Monthly Archives: January 2024

Z is still an optimist, it seems

To start with, happy blogday to me. 18 years and still sliding down the razorblade of life, with eternal thanks to the wonderful Tom Lehrer for the name of this blog and for his generosity in giving his musical work, free of copyright.

A good friend died, earlier this month. He was a year or so older than the Sage, who died nearly 10 years ago, though one would have said that J’s health was, overall worse. But he didn’t have cancer. I offered to do flowers for the church for his funeral and my fellow churchwarden (it was Dave who used to be known as the Fellow, so B and I will just have to be sister churchwardens and I’ll call her Sis) and I talked about the arrangements yesterday.

Today, I decided to drive over to the next small town which is, in fact, at least double the size of Yagnub and therefore has several supermarkets. Yagnub has excellent shops and I normally buy everything everyday there, but I admit that the expense of the lovely florist (I did shop there for myself last week) put me off, for all that I needed. I noticed that a single bunch of tulips was nearly £10, for instance. Anyway, Tesco has very good flowers. So that’s where I’d go. Wink said she’d come with me.

I noticed a sort of clunch as I drove down the drive, but thought I must have gone over one of the big Stone Pine (this is the name of the species; the tree is made of wood and is alive) cones, but shortly afterwards, the low tyre pressure light came on. It doesn’t take much, I didn’t take it very seriously for the next mile and a half, then I did. So I stopped as soon as I could – flat tyre. This tyre has been losing pressure, more than one would expect, for a while, but the excellently helpful young man at the local tyre place checked it and found no leaks. So I’ve just checked it every week and it’s sometimes needed some air. Anyway, flat. I pumped it up, but it was unwilling to inflate fully. So I decided to go to the tyre place, a couple of miles away, rather than go on to Becls.

I had to pump it up twice more and each time it inflated less. I arrived, stopped on the road and spoke to the proprietor, who said he’d got one person to deal with first – I just kept inflating the tyre all the time I was waiting and noticed the small rip where the air was coming right back out again. Obviously, a new tyre was needed and it would have to be ordered. I’m so grateful for the help. But I was two miles from home, so I said I’d walk and come back with Wink’s car.

I thought again. What are friends for, if you don’t feel able to impose on them? I phoned fellow churchwarden Sis and, kind as she eternally is, she came and fetched us. So we set off again to Becls. We bought the flowers – white lilies, yellow roses and some deep red and some paler alstroemerias – and I said that the least I could do was cook dinner for Wink tonight, so I’d call at the farm shop on the way.

Driving back, a road closure was not announced in time for me to go through the town instead, so we were diverted through interesting back streets until there was an ‘end of diversion’ sign with no suggestion of where to go. We guessed right however and got onto the back road between the two towns. A car coming towards us flashed its lights several times, making me think there was something wrong with Wink’s car. There wasn’t however: there had been an accident ahead. Later, I read on the local facebook page that there’d been a head-on collision and two people had had to be cut out of their cars.

We decided to go out for lunch, because. Just because, by this time. Wink suggested a nice pub by the river. I knew where she meant, but not how to get there, but she did … except she didn’t. We weren’t lost, we just didn’t find it. So we ended up somewhere else, at a cafe I’ve been meaning to try for a long time and we had a nice snack.

Anyway, while the day was shaped somewhat like a pear, we took the bright side of life. The tyre was failing by the minute. Another mile and I’d not have been able to put any air into it at all. I turned round just in time. The accident happened ten minutes before we got to the site and the diversion delayed us for just about that time. I did get the flowers – they cost about £40 and would have been triple that locally, so I’ll put the extra to the charity that I expect a collection will be taken for at the funeral. I feel quite lucky and very grateful.

I took a pheasant, which I’d bought at the farm shop a few weeks ago, out of the freezer and we had that for dinner. In my usual way, I ate all the carrots I’d prepared, before getting as far as cooking them and had to cut up more.

There are various jollifercations, as we call them in Norfolk, planned for later in the year, but that’s for another time. I’m in the process of setting a day for the blog party, which is likely to be the Bank Holiday weekend in late May or else the 13th July. I’ll come back to that later too – if anyone would like to come but is constrained for dates, do say – June isn’t out of the question, but most of July would be difficult and so would August. More of that later, however.


I started the day with a complete cock-up. I didn’t go into details for Ro – to make it very short, I started by thinking I needed to leave at 9.50, realised after a while that was too early, so thought I’d made it an hour earlier than necessary. Halfway to Norwich, I finally worked it out that I should have left at 10.20. No harm done, thanks to Siri and WhatsApp, I sent a message to say I was running late, without having to touch the phone.

I’ve bought Perdita a skirt, a jacket, a long sleeved teeshirt and a little handbag, plus some pants (knickers, that is) because she noticed them while I was waiting to pay. All the clothes except the panties have sequins on. Ro was fine with the skirt and teeshirt, but his face fell rather at the sight of the jacket, which is multi-coloured and very sequinned. I take the view that, in a few years it will be OTT but at 4, one can wear whatever gaudy number takes your fancy. She will love it. I also suggested to Rufus that he choose something for himself and he went to find a very nice hoodie, so everyone will be happy next Monday. I’ve brought everything home to wrap and will take it over on the Happy Day.

January is full of anniversaries for me, most of them not good – Perdita’s birthday is, obviously, entirely happy but today is pretty good too, as it’s the 14th anniversary of my first replacement hip, which transformed my life and for which I’m unendingly grateful. I’m not arthritic other than my hips, I just had shallow sockets that weren’t quite bad enough to be picked up in infancy. No one’s fault, no need to have looked. I’m glad to have been born at a time when hip replacements are straightforward. I’d have been a hobbling old woman for the last 14 years without them.

There are all sorts of dire weather warnings tonight. I don’t think this will be anywhere near as bad as many parts of the country, but it’s pretty windy out there. Apparently, people have been warned to move their beds away from the window, in some places. I’ve never heard that suggested in this country before.

Nearly four

My youngest grandchild will be four, a week on Monday. When I started blogging, Squiffany was a baby and she’s now at university and will be 19 in a couple of months. Now, my time as a granny of babies is over and I enjoy the company of young people instead. Seven of them, all quite different people, as are their parents, of course. It’s all so interesting.

Unless the weather is awful – wet, not just windy – I’ll go to Norwich with Perdita, her father and her brother tomorrow. I don’t know what to buy her and her parents would rather she doesn’t have yet more toys, so soon after Christmas, so we’ll probably hit the clothes shops. Never too early to enjoy choosing clothes. Then, there’s a particularly good ice cream parlour that Ronan knows, that they love.

Z is tyred out

When I took my car for its annual service, a couple of weeks ago, a puncture was flagged up – too near the edge to be mended, so I’d need a new tyre. The recent floods have put so many flints onto the roads that a lot of people have had similar problems round here, I’m told. I didn’t get around to doing anything about it until Monday, but I took it, by appointment, to be sorted out at the excellent tyre place near here, today.

A few years ago, I had a lot of tyre problems – not with the same car, but following bad weather, though it was snow then. Farmers had cleared the roads then and had shed various bolts and nails, which wrecked a couple of my tyres and I needed a complete new set too, that year, so five new tyres were required within a few months. Not quite as bad so far, but it’s still January – I seem to be at the tyre place rather frequently this winter. The helpful, but taciturn and unsmiling young man who usually helps me has finally unbent. We laughed and joked together and I was so pleased. I’d felt a bit intimidated, to start with, I felt that I was a nuisance because I needed help a few times, but I eventually decided it was just his way, that he was polite but unsmiling, though I now feel I’ve done something right.

All the same, I just hope I don’t have to go back for a while, even if we are on friendly terms now. At least the car runs well. I have to plug it in every night at present, because it’s so cold, but it’s still way cheaper than petrol. An ICE car and an electric car is certainly the best combination for me, at present.

The weather has been cold. Not pleasant. It’s due to warm up over the weekend, but only because wind and rain are on the way. I hope I’ll be able to meet up with Ro and his children in Norwich on Sunday, because it’s his daughter’s 4th birthday next week and I want to buy her present. We won’t be put off by wind, but wind and rain may mean that the internet will gain my shopping. I really do hope not, though. I’d love to spend time with them and take them out to lunch and buy treats.

Everything has gone really well today, in a lowkey manner. That is, nothing spectacular, but pleasant and calmly successful. It started well because I slept until after 7am. Honestly, I could stop right there. But it progressed nicely too, apart from my being very cold, a lot of the time. I was wearing a wooly hat indoors, if that gives the flavour. I had bacon and eggs for lunch and hang the less-than-healthiness. After my chilly visit to the tyre place, I drank peppermint tea before giving in and having an early hot bath. I made up for lunch with a bean salad with nuts and seeds and stuff, plus feta cheese, because I can’t eat enough beans to last me through the night, I need more protein than that. I’m still warm and as cheerful as I get, so I might go to bed and read for a while. That’s always a good plan. I bought three books last week that I haven’t yet read.

Frosty wind is making Z moan

When it dawned on me that the hall and landing are quite unreasonably cold, I checked that the storage heater in the hall was turned on. It was, but it was stone cold. It seems that everything is going wrong at present. When I got up this morning, I gathered up my clothes and then retreated to bed again for ten minutes, to warm up enough to brave the cold again and put them on. It’s rare for me to put the heater on in my bedroom, but I think I’ll do it tonight. I put on the electric blanket early, anyway. Having been out this evening, I didn’t light the fire and so now, at 9.30, I’m sitting with an electric heater near me and a wooly hat on. I’m very warm, in fact. It was -2ºC when I got home, so not unreasonable for the time of year, but it’ll get colder in the night.

I’ve got various things to catch up on, in the admin department, that I’ve been neglecting in a busy week, so I’ll catch up over the weekend. I’ll also pay my tax bill, unnecessarily early but I can’t stand the stress of owing money.

All my efforts are directed to minimising stress nowadays, which is why minor disasters don’t touch me. Three friends have died since Christmas and another is very ill and so little things like a leaky pipe, a puncture, a cold radiator, are all trivialities that don’t matter at all. When a friend spilled a glass of water at lunch and we talked about clumsiness (which she claimed), I said that I only had to put a freshly-ironed tablecloth on the dining table for Tim to spill red wine and tomato sauce and I’m so glad I was always relaxed about it. The tablecloth didn’t matter, it would have been silly – you don’t love anyone less just because he spills things and you don’t cry over spilt milk (unless it’s been spilt in the car, where it’s very difficult to ever get the smell out of the fabric, I’m told).

In addition to that, I’ve never understood why some people think it’s okay to nag their other half about tidiness or doing a job a certain way. They both live in the same house, so why should one person be the only one to decide what it looks like? Of course, this made me Russell’s ideal partner and explains the chaos that became so natural to me that I still can’t quite escape it – but all the same, our respective viewpoints both held equal sway.


Clearly, there had been a mouse. It had eaten enough of the pipe for it to fall apart. Worse, it had eaten the place where the pipe went into the dishwasher, so that the plumber couldn’t attach a new part. It needed the dishwasher guy. I phoned yesterday afternoon and explained and was promised a call back.

Fantastic service. I got a call, asking if lunchtime today would suit, but it wouldn’t. Wink and I were going to be in Norwich for a lecture about Frida Kahlo, I’d invited Rose to join us and to have lunch there. So, when I’d said that I’d be out from 9.45 until about 2.30 – though I didn’t fuss or ask a favour – I was promised that I’d be fitted in early. Jaden arrived about 9, sorted out the problem and stayed long enough to be sure that the machine was working okay. It hadn’t been the plumber’s fault that he couldn’t do the job and at least he sealed off the pipe where it met the kitchen sink drain pipe, so I was able to catch up with the washing up. Although the mouse had done a startling amount of damage and water must have gone down underneath the suspended wooden floor, Jaden said that it hadn’t happened long ago, it might have just been a night’s work. I set traps and, after two nights, haven’t caught anything and there’s been no sign of a mouse otherwise, so it’s just one of those things to shrug shoulders and not fuss about. The charge was £65 for about 40 minutes’ work. The plumber will send his bill in due course, it’ll be a bit more but not unreasonable.

ECat has been told that it’s not her fault, she couldn’t have caught the mouse. Which seems to have left the house – unless it ventured out and she caught it and I’ll find it decomposing somewhere in a while.

Tomorrow, we’ll go to the lunch club I’ve been going to for over 30 years. My mum went and wanted me to join so that she’d have company on the journey and I just kept on going. I’ve nearly always been the youngest one there, probably even now apart from Rose, who sometimes joins us if she’s free. There are comings and goings but most of us are in our 80s and 90s now. For years, I have given a lift to Jo and Lilian, two sisters who live 9 miles away – in the wrong direction, but it doesn’t matter. Jo died, sadly, of Covid, which she caught in hospital two years ago, but Lilian copes very well for someone who’s coming up to 95. Another friend, Diane, is getting a bit anxious about driving far now, at the age of 87, so we do an extra detour to pick her up too. Afterwards, we take Di home and then drive Lilian to Tesco’s so that she can have the treat of doing her own shopping.

A few years ago, I was driving Lilian and Jo home and Rose was with us. It was December and I asked what they were doing for Christmas? “We’re going to die,” drawled Lilian casually. Startled, I said, “say that again, darling?” “We’re going to Di,” repeated Lilian. We managed to smother our laughter, Rose and I, but it still bubbles up, once in a while.


Of course I didn’t succumb to a glass of wine last night. I did, on my way back through the kitchen from turning off the light over the Aga, eat a couple of roasted almonds, but that was as far as my indulgence went.

I should add, by the way, that I adopted an almond tree through CrowdFarming last year and duly received a kilo and a half of roasted almonds in November. Some were plain, some salted and some salted and herbed and they were all gorgeous. I could easily gorge on them. I gave a jar to each of my children and eat a few every day – most days, that is.

I’m very glad I didn’t attempt the plumbing matter myself, because now another stretch of pipe has given way. Unfortunately, the dishwasher was in the middle of a cycle when it did so. I’m quite glad, now, that dishwashers save water nowadays – it wasn’t too bad and the worst of it is that I can’t use water in the kitchen at all at present. I must get back in touch with the plumber, whom I’d told that the situation wasn’t urgent. I’m just piling up washing-up and am very relieved that this didn’t happen on Saturday, when Weeza and family were here. No leak then. I pulled the dishwasher out to dry underneath it and found what looked like a sloughed-off skin of pipework.

I seem incapable of fussing about anything like this any more. I don’t even treat it as very important, though I’ll soon get tired of piles of saucepans waiting to be washed up. Shrugging and not minding much certainly makes life less stressful.

There are things that Z won’t do

Not because they’re a sin, I don’t mean anything wrong. Just, in this case, fairly straightforward plumbing. I’ve discovered that a flexible pipe has perished – not the whole thing, the top of the curve when it’s come from the kitchen sink, through the solid plastic pipes and then up and down again towards the drain. The top of the top of that curve. So water mostly flows down it, but it can splash over.

It looks quite straightforward. It doesn’t even need the water supply to be turned off. I could buy the pipe, put plugs in the sinks, remove the old and replace it. Bet it isn’t as straightforward in practice though. And I’m not even going to try. I’m game for a blocked drain, I sorted out Tim’s kitchen drain for him the last time we were in Reading together, ten days before he died. I cautiously took a photo before I started, in case I forgot how to reassemble it, because I’m a sensible woman who knows I’m not very smart and it was really quite satisfying. And I often have to rod out my drains here, because there’s very little drop towards the septic tank and any debris builds up. No fatbergs here, I am very careful but, especially now we avoid wasting water, it seems mostly to be gunk from the dishwasher in the drain outside the kitchen.

But anyway, I can’t go that far wrong there. But in this instance, I feel the need to call in my friendly local plumber and pay him an extraordinary amount of money instead. I’ve never thought of male and female jobs around the house and garden (let’s not call them the cringeworthy ‘blue and pink’, please) and just get on with whatever needs doing, but I have clear limits. Nothing electrical unless it’s wiring a plug or changing a fuse or a lightbulb, that level of ordinariness. Nothing with power tools, except an electric screwdriver or sander. Or the log splitter. Nothing to do with drills or saws, anyway, unless they’re hand tools. I’m fine with lawnmowers and similar, of course. I don’t do carpentry. That’s probably because the Sage was so good at it, but I limit myself to self-assembly furniture, not that I have much of that. A few wardrobes and bookshelves.

I find myself at an awkward loose end this evening. I didn’t get around to breakfast until around 11 o’clock this morning and then didn’t want any lunch. I ate an orange, sometime in the afternoon and then went to cook a spiced tomato sauce, which I intend to use for various purposes this week. By 6pm, I was very hungry. I used some of the leftover roasted vegetables, some of the tomato sauce, the remains of the fish from the other day and a spoonful of leftover rice and had an early meal. It’s only 8 o’clock, I finished eating for the day an hour ago and I have no idea what to do with myself. I’m vaguely hungry, but that’s because I left it too long before eating. The ‘full’ message hasn’t hit my brain. I sensibly didn’t have any wine with dinner, because I’d have been too tempted to fill myself up with another glass or two now. I ate a pear after dinner and I’m not going to snack. Evening snacking is a bad thing and I could polish off far too much cheese.

I wish I hadn’t mentioned cheese. I wonder if there’s anything I want to watch on the ludicrous number of channels, through various freeview and streaming services I have. Too much choice means that I usually watch nothing at all.

Just one glass of wine, perhaps? I wonder if my self-control will hold out.

Another January

Finding myself with too much, to say, I say nothing. So, today, I’ll go the other way and say – um – something.

Silence hasn’t meant that anything is wrong, it’s all okay at the Zedery.

Last summer, after I’d turned the Aga off, I was careless and let my sourdough starter die. I could make perfectly good bread in the air fryer I bought to replace the mini oven that barely heated up, but it was no pleasure and Pete on the Thursday market makes lovely bread and, well, I was lazy. But I made naan bread, with yeast, a couple of weeks ago, when Ro and his children came for lunch and it spurred me on to start again. I’d not made a sourdough starter from scratch before, but how hard could it be? I asked myself.

Not too hard, just tricky to know when it was ready to use. But I had a go, last Wednesday and thought I’d failed miserably. I left it overnight and the dough had a lovely texture and was stretchy and easy to handle. I shaped it and left it – coming back several hours later, it was really quite flat and hadn’t risen much. I thought of turning into naan bread again – don’t see why that wouldn’t work with sourdough – but then decided to bake it. And it rose in the oven, more than I expected. The texture is a bit heavier than I’d like, but the starter is certainly yeast and I’ll persevere.

I’ve been cooking a lot, in fact and my freezer is full of little boxes of single servings. I need to stop cooking and start eating. Weeza and co came for lunch today, took quite a lot of leftovers, but I still have 8 or more little boxes in the fridge.

I’m boring myself and can only apologise to you. I’ll go in search of my voice.