Monthly Archives: January 2016

Lucky people*

Tomorrow is a bit busy. Actually, today was, but I thought it would be a good idea to cook three dishes for dinner, in a sort of Indian style.  I had veggies and not a lot else, and I always think they lend themselves to Indian spices.  So one was spinach and potato, another was chickpea and mushroom and the third was aubergine, simply fried with kalonji seeds, which seem to be either onion seeds or nigella, I’m not sure which.  Anyway, the ones I had were onion seeds, so that was that.

I really felt like cooking earlier in the evening, but my mojo failed me later and I nearly succumbed to an egg or two.  But I stiffened the sinews and cooked properly, which actually meant that I didn’t eat until nearly 9 o’clock.  A bit later than I meant  No matter, it just so happens that I haven’t finished work this evening and I’m not going to.  I’m waiting for the answer to an email before I complete one job and the other can be hurried in the morning.  Nothing is *that* important.

A series of anniversaries coming up, of importance mainly to me.  I don’t really bother about birthdays and anniversaries normally, except for those that quirk into my notice – for example, I noted my 33 and a third birthday, quietly to myself, and didn’t tell anyone else.  That was before I had a blog.  Now, I tell you too.  You lucky people.

*Yes, I mean you…

Ups and downs

I went to a lecture about Donatello this morning – not the turtle, darlings, the sculptor – and delivered my clarinet for gussying-up on the way.  It was pretty cold.  I started the car, turned on the heaters and left it for a few minutes while I fed the outside animals.  I tried to open the boot to get the scraper out, but it was frozen shut.  Never mind, I used a credit card for the side windows.

I called in to Roses on my return and she gave me lunch and then I cooked dinner for both of us tonight.  Actually, we ate and drank a lot.  I’ll gloss over that.  My sister Wink phoned during the evening, to tell me that Dodo has died.  She was 103 and died in her own bed, she was lucky to do so, but it’s a final break with our mother’s youth.  She was Wink’s godmother and they were very close, it’s a great sadness for Wink in particular, as well as for Dodo’s nephew Tom and his family.  Dodo never married or had children, but was close to her family.

I think the blog party will be 16th July.  There is an alternative date in May, but if you can’t make the July date, please let me know asap because I would like to get it established, for those who have to travel.  I think there will be some newcomers – old blog friends notwithstanding – and some of you haven’t met Tim, so I do hope lots of you can come.

Love to all of you, dear friends

Z chunters on a bit

With LT, I was looking through a few of my old posts the other day and found that I used to be more opinionated, but more amusing too.  I wasn’t political or, I hope, offensive, just said what I thought rather more trenchantly than I do now.  We agree that I should lighten up a bit.  Not that I”m heavy, I think, but I’ve become a bit more solemn over the years.

I’m not going to be particularly opinionated today, because nothing catches my eye to pontificate about.  But I’ll come back to it, I expect.

I lost my (relative) blogging anonymity a few weeks ago, when Vicus put a link to a post of mine, the one about Ziggi, on Facebook.  I was quite startled, but adjusted well enough, to the extent that I’ve done the same myself a couple of times.  About different posts, I mean.  Obviously.  I don’t make a secret of blogging, but only tell the name if someone asks me for it.  It’s faintly embarrassing, I admit – you try saying “Razor-blade of Life” without sounding silly.  But there it is, I chose it nearly ten years ago and I think that, if I were to change it,  blogging would not feel the same to me.

I’m home alone this week – not literally because I’m actually pretty busy and am also having various callers, but I mean Tim isn’t here.  It’s pretty lonely.  I’d resolutely adjusted and appreciated the advantages of living alone…but they’ve vanished and proved to be mere bravado.  I don’t want to live by myself any more.


That’s what it’s all about

The best letter to the newspaper that I’ve read recently was in regard to the recent suggestion that England should have a national anthem for sporting occasions – that is, for when the different countries of the United Kingdom have their own individual teams.  I don’t really see why to be frank, and I have my doubts about most of the suggestions.  Jerusalem has already been adopted by the WI and starts with two questions to which the answer is, simply, “NO.”  And it’s out of date in regard to dark satanic mills, too.  For one thing, there are precious few mills and for another, any remaining aren’t.  “I vow to thee my country” is frankly tricky to sing.  And it does go on a bit.  And Prince Charles and Lady Di chose it for their wedding, which isn’t the best recommendation.  “Land of hope and glory”, I’m fond of, I have to say, but I don’t think there’s any chance (and little recommendation for) widening England’s bounds, and Mother of the Free gives rise to a hollow laugh, nowadays.  Still, it’s aspirational, I suppose.

But better than any of those was the suggestion of the Hokey Cokey.  Think about it, darlings.  It’d be marvellous at any sports event.  Consider the All Blacks’ haka, followed by ‘in, out, in, out, shake it all about.’  And the roar of the chorus.  Here’s what I mean.  There are lots of examples on YouTube and this one is slightly slow but the children are delightful and I loved them.  Anyway, just hold in your mind the thought of the big occasion. It’ll work, won’t it?  It has everything going for it.

Z makes marmalade and dips into childhood

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This is how I spent much of my morning.  I forgot to take a picture of the filled jars, but that came next, as you might expect.  I haven’t made marmalade for the last three years and have nearly finished the last batch – actually, two years ago I bought oranges but didn’t get around to using them, so they’re still somewhere in the freezer.  As you see, I gave up squeezing and slicing the raw fruit and now cook the oranges whole, which works really well.  I’ve always meant to do a side-by-side test for taste and easiness, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get round to it.  I know I prefer this on the whole and, as the uncut fruits cook quicker than the sliced peel, I’d have thought the taste would be fresher, if anything, but I doubt I’d detect any difference, in fact.  I’ve tried slicing the oranges by machine or in the food processor, but I found the first was a bit erratic and there was a fair bit of hand-finishing to do, and the second tended to make the marmalade cloudy, though the taste was fine.

I don’t actually use all that much marmalade, I just like making it.

When I was a child, it was my father who was the marmalade cook.  He enjoyed the preparation and the end result too (which my mother didn’t eat, so the work wasn’t worth it for her).  He used to go to no end of trouble, gently poaching slices of oranges to keep whole, so that they could be used to decorate the final product.  He also used to add whole blanched almonds and glacé cherries to the last few minutes of cooking, again to look attractive in the jar.  Do you remember when they gave away glasses at, I think, petrol stations?  He put marmalade in ours, when he ran out of jamjars.

My mother used to make pickles.  Red cabbage in particular – I’ve never made it myself, but I was remembering it when discussing with LT the vast amount of food that cooking a red cabbage makes.  Next time we want to cook it, I’ll pickle half.  I looked in the supermarket and the deli this week, but it wasn’t in either.  I haven’t looked up a recipe yet, but I seem to remember that it was salted first and then steeped in spiced vinegar.  I wonder if I’m right – I’ll find a recipe when the time comes, of course.

We did have a walnut tree, but never made pickled walnuts because we ate them all, but my friend Lynn’s mother did.  You have to pick them young, before the shells harden, then prick straight through the husk and then pickle them.

My mother also pickled onions, but I don’t remember her making chutney very often, probably because of the smell as it cooks.  We used to eat all these pickles on a Sunday evening, when she didn’t cook, unless it might be baked potatoes, but served the Sunday joint, cold, with salad.  It was the only meal of the week that was always eaten in the drawing room on our laps (on plates, darlings, I surely don’t have to make that clear?), served from a trolley.  I don’t think it really made less work in the preparation or clearing up, but that was the idea.


Z twiddles thumbs

You know my little local difficulty the other week, when I was unable to see my coat because it had fallen on the floor?  I’m no better looking up than down.  Last Sunday, when the family came over, Ro left his scarf behind.  He realised once he got home and texted me to ask me to look for it, but I was unable to find it.  I finally spotted it yesterday, about three yards from where he thought he’d left it, on top of the fridge.  I was unable to see it until I put something else on top of the fridge, because it was above me.  I can’t see up and I can’t see down.  I need everything to be right at the level of my eyes or else it becomes invisible.  Clearly, I need several levels of shoe heels, a wheelchair, stilts and a mobile kneeler, to extend my range of visibility.

Right now, I have twenty minutes to fill in.  I’ve just taken out a new phone contract and, having inserted the new SIM, I’ve had to switch off my phone and wait a bit.  Of course, I want the phone now.  I don’t need it, I just wish to have it.  I’ve made coffee, applied nail polish and make-up and am now waiting.  And doing a few breathing exercises.

Actually, that all took fifteen minutes and writing has been the next five, so I have switched it on again and am typing cross-fingered now.

I don’t get the contempt aimed at people using their phones.  They’re so damn useful and engaging, of course we use them.  The other evening, Roses came in to spend the evening with me and, at various points in the several hours we were together, we both used Facebook.  But it wasn’t a matter of ignoring each other, it was rather engaging with others too.  It was funny and friendly (which happen to be the names of Zerlina’s and Gus’s gerbils, by the way) and our Facebook friends joined in the banter.  Indeed, one should not exclude those we are with, but if you’ve ever had a conversation at a party with someone whose eyes are darting about to see whom they’re going to move on to next, then you’ll know that’s quite possible without recourse to a phone.

My phone works.  That’s all right, then.  I don’t need it now, just wanted to check it.

My day started at 8.17.  I’d been awake a bit in the night, so slept on – and checked my phone of course, to see the time and the news headlines (David Bowie! Oh dear) and the landline rang three minutes later.  Glad I was awake already.  It was the gas delivery man saying he was two minutes away.  We ask them to ring, in case it’s a new driver (as this was) to explain about coming down the drive (i.e., there’s room to turn so they don’t have to back in) – so I had two minutes to be dressed and outside to meet him.  And since I was, I fed the animals before breakfast and filled the log baskets and coal scuttles and emptied the ashpan and the cat litter tray (Rummy used it yesterday and Eloise overnight, so it required attention) and so I’d done all the major chores by 9 o’clock.  How virtuous I felt, darlings.

Not got much done since, of course.


I unwisely bought a kilo of carrots a couple of days ago.  I thought I needed two carrots, but I didn’t even use them on the day, and I’ve been wondering what to do with them.  A kilo of carrots is a lot for one person.  Carrot and coriander soup springs to mind but, while I like it well enough, it isn’t my favourite and the thought of having to eat it several times wasn’t tempting.  So I looked in this cookery book and found a recipe for Bejuja carrots (this recipe is exactly the same but in Imperial measurements instead of Metric), plus a recipe for carrot and Jerusalem artichoke soup, for which I had all the ingredients except celeriac, so I substituted a small kohl rabi.

There seem a lot of spices for that much carrot, but I can always add vast amounts of yoghurt if it’s too hot and I like everything that goes into the dish, so I think it’ll be all right.  I’ve also made a cottage pie with the very last of last week’s beef, and I ate the leftover aubergine and potato dish I made last night with an egg for lunch, so I aim to have a mostly empty fridge by the end of the weekend with, virtuously, little or nothing thrown away.

I said to LT a week or two ago that I’m very conscious that my intake of alcohol has increased recently.  We’re in the habit of having g&t in the early evening and then carry on with wine at dinner.  Whilst I like this civilised practice, I don’t usually do it when I’m on my own because I know that I don’t drink less wine than usual, which means I’m drinking a fair bit more overall.  So we agreed that a couple of days without booze each week would be a good thing.  So last night was the first of those this year.  I started with &t – that is, the ice, slice and tonic were there but that was all.  And that’s all I did drink until I took peppermint tea to drink in the bath before going to bed.

This isn’t a resolution or any such thing, I’m not setting myself up to fail and I’m not in competition with anyone, not even myself.  Just thought I’d mention it.

Blog party

I’ve come across two difficulties with setting the date of the blog party in the past – one is that if I set it early, someone who had been free finds that something unavoidable crops up, but the other is that, if I leave it a bit, someone says “oh, if only I’d known earlier…” But then last year, it turned out that there was only one possible weekend anyway and nearly everyone could make it, except Tim who was returning from holiday that day, and Linda who wasn’t well enough.  So let’s have a go.  I’ll assume the Saturday lunch time, but Sunday would also be all right and the Spring Bank Holiday Monday would too, if that’s any help.

May – 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th

June –  25th

July – 2nd, 9th, 16th

After that, we’re into school holidays, which doesn’t suit everyone.  If you’re going to be away and don’t want to publicise the fact with a comment, do send me an email.  I’m going to ask on Facebook too, as so many erstwhile bloggers are there nowadays and an internet friendship isn’t restricted to blogging, after all.  There are a few people, such as Mig, who don’t look at either place much, so I’ll contact them separately.  As before, you’re more than welcome to stay, Tim and I can rustle up four spare rooms.

It’ll be fun to see you again and even more to have some new guests – I’ve got at least two likely candidates there already.



Aga-in. And time to plan a blog party!

I lay listening to the rain for a while, then went down to my cold and cheerless kitchen.  Being without an Aga, however temporarily, is dismal.

But it’s been checked over and okayed for a year and is up and running again.  And my accountant has been to take me through my tax returns (three of them, darlings) and told me how much I have to pay, which is frankly dismaying.  When you’re self-employed, for some obscure reason, you pay in arrears but also half in advance, that then is allowed for the next year and last year was the first time it was a whacking big bill so it’s even worse.  I don’t know, all I can say is, spend the taxes wisely because most of them feel as if they’re on my shoulders right now.

Time to think about the next blog party, darlings.  I’m pretty free at present, but I’ll look in my diary and come up with suggested dates.  If there’s any time that especially good or impossible for you, please let me know and I’ll take it into account.  May to July is the usual time – not past mid-July, as that’s when school holidays start, which doesn’t suit a few of you.  Hope you can come and so does Tim – he’s only been to one blog party so far, so is quite wild with excitement.

Alone again, somewhat unnaturally

It’s the first time for 17 days, I think, that I’ve been alone, so it feels a bit odd.  But I’ve been eating up leftovers, spilling wine on the carpet and mopping it up and doing almost a quarter of the crossword, so it seems to be all right.  I’ve also turned off the Aga because it’s being serviced tomorrow.

Isn’t it always the way?  I arranged for the Aga man, Simon, and my accountant, Tim (not to be confused with LT) to come on the same day, not to restrict myself to staying in two days, and then another quite important meeting cropped up.  I’ve had to give apologies, which goes against the grain, but I’m not cancelling twice.  I’m not indispensable and never thought I was.  When someone who was, at one time, dropped dead, I learned the hard lesson that one should always have a succession plan in operation – at that time, it was up to me to cope and it was a steep curve.  Anyway, not the case now.  I’m useful but not necessary, which is just right.

Anyway, I’ve turned off the Aga and will give it a good clean tomorrow.  Usually, it’s a bit hot for comfort.