Monthly Archives: May 2014

Z feels nostalgic

Half past nine and it’s very quiet.  R went off to a meeting several hours ago and it must have gone on longer than he expected, assuming he hasn’t got lost on the way home.  I said I’d cook dinner when he got back, but might have already eaten – and I had some cheese and a hard-boiled egg and then I had a slice of bread and butter and then – oh dear – I had a packet of crisps and then all that food rather too early made me tired, so I had some beer.  And now I’m not tired, but I’ve eaten far too much to want dinner, so it’ll probably be toast and Marmite later, in the bath.  Me in the bath, that is.

Paff tells me that the nutritional content of BCS isn’t all it might be – she’s given a helpful link in the comments on the previous post – so Ben’s favourite food will have to be taken from him.  Except, I’ve had a brilliant idea – he really does adore it, so it occurs to me that it’s an ideal snack for training purposes.  A few of them in my pocket and he’ll do anything I ask of him, I’m sure.  Well, as long as I’ve got him on a lead.  I so want to be able to let him run freely, but I can’t risk him running on the road.

I’ve done nothing of note today, darlings.  I’m so sorry to be awfully boring.  The bed where courgettes will go has been weeded and I’ve finally cleared a suitable space for sweet peas and planted them – I’d potted them up and they’re lovely, healthy plants, not pot-bound. Next, I must tackle the greenhouse where I’m putting tomatoes etc.  I’ve got too many plants.  Not a whole lot too many, but more than I need the crop from.

Another greengrocer opened in town last week, which is jolly good.  That is, I shall shop at both because they must be encouraged. However, I can’t help thinking that neither of them is as good as Al’s shop used to be.  He used to have such a wide range and went to huge trouble every day with his outside display.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

This picture dates from 2005.


Now 10 o’clock and R has phoned to say he’s on his way home.  Very thoughtful of him – and he’s not daft, he’s no doubt hoping that dinner will be waiting!

Z goes to the market

Today was one of the tri-annual Street Markets, the gardening one.  R had promised some hanging baskets to attractivise someone’s stall, so I took him in this morning and they unloaded the car.  I went and re-parked along the Dam (in this neck of the woods, a dam is a road built over water meadows that sometimes get flooded) and walked back into town.

Although it was about ten o’clock, I hadn’t had breakfast, so I bought a sausage sandwich from John’s stall.  I walked along the street eyeing up stalls as I munched, and on my way back again I bought various plants.  I was particularly looking for tortoise fodder, but bought other things too.  When I’d got five bags full, I went back to the car to unload.  It seemed quite a long way.  My feet aren’t quite sandal-ready yet and my feet felt a bit tender.  But I went back and bought an icecream – well, I bought two, a cone for me and a tub for R, and went back to look for him. I couldn’t find him, though I looked ever so thoroughly.  So I put the tub in my shopping bag and  bought more plants, chatted to friends I met, plodded back to the car, drove home, unlocked the door and gave the icecream to Ben.  He was thrilled.  I’m sure you can imagine.

I had hardly done that when R phoned.  I told him about the icecream – he’d been in a shop at the time and there was no phone signal – I had tried to ring him.  What a pity.  I said he should phone when he wanted to come home, it was too hot for him to walk.  I went and fed the tortoises, then felt really thirsty, remembered I’d had nothing to drink all morning (it was about 12.30 by now) so went to have a glass of water, poured another, added ice, fetched the paper, sat in the porch – and R rang to say he was on his way home.  I unpacked the car and fetched him home.

I have bought another sedum, some herbaceous geraniums, some nasturtiums and some marigolds for the tortoises, but I’ve made a silly mistake.  I planted the marigolds and nasturtiums outside the run, for the latter to grow over into it and she eat them when they’re bigger, but I’ve realised that there are so many that Edweena might be able to climb out when they’re full grown.  So I’ll have to take most of them out again and replant them somewhere else.  I planted the sedum in her run, because it’s a big-leaved variety and the other two are small ones which she might chomp down to the root.  I’ve also bought plants for the bed by the wall on the kitchen garden side, but I need to dig that first.  I’ll do it, no problem.  Well, none but a lack of muscle, idleness and a dodgy hip.  It’ll be fine.  I had a long nap this afternoon after my thirsty morning.

I bought a bag of B*k*r’s C*mpl*t* (Shite*) the other day, for no particular reason (except that it’s dog food and we have a dog).  When Ben came to us, he ate dry food that he didn’t much like, so I’ve been giving him tinned meat and mixer.  But when I tried the BCS mixed with meat, he went and nudged the bag afterwards, clearly asking for a second helping, and he’s never done that before.  Since then, we’ve given it to him at every meal and he loves it.  So, what with icecream and BCS, he was a happy dog.  He lay on my lap, cuddling me with great pleasure and drawing up his upper lip into a happy smile.  This isn’t a dog expression, it’s a human one and, for a dog to copy it, it’s an indication that he wants to be like us (some dogs want their beloved owners to be dogs).  I’ve had a lot of dogs over the years and only a few have ever done it.  Ben was determined, though it made him sneeze (all over me, we were a bit face to face at the time).  So I rather feel that a sort of breakthrough in terms of him wanting to please has happened.  I just have to work out how to take advantage of it.




I’ve been landscaping Edweena’s pen a bit.  I’ve used plants she can eat, of course, and she was very pleased.  She went straight over to one of the sedums and started to eat it.  There are now two sedums and two hebes, which I hope will provide her something to browse on, some shade and some interest.

I’ve been thinking of why I want to learn to ride a motorbike – I have an increasing tendency to think things through nowadays.

It’s a whim.  I like whims.

It’s a challenge, and a purposeful one too.  It’ll get me places.

Driving is useful but pretty boring.  This won’t be boring.

It will need my entire concentration, and I think that will be a good thing.  I will have to be far more aware of reading the road, looking for changes in the road surface – whether it’s a pothole, a manhole cover, a patch of oil or a rough surface.  Also, what other road users are doing or might do at any moment, completely unaware of a vulnerable novice puttering towards a junction.  I relish that need for alertness.

I don’t search out danger for its own sake, but I am not particularly timorous physically.  When I was Sir B’s pillion passenger on the dual carriageway at 70mph (I suppose), I was holding on tightly and thought “if something goes wrong or I let go, I’ll be dead.  Better not let go, then” and it felt ok.

I am careful and sensible, but I’m conscious that this is possibly my last opportunity to be irresponsible.  My children are all grown up and independent, I don’t have to worry about them.  Russell’s fine about it, so that’s ok.  I can please myself.

It’ll be fun to try.  I find cycling pretty boring and it takes so long to get anywhere, though non-weightbearing exercise is good for me.

I like something new, I enjoyed riding pillion but it wasn’t enough.

I think I’m coming back to the whim now, and why not?


Va va vroom vroom

I’ve written two emails, that’s all, there’s still a lot to do.  But they were the most pressing.  I’ve also had a potentially difficult meeting, and that was constructive.  So things seem to be okay for now.

I wanted to ask our finance director about something, and we ended up having a chat, as you do with colleagues who are also friends.  I’d been surprised, when we last talked a week ago, to find that she has had a full motorbike licence for years.  She’s recently bought a horse – she’s ridden for many years, but not had her own horse for a while – and enthused about the pleasure of losing the stresses of the day or the week in a long ride.

And I went straight out and booked my motorbike training.  It’ll take place the Wednesday before the blog party, so I’ll either be very pleased with myself or quite abashed, on the 14th.

I came home and emailed my nearest and dearest, because I wouldn’t want the family to read about it on Facebook or here before i told them.  But bear in mind that I still haven’t actually done anything, it’s not really that big a deal – except that I’m awfully excited.  I really do want this, I love the idea of it and I hope that I don’t prove quite inept.

Which reminds me, I was reversing into a parking space this afternoon, and I got the angle quite wrong and had to have three attempts.  And there were quite a few people around.  I had to steel myself, darlings, and just slow down and get it right – which was fine, there was adequate room and I can park, really.  But I see so many people get embarrassed and drive away, rather than have another go and it’s understandable, because the more embarrassed you are, the more flustered you get … it’s no good though, you’ve got to overcome embarrassment at the possibility of failure.

I’ve been invited to a book launch next month, in London.  I’m toying with the idea of staying over.  It’ll be on the evening of 25th June, might anyone be free to meet up between Tuesday and Thursday?  It seems a shame not to be sociable if I do have a couple of days there.

Z giggled

I still am not sure how come the door was open, but I am pretty sure it was Russell because it happened again this afternoon, soon after he had gone indoors to make some tea.  Stephen and I saw Ben run up to the kitchen garden gate and wait hopefully for us to open it for him.  He was very good, waited for me to hold him and I went to get his lead (leaving Stephen in charge) and let him play for a while.  I really do want to let him run freely,  but I have to have some confidence that he won’t run on the road.  Fortunately, his memory isn’t very good, so if he hasn’t done anything for a couple of weeks, he forgets all about it so, as long as you stop him doing something unsuitable quite quickly, the habit doesn’t become entrenched.

I think it’s Russell’s bunch of keys, which was hanging in the keyhole – when he pulled the door to, they get in the way and didn’t catch.  But I’m not sure, I’ll ask him not to leave them there anyway.

I’ve had a slight and non-serious meltdown in the last couple of days – this has meant nothing dramatic, it’s just that I haven’t felt able to do any paperwork.  As a result, I’ll have loads to do in the next couple of days.  I’m quite cross with myself, but I can’t help it.  I’ve had so little sleep that I can’t concentrate, and the thought of getting on with the work makes me want to hide in a corner.  As long as I don’t think about doing it, I’m fine and perfectly cheerful.  I think I must do one thing tonight, but the rest will wait – it’ll go all the quicker when I feel determined, not overwhelmed.  I had a bit more sleep last night and hope for better things tonight.  I might try writing things down, seeing what sort of pattern there is.  At present, I know that it doesn’t seem to depend on caffeine or alcohol, I manage a couple of good nights’ sleep a week and a couple of very poor ones and that I often wake up feeling very hot, though half an hour later I’m chilly enough to want to put the electric blanket on low for a while.  I might do a sleep blog (because if I put it all here I’ll send the lot of you to the land of Nod) though I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to read it, because it’ll be earnest and desperately boring.

I went to my Ladies Who Lunch club today.  A few months ago, one of our number had forgotten her cheque book (I know, how retro to use one) so I paid her sub and for her lunch.  I said there was no hurry, whenever we were next together, but a week or two later, a cheque arrived in the post.  I put it on my desk and only got around to paying it into the bank last week.  As I waited in the queue (I was doing something else there too, I hadn’t gone in specially) I looked at it – she’d written Thirteen pounds and £31.  Heh.  Easily done.  So today, I told her about it and the Treasurer looked up what it actually should have been: £31.50.  She was quite embarrassed, but there was no need of course – anyway, I ambled off to the bar for drinks (one each, you understand) and she corrected it.  When I got back, the Treasurer was giggling, Theo having gone away for a few minutes.  “You’d think she was quite buttoned-up, wouldn’t you?” she said, “but she just said to me ‘ I made a complete balls-up of writing that cheque!” This is a maiden lady (the mere word unmarried would not do) in her 80s, who used to work for the Foreign Office and has never been heard to swear or even use slang.  Balls-up seemed so inappropriate from her lips.  I giggled too.

The chickens seem to have taken their move in their stride, because these are the eggs they have laid since their move – there were three more, in fact, but I left them to encourage them.  R tends to leave an egg with a cross on it, so as not to bring it in (he sometimes forgets and the cross is faint, so I’m cautious when I check them previous to cooking) but I think I’ll buy some pot eggs – dummies, so they think that no one is stealing their eggs.  We found three more bantams in the garden, which must have hidden from us when the rest were being moved – they were very good and quickly were caught. So that seems to mean we have 29 chickens and one cock.  They are very tranquil and chatter happily, and are quite unafraid of me, which I’m pleased about, having grabbed them all in such an undignified manner the other day.  They are so sweet-natured, not one of them tried to scratch or peck throughout the ordeal.


And here is Edweena, about to tuck into a huge meal.  Not having eaten for a few days, she was hungry both yesterday and today – she has really enjoyed the heat of the sun, has ambled round her enclosure, sat on stones to bask and nibbled the patch of clover I planted.  She’s transformed from the moody tortoise she used to be, now she has plenty of room.  She has a choice of two places to sleep under cover and enjoys the (slightly) varied terrain, which is something I’ll have to improve further.  It’s been a lesson to me, watching a reptile which I’d not have thought would have strong emotions react favourably to an improvement in her surroundings – not that it was bad before, and I don’t really see how I could have done better, nor that I can next spring when she wakes from hibernation.  I think the answer, or part of it, might be to keep her in the greenhouse for a while at the end of the summer, so that she goes to sleep a few weeks later and therefore can be left to hibernate longer.  But there’s still a summer to go before I need worry about that.

Nothing Common Did

It’s a month today to the blog party and I’m starting to think about food.  That is, I spend much of my life thinking about food, but party food.  If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, do let me know.

Ben got out this evening, we’re not sure how.  That is, we do know that the side door was found to be open, but we don’t know how come.  I grabbed a handful of biscuits and his lead and headed out, asking R to stay home in case anyone phoned.  He goes straight up to the first person he sees, confident of a welcome, and they phone us from the number on his name tag.

However, I called as I went down the drive, just in case he was on the field, and he bounded up to me happily.  So I greeted him in a cheerfully relaxed voice and threw him a biscuit, and then told him to go for a run – my idea is that he needs to know he won’t be grabbed every time he comes to me, and it was working nicely until he saw someone on the road a few weeks ago and followed them.  After that, he went out every time he was let loose, until I couldn’t risk it any more.  He has no road sense.  All the same, I really do want to be able to trust him off the lead.

Today, however, he went off and found the chickens in their new run and was very interested.  They squawked a bit, understandably, though he was pretty good.  It’s well secured and he can’t possibly get in (nor can they get out).  So I followed, gave him another biscuit or two, then put him on his lead and stayed there for a few minutes until they and he calmed down and they started pecking around again.  They turned the patch of grass into a quagmire within a couple of days, but we had some grass cut today, so put the clippings in there and they had a great time scratching through it.  Russell scattered their corn there so they had to search, which all adds to the entertainment.  I’ve a feeling we’ll have wheat seedlings in the compost heap when we gather up the remains for disposal.

Edweena and the Tots ate for the first time for a few days – they stay under cover when it’s raining, at least when it’s chilly.  I found that they like fleshy sedum leaves, so that’s another thing to add to their diet.  In fact, I’ll plant some in Edweena’s run, as well as hebe and other shrubs she can nibble at.  I’m growing more clover too, to plant out in a few weeks.

The other news of the day is that a Common Going came up for auction.  The local common is very unusual, in that it’s privately owned and shares ‘ goings – can be bought and sold by individuals.  There are 400 acres and 300 goings, each of an undetermined area.  Part of the Common is let to the golf club and part is let for grazing, it’s managed by volunteer owners (Common Reeves) and the profit is shared among the owners, annually.  Anyway, the single Going went for £14,200 (I think, it might have been £100 more, in which case I’ll change it tomorrow), which was a remarkably high price. But it’s rarity value – one hardly ever comes on the open market, and it’s prized among locals.

Z appreciates life now, just in case

Hadrian really is a dear little boy.  He’s so easy-going, at any rate when he’s with adults – he’s quite demanding with his older siblings and they’re indulgent with him, on the whole.

He waved goodbye to his mother cheerfully, possibly helped by my suggestion of bacon for breakfast.  Russell went to buy some bread and I started cooking – R took ages, so I gave Hay his first rasher of bacon and we waited – in the end, I gave up, cooked our eggs, gave Hay his second rasher and promised him toast when Grandpa finally stopped chatting with people he’d met in town and brought home the bread.  And that is what came to pass, eventually.  Hay, though quite stocky in build, often doesn’t eat much, but two pieces of bacon, a slice of toast and jam and a cup of milk is a pretty substantial breakfast and he only had a drink for elevenses.  Then we went to the supermarket, then he played Angry Birds on my iPad while I put the shopping away, then we made cakes.  Lunch next, then iced the cakes (and he ate one) and then outside on the swing and to visit the chickens.  I left him feeding them bread while I went for a can of water, as they’d either spilt or drunk theirs, and I saw Dilly driving down the drive.  It was just starting to pour with rain, so we scuttled back.

It wasn’t the first time that day that I’d been caught in the rain, now I think about it.  Before unpacking the shopping, I went to put the washing on the line.  Usually, I’d ask a child for help with that, but Hay was pretty keen to get going with Angry Birds.  And the weather turned from sunny to showery in the first minute and I’d only got a few things on the line when it started to spot with rain.  I wondered whether to chance it, decided not, got the washing down again and, within a minute of me getting indoors, it was sleeting.

I had too much washing to wait, so dried it in the kitchen on the airer, with the result that we have stiff-as-a-board washing this week.  Not being fond of the all-pervading smell of fabric softener (some parents of small children are inordinately fond of it – when I used to help in a primary school, some kids reeked of artificial flower smell), I don’t use it normally – anyway, it’s mostly my underwear, stuff that needs ironing and tea towels, so it doesn’t matter too much.

Radio 4 is having a day on sleep, apparently, from the point of view of not getting enough of it. It’s absolutely true, a lot of people boast about how little they need, as if that indicates something good.  Clearly, if we are supposed to spend a third of our lives asleep, that’s for a good reason and enough sleep is essential.  However, whilst they talked about what you should do to prepare for sleep, it didn’t (at that time, I don’t know about later because I don’t have an opportunity to listen to the radio all day) give any indication about what to do if, for reasons beyond your control, you cannot sleep.

Last night was pretty good.  I woke every couple of hours, but went back to sleep within ten minutes or so each time.  The night before, I’d been in bed by about 11, read briefly, went to sleep, woke at midnight feeling rested enough to be really disappointed to discover how short a time I’d been asleep for, and then it was four or five hours before I dropped off again.

I’m trying to reason this through and work out a way of getting into a better sleep pattern, but nothing I’ve done has succeeded so far.  I’ve never been a good sleeper since childhood, but the pattern of insomnia has changed over the years.  That is, when I was young I had difficulty getting to sleep, but over the last couple of decades, the problem has more been getting back to sleep when I’ve woken during the night.  I rarely feel terribly tired now, as I’m so used to not having enough sleep, but I know it’s not good for my long-term health.  This is not as worrying as it might be, in that I come from a relatively short-lived family anyway, so I am quite happy to embrace old age now, while I have the chance.

Whole crowds, as long as Z kept the door shut

If you recognise the near-quote (Z instead of she) without looking it up, we are true soul-mates, darlings.

At last moving day for the bantams arrived.  Their new run has been a long time in the making.  I stipulated that it must have a top so they can’t fly out, and wire has been dug down so that it’s fox-proofed.

Russell had managed to get the cockerel and four hens into a cage the other day, and three broody hens were in a bucket all together, but the rest had to be caught.  The greenhouse is some 40 feet long by 14 feet wide and it wasn’t the easiest job.  Our friend Jamie came round to help and I don’t think I’d have managed it without him.  At various times I found myself singing the ‘Rawhide’ theme tune, the Benny Hill Show tune, One Way or Another, as well as Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, because they did.  We crated up four at a time each and bore them outside the kitchen garden, through the fence into the Ups and Downs and round behind the barn, and it poured for much of the time.  In the end, all 26 girls and one cock were caught and moved and, bless them, not one of them tried to peck once.

Afterwards, tea and chocolate biscuits.  And by then it had stopped raining.

Next, I have to turn my attention to the greenhouse, which needs an awful lot of work before it’s usable.  But that won’t be started until Wednesday, because I’ll be busy with other things.  Most importantly, we’ve got young Hadrian over tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that very much.

Muddle-headed Z. Muddle Zeaded?

It’s been an exceptionally good day.  I met Wink at Tate Modern – we arrived only a few minutes apart and a quick phone call helped us meet up.  We went to see the Matisse cut-out exhibition and we both loved it.  We both had quite open minds, were interested but didn’t know what to expect, but were charmed beyond our expectations.

I liked the pictures very much, but my engagement with the exhibition was more than that.  I should explain that I have a great love for old people, especially those who don’t sink into old age but still are interested in life.  Life, I should say, with a capital L.  I know people who retired early and have never really done much afterwards – holidays, meals out, drinking with friends, hobbies for the sake of something to do – I don’t know, darlings, I sometimes feel that I’d rather love not to have responsibilities for a while, but I also feel that they’re necessary for my wellbeing, to make me vibrant.  Not that I aim to be vibrant, a laid-back Z is more my style, most of the time.

Anyway, I liked the art works, but I also loved the fact that Matisse, although quite old and infirm, still had such a vivid imagination and was able to find a way of putting his art into effect, when he was no longer physically able to paint.  He relied on assistants but the art was very much his own. I have to confess a dreadful ignorance, because I had no idea that he lived until 1954, I associated him with an earlier time.

We had lunch at Tate Mod afterwards … darlings, don’t bother.  It was ok, nothing more.  I had a salad with broad beans and pecorino – the salad was lamb’s lettuce straight out of a packet, slightly gritty.  There were baby broad beans, shelled, and peas and shaved pecorino cheese, and a perfunctory drizzle of oil – oh, and roasted asparagus which was tasteless.  Wink had a Caesar salad with smoked chicken, which was probably the better option except that the lettuce was Iceberg rather than Cos – it wasn’t great.  We had a glass each of the house white, which was very nice, and later thought we’d look at the dessert menu.  It proved impossible to catch the waiter’s eye and I had to go and accost him in the end.  My green tea was delicious, the success of the meal, and our shared slice of banana cake was nice, but we never managed to catch the waiter’s eye again, although I resorted to waving, we had to go to the desk and, though an unwarranted gratuity of 12.5% was included, I abandoned my change, bringing the tip up to 20%, because we were losing the will to wait for it.  In short, go for tea but not for lunch.  Even if it’s raining, you can do better.

During the day, I had a message from a schoolfriend of Ro’s, in the village to visit his parents, wondering if it would be convenient to call round.  And so he did this evening, and it was really lovely to see him again.  He moved away some years ago and lives in Kent – he was friends with Ro as a child and we liked each other then and we like each other now.  I so appreciate that.


Z watches someone else work

The good news of the day is that we’ve secured the services of a gardener and his first day was today.  I couldn’t believe how much he did in a few hours and feel altogether better about the wilderness that we laughingly call ‘garden.’

The less good news is that my first meeting of the day (of three) started at 8.30 this morning and the last finished just before 8 o’clock tonight.  That doesn’t suggest I was at school all day, I was home for a long time, but all the same…

My french beans are nicely grown and ready to be planted out, yet I don’t quite dare yet.  We have had frosts in the past week and I don’t want to lose them.  Yet the nighttime temperatures aren’t supposed to dip below 7 or 8 in the next few days and by then it’ll be the middle of the month, and surely we’ll be safe then?  I go through this every year and you’d think I’d have the sense to just sow the seeds a week later – but I think I did it at the time because of visits to Wink, it was convenient.

Talking os Wink, it’s this Saturday we’re meeting in London, at Tate Modern.  That’ll be jolly.