Monthly Archives: November 2015

Rambling Z

A friend, who’s recently moved a few miles nearer the Norfolk coast, wondered plaintively if it’s always wetter in Broadland?  The weather, that is, not the Broads, obvs.  But it’s wet here too, it’s hardly stopped raining all day.  So Dave and Alex are planning to come and mend the shed roof on Wednesday morning instead of tomorrow.

Poor Eloise is searching the carpet for the spider she’d been stalking.  I quietly picked it up and chucked it into the safety of the porch, and she can’t think what’s happened to it.  She’s darting behind chairs and pouncing, in the hope of flushing it out.  She’s a keen spider-hunter, which I mostly tolerate, fond though I am of spiders.  She and Rummy have become great chums and she encourages him to play kittenishly.  Roses watched them this morning, when she hid behind a curtain and swatted him when he came to look for her.  Later, they came through here and she jumped on a chair, so as to be able to leap on him from a height.  He doesn’t seem to mind.

I needed a new notebook for my meeting this morning and resorted to an old desk diary from 2005, which I thought was unused.  When I opened it again, however, I found that I’d written my itinerary for Russell’s benefit while I was in India in January of that year.  Sadly, the itinerary was changed, because Wink and I had been due to spend part of the time in Sri Lanka, but were prevented from doing so by the tsunami on Boxing Day.  I’ve remembered now that, as Russell and I were both so busy, I’d had the idea of having an extra diary, so that we could both put down our appointments and maybe manage more time together, or at least not double-book.  I was the only one to ever write in it, though so, apart from regular events that I’d filled in at the start of the year, jottings petered out around March.  We must have gone back to our usual method, of having a conversation (I know, radical!) on a Sunday evening to compare diaries.  Now, I suppose, we’d just share them on our phones.

Which reminds me, I checked my bank account this evening and there are still four people who haven’t paid their cheques in since the auction.  I’ve a total of £2,161 in there that doesn’t belong to me.  Annoyingly, it’s in my personal account rather than my business one, because the bank didn’t send a cheque book in time.  I had to use my personal cheque book, then put the money in from the other account.  I’ve still got the profit sitting in that one, I suspect I’ll use it to pay my tax bill.


I went to church in the next village today, where there was a combined service for all the six parishes.  The Rector had invited Ian, our Rector before last, who is still very much loved.  Chris (present Rector) got his dates in a bit of a twist, when he said that Ian was here from 2098 to 2006 and then looked a bit confused.  “Sorry,” he said, “All a bit before I was born.”

If you are always being told you look *too young* to be a church minister and have three children, you might as well play up to it.

It was really good to catch up with friends afterwards, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was nobbled to play for the Christingle service on Tuesday and that reminded me that I’d promised to do a flower arrangement before that, so I called in at the Co-op on the way home and then went round the garden picking evergreenery.  I finished making the celery soup I’d prepared yesterday and ate some and nearly fell asleep, cuddled up to the Aga on the kitchen stool.  Good thing I didn’t, though, I took all the stuff down to the church, threw together a sizeable arrangement for the altar and rattled through the two songs for Tuesday, listening to the wind getting stronger.  It had blown over the wheelie bin at the end of the drive, that had been emptied on Friday.  When I fed the chickens, I noticed that a large strip of roofing felt had ripped off my shed roof and hoped it wouldn’t rain before I had a chance to mend it.

It’s pouring down and blowing a gale out there.  I’m very glad I got in lots of coal and logs yesterday, and don’t have to go out again.  I’ve built up a big fire and am considering what to cook for dinner.  I’ve got vegetables.  And I fancy curry.  I’ll spend a while browsing cookery books and listening to music.  I put a plaintive whinge on Facebook about my shed and our old friend Rev Dave kindly offered to come and help me, and another friend volunteered her son.  I’ve gratefully accepted both, I have no objection to scrambling on roofs but I’m really not that agile at present.  Forecast is poor tomorrow, so keeping fingers crossed for Tuesday morning.

Z doesn’t buy tea, but is given it anyway

I’ve not seen enough of the children since the summer holidays, it was lovely to have them to stay.  My word, they do get a lot of homework, though I suppose the things listed were for the week.  I spent most time with young Gus, who knows letter sounds but isn’t great at stringing them into words, and we got on pretty well.  He did work hard, though was clearly not very confident.

I delivered them back to their mother and stayed for a cup of tea, then dropped in on Ro and Dora on the way home, to deliver a present to them.  Zain, Ro’s friend from university and best man at his wedding, read a post of mine on Facebook, where I linked to a tea advent calendar being sold by Fortnum’s.  No, I didn’t buy it – but Zain read the post and sent me a (considerably less expensive, I trust) one, and a second for Ro.  My daughter was highly dismayed and thought one of the three of my children should have taken up the suggestion – which wasn’t a hint, just a chuckle, though I adore different teas and, at a fifth of the price, might have succumbed to temptation.  Clearly not at £125, though.  Anyway, Zain is lovely and has long been adopted as my fourth son.  He probably has no idea of this.

It was a pretty miserable journey home through heavy rain, but there were no delays and I have – after cooking monkfish and roasted vegetables for dinner – been reading the papers.  No television, not even music tonight, though I’ve been listening to music most nights of late.  Just peace and warmth in front of the fire with my little cat.

I’m really looking forward to 1st December, when I can start drinking this lovely tea.  There are some splendid-sounding flavours.

Z changes her plans and does a Mercy Dash

I was going to spend an hour this afternoon going through my spice collection – I know, darlings, sounds much more fun than it is – but I had a phone call from Weeza at 3 o’clock.  We’d already spoken in the morning, so there had to be something amiss – she’d not been feeling well so had had a nap in bed, come downstairs for some food before picking up the children from school and her head had swum and she’d had to lie down or faint, and she still felt ill.  A friend would fetch the children from school, but Phil was visiting his granny, who’s 95 and not very well, so she’d be alone with the children tonight unless I could help: and of course I could.  I said I’d leave in ten minutes, I stoked up the fire, hid some presents I’d bought, fed the chickens and cats, put food down for Eloise and left.

Weeza looked pretty rough, white and frail, and Phil was about to leave.  She promised she’d eat – she’s on the thin side, so skipping a meal does her no good – and I brought the children home. I’d taken some breaded chicken out of the freezer before I left, so they had that with chips.  They had cucumber and carrots while it was cooking and yoghurt to follow, it wasn’t all about junk food (though I’m not above that, in its place).

They’re in bed now and I’m back downstairs with a glass of wine in front of the fire.  They’re hoping for pancakes in the morning for breakfast, if the chickens have laid an egg or two.

Z gets her head round 6 million pounds

A meeting with the school auditors this morning.  I had set my alarm accordingly, but had been awake in the night, so had to set a second alarm in the morning.  I didn’t get to my friend’s father’s funeral because someone left to go to it and, if I’d gone too, we wouldn’t have been quorate,  I’m always aware of this sort of thing, having been a clerk to the governors I know that one has to be a stickler for that sort of thing.  I’m not the arguing sort, but I stood my ground against a previous Rector, who thought that the ‘right’ person was more important than filling the quota of parent governors – I explained very firmly that eligible people could do a sideways shift to make room for the person she wanted, but we couldn’t mess about with the articles of governance because they were based on law and it would be a complete disaster to try to put right a mistake.  I made her accept what I said, though I doubt I convinced her.  Anyhow, darlings, I digress (well, there’s a first).  We passed the audit with no reservations and the only comment, except for clarifications, was in regard to £4,000 that was paid out of this year’s budget but related to last year’s invoices, which we hadn’t received until after the end of the financial year.  So no mistakes at all and that’s rare, we have a great financial team (of three, it’s amazing).

I’ve stocked up with wood for the weekend, emptied all the kitchen bins and taken the green wheelie bin down the drive to be emptied in the morning.  I want to do some sorting out in the next few days – even contemplating turning out my wardrobe, though I expect that’s going to be put off for a few more weeks. I feel quite peaceful, which isn’t usual.  I’ve probably forgotten something.

Getting to the bottom of things

I wrote to friends in Canada yesterday, whom I hadn’t contacted for several months – though nor had they written to me – and I haven’t heard back yet,  I hope they’re all right.  I’ve also written today to an old friend and distant cousin of Russell’s in Atlanta.  She sent a card and letter, so I’ve reciprocated – not posted yet, I’ll do that tomorrow.  I’m making valiant efforts to keep in touch with people, I’m really not very good at it and still owe a lot of letters.  It’d be easier if everyone read my blog, really.

That court case I mentioned back in the summer, I’ve finally settled out of court for, frankly, a derisory sum but the man is beyond the pale and I won’t waste more thought on him.  I called him a rude word at the end, having kept polite throughout, which achieves nothing but slightly relieves my feelings.

In today’s post, I received a testing kit.  Yes, it’s good old bowel cancer testing time again.  I remember the last time – you get cardboard spatulas with which to do smears on card.  Yes, it’s that horrid.  And it’s not nearly as simple to do as the instructions suggest.  Mind you, they start by recommending *either* toilet paper *or* gloves, which doesn’t quite install confidence.

I called on a friend, whose father died last week.  Her husband had been going to come and look at various plumbing jobs in the annexe, but had been overtaken by the event, and then by a request to construct a cardboard coffin.  M’s mother died a few years ago and she wanted a cardboard coffin, but it turned out not to be as eco-friendly as they expected, as it was lined with MDF and really rather expensive to boot.  So this time, V jokingly suggested he could make it – and then was taken up on the suggestion, to his horror.  He’s done it, and the splendid local independent undertaker was accommodating, which many such establishments wouldn’t have been, I’m sure.  But if you want to go down the bio-degradable route, I’d recommend doing some research first.

Z studies the accounts

The remaining four female bantams are likely to be going at the weekend and I have a potential home for the female chicks once they are older.  So I am near to getting back to normal, but am absolutely resolved that this situation must never happen again.  Changes to the chicken run may be possible so that they have a bigger area and needn’t be let out, but I’m aware that they will destroy the vegetation within days, however big a run they have.  I’ll see.  The cockerel will have to go, that’s certain, one way or another – he’s quite handsome, if I can find anyone who wants him, but I know that’s fairly unlikely.

I haven’t been out all day, except for feeding the animals (lovely Rose kindly filled my coal scuttles) and I haven’t even brushed my hair, let alone put in my contact lens.  I’ve done a fair bit of work and written some letters, I’ve only been moderately idle.  Not that I am unhappy to be idle, I enjoy doing nothing.

The school’s auditors have passed the accounts without qualification again, thanks to our fine financial manager and I’ve written to congratulate her.  They – the auditors – are coming in on Thursday to present the accounts to the finance committee, so I must spend the evening reading them, so that I can make intelligent comments.

No, really, I can.  I know quite a lot about it, sad old git that I am.

Some of you may have seen in the papers that the government has finally woken up to the fact that funding for schools varies wildly county by county and they acknowledge that, even bearing in mind that some deprived areas need more money, it varies to an unfair extent.  Having done a bit of research of my own and checked figures with the school finance office, it’s even more unfair than I’d realised.

We receive £4,100 per student.  The average sum that schools across England and Wales receive is £6,300 and some get over £10,000, with extra money for disadvantaged students in addition to that.  I know of schools that can give all students free uniforms, free meals and iPads, amongst other benefits, because they have ample money.  If my school received even the average amount, we would have £2,500,000 more next year, on top of our £6,000,000 budget.  As it is, we have to cut costs every year.

How nice to see you, A nas ta si a

The tortoises prepare themselves for hibernation, in the first instance by losing their appetites.  A hibernating animal must have an empty gut, as food ferments or rots over the weeks inside them.  With their slow metabolism, this takes quite some time in reptiles.  The babies fast for about a fortnight and Edweena for a month.  However, Natasha has just been dozing on and off since they stopped eating, though Anastasia burrowed down and slept.  The cold snap over the weekend, I hoped, would send Natasha to sleep properly – but in fact, Anastasia woke up instead.

I have given up.  I’ve set up a plastic crate of earth in the kitchen under a heat lamp, have given them a bath and food (not sure that they’ve eaten yet though) and they are busy basking and exploring.  I’ve left Edweena in the porch and i hope she will hibernate soon, it’s about time.

I had a lovely weekend in good company.  Ann and Mike came to lunch on Friday,  Charlotte came to stay on Saturday night and Tim popped up to continue his house hunting.  I even have started that myself – not that I’m sure when I’ll feel like putting this house on the market.  As you know, I was keen to do so as quickly as I could, but the last year has been much easier in practical terms than I expected and the urgency has left me.  All the same, having heard of a particular house that’s coming on the market sometime next year, I asked Weeza’s friend, who is a mutual contact, to give the owners my name and they invited me over.

It’s a very interesting situation – on a lovely stretch of the River Bure on the edge of a small town, it’s a fabulous location.  The owners haven’t long moved in, having had it built themselves, but now want to build another house to their exact, rather more modern, specifications, having been obliged to refine their plans by the Broads Authority and planners because of the house’s sensitive location.  I’m not at all sure that it would be big enough for me – though they’ve sensibly gone for a few big rooms rather than lots of small ones – but it has a lot to recommend it.  I must write an email to thank them, I’d like to keep the door open, as it were, but I doubt if I’ll actually want it in the long run and it’s on the edge of what I could afford anyway, it would be a stretch.  The running costs would be a fraction of here, though.  Whatever happens, it’s not a bad idea to start to get a feel for what’s out there.  I was quite straightforward with the owners, explained that I’m not ready to sell yet.

After that, the family lunch that I mentioned the other day went well and the children were a delight, as always.  They managed to be pretty patient as they waited for the food to arrive and I taught Zerlina how to fold napkins into a waterlily and a slipper.

I haven’t mentioned that I woke on Sunday morning to snow – in fact, it was snowing when I went to bed on Saturday night too.  There wasn’t enough for a snowman, but I had quite a lot to clear from the car before going out.  I have moved the coop with two-month-old chicks and their mother into the greenhouse, where they will be warmer.

Z enjoys her weekend

I thought that Charlotte might be cold in the night, though she’d pre-warmed the bed with an electric blanket, so went to the oak chest where i keep blankets and fetched her one.  We agreed that sometimes, even when a duvet is warm enough in theory, in fact it isn’t heavy enough, it feels slightly too insubstantial to feel quite right on a cold night.  Not that we had the forecast snow here, I looked out this morning at about dawn, as the app on my phone said it was snowing at that moment, but we didn’t have a drop.  Or a flake, I suppose.

I didn’t go back to sleep, but was quite content to lie in bed and it was lovely to hear the clock strike.  I’m so pleased to have it back in my life, as it were (though I could have, at any time) and it makes me happy.  Thank you again, Mike.

I felt sorry for the barn cats, though I’d set up their straw shelter.  I gave them a larger than usual scoop of dry food, along with their normal tinful of meat.  None of the chickens had left their perch, not until I arrived with their bread, soaked in warm water, plus the fish skins and remains of the sauce from yesterday, to go along with their corn.

I went back indoors to call Charlotte for breakfast.  “Is Eloise with you?” I asked.  Surprised that she didn’t come to say goodnight, I’d popped down at 11.30, when I’d nearly been asleep, because it occurred to me that I might have accidentally shut her in the porch, but I hadn’t.  As Charlotte replied no, I heard Eloise call.  So I went through the house, opening doors and peering in cupboards, to see where she might have been shut in.  Of course, the last place I thought of was the blanket chest.  She was fine, at least she’d been warm and had a soft bed.  I was very relieved that she hadn’t – relieved herself, that is.

My friend Simon finally came to deal with the cocks.  I helped by grabbing them in the coop and giving them to him.  It only took a few minutes and I switched off from it.  No sound, no pain but they flap for a while after death.  It badly needed doing, I was concerned that three of them might pick on a fourth and I’m glad it’s over.  Not nice, though.

I’ve filled the boot of the car with logs for Weeza and Phil and we’re having lunch together tomorrow.  The pubs are good in their neck of the woods, I had to phone three before I found one with a table at a suitable time for us.  Ro is joining us, though Dora has promised to spend the afternoon with her mum, who hasn’t been well, so there will just be seven of us.

A marriage is announced

No, not in the family.  My lot are all happily settled already.  It’s my Dutch wall clock, or rather my mother’s.

It used to be in the large hall of my family home, at the bottom of the stairs.  I have been very fond of it all my life but, for some reason, after my mother’s death, when Al moved into the annexe, it was never hung on the wall here.  I finally – and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have mentioned it before to him – asked our friend Mike if he’d come and check it over for me and hang it.  And come to lunch with Ann too, of course.

Mike was quite surprised to find that it has an 8 day movement, when he’d have expected it to be 30 hour, but when he took it apart he found that the mechanism is not original, but an English replacement, made in Birmingham.  I don’t mind that at all – though a purist would not approve of such a marriage, I’d rather wind the clock once a week than daily.  It always kept good time, so I hope it still will, and it’s in my hall so I can hear it strike and walk past it frequently.  I like the painted face with its Dutch scene – Mike says it was originally made in Friesland  in the Netherlands.

So I’m very happy.  A convivial lunch and a lovely clock on the wall.  And now, my friend Charlotte has arrived and will stay the night.

I’ll take a picture of the clock, but I need to wash the glass first as it’s quite dusty, and take a picture in the light as well.