Monthly Archives: October 2013

Z comes home, by way of The Hollybush

The problem about going away is that you have to come home – and the problem is not with home, but with what’s been happening.  But that will wait until another day to be told, let’s get up to date first.

Jon has been so hospitable and I’ve had a really great time.  He introduced me to lots of his friends and they’ve kindly hoped I’ll visit again.  Ludlow is a delightful town with lots of excellent food shops and restaurants and the castle is pretty good – ruined, but they let you wander about as much as possible.  I have photos, but haven’t looked at them yet.  It’s still privately owned and you can tell.  The town is surrounded by woods and hills and they are all well walked – honestly, I wouldn’t mind living there, it’s lovely.

I’ll write more another day, I have emails to catch up on tonight.  So just one picture, of me and  John G, who I called on in time for lunch – I know, darlings, how convenient.  I look a bit wrinkly of dress and shiny of face, but I had a very good lunch in excellent company, so hope you’ll overlook it.

John and Zed

Z has an uphill struggle

Jon is on the phone to his girlfriend.  ‘I think Zoë was impressed with the size of the hill,’ he said. It’s true. He had to wait quite a number of times for me to catch up, sometimes because I’d stopped for a rest. I devised a rule for myself. I didn’t stop just because I was tired, but when I could actually hear my pounding heart. But, with great resolution, I never once asked how much further it was to the top. And I did get to the top and my hips don’t hurt, so it’s altogether a Good Thing.

I didn’t leave home yesterday until nearly 1 o’clock, having arranged with JohnG that I will call on him on my way home on Thursday instead of on my outward journey yesterday. As some of you advised, I waited to be sure the storm had cleared before setting out, although it passed us within a slightly blustery hour, from around 8.30 that morning.  It was really good to see Jon again after about 6 years – he used to live in Yagnub, in a flat opposite Al’s shop and, although we never knew each other that well really, we always got on.  He suggested a few months ago that I come and visit, when I told him I’d never visited Ludlow, and this week was about my only opportunity this year.

He works from home, so is kindly organising his time to spend some with me. Last night, he insisted I join him and said girlfriend for dinner at a very nice local restaurant, we went for a long walk this morning as I have already said, he worked while I had a nap this afternoon after lunch in the local Thai restaurant and we are going for supper with friends tonight, who have kindly included me in the party.

I have put some photos on Facebook, but since they were taken on the phone and I’m writing this on the pad, I will probably have to add them when I get home.

I understand we are climbing another hill tomorrow morning. And then going for breakfast at a fine local café. Ludlow is known for fine places to eat and equally fine food shops. I will do some shopping before I come home.

Z consults the weather forecast

Having looked at various forecasts, it seems that the wind here will be stronger, by the morning, than where I’m going.  So I’m still going to wait and see, it’ll depend on what damage has been done rather than what the weather is by the time I’d plan to leave, and whether there are long delays on the roads.  It’s going to be one of the rare occasions when Weeza will drive Phil to work because it will really not be a morning to be on a bike.

The children woke some time around 6, which wasn’t bad at all, taking into account the clocks having been put back, but it was still a bit early for me (though I was awake before them as it happened) and I went and cuddled them in bed for half an hour, assuring them it was far too early to get up.

I took them to the family café-style service in church, because I was playing the clarinet.  Gus gave me such an old-fashioned look while I was playing, it was hard not to laugh, not the best idea when playing a woodwind instrument.  He really didn’t approve.  They both behaved beautifully, ate their bacon sandwich, made a mobile (Zerlina) and coloured (Gus) as well as playing with toy cars and a Noah’s Ark.  When we arrived home, Russell was very pleased to have found my mother-in-law’s apple picker, an extending pole with a gripper and a net on the end, and had managed to pick several large apples that had been too high for me.  He’s been telling people all day about the apples he picked.  I picked a bushel, he picked twelve apples.  I shinned up and down high ladders, standing on the top platform, at least twenty times.  H’m.

While I was cooking lunch, I made quince jelly from the bowl of juice that had been draining overnight from the pulp I’d cooked yesterday.  Only four jars and a bowlful, but the aroma of the quinces is a pleasure in itself.  If I can still get any more when I’m home again, I will make some other preserves, such as cotignac, but that’s a little more trouble as you have to peel and core the fruit, and it’s very hard to cut.  I took a jar to Weeza this evening and she was very pleased.

This afternoon, I roasted a chicken and made a big apple crumble from some of the windfalls.  Zerlina made the crumble topping in fact, she knew just what to do as she has learned at school.  I packed them into the car and we drove over to deliver the children home and have a meal with Phil and Weeza, they having cooked the vegetables.  The weekend has gone really well for them, with no children there they had a clear run to paint their living room.  It was a slog yesterday, doing the preparation and the first coat, but they finished very late last night and thought that today they’d do the second coat on the ceiling and finish the job next weekend.  But, of course, painting onto paint is a much easier job than painting on plastered walls and they have completed it and are really pleased.  Simply painted white, it looks wonderful and will be great when the oak floor is down too, this coming week.  They’d hoped to have that part of the work done by Christmas, never expected the end of October.  It’s going to be a beautiful house.

Another thought has just occurred to me.  If it’s still dodgy on the roads first thing but better later, I could drive straight to Ludlow and call on John on the way home on Thursday.  I think it’ll be best to wait and see.

My Headteacher and his family (grown-up children and their families) are in Cornwall over half term for a holiday.  Not their best choice of venue, really, is it?

Z the Granny

IMG_2547Look, if ever you have an attack of the runs, get yourself a bowel cancer test kit.  It’ll cure you, to say the least.  There is little prospect of me meeting its requirements.

In other news – I am exhausted.  I have very little to say this evening, mainly because I am typing so badly that I have at least three attempts at every other word.  To think that I brought up three children, every one of them entirely delightful, with no outside help (though due acknowledgement to the supportive Sage, their father) and really enjoyed it.

Not that I don’t enjoy it now, but it’s all another world from my normal life.  Small children are so full on!

Pictures will give the flavour, I’m too tired to say much, though I should point out that being the muggins at the top of the ladder while a couple of bushels of apples are being picked is a bit stressful for a woman of my age.  And we start with a picture of the gorgeous autumn colour of the Virginia creeper.  I’m glad I took a photo, the leaves may all blow off on Monday, leaving unattractive stalks behind to wither.

The forecast for Monday’s weather is dreadful.  However, I will leave then if I can, because it will be such a short break otherwise, much of which will be spent driving.  I’m nothing if not sensible and won’t take undue risks.  I recognise that East Angular is a gentle part of the country and that I may underestimate what happens elsewhere – and know what can happen and did to John when a tree fell on his car.  I’m waiting to see what it looks like tomorrow night, even on Monday morning.

So, today…


As you see, a Hallowe’en theme with lots of games. We’ve had fun.

Z makes plans

So, plans are made, though the timing is yet to be confirmed.  I may leave on Monday or Tuesday, but I’ll come home on Thursday because I’ve an appointment the next morning.  Whatever happens, I’m meeting John G at his local and I think a beer or two might be drunk – only one by me, of course, I’ll be driving.

Zerlina and Gus are here and ate a very big dinner before going for stories and bed.  Gus had eaten so much he couldn’t manage much of his bedtime milk.  Tomorrow, if it isn’t raining, people are coming round to shift the freezer and take down the summerhouse, which is in need of renovation.  We last took it apart some 25 years ago, though I’ve painted it since and it’s had running repairs at various times.  The freezer has lived in the porch for some years, but now will be shifted back to its former position in a little hallway between the house and the laundry room that’s the way through to the annexe.  Then I can overwinter plants in the porch, if I can stop Russell filling it with Stuff.  However often we tidy up, we can’t resist having all our Stuff near to hand.  There is little hope for me and far less for him.


Toilet humour

Ok, it was bound to happen sooner or later.  I dropped my iPhone in the loo.  It’s now drying on the Aga, seems ok but I turned the power off and it promptly turned on again, so I’m in a state of denial right now.  I’m due an upgrade (well no, I’m not, my 2 year contract is coming to an end in 6 weeks but I don’t *have* to have a new phone) so it’s not too disastrous, though Russell will be disappointed not to receive an iPhone 4S, if it’s kaput.  But it may be fine.

And in other lavatorial news, I was recently sent an NHS testing kit for bowel cancer.  If you’ve not tried that yet, take the suggestion of managing with a folded piece of loo paper with the complete derision it deserves.  Honestly, it’s awkward, even if you are a parent who’s used to dealing with nappy contents.  There is no comparison, believe me, and … well, darlings, use your imagination.  Wash your hands afterwards, it said.  And so it sodding might.  I’d used half a bogroll, just to keep things within the bounds of decency.  And you’ve got to do it THREE TIMES within a fortnight.  Just how often do you….Enough, I’ve lost enough of you already from my beloved band of readers.

You’ve really got to laugh, innit?

I’ll tell you all about the Benji Britt lecture another time, have to be topical.

So, I’ve got my car back, ready for my excursion to the Borders next week.  I’m quite excited (though I haven’t confirmed with Badgerdaddy yet) because, though I’ve been to Wales, I don’t know Ludlow at all.  Apparently, there are lovely walks so I am hoping it doesn’t pour with rain. But I’ve looked up the stately homes and castles and so on, so I shan’t be dismayed whatever happens.  I’m going to see John G on the way (or way back, again I haven’t confirmed), which I’m looking forward to very much.

It was a frustrating morning.  I didn’t sleep all night, just a nap of an hour or two when I’d have done better getting up and abandoning the idea of sleep.  I made tea at 4.30, in the hope of a fresh start to the night, but no luck.  I made buttered toast too, which just showed how desperate I was, I usually eat dry bread, being the virtuous sort, gastronomically speaking.  Actually, I made some for Russell and could just imagine the look on his face, being given butterless toast.

Once I got going this morning, I answered school emails that had been building up for a bit, and then sat down to write some minutes.  And the phone rang.  It was a sodding recorded message with a cold call.  I don’t have unsecured loans.  I went back to work.  Minutes later, another call.  It was a friend with sad news, of another friend who has died.  She was well in her 80s and had been very ill, but so is the husband of the friend who phoned and Jan and Peter had been supportive of each other.  And they’d been friends for 60 years, it’s quite hard. So the phone call took half an hour, it wasn’t right to rush it.

Another friend phoned, wondering if his wife had left her bag here the day before?  Sadly, no, so he had to phone to cancel her credit cards.  She has Alzheimer’s, she keeps the PINs in her bag too…oh dear.  I said quite gently that I didn’t think she should carry cards with her any more, he has to go everywhere with her and it’s not the first time she’s mislaid her handbag.  She’s still in her 60s, he’s 80, it’s very sad and hard to cope with.  We’ve said we’ll look after one of their dogs over C… over the Yuletide period while they’re visiting their daughter – it’s not really very convenient as we will be out some of the time and she howls when left – Ben will be shocked – but we will do what we can to help.

It was after noon when I was finally ready to do my work, and I’d eaten three more pieces of buttered toast by then – if I may make pathetic excuses, it’s a small loaf and Benj folllows me closely so at least a quarter goes to him – because, with my strict eating habit, I’d rather forgotten how delicious melted butter is – when Jonathan phoned to say my car was ready.  So Russell took me in to fetch it, then I walked the dog, had lunch (I must tell you about the salami some time) and then it was time to go and meet the builder at the church, because we are getting an estimate for various items of work.

I’ve still not done one lot of minutes yet, and here I am blogging when I should be working.  And I haven’t even told you all the news yet.  Not that there’s anything wildly exciting, but this isn’t that sort of a blog.  It’s an everyday story of Z’s life.  Mostly.

In brief…

Lovely day, very good lunch and I sat with friendly people, then went to excellent lecture.  And I’ll tell you about it another time.  I’m not sure what happens to the time in the evenings, but by the time I sit down to write, it’s half past eleven and I’d be better going to bed.

Good news from Weeza, their new floor will be laid next week.  That means they must paint the room this weekend, so could Granny do a spot of babysitting?  Even better, I suggested Zerlina and Gus come here for a couple of nights, so that’s what will happen.

And I plan to be off to Shropshire next week for a short break.

Broken down, if not by age and sex

I was looking forward to a cheering lunch of very delicious local salami and salad after getting my duties done this morning.  Alas and alack and all that.  Intending to take the car a few miles down the road to make sure the battery was charging ok, friend with jump leads following in his car in case there was a problem.  It didn’t get as far as that.  The car started all right but stopped within ten seconds, before I’d even put it in gear.  The warning light had not been showing.  The electrics were quite dead.  Mike put the jump leads on his battery and I started it again – all seemed fine until he removed them, then zero.

Now, as you know I’m a sensible and provident Z, rarely caught without my belt, braces and a length of bailer twine just in case, and my insurance policy breakdown cover included a home start.  In addition, I’ve only had this car since July and I’m covered by a 6-month warranty.  So I phoned about that first.  I knew that, if it’s just the battery, I’d not be covered, but I wanted to establish the right procedure.  And the woman was very helpful, agreed that it could be taken to my local garage not their designated one in Norwich and suggested I phone my breakdown people, though I would be covered for up to £50 call-out if it was needed.  The other call centre woman was equally helpful and I’m waiting for the breakdown people to come now.  I assured them there was no hurry, not at the side of the road in a distressed damsel situation.  Russell took me to my garage and I’ve explained there and I’ve just had another phone call to say the breakdown chappie is on the way now.

A bit of a nuisance in that I’m going to Aldeburgh tomorrow for lunch and a lecture on Britten’s operas, but I’ll have to borrow R’s van, little as I like driving it (and little as he wants to be without it) because he’s got an engagement on in the afternoon, otherwise I’d see if he could come for lunch too.  He’d be bored silly by the lecture, he has no interest in music at all and less knowledge.

I’m taking it as a very lucky occurrence – that it happened here and now, that is.  What a pain that would have been if it had happened on the way to Aldeburgh.  And the dear car gave me a little warning, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

Just had another call – breakdown van here in a minute.

Down time

It’s got to the stage of laziness now.  I still haven’t started the paperwork.  It’s just been so nice to relax and read for pleasure in the evening.  I’ve even watched a spot of television, which has become a rarity, though I have to read at the same time.  I can’t concentrate on it, never have, not even as a child.  Watching DVDs on the computer has been a great help because I’m far more likely to focus on the small screen than a tv in the corner.

This morning was spent interviewing for two temporary posts at a very senior level and it was really interesting and stimulating.  Tough though, very clever people with a lot of good ideas and we had to choose two of them out of five.

Miriam has left and is probably getting on her plane about now.  It’s a long journey, she left Norwich at 1 o’clock this afternoon, she is flying to Delhi, has several hours wait and then flies on to Melbourne, where her boyfriend will pick her up.  They met in Florida, he’s Australian and was over there, like her, for a year of university.  She showed us a picture of the two of them together and they really look alike – different shaped face but similar colouring and features.

An odd thing this morning, I was driving to school as I hadn’t left enough time to go by bike, I wanted to go shopping later and I thought it might rain because it was spitting at the time, and when I was a few hundred yards from the school, I noticed the battery warning light was on.  I don’t know if it had been all the time (it’s two miles), I’d have thought I’d have seen it before but maybe not.  Anyway, I was quite dismayed and parked in front of the school where there was plenty of room, in case I needed the jump leads later on another car.  There’s plenty of room because of all the school buses, 17 of them in two batches, so cars can only park once school has started, about 9 am until about 3 o’clock.  I phoned Russell to tell him in case I needed rescuing, but actually I’d have grabbed a helpful teacher.  Anyway, fortunately it was a non-event (this is a very dull story, you’ll discover if you haven’t already) because when I came out again, a bit late and the first few buses were already parked, the car started first time and the light hasn’t come on again.  I’ll keep an eye on it and make sure my next journey is long enough to charge the battery.  Which it normally is, I don’t use the car for short trips if I can help it.

Gosh.  That was dull.

I have picked nearly all the remaining tomatoes – no green tomato chutney this year, they’ve almost all ripened and I expect the last few will.  We’ve had a new fence put up round the annexe garden which looks very good.  We may have friends to stay for a few weeks while an extension is built to their house and they have two children, the younger being a toddler, so a fully enclosed garden will help them – I’d taken down part of the old fence, it had become so scruffy.  We have also extended the fence to the corner of our house so Ben can be let straight out of the back door for a run.  It won’t be as much fun for him as going on the marshes, but since Chester fell into the river once through the ice, I’ve been very nervous of taking a dog there in icy weather.  We’ll still take him for now, of course.

We hardly ever use our back door and had lost the key.  We thought we’d have to get a locksmith.  Fortunately, Russell found a box of keys upstairs and one of them fitted – whether it was the original or not, we don’t know.  I’ll have to get a doormat to put there – not that I mind a bit of mud on the floor, but at present he has the length of the carpeted passageway to wipe it off his feet.  It’s a horrid carpet, muddy brown carpet tiles and my mother used to ask why on earth we didn’t get anything nicer (and she died ten years ago), but it shows no dirt at all.  I always wanted proper Norfolk pamments, but we’ll never get around to that, so I think we’ll have a wooden floor instead, I really can’t put up with what’s there much longer.  We’ve got lots of lovely oak planks.  The floorboards are deal and not very good, or I’d take the carpet up and sand and seal what’s there.