Monthly Archives: June 2021

That’s another story

I seem to be a day behind all the time, but never mind.

I filled the car with Stuff from the London flat. There’s a small store room/meter cupboard, which the new tenant wanted to put things in. I have made it clear that it isn’t really suitable for anything that matters – it’s under the pavement and a bit clammy, but she’s welcome to use it if she likes. When I had a new extractor hood fitted, the electrician didn’t remove the old one, annoyingly – he could have charged me for disposal, but he just left it, with the packaging, in the kitchen. So kind neighbours moved it into the cupboard and I went down to take it, and other rubbish, away.

So I checked on the council website and I didn’t have to make an appointment at the tip – ahem – ‘recycling centre.’ Off I went yesterday, wishing when I thought of it that I’d brought rubber gloves. Anyway, the men there are really lovely. They aren’t officially helping unload, but they did and they directed me when i wasn’t sure what bin to put anything in. Afterwards, it being nearly as far as the A11, that was the quickest way into Norwich, so I drove to John Lewis and was helped considerably by an assistant who really knew his stuff, because I also had discovered that the fridge needed to be replaced.

The tax man pays me, nowadays.

I also bought a new vacuum cleaner for Tim’s house. He has gone through two Dysons and my Sebo still works, in the same period of 30-something years. I wouldn’t have a Dyson, they are not good value.

Having finished this business, I remembered a cheque I’ve had for some time, that had to be paid in at the bank rather than online. So off I trotted to the city centre. Then I thought I might get a few new potatoes from the market. I told the market holder just what I thought of him. His produce was just too damn tempting. I bought the spuds and rather a lot else and spent £28. It was fabulous and most of it was from Norfolk, except for the Kentish cherries and the artichokes from I’m not sure where. He and the other assistant and I ended up with quite a humorous rapport and, along with my last visit to the market and the Tombland walk last week, I have rediscovered my love for Norwich.

I’d bought some fabulous sea trout from Paul the fish and, with it, we had fresh peas, asparagus tips and new potatoes. The first course was artichoke and they were the best I’d eaten since I grew them myself. And we finished with a few Norfolk raspberries.

Today, to come back up to date, Wink has arrived home, so we had Cromer (Norfolk) crab for dinner. Eloise cat was thrilled. I’ve started cooking for the blog party, having made two dozen tiny bread rolls to go with the veggie burgers that Fiona is bringing. The rolls are in the freezer. I have made a list of food. Everyone is catered for, whether vegetarian, vegan, paleo, low carb, gluten free, carnivore, omnivore, teetotal, chocoholic or, I trust, anything else.

Thick chicks

Tim had been going to return on Sunday or Monday, but decided on the earlier day. Evidently, he missed me terribly…and I’m glad he did.

He’d bought a quiche from Waitrose for his lunch, so we shared it with a tomato salad. Then, I went straight to bed. I was exhausted. I slept heavily for at least an hour and a half and just about surfaced in time for tea. Then I did the watering and went to shut up the chickens and feed the cats. A chicken greeted me at the gate. Surprised, I invited her in and she came to join her sisters and cousins. Having treated them to mealworms as usual (they adore them, it’s tamed them completely), I went out of the other door to feed the cats. Two more chickens there. They both came in with no problem and I investigated the outdoor run. I soon found the escape route – they’d dug their way out. I filled the hole with a brick and went to the cat barn…..two more chickens hanging about there. They were a lot more trouble to get in and I had to ask Tim for help. I’m not sure if I’d have been able to manage on my own. They couldn’t understand the idea of leaving the run but returning by the door and we had to pull out the run to leave a gap and inveigle them in there, which was easy with one and very tricky with the other. But we succeeded. That parable about the good shepherd, searching for the lost sheep, yeah. Rings true.

Third thing was after I came back into the house. I’d missed a call from Wink, so I rang her back. She should have returned today, but the exhaust fell off her car. She’s evidently protected now by the Sprake Luck (this is permitted superstition because it’s real, or at any rate we all believe it) because it happened as she drove into the yard of the house where she’s staying. Where she had been ten minutes before, there was no phone signal and there were no houses. If you’re going to be unlucky, that was the best place for it to happen.

The RAC guy reattached it for long enough for her to drive to the garage – this was a bit hairy as the village street is shut for resurfacing, so she had to do a five mile detour on the main road. Still, she left it there and walked home and will pick it up in the morning. Crab salad planned for dinner tomorrow night.

So, things don’t really come in threes, but they did. Disaster averted in each case. And today was a good day, but that’s another story.


I don’t suppose things really go in threes. I’m really not superstitious. But I’ll acknowledge that I tend to count things up.

I drove to London today, to meet my new tenant and her daughter (English is not the first language, so she likes to have her daughter present). I set the alarm for 6, which wasn’t really necessary as I woke sometime after 1am and didn’t sleep again. I might have drifted off at about the time I needed to get up.
I was so tired, I couldn’t really eat breakfast. A bite of toast and a slurp of orange juice. I made tea but couldn’t drink it, so swallowed a couple of paracetamol instead. I don’t resort to pills very often, this was born of desperation. I did basic chores and left at 6.30, on schedule. I said I’d arrive between 9 and 9.30, so had a bit of time in hand. And I needed it.
After half an hour, I was finding it hard to stay awake. So I stopped in a lay-by to close my eyes for a while. Five minutes doze seemed to do the trick, so I started off again – but after a mile or so, an alert came up on the dashboard to check my tyre pressures. Tired as I was, I almost panicked. But I reasoned myself through it. And I was only a few more minutes from the Tesco petrol station at Bury. I’d meant to fill up there on the way home but I topped up the tank and enquired about air.
I’ve hardly ever pumped up the tyres at a petrol station. Either the garage does it or I do it at home. I’ve never done so on this car, in almost a year. Silly. I couldn’t find where it told me the recommended pressure. So I asked a man. Yeah, apologies to any self-sufficient woman who would never consider such a retrograde action. I’m old and I was anxious and I couldn’t bloody do it. So I asked a man who was filling a container with petrol, who looked capable and kind. And so he was. Lovely guy, young enough to be my son, old enough to need reading glasses, which I don’t so, when he said the pressure was on the tyre, I could find it. And then, he kindly did the job for me.

I arrived at the flat at 9.28, having taken a couple of wrong turns because London is complicated. And then I met the tenant and her daughter – both lovely people, really nice – and drove home uneventfully. Tim got back a bit before me, so joyous reunion thing.
Three things, though. Gotta be three things.

Well played D.

Tim is away for a couple of days, but home tomorrow. I’ve been catching up on housework and washing – I’d have liked to do something exciting, but it needed doing.

On Thursday, I went to the Annual Common Inspection. Nothing vulgar about the common, it’s open ground, that sort of common. It is not publicly owned, however, it’s an unusual situation. 400 acres are shared into 300 ‘goings’ which are privately owned. Russell owned ten of them, which I’ve inherited. Once a year, owners are invited to a drive round in a trailer, pulled by a tractor, while we’re told what maintenance and improvements have been carried out in the past year.

The value of its habitat is as grassland, some of it acid soil. A large part is let as a golf club and much of the rest is let as grazing for cattle, which is good for the grassland as the cows eat tree seedlings as well as grass, and keep it manured. The rest includes paths where people are welcome to walk, scrubland, grass with wild flowers and copses with trees. If it were left, the tree seedlings would take over and it would be a wood before long, but the conservation people don’t want that to happen, for the sake of biodiversity. This type of grassland is more rare than woodland and there’s a fine range of plants, birds and animals that breed and live there.

The present chairman of the management committee (known as Common Reeves) is my cousin D. A bit younger than I am, he’s a local solicitor and has lived in the area all his life, except for his university and training years. As he spoke to us, on the drive and at the AGM afterwards, I thought what a lovely man he is. He often spends his lunchtime walking on the common – from his office to a circular route, taken quite briskly, takes him about 50 minutes and he makes a point of chatting to other walkers, to find out any concerns and be our representative. He so clearly loves the place and takes a lot of trouble to ensure it’s managed as well as it can be, taking into account everyone’s interests and feelings.

I’m sure he doesn’t know I have a blog, so won’t be embarrassed by this. I don’t suppose anyone else from Yagnub reads it either, though it’d be obvious who I’m talking about, if they do. Nothing but praise and appreciation, so I can’t think there would be any objection! As Di said the other day, it’s lovely when someone has done research – and it’s great when someone really knows their subject and speaks from the heart.

The houses in between

Sorry about that. I was suddenly too exhausted to do anything more. It didn’t help that my phone and computer didn’t want to talk to each other and I had to restart both before I was able to upload the photos. Here’s one of the city, followed by the ‘key’ identifying some of the main buildings.

Only a few buildings are named, in fact. Of course, the spire of the cathedral is the outstanding one. The Castle is just left of St Peter Mancroft church, which is right by the market (too low down to see). It’s nowhere near as close as it looks on the map.

The premise of the book was a fictional murder, which the protagonist Matthew, a hunchback lawyer, was sent to investigate. The events took place in the summer of 1549, two years after the death of Henry VIII and accession of Edward VI. The main reason for the rebellion was the enclosure of common land, which left those without land unable to graze their animals or fish in the rivers. Tombland is the area and street immediately outside the Cathedral Close walls and the Maid’s Head inn is still a hotel, as it was when Matthew stayed there. Every place mentioned in the book is a real Norwich scene, though of course not all the events are true, if they were part of the detective story. As part of the events of 1549, they were.

Norwich city wall was, apparently, the longest in the country at the time – Norwich itself was a very important city, largely because of the wool trade – although the east side of the city relied on the river, rather than a wall, for its safety. Land enclosure by the wealthy, for the grazing of their sheep, was a source of much resentment. This isn’t a history lesson and, if you’re interested, it’s easy to look up. I’m just writing about our day. Paul is a really good guide, informative without being preachy or boring. As he spoke to us outside the cathedral, we could hear singing: this was a final warming-up by the choir before the service to install the new Bishop of Lynn (King’s Lynn, that is). A bit later, while he was talking to us under a lovely cedar tree, he noticed and pointed out to us a procession of clergy on their way in to the service.

We were lucky with the weather. Warm and sunny, it was unlike any other dismal day of that week. We all risked summer clothes and were glad we had. I knew, from the book, that Kett’s headquarters were on Mousehold Heath (this is said Mouse Hold, not Mowzle like the Cornish village Mousehole) and I thought that it was a mile or two from the city centre, well up the hill. But I hadn’t realised that houses had been built over some of the heath and that, actually, the encampment was very near the city centre and cathedral,

That Kett’s Heights is preserved as it is, is down to the Gas Board. There were gasworks in Norwich (a very steep road, next to Kett’s Hill, is still called Gas Hill) and the company owned a piece of land that had once been part of Mousehold Heath. The boss decided, many years ago, to lay the area out as a garden – probably it was mainly done for his own benefit, but he justified it by having it open to all the workers as a semi-public space. During the last war, an area was given over to a piggery for local people to keep their pigs. Some of the walls and troughs are still there, as well as a pool to collect rainwater. Now, it’s a peaceful and lovely garden, mostly left unmown until midsummer for the wild flowers and grasses to bloom and seed, with the wonderful views over Norwich which you see in the picture. It’s owned by the city itself, so will never be disturbed, and it’s managed by a group of volunteers. If you live close enough to visit, there’s a little, unassuming path half way up the road called Kett’s Hill. A lot of steps up, but it’s not a steep climb.

Afterwards, seven of us stayed for lunch at the Red Lion at Bishopsgate, by the bridge that Kett’s men entered the city by. It’s the Blue Boar in the book. A lovely day, a welcome reminder of normal life. My thanks to Annie who told us about the tour and to Adèle who organised it, as well as to Paul our guide – and the companions who joined us on the day.

Z has a day out

Have any of you read the Matthew Shardlake novels of C.J. Samson? They’re set in the Tudor period, the 1540s. The most recent one, published a couple of years ago, takes place in Norwich and is called Tombland, after the area in front of the cathedral. It takes place in 1549 and is mainly about Kett’s Rebellion.

I bought it for Tim, we having discovered the books separately, before we got together. Then one of my book club friends chose it, so I read it. Although it’s very long (so many very good novelists’ books get longer and longer nowadays, I suspect no one dares suggest that they edit them down by a couple of hundred pages), it’s a good book. Someone found out that a chap called Paul Dickson does history tours of Norwich, one of which is specifically about the events of this book. We booked for it and it’s been postponed twice, but finally took place today. We had such a great day.

I’ve known Norwich for as long as I can remember, but there are so many places I have never noticed. There was a time when I made a point of exploring, but that was many years ago when there was more time. I do have time now, in theory, but it’s something like this that makes me recall what a pleasure there is in discovery.

I even took a photo. But I’m so tired that I can’t tell you all about it. Mañana.

It’s January in June, as the song doesn’t say

Still 97 posts to be read. But I’m reading everything and commenting occasionally, it takes time.

It’s so cold. I put on a long-sleeved cotton dress this morning and had to change later, into jeans and a cashmere sweater, with socks too. Tim says that the wind has changed, but it’s north-east now, which doesn’t sound warmer at all. Midsummer, hey. I blame myself for turning the Aga off during a heatwave.

Z has left undone those things that Z ought to have done

…and there is no health in Z.

Don’t take me literally, I’m (almost) quoting from the Prayer Book: the General Confession, to be exact.

Sad as I am that blogging is in the doldrums, I’m part of the problem. I just found out that Tim wrote a brief blog post 11 days ago and I hadn’t known. I hadn’t realised that a friend hadn’t posted in a month until today, because of health problems. I’ve checked a few blogs, deleted unread posts from bloggers who aren’t actual friends (I don’t have to have met someone for them to be a friend) and brought the number of unread posts down to a little over 100. So, my mission for the next few days is to catch up with those. And, I’m sorry. I’m finding it difficult to focus on anything much, but that’s an excuse rather than a reason. I’ll do better.

It’s been a quiet day. Chilly and damp, no real reason to do anything much. Wink sent a text to say she’d arrived in Wiltshire yesterday, after a difficult journey. She phoned this afternoon to tell me about it. There was a queue to get off the M25 to the M3 and it transpired that a breakdown had necessitated the road to be closed while rescue vehicles got through to load it up and remove it. The traffic finally got going again – and then stopped again. It seems that the same thing happened to another vehicle. Probably overheated while it was waiting in a queue…

If there’s one thing lockdown has brought home to many of us, it’s that getting from place to place is a pretty miserable experience. I remember the days when driving was fun. Mind you, I was young then; however, it’s been anything but fun for decades. Likewise, train travel. I used to look forward to a trip by train. For many, many years, it’s been a matter of hoping I can get a seat, wincing at the price, dreading delays because of a breakdown, signal failure, some poor person jumping on the line and so on. I still want to go places, but the travel is barely worth the effort any more. I am, however, planning to leave at larkfart next Sunday to be in Islington soon after 9am. Oh joy. Won’t even be there long enough for lunch.

Still, luckily I like it here. And I will visit you all again this week.

Sights and sounds and smells – and tastes

One of the poems that I studied for English O Level was Betjeman’s Summoned By Bells, an autobiographical narrative poem. The first part of the heading is a quotation from that, tastes is my addition.

My mother’s death was expected, though it happened more suddenly than we anticipated. A few weeks later, it hit me and the reason was the meal I prepared for dinner. I’d bought a lovely whole fish, which I baked with herbs and lemon and, with it, cooked asparagus, broad beans and potatoes from the garden. Mostly the first of the season – it was April – and every one of them was a great treat. But no one in the family but me appreciated what a treat it was. We all enjoyed it, but I had no-one to share ‘why’ it was special. Everything home-grown apart from the fish and lemon, nearly everything the first of the season. She’d have got it and I had no-one else in the world who’d feel the same.

I missed her again tonight, more than 17 years later. I’d taken an easy route, buying two little quiches from the deli – the pastry is way better than mine and the Aga is off anyway, so cooking is just a little more bother. I’d bought a lot of fruit and veg from the greengrocer and I’d said to Tim that we’d start with asparagus, then have the quiches with a salad. As simple as much of the best food is, I missed my mother for the entire time I prepared the meal.

I’d bought some tiny, local new potatoes and some broad beans, as well as the asparagus. So, instead of just the last as a starter, I decided to do a bit of them all. The potatoes must have been dug yesterday, the skins just rubbed off. Everything was local and fresh. The salad leaves, also locally grown, were strewn with flowers. Mostly little pansies, nasturtiums and marigold petals. I sliced a little spring carrot and a few radishes and that was it. Again, no one in the world would have ‘got’ it as I did, apart from her.

Some years ago, my friend Shirley had a couple of hundred envelopes to fill with a folded sheet of paper and all of them to stamp and to stick on address labels. I volunteered to help her and we spent a couple of hours in her conservatory, on a summer’s evening, sharing a bottle of wine. We chatted throughout, sharing a lot about each other in a relaxed way. She told me that she made nettle soup every year. Just once, as she didn’t actually like it.

Her mother spent the last few years of her life with Shirley and her husband. At the time, they owned a smallholding in the countryside. Mother was very keen on foraging and preserving and, every spring, she was out picking bags of young nettles, to make into soup. So, in her memory, Shirley made and ate it every year. Just for love.

Z looks forward

There are a number of acceptances for the blog party, which I’m very happy about. Trusting that the weather will be fine, of course, but Wink’s house is at our disposal as well as ours, so we can juggle a bit if we must. Indigo and Lisa, the Bears, Zoe and Mike da Hat, Compostwoman Sarah and Ian, Fiona the Cottage Smallholder, Vicus Scurra and Roses all plan to come, so far, plus Ro, Dora and the children and possible Rev Dave. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

We’ve been invited to a surprise birthday party next month, which has been moved by a few days because of the end of restrictions having been delayed. Tim and I are still slightly dubious about the arrangements, because we’re not entirely confident that all the practicalities have been addressed. All the same, that side of it is not our problem, so we’re fully prepared to turn up in our glad rags and have a good time. Just as long as we have a summer of jollity, with plenty of opportunities to have naps in between, I’ll be happy.

For now, I’m mostly spending contented hours planning the menu for the blog party. Keeping it simple, though. I’m not aiming to impress anyone, just to make sure that everyone has plenty to eat and that it tastes good. And to drink, obvs.