Monthly Archives: June 2014

Z eats what she wants

Years ago, as a new and enthusiastic blogger, I sometimes posted several updates in a day.  Twitter and Facebook have certainly taken over for this sort of spontaneous comment for most people – I’ve never become entirely engaged with Twitter because I’m not entirely sure what it’s for, as far as I’m concerned, but I quite like Facebook.  My friends aren’t the sort of people who are rude about each other and the level of response to the things I write is pleasant.

Having said that, the last thing I wrote on Twitter has been retweeted several times – if I’d known it would be, I’d have worded it better, but never mind.

Anyway, I hadn’t felt much like cooking proper meals for the past couple of days.  I make whatever Russell wants and we usually eat the same thing in the evening, but it’s rather changed.  He’s rather gone off potatoes and other carbohydrate, except for Weetabix for breakfast, and I’m not bothered about that sort of thing for myself – if I want it, I’d rather cook a risotto or a baked potato and make that the basis of a meal – and sometimes, what he wants isn’t what I want.  In addition, I still find it a bit hard to adjust to eating more than Russell does, which dampens the appetite, so it’s sometimes easier to be eating something different.

It’s oddly liberating, though, not feeling that I’m tied to making ‘proper’ meals.  I tend to have a fairly balanced diet from choice – I love vegetables and I like variety, I can’t be doing with eating the same thing every day (except for Twiglets, which I ate for three meals straight, including breakfast, until the packet was empty) and I’ve a limited appetite for sweet foods.  Though I reckon home-made cake as a proper food and not junk in the least.  But, for the last couple of days, I’ve had a big globe artichoke with butter for lunch, whilst Russell has had toasted cheese.  I have mostly skipped breakfast, but grab a handful of Twiglets, a hunk of cheese or a piece of cake if I’m hungry, or else pick a cucumber and share it with Edweena.  The fridge is almost bare and I’ve stopped buying potatoes (R asked for some tonight, but it was the first time for a fortnight and I hadn’t bought any, having had to eat all the ones I’d previously bought, myself.  I’ve given him toast instead).  If anyone comes round and I feed them, I ask them if they could use the leftovers, because we will throw them out.  It feels uncomplicated.  

I mentioned this on Facebook, and Linda (our friend Zig) agreed with me – indeed, she feels I’m a complete amateur, having had stir-fried pork, onion, tiny broad beans from the garden and samphire last night, which is far too conventional a meal for her present tastes.  Kit Kat and grapes are more the thing with her, with a nice squashy avocado on the side.  Minimal washing up, no cooking, easy to eat, tasty.

The way I’m eating at present would always have suited me, I have gone down the conventional meal route to suit those I cook for.   This is not to suggest that I don’t enjoy cooking and taking a lot of trouble over food -sometimes because it’s for other people, sometimes for myself, sometimes simply for the pleasure of creating a dish.  But in forty-one years of marriage, I’ve very often cooked a meal I haven’t been very interested in making or eating, just because of the balanced diet and regular meal convention.

Any thoughts?

First in the pecking order

Tonight, I’m mostly listening to music – Mozart at present.  Although this afternoon, I risked listening to football.  I’m a dreadful influence, darlings, I hardly ever do so – though I realise that’s mere superstition and I’m the last person to be superstitious – all the same, watching a match and caring in the least about the outcome seems to spell doom.

I’m thrilled about Holland, I hope they go far.…

My father listened to jazz mostly, though he took an interest in current music.  My mother liked light classical, operetta, shows (Oklahoma being a firm favourite) and the music she’d grown up with.  She reckoned herself to be very knowledgeable about classical music, but there were limits – she preferred to stay within her comfort zone.  I’ve always liked to push mine, but then I had an easier upbringing and I’m the product of a different age – I didn’t spend most of my teens at war, for example, and I had two loving parents, not a mother who died at the age of 25.  I don’t have the same need to be comfortable.

I am, however, listening to an album she loved: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operetta – I’ve mentioned it before.  She bought it soon after my father died and we both loved it and played it over and over again, and it made me understand the operatic way of singing.

Radio 4 Extra did The Railway Children and the last episode was today.  I started crying at the beginning of the last scene and kept going.  Yet I don’t appreciate being manipulated – but the knowledge of ‘my daddy!’ gets me going every time, even in anticipation.  Do you remember ‘Love Story’?  Ryan O’Neil and Ali McGraw, from the late ’60s – I read the book, duly cried and resented it, even as I wept, because I could feel the manipulation, and I never did see the film, blockbuster though it was.

The rain bucketed down again today, though there’s a clear forecast now.  I have been cosseting the bantams, who weren’t at all happy until I gave them a barrowload of very strawy manure from the muck heap to rummage through.  It was largely because I’d run out of straw and they were standing in mud, but the insects and worms they found were a bonus. When I went to feed them this morning, I found that the majority were out of the run – I’d not quite caught the bolt.  Fortunately, no harm done and I chivvied them in.  Now that I’m not allowing them to sit on eggs, I’m turfing them out of the nest boxes every day, so every egg is being picked up.  They probably don’t appreciate me for it, but every animal here has to recognise that I’m pack leader.  Except the tortoises, I don’t think they know the concept.


Z feeds the animals

I felt very rough in the night, even got up to find some paracetamol, or whatever I might have in the bathroom.  Sadly, I had nothing, so slunk back to bed and felt miserable for a while.  When I got up this morning, I cooked R his breakfast, took pills (not only did my head ache, but so did my face and my teeth, so congested were my sinuses) and said I’d go and feed the chickens and then go back to bed – and fell asleep in the armchair.  I slept for two hours.  So let’s hope I’m over the worst.

The nasturtiums I grew for the tortoises are in flower now, so I gave Edweena a flower and, after a cautious sniff, she munched it happily, followed by some rose petals.  There are enough plants in her enclosure for her to graze on, so I supplement that with treats – current favourites are mallow, clover, rose and sedum.  I haven’t weighed them recently, so will do that the next time a grandchild is here to help.

The current names of the Tots has changed again.  Once I found they are Horsfield, or Russian tortoises, it seemed only right to give a nod to their heritage.  So they’re Anastasia and Natasha at present, known as Starsky and Hutch for short.  But since I am not at all sure which is which, it doesn’t really matter.  I suspect that I’ll become closer to them in the winter, when they’re kept indoors.  If they’re the right weight, I’ll hibernate them for a few weeks, but not for long – Edweena can hibernate for several months.

The bantams have always been under Russell’s care, fond of them though I am.  But now I’ve had to take them over and I need to find out a bit more – it’s not that hard, on the whole, but I haven’t learned to think like a chicken yet.  Russell has always had dishes of water for them, which have to be washed and refilled several times a day and I really don’t have time for that, so I’ve bought them a couple of dispensers, which has helped.  He also has always scattered their food for them, taking the view that scratching around gives them something to do and is more natural.  And so it is, but it seems quite wasteful – when i clear out the run, there always seems to be quite a lot of corn swept up.  So I’ve bought a feed dispenser too.  They loved that and clustered round straight away.

R had set four eggs under a broody hen a few weeks ago, but it seemed unlikely they were going to hatch.  I’ve been very puzzled because one of those eggs went missing last week.  Several chickens were sharing the same nesting area, and they’d shared the eggs between them.  I hated having to feel underneath them for eggs, it was all a bit stinky.  A couple of days ago, I could only find two of the marked eggs.  So this morning, I turfed them all out – there were seven of them – and picked up twelve eggs, plus two very dirty marked eggs, which obviously were not going to hatch, they should have at least a week ago.  I bobbed them in water to check and then threw them out.  But what happened to the others?  Did they explode, and in that case did the chickens eat the shell?  I have much to learn.

They’re out of grit.  I have to go and buy some more for them.  It would be much easier if they were completely free range, but there are too many disadvantages – for one thing, their present run is topped by wire so they can’t get out.  It’s too much of a worry with Ben around.  For another, they hide their eggs and I don’t have time or the feeling for how a chicken’s mind works that R does – he would keep an eye on them and watch where one was coming from, then search for the nest and take away the eggs, just leaving one to keep her coming back.  All the same, a more wily chicken would manage to hide and sit, coming out a few weeks later with a string of babies behind her.  I can’t have it – we’ve got too many chickens already.  Russell doesn’t mind, he loves baby chicks – well of course, who doesn’t – but I’ve had more eggs to dispose of than was reasonable.

Later, I’ll make cakes.

Z gazes balefully at the list of direct debits

Still fabulous care at the hospital, we actually went in 20 minutes early – or rather R did, I was doing the Times crossword on my iPad. And we’ve shared a steak for dinner and he will have some ice cream later.

There’s just been a flash of lightning and, some seconds later, a roll of thunder – loud enough to make Ben jump.  Heavy rain now, so it’s good that the tortoises are tucked up in the dry and that I don’t have to go out again apart from a brief trot round with the dog.  Let’s face it, if it’s pouring, he doesn’t want a long walk either.

I have to admit the stress has got to me.  I had email notification that it was time to pay my Barclaycard, so I logged on to my Barclays phone app – and found that I’d got a mere £20 in my bank account.  Eeeeeek! That never happens, but I skimmed through and everything seemed ok.  So I thought I’d look on the computer because I wasn’t enjoying the tiny screen, but it wanted me to put my card into the reader (I’m a latecomer to internet banking, I’ve had this gizmo for a while but never used it before).  I was asked to put in my PIN.  Which was refused.  I tried again.  Um.  So I used the same PIN on the phone app and that was fine.

I worked out the expenditure, which was that I’ve been paying for Russell’s extravagances (I’m not going to tell you how much he paid for a vesta case [otherwise known as a matchsafe] because I wouldn’t want to appal you) and he had meant to pay me back and hadn’t got around to it, and he agreed to pay some money directly into my account straight away.  So we headed into town.  And the nice teller handed me the reader.  I explained my problem: that I’d made two wrong attempts.  She reminded me I needed my card PIN, not my app one.  Oh.  Ok, it worked and the transaction was made, and she said she could pay the Barclaycard bill from the reader… Oh.  She couldn’t, I hadn’t got it set up.  “I might as well do it from my phone,’ I said, being in the swing of things by now.  And I gazed at the request for the PIN and realised it was yet another number.  Which showed I was back on form, because I didn’t do it wrong and then realise. I just nearly did.

I’ve got it sussed now, I know that I know all the separate PINs and which applies to which.  But I’m not soon going to forget the blind panic that I felt for a couple of minutes, when I felt that I was completely losing the plot, could remember nothing and didn’t know how to put it right.  It now feels like a storm in a teacup, but it wasn’t when it happened.  And yes, I overreacted.  And, if I feel near an edge, it’s understandable.  I’ll just be slower and more careful for a bit.

Now for the upbeat –

1 We’ve just had raspberries and ice cream.  It was very nice

2 It’s stopped raining and I’m not going to have to water the garden for a while, even if we don’t get any more.

3 Russell bought Ben a new teddy bear from a charity stall.  He loves it and hasn’t pulled the stuffing out (yet).

4 I’m going to make coffee now.

5 I started a cold in the night, dammit.  If it doesn’t go by the morning, I shall make a masala omelette with a whole lot of chilli.  That’ll see the bugger off.

Azzentuate the pozitive

I learned to appreciate where I live today when I drove Zerlina over to a nearby small town, whose name differs from London by a single letter, reached by crossing the main Norwich to L’toft road.  We were meeting Weeza there because her boss, Tom,  had taken his car for repair and he’d asked her for a lift (in office time, he’s entirely fair) to pick it up.  It was the first time I’d met him, he’s charming.  He’s the owner of B*w*l*e*w00d and author of books about its inhabitants, and nephew of a Test Match Special (Radio 3) commentator, if you would like to pin him down.

It was the traffic on the way, though, that took us by surprise.  Fortunately, I’d allowed time in hand in case I couldn’t find the place, but I needed it for the waiting time.  For a start, we took several minutes to cross the main road, but then the hold-ups through Lo**on were awful.  It was bypassed many years ago and, for a long time, seemed a delightful place to live, but now it’s one long traffic jam.  Drivers become so desperate that they try to push their way through where there isn’t really room and, because of parking allowed all down the main street (though there’s a good-sized car park opposite), there aren’t enough passing places.

We were further delayed on the way back my an accident on the Yagnub bypass, so were out longer than we’d expected – not that it really mattered, as the dog and tortoises were fed and the chooks hadn’t gone to bed yet,

Anyway, it’s been a lovely day and we will miss Zerlina very much.  I hadn’t done any cleaning in the kitchen at all yesterday, with the result that the sink was full and the whole room looked messy (yes, darlings, even by my standards).  I’d promised her we’d make cakes, but I had to clear up first – and she helped valiantly.  She even swept the floor.



Here is the result of our baking and z’s decorating.  There were 17 in total (for her sake, I weighed in grams rather than ounces and that probably made it a bit light) and she ate one and R and I have taken one each to eat later.  I put the rest in two cake tins for her to take home.

It’s been quite tiring, I’ve been busy all day, but I’ve not thought about the amount of paperwork I have to do, so that’s been some respite.  R’s scan is tomorrow and I’m fearful of the result. He has lost more weight, though he has been eating better than he was earlier in the month.  *Better* might equate to what I’d eat if I were watching my weight, yet he has never done so and has been one of those people who can eat a lot and never put on a pound.  It’s odd to find myself eating more than he does, with the result that I’m eating less too – everything I have is very healthy; he adds ice cream more often than I do but it’s broadly similar.

Whatever the situation, I will aim to keep this blog upbeat.  That has helped me in the past and it does me no good to dwell on anxiety.  Onwards, if not necessarily upwards, darlings.

A game of several halves

I like variety, but I do seem to switch between one thing and another rather a lot.  This morning, Rupert came to spend the day with us, so I played with him and Ben while Russell was supposedly getting documents together – his slowness in doing that (he was trying to deal with each item, one at a time, when that wasn’t possible until everything was brought together) was pretty frustrating, so I wasn’t unhappy to receive an email, asking me to come into school and sign some cheques.  While I was there, I discovered a situation had come up that I could help with, so I went and talked to someone and lo! it was solved.  One of the rare occasions when all that was needed was for me to say the word.

By the time I ran a couple of errands in town and went home, then helped R with the rest of the gathering of the paperwork (it involved turning out his van, which was not pleasant) it was lunchtime, then we went to visit our friend Jan, whose husband died earlier this year.  She doesn’t drive, but has lovely friends and neighbours who help her with shopping and so on.  We drank tea and ate cake and got home sometime after four, whereupon I left R to go and fetch Zerlina.

Weeza had given me alternative directions to their house – round most of the back lanes of north Norfolk, I reckon – because their road is being put on mains drainage.  Since the chap who imperfectly converted their house from a church didn’t join the drains to a soakaway and they have to have the tank emptied every three weeks, they are looking forward to that – but the road is closed. from the way we usually come in.

Darling Zerlina was happily looking forward to coming to stay with us, and wants to make cakes, feed the chickens and go to the park tomorrow.  I will give her my full attention, of course, all day.  We didn’t arrive home until 7.30 and, after feeding the chickens, she didn’t demur when I said it was bed time.  I offered the single room, but she wanted the bed she usually sleeps in when she comes here with Gus, so that’s fine.  I hadn’t changed the bedclothes since they were here at the weekend, in fact, but at least it’ll be worth it now.

nor any drop…

It was just as well we were at home at the time, because things were quite damp enough.

I had a Finance meeting this morning, to receive for discussion and approval (and recommendation to the governing body) the budget for the next year, all seven million poundsworth of it.  Yes, darlings, this is the sort of job we do.

After that part was over and before the rest of the meeting, I had to scoot, because I was picking up Russell from home and we were meeting his sister for lunch in Norwich.  And that was very good, she’s great fun and I love her dearly.  I had to break the news that R is not very well and I thought I was being gentle with her, until we said goodbye and she said comforting things to me and I realised it was the other way round…but he’s still reasonably well, we’re taking things as they come.

It rained on the way home, quite heavily, on hot, sunwarmed roads, so the last part of the journey was through steamy tarmac.  Not long after we got back, the rain bucketed down.  And I heard some splashing and went out into the passageway to discover rain streaming down the wall.  That was a bit disappointing, it hasn’t happened for a while.  I fetched towels and put them down, then went to find a Swiss Roll tray to catch the water while I check around – a few more towels have been soaked.  We’ve been relaxed into complacency by no hard rain for ages and haven’t been clearing all gutters and gullies (is that right?  Gulleys?  Gullys?) of late.  I’ve been up on a ladder, hand in plastic bag, clearing out gunk, but there is more to do – we can see where a bit of something-or-other needs to be replaced, but it’s not a one Z job, I need someone to hold a ladder and murmur encouragement while I clamber up and wonder what the hell to do.

Now, the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful evening, at 8.30.  We’ve eaten salmon, raspberries and lemon cake and I’m writing new stuff in my diary, including a three hour training session at the start of next month.  Joy.

Z doesn’t wear the trousers – even though they’re Z’s trousers…

The ladder wasn’t long enough to do all the job, so I’ve cut back the creeper from around the windows, upstairs and down, and will do the rest when I’ve got out the tall ladder and found someone to stand on the bottom step to give it stability.

I was in the supermarket the other day and overheard two women talking.  “What I can’t understand is how I lost two days this week,” said the younger one.  “I mean, what happened to Monday and Tuesday?”  “The question is, what do we mean by time?” said the older one.  There was a silence while we all pondered.

Russell went out this evening on the annual Common Inspection – two trailers of people were pulled by tractors.  There was a sudden downpour when they’d been out for a while and, though the weather cleared up, his trousers were still damp when he got home.  I suggested he change while I cook his supper.  He took a while and came down in trousers that looked a bit wrong.  Much smaller than the ones he usually wears, a bit short and they fitted him around.  “Where did you find those?” – he told me.  “H’m.  They’re mine, actually…” If he likes them, he might as well have them, I suppose, they’re a bit long for me and big too – but it seems quite wrong that he fits into a woman’s size 10.

A meeting today, when there was some relaxedly frank discussion about governorship plans and I do have a successor lined up and he’ll take his timing from me, with the expectation that I’ll carry on for one more year to see in the new Head, all being well.  If I have to duck out earlier, that’s ok.  I don’t have to feel that I’m letting anyone down.  Very reassuring.  I’m wonderfully supported by lovely people – who are also very good at the job.

Z’s anecdotage

I blogged the whole thing! Here.  Oh dear, I’m sorry.  I remembered that I’d written about all the dogs, so checked what I’d said about Susie.  Just as well, I suppose, I was telling the story very badly, yesterday.

I’ve never been much for reminiscing to my children, I don’t think.  My mother used to – she had a lot of tales which were repeated over and again, and I try not to do that because – well, sometimes it got a bit boring.  Although, since she died, I’ve realised that we were so used to her stories that we never noticed the huge pieces she left out.  And now it’s too late to ask and we have no way of knowing.  There were various inaccuracies that we didn’t notice at the time – she simply got it wrong, but we never questioned it.  She always said that she was 14 when the war broke out, for example, but actually she was nearly 16 – she never disguised her age, it was simply that she forgot, but we never did the sums.

We’re looking forward to the weekend.  Weeza and the children are coming over to stay for the first time in ages.  Actually, I can’t remember them all staying here before, but she says they have, though Gus was in a cot the last time – I expect she’s right.  Phil will stay home and do some DIY.  DIH, I suppose.

Tomorrow morning, I expect to be up a ladder cutting back the Virginia creeper, which is Virginia creeping all over the bedroom windows.  In fact, it’s growing over the chimney pots too, but I can’t get up that high so I’ll have to cut it off lower down.  I am not afraid of heights exactly, but they do give me vertigo.  Still, 20 feet down isn’t that vertigo.  Even so, I’ll try not to fall off.

Z starts another rambling tale from her past

For no particular reason, I was thinking of a holiday we took when I was fourteen.  It was our last family holiday, in fact, not that we had any idea of that at the time.  I don’t think I’ve blogged it before, though I might have referred to it – still, I’ll rely on my memory being no worse than yours.

My sister was attending Winkfield Place, appropriately enough, which was resolutely not a finishing school, but a post-school establishment where one could learn Cordon Bleu cookery and various other accomplishments – Wink loved it there and said it was an especially happy time of her life.  She was due home for the summer holidays and my mother asked what she would like for a celebration meal: she asked for Governor’s Mansion House Pot Roast, which is pot-roasted sirloin of beef.

My father had had the bright idea of buying a caravan.  I’m not sure why.  We were a bit short of the readies at the time – Winkfield Place was expensive, not just because of the fees but because  of the extra-curricular expenses (theatre trips to London and so on).  I stayed over once, and can quite understand why Wink loved it so much, the other girls were delightful and so kind, quite outside my experience.  I cheerily wrapped myself in a blanket, as it was the last night of term and the sheets of those who’d already left had been removed: the girls were astonished that I could sleep and were very solicitous.  I – well, darlings, you know me, I take whatever comes and wasn’t bothered, but they looked after me so kindly – if I remember their care 45 years on, with my memory, then you know that it touched me.

Anyway, I digress – oh, I see there are further digressions to come.  I should first tell you about Susie, but I’m tired right now, having been awake from 1 am.  No, no reason, I just don’t sleep well.

Darling Susie, she was my dog, more than any other in my childhood.  I will start with her.  Tomorrow, though.  I must sleep now.  This is not a cliffhanger, it’s far gentler than that.