Monthly Archives: May 2013

Z’s day

Met the Head, phoned the Sage who had walked home, so I said I’d buy bread, the BBJ (local paper) and veggies and be home in twenny minutes.  But I wasn’t.  On my way past the Buttercross, I met Nidge.  His wife is Patsy, who cleaned for me when we first lived here.  And he gave me the dreadful news that her son died last month at the age of forty.  Of course, I went straight round to see her.  What a shocking thing to happen – he had pancreatic cancer and lasted two years from diagnosis.  Patsy herself has emphysema and she and the boy took it in turns to use the wheelchair when they were out.  Hasn’t stopped her smoking though, roll-ups with no filter are her preferred smokes.

There seems to be so much bad news at present.  Gill and Andy’s fractures, Anthony’s prostate cancer, Mary’s broken leg, Willie’s death, Sean and Wink’s arthritis, Beryl’s broken hip and that’s by no means all.

Anyway, I was home at least an hour later than I’d said.  This afternoon, we’ve been to the hospital – that was a near miss, I assumed there’d be a mobile unit at the little hospital in the next town as usual. but fished out my letter to check, and it was actually at the main hospital at Gallstone.  Jolly efficient, the walk to and from the Breast Imaging Department (okay, for people with active imaginations) took quite as long as the appointment and I was in and out within the time allowed for free parking, which is a first.  There were lots of stats in the accompanying leaflet, such as “for every 14,000 women screened regularly for 10 years, one woman may develop breast cancer she will die from because of the radiation from the mammograms.”  Oh, okay.  I suppose that’s the reason Britain screens every three years and not more frequently, it’s a balance.  Though how they know the cause is a mystery – that is, if it’s caused by radiation from those specific x-rays, rather than anything else.  Anyway, it’s done and won’t be again for a bit, unless there’s a problem, of course.

After that, we went to check the venue for the auction next week – same place, different room – and I decided on the layout of the room.  The Sage’s suggestions were bizarre, so everyone went with mine.  *Toothy grin*  Then we went to call on friends who aren’t well, then home.

I’ve accepted offers of tea and coffee everywhere and didn’t confuse people who were already anxious by mentioning that I prefer black.  So I’ve felt slightly queasy ever since.

The rest of the day is school-related and so I can’t talk about it.  Sometimes, I wonder how I have anything to blog about at all.  Because school seems to take up most of my waking life, some weeks.

Oh, and now we’re keeping Ben, I’ve changed his diet a bit.  He was fed solely on dry food, but I had a dozen tins of dog meat in the cupboard, left from when we had Tilly.  I’ve been adding half a tin to his dry food – and he adores it.  Dinner is greeted with enthusiasm rather than indifference and he wags his tail as he eats.  

Do It Zedself

I finally had to acknowledge that I’ve completely blunted the mower blade.  Fortunately, while I was busy with my rub, trying to perk it up again, friend Mike called round and he offered to take it and sharpen it for me.  Yes please, I said, handing him an adjustable spanner.

I did my own bit of diy today too.  I changed various filters in the hoover and took it apart to clean out the crevices, all of which were full of dog hair.  It’s a jolly good hoover, a Sebo (hoover being generic) and has been going strong for over 25 years.  I see it would cost a couple of hundred quid to replace, but that’s what I paid in the first place.  I had a glitch at the end, however, because I’d taken everything apart, put it together and it didn’t work.  Finally, I tried a new fuse in the plug.  Yes.  That did it.  And now I’ve cleaned through downstairs and we’re surprisingly okay, considering I haven’t heard from the cleaners again.  I’m as fed up as a polite person can be.

It may be half term – well, it is half term – but things don’t stop when you’re supposed to be on holiday, and I’ve a meeting at school first thing tomorrow.  And a mammogram later, oh joy.  It’ll be fine, it always is and, if not, what’s the worst that can happen?  No need to save for my old age.  Which is a useful thought.

Leaving on a jet plane

I’m feeling a bit distracted at present.  There’s a lot going on with family, school, Nadfas…  At least the organ is sorted out.  Not sure if I mentioned that, but a few weeks ago a heavy hymn book fell off the rest and the corner hit a key, which shifted a strut so that a note kept playing.  At the time, about ten minutes before the service was due to start, I couldn’t do much, so I whizzed home for my clarinet and played that instead.  Better than singing unaccompanied – actually, probably better than me on the organ.  Even sight-reading and unpractised, it’s a lot easier to hammer out a tune when there’s only one line of notes to read.

Various other things will be spoken of in due course, not yet.  But today we took a few hours off and went on a tour of Adnams brewery, distillery and distribution centre.  This is probably the nearest equivalent, but we got lunch too, as shareholders.  Only a few shares, to be honest, but it doesn’t matter.

Darlings, what I love is enthusiasm, and that’s what you get there, especially from the Chairman.  He’s so knowledgeable, too.  He was able to go back several hundred years in terms of knowledge, but was bang up to date too.  Adnams is the only place in the country that produces spirits from its own grain: that is, from first to last.

Ooh, let me digress.  Ben just went to the Sage’s table and picked up a rubber band.  “Excuse me?” said I (the Sage being out of the room).  He sucked the whole thing in his mouth.  From a good 12 feet away, I exerted Power of Z to make him come here and give it to me – I should remind you that he is a deeply disobedient dog.  I’m quite relieved to find that he knows I’m pack leader.

Right, so pure vodka has to be … I think … 96% ethanol, and gin and whisky are made from that.  The process was explained – bear in mind that methanol=bad, ethanol=good.  It was so interesting and you don’t have to like spirits (I do) to appreciate the explanation.  Oh, and the yeast has been in constant use since 1940, so it’s unique to the company.  Isn’t that brilliant?  It’s alive, of course, so the more it’s used, the more it grows.

After we got home, I met someone who, I hope, will supersede me as Nadfas Area secretary.  She’s lovely and will be far better at the job than I was (I should say that I’ve made the job simpler, but only because I had to because it was soooo time-consuming).  If this goes through, I’ve unloaded another whole job!  School stuff continues to grow, mind you, I’ll still be busy.

Sorry about yesterday, I was going to write about something, not sure what, but then Weeza phoned and we had a long chat, and then I had an email from a friend who has moved to New Zealand.  He and his wife were from there originally, but it was a bit out of the blue – actually, there was a message on the answerphone a week or so ago, just saying hello but I expect he wanted to tell us then.  He bought some china in the last sale, which he was going to pick up next time he was in the area.  I’m guessing that won’t be for a while, now.

Another sunny Bank Holiday Monday

A very jolly lunch out near Cromer at a Greek restaurant, all friendly and hospitable.  I managed to leave my cardigan behind, but have just heard from a friend that he’s taken it home, as it was recognised as mine, and he’ll drop it in tomorrow.

I’ll be home tomorrow, as it happens.  We’ve had a series of mysterious messages left on our answerphone.  An automated voice said that to arrange delivery, we should go to a website and enter details – but I didn’t know what *she* was talking about.  I wasn’t expecting a delivery – that is, I have been at various times, but nothing that needed signing for.  And the whole thing was said so quickly that I didn’t have a chance of noting the website, even playing the message several times.  Finally I was in and picked up the phone – of course, an automated message starts at once, not waiting for the answerphone message to be said, so the explanation of what it was about was lost.  And it’s my new passport.  The day offered wasn’t suitable, so I phoned (again, the number was rattled off far too fast and I had to play it twice, though it turned out I had written it down correctly) to change it.  I rejected the offer of a mere 4-hour time slot for an extra £6.50 and one of us will hang around all day.  Though it may arrive first thing, of course, and surprise me.

I also may or may not expect the cleaners.  I don’t think this arrangement is going to work out.  I found a note in the front porch last Wednesday, saying sorry we weren’t in when they arrived on Tuesday, please could I phone or email?  But I was expecting them this Tuesday, not last: the 4th Tuesday of each month.  However, last month was a 5 Tuesday month and evidently it was muddled into ‘4 Tuesdays later.’  I’m always out on the 3rd Tuesday though, it was quite clear when I booked it.  But I suppose the women won’t get paid if they haven’t worked, so I feel really bad about that.  I emailed, explained how the muddle arose and asked if they could come back this week, but I’ve heard nothing.  So, whilst I’m half expecting them, it’s only half.  I won’t hoover tomorrow morning, just in case.  

Hadrian and the Wall

Today is Hay’s second birthday and the anniversary of last year’s blog party (the first one, in 2011, was to celebrate the building of the Great Wall, and I’m going to have to take a picture of it soon for anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about).

So, this afternoon, the family turned out in force for Hay’s birthday party. We had Gus with us, because I stayed over at his house last night after babysitting him and Zerlina, and suggested bringing him back with me.  He came to a very informal café church meeting first, where he was able to play with Toni and Freddie, both a little older than him and we made a paper windmill, then came back here for lunch. The presents I’d ordered arrived on Friday, so we wrapped and took them and we all had a brilliant afternoon.  Hay, I’m pleased to say, is turning out to be mischievous – you should have seen the grin on his face when he caught me with his water pistol.  It reminded me of my children’s young days when, if the weather was really hot, we’d put on swimsuits, each take a sponge and a bucket of water and have water fights on the lawn.  It had to be so hot that it was a pleasure to be hit by a sodden sponge, of course.  Dora and Dilly both thought it was a brilliant idea and suggested reinstating the game, next time it’s a hot weekend.  Um, a slight problem there … but I’m up for it, weather permitting.  Actually, it was a lovely day today and very warm in their sheltered garden.

Tomorrow, we’re out to lunch and have arranged for a friend to come and dog-sit.  Ooh, the responsibility of being a pet owner…

The pitter-patter of tiny Z

I have to admit I overdid it a bit this morning.  Several days of strenuous effort haven’t begun to break the back of the cutting – look, I’ll show you what I mean.

This is now the height of it, and there’s a load of rubbish in there.  I don’t mean weeds, I mean pots, planks of wood, lengths of pipe, and I wanted to clear it all before the grass grew long, but that only happens with a concentrated effort, and for various reasons, not enough of it happened.  So some was cleared, some wasn’t.  The theory is that I cut the lawns and areas that aren’t rough grass, and the Sage does the rest on his sit-on mower, but he’s not big on clearing, so he only mows paths where he knows there’s no junk.  And he doesn’t do it very often, and a nagging wife is the dreariest thing in the world, so the best way to get him galvanised into action is to get started on some work myself.

However, I weigh a lot less than I used to, and what I remember from when I used to be – well, not what I weigh now, lighter than that, but not by much – a slender young thing, I was pretty strong but I didn’t have a lot of stamina.  When I worked hard physically, I used up all my strength.  It seems to be the same again now, with the disadvantage that I’m a couple of decades older and have puny little muscles.  But I’m very dogged and determined and I’m going to get this job done.

I knew I was tired when I cut through the lead of the mower.  I know, what an idiot.  I’ve been so careful and I always have the lead over my shoulder and check constantly.  But, having checked for and removed rubbish, I ran over a bit of plumber’s pipe and I irritatedly picked it up, chucked it on the pile and kept going without looking.  Oh well.  The Sage mended the lead while I got on my bike to go and buy insulating tape and I was back in business a few minutes later.  And I redeemed myself an hour later, when I noticed just in time that he was about to drive his mower over my lead and shouted in time to stop him.

I was determined to carry on until 1 o’clock, which was stupid, I should have stopped when I wanted to stop.  Because I realised, once I did finish, that my heart was pounding and, though I rested, it took quite half an hour to settle completely, and then I was cold and exhausted for quite a while after that.

I’m fine now.  And I’m babysitting this evening, so I’ll just sit and relax, and tomorrow and Monday we’ve got various things on, but all very restful.  Another jolly on Wednesday, but not a strenuous one.

You may wonder why junk has been put in unsuitable places.  I dunno, darlings, seems stupid to me.  But the kitchen garden has always been my province and, especially when I had a bad hip, I tended not to look at what I couldn’t do anything about.  Now I’ve taken on the job, I’ll get it done.  The Sage never does, it’s very rare for him to finish anything but, for me, the only point of taking on a beastly chore is to have the satisfaction of completing it.  


Tim has found the best example evah of splendidly awry grammar, which looks like nonsense at first glance but actually makes complete sense.  I’ve sent it to the Headmaster, who will love it too.  

“A father goes up to his son’s bedroom, a book about Australia under his arm, ready to read him to sleep. The boy notices the book and says: ‘Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of about down under up for?’”

The Sage has gone out for the day, to have lunch with a friend, and I’m going to be out for an hour or so tonight at an open evening at our Skills Academy – I’ll tell you more about that one day soon.

The wisteria is just starting to open, but is mainly still in tight bud, showing little colour as yet.  Pat asked about its colour – no, I didn’t enhance anything on the current header picture, but it was late afternoon when I took the picture.  The house faces west so the sun was behind me.  You can see the moon in the sky to the right of the house.

I looked up other photos of the wisteria … actually, I was looking for the original of that one, wondering when it was taken, and found other examples too from different years. 

                                                               This is 17th May, 2006.  

 Here is 16th May 2008
And 25th May 2010 
And I shall trot out into the rain to show you what it looks like today.

24th May 2013
Well, at least it hasn’t been hit by frost. We cut it back from the gable end every few years because it gets under the tiles, so it’s rather less rampant this year than some others, but my point is to demonstrate how late the season is this year.   

Like old times…

When one was unable to resist blogging several times a day.  You know, pre-Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve cut up a lot of random wood for firewood, though some of it needs splitting some more to make kindling sticks.  No gardening, too cold and wet.  But the remainder of the wood was made a bonfire of (grammar?  The purpose of grammar is to make sense, and that makes sense, yes?).  And I’d taken the sensible step of removing a dish of chilli bean casserole from the freezer in plenty of time, which went nicely with asparagus from the garden.

All the same, having cooked and eaten dinner and replied to a couple of emails, I felt a bit hollow and chilly.  I went back into the drawing room.  “I feel like a pudding,” I announced.  The Sage gazed at my stomach politely.  I explained that I felt like cooking and eating a pudding, a proper one.  Do you know, the microwave is jolly good, has anyone else ever noticed?  I weighed two bantams’ eggs, 2.5 oz and, using their weight in the other ingredients, whizzed up a sponge pudding mix, spooned syrup in the basin, cake on top, into the microwave on moderate for 5 minutes, which gave me just time to make custard, and – well, darlings, the Sage isn’t a kissy man.  The only time one can be guaranteed is on production of a proper pudding.  Ben was thrilled to receive his own (small) helping.

Weeza had wanted a particular book, George’s Marvellous Medicine, to read to Zerlina, who has just very much enjoyed the BFG,  I couldn’t find it, but have found a dozen or so others (and there are lots more, of course) to take over on Saturday.  These include the Sheep-Pig, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Eloise, the Owl who was Afraid of the Dark – all of them books I read to Weeza, or she read herself, thirty-five years ago – no, I’m wrong.  The Sheep-Pig wasn’t written then, that must have been read to Ro.

Take 5, at some length (might as well have written a blog post)

1 6º at 8.30 this morning.  It was only 8º at noon, and by that time we’d had a couple of hailstorms.  Rain, hail and sunshine this afternoon.  Don’tcha love English weather? Z’s luck is holding out, I haven’t got wet at all, having just got indoors every time before the next downpour happened.

2 I just found a whole dozen bottles of white wine that I’d not realised had not been drunk.  Oh joy.  Two of them are in the fridge Right Now.  Not that I’ll drink them until the weather has warmed up a bit.  I’m on comforting red at the moment (not in the right now sense, I’ll have a glass this evening.  Obv).

3 Today’s meeting has left me less daunted than I’d expected.  It was about the new teachers’ pay and condition arrangements – though we have to rewrite our pay policy and check it against the performance management policy, and consult the unions and so on, and guard against Ofsted damnation, actually it’s okay.  Our criteria are already robust, as they say – and (another moment of relief) there was nothing I didn’t understand.  Nor, actually, that I was inclined to argue with in the principle of the thing.

4 I’m going on a sort of blind date.  No, let me explain … when I’ve gone on Nadfas overnight stays, I’ve shared a room several times with my friend Jill who, of course, died a few weeks ago.  It’s rare that there isn’t a thwacking single room supplement, so I said to the organiser (we’re going to Holland in the autumn) that I’d consider sharing, and she’s had a similar request from someone else.  Only thing is, we don’t actually know each other and she isn’t even a member of our society but of one in Cambridge.  So she’s invited me to lunch and we’ll see how we get on.  It does seem a bit weird, actually, but even if we decide each to have our own room, at least she’ll already have someone she knows on the trip and won’t be with 30 strangers.

5 When shifting stuff ready to mow yesterday, I found a nest with seven bantam’s eggs in, that had obviously been there for a few months as they’ve been in the kitchen garden for quite some time.  I put them in a box on the wall, but it rained and I didn’t go and fetch them.  There are only two there now.  Rooks, I suppose.  They might find the eggs a bit stinky.

Z relaxes

I was duly cuddled and then had a long soak in the bath, face pack and conditioned hair and everything and finally wandered down in pyjamas to find that the Sage had lit a fire and was all set to fetch fish and chips.  Which seemed a jolly good idea.  He opened a bottle of nice red wine, the dog climbed on my lap for another cuddle and I seem to be quite cheerful and relaxed, not least because it’s pouring with rain and I had a sense of urgency, so did all the work while it was still dry.  So all my newly planted stuff will get a good soaking.  Hah.  Once in a while, it’s luck that makes it all come together. If all that long grass had been wet, it would have been impossible to mow and it would have meant a lot of scything and raking, but the rain held off just long enough.

And tonight I’m doing nothing.  I’ve read the papers, I’ll read a book, but I won’t put on the television, especially not the news.  I made that mistake at 6 o’clock and it was so shocking again.  I’m getting to the stage where I can’t take news with pictures any more, I’m so sorry about the dreadful things that happen but I can’t do anything about them and I can’t bear them in my brain.

So I’ll think of five good things.

1 The hen blackbird (and the robin) have been following me about, checking out the piles of grass in the barrow.  The blackbirds are nesting under the eaves of Kenny’s shed, the blue tits in the bird box, but I don’t know where the robins’ nest is.

2 The sun shone today, it was lovely.  I had to go and change into a t-shirt.

3 I wanted an omelette for lunch, but only had enough eggs for one, so the Sage went to squeeze a few chickens.  The eggs he brought back were still warm!

4 Wink rang this evening, not for any particular reason, just for a chat.

5 The Sage has been getting such nice emails regarding his retirement.  People are very kind.