Monthly Archives: April 2009

Z goes out, on a whim (but not her own)

At about 3.30, Al came through and said they’d all decided to go out (“as a family”, isn’t that sweet?) to Southwold, and home via the splendid fish & chip shop at Pakefield – would we all like to come? The Sage said it was too late a return for the bantams, as they’d all be roosting in trees and he would spend half the evening catching them and putting them to bed. Ro said he had too much work to do. I said I had more potting on to do – pfft, I’d love to come.

It had been a cold, dull morning until the sun came out, and then it turned hot and lovely, albeit with a strong wind. Southwold was quite busy, although not many hardy people were still on the beach at 4 o’clock. We walked to the pier, watched the activities of the water clock at 4.30 and then spent half an hour building sandcastles. At Pakefield, we ate fish and chips on the green by the cliff, walked a few yards to show the children where their daddy had lived for 10 years (if you know Lowestoft, it’s the Old Rectory, which was in the news a few weeks ago as the former home of the chap who bought it from us, who has recently gone to prison. A story which upsets me) and then drove past the house where we lived for the first year of Al’s life.

This morning, I was busy after the service getting nominations for the PCC. The treasurer was a bit upset – nothing to do with me or anyone in the church – and wasn’t sure she wanted to carry on. I didn’t try to persuade her, I just listened to her and said how I’d try to put things right for next time; that she worked so hard it wouldn’t be fair to push her into doing something she had doubts about but that I hoped she knew how much she was appreciated. I meant it of course – I don’t do flannel – and she considered it and said she’ll stand again. I’m very relieved; quite apart from the problem of having three days to find yet another treasurer, it would be awful to have a really fine person driven away, quite unintentionally, by another, equally fine, who was maybe seen as being more pernickety than was required in the circumstances. I’ve written and addressed that person’s concerns tonight, with sincere thanks for the work done. I know, you’ll call me a creep. I deny it, but agree that I’m a peacemaker and a negotiator. I also think it’s important that each person in a disagreement keeps his sense of self-worth and doesn’t feel he hasn’t had his point of view taken into account.

Z goes out on a whim

To start with, my apologies for having turned on word verification. There’s a whole spate of spam comments in Chinese (or similar language that I can’t understand) on a lot of blogs at the moment and, whilst I haven’t had any, I don’t want them and nor do I want any of you lovely people who have commented and signed up for notification of replies to receive them either. As a lesser of two evils, please excuse it – I trust that Blogger will get on the case and intervene to stop them before long. Spam seems to come in waves, doesn’t it?

Weeza wants to buy a bike. She still has her old one here, but she hasn’t ridden it since she was at school. Phil cycles a lot – 15 miles or more a day as part of his commute to start with, and then he enjoys going out for a bike ride at the weekend. He biked over here last Sunday; 22 miles each way. There’s some really pretty countryside around where they live and they want to get a child’s trailer to go on the back. They are extremely expensive new, so they’re investigating second-hand.

The Sage is just pouring me a glass of wine. Isn’t he a constant delight? This morning, he asked if there was anything I needed, so I suggested he buy dinner to save me going out shopping. Then I went out anyway, as Wink was. We wanted to check her new satnav, which turned up impressively quickly – ordered on Tuesday evening, shipped on Thursday, arrived on Friday afternoon and all seems well. She left after lunch today and arrived at Warminster (not where she lives, but where her chap, Bod lives) just on 4 hours later. It’s 230 miles to her house, but maybe a little less to reach Bod, I’m not sure.

The Sage has scrubbed the Jersey Royals, put them on to cook and is heating the grill for me. I think he deserves a kiss. He also mowed the lawn this evening, which is splendid. I daresay all of you have cut the grass (those who have lawns, that is) several times already this year, but we take rather the same attitude to mowing as we do to dusting – it soon comes back so you might as well leave it until it’s worth doing. I did say that I’d take over the mowing, as I think our petrol mower is a bit of a beast (I can’t start it as the pull rope is too long for me to keep a foot on the machine to stop it from being pulled towards me as I yank) and it’s too heavy for him, but I was assailed by indecision as to which to buy last year, so ended up forgetting about it through the winter. I’ll go out on a whim and get one, one day.

Still potting up plants. I’ve found another tray of tomatoes. Two more done, two to do. I’ve also been potting up courgettes. I sowed the Blue Hubbard squash plants and was a bit miffed to discover each packet, while saying ‘average 10 seeds’, only gave me 7. I might send a miffed email. I also sowed runner beans. 252 of them so far, with about another 60 to go. Indeed, we are fond of runner beans, but Al will sell most of the plants.

One thing I like to do, when on holiday, is buy packets of seeds. It’s a memento of the trip, to grow plants from it the next year. I also, often, buy a little purse. As something I handle every day, I think it makes a cheery little memory of the occasion. I’m using the soft little leather one I bought in Krakow 2 years ago still. It cost about 40p and I’ve had to mend it a bit, but it takes coins, a few cards – credit, library, blood donor, debit, and some stamps, and I like it very much. I bought my last purse in India – in Udaipur, I think.

Decisions, decisions

Apologetically had to abandon Wink today, as I had a meeting in the village in the afternoon and another here this evening. To make up for it, I took her, with Weeza and Zerlina for lunch at the local nice restaurant. I had scallops, so did Wink and Weeza had duck. Zerlina had some vegetable number brought along by her mother, and fromage frais. Tonight, Dilly did pizza and salad for us all so that I didn’t have to cook before my meeting.

It was a decisive meeting. I did written notes beforehand, which is useful I find as you don’t have to start with a lot of explanations, and I’d done a whole lot of research on the internet this afternoon, for which I got more credit than I deserved as it wasn’t much trouble. As a result, we have decided to spend some of the church’s money (we received a bequest) and I will be putting in various orders in the next day or two. We’ve been given a second-hand fridge to replace the one that’s just gone wrong, so that’s a help.

Wink will be leaving tomorrow after lunch. I’ll miss her, it’s been lovely that she’s had nearly a week with us. Our friend Daphne rang today, asking if she can come and stay next week, so there will be a quicker than usual change around of bedclothes in the spare room. Time was, you know, when I did all that sort of thing at once, as a matter of course. I thought I was busy but, looking back, it all seems to have been a lot more leisurely.

I potted up another trayful of tomatoes, but there are still three more to go and I haven’t started on the peppers or aubergines yet. I still have the squashes to pot up and more to sow, and runner beans to sow too. Four trays of broad beans – 48 plants – are going down to the shop for sale tomorrow morning. There’s about another 10 trayfuls coming on. I’ll keep some for myself of course. I like broad beans.

I finally opened the envelope with my holiday itinerary and ticket and find that I’ll be getting back to Norwich about midnight at the end of the trip, so we’ve arranged that the Sage will leave my car in the car park the day before and come home with Ro, so that I don’t drag him over in the middle of the night. I’ve also been mulling over what I need to buy and take and I hope to have a brief shopping spree in Norwich on Tuesday – I have a 2 hour chink there, so if I skip lunch that will be plenty of time. Daphne will arrive on Wednesday, I’ll look after Pugsley on Thursday and it’s our auction on Friday. I’ll pack on Saturday. Or Sunday afternoon. Yes, that’s more likely.

Z stays calm

Wink’s wallet was at the Post Office, where she had forgetfully left it yesterday. So that’s all right. Things usually turn up and we didn’t over-react.

I’m starting to plan for my trip to Italy. It isn’t planning as Dave knows it – he’d have his euros bought, his bag ready to pack and all the rest by now and I haven’t yet opened the envelope containing tickets and inventory. Indeed, I wonder where I’ve put it. My planning is in my mind. I’m mulling over the clothes I might need – does anyone happen to know what the weather might be in Bologna at the end of April/early May? I’m rather thinking, since I’m flying with British Airways, that I might take the luxury of travelling light with no check-in luggage, but that means getting my clothes right. I do have to get stuff planned rather earlier than usual though, as it’s our auction next Friday, I’m going to babysit for Weeza and Phil on Sunday (26th, not this Sunday) and then Weeza’s going to take me to catch the coach on Monday morning. In effect, my best day to do things is Wednesday. Which is a bit early really. Anyway, I’ve made a start – I’ve checked that my passport is where I thought it was. I like to pack everything at the same time, otherwise I fuss that I’ve forgotten something and have to unpack it all to check. I don’t like fussing.

Looking at the final sentence of each paragraph, I realise that I’ve given clues to my Inner Self.

Z is wakeful

I took the precaution of a prophylactic painkiller this morning, which meant I’ve felt splendid all day, except for the cough. Today, since I was working in the shop on The Day Itself, we celebrated Wink’s birthday with a day out with Weeza and Zerlina. We had lunch at an excellent pub (with added brewery next door). Zerlina was a Perfect Angel, as I expect all children related to me to be, and ate her lunch enthusiastically. She then shared our pudding (one ice cream, three spoons … ah, four spoons) and only whined a bit then – she’d never had ice cream before and was slightly anxious that we might have her share.

After that, we went back for a nap. We didn’t sleep, the baby did. For a long time. After an hour’s chat, we started remarking on it. “Zerlina is having a lovely long sleep, isn’t she?” “Yes, isn’t it good?” “I wonder when she’ll wake up?”

She did, cheerful and relaxed, and then we went shopping at the garden centre for, having planted out everything we’d bought the other day, there were still a couple of gaps. We spent a long time there, and I bought a new fork and spade too.

So, a jolly day all round, and not a lot to remark upon. I potted up a few dozen more tomato plants this morning, and now only have about 100 to go, plus all the other seedlings.

The only fly that has inconveniently buzzed into the ointment is that Wink has lost her wallet. That is, she hopes it’s here, or possibly with Wink or with her sister-in-law and her husband, whom she visited yesterday. But she can’t find it. She hasn’t used it since she’s been here, but she’s rung a neighbour who’s been in and checked obvious places in her house. She’s looked everywhere, but we’ll look again tomorrow morning. There’s no reason to think there has been malappropriation, but all the same, it’s got her credit cards in so one can’t take it lightly. Oh bummer, darlings, don’t you hate it when something like that happens? If it doesn’t turn up tomorrow, she’s going to have to bite the cancellation bullet, which will be a real nuisance.

Everyone seems to have gone to bed. But the night is young, darlings, it’s hardly half past ten. What am I to do for the next couple of hours?

Z is a Sentimental Old Bat

The Sage has just poured me a second glass of wine, and as soon as the painkillers kick in, I’ll feel marvellous. Al and co. are at the theatre this afternoon so I’ve been at the shop and I think I pulled a muscle a bit – first my back had that hot ripped feeling and then I had a pain in my chest, quite high up, at breastbone level. I was fine, and it was a lovely afternoon – for a long time I was too busy but then I took a stool outside and sat and read in between customers, with the sun on my back. The Sage came to help me pack up, which I was ever so grateful for and which I mostly left to him because my hip/knee hurt too It’s no big deal, just that I’m a bit feeble after this chest infection. I’m feeling better and will be quite well by next week – it’s a beastly thing and the Sage is still coughing; he didn’t get it so badly as I (who didn’t get it so badly as Al) but it really lasts.

Al and Dilly bought me a gizmo to go on the bike to tell me how far and what speed I’m going. They bought it for Mother’s Day (Mothering Sunday if you prefer, but that is actually a church thing and this was for me!) but didn’t realise they had to buy a battery, as it should have been included, so it’s all taken a while. Darling Al gave up quite some time on Easter Sunday to fit it up for me. I ride along now, inevitably, with one eye on the gizmo.

Tonight, as it’s Wink’s birthday, I have planned a celebration meal. The first course will be Norfolk asparagus. The very local stuff isn’t around yet, but Al has been delighting his customers for a week with it. Then, sea bass with English tomatoes Provençal (olive oil, garlic and parsley – I hope the way I do it is the way my mother did when I was a little girl; it tastes right) and local sprouting broccoli and Jersey Royal potatoes. Then pineapple. Neither Wink nor I wants a fattening dinner and I hope she likes it.

You know, it’s moments like this when I miss my mother, when she was still well and the person I knew (this is shorthand, I may explain one day but not now). She would get this meal exactly and know just how much of a treat it feels like in exactly the same way I do. I first felt this a couple of months after she died, when I served a baked fish, our first digging of potatoes and first picking of broad beans, and asparagus out of the garden. I wanted to cry because no one else felt the perfection and the satisfaction like me and probably wouldn’t and I didn’t expect them to. The family enjoyed it, but it wasn’t meaningful. I didn’t say anything, it wasn’t a criticism.

Betjeman said that ‘childhood is made up of sights and sounds and smells’ – being very lacking in qualities of observation, I’d probably say smells and tastes and feels.

Z buys Another Birthday Present

It’s not surprising that I vetoed further April babies, considering that my two older children and my sister all have birthdays in the first half of this month. It’s Wink’s turn tomorrow and I hadn’t bought her a present. I didn’t know what to get, so we were planning to go shopping. However, in the course of conversation at dinner tonight, the subject of sat-navs came up and I wondered if she would like one. She would, so that’s done. All I have to do now is find her card, which I’ve put a load of stuff on top of.

I had the children again today, for rather longer than I’d expected, but they were very good…most of the time. Squiffany threw a wobbly. I asked them what they’d like for lunch, giving three choices. Squiffany asked for boiled eggs (I’d just said ‘eggs’ with no method specified). Pugsley asked for fish fingers – but then, that was all right. They both thought they might like to share them both, so all seemed well. But when the egg appeared, and I invited her to tap it so that I could remove the top of the shell, she suddenly said she wanted eggs cooked in a different way. I was firm, she lost her temper and stormed from the room, so I ignored her for the next half hour while she calmed down. She came back a few times to shout a bit more, and opened the drawing room door a couple of times while she could slam it, but I took no notice. Wink ate one of the boiled eggs and I ate the other.

Later, we talked it through, she said ‘sorry’ and ate the fish fingers I’d saved (I told her it was those or nothing). All was tranquil for the rest of the day and, ooh, we watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This was Ro’s favourite film when he was a little boy and he watched the video over and again. He suspects that he holds the record for the most watchings. I was thrilled when I saw it was on, and we all clustered round the television.

Did I mention (I didn’t know, so I’ve looked at yesterday’s post and no, I didn’t) that Al and his family like the new tv? They all cuddled up on the sofa yesterday afternoon and watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The corner it’s in is still very tidy. In my house, that’s worth remarking.

Easter Eggs

The whole family was here for lunch, that is, eleven of us. Splendid. Ro and the Sage did a fair bit of the cooking while I was at church. Zerlina had a nap after lunch and then Squiffany read books to her. She read The Very Hungry Caterpillaar several times; she knows it by heart. Then they sat and chuckled and chattered to each other. I wondered which would, as time goes by, be the one to lead the other furthest* astray – maybe they’ll just egg each other on.

Phil cycled over – 22 miles. It took him about an hour and a quarter. I think, if I were to try such a thing it would take me double the time, plus several long stops, preferably at roadside hostelries. I haven’t been on my bike for a few days in fact, apart from just round the village, as I’m still recovering from my laryngitis of last week and I cough a lot. I feel better today, at any rate.

We didn’t have the rain that was forecast for East Angular. Al and Dilly bought a tent last week and, of course, the children were keen to try it out. Since it would pretty well fill their lawn, giving barely enough room for the guy ropes, they put it up on our lawn (which is still not a large one). They slept out there for two nights except Al, who knew he would have a busy day on Saturday and opted out for Friday night. It went well, apparently, and they were warm, although “aren’t there a lot of different birds in the dawn chorus?” said Dilly. Most intrusive is the cock pheasant, whose loud call is always followed by claps of his wings. At least we don’t have a cockerel at present. We have more than 40 bantams at present, so we won’t replace the one who was taken by a fox (he defended his wives, who were all saved) for a while until the numbers go down naturally – some of the girls are 5 or more years old; they all live a natural lifespan unless a vulpine nocturnal visit robs them of it. They are laying very well at present and Al sells several dozen eggs a week (80p per half dozen). They eat the lettuces etc that he has to throw out, so they have their reward. Cycling down the drive is a charming experience – there are pheasants and chickens strolling across my path, rabbits on the field and usually a pair of partridges taking fright and flight. If I go slowly, the pheasants and bantams don’t panic and gently bustle away.

* I realise I should use the comparative rather than the superlative, but it isn’t ‘right’.

Z buys a Birthday present

Weeza and Phil have a small front garden, half of which was covered by dull shrubs planted by the builders when the house was built a few years ago, and half of which is grass. Weeza and I (each being as impulsive as the other) hauled them all out a few weeks ago – I cut off the branches with my pruning saw and she dug out the roots. A couple of days later, the Sage drove over in his van and removed all the shrubs for the bonfire.

So, I wondered if she’d like replacement shrubs as a birthday present, and she was very pleased. This is the reason that, having babysat last night while they went out for dinner here, I stayed overnight so that we could all go to the garden centre together.

Weeza had the rabbit, the pork and the hot cross bun and butter pudding. I don’t know what Phil had, but it must have included the beef as Weeza enthused about the smoked potato purée. She said that the food was beautifully presented, bordering on fussy but redeemed by being completely delicious. There was a small mishap during the evening caused by a dim sous chef in the kitchen, which was brushed off as being of no matter by Weeza and Phil, who were astonished at the end of the evening to be presented with no bill, but with thanks. They could do nothing but promise to go again…

Zerlina cried for a long time. This is, apparently, most unusual. I tried the reassuring hand, I tried the cuddle. They didn’t make the slightest difference. Finally, after getting nowhere for 20 minutes, I reckoned that I was quite possibly disturbing her more with my presence than my absence, so I went back downstairs and closed the door. She fell asleep in the end and slept until 6 am. She was all smiles this morning and doesn’t seem to hold it against me.

Happy Easter, darlings, in case I don’t have time to pop in tomorrow morning.

Z’s drawing room has a really tidy corner

I meant to go shopping yesterday afternoon, as I was looking after the children and I thought they would be quite happy trawling round the supermarket persuading me to buy them things, but they were both rather edgy and tearful when their mother left. They sounded tired and not very well, so I changed my mind and suggested a cuddle on the sofa with a film to watch instead. It was just what was needed, they both had a rest (actually, I dropped off at one point for a few minutes) and afterwards they drew, did puzzles and we read books until Al came home. Then I went out for dinner.

I wasn’t late back, and was slightly disappointed that Ro hadn’t unpacked the new television, so I hoovered and tidied where the old one had been while he assembled the base of the new one. Once it was in place, we decided it wasn’t in the best place. There’s not much choice, as it has to be within reach of the aerial lead but, once Dilly arrived home this morning to take over the children, I moved all the furniture in the room and cleaned thoroughly – actually, I haven’t quite finished. There seems to be at least one armchair too many in here now. I’ll probably keep them over Easter, as we’ll use them all, and then move one to another room.

I hadn’t been shopping however, and tonight I’m babysitting Zerlina, staying overnight and tomorrow morning going shopping with Weeza for her birthday present – I’m buying her shrubs and suchlike for her garden. There is little food in the house, though I have taken a leg of lamb from the freezer for Sunday (it had a happy, though short life, eating good grass from our field down by the river last spring and summer). More importantly, there was hardly a bottle of wine in the pantry – I’ve been too busy to shop recently and we’ve even drunk most of the good stuff. Not that I regularly have good stuff, though every time I do I think I should up my wine-buying game somewhat.

It used to be that most shops were shut on Good Friday, but that’s been increasingly going by the board in recent years, And now I’ve joined the shoppers. Ro and I went down to the Co-op and filled a trolley.

I realised a while ago that I won’t be around in the morning to help decorate the church. I’ve sent out an email explaining, so I hope someone who’s going will read it and tell the others what’s happening. I suppose I’d better put a note in the church kitchen too, in case.