Monthly Archives: August 2015

Bank up the fire holiday weather

Well, that is odd.  My watch, having been haywire all day yesterday, started to behave itself last night and it’s kept perfect time all day.  I haven’t dropped it at any time, I can’t think of any explanation.

Proper Bank Holiday weather today, ie miserable.  What is it about August Bank Holiday? Nearly always happens to rain’ or so it seems.  I went out to feed the animals, then pottered about for a while before coming over decisive and I went out and fetched sticks and logs, and lit the drawing room fire.  It’s been very good in here, lovely and warm and cheering.  I also picked two cobs of corn and had them for lunch.  If I hadn’t run out of bread, I wouldn’t have gone out all day, but it was an excuse to pop out to the supermarket – at least it meant I spoke to people; other than a brief chat to Roses’ Boy, I’ve not seen anyone else all day until then.  Not that I mind that, I’m often here all day and that has always been the case. Russell rather liked me to be here when he got home and he didn’t much like the house empty, he’d have appreciated it most if I had been agoraphobic and never left the house!  Not that he grumbled when I did go out, of course, I’m not suggesting that.

I couldn’t sleep past four o’clock this morning, so spent some time online researching electric blankets.  They have been rubbish over the past few years, some of them have packed in after a year and none has lasted more than two winters.  In the past, they’ve gone on for years and years, I don’t know what’s the matter.  The best ones have been the cheapest, the good named brands have not come  to scratch at all.  I’ve bought one from Lakeland this time, it being a brand with a good reputation (not necessarily for electric blankets, of course) and there were good reviews.  It was expensive, mind you, but I can’t be cold at night.  Hot water bottles just won’t do and I don’t like a warm bedroom, particularly.  I seem to be getting fussier as I get older, which I have no problem with at all.

I cooked a duck breast and a baked potato for dinner.  I’d got the spud first, or I might have chosen something else – I cooked it properly in my little oven, rather than in the microwave, but it isn’t a patch on Aga cooking.  I must be saving the best part of £30 a week, not having the Aga on, so I’m not in a particular hurry to have it again, but I won’t last that much longer, I miss it too much.  I don’t suppose I’ll have one in another house and it isn’t going to be a requirement, but getting used to an ordinary oven will be rather dismal.  One thing I wouldn’t do without, however, is a proper fire.  A winter room without a fire is like any room without books, there’s no feeling of homeliness, for me.

Ordering the blanket and lighting the fire are about all the useful things I’ve done today.  I’ve read the papers and watched fairly junky television.  They’ve brought back Fifteen To One, who knew? It’s now presented by Sandi Toksvig, looking stylishly butch – really, leather patches on the elbows of her tweed jacket, quite remarkable.

Tomorrow, I really must do some work.  I promise.



That went rather well, to my surprise.  I went to the cold frame and lifted the large piece of bark and there was Edweena, so I lifted her up and brought her indoors and in the run.  Then I went and looked in a flower pot and found Natasha, so carried her, still in her pot.  Then I went and looked under Anastastia’s favourite hebe and there she was too, half under a large stone.  I’d quite expected to have to search for them for ages.  By the time I left for church, they were all exploring their new premises.

I’d been a bit confused when I woke up because  my watch said nearly nine o’clock and I couldn’t believe I’d slept so long, through the alarm too.  But then I looked at my phone and it was only half past seven, so I thought I must have forgotten to wind my watch, I did so and put the time right.  After the usual chores, plus moving the tortoises, I looked again and it was quarter past nine, just about right.  I was a bit surprised to be the first there, but it wasn’t until nine fifty-five that I remarked to Sue that people were cutting it fine.  She was relaxed, plenty of time yet…I’ve a feeling you’re way ahead of me.  My watch has started to gallop.  It’s my good watch, the gold one that Russell gave me when we got married (I gave him the portrait that graces the dining room wall – it’s about time I took that down, actually, a bit silly having a picture of baby-faced Z up there).  I haven’t had the watch cleaned for several years,  the very nice jeweller’s in Norwich where we bought it and where I always took it had become disconcertingly expensive and, I’m afraid, I bought a new watch years ago, for the price of a service of this one, and wore that instead until it broke.  Anyway, I’ll take it in when I’m next in Norwich, whenever that is.

The tortoises have eaten and pottered around energetically and basked under their heat lamps, so that seems to be entirely satisfactory.  I’ll keep them awake as long as possible during the autumn, while there are still plenty of suitable plants for them to eat in the garden.  They have weeds, mostly, but they like rose and jasmine petals, sedum, hebe, herbacious geranium, all sorts of other things too.  They have to fast for a few weeks before they hibernate, but I’ll feed them up before that.  Eloise is not at all pleased that there’s a cover on the run, she had thought of it as an ideal lavatory.

The hymn playing went surprisingly well – I say surprisingly, but I’m not being entirely fair to myself.  I did practise, which I don’t always bother to do, and I have been playing at every service for a long time now, since my friend Andy has been confined to a wheelchair and unable to get to the organ.  We had a choir today, which was a pleasure, so I took particular care.  Then, I helped with the coffee and ate chocolate cake.

Z’s busy day

I steeled myself to cut the dead wood out of the fig tree this morning.  I’ve been putting it off for a long time, a matter of a few years, in fact, but the real reason only goes back a year.

When we built the big workshop, it finally gave me a suitable wall against which to plant a fig tree.  I knew that the roots must be restricted, so we dug out a two-foot cube and lined it with paving slabs before planting the young tree.  It had done really well and I had a lot of lovely figs from it.  Russell never ate any – having once tried dried figs in his childhood and not liked them, he never ate one again.

A few years ago, I pruned it fairly hard, as it was growing bigger than the barn.  That winter was very cold and I was upset, the next year, to find that there was a lot of dead wood.  I thought it was the pruning that had done it.  I didn’t say anything, Russell wouldn’t have been interested, I thought  – the next winter was hard again and, though the tree was alive, it hadn’t recovered.  I left it, I was so dispirited., though it did grow again after that.

After Russell died, Jamie told me that he had poisoned it.  On Russell’s instruction, he’d drilled a hole and poured in weedkiller.  Apparently, Russell was concerned that it was so large that it would damage the building – it wouldn’t have because of the slabs restricting the roots, but he’d forgotten that.  He didn’t tell me because he wanted me to think I’d accidentally killed it, said Jamie.  He laughed about it.  He developed an odd sense of humour in the last few years.  It was unexpected.

Anyway, the tree has recovered and I’ve cut out all the dead wood except one piece, which I need a ladder for, and I picked and ate a fig – there are some other ripe ones, but the ladder is needed to get those two.

Then I did fetch a stepladder, but only to clear the guttering on Roses’ bungalow, and while I did that, Eloise worked out how to push open the cat flap in the back door, so that was a happy moment for her.

Next, I practised hymns for tomorrow’s service – two of our ministers are celebrating the tenth anniversary of their ordination, so we’ll have a big congregation – and then picked flowers for Russell’s grave.  I’ve done most of the work for the tortoises’ winter quarters, filling it with soil, and will finish that and bring them in tomorrow, if I can find them.  I haven’t even looked for them for a week or more.  It’ll be quite enough bother, having to pick food for them every day once they’re in.


Z visits the deli

I went out in search of soil for the tortoise pen this morning.  I tried at the local gravel pit, but they didn’t have any and then I went to a garden centre, but the soil-based compost was £2.95 for a small bag and I’d need 25 of them and, frankly, I don’t love the tortoises enough.  So I went to call on a friend, Stevo’s auntie, in the hope that her husband might have some – and he has, a bit stony but Stevo will sieve it for me and so that’ll be done.  The tortoise run has its cover and I’ve hung the lamps and put in the plastic crates to hold the soil.  Next, I’ll pot up some pansies for them and find some other plants – while at the garden centre, i checked out succulents, but crassula and kalanchoe aren’t good for tortoises, so I will have to keep thinking about it.

This afternoon, the Partner (strictly business, darlings) called round with three more lots for the sale – I must start typing up the catalogue, though a few more pieces are yet to come in.  And then I fed all the animals and cuddled outdoor mother cat, who absolutely yearns for affection in a quite un-catlike way (I’m sure she used to be a pet and misses it) and then Ben’s family came to pick him up.

Luckily, they had hardly gone when Roses called in, so we spent the next hour or two eating and drinking, pooling our snacks to make a meal.  All highly nutritious, darlings, I had lovely Norfolk salami, olives and home-grown tomatoes and cucumber, she had rollmops, then I produced parmesan, spinach and pine nut tartlet while she went for a lovely orange and polenta cake with yoghurt.  We carried on tippling steadily and were … chatty by the time friend Graham called in.

Since then, I’ve been drinking tea and reading the papers, while cuddling Eloise cat.  I suspect I’ll have an early night – but maybe not.  I’m listening to music on BBC4 and I don’t have a tv in my bedroom.  I never had, it always seemed a distraction from proper bedtime activity – but now I find it so hard to concentrate on a good bedtime book, maybe a television would be all right.

Z’s heart leaps up

I didn’t forget Wince’s note and Zerlina and I were in the car and on the road by 8.01, so we were  actually early for Weeza and Gus.  The children and I had a lovely day, with a second breakfast of pancakes, feeding the animals, walking the dog and throwing sticks in the river for him to fetch and cuddling Eloise cat.  Walking down to the marshes, we go over a small stream.  “Ginormous river!” said Gus, in some awe.  Zerlina pronounced it to be a tiny river.  They both enjoyed splashing in the puddles in the lane and I didn’t say a word about the splashes on their trousers.  If you can’t get wet and muddy at their age, you’ll probably have to wait until you have small children or grandchildren of your own.

Zerlina had a very wobbly tooth and we both reckoned it would fall out at about 10 o’clock. In fact, it happened at 10.25.  I taped it to a card, which I put in an envelope and secured it with more tape, then put it in one of their bags, to take home.

somehow, it fell out and I found it on the porch floor this evening.  Zerlina was going to write a note to the tooth fairy to explain.  Little point in my posting it: it wouldn’t be delivered until Tuesday.

i took them to McDonald’s for a late lunch (notwithstanding the second breakfast of pancakes).  I had to read the menu to make my choice, I don’t get out much and there’s more on offer than there used to be.

I miss them tonight.  I started to miss them as I turned the car round and drove away, waving goodbye.  Ben will go home tomorrow or Saturday and I’ll miss him too.  But I’m all right on my own – I have Eloise too now, of course, but we’re both quite self-sufficient.

I played the organ for a service today, with Roses and Boy kindly looking after Zerlina and Gus.  The daughter of a woman who lives in the village had chosen to end her life.  Barry, who took the service, managed it wonderfully well.  He likes to look on the bright side and celebrate a life well lived, but it was not really appropriate with S’s elderly mother (the dead woman was 49 and her father died last autumn) in the congregation.  As I left the church, Jean came forward to thank me for playing – this is embarrassing, as it’s a paid job – and I kissed her and said what I could.  It so happened that one of the hymns was one I chose for Russell’s funeral.  Since my friend Andy lost the use of his legs, I’ve played for funerals and there have been several this summer.  I try to focus on playing well and thinking about the people who have lost a loved one, rather than myself, but I do keep tissues to hand.

such a lovely rainbow over the village when I arrived home this evening.  Always uplifting.

Z is rained on

The weather has certainly gone into Bank Holiday preparation, being changeable and, largely, wet.  Here in East Angular, I think we’ve had the best of it all summer – friends in the south west have had a dreadful time, especially those in the holiday business.

Zerlina and I were invited in to lunch with Roses and her friends, which gave me the opportunity to see that her gutters need clearing out.  I’ll do that once it’s dry for a day.  Later, z and I took Ben for a walk on the marshes, and he had a swim and a good run.  It rained some of the time, but we were prepared and I fed the animals as soon as it was dry again.  I moved all the chicks’ coops, I only did that on Sunday but they were all scratching about on mud.  Z and I also picked raspberries and blackberries and, later, I made a crumble.  And custard, in the microwave, which I managed to let boil over.  Messy.

Because of the weather, which I think was even worse in north Norfolk, I didn’t go to fetch Gus this evening and we will have to leave early tomorrow instead.  I must remember to leave a note for Wince, to say when I’ll be back.  What’s the betting I forget?

Z’s rag vanished

Nothing happened yesterday.  That is, nothing to write about.  Time was when I’d have manufactured a post out of it anyway, and I still might on occasion, but I only do that if the Muse (the one that inspired Rampling Sid Rumpo, I suspect) strikes, nowadays.

Today was more eventful and, I’m pleased to say, was punctuated by my thoroughly losing my temper.  This was deserved by the object and considerably overdue.  Being totes adorbs and all that, it happens rarely and is usually swallowed in the interest of politeness and good relationships, even with idiots.

I had a haircut this morning, which is always a pleasure and means that I have hair that doesn’t even need to be brushed, if I don’t get round to it.  Apart from slathering on moisturiser and, usually, eyebrows (fair eyebrows don’t show), my beauty, hem hem, regime has considerably slipped this summer and I rarely have bothered with makeup.  I reckon I’ve reached the age when no one is looking at me, and that’s fine.  After that, I bought more chick and cat food and came home.

Al was coming over to fetch Ro’s Mini to take it for sale or auction, I’m not sure which, and I found up the keys and the log book etc, and lovely Jamie helped me push it out of the garage, so that I could put a bit more air in the tyres, and get it in striking distance to be loaded on a trailer.  Then we pushed out Al’s Morris Minor – and I couldn’t find the key.

I’d searched the one place I’d have put it and quite a number of other places besides, when Jeff drove up.  He, it turned out, had placed it randomly on a table without telling me, and wonders why I didn’t find it.  About two months ago, so the chances of tracking it down are remote.  And he blamed me.  Then, he assured me he’s only tried to help and he’s a skilled carpenter, so I reminded him that he couldn’t even measure a pair of garage doors within 20mm and gave the wrong measurements to the company making replacement doors.  So he told me that he’d only given me a rough idea and it was my fault for ordering them when I knew that.  I reminded him of the whole conversation, when he gave me the quote from the company, wanted me to order them, I went in and rang them and went out and told him so.  He disagreed and said that nothing was his fault and swore quite a bit, not at me but really rather offensively

At this point, I called him a liar and told him to get off my land.  I don’t do this normally, loves, diplomacy is my strong suit.  But Charlotte was here and she was shocked that he was so rude and impertinent- not a word I use lightly as it sounds quite pompous, but truly, darlings, he’s been thoroughly infuriating me for weeks and I’ve been making allowances and biting my tongue.  But he’s appalling, and I never want to see him again.  He’s caused me nothing but trouble and I have had enough.

Anyway, after that, Charlotte and I took Ben for a walk and he had great fun.  Two women were throwing balls and frisbees for their five dogs in the river and he joined in and found that swimming is great – he’s never cared to go out of his depth before.  Thanks to Charlotte’s bag of cheese, he was obedient and came back as soon as he was called, every time.

Al and Dilly came and, with great difficulty, we managed to push the (flat batteried) Mini on the trailer, which Alex manoeuvres with impressive skill and aplomb – I’ve learned a lot from watching him, but I’m a girly, frankly, when it comes to reversing with a trailer and they went off to deliver it, leaving me with the children.  They returned an hour and a half later with armfuls of Ronald McDo’s goodies, which were most welcome.  It’s rarely my choice of meal, but it beat the salmon I had in the fridge today.  I had a box of mini Magnums that went down well afterwards, with the children and me.

I’ve mentioned to Pugsley that, for Squiffany’s ninth birthday, I bought her an expensive iPod Touch.  So it’s fair enough for him to consider something he’d really like, even if it’s a bit ambitious.  He’s going to think about it.  He looked pleased.

Z answers the phone

I should have got rather more done today, but – no, no excuses. I didn’t do it.  I don’t care.

Last night, I got into bed and looked at my phone, to put on the radio, and there was a message from New Zealand, asking if I was still awake?  It was a friend, not Graham who was such a help earlier this year, but someone known to me and another friend (long story, never mind) as Aberdeen Angus.  I replied that I was and put on a pyjama top, modestly, as we usually talk on Facetime.

Ten minutes later, I removed it as I was very hot.

Five minutes after that, Angus Facetimed me.  So I answered, with duvet drawn up to my chin.  Modesty rules, hey.  Late night chat is enough to keep me awake for an hour afterwards, unfortunately, so if this happens again, I probably just won’t answer and let it be assumed I’m asleep.  I am sleeping much better on the whole, though, than I have for several years and I’m immensely grateful for that.

Half an hour ago, I let Eloise out and she hasn’t returned.  This is so unlike her, I’m worried.  It’s not late, quite possible that she’s out frolicking – but she usually comes when she’s called.  Mother Cat came to be stroked, but not my Eloise.  I’ll just have to keep going out and calling until she returns.

Dogs may be more work, but they’re easier, in many ways.  Especially when, like me, you’re more than half dog.

Z isn’t odd, surely

I updated my sidebar the other day and, oh dear, it makes me look so odd and eccentric.  As we all know, I’m not in the least, I’m really quite normal.  But all these random animals … a cat and a dog would suit me nicely, in the long run.  Lord knows when that’s likely to happen.

My gardener Wince called round this evening, to let me know his mother is in hospital.  I wasn’t here on Thursday when he was due, and it didn’t seem to me that anything had been done, but I hadn’t been round the back of the house (look, it’s a big garden and I’m busy) so I assumed he’d been mowing there – anyway, he hadn’t.  His mother had been taken ill in the night and was swept off to hospital in an ambulance.  It doesn’t sound good, I’m afraid.  He’s a nice man, never married and had always lived with her – and father, while he lived, of course – and always worked in the same job until the firm closed down when Wince was 60 last year.  I sympathised, not much I could say.  She is asleep most of the time and he said he was there for an hour and a half last evening but she didn’t wake.  I said that it didn’t necessarily mean she didn’t know he was there, and to hold her hand, as touch may still be felt, even when she is apparently asleep.  Is that so?  It sounds plausible.  He needs to feel that he’s helping her, whether she wakes or not.

It’s been very hot today and the temperature is still in the 20s.  I wish I could open windows upstairs.  Not that I mind the heat in other respects, it’ll be winter soon enough.

Animal talk, mostly

All is quiet this evening.  Eloise came through into the porch this afternoon, where I was sitting with Ben, and stared at him until he woke.  He wanted to be friends but knew he mustn’t bother her – she left the room after a while and I took him for a walk.  I’m sure they will find their level of acceptance in a couple of days.  Mother cat was disconcerted to see him and went back to her barn.

The first hatching of chicks is over eight weeks old now and one of the young ones is trying out a rusty, squawking crow, poor thing.  I can see, as well as hear, that one is certainly a cockerel, I think a couple of others are.  I hope to rehome some of the girls soon – I’ve had to put the black hen with just two chicks in the original indoor tortoise run, covered with wire and with one end sheltered with perspex and shaded by a piece of wood.  It doesn’t sound very satisfactory and it isn’t – it’s four foot by two and is just about big enough for now, but it’ll be good when I can move them into a bigger coop.  Then there are two fairly standard coops and a bigger run and house too, that Wince made for me.  I don’t know about reintroducing the hens with the rest, nor any chicks I might keep – I’ve no idea if they will be picked on to start with.  I can, when the time comes, start by letting them all loose in the garden together, though then I’ll have the job of chivvying hens that haven’t been in the run for three months or more – i’m sure I’ll find someone I can ask for advice.  I can separate them in the hen house if necessary, as it’s divided into three parts, though the nesting boxes are all in one section – I can improvise for a while, I’m very resourceful.

I don’t want my life to revolve around all these animals, I have to admit.  Tomorrow will be devoted to getting the indoor tortoise run sorted out.  I feel depressed.  I’m sure I’ll end up giving the tortoises away – I’m fond of them in a way, but I just can’t see them as pets, I observe them as interesting creatures instead and – well, I’ve got other things to do than watch tortoises.  Still, I’ll bring them into the porch at the end of the month and keep them over the winter, at any rate. If I’m uncertain about anything, I defer the decision.

You may remember, some weeks ago, I hinted that I wouldn’t be living here alone in a while.  What had been intended was for Zig to come and stay for the summer, bringing all her animals – ponies, cats and dogs.  We were both looking forward to it so much, and so was Roses.  However, Zig needed another operation unexpectedly and the plan had to be shelved.  She is home from hospital now and we’re hoping she might be able to come in the autumn, though whether she’ll bring the ponies depends on how long she’s likely to stay.  If she does come, and if she’s well enough, I’d love to be able to arrange a get-together, since she missed out on this year’s blog party.   I hope that some of you, at least, would be able to come.