Monthly Archives: July 2020

Good things

Zain has recognised that he’s on to a good thing. He’s as affectionate as ever and nags me to feed him. First Betty Kitten warmed to him, then Freddy, but Barney, the most timid barn cat, stayed away for a couple of days. This morning, I fed Barney on top of the shed and then this evening, finally, all four cats ate together.

The big brown hen that I call Gladstone didn’t come back this evening. I suspect she’s sitting. I really don’t want more chicks but, if I don’t find her in the next few days, I won’t have the heart to remove her from developing chicks in their eggs. I’ll have a search tomorrow. But, checking at dusk in case she was waiting to go into the greenhouse, I had a look in the coop where I’m putting down food for the hedgehog – and there it was, tucking into dinner. I put a plate of tinned cat food and a raw whole egg every night. It can eat the latter or roll it away to eat later or share with its babies, if it’s a mummy hedgehog.

A friend, who used to live in the village, asked me for suggestions for local places to visit, as friends of hers are going to be in the area next week. This is the good side of Facebook. I could recommend places to eat but I don’t know what other attractions are open. I’ve been given a dozen good ideas, which i’ve passed on. We may well check out a few of them ourselves – booking is usually necessary nowadays, but then you have the reassurance that you won’t arrive and find the place busier than you’re comfortable with.

I really must put up some photos. I think I can work out how to do it. Last time I tried, it wouldn’t let me, but I’ve got a workaround. It was baby granddaughter Perdita’s six month anniversary yesterday. She is so very cute.

Z is still up

I had such a good surprise this morning. I went to feed the barn cats as usual and the three siblings rubbed round my legs and then walked slowly in front of me, intertwining themselves as usual – this makes progress annoyingly slow, but they’re cats and that’s what cats do. They were waiting for me by the food dish when suddenly they all scattered. I hadn’t heard anything, but came along with the scoop of dry food and the tin of meat and suddenly a familiar tabby cat crept out in front of me.

For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, five years ago, a sweet black cat had kittens in my barn. She was struggling to feed them and I didn’t want to get involved but had to in the end. Seeing her pounce on and kill a large grass snake was the final straw. But, once I’d started putting down food, they were my responsibility. I managed to catch all five of them and get them neutered. Mother cat was a darling and wanted to come in the house, but Eloise cat was furious and wouldn’t hear of it. Eventually, she disappeared and I’m sure she found a new home. She was a sweet, loving cat and she deserved a family home. A few months later, she turned up again a couple of times, but I haven’t seen her for about three years. Then, a year or more ago, the friendliest kitten vanished too. I’d been so fond of him, he was brave and protective to his more timid siblings but also loving and let himself be cuddled. I suspected he’d also found a home, but one can never be sure.

But here he was. I recognised him at once. A tabby with quite a lot of black, and with bright green eyes. He tucked into the food – only the tinned food, he wasn’t interested in the dry Go Cat – and the other three had to be fed separately as they were nervous. He came again this evening and this time he wanted to be stroked. He sniffed my hand first, to be sure it was really me. I don’t know if he’ll come back again, but at least I know he’s alive and healthy.

His name is Zain, because Ro’s friend of that name wanted me, if ever I had a boy cat, to call him that name. If I had a female, she would have been Zaina – but Eloise cat was already named when she came to me. So this was next best. I first became especially fond of him when I caught the kittens to be neutered. First, I got mother and three kittens and had to give up on the fourth, but the next day I caught Zain and the last one. Rather than risk losing them both, I kept Zain and his brother in the trap and put it in the car, with the boot lid open, overnight. Next morning, Zain was lying protectively over his scared sibling. He always looked after them but he was never aggressive.

They are all feral cats and I don’t look on them as pets, but I am fond of them and care about them. I still miss the little mother cat. Actually, I loved her and would have really liked to bring her indoors, if Eloise had allowed it.

We let Eloise out for the first time since her operation, as I said we would. She strolled gently outside and sniffed the air, and then walked about checking her territory. She’s had a lovely couple of days. She’s gone upstairs to catch up on her sleep now. I daresay she’ll want to knead us in the middle of the night because that’s when she’s most affectionate. I’m usually awake and glad of the company.

The end of Meals on Wheels

Carrying on with the Meals on Wheels saga, just for the sake of thoroughness.

After I learned to drive, I sometimes took over the delivery round from my mother, because she suffered from frequent migraines after my father died, for the rest of her life. There was always someone else due to do the delivery with her or me, but that person was pretty casual and sometimes made other arrangements and didn’t let her know. So my mother dropped her after a while and it was just the two or one of us. I remember once, when Weeza was a toddler, looking round and seeing her eating a Bonio dog biscuit in the back of the car. She’d found the bag, obviously. They were just wholemeal wheat dog biscuits, nothing to harm her, but my mother was shocked; more because people might have seen than because of the eating of a dog biscuit.

Once Al was born, I had to give it up and then my mother moved house, so she did too. But when I moved here, I volunteered again and used to deliver round the village. There were two sisters, Mrs Greenmore and Mrs Agar, who had been born in this house, the one I live in. This isn’t altogether surprising, there were two families, each with ten children living here back in the 1920s. Mrs Agar was quite a nice old woman, whose house stank of cigarette smoke. Mrs Greenmore was lovely and her house was immaculate. She put a pan of hot water on with a plate on top of it, so that it was warm for the food to go on.

Mrs Agar, after a few years, told us that she was worried that she was losing her mind. Her memory was going and she’d forget things she’d known for years. We tried to reassure her, which was not what I’d do now. I’d listen more and help more. It was the start of Alzheimer’s, I’m afraid, and she ended up going into the local care home in the village called The Elms, which was where our meals came from. They were very good, it was a council-run home and it had an excellent reputation. Mrs Greenmore was fit and well into her nineties. Then, one day, i arrived, knocked on the door and walked in calling, as usual, and she appeared from the living room looking surprised. She hadn’t realised it was Wednesday – and, I’m sorry to say, she never expected us again and never had her hot plate ready.

There were so many people I became fond of over the years. Mrs Smith lived to 100 and still grew tomatoes every year. Billy – can’t remember his surname – was a dear old man. He always asked for a hug and I obliged. I remember once, him holding me and muttering “this is what I need, this is what I need.” Touch is needed, it’s actually one thing that so many people have missed immensely during lockdown and what many old people don’t have enough of. It’s not just loneliness but lack of actual contact; which those who prefer to keep a distance can’t be expected to understand, nor vice versa.

There were others, of course. Mr Campbell had been in the merchant navy and was a captain. But he had a filthy house. His living room was dirty and chaotic and stank of his pipe smoke. As you walked in, you could glance through to his kitchen, with brown stains running down the cupboards and oven. Once, he left the toilet door open and the lavatory was disgusting. He had difficulty in paying for his meals because he spent his money on whisky and, usually, he raked together odd pennies. My mother and another kind woman, in the end, paid for his food so that he would have at least two good meals a week. He never thanked anyone. He contacted the Rector once asking for money and the Rector contacted me. We agreed that the village charity would give £10 as a one-off and I’d shop for food. I delivered it, it included tins and packets, tea and milk and so on, and Mr Campbell was clearly disappointed as he’d hoped for whisky money. In the end, he was found collapsed on the road to Bungay, having had a stroke. I pitied him but couldn’t really sympathise.

Lorna Green was one of the lovely ladies. She still lives in the village and we always looked forward to our chats. She kindly gave all the people who delivered her meals a Christmas present, usually a tin of tea or biscuits or chocolate, which she could buy from the milkman. I miss these nice people.

A few years ago, bewilderingly, Meals on Wheels was put out to tender by the council. How paid people could cost less than volunteers is a mystery, but the WRVS’s services were no longer needed. Of course, in a short time, there were no subsidised meals at all and the whole thing folded. It has been picked up by private companies and I believe they do a good job. And Meals on Wheels was only ever two days a week and those that need it could do with more. I suppose it had outlived its usefulness in its form.

Zed’s ups

It’s all been good today, or entertaining at any rate.

The good – The dove survived. I’d steeled myself to find its corpse this morning but, when I peeped under the sheet, it was standing looking bemused by its water dish and the mixed corn had been eaten – that is, the maize had, rather than the wheat. So I tipped in a bit more corn and left it for a bit. Later, I looked again and there was a lively look in its eye, so I opened the coop. It spread its wings and flew strongly over the greenhouse to the south. So, if there were nothing else, I’d be happy.

However, still good – It is my youngest son’s birthday today. He is 36, which is clearly absurd and impossible, but there it is. Unless I’m told what to give my children, I give them money nowadays, but Ro has a four-year-old son and they love opening presents at that age, so I went to the greengrocer for fruit and the deli for deli stuff and home for chutneys and made up a hamper. I delivered it this afternoon, leaving it outside the door as they’d gone to the beach for the day. And I put some money into his account too, to buy something he wanted for himself rather than for the family.

The entertaining – The greengrocery can only serve one customer at a time, in this age of distancing and I stood at the door listening to an old man explaining to the assistant that “They” are trying to kill us by forcing us to breathe our own carbon dioxide which is poisonous and so he won’t wear a mask. Also, he didn’t want to use the shop sanitiser as he has his own homeopathic version. It’s only when you hear the words spoken that you realise how risible they are. There are reasons for not wanting to wear a mask and one can sympathise with some of them, but “They” wanting to kill you, though surgeons and dentists have worn them for decades and so have nurses and other really quite sensible people and they are alive and well, isn’t one of the sensible reasons. I chuckled and put on my (unnecessary, in Yagnub because there haven’t been any cases in the area for a while, but no matter) mask and joshed with the patient assistant.

Gigglingly entertaining – While I was waiting outside the deli, a woman parked with the novel method of reversing onto the pavement at a right angle to the road, driving into the disabled space and backing into the parking space; so badly that she had to go forward and back again; so badly that her tyres scraped the kerb. She overhung the disabled space by two feet when she got out, as well. The guy waiting in front of me chuckled with me and we agreed that masks are useful to hide one’s expression.

The deli has the lovely pâtés back in stock. The maker hadn’t been able to supply since lockdown. Hooray! Eloise cat was so pleased. Her lunch was duck liver pâté and Baron Bigod cheese and she went upstairs for a long nap. I had to bother her an hour later, to take her to the vet for a check-up. I acknowledged that we’d given her the freedom of the house, earlier than the surgeon had said, because she was so very unhappy and he’d said we could let her out after a month, last year and outside a fortnight later, which is now. The vet checked her over and said that her leg is fine, she walks well and shows no sign of a limp and the joint is stable. So we will let her outside tomorrow, which will bring her great joy.

When the Calor gas guys upgraded the system, the lead guy checked the tank and discovered it was down to 4%. Back in February, he’d fitted a gizmo that would notify the depot when the tank was down to 20%, this triggering another order. However, the order had not been triggered – but I’d assumed it would be and not checked, which was remiss of me. I’m taking it as very lucky that we didn’t run out. I phoned and, though Ed had activated the gizmo, I needed to do so as well. Okay, it is done now, but I’ll still check for the next few months. And the really nice delivery man has put in 700 litres to keep us going and we’ll get a full top-up before long.

I have found where the chickens are laying and will remove some of the eggs tomorrow, and mark the rest. I noticed that Scrabble has brought her chicks out into the garden for the first time this morning. They’ve had a lovely time exploring the flowerbeds. Scrabble watched protectively, on the alert for any danger. Chickens can be daft, but they can be excellent parents and husbands.

Old Hall Farm is back to its Friday night takeaways. We had Thai-style beef and also vegetable curry with rice and it was lovely, with enough left for another meal. I finally introduced myself to the farm owner, having emailed her weekly for a long time.

And that brings me to now, nine o’clock. Once in a while, I realise that this old, wizened heart has swelled to happiness. Today is one of those days. It feels good.

Z’s Ups and Downs

There’s good and bad news. And Meals on Wheels is shelved for yet another day because this is a journal of sorts and I’ll keep up to date.

My gas supply needed updating – I don’t know the technicalities and I can’t be bothered to refresh my memory on the subject, but the pipework needed to be upgraded – this is propane, which I have supplied by Calor Gas. I pay quarterly rental for the big gas tank and that also includes all the pipework. It was they who first let me know the system needed to be upgraded, but it wasn’t until there were problems with the annexe boiler that it became rather more urgent.

The job was supposed to be done in the spring, but lockdown intervened and it has been delayed. Meanwhile, the new boiler, which i’ve paid for, has been languishing in a depot. But the very helpful people at Calor arranged a new date and Ed and his guys came yesterday and today to do the work. They were superb, really. They’ve done a huge amount of work in two days, left everything immaculate and are really decent, good humoured men too. It was a pleasure doing business, as they say.

So, that was good. Also good was Wince and me clearing the Ups and Downs of ragwort. This is a rather attractive yellow-flowered plant that is very toxic to livestock. It damages the liver and has a cumulative, incurable effect. The plants don’t taste good, so animals don’t eat them unless they’re desperate, but the flavour fades when the plants dry, so it’s hazardous in hay. I just didn’t want them to seed, but I also didn’t want to pull them too early, partly because if it’s before they flower, they will grow again and partly because the cinnabar moth caterpillar lives primarily on ragwort and I’m all for wildlife. So today was the sweet spot. The caterpillars have pupated and the seeds haven’t set. All the same, it was two strenuous hours in the sun and I’ve had a headache ever since. But it’s done and I don’t go down the drive looking at the jolly yellow flowers and feeling dismal any more.

The third thing is the bad news. On Sunday morning I woke up with a start, thinking I heard a bird fall down the chimney. A minute later, Eloise cat arrived on the bed and I thought I must have misheard, because Tom the Tree Feller blocked that chimney with wire netting.

Next morning, I heard the same thing, just before Eloise landed on the bed. Then I went down to Wink and arrived back yesterday and this morning there was no sound. This afternoon, however, my headache was such that I went to lie on the bed. And, after half an hour or so, I heard an unmistakeable fluttering. I moved the chest of drawers, opened one window and shaded all the others and waited.

It was a dove, poor thing. It managed to flutter down onto the carpet but couldn’t fly and I was able to pick it up. I’ve put it in a chicken coop with food and water, and have left it. I put a white sheet over the wire so that it wouldn’t try to get out but would have light. Tomorrow, I’ll find out if it’s survived.

I don’t know what has gone wrong. Either there was a gap, which seems unlikely, or Tom put the netting on the drawing room chimney instead of the bedroom one, which also seems unlikely as only one of them was sooty. Plan A is to light paper in the grate and check which chimney the smoke comes out of, and compare it with the pictures of Tom and the cherry picker. Plan B is then to ask a farmer friend with a cherry picker to restuff the chimney/stuff the correct chimney.

I suppose I’d be bored with an uncomplicated home. It sometimes tempts me, though. Today is the 34th anniversary of moving here. More than half my life. Gosh.

Z is absurdly cheerful

I started to feel giggly. I don’t know why. I hadn’t done anything outrageous and I hadn’t even been drinking champagne. Things had been dropping into place with very little effort from me, which is always cheering, but that doesn’t seem to have been enough reason. However, chatting away to LT in the kitchen, I saw he was starting to grin at my bubbling and babbling and by the time we had eaten dinner, I was just finding everything funny.

I’d sing and dance or something like that, but the cat would be affronted, however much I might amuse the patient Tim.

I wonder how much one can alter a recipe before it isn’t the dish you started with any more. Tonight’s salad Niçoise (yes, I know it’s the second time in a matter of days) included broad beans, Cayenne pepper and some salmon, as well as the orthodox components. Cucumber, tomato, potatoes, eggs, the aforementioned broad beans and pepper, were from the garden, which is a great pleasure, as I’d picked/dug/fetched them within an hour of them being eaten.

This is bringing me back to Meals on Wheels, actually. I must hang on to that thought for tomorrow.

Z relaxes

A brief visit but it went well. Wink made me a cup of tea when I arrived and started making gin and tonic noises at quarter to five, which I resolutely disregarded, saying that we didn’t deserve such a thing until we’d done the packing up. Honestly, you wouldn’t think that I’m the irresponsible one in the family.

An hour and a half later, we’d filled my seven boxes and put them and her two, plus various other bits and pieces, in my car and we had earned our drink and a relaxing evening.

Tomorrow morning, I have my first haircut booked for five months. Normally, I have it cut every five weeks. I must remember to ask Tim to take a photo of it in the morning before I go. He’s going to drop me off – my car being full of heavy boxes, I’m going to ask Wince the gardener to help me carry them indoors so, while I could drive into town with a laden car, there doesn’t seem much point.

Packing up to leave yesterday, I reflected on how much more relaxed I’ve become about myself. I took a toothbrush and toothpaste, face cream, a hairbrush, deodorant, a nightdress and a pair of knickers. No makeup, no other toiletries. I wore glasses and didn’t take contact lenses. It’s not as if I used to have a ‘beauty routine’ or any such thing, but I’d at least have taken some mascara and so on, and cleanser to remove it. Now, I shrug. It doesn’t matter. I’m glad I’ve never coloured my hair, it is in lovely condition and I like it being long enough to feel on my face and neck.

I did take two portable battery packs for my phone, though. There are some things that are essential. I also took three books, just so I’d have a choice.

Cat care

Eloise cat has recovered well from her operation (which was to repair the ruptured tendons in her right hind knee, or stifle as it’s properly called). She rarely limps and is feeling frustrated that she isn’t allowed outside yet. The vet phoned last Monday, to save a journey down to see him again. Two hours in the car for a five minute appointment, when a chat would do just as well – it’s not only hospitals and doctors who have learned that hands-on isn’t always necessary. Last year, when she had her first operation on the other leg, he said that she could come out of the cage into the house after a month, but this time he was rather more cautious and wanted us to wait for six weeks. Well, we couldn’t. The night when I woke up at half past midnight and heard her crying and she was still crying an hour later, when I gave in and went down to let her out into the drawing room, was the last straw. We kept her in the room for several days and then let her have the run of the house. Though she’s very keen to go outside, she’s so much happier now and loves getting back to normal. We had salad Niçoise for lunch yesterday and I saved her a helping of tuna, which was received happily. Today, we had cheese and salad, so I grated her a little Parmesan, which she appreciates. The other cheese she likes is our local Baron Bigod. Rummy used to like Cheddar best. He must miss lunches here. I suspect that Rose treats him like a cat – the king of cats, of course – and doesn’t cater for him at her mealtimes. It’s inexplicable, of course, they’re members of the family after all.

Of course, this means that Eloise doesn’t eat very much cat food, so the barn cats are doing well too.

My darling Chester dog, much missed still after sixteen and a half years, was a picky eater. Sometimes, he didn’t fancy his dinner for two or three days and was restless and hungry; except he didn’t recognise the feeling as hunger and wouldn’t do the sensible thing and just eat. When that happened, I used to grate a little cheese and sprinkle it on his food. He’d eat the cheese and then go on to polish off the dog food. I didn’t feed him at the table, it’s not wise to do that with a dog. They take advantage and have to be retaught the rules. It doesn’t matter with a cat, who acknowledges that rules exist but not that they need to observe them. Simpler to give in from the start, except for any rule that is inviolable which, in Eloise’s case, are not coming where I prepare food and not jumping up onto the mantelpiece.

I’ve been saving wine boxes – I don’t mean wineboxes, but the boxes that bottles of wine come in. I’ve saved five and I’ve a couple of plastic crates too, so that’s seven which fill up the car. Other stuff can go loose, if necessary. Wink says that she’s covered the spare room bed with things that she wants me to bring back, so clearly the packing will have to be done tomorrow before I have anywhere to sleep.

Tim came with me to check the details for animal husbandry. How many chickens are there, in total, he asked. I number them in groups, not overall, so I had to stop and think. Just as well that I put them all down here the other day. Twenty-three, I said. When I’ve posted this, I’ll check back to be sure I’m right.

Z plans a road trip, which is awfully exciting

I can’t remember what other good things I was going to write about. They may come to me, we’ll see.

I haven’t forgotten that I didn’t finish the Meals on Wheels saga, but I’ll come back to that when there isn’t day to day stuff to write down.

Wink phoned. She is booking a removal company for her furniture, whenever she finds a date to move in completely. In the meantime, she’s doing a lot of sorting out because she doesn’t want to bring anything that she doesn’t actually want. She had a paper shredder, which she lent to a friend. Lovely as this mutual friend is, she is even more dilatory than I am and not very good at returning stuff. Items I lent her two and a half years ago have never been given back and I’ve replaced some of them. So I suggested that Wink did the same thing with the shredder. She has and she’s filled a wheelie bin with paper.

She’s also turning out cupboards of things that she does want to bring and it’s all getting a bit more untidy than she likes. So I’ve suggested that I drive down, with a carful of empty boxes, and drive back with a carful of full boxes. When she next visits, she can bring more stuff and then spend happy hours sorting everything out. There are lots of cupboards in the annexe. It’s a joy. Too many houses do not have room for Stuff and we all have Stuff, however – almost – minimally we live our lives. Unless we throw out Christmas decorations or ignore the festivities, we have a tree or a stand and we have baubles and lights. We have cleaning equipment and spare bedlinen.

Anyway, I have a chink in my diary (massive holes, of course, though I’ve finally got various appointments in the next couple of weeks that have been held over for months) and will go down on Monday and return on Tuesday, with Tim holding the fort in the meantime. I’ve advised shutting up the chickens as late as possible because a certain amount of chasing and chivvying is required and I don’t want him to have to bother. It’s quite annoying but I don’t mind that as much as most people would.

As i said, massive holes in the diary, though I haven’t deleted regular events, so they keep bobbing up. I’m getting reminders this week that we’re due to pay the balance on a holiday by the 23rd, for September. It’s been deferred for a year, but I haven’t changed that yet. It’s quite sad, to keep receiving reminders for things that aren’t going to happen. I suppose resilience is, for the most part, how you cope with disappointments and setbacks. But these aren’t difficult to cope with obviously, just minor regrets, too few to mention.

Z names chickens

The good news is – there’s more than one good news, this post is all good news. I like to think that this is what I’m for. In this uncertain and worrying world, Z tries to find some good news.

Anyway, in my last post, I mentioned that Hen Lee was sitting on some eggs. Though I admit to a soft spot for chicks, I’m rather glad that she returned last night, having abandoned the attempt to hatch them. I don’t know if she’d been disturbed or just got fed up, but it doesn’t matter. All chickens are home safe.

I think all the chickens have got names now, for the first time ever. The big brown hen, with her mutton-chop whiskers and her frilly rear end, is Gladstone/Gladys, depending on which way she is facing.

The two big black hens are Dizzy, short for Disraeli, and Jabba the Cluck.

Rose’s three were already named. They’re Jenga the cockerel, Pollywollydoodlealltheday and Scrabble.

Canasta successfully reared four girls last year, but didn’t survive the winter. Her daughters are Foster, Frostier, Hen Rietta and Hen Lee.

Scrabble’s daughters from last year are Slapper and Polly Garter.

Polly Garter’s daughter is Mary. She is the only one of this year’s chicks to be named. Frostier has three children, at least one of which is a boy and one of which is a girl. Jury out on number three. Scrabble has six chicks and I’m pretty sure that there are three boys and three girls.

Sadly, Foster’s only chick is a cockerel. He’s a small chap and everyone finds him annoying. But he’s bottom of the pecking order except, possibly, for Mary, so he’s no problem.

Good news number two (hah, I’ll explain why my scatological mind finds that funny in a minute) is that I know that the animal stealing eggs from the coop is a hedgehog – it left a calling card, otherwise knows as a poo or whatever else you like to call it, including number two… I’m more than happy for hedgehogs to eat eggs or anything else, and I’ve put down some meat tonight in the coop, as well as a couple more eggs so that it has a choice.

Weeza and Michelle came to paint the back room in the annexe and there’s just one more day to do before that’s finished. There was quite a lot of tidying up to do and it’s a huge room. And Weeza was still there when…

…Alex and co came to visit and bring LT’s birthday present. We all sat on the lawn and drank grape juice and ginger beer (one or the other, for the most part) and it was a pleasure.

I made more chutney. I have had it in mind to make gooseberry chutney, having bought a commercial branded gooseberry and coriander. I had to make it up, because I couldn’t find a recipe that had both those ingredients plus tomato, and no onion. The first batch was good and I’ve made a second, using cardamom rather than kalongi. I’ve kept back a bit to try – most chutneys need to mature before being eaten – and will write down which is better.

That’s five good things. Actually, there’s more, but that’ll do for tonight.