Monthly Archives: September 2016

Z’s hair today and gone … today and next Monday.

I’ve been letting myself go.  Yes, I know, darlings, at a cursory glance I’m still as perfect as ever, but I’ve almost entirely ignored my eyebrows for months.  All summer, in fact, and they were wayward.

LT and I both had things to do in Norwich today, so we parted company with me saying I’d return for him at 11.15, and then I went to fetch my watch from the jewellers and did a couple of other errands, including buying some lovely Earl Grey fumé tea (smoked Earl Grey is delicious, better than either EG or Lapsang, I reckon) and then, after browsing and window shopping a bit, I still had time on my hands.  So I went into Jarrold’s and asked if they could tidy my brows, as you do in a department store, but I had to make an appointment for half an hour hence.  So LT and I returned – that is, he went and browsed somewhere or other, I don’t know, while I got tidied up.

I don’t usually do this.  I normally sort myself out.  I’m awfully neat.  She got it right, actually, I don’t look thin-browed and surprised, but I’m seriously neat.  I like it but I don’t recognise myself.

Not that it’s very visible. I usually have my hair cut every five weeks because I’m a bit obsessive – you’ve never noticed? I hide it well, darlings, I hide it well.  But last time I was at the hairdresser’s, their appointment system, recently gone over to online, was down (it was down more than up, they were pretty pissed off).  I said I’d phone in a day or two and promptly forgot for six weeks.  And I couldn’t get an appointment until next Monday.  So I’m falling over my hair, which is way over my ears and practically down to my feet, and you can’t see my eyebrows at all because my fringe is below the end of my nose.  Srsly, darlings.  I’m almost blinded by it.

The heat of the day

It seems that there’s going to be another heatwave next week.  So I thought I’d better deal with the glut of aubergines today, while the kitchen wasn’t intolerably hot.

I may have mentioned, I bought 50 small boxes, the sort you get when you order a takeaway.  This was on the recommendation of Mike and they’re great.  They’re big enough to be useful but small enough not to take up a lot of room in the fridge or freezer and, when empty, they stack neatly.  I’ve only got 7 left – of course, they’re reusable, but I think I’d better get another 50 – they’re really cheap too, unlike Tupperware and such splendid stuff.  Anyway, I’ve filled another dozen or so today and also done that egg and breadcrumbed aubergine thing that I mentioned a week or two ago.  It took a loonng time this afternoon – I used 7 or 8 aubergines, made two and a half Aga trayfuls in all (some 40 slices) and also made some purée to have yoghurt added to in due course (please note that using dreadful grammar that, nevertheless, works, is an acute pleasure for me).  The aubergine slices are being open-frozen and will be bagged up tomorrow.  I have also made the glut of milk into white sauce – I was going to go down the proper béchamel route but decided a basic sauce was more useful in the freezer.  I have two pints of milk delivered a week but I often go for weeks without drinking any and LT doesn’t use it much either.  Anyway.  Lovely Tim is cooking dinner tonight and I don’t intend to do much more than be scintillating company as his reward.

Next week has filled up too.  I’m still hanging on to Friday but I do seem to have something of a compulsion to be really busy.  I can and do relax, but I schedule time for it. I think I need to work on that a bit, once I have less in the diary.


40 and a bit years on

Have I ever told you about the day Alex was born?  Probably, actually.  But I’ll tell you anyway.

I really hadn’t enjoyed my hospital experience when Weeza was born and I was pretty keen to have my second baby at home.  My doctor, a GP of the old school, was happy to officiate – home births were very unusual 40 years ago, so younger doctors were less likely to agree to it (nowadays, I think it’s left to midwives).

Al was due in early April and we all waited to see if he’d become a poisson d’avril – but the day passed uneventfully.  The next morning, however, I started to feel as if he might be planning an appearance.  It was two days before Weeza’s second birthday and it had been agreed that we’d all go and stay at my mother’s house, which was the family home where I’d grown up.  She had remarried, six years after my father’s death, two months previously and my stepfather Wilf, bless him, was entirely good-humoured – keen, indeed – to have the family descend on him.  He’d taken on my mother and her eleven dogs, after all.

So, at some time during the day, we went over there with our suitcases.  My doctor, whom we called Kit (that was his name, not some reference to his stethoscope), had decreed that there should be an oxygen cylinder to hand, in case – well, I’m not sure in case of what.  I suppose if things had gone wrong, I’d have been shipped off to hospital toot sweet.  Anyway, the nice woman from the chemist turned up with it in the early afternoon – I’ve now remembered, Al was actually due on the 8th, so there was thought to be plenty of time.  I went to help her carry it in and she wouldn’t let me “don’t want to start you off, do we?” she said laughingly.  I didn’t tell her I’d been in labour for some hours already.

Anyway, things progressed as they normally do in those cases.  The midwife was a very nice woman, the wife of the local Methodist minister.  There was a slight kerfuffle when someone decided to nail down a loose board in the passageway outside the bedroom and hit the nail through the water pipe.  I can’t quite remember how that was resolved, but I suspect an emergency plumber had to be called in.

They tried to give me gas and air, which I loathed – in a warmish room, breathing in icy cold air through a mask was unpleasant, but I was too polite to say so and pretended to use it, while Kit complained that I wasn’t breathing it in right.  And Al was born around 10.30 and all was lovely.

Kit made sure everything was all right, the baby was weighed and given to me and, in due course, he left for home – he only lived two roads away.  And the midwife carried on cleaning and tidying things up and then, at about midnight, I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and I was very hungry.  So my mother went down and made sandwiches from the roast lamb they’d had for dinner, with brown bread, mint sauce and salt.  I can remember the taste still – the meat hadn’t been in the fridge yet so it wasn’t chilled, just perfect.  And the baby had had a feed (not roast lamb sandwiches, obvs) and gone to sleep and I was totally happy.

And the next morning, little Weeza came in to see her new brother and I changed her nappy and the contrast between a well-covered little toddler and a skinny new-born baby is another thing I still remember so clearly.  I did my usual thing of lying her down and kissing her all over her face until she was laughing and breathless.

Can’t remember when he was introduced to the dogs.  Probably not for a day or two.  I do know the first time I left him with my mother though.  It was the day that Russell and I went to look at a house that was coming up for auction at his firm.  I fell in love again and we bought it, though it hadn’t been in my mind at all to move house.

Good fences make good cattle

It was a particularly busy and productive morning and a certain amount of self-congratulation, we thought, was in order by lunchtime.  We’d bought a couple of dressed crabs from Matt at the market and ate them, with a modest salad of home-grown tomatoes and cucumber, for lunch.  Eloise cat was thrilled, of course,  Crab is her favourite meal.

Having been so busy all morning, we felt quite justified in relaxing somewhat this afternoon.  I was going out in the evening, so went to have a shower and wash my hair, which has become unusually shaggy of late.  I forgot that, when I last had it cut, their online booking system was down, so I said I’d phone in later for my next appointment.  I only remembered this when I started to trip over my flowing locks some weeks later.  I do now have an appointment for the week after next, but I’ll just have to wind it in pigtails in the meantime.

Anyway, I was just dressing again when I looked out of the window and saw three cattle striding across the drive and behind Rose’s bungalow.  LT and I hurried out (as soon as I was decent enough) and he went to send them towards the front field while I went around the house the other way to open the gate for them.  Unfortunately, they were only too keen to go that way and reached the gate before I did.  Of course, they then went back again, bustled past Tim and went into the field of maize.

It was impossible to follow them without boots, as there were nettles and brambles at the edge of the field, so I went for my wellies.  On the way, I looked in at the cattle on my field – and there were too many of them.  Clearly, about a dozen bullocks had broken down the fence on the further side of the field and barged their way in.  Jonny’s bullocks were being reasonably good natured about it, but there was a certain amount of barging and jostling.

Beyond the field, there is a footpath and I have a barbed wire fence to keep the cattle in.  Beyond the path, there’s a man-made waterway with a concrete bottom and sides.  The farmer who rents the field beyond lets his cattle drink from the river – however, at times of the year when the water level is low, they can wade through the water and come up the other side of the bank.  He has always been known to be a bit casual about this sort of thing.

I left a message for Jonny, who phoned back a little later.  He’ll come and sort things out in the morning.  In the meantime, the three original bullocks had gone back down the drive and headed back to their field – I don’t know if they found their way in, I was due to go out and I’d rather stopped caring, after a considerable time trying unsuccessfully to deal with the problem. I said to Tim and Rose, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to go in the field.  Twenty excited bullocks , even quite young ones, have the potential to make it a perilous journey.

Z is stationary

We went to London today.  And we arrived at the station in good time, so sat on the platform to wait.  An elderly lady came and sat next to LT, with a small, rather sweet-faced terrier on her lap.  I was busy reminding Roses by text that a friend was coming this afternoon to take photos in the garden, so I didn’t take much notice, but a youngish man (let it be noted that anyone young enough to be my child is young, so he might well have been in his forties) stopped to make friends with the dog.

“Does he like going on the train?” he asked in a friendly way?  “Oh, he’s never been on a train, but he likes to watch them,” his owner said.  Tim and I exchanged soft glances, totally charmed. I looked at the dog and the lady properly, they both had sweet faces and, clearly, you had to have a heart of stone not to smile.

“I must take him on the train one day, I’m sure he’d enjoy it,” she added.  And the youngish man told her about his dog, who died a few years ago but was still much missed, and it was one of those little interludes that has to be treasured.  We suspected that she liked to watch the trains go by as much as her terrier did.


In the years we’ve been blog friends, Tim and I have often noticed that a post written by one of us gave the other the idea of one on a similar subject.  We have always just clicked, even though we only met a few times, twice or thrice, and only exchanged emails when we were planning to meet – which, after the initial parties, was, occasionally, when I was on my way to visit Ziggi.

Now, it’s much the same – it’s conversations with him that give me blog posts. The other evening, we were talking.  No.  I was talking, about bringing up my pre-school-age children.

When Weeza was little, there weren’t many nursery or play schools.  I was rather on my own, though I read a lot on the subject – not childcare books as such, I’ve never read one of those in my life, but ideas for games and so on.  In the first place, I carried her around on my hip most of the time.  I tried a sling but I found it very awkward and confining, we both disliked it.  She soon learned, once she was old enough to hold her head up, that she also needed to cling on.  Even when shopping, I sometimes found that it was easier to pile the bags in the pushchair and carry her.  In those days, there weren’t baby seats in cars and no requirement for seatbelts, so her carry cot was put on the back seat for the first months.  And I sang to her.  Nursery rhymes, mostly, it was all very child-centred.

To start with, I read to her a lot.  Her favourite book was Smith, the lonely hedgehog, by Althea Braithwaite, otherwise known as Miff Heehog, because she knew the book before she could speak.

What she could speak were animal noises.  I used to ask her, what does a dog say?  And she’d woof.  What does a cow say?  She’d say moo.  She must have been less than a year old.  She had a vast repertoire of animal noises.

I’ve got a sudden attack of acute nostalgia and I think I need to sit very still until it passes.

Animal update

I’ve been getting the indoor tortoise run ready.  I’ve one fewer tortoise than I had, I’ve given one away to my gardener, Wince – or rather to his partner.  She very much wanted one and I had three and frankly I don’t really want any of them, but I only want them to go to good homes and someone I know.  They’re nice little things, but I’m not really a tortoise person.

But I’m conscientious, so I’ll search them out in the next day or two and bring them indoors, at least overnight, though I might put them out in the daytime.  I haven’t seen much of them all summer, in fact.  Their run has lots of tortoise-friendly weeds in there now, plus a few non-weeds (sedum and hebe) and so I haven’t fed them all that much.  I weighed them a month or so ago and they’d all put on weight, so they obviously are eating.

The young cats – they’re a year and a half old so I can’t call them kittens – are all thriving.  They all come to be fed twice a day.  They are all quite different in how they behave towards me.  Zain, the tabby, is very friendly and loves to be petted.  Fred, one of the black boys, is not as confident but wants to be stroked, so will be brave if I’m careful and gentle.  His identical brother, Barney, will now eat if I’m there and he won’t run away while I’m putting down his food, but he’s very wary and I’ve never touched him.  Betty, the only girl, is somewhere in between.  She will approach me but keep an arm’s length, but I have stroked her a few times if Zain is there.  He’s certainly the leader.  Friendliest of them all is the mother, Mehitabel Cat.  She loves to be stroked and craves affection, but she sometimes goes off for weeks at a time.  I hope that she has another home she has adopted, but I don’t know.  She came yesterday, for the first time in a few weeks, and she was very hungry and quite bad-tempered with her offspring, though not with me.  She started eating as soon as I put food down.

I now have twenty bantam girls, as one died of old age a week ago.  I’m sorry to admit that I also have three cockerels.  I’d had to have several culled and I just couldn’t face it any more.  So I’ve put them in with the hens, knowing that there’s a risk that they will fall out and fight.  I’ll deal with that if it happens, but I couldn’t cope with choosing their death.  They don’t roam completely free any more, so there’s no risk of more chicks.  Some of the girls are very old and I don’t mind the thought of bringing numbers down, over the next year or two, and gradually giving them up altogether – or maybe having just half a dozen, because I don’t really care for bought eggs any more.  I suppose I’ve turned into an egg snob.

Eloise cat is, of course, perfect.  She could tell you that herself.

Z is judgemental

I’ve done my annual stint as a judge at the home economy section at the next village’s Gardening Club show.  I prepare for it mainly by having little or no breakfast – it’s quite a challenging morning.  Today, we had courgette cake, gingerbread men, bread rolls, bakewell tart, fruit muffins, marmalade, jam, chutney, a summer drink, the men’s competition, which was a cake apparently to a recipe chosen by the Queen, which is basically sticky toffee pudding as a cake, topped with desiccated coconut.  Much as I despise desiccated coconut, I also love sticky toffee pudding and that was the hardest to judge as they were all pretty damn good.  There were also tomatoes – this was impossible, they were all lovely and tasted of tomato so we just went with our personal view of deliciousest tomato, and new-laid egg, which mostly comprises cracking an egg onto a plate and judging its freshness and loveliness.  Oh, and savoury scones.  Having sampled every single entry (except the raw eggs), we then went for lunch.

While I was doing this, LT was driving from Reading to here and he arrived, probably, about the time I was sitting down to lunch.  It’s been really good, in the last few weeks, seeing more of my next-door village friends.  We’ve known each other a long time but I haven’t got out so much in the last three or four years so I’ve lost touch a bit.

And now LT is home, so it’s all good again.