Z is home

We arrived home on Wednesday night, after a lovely holiday and not the easiest return journey – nothing new in that respect – and it’s been a bit hectic since. I went to fetch Eloise cat back from Rose’s Boy – she was away, as Lawrence was having his fortnightly treatment at the Royal Marsden – and found her looking woebegone. When she reluctantly got up, she hobbled. Boy hadn’t realised and was very upset – we couldn’t find any obvious injury and she could walk, so I decided it could wait until morning and we’d see how she was.

She was still lame, so I phoned the vet. In short, there are two possibilities. One is that she got into a fight with Chip and her leg was hurt. She’s on antibiotics and painkillers and, if that’s the problem, she should improve soon. The other likelihood is that she’s ruptured a cruciate ligament. If she’s no better in a week, she’ll have an X-ray and, if that’s what it is, an operation that will take several months to get over. She’s in a lot less pain because of the medication, and can walk on her leg, though she does limp heavily, so we’re just waiting and being anxious at present.

As I said, we did have a lovely time and Jersey is as delightful as I remember it from my last visit, 35 years ago. Tim has visited from childhood and knows the island well, so it was a nostalgic trip for both of us. I have pictures and will upload them soon – no idea yet if any of them are worth posting.

A week of daily driving and then a long drive home tired me out, so I’ve slept soundly for the past couple of nights. A good night’s sleep is a wonderful thing. Two are a blessing. Fingers crossed for tonight…..

Holiday

LT and I are having a week on Jersey. There’s been some nostalgia for both of us – he knows the island well as his grandparents came from here and he’s visited from childhood. There’s another, separate family connection as his niece lives here too and he’s come for celebrations and holidays.

I visited first in my teens, when Wink and I came to stay with her godparents. Then we had a family holiday here, before Ro was born, and I spent my thirtieth birthday on Jersey.

So, happy memories for both of us and a lovely visit. Having managed to clear the decks of paperwork before we left, I’ve been able to forget about it. The weather had been forecast to be fine but is actually fabulous.

I keep recognising that fleeting emotion of complete happiness.

Water under the bridge

I’d known already that Joan was a local girl, because she’d told me that. She was the daughter of a farmer, born in a village called Thwaite, five miles from here. Thwaite is pronounced Twait, locally – there are other villages with the same name but not necessarily the same pronunciation. Similarly, another local village, Alburgh, is Aah-bruh, not as it’s spelt or pronounced in other similarly-named places about Norfolk and Suffolk.

What I hadn’t known was that, though her parents weren’t poor – she went to a fee-paying local school, later – their living conditions were fairly primitive, even by the standards of the time. Joan and my mother were born in the same year, 1923, but my mother’s house had running water, at least. According to Joan’s sister Mary, who’s 90, they didn’t even have a well. Their water was drawn from a pond. I can hardly imagine that, in living memory.

Less surprisingly, they used oil lamps and candles for lighting, though for much longer than was the case with my mother. She remembered when electricity was put on in her grandparents’ house, which she left when she was 7, so it was in the late 1920s. She remembers the excitement of turning a switch for a light, but also how cold the house was without the oil lamps. My sister-in-law June also remembered electricity being installed in this house, which must have been in the mid-30s. She was born in 1932 and Russell in 1936, but he had no memory of the oil lamps, and he would have if he’d known them beyond babyhood, he remembered everything.

Joan was an ambitious woman and had an illustrious career in politics. She was awarded the CBE before she retired. Talking to people after her funeral, a number of them mentioned how formidable she could be. I suppose she was, but I was used to strong women and it seemed normal to me. I respected and liked her a great deal and we were good friends. Now I think about it, which I hadn’t before, I realise that I earned her respect too, which I’m taking as quite a compliment.

Monday

We’re getting in the holiday mood, in our own ways and, I’m pleased to see, they’re quite similar. LT is in charge of paperwork – a measure of trust that I’m comfortable with that, because I’m rather a paperwork freak – and we’re sorting out out own packing and so on. I’ve asked him to check weights and measurements and I’ve done the laundry and shopping and we’ll work out the time to leave tomorrow. We’re not leaving tomorrow, that is, we’re leaving on Wednesday. I’ve cancelled the milk and the papers and he’s ordered his medications to have plenty in hand – I’m avoiding my old lady check-up so far because I’ll probably be told I’ve got to take pills for the rest of my life – and honestly, it’s not as if we’re going far. We can buy stuff.

Otherwise, I went to an old friend’s funeral today. She was an old friend in every sense, having been born in the same year that my mother was, and I have known her for 30 years or so. She was chairman of governors when I became a governor at the village school, her pre-retirement career was an illustrious one as a political agent, where she ended up as the first woman in charge of the whole of the north of England, and she was tough and formidable, but kind and fair and I both respected and liked her very much. I’m pretty sure she felt the same about me, which is a compliment to myself.

One meets old friends at funerals more than anywhere else, nowadays. I was really pleased to see them and there was a fair amount of hugging and genuine smiles. Joan would have been glad of that.

One of the hymns chosen wasn’t in the hymn book and there were nowhere near enough printed orders of service. The efficient part of me was quite anxious about that, but I sat down with a friend, Jackie, whose sons were at school with Ro. After a few minutes, I excused myself and went to ferret in a trunk, to the surprise of the church warden. I found the old Ancient and Modern hymn books. Yes! Hah. The hymn was in there, so we distributed copies and explained and all was well and i even sang all the hymns, though I felt a bit tearful by the last.

Jackie told me that her son, who lives some way away, always went to visit Joan when he came home. He was upset at Christmas, because Joan told him that she believed that this was their final goodbye. What a lovely man he is. He came to visit Russell when he hadn’t long to live, too. Such kindness and thoughtfulness, for a boy in his twenties as he was then. I will write and thank him again.

And I have, I did it at once. I’ll tell you a bit more about Joan tomorrow, if I remember. Well, you know what I’m like…

Z still eats

We had breakfast for supper tonight. An English breakfast – or rather a British one, I’m not trying to exclude – is, perhaps, the perfect meal. In this case, it was bacon, poached eggs, fried potatoes and, slightly from left field, asparagus. But treating asparagus as soldiers to dip into the egg yolk is very good. We still have some bacon and quite a lot of eggs, so we’ll have a variation on the theme on Tuesday (the fishmonger calls on a Monday) when it will be bacon and eggs with fried bread and mushrooms. Possibly some tomatoes if I’ve been shopping.

Breakfast … kedgeree, kidneys, smoked haddock and poached egg, every sort of egg, sausages, kippers, bloaters, devilled bones and so on and so on … can hardly be bettered, surely? Porridge, toast and marmalade and innovations like cereal and yoghurt certainly belong to the morning meal, but the rest can be eaten at any time. A bit animal-product heavy, now I look at it: but that’s traditional, if not necessary.

Anyway, we do have rather an egg mountain, though I think the chickens have been laying away for the last few days. The big brown hen is broody. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t the dedication to sit long enough to raise a brood and it isn’t convenient anyway, just now, so I’m removing any eggs under her, but I shut the chickens in their greenhouse yesterday and got two eggs, whereas there had been none for the previous two days. I don’t know where they’re laying, though. I’m far too unobservant to follow them around and find out.

Perfect

The Jersey Royals are in now, though they weren’t the other day. It was a good meal all the same. We bought a whole brill, which turned out to be more than the three of us could eat, so I frugally saved the remains and made risotto with the asparagus cooking water, leftover asparagus and leftover fish. As this was practically a free meal, we could fully justify having lunch out yesterday…

So we had the Jersey Royals tonight and they were jolly good. Just big enough to dig, full of flavour. This time next week, we’ll be halfway through our Jersey holiday, so probably we will have eaten them at every meal and had enough of them. But right now, they’re perfect and so are the local asparagus and strawberries.

We’re having a perfect evening right now, too. Musically and so on…

Z goes there and back

In the last week, we’ve been to Reading and Wales and back, and blogging on the phone isn’t my favourite activity. We were in Pembrokeshire for all of a day and a half, and it turned out not to be restful at all. London Stuff hadn’t been done by the person who should have done it, and I had to sort it out instead, and I was in discussion, at various times, with cleaners, builders, the guy next door, the guy downstairs and the guy at the agents, as well as my new tenant, who sounds just lovely. Mostly, I was climbing up hills or down to the beach, trying to get a signal on my phone, or stopping in lay-bys for the same thing. But never mind. It’s all sorted efficiently, amicably and cheerfully and that’s worth a lot.

I reckon I’m showing my age, in that I’m not as adaptable as I was – which has nothing to do with the last paragraph. We took LT’s car, which is a joy to drive: but it’s got manual gears. I’ve used manual and automatic transmission pretty well all the time I’ve been driving, which is coming perilously close to 49 years now. My mother drove an automatic and I was always welcome to use it, and I’ve had automatics myself for the last few years. I can change back pretty well but I had to drive into Yagnub soon after we got home today, because I needed to get a parcel weighed to let a client know the cost of postage. And I was trying to change the gears on my car. Better than not using the clutch on LT’s, but d’oh, all the same.

Wink has come up to stay, but she forgot we’d be away so arrived on Monday. She could have stayed here on her own, of course, but it wouldn’t have been much fun. So she’s been with Weeza and co. We have an appointment in Norwich tomorrow and then back here again. It’s her birthday on Sunday but she can’t stay that long, so we’re planning a lovely meal for tomorrow night. We’re thinking some particularly fabulous fish, local asparagus, ditto strawberries and we’re hoping that the Jersey Royal potato season has started. If so, it’ll be perfect.

Z’s to-do list is done for the day

I managed quite a lot of admin today, so I’m quite pleased with myself. And the bit that makes me panic will be dealt with tomorrow. I’ve asked my insurance agent for help. Well, he’s good with bemusing forms and I’ve known him a long time and I no longer care if I’m imposing massively or looking a total wuss. I need help and I’ve asked for it and that means I’ll actually get the job done. Hopefully.

Tim (not the hedgehog. If ever I mean the hedgehog, I’ll say so) made a fabulous rogan josh for dinner tonight, and I cooked a spicy number with cauliflower and onion, and we are sitting back and settling down for the evening now; Tim on his laptop and me on my iMac. I can’t remember the last time we turned on the television, though I do remember what we watched.

It\s turned cold again. A horrid day, it started out quite cheerfully and I put on a light jacket to go shopping, which I regretted when I realised it was trying to cast down a chilly rain. Still, we bought everything we needed to, in five or six shops, and all LT needs now is a haircut. Mine was cut yesterday, so I’m not the one tripping over my flowing locks any longer.

Wanting to log on to my account at the theatre in Norwich where I’m a Friend, I failed with every email address. In the end, I had to write and ask. Turned out to be a long-defunct address, that I’d forgotten about. So all sorted now. Just shows, I should never let anything lapse. You never know when you’ll need it again.

Prickly Tim

Did I tell you about Tim the hedgehog? I probably did, but I can’t remember so there’s no reason why you should. It was back in January, about 4 o’clock on a frosty afternoon, when I returned from shutting up the chickens and feeding the outside cats, when I spotted this hedgehog curled up on the drive. It was clearly miserable and going nowhere. So I fetched gloves, put it in a box and put down a plate of cat food, and went to phone the local hedgehog sanctuary. I had to defrost the car windscreen before I left, it was chillier by the minute but, on the way, the hedgehog started to eat the food, which was quite a relief.

Tessa, the hedgehog rescuer, sprayed him with flea killer and I watched with some ewiness as the little buggers hopped off. She also removed a tick. But she emailed me reports every few days, saying that he’d responded to tlc and was putting on weight. As the weeks went on, he actually doubled his weight, from 545 grams to 1150 grams. Since he obviously didn’t grow that much in a month, he was evidently severely underweight to the point of starvation at the start.

Anyway, when I took him along to Tessa, she wanted me to name him. I’m not big on naming wild animals. I don’t even name the chickens and they’re pets. So, in some hasty anxiety, I called him Tim. And today, Tessa brought him back. He’s looking very cheerful and is snuggled up in his box full of torn-up newspaper, with a big plate of food nearby in case he’s peckish.

Tim the man hasn’t commented on his namesake, though he’s fond of hedgehogs himself – I mean, that he hasn’t commented on his name being adopted for a prickly thing. Totes inappropriate, in that regard, obvs.

Summer time

The good news is that, a day after the flat being advertised, there were two people keen to have it as soon as possible. Furthermore, the agents will sort out the cleaning and the disposal of the bed that, with permission, the previous people left behind. I have had a tenant ask me to provide a bed, so it wasn’t unlikely to happen again – I suggested the British Heart Foundation but I suspect it’ll be sold. Makes no difference to me, I’m glad not to have to go to London again next week to dismantle it.

I’m getting to grips with vegetable planting rather late, but the reason is the chickens. Our lot live in the big greenhouse adjoining the kitchen garden but, now they roam free during the day, they wreck it. rather. The bantams aren’t nearly so pecky. I’ve covered all last year’s swiss chard with fleece in the hope that it’ll grow again, but I’ve had to let the spinach go. It’s down to the skeletons. There was no point in planting out anything, or putting in seeds, until I’d covered over the beds. Purpose-made covers are absurdly expensive compared to a bit of DIY, so the latter has been resorted to and two beds are now covered and one sowed/planted.

I don’t have the same enthusiasm for growing vegetables that I used to have, I’m sad to say. I think it was too much work for too long. I love the freshly picked veg but I can hardly be bothered any more with everything else, which I used to enjoy for its own sake. This means I’ve got a lot of unsown seeds, because I’m going to buy aubergine, tomato and pepper plants for the greenhouse, as I haven’t done anything about them. Maybe another year. It used to be such a pleasure, I haven’t given up hope of regaining that. The sight of seedlings poking up through the soil is still as cheering as ever, anyway.

Anyway, local asparagus and strawberries are in the greengrocer’s already, as well as tiny baby carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes. I buy and scoff them with happy greed. And the chickens are laying – four hens give us two to four eggs a day, at present, which is rather more than we can conveniently eat: not that we complain. We thank them daily.