Monthly Archives: May 2018

Tomatoes. Up to our ears.

We seem to have a glut of tomatoes and not a single fruit has set yet.  I don’t think I should have taken those cuttings – if they all take, I’ll have 22 plants and there are only two of us.  A lot more tomato relish, I think.  Wince the gardener cleared out the end greenhouse for me today (as you know, I’m terribly lazy and hadn’t weeded) and I’ve put out the ones I bought, plus three more that I grew from seed.  There’s still room for four or five, but the rest will have to go outside.  There is room, but I’ve run out of canes, nearly.  I’ll have to scout around to find something they can be tied to.

Wince also cleared away the swiss chard plants that had overwintered, so I picked some young leaves and stalks first.  It is a splendid vegetable to grow from seed – the leaves can be used as spinach, but they don’t shrink down so much, and the stalks are a vegetable in their own right.  And the first of this year’s crop will be pickable in another couple of weeks, so they will go pretty well all year, though you can only pick in winter if you’ve got them covered over.

Back to the footpath – Blue Witch left a helpful comment, which I passed on to my friend.  He’s replied, Norfolk County Council doesn’t deny that it’s a right of way, but they are keen to emphasise that it’s a “permissible path.”  They can’t have that.  If it’s a right of way, that’s over and above a path used by permission.   And the quoted prices are highly suspect too.  Trying to claim that removing the old bridge will cost £20,000 is overstating it, but not by that much.  A new footbridge would cost a few thousand.  So they’re trying to justify not doing the job on the grounds that better foundations will cost over a quarter of a million pounds?  You can build a house for less.  Something is rotten in the state of Norfolk.


Z thinks about food

Tim came back today, so of course I went out and bought a great deal of food.  He has a spare appetite and never overeats, so I have no reason to do this, which doesn’t stop me in the least.  I celebrate by buying food – and a big bunch of yellow roses.

I’ve been surprised at how much the vegetables have grown in the week I was away.  I planted out everything, as late frosts weren’t forecast, and it’s all doubled in size.  I’d put the tomatoes in their final pots, as they all had flowers on them, and they’ve doubled too, and had a lot of side shoots, which I’ve removed.  I’d deliberately left one on each plant, to take off as a cutting, and I’ve potted them up too.  I don’t often have to buy tomato plants, so I might as well get twice what I paid for.  I do have some that I grew from seed, but they were late and aren’t ready for their final pots yet.

The chickens were very good tonight and went in straight away.  I think I have the answer – before I went away, the little Serama was playing at being broody and the cock and the brown bantam had gone in the shed with her in the early evening.  Now, the big brown hen has decided to sit for a few days, so Yvette has given up sitting.  The three big black hens went into the shed first and then the others were skittish.  Tonight, I went round and encouraged the smaller ones in first and they went in willingly, and then the black ones joined them.  So I’ll try to do that again.  The brown bantam has a limp and I think her leg joint is swollen.  I’ll look at her in the morning.  I think she’s very old as she hasn’t laid any eggs for at least a year, but I don’t think she has an injury.  I don’t know.  We once took a chicken to the vet and she died of fright, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that.  I’ll just try to keep her comfortable and eating.

We’re checking our plans for the summer, which starts in June, I suppose.  Wink is coming to stay next week, then LT’s brother and sister-in-law are coming to stay, then there’s the Aldeburgh Festival, a visit to Buxton, the blog party, Rose’s family coming to stay, we’re taking the grandchildren to Pembrokeshire, then back for family birthdays and Snape Proms.  Which takes us to the end of August.  There are chinks in the diary, quite chunky chinks, but a fair bit going on.

Seven and a half weeks to the blog party.  We always look forward to it.  The menu has been on my mind for weeks already.  But then, I spend much of my time thinking about food.

Z find satisfaction in poor grammar

We’ve been at the caravan in Pembrokeshire for the last few days, which was a delight as always.  It really is a fabulous part of the country and the place itself, I can only describe as healing.  I feel myself calming and relaxing, as I know Tim does too, it’s just lovely there.

As we went to Reading separately, we obviously had both our cars there.  We had planned to come back on Wednesday, but Tim pointed out that there was nothing to stop me coming home earlier if I chose to.  And so, as there were various good reasons to do so, I have.  An easy and uneventful journey and Eloise cat was very happy to see me, and has sat on my lap, kneading me and sleeping, and being very affectionate.  So were the other cats, without the lap-sitting.  It’s a pleasure that Chip (Lawrence’s cat, who has come to live with Rose as he’s away so much, either at the hospital or here) is finally friendly out of doors, where he used to be so skittish.  And Rummy is positively warm.

The chickens are fine, though the cock was a total cock tonight, as he wouldn’t go into the shed. In the end, I left him.  He roosted up on the roof of the shed and retreated when I tried to catch him.  Finally, I swept him off with a net after dark and then caught him up and chucked him indoors.  Idiot bird.

An update on the path – I had a message on my answerphone when I got back.  When I phoned the number on my mobile, it came up with another name altogether – that is, it was Pete H when I thought I was ringing Pete D.  Puzzled, I checked the message again.  It was certainly Pete D’s voice, yet I’d got it on my phone as Pete H.  This automatic filling-in of contacts can fall apart once in a while.  My mistake – Pete D and I had a lengthy conversation on the subject, though i never did quite gather what he hoped I’d say.  Maybe he didn’t know either, but just wanted clarification and support, which he got.

Anyway, I’ve written to the parish council to sum up my small part in the matter.  That is, I was approached informally by people who identified themselves verbally without giving their names, and I stated what they said.  And that I think that the council is being outrageous.  Apparently, after two and a half years, during most of which time they said they were going to repair the bridge and this was funded, they are now saying we can go to blazes and if the village doesn’t come up with a cost-free option within two months, they will remove the footpath altogether.  I’ve made it clear my campaigning days are over, but mentioned what a pity it would be if the village and council were shown in a poor light in the newspapers.  I’m too old and tired, i can’t do it – but if someone will fire the bullets, I’d play my part in making them.  I’m really cross at being messed about.  And I also said, I can’t respond to the council’s apparent wish to put a footpath on my field until it’s formally asked, which two guys without ID appearing without an appointment and putting a casual suggestion does not add up to.  Although my grammar was better in the email.

Z is only terrifying when I need to be…..

Well, I’ve planted out or potted up everything except three lavender bushes.  And I’ve written a tetchy email to a client who owes me for a piece of china.  Obviously, I’m not sending it until the cheque has cleared … if it ever arrives.  Won’t accept a commission bid from him again in a hurry.

I phoned the client we’re due to visit on Thursday and he insists that he and his wife will take us out to lunch.  “Oh, there’s no need,” I protested.  “I know there isn’t,” he replied, which was so disarmingly charming – or charmingly disarming – that I accepted.  As I said yesterday, people are lovely.  However wrecked the world seems, individuals are lovely.

When talking to LT on the phone tonight, I said I was going to write something on the blog that had happened today, so I wouldn’t tell him about it then.  He’ll have something new to read about.  But I do need to set the scene for everyone else’s benefit.

There’s a public footpath, a few hundred yards from here, that goes down a narrow track – on one side is the “concrete river” – a wide stream with a concrete base – and someone’s garden fence on the other.  At the end there are three bridges, known locally as “the three bridges.”  Unimaginative? Shorely not.  Two and a half years ago, in an autumn storm, one of the bridges collapsed.  It’s made of concrete and metal and is bulky and very unwieldy, and it won’t be easy to get it out.  The council said it would be replaced in the spring.  In the spring, they said it would be done in the autumn.  In the autumn, they said the river would be too high and it would be done …. oh, you get the picture.  Finally, they actually sent people round to work out what the hell to do, and then they said it wouldn’t be done at all.  They couldn’t afford it.

Villagers are furious.  It’s a popular path.  It’s been very dangerous all this time, children and fishermen have been clambering down and up again, and it’s remarkable that no one has had a bad accident.  We all walked our dogs down there, local children went to ramble over the marshes and swim in the safe bit of river, it’s a lovely walk down to the weir and across the wolds.

Word has it that the estimate for removal and replacement is in the nature of £360,000.  Which is, I agree, hard to justify.  But I spoke to a local farmer, a very practical chap – who, totally by the bye, spent this afternoon at Buckingham Palace having tea with Prince Charles, the newlyweds et al.  He was astonished and reckoned he could do the work for a fraction of the sum.  I mentioned the awkwardness of the two bits of river to cross before he could get to the bridge, but he reckoned it was very possible and explained how.

Back to this morning. I was in the kitchen and heard a knock at the front door.  The front door is the original, massive Tudor oak with built-in bolts and lock, and it’s always kept fully fastened unless we’re going out that way.  So when someone calls, they have to listen to the bolts being drawn back noisily and the iron key being turned, which must be a bit intimidating.  Useful, on occasion.  This time, there were two nervous-looking youngish men.  They introduced themselves as being from the council, but the logos on their sweatshirts also identified them as being involved with footpaths.

“We’ve a big ask,” one said tentatively.  I said something kind, because I’m only terrifying when I need to be.

Turned out that the council had checked who owns land the other side of the river and found me.  In short, they want to alter the right of way, so that they don’t have to replace the bridge at all.  But that can only be done with the consent of the landowners involved.  I being the main one.  Hah.

I said gently that this is quite a matter of distress and indignation in the village.  They agreed.  We discussed it for some time, though my position was clear from the start.  I acknowledge and welcome the public right to use footpaths, which should be safe and kept in decent repair.  Members of the public should be able to use the countryside, in a reasonable manner.  But what I’m being asked for is to let the council duck out of their legal obligation and remove a right that should be upheld.  If I owned that bridge, I said, I’d have been put under considerable pressure to replace it by now.  They didn’t attempt to deny it.  It simply can’t be afforded, they said. And apparently, it isn’t down to the council but to the footpath people who don’t have very much money.   So I told them what Johnny had said, that it sounded as if *they* wanted to price it so that it’s unaffordable.  I suggested they speak to him next.  Apart from anything else, he rents the land from me so I would do nothing without his agreement.

I was sorry for them, they were being forced to cold-call and ask for something completely unreasonable, and they knew that it was.  I pointed out that the bridge (which is now gated off, belatedly) has to be removed at some time, and that is the major expense.  It doesn’t have to be replaced with something so sturdy.  Not that it was as strong and stable as it was said to be, but I mustn’t get political here…

So, the poor chaps now have to beard Johnny, once he’s back from the Palace.  “Tell them Zoë sent you,” I said cheerily.

Poor guys.  I don’t know what’ll happen next but I’ll be interested to find out.  For which, it seems, I’m quite well placed.

Z is let down by a bolt from the … from the road.

The plane was late, as it always is unless the person picking up is late.  It’s the rule.  Apparently, headwinds.  But no problem as such, I waited a bit on the slip road to the car park as – frugal old Z – they charge several pounds if you wait more than the first free 15 minutes.  As soon as they’d picked up their luggage, I drove in and, less than ten minutes later, we were on our way back and arrived soon after midnight.

Rose was letting my chickens out in the morning so I was in no hurry and we chatted and then I drove home via the garden centre, where I bought some lettuce plants (I didn’t sow seeds, I don’t care) and compost for the tomatoes.  And then I realised the baby’s car seat was still in my car.  Oh sodding joy.  I messaged Ronan, who hadn’t yet realised, and promised to go back that afternoon.  Which I did.  And on the way, I heard a slight noise and wondered if I had a puncture but the car didn’t feel any different so I forgot about it.  But I did have a puncture, from a socking great 3 inch bolt, that went right through the tread of the tyre and out again on the side.

Ronan did most of the work of changing the tyre.  I’ve just ordered a new wheel brace because the one that comes with the car is too hard for feeble Z to use.  I’ve also ordered a new jack that should be easier too – it’s all very well for big strong men, but little old women need to change tyres too.  And then I called in on the local tyre place and I’ve got a new one, and at least I knew that it was due to be replaced before the car’s July MOT.  All the same, it wasn’t how I expected to spend the afternoon and it wasn’t how I expected to spend £66.  Still.

I’ve potted up the tomatoes and I’ll do the rest of the planting out tomorrow.  And I had a lovely long chat with a client, who’s just got back from Greece and whose china I’ll post in the morning.  The reason I carry on these auctions is the people, they are lovely.  I’m going to visit two more clients in the next ten days – after these years of blogging, it seems natural to me that people I’ve never met are friends.

I’m missing lovely Tim terribly.  But it’s only a couple more days.  So I won’t finish on a sentimental note.

The egg mountain is no more.  I’ve used a dozen or more and have given away 29 eggs in the last few days.  Yvette the Serama is feeling a bit broody and I left an egg with her, or else I’d have given away 30.  Whatever eggs are laid tomorrow and Wednesday morning, I’ll take along to Tim’s.  By that time, I’ll also have caught up with paperwork and planting out.  I’ve said it, so it has to happen.  Hmmmmm.

May is out

I’m leaving for Norwich in a little while to pick Ro and family up from the airport.   They’ve been on holiday in Tenerife for the past week.  Roses will let the chooks out in the morning and I’ll be home soon afterwards.

RasPutin, the old bruiser of a tomcat and the father of the barn cats, came along with a torn ear last week.  He was in a fight a year or so ago and one ear has been folded down since, but the same ear was lacerated.  I don’t know if it was another fight or if he caught it on barbed wire.  It’s healing up nicely, but he’s coming along more regularly for food at present.  I’m feeding him generously, I’m fond of the old reprobate.  He mews anxiously when he’s hungry, but doesn’t come at all if he’s caught his own dinner.  The young ones nearly always do, especially the two black boys.

I’ve finally caught up with the veg garden, except that I bought in some plants rather than growing everything from seed.  I planted out the squashes today, as the forecast is good and they’d have had to be potted up otherwise.  There is still half a bed free, and I’m not sure what will go there, but I’ll check through the seeds.  Some of the space was meant for leeks, but there weren’t any at the street market last week.  It’s been such a difficult spring for gardening.

However, it’ll all catch up and the local strawberries are exceptional this year.  There haven’t been any late frosts and the apples have set very well.  Spring still makes me happy and excited.  I was admiring the run of hawthorns across Humpy’s Meadow the other day, they’re spectacular in flower.  When the dead and overgrown wood was being taken out last year, ready for the barbed wire fencing to be replaced, I was anxious that they should not be cut hard back.  They’re so pretty.  It’ll be elderflowers next.  Then it’ll be summertime and I won’t notice so much, until berries ripen and the leaves change colour.

Knowing I was going to cut back some brambles, I put on jeans and a long sleeved teeshirt this morning, and it was chilly anyway.  But by the time I’d done the work, it was hot and I was tired. I sat in the sunshine to rest but I was far too hot.  I’m not sure how people wear jeans all year round, I can’t.

I must pack an overnight bag.  I rather want to have a bath and go to bed, I’m such a lightweight nowadays.  But I’ll perk up, once I’m on the road.  I’ve set a reminder on my phone, I’m always convinced I’ll forget.  I won’t, of course.  But I do need to put a pint of milk in the car, as they won’t have any for the morning otherwise.  Usually, I put stuff in the car early, as soon as I remember, but one can hardly do that with fresh milk.

Zed’s bread

I’ve got quite a number of jobs to do while LT and I are apart – but when you’re wandering about like a spare part, it’s not easy to get on with them.  I did clean the kitchen, make yoghurt, bread and two soups, and plant out beans, spinach and kale, but it wasn’t exactly a productive day.  The bread was very good, though, probably the best yet.

The winter I was alone, I made bread regularly and I remember it as being very good, but I can’t quite recall the texture.  I rather like seeds in bread, to make it more interesting.  LT likes that too, but probably rather less seedy than I do, as he has half his breakfast toast with marmalade, so doesn’t want it too savoury.  And the first few loaves I made were rather dense – again, I don’t remember that from three years ago, but that time is all rather a blur anyway.  I’ve tweaked the recipe and finally got it right, and all seems fine now.  I don’t quite see why this one should be better than the last loaf, and that better than the one before, as the ingredients are pretty much identical and I make it with the dough hook on the mixer.  I am setting a timer though, so at least the proving, rising and baking are the times I want them to be and maybe that’s it.

The kitchen needed an extra clean because we’ve had ants again.  I have no objection to ants in the normal run of things – I rather like them, in fact, but not on my kitchen work surfaces. It’s no good, we can’t find out how they get in.  We’ve sealed all areas that might be likely, but they aren’t obviously going in and out in any particular place.  I’m sorry to say that we had to kill them off.  It was just not nice.

Last year when it happened, LT went to the local store next to the church and bought a Nippon set of two little plastic containers with a tube of viscous liquid, and it got rid of the poor little beasts in no time.  He went back for a refill, but they didn’t have it at all, but a different make – two little containers, with bags of gel, not refillable.  And they’ve not been very successful.  It’s a well known brand name but clearly the ants can’t read and were not impressed.  I ordered refills of the liquid for the Nippon traps, which arrived on Wednesday, so I dripped some into the containers on Thursday morning.  Within ten minutes, they were swarming with ants, who clearly loved the sweet stuff.  I felt terrible, actually, watching them talk to each other and send their colleagues on to their doom.  By the afternoon, there were two or three ants left and now there are none.  I feel mean, but the idiot creatures have the whole garden.  I’ll put out sugar for them if they want it, but I’m not having them in my kitchen.  Anyway, it’s Nippon, remember, other brands may not be up to scratch.

I woke up this morning at ten past five and was lying quite tranquilly, wondering if I’d sleep again and thinking I probably would, when my right calf was thwacked with a hugely painful cramp.  Not the ordinary cramp, the sort that makes you feel, afterwards, that you’d walked several miles through mud and are aching as a result.  I yelped and got out of bed, and stood on tiptoe to stretch the leg better, and it did get better, but I said to Tim this evening, it was just as well he wasn’t there.  Because I’d have spent the day apologising for waking him.

Z lit the fire and is now too hot

Tim is off on his travels down the motorway again – it’s a weekly thing at present, but we hope that won’t go on for too much longer.  Here, it’s cold.  I lit the fire this evening.  I didn’t desperately need it, but it’s cheering when you’re alone and the chill of the day justified it.

I went to Norwich today for a Nadfas lecture (they’ve changed the name of Nadfas, but they were silly to do so, so I’m kind enough to ignore it) and half thought of shopping afterwards, but  shops don’t seem to do clothes for me.  Unless it’s essential I keep trying, I need to find something I like within a few minutes or I’m disheartened and don’t bother.  Every dress was sleeveless and every top was gaudy and there didn’t seem to be any skirts.  Or jackets, which I really do need, unless they were obviously part of a suit.  So I came home instead and ate rice salad with avocado and hard boiled egg for lunch.  I’d cooked too much rice on purpose last night – and since LT isn’t here, I’ve got enough for tomorrow’s dinner as well, for I’m out to lunch.

With much resentment, I’ll go to the new bank in Yagnub tomorrow, which is a van that comes for two hours, twice a week, some half a mile from the town centre – though it is near the library.  I have a cheque to pay in for over £1000, payment for china that I’ve already paid the vendor for,  and sent off the china itself because the buyer is someone I trust.  I have decided, though, to open an account with one of the internet only banks – none of the high street banks, which have all abandoned Yagnub in the past few years, will get more than a modest sum from me in future.  For convenience, I keep a fair amount in a deposit account.  My banking is free and I appreciate that it costs the bank money, so don’t mind it investing my basic savings and paying me very little.  Or, I didn’t mind.  Now I do, and that bank will have less to invest.  A few thousand pounds, but it’s all I can do to protest.

It’s now quarter past nine and I shall read for the rest of the evening.  Cheery-pip, darlings.

Z rices to the occasion

I made kedgeree for dinner tonight, which inspired me to enthuse, in the Z manner – LT read this blog long enough before we put our lives together,  to know what to expect and he hasn’t been disappointed about my capacity for enthusiasm, though he might well, sometimes, have felt somewhat overwhelmed by it.

Two of my greatest comfort foods, you see, are kedgeree and risotto; both to make and to eat.  Both, of course, are made with rice.  And this made me think about rice dishes, as used all over the world.  So many countries have their stand-alone dishes made with rice.

A rice dish that’s an accompaniment is another matter – obviously no less valid as a dish, but egg-fried rice is not supposed to be eaten on its own.

So, Italy has risotto, of course, and Spain has paella.  The Southern United States have jambalaya.  We have kedgeree – inspired by Indian kitchree (there are other spellings), of course, but that is essentially a rice and lentil dish (so I guess that counts for India), which was altered by Anglo-Indian cooks and brought over to become a British staple.  North Africa and the Middle East have pilau and pilaff … but that’s as far as we got.  On balance, we thought that Caribbean rice and peas was an accompaniment, and so were the Far Eastern dishes we happen to know, but we’d really like to be educated on the subject, if any of you can point us in the right direction.

A bit to our surprise, we couldn’t think of a French all-in-one rice dish either.

My mother read, years ago, that rice, lamb and pears were the foodstuffs that were least likely to provoke an allergic reaction, and that they could be the starting points for a diet, if one had symptoms of an allergy/intolerance but one didn’t know what provoked it.  One then introduced other foods, one by one.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true or not – in the internet age, one has learned to be wary of an unsubstantiated source – but it does, on the whole, seem that rice is one of the good guys.  I like it, anyway.  And there’s enough kedgeree left over for one portion so, the next time LT goes back to Reading on his own, it’ll be a meal for one of us.

Z is sociable with the Bears

I visited Charlotte in hospital again today and she’s starting to get better.  She’s still on morphine for the pain, but she can move more easily and she’s starting to get bored, which is a good sign, if frustrating for her.

While I was there, Mrs B – aka The Small Bear – answered my reply to her comment the other day, to say she was at home and so, when I left the hospital, I took it upon myself to impose on her hospitality.  In fact, Sir Bruin had also arrived home by then (they were kind and unwise enough to let me have their address some four years ago), so they invited me in for coffee and a chat.  Which was a pleasure.

When Paul the Fish called round this morning, he had sea trout for sale – a rare treat, so we bought some and ate it this evening with local asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes.  I baked the fish en papillote with a splash of wine, and it was delicious.  We are building up a list of favourite fish, but it keeps lengthening.  And methods for each; ditto.  I’m not too good at narrowing down favourite foods, actually.  I like too many of them.