Monthly Archives: November 2011

Z listens to a friend

A friend called in for coffee this morning and we chatted – the Sage was out having coffee with another friend, as it happened, although he came in and joined us later.  After a while, I asked about his wife, because she has had some health problems recently and has had a blood test.  No news, but it’s not going to be anything major.  But it did give him an opening to tell me what’s really concerning him, and that is, he’s concerned that she is showing signs of Alzheimers and he can’t get the doctor to take him seriously.

We had a long talk about it.  He wasn’t wanting reassuring platitudes, and I don’t feel that I’d be able to give them anyway.  I’ve picked up that she’s becoming slightly vague recently, although I didn’t mention that.  Apparently, he spoke to the doctor, she wouldn’t let him go with her and reported back that he had a series of questions that she was able to answer.  She refuses to consider that there might be anything wrong, but her mother and sister suffered the same problem and he thinks he can see similar early symptoms.  However, the questions were (she said) her name and address and things like that – we agreed that these would be forgotten almost last of all and are not suitable questions at this stage, when it’s short-term memory that is becoming a problem.  For example, he said, she might answer the phone, have quite a long conversation, put it down and then ask who she’d been talking to.  And she runs a small business from home and she has recently been forgetting to write down appointments, which she used to do as soon as she put the phone down.

I know nothing about the diagnosis or best modern treatment, but I suggested that he list specific incidents as they happen, and after a few weeks, insist on going with her to the doctor with that list.  And if he doesn’t get any further, write asking for a second opinion.  I suggested a couple of small things he could ask her to do, such as draw a clock face with a specific time on it (there must be suggestions on the internet, I’ll have a look).  It can’t have been easy, raising the subject, but when he left, he hugged me for a long time and said I was warm.  I suspect this is going to be harder for him than for her.

The Sage is out now, having lunch with another friend.  He’s having a lovely time, recently.  Not with me, specifically, but I don’t begrudge him that.  Gives us stuff to talk about in the evenings.

Oh wow

The Sage suddenly came over all lovely tonight – not that he’s normally less than, but especially.  I started it off – come on, darlings, the wife is always the catalyst for any mood, innit?  It all started when we compared diaries for the week ahead, a usual Sunday evening thing if we remember, and then I asked about the painting he bought a couple of weeks ago (I heard him showing it to Weeza when she came over, but he hadn’t shown it to me!) and it turned out that he’d bought another one at the Aylsham auction the other day.  A Harry Becker, he showed that to me first – I was pretty bowled over.  A simple charcoal, of two horses pulling a plough in a field backed by trees – golly.  Quality.  My reaction emboldened him to show me the Leonard Squirrell he’d bought first…not quite so much to my taste, but I recognise the quality of that too and praised him for his purchase.  He’d also bought a little Meissen tea-strainer the other day, which I had to love.  Okay, darlings, the man has taste.  I am ignorant as can be, but I look at a lot of things and I recognise what is good.  He has impressed me, not least by going outside the norm.

Anyway, that enlivened him and we engaged with each other in a way that a long-married couple don’t always.  You know what I mean? – all very pleasant, but not always ‘oh wow’.

No, darlings, not in that way.  Honestly, you and your filthy minds.  Really me.  We just enthused, is all.  Clothes on and everything.

No, now I’ve lost the thread.

Anyway, it’s pretty busy for the next week.  We won’t see much of each other, to tell the truth.  Not that it matters as such, we both love to be fully engaged with what we’re doing.  The week after, I’ve got an overnighter in London, and he’s going down to Wink, because he’s got a couple of appointments in the West Country – south-west England, for those of you who are used to larger areas than we boast.  He will stay overnight, possibly two nights.  I said, how difficult it is to get away together, which is a pity.  But we must make the effort to do things and if that means going away separately, that’s how it is.  His tends to be business and mine pleasure, but hey…

Anyway, not that it wasn’t before, but it’s all good here tonight.

Friend Arthur just rang.  I had a chat, then called the Sage.  “Just got a vesta finishing on eBay” he said.  “It’s Antiques Roadshow in a few minutes,” I reminded him.  “Tell him I’ll phone back after Antiques Roadshow,” he called.  “Darling,” I told Arthur, “I’m afraid you come second to eBay.  First to me, of course, but not to the Sage.”  He took it very well.

A glass of wine will greet Z’s smiling face

Apart from some slight faffing about in the morning, because Wink left her phone at home and so we couldn’t communicate and took a while to find each other, all went very well.  We met (eventually) at Trafalgar Square – I’d got to Liverpool St Station, the bus I wanted was at the stop and I leapt straight on – I sat in the sun reading for a while, just enjoying the warmth and we had a long and rather boozy lunch.  We both had the same to eat, mussels followed by sardines and a salad.  Then we went to the theatre.  The Pitmen Painters – if you have a chance to go, I recommend it, it’s really good.

It occurs to me to mention, our lunch says a certain amount about us.  Not allergic to shellfish or iffy about such things (we both eat offal with gusto, too) and unbothered by whole lots of bones.  I, and I suppose she, like eating with my fingers and I like getting stuck in to fiddly food.  You see, summing up Z in a simple meal, and showing that sistership will out.

Afterwards, I had plenty of time, and it was a lovely mild evening.  I walked along the Embankment, past St Pauls, along Cheapside, past the Bank of England and so to the station again.  I bought some fruit to eat on the train and caught up on emails on the way home.

It was very foggy when I got back to my car, not easy to drive in.  I’d phoned the Sage from Ipswich, so that he could start cooking dinner and, as I came in the door, he was walking down the passageway with a glass of wine.  “Sit down, I’ll bring your dinner on a tray.”

All went rather well, actually.  And thanks to Wink for a lovely belated birthday present.


Winter has finally struck in the Zed bed.  I have put the electric blanket on.  I’ve been okay, in fact, it’s the Sage who has been shivering (which is only an excuse for a cuddle, let’s face it – he’ll have to think of another one now).

He incurred Wifely Annoyance this evening, poor boy.  First, he gave me the phone when I was cooking, instead of saying I’d phone back, and then while I was speaking, he whipped my iPhone to make a call himself, when I needed to set the timer for 12 minutes for the rice as soon as I had finished my call.  As it was, the rice was undercooked, the chicken was overcooked, the veggies were nearly raw and I have indigestion.  And his ear is bent.  Oh dear.

Tomorrow, I’m off to London to meet Wink.  I’ll leave here around 8 in the morning and arrive home about 8.30 pm.  I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve packed my Oyster card, all I have to do is check the bus to Charing Cross.

I don’t know why I took the tube for so many years, I nearly always go by bus now, unless it’s a complicated journey that way.  It started when I couldn’t walk far, those damn undergrounds, miles to walk and a lot of steps.  A few months ago, Diamond Geezer wrote a post about the latest Tube map,which, from being a simple, clear depiction of the network, has become full of symbols, including those for wheelchair access.  He reckoned that it’s now so complicated that it’s harder for many people to read.  The thing is, the Tube isn’t suitable for people in wheelchairs, full stop.  There are a few stations that are fit for disabled people to use, but you have to plan your journey very carefully, and make sure there aren’t engineering works going on.  So symbols aren’t much advantage.

Anyhoo, darlings, I’m going to empty my bag of all but what I need for the day, and have an early night.  I still wake around 3 o’clock, but at least I’m getting some sleep before then, and sometimes afterwards too.  So, until I get myself back to normal doziness, it’s bed before midnight for me.  Goodnight xxx

J. van E.

Last night, I went to bed very early, with the result that I woke, fully rested, at 3 am.  I’d had less than six hours of sleep, but that felt like a very good night under recent circumstances.  Anyway, I had my phone under my pillow, so had plenty to do until it was a reasonable hour to get up.  And, in browsing through Facebook, I found that my friend’s grandad had died, at the age of 95.

I’ve written to her, her mother and her uncle (very unsure about the etiquette of doing that via FB, but I have no other addresses, so I reckon it’s better than nothing) – there was a serious breakdown of trust between father and daughter which was never resolved, so that wasn’t the easiest note to write – but I just wanted to say a few words here.

Johann was a member of the Dutch Resistance during the war  So was his friend, the father of our beloved au pairs, back in the early 1960s, Cobie and Joepie, and their brother Huib.  Conditions were awful in Holland in the 1940s, at near starvation levels.  Night-time foraging for a few onions or turnips – even a tulip bulb to eat – was as vital as Resistance duties.  In either event, being caught would have meant being shot.  Johann lived with that.  He shared memories of his experiences with my parents, but not with me, I was too young.  He was, later, a brilliant teacher and mentor of young people.  His children are among my oldest friends.

Whatever were the issues between him and Charlotte (she knows this website, though I’m not sure if she ever reads it – sorry, my dear, if you visit here and I say anything you’re not happy about – do tell me if so), I feel that the world is diminished by his death.  He was a fine and brave man, and my parents thought highly of him, and I was very fond of him too.  Condolences to his family and friends.

Mostly Mozart

I took up clarinet playing about twenty years ago.  Weeza had had lessons, but hadn’t greatly taken to it, and had given up after a couple of years.  The clarinet was my grandfather’s – he loved playing woodwind and my mother always said that, when she was a girl, she played the piano, he the oboe (at that time) and they used to have friends round for music sessions in the evenings.  It was an odd thing, the things she spoke of with fond memories were very much in the past, there was no question of them being done in our family.  She had completely turned her back on her girlhood, even the good parts, when she married.  Maybe she thought those pleasures were unsophisticated – country walks, cycling, playing music with friends – and wouldn’t suit the relatively upper-crust family she had married into.

Anyway, she did continue to play the piano, but preferred not to be heard.  It took me years to take on board that making music was something I could do with other people, or at least in front of them, and it was only when I found myself offering to play the organ in church (my sister calls it mouth overtaking brain) that I had to overcome my nerves about it.

When Ro was at the village school, one of the other mums, who was a music teacher, set up a Saturday morning music club, with lessons given in several instruments by three or four instructors.  Ro was five or six at the time and started with recorder and piano, later dropping them both to play the alto saxophone.  I rather hankered after trying a new instrument, having long realised that I would never play the piano again as well as I did in my teens (which wasn’t all that well, in all truth) and that the organ was far too difficult for me to play well at all.  Hammering out a few tunes is fine, but it’s fairly complex, playing with both hands and feet, and I found that I could only manage three limbs, maximum.  If I was using my feet, I forgot my left hand and when I had a difficult bit of melody, my feet had to stay still or I lost my way completely.  And I didn’t enjoy it anyway (still don’t, I’m dutiful though).

So, I had a clarinet, I could get sound out of it (which is more than I can from a flute, most of the time) and reading one note of music at a time would be a doddle after the organ.  So I asked Cheryl if she could teach me.  Her instruments were oboe, bassoon and piano, but she reckoned that she would be able to help, as long as I accepted her limitations and was reasonably self-reliant – which was fine, of course.

I loved it and worked hard, and made quick progress, although I was never going to be a really good player.  Still, I was good enough to enjoy what I was doing and make the effort worth my while.  I also played Ro’s sax, which I enjoyed and found much easier than the clarinet, the only problem being the weight of the instrument hanging from my neck.  Cheryl wanted me to take exams.  “You could go straight in to Grade 5, you’re way better than that, all you have to do is master all the scales.”  I reminded her that I’d told her right from the start that I was never going to take another music exam.  I loathed them as a child and they seemed to dominate my piano playing, stopping me from real enjoyment of the instrument.

I’ll digress a moment here, in case you’re wondering why, in that case, I didn’t give up the piano in my teens.  I don’t give up.  It’s that simple.  If I really can’t do something, then the time will come when, having given it my best shot, I’ll bow out.  But if I can, and it’s just a matter of tenacity, I’ll hang on.

However, after several years, I was getting pretty busy, overstretched and over-stressed for various reasons.  Never mind all that, the point is that I wasn’t working that hard on my music.  And Cheryl’s marriage had broken up and she was moving house.  We agreed that she’d take a few weeks out for the move and then we’d start the lessons again.  But somehow, it wasn’t quite agreed who would phone whom, and the whole thing petered out because neither of us made the call.  She’s still got the piano parts of most of my music, unless she’s had a turn-out and chucked them out by now.  And, I realise, one has to have an end purpose or one will not continue to work hard at something.  So, if I persevere with my playing, I should take lessons.  But then, I think I’d have to seriously consider (sorry if a split infinitive offends) joining some sort of music group, to give me an incentive.  But that seems quite frightening, and also time-consuming.  So, I dunno.  While I mull, I’m keeping up my daily practice.

I never did let it lapse entirely, there’s an informal church service once a month where I play clarinet rather than the organ.  So at least I didn’t forget all I’d learnt.


Right now, I have a dip in energy and it is terribly tempting to go to bed.  I know from experience that I will regret it, so I need to hang on for an hour, and then I’ll bounce back.  At the moment, I’m doubting that I can, so I’ll write as quickly as possible.

The Sage is out.  He has gone to pay a large cheque to the owner of the star lot, and other lots, in the last sale.  There is no regret in paying it, he will have his commission and never owned the items, but was just the expert agent.

Today, I went and bought some more plants, and now have several tubs and bowlsful in the porch, which is looking lovely.  Soon, of course, it will be too cold to want to sit in there, but no matter.  The jolly good thing is that cleaning is easy.  Sweep or wash the floor, and brush the debris outside.  No need to pick up.

I wonder if any of you clever people can identify this plant for me, please? –

Frost caught the flowers, though there are more buds.  The seed head is as spiky as it looks.  I feel that I recognise the leaves, but can’t place them.  It’s self-seeded.

Weeza came over today, I’ve spent a long time cuddling Hay and Gus, and being smiled at joyously.  I feel most wonderfully happy as a consequence.

And I have played the clarinet.  About an hour in total today.  Still rubbish, but I realise that my standards are rising.  In fact, my lips are not sore, I don’t need a cigarette paper, my thumb doesn’t hurt. I know all the notes again and am playing with much more assurance, although still not well.  I’m not ready to consider lessons, which would be too depressing, but not ready to give up either.

I have not had time to visit many blogs recently, and have commented on fewer.  I’m so sorry, I will catch up before too long.  In the meantime, I hope all is well with you, darlings.

Z is sociable!

I had several letters to write – or rather, two, but one of those was going to eight different people, so I got them all ready, printed out address labels (I already had that set up, so it was quicker than writing envelopes) and stamped them.  Then I did various other bits and pieces, keeping an eye on the time, so that I’d leave in time for my 9.30 meeting.  I thought I was doing quite nicely, plenty of time in hand, it was 8.38.  After quite some time, it occurred to me that it had been 8.38 for ages…it was 9.15, my face wasn’t on and my hair was wet.

I made it to the meeting on time, fully made up with dryish, if slightly unruly hair.  And I’d posted the letters on the way.

The Sage was in London for the day, at a picture sale, and I played the clarinet (not for very long actually, but I’m still resolutely fitting it in every day) and ate lunch in the porch in the sunshine.  I read the papers, read a book, typed emails on the iPad.  If I’m feeling a bit wound up – not worried, there’s a lot of stuff on and I can only assume that’s the reason for not sleeping – then I reckoned that it was time to relax, knowing I’d be out this evening.  I sat down to fill out my seed order to take to Gardening Club, perched on a stool by the Aga (by the time I left the porch the sun had moved round and I was a little chilly) and found myself nodding off, so I curled up in a chair and went to sleep instead.

The speaker tonight was great fun, he’s an expert on dahlias (and also a qualified judge) and begonias, a retired landscape gardener and has a thorough north Suffolk/south Norfolk accent, which is always a pleasure to hear.  A very good and interesting speaker, I chatted to various people afterwards and won a tray of violas in the raffle.  I’ve also promised the present President that I’ll rejoin the WI after Christmas.

She also asked after Al, whom everyone knows from his shop days, and another woman overheard and realised who I was – I had recognised her as a customer, although I still don’t know her name – and we had a chat.  It’s a pleasure to be known as Al’s mum (or any of my family’s relation, come to that) – I mean, I don’t mind at all if they don’t know me as *Z* but as an appendage to one of my family.  When my mother moved here, she was quite affronted to be greeted as Z’s mother, or the Sage’s mother-in-law (worse still if anyone thought she was his mother, since she was only some 13 years older than he).  She’d never minded, when married, being the other half to her husband and, indeed, was proud to be.  But she never adjusted to being called my mother, rather than I being known as her daughter.  And honestly, I think that’s a pity.  But she always wanted me to remain her dear little girl.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I were, though?  I don’t think I could be described as any of those now!

Z washes windows

Another hour’s nap in an otherwise sleepless night, I’ve been quite tired all day.  But I have finished the porch, and also taken a carful of stuff to the dump, so I feel quite good overall.  I arrived home from tonight’s meeting to be greeted by the Sage, saying that a friend was hoping I’d phone her back … I haven’t.  I still have not finished tonight’s work (which I hadn’t had time to do earlier) and writing here is a short relaxation, I didn’t really feel like chatting.  I did fit in a clarinet practice this afternoon (how about you, Tim, have you played the guitar this week?  Not to worry if not, dear heart, aim for Wednesday at latest, perhaps) and, although it was only half an hour or so, I finally felt that there was some fluency to my playing.  I shall persevere, please keep a stern eye on me. I sort of feel that this time is make or break.  What is good is that my thumb doesn’t hurt any more when I play, so it was just the unaccustomed weight of the instrument, not a problem with the joint – or, if it is, it’s in its early stages.  So, all in all, whoopee-doo.

Weeza phoned this morning, and she’s coming over with the children on Wednesday.  It so happened that Dilly and Hay were here at the time, so we all chatted and made arrangements – this is really for the two mums and cousins to get together, although I won’t be excluded.   Both boys are past the mewling and puking stage and Hadrian, in particular, is getting interested in reaching for and playing with toys.  In less than a fortnight, he will be six months old.

Sorry, back to work now.  After two nights without much sleep, I may well oversleep tomorrow and not have time to finish preparations for the meetings, so I must do it now while I’m sure.  Goodnight, darlings.  Sweet dreams.


I really am not sleeping too well.  An hour asleep, a few awake, a short nap and that was it.  I watched the dawn from the window in front of me now.  Very pink.  I warned the shepherd, but later he came round, wondering why I’d wasted his time.  It’s been a lovely sunny day, once the sun burned off the early-morning mist.

I was sidesman at the 8 o’clock service, so was out of the house by 7.30.  Already, a couple of bantams were waiting for breakfast (some are shut in at night, some prefer to roost in trees).  I chucked them a handful of corn and explained that the Sage would bring them warm, soaked bread later.

10 of us, which is actually a decent number for that early service – no hymns, Book of Common Prayer Communion service – the BCP is the proper prayer book for me, modern stuff may be fun but it doesn’t make me think – and it was lovely to see the Rector, whom I haven’t seen for weeks.  She’s been away, and doing services in other villages.

Later, I went to the Remembrance Sunday service in the next village.  The first hymn was ‘Eternal Father’ … oh, you might need a link… sorry, darlings, this does give both words and music, so if you don’t want sound, turn it off now, and if you do, apologies for the tinny-sounding organ.  As a Lowestoft girl, I feel a strong connection with that hymn.  Do you know, I am not a superstitious person at all.  But, give me a decanter of port … ooh, cheers, don’t mind if I do … and I will, defo, pass it to the left, clockwise.  Because, the saying goes, if the port is passed the wrong way, a sailor dies at sea.  Honestly, I don’t believe it.  But I still pass the port the right (correct) way.

Dick, who has read the Roll of Honour for our village for about the last ten years, died in the summer,  Over 90 years old, he married during the war that he fought in as a soldier.  His funeral was on the 70th anniversary of his wedding, his wife having died last year.  Dear Dick, he found that Remembrance service very meaningful.  We haven’t got another war veteran to read the names, but we have got a Lieutenant Colonel (recently retired) and he spoke wonderfully well.

I say it every year, and I shall continue to say it – this village, with about 1,000 residents including children now, which had far fewer houses 100 years ago, albeit they were more densely inhabited, lost 25 young men during the First World War.  That awful war wiped out most of a generation.  None of them is alive now, but they must not be forgotten.  If only history lessons could truly be learnt – but if there is one thing that history tells us, it’s that nothing is learnt.