Monthly Archives: November 2016

Being sent spam is a bitter irony

I’ve had 24 spam comments sent for moderation today – quite puzzled about it, but if it happens again, I’m going to have to turn on comment registration again – it’s not very much liked and I’d rather do without it, but hardly anyone comments anyway, so it won’t make a lot of difference!

I’ve had my pre-operation visit to the hospital, which went well, I trust.  That is, it is fine as long as the blood tests don’t show up a problem.  Darling Eloise cat was very happy that we’re back and sat on my lap for quite some time – she’s not a sitty sort of cat usually.

But I’m absurdly tired – must be age, darlings – although it’s only half past nine and I’m going to bed.  Fabulous meal last night, I’ve rarely had anything anywhere near as good.  I’ll tell you about it when I’ve slept.

Hey, Wayne

As I said, the hotel has only five rooms and so there isn’t a reception desk as such.  Incoming guests sign in and pick up the key left for them – this wasn’t the case for us as we arrived at Sunday lunchtime.  Last night, I noticed that the three couples staying were named Large, Littlechild and Kind.  Sounds like the Mister Men or at least, something out of Enid Blyton.

Today we visited Constable country; East Bergholt, Dedham and Flatford Mill.  After a sharp overnight frost, it was a perfect late autumn day, sunny and warm but with a nip in the air.  I’d been taken on a tour of the area some years ago by a friend who lived in East Bergholt but I’d not been to Flatford and I was enchanted – the National Trust has resisted the temptation to touristify it and it’s simply there.  Willie Lott’s cottage looking picturesque and mossy of roof, though not uncared for, the mill buildings kempt but simple and the mill pond, with a thin layer of ice, tranquil.  It was heartening.

i had the bright idea to visit the peninsula between the Stour and the Orwell estuaries.  It looked quite a short way on the map but the road meandered bewilderingly, and we weren’t quite sure what we’d find when we arrived anyway.  The map seemed to show the road vanishing into the sea.  What a fair bit of the view showed, as should have occurred to me, was the port of Felixtowe to the left and Harwich to the right, but it was rather appealing all the same.  We thought there would be a pub there for lunch, even if a simple sandwich and there was, but it was closed for redecoration.  However, there was a stall with a few people clustered round and an aroma of bacon frying, so we went there instead and chatted while our bacon roll was being cooked.  Three generous slices of back for £2.50 went down well.  And then we took a slightly more scenic route back than expected, when we went through Dedham village and found ourselves on a road heading back towards Manningtree.  I looked at my phone satnav and found a left turn so that, a few minutes later, we were back in Dedham, going the other way and on another road towards Manningtree.  “There should be a right turn opposite the church,” I said and there was, but it was no wonder we hadn’t realised to take it the previous time as it just advised car and coach parking.  Yet it was actually the route back to the A12.

i put LT through his driving paces, mainly on single track roads with many tight bends, but cresting one hill and rounding a bend – I think it was Higham Hill – there was a fabulous view, which I assured him was the reason for all our meandering.  We returned through Hadleigh, where we’d stopped this morning – sadly, we weren’t able to meet Mike and Ann today.  In the church, I mentioned their names to a friendly local: he knew them of course.  Since I was last there, they’ve removed the pews, though a number of them have been retained and were at the sides, and put in stackable wooden chairs.  As the church is wide and airy, it does make a very good space as a community centre and I was pleased to notice a pool table – evidently, the local youth group is catered for.  There were also armchairs, a kitchen area and a notice mentioning the monthly market.  Church shouldn’t be all about religion, nor just for Sundays.

We’re anticipating a splendid meal tonight, having booked a table in the hotel.  Sunday lunch was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, other than those LT cooks for me.  Ofcourse.


We’re having a few days away – not so much to celebrate our two month anniversary as because we actually had a clear week and decided, quite some time ago, to set aside part of it.  The timing has worked out luckily as the day we’re coming home is the day I’m going to hospital to have my pre-op assessment.

We’re staying in south Suffolk, having decided not to have far to drive.  There is lovely countryside round here and fabulous buildings, many of them going back to mediaeval days, when this was a very wealthy area because of the wool trade.  Actually, much of it still is – wealthy, that is – there was an Aston Martin parked outside the hotel when we arrived yesterday – there’s an excellent restaurant and a couple we’re having lunch – and a different one there this morning, though (yes, we kept our eye on it) the owners aren’t staying at this hotel.  Parking is in the market place just outside, it’s very convenient.

It’s a small hotel, only five bedrooms and ours has a four poster bed and a separate sitting room. It’s been owned by the same French couple for several decades and there’s a feeling of warm hospitality and attention to detail.

We thought we might spend some time in Sudbury today, but had a driving fail.  I can’t walk far, even with a stick, and we took some time to find the town centre – the road seems to spiral towards it, we went past the church several times but never at quite the same angle.  We noted that Gainsborough’s House was open so thought we’d go there and followed the sign for the short stay car park.  Having turned right,the road immediately forked and it wasn’t clear which was the correct way – evidently, we chose wrong.  And, though driving slowly, we nearly grounded on a nasty speed bump.  We tried one more circuit but we’d misplaced our way in the scheme of spiralisation and gave up and went elsewhere.  After lunch, we tried again, failed again and – do you know, we rather feel we’ve had it with Sudbury for a while.  However charming its residents may well be, getting into the place, as with many other town centres, is decidedly unwelcoming.

now, at 4 o’clock, we’ve come back to our hotel.  As it’s so small, there isn’t a desk, they leave the book open for incoming guests to sign in and put their room key on the table.  It’s really rather endearing.

Z’s best buys

We were talking last night about ‘best buys.’  Some definition was necessary – I wasn’t meaning something that was clearly necessary (such as somewhere to live or wear, or a means of getting about) but a luxury of sorts that had such a wow-factor in terms of usefulness or life-enhancement or sheer joy that it was exceptional.

For this year, it was the set of two silicone baking mats that I bought in the spring.  They are brilliant and I use them several times a week.  Whether I’m roasting vegetables, making biscuits or meringues, or open-freezing something, they can either line a dish or sit on a baking tray and nothing ever sticks, they save the dish from baked-on food residue and they clean with a squirt of washing-up liquid and a sponge.  They’re dishwasher proof but I’ve never bothered to put them in, they’re so easy to wash.  And, with a splendid finishing touch, it’s suggested that you store them, rolled up, in a kitchen paper tube.  We use the roll that’s in use, so they don’t actually take up any space at all.  Simply excellent.  When the family was over a couple of weeks ago, I promised to buy each of my children a set – which is the only present (times three) that I’ve bought yet, though that’ll have to change soon.

These things soon become part of normal life, of course, and one forgets how jolly pleased one was with them and the difference they made, but I’ve been trying to think back for other things that might come under the same category.  The unexpected benefit is an advantage, but not a requirement.  For example, when we moved here thirty years ago and bought our first dishwasher, I knew just how much I wanted it but that’s often not the case.  The satnav I bought eight years ago to drive to the London flat, where Weeza and Phil then lived – it proved its worth at once as I knew it would, having once got lost on a rainy November night when I drove down (I have no idea now why I drove rather than going by train, but there must have been a good reason).  But, whilst I’d certainly be able to navigate across the country without it, driving on my own through unfamiliar towns to a specific address is where it’s best of all.

Then there are the little electronic kitchen scales I bought three years ago for the purpose of tortoise weighing.  So, so convenient and I use them almost daily – they change at the touch of a button between grams, milligrams, ounces and fluid ounces.  I never use my old scales any more.

Top buy of all time remains, of course, my first iPhone.  I’m on my third, now four years old and it’s still a daily joy – incredibly useful and a pleasure to use too.

Z the punk

It was just after five o’clock this evening when the phone rang.  For once, we weren’t in the middle of a conversation, so I didn’t resent the phone ringing  –  I’m so grumpy, darlings.  I do like speaking to friends on the phone very much, but if we’re interrupted, I grumble on my way there, until I find it’s someone I  actually want to speak to.

It was the private hospital in Norwich – not beating about the bush, they’ve had a cancellation for a hip operation (on the NHS) on the 9th December and were offering it to me.  Rather than the 25th January which is the scheduled date, she said.

Reader, I took it.  I was a bit taken aback and actually asked for overnight to think about it, idiot that I am, but I phoned back two minutes later to say yes.  And sorry to vacillate, I was being really, really silly.   Except that I needed to have 10 seconds discussion with LT.

I feel lucky.

Z exerts more patience than Z feels

I’m taking very slow steps towards changing my name.  Fortunately, LT understands me as I understand him (we’re very alike in many ways) and knows that it’s no reluctance on my part but a sort of caution – the ins and outs of things are complicated.  For example, I’ve sent our marriage licence to my solicitor so that she can get my name changed on various documents – which seems to be quite enough to register the house, shares and other rather important things – but, when I told the agents who let my flat in London, they said that, not only would they need the licence but also my passport and a utility bill so that they could do a money laundering check.  Of course, this is ridiculous.  Total jobsworthiness.  I’ve written back good-humouredly  to say that, in that case, since I haven’t changed any utility companies or my passport, it’ll have to stay as it is but they’ll have to either pay my rent into an account not in the name they have or else it’ll have to be paid into a different account at another bank that is.  I daresay they’ll get back to me in the next day or so.  They will find nothing in my new name anyway, of course.  I’ve got plenty of credentials in my previous married name.  I’m finding it quite hard not to overreact and find it discriminatory.  But I’m a reasonable, balanced sort of woman on the whole (yes, I see you snigger) and I’ll get over my indignation.  But if it’s this much trouble, I’ve a feeling it’ll take years for me to to return to a single identity.  And there’s a sense in which I haven’t just one, of course, but you know what I mean.

Crowning glory

My teeth seem to be one thing or the other.  Half of them have no fillings at all and the other half, the back ones, have been through a fair bit of drilling and filling over the years.  I’m sorry to say that they were convenient nutcrackers on occasion, when I was a child, and it didn’t do them any good in the long run.  And in recent years, I’ve had to have a few of them crowned.  And the latest one was today, having had the fitting and temporary crown a fortnight ago.

When I got home, we went out to lunch – LT and I aim to go out about once a week for a meal and it’s usually lunch.  I took him to a local pub where they have an inglenook with a splendid log fire.  When Mike and Ann came and took me out, they being two of the loveliest people I know, a few months after Russell died, that was where we went because I knew they did good home-cooked food and there was a nice proper pub atmosphere.  And indeed, in traditional country manner, all the drinkers at the bar turned and stared as we went in.

Some years ago, I was chatting to the sister of a friend at some social event and she told me that her son used to work in Japan and had married a young Japanese woman.  In time, they came back to London to live and she adjusted reasonably well, but she didn’t care to be out of the city.  They came to visit his parents, who thought it would be a good idea to take her to a typical country pub and she was very upset to be stared at when they went in.  She didn’t believe them when they said it wasn’t because she was Oriental, it was just because she didn’t live in the village and it wasn’t meant to be unfriendly in any case.  I’ve often wondered if the marriage lasted – if it has done, I suspect they went back to live in Japan.  But I’ll probably never know.

We’re going to view an auction tomorrow.  But I’m absolutely not going to be tempted to bid on anything.

Z seems to have made a terrible mistake

This morning, we were driving in the rain to the next town for me to go to the bank to change the name on my account.  “I suppose,’ said my husband, “that this is the tail end of Angus.”  Which is the name given to the first storm of the winter.

“And thereby,” he added, “angus tale.”

I was going at 30 miles per hour.  I couldn’t even throw him out of the car.

Having checked with my solicitor that there’s nothing illegal about hanging on to my previous surname whilst also changing my name to a new one, she sent me a cheque that was sizeable enough to want to pay it in promptly, in my new name, which is the reason we drove to Beccles. And two counters were open and there were two people at the customer service desks too, and there was a huge queue; or rather, two queues.  We were there about three-quarters of an hour and my own business took little more than five minutes.  Yet Barclays shut their busy branch in Yagnub so that everyone has to go elsewhere when there are financial matters to deal with.

Still, it’s done and, it has to be said, LT has many good qualities.  But his jokes…..

Veg table

We have been gratified at the success of our leeks this year.  I haven’t grown any of the allium family for quite a long time because my kitchen garden caught a nasty white rot that affected them (though nothing else).  I contained it for a while by crop rotation but in the end had to leave it until the infection died out.  And then I was growing vegetables for Al’s greengrocery anyway, so chose things that were easy to grow organically and/or relatively expensive to buy in.  But I’ve been getting back to more variety of crops and this is something we’ll continue.

Tim raised a quizzical, yet indulgent eyebrow when, back in May, I bought a couple of small pots, each with a couple of dozen leek seedlings in which, while healthy, were tiny.  But I potted them into four big pots and, several weeks later, we planted out the much bigger seedlings.  And then ignored them for a while until the weeds just got too big and then we were impressed at how well our plants were getting on.

Last night, we went out for dinner at the wonderful next village, where the most amazing community spirit still reigns.  I was at a friends’ house the other evening – I was invited to join a book club, something I’ve never had any inclination at all to do, but it’s different when you know it’ll be marvellously sociable – and, talking about it, they said they were going to have to squeeze to get everyone in, at over 130 it was the biggest yet – and then suggested that LT and I come along.  We actually made the numbers up to 135 – not many village halls, with amateur cooks in a non-professional kitchen, could plate up and serve four courses as efficiently as they did, but it was superb.  There was a delicious home-made pâté to start with – done properly wrapped in bacon, with pork and prunes – and then roast beef.  What was remarkable was that the plates were hot, all the vegetables were cooked very nicely and everyone was served within minutes.  Then sticky toffee pudding and then cheese, followed by cafetières of coffee and chocolates.  A couple who are about to leave the village, with huge generosity, paid for the wine for everyone and the whole lot was £10 a head.  We had a great time.

But we’d eaten so much that we decided to be moderate and vegetarian, almost, today.  We’d picked the last of the peppers, sweet and chilli, yesterday, so I roasted some of the sweet ones with a shallot, some garlic and a couple of mushrooms, for lunch, and then I made butternut soup for dinner.  LT has been slicing the last of the most recent batch of bacon, so the trimmings were chopped and fried with some sage, and I made some croûtons.

The first named wind of the season struck the south coast yesterday: its name was Angus.  I looked up the names that they’ll have this winter.  Tim and I both feel that giving them names gives these gales ideas above their station.  However, I find it hard to think that Doris will be a really harsh one.  And there’s one name, well down the alphabet, that I don’t actually know how to pronounce yet.

Catwoman Z

In the summer when I’ve grown a lot of basil, I use it to make pesto and freeze it.  I read in one of Anna del Conte’s splendid cookery books that you should freeze it without the garlic and parmesan, so I did, but I did find it quite a nuisance to have to add it at the last when the point was to have a convenience food.  So I tried it again, complete, and it seemed fine.  But more recently, I’ve read that frozen garlic develops a mouldy taste.  Does anyone else find this?  I don’t.  I’m asking because I’ve just taken a pot of pesto out of the freezer to use in tonight’s dinner (sans garlic, as it happens) and it reminded me to ask you. I presume they mean raw garlic or every casserole would have a potential problem.

I quite often find myself feeding seven cats nowadays, apart from Eloise cat herself.  Mother cat, whom LT calls Mehitabel (he and I are both devotees of Don Marquis’s books) seems to have returned home for the winter.  She doesn’t seem to like her kittens much, unfortunately, and swipes at them with her paw when they get in her way, though she’s as affectionate with me as ever.  The four kittens – who are no such thing now, of course, being over a year and a half old – are usually all present and quite often RasPutin, who I’ve had to forgive and be nice to, because he seems to be getting old and wants me to befriend him, comes too.  And so does Rose’s cat Rummy.  He has to be fed separately because everyone but Ras is afraid of him.

Anyway, the other thing on my mind has been that the recent Ofsted inspection at my school – former school but not quite, as I’m still a member of the academy trust – went very well and now the report has been published.  So there’s a bit less anxiety for a while.  Not much less, of course, because that’s how it works nowadays.