Monthly Archives: October 2011

Darling Ziggi

A few weeks ago, my friend Ziggi told me that she had cancer.  I couldn’t tell anyone, she wasn’t making it public on Facebook or blog yet, but now she has.  If you know her, do drop in at her new blog and give her a hug.  When she spoke to me, she had started to lose her hair, quite suddenly although not, of course, unexpectedly.  I don’t think anything prepares you for that: it seems, from a distance, as if it’s the trivial part but I have come to believe that it’s the thing that knocks you back hardest and brings home to you that you are ‘differently’ ill from any other time – but it does grow back.

I’m afraid that ovarian cancer tends to be something that you have to live with, rather than be cured from, for a while.  Ziggi is young, has two gorgeous daughters, and has dumped a husband who wasn’t fit for purpose, so has everything to get better for.  She also introduced me to delicious white tea – which is so delicate that you mustn’t make it with boiling water – and made actual scones, with jam and clotted cream, so counts as a best friend.  I look forward to seeing her on my next visit South-West – shall I make the scones next time, Zig?

The Sage talks shop

It was dark by 5 o’clock this evening, of course.  Can’t bear it, we’re still in autumn.  I wouldn’t mind so much in December.  I hoped that last year would be the last time the clocks went back in the autumn, but rumours were premature.

At least an extra hour this morning gave us time for a leisurely breakfast.  The Sage brought me a cup of tea in bed.  When I was up and dressed, “would you like a poached egg for breakfast?” he asked hopefully – this was a suggestion rather than an offer, I doubt he’s ever poached an egg, although he’s accomplished in the art of frying and scrambling.  I daresay he would not be too daunted by the thought of hard-boiling come to that.

We had just finished eating when the phone rang.  It was a prearranged interview with an EDP reporter.  Yes indeed, my star of radio and newspaper will be in the paper again tomorrow.  Someone asked him to autograph a catalogue on Friday.  I suppose it was slightly tongue in cheek, but maybe I should start saving all scraps of paper with his writing on, to keep our grandchildren in luxury in a few years’ time.

I did, however, draw the line this evening (not on paper, you understand) when he asked me which buyer had paddle number 21, at dinner time.  He wanted to talk about the sale again.  I was starting to relax for the evening, and a discussion about work wasn’t on the cards.  It’s a penalty of working with one’s husband and also working from home that we’re never outside office hours.  Of course, a lot of people deal with business emails at the weekend, it’s tempting to get them out of the way rather than clutter up half of Monday morning, and we’ve always had phone calls at any time of any day, but I think that dinner time on a Sunday needn’t be a time for dealing with the smallest details.  I said so, reasonably politely, and he was quite surprised, but put his papers down good-naturedly.  I did look it up later of course.

Some of you will know that there have been ructions in Blogland over the last week, resulting in some friendships strengthening and others being broken.  At least two people are no longer blogging, at least for the time being.  Yesterday, I decided the time had come to explain to him what has been going on, since he knows some of the people involved (of whom I’m one, in fact).  After a few minutes, I looked over at him.  He was fast asleep.  So I shall not trouble you with the details, just tell you that I’m not affected personally and I’m still blogging.  But that last, you had probably worked out already.


The Sage was having a drink with a friend, a retired auctioneer from Diss.  “Between a retired  auctioneer and a non-retired auctioneer,” be said.  I said, “you could say, between an auctioneer with sense and one without.”  “Ah, but which is which?” asked Geoffrey.  I gave him to understand that he was the one to be complimented.  “Still,” I added, “I can’t see the Sage ever quitting.”  We decided that the perfect place for him to peg out would be auctioneering – I said, however, that he would have to hold on to the end of a sale, it would be most unprofessional to keel over until the last lot was sold.  “That’s okay,” said Geoffrey.  “I’ll be his stand-in and finish off the sale.”

A new customer came over from Brussels specially for the sale.  We had already spoken on the phone, so he introduced himself.  He collects sparrowbeak jugs; not Lowestoft ones in particular, but from all over Europe.  He spent several minutes telling me about his enthusiasm, he’s got around 450 sparrowbeaks (these are little cream jugs, so called because of the beaked shape of the pouring lip).

He bought several jugs and came to pay at the end.  I passed him on to Susie, who is fluent in several languages and they chatted away for several minutes.  He speaks excellent English, far better than my French, so I wouldn’t have ventured to inflict it on him.

The customer who bought the guglet and bowl left with it, without paying.  That the Sage knows he is as trustworthy as that will mean more to him than his successful bid, I should think.  He’ll send a cheque within a few days, once he’s transferred the money.  Another customer accidentally came without cash or chequebook – I similarly let him have the piece, but it was more like £150 – still, he was also pleased to be trusted.

Rog asked, was there applause at the end?  Indeed there was.

The photo doesn’t indicate the size of the jugs – about 3 inches tall.

High light and low light

I should have trimmed the photos, sorry.  I forgot that these were the originals.  But don’t look at the background, which is the interior of the light-box, hey.

The Sage got the price he hoped for, which was £34,500.  Everyone who viewed the sale looked at and admired them, and they have been bought by a collector for their own collection.  Since they have been in the same family since 1948 when they were last sold (for £80), it’s rather good to know that they will still be handled and looked at closely, not put in a museum to be admired but not loved.

So, the sale went well but I’m too tired to think.  I’ll balance the books tomorrow, right now I’m going to bed.

Two of the paintings depict Lowestoft’s lighthouses.  The one on the cliff was the High light, the one on the beach was the Low light.  These are real scenes from the period and at least one of the ships can be named, as can the church.

Counting down to the auction

I must be having a bit of an Ian Ke11y moment, when Wink rang to suggest a weekend for us to meet in London and go to the theatre, I suggested the play that he is in.  Although, if it had been said to be rubbish, I wouldn’t have gone.  Someone said they’d seen it in its pre-London run (he wasn’t in it then) and recommended it.  I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll stay for a couple of nights, I will see what else I want to do.  I don’t think Wink will be staying, but then she’s had a couple of holidays this year and I haven’t had a single night away since last early November.

We’re pretty well set for the auction, I’ve still got to mark up some bids and the people whom I’ll be phoning during the sale – we can’t do online bidding, but we do telephone bids.  Someone rings the wannabe bidder a few minutes before the item they’ve registered an interest in.  I claim first place there, you know how I like to take charge! – the Sage is in charge, obviously, no question of a takeover bid from me, but I want to back him up and … okay, maybe there’s a slight ego problem here.

Now I’m writing down the people who’ve already registered.  The Sage, encouraged by my sudden keenness, has said I can do a lot of the bidding.  Which is fun, but quite stressful, I have to keep careful track of who is bidding for each lot, and there are a few either/or bids too.

Looking forward to it? … well no, not entirely.  I do find it both more tiring and more stressful every year. The Sage loves it and has no intention of retiring.  I’m glad he’s so successful and I do find it interesting, and it’s great to see the ‘regulars’.  But I’ll be pleased when it’s over and maybe something else can be the topic of conversation for a few weeks.

Though that’s probably too much to hope for.

The cook, the lover, the rainbow and the fire

It was a very good day.  I went here to listen to lectures given by him about him and him.  Sorry for the linkiness, I don’t like a lot of links either, but it really won’t help people who innocently google any of those names – simply because I write pretty well every day, it puts me higher up Google searches than I would be otherwise, so I avoid it when I can.

Anyway, Ian was brilliant, very good speaker and a most engaging man.  To start with, he’d brought along little choux pastry swans filled with Crème Chantilly (most delicious, deffo go on the list for the next bloggers’ party) and then he airily cooked while he delivered his lecture.  Talking about his three most recent books, he said that his wife had said, by the time he’d finished his book about Carême, the chef, his cooking had improved by leaps and bounds, after his book about Beau Brummell, he’d become a snappy dresser.  She hadn’t mentioned the Casanova book, he said…

Regarding his research for that book, it took him to St Petersburg.  He doesn’t speak much Russian, so had an interpreter.  He also had a Russian guide to take him round the archives.  As he was looking at everything, he realised that the guide was in fits of giggles.  He asked the interpreter, who was a bit embarrassed.  “She is amused at the thought of an Englishman writing about Casanova, the great lover,” he explained.  And then added, “especially a ginger one…”

I arrived early, to help show people around on arrival.  There were 280 people who’d booked and I was fairly busy, guiding them to the lecture theatre and then back again for coffee.  I chatted to those I vaguely know – as I’m the Area secretary, quite a lot of people know me but I only know them by sight – a few asked to be reminded of my name, but no one volunteered their own, so if I didn’t remember it, I was stuck.  Oh well.

It had been a brilliantly sunny day, but ten minutes into my journey home, I realised that the sky to my right was deep bluey grey and that heavy rain was brewing.  First I saw the double rainbow, then the downpour started.  In front of me, the sky was quite light, and the first rainbow was the starting point of the dark cloud.  It was very dark in the space between them, slightly lighter the other side.  I also noticed, and I’m not sure whether I knew this or not, that the two rainbows were mirror images of each other, not the same.

Then it cleared up, a few minutes later it started again.  I rounded a bend and there was another double rainbow.

The Sage had some good news about a potential bidder for the sale on Friday when I got home.  I checked emails and so on, and cooked dinner.  Finally, I went into the drawing room.  There was a fire burning in the grate.  He and Jamie swept the chimney this afternoon and didn’t tell me, so that it would be a lovely surprise.

As others see us

You know the thing where one is asked to use three words to describe oneself?  Actually, I was told recently about an interview for a headteacher, where that was used as the final question.  One of the candidates gave, as one of his or her words … “lazy.”  No, didn’t get the job.

Anyway, I came across this on a website recently (and I have put it up on Google+ so a few of you have seen it)

and the original attribution is there on the top right, though it had come along a few steps when I saw it – thanks to the person who devised it.  I shouldn’t take it too literally – although, if the first words you see don’t give a particularly positive image of yourself, you could give it a few minutes of thought.

I did, a few years ago, think of three words I might use to describe myself, but I admit that I can’t remember them all now.  I’m pretty sure that none of them was forgetful, but maybe it should have been.  I will tell you the one I do remember, which is ‘enthusiastic.’ Bless her, hopeful Z of those years.

However, perhaps more telling would be for you to choose your words and then ask other people to choose words for you and compare.  I’m pretty sure that one of the three that many would pick for me would be:-


I know, darlings, is there anything more dull? I wouldn’t use it to describe myself, but I’m called it too often to deny it.  It’s not used as an insult or criticism, I do appear to be a person that people are inclined to be kind to … although I don’t mind in the least being criticised.  How can one learn if one doesn’t listen to what people say?  I don’t suppose I’ll ever learn much, on the other hand – no, I’m starting to ramble.

I don’t think it is on the list above, by the way, that is put there simply for you to amuse yourselves for a few idle minutes.

And this morning, I have mostly been making potato soup.  Sensible, you see?

Family matters

Zerlina woke before 6 this morning.  I took her to the bathroom, then back to bed where she slept for a couple more hours.  Weeza wonders how I do it – z hasn’t had a daytime nap for weeks and normally wakes about 7.  I am extremely relaxed and fond of rest and this evidently is absorbed by my grandchild.

We spent much of the day with Dilly and the children, walking into town in the morning and going to the local air museum in the afternoon.  Here.  Just for an hour or so, and partly to find some clues – Al and Dilly and the children enjoyed geocaching when they were on holiday and have been doing it locally too. It is half term week and fortunately the weather is still fine, although windy today.  Weeza said her husband had an arduous cycle ride to work today against the wind and felt exhausted by the time he arrived.  It took him over an hour and a half to cycle twenty-two miles, apparently.  Appallingly slow, I’m sure you’ll agree, hem hem.

This morning, I started up the computer and the desktop photo happened to be one of Hadrian, taken just before he went on holiday.  He was sitting on our sofa, smiling and I was startled to realise how like my father he looked.  The thing is, Al looks like my father in his young, very thin days, but in middle age he put on some weight and his face looked fuller.  And Hay, although chubbier of face than that, had just the same smile and look in his eyes that I remember.

Bending the knees, not the back

It always surprises me, how quickly I snap back into getting jobs done while looking after a small child.  I’m adept at managing to carry a baby while cooking, cleaning and so on, and it is possible to do almost anything one-handed if one tries.  When there is a slightly older child, the knack of scurrying about in the few short moments while he or she is busy and not requiring one’s full attention soon comes back.  However, there was nearly a full hour this afternoon when Zerlina fell asleep on my lap and I could do little except read the bits of the newspaper that were visible without turning broadsheet pages.  Little z has officially given up her daytime nap in the past few weeks (her own choice, not her mother’s) but I evidently have a deeply restful aura about me.

Later, I managed to cook a roast chicken and a steamed jam sponge pudding and serve it two hours earlier than we normally eat, as well as taking z for a walk, feeding the chickens and giving apples to Big Pinkie.

Pinkie was a naughty girl, by the way – I mentioned a while ago that she’d gone walkabout, and the Sage and Jamie tried several times to tempt her back across the fields.  She would follow them for some way, but then simply stop and refuse to come any further.  In the end, the farmer had to bring her back in the trailer.  She wasn’t too thrilled about it, and was quite huffy with Jamie, but seems back to her good-natured self now.

Back to the matter of carrying babies – I think the trick is to keep a straight back.  Bending over while carrying a heavy child is a recipe for an injured back.  As long as my knees hold out, I should be fine.

Z and the Sage plan some changes

You know the articles that there have been in the past few weeks about people being ‘over-housed’?  There are, apparently, 25 million spare bedrooms in the country.  I have to say that some of them are in this house.  And I’m sorry if you think we’re ‘hoarding’ our housing, and I’m also sorry if you are short of space where you live; but I don’t think that the two situations are directly linked.  And we’re not moving anyway.

But it’s true that we’ve got rather more space than we regularly use, and that’s a pity.  There are four living rooms, and we use two or three.  You might think that even that is a lot for two people, but we’re the spreading sort.  So the drawing room and the study are used all the time and the dining room is used all summer and only heated in the winter if there are enough people here to make it worth the bother.  And the Sage puts stuff in the other room, which is not a brilliant idea because it ends up with boxes and trayfuls all over the place and it is unusable much of the time.

Now, we are planning to redecorate the drawing room, and while we’re about it, we can do some other work there.  When we moved here 25 years ago, we bought a Multiyork sofa and two chairs, and 14 years ago we bought new loose covers for them.  However, the third time I had the cushion covers dry cleaned, the colour ran and they were ruined.  So I put the old covers back on, and did some repairs as they wore out.  I’ve been looking into getting new loose covers, but the cost is huge for 25-year-old soft furnishings and it would make more sense to buy new ones.  But it does go against the grain, the chairs themselves are in very good condition and haven’t even started to sag or wear.  Anyway, I’ve gone through all the covers I’ve got and I’ve found that I can put together the sofa and a big square footstool in one material and a chair and a footstool in another, which would only leave one redundant chair, and we’ve got loads of armchairs, a shortage of furniture is never our problem.  However, the two materials do not go together and can’t be put in the same room.

That was all the preamble to my good idea, sorry it’s taken so long.

The unused room, which is so unused that it doesn’t even have a name, will be turned out and have a new life as the dining room, the present dining room, which leads into it, will be another sitting room – I love that room, it’s wasted as a dining room because it’s got a beautiful inglenook and you hardly notice it.  Then we can move into those two rooms (instead of the study, which is full of my stuff) while the drawing room is done up, and then we can sit in comfort, each in our own space, and never have to meet again in the evening except at meals.  Which is, you have to agree, leads to happiness between two long-married people who work together and need to have something to talk about at dinner time and for bedtime to be a joyful reunion.

What is good about this too, is that it will give us somewhere to put my pianola when it eventually returns.  End of July, my left foot.

But the best part is, the Sage and I have another project (this is going to take weeks, nothing is ever simple in this house).  What I love is that we adore each other’s madcap projects and enter into the spirit of things at once.  It’s all completely unnecessary, of course, but it’ll be fun.