The Rufus monosyllables

Young Rufus is getting quite chatty.  He’s nearly 19 months old now and can communicate pretty well.  I heard him say hello and cat and bed and yes, for instance and, when asked, he can touch his eyes and nose and mouth, and make various animal noises on request.  Totes adorbs, obvs.  He tucked into chicken, potato, courgette and broccoli (mostly broccoli, to be truthful) and then was thrilled with the chocolate mousse.  He also likes Twiglets, which is a useful skill to learn early.

After they’d gone, I went out to the kitchen to clear up but got no further than the chicken carcase into a saucepan for stock before really, really needing to have a nap.  So LT did a remarkable amount of clearing up while I … didn’t sleep at all.  Sadly.  I’ve been sleepy all evening but I never go to sleep after about 5 o’clock and before bedtime.  It’s a recipe for a wakeful night and, besides, I don’t want to be someone who nods off in front of the tv.

We finished off the celery soup and shared an avocado for supper.  We’d eaten plenty.  LT did make some croutons though, right before he spilled a fair bit of the bottle of red wine onto the tablecloth.  It’s not one of the good Irish linen ones though and I expect it’ll wash out.  It’s soaking overnight before I can get around to dealing with it, anyway.

Three business emails this evening – well, one arrived on Friday at about 5 o’clock and I didn’t answer it until just now.  I don’t mind Sunday evening, as it’s often simpler to start Monday with nothing hanging around, but I reckon Friday evening to Sunday after lunch is out of bounds, whenever possible.  Not that I usually have business emails nowadays, anyway. Happily.

Z, driving

My family is always pleased if I think of a few things to put on a wishlist, as they say they never know what to get me, so I did – and then they had splendid ideas of their own.  It seemed a pity to waste the effort, so I bought most of the things I’d thought of for myself anyway.  Which means I have rather a pile-up of books to read now, amongst other things.  I have read three books in the last couple of weeks, but I used to read twice as many as that in a week, back in the days when that was the sort of thing I did, so it’s hardly anything to boast of.

I’d promised to buy LT a new camera but he hadn’t finished researching what he wanted in time for the Day so it finally arrived today.  I had an email first thing this morning to say it would be delivered by Royal Mail and needed to be signed for.  By 11 o’clock, we’d forgotten about that, until we drove down the road and spotted the postman’s van, with him just loading all the letters for that road into his trolley.  We went home to wait for him and did various odd jobs, but in the end I went out by myself.  It was only to the butcher and greengrocer.

Seville oranges are in, which is quite early (and they’re quite small) so I’ve bought enough for two batches, to begin with.  And I came home and made celery soup for lunch and an oxtail stew for dinner.  In fact, that was going to be for tomorrow but Ro and Dora – and Rufus, of course – are coming for lunch tomorrow so we’ll cook tonight’s roast chicken then.  Nice to be able to offer a choice when children say they can come over at little notice.  They’ll pick up more veggies, though.

LT bought me a new satnav, so i’ve been setting that up, rather belatedly, though I haven’t really been anywhere.  I’ve a very old one and otherwise use my phone, as my car doesn’t have one built in, but the phone leaves something to be desired.  Apple Maps are really inaccurate and Google Maps are useless at giving directions.  I also, while sitting in the car, cleaned the front inside windscreen.  At this time of the year when the sun is so low, a smeary windscreen doesn’t half impair vision and, though I’d cleaned dust off, I hadn’t realised that it was still smeary.  They’re really not easy to do, sloping away from you with the steering wheel in the way.  And I washed the lights and number plates – actually cleaning the car itself isn’t likely to happen any time soon, frankly – so I felt frightfully self-righteous.

One of the things we’ve discovered about each other – there are still many things to learn, I’m sure – is that neither minds getting lost: that is, neither of us gets annoyed when the other gets lost.  We reckon it’s just par for the course.  I’ve always been pretty effective at it, anyway.  And there was a time, about a year and a half ago, when Apple Maps got a pub so wrong that it took us about ten miles in the wrong direction and there was nothing at all where it said our destination was.  LT took it philosophically and we found another pub, and I resolved never to rely on that map again but, at least, always double check.  I do have that inclination anyway, I have to admit.  Belt and braces, at the least.  A length of bailer twine at hand, just in case, is usually a good idea.

I was reading, yesterday, about some vicar who has decided to fine brides and grooms who arrive late for their wedding.  They will have to pay an extra £100 deposit and, if they’re more than ten minutes late, they lose it and it’s shared between the bellringers, organist and choir members who’ve had to wait.  It doesn’t seem quite in the spirit of the thing, it’s an emotional and stressful enough day without having that extra cause for twitchiness, but I’ve become extremely punctual as I’ve got older.  Not for something casual that doesn’t matter, but for appointments – as relaxed and well planned as our wedding was, I had timed it all precisely and had to seriously pretend not to be uptight when LT and I were the only ones ready to leave at 12.25.  I chivvied a bit, I confess.  And then we left.  And everyone followed!

A tisket, a tasket

I’ve been falling behind in letter-writing, both the actual hand-written sort and emails.  It’s nice to have friends who’d like to hear from me and I did write one letter yesterday and one email today, but I’m still way behind.  I’ve never been the best correspondent,  I have to admit.

My sister is brilliant at keeping in touch with people, she still has a number of friends from her schooldays and, right now, is staying in Singapore with friends who are working there for a couple of years (that is, the husband is), she having been a work colleague of the wife nearly thirty years ago.  And Kamala, our friend in Chennai who she stayed with over Christmas and the New Year, she met in London in about 1968.  They didn’t see each other again until 2000 but always kept in touch.

I’m no good at that, I’ve always had much more of a tendency to live in the moment.  I think I’m too busy, but what that means is another matter.  Anyway, I’ll try to catch up over the next few days.  Tim gave me a lovely new fountain pen for Christmas, so there is every encouragement to write proper letters.

Five random paragraphs

It’s only the eighth day of Christmas but actually, it’s all over unless you have time on your hands and so do all your friends.  So even (sorry) Chrimbo Limbo is over.  We didn’t take down our decorations because we didn’t put them up in the first place, as we weren’t here on the Day.

Lovely Tim is blogging regularly at present, and he explained the reason the other day.  He may or may not keep it going for the next few months.  He feels no pressure nor obligation, but so far he’s been doing it.  He’s here, if you’ve never had a look.

We talk a good deal, LT and I.  We hardly ever turn on the television and only slightly more often listen to music.  Neither of us really “does” background music, it’s there to be listen to and so it takes away from our conversation.

We’re both reading a good deal at present.  Mostly Christmas books (one of mine is from last Christmas; ie 2016, hem hem) but I’m also reading for the book club that I never thought I’d ever join, ever.  But it’s great because we’re such good friends.

My poor chickens hate the wet weather.  They skulk at the back of the henhouse until I open up the tunnel to the greenhouse, then they scurry through there.  But at least it’s not dark so early.

Hooray for babies

I’m lucky enough to have quite a lot of young friends – by which I mean my children’s ages or younger.  Some of these I’ve met through my kids, others through school, their parents or from blogging.  And quite a few of them are at the time in their lives when they’re having their first babies.

There’s a lot of sadness and worry around at present, in this country and internationally.  And this isn’t a politically minded blog and I’m not going to elaborate, but I doubt if there are many people in Britain, whatever their political views or their social or EU-related ones, who are very confident at present.  Everything is either tits-up already or has the potential to be.  And so I, like many of my friends, have found new year greetings to be considerably more muted than usual.

For this reason, hope and joy are especially welcomed.  So greetings and congratulations to those lovely babies – the most recently born being Violet, now about 30 hours old – and lovingly welcoming good wishes to those due in the next few months.

Goodbye to some of that

Luckily, Chip has not visited again yet, so we’ve had two peaceful nights.  Eloise cat thinks it’s quite all right to visit his territory, as she’s accustomed to doing, but I can quite see why she’s unhappy at him coming here at night.  We’re crossing fingers, anyway.

Yesterday was sunny and bright, with the happy result that I bobbed round merrily, full of energy.  LT started splitting logs while I went shopping for food, and then I barrowed them up to the house.  With full baskets and scuttles of lots and coal, we would be all set for a warm house all week.  Which was just as well, because it was tipping down this morning.  Jack, who delivers the papers, was soaked, having been caught in the worst of it.

We had haggis for Hogmanay dinner – yes indeed, with tatties and neeps, as well as onion gravy, all of which were cooked by LT.  It has been our sole concession to New Year’s Eve (possibly a dram will follow) and we have no plans for midnight jollifications.  Not that overplanning is at all necessary.

Cat among the … cats

I’ve probably mentioned that Chip, the handsome long-haired tabby, is living next door with Rose, for at least as long as Lawrence is regularly going for his immunotherapy cancer treatment.  Eloise cat is very unimpressed.  She doesn’t really like other animals.  It seems odd, as she was born into a family with several cats and then lived with Ziggi, four other cats and two dogs.  Ziggi’s daughter, Firstborn, said that she only got on well with one of them, though.  She’s okay with Rummy and they play together, but sometimes in a slightly spiky way and she won’t eat with him around.

She’s had a few minor fights with Chip, who is bigger than she is.  Last night, she made a strange whining sound and LT went to investigate.  She was on the landing looking alert but all seemed well and we went back to sleep.  An hour later, it happened again, I went to look and found Chip on the stairs.  Emboldened by me, Eloise chased him and they had a fight in the hall.

The annexe is joined to the main house by a small laundry room, big enough for our two washing machines and there’s a cat flap in both doors.  That leads into a back hall where I keep the big chest freezer and there’s another cat flap in the back door, which only opens for cats with a recognised microchip, registered to all three cats.  I fastened the kitchen and dining room doors so that Chip couldn’t get further than the kitchen, but of course that meant that Eloise couldn’t get through at all, which didn’t matter for one night but obviously isn’t the answer.  I don’t know what is.  I’ve no objection to Chip, who’s a nice enough cat, but Eloise needs to feel safe at home and he needs to be discouraging from visiting overnight, though I don’t know how.

I didn’t feel like doing a thing this morning and the freezing wind and rain was no encouragement for action.  So I embraced the inaction, lit the fire and snuggled on the sofa with books and newspapers.  I’d made squash soup for lunch yesterday and we finished it today, with lovely Black Bomber cheddar and some of our jalapeño chilli relish.  I made a vegetable curry last night and the remains will go in the freezer, as there’s only enough for one helping, ready for when LT is away next.  His next visit to his house will be another occasion I can’t go, so our hearts will have to grow fonder instead, again.

Post Christmas return

We spent two nights with Weeza and co, which was really lovely.  Rose was on hand to look after the animals here, of course, we couldn’t have done it otherwise.  We will return the favour next week, it all works out very well and is very little extra work and just a measure of additional kindness to cats who are feeling lonely.

It was a beautiful Christmas Day and I was – I fear the word, but I use it regularly, whenever possible, because one shouldn’t be ruled by fear – very happy.  Weeza had planned very carefully and then trusted her list and relaxed.  She had decided to make it a leisurely meal, serving each course every two hours.  Ro and Dora, with little Rufus, arrived around half past eleven – maybe a bit earlier.  Rufus was asleep by the time we started eating at noon and hadn’t woken up by the time the roast beef was ready, we saved him some.

All the children adore him, their little cousin.  Gus calls him “twin.”  Cousin doesn’t feel like a close enough relationship, though they’re nearly five years apart in age.  We corrected him and explained once, but then let it go with a smile.

On Boxing Day, we came home by way of friends’ party, which was very jolly.  LT is meeting more and more of the people I know – he does his best to remember names.  They only have him to remember and my helpful explanations of who is married or related to whom probably doesn’t help much.  Lots of us took plates of food and our hostess had spent the morning cooking too.  I was deeply impressed by the tiny bread rolls, an inch across, that she’d made that morning and filled with various tasty things.  That is just the sort of thing she’d do effortlessly, though.  Talking later, I admitted that I have never planned anything for Boxing Day.  The whole of December has, for most of my life, been much too knackering and I’ve needed that day, at least, to recover.  I don’t really need to think that way any more, but I’d still hesitate to invite fifty or so people round.

Today, we’ve been pottering and I’ve been cooking.  It was bitterly cold, with a sharp North wind and driving rain this morning, though we didn’t get the snow that many parts of the country did.    Once the animals were fed, we mostly stayed indoors.  So did Eloise cat, to her annoyance.  She dashed round periodically, frustrated at not getting her usual run about the garden.  She seriously considered walking along the mantelpiece and knocking off all the cards and, when she’d decided against that, attempted to get into the fireplace and explore the chimney.  She was dissuaded from that as well.  It stopped raining just in time, so she could take the air as usual.  And she’s spent much of the rest of the day asleep.

Z is becoming merry

The new carpet is down and we’re very pleased with it.  “Is it just me,” asked LT this evening, “or is the room warmer?”  It seems so, I agree.  It’s certainly warming to the eye and to the feet, this carpet.  We need to turn our attention to a new sofa, at least, once the Day of the Chris and his Mas is over. And a week or two to get over it, obvs.  We have been moving furniture back, but there’s a few things to go yet.

The other main move has been the compost heap – I know, darlings, where there’s muck, there’s Z.  It had simply outgrown its space.  In fact, as is the way when you get anyone else to do your work and let them just get on with it, it hadn’t been done exactly as planned, and there was only one way in to put the prospective compost, so the ready-to-use stuff was at the back and not so easy to get at,  And it wasn’t very sightly.  So a new area has been constructed – still not as I’d wanted it, actually and I suspect more moving will be required in a year or so, but at least there are two areas and it’s bigger overall than before.  And compost has been put on all the beds in the veg garden and the place where it came from will be grassed over in the spring. And then the whole of the kitchen garden and its surroundings will be more manageable, I hope.

All shopping has been done and all cards delivered or posted except for, possibly, returns to any that are delivered from local friends tomorrow.  I’m by no means the only person who has simply given up, though I have finally made more effort this year.  The last shopping I did was flowers for the church – I did an arrangement earlier in the month and checked it this morning, to find that the lilies hadn’t lasted, so nipped out to buy more and a few roses as well.  They’ll be fine for a week or so.  I read that this was due to be the busiest shopping day of the year, largely because people would be hitting the supermarkets en masse, but also because of last-minute present shopping.  I can’t do that sort of thing any more.  What hasn’t been bought can be managed without.  We have enough food and enough Stuff, all of us.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time or opportunity to write in the next few days, so I’ll wish you an happy Christmas and everything you hope for, now.  Thank you, as ever, for your good friendship.  Those of you I haven’t met yet, I hope I will some day, those of you who can and would like to visit are always welcome, whether to next year’s blog party (DV) or at any other time.

Merry Christmas, darlings.  Love from Z and LT.



Z vegges out

I’ve just been out in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner – smoked haddock fishcakes, sprouting broccoli and spinach – and thought of my mother.  I always think of her when we’re having purple sprouting – “it’s my favourite veg,” she was bound to say, happily, a few times during the winter and early spring, and she always said it the first time we ate it in a season.  The season has stretched over the past few years, it used only to be available between about February and May but now they seem to have varieties that head up earlier.  I’ve cut off the long stalks and eaten them.  I do the same thing with summer broccoli, the calabrese type, where I actually prefer the stalks to the heads.  And cauliflower, come to that.

Who am I kidding?  I eat a lot of the bits of vegetables I cut off and some that are intended for the table.  It’s well known in the family that too much has to be prepared and left in the pan, because I’ll graze every time I go past.  “They’re counted!” was another thing my mother used to say.  Subtract a couple had to be my reply.  I can’t resist raw vegetables.

Dilly called round with the children this morning, to pick up the family Christmas presents.  We won’t see them on the day, as they will be with her parents and sisters.  She was talking about young Hadrian, who is now six and a half and was really not easy to feed until recently.  He tended to be suspicious of all food – he’s not a thin lad but we were never sure where he got his nourishment.  Things have improved as he’s grown up, but Dilly was particularly pleased the other evening, when a schoolfriend came home with them to play and he stayed for tea.  She’d done dishes of raw carrot, cucumber and so on to eat while the sausages were cooking and the boy was very pleased, taking several at a time and exclaiming how good they were.  And Hadrian did the same, tucking in to his full share, which was probably the first time in his life he’d willingly eaten a raw carrot.  And now he’s eaten them, he’ll know they actually taste nice.

We didn’t make the fishcakes, I bought them from the fishmonger at the market.  He’s such a nice man, he’s been coming along with his refrigerated van for years.  He and his brother(s) run the business, I think and they go around all the small town’s market days.  He’s been recovering from treatment from a brain tumour and, today, he was saying he’s had good news; that his most recent scan shows it hasn’t grown again and so the planned extra chemo- and radio-therapies weren’t going to start in January after all and they’d be kept in reserve for the future.  Which is good news and he’s taking it as such, but it makes me sad too, in a way I’m sure you’ll understand.

The fishcakes were good – an hour later, when I’ve returned – and I ate more than my share of the cooked broccoli too.  I might encourage LT to share his early Christmas present later, the brandied cherries in chocolate that, it transpired, were not around long enough to be wrapped.