Monthly Archives: December 2014

Z has just one thing in common with Janus

I cannot contemplate looking back, only forward.

Roses and I were talking a few minutes ago and she says that at least 2015 will be different.  I said that if it isn’t better, I don’t want to go there.

Whatever 2014 has been like for you, I wish you a bright and happy 2015.

Lots of love from Zoë

Z sometimes wonders

Since I intend, in the next year or two, to leave here and move to pastures new, I have no particular need to be frugal when it comes to log fires.  We have had a number of trees fall down, die or be in need of pruning in the last few years and most of the wood is thoroughly seasoned now.  I can provide Weeza and Charlotte with logs and be well supplied myself – though it’s surprising how much one gets through in a day, it’s certainly saving on electricity.

Today, having slept remarkably well overnight, as I do once or twice a week, I got going rather late but then whizzed around quite effectively.  My monthly cleaners were due at lunchtime and the dining rooms hadn’t been cleaned since Christmas.  Everything dirty had been washed of course, but clean glasses were still on the table, as was the tablecloth, and chairs were all over the place.  The rooms were jolly cold though and it seemed unreasonable to ask Deb and Shelley to go in and be cold, so I had the pleasure of lighting all the fires again.  I do love the feeling of being able to use the whole house in the winter, as well as the summer.

Sometimes, I wonder how I’ll adjust to a smaller house.

So I had to tidy so that they could clean and it’s all back to normal now – which is only tidy by my standards, not that of the splendidly houseproud, which I’m afraid I’ll never be.  And J swept Roses’ chimney so that she can have a fire too.

Anastasia, the smallest tortoise, has been vastly energetic today.  I’ve been concerned as she has hardly eaten since waking from hibernation, but she has really perked up.  She has drunk quite a lot of water, eaten a little artichoke leaf and made several circuits of her run, climbing over all the obstacles valiantly.  The Tots love to scramble over rocks.

Sometimes, I fear that I will turn into Groby Lington.

I have spent the day washing sheets, towels, tablecloths and napkins.  Most of them have to be ironed.

Sometimes, I feel quite like Mrs Tiggy-Winkle


Z doesn’t stand still

Over to Weeza and co again today for lunch – I was playing the music in church, the clarinet this time.  That’s four times in eight days, either clarinet or organ, I might start to get good at this again before long.  Available breath and embouchure (lip muscle control, darlings, highly useful  and often praised) have improved already.  I’d bought a piece of gammon and not yet used it, so Wink cooked it and baked some potatoes, which we packed up and took with us, then cooked other vegetables when we arrived.  They’d all been out to the DIY shop for paint.

So it’s been another enjoyable day.  Wink is leaving for home tomorrow morning and I’ll do some tidying up.  It’ll be really quiet once I’m on my own again and it’ll take some getting used to, I daresay, though I’ve got a busy week coming up, including a party, which should be fun.

Z receives a letter

We drove over to Weeza and Phil’s house to take the children out for a few hours, so that their parents could do some painting.  I should explain – if you’ve known me for a while, you may remember that they moved into a former Methodist church some fifteen months ago.  It had been converted to a house, but never completed and, when they bought it, the previous owner had been doing bits at the weekend for years but there was no prospect of it ever being finished by him.  They worked very hard to finish the downstairs and Russell’s and my moving-in present was a beautiful solid oak floor in their huge living room.  Upstairs, there were three bedrooms, each with an en suite bath or shower room and a large landing.  They decided to add two more bedrooms, a family bathroom, an airing cupboard and a landing, but the builders were working for Weeza’s employer, so were working around his requirements.  It was necessary to put in Velux windows into the slope of the roof and this has held them back for several months.

Now, however, they’re up to the decoration stage and the fitting of the bathroom, so they’re doing all they can during the holidays.  The children are very good, but it’s not that easy to get on, of course, when a three- and a six-year-old are about … and that’s why we offered to take them out.

The weather was pretty filthy last night, though not as bad here as in North Norfolk (and it was much worse some other parts of the country, I’m not complaining).  I lay in bed listening to the wind whistling down the chimney and the rain lashing against the window.  The road to the Old Chapel was flooded in parts.  I hate flooded roads, never knowing how deep the water is.  I’m not at all intrepid about it, I am always convinced the car will conk out and it’ll be an awful nuisance.  However, I did *bravely* drive through and it was fine, of course.

We went to Wroxhamam Baarns, as Zerlina used to call it – sadly, the first word has now been changed to Wrocky – for lunch and to play outside, then into Wroxhamam itself to buy bread and feed the birds – no ducks today, but swans, geese and thieving seagulls.  When we got back to the house, bearing cake for tea, Zerlina went to find the thank-you card she’d written me.  Enchantingly, Weeza was, in due course, surprised to hear about it, little z had done it all by herself without being prompted.

Earlier in the day, Wink had called on friends in Norwich and I went shopping – just to buy a new pair of jeans, a very necessary purchase as mine are falling apart, both pairs.  I bought the first pair I tried on, reduced to a mere £10.  I tried a second pair, but they were too big.

We’re watching films again this evening.

Z thinks about love, but it’s too sad a thought to dwell on

The day went well, this house is at its best when there are lots of people and it’s wonderful for children.  I lit all three fires and remembered to keep them well stoked so that there were no draughts or cold spots anywhere, it was worth the effort.  The beef, rib on the bone, weighed some seven kilos and I cooked it for two and a half hours, which was just right.  I served a range of things to start, smoked salmon and smoked eel, fresh prawns and hot prawns, sausages wrapped in bacon, marinated peppers, olives stuffed with almonds. It didn’t matter if it was a bit random, it was all good.  Then I took the beef out of the oven to rest and put the Yorkshire pudding and the parsnips in, and we went to open presents while they were cooking, and I ducked out part way through to cook the vegetables and dish up.  It was all ready together and, which is the main thing, it was delicious.

I have to be busy, then I’m all right.  Of course I found it hard, but I didn’t dwell on that.  It’s not a matter of courage but of fear of too much feeling.  I don’t want to let in too much of that and I sometimes feel that I never will.  It’s safer that way.

I couldn’t sleep last night, though that might have been because, after not much sleep the night before either, I dropped off for a while in the afternoon.  I finally came downstairs at about quarter to four and made tea, listened to the radio and eventually slept on the sofa for about three hours.  Today, I’ve mostly been cooking again, bacon sandwiches for breakfast, sausage rolls for lunch, I’ve taken the rest off the beef off the bone and shared it around the family and made stock from the remains.

Oh, I ran out of milk this morning.  We’ve been drinking a lot of coffee and tea and, having them black myself, I forget how quickly it’s used up.  So I took myself off to Big Pinkie’s farm where they have a dispenser for raw milk, you take your own bottle.  Zerlina and Gus came with me and they didn’t realise the significance of the crowds gathering in town, but I realised it was the Boxing Day Meet.  So, on the way back, I parked and we walked through to Earsham Street.  The children loved seeing the horses and hounds and there was something of a thrill in watching them all trot briskly off.  I don’t remember if I’ve said, little z has had a couple of riding lessons and adored it, so I’ve given her a voucher for two lessons for Christmas, but I’ll keep up fortnightly lessons for her throughout the year.

This evening, Wink and I are alone, so we are spending our time watching films on Netflix.  If we weren’t so busy eating Twiglets, I’d be cooking dinner, which will be the leftover marinated peppers and the leftover prawns, in pasta.  There’s a fair bit of leftover Christmas pudding and a bit of chocolate roulade, which Al made, but I’m not sure they’ll be tackled yet.

It was a lovely Christmas Day.

Z finishes the game of bowls and beats the Spaniards too (no offence meant, dear Spaniards)

I’ve got everything done that I meant to today, to my surprise.  I’ve cleaned the house, changed the beds, laid the table, cleared out the grate, remembered to put out the newspaper delivery man’s Christmas tip (he arrived soon after 7 am, so that was good), played the organ at the carol service and sorted out the presents, which Wink and Charlotte wrapped for me.  I’ve done a time plan for the morning – actually, that’s just a note of when the beef, parsnips, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding go in the oven and when the pudding goes on, the rest will just get done.  I’ve done all this for so long that I don’t need chapter and verse any more.

I know it’s going to be an ordeal at various times, I’ve had moments today of feeling intensely alone, but I’ve been too busy to dwell on them and the satisfaction of getting everything done has eased the way.  All the same, I won’t do the traditional (twice?) Christmas video this year.  I don’t really know what to say, except send you all my love and very best wishes for a wonderful Christmas.  And I’ve said that now already.

Z’s chicks have returned to the nest

Ronan phoned tonight, which was lovely.  he and Dora had a wonderful honeymoon but a shitty journey back, starting with a long delay at Bangkok airport and ending with their luggage not having arrived at Heathrow.  It wasn’t so much lost as some baggage handler didn’t bother to put it on the plane.  It’ll be returned in due course, apparently.

A couple more things are due to arrive tomorrow, otherwise I’ve got all presents.  I haven’t iced the cake and can’t do so until I’ve got around to buying ground almonds and eggs.  The chickens aren’t laying at present, though I suppose I might find an egg tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I shall change bedding, clean the house, ice the cake, wrap the presents and probably prepare some veg.  I’ll also run through the carols for the service in the evening.  I can’t find it all a lot of bother, it all happens on time and one is always ready, so there’s never any need to fuss.  Or so I tell myself repeatedly until I’m convinced, anyway.

What I didn’t manage was writing Christmas cards.  I’m sorry, darlings, especially those of you who kindly sent one to me. I even bought them – but I couldn’t do the writing.  I’ll try again next year.

I had a beautiful bunch of flowers sent to me, which was a most welcome surprise.  Ghastly as this year has been in so many ways, I have some lovely moments to remember.

Ups and downs

Dilly phoned this morning to say she and the children were coming to visit Bex and co today – so, the upshot was that they dropped in on the way, we all walked into town (mild but very windy), I paid shedloads of money into the bank and posted off the Christmas present I bought nearly a fortnight ago and hadn’t got around to wrapping up.  Then we walked home again, so I can rest on that particular laurel for a day or two.

They brought a board game with them: Simpsons’ Cluedo.  It was agreed that Al is so good at Cluedo that no one will play with him – well, I will, but mothers don’t count.  Anyway, I won, but only because two others guessed wrongly.  I was slightly surprised by my feeling of competitiveness, which isn’t usual, but probably it’s years of playing against Al who is just so good at it.  As I said already.

Other good things – I’ve become so friendly with someone I’ve been playing a phone game with (True or False, it’s free if you can put up with the ads) that I told her about this blog, so if she drops in – Hello, Jo!

A friend phoned from New Zealand and we had a chat.  I’d hardly put the phone down when it rang again – another friend in New Zealand.  A complete coincidence, one lives in Auckland and the other in Wellington and, whilst they have met each other, they aren’t in contact.

I think that Natasha has finally hibernated.  I wish Anastasia would eat more than a nibble of lamb’s lettuce, but she’s lively, anyway.

Ah.  I’ve just had a phone call from someone asking for Russell, so I hesitated and asked his name and then what it was about?  He ummed and ahhed (how do you spell that anyway?) a bit so I had to say, Russell died four months ago and he sounded very shocked and surprised.  But in the course of conversation, it transpired that he’d heard it from someone and couldn’t believe it so was ringing to check, basically.  So we’ve had an amicable conversation and the matter it was about will be held over for a few weeks, but I’m quite puzzled that he thought it was ok to put me through that when he knew Russell might have died.  It’s a good job I’m extremely polite and very nice, and also reasonably resilient, because that was a bit crushing, actually and I’m really quite miffed.  I wish I hadn’t apologised for breaking the news, as I thought.

Anyway, that’s driven anything else I might have said from my mind and I’m having an early night.

I’ve remembered what else I was going to say.  After Russell died, I found a DVD with ‘Sprake family’ written on it and I was surprised, pleased and sorry, because I couldn’t imagine why he hadn’t mentioned it to me – the accompanying letter referred to cine films that had been transferred to the DVD.  I finally got around to watching it this evening and, oh dear, it wasn’t at all what I’d expected.  I know there’s some footage of Russell and his family when he was a little boy, there’s a film of his sister’s wedding in 1960 and there’s a brilliant bit of Weeza and Al playing on the lawn here – this was before we lived here, of course – someone threw a frisbee for Weeza and she ran for it, sticking out her arm and thwacking the toddling Al to the ground on the way.  I thought it would include that and so, I suspect, did Russell, but it started with someone whooshing the camera around wildly, at the wedding I think, then interminable footage of a fishing holiday in Scotland, the only entertaining bit being when Pa got his line caught in a tree.  There were a few mildly interesting bits, though I hardly recognised anyone – Russell, briefly, his parents, sister and nephew, possibly some cousins but, frustratingly, as soon as anyone turned towards the camera, the photographer swung away.  The rest was the most uninteresting holiday footage you can imagine.  It would have been an hour and fifty minutes of my life gone down the pan if I hadn’t fast-footed through a fair bit of it.  At least it explains why Russell hadn’t mentioned it, though I wish he had, because at least we could have laughed and commiserated.

The shortest day

The clarinet playing went surprisingly well, though I really need to put in more practice for my lip muscles to not start to weaken.  I worry about what they’ll do at the church when I leave here and hope that someone else who can play an instrument will happen along in the next year or so.  I really am played out, I look forward to giving it up and being able just to play for pleasure again.

I forgot to put the chickens in again last night – or rather, I forgot to shut up the run.  I was surprised when I went to feed them, to find just one in a nest box.  She’s been sitting for several days, though she hasn’t any eggs underneath her and there was just one yesterday.  Anyway, once I started putting their food out, they all came running and they all returned.  i counted them all back and then shut the door.

I’d never realised that Russell received a fair chunk of his income in December, so I’ve got a number of cheques to pay in, which is jolly good.  I’ve sold the tractor, can’t remember if I said, so am pleased about that too.  I’m making gradual progress, though only by switching off thoughts I don’t want to have.  It was four months ago yesterday that Russell died, it feels forever.  I feel as if I’m in a bubble, I can function quite well but I’m shielded from the past and the future, there’s just now.  Starting to push beyond the bubble risks too much, I’m safer right here where I don’t feel too acutely, most of the time.  I know it won’t last but there is no point in emerging before I have to.  To change the analogy, I don’t want the scab to fall off before I’ve started to heal underneath, if possible.

I’ve eaten too much today.  I’m going to make peppermint tea and go to bed.  Goodnight, darlings.

Z’s thoughts are elsewhere

My Dutch friend Irene, whom I visited in Maastricht in September, is dying tonight by her own choice.  That is, she has terminal lung cancer and she decided that this is the day to up her medication to a level her body cannot survive.  Her family is with her and her daughter has been good enough to share this with Irene’s friends on Facebook.

I’m rather dismayed to realise that I’m playing for church services four times in a week.  The clarinet tomorrow, the organ on Wednesday, I’m not sure which on Thursday, the clarinet on Sunday.  The clarinet is much easier to play well, as long as it’s in good order and the player has breath and good lip muscles.  Sadly, my lip muscles are right out of condition.  I practised this evening and I was finding it hard after playing all four hymns/carols once – that is, one verse of each – never mind the four or so that I’ll need.  I slept very poorly last night so I don’t really have the oomph to play more tonight.

When one is awake in the early hours, there is a certain Facebook cameraderie and a couple of my young friends encouraged me to get up and eat, so I made scrambled eggs on toast and coffee and brought them back to bed at 3 am.  It didn’t do much for the sleeping though and I only slept for about another hour.  It’ll be better tonight.

I need to make a note of what I still have to do, such as ice the cake.  Not that I like icing much, I could put nuts on instead.  Anyway, it has to be done.  I’ve got a few presents left to buy, not much.  I never wrap anything until I’ve bought everything, it makes life simpler and I think it’s far more fun to do it all at the last.