Monthly Archives: February 2010

Z has not taken a photo of the lawn today

Weeza sent me a link to this website, which gave me a fine chortle. Who knew that minimalism made you so solemn?

If anyone is hoping for a photograph of a lovely lawn, I should explain that very little has happened to the area since. I have two relatively free months of the year – February and August – and so they are good times for a project. The year after the lawn was enlarged by clearing the scrub, the Sage was left to mow it. Inexplicably, he only mowed the original area and left the cleared part – I explained that mowing would kill the weeds, especially ground elder which was all around the roots of the laurel, but he seemed incapable of doing so. So last year, I bought a lawnmower of my own so that I could do it.

I should explain that the Sage has no objection to my using his lawnmower, but it has a pull start and the cord is so long that I can barely manage it. One has to put a foot on the mower to steady it as you pull, and it is not designed for a short woman. I used to manage, just, but last year I didn’t have the strength in my leg to balance while I hauled.

Only trouble now was that – well, there was more than one trouble. One was that the brambles were starting to grow back, although I’d cut them down several times. I just mowed them and I daresay they’ll die back in a few years time. Another was that there were several clumps of plants that I don’t really want to lose, but I don’t quite want to dig up and transplant, in case there’s any ground elder in the roots. I know that what I have to do is take cuttings or root small pieces, keep them in a pot until I’m sure there’s no ground elder and then transplant them, and I will – but in the meantime, I’m just mowing around them. The third thing is that the small patch of evening primrose has spread mightily. It’s a biennial and so evidently, the first year, it seeded well and the second year there were lots of plants (that I couldn’t dig up and transplant because of the ground elder roots) but that I didn’t want to mow down. So it all still looked quite scruffy.

I saved seed from the evening primrose, by the way. Pity I’ve no idea what I did with it.

It snowed steadily for quite some time this morning. It’s still snowing lightly, but starting to thaw as well. I’m staying indoors today. Far too lazy to brave the elements. Brrr.

Never too late

It seems that these pictures date from August 07. I mentioned the work in progress at the time, but by the time it was all finished, it seemed too late to put up pictures of diminishing undergrowth. Not for the first time, it seems I was wrong.

It’s an odd garden, with no cohesiveness about it. There are some beds in a gravelled area in front of the house, a smallish lawn (for the size of the garden overall) at the side, separated by the drive from the beds, and the kitchen garden is the other side of the lawn and separated from that by the other side of the drive, which encircles the lawn (more of a tear-drop shape than a circle). Then there are various barns and a rough grassed area, and a scrubby shrubbery – it could be made beautiful I daresay, if you threw enough time and money at it, but we quite like living in the middle of a bit of wilderness and we’d sit uneasily in elegance and beauty.

Nevertheless, once in a while, one realises that something drastic needs to be done. The growth around the lawn had got quite out of hand, and trimming only showed that there was a whole lot of rubbish behind, which had been planted in front of rather than being cleared out properly (bad grammar? Indeed. Makes sense though). I had, the previous winter, cut the much-disliked laurel hedge to about 3 foot in height, but it had only made me realise that it had to come out altogether. It was so thick that it needed 15 or 20 feet of height to give balance, and it overshadowed everything and encroached on that side of the lawn. On the other side of the lawn, some lilacs would have to come out, which was a pity, but they were a thin border in front of a lot of dead wood.

This is the sort of thing I mean. Much of the wreckage was only visible once we’d cut down the lilacs. I cut them down with my trusty pruning saw and a helpful friend dug them out. The pictures showing the old fence were taken from the drive side. We were sorry to lose the old laburnum, which was ailing, but when it was cut down we realised that it wouldn’t have lived much longer anyway.

In one of the pictures, you can see the granite blocks that now edge some of the paths in Dave’s garden. You can also see the footings of the wall, which were put in a long time before we started building last May.

In another, you can see some dead elm saplings – the big elm tree fell victim to disease years ago, and since then suckers keep growing and then dying when they start to become trees, which is the fate of all English elms now. You can also see the wire we took out, remains of various fencing – the earliest, the Sage thinks, dates from before the drive was put in as when his parents bought this house in 1928, there was only a wire and a hawthorn hedge separating it from the field. The hawthorn was completely dead and almost rock-hard.

I left a fringe of lilac between the lawn and the field, which has thickened up in the past couple of years, and the little pightle at the pointed end of the tear-drop remains (a pightle is, in Norfolk, a small remnant of land, usually triangular in shape), which Weeza and Al remembered playing in when they were small, visiting their grandparents.
Stripped of ivy, the trunks of the wild plum trees are smooth and twisted.

That August wasn’t all work – we went with the family to Southwold one day.

While I was having fun hacking and chopping, the Sage was busy preparing for the next auction.

The Sage kisses Z

he slept badly last night. He wants me to sleep in our own bed tonight. He would rather be kept awake by me than stay awake without me because he misses me so much.

Honestly, we’re like newlyweds (apart from the sex, obv, because it is specifically forbidden*), but we’re being all sweet and appreciative and loving all the time we’re alone.

Quite sickening to be around us. So we put on a polite façade for visitors.

*Equally obv, because we’re far too old for that sort of thing**.

**This reassurance is for my younger and more easily freaked out readers. Obv.


The Sage has gone off to an antiques fair in Norwich. he wasn’t sure whether to bother, but I encouraged him. I also suggested he should look out for something for himself as a treat, from me. I have my cheque book poised in case he succeeds.

I’ve only been in the greenhouse once this year, and that was to cast a dismayed look at the clearing up to be done before I can start sowing seeds next month. I used to start things off in the propagator very early, but I’ve not done so in the past few years – it’s a lot more work, with my improvised heating system, and a mild spell at the end of winter followed by a cold snap in spring could make it very tricky to keep everything alive and well. I’ll start by getting some of the hardy vegetable seeds in and leave the tender ones for a couple of weeks. By the time everything needs to be planted out, I’ll be able to kneel and do everything necessary – mind you, the beds out in the veg garden haven’t been prepared yet. We really could do with some regular help in the garden, but it’s not easy to find someone suitable. My daughter thinks I should have help with the housework, but I’d rather spend the money on a gardener, if only we knew someone who is happy to get on with the heavy work. And the boring work. I only do things I want to, unfortunately. Consistently, that is. I’ll do weeding and tidying once in a while, but I’d much rather nurture seedlings, attack with my pruning saw and encourage daisies to grow in the lawn.

If you’ve known me long enough, you may remember that I took out a lot of overgrown rough shrubbery around the lawn, which was probably about 18 months ago now. I might find some pictures if I put my mind to it. I found a lot of dead hawthorn, which had been a hedge back about 80 years ago when my in-laws originally bought this house. It was a lot of work to remove it, but I enjoyed it – there was also a tall laurel hedge which I’d disliked for many years – we had it cut back to ground level twice and I’d tried to keep it in check, but it was too vigorous. So we got in a pal with a JCB and had it hoiked out. The cleared area was intended to become part of the lawn, but the bantams keep scratching the ground up and they have got rid of all the grass. On the whole, I think their needs are more important than a bit of grass, so I don’t mind. The other side of the lawn, where I took out the hawthorn, there is now an open space where the lawn faces (across the drive) the wall, which will have a flower bed in front of it. The bantams tend not to venture across that way very much, it’s just beyond their comfortable range, so I don’t think they will give me any problems.

I don’t think I put up many of the photos at the time. I have looked them out now, and am pleased all over again with what we did – and a lot of it, I did myself. Just think, it won’t be long before I can be all keen and energetic again. Do you mind if I post some of them tomorrow, in a self-encouraging sort of way? Of course, if you prefer, I can just tell you what the weather is like or something just as enthralling.

The Sage is home again. He didn’t buy anything.

Moving swiftly on

The bed has been moved upstairs. Boooo. I loved having a bed in my drawing room. It turned out to be NVG for sleeping in all night, but it made the wakeful small hours very pleasant, with the Winter Olympics being on until 5 am and all.

Disappointment reigns, as Wink isn’t able to come for the weekend after all. However, Ro came over with Weeza today, the first time I’d seen him for nearly a month, so that was most jolly.

There is to be a meeting here in half an hour. There will be six of us, will two bottles of wine be enough? Obviously not. Fortunately, I have already had a glassful from a third part-drunk bottle, and there’s some rosé in the fridge too, now I come to think of it. I think we’ll be fine. I take the notes at these meetings – since I have to sit in a chair by the computer (the only chair high enough), I might as well write them as I go along, straight on to the old ones – which I just update each time, I don’t do proper minutes for this particular group. We organise the village festival each year, so a lot of it follows the same pattern, and much of the notes form an aide memoire.

Anyway, ignore the previous post. I resolutely drank a draught of sherry – ooh, do you think they still make schooners, in a glassware sense? – and ate G&B cherry chocolate until I felt cheery and we finished the condition report and Weeza has taken it away to get to work on the layout of the catalogue.

Christopher made me think of Tom Lehrer. I shall put on a CD later and hum along.

Z talks herself out of a low spot

I took more care with pillows last night – to sleep comfortably on my back, I need 6 pillows arranged behind me (as I found in hospital, raising the back of the bed is not the same thing, I’m better with pillows), another pillow under my knees and a cushion under my feet to save me from sore heels. The Sage took the small area of bed remaining. I was very comfortable. Didn’t mean that I slept later than 5 o’clock, though. 4 or so hours sleep a night isn’t enough, and I’m very tired today. Unfortunately, so is the Sage, who has admitted (only when I asked him for complete frankness) that sleeping next to someone banked around with pillows is not too restful in itself. So, vastly regretfully, we’ve agreed that I’ll sleep in another room for a while.

All in all, I feel a bit low today, and keep wanting to cry. This isn’t like me, but I’ve sort of been expecting something like this because one always has a downswing sooner or later, and I think the best thing is to explain to the family why I may be a bit snappy or overreact to a small perceived problem. Today, we’re doing the condition report for the sale, but we’ve a break at present as the Sage had a funeral to go to (a friend has died of cancer at the age of 48 – please don’t think I’m complaining about my situation, I have nothing at all to complain of and everything to be grateful for) so Weeza has gone to call on a friend in the village. Her lovely mother-in-law is over for a few days, so is looking after both Phil, who has taken a day off work, and Zerlina – they’ll all be loving that time together, whilst Weeza is enjoying a few hours of freedom, even if we are making her work!

Actually, just writing that last bit has done me good. I feel okay. Do you think a small glass of sherry would complete the cheering process? Or possibly a smidgen of chocolate. Hmm. Sherry, chocolate, which is better?

There’s only one way to find out. Chaaarge…………

Z is up early

Well, that wasn’t a total success. We happily snuggled up to each other, went to sleep – and half an hour or so later, the Sage started chasing rabbits or something in his sleep and his twitching woke me up. And then I wasn’t very comfortable and we both moved around, him half-asleep and me awake, until I dozed off again. Then I woke with an aching back at 5 o’clock and read for a while until discomfort forced me out of bed.

There was a study last year that found that couples sleep better in separate beds. Years ago, I couldn’t sleep without the Sage – if he was away, the only way I could finally drop off was by cuddling his pillow in my arms. But I have to admit that now I sleep like a top when he’s away. I like sleeping with him next to me, it’s just that we wake each other every time we move, and it isn’t conducive to a sound night’s sleep for either of us.

Just as well I was up early, however, I’ve got a lot to do today.

Z crumbles

What does a woman do to show her appreciation for a man on such an occasion? I’d normally cook him a lovely meal, but he’s master of the lovely meals at present. I thought that maybe a cake would fit the bill, but then I saw the beautiful pink forced rhubarb. So I made a crumble. And he’s happy. I expect he’ll give me a kiss later…

It’s a bit awful to admit, but I’ve continued to sleep downstairs all this time. I was going to have the bed moved upstairs ten days ago, but Wink counselled against, and then again last weekend but Weeza advised me to keep it down here for my afternoon rest – and I was going to sleep in our own bed, but as I was so tired yesterday I couldn’t quite summon the energy to sort it all out. But tonight’s the night. I’m a bit doubtful, actually – I really wanted the bed to go up so that I could have a night or two in it before braving sleeping with my husband – for the last six weeks before the operation we disturbed each other quite a lot, and not in a good way, and I’m also a bit anxious that I’ll automatically cuddle up to him and turn on my side in a forbidden manner. Still, I miss him a lot and it’ll be wonderful to hold on to him as I go to sleep, even if it is with a pillow between my knees. *Sigh*.

In fact, I think I’ve blurred too much the space between being up and being in bed and it’s affecting how long it takes for me to get to sleep. In the first place, my trouble was being cold, but the nights are getting milder now and it’s not a problem. But I watch television, listen to music, fiddle with apps (currently working on national flags, which I find incredibly difficult to remember, as my brain learns by words, not pictures) and read when I wake during the night, and then if I’ve had a disturbed night, I get up late.

I’ve downloaded a book reading programme on to my phone – Weeza said that she tried one but didn’t like it, as she doesn’t like the back-lit print. But I don’t mind. It’s not like reading a book of course, but it’s a very useful substitute, especially when travelling. It’s often very inconvenient – I can’t bear to be caught without a book and, especially on holiday, have been found frantically searching for anything in English (or French, at a pinch) because I have read everything I’ve taken. I’ll usually take 6 or 8 books for a week’s holiday and always run out. Even for a train journey, I want two books, just to be on the safe side. The books on this app are all out of copyright, of course – at present, I’m reading Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, but it’s very good for reading in bed under the covers.

I’ve a feeling that you book-lovers are frowning at me.

Z goes back to bed

Excellent to see so many friends today, really lovely. It was a meeting of the society I used to chair, so everyone knows me and it’s all very enjoyable. Afterwards, I did a very small amount of shopping – half a pound of tea from a most excellent shop, Wilkinson’s, which is the only place in Norwich I know that I can buy Rose Pouchong, as well as various interesting other teas and coffees. They have a huge choice and lovely staff.

After that, a brief errand for the Sage and I walked down to the cathedral, where he was picking me up, and we came home. This afternoon, however, I was exhausted. I went to bed for a nap and slept for two hours. Actually, I then had supper in bed and have only just got up in time to get undressed and go right back there. I know I’m going to sleep badly tonight though as a consequence.

I’m sure it’s anaemia, exacerbated by the anticoagulants – I feel full of energy until I actually do anything much. This morning, I stood chatting for about half an hour – not in one place, I was moving around to see different people – but by the end, I was glad to sit down. Then I sat for an hour, then walked half a mile, tops. It really isn’t much to lay me low so thoroughly. But when my HB level was down around 9, many years ago, I was given iron injections, though I felt much worse then and at least now I don’t feel in the least low or depressed (I don’t know what it is now, but it dropped from 12.8 to 9.2 following the operation). I’ve been guiltily admitting laziness, but maybe I’m just not quite up to more than I’m doing. Well, not much more, anyway 😉 At least I cooked the Sage’s lunch – it was only scrambled eggs, but a gesture, anyway.

I want to make marmalade next week, while Al still has Seville oranges. We’re on our last pot from two years ago – I made enough then to not have to bother last winter. I’ve always done it by squeezing the oranges, slicing the raw peel etc, but I’m wondering whether to have a go at cooking the oranges whole and then cutting them up afterwards. It seems as though it would be quicker and less effort, but a great deal messier because of fishing out all the pips from the sticky fruit. Anyone got a view on the subject? I’ve tried using the food processor to slice the peel but I haven’t found it entirely satisfactory, and I don’t want to chop it as I like shreds of peel and clear, not cloudy, marmalade.

Random shoe in Tombland (this is the road outside the cathedral, there are no visible tombs)

Z gets to work on a Social Life

Today, I’ve mostly been arranging transport. I want to go to Norwich tomorrow, so friends are taking me and the Sage will fetch me home. On Thursday, I have a lunch engagement, and another friend who lives nearby and is going to the same lunch will do the driving. I’ve still got another month to go before seeing the consultant again – I’m not going to drive until then. A friend told me the other day that she started driving a month after having her new hip – all I can say to that is that it’s a good job she didn’t have an accident, however irrelevant her operation might be to its cause, because her insurance would not have been valid. I didn’t say it to her, however.

I had my insurance renewal quote today. I spent ages looking online last year for it and I was rather hoping that I wouldn’t have to bother this year. However, it’s 20% higher and has a £50 greater excess and a £25 greater windscreen excess, which I think is too much, so I’m going to have to go through all that miserable form-filling again. I’m wondering if it’s worth paying for a protected no-claim bonus again – if they overcharge for renewals and you have to shop around each year, it may hardly be worth it, as obviously a protected no-claim bonus won’t work if you get a quote from anyone else. Anyone got any advice here, please?

I’m not in the least frustrated by not being able to drive. At present, I’m just getting used to the pleasure of walking freely. I went round the village today, down to the post box and home by a different way, and I enjoyed striding along briskly instead of being jarred at every step. I’ve asked the Sage to take me into the town on Wednesday – there are various things we’re getting low on and it’s easier to get them myself than make out a list for him – for example, I want washing powder, and I don’t mind which brand I have to an extent, but there are a couple that my sister is allergic to and among the rest I’ll see what the prices are – if you’re used to doing it, it’s straightforward, but if not then it must seem randomly picky – “you can buy X, Y or Z, unless they happen to have W, which is normally the most expensive, on offer, in which case I’ll have that. Otherwise, buy the cheapest but not A or B. Oh, and I know I call it washing powder, but get the liquid as powder doesn’t always dissolve and I have to de-clag the dispenser. Remember to check how much you get for your money as least money may mean a smaller pack.” Easier to just go myself, isn’t it?

Yesterday, I woke up early. Some nights, I can’t get to sleep for ages – I think it’s because I’m unused to being this relaxed and rested – but a couple of nights ago I was, as a consequence, really tired and was asleep soon after 10pm. Of course, I woke at 5.30 and didn’t sleep again. So in the end I decided to make myself useful in the kitchen by preparing soup for lunch. The Sage doesn’t keep as many vegetables in hand as I do, but I found an onion, a shallot, some garlic, three carrots and two potatoes, and this became the basis for the soup, with the addition of a couple of rashers of bacon. I thought I might add some tomatoes, but we didn’t have any, tinned, juiced or even puréed. Nor fresh. The store cupboard looks quite bare. However, the soup was good and lasted two lunches. The Sage is cooking fish tonight.

After weeks of talking about my hip, to an extent that even bored me, and then (as nothing else was happening to write about) reminiscing, I’ve quite lost my usual blogging rhythm. I wonder if there was a halcyon time when my writing was good. But I rather doubt it.

By the way, as I’d used all the vegetables, we had chips and peas with our pork chops last night. The Sage was very good-natured when I told him there weren’t any left.