Monthly Archives: December 2021

Here we go again

I managed to get a few items of admin done today, having put them off several times because the thought of it made me ludicrously anxious. Of course, doing it is far easier than thinking about it. Wink and I are off to Reading in a few days, whilst Rose will look after things here. When she came over on Christmas Eve, Eloise cat was thrilled, so she will be very pleased to have Rose all to herself. Her housemate will look after the cats at their place.

Here’s to better times, hey.

Picture post

We went to Norwich today to meet Weeza and co for lunch and a walk. We parked both cars near the Cathedral – that is, the public car park next to the law courts and the Adam and Eve pub, which is convenient for all three places.

Being called for jury service must be a nice earner for Norwich council, actually. A friend who was called for jury service had no realistic option but to drive there and park for the day. Several times, she wasn’t selected and drove home again with most of her ticket time unused. I can quite see why the council doesn’t want to change the system to park for as long as you’re there.

We headed up the hill to the cathedral though, and I gave more than the suggested family donation because it seemed decent to do so as there were six of us, and strolled round for a bit. “A lot of pictures of Jesus,” someone mused, though that seems fair enough, for several reasons. A quick trip round the cloisters and we went up to the refectory for lunch.

This was genuinely impressive, for a sandwich lunch. Weeza and I both had chicken and avocado, which were such huge sandwiches that I needed a knife and fork. There was a nice salad to accompany it. Wink and Phil had sausage sandwiches, Gus had ham and cheese, plus a massive, homemade sausage roll and Zerlina had a ham sandwich. Various soft drinks and coffees, the bill was a shade over £50 and very good value, particularly for the food. I had to remove the top slice of bread, it was more than I could eat – there must have been half an avocado and a chicken breast in there.

Afterwards, remembering my guided tour about the Kett Rebellion back in the summer, I led the way round the back of the cathedral and down to the river. It was a mild day, cloudy with odd bursts of sunshine. It was nice. And here are a few pictures I took.

No one, other than I (and only once) had been along the river bank that way and, though damp December isn’t the best time of year, we all appreciated it. I told them about Kett’s Heights and recommended that, for a summer’s day.


Dilly looked up the birdhouses and found this

Z is ready

I’ve done nothing in terms of food for tomorrow, but roast dinner, how hard can it be? Wink invited me and Rose for dinner tonight and we relaxed, having swapped angst stories for a while first. Prosecco cheered us up. And Rose is staying over for the night. She sends you all her love.

I did all the housework. Everywhere looks pristine as long as you don’t open any cupboards. I’ve shampooed carpets and everything. I didn’t sleep much last night, so am due a sound night tonight. May not hear Father Christmas coming down the chimney, though he might not be thrilled at the fire still burning there.

John Greenwood (Publog) phoned. It’s his first Christmas alone since his dad died and he’s cracking open the Laphroaig and has brought home a plateful of roast beef from the pub. Zoe (My Boyfriend is a Twat) has had a spell in hospital but came home yesterday, to the loving care of Mike (Da Hat). We’re all coping and doing our best.

I think I might just pop a bottle of champagne in the fridge before I go to bed. Happy Christmas, wonderful friends. Blogging has brought me so much love and friendship. Long may it continue.

Z beats the crowds

Wink and I decided to go vegetable shopping together yesterday, so that we could share a stick of brussels sprouts, for instance. In the event, i bought a lot more than she did for myself, mainly because I bought fruit but also because I get very excited in a greengrocery and want to buy all the pretty, tasty things. She got out her card before I did, so she paid for it all, which I’d be embarrassed by if it were anyone else, but the two of us are not bothered about that sort of thing.

All we needed today was her hairdressing appointment and my meat order. She had offered to pick up the meat after having her hair cut, but it occurred to us that parking might be a problem, so I suggested that I drop her off and fetch her back later. On the way in, we saw huge queues outside the greengrocer and deli, so felt mightily smug that we’d gone in the previous day.

I meant to spend most of the day on housework, but it didn’t entirely work out, there were various distractions, phone calls and so on. I also did an elaborate arrangement of greenery for the mantelpiece, as I haven’t got a tree in the drawing room, only in the dining room. I was going to add candles, but the arrangement didn’t turn out long and low, as originally planned, so I’ve put a few decorations on.

It’s all a bit hard to cope with and I’m clamping down hard on emotions. But I did cry this afternoon, when a parcel arrived from Jarrolds, the lovely department store and bookshop in Norwich, which turned out to be a deli hamper from Tim’s brother, sister and nieces. It was Brother’s birthday, so I phoned him first – I’d been going to phone anyway, having forgotten to send a card. He said they so sympathise and appreciate me having to deal with Tim’s house and paperwork, which is thoughtful of them. I certainly felt that, in marrying Tim, I’d gained another whole family – two, in fact, because Tim’s sister-in-law from his previous marriage and her family are lovely too. We will all retain our friendship. I phoned everyone (this is quite a big thing for me, I rarely use the phone if I can help it), so at least my conscience over not sending cards to them has been calmed.

Ann Horner phoned yesterday, it was lovely to chat to her. Mike (The Armoury blog) isn’t too well now, sadly, and his memory isn’t what it was. He still has his personality and humour, though, she says. I’ve said I’ll go and visit when I’m back from America. I hope he remembers me, I’ll remind him about my Dutch wall clock that he got going a few years ago. I think he’ll remember that.

Testing, testing…

I feel pulled in every direction. I want to see all my family but of course I recognise my responsibilities and so do they. So we test ourselves before meeting. Still clear. I do think the vaccine will work and I don’t think I’m likely to get it or, if I do, badly, but I am playing as safe as is feasible with the added wish to hug my family. It’s a balancing act.

I didn’t write the Christmas cards. I blame your kindness in telling me there’s no hurry. I’ve run out of time, yet there are people that I need to communicate with, so I’ve still got to do that. I agree that I need to do it in my own time, whilst recognising that “my own time” is actually never, so I must get my arse in gear. And if you’ve sent me a card, I’m so sorry that I’ve only written three and yours isn’t one of them.

I probably said, a few weeks ago, that a stone flew up and cracked my windscreen (my car’s windscreen, obvs, for the pernickety). The first date I could get for it to be replaced at the place approved by my insurance company was yesterday. I turned up and was told 4 hours. Imagine the horrified emoji. I walked the few minutes to Asda and wandered round for a bit, but – blimey things are cheap! – I couldn’t be bothered to buy anything as I’d have had to carry it. Some of the clothes were surprisingly nice for the price, but the thought of the sweatshops put me off. Ditto the ludicrously cheap gammon joint that the farmer must have been desperate to agree to. I will pay proper prices and respect the fact that some people can’t afford them and that’s that.

I went and bought a pot of Earl Grey and a slightly disappointing, but not unpleasant, mince pie (for future reference, Weeza recommends toasted teacake) at Costa down the road. I wore a face mask as I walked because the traffic fumes were really bad. And I whiled away my time on the phone and the car only took a couple of hours after all.

Clear tests all round, so went to visit Weeza and co. We hope to see each other next week too but also that they can come over for the 2nd weekend in January so that Phil can hook up Tim’s hifi stuff. Pugsley is very happy to have been offered a choice of Tim’s electric guitars. He is a very keen and very good player, Tim himself was impressed and had looked forward (unbearable, this) to watch him develop. I’m pretty sure he’d have offered him a guitar himself. Pugsley’s sister Squiffany has booked to go to the Reading Festival next August Bank Holiday, with friends. I’ve offered to drive them and will, myself, spend the weekend in Pembrokeshire. I’m looking forward to driving four exuberant teenagers – slightly less, the possibly smelly journey back. But hey, we can always open the windows.

Z has everything but the food

Apart from a few things that are on their way, I’ve finished present shopping. I’ve brought everything into the drawing room to be wrapped and then ran out of steam. The room had been so tidy, too. I cleaned and tidied yesterday. It certainly isn’t tidy now.

I’m not sure if I mentioned that Zerlina tested positive a couple of weeks ago. Just a routine test for school, the whole family does it. She was astonished to see the two lines come up and took another test – same result. So she had a PCR test, still positive.

Weeza and co have been quarantining too. They didn’t want to risk passing it on and ruining anyone’s Christmas. That people were advised to work from home if they could was good timing. Weeza had to talk to her colleagues, who immediately said they’d rather she didn’t come in and the same thing was said at Gus’s school. But they are all fine. Zerlina is out of the infection period and never had any symptoms at all and the rest of the family has been clear throughout. Maybe vaccination does work for most people, after all (of course, knowing if you’re one of the most is another matter).

Eloise cat worried me the other night. I’d been very busy all day and had typing to do in the evening. Then I fell asleep, which is something I rarely do in the evening. I woke, startled at about 11 and staggered upstairs, feeling quite woozy. I had to lie on the bed or I’d have fainted. While recovering, I remembered that I’d let Eloise out. Eh, she’s got her catflap. Hmm. Don’t want to risk it.

So I came down again and found I’d left the door unlocked, so evidently she had been let out, I was right. But she didn’t respond to my calls. I walked round calling, nothing. I went next door, Wink was in bed reading. I checked the house and called outside her back door. Nothing. I checked my house again. No. Went back out. Two of the barn cats came to greet me. I searched. No idea where to look of course. Finally, a grumpy Eloise turned up. It was raining so she’d found shelter – I suspect she was asleep under the car. She was not pleased to be carried back in.

Now, I leave the outside and porch lights on when she’s out in the evening and turn them off when she comes in again. Less worrying that way.


Just to clarify the whole thing, a long and involved story, because that’s the Z way.

My mother in law was a great friend of her cousin Carol. In the 1920s, Carol married an American and moved to Atlanta. They continued to correspond, though they never met again. Carol had one daughter, Sheila, who is mow 92. She and her husband Dan loved England and visited many times and stayed with us, at our last house and here.

For our 30th wedding anniversary, in 2003, I really wanted to visit them and also go to New Orleans. Russell also wanted to see them, though less interested in New Orleans than I was. They loved antiques and he and they bonded over that. You needed patience, though. They’d go into an antique shop and marvel over every item, it took hours. I left Russell to it. They told the story of the time they went into a big antiques mall, leaving their teenage son Danny in the car, listening to a ball game on the radio. Much later, they returned, just in time for the end of the match. What was the score? Different game, said Danny. Two whole games later and that was just one shop…

They were lovely, vibrant and delightful company. One time, Dan’s sister Reba came with them. She had a rich Southern accent that was a joy to hear. Dan worked for an international company and they lived in the far East for a while, they were very cosmopolitan.

Anyway, back in 2002 I said to Russell that visiting Dan and Sheila, then New Orleans was all I wanted for our 30th and he went along with it. We started to find out details of hotels etc, but then my mother took a turn for the worse and was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September, with six months to live at most. So we shelved our plans. She had a good six months but died on the very day that her maximum lifespan was suggested. Later, I tried to get the trip planned again but Russell flatly refused. No good reason, he just wouldn’t leave here, though at that time Alex and Dilly lived in the annexe and Ronan lived here for a while after university. It was an opportunity missed and he was just plain wrong to refuse.

Tim also wanted to visit New Orleans and was happy to stop at Atlanta on the way. Dan had died by that time. Young Dan (dropped the Danny) and his wife and daughter always extended a warm invitation. But Covid and lockdown intervened and it never happened. Now, Shelia’s health isn’t very good, though her voice and mind still are as strong as ever. So I’ve booked to go and stay with Dan, Rhonda and Victoria and see Sheila. I don’t want to leave it and it never happen. New Orleans will have to wait, but I have contacted Julie (Hey Bartender) in Athens, Georgia and am looking forward to meeting her too.

Fingers crossed. Covid may yet prevent it. But if I don’t arrange it, it really won’t happen and I’m tired of missing out and what iffing.

Z is brisk

I’ve booked and paid for my flight, travel insurance and ESTA form, which has been approved. So all I have to hope for is not lockdown. Lap of the gods, I can’t do anything about that. I’m insured in case I test positive at the last or once I get there. Yes, I’d rather wait until later in the year but that isn’t feasible, this is my best chance – actually, the best chance of my friend.

Worrying news about two more friends, one in hospital for tests and the other has just been diagnosed with cancer. Expected to be early stage, it’s already spread. Daughter is expecting second child in four weeks. I think it was 2016 when all the musicians and actors died – not literally all, darlings, but David Bowie at the start of the year and it just kept going – and 2021 is pretty crap for almost everyone, one way or another. Or both.

Anyway, Tim’s brother has kindly offered to help with practicalities in Reading. I’ve said that I’ll itemise all the jobs and that’ll give us something to work on. Then lovely Indigo Roth phoned, so i haven’t started on the list. I’ll just start, so I won’t put it off entirely tomorrow. Then I’ll wind down for a bit before bedtime.

Z’s good day

I’ve got the papers all ready with accompanying forms, ready to post tomorrow. It’s basically all I’ve done, but tomorrow I’ll clean and tidy the drawing room. Then the kitchen will be the only total tip. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong, I keep the working surfaces clear and clean but the rest is dreadful.

Really must do Christmas cards. And buy the rest of the presents, but it’s cards that are looming over me. It’s actually less stressful to write them than to worry about them.

Other than lunch with Al, Dilly and co on Sunday, I’m pretty well holing up here until Christmas is over. I don’t want to test positive before then. I’ll be careful in January too, because I’m hoping to visit friends mid-month. I mentioned it a few weeks ago – Sheila and family in Atlanta. I’ve got a seat held for the 14th January. It’ll depend on what one is allowed to do by then, but I’ll get on to the travel insurance people tomorrow. Before then, I hope to visit Reading – I can either go early in the month and come back for a few days, or else go, stay until the 14th and return there afterwards. Sheila’s family members are gratifyingly pleased that I intend to come and I do hope I’m not stopped.

Young Zerlina tested positive last week. It was a routine test for school, she couldn’t believe the two lines and took another one. Since then, her PCR test has also been positive. She has no symptoms. Out of consideration for others, the whole family is staying home. Weeza’s work colleagues, though they’re pressed to get their work done before the holidays, prefer her to stay away and so does Gus’s school. Government recommendation is to work from home if possible, so Phil is covered. He normally does, one day a week, so was home anyway on the first day.

I fill in the Zoe app daily and have done since it came out, with the odd forgotten day. I have never filled in anything to say I’m unwell, remarkably. When I was vaccinated, I duly reported a slightly sore arm for a few days, but that was it. Not so much as a sniffle for nearly two years.

I received a parcel in the post today. I took off the wrapping and found a card and a present. It was from the couple who bought all the remaining china in the auction, six weeks ago. Just thanking me and wishing me well. Clients. Nice people, I was friendly and they were friendly, but they are clients, not actually friends. I’ve also had a card from another client, with a letter. Lowestoft collectors seems to be the best and friendliest people ever and I love my job. Job should be in inverted commas because it’s one auction a year and, for all the work I do, I really don’t make much money. But I take it as important and am immensely conscientious about it, whilst still making every effort to be very friendly and a bit amateur, in the ‘doing it for love’ sense. I’m more relieved than I can say about the paperwork that was my one productive effort today, so I’m calling it a good day.

Jesus the toddler

I went to a Nadfas lecture this morning about mediaeval depictions of the Nativity. It was interesting, lots of research and knowledge and there was humour in the lecture too. Of course, it’s the funniest bits that remain with you.

One was the Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves. Jesus in a baby walker

The other was a picture of Joseph with a sock and shoe off, with him intent on the sock, which he was busy making into Baby Jesus’s first baby grow. Just brilliant.

After that, i went down to the bank to get some papers copied and certified, ready to send off. It’s all so dismal. But I’m making progress, however slowly..

I don’t enjoy going to the lectures, because it’s something we did together. Much more painful for the survivor of a couple who did everything together, but quite hard enough. As I walked along the top of the market, past the Guildhall and down Exchange Street, I thought about family members who have died at home. My mother-in-law died in her bedroom, now half of Mel’s spare room. Our mother in Mel’s bedroom. Russell in my bathroom, in my arms. Tim in his Reading bedroom. I’m not afraid of the fact of death and being where someone has died is not something to fear. But the proximity of the death of someone you love is hard to live with and I cried as I walked along. On the way home, I filled the car with petrol – a garage halfway between Norwich and Yagnub not only has the cheapest fuel but is the only place I know where there’s a pump attendant. Then I stopped at the plant nursery and bought myself a bowl of pink hyacinths, a broom and a Christmas tree.

Of course, that meant I had to find a Christmas tree stand, which took a little while. We’ve got several, because Al used to use them to display his stock, but they’re randomly placed in barns and workshops. I had to buy a 6 foot tree as the smaller ones didn’t have a trunk that would go into a stand and I’d have had to saw off the bottom branches. I’d already thought I might put it in the dining room, and that’s got a high enough ceiling. So it’s waiting for a few more days to be decorated, because it’s nowhere near Christmas yet.

Then I fetched the wheelbarrow and shifted 4 bags of chicken feed at 20k each and one of dry cat food at 10 kilos. I potted up two azaleas, which need watering every day because they dry out so quickly and I don’t water daily in the winter, therefore they need more earth, so I don’t have to.

I’ve cried off a social do this weekend. I don’t want to go and I simply explained that. I neither want to tell people that Tim has died nor to receive sympathy from those who already know.

Anyway, back to Baby Jesus in his walker. Isn’t it just the best thing?