Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hoorah for the failed wannabe maneater!

Well, the Sage has come up trumps, that’s all I can say, and it may have taken a few years but who counts the years?

I shall not beat about the bush (which can be quite uncomfortable, so I’m told) but tell you straightaway, that Bobby the leopard is in residence.  I shall give you the link to the time I Told The Tale – goodness, almost four years ago.  Here, darlings.  The comments are really cool too, please do read them.

Anyway, he’s on the landing.  I’m so thrilled, I can hardly describe.

Actually, I’m going to give the Sage one of my special chocolates.  Excuse me.

As I said in the post, I wasn’t at all sure if Bobby would prove to have become hopelessly motheaten in his years in the barn, but he looks fine.  It’s possible, now he’s in the warm, that a load of woolly bears or other caterpillars or maggots will appear, horribly, but I’m the optimistic sort on the whole, and I hope that there will be no problem.

The Sage and Jamie were busy in the workshop when I went out to my village festival meeting and I guessed what they were up to but didn’t go and look, just called out that the Sage’s kipper was ready to be put in the oven.  When I arrived home, I was led upstairs to look.  Tomorrow, I shall take a picture and show you.  Remember, darlings, this leopard was no big game trophy.  Great Uncle Ronan only killed him to save his servant’s life.  If he’d been a trophy, he’d have quietly mouldered away in the barn, not exhibited proudly.  But anyway, Bobby is part of my childhood and I love him, failed wannabe maneater though he is.

Z shoulders responsibility

In the interests of fairness, I should say that it’s by no means all the Sage’s fault.  I’m just as untidy as he is – you should see the state of my study and I’ve got a spectacular floordrobe.  Mind you, I always knew and admitted it, whereas he married me under false pretences.  When I used to visit his house it was always tidy.  It wasn’t until I married him and moved in that I opened drawers and discovered that, before I was due to visit, he used to sweep everything off all the surfaces into them.  The writing wasn’t so much on the wall as in all those empty envelopes that he didn’t bother to throw away but kept with the more important former contents.

Nevertheless, we more or less overcame that (a large spare bedroom was unusable and packed to the gunwales* by the time we left our house in Lowestoft) and things were more-or-less reasonable for some time after we moved here, especially after we built an extension.  It all fell apart after Weeza’s wedding, when my hip started to give problems and I gradually became less able to keep things together.  This is not an easy house and it has a large garden, and once darling Kenny couldn’t manage any longer, the garden became too much for me.  I lost heart, frankly, and the housework suffered too, and I left the Sage to his own devices.  Devices and desires, dear friends.  His collecting habit extended beyond control.  He hasn’t changed over the years, it’s just that his brakes are not what they used to be and they were always poor.  I did enough cleaning and tidying to get by and no more and ignored the rest.

And so it’s not his fault, it’s not mine either.  It’s just that now I can’t deal with it any longer, I know that we won’t be able to stay in this house unless it’s easier to run and that means a lot less stuff.  He’s awfully reluctant to do anything about it, he’s not too keen on me at present because he thinks I’m being unreasonable (not that he’d say so to me, but he does to others), but I know my limits.  And so I’m having to push.  He’s being co-operative, though it’s not easy for him.

I haven’t started on the garages and outhouses yet.  Nor the cars.

*gunnels if you prefer, darlings, I grew up among sailors

Willing, if not able

Thinking about wills (thank you, Tim) reminded me of my mother’s.  One of her quirks in later life was to tweak its details every so often.  Only in minor ways, we found several former wills drawn up over a period of about five years and the main items were the same, but minor specific legacies to my sister and me were changed regularly – she’d left almost everything to us anyway, so there didn’t seem much point to this, but it evidently gave her some satisfaction.  The final change was a bit odd.  She left me her car, which she’d already given to me (before making the change), although I refused to accept the gift in case she became well enough to drive again, which she did, as it happened.  She left Wink a portrait of herself (of Wink, that is) that Wink had always disliked and which she refused to take, so it’s now somewhere in our attic.  The third stipulation was the odd one, though.  She declared that everything in her house should be left exactly as it was – well, obviously she didn’t mean not to clear out the fridge.  The furniture and everything.

Darlings, I’m normally a polite woman but this was a bit much.  “She wants it kept as a shrine?  For how long, forever?  She didn’t even own the house!”

Actually, she’d much have preferred what actually happened, which was that Al moved in (having redecorated and removed much of the furniture) and he and his family still live there.  She’d love that, far more than having all her things still there gathering dust nine years on.  

Z declutters

As a pleasing antidote to yesterday’s burst of domesticity, I spent the morning reading the papers and doing nothing else at all.  I didn’t even go shopping – with the result that I’m going to be rather using my ingenuity for a menu for tomorrow’s meals, but it had to be done.  I’ve got eggs, cheese, onions (well, shallots at any rate) and bacon, one can eat for a day on those.

I did do some sorting out this afternoon, mostly things that Wink and I inherited from our mother and which we’ve agreed should be sold. I can’t bear to think any longer that my children will have a horrible headache over Too Much Stuff when I die, though getting the Sage to acknowledge that either of us will do so is another matter.  He was enthusiastically agreeing to the sale of anything I looked at (I refrained from saying that it wasn’t up to him) as a way of not addressing the load of stuff he has that he really neither wants nor needs.  The hundred or so paintings he bought without mentioning them to me over the past few years has pushed me beyond endurance however, quite apart from the things I did know about, and a major clear-out has been agreed, in principle at least.

My mother and father loved each other dearly, but had quite a volatile relationship.  My mother loved drama, which my father hated, and when pushed too far he verbally exploded, although he got over it quickly.  He hated being nagged (although who doesn’t?) and my mother said, but if you did what I asked at once, I wouldn’t have to say it again.  And that’s a fact. “Darling, please could you?” – “You know I mentioned?” – “I hate to mention it again” – “Have you forgotten?” – “Just sodding do it, will you, like I asked three months ago and the deadline is tomorrow” – well, we all have been on both sides of that, and I honestly do try to avoid mentioning anything more than twice, but that generally just means that nothing ever gets done at all.

I’ll give you a couple of examples, although they aren’t so much actions as agreements.  When Al was three years old, I raised the matter of having a third child, something that had been agreed in principle when he was born.  The Sage didn’t answer.  So I didn’t mention it again.  When Al was seven and a half, he suggested we have another baby.  Ro was born ten months after that.  When our dog Simon died I wanted another dog, but the Sage looked ahead to when it would finally die and hated to think of that and preferred not to have a dog at all.  It took four years before he agreed and I never mentioned the subject in that time, much as I wanted to.

I’m old now, however, and I’ve run out of time and patience.  So if something doesn’t happen, I’m afraid I’m prepared to nag.  Well, to mention it again, maybe two or three times, over a matter of months.  But the only way I can justify expecting him to make a sacrifice is to make one at least as large myself.

I’ve turned out five boxfuls of books so far.  And a whole load of silver plate.  Oh, and four decanters.  Well, it’s a start.

Half a crown

Of course, the disaster at Aberfan in 1966 made a huge impression on me, as it did on everyone at the time. For those of you who are too young to know or don’t live here, it is a village in Wales where a coal slag heap slid, following heavy rain, onto the village primary school, killing nearly all the pupils and their teachers. The most appalling tragedy, everyone was shocked and grieved for their parents and the few survivors.

What I remember too is that there was a fundraising appeal. How money would help wasn’t that clear, but there was a big response. We were asked to bring contributions to school and my mother gave me half a crown to take in. I never told her, but it was quite embarrassing. Everyone else brought in sixpence or a shilling at most and I rather stood out. Since my main aim in life at that time was to remain unnoticed in the background, I was particularly uncomfortable in case it looked as if I was showing off.

Half a crown, two shillings and sixpence. Twelve and a half pence. There’s inflation for you, it would be an embarrassingly small amount now. I wonder what happened to the money – apart, perhaps, from funeral expenses, I can’t think that any of the bereaved parents would have wanted to take it for themselves.

I’ve had a rare burst of domesticity in the last couple of days. Unable to sleep the night before last, I got up early and could think of nothing better to do than clean the aga and polish cutlery. Today, I defrosted the fridges. Well no, one of them is the frost-free sort so I cleaned it – I’m not sure what happened while I was away but it was slightly and unidentifiably whiffy when I got home. The other one has a freezer compartment with a very slightly deficient seal. It’s fine for weeks, then a slight build-up of ice soon turns into a snowstorm. Not literally, mind you.

Next week I shall revert to my normal slapdash self. Domesticity doesn’t suit me in the least. Why, I even ironed the skirt I’m wearing this morning. All quite worrying. I’ve been cleaning windows and everything.

Have a good weekend, everyone.


Sent from my iPad

Z blathers on a bit

Just one more chunder, as Weeza elegantly put it (I suppose that should be ‘chunder, or is that just too pretentious for words?) last night and Augustus has been much better.  They’re coming over tomorrow afternoon for fun and jollity, or as much of it as one can have when the weather keeps going from bright sunshine to chilly rain.

The Sage bought a yearsworth of stamps today.  He’d just paid the half-year’s rates, or Council Tax as it’s more correctly known these days, so needed access to my bank account.  Crumbs.  Do stock up on stamps before the price goes up at the end of the week, darlings.  If you think it hurts now…

I should put up a few more photos from India, but I’ve rather run out of steam for now.  The henna painting on my hands has almost faded away now, it always goes quite quickly once I’m home because of the chlorine in the water.  I finished unpacking my suitcase today – I know, darlings, quite incredibly quick, I’ve hardly been home a week … well, nine days … it’s quite understandable when I don’t unpack until I’m repacking for the next time.  Which reminds me, I’ve got to book some tickets.  It’s all pressure, innit?  Those First World problems.

It’ll be the Sage’s next auction sale tomorrow week.  He tells me he’s got a lot of commission bids already and a few phone calls booked, so that augurs well.  He’s managed to talk me into three sales again this year, but at least the next one isn’t until September.  Still, it’s a lot of work.  I’m not really into work.  More into cultivating my garden, metaphorically speaking.

Z is a Good Mother

I haven’t got around to looking out any more photos yet, sorry.  I spent the day with Weeza and the children.  There was a phone call around 10.30, with Weeza wondering if I happened to be free…? Gus had a stomach bug and there was a lot of washing to be done as a consequence and Zerlina, who was quite well, to be looked after.  I gave apologies for my meeting and hot-footed over to them.

Babies can recover remarkably quickly and he seemed to be over the worst by the time I left this afternoon.  We’re hoping no one else catches it.  I’ll make sure I keep a decent level of alcohol intake over the next few days, believing that to be the surest protection against pretty well all germs.

A friend came to dinner tonight, being down from Aberdeen on business.  A relaxed and cheerful evening, he was good company.

That’s about it, it seems.  I haven’t done anything else.  And it rained most of the day.  

Z-ero, Sage- one

I decided to turn out the area under the stairs in the hall.  “I’ll help you,” said the Sage, which I thought was nice of him.  I was free this morning so this was to be the day.  “You won’t throw away anything before I’ve seen it, will you?” said the Sage which, I realised, was the reason for his helpful attitude. Hmm.  I told him I wouldn’t throw away anything of his before he’d seen it.

The job was duly done and there are a couple of boxes of things to be got rid of, mostly silver plate that had been put there after my mother died because we didn’t quite know what to do with it.  Our hall is divided into two – the hall itself with the front door (which we hardly ever use, when someone knocks on it we assume it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons and the passageway leading from the side door which we use all the time (the back door usually has a stack of bottles in front of it waiting to be taken to be recycled).  The passage near the side door was full of boxes, stuff to be taken to the bin, to be recycled, to be stored or sold.  “I’ll see you about 5 o’clock,” said the Sage.  “I’ve an appointment in Ipswich.”

I was suckered again.  All the clearing up to do and he was beetling off.  I never learn.

Actually, I’ve been really tired since lunchtime.  I don’t know quite why, maybe it’s the damp and dreary weather, because Dilly says she’s tired too with no particular reason.  I went to sleep for a while this afternoon, curled up in an armchair (and woke with indigestion as a consequence) and it took me ages to get going again.  And now, honestly, all I can think of is going to bed.  I went to make some coffee, in the hope of it waking me up a bit, but couldn’t be bothered when I discovered I had to grind more beans (I usually grind enough for two or three days at a time) so made Earl Grey fumé instead.  And if I’m too tired to use an electric grinder, perhaps bed is the best place for me.

The wheels on the bus went round and round…

The bus trip wasn’t brilliant, to be honest.  It was quite interesting, but Maja and Marina sensibly cut things short after lunch.  Wink and I didn’t, and wished we had when we discovered we had to walk a kilometre to an ashram (and another one back again) in the heat of the day when we’d already walked a lot.  We opted to stay on the bus.  Or rather I did, I read, Wink went and talked to a group of children playing cricket.

An entertaining moment was when we were by a lake.  A group of schoolchildren were just leaving as we arrived.  They were adorable, but that isn’t the entertaining bit.  Someone was watering the shrubs from a hosepipe, and after a while he realised that no more water was coming out.  Another man carefully unkinked the hose, but it didn’t help.

You might notice from this picture what the problem actually was.

It was even better when they tried to rejoin the two lengths of hose and water sprayed everywhere.

We went to another church, where there was a window depicting a saint whose name I’ve forgotten, but who was rather petulantly showing us a graze on his knee.  Marina recognised him, apparently he was rather badly wounded but his dog licked his injuries which miraculously healed at once.  Presumably, the sore knee was the final hurt that the dog hadn’t licked yet, but the flirty yet indignant display of knee was highly entertaining.


After the Hindu wedding celebrations were over, most of us headed off in various directions for a few days before we were due to convene in Vallore for the Christian ceremony.  Wink and I were going to Pondicherry.  We went with Maja and Marina and left them to visit the Shore Temple in Mahabalapuram (I should have checked the spelling of that, it’s not way out) before finishing the journey.

I took several snaps from our hotel bedroom but not one of the sea view, a few hundred metres away.  This view, however, shows what an Indian building site looks like.

It isn’t really quite indicative because they’re just being used as supports, but those precarious twigs, when lashed together, comprise scaffolding in India.  It’s remarkable.  They don’t look as if they’d support anything at all, but I’ve seen it over and again in the past.  And another thing, it’s women who do the labouring.  Men are the builders, but women fetch and carry and do the heavy work.

Wink and I walked down the road towards the sea.  There’s not exactly a beach.

 The statue of Gandhi provided welcome shade for a couple of men and several dogs who slept underneath.

 That Pondicherry was part of France right through and beyond the days of the British Raj was apparent in the street names and in some other bilingual signs.

 It was hot and the sun was strong.  I wore my big floppy hat, or I’d have been in trouble, but Wink is quite impervious to the sun’s rays.  However, we were both pleased when our destination, the tourist office, became visible.

 A rather charming touch was that there were two clocks in the office, one giving Indian time and the other giving French time.  It was wrong as it happens, because it hadn’t been adjusted for European summer time, but no matter.

The beach opposite the tourist office.

We found out that there was a tourist bus daily doing tours of temples and so on in and around the city. So we decided that we’d have our massage and pedicure and do the tour the day after.

On the second evening, we tried out the rooftop restaurant.  We liked it very much.  It was quite breezy up there, but that meant that it wasn’t too hot.  We looked out over the lights of the city.