Monthly Archives: February 2015

Z is home again

It was lovely to be with Zig for a couple of days.  We met through blogging and she’s one of my dearest friends.  Some of you are too, I don’t put a limit on the number of those I call best friends!

Now I’m home again and all has been well, thanks to Roses.  She and the bantams have come to an agreement and they are all happy, the Tots are fine and eating like great big tortoises, to the extent that I think I will have to restrict access to lamb’s lettuce.

Today, I put on the heat lamp in Edweena’s enclosure in the porch.  A couple of hours later, i returned, intending to wake her, but she had already dug herself out and was waiting for me.  I picked her up and gave her a bath, then returned her under the lamp with some food.  She went for an explore round the run and then started tucking into the food.  So I think it can be said that she is on track to have come through hibernation in fine fettle.

I looked in the greenhouse and some lettuce and flower seeds have sprouted already.  Won’t be long before I can start on the job I really enjoy, pricking out seedlings.  Bringing up babies is my line of work, even if they’re just little plants.  Actually, they’re easier than bringing up babies, obvs.

Tonight, I’ve mostly been watching television.  I watched the last episode of Wolf Hall on iPlayer, and it was as magnificent as the others have been.  Now, I’m watching Series 3 of House of Cards on Netflix and it’s absorbing.  I’ve also been listening to a lot of music of various styles.  If my capacity to concentrate on these things is improving, I’m going to find life so much more stable.


Talking to the animals

I had an uneventful drive down to Ziggi and arrived in the early afternoon. Her sister was here, having been to stay overnight. We had met at Zig’s birthday party earlier this month. Not long after she left, another friend called in to say hello and this evening, Zig’s elder daughter phoned from Australia. So it’s been sociable. And tomorrow, Mig is going to call in to see us.

I’m in Zig’s spare bed now, along with Eva the cat and Bertie the dog. Another cat, that I think is Gary, is at the top of the stairs and Indi is somewhere in the room too. It’s all very comfortable. Tomorrow morning, we need to do some pony wrangling as the farmer is going to cut the hedge in their field so they need to be penned first.  We’re taking out another friend’s dog as she will be out all day.  Zig and I talk in a wistful sort of way about her coming to live with me with all her animals. There’s plenty of room. I say that she would have to live in the house with me, as Roses is in the annexe and she’s fine with that. There’s plenty of room for the horses and I could turn the black cowshed into a stable.

Oh well. It’s nice to think about.

Weight and see

The third funeral in ten days this morning.  I was the organist, not one of the mourners on each occasion, that is.  This time, it started promptly and the timing of the music worked out fine.

Because I was playing, I didn’t look to my right and over my shoulder as the coffin was brought in and it wasn’t until well into the service that I noticed its size.  The man who died was younger than I am by nearly a year and a half, but he was a tall man of great enthusiasms who did everything in life with gusto, including eating, drinking and smoking and he’d spent some time in a nursing home, suffering from emphysema, before he died where he’d apparently put on even more weight.  The coffin was the biggest I’d ever seen and it was on a metal gantry rather than the usual wooden trestles.  When it was taken out, it was wheeled rather than carried.  The verger later told me that the undertakers had been quite anxious about it because of the steps through the church porch.  There is level access round the back, but the single door, though a wide one, was two inches too narrow to accommodate the coffin.  I don’t know how many people it would have taken to carry it, but the attempt was not made.

The rest of my seed order arrived and I spent some more time in the greenhouse this afternoon.  Yesterday, I found I still had some seeds left of some of the tomatoes I grew last year, so sowed a few of each, having forgotten how many more packets I’d bought.  I’ve rather lost count of how many there are, at least seven different varieties, about eight seeds of each.  I hope the family want to grow a few plants and will take some off my hands.

It’s been a busy day. This morning, I had a school meeting first thing, then the funeral, then back home to let my monthly cleaners in.  I scooted around for half an hour when they arrived, putting away clean laundry, finding them bed linen to change the sheets, clearing out the grate and emptying the ash pan before they dusted the room, bringing in fuel and lighting the fire, emptying the dishwasher and restacking it so that they had a clear run in the kitchen.  A friend arrived, by arrangement, while I was doing it and I made him coffee.  Then I returned two phone calls, one to make an appointment for next week and the other to discuss a school matter, I phoned the dentist to alter an appointment and I rang my surgeon’s secretary to confirm that she would book an x-ray for me when I go for my appointment.  This afternoon was rather quieter – and I still have an email to write.  Excuse me, darlings.  Goodnight.

Time to sow seeds

I’ve looked up the china website – it is an Australian company, founded in 1921 and, although it’s had several changes of name over the decades, the present name was adopted in 1997.  So they must have ordered the china to be made in the UAE.  None of their patterns is anything like the blue and white one I showed you and I suspect it must have been commissioned specially by the Norwich museum.  It’s so like the Robert Browne pattern that I feel it must have been.

One of my seed orders has arrived, so I’ve been sowing peppers, tomatoes, chillies, aubergines and a few other things.  Those that need most warmth are in the heated propagator.  I’m popping down to see Ziggi later in the week, so Roses will keep an eye on it, though it’s just a matter of unplugging the heater when it’s too warm in there, for the time being.  Next time I’m away, she’ll find herself caring for seedlings.

For many years, when my children were growing up, my greenhouse was the place I went to for peace and tranquillity.  Now, of course, I can have that anywhere at home.  The sounds are natural ones – right now, I can hear a bird singing in the garden and the crackling of the fire in the hearth, a faint sound from the computer and nothing else – or sounds I make myself or cause to be made.  I have a great sense of loss, if I let myself dwell on it, but I mostly don’t, because there’s no point.

My solicitor is nearly ready to fill in the application for probate.  That it’s taken six months is my fault as I haven’t been in any hurry to get valuations done, but it hasn’t mattered in practical terms.  After that, it’ll be a matter of getting everything put in my name.  A friend who phoned me to commiserate, a week or two after Russell died, said with rather unsuitable interest “So you’re a woman of means, now?”  Not that there’s any difference from how it used to be, it’s just that Russell and I had left everything to each other.  Our incomes were pretty well the same and we never fussed about who paid for what.  And how I wish that things were as they used to be, before he was ill.  Since that’s obviously impossible, I am glad to find that it’s comfortable, peaceful and not at all lonely living alone.  Losing the man I loved for so long is something I will never get over, but I will continue to manage.

Old and New

When I took little Zerlina to Norwich Castle museum the other day, my pot of tea, cup and saucer were in an attractive china seemingly inspired by an antique Lowestoft pattern, named after Robert Browne. Here it is –
IMG_3736 IMG_3735
My parents having been hoteliers, it took my mother many years to drop the habit of turning over the china in every restaurant she went to, to check the maker, and I still do it occasionally myself.  I was surprised this time, though.  Sorry the picture is on its side, but it says

‘Hotel Grade Porcelain, Australian Fine China, The Tabletop Professionals, made in UAE, 0031’ and the picture is a black swan, which is Australian, of course.  I’m assuming that someone saw the china and thought how like the Lowestoft pattern it was, but it still puzzles me that the china was made in the United Arab Emirates but named Australian, and that it ended up in Norwich.

It’s of no consequence, I just thought I’d mention it.

I’d like to put up pictures more often, but the website really doesn’t much like uploading them and it’s stuck on the third one, which is a piece of the original china.  I’m thinking I might use my old Blogger blog for that and put a link – no need for anyone to click through, of course, unless they wanted to.  Ronan can tweak the website – he explained the problem, it’s to do with automatically backing up, as far as i remember, and he can deal with it but it will recur – however, I don’t like to keep bothering him.  At present, I mostly put pictures on Facebook, though I often then delete them from my phone, they’re not worth cluttering up my computer.

Young Stevo and a friend of his came over to shift logs for me today – they chopped them first and I have another big pile down near the garages.  I don’t particularly want them there, but I can’t think of a better place if I want them on hard ground rather than on grass.  I daresay we’ll burn a fair few, as we say in  Norfolk, before the winter is over.  I’ve suggested to Weeza that she come over and fill the van for their wood burner.  They have underfloor central heating but, nice as it is, they were alarmed by how quickly it burnt the first tank of oil last winter and they moderate its use as it’s so expensive.  The woodburner is fantastic, it heats their huge room very quickly.  And a real fire is such a pleasure, of course.  I’ve been very warm this winter because I’ve lit the fire in the morning and kept it going all day, the room doesn’t get cold during the night and, though I’ve had my storage heater on for the last couple of months, it’s been kept fairly low and I turned it down lower still yesterday.

Hah! – I sneaked up on the image uploader and I’ve got it! You see the similarity?  The piece below would have been made in the 1770s and handpainted.


Z doesn’t throw stones. Or stow thrones, come to that.

Today, I’ve been getting the greenhouse ready.  I’ve set up the soil warming cables, cleaned the window, some broken glass has been replaced and I’ve got pots and seed trays ready to be filled.  Now, all I need is my seed order to arrive, which I’m sure will be on Monday.  It was all very pleasing and I enjoyed myself in the sunshine.  I suppose there’s still time for winter to strike, but there won’t be much of it, if any.

Weeza and co called in during the afternoon and when I brought out the fruit cake I made yesterday, Gus jumped up and down with delight.  He was surprisingly overjoyed.  They stayed for an early supper and then sloped off, apologising for all the washing up – which I don’t mind at all, it’s not as if I’m going to be standing with my arms in suds, after all.

This afternoon, I went up to the attics to check on the mousetraps.  I haven’t been up there for a while, not having found any the last few times I’ve looked.  In one attic, the three traps were untouched and I rebaited them with peanut butter, thinking that fresh food would appeal if there were any mice about.  Russell had put a number of boxes up there in the last couple of years and I noticed that a couple of them contained papers, some of which were in labelled files, so that’s the next place to turn out.  There are still papers I haven’t managed to find.  In the other attic, two of those three traps had caught mice and the third was empty of bait, so that was a particularly light-footed creature.  I’m sorry to have to kill them but there isn’t really a choice, I can’t have them breeding in the house and I’d soon be overrun.  They usually confine themselves to the attic and there certainly isn’t a problem this mild winter, thank goodness.

This evening, I played the clarinet for a while and then listened to music, while replying to a couple of letters.  I still always seem to have a backlog of letters, I can’t catch up.  I think I’m going to have to make a list, because there are some that have been waiting for a while.  Perhaps I should just direct everyone here.

6 months

I usually succeed in forgetting anniversaries.  I prefer it that way.  They can catch you out, one way or another. I hadn’t expected today to do that so much, but it did.  I wandered around this morning feeling shocked and lonely and not knowing what to do about it.  It wasn’t that I did nothing of course, the usual chores first and then I went out and cleared a friend’s garden rubbish into his garden waste bin – he’s on holiday and he’d got more than could fit in one time, so I’d promised to refill it – and I picked up young Stevo, who was working in the garden for me today.  When he came in to eat his lunch, I made myself a stir-fry of lots of vegetables and then dragged myself together.  I turned out a cupboard that had rather a lot of old VHS tapes at the back of it.  There was only one I wanted to save, which had Russell on it, being interviewed about china for the BBC.  It’s only about 3 minutes long,but I wanted to find it.  More recently, but still some years ago, he was on Flog It, but I don’t think I’ve got that recorded any more.

The cupboard also had a lot of board games and jigsaw puzzles, going back to when the children all lived here, most of them in very good condition.  I’ll see if they’re wanted by any of the family, I’ve no likely use for them.  And now, though the cupboard is still half full, there’s plenty of room for the grandchildren to keep their stuff.

I still felt rather odd and didn’t know what to do with myself, so I resorted to food again, or rather to cooking.  First, I made cake, a boiled fruit cake (that is, you simmer the fruit with sugar, butter and water) and then I started to look for recipes to cook for tonight.  I had a piece of salmon, rather more than I needed for myself – I asked Roses to get me some from the fishmonger (and I haven’t paid her for it yet, now I think about it) but the children and I didn’t eat it earlier in the week.  Most of the dishes came from the same Madhur Jaffrey book in the end, except for the spicy Masala potatoes – I also had aubergines, tossed in turmeric and cayenne pepper and then fried, and broccoli cooked with fennel and mustard seeds.  I spent a busy hour preparing everything, because it was all quick to cook.

I suspect that, in time, I’ll look back in mild bemusement at all the trouble I’m taking now.  I’m clearly not quite balanced at present.  One doesn’t have to be the keenest of amateur psychologists to know that I was bustling round with such busy concentration as a way of managing my time, as well as caring for myself.  But at least there’s a square meal as a result.  Though I’ve rather a lot of leftovers tonight.  

Z’s day

It’s not just looking after the children that’s taken my time, it’s been all the driving too, as I mentioned the other day.  It all went wonderfully well,  I’ve had a lovely week and I hope that Zerlina and Gus have too.

After all the complicated to-ing and fro-ing, I brought Z back here last night.  She’d had tea with her friends at the party, so I hadn’t had to feed her myself.  Once she was in bed, I didn’t know what to eat.  I’d bought a lamb chop for myself but I didn’t feel like cooking or eating it.  In the end, I ate chorizo, cheese and olives with cherry tomatoes and sliced pepper, sitting in front of the fire watching Wolf Hall.  I watched two episodes back to back in fact, as I’d missed last week’s and I realised at 8 o’clock that I could catch up and watch the next one immediately afterwards.

Today, things went efficiently too.  I was awake for several hours in the night so was too sleepy to revive when Z woke up at about 7.40.  I mumbled the pass code for my iPad and went straight back to sleep for another hour, to the amusement of my gardener when I came downstairs in my dressing gown. “The clocks haven’t changed yet,” he remarked.

He had a small job to get on with, so I cooked bacon for Z and me and an egg for her.  I went out to the bantams, but they hadn’t laid any eggs this morning (they didn’t all day, in fact, nor yesterday, little scamps) so I just gave them breakfast and let them out.  We each had two sizeable rashers,, she had a fried egg and bread and butter, I had a piece of toast.  Once she’d polished that off, she asked if she could have more bacon, so I cooked two more rashers and then she had toast too.  She’s only six and, though tall, she’s a slender child and I can’t think where she puts it.

I went round the garden with Wince and we agreed what the programme for his day was, then I lit the bonfire as he assured me it would rain this afternoon.  Then, Zerlina and I went out in the car on a series of errands – first, to get a couple of bags of mixed corn for the chickens.  Then we went back to Yagnub by the back road, which reminded me to get diesel for the car.  Then up to the farm for eggs and a litre of raw milk (I don’t need the milk and will have to think of a way to use it, but it’s fun to fill the bottle) and back to the garden centre on the same road, for bags of compost ready for seed sowing when my order arrives.  As we came through the town, I was able to stop in a 20 minute parking place right by the shops, so was able to pop in and get a loaf of bread.  We called in at the store near me, wanting to buy some plants for the pond, but it’s too early in the year so we amused ourselves for half an hour watching the tropical fish, terrapins and frogs, and the rabbits and guinea pigs.

Zerlina had asked for pancakes again and, since she’d had a protein-filled breakfast and I like to say Yes!, that’s what we had for lunch.  Mine were flavoured with sugar and lemon juice, but only one of hers was.  One contained syrup and the other was spread with Nutella.  Then Z went through to have fun with Roses while I went off to the church to play the organ for a funeral.

I didn’t know the lady nor any of her family, except by name but she was clearly very much loved.  I haven’t been playing for funerals for several years but ran through the music and it was okay, and set out the books in the order I wanted to play the voluntaries (which are pieces of music played before and after the service).  The funeral was due to start at 2, so at 1.58, I started on the piece I planned to be playing as the coffin was brought in.

This is something that no one would think about, but careful timing is aimed for.  When the coffin is brought in, the parson intoning “I am the Resurrection and the Life…”, it’s brought along the aisle and placed carefully on trestles by the pallbearers, what the organist wants to do is to continue to play suitable music right up until the bearers walk away and the vicar stops speaking.  Five seconds or so either way is fine, but one doesn’t want a long silence nor to keep people waiting – nor to have to stop abruptly.  It’s something that one only notices if it’s done badly.  Today, the coffin was brought in late.

The organ is up by the choir stalls and I can’t see when the coffin is being brought up the path. At last week’s funeral it was fine, a CD was being played and the verger looked out and put it on at the right time.  I played my piece twice and then moved on to another suitable item.  There’s another thing, by the way – if you are shuffling through your music as the vicar starts to speak it’s very awkward, so you try not to have more than a second or two as a changeover.

Time passed and I kept playing.  I played a third piece.  I had a fourth, but by this time it was ten past two and it was rather long and I hadn’t checked for mid-piece stopping places, so I didn’t risk it.

Back to piece one.  Back to piece two.  I was well into that again when, just after quarter past two, I finally heard the Rector’s voice.  And I got the timing right, to my great relief.  And the going out was fine because I’d reserved my music for that, I didn’t want to use it early and discreetly shuffle through papers for something to go out to.

It transpired that the person reading a poem had travelled by coach from London and was unavoidably late.    If it had been a crematorium, it would have been impossible to wait for him, but timing in a church can be kinder and the Rector did the right thing by reassuring the family and just waiting.  I wish I’d known, but I don’t really see how I could have been told and it didn’t actually matter.  I have, however, brought home the music of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring to practise a bit because I haven’t played it for several years (it’s not a favourite) but it has the advantages of going on for ages with lots of opportunities for repeats but also for stoppages.  However, it’s so well known that I couldn’t risk winging it as any mistakes would have been obvious.

Later, I dropped Roses off at the garage, Stevo back at home and took Zerlina to Boringland to meet her mother.  So now I’m on my own and about to cook that lamb chop that I didn’t have yesterday.

Tomorrow, I have no idea what I’ll do.  I might prepare the greenhouse, I might turn out a cupboard, I might spend the day cooking or I might just slob in front of the tv.  I might even go shopping.


It’s all going to plan so far.  It was so good to see Kavitha and family, and Sam and Zerlina, though they don’t see each other often, got on with each other immediately.  Sami is about 9 months older than Z.

It was 6.30 when we arrived back here so I cracked on with making pancakes – Gus had had some at his childminder’s, but Z hadn’t had any yet.  I put out lemons, sugar, golden syrup and Nutella.  I’ve always been something of a pancake purist, sticking normally to the lemon juice and sugar combo, but I tried spreading one with Nutella.  Darlings, it was heaven.  I went all Harry Met Sally with my squeals and groans of delight, to the high amusement of the children.  I’d barely calmed down when Roses popped through – I’d had a couple of crates of wine delivered and Lawrence kindly carried them through for me.  I was down to my last 7 bottles of red, it was high time to stock up.

Lawrence recommended Nutella and banana, so I had to try that too.  More squeals of gustatory joy, I have to confess.  Yet, after the children were in bed, I ferreted around for something non-sweet but not too filling and finally had to resort to black coffee and Twiglets.  Bacon for breakfast tomorrow, I think.

It’s complicated

I’m over with Weeza and co for a couple of nights while Roses holds the fort back home.  Last summer, I found out rather late in the day that Weeza and Phil had used most of their holiday time to take time off to look after Zerlina while school was out and, although they both enjoyed the extra time with their daughter, it was a pity they didn’t have much extra time all together as a family. So I suggested that they used me for the purpose in future instead.  Of course, I don’t have school things on either at that time, so I’m not so likely to have commitments.

It’s turned out to be a bit complicated this week. Weeza’s boss opens his garden every year on a Sunday to raise money for charity and she asked if I’d like to go over there, so I headed off after church.  The forecast had been rain this weekend, but Norfolk dunt see too much of the wet stuff and the day stayed fine.  Soup and sausages were served and Weeza and I, being the useful types, helped with washing up wine glasses. I had met her boss once briefly and hadn’t met his wife before, but that didn’t stop me making myself at home in their kitchen and they politely didn’t seem to mind.

After a convivial evening chez Weeza, I slept soundly and ambled downstairs in  time to wave her off to work and Gus to the childminder. Zerlina and I headed off, after a suitably leisurely breakfast, to Norwich castle museum, where we looked at the bits of it we wanted to – in no mood to be culture vultures but just to have a nice day out – and kept stopping for food, drink and trips to the very nice little shop there. We then stopped on the way back at Wroxham to buy some food odds and ends, including bread for the ducks, which were actually geese, swans, pigeons and a few gulls. When we got back, we made some fairy cakes, iced them in a pleasant turquoise hued butter icing and decorated them with Haribo sweets in the shape of Minions. Then I cooked sausages and mash for tea.

So far, so simple, but now it’s going to require efficiency. Tomorrow, Gus goes to the childminder, then Kavitha, Rajesh and Sami are coming for the day here. K and Weeza have been best friends since school and we went to their wedding in Chennai 11 years ago.  I’ll pick up Gus on my way home with Z and they’ll spend the night, then I’ve a friend calling in on Wednesday morning. Then back to Weeza’s boss’s house because they’ve invited Z over to an unbirthday party and I’ll look after Gus until W gets home from work. Then I’ll pick up Z and bring her home with me. I’ll have her on Thursday except for an hour or so while I’m playing the organ for a funeral, when Roses will look after her. After that, I’ll either take her back to Weeza at work for 5 o’clock or else keep her for one more night when Weeza and Gus will pick her up on their way over to see another old school friend, who is up visiting her parents near Lowestoft, if she’s free. She’s expecting her first baby and everyone is very excited about that, as she has a health condition that made it uncertain if she could.

I like it when I’m obliged to keep on the ball.