Monthly Archives: June 2008

If a picture paints a thousand words, then it’s no wonder this house has a lot of bookcases, because Z can write and read, but is no artist

I should be working. I’ve been reading blogs. I’m sorry if I haven’t visited you recently, or if it’s been a flying visit with no comment, but I’ve not got much time at the moment – I’ve still got three days’ newspapers to catch up on, apart from the work (did I mention that I’ve got to finish some tonight?)

Having said that, as priorities go, all is fine. I spent the day with Phil and his dad Dave (have you noticed that almost everyone is called Dave?) painting the house. It would have gone easier if the room designated for the baby had not been painted a quite intrusive shade of blue, rather dominating a small room. So far, it’s had 5 coats of white paint and is down to ice-blue. Two or three more coats and it may lose the bluety. Ironically, Weeza and Phil’s room has been painted en elegant grey-blue.

Dave had to leave at 6 pm for the 4-hour drive home, ready to be up at 6 for work the next morning. I carried on an extra hour and recommended to Phil that he call it a day too. One has to pace oneself. I’ll go back tomorrow morning and we’ll see how much more we can get done. 3 bedrooms, bathroom, landing stairs and hall, sitting room, dining room, kitchen. Doable in 4 days, if not for this wretched blue bedroom. I hope we’ll get the second coat of the hall etc, plus the living and dining rooms done tomorrow, then (apart from at least 2 more goes at baby’s room), only the bathroom and kitchen to do. Phil also wants to mow the grass with his new lawnmower. I expect he’ll have done that this evening.

Z went on the Motorway!!(!)

113 miles, door to door, in 2 1/2 hours. All went well and on our return we bought the paint and I left Phil and his dad ready for an evening of painting ceilings. I hadn’t taken suitable clothes to be bespattered so came home, promising to return promptly the following morning.

The bees have had a cheerfully busy day exploring their new territory. I only looked at them briefly, as I’d been with the children for a couple of hours. I went in at 8 o’clock, bearing breakfast, make-up and contact lens. Dilly asked if I could pop into the shop quickly, as Al had gone off with her car keys in his pocket. I stuck the lens in the general direction of my eye, it lodged in an appropriate place and a few minutes I returned – as I drove slowly past the shop, Al chucked the keys through the window; couldn’t have been quicker.

Children were adorable of course. Pugsley is just starting to string words together on the way to sentences; a new thing in the last two or three weeks. It had been one word sentences, even if connected. “Elephant. Huge. Huge. Enormous. Elephant.” has given way to “Where Squiffany gone? Daddy? Not bed. Where?” – he had woken up to find that his sister had absconded to their parents’ bed, but Al’s head was under the bedclothes so he was not visible.

Off again early, more suitably dressed, to help with painting.

Best beehiviour

I went into town to fill the car up for my journey to London tomorrow and called in at the shop for empty boxes, to be filled at Weeza and Phil’s flat. The phone rang; it was Dilly, saying that the bee man had rung to say he’d bring the nucleus of Al’s hive during the evening. Al looked harassed. “I haven’t started shutting up, I haven’t done the order list; I won’t be home until at least 7 o’clock” he protested. They were all ready. They were coming, ready or not.

I offered to shut up shop, but after some discussion we agreed that I’d do Al’s deliveries and then go home and start scything the long grass. Al arrived home by 6.30, leaving much of the clearing up to be done later. He was quite surprised at the inroads I’d made into the sea of nettles and docks. I’d said grass, but there was little of that. It was a large area that had been occupied by chickens for several years and only the inedible weeds were left. Blue Witch had given me advice last year on a good area to put the beehive (her first choice, which I rejected, was the tennis court) so I knew roughly where to cut. Nettles over 4 feet high are placed just right to catch you as they fall. Both arms and, through my teeshirt, much of my front were tingling within moments and I was itching from the clouds of gnats that rose from the greenery. The Sage got stung by a horse-fly in the same area the other day; his arm is still swollen.

The Sage was sent off for fish and chips, as I no longer felt like cooking. We all trooped out to see the bees being put into place later. They are in a box – about 2,000 of them with their queen – and as soon as the plug was taken out, they started to come out to investigate their new surroundings. If the weather is good, Al will transfer them into the hive, which he will put in the same place as the box is now. It’s all very exciting. I will not be here, I’ll have to get someone to take photos. If I can find the lead for the camera, that is. I’ve got the part that plugs into the computer, but the one that recharges it wasn’t where I expected it to be.

How Ronan strangled Bobby

Did I ever tell you about Great-Uncle Ronan? He was my paternal grandfather’s elder brother and he was the District Commissioner for Nairobi about 100 years ago. He’s our family hero and we have the leopard to prove it.

Like many people in the Colonial service, he became devoted to the country he was sent to. He lived as one of the ruling classes of course, as was normal at that time. I’m not making any judgment, comment or anything else on British or any other colonialism – that was then, this is now, it would not be appropriate now for an Englishman to rule an area with a load of African servants and I’m not justifying it. But he did care about the people under his care and felt them to be his responsibility, personally as well as professionally.

One evening, he was going out to dinner so had given all his staff the evening off. He was putting on his evening clothes when he heard screams coming from the kitchen. He ran down and found a leopard attacking his house boy, the only other person in the house. Ronan had a revolver in his room, but if he fetched it, the man would be dead by the time he returned. He grabbed the leopard by the throat.

It was a fight to the death.

Once he was better, he carried on with the programme of getting wells dug, to bring fresh and clean water to outlying areas. Unfortunately, he had to drink the local water in the meantime, he caught cholera and he died. In the attic, we’ve got the series of telegrams telling his mother of his illness, finishing with the black-bordered envelope. There is also a scrapbook of press cuttings, including the ones of his funeral. A colleague of my stepfather went to the cemetery in Nairobi and found his memorial some years ago, don’t know if it still exists.

I don’t know a lot else about him. His name is Gaelic, chosen by his Scottish mother. He was married, but divorced his wife on the grounds of her adultery. It was a bit startling, browsing through the Times archives, to find the court case of their divorce. He had no children and died in 1913. We named our second son after him – sorry, Ro, it’s never been easy, having a name everyone gets wrong.

Bobby, the leopard, is in the rafters in one of the garages. I’ve been meaning for a long time to get him hauled down. If he’s rotted away, he’ll be burnt. If not, he’ll be fumigated and brought indoors. I’ve known him all my life, he lived on the landing in my family home and I used to say goodnight to him when I went to bed.

Z is a touch euphoric.

The happiest discovery of the day, thanks to Dave, was how to do an apple.  – like this. It has, sad little woman that I am, become my signature du jour.

I’m feeling pretty good today, in fact. All those things that have been hanging over my head for weeks – they’re done. Not that I’ve not got a lot still on, but there are no more deadlines. No more speeches. No more performances. No more meetings to chair until September. They’ve all happened. It feels wonderful. I don’t care whether they were done well or badly; they were done. When I arrived home today, there was a message asking me to play the organ at a funeral next Thursday. I will say ‘no’. Unless the weather is nasty, I shall go to the Norfolk (and good) Show. This Saturday, I will go to London to fetch boxes of Stuff as well as Phil, who will be delivered to Norwich as he will spend the next four days painting. I’ll go and help (though I’ve been forbidden to go up ladders; I’m sturdy and sensible on ladders, but I obey my daughter and am glad she cares) and have said I won’t be available for church. I’ve done it, I don’t have to do it.

Family promises, babysitting and the like are a joy. Paperwork has been building up and must be completed, but will be. The garden is a disaster because we are plagued with rabbits at present, but never mind. It’s nature. We may swear but we can’t completely control and that’s not at all a bad thing.

What a lovely evening. I must go and close the doors to the greenhouses. The green wheelie bins must be wheeled down to the gate (they are chocker; no one did it a fortnight ago). Then, a delicious ripe peach. And a pear. Then coffee. Yes. It’s good. The Sage will be happy later; I’ll be charming to him. The darling man went to a funeral today, in Northamptonshire, which is a long way (anywhere out of Norfolk and Suffolk takes half a day to drive to). It was someone whom he had known for over 60 years and her husband was so pleased to see him. He had been a schoolteacher at the Sage’s prep school and she had been Matron. They were both lovely people and I’d have gone too, if it hadn’t been for the last of my obligations.

Have a good evening, darlings.

Ab scone ded?

I did my SEN governor duty today and spent the morning in the Learning Support department. They have recently bought a new program for helping children who have difficulties with reading, or with literacy generally. This one. It’s very good and has engaged the pupils’ interest. There is plenty of supplementary work as well as what they do on the computer – there were two boys reading a book about POW camp escapes afterwards and, with the teaching assistant, we all talked about it with interest. All the pupils doing the program have increased their reading and spelling scores; one lad’s spelling age has gone up by 2 years in a matter of weeks!

Afterwards, I had lunch at school and stayed for a meeting, which led to another one, and we finally rolled out at 6 o’clock. At least there had been buttered scones with cream and strawberries to keep our spirits up. The Sage, however, rather wondered what had happened to me and whether I was coming home at all.

This evening, I watched ‘The Lives of Others’, with Ulrich Mühe and Sebastian Koch. Mühe died not long after the film was completed; he was only 3 months older than me. Good film. I’m not too clever at watching films with subtitles as I find it hard not to read while I watch television, so I put it on the computer where I am more likely to concentrate.

A friend phoned a while ago, asking to come and stay tomorrow night, which will be a pleasure. She’s giving a friend, over from California to visit her elderly mother, a lift to Lowestoft and she’ll come on over here after that.

I’m dismayed that I was stupid enough not to buy a ticket for me when I bought Ro’s for the Latitude festival in July. The splendid Okkervil River will be playing. Now the tickets are all sold out. Woe.


Random facts about me – I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days, which gave me time to forget a couple of them. Inspiration is sure to strike as I write.

The rules

1. Link to the person who tagged you – that’s lovely Stegbeetle
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

N. I remember, when I was a child – maybe 7 or 8 – tinned celery hearts being served as a vegetable. This didn’t exactly strike me with glee, as I’ve never been that fond of cooked celery, but that wasn’t to say it was not edible and I generally ate what I was given, albeit in small quantities. For some reason, my mother and I were alone (no doubt the reason she hadn’t prepared fresh veg) and she had to leave the room for a couple of minutes at just the time I sliced my celery heart open. In the centre was a slug. A very dead, cooked slug. I pondered briefly. My mother wouldn’t care for that at all. She would be quite revolted. We were eating (this was indeed rare, and was again because we were alone) in a small back room that had been a scullery and was later turned into a little sitting room, with a coke-burning stove. I opened the stove door, chucked in the slug and heard it sizzle. Then, for what else could I do?, I ate the celery. I figured that the canning process had removed any germs.

O. I learned numbers from watching the football results on television. On a Saturday evening, my mother left me watching tv while she prepared my tea after my bath. I would have been 2 or 3 at that time. After a few weeks, she was surprised to find that I could recognise numbers. I suppose I didn’t learn how much they represented, but i could match the sound to the shape.

R. When in doubt, I say yes. This doesn’t mean I can’t and don’t say no, but I’m far more inclined to go for it.

M. I never put my iPod on shuffle, as I prefer to listen to the whole album.

A. Horses like me. They find me soothing.

D. As a child I had a sardonic, blackish sense of humour. I loved Saki, Tom Lehrer and the Addams Family cartoons. I have never been cute or adorable – that is, I am because hey, I can’t help radiating sweetness, but I resist it. My most disliked nursery rhyme was the dreadful ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ for little girls, while the boys had the much cooler slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails. Not that I wanted to be a little boy.

Rules 4, 5 and 6 – I’m rubbish at tagging. I never remember who hates tags and who likes them. If you do it, let me know please?

Pretentious? Zoi?

Oh dear. I got a bit carried away by enthusiasm for today’s lecture and didn’t resist the temptation to quote poetry. At least it wasn’t too well known, so if I made any mistakes it’s not that likely anyone noticed. It was a damn fine lecture about the history of photography, and I do love really old photos. I don’t mean so much the staged ones of the awkward -looking Victorian people being snapped, very slowly, for posterity, but the ones taken by early enthusiasts, many of whom had the artist’s eye as well. There was a very early one by Fox Talbot which I loved – the back of a house with an open shed door and a besom broom leaning against it, and a picture, taken from a low angle, of several flights of worn stone steps, curving and converging, at Wells Cathedral. There was a poignant one of the Valley of Death (sorry to be melodramatic), bare and bleak except for scattered cannonballs, a picture of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, a cheerful Rossini and a pair of Scottish fisher girls from a century and a half ago. Fascinating. I’d love to have them in a book to stare at and study.

Anyhoo, I duly did my speech, all 3 pages of it – yes, I wrote it out verbatim although I didn’t actually read it out, but there were too many people to thank and too many specific things to say, to just do bullet points and hope. Well, so I claim. It was a formalish annual review. Enough excuses.

Afterwards, we took the speaker for lunch, which was a pleasure.

And now, as the sun still shines, I’m going to ride statelily into town to fetch vegetables for dinner. I don’t know what we’re having for dinner yet – doesn’t bother me, I had lunch out. Heh heh.

three-quarters of an hour later Oops! It’s the Sage’s birthday. I’d forgotten. *heads out for the freezer to find something easy to defrost and delicious*.