Monthly Archives: March 2012

Z perks up

A brilliant day today, very successful.  I’ve bought Squiffany’s birthday present for tomorrow, two dresses for me for India, spent the best part of three hours having lunch and chatting with Roses (we’d left it far too long since we saw each other, we won’t make that mistake again) and then went to the dentist and now have a shiny new crown on a bottom left molar.  And I felt quite calm and relaxed after all that and sorted out NADFAS paperwork that, to my startlement, nearly drove me to panic the other day – really, I was in such a state that I couldn’t even start and my heart was still a-flutter half an hour later.  Muttering JFDI, as Weeza puts it, I just did and now it’s done.  Well, the easier half at any rate.  The bit that’ll make me swear is still to do, but that’ll be all right.

The other good thing that happened this morning was that I actually cancelled a meeting.  Yes, darlings, I really did.  I reckoned that there was nothing so vital as to need to take up our valuable time, so I emailed round and got very cheerful replies from people who were happy to be granted an extra hour of free time. I’m spending mine having coffee with one of the others on the committee.  Excellent use of it, don’t you think?

In the next couple of days, I’ve got to finish sorting out my holiday insurance (I know, I know, I’ve got one quote but I want something to compare it with) and reply to two wedding invitations.  That’ll make three weddings in less than four months!  And the reception for one of them will be held here, which will be great fun.  It’s the daughter of our former Rector, now working in Oulton Broad – she asked if it might be possible to have a marquee on our front field.  Of course we said yes and we’re really looking forward to it.

And now I’m leaving you, because I haven’t had time to read the papers yet.  So goodnight to you all.

The Zandwoman

The Sage took Ro and Phil with him to the shooting range today and they had a lot of fun.  Phil had never shot before and he and Ro are keen to do it again and Weeza is tempted too.  I think that’s a brilliant idea, a good way of spending a couple of hours on a Sunday and then they can come back here for lunch.

While they were out I was in church.  I was playing the music today, but felt the songs weren’t really suited to the organ so played them on the clarinet.  We’ve recently updated the sound system and, for the first time, I was amplified.  Sounded quite good from where I was standing, I rather hope I might be asked to do that again sometime.  I like playing the clarinet and I like playing the piano (although to a very poor standard nowadays) but I have never been an accomplished organist and I rarely enjoy it.

Weeza and Phil brought fish pie for lunch, Ro brought apple strudel and cream and I provided a chocolate sponge pudding and custard, and the vegetables (carrots, cauliflower and courgettes, if you want to know) and it all went down well.  I sent them home with some fairy cakes that I’d have served with tea if Al and family had come through, but they still aren’t at all well and Weeza and co certainly don’t want to catch their bug, so better not mingle if there’s still a risk.

After lunch, Gus was tired and started to cry, so I picked him up and took him out of the room.  A few minutes later, I returned with a sleeping baby.  The secret of my success?  A single recitation of The Walrus and the Carpenter did the trick.  He was asleep by the time I mentioned the ‘shoes and ships and sealing wax.’

I’m not sure that I’ve ever mentioned (although I may well have, if you’ve been reading all this nonsense for the past six years there is little of my life that you do not know) that I have two ways of keeping young children quiet while waiting to be served in restaurants.  The first is teaching them that particular verse of the W. and the C. – it takes children a surprisingly long time to pick it up accurately, possibly because it is more-or-less nonsense (I’ve never yet had to move on to Jabberwocky) and the second is napkin folding.  I teach them the waterlily and the slipper, both of which are quite simple to do but take some practice to learn.  When I was quite small, my mother used to get me to fold the napkins when she had friends round for dinner.  I realise, of course, that it was just to get me out of her hair so that I wouldn’t try her patience by ‘helping’ in the kitchen.  But that’s okay.  It’s proved its use over the years.

It’s raining, so Z blogs rather than gardens

I was talking yesterday to a friend about being looked at when you go into a village pub.  You know how it is, all heads swivel as you open the door and you’re greeted, smiled at, eyed up and down or turned away from, depending.  In our village pub I get a welcoming ‘hello’ at the least, though I don’t get down there very often nowadays.  It used to be my post-church excursion where I was bound to find a few mates, we’d have a couple of drinks and then go home for lunch.  Not all the wives turned up because they were cooking, but I allowed for it in my lunchtime planning.  However, once we started to serve coffee after the service every week, I never had time.  I was churchwarden at that time and stayed until the end and was in the last group to leave.  By the time I arrived at the pub, my friends were about to leave so I didn’t bother any more.  I always meant to start again but, in the way of the world, that group of people don’t necessarily turn up regularly either,  and I can’t really leave church without having a cup of coffee because it would be unfriendly so I’m still on the late side.  So John’s sales have diminished by a pint or two a week for several years now.

Some time ago, I chatted to the sister of a friend, whose son was married to a Japanese girl.  They’d met when he was working in Japan, married and were living in London.  She wasn’t finding the adjustment all that easy, especially when they visited his family. The previous weekend they had come to visit and gone to the pub and she was very self-conscious.  “Everyone looked at me when I walked in the door!” she said.  “It’s not so bad in London because it’s so cosmopolitan, but I stand out as a Japanese woman and I’m stared at.”  They explained that she’d have been stared at anyway, not because she was Japanese but because she wasn’t a local, but she didn’t believe it.

I’ve noticed that on many occasions though, that someone thinks that their experience is because of their particular circumstances when actually it’s what is likely to happen to anyone.  I expect there are times when it occurs with me too (because that is a logical conclusion).

I was going to give an example there but I’ve completely forgotten it.  The Sage just came and asked me for help in sending an email.  It turned out that he’d put a comma instead of a dot in the address so it was quickly sorted out, but I’ve lost my train of thought so will go on to another one.

The interviews yesterday were both very good and it was one of those awful occasions when you’re going to have to disappoint someone whom you would be very happy to appoint because there were two applicants and only one job.  The worst things about all the interviews, and we’ve had about twenty new appointments to make (I’ve not been involved in all of them), is that the reason is the closure of the middle schools.  So there have been and still are a lot of teachers and other staff facing redundancy. We are so conscious that someone we do not pick might find it hard to get another job in the area, especially if they would prefer to move to a secondary rather than a primary school but do not have GCSE teaching experience.  We can ease them in – after all, some of our teachers have no recent experience of teaching 11 and 12 year olds – but schools not involved in the reorganisation would expect them to just slot in and not being able to do so could count against them.  So it’s quite upsetting to think about.  And I turn up, do the interviews, discuss the applicants with the other interviewers and we come to an agreement, but I’m not the one who has to tell the unlucky ones that they haven’t got the job.  So my sympathy was with the Head too, because that was his job yesterday afternoon.

I did once have to do it, actually.  I rang the successful person first, who was very pleased of course, and I asked for confirmation of acceptance (I’m not the biggest fool in the world, though not the brightest spark either, and if that person had said ‘no’ then the other one would have been offered the job, they were both good) and received it, and then I phoned the other.  And she cried.  I wanted to as well then.

The Zed Shed

Yes thank you, I’m rather more steady today.  But I’ve a feeling I’m in for another wakeful night, because nighttime is when one worries.  Daytime is when you get it all into perspective.  Pah.  Really.

The family next door is still unwell.  Pugsley made it to school yesterday – I’m not sure if he had to come home at some point during the day but anyway, he wasn’t well enough today.  Everyone has a hacking cough, a raised temperature and feels generally rotten, apart from Squiffany, who is fine.  The Sage and I are also fine.  Squiff came through for a while this afternoon, having a family who doesn’t want to do anything much with her and just lies on the sofa coughing isn’t the most fun for a lass.

Yet more paving is being done in the garden, this time in the kitchen garden.  It’s part of a job that’s now in its third year.  Those of you who have been here – it’s between the greenhouse and the right-hand end of the wall, it all needs to be levelled, pathed and a shed erected.  There’s so much to do before I go away, I don’t know how it’ll be done.  To make things more difficult, the soil is already drying out and a hosepipe ban will be brought in in April.  And there’s me wanting to put in a lot of new plants.  It’s going to be a bugger, lugging watering cans about – but it’s been very dry for ages, one can hardly complain.  Anglian Water have got a good record for managing water supplies and not having a ban, especially considering this is the driest area of the country.

The reason the job is taking so long is that this is about the only time we get around to it.  My kitchen garden was originally 6 beds, each about 35 feet long and 4 feet wide with concrete paths in between.  The reason for this was to make it manageable, not to have to walk on the beds because you can reach from both sides to the middle, and not to have to dig or manure areas where you were going to end up walking.  It’s always worked very well, with the additional bonus that rain doesn’t soak into where plants aren’t going to grow, and the unexpected benefit that the concrete heats up in the sun and this helps to warm the soil.

As time went by, we kept increasing the area and I had a large section that I used for various things, mostly Jerusalem artichokes in the end (I’ve got rid of them for the time being, they spread too much.  I like Jerusalem artichokes, but they are very tall and quite invasive).  Then, when we were planning to build the Wall, I extended it further again towards the drive, rather than have an expanse of grass between the wall and the drive that the Sage would be unable to resist using for storing wood or something.  We’ve been dividing this area into beds, but kept getting too busy or the weather was too hot or something – anyway, I hope we’ll be able to finish it this time, though I’m quite doubtful.  The other thing is, of course, that the veg garden is now far too big for us.  Still, the other advantage of the beds is that one can cover over those that aren’t in use and the job of bringing them back into use another year isn’t too massive.

Oh, and I’m not going to let the Sage put anything into the shed.  It’ll be my shed and he’s not going to fill it up with a load of stuff.

Z gives in

No really, it’s the bloody internet that’s the real problem. They said 10 day disruption, it’s been twice that and it’s always when you’re doing something important that the connection goes down.  Darlings, I’m so at the end of my tether that I’ve apologised in advance to the Sage in case I’m snappy or rude, because I won’t mean it.  He’s being kind and understanding.  I’m mostly wishing I was sober.

I’m done, darlings.  I’m exhausted, will read the papers and go to bed.  Sorry not to be my usual self.

Z has downs and ups

The Sage has made a small alteration to the catalogue, so Weeza and I have made the changes, taken the photos and Weeza has given me the latest PDF on a memory stick for, we hope, the final proof-read.  Though I’m not printing it tonight, it can wait until tomorrow.  But there’s always so much to do, how am I going to ever get it done?  I’ve got three meetings tomorrow, two at the school and one here, with our insurance broker, and I’m falling behind on my other work and the garden needs so much done at this time of the year.  I’m trying very hard to keep a balance, being under quite a lot of pressure, so took much of today off with Weeza and Gus, but all that means is a bigger backlog.  I used to be able to get a lot done in the evenings or early mornings, but I get too tired now and need a long time to unwind or I don’t sleep.

Sometimes, honestly, I think that a proper 9-5 job and then come home and get on with domestic stuff would be far easier.  Too late for me, though, I’m not going to do it now.  I’m close to juggling deadlines, though, and am feeling the stress of it.

Oh bum.  Sorry.  This is the upbeat blog, where I remind us all that life is splendid and every moment to be appreciated.  And I certainly did enjoy today.  We went to the very good little café at the local garden centre for lunch and then went and mooched around looking at plants.  We spent a lot longer than we’d planned because Gus went to sleep and so, since he would have woken on being put in the car, we stayed, walking and talking, until he woke up again.

Good news of the day is that the Head has just become a grandfather again for the third time, though the first baby for the couple concerned.  I’m sure I’ll see photos before the week is out.  Like the Sage and me, he and his wife are doting grandparents.

And I’ve just had an email from Dilly asking us to join them for Squiffany’s birthday tea next Tuesday.  And the family will all be together on Sunday.  So I’m going to stop worrying and enjoy life after all.  What else is there to do?

Flowers for Z

I’m trying to think of something to write that doesn’t involve droning on about what I did today.  Endlessly fascinating, my life is of course, but really only to myself.

I should put it on record that the Sage has bought me flowers two weeks in a row, if two is enough to make a row.  Mind you, he’s careful to remove any hint of romanticism or anything like that.  Dora admired the tulips on Saturday.  I said that the Sage had brought them home. “Well, I was buying some for Muriel, so I thought I’d better.”  Today, he brought a bunch of daffodils.  “Ma’s birthday, I put some flowers on her grave and these were left over.”

I know my place.  And I’m appreciative indeed, he doesn’t normally buy me flowers or anything else.  Not that he’s uncaring or ungenerous, just – well, if I collected any sort of antique he’d buy me things all the time, but one collector in the family is a lot more than enough.

I’m afraid that the nasty cough is spreading through the household next door.  It started with Pugsley, who was poorly enough to miss two days of school last week and was still at home today.  Al was ill on Saturday, but is soldiering on with work.  Yesterday, Hay started to cough and coughing makes him sick so things are rather difficult.  Today, it was Dilly’s turn.  She says that Squiffany is complaining that no one is taking much notice of her.  I rather doubted that Squiffany is receiving much sympathy – I said that surely it’s her job to look after anyone, anyway.  The Sage and I are still fine and we’re being careful not to let a day pass without an alcoholic drink, that’s the mistake that so often lets a bug in.

I’ve received an email asking me if I’ll help judge the Denton Show in September.  Terribly flattered as always, I’ve agreed.  I must get dates in my diary, I’m booking holidays and so on and haven’t got all the time blanked off.  Asking for trouble.

Weeza is coming over tomorrow, hoorah!  I’ll keep her and the children away from next door, mind you.

Where there’s muck there’s Z

It’ll be something new tomorrow.  I’ve often been part of an interviewing panel, but next week, for the first time, I’ll be observing applicants teach before the interviews.  They always do take a class and are observed as part of the process, it’s just that I haven’t been involved before.  It will make for a busy week as, if I’m doing it with one, I’ll have to do it with all, but it’s all more fun than housework, hey.

I nearly sowed seeds in the greenhouse today.  The Sage said he’d bought some compost last week so I went and opened a bag – and it didn’t look as I’d expected it to look.  He’d bought manure instead.  I’m sure he didn’t mean to, we buy that from the farm not in bags, but I haven’t been able to ask him because he’s been out visiting various friends and clients all day and on the phone all evening, so we’ve hardly had an opportunity to speak to each other.  And in the short half hour we were having dinner and did, a bag of muck wasn’t the most interesting subject matter.  Well, that is, I think it’s quite reasonably interesting if you’re discussing the finer points of manure, but simply a query whether its purchase was intentional is not so much.

When I was a child and we had a full-time gardener who took his job very seriously, the matter of manure was certainly important.  I remember very little about it, just that different flowers and vegetables did better with different animals’ ordure.  Sheep droppings used to be steeped in water, the liquid diluted and used to feed/water begonias, that I do remember.

My parents and their gardener were very keen on horticultural shows and competed at local level and at the Norfolk and Suffolk shows.  My father’s name was on any trophies won, with the gardener, Mr Weavers, being given the prize money and his name mentioned on the card.  It took endless hours to make preparations and we were only allowed the most misshapen vegetables in the week before the show.  It was not unusual for a whole row of potatoes to be dug up to find six perfectly matched ones.  That they matched was quite as important as them being perfect specimens.  As for flowers, Mr Weavers would sit for hours dipping delphinium stems in hot water then in cold to encourage the top flowers to open whilst the bottom ones were still perfect.  I remember my father holding a dinner plate in front of a begonia bloom and the flower being visible all the way round.

Somehow, I didn’t inherit the competitive impulse at all.  I’ve supported a WI Area competition a few times with jam and lemonade and so on (I was particularly pleased with 19/20 for my lemonade as it was the first time I’d ever made it) and the village competitions, making a scarecrow with Ro one year (we won with the Reverend Paul Pitt) but otherwise I’m not really interested.  I enjoy judging though – as most of you know, I’ve been asked for several years to judge the home economics classes at Denton show and I take that on very conscientiously.

I turn ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ on its head, rather.

Z gets around

This last week, the Sage and I have mostly been doing sensible, practical things regarding paperwork and so on.  So we felt entitled to relax and enjoy Ro and Dora’s company this evening when they came over for supper.  Steak and sticky toffee pudding went down well, with the Sage hovering anxiously over the last slice, hoping that no one else would claim it.  Ro having taken the precaution of taking his second helping along with his first (he knows his dad only too well), the Sage was lucky.

Finally, the warm weather that has been tantalising us all week with an apparent promise arrived and it’s been a lovely day, though still a nip in the breeze.  We’ve had several broken panes of glass in the greenhouses over the winter and these are being replaced before I get started – I used to be very quick to sow seeds, but now I’m not.  The weather is so variable, you get plants growing well and then a cold snap with frosty nights and sunny days and you get frost damage on some plants and sun scorch on others, and now I wait until we’re into March before I even start on the greenhouse veg.  Which should mean about now, of course.

Ro spent some time using my iPad this evening.  He’s considering buying one.  He rather spurns the whole Apple thing, but he says that no other tablet comes close as yet and he reckons it won’t for another couple of years.  I recommended getting one with a lot of memory, not a basic model.  You think you won’t need it, but music and photos take up an awful lot of memory and my original 16 GB iPhone soon was full and I had to take a lot of stuff off it.  He loaded Google Docs on it, wanting to avoid Apple products as far as possible, but it was taking ages and they had to leave before it was uploaded.  Since our BT “upgrade” the broadband connection has been appalling.  Noticeably slower, keeps going down, nearly three weeks on (they warned that this might happen for ten days, hem hem) and no better reception  when away from the hub.

This evening, I’m listening to The Beach Boys.  Blimey, that takes me back.  I steer clear of too much nostalgia normally, keeping to the here and now most of the time – but once in a while it’s no bad thing.  Or so I tells myself.

Blog is the spur

I spent most of yesterday with Hadrian and this morning with Augustus.  Babies, once they are of an age to smile and give kisses, are the most adorable and heart-warming creatures.  I feel a sensation as if the dry shell around my old heart swells and cracks with love for them – I don’t suppose that’s what’s actually happening though – maybe one of you, more expert than I in anatomy, could advise.  But I do love them and am enchanted to find that they love me.  I stayed for lunch both days.  Dilly is using a way of weaning Hay that seems to involve simply giving him pieces food to suck and taste, rather than spoon-feeding him purées.  To start with, he didn’t actually swallow much but now can manage various foodstuffs.  The latest thing is spaghetti.  Up to last week he was mostly mashing it about on his plate, but now he’s using his four teeth to masticate it and then swallows.  She says it’s loads easier and he enjoys it and is getting a far wider range of foods to taste.  She does spoon-feed him once in a while, particularly fromage frais, which he very much enjoys.  An advantage of the method is that, from the start, he’s eating pretty much what the family does, or as much of it as is suitable for him.

Out in the garden, we’re finally making preparations to construct the potting shed.  I’m abandoning the small soft fruit garden, which has become dreadfully overgrown.  The paths will be removed and the paving reused for the base of the shed and around it, and we’ll put the area down to grass.  Jamie suggests planting bulbs so I can pick the flowers for the house but they cause no work, and maybe some small fruit trees in the future.  I’ve got more kitchen garden than we need or than I can look after already.  I do need to start work out there rather than just look at the neatly prepared beds, but I’m strangely disinclined at present.  When I think what a keen vegetable gardener I used to be – maybe I’ve done it for too many years.  I only really enjoy the early stages now, sowing seeds and raising seedlings.  Weeds always grow faster than anything else, and I really hate weeding, which always seems like the garden equivalent of dusting, something unnoticed and unappreciated unless it isn’t done, whereupon it’s glaringly obvious that your work has been neglected.  But I will get going soon, I didn’t grow veggies last year because the spring was so dry and I really did miss them.  Having to buy everything just wasn’t the same.  I have a childlike excitement at picking the first beans or courgettes of the year and love to plan a meal around home-grown vegetables.

There, you see.  I’ve managed to kindle some enthusiasm.  Blogging is very good for me.