Monthly Archives: September 2018

Z feels satisfied

Remarkably enough, the to-do list is a done list, as far as possible – I wasn’t able to speak to one person, but I’ve left a note asking him to phone me.  So I’m all ready to crack on with next week’s list … but I haven’t actually written that down, so I can delude myself until tomorrow that I’m all sorted out for now.

I’ve been exchanging emails with the daughter of a longtime auction client.  She has asked me to take her father off my mailing list as he’s gone into a nursing home and sold his china last year.  I remember him well, he was a delightful old man – he’s now  97, still very aware and interested in things, but finding he can’t look after himself any longer.  Still, he likes his new home and is still looking forward, which is rather lovely.  She was pleased that I remembered him fondly and I was glad that she’d told me about him, sentimental old thing that I am.

The squashes were affected by the dry weather and some of the butternut squashes are tiny, and there are only four of the deep orange ones – I can’t remember the name of the variety.  The self-seeded ones did extremely well, and so did the spaghetti squashes.  I’m looking on them with some alarm.  They are summer squashes and won’t keep very long and I suspect that the chickens will have to deal with most of them.  Still, the kitchen garden is gradually being cleared and we’ve partly weeded, partly weedkilllered the drive and, if the weather holds, we’ll be as tidy as we ever are, within a couple of weeks.

On my way over to the garden centre the other day, I called in at a local farm shop that I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time.  They have a small herd of Jersey cows and sell the raw milk.  They let the calves stay with their mothers, name all the cows, they sound lovely,  I was surprised, all the same, at the high level of trust.  The milk itself and a couple of other items are in a coin-in-the-slot dispenser, but all the meat, the eggs, honey and various other things are right there for anyone to take, with an honesty box that’s full of change.  There is a book to write down what you take, but I can’t see that they can be sure that you’ve paid the right amount.

I bought a litre of Jersey milk, some bacon and some venison and was able to leave the right money.  I’ve had it in mind for some time, to try yoghurt from Jersey milk and it’s been a spectacular success.  I simmered the milk for a few minutes, as it was unpasteurised, and made the yoghurt in the usual way.  When I came to remove it from the Thermos into jars, there was no spare whey at all and it had to be scraped out.  It was almost as thick as Greek yoghurt, without being strained.  We tried it for breakfast this morning and it was delicious.  I drank a little of the milk yesterday – the Thermos only takes 800 ml so I had some left over – and it took me right back to childhood.  My mother bought ordinary whole milk for cooking and Channel Island milk for drinking.  Even though she took the cream off for coffee, the milk still tasted different.  I used the last of it in celery soup and I could still taste the difference.

I was very tempted to light the fire this evening, but we decided that we could wait until October.

Close to home

It started with the wallflowers.  I’d bought 20 plants and they have to be planted out.  I asked LT his opinion, over breakfast – I’d have liked to put them in the round bed at the front of the house, but the muntjac deer would eat them, so that left either the bed that’s the kitchen side of the Wall, which would be the most straightforward solution, but we wouldn’t really see them, or tubs near the house by the side door, which are presently full of geraniums and bedding plants.  Or they could be distributed between the two – which is what we’ll probably do..

Talking about that, I realised that if I took the tub option, I’d either have to throw away the geraniums or keep them over the winter.  Several times, I’ve brought tubs into the porch, but I tend to tail off from watering them and then overwater them, and it’s not hugely successful.

I’ll cut to the chase – it was decided that we would clear out the porch, which is about 10 foot-ish by 12  foot-ish, so quite a sizeable room, we could use it as a sunroom in the mornings, as it faces east and south – which happens to an extent, but it’s a bit more dual purpose than attractive.  We’d stop keeping tools and logs in it, and keep it looking nice.  And I’d clear all the tins of teas from the kitchen windowsill and put whatever we wanted to overwinter on there instead.

At this point, sensible Tim went off to the dentist and I cracked on with stuff.  Though, once he got home an hour and a half later, he helped with the putting away.  And it all looks very nice.  And I’ve whittled the tins of tea/tisanes down to eleven, I think it is, which are on their sides on top of the wine rack.  I haven’t done anything about the wallflowers yet, nor the geraniums, but I have potted up the hyacinths that I was given last week.

To change the subject completely, this is from the lovely next door village’s internet group –

Yesterday – “Hi – Taz our old staffie has disappeared somewhere last seen in the garden at fir tree farm.  He is 16 and quite disoriented deaf and slightly blind… please keep a look out
This morning “Hi all – Taz is still missing – he may have been seen on Parsons field yesterday, anyone walking dogs can you please keep a look out.  If you find him please take him home if you can.
This evening “Dear all  – Taz has been found just now in a ditch over from parsons field towards Topcroft alive and looking remarkably well. 
Thanks to all who offered help and searched their gardens needless to say we are soooo happy”

Village life, when it’s good. it can be very good.

Eye teeth

We went off to Norwich today, not for shopping purposes as I was sufficiently discouraged last week and LT shopped in Reading, but to have lunch with Ronan and for me to go to the dentist. It’s a nice place, we’ve met Ro there before, plus Dora and Rufus, it’s very convenient – if you know Norwich, it’s near the RC cathedral – and near Ro’s office, and is in the same road as our dentist.  The only downside is the music is a shade louder than it needs to be, so isn’t always that easy to tune out.  But the food is good and the service excellent and friendly.

My teeth were praised for non-plaqueness – this is as good as it gets, frankly, at my age – but the dentist wants to replace an old amalgam filling before it gives trouble.  That’s fine with me.  Odds are that, when it does, it’ll have deteriorated enough that I’ll need serious drilling or even a crown.  I don’t stint on dentistry, nowadays and I’m right there with preventive action.

We were amused, they’re raising money for Macmillan Nurses (for non-Brits, this is a charity that provides palliative home care for cancer patients and it’s excellent).  They’ve got a coffee morning tomorrow for fundraisers to hold, but evidently the dentist practice decided to hold one all week.  They’ve got a coffee machine that makes very good coffee, and the receptionists have brought in cake, and patients are invited to help themselves – a donation isn’t actually mentioned, but clearly hoped for.  A rather jolly woman, who both LT and I rather took to, accepted a cup of coffee and a cake after her appointment, and sat there for an extra ten minutes or so eating and drinking, and others were doing so too, later on.  Tim murmured to me that the dentists seemed to be drumming up future business…

Anyway, when it came to my turn to make my next appointment, i pointed out that my teeth had only just been cleaned to sparkling perfection, so I didn’t actually want cake yet.  But we took a paper plate and a couple of chocolate muffins and put money in the box and, when we had them later with a cup of tea, they were rather tasty.  My teeth probably rolled their eyes, though.

Tim’s back

Tim is home and I made him a venison casserole for dinner to welcome him back.  We had crabs for lunch, which was as pleasing to Eloise cat as it was to Tim. The tomatoes finally were dried enough to pot and I need to tidy up the veg garden ready for the winter, while the weather is still fine.  The barrowload of squashes is still out there though, I’m afraid.  Today rather ran away with me.

I think I used to get a lot more done when I was much busier.  I had to be more efficient and crack on with things.  If there isn’t a deadline, there’s no reason to be brisk, even if one isn’t being lazy … and I dearly love to be lazy.  It’s why I had to take on too many things, otherwise I’d have lounged around all the time.

RasPutin, the tomcat, is coming right up to the house nowadays, which he never used to do.  Rose was a bit concerned that he was poorly and needing help, but I think he’s being an opportunist as there’s no sign that he’s unwell.  I suspect he realises the cold nights are coming near and he rather fancies coming into the house when he wants to. And there’s no hope.  I am not having an unneutered tomcat in my house – and I’m not having any other cat either, come to that.  Eloise is quite fond of Rummy, but does not tolerate him coming upstairs, and that’s that.  She’s still very rude to Chip, even in his own house and garden, and she’s afraid of RasPutin.  I spend an inordinate amount of money on the barn cats and that’s quite good enough.  There’s plenty of shelter and, if I knew where he sleeps, I’d put more straw bales to snuggle up among.

In the three hours between Tim texting to say he was leaving Reading and his arrival, I did get quite a lot done.  I went out to buy more bulbs for the sink and, as I would be passing a farm shop, I thought I’d call in.  They’ve a small Jersey herd, so sell jersey milk, cream and butter; also their own honey, lemon curd and pickles, and home-reared meat plus game in season.  I’ve meant to check them out for a while, but finally made it there.  I was surprised to find most of the food, except the milk etc, which was in a cabinet with a coin-operated dispenser, there for anyone to pick up, with an honesty box filled with coins so you could take your change.  It was remarkably trusting.  Anyone could short-change them or add another item to what they bought and it would be almost impossible to prove what they’d done.  I trust there’s no deceit – I wrote in the book what I bought and was able to put in the right money.  Then I went and bought the bulbs and some small cyclamen, and then went on to the place I get chicken food: not for that, this time, but for cat food.  That took me back into Yagnub, where I was able to get greengrocery and fish, and then home.  I tidied up the porch and brought in some garden chairs for the winter, planted up the bulbs and cyclamen, received a wine delivery, and was just nipping upstairs with a different bedside lamp for Tim, because Eloise cat kept knocking his, when I heard his car drive up.  And half an hour later, the chimney sweep arrived and so all chimneys are ready for burning winter few…ew…el.

Not that we need to yet, it’s lovely weather.  Tomorrow, we’re meeting Ronan for lunch in Norwich and then I’m going to the dentist.  Disappointingly, it’s 2.15, but then my tooth isn’t hurting, so I suppose the obvious time isn’t necessary.

Z totes that barge and lifts that bale

The day didn’t go as planned, but that’s not unusual, paradoxically.

I bought bulbs the other day, miniature ones – iris reticulata, species tulips, little daffodils, 4 inches tall, which I planned to plant in the china sinks we filled with alpine plants back in the spring.  I thought they’d go rather nicely in the spring and then the alpines would flourish again in the summer.  So this morning, I took my trowel and investigated.  The soil is completely matted with roots.  There’s no question of planting bulbs between them.

I had put quite a lot of bulbs in the rough grass near the house, but few of them remain.  I suspect that mice eat them, which is rather bold when you consider how many cats roam around here.  I suppose they tunnel.  So I thought around the subject – I can’t put the bulbs in the front garden because the muntjac deer would eat them and I want to be able to see them from the house.  I thought of the other sinks I have – one is planted with strawberries, but another is empty and I went out to consider where it might go.

It is extremely heavy.  I managed to turn it over and found that the plug hole had been filled with concrete, presumably to hold water.  So I fetched a stout hammer and bashed at it.  It was very loud, I’d have liked to put my fingers in my ears but couldn’t while I was hammering.  There’s an echo down around the old mill and it came back to me, and I suspect a lot of people were wondering where on earth the noise was coming from.  But I cleared the concrete from the hole successfully and also managed to get the sink on the sack barrow.  It was hard work and I was panting and tired out by the time I got it to the edge of the gravel.  I had to leave it for a while.  In fact, it took me three goes to get it where I’d planned.  I’m not entirely convinced of the beauty of it, but it’s too late now, I’m certainly not moving it again, not ever, not nohow, certainly, absolutely and not at all.

It’s filled with compost and I’ll do the planting tomorrow.  Honestly, I’m quite relieved not to have given myself a hernia.  It was surprisingly hard work to do single-handed.

The other thing I stared on was harvesting the squashes.  I have no idea yet how the ones I planted have done.  All I do know is that the volunteers, in the bed where the tortoises used to live, have done spectacularly well.  I have picked about 30 squashes, and I didn’t even plant them.

I have had a batch of tomatoes drying in the bottom oven of the Aga all day.  They’re still not ready, some 14 hours later.  I’ve taken them out, I’m too tired, I’ll have to finish the job in the morning.

Worryingly personal here, at the end. Soz, darlings

Being apart on our anniversary wasn’t planned, of course, but never mind.  Neither of us is that bothered about exact dates – none of my family is either, which is just as well – and, as I said, we celebrated on Saturday, and we will again when Tim gets back.

I woke up with a migraine for no reason I can think of, but I was able to keep going, though at a lower than usual level.  I did laundry and housework this morning and cleared out tomato and aubergine plants in the greenhouse this afternoon.  Dull but necessary work and I was quite happy with my efforts.  Wince the gardener has family issues that might stop him from working for a few weeks, so I’ll keep plugging away so he hasn’t a depressing amount to do on his return.

Tim, darling, all my love to you xxx

Leftover champagne

I don’t know how it is, but one can never have too many flowers for an arrangement.  It’s Harvest Festival tomorrow, and I said i’d do a pedestal arrangement and a small extra one for the altar – pedestal to the left of the altar and the other on the right, on it.

I bought two bunches of alstroemeria and two of roses, which was 30 flower stalks, picked about a dozen sunflowers, about the same dahlias, plus various leafy stalks.  So that was over 50 flowers plus greenery.  I thought I’d have flowers left over and there weren’t.  I used the lot.  In truth, I’d have used them all, even if I’d had a couple of dozen more, because that’s how it works – and I’d have made two bunches do, too.

Anyway, I whacked in the arrangements and practised the hymns for tomorrow and was still home within the hour, which seemed efficient enough.  Then Al asked if we were free this afternoon, which we were, so I nipped out and bought cake, as I was too lazy to make it.

I did buy some pink lilies for myself, so they’re scenting the room as I write.  And we drank champagne and used our wedding present wineglasses, candlesticks and wine coaster.  The champagne was the last bottle from our wedding.  The second last was opened for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, but we didn’t manage the leftovers before they went flat.  So I’m having to use it up in cooking.

The thought that counts

We’re counting tomorrow as our second wedding anniversary, as we got married on a Saturday.  The anniversary itself is on Monday, of course, but LT has to be in Reading that day.  So champagne will be drunk tomorrow instead.

We haven’t got any other plans, admittedly.  But LT has much the same attitude to birthdays and so on that I have – that they’re nice but the day itself doesn’t matter that much.

It’s just occurred to me to hope that he hasn’t bought me a present, because if he has I can only accept it graciously, as I haven’t bought him one.  What is the second wedding anniversary, anyway?  I know the first is paper.

I’ve looked it up.  Cotton.  Oh, I can do that.  i’ll give him a duster or something, if I’m caught out.

I’m still looking after Rose’s animals, as she’s away for a few days and so is Boy.  This morning, Eloise cat followed me through to the annexe and waited to be let out of the back door.  But I could see, which she couldn’t, that Chip was waiting to come in.  They’re still implacable enemies, by Eloise’s attitude rather than Chip’s, so I scooped her up before opening the door.  They were both affronted but able to ignore each other and pretend the near-meeting hadn’t near-happened.  Rummy, Rose’s other cat, has been a total arse for quite a while with the barn cats.  He doesn’t always snarl and chase them, but often enough.  But he made the mistake of doing it in front of Rose herself; and, even, snarling at her when she ticked him off.  So she has said he mustn’t be fed with them any more.  I was very doubtful about this, though I was going to do as she said.  Rummy is her cat, therefore her rules.  And, to my surprise, though not to LT’s, it’s working.  He complains, but he accepts it.  And today he avoided the situation by ducking into the chicken greenhouse to look for rats, when I was going down to feed the Barnies.

RasPutin is still on the thin side, but healthy with a good coat now.  So whatever problem there had been, it seems to be over.

In other news, the catalogue for the next sale has been printed and I posted the address labels to my colleague David today, because he deals with the most tedious part, that of stuffing envelopes.  And the Antique Collector magazine was delivered today and the advertisement looks good.

I can show you the photo, actually.  Here it is.  





Over six weeks, between 18th August and 30th September, there are seven family birthdays, including mine, and four wedding anniversaries, also including mine.  My school chum Lynn’s birthday is this month too, as well as several other friends, though I only give a present to Lynn.  It’s all quite a lot to get organised, present-wise.  However, this year I’m sorted.  Lynn’s present was posted today, for Monday and the rest of them are bought and ready to be wrapped.  And I’ve got cards and paper and everything.

I feel so sensible and mature and so on.  I suppose that I should be by now, though.

My mother’s birthday was 11th November and birthdays mattered very much to her.  She’d never been cosseted much as a child, so really loved a fuss being made of her in later life.  I always used to put a lot of effort into her birthday presents, though that didn’t always pay off.  We found some of our gifts still in their wrapping, after she died, though we really thought they were things she’d like.  I suspect, in retrospect, that visits to the theatre and concerts would have been better.  Anyway, I was never able to think about the December thingy until her birthday was over.  And I still can’t, not really.  I’m not an early shopper, mostly because, if I’ve bought a present, I want to give it, not hang on to it for a couple of months.  But at least I’ve got a month or two before I need to worry any more about what to buy anyone because, after the celebration it’s too early to mention yet, the next family birthday will be 20th March and that’s six whole months away.


We went to a NADFAS lecture today, on the birth of Italian opera – and learned that the very first opera ever was performed on 6th October, 1600; a performance of Giulio Caccini’s Euridice – and, though it was interesting and entertainingly delivered by a very knowledgeable musician, its focus was so very narrow that we came away feeling that we hadn’t really learned much more than that first fact.  He played extracts from CDs of several pieces of music from about that time and, really, about two would have been enough.  It would have been better if he’d taken a broader scope than just the forerunner to opera, Caccini’s work and a bit of Monteverdi.  It sounded like the first in a series of lectures rather than one to give enough information to engage the amateur’s interest.  I did like him and he knew a lot about his subject, but it could have been brilliant rather than just good.

I’d suggested we park at John Lewis and that afterwards, I’d do a bit of clothes shopping.  I’ve been looking for a jacket for the last two or three years without success, but I’d also quite like a new coat as mine is nearly three years old (I don’t want to get rid of it, just have another one too) and a dress, skirt, whatever else took my eye, was not at all out of the question.  Perhaps some shoes, too.  I’ve not been very fortunate in buying new shoes in the last year or two either (I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper) and tend to go straight from sandals  to boots, rarely wearing actual shoes.

I was reminded of why I hardly ever buy clothes in Norwich John Lewis.  The department is so big, jumbled and unfocussed that I can’t find anything.  It used to be a very nice shop – originally a family-owned department store; the name was kept for some years after it was bought out, so I’m not sure who owned it when it was enlarged about 30 years ago and had a big multi-storey car park added (the worst designed car park you can imagine), but it ruined the clothes shop for me.  And, like all department stores now, lots of different makes have their stock in separate sections, so there’s nowhere to go for a coat, you have to look at all the brands.  Because of the spread-out layout, there’s no cohesion, no focus, and we wandered around for a while without finding anything we liked at a glance, and felt discouraged from searching further.  I might have gone and looked at shoes, but discovered that they’d put them down on the ground floor, and couldn’t be bothered to go and look for them.

So we left without spending any money at all and I’d had it in mind that, if I’d found enough things I liked, I’d have been willing to spend a few hundred pounds.  I was feeling some sympathy for John Lewis, whose profits this year have been cut to the bone.  Some of the reason for that is that, when House of Fraser was trying to stave off insolvency, they kept discounting stock and JL, “never knowingly undersold” had to follow suit.  And then the chap who doesn’t have the best reputation, who’s taken over HoF, first said he’d honour orders paid for before insolvency and then changed his mind, I resolved that I’ll never shop in HoF again and would go out of my way to buy from JL.  Oh well.  I’ll go into the little clothes shop in Yagnub and see what they’ve got – not coats or jackets, though.

As we walked towards the Nadfas venue, I mentioned reports that people who live on busy roads are more likely to suffer from dementia in old age; which follow hard on reports that babies and children are of less intelligence if they are affected by pollution.  Though I don’t dispute the findings, though what the statistics actually mean is probably not as clear-cut as the reports suggest, this information suddenly being plugged by news media sounds to me as if it’s an agenda being pushed.  I’d be quite interested in an electric car, actually, and may well look into it next year, but only for local driving, I don’t think they’ve sorted out charging batteries on journeys at all as yet.  But it’s starting to sound to me as if spin doctors are driving the reports and that’s not conducive to good news gathering.

Having just said that to Tim, we sat and listened to the chairman’s introduction.  She said that, with the change of name from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies to, simply, The Arts Society, that gave more scope for having lectures from all branches of the arts, not just furniture, pictures and so on.  And then, another committee member, giving the vote of thanks, said much the same thing.  I was irritated.  It’s balderdash, for one thing.  We’ve been having lectures on music for as long as I’ve been a member, over 30 years.  And we’ve had lectures on garden design, archaeology, all sorts of things that widen the scope considerably from Fine Arts.  It seems clear to me that Head Office has received flak from changing the name from the distinctive, memorable one it used to have to an anodyne, inaccurate one (it’s an association of many affiliated societies, not a single society) that blurs, in pronunciation, a distinction between Art and Arts; and so they’ve told the societies’ committees to emphasise a spurious advantage of the new name.  Which is treating us as if we’re quite stupid, really.

But to end on a cheery note, we went into the butcher on the way home and found that they’d got shin of beef with the bone in, which is a rare find.  So Tim volunteered to make osso buco for dinner.  It’s something I’ve never cooked, but it’s one of his specialities, since his days in Milan.  So we’re in for a treat tonight.