Monthly Archives: November 2021

Dreaming on

Plans for the next ten days are progressing. A new friend of Wink’s has invited us both for lunch tomorrow – it’s very kind, as I don’t even know the friend of the new friend who provided the introduction. Still, a friendly invitation is welcomed.

I’ve written the emails and sent them and have one letter to America to post tomorrow – that’s to Sheila and it includes a catalogue and the prices from the auction. While I’m in Reading, I’ll make a trip to Leicestershire on Saturday. Some of you will remember John Greenwood, whose splendidly named Publog was part of our blogging social circle. He’s been disabled for many years, since a tree fell on his car during a storm and his dad was his carer and true friend for all that time. Gordon died a couple of weeks ago, in his nineties and the wake is on Saturday. I didn’t meet Gordon, though I sent him a present of magnificent brownies from Ludlow market when I met John eight years ago. But I’ll raise a glass or two to him, all the same.

I have finally got the study back to the state it was a week ago. It was emptying the bookcase that was the problem, everything in it was dumped into boxes. But it’s been sorted out now and I have a new to-do list. Top priority is getting the car windscreen sorted out – it’s just a chip so I think it can be mended rather than replaced.

Wink and I need a holiday. Can’t have one yet, but we’ll dream.

Wonderful Wink

I’m starting to find some gumption again, on and off. Wink is now my official PA and will take over anything I’m struggling with and encourage me to do the things I must.

I think that I achieve quite a lot, in fact, but I only am aware of what I’m letting go. I’ve got a few more jobs for the weekend. I’ve emailed some friends who didn’t yet know about Tim and now I just have to see who sends a Christmas card to us both – some of the people on his card list aren’t ones I’ve met and I’m not sure if they will have heard. I think I’ve let all my friends know now.

My friends in Atlanta video called me for Thanksgiving. I badly want to go and visit them. Sheila is 92 now and very frail, I don’t want to leave it long. But now there’s this new variant and so I don’t know when it’ll be feasible. Fingers crossed that I can go in the spring and that she’s still in reasonable health. Wink is also anxious to visit her dear friend in Chennai, we just have to see what can be arranged. No point in travelling and then having to quarantine for weeks, because more than a fortnight away is not easy to manage.

Having turned out the study, I’m now sorting out paperwork. There is a lot of it, but much can be shredded and disposed of. Wink is being wonderful.

Rat runs

I’ve been to Reading and back, yet again. This time it was for another funeral. Kate was 98, the mother of Tim’s sister-in-law and a good friend. I felt I could do nothing less, though going back to the same crematorium was hard. Friends called round the afternoon I arrived and another friend called round the next morning, then I had an online meeting, so I was hardly alone and I’ve come back with another carful.

Kate’s young great-grandchildren are delightful. They and their parents live on Jersey and everyone flew over for the day. The two children, aged 9 and 7, read out their tributes and, when Kate’s son, their grandad, gave the eulogy, he was fine while recounting her earlier life but found it hard to carry on to the end. As he sat down, little L put a warmly sympathetic hand on his arm. It was sensitively done for a little girl. Later, at the pub where we had a buffet lunch (delicious and all home made, really excellent) they sat at a table tucking into a very late meal and then offered to help with tea and fruit salad. As i left, I said goodbye to B and he politely said goodbye Zoë, I hope we’ll see you again soon. That he remembered my name (I’d met hime once before, two and a half years ago) – I suppose the family had spoken about me recently, but it was exceptionally polite and charming and completely unprompted. On the occasion we visited the family when Tim and I visited Jersey, we thought they were lovely children, but they’re really unusually grown up, in the best way.

I drove home afterwards and Wink gave me supper. We went to Norwich for an appointment for her this morning and then she took me out for lunch. Later, we unpacked the car and I’m getting the study sorted out. It’s all very hard, I’m finding myself struggling to do anything at all. I manage by listing the achievements of the day, every day.

Tomorrow’s will be signing my new will and carrying on sorting out the study, and dealing with some paperwork.

Round here, there are no acorns this year. A complete crop failure. Someone asked on a local Facebook page and so various people reported back. i went to look at the big oak on the drifve – zilch. Usually, in the autumn, the pheasants are gorging on the crop and I suppose squirrels and other creatures eat them too. If there really are none out in the countryside, a lot of creatures will feel the lack. I’ll buy some mixed grains for the birds and put it out every day.

I’ve got rats in the chicken’s greenhouse. It’s a great nuisance and I can’t do anything about it. There’s no food for them, but unfortunately some cat food was left in there for a week or two and I didn’t realise they’d eaten a hole in the bag. That was taken away ages ago, but they’re busily tunnelling away – the chickens do not all go inside their shed but some sleep on the roof and others on the open door, so i can’t trap the rats. There’s no food for them unless they’ve worked out how to access the so-called rat proof feeder (which isn’t at all, if one manages to work out how to use it). All I can do is block the feeder at night, which is hard on the chickens in the morning before I come to open it up again. I haven’t done that yet, but I’ll have to. I have no idea how to get rid of the rats. I guess it’s warmer for them at this time of the year and so, even if there’s no food, they’ll be llkely to stay until the spring. There’s no point blocking up runs, the’ll make more mess tunnelling out new ones. I am tempted to put a hose down and flood them out, though.

Zed lazed

Rose came over yesterday. She’d been in Norwich for an appointment and had missed lunch. I’d already had mine, but fed her on Baron Bigod and toast. Then we had a cheese and spinach soufflé with salad for dinner and she stayed the night.

During the afternoon, I got to grips with some of the old papers from a bookcase I want to remove from the study. I’ll have to replace it with something, but I hope I’ll find a smaller one and can swap. There’s so much furniture in this house that it is always possible to do that – though otherwise I’ll find one in Tim’s house. The eternal shortage of bookcases means that I probably will keep most of his. I do need to be rigorous about getting rid of some books, though. Mine rather than his, I suspect.

Wink is coming home tomorrow and I’ve been lazy. There’s a very good supplier of Indian food, who started up a small business a few months ago. He delivers on a Friday or Saturday only, for you to reheat the meal at home. The basic meals are four dishes, one with a meat portion (always chicken, though a lamb dish is available as an extra) and one with a vegetable curry, then there’s a dhal and two other vegetable dishes, plus raita. Once you’ve opted for ‘carnivore or herbivore,” there’s a list of supplementary dishes. We’ve had them several times, they’re good home rather than restaurant cooking, which is a compliment without insulting a good restaurant. One meal serves 2-3, it says, though we always found it was ample for the three of us, without adding extra rice or whatever, so Wink and I will eat some of it tomorrow and I’ll freeze the rest. I was going to make toasted cheese for lunch, because that’s my default lazy lunch nowadays, but I pulled myself together and fried aubergine, shallot, pepper and tomato with some halloumi instead. Apart from starting a sourdough loaf, it was the only non-indolent action of the day.

Z’s memory is jogged

I avoided gardening club, went to Nadfas and to lunch today.

I wasn’t sent the Nadfas programme – something went awry with the post and I didn’t receive the renewal form back in the summer. I know I didn’t because I always pay the sub straight away. I had a phone call in early September to check if I wanted to renew? I paid straight away, but evidently missed the mailing of the programme cards. It doesn’t matter, i can ask for one, but it meant that I didn’t know what the subject of the lecture was on Wednesday, which was about wartime camouflage. Nothing to do with fine art, but an art in itself and the subject was very interesting.

I’ve heard that lecturer before, though not the same lecture. His father was in MI5 and involved in subterfuge, it is clearly something that fascinates him. I’d been trying to remember – I can’t remember why – the name of the woman who was a wartime official photographer, married to an artist – I went to a lecture some years ago by their son. She’d been so traumatised by her experiences, including the relief of Belsen, that she abandoned photography and turned to alcohol and it wasn’t until after her death that the son discovered her history. Anyway, they were mentioned. Lee Miller and Roland Penrose.

The other person I’d thought of recently was Evelyn Dunbar, the official wartime artist. Her paintings of the time were a fascinating record of home life – that is, British life, because factories, munitions and other aspects of life in this country were recorded by her. I’d been thinking of her because her nephew, Chris (long-time bloggers will remember him, though his personal blog was abandoned some years ago because his wife disapproved) still sometimes puts up posts on his blog about her and he posted twice recently. Chris and Jo came to my first blog party, though Jo was defensive, rude to me and obviously didn’t want to be there. A pity as he was charming. Anyway, I digress – the speaker put up some pictures of Evelyn’s that are in the Imperial War Museum, which depicted the manufacture of camouflage nets.

I arrived five minutes before the lecture started, sat near the back and left as soon as it ended. I went to call on Ronan and we had a long chat. And today, I picked up my friend and took her for lunch – that I missed my other friend’s funeral as a consequence has to be less important. Lilian has hardly left her house for months and she was so pleased to see friends again. I managed to miss the turn on the way home and took a detour through Beccles, which was stupid of me. I was heading for her old home.

I’m struggling with two notes on the clarinet and starting to think it may need to be adjusted. I’ll persevere for a bit and then, if I don’t get it right, I’ll have to book it in for a service. There is no obvious reason for me to find it so hard to play these two notes. I might fish out my old clarinet and reassure myself that I can play them on that. If I can’t, it’s me.

Arm still slightly sore, but no other discernible effects from the vaccination. All the same, 9.30 seems to be quite late. I don’t want to go to bed yet, I’ll be awake by midnight. I’ll look for something on a catch-up tv channel to amuse me. I won’t watch anything live in case I accidentally catch a news broadcast and hear something to keep me awake all night. This policy has held me in good stead for over 6 years.

Z receives a boost

This morning, I moved the desk, two armchairs and a computer chair, as well as the printer, back into the study. I’ve also put my computer into here, having lazily been using it in the drawing room for a long time. I don’t need to use the computer all that much nowadays, mostly for blogging, so it may encourage me to sit down here earlier in the day (or I might forget to blog, who knows?).

Then I went to have my booster vaccination. After two doses of Pfizer earlier in the year, I had the Moderna one this time. My arm is a bit sore but nothing to note, it simply feels as if someone stuck a pin in it, which they did.

After that, I had two hours of governor/trustee training on Safeguarding in schools. I felt for the man who was delivering it, with little opportunity for engagement with people. Fortunately, we’d been sent the course materials in advance, because I discovered, ten minutes before the meeting was due to start, that I needed a Zoom update on my computer and there wasn’t time for it. So I logged in on my phone, but some of the print he put up on the screen was too small to read there.

Tonight, I’m supposed to go to Gardening Club but I have cold feet. For one thing, I’m quite tired (nothing to do with the vaccine, two hours on Zoom is quite enervating) and for another, I’m not really up to socialising today. Finding the church service so difficult on Sunday has given me pause for thought. I have a Nadfas lecture tomorrow in Norwich, where I can be fairly anonymous as there will be a lot of people, and a funeral and (an unconnected) lunch on Thursday. I don’t think I can face kind people in the village hall tonight too. Actually, I don’t want to go to any of them, but the longer you leave it, the harder it becomes. Easing myself in is all right, I think.

Z achieves

I did have the study ready and I made sourdough bread too. The carpet has been cleaned and Rose dropped in for lunch. And I cried. I do not like this and want to pull myself together.

Paul the Fish called as usual this morning and suggested various easy meals – but I saw herrings and said ooh. First, it was going to be herring for dinner and then I thought ooh again and bought half a dozen extra for rollmops.

So, already tired from clearing out a room – furniture and all (most of it) and cleaning the carpet, I then had to gut and bone herring. Then prepare a brine to soak them and spiced vinegar, onions and pickled cucumber for preserving them. I have no idea. I don’t know why I think this sort of malarkey is a good idea, however briefly.

All the same, it is all done and I had the roes on toast (new-baked bread, of course) for dinner. Eloise cat had raw herring, which is her absolute dream food. She actually whimpered for more, which is a rare thing because she’s a polite and laid-back cat.

Before I cooked the herring roes (too much for me, the rest is in a ramekin in the fridge, I suddenly had an impulse to get out my new clarinet. I picked it up the Friday after Tim died and I hadn’t opened the case until now. So I did. Cork grease. I looked in the case of my old clarinet and, mysteriously, there was no cork grease. The tube must have fallen out and I haven’t found it yet, mostly because I haven’t been looking. I did get out a soft reed, because I knew the one given is a 3 and, not having played for a year and a half, I’d never get a note out with that. I usually use 2 1/2, but I found a new 1 1/2, which was plenty.

I was indignant. You’d think they’d have provided cork grease. Then I looked in another pocket of the case and yes, they had. I smeared it on the corks, but I’ll need to use a lot more grease, it’s very stiff. The clarinet has a lovely tone, though. It sounds beautiful, even with my inexpert playing. Now I’ve started, I’ll have to carry on, though I mustn’t play for long at a time, because too much moisture in a new instrument might crack the barrel. 20 minutes a day for a month and then it’ll be fine, said the tuner.

The timer went off at 8.30, so I’ve rolled the rollmops and will leave them in the fridge for a few days. Now, though it’s only 9 o’clock, I am looking forward to bed. Clean sheets after a busy day, surely I’m bound to sleep?

Z can’t hide, even under the bedclothes

I went to the Remembrance Sunday service in the next village. Three parishes have a combined service each year, taking it in turns. I was inclined to duck out, I knew I’d cry when people kindly spoke to me. Spoke to me kindly, that is, and I did. I can’t help it. I want not to and I’m okay much of the time, in company, but of course they’ll speak sympathetically, first time they see me, and I’m just not coping with it. I didn’t stay for coffee afterwards, but slunk out and went home.

They’ve pretty well run out of organists now. Like me, the others have used a year and a half off duty to opt out altogether. Though buglers aren’t thick on the ground anyway, so it’s not so unusual for the Last Post and Reveille to be recorded. Unfortunately, the Reveille was the American version this time, though i don’t suppose younger people knew that.

Some years ago, I was asked to play them for the Remembrance Sunday service. Not on a bugle of course, but the clarinet. I did find the right music, after a bit of a search and I practised and practised. It’s really not easy. You have to go at quite a lick, there’s no scope for easing off. And actually, I did it really well. I was so anxious, but a lot of practice and adrenaline got me through. I had my watch on the music stand so that I’d know when to play after the Silence. One of my better efforts (just as well there were some, I also managed to have quite a few near misses, such as losing count of hymn verses.

I’m turning out the study, a major job. I hope to have it clear by the time my cleaners arrive tomorrow, so that they can clean it apart from the carpet, which I’ll wash afterwards. There’s a tall bookcase which is very useful for files, but it’s right where I want Tim’s music stuff to go, so I’m thinking about it. Two walls are already lined with bookcases, but they’re full of books and there’s a cupboard where I keep paper, envelopes and so on. How on earth do people downsize? I must get rid of some stuff but only to make room for more. I do realise that it’s absolutely necessary to have things orderly, for the sake of my children, and I must make sure they have essential passwords – at least they all know how to get on to my phone, most things are stored there (though now my new phone has face recognition, that’s another hurdle to jump). I’m not sure I actually know my email passwords any more.

Anyway, what gets me is that the phone recognises my face in the dark. This is so weird.


Plank is the chicken who escaped, last time I was in Reading. Not to be confused with Pillock, the cockerel that I accidentally let escape a few weeks earlier.

I ended up feeling rather fonder of Pillock than of Plank. He’s got rather a sweet nature and wanted to be friends, though was too nervous to come close enough to be caught. I wasn’t surprised that he refused to go back in the chicken’s greenhouse, because the other cockerels, while not being antagonistic to each other, respect their various spaces without being at all friendly. I dread the day they start to fight and, for that reason, know that it’s too late to reintroduce Pillock. But Plank was less friendly, but more assertive towards the barn cats, all of whom were afraid of her and, though she wanted to go home, refused to go through the damn door.

Plank had been laying and I’d started to remove the eggs. But then she changed her laying site, unsurprisingly. A few days ago, she became less reliable about turning up for meals and, the day I was due to come back, Wince found her sitting on eggs. Wink removed them, to Plank’s fury – when I came home, I put most of them back. If she sat, I knew where she was and could catch her. And that’s what I did yesterday. I hardboiled four eggs and, when they were warm, went to pick her up, popped her in a nestbox and tucked the eggs under her. The rest of the eggs, I put on the compost heap.

This morning, whether she knew the eggs had been tampered with or just wasn’t that keen on sitting, she came along with the others for mealworms. She’s the only pure white bantam, so distinctive. Also, one of the eggs on the compost heap had vanished and the others had been moved about, so I hope a hedgehog found them. This evening, an extra egg had been laid with the hardboiled ones, which has confused me slightly – I brought two eggs up to the house and think I know which is the new-laid one.

Pillock is still outside, but I don’t see what I can do about him. If I could catch him, I could put him in a coop but he’d be just as lonely and not have his freedom. He hangs out with the cats, who tolerate him. I put out food for him and talk to him, just to pass the time of day, as one does with an acquaintance.


I’ve been really tired, the last few days. Nothing much has happened apart from the bare essentials. I’m still avoiding paperwork, but I’ve managed to channel what energy I have to sorting out the study.

I don’t want to describe it, it’s been a dumping ground for quite some time. But I’ve thought it through and I like my tranquil drawing room. I also like tv and music, but so much equipment takes up more space than I’m prepared to allow. So the study, which used to be known as the music room, will be where Tim’s hifi and tv stuff goes. I spent a while this afternoon turning out a cupboard, though that has not had much effect yet on the rest of the room. Still, it’s got the Z mojo on the go.

More funerals coming up, sad to say. Both women in their 90s, no one can say that they died before their time. But the death of a friend is always a loss.

When I do a buffet-type meal, I’m always conscious that a lot of the food is based around wheat. Sandwiches, pastry and so on. Carbohydrate, even if wheat/gluten are avoided. So I use a base of slices of cucumber for some toppings. I also hollow out the seeds from cherry tomatoes and fill them, usually with Boursin cheese because it goes well. However, that means I have leftover seeds and pulp – which, given the circumstances, I felt okay about composting for once. But friend Daphne, who is even less wasteful than I am, was shocked. So into the freezer it went, for a few days. This afternoon, I chopped an onion, fried it and added the tomato, gently cooked them. I felt that a little something extra was needed. So, along with pepper and salt, I added the remains of a tub of hummus and a spoonful of cardamom seeds. Very good, I baked a potato and topped it with the mixture, along with a chunk of Baron Bigod.

It’s only 8.30, far too early to go to bed, but I really would like to. So tired. Maybe the Z mojo isn’t working as well as I want it to, as yet. But it will. I’m determined.