Monthly Archives: April 2016

Z doesn’t get out her chequebook

I wasn’t successful, I’m afraid.  After consultation with LT, I bid on two lots, for a lot more than the estimate, but I was outbid by two others on the first and was the underbidder on the second.  I gave it a good go, though, and I’m not unhappy that I went.  I wish I’d been able to buy my favourite piece, though – the buyer, who I know, is aware that I wanted it.  “Sorry to run you up,” I said to him afterwards. “Are you still speaking to me?” he replied.

And anyway, I love London and I enjoyed the visits.  So that’s something.  And those lovely young men and their hair, nowadays.  I do admire them. Personal grooming must take ages.

China town

A retired antiques dealer, who had a shop in Kensington for years and specialised in china, died last year and her collection is up for auction tomorrow.  Russell used to take her a box of bantam eggs whenever he visited and, after her retirement, used to call on her every few months.  I went with him to her flat a couple of years ago – February 2014, I remember, because I know the other reason we were in London.  She showed me her Lowestoft china and there was one item in particular that I really liked.

So, at the least, I wanted to see it again.  That was the reason we were in London today.  And I’ll go to the sale tomorrow too.  The item I want is in with other pieces, only one of which I would like, so I’m going to have to think carefully about it all.  There was something else that took our eye – should that be eyes? Sounds odd – anyway, turns out that LT and I are in accord.  Anyway, I may not be in luck, and rather doubt it, but an auction is most fun if you’re hoping to buy, so I’ll go and be keen and at least, maybe, be the underbidder.

We went to find somewhere for a light lunch and a tapas place appealed, but there wasn’t a table available outside and it was too lovely a day to be stuck indoors.  A woman of an age to know better had finished her coffee and was ostentatiously studying her phone and rearranging her handbag, not to be glared into giving up her table.  In the end, I went and asked nicely if she had just come or was about to leave? She said, in a polite way, that she had just arrived and was waiting for someone – we knew the former wasn’t true but, a minute later, another table cleared so we sat down.  And then another, younger woman turned up to join her, so benefit of doubt was given, until they both got up and left.  And never mind about us, but there were only about ten tables and that was so rude and selfish, to deprive the restaurant of customers in that way, just to sit down while waiting.  And she could have explained the truth to us anyway.

But we just huffed with righteous indignation for a minute or two and enjoyed our lunch, sharing some chorizo cooked in sherry, a plate of squid, samphire and butternut squash purée and a helping of bean salad with raw salt cod – all delicious, we made good choices from an appealing menu.

Tomorrow is our last day here for a bit, we are going from home to home, back to Mahsrae on Thursday.  It’s been good.

Writing in Reading

We’re home, and have had a lovely time but I think it’ll have to wait a few days before I tell you all about it.  The iPad’s predictive text is really quite peculiar.

So just five things for now –

1 except for snow, we had most of the weather that April could throw at us, good and bad

2 Though leaving there and arriving here in fine weather, driving conditions were positively hazardous en route and LT is a mighty fine driver (his car is rather lovely, too)

3 He cooked risotto for dinner

4 We are going to London tomorrow

5 The Pembrokeshire coast is gorgeous, the people are delightful and I can’t wait to go back.

F went a bit flat

Tomorrow, unless the weather forecast is absolutely dire (general Welsh weather is entirely acceptable), we’ll be off to LT’s pad in Pembrokeshire.  As I’m unlikely to have much opportunity for a wifi connection, you will probably have to manage without me for the weekend, darlings.  I know.  It’ll be hard for me too – more than for you, in fact.  You all have a life outside blogging, after all.

Today has been lovely, involving shopping for food and wine, various domestic blissings and a lot of laughter, but one fly has crawled into the ointment, in that my poor dear clarinet is a bit bust.  One of the keys (F natural) has broken off, for no apparent reason except, I suppose, that it’s over 60 years old and, if my hips of the same age are failing, I suppose an F can.  So I’m playing tunes which have sharps so I don’t need the F, and it’ll have to go for repair when I get home.

When I first started playing the clarinet, I took it to be tuned by a retired chap, whose name I’ve forgotten, I’m sorry to say, who lived in Framlingham.  He was pleased to see it.  “A Boosey and Hawkes Regent! I would have tuned it when it was made, I worked for Boosey and Hawkes and tuned all their Regent clarinets in the ’50s”.  We talked about it and reckoned that the clarinet, which was my grandfather’s, was made about the time I was born.  So it became increasingly dear to me.  He said that it’s got a very good barrel and when the keys wear out, it’s worth having them replaced because it’ll still be a better instrument than comparable modern ones.  I hope this breakdown isn’t a precursor to something major, though.

Devices and designs

One thing that puzzles me about showers is that the controls are usually right under the jet, so one has to get one’s arm doused in icy water while turning it on.  When I have a shower installed, I’ll remember to insist on a different arrangement.  Not that it’s important, just a minor design or fitting flaw.

Another flaw, and this is certainly in the design, is in the spray arms of dishwashers.  When Weeza was buying a dishwasher a few years ago, I advised her to ask if there were any makes where you could take the arm apart for cleaning, but there weren’t.  Once in a while, an odd melon or pepper seed is bound to find its way into the machine, then into the arm, and the only way I’ve ever found of getting odd bits of grunge out is by poking the tiny holes with a pin, swishing water into the thing and then banging it on the sink; repeating as necessary.  If there were a nice little plug, how easy it would be.

When my children started families of their own, I was quite sure that the design of car baby seats would have got so much better than in my day, but they hadn’t.  There was still the awkwardness or coordinating four straps and pushing them into one catch, accurately and simultaneously, however much the infant wriggled.  And altering the straps as the child grew was still really difficult.  Pushchairs were little better – I never did master dismantling Squiffany’s and had to shove it in the back of the car (I had that Mercedes estate that I disliked so much, at the time) when I’d taken her out.

I can only think that the people who design these things never use them.  But why don’t they? It seems so odd.

Years ago, our friend Herman, who was a builder, asked me to visit the house he was in the process of finishing – he used to buy plots of land and build on spec, usually, rather than to order.  He asked me for advice on the layout of the kitchen, because he liked my kitchen so much (not the present one, where the characteristics of the room gave me little scope) but the first one I designed. I explained various aspects that a cook and housekeeper would find useful, especially an efficient one – anyway, he invited me back once it was finished and it was brilliant, full of nice little touches that set it a cut above the usual.

Tim’s kitchen is really well planned, by the way.

And so to bed…

Today must be counted as a success because I managed to buy my sister Wink a birthday present, in plenty of time to post it so she’ll receive it before the day.  This doesn’t always happen.  I’m fairly rubbish when it comes to anniversaries, usually.

There’s not a lot to say otherwise, not really.  We went for a nice walk along the Thames, supposedly in the sunshine but the sun went in about two minutes after we started and came out again just as we returned to the car park.  It was enjoyable nonetheless and we’d probably have been too hot in the sun.

I’m still relearning how to relax and getting quite good at it.

Hold the line…

I’ve spent much of the evening writing letters.  Handwritten ones, that is, which is most unusual.  One is to a friend in America, who doesn’t use the internet and the other to a friend who lives near Norwich who does, but who much prefers a ‘real’ letter to an email.  LT provided me with an envelope but then I discovered that I didn’t have the address of my Norwich friend on my phone.  No matter, there’s always … Except that it now transpires that he’s ex-directory.  I know the name of the road and the village, but not the number – so he’s going to get an email after all.

i suppose people have good reasons for going ex-directory, but it’s not very helpful when a friend needs their address or phone number (I do have the latter, but I want to write, not phone).

in my younger days, I had quite a telephone phobia.  Telephobia, hmmm.  I’m over it now but I still find it a slight challenge to pick up the phone to make a call – I’ve always been fine with answering. I think it started when, as a child, I accidentally knocked the phone off the hook and a voice said “Number please?” I was terrified, slammed the phone down and ran away.  I probably would again, actually.

Z waxes sentimental for a moment but veers away

We’re back at our other home this week, otherwise known as Tim’s place.

Just now, I drained my wine glass.  LT pointed out that there was none left.  I directed my gaze fixedly at his glass …. and he recognised my look as an imitation of that of Eloise cat.  Truly, it seems, no one knows me better.  It’s a bit breathtaking, in its way.

Roses is holding the fort again while we’re away, with the aid of her other half, Lawrence.  I’ve also roped in Wince, my gardener, to keep an eye on the greenhouse.  I feel surrounded by kindness.

This afternoon, I introduced LT to the phrase “moist towelette.”  He was as horrified as one might expect.  It was his fault, however.  He said “gusset.”  Most awful words?

Z’s Tough Puzzles!!!

Still turning out, but I’m getting to the stage of putting away now.  I’ve found all sorts of things.  Alex’s exam certificates for example.  My address book, which I may have mentioned already.  Books I’ve been looking for for a while, too.  I was particularly pleased to find Madhur Jaffrey’s memoir, Climbing The Mango Trees, which I recommend highly.  However. there’s still some way to go and I’m a bit bored now.

Bored with that, I mean, not in general terms.

One of the other things I found was – well, several, so were – copies of the splendid late magazine, Tough Puzzles.  I used to love it and, at one stage, had three subscriptions going, for myself, Ronan and Alex.  I found a completed copy and showed it to Tim.  He was frankly bemused by the arithmetical puzzles, having an aversion to such things – though he’s vastly better than I am at wordy things.  Anyway, I also found a few copies that were almost unstarted. so I’m going to have a wonderful time wondering how the hell I ever managed to do anything so difficult?

LT wondered how I knew which letter of the alphabet corresponded to a given number – e.g., 15=O, 18=R, 4=D.  I learned ages ago, I explained.  The children and I had a game, one of us spelled out a word, or series of words, by their numerical equivalent (so cat was 3-1-20) and you won by getting the word or phrase quickest.  I could, effortlessly, talk in number equivalents – and, as I explained this to him, I appreciated how weird I was then.  I spent decades doing this sort of thing for fun.  I don’t actually understand me.

Z gets dusty and winds down

I’m getting surprisingly good at relaxation.  Not in a meditative, yogaish sort of way, just chillin’.  Indeed, there’s always the possibility that I’ll become too good at it and I’ll never get anything useful done at all.

Turning out the study is a surprisingly effortful job, mind you.  For one thing, I’d been dumping stuff in there for ages and it was pretty messy.  For another, there were a lot of files and piles of papers going back years.  So, a while ago, I had a big sorting out and chucking out session, but this didn’t get halfway through the job.  In the last week or two, I’ve been tackling the bookshelves.  There are two of them, each about seven foot long by more than five foot high – haven’t measured, but they’re taller than I am and they’re wider than they are tall.  Each is seven shelves high, not including the top, and four compartments wide and they hold about 15-18 books, depending on their size.  In emptying them (there were more files as well as books), I’ve found a number of interesting things – and noted books for reading or re-reading.  All the same, though I’ve had a good wheelbarrowful of papers to burn and a bin bag of rubbish to discard, there hasn’t been much to show for it.  And stuff to go through properly later has been put on one side, so the room is messier now than when I started.

But after another hour and a half of this, this morning, I was ready to stand down from work for the rest of the day.  So LT and I went out for lunch.  And then we sowed some peas and some radishes and came in for tea.  We did the Guardian sudoku, which was surprisingly difficult, and I’ve been doing The Times fiendish one, which so far has proved impossible, though I’ll master it yet.  And Tim cooked dinner and all I had to do was light the fire.  And I’ve relaxed.  And it’s actually rather lovely and I don’t care if it’s lazy.

Young Stevo has got a job/apprenticeship, so isn’t available to help much any more, though he’s promised to when he can.  But his friend Shem is coming along instead.  He’s a nice lad and is willing, we’re getting along fine so far.