Z nearly went round the bendy

I paid three insurance policies today – nearly £1200 that I hope is money down the drain, i.e. that I won’t have to call on them.  It was a frustrating and long drawn out experience that I won’t bore you with and I had a headache by the end.  So the day had to get better and it did.

  • I hardboiled some eggs and LT made a lovely salad for lunch.
  • I made celery soup.
  • The peas, broad beans and radishes are all up.
  • We planted early potatoes – outside, that is.  I planted them in bags in the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago.
  • The bantams were more cheerful today than they’ve been for ages.  They must finally be over the shock of the dog attack and they’re ready for spring.  They’re laying three or four eggs a day, which is quite a lot to keep up with, though at least they’re small eggs.  I’d whizzed up some heels of cheese with bread in the food processor for them and they were very pleased.
  • The outdoor cats are catching their own food and I rarely see them except for Freddie, who comes to be friendly.  But this evening, Barney and Betty were there too, so I was pleased.

Now I only take one newspaper a day – sadly, the local daily, which has always been excellent, isn’t any longer.  I tried for several weeks after its revamp, but it’s unreadable.  I still take the very local weekly, which has adopted the same editorial policy,  and I will give you an example of a headline on page 3 – Campaign for 30mph speed limit on bendy stretch of road through centre of village.  There was a sub-heading – Villagers are campaigning for speed reductions on a bendy stretch of a Suffolk Road.  The article itself repeated the same information, just adding the village’s name and a few quotes.  It’s bemusingly badly written, it must be driving the good journalists to distraction, assuming there are still some of them there.

Z loves her chilli — how did the song go?

Today – and yesterday – we’ve mostly been making chilli relish.  We last made it at the end of the summer with our own jalapeños but we ate both Kilner jarsful (they’re the equivalent of Mason jars, if you are of the American persuasion) and we craved more.  So we bought a kilo of red chillies at the Exotic Supermarket and made two more batches.  We tried the first lot with cheese for lunch today, just in case the chillies were over- or under-heated and, although we know the flavours will develop and we should really let it mature a bit, it is so delicious that we were glad we didn’t resist.  Last night, I was out for supper with the book club girls and the Cyder Club’s latest batch of vinegar (which is actual vinegar, though telling the difference between that and the cider is a slightly dubious question) was praised.  So we went along with a jug and bottle this afternoon and the second batch has been made with 250 ml of home brew.

The next village is always an interesting place.  It’s got such a fabulous community, lots of events and social things going on all the time.  I used to be very involved there but drifted away rather, mostly because of other busyness.   But I’m less busy now and my friends are very keen to welcome LT into the social circle, so we’re engaging again.  And tomorrow, we’re going to a quiz supper – LT hits the high life here, he certainly knows he’s moved to the countryside.  But it’s fun, it’s friendly and we makeses our own entertainment in Norfolk.

I’ve washed many times, including the scrubbing of my hands with salt, but I’m still infused with chilli.  On the one hand, a lick of a finger is delicious but on the other, I daren’t touch my eyes or any other sensitive spot.  Is there a guaranteed way of eliminating chilli from the skin, does anyone know?  I’m just about to apply my best Jo Malone hand cream, in the hope of masking it somewhat.

Z can’t spell

Eloise cat has been very affectionate since we arrived home.  She’s not usually very demonstrative, though she likes to be close to us but she’s even been sitting on my lap, when it’s usually Tim’s she prefers.  The outside cats are evidently feeding themselves – only Freddie came to greet me this morning though his father, RasPutin, was surprised napping in their straw shelter.  Freddie only wanted a cuddle so Ras ate most of the breakfast and none of them was there when I went out this afternoon.  I put a little food down but if they’re living off the land it’s all to the good.

The old asparagus bed had become thoroughly overgrown and it was too old to bother to resurrect.  I asked Wince to rotovate it last week as it was really beyond digging.  I know there will be a lot of roots left but I’ve covered the whole bed with garden membrane, so that will keep down weeds to an extent.  I expect I’ll cut holes and plant squashes in there to use the ground and by next year it should be all right.  If you haven’t seen my vegetable garden, it’s got six long, narrow beds – the other, larger areas have been grassed over now as we don’t really need them.  I wasn’t sure how to spell rotovate, by the way – if it might be rotavate, neither looking quite right to me, and even t’internets seem to use either spelling.  So I don’t know and I can’t quite be bothered to fetch a dictionary.

Young Stevo has been great – he’s been demolishing an old play house which Al and Russell made for the children some years ago and has been able to use the tongue-and-groove back to mend the shed roof.  If the weather is fine tomorrow, he’ll add the roofing felt.  He’s working hard and I’m glad to have him back for a few weeks.  As for me, the extra work I’m doing in the garden is very good for me, in that I quite often sleep all night, for a change.  Which may indicate that I previously hadn’t been, of course.

This new advice to eat ten portions of vegetables every day.  How on earth do you do it?  It’s a substantial amount of each, you’re not *allowed* to count potatoes nor more than three helpings of fruit, nor a double amount of anything.  The other day, for instance, we both had a freshly squeezed orange at breakfast, Tim had some strawberries too and I had some lychees later.  Then we had bean salad for lunch.  I think the beans are allowed, then there was onion, red pepper, tomato, cucumber, garlic in the dressing – but relatively low amounts of each, once we’d shared, and we couldn’t manage the tinful of beans.  We had a Spanish omelette for dinner, which included more onion and red pepper, courgette and mushroom.  So allowing for quantities of each being relatively small but what we had at both meals adding up to one portion each, I still can’t make it more than five or six plus two helpings of fruit.  Yet it was a fairly veg-heavy, vegetarian day.  Yesterday was almost veggie (a little chorizo in the lunch menu) – leftovers for lunch plus more cucumber and tomato, egg curry for dinner which had a lot of onion and tomato in the sauce, but I can’t make it add up to more than six, even including our breakfast orange juice.  LT finished the strawberries, so he can have seven.  Today – I know I’m banging on, but this is really puzzling me – I made soup for lunch with leek, onion and potato; but we’re not able to count potato so that’s two plus oj so far.  We’ll add three more veg with our pork steaks this evening.  I’d count twenty portions in three days as okay, but the random number the health people guess and dictate gives it only two-thirds of what we should be having.  Bunging more fruit in would be easy, but that wouldn’t count because of the fructose.  As I said, potatoes don’t count, but please don’t suggest that the lovely first Jersey Royals we had the other night have less worth as a vegetable than a cucumber, which is mostly water.  We are naturally inclined to eat a good balanced diet and we don’t indulge in fads or take notice of temporary scare stories, but we do get tired of the absurdities.

Z is back, happily

We’ve been away at our other home and, whilst I could have blogged on my iPad, it doesn’t feel the same to me.  I’m evidently getting fussy in my old age.

We had a really good time and enjoyed the break.  LT goes down there frequently, the last few times I haven’t joined him for one reason and another, so it was three months since we went together.  We had various items to buy and things to do, I did a whole lot of dusting and hoovering, we washed and ironed, very domesticated.  And I have bought a whole kilo of red chillies at the Exotic Supermarket to make more pickle – the two jars I made with our surplus jalapeño peppers have been eaten already and it’s so delicious that we long for more.

The journey down was fine, though there was a major hold-up on the other carriageway on the motorway and we were sorry for those people who, at the end, were bowling along happily, not knowing they were going to be stuck in a jam for an hour or so in a few minutes.  But the way back was even better, we took 2 hours and 40 minutes door to door, which is a time that probably can’t be bettered.  Not legally anyway.

The leak in the kitchen hasn’t been entirely cured – as suspected, the drinking water tap that bypasses the rest of the system (which otherwise goes through the water softener) is also leaking.  LT turned off the cold water supply but unfortunately it’s the other side of that tap so it didn’t help.  Lovely Roses has been mopping up daily – it’s a drip not a flood.  But the cold water supply tap ceased to function when LT turned it back on again, so now we have no cold water and presumably the hot water tank isn’t filling up either, so we can’t use it all up.  I hadn’t quite appreciated that everywhere was cut off and nor had Tim so when I went for a bath, I put on the hot tap as usual, undressed, went to turn on the cold … at least in the kitchen there’s a dribble from the cold tap but nothing upstairs and the four inches of water in the bath was too hot to sit in.  I know, darlings, because I tried and I had to get out again, squeaking a bit.  Luckily, I noticed the hot water bottle that I’d put in Gus’s bed hadn’t been emptied and that couple of pints was just enough to make the bathwater bearable.

So LT went and filled buckets and watering cans from the outside tap and we’ve got jugfuls from the annexe, because Roses is unaffected (of course, we couldn’t have cut her supply off!), so we can flush the loos and clean our teeth and cook.  And our good friend who is a heating engineer and plumber is coming in the morning to put things right.  DV.

My friend Jan had a silly fall back some six months ago – needing to get out of bed in the middle of the night, she couldn’t find the lamp switch, got up and felt her way to the loo but stumbled and fell on the way back.  She fell against her bed and broke her upper arm and she’s still in a nursing home.  But she’s hoping to go home soon, finally.  So I’ve bought her a lamp that is activated by touch, so that should relieve her worry about needing to put on the light again.  Falling is potentially the worst thing that can happen when you’re getting on in years, I’m hardly of an age to worry and yet I do, rather, probably because of my clumsy awkwardness with my hip.  I am grateful every single day that I’m so well recovered.

The greenhouse seedlings are doing fine and the radishes in the garden are up.  So much coming into leaf and blossom, it makes me happy.

The chickens have been laying well in our absence and we had a lot of eggs when we got back.  So I made brownies – terribly decadent, but irresistible – and we had egg curry for dinner.  A very nice recipe actually, quite simple and quick to cook and the sauce would work well for a number of things.  One to bear in mind.

Z is ready to snuggle

We’re still clearing.  The skip is now full and will be picked up tomorrow.  Finally, the remains of the old summerhouse have been removed and the wood burnt – I’ve kept the mechanism but I don’t suppose it’ll ever be used again.  The roofing felt has been taken off Kenny’s shed and some repairs are needed before it’s re-felted.  The outside of Roses’ garden fence has been painted with wood preservative, inside to be done still.  After that, it’ll be back to creosoting barns.  It’s creosote substitute of course, nowadays.

Various seedlings are up in the greenhouse – lettuce, various herbs, swiss chard and spinach and tomatoes are starting to sprout.  And the first daffodils are out on the grass by the drive.  In February, just.

We didn’t have pancakes tonight as we had pie for dinner and it would have been a bit much.  Maybe tomorrow.  I suspect I’m fonder of them than LT anyway, because I make them quite often for Zerlina and Gus and, as often as not, he doesn’t have one, whereas I usually do – though when you’ve cooked half a dozen, it’s enough to make you rather want one, to be fair.

I’ve been looking at some very nice china this afternoon while LT was being brave at the dentist.  And now, though it is quite early, I think it might soon be time for bed.  I’m ready for Summer Time when the clocks change, I’m no good with winter hours at my time of life.

Tip top tapping

We have a new kitchen tap as the old one was leaking. It wasn’t a matter of a new washer, it was leaking where it met the sink and water was trickling down into the cupboard beneath, as we discovered when we found a puddle on the floor.  Over the weekend, we’ve had a small heap of towels ready and replaced each in the cupboard as it became wet, drying them on the Aga rail in readiness for the next time.  Today, my plumber friend came round to check out the situation, asked what we wanted – simply a mixer tap with levers to switch on and off, not one you have to turn – and he said he’d try to get one today but it would be more likely tomorrow morning.  And he was back soon after two o’clock and fitted it for us, which was very good of him.  There are a couple of other little jobs to be done that are not urgent and he’ll come in the next week or so.

I had a post operation self-assessment to fill in online from the hospital and was able to report complete success in terms of movement, lack of pain and everything else.  Entirely positive except minor difficulty still in putting on socks – I know I’m bending that far, that is.  And if I put my foot up on a chair to tie a shoelace, it’s a bit of an effort with my left foot, no problem with my right.  I’ll be asked again in a few months, apparently.  There can’t be much more to say though – no pain, no limp, almost complete mobility.

After yesterday’s relatively strenuous work, I slept very well and didn’t wake until sometime after 7 o’clock.  Must work harder, clearly.  LT says I was talking in my sleep though.  I could only apologise, I remembered waking up to sneeze several times and then going straight back to sleep, but that wasn’t it.  He couldn’t make out what I was saying but I was talking in sentences.  Well, I can.  Sometimes.  Proper ones.

I managed to drop a spice jar onto a couple of eggs in a bowl yesterday and one of them cracked, so I put the contents into the fridge and the other egg in an egg box. But this morning, i discovered that the other one was cracked.  More mysteriously, one of the bantam eggs was broken too and it had been nowhere near the jar I’d dropped.  But I had to do something with all these eggs and so made some chocolate brownies.  Unfortunately, though my cold has receded, I can’t really taste anything so I don’t know how good the two I scoffed actually are.  I made them in the microwave.  I don’t cook much from scratch in there, but I always use it for brownies.  And sponge puddings.  I don’t think I’ve made one of those for LT yet.  We don’t normally eat puddings but once in a while, even when I was on my own, the wish for a proper pudding struck and I quickly made one in a few minutes, making custard while the microwave cooked the sponge.  Tonight, LT is cooking dinner – sea bass with green beans and mushrooms.

Life in Z yet

Now my hip is better and I’ve got young Stevo to help with odd jobs for a bit, we’re getting on with the clearing out again.  As I said, we’ve just about filled the skip – more went in today and there’s very little room left now.  Today, Phil came over and cut up more logs with his chain saw for LT to split – there’s still a lot to do but we’re plugging away.

In the meantime, I wanted to get a big, flat cart out that I’d accidentally blocked in the Dutch barn with pallets of tiles.  The only relatively easy way to do it was to dismantle the outdoor cats’ straw shelter and drag it round, moving various other things as we went.  It was quite hard work and we were glad to have Stevo’s help.  I put the straw bales back but I didn’t see the cats when I put their food down today.  They’ll be back tomorrow, I expect.

I also got out my pruning saw and cut down a few saplings that had self-seeded in inconvenient places.  One thing we had to move was a table tennis table that Russell had acquired a few years ago – not sure where he intended to put it but it’s now in the big workshop.  It can’t be used until the logs are cut up and stacked elsewhere, though.

I’d made leek and potato soup and bought chicken pie from the butcher for lunch, to make things easy.  And this evening, we’re finishing the salad and then last night’s curried beef.  It was really good to be able to get stuck in and work hard but I’m quite tired and achy now.  A pleasure to be able to do it though.

The chickens are finally laying again.  They aren’t a commercial breed, a mixture of common or garden bantams and old breeds of bantam, which are very seasonal layers.  I hadn’t had any eggs for well over a month.  But, from the 14 I have left (I thought it was 12 but I can’t count), we’ve had a dozen eggs since last Tuesday.  Before long, I expect we’ll be inundated.

Just got back from the windy … village

I went to stay with Weeza and family for a couple of days.  She had an operation on the cartilage of her left knee a week ago and wasn’t going to be able to drive for a few days.  Phil had taken the children to school and back on Monday and Tuesday, so I took over from Wednesday afternoon.

So that meant LT was ready to cope when the gale, Doris, blew.  I read on the news and Facebook that various trees had fallen and blocked roads in and around Yagnub, but we got away lightly here – just a couple of small panes broken in the roof of the chickens’ greenhouse and some minor branches and debris about.  No question of filling the skip that day though, but Wince has put in quite a lot of stuff today – it’s already about two thirds full.  Fingers crossed that everything will go in.  We’ve got a lot of green mesh from a polytunnel, so that has been used to cover the damaged bit of greenhouse – the panes could be replaced from the inside but it’s an awkward job and this will do just as well.

Weeza and I were at home when things were a bit hairy her way but she had phone calls from work – she works for a local landowner – mostly telling her about power cuts – apparently, a cable had been brought down by a fallen tree.  Knowing the roads had been affected, i wondered if we’d have any trouble getting to the school but she was confident locals would already be out with chainsaws and tractors, and so they were.  Most of the damage had already been cleared away by the time we needed to go out again.

Zerlina had a swimming lesson after school at the local high school so we went along to watch.  The tutor is a splendid woman, very authoritative but a good teacher.  Apparently, she’s eighty years old though you’d never know it.  I’m not great with water, having completely lost my nerve some years ago and I’m unable to go out of my depth without having something to hang on to.  I’m not afraid of water as such, I can put my head under and went scuba diving a few years ago, which was fine.  I just sink.  So I’d drown.  So I can’t let go, it’s beyond courage or willpower, simply impossible.  I also realised, watching them do the breast stroke, how poor my coordination is, that would be beyond me too – one can only laugh at me, quite rightly.

LT came over for lunch and we came home together.  I’ve finally got my first cold of the winter – not ill, just sneezy.  We had a Thai takeaway from Weeza’s very good local shop and the chilli helped. but I’m a bit snuffly again.  I look forward to spicy food and drinks for the next few days.    The chickens have finally started laying again, so I may need a masala omelette with extra onion and chilli for lunch tomorrow.


Z appears to have been a snowflake for a long time

Whiling away the wakeful early hours this morning in casual thought, I found myself remembering an awkward situation I found myself in some years ago.  Having worked out that it must have happened within the last ten years, I looked it up here and, of course, I’d written about it at the time.  But the chances of many of you remembering, even if we were friends then, are not high and I’ll tell you again with the benefit of hindsight added.

It was when I was chairman of a society and we held a coffee morning for new members.  The committee members went around chatting, introducing themselves and being generally friendly, and Alan, one of our number, called me over to meet a woman whom he’d been talking to about the Latin language.  You’re interested in Latin, he said.  I agreed that I was but it wasn’t until we’d been chatting for a couple of minutes that I discovered that she was wanting to set up some Latin classes and needed to find others to join her.  I was rather alarmed when I realised that she thought I was keen.  What day would suit me?

I back-pedalled at once, I hadn’t honestly got time or inclination to take part in any such thing and I said, truthfully, that there was no day of the week that I could guarantee to be free and several when I certainly wouldn’t be, and not to count me in.  I hoped that was the end of it but, a few months later, she sent me an application form to join her group.  I didn’t think much of the attempt to railroad me and I didn’t care for her plan anyway – she said she wasn’t interested in literature, only grammar and I couldn’t see any fun in that.

So I wrote back to extricate myself and got a distinctly unpleasant reply.  I’ve looked it up –

Thankyou, but I don’t know if the class will run now. I had been counting on a minimum of four. I had not expected that anuone, having given their word, would make alternative committments.
I am sure you would not expect your members of NADFAS to do that,since they would perhaps find this unethical. 
Typos and spelling mistake hers, not mine.

So I wrote again, explaining that an interest shown in her plans (I was really surprisingly polite, considering she’d absolutely buttonholed me) in a casual conversation isn’t actually giving my word and I had told her so at the time.  I listed my regular commitments (not all of them, only those that actually involve work) and explained that the extra ones that have come up have to take precedence over things I do simply for my own amusement.

Her reply said that I’d dealt her a sledge-hammer blow.  She hoped I felt thoroughly uncomfortable.

I didn’t, I don’t, I was extremely relieved not to have got more involved with such a peculiar and frankly unpleasant person.  Her final word on the subject was “Beatae sunt quae ab ipsis occultare sapiunt”.  (They are happy who know how to conceal (or cover) themselves).

People aren’t very often unpleasant to me and when they are, I take it to heart.  And I really had not given her any encouragement, from the moment I found out what she was talking about.  I thought I’d forgotten the whole matter but it evidently had been in my mind somewhere – I had to look up the details of course, but the basis of it was as upsetting as it felt at the time.  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t sleep much, if I’m as easily upset as that.  Clearly, Z is a snowflake after all, which is pretty silly of me.

Z’s day in a nutshell

  • Nadfas lecture today on Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Paris.  I’d agreed to give the vote of thanks.  She was a really good speaker, very knowledgeable and enthusiastic but she had, if anything, tried to fit too much in and tying it all up in a minute’s thanks was not the easiest task.
  • Then we went to the lovely tea shop and bought nice teas.
  • LT prepared dinner.  It was splendid.
  • I had an early bath.
  • Now I’m winding down for an earlyish night.