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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.

The Outcast

I took Eloise to the specialist vet this morning, which meant an early start – early for us, that is – as I had to leave by 8 o’clock. She was hungry, poor girl. I’d fed her 12 hours earlier and she was allowed a snack at 10, but she wasn’t hungry then, so ignored the food.

I phoned reception from the car park and the vet came out. He’s the same one who operated on her last year and he said that he’d half expected the second leg to go. It’s a more common occurrence with dogs but, if a cat has cruciate ligaments go in one leg, it tends to suggest a weakness. All I can say is, I’m glad she only has two hind legs, at the cost of them.

I had a phone call this afternoon to say she’d come round from the anaesthetic and all had gone well, she was recovering in her kennel and had been fed. Only then could LT and I acknowledge our relief that she was alive. Of course, there wasn’t that much risk, but we were afraid, both of us.

Anyway, so all will be well and we will both go to pick her up tomorrow afternoon. Today, Wince came for his usual day a week and he spent it on the annexe garden. Rose’s hay fever hasn’t allowed her to do gardening recently and the rest of her co-habitants don’t do such things, not unless she’s there to chivvy them on by example. She has worked very hard the last couple of years and put in a lot of plants too, so it’s very pretty. It’s a shame she won’t get the benefit of it any more, though of course she will visit often, I hope. It’s meant a lot to me, having her here the last five and a half years and I hope I’ve supported her as much as she has me.

The weather is still cold enough to want a fire in the evening. The forecast declares that it will improve over the weekend – warm rain tomorrow, woo hoo, and then getting sunnier. I still have the prospect of taking Scrabble and her chicks out of their present coop into the other one and I’m not looking forward to it at all. They are all so happy and she’s a loving, attentive mummy. I don’t want to upset them all, and it’s bound to happen. The young cock bird, Foster’s son (from Slapper’s egg, that is) is not popular with anyone. I’m so sorry for him, though I don’t much like him either. I throw him extra treats of corn or mealworms, but all the hens and Jenga, his father, chase him away. It’s difficult to get him indoors in the evenings because they intimidate him and he daren’t go in the greenhouse. Tonight, I couldn’t persuade him and the poor boy was crouched next to Polly Garter’s coop when I went down again in the rain. I couldn’t let him in with her, I didn’t trust him with her chick. He has several places he can shelter and he’ll have found one of them by now – the Dutch barn, the old henhouse or the greenhouse, if he doesn’t want to roost up a tree.

Animal farmstead

Eloise cat will have her operation tomorrow. I’ve given her a meal and she’s allowed a small meal at 10 o’clock, then nothing except water. We’re leaving in the morning at about the time she’d expect to have breakfast, so she won’t be too badly off there. When we get to the vet in Ipswich. she will have a sedative and painkillers in advance of the anaesthetic and operation. They’ll keep her overnight and we’ll pick her up on Friday morning. Then starts the month of rest and gradual return to mobility – living in a cage and being taken for walks on a lead – before she’ll be free in the house for two or three weeks. After that, she’s good to go.

Good news is that I’m quite sure that Polly Garter’s single chick is a female. I can’t remember how old she is, though I could look back to check, but she’s a nicely rounded little thing with a short neck and legs, nothing of the rooster about her. Of the three younger ones belonging to Frostier (a bad tempered version of Foster – though all I mean really is that she is very protective of her chicks), my preliminary opinion is that there are two girls and a boy. They’re too young to be sure, though. And then there are Scrabble’s half dozen. We’re working out how to get hold of them, in their awkwardly placed coop, to go into a more convenient one. Even there, I’m still considering where best to put them. The coop I have ready is going to be quite small for them as they grow up and, as Polly G is quite unhappy in her small coop – she wants to be out and about, she laid an egg this morning – I could put her in that one. I don’t want to let her out for another week or two, while her little girl is so small. Anyway, it will all be sorted out soon. If they were tamer, it would be easier, but their instinct to protect their youngsters makes them difficult to manage. I’ve never made pets of them, though I’ve always been gentle and, if one is in a nest box, I’ll stroke her. Mostly, I don’t handle them much, though.

The barn cats know that Rummy isn’t around. The day after he left, I was feeding all the chicks and they came to tell me that it wasn’t good enough, they wanted their breakfast at once. They rarely have come that far from home in the past, but they’re expanding their territory. Eloise will chase them, when she’s able, but it’s only for show.

happy birthday, Rufus Russell

It was my youngest grandson’s fourth birthday today. Ro and Dora had invited a neighbour, her sister and me for a picnic in Earlham park. Babies and small children took numbers over the permitted six but everyone ignores the government and uses their own common sense now, so it was fine.

After our unseasonal heatwave – all bank holidays had fine weather, which is unprecedented – it has been wet and cold for the past week or so, but it came good for Rufus’s special day. We dressed too warm, actually. I’ve taken to carrying a scarf in case I’m suddenly asked to wear a mask – not a situation I’ve been in yet, but it’s bound to come – and I fashioned it into a hat for Perdita when the sun was too strong. Think of old photos of a hankie tied with knots to protect a man’s balding head; rather like that. Perdita was not impressed, to tell the truth.

Just one more session of fence painting and it will be done, except that I’ll use the rest to put a second coat on the more exposed bits. Neville has nearly finished taking down the old, disused henhouse, though I need to discuss the final bits with him. I do want to rescue a couple of doors first, so that’s top of the list for tomorrow.

Rufus has a second birthday party at the weekend and more people are invited, on the understanding that no one stays too long and crowds the garden. I’m privileged to have been asked to both – Tim too, of course – and am very glad to see my family, because I miss them very much indeed. We may go a few weeks without seeing each other but it’s not being allowed to that has been awfully hard. Though we could have cocked a snook and done so, we’ve done what a disrespected government has asked, even though it hasn’t followed its own rules. We are better than they are, in short.

Z’s virus

I have looked back to December, to see what I said about being ill and the answer is nothing. I was talking about Sprig’s wartime childhood memories and I didn’t bore you with grumbles about my health. So, with apologies for being a bore, I’m just going to jot it down now. Because I will forget the details if I don’t.

I was out for dinner with some girlfriends, at the house of one of them. We have a small book group – I never pegged myself as a bookclub person, but this is a group of friends and we take it in turns to invite everyone for dinner. Husbands make themselves scarce although they may appear for a plate of food and they might well have taken coats and drinks orders at the start of the evening.

I picked up one friend on the way and we had a good evening, as ever. It was the first Thursday in December, the 5th and we’d usually meet a week later but our host, who has a very time-consuming job, couldn’t make it then. At about 9.30, I suddenly felt exhausted and hardly knew how to sit there without keeling over. It came over me in moments, quite odd. Luckily, only a few minutes later, someone said she had to make an early start the next day and the party broke up. I got home by 10, Tim asked me if I’d like a glass of wine and I said I just needed to go to bed.

That night, I started coughing. Just a dry, persistent cough. But I didn’t feel too ill and on Sunday, as planned, Tim went off to his house for a few days. I went back to bed and called on Rose to look after things.

My cough got worse and I stayed in bed for the next couple of days, which I rarely need to. It wasn’t flu, it seemed like a bad chest infection and I was exhausted, with no energy. I didn’t initially lose my sense of taste but, oddly, I couldn’t bear food or drink that tasted of anything. I could only drink water, not even milkless tea and Rose brought me some plain boiled rice for supper and some plain porridge made with water for breakfast. I could only manage a spoonful or two but tried to eat. The cough was so sudden and explosive that I actually was concerned about incontinence, which is not normally a problem of mine. I didn’t actually wet the bed, thank goodness, but I did wear prophylactic pants, just in case.

It lasted for a couple of weeks before I started to improve and finally begin to eat normally. However, by the second week, when I couldn’t taste anything and had started to sneeze as well as cough, I’d developed a sharp pain in my chest when I did sneeze. I googled it and decided it was post-viral pleurisy and there was no need to bother the doctor. And that did improve after a week or so and I was able to get ready for Christmas. All the same, it was into the new year before I really started to feel better.

I’m not often ill. I had flu when I was about 12 and again when I was 16. 20-odd years ago, I had a bad chest infection and wheezed my way down to the doctor, who thought I’d developed asthma until he put me on an inhaler while he tended to a lad with a broken nose. As I was no better when he returned, it wasn’t asthma and I was given antibiotics instead. This was as bad as all these three, but different from all of them. The oddest things were the tiredness and that I couldn’t bear food or drink with any flavour, and that it took me so long to recover.

Anyway, darlings, my apologies for being so boring. I’ll think of something much better for next time.

Rose’s last day at the Zedery

They do it to keep us on our toes, I’m sure of it. I’d resigned myself to the death of one of the black barn cats. It was so long since he’d been to be fed, I thought he must have been run over on the road. Although I couldn’t be sure that it was always the same black boy coming as I can’t tell them apart, it’s rare for more than two or three days to go by without them all turning up.

And then, this morning, they were all there. Just the same as usual, neither boy looking unwell or hungry or anything. So they were just being bloody cats.

The rain has been warmer today, so I did the weeding that needed to be done. I’ve got All the Veg, but two sorts of kale, spinach, Swiss chard and two sorts of lettuces need to be covered against chicken attack. Fleece is better than netting because plants don’t get entangled in it; but the chickens can peck through it and they ate a lot of my spinach after destroying the fleece. I’ve weeded and covered and am thinking again about a polytunnel, not so much for greenhouse purposes but as anti-chicken defence. But there is no rush and I had good advice a while ago, and will consider options.

Rose is moving out tomorrow, though she’ll be going back and forwards for a while to sort everything out. Wink is very happy at the prospect of moving in. We’ve discussed a checklist of what needs to be done in the meantime and she will visit for a week or two at a time until her official move.

It’s young Rufus’s birthday on Tuesday and he will be four. His parents hope that his nursery will open before too long so that he can see his friends again, because most of them are going to different schools in September. His parents wanted to buy him a bike and the one they chose was a nice one; ie expensive, so I offered to go halves, rather than buy yet another toy. We are meeting up at a local park on Tuesday and then it’s cautious open garden next Saturday, on the understanding that people don’t stay long so that there aren’t more than is appropriate at any one time. They have a decent sized garden with a separate gate so you don’t have to go through the house. It all seems over-cautious in one sense, because this part of the country has never been badly affected, but absolutely correct in another and we are conditioned to take no unnecessary risks.

All the same, a lot of people, including me and, to a lesser extent LT, were ill in the winter with a virus that we had never experienced before. We can’t help wondering if the bug was around and infecting people long before it was recognised, and only later changed into something that was a killer. I don’t know, but I do know that I was more ill in December than I’d been for over 25 years, and I had some symptoms that I’ve never had before and were those described by present-day sufferers. I’ve been that ill 4 times in my life over a space of 54 years, two of them being flu and one a chest infection, and this was different.

Rose’s cat Rummy came to be fed with the barn cats and I made a fuss of him. After breakfast tomorrow, he won’t do it again and he has no idea yet. He’s an alley cat at heart and, though he is pretty friendly on the whole, it’s only Rose that he loves. He does enjoy joining us for lunch, though, especially if there’s ham or cheddar on offer. I know what to take him as a present when I visit in future.