Monthly Archives: September 2017

Another year older

I had thought, at one point, that I might have some sort of celebration of my birthday, but I couldn’t be bothered in the end.  I’m really not that fussed about any sort of anniversary, not if it applies to me.  In fact, that attitude seems to have passed on to my children – presents might be given weeks later and it’s generally thought that it’s more fun that way than to receive everything at the same time.  For a child, who gets a range of presents on or around the birthday or Christmas, having something extra when the event has long passed seems like a bonus, or so our relaxed attitude assumes.  May all change for the next generation, who knows?  My mother took very different attitude, her birthday was immensely important to her, but that may well have been because not enough attention was paid to it when she was very young.  But anyway, there was nothing specific but it was rather lovely all the same with just LT and me for most of the time.

Tomorrow, it’s Ro and Dora’s third wedding anniversary.  They’re away on holiday this week, which I only remembered as I dropped their card in the post box. They’re having a new kitchen fitted, some of which will be done while they’re not there.  I think it’ll be microwave ready meals for the second week – at least they’ll really appreciate proper home cooking after that, Ro pointed out.  He’s a keen cook and prepares a lot of the meals in their house.  One of the things – they can be counted on a few fingers – that I got right as a parent was encouraging them all to cook and to appreciate good food.  I didn’t even know I was doing so, or that it was unusual, at any rate, because it was natural to me.

Z says three cheers

We decided we needed a curtain to keep cats out of a room when we’re not there; there’s an internal window.  But I should start from the beginning.

When we were having structural repair work done to this house, back in 1985, the Sage discovered, up in one of the attics, that there was an original Tudor window frame, bricked over from the outside – that was the reason it was still in pretty good repair, of course.  A retired cabinet maker friend of ours carved the bits that were needed to make it sound, once it had been removed from the brickwork, and it was inserted in the dining room wall, between that room and the hall.  Better there, we thought, than hidden away in an attic.

It isn’t glazed of course and Eloise cat and Rummy occasionally use it to pass through between the two rooms.  And we’ve had enough of that, we want to control where they can’t go.  So, curtain … having made the decision, we wanted to act on it straight away.  So I did a bit of research into ready-made curtains – ideally, we’d have the fabric of our choice and I’d either make them or have them made, but that would take too long as we felt a strange sort of urgency.  Why?  Probably for the same reason I became decisive yesterday and wrote those letters and made those phone calls, but I can’t identify it.  It was time, that’s all.

Having looked on various websites, we went to The Range, which is at probably the worst signposted retail park in Norwich, if not the country – or the world, for all I know.  We’ve been there before, we always make at least one mistake and sometimes drive around every single area before finding the quite self-contained bit we’re looking for.  Truly, it’s dreadful.  But I only made two mistakes on the way in and one on the way out, which has to be an improvement on previous occasions.  And we found that the most suitable curtains of all were also reduced in price, quite fortuitously, and we bought a pole and so on – and then we went to the supermarket almost next door and wandered around helplessly – gosh, aren’t big supermarkets wretched?  – for some time, but found every section we’d been looking for in the end.  They didn’t have all the spices I wanted, mind you.  No mace, no allspice (I have ground, I wanted the whole ones) and no celery seed.  Though they had asafoetida.  I dunno.

I’m useless with a drill, it’s not my thing, but LT is pretty good, though our very solid walls and centuries-old oak nearly proved the master of him.  But the job is done, and we only decided to do it this morning.  Ree-markable.  Though, truth to tell, we decided that one of the supports for the pole is in the wrong place, as a cat might still slip past it, so he’ll redo it a bit further on tomorrow.

And he cooked dinner too.  Truly, a pearl among swine.  No wait, do I mean that?  A pearl beyond price?  A pearly king?

A jolly good chap, anyway.  Hoorah for Tim.

Bullets don’t taste nice

I’ve finally got around to various domestic matters, which I’ve been putting off for a while, for no good reason.  So I’ve written to my solicitor, accountant, phoned the chimney sweep, the electrician and the handyman and – while I was about it – cleared an overflowing gutter.  All this brought me close to a panic attack, which is stupid and I managed to reduce it to mere anxiety.  These things are much worse to contemplate than just to do, of course.

I woke up at 3 o’clock with a really bad headache, couldn’t sleep and finally did when it was time to get up, finally surfacing late, still with a thumping head.  So LT showing me a plastic box of apples that had gone to liquid wasn’t something I quite took in, then or later when I agreed it looked peculiar and had better be thrown away.  Of course, if I’d been feeling less unwell and had thought to question him, I’d have known in time that it was actually the particularly lovely chicken stock that I’d put in the fridge last night, not having managed to remove the label showing the tub’s previous contents.  Ho hum.  These things happen and we can always make more chicken stock.

I’m feeling smug now, rather than anxious, at having gone straight out to clear the gutter and downpipe, because it turned out that there was only a few minutes’ gap between downpours.  It’s bucketing down again now and clearing itself straight down the drain.  We go weeks with very little rain here, only the other day we planted out irises and sedums in a bed that is in full sun, with very sandy, stony soil.  It was cleared a couple of years ago because the few last shrubs in there were more lichen than leaf, and I think the best thing to do is put in fairly substantial succulents, alpines and so on.  The whole of the garden in front of the house is dreary, either large, overgrown shrubs or perennial weeds that are really difficult to shift permanently.  I thought I’d tackle it more fully this summer, but it’s still a work in progress.  We’re getting on, though.

Z says Aah

I had a routine dental appointment this morning, which was fine, so went on to look at dishwashers afterwards – LT had looked in his branch of JL yesterday and, as it turned out, we came to the same conclusion.  So I’ve bought it and it’ll be delivered … next Thursday, chiz chiz.  I could have spent twenty quid for next day delivery, but it turned out that it wasn’t worth it to me.  I know, darlings, I’m surprised too.  I’d have thought I’d have paid £20 to get me out of washing up for a week, but it seems not.

I expected LT home between half past one and two o’clock, so had lunch ready for two, and waited and waited and, once it got to quarter to three, I was so hungry that my manners completely abandoned me and I ate my lunch.  I’d already drunk the bokkle of beer that we were supposed to share.  He got here by soon after three o’clock, having been sent round the North Circular because of some traffic problem.  And I opened more beer, for which he was grateful.

I said the dental appointment was fine and it was, except for one thing.  You know how they measure your gums, how much they can get a probe in – with luck, it’ll be not at all or one millimetre, and so it was all round my mouth except my lower left wisdom tooth, and there, between that and the next tooth, it was 6mm.  6mm!! that’s very nearly an armful!  The dentist was surprised because it had been 1mm only six months before and the rest of my mouth was spot on.  So I’ve come home with an inter-dental brush and some gel that tastes disgusting and I expect it’ll clear up soon.  Wisdom teeth are more trouble than they’re worth, I reckon, though maybe I’m being a bit tooth-picky.  And there’s no sign of any other trouble in my mouth, which I’m glad to know.  I knew two people who had mouth cancer picked up by their dentists – many years ago, these were, not at all recent – and the routine check they do is a truly valuable service.

But that was a serious moment that was quite uncalled for.  Let frivolity reign.  Tim is back with me where we both belong.

Z has a small grumble

This is turning out to be an expensive year, with one thing and another, because now the dishwasher has packed in too.  At eight years old, I honestly doubt the repairs, if possible, would be worth it and I’m inclined to cut my losses.  I’ve been looking at the John Lewis website and there’s a bewildering number of models at a range of prices and little to show why one is worth a great deal more than another.  I’m going to Norwich tomorrow to the dentist, so I’ll go and see what’s on offer.  The interior layout isn’t shown and it does matter.

I went to the first Nadfas lecture of the autumn in Yagnub today.  I’ll continue to call it Nadfas, though they’ve had a (presumably expensive) rebranding and it’s now officially The Arts Society.  I think they’re idiots.  For one thing, it is not a society.  It is several hundred societies, all affiliated , which the previous National Association of Decorative And Fine arts Societies indicated.  For another, The Arts Society and The ArtSociety sound pretty well identical, so it’s not easy to say unless you put in a pause.  For another, it’s dull and not at all distinctive.  For nearly thirty years, if I’ve mentioned NADFAS, people have either not heard of it and asked, intrigued, or are members and have responded.  “I’ve just been to an Arts Society lecture” has no resonance at all, it might as well be a little local club rather than a worldwide affiliation of societies with many thousands of members.  But it’s imposed by the Board Of Easily Persuaded By a Marketing Person, so it’s official, and most of us will probably ignore that.

Tim’s been away for a couple of days again, so it’s a bit quiet around here, because clearly he’s extremely vivacious and loud – actually, all I mean is that it’s dull, except for the damn dishwasher going pop.  And it’s only half past eight but I think I might as well go to bed and read, because there’s not enough conversation around here and, if you stop watching television and then try turning it on again, blimey it’s bad.

Z thinks about autumn

For the last few months, it’s been too warm at night to want a duvet.  We’ve just had a sheet and a very light blanket.  But last night, I admitted to being chilly and LT said he had been the previous night too and, as I’d sensibly kept the duvet ready, folded over the chaise longue, he put it on the bed and we both had a better night’s sleep than we’d had recently.

I’m going to have to buy yet another electric blanket.  I have to have one at night: if I get into a cold bed in winter, even if I’m warm, I lie getting colder and colder and finally fall asleep, wake an hour or two later and my feet are still icy.  I don’t like a warm bedroom but I do love a warm bed.  And, for the last decade or more, electric blankets have been absolutely rubbish.  I think I’ve had four in about the last ten years, plus a replacement for the one that didn’t even go one winter, and none of them go to a third winter.  Yet really old ones, from way back, still work fine.  They don’t even get very hot nowadays, obviously a safety thing but even the pre-warm setting isn’t very hot and the others make no difference to the warmth of the bed at all.  I’m wondering whether to buy two singles, as what usually happens is that one side stops working, which means the whole thing has to be replaced, of course.

I’ve been making yet more tomato relish.  We mostly made sauces and soups last year, but there’s not all that much room in the freezer at present, so surplus fruit and veg has to be preserved another way.  I’m waiting impatiently for the chilli crop to ripen, as one of the great successes was jalapeño relish – we bought chillies by the kilo once it was used up, to make more – and we’re down to the last quarter jar.  It’s very easy, the only tedious bit being the slicing of the peppers themselves and, though pretty spicy, it isn’t *that* hot.  The tomato one is from the same book – again very simple, just vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, onion, chilli and spices, which I think are mustard seeds, paprika and ground ginger.  Then, when nearly ready, you add some chopped gherkins and pickled onions, which add a bit of bite and mean you don’t have to keep it, as you would a chutney, but can use it straight away.  The damson chutney we made won’t be ready for a few months yet.

Z eats and judges and eats some more.

The show was very good, as always.  I ate bits of ten cheese straws (the men’s class, which is always very competitive), nine fruit cakes – that was interesting, one was a very rich Christmas type fruit cake, several were quite fruity, medium dark, a few were light, fairly spongy cakes with the addition of dried fruit and one was a banana cake.  Then there were quite a lot of jams and chutneys, about an equal number of entries in the tomato taste class, half a dozen sausage roll entries, three marmalades (fewer than usual), four eggs – raw in the shell, we judged on appearance, having cracked one into a saucer – three olive and sundried tomato breads, two eclairs, two custard tarts and four apple tarts.  Betty and I tasted everything, discussed, evaluated, agreed and adjudged.  In the case of the apple tarts, two were pretty equal first and two were pretty equal third.  So we used appearance as the final factor in the first instance and gave two third prizes, because we’re lovely, basically.

The rest of the great pile of wood has been cut up and is stored.  It will be added to even more, but we’ve already got a few years’ worth of logs.  And we – well, I, because LT came with me but made it clear I was in the driving seat – bought some more plants, particularly for the very dry round bed in front of the house, where it’s really hard to keep anything alive for more than three years.  I’ve got some irises and sedums and hope for the best, as long as the beastly muntjac deer don’t have them all.


Z stockpiles champagne

The six weeks of family birthdays and celebrations started on the 18th of last month, including all my children-in-law’s birthdays and all the family wedding anniversaries, plus three grandchildren’s birthdays.  And the cat’s and mine.  People have been asking when we’re finally going to get a honeymoon, but the thought of booking a ‘proper’ holiday just makes me anxious, I don’t feel able to plan far ahead.  At least, though, we’ve decided to go away to Pembrokeshire for a few days over our wedding anniversary, weather being agreeable.  And maybe a holiday early next year, always assuming the value of the pound doesn’t drop to even more dismal levels and we just can’t bear the thought!

What we do still find time for is lunch out about once a week and today happened to be the day – it was going to be yesterday, but … actually, we ran out of time.  Heh.  The sun shone in the morning and I suggested we go somewhere we could sit outside.  And we got away with it, just – although the clouds had gathered teasingly by the time we arrived, the rain held off until we were back in the car and the real downpour didn’t take place until three o’clock.  And by that time, we were indoors anyway.

Tomorrow, I’m due to judge the domestic classes at the next village’s gardening club show.  The baking classes are a bit pastryfied this time, I wonder if it’ll encourage people or the opposite.  I must remember to have a very modest breakfast, anyway.