Monthly Archives: July 2014

Z relaxes with the chickens

Well, I haven’t taken full advantage of a gorgeously sunny afternoon, but at least I got most of the work done this morning.  I resolutely put on jeans and boots and took the wheelbarrow round to the chickens.  I decided to let them out – the run can be divided into two, which is very convenient when work is required, but it was all quite soggy and messy in there and I knew they would love a day scratching in the grass.

Actually, I haven’t finished all the work.  I stopped once my back hurt – or rather, I filled the barrow, took it to the compost heap and then decided it hurt.  I scrubbed the drinkers and feeders and took (I had to turn it end by end, I couldn’t lift it) a sizeable block of concrete to stand one of the feeders on.  Bricks were too low.  With luck, the chooks scratching in the ground will not chuck stuff into the drinkers any more (the second one was already a bit higher).

I’ve got two 6 litre drinkers and two feeders the same size – I can’t remember how much they hold, about 2 kilos each I think.  The drinkers last several days, but the feeders need some daily attention because they pick out the maize, which they like better than the wheat.  I put in some layers’ pellets too.  I’ve got a small feeder full of grit for them.

When the sun came out, I picked mallow and rose petal for the tortoises and went to greet Edweena.  She is a responsive little girl and came hurrying out to meet me.  I picked clover leaves and a lovely red flower too and she tucked in enthusiastically.  I put some in the Tots’ run – I didn’t see them, but I checked later and the food had gone.  They all have greenery growing that they can eat, it doesn’t matter if I don’t visit every day or if the weather is poor and they don’t want to feed.

This afternoon, I went to investigate the chooks.  Two had been fighting and I separated them, but they squared up to each other again and I picked one up and put her back in the nest box. Eight others joined her later and several pecked round in and out of the run – I tempted them in with some meat scraps and shut the door.  Still eight missing.  Six of them were in the kitchen garden, one on the lawn and the last was spotted in the garden later.  I fed the six by hand until they were relaxed around me and scratched about relaxedly, but I really couldn’t be bothered to try to catch them.

Later, a seventh joined them and the eighth stayed on the lawn, but there are plenty of places for her to roost and I’ve shut the veg garden gate.  When they want some grain, they’ll have to go home.  Although I have no plans for tomorrow, so I might let all the girls out again in the morning.

Today, Z mostly ate Twiglets

I wrote an impassioned and earnest post this afternoon about items in the news.  But I had to leave it unfinished, so it is now consigned to oblivion, you’ll be relieved to know.  That is not what this blog is for and it’s not what i do.

I left the chickens last night – I’d made sure they had plenty of food in the morning and it was so wet later, and I was going out to supper – I couldn’t quite face it.  So this morning, I went and gave them their soaked bread and filled up the feeders – hm.

I’d left one of them, or more possibly they’d shifted it, so the rain could just catch it.  So the base was full of soggy grain and it didn’t feed through.  The other one was ok, except a chicken had crapped in one of the holes.  Why?  Messy little blighters.  I can’t keep their water dispensers clean, either, nor anything else.  I had to clean the muck out with a finger – I know, darlings, but it had to be done.  Then I refilled that one, knowing it would need to be washed properly later.  I shook out the dry food from the other, then cleared out the damp stuff, then refilled again.  The ground is quite soggy too, I have to fork all the straw out.

But I also had to phone the hospital, so my time with the chooks was limited.  i quickly checked on the Torts and went back in to wash my hands, three times, including the use of a nailbrush. Then I used a sanitiser.

We have an appointment for Monday evening, though that will just be a consultation and I don’t expect results. I’ve not had a great day, to be frank and am feeling a bit fragile.  Russell seems fine, but then he never shows any emotion and I don’t know what he’s thinking.

I went to hear the latest at the school, with my weekly update with the Head, inspected the flood damage at the sixth form centre (pretty awful, bloody county council didn’t keep the roof or anything else in good repair and left us with millions of poundsworth of renovations to do).  The main site let water in too, but at least we have a grant to replace that roof.  The application for the other one was turned down, but I think the photos that were taken add a certain strength to our appeal.

I cooked steak for dinner and I’d done it perfectly and had just dished everything onto serving dishes when a friend called round.  Thinking he’d only be a few minutes, I left it on top of the Aga plates – he stayed an hour.  I sort of reheated everything and shoved it back on plates.  Then I ate too fast and now have indigestion.  R ate his steak (actually half, we share a piece of meat these days) and left most of his vegetables, but at least he ate something.

Z seems to have turned American

I arrived at school for a presentation by a company but, upon enquiry, it turned out that I was rather early.  By nearly three months.  Inexplicably, I’d managed to put 10/7 into my diary, when the event is to be on 7/10.  I’ve no idea.  I’m cracking up, evidently.

Still, at least it gave me an hour in hand, not that I did much with it.  Later, I went to visit our former Head in the nearby town where he lives, for coffee, cream cake and a chat.  And it was lovely to catch up – we did talk a bit of shop, but not too much, we talked about families, what he’s doing with himself, the over-excitement of the unscheduled visit to hospital at the weekend, I told him about Russell and received due sympathy (and briefly cried as a result, actual splashy tears that fell unexpectedly) and we hugged warmly as I left.

Our doctor is lovely.  R said he’d phoned while I was out (I had told him I’d be out all morning) and I hung about until 4 o’clock, then went out briefly – of course, that was when he rang back. So I did what I should have done before, phoned his secretary and left a message and he duly phoned again, soon before I was due to leave for supper with friends.

Although we have been pleased at how quickly appointments have been coming through, the weeks are passing and we only have a list of what isn’t wrong, while R still gets thinner, having a tiny appetite.  So he’s been taking advice on the best people to see privately.  He’s also asked for an urgent referral to a psychiatric doctor, in case R is suffering from depression.  I shall phone the private hospital in Norwich tomorrow.  “I know you’ve got to go out, I mustn’t keep you long,” he said.  I said that I was just meeting friends for supper, it was ok and he said he hoped I could relax and have a good evening.

I did, it was very good.  I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to visit Wink in Wiltshire and go on down to Devon at the end of this month.  There is no question that R can look after himself at present, let alone the animals.  I’ll write to everyone to tell them, of course, and hope he will be well enough soon to remake the arrangements.  I’m very disappointed, but it’s no one’s fault and can’t be helped.

The afternoon had been a bit more exciting than I thought it would be, and not in a good way.  There was a massive downpour, which went on for about half an hour and overwhelmed the gully again, so rain came pouring down into the passage.  And the other side of the door, in the study, and on the study windowsill.  I caught about a gallon and a half of water in pans and soaked several towels and rugs.  But no actual harm done.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Dutch national anthem before

So, I’ve pulled myself together because I’m not at all silly.  I’ve bought yoghurt and fruit and have eaten all sorts of things, even though I haven’t been very hungry.  I’ve also had a constructive conversation with our GP on the phone, having sent him a letter (I always think that putting things in writing is so clear, saves the ‘what you say isn’t what they hear’ thing).  He will contact various people and phone me back, I’m now keeping a food diary for R.

Tomorrow should be jolly – a meeting first thing, and I’ve warned R that he needs to be up early enough for me to have cooked his breakfast by 9.15 at the latest, and then coffee with our retired Head.  And Cake, he assures me, so not eating breakfast will be just fine.  In the evening, I’m having supper with friends.  R doesn’t mind me being out, he dozes most of the time anyway.

The football – oh dear!  I started by rooting for Germany, but after a short time I just didn’t want them to humiliate Brazil any more, and I know many others felt the same.  One could only be glad that one goal went the other way.  Of course, I really want Holland to win, but tough matches to come.  Or possibly just one tough match, the semi-final is about to start.

It became very windy after lunch and so I got a lot of stuff out that has to be ironed, thinking I’d spend the afternoon with a film on tv, doing something useful.  Well, useful things were done, but the ironing hasn’t been started yet.  I shall go and start on that now.

You can’t go wrong with a pow’ful first line… Arma virumque cano. Of man’s first disobedience and the forbidden fruit. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? My heart aches….

I’ve been reading poetry recently.  A few months ago, Dora and Ro asked me if I’d read at their wedding – do I mean *do* a reading?  Anyway, they asked me to choose something.  Darlings, this sort of thing is not my forte, but I spent a while browsing and noted down a few suggestions.  The other day, Ro asked me what I’d come up with.  So I had another look, eliminated a couple of those I’d jotted down, added another and sent them off, three of them.

They chose the second one for the registrar to read…  I did some more research and sent off four more suggestions, though I know that one of them will be dismissed as too short.  It’s not the easiest thing to do – I’m not that knowledgeable about luurve poetry in any case, so it’s been a matter of browsing.  I didn’t want anything that was likely to be well known and, though Dora is asking for a longer poem, I couldn’t find anything more than about 20 lines.  A good many poems about love suddenly go gloomy in the middle, so I wanted something happy, loving (but suitable for mother of the groom to read), not trite, not well known, not too heavy.

I’m waiting to hear back.  There is only one Shakespeare sonnet I learned by heart, by the way – yes, I know the well known ones, but the one I bothered to learn, rather than pick up because it’s well known, is Sonnet 145 –  I like it because it’s sweet and flirty, yet not sentimental – but not suitable on this occasion.

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languish’d for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’

I learned it when I was about 14 – I said I was that age when I read Eliot’s poem too, so ‘about 14’ is evidently a metaphor for when I started to notice what was going on around me.

20-something years ago, I borrowed a book from the library, of poems to learn by heart, and then went with Russell to Wells-Next-The-Sea in North Norfolk, and learned one of them on the way.

The child of Mary Queen of Scots,
A shifty mother’s shiftless son,
Bred up among intrigues and plots,
Learned in all things, wise in none.
Ungainly, babbling, wasteful, weak,
Shrewd, clever, cowardly, pedantic,
The sight of steel would blanch his cheek,
The smell of baccy drive him frantic.
He was the author of his line–
He wrote that witches should be burnt;
He wrote that monarchs were divine,
And left a son who–proved they weren’t! 

 You can see, by my choice, that I’m not especially sentimental.

Today has been another day of sorting out Russell’s stuff, that he hasn’t managed recently.  I’m almost tearing my hair out.  But it’s a relief, or it will be once it’s done, to know that things are straight.  It doesn’t matter that he isn’t coping with business stuff, but it does matter that he doesn’t let me know he needs help until it’s really quite difficult.

Things are still the same – he maintains that he feels fine, but he isn’t eating enough.  Nor am I.  I feel compelled not to eat more than he does and mostly I eat less.  I’m on one meal a day and snacks to stop me falling over now.  This is silly and please don’t tell me so, I know.  I’m frantic with anxiety and can only manage food when I don’t give it much thought.  All the same, I’m still not too thin.  He is.


Musée des Beaux Arts

I was reading Indigo Roth’s latest post just now and, I’m not sure why, it triggered a thought of this poem, which I first read when I was about fourteen and it struck some sort of chord with me.  I probably had not heard of Breughel before then, I was pretty ignorant about painting.  But, being a child who needed words to trigger the imagination, I loved the thought of that picture.

I visited Brussels in my teens, but I didn’t then have an opportunity to go to the art gallery.  However, years later, Weeza worked in a hotel there for a year.  Ronan and I went to visit her there in early December – 17 years ago, nearly 18, he was only 13.  I’d thought he was older than that.

Anyway, my mother advised taking warm clothes “They don’t call them the Low Countries for nothing,” she said gnomically.  Whatever she meant, she was right.  It was absolutely bloody freezing, far colder than at home, ever.  We went on Eurostar, the first time we’d been through the Tunnel – it was splendid, and great to disembark right in the centre of the city, be met by Weeza and hop straight on the Metro to get to our hotel.

I was very keen to go to the Musée des Beaux Arts, almost entirely because I wanted to see the Fall of Icarus painting.  I haven’t been back to Brussels for many years (I visited Weeza again, but haven’t returned since) but I was surprised that the buildings were so dirty and so were the paintings in the musée.  Now, to be honest, I sometimes feel that paintings in this country are over-cleaned, but these ones looked as if they’d never been cleaned since they were painted, however many hundred years ago that had been.  And the layout of the museum was very poorly labelled.  We spent the first hour looking disconsolately at old religious paintings and didn’t enjoy ourselves very much.  I couldn’t find any guidance – though we did find our way to the Surrealists, eventually, and cheered up considerably.  Ronan particularly liked Magritte and Dali, so was pleased to see those.  I kept slogging on, though, determined to see the Fall of Icarus.

We found it in the end and I was enchanted.  Weeza and Ro clearly thought “is that it?” They declared, very politely, that they’d never go to an art gallery with me again.

I still like the poem, too.

Musée des Beaux ArtsW. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.


In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on

There were two in the bed and the little one said…

…”Roll over, roll over.”  So they all rolled over and one rolled out – yup, we’re nursery rhymes come to life in this house.

I’ve been too busy to blog, darlings, who’d have thought it?  Weeza had laryngitis and so i suggested having Gus to stay on Thursday night.  Her day off is Friday and, with little or no voice and feeling rough, I thought it would be good for her to have a break.  And we had a lovely day.  We fed the chickens and cleaned the kitchen and did the washing and pegged it on the line and we picked flowers and leaves for Edweena and the tots and we watered the greenhouse and we went to the bank for Grandpa and we went to the bakery and the sweetshop and … oh, I can’t remember what else we did, but it was a busy morning.  Oh yes, we went down to the store down the road where they sell Everything, including pets and we looked at the animals and fish and bought some treats for Ben, and we walked Ben and we had pizza for lunch.

Then we went off to Wroxhamam Barns, with Grandpa, to play on the swings for a bit (Grandpa stayed in the shade and had an icecream) and Weeza and Zerlina came to join us, and we had Tea And Cake.  Then the children came with us.  I left Grandpa at home and took z and Gus to H@lesworth to our vocational centre, where they had a good look round (it was their open evening), tried their hand at bricklaying and motor engineering, were entertained in the hairdressing salon and catering department, then we came home via the Co-op, where I bought them some cold meat, cheese and salad for supper.

This was all great.  Next, it started to fall apart.

I arrived home and the children got out of the car and Gus went over to say hello to Ben, who was in the annexe garden.  I thought Ben was showing him his teddy bear and took z over too … Ben was proudly exhibiting a baby rabbit he had killed.  Fortunately, they are country children and weren’t horrified, but all the same I brought them indoors hastily.  I told R, who said he’d go and deal with it.

I put the children’s supper out for them and they were eating, when R appeared at the back door.  Could I look after Ben while he found the rabbit?  Well, not very well.  Ben was so over-excited that the children were nervous, and while I was trying to manage him, I heard a sound in the garden, looked out, Ben escaped and I found R on the grass where he’d fallen over, clutching this bunny, which Ben promptly grabbed.  I marched after him and he stopped, but he wouldn’t give up the damn rabbit.  Not willingly.  I gave him a piece of my mind.  We vied for the rabbit, which wasn’t very good, but I won.  R was okay, a bit shaken.

I left him resting, the dog in the garden, the rabbit in a bag in the bin, and took the children for a bath, then bed.  Ironically, Zerlina had brought her favourite book, The Tale Of Peter Rabbit.  She read it to me, I kissed them goodnight and they went to sleep.

The falling apart continued an hour later, when Gus fell out of bed.  I heard it and ran upstairs and picked him up – I thought he was okay, though he was screaming with distress.  I’d put a bottle of water for him on a little table next to the bed and it was overturned.  It took some time to settle him, but he seemed to fall asleep – not for long, he cried again and I comforted him.  Meanwhile, Weeza had texted to say they’d had a lovely, relaxing evening at the village pub – I told her what had happened, but was quite reassuring, because he’d gone to sleep.

It all started again at 12.30 on Saturday morning.  I’d only just gone to sleep – I’d last looked at the time at 12.15 – when Gus cried, in great distress.  He was clearly in pain.  I put the light on but couldn’t see anything wrong.  Russell offered to move into another room so that Gus could come in bed with me and I accepted – Gus was more comfortable fairly upright in my arms.  But after a while, he asked for his cuddly puppy, so I put him down in a nest of pillows and went for Puppy, bringing more pillows back with me.

I finally slept around 3.30 for a couple of hours, when Gus half-woke again, waving his arms and legs again in his sleep, clearly in pain.  This went on for an hour, until he slept soundly again, and so did I for an hour or so.  When he woke, I helped him out of bed and he stood, wincing.  He was very brave when I took off his pyjama top (thank goodness it wasn’t a t shirt, that would have hurt even more) but tears sprang into his eyes and he winced again.  I looked and decided that the two shoulders didn’t quite match, and that hospital was the place to go.  So it was arranged that Weeza and Phil would meet us there in separate cars, and that Phil would then take Zerlina to her party and Weeza and I would look after Gus.

The Norfolk and Norwich is a truly good hospital, they were great in A&E.  The whole thing took a couple of hours – it was all right that I hadn’t taken him during the night, it wouldn’t have made any difference and the conditions wouldn’t have been great (early hours of Saturday morning) for a distressed little boy.  He was given Calpol (a child’s analgesic) – I’d given him nothing, in case he had to have an anaesthetic, and I hadn’t given him anything to eat for the same reason.  In the night, he’d been able to speak coherently, didn’t show signs of shock, wasn’t bleeding, drank water and wasn’t sick, so I’d judged it not an emergency.  In fact, if I’d said “pfft. he’ll be fine,” it would have been ok, because the x-ray showed a broken collar bone, but it hadn’t shifted and they said it was best to leave it to heal.

Gus was fine while we were waiting, but terribly upset when we took his shirt off so that I could show the doctor where his two shoulders were asymmetrical.  He bawled when taken for his x-ray and it was a wonder that it came out clearly.  He stopped crying the moment his shirt was on again.  We came out, to wait to see the doctor again, and a young man was just bringing his companions coffee and buns, while they waited.  “Ooh, lovely,” we said, and he had a tube of Smarties – “we must get some of them for Gus.”  The young man insisted we took his Smarties.  He wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and we had to give in.  Gus tucked into them and was cheerful in minutes – half his problem was sheer emptiness and low blood sugar.  What a lovely man – he made us feel as if we were taking unwanted sweets off his hands.

Every single person in the hospital was lovely.  We were there for a couple of hours, but they were busy and we didn’t feel we were kept waiting long at any time.  We were exhausted by the end – at least Weeza had had some breakfast, I hadn’t and, by 1 o’clock, I could hardly speak coherently.  Fortunately, I had some wine gums in the car, and ate a few before I drove.  I didn’t think I was quite safe, otherwise.  We drove to Tesco’s (sorry, but we did – it was convenient, we both needed diesel for our cars and Gus and I needed food and drink).  I went to buy a cheese toastie for me and mini mufffins for Gus, tea for Weeza, black coffee for me and orange juice for Gus, while Weeza went to buy some shirts – he mostly has t-shirts, which he won’t be able to wear for a while.  We all sat and rested for a bit.

Since getting home, I’ve caught up with the chores and helped R with some admin.  I cooked omelettes for supper, but I caught him feeding more than half of his to Ben.  I wish he’d just leave it – if he can’t eat, that’s not his fault, but the dog is so fat I can’t feel his ribs any more, and I need to know whether R is able to eat or not.  I’ve explained that again.

Life isn’t getting easier at the Zeddery.  However, Weeza, Phil and Gus are coming over again tomorrow to pick up some things that R has been storing for them (they are having their great-grandfather’s Cambridge oar, for instance – it’s of no consequence to me, as it comes from the Other Place), whilst Zerlina is on a play date.  I’m not doing a lot for lunch: sausages, salad, ice cream, strawberries and meringues.

Weeza bought me flowers.  It was I who broke her son’s collar bone, I feel I should be comforting her.


Good news, as far as it goes

I’ve been terribly anxious about the doctor’s appointment today – and now, I hardly know what to think.  I’m pleased and relieved, but also puzzled and anxious.

Russell\s x-ray and scan have shown nothing to explain the weight loss.  No sign of cancer nor anything else – there’s a lesion on a kidney which is unexplained, but not a lot else.  The doctor doesn’t know, but is contacting the consultant to ask what will happen next.  All that has happened is that more bad things have been ruled out.

Too tired to write more, but I wanted to thank you for your kind wishes.  We’re in a better place than we expected to be tonight, but still in limbo.  I made Cake after dinner, to stuff a few extra calories into R – and to me – and I’m having another early night.