Monthly Archives: May 2017

Z is going offline

I won’t have wifi for the next few days, so this will be the last blog post until … well, until I’m back again.

The main thing in my thoughts at present is that I’ve given away the last of the tortoises.  They were never my pets but Russell’s, though I had to look after them once he wasn’t well enough and, once we had the babies; the Tots as I called them, he never did get to grips with their needs and I had to do so.  I’ve been conscientious and I was quite fond of them, but not enough.  I didn’t want them to go to strangers, but it’s been friends of friends who knew what they were doing – anyway, Natasha, the last of them, was picked up this afternoon and wee’ed on Roses as a parting salvo.  And now I can dismantle the run in the porch and get that space back.  There is a pang but I’d made up my mind.

Not as a secondary thing at all, but I saw him a couple of days ago so wished him all the wonderful wishes that a granny does: it’s Hadrian’s sixth birthday today.  His father made him, by request, a skull cake – we’re the Addams Family at heart.  I gave him Lego – it’s all themed nowadays, of course, and they are very much into Minecraft, so it was one of those sets and he was very pleased and has set about making it up today.

Music now.  LT has got out an LP 😀

Cabbages and kings

We were talking about food.  For two wondrously slender people, hem hem, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about food.  And now, an hour or two later, I can’t quite remember how we got on to the subject.

I think it started with the gammon steaks, which we bought this morning, for tomorrow night’s dinner, at the butcher.  Tim said that there was nothing wrong with the traditional gammon, pineapple, sweetcorn and peas combo.  And I chuckled, as long as they weren’t on a pizza.  Because Tim is rather purist when it comes to his beloved Italian cookery (and there’s no hint of criticism there – his tagliatelle bolognese (never spaghetti which is WRONG) is a joy, just to take one of many examples) and the various pizza solecisms rather distress him.  Chicken Masala pizza, anyone?  Never mind Hawaiian, which is where we came in.

I went on, as one does during the course of a chatty dinnertime, to baked beans on toast.  I like baked beans and I like toast.  But toast that’s soggy with tomato sauce, not quite so much.  Tim was more forgiving – and then I asked him about scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.  We’d been on the subject of scrambled eggs with baked beans already.  He is okay with the combo as long as the salmon is added at the last minute and not actually cooked.  And, if it’s just scrambled eggs on toast, the toast has to be made and buttered and kept warm so that the butter has soaked into the toast – I’m fine with that, toast warm with butter is not at all the same as toast soggy with baked bean sauce – and then the eggs are added with extra black pepper and eaten while hot and lovely…but a thought came to me.  How about scrambled eggs on a slice of smoked salmon and no toast at all, unless it’s a slice of Melba toast on the side, just for the crunch?  Because texture is almost as vital in food as taste is.  Complementary, at least?  Any thoughts?

I’m crediting my daily Marmite on toast (I have a more regular breakfast than ever before, thanks to Lovely Tim) with my stronger than ever (we started from a low base) fingernails.  Every nail is fit to be seen at present.  It can’t last but it’s pretty good while it does.  I’m sure it’s the Marmite.

The first broad bean tops of the year.  Absolutely yum.


The good thing about not having slept much was that I was up early enough to have planted out all the outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers, watered the greenhouse and fed the chickens and the cats and – and, darlings – started to turn out the study, all before breakfast.  I know it’s true that I didn’t sleep much, because I downloaded an app.  Yes indeed, sad woman that I am, I wanted to verify my insomniac nights by using an outside monitor.  Though it wasn’t for the purposes of whinge-bragging so much as to check whether I really wasn’t sleeping or whether I just thought I wasn’t.  The first two nights, of course, I slumbered peacefully for many happy hours.  Not so much last night – but enough of that.  Even I am almost dribbling with boredom.

After breakfast – I haven’t finished bragging, I’m afraid – I finished the study, sorted out the summer duvet for the bed, hung up some clothes and put others in the wash – sooner or later, you’re all going to work out that my monthly cleaners were due.  Aside from these domestic virtuousnesses, though, i bought wrapping paper and cards and wrapped two grandsons’ birthday presents; one two days early and one more than a fortnight.  I amaze myself sometimes, ’tis true.  And then I made chocolate brownies and naan bread.

Dilly and the boys called in and made inroads into the brownies, as well as strawberries they had brought.  Enormous ones, about the biggest I’d ever seen, in contrast to those that I bought yesterday from Simon the Greengrocer.  Both were local, both delicious and juicy.  After tea, I took them round the garden – various animals to see and a newt kindly basked on the surface of the water for them, and they were charmed by the Serama bantams.  I was pleased too – until now, Mona my remaining bantam has been rather hen-pecking the other two smaller hens.  But this afternoon, there was a change.  All three, plus the cock, were pecking at their food relaxedly and the little ones weren’t afraid and Mona wasn’t pushing in for the choicest bits.

All the same, I have been awake since half past five and I’m starting to flag.  I must leave post unopened until tomorrow and emails unanswered.  Except one, from someone coming to the blog party and asking what she might bring.  And another, from Kippy – I’m going to email from the bath.  Good job I’m not going to use Skype, innit.


Weeding and skiing

This week, we are mostly weeding.  It became imperative.  As usual, I’d been concentrating on the vegetable garden, but even that needed some attention.  Then, we finally had time to look at the flower beds and just about caught them before the weeds topped the intended plants.

I’ve always been pretty easy-going with weeds, if I like them.  I’ve got lots of forget-me-nots in the kitchen garden, for example, which I don’t root out because they’re pretty and not too invasive.  I like having daisies, coltsfoot, clover, plantain, buttercups and so on in the lawn.  I can admire a perfect lawn but there’s not a lot to love.  But when choking the flowers, they’re less welcome.

I walked across the front field yesterday evening, to change the padlock on the gate.  I bought two new ones; one for the new gate and one for the other – identical, because the same farmer will use both and it’s simpler if they both have the same combination.  A couple of years ago, I bought one with a five-figure combination but those seem to be thin on the ground now, so I got two identical four-figure ones instead.  Anyway, walking over the field, I kept an eye out for ragwort, that poisonous weed that is so dangerous in hay – it’s bitter-tasting so grazing animals avoid it, but dried into hay or in haylage, they eat it before they realise.  There isn’t much ragwort and I now know where to go and fork it out before the hay crop is cut.  I also noted the range of grass varieties – I don’t know as much as I’d like to about grass,  My friend A told me that he wrote his university dissertation on grasses and – not that I told him, though I’m sure I sounded impressed – I was totally wowed.  On my way back across the field (back to last night, darlings, I digressed a bit and I hope you’re keeping up) I looked at the house and the trees and thought how lovely it all is.  I took a few photos, just because.  It’s the same every spring, I’m so sentimental about it.  I look about for the signs of each tree or hedgerow plant coming into leaf or flower and take such a keen enjoyment.  And now it’s all in full leaf and we’ve come through another year.

But I was talking about weeding.  We’re actually nearly there, which is remarkable.  I’ve not been so up together for years – possibly ever, because I’ve more flower beds than we ever used to have.  I’m not sure if proud is the word – not, probably – but I do feel satisfied with the result of our work.

I had another music lesson this evening.  LT never knows what time to expect me home as my teacher is also a friend from way back and we enjoy a chat.  I’ve decided that the time has come to give my old clarinet, that was my grandfather’s, an honourable retirement and to buy a better one.  It’s a decent one – a Boosey and Hawkes Regent from the early 1950s, it has a very good barrel but the keys are past their best and I would like something that rewards the work I put in, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious.  Or if it does.  Easier to play, if you like.  Anyway, that’s next on the list for ways to spend the kids’ inheritance.

There’s a blog party coming up…

Blogging isn’t coming easily to my fingertips at present, I’m not sure why.  But I’ll catch up with all of you soon and, perhaps, get my verve back together too.

The first thing to tell you about is that chicks have hatched.  It was quite dicey, in fact – actually, I do know why I didn’t blog on Thursday; we had four chicks, but three of them had to be helped out of their shells and we were very doubtful whether any of them would survive, and I didn’t want to leave that sort of cliffhanger.  As it turned out, the strongest one slipped out from mum in the night and was too chilled to save.  The other two are fine and thriving, as is the first one.  They are very tiny, because that’s their breed but they seem to be able to avoid clodhopping foster mum, who is very devoted.

The next thing is, it’s now less than four weeks to the Blog Party.  I’ve had some replies already, but I’d like to start getting more idea of who’s coming, please.  As ever, you don’t need to be a past or present blogger, there are no rules.  Rules aren’t in the spirit of the thing.  Just meeting, having lunch (absolutely all dietary needs are taken in our stride, from allergies to preferences to requirements, just let me know) and getting to know each other is all we aim to do.  I lay tables (lots of tables) so I do like to know the number, even if it’s just a day or two in advance – if you’ve already said you’re coming (or not), of course you don’t need to tell us again.  If anyone would like to offer a salad or pudding it would be gladly received (please let me know, I’ll obsessively over-cater otherwise) and if you’d like to stay for a night or more, you’re welcome.  We have four spare rooms, one is taken and another booked but not confirmed – again, let us know.  After the spare rooms are full, there’s a sofa, place for a camp bed and room for tents.  If you haven’t visited, we’re smack on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, half an hour from Norwich or the coast.

What has always been most fun is that people who’ve met here have later gone on to be friends and met up elsewhere.  And, from our point of view, it’s where Tim and I met: at the second blog party.  We’d become blog friends and he drove all 160 miles here, bringing another blog friend who lived near him but whom neither of us had met before and, though we saw each other only a couple of times more in the next few years, we would never have met otherwise.  I know that other couples have met through blogging or otherwise on the internet (two of my children met their wife on the internet) and that’s one reason why, with or without blogging mojo, it’s dear to my heart.

If you prefer not to put a comment saying you’ll be away from home, a Facebook message or an email will be fine.  Hope to see you, we look forward to it.  There are new faces every year – which is brilliant – and old friends come along too and will see yet more changes around here.

Tim and Zed xx

Z slips a bit

At breakfast this morning, I mentioned to LT that Graham, my wonderful friend who helped so much with the sorting out two summers ago, hadn’t been in touch yet.  He’s been over from New Zealand for a couple of weeks, staying in L’toft where his son and family live.  Not an hour later, I heard a car draw up, went to look – and there he was.  So pleased to see him and LT gave him a warm welcome too.  We talked for a long time, I showed him all round the garden – and the new stove and he promised to come again before he leaves for home.

By then, it was noon and the morning was gone, so I suggested we go out for lunch.  And that was very good too.  Young Stevo and his mate spent several hours putting down paving slabs – it’s pouring with rain now and I hope their efforts have not been undone: the job is to be finished tomorrow.  We planted out the stuff we bought at the street market on Sunday and I’ve done a bit more weeding in the veg garden – there’s a serious amount of weeding in the flower beds too, it’s quite a lot for people who hate weeding.

I had a very affectionate and emotional phone call last night with my friend whose daughter has died and I wonder how on earth one can start to feel like living a normal life after that.  It’s so totally devastating.  I remember years ago, talking with girlfriends and, I don’t know how, the subject of family death came up.  I said that surely losing a child would be worse than anything and my friend, the mother of five, said quite definitely that, to her, losing her husband would be the worst thing of all.  I said that my mother had been widowed young and so had my sister, whereas it was natural to expect to outlive one’s child.  It made me wonder, though, if I were being disloyal, but I still don’t think so.  Especially, perhaps, an adult but still young child.  Really on the brink.

Going for the positive

  1. Really good NADFAS lecture on jewellery from around the world and from pre-history until almost the present day.  I was asked to give the vote of thanks and it was a pleasure.
  2. We weeded half of the peas and all the spinach and swiss chard.  Go us.
  3. Meanwhile, young Stevo and his mate Damon  took up some slabs and cleared a patch next to them, with a view to relaying that whole area.
  4. Unexpectedly, a blisteringly hot day, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it is followed by a rainstorm – which would be welcome.  Even the broad bean plants are drooping – or rather, they were.  i’ve watered them.
  5. My clarinet lesson went really well and I played without stopping for three-quarters of an hour.  Considering I haven’t played at all for about six weeks, that’s quite surprising and gratifying.

Z saves £180…over a year.

Another success, though it took a long time.  Our broadband hub has been cutting out frequently and it’s several years old, so I wanted to phone for a new one.  However, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay with BT as I seemed to be paying over the odds, not having renegotiated the price for a few years.  I’d also managed to get myself with a different company for phone calls, though not for the phone line.  There was no fee though, just the price of the calls – all the same, I wanted to get everything together.  I spoke online to one person, then was given a (freephone) number to telephone; that person put me through to someone else, who was great.  Really helpful, took some time to work out the best deal and I got a reduction of several pounds a month.  After that, she asked about my mobile phone – I have a SIM only, monthly contract, so I told her my deal and how much I pay, and she was able to undercut that too and give me double the data.  So I accepted that too, though it’s not been ordered yet as I’ll have to give notice to my present supplier.  Although I was by no means five hours on the phone, because I had an appointment before lunch and then took a while to gird the metaphoricals again, that was the time it took from beginning to end.

So I haven’t done much else.  We went out to buy the potting compost and I’ve potted up the final two tomatoes, all but one of the aubergines and a couple of peppers.  The chilli peppers are still small seedlings, not having sprouted very quickly, so they’ll go into medium pots.

Paul the Fish had some lovely sea trout on his van today, so that’s what we’re having for dinner. Ratatouille out of the freezer and probably a few more of our own potatoes.

I’m starting clarinet lessons again tomorrow and I haven’t played for weeks.  So that’s what I’m going to do now.

Z actually cultivates her garden

It has been so dry that the garden pond’s water level was several inches below normal, so we filled it again with the hose.  While doing that, I saw a couple of newts and, when LT came along, we spent a happy half hour watching them.  Happy for me, that is, I have a Livingstonesque fervour for newts that I daresay relatively few share.  We went to a nursery with an aquatic centre afterwards and bought plants for the pond, so I trust the newts will approve.  After putting them in the water, I stood and watched one newt feeding on a snail that must have fallen in the pond – it wasn’t a water snail and it was certainly dead.

Today was the tri-annual street fair in Yagnub, the garden one.  LT knew rather better what to expect this time, but we were quite restrained, really.  Stallholders were lovely – when I bought potfuls of leek seedlings (bargains at £1 for at least two dozen seedlings) – I told them how successful they’d been last year.  I said that I’d separated them out and put them, a dozen or so at a time, into much bigger pots and planted them out a few weeks later and they were really pleased.  I’ve done the first part of that, this afternoon.  I’ve nearly finished putting tomato plants into their final pots for the greenhouse, with only two to go, but I’ve run out of compost.  I also have all the aubergines and peppers – it’s too dry in that greenhouse for cucumbers so I grow outdoor ones at present, and there isn’t room for other things I used to grow.  We’ll be putting out beans and sweetcorn soon, I’ll leave squashes and cucumbers until the end of the month.

A lot of weeding to do.  Ho hum.  Sadly, both of us really don’t like weeding.

Z cultivates her own garden

I’ve had to write too many letters of condolence in the last couple of weeks and the one I will write this weekend will be hardest of all.  On top of that recent devastating news, I went to a funeral yesterday; of the wife of a former school colleague.  It was a most beautiful and moving service, with the eulogy delivered bravely and steadfastly by the husband, but I was nearly undone twice: once by the reading being the one from our wedding and once by the second hymn being one from Russell’s funeral.

I came home after the (fabulous) lunchtime tea party at the local Big House and, fortunately, there was a bottle of fizz in the fridge.  LT nobly joined me in a couple of glasses, not that I found it much of a pick-me-up.  I didn’t get maudlin but I was quite low later in the day.

And I am and will be, and will continue to be gentle to myself for quite some time to come.  My usual resilience is at a low ebb, for a number of reasons.  Nothing to do with the family – we’re all well and happy and nothing is wrong there.  I’m happy with my darling Tim and simply feel oppressed by too much going on that’s outside my influence.  It feels nowhere near as bad as it has been at various times over the past couple of decades and it will pass.  All the same, I will spend a few days writing down, as I have sometimes in the past, good things, to channel my thoughts to the positive.  Today’s …

  • Lovely new potatoes and swiss chard from the garden for dinner – with lamb chops, which LT kindly cooked.
  • Mona the bantam ate out of my hand yesterday.  She bosses around the little girls, so they daren’t. Crow the cock wanted to but didn’t quite have the nerve.
  • The cattle are back on the meadow.
  • I played the organ this morning, the first time for months.  It went surprisingly well.
  • I haven’t broken a fingernail for at least ten days.  Since I have probably the weakest nails of a healthy person that can be, this is very good.