Monthly Archives: July 2018

Z has beans. Z is a has been. Hmm. Discuss and compare, with examples

We were woken this morning by thunder and torrential rain.  Ten minutes later, there was blue sky and sunshine.  Now, it’s a lovely evening with a red sunset behind the Scotch pines.  They should be Scots pines, but it’s one case where I use the American, just because I can, darlings.

We picked vegetables today and have bags full.  I’ve made ratatouille and was going to tackle the bean mountain, but I couldn’t quite be bothered.  Our old friend Rev Dave said to me, a couple of weeks ago, that he has resolved not to do things he doesn’t enjoy any more (I might be paraphrasing, I’d have to check his email) and he’s quite right.  There has to be an advantage in getting old, and not being obliged wins it for me.  Not meaning one doesn’t want to help, of course.  But duty doesn’t need to be part of the decision any more.

It’s either been too hot or too wet to sit out with a pre-dinner drink recently, but it was a lovely mild evening tonight, so we went out with Tim’s G&T and my glass of wine, and we giggled – no, that’s not quite accurate.  I giggled and he indulged me.  And then we came indoors to eat roast lamb and the aforementioned ratatouille and tomorrow we’ll make moussaka, because those aubergines aren’t going to eat themselves.  The beans may have to, however.

It’s the little things…

When we buy a car, whether new or second-hand, there are various requirements that we have, of course, and various features that are headlined in the specifications.  But some of the  design faults or less appealing things about a car aren’t mentioned at all, and you only know about them once you’ve had the irritation of finding them out.

My sister-in-law had that happen yesterday.  Her husband opened the boot, loaded it up, tossed the key through onto the driver’s seat, shut the boot and told her the key was in the car. He didn’t realise that the car doors don’t unlock if you only open the boot, as he never drives that car himself.  Luckily, a small window was open at the back and someone with a long arm was able to hook out the key.  A lot of cars relock automatically if the key isn’t in the ignition – a friend was caught out here a few years ago and, similarly, his back small window was open and we were able to feed in a little grandson.  But, if that were mentioned at all in the publicity, it would be as a Good Thing, not the damn nuisance it can be.  You might well get out of the car and not want it to lock because someone else was going to get in, or fetch something from it.

I had a car with an electronic brake that was clearly designed for automatic transmission, because it was either on or off, nothing in between, and hill starts in traffic were pretty well impossible to manage safely.  Dilly was infuriated when she had a car that needed a front lightbulb replaced – she’d always done that herself, but the entire front bumper had to be removed and replaced by a garage.  Some cars don’t have spare tyres any more, not even the temporary sort, but have to have a temporary sealant put in or use run-flat tyres, which isn’t any use if there is major damage to a tyre, as happened to me a few weeks ago, when a bolt went into the tyre and out at the side.  Luckily, I do have a spare, or it would have been a call-out.

There are smaller things though – nowhere to put your change, or poorly designed display, or a rear seat that doesn’t fold down neatly when you’re using the rear of a hatchback for transporting something. Or the rear seat doesn’t split, so you can’t have anyone sitting in the back if you just need part of the area.

There’s the peculiar thing that a lot of car radios have, that when you plug in your mobile, it immediately starts playing music from your phone app.  I’ve read that some people record silence and put it on their phone as Aaa so that it’ll come up first and they’ve got time to turn the thing off.  I never play the radio nor iTunes in the car, only things I’ve recorded on iPlayer, but have to turn the in-car volume right up as it’s too soft, so when the radio or iTunes comes on automatically, it blares out.  No one is going to advertise that feature but it would be a good idea to advertise its absence.

A lovely little touch I saw on a friend’s car a year or two back was, behind the back seat, a strap with Velcro at both ends, so that if you put a box in the boot, you could secure it.  Such a useful and neat touch and probably hardly mentioned in the brochure, but if I had that once, I’d probably never want to be without it.

I feel that I should list all the things I come across, good and bad, and check them when I next buy a car.  Because the basics are easy – saloon, SUV, hatchback etc; diesel, petrol, electric or hybrid; automatic or manual; size of engine and so on….but if you go to fill the windscreen washer bottle and find that opening the bonnet breaks at least two nails and leaves you growling with irritation, it can turn you right off your new car.

When the phone app suggests the temperature is 40º, Z stays indoors

We had a lovely couple of days when Rose’s family from Trinidad came to stay.  Her brother visited last year and he came again with his wife and children.  We’ve got plenty of spare bedrooms, so Rose is welcome to use them for overflow guests.

Eloise cat was the hit of the visit.  She is never unfriendly but sometimes, when there are a lot of people, she keeps out of the way.  However, she really took to all of them – they’re cat lovers, dog lovers, they adore their pets.  Eloise sat on each of them in turn and was gently adorable.  And they are too, we like them very much.

It’s been too hot to be outside much, though I’ve had to go and water the greenhouse and pots, and I put the sprinkler on for an hour in the chicken greenhouse to humidify the air and bring down the temperature.  Each time I came in, I relished the cool house for a few minutes, and then sweltered again.  I even had a shower, darlings, and I don’t do that lightly.  My hair is still damp, which is a pleasure.  There might be a thunderstorm later – that is, it’s forecast but we take nothing for granted any more.  It could go all round us and leave us out.  Or we might get a flood.

We relax, anyway.  There isn’t really much option.  I’m glad the blog party was last week, anyway – the weather was easier than this.

All work and no play – isn’t the Z way

I was excessively pleased with myself, which I know is not an attractive characteristic.  I managed to fit all my appointments into two hours, and was home four hours after I left – the most interesting thing to me of all this was that I’ve signed my tax returns, don’t have anything more to pay this year and am due a sizeable rebate.  This is because of very heavy expenses, but they’ve been paid and so a rebate feels like a bonus … sort of.  Well, one has to look for the positive.

And, after lunch, I napped.  It’s siesta weather, after all.  Now, at 10.30pm, it’s still 22º out there and it’s forecast to reach the mid 30s by the end of the week.  I  think I might nod off every afternoon this week


Celebrating another blog party

Lovely bloggers and ex-bloggers and other halves of bloggers and family members came along and the weather was more than kind again.  Some of our friends who usually come were much missed, but there’s always another year and it’s not easy at all to find a date that suits everyone.

Every year, this event draws my attention to how much I value all of you; whether you’ve ever blogged or not, whether you comment, whether I’ve met you yet.  It’s been remarkably friendly and it’s so much my gain.  You’re lovely, and thank you.

We have been given a large bottle of home-made scrumpy, with a warning not to drink it all at once.  Woo hoo.  Cheers.

Parties in the 60s. Not my 60s, in this case. *The* 60s

I had a sudden flash of memory, sometime during the day.  My parents used to hold parties quite regularly, which were always terrific.  My mother had a number of specialties and was always on the lookout for new ideas too.

The specific memory was of the day before the party – a number of her girlfriends turned up and they got on with preparations – putting out cutlery, preparing vegetables and salad, polishing glasses, making sauces (though for the most part, the cooking was firmly her territory) and she provided a sumptuous, though casual lunch and there was much chat and laughter.  It was known as ‘the party to get ready for the party.’

I was always given jobs to do from an early age, but by the time I was in my teens, my job was firmly to deal with puddings and desserts.  Gateaux were my thing, quite possibly because it was a niche that wasn’t already filled.  Lemon syllabub, sorbet, trifle, were about as much effort as she could muster.  The main course was another matter.

For a cold meal, she’d make a French raised pie.   This contained chicken, hard boiled egg, various other meats – I’m not sure, possibly ham, veal; certainly not beef.  She also made hand-raised pork pies.  Here are a couple of pictures of the French raised pie and its mould – I have copied the second one from a blog called flower pot kitchen, and hope the owner doesn’t mind.  It looks fabulous, just like my mum used to make.  The first is the mould, which was in three parts held together with split pins,  She had two of them but, after she died, I found them covered with rust and unusable and, reluctantly, I threw them away.  Hers was more waisted than this one, but very similar otherwise.

I never learned to make them, I think they required so much concentration that she didn’t want anyone in the kitchen watching her.  And I am fairly sure that now I never will.

Since BW has already guessed and I’ve mentioned it here before, here is the new house sign.  I’d ordered Ro’s birthday present and half of it had arrived, along with another package.  I assumed it was the second half, but was puzzled, especially when I unwrapped it and found yards, literally, of bubble wrap.  I just kept unwinding it.  There was only a layer or two left when I twigged – and LT put it in place today.  It’s granite with the name of the house etched in.



Z bustles

Yesterday afternoon, Rose suggested we sit in her garden and drink beer, so we did, though it wasn’t quite five o’clock at the time.  And then we suggested she join us for dinner, and it all got quite convivial and a bit boozy.

That sort of evening always puts a spring into my step, and I’ve been quite effective today.  I booked my car’s MOT for Monday – I have used a lovely local garage for years, but the owner has now retired and, sadly, the land is worth more as a building site than the business is as a going concern.  That reminded me that the car needs two new tyres, so that’s been done.  Between us, we’ve bought everything for the blog party, though a couple of things need to be picked up on Saturday morning.  Darlings, I’ve bought the puds from the local lovely cafe.  Gemma had a catering business before buying the cafe and still does outside work – we bought pâtés and desserts from her for our wedding, to lessen the cooking for us and, with the hot weather, frankly I can do without excess slaving over the stove and then having to keep everything in the fridge.  The fridge should be big enough, but two shelves are pretty well full of jars of sauces and jams and so on.  I suppose food has fewer preservatives than formerly, if it’s good quality, and my kitchen is quite warm usually, because of the Aga, but it does take up the space.

I’ve also made an appointment with the accountant to sign my tax return, watered the garden, been out for lunch, made the marinade for the fabulous spicy chicken – I can’t remember all I’ve done.  It’s been good to be busy.  I always used to be and, actually, it’s fabulous to have a lot less pressure nowadays, but pulling myself up a bit is a very good thing.

Something arrived in the post today that you’ll be sure to spot on Saturday, since everyone who’s coming has visited before.  If you don’t, you’ll be identified as even less observant than I am, and I don’t think that’s actually possible.

Charles rocks

We went to see Pugsley’s school play this evening.  Darwin Rocks, it’s called; a musical written for school performance and Pugsley played the title role, and did it very well indeed.  He looked so like his father and great-grandfather, it twisted my heart, and he sang a duet – a love duet, no less – with Emma Darwin-to-be.

I’m so much in favour of drama in schools, I wish it were not squeezed out in many secondary schools and I hope that Pugsley can keep it going.  Squiffany, who’s been at high school for two years, says that there are performances but the students most likely to take part are those taking Drama at GCSE and A Level, which doesn’t involve her – so we’ll see.

A jolly afternoon and evening, and we came home and ate omelettes.

Z likes it hot

After several weeks with no rain, one can see which plants are more resilient to drought in our sandy soil.  Unsurprisingly, plants like lavender, for example, still look quite fresh.  But a fortnight ago, I found that some sedums were flopping badly – succulents are usually fine without rain, but I had to water these.  A low-growing but spreading hebe has dead patches, and I put the hose on it for half an hour or so today and the hypericum next to it, while having fresh green leaves, has dried, brown flower buds.  In the kitchen garden, globe artichoke plants are a quarter of their normal size and the raspberries have stopped fruiting.  Courgettes and spaghetti squashes are fine, but the butternut squashes droop if they don’t get a good weekly session with a sprinkler.

We have some young fruit trees and it’s noticeable that the crab apple that was grown in a pot is managing less well than the trees planted bare-rooted.  Among big trees, horse chestnut leaves are already turning crisp and brown.  On the lawn, which hasn’t been cut for weeks and is never watered, the grass is still green where there’s shade, though completely brown elsewhere.  The fig tree loves the hot, dry weather.  I must check if any fruits are ripe yet, there’s a good crop.

When I do put the sprinkler on, I find it gets covered with pollen beetles.  Even insects need water.  I put a paint roller tray out near the greenhouse and fill it with water every day for hedgehogs, and anything else that wants it. The deep end holds quite a lot of water but small creatures can use the shallow part.

I am still enjoying the hot weather and haven’t the least wish for it to end, but a lot of people don’t feel the same way.  British people like rain, I suppose, being well used to it.  Those who complain assume that you will agree with them and I don’t argue.  It’s not going to change anyone’s view, and I’m not unsympathetic in the least to those who struggle.  My mother hated hot weather and complained bitterly whenever the sun shone, which was a bit trying when one was grateful for any fine day.  She wasn’t great with the cold, come to that.  There were only a handful of days that really suited her in any season.

In the garden

We sat out in the garden while a flock of starlings – yeah, we know it’s a murmuration but it seemed to try a bit hard –  wheeled and swooped above us.  LT asked if we usually have swallows, swifts and other summer visitors (apart from the cuckoo, which we heard throughout the spring and early summer) and I said yes, we usually do.  I have seen swallows this year, but not in the last few weeks – early evening is usually the time to watch them, but there aren’t many insects about for them to catch.  I’m not sure how bats are getting on either in the hot weather.  There have been no clouds of gnats, no biting insects at all – which is good for us, but not for the creatures which live on them.

One of the cattle on the field got out today – a neighbour knocked on the door; she and her other half had spotted him and made sure he didn’t leave the drive, and another couple were driving past and they parked their car across the drive entrance.  I thanked them of course, and they looked mildly disappointed when they saw how biddable the young bullock was.  I patted him on the rump and he strolled back down the drive.  LT stopped him going the wrong way at the fork, and then went to open the gate, but he hopped back through the gap in the fence … ah.  Tim temporarily mended it while I texted Johnny to let him know.  It all needs tightening up so that it can’t happen again. but they’ve plenty of food, even though the grass has all turned to hay, so they’re not anxious to get out: or anyway, they haven’t been so far.

What’s a bit worrying is that this all seems normal to me.  Tim copes splendidly, of course, but only because he is, actually, splendid. I don’t even realise that it isn’t what everyone deals with on a daily basis.