Monthly Archives: September 2011

Mortar do

A spot of bricklaying today.  I haven’t done it myself in fact, though I have been doing the pointing and tidying up afterwards, because I’ve had too much else on.  Those of you who have visited us may remember, opposite the wall that Dave, the Sage and I built, we have widened the drive a little, taking in a bit of the lawn and, because the level drops, a low retaining wall is needed to keep the lawn where it is.  Just four courses of bricks, and after that is completed, a little compacting of rubble and some weedkiller along the drive and then we can finally get the whole job completed.  Which will be a great relief, let’s hope for dry weather in the next week or two.

The children came in again today so that their mother could pack up the car, ready for their holiday tomorrow.  Part of our present to Pugsley was an elaborate Lego Toy Story kit, and we were building that.  It took a long time.  It is marked Age 7 – 12, so he needed a bit of help (our family has always been ambitious, age-wise, with Lego) but it was all good fun.  We completed three sections of the five, and they could be played with individually or together.

Most of the family will be on holiday soon.  Ro and Dora are off to Egypt tomorrow, Al and co off to Dorset and Wink is going to Spain next week.  Weeza and I have just been commiserating with each other, we’re the only ones without a holiday to look back on or forward to.  She and the children are coming over tomorrow, Phil is visiting friends near Cambridge.  He plans to cycle there.  I think he’ll have a warm journey.  What gorgeous weather we’re having, such a treat at this time of year.

Happy Birthday, Pugsley

Just back from delivering Meals on Wheels.  The husband of one of our customers died recently, and the poor lady is struggling.  They were married for 70 years, she appreciates their good fortune in having each other so long, but it’s not much consolation now that she’s left alone.  She looks terrible, great dark shadows all around her eyes, although she’s putting on a brave face.  The only consolation I know to offer is to say what a happy life she gave him and how well she looked after him.

My mother used to get cross about couples who niggled and carped at each other.  Having been twice widowed herself, she thought that they should appreciate each other and overlook minor annoyances.  She was not talking about unhappy couples of course, but those who forgot how lucky they were.

Off to Year 9 music this afternoon.  And then Pugsley and family are coming round for birthday cake.  

Gung Zo

So, it seems that I courted controversy after all, with my casually cheery approval of Al and co’s term-time holiday.  If it helps, Dilly had already said that she felt quite guilty about it.  I encouraged her, however (so, not so helpful, loves) – yes, I do know the problems it causes teachers when there are a few pupils off every week and it’s necessary for them to catch up later, but the benefit to Al and co as a family will outweigh that, I’m quite sure.

Today has been quite busy, with back-to-back meetings and no time for meals.  First, a meeting with my vice-chairman (have I ever mentioned that she’s quite brilliant and I’m astonishingly lucky to have someone who is a lovely friend as well as a totally reliable back-up?), then a brief meeting with the Head before a Steering group meeting, then three-quarters of an hour at one committee meeting (I’m not on that committee, though I normally go to its meetings because I’m the supportive type, honestly I don’t interfere) before it was time to go to the meeting where I am a member.  I got home, had a couple of slices of bread and Marmite and a half-glass of wine, wrote the AGM agenda, answered some phoned queries, before shooting off to another meeting with the Sage.  We picked up fish and chips on the way home and I’m well down a bottle of wine now.

Mary is brilliant and kind in how she backs me up.  She’s so much more conscientious than I am.  Occasionally, it gets to be a tiny bit pernickety, how detailed her care is, but she’s right actually – that I’m more inclined to wing it once in a while is something we can get away with, but I enjoy the risk and can cope with the frantic flurry when I need to catch up.  She isn’t the least bit plodding, just reliable.  I love her dearly and the only thing is, when we get together we really want to chat and find it hard to keep to work matters.  She used to be chairman, and then her mother-in-law had a serious accident, and Mary looked after her for months, so I had to take over day-to-day, and that’s rather how I became chairman – so we have supported each other in our time.  She, I and the Head make a good team, and he has a good team at school too.  And yes, I have got an exit strategy, I’m not planning to be doing this in five years’ time.  I put a lot of work in to something, and then I let go.  I will miss it, but I will leave it and not look back.

The volunteer thing, it’s remarkable, really.  It’s good, that there are so many people who are still motivated to help for no intrinsic reward.  We’ve got a couple of vacancies on the governing body, but we intend to hang on to them – in a year’s time, the middle schools will close and some good, experienced governors will be available, and we’ll have some of them.  I’ve already secured a couple (I’m good at recruitment – well, darlings, could you imagine that they could resist an enthusiastic Z?) and I want them to know that their expertise will be valued.  Middle schools may be on the scrap heap, but good teachers and governors are not.

Z is not controversial

Today, there were a couple of things that came up that made me almost choose to write something political.  Not party political, of course, I don’t do that – but anyway, I’m not going to.  This isn’t that sort of blog, and I don’t intend it to be.  I don’t want to annoy or be annoyed.  All peace and happiness around here … most of the time.

I had quite a lot of work to do today, and then Dilly asked if I was busy – so, of course, I wasn’t, because family comes first.  They’re completely revamping their sitting room, new sofas, carpet, colour scheme, curtains, the lot.  So it isn’t really usable, so Hay was bored.  They came through for coffee (milk) and stayed for lunch (milk) and a nap (Hay).  It was much better than governor stuff, but that is still to be done.

I was quite annoyed that the chickens had pulled up some hardy cyclamen that I planted more than a week ago,  They had left the white ones and gone for the mauve.  I’ve replanted, watered and covered them, but they may not survive.  They’re not edible, the chooks were just being naughty.  I can’t be too cross, they wouldn’t understand and would not even, as a dog would, be (look) sad that I’m cross.

It’s Pugsley’s birthday on Thursday, darling boy.  He is enjoying school, although pretty exhausted.  Dilly says that he cries quite a lot at present, and he doesn’t normally, he’s just overtired, although he gets enough sleep.  They are going on holiday next week, I think that’s a very good thing.  He will have fun, get a rest and then it won’t be long before half term.  After that, he’ll be sufficiently in the swing of things to cope (we hope) for the rest of the term.  It’s difficult for schools, if they offer half days for the first term then it’s impossible for working mothers, if not it’s too tiring for younger children – Pugsley, at nearly five, finds it tiring, but an August-born child is hardly four at the start of the school year.  One does one’s best and it all works out eventually.  Being happy at home and school is what counts for most, after all.

It’ll just be a family tea on Thursday, because of the upheaval it wasn’t possible to have a party this year, and they had an outing at the weekend, as well as the holiday to look forward to.  They’ll come through here, where there’s no smell of paint.

Darlings, I must go.  I still have all that work to do that I didn’t do earlier.  And it has to be done on the Sage’s computer, chiz, chiz.  Why isn’t everything compatible with a Mac with Office 2004?


I haven’t tried to whittle this down to individual tracks, and if I did, some of these might not make the cut as each song is too much part of the album.  But here are the albums I’ve listened to most recently – that is, yesterday and today – in no particular order.  This would certainly not be *my list* though, as it does not contain Eleven More Months And Ten More Days, Tom Lehrer or Mozart.

Alice – Tom Waits
Black Sheep Boy – Okkervil River
Schubert piano duets – played by Sviatoslav Richter & Benjamin Britten (this is not the disc I have, but the most similar one on Spotify)
Rook – Shearwater
The Sunset Tree – The Mountain Goats
Mahler: Lieder – sung by Christian Gerhaher
J Roddy Walston & The Business – J Roddy Walston & The Business
The Chairman DancesTromba Lontana and Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams.  I also played  Harmonielehre, Parts 1, 2 and 3, which are on Spotify but would add another 40 minutes to your listening and you might not quite have time for that this afternoon.  My recording is played by the CBSO, conducted by Simon Rattle.

Oh, and a late addition – many of you will have seen Google’s tribute on Jim Henson’s birthday.  Thanks to Jonco for directing me to this.

Note well

We’re getting towards the final stages of the drive.  I must go out and take a few more pictures.  I haven’t been putting them up here, because actually they’re not that interesting, but now I’ve got into the way of keeping a record of things that happen here, I’ll keep it going.  Blue Witch and I were agreeing the other day that, when we wonder how long ago something happened, we go straight to our blogs – although hers goes back a lot longer than this one, of course.  Never having kept a personal (rather than appointments) diary, I can see how useful it would have been to have done so – although a blog is better because I can do a keyword search and not have to guess an approximate date.

Anyway, where roots had cracked the tarmac, they have been dug up and removed, all the kerbs are in place and there’s just a few loose bits to remove and refill with rubble and tamp down.  And the low brick retaining wall to build on one side of the lawn.  Three engineering bricks high, plus a capping brick.  We’ll get that done in a day, and then Alan can come along, probably next week, and complete the job.  He has to leave timings flexible until the last, it depends on the weather and how other jobs go.  He’s another really good friend, and one you can call on in a time of trouble – when my mother’s donkey died, it was he who dug his grave (not by hand, with his digger).  There was snow on the ground, and over the next few nights, there were such hard frosts that it wouldn’t have been possible.

You know how some people see numbers, days of the week and so on, in colours?  I don’t have that sort of brain at all.  I think of people in terms of music, but not in an imaginative way at all.  I’m terribly prosaic and it’s more likely to be a simple association, such as hearing a piece of music in someone’s company or hearing them sing it.  And, since blogging, having music recommended or referred to (there have been cases where a simple mention triggers an association, it isn’t to say this defines anyone’s musical taste in any way, this is more about me than you, darlings).  Having, over the last four or so years, decided to expand my musical tastes to include pretty well any genre, this gives quite some scope for me to think of my blogfriends in terms of music.  So, this isn’t in any way complete – because I’m not thinking this through, you understand, I’m just rabbiting on as usual, and the prompt is that I’m presently listening to Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy, which Julie introduced me to, although that isn’t what I’ve picked for her.

So, here are some examples – either albums, single tracks or bands that remind me of a blogger.

Julie, no longer in Athens Georgia – Old 97’s – Designs on You  (because she and the BH had it played at their wedding)
Liz – Slash’s Snakepit – Neither Can I
Tim – Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues – Layla
BadgerdaddyPearl Jam – pretty well anything, whenever I hear Pearl Jam I think of the Badge
Rog – They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in your Soul (Rog probably doesn’t even remember that he quoted a line once)
Jonny B – Arizona Smoke Revue – Reuben’s Train – (because of the banjo)

There are more of course, these are examples (and apologies if you’re startled to find your name there).  But I have delighted you long enough for a Saturday morning.  Although, if anyone can tell me how to link to Spotify, I will.  (ps, I hope I have worked that out for myself.  If it doesn’t work, do tell me)

They don’t all riot

I’m supposed to be getting ready for a meeting at 11.30.  So, as that’s a bit dull, I’ll wing it then and blog now.

I was going to tell you about my bus ride from Liverpool Street to Islington the other day.  Downstairs was full so I went up and sat at the back.  The seats in front of me were taken up by four or five young men chatting to each other, all in the style that makes Ali G sound less like pastiche and more like direct and faithful observation.  After a few minutes, I tuned in to their conversation, and it turned out they were all talking about school.  Evidently studying for A levels, and quite earnestly discussing them.  One is taking Philosophy.  “Most of them are retaking, man, because it’s suppose to be like pretty tough, but I reckon I’m like wiring it, you know, man.”  Which sounded good.

After a while, the subject turned to marriage.  It seems that the parents of a couple of them were already at the negotiating stage of their futures.  Whilst feeling a little unprepared as yet, they were all entirely receptive to agreeing to whatever is decided for them and obviously had a lot of respect and affection for their parents and weren’t embarrassed to have it known.  It was all rather heartening and made me feel quite cheered.

Ups and Downs

Which is the name of our field, but not the reason for the name of this post.

The day had a lot more ups than downs, in fact, although things looked a bit disastrous at one point.  The arranged washing machine delivery happened just after lunch, but I had a disconsolate phone call from the delivery men.  They had discovered that the old machine was wired into the wall, rather than plugged into a socket.  What sort of idiot builder would do such a stupid thing?  Obviously, they couldn’t take it out or plumb in the new one.  However, they were able to get it down the stairs and leave it in the kitchen, and they confirmed that, as I’d paid £9 to have the old one removed, that would still be done if I’d arrange for another appointment in due course (I’ll have the fitting fee reimbursed, apparently).

I looked up the electrician who checked the system a couple of years ago, and phoned him.  He would be able to go and do the job today.  We agreed a price.  I gave him my address and he will send the bill.  I would have been perfectly happy to pay by card over the phone, this is remarkable service.

James phoned in due course to say that all is done, except that there is a socking great washing machine in Andrew’s kitchen.  However, the new machine is plumbed in, so he will be tolerant I’m sure.

The most enjoyable event of the day was a visit by a VIW; a Blue Witch, no less.  It was a delight to see her again, I really wish she lived closer so that we could see each other often.  So. overall, I vote Up.

Facilis descensus Bricklano

It’s been a really good day and I hope I haven’t forgotten anything vital. I can hardly think so. Lynn and I have hardly seen each other for years and there was a lot to catch up on in not much more than an hour, but we fall back into the easy relationship that we have had for decades. We can’t think why we haven’t met in London before when it would be so straightforward, but we have only done so for a special occasion and never have much time to talk then.
I passed on Chris’s message and she was very pleased and says thank you.
All went very smoothly, although the traffic was bad this morning and the bus took ages to get out of the City. Actually, I’d nearly made a cock-up before that. The road where the bus stop used to be is now closed, so I went two roads away to the bus stop and waited for the 205. If the bus, which I could see, had not been delayed for several minutes, I’d have got on it, but after a while, it occurred to me that there was something amiss and, rather abashed and hoping no one was noticing me, I went to the lights, crossed the road and waited at the bus stop on the other side. Ahem. Wouldn’t be the first time I’d accidentally ended up in Brick Lane. 

Oh, and that reminds me.  This daft thing about east and west on the Circle line, when it’s on a north/south section.  Why don’t they say clockwise/anti-clockwise?

Still, Wink and I had a good lunch, the boilers were duly serviced, I left the keys on James’s table with a note, and I toddled off to the Tube again and went to Bond Street station and found the place I was meeting Lynn.  Did I mention? – she’s got a badly broken wrist, which she got cleaning the bathroom tiles – seems she was balancing on the edge of the bath and slipped.  Housework and sport cause more injuries…

The Tube was extremely crowded on the way back to the station.  I mused that one good thing about modern life, no one has BO any more.  Some years ago, being among a lot of people strap-hanging at the end of the day in a warm Underground train would have risked a niffy experience.  Now, everyone is sweet-smelling and clean.  And all very polite.  Lynn said that too, with her arm in a sling, people are holding doors, giving her their seat, being as kind as I found them when I used to walk with a stick.  I arrived back at Liverpool Street with more than ten minutes to spare, but then couldn’t find my train ticket.  Nowadays, of course, you need the ticket to get on the platform – time was, I’d have been able to get on the train and then search my bag – but I had to spend several minutes fumbling through compartments … I knew it was in one, not in the general bagginess, but I hadn’t done what I normally do, put it in with my Oyster card.  It was all right, I found it without actually panicking and I was in plenty of time.  The train was ten minutes late arriving, but I expected that.  I can’t remember the last time I returned from London and the train wasn’t delayed on the line.