Monthly Archives: November 2013

Z thinks about food

I’m sorry to go on about it, but all this sleeping is marvellous.  Not only am I sleeping at night but I’ve had two short naps as well today.

I have written about school puddings before but it was over five years ago, so perhaps I’m allowed a revisit.  Because they live happily in my memory as one of the best things of all about school and especially the best part of the meals.  I knew nothing about puddings from home, as my mother never made them, so the joys of rice pudding with a blob of muscovado sugar or jam in the middle of the bowlful, steamed jam, treacle (golden syrup, that is) or chocolate pudding, the first two with custard and the last with chocolate custard, treacle tart (again golden syrup), fruit crumbles or pies, even the less interesting sago and tapioca pudding, are still with me.

There were long tables with dishes of food on and we lined up, picked up our plates and trooped along, accepting or rejecting each dish as we went – that is, there wasn’t a choice but you didn’t have to take everything.  Take it or leave it was the choice.  I was not brought up to be fussy, though I had a tiny appetite, I don’t remember how much I ate.  The puddings were served in another small room, the bowls set out so that you could help yourself.

I eat school meals regularly now, in fact, partly to show a Good Example, partly to be sociable and friendly to the kitchen staff, partly to be able to say truthfully that I know the quality of the food the canteen dishes up, because I go and sample it.  Although we aren’t subject to the nutrition rules now we’re an academy, we still follow them, so the amount of protein, fat, salt etc are fairly carefully judged.  There’s always quiche, baked potatoes and salad and the rest of the meals vary, at least a choice of meat or fish dishes and a vegetarian option.  Everything is cooked from scratch, including pizza dough.  We use proper cutlery and china plates with paper napkins and plastic cups.  A two-course meal costs £2.10, I think, or it may be £2.20 – I never eat the pudding nowadays, so pay less than that.

I’ve never been along for breakfast though – I know that bacon sandwiches are served, not sure what else, but some pupils arrive quite early and it’s a help.  I have noticed the anxious tiredness, bordering on loss of self-control, in some pupils as break time comes near and, if asked, they say they haven’t eaten anything yet that day.  Substantial snacks are sold at break, slices of pizza, sandwiches, that sort of thing.  Cakes and biscuits are only allowed if a meal is being bought now, as it was discovered that a few children were spending all their lunch money on cake.

It seems odd to me now that it never occurred to me to try to bypass the lunch queue and head straight for the puddings when I was at school.  I was an unimaginative and conventional child for the most part and, when I rebelled, it was so quietly that no one ever noticed and I got away with it.

It’s been a pleasant, relaxing weekend.  Which means I don’t have much to write about, so I’ll have to resort to telling you about food.

I woke feeling quite cheery and very well rested – I’ve turned into a little Sleep Monster for the time being, it’s lovely.  I slept for a good eight hours, which makes three nights out of the last four and about six out of nine, the best for at least three years. So when I saw on Facebook that Sir Bruin and the Small Bear were drinking their first mulled wine of the season, I thought ooh.  And made some.  Just a couple of glasses of wine, with the usual fruit’n’spices, it didn’t take long to simmer into tastiness and Russell and I enjoyed it very much.  I shall do that again, very cheering.  Baked potatoes and bacon for lunch and I eyed the last of the apple in the fridge.  I felt like throwing it away, or rather giving it to the chickens, but I’d gone to the trouble of peeling and coring the damn things, so I made another pudding.  Yes, darlings, another one. Actually, I am starting to get slight indigestion, it must be all these puds.  Anyway, a swift microwave sponge (treacle) pudding with cream and apples on the side.

Having given away most of the quince jelly I made before I visited Jon in Ludlow, I was pleased that Tim had some more in the shop.  I’ve made several pots of cotignac, which is basically sweetened quince purée flavoured with orange.  It’s very good served with Greek yoghurt or crème frâiche.  Since one needs to peel and core the quinces and the latter is hard to do,it’s a good idea to save the trimmings to make jelly so that nothing is wasted.  So now I’ve another half dozen pots of jelly too and am feeling the Good Housekeeper.

The head of celery I bought on Thursday is still going strong.  I like raw celery very much, but Russell doesn’t and there’s a lot of it.  So more soup – very simple, chopped onion, celery and potato cooked in butter, equal quantities of milk and vegetable stock, seasoning, simmer for a while.  And I made cheese scones to go with it.

That’s been about it, really.  So here are some pictures to give you a further flavour of my week.

You don't mess with y daughter

You don’t mess with y daughter

Gus deserved his ice cream.  Yes, my eyebrows are worryingly bushy

Gus deserved his ice cream. Yes, my eyebrows are worryingly bushy

Ben cuddles me

Ben cuddles me

Ben cuddles the fire

Ben cuddles the fire

The fruit of my labours

The fruit of my labours

Z has wound down to Zero

A vivid dream woke me up – not a bad one, it was exciting.  It’s a funny thing, dreaming, isn’t it? There are a few dreams I’ve remembered since childhood, but mostly they’re forgotten within minutes.  I deliberately don’t dwell on nightmares, so that I don’t remember them in the morning.

Today, I spent a while cleaning and tidying the kitchen, which was pleasantly soothing.  And then I got to grips with the quinces, cutting them up for cotignac, which is a thick purée that keeps well in jars, though not as well as a jam because there’s less sugar, and using the cores and peel for more jelly.  I’ll make that tomorrow.

Otherwise, I’ve mostly been reading.  I meant to do some gardening, but haven’t, the plants I bought yesterday are still in their pots and the one bed I look after is still weedy.  I should do it tomorrow though, because apparently it’ll turn colder next week and besides, I’ve got things on every day.  I honestly never thought I’d turn into a committee person and I’m still not sure I really am – so many committees are composed of a couple of people who do the work and the rest who just talk, but not the ones I’m on, where we all pull our weight.  Even so, I sometimes wonder what I’d do with my time if I had it to myself.  I’ve a feeling I’d just lounge around, to be honest.

A colleague of Wink’s had a conference in Norwich, so she gave him some boxes for me, as she says she isn’t up to the long drive between Wiltshire and Norfolk until she has her new hip.  So, dismayingly, I have a whole lot of brightly wrapped parcels, ready for an event that isn’t to be mentioned for the next couple of weeks.  Bad enough having shopped, but wrapping and delivering is just pushing it a bit too far.

Ben is a Good Dog

Yesterday was such a day of two halves, to mangle a cliché, that I ended up not feeling like writing about it at all.  It certainly started well, in that I slept marvellously well, the best for months.  In fact, I didn’t wake up until the radio switched off at quarter past eight.  And then I had my weekly school meeting with the Head, went to the supermarket – I haven’t been there for weeks, haven’t needed to as I buy most food from small shops – butcher, baker, greengrocer etc, so it was more a pleasure than a chore.  And I was nicely tired, felt as if I was on the home straight work-wise, so thought I’d have a good lunch, spend the afternoon finishing work, then take a long weekend off.  I went to the petshop for Ben’s food, spotted some lovely Fenland dirty celery, the root still on, on the market for a bargain £1.20 – so went and bought several things from Tim too (checking he didn’t have such quality celery himself while I was there) because the local shops need the custom more than the weekly market does.  I did go to Matt on the market for fish though, because he’s been there for years and I really fancied some oysters.

It only took 20 minutes or so to open half a dozen oysters, and I only gashed my hand once, so I reckoned I’d done pretty well.  I ate them with brown bread and butter,  being the Walrus at heart, with a glass of white wine and then sat by the fire for a few minutes before starting work again.

This was when it fell apart, because I found myself entertaining a friend, which I thought would be for an hour at most (this was not arranged in advance, I didn’t know it was going to happen) and I had her for over four hours.  She has Alzheimer’s and is not very capable, so I couldn’t leave her to her own devices while I got on with things.  It would not have been so bad if I’d known at the start it was going to take so long, but it was landed on me and Russell and her husband didn’t let me know they’d been delayed.  By the time I finally delivered her home and came back again, it was time to cook dinner and then I just sat feeling a bit stunned for a couple of hours, before dealing with a dismaying array of emails – the number, not the subject matter, though some of them were a touch nit-picking – and then lurched off to bed.

However, it can’t be said that the afternoon was as bad as it might have been.  My friend went outside, wondering where her husband was, so I followed as soon as I realised (I’d been emptying and restacking the dishwasher), not realising she’d left the outside door open.  Ben ran out, so I hoped for the best and didn’t fuss him.  I’d been going to leave it a few more days before risking it, but he was great.  I succeeded in getting him to come to me and sit, patted him and let him go again, he was pretty biddable if not completely obedient and when I finally wanted him to come, I let him see the lead and he didn’t run away.  If I try tricking him, he won’t trust me next time, he has to be willingly obedient.

And dinner was good, I made soup from some of the celery and then a little number with scallops and bacon.  We’re still ploughing through the apple I cooked a few days ago, but I’d run out of steam by then and simply served stewed apple and custard.

Usually, when I sleep well one night, it scuppers me for the next, but I wasn’t too tired to read in bed – I’ve read in bed my entire life until the last few years, when I’ve not felt able to – and then I slept all night again.  In fact, Sam brought Rupert to spend the day with us and we were both still in bed when he arrived – though he was a bit early.  We dressed and shot downstairs rapidly.  And the dogs have played outside and Ben is still fine, coming back of his own accord.

Today, I’ve also been to Norwich for lunch with Ronan and before that I finished nearly all the work that didn’t get done yesterday.  Just a form to fill in to Barclaycard, relating to the card fraud of three weeks ago and a couple of minor school items, then I’ll be done.  On the way home from Norwich, I stopped to buy some winter pansies and a few other plants, so the frostbitten busy lizzies will go tomorrow and be replaced.

A harmonious day, ultimately

Apparently there were a few accidents on the road – i didn’t come across any of them, but there was one long queue of traffic that I passed in the right hand lane.  And there were several lots of roadworks too – still, I arrived with Weeza and Gus soon after 10 o’clock.  Weeza made coffee and I was going to amuse Gus for a while so that she could get on, but first she went outside the little-used back door (there’s also a front door and a side door) to fetch some firewood.  And she couldn’t shut it again.  She tried hard, but it seemed to have swelled in the damp weather.

However, some effort and examination later, it turned out to be more than that.  The last owner hadn’t handed in the keys, so they had needed to break in and have new locks fitted, and the new door fittings were standing proud of the wood, so stopping it from closing.  Weeza took it all apart, we tried this and that – she couldn’t find the chisel so we went off to the nearby small town to the ironmonger’s.  When we returned, it took the chisel, the plane, the screwdriver, sandpaper and much effort, but at last the job was done, she slammed the door shut triumphantly and shot the bolt and we hugged.  Gus wasn’t quite sure why, but he enthusiastically joined in the three-way hugs and we congratulated ourselves on two hours of successful effort for several minutes.  And then we had lunch.

We did do the job as intended, though.  Instead of taking the baby out, I helped Weeza by putting masking tape above the skirting board and on the floor below, while Gus pottered around playing and being extremely good.  Then I took him into the kitchen, where we sat on the sofa and he ate an icecream while Weeza painted.   He was a darling, completely happy and well-behaved throughout.  While I was putting on the masking tape, he became intrigued by my back and pulled up my jumper to stroke it, squeezing the flesh (yes, I felt quite self-conscious) and examining a mole intently.  It was very amusing and rather sweet.

Zerlina had a tennis lesson after school and was being brought back, so we didn’t go out again.  Phil has been on a business trip to Scandinavia (Sweden, I think) and was due home around 10 pm.  So it was just the three of us.

And then I came home and cooked dinner.  Another dinner, another pudding containing apples.  I think the chickens might end up with some of those stewed windfalls, I’m a bit tired on variations on the same thing.  Plain baked apples once they’re finished, perhaps.

Z doesn’t really judge how nice people are by how untidy their house is

I should make it very clear that I was only meaning myself yesterday, I’ve no objection in the least to anyone cleaning their house every day.  Just that it would be a last resort for me – though when I am organised enough to do a bit every day (apart from the obvious which I don’t really count, such as cooking, washing up and basic kitchen and bathroom hygiene), it always makes me realise I should keep it going.  Half an hour a day extra would make all the difference.  As I said, I used to do a lot more housework, it was necessary.  And Russell wasn’t quite so unhelpful then, although always pretty disorganised.  Anyway, I know lots of people who do their own housework, have an immaculate house and are really fun and lovely people to boot.  I admire them, but can’t begin to do the same.  It would drag me down.

After getting home this lunchtime, I spent a while with Ben, who really needs a bit more training.  Now that the chickens are not running loose, I’d like to be able to let him be free to roam the garden, but I do want him to be more obedient first.  He does understand, he just thinks it’s his choice whether or not to obey.  It isn’t.  Once he catches on to that, he can do almost whatever he likes.  I don’t want a yes-dog, I like them with a bit of individuality.  It’s just that if it really matters (for example, if he’s haring off towards the road), I want a shout to tell him to wait to have instant results.

My contact lens is round the back of my eye again.  Slipped round as soon as it went in this morning, no idea what went wrong.

Anyway, I’m going to be Granny tomorrow, which will be a lovely break.  Weeza has skirting boards to paint.

When Z was right

DSCF0572As every year, I remind myself that this little village lost 25 men in the First World War.  There are still only 400 houses, it must have almost wiped out a generation.  They are not forgotten.

I exchanged emails with Mary this morning “…and we thought we would have a quieter week!” hers ended.  Indeed, I was at school from 10.30 to 4.30 today except for a brief visit home for lunch, I’ve another meeting at 9.30 tomorrow which will take two hours, there’s a virtual meeting on the internet later.  I took minutes at this afternoon’s meeting which will have to be written up while I have some idea what they mean.  Next week was always going to be booked up, with a Finance committee on Monday, in Norwich on Tuesday morning  and a full Governors’ meeting on Thursday and now I find I’m interviewing again on Wednesday morning.  Still, beats faffing about in the garden and doing the housework any time, doesn’t it?  The day I wash the floor and hoover daily, I’ll know I’m too old to be useful to anyone else and too boring to have fun.  Though there was a time when I did that, it was when I had small children and dogs and it was a constant war against a tidal wave of mud and hair.  I have never been one to expect anyone to remove their boots at the door, mainly because the dogs tread gravel in and it’s painful on the feet.

Fridays are free, most weeks.  I love Fridays.   I hope Weeza will be about, I haven’t seen their room since they’ve furnished it, last time I saw it the floor was just down.

I’ve just had an email, addressed to all the people at the meeting this afternoon.  There had been a query whether Directors’ liability was confined to the four Members of the Board of Trustees or whether it applied to all Governors.  I said that I carry £10 with me at all times, as one of the Members and the other Governors can relax.  This was disputed – which is fair enough, it’s all quite complicated, which is the reason I have studied the Articles of Association at length – actually, I am pretty boring already and washing the floor will merely clinch an existing condition.  Anyway, The email started ‘Zoë was quite right.’  Hah.

It seems that Z has a smidgen of time on her hands…

Though it’s just during a coffee and cold sausage break.

Anyway, these gave me my daily chortle.  I discovered on holiday that iOS7 now gives me the option of taking a panorama shot on my phone, and some of my attempts were more successful than others.  I sensibly – oh darlings, why am I so sodding sensible? – didn’t attempt moving targets, realising it just wouldn’t work, but even then there were a few wildly wobbling horizons and other peculiarities.

Panoramics gone wrong

Z has been awake since 3 am and it shows

For the first time, I think, since I moved here, I didn’t go to the Remembrance Sunday service at the church.  I went to the 8 o’clock service and I’ll go to the Remembrance Day assembly at school tomorrow, but this year I listened to the ceremony at the Cenotaph on the radio instead.  Last year, I was asked to play the Last Post and Reveille on the clarinet, since the village was lacking in any churchgoing brass players .  It sounded less peculiar than you might think.

Ronan and Dora came to lunch and so did Charlotte, Miriam’s mother.  Miriam (who stayed, if you remember, for several weeks in our annexe) is in Australia now and tomorrow is her birthday.  It would have been my mother’s birthday tomorrow too, her 90th.

I’ve just been out to walk the dog.  There’s a sharp frost and a clear sky.  I used the torch on my phone, and was mildly interested to note the vapour wafting away from it, with the heat it gave off.  I touched it and it felt quite cold, however.

I mentioned that our Bramley apple tree had a very good crop this year and I’ve got the best apples in store.  I’ve been using up the windfalls, or the better ones anyway.  I’ve still got a couple of pounds of cooked apples in the fridge, we can’t flag yet.  We’ll never eat all the apples in the larder and  I’m running out of puddings.  Maybe I should make some mincemeat.  Except then I’ll have jars of mincemeat not to eat.  H’m.

Z reads the papers on the day they’re delivered

I bought a new mascara today.  That was a mistake – that is, I daresay it’s a splendid mascara, but the plastic wrapping was very difficult to get off.  I thought that there would be a pull tag, but no such luck as far as I could see.  It took the sharp point of a knife, my teeth and my nails about five minutes to remove the shrink-wrapped plastic and two nails have subsequently broken.  Poor do, Max Factor.  If there was an easier way, you should have made it apparent.

When I was filling my milk bottle at the farm, where raw milk is sold almost straight from the cow, a man waiting his turn behind me asked how I stop it foaming up.  “Tilt the bottle so the milk hits the side first,” I said.  “Like filling a glass of beer.”  He tried it and it worked.  Well, of course it did, but he was pleased.

Most of the oak has been cut up now, a friend brought round his log splitter the other day and we’ve had a man with an axe today to cut it into smaller pieces.  Next, it has to be shifted to a spot where it can spend a year drying out.  I decided I couldn’t do the barrowing again, it was almost too much for my back last weekend, that as well as the stacking, so a helpful schoolboy is coming along tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain.

Another early night, I’m taking it easy this weekend.