Monthly Archives: March 2015

March goes out like a lion

Today, Edweena managed to shift a piece of bark over to the tots’ box, so that she could climb up and into it.  I found her squatting complacently, which both tots were squeezed into a small plant pot, where they felt safe.  She wasn’t bothering them, but I removed them and she was visibly put out.  All is back to normal now and my respect for her power of reasoning is increased considerably.  I don’t know if it was deliberate, but one piece of bark has been moved closer to the lamp, so that she can climb up and be as close as possible to the heat, and the other bark was shifted to get her where she wanted to be.  It seems beyond coincidence.

I took Zerlina back to Weeza’s office, timing it for the end of her 9-5 working day.  She finished off the day’s work as we chatted and then the phone rang, just after ten past five.  She dealt with the call, tidied up, shut down her computer and we got ready to leave.  “Just as well you were here to take the call,” I commented.  She said it wasn’t unexpected.  She asked for a raise recently and she’d been getting late calls since receiving it.  He’s a good boss, she’s amused rather than miffed.

Zerlina is coming again on Thursday when, as I said, we will make hot cross buns – and maybe a birthday cake for Weeza.  I’m playing the organ for the Maundy Thursday service in the evening, so Roses has kindly said she will babysit.  It’s at bedtime, but Zerlina’s bedtime routine is quite relaxing and charming and there will be no stress at all.

Z asked for pancakes for breakfast, so I had them too.  There was some mixture left, so I had a savoury pancake in the Dutch style for supper too, with ham, tomato and cheese, plus a green salad.  For lunch, we had cheese soufflé.  With a bit of practice and help with the oven, Zerlina could now make soufflé.

Startlingly stormy weather, a gale for much of the night and day, with a hailstorm sweeping the country, arriving here at 4.30 this afternoon.  No harm done here, we have few vulnerable trees left, but it was clearly unsafe to cycle and Phil drove to work today.  I was glad to hear that, I was lying awake at 4.30 this morning, worrying.

Z versus Edweena

A middle-aged tortoise can be a stubborn and wilful beast.

The tortoise home in the porch measures about 4 foot by 8 and the two sides are about 2′ high, with the other two sides being wall (one with glass panes above).  All three tortoises were moved in there last September – I’d planned to put them outdoors in the day and bring them in at night, but circumstances made a few short cuts necessary and I simply kept them indoors, using their sun lamps as necessary.  I’d not kept the three together before and I was a bit concerned, but it was fine.  The three lived perfectly amicably.

Since hibernation, I’ve had the babies in a big plastic box, decked out with earth, gravel, bigger stones and plant pots, in the kitchen, until a week ago when I put it out in the porch.  My idea was that I’d acclimatise them for a few days, then put them out in the run, and this is what I did.

They both scurried straight under a large piece of bark and stayed there for 24 hours.

I fetched them out, offered them food and kept an eye on them.  They ate a bit but then went and burrowed in the sand in the adjoining vivarium.  the next day, I got them out again and this time one of them set out for a walk, but the other tucked herself behind a pot by the wall.  A few minutes later, I saw Edweena go over and have a good sniff at her, then turn her shoulder on her and give a barge.  I wasn’t sure if she’d do any harm if left, but I didn’t want them bullied so I set up their plastic box again and all has been peaceful since.

This morning, Edweena decided to go between the box and the wall, where there isn’t room.  She was determined and went sideways and scrabbled determinedly – she’s very strong for her size.  I moved her and she was back within minutes.  And in her forceful struggles, she’d had an ‘accident’ and stepped in it.

So, I mopped her up, moved her and she went straight back.  I was getting irritated by this time, but there’s not much you can do with a disobedient tortoise.  I decided that she needed a bath at least, she was a bit smelly.

In the next 20 minutes or so, she pooed in her bath three times, the tots did in theirs twice.  It was ludicrous.  I shifted the tots’ box away from the wall but still under the lamp, cleared and tidied their runs and put in fresh water.  Every few minutes, I had to keep changing their bath water.  They like baths well enough but it does stimulate their bowels and bladders.  At the end, I couldn’t be bothered to go and pick weeds, so they were fed on lamb’s lettuce and rocket, which they scoffed happily.  Edweena gave every impression of being disappointed by her obstacle being removed, but later went to explore underneath the box, where there is now a few inches’ gap.

Zerlina and I have blown more eggs and she’s painted them, we’ve made fruit cake and two more loaves, smaller ones this time.  I used part white, part multi-grain flour, kept the dough cool enough to rise quite slowly and the result was delicious.  I’ll have z again on Thursday and I’m planning to make hot cross buns, probably.


Being Granny

We blew the insides from the eggs, Zerlina painted them and we made cakes, which I iced and z decorated.  The new mixer has come up trumps in every respect, though I have a small difficulty in removing the lid from the liquidiser.  My hands have very little strength now and struggling with something like that makes them hurt for a couple of days.  I’ll have to be careful to tighten the lid only just enough.

I don’t know what I did yesterday, but I had shooting pains down my left leg to my knee, which is unimportant – just referred pain from my hip – but uncheering.  It’s all right again now, it seems to be fairly random.

Zig gave me a couple of bracelets that needed slight repair and a friend of mine has, since his enforced early retirement because of a back problem, set up a business with his partner making silver jewellery.  I knew nothing about this until I received silver earrings in the post as a 60th birthday present.  I had no way of knowing who they were from, until he emailed me a week or so later – we’d lost touch rather, when he moved 15 miles away to live with said partner, but he still had an old but extant email address of mine.  We’ve become Facebook friends since, which is the easiest way of keeping in touch with people you hardly ever see, he and Liz called round, kindly, after Russell died and so I thought of him when Zig asked if I knew a silversmith.  Repairs aren’t really his line of work but I know that he’s unusually obliging and loves to help people.

Zerlina will stay for another couple of days, so I hope it’ll be fine enough to spend time outdoors.  We get so little rain here that a downpour takes me by surprise, though at least we weren’t caught in it.  I popped out this afternoon when it was fine, checked the greenhouse, fed the chickens and picked some goosegrass for the tortoises.  Minutes after I got back indoors, it was pouring again and blowing a gale.

I’ve been catching up on the washing.  I hadn’t done any since arriving home from Zig’s – well, since before leaving for Zig’s, nearly three weeks ago.  Oh dear.

Granny teaching z to blow eggs, which turns a most peculiar proverb on its head.

It’s been busy.  Charlotte came over yesterday because she had some documents, old letters, that she needed scanning and sending to her daughter Miriam (who lived in my annexe the year before last) who is presently in Los Angeles.  Roses had invited me for supper, so the invitation was extended and we had a great evening.

Having had three awful nights, I slept soundly until quarter to eight, but then I dealt with something yesterday and that’s always a relief to the unconscious mind.

Today, I left Charlotte in charge (my spare keys must be with Roses, I’ll fetch them some time) I went to meet Weeza and co at a car showroom in Norwich.  They thought they were just going to have a test drive and see if they liked the model of car as much as they thought they would, but they did and the car had such a low mileage and was such good value that they ended up buying it.  I had money that could be paid over instantly and they didn’t, so I was in the Bank of Mum position until they’ve sorted things out in a month or two.

I cannot agree with those who complain about how we’re dominated by our smartphones and the internet generally.  I use mine to the full at any time of the day, but that’s my choice.  I can switch off and turn away and so can most of us.  As it was, I sat there transferring quite a lot of money from an Isa (which pays sod all in interest) into my current account and then straight out again to pay for the car.  We were there three hours in all (but I drove Phil to the station in the middle of the proceedings) but at the end of it they had sold their old car, bought one that is over 3 years old but has 13,000 miles on the clock and were ready for a late lunch.

Then I brought Zerlina home, via the Co-op and we’ve eaten pizza and fruit and ice cream.  She has also eaten cheese and yoghurt.  She watched a number of episodes of Dora the Explorer – I’ve no idea how many, I was busy and didn’t take much notice of the annoying little girl* – until bed time.

There’s a nice new tortoise-fancier group on Facebook, led by Zoë (she blogged as Pandora, her boyfriend in Belgium was The Twat) and it’s very friendly and jolly.  I’m making yet more friends.

Clocks go forward tonight.  I hate the changeover.  One of the reasons I really hoped that Scotland would vote to break away was so that we could abandon Greenwich Mean Time altogether and go for Summer Time all year round.  Sadly – and I love Scotland and the Scots, it’s nothing personal – the tail is still wagging the dog.

Tomorrow, we’re going to decorate eggs.  At z’s school, they used hard boiled eggs, but that means you have to destroy your decoration or waste the egg, which will eventually have to be thrown away.  I’m going to show her how to blow eggs.  Then we’ll use the insides to make a cake in my new Kenwood.

*Dora, that is

Zed the breadwinner

I finally dealt with the draft probate application which I’d been eyeing cautiously all week and phoned the Dept of Work and Pensions in response to a text I’d been sent.  That was odd – it was certainly the right number and not a scam, but why they asked me to ring was because I’d apparently changed my address to one in Norwich.  I’ve never lived in Norwich and it can only have been a clerical error on their part.  I’ve no idea, of course, whose change of address hasn’t been put down, but there’s nothing to be done about that.  I’ve also notified someone else about Russell’s death and done various bits of admin.  I’ve helped the Head with a letter to a difficult parent.

I also used my new mixer for the first time and made bread.  Time was when I made all my own bread, but I haven’t done that for years.  Much of the reason is that I was unable to resist eating it straight out of the oven, which gave me awful indigestion.  I’m older and more self-disciplined now and cooled it first.  I’m quite keen to try my hand at sourdough, but the starter needs attention and I think I’ll work on ordinary breadmaking first.  Using the dough hook – I’d like to knead it by hand but that really isn’t going to happen at this stage – I ended up with this loaf.

And, once it was cooled, I made a pot of tea and ate some with butter and strawberry jam.  Roses came to have some too.

I felt quite pleased with myself.

Mmmm. bacon…

I had a very frustrating time yesterday evening.  I use a Mac, I have done for the last quarter century and more and I use Safari as its browser.  But my main email address is gmail.  I’ll never again use the email that my service provider gives me as, if I change provider, I’ll lose my address and people never take it on board.  When I last changed, I had someone assure me several years later that I’d never let them know … I had emails from them in my replacement address and I’m afraid I was blunt enough to send one back to prove it.  It’s an easy mistake to make, but better not to blame someone else for your own mistake.

Anyway, gmail won’t load in Safari any more and it tells me I need to update.  Well, I can’t find out how to.  I’m not sure I believe them anyway.  I can’t upload the latest version of the Apple operating system because my computer is too old and I can’t see how to download a new version of Safari.  So I’ve had to start using Firefox to use gmail (Safari is fine on the phone and iPad) and I’m not keen.  When I google something (I don’t use Google, of course) it takes me to the Wiki page describing that thing and I’ve been given cause to swear mightily, because I had a couple of quite necessary things to do today.  Last night, I had to sign in to my old Hotmail account that I hardly ever use – and thank you Hotmail, you did the trick and saved my bacon.

One thing I didn’t mention yesterday was the fate of my Magimix.  Now, I wanted it because it was the best and most expensive food processor and I thought it would be durable and jolly good.  It was the latter only.  After two or three years, outside the guarantee but when it wasn’t very old, the spindle holding the blade cracked.  Nothing could be done with it, it was useless.  I’d bought slicing and grating attachments that still could be used, but not the food processor itself.  The stainless steel blade was fine of course, so was the motor, but they weren’t any good without the blade-holder.  So I went back to Bonds where I’d bought it (now John Lewis) but they no longer stocked parts and I had to go to an electrical shop on Unthank Road, where they ordered me the new part – it was expensive.

Two or three years later, it happened again.  I was so dismayed.  After a while, I just threw the machine out.  I bought a much cheaper one and it’s still going strong, many years later.  I’d never buy Magimix again – one part failing is disappointing, but the replacement part going again is poor.

You might get a second post tonight, lucky people.  Or I might just write it tomorrow instead.

Z finally gets what Z wants

After we moved here (that will be 29 years in July), I bought myself a Magimix, which I’d hankered after for some time.  It was the leading brand in food processors, so of course that was the one I wanted.  And I loved it and used it a good deal.

I also had a Kenwood food mixer, which had been an extraordinarily generous wedding present from a friend of Russell’s parents.  She owned a fruit farm a few miles from here – when Russell befriended us, after my father died (I may not have told you about that, but it’s another story), he used to give us a box of apples as a present, once in a while and he’d bought them from her.  Anyway, it was wonderful.  It has always been an expensive item – though there’s a range of models now, there wasn’t then and it cost hundreds, even then – and she had included various attachments too.  Hugely generous and I used that a good deal too.

However, the time came when I felt I had too many gadgets out on the worktop and I decided to give the Kenwood a rest.  I told Russell and he put it down in one of the garages, that wasn’t used for a car.

A couple of years later – we’re still going back more that 20 years – I wanted to do a lot of baking and i asked Russell to bring it up.  He looked a bit startled, which puzzled me at the time but not all that much.  He went and looked and came back to say he couldn’t find it.  “I know exactly where it was,” I said and went down with him.  It wasn’t there.

I’m a patient woman and I didn’t nag, only asking a couple of times over the next few years if he’d found it, but he never had.  And last autumn, we turned out that garage and it wasn’t there.  I hadn’t actually been looking for it, so it’s only been recently that the answer has dawned on me: he gave it to someone and didn’t feel able to tell me.  I can imagine the situation; a friend said that her trusty Kenwood had finally packed in and he helpfully said there was one languishing in the garage that I didn’t use and he would give it to her.  I’ve always been a ludicrously trusting and laid back type and I’d never have thought of such a thing, except his reaction when I asked for it was unusually agitated and, a couple of years later, he bought me one for a few quid at a car boot.  It didn’t work and I asked him to dispose of it in a few pithy sentences.

Anyway, I’ve had a shocking array of bills in the past week – another £800-odd down yesterday and the man came to read the electricity meter today, so the pain isn’t over yet.  And some total ***** hit my car on the car park (I was unaware until driving home)  and I’ve had my wing mirror replaced today and need a new wing.  All the same, bills totalling some £8-10 thousand are dismaying, but only a real cause for distress if you haven’t got the money and I have, sitting right there.  £1,000 of it was voluntary anyway, having the church railings painted in memory of Russell.  There were kind and generous donations and I’ve topped it up to complete the job.

The thing is, none of these bills was anything tangible.  Council Tax.  R’s Income Tax.  Water Rates.  Calor Gas.  Car insurance.  London flats insurance. Accountant.  And so on and so on.  So I *needed* something for me.  And I’ve replaced my dear old Kenwood with this.  I didn’t get it from Amazon but from an actual factual shop that upped the guarantee to five years for a mere £5 extra.

it’s absurd really that I’ve bought such an elaborate machine when there’s only me, most of the time.  But I am responsible only for myself, for the first time in my life, I do my best to help those I care for and one of those is me.

Z stands back

Governors’ meeting this afternoon.  Just two more to go next term.  I will then stand down from being chairman – though I might, technically, have to start the first one in the autumn.  I’m thinking I’ll carry on one more year and then quit, that will have given me a neat 18 years at each school (though there was an overlap) and then I will retire.  I will have done a decent job.

I want to do some restructuring first, nothing major but I think there is some duplication of effort.  I’ve been too busy, we all have, to step back and look at the whole picture, though that’s usually something I’m quite good at.  I’m jettisoning some duties to be able to do that.  It’s like the structure of a tree in winter, the clear anatomy, as Roy Campbell put it.  I should add that this poem had a brilliant first stanza and then went right downhill, in my opinion.  Almost into wigeons winging westward territory (a Saki joke, and if you haven’t read Saki’s short stories then why not?  Do it now!  They’re free to download, even).

That reminds me of what a peculiar person I might be.  A teacher, a governor and I were talking after the meeting – what about?  Er…. history was mentioned, it was a history teacher – anyway, I found myself quoting an entire poem.  I know, darlings, I’m so sorry.  But the point was that it was a pocket encapsulation of the king in question and Who Needs More?  You can’t wait?  You couldn’t possibly imagine I wouldn’t tell you?  Reading it now, I nailed it – but it’s a very short poem.   I restrain myself generally, but I often think in quotes, it’s the result of a misspent life with my head in books rather than looking about me.  I’m reading again now, but in my spare time rather than obsessively.

I have fish in the fridge for dinner, but I might have eggs instead.  I haven’t told you about the result of my shopping trip, have I?  I will tomorrow because, of course, a story hinges around it.  Too much to tell you about tonight.  And the next day, I’ll tell you about my latest venture.  Unless something else happens and it’s put back.

I think I should go and eat.  I’ve been to pick some spinach, so it’s eggs Florentine tonight.

Catching up

I was out of the house by 7.30 on Friday morning, which is pretty smartly off the mark for me nowadays, I normally potter around quite relaxedly first thing, even though I usually wake fairly early.  I don’t know why I wake early, I don’t generally need to.  The train arrived on time and we reached London a few minutes early and I took a bus to Trafalgar Square to meet Eddie Two-Sox.

We both really enjoyed the exhibition, which is on at the National Gallery until the end of May.  I was taken out to lunch and we chatted for a long time – we haven’t seen each other for ages, at least a couple of years.  I had time in hand, so went with him to King’s Cross for his train and then I followed the sign for the buses – which just took me outside, there was no sign of any buses.  I looked for quite some time before finding them, really poor signage.

I’d thought I might get out at Angel to go and look at my flats, but I couldn’t be bothered in the end.  I knew neither of my tenants would be home from work yet and there didn’t seem much point.  I went on to the station and read until it was time for my train.

I was thinking I hadn’t been to London since Russell died but, as I sat down, I felt a sadness that there was no one at home to phone, to say I’d caught it.  We always rang each other from the station.  But I was sure I’d had that feeling before.  Writing this, I’ve just searched my phone calendar and I did go, on 15th October.  I can’t remember why – thank goodness for a blog, I can check.

Of course, how could I have forgotten? I went to meet Lena (Elle), visiting from Berlin.

Anyway, I’d bought salads, wine and some chocolate raisins from M&S, but I hadn’t got anything to eat with or drink out of, except a coffee carton.  So I poured a modicum of wine in that and found I’d got a wooden stirrer in my bag, which I broke in half to use as chopsticks. I’d have gone along to the buffet to get something, but it was closed because of a power cut in coach H.  It was just as well, too, that I hadn’t forked out the extra for an earlier train, because we drifted along slowly after a while.  Apparently there had been a breakdown at Ipswich so earlier trains had been held at Colchester and there was a queue.  We didn’t actually stop, it had been cleared by the time we came along but we had to go slowly while the earlier trains dispersed, but if I had been on an earlier train I’d have been delayed a good deal.

Today, I spent a couple of hours in the greenhouse potting up seedlings.  I’ve been hoping to find frog spawn in the pond but no luck yet – there’s none in the beck either, I find.  The grass isn’t growing much yet on the fields, so we won’t have cows brought for a while.

I need to make a list of jobs to do outside.  Not gardening so much, that tends to be obvious.  But there’s still a lot of clearing to be done.  I’ve got a tumbledown stable, hen house and tennis court hut to be dismantled and put on the bonfire, for a start.  I wonder what sort of flooring the hut has – I haven’t been in there for years and the roof has caved in.  But it might be the basis for a wood store.