Monthly Archives: September 2012

Z sees her friends! Some of them, that is. Not blog friends

I had a rotten night but a really good day.  I was so tired I went to bed early and was wide awake soon after midnight.  I had less than an hour’s sleep after that.  In the end, I cried.  Honestly, darlings, I was that pathetic.  I had to go to the bathroom for some tissues because wiping my eyes on the pillowcase wasn’t good enough and even I’m not going to blow my nose on the sheet.

Anyway, things improved once I gave up and got up, and I texted Ro to see if he’d like to take me out to lunch.  And, dear boy, he said yes.  So off I went to my Nadfas lecture, which was jolly good.  Really excellent.  The lecturer is not a young woman – well over 70 at the least, but I’ve heard her several times over the years and she hasn’t lost her touch one bit.  This time it was about Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.  And it wasn’t just the lecture that was brilliant either.  I arrived, signed in and was heading off to the auditorium to find a seat when the new Chairman came along.  Her face lit up and she came to hug me and I felt so welcome that, in my overtired state, I nearly got weepy again (but didn’t actually, because I’m not a girly) and I wished her well (because it was her first time as Chairman) and then the last Chairman before me came along and we all had a happy few minutes.  I saw several other friends too after the lecture and can’t think how I was daft enough to put obligations before enjoyment over the past year and only got to one lecture.  Do remind me, won’t you?  Fun comes first.

We went for lunch at the new J@m1e 0l1ver Italian restaurant.  I had spaghetti with vongole, Ro black spaghetti with scallops, both very nice.  We were amused by the waitress’s spiel and by the group of yummy mummies that came in, but it was a good cheerful atmosphere, if a bit “hi, my name’s Laura and I’m your new best friend and these are our specials” formula – but better than being slapped in the face with last week’s kipper and, as I say, the food was good which is the main thing.  And it was my birthday (you know, the one I decided to ignore) treat, so Ro paid, which was jolly generous considering he’s got to find a deposit to buy a house within weeks.

I still have to go back and finish my dog posts.  I nearly got as far as Chester, didn’t I?  Tomorrow, darlings.


We’ve had a young sixth-former staying with us for the past ten days and I’m not sure for how much longer. She’s daughter of friends of friends, lives in Berlin and, in Germany, they have the most enlightened option that students can opt to take their A Level equivalent in three years instead of two and spend half of the first year abroad, attending school and living with a family. This all worked out famously except that I didn’t know a suitable family. So, if she finds someone she would like to stay with and the parents agree, she will move out, but she’s welcome here until then.

It’s a lot of fun, having a teenager in the house again. And the Sage and I have upped our game considerably. Instead of eating breakfast on the hoof, we sit at the dining table (I’m putting on weight already) and we sit longer over dinner, chatting, as well. She’s delightful company and kindly overlooks our elderly, dull demeanour. She helps with the cooking and is no trouble at all.

She has her own laptop, but unfortunately it’s rather an old one and the DVD player doesn’t work any more. So she borrowed my Mac at the weekend to watch the films she had bought. Which was such fun that she appeared hopefully at my elbow an hour ago … “um, Z, can I ask you something?” “You’d like to borrow my computer again?  Okay, give me five minutes to finish this, then I’ve got several Scrabble games I haven’t played for the last three days.”

So I’m back on the iPad.

In fact, I’m going to be away for a few days soon because a friend is celebrating her 100th birthday and I have been invited for tea – she doesn’t want to have a party. Her younger sister died last month which is a great sadness for her, of course, and she would like her friends and family to call in a few at a time. She still lives by herself in her own home and is remarkably well and totally together mentally. So I’ll go and stay with Wink, visit Dodo (yes, really) and maybe see if a blogger or two in the Wiltshire and way home from Wiltshire direction might be available for a visit?  The birthday is the 27th and I’ll stay for a day or two after that.

And all we have to do is find Elle a place to stay while I’m away. Obviously, she can’t stay here with the Sage. There is a possibility though, and whilst Elle is speaking to the daughter, I will drop an email to her parents, whom I know. 

What, Z brood? Never!

It’s been quite busy here for the last few days what with guests staying and the Sage’s sale on Friday night. So I’m sorry I haven’t been around – actually, I lent my computer to one of our guests, who is still here and I must tell you all about it soon. I’ll have it back tomorrow, at least for a few days, so I’ll be able to catch up with things.

Actually, I’m having a great time. Ro and Dora came over to supper last night, it’s all been very sociable and you do know how much I like being sociable. Several weeks of meetings start on Wednesday, and you also know that being busy is good for me. Because otherwise I worry, even if I have nothing to worry about.

I haven’t read any blogs for a few days, so I do hope that all is well with you. I have at least been dipping into Google + and Facebook, so I’ve seen a few of you. I’ve just check Google Reader though and there are 295 unread posts. Oh dear. It’ll take a while to say hello to everyone individually, so it’ll have to be HELLO from here instead for now.

Tomorrow, darlings. Love you lots, as the young people say xx

When the Sage turned detective

I don’t seem to have told you about the time that the Sage enabled the police to apprehend a burglar.

Those of you who have visited us know that we have various outbuildings.  Hardly anything of mine is in any of them, but the Sage has them piled high with Stuff.  I’ve no idea what most of it is.  Years ago – at least 15 years, I should think, when they were more useful buildings because you could get in the doors and do things once you were inside, the Sage had taken a pair of oil paintings down there because he was going to take them out of their frames because the glass was dirty on the inside and he wanted to clean it.  Having taken them there, he left them for a few weeks, as you do, and when he went and looked again, one was missing.  He looked around and was quite sure that a few other things were missing too.

So he went off and had a think, and checked every day after that, and a few days later some other stuff went missing from the same workshop.  He’d carefully inspected the padlock by then, which appeared undamaged – well, it was undamaged, but he discovered that the screws holding it to the door had scratches by them: evidently, someone was removing the padlock without undoing it.

Our house is well off the road and there didn’t seem much likelihood of the police catching anyone in the act, so the Sage set a trap.  It took him a few days to plan and implement it, and in that time we were burgled again – it seemed that it was always on the same night of the week.  He didn’t want to physically catch the person, of course, just to be alerted, and please excuse me if I don’t tell you just what he did, just in case we ever have occasion to do it again.

The next week (there was still plenty of stuff in the workshop) we were woken by the alarm, which didn’t alert anyone else.  The Sage phoned the police and said he’d meet them at the road, please don’t drive to the house.  I sat by the open window and listened.  This guy was pretty good, I can tell you.  It’s a gravelled area and I never heard a sound except once, when there was a crack of glass breaking (which turned out to be the glass in the other painting, which he’d accidentally knocked against something).

The Sage was gone ages and I was really quite anxious.  Eventually he arrived back again and explained that the police car had arrived with one person in (to make sure we were all right) but that he wasn’t allowed to go off in search of the burglar without reinforcements.  Just as well that the reinforcements included a dog, because the man had long gone.  Indeed, he was back in bed and asleep when there was a knock at his door.  The Aladdin’s Cave cliché comes to mind – we weren’t the only people he’d been stealing from and he’d got all the goods piled up in the caravan where he lived.  He’d walked across the field and got into our garden from there.

In due course, we were invited to the police station to identify and reclaim our stuff and the man went to prison – he had a lengthy police record.  We heard that he spoke respectfully of the Sage to someone he knew.  He had no idea how he’d been found, but quite admired the person who’d outwitted him.

There’s a follow-up to this story.  Several years later, he went for a few drinks at a pub in the town and afterwards phoned for a taxi home (he lived in another village five or six miles away by then).  The taxi didn’t arrive so he decided to walk.  He’d walked the mile to here, then a couple of miles along the main road before turning off towards his village – it’s an unlit country road and it was late at night.

Sometime later, early next morning, he was found, victim of a hit and run accident.   Whoever accidentally (no reason to think it was anything else) killed him was never found.  

Z talks to the police

I don’t know how to make header pictures smaller, that’s a startlingly large cockerel (I didn’t abbreviate, I don’t want to disappoint people looking for interesting photos through a search engine).  But I’m hoping to encourage the chickens.  Not that our chickens read this blog as far as I know, but I’ll tell them about it.

The chickens are moulting and we’re hardly getting any eggs.  Those which do lay are hiding their eggs so successfully that the Sage can’t find them.  The only ones whose eggs are available are the young pullets, a few months old who are coming into lay – the eggs are small but gladly received into the Z kitchen.

Ooh, I just saw a policeman outside, so went to investigate.  And I say, what jolly good service!  He and a colleague are going round the entire village to tell people that there have been some burglaries – we’d heard about them actually, it’s not major crime but a spate of sneak thieving, opportunistic stuff.  So the police are handing out letters with advice and having a word to advise locking up tools and so on.  We do, actually, all our outbuildings are kept locked with substantial padlocks because at one time the Sage’s parents had some trouble and they made everything secure and we’ve kept it that way.

Anyway, this extraordinarily young police officer – I swear he’s young enough to be my grandson – says that they’re doing extra patrols, day and night, and making every effort to catch the thieves.  Really, isn’t that awfully good of them?  I mean, obviously they should, but to come round and tell us about it too.  This is an area where there’s very low crime, so obviously they want to keep it that way.

Of Mice and Z

Yes, mice.  We don’t get great problems with them, but we do have to be fairly vigilant.  I’m afraid we don’t go down the live trap route.  They’re mice.  There are thousands of them, quite a number killed by owls, stoats and so on in the fields around us every night and I have to admit that we harden our hearts and set traps.

This isn’t to say that I’d kill a mouse personally.  Is this hypocritical?  I don’t know.  Anyway,  I have caught a few personally, with my own bare hands (and then had to wash rather thoroughly afterwards because mice smell of mouse wee and so do you after you’ve handled one).

Before my mother lived next door to us – goodness, I’m going back nearly 30 years now – she lived in a lovely Georgian house with a conservatory along its length.  There was a raised bed against the house wall and geraniums grew in it, that flowered nearly all year round.  Once a mouse set up home in that bed and you could see the little paths it made.  It wasn’t really doing any harm, but mice don’t stay single for long and it was sure to find a wife and raise a large family, so it had to go.  And one day, I saw it scurry along its little path and I cornered it.  It waved its front paws at me, though not in a cheery way, and I grabbed it.  It closed its eyes tight and bit my finger, which was quite good really as it meant it wasn’t likely to try to get away and I stalked out into the garden, through the kitchen garden and into the paddock beyond and let it go.  There were little bite marks on my finger but it hadn’t broken the skin.  I still washed with disinfectant.

Some years later, at about this time of year, we’d left the side door open as we tend to do a lot during the summer.  That is, we used to.  Now we’re more likely to shut it so that we don’t get taken over by chickens in the house as well as out of doors.  And I spotted a mouse scuttling in the door, round the corner and into the sitting room.  I pursued it – well, I took Tilly with me and suggested she might like to catch it, but the little dog didn’t notice the mouse and, well, she was not much use.  The mouse was still running along the skirting board, so I took a big soft cushion off the sofa and dropped it on the mouse.  Then of course I had to reach under the cushion to find it.  I felt quite brave at that moment actually, though really it was no contest.  In a head to head confrontation I was going to win, frankly.

And so I picked it up, took it across the field and let it go.

This isn’t very dramatic, is it?  I’ve also caught a few incautious ones that found themselves trapped in receptacles, such as Sunday’s paper bag incident, but the end of the story is always me releasing it unharmed.

Once, Al was in his garden when he saw the ground move. As the mole’s head emerged from its hole, he whisked it out with a broom, scooped it into a bucket and – well, he walked down the lane, over the bridge to the other side of the river before letting that one go.  He reckoned that if there was deep enough water between it and us, there was a chance it wouldn’t return.

Tour de Lowestoft

Our guest needed to do a bit of shopping yesterday and we decided to head for Lowestoft and take a stroll along the beach afterwards.  When we arrived, people were standing all along the side of the road.  So we parked, went to join them and asked what was happening.

It was the Tour de Lowestoft!  Or at any rate, the first leg of the Tour of Britain, and we were told the leaders would be along any minute.  And so they were, preceded by a lot of police motorbikes.  Four cyclists went swooping past – I was too busy clapping to take any photos of them as they went past and my friend said they were so fast that she didn’t catch them – and a few minutes later a whole lot more police motorbikes came by (we wondered why so many were required) followed by lots of cyclists, and then a whole lot of cars with spare bikes and bike parts on the roofs.  I’ve no idea why the four were several minutes out in front.  Anyway, it was brilliant, quite exciting and particularly as we hadn’t realised it was happening.

I did take pictures of the approach and also of the main pack of cyclists, in between applauding them.

 The first four approach

 The spectators were nearly all on the same side of the road as we were at this junction because of the curve of the road.


Later, we paddled in the sea and shared a tuna salad and a plate of chips.  Excellent.

Three things Z could have done without

I spent Friday evening babysitting for Phil and Weeza so that they could go out to celebrate Phil’s birthday, stayed overnight and then hung around the next day because I was picking someone up from the station in the afternoon and it hardly seemed worth coming home.  A bit of a mishap in the morning, however.  I’d forgotten to take my contact lens cleaning solution, so left it in a little dish of boiled water overnight and, putting it in the next day, it whisked itself to the back of my eye and there it stayed.  It wasn’t painful but it was uncomfortable and there wasn’t a thing I could do to get it out again.

Fortunately, wearing brown-tinted sunglasses helps my eyesight enough to enable me to drive (I’m slightly short-sighted, borderline for driving in the day) because I hadn’t taken a pair of glasses with me – I must remember to put my glasses in the car for emergencies, because I never use them at home.  The lens reappeared within minutes of my arrival home.  Bothersome thing.

In the night, the Sage got out of bed, which woke me as the burglar alarm going off had not, although I could hear it in my sleep.  “It’ll be a mouse,” we agreed resignedly, and certainly we were not being burgled.  The alternative possibility is a spider running over the sensor, but a mouse is the more likely.

And then I was sitting in my study at about 7 am when I heard rustling behind me, and recognised the sound of a mouse.  Another mouse probably, the door is shut overnight and there isn’t a sensor in here.  I decided to ignore it for the time being.  But it kept on and on rustling and in the end I investigated.  I turned on a torch app on my phone (I don’t bother with a torch, a compass, a map, a diary, a wristwatch – there’s an app for everything) and peered into the corner, but couldn’t see anything.  Then I noticed a gift bag on the floor which contained a carton of Celebrations chocolate.  I can’t remember when we were given them, but they hadn’t been opened.  That is, they hadn’t been until recently, when a dear little mouse had gnawed its way through the bottom of the pack.  But the inside of the bag was too smooth for it to eat its way out and it was stuck.  We looked at each other and it cowered.  I picked up the bag, fetched my handbag and my bike and cycled off to church.  I let it out in the churchyard.  I’m sure it will be happy, as a church mouse.

This house is by no means overrun with mice, but it’s impossible to keep them out all the time, though we’re not bothered by them in the summer.  There are little crevices, small gaps they can creep in through and this is the time of year when they’re looking for a safe home for the winter.  I’m afraid they won’t find one here.  

Accepting Zness

I’ve made myself sound like an ungainly freak, haven’t I.  I didn’t feel any self-loathing at the time, but looking back I see that I lived in my own little world.  I seemed quite normal, just was shy and quiet.

I’ve said this before – it was when a teacher mentioned that he had been born middle-aged that I realised that it’s not necessarily possible to feel comfortable at the age you are, you may just not have reached your natural age yet, and this was quite reassuring.  Maybe this feeling that I was older than my years, in combination with the sudden death of my father when I was 16, prompted my early marriage at the age of 19.  I did feel, when my father died, that I suddenly grew up and wasn’t carefree any more.

Then, once I had a child to look after, I had to push myself to do things that I’d previously been too shy to do, contact people rather than wait for them and so on.  I was still uncertain though, if the Sage and I wanted to invite people round for a meal I made him telephone them.  I was sure they’d not want to come to see me, or that I’d be interrupting something with a call.  I did have a mild phone phobia for a long time, actually, that took ages to get over.

It wasn’t until I reached the age of 30 that I finally felt that I was comfortable in my skin.  I remember feeling that I’d grown up.  Not long after that, we moved to this house.  Ro was just 2 years old then.  I had to make a new circle of friends, and I was determined to do so.  I was lucky in fact, the mother and toddler group was just relaunching itself and I quickly met someone who was holding a coffee morning for mums to meet each other and to raise some money for craft equipment and so on, and she asked me along.  “Next Tuesday,” she said.  This was a Sunday.

Afterwards, I wondered which Tuesday she had meant.  Two days later or a week and two days.  I was very anxious about turning up at all, but I was determined to be brave and went along to her house on the first Tuesday.  And no one was there.  So it was the next week.  I felt even more nervous that time, but it all went fine of course, and Ro and I joined the group and I quickly made friends with several people about my age and with similar interests – I was lucky indeed.

What stopped me being shy was the realisation that I wasn’t lacking a sense of self-worth but actually had too much of it.  I convinced myself that I was proud, arrogant and that was the trouble, that I was afraid of making a mistake or not doing something well enough and that made me not try it at all.  And it was a sudden joy to realise that I didn’t matter at all, most people don’t judge you, many of them are shy too.

So, I do have a fair bit of self-confidence, but actually it’s self-acceptance.  It’s not that I think I do things particularly well, though I do sometimes, but I’ll generally have a go and not be afraid to fail or make a fool of myself.  And if I do, just get over it.  The other thing was that I realised that feeling too awkward to engage with people just made me look as though I wasn’t interested in them rather than believing, as I did, that they would not be interested in me.

I can see myself in the young Z and she in me, but there are so many differences that sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re the same person.

The child is father to the Z

Well, mother.  That is, childhood shapes the adult, of course.

And yet, I have changed hugely, I’m very different from child Z.  My childhood could almost be defined by my shyness and general bewilderment.  I never understood how others could seem so confident, make friends easily when I had such little self-confidence that I never, throughout my childhood, referred to anyone as a friend.  Pathetically, I was afraid that the person might correct me, would scoff at the thought of me calling them friend.  Even more pathetically, I very rarely called anyone by their name, just in case I got it wrong.  Susan might have decided to be called Sue, or her name really be Sarah and I’d forgotten.

Yes, I know.  Two things – one, what a drip/poor confused idiot child.  Two, blimey I’ve changed.  You’re right in both respects.

My mother told me that I was a normally outgoing toddler until someone called at the hotel – she was a sales rep for china and glass and lived in a flat on Bournemouth seafront.  Although their connection was originally business, she and my parents became friends and on this occasion she came to lunch.  Apparently, she burst into the room where I was sitting and came to sweep me into her arms.  I was terrified and, to the embarrassment of the friend and my mother, cried inconsolably and had to be given lunch in another room as I wouldn’t come to the table.

And my mother said that I never got over it.  Now, looking back, I can see that she shouldn’t have let me get away with it, that this behaviour was allowed to get embedded and it became impossible to alter, but it was understandable that she did.  I was sweet and biddable and we adored each other and it was probably only too easy to baby me a bit too much.  I was also, however, very strong-willed at the bottom of it all.  There are various childhood anecdotes about my father and Al is the same – good-natured and willing to go along with a great deal, but when you get to the sticking point, we don’t give in.

At home, I was happy and confident, if rather solitary and bookish.  Wink is several years older than I am and I was used to my own company.  I did have friends, usually two or  three rather than a bigger group.  I can’t have been very rewarding to teach, once I went to school.  Although I could express myself eloquently on paper, I contributed nothing verbally to lessons.  I was afraid of getting it wrong and being laughed at and, later, too selfish to contribute to a discussion, reckoning that I’d get more credit for writing an idea down than offering it to the group.  I tended, and still do, to come up with a quirky angle on a subject.  I would talk to a teacher one-to-one, but there were usually a couple of people bursting with ideas in a general discussion and, even if I’d have been willing to offer anything, I’d not have bothered to try to assert myself.

In the way of shy people, I was confident when acting a part – what a pity that my secondary school didn’t do much in the way of acting.  It could have done me a lot of good.  There was a certain amount of musical performance, but I loathed that.  I played the piano reasonably competently, but tended to fall apart if anyone was listening other than my teacher.  I couldn’t sing in public, if I thought there was any danger that anyone might pick my voice out among the others then I would mouth the words and make no sound.  I was no good at games.  Small, not very fast (I wonder now if my undiagnosed hip-socket slight malformation had any effect on me being a poor runner), short-sighted though not enough to wear glasses all the time, poor at aiming, no competitive or team spirit, all I was reasonably good at was long jump (the length of the run was just about my distance), throwing a javelin (Mike can tell you how keen I am on cold steel) and I wasn’t a bad tennis player.  I could even extend my meagre teamliness to doubles, though I got bored after a few deuces and reckoned that, if the other person was that desperate to win, fair enough and I stopped trying.

It was daft, I was so distant from things, not just people.  I was more likely to read about wild flowers than to go out and look at them.  I had a lot of armchair knowledge but little practical experience.  I was an odd child.