Monthly Archives: July 2017

Local shops for local people. Again.

Well, that was a peculiar dream.  I dreamt that I’d set myself up in business, cleaning people’s houses.  No, darlings, seriously no.  I’m very good at housework (this is mainly theoretical but true none the less), but if I cleaned for others then I’d never touch a duster here again at all.  Don’t take my work home, obvs.

I went to Norwich for lunch today and, on the way home, it rained on and off.  At one point, I accidentally turned on the rear windowscreen wiper and it was  a good job I did, because otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed that it had seen better days, to the extent that it was flopping down.  Trouble it, the car is having its MOT tomorrow morning and a defective wiper blade is a cause for failure and, since the garage had kindly fitted me in at short notice, there isn’t much time in hand.  So I called in at the motor parts shop in town and asked if they’d got one in stock.    I’d taken the precaution of photographing the back of the car, really in case I forgot the model (cars mean very little to me) but it turned out that the age of it was crucial for the size.  And they hadn’t got it in stock but phoned the supplier, who hadn’t got it either but would get it straightaway and it’ll be delivered first thing in the morning.  So I’ll take the car to the garage, go straight back for the blade, deliver it for the garage to fit it and all will be well … assuming the car passes its MOT, which I’m sure it will.

Another point in favour of personal service in local shops.

Rog wondered, the other day (in the comments) if pensioners having a free bus pass encouraged people to shop in bigger towns rather than locally.  I don’t know, it might do.  I think it would cause an outcry if it were taken away.  I had a conversation on a bus with a nice lady once, who was on her way to visit her daughter in Cromer.  She said that she found that bus drivers could be quite sniffy about her free pass, they obviously thought she was an undeserving freeloader (her viewpoint, I’ve no experience in the matter).  And she said that, while she was glad to have it, as the bus was quite expensive for short trips, she would be very happy to pay towards the cost.  If she got it half price, she’d feel inclined to travel by bus still but, especially on the longer trips, she thought it was unnecessarily generous.

I suspect that, by the time I’m entitled to a bus pass, it might have been withdrawn anyway – they keep putting up the pension age – but I’m not about to go to Norwich by bus anyway, it’s a slow and winding road round all the villages.  I’m sorry to say that the internet has superseded city shopping.  I buy locally or online and have done for some years.  And many of my older friends, even in their eighties or nineties, use the internet quite confidently now.  I don’t know how shops keep going.  Tim and I were in a jeweller’s buying him a watch for his birthday, a few weeks ago, and there were about five staff in a prime city centre location.  There was one other customer in the half hour we were there and we couldn’t quite work out how the sums added up.  Unless a watch actually costs three and sixpence, of course, and all the rest goes to the wages.  Will there be any shops left in a few years’ time?

 

Z stops

Today, I went to the retirement celebration of a friend, who’s worked at the village school for the past 25 years.  It was just delightful – the children love her, she is fun, inspirational and immensely kind, and that came through in all that was said and done.  She has always been particularly interested in drama, song and dance and really brings out the best in everyone.

Several previous members of staff turned up too, which was a pleasure.  I caught up with news and was glad to see how well and happy everyone looks.  Afterwards, there was a meeting scheduled, so I had to stay to the end as I’m the secretary of that particular committee.  I’ve written up half the minutes this evening, but I’ll finish in the morning – I’m waiting for an extra item of information, so that I get the right wording … a fine excuse not to work all evening, hey.  But it isn’t normal to do that any more, so I wouldn’t anyway.  Not unless it was urgent, personal business.  I’ve been a dedicated volunteer for three decades and I’m almost entirely retired from it now and am very happy to be.  Not that I haven’t enjoyed and been enthused by it all, but I needed a break so badly that it’ll probably have to last the rest of my life.  I rather want freedom from responsibility, unless it’s personal. This is, I suspect, quite a relief to LT, who must sometimes wonder if I’ll be drawn in to local good causes again.

I remember when I was fourteen or fifteen, a boy friend (not quite a boyfriend) phoning to invite me to go to the cinema with him and I said I couldn’t that night, my parents had a charity do on and I’d be expected to hand round drinks and so on.  Looking back, I can’t quite believe it – of course they’d have understood and managed perfectly well without me.  But not fulfilling an obligation didn’t even occur to me.  Poor, stupid child.  I’m probably younger at heart now than I was then and i certainly have more sense, at last.

I didn’t even tell them,  It didn’t occur to me to play the martyr.  A trick missed there, certainly.

 

Z waves her hands in the air like she don’t care

I digress.  I think I’ve more to say on the things I’ve blogged about in the past few days but this is a weblog after all: a day-to-day record to some extent.

He was a long-term supporter of the Sage’s auctions, both as a buyer and a seller.  He died rather more than a year ago, well in his eighties, and recently his widow has sold his collection, through a Norfolk auctioneer.  I’d not have been able to do the sale in the time she wanted, had she asked me – I might reluctantly have two sales in a year rather than one but it would have been just that, and I do have a lot of other clients, and she chose another auctioneer.

The first part of the sale was a few months ago and the second was today.  i didn’t buy first time round, though I went and had a good look and really liked some pieces … but the ones I liked best were too expensive and somehow I didn’t have the buying boots on that day.  Today, it seems I’d changed my shoes.

The journey was pretty dire.  It should have taken about an hour to get there, it took more than an hour and a half, simply because of roadworks with traffic lights.  But less simply, the first lot had gone wrong.  I saw, later, a post on a local website that said the temporary traffic lights had completely broken down and showed red in both directions, for hours.  When we went through, they were working erratically, allowing one car through before going red again and, though cars the other way seemed to come at a greater rate, the queue was awful.  So we resolved to come home a different way.  But even on the way there, there were three more lots of roadworks and many more traffic lights.

But we’d allowed time and all was fine.  We had time to view, for a snack lunch and to settle ourselves.  I met some old friends, one of whom I only had known by email and phone in the past, and was able to take the new address of someone I’d known for ages but whom I’d lost touch with.

I looked at the china and told LT what I particularly liked, but didn’t expect to buy.  But I ended up bidding for three lots and buying them – one, I was frankly helping the market, I just felt it was going too cheap and I’d liked it, I didn’t seriously expect to buy.  The other two, I’d identified as pieces I’d love to buy but only at the *right* price.

There was just one lot I missed, but I know who bought it and it’s gone to a good home. I waved my hand to bid once, but so did several other people and I just had to let it go, it went for too much money for me.  I congratulated the buyer afterwards – but I still have a sneaking regret.

Otherwise, I had a lovely time.  I first bid at a major auction some 28 years ago and have been used to visiting them for about 45 years – my mother bought much of her furniture at auction considerably earlier than that.  I’m not a collector at heart, I appreciate what it is to be one but i don’t share the compulsion or the expertise.  I have made the decision to have an item *at any price* on a few occasions (three, actually) but am usually very sensible.  Today, I have had the happy situation of feeling a bit recklessly extravagant, whilst also knowing that I’ve bought well and could (and won’t) sell on at a modest profit.  It seems that I’m more of a collector than  I thought I was and maybe have a hint of dealer in me too – only a hint though, as there were a number of items I know I could have bought and sold on at a profit, and didn’t care to bother.  I’m a genuine amateur, I’m in it simply for the love of it.

Monkfish in tomato sauce with samphire and french beans

I’ll deal with the samphire, which we bought the other day when we were on the North Norfolk coast.  Our mobile fishmonger has decided to stock the French stuff this season; or rather his supplier has, but it doesn’t have as much flavour. LT is cooking the rest of the meal.

The business of fresh food does interest me – this is partly because of my parents’ professional interest in the subject, though they sold the hotel when I was only three or four years old so I wasn’t aware of it at the time, and partly because of Al’s former business as a greengrocer – partly also because I’m just curious about how things work out.

We’re well supplied with fresh food in Yagnub, on the whole.  The splendid little greengrocer doesn’t have the range of basicsthat Alex had, it’s a smaller shop and he goes a bit more for the luxury end of the market.  I can see his point but I could also see Al’s who strongly believed that the single person on a pension who wanted the basics in small quantities was every bit as important as the one who bought luxury goods and lots of them.  Both of them believe in supplying local goods in season and I can certainly see that a smaller shop doesn’t have space for everything.

We have two independent butchers and a farm shop a couple of miles away.  There is also a fishmonger and one of the two fish and chip shops has a wet fish counter a couple of days a week.  There’s also a very good wet fish stall on the Thursday market (as well as a very good fruit and veg stall) and Paul the Fish has called here on Mondays for a good twenty years.

I find it hard to work out how they all keep in business, considering how many people buy all their food in supermarkets, whether in person or online.  Especially the highly perishable fish – at least on a slack day in Al’s shop, most of it would keep for a few more days, but Plautus had it right a couple of thousand years ago: fish (and company) stink after three days.  And shellfish and skate only last a day.

And then we come back to restaurants and cafés and, as Rog mentioned yesterday, reviews on Trip Advisor.

I should plan out blog posts better, innit.  Because I’m rambling on and the more I say, the more I think about it.  But I can’t blog like that, I’ve tried it before.  When I carefully draft a post and leave it to finish later, it never does get finished.  Like an oyster, if it’s not fresh it’s not worth having.

 

Baba Ganoush and ratatouille

We’re all set to have a glut of vegetables again, which is fine and absolutely lovely as I like veggies very much … but we haven’t finished the freezerful from last year and we need to make space.  Isn’t it always the way?  And yet, unlike when you freeze masses of runner beans and are only too thankful to throw them out next year to make room for the next bunch, this is stuff we want to use up.  So tonight’s dinner was mostly vegetables – not that much out of the freezer in fact,  just some leeks, but aubergines and tomatoes from the greenhouse were added, along with cheese sauce, herbs, nuts, garlic and half a tin of anchovies.  And a nice bottle of red, or at least some of it.  So far.

Last night, I was looking up the website of a fairly local pub that we used to go to some years ago, and got out of the way of visiting, for no particular reason – Tim and I have been discussing the awful uncertainty of the catering trade, but that’s another story – last summer, I went to a funeral in that village and saw it had been sold and was being refurbished.  We tried to book there a few weeks ago, but they’d had some domestic problem and had to shut for a few days … anyway, we’re always on the lookout for a nice pub that’s not too far away, so I checked out the menu.  And I’m not sure.  it looks a bit generic gastro pub grub, to be honest.  So it depends on how well it’s done: with flair or just pretentious and a bit overpriced.  I suspect we’ll check it out when we’re in the area, but I’m not sure it’s worth making a special journey.

Anyway, yes, the catering trade.  We hardly ever go out to eat in the evening but we make a point of eating out about once a week.  Yagnub and the surrounding area has lots of good places, many of which are cafés serving good lunches, cakes and so on but don’t normally open in the evening.  So people don’t necessarily book, but their reputation is gained from their freshly cooked food.  So they have to buy it in and plan their menu, not having much idea how many people will come on any day.  I honestly have no idea how it works.  My parents owned a biggish hotel, many years ago – that is, they sold it sixty years ago – and my mother never forgot how stressful it was.  We had a very good lunch a couple of weeks ago locally, but we were the only customers in the 40 minutes or so we were there, though someone was in the bar.  And the other day, we went into the place where we had our night-before-the-wedding bash and, most unusually, there was hardly anyone else there on a Friday lunchtime.  Yet sometimes, midweek, in the same place, we’ve been lucky to get the last table.  We decide where to go at the last minute, normally, just think where we haven’t been for a while or what sort of food or ambiance we’re after – it’s just potluck and pretty random.

“Most unusually,” I very slightly mistyped.  It autocorrected.  To ‘moist Tunisia.’  What??????

 

Reporting

The pleasure of not answering the phone, the caller ringing off as soon as the answerphone clicks on and then dialling 1471 and finding that the number was withheld, so it was clearly a cold caller, is immense.

Weeza was telling me this afternoon that the children have had such good school reports that they were bought Rewards – that is, they were allowed a sum of money each to browse online and choose presents.  Their maths scores were particularly good, it seems, and Zerlina’s maths proficiency is a year above her age and Gus’s is several months.  Since they both have late August birthdays, they’re doing well even to keep up.  We’ve always suspected that Gus will, like his father, become an engineer – not that we want to push the boy, of course, but even as a not-quite-walking year old child, he was seen holding a door handle and turning it repeatedly, while examining the latch and clearly trying to work out how moving one part had an effect on another.  He was spotted recently watching LT intently, when the electric slicer was in use.  He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t ask questions, but you can see that he’s working out the mechanism.

We’re looking forward to taking the two children on holiday again during the summer break.  We can’t make the same offer to Al and Dilly’s children, as we’d need another bedroom in the caravan if there were three children – they’re too big all to bunk up in one double bed – though it would be nice.  We haven’t managed to book a *proper* holiday for ourselves yet, we always seem to be too busy, but this will most certainly, absolutely happen.  Assuredly.

 

Z reaches the end of her tether, so just removes it. Easy.

Whatever that thought was, I didn’t write it down last night and I’ve no idea what I had in mind.  It would have been trivial, as this whole blog is – I’m not damning it, darlings, I rather love the trivial.  It’s a respite from too much worry.

I’ve had it up to here *gestures* with cold callers.  The recorded ones are the worst, but I can’t put up with real people and their set spiel either.  I’m simply not going to answer the phone any longer, unless the person calling me is expected, or announces themselves on the answerphone.  I’ve changed my message to explain that.  I know about caller recognition and all, but I’m doing it my way, with my voice on the message.  And, while I’m about it, I’m only taking business calls when it suits me.  I’ve been without a tenant in my London flat for a few months while depressingly expensive work has been done and the letting agent is clearly anxious not to lose me as a client, so phones every week or two, usually on my mobile.  And I’ve taken to declining the call.  I will contact them, along with other agents, but it’s got to the stage of being counter-productive and i’m actually less likely to use them again because they keep bothering me.

At least I finally managed to open the letter from my accountant today that I’ve been ignoring, except for baleful glances, for several days.  It was a reminder to pay my income tax, the second instalment.  Yup.  Done that.  I did it three weeks early, taking it that the poor wretched country needs the money more than my bank does, it making no difference to me, in practical terms.  I’m out of debt and like it that way.

I’m not really feeling stroppy but I did start to feel nagged and bothered, which is never pleasant.  But doing something about it puts things right, and it’s such a pleasure to listen to the phone ring and feel no obligation to answer the damn thing.  Of course, on the rare occasions a real friend is ringing, then it’s even more of a pleasure to pick up and speak to them.

Changing the subject entirely, it’s my lovely husband’s birthday today.  Five years ago tonight was the second time I met him, when I went to his birthday party which was a few weeks after the blog party.  Gosh.  We’ve all passed a lot of water since then, as someone once said….

All Z wants is loving LT and music, music, music

Lovely Tim keeps on rising to the challenge.  After a weekend and a bit looking after Zerlina and Gus, he spent the next two evenings at school concerts: one being Pugsley’s primary school production of Joseph and the other my (formerly my, that is) school’s summer concert.  And we’ve seen some remarkable talent on show, we’ve both been impressed and entertained.

I called in at the High School this morning to pick up our tickets and, whilst I was there, took the opportunity to say hello to a few people.  It is a lovely place and I miss everyone, though I’m not at all tempted to go back.  Still, I was a governor there for eighteen years and it will always be with me.

We picked the first of the aubergines today and ate about an eighth of it.  This particular variety is enormous – that is, the plants are a regular size but the fruits are at least double the size of a normal aubergine.  I must frisk the cucumber plants tomorrow too, the little beasts hide under a leaf and are suddenly fat and chunky.  *Looks down at herself.  Oh.  Hmmmm.  A bit close to the well-covered bone, there.*

Darlings, I am making no sense.  It’s half past eleven and I must think about going to bed.  The thought might not be acted on for a while, but it must be thunk.  So goodnight, sleep well and I will try to remember the thought I wanted to share with you, tomorrow.

 

The days of the dog

The term “dog days” comes to mind – I know that’s the hottest days of summer, when you don’t feel like doing anything much, but I don’t believe that I know if it’s given to any particular days or why it’s so called – something to do with Sirius, the dog star, perhaps?  Anyway, I’m taking advantage of the hot weather by taking it easy.  It often happens that this isn’t possible, we’re too busy to enjoy the warmth (which may be fleeting and unreliable in this country) and have to slog on while we bake, but once in a while, sunny weather coincides with nothing vastly important to do, and that’s the case here and now.  So I’ve lain on the lawn and read, and today had a lengthy afternoon nap – which is fairly encouraging as it’s too hot to sleep at night.

We went to the supermarket for some odds and ends and decided we didn’t need to visit the butcher too, except that we hadn’t got anything for tonight.  I suggested the Gressingham duck legs we buy occasionally and we found they’d been moved, from the red meat section to the poultry section.  And then we noted a slight difference in the packaging.  They’ve been, for a very long time, £4 for three legs, which we tend to make absolutely brilliantly witty jokes about, or else £4 for two breasts, which there isn’t anything very funny to say about – but, while the quantity and price of the breasts was the same, there were only two legs in the pack.  So the price increase was, fairly eye-wateringly, from £1.33 to £2.00 each leg, which wasn’t really on.  I know the cost of living has increased markedly over the past year, mostly because the value of the pound has decreased so much, but really…

Over the next few days, we’ll be seeing grandchildren quite a lot, which will be good.  Not the youngest, but we’ll be with Zerlina and Gus for a couple of days and then see Pugsley’s school play after that.  Though a very reticent child, he is quite willing to audition for these things because he enjoys acting, which seems remarkable to me.  I absolutely applaud him for it, I was a terribly shy child who was brought out of my shell by acting, but I’d never have offered, I had to be pushed into doing it, even though I wanted to.  Too many commas there for clarity, but I daresay you can understand what I’m saying.

Back to relaxing, darlings.  But in a comfy armchair this time.

We might as well live … with ants

Those ants I told you about the other day.  We’re still finding a few of them.  We finally worked out how they probably got in the house – napkins and a tablecloth, used for the blog party and then brought into the dining room, not for long but enough.  And they then just hid – even as I write, knowing how carefully I cleaned and wiped and sprayed, it seems a bit far-fetched, but the fact is that ants kept turning up, just a few at a time.  And we’ve decided to let them win.  I just haven’t the heart to kill any more – there’s no point in taking them outside, their nest-mates will have forgotten them and they’ll be chased away.  And, after a fairly brief discussion on the subject, it wouldn’t really make any sense at all to end it all ourselves, even if we could think of an acceptable way,  And we don’t want to, obvs.  Having left four to make merry on the dining table when we left it last night, only one joined us for dinner and it scurried away when I greeted it (I can hardly blame it) and it’s somewhere in the lace of the tablecloth.

We’d been out for lunch, somewhere we hadn’t tried before in the nearby town.  We had a lovely lunch a few months ago in the restaurant attached to the Spanish deli and we might have gone there, but decided to check the other place that had been undergoing renovation last time we looked.  And it started to rain as we were reading the menu, so that convinced us.  It’s another Spanish restaurant, which is slightly surprising in such a small town, but this one specialises in fish.  But we were having fish tonight, so shared a meat and salad platter, which was very good. There are plenty of really good places to have lunch around here – we never go out in the evening for dinner, as it happens, but aim to have lunch out at least once a week, just for the pleasure of it.

I\m looking out of the window right now (yes, darlings, I touch-type) and the creeper is climbing across the glass rather prettily.  It evidently needs to be cut back soon.  I was looking at it climbing towards the guttering, the other day.  I don’t mind going up the ladder, but I can’t put a double ladder in place.  I’m too weak and feeble a woman, it seems.  But I can live with that.