Z is ahead of the game

All those little sparrowbeak milk jugs sold well. It’s an appealing shape and there are lots of differently painted or decorated ones. Most of my clients have had everything sold, though one had six out of about thirty unsold – the only ones in the whole auction, as it happens.

Various things suddenly went awry yesterday from about 6.30 in the evening and I gave up and went to bed early, though I was anxious enough to sleep very badly. But it’s been okay today. One potential problem was cleared up quickly and I’ve done all the auction accounts. I haven’t done my income and expenditure thing yet but I will tomorrow.

It is the people, the collecting enthusiasts, that I love and do this job for. Yesterday, I delivered a couple of pieces of china to a friend who is housebound since breaking her upper arm a few years ago. Her front and back doors are awkward, she can’t manage them with a frame and she’s too proud to use a wheelchair, and too attached to her home to agree to any alterations being made. That’s that. She’s not the only good friend with a whole lot of won’t-power. But she is so thrilled with her purchases, really excited. She couldn’t stop smiling.

Yesterday, I had a cheque for £10 from a couple who only owed me £7.60 for postage and a £20 note from someone else who never buys but likes to have the catalogues, and was feeling guilty. I honestly don’t mind and was a bit startled to receive tips, but I’ve thanked them with an appreciation of the spirit of the thought. And this morning, while taking a break from the accounts, I went to the front door to pick up the post and there was a large box of Guernsey flowers. It was a huge bunch of carnations from a lovely couple in their nineties, who were thanking me for bidding on their behalf and … well, that was it, really. I am friendly of course and I’m very fond of them, though I don’t suppose I’ll ever meet them. And I’ve had emails of thanks from both buyers and sellers. I bought a piece myself, a miniature teapot (it’s adorable, about 3 inches high) which had belonged to a lovely woman who died nearly four years ago from motor neurone disease. Her dear husband used to always come to the sales with her, they lived 60 miles away. And you could see their happiness and how he adored her. I bought it to remember her by and told him, and he’s so pleased.

Anyway, I didn’t sleep too well, as I said, but I’ve put myself right again now because people are so kind and there’s so much to love. And Tim is home again and we had a big dish of roasted vegetables with home-laid eggs (only one chicken is laying as far as I know, but she’s reliable) and I have eaten nothing but vegetables, with a little cheese and a few eggs and some bread, for several days and I feel so damn virtuous. But mostly because I’ve paid everyone and, my target being to do that within a week, I’m a whole 24 hours ahead of myself.

Soon, I hope to catch up with blogs. I’m sorry, I’ve been neglectful, but I have missed you all and I’ll drop in to say hello in the next few days.

Sunday is the weekend

I’ve sold a few more pieces of china and I’m feeling pretty chipper. I’ve got the paperwork for the sale in an envelope, which I haven’t opened. I was going to, today, but I haven’t done it. Enough: I only work at the weekend if I have to, nowadays. It used to be routine but I have woken up.

I’m not counting clients calling in to pick up their china, though, especially if I sell an extra piece. And I’ve sorted out builder and gasman and solicitor too, it’s been quite enough for now. Tim is in Reading for a couple of days and I’ve got tomorrow morning to get down to business.

If I don’t get everything done that I want to, I will be obliged to kick myself. And that would be silly.

I’ve arranged to meet Ro and co on Wednesday for lunch, anyway, so that will be great. Tim will be back by then. We’re meeting at the lovely local farm shop. There are lots of animals – I think there’s a farm trail, if they want to do it, but there’s a number of them roaming around as you drive in, plus others in pens in the field. They’ve got Jersey cows, known as the Goddesses, plus various other farm animals, and the geese, guinea fowl, goats, emus, peacocks etc are pets.

Z prepares to be merry

The auction went well. Very well in fact, and it’s given me food for thought for the future. I don’t quite know how to staff it yet but I’m seriously thinking about having live online bidding. I know it’s skewed because of the pandemic, but about 15 lots were bought online and a number of others were bid for. I’ve ended up (having sold two pieces after the sale) with only nine unsold lots and I may sell one or two more. I just wish I was actually making any money out of it, but there we go. Can’t have everything and a success has to be appreciated.

I’ve just got a couple more phone calls to make tomorrow, to unsuccessful bidders, and several people coming to pick up their china over the weekend. Then some pieces to put in the post on Monday, by which time I’ll be reporting back to the vendors and I’ll pay some of them, anyway. I will have to wait for a few cheques to clear before paying everyone. I aim for a week for all the paperwork to be done, but it may run a couple of days over this time.

And then, darlings, jollifercations (as we say in Norfolk), Covid permitting, for the rest of the year. I will ignore anything to the contrary. Unless it goes seriously awry, of course. But if we don’t have hope, truly, what do we have? Let’s dance the year away.

A tank of pet newts and a couple of snails….

I had a ludicrous dream the night before last, which was funny enough to wake me up laughing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and, every time I nearly dropped off again, the punchline (delivered by a talking newt) came into my mind and I had to consciously not laugh out loud and disturb Tim.

I’ve been dozy ever since, of course. But at least I’ve done the paperwork for tomorrow’s auction and spun a few more metaphorical plates as well, so I feel that I’m as up together as I can be. How I’ll feel at the end of tomorrow, I don’t have the foreknowledge. I know that at least 30 lots will have sold, because I’ve had quite a number of bids. I’ve sent them to the salesroom or sent the names of the buyers so that they can all be logged in and given individual numbers. I’ve totted up the sum that I might have offered to pay up-front, gone “HOW MUCH? Idiot” and transferred enough into one account that I can do it. It’ll all come back within a week, so it’s not actually a problem.

I talked to Tim this evening about the auctions and other things and realised, we both did, yet again, how much we think alike and get each other. I thanked him at the end, which surprised him a bit, but often I’m not “got.” And we’re going out to lunch on Friday, for sure. Planning ahead, you see. Gets you through the next two days, at any rate.

Hello

I wrote a post. It was laboured. It seemed that I didn’t have much to say, so I didn’t inflict it on the blogosphere. This is a change from a few years ago, when I posted every day whether I had something to say or not.

I packed up all the china and Elizabeth, the lovely auctioneer, picked it up yesterday to take it to the saleroom. I have an easy few days now. I’ve got to sort out all the commission bids, which are in a notebook but will mostly be put in the auctioneer’s book. Some are either/or bids, I’ll take care of them myself. What I mean is, they might say they want to spend £*so much* so please stop bidding when they’ve reached their limit. Or, I want to buy a sparrowbeak jug but I’ve put in bids for several, so stop once I’ve bought one. That happened last year with a little leaf-shaped dish, known as a pickle dish. I had five in the sale and they all went well. Someone wanted one and didn’t succeed until the last of the five.

I’m very focussed on the auction at present, so apologise for banging on about it rather a lot. Less than a week to go and then I’ll move on to … whatever. I don’t know what else there is to think about. I hope we might see some of the family over half term, but it may be illegalised, in which case we won’t. With little faith in the government, we still don’t intend to be part of the problem.

I woke at 6.30 this morning, having missed the milkman – I sometimes hear him at about half past three – and found an email to say I’d received a refund for part of my order. Since we have orange juice and croissants delivered on a Friday and look forward to it, I was ready to be sunk into gloom. But it was all right. The half pound of butter wasn’t available today, for some reason. I do have a couple of emergency croissants stashed in the freezer as it happens, because I put them in there when Tim was away last month, not having cancelled. So we had our croissants and homemade raspberry jam, with orange juice and felt we’d had a weekly treat after all.

When it was raining the other day, I kept the chickens in and found that one of the big black hens laid an egg. Tim, being more observant than I am, discovered where that hen was laying yesterday, near the house. He picked up the egg, but she laid there again today and I left it. If that egg vanishes, the hedgehog is pinching it but, if not, I’ll take one of the two every day. What does puzzle me is that the young pullets don’t seem to be laying. They should be by now. They might get shut up until they do – except I’m too soft-hearted. I just keep buying eggs and acknowledge that I have expensive chickens.

Domestic God-zed

Hah, well, the son apologised for getting it wrong. We move on.

Main achievement of the day has been some of the ironing. I’ve ironed all the napkins and pillowcases, plus my clothes. 7 tablecloths, 5 king sized duvet covers and a pile of Tim’s shirts and trousers to go. By the time that’s done, of course there will be another pile of washing to be dealt with.

Otherwise, I’ve been taking commission bids for the auction. There seems to be quite a lot of interest this year, which is encouraging, but of course I don’t know yet how it will go overall. I don’t tend to worry overmuch if I can’t do anything about it, so feel fairly relaxed.

Having been talking about favourite cookery books, I’ve looked at some of them again and am enthused by recipes that I haven’t cooked for some time, but which are well worth revisiting. Tim has, similarly, remembered books he loves and maybe hasn’t looked at enough recently. Mind you, I’ve got my eye on a few more books because there’s no such thing as too many cookbooks. It’s the way they’re written as much as the recipes, isn’t it?

Z loses her spring

The day went well until the end, when it didn’t exactly go wrong but I was wound up at a time of day when I am ready to wind down.

I managed to do quite a lot really. I started with the worst thing, which is always a good idea. I wrote to my solicitor who, sorry to say, has left undone those things which he ought to have done and told him so. And asked for an acknowledgement of my letter and when I could expect a time schedule and approximate cost of those things that he ought to have done. I said it politely, of course.

I did quite a lot of cooking and, as Paul the Fish called this morning, we now have enough food for the week, except for vegetables.

We tidied and hoovered. We entertained a friend for afternoon tea. I took several phone calls and emails with commission bids for the auction. I brought pots containing frost-sensitive plants indoors and washed the mud off the paving; though that work isn’t finished yet and I’ve just discovered a lot of bulbs that I removed from pots in the spring and now need replanting.

I forget the rest, but I didn’t get around to any ironing, which was also on the mental List. But there’s no hurry for that. I should mention, however, that Tim cleaned up the kitchen. Twice. Once before I cooked and once afterwards.

The winding up thing was a friend emailing to say her son said that we were breaking the law by proposing to meet for lunch because more than one household isn’t allowed to mix. So she’d cancel. Now, this dear friend is in her late eighties and has had cancer for many years, it having recurred for the severalth time at the start of the year. I completely appreciate her son being very protective. But neither the restaurant nor I is breaking the law and wouldn’t do so. I sent a screenshot of the BBC website saying what the law is in Norwich. She’s still cancelling and that’s quite understandable, though I think that her officious son should be kinder to his mother, who has hardly seen another soul for seven months and had been looking forward to meeting a few friends. I was quite forthright in saying that her son was wrong about the law, however, and please would she reassure him? I would not want misinformation to be spread about the restaurant, nor about me. I was nice but, for me, quite sharp and I’d really like to be assertive with the erroneous son. I’ll never meet him though, so it won’t happen.

But it’s the wrong time of day for it and I’m upset. Not even for myself, but because the wretched man, who’s probably about my age and should know a lot better, can’t be bothered to get his facts right and convinces his poor mum that he knows all, when she’s vulnerable and anxious. “I’ll check and get back to you, mum,” would have been fine. “I’d honestly rather you didn’t mum, I worry about you” would have been fine.

There are, of course, tricks and techniques for putting oneself into a good humour and I recognise, too, that I’m tired because I’ve been busy today. So I’ll be tranquil again later and I’ll certainly find something to laugh about, because that’s best of all.

Young Z’s cookery books

I was thinking about cookery books, the other day. When I first got married, I was already a reasonably proficient cook, which was just as well because Russell wasn’t up to much in the kitchen. He had lunch in a nice local cafe most days and I don’t suppose he bothered much in the evenings, unless his mum had supplied him with something.

His cooking arrangements were a bit basic, though quite adequate. He had a small second-hand electric cooker, which I’d used before I lived in his house but, as I was used to gas, I forgot that there wasn’t a visible flame. After cooking for us once, I left the hotplate on and, next morning, he found that a plastic container had melted a bit. At least a lesson was learned without a disaster.

The first cookbook I had was Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. I still have that very book on my kitchen shelf and use it regularly. It was actually a fabulous book for a keen cook who wasn’t used to planning and cooking every single day (for the rest of her life *horrified emoji*) as it had something of everything, lots of anecdotes and explanations and there was nothing that was likely to go wrong.

My second book is still on the shelf and, again, it’s a good one. Robert Carrier, Cooking For You. Very straightforward and clear, two recipes to each page with a photo at the top of each column and the ingredients and method underneath.

I also had Good Housekeeping’s Cookery Encyclopaedia, in two volumes, arranged alphabetically. That is very good for basic knowledge, such as proportions and general information. I used it most recently when I was out of baking powder and needed proportions and quantities of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar; and when I made lemonade – though I’ve changed the recipe because it’s got too much sugar for today’s tastes.

Tastes have changed, certainly. I remember my mother having several American cookbooks, and she routinely halved the sugar in them. But her lemon syllabub recipe is too sweet for today. And yet most people eat more sweets than they did then, and drink drier wine. And most of us are fatter than most people were forty years ago. *Shrug emoji*

Z’s weekend started at 11 this morning

I made a gratifying discovery this morning. I’d got so well ahead of myself that I had time to tot up my income from last year and it was more than I thought it was. I realise now that I’ve never taken my old age pension into account. Anyway, Charlotte the accountant hid her astonishment well, on finding that everything was listed, with invoices for expenses and so on. I didn’t mention quite how many hours it had taken, but it was only a long half day, in fact. And it’s done. Woo hoo hoo.

So LT kindly took me out to lunch today, to mark the end of the *working* week. We went to a cafe about 12 miles away, recommended by a friend who said it was “fun.” And so it was, with a pleasingly friendly atmosphere. It’s in an ex-farm building with other buildings turned into a feed shop and a tool shop and so on – there’s been a fair bit of that sort of thing around in the last decade or two. The food was very good, which is the main thing, and we probably ate a bit more than we really needed; though it was only meat and vegetables really, so hardly a heavy meal. All the same, Tim suggested French onion soup for supper, since I had some stock left from the partridge bones I cooked the other day. Two partridges for £4 fed us a roast dinner, two meals of minestrone soup and one of French onion. The vegetables and the wine in the soup probably cost about the same – certainly 8 portions at about £1 each and it felt like luxury foods.

After Simon Greengrocer put his sad story on Facebook the other day, he received a lot of support. He also had comments that queuing outside in the rain would surely put people off, as winter came. So he rearranged everything so that three people can go in and help themselves, with the assistant behind a screen and a counter. Everyone is polite and considerate, so it will work okay. I asked him if it’s helped and he said he’s been really busy since and appreciates the support he’s been shown.

I think it’ll be an early night here. I’m such a lightweight nowadays. I miss the Z whose evening started about 10 o’clock. Now, that’s when it ends.

Z needs a deadline

I should have done my annual accounts on Tuesday, the day I’d earmarked. But I didn’t. I faffed around, pretending to be busy. Deadline is 10.30 tomorrow morning and I was out yesterday. So it had to be done today, but I still spent the morning on other things.

However, I’ve never missed a deadline yet and I finally got the work done by 7 o’clock this evening. I had one more set of expenses that I couldn’t track down, and Tim suggested I search again in the morning, but I persevered and found them. Hah.

Expenses were so heavy for the last tax year that I shouldn’t be paying any tax, but the self-employed system means that I’m charged half next year’s up front, so I will. But it’ll come off the year after (and be charged the next year, so I have alternate fat and lean years, taxwise) and it levels out in the end.

Either you do your tax returns as soon as possible or leave it as late as you can. On the fence as I habitually am, I do neither. Normally, I get it done in the summer, but my accountant has been on maternity leave (lovely little baby boy) so it’s slightly late.

My two sons are so different. Al used to leave it until January, as close to the deadline as he could, whereas Ro does his in April, as soon as the tax year starts. Just doing it in time is all that matters, though.

Anyway, enough about that. I’ve had at least half a dozen phone calls today, which was a bit unnerving as weeks can pass without any at all. So I dealt with all those things as they arose. I also – to avoid the accounts – made two loaves of bread and some naan breads, and yoghurt, and bought coal (smokeless fuel nowadays) and I can’t quite remember everything else, but I was very busy. So was Tim. The weekend will start as soon as the accountant leaves tomorrow morning and we will be jolly. Jollifercations, as they say in Norfolk.