Monthly Archives: May 2008

Thirty-five years!!(!)

Today is our wedding anniversary.

Off to buy more champagne… laters, darlings.

You know, my sister only arrived home from Italy last night and she leapt straight in her car this morning to get here, from the far side of Stonehenge, in time for lunch. Weeza (El seems to have changed her name) and Phil came by train and Dilly was teaching this morning in Diss, so was able to pick them up from the station. Al didn’t arrive home until 7 pm after the busiest day of the year so far and then had to go back after dinner to finish tidying the shop.

The Sage and Phil cooked (on the barbecue), Dilly made the salads and I made Queen of Puddings for old times’ sake (the Sage’s mother used to make it and Weeza particularly liked it as a child). Squiffany and Pugsley were charming and exuberant and went to bed late, after choosing several books to have read to them; Squiffany’s by Weeza and Pugsley by me. Squiff has discovered Beatrix Potter and Pugsley’s choices included Julia Donaldson and Alan Ahlberg.

The Sage and I didn’t exchange presents – we have each other already.

I’d send him my love, but he won’t read this, so I’ll go and tell him instead. Goodnight.

Doctors and nurses

I’ve always been pretty lucky and haven’t had to spend much time in hospital, so I haven’t had much experience, but a fair bit of what I’ve observed or experienced has been quite negative. Most, of course, is more or less neutral, and I’m not getting at people in a demanding job, but actually I think that one’s behaviour influences how one reacts, so if a person behaves pleasantly and politely they will feel better about themself and what they do.

When I had El, I had a private obstetrician. Nothing too good for his darling, said the Sage. Mr B, the Obs, was charming. Far too ready to intervene, but couldn’t have been more kind or considerate. Ten years later, blimey, NHS is quite good enough, I had the same consultant. I was a slab of meat as far as he was concerned. He’d forgotten me, of course, and he couldn’t care less.

I said the other day that I woke up in the early hours with contractions, that continued for the rest of the night. It so happened that I was due a routine check-up that morning, so I asked the Sage to take me and took a suitcase, in case I was packed off to hospital. We waited ages, don’t know why, no one explained or apologised to all us heavily pregnant women, some of us trying to placate toddlers. Finally, I went in, greeted Mr B, who didn’t bother to greet me, told him I reckoned I was in labour as, although it was still fairly early, I’d never had a false alarm before. He grunted and said he’d examine me. It hurt. He didn’t reply to what I’d said but told me to make an appointment for a fortnight hence. When, later the same day, I was in hospital I wondered if he’d remember me if he made his rounds … but he didn’t. I had two lovely midwives and mercifully didn’t see a doctor.

Back in those days, the whole thing about birth plans was just coming in and I was asked if I had any particular wishes when I went for my first hospital appointment. I asked if I could keep the baby in the ward with me, as my first one had been bottle-fed against my wishes that first night. I was assured that was fine and it was noted. So, back in the ward and the Sage had left and I was settling down for the night. The nurse started to wheel out the cot and I told her that I wanted to keep him. She said that was out of the question. I said that I’d asked particularly and was told there would be no problem. It was July, there was no question that he needed a warmer room. She said that he’d make a noise and keep everyone awake. I looked round the empty room. She said that it wouldn’t be later (indeed it wasn’t. Squeaky beds were wheeled in all night and some of the new mothers were just coming off their birth drugs and groaning loudly; I literally didn’t sleep a wink). I said, however, that it was a fair point and if we were too noisy then he could be taken away (new born babies are pretty tired and just want to sleep). Then she said “I can just take him away, you know, and you can’t stop me.” “Indeed I can’t,” I said, “all I can do is phone my husband first thing tomorrow morning and ask him to fetch me and tell him why.” She snuffled bad-temperedly and stalked away, which rather disgusted me, as it proved what a bully she was, but without any backbone. Anyway, I didn’t let him out of my sight and we left the next day anyway.

My mother had several stays in hospital because, after a successful hip replacement, she had a bad fall and it dislocated. Over the next seven years, it spontaneously dislocated six more times. It was made clear that it was assumed that she had been careless or even attention-seeking and was rather wasting medical time in demanding so much attention by not being able to get out of bed for a couple of days after it had been reset. As time went on and her health deteriorated, in part because of the stress of constant fear of a dislocated hip, she became quite difficult and I saw her being treated more and more as a nuisance. Furthermore, the consultant who had been delightful, charming and considerate when she saw him privately (she was entitled to her hip operation under her insurance) couldn’t care less when she was an emergency patient under the NHS. Finally, several years after I said I reckoned her hip was damaged and should be pinned, she agreed with me and the same man X-rayed her from a different angle. Ah. Her replacement hip had been damaged in the original fall and was cracked; it didn’t show in an X-ray from the side, which was all he’d done after each dislocation. He’d never questioned why it dislocated, but assumed it was her fault. No question of an explanation or apology of course, but at least she got a new hip, which gave no trouble in the final two years of her life. However, the only kindness she ever received in hospital under the NHS was when her cancer was diagnosed; those nurses (mostly Filipinos) and young doctors were lovely.

A few years ago, I took an old friend to visit her husband in hospital. He had had a stroke some years before and had completely lost the use of his left arm and hand. He was in bed and couldn’t move much. We chatted for a while, and then he said that he needed a bedpan urgently. A nurse was with a patient across the room and we asked her for a bedpan and help. I saw her lips tighten as she said that she’d come when she had finished. She tucked the patient in, slowly. I saw her slow down. “I need to pee!” said Frank anxiously, “I can’t wait”. “When he needs to go, he can’t wait,” agreed his wife. The nurse looked irritated. “It’s too late, I’ve done it,” said poor Frank. So, for her petty meanness – she was doing nothing that couldn’t wait for a couple of minutes – she had to wash him, change him, change the bed – again, I was disgusted.

A few weeks ago, I met a friend in town. She is nursing her father through the final stages of cancer, and he has been on morphine for months. He had to spend a night in hospital to have a stent replaced. She ensured it was on his notes that his morphine must be renewed and told the nurses in hospital. The next day, he was returned to the local hospital in great pain and vomiting from morphine deprivation, because he is, of course, addicted as well as dependent. They hadn’t bothered to replace his morphine patch.

I could go on – although, as I say, I haven’t spent much time in hospitals. This is not lack of money or equipment (though don’t get me started on lack of cleanliness, I’ve seen too many nurses and doctors not wash their hands or remonstrate with dirty visitors; I trust there is considerable improvement in this regard over the last year or two) and it isn’t even an indication of low morale, judging by the chat and laughter often coming from the nurses’ station. Most nurses are fine – the ones who behave professionally and kindly are the norm of course – but how are the others allowed to get away with it? They must so hate their jobs, but I am convinced that if they behaved better then they would have more self-respect and enjoy their work more. And the trouble is that one bad experience colours your whole view. You remember the outstandingly good and the bad, not the unremarkably competent.

First Baby

Well, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, or something – is that a quotation? And El is my first child and only daughter. She’s admitted that, when I was expecting the third, that she was hoping for another brother…to keep her status! That’s my girl – I’d have been rather horrified if my mother had had another child to supplant me. As it is, Ro was a most loved little boy by both his older siblings. I asked him, a couple of years ago, if he remembered ever having a row with either of them; and he couldn’t.

Anyway, I was not all that well during my first pregnancy. Nowadays, the fashion is against offering iron supplements routinely; then we were all dished out an iron and a folic acid tablet daily. It wasn’t enough for me, and I became more and more anaemic. This made me exhausted and depressed – the Sage must have reckoned that married life wasn’t all he had hoped for. Eventually, after my iron rations (see what I did there?) had been upped, it was decided that I should have iron injections. Straight into the buttock, darlings, alternative side each week and, hard as the nurse rubbed it in, after a few weeks I had brown stains each side of my bum, which lasted for several years. I had 20 of these injections, after which I felt considerably better.

The fashion for starting babies off varies as time goes by; my obstetrician was rather keen on intervention and decreed that the baby should be induced at a week over the expected date. Now, of course, I’d question that, but I was only 20 and had been pregnant for 41 weeks, which seemed rather a long time, and I didn’t object. I was put on a hormone drip and not allowed to move. Now, in labour, the most painful thing to do is to lie on your back and it’s boring and uncomfortable in any case after a few hours. When, unable to resist, I shifted slightly, the needle did too and labour started to subside until they realised and reinserted it. Eventually, they broke the waters, and that started things off extremely abruptly and painfully. Unasked, I was given a pethidine injection, which made me woozy without diminishing the pain by much.

Eventually, the obstetrician decided that I was all right for a couple of hours and left for his dinner. Shortly afterwards, El (that’s my girl!) decided that the time was right to put in an appearance and he was sent for and returned. I rather wish he hadn’t, because he, obviously concerned that he was not demonstrating sufficient professional expertise to earn his fat fee, performed an episiotomy – just in case I tore, he explained. It’s since been decided that most tears heal better than most cuts. I didn’t tear or need a cut in subsequent births, incidently.

Anyway, El was born at 8.30, weighing 6 1/2 lbs. She was not very large, but then nor was I – I’d only gained a stone and a half and weighed 10 stone, even though I had a 40 inch waist!

She was washed, given briefly to me and then whisked away to the nursery. I’d been asked ‘breast or bottle?’ and they seemed pleased that I wanted to feed her myself, but this was so rare that none of the nurses actually knew anything about it, so her first meal, before I saw her the next morning, was a bottle feed. She wasn’t that bothered about suckling, so I was given bottles of supplementary feed. I can’t remember how long I was in hospital, but it was far longer than was good for us. I felt quite helpless; I loved her but was afraid to do much for her myself in case I did it wrong. When my milk suddenly came in, I cried with the pain and discomfort and the baby bounced off these hard and unresponsive protuberances.

Finally, we went home. Now, you may have noticed that I am stubborn and bloody-minded. I did not have bottles or formula; it did not occur to me that we might have to give up on breastfeeding. We had a tearful and uncomfortable day, both of us, but by the end we had both learned how to do it, and we didn’t look back.

No, that’s not entirely true. They didn’t know, either, that breast milk doesn’t necessarily keep a baby satisfied for as long as a bottle, so when she cried it didn’t occur to me that she might be hungry, only an hour or two after feeding. She and I both were less happy than we could have been in those first weeks. But she was such a darling little girl. Before we decided on a name for her, we called her ‘Rosebud’ because of her dear little lips. I used to hold her for ages when she was asleep, because I couldn’t bear to put her in her cot.

Is it apparent that I don’t always think that much of the medical world? I’ve observed it so many times, that both nurses and doctors think that you have to be ill to be in hospital. They want to intervene, even if you are having a healthy normal birth and simply need encouragement, kindness and some space. It’s still the same; I saw it with Dilly after her first baby was born, when they kept making her try to feed the baby, not believing her when she said that Squiffany had already been fed; just because they hadn’t seen it for themselves.

Sorry to sound so negative here, but honestly, it’s a good job that El and I are both tough. We went through a lot together, in those early days!

Back in time again, to 1976

Okay, back in time a few more years, while I’m in the mood. Al was born at home: that is, the family home where I grew up. I’d had a chat with my family doctor, whom I’d known for years, and he was up for it – in the 1970s, not many women went for home births and I think he was really pleased.

My mother remarried in February; my sister and I were very fond of our stepfather and welcomed him into the family. His name was Wilf Edwards; he was Technical Director of Brooke Marine, a highly-respected shipbuilding firm in Oulton Broad. He was a talented and able engineer, capable of designing a ship from scratch. I’ll say more about him one day, but I won’t digress further now, except to say that he was thrilled to have married into a family who loved him.

The baby was due on 8th April. On the 2nd, I felt some twinges. I’ve never felt those preparatory, Braxton Hicks, contractions. Every time I’ve had a contraction, it has been the precursor to labour and birth. I drove over to my mum’s house with my suitcase and my daughter, who was a couple of days short of her second birthday, and invited ourselves to stay. The room she had prepared had been my father’s night nursery (yes, there was a day nursery too, it was that kind of house) and had a single bed, convenient for attendants to a home birth.

During the afternoon, the local chemist’s van drew up. “Here’s the oxygen cylinder Dr L ordered” said the assistant cheerfully. I attempted to help her wheel it in. “Better not,” she chortled, “You’re not due for another week, don’t want to bring the baby on early!” I didn’t tell her I’d been in labour for a few hours.

At some point during the day, my mother decided to bang in a stray nail in the passageway right outside my bedroom (the Sage, of course, was given the best guest bedroom) and it hit a water pipe. I have no idea how that was resolved, I had other fish to fry.

My midwife was married to the local Methodist minister. She was sweet and very capable. She arrived later in the afternoon, not long before the doctor.

I kept trotting around as long as possible – honestly, the worst thing to do is to lie on your back in bed. If you’re tired, lie on your side. Walk if you can. When, eventually, I had to lie down, they produced a cylinder of gas and air. I hated it. It was cold and distracting; I wasn’t enjoying the whole experience but I was coping and I pretended to breathe it in (for I am a polite Z) but I kept the nose-and-mouthpiece slightly away from me so that I didn’t take anything in. It wasn’t that long after that Al was born. It was the best thing I’ve ever experienced and, if I say that it gave me a bond with him that I’ve never had with anyone else, a) that’s a fact; b) he doesn’t know it for I’ve never told him c) it doesn’t mean I love him more than the others and d) I consciously have diminished its memory. He’s Dilly’s now, and I don’t want my love for any of my children to make me possessive.

He wanted to suckle at once, and I knew at once that I didn’t want this to be my final baby, which is an odd thing to decide within ten minutes of giving birth.

The Sage was on hand (I told Honey I wouldn’t mention this, but hey, it’s just to revolt the blokes) with a bucket to receive the afterbirth. I don’t know what he did with it; I’ve never asked.

Al was born about 10.30 pm. The doctor (whom I called Uncle Kit; I’d known him since childhood), having done his part, went home – he only lived a couple of roads away; it would have been quicker to come by boat. After everything had been cleared up and sorted out, at midnight, I confessed to hunger. “There’s a cold leg of lamb in the fridge” said my ever-reliable mother. “Ooh, yum!” I replied. A few minutes, we were all tucking into sandwiches. I’m not sure that it isn’t the best meal I’ve ever eaten.

During the night, I visited the loo across the landing. I felt very naughty (you’re not supposed to get out of bed for 12 hours) but both impressed and surprised that there was no constipation at all, considering the pre-birth enema every woman has the indignity of receiving.

The next morning, I changed El’s nappy and kissed her all around her face as usual. I couldn’t believe how big she was, compared to her 7 1/2 lb brother. She chuckled and laughed and I loved her and was sad for her, that life would never be quite the same again. It was the day before her second birthday.

Z looks back

I’ve been sitting here, drinking wine, eating a late supper which mostly is bread and fruit and reading blogs, when it occurred to me that midnight approaches and I’ve told you nothing about myself. Not today, that is.

I’ve been thinking about having a baby. Yes, mine…but not now, that’d be a bit icky. It’d be weird. No, about when Ro was born, which is nearly 24 years ago, when I was a youthful 30.

I’d been quietly in labour since about 2 am, so I didn’t get much sleep, but it was all right until about 3 in the afternoon, when it changed gear and we rang the hospital half an hour’s drive away, called my mum, who came to look after El and Al and drove off. I can still see their little faces gazing after me as we drove away; I wonder if they remember, and what they were thinking?

The roundabout just the other side of Yarmouth Harbour bridge had just been resurfaced, badly, and the car made a strange noise as we drove over it – we thought for a minute we’d got a flat tyre. I was writhing silently in the front seat and the Sage was calm and relaxed, damn him. We arrived and checked in.

“See you later” he said. “I’d better go home and feed the dog.”


Okay, I had a bath and all that sort of stuff, and was put in a room on my own. Two midwives came and chatted a bit, but I was fine; done all this before, didn’t do pain relief or anything as I really don’t like not being in full control of my thoughts….I’d tried pethidine once and I hated it; didn’t help and I couldn’t concentrate.

Anyway, time went by and as long as I didn’t lie on my back, I was fine. After a couple of hours, it changed gear again, so I rang the bell and they decided to take me to the delivery room. I asked if my husband was coming back – they’d rung home, but had no reply. I felt a bit upset, it was hurting and I wanted him.

I was just being helped – lifted, I think – I weighed 10 1/2 stone, several pounds more than in my previous pregnancies, so I was sorry for the nice midwives – onto a trolley when the Sage burst in and put his arms around me.

It didn’t hurt any more. Honestly. I felt the pain drain away, and it never got to me again. Ro was born at 8.30 and the midwife said his weight was 3.25 kilograms. “What’s that mean?” he said. “Just over 7 lbs,” I said. “7 lbs, 2 oz” said the midwife, a few seconds later. Honestly, that was one of the best moments, doing that conversion minutes after giving birth.

A couple of years ago, I found some photos of El and Al, with me and the baby in hospital the next day. They looked so proud. I was all choked up.

Anyway, the point is that it really is mind over matter sometimes. I think this hypnobirthing stuff might work. And if they aren’t sure if it’ll be enough, then Phil needs to leave the hospital for a couple of hours, saying he’ll not be long, get stuck in traffic and get back just in time.

Hypno, hypno, hypno…

On Friday, I had an email from El (also known as Weeza), entitled No jokes about ‘opening like a flower’!

I’ve won a course in hypnobirthing through a – website Good grief!, she said, excitedly. “Oh fabulous – shall we call the baby Omlet?” I wrote back, and there was a pause while I read the website. I was typing again when I had her next email Splendid! The tutor’s called Helianthe… !. “I was just that very moment about to email you and say that! Even more spookily, I’ve just bought some sunflowers* from Al to take to friends tonight” I said. Cosmic & spooky indeed! Or as Pugsley would say, Scary!

My reply was obvious “Can I blog about it? ;-)”

Weeza girlie, she say Yes! Although, apparently, Phil is quite concerned to think it’s become public knowledge; that is, in the family. What he would say if he knew I was telling you, I don’t like to think. Until now, I’ve had a good relationship with my son-in-law.

El added My yoga guy tries to get us chanting occasionally and baby flipps out at his Yammmmm mantra. I can’t bring myself to do it outloud but I make suitable vibrations in my throat instead and baby goes flippy! Perhaps omlet’s the name after all?

Regarding the website, the bit that puzzles me slightly is this – “Returns childbirth to the beautiful, peaceful experience that nature intended”. Um, I’m not sure it really ever did. I was woken early on Sunday morning by an awful screeching sound. It was a bird in torment and I leapt to the window and peered out to see if a cat or fox had caught a chicken or pheasant. Then came the cackle of triumphant relief – the egg had been successfully laid.

Anyway, I rather want to try hypnobirthing, but there’s an obvious ‘however’. Maybe I should learn the techniques in case of a tricky session at the dentist?

*Helianthus is the botanical name for sunflower, from the Greek helios, meaning sun. I rather hope that Helianthe has a sister called Phoebe, which is the moon.

It gets better…

…”Oh!” said the Sage. “I forgot to pick some asparagus. Is it too late?” “Not if you run” I replied. “I’ll run!” he said.

That’s what he’s doing Right Now.

I’ve just put some photos on the computer. I’ll show them to you later.

Baksun*, darlings.

*Hope I’ve spelled that right.

I’m back, with photos of what I saw in the garden this afternoon

Feeling cheerful because the sun was shining, I went out with my camera. Tilly was trotting across the field, quite some way away. She looked at me and started to trot in my direction. I could see the moment that she was sure it was me, because her ears changed shape and she started to run. When she reached the fence, she lay down. I love the buttercups on the meadow too. It’s ancient grassland and, although we take out nettles, thistles and ragwort, it’s fertilised only by the cows who graze in the summer and kept as natural as it can be.

Wisteria on the house. The photo’s rather dark; it looks better enlarged


Lilac, which is actually lilac, not white. Photography isn’t my strong suit

The wall will be built one day

I like wild flowers too



The first globe artichoke

The stream separates the garden from the other meadow

May – hawthorn, if you prefer

Friend of Gustav (no need to explain, you all read Greavsie). I don’t remember ever seeing him before; he was contemplating life the other side of the fig tree

You can’t have him, he’s mine

“Oh, sorry,” said the Sage. “I just poured you a glass of wine.” “Line ’em up!” I said cheerfully, having poured my own ten minutes ago. “I don’t suppose,” I added hopefully “that you would scrub the potatoes? Mwah mwah?” “Done them already,” he replied in a completely unsmug tone. He left the room. He came back in and kissed me. “I saw them languishing in the sink, so I thought they were probably for this evening.”

He’s just come in again. “Shall I move your car for you?” I’d brought some plants home from the shop for Al and had parked near the vegetable garden and then forgotten to move the car back out of the way. I’m a bit torn, you know. After thinking oh bugger the sodding car I’m selling it after all it’s cost me and I don’t need one so big, I keep finding that I do.

Anyway, it was the Street Market today. For those of you who do not know my little town, there are three of these in the year; one in December for festive stuff, an Antiques Fair in the summer and, in mid-May, a Gardeners’ Market. One of the streets is closed off and stalls line it on both sides. If the weather isn’t awful, it’s always a jolly occasion and people love it – the town is full. Because of church, I didn’t get there until about 1.30, well after the peak, but it still took me ten minutes to weave through all the crowds, wheeling my bike. A woman trying to come the other way, pushing a child in a wheelchair, grinned ruefully at me – I’d said “after you,” but she couldn’t move either.

Al had set up the shop, which is across the roundabout from the closed street, and had been very busy. He sold loads of plants and a surprising amount of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Some of the vegetable plants had been grown by us – no need to worry on his behalf about the profit margin, Dandelion; he did very well.

I biked home an hour later, enjoying the lightness of the bike. Usually, I cycle in easily and slog home. I had bought nothing except a cabbage and a lettuce, and Al had given me some broad bean tops because they won’t keep for Monday (cook and eat them as spinach; they’re delicious – if you like spinach and the scent of broad bean flowers, that is), whereas usually I have 15 – 25 lbs weight of shopping in my panniers. No, I don’t know how we use that much stuff every day either, except that sometimes it contains bottles.

I was tired at the end of last week, so I’ve deliberately relaxed this weekend. I feel so much better now. I could have pushed myself and done what I *needed* to do but, you know, nearly all of it could wait. I’ve just got to send a couple of emails to meet other people’s deadlines and the rest will still be there tomorrow. I think that it’ll be more important to feed my Sage a delicious meal and devote the rest of the evening to reading the paper, being amused by my son and cuddling my husband. And Tilly, of course.

Z has a Day of Rest

Well, a morning at any rate, as I’m babysitting this afternoon.

I had plans for this morning, but I’ve not done a thing. I’m tired. Not in a depressed or exhausted sort of way, I just want to do nothing for a few hours. So I have, or haven’t, whichever makes more sense.

I should, even now, be cycling into town to do my weekend shopping, but it’s still raining and I am rather hoping it’ll clear up.

If you remember the photos I posted a little while ago of the sitting hen, her eggs have now hatched and she has 9 chicks. There were still 3 eggs, so the Sage has put them under another broody bantam to give them a chance. We went out for dinner with friends last night, and put mother and babies into a coop for safety when we returned home at 11.30. She was not too thrilled, but she soon settled down.

Since Dave has not posted any holiday photos today, I will show you a few Spanish dogs.

We couldn’t help noticing that, although there were quite a number of dogs, there was no dog-mess. Indeed, Madrid was noticeably litter-free. The dogs were charming and most of them were either mongrels or breeds unknown to me.

Z is annoyed by phones

I phoned and got an answerphone, saying that if I left my number they’d ring back. I did and they didn’t.

It’s one of those things, isn’t it? As soon as you’re trying to keep the line free, either you have overwhelming urges to make other phone calls or you receive whole strings of them from friends. Two people did ring, overlapping each other of course, so one had to leave a message, but keeping the Sage off the phone for an hour or two is an impossibility. Before Broadband came to the village and using the internet meant that people couldn’t ring you and if you picked up the phone you cut off the internet, to the fury of the one using it, I had an extra phone line put on for Ro. We paid the rental, he paid the calls. It meant no friction between him and his father; one learns things after years of having teenage children. Of course, the Sage and I snapped at each other periodically; usually I at him because I always remembered to ask him if he wanted to use the phone before going online, and he rarely checked if I was before picking up the receiver. Then he’d slam the phone down, say “Sorry”, but it was too late. The internet could have destroyed our marriage, but broadband saved it.

Anyway, now of course one can use the phone through the internet, so that’s the one I directed the Sage to this morning, although he has lost one of the receivers; the one that plays a jolly tune. I phoned it, but evidently the battery is flat as it didn’t ring. The Sage is looking hangdog. Two blunders. He’s running errands for me now, to demonstrate his usefulness and indispensability.

So, eventually I rang back and it was answered straight away. “Oh, I don’t think calls are returned until after noon.” Fine, why doesn’t their message say so, then?

I’ve sent some of my more interesting tomato plants to the shop for Al – that is, the varieties are interesting, with names like Black Russian, Czech’s Excellent Yellow and Brandywine. It rained all morning and I thought I’d have an excuse to drive to the school, as I have to arrive tidy this afternoon as I’m helping interview. But it’s stopped. I hope I don’t get too splashed on the way.