Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bar and barista

My dear friends came to the blog party yesterday and it was great to see you.  As ever, it turned out that there was a lot of food, but also that a remarkable amount was eaten.  There’s a fair bit of ham left, but then it was a 17 lb (including bone) whole gammon, and I’ll finish the bit of salmon and eggs tonight.

The real hit of the day was Rose’s lovely bloke Lawrence and his coffee bar.  It’s a splendid mobile one which he takes to all sorts of events – today, he’s in Norwich Cathedral Close for the Norwich 100 (mile) cycling race.  I expect my son in law Phil has been one of his customers.  He set it up in my porch (it’s actually a fairly sizeable room) and so was the first thing everyone saw when they arrived – I’d already had a major caffeine fix so moved on to wine, but I was the only one.  Everyone else accepted coffee, a choice of teas or hot chocolate on arrival and he was kept busy, as was his glamorous assistant Rose, most of the day.  It was immensely generous, hugely enjoyed and I can’t thank him enough.

The tortoises joined the party for a bit and two of the three proved incontinent as always, but fortunately my dress sponged clean…  

Absent friends were talked about and missed, but next year was mentioned by several people, so let’s hope.  I’m game if you are – assuming I haven’t sold up and moved by then, but I think that would be fairly remarkable.  In any case, my next house, assuming I do leave here, has to be big enough for parties.

Darling Mig stayed overnight and did sterling work on Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning too, with the result that all preparations were done (the benefit of an entirely cold meal) by 12.15 and all the washing up has been done.

We were also so lucky with the weather – it rained on Friday and Sunday but was dry and mostly sunny on the day.  Have to appreciate those weather pixies – mind you, I’ve lit the fire today.  I don’t strictly need it, but I have spent a lot of the day relaxing and a log fire is so cheering.  I’ve been reading, mostly, eating lemon syllabub and strawberries (well, I didn’t have either yesterday, nor any chocolate, so I’ve been making up for lost time there too).

Thanks for coming and being such fun.


Z shops locally…

… as I always do, but it paid off this morning.

As I’ve probably mentioned, I’m serving a cold meal as I did last year.  I had a slight crisis of conscience the other day (I never remember what I’ve said here or somewhere else, in print or verbally, so I may be repeating myself) when I was wondering whether to buy the salmon from the new fishmonger in the town or whether to go to Matt, who has been coming to Yagnub for years on market day.  Last year, I bought it from Paul, who sells fish from a van and comes to me every Monday, except this week as he’s on holiday in Cornwall.  I felt I should support the local shop, but Matt is a really nice man and I don’t buy from him as often as I’d like, because of Paul.

I asked Al’s opinion, he having been a local shopkeeper who suffered from a fruit’n’veg market right outside his door every Thursday, and he said Matt.  So I took his advice.  Good move.  I asked if he had a whole salmon and he didn’t, so I asked for two boned sides.  He had already weighed them and offered me a special price, when I spotted the whole side of smoked salmon and had a bit of a dither.  In the end, I apologised for changing my mind, but went for one side of fresh salmon and one of smoked.  He gave me an astonishingly special price and, when I also bought samphire and some lovely big raw prawns and he told me the total, I actually offered to pay more.  Which he turned down, whilst acknowledging he’d treated me kindly.  He probably felt a bit on the back foot as I’d asked if he knew that Russell had died and he had, but we hadn’t spoken of it until now.  We did, he was very kind.  He mentioned that his previous customer had been Frances, whose husband died a couple of weeks ago.  Poor man, not easy conversations for anyone, yet I’ve always done my best to make it easy for people, including those who visibly wanted to cross the road when they saw me coming.  I understand how hard it is.

But back to the shopping – I then went on to the butcher and bought the gammon I’d ordered, plus chicken, bacon and some garlicky sausages – and told Mark about Matt’s kindness. Mark always treats me well (like the time I fancied a bit of liver, as they say, and arrived home to discover he’d tucked a couple of rashers of bacon and a shallot in the bag too) and I paid far less than I expected.

It was one of those lucky days when I could park where I wanted, when I wanted, though it’s market day and the town was busy.  I went back in the afternoon to go to the optician’s – just for my contact lens check, not a full eye test.  My prescription has been upped slightly but, for once, my decision on the clarity of the options given was plain.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to know.  There were two children in front of me and I knew the mother of one of them, an adorable little girl called Chloë.  She was deemed to need reading glasses and took the verdict cheerfully.  She was taken to look at frames.  Her favourite colours are purple and red and she didn’t care for the first frame offered.  “No thank you,” she said.  To the second, “yes please.”  She was offered a couple more, but it was clear that she had already made up her mind, dear child.  Mimi, her grandmother, was the first person to ask me round for dinner after Russell died and it was an immense kindness.

Apart from some salad (if needed, I have lettuces in the garden and have bought much of the rest) and strawberries, I’ve shopped and am ready, apart from cooking.  Far too much food as always, do feel free to skip breakfast on Saturday.  I know some puddings are being brought and am simply providing strawberries and lemon syllabub*, which I made this morning.  Two pints of cream turned out to make twenty-eight glassfuls of syllabub.  Plus the lemon pip that got away.

*Unless I change my mind and do more baking

Kiss Z quick – in Gt Yarmouth

I think I may have reached capacity with emails.  28 received this afternoon but only 2  mattered and 1 should be replied to.  I haven’t yet responded to the 3 that needed it yesterday.  Tomorrow, darlings, I’ll do it then.  I have at least written again to someone who didn’t reply some days ago – hoping it doesn’t indicate some problem … I’m as bad as those who think I’m so reliable that all messages are replied to within a day.

A busy day here.  Young Stevo came over this morning and we turned out the porch, sorted the outside furniture and I left him to it after that.  My piano tuner, who I’ve promised to follow or befriend or whatever on Facebook (next job this evening) called to do the obvious.  Nice man, I’ve known him for 40 years.  If anyone wants to tinkle the ivories this Saturday, the pianola sounds a lot better now than it did yesterday.  As ever, I resolve to play more.

We met Al and family in Gt Yarmouth this afternoon and had a jolly time at the Pirate themed crazy golf.  Squiffany is very good at it, Zerlina is maybe destined to be better at hockey, as that’s how she held her putter.  Everyone had fun and afterwards had ice cream, doughnuts or candy floss.  A very English Seaside outing.  Lots that there wasn’t time for and I will take children over again in the summer holidays.

Awful roadworks, I took a detour home, which added 20 minutes to the journey.  The roadworks would have added much more.  Maybe it’s because East Angular is almost entirely Tory that almost nothing was put into our roads under Blair/Brown but it’s doing rather better under Cameron.  I trust the pain is worth it.  I wish such decisions were not governed by politics, but I suppose it would be naïve to expect anything else.

Plan coming together

Plans changed over the course of the morning.  In fact, plans had changed yesterday as well.  It’s half-term week, so Zerlina is not at school but Gus was still booked in for his usual three days with lovely Lynda the childminder.  I’d been going to stay Monday night with Weeza and co, take Zerlina to Norwich in the morning, she’d accompany me to the dentist after lunch and then she would stay the night and the next day.  But Weeza asked if Lynda could have both children one day, so that I’d have them both the next, and she was able to fit that in.

It’s Hadrian’s fourth birthday today, so I texted to see if I could drop in his presents, but Al replied to suggest I join them for a meal at a favourite family restaurant.  I’d been going to stay the night with Weeza (instead of last night) but rang Weeza to see if I could bring her two home with me instead.  So, after the dentist, I picked up Weeza’s house key, fetched the children and took them to their house for clothes and we met the others at 6 o’clock. It was a really good evening and the children have always behaved well when eating out, well aware that it’s a treat to be enjoyed.

Tomorrow, Al and family are planning to go to Great Yarmouth – Al has the week off, but they’ve already had two holidays this year (he won’t be getting time off in the summer) so they are having days off instead.  I’m having my piano tuned in the morning, but we will go over later and do seaside amusement things like crazy golf.  I’ve phoned Weeza and Phil, who works in Yarmouth, will drive instead of cycling tomorrow so that he can meet me and bring the children home.

Spring Bank Holiday

I think there will be twenty-four of us for lunch on Saturday.  I’m keeping it simple, darlings, with a cold meal on the lines of last year’s.  The forecast is for a warm day, so let’s hope that doesn’t change.  I’ve laid the tables (I know it’s early but I’m excited), written a shopping list, put  wine in the fridge or in the dining room, counted out glasses and decided against paper napkins.  I’d been going to but – well, I found that, even not having ironed any for months, I still had a double dozen double damask dinner napkins in the linen chest.  That means I have as many upstairs in the ironing basket.  So the job will be worth doing in due course, innit?

Few would suggest I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and, if anything, I’m more chilled about things than I used to be.  At one time, I felt uncomfortable if a picture were hung crooked – on the huh, as we say in Norfolk – but now I notice it and don’t much care.  However, I do realise I have something of an obsession: that I feel the need to be able to feed thirty or so people at a moment’s notice.  That doesn’t just mean food, I have to have the plates, cutlery and glasses too.  With all the decluttering I’m doing, I am aware that the problem will come when I get to the kitchen.  Yes, I know one can hire.  I need to have them.  I also need plenty of serving dishes and cooking utensils of all sizes.

Having said I’ll run the bookstall at the village festival, I’m going to start putting surplus books in boxes.  It’ll be interesting to find out how hard I’ll find that.  I suspect that the first few hundred will be the easy ones.

While I was pottering back and forth, getting cutlery and so on to lay the tables, I was listening to the Norwich match at Wembley.  It wasn’t a Cup Final or anything, just the play-off to try to win promotion to the Premier League.  As I mentioned the other day, I have friends who were there – actually, loads of people I know were there, there has been great excitement and support.  Norwich scored twice, almost immediately (within the first fifteen minutes, anyway) and held that lead to the end.  So that’s good.  Unless you support Middlesborough, of course.

Having scrubbed the outdoor table for our barbecue last weekend, I was rather dismayed when I got home to discover that Wince had put it back under the tree at the edge of the lawn again.  Lawrence and Roses have kindly carried it back for me, but it’s covered with bird shit again, as are the chairs.  I’m not at all happy about it and am not going to clean it until Wince comes again so that he’ll see why I really don’t want it there.  I wasn’t thrilled when he put it there in the first place but, as it had been on the lawn where he wanted to mow, I could at least see why.  But it was on the paving where it’s meant to be.

Lawrence and Roses have kindly asked me to join them for dinner, which is lovely.  I hadn’t shopped and was going to have eggs.  Eggs will feature in the lunch menu on Saturday, I presently have over three dozen and more are being laid every day.  I expect more are laid than I see, I let the chooks out every day unless the weather is poor and I’m sure some of them lay away.  Just so long as one of them doesn’t sneak away and sit, so that I have a clutch of babies to look after.

42 is not the answer to everything

I slept well, but felt dismal without understanding why, until I noticed the date.  42 years ago today, Russell and I were on our way to Yorkshire for an impromptu honeymoon in advance of the booked one.

I’ve come to dislike and mistrust anniversaries over the last few years.  I wouldn’t acknowledge our 40th anniversary nor my 60th birthday and, only a couple of weeks after Russell died, it wasn’t appropriate anyway to take note of my 61st.

When you look back, it’s either with nostalgia or sadness.  Why put myself through either?  I can work towards a better future, not that I quite believe in it, but I’m nowhere near being able to remember the past with pleasure or without pain.

I played the clarinet for the informal family service in church today, which went surprisingly well, considering I haven’t so much as opened the case for about three months.  I’ve tried to build up a determination to play more, over the last few years, but attempts haven’t lasted long.  I need to take lessons or have someone else to play with – both, really, but there’s not a lot of point in taking lessons without a purpose.  I haven’t given up hope, but now is not the time.  I’ve got too much else to do and wouldn’t be able to guarantee the time nor the concentration.

When my mother was unwell, which was the case for some time, she found it hard to keep a balance.  When she felt well, she became full of hope and thought it was a wonderful new beginning, so was bound to crash down the next day (because she’d overdone it) when she was back to usual.  When she felt worse, she was hopelessly despondent because she thought things would never pick up again.  I used to beg her to take a more general picture and not to assume that how she felt today would mean that was how she’d feel tomorrow, to be philosophical about a bad day and enjoy a good one, without making assumptions or predictions.  She asserted her right to be completely unrealistic, there was no prospect of a more balanced attitude and so she was never happy for long.

I’m not like my mother.

Z is da man

I’d intended an entirely relaxed day, being quite tired after a busy week, and had a glass of red wine with lunch: a symbolic gesture which gave me permission to nap in the afternoon if I wanted to.  However, that wasn’t how it worked out.  Jamie called in to look at some local postcards I’d found and he phoned his sister, who collects them, and we were chatting over a cup of tea when Roses bobbed in with a gift of cherries and a reminder that she had a problem with her bedroom chimney.  I had been going to mention it, but hadn’t yet – anyway, once we looked at the problem, we realised that sweeping the chimney wasn’t the thing that would help.

Baldly. a bird fell down the chimney and she hadn’t been able to get it out and it had died there.  And now it was starting to smell.  It’s a bit complicated, my fireplaces, they have a clever baffle plate thingy that regulates the draught, but also means there isn’t room for anything much to come down.  Once, years ago, a pair of swallows came down our drawing room chimney and, mercifully, were able to get out into the room and we let them out, but this was plainly something bigger.  It wasn’t possible to open the plate, Roses thought it was stuck.

It wasn’t stuck, it was blogged by a dead bird.  Or rather, dead birds.

I went down to the shop at the end of the road for face masks (far more useful than a corner store, it sells Really Useful Stuff) and when I got back, the lavatory cistern was filling up and Jamie was looking a bit green.  He’d got rubber gloves and I’d fetched a torch and some bin bags.  He went out to fashion a wire hook of some sort, but I used the time alone to deal with the situation, and pretty ghastly it was.  As I said, there is, in effect, a metal ledge and there were dead and rotting birds on it and the only way of getting them out, short of removing the fireplace, was to slip a small hand into the gap and fumble until enough bird – wing or foot – dropped down enough to pull.

Quite enough information given, I managed to do the deed and it involved two pairs of doves or pigeons.  And four bin bags.  And Jamie was a bit embarrassed that I’d coped better than he.  But later, he fashioned a cover for the chimney and managed to put it in place, and I couldn’t have done that, not at arm’s reach at the top of a double ladder.  We bonded a bit over that.  I remember, many years ago, my friend Gill and I peeling and slicing a whole bag of onions and crying over them for a whole afternoon.  A teetotaller, she swigged down a glass of sherry at the end and we vowed eternal friendship.  Bit like that.

The day picked up after that when I sold a single postcard for £100.  And I plucked some rhubarb from the garden and fed the chickens and am cooking stuffed chicken breast for dinner, which I will have with the remains of last night’s vegetable curry.  I won’t say the two dishes will really go together, but no matter.  I have opened another bottle of wine, which sounds rather dashing, but it’s just that the lunchtime bottle was red and this evening’s is white.  But I may have more than one glass.

Quiet now

I had a phone call at about 10 o’clock from Hannah, who said that all the house purchases had gone through.  The van was nearly loaded and as soon as the actual money had been transferred, everyone could pick up their new keys and move in.

I was walking round the village with Hay and Rupert at the time.  Hay had finally recovered from his illness and ate a big second breakfast of bacon and milk.  Well, he drank the milk.  After we’d walked the dog, we picked food for the tortoises and then I asked Hay what he would like to do next.  He wanted to make cakes, so we had to go shopping for some butter.  Then we made the cakes, went for a meeting at school (it was over lunchtime, so Dilly took Hay for a walk) and then we came back and iced and decorated the cakes.  At some point, we cuddled up on the sofa and read books and then Hay watched a Winnie The Pooh film until his mother arrived.  And then we all ate cake.

Sam and Hannah’s new house is lovely.  I remember when the estate was built, sometime in the 1960s I should think.  They are right opposite a little run of shops, which will be very convenient.  The house is a generously-sized, detached four bedroom house with good parking space for at least four cars, which is rather more than you get with similar new houses.  The kitchen is at the front of the house, which seemed unusual until I realised that it faces north east, so will get morning sun, whilst the sitting room at the back faces south west and will be lovely in the afternoon and evening.  Rupert ran around exploring happily – the back garden is completely fenced in, so he will be safe out there and have no chance to get out.  It’s two minutes in the car from the school where Hannah teaches, so probably 5 minutes by bike, convenient for the Yagnub road for Sam, a couple of miles from the beach in one direction and Oulton Broad in the other.  It cost considerably less than £200,000, which just shows that Lowestoft prices are in the doldrums.  It would cost far more here.

I arrived home about 8 o’clock, having spent most of the drive wondering what to have for dinner.  Roses and Lawrence invited me to share their fish and chips last night, so I didn’t want a takeaway two nights running, and I had eggs for lunch.  I didn’t have much else, apart from random vegetables, so invented a curry.  It turned out rather well – shallot, garlic, ginger, carrot, fennel, aubergine, red pepper, peas, with cumin seeds and ground cumin, ground coriander seeds, turmeric, onion seeds, black mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, garam masala – oh, and tomato.  And I nipped down to the kitchen garden for some fresh coriander to finish with.  Oh, and potato.  Vegan, now I come to think of it, very virtuous.

I went out to lunch with friends yesterday.  There were five of us at my table and the conversation turned to football – Norwich City is in the play-offs and their big match is at Wembley on Monday.  I was the youngest there by some way, the others are all in their seventies or eighties, so it seemed rather impressive that three are keen followers of the football and two will be cheering the team on at Wembley.

Rocking, rolling, riding

Hannah and Sam still haven’t got confirmation that the house sale and purchase have gone through and the removal van is booked for 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.  I can’t think that exchange of contracts and completion on the same day is very usual – just one person is holding up the chain and a lot of fingers are crossed.  They are going ahead, the removal people having said that they can keep the furniture in the van over the weekend if necessary and store it if they can’t move in yet.  I’ve said they can stay with me if they are unable to move in – though they have their families too, there won’t be a shortage of help.  I have no idea why everyone seems to have a story of an anxious and harrowing move.  I’m sure that I will not attempt to sell and buy at the same time when my turn comes, yet I suppose it’ll be a ghastly experience in one way or another.

It’s been an absurdly busy day and I didn’t sleep last night – that is, I slept for an hour and ended up having breakfast at 2 am.  I finally dozed again briefly about 5.  I’m off to bed any minute now, with little Rupert.  I hope I don’t keep him awake tonight.

Disposing of stuff that is meaningful to me is upsetting, yet I’m still determined only to keep what I really want.  One of the things I was especially pleased to find was that my childhood rocking horse is lovely – primitive in the best way, with a rope tail and attractively worn paint.  I’ve put him in my bedroom and he’s certainly a keeper.  The latest decluttering guru, whose name I can’t remember,  who says you should only keep things that give you joy, is a bit annoying – I mean, joy is a bit strong, maybe I’m just too solemn and practical – all the same, the rocking horse is certainly one of those things.

Getting on with things

More sorting out and disposing of stuff.  It’s getting harder now, there are things I am having to decide to rid myself of, rather than wanting to.  But it’s all part of taking control.

I really must write to all of you who have said you’re coming to the party, to check who is staying over.  It’s a bit vague at present, but it’ll work out.  Also, I must get to grips with food, once I’ve worked out numbers.  If anyone intends to bring anything, it would help to let me know, please – as ever, no obligation – though I seem to remember eating eight or nine delicious desserts last year, as of course I tried everything!

Rupert’s owners are moving house on Friday, they had confirmation today, so I’m going over to their house tomorrow evening to fetch Rupert and keep him overnight and for the next day.  He’d have to spend much of the day in the car otherwise.  I’ve got a lot on tomorrow, so couldn’t have him earlier.  Now I think of it, I must set an alarm for the morning – I forgot to last night but fortunately woke at 7, which was rather earlier than I really needed to get up.

One thing I finally did today was to deal with ownership of Russell’s little van.  After he died, I notified the insurance company and changed the policy to my name, with Weeza as a named driver, as they occasionally need two vehicles.  As time has gone by, it’s been apparent that they really could do with two and I certainly don’t need that, and could always borrow it back if necessary.  So I rang the DVLA to ask what to do – on the slip you send in, you write ‘deceased’ where the owner should sign, and write a covering letter.  Quite charmingly, the department you send that to is ‘Sensitive Casework.’  We’re dating the changeover to the end of the month, since the road tax is due on 1st June.  I’ll also have to tell my insurance company, as Phil will have to take out insurance in his name and I’ll cancel mine.  The woman at the DVLA was kind and helpful and had a lovely, soft Welsh accent.  I had to ask her to repeat ‘sensitive casework’ as I hadn’t caught it and she said “sorry, that’ll be my accent,” which it wasn’t, it was just unexpected!

Also dealing with Russell’s headstone.  Must email the draft the stonemason sent through to the family.

I brought down a couple of boxes of wrapped items – most of it was fairly uninteresting china that I’d never seen before and certainly didn’t want, but one small box contained a set of fruit knives I hadn’t seen for over 40 years.  They were a wedding present and I knew where they had been in our first house and had never seen since.  I thought they must have been lost in the move.  I haven’t the faintest idea where they had been in the meantime.  I also found Great Uncle Ronan’s christening mug from the 1870s, that my mother had re-engraved for Alex – I hadn’t seen that since we moved here, nearly 30 years ago, and I’ve no idea how that ended up in that box either, or where it has been since 1986.