Monthly Archives: February 2012

Not the Lion, the Witch nor the Wardrobe. Better!

But rather, the trip to Chennai, the lamppost and the Landrover.

So yesterday, first there was that phone call from Wink.  And if you look at yesterday’s post and comments, you’ll see that we’re planning to go to the wedding, assuming the invitation is extended to me too (which it will be).

Then we went to visit Kenny.  His son was visiting a friend at the hospital in Gallstone, so we sat with Muriel for a couple of hours.  She was pleased to reach her 90th birthday, looking forward to the cake her daughter had baked, but thanked us for staying, admitting that it’s quite a strain sitting with Kenny on her own.

He was awake some of the time, but couldn’t really speak or open his eyes.  He’d been quite animated the day before, talked to the Sage in the evening,  kissed me several times very lovingly when I left and waved to me … I think he had used so much strength there was none left.  He was also determined, I’m sure, to be alive for Muriel’s birthday.

While we were sitting there, the Sage told me about a lamppost that someone had for sale.  You (if you’ve been here) may have noticed one at the fork in the drive.  It’s similar, I was immediately excited.  “We could put it outside the house, it’ll look like Narnia!  The children will love it.”

Then he mentioned a car.  He got vague at this point, sometimes referring to a Rover and sometimes a Landrover.  “I’m not having a Rover, after the last disaster,” I said.  “I’ve never thought of a Landrover, why would I want that?”  Still, I was quite happy to have a look, you know me.

So we went to look at the lamppost and a couple of notes changed hands and it will be delivered in due course – that’ll be lovely, we’ll get it fixed in the ground and dig a trench for the cable and have it wired up – and then looked at the car.  It is a Landrover, 2001, lovely condition.  Five minutes later, we’d decided to buy it.  Jolly good.  I love being impulsive, don’t you?

Wink just rang, we’re planning to get our visas and all, and the lamp post has just arrived in Robert’s van.  Jolly good.

Z hums and hahs

The morning has been largely taken up with telephone calls.  Few of them were remotely interesting to me, being social, business or car-related ones for the Sage, but the one I received on my mobile was considerably more engaging.  Wink rang me, in part to tell me that Auntie Dodo, our mother’s oldest friend (they met over 70 years ago) who is aged 99 has just gone into a residential home for some respite care.  She lives alone but her only bathroom is upstairs so it’s not that easy for her to manage – the staircase is quite unsuitable for a stairlift.  We’re not sure if she’ll be able to go back home, or not for long – Wink will keep me posted.  She’s Wink’s godmother, we’ve known her all our lives and she’s very dear to us.

The second matter is that the younger sister of the girl whose wedding we went to in Madras ten years ago is getting married in April.  Wink is invited of course, but she said she can’t go and wondered if I might.  I said I’d be too busy – but I did tell the Sage about it when he arrived home.  His immediate reaction was to encourage me to go, even if it is on my own.  I’ve phoned Wink back, she’s thinking about it too now.  It’s Easter Sunday, and she’s been invited to London for the Hockney exhibition and other things, tickets already bought, and she’ll probably have some work offered too … all the same, we’re both very tempted and we’re thinking about it.  We’d both love to go.  We’ll speak again on Monday and then, if she’s considering it, she’ll speak to her friend.  I’ve said that I’ll sleep on it and make up my own mind – that is, my decision won’t hinge on hers and I won’t put her under the pressure of saying I’ll only go if she will.

I love India and haven’t been for several years.  We’d have to be based in Madras – which I should really call Chennai nowadays – and not fit in an extra trip this time which is a pity as I’d dearly love to visit my friend How Do We Know in Delhi – but this would count as an impulsive extra and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go oop north another time.  I’m still undecided.  However, a single encouraging comment might tip the balance.  Or I might not be that easily led.  Hmm.

I’m going to go and make a cake while I think about it.  Hah.

Z fails her eye test

It’s quite sad that it’s worthy of remark, but I’ve managed to be reasonably sociable this week.  Lunch out twice, a girly evening at a friend’s house tonight, supper with friends the other evening.  This counts as a social whirl for me.  Unfortunately, none of it included the Sage, but one can’t have everything.

I went to have my eyes tested this morning.  It didn’t go well.  The optician did the thing of trying one lens after another, asking me which of each pair was clearer.  I find it really difficult to be sure, quite often, and after a while he told me that my answers were all over the place and giving contradictory results.  Their retinascope (not sure if that’s entirely the right word, something like that) was on the blink so he couldn’t check using that.  I looked shamefaced I daresay – anyway, I’ve had to make another appointment to go back next week.  I spoke to Dilly afterwards and then my friend Mary and they both told me that they find this test impossible to evaluate too.  Glad to know it isn’t only me.

I did explain to him that my contact lens isn’t chosen on the basis of my prescription anyway, but by what works for me because I’m better just using one, looking at a distance through my right eye and close to with my left.  All I really need is to check I can see well enough to drive and to check the health of my eyes – not that I told him that, mind you, he might think I was undermining his professional expertise.  I’ll see what he says, I don’t want much change in my prescription.

Tomorrow is a remarkably popular date for birthdays.  My dear friend Kenny’s wife will be 90 – Kenny is very poorly and both the Sage and I are visiting every day and will do until the end.  I have the feeling that he’ll see her through her birthday and then let go.  Dilly’s mum’s birthday is tomorrow too.  She’s just retired from her job and she and Dilly’s dad are looking at each other, wondering how all this new-found togetherness will work out.  And it’s also Chris’s – our blogger friend Chris, that is – birthday.  So, love and best wishes to them all.

Z is not horrified

I can’t remember all the details regarding figures, but the fact remains that I have passed muster.  My score of 7% seems to be okay (regarding the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack in the next ten years, that is), since it would have required a score of over 20% for me to be referred to the doctor.  I think it might have been as high as it is because my father died of a heart attack at the age of 59 and my mother had a stroke when in her late 30s.  My own health is practically perfect and always has been.

I’ll probably be knocked over by a speeding bicycle instead,

I haven’t been on my own bike for a few weeks.  It is a point for me to ponder that, when my hip hurt and I was trying to stave off an operation, I stoically pedalled into town daily, almost whatever the weather.  Although the exercise would be a good thing now, my hip doesn’t hurt much and I haven’t started to limp yet, so I don’t have the motivation, not in this cold weather.  Knowing that it would be a good thing isn’t enough.  If a doctor told me to do it, I would.  Probably.  Mind you, if I’d been told that I was overweight today, I’d have been sufficiently unhappy to do it.  Certainly.  But I was told my BMI put me in the green category, i.e. normal (while mildly chubby, of course) so I merely feel guilty while not actually doing anything about it.

I’ve a feeling that this isn’t unusual.  We all know what we should do (or stop doing) but we need a jolt, an impetus, to get us going.  I remember when my stepfather had a heart attack and was told to stop smoking.  “No one told me it was bad for my heart,” he said plaintively.  My mother, who had told him exactly that and had begged him to stop, had to bite her tongue quite hard.  He’d not heard what he didn’t want to hear.  One understands, however.  I know perfectly well how to lose weight – move more, eat less.  There’s nothing wrong with what I eat, it’d be far easier if it were a case of cutting out the daily crisps and chocolate biscuits, but I don’t eat them – well, once in a blue moon.  But I need to be horrified into doing it.  Dammit.

Cleanliness is next to Sagacity

I’d appreciate some insights into blokes’ minds, if you’d be so kind.  It’s a trivial thing, but … well, it’s the thought processes that I don’t quite understand.

When I came downstairs this morning, I went to the dishwasher to finish unpacking it, having removed a good deal of its clean contents last night to use straight away in the cooking and serving of dinner.  I hadn’t done the whole job because preparing the meal was quite complex, I was doing something all the time and there were no odd minutes to fill with another job.  And after dinner I watched some television, read the paper, wrote some emails and a blog post.  I didn’t do housework.

The dishwasher contained, among other things, two dirty dinner plates, so I thought maybe the Sage had done the unpacking.  Then I realised that the cutlery container was full.  I took it out to look and everything there was clean.  On checking, it was evident that he’d simply put in two dirty plates.  So I asked him.  He said he thought everything was dirty, so kept filling it up.

Now, it was less than half full, so it was quite understandable that he might have assumed that, except for that full cutlery rack.  It’s right at the front, how could he not notice and not deduce that two plates, a dish or two and a few mugs and glasses do not equate with all that cutlery?  So that’s the first puzzle.

The second puzzle is that both sinks were full of dirty crockery, cutlery and pans.  Putting in two plates was really no help at all.  So it was a completely empty gesture, if the machine had indeed contained dirty dishes I’d not even have noticed (so no brownie points there) and if he’d really wanted to help, why not do the whole lot?  Was it just to make himself feel good for the least possible effort?  I wouldn’t have thought so, he’s a kind man and not lazy.

As it was, of course, I was just a bit irritated at a half-arsed gesture that went awry anyway.  I emptied the dishwasher – he did come and help – and then restacked it and switched it on.  He’ll probably not touch the thing for weeks now, on the grounds that he’s bound to get it wrong.  Not that it matters a lot, this is really not intended as a complaint.  Just a search for an insight – I’d ask him, but he’d just worry, introspection isn’t his thing.

In fact though, the Sage and I rarely irritate each other in daily life.  I was thinking about that as I squeezed the toothpaste to the top of the tube last night.  I squeeze it from the middle, you see, until it has to be put right.  The Sage is rather more likely to go from the bottom, but he isn’t in the least bothered what I do.  The point is, I’ve as much right to squeeze from the middle or top as he has from the bottom.

Similarly, he leaves the toilet seat up.  Well, that seems fine with me.  Mostly, he uses the loo with the seat up.  If I complained about having to put it down (which I never have), he’d be just as justified in asking me to raise it again after use so that he doesn’t have to.

But the number of times I’ve heard and read complaints about members of a family who get one or both of these things *wrong*.  There is no wrong.  Just because it’s not what you do doesn’t make it wrong.

Z seems to have digressed from the point, but ends up praising puddings

They are upgrading the BT Broadband service.  The main effect of this at present is that the internet connection has become erratic.  There have been a lot of men (I’m not using stereotypes, I haven’t seen a woman) looking into holes and, presumably, getting in them and doing things.  Our exchange is due to be upgraded tomorrow and we will lose both internet and phone for ten minutes.  After then, it’ll take ten days or so to settle down.  They do not necessarily promise a faster service, although speed ‘might’ improve. 
Yes, of course we’re pleased.  We get excited about the smallest crumb of comfort in Norfolk.  Even though, as I write, the broadband is blinking on and off and is fairly useless.  
I’m being terribly good and responsible about myself.  I received a letter inviting me to book a health check at the surgery – it arrived just before Christmas and I was far too busy to do anything about it then, as I was afterwards, but now I’ve made an appointment.  And now, I’ve booked myself an eye test too.  I can hardly believe how sensible I’ve become.  I went to the dentist too last month.  

Don’t worry, I’ll go right off the rails and do something thoroughly irresponsible before long.  I’m finding it unnerving too.

I waited for Ro’s 18th birthday keenly, you know.  I reckoned that I’d been a caring and dutiful mother for 29 years (including my first pregnancy) and I was about due a vice or two.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.  I was depressingly good.  Horribly good.  I could have worn medals for goodness.  And so nothing really happened.  
Except, you know, I got rid of guilt.  People feel guilty for all sorts of things that aren’t their fault.  Or that are, but don’t really matter.  Or even, that do matter but you have to make your mind up – take responsibility, forgive yourself or change what you’re doing.
Mind you, I have always had that tendency.  I remember way back in the ’80s, when it was fashionable never to have a moment to yourself, to push yourself to the limit and boast about how appallingly busy you were and you felt awfully guilty if you ever sat down or did anything you actually wanted to do.  Now darlings, can you imagine me giving that the time of day?  Not bloody likely.  I went the other way and looked shocked and sympathetic, saying that I needed hours of me-time to be able to function at all.
So my vice?  Not feeling guilty about food.  Not thinking that I have to pretend not to like something delicious because it’s considered bad.  I’m not talking about junk food, I’m talking about extravagant food.  Not necessarily expensive, not necessarily fattening, but totally delicious.  
When I was a child but old enough to start drinking tea, I decided that I’d learn to like it without milk and sugar, because that was how my parents drank it, so I thought that would make me more grown-up.   I still mostly drink tea black without sugar, as I do coffee, but I no longer think that’s more adult, because that was a child’s simplicity.  I admired my parents, who were grown up.  I wanted to be like them.  They didn’t take milk.  Therefore, if I didn’t take milk … no, of course you’re right.  Cutting out milk didn’t cut the mustard.  I was still immature – mind you, it’s been jolly convenient, because I don’t need anything but hot water and a teabag to have a good time.  
When I was a child, every family but mine had a pudding after each main meal – my mother was rather modern, watched her weight and didn’t have a sweet tooth, my father didn’t care for puddings (though he liked sweeties) – and hardly anyone was overweight.  How many families eat pudding regularly now?  Most people would say they’re too fattening.  I refuse to call obesity an epidemic because it bloody well isn’t infectious or contagious, there’s just a lot of it about.  But it’s not about what we eat at mealtimes, it’s how we live and how much we eat, and what we eat between meals.
I don’t have a particular craving for sweet things myself – though actually today I had a sudden temptation to buy halva and did.  I won’t open the pack for a while though, because once I do I’ll eat a bit every day because I love it.  I’ll open it when people are here to eat most of it for me.  But I am completely sympathetic to those who do because, apart from anything else, we’re programmed to.  Have you ever tried human milk?  Past the age of one or so, that is.  I have (ahem, mine, I hasten to add, I never fed a child anything I wouldn’t be prepared to try myself) and it is extremely sweet.  We’re born with the taste.  We add further tastes later, but it’s only natural to keep that first one.
So those of you on strict diets and those of you who only really like savoury foods, I’ll provide fruit and cheese at the party.  But there will also be a good array of puddings, because I am thoroughly in favour of them.  They finish a meal very nicely.  When you go out for a meal with a group of people, listen.  The chatter goes on regardless for the first and main courses.  And then, when pudding is served, there is a respectful silence as people start to eat.  It always happens.  And if you don’t want to put on weight, just have two mouthfuls and then exert willpower.  It’s quite simple.
*This post was inspired by Emma, the glorious Belgian Waffle, who writes beautifully and knows more than most of us about the ups and downs of life*
Oh, and by the way, the Sage and I are still eating CAKE!

Z browses

I had to get up betimes for the early service, at which I was sidesman.  I greeted the couple who came in at two minutes to eight cheerily.  “Good morning, how lovely to see you.  And you’re doubling our congregation!”

Well, it was frosty and cold and we weren’t all that surprised, but at least it was worth turning on the heaters.

This afternoon, the Sage (who had to go out) lit the fire for me and I started to sort out all those photographs that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  It was a bit dispiriting.  There are so many of them.  The early ones are fine, there aren’t that many – I’m putting some in an album and those that are too big are going in folders marked with people’s names – but there are loads of more recent ones.  I’ve written on the back of some pictures, where I think that in future my children won’t be able to identify someone or will wonder when they were taken.

I did find some interesting papers, and will write about that later.  What I do need to deal with are letters written to my great-great-great grandfather when he was MP for Southwark.  I also found some more info about him and his parents and grandparents, which I’d never known before.  I’m not actually very into genealogy – am I the only person in the world who doesn’t much care where I came from? – but it’ll be a starting point for any of my children or grandchildren who might want to take it further at some time.

Anyway, a pleasant afternoon sitting on the hearthrug browsing, with Doctor No on the television.  I should do this sort of thing more often.  Very restful and pleasant.

Our tiny upper lips are frozen

In the last few days, we’ve been visiting Kenny daily in hospital.  Yesterday, Dilly and Gus came with me, and it really cheered Kenny up.  He absolutely loves babies and children, they mean all the world to him.  His latest great-great-grandson was taken to visit him last week.

He was low because he’d just heard that his wife Muriel (they have been married nearly 9 years) had fallen in the night and been taken to hospital.  He didn’t know what was wrong, so was very anxious.  A doctor came to visit while I was there – he was lovely, said we weren’t to leave, we’d do more good than he would – and K took the opportunity to ask, if M was in hospital for long, could it be arranged for him to visit?  The doctor said it could, made sure it was written on the notes – it’s a lovely hospital, truly personal, loving care, great kindness at all levels.

However, today, when I went with Squiffany, I walked in behind Kenny’s family, including Muriel, on their way home from the Gallstone (you probably have to be a local to get this, if not look up Gt Yarmouth and look for the small town just to its south) hospital, so we hung back, not to gatecrash the reunion.  Only for a few minutes; we joined them afterwards and spent half an hour chatting to them.  K can’t really eat, he’s nauseous after a mouthful, so is losing weight quickly, but is in reasonable spirits considering.

Squiffany came in to spend the rest of the afternoon with me here, the Sage being out, and Gus came along too.  He was very pleased to discover I’d made CAKE! and happily ate morsels for quite some time.  I discovered that there were a couple of dozen eggs that had been laid in the last few days, so our meals are egg-based at present.

(A short pause there, because I realised that I hadn’t given the Sage any CAKE, so went to fetch him a slice.  I may well receive a kiss later.  I don’t get kissed every day, but CAKE or PUDDING!! get results)

Al called in when he arrived home from work, to say that at 5 am the temperature had been -10º C.  This is quite low for around here, although I understand that it was several degrees colder, just a few miles away.  When we went to visit Kenny, it was 4º, but half an hour later the temperature had dropped and it was not much above freezing.  All terribly good for our stiff upper lips, I suppose.

This weather is not good for arthritic hips.  Still, a year ago, I reckoned three to five years before an operation.  I think I’m on track.  I am so grateful to have a merely anatomical ailment that can be completely corrected by an hour-long operation.  I’ve always been incredibly lucky, absolutely blessed.

Which reminds me, last week when I went to the blood donor clinic, it turned out that it was my tenth donation.  I was slightly disconcerted to be given an envelope that contained a certificate and a badge (surely no one would actually wear the badge?).  In the post today arrived a new card (like a credit card) with more thanks.  Now, I’m not underestimating the value of donated blood – my sister and many friends have been grateful for it, it’s been live-saving.  But I haven’t really done anything.  I’ve only been donating for a short time (prompted by ‘Twirling in the Light’ Greg) and I don’t feel that I need or deserve such fulsome thanks every time.  “cheers love, that’s great” would be more than enough.

The Blog Party

Z and the Sage invite you to a Blog Party on Saturday, 26th May from 12.30 pm. You don’t have to be a blogger to come, you don’t have to have met us or been here before and, if you came last year to the Wall Party, you’re welcome to come again. And you’re welcome to bring your other half too, of course. It really is open house, it worked fine last year and it was great fun to meet so many of you.

Some of you, who have already responded to my previous suggestions of possible dates, are coming quite some way, and you are welcome to stay overnight. It may be that we will run out of bedrooms and in that case, an air bed or a mattress on the floor can be arranged if you don’t mind. Alternatively, friends of mine have a lovely farm guest house nearby and I can put you in touch (I haven’t yet checked that they have rooms that night, that’s on my to-do list soon). If you’re really coming a long way, you’re also welcome to stay on the Friday night, in which case you will be put to work counting out plates and things.

This time round, all food will be prepared in advance (I may not be the brightest, but I do learn and won’t rely on a barbecue and risk windy weather) so I hope to have time to chat to more than a few of you, although I don’t think I was missed much as you were all chatting among yourselves very animatedly. I’m happy to take food preferences, allergies and so on into account, just let me know. I like nothing better than feeding lots of people, so those of you who stay over will get fed on Saturday night (it’ll probably be soup and cheese, something like that, don’t get over-excited) and I will cook you breakfast on Sunday morning.

This is a very early notice, don’t think you have to commit yourself, but when it’s convenient, email me to let you know if you can come and if you want to stay – that does need to be as soon as possible, because I’ve already got a couple of guests booked in plus my sister and after the beds are taken it’ll certainly be a mattress in a sitting room rather than a bedroom and then we may run out of space (on the other hand, I may be exaggerating here and it’ll be fine, I’m a bit inclined to over-plan).

And indeed, Wink is a real person, not a facial tic and you have a golden opportunity to meet her and find out what I’m really like. Oh yes, she is impervious to bribes and I have no hope of stopping her.

More details to follow, very likely when we’re within three months of the event. I’ll do an invitation as a header. My email is on my profile, we live on the Norfolk/Suffolk border (practically straddling it, darlings) and of course I’ll send directions and so on.



Sent from my iPad

Z pokes her head over the parapet

I hardly like to report that the day has gone quite well, but then I’ve always been a woman to tempt providence and not touch wood.  I mean, pfft.  If it’s going to happen, not mentioning something won’t prevent it and vice versa (or possibly not, I’ve been getting so bound up in multiple negatives recently that I sometimes am not quite sure what I’ve actually said).  So – today has gone quite well.  Barry took us in to fetch a vehicle, which turned out to be the Sage’s, because we couldn’t get my car going again (it turned out that something had got dislodged when an attempt had been made to jumpstart the car, Mike sorted it out later), several items turned up in the post that I’d been waiting for and I didn’t forget Meals on Wheels.  Well, that’s not true.  I would have forgotten if not for the reminder that comes up on phone and computer. But I delivered, that’s the point.

I visited Kenny again and hope to take Gus in to see him tomorrow, all being well.  I spent the afternoon in Year 9 Music, doing, um, remashing.  I’m able to help reasonably well when there is any problem, can advise on keys, tempo, synchronising the beat, fading in and out and cross-fading, adding echo and so on, but on a purely technical level.  I don’t feel any confidence in myself.  I get on well with the pupils though, they’re great.  They’ve settled into a (slightly teasingly) respectful friendly manner with me, not quite the same as with a teacher because I’m not, but we’re all comfortable together.  I love it that my job enables me to feel at ease with teenagers, in a way that many people of my age with grown-up children wouldn’t be.  They need to know that people are on their side, life is quite tricky enough for them.  Far more so than when I was their age.  Blimey, it was the ’60s then, when we were all hopeful and didn’t know anything.  But nostalgia tells lies, there’s no such thing as a golden age (that’s a stiff upper lip thing, we all know that there will never be anything like the ’60s, in truth.