Category Archives: Uncategorized

Catching up with news. Or rambling on a bit. Whatevs.

Hah, well, that single portion of curry turned out to be enough for three. The remains of the curry and rice are now in the freezer. I’ll make an extra vegetable dish, add a naan bread and it’ll easily feed us yet again. Even the pie and vegetables defeated us – some of the pastry and veg went to the chickens this morning and I’ll fry the rest of the potatoes to go with our halibut tonight. Buying from a working farm means that you get farmer’s portions!

Blue Witch suggested that learning to draw from a book isn’t the best way of going about it and I do agree with her. Although it was the only way I’d have tried – even if actual classes were happening now, I’d have been too timid to sign up. It’s not impossible that I’ll give it a go in the future, though not terribly likely. Capacity to improve and wish to improve are both uncertain at present. However, I’m regrouping a bit and will think things through, skim through the rest of the book to see if there’s anything I might enjoy more (furniture and corners of passageways are just dreary) and otherwise I’ll do what I really want, which is probably flowers and animals.

In regard to the guitar, what I need is to find my way around the instrument. Tim plays by ear and can’t read music, but he knows the entire fretboard and he recognises intervals between notes, which is something you don’t need to do if you do read music and have a piano to look at. Not that I need to look at it when I’m playing, my hands automatically follow what my eyes see on the page, both on clarinet and piano. And in church, if I’m playing a hymn, I play the melody with my right hand and if I can’t always manage the right notes with my left, the chords will be in the right key and I’ll get away with it. I’m afraid that 30 years of unenthusiastic hymn playing has wrecked me as a pianist.

It’s Wink’s birthday this week and I’ve bought part of her present locally and part from Amazon. Sorry. But anyway, while I was ordering it, I decided to replace the sticky tape dispenser that has a bit broken off, so tearing the tape off is a two-handed thing. I ordered a heavy one and it was delivered, with the other items, today. But the box was oddly light – and, in fact, empty. The dispenser had broken through the tape, ironically enough, and fallen out, probably into the van. I had to go on the helpline to explain. I’m not sure if I’ve ever needed to contact the help desk before, but Chanelle was certainly helpful. My word was taken as fact and the money was refunded, and I’ve even been given a £5 gift voucher, which was completely unnecessary. So I’ve reordered and will be able to use it to wrap Wink’s presents. The locally bought part was plants for her garden. So I may not actually wrap them.

The Amazon assistant’s name reminded me of a piece I read in the paper at the weekend, about people who’d visited Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace to leave flowers or messages. One family came from Basingstoke. I do hope they don’t mind me mentioning the little girls’ wonderful names. Caprice and Hosanna. Isn’t that marvellous?

Timbo and Zed

The local farm shop plus café has been offering Friday night takeaways for the last year. Normally, they’re open for breakfast through to afternoon tea and the shop itself stays open until six o’clock. It’s a lovely farm, with Jersey cows – the calves stay with their mothers – and pigs, goats, guinea fowl, peacocks and so on. The rare breed pigs are raised for meat and so are the male cattle, though they’ve never had goat meat for sale, so I think they must just be pets. Anyway, it’s one of our favourite lunch places when allowed, and we usually have the takeaway as a substitute. Portions are huge, however. Tonight, unable to choose – well, we could have, so I suppose that unwilling is the word – between a chicken and mushroom pie for two or a Goan pork curry, we decided to have both. A single helping of curry would feed two of us – and it turned out that the pie would have fed four. And there were twelve new potatoes, plus vegetables. I know that Rebecca, the farmer, works hard and must have an appetite to go with that, but frankly we don’t. So we’ll be eating all that for the rest of the weekend.

Wink is away for a few days, back to where she used to live, for various appointments and so it’s Derby and Joan at the Zedery. I’m happy to say that I have no plans. I have ordered a new drawing-tuition book, as the one I have has jumped too far ahead for me – as Tim pointed out, it’s based on a week’s intensive tuition in person at the writer’s studio, so she’d be there to ask for help. In short, I don’t find drawing my hand or a chair interesting enough to keep doing, the next chapter is too much and the one after is *really* too much. I’ve done a few sketches, but nothing worth showing anyone and I need to re-engage. At least I’m keeping up my daily guitar practice. My ambition is way ahead of my abilities, but if that means it’s painful for Tim to listen to, then he’s too polite to say. He’s going shopping at the Co op tomorrow – can’t remember what the vital things are, but there are some – so I’ll make a hash of it while he’s out.

Souper

The cooking obsession shows no sign of diminishing. Yesterday, we woke up to snow on the ground – several snow or sleet-falls the day before, but we hadn’t expected it to settle. So I spent the morning making soups. I’d already planned the French onion, because I’d made lamb stock, but I had various vegetables that wanted using. So asparagus, using the trimmings, leek and potato, and squash and fennel. Today’s effort is pea and ham, though the split peas are taking an inordinate time to soften and it’s just occurred to me that I should have cooked them in plain, unsalted water first before adding the ham stock. Which wasn’t very salty but probably has caused the delay in softening. I’m a fool, I know perfectly well not to add salt to peas or beans before they’re softened, but I didn’t actually add it so I didn’t think. I suppose it’ll be all right in the end and, if not, I’ll put it through the mouli and leave behind the hard bits. The flavour will be okay, anyway.

As the dinner was tonight. Tim cooked, it was monkfish in a tomato sauce. Tomato, shallot, garlic, vermouth and parsley, he tells me. Lovely.

A happy easter

It has been a lovely Easter. All the family visited and, in most cases, it was the first time we’d seen each other this year. Rufus is so delightful and helpful, at lunchtime he ate everything on his plate – first time he’d tried asparagus and he had a second helping – and he cleared the table afterwards, bringing every item out to the kitchen for me. His little sister Perdita is walking very steadily, at 14 months old – sensibly, she keeps her balance with her feet quite wide apart, so can bend to pick something up from the floor, stand upright again and keep going … well, just as well as her Granny, anyway. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, so didn’t dive straight in to pick her up but let her get used to me first.

I’m not sure why I need to make a lot of work for myself, but I do, so made profiteroles on Saturday morning and bread rolls on Sunday morning, ready for the Alex gang. Pugsley has been vegetarian for a while, but he likes my roasted vegetables and halloumi and there was plenty of cheese. I also bought a veggie scotch egg from the deli, but it didn’t have a lot of flavour, to be honest. I also served smoked salmon pâté, salami and ham with salads and they brought home-made cakes and biscuits, which we ate as we played poker after lunch.

All delightful and we’ve had three happy family parties in a week. And I’m so out of the way of this that I’ve had an afternoon nap most days too. Although I’m lucky to get more than three hours unbroken sleep at night, so it’s not surprising that extra daytime stuff makes me tired.

I hope you’re had a good Easter and, maybe, a bit of socialising, if that’s your thing. I realise that, while I like being sociable, I can manage quite well without. Without family and hugs, not so well.

Z is sociable.

Oh, what a good week it has been so far. Fabulous weather, saw Weeza and family, including five-month-old puppy Izzy, whom we hadn’t met before, Wink and I were able to get admin done in Norwich, I did a valuation and picked up china in Lowestoft and was given a lovely present by the vendors. I dressed in one of the Hobbs dresses I bought last summer at an absurdly cheap price, put on makeup and felt really back to normal. We have arranged visits from the rest of the family for Saturday and Monday, so I can do my favourite thing of feeding people (as well as LT and Wink, obvs) three extra times in a week.

English – Norfolk that is – asparagus can be found, but it’s forced, at this time of the year. My greengrocer doesn’t have it yet, so I was unfaithful and shopped at Norwich market, where they also had young broad beans.

There are two main birthday seasons in the family – late March to mid April and mid August to late September. Four birthdays fall outside those times, twelve within. Mid July is Tim’s birthday, of course. Is there any hope or likelihood of a blog party to celebrate, do you think?

Forward to the future

Now we’ve come through the worst of lockdown, we’ve started to fit in various jobs that we couldn’t do beforehand. I’ve got a visit to the bank in Norwich on Wednesday morning and a china valuation in Lowestoft on the same afternoon. More enjoyably, I’ve been happy to arrange visits from all the family – on different days, of course, because we’re not pushing it. Weeza and family are coming over tomorrow, Ronan and co on Saturday and Al and the gang next Monday. My hairdresser also has been in touch and Ive booked a haircut for the first day she’s open, on the 13th April. I thought I might have to wait a week or two, but she had a gap for a straightforward cut.

Over dinner tonight, we were mostly talking about films, notably those with Christopher Lloyd in, which took us on to various other actors because of co-stars. Remarkably, Wink doesn’t think she’s ever seen Back to the Future. She needs to put that right. Fabulous film.

Nature study

I haven’t mentioned Mary, the chicken who kept escaping from the henhouse. The reason I didn’t mention her was that I thought she’d been caught by a fox – I won’t keep you waiting for the good news: she hadn’t been.

After all those weeks of testing every inch, we thought, of the netting that replaces some of the greenhouse glass, I finally found a small area where it was a bit baggy. More so than a few days earlier; I had checked there. But I concluded that this was the only possible place and Wince nailed a strip of wood to hold it down. However, I couldn’t see Mary indoors or out. And Wince and I went to look at a tree that’s going to have a couple of branches removed and, as we watched, a fox ran out from a patch of nettles. I searched again for Mary and there was no sign, so drew the obvious conclusion.

This clearly was where she’d been getting out, but I didn’t see her again for a good fortnight. The other day, I was scattering treats for them and I spotted her. She’s got a distinctive bar on each wing and is bigger than nearly all the bantams, so how I’d missed her is a puzzle. But she’s alive, well and safe.

Sadder, though, the same day that Mary went missing (apparently), Wince was filling up the stacks of logs in our front porch and Wink’s back porch and he came to me – “are you good at identifying things?” I asked what, animal, plant or insect. An animal. He showed me a small, dead, floppy mammal that he’d found in the huge stack of wood in the barn. I stared at it and went through my animal knowledge in my mind. “It’s a puppy!” I said. We were horrified. It was small, black with a few white hairs on its chest and had floppy ears. We considered a fox but the ears were nothing like. Wince buried it and I searched for the mother but no luck.

The workshop (ex-workshop, it’s too full of logs for that use) has a chipboard ceiling that’s sagging in places and we could only think that the mother had had her pups in the roof space, which she’d reached from another outbuilding as the roof space runs the length of the barns. And then the poor pup had crawled along and dropped down and logs had fallen on him. Wince said he wished he hadn’t found him and I agreed. Today, he said that he’d been listening to a local radio podcast and, apparently newborn fox cubs are black, with floppy ears and can have white hairs on their chest. This makes altogether more sense, we just couldn’t understand a puppy. Any dog would come for help, even a timid one. Just as sad but – well, better than it being a domestic dog.

At present, I’m mostly giving away eggs. Three and a half dozen today, all laid in the last few days and I’ve still got plenty left. Thank goodness the chickens are all shut up still – I won’t let them out until they’re over their spring laying frenzy. I know we’ll get more chicks, but please not yet. The other morning, I went past the chickens’ shed and Polly was still on the perch. She’s an old girl and likes to be pampered. She sits on the food bin in the evening so that I can hand-feed her mealworms. On this occasion, I went to get a dish of corn for her, for breakfast in bed. A white chicken was squatting in one of the laying places. Not quite roosting, she was slightly raised from the ground. She gave a few chirps – not clucks or cries, chickenish gasps and raised her rear end a bit and I saw something white. Then she left the nest. There had already been three eggs there and the fourth was warm. I’m not sure that I’ve ever caught one of them laying an egg before.

Z is reliable, especially if you’re a cat

I always try to buoy myself up when I write here. Perhaps I’m a bit too Pollyanna-like. I haven’t found it helps to dwell on the downside, on the whole. I acknowledge it and think it through, but writing it all down isn’t a good thing, for me. I started a blog, at an unhappy time, thinking that it might be good to express that side of my thoughts, but it only lasted two posts and it was making me more miserable. It’s still there but not public and never has been.

Mehitabel is still about, coming for meals. I don’t know what she does in between times, she isn’t hanging about with her children. I haven’t ventured to stroke her yet as I don’t want to frighten her away – she used to be very affectionate but she hasn’t come to me yet. All the same, she isn’t wary. She’s certainly more feral than she used to be, so perhaps she has always been an outside cat in her new home. So strange that Zain, then she, have returned after a gap of years, back to their old home. I realise that I’m known as dependable. Whatever else happens, it’s known that cats, people, whatever, can rely on me. That seems odd to me because I know myself and I don’t entirely recognise that … but I do to an extent. I do know that there has been anger when i’ve shown myself as vulnerable or needy or whatever and I have to hide that side of myself. Odd. I don’t really understand. But never mind. Pretend enough and it becomes your truth. I do recognise that I step up when needed and am reassuring in a crisis.

That’s not what I meant to write, I didn’t know I was going to say it. It’s been a pretty good day. Nothing much – laundry, housework, a Zoom (actually Microsoft Teams, but I think that Zoom has become a generic term like hoover) meeting and Tim cooked dinner. I made lunch, but it was a very nice bean salad with hot-smoked salmon, no cooking involved. I think we can go another day without shopping, but after that I will need vegetables.

Return of Mama Cat

Spring has started well at the Zedery and I am very happy today. I went out this morning as usual, to feed the barn cats and cosset the chickens and I took with me some leftovers, including the remains of yesterday’s pasta and bolognese sauce. I thought the cats might appreciate the mince and they certainly did. While I watched them eat, I realised that, though there were the usual four, two had white paws instead of one. Betty Kitten has white paws, Barney and Freddie are black and Zain is a tabby. Joyously, I realised that their mother, Mehitabel, had returned, four years after I last saw her.

She so wanted to be a house pet and begged to come indoors, but Eloise cat wouldn’t hear of it. Eventually, Mehitabel found another home and only returned occasionally, for a few months, then not at all. I missed her, but was sure she was all right. But I always hoped she’d drop in again, not that I expected her to. She’s still the same girl, she wouldn’t eat the own-brand cat food I offered her, nor the bolognese. So I trotted up to the house and fetched a pouch of Eloise’s food and she was happy to eat that. I shared it between her and her daughter Betty. She was wary of the others and they of her, but there was no antagonism.

This afternoon, I couldn’t resist going to check if she was still there. No sign, so I fetched kale for the chickens and tidied up their henhouse. When I came out of the greenhouse, there was Mehitabel. So all the cats were given extra rations in celebration. M herself jumped on top of the shed next to the food bin and waited to be fed there. She’s a smart cat. I’ve been out again to put the chickens to bed and she hasn’t turned up – but she may well have gone back to her own home for the night. No idea if she’ll return, but I’m so pleased to see her again, looking glossy and healthy.

I left the sourdough to rise overnight and it had trebled in bulk. I shaped it and left it to rise again, which it did very pleasingly. We’ll find out, when we cut it, how successful the crumb is. That’s now three loaves that have done much better than usual with the salt being added last, dissolved in the last of the water, and this is what I’ll do in future. Apparently, the Hairy Bikers, as well as Paul Hollywood, recommend putting the salt on the other side of the bowl from the yeast, but this seems to be even better. I really can’t see why it makes a great difference, but the dough this morning was spectacular and there’s nothing else to account for it.

XVI

I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I last baked any bread, as I usually make a loaf every week. I suppose I’d frozen quite a lot – anyway, I have made my usual multi-grain, seeded loaf today. Again, I added the salt at the last minute, with the final slosh of water and, again, it’s turned out better than usual. Although I can’t see why a couple of minutes without the inhibiting effect of salt would make an appreciable difference, I’ve done the same thing with the sourdough that is proving overnight (I dissolved the salt in the last 100ml or so of water) and I’ll find out how that does tomorrow. I could only prove it (haha) one way or the other by trying several different methods in controlled tests, several times and that certainly isn’t going to happen. But anything that might help is to be encouraged. Won’t harm and is no trouble, at any rate.

I’ve been shirking on the drawing front. But today I finally braved a quick sketch. Nothing to bother to post, but at least it’s got me started again. The Just Do It, is isn’t a competition thing wasn’t convincing me for a couple of weeks – actually, I think that’s more a general ennui than anything else. Days are drifting by and it’s hard to engage with anything much. However, a few things have taken place.

On Friday, the blood donor appointment was fine, uneventful. Later, I found a text from a friend, who’d been in the waiting room while I was drinking my lemon squash and eating my chocolate Club biscuit (indulgences I save for this specific occasion), but I didn’t find it until after I was home. She appreciated my red shoes! I didn’t feel faint, as has happened later a few times, but I came home and went to sleep. I had an early night and, the next day, slept heavily most of the afternoon. I don’t know if this is because of the blood loss or coincidence and I felt quite well – and am over it now anyway – but I think that the age of 70 is when you’re signed off from donating and I can see that, as you get older, it could have a greater effect.

On Saturday, it was Squiffany’s 16th birthday. She was a baby when I started blogging, not quite a year old. I threw caution and The Rules to the winds and visited with her presents. It’s a good ten miles away and not strictly a necessary journey, though I fitted in a necessary shopping trip on the way, so it wasn’t much further. It was, anyway, lovely to see her. She’s in the process of deciding on her A Level options and her brother is choosing GCSEs. He advised on the guitar playing – he is not a chatty boy but, if you pick a subject that he can engage with, he’s very interesting to talk to. He’s also kind and helpful. I’ve had three brief guitar sessions today, it’s still quite hard but I’m doing better and getting more focussed.

I also spent quite a long time caring for neglected houseplants today, soaking them in the kitchen sink, trimming off dead leaves and getting them ready for the spring. So, if Spring is springing, so is Z.