Must eat more eggs…..

I don’t waste food, really. Tim knew that when he married me but I’m not sure he realised the extent of my resolve. For example, the goose we had for Christmas did a number of meals and the bones made stock and that made a few more. At the weekend, I made soup – celery, broccoli and stilton, minestrone. The first two needed vegetable stock so I made it from the trimmings of the vegetables that were the basis of the soup. So even peelings get used.

I wonder if I’m a bit obsessed, sometimes. The sometimes is ambiguous, which is fine. Ambiguous has a lot going for it.

In other news, I played the clarinet for the first time in three months. I’ll be tootling the keys in church tomorrow. It’s a long time since I did that performance standing up because the risk of overbreathing has its follow-on risk that I’ll faint.

Lovely little bantams are still laying like good’uns. Eggs will be the basis of tomorrow night’s dinner. When I lived alone and we had a glut, I ate egg twice a day, but Tim is weirdly reluctant. I don’t count breakfast, you see, he does. Anyway, they are good little girls – and their two smaller cousins are due to start laying by the end of this month.


I don’t usually do this sort of thing. But the awful fires in Australia are unprecedented.
Rachael was a friend of Linda’s, our lovely Ziggi who died four years ago and who we miss so much still. Those of us who read her blog or met her, anyway. If you visited Linda at home, you’ll have seen a marvellous tiger on her wall and that was drawn by Rachael. Rachael is Australian but has lived in this country for a good many years. Anyway, it’s a fiver a pop so, even if you’ve already donated to one of the Australian charities, it’s a good cause that means a lot to her. She’s a lovely woman and a fine artist. You might even win.

And so to bed…

I’ve just got home from my book group – which, until a few years ago, was something I thought I’d never say – and we all agreed that we loved the book that one of us chose. It was The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Armin and we all enthused, which pleased Annie, who chose the book, very much.

The other book I’ve read most recently, it having been a Christmas present from Tim – I finished it today, in fact – was A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles, by Ned Palmer. A stunning amount of research, both in terms of history and the present day, by a real enthusiast with a wickedly dry sense of humour – and our very own local Baron Bigod and St Jude cheeses feature in it.

While I was out, Tim did his annual Christmas card audit. I don’t think he’s posted it on his blog yet, so that’ll be a pleasure for tomorrow.

Z cooks

The young chickens are laying very well. Fortunately, they seem to be happy to lay in the nest boxes at present, probably because the big black hens are off lay and they are a bad influence. Yesterday morning when I let them out of their house, I looked for eggs from the day before and found only one, plus a sitting pullet. I thought that must mean they were laying away – until I looked again before they went to roost and found nine more eggs. Ten in two days must mean that Scrabble and/or Polly are also laying, which is pretty good, but gives us rather a glut of eggs.

Dealing with Christmas leftovers was no trouble, except for the milk. I managed to acquire three milkman’s pints plus a litre from the farm. So, LT being away for the weekend, I cooked myself vegetables in a cheese sauce and made a lot of yoghurt. I then cooked two dishes this week, one of chicken marinaded in yoghurt and one fish baked in the stuff, which used about half of what I had. With the rest of the surplus, I made celery soup and broccoli and Stilton soup, as well as minestrone and that emptied the fridge.

I’ve never been wasteful in the kitchen but I’ve become a lot more frugal in recent times and there’s virtually no food that gets thrown away without full use having been made of it, though I have no hesitation in buying expensive ingredients if I want to. And final leftovers, apart from bones, go to the chickens or the compost heap (which they comb through anyway). I even make stock from vegetable peelings, apart from potato.

Simon the greengrocer has Seville oranges in now, so marmalade is on the list for later this week. I made four batches last year and we’re down to the last few jars.

Good old alcohol for good young Z

My parents weren’t heavy drinkers, but they were regular ones. As I said, wine was normally on the table – they bought Spanish plonk for everyday use, both red and white, in big carafes. Probably the equivalent of wine boxes now. Wine tended to be less strong than it is now and glasses smaller, so the single glass that went with a meal was not all that much alcohol. If friends came for a meal, bottles of good wine were opened, of course.

My mother often used wine in cooking – they’d been early followers of Elizabeth David and were keener cooks than a lot of English people at the time. And, though desserts and puddings were rarely on the table, two of her specialities were trifle, heavily laced with sherry, and lemon syllabub, ditto, and I was allowed them from a fairly early age. I must have been about 14 when a wine glass was put out for me at dinner time. The uncompromisingly dry wine was an acquired taste and I only occasionally accepted a small glass to be grown-up, I can’t say I really liked it for the first year or two though I pretended to. Friends down the road often had pre-lunch parties on a Sunday. When I was smaller, I was given bitter lemon to drink. As my parents never had that at home, I thought it was the height of sophistication. From thirteen or fourteen, I was given sherry. This was probably Harvey’s Bristol Cream, so quite heavy and sweet and very much to my young taste. Two glasses of that and I was rolling home for my Sunday lunch, but it was never remarked upon, so I must have behaved myself.

It never occurred to me that this was at all unusual but I guess it was, relatively, in the mid-1960s, for a young teenager. My father would probably have a gin and tonic before dinner, which my mother disliked, so she would drink sherry. After they’d been to the South of France a few times, he developed a taste for pernod, which I remember because it turned cloudy when water was added. I wasn’t included in that and I’m not sure if I had anything at all. If I did, it would have been ginger ale or fruit juice, I should think.

What was not allowed – not forbidden, it just wasn’t an issue – was drinking any spirits, at least before I was sixteen or so. And as my father died when I was sixteen, they wouldn’t have been served at home after that, though I remember drinking both beer and whisky at friends’ houses. My mother developed severe migraines and one of the triggers was alcohol, so she had to pretty well give up drinking. Life was stressful and gloomy for all of us and sometimes she’d come in and say ‘I’ve had a hell of a day, I need a drink, have a glass of sherry for me”.

As I said, my mother didn’t like gin at all and she thought it was not a suitable drink for ladies, so I didn’t taste it until I was about eighteen. Then I went to some function with a family friend I called Auntie Jane. She firmly told me she was buying me a gin and tonic, clearly thinking it was time I had a proper grown-up drink. I remember having to hold my breath so I couldn’t taste it, to be able to swallow it at all, let alone with an appreciative smile on my face. Of course, a few years later when I tried it again, I couldn’t think what there had been to dislike.

Signed out

Blogger is playing up again. I read a post from Pixie Mum and wanted to comment on it. But it seemed that I wasn’t signed in to my google account. So I sighed, went to my old Blogger blog, found I was signed in there, went back – and no. So I left a comment with my name Z and this website and nothing happened, so I don’t know if it was accepted or not.

I checked various Blogger blogs and I was signed in as Z on some of them and others I wasn’t, including Tim’s, where I couldn’t leave a comment until he opened them up to the hoi polloi. This made no sense at all. I couldn’t do a thing about it. There’s a sign-in link and when I clicked on it, I was signed in and when I went back, I wasn’t. I’ve written to tell them but it’s quite possible it’s just a blip and it’ll be put right.

Anyway, darlings. It’s the sort of wasted half hour or more that makes you feel you’ve achieved nothing all day. But here’s a blog post of sorts.

Tim and I were talking about alcohol, which makes a change from drinking it. My family always had wine on the table at every meal (except breakfast, obvs. That was my grandmother and she came to a sticky end) and I was welcome to a glass from my early teens. That wasn’t Tim’s family experience and I suppose my family took the Continental model.

It was always dry wine and quite uncompromising and I didn’t like it much in those days. No danger of me having more than the occasional glass when i wanted to feel sophisticated/ But I’ll tell you all about my drinking experiences tomorrow, because I’ve realised it may take some time and this post is quite long enough already.

Blog party 2020

It’s the time of year when I start making a tentative approach about a blog party. I’ve just mentioned it on Facebook a few minutes ago and we’ve got four guests already, so in fact we’re probably up to ten or so: therefore it’s on. As ever, you’re most welcome and having a blog doesn’t matter – nothing does except being willing to come to south Norfolk and meet Z, LT and various other lovely people. Most people who came here for the first time knew few, if any of the other guests, and Tim was, many years ago, one of those.

I’ll try to find a suitable date for everyone who’d like to come. As always, you’re very welcome to stay, we’ve got lots of space. All dietary requirements catered for happily, of course. It’ll be between May and July, probably and if you’ve got a preferred date or any to avoid, do let me know.

Ninth night doesn’t have quite the same ring as Twelfth

I don’t usually take the Christmas tree down before Twelfth Night but my cleaners were coming today and it made sense. After this weekend, we can’t pretend it’s holiday season any more, anyway. The room looks enormous without a five feet high (and almost as broad) tree in it. Tim is down in Reading for a couple of days, so will hardly recognise the place when he gets back on Sunday.

There was a knock on the front door yesterday. Those of you who’ve visited us will know that the front door is solid oak and as old as the house (though not, actually in its original location) and, by the time i’d got there and undone the bolts and unlocked the door, there was no one there. So I trotted round to the side door and there was no one there either. So i went out and called and, by that time, the caller had returned to the front door. This is a fairly frequent occurrence.

He was from Openreach, the company that looks after phone lines – in short, they’re putting high-speed fibre broadband to the whole of Yagnub and surrounding villages and he wanted to check out how many properties are here. I explained that the house and its annexe each have their own lines. His second question related to the telegraph pole on the field – did I happen to own the field? Yes, I do. Would I be willing to let them dig a narrow trench for cables across to the cottages the other side of the field? Well, yes of course I would. As it happened, I had to go out before he managed to find the form to print off, so he’s left it for me and will call back. At present, the download speed is 19Mb, according to my phone, but it should be at least 40 once the job is done. Only a couple of years ago, it was more like 3Mb so I’m not too dissatisfied now anyway.

The little chickens are doing very well and I picked up five bantam eggs today. I hardly think the four of them laid all, so one of the older two, Scrabble or Polly, must have started laying again. Such dear little eggs, I have to weigh them to know how many to use in a dish, but that doesn’t matter. The big brown hen lays unusual khaki-ish eggs and lays for a couple of weeks and then goes broody and off lay for a while. She hasn’t laid for ages. They are a nice colour and I’m quite tempted to let her have a few chicks next year. I’ve no idea if she’ll sit for long enough, though. Rose would also like Polly to be a mother, but doubts whether she’s got the commitment either. I must resist any temptation to get up to thirty hens again, though. A dozen are quite enough really, though I can always find good homes for any surplus.

20/20 vision

When I was a child, I used to think about how old I’d be at the turn of the century. 46, which was about as far as my imagination would stretch. What I never considered was ageing beyond that. Twenty years on, darlings. I still can’t take that in. The 1900s finished twenty years ago, and counting.

I’m generally too anxious to go for the whole HNY thing nowadays, so I will repeat what I said last night on Facebook. “We’re approaching the time to proffer hope over experience wishes. Good luck, darlings.”

Anyway, in other news, all is well here and I hope it is with you. Wink came for Christmas and Dora, Ro and Rufus came for the day. We had goose.

Goose is expensive, it cost over £100 for the very good experience. However, LT and I have reasoned it out – because that’s what I do and he goes along with me – and have brought it down to twenty meals plus stock and enough fat for roast potatoes for the entire year. So we choose to call it a bargain.

I’ve probably told you that grandbaby number 7, and the final one probably, is due in the last week in February. She’s a girl, and Ro and Dora have not yet decided on a name – when they do, they won’t tell us until she’s safely with us, because something has to be Announced. Dora is very well – she’s tiny, quite a bit shorter than I am, and slender, so pregnancy makes her quite rotund – and has three weeks of work before she starts her maternity leave. Ronan’s firm is enlightened enough to treat paternity leave in exactly the same way, so he will have six months off work. Actually, he’s slightly anxious about what they’ll get up to without him, but he’ll cope with that.

I remember the year that we were snowed in, from a week after Christmas. Russell’s office had been shut for the week between Christmas and the New Year, and then the cold grey skies opened and we were stuck. No one was going anywhere. We had a fabulous time. We built snowmen, tobogganed down the cliff, marvelled at snow on the beach and brought groceries home by sledge. We had no one’s company but our own as a family for nearly three weeks and we loved it. Russell had always been work-orientated until then and it changed him to a family man. Two or three years later, we had to choose our path and we decided on family over career. But the Sage was 15 years older than Ronan is now, and we could manage. They were very happy days, though.

Happy Christmas, darlings.

Thank you, friends, for your Christmas messages. And to you too, a happy Christmas and much to look forward to.

Alex and co came over this evening, and we gave them tea – sausages and cake, mostly, which went down pretty well with everyone. What’s not to like, after all? They went off to the carol service which, sorry to say, I skipped, because Rose had invited us next door for a drink. We’ve all been coughing and languishing somewhat, so it took until this evening, we’ve been postponing every day, but we finally managed some woo-hoo and jollity.

And, as I’d said, I went to Norwich to meet up with (I know, awful expression but ‘meet’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard) Weeza and co yesterday, and then Wink will arrive in the morning and so will Ro and co, so I’ve seen all the family and then we’ll all be together on the 30th. 16 of us, including the bun in the oven. I’ve got as far ahead as I can today and it’ll be an easy morning tomorrow. I don’t care for stress at Christmas. Having observed my mother, I know that a cheerful, relaxed matriarch makes a happy family. It’s not about perfection at the cost of tranquillity.

It’s occurred to me where Jesus got the idea of feeding the five thousand from. He watched someone cook 2 pounds of red cabbage and it filled an 8 pint casserole dish, even after it was cooked. A year’s supply at least. I wonder if chickens like red cabbage….