Monthly Archives: December 2017

Goodbye to some of that

Luckily, Chip has not visited again yet, so we’ve had two peaceful nights.  Eloise cat thinks it’s quite all right to visit his territory, as she’s accustomed to doing, but I can quite see why she’s unhappy at him coming here at night.  We’re crossing fingers, anyway.

Yesterday was sunny and bright, with the happy result that I bobbed round merrily, full of energy.  LT started splitting logs while I went shopping for food, and then I barrowed them up to the house.  With full baskets and scuttles of lots and coal, we would be all set for a warm house all week.  Which was just as well, because it was tipping down this morning.  Jack, who delivers the papers, was soaked, having been caught in the worst of it.

We had haggis for Hogmanay dinner – yes indeed, with tatties and neeps, as well as onion gravy, all of which were cooked by LT.  It has been our sole concession to New Year’s Eve (possibly a dram will follow) and we have no plans for midnight jollifications.  Not that overplanning is at all necessary.

Cat among the … cats

I’ve probably mentioned that Chip, the handsome long-haired tabby, is living next door with Rose, for at least as long as Lawrence is regularly going for his immunotherapy cancer treatment.  Eloise cat is very unimpressed.  She doesn’t really like other animals.  It seems odd, as she was born into a family with several cats and then lived with Ziggi, four other cats and two dogs.  Ziggi’s daughter, Firstborn, said that she only got on well with one of them, though.  She’s okay with Rummy and they play together, but sometimes in a slightly spiky way and she won’t eat with him around.

She’s had a few minor fights with Chip, who is bigger than she is.  Last night, she made a strange whining sound and LT went to investigate.  She was on the landing looking alert but all seemed well and we went back to sleep.  An hour later, it happened again, I went to look and found Chip on the stairs.  Emboldened by me, Eloise chased him and they had a fight in the hall.

The annexe is joined to the main house by a small laundry room, big enough for our two washing machines and there’s a cat flap in both doors.  That leads into a back hall where I keep the big chest freezer and there’s another cat flap in the back door, which only opens for cats with a recognised microchip, registered to all three cats.  I fastened the kitchen and dining room doors so that Chip couldn’t get further than the kitchen, but of course that meant that Eloise couldn’t get through at all, which didn’t matter for one night but obviously isn’t the answer.  I don’t know what is.  I’ve no objection to Chip, who’s a nice enough cat, but Eloise needs to feel safe at home and he needs to be discouraging from visiting overnight, though I don’t know how.

I didn’t feel like doing a thing this morning and the freezing wind and rain was no encouragement for action.  So I embraced the inaction, lit the fire and snuggled on the sofa with books and newspapers.  I’d made squash soup for lunch yesterday and we finished it today, with lovely Black Bomber cheddar and some of our jalapeño chilli relish.  I made a vegetable curry last night and the remains will go in the freezer, as there’s only enough for one helping, ready for when LT is away next.  His next visit to his house will be another occasion I can’t go, so our hearts will have to grow fonder instead, again.

Post Christmas return

We spent two nights with Weeza and co, which was really lovely.  Rose was on hand to look after the animals here, of course, we couldn’t have done it otherwise.  We will return the favour next week, it all works out very well and is very little extra work and just a measure of additional kindness to cats who are feeling lonely.

It was a beautiful Christmas Day and I was – I fear the word, but I use it regularly, whenever possible, because one shouldn’t be ruled by fear – very happy.  Weeza had planned very carefully and then trusted her list and relaxed.  She had decided to make it a leisurely meal, serving each course every two hours.  Ro and Dora, with little Rufus, arrived around half past eleven – maybe a bit earlier.  Rufus was asleep by the time we started eating at noon and hadn’t woken up by the time the roast beef was ready, we saved him some.

All the children adore him, their little cousin.  Gus calls him “twin.”  Cousin doesn’t feel like a close enough relationship, though they’re nearly five years apart in age.  We corrected him and explained once, but then let it go with a smile.

On Boxing Day, we came home by way of friends’ party, which was very jolly.  LT is meeting more and more of the people I know – he does his best to remember names.  They only have him to remember and my helpful explanations of who is married or related to whom probably doesn’t help much.  Lots of us took plates of food and our hostess had spent the morning cooking too.  I was deeply impressed by the tiny bread rolls, an inch across, that she’d made that morning and filled with various tasty things.  That is just the sort of thing she’d do effortlessly, though.  Talking later, I admitted that I have never planned anything for Boxing Day.  The whole of December has, for most of my life, been much too knackering and I’ve needed that day, at least, to recover.  I don’t really need to think that way any more, but I’d still hesitate to invite fifty or so people round.

Today, we’ve been pottering and I’ve been cooking.  It was bitterly cold, with a sharp North wind and driving rain this morning, though we didn’t get the snow that many parts of the country did.    Once the animals were fed, we mostly stayed indoors.  So did Eloise cat, to her annoyance.  She dashed round periodically, frustrated at not getting her usual run about the garden.  She seriously considered walking along the mantelpiece and knocking off all the cards and, when she’d decided against that, attempted to get into the fireplace and explore the chimney.  She was dissuaded from that as well.  It stopped raining just in time, so she could take the air as usual.  And she’s spent much of the rest of the day asleep.

Z is becoming merry

The new carpet is down and we’re very pleased with it.  “Is it just me,” asked LT this evening, “or is the room warmer?”  It seems so, I agree.  It’s certainly warming to the eye and to the feet, this carpet.  We need to turn our attention to a new sofa, at least, once the Day of the Chris and his Mas is over. And a week or two to get over it, obvs.  We have been moving furniture back, but there’s a few things to go yet.

The other main move has been the compost heap – I know, darlings, where there’s muck, there’s Z.  It had simply outgrown its space.  In fact, as is the way when you get anyone else to do your work and let them just get on with it, it hadn’t been done exactly as planned, and there was only one way in to put the prospective compost, so the ready-to-use stuff was at the back and not so easy to get at,  And it wasn’t very sightly.  So a new area has been constructed – still not as I’d wanted it, actually and I suspect more moving will be required in a year or so, but at least there are two areas and it’s bigger overall than before.  And compost has been put on all the beds in the veg garden and the place where it came from will be grassed over in the spring. And then the whole of the kitchen garden and its surroundings will be more manageable, I hope.

All shopping has been done and all cards delivered or posted except for, possibly, returns to any that are delivered from local friends tomorrow.  I’m by no means the only person who has simply given up, though I have finally made more effort this year.  The last shopping I did was flowers for the church – I did an arrangement earlier in the month and checked it this morning, to find that the lilies hadn’t lasted, so nipped out to buy more and a few roses as well.  They’ll be fine for a week or so.  I read that this was due to be the busiest shopping day of the year, largely because people would be hitting the supermarkets en masse, but also because of last-minute present shopping.  I can’t do that sort of thing any more.  What hasn’t been bought can be managed without.  We have enough food and enough Stuff, all of us.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time or opportunity to write in the next few days, so I’ll wish you an happy Christmas and everything you hope for, now.  Thank you, as ever, for your good friendship.  Those of you I haven’t met yet, I hope I will some day, those of you who can and would like to visit are always welcome, whether to next year’s blog party (DV) or at any other time.

Merry Christmas, darlings.  Love from Z and LT.



Z vegges out

I’ve just been out in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner – smoked haddock fishcakes, sprouting broccoli and spinach – and thought of my mother.  I always think of her when we’re having purple sprouting – “it’s my favourite veg,” she was bound to say, happily, a few times during the winter and early spring, and she always said it the first time we ate it in a season.  The season has stretched over the past few years, it used only to be available between about February and May but now they seem to have varieties that head up earlier.  I’ve cut off the long stalks and eaten them.  I do the same thing with summer broccoli, the calabrese type, where I actually prefer the stalks to the heads.  And cauliflower, come to that.

Who am I kidding?  I eat a lot of the bits of vegetables I cut off and some that are intended for the table.  It’s well known in the family that too much has to be prepared and left in the pan, because I’ll graze every time I go past.  “They’re counted!” was another thing my mother used to say.  Subtract a couple had to be my reply.  I can’t resist raw vegetables.

Dilly called round with the children this morning, to pick up the family Christmas presents.  We won’t see them on the day, as they will be with her parents and sisters.  She was talking about young Hadrian, who is now six and a half and was really not easy to feed until recently.  He tended to be suspicious of all food – he’s not a thin lad but we were never sure where he got his nourishment.  Things have improved as he’s grown up, but Dilly was particularly pleased the other evening, when a schoolfriend came home with them to play and he stayed for tea.  She’d done dishes of raw carrot, cucumber and so on to eat while the sausages were cooking and the boy was very pleased, taking several at a time and exclaiming how good they were.  And Hadrian did the same, tucking in to his full share, which was probably the first time in his life he’d willingly eaten a raw carrot.  And now he’s eaten them, he’ll know they actually taste nice.

We didn’t make the fishcakes, I bought them from the fishmonger at the market.  He’s such a nice man, he’s been coming along with his refrigerated van for years.  He and his brother(s) run the business, I think and they go around all the small town’s market days.  He’s been recovering from treatment from a brain tumour and, today, he was saying he’s had good news; that his most recent scan shows it hasn’t grown again and so the planned extra chemo- and radio-therapies weren’t going to start in January after all and they’d be kept in reserve for the future.  Which is good news and he’s taking it as such, but it makes me sad too, in a way I’m sure you’ll understand.

The fishcakes were good – an hour later, when I’ve returned – and I ate more than my share of the cooked broccoli too.  I might encourage LT to share his early Christmas present later, the brandied cherries in chocolate that, it transpired, were not around long enough to be wrapped.

Well preserved

I made another batch of bacon the week before last – we still have not done anything about a smoker, it looks rather complicated and the green bacon is really nice anyway.  It’s been hanging to dry out in the attic over the weekend and this morning, I brought it down, cut off the rind (and chopped it and roasted it into scratchings, which are delicious) and put the chunk of bacon, with a couple of rubber bands round it, in the freezer.  And forgot about it.  So it was there for about four hours before LT remembered, fetched it and sliced it on his electric slicer.  He said it was pretty well effortless, much easier than on previous occasions.  So we must remember to chill it more in future.

Writing this made me remember that I’d made yoghurt last night and that needed to be potted up.  So I’ve done that too.  We’ve just eaten home-made scones with home-made damson jam and had home-made cucumber relish with our cheese at lunchtime.  I’m not sure if all this home-preserving is a fad or if it’ll last, but it certainly tastes good.

We were just about to have lunch when the phone rang and it was Wink, to let us know she’d arrived safely in Chennai.  She didn’t have the best of journeys: in the first instance because the plane was two hours late taking off from Heathrow.  They just sat there on the tarmac, waiting.  Then there were massive queues at Mumbai so she missed her connection and then had great difficulty finding a taxi driver who had any idea of the way to her friend Kamala’s house in Chennai.  I’ve been in that situation before, when he will assure you he knows the way – they’re very helpful and reassuring – but have only the vaguest idea.  Road signs are pretty well non-existent.  But she arrived in the end.  It’s a beautiful house and she and Kamala have been great friends for nearly fifty years.  K’s daughters and their families will be there for Christmas too, it’ll all be lovely.  Then Wink will go to Kerala for a week and then fly on to visit English friends in Singapore.  So she’ll be away for a month.  It’ll be her 70th birthday next year and she’s only just retired from full-time work, so she intends to do exactly what she wants from now on, for as long as she can and wants to.


Z’s mojo goes awol

It’s been a quiet day at the Zedary.  While we were drinking coffee this morning, LT mentioned that coal buckets needed filling, so he’d do it and … I don’t know, various other weekendish household things, and I thought yes, I’ll come and help and nothing quite happened, on my part.  But a while later, I gathered a few resources of enthusiasm together and suggested we go and do it Right Now – he already had.  We debated what we needed in the way of food for the weekend and, since I went out and bought whole lots of vegetables the other day, when I was full of get-up-and-go, we decided we didn’t really need anything but butter (and that was only because I’d made cake), and he set out on a butter-buying expedition.

I scrubbed two of the chickens’ drinkers and I emptied the bins.  I made soup for lunch.  I turned out my bag, looking for my bank card, which I finally found on the floor (I hadn’t panicked, I was sure I hadn’t lost it) and, if I’ve done anything else useful today, I’m not sure what …. I dug up two leeks as my part in the preparation of tonight’s minestrone soup.  LT did all the rest, I just ate it in all its deliciousness.  Tomorrow, soufflé (which autocorrected as shuffle) and more soup.  And more vegetables, come to that.

Might have a smidgen more verve then too, I’ve just been so lazy.  Not that I have any problem with that, obvs.

Good heavens, it’s nearly ten o’clock.  Time I was getting some totally unearned rest, innit.

Z is convivial

It’s a bit unnerving, that I’m so up together for the time of the year.  Last year, when all the shopping had to be done in the space of a week has evidently taught a lesson – it wasn’t quite that this year but, apart from a flurry of activity at the end of November, I kept mostly to my good practice of not dealing with anything Christmassy until the beginning of December and am still sorted out.  I miss the last-minute wrapping and flurry around the last posting date (that’s still going to happen when people unexpectedly give me cards), but usually I haven’t started by now.  It’s a sign of age. The excitement of winging it until the last moment doesn’t cut it so well any more.

But it’s all fine.  We went out to lunch this week and had a very good meal at the local café, Tim having a crayfish pâté with – I’m not sure what the extra flavours were – and I had a swede and carrot tart with sage and walnuts, with seasonal salads.  There was a Puy lentil, beetroot, mandarin segments and a few sultanas, a couscous and chickpea salad with a lemon dressing and salad leaves, which were not from a supermarket.  I couldn’t actually identify all of them, they were good.  All delicious.  We are so well provided with lunchtime places in Yagnub.

I had supper with friends last night; basically a thoroughly retro, delicious cheese fondue.  I took cake, other people took other things, it was a long and convivial evening.  And tonight we took ourselves down to the very local little brewery, run by the son of friends, and had a very enjoyable hour or so again there too.

We’ll probably be wiped out by 10 o’clock, old dears that we are.

The Zatriarch

I emailed a very good friend, some time ago, and he replied to say that he’d accidentally deleted the email. I took the hint and hand-wrote a letter.  I’d hand-written in the first place in fact, but I was away from home at the time and didn’t realise I hadn’t got his address with me, so emailed instead. He wrote back today, after many months, which pleased me considerably and prompted me to write Christmas cards.  Hardly any, I must say.  I stopped writing cards some years ago and I can’t possibly go back to several evenings of rote-writing, but a few, just a few people whom I rarely see but with whom I keep in touch, are now possible to write to.  For a couple of years, not even that.  I can only recognise how overwrought I’ve been by looking back, I couldn’t necessarily see it at the time.

So I’ve written two longish letters, bought presents to be posted and posted them and am back under control, more or less.  In earlier days, when I had children at home, I needed to-do lists, which were timed, more or less … or rather, day by day.  The point was, I was finished by 23rd December.  This had two purposes.  One was to relax and be lovely and cheerful with my family and the other, admittedly, was to have a day in hand for failures.  That is, to catch up so they weren’t failures, by noon on Christmas Eve (except for wrapping stuff and cake icing, which were permissible after midnight).  Although, even from the start, I recognised that there is a deadline here and what you have not done doesn’t get done.  Just make sure there’s something under the tree and in the oven and, frankly, no one much cares what.  They wanted me to be cheerful.

I think, after all these years, I can finally sum up what my family wanted from me.  Cheerful, not panicking. If appropriate, reassuring.  It’ll be all right, don’t worry, I’ll help.  I’ll make sure it’s all right.  If I couldn’t say that, or was clearly not coping, there was a distinct likelihood that they’d fall apart too.   There is still an element of this, though it’s lessening as they start to look after me – which I appreciate and enjoy – it’s still there, but there’s more of a perspective.  Which is good.

Pecking disorder

I’ve been watching the chickens feed more closely, since I first wrote about the rat problem (I’m giving them, and me, a rest for a few days but will reset the traps soon) and, Blue Witch having helpfully told me about a feed-on-demand waterproof feeder which is rat proof, I don’t think I can use it after all, which is a pity.  The biggest hen, who was an absolute wuss when she first came here at a few months old, has turned into rather a bully, as far as my little Serama girl is concerned.  She always chases her away from food.  This isn’t a matter of pecking order but is quite deliberate.  I’ll give the big hen food and, once she’s pecking, throw some for the little one – and the big hen goes after it.  Even if it’s behind her back or in a less desirable place.  So I think that if there were just one feeding point and it needs a tall enough hen to get the food, the little girl will go hungry.

I’m putting down plenty of food in the morning and then a few handfuls of corn as a pre-roosting treat, then removing the layers’ pellets so that rats can’t get them overnight.  This will have to do for now.

It was a good job I went out to clear the car in plenty of time this morning, because it took me and LT ages.  But the roads were pretty clear and it was only just freezing on my return.  And it has since warmed a little and will, apparently, rain rather than snow tomorrow.  We get it easy in this part of the country.