Monthly Archives: March 2023

Glorious food

I’ve alarmed my whole family with my downstairs escapade. I told Ro, who is considering becoming a blood donor so that I can give it up (he hasn’t up until now because he’s so thin, he has to remember to eat enough or he sort of vanishes sideways) and Dilly is talking about restarting too. Al called in to check me out – those two read the blog, I hadn’t seen them since it happened. I’m seeing Weeza on Sunday. It seems too late in the day to mention it, but she’ll be cross if she finds out later. I may make a funny story out of it…

Anyway, all is well at the Zedery. I’d intended to drive home from Norwich and then bike into Yagnub, but the forecast said rain all day and I didn’t think I’d bother, when it came to it. So I called in at the greengrocer on the way home. They had local asparagus. So I bought a bunch, more Jersey Royals, some English watercress and a few other bits and bobs and then headed to the fishmonger, because the asparagus needed something celebratory. I bought a whole sea bream and invited Wink to dinner. I also chilled a bottle of local wine. It was all a joy to eat. And I miss sharing that joy with Tim and also with my mother, because they got it just in the way I do. But it mustn’t spoil the joy, that would be foolish.

The rain dulled my get-up-and-go and I didn’t do much this afternoon. I didn’t sleep for long last night, so I think an early bath and a book are called for.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Londoner

I love London. There isn’t a city I love more – not sure if Norwich is counted, as that’s home. Wink and I enjoyed our day. Splendidly comfortable new trains, right on time. The only fly in the ointment was trying to register for the app to pay to park the car. I’d tried from home the night before, but it proved impossible and it was no better at the car park. Luckily, Wink had already registered (with equal trouble – she’d missed her train and had to take the next one, last time) and so she paid.

It was one of those days when the train came in as you arrived on the underground platform, every time. I trotted behind Wink, who still, after all these years, retains some of her London Ways – though she didn’t note the side turning to the Central Line, hidden by tape and bollards, so I did have my uses. We changed, got off at Piccadilly Circus and walked to the Royal Academy in a chilly drizzle, to have coffee and warm up before our appointed visit to the exhibition. Two exhibitions in fact, one before lunch by black artists from the American South, in the post-slavery, segregation days and the other of Spain and the Hispanic World. Remarkable and very interesting, both of them, in very different ways.

We didn’t move from the RA for our lunch, but ate at the Spanish tapas restaurant and had the most fabulous waitress I’ve come across in a while. She’s Romanian and her name is Anka (I’m afraid I don’t know the spelling) and she was delightful and really, really professional. I’ve never been a waitress, but I know about the catering trade. She’s the sort of person who sees everything, knows when someone wants more food or the bill or just a clean napkin and, even if she’s on her way with a plate of food, will be right there as soon as she’s delivered it.

Then we pottered over the road to Fortnum’s and I bought a few things for Weeza and Al’s birthdays next week, then to Hatchards, where I bought birthday cards, plus a book for myself. We’d had a chat and a laugh with the assistant at Fortnum’s and the woman on the bookshop till was also delightful. She saw my choice of book – “Persian Fire’ by Tom Holland and asked if I liked his work, which I do (I might never have read any before, it wasn’t a daft question). She asked if I’d heard his podcasts, which I haven’t, so I said I’d look them out.

On the way back, a kind young woman offered her seat to Wink, whereupon a man insisted on me taking his. I know it indicates our great age, but the kindness and courtesy of Londoners is wonderful. And we had a very nice dinner at a restaurant right by the station. It’s also a wine shop and deli and, I’m sorry to say, it’s called Eataly. And so home, where eCat gave us a very warm and slightly anxious welcome, and to bed.

Crash, bang, wallop

If you haven’t got anything much to say, don’t say anything. Which hasn’t been my policy over the last few years, but seems to be now.

It’s not all bad, by any means. It’s just that there isn’t much to say. I’ve recognised that wittering on in a Bertie Wooster fashion – sub-Bertie, I should say – isn’t that entertaining. I’m no PG.

The most interesting thing that happened in the past few days was also the most alarming, though no harm was done. I had a blood donor session on Friday afternoon. I was out at the antiques club (look, it’s very good, the speaker is totally brilliant and I’m making lots of friends) in the morning, so thought I’d try somewhere on the way back, that I’d never been before but was interested in, for lunch. I had a good breadfast with a lot of tea, coffee mid-morning and a rare biscuit, because I could afford it, in the circs and then drank a pot of tea while I was waiting for my avocado, onion and red pepper covered ciabatta roll, with salad and chips. I removed the top half of the roll, but it was so good that I ate a bit of the crust. I had coffee to finish. I say all this to demonstrate that I had eaten and drunk appropriately, and then I had another pint of lemon squash before the donation … but I’m ahead of myself. I set off for the venue, rather early, and stopped to check how long it would take to get there…………not the venue I was expecting. Actually more convenient from home, but I’d forgotten that I’d booked it. Luckily, I was in plenty of time, so set off for the right place, very glad of my belt-and-braces tendency, that had led me to recheck.

I ate ginger nuts and drank more lemon squash afterwards. I took it very easy all evening and ate chicken liver pate, cheese, biscuits and rocket salad for dinner. At 8 pm, I was suddenly very tired and headed for bed. I really wanted to go straight to bed, but went to clean my teeth first. My toothbrush needed recharging, but I thought I’d leave that, I really was quite woozy, and set off across the landing.

There was one hell of a thump. A series of them – – bang, bang, bang, bang. I had no idea what was happening. But I woke up and realised I had actually fainted. I was fine, luckily, nothing hurt and I lay and thought about it for a minute or two before opening my eyes. I was bewildered. I was at the bottom of the stairs.

I’ll cut to the chase, I’m fine. Amazingly and luckily, I didn’t hurt myself at all. I did bang my head a couple of times, but not badly and I took it easy for the weekend and have slept as much as possible and I really am fine. I’d have phoned the doctor yesterday, but I couldn’t honestly have said I needed attention.

So, to come back to lying at the bottom of the stairs. I realised that I’d fainted at the top and fallen and, though unconscious, I’d heard myself thumping all the way down. It was bloody noisy!

The boots I was wearing are a bit awkward to remove, so I did it lying down and then I went up to bed. I didn’t really sleep – it was only 8.15 when I got into bed and I don’t know for how long I’d been unconscious – I guess it was 5-10 minutes – I was still awake at 4am. But I was okay next day and slept very well the next night, and last night. It was hearing myself falling downstairs, but not feeling it that really gets me, though.

When Russell died, he had stumbled on the way down the step to the bathroom. I’d caught him, but I couldn’t support his tall body, even though he was desperately thin. So I supported him as I went down to my knees and then sat, and reassured him that we’d get up in a minute, just as soon as we could manage it. He didn’t reply, I looked and he was dead. Not a sigh or a convulsion, he’d simply died. I thought – you can be rational, whatever the circumstances. He was terminally ill, desperately thin and uncomfortable, though he denied any pain. This was gentle and as easy as it could be. I let him go. My next thought was that he might still be able to hear me. So I kept talking about how he’d be all right in a minute and I’d help him up. Might have talked about love and stuff too. Don’t remember what I said. But I think he heard me, with the last minute or two of his dying brain.

Anyway, I seem to have recovered, but I’m still having early nights. The clocks changed in the early hours of Sunday morning, but this just confuses me and I go to bed earlier and get up later. Not late tomorrow though, as Wink and I are off to That London.

Blog Party date

We have guests over the late May bank holiday and various family holidays in August – I’m very happy to be looking after Izzy, Weeza and co’s dog, while they’re away – and, with the various commitments of guests, I’ve come down to just one date that I hope will suit anyone.

It’s Tuesday, 25th July.

One can’t come at the weekend, one works in a school so needs the holidays and one has a day off on Tuesday. So it’s easy, really. That is, there had been several Tuesdays, but now there’s just one.

As ever, you are most welcome, whether you’ve met me before or not. Everyone is very friendly and I’m so glad that I’ve introduced people to each other and they’ve subsequently met up regularly. You are welcome to stay here, either overnight or for a longer time if you’d like to explore the area. It’s open house.

Going back to May/June, our very good friends in Chennai are coming to stay – Wink and I went to Nandini and Joe’s wedding – gosh, I’d have to look it up – it must be at least 10 years ago. Wink stayed with Nandini’s mum last November/December. They’ve been friends since the late 1960s, when Kamala was living in London for a year and we went to Arti and Tarun’s wedding in January 2000 – Arti being the elder daughter. Nandini was at university for 3 years, 20+ years ago and stayed for a number of weekends with Wink and they’re like auntie and niece. It’s the first time that the whole family has been over.

So, it’s all good, we’re looking forward to the summer. Do come to the blog party (or at any other time, friends are truly welcome) and join in the get-together.

Company at the Zedery

My sister is having her house redecorated next week, so she’s staying with me. Originally, the intention had been for it to be done half at a time, but it’ll be more efficient to go straight through. The cat is, frankly, puzzled. She spends a good deal of time herding us, especially to bring Wink through here, but usually one of us wanders off after a few minutes. Her thought bubble is “it’s like herding cats!” – but now, she’s not sure if she likes all this togetherness. This evening, she lay carefully halfway between us. She has no one to grumble to. Getting what you wish for isn’t an unalloyed blessing.

I was involved in a longish Zoom meeting on Friday, with a group i’m new to and I seem to have made sensible comments. I must remember to keep my head below the parapet in future.

Great news is that Weeza and co are going on holiday in August and have asked me to look after their little dog. Izzy is so small that a run for her is at my walking pace, so that’s no hardship. ECat will not be happy, but I hope that the time will bring them to amity. I need to talk to Ro about when, if it’s happening, he’d like to go to Pembrokeshire. Then, we’re likely to have only three or four options for the blog party, so I’ll come back on that. Assuming people would like a blog party, but then I would, so I’m going to take it that I’ve got enough friends who would too. And maybe some newcomers – the number of friends who have met here for the first time and kept in touch is always a pleasure to me.

The chicken run is rather a quagmire, in places. I’ve put down straw so that I can get to their water dish without sinking in the mud. They are perfectly happy and enjoying life.

Snow flurries didn’t come to much

My priority at present is sleeping well. In my bed at night, that is, I don’t tend to nap. Success is variable. Sometimes I fall asleep and wake an hour later for the rest of the night, sometimes I sleep until 3, sometimes I haven’t even fallen asleep by then. But, if you take it over the course of a week or two, I have more good nights’ sleep than I did a few months ago. I have also reinstated my former habit of a lifetime, that of reading in bed for a while before I put the light out. I think it is helping a bit, sometimes.

I am reading more in general, which is obviously good. I read all the time, but I’ve slacked off with books – this dates from when Russell was ill, when I found myself irritated by fiction. Since then, I’ve managed better but, even so, I have a lot of unfinished books around the house. Even if I’m quite enjoying one, I am not too bothered about the ending.

But reading is in my heart. From being a bewildered child, everything I came to learn about how people interact came through books. The comfort of an old friend, the excitement of a new one, everything. I should say, I was quite an odd child.

Anyway, I’m still buying more than I can read, but I’ve read four or five books in the last week and I’m part-way through three more. And now, not having slept well last night, I’m off to have an early bath (half past eight here) and then I’ll read in bed some more. Goodnight.

Still doing admin

I’d got a Nationwide savings account but, though it was a joint account and it had been put in my name after Russell died, I’d not used it, nor did I know how to. I’ve also got a credit card, but when I tried to log in on the app, it said I’d already given them my email and phone number and it was a phone number I haven’t had for years and years.

I don’t like the phone. At one time, I might have considered it a phobia, but I’ve got better. I still have to steel myself to use it for anything but the most frivolous social call. But I rang Nationwide and, as so often happens, the reality is much better than I’d expected. Long/short, I was able to update my number, I’ve logged in and discovered I’ve £1,000 in that account – wahay! – and I’ve investigated the account that Blue Witch recommended in the comments the other day. It seems to suit, but I couldn’t deal with it online. Things like, what are your regular outgoings such as mortgage or rent? I don’t have either, so do I put nothing or otherwise, what? There’s still a branch in the next town, so I’ll go over there. I’ve cancelled the automatic update of my travel insurance in the meantime. I’ve also insured my electric bike, with public liability and all. And I did something else that I can’t quite remember at the moment.

The old chicken greenhouse has been taken down – for anyone who thinks I could have given it away, it really wasn’t fit. There was a lot of rot and no one would have taken it on. The barn cats were quite put out as they liked climbing onto its roof, as did Eloise cat. But I now have a large empty space and I’m not quite sure what to do with it. There’s no hurry. I’ve also got a big heap of muck that I need to barrow across to where I’m planting vegetables and raspberry canes. No hurry there either as the weather forecast is not good.

But at least I biked into Yagnub this morning to go to the greengrocer and whole food shop. So I have all the healthy foods nailed. Apparently, naked barley (???) flakes are a whole lot better than porridge oats, so that’ll be what I’m moving on to, on formerly porridge or muesli days.

I’m still getting used to the electric bike. It’s the same as any bike to ride, but I seem to have to be less casual with which gear I’m in. Sailing up the hill towards the old post office is a good feeling, though. On a bad day, I used to have to get off, halfway up, and push. The bike is a bit heavy and unwieldy to push and turn when I’m pushing, but I’ll get used to it soon.

Z’s vicarious enthusiasm

You know what I miss? About myself, that is. I miss too much to mention. But, in regard to my own nature, I miss my enthusiasm. Apparently, sometimes at job interviews, the final question is to ask the candidate to describe themselves in three words. When Al was a school governor, one of those candidates for a school headship apparently said “lazy” and, obviously, didn’t get the job. It’s “efficient,” love. But, though I have no idea about answers 2 and 3, my first word would have been enthusiastic. I’ve mislaid my zest and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.

All the same, this is an enthusiastic post because, here in the Waveney Valley, we’ve much to celebrate in regard to local food. I apologise for the clunky disguising of names from now on, but I don’t want to waste anyone’s time on a search engine by having them end up here.

I remember when Jonny was scouting around for a name for his new cheese and asked t’internets, though I don’t know who suggested B@ron B1god, but it’s now one of the best cheeses in the world. And it’s still made on the farm and sold at the farm gate (and many other places across the country), as is butter, yoghurt, raw milk and so on. It’s half a mile’s walk from me across the fields, or about 4 miles by road. If you go 4 miles the other way, you’ll find Albuurgh ice cream, made with fresh fruit and milk and a few miles down the road to Norridge, there’s a farm where they also sell raw milk and other dairy produce, but this is from their Jersey herd, where the calves are left with their mothers until they’re old enough to be weaned.

Blue Witch mentioned H0dmed0ds, which is a fabulous little company, not too far into Suffolk. They produce all sorts of beans, seeds and pulses, grown in this country. I have carlin peas, fava beans, smoked quinoa and chickpeas in the cupboard, but I’ve bought other stuff too. And it gets better, because Pete the baker, who’s at the market every Thursday morning, has his bakehouse on the H0dmed0d premises and uses their products wherever possible. He’s a lovely man and his bread is fabulous. I’d love to be able to make wholemeal rye and buckwheat sourdough bread of his quality, but I doubt I ever will.

The Sun-day Charcuterie is based in Oulton Broad, the village (it’s a bit big to be called a village and it’s long been a suburb of Lowestoft) where I grew up. They make truly wonderful salamis and so on and the best terrines and pâtés I’ve tasted since my mother used to make them in the 1960s. Jacqie at M@rsh Pig also has fabulous porky charcuterie and is more established, so I feel okay about giving my custom to the young couple at OB. We are surrounded by farm shops with their home-raised meat and local game.

Vegetables come from Cl1nks C@re F@rm, which is 20 minutes or so drive away. If you’ve ever thought that veggies don’t taste like they used to (assuming you don’t grow your own) then you’re right. And I read an article about how less fibrous and nutritious they are nowadays, too. Hardly surprising, when they’re grown under cover, in compost, heavily watered and fertilised – even strawberries are grown on tables now, so that pickers don’t have to stoop and they’re unaffected by too much or too little sunlight or rain. But Cl1nks is different, or rather it’s how it used to be. A lettuce, even, has taste and texture. They have a farm shop but, luckily, they deliver to my local greengrocer twice a week.

There has been no shortage of anything I’ve wanted to buy there. There are more than one or two reasons for empty shelves, but one of them is that supermarkets won’t pay the cost of production in this country. I have to say, my greengrocery bill has rocketed over the last few years. I spent £38 last week and, a few years ago – not that long, during lockdown – it was more like £22. I didn’t entirely buy seasonally, nor locally, though I did where I could – oh, that reminds me of the wonderful mushroom farm, where they grow ‘wild’ mushrooms – oysters, chanterelles, porcini and so on. They are based near Ipswich and I met the growers at our food market in the autumn. I bought all the mushrooms I’d never heard of. Hedgehog mushrooms, anyone? They’d bought them in from Scotland, apparently. We do have a local mushroom farm, by the way, which has good, standard mushrooms, but nothing specialised.

Anyway, I don’t begrudge money spent on good food from a local shop. I know the work that’s gone into its production and I know that the greengrocer has hopefully bought it in and, if someone doesn’t pick it up and pay the price, it’s a dead loss. So if there has been a frost and the remaining cauliflowers cost more, I just pay. Likewise fish. I think of those brave fishermen, buggered if I’d do that job. It’s just my mouth to feed, I don’t have a family here any more and so I don’t have to worry about the cost of it.

I haven’t mentioned the local vineyard and winemaker in this very village, have I? Though I have praised them in the past, I know. There are plenty of vineyards round here now and, unsurprisingly, very good brewers too.

My enthusiasm is piggybacked onto those wonderful entrepreneurs who’ve put so much work and dedication into providing superb food. I’m just grateful to be here, now, when I can support them a bit.

By the way, I managed to run out of butter. I know. I’d been meaning to cycle up to the farm, but the cat went to sleep on my lap and the weather wasn’t very nice anyway. It’s occurred to me now that it’s not a very good cycling road on a weekday, rather scary traffic and no pavement, so I might have to drive after all. But I decided on cauliflower cheese this evening before realising I had literally no butter, so I used olive oil instead.

Learn from me. Don’t. It was oddly lumpy, I was unable to cook the lumps out. And, despite plenty of cheese, it lacked flavour, although it was the best extra virgin of its sort (I bought that at the street market too, it’s from a family farm in Cyprus) and is delicious. It isn’t butter, however and I’m not making that mistake again.

Z looks at the weather forecast

The bike was delivered yesterday evening, but I haven’t had an opportunity to use it yet as I was out all day. The weather forecast is not good. It’s cold and likely to snow next week. But I’ll see about going round the village at least, to start getting used to it. I don’t think it’ll be difficult, it’s just that it might need some practice to be second nature.

I’ve just realised that I’m looking forward, not so much to the cycling as to the ease of not having to park a car. The best part of going shopping by bike is freedom. You weave past the traffic (or get off and walk if it’s safer, I’m not proud) and chain it to something – there are lots of bike racks in the town – and just bob into a shop, pop everything into the pannier and sail on to the next shop. There’s a feeling of satisfaction. Cycling itself isn’t fun, as far as I’m concerned. A country road without blind bends on a sunny day with birds singing and a balmy breeze can give a flash of pleasure, but usually it takes some determination to get started.

We went over to Snape Maltings, the concert hall, for a backstage tour and a lunchtime concert, then on to the Red House, Britten and Pears’ home, which is owned by a charitable trust and open to the public. It was a really good day. My friend Sue kindly came in and cuddled the cat for a while and I fed the barn cats when we got home at quarter to seven. We’d had an early start this morning and I’m quite inclined to go to bed soon, though it’s only quarter past nine, but I’ve got some chickpeas cooking and I have to wait for them. I want to make hummus and it’s so much nicer with home-cooked ones than with tinned.

Which reminds me, I added some gram flour (sometimes made of all chickpea flour, but often with some dried pea flour too) to my last loaf of bread and it was a good addition. That is, it rose well and didn’t seem to alter the taste. I have no objection to wheat or gluten myself, but a lot of people can’t take it and I’m working on alternatives. I really like spelt flour – which is wheat, of course, but those who are sensitive but not actually allergic can sometimes cope with that.