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Yagnub library

Yesterday, I went to the local library, for the first time in at least five years.  I used to go there regularly – I borrowed ten books at a time, which I had for up to three weeks.  I might renew a few or I might go more often, but I used and appreciated it.  And then, as things got more worrying at home, I couldn’t read books any more and I stopped borrowing them – I didn’t stop buying them and had an awful lot of unread books, most of which I’ve caught with by now, but that’s another matter.

In the intervening years, local governments charged with saving money have had their eyes on libraries.  Some have had their hours cut, some have been closed, but public opinion has kept most of them open.  I happened to have ten minutes in hand and was right by the library, so went in.  Taking out the books is self-service now, but I knew my card must be out of date, so went to the desk and it was duly renewed, and I went to look at books.  I was rather shocked.  There are well under half the books that there used to be.  In the case of non-fiction, however, I’d say it’s down to a fifth.  Several double-backed shelves have been removed and the remaining ones are barely half full.  In fiction, about a quarter of the space is taken with crime novels and the large print books are now on a shelf or two instead of a whole bookcase.  The children’s section is also much smaller than it used to be.

I’ve taken out four books and will visit weekly from now on.  I’m sorry I haven’t been more supportive.

Z thinks ahead

Tomorrow is a red letter day, as we’re planning to go to Ely and, after visiting the food etc festival at the cathedral, we’re meeting Indigo Roth and his lovely Lisa for tea.  LT and I are very sociable in theory, but we’re not actually very good at forward planning for those sort of events, so we’re doing rather well.  It happens to be Indigo’s birthday this weekend, so buying him tea and cake is  pretty appropriate.

It was the AGM of the high school academy trust this morning – I’m still a trustee, though no longer a governor.  I’m fairly well out of the day to day stuff now, but I found myself asking a lot of questions and discovered that I’m still very interested and engaged with everything.  It’s quite possible that two or three schools will enter into a multi-academy trust within the next year (this possibility has been announced in the local paper so I’m not breaching a confidence) and, in that case, I’ll sign it over and step down, but until then it’s still ‘my’ school.  It surprised me slightly, how quickly I re-engaged with it all and that my mind snapped right back into focus.  Retirement isn’t actually that good for the brain, now I think about it.  Not that I’m tempted back.

What also engages my interest is having lots of people to cook for, so I’m happy that the family is all coming for lunch on Saturday – though admittedly, I’ve delegated puddings and if I hadn’t, I’d have bought them.  But lunch for 15 is sheer pleasure.  We’re having roast pork.

Passionately committed to sliding since 2006

We had a flying visit to Reading, with me driving as Tim isn’t at present – he had a hospital appointment, which went very well, though the Royal Berks is a charmingly friendly hospital but really poorly internally signposted.  We had to ask our way several times, and we were only going to outpatients.  The first receptionist was interested to see that his name is Large.  “I’m Little!” she said.

Slogans.  Hmmm.  Any thoughts on slogans?  On the way down, we were behind a Bibendum van.  Rethinking wine drinking since 1982, was the tagline.  Hm, said Tim.  They can’t be very good at it then, can they? Or they’d have got it right by now.

On the way to the hospital, I noted a Marks and Spencer lorry.  The adventure starts here – I think.  I’ve been unable to find it online.  They’re probably embarrassed.

If anyone can define what the Labour party says with For the many, not the few, then I’d be glad to know.  Because it can mean whatever anyone wants it to, as far as I can see.  I could say more about political parties and their straplines and I probably will, at some point.

As for buzzwords, we saw plenty of those.  We suspect that they are put into a hat and two or three picked out, put into a slogan and sold at huge cost to a hapless company whose board of directors believe that, the more you pay a publicist, the more he or she is worth.




Catching up

I feel that I rush in to tell you what’s going on, it’s not the calm, everyday blog that it used to be, when I was a calm and sensible person.  I vaguely remember being that person … hmm.  Anyway.

Wink is here for a week, which is just lovely.  She’s going to Norwich tomorrow to meet Dilly, then staying with Weeza overnight, then back here for Wednesday evening.  We’ve got plans for Thursday and Friday, then the family will be here for lunch on Saturday.  We haven’t all been together for quite some while – the kids came over a few times in the summer, but not all fifteen of us.  I love it best when we’ve a houseful, which probably has something to do with my enjoyment of our blog parties.

Having said that, I’ve felt a bit wobbly for the last week.  There’s some quite important things that I haven’t dealt with because I haven’t felt able to, which is frustrating but has to be acknowledged.  I used to hide my weaknesses but I don’t any more.  Sometimes I can’t cope, I have to work around that, I do what I can.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, the pillar on the drive has been repaired, the garden is in pretty good order, we have a new heater in the drawing room – how have I not mentioned that up to now?  There has been an old storage heater, which is all very well but it gave a room that was warm in the morning and lost heat all day.  The new ones are much better insulated and release the heat when you want it, or so they say.  This one still runs on Economy 7 overnight electricity, so shouldn’t be more expensive to use, but who knows.  I don’t believe in anything any more, just because I’m told it.  People who don’t tell lies don’t necessarily tell the truth.

I’m in danger of getting serious again, and that can’t happen.   Five good things to end with.

1 Blood donors this afternoon, which meant I ate a chocolate biscuit afterwards.  And drank a great deal of water.  Seriously, lots.

2 I recommend Suffolk Blue cheese.  It often isn’t blue at all, but has a *blue cheese* flavour.  It’s quite creamy, totally delicious.

3 i’ve got an outlet for our newspapers – Tim and I each take a daily paper, which gives rise to a lot of rubbish.  The people in the next village look after hedgehogs and bed them on torn newspapers.  This will work!

4 This isn’t anything that I’ve done, it’s a question.  Have any of you looked into buying an electric car?  Comments?

5 I feel quite cheery this evening.  That is a very good thing and is quite enough to end on.  Love to you all, dear friends.

Z dreams of cheese, mostly

Lovely Tim cooked the meal, though I jointed the chicken, prepared the rice and made salad and dressing – but he did the skilled part and dished up and lit the fire and pretty well everything.  I don’t think this site does emojis, apart from a smiley one, but if it did, there would be *heart* several times.

It all went very well, it was a good evening.  I buy local cheeses more often than not – that is, Norfolk and Suffolk; but this time I was rather more cosmopolitan.  First, I did have the very local Baron Bigod, I added some Black Bomber, which is Welsh ‘cheddar’, some ‘Old Amsterdam,’ which is mature Gouda from the Netherlands, some French Roquefort and Italian Taleggio.  I also had  a vegan soy based herb and garlic “cream cheese” for the friend who’s desperately trying to find if there’s a food that provokes her debilitating migraines.  She gave up food with gluten and that made no difference and she’s persevering with dairy-free, though that hasn’t helped a lot either.  She gave up alcohol, chocolate and all the obvious triggers, a long time ago.

Eloise cat went reluctantly to the vet for her annual booster injection – feline leukaemia and cat flu.  She’s got perfect teeth but has put on half a kilo.  Oh dear.  Not very easy to diet a cat.

We finished the chicken for dinner tonight, apart from one piece.  i didn’t think it was worth keeping, it not even being a helping for one person, but Tim suggested adding it to the proposed risotto tomorrow night, which I was planning to cook with the stock I’d made yesterday.  I do appreciate being out-frugaled.

Z needs a deadline

I’ve got my book group friends coming round tomorrow evening.  I’ve decided to serve one of Tim’s speciality dishes for dinner, which means he’ll either have to cook it or teach me how to….

We don’t usually bother with a dessert, just serving cheese after the main course.  Actually, if the host doesn’t have time to cook, just cheese and fruit would be fine.  The point is not to feel we must go to a lot of effort or expense, just to be welcoming.  Although it hasn’t ever happened, no one would mind in the least if we arrived to be put to work in the kitchen before anything reached the table at all.

I was fairly busy this morning and read the book for the book group this afternoon, but I haven’t done anything on the must-do list.  I’m evidently not worried enough about it yet.  I need an urgent deadline to get me going.

I did, however, pick up a blunder that I made last week.  i paid out most of my clients who’d entered china into the auction and carefully checked that I’d used the right cheque book.  Except, when I looked at my bank accounts and found that my everyday one had a lot less money in than I’d expected, I discovered that I was wrong.  I don’t know how I made the mistake, since I had checked, but I’ve paid everyone from my personal account rather than the one I use for business.  No problem, the one cheque paid in was covered and I have transferred enough money over to cover all the rest.  But thank goodness for internet banking.  Time was, I rarely checked my account because I knew what I expected to be there, and once several people had taken out their money, the account would have been overdrawn.

It isn’t that surprising that people take ages to get to the bank and pay in cheques, though the revelation that those under £500 can be scanned in was a marvel to me.  All the same, I’d willingly just pay what I owe straight over and it surprises me that so few people take me up on the offer.  It just costs me a stamp and I’m not bothered, but it’s often a month or more before all the money goes through.  I’d rather not, I feel as if I’m in debt until everyone has claimed what they’re owed.

Zoë is a bit inarticulate

I still haven’t done most of the things on the list, not the ones that matter.  However, I’ve had the car serviced for the winter and I’ve paid my car tax – that’s not due until 1st December, but I daresay the DVLA can make better use of the money than the bank – and I’ve booked in Eloise cat for her booster vaccinations.  I’ve told her that she’s going to the vet on Friday, but I don’t think she believed me.  Otherwise, I’m floundering a bit, but I’ll catch up with it all by the end of the week.

Pause for hollow laugh.  I’ll do what I can, anyway.

In other positive news – I probably mentioned that one of the pillars that Dave built a year ago collapsed, partly by having had too tightly tensed wire pulling on it; the clincher being bullocks leaning on the wire.  The pillar has now been put upright – originally, we were going to take it apart and start again, but it was actually very well built and that would be a difficult task.  So we’re having a sort of steel flying buttress added to give it strength.  Which doesn’t describe it very well at all, now I think about it, so I’ll take a photo when it’s done, because it’s half past nine and my powers of description are fading by this time in the evening.

To think that I used to be at my best at this time.  Oh dear!  It can only be downhill from now on.  I’ll have to blog before teatime, to have any hope of making sense.

Best laid plans, etc…..

It’s been a few days – I haven’t been to the computer.  Whatever people say about smartphones, I used to spend a lot of time at the computer and now it’s spent using the phone instead.  That’s more convenient really, except for blogging, where I prefer to see the whole page of whatever I’m writing.

I did write on the phone though, in a spare few minutes on Thursday, and this is what I wrote.

The day was planned neatly enough. I had to go to my upstairs London flat to confirm I was happy to release the outgoing tenants’ deposit. I didn’t expect a problem but the formalities have to be gone through. I’d been in no great hurry so booked the 10.47 train to arrive at 12.20. Rose said she’d give me a lift, because I am not going back to Norfolk tonight. I’m meeting Tim, then we’re going to catch up with friends for supper, return to Reading and go back tomorrow. 

I was also able, fortunately, to arrange to meet a guy sent by my insurance company to find out how to solve the ongoing situation that’s caused so much anxiety. Sometime between 2 and 2.30, which was fortunate, as things turned out.  Expecting to have an hour or more free, I thought I’d have a nice light lunch at the restaurant next door. 

The guard sounded quite cheerful when he apologised that the train had slowed down. We were running a bit early, the train ahead was a bit late and we were catching up. So we’d have an unscheduled stop at Shenfield, but please don’t get out as it would delay us. A few minutes later, we were told there was a signal problem and a delay. I texted Scott, the chap I was meeting, as I didn’t have a good feeling about this. And I was right, it was a big enough breakdown that all trains on the line were cancelled. 

So I took a taxi to Upminster, a train to Limehouse and a train to Bank, then the Tube to Angel. And I arrived at the flat at 2 o’clock instead of 12.45. 

There we are, all done and I have had helpful advice from Scott, who found a possible cause of the problem (we’ve been there before a few times) and the good news that there isn’t damp in the walls and no sign of rot. 

As I write, though I’ll add to this and post it later, I’m sitting in the dining room at the National Gallery drinking my way through a pot of tea and there’s no internet connection . Tim is on his way and we’ll have an hour to potter round before meeting A & L. 

The transport for London route finder is extremely useful. I’d have been stuck without it – I’d have got advice at the station otherwise, of course, but it would have delayed me even more. This has all been a bit knackering, though. And, of course, I wouldn’t have managed without my smartphone, either. 

Yeah.  It was all simple, if inconvenient, so far, and meeting Tim and then our friends was still straightforward, but later complications led to us staying in London overnight, at a very expensive yet indifferent hotel, and therefore an extra night in Reading.  As a result, I’m all behind like the proverbial cow’s tail.

And I still have to claim my train fare back, which is an added bit of tediousness that I can do without.  That is, I don’t *have* to but I can, so I probably will.

Good things, because good things are cheering –

Pretty well everyone is lovely and helpful and I appreciate that very much

Rose cooked us a delicious sauce to go with pasta for our return, which lasted for a second night when we added a few prawns

Tim spent much of yesterday reinforcing the chicken shed because bloody rats give no respite, and he’s adorable

All barn cats now let me stroke them, even the very timid boy, and RasPutin is in fine fettle for the winter



Z was deceived by Eloise cat

For several weeks, Eloise cat has asked to come in by the side door – there are front and back doors, but the side door to the porch is the one we always use.  We knew she went out sometimes by her cat flap in the back door, but were not sure that she could come in that way.  There wasn’t really any evidence.

When I first invited her to live with me, I had an ordinary cat flap.  But RasPutin, the feral tom, started to use it and that was out of the question.  So I bought a new one, at over £90, which could read a cat’s chip and refuse entry to any other.  This worked will – Eloise, Rummy and Chip were recognised and have used it ever since, as far as we knew, until recently, when I knew Rummy was using it but wasn’t sure about either other cat.  Any cat can go out, it’s the ingress that is down to the microchip.

This morning, I heard a bang on the cat flap and then Eloise’s plaintive mew.  So i went and let her in, dried her – it’s rained all day – and fed her.  Which was big of me, as she’s pretty well ignored me ever since Tim left.  Later, she went outside when the plumber left (another story darlings, but plumbing stories aren’t the most fascinating on the whole) and then whined to come in again.  By now, I was convinced that the flap didn’t work for her.  I had no idea how to put it right though.  I would, I suppose, have had to deactivate all the cats’ chips, assuming that’s possible, and then reinstall each one.  But I thought it would be more useful to dither for a few days, because that solves a surprisingly lot of problems.  As it did today…

This afternoon, I was peaceably cuddling the Aga and reading the paper when I heard a bang from the cat flap.  I went through to check and couldn’t see a cat for a moment, until I realised that a wet Eloise was sitting on the freezer, mightily pissed off that I’d caught her out.  I dried and cuddled her, which has had no effect as I haven’t seen her for hours again, but she’s been rumbled.  The cat flap still works, as well it might, at that price.

The fridge thermometer is another matter entirely.  I don’t believe a word it says, within a couple of degrees.

Z is purposeful

I had a noticeable shift of mood yesterday evening.  I was unhappy and tired and just wanted to go to bed, but I thought I’d have a bath first and see how I felt.  And I lay stretched out in the bath for a long time and listened to the radio and just relaxed in the warmth, and when I finally got out and came downstairs again, I felt quite different.  I lit the fire, poached eggs for supper, watched tv (for the first time since the royal wedding before last) and was cheerful all evening.

It’s occurred to me, what if those of us who aren’t clinically or long-term depressed, but sometimes feel really low, just had lovely long, comforting baths.  How about it?  On a chilly autumn evening, it was just what I needed, yet showers seem to have overtaken baths in the last decade.  Not that I’m knocking showers, but surely they wake you up in the morning rather than relax and comfort you in the evening.  I doubt that baths waste that much water – it depends.  A traditional shower may not be wasteful, but a power shower uses a lot of water and is enjoyable enough to want to stay in it for some minutes.  Russell and I always shared bath water – not the bath, obvs – so I suspect we used no more water than two good showers.  Anyway, whether or not my theory has legs, it was just what I needed and the effect has lasted.

The lovely electrician came round first thing this morning, when I texted him, and spent much of the morning re-routing a cable.  it’s all down to the new fuse board, which tripped out when it detected the screw through the cable leading to the storage heater.  In 32 years, the old board hadn’t, but then it never has done any harm.

I didn’t get my accounts done, but I did rod the drains (the annexe’s, which are puzzlingly prone to blockage in a way they never used to be) and sorted out the squashes and I even hoovered.  So did the electrician, which was appreciated.  And I had a helpful and constructive conversation with an insurance company, which is a pretty damn good thing, and a really kind email from my broker.  So overall, it’s been a good day, notwithstanding the drain rodding.

Tomorrow, I’ll try again to get in touch with the plumber.  The place is cracking up,