Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tentative cheer and huzzah for friendship

Things are a bit better today – that is, I took Gill to see Andy and he’s a lot better.  Fortunately, his vasculitis has not flared up and the chest infection is responding to antibiotics and he was able to chat to us.  And the little boy is responding to treatment too.  Because I took Gill, I didn’t see my friend in Norwich (Andy is in Gallstone Hospital) but will try to call in tomorrow.

This morning, I met a friend for coffee and we chewed the fat for nearly two hours.  I come to value my women friends more and more – I always have of course, but I’ve always been reticent and self-sufficient for most of my life.  When a group of friends got together to dish the dirt, talk frankly about their lives and so on, I was the quiet one, and I didn’t search out a confidante either.  But over the past few years I’ve changed a fair bit, realised that being reticent can look like being unfriendly and being incurious can look as if I don’t care.  So I’ve become increasingly open, both to speak and to listen, and the kindness and love that I’ve often felt has been incalculable.  M and I talked and later G and I talked, nothing startling but in both cases mutually supportive.

And while I’m being soppy (I’m not really, I’m quite chipper tonight), thank you too, those who are so often absolutely lovely to me.  I do appreciate it.


Oh dear.  Things seem to be awry at the moment – not here, but amongst friends.  A good friend, whom I’ve been on holiday with several times, is very ill with duodenal cancer – she’s had some time in remission, but this period ended before Christmas – Andy isn’t at all well, two other dear and elderly friends are in abruptly failing health and the grandson of another friend, a little boy of seven, is in hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy as a complication of a chest infection.  And one of the hairdressers at the salon I go to has just had to have her 8-month-old puppy put down as the result of an accident: he was hit by a car.  And an old blog friend has said that his marriage has ended, sadly but inevitably.

We’re fine, though I had a frustrated afternoon searching for an important piece of paper that I’d put in a safe place.  I know, fatal.  I have got it now though, finally.  I’ve got to use it now to do some writing, so I mustn’t be long here.  Admin problems are put into perspective by far more serious and distressing things happening around us.

To end on a more cheerful note, my hairdresser is expecting her first baby in June and is very happy about it.  She’s only planning to take eight weeks off, but it’s her own salon and the self-employed can’t let go the reins for long.

News in moderately brief

1 Well, the Sage did get up this morning and took Ben for a walk, though it wasn’t until nearly 8 o’clock.  I took advantage however and had a lie-in, though I didn’t go back to sleep.  And later, Weeza rang to ask if I was happening to plan to go to Norwich this afternoon, because Zerlina’s after-school childminder has the awful chest infection and bronchitis that I did (I reckon I had a mild dose, so many people are really ill).  I said, of course, that it would be a great pleasure to look after z for a few hours.  And so it was.  Darling little girl, she was lovely.  And I did a couple of odd jobs to save Weeza’s time (or Phil’s) in the evening, clearing and restacking the dishwasher and sorting and folding the dried laundry.  I asked what z had learned at school today that she hadn’t known this morning, and she said that they had been taught about road safety.  So I suggested that she’d show me how to cross the road safely, which she did.  We’d just gained the kerb when a car came round the corner.  I asked her (knowing it wasn’t entirely fair, she wouldn’t have been told about it) what would happen if a car came round the corner when we were halfway across the road?  She considered the matter and told me that we’d both be run over and squashed flat.

2 Although I have hardly been to the cinema for several years, Elle’s fine influence means that I’ve seen four of the films that won awards at the Oscars.  That is, Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Skyfall.

3 Today there were the interviews for the new Rector.  Only one candidate, he and his wife are very likeable.  However, since it’s considerate if he’s successful for his parishes to know about it first, we won’t be told for a while.  I suppose, if he isn’t, we’ll be told sooner.

4 I didn’t arrive home until five to seven, but had dinner on the table by twenty past.  Simple mind you, sea bass, french beans and fried potatoes, the last taking the longest of course, since I had to peel and parboil them to start with.  I’m afraid there were awful air miles in the beans, but Tim had bought a boxful and, since the air miles had happened, my concern is to help Tim sell them all – that is, by buying some, because I know that he has to sell nearly all to make any profit at all.  Zerlina had pasta, ham, cheese, cucumber and red pepper for her tea.  And grapes.  I was going to give her spaghetti bolognaise, but she chose the cheese and ham instead.  Obviously, if I’d been cooking for the family, she’d have eaten what everyone else had, just in case you’re wondering.

5 I wore a dress for the first time since we’ve been looking after Ben.  Every other day, I’ve worn jeans with increasingly muddy bottoms.  I mean bottoms of the legs of course, not bum level.  That isn’t muddy.  It’s not that it’s warmer, just that I was being a bit sociable at lunchtime.  Tomorrow, I shall have my hair cut.  Jolly good, it grows surprisingly quickly and, although I rarely look in the mirror, I’m generally aware that I look a bit haphazard and scruffy much of the time.  I did get around to putting my rings on this morning though.  I take the view that a bit of bling takes the eye from my lack of personal grooming.  

Take five

Five things

1 Ben barked at 4 am.  I came down and let him out, he lifted his leg against a tree for some time, so needed to go.  However, when he barked again at 7 and I came down again (I’d still been awake at 6, and hadn’t slept at all until after 2), he just wanted to play.  The Sage slept through it all.

2 I cooked him* a massive marrow bone on Saturday, gave it to him today and he was thrilled with it and spent a long time gnawing it out in the passageway.  The carpet out there is now rather greasy, but it’s nasty old carpet tiles, only still there because they are so easy to lift and wash.  Ten years ago, my mother couldn’t understand why I didn’t get something better, but they’re dirt-coloured and so useful.

3 The Sage has started buying me flowers.  It’s been tulips the last couple of weeks and today he brought carnations, freesias and pink roses.  Very charming of him, but quite disconcerting after all these years.

4 I opened a bottle of red wine which had lost its label.  I found that the cork was marked La Croix St André Lalande-de-Pomerol 1979.  It is delicious.  Just as well I hadn’t realised, I’d have saved it for a special occasion which might never arise.

5 I made soup of onion, celery and potato flavoured with cumin seeds, cooked in vegetable stock and milk.  It was very good.  And we had sausages too.  We’d had bacon and eggs for lunch, I’m going for lot of walks and am permanently cold as a result.

*Ben, not the Sage

Z sits back and watches television

I’ve finally realised why Ben is very like, but also very unlike Chester to look at.  He’s like Chester in middle age, ten or so, not as he was as a young dog.  Chester was very skinny and whippy, it was the setter in him, and he was darker too when he was young.  Ben is much chunkier, though he’s little more than a pup.

The Sage got up to use the loo at 6.30, which woke Ben and he barked to go out.  So I – yes, darlings, the Sage was ruthless about it – got up and walked into town rather earlier than expected.  It’s not very far, not quite a mile and a half.

News about Ben’s owners – Gill is finding it much easier to get about the bungalow using Andy’s wheelchair and not trying to hop around with a walking frame.  Andy isn’t too well, having developed an infection.  His health is precarious and Gill asked the nurse to contact his consultant rather than just give antibiotics, which might not be appropriate.  When she said the full name of his specific condition – a three-word phrase which I’ve forgotten – it was clear that the nurse wasn’t familiar with it (not surprising, it’s very rare) and was taking the situation seriously.

I’ve not done a stroke of work the last week.  I’ll be sorry any day when it all catches up with me, but right now I’m feeling very okay about it.

Forty times Z

I also offered to write up the church rota for the next three months, which I used to do but is now Andy’s job.  Sadly, there are so few of us now to do the necessary jobs that my first draft has my name down forty times.  Someone else is down fifteen times, another eleven and another three.  That’s everything except the readings on Easter Sunday and the flowers, which I have a feeling will be done between two of us for the most part.  I should add that I’m waiting to hear back from two others and I expect they will take on a few readings, at least.  I’m down so often because, whatever else I do, I’ll be playing the music until Andy is able to take his turn again.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but our Rector left last autumn to take on a new parish.  Apparently, we have a candidate for the appointment and we’re meeting him or her on Monday – I’m not very involved in church things, whatever it looks like, so the news has just caught up with me and I’ve been invited along (as has the Sage, but he has another engagement).  I don’t really approve of the way church appointments are made.  The Bishop chooses the short list, which often comprises one candidate, then there’s an interview, but it’s very much a supervised affair, so the churchwardens and other interested people don’t really have a free hand.  And, not seeing the applications, one isn’t given background knowledge and there might be reasons for putting someone forward for a post that don’t put the parish first.  I’m sure the Bishop tries very hard to put a round peg in a round hole, but more openness would be better, not least because plans could be made for mutual support before problems arise – which usually result in parishioners having found another church to attend or opted out altogether.  Of course it can work the other way and a successful minister gives a feeling of spiritual and/or practical support and encouragement, which brings more people in.  It’s not just a matter of bums on pews, but if someone comes along once in a while, they’re quite sniffy if there aren’t fresh flowers, a warm church and an equally warm welcome, with a tidy and well-mown churchyard to boot, even if they never give time or money towards providing or supporting them.  Right now, we only have one service a month when we can be sure of having double figures in the congregation, and then there are often at least forty – but it’s a family do, very informal, we serve breakfast first and, although the people who come love it, they wouldn’t come every week because young families are busy on a Sunday.  And most of the older people – except for a few who come with their grandchildren – don’t like it at all.  I don’t mind, but I’m easy-going, and even I don’t feel as if I’ve been to church.  Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be reading the lessons at the short formal service beforehand, helping with coffee and breakfast and then playing the clarinet.  And you’ll notice I’ve not mentioned God at all.  Nor am I going to.

If you’ve lasted this far, Ben is getting on very well.  His main fault is pulling hard on the lead, so I went and bought a Halti, which my mother found was marvellous with her dogs.  And it did stop him pulling, but he hated it and spent a fair bit of time trying to get it off him.  So later, just taking him for a quick trot round the village, I didn’t have the heart to put it on him and, instead, used Tilly’s extending lead, and that worked pretty well too.  Whichever I find is best, I hope to have him a lot more controllable by the time he goes back home – Gill is going to be quite nervous of walking him for a while.   He’s pretty well behaved otherwise and has an exceptionally sweet nature.  I’ll walk him into the town in the morning to fetch the Sunday papers, unless the weather is awful.

The lodger

Well, I gave it a bit of thought yesterday evening and asked the Sage if he’d mind if we offered to look after the dog until Andy is better.  He agreed at once, and this morning I had a text from Gill to say that she’s broken her fibula, so I replied at once suggesting that we have Ben for the duration and she was relieved to agree.

And here he is.  Yes, the bit of mud on the carpet is from his paw.

It’ll be for a couple of months and yes, before you say anything, we may end up with him.  I know that Gill finds him far too much, but they got him for Andy so it’ll be up to him.  So for now, we’re looking after him and will do so for as long as needed.

He looks very like Chester actually.  A bit heavier-built and not quite so red – Chester was an Irish setter/bearded collie cross and was more orange than copper-coloured.  I’m making it clear that I’m pack leader and he’s really being very good (although he just peed on the rug, not having asked to go out).  He’ll need a fair bit of exercise, I can see that I’m going to get fit whether I want to or not.

It never rains but…

Sometimes, it seems as if someone’s luck has simply run out.  You remember my friend who, while on holiday a couple of years ago, became terribly ill and finally came home by air ambulance?  The hospital in Madeira treated him with antibiotics which nearly killed him and he was finally diagnosed with vasculitis, had to give up work (and so did his wife, to look after him) and he is permanently disabled, although he’s come on very well since his diagnosis.

We went to his 60th birthday party last Saturday – they moved from a large house to a smaller bungalow just round the corner from us.  And I’ve just heard that he has had a fall and broken his ankle.  This is pretty serious of course because he now has terribly poor circulation.  In addition, he mustn’t put weight on it but he hasn’t the strength in his arms to bear his weight on crutches.  Even worse, his wife has hurt her own ankle while walking their dog, a young and boisterous golden retriever.

I’ve phoned and left a message – she’s probably at the hospital.  I’ve offered to walk the dog for as long as necessary.  I don’t mean one long walk, obv, but to take dog walking off their hands.  Or feet.  Oh dear.  Poor loves.  It’s terribly worrying.

Update – have spoken to friend near Canterbury.  She has also had a fall, hurt her knee, which joint she had replaced a couple of years ago and landed smack on her face, which is a bit of a mess.  I’ve offered to go and fetch her, but she thinks she’ll be okay.

If you have blessings, count ’em tonight, darlings.  

Today’s quick fiver

Busy today, so five things –

1 We got up late so had to scramble to be ready to leave the house before ten for our meeting with the accountant, but arrived with two minutes to spare

1 We had a very useful meeting and have made constructive plans for our financial future

3 I went to fill the car and stopped at precisely £50, as intended

4 I cooked bacon, egg and tomato for lunch

5 The fire is drawing really well today, there’s a log blazing splendidly in the grate

Sounds as if it’s been a good day so far – and yes, it has.

Ztiff upper lip

I did go and look after Gus for the day.  He was better, but not right – temperature down but pale with shadows under his eyes.  Still, he was smiling and eating bread and Marmite when I arrived, so that was a big improvement on the day before.  Weeza had a very busy day at work, so it was a good job she went in – she works for someone who owns a great deal of land, including let cottages, farms and a business, and her job is managing the estate lettings etc. and being his PA – as it would have been very tricky for anyone else who didn’t know the ropes.

There was quite a hard air frost this morning and the Sage cleared the windscreen of ice, then I did, then I had to stop halfway down the drive and clear it again as it froze as I drove.  It froze again in patches, but by sitting straight and tall I was able to look through a clear patch, and of course the de-mister sorted it out after a couple of miles.  Tall is a relative term of course, as you’ll know if you’ve met me.  At least, with five grandchildren under 8 and Dora in the family (Dora is teeny as well as adorable), I’m no longer the shortest.

By lunchtime, Gus had perked up enough to eat a good helping of cucumber and red pepper while the pasta was cooking, which I served with pesto stirred in and grated cheese on top.  I know, darlings, the mark of the middle classes – indeed, I couldn’t find the grater (turned out to be in the dishwasher) and so I shaved the cheese with the potato peeler, which is even worse.  Then he ate fromage frais and half a banana.  Which went further down the same route, but indicated he’d eaten a good lot overall,.  Then we went for a walk.  There’s a nice little wood near their house, which I hadn’t known about before.  Gus walked quite a long way, but if I held his hand he would suddenly pretend to stumble in a “Vic, I’ve fallen” way (which will only mean anything to you if you watched Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out some 20 years ago.) and want to be stood up again, which was not amusing for me for quite as long as it was for him.  Eventually, I put him in his pushchair and in due course he fell asleep.  Sadly, he didn’t stay asleep when I put him in his cot at home, but he was very good, only flagging for a bit at about 4.30.  I gave him bread and water, it seemed to do the trick.  I’d sung to him too, which he bore patiently.  I can hold a tune, though listeners sometimes mistake the tune I’m holding, but I’m no singer.  Nursery rhymes and music hall songs are mainly my repertoire, though I know quite a lot of tunes that I don’t remember more words of than the first line.  Not only does it not interest me, but I can’t hit the high notes, so am useless as there are gaps.*

He was a very good and loving little boy and, when I picked him up, he put his arms round me and hugged me tightly, making the hard carapace round my old and withered heart crack with love and almost soften.  So it’s just as well that Weeza isn’t working tomorrow, because I need to keep my defences up and two days could make me an emotional heap of affection.

*The alternative is singing alto.  ‘Nuff said.