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Wink comes home

Yesterday was a red letter day, because Wink arrived to take possession of the annexe. She’s going to take a few months to move in completely because she’s lived in her present house for over thirty years and there’s a lot to sort out, but it’s her place now.

Although there isn’t much furniture in there, it looks very nice and it’s comfortable. There’s an absence of cooking utensils but that doesn’t matter as, at present, she’s eating with us. After the anxiety and misery of the last few months; not that this is over and done with yet; it’s a joyous new start.

But for now, she’s making lists.

Out in the garden, there are the three mother hens. I’m not a great namer of hens but, if I do, I go by personality. I decided that Polly Garter was not the hen previously known as Slapper, but that Slapper was her whiter sister, so the two names stand for the two hens. If anyone is British and the same age as I am, they might well remember the Blackberry Farm books for small children. There were various animal characters, such as Walter the Duck, who always wore a scarf round his neck, and there was Mother Hen and Mary, her only chick. So any female lone chick has to be Mary.

A couple of days ago, i decided to let them out of their coop. Polly Garter had started to lay again, which is a sign that she’s had about enough of devoted motherhood. She and Mary poked about in the flowerbeds at the edge of the kitchen garden all day, to be joined by Little guy, the small and annoying cockerel, who is chased irritably by all the hens and snapped at by Jenga his father. Polly Garter was friendly to him though, so he adores her and is proudly protective.

I’d been worried about what would happen overnight, but it was fine. I went to water the greenhouse and PG and Mary were in there. So I quietly left and shut the door, reckoning to water in the morning. Next day, however, when I opened up, PG trotted out and Mary was too nervous to follow. I couldn’t persuade her out. I left it a bit but, in the end, I managed to cajole PG back into the greenhouse and, an hour or two later, the two of them left together. All has been fine ever since. The other chickens have accepted the two of them and, though they spend much of the day by themselves, they come to be fed and roost in the henhouse.

Tomorrow, Wink will meet baby Perdita for the first time. We are really looking forward to a family get-together in the garden.

Z catches a rabbit

I didn’t say anything about it to the family, but I was quite apprehensive about moving here. I loved my previous home and I loved living by the sea. I’d always lived in Edwardian houses with big windows and high ceilings and I was moving to a Tudor house with the opposite. I’d made my decision for good reasons and would brave it out if necessary – but it wasn’t. I loved it here from the start. In addition, having – really quite bravely for the shy person I was then – decided to make every effort to make all the new friends that I could, I found myself with a lovely social network that, with a few gaps when I couldn’t manage anything outside the home, continues still.

Mums and Tods met at the village hall and, I realised later, turned unintentionally into a closed shop. We were welcoming to others, but we were all aged about thirty, most of us of a similar ‘type’ and younger mums (dads would have been welcome too, but the situation didn’t arise) probably felt shy of us, which is a great pity. We had quite a lot of equipment and the children had fun while we chatted and played with them. In the summer, we saved the fee by meeting in each other’s houses and gardens. One time, we were at Adèle’s house when one of the children let a rabbit out and it darted into the bushes. I launched myself at the unfortunate creature, caught it – and it crapped on my teeshirt. I never did get the stain out, but my reputation for derring-do continues to this day*.

My mother and stepfather were due to move to our annexe, but then my lovely stepfather died of a heart attack, so my mum moved alone, nearly a year and a half after we arrived here. Of course, I introduced her to my friends and, as a result, Gill suggested we both join the WI. There was a village WI but it was rather in the doldrums, no one had joined for years and everyone was over 70. The Dnton WI, in contrast, had members from every age group from the 20s upwards. It was genuinely inclusive and met in the evenings, to accommodate those who were at work in the day.

*Exaggeration alert

Local shops, local Z

Just catching up with present day stuff as this is a journal of sorts. Back to the past next time.

All the carpets in the annexe were cleaned yesterday, and I’ve moved a few bits of furniture in there today. There was already a bed and wardrobe and I’ve added a couple of armchairs and a dining table and chairs, a toaster and kettle, mugs and glasses and I’ve made the bed. I thought I’d buy a small table-top fridge – not the tiny one that just holds a few tins of beer, but the next size up. Tim pointed out that we have two fridges and surely we could manage with just one for a bit? That seemed logical, so we moved everything into one fridge.

We came to our senses. I’ve bought a table-top fridge.

Tomorrow, I’ll take through a few kitchen utensils and some crockery, though really she’s only using the place to sleep at present. As time goes by, she will bring up more of her own stuff until the final move, whenever that is.

Having been to the florist, I’ve now visited the nice little clothes shop. The woman who owns it hasn’t shut the changing rooms. She’s using the two alternately, cleaning each one before another person uses it. She feels that makes more sense than letting people take clothes home, not knowing what their own conditions are or how many people will try them on. I bought my entire summer wardrobe, not that I really need anything as I’m not going anywhere much. Still, I brought a smile to her face and that’s a good thing in itself. Lovely that shops are opening up again – though, as I have said before, I have no real wish to go anywhere other than Yagnub.

Z remembers the ’80s

Reminiscing is good, I think, though I’m not so sure about nostalgia. I’m wary about suggesting that the ‘old days’ were better, because it’s easy to forget what wasn’t. But anyway, I’m thinking about Mums and Tods. I did make friends there and so did my children. I’ve got a momentary thought about Ronan coming with me to a get-together at Gill’s house, and Adèle’s son Robin was there. Their faces lit up and they darted forward to shake hands. My heart melted, in a figurative way. I suspect now that – well, not now, we don’t touch any more, so a year ago – there would have been a manly hug, but a decade ago it was an equally manly handshake.

We used to meet at the village hall most of the year. The people who were always there were Penny, with Emma and John. I haven’t seen Emma for many years; she’s the same age as Ronan and we bonded. I loved her like a daughter. Sue had James and Sarah, who was the epitome of the adorable Limb of Satan. You couldn’t take your eyes off her. All the children were happily blowing bubbles and Sarah was drinking the washing-up liquid. Chris’s daughter was Kelly, who was just a delightful little girl. Jane had Nicholas and Alex. Nicholas’s quirk was discovered in the summer.

When the weather was hoped to be fine, we saved a few pounds by not booking the village hall but meeting in our own houses or, hopefully, gardens. Nicholas had to mark his first visit to an unfamiliar house by visiting the loo for a poo (as it’s now universally known). I remember everyone being here and – Emma being the only girl of that age, the other three-year-olds were all boys – the lads were all naked except Ronan. He firmly kept his pants on. We had a fabulous wooden roller coaster. It would be unusable now – I’ve still got the components somewhere, but I wouldn’t dare use it – there was a little cart that went on rails, the child climbed in and you gave a shove and they shot down, up and down, finally landing up on the lawn. Putting a hand out would have meant instant amputation, but no one was daft enough. No one ever got in the way or did anything silly in the least. It was hazardous enough to make everyone, even a toddler, mind their fingers.

Making friends

The trouble is, when you tell people what you’re going to write about, you raise expectations which aren’t necessarily going to be justified. It was entertaining at the time, is all I can say.

When I moved here, I had a two-year-old son as well as my older children. I was not that good at making new friends, but I really wanted to try because I couldn’t rely on the old social network that had gradually built up over many years. Luckily, a small child is a very good way in.

A week or two after we did move in, the Sage decided to go to church on Sunday. I cried off because I was planting daffodil bulbs. After the service, he came back and said that we were all invited back to the Rectory for coffee, especially me. I was embarrassed but he said they insisted, so I went. My friends Denise and Rob’s daughter had been baptised, which was why there was a celebration afterwards. I turned up with young Ro, of course (I think that the other kids were left home alone, I’m sure they didn’t come along. It was fine…) and found that other people had toddlers too and that the village Mothers and Toddlers group was about to restart. Gill, whose youngest son was six weeks old, was holding a coffee morning to raise a few pounds for basic equipment and I was invited to it “next Tuesday.”

Once I arrived home again, I was in a quandary. Was next Tuesday the day after tomorrow or a week later? I had no one to ask. I only knew the venue. So I turned up on Tuesday and no one was home, so I slunk home and went again a week later, and that was the right day. I never did tell any of my new friends, though nowadays I’d certainly tell the joke against myself.

This is going to ramble on, I’m afraid. I won’t get to the WI thing I mentioned for another day or two. I digress a great deal, but I do get there in the end, so fair warning.

The Mums and Tods, as it became known, wasn’t kicking off for a few more weeks, but there was going to be another social gathering at Adèle’s house. Gill told me how to get there, so I set off in good time. Darlings, I cocked up again. There are a couple of ways to Adèle’s house and I got at least four of them wrong. I did at least know her surname, and stopped and asked twice and was impressed that everyone knew her. But I still got lost; which actually isn’t at all surprising in that sprawled-out village. I turned up eventually and did admit to having got lost. Ro must have been a patient child as he hated car journeys.

I’m still friends with all the people I’ve mentioned by name, thankfully. Isn’t that wonderful? I’ve given their real names as I would never have any reason to say anything that isn’t wholeheartedly complimentary, so they could be mildly embarrassed but never offended. If there were any dirt to dish, I’d obviously spare their blushes, but there isn’t.

Z wishes for a talent to amuse. Or anything else, come to that.

I’m scouting around for things to write about that aren’t the fairly uninteresting daily life I lead. I do want to keep up with that, not least because it’s a useful reference for me. For example, I tell you – whether or not you’re interested – when I buy a new dishwasher, which is a note for me about when I bought it, without having to go to the ineffably sensible lengths of actually looking up the receipt. When I was thinking about my illness last December, I discovered that I’d not told you anything about it, which unusual reticence meant that I had to write it all down – I say ‘had’ but it was a choice, of course, because I knew I’d forget details – more recently.

I know, because you lovely readers have told me in the past, that you like me writing about my past, or that of my family. I am also uncomfortably aware that I used, years ago, to be funnier. I’m writing most days, you may have noticed, in the hope that I become better at it, as I know I used to be. I don’t have any writing ambitions beyond blogging, but I’d like to entertain at that, to whatever extent I’m able.

So, I’m best when it comes to reminiscing and to just generally waffling to mildly amusing effect. But I’ve rather run out of things to reminisce or waffle about. Hum.

Actually, that reminds me of a story about the WI. Tomoz, darlings.

Do fence Z in

My lovely friend C and I have finally finished painting the new fence with wood preservative. I have some left – perhaps 10% of the original 20 litres – and I’ll put another coat on the tops of the rails, where it’s most likely to fade – but that’s a job for a day that isn’t as sunny as this one. It is very tiring to paint in the sun, not at all if it’s a dull day. I nearly fell asleep with Eloise cat on my lap afterwards, but just managed to stay conscious. And then I went out to do the watering and so on, which woke me up again.

I meant to plant up tubs to welcome Wink on Sunday, but ran out of time and energy, so I’ll start on that tomorrow. I still have a few spare plants and, if I need more, I’ll venture to the garden centre. It has been so helpful in delivering what I need, it’s very much appreciated. In theory, I have 10% off everything as a perk of membership of the gardening club, but I haven’t been using it, I think they’ve been challenged more than enough already.

I had to go out for more chick crumbs, so filled the car and got cash out of the supermarket cash point too. We don’t use much cash now, but it’s a nuisance to have none. For instance, the wholefood shop’s internet went down last week and they couldn’t take card payments and had to give credit to anyone who hadn’t got real money on them. And if I go to the pet shop and spend a couple of quid on chick crumbs, the bank charge on the card wipes out their profit.

On the way home, I stopped to visit the florist. They’ve been shut for weeks, of course, and their usual business has been devastated by a lack of funeral, wedding and party work. So I bought three bunches of flowers for myself and promised to go back later in the week for more flowers for when Wink comes. I confess, I often buy flowers in the supermarket for myself as they’re so much cheaper, but I think I need to support small independent shops as much as possible now. I have no wish to go to Norwich or a big town, but I do want to look after the local guys. If it’s only £20 or so at a time, it’s better than the legendary or proverbial slap in the face with a wet kipper.

Z chickens out and freezes her eggs

These are two separate stories, I should say.

I’ve decided not to move Scrabble and her chicks, I’m taking the easy option. It would be nicer for them to be on grass, but I can pull grass and other green stuff for them and this is a bigger coop. It’s slightly more shaded than I’d like, being in the Dutch barn, but I’ve pulled it a bit to the side and back, so it’s lighter and more convenient to get to the doorway and I won’t have to upset them by trapping and moving them.

With three bantam mothers at the same time, I’ve noticed their different temperaments. Polly Garter has a single chick and she’s pretty laid back. She’s started to lay eggs again and would like to come out, so I probably will let them join the flock soon. She’s not at all aggressive, unlike Frostier, who goes for me when I reach in for the water dish, thinking I’m going to attack her beloved chicks.

But the best mother of all is Scrabble. She’s five years old but didn’t raise a brood before last year and, second time around, is a great mum. She’s calm and gentle but not fussy. After I’d moved the coop, I put a couple of concrete slabs to block up a gap I didn’t notice that the ground dipped on another side too, so the chicks were able to creep out. Because mother is calm, so are the babies and I found five of the six clustered outside the coop trying to get in, but there was no panic. The female barn cat Betty was hanging about and, even without mother hen being protective, she didn’t attack the chicks. I’ve always been nervous that the cats would, but I guess they recognise them as taboo. I just moved a slab and four of the chicks quickly spotted the new gap and bobbed back, but the fifth couldn’t work it out and ran round – eventually back to the original hole, so she went in that way. All filled in now, they’re safe.

The second story is less exciting than it sounds. I just thought it was a good headline. Personally, that bird has long flown and I have no further maternal ambitions, reassuringly to everyone who knows me. What happened was, I got a huge build up of chicken eggs because I found a cache of twenty eggs laid by several different hens, and I knew I couldn’t use them all fresh. So, having recently read it as a suggestion, I decided to freeze them. Tim had the excellent thought of lining muffin tins with cling film and I found that two bantam eggs filled each one nicely, so a dozen eggs at a time. Once frozen, I tipped the tin upside down and they all dropped out like ice cubes and I’ve put them in the freezer in a box. Thirty eggs have been frozen and I will use them when the chickens all go off lay. Which they will.

Family meeting

It was the first time that Weeza’s children and Ro’s children had seen each other since February and they were so excited and happy. Augustus and Rufus are particular pals and they had a wonderful time. Gus adores babies too and he and his sister were very glad to see Perdita.

Eloise cat is doing very well and is still being patient, though I know this will diminish somewhat as time goes by. I can’t let her outside until her wound has healed, though it’s very clean and neat so far. She’s mostly leaving it alone and we have our fingers crossed. She won’t tolerate a Collar of Shame and went frantic when we put one on her last year, so we haven’t tried it. I thought I knew where I’d put her soft collar but I was wrong – still, though she tolerated that perfectly well, when she got bored she just put a claw behind it and hooked it off, so I’ve only searched in a dozen places, not the whole house. Weeza needed the metal detector to lend to a friend, who’s lost a piece of jewellery in her garden and it only took five searches to come up with that. And I’d bought a new battery too, so I felt pretty efficient there.

Eloise cat is home

This morning was spent in rigorous housework, set by a timer. I was anxious to get things done which was, I know, to stop me fretting about Eloise cat. There was a lot to do, however, because I’ve been busy in the garden recently and so have neglected the housework. I say “I,” not meaning that Tim doesn’t do anything, he certainly does. However, we each naturally tend to take responsibility in our own house, while each thinking of both homes as “ours.”

This afternoon, I went to pick up Eloise, who was anxious but quite well. She settled down once she was home, very relieved to feel safe again. She’s cuddled us both and eaten a good dinner. We knew we wouldn’t feel like cooking, though I did make a loaf of bread, and so we got some of Tim’s leek quiche out of the freezer for dinner. At about quarter to seven, I remembered that we’d got takeaway curries ordered from Old Hall Farm, so the quiche has gone into the fridge for another day.

It’s now ten o’clock, I’ve paid my house insurance and my host renewal for this website and Tim paid for Eloise’s operation. So we’re spent out in two senses and it’s time for bed. Tomorrow it’s Rufus’s other birthday party, where various family members will arrive during the day, the ones arriving saying hello and goodbye to the ones leaving.