Monthly Archives: December 2023

Z is soppy

Soon after the start of the month, people start asking, jovially, “are you ready yet? Of course not, when they start asking is about when I start doing. My main achievement this year has been homemade produce for the family – 7 jars of different preserves for each family, plus some lovely toasted almonds from Crowdfarming and a jar each of Amalfi lemon marmalade and passion fruit jam from Single Variety co. Thinking about it, each box of goodies probably cost at least £50 though, as I was making most things myself, it felt as if it was free apart from my time, which is, of course, beyond price…

But now I am ready, apart from a little tidying and a spot of decorating. No tree this year and I’ve just got some evergreens to arrange elegantly on the mantelpiece. Which doesn’t really matter, if I don’t get around to it.

What all this cooking for my family has reminded me – not that I’d ever forgotten, but probably taken it for granted – is how very much I love them all. Three children, two in-laws (though I still love my ex-daughter-in-law too), seven grandchildren and my sister and they’ve all quite different and just as much loved. However much I grieve for those I’ve lost, I am as lucky as I can be, to have them all and that I’ll see them all in the next few days.

I’m also astonishingly lucky, to have made so many friends through blogging. Thanks, everyone. This may sound mawkish, but you know me better than that.

Z wins at not fainting

I suppose I blogged it, but we don’t often look back at the Zedery. Last time I donated blood, I fainted as I was walking across the landing and I woke up, puzzled, at the bottom of the stairs. I realised why I’d heard a lot of bangs and thumps a minute – or however long – earlier. Who knew that you could hear while unconscious?

I left it for 9 months instead of the usual 4. I was going to be busy in the summer and autumn – I would have booked in November, but nothing was available. I went along in December and owned up about the fainting, though not about the falling downstairs, because that wouldn’t have been useful. No, I didn’t go to hospital. Nor the doctor. No one who isn’t a friend here or on Facebook, or immediate family have been told because it’s boring. We talked about it – it was taken quite seriously – and I said I’d probably overdone it, I thought I’d been careful but I’m used to being quite busy, so maybe not careful enough. My sister was cooking me dinner and I would do nothing all evening.

This was all true and I had a busy morning to prepare for it. I fetched in coal and logs, shifted Hope and Polly’s coop up to the porch for the winter (it’s been dismal for them in the recent wet weather ), which meant a dozen trips up and down the garden, and did all the chores for several days to come. I also drank water. A lot of water.

I was fine. Wink fed me scallops and I did pretty well nothing. I remember to not do anything when I wanted to. I went to bed and texted Wink to say I’d arrived there safely. I haven’t been tired since either.

I don’t think I’d had enough protein, back in the early spring. I’d not been eating much in the way of animal products, except for yoghurt in the morning and I find lentils and beans so filling that I can’t manage much of them. Since, I’ve been eating more fish and meat – apparently you need more protein as you get older and I appreciate that – the summer after Russell died, when I was very busy and very stressed, I didn’t want a hot breakfast of eggs, so ate cheese instead. I felt I needed that. I’m not so much in touch with what’s good for me now, so I have to think it through. And what I think is that I need to eat small helpings of meat and/or fish and/or eggs, most days.

Today, I made medlar jelly. My children will each receive a small jar in their Christmas hamper.

Z’s week (not a typo)

The trees will be dealt with sooner than I’d expected – Tom has had a cancellation, so he’s coming next week. If t’were done, t’were best to be done quickly, as Shakespeare might have said (cbatg, I’m afraid).

Today’s Nadfas lecture, as I still quietly call it (I have not yet met one person who thinks that Arts Society is as good a name, never mind better) was excellent today. The speaker actually found new and interesting information about the history of Christmas traditions. She was very well received by the audience and chatting with her over lunch was good too.

Not having really slept last night, I came home and, after doing daily chores for an hour or so, I slept soundly and then couldn’t move for a while. I hope that doesn’t mean I won’t sleep tonight, either. I’ve got a haircut booked first thing and then a blood donor appointment after lunch. Wink is giving me dinner. I will do nothing after the bloodletting, having fainted last time. I suspect that twice, instead of three times a year will be enough for me in future, but I’ll see how it goes after tomorrow. It’s not anaemia, but it takes it out of me, nowadays. Then, on Friday, I’ve having lunch out while my piano is tuned. Wink will stay home to let the tuner in. I’ve known him for over 40 years, when he used to tune my mother’s piano – in fact, that’s the one he’s dealing with on Friday. I don’t think I’ve played it since he last came, sadly. I really hope I’ll manage more music next year. My fingers are still in good shape, at least. No arthritis or anything.

Z feels oaky (not a typo)

There’s a row of lovely Scots pines between the roadside hedge and the front field. They’re westward from the house, so their silhouette looks wonderful at sunset. However, the soil there is very poor – flint, gravel and sand – and they’ve never grown very tall. I mean, they’re clearly decent sized trees, but nothing near the size you might expect of trees that are at least 70 years old.

Once in a while, one of them has fallen down and this happened in the last strong wind. Luckily, they’ve always fallen towards the field rather than the road. Wince came in and said he’d been to investigate and it had uprooted itself and the roots looked rotten. I panicked a bit and emailed Tom the Tree Surgeon, who did such excellent work on the old oak tree in March 2020 (it was just before lockdown, literally that week). He was on holiday then, so has only just come today.

In short, 8 of them are beyond hope. The good news is that they lean slightly into the field, so are unlikely to fall onto the road, but the roots of those ones are in poor condition, so they’ll fall sooner or later. He’s going to come back in January and take them down. I hope that the extra space might be good for the ones that are left, but it’s wishful thinking really. He was surprised they’re the age that they are, he’d have expected them to be much taller and it shows how poor the soil is, as I said. i think the drought last year finally scuppered them. I told him about the Virginia creeper that died and he thinks that’s probably old age.

He’s doing the entire job for £550, which I think is very reasonable. We talked about the old oak tree and that it really was sensitively pruned at just the right time. With the storms we’ve had, I’m sure big branches would have fallen recently. As it is, he took a lot of weight off the crown, being careful not to spoil the shape and it’s been absolutely beautiful this year, when we had a fairly wet summer. At about 450 years old, it’s in its prime but will need care in the future.

A bit like me, then – okay, past my prime, but judicious pruning, in the shape of new hips, put me right until old age catches up with me.

Let’s rant again….

I’ve got the heating on, this isn’t a cliffhanger. But I need to complain, all the same. So, if I do it here, I won’t need to do it anywhere else (except possibly to the plumber, whose fault it isn’t).

He’d said, check the manual to remind myself how to put more water in the system. I did – my sister had, efficiently, got it to hand. It acknowledged that the system sometimes needed filling. It said, ” ask a competent person where the filling cock is located.” There was a lot more it said, including “purge all radiators” – who says purge, when bleed is the normal word? But what it didn’t do, at any point in the brochure, was point to the actual taps that needed to be turned, or how to know when the system had been refilled enough.

I’d already checked with the plumber, who’d assumed there would be adequate instructions in the manual, as he was absolutely reasonable to assume. I’m a competent person, as long as I know what to do. Luckily, I remembered. I’d just wanted reassurance that I was planning to do the right thing. The sodding manual being useless, I had to wing it.

There are two taps underneath the boiler. Both are marked ‘close.’ You open the left one, press the button with a picture of a flame on it and it shows the bar. Pressure should be between 1 and 2. Open the right one a bit, there will be a hissing sound that indicates it’s filling. When it’s about halfway between 1 and 2, stop and, with luck, the system will come on again. Possibly, I pressed the button with a flame again, I was pressing All The Sodding Buttons. If it shows a fault again, repeat. At the end, make sure both the taps are set to ‘close.’ There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? So why the actual fucking fuck didn’t the manual explain?

If you accidentally add too much, you need to let some pressure out of a radiator. If any radiator has a cold spot, bleed the radiators. You might then have to top up the pressure again. I haven’t done any of this, I’ll check in the morning if it’s necessary. Obviously, this clarity isn’t in the (actual fuckity fuck) manual.

So that this isn’t one long rant and, to reward you if you’ve got this far, my good deed for the day (apart from enabling my sister to live in her own home) was to take my friend Lilian, who’s 95 and lives alone, to the supermarket. Two hours for me, it was nothing compared to her pleasure. She has helpful neighbours who are happy to shop for her, but she’s considerately conscious of the bother to them and, also, it’s a pleasure to choose your own trolleyful. Anyway, I’d asked Wink to feed the cats this afternoon as it would be dusk when I got home. But there was enough light to see a lovely, full-grown hare in the garden. In the 37 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen a hare on the gravel drive by the house and it was a joy.

Sunday, Sunday

I googled header tank and, as there no longer is a hot water tank, evidently that’s not the problem. I texted the plumber and asked. It’s that the pressure needs regulating, which is straightforward, though getting up into the attic to do so isn’t, so I haven’t done it yet. What I said about accessibility still stands. Ugh.

Wink and I had smoked salmon and salad tonight, including nearly the last of the tomatoes from the greenhouse, having been out for Sunday lunch with Weeza and family. It’s a very nice restaurant, just this side of Norwich, by the River Yare and we went there a few weeks ago. Then, they were very busy and we got a 2.15 booking, which was really a step too far for them. It was well over an hour after our order was taken that our food arrived. One learns. We booked for 12 noon – of course, they weren’t nearly so busy anyway, but the food was prompt and well cooked and we had a relaxed 2 or more hours, not waiting for food but eating and chatting. No washing up, not too far to travel. I know restaurant prices have gone up, but I don’t begrudge it as it’s really hard work and, if the food is good quality, it’s worth it.

After a couple of frosty days, it’s bleakly raining. The chickens are spending most of their time hanging around in the smart, warm henhouse. No wonder they’re not laying, they don’t get enough daylight. Dear little Hope, out in the coop with Polly, still lays three or four eggs a week and Wink’s Thelma and Louise are laying too, in their Eggloo (I suspect I spelt that wrong). I’m sorry for Hope and Polly though, in their little coop and I’ve been trying to think of a way to give them better accommodation that’s still ratproof. I think I’m going to have to bring them indoors into the porch – in the coop, I can’t have them skipping indoors and out, I don’t think …. or can I? We haven’t got avian flu restrictions yet, many weeks after they were imposed last year. Anyway, if I lock my electric bike away in the barn – frankly, I’m not going to use it much until the spring – there will be room for the coop and they’ll be warm and dry there. I’ve put a tarp over the sleeping part and a bit over the outside area, so they aren’t going to catch a chill, but they look a bit sad. They’d rather have grass to scratch on, of course.

Over Z’s head-er tank

My latest house guest is my sister. Her boiler stopped working yesterday, so I trailed up into her attic this morning. I’ll break off for a short rant.

Some 17 years ago, a new boiler was needed for the annexe, where Al, Dilly and Squiffany then lived, with Pugsley on the way. The plumber had the bright idea of putting the new boiler in the loft, as it would free up room in the kitchen. Al and the (not so sagacious) Sage agreed and – I didn’t discover this for 15 years – Dilly’s protests were ignored. Unsurprisingly, she hated it. It was before the boiler could be altered by remote control, so if she wanted to adjust the timing or it needed any attention, she had to wait until Al was at home. I had no idea and said, if I’d known at the time, I’d have put my foot down.

I won’t go into details about more recent problems, but at least it’s not the same plumber. Anyway, when I went up into the loft this morning, it turned out that the problem is that the header tank needs more water. There was a chair up there, which I stood on and the tank was still above my head. Wink fetched a pair of steps and I carried them up – still far too high.

I went down to the workshop for a ladder and all the ones in the small workshop were too heavy. So I went to the big workshop, for half the extending aluminium ladder. The door was locked. I don’t normally lock it. I fetched the keys – there are four keys for four garages/workshops. The lock was frozen. I phoned Wince, no reply.

I said to Wink, come and stay with me until it’s sorted out. I hate to admit it, but I’m too short and too puny and too old for this. It needs a man.

I’m really pissed off that people who design and install systems are tall, strong men and it never enters their head that other people are not. Mirrors that are too high to see more than the top of your head, peepholes in front doors that are way over the head of elderly people with osteoporosis, windows that are so high and so awkwardly placed that the resident can’t ever clean them.

Anyway, Wink is very welcome and it’s lovely having her to stay.