Z lit the fire and is now too hot

Tim is off on his travels down the motorway again – it’s a weekly thing at present, but we hope that won’t go on for too much longer.  Here, it’s cold.  I lit the fire this evening.  I didn’t desperately need it, but it’s cheering when you’re alone and the chill of the day justified it.

I went to Norwich today for a Nadfas lecture (they’ve changed the name of Nadfas, but they were silly to do so, so I’m kind enough to ignore it) and half thought of shopping afterwards, but  shops don’t seem to do clothes for me.  Unless it’s essential I keep trying, I need to find something I like within a few minutes or I’m disheartened and don’t bother.  Every dress was sleeveless and every top was gaudy and there didn’t seem to be any skirts.  Or jackets, which I really do need, unless they were obviously part of a suit.  So I came home instead and ate rice salad with avocado and hard boiled egg for lunch.  I’d cooked too much rice on purpose last night – and since LT isn’t here, I’ve got enough for tomorrow’s dinner as well, for I’m out to lunch.

With much resentment, I’ll go to the new bank in Yagnub tomorrow, which is a van that comes for two hours, twice a week, some half a mile from the town centre – though it is near the library.  I have a cheque to pay in for over £1000, payment for china that I’ve already paid the vendor for,  and sent off the china itself because the buyer is someone I trust.  I have decided, though, to open an account with one of the internet only banks – none of the high street banks, which have all abandoned Yagnub in the past few years, will get more than a modest sum from me in future.  For convenience, I keep a fair amount in a deposit account.  My banking is free and I appreciate that it costs the bank money, so don’t mind it investing my basic savings and paying me very little.  Or, I didn’t mind.  Now I do, and that bank will have less to invest.  A few thousand pounds, but it’s all I can do to protest.

It’s now quarter past nine and I shall read for the rest of the evening.  Cheery-pip, darlings.

Z rices to the occasion

I made kedgeree for dinner tonight, which inspired me to enthuse, in the Z manner – LT read this blog long enough before we put our lives together,  to know what to expect and he hasn’t been disappointed about my capacity for enthusiasm, though he might well, sometimes, have felt somewhat overwhelmed by it.

Two of my greatest comfort foods, you see, are kedgeree and risotto; both to make and to eat.  Both, of course, are made with rice.  And this made me think about rice dishes, as used all over the world.  So many countries have their stand-alone dishes made with rice.

A rice dish that’s an accompaniment is another matter – obviously no less valid as a dish, but egg-fried rice is not supposed to be eaten on its own.

So, Italy has risotto, of course, and Spain has paella.  The Southern United States have jambalaya.  We have kedgeree – inspired by Indian kitchree (there are other spellings), of course, but that is essentially a rice and lentil dish (so I guess that counts for India), which was altered by Anglo-Indian cooks and brought over to become a British staple.  North Africa and the Middle East have pilau and pilaff … but that’s as far as we got.  On balance, we thought that Caribbean rice and peas was an accompaniment, and so were the Far Eastern dishes we happen to know, but we’d really like to be educated on the subject, if any of you can point us in the right direction.

A bit to our surprise, we couldn’t think of a French all-in-one rice dish either.

My mother read, years ago, that rice, lamb and pears were the foodstuffs that were least likely to provoke an allergic reaction, and that they could be the starting points for a diet, if one had symptoms of an allergy/intolerance but one didn’t know what provoked it.  One then introduced other foods, one by one.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true or not – in the internet age, one has learned to be wary of an unsubstantiated source – but it does, on the whole, seem that rice is one of the good guys.  I like it, anyway.  And there’s enough kedgeree left over for one portion so, the next time LT goes back to Reading on his own, it’ll be a meal for one of us.

Z is sociable with the Bears

I visited Charlotte in hospital again today and she’s starting to get better.  She’s still on morphine for the pain, but she can move more easily and she’s starting to get bored, which is a good sign, if frustrating for her.

While I was there, Mrs B – aka The Small Bear – answered my reply to her comment the other day, to say she was at home and so, when I left the hospital, I took it upon myself to impose on her hospitality.  In fact, Sir Bruin had also arrived home by then (they were kind and unwise enough to let me have their address some four years ago), so they invited me in for coffee and a chat.  Which was a pleasure.

When Paul the Fish called round this morning, he had sea trout for sale – a rare treat, so we bought some and ate it this evening with local asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes.  I baked the fish en papillote with a splash of wine, and it was delicious.  We are building up a list of favourite fish, but it keeps lengthening.  And methods for each; ditto.  I’m not too good at narrowing down favourite foods, actually.  I like too many of them.

Z stocks up

I took Ro and family to the airport this morning – first holiday with young Rufus, who was excited at the prospect of flying – and went to the street fair on the way home.  It had rained first thing, but had dried up by the time I was there and was pleasant, neither warm nor cool.

Because the weather was so cold in the spring, I never did get around to sowing the seeds I normally do.  I put in a few tomatoes, but no other indoor stuff – and when i finally sowed those, it was just before an unseasonable heatwave, and it was too hot for some seeds to germinate.  So I’ve got about six tomatoes, rather small, of two varieties.  No aubergines nor peppers.

The growers at the market had problems too, as some regulars weren’t there and others didn’t have the range of stuff they usually do.  I found one stall with four aubergine plants, rather small, and bought two of them; another with some good tomatoes and another again with cheaper but much smaller tomato seedlings and the latter was the only one with any pepper plants.  I bought other stuff too and carried it back to the car when I’d got all I could carry.  There was one other stall, but I just couldn’t manage any more bags.  I did want the lovely deep red dahlias they had though (and quite a lot else, when it came to it) so set off again.  And saw a woman struggling with her purchases.  She had a bag of plants, a large terracotta pot and three iron ornaments, which were poles, about five feet long with, at one end, something decorative – I think they might have been poppy heads.  I offered to help carry them and she demurred but eventually accepted and she clearly couldn’t manage it all.  She was with two other friends but their hands were full too.  “They’re really heavy,” she said, and so they were.  It was only bravado that stopped me from swapping hands half way.  But we all made it to their car and I went back to buy the rest of the stuff.

I’ve potted it all up, so felt cheered.  And I had a nap this afternoon because I’m lazy and also couldn’t sleep last night, for no good reason.  And this evening, I’ve accidentally thrown away a new contact lens and I’m feeling quite cross with myself.  Only about that, though.  Fairly cheery otherwise.

Polly-wolly-doodle all the day

Rose called me over to listen to her hen Polly.  “She’s trying to crow!” she said.  Polly puffed herself up, sitting on the fence, but she wouldn’t crow again.  But Canasta did, a couple of weeks ago.  I heard that.  She made a decent fist of it too, if that isn’t too dodgy an expression.

There are just three hens and one cock, and Jenga the cock has been very interested in the three black Newbies recently (from outside their greenhouse), so maybe Polly, Scrabble and Canasta have felt neglected.  I’d never come across hens trying to crow before, I don’t know how common it is.  There’s no sex change – even more unlikely – as Polly and Scrabble are laying and Canasta has become broody.

I finally got around to planting out vegetables today.  I’ve grown very little this year so far.  The weather was against me and this is supposed to be a hobby.  Tomorrow, it’s the street fair: I’ve spoken about them before.  There are three every year, the May one being gardening, the July one is antiques and the December fair is Christmas.  The street is closed and there are lots of stalls.  It’s all good fun and they’ve been going for many years – the Christmas one started it off, some 35 years ago.  Then, it was an evening do, but eventually it changed to all-day, and the others were added too.

I’ve got a few tomato seedlings, but otherwise no greenhouse veggies at all, so hope to get a few plants.  And otherwise, whatever catches our eyes.  First, I’m going to Norwich to take Ro and Dora and young Rufus to the local airport, because they’re going on holiday.  So I’m not playing the organ tomorrow, which is no loss to anyone at all.

Z mourns localism

While Tim is away, I usually manage to catch up on a few items of paperwork that are too boring to waste time on when we’re together – and, since the deadline is Tuesday and I posted that particular one last night, I feel I’m ahead of the game and sorted.

The last bank in town closed yesterday, and we’re all very resentful.  The next town, six miles away, is twice the size but has All The Banks and two or three building societies too.  The bastards haven’t even left behind their cash point.  They are, as a great concession, sending a mobile bank for a couple of hours twice a week.

They say there aren’t enough regular customers to be viable, but of course they manipulate the figures.  For one thing, they only count those people who go every single week.  For another, they’ve spent several years sending their customers elsewhere.  When Russell died, there were still three banks in Yagnub; HSBC having closed down a long time previously.  He had accounts at all of them and I was obliged to go to a branch in a different town for each.  None of them would make appointments in Yagnub to deal with any business at all, you could only pay in cheques or pay in or withdraw cash; very little else.  It didn’t matter if you were bereaved or old with limited mobility.  They wanted an excuse to close the branch, so wouldn’t let you do your business there.

I really wish I could cock a snook at them all, but it is more trouble than the principle is worth.  I have accounts with two banks, because I won’t give all my custom to one, and there are standing orders and direct debits in and out, I can’t quite face it.

Still.  There we go.  It isn’t good for me to be angry.

Yesterday, I went to Ippy Hospital to visit a friend who’s had a horse riding accident.  She’s a good and competent rider, but Joey was startled when a gust of wind made her shirt billow – it was tucked in and didn’t blow around, but he heard it and he bolted.  She clung on and readied herself for him jumping the gate he was galloping up to ….. and he stopped dead and she fell off.  She has broken her pelvis, her sacrum and her hip socket on the right side.  Awfully unlucky, but at least she didn’t land on her head or break her back.  Her instructor, who owns the horse, was filming her, until Joey bolted, then you just got jolted grass and sky, as she ran to help.  “Oh shit!” and she ran and there were just voices.  One caught the horse and calmed him, another went to Lottie and spoke to her gently, another phoned for an ambulance, and they all did the right thing.  I cried when I saw it.

I was her first visitor, and I’ll go again next week – it’s not an easy journey for most of her friends and her daughter is in Italy, and Lottie played it all down so that she didn’t feel she should come home.  She won’t be able to manage at home for a while, and will have to go to a cottage hospital for daily physiotherapy after she leaves hospital.  There are a few of them about still, fortunately, though most of them have been shut down.

Z is puzzled by a toothbrush

LT has gone on one of his regular trips to his house – it hadn’t originally been planned for this week, so it left me with a couple of spare days, I thought.  But so far, they’re turning out to be busier than expected.  I’ve found myself running several times, not to waste time in more leisurely ambulation.

This doesn’t suggest I’ve been working especially hard, and some of the reason for hurrying was the couple of hours spent at a local pub/restaurant having a chatty lunch with Rose, but the only parts that had been planned originally were the bread making and the laundry, and no gardening has been done unless you count grabbing a few handfuls of grass and weeds to give the chickens.

A friend of mine is in hospital with a broken pelvis, having been thrown by her horse, which was spooked by something – her instructor was videoing her, because it’s a good way of discussing technique afterwards, and she sent me the video.  It was quite upsetting: she was cantering along and rounding a corner when the horse started to dance sideways; next thing was a gasp and “oh shit!” from the instructor and then there was the sound of people running to her, catching and reassuring the horse, reassuring Charlotte, phoning for an ambulance and so on.  No one filmed her as she lay, which would have been awfully intrusive – it was just the phone in the instructor’s hand which hadn’t been switched off and filmed the grass and whatever it aimed at as she ran.  Anyway, Charlotte is in a lot of pain and became dizzy when she tried to stand today.  I’m not sure how long she’ll be in hospital, but it’s all going to be awkward as she lives in an upstairs flat, out in the country, and she’ll be out of action for a couple of months.  I’m going to visit her tomorrow.

For the past few nights, I’ve been puzzled by my electric toothbrush.  Easily confused, you will think, and I can hardly deny it – but the toothbrush didn’t feel right.  And it didn’t quite look right either.  It needed a new head, so I changed that, but it still wasn’t right and I couldn’t think why. And then it started to go slower and sounded tired.  It dawned on me that it wasn’t my toothbrush at all, not was it LT’s, so it must be Wink’s.  When she came to stay, she put hers next to mine and she picked up the wrong one.

About a minute after realising that, it died altogether, so I took it to the charger.  I have three chargers; two for toothbrushes and one for an inter-dental spray gizmo.  This fits none of them.  So Wink and I both have useless toothbrushes for the next few weeks.  I went and bought a new  toothbrush.  Then, asking Charlotte if there was anything she needed, she asked if I could bring her a toothbrush and toothpaste.  So I went back into Boots, rather hoping I wasn’t served by the same assistant – who probably wouldn’t have noticed that I’d been in twice in an afternoon to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, now I think about it.

While Tim is away, I’ll mostly be eating eggs.  And asparagus and strawberries, of course.  But mostly eggs.  First, I’m going out to see if the chickens all go into the shed together tonight.

Z enjoys summer in springtime

Today was even hotter than yesterday, around 25ºC, which was very enjoyable.  It’s due to cool down for the rest of the week, so I should get some gardening done.  Last night, we put the chickens in with the newbies after dark, and this evening they went in of their own accord, all except the old bantam.  She returned to the coop, and I fetched her after she’d gone to roost.  She’d looked quite discomfited to be the only one, so I hope she’ll join them all tomorrow night. It’s all gone very smoothly, I’m glad I took it slowly.  I’m very fond of my girls and didn’t want them stressed.  We’re going to put wire round the shed, though, the rats are biting at the door already and I have to put a slab of concrete where they’ve gnawed.

I really wish I enjoyed reading on a Kindle.  I’ve got a number of books downloaded – this is the app on phone or iPad, I don’t have an actual Kindle because it’d be a waste – but a book has to be one I’ve read before and don’t have to concentrate on fully, or else something quite light, because it doesn’t engage me like a real book does.  My sister has gone over mostly to Kindle books though, as have some other friends and it’s certainly easiest on holiday if you’re limited by space or weight.  I was invited to join a book group nearly two years ago – this was something I’d always thought wasn’t me at all, but it’s a small group of lovely friends, and we’re limited to eight as that’s the most that someone can get round her dining table – and it’s very enjoyable.  Last month, we talked over dinner about books versus Kindle, and we were pretty well equally divided.  Neither faction rejected the other’s preference, though, it was just a matter of convenience and enjoyment, of course.

I just sneezed.  Four times over a few minutes.  Five, dammit.  I hate sneezing.  My ears are ringing now.  They were big sneezes and there’s no reason for it.  Dammit.

Darlings, it’s nearly ten o’clock and I’m such a lightweight nowadays, I’ll be off to bed soon.  I’m catching up on blogs tomorrow though.  I seem to have time  either to read or to write but not both – I don’t like the phone app of any feed reader and don’t get to the computer for more than half an hour or so at a time – but I do miss you.


Z continues to loaf…

Weeza and co and Ro and family came over for the day and, as the forecast was so fine, we risked a barbecue.  It went well and the children played outside very happily.  I’d decided to make it easy by buying cakes from the local deli, but I decided at the last minute to try my hand at pitta bread, which meant I did spend an appreciable time in the kitchen this morning after all.  We also decided to fry onions, which take ages to cook, of course, so the kitchen was quite hot…

The pitta bread recipe is almost exactly the same as naan bread, which I make regularly and usually have in the freezer.  The main difference is that naan is made with milk (and sometimes yoghurt) whilst pitta has water.  I usually make brown bread – a mixture of white and wholemeal flour – so all white dough is a doddle to work with.

It has to be said, the price charged for “artisan” bread is not that easy to justify.  There’s a regular baker’s in the town and also a specialist baker’s (which is sited in Alex’s old shop; they did a lot of renovation, turned his upstairs store room into a café and seem to be doing very well).  The specialist bread is very good, but I’m not sure how they can charge £3.50 – £4 for a loaf that is not even sourdough.  I know that smaller quantities are made, not least because the dough is risen more slowly, but doubling the price of the other baker’s bread is quite a lot.  It costs less than £2 for 1.5k of flour from the wholefood shop, £1.24 for 125g of yeast and I add some seeds, a bit of oil or butter and so on, but it costs well under £1 for a loaf using 500g of flour and takes little actual working time.

Having said that, I do think that better bread is a very good thing.  I don’t hesitate to buy the good stuff if I haven’t got around to making bread – and it does make one more aware of quality.

We’re about to have some bread and cheese for supper, in fact.  Tim has got it all ready – so Eloise cat came to sit on my lap, just in time to prevent me going to eat it.  I’ll make it clear I love having her here.  That’ll soon shift her.

Chickens again – a mystery

It was hot and sunny again and I went down to the greenhouse to spray some water around – plants usually don’t mind being hot as long as they aren’t too dry – and a cock and a chicken were ambling around the kitchen garden, which isn’t unusual as Rose’s lot are let out in the day: but I did a double-take.  It wasn’t any of her chickens, it was my Seramas; Crow the cock and Yvette the little female.  They were perfectly happy and composed, so I shot over to the chicken greenhouse and could see hens through the netting … and I could also see Rose’s cockerel, Jenga in there.

None of us has any idea how this happened.  All my other chickens were in their greenhouse and Rose’s girls were out in the garden.  Even if there had been a gap big enough for Crow and Yvette, but not the others, to get out, that doesn’t explain how Jenga got in.  It’s possible, I suppose, and the only explanation I can think of, that I’d not fastened the door properly, my two escaped, Jenga went in and then the breeze blew the door shut again, but that seems pretty unlikely.  However *all quote Sherlock Holmes* …

I went to fetch Rose and I must have looked anxious because she was instantly worried.  But it was fine.  My two had decided they’d like to go home, so Rose went and invited Jenga out into the garden by the door at one end, and I opened the door at the other, and it’s all back to normal.  But it made me check the greenhouse thoroughly and then we did a job we’ve meant to do for a while – we’ve got some fairly dense mesh that I think was originally for a poly tunnel frame; but shading rather than polythene, which never got put up.  I’ve got sections of the chicken greenhouse covered in this already but I wanted some more.  It’s an awkward job, but LT and I managed it between us.  And this evening after dark, unless we can’t be bothered, we’ll go out and put the chickens in the coop into the shed.

Otherwise, we’ve mostly lounged around.  Because it’s a holiday weekend and we’re in the mood for enjoying the sunshine.