Monthly Archives: May 2020

Lost and found 1

I’m not sure how the subject came up, after dinner. Tim and I chat and one thing leads to another. It was something to do with pocket money and the buying of records and that I couldn’t because I didn’t receive pocket money.

My parents were quite well heeled when I was a child and they were generous and I certainly could have received pocket money, except for one wretched child called Bob the junior conman. My sister took the school bus from the age of five, which called at the bottom of the drive up to the hotel my parents ran. Our father took her down the drive on the back of his motorbike. Helmets were not involved in 1953. Once Wink was a schoolgirl, she was given pocket money, which was hers to spend without supervision – there was a little village shop and garage at the bottom of the drive where she could go and buy sweets or a comic while she waited for Daddy and the motorbike.

After a few weeks, it was noticed that she never had anything she might have spent her money on. She didn’t mention it until delicately questioned when, wide-eyed with anxiety, she told our parents all about *poor* Bob. He sat next to her on the bus and let her know all about the poverty of his family, they had nothing to eat and dressed in rags and…..kind, gullible Wink handed over her pocket money every week.

Once this deception had been uncovered, Wink was never entrusted with pocket money again. More importantly, non-gullible Z, who was taken to school by car as there wasn’t a bus, wasn’t given any either.

This is the preamble, darlings. I don’t seem to have touched on the substance of the post yet. I’ll add 1 to the title and come back to it tomorrow.

Z is helped. That is, Z will be helped.

Now that the fence all down the drive is in place, it has to be painted with wood preservative. I checked the shed, because I knew I had some, and found it was just one big tub, 5 litres, which would certainly be nowhere near enough. The local shop where I bought it isn’t open at present, so I checked online and found that the price has risen startlingly. I finally found a 20 litre, I think it is, tub that is still nearly double what the other cost, but was the best value. The date I was due to receive it was 8th-10th June and I actually got it yesterday. I nearly didn’t buy it because it would take a fortnight to come rather than the day it actually took. When it was delivered, it was left outside the porch door and I meant to carry it indoors. I couldn’t lift it. Nor could Tim when he tried. It’s not the weight, but the awkwardness of the wire handle, but it will certainly be decanted into smaller tubs.

I’ve a lovely friend in the village who, when I mentioned the intention on Facebook, cheerfully offered to come and help. She is one of the best and nicest people I know and she meant it. I’d call on her if I were in trouble, that’s how much I think of her. I’m not a great caller-on, this is a bigger thing than it sounds. Anyway, next week we will get started. I have already looked out my old and scruffiest trousers to ruin and have a ditto dress in case it’s just too hot to work in trousers.

Once that is done, there are a lot of other fences and sheds and so on to paint. They were all done about three years ago but I’ve been noticing that they’re due another coat. So being home, unable to visit the places I’d like to go to this summer, does at least mean that I have no excuse to neglect this sort of thing. I won’t let C. know this of course, imposition goes only so far.

I have asked my friendly local builders to come and paint the gable end at the front of the house, too, as well as soffit boards and so on. I can’t manage the job myself, it’s too high up, especially as some repairs to the woodwork are needed. I do have some scaffolding, if it’s required. This was left behind several years ago after a job was done and, though I reminded the people two or three times, they never picked it up. So I’ve taken pity on it and given it a good home.

Which reminds me, the barn cats didn’t turn up for breakfast or tea yesterday. I wasn’t worried exactly, I supposed they’d had a good night’s hunting, but usually at least one comes along to make sure I don’t forget to put food out. Two of them have visited today, so that’s all right. I’d have worried by now, however needlessly. I’m putting out food and water for hedgehogs too. Not that cats know cat food is actually hedgehog food, but I’m putting it right outside the house door, where they’re too timid to come. It vanishes by the morning, so I hope it’s hedgehogs. It’s so very dry, they will struggle this year.

Z wants to go back

The conversation ranges at dinnertime with LT and me and we were talking about restaurants and it came to Glasgow, which we’d both visited some years ago – the circuitous route isn’t relevant, so I won’t go into those details, but it then turned to museums and art galleries, and those we’d visited that we dearly want to go to again.

My top place goes to the Burrell Collection. I don’t often have an absolute favourite, but I do here. If you’ve never been, do. Just go. When it opens, booking will be necessary and so on and Lord knows when any sort of normal life will resume, but go. It is the best museum I have ever been to and I had one morning there and would have gone back every day of my Scottish visit, if I could have. I blogged it at the time and I’ll look and put up a link to the post at the end.

Another one is the Kröller-Müller museum in the Netherlands. An art gallery with an amazing collection of van Goghs and other artists and a sculpture garden, with a park that you can cycle round on borrowed bikes.

There’s the Last Invasion Tapestry in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire in Wales. I’ve been there twice and could visit any day. It’s upstairs in the council office and you go through the library to get there. It’s a community project. It’s wonderful. You see something clever and witty and new every time. I can’t recommend it enough.

During lockdown, Ronan completed a jigsaw that I’d bought him on that Dutch trip, which was just so damn difficult that he had given up at the time. It’s the Panorama Mesdag, in The Hague. This is (I blogged this at the time too) a circular painting of the beach at Scheveningen in 1881. It was one of those things that you don’t have high expectations of, so its fabulousness is a greater surprise than you expect. Saying Scheveningen is a test of your Dutch pronunciation, by the way. Mine isn’t great but it’s better than most English people, because I had Dutch au pairs to teach me and I was a mimic. Rubbish at vocabulary, good at pronunciation.

Here are the posts about the Burrell

So there we are, darlings. Not the most prestigious galleries but some of the most enjoyable and quirky. More are coming to mind as I write, so this subject will be returned to, I am sure.

Z levels up

In the bottom picture of yesterday’s post, you might have noticed a small galvanised trough full of water. You might even have observed that it was brimful. This has been a nuisance because it has overflowed constantly on several occasions in the last three or four years. We’ve shored up one end, tied the ballcock at the feed-in end, bent the bar holding the ballcock (Jonny the farmer did that, it was beyond my strength and even LT’s) and it only helped for a while. But the tank needed to be cleaned out anyway, so Wince the gardener kindly bucketed out the water, I having tied up the ballcock (I do hope everyone knows what that is and doesn’t think I’m being rude. While we’re about it, don’t you think that cockchafer is the Best Bug Name Evah?) and then I tipped it on one side to scrub and rinse it.

It turned out that it wasn’t possible to add bricks at one corner to build it up, as I’d planned, but I was able to remove a piece of concrete slab from the highest corner to lower that end instead. This seems to have sorted it out, though it’s still got a higher water level than I really want. Anyway, I’m pleased to have it done, though I smelt a bit funky for the rest of the day. I said to Wince, it reminds me of the river mud I used to frolic in as a child. I didn’t mind the smell, though it was just as well Tim isn’t here to be obliged to politely not notice.

My usual keenness over cooking has escaped me. I’ve had cheese for lunch and a thrown-together meal in the evening. Tonight’s was straight out of the freezer, in fact; salmon and roasted vegetables left over from a meal before lockdown. When Tim is away, I eat the single portion leftovers I’ve frugally frozen, but he’s not been away for nearly three months and several of them are languishing there. I’m genuinely considering buying an everyday freezer and putting the big chest one down in the workshop, even though I know that would be really stupid.

I don’t think freezers are very well designed, in truth. Upright ones hardly hold anything, whereas with big chest freezers, most stuff gets lost in the bottom. I haven’t got a better design myself, though there should be one.

Scrabble is still sitting and the coop awaits her and chicks. Neville, who is putting up the new fence, found a clutch of three eggs yesterday and showed them to me. I thought I’d leave them, to see if a bantam is laying there currently. She is. Today, there are four. I’ll mark them tomorrow and start taking one every day. I really don’t want more chicks. It’s not exactly a lot of work, but it is a good deal of bother. I can find homes for surplus chickens, that’s not the problem, though surplus cockerels is and there are always more boys than girls.

Eloise cat has spent the night and day in her crate, except for a few times when I’ve let her out into the room. She doesn’t walk more than a few steps and that’s at a hobble. I have little hope that it’s just a strain. Unless there’s a marked improvement over the weekend, I’ll phone the vet on Monday and ask to be booked in with the specialist.

I also did some weeding in the front garden, which always comes last in the pecking order. I weeded until I was bored, strimmed away some weeds until I was bored, and so on. I have a very low attention span, but quite a lot was done in half an hour. I’m pleased with my battery-driven strimmer. It’s a girlie’s tool really, it has a plastic ‘blade’ instead of a spool but the battery lasts well and I can’t manage the weight of a petrol one. I’m happy to be a girlie, albeit a very old one.

Eloise is finally pawing away in her litter tray. She has lasted for 36 hours without using it. Cats are fine using one after the first time, but can hang on for ages initially.

Z gives the good news first

Let’s start with the good news, because we all need to tell each other what’s good. This is all what’s taking place in this little neck of the Zedery woods, which probably washes right over your concerns, but let’s be cheerful, darlings, whenever we can manage it.

LT has gone down to his house in Reading. It’s nearly 3 months since he was last there, his neighbour has kept an eye on the place, his gardeners have kept it tidy and all has been okay. But he’s felt the need to visit and, besides, his insurance policy stipulates that the house shouldn’t be empty for more than three months. He has taken all the food etc he needs and will only leave the house for his morning newspaper.

I have done a lot more gardening, mostly planting out. Only some sunflowers and tomato plants to go, plus a few seeds to be sown. Although it’s so dry, as I was saying yesterday, that I don’t know if seeds will germinate. I did see the first runner bean seedlings have come up, though.

Being busy outside is getting me through this. I know I can overthink and so what if I do? It’s only me with the sleepless nights. However, getting on with digging, planting, cooking, caring for plants when I’ve wanted to care for my family, it’s a help. I have seen all my children over the past week, which has also helped immensely.

The new fence alongside the drive is almost finished. It’s a wooden railed fence rather than wire and the posts are on the drive side so that, if cattle push against them, they are on the stronger side and it won’t collapse. I’ve got a new hardwood gate and the one I bought a few years ago is being repositioned, to make a way through behind the vegetable garden so that deliveries are easier.

Ro has kindly upped the upload limit so that I can post photos again.

Dry grass. It’s not usually this dry in August.
Across the field
A barnful of wood
From the doorway
The new fence
And the new gate. It doesn’t look like £500sworth, but it’s hardwood, unlike the last one
The last of the wood, waiting to be split

The chimney sweep sent a message today, so I’ve booked him for early August. Then the Aga service chap phoned and he’s coming next week. All very nice and normal.

However, the day fell apart rather at about 9.30, when Eloise cat mewed to be let in. She has her teaspoon of homemade yoghurt with our breakfast – she won’t touch bought yoghurt – and then goes out. When LT left, he said to give Eloise her love and he’d be back by the weekend. I passed on the message, to be met by sad, pain-filled eyes. She was limping. I panicked and phoned the vet at once.

You may remember that she ruptured the cruciate ligaments in her left hind leg a year ago. Now, she might well have done the other leg. I have put her in her cage and the vet has advised to let her out to walk, three times a day, to see if it improves with painkillers and rest. If not – and he found movement (in a bad way) in the joint, she’ll need another operation. Last year was £2,000 (plus x-ray and checkups) and a month in the cage, followed by a fortnight indoors. But there. It’ll either improve in a few days or we all need to cope with it again. She is the most expensive pet I’ve ever had, who’d think it of a moggy? But we both adore her.

The good news is, our care over her diet has paid off. She has lost a kilo in the last six months and only has another pound to go.

Z in the garden

I went to dig the weeds out of a flowerbed, because I’ve a number of plants needing a home. Alongside the Wall and against the drive, the larger bed is fairly established now but the other one, which is about 20 foot by 6 foot, still needs some planting up. It is, I discovered, incredibly dry for this time of year. A rose bush that had young leaves and flower buds has quietly dried up. I hope it will survive but I’m not at all sure. Irises are doing well and so is a rosemary and a lavender, as well as a clematis and a few other things, but it’s desperately dry overall. I walked down the drive later and took photos of the Ups and Downs on the way back. The new fence has been taking ages, so cattle have not yet been put on. There’s not much point now; the ground is dry and the grass has died off (rain will change that, you don’t kill grass roots that easily).

I’m watering and mulching, but it’s going to be hard on plants unless we have a wet summer, which brings its own disappointment, of course.

I spent some time mending one of the chicken coops, because Scrabble is sitting on a lot of eggs and I haven’t got anywhere suitable for her to go, if and when she hatches any. I knew, but hadn’t taken into account, how incredibly maternal these bantams are, when I decided to raise a few chicks last year. They keep laying away and hiding until the chicks hatch or are nearly ready to – when I haven’t the heart to disappoint the mummy – and I have yet another coop of chicks to look after. Anyway, I’m now nearly prepared for Scrabble’s brood, assuming there is one. I’ll finish getting it ready in the morning.

The other domestic preparation is the massive amount of firewood being cut up. There were a lot of trees near the river that have been neglected for quite a while, with the result that remedial work was required. I’m told that the total will be some 35 tonnes/tons of wood stacked in the barn.

I’d show you pictures, but I keep being told that the images are bigger than this blog allows. They’re just bog-standard phone photos, so I can’t think why, as I used to be able to upload them. Sometimes, I think I should just go back to Blogger – yet I don’t trust Blogger either. Anyway, darlings, imagine it. A workshop that’s at least 12 foot by 9 and around 10 foot tall, full to ceiling height. When we start removing logs, I trust there won’t be a landslide.

Common Sense? Perhaps

It’s young Hadrian’s birthday tomorrow but, as it’s a Bank Holiday today, this is when they’ve been celebrating. His father is working long hours tomorrow and wouldn’t get home until all the fun was over.

They visited us today, first time we’ve seen each other for many months. Possibly the first time this year, I’m not sure. We did visit them over Christmas but we hadn’t expected this long hiatus so there hadn’t been a sense of great urgency. Anyway, it was wonderful to see them. We met in the garden – Al is being very cautious because he doesn’t feel his workplace is very safe – but not in a park because it’s more secluded here. The wise and sensible (you see the tongue parked in my cheek?) government says that we shouldn’t meet in our own gardens, however big they are, because some gardens can only be accessed through the house, where cleaners and possible buyers or maybe builders, decorators or other workmen/women can visit but not family members. But we can use our common sense if we listen to the Prime Minister, or maybe not. Anyway, we kept our distance, patiently, and Hay seems pleased with his Fitbit.

Talking to my families, they’re all being so healthy and active. LT and I are healthy and busy but not as active as, perhaps, we should be. We’re busy doing gardening and housework and stuff but running or route-marching is another matter. I tried planking, out of curiosity and it’s surely the most boring non-exercise that exists.

Which reminds me about burpees. I didn’t know precisely what they were, so I looked it up. And discovered, to my absolute joy, that the man who originally came up with them in the 1930s was called Royal Huddleston Burpee. Isn’t that marvellous?

Bog standard

Today we had our weekly, more or less, family get-together on Zoom. Slightly alarmingly, everyone seems to be on a health’n’fitness kick. I’m not against this, obviously, but all the girls were talking about how far and for how long they run nowadays. I just kept schtumm. I mean, I don’t run and I never have – not as in, go for a run. I discovered that the reason was my congenitally dodgy hips when I was in my 50s, which at least explained why I was never as quick or nimble as I should have been and it’s comforting that Weeza can do it, as the condition can be inherited through the female line – that is, any of my children could have it but only Weeza’s children can get it if she has inherited it; which she seems not to have, and not my sons’ children at all.

This makes sense to me but then I know what I mean. Just shrug and move on, darlings, if it’s as clear as mud.

In other news, I bought new lavatory brushes. Ordered on Friday afternoon, they arrived today. Young Hadrian’s birthday present, which is a child’s Fitbit, also arrived – the children are very health and fitness conscious too. That could have turned up yesterday but I agreed all three items should go in one parcel. Sad as I am that Amazon holds sway, the fact is that the Fitbit website offered four working days’ delivery (with a bank holiday, that would have meant next Friday) or two (Wednesday) if I paid £8 extra. Amazon was £20 cheaper with next-day free delivery. Sorry. I do sometimes pay more to give the money to the company itself, but sometimes they don’t seem to deserve it.

Loo brushes, though. How boring is that? The top had broken off the one in the upstairs loo and it was one Russell already owned when we got married in 1973. The downstairs one has gone missing. No idea. That was one abandoned by his mother when she moved out in 1985. So it’s not really an outrageous extravagance. The puzzling thing, though, is that they boast mini tweezers in the handle. Why on earth do you need mini tweezers in a bog brush?

Z doesn’t care for wind

I’d done so much in the garden over the last couple of weeks, which is just as well because it’s come to a dead halt for several days now. It’s been very windy – not necessarily cold, but unpleasant to work in. It’s a drying wind too, I have had to water the vegetable garden to keep everything alive. At least the fleece has kept the worst of the sun and wind off.

The new fence down the drive is nearly finished. It’s taken ages. I don’t think Neville had taken into account the flint and gravel subsoil, which has made putting in the posts a very tough job. The grass on the Ups and Downs hasn’t really grown though, it’s drying out before it’s got long enough to eat. Humpy’s Meadow, the other side of the beck, is better grazing at present – the fields used to have fencing between them but this has been removed. It’s better in many ways; and certainly looks better, but Jonny can’t put cattle on just one field any more. I’m waffling. Most of you won’t know what I’m talking about. But those of you who visit, it will look lovely when you next come over. I wish we could plan that now, but we continue to make the most of what we do have, rather than fret about what we don’t.

I was, however, tempted to talk about places I’d love to visit, whether again or for the first time. Perhaps. It doesn’t really matter. People matter more, innit.

Home learning

I’ve got five school-age grandchildren and one starting school in September. Assuming that happens, that is – but anyway, he will be enrolled in school then. Dilly is a high school maths teacher and we were talking about returning to school, last week. Everyone in our family is dubious about the wisdom of sending the youngest ones in first. The systems are being trialled and it’s not really fair on them. Added to that, many village schools are fairly small and the “bubbles” of pupils and teachers that they are expected to have will be difficult to manage, if all the eligible children go in. If any of the children, parents or teachers in a bubble are ill or have symptoms of illness, everyone concerned will have to self-isolate for a fortnight or until results of tests come back, so many children and parents could be back home soon anyway.

Dilly said that some of her pupils have come on a good deal in the last few weeks and have sent in better work than they usually do at school. I asked if that was some of the quieter ones, who find classroom work with their peers distracting? On the contrary, the ones who are doing best are those who are usually the disruptive ones. Without any friends to impress, they are concentrating on their work, asking for help and appreciating that they get it.

I think that fear of looking small by admitting they don’t know something and fear of failure are factors too. I guess most of us recognise that in ourselves. Dilly says that she is working long hours and giving students as much help as she can and, of course, supporting her three with their home work. Support from schools varies a lot, I gather, even within schools from different teachers.

Weeza is doing most of the home schooling in their family, because Phil is working from home. Each child has an office setup in a separate room and she wafts from one to the other when they need her. She’s finding it hard work but I think the expectation of a routine helps and they get input from the teachers with worksheets, homework and so on. They know they’re working school hours, more or less, so they accept it as a temporary normal without grumbling, it seems. They happily told me of the arrangements, anyway, without making it sound like a dreaded experience. Gus’s primary school is due to reopen in June, though not for his year group. It’s a small school and completely unsuitable for the demands made by the government and the need for parents and staff to feel it’s a safe place. I wonder how many children will go. ‘My’ high school has been open all along for children of key workers, but only five children, of about 850, attend. Of course, if primary teachers have to go to work, their children will have to go to school. Then more secondary teachers will and then their children will be back at school. I wonder if this has occurred to anyone in government at all, that it’s going to become increasingly difficult to manage these bubbles and that support to children at home by their teachers will reduce considerably.