Monthly Archives: November 2014

Zups and downs

For the past few nights, I’ve encouraged Ben to sleep on my bed.  I know his new owners won’t, he simply takes up too much room – he only weighs a stone and a half, or ten kilos if you prefer, less than I do and, except that he doesn’t put his head on the pillow, he takes up about as much room as I do – so it’s not really fair to anyone that I’m doing so.  But it’s nice for a while.

Russell and I had to stop sharing a bed some time ago because we kept waking each other up. Neither of us slept well and weren’t in much harmony with each other – that is, I mean that we were restless, it wasn’t that cuddling up helped, it was very much the opposite.  To start with, he wasn’t thrilled when I pointed out that we slept better separately, but latterly he acknowledged it too and, even when we started in the same bed, the first to wake up tended to move into another room and that was usually him.

This has the advantage that I’m used to an empty space beside me and it hasn’t been something I’ve had to get used to.  So it’s a bit daft to invite a dog on my bed (he really isn’t good at climbing and I have to lift him, half at a time) when it’s for the short term.

Still, never mind.  Onwards and upwards, as ever.  Shall I end with a few positives?

1 The new Head is so good.  I really like him too, even if his mother is younger than I am, which is just such an ageing thought.

2 The fishmonger had smoked eel today, which I adore but hardly ever have the opportunity to buy.  I first ate it when I was a child, when a Dutch au pair gave us some.  A later, Finnish au pair brought us smoked reindeer meat.  I ate that happily too.  I was an unsentimental child.

3 I got the agenda for the next governors’ meeting done on time, which was touch and go for a while.  I’m scraping the ‘positive’ barrel here.

There’s not been anything wrong with the day but the afternoon was taken up by a spectacularly dull meeting, and the morning by a number of phone calls, meaning I left late and didn’t have time for the very good lunch out that I’d been anticipating.  I had a ham sandwich instead and it was pretty uninteresting.  It came with some packet salad which I ate, some crisps which I ate and some coleslaw smothered in too much tasteless mayo, which I mostly left.  I drank water.  Not the oysters and white wine I’d looked forward to.

Ah, that wasn’t ending with positives.  I must think of a couple more.

4 Graham phoned from New Zealand, Wink phoned from Dorset (she was at work) and Daphne phoned from Kent.  Lovely people.

5 I received a cheque in the post that I hadn’t been expecting.

Sunday evening

Young Stevo came over to do some work in the garden, but it rained after a while, so I got him to help in the house instead and we’ve laid the tables for next Sunday.  It was fine to start with, fortunately, so we fetched extra tables from the church (yes, I asked if I could borrow them first) and cleared some boxes from the porch, filled the hearths in the two dining rooms with logs and generally got as ready as possible.  I’m going to do a very simple cold meal, though there will be some hot ‘proper’ puddings too, as there will be lots of us, including about ten young children and complicated food might not go down so well.  I’ll go and order a whole gammon on the bone tomorrow, that’s always popular.

I shifted some furniture in here this evening, so that I can sit on the sofa with Ben cuddled up next to me by the fire – it was over on the other side of the room.  I’ve put the computer on too high a table though and must change that tomorrow, I’m getting a crick in my neck already.  I’ve had this computer for several years now and will have to contemplate changing it eventually.  Much as I like my iPad, I don’t think I want to do away with a desktop while I still do quite a lot of work on it, and I never liked working for long on Russell’s laptop either.  I just wasn’t that comfortable, convenient though it was to carry around.  If I take off in a van, I’ll have to manage with an iPad and can see how that goes for a while.

I’ve got a busy week coming up, but at least I’m having my hair cut on Tuesday.  That’ll relax me a bit, I expect.  Years ago, I had very long hair that I rarely had trimmed and when I finally had it shortened, I was so unused to the relaxing effect of sitting in a hairdresser’s chair and listening to the rhythmic snip of the scissors that I found it very hard to stay awake.  Al, as a small boy, used to fall asleep when he was being fitted for new shoes.  Must be some sort of reflexology thing, I supposed, but it made getting him to stand and walk about to try them on quite difficult.

Z lets it all go again

I’d caught right up with blogs and now I’ve let them all go again.  Sorry, I’ll try to visit in the next few days.  I’m afraid that I have to spend hours winding down in the evening nowadays and I can’t turn the computer off, go to bed and hope to sleep any more, so I neither have time to read nor write.  I don’t mind getting old, darlings, there’s quite a lot that I rather like (though I reserve the right to change my mind completely if I develop any of a dismal range of ailments) but there are a few things I hadn’t quite expected.

The need to relax for a long time before I can sleep is probably not age-related, but a diminution of ability to work in the evening probably is.  I used to prefer evening meetings as they didn’t cut into my day, but now I would rather not.  I still don’t go to bed early, thank goodness – I can do without a complete change in habits – but I mostly like to read in silence.  I rarely put the television on.  What is good is that I’m not lonely or unsettled when it’s quiet.

Mind you, those concerts I went to a few weeks ago have cured my problems about listening to music.  It shows that you can be too gentle on yourself and that sometimes forcing the issue can do away with its difficulties.

A disconcerting aspect of knocking on a bit (I don’t think I’m actually old, that’s not really the point, except that I’m maybe being shown that my body is a bit older than I feel it is) is the lack of strength in my fingers.  Difficulty in opening jars and bottles is something that happens to other people – but no, that’s not true any longer.  It happened to other people.  I used cheerily to knock the side of a jar on the floor and then just open it, but now I usually can’t.  Actually, I’ve hurt the side of my right hand, the little finger side, maybe by trying to open something awkward, and now it’s very difficult to cut up food when I’m preparing to cook it.  I had to have the chorizo in my supper in large chunks because I couldn’t chop them.  A large chunk fell on the floor when it shot away from my knife, to Ben’s pleasure.  It’ll get better in a few days, but it’s a dismal reminder that the day will come when it won’t and I will have to buy food already cut up and ready to cook.  It’s never done as I would.  Oh dear.

I’ve been very sociable for the last week, and when I took my guest back to the station on Thursday evening – that is, when I’d taken her – it struck me that it was the first time I’d been alone since the previous Saturday and I felt a bit lost for a few minutes.  I needed to fill the car, so went off to the Co-op and bought nice food before doing so, salad and raspberries and chicken and duck breast and éclairs.  And some roses for myself.  I’m buying myself flowers regularly.  Like cooking delicious food and building cheery log fires, it’s part of making sure I feel looked after.  It’s fine that it’s me doing the looking after, sometimes.

Mike and Ann took me out to lunch on Friday to a nice local pub that has a good log fire as well as tasty food.  We all opted for fish pie and bread and butter pudding .  Their company was a delight and I thank them very much.  In the evening, Roses invited me and Indigo for supper which was also a great pleasure.  After her lamb stew and chocolate pudding, I felt I should tokenly diet for the weekend, but I’m not, of course.

Ben wanted to come upstairs with me last night, so I invited him onto my bed and he slept there by my side, which was lovely.  He was very good.  He’s been sweet and loving recently, ever since I gave him away, dammit.  But I still know I’m doing the right thing.

And today, I received a delivery of beautiful orchids from the London friend who stayed on Wednesday night.  She doesn’t use her blogname any more and was careful of her privacy, so I won’t identify her.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I’m home and quite tired, so am going to bed.  I’ve had a lovely time with Zig, Bertie, Indi, Eva, Arthur, Gary, Albus, Eloise, Darwin, Susie, Fern and Willow and, today, with Mig.  Several of the aforementioned slept on my bed, which was lovely too.

It was a lovely time but there was sadness too.  We looked after a friend’s dog yesterday because she had an appointment that she couldn’t miss, but she had had to make the decision to have her beloved dog put down today, so it was a sad and emotional time.  Zig is starting chemotherapy again next week and knows it’ll be tough.  I love her dearly and wish I could help.  We’ve talked a lot, I’m afraid I’ve exhausted her but she’s helped me a lot and we’ve listened to each other.  And we cooked for each other, so that’s good.


Z drinks champagne

I’m in Wiltshire at present, staying with Zig and her cats, dogs, tortoise and – not in the same house, but I’ll see them in the morning – horses. She made me delicious butternut squash soup and we’ve spent the evening drinking champagne. On Tuesday, Mig is coming for lunch before I leave for home. Darling Charlotte is looking after everything at home in the meantime.

I have been trying to sort out a family party and I’m very pleased that everything seems to be coming together at last. My first choice of date didn’t work, but now it turns out that everyone can come on the 23rd of this month. Dilly’s family has not yet met Dora’s family, but this will be put right and there will be about 30 of us altogether, which is brilliant. I love nothing better than a houseful. I’d like to wear a sari so that Dora’s mother is not alone in her way of dress, but it may not happen, I’ll have to see.

Zig’s pets are exceptionally cuddly. One of the cats is purring on my lap right now, making it quite difficult to type on my iPad. But I’m managing. Her latest acquisition is a kitten named Eloise.

Z is Ben’s cushion

Anastasia and Natasha were both out today so I’ve given in.  I’ve fed them and put the heat lamp on and they can stay awake for a couple more months.  I wanted them to hibernate in January anyway.  Edweena was trying to burrow in the vivarium, though there’s not enough depth of sand, she really does want to hbernate.  All I need is cold weather, which is not yet forthcoming.

Stevo and I spent some time painting the annexe fence – not gloss paint, only weatherproofing it.  All the same, it’s a long job,  It’s a picket fence so every upright has four sides and there are two horizontal bars as well.  Then there’s the top and a dab underneath.  We’ve done about a quarter.  Then there’s the panel fencing at the side, the new field gate and the garden seat.  I hope the weather will hold, most of the time.

Friends in the West country posted on Facebook that the weather was diabolical, which was not the case here.  A nicely sunny morning, warm for the time of the year and a clear if chilly afternoon, with a gradually rising wind.  It might rain later, but nothing like poor Cornwall.  I love Cornwall but am thankful not to live there – they might not get really cold weather but they have more rain than their due, nowadays.  The bad weather always seems to come across the Atlantic nowadays, so has pretty well dumped its load of rain by the time it gets here.

I tried to post photos but it was’t willing.  Another time, darlings, I’m a bit tired to try again tonight and I’ve got several school-related letters to write yet.  Tomorrow, I’m off to visit darling Ziggi and Mig will call on us too, which is lovely. Since I will undoubtedly get her wifi password, I’ll probably not stop blogging, however.

In the meantime, Ben is on my lap and typing is tricky.



The Yesmad

I had a shock yesterday – not meaning to overstate this but it did worry me for a minute.  I went past the tortoise enclosure and glanced in, as I always do several times a day, and a Tot was lying on her back, all four limbs stuck out, not moving.  I was momentarily convinced she was dead until I realised she’d just fallen off the piece of bark that the babies love to climb on.  I picked her up, turned her over and stroked her and she trotted off.  Totted off.

They’re out and about less now and I’m not turning on the sun lamps any more.  I thought it was going to turn colder than it has, but I’ll hibernate them soon for a little while.  Edweena can sleep for about four months but not the babies, a month will be quite enough.  I have to say, I’m rather anxious about it, but if I put each of them in a box, weigh it and then wake them up if they lose about 10% of their weight, I don’t think there will be any problem.

I made a difficult decision and referred to it a week ago – not to beat about the bush, I’m giving away my dog.  This is not because I want to, but because it’ll be best for him.  He so loved the family who stayed in my annexe over the summer and he spent all possible time with them.  They adored him too and decided that the time had come to get a dog – as soon as I heard that, I asked Bex to talk to me first and, when she called in, I offered her Ben and she was really happy to accept.  I would not consider looking for another home for him in any other circumstances, but he loves them, he adores being with children, they are more fun for a young dog than I am and will give him more exercise and quite as much love.  If he loved me best, I’d not do it, but he misses them, affectionate as he is with me too.  At heart, he’s their dog already.

I’ve got him for a few more weeks as their house still isn’t quite ready and in the meantime we are sharing him, they call in to take him out and he is quite willing to come and go.  He really is a sweet-natured boy.  I will have another dog in time, but not until I’m settled in my new home, so that probably won’t be for another couple of years.  If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s considerable patience.  I’ve not yet lost the habit of hope, either.

Regarding yesterday’s post, everyone has taken my suggestion with considerable enthusiasm.  Dilly asked if I’m going to be a nomad or a yesmad.  The latter, obviously!



Unfettering Z

As a way of distracting myself from the less appealing aspects of the present, I’m letting my imagination roam in regard to the future – that is, the medium term, after I sell this house and move on.  I can’t, for now, contemplate the stress of selling and buying simultaneously, so I’ve been thinking that I’d rent a house for six months or a year, to be able to snap up my dream home when it comes up for sale (we all appreciate this is fantasy, okay?  It does no harm to fantasise).

Today, it occurred to me that I might not do that at all.  I could put all my furniture in store – an incentive to get rid of anything I don’t really, really want – and buy a camper van and travel round for a while.  Or maybe try a houseboat.

I’ve been quite dutiful all my life, probably beyond what was expected of me.  I remember a time when my parents were holding a cocktail party, something to do with my father being the chairman of the Education committee on Lowestoft Borough Council.  At this sort of event, I usually handed round canapés, refreshed drinks and so on.  Shy though I was, I could deal with this sort of practical thing.  Anyway, my then boyfriend phoned to ask me out.  I apologised, explaining that I was on family duty.  Unbelievably, it didn’t even occur to me to ask my mother if I could be excused.  Later, after my father died and my mother stood for his place on the council, I used to accompany her to all the main council meetings, not because I was interested but to support her by sitting in the public gallery.  Looking back, I can’t think why.  I just felt it necessary to be supportive.

Over the years as a governor, on various committees and in a number of supporting roles, I’ve quite often wanted to stand down but not been in a position to do so, at least not until I’ve found a replacement.  But, if things go to plan, I’ll be quitting altogether before too long.  I reckon that this is my opportunity to stand back and see what I really do want to do for the next few years.  To start with, I should let go as much as I can, even if it means living out of a suitcase and packing away material possessions.

As I say, this might not happen.  But thinking about it is the first stage of letting go and setting myself free.  I dearly love to be spontaneous and the thought of just getting in the driving seat and setting off, or looking for a flight and jetting off abroad at a few days’ notice is an appealing one.

Bedroom, sweet (2)

My father died in January 1970 and it was a cold winter.  He had a heart attack, probably because of a weakness caused by the dreadful bout of ‘flu that he (and all of us) suffered from for several weeks beforehand.  At present, I’m finding a cheerful log fire is very comforting, both to look at and to sit by and I expect it was for a similar reason that we felt it was worth the bother to carry coal upstairs and light the fire in my mother’s room.  She lost a lot of weight very abruptly – not that she had been fat in the first place and I know it’s one of the reasons that I’m taking such care of myself now: I don’t want to increase the risk of osteoporosis by becoming underweight – as a result of this, she felt the cold severely and used to have three baths a day to warm herself and bring herself some comfort.

The fire was such a success that she decided to take it further.  As I said, the bedroom, bathroom and dressing room were all en suite, with the bathroom in the middle and the only room not to have a fireplace.  She had a bath etc. installed in the dressing room, and put wardrobes in the bathroom to reverse their use, which was a very good idea, both because having her clothes in the room next to the bedroom made sense and because it enabled us to enjoy the great luxury of bathing by firelight.  A clotheshorse with towels warming, a comfortable armchair at the side, the bath in an alcove so that it didn’t obtrude into the room, it was all done in shades of pink and brown and looked very pretty.

Z’s Tuesday

I’ve been taking a lot of care over my meals in the last few days.  Nothing complicated in particular, but nice food, a good deal of thought over what to do with it and then careful cooking.  I made two soups from the remains of Sunday’s chicken, having given most of the leftovers to Charlotte and Eddie (the dog stole the roast vegetables, so there was just meat left), one being a creamy chicken and ground almond concoction, the other being a more vibrant affair with chilli, vegetables, the chicken broth and the last of the meat.  The fishmonger calls on a Monday morning and I bought some crevettes and redfish (big prawns and red snapper if you prefer).  It sounds a little pathetic to say that cooking my evening meal shapes the evening, but I like food, I like cooking and it has always been an indication of caring for my family.  That I can eat what I want and nothing else – not having to take anyone else’s preferences into account, I mean – is an encouragement.  If I don’t feel like eating, then Twiglets make a meal too.  It hardly matters if I snack for a day or two.

Meetings at school today, but I took half an hour out during Finance to go up on the roof.  The  school’s roof, most of it, has been replaced over the summer and it’s nearly finished.  At the last Health, Safety and Premises (I know, darlings, I lead a dull life) committee meeting the splendid caretaker gave a progress report and said that if any governors would like to go and inspect? …..  Well, darlings, you know me better than he does and he was quite surprised, though he hid it valiantly, when I was ‘me! me! Pick me!’ and duly arranged for it to be done.

The school buildings are not pretty, it has to be said.  They’re fifty years old – that is, the school was built fifty years ago, a dull, brick-built and partly cladded affair, and has been considerably added to since.  Flat roofed, on one, two or three floors.  I went up on the highest level for the best view.  The second ladder was almost vertical, but it was worth the climb and the view was brilliant.  I was clearly so happy that the three chaps with me were clearly pleased.  I’d seen the insulation they’d taken down, a layer of straw, so the replacement will be much warmer, they’ve been able to add more skylights, we’re having solar panels and it’s guaranteed for twenty years, so should last twice that.  Won’t be my problem for much longer anyway, of course, a strange thought when I’ve been a school governor for so long.

My monthly cleaners came today,  so I’m all hoovered through and sorted out.  It’s laziness really, I’m quite able to do my own housework, but I quite like not having to, at least occasionally.  At one time, I used to have a thrice weekly cleaning lady but that really wasn’t a great idea, it meant I left everything to her and I find it better to deal with most things myself.

The other thing is that I’ve joined the new site Ello – it’s still invitation only and I don’t know who else belongs.  I have so far failed to manage to load an avatar and can’t think of anything to say there.  However, I have hopes that it won’t go the same way as Google+, it’s free and they’ve promised never to sell members’ info (there will be occasional requests for money, clearly, everything has to be paid for one way or another) and so, though I’ve never come across any unpleasantness on Facebook or Twitter, it seemed worth trying.  If you are on there, I’m @zoesprake, so do – if you can work out how – look me out.