Monthly Archives: September 2021

Z regains her cat

Eloise cat has finally remembered that she loves me too. Cats are mercurial toddlers at heart. A short attention span, except when it isn’t. Loving and devoted until they’re distracted and then you might not see them for days. A favourite sunbathing spot for weeks and then they forget it exists. Stock up on their favourite food and it’s impossible for them ever to eat it again – not that this latter applies to Eloise cat, but Rose certainly finds it with Rummy.

Eloise tended to curl up on Tim more than me, latterly, as he had to rest more. She also took to Wink and spent a lot of time through with her. She’s been very anxious at Tim’s absence and clearly unhappy, but though she wasn’t unfriendly, she didn’t turn to me. She’s been on her own more, spending time outside and sleeping on a spare bed or somewhere, I didn’t usually know. I’ve missed her, it’s made things even sadder for me.

Last night, I couldn’t be bothered to cook, which isn’t unusual at present. Scouting around for something easy but reasonably nutritious, I found a tin of sardines. Sardines on toast, with a shaking of Tabasco, it was ready in minutes. In came Eloise cat. I put a morsel of sardine, because there’s enough here for today too, on a plate and onto the floor and she loved it, unsurprisingly. Second helping was eaten and she remembered that she loved me too. So, once I’d had my supper and cleared away, she got on my lap and stayed there.

I wanted to go to bed, but not to disturb her. She nestled in to me and didn’t want to move. Finally, at nearly midnight, she woke and looked blearily at me, so I picked her up, switched off lights and took her upstairs. She had a drink while I hastily got ready for bed and then she curled up next to me. It was the greatest comfort I’ve had since Tim died. She was there all night and, every time I woke up, I reached out to touch her and then went back to sleep

She shared my poached egg this morning and has gone to do whatever cats do. Wince and I managed to take down the gazebo, which is substantial – it was Dave’s from when he had the coffee business. It’s a heavy job for two people, not possible for someone on their own. Now he’s trimming long grass and generally tidying up.

I’ve written lists and will start assembling stuff to take.

Please read a warning

Not everything happened that had been on the list, but there’s a reason for that. Or 3 reasons, in fact. 1 a client was interested in a piece of china so I took it for him to see, as he doesn’t drive any more so can’t come to the sale. 2 he lives in the same town as an Adnams shop, so I took the opportunity to buy drinks for Tim’s penultimate party. This will be immediately after his funeral. The final one will be here, after the service in the church where we were married.

I’ve bought a dozen bottles of champagne and two of beer, as well as the dozen Bordeaux I have squirrelled away. I think that’s enough for 30 or so people? Should I worry?

I’ll worry.

3 Rose asked Wink and me over for a cup of tea. And now is the serious bit, please take note.

Rob phoned Rose while we were there, because he’d been mending a client’s computer when her doorbell rang. A lad was standing there and he said that he’d lost his mobile phone. He couldn’t remember phone numbers but he had his log-in to *popular social media site, whatevs*.

Oddly, he had a notebook with URLs and passwords. The client was sympathetic and said he could use her phone to log in to *whatever the site was* (I can’t remember). Rob didn’t think it rang true, so checked the URL. It was fake. If the boy had logged in successfully, her phone would have linked to the scam site and her details, including a lot of passwords, would have been exposed. The police have been informed, please be wary.

Z carries on

Still plodding through admin. Actually much simplified by not having to write letters or visit in person nowadays. People are really kind and helpful. My advice to anyone, however, is always to have the bank account that utility bills are paid from as a joint account. It would have been so much less complicated.

I have to let the Water Board have a copy of Tim’s death certificate and proof that I’m executrix, but emailed is okay. The reason they need it is that he’s £200 in credit and can’t give me the money until they know I’m entitled to it. Since the house isn’t permanently occupied at present, no bills are payable until it is, though they know that I visit. Likewise, no council tax until probate has been granted.

Still haven’t had the celebrant get back to me, so I’m in the air regarding the service leaflet. This is really quite frustrating as I wanted to get it completed today. But I daresay there’s a reason for that. Though a brief ‘holding’ email would have been a help. Anyway, I have had various messages about the auction, so that’s taken the rest of the day. I won’t worry, it’s not my fault. And I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

I pulled myself together, picked vegetables and cooked a proper meal tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll slice the two loaves I baked and freeze most of them. Since I started baking my own bread again, after Russell died, I haven’t wanted to waste any and the chickens have not done so well as they used to in that respect. They get any other leftovers and scraps and they don’t do so badly. I’m growing kale for them to eat over the winter – I pick a few leaves at a time, I don’t let them loose at it because they’d destroy the plants. Chickens are really destructive. They don’t just eat the grass, they scratch away at the roots and dig holes, even in a very big run. All that’s left are nettles and docks – though not even that where they are now. I won’t move the run again but leave the rest of the area to recover until the spring.

Plan for tomorrow – deal with the service sheet. I’ll do my part and let the funeral director get on to the celebrant. Go to Lowestoft for a meeting with the manager at the salesroom. Get in touch with the DVLA about Tim’s car. Firm up plans for the food for next Monday. That’ll be enough for one day – except, if I can be bothered – pick tomatoes and deal with them, even if it just means washing and freezing them.

You see? Sorted. Simple.

Sunday lunchtime

Lunch is hot-smoked salmon on a slice of bread, with some olives and a glass of white wine. I did have poached egg for breakfast and I’m considering using some of the tomato crop that’s over-ripening in the greenhouse and garden to make soup for dinner, but I’ll probably not bother and investigate the fridge or freezer. But anyway, I managed to get things done, to a limited extent, this morning.

I haven’t finished the stuff for the funeral directors but that’s not necessary until later. I’ll do it this afternoon. I didn’t sleep much – early to bed, I guess I was asleep by 10.30 and I was certainly awake soon after midnight, for hours. I went downstairs for a cup of tea – tisane, I suppose: turmeric, ginger and lemongrass, which is very nice – at around 4 and then slept for a couple more hours. It took me a long time to start dealing with anything much once I got up.

Pillock and Plank are still roaming free. I don’t know if there are any eggs, I’m not really bothered about looking. I’m marginally fonder of Pillock and he of me, I can certainly get closer to him than the very pretty white hen who longs to be back with the flock but won’t do anything to make that happen.

I bought a loaf in Lidl the other day, which is at the end of Tim’s road, but which he never used. I didn’t want to drive anywhere and I like to use the nearest shop. The loaf is okay, but not as good as the ones I bake. But I absolutely don’t want to make bread at present. I got the sourdough starter out of the fridge and left it to warm up a bit and fetched all the different flours for my usual multi-grain, multi-seed loaf.

I put them back. I couldn’t contemplate making bread. And I whinged a bit on Facebook. I find that a bit of self-pity does wonders because it makes me despise myself. Ten minutes later, I went to the kitchen again and half an hour after that, I’d got two loaves proving and I’d fed the starter. I don’t have to feel the joy to just get on and do it. I’ll be glad later. Or tomorrow in the case of the sourdough, which I stretch every hour or two, put in the fridge overnight, warm up and shape and then leave to rise all morning. Its relaxed slowness is its appeal.

Z used to be indecisive

But now I just get on with things.

I’ve chosen the music for Tim’s funeral, which was quite an ordeal. Worse was working out how to get it off iTunes on his pc. I could have done it on my Mac – long story short, his lovely brother has helped out, just pre-empting my lovely Ronan who’d have helped me on a video call otherwise. A bit of assembling to do tomorrow but the worst is over. I hope.

Still feeling dreadful, intermittently tearful and sometimes normal and even cheerful. It’s all quite odd and unsettling but I just accept the situation. I’m very, very grateful and appreciative of those who keep in touch. Not that I mind those who don’t. Which has included my cat today. Eloise has only dropped in for meals. i’d assumed she was next door with Wink, but she wasn’t. I went outside a few minutes ago – the usual “Eloise cat, darling cat whom I love with all my heart, will you come in?” The torch picked up a dark shape and I went to pick her up. She accepted love and praise and food and has sloped off again, I know not where. Hey, cat. That’s how cats can be and if you can’t take it, you need a dog. I love them both, but Eloise wouldn’t accept an interloper. And I can’t deal with the thought that a pet is likely to have a shorter life than I have, so I don’t think I can risk one after Eloise, to whom I’m already committed.

Once I’ve sent off the music and pictures for the service (the words having gone already), I can start to think about the next thing. i’ve drafted a letter to the other beneficiaries of Tim’s will, but there’s a specific reason why I can’t send it yet and I hope to have more information in the next week, so my letter can be clearer. I also want to write to my friend and distant cousin by marriage, Sheila in Atlanta, who has sent a brief, loving note. Every time I write to her, I receive a letter by return post, which always leaves me on the back foot. I owe her at least three letters. Tomorrow is the day when I’ll reply. I feel bad that I type letters nowadays, because that comes so naturally, whereas handwritten letters are quite painful to manage, but now I’ve been told that her eyesight is failing (she is 92, it’s hardly surprising), I’m sure that a typed letter is easier to read. I’ll make the font a bit bigger.

I feel I should check my blood pressure regularly, which I’ve never been in the habit of doing. It’s not surprising that it’s a bit higher than ideal, in the circumstances. But when I was struggling with the music, I started to get tinnitus again. Since I’ve suspected for a while that high blood pressure is the cause, I tested it again. Way higher than this morning. Seems to add some evidence. But I expect it’ll have come down again, now that the music situation is nearly sorted. Telling the doctor, if it’s still high in a few weeks when I don’t have any excuse, is on my mental list, though. Worrying about it isn’t good, so I won’t.

Z’s head is held up

It’s our fifth wedding anniversary, which has made the day immensely hard to bear. I drove home last night, stopping to eat a sandwich on the way (bought at Lidl, not at all memorable) and Wink and I had some tea when I got here. I had to explain to my wine merchant last week that he wouldn’t find me such a good customer in future.

However, I am putting on a brave face. I also bought croissants in Lidl, to continue the tradition of Croissant Friday (and a walnut and maple syrup pastry because, having wanted nothing sweet for two and a half weeks, I was so tired by yesterday afternoon, I badly needed something unhealthy for instant energy). I’ve phoned everyone except Reading Council to sort out the council tax, plus the water board which I only remembered about this morning. I’ve got to open an executor’s account with Tim’s bank, which I hope I can do online – they’ve emailed me – and then the next lot of paperwork starts. Before that, Tim’s service is the next thing because the deadline is Sunday night. I’ve met all the deadlines and the plates have been spun or taken down after the job was completed. The best way of staving off panic is to keep working on what needs to be done.

My business colleague told me today that his wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s only 55, it’s quite shattering. She can still cope with work and running the home, as long as everything is clear-cut and organised, but she struggles with other everyday things. My friend Paul – he and his wife Carolyn were Tim’s best friends since 1988 – phoned me yesterday evening and somehow the conversation turned to memory. He was quite surprised when I said I regularly test myself for cognitive function. I don’t think that I said cognitive function, he’d have been even more surprised if I had. But I check myself. I count backwards in 7s from 100 (if you hit 30 you’re correct and you should end on 2, but I haven’t memorised the numbers in between so I think it’s a genuine test) and I spell words backwards. I do some of the other tests too but those are easy when you’ve got a minute or two spare. Paul was, as I said, surprised. Is this not normal? Does no one else do this sort of thing? I also go through times tables and poetry and think through all the events of the day or the previous day. I don’t think this is either paranoid or fearful – if I were to detect the start of a problem, better to confront it early: although to be frank, I am probably wanting the “Yes!” moment of being reassured it isn’t there.

Anyway, today. The positive things.

1 I went to the hygienist, the regular 6-month appointment. Last time, she found loads of problems that I was unaware of. She gave me advice, I felt small and made a 3-month appointment, but I had to cancel it as Wink had an eye appointment at the hospital on the same day and needed me to drive her. I started by telling her that a family emergency, which I didn’t explain, meant that my teeth had been brushed but nothing more for a few weeks, so they’d probably be a mess. They weren’t. They were fine. Far better than last time, which was clearly an aberration.

2 I’ve finally picked up my new clarinet. I haven’t played it yet, though I will over the weekend. Mark the music tuner advised me to ‘break it in’ and not play for more than 20 minutes a day for the next month, because warmth and damp may cause the wood to crack otherwise. This makes perfect sense and I’ll take his advice.

3 The day I left here, the chickens dug a tunnel out of their run and four girls got out. Wink managed to get one of them back but the others were proudly taken over by Pillock the maverick cockerel. When I came back and called, two came back to the run, dear little girls. I am very pleased with them. Less so with the other, who chose to pretend that the sky was falling in. I didn’t call her Chicken Licken though, her name is Plank. I hope to get her back over the weekend, otherwise Pillock will continue to be a proud husband. I’m sorry for lonely Pillock, but it’s too late to hope for him to be accepted by the others.

4 I delegated. I firmly asked David to get in touch with the local paper for a write-up. I explained that I hate the telephone and I haven’t got time (emailing isn’t productive unless you’ve phoned first). He has problems of his own, as I said before, but he agreed and I’ve written a press release – a third one, because I’ve bought some publicity with an antiques magazine – which I find very hard to do at the best of times. Self-publicising is really not my forte.

I’m switching off tonight, I’ll look for some cheerful television that I don’t have to do anything but watch. Probably Bake Off. I only watch catch-up, I don’t want to risk a news report and hear a politician’s voice. Not doing so, unless by accident, has been my best decision over the past six years except from marrying Tim. So I’m back to where I started and I’ll spend the evening honouring and loving his memory and trying not to think about myself.

Z drinks red wine and ponders

Today has been better. I didn’t sleep well and the night was a series of catnaps, but I’d arranged to go with Fiona to walk her dog down by the river. It was a lovely sunny day and it’s one of Bonnie’s favourite places and where she loves to run. We walked a brisk two or three miles and came back here for a cup of tea before she left. Everyone is being far kinder than I expected. Which I should explain.

I have this odd and unfounded reputation for being ‘strong,’ whatever that means. I also give off an air of self-reliance. That is not unfounded, but I’ve gradually come to understand that it can be off-putting. I’m aware that being too needy is also off-putting. Let people in, don’t smother them by clinging, know that there’s an end point for crying at random points because, let’s face it, if you hope to be invited to social occasions at any time, you don’t want to spoil the party. This may sound cynical but it isn’t. It’s my usual over-thinking but it’s also meant to be kind and aware. I don’t want to be selfish, but I’m finally, for once in my life, taking the view that it’s okay for it to be all about me for a week or two…though there’s a limit.

I wish I could ask for more help, in fact, but it isn’t really possible. I’m horrified at the prospect of clearing this house, it has to be done but I need to take my time. Getting in clearance people isn’t an option, of course, not before I’ve gone through everything.

While looking for the papers yesterday, I found his wedding album to Viv, all the letters of condolence when she died, a folder of cards etc from when he had a relationship with J – he gave her a different name on his blog, which I can’t remember – his 70th birthday party cards and paperwork from the party, all sorts of personal things. What to do with them? They aren’t anything to do with me, it isn’t appropriate for me even to read them. I will have to destroy them – Viv’s sister might like the photos but there’s no one else to be interested. I did email J to tell her. They parted on friendly terms and I had a friendly email back, I hadn’t given her details about Tim’s funeral and she didn’t ask, so I think we’ve both done the best thing in the circumstances.

I have felt cared for. Clare is calling round soon, just to say hello, Paul just rang and I’ve also spoken to John G (publog was his excellent and brilliantly named blog) this evening, though that was more because I wanted to support him because his aged father isn’t in great shape. I ate a Co op quiche this evening, after some canapes (I have no idea how to do accents on a pc and can’t quite be arsed to find out, because it’s one thing that Mac does so much better) with a glass of wine. This is far more than I’ve eaten at one time for the last two and a half weeks.

I phoned his house insurance company and was on the line for over 20 minutes before it was picked up, then I was put through to the bereavement department and had to wait for another 10. Turned out that it was a side branch of his car insurance – if I’d realised that, I could have done it all the other day. Still, it’s done. I tried to add my bank card to Tim’s Spotify account but there was no option to put a different name on the card. So I’ll have to save his playlists if I want them and it’ll revert to a free account in a couple of weeks. I phoned the Guardian, where a well-spoken man answered instantly, so Tim’s subscription has been stopped. I tried to deal with the gas company, but by the time I’d got his meter reading as asked, it was nearly 5 o’clock and that’s when they close. So that’s a job for tomorrow.

I’ve listened to a lot of music and not found what I’m looking for. I’ve got to make my mind up soon. Sunday is the deadline.

I count my blessings. Top of the list is good friends. Thank you.

Comfort comes in odd ways

I drove back down to Reading this morning. It was the last thing I wanted to do but I’m having to share my time between Norfolk and here for now. I have a list of things to do over the next few days – notifying all the other companies etc and changing direct debits, getting the house valued, going through music to choose tracks for Tim’s funeral and starting to sort things out. First will be his clothes, which will be put into bags, taken back and put into the Scope charity bin at the village hall. He’s got a surprising amount of clothes in the wardrobes and drawers, but they’re nearly all old because everything he wore most of the time is in Norfolk – where I’ve got to do the same job.

First, though, I had an appointment to see Tim, to say goodbye. He’d already gone, of course. I talked to him for ten minutes or so and stroked his face and his hand, then left.

I’d had a bit of time at the house before that, which I used to look for documents, the one I needed being Viv’s probate certificate. The solicitor had mentioned that Tim had told her that Viv’s name had never been taken off the title deeds of the house – Viv was Tim’s late wife. So I needed proof that he was the sole owner. I looked everywhere possible in the house, with no result, so went online to order a replacement. It’s a mere £1.50 to access online and is a simple process. I had found Viv’s funeral service leaflet so knew the date. But I ran out of time to finish the order and was going to do it later.

Having arrived back, feeling even worse than I had all day, it occurred to me that Tim’s office, unused for a few years, was outside in the brick-built shed. It looks like a garage, but inside there are two rooms, the other being a toolshed, and he’d told me that he used to do all Viv’s admin when she was an Ofsted inspector, some 20 years ago. Perhaps the papers were there.

It took me a while to find the keys, but I got in there and found a filing cabinet. Neatly labelled files at the top, box files in the lower drawers. It’s all there. All his bank accounts and investments and all the papers I needed. Tim didn’t really send me there, of course, but I think I’ll choose to believe he did, because it’s some comfort at a wretched time.

I’ve rather hit the buffers now, but nice people are coming to clean the house soon, so I’ll just clear away anything in their way and then browse through music for a bit. Admin can wait until tomorrow. Lovely friends have invited me over tonight, so I won’t be alone this evening.

Thinking and writing about Tim

I finished my piece about Tim. I wrote about things that were part of him, that he cared about and that made him the person he was. Places, friends, family, books – reading and writing, food and, always with him whatever else he was doing, music. I could have written a lot more but a page of 734 words seemed to be enough. Like our wedding, either we had 30 or 250, we pared it right down or opened it up and we chose to be sparing. I’ve also got some memories that others have written.

That took me to 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I rummaged for lunch. Twiglets and red wine was all that I fancied really, but I added some cheese and a couple of crackers. Later, I fell asleep and was woken by the telephone. I didn’t know where I was or what time it was for a few moments.

I’ve completed the catalogue and can send the PDF to the printers. There were a couple of errors, where I’d put the wrong estimates and a typo or two as well. Overall, it’s pretty good for my first solo effort. I had to do a couple of short pieces for the Antiques Collector magazine website, which I found really difficult. I’d missed the deadline, I’d simply forgotten it and had to apologise. Sensibly, the actual deadline was a week later, because it’s not unusual for reminders to have to go out, but I had to get it off by last night. I managed it, though I have no confidence it’s any good. It made me stay up late, which is probably a good thing. The night before, I was in bed by 9 and asleep soon after. But I woke up well before midnight and was awake for hours. That’s probably the reason I slept so heavily yesterday afternoon.

My American friends phoned yesterday afternoon from Atlanta, Ga. Dan’s mother Sheila’s mother was Russell’s mother’s cousin. Mother had married an American and moved over there. Sheila had her 92nd birthday the other day. I must write. I’m really not the best correspondent and Sheila is, I’m always a couple of letters behind. Her health is failing, though, Dan says she is starting to tire. I wanted to visit her and nearly made it – Russell agreed to go there and to New Orleans to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. But then my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis was made so plans were shelved and he point-blank refused any other holidays, so we never went. He should have, but that’s his responsibility. Tim and I had plans too, but we didn’t manage it either. Maybe I will, but it depends on Wink being able to manage here for two or three weeks and I can’t make plans at present.

I can make appointments, though. I’ve made one for a valuation of his house. I hate to do this but it’s necessary. It’s not disloyal, though it feels it. Simply, I need its value for probate.

The other thing I’ve done was write a post on his own blog. Sometimes, a blog ceases to be updated with no explantation – with so many bloggers having just stopped over the past ten years or so, this may have no significance. Tim himself had only written two brief posts this year. But it seems only fair to his readers (he said he didn’t have regular readers any more apart from me and his brother) to let them know.

Family day with granny

Ro and co came over today. Astonishingly, because he saw so little of me for months on end, Rufus loves me very much. He also loves my house and wants to live here. His mother enquired delicately whether he wanted to live here with me and Wink or with mummy and daddy. Granny and Auntie Wink, he said. And Perdita.

His parents are sorely tempted. I pointed out to him that it’s too far from his school and he likes school. Yes, but he likes weekends better…

I still think it’s the house that is the main attraction. It’s the size and the space outside – not that their house is small. Anyway, I made cheese soufflé for lunch, which children usually like and, because I was rather late getting started, did a rapid starter of smoked salmon sandwiches and cucumber, to stave off starvation in small children and their elders. Rufus had helped fetch the eggs from the henhouse and he and his sister fed the chickens their daily treat of mealworms. Later, he picked blackberries and I fetched some apples from the tree. i was going to give them to him to take home, but he wanted me to make a crumble, so we had pudding sometime after 3 in the afternoon. I had some local Jersey ice cream to go with it. I don’t normally eat anything sweet, but sometimes I had a couple of spoonfuls when Tim was away.

Ronan is going to check the catalogue to see if the formatting can be improved. He was quite impressed by how well I’d done, as am I. There are still a few things that I’d like changed but have tried and failed to do, so he’ll have a look. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t done. I know that few people will notice and it really does look fine as it is – still, it’s a satisfaction to get it as good as it can be.

I spent a while this morning cleaning the kitchen. It was a mess. In fact, it is again because I was so busy getting lunch ready that I couldn’t clear up as I went, then we went to the playground in the village so I had all the dirty dishes waiting for me afterwards. They didn’t all fit in the dishwasher and I left out those that needed soaking, so they’ll be dealt with in the morning. Anyway, that meant it wasn’t until after 11 when I sat down at the computer again and I plunged into writing about Tim. You know my informal style and that’s what I used. I hadn’t finished the first draft when the family arrived, but I printed it out and passed it round. That’s so unlike the Z I was a couple of decades ago. I’d have needed to perfect it before anyone saw it. Now, I know that isn’t necessary. Some helpful feedback was received and I’ll do more tomorrow.