Monthly Archives: April 2014

Z’s week in pictures (and words)

If I can persuade pictures to load, they can tell at least a few of my thousand words – I’m far better with words than pictures on the whole, but that’s because I’m so very prosaic.


Rupert is adorable, there’s no question of it.  It’s been a bit tricky, on and off, because none of my grandchildren, with the possible exception of Hadrian, is very confident around dogs and Ben is so very bouncy.  So sometimes one dog and sometimes both have had to be put into another room, to their dismay because they’re very affectionate and sweet-natured.  Roo has gone home with his family now, but he’ll visit again soon.

IMG_2877 Here is an indication of my plans for Edweena’s summer residence.  The plastic crates, which used to hold punnets of strawberries, are about 2 feet by 18 inches, so fit nicely into my kitchen garden beds.  Russell was disconcerted by her habit of tunnelling, so if these are filled with earth, she can burrow down so far and no further.  They need sides of course, so the run is yet to be finished.

IMG_2879 Zerlina is fond of playing poohsticks which, in our family, is rather more literal than in Milne’s books.  It involves stirring up cowpats with a stick.  Yes.  You can tell she’s my family.



I always modelled myself on Morticia Addams – “Play with your food, Wednesday.”



IMG_2889It is, in truth, too soon to be sure, but if we don’t have any dreadful frosts, the wisteria is going to be wonderful this year.  The buds aren’t that clear in the picture but, believe me, there are hundreds of them.  And the lilac is just coming out, nicely in time for Easter.

IMG_2896Rather more unusually, a few early roses are in full bloom.  So pretty.  I’ve agreed to do the altar flowers for the Easter Sunday service, so have bought white lilies and, rather randomly, pink tulips and have picked greenery to go with them, which is all in a bucket in the kitchen.  Usually, I’d put it all in a cooler place (and I might move the tulips tonight) but the lilies are only just showing colour, if one can so describe white.

IMG_2897 Weeza & co are coming for lunch tomorrow and, since Easter has rather caught me unawares, I emailed around today to see what the rest of the family are doing (or should that be ‘is’ doing?).  Al suggested coming over Right Now – this was around 3.30 – so I sped into the kitchen to make a cake, which I decorated with chocolate butter icing and a crumbled chocolate flake.  We all had second helpings (still slightly warm when served, quite irresistible) and a couple of us had thirds.  Yes, one of them was me.  There was one square left at the end, which I trust that Russell will eat, because it seems wasted on the bantams.

It’s been chilly today, too cold for the Tots outside, so I didn’t put Edweena out either.  In fact, the Tots have mostly napped underneath a piece of bark, whilst I’d rather they basked and ate, so it wasn’t a bad thing to have them indoors for a day.  Should be warmer tomorrow, but possibly wet.  But it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, what can you expect?

I have no idea why the pictures have published on the slant, but it’s quite pretty, innit?  If I wanted to do it again, I’d have no idea how.

Z looks both ways

As you know if you’re a long-time blog friend of mine, I am a Lady Who Lunches, albeit only once a month.  Usually, I take a couple of friends with me, two sisters in their late 80s who don’t have a car and, in one case, can’t walk well because she hasn’t got good balance, so a lift is a big help, saving them two bus rides and a walk each way.  But they’ve got a friend coming for Easter who was arriving today, so I was on my own and arrived slightly early – only five minutes or so.  But I was still surprised to see only one person there.  Marian, our 96-year-old Leaderene, hadn’t arrived.  Doreen was a bit anxious, but I noted that none of the other early arrivers were there either, so maybe the traffic was bad on the ring road.

Indeed, it turned out that there had been an accident and the road was closed, and up to an hour had been added to people’s journeys.  So it was the main topic of conversation with everyone who’d been stuck, until Marian asked Doreen for the get-well card for Ann … which Doreen had forgotten.

Darlings, I went straight into rescue mode and sped across the road and puffed up the hill to Asda.  Actually, this is sounding less dramatic by the moment – anyway, I ran, some of the way at any rate, which is fairly unusual for me.  My hip surgeon permits me to run up to 30 yards occasionally, and that’s about all I can do without wheezing to a halt in any case.  It was – ooh, several hundred yards, it must have amused the passing drivers, watching an old dear scurrying along anxiously like a geriatric White Rabbit.  I needn’t have worried, I arrived back just as they were starting to serve lunch, so hadn’t missed a thing.

Later, I had my eyes tested – not that there’s any connection, it’s just the way it was.  I feel so inept when I have my eyes tested and the optician asks my opinion on two lenses, when I can never decide – I explained that I’m pretty easy-going and not very observant, even when I’m trying very hard.  But we came to a consensus.  And I told him about my contact lens slipping to the back of my eye, and he had a good delve and says there’s no physical cause and gave some advice about getting it out (which was what I’ve tried without success, but I didn’t say that because it would have sounded whiny).

The result is that my sight has improved slightly, in that I’m less short-sighted.  The only effect of that is that I’ll have to have new lenses in both pairs of glasses, probably at considerable expense.  He mentioned my slight astigmatism, which I knew about, and told me what reading glasses I’d need if I wanted reading glasses.  I admitted that reading in bed isn’t the easy matter it used to be, but otherwise I can read the smallest print on his board without difficulty, so I think that three totally different glasses are one too many (no, I don’t want varifocals, I mostly wear a contact lens).  But he explained everything and assumed I followed the technical bits, which I mostly did, and very much appreciated.  I am having different contact lenses too, not just for the different prescription but also to correct the astigmatism for distance – it makes little difference and it was my choice whether to opt for it or not, but I think it’s worth a try.  They’re toric lenses rather than spherical ones – that is, the latter are exactly the same all over, whilst toric ones have a vertical and a horizontal – I suppose they’re a bit thicker at the bottom so that they settle into the right position.

At least I’m now of an age for a free eye test.

The Old Wife’s Tale

I had an open mind – I wouldn’t have been surprised if it didn’t work, but I was prepared to give it a go…

I got a nasty splinter in my right forefinger yesterday.  I picked up a piece of wood, the splinter was on the far side, it went in deep and broke.  I ooohed and ouched a bit and wasn’t sure, since the skin was torn and it bled, whether there was anything still in there until later.  Since it was my right hand, I asked Russell to try to get it out for me.  He worried away at it valiantly with a sterilised needle, but had no luck.  So I put a dab of ointment and some sugar on it, then a plaster.  It was a vaguely remembered salve from way back – it’s supposed to draw the splinter out, i don’t know how.

Anyway, it works.  I just took off the plaster, gave a little squeeze and a quarter of an inch/half a centimetre of wood extruded itself.  I was impressed.  It hadn’t looked nearly that long, it must have been in quite deep.

Anyway, heart-warming moment of the day was when Zerlina went to greet Gus and Weeza.  The siblings’ faces lit up when they saw each other and they ran to each other’s arms and hugged and hugged.  I had quite a funny feeling in my chest, it was so lovely.

And it was a lovely day overall.  Weeza was amused to see the food that I’d got in – she knew who had been in charge of the shopping trolley.  I’ve sent them back with various goodies that I’ll never use, but I see that there are still some more things.  We may see each other over the weekend – I know Easter is late this year, but I haven’t got around to thinking about it yet.

R went to a funeral the other side of Norwich this afternoon – no one I knew.  He was out for a long time – when he arrived home, he mentioned that there was Tortoise Club this evening.  He’d wanted to take the babies in to get them weighed and checked, but I suggested he gives it a miss.  He’ll be so tired by the end of the day.  My mother, in her seventies, used to say “Only one crisis  a day,” meaning any engagement, social or otherwise, and she was right.  You have to pace yourself a bit as you get older, I think.  I’ve realised at last that I’m better not working in the evening, and only do so if it’s unavoidable.  Having said that, I’m a bit behindhand this week – but I’m rather drawn to unwinding at the moment.  The sun is shining (showing that the windows need to be cleaned, but no matter) and it’s time to have a glass of wine and cook some dinner.

In the sunshine

I finally put the tortoises outside for the day today – if it had just been Edweena, it would have happened some time ago, but I’ve been feeling protective of the little tots.  However, being outdoors is certainly better and more enjoyable for them.  I have plans for their long-term housing, but have not quite got it set up yet, so it’s been a temporary arrangement.  I went out sometime around 4 o’clock to check on them and found Edweena half-buried and asleep, one of the babies snuggled under a piece of bark I’d put in for them and the other heading that way.  So I took them back indoors and  will put them out again in the morning.

Zerlina and I have been busy – she helped a lot with the tortoises, she’s done painting, we’ve been out and about – she was intrigued to see the self-service system at the dairy farm, where you take your own bottle to get milk from the dispenser.  Meanwhile, Weeza has scrubbed and cleaned their house and applied long-acting pesticide.  They still have no idea how the infestation happened and can only think that a small friend on a sleepover brought the creatures in with the overnight bag, unlikely as this sounds.  At least it wasn’t bedbugs.

After all the strenuous gardening and lawnmowing, preceded by a day walking and standing in London, followed by one doing much the same in Norwich, my left hip is in worse condition than it’s ever been.  I’ve found it difficult, sometimes, to do ordinary activities such as picking things up from the floor, climbing between strands of a wire fence and sitting on a low chair.  I trust it will improve over the next few days, but have to accept that it’s a turning point.  On the other hand, I still feel so lucky that it’s a worn body part that can be cut out and replaced and, in the interim, will give a degree of disability but no actual illness.

Madame Fifi

We met in the book department at Jarrold’s, the five of us.  I’m rather sad that it has recently been moved down to the basement, or *lower ground floor* as so many shops have it, as this seems to debase its worth.  I’m not sure, myself – many are the times I’ve impulse-bought a couple of books on my way through the shop, but I didn’t even glance at the expensive handbags that have replaced them.

We shopped, then went for lunch at the Castle Museum, where we spent the rest of the day.  Over lunch, I had the rare opportunity to regale someone with information without them rolling their eyes – at least, Squiffany was polite enough not to do that openly, and Dilly was so kind as to say she’d learned things too (about snakes, mostly).

We were in the Roman Britain exhibition, of items on loan from the British Museum, when I had a phone call from Weeza.  My phone battery was nearly spent, but I answered (it wasn’t busy in there and no one glared, honestly) and Weeza told me that Gus had a rash again, but that this time it had been diagnosed as … flea bites.  They’re all puzzled.  A cat or dog has never even entered the house, probably – the previous owner didn’t have one, as he used it as a weekend hideaway, and before that it was a church.  The floors are all wooden or tiled, though there are rugs where fleas could breed.  Anyway, Weeza wondered if I might be able to have Zerlina tomorrow, so that she can douse everywhere with suitable insecticide.  Explaining that I was already in Norwich, I suggested having her for the night, and said I’d phone back when I was in the car, charging the phone again.

So tonight, we have both Zerlina and Rupert the Spaniel to stay.  Gus is going to the childminder’s, since he isn’t infectious.  Not yet sure whether z will stay tomorrow night too, as Weeza and I had already planned to meet up on Wednesday but, although she’s happy to be here, she did have a bit of a bedtime blip, soon cured with a phone call home, so she might be doubtful about staying a second night.  We’ll see, we can take it as it comes.

It’ll be fun…

I finished the mowing, not only my lawn but the annexe’s one too and the place looks a lot tidier.  Only because short grass gives a good impression, it’s not really tidy at all.  However, I feel cheered by what’s been done.  As for the rest of the grass, I’ve asked R to spend an hour (a Russell-hour will probably be about 20 minutes, what with one thing and another!) most evenings, so that all the rough grass has been cut by the end of the month.  Otherwise, it’ll need to be scythed, and I’m the grim reaper of this family by choice – I rather like using a scythe, but there’s an awful lot of grass.

I do feel that a fair bit has been achieved this weekend, and took the precaution of an early bath this evening, to pre-empt any achiness.  And, with all the indoor sorting-out that R did while I was away (just a cupboard, the place doesn’t look any tidier), he found a few old photos, mostly featuring the childish Ro and Al.  I will scan them onto the computer and put them on Facebook when I get around to it.  Heh.

I’ve just bought a new DVD player (Blu-ray player, in fact), my old one having packed in two or three years ago.  I bought it from John Lewis of course – actually, I did some price comparison online and found the best price there – but sadly, a bit of a JL fail.  Nowhere in the info on the machine does it mention that nothing is provided to connect it with the TV.  And when I discovered that and looked on their website again, the HDMI cables were surprisingly expensive.  Good old eBay has come to my rescue.  So it will be on Tuesday that I’ll see if the thing works.  And once it does, investigate Netflix.  I’m going to learn to relax mindlessly in front of the goggle box again if it kills me.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to Norwich to spend the day with Dilly and the children.  I hope to be allowed to spoil them mercilessly with treats.

Z drinks a lot of tea

IMG_2865 IMG_2866It’s been busy.  However, I’ve got a good amount done, far more than I expected, in the garden, made Cake and entertained Dilly and the children and Charlotte, Mim’s mother (Mim stayed in the annexe for several months last year before heading to Australia).  I haven’t managed to mow all the lawn, because it needed raking as well as using the grass box, because the clippings just went everywhere.  But the big beds in the kitchen garden that were completely overgrown have been cut down and the compost heap is suddenly enormous – I’m not sure if the pictures show the scale.

The garden is a huge concern to me, as there is far more than I can cope with and it’s just a matter of hacking back what I can, for the most part.  I enlarged the veggie garden at the time we built the Wall, but now that Al and co don’t live here and he isn’t a greengrocer any more, we don’t need that much space.  Last summer, I left the bantams to use the kitchen garden, but now I’m taking it back again.  But the six long, narrow beds that I used to use are plenty for me now, so I’ve decided to grass over the extra space, add a few small apple trees and make it into a pleasant space.  I’d planted out the beds by the Wall, but then Russell dumped a whole lot of stuff there and killed off my plants, so I’m taking them back and, as originally intended, I’m going to replant with a lot of bee and butterfly-friendly perennials, scented for my pleasure too, and I’m hoping to make it my haven.  It being next to the kitchen garden is a plus, because I enjoy growing vegetables more than any other sort of gardening.

There is so much work to do though, I’m tired at the thought of it.  When I came to sit down on the sofa this evening, my hip hurt so much that I yelped and had to try several angles before I got down here, and then couldn’t sit up again without a lot of pain.  There’s no point in fussing, it’ll have to be a lot worse before I have a replacement joint.  I’ve overdone it this week, that’s all, and it’ll get better in the next few days.

The house is big for the two of us, but that doesn’t matter – housework is a doddle compared to gardening and one doesn’t need to clean the bedrooms that aren’t in use every day, or even every week.  But the land is another matter, and I don’t quite know how to manage in the long term.  We could be smothered by thorns like Sleeping Beauty for all Russell cares though, he is blissfully unaware of the problem, so it’s up to me to find answers.  And problem-solving is what I like doing best.  Very satisfying, finding a way out of a tricky situation.

Z is sociable, which deserves !, if not !!!

I’ve had a couple of lovely, sociable days.  It doesn’t thrill me to say that they are pretty rare.  I’ve got various things on my wishlist for the medium-term future and (not that it’s actually literally written down, because I’m not that earnest), very high up, is seeing more of my friends.

Yesterday, I went for lunch with Betty, who had her 93rd birthday last week.  She is old by any definition, including her own, and yet I don’t think of her that way.  I have a great love for old people and they feel it.  I feel the strength pouring out of me for them, not that it weakens me – sorry, darlings, you may or not understand this, but it’s an affinity that can be felt better than described.  Once, I was with someone who was very old and very ill and it was only her gutsiness keeping her alive, and I told her that it was all right to let go, she’d done her job.  She died a few days later, and I’ve never known whether or not I should feel responsible.  I know I feel responsible for my mother’s death, by giving the ok for her to be given a very small dose of morphine to relieve pain, which relaxed her; terminally, as it transpired.

Ahem.  I digressed rather alarmingly there.

Anyway, Betty offered me coffee, which turned out to be enhanced by Bailey’s.  Well, woo-hoo. I like coffee strong, unsweetened and black rather than weak, with a sweet whisky and cream liqueur, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed it.  It wasn’t coffee, but it was a cheering drink.  After lunch at a local pub, we had more of the same and then I drove home – the whole thing took place over nearly five hours, I was quite capable.

Not long after arriving home and drinking restorative tea, I went out to dinner with no fewer than ten friends.  All at least 15 years older than I am … no, that’s not true, Jenny must be 70 at best, but you get the general picture.

Today, an occasion I’ve been looking forward to, which was meeting Sean for coffee.  Sean is my retired Headteacher, much loved and respected.  There’s always been a high level of trust and liking between us and I used to meet him for an hour or so weekly, yet this is the first time we’ve seen each other for nearly four months.  A couple of short exchanges of emails, one on business and one to arrange to meet – one moves on.  We slipped right into our friendship and exchanged news – and didn’t talk too much shop, though there was a bit of that – for an hour and a half.

I’ve redeveloped the habit of sitting in the car for a bit, after returning home.  It’s a haven, for a few minutes  No telephone, no distractions, nothing to clamour for attention.  I sat there for a while, with the result that I skipped lunch, not that it mattered, as I had eaten Cake this morning with Sean.  I like cake.  It had almonds and raspberry jam, as well as butter icing.  And I had two cups of coffee (black with no sugar, Bailey’s isn’t for every day until I’m at least 90, which age is distinctly unlikely, given my family background)), which is a bit of an indulgence, because I’m so dead straight and sensible nowadays, sad to say.

This morning, I put a jolly message on Facebook to say that I was seeing Sean, because some of my friends (Friends in the FB sense as well as in real life) work at the school, and mentioned the likelihood of gardening this afternoon.  Roses, darling love, promptly offered to come and help.  Well, darlings, I’m never one to turn down a good offer and, after all, I could reckon that I was doing her a favour, because she has had a garden but, at present, her first floor flat doesn’t have one.  She worked so hard and the bed next to The Wall is now in pretty good nick.  I’m pleased to find that the pale pink lily of the valley that I bought last year is still alive and well.  And Roses and I put our personal worlds to right over tea.

Z goes to the City

I’d hoped to squeeze in a day in London to see an exhibition at the end of last year, but it wasn’t possible, nor on my way down to Wink when she had her operation.  There just wasn’t time.  But fortunately, my local Nadfas set up a visit to this exhibition, so I was lucky after all.  The odd thing was that I’d never heard of it before, had you?  In case you can’t be bothered to click on the link, which is quite reasonable (the more links there are in a post, the less likely I am to click on any of them, frankly), I’m talking about the Cheapside Hoard.  It is a sizeable quantity of jewellery that was found by chance more than 100 years ago.

In brief, workmen were demolishing 17th Century houses in Cheapside in the City of London and broke through some floorboards into a cellar.  They spotted something shining and, investigating, found a lot of jewellery, evidently stock from a shop because of its range – that is, there were a lot of examples of similar things.  Or it could have been stolen things, though maybe that’s less likely.  Anyway, they gathered it up and took it to a pawnbroker, who prudently and honestly contacted the Trustees of the newly-formed and not yet opened Museum of London.  He bought the stuff and it was duly shared out between museums.  It was unconventional but honestly done.  This is the first time that it has all been together for 100 years and the exhibition is on until 27th April, if you’re interested.

I’n not sure how many big exhibitions this museum puts on, it was well done but I could have suggested improvements, largely because too many things were gathered together, whilst there was a lot of spare wall space.  A few more cabinets would have made it much easier to see the pieces without getting in other people’s way.  And there was a video, doing a mock-up of possible ways the hoard was lost, which was a bit trite – a reconstruction of the finding of the treasures would have been more striking.

Its squirrelling away can be dated within 25 years, because one piece can be referenced to someone who received his title in 1640, and the house above was destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire.  It could well have been hidden during the Civil War, or else the owner died in the Great Plague.  No knowing, there is no likelihood of finding further evidence.

The only other thing I will mention is that today is Tom Lehrer’s birthday.  And I know that, thanks to Di, who said it on Facebook this morning.  The title of this blog is a quotation from one of his songs, I grew up on his songs because my father loved them too.  I appreciate satire and the sardonic, and I admire him for turning his back on showbiz and choosing to concentrate on his career as a university teacher.  He’s 86 today, I hope he’s healthy and happy.

No rest for the very, very good, either

– Or there hasn’t been so far, not from the school stuff.  But we sent off a sheaf of documents today, that has taken Mary and me a fortnight to compile and longer to research and was the reason I had to take my computer down to Wink’s. And I spent a long time on the phone yesterday and today on R’s behalf and I’ve had a tight band of tension round my forehead for quite some time.

However, there’s no point in thinking about it, so I put some Australian sparkling chardonnay in the fridge, which I’m drinking now, have put a chicken in the oven to roast (not one of ours – not only are they pets but they’d be a bit scrawny, frankly) and we’re having a Proper Pudding.  Having lost a couple of pounds without trying, and R has lost rather more, I reckon we should indulge a bit.  Mind you, I forgot to eat breakfast this morning, so … ooh, cheers, R, I will have another glass.

The best news of the day by far is that darling Mig has blogged.  She’s linked on my sidebar, the Mig in the Bear family sandwich, for no particular reason.  Sadly, she and Barney won’t be able to come to the blog party in June, because it’s at the time when their grandbaby is due – well, that’s joyous, not sad, but they will be very much missed.  But there will be more parties, I hope, and they’re very well situated for me to drop in on my way to or from Wiltshire, so I’ve been able to see one of my dearly loved friends a couple of times in the last few weeks.  I’d never have known her if not for blogging.  Nor many of you.  It’s lovely, innit?