Monthly Archives: January 2017

Z is ready for February

We’re very lucky in Yagnub to have several good places to have lunch.  We don’t eat out in the evening often because we both like cooking and, by the evening, we’re ready to sit down and relax with a glass or two of wine and something good to eat and we like it right here.  We’ve been out to social events of course, but I can’t remember eating at a restaurant in the evening except for the party the night before our wedding.  We do eat out at lunchtime though and there are a number of good cafés and pubs in the town centre, as well as others within a few minutes’ driving distance.

I mentioned Wince the gardener having cleared the brambles from around a gate on the further side of the field and we went to order a new gate today.  It’s the third, the timber place is doing rather well out of this property.  And then we went out for lunch – somewhat unusually for us, we both chose burgers, but they were certainly superior ones.  The relish was home made, there was good Norfolk blue cheese and an onion marmalade, even the chips were home made.  We both overate, rather, with the result we will have a somewhat more modest dinner than had been planned.  I’ve got some pheasant stock in the fridge and that may be made into soup, if I can be bothered.  It’s quite tempting to get something out of the freezer, actually.  Not sure yet, it’ll be a while before we need to decide.

There were two other achievements today – I count anything I can, we’re relentlessly positive – not having received my tax demand in today’s post, it was a good thing that I had the bank account details of HMRC from last year, and was able to pay on schedule.  I don’t like leaving it to the last day, having once had an important booking to be made on a specific day when, it happened, our internet service failed. And the single remaining bank here isn’t open on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  But there were no hold-ups and I’ve paid my dues.  The final achievement was much more fun, as we put in our seed order for the year.  Just vegetables, I do have some flower seeds that didn’t quite make it to the ground last year but veggies are my gardening pleasure.  Happy hours in the greenhouse are to be hoped for in the next few weeks. Although I’ve heard that the weather is due to turn cold again in another week or so.  Never mind.  If we have snow, Tim and Eloise can watch me build a snowcat.


Five unconnected paragraphs

Delicious fish today.  Mussels for lunch and mackerel for dinner.  Both were prepared simply; the mussels à la marinière with shallots and white wine, the mackerel gutted, snotched and baked on a bed of fennel.  Snotching was a new term for LT and I’ve had difficulty finding it myself, except in recipes by Lindsey Bareham.  It’s a Cornish term for slashing the sides of fish – think of the torpedo shape of a mackerel or herring: slashing the sides a couple of times means that they cook evenly in the wider middle as well as the thinner tail end.  Anyway, LT suggests that it was a word made up by a Cornish fisherman as a joke, and he may be right.  But Lindsey’s book is not where I first heard it, and maybe I should ask friends in Cornwall … or maybe I’d then be disillusioned so had better not.

I wrote the minutes of the meeting I attended as Secretary last week, at last – I’ve been saying ever since that I *must* do it while I remembered what my notes meant.  But it’s done and sent off by email.

I know how much I owe in tax but haven’t received confirmation by HMRC so haven’t paid it yet – but if tomorrow’s post doesn’t bring the demand, I’ll pay it online anyway and assume it’s accepted as correct.  I have my tax reference and their account number.  It’s enough to make me wince – the self employed have to pay in advance, an estimated amount for the next year, in January and then the balance of what they owe in equal halves in January and July.  It sounds as if this should only hurt the first time and then balance out, but that isn’t the case.

When Weeza and co were here on Saturday, they said they were planning a holiday in the May half term.  I said, don’t leave booking too long as places fill up.  Within five minutes, Weeza had fished her phone and debit card out and JFDI.  Very impressive and LT and I should do that too.  We’re intending to go to a number of places and visit lots of friends this year, but haven’t got round to planning an away-from-it-all holiday and I hope we can get our act together and do it – once LT has got his new passport, that is.  It has several months to run, but a lot of countries want ages – puzzles me, actually. If you’re booked for a couple of weeks package holiday and will leave with a couple of months still to run on the passport, I don’t see the problem.  But evidently there is one, so we renew early.  At least we can do it online now and it seems easier to deal with the photo – they will crop it to size as long as it fulfils the requirements.

It’s become milder, though of course things could change back at any time, and we are thinking forward to sowing seeds for the kitchen garden.  i resist the impulse to start early in the greenhouse nowadays though, I’ve had to nurse too many young plants through cold spells when they’d started off in warmth, and I don’t get going until the beginning of March.  It all pretty well catches up anyway – in hothouse conditions you can steal a march, but an unheated greenhouse with an electric propagator is asking for trouble, I’ve found.

Just four today. Can’t manage more.

It’s been hard to feel positive or happy today.  The news is so dire and upsetting.  But I’ll do my best –

  1. I know they don’t really do anything, but at least it made our feelings known.  We both signed the petition  asking Parliament not to embarrass the Queen.  There have been hundreds of thousands, the numbers have been rising all evening.
  2. Roast pheasant for dinner was delicious, there is still a breast left which we will pretend is duck and will go into a Chinese-style stir fry.  And there’s another whole bird which will be casseroled.  And there will be soup.  Game is the best bargain around, if you live in the country.
  3. The weather is milder and there is rain, which is good as it’s been a really dry winter.
  4. Tim found a perfect rosebud on the plant outside the door.

Still focussing on happiness

  1. Weeza and co came over for the day.  Lovely Phil, my son-in-law, cut up logs with his chainsaw and lots have now been chopped and stacked in the porch.
  2. Going back a day, Wince managed to mend the switch on our chainsaw, which is excellent.  He’s so kind.
  3. Younger granddaughter Zerlina is still growing weedily – she’s not yet eight and a half and she’s now four feet, nine and a half inches tall.  Taller than her great-grandmother, she now has Auntie Dora in her sights.  i will come next.
  4. Her little brother Gus is also growing fast and is constantly hungry.  They arrived about 10.30 and were hungry.  I gave them a chocolate Club biscuit.  They were still hungry.  I prepared a dish each of cheese, Twiglets, carrots, cucumber and an oatcake.  Later, they ate lasagne.  Then ice cream.  Later, more salad and charcuterie.  Then the chocolate cake I hastily made and they decorated.  They took snacks back to eat before bed.
  5. I feel loved.  Which makes me so lucky.

Five plus one – must have been a good day

Today’s five –

  1. Wonderful Stephen the gardener has worked strenuously to clear a gateway he didn’t even know was there, it was so overgrown.
  2. Ostrich pâté is delicious.  Who knew?
  3. I have been signed off by my surgeon.  A complete success!  Which I knew, of course.  And am endlessly thankful for.
  4. Notwithstanding that the ‘retail park’ we went to is possibly the worst signposted in the country and certainly is the most confusing in Norwich, we succeeded in buying some new lights.
  5. And since the four we bought were the last they had, I was – after an hour or so’s searching – able to find more we liked on t’internets, so we’ve bought them too.
  6. Unscheduled extra good thing – the wine I thought I bought a case of last week and accidentally bought a mere bottle of, so had to re-order, has arrived.  So it will be stored in the larder for the next jolly.

It don’t mean a thing if Z ain’t got that swing…

Or, as I just said to LT, he’s fun.  Especially with all the truly worrying stuff going on in this country and America, in the Middle East and the not quite middle east (Turkey, for example, seems a bit stuck in between) and the general hell in a handbasketry, I try really hard to focus on the good stuff.

So, a few Good Things.

  1. Eloise cat.  She’s hilarious.
  2. The bantams are well and shut in the greenhouse, with plenty of room but no access for wild birds, so there’s every reason to hope that avian flu will not come this way.
  3. I’ve exchanged emails or conversation with all my children in the last few days, always a joy.
  4.  Tim.  Always lovely Tim.
  5. I don’t limp.  I don’t limp.  Nor do I hurt.

Where there’s a will there’s a Z

I still get intimidated rather rapidly by personal paperwork and it’s an absolute nuisance.  I do catch up with it in the end, but It’s not unknown for me to take several days to open a letter if I think I might have to act on the contents – which means that, when I do, I have to crack on all the sooner.  Perhaps that’s the reason – it’s so much better when I just get on and do things though, straight away.

In terms of getting on with things, we have been vastly sensible and properly sorted out our wills, now.  We rather hastily had simple ones done just before getting married – if there had been a disaster then we didn’t want to risk dying intestate – but they didn’t leave things exactly as we wanted and, in my case, my solicitor gave some thought to how to make what I want happen.  And now they’re all signed we can forget all about them.

We’re both quite comfortable about discussing such things, though some might find it morbid.  I know a lot of people who are quite superstitious about the subject, to the extent of not making a will at all because they think it’ll tempt fate and make them more likely to die.  I’m robust in my advice to them – I had a friend phone me last summer, wanting to know the address of my solicitor because he thought it was about time he addressed the issue.  He must be nearer 80 than 70 and he has never had a will.  I’ve no idea how much money he has but it’s in the hundreds of thousands of pounds at least and could be a nought up on that for all I know.  And if he really doesn’t care, taking the assumption that his wife will inherit and if she predeceases him then they don’t mind what happens, then perhaps I am too fussed about it, rather than he being not fussed enough.  But I was quite firm with him and, since he asked for it, gave him my opinion.

We went to have dinner with Rose next door last night, which was very cheerful and convivial.  She has her Lawrence’s sister staying with her at present, which made five of us.  Over the last few days, I have mostly been cooking with milk.  We have just two pints a week delivered but often don’t use a quarter of that and rather a lot had built up.  I’ll usually use a spare pint or two to make yoghurt, but we both managed to buy some and so had a build up of that too.  But I’ve made naan bread and crumpets and two soups with milk in and tonight I’m doing a Madhur Jaffrey dish, where fish is baked in yoghurt.  And I gave Rose a pint.  So we’ll have to watch out or I’ll need to buy more myself.  I’d love to buy Jonny’s wonderful raw milk more often, in fact, but I just don’t have the use for it regularly, not if I want to support doorstep deliveries too.

If I mention that I have a committee meeting tomorrow, please don’t think I’m reverting back to the old days.  This is only the second this year and, in regard to the last one, I asked if I were actually needed and, since I wasn’t, gave my apologies.  This committee meets for an hour at most, twice a year, so it’s not the biggest ordeal.  Actually, I am now playing hooky – I haven’t started to play the music at the church since my operation and, since this is a church committee (not the PCC, I’m not involved with that any more), the subject may come up again.  Or they might have found that mp3s and DVDs go down just as well and I’m mostly off the hook.  Either way is fine.  i’ve got a couple of bottles of port, aka Communion wine, that I must remember to take along anyway.  It’s been sitting there in the kitchen since November – they haven’t run out or I would have had a reminder about that.  There is no hint of criticism in my saying that it’s a completely valid priority.  As my old friend Dave (otherwise known as The Fellow) used to say, “good coffee is part of Mission,” so having unexpectedly good Communion wine, albeit drunk by a single sip, can do nothing but good to the faithful churchgoer.  Unless it’s the Methodist church, of course, in which case I realise that unfermented grape juice is perfectly splendid stuff.


Z won’t worry

This popped up on Facebook the other day and I shared it.  I said that I didn’t feel like that any more, but I’ve certainly been in that situation and I am sympathetic for those who do.

Several people responded with recognition and self-identification.

I didn’t think of it, I don’t believe, until my forties and then it built up on me.  “Realistic pessimism” is the phrase, I think – it was safest.  I didn’t want to risk disappointment and it was easier and safer to stay in the middling ground.  I tried not to go too far down but I was afraid to go too far up.

And then, of course, bad things did happen.  And I won’t elaborate because this is not what I want to dwell on.

Now, I’m taking a different attitude.  I’m getting old and, for all I know, this might be the best day of the rest of my life.  So I’m not afraid to be happy any more.  I want to appreciate every moment and I might as well assume it’ll last forever.  I won’t be cautious about today for fear of tomorrow.

Actually, until a year or so ago, I was all sorted.  I was fully intending to be positive but to be quite self-contained, live alone and look after myself very well.  But then Tim happened.  And we didn’t want to be cautious any more after all.  And we all know what happened then.

Picture copywrite estate of Charles M. Schulz, of course.

Do or Di

Tim is home, bringing fresh stocks of Soan Papdi but having been bewildered by the choice of chillies at the Exotic Supermarket, so we’ll have to manage with the last half jar of chilli relish for a while – I sympathise, I’d have been the same.  He has brought cumin seeds though, which is jolly good as I use a lot of them.  They were in tonight’s kedgeree, for example.

In the meantime, I ventured out in the driving seat for the first time.  It was always going to be fine, I’m completely over the operation and can stand on the operated leg without hesitation – I could hop on it, I’m sure.  I had some cheques to pay into the bank on the way, and that proved interesting.

They pass each cheque through a machine that reads it, nowadays, as you’ll know.  And, if you ask, give you a receipt.  I had three cheques and two of them were reasonably sizeable, so the teller offered to itemise them on the receipt.  “Oh!” she said.  “This cheque is for £2,000 but the scanner has read it as £200.”

Well, it was all right of course, she cancelled it and put them through again, but it was a bit alarming all the same.  If I’d been in a hurry and said not to worry about the receipt… I told LT about it this evening.  “Jesus wept!” he said blasphemously, though not as blasphemously as my father who added a few words to that quotation that were funny but unrepeatable.  “And they’re planning to eliminate human error by giving us driverless cars.”

And then I drove to Norwich for lunch with my friends, which included Roses on this occasion, and I had gammon and bread-and-butter pudding, and it was good.  My elderly friends whom I usually pick up were unwell – that is, the 93 year old sister was unwell and Lilian didn’t want to leave her, so I drove alone.  That was not entirely a disadvantage.  Lilian is one of those who gives a running diatribe about how much better things were in the Good Old Days.  I’ve written about her before, probably here, certainly on Facebook.  Two Christmases ago, I asked what they were planning to do over the holiday.  “We’re going to die,’ said Lilian. “Say that again, darling?” said the startled Z.  “We’re going to Di.”  “Oh, lovely, do give her my love.”

Dreaming of summer

I meant to get so much done while LT was away and yesterday it didn’t happen at all.  I had slept fitfully and, after he left, I slouched around for an hour and then went back to bed.  Only to be woken a few minutes later by a recorded cold call on the phone.  I left it off the hook after that, finally slept again and so at least was in better shape during the afternoon and evening.  And this morning I made a fruit cake and another batch of marmalade so, whilst I could hardly be described as a domestic goddess, one of the minor nymphs might fit the bill.

I received the programme for the Aldeburgh Festival on Monday.  Last year, we said we’d go and then nothing was chosen to go to.  Since the perk of my Friendship is early booking, we might as well take advantage of it.  The opera this year is Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I have never seen and, I realised, I don’t know the music at all.  So two and a half hours were spent listening to it – good old Spotify, how did we do without it?  I will say that I still do buy music if it’s something I’m going to listen to regularly: I know the royalty is very small per play – in fact, sometimes I listen on Spotify if I own the album too, so the musicians win twice.  There are several concerts this year that I’d happily listen to.   We don’t get out enough.

The other thing we must do is order any seeds we want.  Seed catalogues are always a pleasure.