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Blogging without frontiers

The good thing about a personal blog is that I can digress, break off or give opinions and no one can stop me. I rarely do the last, as I’ve been shouted down too many times over the years and, in the past, it was very upsetting. I’m less vulnerable but also more cautious now. But anyway, tonight I digress. Only to be more current.

For the last several days, I’ve had a poorly cockerel. Jenson, son of Jenga, proud patriarch who died last year, was a gentle soul who cared for his wives but who was never seen to mate with them. He must have done so, as some, at least, of the eggs were fertilised, but it seemed he didn’t impose, unlike the average rooster. He went from proudly calling them to eat, when I’d scattered leftovers, greens or mealworms, to being on his own and his wattles and comb were paler and purply. In the course of a few days, he became worse. I couldn’t catch him and it would have made no difference. I’ve discovered, over the years, that I can’t nurse a cockerel, though sometimes I can persuade a hen to recover (from Hop to Hope could equally well have titled this post, though it’s only relevant because that girl chicken has done so well over a year and a half of being poorly).

Three days ago, he had collapsed and Wink, who fed them that morning, told me he was dead. But she had only looked from outside, he was just flopped. I put him in a box, with a bowl of water and some food, though I had no expectation of his recovery. Next morning, he was weaker. The next morning, I didn’t look for a few hours. Schrödinger’s Cock, I thought, as I avoided checking on him. But he was still alive and remained so all the day and evening. Even this morning, I wasn’t entirely sure as he was still warm, until I lifted him. Poor little guy. He wasn’t so old, but only Stringfellow is still alive of Jenna’s sons and I won’t let him father any chicks. New blood is needed for a healthy flock.

Last night, I took my second eldest granddaughter, Zerlina, to the theatre. She loves musicals and her mother doesn’t, so lucky granny is called on. I’m also a Friend of the theatre so get priority booking. Last night, we went to Six. Very good, very well played – it always cheers and thrills me to see how much performers put into a show. They work so damn hard! And, I’m not sure why this specific thing hadn’t occurred to me before, and the religious aspect wasn’t flagged up last night, but the paradox and irony finally came to me, that the devout Roman Catholic, Catherine of Aragon, caused the Reformation: that is, secession from Rome. If she had, however reluctantly, accepted an annulment of her marriage, Henry would never have broken from the Church of Rome.

But there. Too long ago to dwell on.

It’s still raining. I’ll come back to that too, sooner or later.

It all started 100 years ago … part 2

It’s just occurred to me that I took a photo of Carol’s grave in the churchyard, a few miles from here, that I visited with Rhonda and Victoria last year. So devoted was her daughter to everything English that her ashes – or half of them, anyway, had to be brought back here and interred, along with those of her husband. The snap I took isn’t very clear so I’ll have to go back and look again at some time. But she died in 1981 at the age of 77.

Dan and Sheila had a passion for antiques. Their enthusiasm surmounted even Russell’s and he was an avid collector. They couldn’t go past an antique shop without going in and they couldn’t leave until they’d looked at everything. They bought a huge amount of stuff, including a lot of duplicates. I’ve still got a couple of creamware teapots in my dining room, that Russell bought for them (they’d asked him to and they’d have paid him back) but which they didn’t visit again to pick up and we never got to Georgia to deliver them.

Sheila is completely unworldly. She’s very interested, still, in what’s going on in the world and in all sorts of historical subjects, particularly British history and especially royalty, old houses and old things – not wars or inventions, unless there was a connection to antiques. Otherwise, nothing. She had no idea what to do with a baby and I suspect that Carol had to help a lot. I love Sheila dearly and hadn’t realised how difficult she was, and Dan when he was alive, until I visited Danny and Rhonda. That they spoke freely to me, whilst knowing and respecting that I loved Dan and Sheila was something that brought us together. We aren’t blood relatives at all, but we decided that we were close enough to feel as if we are.

It all started 100 years ago… part 1

You may remember that I visited my not-cousins in Atlanta a couple of years ago. Just to recap on how they are and aren’t cousins, here’s their bit of the family story.

Carol and Doris were cousins and close friends and Carol had an elder sister, who fancied moving to the United States. She got herself a job as a nanny to a family on the West Coast, got all the necessary permission and was all ready to go, but then got cold feet. Carol was only 18 but she was up for an adventure and volunteered to go instead. It took some explanation to the authorities when she arrived, but there was a job to go to and she stayed. This would have been sometime in the early 1920s.

Eventually, she married and moved East – or it may have been the other way round. Anyway, she had a daughter, Sheila, who loved her stories about England. Sheila married Dan and they had a son, also Daniel. Dan was able to travel a fair bit on business and he and Sheila always managed to fit in visits to England, so they came to stay here with us several times. The last time, on their way back from living in the Far East for a year, would have been about 35 years ago. We had a standing invitation to visit them in Atlanta and, for our 30th wedding anniversary, in 2003, I said to the Sage that I didn’t want parties or presents, I just wanted to visit Dan and Sheila, who we realised would never travel out of the US again and then go to New Orleans. It was agreed and I started to get travel brochures and so on – this would have been in summer 2002. But in September, my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and it was clear that travelling wasn’t on the cards. She died the next March, just about the time we’d have planned to go.

Oh. This is going to turn into a saga.

The rain, it raineth on the Z

Every day, I think of things to blog about and every evening I don’t do anything about it. There’s too much going on that I don’t intend to write about, or at least, not until some things are resolved. I’m struggling, in various ways. However, some catching up to do here.

I’ve had a few places where heavy rain has come in, for a long time. Some of the leaks were sorted out, in the year or so after Russell died, because Jamie is very resourceful and worked out what was going wrong in one area of the roof. Another area, where the extension joins the original house, has been something of a problem for a very long time. It’s got worse. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I realised that there was a musty smell in the cloakroom and that it was in the alcove where the toilet is. It’s got an old fashioned high-up cistern, but it was replaced three or four years ago, so I didn’t think that was the problem, but I decided to take the wooden cover away and investigate, once I had time. But then the damp lessened. Then it got worse again. Then it pelted down with rain and I realised that water was coming in the porch around the door, and there was damp around the edge of the ceiling and the cloakroom is next to the porch.

To cut to the chase, I asked a friend whom he could recommend. Personal recommendations are always the best. I saw my friend on Saturday night, he phoned the roofer/general handyman next morning and texted me to say Craig would be able to come round on Sunday afternoon. So I telephoned Craig and he duly turned up.

There’s a fair bit of work to be done, but that’s because there’s a lot of roof. The main part is fine, it’s edges and joins and there are a lot of them. There’s one urgent job, which I hope will get done in the next week, but the rest can wait until drier weather. I’m not getting quotes, though Craig will give me an idea of costs, but I know very well that he won’t be able to tell what’s involved until he’s doing the job. We had a sensible discussion.

I find it so hard to deal with things, sometimes. I had my quarterly electricity bill over a week ago and only looked at it today. Then I checked it against the meter and it was appreciably higher – it all works out in the end, but I sent in the correct readings anyway. But the website didn’t want to accept readings lower than expected. The truth is, it’s been quite a mild winter and I don’t need so much heat anyway, without Tim. He was used to the whole house being centrally heated, whereas I’m the old fashioned sort, who tends to warm the rooms I’m using. So I had to use the chat box – amazingly, I got through straight away, but my photos of the readings wouldn’t upload. All the same, the very helpful assistant accepted them and put them through.

I also hadn’t looked at my car insurance renewal quote, but did that today as well. I know insurance has gone up, which was why I avoided it for a few days – honestly, it’s so silly. It’s only something to worry about until I look and then I know and I won’t worry any more. Barking, darlings. But there are a lot of us who bark.

I did try to renew my bike insurance, but discovered that it was due in a month and a day and I could only renew it a month ahead. So that’s pending. I did, however, let the chap I bought the bike from know that the battery wouldn’t charge at all. It had been giving trouble last summer, a bit, but then I broke my foot and tried to keep the battery charged, then forgot about it and now it’s dead. Very kindly, he’s going to replace it under guarantee – I think it should be, to be fair, though I couldn’t argue it if he had been reluctant, because I hadn’t charged it for the last few months and it’s recommended not to leave it completely uncharged for long.

I’ve also updated my travel insurance, but more of that another day.

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.