Monthly Archives: December 2018

Z has an interesting day

I had two engagements today.  The first was a meeting of the members of the proposed multi-academy trust, with the purpose of appointing the first trustees – who are the overall governors, above the governors of the individual schools; although “above” is a term that, while legally accurate, is not particularly helpful.

I’m pretty happy that we’re on the same lines, which is reassuring.  In particular, matters like having a broad curriculum, which is being curtailed in many schools, and supporting students with extra needs, were specifically mentioned as being valued.  Having the money and clout to buy in services that the local authority is no longer able to provide, and which have been cut back for years, will be very helpful.

Then, this evening, I went to the annual prize giving at *my* school.  I haven’t been able to attend for the last couple of years but I don’t want to lose touch, though I only knew a handful of the students receiving awards.  The head student – no longer head boy and girl, but two head students who happened to be girls this year, is the daughter of the woman who took over from me as chairman of governors at the local primary school, so it was good to have a chat afterwards and catch up with news.  She’s one of those people whom one likes very much but don’t necessarily contact without specific reason, if you know what I mean – if I were more sociable it would be a different matter.  Perhaps one day.  Tim probably needs to push me.

The guest speaker was excellent.  An ex-student, as our speakers often are, he’s done very well in the 15 years since he left school and is now a surgeon, specialising in spinal surgery.  Yet, he said that, when he was in his early teens, he was most interested in rugby.  He’s an impressive young man – in terms of achievement, hardly young, though he can’t be older than my Ronan, and his speech was inspiring and, also, very funny.

Z feels sociable

We went to the Nadfas Christmas lecture yesterday, which was on Russian Christmases (Nadfas is now officially called the Arts Society, but that could mean anything from a corporate body to a club in the village hall and is, therefore, meaningless) and the charming and erudite lecturer gave a very vivacious talk with a lot of illustrations.  I particularly liked the painting she started the lecture with, which is by Ivan Shiskin and is called In the Wild North.  It seems that the image is in the public domain – the painting itself is in the Ukrainian art museum in Kiev and I don’t suppose I’ll ever see it in reality, so here is a reproduction. The painting of the tree is incredible – her reproduction on a large screen did it justice in a way that this doesn’t as it’s rather too dark; the shadow, the quality of the light shining through the branches, the effectiveness of the snow weighing on the tree – and she quoted from War and Peace, which always gets my vote.

Tomorrow, we’re going to meet our good blog friends Mike (The Armoury) and Ann, for lunch, which we’re looking forward to very much.  They weren’t able to come to this year’s blog party and we haven’t been down their way either, so it’s been nearly a year and a half since we’ve seen them.  They only live a little over an hour away, we often say that we should make more effort to catch up with friends.  I only saw Sir Bruin and the Small Bear a few months ago because I was visiting a friend in hospital near them, and imposed on them for a cup of tea afterwards.  And I visited Rev Dave a little while ago too, but it’s not much really for a sociable Z.  I do invite you all here, of course – every year for the blog party, but you’re always welcome if you’re in the area.

Z becomes anxious

Bit of a panic this afternoon.  I actually contacted my local councillor, for the first time ever.  I don’t normally make a fuss.

The chap who lived on the corner of our road had a big garden, part of which he sold off, and four houses and two bungalows were built there.  They were all round the corner, not on our road.  After he died in his nineties, a few years ago, his son sold one building plot to a very nice young couple, who’ve built a chalet bungalow right opposite our gate.  A builder bought the house and the rest of the garden, assuring the son that he didn’t intend to build, which he clearly did, and there are now two houses and a bungalow on that plot.  I made no comment on any of those – nor did I when the small field opposite had planning permission applied for, originally for 20 dwellings, latterly for 16 bungalows.  I’m really and truly not a nimby and I don’t want to look as if I am.  On the other hand, when there was a development in the offing, that would have no effect on me, but for which the plans were vague and also unfair on very local residents, I spent some time picking out the inconsistencies and unspecifics in the application and wrote in with them.

The planning part of the local authority website is very difficult to find one’s way around.  But I finally managed to get detailed plans for the 16 bungalows – and I was alarmed.  It looked as if the intention was to pull down my hedge to widen the road.  Now, I do not have the detail of where the boundary is, because the deeds are with my solicitor. but I planted that hedge myself on the same line as the original hedge.  It was in very poor condition and we had it uprooted – we received a grant to do so, and had another grant to put in the new one – and we had a trench dug and tons and tons of manure delivered.  To the extent that was possible, that was dropped the length of the trench, but there were a lot of heaps that had to be spread out.  It’s a few hundred yards, and I shifted an awful lot of muck.  And then Russell and I planted the hedge and we watered it for the next couple of years – it was our hedge- and we’ve had it cut back and cared for as necessary ever since.  It’s personal.  It’s more than just a hedge to me and, if I sound sentimental about it, I am.

When the plans were put in for the development opposite this hedge, which is the boundary for our front field, the people next door objected that there was a plan for a new pavement which went in front of their hedge, over a piece of grass that they’ve always looked after.  They thought the pavement should be on the other side of the road.  I didn’t take that seriously as I reckoned there wasn’t room – it would be fine to put one there but then they’d just need to take the same land opposite for the widened road.  However, when I finally worked my way through the dreadful website, it had a line on my side of the road and it said – or appeared to say – that the hedge would be removed and a new one put in.  I panicked and, as I said, wrote to my councillor, whose a very sound chap, whom I know reasonably well.

He’s written back, saying he’s pretty sure that is not intended, but he’ll check tomorrow. Looking again, i realise that it’s possible that it refers to the other side of the road.  There has never been a hedge on the other side of the road, just a grassy bank that’s overgrown with brambles etc, that might look a big hedgy at a glance.  I’m still quite anxious though.  I don’t trust anyone at the council, really.  Though the council tax people are lovely and very helpful.  Oh pah.  I need to spend the next hour or so unwinding or I won’t get any sleep tonight.

First mince pie of the season this morning, in other news.

Z goes up the city, as we say in Yagnub

I’m going to Norwich after lunch, dropping off a piece of china, meeting Weeza and co, hearing Zerlina in her school choir singing at John Lewis, then going home with Dora to babysit Rufus tonight, leaving my car with Weeza as she’s borrowing for the week as Phil needs theirs.  They’re usually fine with just one car and prefer it – they think about when they need to use a car rather than just get in and drive and, of course, it saves a lot of expense.  Phil knows it would be very tempting sometimes to drive to work instead of cycle and, I daresay, the time will come when he can’t bear to cycle 45 miles a day, whatever the weather.  But anyway, he’ll bring me home tomorrow on his way to wherever he’s going – I didn’t really take in the details.

The only bit I’m less than cheery about is parking in the centre of Norwich on a Saturday in December.  I avoid the city as far as possible this month and especially at the weekend.  But I hope that after lunch some people will be going home and it won’t take forever in the queue.  i’ll leave plenty of time, anyway and if I can park unexpectedly quickly then I might even do some shopping.  Anyway, it’ll be good to see the family and I’m looking forward to the babysitting.  Dora says that Rufus talks about me almost as often as he talks about Gus, which is a huge compliment – those two boy cousins adore each other.

Z has a funny feeling that I’ve won….

We visited That London today, to see builders who we hoped might do the job at the flat, and we were bowled over by the loveliness of the flat all over again.  I often feel I’d love to live there, but it’s absurd, it’s far too small and I’m not a city girl at all.  But Tim has just the same reaction to it, it’s quite delightful.

The pub next door has been totally renovated, not before time – though I think that all the pulling around done there has brought about my problems – and it’s now an excellent restaurant, specialising in Creole food.  I’ve meant to eat there for ages but it hasn’t worked out – last time, at the end of October, i’d reserved an hour which was taken up with the extra travel caused by the signal breakdown on the East Angularian line.  Anyway, all went exceptionally smoothly today and we had a most splendid gumbo.  My mother used to make gumbo, with home grown okra, back in the 1960s and I’ve never eaten it since, but this was damn good.

We duly discussed what was needed with the builders, and have been edged towards a roofer, and hope to discuss matters with him next week.  And we got a train earlier than expected home, having sailed through changes on the underground – as we arrived on the platform, so did the Tube train, it was most fortunate.  So it’s been a good day overall.  I made omelettes for supper and we’ve been singing ever since, and LT has played his guitar.

I know, darlings.  Quite awful, aren’t we?  But it makes us happy.

Z starts shopping

A woman phoned while we were away, asking if we could spare some of our big pine cones.  She was welcome to them, but she didn’t leave her number so I had to wait until she phoned again.

If you’ve visited us, you may have noticed these huge pine cones that are dotted about, wherever they’ve fallen.  My brother in law brought seeds back from North Africa about 50 or 60 years ago and there used to be several of the trees in the garden, although only two are left now.  We’ve often given the cones away, they’re very attractive.  I’ve always understood the trees to be umbrella pines but, having just looked them up, apparently they’re actually stone pines and the rounded shape gives them the colloquial description.  Pine nuts come from their seeds – over here, it needs a very hot summer for them to set seed, but then that’s what we had this year.

She phoned again a few days later, and came over to pick them up on Monday.  She wants to use them as a decorative project at a local museum.  She was lovely, we had a very enjoyable chat, though I was given more advice on several matters, ranging from a tree to buy to inheritance tax planning, than I usually am given within half an hour of meeting someone in a social setting.

I haven’t done more from the to-do list today, I don’t think, though i have ordered quite a lot of Christmas presents.  Mail order (internet mail, that is nowadays, of course) or local is all I can do nowadays.  I am going to Norwich at the weekend, as it happens, but that’s for a different purpose, which includes lending my car and babysitting too; both of which are a pleasure, of course.

Tim cooked a particularly delicious mushroom risotto tonight.  There are leftovers, which I have generously suggested might be kept for when he’s home alone on Saturday night.  If he were to look hesitant, then I’d leave him with eggs and take it for myself.


You’ll be so pleased to know that I’ve ticked off two items and done a third that hadn’t even made it to the List.  Updating the satnav was a bit anxious though – it warns sternly about unplugging it while it’s updating, but it got stuck and nothing was happening, though the ‘Force Quit’ list didn’t have it as unresponsive.  So I ferreted around on the Garmin website and found nothing in the FAQs or the manual, so used the chatline.  And apparently it’s fine to unplug it, it just makes it a bit reproachful; and next time it uploaded the new maps as if it had been looking forward to that all week.  I printed off the manual, by the way, and have found out how to alter a route to the one I want to use, and to tell it how to remember it.  So hah, for the next time we travel south west.

RasPutin, father of the kittens, was – as you may remember – a poor old thing back in the summer.  He vanished for a few weeks and returned painfully skinny with a thin coat, so that I could see his skin through the hair.  It took weeks for him to start to gain weight but finally he recovered (from what, I don’t know) and his coat grew thick again and he grew plump.  How plump, I only realised today, when I went to the porch door to find Eloise cat sitting right by it, on the outside.  I had to chivvy her away to open it.  I saw her fixed gaze and I thought it was Rose and Lawrence’s cat Chip, who’s a big, long haired tabby that Eloise cat dislikes.  But it wasn’t; it was RasPutin.  He walked away and I realised how fat he’s become.  Honestly, his tum was so rotund that, if I hadn’t known he was a tom, I might have thought he was a pregnant queen.  We suspect he’s being fed all round the village, because what I give him isn’t enough for that and I don’t think he’s got that rotund by eating mice.  He clearly fancies coming in the house – and he can think again.  No.

Z ghosts her satnav

I came over all purposeful this morning and started a to-do list.  I’ve only got a few things on it and nothing that I jolly well know I’ve got to do, like get ready for Christmas – erk – or anything in the least worrying, more in the nature of sort out bamboo canes and take back library books,  but it’s still made me anxious.  I’m trying to identify now what it is that’s worrying me.  Maybe it’s simply December that’s the culprit.

Having said that, I’m doing rather well this back-end of the year.  Usually, I am running half empty during the winter months, but I feel quite with it, so far.  Although yesterday, as we left Reading, Tim had to point out that the lights I was slowing down for were actually green.  It got better once we were on the motorway.

Being an East Angular woman, I don’t drive on motorways that often – and never so much as since LT and I got together – so I don’t know them enormously well, but the A1M does seem to be a rather pleasant one of its kind; in that we’ve never been held up by the traffic.  It’s occasionally slowed down but never stopped and it’s usually 70 mph all the way.  So we’ve abandoned the M11, much to the dismay of my satnav.  You’d think she’d twig fairly rapidly that I’m ignoring her, but she begs me to reconsider for miles.  It’s shorter, it’s often quicker, so no.  Even if the apparent journey is faster, it’s also more miserable and there are often hold-ups that aren’t known about until it’s too late to change.

I must add another item to the to-do list.  Check out how to do custom journeys for the satnav.

You might wonder, by the way, why I bother to turn on the satnav for a journey I know.  It’s for two reasons – first, for the traffic reports and second, so that I know how far it is until the next junction.  Then I can position myself to the right lane or the one next to it in good time.  I like to be prepared.  It’s the sort of organised  Z that I am.  In some respects.

Driving on

We’ve been down to Reading and back, and Tim has had his MRI scan and we’ll be home here – as opposed to home there – for the next month.  Weeza is happily planning the Christmas celebrations – she reminds me of me, really, I used to go to endless trouble over it all when my children were young too.  All my children are good cooks and hospitable, and that makes me very happy.  I got that right, at the least.

Eloise cat is very pleased to see us, especially Tim.  She’s been sitting on him, whenever he’s been available, much of the day.  She tends to come to me more at night, because I’m usually awake.

We’re planning a few changes around the house.  Mostly, it’s the change of use from one of the spare bedrooms to a dressing room, though that involves the choosing and buying of wardrobes – and probably the assembling of them too – which is going to be some effort.  And there’s an alcove in the dining room which, until 90 years ago, housed a cupboard staircase and, for the last 30-something, hasn’t done anything much.  I think we’ll have to make shelves for that, because we can store stuff there.  It’ll mean moving the wind-up gramophone, though. I’m not sure where to, yet.