added the last fifteen – those pieces are being brought here tomorrow.    It is very good to have that done.  I’m pleased with them, the day was perfect for taking pictures, being quite bright but not sunny.  I prefer to do it out of doors but in a lightbox.

I can’t say that I enjoy the taking of the pictures, however.  So tedious, getting the tripod and everything just so, it takes ages to set up, although once that’s done each item doesn’t take long to photograph.  Thank goodness for digital cameras; at least I know within minutes if any of them is not good enough and can do it again.  That didn’t happen this time, thanks to the Sage watching.  He saw, as I didn’t, when a gnat flew in front of a piece of china just as I took the photo, so I was able to do it again at once.

Once we’d done the photography, we sat outside with Dilly and the children for quite some time in the sunshine.  I cuddled Hadrian, who has grown a great deal.  He is now two months old and has grown out of his little crib, so Dilly has passed it on to Weeza.  He’s also grown out of all his first clothes.  I haven’t seen him smile yet and asked if he does.  “He smiles at Al,” said Dilly.  “I don’t know what Al has that I don’t, but he can always raise a smile.”  She noticed that Hadrian was reaching out to touch the toggle on the hood of my jacket.

I must go to bed.  It’s quarter to one.  I shall backdate this to midnight as this still counts as Wednesday, to me, in the same way as I reckon it doesn’t become afternoon until I’ve had lunch.


Country noises

I remember the first night I ever spent in this house.  It was soon after the Sage and I were engaged and his parents invited us over for the weekend.  I was put in the spare bedroom, which in those days housed two single beds, a wardrobe and dressing table – probably a chair or two, there must have been a stool at the dressing table at least.  Now, it has a single bed, a large desk, a chest of drawers with a mirror on it, a table and four bookcases, two of them ceiling height.  It is the room above the porch and the windows face east and south.

I never did sleep very well in an unfamiliar place, and I hardly slept at all that night.  It was the noise.  Cows mooed, owls hooted and, at dawn, birds squawked.  Incredibly loud for a town girl.

Mind you, although I did live in a town, and always had, the road was a cul de sac and we had a large garden – and I slept on the second floor (that would be the third floor to Americans) so I daresay it was very quiet.   In later years, when Weeza came to stay here from London, she always remarked on how quiet it is in this house at night, so it’s all comparative.

I took Ro and Dora out to lunch today and she asked me about how the Sage and I met, so I’ve been thinking back a bit.  Not that we met in a romantic way at all, he was a family friend for three years before we started to notice each other in a new light.  Just as well, I reckon, I’m not sure that I’d really have become engaged to someone three weeks after the first date if I’d only just met him.  I may be impulsive, but only when it really feels right.

Sad to say, none of the eggs we were given have hatched and we don’t think that they will.  The Sage is asking around, trying to find someone with bantams who could spare some fertile eggs, chicks or even just a young cockerel, but no luck at present.  Too many foxes around, most people who used to keep fairly free-ranging bantams have lost them to the sandy-whiskered gentleman.  We will strike lucky sooner or later, however.  The Sage is good at that sort of thing.

Long ago and really quite far away

I’ve been thinking about myself (yes I know, no need to say anything about that At All, darlings) because Dave mentioned his membership (if that’s the word) of Friends Reunited.  I remember my decision not to join Friends Reunited.  The idea, it seemed, was to contact people you had been at school, university or your earlier working life with and had lost touch.  My reaction was, you’ve lost touch for a reason, right?  If you cared that much, you’d have stayed in contact.

In fact, some years ago we visited an elderly cousin of the Sage’s, and as a result we discovered that his daughter was a neighbour of a friend of mine from teenage days.  Pleased as I was to find this out, it was not quite enough for either of us to make contact with each other – and, I’m sorry to say, she died three or four years ago as it happens, so it isn’t going to happen in future either.

I lived in Lowestoft after leaving school and have lived here, with the same surname, for 25 years (it was the anniversary of moving here on Saturday, as it happens).  I occasionally meet (bump into, not meet by arrangement) people I knew from schooldays, and one of them told me, a while back, that her mother is still a good friend of two of our teachers, who now are in their early eighties.  Which was quite interesting, actually, I might not mind meeting them again (and, funnily enough, I did keep in touch with several teachers after I left school, and wrote regularly to one until his death). But I have never been sufficiently engaged to make contact with anyone whom I’ve lost touch with.  Indeed, I do not put my school into Facebook or Google+ – if there’s anyone who really wants to find me, they can by name.  Not because we passed uncaringly by forty years ago.

This is not because I’m so very unfriendly, or I don’t think so.  I am not friendly like my sister, who does keep friends from way back, including school friends and people she worked with several decades ago.  And I wonder if that’s partly because she doesn’t have children – friends are all the closer to her – although I don’t think I’d be different whether I had a family or not.  Anyway,  whatever the reasons, I was rather horrified by the prospect of people I hadn’t seen for forty years getting in touch.  Apart from anything else, I might not remember them.  I’ve worked on my memory for faces and names very hard over the years, but back in my youth it was awful.  Embarrassingly bad, in fact.

There is better news from the hospital, by the way, where our school staff member was taken after her subarachnoid haemorrhage.  She has been out of bed, walking slowly around the room.  She still has a headache and is dreadfully tired, but this is really good to hear.

A family production

We spent a couple of hours today on the next sale catalogue, and that has cheered me considerably. Weeza is coming over tomorrow morning to help with the condition report – her younger eyes are better for spotting the smallest damage or restoration, although I’m normally fairly alert at observing restoration in china myself.  With her baby due in mid-August, she wants to get the catalogue finished this week, not to cut it too fine.  We certainly want that too, I don’t fancy the job.  I do the typing, photography and proof-reading, she does the condition report and catalogue, the Sage, of course, provides the expertise, dictates the description of the china and the price estimates.  In due course, Ro updates the website.

It’s Ro’s birthday today.  We’re planning to meet up for lunch, probably on Tuesday, as he and Dora both have the week off.  They are also coming over for our party on Sunday – I really must remember to ask the Sage exactly whom he has invited.  And decide what to cook.

I’m also hoping to hear about my piano before long.  The tuner said the end of July and we asked him to give us a week or so warning that he was bringing it.  In reality, I’m expecting a couple of days, tops.  If he has any sense, he will tell us in advance, so that we can have a cheque waiting for him.  I’ve no idea how much it will be, I’ll have to play it a lot to get my money’s worth, that I do know.  I’m never going to be much of a pianist again, I’m afraid.  Hammering out hymns on the organ for the last twenty (or whatever) years has ruined me.  Apart from anything else, keeping going has been the main thing – if there are too many notes, I just leave a couple of them out nowadays.  Instead of practising until I get it right, I simplify it until I can play it without too much trouble.

In addition, I’m about at a tipping point with the clarinet.  I’ve forgotten some of the notes and have to work them out – in fact, I can’t do a couple of the high ones at all any more and am going to have to look them up.  I’ve had my clarinet serviced, at any rate, and it is much easier to play.  I was relieved to discover that the amount of puff I had to expend and the danger of the occasional squeak was down to the instrument more than the musician.  All the same, if I’m ever to get reasonably good again, hours of work are needed.  I don’t know, maybe.

This afternoon, I looked out of the window and the partridge was clambering over the heap of soil removed to make room for the slabs.  She called for the Sage, but he was busy so I went to the door and she watched hopefully, so I fetched her a handful of corn.  I’ve got the awful feeling that I can’t bear, at present, to worry the birds by introducing a dog into the family.  But then, I haven’t got time or aptitude to train a puppy right now, either.  So I have to accept that we won’t have a dog for a few months, at least, unless the unlikely event happens that an unmissable opportunity arises.


Z asks for advice

Jonny, the farmer I have mentioned before (it’s he and his father whose cows graze our field) has started a new enterprise, selling milk from the farm gate.  The farm and cows have gone through the necessary testing of course, and he is licensed to sell raw milk.  Now, the thing is, I want to support him but I don’t use a lot of milk and what I do, the milkman delivers.  Of course, I want to support doorstep deliveries too, so won’t cancel that, and besides, not everyone wants to be given unpasteurised milk and I wouldn’t offer it without telling them.

I’m not going to start taking milk in tea and coffee or drinking it, but I do make a point of eating yoghurt, for the sake of the calcium.  Yes, I have discussed a bone density test with my doctor.  But anyway, that seems to me something I can do with the milk, make yoghurt.  So I am asking you for advice.

I looked up Delia you see, who is always first point of call for basics, and she suggests bringing milk to the boil, simmering it to evaporate somewhat, cooling it and going from there.  That seems a bit of a faff to be honest, so I looked elsewhere and found a method that just brings it to the temperature you want and doesn’t boil it at all.  Boiling the milk would seem to negate the benefits of raw milk – though I appreciate that it makes it possible for small children to use – and I’ve never been fond of the taste of boiled milk.  So, is it a good idea?  I have made yoghurt before, but not for 30 years and I can’t remember what I did, or even how successful it was.  So I’d appreciate some advice, please.

Thank you, darlings.

By the way, I gather that this is already over Facebook and Twitter, but it’s a genuinely unpleasant watch, whatever the back story is.


It was Aaron’s funeral today.  His form teacher was asked by his parents to speak, and to read out their message and that of neighbouring farmers (where Aaron would have started an apprenticeship in September) too.  He rose to the demands of the ordeal.  The Rector also spoke extremely well, a beautifully crafted and delivered address that must have taken hours to write, not that it sounded laboured at all.

I think that all the paving slabs have been laid – that is, when the piles of earth have been removed, we can see if the proportions look about right.  We still have some left.  At last we won’t have a large puddle outside the door every time it rains, Jamie and Richard have been careful to have a slight and imperceptible incline to the side, away from the house.

Al has become a postman.  He did his first round today, under supervision, will still be supervised tomorrow and will have his own round next week.  He is looking forward to it, it’s right up his street (see what I did there?).  Plenty of time on his own, but superficial friendly contact with people.  An early start in the morning, but an early finish too.  And paid holidays, which he hasn’t had for the past nine years – not that he didn’t enjoy being a shopkeeper, he did, but it was relentless hard work.

The Sage and I have a lot of work to do in the next three days.  It’s time to start the catalogue for the next sale.  Weeza is coming over on Monday to do the condition report and she wants us to have it typed up by then, even if I haven’t taken the photos.  My aim is to have pretty well all my work done, of one sort and another, by about the 7th August and then I can take some time off.