Monthly Archives: August 2011

More pictures

Thank you all so much, you are very kind and it’s lovely that you have all given Gus such a warm welcome.

I had a disappointed text from Ro this morning, as we had all expected to go over to Weeza’s house to celebrate Zerlina’s birthday.  He’d got presents and everything, and now was at a loose end.  I suggested he and Dora might like to come over for lunch, and invited Al and co. too.  This was at 11 o’clock, Zerlina has a nap sometime after 1, it was necessary to serve lunch about 12.30.

Kindly, Al prepared the vegetables, runner beans, courgettes and carrots.  I had a pound of minced beef and four pork steaks in the fridge.  By 12.35, a large lasagne and a pork, onion and red pepper stir fry had been prepared and cooked and I’d been to the supermarket and bought puddings (there are limits, darlings). The champagne was already in the fridge, the Sage and Ro laid the table.  Grannies are supposed to be able to put meals on the table at short notice.

I was just upstairs putting Zerlina to bed (all the children were adorable, ate their lunch and had second helpings) when Weeza phoned to say she was waiting for the all-clear to leave hospital, and it was agreed that Ro and Dora would visit with us this afternoon and the rest of the family another day.  She rang again when about to leave the hospital and we were over there about 4 o’clock.  She and Phil were very relaxed and happy, and Zerlina was thrilled to see her baby brother.  She was so excited when I told her he would be there when she got home.

Pictures, darlings.

He weighed 8 lbs 6 oz, which is a whole kilo* heavier than his little scrap of a sister did at birth – and she was 11 days overdue, too!  He is, as you can see, quite adorable.

In order of appearance, Ro, Ro, Dora, the Sage and z, Z and Z.  And the fat cat that z chose as a present puts in an appearance, too.

*Bilingual, you see


I did give a clue last night when I updated the sidebar, but even the eagle-eyed Dave didn’t spot it.

Born about 10 pm on 20th August, baby unnamed as yet by his parents, but here he will be Augustus Bufo.


One thing that makes having Zerlina as a house guest a pleasure is how well she sleeps.  This morning, she didn’t wake until after 8 o’clock, having been asleep the best part of 13 hours.  I suggested that we walk into the town to buy her baby brother a present (no news yet).  It’s about a mile and a quarter, or two kilometres if you’re that way inclined and it was a lovely day.  There are four bridges over streams as we go along and so we peered over looking for fish and birds.  We saw a duck, a pheasant and various other birds, we picked and ate blackberries and I showed her the leaves of different trees and explained why a cow needs to chew the cud.  We went into the wholefood shop for some chocolate for Weeza, then into the gift shop and she chose a fat cat rather to my surprise, I thought she’d go for a teddy or a rabbit.  He’s rather cute though.  Then we went to the sweetshop for an ice-cream each and sat in the sun on a bench eating them.

On our way back, we thought we’d go the down-river side of the first bridge, which was very lucky, because we immediately spotted five cygnets and a swan just emerging from the bridge.  A minute later, the cob joined them.  The mother was amongst the five, who are almost as big as she is, and the father brought up the rear, looking around protectively.  With parenting like that, it’s not surprising that they raised their full brood – although there can’t be any large pikes in the river, the best parenting can’t protect a baby water bird against a pike.

I only had my phone with me, so the pictures are not very good, but here you are anyway –

She spent much of the rest of the day with her cousins, so she’s had fun.

The Sage had fun too.  In town, we saw that someone we know had got his old car out and was polishing it, so the Sage went and had a chat with him.  It’s far older than ours, it was made in 1911.  I don’t know if he takes it out much, but it looks in immaculate condition.  If the Sage has any ambition that’s likely to remain unfulfilled, he’d love to own a veteran car – which is one that was made before 1919, although to be eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, it has to be 1905 or earlier.

The thing about being married to the Sage is, the older I get, the more he likes it.

Still waiting

Weeza sent a text this morning, saying that she’d realised she had a midwife’s appointment, and could I babysit?  I had already thought about it, and reckoned that she wouldn’t feel like going out for dinner, so I went and bought fillet steak, vegetables, fruit and flowers and took some Schloer and some good beer from the fridge and took them over for their dinner.

It was small enough, but she cried on my shoulder.  That is very unlike my Weeza.  She pulled herself together rapidly, however and went off for her appointment.

All is fine, the baby is in the right place and fully engaged, we’re reasonably hopeful that it won’t be long.  I’m very on edge.  When your daughter is having a baby, it feels doubly worrying and doubly wonderful – I really can’t think about anything else or settle to anything.  Zerlina has come back here again for the weekend, the plan is to go over on Sunday.  We’re willing the baby to be born tomorrow.

Delicious food in the greengrocer’s.  Have you come across little flat peaches?  I’d never seen them before last year and they are lovely.  Do try them if you come across them.  Also, Tim had cobnuts in for the first time this year.  I doubt they’re Kentish ones yet, I expect they are French, but I didn’t ask, I just bought enough for both Weeza and me (of course we’re willing to share, of course, if there are any left).

Happy birthday to Freya, Noah and Zerlina

Zerlina has had a lovely birthday. Her parents gave her a trampoline and she was thrilled. Weeza said that when she saw it this morning (her father spent three hours yesterday evening putting it together)she couldn’t stop saying how much she loved it and thanking them. Dilly, the children and I went over mid-morning and the three children spent ages on it. When they had finally had enough, z opened her other presents and was duly very pleased with them – we had got her a jigsaw, a glove puppet and lots of painting and craft stuff. She loves colouring, drawing, sticking and cutting out and was particularly excited to receive some proper scissors. Child’s ones of course, but they work well, unlike some. Also, fortunately, they work whether used right- or left-handed. We have the feeling that, like her father, she may end up being left-handed.

Weeza’s bump is now so large that she has only one dress she can fit into. She slept poorly last night and can’t lie comfortably. On the other hand, she is well and her ankles aren’t swollen, all she can do is wait. Tomorrow is Phil and Weeza’s sixth wedding anniversary – under the circumstances, they have made no plans, I will see if they would like me to babysit so they go out for supper, if she feels like it. If Phil goes to work, I’ll probably go over at some time during the day to lend a hand.

Back here, they’re getting on very well. I’ve taken a lot of rather dull photos, there’s not a lot you can do with kerbs and Tarmac. There’s a short stretch of privet hedge that had grown very tall, at least 15 feet, but all the leaves were at the top. I suggested cutting it right down to about 3 feet, so it will thicken up and put on a lot of new growth at the bottom. They have done that and also taken down more dead elm saplings. They grow for a few years, die and new ones grow from the roots, but a proper size elm tree has never grown since Dutch Elm Disease struck some 40(?) years ago. It’s such a shame. I love elm and there used to be so many of them in this area that several local villages are named after them – Elmham, pronounced Ellum (as the tree is pronounced here), is part of their names.

Update, hip date, due date, birthday

I’ve been looking back to January of last year, when I had my hip operation.  Pamela has a brilliant website, which she started when she had to have a new hip at pretty short notice, and she contacted me when I wrote about my operation.  In a recent post, she wrote about what happened on the day of her operation and I offered to send her what I wrote about mine which, as most of you will remember, I had done under a spinal anaesthetic while I was entirely awake, without sedation.  It’s a good job I wrote it down at the time, I wouldn’t remember it in detail now.

It’s rare that a day goes by without me thinking about my hip, but not because there’s any problem.  It’s pure gratitude, that I live in an age when a clapped-out joint can be replaced so straightforwardly.  My friend John (who has rheumatoid arthritis) has chosen not to have an operation, but he was fifteen years older than I was when our respective hips started to cause serious problems.  I understand and sympathise with his reasons not to get his ‘done’, although I don’t think I’d have made the same decision.  Certainly it was making me older than I needed to be.  Now I can do what I want and have no pain or restricted movement.

No sign of the baby putting in an appearance.  Weeza having built herself up to its prompt arrival, has now relaxed and is resigned to waiting.  She hadn’t made many preparations for Zerlina’s birthday (the party will be next month) but we’re invited over tomorrow – that is, Dilly and the children and I will go, the Sage probably won’t make it and Al will be at work.  The whole family will go over on Sunday, unless that’s the baby’s birth day.

Work has been continuing on the drive, the Sage having decided to put in a kerb on both sides.  It’s taking ages, but will be an excellent job.  I’ll take some pictures in the next few days, I haven’t for ages and one forgets what it was like beforehand.

The Z guide to coming off a committee

I have done it, quite a few times.  It has happened, once in a while, that someone resigns abruptly, which can leave the group in a bit of a pickle, although sometimes personal circumstances make this understandable, sometimes less so.  There was one time, someone on a committee the Sage was on did almost everything.  Treasurer, secretary, most of the work, although no one had expected her to, she was determined.  The Sage was chairman.  I warned him, don’t rely on her.  It’s too much, it’s “too hot not to cool down.” No one can keep that going for long, and because of the person she is, she won’t ask for help or acknowledge any problem, she’ll just quit.  And so she did.

I always start planning my exit strategy in good time before I resign.  It usually takes at least two years.  My aim is not to be missed at all, not to leave anyone in the lurch (I still feel the responsibility to the organisation, after all) and to help a successor to feel confident.  Normally, I make a list of weekly, monthly and occasional events and how far in advance to plan them.  No one has ever done as much for me, I jolly well wish they had.  I involve the person who is to take over, so that it’s not all new for them – I identify my successor as early as possible, of course, though not in secret.  If it’s all discussed reasonably, then people accept the decision.  Even if they’re horrified at the start, the idea soon gets absorbed into the brain.

It’s different, being a volunteer in a position of responsibility to having a similar paid job.  There, the objective is usually to be indispensable, to keep your place on the slippery pole, and if you resign then the odds are that you will have nothing to do with your successor.  The difficult part about being a volunteer is that you have more of a moral responsibility – if you aren’t enjoying your job, you aren’t earning enough, you want more or less to do, you look for a new one and hand in your notice.  However inconvenient for your boss, you’ve every right.  But when things in a society, school or voluntary organisation are going pear-shaped, you are obliged to stay and help put it right.

The other time you can’t leave is when there are so few helpers that it really would be a problem for the ones that remain.  Or if you have a skill that no one else there has.  That’s why a treasurer can get landed with the job for a long time.  Or an organist.

PS – No sign of the baby yet.  He’s still a very large bump.  Can’t be long now though, surely!

The child is mother to the Z

It’s a funny thing, but at school I never volunteered for anything.  I didn’t join or join in, I kept my head down, I sat at the back of the class and rarely spoke.  It was partly acute shyness, but I was also pretty disengaged and had no inclination to participate in anything organised.  I was the opposite of a team player, but not because I wanted to shine alone, I just wasn’t interested.  Outside school, I joined no clubs or teams – although I was a Brownie for several years.  I mentioned this once before on here, I joined under completely false pretences, because they went past our house once on a nature ramble and I thought this would be great – and in the next three or four years, this was never repeated once, we just did boring things and were expected to be keen and outgoing team players in really silly games and activities.  I didn’t quit, of course, I didn’t know that you could stop doing something just because you didn’t enjoy it*.

My parents did voluntary work and often had coffee mornings, garden parties and so on to fundraise for good causes, so I grew up with an expectation that this was what you did.  One had obligations to help those who are less fortunate than oneself, and in any case, doing something selfless was a Good Thing.

So that’s the background, really.  Looking back, I was always governed by a sense of duty**.  I remember when I was fifteen being phoned by a boyfriend and invited out, and I apologised that I couldn’t, my parents were having a social evening for school governors and they would want me to pass round canapés and so on.  It didn’t occur to me to ask them if I could be excused, I didn’t even mention the invitation.  I’m not sure why I thought my presence would be so useful, I had no expectation of enjoying the occasion – I mean, I didn’t mind but I didn’t actually *want* to be there.  I’d rather have gone out for the evening with Jim.

And now, when I offer to do something I don’t actively want to do, it’s often because someone has to.  I’ve been in the situation many times when I need someone to volunteer and it’s lovely when someone offers, cheerfully brushes off thanks and just gets on with it.  And sometimes I’ve looked round at the people available, seen that they are busier than me or have less specific experience than I do, and so I’m the one who needs to do the job.

The day job is the Sage’s business and it doesn’t engage me all that much.  He’s been an auctioneer for 50 years and he still loves it, but I just do the admin and, whilst I don’t mind that, I’ve done it for too long to find it very interesting and I find sale days exhausting nowadays.   I’ll not miss it when he retires, whenever that will be.  I do love the china, that certainly interests me, and it’s lovely to have a business that we can run together.  It’s worked very well all these years, working together and we’ve made a lot of friends and had fun and had the privilege of handling many beautiful objects that we would never buy.  I’ve learned a lot and I really admire his knowledge.

It suits me, spreading my energies in several directions, I don’t want to do only one job.  If I’m not stretched, however, I do find that I start to cut corners and go through the motions if I can get away with it – if ‘good enough’ will do, that’s what I’ll be.  So it’s a good thing for me to drop one thing and start another once in a while.

Talking about going through the motions, this is what children are encouraged to do around here.

*Flash of revelation there, this is news to me.
**I’d never quite appreciated before how far back my sense of duty goes.  A bit thoughtful now.

Z is a pullover?

It’s generally believed that I’m a pushover and that I can’t say ‘no’ to anything.  That isn’t quite true, actually, there are various jobs I’ve been asked to take on that I’ve refused, or ones that I could have become involved with that I made sure I steered well clear of (such as the Parish Council), although it’s quite true that there were others that I would not have chosen.  When I first became a school governor, I used it as a reason to turn down everything else for several years and I was right to do so – although the job wasn’t nearly as much work as it is now, I became clerk to the governors at the same time and had to learn everything from scratch.

It was about this time of year that it happened, probably the beginning of August, and the then Rector phoned me and asked if I’d consider being nominated as a governor at the village school where Ro was due to start in the coming year.  His birthday being in summer, he didn’t start until after Easter – nowadays, schools normally take all children at the start of the school year in which they are five, then it was the term of their birthday.  I was quite pleased to be asked, naive little thing that I was, and agreed.  Then he asked if I’d be clerk (secretary) as well.  I could have said no, but it hardly seemed fair – that he’d asked the questions that way round and risked getting a governor but not a clerk was good of him, I thought.

I not only offered to become a governor at the high school, I actually stood for election, when Ro was in his second year there.  I’d never been a governor at the middle school, although I’d been secretary of the PTA – I’d been daft enough to go along to the AGM and had been nominated by a (slightly false) friend. So that was one thing I hadn’t intended to do, but I didn’t really mind, and there would be a time limit on it anyway, as Ro would only be at the school for four years.  I was still at the primary school, I was far too fond of it to leave at that stage.

The other thing I did get manoeuvered into was the PCC, the management committee of the church.  I had volunteered to play the organ, against my better judgement, but they were without an organist and the Rector had bought some ghastly taped music and I couldn’t put up with it.  Several years later, I received a phone call from the Rector (not the same one; the first one was John, this was Sam).  He was quite anxious and asked to come and see me.  He said he had something to say to me, he didn’t want to say it, he knew I wouldn’t be happy but he had to do it.  I said, come straight round, but I was bewildered.  The only thing I could think of was that my pathetically bad organ playing had received so many complaints that he was going to give me the sack.  Sadly not – the secretary of the PCC had resigned and no one else could type.  I was so concerned about his anxiety that it was quite natural to say, reassuringly, that I didn’t mind at all, of course I’d help.  Sucker.

Having written all this, I can see that I am rather a pushover after all.  However, I have learned one thing, and that is to quit when things are going well.  If the organisation, whatever it is, is struggling, then I feel mean to leave them in the lurch.  It’s when I don’t really want to go, because it’s a pleasure and it’s all running smoothly that I won’t be missed at all and I can slip away and feel I’ve completed my job.  And, as inevitably happens, things start to hot up again after a while, I can feel relieved that I’m well away from it.

Marking time

It seems unlikely, but the baby is still not actually overdue, but due on Monday.  We were all so sure he would be early.  Weeza and Phil have been enjoying their time off by going to the cinema each day and relaxing.

We didn’t go out in the end, except to buy a few ingredients (which is a favourite word of Zerlina’s) for lunch tomorrow, so ate at home.  The electricity was off when we arrived back after shopping, but it didn’t matter, there was nothing we wanted it for except, in my case, to boil a kettle for a cup of tea.  It came back on at 4.58 pm – I’ve always found that they are punctilious, if they say 5 o’clock it will be no later.  My good friend Sybil phoned to offer to take over my sidesman duties tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock, since I have Zerlina.  I accepted gratefully.  I’m still down for the 11 o’clock service, I think that Andy, who did the rota, forgot to put down a second person for later – I used to prepare the rota and it’s very easy to do that.  I will go along and get set up and then may be able to leave someone else to clear away.

I wish I could relinquish all these regular church obligations I have to admit – I’ve been doing it for so long and there’s nothing about it that I find enjoyable or satisfying.  I’ve always done voluntary work, since I was a child and was ferried around by my mother to help with Meals on Wheels.  It’s a part of life for me, but I don’t want to keep doing each job forever.  I think that, to remain enthusiastic and fresh, it’s better to do something else every few years.  That seems to be accepted everywhere but in the church, where it’s all a life sentence.  Next Sunday, I’ll both be playing the organ and making and serving coffee, having arranged the flowers the day before.  I’ve come off the PCC, but am still roped in every time there is a discussion, and I’m the contact with the architect and builder.  I’m bored stiff with it.  I have no plans to move house, but if ever I did, I’d not admit to playing any instrument and profess to be far too shy to read a lesson and hopeless at organising anything.  If only I didn’t have to take such drastic action to have any chance of breaking free.