Monthly Archives: May 2020


Seeing some of the family was just what I needed and have missed for the past couple of months and more. I had done some shopping for Weeza – not much, but her local supermarket has been out of flour for weeks, it was out of fresh ginger and there were no Cheerios. I know they’re a breakfast cereal but I don’t know much about them. Anyway, I was able to buy all of them (our farm shops have always had flour), though the last was bought this morning, when I went to fill up with petrol. Under £1 a litre, so a very different price from when I last filled up three months ago.

I also took half a dozen eggs to Ro and Dora on the way, so finally got my view of the baby, as well as her big brother. If only the highest echelons of government and its few trusted advisors weren’t all really unintelligent, unempathetic men, they might realise that getting the social thing right matters. If people break the rules – and they shouldn’t – it’s because they’re stupid rules. This isn’t party politics, nor even politics, because this blog doesn’t do that sort of thing.

Anyway, it’s been a lovely day.

Last night, I went to put the chickens to bed and discovered one of the missing bantams had returned with three chicks. They are now in a coop. Then Wince was strimming long grass and discovered a clutch of eggs – by the time I got home, Scrabble was brooding them again, so they are all under her in yet another coop. This is all unplanned. Scrabble has about 15 eggs. I don’t suppose she’ll hatch more than half of them, though. And more than half the chicks will be boys and cause yet more heartache. Free range chickens are not an easy option. But still, chicks are cute.

Looking at the open door

Tim ventured out to get more tonic water (and other stuff, but that was what he’d run out of) from the local supermarket yesterday but otherwise, we haven’t been anywhere yet. As Weeza put it yesterday, it’s like the prison doors have been unlocked, but nobody’s leaving! I know some people have rushed out to visit the seaside, friends and so on, but none of us has, yet. Though I am going to meet Weeza tomorrow (I had to ask, because no one wants to take risks with us), which I’m looking forward to very much. It’s very hard, not to have seen any of the family for such a long time. Particularly noticeable because of not visiting Ro and co with the new baby, who has changed out of all recognition in the last two and a half months. From having been a little thing, just under six pounds in weight (she was nearly four weeks early and Dora is tiny herself, shorter and slighter than I am), she is now robust, with chins and a fat tum!

Babies come in fat or thin and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything for their childhood size. My three were all fat babies and so were Dilly’s, but Weeza’s were thin and so was Rufus. All three of my children and all seven grandchildren were breast fed, so not overfed formula, and they all grew up slim. I’ve got a lovely picture of Squiffany with her chubby ankles falling over her shoes, when she was about fifteen months old, but she’s a slender teenager now and just naturally grew out of her baby chubbiness.

I so miss baby chubbiness.

Happy 50th, Rose!

Another anniversary: last year was the blog party. We’re so sorry that we can’t see you this year and we have no idea when we’ll meet again. It’s also Rose’s birthday and her Dave (Lawrence)’s last day alive. She came home briefly, left again for the hospice and he died in the night. Lovely man, complex personality, brilliant mind and a stalwart friend. He is missed.

We hold our friends in our hearts and we keep going regardless, such is the pace of life. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone at this bewildering time, but I hope that none of us finds out.

I’m not being morbid any more. Back to today. I planted out most of the seedlings I’d been nurturing in the greenhouse. The lettuces that had been lovely young plants have been pecked thoroughly by the chickens – I’d netted them for a week or two, but needed the netting for the young spinach. I hoped the chickens wouldn’t bother, but the little buggers did. So now I’ve put fleece over everything that might get attacked by any birds (there are a lot of pigeons and d’oves here too). We have kale, beans, chard and courgettes and I will plant out sweetcorn tomorrow and cucumbers and squashes next week.

Having had Zoom quizzes with the family for several weeks, we decided just to get together and chat today. And that was lovely and also interesting. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that Al, who is a postman, is living in a separate area of the house from the rest of the family. I had thought that it was the arrangements in the sorting office that influenced his decision but, in fact, it’s the incoming post. It arrives so quickly from all over the world. A parcel from Australia, in 24 hours, will have been handled several times in different airports and at least one depot, by who knows whom? The risk from his fellow posties is small but that from the post itself is random and unknown; though probably still small. He’d just feel too awful to bring it in to the family, so is taking the safety first approach. They do get together in the garden, in this lovely weather, though.

I was going to make asparagus soufflé but, in the end, made cheese soufflé with asparagus on the side. Paul the Fish is calling tomorrow and I looked for a fish’n’asparagus combo in all my cookbooks and drew a blank. So I’ll have to make something up. I still have two bunches of asparagus. I could make soup and freeze it, but the freezer is so full that I’m sorely tempted to buy a second one. Resisting by the skin of my teeth (???? seriously bemusing, that one) so far, but it’s not impossible.

Chicks better scurry

Amazingly, Foster has managed to hatch a chick which has survived. She needed a bit of encouragement though.
I went out this morning, fed and let out the hens and fed Polly Garter and her chick. When I checked Foster, I could hear a cheeping from under her, so I went back to the house to ask for LT’s help. The chick was wandering about when we returned so Tim held the lid and I picked up mother and baby and put them in the coop.
Later, Foster was still more focussed on sitting on the eggs than warming up her baby, so I had to tuck the chick under her. That did the trick and all has been well since.
it’s a nuisance to have two hens, each with one chick, but never mind. Polly Garter and Foster are happy and the chicks are alive.
Wince turned up this morning and he’s done an incredible amount of work. Mostly mowing, but he also put heaps of muck down, ready to plant squash plants into. I started mulching all around and he spent his final half hour finishing the job. Tim and I also dealt with the tubs and pots near the door, removing old compost and replacing it, ready to plant out the summer flowers that I’ve been bringing on in the greenhouse. A cold night is forecast but, I hope, it’ll be the last. Planting out over the next few days, followed by watering and weeding for several months. Gardeners are masochists at heart.

Z of a thousand words

There are various memes going about on Facebook at present and, if I’m tagged, I tend to go along – though if it’s a ‘pass it on’ thing, I don’t – so I’ve been putting down music and books at present. I’ve also been invited to write about favourite films, which I haven’t done yet, though I probably will, mainly because I can say why and am not invited to do a picture without an explanation.

I’m quite wordy, I realise. If a picture paints a thousand words, I’ll probably go with the words. This isn’t a boast, just how it is. I remember once at school, we were asked to do a piece on Brazil. I dutifully wrote a page of information. I’ve no idea what I wrote, but it wouldn’t have been laboured, I wasn’t a dull writer. Another girl took three felt pens at the last minute, did a few sweeps and wrote “Amazon parrot” – and it was, she had a gift and it was very good. But it took her seconds and my hour of work got a lower mark than her casual nothing and, I’m sorry to say, I resent the teacher to this day. Not that I can remember which teacher it was.

But there. Never mind. The most recent book I’ve read is called The Huntingfield Paintress, by Pamela Holmes and it engrossed me. Huntingfield is a village not far from here and I didn’t know that, back in the 1850s and 60s, some beautiful ceiling paintings were done by the Rector’s wife. There were also stained glass windows and wood carvings done at much the same time and, though little is known about the Rector and his wife, Pamela has written a book with the imagined story.

Someone chose it for our book club book and we were going to visit the church next month, because the decorations have been looked after carefully for the last 150 years. But that’s not on for now. One day, it might happen. I don’t say better than ‘might’ nowadays, though I do allow myself to wish.

Lovely spring vegetables now. Yesterday’s order from Simon included new potatoes, asparagus, broad beans, cos lettuce, radishes and strawberries, all of them local. The taste is quite different from the stuff grown all the year round, probably hydroponically, certainly forced and vaguely disappointing. But I appreciate all vegetable and fruit growers and don’t mean to knock them. Still, it’s getting to the really good times now. Not that I’ll be buying much in the summer, because we grow it – lots of plants waiting until after tomorrow night, when 1ºC is forecast and that undoubtedly means a ground frost. Z is too old not to have learned a modicum of sense.

My new battery-driven strimmer arrived the other day. I don’t expect it to do lots but the gentle trimming I ask of it is keeping us so much less ragged than usual. I miss Wince a lot but I’m going to make it tacitly clear that we’re not falling apart and can cope, when he eventually feels able to turn up. I wonder if it’ll be tomorrow. Hope so. There’s rather a lot of grass to wallow through. Not the lawn and smaller areas though, I’ve done that too.

Whether the weather…

It must have been the downturn in the weather, which has been chilly and windy. I’ve had a couple of tricky days and have lain low.

The bantam Polly Garter managed to hatch two chicks but only looked after one, so the other died. I don’t think any of Foster’s will hatch. Odds are that the baby is a boy, but there we go. We’ll hopefully look after the little thing and call it her until the sex becomes clear. I suspect we’ll get more chicks from at least one wannabe mummy who’s laid away and I don’t actually need more chickens anyway. I have a couple of friends who’d be glad of any surplus.

The family Zoom quiz is tomorrow afternoon rather than Wednesday evening this week. I can’t remember why the change of day, but the time is because Al gets up so early. Wink is the host this week and she put us on the spot, asking us each to choose a subject to ask questions on while we were chatting on Wednesday. I found myself saying we’d go for Olympic cities. I know, darlings, I can’t understand myself either. Though I do prefer to ask questions on subjects I know nothing about rather than answer them and receive ones on something I’ve heard of, at least. Young Zerlina is setting the questions for her family’s round on Music. I’ve a distinct feeling that we will get zero points there. There’s one on leaves, one on pictures and another on the human body. Can’t do much boning up (oh, the wit. You see what I did there?) on any of them.

At least I’m confident about the song of a skylark now. But that won’t be asked.

A reprieve

Rose and I took the three young cockerels to the farm to be despatched, a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if I mentioned it, we were very upset but it was my fault for keeping them too long. They were lovely birds, but one of them went for Jenga, their father, who is coming up for five years old now and Jenga came off worse. Jenga is Rose’s pet and he has to come first; besides which, the Sage’s rule was that, when you needed a new cockerel, you brought in a fresh bloodline. So the boys had to go.

David and Jo looked dismayed, they are terribly busy during the lockdown. But they’re also immensely kind and said they’d deal with the cocks. Today, Rose went to shop at the farm and talked to Jo – the lads are alive and well and happy with their clusters of wives. Jo and David didn’t have time to despatch them on that day, so just let them out and, well, it drifted. When they did have time, they didn’t have the heart because everyhen was happy.

Beautiful weather again today and I’ve been quite energetic in the garden. As a result, I’m too tired to think now and I’ll go to bed soon. Which is absurd, it’s only quarter to nine, but I’ve been awake since four-something this morning and that’s absurd too. I believe that, the busier I am, the better I’ll sleep but that just shows I don’t learn from experience.

Tim and I have been telling each other shaggy dog stories. As long as we can still giggle…..


There have been flypasts to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, but we had a better flypast, I think. We were sitting reading when I heard birdsong. Very loud birdsong and I was sure I recognised it. I ran out to see a pair of birds circling low over my head, and they spiralled up and up until they disappeared. I checked my birdsong app and I was right; they were skylarks.

I haven’t heard skylarks for some years and they’ve always been high in the sky. Lovely to have them so close – and goodness, they have really loud voices.

I didn’t do any mowing because I weeded the long bed between the drive and the wall instead. A lot of nettles, deadnettles, dandelions and goosegrass and, unfortunately, some brambles too. I’ve nearly finished but I’ll complete the job tomorrow and top dress the bed with manure.

The second highlight of the day was the coq au vin we had for dinner. One of our favourite places to have lunch is a farm shop on the road to Norwich. They have Jersey cows and let their calves stay with the mothers, there are various birds strutting about – peacocks, geese, ducks, guinea fowl and so on – and they have Large Black pigs, chickens and I don’t know what else. Since the lockdown, they’ve increased the range of what they sell in the shop, so I’ve been able to get yeast and various flours that I couldn’t get elsewhere. It’s the first anniversary of them opening their restaurant, so they decided to do takeaway meals. There were pulled pork rolls, falafels, fishcakes or coq au vin, with appropriate vegetables; to be booked in advance for a timed pick-up slot. I was the last customer as it happened, because we don’t tend to eat until at least 8 o’clock and they were serving until 7.30.

The sweet girl who served me said that she had worked since 7 o’clock this morning. The country seems to be divided between those who have little to do and those who are working absurdly long hours. I am in the former camp so spend all I can to make the hours worthwhile for the others. But actually, the £10 per head was a steal. We’ve eaten about half the food and have both casserole and vegetables enough for another day.

I’m not too good at the clapping, cheering or celebrating stuff, I’m afraid. I know it helps many people but, in times of stress, I tend to withdraw into myself. Being cheerful and reasonably positive is an achievement and, sometimes, an effort. So I’m glad I don’t live somewhere that my absence would look like a pointed statement, because it wouldn’t be, but I’m too far off the road to be noticed, one way or the other.

Z and LT sleep LIKE TOPS. Not that I quite know how tops sleep, but you know what we mean

Well, I’ve bought a cordless strimmer. Cordless in both senses, as it happens – battery driven and it has plastic cutters rather than a cord. It’s only for the lightest work, but that’s all I want it for. Wince is great in many ways, but he doesn’t see patches of weeds until they’re on the point of seeding and I will just quietly deal with them.

Rose and I were both doing some work in the veg garden this morning, so we asked her to have lunch with us in the garden. Though we live next door and share a drive and a laundry room, we are behaving as two separate households, which we are. Still, with appropriate distancing, we can be sociable and it’s lovely to have a chat and enjoy some company. After the work in the garden yesterday – we finished the lawn – and a lively Zoom chat with the family last night, Tim and I slept wonderfully soundly and didn’t wake until nearly 9 o’clock, which is absurdly late for us.

This afternoon, I did some weeding, whilst listening to the Radio 4 tribute to Tim Brooke-Taylor, which I’d downloaded on Sounds. Giles Coren, in The Times, had an anecdote about him – he’d been friends with his son when they were both children. One day, the boys had a sort of pillow fight, except with books. Mild-mannered Tim stormed into the room, furious with them both. “What would your father say if he knew you’d been throwing books about, eh?” Tim’s son replied that Giles would get a good beating. “Oh. Well, he’d better not find out about it then.” And the incident was over. Giles clearly adored him and it sounded as if everyone who knew him did too.

I only weeded about a tenth of the bed, but I’ve got a barrowful of weeds. It is the worst tenth, though. When I was going past Polly Garter’s coop, I saw that she was sitting out in the open. I checked the eggs and none of them had hatched and she was back on the eggs when I looked again. I have no idea if any chicks will arrive. Foster is also sitting but she’s been off a couple of times. I’ve put food and water within reach of each of them. Yesterday was the earliest the chicks might have hatched but last year, Scrabble kept us waiting nearly a week extra. So we’ll wait and see. I don’t especially want more hens and will give surplus away.

The strimmer will arrive on Monday. I will mow those paths through the grass tomorrow and sow runner beans too. Woo hoo. We make our own excitement around here.

Z finds an Urchin

A couple of nights ago, when opening the door to invite Eloise cat in – “Eloise, prettiest of cats, darling cat whom I love with all my heart, would you care to come in now?” is what she likes to hear – I surprised a hedgehog ambling over the paving. I went to get it some cat food on a plate, but it had gone by the time I returned. But I put the food out anyway and, next morning, it had vanished. This morning, most of the previous evening’s food had gone, which I took as a good sign because a fox or a cat or a rat would have eaten all of it.

I am getting daily emails from the local hedgehog sanctuary about looking after hedgehogs at this time of the year and I should actually read them, because I don’t know if I’m doing it any favours at a time when they should be able to find worms and so on. I will, I will…tomorrow.

My order from the garden centre arrived, so I’ve potted up the 40 bedding plants it contained. I’ll put them in tubs and borders in a week or two, when they’ve grown a bit. I was going to plant out veggies but the wind was a bit keen, so I mowed the lawn instead. Wince the gardener is nervous of coming, he thinks he isn’t supposed to. It would be fine as there’s plenty of room for him to work without coming into close contact with anyone but he applies rules strictly and I wouldn’t worry him for anything. So I’m mowing what grass I can. The lawn didn’t look that long but two lengths filled the box and two boxfuls filled the barrow, which LT emptied. After a strenuous half hour, I hadn’t done much more than a third. I won’t leave it to get so long again – though I’m sure Wince will be back in a week or two anyway.

Ach. Rambling post. I’ll get back to my book in a minute. Having finished the Hilary Mantel, I’ve gone on to one of my book club books, having had a fail so far on the March one. I will read them both, as well as the others I’ve bought, of course. I still buy books as if I read several in a week, though now it takes me days to read any of them. I don’t know why this is. Speed of reading, concentration, no longer becoming engrossed, being more engaged by real life than by fiction, other distractions – or possibly all of these things? Anyway. The present book is A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.