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Z is let down by a bolt from the … from the road.

The plane was late, as it always is unless the person picking up is late.  It’s the rule.  Apparently, headwinds.  But no problem as such, I waited a bit on the slip road to the car park as – frugal old Z – they charge several pounds if you wait more than the first free 15 minutes.  As soon as they’d picked up their luggage, I drove in and, less than ten minutes later, we were on our way back and arrived soon after midnight.

Rose was letting my chickens out in the morning so I was in no hurry and we chatted and then I drove home via the garden centre, where I bought some lettuce plants (I didn’t sow seeds, I don’t care) and compost for the tomatoes.  And then I realised the baby’s car seat was still in my car.  Oh sodding joy.  I messaged Ronan, who hadn’t yet realised, and promised to go back that afternoon.  Which I did.  And on the way, I heard a slight noise and wondered if I had a puncture but the car didn’t feel any different so I forgot about it.  But I did have a puncture, from a socking great 3 inch bolt, that went right through the treat of the tyre and out again on the side.

Ronan did most of the work of changing the tyre.  I’ve just ordered a new wheel brace because the one that comes with the car is too hard for feeble Z to use.  I’ve also ordered a new jack that should be easier too – it’s all very well for big strong men, but little old women need to change tyres too.  And then I called in on the local tyre place and I’ve got a new one, and at least I knew that it was due to be replaced before the car’s July MOT.  All the same, it wasn’t how I expected to spend the afternoon and it wasn’t how I expected to spend £66.  Still.

I’ve potted up the tomatoes and I’ll do the rest of the planting out tomorrow.  And I had a lovely long chat with a client, who’s just got back from Greece and whose china I’ll post in the morning.  The reason I carry on these auctions is the people, they are lovely.  I’m going to visit two more clients in the next ten days – after these years of blogging, it seems natural to me that people I’ve never met are friends.

I’m missing lovely Tim terribly.  But it’s only a couple more days.  So I won’t finish on a sentimental note.

The egg mountain is no more.  I’ve used a dozen or more and have given away 29 eggs in the last few days.  Yvette the Serama is feeling a bit broody and I left an egg with her, or else I’d have given away 30.  Whatever eggs are laid tomorrow and Wednesday morning, I’ll take along to Tim’s.  By that time, I’ll also have caught up with paperwork and planting out.  I’ve said it, so it has to happen.  Hmmmmm.

May is out

I’m leaving for Norwich in a little while to pick Ro and family up from the airport.   They’ve been on holiday in Tenerife for the past week.  Roses will let the chooks out in the morning and I’ll be home soon afterwards.

RasPutin, the old bruiser of a tomcat and the father of the barn cats, came along with a torn ear last week.  He was in a fight a year or so ago and one ear has been folded down since, but the same ear was lacerated.  I don’t know if it was another fight or if he caught it on barbed wire.  It’s healing up nicely, but he’s coming along more regularly for food at present.  I’m feeding him generously, I’m fond of the old reprobate.  He mews anxiously when he’s hungry, but doesn’t come at all if he’s caught his own dinner.  The young ones nearly always do, especially the two black boys.

I’ve finally caught up with the veg garden, except that I bought in some plants rather than growing everything from seed.  I planted out the squashes today, as the forecast is good and they’d have had to be potted up otherwise.  There is still half a bed free, and I’m not sure what will go there, but I’ll check through the seeds.  Some of the space was meant for leeks, but there weren’t any at the street market last week.  It’s been such a difficult spring for gardening.

However, it’ll all catch up and the local strawberries are exceptional this year.  There haven’t been any late frosts and the apples have set very well.  Spring still makes me happy and excited.  I was admiring the run of hawthorns across Humpy’s Meadow the other day, they’re spectacular in flower.  When the dead and overgrown wood was being taken out last year, ready for the barbed wire fencing to be replaced, I was anxious that they should not be cut hard back.  They’re so pretty.  It’ll be elderflowers next.  Then it’ll be summertime and I won’t notice so much, until berries ripen and the leaves change colour.

Knowing I was going to cut back some brambles, I put on jeans and a long sleeved teeshirt this morning, and it was chilly anyway.  But by the time I’d done the work, it was hot and I was tired. I sat in the sunshine to rest but I was far too hot.  I’m not sure how people wear jeans all year round, I can’t.

I must pack an overnight bag.  I rather want to have a bath and go to bed, I’m such a lightweight nowadays.  But I’ll perk up, once I’m on the road.  I’ve set a reminder on my phone, I’m always convinced I’ll forget.  I won’t, of course.  But I do need to put a pint of milk in the car, as they won’t have any for the morning otherwise.  Usually, I put stuff in the car early, as soon as I remember, but one can hardly do that with fresh milk.

Zed’s bread

I’ve got quite a number of jobs to do while LT and I are apart – but when you’re wandering about like a spare part, it’s not easy to get on with them.  I did clean the kitchen, make yoghurt, bread and two soups, and plant out beans, spinach and kale, but it wasn’t exactly a productive day.  The bread was very good, though, probably the best yet.

The winter I was alone, I made bread regularly and I remember it as being very good, but I can’t quite recall the texture.  I rather like seeds in bread, to make it more interesting.  LT likes that too, but probably rather less seedy than I do, as he has half his breakfast toast with marmalade, so doesn’t want it too savoury.  And the first few loaves I made were rather dense – again, I don’t remember that from three years ago, but that time is all rather a blur anyway.  I’ve tweaked the recipe and finally got it right, and all seems fine now.  I don’t quite see why this one should be better than the last loaf, and that better than the one before, as the ingredients are pretty much identical and I make it with the dough hook on the mixer.  I am setting a timer though, so at least the proving, rising and baking are the times I want them to be and maybe that’s it.

The kitchen needed an extra clean because we’ve had ants again.  I have no objection to ants in the normal run of things – I rather like them, in fact, but not on my kitchen work surfaces. It’s no good, we can’t find out how they get in.  We’ve sealed all areas that might be likely, but they aren’t obviously going in and out in any particular place.  I’m sorry to say that we had to kill them off.  It was just not nice.

Last year when it happened, LT went to the local store next to the church and bought a Nippon set of two little plastic containers with a tube of viscous liquid, and it got rid of the poor little beasts in no time.  He went back for a refill, but they didn’t have it at all, but a different make – two little containers, with bags of gel, not refillable.  And they’ve not been very successful.  It’s a well known brand name but clearly the ants can’t read and were not impressed.  I ordered refills of the liquid for the Nippon traps, which arrived on Wednesday, so I dripped some into the containers on Thursday morning.  Within ten minutes, they were swarming with ants, who clearly loved the sweet stuff.  I felt terrible, actually, watching them talk to each other and send their colleagues on to their doom.  By the afternoon, there were two or three ants left and now there are none.  I feel mean, but the idiot creatures have the whole garden.  I’ll put out sugar for them if they want it, but I’m not having them in my kitchen.  Anyway, it’s Nippon, remember, other brands may not be up to scratch.

I woke up this morning at ten past five and was lying quite tranquilly, wondering if I’d sleep again and thinking I probably would, when my right calf was thwacked with a hugely painful cramp.  Not the ordinary cramp, the sort that makes you feel, afterwards, that you’d walked several miles through mud and are aching as a result.  I yelped and got out of bed, and stood on tiptoe to stretch the leg better, and it did get better, but I said to Tim this evening, it was just as well he wasn’t there.  Because I’d have spent the day apologising for waking him.

Z lit the fire and is now too hot

Tim is off on his travels down the motorway again – it’s a weekly thing at present, but we hope that won’t go on for too much longer.  Here, it’s cold.  I lit the fire this evening.  I didn’t desperately need it, but it’s cheering when you’re alone and the chill of the day justified it.

I went to Norwich today for a Nadfas lecture (they’ve changed the name of Nadfas, but they were silly to do so, so I’m kind enough to ignore it) and half thought of shopping afterwards, but  shops don’t seem to do clothes for me.  Unless it’s essential I keep trying, I need to find something I like within a few minutes or I’m disheartened and don’t bother.  Every dress was sleeveless and every top was gaudy and there didn’t seem to be any skirts.  Or jackets, which I really do need, unless they were obviously part of a suit.  So I came home instead and ate rice salad with avocado and hard boiled egg for lunch.  I’d cooked too much rice on purpose last night – and since LT isn’t here, I’ve got enough for tomorrow’s dinner as well, for I’m out to lunch.

With much resentment, I’ll go to the new bank in Yagnub tomorrow, which is a van that comes for two hours, twice a week, some half a mile from the town centre – though it is near the library.  I have a cheque to pay in for over £1000, payment for china that I’ve already paid the vendor for,  and sent off the china itself because the buyer is someone I trust.  I have decided, though, to open an account with one of the internet only banks – none of the high street banks, which have all abandoned Yagnub in the past few years, will get more than a modest sum from me in future.  For convenience, I keep a fair amount in a deposit account.  My banking is free and I appreciate that it costs the bank money, so don’t mind it investing my basic savings and paying me very little.  Or, I didn’t mind.  Now I do, and that bank will have less to invest.  A few thousand pounds, but it’s all I can do to protest.

It’s now quarter past nine and I shall read for the rest of the evening.  Cheery-pip, darlings.

Z rices to the occasion

I made kedgeree for dinner tonight, which inspired me to enthuse, in the Z manner – LT read this blog long enough before we put our lives together,  to know what to expect and he hasn’t been disappointed about my capacity for enthusiasm, though he might well, sometimes, have felt somewhat overwhelmed by it.

Two of my greatest comfort foods, you see, are kedgeree and risotto; both to make and to eat.  Both, of course, are made with rice.  And this made me think about rice dishes, as used all over the world.  So many countries have their stand-alone dishes made with rice.

A rice dish that’s an accompaniment is another matter – obviously no less valid as a dish, but egg-fried rice is not supposed to be eaten on its own.

So, Italy has risotto, of course, and Spain has paella.  The Southern United States have jambalaya.  We have kedgeree – inspired by Indian kitchree (there are other spellings), of course, but that is essentially a rice and lentil dish (so I guess that counts for India), which was altered by Anglo-Indian cooks and brought over to become a British staple.  North Africa and the Middle East have pilau and pilaff … but that’s as far as we got.  On balance, we thought that Caribbean rice and peas was an accompaniment, and so were the Far Eastern dishes we happen to know, but we’d really like to be educated on the subject, if any of you can point us in the right direction.

A bit to our surprise, we couldn’t think of a French all-in-one rice dish either.

My mother read, years ago, that rice, lamb and pears were the foodstuffs that were least likely to provoke an allergic reaction, and that they could be the starting points for a diet, if one had symptoms of an allergy/intolerance but one didn’t know what provoked it.  One then introduced other foods, one by one.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true or not – in the internet age, one has learned to be wary of an unsubstantiated source – but it does, on the whole, seem that rice is one of the good guys.  I like it, anyway.  And there’s enough kedgeree left over for one portion so, the next time LT goes back to Reading on his own, it’ll be a meal for one of us.

Z is sociable with the Bears

I visited Charlotte in hospital again today and she’s starting to get better.  She’s still on morphine for the pain, but she can move more easily and she’s starting to get bored, which is a good sign, if frustrating for her.

While I was there, Mrs B – aka The Small Bear – answered my reply to her comment the other day, to say she was at home and so, when I left the hospital, I took it upon myself to impose on her hospitality.  In fact, Sir Bruin had also arrived home by then (they were kind and unwise enough to let me have their address some four years ago), so they invited me in for coffee and a chat.  Which was a pleasure.

When Paul the Fish called round this morning, he had sea trout for sale – a rare treat, so we bought some and ate it this evening with local asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes.  I baked the fish en papillote with a splash of wine, and it was delicious.  We are building up a list of favourite fish, but it keeps lengthening.  And methods for each; ditto.  I’m not too good at narrowing down favourite foods, actually.  I like too many of them.

Z stocks up

I took Ro and family to the airport this morning – first holiday with young Rufus, who was excited at the prospect of flying – and went to the street fair on the way home.  It had rained first thing, but had dried up by the time I was there and was pleasant, neither warm nor cool.

Because the weather was so cold in the spring, I never did get around to sowing the seeds I normally do.  I put in a few tomatoes, but no other indoor stuff – and when i finally sowed those, it was just before an unseasonable heatwave, and it was too hot for some seeds to germinate.  So I’ve got about six tomatoes, rather small, of two varieties.  No aubergines nor peppers.

The growers at the market had problems too, as some regulars weren’t there and others didn’t have the range of stuff they usually do.  I found one stall with four aubergine plants, rather small, and bought two of them; another with some good tomatoes and another again with cheaper but much smaller tomato seedlings and the latter was the only one with any pepper plants.  I bought other stuff too and carried it back to the car when I’d got all I could carry.  There was one other stall, but I just couldn’t manage any more bags.  I did want the lovely deep red dahlias they had though (and quite a lot else, when it came to it) so set off again.  And saw a woman struggling with her purchases.  She had a bag of plants, a large terracotta pot and three iron ornaments, which were poles, about five feet long with, at one end, something decorative – I think they might have been poppy heads.  I offered to help carry them and she demurred but eventually accepted and she clearly couldn’t manage it all.  She was with two other friends but their hands were full too.  “They’re really heavy,” she said, and so they were.  It was only bravado that stopped me from swapping hands half way.  But we all made it to their car and I went back to buy the rest of the stuff.

I’ve potted it all up, so felt cheered.  And I had a nap this afternoon because I’m lazy and also couldn’t sleep last night, for no good reason.  And this evening, I’ve accidentally thrown away a new contact lens and I’m feeling quite cross with myself.  Only about that, though.  Fairly cheery otherwise.

Polly-wolly-doodle all the day

Rose called me over to listen to her hen Polly.  “She’s trying to crow!” she said.  Polly puffed herself up, sitting on the fence, but she wouldn’t crow again.  But Canasta did, a couple of weeks ago.  I heard that.  She made a decent fist of it too, if that isn’t too dodgy an expression.

There are just three hens and one cock, and Jenga the cock has been very interested in the three black Newbies recently (from outside their greenhouse), so maybe Polly, Scrabble and Canasta have felt neglected.  I’d never come across hens trying to crow before, I don’t know how common it is.  There’s no sex change – even more unlikely – as Polly and Scrabble are laying and Canasta has become broody.

I finally got around to planting out vegetables today.  I’ve grown very little this year so far.  The weather was against me and this is supposed to be a hobby.  Tomorrow, it’s the street fair: I’ve spoken about them before.  There are three every year, the May one being gardening, the July one is antiques and the December fair is Christmas.  The street is closed and there are lots of stalls.  It’s all good fun and they’ve been going for many years – the Christmas one started it off, some 35 years ago.  Then, it was an evening do, but eventually it changed to all-day, and the others were added too.

I’ve got a few tomato seedlings, but otherwise no greenhouse veggies at all, so hope to get a few plants.  And otherwise, whatever catches our eyes.  First, I’m going to Norwich to take Ro and Dora and young Rufus to the local airport, because they’re going on holiday.  So I’m not playing the organ tomorrow, which is no loss to anyone at all.

Z mourns localism

While Tim is away, I usually manage to catch up on a few items of paperwork that are too boring to waste time on when we’re together – and, since the deadline is Tuesday and I posted that particular one last night, I feel I’m ahead of the game and sorted.

The last bank in town closed yesterday, and we’re all very resentful.  The next town, six miles away, is twice the size but has All The Banks and two or three building societies too.  The bastards haven’t even left behind their cash point.  They are, as a great concession, sending a mobile bank for a couple of hours twice a week.

They say there aren’t enough regular customers to be viable, but of course they manipulate the figures.  For one thing, they only count those people who go every single week.  For another, they’ve spent several years sending their customers elsewhere.  When Russell died, there were still three banks in Yagnub; HSBC having closed down a long time previously.  He had accounts at all of them and I was obliged to go to a branch in a different town for each.  None of them would make appointments in Yagnub to deal with any business at all, you could only pay in cheques or pay in or withdraw cash; very little else.  It didn’t matter if you were bereaved or old with limited mobility.  They wanted an excuse to close the branch, so wouldn’t let you do your business there.

I really wish I could cock a snook at them all, but it is more trouble than the principle is worth.  I have accounts with two banks, because I won’t give all my custom to one, and there are standing orders and direct debits in and out, I can’t quite face it.

Still.  There we go.  It isn’t good for me to be angry.

Yesterday, I went to Ippy Hospital to visit a friend who’s had a horse riding accident.  She’s a good and competent rider, but Joey was startled when a gust of wind made her shirt billow – it was tucked in and didn’t blow around, but he heard it and he bolted.  She clung on and readied herself for him jumping the gate he was galloping up to ….. and he stopped dead and she fell off.  She has broken her pelvis, her sacrum and her hip socket on the right side.  Awfully unlucky, but at least she didn’t land on her head or break her back.  Her instructor, who owns the horse, was filming her, until Joey bolted, then you just got jolted grass and sky, as she ran to help.  “Oh shit!” and she ran and there were just voices.  One caught the horse and calmed him, another went to Lottie and spoke to her gently, another phoned for an ambulance, and they all did the right thing.  I cried when I saw it.

I was her first visitor, and I’ll go again next week – it’s not an easy journey for most of her friends and her daughter is in Italy, and Lottie played it all down so that she didn’t feel she should come home.  She won’t be able to manage at home for a while, and will have to go to a cottage hospital for daily physiotherapy after she leaves hospital.  There are a few of them about still, fortunately, though most of them have been shut down.

Z is puzzled by a toothbrush

LT has gone on one of his regular trips to his house – it hadn’t originally been planned for this week, so it left me with a couple of spare days, I thought.  But so far, they’re turning out to be busier than expected.  I’ve found myself running several times, not to waste time in more leisurely ambulation.

This doesn’t suggest I’ve been working especially hard, and some of the reason for hurrying was the couple of hours spent at a local pub/restaurant having a chatty lunch with Rose, but the only parts that had been planned originally were the bread making and the laundry, and no gardening has been done unless you count grabbing a few handfuls of grass and weeds to give the chickens.

A friend of mine is in hospital with a broken pelvis, having been thrown by her horse, which was spooked by something – her instructor was videoing her, because it’s a good way of discussing technique afterwards, and she sent me the video.  It was quite upsetting: she was cantering along and rounding a corner when the horse started to dance sideways; next thing was a gasp and “oh shit!” from the instructor and then there was the sound of people running to her, catching and reassuring the horse, reassuring Charlotte, phoning for an ambulance and so on.  No one filmed her as she lay, which would have been awfully intrusive – it was just the phone in the instructor’s hand which hadn’t been switched off and filmed the grass and whatever it aimed at as she ran.  Anyway, Charlotte is in a lot of pain and became dizzy when she tried to stand today.  I’m not sure how long she’ll be in hospital, but it’s all going to be awkward as she lives in an upstairs flat, out in the country, and she’ll be out of action for a couple of months.  I’m going to visit her tomorrow.

For the past few nights, I’ve been puzzled by my electric toothbrush.  Easily confused, you will think, and I can hardly deny it – but the toothbrush didn’t feel right.  And it didn’t quite look right either.  It needed a new head, so I changed that, but it still wasn’t right and I couldn’t think why. And then it started to go slower and sounded tired.  It dawned on me that it wasn’t my toothbrush at all, not was it LT’s, so it must be Wink’s.  When she came to stay, she put hers next to mine and she picked up the wrong one.

About a minute after realising that, it died altogether, so I took it to the charger.  I have three chargers; two for toothbrushes and one for an inter-dental spray gizmo.  This fits none of them.  So Wink and I both have useless toothbrushes for the next few weeks.  I went and bought a new  toothbrush.  Then, asking Charlotte if there was anything she needed, she asked if I could bring her a toothbrush and toothpaste.  So I went back into Boots, rather hoping I wasn’t served by the same assistant – who probably wouldn’t have noticed that I’d been in twice in an afternoon to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, now I think about it.

While Tim is away, I’ll mostly be eating eggs.  And asparagus and strawberries, of course.  But mostly eggs.  First, I’m going out to see if the chickens all go into the shed together tonight.