Monthly Archives: January 2020

Z has lunch

We were on our way home from Norwich at 12.30, so decided to stop for lunch at a local farm café. This is an interesting set-up. Only three years ago, the owners started a small herd of Jersey cows. They leave the calves with their mothers for at least six months and only take the surplus milk, which they sell raw and unpasteurised. They also keep chickens for eggs and rare breed pigs. To start with, they had a shed with a couple of fridges and tables and an honesty box. This was always full of change – there must have been £30-worth at least, quite apart from the money from sales, which you were asked to write down in a book. If you bought meat, you might spend £20 or so and just left it in the box.

It seemed to work because they got a bigger shed. Then, last year, they expanded considerably to have a shop and a café. We went in for lunch last November, having shopped there a couple of times, and it was very good. The waiting staff were a bit inexperienced but the place was busy – full and on second sittings by 1 o’clock. We ordered our Christmas goose from them, which wasn’t reared there but at another, named Norfolk farm.

As you drive in, geese, ducks, guinea fowl and peacocks scatter in front of the car. Today, there were a couple of pigmy goats in a paddock, polishing off the remains of a Christmas tree. Goats love conifers. They have planted a field with grape vines, which intrigues us – vines are a lot of work and we wonder if they’re leasing the land or planning to do the work themselves and sell the grapes to a winery.

We had an excellent lunch. I had falafels and Tim had a steak sandwich. We bought some sausages to bring home and I spotted wild rabbits and a hare on the butchery counter. Hares have been struggling with a form of myxomatosis but I’ve been told that they’re overcoming this, around here anyway, and numbers have recovered. So we bought it and I’ll marinade and casserole it. I asked the butcher what the rare breed of pig was? He looked a bit nonplussed. “They\re black ones,” he said. “Um, Berkshires?” I asked, because they’re the only black breed I can name. He didn’t know, though.

We are very well served here for food. There are several good bakeries, though I normally make my own bread. There’s another excellent small farm the other side of Yagnub and the greengrocer has a fridge to sell their meat. Opposite the lovely greengrocer is the wholefood shop, the wet fish shop (and the chippie too) and the deli, which has a range of great cheeses, in particular our local Baron Bigod and St Jude. They also sell Norfolk salami. You can get your own containers refilled with washing up liquid, shampoo and so on at the wholefood shop so you hardly need to go to the supermarket if you don’t want to.

Anyway, what I really came here to write about was our waitress today. She was very much on the ball and efficient. And what I noticed was the way she kept an eye on every table. Tim and I spent some time looking at the menu and the specials board, then the drinks menu. I saw her spot us put them down and sit back. Seconds later, she was at the table to take our order.

I’m sure you all have been in restaurants where the waiting staff never catch your eye. There seems to be a time, usually when you’ve been asked if you want anything more and you’ve said no, when there’s a strange reluctance to bring the bill. However many waiters there are, they’re all focussed on what they’re doing and eyes never go to right or left at all. But the good ones’ eyes are all over the place, however busy they are. They know exactly who might want another drink or need some attention. They don’t bother you but they are right there if there’s anything you need. She was one of those. As I paid, she asked me if we’d enjoyed our meal and I quoted Tim, who’d said his steak sandwich (with salad, red onion relish and aioli) was the best he’d ever had. Later, having fetched our meat and a cauliflower, we went to the shop till. They don’t have someone there all the time but there’s a bell to ring when you want service. Having waited a few minutes, I rang it – and as soon as a diner had paid for her meal, along came our waitress to serve in the shop too. Whatever she’s being paid, she’s worth it and more.

Today, I’ve mostly been making marmalade…

Though I’ve made a loaf of bread too. The Seville orange season gets earlier and earlier – it used to start in the last week in January but now it’s before the mid-point of the month. They’re huge oranges this year too, or Simon’s offerings are anyway. The water didn’t come more than halfway up the oranges in the preserving pan, so I halved them for the second and third batches, which made it much easier. I have nearly 25 jars, which will last the year, especially as there are a few jars left from last year – when I made four batches as we’d run out.

That’s all we’ve done, really. It’s windy tonight, Storm Brendan, apparently, who will be forgettable. I noticed, when I shut up the chooks, that a pane of glass is cracked in their greenhouse. There is netting on the outside but we need to add wire for their safety. I’ve lost too many to foxes and dogs, as well as mink and so on – poor little chickens are easy prey, even though I thought I’d been careful.

As long as I don’t think the roof is going to blow off, I quite like lying in bed listening to the wind and rain. Although I’ve lived here over half my life, the earlier part was spent within earshot of the sea or tidal river and rough weather is strangely comforting, probably because of its familiarity. Our last house was a big old Edwardian former rectory, with lots of sash windows that let in the draught. I used to lie in bed watching the curtains billow from the easterly gales. Or, on still nights, listening to the foghorn.

I rarely went on the beach in the summer, except when the children wanted to – actually, that was quite often, now I think about it. But I didn’t for my own pleasure. It was stormy days, when i’d come in with salty lips from the sea spray that I enjoyed. Winter walks on the seafront and watching lightning forking into the sea on stormy nights was my delight.

And that has nothing to do with marmalade. LT finds it hard to keep up, sometimes. Though he digresses too, which I enjoy. We’re as mercurial as cats, in our way.

Eloise cat

I had no idea about cats, until I had Eloise. She’s sitting on my lap now, which makes typing quite difficult, looking at me, then having a wash, then gazing around. She’s endlessly entertaining to Tim (equally unaware of cats before this) and me and quite unselfconscious as a dog isn’t. She is mercurial – affectionate or not, randomly; and attentive and clinging or disappearing for hours, with no apparent reason for either behaviour. She has quite a vocabulary, which we have learnt to understand and answers, if she wants to, when we speak to her. She certainly greets us verbally in the mornings and answers when we ask a question, as long as it’s sensible one, such as does she want to go out or does she need food? She is utterly adorable and I love her more than I ever thought I could love a cat. I don’t think I’ll ever have another pet. The thought of loss weighs on me too heavily nowadays.

Talking of talking, one of the young pullets had decided to spend the night in a nest box. I reached in to check on the eggs and she gave an indignant yowl, not a chickeny sort of sound at all. I just removed the closest egg and didn’t explore further – I have a couple of pot eggs in there and I didn’t feel I could upset her by investigating which were the bantams’ and which were the decoys. They are real eggs, but bought ones – clay or china eggs are no good; the chickens are perfectly aware that they aren’t genuine, but bought-in eggs, marked with a cross in indelible ink, keep them laying in the same place, for the most part. As far as I know, at any rate. I don’t think a chicken is likely to go broody at this time of the year, but four years ago on the 1st February, a chicken that had gone missing turned up with a clutch of chicks and had to be looked after. I put her in the greenhouse with a coop.

Must eat more eggs…..

I don’t waste food, really. Tim knew that when he married me but I’m not sure he realised the extent of my resolve. For example, the goose we had for Christmas did a number of meals and the bones made stock and that made a few more. At the weekend, I made soup – celery, broccoli and stilton, minestrone. The first two needed vegetable stock so I made it from the trimmings of the vegetables that were the basis of the soup. So even peelings get used.

I wonder if I’m a bit obsessed, sometimes. The sometimes is ambiguous, which is fine. Ambiguous has a lot going for it.

In other news, I played the clarinet for the first time in three months. I’ll be tootling the keys in church tomorrow. It’s a long time since I did that performance standing up because the risk of overbreathing has its follow-on risk that I’ll faint.

Lovely little bantams are still laying like good’uns. Eggs will be the basis of tomorrow night’s dinner. When I lived alone and we had a glut, I ate egg twice a day, but Tim is weirdly reluctant. I don’t count breakfast, you see, he does. Anyway, they are good little girls – and their two smaller cousins are due to start laying by the end of this month.


I don’t usually do this sort of thing. But the awful fires in Australia are unprecedented.
Rachael was a friend of Linda’s, our lovely Ziggi who died four years ago and who we miss so much still. Those of us who read her blog or met her, anyway. If you visited Linda at home, you’ll have seen a marvellous tiger on her wall and that was drawn by Rachael. Rachael is Australian but has lived in this country for a good many years. Anyway, it’s a fiver a pop so, even if you’ve already donated to one of the Australian charities, it’s a good cause that means a lot to her. She’s a lovely woman and a fine artist. You might even win.

And so to bed…

I’ve just got home from my book group – which, until a few years ago, was something I thought I’d never say – and we all agreed that we loved the book that one of us chose. It was The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Armin and we all enthused, which pleased Annie, who chose the book, very much.

The other book I’ve read most recently, it having been a Christmas present from Tim – I finished it today, in fact – was A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles, by Ned Palmer. A stunning amount of research, both in terms of history and the present day, by a real enthusiast with a wickedly dry sense of humour – and our very own local Baron Bigod and St Jude cheeses feature in it.

While I was out, Tim did his annual Christmas card audit. I don’t think he’s posted it on his blog yet, so that’ll be a pleasure for tomorrow.

Z cooks

The young chickens are laying very well. Fortunately, they seem to be happy to lay in the nest boxes at present, probably because the big black hens are off lay and they are a bad influence. Yesterday morning when I let them out of their house, I looked for eggs from the day before and found only one, plus a sitting pullet. I thought that must mean they were laying away – until I looked again before they went to roost and found nine more eggs. Ten in two days must mean that Scrabble and/or Polly are also laying, which is pretty good, but gives us rather a glut of eggs.

Dealing with Christmas leftovers was no trouble, except for the milk. I managed to acquire three milkman’s pints plus a litre from the farm. So, LT being away for the weekend, I cooked myself vegetables in a cheese sauce and made a lot of yoghurt. I then cooked two dishes this week, one of chicken marinaded in yoghurt and one fish baked in the stuff, which used about half of what I had. With the rest of the surplus, I made celery soup and broccoli and Stilton soup, as well as minestrone and that emptied the fridge.

I’ve never been wasteful in the kitchen but I’ve become a lot more frugal in recent times and there’s virtually no food that gets thrown away without full use having been made of it, though I have no hesitation in buying expensive ingredients if I want to. And final leftovers, apart from bones, go to the chickens or the compost heap (which they comb through anyway). I even make stock from vegetable peelings, apart from potato.

Simon the greengrocer has Seville oranges in now, so marmalade is on the list for later this week. I made four batches last year and we’re down to the last few jars.

Good old alcohol for good young Z

My parents weren’t heavy drinkers, but they were regular ones. As I said, wine was normally on the table – they bought Spanish plonk for everyday use, both red and white, in big carafes. Probably the equivalent of wine boxes now. Wine tended to be less strong than it is now and glasses smaller, so the single glass that went with a meal was not all that much alcohol. If friends came for a meal, bottles of good wine were opened, of course.

My mother often used wine in cooking – they’d been early followers of Elizabeth David and were keener cooks than a lot of English people at the time. And, though desserts and puddings were rarely on the table, two of her specialities were trifle, heavily laced with sherry, and lemon syllabub, ditto, and I was allowed them from a fairly early age. I must have been about 14 when a wine glass was put out for me at dinner time. The uncompromisingly dry wine was an acquired taste and I only occasionally accepted a small glass to be grown-up, I can’t say I really liked it for the first year or two though I pretended to. Friends down the road often had pre-lunch parties on a Sunday. When I was smaller, I was given bitter lemon to drink. As my parents never had that at home, I thought it was the height of sophistication. From thirteen or fourteen, I was given sherry. This was probably Harvey’s Bristol Cream, so quite heavy and sweet and very much to my young taste. Two glasses of that and I was rolling home for my Sunday lunch, but it was never remarked upon, so I must have behaved myself.

It never occurred to me that this was at all unusual but I guess it was, relatively, in the mid-1960s, for a young teenager. My father would probably have a gin and tonic before dinner, which my mother disliked, so she would drink sherry. After they’d been to the South of France a few times, he developed a taste for pernod, which I remember because it turned cloudy when water was added. I wasn’t included in that and I’m not sure if I had anything at all. If I did, it would have been ginger ale or fruit juice, I should think.

What was not allowed – not forbidden, it just wasn’t an issue – was drinking any spirits, at least before I was sixteen or so. And as my father died when I was sixteen, they wouldn’t have been served at home after that, though I remember drinking both beer and whisky at friends’ houses. My mother developed severe migraines and one of the triggers was alcohol, so she had to pretty well give up drinking. Life was stressful and gloomy for all of us and sometimes she’d come in and say ‘I’ve had a hell of a day, I need a drink, have a glass of sherry for me”.

As I said, my mother didn’t like gin at all and she thought it was not a suitable drink for ladies, so I didn’t taste it until I was about eighteen. Then I went to some function with a family friend I called Auntie Jane. She firmly told me she was buying me a gin and tonic, clearly thinking it was time I had a proper grown-up drink. I remember having to hold my breath so I couldn’t taste it, to be able to swallow it at all, let alone with an appreciative smile on my face. Of course, a few years later when I tried it again, I couldn’t think what there had been to dislike.

Signed out

Blogger is playing up again. I read a post from Pixie Mum and wanted to comment on it. But it seemed that I wasn’t signed in to my google account. So I sighed, went to my old Blogger blog, found I was signed in there, went back – and no. So I left a comment with my name Z and this website and nothing happened, so I don’t know if it was accepted or not.

I checked various Blogger blogs and I was signed in as Z on some of them and others I wasn’t, including Tim’s, where I couldn’t leave a comment until he opened them up to the hoi polloi. This made no sense at all. I couldn’t do a thing about it. There’s a sign-in link and when I clicked on it, I was signed in and when I went back, I wasn’t. I’ve written to tell them but it’s quite possible it’s just a blip and it’ll be put right.

Anyway, darlings. It’s the sort of wasted half hour or more that makes you feel you’ve achieved nothing all day. But here’s a blog post of sorts.

Tim and I were talking about alcohol, which makes a change from drinking it. My family always had wine on the table at every meal (except breakfast, obvs. That was my grandmother and she came to a sticky end) and I was welcome to a glass from my early teens. That wasn’t Tim’s family experience and I suppose my family took the Continental model.

It was always dry wine and quite uncompromising and I didn’t like it much in those days. No danger of me having more than the occasional glass when i wanted to feel sophisticated/ But I’ll tell you all about my drinking experiences tomorrow, because I’ve realised it may take some time and this post is quite long enough already.

Blog party 2020

It’s the time of year when I start making a tentative approach about a blog party. I’ve just mentioned it on Facebook a few minutes ago and we’ve got four guests already, so in fact we’re probably up to ten or so: therefore it’s on. As ever, you’re most welcome and having a blog doesn’t matter – nothing does except being willing to come to south Norfolk and meet Z, LT and various other lovely people. Most people who came here for the first time knew few, if any of the other guests, and Tim was, many years ago, one of those.

I’ll try to find a suitable date for everyone who’d like to come. As always, you’re very welcome to stay, we’ve got lots of space. All dietary requirements catered for happily, of course. It’ll be between May and July, probably and if you’ve got a preferred date or any to avoid, do let me know.