Monthly Archives: June 2021

Age before beauty or pearls before swine?

Rain was forecast. Earlier in the week, thunderstorms were forecast for today but, as time went on, meteorologists started to hedge their bets. Maybe they’d been overexcited. It would rain, certainly, but the flash floods thing, eh, maybe not. All the same, I didn’t water the pots or the vegetables last night (apart from the heliotrope earlier on, which were flagging in the heat. I wasn’t sure they’d last until rain came) in the hope that I wouldn’t need to this morning.

Bit of rain. Fine. Enough to keep Wince the Gardener from coming at 9, though there was no more than drizzle later.

Drizzle is a splendidly British word, isn’t it? Whatever language has *lots* of words for snow, we have them for rain. We’re experts on rain, anything from mist to downpour. It’s a ‘love to hate’ thing, perhaps.

Wink and I went out to lunch – our lunch club. I’ve been going there for well over thirty years, introduced by my mother. The average age has always been about ten years older than mine. That’s fine, I have friends of all ages, or I used to. I don’t suppose I have many friends younger than mid-thirties now and only a few of those. I don’t mind being old, but it’s a pity that the boundaries close in. Anyway, we picked up Lilian on the way – by arrangement, of course, I don’t mean that we happened upon her by the roadside. Lilian lived with her sister Jo for over thirty years until Jo died, two days before Christmas. She had a mild stroke, caught Covid in hospital and it took her out. Apart from a visit to the optician, it was the first time that Lilian had been out, so it was pretty brave of her.

Lilian said that they’d both always declared they’d never live together, even though they lived next door to each other, but then they fell in love with a house in the perfect location that neither of them could afford on her own. Wink and I were silent.

Lilian was always very funny about their entertaining arrangements. As I said, they lived in adjoining houses. So, when they had friends round, they combined the evening. Started at Jo’s, moved into Lilian’s for dinner, back to Jo’s for coffee and chat afterwards. Leaving Lilian with the washing up next morning. She told the tale well.

On the way home today, she remarked on how everyone had aged, not having seen anyone for a year and a half. Yes, it’s true. Mind you, added Lilian, I used to wear makeup every day, even if I was just doing housework and now I don’t bother. Yes, I said. It’s true. I was halfway down the drive when I realised I’d forgotten to put in my contact lens, so I wore glasses instead. Time was, I’d have gone back, even if it made me late by two minutes.

Z takes the rough with the smooth

I’ve had to do quite a lot of admin in the last few days, which has involved talking to people on the phone, being organised and sorting things out – and spending rather a lot on really uninteresting but necessary stuff. By the time I finished (though there have been follow-up emails since) at lunchtime today, I felt unnerved and anxious. I used to be able to cope with this sort of thing and, for the last few years, it’s been very hard. I was efficient once. Now I’m broken, or at least heavily cracked. I can still do it when I must, but I don’t think I’ll ever get back to the old Z. Still, no one else is going to do my work (and they’d not do it as well as I would anyway; I always regret anything that matters that’s been delegated).

I’m floundering at present. It will take me a couple more days to pull myself together. I was supposed to make a few non-business phone calls this afternoon, but I couldn’t manage it. It’s frustrating.

So, positives.

Dinner tonight was poached salmon, sautéed courgettes, asparagus and hollandaise sauce, all whipped up in twenty minutes on the new portable double hotplate. ‘Im indoors approved.

Mama cat came into the greenhouse this afternoon, not noticing I was in there but, when she saw me, she came for a cuddle.

Wink is taking us out for lunch tomorrow.

Yesterday, Tim and I managed both cryptic crosswords, in The Guardian and The Times, with a bit of mutual help. Or maybe I mean reciprocal.

Locking down and opening up

Hmm. The Johnson seems to have lost his nerve and all arrangements are up in the air again. However, going on the assumption that we won’t go back into lockdown, we’re inclined to crack on with the blog party and assume that it’ll be fine weather. If so, we’ll be happy to be outside and, if not, we’ll go indoors in relays. Wink can take six and so can we and there’s a gazebo. And we can take four overnight guests and she can have two. After that, it’s tents on the lawn. Sorted.

I met Rose for lunch yesterday, which was lovely – I’ve seen her a couple of times on her doorstep in the last month, but we haven’t had a good get-together for ages. She wanted to know about the drawing, which has come to a halt in the last couple of weeks, since the weather has been hot. So has music. But both she and Tim, separately, were very encouraging and I feel, if not inspired, at least heartened. The piano was tuned yesterday and, egged on by LT, I played it for half an hour today and then had a bash – or a pluck – at the guitar, today. The piano went rather better than the other, actually, but at least I still remember how to read a tab. I probably need to start again from scratch with the drawing. Dammit. Rose suggests arty get-togethers, which is terrifying and a very good idea. It’ll be fun. Perhaps…

Rose says she’s become quite reclusive and lunch with me was the first time she’d been out with a friend this year. I know just how she feels, it’s really much more comfortable to be content at home. But we do need to fight that. It’s all too easy for me, but I know it’s better for me to be sociable. Even if I don’t feel that I need it, I’m better for it. And I miss my friends. I’m glad that I have friends, come to that.

Z winds down

I didn’t sleep much last night, tired though I was. But I made up for it this afternoon, when I had a lengthy nap, for at least an hour. As a result, my loaf of bread isn’t entirely successful. It over-proved and, well, it’s a bit flat on top. I daresay it’ll taste fine and, if it’s a disappointment, I’ll make another and give it to the chickens. It doesn’t matter.

I’ve got a lot of plants to be put into planters or the ground and I didn’t manage it today. It was too hot in the middle of the day. So I did a nice lunch instead. Hot-smoked salmon, prawns in a Marie Rose sauce, radishes, spring onions, little tomatoes, black olives, a random slice of leftover pork pie, homemade sourdough bread. We ate it out of doors and it was after that when I had my sleep.

My little grandson Rufus will be 5 on Wednesday. He’s a dear little boy who loves his granny, but a degree of that is him approving of the food I serve. Since many small children are wary of anything they don’t eat all the time, I take that as a compliment too. I have bought him a computer game for his birthday but I’m going into the little local sweet’n’toy shop to see if there’s something to add to it. I thought he might like a puppet: perhaps a glove puppet he could play with along with his little sister.

Still tired. But I’ve signed the lease for the flat and that’s something of a relief as, with expenses and loss of income, I’m well over £1000 a month down at present. I have savings, it’s okay, but it’ll be good to be back on an even keel.

Z wins Stupid of the Week award

Oh, really me, as Russell used to say. I so messed up the day. All had been going so well. I’d remembered everything, packed up the car the night before and added a few extra bits this morning.

I think it was the eggs that tipped the balance. I’d boxed up (actually flower potted up, I’ve run out of egg boxes) five and a half dozen eggs and a friend kindly said she’d pick them all up and distribute them as promised. But we have two friends with the same first name and she tried to give them to the wrong one – that is, I knew that one has her own chickens now, so doesn’t want my eggs, so she gave them to someone else. So never mind, I had some spare that I remembered to drop off this morning (and she’d not have minded anyway, of course) But something always has to give, innit.

The journey had gone really well until we got to Stratford, where the Olympic park was. The same thing happened as the last time I drove that way: the satnav was not clear. It said turn left and there were two lefts and I suppose it should have been second left, because left was not right, nor even correct. And when I finally got back on the road, in Tower Hamlets, it tried to send me down a road that wasn’t there and then wanted me to go where it’s recently been pedestrianised. So I felt pretty stressed. Stopped at a traffic light, I felt peculiar. You know when you’re stationary and another vehicle moves and you have the sensation of rolling backwards? I had that, but nothing was moving. It was very odd and I had it every time I stopped. I can only think it was anxiety. But then, finally, I started to get directions I recognised, such as Old Street, and it was fine. I parked on the road, as permitted free on Sundays, and turned to pick up my handbag.

My handbag was 100 miles away. I hadn’t got it. That meant I hadn’t got the keys. All was not lost, I rang the bell of the upstairs tenants, who are holding a key while the flat is empty. They were out. Nothing daunted, I set off for the agents, leaving Wink to relax by the canal. The agents are shut on Sunday (I’m sure they used not to be, but everything is different nowadays). I texted the upstairs tenants and they rang me back from the museum they’d booked to visit.

Best. Tenants. Ever. Lovely, lovely couple, they offered to go and defrost the freezer themselves. I’d got a couple of backup plans, but they were both desperate ones. So I accepted, with thanks. So kind of them. Rather than stroll down Upper Street and decide where to go for lunch, we dived in to the (very good) place next door, which does a Jazz Brunch on a Sunday. Slightly surprised that our fried chicken buttermilk pancake was drizzled with syrup, but it was tasty. And the guitarist was good.

I drove home again. The satnav told me that there was a delay of 53 minutes on the route but a redirected route would save me 41 of those minutes. Would I like to be redirected? Oh yes I would. So we had the tedious A12 route instead of the beastly M11, a road that no one likes. We were home by 4 o’clock and I tried to have a nap, but didn’t quite manage it. So Tim made me a cup of tea and I made cheese soufflé for dinner and I will go to bed early, still haunted by my utter stupidity.

“It’ll be our secret,” said Wink, kindly. “Eh, I’ve already told Facebook, it’s gone straight on the internet,” I said. I do stupid things, I own them. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not, even if it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t matter, unless it does to myself and I’m long over that.

Porkie pie

I am driving to London tomorrow, which feels as if it’s quite an event, though it’s for a dull enough reason. You may know that I own a building in Islington, divided into two tiny flats. The downstairs tenant has just moved out, after nearly 15 years and the new tenant is due to move in next Friday. However, previous (lovely) tenant omitted to defrost the freezer, I’ve discovered, and I can’t possibly let someone move in to another person’s ice. So I’m defrosting it myself. Wink is coming too, to keep me company. The plan is to arrive late morning, turn off the freezer, knock on the flat above’s door and meet my lovely tenants there, whom I’ve not yet met and then Wink and I will swan off for a lengthy lunch. Then we’ll finish the defrosting and come home again. Nothing interesting but, I hope, a nice lunch.

Which describes today, mostly. Though the pork pie I bought on Norwich market wasn’t the most delicious ever. All fine but the bottom pastry was a smidgen thick and – this is the case with every pork pie nowadays – there was hardly any jelly between the meat and the crust.

My mother used, for a special occasion, to make pork pies. Hers were fabulous. Hot water crust, hand raised, a pig’s foot boiled for the extra jelly. Nothing since has ever quite matched up. Back in the 1960s, she was a seriously fabulous cook. She was after that too, but she decided to take the slightly easier option, which was entirely sensible. Not being at all sensible myself nowadays, I have an ambition to make a proper pork pie, to see if I can come anywhere near my mother’s standard.

Good week!

Tim is home, car looking sleek and happy, as is he. My ear is freed of its burden and I expect a sound sleep tonight, or at least a comfortable night, able to lie on whichever side I choose.

Yesterday was a very happy day, even though Tim wasn’t here. I drove to my appointment in Norwich to fetch my contact lenses (not that it needed to be a timed appointment, but never mind) and, trotting down past the market, noticed that the splendid chocolate maker from, I think, Sussex, has opened a shop opposite. Montezuma chocolate is very good, I discovered it some years ago at the local wholefood shop and have ordered it direct for presents, too. So, on the way back, I dropped in and, somehow, four bars found their way to the till and thence to my shopping bag.

I paused at the fruit’n’veg stall and bought Norfolk asparagus (including purple asparagus, which I’d read about in the local paper recently), Cornish potatoes, local strawberries and cherries from somewhere. I passed a tea shop – loose tea, not cupsful to drink – and bought Lapsang Souchong, Jasmine and Rose teas. I stopped at a herb and spice stall and stocked up on blue poppy seeds, white poppy seeds (can’t often find those), coriander seeds, sunflower seeds, linseed, sesame seeds and garlic. Then, looking for the deli stall, I was sidetracked by one that cures its own bacon. The butcher, not at the stall. So I bought several things there and then staggered back to the car. On the way home, I called on Ro, who was home with Rufus – Perdita was at nursery and Dora was at work. Rufus had left his new cap at my house and Ronan had left the pot of strawberry jam I’d given him. I also had Wink’s birthday present to Rufus. And then, leaving them, I dropped in on Rose to give her something that had erroneously been posted to her old address. We’re planning a girly lunch next week.

Wink had invited me in for lunch and then we set off to the garden centre. I’m sorry that I’d neglected this lovely nursery. It opened some 30 years ago, run by a young man with the help of his parents and my mother and I often used to visit. And then another couple started an enterprise of their own and we wanted to support them and somehow the slightly more distant one got left out. There’s also the Yagnub garden centre, where the people are lovely. So many good places, only so much purchasing power. I’d only been to the more distant (only 20 minutes drive, at most) a few times in ten years. But it was still lovely and they clearly grow a lot of their own plants – the vegetables and bedding plants, anyway. We were enthused and will certainly return soon.

I’d bought a steak, as well as the vegetables, so I asked Wink in to share it with me. One steak was adequate for the two of us and we filled up with strawberries and cherries afterwards. All three of us have noticed that we tend to eat lighter in the evenings than we used to. I think it’s an old dears’ digestion thing.

Today, my ear has been sorted out – the nice nurse showed me what she’d extracted (I was more interested than revolted) and it was tiny, a quarter of a pea sized. You wouldn’t believe that it would have caused so much discomfort. I asked for tips on not letting it happen again, so fingers crossed. And then Lovely Tim arrived home, as I said. I’d been to the supermarket, as Wink and I drank the last bottle of red wine (except the emergency Good Stuff) last night and remembered we were low on beer. So I stocked up a bit, including a bottle of Doom Bar alcohol free. And, darlings, it was entirely palatable. I won’t say it’s as good as real beer, but it’s more than acceptable. I was so put off by dreadful low-alcohol wines that I doubted the drinkability of the beer, but I’m a convert. At last a dry, non-fruity soft drink. I’ll taste my way through all the decent breweries’ 0º beer and find the best ones.