Monthly Archives: October 2022

Over for another year

I’ve done all the most necessary auction work and paid the clients. Though i’ve just remembered a couple more emails I need to send, but there’s no huge hurry for those; then I have to do the accounts and I’m done until the spring. I could not do this too many times a year, it’s too much work for an old girl!

I went to see Rose today and she took me out to lunch at the nice pub along the road. It looks a bit impersonal as you go in, but the staff are really lovely and the food is good.

I’ve packed up the car. Travelling light this time, a basket of clean laundry, a cool box and a small suitcase, plus a few books and the laptop. I’m not taking much food – I usually say this and then do, but I’ve just got vegetables that will be past their best if I leave them here, some wine for tomorrow night and some bread and yoghurt for Saturday morning. I can go shopping after that, but I’m seeing Tim’s sister-in-law and her husband on Saturday and may well stay the night with them. So nice that I have gained family through Tim. I miss him so badly. It hasn’t even started to get easier. It doesn’t help to dwell on it, though. I talk to him a lot, but I have no sense of his presence.

But that wasn’t what I meant to write about. All is well here and Wink will look after everything until I’m home again next week. Minimal internet, so probably won’t write.

Z is ready to wind down

I’ve told everyone what they’ve bought and I’ve just got one piece to be paid for and picked up and one cheque to receive – she’s totally trustworthy, so I’ve already posted her china and she phoned me today, thrilled with it.

In fact, it’s people like her who keep me going. She’s in her 90s and her husband died last year. I used to chat on the phone to both of them, lovely people. I’ve never met her but we’re friends. She sends me flowers every year, in spite of my protests.

I’ve had appreciative calls and emails from sellers too, it’s heartwarming. It’s not been an easy week in some ways, quite stressful, but at least I’ve got a few days away to look forward to – though I’m going to have to leave here really early on Friday morning and I’ve got a lot to do first.

Z loves a street market

The food fair was brilliant. I’m so sorry for the stallholders getting ready, the weather was poor. But at least it was mild, it wasn’t windy and there were dry periods. Poor things had to set up in the rain and I guess they weren’t very busy for the first hour. It cleared up, mid-morning, so Wink and I ventured into town. As I was planning to buy a lot of food, we drove and left the car a couple of hundred metres from the start of the stalls. Even though we only took the car a mile, it would have been too far to walk with all our shopping.

Yagnub has had street markets for about the last 40 years. It started with an evening Christmas market, which went so well that it became a daytime event, then an antiques fair was added in the summer and a garden market in the spring. Back when Al had his greengrocery, I used to grow a lot of bedding and vegetable plants and we had a stall ourselves. There have been food fairs before, by the castle, but this is the first time the street has been closed. I’d read the list of stalls and it was very tempting.

Excitedly, I explained my strategy to Wink. Walk along the road, noting which stalls we wanted to buy from, when we got to the end we’d walk back, stopping where we wanted to. When we’d got as much as we could carry, go back to the car and unload, then go to the castle to see what was there, then finish our shopping and buy lunch from one of the food stalls.

Between us, we spent about £300. I bought fabulous mushrooms – girolles, oyster mushrooms, hedgehog and lion’s mane mushrooms (never heard of either of those, they’re delicious) and Wink bought mushroom salt. I tasted my way through the samples of the Chinese and Thai sauces and they were all so good that I bought a jar of each of the ten of them. I tasted all the local honeys and bought all three – though the darkest was the most delicious. I also sort of suggested I was thinking of taking up beekeeping and brought home a flyer about their starter course. I need to be talked out of this. I explained, the only thing holding me back was not being able to tell which one was the queen, which is true.

I bought fabulous charcuterie, amazing meat, local grains and pulses – yes, you can get English chickpeas – and a loaf of rye sourdough, as well as a piece of flapjack from the same stall, which is the most fabulous flapjack I’ve ever eaten and I wish I had the recipe. Wink bought us each a glass of sparkling wine and I bought a bottle. I bought five litres of olive oil and some halloumi and was given a nice hessian bag. I bought vegetables and salad and local liqueurs. We chatted to all the stallholders, who were all lovely and enthusiastic about their produce. Wink bought Fen Farm cheese etc, but I’ve already got some of what I bought from the farm earlier in the week, so I left it this time and carried stuff back to the car while she was shopping there. Finally, we bought samosas and butter chicken to eat at home, just as it started raining again. We’d had the best part of the day, the two hours we were there. There was fine weather this afternoon, interspersed with heavy rain, but we were tucked up indoors with our spoils by then.

Really lovely people, selling fine, but unpretentious food. I do hope everyone had a successful day. Wink and I did our best for them.

Paying out lots of money…

I have to admit, I’m still getting things done a bit slowly. But that’s by my usual standards, actually I’m pretty well organised. I’ve paid out about half the vendors, most of the money though not the majority of the lots. I’m taking tomorrow off, because there’s a food fair in town, which I’m really looking forward to. The weather forecast is poor, but actually less poor than it was earlier in the week – gone from a 90% chance of rain all morning to 50% or less, though we’re sure to get rain some time. I am sure we won’t be too put off.

Jonny, the local cheesemaker, had a half hour programme on BBC1 last night, devoted to his farm. “We are England” is the name of the programme, it’s a regional thing, so only broadcast in East Angular, though likely available on iPlayer in other places – which presumably have their own local variations. It was just lovely, he’s built it from nothing. There was an established family dairy farm, but he’s created the cheesemaking enterprise, the raw milk, butter, skyr yoghurt, ghee, cream – all of it, sold from the farm and in delis all over the country. Baron Bigon cheese has a worthily fine reputation, it’s (don’t tell the French) better than Brie. He’s got a great team, supportive parents and a great partnership with his brilliant wife.

I’m not even being paid for the endorsement…but I don’t bother with other butter now, this is so good. If I need to make a cake, I’ll buy ordinary butter, but it’s Fen Farm for spreading and ghee for cooking.

Is that the time?

I had my Lowestoft auction last night, which really went very well. I bought a couple of pieces myself, which I’m pleased with and there were more people in the salesroom than there have been for a few years. Today, I was tired and I haven’t done very much work, but I’ll get going properly in the morning. I’ve done essential stuff, anyway.

It started raining soon after Wince arrived, so he went home again, but called in this afternoon, just to say hello. Wanting to pay him but knowing he wouldn’t accept anything for the short time he was here, I asked if he’d have time to fill the coal scuttles and wood basket, which he kindly did – and then refused any money, to my embarrassment. I wouldn’t have asked him! But a kindness is always appreciated and we’re good friends.

The chickens are well and they’ve been indoors long enough for anything infectious to have developed. They have plenty of room and are quite happy, so I won’t worry about them.

Rose kindly came and housesat while Wink and I were at the sale. She’s having an operation next month and really isn’t strong enough for the auction, she gets tired by the evening. It was a real help to know the animals were all right and that Eloise cat was happy. My colleague’s daughter came to help and she was great. I knew she was a winner when I heard her ask someone if the piece they’d wanted, some minutes earlier – which was already being looked at by someone else – was still wanted? She’d remembered the piece and who had asked about it – it sounds a straightforward thing, but it’s not natural to everybody. And she instinctively knew how to hold everything carefully and to check no one was coming behind her before moving. When there are several of you bustling around, awareness matters a lot.

Tomorrow, I’ll take some pieces, packed, to be weighed, so I can let clients know the cost of postage. Then I’ll start on the accounts. I’ll begin paying vendors by the weekend – no point in waiting and they appreciate it no end. Most auction houses take up to a month, but I aim to be finished within a week. Short attention span, you see.

Z stays home

The trick to getting started is to say what needs to be done, to someone else. I said it to Rose and then came home and got on with things. Admin and emails, the sort of stuff I put off.

What I haven’t yet done is update the auction facebook and instagram pages, but now I’ve told you, I have no excuse not to do it in the morning. I also need to clean out the chicken shed – I did a good half of the tidying up, the other day, but there’s more to be done to make it all clean and tidy and I’ll do that tomorrow too. I’m not letting them out any more, the avian flu is getting too close. Apparently, it’s now in the wild swan population at Wroxham, which is awful. Closer to home, a farm had it within 15 miles of here. I’m keeping my girls safe, however disappointed they’ll be not to be outside. I’ve been hoping for some bad weather, so that they don’t want to go out for a few days, but rain – when it does arrive – is usually in the evening or night, once they’re in anyway.

It’s been very quiet here today. I received a couple of phone calls and texted Weeza about going over at the weekend, Wince called round to check on yesterday’s bonfire and otherwise I’ve talked to no one but the animals. It’ll be the same tomorrow, probably without the phone calls.


A field I own near here, down by the river, has got a little island on it – this is less exciting than it sounds, it’s just a little dyke going round a small area of the field. There are trees on it, which have been neglected for years. Back in the day, there was a plank bridge and we used to take the children for picnics, but it got too overgrown. There’s mostly willow and alder, both alive, though one alder is leaning badly, and dead and a lot of branches have dropped into the dyke, nettles and brambles have grown up, it’s a mess. I want to keep the bird and wildlife-friendly aspects of it and I don’t mind leaving logs and so on, but it does need tidying. So that’ll be done this month. I texted Weeza last night, saying I’ve got lots of dry wood, enough for years, without the additional stuff that’s coming. So I’m going over at the weekend with a carbootful of logs and, when they come here, they’ll load up the car in their turn.

However light a touch one wants to use on the land, it does need care. Nettles are valuable food for bugs, but too many of them choke out more delicate wild plants. There used to be rampant bamboo on the island at one time, but it died out eventually – I have a feeling that bamboo dies after it’s flowered, or am I making that up? Can’t quite be bothered to check at nearly 11pm. I’ll look in the morning.

I’ll have to get a move on tomorrow, in fact. I want to order some coal, ready to pick up so that Wince can unload it for me, help him bring in logs and coal for the fires and then I’m going over to visit Roses for coffee before we go out to lunch. She lives a bit further away now, though it doesn’t take much more than half an hour.

I’m finding it hard to get motivated and have an awful tendency to sit and stare into space at times. I need to make a list of jobs, to force myself to get going. Though right now, the reason for me sitting still is a cat on my lap, leaning on my right arm. i’m typing left-handed.

Z jigs, sedately

I still buy Ronan a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas every year. I have done all his life – yesterday, I finally asked if he still likes to receive them. He does, luckily. I have always taken the view that it’s good to give my children something to play with as well as more expensive, sensible or extravagant gifts. I gave him one for his birthday this year too – I’d bought it with Christmas in mind, but I can’t keep something for months, I just give it more or less straight away. It would have been an unbirthday present if July hadn’t come along just at the right moment.

The reason the subject came up was that I’d bought myself one, for the first time in years. No particular reason, I just thought it would be relaxing. Concentration without thought and I could listen to the radio or keep an eye on the tv at the same time. It’s harder than I remember, though. All those little pieces to sort out! It was also an error of judgement to buy a two-sided one, it’s harder to sort out the pieces.

Ronan is a kind boy and, when I said It’s hard to distinguish the shades of colour by artificial light at my age, he agreed that his youthful eyes don’t find it easy either. The shades of brown in Rembrandt’s Night Watch were tricky, he said. I’d forgotten I’d bought him that, when I was in Amsterdam some years ago. I remembered the Panorama Mesdag, which he said was the hardest one he’s ever done.

Anyway, I’m persevering and getting back into the patient rhythm of it. Awfully easy to lose an hour or so in the afternoon, though.

The cat is remarkably good and, though she sometimes sits on it, she doesn’t knock it over or lose any of the pieces for me. So I don’t try to keep her off the table. That would make her contrary.