Monthly Archives: September 2013

Doesn’t even have to hit the fan to cause problems

I don’t think it was entirely my fault that it was all taken to the last minute, events always seem to conspire, don’t you think?  Although there were a couple of things I could have got on with earlier, most of them ambushed me on the home straight.

However, I finished all I could by midnight yesterday and flopped into bed. Gus woke up at 5.30 – which is unusual, they are good sleepers – and I went and fetched him. He was cold, I think he’d kicked the bedclothes off. Then Zerlina woke, so Russell went and gave her a cuddle until she slept again. However, they both slept until 8 after that, so no complaints.

I scurried round this morning gathering up clothes etc and then planned to put the children in the bath while I did the ironing on the landing outside the bathroom. However, when I put Gus in the bath he cried and said it was too hot. It wasn’t, Zerlina said it was fine, but I added some cold water and he still said it was too hot. So I decided to wash her hair, finish with her bath and then put him in. He trotted off, naked, and when he returned there was something on his hand. Unfortunately, it was self-administered … no polite way to say this, he had had an accident. And he’d tried wiping his bottom with his hand. Washing the hand was one thing, but we then had find out where the poo had been dumped, which is surprisingly difficult.

Anyway. All sorted out, both of them bathed and dressed, I had half an hour spare to pack. Ro and Dora did a lovely barbecue, though the weather turned against us during lunchtime and we ended up in their conservatory, Ro valiantly barbecuing the while. Weeza and Phil used their two child-free days to good effect in the new house, I’m now down with Wink and we are leaving in the morning. I’m still problem-solving from a distance, I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to have holidays for.

Wink had got holiday money for both of us. Turkish lira are three to the pound, it seems, pretty well. That’ll be easy enough to work out.

R and I went to the Seychelles for our honeymoon. At that time, there were about 13 rupees to the pound. It was only a couple of years after decimalisation, so it seemed quite straightforward to remember that a rupee was worth 1/6 – that is, one shilling and sixpence.  Everyone else found that really hard, though. But honestly, it’s still decimalisation that comes hard to me. I was doing some calculations the other day and I found it alarmingly easy to get the decimal point in the wrong place. You’d never devise a system as complicated as the imperial weights, measures and currency, but basic arithmetic had much more purpose then and it all made sense. Now, a lot of people don’t appear to have much true understanding of figures, even though they seem simpler.

I assume I’ll have wifi in the hotel, in which case I’ll be about during the week. Otherwise, I’ll see you in about nine days’ time. Take great care of yourselves, darlings, while I’m not about to look after you. Toodle-pip xxx

Z tackles a scramble net and treetops

I’ve been a full-time Granny today, which is something I enjoy more than anything else.  I looked after Gus so that Weeza could paint the kitchen of their new house.  I spent last night with them, to save me a journey through rush-hour Boringland (very nearly the actual name of a village I have to drive through), had Gus for the day and then fetched Zerlina from school and brought them back here.

Gus and I went to BeWILDerwood, which isn’t far from where they live and which the children know well and love.  Actually, Weeza works for the owner, though not at the place itself.  I’ve never been there before as it happens, but had a brilliant time.

If I have time tomorrow, I’ll post some pictures, but they take a while to upload and it’s late.  I loved the treetop walks and the staff were delightful.  Children loved the slides – I might have too, but Gus was too small for them and too young to leave while I had a go.

The children are sharing a bed tonight – we only have one single bed, so they opted for a double.  I’ve got quite a lot to do tomorrow, so it’ll be a bit of a challenge to keep them happy, but we’ll see what the weather is like.  I’ve even resorted to making a list – not of all I have to do, but of letters and documents that have to be prepared before I leave on Sunday.  This is not proving to be the best timing for a holiday, but I’ve passed over all I can and haven’t missed any deadlines yet.

Z might as well live…

I want to get my money’s worth, at least.

Today, I decided to give the government some money, entirely voluntarily, and it’ll be quite some years before I know whether it’ll be worth it.  So if you’re in receipt of a pension now, be assured that your money is safe for the next few weeks because I’ve bolstered HMRC’s income to the tune of nearly three and a half thousand pounds.  But now I’ll be paid up and receive a full pension.  Not for years, though.  They keep shoving women’s retirement age up.

I’m going over to stay with Weeza and Phil tonight, because I’m looking after Gus all day tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to that very much.  I’d thought to call on my sister-in-law in Cromer, but she will be out.  She has an immensely busy social life and you have to arrange things weeks in advance.  The advantage of being retired, as she says.  And so she has been for 21 years, but she never seems to age in the least and was immensely sympathetic when I was hobbling around on a dodgy hip and she, in her late seventies, was as agile as she’d ever been. If she drops a glove, don’t even try to pick it up for her, she’ll have bobbed down and back again first.

Before that, a couple of meetings at the school.  And things haven’t gone quite as planned.  The Head is retiring at the end of the year, you see (lightweight, he’s younger than I am, and I’m nowhere near retiring) and we advertised, got a very good shortlist … and in the last few weeks, several of them have had to withdraw.  All excellent reasons, they all would love to reapply, but we felt that, though we still have fine candidates, there isn’t enough choice, not for this job.  I felt quite dreadful, as you can imagine, having to write and tell them so.  It felt like the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever done – and yet, so would it have been if we’d gone ahead.

I used to be quite glad that this is an entirely voluntary job.  In 25 years, I have never claimed a penny, for mileage, postage or anything else, even when I could have.  That I was giving my time went without saying.  But now – in truth, I think school governors should be paid.  Good governors are worth it, and we are held to account for what we do.  When my parents were town councillors, they were not paid (someone who was employed could make a claim but not the self-employed) but now councillors’ remuneration is not ungenerous.  It isn’t going to happen any time soon, but we are expected to do a semi-professional job at the least and it has a lot of responsibility.  I don’t particularly want money and I certainly don’t want praise, I get a great deal of satisfaction from doing a good job.  I’d be bored silly if I could spend my life doing what I felt like, I’m not ready to self-indulge all the time yet.  But we need people who have more than spare time, and it’s a situation that’s going to become harder to deal with.  We have (or will have very soon) a full governing body, but a lot of schools haven’t and successive governments have made the situation more difficult.  Unsurprisingly, I suppose.

Z vegges out

Today, I’ve been harvesting.  I didn’t grow very many vegetables this year – some peas, lettuces, runner beans and courgettes, enough to keep us going with no gluts to dispose of.  I rarely freeze veg nowadays, except as made-up dishes such as ratatouille, because I find it dispiriting, a freezer full of beans when I’m in the mood for winter vegetables, and I have too often thrown away half the frozen crop from last year to make room for this year’s batch.  However, I’ve had a surprisingly good crop of butternut squash from my two plants in pots, lots of tomatoes and half a dozen basil plants have been growing sturdily all summer.  I’ve picked loads and they’ve still kept coming.

And so I have had the feeling of being a gardener after all, in a modest way – I am deeply practical and only really feel my time is well spent in the kitchen garden, everything else is cosmetic.  I’ve picked all the ripe or nearly ripe tomatoes because Russell won’t bother (he eats fruit and veg if they’re put in front of him, while I’m away he will pretty well live on meat) and I’ve cut the basil back in case Russell doesn’t water it, and used it to make quantities of pesto.  Fortunately, I happened to buy a pound of Parmesan the other day, which triggered the thought. I have frozen seven quantities (I dolloped, didn’t measure), we will eat one fresh and I’ve given one to Mimi next door.  I’ve also picked eight squashes and left the rest to ripen until I get home.  I also have a couple of chilli peppers, which I really do hope he will water, because they are doing very well and I think I can keep them going in our porch for quite some time.

I’m aware this is pathetic, compared to what I’ve done in the past.  There was a time when we were pretty well self sufficient in vegetables during the summer, then Al opened his greengrocery and I changed to growing larger quantities of fewer things to help supply him.  I also grew lots of plants for him to sell, hundreds of them.  But this year’s late spring discouraged me and I said that the chickens could live in the kitchen garden this year.  I wasn’t quite able to grow nothing, though, and bought some plants to put out in the annexe garden.

I think that doing just a little, well within my capabilities, has been a good thing.  I’ve kept in the habit of watering daily, something I’d found a strain when it took an hour every evening (and sometimes needed doing twice in the day) and, as I said, I didn’t have any gluts to deal with, though there was a period of daily courgette eating.  Next year, I’m not quite sure what to do.  The kitchen garden is far too big for me to manage – Russell isn’t interested in the least – although it would keep us going through the year if I could cope with the work, there’s plenty of growing space.  Although we’ve dismantled one greenhouse, we still have one 40 feet by 14 feet and one that’s 30 by 8.  I would like to do more than I have this summer, though.  In addition to everything else, we need to rehouse the bantams.  They can stay in the big greenhouse over the winter, I’ve time to think about it.

I’ve also been hoovering.  I had my two cleaners here for two hours yesterday afternoon – this house can’t be thoroughly cleaned in that time of course, but they go through the rooms we’re using at the time – and they hoovered the drawing room.  An hour later, young Hadrian was found eating fluff off the carpet.  Today, it looked like shag pile, if you remember that from the ’60s.  So I got the hoover out again, the red light showed after a while so I extricated a solid ball of dog hair from a pipe, carried on but was not entirely satisfied with the result.

This is the reason.





You will observe, of course, that our dog is the same colour as our carpet.

Z doesn’t feel different, just a bit harrassed

It was a quiet day, though not entirely uneventful.  It started at 2 am when I found an email from Martina – yes, first of the day, thank you.  Not by much, because an ecard arrived from Head and Mrs Head soon afterwards.

Rupert the pup arrived for the day before 8 o’clock.  However, my modest breakfast of 1 oz muesli with barely enough milk to moisten (I hate soggy cereals) was so coveted by two drooling dogs that I ended up eating very little of it myself.

The other day, a Jiffy bag arrived, with Happy Birthday written on the back and a Sheffield postcode and house number.  I looked it up, found the road but the number doesn’t seem to exist.  I don’t know if it’s one of you, thank you very much for the present and I’d appreciate a hint because I have no idea who my mystery friend is.

We went out to lunch, quite early because the cleaners were coming at 1 o’clock.  And then I kept another appointment – oh yes, I know how to have a good time.









Alex had made a fabulous birthday cake.
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Delia’s recipe, a flourless cake, really delicious , there was a light cakey crust and a moussey layer around a filling of whipped cream. Against instructions, because I’d said no presents, they brought books and a puzzle book for my holiday, flowers, nougat and a motorcycle magazine.  Russell had reminded me that my present will be a motorbike of my choice, just as soon as I’m able to ride it.

And then we drank pink champagne, a very good bottle I’ve been keeping for a special occasion.  And if the pension age having being raised so that I won’t be a pensioner for several years isn’t a *special* occasion, I don’t know what is.

I’ve just had an email from the Head, saying that Ofsted are all over Suffolk this week and next.  Oh joy.  That really is all that’s needed.  If the call comes tomorrow or the next day, I’m going to be in a sudden blind panic.  If next week, I’m going to be away, but have the awful knowledge that I won’t be doing my job.  I’m going to warn the rest of the governors now.  Ho hum.

It’ll be fine…

I spent much of the morning getting to grips with the paperwork for last year’s auctions.  Russell has always been the one to deal with it all and he’s been to see the accountant too, for my affairs as well as his, but we agreed last year that it’s to be a joint effort now.  So he wrote it all down and I made sense of it.  yeah… it was okay for the three sales we held last year, once I’d worked out the idiosyncrasies in his accounting (which normally our good-natured and very expensive accountant does) but I was bemused by the addings-up for the most recent sale, which seemed to show that we had paid out more to the vendors than we had taken in, never mind expenses, which is not the case.  So I’ve got all the papers and will check them through myself.  It’ll be fine.  And it was the last auction, after all.

We’d normally be getting ready for the next one by now and I can’t say there are no pangs of loss, though relief is the main feeling.  Knowing when to retire is a matter for stringent self-evaluation, and having difficulty with the paperwork is a sign.  Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with Russell’s memory and, when asked questions, he knows all the answers.  His reasoning ability is slipping a bit, sadly.

My blogfriend Irene in the Netherlands wrote this the other day and, though we only share an age for a few days, we seem to be sharing an attitude of mind, because this is what she said Today is officially my birthday and I have turned the ripe old age of 59. I am completely going to indulge in being this age and get whatever benefits there are out of it. I think I am now allowed all sorts of liberties and that there are a lot of conventions that I don’t have to worry about anymore. I will do pretty much as I see fit and live my life accordingly. Just imagine how great it will be when I turn 60. I am going to practice for being that age this year.  Indeed, though I’m on the opposite edge of 59 from her, I feel much the same way.  It’s worked out a bit awkwardly that I’ll be away so much this autumn, when I spaced out my holidays better last year, but I’ve been asking R for years to come away with me and he always refuses, and he agrees that I can only get away from work when I’m away from home.  And then Wink will have her new hip this autumn or winter – don’t have a date yet, of course, but I’ll spend a couple of weeks with her.

I had (going back to what Irene wrote) thought that it’s around 80 that one is truly liberated.  A middle-aged woman has to be more careful of suitable clothes, hair colour and so on, than an older one.  However, without consciously intending to, I’ve taken a leap forward and, I’m afraid, regressed somewhat.  There is a point at which you can be uninhibited and I thought it was later than this.  But a sudden wish to wear tight jeans, ride a motor bike, run round exuberantly with small children (I haven’t yet been accosted and asked to get off the swings, but I suppose it’s a matter of time) is more a sign of age than youth.  I don’t seem to mind in the least.  And it doesn’t make me irresponsible, which isn’t really in my nature – I’m quite dull, truth to tell – though I love to have fun.  And, if on the eve of my sixtieth birthday I have a resolution, it’s to have fun.

Z starts to think about holidays

Another day cleaning the new house.  I think I can detect why the previous owner was so peculiar – that is, I don’t know whether he had been to start with or not, but the way he lived there was enough to bring anyone to the verge of a nervous breakdown.  He lives in London and worked on the house at weekends, but in seven years he had not made a single room habitable.  None of the bedrooms had ever had its floor swept, they were thick with builder’s dust; no floor had been laid, they are all concrete downstairs and chipboard upstairs; no walls had been painted, they are all plastered.  He had put in some furniture and the kitchen was fully equipped with cupboards, oven, dishwasher and so on, but it was dirty and depressing.  If he had just painted the kitchen and the two smaller bedrooms, one to use as a living room, cleaned them and livened them with rugs and so on, he would have enjoyed spending time there.  As it was – well, as Phil put it, if he’d not been so inept, they’d not have been able to afford to buy it.

I’ve also been looking at their holiday pics and it’s lovely to see them looking so relaxed.  It’s been a nerve-wracking time.  In fact, it was Weeza’s boss who suggested the break as he and his family were visiting their holiday home in the Bergerac area (I say vaguely, I hadn’t heard of the village and can’t remember its name) and invited them to go too.  Zerlina is very friendly with their little girl: Weeza and his wife met at parent and toddler group and that led to W being offered a job.

One day, Zerlina and the other little girl whom I shall call Zuleika, went with Weeza to buy some food for dinner.  They saw rabbits in the local butcher’s and were fascinated and wanted W to buy them.  They were skinned, I should say, but still had heads on, including eyes – I know!  It was macabre.  They chose the most grotesque and, once W had cooked them with green olives and tomatoes (I don’t know the recipe, but that was what were mentioned) they tucked in enthusiastically.  All four children ate whatever was put in front of them, they were happy and got on well together, it was a lovely holiday.  Augustus managed to fall in the swimming pool twice – W said it was scary, how quickly and silently he dropped – but was instantly rescued and overall it was the break they needed.  Weeza said it was very good to go away with another family as they shared cooking, the children could play with each other and there were babysitters if they wanted to go out for dinner.

While I was envying holidays, I went to look at Ro’s Facebook page but I suppose it’s the difference between having children and not – 275 pictures from Phil, 4 from R, of Paris and Nice where they visited by train.  But here they are –



People say that Nice is ruined and commercialised and so on, and maybe it is – I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there.  But they they say the same about Venice, and I loved it there when I visited.  But I don’t get out much and it’s not hard to impress a Norfolk girl.

Many thanks to Sir Bruin and Liz

I’ve had a brilliant day and I couldn’t be more grateful to Sir Bruin and Liz, the Small Bear.  Sir B took me for a ride on his motorbike down the dual carriageway, so that I could discover whether this was fun or something to be scared of, we stopped at the seaside by the beach huts and then returned to a bike showroom for me to sit on a few bikes and find the sort of thing I might like.

I loved every minute of it.  I clung on a bit (not to him, to the bike) on the way, especially when we went over bumps, and I thought about the vulnerability, how little protection one would have in the event of anything going wrong – because I needed to consider whether I really want to go ahead with this scheme or whether I will be too timorous or unsure of myself.  But it didn’t make me afraid so much as conscious that I would have to be very aware, read the road, look for what other drivers might be about to do and whether they had seen me.  I think it makes one a better car driver, in fact, if one is also a cyclist or motor cyclist because one sees things from a different perspective and is more safety-conscious, or so I found after I started cycling (though I hope I wasn’t discourteous in this regard beforehand).  On the way back, I simply enjoyed the fun of the ride.

When I sat on my friend’s bike the other day, I was disconcerted by it being slightly too big for me.  I could only just get my toes down and it was too heavy and I really doubted that I’d be able to get used to it.  However, the ones Sir B suggested for me to sit on were fine and I felt much steadier.  I also tried sitting on a scooter, but I preferred the bike – I felt more secure astride, with a foot ready to be put down if I had to stop.  He showed me the clothes I’d be likely to buy – and their cost (there’s always eBay) – and I’m getting quite excited.  The salesman, by the way, said that there is an increasing demand for smaller motorbikes: that is, bikes for smaller people.  He looked quite unperturbed by the thought of me learning, I didn’t detect a hint of a smirk.

When we got back to the house, Liz had a delicious lamb tagine all ready.  We had, before we left, tested her gorgeous chocolate cake and we had more for pudding.  It’s a Nigella recipe, she said, and includes olive oil and ground almonds.  I am afraid I stayed ages, they were obliged to devote most of their Saturday to me, and I had a wonderful time.

I’ll be cautious, I always am, though I’m not without my audacious moments.  Today has convinced me that I’d like to go on to the next stage, which is the Compulsory Bike Training, which takes you through the preliminaries and trains you to get a licence to ride on the road.  Once I’ve done that (assuming that I haven’t discovered that it’s really beyond me, for whatever reason), I shall get a bike and some more practice before taking the next test for my full licence.  I hope this works out, I’m really looking forward to it.

Z uncomplicates

I don’t actually keep foil on my own oven floor, by the way.  All spills carbonise in the heat of the Aga and, before I had one, I used to clean my oven.  However, if cooking something potentially messy on the rack, it’s a good idea.  I do line the grill-pan with foil if I’m cooking something that’ll burn on though.*

A peplum* – it’s an extra decorative strip of material in the same fabric as the dress, which may be shaped or frilled, from the waist.  It becomes fashionable every few years for no particular reason.  This is no sort of description at all, so I put the dress on and have taken a few pictures to demonstrate, but it’s overcast today and they don’t show up too well.  And yes, I did chuck the hanger on the floor and it’s visible in the background.IMG_2036 IMG_2039








I’m plodding on with paperwork to give to my accountant today.  Very tedious.  Most of it was straightforward but there’s one account which I started halfway through the tax year and saved into monthly and I can’t be bothered to work out the interest, even if I’m capable of it.  It’s negligible anyway, of course, at current rates.  I’ll just send the info and let him work it out because he will do it on a calculator and I’ve never mastered calculators.**

I seem to have a wish to simplify at present and wear no jewellery at all now.  Since I was given my first wristwatch – I don’t know at what age, 10 or 11 I suppose, I have never been entirely bare of accessories, but now it’s rare that I wear anything.  I put on rings and a watch for the wedding last Saturday and sometimes have on a necklace but normally, nothing.  I wear little makeup, simple clothes.  I seem to have felt that life is too complicated for too long and yet I absolutely fight boredom, routine or having too little to do, so maybe this is a way of compensation.  A pretty silly one really, but it’s harmless, after all.

I’m going to be away quite a lot this autumn and when I’m home, there will be a lot to catch up on.  Blogging may be irregular for a while (or it may not, who knows?) but I’ll be about, one way or another.  

*Picked up from yesterday’s comments.

**Huzzah!  Found the correct info.  We’re talking about tax on less than £20, such are the interest rates at present (and the amount of money I’m presently saving).

Z scrubs

I have already shown you a picture of Weeza and Phil’s new house, but here it is again for those of you who missed it.  It’s a former Methodist church, situated in a North Norfolk village and is sufficiently far off the beaten track that I can get neither mobile phone nor internet coverage there.

Old Chapel






And here are some pictures of what we had to deal with.


Pizza diet?

Pizza diet?

The picture on the right is the floor of the oven, that on the left is the colour of the water after its first clean.  Second and third were as bad, it’ll take a couple more.  If I might give two words of advice to those who regularly cook pizzas on their oven shelf, they are Aluminium Foil.  Just put a square on the floor of the oven and change it every so often.  Simple as that.

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We seem to be reading right to left again.  The house wasn’t filthy but it was generally grubby and not very welcoming.  We took over several bags of sawdust which we spread over the floor and then dampened and then swept up, which both prevented the dust from wafting about and added a pleasantly woody smell to the atmosphere.  And Weeza and I cracked on with the kitchen.  After an afternoon’s work, it all looked much better and we were quite cheered.  Russell and I are going to meet them again on Sunday and finish the job.

School started again today and I went in to the first assembly.  1,100 children sitting there quietly chatting until the Head spoke and then there was total silence.  The Head Boy and Head Girl and their deputies spoke too, I smirked when I was introduced but had chosen not to speak, I was wearing my new dress that I’d bought for the interviews that aren’t now happening, or not yet.  It’s navy with tiny white dots, fitted, with a peplum, just below knee length, sleeveless.  I was doubtful whether to buy it because of the sleevelessness combined with the peplum, it’s not easy to know what to wear on top of it, though I do have a summery white jacket that goes for now.  I was swayed by the size 8ness of it, I can’t deny, but I do like it and I’m pleased I bought it.