Monthly Archives: October 2012

Failing better

It’s turned out to be a rather brilliant day, actually.  The Sage and I went over to Lowestoft this morning, various business things, but it all went fine – no reason why not, but sometimes things go awry and one has to note and be pleased when they don’t.  And this afternoon, Elle and I went over to Norwich with the intention of seeing the new James Bond film, Skyfall.  We arrived at the Riverside car park and there was a massive queue at 3.30 in the afternoon, but the electronic sign promised 83 spaces in the Castle Mall carpark, so we decided to go to that cinema instead.  When we got to the desk, the 4 pm showing only had front row seats left, so we gave it a miss, bought tickets for 4.30, and popcorn, and sat down to wait.  Somehow, it seemed to be a Diet Coke moment, and while I was buying that (blimey, they charge enough, innit?) several more people came, rejected the front row and bought tickets for 4.30.

Ooh, it was good.  We both enjoyed it immensely, squeaked a few times, were heartily amused at the woman next to me who stated the obvious at various points in the film (eg “oh look, it’s James Bond”) whilst eating a massive tub of popcorn without offering any to her partner and then starting to chomp on a packet of crisps and headed off home, quite surprised to see that it was already 7.30.  I took the precaution of phoning the Sage to ask him to put the sausages on to cook.

As we left Norwich, we were surprised to see a big queue of cars waiting to get in off the ring road, especially the ones queueing for County Hall.  No idea.  As we drove through Boringland we were charmed to see the cheerful groups of children, each with caring adult or two, going Trick or Treating – I explained to Elle that no child ever braved our long dark drive on Hallowe’en.  And we got talking about spooky things and I said that if you didn’t believe in any religion, how could you believe in spooks or ghosts and so on? And we agreed to take a walk round the churchyard.

“What are we eating with the sausages?” I said, the leftover ratatouille.  Ah, it seems that Elle had that for lunch….okay.  I’ve got vegetables.  That’s all right.  In the end, it was cauliflower and peas and some potato crisps.  And I introduced Elle to brown sauce.  “There’s red sauce and brown sauce, you eat them both with the same things, pretty well.  Liking brown sauce is a test of Englishness.”  “What’s in it?”  “Er, vinegar, mostly, I think.”  Elle likes brown sauce.  She likes ketchup …. do you know, in Germany they call mayonnaise ‘white sauce’?  I explained that white sauce over here means béchamel.  And we pretentiously call it, when mixed with ketchup, Marie Rose, which she thought was very funny.  As it is.

So, after dinner, off we set to the churchyard, and I led her around the church, then into the ‘new’ churchyard and I told her a few stories about people who I knew who had died, showed her the Sage’s family’s graves, then we went into the church and I showed her the organ.  And she sat down and played, and it was brilliant, really good fun.  I took some short films of her, but I haven’t told her about the blog so I don’t think I can post any because it wouldn’t be fair.

And then we came home and ate trifle and the Sage has made coffee.  Tomorrow, I’m meeting Eddie Two-Sox in Norwich.

Oh, and I sketched a child’s chair.  Badly, but it doesn’t matter in the least.  Actually, it’s truly rubbish and all on the huh.  I don’t care.  I can draw.  Very badly indeed, but so what?  Next time, I’ll still fail.  But maybe I’ll fail better.

Musing. One day, I’ll aim to be amusing.

Well, that was a very good surprise.  I went to a Nadfas special interest day today, which was really … um … interesting – excellent, in fact.  It was about drawing and painting, delivered by an artist and her art college lecturer husband – here is a link to her name.  She has a website too.

Her husband made the point that all children draw and paint, it’s later that they become discouraged or self conscious and start to think that they are no good at it, but that actually anyone can draw.  He’s right of course, you just put your lips together and blow … no, you know what I mean.

I don’t know how things are nowadays, but in my schooldays the only teachers who were actively discouraging, whether they meant to be or not, were art and games teachers.  That is, people who had a problem such as dyslexia could be called stupid or accused of not trying (that didn’t happen in my school actually, but it’s been reported by many) … I suppose what I mean is that those were the teachers in whom favouritism was expected.  Games lessons were, on the whole, pretty well miserable for me.  At least I wasn’t fat, but I was small, not fast (one might have thought I would have been, but I was always rubbish at running quickly and I wonder now if my malformed hip sockets are the reason for that, not that it matters), a bit short sighted and had a rubbish aim.  So, when the girls who were best at netball or whatever ghastly team sport – oh, that was the other thing, I had no team spirit and I wasn’t assertive – were inevitably picked as team captain, I was always among the last three chosen to be on any particular team.  And I’m not a bad shot now, how was it I was never, ever given five minutes coaching at throwing a ball into a net?  Nor was I told to go off and practise until I got better?  Why was someone who was keen but not that good given the opportunity to be team captain for once?

And Art.  I disliked the Art teacher.  She was hearty, not discouraging but she scared and intimidated me, without in the least trying to of course.  I’ve nothing against her in truth, not as a person but she dismissed me early on as useless because I couldn’t paint in the style she wanted, which was big and splashy.  I couldn’t do it – not only was I desperately shy and inhibited and a whole big sheet of paper was far too big for me, I couldn’t get any sense of proportion, of the size of things.  What I’d have liked was to have been taught drawing.  Painting ruined it, I only liked to draw, on a small sheet of paper.  I wish that had been allowed – actually, I really do.  I’ve just realised that, or possibly remembered it.  On the rare occasions I do draw or paint anything – actually try to, that is, it’s usually a single flower or something like that.  There have been a few hands-on WI meetings when I’ve done that and, actually, I’ve not been entirely unhappy with the result.  I’m very limited in my ambition, but even that was discouraged when it might not have been.  I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but bad cess to her for making me hate Art lessons.

Ghislaine said that she paints a small picture, something from the news, every day – she started a few years ago as a year-long project and those paintings formed an exhibition, but she’s kept it up – and I’m sort of tempted to draw something every day, but I doubt I will.  It’d be for myself only if I did, but I’ll forget all about it, I expect.

Anyway, back to the good news.  I’m due to finish as Nadfas Area secretary after the next meeting in March, but I had no idea of whom to ask to take over from me.  And someone else on the committee has come up with a very nice woman called Celia who is quite keen.  Isn’t that brilliant?  I’ve not been the greatest success in this position, to be honest – I underestimated the amount of work in the first place, or rather how I’d deal with it.  But I’ve done quite a bit of work on streamlining the job and simplifying it, and getting people to work with me helpfully (they’re all lovely, but some of them were a bit bossy and rather forgot that I’m a volunteer as much as they are) and I think I’ll be passing on something that works quite well.  That’s been my aim this year in fact, not to hand on a tricky job.

And now, darlings, it’s time to go and cook dinner.  I’m going to stuff some chicken breasts and serve them with ratatouille, French beans and the rest of the rice (cooked with lemon juice and turmeric and tossed with toasted mustard seeds) left over from last night.  

Mixing and mismatching

Sorry, Nigella, but chocolate pasta, even with pecan butterscotch sauce, is just plain wrong.

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it?  I like pretty well all foods, there is almost nothing I dislike in itself although, of course, some dishes I’m not too keen on – though that’s probably the way they’ve been cooked.  I only once tried jugged hare, for instance, and it was disgusting, but I’m quite prepared to blame it on the cook.  Roses said the other day that she’s tried oysters several times – raw, cooked, smoked – and still doesn’t like them and that’s quite fair enough.  And then there are foods that are taboo to you – which may be pork to a Muslim or dog to an Englishman, meat to a vegetarian or honey to a vegan.  There’s little I wouldn’t try – a few things, mind you, I have my prejudices – but there are still some things that I can’t take, even if they taste all right.  Chocolate pasta is a case in point.  Just plain no.

Take a crumpet, for instance.  I love a toasted crumpet.  I’ve even been known to make them, quite a pleasure if I’m in the mood, though I can rarely be bothered.  But they are to be eaten with butter.  The Sage adds Marmite.  I love Marmite, but not with a crumpet.  No, I haven’t tried.  The taste is irrelevant.  A poached egg is fine and I suppose topping it with cheese and toasting it is permissible, not that it’s right, but that’s all.  Maybe a freshly-picked field mushroom at a pinch.  Or (not and, don’t be silly) a smear of strawberry jam.  But a buttered crumpet is perfect, it can’t be improved upon.

Oh, and what’s with adding fruit and stuff to cheese?  I was persuaded to buy some ginger-flavoured cheddar once.  I couldn’t eat it.  That is, I tasted a bit and it was perfectly nice, but it was wrong.  As is cheese flavoured with apricot, cranberry and the like.

I once watched a daytime cookery programme and the unfortunate amateur cook used cheese with his fish dish.  The Italian judge wouldn’t even try it.  Fish and cheese were wrong together and that was that.  And Belgian Waffle wrote the other day about a macaron baking class she went to, with savoury macarons – she gave examples, but my mind won’t retain them because they were perfectly horrid.  Bristling with horror, darlings.

And you, dear hearts?  Puzzle me or make me squeal in agreement, why don’t you.

Oh bugler

I trotted down to the newsagent and bought the papers and took them to church because it was the café service today, where bacon, sausage or toasted cheese sandwiches are served, crafts provided for children and newspapers for anyone who wants to read them.  Later, there’s a very informal service including songs – not really anything you’d call a hymn – where Andy plays the keyboard and I play the clarinet.  And Andy greeted me with enthusiasm, which is always slightly worrying, because it was evident that I was going to be asked to do something.  Would I, he asked, be available for Remembrance Sunday?  Well yes, that wouldn’t be a problem, I always go to the Remembrance Day service and it so happens that the Sunday is the 11th November this year so it’s the right time on the right day.  Would I play the Last Post and the Reveille? asked Andy.  We haven’t got a bugler this year.

Well, I could hardly say no, though I’m not sure how they will sound on the clarinet.  But I’m a bit daunted.  I’m okay with accompanying or playing in a group, but I don’t like anything that approaches a performance – not that this is, of course, but it’ll be dead silence apart from me – indeed, I’ll break the silence and if I make the smallest error it will reverberate round the church and … oh blimey.  I’d better spend the next fortnight practising like some sort of dedicated musician.  Yes, scales and stuff, the lot, sort of thing I don’t usually do because I normally dive straight into Mozart.  You know where you are with Mozart.

Right – as ever, it’s just telling the tale that gets it out of my system.  Backbone in place again, darlings.  As I always say, it’ll be fine.

But oh bugger.  If it is, they’ll nobble me every time they can’t find a bugler.  And if it isn’t, I think I’ll have to leave the village.

The Zedary turns blue and sparks fly

No, no fireworks, nor even cross words.  I didn’t notice when I referred to the clocks changing in the last post, nor even when I was talking about the church heating with Sybil, whom I met in the Co-op.

It was when I was thinking about altering clocks – ‘the television and our phones will alter automatically,’ I thought.  ‘It’s only the microwave and the bedside clock … oh, bugger.  Oh buggering bugger.  Oh fuckety buggering ….’ … you get the picture.  I continued to swear for several minutes, to the Sage’s amusement, while I put my coat on and fished out some keys.  He offered to come down to the church with me, but I’m not scared of the dark nor the churchyard and was quite okay to go alone.

I’d altered the time clock for the church heating earlier in the week, but did I take the clock change into account?  Like hell I did.  My only consolation is that I remembered it at 9.15 pm and not around 3 am tomorrow, when getting up and shambling down the road would have been a serious test of my willpower.

The Sage had a snifter waiting for me when I got home.  That is, a wee dram.  Oh darlings, a glass of whisky.

Seriously, I hate the biannual clock change.  Dearly as I love Scotland and the Scots, I want independence for England and Wales over this.

That reminds me of the time, soon after Al was born, when my mother (whose two children were born five and a half years apart) asked if I intended to continue to have biannual babies?  Honestly, it wouldn’t be as nature intended.  To be fair, she did realise her mistake when I gave her a funny look.  That is, I laughed.

Z is stale, flat and distinctly unprofitable

Today, I stayed in bed.  I was awake long enough in the night to give up on sleep altogether and go to the spare room to read for a couple of hours before I finally drifted off with the light still on, but then when I woke again I refused to stir.  At 9, I woke for the last time to find a lukewarm cup of tea by the bed and the light off, but I didn’t get up for another couple of hours.  I listened to the hail and the wind and snuggled down reading.

Of course, the upshot is that I’ve felt strangely lacking in energy all day, but I think it was the right thing to do.

I had to get up because the Sage was doing a china valuation – the china was being brought to the house – so I typed it all up and emailed the inventory and valuation to the owner.  I cooked bacon and eggs for lunch, we called on friends in the afternoon for a little while and then went to the supermarket to use two £8 off vouchers that would run out tomorrow.

Otherwise, nothing at all.  I’ll be terribly sorry tomorrow when I realise I’ve got two days’ work to do in one, but it can’t be helped.  And the clocks change, which is always a cue for me to get completely out of kilter with the time for the whole winter.

Oh, I’ve just had an email with the music for tomorrow’s service.  Yes, it is a bit late.  And the odds are that I won’t be able to find music I’ve already transcribed for the clarinet (it’s pitched in B flat so one has to rewrite it up a whole tone) so will have to do it again.  Practice?  No, I can’t be bothered.  I last played the clarinet three weeks ago, I can’t have forgotten it all yet, surely.

PS – half an hour later – amazing what a good grumble can do.  I’m getting on with some work now and feeling almost cheerful.

Silver threads

The day didn’t go as planned – that is, the afternoon didn’t.  The Sage and I had an appointment in L’toft in the morning, and then he was being given a lift to his afternoon engagement while I chose between lifting tender plants so that they won’t be caught by frost or finishing the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting.  But the friend’s car gave trouble, so I drove the Sage.  And I’ve hardly done much work as a consequence.  Still, I keep Saturdays in hand, ostensibly to potter about and relax but actually to have free to do what wasn’t finished during the week.

On the way back this morning, we called in at an antique fair.  Less furniture this time, more jewellery. And a stall selling silver that rather hit one in the eye.  Silverware of any ornateness has tarnish in the crevices but this had all been cleaned to the rafters, with the consequence that it all looked brand new.  I didn’t care for it.  I like antiques that show a bit of age.

That reminds me, I saw someone I know in his 70s during the week who has always had suspiciously black hair.  The other day, it was startling to see that it was light brown.  Now, it’s certainly not fair that it’s okay for a woman to have her hair any colour she likes, and it’s fine for a young man to dye it any which way, but for an older man to hide the grey just doesn’t do it – but then, men aren’t aged by grey hair in the way that women are.  The fairness in my heart says it should be all right … but it isn’t.  I refer you to the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

High Zociety

Elle is spending the weekend in Germany as there is a family wedding, so I saw her on to the coach for Stansted and then spent the afternoon with Roses.  And how lovely that was, she gave me lots of tea and much love and we’re planning to meet up before long for Sunday lunch with our other halves.

I’ve suddenly got an almost overwhelming impulse to eat chocolate.  Oh dear.  Will I eat chocolate?  I don’t know yet.  I have chocolate, obv.  I mean, well, of course I have.  Why wouldn’t I have chocolate?  But it’s in another room and I’m a bit overwhelmingly lazy this evening.  So it’s a toss-up between greed and indolence.  Oh dear.  They should go together, innit?*

I’m also in the course of arranging a meet-up with Eddie Two-Socks.  I’m being a sociable Z.  John G and I are hoping to meet before long, though he’s a little further away – wondering if I can find an excuse for a mini-holiday taking in his direction if it’s a bit far for a day trip.  Just looked it up.  135 miles.  That’s doable.  So is a night or two away.  H’m.  I’ll see what the Sage says – not that he can’t do without me.  He appreciates the peace and quiet, also the total joy of my return, of course.

*Tim, darling, I hope you appreciate me

Z is patient

I wore another ancient jacket today.  And I did take a photo, but it came out really dark.  One day, perhaps.

This was another of my mother’s cast-offs.  My stepfather Wilf bought it for her on a business trip to the Far East, can’t remember which country.  It’s quilted, orange and green on a cream background, double buttons all the way up to a high neck, close-fitting, waist length.

It was never her taste really, but she wore it once in a while to please him and it did look good on her slender frame.  Eventually, she gave it to me, after he had died, because she didn’t think she would wear it again.

They got married the February before Al was born and he will be 37 next April … I can’t remember whether it was before or after their marriage, but it must be 35 years old at least.  She gave it to me 20 or more years ago, and today is the first time I’ve ever worn it.  But I was never inclined to throw it away.

Have no fear, dear hearts.  I shall not lose too much weight.  Health and strength matter to me.  I’m not vain, nor am I silly, nor do I feel I have anything to prove.  As one gets older, I think a few pounds more is healthier than being very thin.  But, if you have been, thanks for listening…

Z wears a really old jacket

Ah.  It seems I’m to be director of another company.  Unpaid of course – but unqualified come to that, so it’s okay.  Though I did manage a clever bit of delegation – one of the other Academy directors was taking notes for minutes, so I asked her to write a vital letter as she had all the info.  She was boxed in a corner, bless her kind and capable heart.

Tomorrow, it’s the biannual Area (Nadfas, that is) meeting.  I’m secretary, taking that on was a mistake and the Sage warned me and he was right.  I’ve sort of enjoyed it, but am only just getting to grips with it (that’s not all my fault, but I underestimated the work at the start) and someone else would be far better at the job.  I’m not holding my breath at finding a volunteer, mind you, in time for next March.

And so it’s time to be positive and happy, because that’s what this blog is for.  And indeed, I can do positive and happy on this occasion – in respect of clothes, which makes it even better.

More than 30 years ago, the Sage took me shopping for my birthday.  In advance of my birthday that is, shopping really isn’t a biggie in my life.  But on this occasion, he found that he was buying me a green skirt in diagonal checks and a dark green velvet jacket.  The skirt was worn for some years and I suppose was eventually disposed of, but the jacket, less worn, found its way to the back of the wardrobe.  In due course I became too fat for it (its a 10, which is smaller than today’s size 10) and it languished.  I never threw it out, though.

Today, I wore it and it fits.  And I’m wearing a skirt that is over 20 years old too, also grown out of for a while.  I’m wearing the necklace of green stones that I bought in Malta the year before last, so not everything is ancient – but I’m really happy to have lost so much weight that I’m almost the size I want to be.  And I’ve done it really, really slowly, which is very good.  I’m finally at the weight my doctor told me to be 5 years ago and within half a stone of the weight I feel myself at.