Monthly Archives: April 2017

Eating in, mostly

A fair bit of our life revolves around food.  I don’t think we’re especially greedy – after all, you can be keenly interested in food and yet not overeat – and nor are we great gourmets, but we do enjoy planning and cooking our meals.  Blue Witch says that she’s read a report that only 10% of our meals are cooked from scratch at home – well, almost everything we eat is, yet we have lunch out about once a week, so we can’t claim 100%, but the planning, cooking and eating of our meals has an importance that could be slightly embarrassing if we were of a mind to be embarrassed by anything.  But right now, we’re sharing a punnet, the first, of local strawberries and if that isn’t important… And earlier, we enjoyed the spinach that I’d picked an hour previously.

I don’t think anyone need have hang-ups about what they want to eat, though.  I’ve plenty of friends who don’t much enjoy cooking or for whom food is fuel rather than keen pleasure.  A friend of mine told me, the other day, that she and her husband have started subscribing to one of those companies that deliver all the prepared ingredients for meals but that one cooks oneself.  She said, they eat more healthily and with more enjoyment, there’s no waste and no uncertainty, and no shopping during their busy working lives.  I completely agreed with her, it’s clearly what is best for them at this time.  And takeaways, why not if you want to?  We choose not to, others choose differently.

All the same, we love simple, perfect ingredients cooked with love and care and eaten with appreciation, plus lunch out regularly.  It’s what suits us for now.

Creatures of habit

Whilst LT was out of the room making tea, Eloise cat went to sit in his usual place on the sofa.  At present, there’s an impasse.  Tim is holding her box of cat snacks, but she’ll have to move to get any of them.

Entertaining as this situation is, what it’s made me think about is habitual behaviour.  That’s something I try to resist on the whole.  Not entirely, of course – there are some routines that make everyday life simpler, such as having a specific place to keep keys, the locking up and switching off at night, the feeding of animals (and ourselves), obviously – but I mean things like tending to sit in the same place, eat the same things, ‘always’ doing something because you always do it, not because it’s the best or only good way.


There are various reasons for sitting in a particular place – best light for reading, chair at the right height, distance from the fire or the tv, view out of the window, for instance.  A friend told me that he and his wife each have a view of a flower bed from the side of the dining table where they sit opposite each other, so they each plant one up with bedding plants for the other to look at.  Unfortunately, he particularly dislikes the flowers she always plants for him and can’t say so, without admitting he’s been disliking the view for years.  He’s tried to gently steer her onto something else, but she isn’t particularly sensitive to suggestions and hasn’t taken the hint.  She’s very blunt and outspoken herself, you’d think she’d welcome a frank discussion…

When I go to meetings – societies, lectures, church and so on – there are always some people who always sit in the same place.  Even if there’s a reason for that (one friend pointed out that the sun streams through the church window onto her preferred pew), it’s too much of a rut for my liking.  When I was church warden, I liked to change the positions of particular kneelers and cushions on the pews, just to give people some sort of different experience.  I daresay they thought it was the whim of the cleaner, I never mentioned it.

When I was a child, my parents always had ‘their’ places, each on a sofa opposite each other.  I don’t think my sister and I did, we tended to sit wherever there wasn’t a dog, which was often on the floor.  Similarly, at mealtimes, we always sat in the same place.  I don’t know if we did that when my children were growing up, I can’t remember, though I suspect Russell sat at one end of the table.  Now, we have a round table, so there isn’t a “head of the table” place.  During the winter, we’ve sat on the side nearest the fireplace, but we haven’t lit it for the past week or two, so it doesn’t matter any more.

Eloise cat won.  She stayed at the end of the sofa nearest to Tim’s laptop.  But he didn’t mind.  The other end was the sunniest, so he rather preferred it for a change.

Warmth at the Zedary

The youngest members of the family came over to day; or rather, the youngest family within the family.  Young Rufus is 10 months old today and, it was discovered, he loves his Granny’s cooking.

The forecast was for the hottest day of the year so far – in the 20s, which is pretty good for the first half of April.  It was already very warm when I set off for church at 9.15.  LT and I had talked about lunch yesterday and decided to make a soufflé and salad, it not being the day for a big roast dinner.  And then we thought we might as well eat it outside, too.

When I got home from church, I went out to check the early potatoes, which are under fleece and they are up!  It’s been a dry few weeks, so I pulled back the fleece and put the sprinkler ready, then remembered the radishes, further on in the same bed.  So I pulled sixteen radishes, first of the year, to go with the salad and put on the sprinkler – later, I earthed up the potatoes, if just covering the first shoots with soil in case of frost can be described as such, and covered them over again.

Rufus’s lunch was cucumber, cut into fingers, and ham and cheese soufflé without the ham and he loved it.  Frankly, he filled his face and had to be given extra helpings.  I was duly flattered, the more so when Ro praised my cooking in general, a realisation that had come to him gradually.  One thing I managed to get right in my generally haphazard parenting career was to instil in all my children an appreciation of good food and very good cooking skills.  When he was at university, he used to phone to ask advice on cooking once in a while – “I’ve bought a tuna steak, can you suggest a recipe?” Or once, “I usually just use the pan juices for gravy for a chicken but I need more than that, how do I stretch it while keeping the flavour?”  He lost me slightly when he assured me that raw broccoli makes a surprisingly good sandwich filling, mind you.

Rufus now has two teeth and is pretty quick when getting across the floor.  His crawling technique is to use his hands to go forward and then bring up his knees together to catch up – it hasn’t yet occurred to him to use each leg separately.  And he hasn’t quite managed a deliberate word yet, though the general dadada sort of sound could be interpreted as such.  It won’t be long, though.  There’s endless fascination when you’ve a baby in the family.

Any chance of a meet-up?

Still busy in the garden, but in a relaxed way because the weather was gorgeous and it wasn’t a day to hurry.  But the pea sticks have gone in, some self-suckered saplings that we cut down last week have been burned, mostly, and various more odd jobs done.

I’ve also booked a ticket for a visit to London next Wednesday – I’ve got to visit one of the flats in the morning, to okay the return of a leaving tenant’s deposit, but I’ve got time spare after that.  I’ll probably go to an exhibition/museum/art gallery but it occurs to me that otherwise one of my London friends might be free?  If so, it’d be lovely to meet, lunchtime or early afternoon – I have to check on return train times (I have an open off-peak return, but the website doesn’t make it clear what trains I can travel on), but I’d certainly be okay up to about 4 o’clock in central London.

Staple, diet…

I never expected to lose finger strength, you know, with age.  Maybe in my 80s but not yet.  But my hands just aren’t what they used to be.  I’ve been using the staple gun this morning and, after a while, I could barely squeeze the trigger.  After ten minutes of doing something else (lifting concrete blocks, actually, I’ve still got quite strong arms), I was able to finish that part of the job, just, but I had to leave it for a few hours and do the rest later.

The staple gun was certainly one of my most useful buys over the past two years – originally bought to fix a cover on to the indoor tortoise run, when I got Eloise cat, though we didn’t use it then as a useful man did the job with nails and screws instead.  But it’s been invaluable for various things since.  It’s just that they don’t realise, when designing these things, that old dears with the start of arthritis in their hands, don’t have the strength of grip that they used to.  I don’t blame them, I didn’t know it either until it happened.  Funny, ageing, innit.

Tonight, we had asparagus risotto.  Which indicates that we’ve had asparagus a few times, so that pure unadulterated (except by butter, obvs) asparagus is no longer absolutely required.  And we went out for lunch, because we were satisfied with the results of our labours and clearly deserved a treat.

I wonder how you are about going out for a meal on your own?  I found it difficult, I must admit. A pub isn’t too bad, if it’s not the sort of place that’s clearly a local pub for local people and anyone else will be stared at – though even then, I’m not too embarrassed to just smile and say hello before retreating to a corner – but a restaurant isn’t easy, even if you’re made welcome.  With nothing to do except focus on the food – yes, that may be the point of eating out, but it isn’t the point I’m meaning – it’s hard not to feel self-conscious and to eat rather too quickly and to pull out a book and read (while listening to the conversations at other tables, of course, because that’s always enjoyable) and finish rather quicker than if someone else was there.  But I did make a point of doing it, sometimes.



One man went to mow

D’you know, I think that the place will be quite presentable by the time of the Blog Party, at this rate.  Not that a degree of relaxed down-at-heelness has stopped us in the past.  I take it that my friends (including those of you whom I haven’t met yet) come to be convivial and not to raise an eyebrow at the weeds.

It’s Tim who’s remarkably wonderful, of course.  He had a peaceful life, doing what he wanted to do and his house and garden, which are lovely, had been made pretty easy to run.  And now, here, he’s fairly constantly busy.  And he enters into it all enthusiastically.  Today, Wince the gardener had trimmed a very nettle-choked area between the kitchen garden and the stream – a job that has been made easier because Stevo and his friend Esau had removed the fence – and it looks great, sloping to the bank of the stream with a view across the field to the plums in blossom beyond.  As we came back in, I said “it’s going to be lovely, when we’re done” and he reminded me “it already is lovely.”  And indeed, it always was.

Young Stevo somehow fell, the other day, on to some iron railings (not here, thank goodness) and has possibly broken his collarbone.  It may just be bad bruising, he was going back to the doctor today to have it checked.  I said, they will probably not do anything anyway, as long as it isn’t out of alignment, it’ll heal of its own accord.  He’s fed up, though, and in quite a lot of pain.  I said that once he feels able to, he can carry on with the painting of the barns with his left hand, until it’s better.

LT and I spent some time yesterday evening, discussing the menu for the party.  Good that I’m not the only one keen on food: not just the eating of it, nor even just the cooking, but as a subject to talk about.

Dance, dance little lady

I spotted in the local paper (online, as the paper version has become so badly laid out that I reluctantly cancelled my order for it) an article on a woman in S’wold whose dancing and performing career has lasted for 80 years; though she did start as a small child.  I recognised the name as someone who’d taught Weeza ballet, when she was at her prep school, so I sent her the link.  Weeza couldn’t remember the woman, only that she’d been obliged to learn ballet for a short time, along with the other girls, because they all refused to play rugby.  She thoroughly disliked it and it was dropped after a term.  I completely sympathise, I wouldn’t have liked it either.  I was a shy child and not inclined to prance about.  Weeza’s daughter, Zerlina, is the same.  She loves horse riding and swimming and is generally energetic and quite sporty, but dancing is definitely not for her.

Yet Squiffany is quite the opposite.  She’s good at gymnastics and ballet and is not at all averse to performing and even competing.  Yet, in company, she’s more reticent than Zerlina, who is very outgoing.

I measured Zerlina again the other day.  She is now a shade under four feet nine inches tall.  This child is still eight years old.  At this rate – she’s grown a centimetre in a couple of months – she will be taller than me by the time she’s ten.

This afternoon, we have mostly been vegetable gardening.  It’s all going well at the Zedary.

Happy birthday, Weeza

Having children’s birthdays two days apart makes a woman feel old, at this time of the year, especially once they’re the age that mine are. I had no idea what to buy them, so suggested paying for dinner out and babysitting to enable it, which idea has gone down well.  Dates are to be decided once the Easter holidays are over.

I was thinking about “favourites” – colours, seasons,  foods and so on.  It’s probably my famed indecisiveness, or maybe that I’m really quite easy to please, but I have never really had favourites in anything that I can think of.  Well, other than Saki, of course.  And Paradise Lost and Hamlet.  Anyway, I can’t say which of the seasons I do like most, but I suspect Spring has the happiest daily surprises.  One day I was looking gloomily at the muntjac-nibbled tulip leaves, two days later I was joyful when the flowers bloomed all the same.  And I look with real eagerness at the hedgerows every day, to see when the blackthorn is in flower, then for the first leaves of the may; and whether oak (for a soak) or ash (for a splash) will come into leaf first.  And then there’s frog spawn – and, indeed, tadpoles.

I watched Zain, the tabby cat drinking out of the pond this morning.  None of the barn cats came to be fed, though I know they’re all alive and well, because I saw the three black ones yesterday – Freddie came to snuggle up and the other two nipped into the barn – as well as Zain today.  They are evidently living off the land.  I do put a scoop of Go Cat out for them and tinned food if I see them – Rose’s cat Rummy often comes for that, which amuses us as he won’t touch the cheaper brands indoors.

Once summer is here, I hope I’ll be rhapsodising about warm days and leisurely outdoor evenings.  But for now, let’s enjoy the spring.

Happy birthday, Al

Zerlina and Gus have come to stay for a couple of days.  Actually, it’s their mother’s birthday on Tuesday and their Uncle Al’s today and, once your children reach a Certain Age, it can be very difficult to know what to get them for a present.  So, to each of them, I suggested an evening out.  I’d pay, whether it’s dinner, theatre, whatever and we’d babysit, either at their house or by bringing the children here, as well.  I’d certainly have appreciated it when I had small children.

Both accepted the idea with pleasure, so it’s in the pipeline as there’s no date restriction, of course.  And this week, Al and family are on holiday and Weeza is working as usual, which is the reason the children are staying.  We are going to make a cake for mummy’s birthday and, on Tuesday, we’re going to Norwich for some cultural this’n’that at the museum.

Today, we’ve got more work done in the kitchen garden.  LT weeded the peas and I raked the redundant squash bed, ready to sow the grass seed.  Having bought a kilo, it needed to be scattered equally so I measured 100 grams at a time, divided the area into roughly 3 by 3 sections, plus a small extra bit, and we broadcast the seed.  Then I raked it again, put the sprinkler on for a while, then we covered it with fleece, weighted down at the edges (off the bed) by planks.

We’re going to replace a rather saggy wire fence on the east side of the kitchen garden, which has become desperately overgrown with brambles and nettles.  The old one is being removed, which is painful.  But we’ll get there.

April, and Z is blogging again

It’s not often that I sit here at this blog, lost for words, but I don’t know what to write about.  Not that it’s unusual to sit down and not know what I will write, but I generally find out quite quickly.  Overall, it’s been a horrid week and I don’t want to dwell on it.  I’ll tell you another time.  Those of you who are Facebook friends will know what I’m talking about.

Mostly, we’re focussing on the garden, which is gradually improving.  Three beds in the kitchen garden have been cleared this spring and the fourth is nearly done, though that one will simply be grassed over.  I used to grow squashes there, then it became the compost heap site and, now that’s the other side of the gas tank, it’s not needed and might as well simply be mowed.  I don’t need all the vegetable space that I did when I grew for Al’s shop.

We went over to a plant nursery we hadn’t visited before, yesterday.  We had bought some seedlings and a couple of herbaceous plants from the owner’s stand at the plant Street Market in the town last May and he was so friendly and knowledgeable that we earmarked it for a visit. And it’s a delight – a very rambling place, not laid out as modern nurseries are but with various paths signposted by hand-painted signs, leading to greenhouses, polytunnels, a shaded tunnel and various places where shrubs and trees are set in their pots for sale.  They’re all labelled but not particularly organised, so you have to wander around and poke about for what you want.  By the car parking area, where the shop itself is, there are tables of smaller shrubs, seedlings, herbs and herbaceous plants and, on the ground, pots with climbers and taller items.

After we’d had a wander, entertained by the humorously friendly signs, we came back to find someone to ask for advice and spoke to a nice woman who turned out to be the co-owner.  We ended up with a trolleyful of plants and went inside to pay.  There was a table of home-made jams and chutneys and, she told us, her mum made those.  There were also bottles of apple juice, each labelled with the variety – they grow, press and bottle them themselves and grow the fruit for the jam.  We were quite enchanted.  We didn’t see all the working greenhouses and nursery beds, but there must be a big area and we saw other people working as well as the man whom we’d already met, so it must be a thriving enterprise, though hard work.  We’d noticed the rows of apple trees as we’d driven along the road, some bedecked with mistletoe.

Finally, we asked if they sold grass seed and they did, from a sack, by the kilo.  A kilo would be enough for twenty square yards – in the splendidly mixed imperial and metric systems that many of us use.  Would a kilo be enough?  It was fourteen feet square, which is 196 square feet, which is … divide by nine … nearly twenty-two.  Oh, it’d do.  And it’s in the greenhouse waiting to be sown, as soon as Stevo has finished shifting away excess earth and raked it to a tilth. Tilth is a nice word, isn’t it?  Don’t have the chance to use it that often.

And I could write after all, I find.  But it’s been a melancholy week, though and a worrying one, in various ways and, if I’m going to blog, it needs to be upbeat to keep me cheerful.