Monthly Archives: October 2014

5 again

1 Ghastly morning, I hit the worst depths yet.  The phone rang.  It was Janet.  I greeted her, wondering who on earth was Janet.  She was apologising for only just having read my email of a couple of months ago saying that Russell was dead, and commiserating.  I finally worked out which Janet she was but was rather unnerved by the call and not at all in the mood for the morning’s paperwork, which was filling in the form to claim bereavement benefit.  What a dispiriting term that is anyway.  I found it very difficult to cope with it – it was straightforward, but it was what it represents.  Anyway, it’s done.

2 A die has been cast and an offer accepted.  I’ll tell you more another time.  It’s the right thing to do, though I know some of you won’t agree with that.  Which is why I’m keeping schtum for now.  Should that have a double mm, I wonder?

3 Roses invited me through for pasta bake and we shared a bottle of wine.  She has mice in her attic, so I’ve taken through a couple of mousetraps, baited with Nutella.  She intends to make much of it in a blog post.  I can hardly blame her.

4 I’ve mostly been doing laundry, though I have also hoovered the carpets.  I’d got to the stage of using the emergency knickers and I couldn’t change the bedclothes because there were no more sheets.

5 Bex called in for a cup of tea this afternoon and I remembered, rather too late, that I hadn’t put the chooks away.  So I went out to shut the door of the henhouse anyway – either they’re in or they’ve roosted in a tree and I’ll let those ones in tomorrow morning.


1 I’ve sent back my firearms licences, chiz chiz.  I no longer feel Ramboesque.  However, I have yet to decide whether to sell them all, it rather depends on the valuation on one of them.  I find that I can be bought – or my Purdey can, at a price.

2 Dave has finished mending the wall at the bottom of the drive, knocked over some years ago by an oil tanker – that’s a motor vehicle, not a ship.  He’s also mended the low wall by the lawn.

3 Wince, my gardener, has cut back the shrubbery to the extent that I don’t really have a shrubbery any longer.  That wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but it’ll all grow back if I want it to.  I’m pretty relaxed about it.

4 Graham came to pick up my car for its pre-winter service this morning and brought it back this afternoon.  There is no charge.  I cried at the kindness.  Too sentimental for words, I am.

5 I know that I didn’t buy one of the lots sold last night, because I know who did.  It was the most expensive, but also the one I liked most.  But no matter.  It’s a few hundred pounds saved.

Z bids

I’ve been away with my friend Daphne in Kent for a couple of days.  Although it’s only a few miles outside Canterbury, the village doesn’t have internet or mobile coverage (unless you pay for the former, of course).  So, having finally caught up with reading blogs and even commenting on a few, I’ve fallen behind again.

Daphne had invited me to stay for longer, but I had to get back today.  The auctions of Lowestoft china that Russell started in 1984 and continued until 2013 have been started again, by one of our helpers and a local collector, with the assistance of a professional auctioneer at a fairly local firm.  Sally, our helper and friend, kindly wanted to say a few words in tribute to Russell at the start of the sale, which I was happy for her to do, though I didn’t want to go to the sale itself.  However, I did say I’d go along to the view this afternoon.  I felt apprehensive beforehand and emotional going in, but I pulled myself together of course, and it was all right. I felt I should support them, so left a few bids (I know, as if I don’t have enough Stuff already) but I don’t know  yet if I’ve been successful, of course.  I rather hope I haven’t bought everything I bid for and I won’t be too disappointed if I haven’t bought anything.

Having been to two concerts in the last few days, I’ve coped better with music as a consequence and, for rather unknown reasons, put myself through two of the gloomiest albums I have in my possession on the way home: The Sunset Tree and  Get Lonely by The Mountain Goats.  The first is about a chap reminiscing about his early years with a violently abusive stepfather and the second about a young man whose wife has left him and his plunge into depression and suicide – or attempted suicide anyway, I have my doubts that lying down to drown in brackish water is as final as he suggests it is.  I think that one would be unable to help jumping up again as soon as one choked on the water – but it hardly matters.  I listened and I’m still here.  In fact, I seem to have worked my way through any musical anxieties for now.  I’m listening to Madame Butterfly at present because Charlotte wasn’t sure that she knew the music and I fished it out for her.  Well, no I didn’t.  I looked it up on Spotify.

Last week, my gardener finished cutting the grass for the last time, we agreed, this year and had done various other tidying and he asked if there was more I wanted done.  I said that I’d like the rather uninteresting shrubbery outside the dining room to be cut back.  It must have grown at least ten feet outwards since it was last pruned and, though it will look rather a mess for the winter, cutting it now will not stimulate its growth in the way a springtime pruning will do.  I did make a start a year or so ago, but I didn’t have time to finish the job.  Since then, I’ve mislaid my pruning saw.  I lent it to Ronan and he returned it, but I don’t know where it got put.  Since my best secateurs were found in Russell’s big workshop a fortnight ago, somewhere I wouldn’t have put them (rather to my relief as at least it meant they were not left outside to rust), I rather suspect he put away the saw equally randomly, if not in the same place.  So on Saturday morning – late morning at that – I ordered a new one.  I took the free postage rather than paying for quick delivery but, all the same, it arrived on Monday morning.  Splendid service both from Amazon (sorry, to those who won’t use them on principle) and Royal Mail.

Z listens to music

Lovely Weeza and family came over again – they really are exceptionally supportive – and she and I started on the boxes, mostly of papers, which I’d stacked in the smallest bedroom.  We found some useful documents, a lot of rubbish, some more money, some catalogues from past sales, but I found it all very hard to cope with after a while.  Weeza had suggested from the start that we take frequent breaks and she was right but, even so, I decided to stop at about three o’clock because I was feeling so unsettled and I didn’t want to risk carrying my agitated mood on to the evening.  She kept going for a while longer, then I went and helped her carry the last lot of rubbish out to the bonfire.

I enjoyed the concert very much, not having heard a couple of the pieces before – I’d not have lasted with any of them as recordings as things stand, but live music was a different matter.  Since the combination of musicians was unusual – two pianists on two pianos, two percussionists – Sue was pleased that there were so many people there, as she’s friends with the organiser and feels for him when it’s not well supported.  She said that singers in particular keep the audience away – small choirs, that is, not soloists, which is a pity.

I’ve never understood the joy of singing in a choir, I dislike it myself – though I sing alto, which is the choral equivalent of being a Virgo (as I am) – ie the boring one.  Difficult to sing the part perfectly but only noticed if you make a mistake, it really seems the short straw.  Though I’m sure the altos among you will put me right – I know one woman who insisted on singing at her own wedding, which seems to take the wish to be centre of occasion to the limit of vanity, though I’m not fond of performing anyway.  I found one short poem at Ro and Dora’s wedding was quite enough for me and I was glad that none of my children wanted to say anything at Russell’s funeral.

All the same, I’ll be playing my clarinet tomorrow.  I tell you what, when I leave here I’m not going to let anyone know I’ve played any instrument in church ever.

Z and the auditors

Well, being the financial amateur there, not too much was expected of me, but I did know what I was talking about when I did chip in.  It went fine, we have a superb financial team and any questions raised were matters of what line to put a detail on, that sort of thing, not anything wrong.  I had to scoot out just before the end because I’d got someone coming to the house to pick up a piece of china.  I can’t remember (and can’t be bothered to look back, darlings, it’s Friday night and I’m tired) if I told you about that – a few weeks ago, I had an answerphone message for Russell, which is always a bit ouchy, enquiring about a piece of china that the chap had put in our final auction but which hadn’t sold.  He’d put several pieces in, this was an unsold lot, but I’m not sure why we were still holding it as the auction in question was June 2013.

I phoned him back and established what the piece was, and sounded a bit blank.  I couldn’t remember it.  I looked it up and the reserve had been £4,000.  Oh.  I really, really hoped I’d be able to find it … … … ah.  I had a sudden flashback to the week of Russell’s funeral, when I’d removed anything of any value from our cabinets and then put in general stuff to replace it.  I’d found this vase, been a bit puzzled that it had a lot number on it, and had put it in the strongroom.  And I went and looked and there it was.  So I phoned back – anyway, today he came and fetched it.  So that’s done.

I’m tired tonight.  I was late back for lunch but made a nice meal of smoked haddock fishcake, tomato and cucumber, and then had a lamb chop, carrots, mushrooms, tomato, leek, roasted garlic and potato for dinner, which didn’t quite fill the very empty spot so I added a choc-ice, ie a hazelnut mini-Magnum.  And then I had a couple of the little coconut, chocolate-covered macaroons that Roses brought through yesterday.  And now I’m aware that I’ve overeaten, so I’m drinking too much strong black coffee.  I should mention, however, that Roses turned down my offer of coffee last night, so i didn’t make it until after she’d gone home, and I slept very well until half past seven this morning.

What else today? Well, I had to have a new tyre on my car in August and was warned not to leave it too long before getting the others changed, so I’ve had that done.  I’ve also booked my car in for a pre-winter service.  Yes, it’s stuff I could mostly do myself, but actually I’m not even going to try.  I will pay the lovely garage people for the reassurance that it’s done properly.  And they will pick the car up and bring it back and I will feel looked after.  That really matters to me at present, which you’ll understand.

I also bought flowers for me and for Russell’s grave – I’m not too big on gravesides, I have to admit.  I feel no sense of presence there, it’s a matter of courtesy to keep fresh flowers and to visit.  Some people, I know, take great comfort from tending the grave and feel a sense of responsibility, but it just doesn’t take me that way.  I’d never willingly go for cremation, however, I hate the thought of it, for me or for those dear to me.

This is the concert I’m going to tomorrow, assuming I can get a ticket (shouldn’t be a problem, but I forgot to ring today).  After what I said the other day about finding I can’t listen to music easily, it’ll be interesting to see if I can cope with live music.

Pfft.  It’ll be fine.

Z’s friends

I’m feeling all loved up and sociable.  I’ve been asked out on Saturday, Sunday, have a guest for Sunday night, and am invited to stay with a friend for two nights next week.  And Roses has been here all evening – I bought a brace of partridges and was about to put them in the oven when she arrived home, so I invited her in for supper.  And then Ann phoned to offer to take me out for lunch when she and Mike are next in the area.  I have lovely friends.

I’ve not achieved a great deal today, but have had the burglar alarm serviced and have arranged to get new tyres fitted in the morning.  Neither was on the to-do list, but I reckon they count anyway.

I also renewed the Sage’s subscription to the Antiques Trade Gazette.  I hadn’t been going to, it had actually run out but I had a polite call asking if R wanted to renew – and I suddenly decided, yes I do.  So I phoned, explained the situation and they very kindly offered me a reduced sub as a technically new subscriber.  I can decide whether or not to continue it next year, after all.

Also tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with the school auditors.  Big girl’s pants there, I think.

Humble pie might not taste good, but it’s the sensible choice

Sensible as ever, I emailed my solicitor and accountant and asked them to email me their letters.  Embarrassing as it was to admit I’d lost them, I’ve learnt over a longish life that just saying when I’ve made a mistake and asking for help is the best and simplest way.  And so now I’ve got the bloody letters etc by email and can deal with them and move on.  And they were really nice about it, so I’m still swallowing my pride but accept that it’s necessary.

The good thing is that I’m still quite with it, in regard to the school and the NSSA (it’s our vocational centre, I daresay it’s googleable and I am as a director of it, because I did so the other day) and so I don’t feel entirely stupid.  It’s been a day of meetings – I left the house at 10.40 and didn’t get back until 6.40, having had a board meeting, sat in on a school meeting, taken part in interviews and appointed a new head of department and been quite sensible throughout.  Mostly.  Darling Benje was on his own all that time, so I’m cuddling him in a big way tonight.

I didn’t write last night because a friend asked me round for supper.  And another friend has asked me to stay next week for a couple of nights, but that will depend on Charlotte being able to stay and I haven’t managed to contact her yet.  Yesterday morning, I went to a Nadfas lecture about John Sell Cotman, the Norwich painter, which was very interesting except that I suddenly switched off halfway through and found it very hard to concentrate, or even to sit there, afterwards.  It was challenging, as we say in school-speak.  I think I’m doing better than I am.  I’d meant to stay in Norwich and do some shopping, but I wandered round a bit feeling worse and worse, so I left after a while, and went off to a shoe shop on the outskirts.

That was a bit frustrating, darlings.  I found a pair of boots that I liked, tried them on and they fitted well in the foot but were too big on the calves.  But there were buckles, so I tightened them – but I’m fairly slim in the leg nowadays and making them fit meant that the line wasn’t right.  Then I tried a pair of short boots that I liked very much until I looked in the mirror, and then I was a lot less certain.  I really need shoes and boots, but there was nothing I liked quite enough, dammit, to pay quite a lot for.  So I came home with nothing except some Lapsang tea, which I can’t get in Yagnub.

Right, the positives –

I bit the bullet and now have the letters, if not the original.

I have arranged for my guns to be removed first thing in the morning.

Successful meetings and a new Head of department appointed and the new headmaster is still great.  I like him immensely and have a lot of trust in him.

I got another (tiny) thing done on the list.

I’ve been sociable.

Z is foxed

I’m stumped.  One day last week, I sat here in front of the computer and opened the post.  There was a letter from the solicitor and one from the accountant, which included his account, ha ha, though I didn’t look to see how much it was, as I was about to go out – I’d just looked to see if it was anything urgent.

I was busy for the rest of the day – for the week, in fact, so it wasn’t until the end of the weekend that I wanted to read them properly.  And I couldn’t find either letter last night, but wasn’t too anxious until I searched again this afternoon and can’t find them anywhere.  I have no idea where I’ve put them.  I’ve got three box files here, they aren’t in the correct one nor either of the others (but they wouldn’t be, I don’t file things until I’ve read them at least), there are a couple of piles of papers, either of current school matters or things to be dealt with and they aren’t amongst them.  In case I’m wrong about opening them in here, I’ve checked the kitchen – sometimes I open post while I’m having breakfast – but no.

I checked back through my diary to see which day it was – either Tuesday, when I had a 9.30 appointment, or Wednesday, when I was in London.  Tuesday is more likely.  Someone who called round on Monday evening took away some papers, so my wild hope that they could have got mixed up is groundless.

There is one place more to look, though it’s not likely, but the light isn’t good there and I need to spend the evening clamping down on anxiety so that I can sleep tonight.

This afternoon wasn’t great either – I was doing pretty well, getting on with admin – I’ve actually ticked or annotated 15 items from the to-do list – when I logged on to my Lloyds account to pay a bill.  That is, yesterday I paid a bill from that account, the one for the valuation of this house.  Then I had to pay back a fortnight’s pension which has been overpaid for Russell – bereavement is an expensive business, darlings.  It was paid into an account that has been frozen, so I have to refund it from my own purse – I suppose it was because the two came to over a thousand pounds that the second was delayed.  I had to log back on again to okay it today.  But I put a letter in the password in lower case that should have been in upper case – and there’s no second chance, I was shut out and had to phone to get back.  It took 22 minutes and I was asked so many security questions – info on credit cards and directorships amongst them – that I almost cried.  Well, I did cry, but I almost showed it in my voice.  I dealt with it, of course, and remained polite.  My mother’s grandmother’s mantra “Never be rude to those who cannot answer back” is still applicable.  By the end, he’d reset my account and I was able to log in, okay the payment to the Department of Work and Pensions and pay the next sizeable bill for servicing the boilers at my London flats.  £1500 down the drain in a couple of days, I feel depressed.

Part of the reason I didn’t tell you here that Russell had died for so long was that I didn’t want this to turn into a bereavement blog and I still don’t.  But it’s always been an everyday story of Z’s life and this is what I’m doing at present, I can only apologise for being a moaning Minnie and assure you that I’ll try to keep feelings out of it.  Let’s finish with something positive.

1 15 items off the to-do list has to be positive, innit?

2 Lovely chat with Ronan this evening.  He had an impacted wisdom tooth removed last Friday and is still on mushy food, but he’s over the worst.

3 I’m having a new gate to the Ups and Downs fitted later this week and then will be able to have a flowerbed by the short length of The Wall.  It’ll look lovely in the spring.

4 I was almost too despondent to cook dinner this evening but pulled myself together and did a lovely mixture of veggies – leek, shallot, chilli, cauliflower, tomato and broccoli – with turmeric, mustard seeds and cumin seeds.  And a potato (this is a JonnyB joke, but is true).

5 A very productive meeting at school yesterday, the AGM of the Trust directors, and we’ve appointed a new governor who will be great, I’ve every confidence.  The new Head is really impressive, I knew we were making the right choice and I was right to know it.  He’s right for the school and he’s a potentially great Head.  When I stand down as Chairman at the end of the school year, I know I’ll be leaving some really excellent governors and the school will be in good shape.  I will have given 27 years of my life to school governorship by then (I may or may not carry on, but only until I sell up here in any case) and I shouldn’t think of minimising its importance in my life.

It’s quiet…

It’s Dora’s mum’s birthday today, so they haven’t visited, but the rest of the family has.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast, roast chicken for lunch – the dishwasher has been on twice and it’s half full again.  Zerlina, Gus and I made more cakes for tea and they have all gone.  I don’t really need any supper, but I don’t suppose that’ll stop me eating something – I’ve got a leftover baked potato, so I might well mash its innards with cheese and leave it in the Aga while I go and have a bath.  I’m quite tempted to lock the doors (I forgot one again last night) and go and have a bath, then lounge in front of the fire in pyjamas.

On Facebook, John G was asking what was the first film people remember seeing at the cinema?  I was no use at all, I can’t remember.  I guessed that it was probably a Walt Disney cartoon.  I’ve always loved the cinema and have seen many hundreds of films – fewer in the last decade than ever before, but that’s a matter of geography, not having anyone to go with and leaving Russell alone – we never minded being left alone, either of us, but as he went out less in the evenings, I tended to do so as well.

Anyway, in Lowestoft in the early 1960s there were plenty of cinemas to choose from and there was always a long and a short feature film, a cartoon, a newsreel, sometimes a cartoon or a documentary, as well as the usual ads and previews.  It didn’t matter when you arrived as the programme kept going – you just stayed until the point you arrived at.  At the end of the night, of course, the National Anthem was played – a rush to the exit because respect demanded that you stood and waited while it was played, so if you got caught by the first few notes, you were stuck.

False memories

My wedding dress isn’t quite as I remembered it.  I thought it was yellow with splashy white flowers on and a big white collar – the flowers are small and the collar isn’t as big.  Still, the dress I found in the attic today is certainly the one.  A few tears – that is, I cried a bit, it isn’t ripped – but what’s the point of crying?  I did that before Russell died, I haven’t much since.

It cost £5 from Richards’ in Great Yarmouth and I bought it a few days before I got married in 1973.  When we moved here in 1986, I’d stopped wearing it – I did for several years – and stuffed it, with some other favourite dresses that I no longer wore, in a box, which is why it’s so crumpled.  Yes, I’ll try it on, but I won’t put up a photo.  A dress that suited me at 19 won’t do so now I’m 61.  The only reason I might show you would be to prove I’m the same size, and that’s just vanity, which is never a good thing,

In practical terms, clearing out that attic (there’s more of ’em to go) wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, it wasn’t nearly as full as I had thought it would be.  I felt very grubby afterwards though and longed for a hot bath, but Zerlina reminded me that I’d promised that we would make cakes.  So we did, while dinner was cooking and now, though I still feel mucky, I shall have a bath before bed and it was good to have fun with the children.