Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Egg Ledger 

36 ounces of sugar
+ 12 lemons
+ 300g butter (yes, I know- the scales are imperial, the pats of butter are metric)
+ 12 eggs
= 6 jars of lemon curd


Total eggs left in fridge=19 (we've been having boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast. A lot)

Should I-shouldn't I? 

I'm in a quandary: I have the possibility of working a maternity cover, taeching French and German at a decent local independent school.

On the one hand, the money would be handy, and companionship of colleagues pleasant.

On the other hand, it is probably full-time, and for six months, which would make my MA work more difficult to fit in than it is already. I am really enjoying the MA- it's pure me-time, but with a practical aim. Plus, my last spell of teaching full-time was a disaster both for my children, whom I hardly saw for two years, and for my physical health, which is still not as it was before I started my PGCE in the year 2000. Also I have the dog to consider- he and I both need exercise.

I think I've just talked myself out of it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

lost cousins 

Commenter Ruth introduced me to this excellent site, Lost Cousins. The principle is simple: you research here all the members of your family that you know to have been alive in Britain at the time of the 1881 Census, find out the exact census reference for them, input them onto Lost cousins, and voila! Sooner or later somebody else will find a person in the same household as one of your ancestors, and you will discover a whole new branch of your family.

You don't need to be British to play this game either: if you had any family at all, even distant, living in Britain in 1881, it's worth a go. You never know what you might uncover.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I forgot to mention that because the hens had *stopped laying*, I went out on Monday and bought a dozen at the farm shop, and that some of the hens carry on laying in the coop (I was getting 1 or 2 a day), so we have waaaay more eggs than 24.

Watch my struggle over the next few days, as I attempt to use all the eggs. I will admit to cheating yseterday, but I'll still start the count at yesterday morning

Egg ledger:
Open of day: 12
plus find (+24): 36
brought by ma in law (+6): 42
laid during the day (+5): 47
fed to dog (-2): 45 (what? he was hungry!)
given to friend (-12): 33 (yes, that was cheating)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dodgy Logic 

And of course, there is Ma in Law, more slippery than an eel, who has decided to have her house (almost literally) turned upside-down, and who has therefore moved in for two sodding months... And her builder has not even started, nor is he showing any signs of starting any time soon.

And she's doing it already! After only two days. Getting right up my nose, taking a left turn at my sinuses, and coming back down the other nostril.

Fuzzy Logic 

And also, in a weird day, we have the Case of the Washing-Machine Repair Man, who was supposed to come today, specifically NOT at school run time, and who therefore left his calling card at 9:21am. I'm quite certain that when he finally makes it to the washing machine, he will be competent, efficient and polite, but why come on the dot of the time you were asked not to come?

Logical Dodging 

Shitting bollocks. I've just broken the lid of the only slow cooker we had. So, no more Thursday stews stewing while I'm out at university. My children will have to eat porridge for supper. Or gruel. And the lid didn't miss my head on the way down from the cupboard either. So I also have a bruise. It is 5 o'clock yet?

One more mystery clears up. I had been wondering why the hens were not laying as well as they were a few weeks ago, and worrying about their diet a lot. Sim found out the reason for the one or two eggs a day problem while out chucking a ball around for the dog at dawn.

It seems the stupid hens can no longer be bothered to walk back to the coop to lay, and have found themselves a lovely little nest under an oak tree at the back of the garden. Sim found 24 eggs in it, and inspection five minutes later revealed a freshly laid one. My favourite underling hen is in there now, and will not be budged.

Egg recipes please in comments box. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

This is a madhouse. We have a geriatric chicken in the hospital wing next to the woodburner, as I write, crooning along to Dido. Dido- tunes for chickens everywhere. Put that in your marketing mill, Dides.

Do you ever read your credit card statements in minute detail? If you don't, then like us, you may not notice for some time that a small and unremarkable amount of money - $15.49 in our case- is being fraudulently and regularly taken out of your account.

We're not as alert about our funds as some, and if it had not been for the fact that the card it happened to was the one we use abroad (no commission on overseas transactions- good for us), and that it showed up glaringly on an otherwise empty sheet three months running, we may never have noticed.

The first payment in September, we put down to someone being a little late processing their chits out in the sticks somewhere. The October payment we disputed, but our card company made us put the details in writing before they'd crank up their investigation system. They finally cancelled the payment a few days ago, and informed us.

I really recommend reading through your statement every so often, and noting any payment you feel is odd. It could happen to you too.

Whoever said that the most important things in life are "not things, but your nearest and dearest", must be absolutely mad. The most important things in life are cattle prods, bribes and ear plugs. Oh, and a big tube of Bostik.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ninth of July 

Picture this, if you will. You are standing looking blankly down into a huge hole in the ground. It is hot, and so damp that your clothing is clinging to you between your shoulder blades and behind your knees.

Around you, like ants, scurry some regulars, innured to it, whilst other gawkers like you peer slowly, numbly, into the spotless chasm. It looks as though the bottom of the hole itself has been picked clean by a vast army of ants, methodically removing the very dust.

Above you, up on high, hangs the steel latticework common to temporary urban structures all over the world: walkways and skyways, stairways, barricades, escalators and corrugated roof. All around the void sits a steel barrier, uneasily perched on the edge of the clean hole.

There is a station now. Clean, new, a shiny canopy common to many Old World architect-designed structures. Two commuter lines snake around the bottom of the hole, their course unchanged, but with a view of the sky now.

Take a walk along the surrounding streets: lean in close to the condemned brasseries and delis, their front doors closed by those ineffective sixty-year-old concertina shutters, and smell the mould of abandonment. Try not to think about the people, or to detect the whiff of the tomb in the damp must escaping from these hollow shells. Try not to visualise them snatching a muffin and coffee here before riding up to their conclusion.

Across the street sits a between the wars Grande Dame, her once handsome face now ravaged and cratered. She watches, implacable, the scene, shrunken into her mourning veil of black net. Girders support her- she is too fragile to stand alone, yet they feel that she at least can be saved.

She watches, as over the other side of the now empty space, rises a new, fresh testament to the power of business and hope.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Sim asked at supper last what Pi was, so after we'd finished explaining the principle, I did a quick search and found this. Turn your speakers on and hear Pi, spoken, to 9999 places, in Hebrew, Malay, French, morse or Monty Python. Yes, that's right. Monty Python. Too silly, too silly.

I think Sim understands a little better about Pi now.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Kept awake by all souls 

All this family tree research is sending me quite mad, I'm certain. I can positively feel the weight of all my ancestors, bowing me down and watching what I'm doing. A friend told me yesterday of her grandfather's position on family tree research, which might seem old-fashioned to us, but which would make a lot of sense in other, more spiritual cultures. If those people were here today to tell you these things, he told her when she asked about her forebears, then they could tell you what they wanted you to know. Since they are not, you must be happy with what you know already.

My problem with this is that it limits family history, which is not just about who lived when and where and with whom, to no more than three generations. I believe that most of us want to know more than that.

We want to know where our ancestors were during major world events, how they bore up, what they did and how they reacted, because their genes are in us, and most of us thankfully have no idea how we'd behave in such extreme situations. We want to know how they put up with living in a workhouse, or sheltering under the dining table during the Blitz, or working in a factory in terrible Industrial revoluton conditions, and understand their quiet acceptance of the huge events that marked their lives.

Our lives, most of them, have not contained such events at close quarters. Our wars are so remote, so detached from us, our sufferings so minimal compared to previous wars, that many of us want to know of these things in a little more depth, a little closer up than can be afforded by documentaries.

So I keep delving, but I'm beginning not to be able to keep it all in my head, and I've only gone back five generations. This is November, after all, the time for All Souls, the time for thinking about ancestors, and I can feel them all sitting on my shoulder, whispering, at times encouraging, at times spiteful and nasty. Like normal people with things to hide. And I really need to sleep at nights.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Blimey- I'd nearly forgotten how to use this thing. You never know, I may blog again one day, when I've got things other than "ooh terrible weather we're having at the moment, isn't it?"- I mean bus stop conversation is all very well, but I dare say most of you get it at bus stops already.

So here are the things I'm trying to do at the moment, without much motivation to do most of them:

1) University work- I love it. It just keep being distracted by other things that need doing. Am beginning to wonder if I haven't inadvertantly turned into a Practical Person, which would mean bad news for academic stuph. Also the use of a brain might be quite handy, so if anyone has one going spare, please email me at the address at the bottom of the page.

2) The house is still a s***e-t*p. Boxes of un-unpacked books with nowhere to go. Joiner still working on shelves. He has finished the wardrobe, so yeah- we have wardrobe space! Unluckily, the wardrobe has still to be sanded, primed and painted, so our bedroom is still in the same untranquil state it was on August 17th, the day we got back- worse if anything because it's got all our clothes in it now.

3) I need to rig up the electric fence for the hens, but I can't for the life of me work out how the f***ing thing goes.

4) Various plants- fig, bananas, yucky yucca and unidentified succulent thing, need to be brought in before Friday when we are to get a cold snap (stop giggling, you Canadians at the back), with temperatures down as low as minus 3C or lower(about 30F, I think- see converter in left hand column)

5) Laundry, cleaning, dog-walking, all usual tasks, etc continue as normal.

6) Moaning about the weather and light levels.

7) Planning planting for next year -assuming I'll get my act together in the next days and ask our neighbours if we can sub-let a bit of field for a vegetable patch. I have no idea why I keep putting this one off- he'll either say yes or no, but on balance more likely to say yes.

8) Far down this list, and as ever, only when I feel like it, because there'd be no point to it otherwise, blogging...

PS: did I mention that the children and I are all taking riding lessons? We go as a group all at the same time, and it's fun! I really was not very physical as a child; more's the pity.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The utter rotter 

He was a rotter!, she said vehemently. An utter rotter! She picked up the cigarette which had lain neglected for a few minutes in the ash tray, took a deep drag on it, and brushed ash off her trousers.

I didn't know quite what to say. It was hard enough to get her to talk about anything one might find interesting. She appeared to have a policy of not discussing other people's topics, or at the very least of being evasive uner questioning. I'd never heard her express emotion about her parents before. I was interested.

Oh?, I said in what I hoped was a nonchalant manner. The air in the kitchen was heavy with the cigarette smoke, the fumes from the gas stove, and from the paraffin heater she insisted on using instead of the central heating. Steam rose, billowing above the enamelled New World cooker, its rings still burning for the extra heat. She often lit her cigarettes directly on the ring, and had several times singed off her eyebrows.

It wasn't just that she was starting to go a little barmy- the ice compartment in the fridge was now defrosted on a weekly basis, the contents still in situ; meals were mostly toast, grilled on her ancient cooker; feuds with her neighbour of five decades had degenerated into sullen ignorance of her even if they chanced to be in their respective gardens at the same time. She had times of extreme lucidity, chance moments which kept me coming every Tuesday for reasons which went beyond filial bonds.

She was talking to me. She was trying to tell me things that she probably never told anyone, because she had been born in an age when "such things were not discussed". She usually talked of her parents only in the blandest, most factual terms imaginable. I suppose that now I was as near to adulthood as she was likely to see me, and removed from her by more decades than the average grandchild, it felt safe to tell me.

Of course, she continued, it's not the same these days. Young people all live in sin. She practically spat out the last part, not because she held any intransigent beliefs on what constituted properly moral and upright behaviour in relationships, but because she could remember how hard life had been for her mother, the foreign fancy woman of her self-important father. Now, seventy years on, it seemed that her mother's sufferings had been in vain, and, in hindsight, probably laughable as well.

That one short sentence, so laden with meaning and a mass of feeling, suppressed for seven or more decades, was like a door opening into her world. For a second, I felt a real sisterhood with her.

Seconds later though I knew that that was it. The door had slammed shut. There would be no more revelation. She had spoken, and she'd let out more than she was comfortable with. She went back to being my eight-five year old grandmother, the one who'd threatened me in jest with her tomato canes. I'm left, years later, to fill in the gaps for myself without having to ask any awkward questions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

If it was a film, you wouldn't believe it. 

On top of the things I'm doing at the moment both in and out of the house, I'm also, with the excellent help of Commenter Ruth, who knows about these things, trying to pursue the more elusive members of my family tree. You see the difficulty about my family is they have been commitment-phobic for generations, and have shunned marriage as far back as can be seen.

My son, as my father will point out at every opportunity, comes from a "long line of bastards"- The Boff and I married each other when he was two months old. My father's parents were unmarried at his birth due to the minor technicality of my grandmother still being married to her first husband. Then Mr Hitler inconsiderately started a World War, with the result that my grandmother's first husband, elusive at the best of times, vanished into "war work"(probably black marketeering, knowing that lot) for seven years.

My father was legitimised at the age of eight by his parents' splicing, although they could by then not stand the sight of each other. Sadly for my father, the damage inflicted on a sensitive, highly intelligent boy from a broken home, was already done. He was a bastard and he knew it.

Furthermore, my grandmother was one too. In both senses of the word. One aspect of her bastardy I have covered elesewhere. Suffice to say that she was a tricky bint, with a stare like a chicken's. Cruel and calculating. But it could equally have been the drugs.

to be continued...

There are few things I find more irritating in the entire world than having my sleeves slip down over my elbows into the water while I'm doing the washing up.

For this reason, I will only wash up in the summer.

Have lost a new hen to a sleek gentleman in a russet fur coat. Second one. Have purchased electric fence and power unit.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Surfaces, surfaces, surfaces... 

I sometimes wonder if having children, and more specifically babies, just makes you feel stupid, or whether you actually do become stupid. Maybe the years of wading through the inevitable dirty nappies, clutter, insomnia and mess, coupled with the impossibility of a sustained adult conversation when your life is dominated by a small being with a non-existant attention span, actually wears down your ability to think in straight lines. Or maybe, as they emerge, the little sods actually swipe some brain cells they thought nobody wanted.

Just watch any parent of small children. Marvel at how they juggle effortlessly three, four, or five, theoretically all-consuming tasks at once, yet be unable to remember what anyone said less than five minutes ago. Just watch the parent of any school-aged child, appearing to pay full attentio to what their child is telling them, yet struggling to focus on the meaning of the words coming out of the dear little one's mouth. Yes, of course I'm talking about myself here.

"What's that, darling?", you mumble absent-mindedly, as they finish the long and involved story of what Megan said what to them and what they said back to her and, and who was upset about it, and why Penny was laughing do much and how they grazed their knee at lunchtime but it doesn't hurt now. "You aren't listening, Mummy, are you?, comes the accusing rhetorical interrogation, as soon as they start to understand that blank look.

It's not that I'm not interested in what they have to say. It's just that I reach information overload (not to be confused with Operation Overlord, which is something entirely different) very quickly these days. I've decided that the way ahead is not, as you might think, to prune the child collection, but to cut down on clutter.

I need tidiness in a way I can never remember feeling so acutely before. I need to pare the things down to the essentials to make way for the growing people and numbers of animals. The charity shops are gaining (arguably!) as carload after carload leaves- not that you'd notice the difference yet. I've still, lurking somewhere in the back of my mind -if only I could put my hand on it-, the nasty feeling that it could just be me, showing my age.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Am feeling uninspired, so have decided to make myself scarce until I've something sensible to say- it usually works- probably for a couple of days or so.

Off to make sloe gin now, using the sloes from our hedge, but I'm having to pick them before the first frost, because all the birds are getting them. See ya!

*Dastardly Muttley snigger*

I took delivery on Saturday of four new hens, "rescued" from the transport to the Shippam's paste factory, where they are sent as soon as they around two years old. The new four, far from being scraggy and ill-treated, are beautiful, in the peak of health, and have begun laying already. I now have eight hens, and got four eggs today, which I don't think is at all bad. I think I'm about to lose one of the old ones though. :(

Monday, November 01, 2004

Sim declares, as he returns from school, that he can't wait for tomorrow, for two reasons: one, because he wants to see who wins the US election (actually, he said he couldn't wait to see Bush lose), and two, because the mobile library visits school in the morning, and he plans on getting out volumes 7 to 10 of Darren Shan's "Cirque du Freak" series (he read volumes 2-6 on Thursday and Friday). The boy reads like a reading machine- we're always in danger of running out of suitable stuff to put before him.

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