We did all that – we’d hope that the bed wouldn’t have to be dismantled completely, because it would be simpler both for us and for the end recipient but, though we managed to get it – minus the head and foot board – down the first flight of stairs, there’s an awkward turn to the stairs down to the hall, so we just took it apart to its basics.

In the morning, I suddenly suggested taking a set of Allen keys as well as the various screwdrivers, and both LT and I felt I was being a bit OTT, but I took them anyway.  And HAH.  They were just what we needed.  And there were actually two sets in the bag, so we were both able to work at the numerous attachments.  It was all quite a lot of work and we were both tired by the end of the day, with one thing and another.  But it’s done and I drove there and he drove back and it couldn’t have been achieved by one person, certainly not by me – it’s a height thing as much as strength.

Today, I had an email to say that the new tenants have passed the reference and other hurdles and they’ve signed the contract too.  So I’m jolly relieved and all’s set.  I left them a nice note, welcoming them, giving them the meter readings and so on.  Every time I visit the flat, i think how lovely it is there.  It’s spacious for its size, even I could live there … if I didn’t actually have any stuff.  Which isn’t going to happen, but if it did.

I’ve dealt with all the photos, which takes quite a long time.  And now I’ve just got to finish the catalogue descriptions, ready for Weeza to design the catalogue itself.  And then the boring bit will be out of the way.  Hoorah.

Z snaps shots

We’ve finished the photography, though I’ve got to edit the pictures – just crop them, I don’t enhance them, of course.  And then write the catalogue.  I’ve also arranged for the British Heart Foundation to pick up the unwanted furniture – my previous tenant asked me to provide a bed and sofa, but the new ones already have furniture.  So LT and I are driving down tomorrow to put up the smoke alarms and dismantle the bed and do a final check.  And then we’ll be ready.  And by the end of the month, so will the catalogue, I hope.

But all that photography gave me a headache, so I’ve taken most of the afternoon off.  I’m not fond of photography, on the whole.  The placement of the pieces for the group photos on the front and back of the catalogue take the most time – how they look in the photo isn’t necessarily the same as you see them in front of you, of course.  So I set them out, take pictures, adjusting distances and angles, and then put them on the computer and see how it could be improved and go back – at least I’d chosen fairly well this time, some years the pieces that really must go on the front cover just don’t go well together without judicious placing.  Last year, for example, it was the addition of a Mandarin pattern saucer dish (a shallow saucer about the size of a dinner plate) that just tied in all the rest.  Weeza asked, the other day, what I really enjoy about the auctions enough to carry on with them and my first answer was the sale itself.  I do love an auction, especially ours where we see so many people who’ve become friends over the years.  And I don’t really want to let drop the knowledge that I’ve built up over the years.

Though a piece that I’d been sent by post for the sale puzzled me the other day.  When I opened it, I thought how nice it was and quite early and unusual, but then I looked again and wasn’t sure.  The shape of the saucer looked right and the china itself, the border and the footring ticked the right boxes, but it was a pattern I’ve never seen.  And that wasn’t impossible, but the glaze was just so good that it didn’t seem right.  I couldn’t think what other factory it would be, though – it was certainly 18th Century English soft-paste porcelain.  When my colleague David came, I showed it to him and asked what he thought and we went through all the pros and cons again and were still not sure.  Since, I’ve taken it to show to a friend who is a great expert and even she is having to think about it.  She apologised for not giving an instant answer, but I said it actually made me feel happier about not knowing myself.  I’ve left it with her and she’ll examine it again.

Birthday weekend coming up

LT has been away for a couple of days, though he’ll be back by lunchtime tomorrow, and I’ve been over to visit Weeza and co today.  It’ll be Zerlina’s ninth birthday tomorrow and Gus’s sixth on Sunday.  Their other grandmother is also visiting and staying for a week.

I woke early this morning and went to make myself breakfast sometime after five.  When Eloise cat came in a bit later, wet from the rain, she was very pleased to discover I’d remembered her butter and Marmite.  I can’t deny that she’s pampered.  And I’ll have to get her something nice for her Sunday dinner, as it’ll be her third birthday.

I’ve taken the easy way out with all my children’s birthdays this year, by saying that we’ll babysit the children and pay for an evening out for each of them – though none of them has actually taken me up on it yet, they’re all pleased at the prospect.  Next month, all three children-in-law have birthdays too and I will have to think of actual tangible presents – and I’d better get my skates on as two of them are in the first week of September.  Birthdays at the start of the month have a tendency to catch me out.

I’m very pleased that the letting agent has found me new tenants for my London flat, which is quite a relief as it has been empty for several months while work was being done there.  I’ve signed my part of the tenancy agreement tonight and they’re due to move in tomorrow week – I’ve still got a couple of things to do there, one of which is put up new smoke alarms, so it’ll mean another visit early in the week.  And I’ve got to fit in the writing of the catalogue and the photography, so I’ll have to be a little less lazy than usual.

Heart grows fonder

The china has been put in order and the condition report has been done.  Photos have been taken but I’m not happy with them – my own fault, I did the set-up too quickly and it’s just wrong.  So we’ll do them again, but not in a hurry.

LT is away for a couple of days, and it’s very quiet.  Not that he’s noisy, but there’s a vast empty space here.  He’s not vast either (I’ll stop digging, by and by) but it’s his absence that leaves a black hole.  I’ve been looking for positives – I can stretch out on the sofa with my feet up.  That’s it.  Everything else is negative*.  He’ll be back on Friday, though.

Roses is also away this week and so I’m keeping an eye on her cat and chickens.  When I went through to make sure he’d got food in his bowl, I surprised Eloise cat, who was napping on her sofa.  She went outside after that and I haven’t seen her since.  Rummy cat came to join me for dinner though, and ate the chicken I’d saved (sauceless) for her, in great chunks with an expression of great joy on his face.  I fetched more and then more, but by then I’d finished my own dinner so he’s had to stop eating.  He usually lets me stroke him nowadays but he wasn’t in the mood this evening: however he kept his claws sheathed when he batted me firmly away, so I count that as friendly.  I’ve learned how cats react, I’m no longer wary of them, though I don’t intrude.  Obviously.

I don’t think LT took any of the figs with him!  How awful – I’m not sure if they’ll keep until he gets back and I might be obliged to eat them myself.  Oh dear.  How frightful.


*Um,  Check out the last paragraph.  Heh.

Downs and ups

Today began extremely badly, but ended very well.  More on both of those another time.  I have to speak to someone about one and have another confirmed before I talk about them here.

Weeza and the children came over and the condition report is done, which was a marathon.  LT brought a trayful of china, I photographed each piece, Weeza examined it very carefully and noted any damage or restoration and then it was removed again.  The whole thing took about three and a half hours, plus time for lunch.  The children were angelic, both in keeping out of the way a majority of the time and in showing interest and helping – Zerlina has a keen eye for restoration and will be wanted next year, for sure.  They are counted as sale labour and have been paid.

We harvested our single productive eating apple tree – I can’t remember the variety but it’s an early one – we also have a couple of young trees and one of those has a few fruits, plus a Bramley which has a goodly crop but isn’t ready to pick yet.  Anyway, these are very good apples but they aren’t keepers, so we must eat, give away or freeze them soon.

We tried the tomato pickle that we made the other day – a chutney needs to be kept for several weeks, but a pickle doesn’t, and this turns out to be jolly good.  If the weather is good next week, a barbecue is called for: as Weeza pointed out, it would be brilliant with a good home-made burger.

We also picked quite a number of figs.  More had ripened while we were away, chiz chiz, but never mind.  We fortuitously had some Parma ham, so dinner tonight was a relaxed and ‘picky’ affair.  Though the bean salad, with a surprisingly zingy jalapeño pepper in it, was more pokey than picky, to be frank.

LT must have been prescient, because he put the champagne in the fridge before the good news came in.  It’s a most sensible policy, never to lose an opportunity to celebrate.

Odds and sods from the Razor blade.

1 –     Chicken dynamics seems to be changing daily and the main problem is that there isn’t room for Clawd at present.  I don’t know what to do.

Jet, Yvette and Crow get on well

Jet and Mona get on well.

Big Brown and Big Black get on well with each other and are okay with Mona and Yvette.

Big Brown chases Jet.

Crow does not like Big Black and chases her from mealworms.

Everyone used to be wary of Mona but something has changed and she’s become much more subdued.  She doesn’t chase anyone now.  I’ve a feeling she’s wary of Big Brown, though I haven’t seen any shenanigans.

Yvette seems to be fine with everyone.  But the two Bigs chase Jet.

Big Brown used to be scared of everyone but since she started laying eggs, which she does daily, she’s gained a lot of confidence and can throw her considerable weight round.

They all go for Clawd.  So he’s in his own coop for now and I don’t know what to do.  Oh, I said that already.  But that’s how it is.

2  –    This week, we’re preparing the catalogue for the next sale and I’ve got a few more lots than I really want.  But the more ordinary lots came in sooner, the later ones are those I want.  I’ll let you know when the catalogue goes on the website, which probably will be in about a fortnight.

3 –    Alex and co came over today.  They’ve been off camping but it rained overnight, the last night, so they had to put the tent away wet.  So they wanted to put it up on our lawn to dry out.  It’s very impressive – a big living area and three small sleeping pods, each big enough for two sleeping bags – but it inflates!  Al uses a foot pump and it goes up in no time, then pegs and some uprights are added for stability.  They stayed for lunch and Squiffany, in particular, loved our bread and butter pickle, so I gave them a jar.  It really is splendid stuff and very easy to make, so I suspect she’ll take over pickling in their house.

4 –    Weeza and the children are coming over tomorrow, and photography and china-examining will take place.  I must either hide or wrap the children’s birthday presents – both have birthdays this week.  So does Eloise cat, who will be three on Friday, which is also Zerlina’s ninth birthday.  Eloise cat was born two days before Russell died.  I relive that summer every year and this seems to be especially difficult.  The well-known Z self-control is held by a thread.


Relaxing with Z

We mostly took a day off today.  Roses came through and we ate and drank and laughed and talked and it certainly did me good.  Letting go of things and relaxing is a kindness to the heart and the mind.

I did make a batch of tomato relish, from the same book – indeed, the same page – as we make our jalapeño relish, which I hope means it’ll be good.  It doesn’t have to be kept as long as chutney before being tried, I don’t think.  The other achievement of the day was setting up the new printer.  My old one isn’t very old, but it’s had great trouble staying connected to my computer since I got a new BT hub a few months ago.  I’ve spent hours on it, finally got it working, only to discover it had got lost again a few days later.  And then I accidentally, while meaning only to remove it from a list and replace it again, seemed to have deleted it entirely from the computer and the website was singularly unhelpful.  I got it back on again, had it apparently all ready to go and then it kept giving an error message – and I gave up and just bought a new and better one.  I do have a monochrome laser printer but i can’t really manage without a colour printer nor a scanner, so here we go.  I relied rather heavily on LT to set it up as I’ve been thoroughly discouraged, and I’m not trying to set up my phone nor use the scanner until tomorrow..

I’ve separated the big chickens and Crow the cock from the two little Seramas – I’m not sure that this is entirely the best thing for them, as they’d all been getting on pretty well, but something has to be done for Clawd.  So far, he’s quarrelling with Jet and Yvette, so I’ve shut him in his own coop for the night.  But they’re all three the same size and I don’t think they’ll squabble for long.

After all the eating and drinking of the day, we didn’t feel like having a substantial dinner tonight, so just had scrambled eggs.  They need to be eaten anyway – although none of them is the size of a hen’s egg, I’m finding between two and four a day.

Clawd and the pussy cat went to see…….

Clawd the young cockerel spent the night in a coop in the chickens’ greenhouse.  I went to let him out with the others in the morning but he was so busy having a dustbath that he didn’t notice the door was open.  So I shut it again and left him until later, I didn’t want to risk leaving him alone with much bigger chickens that might be aggressive.  In fact, when I did let him out, he cheerily thought he could share one of the big hen’s mealworms and she put him right indignantly, then Crow the established cock chased him, so I really don’t think I can leave him with them.  We’ll separate them out once the stapling has been done – the staples haven’t been delivered yet.

The interesting animal behaviour wasn’t among the chickens, though.  We haven’t seen RasPutin, the big tabby father of the barn cats, since we arrived home last weekend, until we heard angry cat noises while we were having coffee this morning, and I saw Rummy, Rose’s cat, and RasPutin fighting on the gravel.  I went out and told them to stop – Eloise cat came indoors, rolling her eyes – and they did, but Rummy followed RasPutin, evidently wanting to carry on the fight once my back was turned.  I told him no, firmly, and he just grumbled.  But later, when I was going to the henhouse, I saw RasPutin again and could see that he’s got quite thin.  I don’t know why, we’d have fed him any time, but he’s clearly not had enough to eat.  It wasn’t feeding time but I went and put down an extra tin of meat and stroked him while he started to eat.  I hope he’ll come back tomorrow, he wasn’t there when I went out to feed them this evening.

Having fed him (and his opportunist children, who got an extra meal) I went into the henhouse as described above and, while watching the chickens, I noted Rummy walking along with his back arched.  And then I spotted Zain, the tabby cat, who was squaring up to Rummy.  Zain isn’t an aggressive cat and he’s quite small, but he’s not timorous either.  He was at the corner of the greenhouse, which is just a few yards away from the Dutch barn where I feed the cats and where Zain’s father Rasputin was eating.

Rummy can be pugnacious.  And he hates the barn cats.  But Zain was not intimidated and just stood there and it was Rummy who, stiff-legged, turned and walked away.  I’m quite sure that Zain was defending his weakened father.  He sat at the corner of the greenhouse where he could see in each direction – where he didn’t look was up, because Rummy jumped up onto the greenhouse and walked along to look down on what was happening.

At this point, LT came along and the tableau was broken, which was just as well.

The hens are laying well – the young, big brown hen is laying every day; her eggs are distinctive.  And both Seramas have laid today and so has one of the others, but I’n not sure if it’s Mona, the remaining bantam, or the new big black one.  Four out of five is good, anyway.  Only a few weeks ago, they were all off lay, or too young, and I even had to buy eggs.

Chicks better scurry

I can’t remember how much I’ve said about the new chickens – the flock having been reduced to a single survivor by foxes earlier in the year, we picked up two little Serama bantam hens and a cock from blog friend Compostwoman to join her, as well as half a dozen fertile eggs, which we slipped under Rose’s broody bantam (herself one of my chicks from a couple of years ago)  The three  chicks we ended up with were growing well at about 10 weeks old when one of them was found dead one morning.  It had been perfectly well the night before.  Worse, another one died that night.  There wasn’t a mark on either of them, nor the survivor, who looked fine.  We were quite sure it wasn’t a predator or bird flu, nor anything else we could think of and it remains a mystery.

We hadn’t yet known whether they were boys or girls but were pretty sure they were all the same sex and were keeping our fingers crossed – however, Rose decided to bring the little remaining one into the house and a couple of days later he started to crow.  So, still sad and upset as we were, we reckoned that three extra cockerels would be a headache – as they were in Rose’s garden and she was looking after them, they’d rather become pets, more so than I’ve allowed them to become when I have chicks as sometimes it’s necessary to cull surplus cocks.  Upsetting as this is, it’s inevitable as they may well fight to the death sooner or later.

All this was about three weeks ago and he’s very pretty little cockerel with a charming nature.  However, she realises that he’d rather be with other poultry really, but her chickens chase him.

Back to my henhouse – my friend Lynn, on hearing about the death of our bantams, offered me a couple of her young pullets, which she’d hatched from eggs she’d been given.  So we went over to pick them up in June – at about four months old, it was apparent what sex most of the young ones were and she very kindly gave us two that were certainly female.  They are also big – the eggs were, she was told, bantam eggs but these hens are large!  They were also very nervous and my bantam gave them the runaround, especially the rather worried-looking brown one.  But the two newbies have started laying eggs now and have gained in confidence, with the result that one of the Seramas, a tiny black girl called Jet, is now bottom of the pecking order.

So that’s the situation at present and I don’t want it to continue.  Jet is a dear little hen and not easily distressed, but she’s being chased from the nicest food and she’s spending most of her time alone.  So I came up with the suggestion that the 40-foot long greenhouse that’s their main run should be split in half with net – it’s the green net that’s used for shading purposes, so it’s not very see-through – and the two big hens, the original bantam and the older Serama cock live in one part and the two Serama girls and the young cock, which Rose has named Clawd, in the other.  The bigger ones will also have access to the original hen house and I’ll bring through some nest boxes and make a sleeping area more enclosed for the little ones.  Rose’s three bantam hens and the cockerel will live in their run in her garden, of course.

LT and I talked it through and he suggested a couple of improvements on my plan and then I spoke to Rose who will miss Clawd in the house because he’s cute, but also appreciate not having to go round with paper towels all the time and not hear him crowing early in the morning.  He’s been staying here for a couple of days and he really is sweet, but at least he sleeps in the porch.  Wince the gardener was very pleased to hear we’d got a Plan – I love your Plans, he said – and set about implementing it at once.  Apart from the annoyance of finding that a lad I’d employed while Stevo had a broken collar bone had used all the staples in the staple gun and not bothered to let me know, all has gone well and there were enough staples there to put the net in place, and the job will be finished tomorrow.

Z is in a pickle. Or pickling, at any rate.

We picked a lot of damsons in LT’s garden, about 10 pounds of them, as I mentioned the other day.  Tim gave a couple of pounds to Weeza – I’ve no idea how grateful she was – to make damson gin or vodka, half of the rest we’ve made into jam and the rest we decided to turn into chutney, and that’s what has been done today.  We tried using a cherry stoner but it was going to take ages and, though we’ll keep that idea in mind, what we actually did was cook the damsons gently in their own juice, sieve them and then – Tim did this bit – pick out the stones from the rest.

\We also had ten days’ worth of cucumbers and a couple of pints of milk, so I also made yoghurt and some bread and butter pickles.  And it seems to have taken a lot of the day..  But the day was wet and dreary and we wouldn’t have been doing much else anyway.  We went out for lunch – which was superb, Yagnub is very well served for lunch places and we spread our custom round all of them, they’re all worth going to.  And we just bought a loaf of bread and I dropped off my newspaper vouchers into the newsagents and we congratulated ourselves that we didn’t need any more shopping.  Until I was measuring out the spices for the pickles and found that I was almost out of mustard seed, so had to go in after all.  Since it was already 6.30 in the evening, it’s just as well that supermarkets stay open late nowadays.  It’s all done now, potted up and ready for the store cupboard.

And I’m going to finish reading the paper and make conversation with LT.  Here we both are, each on our separate computer…..

In the meantime, another glass of wine, perhaps.