Monthly Archives: November 2017

Z sorts out

I couldn’t write a blog post last night because Eloise cat was lying on my chair again.  Of course, it’s out of the question that she be moved for my convenience.  At one time, LT might have moved her for his, but she has been training him, quite gently, but effectively.

I mentioned, last week, that the clock in the hall had gone haywire, gaining ten or so minutes every hour, but that I’d managed to adjust it so that it’s keeping time again.  The other day, my computer mouse became almost impossible to use.  I normally just put it on my leg, whether skirt, trouser or bare, and it’s fine – everyone else who tries to use it finds it difficult but I don’t, so I can’t tell the reason.  But it just didn’t work.  I was wearing tights under a skirt and it just about worked on the tights, but the next day I wore jeans and it was impossible.  I adjusted all the mouse settings (using it on my hand, which was just about manageable) but it didn’t help.  I turned the mouse off and on again and the computer off and on again and wondered if I needed to buy another mouse.

Then, yesterday (before Eloise cat took my place), it worked again.  It’s fine, just as normal.  I have no idea at all.  We think there are technology elves who enjoy playing tricks.

Without the three largest pieces of furniture apart from chairs and sofa, the room looks very big.  It is quite big in fact but, because it’s nearly square, chairs have to be brought some way into the room and so you aren’t particularly aware of its size.  Weeza used to say that her whole London flat would have fitted in this room, and it almost would if you disregarded stairs and landings, but now her sitting room is two and a half times the area of this room.  Quite a turnaround.

I spent some time dealing with the leftovers from Sunday.  There were not that many in fact, as we’d eaten all the vegetables except a tablespoon of cauliflower, which I didn’t keep.  There was mostly beef, which I took off the bone, making stock out of the bones.  The scraps were later put aside for the chickens and outdoor cats, of course.  And I’ve sorted it out into sliceable, chunkable and minceable meat today and have made a casserole using the rest of the gravy and the remains of a pheasant casserole, from the chunks for this evening.  In fact, pretty well nothing is wasted.  It was reported, the other day, that half of the potatoes bought from supermarkets and greengrocers are thrown away, not even having been cooked, because they’d gone green or sprouted or – well, I don’t know why.  I also don’t know how they know.  Because no one ever asked me and any remains I leave of vegetables, if they’re not suitable for the chickens, go on the compost heap.  But there aren’t many.  I spend a good deal on food, but I’m also quite frugal because I use up leftovers.  Indeed, while LT was away last week, I took single portions out of the freezer – squirrelled away for just such an occasion – and ate them, along with the remains of the marvellous curry goat.  Not all at the same meal though, obvs.

Sunday at the Zedary

The whole family came for lunch, which meant fourteen at the table, one of us in a high chair.  We had the full Sunday works – roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, vegetables; followed by proper puddings – Queen of puddings and sticky toffee.  When considering everything that had to go in the Aga, this morning, I realised it wouldn’t, not at the right times, so went into the larder and hauled out the little Baby Belling (two electric rings and a half-sized oven) that usually is only brought into play in the summer if I turn the Aga off, or for this sort of occasion.

And it all went very well and there were fourteen paid-up members of the Clean Plate Gang, some of whom had more than one helping.

Since they were all going to be here and we’d got a few jobs that needed doing, I asked for some help.  So, Al’s shed where he keeps his beehives (he isn’t able to have bees again at present but would like to sometime in the future) has been shifted and refilled, furniture has been moved to the hall or the dining room, ready for redecorating and recarpeting this room and several reels of barbed wire, which had been shoved in the coal shed because there was space, a couple of years ago, have been put somewhere more suitable.  It was all highly satisfactory.  Squiffany is now taller than Dora by some way (Squiff is twelve) but Zerlina still has a little way to go.  Her ambition is, however, to be the tallest in the family, so she will have to top six foot.

I’d got a couple of paint samples and Weeza put dabs on the walls in several places and we think we’ve decided which to have, and we’ve set a date, later in the month, for the painting to be done.

I encouraged the family to help themselves to squashes – we have a lot of them in the larder.  And jalapeño peppers too.  And, with immense generosity, I gave away two jars of our lovely jalapeño relish.  Ro and Dora tried it with toasted cheese tonight.  “It’s the best!” he said.  Yes indeed, it is.  None of us wanted much to eat, but LT and I sampled the new bacon, with mushrooms on toast.

Z inadvertently buys a teapot

I had a phone call yesterday, when I was just sitting down to lunch.  I answered it anyway because it was from one of my auction clients.  Except, it wasn’t him on the phone, it was his daughter.

This chap had contacted me much earlier in the year and sent over a whole folder of photos and information about his pieces of L’toft china – not all of which was accurate: ie, not all the china was indeed L’toft.  I told him the pieces that weren’t and it was arranged that he’d send the rest.  However, when it came, he’d omitted one bowl and sent two Chelsea ewers instead, and sent some of the pieces I’d told him weren’t right.  In addition, some of those I’d taken as being right, weren’t.  So we sorted it all out by email and on the phone and it was agreed that I’d send the rest of the stuff back after the auction.  All his pieces but one sold and he asked me to hold that over until next year.  The, after the sale, there were two  very nice floral teapots that hadn’t found buyers and I asked him if he might be interested, as he’d said he was on the lookout for such a piece.

In the end, he made an offer below the reserve and I asked the owner if he’d like to accept it.  I said, I thought it was low and that his teapot had been unlucky not to sell and was worth more.  But he decided to go for it.  And I phoned my client again and we agreed that I’d deduct the cost and send the rest of his money.

We had such a pleasant chat that I really warmed to him.  He’d actually caused me hours of work, I’d spent ages researching the pieces that I couldn’t even sell, but had managed to find buyers for two of them, taking no commission at all but just passing on the money.  Which is what Russell would have done, I know his standards and aim to match them.  He had said he was going to be away for a week or so and it was agreed that I’d hold on to his china and his money until he was home again.

Back to yesterday.  I’d had the impression he was going on holiday, but he wasn’t.  He was going into hospital for an operation and it must have been a major one because he’d expected not to be home for ten days.  But it went wrong, or at any rate wasn’t successful and his daughter had phoned to say she’d found our correspondence on his computer, so had phoned to put me in the picture.  She couldn’t deal with more china arriving so please hold on to what I had, and cancel the sale of the teapot.  I’d already paid the owner the money, of course.

And I said of course, the vendor would quite understand and it would be all right and anyway, I wouldn’t hold her to it.  Did she think that her father might like it at some time in the future?  With some difficulty, she explained that he is unlikely to survive.  In fact, I think that is certain and she was trying not to be too blunt.  Poor woman, I’m so sorry for her and, though I’d not met him, I’d liked her dad and I’m really sorry about the situation.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting next to an elderly friend at lunch and she told me that she was going into hospital the next week for a major heart operation, and was very anxious about it.  She’d been told it was her only chance as she had such a weak heart and it would fail soon.  We were all encouraging, of course, and said we’d look forward to seeing her when she recovered.  But she never did, she lived for several more months but never came out of hospital.  We assume that an operation will put things right but sometimes, even if there’s no failure on the part of the surgeon, it just doesn’t work.

Anyway, on reflection, i’ve decided to keep the teapot myself.  When I next see the vendor I’ll tell him about it, but I really don’t want the embarrassment of asking for the money back.  And it’s a very nice teapot and I’ll enjoy it and it’ll remind me of poor Brian, in quite a good way.

Z babysits

It’s been a busy few days, not least because LT was away and I had to fill in time with various domestic stuff.  And then last night I babysat for Ro and Dora, because I’d offered to pay for an evening out for each of my children, plus babysitting, for their birthday presents.  I thought that was quite a good idea, but Al and Weeza haven’t taken me up on it yet, after more than seven months, whereas Ro is the efficient one.

Young Rufus is getting very mobile and quite chatty.  Just individual words as yet, but then he’s only 16 months old.  Listening to his mother read a story book, he spotted some ducks on the page.  “Duck” he said.  She pointed to each of the three.  “Duck, duck, duck!” he added, to a meltdown of adoring granny.  And hearing him go into their bedroom this morning and greet his father “Hey-o” was even better.

Tonight, LT is home and I’ve taken the skin off the first of the new season’s bacon and rendered it into pork scratchings.  Son-in-law Phil has asked that we keep some for Sunday –  I dunno.  We’ll see.  The bacon itself will be sliced tomorrow morning.

As I was passing Waitrose on my way into Norwich this morning, I bought some of their de-alcohol-ised (is that a word?) wine, because I’m wanting to find something that goes with food and isn’t fruity or sweet,  So we’ll see.

Z is satisfied

We planted some plants I’d bought several weeks ago, and then changed the duvet for the winter one, so were well satisfied with a morning’s achievement.  Not all the planting has been done, I’ve got some bulbs (that should have gone in last month) but we’ve decided we’d like them in grass, so I’ll ask Wince if he can lift some turf on Thursday, so that I can plant the bulbs and then re-lay it.  It’ll be better than digging lots of small holes, I think.  There are some crocuses that Rose had left over, which are starting to sprout already, so they really must go in, as well as daffodils and tulips.

Highly satisfied as we were – doesn’t take much – we went out to lunch.  The place we first thought of was full, which was remarkable at 12.45 on a Tuesday in November, but we had a very good meal at the Castle, which was where we had our pre-wedding dinner.  Yagnub has so many good places for lunch – which I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times before…

And LT has split logs and I’ve fed the animals and dinner (the rest of the curry goat) is already cooked, so I’m catching up with letter-writing and I’ve got a book to finish for book club on Thursday.  I can’t go, as it happens, but I’ll write an email to say what I think of it (it’s When God was a Rabbit). Thirty pages down, three hundred to go…

Time, for dinner

We stopped the clock on Sunday, just for an hour – I set a timer on my phone so that we wouldn’t forget to start the pendulum again.  But, though that was all that we did, it didn’t like it.

It’s an old Dutch clock, Mike and Ann came for lunch a couple of years ago and Mike hung (or should that be hanged?) it for us, it having been put aside for a few years for no especial reason.  I’m very fond of it, it was my mother’s.  Mike told us a bit about it – it was altered at one time so that it would go for a week instead of a day, which makes it less historically correct but much more useful.  It’s part of my childhood, I’d never part with it.

But we noticed immediately that it had started to race and was gaining several minutes every hour.  We’d done nothing except, as I said, stop it for an hour and we’ve sometimes done that in the past, wind it up and then stop the pendulum so that it wouldn’t wind down and then stop while we were away.

I altered the screw on the pendulum but it didn’t help much and we thought we’d have to get someone in to look at it, but then I altered it again, and, by a random bit of luck, I did it exactly right.  it’s keeping better time than it ever has before.  I still don’t know how I did it.

The stuffed squid was very good and lasted two meals, but we rather feel that briefly stir-fried, zingily flavoured is the best, and the curry goat was a triumph.  Absolutely lovely and there’s enough there for tomorrow’s dinner too.  And we’ve done two batches of marvellous jalapeño pepper relish (actually, they were doubled up so that’s really four batches) and we’re rather replete right now.  Simple haddock for dinner, except for a shiitake mushroom, white wine and crème frâiche sauce to perk it up.

The first sharp frost of the autumn this morning.  And the winter duvet is going on the bed tomorrow.

Z needs emojis on the Razorblade

I’ve received all the money except one cheque, which will be handed over to my colleague D tomorrow, and paid all the vendors.  I haven’t yet worked out all the expenses, but that will be done in the next day or two and then, apart from one client’s china which he won’t be at home to receive for a few days, that’ll be that for the rest of the year and I can put china to the back of my mind until January – unless I have enquiries, of course.

I found a picture, the other day.  It was in a brochure in fact, and on the back was this picture, of my father, back in the 1930s, in his speedboat.  It was an action photo and was taken by a Daily Mirror photographer and  published in this brochure with their permission.  He looks so like my Alex, it caught my breath.  I would love to show it here and on Facebook but it belongs to the Mirror, I don’t know if they would give permission and I will get around to  asking, sooner or later.  I’m glad to have it.  He was very keen, in his twenties, I have various trophies (tankards and steins) that he won in competitions.

Dilly and the children called in this afternoon on their way home from a party that Squiffany had been to – it was actually a cookery lesson, which was  a rather good idea for a 13th birthday party.  They made pizza from scratch and, to follow, fruit, chocolate and marshmallow kebabs.  Squiffany is a bit worse for wear at present as, playing netball, a bigger girl accidentally tripped her up and then fell on her and she has torn ligaments.  She heard them tear *horrified face* and it was extremely painful.  She couldn’t walk and the school was going to phone her parent – “not mum, she’s teaching.  Phone dad, he will finish work first.”  They were able to help her hobble on the school bus and Al picked her up from the bus stop.  She’s quite cheerful now, though she misses all the sport and dance she’s used to (I have no way of relating to this – at her age, being somewhat incapacitated for a time would simply have meant more reading time and – hoorah – a reason to be off games).

The whole family is coming over for lunch next Sunday.  LT observed that I love it, having everyone here – yes, I love to feed lots of people and when they’re all my family, that’s best of all.  A blog party is right up there, though.

Z thinks about food (so what else is new?…)

We had an errand in Beccles, so decided to have our more-or-less weekly lunch out over there, and visited the very good restaurant over the Spanish deli.  Or whatever the Spanish for deli is.  And it was just as splendid as we remembered, though we hadn’t been there for some months. On the way, we’d called in at the fish stall on the market in Yagnub and bought some squid – we’d initially thought of a stir-fry but they were quite big, so LT suggested stuffing them.  I knew nothing about this, but turned up a Jane Grigson recipe – it must be said, the process was rather more time-consuming than we’d thought and it was nearly nine o’clock by the time we sat down to dinner, but it was certainly a success, ink and all.

Talking about food, as we so often do, we thought we rather fancy curry goat, so we called in at the farm shop on the way home and bought a piece of shoulder.  I have cooked goat before, but never curry – but Tim has, so he can teach me.

We must sound very greedy and I suppose we are, though I think it’s more about quality than quantity.  And only because we really enjoy cooking.  The year or so that I was alone, I cooked quite obsessively, just for me, though I was at that time relatively thin and variety and health were rather more interesting than how much I ate.  I don’t think it’s obsessive now, though, just enthusiastic.

Z is well preserved

I’ve started a piece of bacon, which we’re looking forward to immensely.  You make a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, herbs, a little saltpetre and rub it into the pork, put it in the fridge and rub it in again for several days, then wash it thoroughly, hang it in a cool place to dry out, then bingo.  Before hanging it up, I take the skin off and cut it into snippets and roast them and they are the most fabulous pork scratchings.

We started the first jar of damson chutney today and it’s very good – quite rich, you don’t need much – and also opened a jar of pickled onions, a couple of weeks before we’re supposed to but they’re good already and presumably will get even better.

And I’ve harvested the last of the tomatoes and all of the jalapeño peppers, so relish is on the cards for later this week.  The freezer is full, we have to do something else with the crop and the relish is fabulous.

I’ve come to the conclusion that growing very hot chillies isn’t worth it.  You get so many, especially of the tiny ones, and they’re actually too hot to eat.  When a single little pepper zings an entire stew, and it’s impossible to eat unless massively diluted, yet you have hundreds of them, their use is very limited.  If you have jalapeño or perhaps Cayenne at the most, you can deal with them.  All the same, we’ve still got plenty of dried Cayenne peppers left from last year.  But the spicy, less extremely hot jalapeños are so useful that they can be put in all sorts of dishes, one can be cut up into a masala omelette or a bean salad or a stew (maybe two) and a delicious relish can be made, then that’s a valuable pepper.

I went down to the local coal merchant this afternoon to enquire about a delivery of smokeless fuel.  Yes, it should have been organised back in the summer, but it wasn’t.  And I discovered that it’s cheaper to buy a bag at a time than to have a tonne delivered.  So I bought four bags, which is a couple of hundredweight (I deal equally with Imperial and Metric) – two each for Rose and for us – and we can go along and get more every two or three weeks.  Which makes life easier really and it’s only a mile down the road.