Monthly Archives: February 2013

Z thinks about springing into action

Today, we both slept through the alarm and I was half awake when my phone rang at ten past nine.  Better not keep that up or we’ll sleep our lives away.  The Sage stayed in bed in fact, for another hour, though I got up and on with the day.

Weeza sent a text to say that Gus has a temperature and is still asleep, so she’s had to take the day off work.  He’s been under the weather but we hoped he was just teething.  I’m supposed to be in Norwich tomorrow, but if he’s still not well I’ll cancel and go and look after him instead.

Spring must be arriving because I’ve an urge to do some gardening.  This is quite disconcerting.  However, I might as well act on it.  In the first place, we need to consider what to do with the bantams. They’ve been completely free-range for the past couple of years and I’ve loved having them run up to the door every time I go out, but I’m afraid it’s going to have to change.  They ruin the lawn: where I took out the old hedge, grass has never been able to grow because they scratch it up and they make holes in the lawn for their dust baths in the summer.  And they lay away and we hardly have any eggs at all.  So the Sage has gradually inveigled them into the big greenhouse and they’re living there, nearly all of them, at present.  This can’t last much longer of course, they’ll be too hot as soon as the weather improves.

So, what we’re talking about is maybe giving over half the kitchen garden to them.  I can’t grow much, I haven’t time for it all.  We’ve got the bungalow garden to look after now, and there’s already more than we can do.  But I don’t want to grow no vegetables at all, it’s what I enjoy growing most of all, being greedy and fond of fresh vegetables.  So if we put some wire up, we can restrict them to some of the veg plot and they can roost in the greenhouse.  I don’t need a 40 foot greenhouse at the moment, or at least I can do without the watering of it.  I’ll still have the other greenhouse.  That is, we’ve two others, but one is derelict, I’m afraid.  We need to take a good look at it and see if we’re going to resurrect it or not.  I used to have all of them full of plants and manage to find time for all the work too, but now it’s not time so much as energy and determination.  I’ve lost interest.  And there’s no point anyway, what would I do with half a dozen cucumbers, a couple of pounds of beans and far too many peas and courgettes, every day?  The picking of them would be a burden, even if I give them away.  I’m no good at the thing of sowing a pinch of everything each week, growing a sensible amount that we can cope with.  It doesn’t suit me.  I do it on a bigger scale or not at all.  You’ve got to work with the kind of person you are, or can adapt yourself to be.

In other news…I’ve bought new telephones which have caller ID on them (that is, they’ll be delivered within the next hour).  And from now on, the rule will be only to pick up the phone if we know who’s on the other end, or at least if there’s a number showing.  If someone is ex-directory, they’ll have to leave a message and we’ll phone them back.  There are so many cold calls, the Telephone Preference Service doesn’t work any longer and I’m heartily fed up with it.  They always come at the most inconvenient times, and however terse one is in saying no thanks, it’s a nuisance.  Mind you, the Sage will find it hard to resist.  He loves the telephone.

In other other news, it’s car insurance renewal time again.  Oh damn.  The quote I’ve got from the company I use (LV) doesn’t look bad, let’s hope it turns out to be the best and I can simply renew.  All the trawling through different companies and price comparisons is so tedious, if necessary.  

Z gives a recipe

A couple of you have asked for the courgette recipe – it’s very easy to do and I normally have all the ingredients – that is, if I use canned chickpeas and a jar of pesto.  I know, darlings, convenience food at every turn.

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil (I probably use less, there’s always too much oil in recipes)
1 small aubergine
350g/12 oz courgettes (I probably use more, I like courgettes)
150 ml/1/4 pint vegetable stock (I use Marigold powder, unless I happen to have made some)
1 can chick peas
150 ml/1/4 pint double cream (crème frâiche would be fine)
2 tablespoons pesto (whatevs, put in what you like.  You’d want that much fresh pesto, but commercial jars vary so it’s best to keep tasting)

Slice the onion into thin rings, cook gently in a tablespoonful of olive oil for about five minutes, then turn the heat up a bit and allow it to colour a little – about another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, crush the garlic, dice the aubergine into 1 inch cubes and thinly slice the courgettes.  Add the rest of the oil and the prepared vegetables to the onion, cook, stirring, for five minutes, add the stock, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse the chick peas, add to the pan, stir in the cream and pesto and add, with seasoning.  Cook for a few more minutes to heat through.

The recipe suggests spreading slices of baguette with garlic butter, topping with goat’s cheese and putting on top of the courgette mixture, then grilling.  I’ve never done this, though I have put some cubes of feta or goat’s cheese on top to melt in to my plateful if I’ve had this as a main course.

I often do the first part of the recipe earlier, then add the cream and pesto and reheat at the last.  The previous time I cooked it, Tim was out of aubergines, so I used sliced mushrooms instead which was fine.

The recipe is from ‘Simply Good Food’ by Katie Stewart and Caroline Young, who used to live in the village.  She and her husband Stuart were great friends of ours, but after he died she moved to Sussex and we’ve lost touch.

Elle sent me a text soon after 8 o’clock to say they’d arrived in Berlin.  We parted with warm hugs and promises to visit each other.  It’s very quiet here tonight, but luckily I’ve got quite a lot on this week – not much of it work-related – so I’ll keep busy and not be lonely.

Z’s in the kitchen

Elle asked me to cook a proper English roast last night, so I did roast pork, because of the crackling.  Because it’s one of those things that they tend not to do abroad (actually, I don’t know if they do crackling in Germany) and it’s marvellous.  I’d have done roast beef otherwise, but a good rib of beef for just six isn’t easy unless you all like it cooked the same, more or less, and I like rare and the Sage likes overcooked, so we’re stuck already.  Elle’s mother, Vee, is mostly vegetarian so I did a substantial veggie side dish, courgettes and aubergines with chick peas, cream and pesto (if you came to the party last year you may have eaten it, it’s one of my favourites) as well as roast potatoes and spinach, in case she’d prefer to avoid the pork, but in fact she did politely eat a small helping.

Then I made Queen of Puddings because it’s such a very English pud and you hardly ever come across it in restaurants.  And I served English, French and German cheeses.  Vee remarked that she’d never eaten biscuits with cheese before.  I did consider the matter, but resolutely served cheese biscuits and served it after the pudding, not before.  Englishness was the point of the meal (I know the courgette dish wasn’t very English, but the other point of being English is that we take good things from anywhere).

Elle also wanted a proper English breakfast, so we had bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes followed by toast with local honey and home-made marmalade.  Tonight, we are having fish and chips, from the chippy.  And tomorrow, they intend to head for the local cafe in search of brunch.  I’ve got to play the clarinet in church tomorrow, so i can’t go with them, but I’ll be back before it’s time for them to head for Luton.

The birds really do think it’s spring.  Maybe it is.

A Handful of Zedisms

A couple of bloggers are using the trick of remarking on five things that have happened that day – the idea came from Oprah Winfrey, apparently.  And since I have little time and less inspiration, that’s what I’ll do today.

1 There was a thrush singing in the pine tree by Kenny’s shed this afternoon.  It had spring and nesting and suchlike in its mind, I could tell.

2 I measured myself today.  Bust a bit disappointingly small, waist ditto big, hips just right.

3 I went to get milk from the farm.  Jonny’s Girls were being milked and, a few at a time, strolled relaxedly out afterwards, chewing the cud.  It has to be *the* cud, doesn’t it?  You just can’t say “the cow was chewing her cud,” it sounds weird.

4 The Head’s PA always makes me a cup of tea and tries to catch me out with the variety.  Today, she succeeded – it was Earl Grey with orange blossom.  Very pleasant.

5 Martina said such a nice thing to me in her letter last night, it quite made my morning when I woke up and read it.

Fully fledged

Year 7 have been doing Indian music this half term, which I have enjoyed very much.  Composition is not my forte, though I can advise young children on the principles, but the raga and the tala, at a fairly basic level (we’re talking 11-year-olds), are within my capabilities.   They’re a nice age group too, interested and not afraid to have a go – in a year or two, some of them will be too concerned about making a mistake and feeling silly, something I can sympathise with because I felt like that too, when I was young.

Elle is packing an overnight bag and in half an hour I’ll drive her to the station to catch a train to London.  She’ll meet her mother, who’s been working in Paris so is coming over by Eurostar, and then they’ll meet up with her father and sister, who are flying over.  Tomorrow, they’ll all come back here where they will stay for a couple of nights.  And on Sunday, she’ll leave us for good.  And the Sage and I will finally, after all these years, be empty-nesters.

Z overhears

When the Sage and I were eating our lunch on Sunday, two elderly ladies came and sat down at the next table.  They were obviously good friends who hadn’t seen each other for a while and were catching up on news, and then the younger (or at least less doddery) one said that her son and his family had given her an iPad for Christmas.  They talked about it for some time, the friend being very impressed that she had learned to use email and she had a lot of questions.  “It’s such fun!” the lucky iPad owner told her.  “And it’s easier to use than you’d think.  I can’t quite remember my email address yet, but lots of people write to me and I’ve learned to reply to them.”  “How much did it cost?” “About £400, I think.”  “That’s a lot of money.”  “Yes, it is – well, it’s a lot to me.  I was so excited when I opened it on Christmas Day.  I couldn’t believe my luck!”

And I had tears in my eyes by this time.  But then I’m notoriously soppy.

Z eats out

Family friendships that continue down the generations are especially lovely, I think.  I’ve mentioned one or two before, such as Pam and Peter, whom I went to Corfu with last year.  And the other day, we had a phone call from Fenella, whose grandparents were great friends with the Sage’s parents and whose dad is Ro’s godfather (or dogdaddy, as he used to say as a very little boy).  She was going to be in the area for a hen weekend and wondered if we might be free on the Sunday evening?  We said we’d pick her up and take her out for supper.

Well.  Best laid plans … would have been better if we’d done a bit more checking.  We picked her up from the wilderness beyond Diss and set off to find a pub.  An hour later – honestly, there were no pubs to be seen in miles! – we finally found one.  And it was closed.  Finally, we aimed for Diss itself, where all of one pub was open and it didn’t serve food.  The Chinese takeaway was open! – and it had a restaurant!! – and it was fully booked¡¡¡ for the Chinese New Year!¡!¡ but the very nice waitress relented and said that we could have a table if we could please eat up and leave within half an hour.  Which we did, and many thanks to them for a very good meal, exceptionally quickly served.  And Happy Year of the Snake.

And today, to celebrate my more-or-less return to eating, we went out to lunch – I know, darlings, boundless enthusiasm for fun and jollity and ha-ha-ha-ha – and in view of the perfectly horrid weather (and that I can’t eat much) we had soup, mine was carrot and the Sage’s tomato and red pepper.  And the Sage bought me tulips, which was very nice of him.

I have also seized control of life by phoning an agency and arranging for two cleaners to come and spend an afternoon here tomorrow.  They don’t know what’s going to hit ’em – this is a beast of a house to keep clean, and I’ve not been equal to the effort for the last few weeks.  Once it’s done, I should be able to keep it going for months again.  I’ve come to the conclusion that this probably suits me better than having someone in to do a bit every week.

Tubular circles

The party seems to have been a success.  Half a dozen girls and one boy (the boyfriend of one of them) stayed until noon to clean the bungalow thoroughly, which seems a bit depressingly gender-clichéd – I should say, a number stayed over, don’t know how many.  I went out to sidesman at the early service, then into town to pick up the paper and, coming back down the drive, one lad was just setting off on foot.  I picked him up, turned the car round and drove him into town.  A completely unsuitable denim jacket, he’d have been freezing.

My long hours of sleep have come to their natural conclusion and I slept for less than an hour and a half last night, disappointingly.

Baz the Rev was telling an anecdote about a recent visit to London, where he was quite disconcerted to be offered a seat by a young man on the Tube.  I laughed hollowly and said I’d had the same thing happen myself and been grateful to accept it (I’m some years younger than Baz) – and I know I told you the most recent times because it was when I had a bad hip (though it was usually on the bus, because I couldn’t manage all the walking required on Tube journeys) – but I can’t remember whether or not I’ve ever told you about the first time it happened.  And if I can’t, odds are you can’t either.

I had taken Ro to London for a day out – he was quite a little boy, four or so.  It might have been before he started school, that being the reason El and Al weren’t with us.  We’d had a splendid day, though I can’t remember what we’d done – probably his first visit to the Natural History Museum.  We had walked a long way and we were both ready to flop.  And we got onto the train and there was just one seat.  I looked at him.  “You sit down,” I told him, “You’re more tired than I am.”  So he did, and a young man was sitting opposite him, wearing one of those massive rucksacks that goes right up behind your head, and I know that if I tried one of them I’d flounder under it and lie on my back like a stranded ladybird.  But he leapt up and offered me his seat.  I was embarrassed, said it was quite all right, but he was insistent, so I sat down.  Then, of course, I had to tell Ro to get up and give him his seat.  Then I invited Ro to come and sit on my lap.  It was the most farcical comedy of good manners you could imagine, heaven knows what the rest of the carriage thought about it.  

Z zzzzzzs

Well, now I see what happens when I take advice to rest, I’ll probably never do it again.  Once I started sleeping, I couldn’t stop.  I spent the whole of yesterday in bed, most of it asleep.

The house needs a good clean and I can’t face the thought of it, I’m going to phone an agency on Monday and hope to book a cleaner to sort it out.  Of course, it’ll still be a fair bit of work for me, because some tidying is required too (the Sage doesn’t do tidying, untidying is his speciality) but it’ll be no end of a help.

Elle and her friend Em are having their party in the bungalow tonight.  I’ve no idea how many are going to turn up, but it could be a fair foo, as we say in Norfolk.  I’ve hauled myself up to the attic to adjust the heating (the idiot who thought the place to put the boiler was the wrong side of a loft ladder is cursed regularly) and provided loo rolls, teabags, paper plates and disposable cups and I took them to the Co-op to do some shopping, though I didn’t quite feel up to going in with them.  I’ll toddle through in a few minutes and ask if there’s anything else I can do.

Oh, I weighed myself this morning.  I’ve lost – well, I’ve lost about four pounds since the last time I weighed myself, which was on 1st January, but when one takes into account the amount of January chocolate that was eaten, it’s probably nearer half a stone in the last few days.  Actually, I weigh exactly what I want to weigh.  That is, about half a stone more than I was comfortable with back in my youth, but I’ve reached the age when being too thin goes to the face.  Also, one needs resilience – just think, if I’d been an 8-stone weakling at the start of this, I’d hardly be able to stand up now.

Z was too polite

I grew up before the days of routine snacks and treats.  We had three square meals a day and that was reckoned to be quite enough, although there was always fruit and, if hungry, we would be welcome to have some cheese or something similar.  My mother discouraged sweets and chocolate and a packet of crisps was a rare pleasure (Smith’s Crisps, with the salt in a twist of blue paper, of course).

Once, however, I caught a bad dose of ‘flu.  Actually, it started when I was sick.  Crossing the hall, I suddenly threw up onto the parquet floor.  And, rough though I felt  – ooh, this blog is going to be a confessional again, I’ve never told anyone this – I was so polite – so polite – that I cleared it up before going to tell my mother, and I didn’t mention that I’d been taken by surprise and let her assume I’d made it to the lavatory.  I was probably about 12 at the time.  I was not afraid of her, she was the soul of loving kindness to me, it was embarrassment at having made an unpleasant mess and a reluctance for someone else to have to clear it up.

Anyway, I was duly tucked up in bed and later, trying to tempt my appetite, my mother brought a trayful of little bowls of snacks.  A few grapes, some crisps, sweets, nuts, all sorts of things. And I have the clearest memory of gazing at them all, treats beyond all my dreams, and not being able to eat any of them.

I was ill for several days, almost delirious that first night, but eventually started eating again of course.  And the frustrating thing was that it didn’t occur to her to produce the goodies again, when I’d have been able to enjoy them.  And, of course, I was far too polite to ask.