Monthly Archives: December 2013

Z wants her pianola

Well, I haven’t done what I meant to do, which was marzipan the cake and clean and tidy upstairs, but I have finished shopping for presents, posted everything and been in to school THREE TIMES.  I’ve written letters, signed cheques and wished various people well, including one who’s leaving us to move to Greece after Christmas.

Real news of the week is that, apparently, my pianola is ready.  I can hardly believe it.  I haven’t seen it for years.  I have no idea how much all the repairs will have cost.  As well as the pianola innards being renovated, it has been restrung and totally overhauled.  I’ve left a message on the chap’s answerphone and hope he’ll get back to me – I’ll ring again in the morning, I’m hopeful of getting it home before Christmas now.  Although I won’t get too anxious about it, I’ve waited long enough.  Some furniture shifting will be required and it won’t be in the ideal place, but I can’t put it where I originally thought, in the annexe.  I want it near me, I haven’t played the piano in years – it used to have a lovely sound and touch, I hope it’s as good – and I haven’t pedalled the pianola in decades.  I can hardly wait now.

Z plans to look back

Today – h’m – went out soon after nine, scurried round the library (how I think I’ll have time to read eight books in three weeks with Christmas intervening, I don’t know), then to the supermarket, where I had a voucher for £10 off if I spent £70, then to the petrol station – I was quite near the wire there, told I had 35 miles-worth of diesel, it took 49.something litres, wouldn’t have driven to Norwich and back – and by then it was 10.50 and we were meeting Russell’s sister at noon.  I had time to unload the shopping and we set off, only five minutes later than planned and we were in the restaurant ten minutes early.  As was June.  Splendid.  Ronan joined us at the time specified.  Excellent.

I had a letter waiting for me when I arrived at school last night.  A lad has done something very silly.  He’s written to apologise, not given excuses, but has made commitments for the future.  He sounds desperately penitent.  And that’s at least enough, possibly an indiscreet amount of information.  And there’s the rub.  I know my blogging has been a bit perfunctory of late.  I have wanted to share so much with you, but it isn’t possible.  I google myself and find out more than I expect to be in the public domain, and it’s not hard to find me here.  I have a distinctive name and Z isn’t much protection.  I’m pretty open about myself, though only to the extent I wish to be, but there’s a lot I would like to talk about that I may not.

For instance, there has been an ongoing *situation.*  One of our Headteacher candidates had to be offered a place to stay and the school booked him in at a fairly local, though not immediately local, hotel.  He stayed two nights and considered staying a third, but eventually didn’t, asked if there was any cancellation charge and was told there wasn’t, and left.  The school was charged for the third night.  Some toing and froing, then I was involved, wasn’t able to speak to the manager at the time, emailed him, emailed him again nine days later, phoned again, got the ‘I was on the point of dealing with it’ reply – yes, it’s sorted, he was very polite and so was I.  But I can’t talk about it, obviously.

And this keeps happening.  And life is very interesting and engaging, but I can’t tell you.  So the ‘sorry I haven’t been blogging but I can’t say what’s taken my time’ post is not interesting to write or to read.  But I love blogging and I love to engage with you all.  So I think I’m going in another direction for a while.  It’ll probably be ok over Christmas, but then I’ll be back to school, and I don’t exaggerate when I say I’m consistently busier than I have been in over 25 years of school governorship.

At times, initially when there’s been stuff I haven’t wanted to talk about, I have reminisced about my childhood and my dogs and family and so on, and it’s been well received.  I’ve a shocking memory for things that happened way back, but there is a lot that I could dredge up if I were to try.  So I think that’s what I’ll do for a while.  After Christmas, however.

Z hams it up

Thank you, it all went really well.  Everyone was lovely and there was a great party spirit, not in the boozed-up sense.  Vast amounts of food were eaten, there’s not as much left as I expected, which is a Good Thing.  I’m going to have to put stuff in the freezer, all the same.  I managed to cook the ham perfectly, which was more by instinct than anything else, though I think I’ve worked it out now – up to 12 lbs, 20 mins per pound plus 20 minutes, up to 20 lbs, 15 minutes ditto, after that, 10 minutes per pound.  11 kilos, so a good 24 lbs, I timed 4 hours from when the water came to the boil, then took it off the heat and left it for 10 minutes or so while I wondered what to do next, then ladled out most of the water, then Russell and I hauled it out.  I’d intended to glaze it in the oven but lost my nerve for shifting it again, and also thought it was cooked just right, so just put foil over it and a couple of teatowels over that to keep the heat in and let it rest while I reheated the casseroles.  Then we put it on the ham-stand and then took off the skin, which came off easily, another indication it’s been cooked long enough.  A whole ham cooked on the bone is so delicious, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t glazed.

Tonight was Speech Day.  I’ve mentioned Jonny, owner of Big Pinkie and maker of cheese, and he was our guest speaker and did it really well.  I spent several hours writing my short speech – some 930 words and was reasonably happy with it.

My contact lens, that shifted round the back on Friday morning didn’t come out again until Sunday night.  I wish I knew how to prevent it or how to get it out quicker.  The worst thing is that I have to wear glasses, which I hate doing, not through vanity but because I never become unaware of them and I have to keep taking them off for any close work.

The good thing is that the house (downstairs, that is) is all clean and tidy and will need little attention for the next couple of weeks, apart from the obvious hoovering, kitchen cleaning and so on.  And I’ve got lots of cooked food, so will hardly have to cook this week.  Splendid.


Z suddenly becomes a bit worried

Today probably wasn’t the best time to have carpet laid in the passageway, but we managed and the men from possibly the loveliest local shop in the world were very good-natured when we needed to go past them.  The drawing room door will have to come off and have another millimetre shaved off, though, it only just opens and shuts.  I’m as ready as I can be for tomorrow, lovely Mary having come over and helped lay tables and so on.  She also popped into Sainsbury’s and bought me another dozen champagne glasses, so I feel much more prepared for any eventuality now.  Although I was not entirely prepared for my contact lens playing hide-and-seek again, it’s behind my eyeball somewhere at present.  Next time I have an eye test, I’ll mention it – it certainly happens more frequently nowadays than it used to.

A nail has broken on my carefully manicured left hand.  It was bound to happen.  Too far down to file, I’ll try to keep it from coming away with some clear varnish for a few days until it’s grown a bit.  It was bound to happen, it always does.  Ho hum.

It’s a whopping great ham, the butcher cut away a part and it still weighs 11 kilos.  It only just fits in my ham boiler.  I don’t think I’ll need to shop again for food this side of Christmas.  There will be 24 of us tomorrow night – or I may have said that already.  I don’t know many of the guests outside the governors’ meetings and few of their other halves, but I trust it’ll be a jolly evening.  I remember one tricky party, many years ago, the first time I divided guests into two dining rooms.  I sat dismayed in one room when one guest had too much to drink and became maudlin, crying on the shoulder of a lovely man who was far too kind to shake her off. Everyone else vanished, I don’t know where, I expect Russell showed them his china collection. My mother reported to me afterwards that the other room had been fine until a friendly debate on a subject of current interest turned into a discussion that one person thought she had to win.  However hard others tried to deflect her, she talked the subject to death, quite unaware that she hadn’t won the argument through her brilliant reasoning but that everyone else stopped talking out of embarrassment and boredom.  I gave up on parties for several years after that, I was so unnerved.  But I have my confidence back now, I don’t know anyone who does that sort of thing any more.  Not as far as I’m aware, anyway.  It’s a bit late to be nervous, isn’t it?

Bring it on…

Last night at 10 o’clock, I was about to come and answer emails and write here when familiar zig-zag lines started to flash in the corner of my eye.  So I asked Russell to deal with Ben and hastened to bed before the pain started – though I decided to have a bath first, which helped, and then couldn’t sleep anyway.  I was awake for several hours, eventually turning on the light and reading, once the migraine had gone.

I did sleep in the end and then had a meeting with the Head, followed by lunch in Norwich.  I pick up friends who live 15 minutes in the wrong direction first, but it saves them two bus rides and one of them is on crutches, so it’s quite a business for them.

I’ve done one of the casseroles and the main vegetable dish, counted out the glasses, plates and cutlery and done most of the shopping.  Not having puddings and desserts to prepare is making it a very easy party.  And there will be 24 of us, which is also easy – more than 27 would mean a fourth table and some furniture shifting and chair borrowing.  But I’d manage, I’ve already thought through how I’d seat you if you all were able to come to a blog party.  I see no need for any limit, though I can see a point at which a marquee would be involved.  And what fun that would be!

Tomorrow, I’ll lay the tables, buy the ham and chicken, do everything that isn’t last minute.  I feel far too relaxed, I must have forgotten something.  Putting up the tree.  Tidying the drawing room – aye, there’s the rub.  I’ll dump everything in the study and keep the door shut.  It’ll be fine.


Z’s home again

I took an internet break, in the main, being on holiday.  You didn’t miss me too terribly much, darlings, did you?  Let’s see, what did I do?…

On Friday, I went to have coffee with Bod (see the side panel, if you’re puzzled) who is rather more constrained in his activities since his mother had an accident some three years ago and needs full-time care.  They’re both well, though and it was good to see them and have a chat.  Then to lunch in Shaftesbury with Wink and I did a bit of shopping afterwards and then headed back to Wink’s house.  I unlocked the door, unpacked my shopping, which took a few trips and there was a card on the mat saying there was a package to pick up at the Post Office.  I reckoned I’d do that for her, but wasn’t sure how large it was (I’d done as much the previous day and it was BIG) so decided to take the car. ‘I must remember to pick up the key again from the kitchen table,’ I thought.

Darlings, can I remind you, as if you need reminding, that thinking that you must do something isn’t quite the same as actually doing it?  I realised soon after shutting the door.  I went to the Post Office anyway and came back, thinking that some sort of miracle just might have happened and I hadn’t dropped the latch after all, or the window might be open or her neighbour might have a key.  If only I were Roman Catholic, miracles might happen – but no.  It was only 3 o’clock, so I decided to go back and borrow Wink’s.

Now, I thought I wouldn’t mention this and just give the impression I’d not picked up a key that morning.  But the temptation to tell a story against myself was too much – it’s always funnier that way, isn’t it?  More fun to be in the wrong than in the right, to give in gracefully than insist on being right, to laugh at yourself and feel people warm to you (look, darlings, I can always hope) and not be pompous – so I told the tale and laughed with Wink and her colleagues.  I hadn’t got any change for the car park so had popped into a shop for some tea – but there was a traffic warden, writing in his book.  I trotted up to him remorsefully.  “I didn’t have change, sorry…you’re going to give me a ticket, aren’t you?” The lovely young man said I was in time, if I bought a ticket straight away.  Hands trembling, i fished out my nice red leather purse (bought on holiday, I like a memento in daily use) and bought the ticket and brandished it.  He put away his book and I thanked him.  “You’re very kind.”  “No probs,” he said.

Frankly, had he not been there, would I have bought the ticket?  Um.  Probably, actually.  35p, worth not being in the wrong.

On Saturday, we went to see Dodo, who is now 101, still lives in her own home, has every one of her marbles counted and in place and still reads the paper (The Guardian and the Dorset Echo) and books (archy and mehitabel is a favourite) but is slightly deaf.  She can hear every word I say, however.  I’m good with deaf people, which is another way of saying I have a very carrying voice.  Wink and I love Dodo, we will be dreadfully sad when she dies.  When the time comes, I hope it will be sudden and not painful, so only a shock to her many friends and no distress to her.

On the way home, we called in at Lidl and I bought rye bread, smoked salmon and various other stuff for canapés (with thanks to BW, I now won’t bother with blini, though I do like making them it’s nice to save the time) and then I cooked a pheasant casserole for lunch the next day.  I insisted.  I’m still cooking compulsively, I don’t know when this will end.

On Sunday, Wink’s friends Bob and Elizabeth came for lunch.  They have both just had birthdays, I am not sure how far into their 90s they are, but they have also just had their 67th wedding anniversary.  They left after lunch and so did I.  A Sunday afternoon is one of the best times to travel – apart from a queue that allowed me to enjoy the view of Stonehenge, I travelled at the speed limit all the way home and the journey took less than four hours, which hasn’t happened for years.  And Russell cooked dinner, perfectly, which was jolly good.

Weeza’s in-laws are coming this weekend rather than Christmas, so we’re spending that day over there as well as this Sunday afternoon.  So sociable – marvellous.

Today, I’ve mostly been back down to earth.  An 8 am meeting lasted until 12.30, when I pleaded another appointment (a haircut and manicure, darlings, only my second manicure in my whole life) and then a governors’ training session on Raise online.  This is an acronym: Reporting and Analysis through School Self-Evaluation.  Yes, exactly.  Tonight, my brain is on life support.  I hoped for full recovery until I sneezed hugely several times.  Now, I’m wondering how many brain cells have wafted into the atmosphere, never to be recovered.  Forgetting that key – pfft.  I’ve got a terrible memory so have to be very careful.  It’s no good just accepting you forget or lose things, you have to resolve to do better, or it’s the start of a very slippery slope.  I don’t think I left anything behind this time…


Many, many thanks to Mig for her hospitality. Mig, it was lovely to see you, thank you for the delicious lunch (two helpings, people, I rarely am so indulgent) and for your delightful company.

Last time I headed westward there was also a storm, but at least this time I was heading away from it. Fingers crossed for the east coast in half an hour or so, when high tide is due. I had a good journey, no hold-ups and Wink and I have been to the village pub for supper. Tomorrow, I’m going to visit Bod and his mother in the morning, to Shaftesbury for lunch with Wink and I don’t yet know what I’ll do in the afternoon.

All is fine at home, home fires duly burning. A couple more offers of puds for next Saturday have come in, I think we’re all set. I’m really looking forward to it, you know how I love a party.  I’m contemplating canapés, but that’s probably a complication too far. But blini and smoked salmon are sounding possible at present – what do you think? Tiny sausage rolls, mushroom and shallot thingys in pastry cases, a few olives or cheesy numbers? Am I trying too hard? Does it matter? Shall I leave off all these question marks?

Z will take her iPad

Unsurprisingly, today has been a bit of a let-down.  No, nothing’s gone wrong here specifically, though it has for friends.  Do you remember that a few weeks ago I went to visit an old, in both senses, friend who’d just moved in with her daughter, who lives in the same village as Weeza?  Hospitably, she invited us both round for tea.  Well, Mary has just died – not so unexpectedly, I suppose, she was in her 90s and in poor health for a long time, but her final decline was sudden.  I’m so glad we went to see her and had a lovely afternoon with her.  I wrote to her daughter and her sister, of course.  And today, Russell saw in the paper that the husband of another old friend had died a couple of weeks ago.  Neither of them has been in very good health, they’ve been supporting each other.  Another letter to write, which I’ll do when I’ve finished here.  And then I heard that good friends were burgled yesterday.  The wife cares for the baby granddaughter and picks up the two grandsons from school, returning them home when their parents get home from work.  While she was out and before the husband got home, a locked window was removed entirely and the house was ransacked.  Her jewellery was taken, including her grandmother’s engagement ring, though nothing much else and the police think they were looking for cash.

For myself, it’s been ok and pretty good on the whole.  I went to a local Nadfas lecture this morning, with Russell which is not a frequent thing because usually one of us can’t go.  R did have an appointment this afternoon so set off and I sat down to go through the minutes of the last governors’ meeting.  It wasn’t long before I was finding excuses to do other odd jobs, then made a cup of tea, then went to fetch a banana … no, I was not exactly engaged with the job.  So I was very pleased when Dilly called in and even happier when she asked if I could look after  Hay once a week next term, because she’s been asked to teach more.  I can, it’ll be a great pleasure and I’m really looking forward to it.

Dilly and I drank tea and chatted and then she said she should go, I checked the time and jumped up – “oh no, I must go for a meeting!” The newly-appointed Head for next September was coming after school to see me – luckily, I arrived before he did.  And it went well, he asked very pertinent questions and we have the feeling we can work together and speak our minds, which I mean in an entirely good way.

So I can’t say it’s been bad, just that I’m sad for my friends.  Although the other thing I did this afternoon was turn out my freezer and that wasn’t a joy at all.  I’ve been trying to use what’s in it, but the fact is that I much prefer cooking fresh food and it hasn’t gone to plan.  The freezer is likely to be moved over the weekend, and it has to be turned off for 24 hours afterwards.  So I said we can take everything out, move it, put it all back and it’ll still be freezing for that time…but if it does happen, I won’t be here.  So I loaded everything into boxes and bags and put it back.  Oh my, there’s so much stuff, some of which I’d forgotten about.  And I wanted to put a few things into the freezer part of the fridge in the bungalow, which we took through for Miriam.  So I carried it through, opened it up….I had no idea that she’d carefully washed out the fridge and turned it off.  I had to cram everything into my freezer after all and go and wash the fridge again – if I’d known, I’d have left the door open at least, though it wasn’t too bad.  Then I switched it on again and have just put the stuff in.  When I get home, I’ll have to move it, leaving it off for 24 hours … but I can’t manage without it, not with a party of 30+ to cater for.

Now I must get back to those blasted minutes.  Tomorrow, off to see Wink, calling on darling Mig on the way for lunch.  Blogging may or may not happen over the weekend.

Oh, one more thing – I have deleted those spam registrations, but it’s always possible I’ve deleted one or two others and, if so, I apologise.  I think all the people I know are still here but if I’ve accidentally taken you off, please re-register and I apologise.  It can be hard to be sure. But, of about 600 registrations, there were fewer than 50 real ones, though no spam has got through at all today.  So it’s worked so far, thanks to Ro.


Z feels cheerful

Today was brilliant, even better than expected.  This morning was the Christmas lecture for the Nadfas in Norwich, so I took myself off bright and early for that … though I’m ahead of myself already.  Rupert Spaniel arrived at 8 o’clock and I let the two dogs out to play and tire themselves while I got ready and then, once they were in again, I took myself off.

I saw lots of friends and chatted over coffee and mince pies and then enjoyed a really excellent lecture on Britten – I know, another Britten event, probably the last of the year, but I haven’t tired of the music or the subject yet.  Afterwards, someone mused that the more he hears the music, the more he likes it and I do agree,  one can appreciate it more every time one listens.  When I came home, my monthly cleaners were doing a fair bit of the rest of the house (this house can’t be cleaned thoroughly in a day, let alone two hours) so I finished the minestrone I made the other day and played with the dogs for a while.

Dilly arrived after school (she teaches at my school on a Tuesday) and Al and the children arrived a bit later.  We don’t see Squiffany very often because the others come here while she’s at Brownies.  She won another gymnastics competition at the weekend in Ipswich, first out of twelve in her age group.  And then we took ourselves down to church to the Christingle service.  As the church was getting quite full, we were led to the front pew which was quite good as the children could see easily – Squiff sat with the Brownies and the rest of us were all together.  At the end, I suggested they might come home and have tea with us, rather than have to rustle up a meal once they were home.

This is what I love most, a spontaneous get-together involving food.  I had sausages and bacon and, while they were cooking, whipped up a treacle pudding to cook in the microwave and some custard.  We crowded round the kitchen table and it was very jolly.

I haven’t done anything else useful this evening.  i will have to write one tricky email but then I’ll walk the dog – or possibly shove him outside the door to walk himself – and go to bed.

Ro has kindly installed a programme so that, when someone newly registers, they have to fill in a captcha (word verification) and I haven’t had any spam since.  I will check to make sure it’s not unacceptably tricky to do, but it’s a one-off anyway.  In regard to people who have registered, if you change the password you’re given to something easy to remember, maybe with the addition of a symbol or number if you want to make it unguessable, it is simple to sign in.  But if it’s annoying, let me know (my email is on the right) and I’ll find another solution.

Z and bureaucracy

Christine and I looked at each other.  “I’m not sure when we’re going to do it,” I said.  She agreed.  “Not this side of Christmas.”  “Not this year.”  “And the deadline is 10th January.”  We both sighed.

Go through the Articles of Association and change them to suit, write terms of reference, write a decision planner with delegated powers.  It’ll take hours.  And it’ll be extremely boring.  I’d rather just get on with it and be finished, but there really isn’t time now, not unless I spend time on it when I’m with Wink, and I’m not going to.  Tonight, I have to write minutes from very vague notes.

I’m going to have to change the way people register with this blog, I’m getting so many spam registrations which are really becoming a nuisance.  There were 31 notifications of registration between 2.20 this morning and 6.20 this evening and, of 590 registrations, I doubt more than 30ish are genuine.  Furthermore, I suspect the necessity to sign in is putting you lovely people off commenting – not that you should feel obliged in any way, but the number of readers hasn’t gone down, whilst the comments have plummeted.  Hardly any of the spammers actually try to leave a comment, and the first one sent has to be approved so doesn’t get past my email, but it is a bit annoying.

Anyway, I’ve been counting bottles of wine and it’s fair to say we won’t run out over the holiday season.  I suspect we’ll still be drinking them at the blog party, whenever that is.

Number 32 has just pinged in.  Hello, ShavonneBlackbu, of brandy.phippso174 … and goodbye.