Monthly Archives: March 2013

Nothing but a hound dog

I couldn’t sleep at all last night, finally gave up and checked emails etc and found that a friend had just posted something on Facebook.  So we started chatting and – oh dear – two hours went by.  And he’s given me lots of music recommendations (in return, I gave him Okkervil River, The Mountain Goats and Tom Waits’ album Alice) so I’ll have to put on earphones and listen later.  I could be doing it now actually.  Right, there we go.  John Hiatt comes to mind first, so he’s on now.

I was going to tell you about another conversation I had today about the sort of clothes I like but, having written for some time, I realise I lack the vocabulary to make it remotely interesting.  So I’ve scrapped that and instead will tell you the funniest thing I’ve read on Twitter all day.  Or maybe I’m just easily pleased – anyway, I chortled mightily once I’d worked it out.

Say Jesus backwards.
Now say God backwards.
Now say them together.

Splendid, innit?

Dinahmow reminds me about Prince, the talking dog from That’s Life.  Still hilarious, do watch.  I done quite a few lols.

Z calls for BST all year round – not that anyone listens

I was watching the tribute to Richard Briers (I missed the first half and will try to catch it on iPlayer) and Peter Egan said that, when he put down the phone after a conversation with him, his wife always said, you were talking to Dickie, weren’t you?  And he said he was, how did she know?  “You never stopped laughing.”

Okay, it doesn’t take much to make me cry, dammit.

Nothing interesting today, dear hearts, but I’ll do my best for you.  Flower arranging – fine.  What’s to say?  I bought white and cream lilies, roses and carnations, cut various greens and did two arrangements, one in the pedestal and one to go behind the altar.  There are few leaves of interest in the garden, nothing springlike is out and some of the evergreens are looking tired and off-colour.  The arrangements are quite okay, they’ll be better once the lilies are a bit more out, which they will be by tomorrow, I hope.  I also practised the organ and that’s okay too.  I played very fast, partly so that when I slow down a bit tomorrow it’ll be really easy, partly because I was cold.  Oh, and partly because some hymns sound quite dirge-like unless you jazz ’em up a bit.

Later, I filled the big wheelbarrow with rubbish and have said to the Sage that we need a skip.  There’s so much rubbish that isn’t burnable and it’ll be a bugger to keep taking carloads to the tip (and my job, he doesn’t care).  I can’t live like it any longer, I’m miserable in a sea of junk that is never sorted out.  I insisted on sorting out the house a year ago and that has made so much difference – we still have a lot of stuff but it’s manageable, if not easy.  The garden – well, it’s no garden, too random for that – is a different matter, we’ll never keep on top of it, but there’s no need to make it worse.

I’m abandoning the kitchen garden altogether this year.  It’s no good, too much else to do.  I’ll grow a few vegetables in the cottage garden, maybe put a few things in the greenhouse, but the chickens will have the run of the veg garden.  They’ll be happy, safe and keep the growth down.  I’m sorry about it, but it’ll be a relief.  I’m overwhelmed with domestic things, so much that it’s no longer any sort of a pleasure, only a source of anxiety.

I cut back the fig tree – didn’t look to see what time of the year it should be done, I just did it.  It was overgrown.  And I pruned the grape vine, very late but it’s so cold that the sap isn’t rising yet – anyway, I don’t care.

Weeza says on Facebook that where her parents-in-law live, within spitting distance of Birmingham, there’s still an appreciable amount of snow.  Zerlina is charmed to find that some people have built igloos in their gardens and wants to move there for that reason.  I think it’s a pretty good reason myself, though I’d rather have the igloos than the snow.  There’s been some here today, odd weather – sunshine and snow alternately.  I can’t remember having snowdrops in flower so late in the year before.

The clocks go forward tonight – roll on British Summer Time.  If any party made a binding promise to keep BST all year round, I’d vote for it – well, with usual disclaimers, of course, actually I might not.  But why on earth do we have to change the bloody clocks?  We have electricity!  And no one works in the fields by candlelight, even the tractors have floodlights.

If it’s shaped like a pear…

Then it must have been our morning.  It was me, I’m afraid, that caused it, but it was not entirely my fault as the Sage had told me he’d wired in a large area for Ben, and it wasn’t as large as he’d given the impression of, and I let him off the lead too early.  He was overjoyed at a sunny day and a stream to play in and wouldn’t come back.  I’ll spare you details of the merry dance he led us for an hour, but in the end it occurred to me to go round to a neighbour of Gill and Andy and ask to borrow her dog.  Ben came straight away.  He was wet and muddy and I simply shut him in the porch with his bed and a bowl of water, because we were already half an hour late.

We were taking a friend out for lunch – our mutual friend, Mike, whose husband’s funeral we went to last year.  On the way, the Sage phoned to tell her to expect us later than planned, and all was fine.  We had a very good lunch (Ben was being walked later by a friend, we weren’t leaving him all day) and then went on to visit Al and co.  I had, most remarkably, remembered to put Easter eggs etc in the car.  I haven’t got around to buying Al a birthday present mind you, his birthday is on Tuesday and I’ll have to get that sorted out.  He’s even less interested in birthdays than I am, so it doesn’t matter too much.

It was a lovely morning, quite warm compared to what we’ve been used to, and I didn’t take a coat – which was okay until we went for a walk this afternoon with the children.  My dress was reasonably warm and I had on a short wool jacket, but I was freezing by the time we got back, especially my hands.  Al and Squiffany had made hot cross buns, most impressively, and then I nipped back home to take Ben out and feed him before going back for supper.

Tomorrow, flower arranging.  Gill is an expert flower arranger, which I am not, but in her absence I’ve been roped in to do the altar flowers.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.  Flowers are beautiful by their nature, I can’t mess it up that much, surely?

Z and funerals

I played the organ for a funeral today.  Andy usually does that nowadays, but is out of action because of his broken ankle.  I haven’t played the organ much recently – possibly not since Christmas, or not more than once anyway, because we use a smaller room during the winter months for regular Sunday services.

It was an old lady in her 90s who had died, who had lived to meet great-great-grandchildren.  She hadn’t known much of what was going on in the last few years though, but was quite happy in her own world and did still know her family.  She had chosen the hymns for her funeral some years ago, which I very much liked, particularly because she had noted the reason for each choice.  The first was played at her Confirmation, the second at her wedding and the third was simply her favourite hymn.  What good reasons, she must have taken pleasure in remembering those happy events and it was something lovely for her family to come upon after her death.

I’ve played at a good many funerals over the years and attended a fair foo, as we say in Norfolk, as you’d expect by my advanced age.  And it always seems a pity when the same old hymns are pulled out time after time – not that I object to someone’s favourite being played, even if it is All Things Bright And Beautiful.  More often though, the reason is a vague memory of Sunday School seventy years earlier.  I don’t care if I never hear B&B, Crimond, The Old Rugged Cross or Abide With Me ever again, unless chosen for a reason.  On the other hand, I do approve of going for well-known hymns, because they’re generally quite easy to sing and have a pleasant, pick-uppable tune, and that quite matters at a funeral.  I remember some years ago attending a funeral where, not knowing what to select, they’d gone for the hymns sung at the lady’s mother’s funeral a few decades earlier.  One of them was a complicated tune that no one knew.  I couldn’t attempt the first verse, but thought I’d have a go at the second, if only to encourage the organist.  Unfortunately, he pushed in most of the stops (making it much quieter), probably hoping to hear someone sing.  It had the effect of unnerving me because I didn’t want my not-very-good singing voice and uncertain grasp of the tune heard too loudly, so I kept quiet and so did everyone else.

It was a lovely funeral today actually.  Barry pitched it just right, with warm memories told him by the family, a touch of humour – a very old woman had breathed her last: she was mourned but it was not a great tragedy – and there were enough people there to make it apparent that she was remembered fondly, though she had not been out and about for several years.  It’s a great comfort, such an occasion, and of course it can equally go badly wrong and really upset someone who has been bereaved if something jars.  Even something that would normally be discounted and forgotten can cause a lot of unhappiness.

I’m sorry – this isn’t meant to be a gloomy post at all.  A funeral should comfort and sustain friends and family, even if those most affected are dazed and grief-stricken.  In fact, one of the most upsetting in some ways – a friend in his forties with a wife and teenage son – was so skilfully run by his brother-in-law, a lay preacher, that we all laughed and felt thoroughly uplifted and strangely comforted.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the other sort of sustenance.  A good bite to eat afterwards goes down well, especially if people have travelled a long way.  I became quite terse with a friend of a bereaved friend some years ago – the family had gone on to the crematorium and everyone else had gathered at the house to wait, and she was determined that nothing should be eaten until the widow returned – the most hospitable of women, she would have been dismayed.  In the end, I mentioned that some people had travelled from York to Kent that morning and missed lunch because of the funeral, so perhaps handing round a plate of sandwiches might be in order?  

I say, you’ve got me bang to rights. I did open the fridge door. Um, jolly nice fridge.

1 Having thought about my father so much in the last days, I’ve been thinking about my lovely stepfather today, how happy he made my mother and what a fine grandfather he was to my children.  As I’ve said before, so fine that my daughter named her son after him.  I might be drawn to write more before long.

2 Also a post in waiting is one about a walking stick.  Not tomorrow, I’m busy.  I’ll aim for Friday – but I’m a rotten shot.

3 Admission of the week – oh lord, this probably should have its own post.  I’ll see how much more there is to write.

4 Remarkable event of the day – it was the Nadfas Area meeting, the committee which I’m secretary of, and where you can always rely on my grasp of grammar.  There were four posts up for annual election/re-election: Chairman, Vice-chairman, Treasurer and Secretary.  The last two were due to stand down, but we had no candidates.  However, when the Chairman asked, more from a  sense of duty than with actual hope, if there were further nominations, a hand went up – “I’ll be Treasurer if you like.”  Well, what a turn-up that was!  He was applauded, I mean literally, we all clapped, and he was duly elected.  Sad to say, no one offered to take over my job.  I would like to think that this is because I do it so well rather than because no one is mug enough, but it would not be true.

3 Okay, if I had another idea, which I think I did, I’ve forgotten what it was.  So back to the admission, which is quite odd enough to warrant two out of the five whatsits, but to be fair I’ll still call it number 3.  I put on voices to be my dog.  Chester had a voice, Tilly had a voice – come to that, Edboes the teddy bear had his own voice too.  Um, has.  And I’m the animal itself when I do it – that is, I speak in the first person.  And that’s not all.  Ben has his own voice now and it’s worryingly like Boris Johnston’s.  He has his bluff manner too, as I portray him.  My family is all so used to this that no one ever says a word about it.

5 Has anyone got a really tasty recipe for nut roast?  

All but Squiffany

Today’s post was to have included pictures, but I didn’t take them, so it will have to wait.

I got up late this morning.  No excuses but no apology either – not that you’d expect one – I woke early and didn’t sleep again until I was due to get up, which is not an uncommon situation.  The two cleaners who helped me out when I was in a tight spot some weeks ago were due at 1 o’clock and, frankly, I’d let the place go.  No floordrobe but a thriving chairdrobe which had extended to the banisters, a kitchen that had become cluttered and papers, both newspapers and sheets of, in the drawing room.  And all the beds needed changing.  So I whizzed around for two hours and tidied, but didn’t clean at all, and was ready for them to have a clear run.  We even had lunch.

And when they didn’t arrive, we thought they’d overrun at the last place.  And after 2 o’clock, I thought that I might have made a mistake between 13:00 and 3:00 pm.  I knew the day was right because I’d noted every fourth Tuesday.  But when they hadn’t arrived by 3.40, I gave up and did the hoovering myself.  No, I didn’t get in touch.  Too late to be any use, I’m not desperate and they’re very expensive. I’m going to wait and see if there’s an explanation and if not I’ll find someone else.  But I’ve tidied, done some of the cleaning and saved over £50 to boot – which I will spend, because it’s been earned (the Sage did help, mind you, so probably deserves a tenner of it).

Watching the baking programme with Mary Berry, the voiceover chappy just referred to glacier cherries.  I snorted with glee.

Anyway, Al & co less Squiffany, who was at Brownies, came over this evening.  I had chocolate cake, to Hadrian’s great glee.  Pugsley has had an excellent end-of-term report, he’s really made a good start.  The school had its Ofsted inspection recently and received Outstanding, Dilly said today, which is brilliant news for the staff and I’m so pleased – it’s extremely difficult to get an outstanding rating now.  Actually – and I’m not that sort of person normally – I’ve just emailed the Head and Chairman of Governors to congratulate them.

And while they were here, Weeza phoned the Sage on his mobile, and then Ro rang me on mine.  So the whole family was together, virtually, all but Squiffany.  Since we won’t be over Easter, that was rather super.

Z plans to have two vices

dance for you to watch today.

And a governors’ meeting for me, where I raised the subject of my successor.  Not that I’m planning to stand down any time soon, but it’s time to start ensuring that I won’t be missed in the least.  Mind you, the job keeps becoming more time-consuming and serious consideration will have to be done regarding the workload.  Not only is there the main school and sixth form, which together have around 1300 pupils, but two other offshoot governing bodies are likely to be set up.  In addition, one of our committees that presently meets annually is going to have a much heavier workload and I need to be involved in that.  I go to most committee meetings because it’s so much easier to understand all the workings of the school if I’m thoroughly involved – which is also the reason I help in lessons.  I left home at 11.30 this morning and returned at 5.30, three meetings later (no, I don’t enjoy meetings and they have to be thoroughly purposeful or they aren’t worth bothering with).  I can fit it all in, but not too many people with full-time jobs could.  Employers used to be much more understanding about time out for governor duties, but efficiency savings have cut that down considerably.  However, I’ve done this (not all at this school) for … um … it’ll be 25 years in September.  18 years at one school and 14 years last autumn at this one.   Anyway, I said that I can’t manage without my vice-chairman because she gives me so much back-up, I think we should revert to the practice of some years ago, and have a second vice-chair.   I carefully looked at no one as I said this, or rather I only looked at the Headteacher, at the far end of the table.  There are several people who are very capable of doing it, we’ve got really good governors, even the newer ones are very experienced (by virtue of governorship at other schools) and at least two are former Chairmen themselves at other schools (plus one at this one and a staff governor, who isn’t eligible here, who’s chairman at his village school).

Not that I know what I’ll do with my spare time when I do stand down, whenever that may be.  There’s plenty to do here, but I’ve done the devotion to home and garden thing already and I’m not too good at going back.  Travelling will become a less frequent option as the Sage gets older and needs me here more.  There are lots of other voluntary jobs, but I have worked hard for no pay for so long and although I won’t be eligible for a pension for years (they keep raising the age and the prospect diminishes in the distance), that doesn’t mean I want any sort of commitment, not necessarily.

Partly, I feel introspective because the day has arrived, and I think I referred to it a few weeks ago, when I am older than my father was when he died.  Many people outlive their parents’ age at death, of course, though I don’t know if it’s usual to be aware of it to the day – or so aware, at any rate.  And more than forty years on, I still miss him.

A round-up of pictures

If you have three minutes to spare, do watch this – Owl and the Pussycat.  There is music, in case you need to turn the sound down first.

It’s been a busy morning.  We knew that a party of 20-something was going to be at the Communion service, because there was a burial of ashes at 10 o’clock and the family was coming to church first.   I was asked to help with the Communion, something I’ve always avoided assiduously in the past.  However, of the others who might have helped, one was making breakfast, one was sidesman and one was in charge of the children’s crafts and the later service and there was no one else to fob the job onto, so I didn’t quibble and took charge of the chalice for distribution of wine (actually port in our case, you need fortified wine for Communion and I buy it and get something worth drinking).  After that, the family went out for a brief prayer and interment of the box of ashes and then piled indoors again out of the snow for bacon or toasted cheese sandwiches.  I made tea and coffee and helped with the washing up.  After that, I hauled out my clarinet and played for the family service.  No, I wasn’t the hardest working person there.  Five of us were equally busy.

A few photos to round up the week.

Triplets were born here a few days ago.  They are now safe and warm in their owner’s barn with the other ewes and lambs.  One more ewe is due to lamb then she, with the ram, will be taken home until the babies are a bit older and the weather improves.

 Before the snow came back
 Ben enjoyed a game of tug of war the other evening.  He won every time.
Afterwards, he needed a little rest.
Here are the daffodils by the drive this morning.  They look about as cold and miserable as flowers can be.  It’s about 1º Celsius at the moment, but feels a lot colder (according to the Met. Office, it feels like -5º) because of the biting wind.  Snow is lying on the field but has mostly melted from the road.

Z catches up

I seem to have caught up, so back to five points –

1 Much of yesterday was spent writing letters of one sort and another.  One was a letter of condolence to Jill’s daughter.  Today will mostly be spent on office work and settling accounts.  I think the next batch of major bills will be the end of it.  House insurance, council tax and then we’ll be out of debt.  Although there are three family birthdays next month, so it’ll soon build up again.

2 The council tax-free period on the annex finishes at the end of this month so then we can furnish it.  I’m going to move my study in there, which is very kind of me because my present study is a lovely room and I’m letting the Sage have it.  On the other hand, the bungalow is going to be mine and I’m rather looking forward to that.

3 Can today go by without mentioning the weather?  I think not.  It’s snowing.  Melting as it hits the ground, but settling on the trees.  We’ve got it lightly compared to the rest of the country, however.  If there are floods or blizzards your way, my heartfelt sympathy.  It must be quite dreadful.

4 In spite of my best efforts, my feed reader now has 227 unread posts.  I shall read the rest of those written by friends (that is, if you’ve left comments, replied to my comments, had any personal contact) and delete the rest unread.  I’ve hardly glanced at the newspapers all week, read no books and have had too much other reading to do, so something has to give.  Not friends, though.

5 The Sage kindly cooked me bacon and egg for breakfast.  When I had eaten it, I kindly cooked the same for him.  This seems slightly odd, but it seemed to work and enabled both of us to be nice.  Actually, the fifth point was going to be something else, but I’ve forgotten what.

It’s as if you were there with me…

The lecture the other day was on the history of clothes and wasn’t quite what I expected.  It wasn’t so much clothes through the ages but an examination of specific portraits and the clothes shown in them.  The speaker did take them in chronological order so changing styles came into it, but there was much more to it than that, because she also brought along images of similar fabrics and clothes, mainly from the V&A, which was immensely interesting.  She had done so much research.

I’m not going to remember the titles of all the paintings to show you, but a few will give the flavour.  One was Moroni’s The Tailor, another was Bellini’s Doge Leonardo Loredan, there were these two splendid teenaged brothers, painted by Van Dyck, both of whom were killed in the Civil War.  This Gainsborough was used as an example of how a more free style gives little clue how the clothes were made (so is less appreciated by clothes historians) and a poignant Hogarth of the Graham children who look so happy and so very expensively dressed.  The little boy on the left died before the picture was finished and she showed several touches that Hogarth had done to indicate this sad event.  He was less than a year old – at that time, by the way, it was normal for boys to wear pink (as a less strong version of warlike red) and girls to wear blue, which was associated with the Virgin Mary.  There was Madame de Pompadour, who also died before the portrait was completed, Queen Charlotte who, anxious and distracted about her husband’s illness, was reluctant to sit for a portrait.  She turned up in a dark gown and an unbecoming bonnet that hid her face and it took some persuasion for her to remove the hat.  Lawrence simply painted her in a prettier dress, but the king was shocked by her hatless hair and it was rejected.  Then there was Ingres’ Madame Moitessier – this took several years to paint because Ingres kept changing his mind as to what she should wear.  He abandoned it several times, then returned to it.  When finally completed in 1856, this style was bang up to the minute.  Renoir also took several years to complete les Parapluies because he was not satisfied with it – an x-ray shows that the woman on the left looking directly at us had originally been dressed similarly to the mother in the bustle, but he changed his style and painted over her, also changing the message of the painting.  Instead of being another richly dressed young woman, her bare head and gloveless hands indicate a woman of a lower social class, one who had a job, though she’s well enough dressed to be respectable and reasonably well paid.  However, it’s clear that the man offering her his umbrella has designs on her.  In painting and costume terms, however, it’s the completely different dress, painted in a different style too, that is most notable and shows Renoir’s abandonment of Impressionism.

The V&A has one of the dresses shown in a portrait in its collection – sadly, I can’t remember the title or artist and I haven’t managed to find it on the National Gallery website.  If I can, I’ll add it later.