Monthly Archives: February 2015

Z goes to the Queen

The last time I went to the village pub was sometime last spring, when I dropped in one weekday lunchtime when Russell was out, for a swift half, as it’s called.  It turned into a very slow pint as someone I know slightly was there and insisted on buying my drink.  He then insisted on buying a second, though I’d much rather have paid for that, then someone else joined us (both well known as fairly heavy drinkers) and I did manage to get the next round in, though I left myself out of that one.  I finally went home a couple of hours later, with a slight feeling of having taken too much time out of my day, and it rather put me off going for a bit.

However, today I went out to the post box and carried on walking round the village and, when I got as far as  the pub, I looked at my watch and it was just after 12.30.  So dropping in seemed to be a good idea.  I wanted to feel comfortable doing that, I like the pub and I’d been a bit shy of going in for the first time since Russell died.

And it was really nice and comfortable, people chatted and were friendly.  I had a second half and laughed about the silly notion I might have only one.  It’s £2.40 a pint now, by the way, which still seems quite reasonable.  In the days I used to visit regularly on Sunday lunchtime, which was years ago, it was £2 but that must have been the best part of a decade ago.  It wasn’t hugely busy but was going to be later, when the rugger was on, though I left before that and came and watched it at home.

I was thinking about how pleasant a place a traditional village pub is, if it has a good landlord.  Some years ago, someone I knew was telling me about her son and his Japanese wife, who had recently come back from Japan to London.  They came and visited for the weekend and she felt very self-conscious about being a foreigner.  It was all right in multi-ethnic London, she said, but they went into a rural Suffolk pub and everyone turned to stare at her.  It was explained that it wasn’t because she was foreign and it wasn’t unfriendly, just that she was a stranger.  If she’d smiled and been ready to chat, she’d have been included.  But she wasn’t convinced at all and I felt that there wouldn’t be too many return visits.  I’ll go back again, I liked it there.

Z thinks about music

I’m taking further steps to clear the barns, I’m glad to say, and hope that I can clear quite a large space in the next few weeks, having already sold the tractor and the two Morris Minors.  This evening, I’ve paid all the bills and finally worked out how much gas the Aga burns daily, which will enable me and Roses to share the bills fairly accurately.  I have more paperwork to do tomorrow, but will have Zerlina and Gus most of next week, so don’t want anything left over by then – though I’ll have evenings from Tuesday onwards.  There always seems to be a backlog of work though, I wonder how I’ll ever catch up with it all.

It’s been a good week, however busy – to the extent that I haven’t blogged, even though there were things I wanted to write about.  The most interesting day was Wednesday, when I was interviewing Year 11s – they are all given a mock interview, it being part of the process of preparing them for applying to university, jobs and apprentices and so on.  I met fifteen young people and it was most interesting.  Some of them are so mature and clear-sighted, it’s quite remarkable, and there was something to like in every one of them.  It’s noticeable that many of them, particularly the ones who seem to be particularly happy and confident, have a very good relationship with their parents.  Several referred to the influence one or both parents have on them, and to the advice and support of an elder sibling.  It’s rather lovely.  I went over to Al and co for supper afterwards and that was a delight as well.  By the time I got back, having been out of the house for rather over 12 hours (though I dropped in quickly to feed bantams and tortoises), I was sufficiently tired to go straight to bed.

Last night, I wrote up several of the interviews before going to sleep and then woke at 6 this morning.  I am finding it quite difficult to persuade myself of the necessity to get up of a morning unless there’s a pressing reason for it, I am quite able to lie for a couple of hours.  In this case, I listened to the radio until I felt revived enough to finish the writing and I was near the end, by about 9 o’clock, when the phone rang.  It was my sister-in-law, telling me about her recent very nasty operations.  “I’ve looked at Hell three times in the last month,” she told me briskly, “and I’m not ready to go there yet.”  The second call was someone wanting to make an appointment this afternoon and the third – I receive few phone calls normally and three before I’d even got up is unprecedented – was someone asking me to propose her for a committee job.  So it was after ten by the time I was bathed and dressed and I could only be glad that no one had called and caught me in my scanties.

The funeral this afternoon was uneventful, though the bearers seemed to be ages getting ready to leave with the coffin afterwards and I felt rather self-conscious, piping away on my clarinet.  I had given the matter some thought, having planned to play the chorus twice and then, if necessary, play the verse and then the chorus again.  In fact, it was chorus, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus before the last person left.  I played the last one loudly and finished with a flourish.  I was heartily glad I wasn’t playing it on the organ, anyway.

I’m going to take the programme for the Aldeburgh Festival to bed with me and have a browse.  I look forward to moving nearer to Norwich in due course, but I do regret that I will be too far to want to go to concerts at Snape regularly any more.  Even the 40 minute drive is a bit tedious on my own, and doubling it will probably be out of the question.  Still, there has to be a  roundabout to go with the swings, doesn’t there?

It’ll be fun

The week has turned a bit busy and I should be finishing some stuff now.  I’m taking it to bed, in the pretence that I won’t turn the light out within minutes of getting in it.

Rose called in for a cup of tea this afternoon and staggered back several hours later, after wine and supper too.  She’s good to have as a neighbour…

I let the chickens out today, for the first time for a few weeks.  They all came back again and, if they’re such good girls, I’ll do it again.  The weather forecast is rainy, however, so they’ll prefer to stay in.  My gardener, Wince, has been doing some general tidying up, which will be great when the spring comes – I’ve been trying to finish this for the past two years, but the grass always grew too quickly for me to clear away all the stuff that was scattered on it.  Now, there will be a clearer run for the mower on the grass.  This is the rough grassland, not the lawn, I should add.  I’m not sure that I can promise great tidiness for the blog party, but it should be a lot better than usual.  Outside, I can even see the prospect of getting it as I want it – which isn’t tidy at all, of course.  I’m not very fond of perfectly manicured big gardens, I like the natural effect.  Or that’s my excuse anyway.

Rose says she’s looking forward to starting veggies off in the greenhouse.  So am I, I think we should plan to make some early sowings next week.  It’ll be fun.

Z rambles on quite a bit. So?

I’ve been in my element in some respects today, because I need to make plans and that’s what I’m good at.  Seeing what needs to be done and analysing how to do it.  I don’t necessarily have to do it all myself, hem hem.

And then I came home and I got quite involved in reading really boring documents, of a type that interest me and few other people (a closet nerd is still a nerd), namely the Governors’ Handbook and the Academies’ Financial Handbook – latest versions, with particular reference to the changes.  It’s a sad thing to admit, but I like to know the rules.  I don’t necessarily follow them, unless they are statutory, when I do.  Clearly.

I spent so long on that, that I’m not quite ready yet for tomorrow’s meeting.  But I’m up to date overall, I feel quite buzzed and up with it.

However, I had a sudden let down, a couple of hours ago.  I was in the kitchen and had just counted the bottles of wine in the rack and then was thinking of something else, when the loss of Russell hit me.  I don’t know why, but then I don’t know why it usually doesn’t.  My shield is usually up but, for a while, it wasn’t and I was hit hard.

I tell you this because I trust you not to think you have to do anything.  I got through it and I’m all right again*.  Poor Russell, I sometimes feel that I block him too much, yet I need to.  And he blocked me, I tried my best to help him and he wouldn’t let me. I suppose he couldn’t, and I can’t, and that is the way we both are made.  I juggled a bit with the tenses there, but came down to the present, because that’s where I am and it’s where he would like to be and, in a way, he is with me, even if I can’t feel him there.

Anyway,  Let’s move on.

Baking – I’ve been thinking of making bread again, but then I don’t eat much of it.  So I’m thinking about yeast cookery in general.  Danish pastry, brioche, croissants and so on and so on – I feel the need to cook and to be engaged with cooking and that seems to suggest kneading – literally hands on – does that make sense?  Not that it matters if it doesn’t.

I had a phone call from the RNIB this evening – that’s the main charity for the blind.  It means a lot to me, my grandfather went blind and I dread it almost as much as dementia – no, nowhere near as much, except selfishly, that if I lost my mind I wouldn’t know, whereas the awfulness of losing my sight would hit me every day.  Anyway, I have a monthly standing order and subscribe to their quarterly raffle too.  I recognised the comfortable Scottish voice of the woman who rings me each time and said at once that she could send me raffle tickets.  But she had a new question – did I normally buy them myself or sell them on?  Well, this and that, but normally the former – so we dealt with the transaction briskly, I said how many I would buy and paid by debit card there and then.  I said that it reminded me of my mother when she used to hold coffee mornings, 30+ years ago and said to me and Wink, she would like to just charge people a fiver not to come and everyone would be saved time and trouble and the money go straight to the good cause.


Z’s Sunday

1 Played the clarinet.  It was fine.

2 Started to make the crumpets, discovered the recipe called for more milk than I had, so I whooshed off to Johnny’s farm for a litre of his splendid raw milk.  And his splendid raw-milk cheese too.

3 Made crumpets.  This took a while of course, as the first batter had to prove for an hour, then water, salt and baking powder were added and it had to rest again for twenty minutes.  Then I made the crumpets.  They’re enormous, much bigger than I expected.

4 I went for lunch with Roses and the friends she’d invited round for a DVD marathon.  I just had lunch.  I’ve promised to take through crumpets later if they’d like them, but that won’t be for a couple of hours yet.  I’m reckoning on one of the crumpets with the rest of the soup I made the other day for my supper.

5 And now I’m procrastinating.  I have some documents to go through and a meeting to prepare for.  But it’ll only take a couple of hours and I’ve the whole evening, so it doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, I’d rather blog.

Here is a picture of the finished crumpets.  The recipe said 10-12, but it also said to fill the rings just below the top.  I dunno.  Anyway, I trust they will taste good.


Alone isn’t lonely, necessarily. Though company is good.

It’s fairly rare for me to be lonely, nowadays.  I trained myself out of it many years ago.  I used often to be by myself when I was a child and, with a much older sister and parents who, though loving and caring, were not in the least child-centred, I had to be self-reliant a lot of the time.  Mostly, I read, but I loved the outdoors too and we had a big and interesting garden.  Then there were the dogs – you can never be lonely with a dog.

In later years and during my marriage, it was no good relying on Russell for company.  Frankly, he liked to go off and do his own thing and find me here waiting for him.  Which I might or might not be, of course, I don’t want to suggest that he was overbearing.

Last summer, I was lonely, I have to acknowledge.  Russell was here but he was not able to provide any company at all and the evenings stretched out very quietly.  I just wrote and deleted a lot more about that, but I find that I don’t want to talk about it.

Anyway, yesterday I was walking the dog and I realised that I wanted to call on a friend.  I didn’t quite get around to selecting a victim and that’s partly because, actually, I’m not great at calling on people unannounced.  But after the sociable time with Mig and Zig and the other guests, then with Charlotte back at home, I felt rather at a loss.

I told Roses about this today and she tells me that I have to start getting used to putting myself out a bit more – she’s right, of course, but that’s so unlike me that I’m not sure it’ll happen.  But anyway, most of the time enough people come to me.  I had a whole succession of callers this afternoon, which always cheers me up no end.  Jamie came to talk about getting coal and chicken food, his son Stevo came to fetch me wood and fill the coal buckets, Charlotte called in to pick up her phone charger which she’d left behind and she came with her friend Shaun and his dog.  So maybe all I need most is to be welcoming and hospitable.

Though I have written an email to Dilly this evening, to tell her that a former school friend of Squiffany’s now has a baby sister, and I invited myself to their house at the earliest convenient opportunity.  So that’s a bit of a step.

I had a sudden impulse to make crumpets this afternoon, but it wasn’t the best timing, being a bit late for tea.  So I made sure I have the ingredients and the rings and I will make some tomorrow.  They’re really not that much trouble and they’re so much nicer than bought ones.  I think I’d rather make them than bother with bread.

Oh, taking the shelf out of the oven to put the dinner in, I managed to catch it on the back of my finger and the skin blistered painfully immediately.  I dribbled lavender oil on at once  – it’s magical stuff, a slight blister but no pain at all.  I didn’t even run it under the tap.

Z has resorted to watching rugby

It’s been a quiet couple of days and I haven’t left the premises except to walk the dog.  Did I mention that Ben had been to stay this week?  If not, it’s a bit late, as he went back to his new home this afternoon.

I did want a rest and I must admit that I’m pretending not to see a job that I really must do (a matter of writing a couple of letters and filling in some forms) but I’m finding inaction a bit of a drag.  I’ve dusted both days, and that’s just silly.  Though I have found the corners that my cleaners overlook.  It certainly shows why I keep busy, though, wouldn’t want to have to resort to that too often.

I had an email from a dear friend today, apologising for not having replied earlier to my last, but he doesn’t get to the computer very often – it was the clearest possible hint that he prefers proper letters.  Yes, that’s all well and good, but I hate writing letters by hand.  For one thing, I do it so rarely that my handwriting is terrible and my hand aches after a few minutes and for another, typing gives one a record.  I wrote to my friend Sheila in Atlanta before Christmas and, when I had her reply, I couldn’t remember what I’d said.  I’m afraid I typed the next letter, explaining both matters (awful writing, lack of memory of what I’d said to whom) and I can only hope she didn’t mind.  I know already that my pal would hate that.  There is no way to please both of us.

Having a dog in the house had its effect: I forgot to lock the door last night.  I don’t mind being alone in the house, but I do make sure I lock the doors and put the alarm on.

Oh, I know what I meant to ask you.  They’ve been dramatising Little Women on Radio 4Extra recently and now they’ve moved on to Good Wives. What I wonder is, am I the only person who finds Jo deeply annoying?  I never liked her when I read it as a child and I don’t like her now.  Yet traditionally, girls are supposed to identify with her and I don’t know why.  She’s rude and ungainly on the grounds that she abhors girliness, but being just plain rude isn’t feminist.  I don’t like any of the girls much, but Jo is certainly the worst.

I was bitten by a mosquito or similar insect last night, on my cheek, which is swollen and painful.  I have put on some anti-histamine cream – or rather, I did that this morning – but what’s with biting insects in February?  If it happens again, I’ll have to start using mosquito repellent again, as I did a couple of months ago when I couldn’t catch one of the little beasts.

Blessed are the cheesemakers

Since I’ve been on my own, I have been taking great care to eat well.  There are different ways of dealing with one’s daily bread, of course – I could batch cook and freeze portions, I could eat very simply and mostly live on salads and bought things, I could cook a big pot of soup or stew at the beginning of the week and live on that until it was used up.  I’ve not gone for the simple and labour-saving though, choosing to cook a meal for one every night.  That is, it’s not so unusual for there to be leftovers, but that was always the case anyway and that’s what lunch is for, as often as not.

There are differences, of course, from how I used to cook, but some of those changes happened while Russell was alive, because he could eat so little.  I’d already stopped cooking joints of meat or a whole chicken, for example.  Now, when someone comes round for a meal, I tend to over-cater and give the extra food to my guests to take away, explaining that I probably won’t eat it and it’ll only go to the chickens.  Another difference is that I use fewer potatoes, less rice and pasta, because I’m not too bothered about them unless they’re the point of the meal.  Tonight, for example, I made spaghetti carbonara – which is the perfect meal for one, with a salad – and the name has it really, you just can’t do without the pasta.  I might bake a potato and top it with a sauce of some sort or maybe cheese, but otherwise, if I do want potatoes, I roast them.  The Aga is always hot, so it’s no trouble.  And the fatty deliciousness sometimes fits the bill.  Usually, however, the carbohydrate element is simply left out and I have lots of other vegetables instead.

It sometimes mildly concerns me, my obsession with my food.  I often cook three times a day – for example, a poached egg for breakfast if the bantams have laid any, home-made soup for lunch, a stir-fry, fish or a fairly elaborately prepared recipe for supper.  I try not to waste anything – the reports of how much food we waste is all very well, but it does include bones, used teabags and anything else that is unusable, and certainly doesn’t differentiate between bones that have been used for stock and picked clean, and those that haven’t.  I do sometimes find that I can’t use up a carton of cream or yoghurt before it goes off, but usually I only buy it if I know I’ll use most of it.  Small cartons are relatively very expensive and one has to be strong-minded to resist the larger version for a few pence more, though having to eat the damn stuff at every meal does teach a valid lesson.  I have two pints of milk a week delivered, which is usually far more than I need – I’d got a bit of a build-up before I went away but I knew that Charlotte would use it, though I’ve given the final half pint to Roses this evening.  I’ll get more tomorrow.  I don’t mind that I pay as much for a pint as supermarkets charge for four, I don’t want to pay less for milk than it costs to produce.

Which reminds me, Jonny was on Farming Today last Sunday, it’ll still be available on Radio 4 on iPlayer if you’ve never heard him.  His expansion into selling raw milk at the farm gate and cheesemaking has brought him some fame in farming circles.

I am also reminded, sadly, that I arrived home yesterday to find a message on my answerphone from Jonny.  I’m sorry to say that Big Pinkie has had to be put down.  She was seventeen years old and hadn’t borne calves for several years, but had been kept as a pet because even a livestock farmer can be sentimental once in a while.  She got herself stuck behind a feeding pen and, though they helped her out, she just lay down and gave up and they had to have her put down.  In truth, I’m not too surprised as I looked at her when they took her back to the farm for the winter, knowing how old and frail she looked, and wondered if she would make it through the winter.

This photo was taken on 31st July 2008 and you can see she was quite an old girl there, so she did well.

I’m reminded again that Marian chose the Sermon on the Mount for her funeral reading and it was rather lovely.  And full of quotations, of course.  Salt of the earth and so on.

Happy birthday dear Ziggi….

I’m back home again and all has gone very well.  I picked up my friends and the funeral was a loving and entertaining celebration of Marian’s long and full life.  I finally arrived with Mig and Barney at 9 o’clock and was given curry and wine.  And the next day, after an enormous breakfast, Mig drove us down to Zig’s birthday.

This was a joyous occasion too and Zig looked lovely and very well.  There were probably about twenty people and five dogs at the party at the village pub.  And today, I returned home, where Roses and Charlotte had kept everything sorted out here.  Ben has come to visit for the week and tomorrow I’m not planning to do very much.  Charlotte is staying until the morning.

After five years of keeping my diary entirely on my telephone, I’ve had to resort to a paper diary as well again because things were getting a bit complex.  It seems to be working well now, though, just a matter of making sure that everything fitted in, and it does seem to.  I’ll go down again next month and what’s really marvellous news is that the gruelling treatment that Zig is undergoing is working and she is doing really well.  Her condition is incurable, but it’s how she is now that counts, and she’s on the up.

Snow in Berkshire yesterday, but not here at home, so I haven’t had the chance to build my snowman yet.  The weather is due to warm up a bit for the next week, so I must be patient for a while yet.

Z is reliable

I whizzed around like the eagerest of little beavers today.  The night hadn’t gone well – apart from a five minute or so nap, I didn’t sleep until after 5 am and had set an alarm for 8.  But there it is, I’ve had wonderful sleep for a couple of weeks and I can’t complain about the odd night.

I drove to church, which is all of a couple of hundred yards, because I had to get more chicken food.  A few weeks ago, I fetched it in the wheelbarrow (it’s an extra hundred yards away) and it was a mistake, the weight of the barrow arms put too much strain on my dodgy hip and I suspect damage was done as, though it’s rather better, it’s not been right since.  I did barrow the bags from the car to the hen run, though, which was ok.  Actually, only one, the other I’ve put in the porch, to be easier for Charlotte who suffers from severe vertigo and has difficulty bending over as a result.  Roses is kindly going to help her with the bantams, but I’ve left it so that Charlotte can manage if there’s any glitch.

I spent the next couple of hours fetching coal and logs, clearing out the grate and getting Charlotte’s room ready – the bed was made, but I fetched her a clock radio and set the alarm for the time she wanted.  I went shopping and prepared some meals for her and generally did all I could think of to get ready, because I’m going out before she arrives.  She won’t be alone, because Ben is coming to stay with her.  I’ve written a whole page of information for her.  I do overthink things most awfully.

A friend in Yagnub phoned to ask if I could give her a lift to the funeral, to my dismay.  I’m already driving 9 miles in the wrong direction to pick up other elderly friends who don’t drive, which will delay me leaving for Mig by some time.  And now I’ll be coming back to Yagnub too, and that will add more to my journey.  Still, none of the three could get there unless I took them and I would not let them down.  I hope I’ll get on the road by about 5 and it’ll have the advantage that I’ll miss the evening rush hour, with luck.  And Mig and Barney have said they’ll keep some curry for me.