Monthly Archives: August 2023

Being sensible sometimes helps

I’m usually enthusiastic about cooking, eating, vegetables, looking after myself, often all that and usually most of them. For the last week or so, I haven’t been. It hasn’t turned me to junk food because I’m not an idiot, nor to sugar nor the ultra processed evils, most of which combine, but I’ve thrown together random meals, using food that I’ve bought because not wanting veggies hasn’t stopped me buying or picking them, like being too hungry means that your brain doesn’t recognise fullness until 20 minutes after you start eating. And sometimes I’ve eaten the meal because I know I’ll regret it later if I don’t. Z doesn’t like to be unfed for too long. To me, intermittent fasting means don’t snack in the evening, not skip meals.

Tonight, it seems to be on its way out, this really annoying disinclination to eat properly at a time when it would do me most good. Just as, when low or depressed, a small setback or unkind word can plunge into the depths, a cheering ingredient can have the opposite effect.

I went to one of the vegetable stalls on Norwich market yesterday. There are only two now, they used to be the majority of stalls. But anyway, I was tempted by the array of “wild” mushrooms. It’s a misleading name, they’re all cultivated now, but there isn’t really another description, any more than there is for “wild boar.” I couldn’t be bothered to cook them yesterday but I had to cook something to go with the bass fillet, so I started chopping. I started with olive oil (the fad for EVOO as an acronym for the only olive oil I ever use really irritates me, but I mask it everywhere but here) shallots and garlic, added the mushrooms, added vermouth because I didn’t want to open a bottle of white wine … and I started to feel my mood lift. I cooked the fish and some runner beans, added some cream, because I had it, to the mushrooms and now I’m waiting for a feeling of wellbeing to kick in.

Waiting. Bound to happen. I enjoyed cooking and eating a meal. Waiting…

Some time later … it seems the 20 minute rule applies to mood too. Huzzah.

The good, the bad and something of a jerk

I drove Wink over to Norwich to the optician today. She’s always had poor eyesight and is a customer who tests all the resources, though not through her behaviour at all – of course. The eye test was fine, but it was suggested that she has prescription sunglasses. She’s never been able to wear sunglasses as they weren’t made to her prescription, but that seems to be possible now and they’d protect her eyes somewhat.

She’d have kept me waiting and we had a table booked for lunch at the Assmbly Hse in Norwich, so she arranged to come back later to choose the frames. In the meantime, I’d pottered around gently for half an hour or so – I bought some fruit and veg on the market and a few bits and pieces in Superdrug, which I’ve decided is a lot easier to find my way round than the huge Boots branch I attempted a few weeks ago.

I hadn’t intended to go to Superdrug, I’d wanted to buy some birthday cards and headed for the Jarrolds department store, one of the very best shops in the city. Except, they’ve lost their way, as far as I’m concerned. Books and Jarrolds go together and the book department used to take up nearly half of the sizeable ground floor. Understandably, that was found to be no longer profitable, some years ago and it was diminished in size and moved down to the basement. At some time post-lockdown, it was decided to put it up on the top floor, where paints and other art equipment used to be. I’ve discovered that cards are there too. I’d probably have spent £30 or so, that’s all. A few birthday cards, a paperback or two, some wrapping paper – if I’d felt enthusiastic enough, maybe £50. But I wasn’t going to traipse up to the 3rd floor and then walk down, because there isn’t a down escalator. The whole of the ground floor had expensive stuff that I didn’t want and I left. Hardly anyone was actually shopping and it wasn’t really surprising.

Wink and I sat down at the restaurant and, a minute later, two women came and sat at the next table. One was probably several years older than me, one a bit younger. A waiter came to ask if they would like to order drinks? They only wanted tapwater, but the younger woman said they were ready to order. So the waiter, um, waited. They weren’t really ready at all, they hadn’t picked up the menu yet. “What is the soup?’ asked YW. The waiter read the description from the menu, which was tomato and basil. “Oh, is that the only one?” Yes, it was. OW said she’d have soup, with the special offer of sandwiches and a small helping of chips. YW – “do you have gluten free bread?” Yes they do. The sandwiches were ham and wholegrain mustard or cheese and apple chutney. She wanted ham and apple chutney. The waiter apologised, that wasn’t possible (I’d have let her have them, personally) and, after some more faffing, she decided to have the sandwiches and chips, no soup.

You may think I’m being long-winded. Honestly, no comparison to the real thing. Wink and I listened, amused. OW, who was sweet, made rather a point of saying how gorgeous the soup was, once it arrived. When the bill arrived, YW wanted it to be split and the waiter left them for a minute to fetch our bill. As we were leaving, YW was saying, in a complaining tone, “Do I have to pay half? I had less food, after all.” We felt for the older woman, who was charming throughout the whole malarky. We enjoyed our food – I had cheese soufflé and salad, Wink had a smoked salmon and crayfish open sandwich with chips and yes, I stole some of her chips.

The business back at the opticians took quite a long time, because Wink’s exacting frames weren’t suitable for many sunglasses. In the end, she is having a child’s pair of ordinary glasses with photo chromatic lenses. The staff were absolutely lovely and went to so much trouble. On the way home, I was peaceably driving along Bracondale – if you turn left at the lights, you go down Carrow Road towards the football ground, the railway station and the ring road going east. We were going straight on. As I got to the lights, an idiot swung from the left lane in front of me, signalling as he moved and I had to brake. When we got to the roundabout, he went into the right lane, which only goes to County Hall. “Bet he cuts in,” I said and so he did.

Ten minutes later, we caught up with him again, just as he was about to overtake two vehicles as we all approached a blind bend. One of the vehicles was an ambulance. We all drove together towards Yagnub and he’d saved all of ten seconds in 16 miles and really been quite a poor driver.

But there, all the lights were green and we had a good day. I’m tired now. I was all bright and lively all evening on Sunday, but sitting here alone is making me sleepy.

Z plods on

It’s taken me all this time to finish the photographs and to revise the condition report. Funny, how much you don’t spot first time round. I’ve also managed to go out twice in three evenings, in a social way that I’ve pretty well given up over the last few years. Giving up isn’t really the Z way, not yet. But everything is rather an effort at present.

It’s now more than 9 years since Russell died and nearly 2 years since Tim died and it’s not getting any less hard. There’s little point in dwelling on it and less in complaining, but I range from sad to distressed to furious and show little sign of it outwardly. If asked, I’ll say, but I chat and laugh and I don’t think anyone would know what I’m masking. It’s better that way.

Having said that, both evenings were lovely. Quite low-key sociable, though there were quite a lot of people there, but they were both relaxed occasions in good company. Last night, I spent some time chatting to one of our local celebrities, not that he’d claim that himself (but we all know) who is an actor, who’s best known as one of the longest-standing characters in THE Radio 4 soap. He and Al, who was his postman, are firm friends. I’ve said, Al will have to do the round of the village with Christmas cards, now that he’s moved on from Royal Mail.

Tomorrow, definitely starting on the catalogue. I’m taking Wink to the optician in Norwich in the morning and then she’s taking me out to lunch, but they’re appointments, so not procrastinating. Not at all, not nohow.

Z procrastinates

It’s necessary to crack on with the auction catalogue. The part I enjoy is handling the china. I am mystified by the workings of cameras, don’t like taking photographs, I’m bored by editing them (just lightening and cropping them, I don’t alter the pictures otherwise), compiling the catalogue itself is a slog. But it all needs to be done unless I pay people, which would remove any of the small profit I make. So, as a paying hobby, I’m not sure I’m entirely on the right track – but clearly, there is something that keeps me going.

It is, of course, the porcelain itself. I’m trying to restrain myself, this year, from falling in love with too many pieces. I don’t need more stuff, I’m not really a collector and I’m not acquisitive. But my previously good form in all those regards is being seriously tested.

It is also the people. In 35 years or so, I’ve shared enthusiasm and knowledge and met so many lovely people. As with blogging, where I’ve made so many friendships, is the collecting field. The reason I don’t make much is because I keep my charges so low. I want to help people. Clearly, I’d not be at my best in the more cutthroat end of the business world.

Today, my business partner (I do wish the word partner were not ambiguous) brought a client, who’s also a friend of long standing, over – this was really a social call but also to see the china. I’m glad to say that he was very drawn to several items. He’s in his 90s now, but his enthusiasm is undimmed. Enthusiasm is such an appealing trait, isn’t it? I hadn’t put the labels on the pieces, as I hadn’t yet checked all the photos (I have six that I’m going to retake, I haven’t got immensely high standards but even those weren’t always met) so I’ve promised to invite him back in October. September is busy.

While they were here, the phone rang. It was the Rector, wanting to swear me in as Churchwarden, a job I’ve agreed to take on again as my conscience finally got the better of me, as Brenda has been doing it by herself for several years. I’d have not done so if I still had Lovely Tim, but there it is. We used to all have to go along to the cathedral and chant the swearwords, if you see what I mean, in unison, but that wasn’t possible during lockdown and, for once, the hierarchy listened to the minions who asked for the system to stay. It was suggested that Zoom meetings could be set up in the benefices, so that all linked parishes could do it together, but that went down poorly. Apart from Chris, who was having to read out all the official words and have them repeated by each of us, a job he was going to do 12 times, it was very little bother for the rest of us. On the other hand, I still have hanging over me (something I managed to forget about for several weeks) that I have to do a considerable amount of online Safeguarding training. I’ve done a lot of that over the years. One year, I took the training three times, for the high school. It’s considerably better delivered now, compared to a couple of decades ago, it’s very necessary but it’s still a tedious obligation when there’s so little new each year and one has to listen, which makes my attention drift, rather than read, which goes straight into my memory.

There was a fairly brief fad, some years ago, for putting children in different sets at school, depending on which sort of learner they were – Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic. I realised, doing the inevitable training on the subject, that Visual, at least, needed to be subdivided. If a picture tells a thousand words, I won’t learn anything like as much as if I read the thousand words. If someone reads them to me, I won’t learn a thing. Reading and doing work for me.

Of course, writing a lengthy blog post is a substitute for getting on with the rest of the work. And now it’s nearly 7 o’clock, so I can convince myself it’s too late to do it at all. So, thank you, blogging. I appreciate you.

Blogfriends are some of the best

It’s been several days of good company and a lot of food. And drink. Compostwoman Sarah arrived on Friday, Zoe and Mike on Saturday and everyone else came for the party on Sunday. Because I am an idiot, I didn’t do the cold food and salads that have been standard for the last few years. I felt like serving hot food. I was not deterred by the promise of 25º of heat (that’s Celsius, darlings and that’s the official in-the-shade temperature, it’s a lot hotter in fact, of course), nor by having no oven because the Aga is off for the summer. I made use of my sister’s cooker, so that I didn’t have to turn the Aga on, but it made for a lot of running back and forth between our two houses.

I didn’t do the photography. I must have accidentally changed something on the camera because it was wrong and then I had to get out the book and try to understand it – I have zero interest in photography and less, if that’s possible, in cameras – and then put it right. I think I have, but I’d run out of time by then. So that’s a job for Wednesday, because I’ve got someone coming to see it all on Thursday and I need the lot numbers on by then and the owners’ names off.

I’d hoped to be free of my surgical boot by yesterday, but I didn’t feel ready. I’m going to a wedding on 9th September and on holiday from the 11th – just a few days in Kent – so those are my priorities. I’ll be patient and wear it as much as I need to.

My lovely friends are such good company and get on very well with each other, so a friendly atmosphere comes naturally. I’ve had a lovely time and I hope they did too. Sarah is leaving from Norwich station tomorrow after lunch, so that’s when the party will be over.

Z spoke too soon

Every time I got down to some work, something happened that needed to be dealt with. Nothing bad, just a priority. Then last night, I thought I’d have a lovely early night with a good book. I was in bed by 9 or so and looked forward to reading in comfort for at least an hour.

A few minutes in, a friend from overseas – over a lot of seas, in fact, he’s visiting from NZ but now in Scotland – texted me to ask if a video chat would be convenient? Being shameless, I said yes of course, I’m in bed but decently covered. He was amused. It was good to chat – I’ve known him a long time as he used to live in this country, though a New Zealander, but really don’t know him very well. Well enough to receive a call in bed, though. It’s age, darlings, old age, I’m beyond embarrassment.

We chatted for a quarter of an hour or so and then I’d hardly put the phone down and started reading again when my dear friend and adopted cousin (her late husband’s grandmother and my mother-in-law were cousins and I can’t be bothered to work out the distance although, in any case, there’s no blood relationship but we feel close enough for there to be one) video called me from Atlanta.

By the time we finished, it was nearly midnight. And then I slept for a couple of hours and was awake again, presumably over-stimulated. This morning, I got on with the photography for all of 15 minutes when another friend rang – landline this time – and I simply gave up. I’d promised to take my sister out for lunch, Wince the gardener needed help putting up the gazebo, which is a big one and impossible to do by oneself and then Wink had a hospital appointment this afternoon. When I got home, feeding the barn cats and the chickens turned into several jobs taking well over an hour and then, about 8 o’clock, I went to cook dinner. Lunch had been a lovely salad with chickpeas, aubergine, roasted tomatoes, green beans and various other salad ingredients, so I was going to do a simple vegetable mixture with some eggs. I was just frying courgettes and garlic when I heard a car draw up and saw my friend Graham getting out. So I fetched him a glass of wine and we chatted for a while – I’d taken the pan off the heat – and it was well after 9 when I was alone again. The courgettes and garlic were the only veggies. Everything else is still in the fridge. I just cracked eggs into the pan, sliced and buttered bread and ate it. With another glass of wine.

I have so much to do tomorrow and Saturday. It’ll still be fun. The World Cup final is on Sunday morning at 11, so I’ve asked Wink to host a tv party, so that those who’d like to watch it can come early. Zoe, Mike and Sarah will be here already. I’ll potter around cooking the final dishes. while they cheer on the Lionesses. I won’t watch, if they lose I’ll think it’s my fault because they were winning until I muscled in.

Ticked off “everything”

Writing lists isn’t really my thing. So, whilst I have broken down the preparation of the auction catalogue into stages, for the accountant I simply wrote “everything.” I still have things on my list, but I’ve ticked off the finances in their entirety. My accountant was very happy. All the things she’d noted to query were already dealt with and I had a sheaf of invoices/receipts to prove the expenses.

I’ve itemised the china and done the condition report – I finished that by 12.30 today. I thought a celebratory beer was in order and was just putting some mopping-up crisps into a bowl (if I indulge, it’s usually raw vegetables or a few olives, so this was exceptional and indicated my sense of achievement) when I remembered the four or five lots of books that haven’t been written down yet. But I didn’t let it bother me. I’d closed the laptop and that was that. Another day will be fine.

For the party on Sunday, I’ve written ‘buy food, prepare food, cook food, get ready.” It’s almost as bad as “everything,” though housework and so on is too dull to write down, so I excuse myself. Tomorrow, I will do the photography and print the labels. After that, get ready is the priority and I’m getting all excited. A shopping list is the one list I like writing.

Z writes lists

I usually carry lists in my head, but there’s rather a lot to have to get right, so I’d better tick things off as I go along. Having said that, writing lists seems to have taken up quite a lot of my sense of achievement and I’m tending to rest on the old laurels. I have done a few things though, mostly emails and sorting out papers. Getting started on the financial stuff is hanging over me, I admit. It’s the biggest burden – by no means the biggest job, but the one I’m doing everything to avoid.

It all started to go awry when I couldn’t get either Word or Excel to open on my computer. I do have a laptop too, or rather a MacBook but I haven’t really adjusted to doing everything on that. I like it well enough, but I do prefer a good big screen at the right height when I’ve got a lot of work to do. The things I needed on Tuesday hadn’t been transferred over, but luckily I’d emailed the most necessary ones, so I could print the documents from my phone (yesterday, I wanted to print something else from my phone, but it claimed the printer was offline, meaning it couldn’t connect with the printer that was online and worked perfectly well via the computer). And then Microsoft and my computer made up their tiff and, presently, it’s all fine. I’m taking it as a warning and will transfer everything over, though.

We have put all the china in lot order and next I have to type everything onto a spreadsheet – description of each piece, its condition (the condition report is another big job), the reserve, the estimate and the owner. Then I take all the photos and check them – that is, make sure i haven’t got to take any of them again, crop the photos and brighten them. I don’t edit them otherwise, but the colours are duller in a light box than taken by natural light. After that, I can print out lot numbers – this is slightly more work than it sounds, as I need to print the right number of lot numbers for each piece – eg, if it’s a teapot and cover that’s two, if it were a dish on a stand with a lid, that’s three, a vase is only one. The lot numbers have my name and the date of the sale. Stick on the numbers and I can put all the china away, to clear the room for the blog party. After the party, I have another ten days or so to compile the catalogue itself.

Mostly, today, I’ve been choosing what food to serve at the party. Because when you’ve got a lot to do, obviously you do the least urgent thing.

Tomorrow, I’m going to do the financial stuff, because it’s so much better not to leave it until the deadline. The most tedious bit is going through all my bank accounts, checking how much interest I’ve received each month. Often, it’s a matter of pence, but I have to put down all the information and add it up. In a nice little twist, if you receive less than £500 in bank interest a year, you get it tax free. But once it goes over £500, the tax-free concession is removed and you pay tax on everything over £250, so you have to list it to be sure it’s okay. I’ve never had as much as £100 in interest, but that’s not the point. The list, under Accountant, simply says “Everything.”

All go at the Zedery

I arrived home on Saturday evening, but it’s only now that I’ve managed to get to the computer, for one reason and another, most of which are too tedious to mention. I like variety in my life, but I wish it was not such inconvenient variety.

All went well, the children are really lovely and very easy, for small children. Rufus has discovered the joys of cryptic crosswords (the easier Times ones) and sudoku. They both were intrigued by my habit of adding nuts and seeds to plain yoghurt and adopted the practice. We got onto the beach every day, though not necessarily for sandcastles and paddling – luckily, there’s lots to do on that beach and they both enjoyed scrambling on the rocks and looking in pools. Perdita was very proud to climb Tim’s Rock for the first time, though I wasn’t there to watch and admire. I’d fallen asleep while they were getting ready to go out and, as I could walk down but not up, I didn’t want to risk missing them, as they were walking through the tunnels too. We went to local gardens – Colby Woodland Garden at Amroth, a short drive away – where the children found plenty to amuse them while I drank coffee. Then Perdita came to join me in the craft exhibition/shop, where we found much to admire but I didn’t buy anything, though I feel bad about that. Simply, I don’t need more stuff, though there were a lot of things I liked. We also went to Manorbier Castle, which they enjoyed too. I managed most of the ancient stairs, but finally gave up in the tower and the others went on while I sat in the second storey room. As before, they cheerily ate everything we cooked for them, including lots of vegetables and things they hadn’t tried before.

Sadly, a rat got in and ate the bantam eggs. There’s a torn bit of wire, which I carefully cover and had reminded Wink to, but she hadn’t realised how vital that was and forgot on the last night before I got home. Poor Hop abandoned the one remaining egg. She’s all right and has been dust bathing. I may try again when she’s next broody.

Today, Dilly and the boys came over and we spent a couple of hours painting the fence alongside the drive. We’ve done about a quarter of it. I’m very grateful for the help – they’ll come again when they have a free day and it’ll get done. There’s a lot that needs to be done, in fact. They’ll also come and try out the tennis court soon – the lines need to be painted first, but i’ve got the paint and a new net. And new balls, but old racquets.

10 days – well, 10 and a bit – before the rearranged blog party. Before then, I’ll work on the auction catalogue and get my accounts ready for the accountant. She comes to visit me – I think she enjoys half a day out and they don’t charge more for it – that is, they charge quite a lot anyway, so a drive out from Norwich isn’t unreasonable.