Monthly Archives: December 2016

Even More New Directions

At our wedding, we left the church to a recording that Tim and his band made back in the 60s and there are three highlights of my year that have opened up new directions in the best possible way.

In date order – the birth of grandbaby Rufus in June.  He’s six and a half months old now, a happy child with a distinct personality and an entertainingly expressive face.

Our wedding in September, the most joyous day we could have hoped for.   Things are still pretty jolly good three months later…

My hip replacement operation three weeks ago, which was brought forward, to my great joy, by six weeks.  All is going well, I hardly limp without a stick and just have to build up the muscles in my left leg again and have another few weeks of taking care before I’ll be a new Z.

Among other jolly good things (this is a happy blog on the whole, so I’m not mentioning anything that wasn’t), it was lovely to see so many of you, including several newcomers (notably a small grandbaby), at the blog party.  A few couldn’t make it this time but there’s always next year.

Here is another of DAM’s tracks to see you into 2017 (which I think is better than the original).  All the best from us both, darlings.

Z takes a stand – and possibly falls down

Regarding my Lowestoft sauceboat, Blue Witch asked about the history of stands for such items, evidently under the erroneous impression that I might have some knowledge on the subject.  I have got some books on social history – notably by the wonderful Liza Picard, who wrote several books, after she’d retired as (I think) a solicitor, on the social history of London.  She had a second retirement at the age of 80, after she’d written her final book about the Victorians and if you’re interested in this sort of subject, I warmly recommend them.  Anyway, I could possibly look up more on the subject there, because I know that she talks about the period when meals were served rather in the way we would recognise, instead of several courses, each of rather a lot of apparently random dishes, as they had for the previous few hundred years.  And maybe that holds some sort of key to the matter of gravy boats: that is, I wonder if they used them?  So my sauce boat, that I used for redcurrant jelly, might have had just that as its original function, rather than a dish of gravy to pour over slices of meat.  I’m guessing here, I really don’t know.

None of the Lowestoft, or other sauceboats I’ve seen of the period, had stands, yet they were made for other items on occasion.  For example, one Lowestoft shape was circular (the early ones) or oval china baskets with pierced sides.  
It isn’t unusual to have one in most of our auctions and this one was in October’s sale.  I’ve never seen one with a stand, but they do exist.  Blue Witch wondered if it was a matter of fashion and I suspect it was, because they were made quite late on, from around 1780 – that is, I haven’t found a reference yet to an earlier one.  A few items were made in three pieces, butter dish, cover and stand; also cress dish, cover and stand; tureen, cover and stand, and teapot, which obviously had a cover and occasionally had a stand, whether circular or, if it was late in the factory’s life, lozenge (diamond) shaped.  There are probably others too – I saw (and bid for, unsuccessfully) a wonderful little square tray, just a few inches across, at Bonham’s back in the spring, and they made spoon trays too, so small flat dishes with raised sides and possibly handles were not common but certainly were made. Some of these were made early on – I’ve seen a tureen stand dating from the fairly early 1760s – but the factory certainly followed London trends and I think the fashions were becoming more elaborate towards the end of the century.

The sauceboat I showed you would not have had a stand, I’m quite sure, because of its base.  Here’s another picture of it.

You can see that the base is part of the attractiveness of the shape and that putting it on a stand would detract from that and also make it more wobbly – easier to carry it by its handle that have it unsteady on a stand.

The basket in the first picture, by the way, has hand-painted decoration on the sides but the central spray is transfer-printed.  The sauceboat, as you can see, is relief-moulded, then the two sides were put together and the base and handle applied, then it was fired again to make it a single piece before being decorated and glazed.  Oh, and you can see the lovely bluey warmth of the glaze compared to the flatter white china of the later piece.  Hugely tactile – I want to pick up and hold early pieces because I find them physically attractive and very strokable.


Z catches up

Seeing the family is happening in stages, though we always get together, usually here, sooner or later.  The latest one Christmastime was 31st January.  There are still a couple of bags of presents to give out tomorrow, when Wink arrives and then Al and co drop in during the afternoon.

LT and I have mostly been enjoying our second Christmas together and the first here.  I’m getting more mobile by the day and now can walk without a stick and with very little limp, though I usually use a stick.  I’ll have to be careful about bending and twisting for another few weeks and won’t drive for another four weeks – actually, I’d probably be fine in another week or so, but the insurance company would require the all-clear and I’m not due to see the consultant until the 26th January.  I’m happy to rely on LT and he’s happy to drive me, so that’s no problem.

My only difficulty is sleeping at night and it’s not unexpected.  I have to sleep on my back and it’s not really that comfortable, despite lots of pillows and a cushion under my knee.  Last time round, my hip was so bad that I woke in great pain several times in the night and, unable to move, had to haul the edge of the mattress to pull myself over to a new position before I could sleep again.  Although I sometimes was woken by pain, I hadn’t been as bad as that this time, so there hasn’t been the contrast – that was my theory beforehand and it seems to be the case,  But no grumbles.  I’m considerably better in every other way than before the operation and it’s going to improve all the time.

Little Rusty Rufus the Red, youngest grandbaby, is a darling little boy with quite a personality already.  His face is full of expression – of all the other five, he reminds me most of Gus, whose humorous expression seemed to share a joke from the first day of his life.  And Rufus’s gorgeous deep, dark brown eyes are just melting.  His parents both have wonderful brown eyes and I think his might be the darkest of all.

Here he is, about to have his lunch.  Cloth of purest bling, you see.

And here is the Lowestoft sauceboat that I used to serve the redcurrant jelly to go with our wild duck. I bought it in the auction in October – it attracted me because of its earliness. It’s not one of the very early, pre-1760 pieces, but it’s certainly pre-1765, in lovely condition and, though nothing remarkable, I just liked it. And it gives me great pleasure to have used it for its original purpose, probably for the first time in at least two centuries.

I know the age because of the bluish glaze and the details of the painting, not all of which you can see.  But that trail of flowers near the lip – that’s early Lowestoft.  And there’s a lovely flower inside the base that is too.  And there’s something about the lip and the overall shape – I could show you by comparing with a later piece more easiIy.  I can’t imagine the skill of painting it in such an awkward place.  Very talented workpeople (men, women and children) there were.   A provincial factory, not the finest china like Chelsea or Meissen, but it has great charm, I think.

Z wishes for a kind and happy Christmas for us all

I’m not sure that I’ve learned much over the years, but I do know that Christmas comes on the dot, whether I’m ready for it or not, so I might as well relax and not fuss about it.  In fact, we’re all ready this year, but it’s the same either way.

I very slowly hoovered and dusted, laid the table (cloth of gold!  Much bling!) and washed the kitchen floor.  LT split logs and brought in enough coal and wood to last for a few days, and then cleaned the rest of the kitchen.  I will write a brief time plan (just the times of what goes in the oven) and champagne is in the fridge.  There will be only five of us, so it’ll be relaxed and easy.

Eloise cat spent much of the night mousing – I went to take the mouse from her when she’d caught it, not realising it was still alive, so it got away.  So she can have fun catching it again tonight, unless it has the sense to lay low.

Dear friends, thank you for your kindness and goodwill, that are valued so much by me and Tim.   We hope you have the Christmas and holiday season that you most enjoy, whether quiet or busy.  Most of all, we wish you peace and happiness and a respite from the cares of the world.


We’ve become quite enthusiastic about the back-to-nature thing (all clothes firmly on, we aren’t that degenerate…) and LT’s favourite new toy is the log splitter.  Just as well he enjoys using it, because we’re going through a good deal of wood with our new stove.  Two winters ago, I did keep the house very warm as I was having a lot of visitors and I wanted to keep my spirits up besides, but last winter, the first when LT was visiting regularly, time didn’t seem to allow the running back and forth to keep the old, inefficient stove going.  As well as that, we’ve been making jam, curing bacon, making cheese and yoghurt and, today, I made a batch of crumpets – I’ll have to get back to making bread again after Christmas.  Al’s shop has now been turned into a bakery and coffee shop – they don’t bake on the premises, it’s too small for that, but they sell a smallish range of very good bread.  All the same, I do have a yen to bake it myself again.  It’s so soothing.  Like making risotto or macaroni cheese.  Or soup.

Funny that everything comforting seems to be food related.

We were talking about the chemistry of yeast cookery, but are both a bit hazy on details.  Some years ago, I borrowed a book from the library on the subject – as well as recipes, the writer explained the reasons for various things, such as why heating stale bread makes it fresh again.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the book or the author, which is really very unhelpful.  All I know is that her name is Eastern European – Polish perhaps.  I’d recognise it if I read it.  It’s a very long shot, but does anyone happen to know?


It’s time to dress up right…

I put on makeup today, for the first time since I arrived home.  We were just going to the hospital to have my dressing removed and the wound checked, but I hadn’t left here for ten days. so was quite inclined to treat it as an occasion.  All was well, as I expected, and I was seen so quickly that we were back in the car by the time of my appointment.  And on the way home, we bought a Christmas tree, bags of kindling (the theory of chopping it ourselves is all very well, but actually a big bag costs £4.75 and it’s worth it) and plenty of chicken feed.

Roses has had a really nasty cold, the sort that makes you hot and cold, feverish and miserable, so LT has been feeding the animals for the past few days and the cats are starting to warm to him, even RasPutin.  Wince, the gardener, is coming tomorrow – not sure what he’s planning to do, there are always jobs here but the place is in pretty good shape nowadays.  Still some jobs which will be completed over the course of next year, but it’s doing well and, now that we have all the right tools, it’s much easier to keep on top of things.  Though I have to talk to the farmer about the fencing around the fields where cattle graze, it needs some running repairs and it’s beyond me.  I hope that, if I provide the materials, he will do the work.  It should be sunny tomorrow, I must go and look at the wedding present fruit trees that he planted last week.

Eloise managed vastly well

Clever Eloise cat caught the mouse again and brought it to us.  Ten minutes later, she was back with its mate, also dead.  She was quietly proud and didn’t start eating them or anything, she’s fairly fastidious about food.  She was rewarded with a few cat snacks.  Although we never get a real mouse problem here (because I set traps, up to now), some are bound to come in – a house this age has gaps and crevices and they can certainly enter the attics if they want to.

Weeza – the daughter, that is – came over to visit this morning with the children.  The children are going to come and stay in a couple of weeks’ time, when LT will be away as it happens, so young Zerlina has been practising putting coal and logs on the fire, as I’ll still not be able to bend down fully.  When we bought our new stove, it came with a pair of splendid leather gauntlets, which are necessary as the handle gets too hot to touch with a bare hand.  We were so pleased with them that we ordered another pair for this room, and Zerlina used them for safety.  Obviously, she won’t stoke the fire unsupervised, but was very pleased to be trusted and to help Granny.  They’re very large on her but it doesn’t matter and they came well up her arms.

In other news, I think I’ve bought all the presents now and wrapped all but those that LT brought home today.  We’ll get a tree on Wednesday – oh, how jolly its putting-up will be – and food is planned.  Not to the last mouthful, we’re pretty relaxed about it all.  After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Always look on the ….

This time round, I had a feeling that there would be less of a contrast between my discomfort before and after the operation, just because I was in a worse state last time.  I left the operation longer than I should, I knew it even at the time and so, even immediately afterwards, pain without drugs (when they ran out of efficacy) was no worse than the pain of the arthritis.  Which gives me pause to ponder now.  But this time, I had no reason to tough it out until the bitter end – except actually, if I’d waited the extra six weeks to the 25th January when it was originally scheduled, I think I’d have been in poor shape.

I think I’ve got over some of the physical effects quicker.  I could bend more than I should and have to remember not to.  But, last time, before the op, I used to wake several times a night in real discomfort and had to grab the edge of the mattress to haul myself over, as I couldn’t move otherwise.  I hadn’t had that more than a few times this year.  However, that means that there’s less contrast between ‘before’ and ‘after’, so I’m finding sleeping for more than a few hours quite difficult.  I’m up to seven or eight pillows and a couple of cushions, as well as an extra duvet under me for padding.  Sleeping on my back isn’t that easy or comfortable, when you’re not allowed to turn over at all.

Such a princess, darlings,  Hah.

Eloise cat caught a mouse this evening, for which she received much praise.  Unfortunately, she let it go without killing it and – well, now we know where the mouse hole is.  I daresay she’ll find it again.  Cats are nowhere near as intelligent as dogs.  Though she’s absolutely adorable and I don’t mind that she is a wilful little child in so many ways.

She sits on or by me in bed and is very sweet and loving and this makes me happy.  LT and I love her dearly.  But she’s basically just pleased that I’m behaving like a cat.  She has no idea why I’m in bed more than usual, as a dog would sense.  When we last went to visit darling Ziggi, only a few days before she died (not that we knew that), she was home from the hospice for the day.  Her spaniel, Indi, wouldn’t speak to me.  She loved me and then I went away and it always took some hours for her to deign to come to me.  But, though Ziggi had been away for a few weeks too, Indi knew that she was ill and couldn’t help it.  She sat on the sofa next to her and simply adored her.  On the other hand, Eva, Zig’s beautiful Birman cat, was stand-offish with Zig.  She didn’t recognise illness.

At least the dogs were allowed to visit at the hospice, afterwards. They were with Zig.

I start writing and don’t know what I’m going to say.  I thought I’d just tell you that I’m like the Princess and the Pea in bed, and then say I’ve finished wrapping Christmas presents.  But there’s blogging for you.

How and why might you eat curds and whey? They look really sloppy

I’ve been amusing myself posting short videos on Facebook of me using my aids to get dressed, to slightly bemused hilarity.  I can get about much more easily now, usually using only one stick and I can pick things up from the ground if they’re small enough only to need one hand and little effort.  The technique is to stick the operated leg out backwards so that, when you bend, you still have sufficient angle.  I still need to hold something though, don’t quite trust my balance.

Today, I’ve been making paneer for the first time – the simple Indian curd cheese.  I had a lot of milk in the house – the milkman delivers a pint twice a week, but there were three and more than a half pints and they needed using up.  I decided to make a batch of paneer and some yoghurt.

The recipe said a litre and a half of milk and the juice of a lemon.  It’s very simple – you bring the milk to the boil, add the lemon juice, stirring, then remove it from the heat, leave it for ten minutes, strain it through muslin, rinse, then squeeze out the remaining liquid.  Then twist the muslin round the cheese, weight it down and leave it, still in the sieve, for an hour and a half to firm up.  I thought it would make rather a lot, so halved the quantity, then realised I’d got a “large half” of a lemon and put in another slosh of milk.  It worked perfectly but there were not that many curds and an awful lot of whey and I wasn’t sure there would be enough for our saag paneer tonight (having made the yoghurt out of some of the rest of the milk.  So I made another batch with most of the final pint of milk, just keeping a little back for LT’s morning tea (he drinks afternoon tea without milk).  And this time, it didn’t form curds.  It looked a bit separated but there were certainly no curds.  And, when I strained it, the solids just sat there.  But they looked much the same as before when I squeezed them and the only difference, once left for the hour and a half, seemed to be that the second batch was a little paler.  I couldn’t detect much difference in flavour or texture, so it doesn’t seem to matter.  I’m pretty sure, as the milk was very fresh, that this was the reason and it’s probably better to use milk that’s a few days old.

There’s just over 150 grams, which isn’t a lot for well over two pints of milk, but it should be good.  LT has just discovered that Rose’s cat Rummy has stolen the duck leg that was going to be the other dish for our dinner, so it’ll have to be another vegetable curry instead.  I’ve volunteered to cook this evening, so I’d better get cracking – he’s going to be my helping hand this evening.

Z’s Helping Hands

You get a number of aids, depending on need – I already had walking sticks adjusted to my height, a sock aid, a long handled shoehorn, a Helping Hand and a raised toilet seat.  I was measured and asked to check the height of my toilet with the seat raised – i.e., just the porcelain pan; my armchair and my bed.  Before my last operation, Russell had made wooden blocks to raise the spare single bed, so I knew that was all right.  When my sister had her hip replacement, I lent her the wing armchair that I’d sat in and it had gone rather well in her sitting room, so I suggested she keep it (it had actually been one belonging to our mother, so ‘gave’ it to her isn’t the word).  However, mummy had also had a reclining chair and we found that would be fine, with a cushion underneath the seat cushion at the back so that it was level and didn’t slope backwards.  Dining chairs are also high enough.  I have short legs and so it’s quite easy to make the small adjustments necessary, the long of leg might have to do more alterations.  The NHS has lent me a chair for the shower and a second toilet seat for upstairs, this being an actual seat with arms – there was concern that I might find it difficult to stand up unaided.  I really think it’s unlikely I’ll need to use it though, I’m already over the initially riskiest stage when I’m awkward and clumsy.

The single most useful aid is the Helping Hand.  I have continued to use it frequently, to pull curtains without having to go round a chair, to pick things up from the floor without bending, all sorts of things.  But it’s absolutely invaluable now.

The getting dressed technique is an interesting one – if you’re putting on trousers or even just underpants, it’s easier to pull them on over socks as then your toes don’t catch.  So you position a sock on to the sock aid (the one I’ve linked to is a fairly basic design but they all do a similar job), drop it on the floor while holding the tabs and manoeuvre your foot in, pull it up and wiggle the aid out.  Repeat with other foot – actually, I haven’t put socks on yet as it happens, but I will as soon as I want to go out of the house or if the weather turns very cold.

Then you need your Helping Hand.  You grab an edge of your knickers with it and hold it down by your foot – lift the foot and bend a bit, you mustn’t go tighter than a right angle – and wiggle your foot in.  Pull then up to your knees, grip again the other side and let it down so you can put in your other foot.  Then pull up again and stand to finish the job.  Trousers, you do in just the same way.  It takes a minute’s patience, it’s a bit fiddly but not hard.  Your top half you can dress as normal, of course.

When I first got home, as I said, I sometimes needed a hand getting into bed, just to lift my operated leg.  It’s better if you can get in with your good leg first, but my bed is against the wall and that’s not possible.  Sometimes I could, sometimes it was too tired and I couldn’t lift it.  I will have to sleep on my back for several weeks and, for the first few days, have been tired enough that I wanted to spend some time in bed during the day, so we brought lots of pillows down to prop me up.  I also have a pillow in the bed – in hospital they use a wedge to keep your knees apart but it’s lovely to have some support under the knee of the bad leg.  So I have the pillow half under that knee and half between my legs to stop me turning over or crossing my legs.  I also have a little cushion under my feet as they started to feel sore.  It’s self-indulgent, possibly.  Which is a good thing.

When I sit down, I hang the sticks somewhere within reach, feel for the chair or bed with the back of my knees, put my bad leg out a few inches while taking my weight on my good leg, then sit carefully.  It’s best to have a chair with arms to start with, to hold on to.  I shouldn’t twist my leg – in Norwich, they’re very risk averse in regard to dislocation.  When my sister had her new hip in Salisbury, she wasn’t given anywhere near the warnings that I was.  I suspect this might be because Norwich pioneered the op and I know (because my surgeon has told me) that they sometimes take on difficult revisions (second-time operations, especially when the first one went wrong), so advise precautions to everyone.  For me, the risk of dislocation is pretty low but it’s a potentially very serious matter and I’m ultra cautious.  Anyway, last time, at my check-up after the op, I asked my surgeon about movements I could make in the longer term – crossing my legs, for example, which I certainly mustn’t do now.  He said that’s all right – he compared the joint to a jointed doll, the sort I knew as a child where you could roll the hip out of its socket (and very difficult it was to get in again).  He said, it’s the outward movement that holds the risk.  So I never, even seven years on, with that leg (and now will not do it with either), put my leg out at the back and twist to look at the sole of my foot.

Up to now, I’ve just been washing in the downstairs washbasin.  I really wanted to wash my hair though, so braved the shower.  LT supervised me going upstairs (and asked me to call him to watch me down again) and then left me to it.  Actually, the shower chair wasn’t needed.  I hung my sticks on the towel rail and then just got into the shower and washed as normal, standing up.  It was awkward to get past the chair to get out, so I lifted it to one side.  Once out, I realised I couldn’t dry my lower legs, so lifted the chair out onto the bathmat, dropped a hand towel on the floor and pushed it around my legs and feet to dry them.  It was fine and that’s where it will stay, I think.  If I’d had a shower in the last couple of days, I think I would have wanted to sit down, though.

I’m very lucky, I know.  I don’t have any other physical problems, am quite fit and mobile and so am better able to overcome the temporary limitations.  A lot of people would still be on crutches at this stage and there are no prizes for casting them off sooner.  When Lee the physiotherapist spoke to me before I left hospital, he said that his only concern was that I might do too much, too soon.  I said, I knew just what he meant.  It was so lovely to be able to walk without arthritis that I was tending to hurry.  But, I said, I’m taking responsibility for myself.  If I dislocated the hip, I know how agonisingly painful that is and that there’s an increased risk of it happening again.  If I don’t look after myself, the hips won’t last so long and so it’s in my interest to get it right.  I was evidently convincing, he relaxed.  And it’s true.  I will use two sticks while I need to (probably no more than another week, but we’ll see) and then I’ll use a stick until it’s more nuisance than help.  It’s not any matter of pride to me to manage without.  And some people always have to use a stick, for one reason or another – if I had to, so I would: a limp or any other disability is nothing to be ashamed of.