Monthly Archives: November 2013

Z rolls down her sleeves…

…and rethinks.  Those cupboards are extremely sturdy.  They were built in about 1960, to last.  Neither a crowbar nor a pickaxe made much impression, though I do have girly muscles.  It may be impossible, but I am thinking of a different way round part of the problem.

I went over to the open morning, and happened to arrive, fortuitously (that’s almost tautology, apologies) when the present Deputy Headteacher who will be Acting Head next year, a present Assistant Headteacher who will be Acting Deputy Head next year and the newly-appointed Headteacher from September were all there talking to each other.  Angelo, the Head-to-be, is a really nice man, I like him very much.  And I managed to fit in a constructive conversation that will make Monday morning go a bit easier – there was a risk that I was being misunderstood, but I’ve reassured, I hope.  I’m not difficult and I am straightforward, it’s often better to simply ask if someone’s not sure what I mean.  My mother used to read meanings into things and say, much later, ‘but you really meant…’ when that really wasn’t the case at all, I’d not thought of the sinister meaning she put upon it.

For example, years ago there were neighbours of ours where the wife’s mother lived with them.  Russell told me that the husband said they were never alone, she happily trotted in and they never had any conversation to themselves.  I told my mother this, just as a matter of conversation and meant nothing more by it.  Years – literally, about ten years – later she assured me that I’d meant she wasn’t to drop in uninvited.  I was astonished, it not having occurred to me at all.  She could have laughed (however little humour there was in it) and said ‘I’d better not do that, had I?’ at the time and I’d immediately have apologised for giving that impression – but she did tend to twist things like that and I never saw it coming.  I don’t mean to be tactless.

Z rolls up her sleeves

I thought I’d start by taking the doors off, so I removed several trays of apples from the larder floor and set to with a screwdriver.  I was lucky to be able to find one, Russell never puts tools back.  All but one screwdriver were the Phillips sort.  I got the first door off, but the others were all too stiff.  I’ll take a crowbar to it tomorrow, can’t be doing with finesse any longer.

I have indeed cooked the puddings, they’ve been steaming all day in the bottom oven.  I have this awful feeling of compulsion, quite hard to resist, to go out and do more cooking this evening.  But I’ve also made two batches of soup, and we’ve eaten one, so that really is enough for the day.  Tomorrow, a couple of strong mates are coming round to help move the freezer (the apples are now in the way of where I want it to go) which will be excellent.  I moved it temporarily into the porch some 9 years ago.

A little while ago, Ben came to me and gave a little whimper, so I got up to let him out.  But he led me firmly to the kitchen and stood looking up at the puddings and then at me, telling me quite clearly that he thought he should have his share now, please.  I gave him a dog biscuit instead I’m afraid.  I’m soft, but not that soft.  Little Rupert the spaniel came over yesterday, they had a great day.  He’s coming again on Tuesday, though I haven’t mentioned this to Ben yet.

After the freezer is moved, I will go over to Halesworth, where the students will be building the plane – you can see it in the background.  I was at the opening but kept out of the photos as far as possible.  I was in the one in the newspaper, but only if you knew it was me and recognised my hair, my face wasn’t visible.  The website is still in its early stages, by the way, it’s got various blanks among its pages, though things like policy documents will be added in due course.  Not that anyone reads them except the staff and governors who write them, but you’ve got to have them.  The policy on charging for music lessons, anti-bullying and equal opportunities for students with disabilities are about the only school policies that are ever asked for, and of those it’s usually the music one.



Z the Housewife

And now the cake – you know, the Cake – is in the oven.  Pudding will be done by the weekend, I daresay.  This is horribly disconcerting, I seem to have reverted back to the Z of at least ten years ago, with all this baking and preserving.

I don’t remember an autumn when I’ve been so consistently busy with school stuff.  I’ve had to take weekends off recently, I couldn’t have coped otherwise, except last weekend I worried, even if I kept away from the keyboard.  I can’t see an end in prospect either, but I’m determined to get away to see Wink next month because she doesn’t feel able to spend several hours in a car until she’s had her hip done and has recovered.  She’d rather hoped to have had a date by now, but not yet – so I’m going down next weekend anyway.  I’ll be driving down on Thursday – that is, tomorrow week – and I’ll be in no hurry, so available to drop in on anyone on the way, and also free in the Wiltshire area on Friday, if anybody is about and would like to be dropped in on?  We’re likely to be visiting Dodo in Weymouth on Saturday – Wink’s godmother, she’s now 101 years old and still lives by herself in her own house.  I last saw her on the 100th birthday last September, I’ve known her all my life.  In fact, she was my mother’s oldest friend, whom she met in 1941.  I’m sure I put up a picture last year, but here is one again.

All these preserves had to be found a home, and I knew where there was room but I didn’t intend to put them.  There are cupboards in the larder that are frankly useless.  I shall explain.

Back in the day, over 20 years ago, we had a good big larder, about 8 feet square I should think, though I’ve never measured it.  But then we had an extension built on the house and part of the larder was in the way.  That seemed ok, didn’t really need that big a room, so it was halved in size and the cupboards and shelves put back along the long wall.  But the cupboard doors are surprisingly small, you can’t see what’s in there easily.  And bending down was awkward, there wasn’t much room.  And so what got put in there tended to be forgotten, especially when we started stacking things on the floor.  And so it was that I found, one year, several jars of blackberry jelly that had languished there until they were dry and dusty, and so since then they’ve mostly been unused.

So I’m going to get rid of them.  It’ll be a fair bit of trouble because the shelf above is full of stuff, but they’ve got to go.  They will be replaced by open shelves and I’ll have room for my second fridge there too, which is presently in the annexe, though it usually is slightly in the way in the kitchen.  Stuff we dump on the floor can go on the lower shelves and it’ll all be much better.

The Cake is cooking overnight in the slow oven.  It’s supposed to take 10-12 hours, but I’m a bit anxious.  I won’t be surprised if i pop down a couple of times in the night to fuss over it, and then oversleep.  But we’re having Rupert tomorrow I think, so I mustn’t be up late.

Z the party planner

It is indeed all right, emails were exchanged last night and a meeting arranged, which started with a hug – well, it ended with one too – and we are all sorted out.

And I’m still on a cooking thing, it’s getting quite disconcerting.  Today, I made apple and chilli jelly.  I’ve just realised that the preserving pan is still in the sink, filled with soapy water but unwashed.  I’m afraid that’s where it’ll stay, it’s too late to do anything about it now.  Well, it isn’t ‘too late’ but I’m going straight to bed when I’ve finished here.

My suggestion of a governors’ party has gone down very well and we’re looking for the date now.  There’s no evening in December when everyone can make it, unfortunately, but we’ve come down to four possibles where most of us can.  There’s already talk of another one in the summer too – I’ll be very happy if that’s the case, as you know I love a houseful of people.

As you might imagine, I’ve been playing a lot of Britten over the past few days, with it being the hundredth anniversary of his birth.  But here is a recording of him playing, not his own music but some of Schubert’s.  His partner in the duet is Sviatoslav Richter.  My good friend Alan gave me the CD some years ago, I’m very fond of it.

Z picks up

It got worse, I’m afraid – actually, I hate crying because it solves nothing and just gives me a headache.  Though that didn’t happen last night, I suddenly felt very ill at about 8 o’clock and went to bed, having been sick.  Not through illness, just anxiety.  It’s all far too confidential to tell you about, I’m afraid, and it’s not what is going to happen, but that it’s done without upsetting anyone.  But there’s been another exchange of emails today, and it’ll be ok.  Except there will be several difficult meetings in the next week, but they weren’t the problem.  Bring it on, darlings.  *sigh*

Anyway, enough of that, I am particularly pleased to have got the porch looking nice again.  And I’m planning to have a new kitchen floor, being wildly jealous of Weeza’s nice wooden one. Tiles are a bit sensible for me, besides they’re hard on the poor old feet when you have to stand for long.  Even a wooden floor is gentler to stand on if there’s a rug, it’s surprising the difference it makes.

I like being impractical, which is why I have wallpaper in the kitchen, bathroom and cloakroom and no other room – though the bathroom badly needs redecorating.  Not that it’s done badly at all, I last did it more than 15 years ago.  I like wallpapering, it needs great care to get exactly right, especially in our house with uneven walls and floors.  I’ve always done our painting and decorating, Russell isn’t particularly good at it.

Z may be better saying nothing at all

And the downside is hitting me today, with the result that I can’t write in much of a positive vein.  There were positives – several in fact, Dilly and the children called in, which was a delight; the last of the logs from the fallen oak bough have been stacked;  I turned out the porch again and also did some cooking – but it’s all overriden by another matter which is governor-related and confidential.  I’m leaving it altogether until tomorrow, because my rule is that Friday evening until Sunday late afternoon is a time we all deserve to have off.

All the same, I felt down enough that I sat on the kitchen floor and howled.  Ben did his best, he came and comforted me and generally did the best that a loyal dog can do – it’s not his fault that he’s not Huckleberry or Chester or even Tilly – he’ll get there.  So will I.

Z gets going

Oh, the week isn’t diminishing in terms of responsibility.  I’m now at the stage of writing supportive letters.  If I need a supportive letter myself, I’ll let you know.  I’m ok at the moment. Supportive letters aren’t any use unless they’re followed by doing what’s most helpful though, so I think the next few weeks are going to be busy as well.  It’ll be fine…

Fortunately, Ben’s training hasn’t been wrecked by yesterday’s events, he was very good again today.  Although, when I called him to come in, he was carrying something in his mouth.  I assumed that it was the missing mother hen, but when he dropped it and came to me I took him back to the house and then went to the field to investigate – it was the very old remains of a rabbit, some hair and bones with a mummified leg, not very pleasant, but not hard to deal with (gingerly picked up and dropped in the dustbin, hands washed and sanitised afterwards).

All in all, lots of boxes ticked but not an easy week.  There’s going to be a lot to do before the end of term.  However, it’s not bad news at all – for one thing, I seem to have volunteered to host a party, woo hoo, and for another, I’m still sleeping marvellously.  And, as I said, I have a Good Dog.


I suspect I’m not the most typical chairman of school governors.  I just wrote to my colleagues and the email ended ‘Thanks so much for your contributions this afternoon, I really think you all exemplified what a governing body should be.  I have three sayings that inform and guide my life – it’ll be fine; JFDI; onwards and upwards.  Take your pick.’  I dunno, that’s the way I do things.  I can do correct, of course, but only when I have to.  They are a brilliant team, I appreciate that I went slightly too far down the informal route, but hey.  They re-elected me, they didn’t have to.

There are still various things to worry about, governing-wise, but I’m not going to get them out of proportion, because we’ll work it out.

There was something very upsetting however, just before I left for my meeting.  Ben had gone out in the morning and greeted people who’d come to see Russell, they were very taken with him and he was slightly over-enthusiastic but otherwise fine.  Russell went out, saying he’d be back before I was due to leave – I didn’t say anything but quietly invoked the rodents of disbelief, I’ve heard that before.  Half an hour before I was going out, I let Ben out for a run and went to get some lunch (leftover risotto and the last of the cheese from Ludlow, which was fairly ripe by then).  I then went to call him, and noticed the gate to the kitchen garden was open.  Well that shouldn’t have been a problem, the chickens are all shut up in the 40-foot greenhouse, but I went to investigate … and there was Ben on the lawn, looking excited, lying down with something between his paws.

it wasn’t very nice, I’ll cut it short.  Three half-grown chicks with a mother hen were in a coop and some animal had noticed the gate wasn’t secured and gone in and knocked the coop over and killed the youngsters.  Probably the mother too, she’s nowhere to be found and has probably been taken away.  Ben saw the open gate and investigated.  He couldn’t have killed them, they were cold.  But he was over-excited, it’ll take me time to get him back to the easy-going dog he was starting to become.  And the hen having disappeared makes us fear that it was a fox.  Russell rang to say he’d be late so I, having written a note for him, was able to tell him what had happened and he nearly cried, I could hear it in his voice.  I was in a similar state, we love our chickens.  Thank goodness the others are behind glass, but there’s a bit more protection we can give them – on one side, a fox could go and stare at them and try to break in, we need to do something about that.

Z is tying up loose ends

I felt a lightness at lunchtime today, because all the interviews are over.  They have gone very well, showing how jolly good our staff are.  When you wish you had an extra post to give, you have good candidates.  I said to the others that hearing members of staff talk about the school has given me a lot of information about the school without having to ask directly, all very interesting.  We have to hand our notes in of course, the disadvantage of which being that I can’t ponder on what was talked about.  I have to hope I’ll remember it all.  I may be vague, but it’s all in the brain somewhere, surely.

I’ve been making mincemeat today, though I’m not sure where this cooking activity has come from.  I suppose it’s because I’ve been out of the house a lot and I’ve lost my usual domestic equilibrium and this is how I regain it.  I’ve got to clear space in the larder for all these preserves, they’re all lined up on the kitchen counter at the moment.

I mentioned the other day that Ben was well-behaved when let out the other day – well, his behaviour is transformed.  I open the door, he trots out and a few minutes later, I open it again and he comes back in.  Or, if he’s not back, I call, he runs back from the field, comes up to me to be patted and I tell him he can go off again for a while.  He must just have been ready at the time I decided to put a bit of work into teaching him, it took little enough.  He does love a walk on the lead, or for me to go out with him, but it does make life easier if he can go out whenever he wants to, even if I’m busy.  He’s happier too, I can tell, very affectionate but not so demanding.



We see old friends

I was determined to get to Nadfas this time, having missed all the meetings so far this autumn.    Though we’d promised to go to Ipswich to see old friends, so I wasn’t able to stay in Norwich for lunch as I’d originally planned.

Our friends have recently moved into a flat in a care home.  They are both in their mid-eighties, both have dementia.  I haven’t seen them for several years, though Russell called on them last year – at that time, they were still managing at home but spending several days a week at the home.  It seems the best possible solution, because it was an easier transition than being suddenly uprooted from everything they knew.

They recognised us and were pleased to see us – we’ve known them for many years.  They knew Russell back in the 1960s when he lived in Ipswich.  Joyce is rather more forgetful than Herman, who still has some knowledge that he is forgetful and can concentrate on a conversation for longer, but I reckon they’re fortunate in losing their minds together, as neither has the pain of knowingly watching the other go downhill mentally.  They are both clean, cheerful, seem to be in pretty good health – I suppose the prognosis isn’t good, but neither of them has the distressing symptoms of anger or inappropriate behaviour.  Their son lives nearby and calls in frequently, taking them out on a Sunday.  It’s sad to see the situation, but they’re not unhappy, one has to try to take it as it is, not how you wish it was.

Being a little melancholy, I made risotto for supper.  It’s very soothing, cooking risotto.  And then I mixed up the ingredients for mincemeat, which are in a big bowl in the kitchen now, blending flavours.

Tomorrow, more interviews.  I’m going to be quite glad when the temporary posts are all filled – the thing is, each temporary promotion gives rise to another temporary vacancy, and each temporary vacancy has to be advertised among the staff and interviewed for.  Heads of House this time, there are two positions and four candidates.