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De profundis (of the freezer, not a cri de coeur, to mix languages)

I digressed, yesterday. I often don’t know what I’m going to write about, when I sit down at my computer. The events of the day are the obvious subject (is/are???) but sometimes I just go off at a tangent.

The rest of the china is being picked up over the next couple of days. I’m doing the accounts and haven’t found all the expenses yet, though I’ve listed them all – all payments should be from one account and I’m wondering what I’ve done wrong. I’ll find it all soon, though. Thank goodness for online banking, it makes accounting so easy.

Paul the Fish called, as usual, this morning and I bought a piece of haddock. I’m not shopping much, nowadays and I can’t see myself visiting the butcher in the foreseeable, unless the family comes for Sunday lunch, when I’m afraid there will be a socking great joint of meat. Otherwise, it’s cheese, eggs and fish, with vegetables of course. But, as I really can’t be bothered to shop, I’m running low on veg. I thought I’d have to base the veggie part of tonight’s meal on a tin of haricot beans but I picked some Swiss chard in the garden. I’ve got half a pepper (a nice locally grown one) and a few spring onions, so they’ll make a stir fry to go with the fish. Too much to eat tonight, it’ll make another meal and I’ve got a kipper for tomorrow night. Since Tim died (and apart from food for his funeral feast), I’ve been to the supermarket once for staple foods, the wholefood shop for flour, the farm for cheese and the greengrocer a few times. I’ve got a lot in the freezer. I make everything from scratch and don’t need much food. I’m wondering why we needed to go shopping so often.

In an endeavour to put off doing the accounts, I sorted out the freezer, having put stuff in it when I defrosted the fridge/freezer the other week. Mostly, I had to return frozen herbs to the latter, so that they’d be easy to find in a hurry. I buy big bunches of coriander from the Exotic Superstore in Reading (or freeze homegrown) and also buy curry leaves, lemongrass and lime leaves. I put in the remains of anything else I pick or buy, such as parsley. I’m so very sensible.

When lockdown started, in March of last year, we thought we’d use up the contents of the freezer. How wrong we were. We actually added to it, because we only shopped once a week and leftovers were made into dishes to freeze. I already froze leftovers as single portions, which I ate when Tim was away, but of course he wasn’t away, for weeks or months at a time, so they’re mostly still there.

Z changes the subject, unexpectedly

Pillock and Plank, the escaped chickens, are still enjoying their freedom – sometimes. They both spend a lot of their time standing round near the henhouse, especially when I am giving the chooks their daily mealworm treat. When they’re not there, they like to pretend they’re cats and hang out under the Dutch barn where I feed the Barneys. The cats are quite wary of Plank in particular, who doesn’t seem aggressive but is unafraid of them and eats their food if I don’t wait and protect the carnivorous hunting mammals. Who are not very bold at all. Mama cat is particularly nervous of Plank, but she’s lost a lot of her confidence altogether. I’m not sure how old she is, she isn’t underweight but she eats slowly and is easily scared away. I’m very fond of her and, if I’m worried, I know I can catch her and take her to the vet for a check-up, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong at present.

I’ve become fond of Pillock the cockerel, more than of Plank. The unescaped chickens are still laying, but no more than three eggs a day, which is a manageable number. Absurdly low between 23 girls, but no matter. I don’t know if Plank is laying. She had been leaving eggs in the other greenhouse, but not for a couple of weeks.

I’m typing this one-handed, holding the keyboard in the other hand, because Eloise cat is on my lap, kneading me. I have had a bath and put on a dressing gown that she is particularly fond of. It’s a quilted nylon number that my mother-in-law gave me, many years ago – I’ve been thinking about her, she died 36 years ago yesterday, so the dressing gown must be a good 40 years old.

That means that, 36 years ago, I wasn’t allowed to talk. I’d just had a growth removed from my vocal cords and was told that there could be permanent scarring if I spoke, because the vibration would damage the stitches. Ma died the morning after my operation and my mother came over to tell me what had happened. I suspect the operation would be a day job now, but I was two or three nights in hospital in those days.

It was a shock, there was no reason to suspect it would happen. She’d given me a Roberts radio to cheer me up because I was having the operation and she’d spoken on the phone to Russell the night before. Hilda, her maid, took her tea in the morning and left it on the bedside table. Later, she was worried because Ma was late getting up and she asked Kenny, the gardener, to rattle the lid of the dustbin outside the window to wake her up if she’d nodded off. When that had no effect, she knocked on the bedroom door and then, with Kenny waiting with her, she looked in. Ma had poured her tea, but then evidently her heart had just given up.

And I thought about her because Eloise kneaded her dressing gown. I was very fond of Ma and she was always kind to me.

Another auction done

It has been a very busy week, sorry to say that blogging has not been on my mind.

The final preparations for the auction took me a couple of days. There’s rather a lot of paperwork and nothing must be forgotten. I do have a list, of course, that is sometimes amended from one year to the other. Which reminds me, I need more tie-on labels and more bubble wrap (I do provide tissue paper, but people mostly prefer the bubble wrap. It’s recyclable, if they bother) and should order them soon rather than forget until next autumn.

The auction went very well, I’m glad to say. I’d been feeling anxious about it and, all day, I was quite dismal because I missed Tim’s presence so much. He was wonderfully enthusiastic about the auctions, which he didn’t really care about except for my sake, though he did find them interesting. He even bought something, a couple of times. Anyway, I was all right as long as someone who knew what had happened didn’t say some kind words, which made me wobble. I appreciated the kindness but my emotions are very close to the surface at present.

One of my lovely clients brought me flowers. She was selling her late sister’s collection and giving the money raised to the local hospital cancer care centre. Last time I saw her, to pick up the china, she gave me a beautiful hand-woven wicker shopping basket. She really is a lovely woman, as is her daughter.

A local friend kindly came to help with the viewing, which was exceptionally nice of her, because she gave up her yoga class for me and it’s a 45 minute drive each way for her. She said she’d loved it, could see why I carry on with the auctions and has offered to help next year. Indeed, “I’m afraid you’re going to be stuck with me next year,” she wrote. Kind Rose also came along to lend a hand.

The start of viewing was quite busy, but then the salesroom was empty for most of the next couple of hours. For many years, our venue was in the town shopping centre and people would come, look at the china, then do other things before returning in the evening. Now, we’re at a hotel on the seafront and it’s a special journey for everyone, so they have no reason to come along twice. Next year, I’m going to start the viewing later. Instead of arriving at noon for a 2pm start, we’ll come at 2pm to be open from 3 o’clock. It takes the best part of an hour to set up, but I can set out the china first and catch up with the other jobs in between customers. At least I had a good many commission bids, as well as a few phone calls booked.

It all heated up, from my point of view, half an hour before the sale started. I had an email with a lot of bids, which I had to put into the auctioneer’s book, then at the very last minute, someone else emailed. He’d been abroad and not checked the date of the sale. So there was no time to put them in the book and I bid for him – his first piece was Lot 1, it really was so last minute that Elizabeth delayed the start of the sale until I was ready.

Since Wednesday, I’ve been doing the accounts and have nearly finished. I’ve received most of the payments, a couple of cheques are on their way and there are three or four others who will be coming to fetch their china and pay. I’ve started to pay out, I’ll have it all by the time it’s needed. There are still a few people who like to receive a cheque. Simpler for me to just pay them online, but at least posting a cheque gives me time to get their money into the bank (I know the people who still owe and they’re entirely trustworthy).

Wink took me to lunch in Southwold today. It was really good to be there, though we didn’t hang around afterwards. But a bowl of mussels,a dish of chips and a pint of cider was a nice way to while away an hour. Tomorrow, I’ll do the sale accounts and that will be it for a few months. A lot of work for a very small profit, but the profit isn’t the point, nowadays.

Green jumper day

Today is better, thankfully. I really wasn’t up to much yesterday. Lovely Indigo came for coffee and lunch and we took him to Old Hall Farm, where we all enjoyed our meal and shared a bottle of OHF wine. I’m sure they’re buying in the grapes so far, vines take four years to mature enough to start using the grapes for wine, but that’s entirely legit.

Amusingly, I looked on the ‘memories’ section of Facebook, where it has what you posted in previous years on this day. There’s a picture from 2015 of Indigo hugging Rose and me, outside my house. He’s 6 foot 7 inches and we’re not, we look tiny. I reposted it two years later, observing that I’m wearing the same green cashmere jumper. It so happens that I’m wearing that very jumper again. It’s my 16th October woolly, it seems.

Meh

Things went rather awry last night. I was suddenly exhausted and went for an early bath. The phone rang and I hurried out of the bath to answer it. I missed it. Dialing back, it was the RNIB, no doubt wanting to sell me raffle tickets. I put the phone back down. I give them money every month anyway, I don’t mind buying a few raffle tickets but even 8.30 in the evening is a bit late for a charity call.

I went to bed and slept, briefly, then was awake when Indigo phoned. Lovely, kind Indigo Roth, one of my dearest blog friends. He’s visiting tomorrow, kind as he is. He took the photos for the catalogue for me and they were all perfect. I slept and woke fitfully all night, with a headache that lingered all day. I think it’s the cumulative effect of not having enough sleep and far too much stress and grief for weeks on end. I’ve napped again today several times and the headache is still here, though I’ve had two doses of paracetamol, something I rarely touch. I hope I’ll be over it by tomorrow, I have too much to do and need to be able to concentrate. It’s not that I want to, but I must. Lots of paperwork, plus personal letters and emails that I have to reply to. Overwhelming.

I must find something good to say. Um. The sun shone, it was a lovely day. I made a brown sourdough loaf and it’s good, I won’t go back to the white ones regularly as I like the multi-grain seeded loaves. Using yeast is quicker but this one tastes lovely. I added the seeds earlier, as I was putting in the last of the water, so that they mixed fully. I’m cautiously putting in more white flour than usual, but I’ll up the amount of wholewheat and rye flours until I get the right balance.

Auction time

The annual Lowestoft auction is next Wednesday, with viewing in the afternoon and the sale itself in the evening. The website is lowestoftchina.co.uk for the whole catalogue, here are some pictures.

The cover of the catalogue, with some of the rarest pieces. The one on the right is designed to hold salad dressing.
This is part of a rare, bespoke tea/coffee service. It was actually made in the 1790s, though the date is 20 years earlier. it’s assumed it was ordered to commemorate a 20th wedding anniversary. It’s very pretty and there isn’t another Lowestoft pattern very like it.
Saucers always show up well. This pattern is known as ‘boy on a bridge.’ WYSIWYG.
Another handsome saucer. Drawn in ‘pencil & gilt,’ these pieces are usually popular.
This is another ‘say what you see.’ A printed pattern, it’s known as woman and squirrel. Big squirrel, mind you.

Synchronicity

The day filled up. I went to Norwich and got the copying and signing done at the bank, then I went along to the lovely little tea and coffee shop – they sell the actual tealeaves and coffee beans, you don’t have a cuppa there – and stocked up.

I love Norwich so much. I went the long way through the lanes, just for the pleasure of it. The main streets are full of the usual chain stores, no one else can afford the rents any more, but there are a lot of little independent shops within a couple of minutes’ walk. There are lovely old buildings, lots of mediaeval churches, it’s worth taking your time. No doolaliness about going the wrong way this time, though roadworks meant a diversion, so I went a long way round towards Ronan’s house. I’d bought him some teas too, particularly Earl Grey fumĂ©, which is a delicious cross between EG and Lapsang Souchong.

On the way home, I stopped in Yagnub to get a new watch battery from Andrew at the little shop that sells everything. It’s called the Chocolate Box and does sell sweets, but also stationery and all sorts of things. He and Angela are always so cheerful, it’s a pleasure to go there. Andrew found that the watch wasn’t willing to keep going, it took him ages to persuade it, but it worked in the end and I asked him to fit a new strap as well. And bought a quarter of aniseed balls, which I hope are in my bag, because I only just remembered them.

I went to the greengrocer, bought some tomatoes for Jan and various fruits and vegges for me – melon followed by corn on the cob for dinner; I’ve been cracking walnuts as an aperitif. Then I scurried home for lunch and, having a couple of minutes spare, replied to the text I’d had from the GP surgery asking me to book a flu vaccination (I have a rooted objection to the word ‘jab’ which, surely, deters some waverers). “We’ve got a space at 15.21,” said the receptionist, so I took it.

All worked out well. I spent an hour or so with Jan, had my flu preventative (it’s not a vaccination I’m convinced about, but I’m not going to be associated with the more extreme anti-vaxxers) and came home. The cat sat on me for over an hour and a half. She had no intention of letting me go.

I’ve got a load more mail about Tim’s affairs and it has to be dealt with. But I really think I have to prioritise the auction for the next few days, so anything else will just get fitted in or left for a week or so.

An hour after Andrew put in the new battery, the watch stopped working again. I fiddled with it for ages and decided I’d wear Tim’s watch, which is far too big for my little wrist. So I put mine on to help keep Tim’s in place. Half an hour later, I looked at them both and found that mine has started and is keeping time with his. I’m charmed. I love it when inanimate objects appear to respond. Tim bought me my watch for Christmas six years ago and I bought his for his birthday the year afterwards. I do actually like wearing his watch, but I don’t want to stop wearing mine. Two on one wrist seems a bit much. One on each wrist looks just plain anxious.

Z needs strong teeth

It took me most of the morning to do anything useful, but I picked up a bit towards lunchtime. I set up the new card reader – we’ve only taken cheques or cash up to now, but that just isn’t tenable any more. I felt surprisingly stressed afterwards, I’d obviously been worrying more than I’d known.

Later, I made a couple of phone calls and, in each case, got someone very helpful and friendly. The first was Tim’s house’s BT account, the direct debit hadn’t gone through and I had to do it again. Maureen from Ireland was lovely. I don’t know the name of the RBS Investment service Probate department woman, but she couldn’t have been nicer. She agreed that it was not great for me to send off all the documents – my passport, Tim’s will, my marriage certificate – and asked if there was a bank branch near me? I think she realised it was a silly question as soon as she’d asked it, because RBS has closed nearly all its branches and the nearest is Colchester. But then I asked if Nat West would do and it will. So it will mean a trip to Norwich in the morning, but never mind. And then after that, I’ll call on my friend Jan, who would like to see some of the china. Next, I’ll try to get my head round the bumf that the solicitor sent me, but that might wait another day. All the same, the auction has to take priority from tomorrow onwards. As I said to Jan, it’s a pleasure to handle the china, so it will sooth me.

The main reason the day didn’t start well was because I stubbed my toe. It’s quite peculiar. I’d left a pair of little boots – that is, short, in very soft leather – on the landing. By the wall, not lying in my way, but I still managed to kick one of them, very painfully. I looked down to see if I’d broken my toe.

I never walk around barefoot in the house. Even if it’s just socks or tights, I always wear something on my feet because I’ve several friends who do love to get their toes out, who’ve broken one. It’s very easy to do. But this was just from the bedroom to the bathroom with no furniture or anything in the way. I looked at my toe later, it’s swollen and bruised and more comfortable with a sock and that same bootee on. I hope the nail doesn’t go black, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, it put me off things a bit.

I started a batch of sourdough bread last night. My starter is equal quantities of rye and white wheat flours and then I usually use white flour for the bread. But I’d like to make bread that’s at least half wholemeal flour. So I made my usual white wheat, whole wheat and whole rye mix, then added various seeds – everything as usual except with sourdough starter instead of dried yeast.

I’ve learned a few things. I normally knead the dough in the food mixer and add the seeds in the last few minutes. But it gets kneaded twice, which I don’t do with sourdough. So the seeds weren’t fully mixed through and were quite difficult to incorporate later. The dough didn’t have the usual lovely stretchiness, but perhaps I should have kneaded it a bit longer. I left it overnight, out in the kitchen rather than in the fridge as usual, because I thought it needed all the help it could get.

What I mostly learned was that it’s no good telling yourself to set a timer if you don’t actually do it. The bread has not burned but it has a mighty thick crust. It actually tastes very good, I’ve tried a piece, but it’s hard to get the knife through the crust. I have to eat it anyway, I’ve run out of bread from the freezer.

Tim’s car

I made the decision, yesterday evening, not to sell Tim’s car. It’s a lovely car, a BMW coupĂ©, that he bought nearly 14 years ago, soon after Viv died. He’s had a few bumps and scratches in it, not since I’ve been with him and I never asked the circumstances. I expect he was a bit careless for a while. He never had an accident, as such and he was a very good driver on the open road. He’d have agreed with me that I was rather better in town and at parking.

He loved the car, it was the nicest he’d ever had. Because of its bodywork – there really is nothing major, just surface scratches – it isn’t going to be worth all that much. When it broke down a few months ago, he had it thoroughly checked and the clutch replaced. I can’t remember why I started to think about it, though it was only a few hours ago, but I felt better for making the decision. I’d already transferred the insurance and now I’ve transferred ownership and paid the tax. I’ve also booked the MOT for the end of the month. Wink will drive me to Reading, I’ll take it to the garage and then I’ll drive it back here. I don’t need to make long term plans as yet, but I’ll probably exchange my own car for a smaller one, for cheap local driving and just use the BMW for longer distances.

Doing all that and a few other bits of admin has given me enough to cope with for the morning. I’ve started to sort out papers into things that are fully dealt with and things that aren’t, but I’ve called a halt for a while. I must do more of something later though, I’ve got a lot to deal with before the auction on Wednesday week.

When people tell me I’m using too much self-control and I should let it go, they don’t realise how draining that would be. I have a lot to do that can’t be delegated. I would if I could. Being told my behaviour isn’t in my best interests, without taking any burden away isn’t exactly helpful. Taking positive action and sorting something out does help. Only for a short time, but I’ll still take that over feeling wretched all the time or falling apart and having to put myself back together again.

Z really must spend a couple of hours winding down

I think my gate latch theory is correct. The bullocks are tranquil in their field, anyway.

Today has been long and it’s not 7 in the evening yet. I woke before 3 this morning, which is not unusual and, about an hour later, had to jump out of bed with agonising cramp, the sort that leaves your calf muscle feeling bruised for hours. There’d been no likelihood of sleep anyway, not for a few hours – and when I felt I might doze for an hour or so, Eloise decided she’d like an early breakfast. She wouldn’t be deterred, so I finally went down and got breakfast for both of us. I ate mine in bed. I’d said to the Rector that I’d try to make it to church, for the first time this year (of course, there were only online services for a long time) and he’d changed the service from 9.30 to 9, which isn’t the best time. But I was there and it was nice to see the few people who were there too, except that when someone kind asks how I am, I cry.

I got home to find a phone message from a friend, asking me to ring back but she might be out – as she was, when I tried. I made coffee and contemplated clearing up the disaster area I call the kitchen, when a lovely friend, a different one, called round. So I made more coffee and we chatted. Then Wink called in with a bag of kindling, so I introduced them, and then the phone rang, twice, the second time being the friend who’d phoned before. While I was talking to her, having left Wink and Mimi, my mobile rang. I had to ignore it and phone Indigo Roth back when everyone had left. By this time, it was 1 o’clock and Ronan and family were due soon. I softened some Baron Bigod cheese in the microwave for ten seconds and spread it on bread, apart from Eloise cat’s share.

Busy afternoon with the family, we made and ate scones, fed the chickens, all the usual family stuff, then I scrambled eggs for their tea. And now I’ve fed the cats and I’m tired out. I seem to have spent a lot of time running. I do hope I sleep tonight because I need to crack on with the to-do list tomorrow or else I’ll regret it.

Remembered a couple of bills that I needed to pay and also paid a subscription that technically isn’t due for a few weeks. Must pick up a couple more things of Tim’s that I don’t want to run out. There’s a level of stress that energises you, but this isn’t it.

I was going to bake a potato for my supper, but I don’t think I could eat it. There’s one egg left, laid today, so perfect for poaching. Either I’ll eat it tonight or have it for breakfast tomorrow. The fishmonger will call in the morning and I’ve asked Wink in for supper. I have spinach and that is perfect with fish. I also have a squash, so that’s also good. I will think of a lovely fish dish. I also must make bread in the next few days. I now have three jars of sourdough starter in the fridge and half a dozen slices of bread. I’ve never tried my multi-grain, multi-seed bread with that, but I think I’ll give it a go. It may be heavy, but if it’s a failure the chickens will love it and if not, I will. I’ll probably eat it anyway, I don’t mind bread that’s a bit solid as long as it tastes good.

Actually, I think poached egg with spinach will be perfect tonight. I’ll have a glass of wine first and then cook it. The thought of a lovely, light meal has cheered me. I’m still ruled by food, which is an entirely good thing, because it’s good food that I love.