Monthly Archives: December 2022

On the 5th day of Christmas … Z blogs again

Let’s see, what have I missed? Hmmm. I decked the hall with boughs of holly and all that sort of thing, obvs.

I think a new year’s resolution on the subject of blogging is in order. Years ago, I decided on the discipline of writing something every day – sometimes catching up on my phone in bed – and, a few years later, resolving not to, necessarily. I need something in between now. I do not want to lose the blogging habit.

All has gone very well. Al and co and Ro and the children were here for Christmas Day, but before that, Weeza took us to Great Yarmouth to the circus, which was brilliant. Look, I joined in with the clapping, singing and everything required. Anything less would have been very churlish and they deserved all the applause.

We all met up for lunch today at a pub near where Rose now lives, she introduced me to it a few months ago and we’ve been back several times since. It’s not your olde worlde sort of pub, very much set up as an eating place, but the food is good and the staff are really great. It’s convenient for everyone, probably the most central place for us all, so I’m sure we’ll go there again. Al was working and Dora had the little ones, but the rest of us – 11 – were all free.

Hop the bantam is still limping, but is in good heart otherwise. I took her out, washed her feet and had a good look and couldn’t find anything. She’s very nervous, so not easy to catch. I should wash her again and coat her legs in Vaseline, in case it’s scaly leg mites, but I’ve no real reason to think it is. I think she’d hobble more and others would be affected too. Solo cat’s face is finally starting to heal, but the cut is right by his eye and I wish I could catch him to take him to the vet. I’m afraid that I think that he’s going to lose the sight of that eye, if he hasn’t already. It might have been all right with early treatment, but that wasn’t possible. Still, he’s not got any infection in the wound and he’s gradually getting more trusting. I lightly stroked his back for a moment yesterday, while he was eating – he glanced round, but I had already moved away and he didn’t react.

Hanging out with Gus

Weeza and Zerlina are out at Guides – it’s z’s last meeting as she’s outgrown it and has joined Rangers and Weeza is a helper. There’s a sleepover and something celebratory tomorrow. It’s Phil’s work Christmas party. So it’s just Gus, me and the dog.

I had to scurry round this morning, finishing the jobs that hadn’t been done all week. I could easily have done them, but this lunchtime was the deadline, so that was when I finally finished.

The chicken with the limp, little Hop, was out in her run yesterday afternoon. She was there again this morning, not looking unwell but I couldn’t tell whether she’d been out there all night, she was just squatting there. So I fetched her out to check her. She wasn’t cold, so I think she’d just pottered out and sat down for a rest, but I didn’t want to risk it, so I put the kennel in the porch and put her in it. It’s very cold again and I’ll put up with a porch that smells of chicken poo tomorrow when I get home.
I just took Izzie dog out for a walk. Starting with my usual brisk stride, I learned my mistake very quickly and tottered along carefully on the frosty road. Luckily, Izzie is a very small dog and doesn’t pull, we negotiated the ice successfully and I didn’t fall over.

D’oh. The sourd’oh sort

Yeah, well, I lit the fires and got the work done, but then I sat down briefly and the cat cuddled me. I lost an hour or so. Whereas a cat happening to sit on you is possible to deal with, a cat cuddling up, gazing into your face, needing to be held and loved – which is what eCat does, she loves to be loved – must be humoured. Then I had a two-hour meeting, fortunately online, so it was too late to do anything useful except cook dinner. It’s now 8 o’clock and I want to go to bed. I liked being an owl so much better. And waking in the night is a problem if you have things to worry about. I’m tired of being like this, I want to be me again. Tim would prefer me to be me, too. I’ll work on it.

My sourdough loaf doesn’t seem to be rising much, but it can have the whole night to be sensible. It’ll get the picture in the end. I’m not going to be dictated to by bread dough.

Golden brown

I wrote a post yesterday that didn’t make it to the actual internet, because it was a bit downbeat and this is nothing if not a positive blog.However, the action of writing down that Christmas wasn’t happening round here, though there would be 10 of us on The Day, shifted me into action.

All food ordered, some presents, no cards yet, tree bought. Deadline for forward preparations is close of play Thursday. Tomorrow, I will light both woodturners and the fire and I’ll get all the rooms ready – that is, not necessarily ready but ready to be ready. My big table is full of china, that I’ve labelled but not put away and the light box is still out. I have not used that room except as a workroom for months. Tomorrow it’ll be transformed. I may clean it too, because I notice the corners more than my cleaners and there is plenty else for them to do.

I went to have my hair cut today. Just a trim. I still love my unsuitably long hair. Allie had it pinned up while she was drying the lower levels. The colour was blonde with golden – frankly brassy – highlights under the bright hairdresser lights, against a silvery brown front. It looked incongruous, yet it was natural. My hair is brown at the back, but blonde at the bottom back, paler at the front, though only partly white. I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. It’s thick and healthy and that is just luck, nothing that I do.

Wink and I went to a local nursery for Christmas trees this afternoon. She bought a small one in a pot, which will transfer nicely to the garden and I bought a five foot Norway spruce, one of the last. I usually leave it later but it’s lucky I didn’t, as there were only five cut trees left, three of which were far too big for my house. In good heart, I bought cyclamen and an azalea to cheer my drawing room.

I overslept this morning and had to scurry around to get to my hairdresser appointment. Luckily, nothing in the diary until 4pm tomorrow.

The beep

I mentioned sleeping in Wink’s spare room on Friday night. Here’s the reason.

I got home from a lecture on English Delftware, followed by lunch, on Friday afternoon. There was a beeping noise somewhere in the house. A single beep that I timed to every 1 minute and 15 seconds. It was not loud, but it was insistent and I recognised it as a warning sound that a battery was running low. There were three options that I could think of – the smoke alarms, the carbon monoxide alarm (the smoke alarms also have that warning but this is a standalone one near the woodburner) and the landline phone. I checked and couldn’t find anything awry. The upstairs smoke alarm wasn’t there and I vaguely remembered it beeping and my taking it down to replace the battery, but never putting it back. No idea where I’d put it.

All the same, I tracked the sound down to where the smoke alarm used to be, in the landing ceiling. I checked from every room in the house and was brought back there, even from the other end of the landing. I removed the housing of the alarm, just in case there was something there, though I knew there wasn’t. I went up to the attic above, where I knew there was nothing, just in case.

I gave up. I’d had a busy day, it was icy cold and I lost heart. I invited myself to spend the night in Wink’s house, because it would be impossible to sleep within earshot of the beep. The only possible room was cold, too cold even for me.

I was busy with various things on Saturday, but finally went upstairs to track down the source of the beep. I muttered Sherlock Holmes’ words about eliminating the impossible. There was an explanation. i checked the cupboard on the landing, the bookcase, the chest of drawers in the nearest bedroom, the bathroom – though i knew all were innocent. Finally, I moved the linen cupboard. You’re way ahead of me. Evidently, I’d managed to remove the damn detector but I had, though I’d forgotten this bit. put in a new battery and put it on the cupboard because screwing it into the ceiling is such a nuisance. Someone, not me, dusted the cupboard with a broom or something and didn’t investigate when it slipped down behind. From the side, there wasn’t room for it, but the Tudor wall is very uneven and there just happened to be enough space for it to slip down a few inches.

I’ve replaced the battery and put it on the bookcase where I can see it. Bloody thing. I’m going to get someone tall to remove the downstairs one from the highest ceiling in the entire house, and I’ll put that in a better place too. That will have the bonus that, if anyone ever burns the toast and sets off the alarm, it can be quickly moved away from the smoke. I know it has to be loud, but getting a ladder from the shed, setting it up and climbing towards an ear-splitting noise is one of life’s tortures and I’d rather not go through that again. I will still have warning alarms, just useful ones.

At least it wasn’t as bad as our first smoke alarms, which didn’t have replaceable batteries and which couldn’t be switched off. The warning there was a low battery was as loud as the alarm, just not continuous. I had to drown them in a bucket of water.

Like herding cats…

Eloise cat was very happy to see Wink again and has spent a lot of time with her this week. Which means, of course, that I haven’t had her companionship very much at all. But she spent most of Thursday night on my bed, which was nice. She jumped on my chest at about 2.30 in the morning, but luckily I’d already been awake for an hour or two, so I wasn’t disturbed.

Last night, for a reason I’ll explain another time, I slept in Wink’s spare room. ECat was thrilled and slept on my bed all night. She was pleased that we had breakfast together as well. Since then, she’s gone between our two houses and has brought Wink through, saying that she’s hungry and no one has fed her, three or four times. Eventually, Wink said that the cat clearly wants the three of us together. “She’s herding you!” I said. “But you keep going back again. She must be thinking ‘it’s just like herding bloody cats…'”

Blue Witch liked the sound of salmon kedgeree, so here’s the recipe I use – though once you’ve got the idea, you don’t need a recipe. I vary it a bit anyway. I don’t bother to skin the raw salmon, but start gently frying it in a dry pan. Once it’s part-cooked, you can just peel off the skin and carry on from there, much easier. I add some cumin seeds and turmeric, to go with the curry paste. And I rarely have cream in the fridge, so I add some yoghurt, crème frâiche or extra butter, whatever I have. It is very good with the cream if you happen to have it, though. I sometimes use brown rice, which needs longer cooking.

It’s from this book, which is excellent. Caroline used to live in the village, we were good friends, though she’s moved back to Sussex now.

And here are a couple of recipes for khichri, which kedgeree is based on and is, of course, vegetarian. It can easily be made vegan if you use an alternative for the butter. This is another good book. There’s a splendid, easy egg curry in there and the tomato sauce can be used with other things, it’s so straightforward and uses ingredients that I always have.

Homeward bound

Wink is home after three weeks visiting her friends in Chennai. She’s had a wonderful time and now is having an early night – India is 5 1/2 hours ahead of Britain and so she was flying backwards and it’s been a long, long day, with a three hour drive at the end of it. I’d got a bottle of fizz in the fridge, to perk her up enough for an early dinner of kedgeree. But she’s going to rest tomorrow.

Hop the bantam is all right, I left her alone most of the day. She went out in the morning, then snuggled down for a rest. I just checked on her every few hours. I’m rather concerned about Solo though, whose face is not very healthy. It’s a very bad wound and he can’t lick or clean it. There’s nothing I can do, I don’t see any way to catch him. I’m anxious, but helpless.

To end on a more cheerful note, Eloise cat is thrilled to see Wink. I spent the afternoon making both houses very warm – Wink has spent 3 weeks in 30ºC heat.


One of the bantams has developed a limp. I’m not sure what’s wrong, but she was huddled in the corner, not coming forward for mealworms yesterday. When I threw some for her, the others went over and she was afraid of them, not that any of them went for her. So I picked her up and put her in a kennel in the porch overnight, with a fire guard in front. I fetched a coop this morning, intending to put it in the porch, but there was a distinct pong of chicken poo, so outside it went. I’ve put a tarpaulin (known as a tilt, in East Angular) over most of it, with cling film covered in netting over the rest, to keep her within avian flu regulations. She’s not very happy but she’s rested for most of the day. If she survives, I’ll catch another chicken to keep her company. The sleeping area is on paving, covered in a quadruple layer of wool, then shavings and the rest is on grass. She will be comfortable, if she recovers from her lameness.

Weeza and Phil have a lot of workpeople and there won’t be parking or anything else tomorrow, so maybe the next day. Wink will be home by then, but she may be too jetlagged to want a long drive and sociability. She will, I know, want something easy to eat and relaxing when she gets home, so I’m making salmon kedgeree. There will be a choice of mulled red wine, pink Cava or any still wine, her choice. Or a soft drink, but I’m joking. She’s due to arrive at Heathrow soon after 1 o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Then she needs to go through baggage reclaim (she’ll bring home less than she took, for sure, even if she’s Christmas shopped) and get her car, then drive for three hours back here. She’ll be knackered!

The bantam has been named Hop, by the way. Not quite as optimistic as Hope, but not entirely hopeless…

First on Z’s list: make a list

I slept very badly last night, very well the night before. I’m bored with myself, so I won’t inflict more of that on you.

Today was another street market in Yagnub, this time the Christmas Fair. There were some good things there, though I noticed that the busiest stalls were the food and drink ones, also plants, including wreaths and so on. I hope everyone did well, it was bitterly cold and the stallholders kept on smiling. It was very busy, pedestrian traffic at a standstill quite a lot. I bought some plants and pickles, a cup of mulled cider and a venison burger. “Onions and cheese?” asked the assistant. “Oh yes, please.” And I added ketchup. As I got back to the car, I saw Jane (whom I chatted to last night) – two and a half years and we’ve spoken twice within 18 hours. She will come and call for coffee soon and I’ve promised to go to the Christmas concert she’s singing in, the weekend after next. And to take Wink, of course.

I’ve also invited myself over to Weeza’s, tomorrow or the next day – she and Phil have the week off, because they’re having all the downstairs windows replaced. Very big windows in their huge, ex-chapel living room, although they’ll be removed and replaced one at a time, it will be very cold this week at the Weezery. They’ll see how it’s going, whether they feel able to come out for lunch and which day. I’ll be busy every other day. In fact, every day anyway, because Al calls in on a Monday while Squiffany does her St John Ambulance training and Wink is coming home on Tuesday. Her plane is due at Heathrow about midday, so any time from 4 onwards. She will want a simple, relaxed dinner, which will be either fish or cauliflower cheese – or maybe both, of course. She sent me an anxious message this morning, having caught up on the Razor and wondered if I’m okay. Yes, I am, I don’t know how I come over, but I’m mostly all right.

I’d “tidied” papers, a couple of weeks ago, by just heaping them in two piles. So I finally got around to sorting them out. I found one unopened letter, don’t know how that happened, which needs to be dealt with and two other things I knew I needed to find. One was a subscription, which I’ve paid. The other, I’m still funking. It’s a difficult email, which I printed out so that I could consider my response, but I still haven’t re-read it. I’m getting to the stage where I need to make lists, I think.

Old year resolutions

I’m ahead of myself with resolutions. Why wait for New Year? I’ve already started.

First is my health. This is very good on the whole, but one can always be better. This explains the fermented foods, nuts and seeds and so on. But I still eat anything I fancy – luckily, that rarely includes sugar. I’ve signed up for the Zoe (not me, Tim Spector’s app) food programme, to start in January, which will find out my own best diet by monitoring blood sugar and so on, and giving me a personal best way to eat. For example, to find out if carbohydrates give me an insulin spike (Prof Tim finds they do for him, whereas they don’t for his wife). I can eat what I choose, of course, but I’ll know whether it’s a good idea or not.

Second is my social life. I’ve had as little as possible of that, for the past year. I just couldn’t. But, over the last three weeks, I’ve started going out more. It’s been difficult a few times, as I’ve met several friends I haven’t seen for a while and had to tell them about Tim. A bit awful, when you’re met with good wishes on your remarriage and then have to explain that I’m a widow again. Awkward all round and I cried tonight at the sympathetic response from Jane, which just happens, I’m past embarrassment. But I’ll persevere.

Next, I haven’t started this yet, I must play musical instruments again. I want that very much. It was my plan for last autumn, but when Tim died I lost heart.

I want to get out on my bike again. But frankly, I’m way too lazy. So I’m going to buy an electric bike and shame myself into using it.

I’ll have another go at painting and drawing. If I draw, I’d like to get better at it. If I paint, I couldn’t care less about that, I don’t know what’s ‘good’ within what I would like to do. I want to make a mess with paints and have fun doing so, careless of the result and to see what happens. Then I can put it away for a week or two, get it out again, laugh and throw it away if I like. It’s the doing that takes my fancy, not the result.