Monthly Archives: July 2018

Z drives on a brand new road

We went to Cromer for lunch, to a favourite restaurant there, where we ate our second ever lunch out together; the first having been in Southwold.  Fish each time, as it happens, but then that’s not unlikely at the seaside.  I had fish and chips and LT had crab salad, but the relishes and salads are exceptional there – it’s a seaside restaurant, with a takeaway chippie, an eat-in fish and chip restaurant and the upstairs restaurant, where we were this time, which is a bit more cheffy.

We drove on the new Norwich bypass for the first time – the Southern bypass was constructed quite a long time ago – I’m sure I could look it up, but hmmm – which is actually South and East of the city, but the northern ring road has always been a slow-moving beast, which makes getting to the airport a bit of a worry at certain times of the day.  Weeza told me that the way to her house, which has always taken an hour, has had ten minutes shaved off the time, and explained how to get on to the road.  I bought a new map book the other day, which has it on it – Google Maps didn’t yet have it when I last looked, but that was a few weeks ago.  Anyway, it was just as well she’d told me, because it wasn’t signposted at all off the A47, only once you got to the next roundabout.  And we made it to Cromer in just over the hour (behind a number of quite dawdly drivers) instead of an hour plus going round Norwich, which might add ten minutes or might add an hour.  So we were very pleased with it, though the roundabouts are not very well signed and there have been quite a few crashes with people changing lanes.  I’m not sure exactly what’s wrong, compared to other roundabouts, but there is something not quite ideal.

And we drank pink sparkling wine this evening, made in the village at our splendid vineyard/winery, and I cooked scallops and prawns with home-grown vegetables, lots of them.  And there are English cherries for dessert, if we get around to eating them.

I’m updating the software and maps on my satnav, or at least I hope I am.  The computer says that the programme hasn’t crashed, but it’s been preparing device for map update (this may take a minute), which is step three of four, for an awfully long time and I’m a bit anxious.

Half an hour later…I had to check the helpdesk and it’s done now.  It had warned of dire consequences if I unplugged the satnav while it was being updated, but the update had obviously failed, and the workaround wasn’t working either.  So I had to eject it after all – and when I put it in again, it meekly downloaded the maps in less then ten minutes.  Why is everything designed to worry the clueless?

Saturday celebrations, times two!!(!)

Tim is home with me again, having been home in Reading for the last few days.  And it’s his birthday tomorrow.  I’d bought him a pair of garden chairs and a table – we’d been talking about the front of the house, which is on the west side, and that it’s lovely to sit there in the evening but we don’t have a table that’s suitable, though we could take chairs.  And Tim said maybe we should look for the sort of chairs that are linked by a table between them.  And he wasn’t suggesting it for a present, but the thought came back to me when I was shopping.  So, since I had to put them in place (having spent some time putting them together), they’ve been given and used on this lovely summery evening.  I’ve got another present for tomorrow, of course, because he must have something to unwrap.

Now, the other thing is that it’s only a week tomorrow until the blog party.  If you’d like to come, you’re most welcome.  And if you’ve already told me you can, or can’t come, then no need to remind me as I’m sure I’ve got the list right, only say if things change.  Only one bedroom is booked and there are three more, if you would like to stay.  If you haven’t come before, I’ll send directions and if there are dietary dos and don’ts, let me know.

Z finishes work for the week

The witness statement thing took ages, about two and a half hours.  And then I had a quite complicated meeting this afternoon, because the treasurer had not kept the accounts for the last couple of years and quite a lot had to be explained.  It’s been dealt with and the new person has got everything up and running again but I’ve written up the minutes while I still understand them.  I’ve sent ’em off now, so it’s up to the rest of the committee to correct them if they dare if necessary.

I’m still on two committees, but they’re both trusteeships and one meets once a year, the other (of which I’m secretary) twice, so it hardly counts.  I formulated a five year plan to remove myself from all committees and it only took fifteen years to succeed, apart from these two.  But I see no reason ever to succumb again.  It’s all jollity and ha-ha-ha-ha nowadays.

Tomorrow is a free day, I think.  I must wrap LT’s birthday present, pay some cheques into the bank and think what to ask Wince to do in the garden, but none of them counts as obligations.  The garden is so dry that the grass hasn’t grown at all for weeks.  There are nettles around the banks of the beck, but that’s cover for small animals and food for caterpillars, so they should stay.  I’ve got a bit of weeding to do, so I’ll ask him to help with that.  There’s a great big teasel in a flower bed that shouldn’t be there – I don’t like to think of the mess that the seed heads would make in Eloise cat’s fur.  There’s also a massive thistle on the Ups and Downs that I don’t want to go to seed.  But on the whole, the place is about as tidy as I want it to be, which isn’t very tidy at all.  I like a relaxed garden where small creatures can live.

The beans have grown a lot since I last looked, nearly a week ago.  I picked some french beans and the first cucumber, and ate them this evening.  I can’t grow cucumbers in the greenhouse, it’s too dry (I used to grow them in the chickens’ greenhouse) so I have them outdoors.  They’re the thick-skinned, prickly ones, of course, but they’re delicately delicious.  When I have a glut, which will probably be within a week, I’ll make lovely bread-and-butter pickle.  And I’m keeping my eye on the fig tree.  There should be a fabulous crop.

No Z is an island

I have a Lowestoft swan for the sale, which is quite exciting.  We’ve had a cygnet before, which was even better, but hey.

Tim has gone back to his place and I miss him very much.  But I’ve remembered to lock the doors, which is a good thing because I’ve been known to forget.  And I made a loaf of bread in the Baby Belling, and ate whole lots of it – with a couple of eggs and a courgette – for dinner.

I am, however, quite sad.  Because I’ll be signing a witness statement tomorrow against someone I know, who has defrauded either me or the company he worked for, I am not sure which yet, though I think it’s probably the latter.  Obviously, I can’t talk about it, but I thought of him as a friend and the circumstances mean that he did the dirty at a time when the Sage and I were vulnerable.  I know that it’s true, I have proof that what happened wasn’t what we authorised, and I grieve for him and his family because he, maybe his wife too, screwed up in a big way and I’m a small part of it.  The bell tolls, you know? Whether you ask or not.

So back to positives because we keep on going on –

Worldwide – those Thai boys and their coach, what a magnificent, heartwarming, fabulous effort it’s been.  No risks were spared – and a brave helper lost his life – and no money either.  If there’s a relief effort for the Thai government, I’ll certainly support it – however much time was given freely, it must have been very expensive.  And I wait to hear of the last three divers and the doctor, who are the last to come out.

Okay, let’s go with the football.  I don’t know if I’ll watch tomorrow, I managed the France/Belgium match tonight but I found it hard to care.  But yay us and all that.

There are some ripe tomatoes at last, but I’m being kind and virtuous and not picking them until LT is back where he belongs – which is not a geographical thing, obvs, but with me.

I made a loaf of bread in the Baby Belling and it turned out fine.  We bought bread the other day and it was quite all right, but I prefer my own – obviously that makes me a bit pretentious.  I took a few weeks to get it how we both like – now, I usually bake about once a week, we slice the bread once it’s cold and freeze it, then take out what we want every day.  No waste and I buy a wholemeal loaf for the chickens, who love bread and I usually give them a couple of slices, soaked, daily.  It’ll have to be the real thing in the morning as I haven’t anything else.

It’s LT’s birthday at the weekend and – whew – I’ve bought his present.  Nearly six years since I went to his birthday party and, as I was never going to meet any of the guests again apart from Tim himself, Mig and Barney, I was quite uninhibited and chose to be fairly life-and-soulish.  Not to an embarrassing extent really, just enough to give people the wrong impression.  Hey ho.  I’ve met a lot of them since and – apart from my calling myself Tim’s latest squeeze – I was restrained and totes adorbs, obvs.

Z is still impulsive

I vanished, darlings – I was quite sure that I’d blog while I was away, but I should have known better.  We’ve been to Buxton in Derbyshire, to the festival there.  Our friend Daphne suggested it – we had no idea there was an opera house there, but it had long been on her wishlist to go.  There was a gala opening night, then Verdi’s Alvira, then Mozart’s Idomineo, so Daphne and I went three days in a row.  LT couldn’t cope with that much dramatic song, so just came to the Mozart.

We stayed in a really excellent guest house and we went to a rather splendid smallish stately home and we’ve eaten rather a lot – they feed you well in the north.  And we had two rather tedious journeys, the worse being the one up there, when LT was driving.

It was a really delightful break and it feels like longer than three days.  Tim has to go to Reading for the week, tomorrow, but I think we’ll both chill a bit in the afternoon.  I have one appointment, otherwise I might see if the tennis is any good this year.  We haven’t watched football either, but knew how it was going from the cheers wafting through the open window.  We’re not uninterested, just out of the habit of turning on the tv.  It’s rather good to drop habits, I’ve found over the years.  It started when I stopped listening to The Archers, carried on when I stopped listening to The Today Programme or watching the news, and now I only listen to iPlayer radio or Spotify.  I’ve become choosy and think about my choices.

Unless I act on impulse, obvs.  Because hey…..


Just as a taster, and as an indication of how badly a new name plate is needed, here’s what the present one looks like –

I have to admit that no one notices it.  And this will be the new one, which should just fit nicely into the area with a small space around – it’s 20x25cm but we’ve ordered it slightly smaller as that size would be a bit tight. I had to crop the screenshot as there were bright orange bricks around it, which clearly wouldn’t look right.

We will not go unnoticed any more – there will still be the question, once someone gets down the drive, whether to go to Rose or us but the implication of ‘Cottage’ will surely send most people to the right house. Anyway, once it arrives and assuming we are happy with it, another picture will go up.

This week, we’ve mostly been eating eggs and vegetables, especially courgettes, or zucchini if you’re of the Italian or US persuasion. Last year, I wanted two plants, sowed two seeds, only one came up, I sowed two more and neither came up and the plant that survived didn’t do very well. So this year I sowed three seeds, all sprouted and flourished and we’re getting two or three courgettes a day. *Sigh* – I sometimes put them in the food processor, chop them up and feed them to the chickens, who are very appreciative. Tonight, I just roasted some courgettes, an onion, some red and yellow pepper and garlic, with thyme, coriander seed, cardamom seed, salt, pepper and olive oil. At the end, I cracked a few eggs on top and grated a bit of cheese. Surprisingly, as there was quite a lot of food, we ate it all. So another free meal, pretty well. I’d bought the peppers at the market last week, thinking I’d roast them for the barbecue, but I didn’t. They’re absurdly cheap, about five, depending on size, for £1 and they’re fresh and good quality. The chickens lay rather more eggs than we can sometimes eat – which reminds me, the eggs I pickled a few weeks ago must be ready to eat. If we like them, our glut problems are over! I also found a recipe for courgette chutney, which was rather vague in several respects but we feel is a goer, so that might deal with another excess.  The cucumber plants haven’t fruited yet but are covered with flowers, so that’ll be the next glut.  But I’m not sure that the concept of ‘too many cucumbers’ exists.

Taxing times – I know, but the obvious has to be said

My accountant came over this morning – I”d thought it was going to be the afternoon, but luckily I checked – and so I had to gather all the paperwork together.  It was a dismal hour or so, mostly because I had to face quite how much I’d had to spend on the London flats in the past year.  A year’s income from them, in fact – more, when you take into account lost income as one flat was empty for four months.  First there was a problem with the roof – I think it was brought about because of building work next door but I can’t prove it – and then a problem with the drains.  My tenants left and I couldn’t get a new one until everything had been done, and then the drain thing happened once the new (and lovely) tenants moved in.  I am hoping for the best now.  I’ve got a tax bill for the end of the month and all these expenses should wipe it out, at least.

At least it’s out of my hair now for the rest of the year.  She will let me have the returns for signature and I can relax again.  I hadn’t consciously been thinking about this, but I only slept for about four hours last night – I took LT out to lunch in celebration of dealing with it and then I napped heavily for an hour, I should think, this afternoon – which may well scupper my attempts to sleep tonight.

I was intrigued, the other day, to read a newspaper article about treating depression with sleep deprivation.  It seems completely counter-intuitive, but apparently some people who are chronically depressed (particularly bipolar people and those with mood swings) find that they can function best after a sleepless night.  This was discovered about 50 years ago in Germany; but the benefits were short-term.  But the article in The Times says that the patient is called into hospital as an out-patient and stays awake all night, then goes to bed with instructions to go to bed at 5pm and set an alarm for 1am.  A nurse phones half an hour later to be sure they haven’t gone back to sleep.  At 7am, the patient shines a white light on their face to mimic the morning sun and then, over the next two evenings, they gradually move their sleeping and waking cycles back to normal.  By the fifth day, they’re back to normal timing and studies in Italy and Denmark show that the therapy is of longterm benefit in about half the patients who try it.  It’s like a reset button for the brain, they say.  Of course, depression is often accompanied by sleep problems, so this very controlled resetting of the body clock presumably counteracts the irregular sleep.  The trouble with newspaper articles is that they never give the full facts – it said this has been trialled in this country for a year and gave an interview with a woman who’d tried it and was thrilled with the results, but didn’t say how long it had lasted so far.  All the same, there are no drugs and you basically have to give a weekend, plus a couple of evenings/nights to it, so it doesn’t even have to mean time off from work, and it can be repeated if depression builds up again, so it could be of huge benefit.

A rum ‘un

Rummy is a keen ratter and often asks to go into the chicken’s greenhouse, to crouch by the rat holes – and he’s caught quite a number of the blighters.  But after a couple of times when we’d had to go back to let him out, he found a way out by himself and this has been puzzling us for several weeks.

This afternoon, I went down to water the other greenhouse, the one used for its intended purpose, and a black chicken was standing on a seed tray just outside.  I shooed her and, instead of stalking off as I’d expected, she crouched down.  I double-took and realised she was one of mine, not Rose’s black bantam Polly.  I picked her up and then noticed the big brown hen.  So I took the black one back to her greenhouse, the brown hen followed and so all was well, as all the other chickens were there, where they were meant to be.

LT and I searched for quite some time and we have not been able to work out how they got out.  I can only think that the door didn’t fully close, they got out and then a gust closed it – but I’m really careful and I don’t actually believe it: however, I have not found another answer.  Rummy, who had been entertaining himself chasing the barn cats (who are barely afraid of him at all now, only one still runs) came in with me and LT and I agreed we’d watch him to see where he got out again.  And LT spotted it – there are a lot of panes removed for airflow, and the gaps are covered with netting and wire; and there’s a small gap where, having jumped onto a feed bin, he can slip out.  So that’s clever of him and there’s no risk a chicken can get out of there, as long as it doesn’t get bigger.  A stoat or something could get in, but a chicken is only at risk if it’s trapped in a confined area and they’re safe on their perches in the shed.

Tim hadn’t watched as I put the chooks to bed for a while, and he was rather impressed by how good they are now.  I chuck in a few mealworms and they mostly go straight in, though there are always a couple who like to be chivvied.

In the hot weather, the plant greenhouse has to be watered twice a day and RasPutin was waiting for me this lunchtime.  So he’s had rather a lot of food today, though he’s still quite skinny.

In other news, we’ve ordered a name plate for the wall at the end of the drive.  There is the house name, but the sandstone it’s etched into has crumbled rather since 1967 and you can only read it if you already know it’s there.  This doesn’t really bother us as the entrance is easy enough to describe to potential callers, but we finally decided the time had come.  I hope it’ll be delivered in time for the blog party, in case we have newbies.  Newbies and old guard, equally welcome, as ever.

Quite a lot of armfuls

We had a lovely weekend.  Dave cooked dinner on Saturday and we ate outside in the evening sun.  Scout, MIke’s dog, is very afraid of cats, though he and Zoe have a cat and, when Rummy realised that, he taunted the poor dog unmercifully.  They all (not the cats) went off for Sunday brunch while we got ready for the family barbecue – Ro had said he’d go up the double ladder and cut back the creeper, which was all over the gutters and heading for the roof, but he wasn’t well.  I thought it was the sun, as he had a headache and was feeling woozy, but we don’t think so now; it’s one of those mysterious viruses, probably.  Anyway, Weeza and Phil kindly did the job instead.  I must try and find someone for next year, who’ll go up ladders, as we don’t want to impose on the family.

Although hot, there has been a cooling breeze and it’s lovely.  The countryside is crisping up though, all the grass is turning brown.  We mowed part of the lawn on Saturday – the half that’s in the sun is brown and all the weeds (I like a weedy lawn and there’s plenty of plantain and clover) were seeding.  The more shaded part is still green and that looked fine.  There are clover flowers and coltsfoot and various other nice wild plants, and we didn’t mind them at all, but the dry part looked scruffy.  So I just took off the stalky bits and didn’t cut the grass itself at all.

LT and I barbecued the meat between us.  We started with two huge steaks which I then cut up, and then put on the chicken and sausages.  The children wanted the sausages and had to wait, which was my fault – we should have done them first.  As it was, I was just biting into a huge mouthful of steak sandwich with roasted vegetables when I caught Rufus’s reproachful eye.  It was hilarious and chastening at the same time.  But they all had plenty to eat.  Ro had particularly asked for the delicious spicy chicken recipe that everyone loves.  It is fabulous.  Onion, garlic, ginger, spices (coriander, cumin, cardamom, clove and cayenne pepper), tomato purée, oil and vinegar, all whooshed up to a paste, marinaded with chicken pieces that are then grilled or barbecued – it’s not hot so much as spicily aromatic and even Ro, who wasn’t really eating, couldn’t resist.  This is the third party this summer when we’ve been lucky with the weather – fingers crossed that it’ll last for the blog party, though it won’t be a barbecue and we can sit indoors or out.

I only have one bedroom definitely booked and another one possibly – still plenty of room, but let me know if you’d like to stay over.  Two double rooms, after that we move on to a sofa or a blow-up bed.

Today, I donated my 25th pint of blood.  All started because of my blog friend Greg, a decade or so ago.