Monthly Archives: December 2014

Z slept all night!

I spent quite some time this morning writing an update to my solicitor.  That’s another thing that’s been waiting in the wings for a while.  i’ve given him the valuations I have so far and told him what I have yet to do.  Eloise and I had a rather fraught day a couple of weeks ago getting cracking on things I’d been neglecting, we were both upset in the end, but it turned me round and I can cope with paperwork again.

By the time I’d done that, I was running a bit late for Zerlina’s carol concert.  I had to look up the address of the church, put the postcode into my phone and set off – I ended up cutting it fine, by which I mean 15 minutes before the service was due to start and behind the three coachloads of children.  Weeza had warned me about that – however, it was the best possible place, as I was able to park behind a coach and right outside the church.

It was as lovely and heartwarming as these occasions always are. Zerlina saw us and gave a little wave, when she was among those who volunteered to fetch the crib characters – she carried a cow.  The younger children did a Nativity scene and everyone sang and we all loved it.  Afterwards, we scooted out and were among the first to get away, so were not held up at all by numerous cars, at least one stuck in mud, trying to get down a single-track road.

I went back to Weeza and Phil’s house, where the builders have done a lot since I was last there, I’m not sure how long ago.  I think it was in September, as they have been so kind and come and helped me here most weekends.  It’s looking lovely, all the new bedrooms are now ready to be decorated.

This evening, I put up the Christmas tree.  I haven’t finished decorating it, as I ran out of hooks for decorations – it’s a lot bigger than those we’ve had in the last few years and, while I have plenty of decorations, I don’t have anything to put them up with.  And I’m now down to one set of lights, which look a bit sparse.  I’ll finish off tomorrow.

Z buys a Christmas tree

I suppose I will have to go through a whole year or more of ‘firsts.’  Today was one of them.  I went to buy a Christmas tree.  That’s always been Russell’s job.  And tomorrow, once I’ve found the stand, I’ll put it up and decorate it – though I’ll have to shift some furniture first, it’s bushy.

Another first, now I think about it, is Christmas boxes.  Russell always liked to leave the Christmas tips.  I gave my cleaners £15 each and I’ve left £10 for the milkman – I’m guessing really, I don’t know how much is appropriate.  I remember that, when I was a child, my mother packed up parcels of tea for the dustmen, but she might well have slipped in a pound note for each of them too.  I’m assuming that there will be four and a fiver each is okay?  Any advice would be very welcome.  And £20 for the postman? Yet there are several postmen, so who will get it is a matter of chance.  This is all a bit grown up for me, I’m 61 years old and I’ve never done it before and I’m floundering.  I feel tearful and inept.

The reason is not about the Christmas presents (and I feel that the lovely people who come and give quietly excellent service all through the year deserve their tip and really want to be appropriate) but because my friend Marian is dying.  I just wrote this on Facebook because, frankly, I knew I’d get those virtual hugs and rather needed them.

A very old friend had a stroke a few weeks ago. She was doing well and was pleased to have her friends’ cards and loving messages, but then she had another, more serious one. Her elder sister, aged 99, has taken the intolerably difficult decision to remove life-giving support. It’s the right decision, but how we will all miss her.

That I feel awful isn’t relevant, this isn’t about me, though I’m not going to turn away from a virtual hug. Please think kindly about dear Marian and her family.

This has been a hard year for me and my friends.  I hope it has been better for you.  

Tomorrow, I will decorate my Christmas tree.  Onwards, my friends, and upwards.  Always remember, laugh and the world laughs with you.  Cry and you get what you want….oh, wait…..


Not quite an overflow

Russell had always said that the septic tanks were fine and didn’t need to be emptied, but actually it would have been better if they’d been done a few years ago.  As it is, I checked them just in time, I reckon another week and we’d have had a problem with the house one anyway, and the other was pretty damn full too, and they couldn’t be done in one go.  I’ll have to have Clint the honey-cart man back in the spring.  Still, since I did remember to check them, I’m counting this as a win.

Ben was thrilled to see Spike and his dad and cheerily went out to their car.  I wonder if he’ll be surprised not to come home again tonight – though they’ve asked me to look after him on Sunday, when they’re going to be out!  This is going to work in a cheerfully relaxed fashion, it’ll be fine once we’ve all adjusted.

Anastasia woke up after I’d left the lamp on for a couple of hours and basked for a while, then she started to move about a bit so I gave her a warm bath.  Later, when I walked Ben, I found some dandelion leaves and a flower and left them to tempt her to eat, but she walked on by.  However, in the remains of a bag of salad, I found a sprig of lamb’s lettuce and she headed for that and chomped it.  So she’s remembered the pleasure of eating and she will be fine.  Tonight, she’s sleeping in a small terracotta plant pot.  I weighed her, she is just 49 grams and a couple of milligrams shorter than her sister, who kept eating for longer.  I daresay it’ll equal out over the winter.

Two invitations received today, woo hoo!

Z talks to herself

The senior leaders at the school asked me to join them for their end of term meal at a local pub, unexpected and very kind of them.  There were twelve of us and we walked from the school, two or three miles each way – this was in connection with the charity we are supporting, Walking with the Wounded – double amputee and Paralympian Duncan Slater was our guest at last night’s prizegiving: or rather he should have been but he’d had an injury and couldn’t make it, so other representatives came instead.  The idea is to walk home from work one day, but this isn’t really practicable as some of the staff live miles away and it’s the wrong time of the year for it (although Duncan was one of those who walked to the South Pole, so it’s not an entirely valid excuse) so a brisk five mile round trip was our compromise.  In fact, walking from the school to the pub and back was further than walking to school and back for me, so I’m on the right side.

I looked up the date when Anastasia went to sleep and it was about a month ago, so I reckoned I’d better start getting her out of hibernation.  I’d bought a large, fairly shallow plastic box and put earth and gravel, a big, flat piece of chalk, some bark and a small clay pot and a water dish in it.  I set up an infra red lamp to hang over it on the kitchen counter (well away from the cooking area, of course) and went to find the Tot.  A month ago, I’d spent some time searching for her as she’d dug down into the earth, I’d got her out and given her a bath to wake her up as I hoped she wouldn’t hibernate yet, but she was determined to.  This time, I looked first in her original choice of spot and there she was.  So I took her straight through and buried her again in the box, so that she wouldn’t be woken too quickly.  She’s been stirring a bit this afternoon and tomorrow I’ll put the lamp on to warm her up, then bath her and try to persuade her to eat.  In the meantime, Natasha has stopped eating but is still trundling around her enclosure.  I’ll stop heating it to try to get her to hibernate for a few weeks.  This is all vastly more complicated than I wanted it to be.

Tomorrow evening, Bex is coming to fetch Ben.  I’m going to miss him, but I know this is the right decision.  He’ll love living with them and Spike is so looking forward to it.  I’m all right on my own, I’ll just talk to myself even more than I do already.

Z thinks about winding down

It’s the school prizegiving tomorrow evening, which means I have to deliver a speech.  Not a long one – I’ve timed it in the past but I can’t remember how long it was in terms of time.  932 words, last year’s.  I stood here and said what I wanted to say, I suppose I should have recorded it because I can’t write it down now.  Never mind.  I’ve made a start and will finish it in the morning.  It’ll be the last one, this year’s, as I’ll be standing down as chairman next year and can just sit there in the audience.  And then I’ll ease out altogether, then or the next year.  It’ll be high time for me to retire.

A lot more has been done outside today, but not by me.  Clutter has been cleared and a fence has been painted, it’s all looking much better.  It’ll never be tidy, but I don’t want it to be.  This is a country cottage, albeit a large one, careful order is for the town, and isn’t my way of doing things anyway, I have to admit.

I think I’ve been playing too much Scrabble.  I was perturbed, during the night, to play CH and have it rejected.  It seemed that it had been removed from the list of permitted words.  But I had dreamt it, it’s still there.  I’d been quite indignant.  Clearly, I haven’t enough to think about.

I have one more email to write before I go to bed.  Goodnight, darlings.  Hope you sleep well.

More good things

The dead trees have been removed – no explanation as to why they died, the roots look quite healthy, yet all three died this spring, the cherry having flowered first.  The grass around them remained healthy.  Anyway, they were an eyesore, now all cut up for firewood and the twiggy bits burnt.

I lit the bonfire with a single match, always a source of satisfaction.  I built a new bonfire in fact, just in case a hedgehog might be hibernating in the existing one.

More clearing in general done, which is another little drain of tension.

Constructive discussion about sale and removal of some Stuff.  Nothing valuable, but it’s likely I’ll be paid a bit rather than having to pay to have it taken away – it’ll offset some of the cost of the manpower and skips.

Cheques arrived! – this is regular quarterly income, but very welcome.

The front porch and the cupboard are stacked with logs, I won’t have to fetch more for weeks.  Next, I’ll get all the coal scuttles filled.  I’m using about half a scuttleful of coal a day as well as wood.

I’ve requested a new PIN.  I’ll write down all the rest for a day so that, when I memorise the replacement, I don’t forget one of the others.

One of my favourite phone games has had a satisfyingly difficult new set of free levels added.

I played the piano this evening.

Lovely long chat with Eloise on the phone this evening.

I watched another film.

Nothing went wrong.  Nothing at all.

Z gets on with things and feels the better for it. Z also acquires £80

Talking to friends is so healing.  Not that this isn’t going to be a life-long process, but both talking and listening are good for both parties.  So, here are good things from today.

A friend called in for coffee.

I then went out and met a friend for more coffee.

I met today’s postman in the drive and he stopped to say he was sorry to hear about Russell and we talked for several minutes.  What a nice man.

In the post was a cheque for £25, which is the third Premium Bond win, since Russell died, from his bonds.  I find this quite comforting.

I dusted and hoovered, I cleaned the kitchen and I descaled the filter on the dishwasher.

I got all the papers together for Tim, my accountant – he already had most of the information he needed, but now he has all of it, including some to do with my family trust (it’s a small one, nothing exciting) that I have been too stressed at the thought to deal with for nearly twelve years.  The realisation, finally, that time will not make it easier and that it’s a clear lesson to learn regarding Russell’s estate, pushed me into Just Doing It.  Or rather, to gather things up and employ someone to do it.

I’d found a bundle of Russell’s dividend vouchers and gave them to Tim.  Looking through them, he found £55 in a folded sheet of paper.

Ben has been very loving and cuddly all evening.

I had a delicious ribeye steak for dinner.

I opened a bottle of Prosecco and drank a toast to Russell to thank him for the cheque.  Well, I wanted to thank someone.

This evening, I chilled and watched a film.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  Maybe soon I’ll manage to read another book.  I haven’t read more than a few pages of one this month yet.  I’ve read maybe half a dozen books in the last four months, when I used to read that many in a week.  It’s not exactly that I can’t concentrate, but that I can’t get interested; or rather, that I can’t care.

Now, I’m going to let the dog out and back in again, have a bath and go to bed.  Stuff to do in the garden tomorrow.

Z is going to bed now

I tried what I thought was the PIN and it wasn’t.  So I tried the same digits, but differently, and it wasn’t that either.  So I’ll have to ask for a reminder because the card will be swallowed on the third attempt at a cashpoint.

At the meeting this morning, it became apparent that I was the only person who had a ‘historical’ perspective on the subject under discussion – it wasn’t crucial, but it explained a course of events over the past eight or so years.  That doesn’t look especially interesting, now I look at it written down, but I like putting things in context – yes, I am a bit dull that way.  Anyway, in addition I was happy to hear that there have been two nominations for the two parent governor places we have, which means there does not have to be an election – better still, they are both experienced primary school governors, which gives them a head start in understanding what’s involved.  Things are going well with me easing myself out of the chairmanship too so, although there’s a lot of work going on, it’s all promising.

My gardener fitted the new pond liner today, but it was getting dark by the time I arrived home so I haven’t been to have a look at it.  It’s going to be lovely having a pond again – it’s only a small one, but plenty of room for tadpoles.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if it attracted some newts?  Not that I’ve any objection to just getting frogs.  I’m sure I have mentioned this, but I always kiss any frog that gets into my hands.  It only works occasionally, but it seems worth taking the chance.  Not that I’m in search of a prince, not even a handsome one.  I just like frogs.

Step by step

I’m doing little jobs at present.  I’ve written to Norwich Castle Museum to take Russell off our joint Friends’ list, I’ve phoned the theatre to change his name to mine (when we became Friends, it was in his name because he was over 60 and then I wasn’t) – things like that.  My accountant is calling in on Friday to sort out more things.  The car started easily this morning as there wasn’t a frost (the appalling weather that has hit some places isn’t in East Angular, which is usually temperate and more-or-less lovely) and I took it to the garage, walked back into town and Dilly picked me up.  Hay and I made cakes and he decorated them most beautifully.  IMG_3537
And then, when I offered him a cake, he chose one of the simplest!  He’s a darling little boy and I’ve really missed our weekly Mondays.

It’s the ordinary treats that I love with my grandchildren – that is, the opportunities to devote myself to them, but not in a spectacular, once a year fashion, because I’m so lucky enough to live reasonably close to them and I’m not a remote figure, however much loved.  They can take me for granted, which is more of a privilege than it sounds.

Tonight, I roasted a brace of partridges.  I was just dishing them up when the outside light came on – it was the delivery of my new shoes (I’ve finally succumbed to buying shoes online, darlings, we must blame Zig) – and not Roses, who I had half-thought might arrive in time for supper.  However, I was eating in the sitting room in front of the fire when she did arrive home, so I quickly cooked some more greens and gave her the second partridge.  I do like having her living next door and we suit each other very nicely – that is, I feel it and I hope she does – we can call on each other at any time but don’t feel offish if we don’t hear from or see each other for several days.  We’re both pretty self-reliant, but appreciative of support.  Pretty good, I think.

Oh, and nice Graham from lovely garage delivered the car back just when I needed it.  Truly, it’s a fine garage and I appreciate the fact that I know I can rely on them.

Tomorrow, an early meeting and then I’m out for lunch.  The latter should be fun but will be a bit sad.  Our dear friend Marian is gravely ill and, at nearly 97, a recovery – even survival – is very unlikely.   I shall miss her very much.

Z gets a jump start

Well, I have made a start on Christmas shopping, which is pretty early for me.  I must make a List and start ticking off whom I’ve bought for.  I haven’t done a thing about a tree yet – we’ve had one in a pot for the past three years but it was rather neglected in the summer and I haven’t checked if it’s fit to use again.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  It’s only a little one.

Natasha the tortoise has finally started to prepare for hibernation.  She has stopped eating – I found a dandelion flower for her yesterday and she sniffed it and thought about eating it, but decided not to.  She’s being a textbook little tot and I appreciate her.  I must look up when Anastasia went to sleep and wake her up after four weeks.  I’ve bought a plastic box, which I’ll supply with suitable materials and put in the kitchen with a lamp above – it’ll be too cold for a wakeful tortoise in the porch by January, but it’s fine for Edweena’s hibernation.

I’ve paid my sub for the Yacht Club – the RNSYC in L’stoft, that is – although I haven’t been there at all in the past year.  It was a big part of my life for many years and I’ll never resign my membership; too much of a link with the past.  We had our wedding reception there, my parents and grandparents were members, it was a huge part of our social life when I was growing up and I would only resign if I left Norfolk/Suffolk and I never will.

Charlotte told me that she met someone last week who, with his wife, sold their house upon their retirement and travelled for seven years before buying a house and settling down again.  She told him about my ideas for having a period of time between house ownership and domesticity.  They bought a round-the-world ticket and took their time over travelling, spent some while in this country living in a camper van, with most of their possessions sold or put in storage.  While the thought still appeals, seven years would be far too long.  My reaction, for myself, was “what a waste of my time that would be, at my age!” I also realised that I don’t want to see the world so much as to see friends.  Clearly, it was just what they wanted, but I like to be part of a community.

The value of that was shown this morning.  The last couple of times we’ve had a frosty morning, the car has been reluctant to start, so I went into the garage yesterday and ordered a new battery.  I’m getting it tomorrow.  But the car wouldn’t start at all this morning and the engine coughed miserably.  So I went indoors and phoned my friend Barry.  “I’ll come round straight away,” he said, and so he did.  I do keep jump leads in the car, so I got them out and looked up the manual to find out how to open the bonnet.  By the time I’d done that, Barry had arrived – like me, he says what he means.  If he’d not been able to come for ten minutes, he’d have said so.  So we attached the two batteries together and I was back on the road again.  Fingers crossed that it’ll start tomorrow, but Dilly will be here by 9.15 so, if necessary, she says I can make use of her battery.  Then, I’ll have Hadrian for the morning, which I’m looking forward to very much.  We might make cake…..