Monthly Archives: December 2020

Z fails to draw Part 1

I have ordered, from Evil Amazon I’m sorry to say, the materials recommended. Whilst I haven’t splashed out on the expensive drawing paper but a cheaper version, I’ve gone with the rest (because, with my frugal soul, pencils and so on are reusable, paper isn’t). So now I’m committed and I turn to page 15.

Absolutely sensibly, she wants me to do some pre-instruction drawings, signed and dated, so that I’ve got a baseline to compare to later progress. Numbers 2 and 3 are okay. A self-portrait, looking in a mirror – I can get that. I expect it to be poor, obviously, but I will do my best. Ditto, my own hand. I think that might even be interesting. Number 1 is impossible, however, A person, drawn from memory. (a) I don’t have that sort of visual memory. It’s taken years of practice and genuine effort to even recognise someone I haven’t seen for a while. (b) I can’t draw. I can not draw. How on earth am I supposed to draw a person? It’s impossible if I’m looking at them, it’s beyond belief to think I can do it from memory. It can be a head, half-figure or a full-length figure. Yeah, right. A stick figure is doable and I’m not wasting time on anything else. It is literally impossible to draw anyone I know. Although, Cousin Itt, perhaps? After all, hat, hair, glasses. Do that badly but it’s done. Sorted. Thank you, left side brain. You have rationalised the situation and found a solution that’s marginally better than an anonymous stick figure.

Or I might be conscientious and try really hard – but how? I can’t see people with my mind’s eye, even if I know I’d recognise them when we meet. I see the whole, not by parts. I have no idea what someone’s nose or eyes or hairline looks like, nor how to portray any of those. I can almost see the picture of my mother from 1968 which I noticed yesterday at my sister’s – she always maintained that she was horribly unphotogenic but this is a lovely one. A fly landed on her nose and everyone laughed and she was still smiling naturally when the photo was taken and she looks lovely. I can see it, but I’ve no idea how to portray it. I can barely hold a pencil. Her teeth are showing, for goodness’ sake.

Stickman, Itt or Mummy. No idea which I’ll go for. Not today, anyway. I’ve decided to go with Australian, or possibly New Zealand time, so it’s already the early hours of January 1st 2021 here at the Zedery. Please may 2021 be a whole lot better than 2020 – let’s face it, it doesn’t have to try hard.

Reading the news

I drove out for the first time since Christmas – any significance being just that it was the first time since the Christmas Eve flooding. A house in the village had several piles of sodden carpet outside and the house next door still had sandbags leaning against the garage. As I drove down Bridge Road, there was more of the same and the houses at the end, where the ground is lowest lying, had builders, cranes and lorries outside. It was rather sobering.

The newsagent is closing down, which means that the post office, housed inside the shop, already has. I went to pay my final bill. We have pre-paid vouchers for our papers – and they were posted off to the new company that’s taking over deliveries, back on the 17th December. It didn’t occur to someone, presumably the manager, to sort out customers’ accounts to the end of the year before that was done. The knowledgeable, helpful J looked tired and harassed. I assured her that it didn’t matter. I’d sort it out with the company and they’d reimburse me and send back the remaining vouchers. Because it had been assumed that everyone would just carry on with the new company, based in Stoke on Trent, but we’re not. We had a nice note through the door from a small local business which is offering a delivery service. This will suit us much better. When we go away and cancel the papers, we simply pick up the vouchers and use them wherever we are, usually at Tim’s house or Pembrokeshire. It really won’t be very convenient to do that if we have to keep posting them. Anyway, I rang up the company and the vouchers haven’t been processed yet, which isn’t surprising, but at least I’ve cancelled delivery and been promised a return phone call. Two businessish phone calls in a morning quite unnerved me and I needed a little sit-down after that. The nice local chap’s delivery charge is half the price of the newsagent and still appreciably less than the replacement service; not that this was why we chose it, but the difference is well over £100 a year.

The snow forecast has been cancelled but it’s still pretty cold. The chickens don’t mind being shut up at all, especially Jabba the Cluck, the remaining big black hen, who’s moulting worse than ever. She asks for treats (and pecks if she doesn’t get them, hence Jabba), so seems to be perfectly well. While I was bending over the feed bin, getting her some mealworms, one of the naughty young bantams hopped up onto my back and fiddled with my hair. Perhaps she thought it was worms or spaghetti.

The greengrocer says that a member of his family, not one he lives with but saw briefly a few days ago, has tested positive. So he’s shut the shop for a week, just in case.

Z looks down

The day started perfectly well. Wink came through for coffee before leaving for Wiltshire, because she’s got a pre-op appointment at the hospital in Bath tomorrow morning. I gave her our last few slices of bread because she’d run out, so got a loaf going. Then I sorted out the Christmas beef, prepared a cottage pie from the little bits and put aside the chunks for Tim to make a rogan josh and sliced some onions and garlic for French onion soup. Eloise cat appeared looking hopeful, but I’d saved her some snippets of beef so she was very happy.

It all went very well until around half past three this afternoon, when Weeza texted, very upset because someone had slashed their tyres in the night. They’d left their car in the road – not blocking the road at all and mostly in their own frontage – for a couple of nights because they had two loads of wood being delivered. They have no idea why anyone could have done such a thing. Their car, which they bought second-hand, has London numberplates and perhaps someone thought it was a second home owner, illicitly visiting from the city? Or some random nasty person, but why pick on them? Anyway, the police have the details and it’s going to cost them £500 for new tyres; the only small consolation being that two of them were due to be replaced soon anyway. This is a country road in a lovely rural village, the village pub is shut so no one was lurching home drunk (not that it’s really that sort of pub) and they’ve upset no one. They’re devastated.

Then a friend phoned to tell me that our mutual friend Jo has died. 96 years old, so it’s not as if it’s a premature death, but she was in hospital because she’d had a minor stroke and she caught Covid there. If you’re one of those who says “aha, but did she die FROM Covid or WITH Covid,” please don’t to me. She wouldn’t have died two days before Christmas if she had been allowed home for her sister to look after her, as they both desperately wanted. I grieve for her sister Lilian, also in the 90s, who will struggle to find the will to live without her, especially now when friends can’t rally round as we’d like.

So I can’t be very upbeat this evening, but at least I invented a reasonable meal tonight. I had half a pumpkin, cooked, which I layered with fried breadcrumbs, browned pine nuts, fried tomato and fried halloumi. Cream flavoured with nutmeg was poured over and the whole thing was baked, while I cooked mushrooms in butter, then added white wine, garlic and cream. I think that more creamy sauce would have added to the pleasure but I don’t really want to eat a lot of cream at one time, so perhaps puréeing some of the pumpkin into the cream, let down with a little milk or water, would have made it more saucy. Anyway, it was a leftover-storecupboard thing, so that’s always good. The chickens will love the little bit of pumpkin left over.

And now I’m going to bed and will start again tomorrow. Goodnight, friends.

No longer egregious Greta

As I said yesterday, I thought the little chicken, now named Greta, was spending time in the compost heap and that’s where, it turned out, the silly little girl was roosting. Underneath a spray of nettles, in a dip in the far corner – no wonder she was wet the other day, she had no shelter at all. And the reason she’d chosen that place was that she was optimistically sitting on three eggs.

Having clocked her, when I went out to feed the cats, I decided to leave it until dusk. It was quite undramatic in the end. She was unsuspecting, I clambered over the cabbage leaves and potato peelings and swooped on her. She’s now back amongst the others and I’ve thrown down extra mealworm treats today to show her that it’s worth being part of the flock after all.

One of the big chickens died the other day. She was in a nest box, facing away from the front and she hadn’t moved by the next day. This was Christmas Day and I wasn’t going to check on her then, though I suspected the old girl had passed on, so picked her up yesterday. I’d noticed last week that she wasn’t looking great, but she and her sister were moulting and both looked bedraggled. They’re at least five years old, maybe six, so it was simply old age.

I trust there will be considerably less drama in regard to chickens from now on.

Someone recommended a book about drawing to me – it might have been Scarlet, who was very encouraging a few weeks ago (but if it wasn’t, apologies and thanks to whoever it was) – and I’ve been given it for Christmas. Surprising that I started to feel panicky on just reading the introduction, but the writer (and teacher) acknowledged the fear that non-drawers have when faced with pencil and paper. Fortunately, she recommends a few aids which I don’t yet have, so I have respite before I actually give it a go. I’m positive I’ll fail and, though I don’t mind failing, I’m not even sure I’ve truly got the will to try very hard. I don’t think I’ll enjoy it. But, in the way that sometimes one doesn’t look forward to going out but then finds that the party is an absolute joy, I’m going to give it a genuine shout.

Party. That’ll be the day, eh?

Bridgey Perrin (it takes a leap to get the reference)

Here are some pictures of the little bridge over the beck, to show how the water level rose and fell. Of course, I haven’t got one of *normal* level but it’s lower usually than it is now.

24th December. The beck was full and had burst its banks further up, but the bridge was still in place.
25th December. Overnight, a lot of properties in Yagnub, some in Ditchingham and some in Earsham had flooded. One house had to be shored up, on Ditchingham Dam, to save it from collapsing into the river. Some houses were flooded because of water coming off the road, others from the river itself.
26th December. The worst was over, but more rain and strong winds were forecast. However, there had been time to prepare. The river the other side of the field had not burst its banks, thankfully – it’s only happened once in 35 years that this has happened and the water has flooded our way. The field the other side of that river is lower than ours, so it has to be extreme for that to happen.
Today, 27th December. The water level in the beck is still a lot higher than normal, but overnight rain was not as bad as it could have been. Other places have suffered more than here. The last time flooding happened on anything like this scale in Yagnub was 1968, apparently.

These aren’t ordinary planks of wood, they’re very heavy chunks of railway sleeper. But this is the worst of the harm done and it’s nothing at all. Posting these pictures is simply done to indicate the rise and fall of the water here, not to suggest that we have suffered in the least.

Today, I’ve removed the bones from the beef joint and they’re turning into stock in the bottom oven. We had lovely rare roast beef, with a bean salad and pickles, for lunch, and dinner will take care of itself in due course. The little chicken is quite happy and has eaten her breakfast and lunch, but I still hope to catch her sooner or later. I have a feeling that she spends a lot of time hunkered down in the compost heap but I’ll have to climb over that to check it out, which may frighten her off. I am not going to fuss about it. Not much, anyway.

Not just for Christmas

Christmas has been and I didn’t wish you good things, I’m so sorry! To think that I used to put up a video on the day, to send happy wishes, and now I’ve been a week since I last wrote a post.

It’s been busy and I’m tired by the evening nowadays, especially the last few days and blogging, though it still matters a lot to me, isn’t a must-do every day ‘or else’ any more, though it should be really. Weeza and co came over on Wednesday. They were very excited because they were going, on their way home, to pick up their new puppy. Yes, one is not supposed to get a dog for Christmas and it wasn’t *for* Christmas; they’ve been wanting one for a long time. It’s just worked out this way. I long to meet her but that won’t happen for a while, now we’re in tier 4 and, anyway, we’re being exceptionally careful because of Wink’s op.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, Al and family were going to visit to hand over and receive presents and to go for a walk with me. Being scrupulously correct, I’d have joined them to be the sixth as allowed, as the Christmas latitude had been cancelled (but we were still in tier 2 then, gosh one has to keep up with the rules). However, the weather took a turn for the awful on Wednesday night. It rained so heavily that there was disastrous flooding in Yagnub and in the village. We’re fine here, the fields were flooded but the house is sufficiently above the beck for there to be no risk of the house flooding. But it has been seriously awful for many families. About 20 households had to be evacuated and others were affected. One house was at risk of collapse into the river and was shored up to save it. I spent much of the night watching facebook updates – volunteers and emergency services were wonderful and spent the night helping, while others offered accommodation and Christmas meals. More wind and rain is forecast tonight but I don’t think it will be so bad and people are prepared now, with sandbags and so on. Just dismal and dismaying and thank goodness no lives have been lost. I’ve had anxious messages from friends who’ve seen Yagnub on the national and international news, worried in case we’ve been flooded but we’ve only had the planks of a bridge washed away, nothing worse.

The recalcitrant chicken was perched on the compost heap on Thursday morning, wet and bedraggled but with no intention of coming home. I can’t catch her and cannot refuse her food. If I let all the chickens out, she’d probably return home with them but I can’t do that either as it’s now illegal. So she’s a wild bird and must take her chances. If I manage to trap her, I’ll quarantine her in a coop, little bugger.

But anyway, back to Christmas. We had a lovely day with Ronan and family, as well as Dora’s sister who, as a single mother (whose daughter was with her father for the day) is counted as part of their household. I’m so dismayed for those of you whose plans were thrown aside by the sudden lockdown. It’s easy for us who did have that day with family. Al called in the morning with presents, which we exchanged at a distance, like hostages.

Today has been quiet, as Boxing Day usually is – never know how people (in normal times) manage parties and so on, we’re generally knackered. But an industrious hour cleaned and tidied the kitchen and dining room and salad for lunch, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for dinner and we’re feeling relaxed now.

Life is good at the Zedery (and Z’s family, we don’t keep it to ourselves)

Mary chicken still keeps getting out and I have no idea how. Having been an only chick, she’s still a bit of a loner and so at least the others seem to have given up on escaping. There is one other out, who I accidentally let out a few days ago – Mary comes in again but this one just won’t. There is a coop she spends time in and I might have to shut her in there and then catch her when she’s asleep. We have searched the chicken greenhouse inside and out and can find no gaps at all, it’s a complete mystery. The total perimeter of the greenhouse is about 33 metres – corrected because, as Blue Witch pointed out, I invented a ludicrously wrong measurement – (40 feet by 14 feet, so 108 feet if you prefer) so it’s not really feasible to keep an eye out, especially as Mary gets out in the early morning. I will have another search though. I need to clean out the hen house next week again anyway and will keep my eyes open while I do it.

Having moved around a lot of the furniture indoors, I can’t face doing it again for a Christmas tree, so I’ve suggested to Tim that we saw a branch or two off one of the Scots pine trees near the road and attach it to a beam. We did that once, many years ago, and it was quite effective. We wouldn’t bother at all if it weren’t for two small children coming here for Christmas (youngest grandson’s school closed a fortnight early so they haven’t ‘mingled’).

Later. We’ve cut off two minor branches, which wasn’t the easiest thing as they were slightly higher up than was comfortable to stretch, but it was achievable. They’re languishing on the grass now and we’ll move on to the next stage tomorrow, probably. At least, with the Johnson last-minute change of rules, we can still have the Christmas day we’d planned. I’d be mildly irritated if I’d ordered a 4 kilo joint of meat, only to find that there are three of us to eat it.

We have had very good news, in that Wink has a date in January for her hip replacement. She’s really struggling to manage now, limping heavily and in great pain, with intermittent spasms that I remember too well from when I was in that situation. It’s a peculiar thing. You can be quite pain-free at one time and then, suddenly, it’s agony. Or the hip suddenly gives way and you stumble, which jars and you’re scuppered for the rest of the day. We’re looking after her and so glad that we can. Moving here was such a good thing at this time, for her but for us too.

Muntjacs, oh my…

It’s been a quiet day at the Zedery. Wink wanted a break from unpacking and so LT and I wrote a few Christmas cards. The list gets shorter every year, it’s just not got the appeal that it used to have and we keep in touch with people in other ways now. Wink had a lot, of course, because she wanted to let everyone know her new address.

I’ve got an actual genuine business meeting tomorrow – not the fake sort at restaurants punctuated by Happy Birthday celebrations, but a probate valuation. Unfortunately, it means leaving the house well before 9 am, which isn’t really my thing any more. With makeup on, into the bargain. I put some on on Sunday for the first time since my auction. What has become of me and will I ever go back to the Z I used to be, I wonder? Prolly not, frankly.

As I went down to feed the cats this morning, a muntjac deer burst out of the kitchen garden and ran down the drive. Wretched things. They’re timid, but it doesn’t stop them coming into the garden and spoiling everything. I suspect that better fences will be required in the long run – I wouldn’t mind them if they just ate ivy and a bit of grass, but they’re quite destructive. Still, if one aims for a wildlife haven, one can’t complain too much if the wildlife isn’t what you’d ideally choose to attract. Barn owls, bats and hedgehogs are totally welcome at any time.

Sunday roast

Wink’s porch is piled with empty boxes and her cupboards are filling up. There’s still a long way to go – unpacking boxes of books and hanging pictures, for the most part – but all the main living area is clear of boxes now. She took us out to lunch today, at the restaurant at the local farm shop.

It’s a very good place with high standards of animal husbandry. Rebecca has a herd of Jersey cows, known as the Goddesses, and their calves stay with their mums. So they can only be milked once a day, the cows, but they are happy and so are the little ones. You can see them at this time of the year when they’re eating haylage in the barn and are not out to pasture. Beautiful animals eating dried grass. So no soya, nothing bought in. Milk and yoghurt are sold raw, unpasteurised, which a lot of people say is better for allergies, intolerances and so on. We are very lucky here because there are other farms with similar high standards.

I am still having internet problems and will have to get on to BT in the morning. If I check the speed it says it’s the expected speed, but it’s not as good as it was a few days ago. In addition, it drops connection and the hub has to reload several times a day. I used so much data on Thursday that I’ve had to turn mobile data off, so that my phone doesn’t go over the 5 GB a month capacity I pay for. I got up to 3.7 in a couple of days, with a Zoom meeting and so on, because it happened to be the day they were working on it and had to keep switching it off. I’ll let them know that and I’m fairly sure they’ll offer me a top up. I only have 5 GB because they gave me extra, I often don’t use 1. Especially this year, of course, when I haven’t really gone anywhere.

I really have nearly finished Christmas shopping. I should start writing cards soon.

Chicken, running

It’s still all about Wink’s move and chickens around here.

All the chickens went to bed together and yesterday was fine. Today, I discovered that three girls were out. I knew they hadn’t slipped past me and I knew Mary had been in yesterday, so there must have been a gap they’d found. It took me a while to work it out, but I did in the end. There’s a little space, quite high up – more than a metre – which Rummy used to use. He’d come in with me, wait for rats and, when he wanted to leave, there was a small gap between the netting and the door frame that he could slip through. At the time, the chickens couldn’t get to it but it seems that they’ve worked out a way.

I left them. I didn’t feed them, I wanted them to want to come home. This afternoon, I went down about 15 minutes after sunset and one chicken was waiting outside. I let her in, fed the barn cats and looked about. One young and nervous pullet had roosted inside the (now open at the front, but covered over) old chicken run. I ambled in there and sidled towards her. When she finally started clucking in fright, I dived at her and grabbed. I’d aimed right and got her. So she was put indoors safely.

Mary was still out and I thought I’d have to leave her. A single chicken is unhappy and wants to rejoin the flock, so there was a hope. But, on my way back to the house, I noticed her squatting on the roof of the toolshed. It’s not a very high shed, so I fetched a bamboo pole, hoping to chivvy her down towards me. She retreated onto the wall instead and then into the field. But that was still all right. I went round the other way, rather than frighten her by following, opened the greenhouse door and encouraged her towards it. Once she was in, I covered over the gap in the netting with a random spare door and we’ll put in some staples tomorrow to block it off.

Wink has been unpacking and putting things away. About 8 or 10 boxes have been emptied. The drawing room is looking good and the kitchen is much less cluttered. The hall will come next. She’s coming in here for meals, apart from breakfast, at present so that she has as little as possible to bother about other than moving in. Tonight we had an Old Hall Farm takeaway and we’re going to their restaurant for Sunday lunch – so we’re all relaxing and taking a break.