Monthly Archives: January 2012

Awesome genius?

Laugh out loud moment today was prompted by the last line of a report in the paper which said that Paul Daniels, the magician, had cut off the tips of two fingers when making a new prop for his forthcoming show.  I didn’t laugh at that, of course, no laughing matter at all.  The report ended by saying that, after surgery, he’s been back working in his shed, where he makes many of his own props.  “Next week he will be making a guillotine,” it finished drily.

Speaking of crossword puzzles, as I was yesterday, reminded me of an anecdote told me many years ago by Captain Sheppard.  He was a great friend of mine when I was in my late teens and early twenties.  My mother’s gardener died suddenly and, in a spirit of great kindness, he turned up on the doorstep and offered to help out.  He was an elderly bachelor who lived in a caravan a couple of miles away, one of those men who had never quite achieved the knack of looking after himself and so looked – well, frankly, a bit of a tramp.  He was immensely intelligent and cultured, but I rather think he had, or had had, a drinking problem.  He certainly lived a very simple life.  I liked him a lot and we had long conversations.

We shared an enthusiasm for cryptic crosswords, although he was way more intelligent and clever than I, but he was very kind to me and never showed any indication that he was aware of that.  And he told me of his favourite crossword clue.

Torquemada was the pen name of a compiler of fiendishly difficult crossword puzzles back in the 1920s and 30s, for The Observer.  Puzzles of this sort were ones I rarely attempted and never could solve.  I can’t remember the name of the compiler in my young day, my father could do them but they were horribly difficult.  Anyway, Captain Sheppard taught in a boys’ boarding school and all the masters lived in.  One night, no one could solve the final clue – For the alleviation of the labour of childbearing (4).

And I’ll say no more about that until tomorrow, because you might see it straight away or you might not.  There were scientists, linguists, classicists, no one could get the answer.

Rog has given Chris a prize for solving a very nice clue, but he deserves one from me too.  Chris dear heart, what is your favourite pudding?  It shall be served on 26th May and you will receive the first helping.  Assuming you make it to the party, that is.

Nod and Wink

On Granny-duty with young Hadrian this morning.  He was slightly alarmed at first, having seen me in action (inaction?  That’s better) at the pub last night.  He enjoyed it there, actually.  He chewed Diana’s spectacles case and didn’t drink my beer, wise child.  I showed him The Cat In The Hat on my iPad, which seemed to go down quite well, but he was tired by the time his mother showed up.  
One good thing about my lazy week is that I’ve got back to doing the Times crossword.  I always used to, but now I’ve got out of the habit, it’s a whole lot more difficult to get started.  Mind you, I have to do the cryptic one.  I can’t understand so-called ‘easy’ crosswords.  My vocabulary isn’t up to them.  I have to have sufficient clues to check that all the letters fit, once the flash of insight into a possible word strikes.
It’s been a busy day, actually.  I fell asleep after dinner, which I hate doing.  I don’t mind an afternoon nap if that strikes, but anything after 5 pm is likely to keep me awake at night.  Still, done now, I couldn’t help it and, unfortunately, I was asleep for the better part of an hour.  
I had a chat with my sister earlier on.  Not sure if I mentioned a few weeks ago that her office closed down, which was a bit disconcerting as she’d worked there a long time.  However, she has got a good redundancy payout and has been offered relief work at a neighbouring office of the same company.  She’s feeling pretty good about things, and will have more free time which won’t be unwelcome.  We’re hoping to have a holiday together in the summer.

Z drinks a pint

I went along to the meeting, which was to start organising the various events on in the village this summer.  The good thing was that it was in the village pub, and I don’t get along there half often enough.  The rather depressing thing was that so many events will be sports related.  And honestly, I couldn’t be less interested.  I’m trying to be good-natured about it, interested even, but I’m not.  And the more there is on, the harder it will be to pretend.  Also, I’m supposed to be secretary for this committee and I’ve been failing miserably for months.  The couple of hours a month required seems to have just gone past my tipping point recently, and the chairman, a very good friend fortunately, has been sending out information instead.  I apologised and she brushed it off; I said that I know the reason – that if she acknowledges I’m not keeping up to scratch, I shall stand down and she’d rather keep me on board, even if I’m a bit flakily unreliable for a while.

But what I’m wondering is, do you use the internet as a reward for having done work or as something to stave off the moment when you have to start it?  I daresay many of us would admit to a bit of both, but I do generally set myself targets, if the work is boring enough.  ‘When I’ve written that letter and those minutes (or at least the first page) then I can spend ten minutes reading blogs.’

The phone and iPad do keep me off the computer to some degree, as I can read emails there as they come in without logging on to check if I’ve received them.  I’ve not really missed the computer much, in fact – although actually, I’ve just staved off work that now I’m going to have to do in haste rather than spending all week on it.  I’ve quite missed Facebook Scrabble, but not much else.

Frankly, I’ve never much been one for surfing the net.  I find it quite annoying.  However carefully one puts in the words for a search, there always seems to be a load of stuff that is well off-topic.  Oh for the days of an encyclopaedia and a reference book.  And yes, I know the advantages of having the WWW at ones fingertips, but there can be too much information.  Norfolk isn’t known for too many dual carriageways, never mind super-highways.

Not blogging makes the Z forgetful

Sorry, loves, I didn’t give blogging a moment’s thought yesterday. That is, not until I was already in bed and, since I’ve stopped using the phone in bed at night for now, I didn’t want to get back into bad habits quite yet.

It’ll all change soon though, I’ve got a meeting tomorrow evening and another one on Friday afternoon so I’ll have to get ready for those. I didn’t tonight though, because I came over to Weeza’s house to babysit this evening and I’m staying overnight, then out to lunch tomorrow in Norwich.

It has been interesting, though, to realise how much good switching off can do. Not just switching off the computer, because I don’t think that was causing the problem and I’ve still dealt with emails in any case. But taking evenings off, reading books rather than documents, going for walks.
It looks as though 26th May is the definite date for the party, because no one has said they can’t make it and all the other possibilities do not suit at least a couple of people. So, although it’s far too early to make firm arrangements at your end (ends, indeed), please put the date in your diary if you would like to join us. There will certainly be some people who haven’t yet met any of us, and at least a couple of non-bloggers, as well as partners of bloggers, so don’t let that deter you. And you’re very welcome to stay over, as long as there are enough bedrooms.

Zleeping zoundly

I took the weekend off. I suddenly realised how tired I was, so have just been relaxing, computer switched off, going for walks and not doing much at all. I’ve not got a lot on this week – well, not until the end of the week, anyway, and then I’m going to be fairly occupied for some time, so this is a chance I wanted to take.

And last night, finally, I slept really well. It was lovely. Although I woke three or four times, I was able to drop off again without needing to distract my mind from too much thought by reading or playing games on my phone.

It had taken an effort to unwind that much, though. A few nights ago, I lay for hours and, every time I started to drift off to sleep, a random thought popped into my mind, within moments it had led to a whole train of thoughts and a minute later I was wide awake. And then, the only way I could distract myself was to start reading a book and half an hour later, when I put down the phone again and settled to sleep, the same happened again. And so, being the sensible Z that I am, I decided to clear my mind completely so that there wouldn’t really be anything to think of.

I have to acknowledge, mind you, that I have been checking emails on the phone, but only a couple of times a day and I’ve only replied to those that couldn’t wait. Otherwise, I’d have worried that something might crop up that I should know about.

Anyway, it’s worked. I will cook a nice, soothing meal tonight, probably risotto, because just the gradual adding of the stock and stirring of the rice is a pleasure, I’ll have an early night and hope that I’ll sleep again, and then I’ll be able to get back to my normal self. If normal and Z are words that sit well together, that is.


You know I said how I wasn’t doing any clothes shopping this winter? I went to the dentist and then on into Norwich, just because I was nearly there already and there was something I did need to buy.

I no longer lack new clothes. Of thirteen garments tried on in three shops (one of the shops was back in Yagnub, mind you, I was on a roll by then), I bought eight of them. And that doesn’t include my venture into the underwear department. Mind you, I didn’t mean to include underwear in my complaint about clothes shopping in any case, because I rather like buying that.

I remember a while ago reading a complaint on someone’s blog about the difficulty of buying cheap bras in larger sizes in the country where she lived, which I think was Spain. And I was a bit puzzled, although I didn’t comment. The comments seemed mostly to be from people who refused to pay more than a fiver for a bra, and I didn’t get it. I’m not saying that you have to pay whole lots for one designed or endorsed by a *name*, but surely every woman needs to get fitted properly and be prepared to spend enough to get something that’ll do its job? Preferably, that’s pretty enough to make her feel good about herself, of course.

Breaking the silence

Phil’s reference to falling asleep in front of his guests (not sure whether he was joking or not) reminded me of our friend Peter, who has always had a tendency to doze off after dinner, wherever he is.

It was a long time ago, before we moved here – probably getting on for 30 years, so he must have only been in his 30s, but he did it even then. On one particular occasion I remember us all sitting chatting after the meal and noticed him, elbow in table, leaning more and more heavily on the hand under his chin. What I didn’t notice was the table buckling under the strain.

It was a very nice gateleg table, large enough to seat 8 people easily, oval but only just so (nearly round, I mean) and the flaps were each in two parts. And he was leaning hard on the very end.

Yes, it broke. A sudden snap, Pete and the remains of dinner on the floor. I had cleared away, I don’t remember a pile of crockery, but a nice Victorian cranberry wine glass met its doom. We didn’t use them often. Don’t think we’ve used them at all since, those that remain.

Since then, we’ve always repaired rapidly to the sitting room after dinner so that any sleepy guests can nap in peace.

That’s not the only piece of furniture that’s come a cropper from the weight of a guest. The first time our friend Daphne brought her new husband to visit us comes to mind. At that time (again, in our Lowestoft house) we had a Victorian chaise longue in the drawing room. He went to sit down and pushed it back as he sat. Now, what he didn’t know – and indeed, there was no reason to – was that the back leg was not very strong, so we had it bolstered up with a couple of stout logs. These, he’d pushed out of the way. So again, a loud crack and our guest on the floor.

Oh, how we laughed.

Z is a little rusty-fingered from lack of blogging

Ah.  Having missed two days blogging this year so far, I am already losing my blog-voice.  Not sure what to write about.

It doesn’t help that by far the most interesting and gossip-worthy thing that has happened to me in a long time is completely unshareable.  Both cheering and startling, it drove me to the bottle last night.  I can’t deny it, I had one too many.  I fell asleep on the sofa.  This must indeed be a sign of age, hitting the cooking sherry (and I’ll never do that again, own-brand Amontillado doesn’t greatly agree with me) before drinking the normal quantity of wine simply sends me to sleep.

However, today was good, and no after-effects.  My friend Mary came over in the morning.  She, who is terribly busy and has an ill mother-in-law to look after, is always concerned that I’m doing too much.  I do about a tenth of what she does, and with much worse grace, but she is so kind.  I told her about the blog party and she was quite encouraged – huzzah, Z has friends! …  even if most of them have never actually met me.

“What’s the name of your blog, again?” she asked.  Several of my real life friends have asked me that, but it’s rare that any of them actually checks it out.  Anyway, it’s at this point that I always feel a bit embarrassed that I chose a damn fool name for my blog.  “razorbladeoflife,” I muttered awkwardly.  She wanted to know how much I write every (mostly) day.  I showed her, on my phone, a few posts and she was struck by quite how much it is.  After all, she knows me as reticent and a good listener.

Hang on, that’s not true.  But she was silenced for a few minutes.

Anyway, I am finally catching up with work, because I’m determined to take this weekend off.  And the weekend is starting sometime tomorrow morning, because I’m going over to see Weeza and the children for lunch.

Customer disservice

We’ve got several bank accounts, the Sage and me.  There’s our personal accounts, the joint one we pay household bills from, the business one (we recently opened another of those, for reasons I’ll come on to) which is also a joint account, my family trust one (which is less interesting than it sounds) and the Sage has a few others, I don’t keep tabs on it all.  But only one of them annoys me.

It’s the one that we used for business, held with a building society that has been taken over from Santander.  It goes for a few months without being used, all the sale proceeds are paid into it and out to clients, and the profit is used occasionally, in this case to pay the Sage’s tax bill.  And this morning, I received a phone call from Santander to confirm that the cheque recently made out was a legitimate one.

Well, it was soon after 8 am, I was upstairs in the bathroom, the Sage was outside giving the chickens breakfast and I didn’t have the information to hand so put the phone down (it’s an automated call) and, no doubt, they will phone back later.  But this happens every damn time a payment is made from this account.  To start with, I assumed it was because, after a long period of it not being used, several large cheques were paid out, and this was reasonable.  But after a phone call regarding a cheque for well under £100, and not in a fallow period, I did get rather more annoyed.  The thing is, if the account is used fraudulently and it’s not our fault, the bank is liable.  So this is not customer service, it’s just putting the onus on us.  And if one day I had a phone call, knew that cheques had been made out and authorised one too many (with no prior warning and no cheque book to hand), they’d get out of their obligation because it would be my fault.

Anyway, we haven’t closed that account but will wind it down, and have opened a new account with another bank entirely.  But what I’m wondering is, does Santander contact everyone every time a cheque is made out on one of their accounts?  And does any other bank?

Z is not the snappiest dresser

I meant to consider buying some new clothes this winter.  It hasn’t happened.  I don’t enjoy shopping and I’m quite uninterested in what I wear.  My mother and I had an air of mutual bemusement about this, because she loved clothes.  Mind you, I suspect that this didn’t help me at all because, rather than involve me in what suited me and what I might want to buy, she took the path of least resistance for years and chose most of my clothes herself.  I suppose she had to or I’d have kept wearing the same things until I grew out of them or they wore out.

Now, if I’m in the mood for shopping and find anything I like and fits, I buy it at once, whether I need it at the time or not.  I might buy whole lots in a day – but then I won’t shop again for the rest of the year, very likely.  The autumn before last, I bought two pairs of shoes and two of boots at the same time.  None since.  My coat was my mother’s, actually.  She bought it about three months before she died and it was expensive (she knew she was dying, but she was feeling pretty well and cheerfully defiant, so went ahead).  Anyway, it seemed a pity to waste it.  So it’s nine years old now (I have had another coat in the meantime, I haven’t worn the same one relentlessly all that time, I give it a couple of years’ rest and then haul it out again) and still going strong.

When Weeza and Al were little, I didn’t have much spare money.  So, when I did go shopping, it seemed a waste to spend what I had on clothes for me.  I bought books instead.  My mother, in despair, used to give me her cast-offs.  When Weeza entered her teens, I wore what she chucked out.

Now, I do have to buy myself things to wear.  But it’s so dispiriting.  Rows of stuff I don’t like, then I find something I do and I have to go and take my clothes off and try the damn thing on.  And if it doesn’t fit and I want to go up or down a size, the assistant has always vanished so I have to get dressed again and go and find it – because I never go shopping with anyone.  That’s an even worse penance, for them as well as me.

Once, I had a suit made.  Never again.  Apart from having to make choices, when I didn’t really know what I wanted and having to act as if I cared, I then became pregnant, so the project was put on hold, then I had the baby and became really thin (rake thin I always was within months of having a baby) and it had to be taken in.  And the cost.  Blimey.  Mind you, I got my money’s worth.  Wore it for decades.  Unfortunately, the moth got it in the end or I’d be wearing it yet.

Anyway, I had to go to Norwich this morning for a meeting, so I thought that afterwards I’d go and have a delve and see if either there was anything remaining at the tail end of the sales or if there was anything new in.  But I couldn’t be bothered in the end.  There’s wear in what I’ve got yet.  Maybe next year.