Thursday, December 30, 2010
We had a surprise gift yesterday - a trio of salmon from our Hertfordshire family. There was smoked salmon, gravalax and two luscious Oak Roast steaks - crying out to be eaten. I wasn't sure how to do them; they seemed to be sealed in a buttery juice, sprinkled with cracked pepper like the bottom two in the picture. I decided to do them en papilotte in the Aga and wrapped then in a foil envelope for 20 minutes. We had them with baked potato, courgettes and sprouts a la Eryl ( side bar) and lemon. A success!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
For 31 years MTl has always held back a present to tease me. Sometimes it would be midnight before it woud suddenly appear under the tree. This year with all he's had to contend with - it never occurred to me in a million years - after all I bought my handbag for him. So now Boxing Day morning I suddenly noticed a tiny red parcel which he told me had been there since yesterday tea-time. And here is this sweet antique brooch. I shall treasure it.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Not Quite Mafeking.
The relief was palpable. At 10am I was in despair- the third taxi had said they were too busy to come and pick me up. I phoned Jackie and she gave me hers and her daughter’s taxi list. It’s all very well for MTL to say we’ll manage, but Christmas with no milk for tea and no fresh fruit and vegetables is a hardship I’d rather avoid. Finally a kind man from ‘Grab a Taxi’ said he was on his way.
I walked gingerly to the corner of the lane and waited and waited. At last he came and had the greatest difficulty turning round and then we met a neighbour in the lane – so more manoeuvring - but he was a professional. MTL had pointed out that I could well get stuck in the town with mounds of shopping and no return taxi. It’s the custom in friendly Somerset to sit in the front with the driver, so it was easy to have a heart to heart, and we arranged exactly where he would pick me up – actually sitting inside the Co-op, and he worked out the time on my watch which is always 10 minutes fast – and so very confusing, but MTL is kind enough to adjust every time the clocks change.
I knew he wouldn’t let me down because he said to pay him at the end. I had about 50 minutes but got everything except fresh thyme, flowers and cotton wool pads (I got balls instead). The flowers looked lovely but the trolley was bulging and I needed to allow time to pay and pack because the taxi driver had to drive to Taunton later.
At the check out there was the sweetest boy cub who asked if I would like help packing. I told him I’d love it and between us we filled many bags – some of which I had brought and I gave the check out lady a treat by buying one of hers – not something I do lightly. I told the sweet boy I couldn’t have managed without him and made some ’kerchings’ in the tin on the counter, having made sure it was his.
I joined two other old dears sitting with laden trolleys for their dates. It’s good to know the drivers are used to putting the bags in the car giving you time to return the trolley and collect the £1 deposit. The driver told me it was lucky I hadn’t gone to Tesco as some of his customers had phoned to delay him as they were still queuing at the check out.
When we reached home at last, he asked if I needed any help and I told him I was older than I look and yes please. By the way I had an odd feeling yesterday which stopped me going out but when I heard there had been an earth quake in the Lake District I remembered the sensation was just what I felt in a surprise quake in Greece. Global warming no doubt.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
But our new postie gets through on foot. I cancelled hair appointment and Christmas dinner at the Quay Inn but -salvation - a phone call from a driver who has a hamper to deliver from our Australian family. He can't get up the hill so carries the hamper to our door. It won't be just bread and dripping on Christmas Day. Hurrah!
Monday, December 20, 2010
We didn't do it on Saturday, we postponed it on Sunday and today - Monday, with the South West a white-out, shopping is not on. Our help S, has phoned to say she can't get down her hill let alone tackle ours. Milk, fresh fruit and vegetables are low but we just think back to the forties and we're laughing. # 1 son has phoned exhorting me to stay indoors and shop on line. I might give it a go.
View from the sun room - ice-box would be more apt.
I was tempted by Sarah Raven's catalogue to oder some beautiful crysanths. I hadn't realised they were indoor ones and now have six very large containers in the sun room. However this first specimen reminds me what attracted me in th first place
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Frustration is a flat battery
Up at 6.30am - our help Sheila comes at 9am – do the math. Aware I had no clue for a post, a hint from Sunshine inspired me to photograph my crib scene, then maybe the tree which I finished last night. I opened the curtains and Wowee a snowy landscape – not just the icing sugar frosting we had last month but a winter wonderland. I must just clear the photos already published I thought, and found my battery in the last stages of collapse. That’s six hours resuscitation before I can use it.
Phone call at 8.30 am from S our help who didn’t fancy tackling the hill today. No problem – now she comes twice a week - we positively glisten with polish and brasso. More importantly, C the nurse is due at lunch time to start the third chemo. You don’t get a free week BTW, because two days before the drip starts she comes to take blood. On Wednesday she was so impressed that MTL wasn’t showing any signs of side effects she joked that maybe it wasn’t a real chemo. I suspect it has something to do with MTL’s Scottish phlegm – the grit not the mucous. Long may it continue.
Yesterday I went out for the first time since succumbing to a head cold, walked to the other end of town and managed to buy MTL’s present for me – a handbag - and back for an appointment in under half an hour. I won’t see it again until Christmas day so it will be a bit of a surprise. On the way back, crouched under a shop window I saw a man wrapped in layers of ancient looking clothes. He wasn’t begging and there were no coins on the ground. He had his head down gently stroking his dog. I once saw a programme of three well known people who – for a TV programme, spent a week on the streets of London and they were all affected by the experience. One of the men said he would never now pass one on the streets without giving them something.
I decided to do the same. It was bitterly cold and if it only bought him a tea and a sandwich or some dog food, it would be worth it. He seemed surprised and said something which I couldn’t hear but he seemed to be pleased.
Some photos later DV.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Edmundo Ros OBE was a 100 this month. Born in Trinidad he came to Britain in 1937 to continue his classical studies but popular music became his career. He introduced his Latin American music to London and in the forties and fifties London society, including Princess Elizabeth - our present queen - danced to his orchestra at the Coconut Grove which he later owned.
He was as much a part of London in those days as Big Ben. In 2000 the Queen awarded him an OBE.
Monday, December 13, 2010
To kindle or not
Kindle: set on fire, light, inflame, inspire, stir up, make or become bright, glow with passion, burst into flame.
When my step-daughter stayed with us recently she proudly showed me her new toy – a Kindle. It is an electronic book reader which allows you to use a device to read digital copies of books, magazines etc. Instead of a printed page there is a digital screen and one can turn the pages by pressing a button. It is powered by a long lasting battery and one can store an incredible amount of reading material on it. Many of these are included in the price which is around £109 otherwise I believe you buy and install them.
MTL’s eyes lit up and I knew he was thinking of my Christmas present. I can see the advantage of the equivalent of a light notebook compared with a heavy tome; it took all my strength reading Diana Athill’s ’Life Class’ in bed recently and there wouldn’t be the palaver of the dropped book mark and the flopping pages.
And yet, and yet in, comparison the kindle looks so dull, grey and clinical. I love the feel and smell of a book and the different designs, covers, print and layout style are all part of the pleasure of reading a book.
Has anyone had experience of this? I’m not a total Luddite and if it is going to add to the ease and quality of life then I may allow MTL to give it to me as a present. But at that price I have to be sure it won’t be a ten minute wonder. Waddya think?
Friday, December 10, 2010
I have never been owned by a cat so it's a novel experience to get to know them over a few days. These four are two sets of brothers; the elder aged fifteen, the younger four.
This is Zoot - a very nervous little cat bullied by his brother Syd.
This is Syd - the bully who adores my grandson.
This is Joe who befriended Zoot and takes care of him - a very caring cat.
This is George - getting a bit grumpy in his old age but devoted to the grand daughters. All the cat's names have obscure origins eg Jimi Hendrix's pianist. I was under the impression that cats, once fed are pretty low maintenance but my son mentioned there are occasional sicknesses and vet bills.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
That went well contd.
Worried about my bulging suit-case I packed early in the morning squashing everything into a pulp; there were presents now to include. I managed to zip it up with its extra pleat let out. Later I found I had forgotten to include my fashion boots which I had brought for our dinner out, and then didn’t bother to change.
Even later when it was too late to do anything about it, I found, due to a last minute change of travel wear, I had left my new jacket in the wardrobe. I told me DIL not to bother to send it but to bring it in February when they visit. One thing I’ve noticed when the temperature drops one’s interest in fashion declines in favour of warm comfy clobber.
My DIL called out the taxi was here and I rose hastily and fell over an invisible table. Nothing damaged but my dignity. We left my case in the fashion shop where J works part-time and then met her 87 yr old Mother for lunch – the train wasn’t till 1.33pm. B is a game old girl but very deaf so we had a very shouty lunch and other customers seemed transfixed whilst B told us how she had managed her diabetes for 17 years but had a weakness for chewing chicken skin and pork scratchings.
We managed to persuade her not to come with us to the station – it was brass knob weather and bade her a fond good bye. I had been delaying spending a penny until the station and found to our utter disgust the loos were locked and also the waiting room. We huddled in a tiny shop and were handed leaflets to complain. Fortunately for us the shop was actually staying open till 2pm. I felt sorry for the pretty lady who popped her head round the door and said – with a lovely smile – she had to get to Kent.
J my DIL was an absolute brick, refusing to go until she had literally put me on the train. There didn’t seem any point in finding my reserved seat so I sat in one near the luggage. I had to change trains at Westbury and a youngish woman insisted on carrying my bag off and on the next train. I was so surprised – we hadn’t spoken and she had her own luggage. I told her I could lift it but she said it was dangerous with the gap. I must say when she helped me on the Taunton train I felt a bit weepy it was
MTL and his daughter were there to meet me and I never stopped talking on the drive home. The house was beautifully warm, tea was quickly brewed and all was prepared for dinner. All the trains had been on time – congrats Great Western, and also for that spotless loo. I’m glad I made the effort, so thankful that it all went well and oh so glad to be home again
Friday, December 03, 2010
That went well.
On Monday we went to see the chemo consultant and after a short question and answer session he pronounced himself pleased with MTL’s progress so far. Apparently he has 8 x 3 week cycles (1 cycle is 2 weeks chemo, one week off) so five and a half months in all approx, but if there are any unpleasant side effects they stop and adjust. We see him again in January and around Easter he’ll have tests to see how effective the treatment has been.
We then – having established that MTL’s daughter was on the Taunton train – separated and I boarded a train for Warminster with a change at Westbury. MTL met his daughter who had travelled from Norfolk, and they went home to Minehead. So far all the trains and connections were on time.
J, my DIL was waiting at Warminster with her grand daughter. It was bitterly cold so we took a taxi to her home. Much colder than Minehead and some snow was still lying. Over tea and cake my DIL’s DIL arrived with the newest granddaughter. Her mother said she was shy with strangers so I got on the ground with my legs splayed out on either side. I have always done this with little ones then they can make up their own mind if they want to get closer. Eventually she held her arms out to me and her mother planted her in my arms.
It seems this is a position I can no longer hold for any length of time and I had to be relieved of the baby, helped up and deposited on the sofa where I could comfortably hold her. Eventually the young left and my son and grandson got in from work. J had cooked a delicious stew with dumplings – great for warming the cockles. I was intrigued to hear she had done it in a slow cooker which turned out to be one I had had 40 years ago. At that time I preferred a pressure cooker for stews. I love it when things are used for years. I’ve never been comfortable with the throw away society.
They have four cats – two sets of brothers – one pair about 15 and the other 4 years of age. Remembering their names and matching then to the right cat took some concentration and it was interesting to hear about their different personalities. George, the eldest usually slept on my bed but graciously agreed to sleep on J and A’s bed instead. To cut down on luggage J had lent me a warm dressing gown. It was a fleecy faux leopard skin job and I was a dead ringer for Bet Lynch in Coronation Street.
Next day – my son had taken the day off – we drove to Salisbury. J had a routine appointment at the hospital so we had three hours or so to fill. I was thankful we were not walking as Salisbury Plain looked bleak and hostile and I pitied any poor Squaddies out doing exercises. Frustrating in M& S I daren’t buy anything. My push – pull suitcase was full to bursting and it took all my strength lifting it on the train and trying not to fall down the gap. I made an exception when I saw a make- up base I had been told was no longer available.
My son is a bad influence: he told me to meet him outside in 10 minutes time. I never eat between meals, I never eat in the street and I never eat chips, yet 10 minutes later I was doing all three with gusto. Than we found one of those coffee shops with sofas and arm chairs and after our coffee arrived my son handed me a contraband Jaffa cake bar which he said had my name on it. We stared out of the steamy windows at crowds braving the icy sleet doing Christmas shopping – enjoying music from a street player - a banjoist playing Blue Grass and Celtic – quite delightful. A was familiarising himself with a new camera which was shaped like a tube. He planned to interview me about family stuff when we returned home – rather like I did with my mother.
Later as we were walking through the hospital and climbing stairs to the next level A drew my attention to a middle aged lady – a voluntary worker selling sweets.
‘Doesn’t she look like Cousin Julia? I’m going for a closer look.’
It all seemed highly unlikely to me so I continued up the stairs whilst A ran down for a closer look. When he returned and said yes it was Julia neither J nor I believed him as he is a great kidder. On leaving the hospital A said he would just go and say goodbye to Julia and then J said,
‘He’s kissing her – it must be Julia!’ It was and then we were all kissing and hugging. She was from my first husband’s side of the family and the last time I remember seeing her she was a very precocious little girl who used to keep us in stitches. Not surprising I didn’t instantly recognise her.
When we got back home the time flew. A did the interview – interrupted by a phone call from MTL to make certain I would be home the next day and then we went to A’s favourite Indian restaurant. I woke up at 2.30 am with the light on and my book unopened – must have been that extra glass of wine. Enough droning on – I’ll finish this later.