Monthly Archives: October 2018

Cabbages and kings

Tim and I talk over dinner most nights.  I don’t mean, of course, that we don’t talk all the time, but that we pick on a subject and pursue it.  Sometimes we disagree rather considerably, though not actually seriously, but more often we find it interesting.

Tonight we were talking about art, in a broad sense; or rather artists, still in a broad sense, to include books, painting and so on.  I have the feeling that it’s too easy to be a writer, an artist, a poet – in the days of self-publishing, how do you find real quality?  It’s there, certainly, but it’s less easy to find among the dross.  A good many years ago – probably 25 or so, which means I have no concern about upsetting anyone involved – Russell saw an article in the local paper about a woman who, having retired from her job, took up painting and was putting on a one-woman exhibition.  He was quite intrigued and we went along to see it, taking my mother too.

It was awful.  Just daubs, deliberately out of scale.  Big splashy flowers that were quite out of harmony with their background, landscapes that were intended to be naive but were just ineptly painted and really quite ugly.  The woman and her husband were so excited and hopeful, and had obviously spent a lot of money on frames, prints, cards and so on, but I truly doubt if they sold anything much.  As we were leaving, the visitor’s book was pushed at us and Russell and I hesitated.  We hardly knew what to write.  My mother had more aplomb.  “Utterly charming!” she wrote.  Insincere but kind (the insincerity was in the !) and they beamed and we escaped.

After dinner we played music, or at any rate Tim did, at my request, because I still haven’t linked my computer to the loudspeakers.  It’s not a job for the evening when I’m tired.  Tim took me out to lunch today as well, because he’s lovely.

Which reminds me, I think we’re getting a bit low on red wine.  Better deal with that.

Z doesn’t stay low for long

There are a series of domestic niggles, which are a nuisance.  First, the new kitchen tap has become wobbly.  It started a while ago but it wasn’t bad and I didn’t take much notice.  It got a bit worse last week and I suspect the cleaning ladies gave it a jolly good go last Wednesday, because it has been markedly wobblier recently and now we daren’t use it in case it falls apart, and just have to manage with the filter tap and the kettle.  LT investigated underneath the sink and he wasn’t able to tighten it, it needs a plumber.  I’ve phoned and texted twice and he hasn’t answered, so I suspect he’s on holiday, though I’ll ring again first thing in the morning.

The other thing is the cistern in the downstairs cloakroom.  If you have been here and visited the loo, you’ll know that it needs a few firm pulls (it’s the old fashioned sort with a chain) before it flushes.  But it’s getting worse and there’s also a very minor leak.  I suspect it isn’t mendable: another job for the plumber.

This morning, Rose’s Boy came through asking where the annexe fuse box is – I went through and discovered two trip switches off – one went on okay, giving him heat and light, but the other, which serves the utility room, won’t work.  I unplugged Rose’s washing machine (my washing machine, though in the same room, is on my circuit) and it still wouldn’t work.  The electrician is coming in the morning.

This isn’t even touching on the ongoing worries at the London flat, which I’m not going to talk about because this blog is a Happy Place on the whole.  Suffice it to say that my tenants are leaving in a fortnight and I can’t get new ones until a problem has been identified and put right. The identifying it has taken a year so far, we keep thinking we’ve cracked it and we haven’t.  And I wasn’t going to talk about it….

So I must find a cheery note to end on.

I managed to cook tonight’s skate perfectly.  We turned out some of the freezer at the weekend and now know what goes where and have started to eat it.  Eloise cat makes me laugh with delight every single day.  LT is lovely; which is tautology but is worth the repeating.  I’ve got two new books waiting to be read, when I’ve finished the one I’m reading now.

There we go.  I feel better already.

Z keeps Eloise cat company

Eloise cat did come in the other night.  At about 11.30, I went out and called her and she didn’t come so I went back in and locked the door.  I was just turning off the light when she appeared at the glass door and called me back.  So I was much happier.  I wasn’t worried about her, but I missed her.  She’s just come indoors now, after a frolic in the garden for a couple of hours.  I’ve no idea what she’s been doing out there.  she did an alarmed little dance as she came through the porch – when i investigated, she’d been startled by an earwig.  I’ve no idea what that’s about either.

I never had realised how entertaining a cat would be.  She’s lying on a pile of papers (my vertical filing system) on the table by my computer, having nuzzled it and walked back and forth for a bit.  She decided to lie down when, having moved a piece of paper to the edge, she tried to walk on it, nearly fell off and had to pretend that she’d meant to scramble back, all along.  My computer screen is tilted forward so that I can hardly read what I’ve written, but I suspect that’s her intention.

Dilly and Al have got a new washing machine being delivered tomorrow, on what should have been Al’s day off.  But the colleague who was due to do his round has broken her rib playing basketball, or something that really doesn’t sound that dangerous, and is in a lot of pain.  As she’s only worked there for 10 months, she isn’t given any paid sick leave yet – if this had happened after a year, she’d have been able to take time off.  The boss has found her some indoor work, but either she’s have had to go off and do the deliveries for Al or else his lovely customers would have gone without their mail, which would have quite spoiled his day.  So he’s volunteered to work and I’ve volunteered to wait at their house for the delivery.  LT will arrive home around lunchtime, I don’t know if I’ll be back by then.  Apparently, they’ll phone around 9am with an ETA.

I made bread today.  It has turned out particularly well, even though I didn’t set a timer and forgot it for an extra few minutes.  I caught it before it burned, luckily.  I wish I knew what I’d done right in the making of it, though.

 

Z’s heart grows fonder

Young Rufus and his parents came over for lunch yesterday.  Rufus has become noticeably more affectionate to me in the last few months and his confiding way of saying “Granny” is very warming.  He had a nap in the car on the way over but has, since his last visit, grown out of waking up crying.  He came in with a smile in his face and was very good for the whole visit.  We’d made a simple lunch – some of LT’s famous leek quiche, ham, some of the last of the home-grown cucumber and tomatoes and a number of home-made preserves.  They were particularly impressed by the spiced fig jam and the dried tomatoes, which I hadn’t fed them before.  Both are certainly ones to make again, if we have enough figs, in the former case.

Eloise cat went outside when I opened the front door to fetch logs.  I’ve left the outside light on, in the hope she’ll come back but it’s been a couple of hours.  She’s quite all right, I’m not concerned – and it’s quite possible she’s decided to pay a visit next door with Rose – but I miss her.  I was rather hoping she’d spend much of the night on the bed with me.  She often does, but it’s not quite so welcome when I’m squashed in the middle.  LT is in Reading for a few days, so I’d be able to move over when she makes me too hot.

 

Z relies on Nephelococcygia*

I admit, I did have it in mind to look at sofas.  And, after I’d done enough preliminary research to eliminate one shop altogether, we got as far as sitting on a couple of them (sofas, not shops), looking through several books of fabric samples, talking to a nice assistant called Sara and ordering a sample of the only fabric we liked.  Luckily, we totally agreed on that.  We’re good that way, luckily enough.

I also managed to scoot round a department store – the same one where we liked the sofa – and not like any clothes enough to consider trying them on.  I quite liked a Jaeger coat, all £350-worth of it, but still not enough to put it on and I’d have to absolutely woo-hoo-hoo adore any garment for that.  There was the odd dress I quite liked, but still not enough for the price.  What has happened to clothes prices recently?  Is it the Brexit effect?  Anyway, I did find a few possibilities later in another shop but our exertions in the sofa department had worn us out and we didn’t even stay in Norwich for lunch, but scooted back home and ate sausage rolls from the deli.  With my bread-and-butter pickle and, obviously, brown sauce.

Tim’s laptop, which is only 14 months old, seems to have gone totes awry, and won’t turn on or anything.  He’s less anxious about the whole thing than I’d be if it were mine, though actually there isn’t that much essential on mine, nowadays, that isn’t backed up.  All the same, I’ve a couple of things that are going on the Cloud right now, just in case.

*The spelling is purely guesswork.  Cloud Cuckoo Land.

The city is Z’s oyster

LT has an appointment in Norwich so I’ll have half an hour or so to scuttle around shopping or – more realistically – looking at things I’m not going to buy.  I clearly don’t do enough of this, as I keep getting urges to buy something expensive, like a sofa or a new car.  I think I might be a bit like an earthquake or a volcano waiting to happen – if I shop a little bit on a regular basis, I let off just enough (figurative, I assure you) steam to keep things under control, whereas if I mooch around at home, which I’m perfectly happy to do, there’s a retail explosion waiting to happen sometime.

I went to call on my friend Jan, who’s been housebound since she broke her upper arm, two years ago next week.  She was a long time in a nursing home, but finally came home in July last year.  She can walk, using a zimmer frame, but both her front and back doors have awkward entrances and she can’t manage them safely.  She’s a very determined and self-assured lady of 86 and she isn’t always the easiest person to help, but I have ventured, after rather wanting to do so for several months, to suggest that, with help, a wheelchair might enable her to get in and out of the front door.  She didn’t totally dismiss the idea, though she came up with a few token arguments, so we might get somewhere.  If she could be wheeled as far as the car, the chair put into the porch for her return whilst her frame was stowed in the car, it would be lovely for her to get out and about again.  She’s so sociable and getting so very bored.  She does have lots of visitors, but it’s still remarkable, really, that she’s been able to keep her spirits up.

Z’s day had ups and downs

Today’s lecture was quite brilliant.  The subject sounded a bit dry, to tell the truth – embroideries and decorative schemes of Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick – but it was spectacularly well researched, very well illustrated, delivered with a humour and lightness of touch that belied the scholarly detail and, as befits an experienced lecturer, he finished bang on time.  In fact, I bent LT’s ear most of lunchtime with the details of it all.

We went to the Castle inn for lunch, a place we’re always fond of as it’s where our party had dinner the night before our wedding.  We both felt we’d chosen well today, too, with Tim’s smoked salmon and potted shrimps and my mussels.  I came home and had a nap, having slept particularly poorly last night – this is for no better reason than I’d slept well the night before.

A few minutes after I woke up, Rose came in, delicately enquiring if the house were for sale?  No??? I said. There was a For Sale sign by the hedge at the bottom of the drive.  I stalked down, with the others scuttling to keep up, and uprooted it infuriately.  The house and garden opposite, on the corner site, was sold about three years ago to a builder, who has knocked the house down and built three properties in its place.  The For Sale sign is for the bungalow opposite my house.  There’s plenty of room for the sign there, but the agents thought it would be a good idea to put it right by my hedge.  I chucked it over the fence to where it should be and if it goes up again I’ll have words with the agent.  I’m a bit bemused by the price, I must say – nearly half a million pounds for a four bedroom bungalow?  It doesn’t matter to me, I’m no Nimby and have never raised any objection to any development, and if the builder makes a good profit then good luck to him.  But it’s startling, all the same.

When I went into the henhouse this morning, the bucket I’d left under the feeder was tipped to one side, so clearly the rats had tried to get at the food.  They didn’t succeed and putting it there every evening is quite an easy precaution, but the feeder is sold as rat-proof and it evidently isn’t.

Z gives a fig

I hate to say this, but I don’t think this rat-proof chicken feeder does what it’s supposed to.  The chickens use it okay and, as food isn’t lying around during the day, the rats aren’t about so much either – that is, I haven’t seen them, though Rummy cat still finds it worthwhile to come in and crouch, ready to pounce.  He caught two fully grown females last week and was mightily praised.  But when I put the chickens to bed, I have been smoothing over the food in the feeder and checking it next morning, and there’s a slight dip in the centre.  It’s possible, of course, that there’s some settling overnight, but I’ve now put a bucket underneath the bar so that nothing can get at it, and I’ll look again over the next morning or two, to see if that dip still happens.  I found it very hard to believe that a rat was less bright than a chicken and I won’t be surprised if they’ve learned to use it.

Tim made dinner tonight, a delicious dish of duck with figs and I rather wish I’d frozen some figs whole, to make it again.  There are still a few figs ripening but they don’t have the flavour they did in the summer and the skins are a little tougher.  Something to learn for the next time we have more than we can eat.  It was a recipe in the newspaper – Nigel Slater, I think – and I sometimes wonder what these writers think when they put together their recipes.  After all, in a weekend supplement, they’re thrown away by Tuesday and I suspect few of the recipes are ever made.  Sometimes, the ingredients are so obscure or the dishes so peculiar that I suspect the cooks are laughing at us.  But you do get the occasional good one, and this was one of the hits.  I think it would go well with other meats too and, in fact, fresh figs lend themselves well to savoury dishes. We’ve used them with cold meat, feta and cream cheeses and salads this summer.

Tomorrow morning, I’ve got Nadfas in Yagnub and LT has a blood test in Selcceb.  I suspect we’ll be ready for lunch out after that,  I’ll have to see what he thinks.

 

It’s October…

…and therefore we’ve lit the fire.  I remembered to book the chimney sweep in good time this year and he came along last week and swept our two chimneys (the third is hardly used, so doesn’t need frequent sweeping) and Rose’s one.  i’ve promised to remember to phone him as soon as we’ve finished with fires next spring, to be even more efficient.

It’s not so much that it’s cold as that we need a bit of cheering at this time of the evening in autumn.  We’ve been sitting out in the porch for the last few days in the sunshine, for morning coffee – the porch is actually a fairly sizeable glazed room, some 10 foot by 12 foot or so – and I had to change seats a couple of times because I was too hot.  But that was ten hours ago and now it’s a pleasure to smell wood smoke for the first time this autumn.

I’ve been thinking about music this evening, specifically that I’m not listening to enough of it.  I need music to reflect my mood, but I’ve got out of the way of putting anything on.  It’s always been a fairly solitary thing for me, unless I’ve been at a concert or whatever.  It was like reading a book, just for me.  Tim and I enjoy sharing what we like, though, but the wireless thingy that he bought, that both our computers connect with wirelessly, has had an update to its software – previously, we could both connect to it at the same time, but now whoever isn’t playing a track is logged out, so it’s really inconvenient to change.  So I don’t bother to use it.  I’m not sure how to get around this, but I need to.