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Z is blogging again

We’ve been away to LT’s lovely caravan in beautiful Pembrokeshire – it really is, everyone who goes there is surprised that it’s not better known about.  Coincidentally, Wink and some friends have been staying in the next village, within walking distance through “the tunnels” and we had no idea until she came to stay over Easter.  So we and her boyf, Bod, met us for lunch one day.

Lots to tell you about but I’m not sure I can do it all today.  I hadn’t slept much all week, for no good reason at all, and I arrived home with the sort of headache that can only be slept off.  So I did and most of it has receded, though I’m still up for an early night.

I need to tell you about the holiday, my London visit, a blog meet with an old friend I’d not met before, the circumstances around our meeting, our arrival home and what’s been going on while we were away – this could take most of the next week.

Eloise cat was very pleased to see us and Zain, out in the barn, was so glad that, when I was bending over getting out his food, he rubbed his face against mine.  That’s never happened before.  Both his brothers came to be fed, though his sister and parents weren’t about.  However, that’s no matter for concern, I have no reason to think that they aren’t alive and well.

The only reason, by the way, that I haven’t blogged in the past week is that there is no internet at the caravan except occasional moments, enough to download an email or a notification, but certainly not enough to do anything with.  Restful, really.

Humpy’s meadow

There are two adjoining fields, divided by a stream known as ‘the beck.’  It’s a good twenty years since the fencing on the further one, Humpy’s Meadow, was renewed and it’s looking its age.  We’ve done running repairs and so has the farmer, but we’re biting the bullet and redoing the whole thing, though keeping what’s in good repair.  First, though, we had to have the overgrown, dead and fallen timber taken out, as well as brambles and other rubbish.  This gave us a huge quantity of stuff to be burnt and a sizeable pile of wood to be, in due course, cut up for firewood.

Little Z is standing at the side – the pile must be 15 or 20 feet tall.

And the farmer has been bringing the potential firewood – once it’s been cut down to size – over by the barn.  And that’s not so big but it’s denser: maybe 10 feet tall.

And old Humpy the donkey’s stable will finally be demolished and the eventual bonfire will consume even more and the log pile will grow further. Which is quite reassuring, in fact. We like guaranteed warmth for years to come.

Lewis

I really am cracking the problem of names, at last.  Again, I simply asked “what is your name?” And was told and used it as I said goodbye and I won’t forget it.  This has taken a reasonably long life – at least, I’ve outlived my father by more than four years – to learn.  Mostly, I was sunk in the gloom of knowing that I wouldn’t remember, so couldn’t ask again, but I was also afflicted by shyness.  Having been shy as a child and finally, with considerable effort, grown out of it (the personal growth, that is, not simply getting older), I rarely have acknowledged the final snippets of difficulty, but that’s certainly been one of them and I relied on Russell always to know names. I had to take the matter on the chin, or else have been unnecessarily in the dark.

Wink has left for home – and presumably arrived there – and we’re alone again.  it’s been a good weekend and there’s a busy tine to come.  Jonny the farmer is starting the new fencing tomorrow and we’re on to the next project in the garden.  The early potatoes have been earthed up twice, the newly seeded grass is up, vegetables are doing well.  And we’ve finally finished planting out the shrubs and herbaceous stuff that we bought a fortnight ago, which is remarkably speedy.  We’ve also – well, Tim has – put the hose on the new spool we bought.

I’d come up with a theory – Zain and Freddie barn cats have been turning up for meals regularly, but I haven’t seen any of the others for a week or two.  So I thought that they’d given their siblings their marching orders, this field not being big enough for all of them.  And then Betty and Barney arrived this morning, along with Zain, which put the kibosh on that.  So no more theories.  I just meekly go out twice a day and, if there are any cats, I feed them.  This afternoon, there were none, so I didn’t.

And so to bed, darlings.  I slept very well last night, which is always tiring, innit?

Z sees … yellow

As I drove over to the first party today, I thought how yellow the countryside is in spring.  And then I looked at the hedgerows and trees and thought again about why I felt that.  It’s the oilseed rape in flower now, of course.  But a good many of the early flowers are yellow – primroses, daffodils, dandelions, buttercups, cowslips and so on, and some of the early leaves on some trees, such as oak, are distinctly greenery-yallery.  I looked again at a lot of pink and white, with a modicum of blue and a whole lot of green and actually, it’s just so many fields of rape that colour – heh – my judgement and maybe it’s not really true after all.

The first party was an Easter egg hunt at Weeza’s boss’s place (he and his wife are also friends, and were so before she worked for him)  and there were lots of children and vast amounts of eggs hidden, which were then – of course – hunted for.  Then we went over to Weeza and Phil’s place for lunch.  There were fifteen in the party, the whole family.

I’m very glad we don’t have a field of rape in the village.  Smelly stuff, it makes me sneeze.

Holiday weekend – Saturday

Wink is here for Easter, having arrived yesterday on her birthday.  We’re planning to take her to the theatre in London as her present, so will have a look and aim to book up, tomorrow.

We went over to Southwold today.  First to an antique fair, where LT bought me my engagement ring back last August Bank Holiday – we had a nice look round but didn’t buy anything today.  What caught my eye were some framed Chinese silk embroideries, very attractive.  They were mainly, possibly all, sleeves from late 19th century costumes, removed, mounted and framed – a new idea as far as I know.  Nothing we wanted to buy: I quite liked some antique Persian rugs and some treen, but wasn’t in the mood to buy for the sake of it.

Then we went on into the town and drove around a bit, looking for somewhere to park.  The car parking is free and unrestricted, which tends to mean that people stay a long time.  After about fifteen minutes, I suggested that we go down to the harbour and see if we could get lunch in the pub there; otherwise there are some stalls that do fish and chips, crab salad (all locally caught) – and as we headed that way, there was a parking space that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier.  Lucky us.  Even more remarkably lucky, the pub where I took Tim the very first time he came to visit (other than the blog party five years ago), the October before last, had a table free in the courtyard and it was not too chilly out there.  At 1 o’clock on a Bank Holiday weekend Saturday, that was very good news – all the tables were booked or occupied inside.

Having had parents in the catering business and having both eaten out a lot and had a fair few parties, I take something of an interest in practical catering.  I’ve had very little experience myself in offering food from a menu, but I know when it’s managed well (or badly) and recognise how a kitchen and dining room are managed.  The place was very busy but was adequately staffed.  We were brought menus quite quickly and drink orders taken.  A few minutes passed before they arrived, but not long enough for us to be impatient, and then we were left a bit longer before the orders were taken.  This is all to allow for the kitchen to pace the receipt of orders – everything we asked for would have to be cooked individually, so clearly some time would elapse before service.  Ten minutes later, our cutlery and (linen) napkins were brought, five or ten minutes more and the food arrived, which was pretty good going.  Two waiters brought it – if it hadn’t all been ready together, one would have brought the platefuls, one at a time, to buy a bit more time.  Anyway, we were all well pleased and enjoyed our lunch.  And, as I have a few Adnams shares, I got 15% off the bill.

Stevo and – I’ve forgotten what name I gave his mate – arrived just as we were leaving and they’ve cleared another building and repaired it: it just has the new door to be added.  We’re not going to run out of jobs for a while yet, though.

Z’s not grand day out

It all started well – I caught the train, which was on time, although we were slightly held up by a slow train ahead of us as we approached Stratford, we were only a few minutes late into Liverpool Street.  And, as I waited to get out, I saw a friend of mine, Gabriella, who was going to visit her daughter and family for a few days and we had a brief chat.

I discovered that I had not, as I’d assumed, got my Oyster card in my bag, so it’s as well that one can now use contactless payment on a bank card – I’ve checked since and the right amount was taken out.  Although the trip to Islington is quicker and more direct on the Tube than on the bus, there’s a lot of walking involved as one has to change lines, but I can enjoy the ability to walk quickly, not having had it for a while.  And I reached the flat and put my key in the door and it didn’t work.  Eventually, I remembered that my tenant had had to change the lock for some reason and I don’t actually remember whether or not I had a key – anyway, she’d dropped in a key with the letting agent so I had to walk back to fetch it.  And she’d left the spare in the flat, so I’ve got that now and I’ll get copies made.

As I left, I thought I’d just try my key in the flat below, so I rang the bell (I’d mentioned to my other tenant that I was coming so wasn’t being sneaky, just not wanting to march in if he were there and could open the door to me) and, not only did it not work but it was stuck.  It turned a bit and no more, either way.  I got a bit desperate after a few minutes, didn’t know what to do.  Luckily, I had a pair of nail scissors in my bag and was able to use them for extra leverage and got it out.  I’ve emailed him to ask: the lock has never been changed so we’re puzzled.  I’ve got to go back next week so he will meet me there.

When I got back on the Tube and changed at Euston for Green Park, the train was crowded.  There was one seat left however and a young woman was moving towards it, until she saw me, and then she indicated that I should take it, which was really kind and a bit startling as I hadn’t entirely realised I’d reached that sort of age.  But I took it and smiled and thanked her, and she was able to sit down after the next station anyway.

There were two exhibitions on at the Royal Academy, so I went round the first one and then went for lunch.  I had a very good salad, Puy lentils and chickpeas and various salady vegetables, and a pot of Earl Grey, which tasted good but was too strong.  I couldn’t manage all the second cup and, if I have it there again, I’ll ask for a jug of hot water.  Then I had to go up to the top floor for the second exhibition, which I hadn’t quite realised – again, appreciated my ability to walk again.  On balance, I probably preferred the Russian one, on the basis that there were several abstracts that I’d certainly put on my walls.

I pottered into Fortnums and Hatchards because you can’t be in Piccadilly and not, but I wasn’t in a buying mood and I headed back to the station.  And by then, it was really quite busy on the Underground.  And, after the obligatory change of line, I was quite okay with standing again, but a young man got up and invited me to take his seat.  I was totally startled – twice in one day, how old do I actually look?  – but thanked him and sat down, because how kind and lovely and I wouldn’t rebuff politeness for anything – and I murmured to the woman next to me, who was probably in her 70s, that I must be looking really old!  And she said no, just very tired.  Which actually didn’t help.

So, I got on the 4 o’clock train and found a seat and thought hopefully about toddling off to the buffet for a cup of tea, once we were on the move, and was just sending a text to LT to say what train I was on, when the conductor announced one the intercom, in a rather dismayed and upset voice, that there had been a ‘fatality on the line’ at Chelmsford and so the train wasn’t going to set off -“we’re not going nowhere for now,” as she put it.  So I relayed this to LT, who replied “oh bugger” – quite.

And the lovely conductor came down the train to give advice and hear what passengers had to say, not that anyone had any criticism for her or the train company.  We thought dark thoughts about the jumper.  I promise, darlings, if ever I decide to end it all, I won’t jump on a train track in the middle of the afternoon and ruin a whole lot of people’s getting home time, quite apart from devastating a driver’s day.  He or she will have flashbacks for life, I’m sure.  I assume it wasn’t an accident as that would have made headline news.

Later, bottles of water were left for us to help ourselves.  This was very different from previous times when I’ve been on a severely delayed train and good for Abellio Greater Anglia for implementing good customer services.  Eventually, we left at 5.35 and went very slowly to start with as other trains had been held up at stations along the route and we were in a queue – at least we were the first train to leave Liverpool Street.  I finally arrived home at quarter past eight, a couple of hours late, but it could have been worse.  And LT already had the pan smoking ready for steaks to go on.

I still keep peering in the mirror, wondering how ancient I actually look.  But the simple fact that Londoners are lovely can’t be denied.  On the journey back to the station, a woman and little boy in a pushchair caught my attention, because he was a sweetie.  And I looked for them when we got out, meaning to help her with the stairs.  But a man was ahead of me, carrying it with her.  Because, if you’re ignored, it looks as if you don’t need help and, if you do, you receive it.  That’s always been my experience, anyway.

Tired Z links with Lovely Tim

I was in London for the day and, as so often, the return journey was longer than expected.  As a result, I’m just too tired to write tonight.  A post saying I’m not writing a post is wretched, however.  So I’ll refer you to LT’s blog, which I’m also too tired to write on but hope you might do in my place, for now, as it involves Lists!  And Opinions, Choices and suchlike.

Here you go, darlings.

 

Eating in, mostly

A fair bit of our life revolves around food.  I don’t think we’re especially greedy – after all, you can be keenly interested in food and yet not overeat – and nor are we great gourmets, but we do enjoy planning and cooking our meals.  Blue Witch says that she’s read a report that only 10% of our meals are cooked from scratch at home – well, almost everything we eat is, yet we have lunch out about once a week, so we can’t claim 100%, but the planning, cooking and eating of our meals has an importance that could be slightly embarrassing if we were of a mind to be embarrassed by anything.  But right now, we’re sharing a punnet, the first, of local strawberries and if that isn’t important… And earlier, we enjoyed the spinach that I’d picked an hour previously.

I don’t think anyone need have hang-ups about what they want to eat, though.  I’ve plenty of friends who don’t much enjoy cooking or for whom food is fuel rather than keen pleasure.  A friend of mine told me, the other day, that she and her husband have started subscribing to one of those companies that deliver all the prepared ingredients for meals but that one cooks oneself.  She said, they eat more healthily and with more enjoyment, there’s no waste and no uncertainty, and no shopping during their busy working lives.  I completely agreed with her, it’s clearly what is best for them at this time.  And takeaways, why not if you want to?  We choose not to, others choose differently.

All the same, we love simple, perfect ingredients cooked with love and care and eaten with appreciation, plus lunch out regularly.  It’s what suits us for now.

Creatures of habit

Whilst LT was out of the room making tea, Eloise cat went to sit in his usual place on the sofa.  At present, there’s an impasse.  Tim is holding her box of cat snacks, but she’ll have to move to get any of them.

Entertaining as this situation is, what it’s made me think about is habitual behaviour.  That’s something I try to resist on the whole.  Not entirely, of course – there are some routines that make everyday life simpler, such as having a specific place to keep keys, the locking up and switching off at night, the feeding of animals (and ourselves), obviously – but I mean things like tending to sit in the same place, eat the same things, ‘always’ doing something because you always do it, not because it’s the best or only good way.

 

There are various reasons for sitting in a particular place – best light for reading, chair at the right height, distance from the fire or the tv, view out of the window, for instance.  A friend told me that he and his wife each have a view of a flower bed from the side of the dining table where they sit opposite each other, so they each plant one up with bedding plants for the other to look at.  Unfortunately, he particularly dislikes the flowers she always plants for him and can’t say so, without admitting he’s been disliking the view for years.  He’s tried to gently steer her onto something else, but she isn’t particularly sensitive to suggestions and hasn’t taken the hint.  She’s very blunt and outspoken herself, you’d think she’d welcome a frank discussion…

When I go to meetings – societies, lectures, church and so on – there are always some people who always sit in the same place.  Even if there’s a reason for that (one friend pointed out that the sun streams through the church window onto her preferred pew), it’s too much of a rut for my liking.  When I was church warden, I liked to change the positions of particular kneelers and cushions on the pews, just to give people some sort of different experience.  I daresay they thought it was the whim of the cleaner, I never mentioned it.

When I was a child, my parents always had ‘their’ places, each on a sofa opposite each other.  I don’t think my sister and I did, we tended to sit wherever there wasn’t a dog, which was often on the floor.  Similarly, at mealtimes, we always sat in the same place.  I don’t know if we did that when my children were growing up, I can’t remember, though I suspect Russell sat at one end of the table.  Now, we have a round table, so there isn’t a “head of the table” place.  During the winter, we’ve sat on the side nearest the fireplace, but we haven’t lit it for the past week or two, so it doesn’t matter any more.

Eloise cat won.  She stayed at the end of the sofa nearest to Tim’s laptop.  But he didn’t mind.  The other end was the sunniest, so he rather preferred it for a change.

Warmth at the Zedary

The youngest members of the family came over to day; or rather, the youngest family within the family.  Young Rufus is 10 months old today and, it was discovered, he loves his Granny’s cooking.

The forecast was for the hottest day of the year so far – in the 20s, which is pretty good for the first half of April.  It was already very warm when I set off for church at 9.15.  LT and I had talked about lunch yesterday and decided to make a soufflé and salad, it not being the day for a big roast dinner.  And then we thought we might as well eat it outside, too.

When I got home from church, I went out to check the early potatoes, which are under fleece and they are up!  It’s been a dry few weeks, so I pulled back the fleece and put the sprinkler ready, then remembered the radishes, further on in the same bed.  So I pulled sixteen radishes, first of the year, to go with the salad and put on the sprinkler – later, I earthed up the potatoes, if just covering the first shoots with soil in case of frost can be described as such, and covered them over again.

Rufus’s lunch was cucumber, cut into fingers, and ham and cheese soufflé without the ham and he loved it.  Frankly, he filled his face and had to be given extra helpings.  I was duly flattered, the more so when Ro praised my cooking in general, a realisation that had come to him gradually.  One thing I managed to get right in my generally haphazard parenting career was to instil in all my children an appreciation of good food and very good cooking skills.  When he was at university, he used to phone to ask advice on cooking once in a while – “I’ve bought a tuna steak, can you suggest a recipe?” Or once, “I usually just use the pan juices for gravy for a chicken but I need more than that, how do I stretch it while keeping the flavour?”  He lost me slightly when he assured me that raw broccoli makes a surprisingly good sandwich filling, mind you.

Rufus now has two teeth and is pretty quick when getting across the floor.  His crawling technique is to use his hands to go forward and then bring up his knees together to catch up – it hasn’t yet occurred to him to use each leg separately.  And he hasn’t quite managed a deliberate word yet, though the general dadada sort of sound could be interpreted as such.  It won’t be long, though.  There’s endless fascination when you’ve a baby in the family.