Monthly Archives: September 2014


Darlings, a puzzle for you in the Mike fashion – can you tell me what this is?  We found it in one of the garages amongst the Sage’s father’s stuff – Russell himself wouldn’t have had cause to use it.

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Made of leather and wood, with a hinged disc of metal at one end, it’s about 18 or 20 inches long.  I’ve got two of them in fact, but that isn’t especially significant.

The other item I have for you today is a video with highlights of Ronan and Rouk’s wedding and that speaks for itself.  I should add that it’s Rouk’s (Dora’s) birthday today.  Happy birthday, darling.

Z sees the light

There has to be one change for the better, even when things are bleakest.  Let me give you an example…

My father died suddenly in January 1970, when I was sixteen.  Devastated though my mother was, she did take advantage of one opportunity., and that was to change our lavatory paper.

My dad was convinced that soft toilet paper was terribly unhygienic, because it was absorbent. Those of you who are younger than I am will probably have no idea what hard paper was – we used to use it as tracing paper at school when I was a child, it looked like greaseproof  paper and wasn’t very pleasant to wipe yourself with, and was pretty useless anyway.  As for soft paper being absorbent, one washes one’s hands anyway, so it hardly seemed a massive problem.  All the same, while he was alive, the hard and scratchy stuff was what we had.  And then we didn’t.  We went straight out and bought Andrex.

In my case, it’s light bulbs.  Russell had a strange and increasing penchant for living in the half-light.  These are big rooms and, whilst 60 watt bulbs (yes, I know it’s all about lumens nowadays, but I don’t know anyone who mentions them) are adequate, if there are at least four of them, they aren’t exactly bright.  But for the last few years, he always put in 40 watt bulbs – or the eco-friendly supposed equivalent, which were useless anyway –  and I have to light candles in the dining room to be able to see what I’m eating, even with the lights on.  And so, in the last few weeks, one of my small pleasures has been replacing the light bulbs.  Although I’ve been foxed in the dining room – the fittings require screw-in bulbs rather than bayonet ones, so I had to buy some new ones.  But they don’t work and I can’t think why.  You’d think a light bulb is a light bulb, but it seems not.  Any thoughts?

Being Granny

Zerlina and Gus stayed over last night because their parents were having a night out on the town with Ro and Dora, to celebrate Dora’s birthday.  The children were perfectly good and excellent company – in fact, I had z’s company all night as they usually share a double bed (I have three double beds and only one single one) but Gus sometimes thrashes about a bit, so it’s better to leave him on his own.  I didn’t sleep brilliantly, waking around 3 am and not sleeping again, so when z woke, a little before 7, I suggested going down to fetch  toast to eat in bed.  Gus soon woke too, so the three of us had a pleasantly buttery half hour.

This afternoon, I couldn’t help myself and had to sleep for a while.  It wasn’t the most well-mannered timing, as Roses and Indigo had come round and we’d just stopped for a cup of tea – my friends have just moved out of the annexe and Roses is going to stay there for a bit, so they were shifting the furniture left there.  I wasn’t much help, but I did cook risotto for supper.

I’m still really tired and feel a bit pathetic.  The last time I consistently slept well was about four and a half years ago, in a brief but wonderful interlude after recovering from having my replacement hip – before that, pain kept me from sleeping soundly – so I’m used to functioning on insufficient sleep, but it still sometimes catches up with me.  However, I’m going to have lunch with a friend tomorrow and I’ll cast my eyes round the shops too.  I want new shoes.

Clearing and cleaning

Russell’s parents bought this house in 1928 and we moved here in 1986.  The house had been emptied, but not the outbuildings and we’ve done nothing but add to the stuff in there.  It was all manageable for a while, but I’ve realised recently that Russell had a bit of a problem.  He’d always been a collector and something of a hoarder, but it went way out of hand some years ago and he went to great lengths to hide the extent from me.  Three and a half years ago, I realised how much stuff he’d stacked in one room and I spent a good three months sorting the house out, much against his endeavours – I cleared each room systematically, putting things that didn’t yet have a home into one room, with the aim that it would end up being the final room to be cleared and cleaned, but he sneaked boxes of Stuff behind my back, first to my distress and then to my fury.  I was working so hard and he did nothing but undermine me. “This room has been CLEARED AND CLEANED,” I’d say – “nothing is to be put in here unless it’s going to furnish it” – and yet, within days there would be a box of tat or a pile of pictures stacked against a wall.  But I did it in the end and he agreed that it was much better, and we moved the dining table into the big room (that had been so full of boxes and other stuff that you could hardly get into the door) and we have loved having that room back in use, as those of you who have come to any of the last three blog parties will know.

So now, we have to do the same in the outbuildings.  It’s not a job I’m landed with myself, because of my lovely family.  Weeza and Phil have spent the last two Saturdays helping – well, I wasn’t here last weekend, so it was them with our dear friend J – and huge amounts of stuff have been sorted out and looked through.  One pile is for the skip, another for the scrap metal man, a lot of things have been burnt (papers were not necessarily rubbish in the first place, but haven’t ever been sorted through, so were way out of date) and the rest has been put back, ready to be dealt with in due course.

I also looked in the big barn, for the first time in many years, and discovered that there was a whole extra car that Russell had never told me he’d bought.  I’d not have minded, I’ve no idea why he didn’t tell me.  I’m just not the controlling type, I have respect for other people’s point of view and don’t expect to impose mine.

I did find a few old corkscrews, which I like very much and will keep.  We also found three bottles of brandy and several of champagne (though they may be ruined by now, I hold out little hope for them), which was cheering.  There were two prints of an adorable photo of Russell on his first birthday, looking remarkably like our youngest grandson, Gus.  I gave one to Weeza and sent the other with her for Ro.  I hope we’ll find a third print for Al, but I can always get a copy.

Z uses a snorkelling metaphor and updates her profile

I have to tell you about what has happened, I really cannot put it off any longer.  Many of you know the situation, either those who have met us or Facebook friends, but it’s something I haven’t felt able to post here.  This is my happy space, if you know what I mean, and if that means that I don’t tell you everything, it usually means that I tell you the best.

Back in July, I said that Russell was having a gastroscopy and afterwards I gave the impression that all was fine.  He wasn’t ready to disseminate the information and I didn’t want to talk about it on the open internet – but it wasn’t.  He was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.  This was unlucky.  It’s mostly a smoker’s cancer and he never smoked in his life, otherwise a tendency to acid reflux and heartburn, or excessive alcohol intake would increase the risk, but neither applied to him.  However, that was that, and nothing could be done about it.  There was every hope that he’d be at Ronan and Dora’s wedding, but little that he’d be with us for Christmas.

He didn’t make it to the wedding.  He died, very suddenly and unexpectedly – I was still talking to him, I only realised when he didn’t answer – in my arms on the 20th August.  That I was with him, never mind that I was cradling him, was fortuitous, there was no warning.  But it was painless and, I’m sure, spared him a more difficult and tortured end.

Several of you dear, kind internet friends came to his funeral, where we managed to introduce a quirk or two, in proper homage to a very individualistic man.  And I’ve been cared for since then in phone calls and visits and I’m very lucky to have such wonderful friends.  I’m so sorry, if you are learning about it here and I haven’t been in touch with you.  I ran out of words to write a couple of weeks ago and I still have a list of people to tell.

I had realised that he wouldn’t have long, back in the early summer.  Even before his cancer was diagnosed and when we still hoped it was something that could be cured, I knew that the weight he had lost had weakened him so much that he would not have more than a year or two.  It’s been a miserable summer, forcing myself into acknowledgement of that, whilst trying to bolster up his well-being and also trying to save him from getting into too many scrapes – he was still buying at auction, still giving away or lending (with no paperwork) alarming amounts of money, I’m thousands of pounds down with no hope of retrieving much of it and he’s managed to lose various vital pieces of paperwork, though I hope they will turn up in due course.  His cheery insouciance turned into recklessness over the past few years and I can only choose to forgive him and remember better times.  Sometimes, this takes its own effort.

Now I’m alone.  I’ve never lived alone in my life before.  I married when I was nineteen and went from living with my mother to living with my husband.  I’m so busy that I have to keep rigid control over my emotions, letting feelings out for a few minutes with tears or howls of pain and then clamping down again, planning little treats and appreciating moments of happiness – I know it’ll catch up with me and become unbearable at some time, but that can wait as long as possible, not least because I don’t really believe it yet, I don’t feel that he’s gone forever, which I suppose means I’m still in a state of shock.  All the same, giving in doesn’t help, I find.  Hitting the depths only means that there’s a long, long way to climb before breaking through into the air again.  It’s kinder to myself to swim below the surface, bobbing up to take in air when the waters are calm.  If you’ll excuse the laboured metaphor.

Dennis Vader?

Lovely governors arrived for the Ofsted interview – this has taken various forms over the years, but this time it was pretty relaxed and informal.  So fingers crossed. Once we have the result, I can’t say anything about it as it’s completely confidential until it’s all been verified and we’re told it is to be released, so I won’t mention it again.

Afterwards, over to Al and Dilly’s house for supper.  Pugsley was very happy because he had received his birthday present today, a hamster.  They went to buy the cage, meaning to go back at the weekend for the wee beastie, but there was just one there for sale and they fell for it.  It is brown and white with red eyes and it was the eyes that put people off, apparently, but Pugs thought they were cool.  His name is Dennis, though Hay declares he’s called Darth Vader. I took over the presents I’d bought in Holland – only small ones, chocolate and speculaas – none of them likes salty liquorice, so I didn’t waste  it on them. I bought it for those of us who appreciate such things.


O dear

The boarding card on my phone worked fine, but it was a bit of a nuisance to have to carry about.  All went smoothly in fact, but when I got back to the airport and turned my phone back on, I had a text from Dilly, telling me that the Ofsted inspectors phoned at lunchtime to say that they were to arrive at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.  So I checked emails and wrote back to say that I’d head straight for the school.

So that’ll take up my thoughts and time for the next couple of days.  Pah.  The new Head has only been there for a fortnight, how can his impact be evaluated?  Still, we have no choice and at least it’s not going to be an object of dread for the rest of the term.

Z stands still

I’m finding things a bit more modern than I’m comfortable with. Not having access to a printer, I’ve had my boarding pass texted to me. I use Internet banking, but I find paying bills by tapping in numbers is quite worrying. I feel sure I’ll put a digit in wrongly and it’ll be disastrous. As for contactless payments, they’re too far beyond what I’m able to accept yet.

I really do try to embrace the new and not hark back to the ‘good old days’ but I’ve a sad feeling that I’m nearing my limit.  it’s not that I’m incapable of learning, or I hope not anyway (though the most recent things I’ve learned have merely been a short poem and a new PIN) but that I feel at sea. Maybe – I hope – I just need a bit more time to adjust.

Tomorrow I’m coming home again. I’ve a lot to do, I’ve taken enough of a break. Onwards, if not upwards, my friends.


Hot under the collar

Anyone ever tempted to think that all of Holland is flat should visit the area round Maastricht. Not only is it very hilly, it is beautiful. Irene’s sister took us for a drive so that I could see the countryside. We passed a lot of very muddy and rather exhausted-looking cyclists labouring up the hills, all of whom seemed to be men – there are plenty of women on bikes, but rarely do they choose these feats of endurance, as far as I’ve ever seen.

I’m being looked after most wonderfully and, as so often happens between bloggers, we were not surprised to find that we like each other very much. Irene and I have chewed the fat on many issues and find ourselves in harmony.

In the meantime, back at the ranch, Ben is getting over a very nasty infection. I don’t know if any of you have ever had any experience of hot spot in dogs, otherwise known as moist dermatitis, but it’s most unpleasant. If ever your dog gets an unexplained sore, wet patch that grows rapidly,   do get it to the vet quickly, as the sooner it’s treated, the less pain it will suffer. We have no idea how he got it, I had him checked by the vet less than a fortnight ago and she found no trace of fleas or any other problem, and none of the other triggers mentioned seem to apply. I have the feeling that perhaps he had scratched a small irritation, he loves to go in the river and maybe the area under his collar didn’t dry out and that’s where it started. I will not put a link to a picture because it’s not very nice. However, Ben was treated quickly, thanks to Charlotte who insisted on an emergency appointment, and he is much better.

Z wobbles along

Irene’s sister and I cycled into Maastricht today. The sun was shining and it was delightful – and flat – with the one small disadvantage that I have short legs and am considerably shorter than most Dutch people. They put the seat down for me, but getting on and off the bike was still a bit precarious. However, all went well and I got there and back safely.

Maastricht is delightful, with lots of narrow cobbled streets and old buildings. It wasn’t bombed in the war because of its position, at the tail end of the Netherlands between Belgium and Germany, it wasn’t really possible to defend it so there was no need for it to be attacked. Erica used to work at the tourist board so knew a lot and took me on a tour round the city.   A walking tour that is, we left the bikes in a free underground park. She was amused, when we got back, to find that I hadn’t locked it – since we were given tickets that were checked when we left, I hadn’t realised the need, nor that bikes have integral locks in Holland, with the key in the frame just below the saddle. I explained that we have to carry round chains with padlocks, such locks don’t exist, as far as I know, on English bikes.

I gather we are going out into the countryside tomorrow to see the sights. They are looking after me wonderfully well and I’m enjoying myself very much.

In other news, Ben has a hot spot, which is an alarming skin condition that comes on in a matter of hours – he’s been taken to the vet and is on the mend – and Weeza and Phil have been turning out one of the workshops. Huge amounts of rubbish have been burnt, much has been saved and there’s a big pile to go into a skip. The Sage and I had a turn-out last year and filled one skip, but we realised it was just the start of a very big job. It’ll be great once it’s done, but lord knows how long it’ll take before we get things into some sort of order.