Monthly Archives: May 2015

Innocent coffee

It went better than I expected.  So I’ve celebrated with a very nice bottle of Adnam’s Prosecco, that I was given for Christmas.  I haven’t finished the stuff I bought myself for Christmas, either.  I’m so good.

Hadrian was very good, as he always is.  He’s such a solemn little boy – I know he can have his tantrums, but he never has with me, but then he rarely smiles either.  He can talk very well but isn’t chatty, quite unlike Gus, who gabbles away and isn’t always that easy to understand.

I was asleep by 11 and awake soon after 1 am.  This was most annoying, as I’d had a calming cup of chamomile tea before going to bed rather than the strong black coffee I actually wanted.  Of course, if I’d had the coffee and then the sleepless night, I’d have blamed the coffee.  The coffee is innocent.

I’ve had to shove things in places and will need to sort them out again.  But needs must.  The entire house was clear except for the two rooms I’ve shoved things in, and my cleaners whizzed through in a mere three and a half hours – that is, I paid for seven.  Considering the furniture moved for proper cleaning, this was jolly good going.  This is a big house and there are a lot of beams and corners, it’s not that simple to clean.  I did it all by myself for years, but it’s nice to have some back-up for when I’m busy.

I asked to have Rupert spaniel tomorrow too, I haven’t seen him for months and I miss him.  Hay will enjoy his company too.  Not sure what the forecast is, most peculiar weather today, from warm sun to cold wind to sleet and most things in between.  I think that, remarkably, it’s supposed to be good for the Bank Holiday weekend.  I wonder if it’ll hold for the weekend after?

Z clears more space

I’ve lost confidence in my memory.  There is no good reason for this, but I seem to be a safety first girl after all, in my old age.  So I set an alarm, half an hour before my appointment.

It’s been a productive but depressing day.  I’ve cleared more stuff, but some of it has been into the strongroom or the spare bedroom designated for Stuff and I found a couple of boxes of papers that hadn’t been sorted yet.  Sadly, nothing very interesting in them, though I’ve put aside the plan of the second septic tank, the one that goes from the annexe.  I also discovered that the box under the front stairs is actually a safe and it’s locked.  I’ve no idea which key belongs to it.

I’m sad and depressed, as ever after a day spent turning out, and resentful too.

Moving on….

Young Hadrian is spending the next two mornings with me, which is lovely.

My monthly cleaners are coming tomorrow – I’ve nearly cleared away for them – they are coming for four hours instead of two, so that they can clean more of the house.  This isn’t a house one can clean in a single day, so I’ll ask them to be thorough and brisk, rather than do the lot.  Two rooms, that I’ve moved stuff to, needn’t be touched.

In the next few days, I need to check who’s going to stay overnight before or after the blog party.  All a bit vague so far.

Z loses track of time

I’ve been convinced all day that it’s Monday. I woke soon after 6 – no, I don’t know why, I hate waking up early and I absolutely don’t get up early except for a very good reason – and saw the sunshine and put the radio on and it wasn’t the news.  I was puzzled and it took me several moments to remember that it’s Sunday today.  It’s probably because the family usually comes over on a Sunday.  Anyway, I lay and thought about it for a bit and then went down and scrambled eggs and toasted a roll and made a pot of tea, loaded it all, suitably crockeried, on a tray and brought it back to bed, with yesterday’s papers that I hadn’t finished.  So it was about 8 o’clock when I actually got up, which is still early for a Sunday but quite all right.

The Rector had forgotten to send me hymns – I don’t blame him at all, of his six parishes, there are at least three different systems, either chosen several weeks at a time, chosen by the organist or chosen by the person leading the service – and he rapidly came up with four suitable numbers.  I played them each in their turn at a brisk pace.  Not having had time to look at them in advance, I reckoned that panache was what was needed.  Does panache have an accent?  Hm.  I don’t think so. Anyway, my days of adequate French are long gone and now it’s franglais at best, which is far more entertaining.

Zerlina found my last few pieces of salty liquorice yesterday and helped herself.  She offered a piece to her mother – I discovered today that this was the last piece, so she’d evidently decided to pass on the responsibility.  Anyway, Weeza didn’t take it and I’ve eaten it.  I contemplated flying to Holland, just for the liquorice in the airport shop and coming home again, but better sense has prevailed and I bought a kilo of it online.  Al and Dilly don’t like it and there will be plenty for the rest of us to share.  I mean, there would be enough even if they did.

I’m starting to catch up on reading blogs again – I’ve been behind since getting back from Wales.  I can only apologise.  Blogging, both reading and writing, isn’t what it is, I’m afraid.  Looking at my stats, I have pretty much the same level of readership as I ever do, though comments have diminished considerably – maybe I should just turn off the need to register again, I’m sure it’s most annoying – but few people write as regularly as they used to, including me.  I still like blogging better than any of the other internet engagements, other than personal emailing, of course, but it does need much greater commitment of time and effort and I realise that the personal blog has been dwindling for a long time.

By the way, our friend Dave East is in hospital at present, having had a major operation last week.  It was elective surgery in a sense – that is, he needed it to be done at some time but he wasn’t ill – but now it’s been done, it’s hoped that his original kidney condition can be improved.  Dave has always been a good friend to me and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him much better health in the future.

This afternoon at about quarter to four, I suddenly realised with a shock that I’d missed my weekly appointment with the Headmaster.  Two minutes later, I realised that I still believed it was Monday today.  I’m giving up on the day now.  I’m going to have a long soak in a hot bath and then sit by the fire reading the papers. Again.

Breezy barbecue

It was Phil who suggested a barbecue and the weather forecast was not bad – mostly cloudy but warm – so I thought I’d give it a go.  And the table and chairs would have to be scrubbed sooner or later – anyway, we were very British about it and ignored the gusty breeze that kept it from being an entirely relaxing experience.  I usually plod back and forth for quite some time with plates and glasses, but came over quite unaccountably lazy today and used paper and plastic ones, which made a bit more challenging too.  Still, we had a good time.

I’ve been putting aside albums of photographs and we looked through them.  Russell’s mother was the record-keeper, which was just as well because there would be very few family photos otherwise. I was interested to see a picture of me aged 18 months, which I’d never seen before, alongside one of Russell at a year old, which I had.  His baby pictures show him to look surprisingly like Gus, which is interesting because it was Ronan who we always think looks most like his father.  There was also a rare photo of our wedding, an extraordinarily poor one, with Russell almost cut out of the picture altogether and the two of us on the extreme right side, most of the rest of it showing a car park.  I was wearing a coat and there was not one of my dress.  It was in a later picture, however, with me holding Eloise. I carried on wearing it for several years.

Food shopping has become an enjoyable experience, though an expensive one, with the new or expanded shops in Yagnub.  I went into the deli for some ice cream and was offered some cheese to try.  It was delicious and I bought some – it comes in small rounds, maybe 100g, for nearly £5.  The woman who makes them, using raw milk, does so with my friend Jonny’s cows’ milk and at his farm.  He makes his Brie-style cheese there but these are riper and richer.  Too delicate to want to chill yet they wouldn’t keep long unless you did, so I’ll only buy when I have someone to share it with.

Z is systematic

I don’t have a lot of help with housework, just two women for two hours, once a month.  They don’t clean as well as I do, nor as efficiently, but they are quick and cheerful and sometimes it’s a week when I’d be too busy to do much at all, so at least I know that the carpets will be hoovered, the floors swept and the rooms dusted.  In preparation for the blog party, I’ve asked them to come for four hours.  Of course, to use their time most effectively, the rooms have to be cleared ready for cleaning, so that’s what I’ve started on today.

I don’t know how many people will be staying over – I know of two so far, but I’ll get all the rooms ready in case – actually, if they’re all taken, I have to do some emergency sorting out, but that’s another matter.  I’m starting with the bedrooms and working through.  When I do this sort of thing, I clear each room as I go but there are always some things that can’t be found a home straight away, so one room is designated as the lumbar room, and not in a back sense.

Ronan’s room and Alex’s room are done and the landing is nearly done.  Next will be my bedroom, the bathroom and the small room, which needs very little done to it – nor does my room nor the bathroom, come to that, which means upstairs is nearly sorted, taking into account that the bedroom over the kitchen is getting stacked high with Stuff.  Most of the Stuff is pictures.  I’ve disposed of dozens – none of them very special, but Russell could never buy one of anything.  A skilled amateur painter we knew did a number of paintings of the yacht basin in Lowestoft, including the Yacht Club.  We had three paintings of it, all slightly different.  I’ve kept one.  The others are worth almost nothing, less than Russell paid, but I can’t help that.  I must declutter.

Russell had had some oil paintings cleaned and seemed to have had some new frames made and there are other empty frames too.  It’s not easy getting these matched up.  I’ve found two that fit so far, an old one and a new one.  I managed to find some pins to hammer in but I couldn’t remember where we’d put the picture cord we’d found last week, so I went out to buy some.  I still wasn’t able to put the biggest picture where I wanted to, as it was too heavy and too high for me to cope with, so I’ve bodged things a bit.  Even so, I’ve taken down several paintings I didn’t like and replaced them with others.

Russell was the art buyer, almost entirely.  A few paintings are mine but he decided what was to be hung and where.  It was his house and his decision, I never interfered.

Anyway, I also cleared six binbags full of old clothes, which have been put in the Scope bin at the village recycling.  It was all deeply tedious, but I’ve made a lot of progress and done it on my own.  When the family come over at the weekend, they can decide on other things to be kept or chucked.  I don’t throw anything away that belongs to someone else, that’d be rude.

Z has another early night

One thing I’ve found recently is that I have no staying power. Last night, I went up to bed at half past eight and I’ll have to do the same tonight.  Of course, the downside of going to bed early is that I am awake by 4 or so and I don’t want to get up then.  And so the pattern continues.  I can stay up late once in a while or be busy without exhaustion several days in a row, but then it takes me longer to get over it.  I was fine all through the boat trip but it took me a week to recover.  I can only be patient and wait to get back to normal.

I had a form to fill in this morning, regarding a grant I get for taking care of environmentally sensitive land, and phoned to explain about Russell’s death and that I’d need to sign it.  We agreed that a copy of his death certificate would do to go with the papers.  Zerlina had scattered the papers a bit – I’d left them out to remind me to deal with it this week – and, though she is normally trustworthy, I thought she had lost some of them.  The papers were in three parts, I had page 1 of 2, page 1 of 1 and only four of the remaining seven pages.  I searched and agitated and panicked a bit until finally it dawned on me to turn the pages.  Yes, printed sensibly on both sides.  I’m clearly not entirely rational, it takes time for me to think of things.

I’ve been doing a lot of pondering recently and I seem to be working a few more things out.  Never too late to learn to understand myself, even if no one knew me better than myself already.  One thing I do realise is that I’m by no means ready to make major decisions yet.  Weeza was quite keen, for entirely the best reasons, that I should crack on and get the house ready to sell as soon as possible, but I’ve said to her (to her complete, kind understanding) that I realise I can’t.  That is, I want to get the house and outbuildings clear but then I need some time, though probably not long.  All the same, I know the danger of taking the easy route of staying here.  Easy for now, a huge burden in a few years’ time.  I’m pretty sure I’ll want to go next year, assuming I can find a buyer.  It’s a lovely place to live, it’s beguiling.  Five years ago, I thought I’d never want to leave, but we hadn’t taken on board the implications of getting old here.  In fact, Russell never did.  He fully intended to live out his days here, and so he did, though at least fifteen years short of what we had thought.  We always thought I’d die quite young and he’d die old, and neither of us would be left for long.  Just as well you don’t know, I suppose.

Nine o’clock.  How absurd, I’ve spent my whole life as a night bird, but I’m off to have a bath and go to bed.  Goodnight, dear friends.

More good things

I’ve been encouraged to continue cracking on with stuff today.

1 I’ve had my hair cut.  A monthly haircut is my treat.  I don’t have my hair coloured or anything else done, so it’s not a wild extravagance – not that I’m saying I shouldn’t, just a matter of fact.

2 Then I went round to the stonemason and talked through what I want.  Nice young man called Bob, it was a good thing that Weeza and I had already talked it through as he didn’t give much guidance.  He’s going to get a draft done on the computer and send it through for us to look at and approve. I feel good about this, it’s not been upsetting but rather feels the right thing to do at present.

3 Graham’s son is round again shifting stuff.  His son has come to help with some heavier items so I cheekily asked them to take a very big, heavy wardrobe down to the outbuilding.  I don’t want it at all, Russell used it and it is massive.

4 There were some drawers full of old clothes, most of which I’ve put in bin bags to take to the charity recycling point in the village.  Having done that, I emptied another chest of drawers too.  I have to admit, two spare bedrooms are now chaotic, but I’ll deal with that.

5 James wanted to buy one of Russell’s shotguns and gave me a cheque today.  I need a new strimmer, it’ll pay for that.  He is going to speak to the gunsmith about the others (as a crack shot, Russell had rifles as well as shotguns – he never used the latter as he wasn’t into clay pigeon shooting and didn’t kill for sport) and they will be sold too.

6 The wine has been delivered.

7 I have bought monkfish and smoked trout.

8 This afternoon, I will sow courgette and squash seeds.

9 The weather has turned warm and sunny.  It’s just what a late spring English day should be.

5 good things

1 Weeza and co came over for lunch and the afternoon and, if this were the only positive from the day it’d be quite enough.  However….

2 We went down to the churchyard and talked about the style of stone we will have for Russell’s grave.  Weeza and I were in complete agreement – actually, it’s as much what one doesn’t want and choosing from what’s left.

3 We cut some lilac for Russell’s grave.  He always loved lilac.

4 Having put the torts out this morning in their run, I lifted Edweena out into the kitchen garden for a wander.  She loved it.  She legged it down the path and lumbered across the compost heap until she found a patch of dandelions to eat.  Weeza and Zerlina took a big piece of bark off a log and I put it under her cold frame and she approved of that too and has gone to sleep there.

5 Dear friends Rob and Denise asked me round for dinner, with other friends Brian and Judy.  I walked round, it was only ten minutes away – hardly that.  I’ve had a lovely evening and it’s been so nice to be asked.  In the days when we regularly invited friends round – this slipped over the last few years, unfortunately – I usually made sure I asked a single friend, normally a widow, because I knew from my mother’s experience that this doesn’t always happen.  My resolution for the summer is to invite friends over regularly.  I meant to over the winter but I’ve been so busy and not always able to plan ahead.  I’ll put this right in future.  My future is in my hands, after all, DV.

Z thinks about the blog party and finds a big stone

The blog party is three weeks from today, on Saturday, 30th May.  Most past guests have said they can come and I’m really looking forward to seeing you.  As ever, you’re very welcome to stay, please let me know.  Lunch may well be similar to last year’s, if you don’t mind – that is, cold.  If anyone would like to offer to bring anything, a salad or pud or whatever, that would be very kind, but please don’t feel obliged.  There will be at least one new guest and, as ever, all are welcome.  Email me if you haven’t been before and need directions.

Lovely Graham is still turning out.  He had no idea of the scale of the job but is resolutely plugging on, though I’ve assured him that he doesn’t need to do all that work, he is determined to do it for me.  I am doing my bit inside the house, but all he wants from me is decisions.  So if there’s the contents of a building he’s going to dispose of, he just needs me to say if there’s anything I want to keep.

Today, I was very pleased because I looked in a bag and recognised the back of a large piece of bluejohn that I’d been looking for for a long time.  Russell had put it down in a barn years ago and, by the time I asked about it, he’d put so much other stuff down there too that he couldn’t find it again.  There had been no reason to put it there in the first place, of course.  Anyway, Graham hadn’t turned it over and had assumed it was a massive flint or something.  I said there had been a stand and, remarkably, he remembered having seen an odd-shaped piece of brass that he had been unable to identify.  So he rootled around and now it’s back in the house.

For my part, I have sold Russell’s sit-on mower and 145 wickerwork hanging baskets, so that’s removed some clutter.  Other disposals are ongoing.  The house may well still be a bit of a work in progress when you come, but when one turns out attics and cupboards, it isn’t always possible to find a home for everything straight away and I am resolved that only things I want to keep will be stored in the long term.

The job is unbelievable.  It will be done, though I couldn’t manage without help.  My children are pleased with me, however, because I am getting on with the job and really making very little fuss, most of the time.

Today’s 5 good things –

I was paid for the baskets at 50p each and bought food for the weekend on the proceeds.

The bluejohn was found.

i made lovely multi-grain bread and a fruit cake.

I did boiled salt beef and carrots for dinner, with Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus, followed by rhubarb out of the garden.

Stevo came and did some gardening for me and I’ve potted up some plants.


Blogging and boating

I certainly appreciated the slowness of the pace.  The boat moves at about 3 mph, a steady but not fast walking pace.  If you’re steering, you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to look about – you can to an extent, but you have to watch the water all the time.  Although it’s so slow, it’s not unlike driving a car in that respect.  You can be aware of your surroundings but you still need to concentrate on the job in hand.

You have 50 feet of boat in front of you and you have to understand how the boat steers.  It’s responsive but not immediate and, every time you steer one way, you have to correct it as soon as the boat responds rather than wait until you’re heading the wrong way.

You must be as aware of the back of the boat as the front, otherwise you might rear-end another boat unintentionally.

You must remember to slow down as you pass a moored boat.

There are no brakes.  Reverse thrust takes a while to respond and then has to be corrected once it takes effect.

Patient people get on best at this sort of boating.

There’s a great friendliness in canal boating.  This is lovely.  It’s not unlike blogging in that respect.