Monthly Archives: March 2013

Catching up, but still yesterday’s post

The Sage went to boarding school, the one beginning with R in Derbyshire.  He was completing his schooldays about the time I was born, in fact.  There was an old boys’ lunch yesterday in Aldeburgh, at a hotel beginning with W on the seafront, which will be easily identified by anyone who knows the town (no, not the Weasel, Mike).

There was quite a spread of ages, from 80s to a few in their 40s, about ten wives and it was all very good fun.  It reminded me of a blog party, rather, in that very few people knew each other but were coming along to be sociable and friendly and there was no question of sticking to those you knew because that wasn’t the point of the day.  I chatted to a number of people, the Sage probably talked to just about everyone because he’s even more sociable than I am (I know, darlings, hardly possible).  The Headmaster was there too, which was very good of him, I thought, a long way to have come.  The food was excellent too, a prawn salad, then delicious rare roast beef, then sticky toffee pudding.  I coped manfully with most of it and skipped dinner later, although I did have a snack at about 10.30 pm.

I hadn’t had high hopes of the day, though I’d been perfectly willing to go along, and even encouraged the Sage to wear his Old R blazer, a bright little number that he’s disconcertingly keen to wear on unsuitable occasions.  He also wore his OR scarf and tie.  Several others were wearing the tie too, and were impressed by him fitting into his jacket so many decades on – though he never puts on weight.  I sat opposite a retired ambassador whose memoirs are coming out later this year – I’ve noted it and (unasked) promised to buy it, next to a delightful woman who’s a farmer but, as her children are fairly young, grows herbs at present instead of a full-on farm.  She said that she was talking to a farmer friend of many years’ experience the other day and he said he has never known weather like the last two years and now doesn’t know what to do.  The ground is too cold and wet to sow seeds, this time last year there was a drought followed by a wet summer, it’s all beyond anything he’s experienced.  My new friend is sure that, once the weather finally heats up (no sign yet, due to be colder at the weekend) it’ll jump at least 15º (Celsius, that is) in a matter of days and be too hot for the seedlings.  My other neighbours were her husband, who was good company, a very nice man of about the Sage’s age and the Head, who I’d already buttonholed a bit to ask various educational questions and then apologised to because it’s not really the thing at a social do, but he seemed quite relaxed about it.  I didn’t go into it too head-on, I promise.  Just interested.  They’ve been taking girls for many years of course, since the ’70s, but no old girls were there.

In the evening, I headed off to the school for the first night of the school play, which was Twelfth Night with music from the 80s, set in Ibiza (the shipwreck was a plane crash instead) in modern dress.  And it was brilliant, great fun.  As it was the first night, they’ve got a bit of tweaking of sound balance to do, though I was in the front row (it was my duty, darlings, and I’m a slave to duty though that’s quite another show) so probably didn’t hear the dynamics as those further back did.  Some of the actors/singers were exceptionally good and all were splendid.  I had a great time.  I seem to have signed up for the PTA’s 100 Club, which is fine except that I’ve done it on a standing order, so am probably in it for life.

I finally rocked home at 10.30, fried a couple of bantam eggs and drank a glass of wine, went to bed at midnight and slept soundly until after 6.  Since that is uncommon – the latest item, that is – the day must have been quite remarkably good for me.

It’s been busy again today.  I suppose I’ll catch up sooner or later.  I haven’t got a lot planned for tomorrow, maybe then.  

yesterday’s post

It wasn’t that I had nothing to write, just too much to do.  It’s been a very good couple of days in fact, so I’ll start with yesterday morning.

I left half an hour later than planned because of phone calls and emails that couldn’t wait all day, so whizzed hastily into Jarrolds.  I went to be measured for a new bra.  I knew I’d be a smaller size, but I was surprised by the result – and it just shows that one needs to be fitted by an expert.  And if you never have been, go to a shop with proper fitters, they can do it by eye.  You don’t need to take your clothes off and they don’t actually need to measure you.  I said that I’d last been fitted as 34D but that was now too big and she said I was 32 … DD.  Yes, down a back size, up a cup size.

The thing is, and I did know this, the size of the cup is relative to the size of the back, as the circumference is called.  So a 32E would be quite bosomy but a 40E wouldn’t be at all.  I’d never buy a cheap bra, it never fits well and doesn’t last, whilst a good one keeps its shape (and yours) for ages.  They’re not that expensive, the ones I bought were £27 each, but had 20% off because of the promotion.  I do love nice underwear, not that the Sage would notice but I wear it for myself.

Anyway, after that I popped upstairs for a quick look at beds and sofas, which was quite inconclusive and then, because I had a few minutes in hand, looked at clothes, specifically the 50% or more off rail at a particular make’s petite section.  Because I am, most clothes have arms longer than mine and the waist is too low.  I tried on a skirt, two dresses, a top, a knitted jacket and a tailored bouclé jacket.  I picked out size 10 and thought, but they’re too small.  The top was medium because they didn’t have small … that was the only thing I didn’t buy, because it was far too big.  I had to be very hasty because I only had ten minutes – look, I can do decisive and my speciality is spending money in quick time.  I explained that I had to be somewhere else by 10.55 and two assistants looked after me, one packing and one adding up.

And then I arrived at the theatre just in time to find a seat before the lecture, which was really good, and I’ll tell you about it another day.  Afterwards – I was so efficient, darlings, filled every minute of the day – I met Ro for lunch – it was funny, I steamed along towards his office, gathering up a woman on the way who asked me the way to Tombland – no, I’m not being peculiar, that’s the name of a street in Norwich.  I said if she came with me I’d point her in the right direction.  Then Ro phoned to say he was outside the restaurant and told me which way to go, we knew we were within 50 yards of each other.  When I spotted him, he didn’t see me so we carried on the conversation until we met face to face.  He said he’d heard my voice both through the phone and not (it does carry, loud and clear) so knew I was close.  We had a very nice beef stew: shin that had been gently cooked for hours with onions, red wine and mushroom and probably other things too, and coffee and while I was getting out my wallet he handed over his card to pay.  I was charmed.  One of the many lovely things about having grown up children is that they think it’s normal to take you out for a meal as often as you take them.

After that, I had to hurry back to school for a meeting with the Head and vice-chair, which was very constructive in terms of future planning.  So it was one of those days when I felt I’d achieved quite a lot.   Today’s been good too.  But that’s a post for tomorrow.  

Surprised by Sage

One thing I always enjoyed about being married to the Sage was that he could always surprise me – that is, I’ve never learned all there is to know about him.  The revelations have diminished over the years and more recently most of the surprises have been less welcome ones, to be frank.  Changes associated with age aren’t necessarily for the better.

However, this evening he did it again.  I’d been watching Paul Hollywood’s Bread and he became interested too.  “No reason why we couldn’t make bread,” he said suddenly.  I agreed.  I always used to  make all my bread (hand-kneaded, of course, I’ve never had a bread-making machine, nor even used the dough hook on the food mixer) but I stopped years ago and never started again.  I make yeast batters once in a while, for blini, crumpets and so on, but I rarely make bread.  So my agreement was qualified, I said that I haven’t done it for ages and I wasn’t sure if I’d actually bother.

“I could do it,” he said, “watching him, it doesn’t seem that hard.” “Well, you’re a good cook, but I’ve never seen you following a recipe, would you be able to?”  He didn’t see why not.  “You’ve got the tins, haven’t you?” And the last thing I’d want to do is discourage him.  So, as I’m going to Norwich tomorrow and planning to go to Jarrolds (independent large department store, complete with splendid bookshop) I shall buy him the book.  And later, flour and yeast.

Okay, I’m not convinced it’s going to happen, but I’m all for enthusiasm.  And who knows, it could be his new Thing.

labouring the point

Darlings, bear with me for one more emotional post about my mother’s death and then I’ll leave it.

It was not my way to make a decision over her head.  On the Friday when the doctor called, he offered to move her to the wonderful local cottage hospital, but she said she wanted to stay at home.  I was quite anxious about that, wondering if I could cope.  However, when we talked about giving her morphine, he talked to me alone.  And, knowing her discomfort the previous night and being well aware that it would increase and that she needed relief, I agreed to it.

She wasn’t in a fit state to discuss the matter and I thought that, once she was out of pain and tranquil, I’d talk it through with her the next day.  But she died in the night.  I didn’t give her the choice but went over her head, for the only time in my life.

As I said yesterday, it was the right thing to do at that time, but it also killed her because it was will, not strength keeping her alive.  So I’ve always felt responsible for her death.  Not guilty,  I took the advice of the doctor for the right reason and she would have suffered otherwise, and I’d have regretted not doing it.

I remembered Huckleberry, the loveliest dog I’ve ever known (I loved Chester more than any other, but Huck was pure sweetness) and his great discomfort the last day of his life, while I was waiting for the vet to come.  I was about 17 and alone with him for some reason and he couldn’t settle.  I helped him into the garden, I carried him (he was retriever sized, though thin by then) 200 yards down the garden to Oulton Broad, where he loved, but it didn’t calm him, so I carried him back, and I knew we had left it one day too many because we loved him so much we couldn’t bear to lose him.  I didn’t want to leave my mother one day more before giving her relief from that great discomfort, my sister wasn’t there so it was my decision.  Huck was the first dog I held as he was killed by the vet.  There have been a number of others since, it was always done for the right reason at the right time and I don’t feel guilt or responsibility for their death.  But dogs aren’t people.

If any of you has ever had to agree to turn off life support, or has said yes to the Liverpool Pathway, or has done anything else out of love to shorten someone’s life, I feel for you.  I won’t say I know how you feel because each of us has our own reaction and can’t presume on anyone else’s.  I don’t feel guilty and don’t need reassurance – my mother would have died within days and she died in no pain, in a way any of us might choose – but I will always carry the feeling of responsibility.  It isn’t comfortable.

17th March 2003 was a Sunday too

Today is the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.  I don’t normally mark such events and do my best not to think of them, but this has been on my mind a good deal recently.  I’m not entirely sure why, except possibly that it’s close to the date when I shall have outlived my father, something I’m oddly dreading.  This is not to say I wish not to survive beyond the next week and please don’t read this in any such light, but I feel as if I shall be leaving him behind and, even more than forty years on, I’m reluctant to do that.

My mother was told she had terminal cancer exactly, to the day, six months before she died.  She had a fabulous last six months and appreciated and enjoyed them fully.  I remember one day, not long after she came home from hospital, when very old friends, Lawrie and Lynn, came up from Somerset to visit her.  We made smoked salmon sandwiches and got out champagne and the party was in full swing when the Rector arrived to visit his sick parishioner.  He was momentarily bewildered to be greeted by Jane with a beaming smile and a glass of champagne (for him, she couldn’t drink) but entered into the spirit of things in no time.

Our friends Pam and Peter, the ones I went to Corfu with last year, called round one day with flowers for me, having heard she had been at death’s door but not that she had spurned its threshold.  I was out and she saw them arrive.  Naturally assuming the flowers were for her, she greeted them warmly.  They told me afterwards, that was pretty disconcerting.  But it was typical of those last months which she enjoyed so much.

Weeza and I were asleep in the next room when she died.  Weeza woke me in the early hours to say she couldn’t hear anything: I went to check and found that she had left this life.  It was unexpected in that she had had a morphine driver fitted twelve hours previously, which should have eased her last few days.  No one was to know that it was only willpower keeping her going and, once the morphine had dulled that, there was no strength left.  It was the right time for morphine, though.  The previous night had been uncomfortable, though not painful for her and she would have suffered without it.  As it was, the Sage and I helped her to bed and he stayed with her while I went to fetch Weeza from the station – she had come straight home from London when I phoned.  When we got back, we found the Sage helping a very woozy mother to the bathroom, she being determined to go to the loo before falling asleep.  We helped, got her back into bed and she greeted Weeza and kissed us all before settling to sleep.  She didn’t wake again and I’m sure she waited for me to get back.  I’m also sure that she didn’t want to die in front of anyone, to spare us, because I know that’s often the case.

I phoned the doctor’s nighttime service and a doctor from the next town’s practice (someone I know as it so happened) rang me back.  I explained the checks I’d made to ensure she had died: though I knew as soon as I saw her, I checked her pulse, her cooling temperature and put a mirror to her lips, and that he did not need to come out unless he felt he must, and he said he wouldn’t unless I wanted him to.  I phoned Wink, who was due to arrive that morning, the undertaker and, around seven o’clock, the Rector, to tell him I couldn’t play the organ at the service that day.

My mother’s own doctor called in later out of sympathy, which was lovely of him as he wasn’t even on duty that weekend, and later the undertakers arrived.  Wink and I had opened a bottle of red wine by then – it was sometime after midday, and the Rector came just in time to say a prayer for her before she left.  I thrust a glass of wine at him and he dutifully drank it, afterwards admitting he’d given up alcohol for Lent, but he’s a good friend and it was a gesture of support (the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus put it).

I didn’t cry, then or afterwards.  I’d cried buckets six months previously and also briefly on the Friday when the doctor told me that the stent keeping her bile duct open had failed and that she would last a fortnight at most, probably less than a week.  But there’s a time to die and she’d reached it, and it was better to be thankful for a peaceful end in her own bed.

If you have been, thanks for listening.  And if you are remembering someone you love, I hope I’ve not added to your sadness but please think of me as sharing it.

Love to all, Z xxx

Keeping in Touch

A lovely afternoon out with Squiffany.  The Sage joined us for lunch, then left us to go shopping, but we couldn’t find anything in Beccles so decided to go over to Norwich.  On the way, we talked about what she might like, but she couldn’t really think of anything.  She’s the most undemanding child.  She did mention hair clips.  So, knowing she’s saving up for an iPod, I suggested a visit to the Apple Store.  So polite is she that she offered me a contribution of the £30 she has saved already, but I said she should keep it for apps and music.

So she now owns a lovely blue iPod Touch, which looks set to be popular with the whole family.  Luckily, I had a bagful of odds and ends squirrelled away and could give Pugsley a book of cut-out-and-fold paper aeroplanes, which lessened a rather inevitable twinge of jealousy.  I think I’ve just upped the ante in the grandchild present-giving stakes.

And I have no qualms about doing so, either.  I wasn’t fortunate enough to have indulgent grandparents, though I had one very loving grandfather, and I didn’t have any relations at all outside the immediate family.  Having grandchildren and family living close by is something that gives me great joy and I’m so lucky.    

And it gave me an excuse to spend time in the Apple Store, which is always a pleasure.

Zed and the Art of Motor Maintenance

1 The Sage noticed a couple of days ago that my offside sidelight wasn’t working so I was going to go and buy a new bulb, but on the way home last night the headlamp wasn’t working either.  It had been fine last time I used it, but the warning light lit up within minutes of leaving the restaurant.

So today I toddled in to the car maintenance shop in Yagnub where the very helpful owner had also ordered me a new rear windscreen wiper and brought them all home.  And reader, I fitted them.  Yes, I know it’s not that hard, but I’ve never done it before, having always had a husband for that sort of thing.  I still have the husband but he has lost interest in such matters over the last couple of years and besides, he’s out.

When done, I duly tested them and have to admit an arms-in-the-air triumphant “Yes!” moment.

2 After the Finance meeting today, two of my fellow Trustees and I (all the governors are academy directors, though we don’t use the term normally, but four of us are Members of the Academy Trust, though we avoid saying that too, most of the time) had an informal chat and I broached a subject that’s needed to be talked about for a while, ie succession planning.  It’s up for discussion about staff anyway, but I was talking about me.  Not for a while, I’m not standing down yet, but that’s the point of calling it succession planning.  My aim is not to be missed when I leave because I’ll have prepared for it.  And we’re going to start by raising the matter, not just about me but other key governors, at our Steering meeting on Monday week.

3 The air has changed.  Though still cold, winter is no longer here.  I trust it won’t be back for at least 8 months.

4 My passport runs out in December.  I’m going to Turkey in September and need to have 6 months at least in hand (I mean, on the date – I’m only going for a week).  Oh joy, a new passport photo.  I’m going to Beccles tomorrow, I might as well go into the post office and pick up a form – as I remember, you can’t get them here.

5 Talking of going to Beccles tomorrow, the purpose of that is to meet Squiffany after gymnastics and take her out to lunch and Shopping! for her birthday on Wednesday.  She will be eight.  I know, it’s hard to believe, she’s older than this blog.

Gather ye daffodils while Z may

1 I see that Google Reader is closing down in July.  I am, even now, downloading (via Google Takeaway) all the info I have stored there, but what do I do with it?  Can anyone recommend a good feed reader, please?

2 I have no comment to make on the appointment of a new Pope.  I expect it to have no impact on my life at all and it doesn’t seem necessary to form an opinion.

3 I went out this morning without a coat to put some papers in the recycling bin.  I did not scuttle back moments later, chilled to the marrow.  And when the snow melted, daffodils were in flower.  The Met Office app says that the temperature today will be 5º max (feels like 2º) so that this feels quite warm shows how used to the cold I have become.  The sunshine shows that the windows need cleaning.  I’ll go over them with a babywipe*, housework has its limits and I’ve already done the dusting today.  And cleaned my computer keyboard.  Ben found a patch of sunshine to lie in (and I took a photo which is on Facebook).

4 Having booked a holiday in the autumn, my sister emailed to suggest we go away together the same week.  The dear girl has now suggested a different date.  Bring it on, I say.  I like holidays, even if there’s only going to be a few days between them.  And they’ll be quite different in style, one very relaxing and the other busy, with lots of sightseeing and museums.

5 The sunshine has also shown me how much glinting white shows in my hair.  I don’t care.  I’m not going to get into the tyranny of dyeing it and having to touch up roots.  I don’t mind going grey and I don’t mind looking my age, either.

*I just have.  Most of the dust is on the outside.  It can stay there, then.

This little finger on the right – except it isn’t, it’s a thumb and it’s on the left

The only problem with this 5 things way of blogging, which many of you have also taken up because it works very well, is what I should call the posts.  There’s rarely a unifying theme and there are only so many variations on 5.  Anyway,  here are today’s five plus a postscript, because it doesn’t seem appropriate to write it in a list.

1 Not sure what happened last night, I cooked and ate dinner (trout) and read the paper and was suddenly overwhelmed by tiredness.  Not ill, just exhausted.  I thought a bath might perk me up, but it didn’t and I was in bed and asleep before 9.  That meant I thought it was morning at 2 am and I didn’t sleep again, or not until I decided to get up at 7.  That sent me off for half an hour, oh yes.

2 May have to postpone meetings, as we’re getting so many apologies.  Oh good, that means I might have time to get ready for them.

3 My sister asked if I was free for a literary lunch in London in June, which I’d have liked to go to.  Unfortunately, it’s the same day as a concert in Blythburgh church – the only daytime one I’ve booked for, except the children’s one which is at a weekend.  Always the way, innit?

4 When preparing the trout, I cut my thumb.  I thought I was in for a painful time, as I was handling both salt and lemon juice, but it hasn’t hurt at all, then or since.  Quite odd.  Actually, I just bit my thumb to be quite sure it hadn’t lost all feeling.

5 Looking out of the east window, the sky is grey.  On the west side, the sky is blue.  The Sage took Ben for his walk this morning (I expect it was a short one but can’t blame him) and I haven’t been out of the house yet.  I have to go out after lunch but would much rather stay home and skulk by the fire.

I’m sorry to say that my friend, whom I visited in Norwich hospital a couple of weeks ago, is very ill and unlikely to see the weekend.  I shall not see her again: family visits only now.  

Z flops

1 Totally exhausted suddenly.  Heading for bath and bed in five minutes

2 I introduced Ben to the bantams today, which went well.  More tomorrow.

3 A lamb born on the front field.

4 I’ve got loads of work done, but not all and more has come in.

5 Several emails to answer including one from Elle.  Maybe bath will perk me up.  Can’t keep my eyes open at present.  Sage will walk dog.  g’night