Monthly Archives: April 2013

Steady Z

Today has been a bit intense in some ways – there’s a lot I want to say, but whether it’ll be for publication is a different matter.  I don’t know yet – let’s see.

As I mentioned, I’m moving towards finding a replacement as chairman of governors.  There’s bad news – but not entirely.  There had been reaffirmation of commitment and support, which is wonderful. However, that’s been it.  Okay.  More strings to bow.  I’ve been thinking it through, bottom-linewards.  I still feel quite strong and capable, it’s all right for now.

I had lunch with M, who is vice-chairman and also, and quite irrelevantly to that, broken her leg.  We’re tremendous friends and we talked about things, which has given me some clarity of mind and her also, I hope.  And I may come back to this – I’d love to know your take on things, but if I tell you, it has to be written down all in one go.  If I save a draft, I delete it later.   It’s like conceptual art but without the money – once expressed, it’s done with.

Anyway, I was cooking dinner later – salmon kedgeree, if you’re interested, and queen of puds will follow because leftovers will rule in this house for the rest of the week – and Gill, Ben’s missus, phoned.  Andy’s leg isn’t fully healed because the steroids he has to take have inhibited bone growth and mending.  She can get about the house without a stick, but it takes backbone not to limp.

I’m a rock, darlings, my role is the supportive one.  You can rely on me if you’re in a fix.  I’ve assured her that Ben is fine here, we love him and will look after him for as long as they need us to.  It’s clear that she’s not sure if she can cope with him again – that’s up to them.  She and Andy need to talk it through and make their decision.  If it’s to have him back, of course that’s fine and if not then they can talk to us and we’ll say whether we are willing to keep him or whether we’ll look after him until he can be re-homed.

The Sage and I have had a brief chat on the subject and our reaction is decided, but no more on that at present.

Never has ‘pfft, it’ll be fine’ been a better path to follow.

But I was just about to send this out when the phone rang.  It was Marian, saying that our friend Elspeth has died.  This was not unexpected as she had lung cancer – I last saw her 6 weeks ago and then she knew that this was her last remission.  She’s been in a hospice for three weeks.  Pfft doesn’t cut it here, does it?

Blog award

An award has been doing the rounds of late attached to a short meme and Scarlet has offered it to me.

To accept it I simply have to answer four questions and then nominate several bloggers who’ve recently inspired/moved/touched me.  Although I’m not sure about that, most people seem to have been sent it already and there aren’t many of you left.  But I’ll come to that later and answer the questions first …

1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I’d give the Sage perfect health.  I’d trade anything I might want for that.  I have to say, this is something I worry about far more than he does, but he brushes aside all signs of ageing, says he feels as well as he ever has and takes little notice of my attempts to look after him.  He does let me do the heavy work in the garden and carry the shopping though, so it’s not all bad… 

However, something for myself – I’d love to regain my ability to lose myself in books.  It grieves me immensely that after half a century of being immersed in reading, I’ve simply lost that quality of absorbedness and, try as I do, I can’t get it back.  

2. If you could repeat any age which would it be?
I can be very specific here.  It would be the first six months we lived in this house: that is, July 1986 to January 1987.  

3. What really scares you?
I’m terribly afraid of deep water.  I’ve tried very hard to overcome it but I’m getting worse and I can hardly even manage a swimming pool any longer.  I simply can’t go out of my depth and have to hold on to the side at all times.  As you can imagine, sea bathing is out of the question – that is, going in any deeper than the waist.  Such a nuisance. 

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
Oh darlings, I’d be a dog of course.  In fact, I might never change back.  

As I said at the start I think most of you have been nominated already.  So I’ll go at it from a different tack – if you are a reader but not a blogger, please give your answers in the comments.  Because I know some of you and the REALITY acronym certainly applies to you.  Thanks, darlings.

It’s complicated…

Lunch went really well and it was great to see our friends.  Distant cousins and in addition, Jill is my late mother-in-law’s goddaughter, her sister Sarah’s is the Sage’s sister’s goddaughter and their brother Paul is Ro’s godfather – or, as a very young Ro put it, dogdaddy.  Jill and Sarah live in the Sheffield area and we hadn’t seen them for years.  The Sage’s sister June hadn’t visited us here for a long time either, she doesn’t drive now and lives in North Norfolk and we usually meet in Norwich.  The whole family came too and it was fun.

The Sage is due to go on a tour of Adnams tomorrow – he had booked himself in without inviting me too, hmm – but then, being carless, he belatedly asked me to go with him.  Initially I accepted, but I’ve had second thoughts.  It’s a precious free day and I can get work done as well as spend a while just doing nothing.  Being on my own, doing nothing much has always been hugely important to me
and there hasn’t been very much of it recently.  I don’t have to be completely idle, that is, just letting my mind relax.

It used to be the greenhouse.  When we first moved here we had three children aged 12, 10 and 2.  It was all pretty lively and continued to be so for several years.  The greenhouse was my refuge.  I spent hours there looking after seedlings and larger plants.  Anyone was welcome to come and join me, but only to be a cheerfully quiet companion.  If one of the children came to complain about another, they were bundled out straight away.  Only tranquillity was allowed.  However, in the last few years I haven’t needed that – as far as the children are concerned, not for  many years and not as far as the Sage is concerned either, because he’s a restful person to live with on the whole.  But I’ve lost the knack of letting go and being tranquil and I’m not sure how to get it back.  Doing something that needs concentration but not thought or worry, I think.  I’m not sure I’ll manage it tomorrow, work being something that expands to fill the time available, but I’ll try.

Oh, I’m not letting the Sage down – he can borrow my car. 

Saturday Five

1 I’m sorry, whingeing as ever, but another almost sleepless night – asleep for an hour, awake for at least three, the soundest hour’s sleep after the radio alarm comes on.  This afternoon, I was told I looked tired.  No, really.  REALLY?

2 Brace yourselves, you’re getting a look at my next passport photo.  If I tell you this is probably the best passport photo I’ve ever had, do feel for me.  One isn’t allowed to smile nowadays, of course.  But I’m convinced that I still don’t look so old and I know I don’t look so frightened as in the picture that was taken ten years ago.

I know.  I’m not claiming to look good.  But you’d not mess with me, right?

Anyway, the point is, I popped into the local photographer’s to make an appointment.  “Oh, I think Phil could do it right now if you like?”  I nearly ran for it.  But I asked for a mirror and used a comb instead and the deed was done.

3 Equally good service was received at the local garage.  Yesterday, I heard a knocking sound from the back of the car – no, no one was locked in the boot.  So I toddled in, and Graham came for a turn round the block with me to listen for himself.  He has a couple of ideas and doesn’t think it’s serious.  But it’s a bit more today than it was yesterday, so I went in to book an appointment.  They’re fitting it round my social life, darlings, can anyone be nicer?

4 This afternoon, we went to the memorial service of a lovely, lovely man.  He was 93, it was more a time for loving memories than great shock and grief, though his wife and family must feel it sorely.  But it was a fine service.  Afterwards, we went back to the house for tea – there was a marquee on the lawn.  Tea there was, but most people headed for the other table and picked up a glass of Pol Roger.  I know.  No pretension I assure you.  It comes naturally to them.  I’ve a feeling that the truly classy went for the tea, but I didn’t.

5 Picture of Augustus.  So delightful, how soporific eating can be for a small child.

Z spends time with the Sage

I’m way behind in correspondence, so if I owe you a letter, please accept my apologies.  In some cases it’s beyond the point of rudeness and I must catch up tomorrow morning.  I blame it on the weather – well, you’ve got to have something to blame.  To save heating the study, and it really does seem wasteful to this frugal Z to heat this whole big house for two of us, I moved my computer into the drawing room for the winter and only moved it back a few days ago – as a result, in the evening I have to choose between sitting with my husband or catching up on what the day hasn’t left time for.

Of course, it helps when I can’t sleep at all, as then I can write emails on my phone in the small hours, but my old eyes are getting too tired for that sort of thing.

The Sage being carless, he needed a chauffeuse and it was lucky I had a free day so no juggling was required.  It was nice, in the pleasant sense – I drove him over to Attleborough to do an appraisal for possible future sale of some china. On the way home we stopped for lunch at the village pub at Hempnall.  We went marvellously retro with scampi and chips in a basket.  When we got home, I took Ben for a run on the marshes.  A friend came by with her dogs and Harvey, a pale yellow labrador, was as keen as splashing in the water as Ben is and they had a great time.  Then I took the Sage to Southwold to fetch the catalogues for his sale in June.  More about that another day.

We’re up to 16 for Sunday lunch, which is a lot less effort than it sounds.  It’s just a case of preparing more vegetables.  And borrowing another table, but I’ll take the wheelbarrow to the church for a folding one, assuming I get permission to do so (I will).  I’ve bought a big joint of pork and will make a triple-sized pud.  Do you remember the ’80s when we all cooked elaborate dinner parties?  And the ’60s come to that – I remember my mother making everything from scratch, mincing liver two or three times for a pâté and so on.  It’s simpler now on the whole – well, it is in this house, especially for Sunday lunch.

In fact, the shorter the notice and the more people turn up, the simpler it is.  I mean, if you invite two or four people a couple of weeks in advance and at least some of them are excellent cooks, it takes a lot of self-confidence not to feel the pressure to do something elaborate (I’m old enough not to care, mind you, most of the time).  But if some people drop in during the afternoon and you feel drawn to ask them to stay on, it’s pot luck.  Frankly, they’ll be impressed with being fed at all and if it’s reasonably tasty they’ll be more than happy.  And if you run out of plates and someone eats out of a frying pan, that doesn’t really matter either.

On the other hand, having set the date for the blog party several months in advance, a plea of not enough time to plan is not going to hold water.  The only thing I know is, it won’t be a barbecue.  I’ve learned that lesson.  

Kittens! Er…Dog! Doesn’t sound quite the same, innit?

Ben showing bear the bear.  He hadn’t been playing with his teddy and went to look for it, so it’s tempting to think he recognised the species.

He loves a splash in the water, though he doesn’t normally swim, just frolic.  I think he must have trodden in a hole or on something as he seemed to stumble and then went back to look.

Both should embiggen – sorry the still pic is rather dark, but it was evening and Ben blends in rather well with the colour scheme.  There’s a box bottom right of the video to enlarge.

A sudden lack of suspense…

The day started really well.  I’d kept back a number of my mother’s clothes – please let it never be said that I’ve a vestige of pride and we always used to swap clothes around – I spent some time this morning trying things on and it’s fair to say that my future winter wardrobe is assured, albeit with rather longer skirts than I might have bought myself.  The dresses I kept were few but splendid – from the early 1970s, I should think, one had a Fortnum and Mason label in and the other is Susan Small – I don’t know if I’ll ever wear either but I can’t possibly let them go.  There’s another I haven’t tried on yet, marvellously early ’70s with geometric patterns in orange, black and white, and another in red chiffon, simply because I remember she looked lovely in it and I can’t let it go either.  Maybe there’s a trace of sentiment in my soul after all.

My friend came for coffee and I was afraid he was going to resign – he didn’t, it’s fine.  We had a straightforward discussion, that was fine too.  I’m stripping away any edging round a subject – just say it nicely and it cuts out a load of waffle.  The Sage popped in at one stage to say he was going out, and politely removed our coffee cups.

Later, I ate some lunch – well, of course … I had a hard-boiled egg, toast and Marmite, a banana, took Ben for a walk, went off for my meeting, which was interesting and may lead to something even more so, then another meeting when I surprised a governor – but possibly more of that considerably later – and then yet another meeting.  I apologised and explained why I hadn’t done something – no edging, as I said.

When I got home, the Sage’s car wasn’t here, so I assumed he was out – but the door was unlocked.  “Where’s your car?” I asked.  Oh darlings, the poor Sage had such an awful time.  Driving home from Lowestoft, it suddenly collapsed, the suspension having gone for a burton.  He had to get the police as he was blocking the road and they called a breakdown lorry which brought him home and took away the car.  It’s a write-off, my lovely old Mercedes – the roads are terrible after the bad winter which has left so many potholes and I know other people have had trouble with suspension in their cars.  No harm done physically and the Sage wasn’t too upset.  I suggested he have a rest and he didn’t argue however, so he must have felt quite wiped out.

Friend with hedge trimmer came to cut the privet hedge round the tennis court.  No problem with nesting birds, it’s almost denuded of leaves though many are in bud.  He cut, I cleared up.  After a couple of hours, I was knackered, darlings.  Still, the long side is done and I can clear up the short side another day.  The grass is growing worryingly quickly, and where the chooks have been, the ground is very uneven.  I won’t let the Sage do it with a strimmer though.  I take care of him, don’t want to take risks with his health.  I’d do it myself but a petrol-driven strimmer is so heavy.  I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s been gorgeous weather, the warmest day of the year and I’ve really appreciated that.  Just lovely to bask in sunshine.

And maybe I’ll manage an early night.  I’m reading more at last, some days recently I haven’t picked up a book and I’ve concluded that’s part of my lack of settledness.  I need equilibrium, and I’ll get it somehow.

Numbers for Sunday lunch are going up – great!  Fourteen so far, two more to hear from.  One borrowed table plus our own, that’s fine.  I so love to feed lots of people, don’t you?  One feels so friendly.  It’s not a matter of what one cooks (I have two bringing puddings – I’ve already said I’m not proud) but being hospitable is, to be soppy, how you show love and friendliness.

Ben watched the wildlife programme this evening.  When the grizzly bear came up on the screen, he went to get his own teddy bear and show it to the television.  He’s such a sweet dog.  Albeit quite naughty.  But naughty’s not bad, innit?

Third leg

Another funeral to play for today, though I’d have gone to it in any case.  I didn’t know Norman well, but he was a lovely man.  His mother lived in the village – so had he at one time – and was renowned for once, being the railway crossing keeper, flagging down a train and preventing an accident, rather in Railway Children style.  Norman’s wife Jenny died horribly early in her early sixties and I met him several times at that period. They had got married when she was 18 and he was 22 – early marriage is out of fashion nowadays, but those of my friends who married young seem to have done quite as well as those who left it until later.

I’m pleased that Andy will be able to take over funeral organist duties again.  I hope I take a professional attitude but I find it emotionally very difficult at times.  Today, although I played for fifteen minutes or so before the service, I didn’t need to play as the coffin was brought into the church and taken out again because Norman had chosen music to be played from CDs.  So I was sitting there when the undertakers came to take the coffin out.  Two family members wanted to take their part and so some care had to be taken that all went smoothly, and it was when – I don’t know why – the pallbearers had the coffin securely on their shoulders and one said “Right, gentlemen,” to start them going when  I had to turn away – the organ is at the altar end of the church, by the choir stalls (we don’t have a choir) and I’m in full view and tears were running down my face.  The last couple of years, I’ve been so over-emotional and I wish I could get over it.

Anyway, after that I took the dog for a walk and he had a lovely splash in the river, I had a short sleep, I took him out again – oh, having had a chat with Wink on the phone in the meantime – and then went out for a meeting.  There was wine and food afterwards and I had chatted to various people and was about to leave when I had a phone call from a lugubrious Sage, whose own meeting had gone on a lot longer than he’d expected so was only just home, but had found that he’d left his keys in the house.  He hadn’t eaten, so I made him a swift tomato and cheese omelette with salad, which he ate with a packet of crisps and a glass of cider.  He was perfectly happy with that and it makes me wonder why I spend an hour or two cooking every night when ten minutes seems to do just as well.

Tomorrow, friend Brian is coming round for coffee – I’ve a feeling I know what he wants to talk about and that I won’t really want to hear it – and then meetings in the afternoon.  But then Friday is free, so I might go and visit a friend who has broken her leg.  Yes, another friend, this isn’t Gill or Andy.  Still, things go in threes they say, so let’s hope that’s it.

Z’s day improves

As predicted, I was awake most of the night again.  Pah.  At 4.30, I was writing an email to Martina, having given up on sleep altogether, though I did have another couple of forty winkses after that.  And I had a rather disturbing dream, one of the sort that, every time you drift off for ten minutes or so, you go back to and carry on with.  I won’t bore you with it, don’t worry.

At about 10 o’clock this morning, I had a horrible shock when I realised one of my earrings was missing.  The ones I wear most of the time are gold studs with a little diamond chip in, but it so happened that I was wearing the diamond ones that Weeza gave me for my birthday once – I think it was my 50th.  It was a lovely and generous present and here they are, though rather blurred – they’re set in white gold.

They being studs, I hadn’t taken them out last night. To start with, I thought they must be in one of the places I’d been this morning – that is, my bed/bedroom, the landing or bathroom, the stairs or hall or the kitchen or study, and the Sage and I searched.  Then I started to worry that I’d lost it yesterday.  I couldn’t remember whether or not I’d touched them at any particular time.  I went to the supermarket, petrol station, walked round the village and so on.  Or if it had fallen off in the bath, it might have gone down the plughole.

You’ll understand my distress.  And Debs and Fi, the cleaners, were coming today – so I left a note asking them to look carefully and to empty their vacuum cleaner both before and after use so that I could check through the contents.  And then I had to go off for my lunch in Norwich.

Betty was feeling a bit fragile, but determined to go to the lunch.  I and another friend, Janet, parked at her house and she’d booked a taxi (she’s very generous, there was no question of offering to pay for that or the lunch).  We were greeted with the offer of wine, went through for lunch with about 35 others at 1 o’clock and it was, as expected, a quintessentially English meal.  Starting with Norfolk asparagus, then roast beef, then apple pie, and excellent it was.  More wine, and I thought it’d be okay to have a glass, I wouldn’t be driving for at least a couple more hours.  I didn’t expect the port though.  Decanters were put on the table (passed to the left, obv) and – well, what the heck.  I toasted, in very small sips, the Queen, St George and someone else – maybe it was the dragon – obediently with the rest, and then drank black coffee.

When we were in the taxi again, I checked my phone and found that the Sage had tried to phone at 1.30.  That seemed a hopeful sign so, as I was leaving Betty’s house just before 4 o’clock, I rang him.  And the earring had been found, under the rug in the bathroom in a crack between two floorboards.  I passed the news on to Janet – I’d tried to put the whole thing out of my mind: I’m used to compartmentalising, but I had told her – and she was so pleased for me that I cried with relief.  Just for a moment, doesn’t do to get emotional.  By the way, going out and being sociable did Betty good, she was very cheerful and chatty, though I expect she’ll be tired tonight.

And this evening Al, Dilly and the boys came for tea, Squiffany being at Brownies.  It was a jolly little party and they’re coming again for Sunday lunch, when we’ve got some other people coming too.   I think there will be eleven of us, so we’ll all fit round the table (unless more of the family decide to come, in which case I’ll have to add another table).  No doubt I’ll tell you about that later in the week.

Oh, and a couple more things have been ticked off the outside list.  

Z is a wrinkled old retainer

When looking at myself in the mirror, I’ve been quite disappointed by what I’ve seen for the past few days.  I looked pale and not particularly well – I usually take the rough with the smooth as far as my appearance is concerned, but I was actually drawn to apply concealer and blusher, which hardly ever happens.  My make-up, though applied daily, is minimal.  Well, three items are applied and it takes a minute or two.  However, this morning, I looked – well, I looked as if I’d had a good night’s sleep, which I had.  Even now, at the end of the day, I look better than I have the last few mornings.  I was awake for a couple of hours in the night, mind you, and woke several times, but I was in bed for eleven hours altogether and must have slept for eight, and that’s such a rarity nowadays.

Today, I moved back into the study, having had my computer in the drawing room all winter.  It’s been too cold in here and it’s silly to heat this whole big house for two of us.  We have four living rooms, five bedrooms as well as the rest – and now we have the annexe too, of course.  Mind you, I’m going to use it.  I’ll have my piano in there, I’ve moved some books already and I’ve offered the Sage this room (it’ll be a wonder if he uses it, but if he doesn’t then words will be said, as it’s a lovely room and I’m being quite remarkably nice) and will have a study through there.  We’re paying council tax for the place, so might as well use it..

We have had a Broadband upgrade, so should have speedy and good internet from now on.  I’ve trotted all over the house with my phone and got a connection everywhere, which we didn’t have before, even with a booster.  It’s only one bar in most places mind you, but it does work (bar in connectivity terms, please understand).

The BT chap was very nice.  He is ex-Army and has lived in Germany for 18 years, which he loved – in between secondments to various wars, of course.  Imagine a wry face there, dear hearts.  We had a really interesting chat while he worked.

And tomorrow, the house will be cleaned – woo-hoo!  It’s so absurdly tidy, by my standards, that I could give it a quick go-through in a couple of hours, never mind two women at the same time.  I’ll be out, having been invited to a St George’s Day lunch at the Norfolk Club by my friend Betty.  Betty is in her nineties and is a darling.  She has many ailments and isn’t daunted by any of them.  Anyway, I suggested to the Sage that I make a note of what I want them to do – not that I’ll write much, I want them to clean the house and they know that already.  But there are a few things that a non-cleaning member of the family won’t understand.

I did my once-in-a-while turnout of bottles for the village bottle bank.  I also bagged up all those clothes of my mother’s because there’s a clothing bin there too, in support of Scope.  Jolly good, saves me going to charity shops, because there were several binbags-full.  When we were loading them into the car, I said hang on, where are those two bags of bottles (8 in each, but not all booze, darlings, and it’s been a while anyway and I needn’t say what length of a while) I left by the door?  He showed me.  Alongside the several other bags that I’d left for him to take to the bottle bank and he hadn’t bothered, that’s where.  Honestly, it’s such an uphill struggle, I feel like Sisyphus (ah, Saki lovers, remember the Envy of Sisyphus, because it goes quite nicely uphill if you push it?).  Anyway, all safely crashed or fhwoomped home, out of my hair.  I admit to having reserved a few garments to see if they fit/suit me, mind you.  Wicked waste makes woeful want, as Aunt Abbie put it (if anyone has read those Dane Chandos books, we are practically sisters.  Or brother and sister.  Whatevs.).

You see, darlings, how jolly I am when I’ve had enough sleep?  Of course, the downside is that I’ll hardly sleep for a week because I’m not deprived enough.  But it’s been a good feeling.

The rest of the good feeling is opening up the house for the summer.  North and East wings, marvellous.