Monthly Archives: June 2013

Three days of pictures

Monday, I cleaned and made beds
Tuesday, I went to Snape
 First evening it’s been warm enough for people to sit outside
 I was on the huh, not the marshes
 Barbara Hepworth.  The statues, not the lady on the left
This is made of plastic milk cartons and mackerel tins.  The man just happened to be standing there
This evening, I suddenly wanted pudding.  It takes a minute to whizz together and 4 1/2 in the microwave, during which time I made the sauce.  Gentlemen, don’t listen to excuses (unless they’re on medical grounds). And if your wife is obdurate, can’t cook or doesn’t care, make it yourself.  Medium power so that the baking powder has time to work.  1 egg, its weight in butter, SR flour & sugar, a teaspoonful of cocoa powder and a dash of milk, beat together, cook.  A few squares of chocolate, a splash of cream and milk, warm gently.  

Z takes time off

And so today, I took the day off.  A Nadfas lecture, then a long, chatty lunch with a friend which lasted for several hours.  After that, Russell and I took ourselves off to Snape for supper and a piano recital.  I should have done some school stuff, but that can wait until tomorrow.  Time to recharge batteries makes one able to be more productive when one does have work to do.

The cleaners did everything except hoover two bedrooms, so I’ve got a lovely clean house – that is, just surface cleaned, you’ll have to excuse me moving the furniture (though I have in the annexe.  Well, not the piano, the rest of it).

I’ve discovered that, when I’m awake in the night, putting a radio programme on iPlayer sends me back to sleep.  I’ve not heard the end of a half-hour programme yet.  I don’t listen live because, sooner or later it’ll wake me up again, but an episode of something quietly comes to an end without waking me.

Now taking the papers to bed, knowing I don’t have to hurry in the morning – we had a meeting planned, but have been able to do all the business by email.  Two cancelled in a week for that reason, such efficiency!

Maximum efficienZy

I say, I’ve done jolly well today.  I’ve changed all the beds, put furniture in the annexe and tidied the kitchen.  I’ve also taken four bin-bags-full of rubbish that Russell left casually in the spare room (and that I had to move hastily last Friday when we had an unexpected guest) down to the bonfire, tipped the contents out of the bags and burned (too much for the wheely bin) and done at least six, possibly more, loads of washing and dried most of them on the line.  The last two aren’t dry and one is in the washing machine, about done now.  I’ve still one to go.  Four bedsworth, plus towels and a couple of weeksworth of clothes, because I leave it until there’s enough to separate whites and coloureds.

And now you know all my clothes washing habits.  Oh good.

Tomorrow, the cleaners are coming, two of them for a couple of hours.  Since I’ve done all the sorting out, I don’t see why they can’t hoover and dust throughout the house in the time,  I could in a morning.  I won’t be here, unfortunately, but that’s because of a small misunderstanding between ‘every fourth Tuesday (of the month)’ and ‘every fourth Tuesday’ which is entirely understandable when you think about it.  And, since the third Tuesday isn’t good for me, it’s fortunate that it’ll only be this month and next, after which it’ll be the second Tuesday – yes, I know, this is getting both boring and bewildering.  If you’re still interested, check out the calendar, otherwise just nod and pass it by.  Anyhoo, the point is that the housework will be basically done, I’ll just have to waft a duster next week.  And you’ll take me as you find me, innit?  Clean sheets and good kitchen hygiene are all that matter, when it comes down to it, though a ringless bath is a bonus.

Russell has some sorting out to do tomorrow.  I’ve let him off the eighteen – yes, truly – boxes he dumped in Ro’s room, along with leaving the four black bags because he couldn’t be arsed to take them downstairs, but have stipulated other things, because the cleaners need a clear run for maximum efficiency.

I’ve just had a phone call from Weeza.  Little Zerlina isn’t very well – unfortunately, the commitments I have tomorrow aren’t easy to get out of at this late stage, but I’m free Friday, so Weeza will take tomorrow off and I’ll come and babysit Gus on Friday so that she can make up the day then.  She works Monday to Wednesday normally, though is always available on phone or email – she and her boss are pretty relaxed and confident and as long as the work is done, all’s fine.

And so to bed, dear hearts.  I haven’t looked at today’s papers and I have yet to walk the dog.  But I have put the clean and dry washing away and emptied the dishwasher.  Oh yes.

Z still thinks about the party

This is starting to work and thanks to those who have replied so far – and thanks also to Blue Witch for telling me to suggesting that I ask for offers of food.  I’m very willing to do it all but, being practical, I won’t turn anyone down either and would be grateful. But don’t feel obliged in any way please, I do enjoy preparing food for lots of people and I also love preparing for a party.  I’ll do a header post in the next day or two – I’ll just say now that, if you haven’t been here before or have forgotten the way, drop me an email and I’ll send you my address.  My email is on my profile.  And, as I’ve said before, do stay over if you’ve a way to come – I bought a new mattress for one bed specially!  We do have some friends staying in the annexe as our guests for a few weeks later in the year, but one of you can christen it.  Or two, of course.

Another lovely concert last night, and the composer of the Horn Concerto played, Colin Matthews, was present and was called on to the stage to be applauded, and he looked very proud and pleased, as well he might be.  A wonderful piece of work, beautifully performed.  Weeza and I had a really good evening.  I forgot to take our tickets and went to the box office to own up – of course, the chap could look them up and reprint them, but he jovially reprimanded me and I was duly humble – all in jest, of course.  Once, years ago, I managed to throw away all my tickets to all the concerts and was able to get another set, so it wasn’t my daftest action.

I’m way behind in my letter-writing – it’s all this blogging that takes my time – and am going to write to Martina now.  If only Seattle were not so far away – she is one of so many lovely people I’ve met here whom I’d love to meet.

Z is looking forward

It’s a fortnight to the blog party, so please can we start to confirm who’s coming and who would like to stay over?  I have looked back to when it was first mooted and who said they hoped to come then, but that was months ago, so plans may have changed – I know that Tim can’t come any more.

If I’ve left your name out it’s because I am fundamentally a bit hopeless, so please just tell me you’re coming, and if you haven’t told me yet then you’re certainly invited.  There’s room to stay but there might be a slight bed shortage, so it’ll be good (but not essential) to have time to think things through.  I’ve certainly got three double beds and a single and more spare rooms without beds in them yet, but have options.  It’ll be fine, don’t let a question of accommodation concern you.

The list I have, and apologies for anyone I’ve left off –

PixieMum and Ian
Compostwoman, if her back is up to the journey
Wendz and Martin
Mike and Ann
Sir Bruin and Liz
Blue Witch and Mr BW
Rog and Mrs Rine (with Holly and Lily)
Mig and Barney
Roses and Lawrence
Macy, who’s been silent of late
Mago, possibly
Janerowena, possibly

Family – Ro and Dora will be in Paris but the rest hope to come.  That is –

The Sage and Z (well, obv)
Weeza, Phil, Zerlina and Augustus
Al, Dilly, Squiffany, Pugsley and Hadrian

There’s no limit to numbers, we have plenty of room and I’ll just borrow more tables and crockery if we run out.  I haven’t started to think about food yet, but let me know if there’s anything you don’t eat if I don’t already know it.  And don’t be concerned about not knowing people, everyone is so friendly and welcoming that you soon will.

Z listens

Tonight, I’m mostly winding down.  A week ago, we were halfway through the Sage’s final auction, but we’ve been so busy since then that, when I had a query this afternoon, I had to refresh my memory about a bid made by phone that I’d dealt with.

I’d rather put it all behind me, I’ve managed to clear the decks for the weekend pretty well and I’m not going to call myself lazy for at least a week as a consequence.  Tomorrow, I’m having a new mattress delivered, which was only ordered this afternoon – the local shop is fabulous.  Al and Dilly bought a new bed when they moved and left their wooden bedstead behind, telling us that it could do with a new mattress and, since the room will probably be called into use over the blog party weekend, I knew I had to deal with it.  But there were a number of more pressing matters and it’s a mark of my getting on with things that I can look a whole fortnight ahead now.  And it was easy.  I walked in, was taken up to the top floor where they keep the stock, I chose a mattress and agreed a delivery time of 8.30 tomorrow morning, paid and walked out, all within ten minutes.  It’s the best shop in the world.  You can buy a reel of cotton, a ball of wool or a pair of gloves, or else a glamourous nightie or some old-fashioned big knickers, you can carpet your house and go some way towards furnishing it and you can buy your bed, duvet and pillows there and have a reasonable choice of linen for it, as well as a range of materials for the curtains.  Which they will make for you if you aren’t that sort of needleperson.  And it’s all done at a fair price, promptly.  Yagnub is a lucky town.

But I’m a pretty lucky Z too, as far as customer service goes.  I’ve had to deal with a good many firms by phone  yesterday and today and they have all been fabulous.  It’s turned a dreary and tedious amount of work into something that has given me satisfaction for a job that’s been well completed, even if it’s left me drained.

Tonight, I’m listening to Radio 3 iPlayer, the recording of Peter Grimes.  When I went on Sunday, they were recording for the beach performances, but on Friday it was being played live on Radio 3 and that’s what I’ve got on.  Lovely, brings back the feel of five nights ago.

Last night, after an hour’s sleep, I woke and couldn’t sleep again.  At 1.30 there was the ping of an email from a member of staff.  A few minutes later, another and then a third.  I was being copied into emails, they weren’t addressed to me, but all the same, I emailed back … “M, shouldn’t you get some sleep?” I asked mildly.  I received the reply at 7.24.  H’m.  A work/life balance slippage there.

This evening, I combed Ben.  I filled the wastepaper basket with hair.  At least the carpet (which is Ben-coloured) should be spared for the next couple of days.  The Sage has been splendid, doing most of the dog-walking, but Ben and I had a lovely cuddle and a frolic this afternoon and he knows I still love him, however busy I am.  A bit earlier, the Sage had called me.  “Ben’s got something in his mouth.”  He picks up all sorts of things he shouldn’t, so I addressed him sternly.  “Give, Ben, give,” and prised his mouth open.  Staring him in the eye made him submit.  On his tongue was one of his own dog biscuits, uneaten.  He’d have let me take it, too.  Of course, I let him go and said he could eat it.  But I’m not sure there has ever been a sweeter-natured dog, ever.

Z prefers anonymity

Janerowena pointed out that I perform in public regularly – yes, but that’s not what I mean.  Although I was very nervous for some time when I started playing the organ in church, I never have considered it a ‘performance’ as such, because no one is coming to hear me.  I’m accompanying the service, it isn’t about me.  I must do it adequately, but I don’t matter unless I make a complete hash of it.  Of course, I’ve been to a church or cathedral service and noted how well (or, occasionally, poorly) the organ has been played and a fine organist might well be a draw – but it’s not the point of the occasion.  And when there were lessons at the village school on a Saturday – the teachers hired the school as a convenient venue – there was an end-of-term concert.  I played the alto recorder in a children’s recorder group to help out and I played a clarinet solo or two, because as one of the pupils I was setting a good example to them all by joining in – but no one came to hear me anyway, you only go to that sort of thing to listen to your own child.  I think the Sage might have come once or twice because Ro was playing too (he played saxophone) – anyway, I did it because I had to, not because I wanted to.

My teacher could never understand why I flatly refused to take clarinet exams.  “You’ve got Grade 5 Theory, you could go straight in at 5, you play at diploma level already,” she said.  But I loathed piano exams when I was a child and they certainly spoiled my enjoyment of playing the piano.  Having to thump out the same dreary tunes for ages in preparation for an exam, the dreadful fear (for an acutely self-conscious child) of being watched as I played, by a judgemental stranger – I hated every minute and only ever scraped though the exams (though getting full marks for the written theory exams, which I enjoyed) and all for something that was of no importance at all, as far as I could see.  I said to her, I didn’t feel the need to prove anything.  I didn’t want to measure myself, I just wanted to learn the clarinet for pleasure and play as well as I could for my own satisfaction and sense of fulfilment.

Years ago, I’d have not played in public out of fear, and that was largely a hang-over from those beastly exams, but I’ve been playing in church (and played in those little end of term concerts) enough times to have got that well out of my system – although, of course, one is always nervous before a special occasion and so one should be.  So now I know for sure that I simply don’t want to do it, I don’t want to be the focus of attention, I don’t like showing off, which is what it feels like to me.

Many people who are good at singing or playing want to show other people how well they can do it, to give them pleasure, to make them happy, and I’m very glad they do.  And it can complete the learning of a piece and give their efforts a purpose.  However, I have no comprehension of that desire. I don’t need or like applause and I know I’m not so good that that it would be worth overcoming my reluctance to perform.

Piano sex

Here is one of the more unusual piano pieces that was played last night.  It might take a minute or two to work out how it was played.  
They were both marvellous concerts, and if you’re in possible distance of the Aldeburgh Festival, start hunting for return tickets, do, because you’re missing a great treat.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t already know and love the specific music of the programme, soak up the atmosphere, learn and let yourself grow.
In the afternoon, I was quite close to the clarinettist, and I watched his score and his fingering, and I realised that I could, at one time, have played the Schubert piece.  Not for the first time, I regretted having let slip a pretty good level of ability.  I had worked hard, but then I was too busy and stressed and let it go.  I might have carried on if I’d ever joined an orchestra or a small music group at the least, but … oh, I don’t know,  I thought about it and if I’d ever received a specific invitation I might have acted on it, but it was the awful inevitability of a performance that put me off.  I just don’t like it.  My mother brought me up not to show off, and it still lingers, the feeling that it’s vanity that makes an amateur want to play in public, whether for money or praise.
There is no logic in this, in that I have often attended and enjoyed performances from amateur musicians, but – oh, it feels all wrong for me.  So I never joined any sort of group and now I would need a year’s practice to get anywhere near the standard I used to be at.  
The evening concert was a delight.  The pianist, who is also the Festival’s artistic director, said a few words about each piece before playing it.  He is French, speaks English with a slight accent and was entirely charming.  After the interval, which seemed to be on time, he spoke at greater length.  The Cage, 4’33”, he explained at some length – it’s in three movements apparently, who knew?  As he said, they’re remarkably similar to each other.  He concluded by saying that there are many different ways to perform this piece, by letting it speak for itself, for example, or maybe by playing another piece at the same time, whether by John Cage or by another composer – or, you could explain the piece to the audience.  Most of us had twigged by this time, but when he glanced down at his watch, the hall erupted into applause and laughter.
After that, he became really expansive, responding to an audience who clearly loved him, with the result that the concert overran by 45 minutes.  Not that anyone cared.  
A revelation to me was the realisation, when The Banshee was played, how feminine a grand piano is.  Seeing him delve into the innards of the wide-open grand piano was a surprisingly intimate experience.  I don’t say erotic, but it was certainly sensual – well, that’s what I found, anyway.  

Z looks at reed beds

I’m at Snape, having eaten a plateful of very good fish stew and not yet finished a bottle of the beer that Adnams brewed especially for Britten’s centenary: Native Britten, made from Suffolk ingredients and flavoured with honey and thyme. It’s a beautiful, peaceful sight from the window, reed beds and the river, one of my favourite places in Suffolk.

It took a while to relax, having had a 9 o’clock meeting that went on for nearly three hours, after which I had to do some follow-up work straight away and it was just as well I had an afternoon concert to go to (Britten, Janáček and Schubert [I’m dead impressed, the iPhone autofilled in Janáček, accents and all] ) which was lovely, at Blythburgh church and I came straight on over. I phoned the Sage, all is well at home.

Tonight, it’s piano music from the last hundred years. I know very little of it, though I’m sure that John Cage’s 4’33” will not sound unfamiliar (the last word is hardly required).

The sun has come out again. This year’s Aldeburgh Festival is just what I need, I’ve felt jagged for too long. Not that I can relax for a bit, but a little respite is allowed and very much appreciated.

Sent from Z’s iPhone

Z tips PG

What a weekend – hardly know where to start.  As I said, I brought our client home and spent much of Saturday morning on the phone sorting out his insurance and replacement car.  After cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast and clearing up, that is.  Having just two guests trebles the cooking and washing up, don’t you find?  Not that I mind, I love a houseful of people and I love to provide plenty of food and drink and see them relax and be cheerful, especially poor M when he’d had a rotten time getting here.  His car is a classic, a 1980 MG and he’s going to have to negotiate with the insurance company, who are trying to call it an old banger worth a few hundred pounds and get it written off.  Still, we’ve got advice on what to do next and he’s going to ask for an assessor, get in touch with his specialist garage and so on – no longer my problem.

Usually, on the day after the sale, we’d contact everyone to tell them what they’d bought or not bought (if they’d left us bids) and what their pieces made in the case of the vendors, but there was no time and it’ll have to be done today.  A few people rang or emailed and we’ve answered them.  I can’t remember what happened on Saturday afternoon, it’s a blank, though I know we sat down for a while with the papers (I didn’t read them, I was too busy and I wonder what I was doing) because I felt that M should rest. Oh, in the morning I phoned the Snape box office and was lucky, getting a returned ticket for our other friend Daphne who was staying with us.
Sunday, I was up early for the 8 o’clock service, and Daphne took us out to lunch at a local pub, and jolly good it was.  We went early, because I was taking M to Norwich to pick up his replacement car.  Then home and off to Snape, where we had supper.  And that was really delicious.  I didn’t make it there at all last year, but for a few years it’s been a bit disappointing – perfectly nice but not anywhere near as good as it used to be.  I had a butternut squash dish in a creamy sauce with a walnut crumble topping – they called it a fricassée and it would be jolly good if I had the faintest idea how to spell that, it’s come up underlined in red but I can’t be bothered to look it up.  Anyway, it was lovely.  M had a crab salad and there was some samphire garnishing the dish of crabs.  I asked the chef if I could take any or it was just a garnish, and he said help myself (it obviously was the garnish but he was being nice).  Just lightly blanched, still crunchy – I said, it was the first I’d seen this year and he said it was French, but actually I’ve just bought some from the fishmonger and that was Israeli and it looked just the same, so I suspect that it was too.  I only buy English asparagus, but I’m not a samphire purist in the same way.
Anyway, Peter Grimes.  Darlings, if any of you were there last night or on Friday, you will know how lucky you and I, were.  If not, I’m so sorry for you.  You missed the most wonderful performance, brilliant in every way.  I keep typing a few words, deleting them and starting again, I can’t do it justice.  
They had extended the stage to make room for everyone and the chorus was at the back, then the orchestra with the soloists sitting in a row at the front, the conductor on his rostrum in the middle of them.  They stood up to sing, then sat down again and had only facial expressions and hand gestures, as well as the voice, to act with.  And this made it so condensed and they projected the feeling and drama of the opera to increase its intensity.  I really feel that having costumes, props and moving about the stage to act out the story would have lessened its effectiveness.
The orchestra was wonderful and having them on the stage with the singers really worked, the balance between singers and players was perfect.  You could hear every instrument individually within the ensemble playing.  My friend Lorna, who went to the Friday performance and is extremely knowledgeable, far more than I am, said that she’s been to many productions of PG and this was the best ever.  I said, some time into the evening I realised that I could physically feel the music, its sound waves, and she agreed and knew just what I meant.  The singers were all wonderful and Ellen, the schoolmistress, and Peter himself, as the principal characters, projected the understated yet powerful emotion of the piece superbly.  The young apprentice, John, was an invisible presence – it is not a singing part and he never says a word and they did not have someone standing there as a pathetic young victim of circumstance, which made it all the more poignant.
Here’s a synopsis of the story if you don’t know it.  It was Britten’s first and greatest opera and I feel so lucky to have seen such a wonderful production, in his own concert hall in his centenary year.  If you have a ticket for the beach performances, it was being recorded last night so you will hear what I heard, but the cast will perform the action of the opera on the beach itself.  It’ll be wonderful I know, and I still half wish I’d booked for both as I first thought I would – it was the thought of sitting on a shingle beach for three hours that finally decided me not to – but I’d not have missed last night for anything.