Monthly Archives: August 2011

Making good

Those of you who came to the Wall Party (or who have visited the house on other occasions) will have noticed the wall at the road end of the drive is in a poor state of repair, as is the tarmac.  Some time ago, on a frosty morning, an oil tanker was driving past on a very frosty morning, the driver’s mobile rang and he pulled off the road to answer it, hit some ice and slid into the wall, completely demolishing it.  We tried to find bricks that exactly matched (there is a matching wall the other side of the gate) but couldn’t find them, the insurance company wouldn’t pay for both to be replaced, and eventually we came to an agreement about compensation and then succeeded in getting the wall, which had fallen down in sections, lifted up and jigsaw-puzzle-fitted together.  But the cracks still showed and the top rounded bricks needed to be put back.  In addition, the drain and tarmac needed attention as the former kept blocking and the latter had deteriorated badly.

So this week, that’s what has been worked on.  First, a hole was dug on the field side of the drain, and it was discovered that there was no proper soakaway, just a few broken bricks at the end of a very short pipe.  So a large pit was dug, it’s been filled with rubble, a better pipe was put on the end of the existing one, a cover was put over to stop earth filling up the spaces between the rubble and the earth was put back.  The drain cover has been reset because the concrete was broken (of course, it can still be lifted out) and weedkiller has been applied to the – well, rather obviously, the weeds.  The next job will be to smarten up the wall.

The kerbs have all been put in and preparation can be done next month for the tarmac to go down.  The long, straggly and lopsided lower branches have been removed from the yew, but it has been reprieved and the higher, more upwardly curving branches will been left.  We’ll take the ivy off and either the trunk will sprout or remain bare, but it will be kept as a tree without low side branches.  It will look better than it did, as all the branches have to be cut back on the drive side anyway and those on the other side would have looked odd shortened, or messy left as they were.  There are still the stumps of those branches left, but a wood-turner friend of ours will come and cut them off and use them.   I hope that the trunk will sprout reasonably evenly, but we’ll keep it tidy, whatever happens.  Yew can cope with being cut hard and it’ll be better than cutting it down, which was the only practical alternative.

Today in London went well, tomorrow we’re going over to see Weeza and co again.

Ladies who Lunch in London

Norwich was fine, but the day would have gone better if the bag I saw in the first shop had been fine rather than perfect except for horrid straps.  We spent a long time trawling through other shops and couldn’t find anything else I liked that my iPad would fit in, went back to the first shop, the bag was still perfect apart from the straps.  I’d also been looking for a present for Dilly, had written down clothes on her wishlist, couldn’t find any of them in the shop except for one top that didn’t look as nice as it did on the picture, so was wary of buying it unless she’d tried it on.

I did buy a skin cream I’d run out of from Body Shop, and we enjoyed our lunch.

If only that bag had been just right in the first shop – I deeply loathe shopping when it doesn’t go right.  If I can get something I like straight away I don’t keep looking just in case something even better is available somewhere else – it probably won’t be and I’ll just get bored.  Once in a while, I’ll buy whole lots of clothes, just because I find them, they fit, I like and can afford them, but it may be months before I do it again.  I bought no clothes for this summer, for example, not even shoes.  Last year’s sandals are fine.  I bought three pairs in one day (indeed, in one shop) about fourteen months ago.   In fact, I bought more shoes than usual last year because I was celebrating being able to wear what I liked again – both heels and flats.  Before I had my new hip, the only comfortable shoes had 1 1/2 inch heels.  So last winter, I bought two pairs of boots and two of shoes in the sales.  All in the same shop though, I have a very low attention threshold.

Tomorrow, we’re going to London for lunch.  Really, just for lunch, we’ll be with Kamala from about 1 to 3.30 and then we’ll have to leave to catch our train back.

My downstairs tenant emailed today to say that his washing machine has packed in – I knew it would, it’s 11 or 12 years old and the upstairs one, a year older, gave up in March.  He has this week off and is at home, so has offered to order, pay for and see installed the new one to save me going up.  Brilliant.  He’ll simply deduct the cost from next month’s rent, so it’ll be simple.  And save me money.


I have pictures of the Viking raid, but it’s too late tonight – sorry, I was reading and playing iPad games and talking to Wink (it’s dull, doing one thing at a time, don’t you think?) and I can’t quite be bothered to put them on the computer now.  Something to look forward to, darlings.

We had an excellent day, although I still haven’t managed to get Hadrian to smile at me.  I was reasonably philosophical about that until he beamed at Wink and kept chuckling at her.  Dilly kindly suggested it’s because Al wears glasses and she sometimes does, so does Wink, and maybe he just likes people who have glasses on.  I’m not entirely convinced, but will borrow some and give it a try.  I carried him around for ages, nearly an hour, so he could look around and join in rather than just lie in his pram, so he should appreciate me more than he has.  He’s over three months old now, hardly seems credible.

It was the Sage’s sister’s birthday yesterday and she phoned this evening.  She’s been away most of the summer, first house-sitting for her son and his other half, and then going on holiday to Italy with them (I’m not sure who cat- and house-sits then) and also staying with her daughter and her children.  She will be 80 next year, which I can hardly believe.  She never seems to age in the least.  She can’t drive because her eyesight isn’t good, so we don’t see each other all that often – she only lives in Cromer, the other end of the same county, but we usually meet in Norwich.  She’d love to see the babies, we’ll have to get together soon.

It’s late.  I’ll date this before midnight yesterday (that is, Monday) and go to bed.  Well, go and lounge in the bath for a bit.  Going to Norwich tomorrow.

Middle aged but spectacular

The hog roast was delicious, as usual.  It takes the whole day to cook, so wasn’t served until 9 o’clock – and I was second in the queue!  I managed a glass of cider, mixed half and half with lemonade, so felt I’d done my duty, though I didn’t feel entirely at my best this morning.  However, I’d perked up by the time I was called upon to play the clarinet, and fortunately the tune I’d never played before turned out to be pretty easy, so it went well.

Lunch also went well, it was a very canny move to cook it in advance because I was able to get it on the table half an hour or so after arriving home, with just the potatoes and beans to cook.  Gus slept pretty well all the time he was here, except when he was being fed, which happened between our main course and pudding, and we all took it in turns to hold him.  They all went home mid-afternoon, with the plan to be back by the time he needed another feed.  Wink and I are planning to go to Norwich on Tuesday and call in once we’ve done our shopping and hope she’ll see him awake then.  We’re going out with Al and family tomorrow to a Mediaeval Spectacular.  We are prepared to be impressed.

In fact, Al and co went last year, just because it’s a lovely place, and had no idea this was on.  They enjoyed it so much that they decided to go again and asked us to go too.  Kindly, they waited until Monday because we’d got the others here for lunch, so I hope it stays fine.  The forecast is dry until evening, but getting cooler.  Proper Bank Holiday weather then.

Showery outlook

The sky is blue now, but we’ve had sleet, hail and thunder.  Indeed, the thunder is still rolling around now. I daresay it’ll clear up in time for us to spend an evening outside.

Wink rang an hour ago, she was only just off the M25, where the traffic is dreadful.  She was at work this morning so wasn’t able to leave early as she normally would.  I have a feeling that she’ll arrive just in time to change into wellies and leave for the party.

I’m supposed to be cooking tomorrow’s lunch.  Well, I have, largely.  I’ve made a beef casserole.  But I’ve got pudding to make and a ratatouille to cook.  I rather fancy chocolate cake, but Wink can’t eat chocolate, so if I do that I’ll have to do something else too.  And if there’s an alternative, some people will want that and so I’ll have to do enough … hm.  Anyway, while I’m mulling it over, I’ll write here, and then I’ll make the ratatouille and by then I’ll have decided.

Ah, it’s raining again.

I don’t think I mentioned, Wink’s friend Kamala is over from India at present.  They met in London last week, I’d decided against going because the baby had just been born – well, I’d said I couldn’t make plans because the baby hadn’t arrived and then wanted to be on hand.  It was just as well I didn’t go, the trains were delayed in the morning and I’d have been late.  They want to meet again on Wednesday, so I can be free then.  I’ve got a meeting in the evening, but someone else will take notes for me.  There’s a funeral I’d said I would go to in the morning, so I’ll have to give my apologies.  It is one of the people I deliver meals on wheels to, he had been in hospital a month and I think we all knew from the start that he had reached the end of his life.  He’d had a long and happy one, it’s no tragedy except to his wife, now nearing 90.  She is a dear old lady and has a loving family, their daughter lives in the same road, does her cleaning and has lunch every day with her and a grandson in Norwich visits every week.

The Sage has brought me a cup of tea and is going off on my bike to give some bantam eggs to a neighbour, another gentleman in his nineties.  It’s not raining any more.  I’d better get back to my cooking.

No cyder inside her inside

Wink is coming to stay tomorrow.  I started to make a shopping list.  Wine, it started.  Well, that’s as far as I got.  We might sink a bottle or two.  We’re all going out tomorrow evening, in fact, to the hog roast at the next village.  It’s the Cyder Club annual bash.  I have to say, I’ve given up on the home-made cyder.  I can cope with a glass of it mulled, on the annual New Year’s Day walk, but straight and cold, I fear for my digestive system.  I was talking to Ro the other day (he and Dora are coming too).  “You can add lemonade,” he advised helpfully.  “It’s a waste of good lemonade, frankly,” I replied.

However, the company and the food will be excellent.  Keeping our fingers crossed for the weather, it’s quite changeable at present.  We have spent the day – well, the week really – out in the garden.  Gardening is completely the wrong term of course, we are still removing dead trees, pruning well-overgrown hedges and putting in the kerbs in the drive.  I reckon another month and we’ll be about done there.  The good news is, however, that yesterday Jamie and the Sage spent some time on that bit of roof above the window where water comes in, they’ve added some more guttering to deflect the rain – and it works!  Woken by a bird (yes, yet another bird, darlings) coming down the bedroom chimney at 5.30 this morning, I lurched downstairs to investigate.  I’d been waking up every hour or so and heard it raining, but I finally managed to drag myself out of bed.  There was not a drop of rain.  And Jamie got the paving outside the door just right, there is no standing water at all where there used to be a puddle.

I realised, about 8 o’clock, that I had not got the bird out of the fireplace.  I went upstairs and looked, but no sign.  Poor thing will have to spend another night there.  Poor I will be woken at dawn.  The Sage usually sleeps through.  I’ll hope to be able to catch it as soon as it comes down from the ledge it’s roosting on, it’ll be all right, but it won’t have eaten or drunk for 24 hours.

Z takes pictures with Gusto*

*I trust you don’t mind me pinching back my joke, Chris?

I was balancing Gus on my knee yesterday taking his photo with my iPad.  It’s a very entertaining feature in an iPad2, by the way, you give it to someone to take a picture, then press the top right of the screen and they are shocked to find they’re looking at their own face.  Very startling, never fails to amuse.

This picture is called “Oh no, it’s Mad Granny with her iPad!”

And this hardly needs a caption.

I finally left him alone so he could get on with his nap.

A really happy Al

We used to have a postman who always brought biscuits for the dogs on his round, with the result that he was given a warm canine welcome.  One of our recent postmen is very wary of dogs and little old gentle Tilly had to be shut away before he’d come in to have a parcel signed for.  Al likes dogs and is used to them, but there is one at a farm on his round that is not to be trusted and he has to stay in the van and hoot the horn if a signature is needed.  I remember once delivering leaflets in Lowestoft, I can’t remember what for – and there was a dog on the other side of a door who was determined to get my fingers and barked and snarled.  I didn’t dare put the leaflet through the letterbox, so I walked away, delivered to the next house – and then nipped back and shoved it through quickly before the dog realised he had been tricked.  When he did, he threw himself at the door and I heard a loud thump and a furious yowl.  Heh.  
Machines are indeed coming, as Blue Witch says, to sort the mail automatically, but they aren’t here yet.  Al gets all the post for his round and then puts it in order.  His initial online test before he had an interview was a sorting game, which any young man would find pretty easy, almost everyone under forty having been brought up on computer games.
Al’s uniform includes shorts – he wore trousers one day when it was raining, but soon found he was far too hot.  He does keep towels on the van seat, but his waterproofs drip everywhere and it gets fairly messy.  He is very pleased with his trainers, he looked up the brand and they would have cost him £90.  He’ll get a pair of stouter shoes or boots for the winter too.  They have Royal Mail on a red tag, so he has to keep them for work.
Our postman comes on a bike, and if there’s anything but the smallest parcel it is delivered later in a van. Al’s present round, though not far from Diss, is all small villages and a van is the only practical way of getting it done.  When he was doing his training, he spent a day or two in Diss and had a trolley then.  I don’t think he had any particular opinion of it one way or the other, but he wouldn’t have anything to compare it to.  His present round really belongs to someone else, who is off on sick leave just now, so Al has it while he’s away.  He may get another round, or he may fill in on other posties’ days off – apparently you apply for a round which comes vacant and the most senior person can get it, so that won’t be him.
Straightforward, useful, non-office jobs are what Al likes.  Hard work and not very well paid, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.  Zerlina and Squiffany were singing Postman Pat the other day and when it got to the bit “Pat feels he’s a really happy man,” I said to Squiffany “Is that why Daddy wanted to be a postman, because it would make him happy like Pat?”  And Squiffany said it was.  I think it was largely because he saw a vacancy and the timing works for him, because when he had the shop he was never home until well after 6 pm, but he’s certainly happy with it now.

Today’s post

Al is enjoying his new job.  It’s very endearing, how enthusiastic he is about new things.  I remember, after his first week as a shopkeeper, he came in and said “I don’t know why people say it’s stressful, running your own business.  I think it’s wonderful!”  Now, he’s appreciating doing a job that you complete every day.  He finds it satisfying, that he starts off with a jumble of mail to sort, he puts it in order, sets out on his round – and he says that you have to concentrate, there are a good many parcels (Amazon and eBay are keeping the Royal Mail going) and he has to remember when to go to fetch a parcel from the back of the van, but at the end of the day he has an empty van and has completed all the work there is to do.

He’s finding it tiring, largely because of the early start.  He sets his alarm for 4.45 every day.  The advantage of that is that he’s home by 3 most afternoons, but he’s ready for bed well before 10 pm, and Al is even more of a natural night bird than I am.  And although the round he’s doing at present is a rural one, so he uses a van, there’s a lot of getting in and out and he feels he’s used a fair bit of energy by the end of his round.  He’s been mostly lucky with the weather, although he’s had a few rainy days – going by van is a disadvantage is some respects in the wet, there isn’t time to wait until the rain stops and his waterproof jacket wets the seat when he gets back in the van.  Today, he had a puncture.  It was not a good day.  He had to change the wheel in the rain, and then had forms to fill in back at the depot.

On Saturdays, he starts even earlier.  The round has to be finished in time to return to the post office by 12.30.  I noticed, as I went through Yagnub last Saturday in the late morning that a postman was running along the road, obviously anxious to get all the work done on time.  They work an 8 hour day but are only paid for 7, on the assumption that they will stop for breaks and lunch, but in fact there is no time for that, Al eats in brief minutes when he’s checking the post at the start of a road to know which houses to call at.  If he eats at all, that is, he’s noticeably lost weight, and he was thin to start with.  When busy, he forgets to eat or doesn’t bother.  That used to worry me at the shop, at busy times of the year he didn’t bother to have a meal during the day, and then was too tired to eat much in the evening.  But he seems robust, he’s rarely off-colour.


On Sunday, Ro noticed that a game of Monopoly was out.  It didn’t take up much room, being a travelling set.  Pugsley had asked to play it, having noticed it in the cloakroom cupboard.  I’d been surprised, but apparently there are children’s versions nowadays, I expect he was a bit puzzled to find out how much more complex it was than the one he is used to.  It was especially complex because it was a Spanish version, and also because the print was so small.  I could hardly read the road names on the board and had to pick it up and peer every time one of us landed on it.  Some years ago, we started to collect different language versions when we were on holiday.  Weeza brought one home from Greece, which is the hardest to play.

The board we normally used was an American one, using the original Atlantic City road names, and Ro said that that’s the one he thinks of as right – that is, to him it’s Boardwalk rather than Mayfair and so on.  He said that at university he and his housemates played Monopoly a good deal one year.  They had league tables and everything.  I know.  So does he.  He was amused rather than defensive, however.  We agreed that the reason that games usually go on for so long is because of the house rules that each family devises, and permitting borrowing. If you go strictly by the rules, as they did, it’s quite quick.

We talked about other games we used to play and who was best at which.  I liked number and word games, but the rest of the family were not keen on them because I usually won – I had learned all the two letter words in Scrabble, for example, which put me at an advantage – although only because I’d gone to the trouble, they could have too.  Al’s speciality was Cluedo.  He had an intricate system of symbols which he used to note down people’s answers and was able to deduce everyone’s cards in minutes.  We could never understand how he got the right answer so quickly.  Weeza was good at games involving a visual memory, something I’m fairly hopeless at.  I remember what I’ve read, but not what I’ve seen.  Ro was always good at poker, something that stood him in good stead at university.  There’s no fun in poker if you don’t gamble, but I’m not interested in gambling (especially not against my children), so we had a tin of coins, shared them out at the beginning and put them back at the end.

The Sage never was interested in games, but the rest of us liked them.  Even when the children were well in their teens, I’d buy a new game at Christmas for us to play.  Dilly likes them too, so we sometimes play them at that time of year even now.  Pugsley, in the few weeks since we’ve last played together, has started to take them quite seriously.  He’d throw his dice, study them, and then solemnly give the answer.  “Six add five make eleven,” he’d say and move his counter.   He doesn’t count on his fingers, he does the sum in his head.  He is very much looking forward to starting school and has been practising his reading, writing and arithmetic in preparation.  For myself, I’m still enjoying the holidays, now I’ve finally got time to think about them.