Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another Week

Here's my weekly update just for your amusement George!

On the whole the week went well. I was pleased to get my article about Cley Next the Sea published and, in the research, finding out that one of my fave singers James Blunt has his roots there! I'm now trying to decide where to go next - history behind another local village, biography of local gal or bor (Norfolk for boy!), or maybe something a little more gruesome?!! I shall probably ponder the point at length while I'm doing my housework later on today. I have quite an interesting Tudor murder lined up so might have a stab at that - no it wasn't by stabbing but rather an unusual method. I'll leave you hanging on that one - no it wasn't hanging either!!! I also want to try and get down some amusing notes about my childhood which I hope will turn out to be more of a 'short story' - and then perhaps, George, I can feel confident enough to get to grips with your novel idea.

The week was pretty hectic so far as work was concerned but I took Wednesday off to visit my mother who can be a trifle difficult to deal with these days. As I mentioned last weekend, my days with Mother can be quite eventful and last Wednesday was no exception. I had my itinerary set - catch the No 10 bus at 9.15 to get me from Spixworth to Norwich; arrival 9.45; go to the Bank and pay in some cheques I'd had hanging around for a bit; get the No 210 bus at 10.10 to take me from Norwich to North Walsham, where my mother lives; ETA 11.20. I'd then arranged to meet my mother in the market place, go into QD, Boots and the local greengrocer, go back to hers for lunch and then catch the 210 back to Spixworth at 4.20.

The day started well - for once the bus turned up on time and it was a nice new one rather than the usual old banger that we have at 9.15 which has something wrong with brakes - every time the bus stops it sounds as if the Queen Mary is coming into port!! We got about halfway into Norwich and suddenly the bus driver pulled into the side of the road, leaped out and ran back from whence we came. He returned with something in his hand - he announced that his front indicator which should have been on the front left hand corner of the bus had dropped off. He then announced that the next bus would be along in about 10 minutes. More than his job was worth to travel without that indicator as it was against health and safety regulations.

That wouldn't have allowed me enough time to catch my bus out to North Walsham so I then had to hike back a mile in order to catch the 210 bus. I'd been having a 'turf out' in the garden the previous weekend and had managed to dig up some day lilies, gladioli and perennial lobelias which I'd shoved in pots to take over to my mum's as she was complaining that her garden looked bare. I'd found that one of the houses I passed on my jolly jaunt back to the bus stop was obviously inhabited by either a non-gardener or a 'natural' one as there were all sorts of things growing over the path. I duly arrived back at the bus stop with my jungle still intact and waited for the bus to arrive. It was then I noticed that I was covered in greenfly. I knew it wasn't from my plants so it must have come from the jardin au naturel!!

The bus arrived and I sat down for the leisurely (although somewhat itchy - due to my infestation) ride through all the little villages via the back roads to North Walsham. The countryside is absolutely stunning this time of year and I just wished I could have asked the driver to stop the bus so I could take some photos, but no worries, I'll just drag poor old Adam out over the next couple of weeks so I can return with my digital camera!

I arrived in North Walsham on time but Phase 1 of the plan to pay in the cheques had had to be relegated to the bottom drawer. I alighted still with mini jungle intact despite the twisty bends of the back roads and Mum was waiting for me. Now to have a good old gander round QD, Boots, etc, etc. As soon as I got off the bus I could see that Mum had two full bags of something. Having said hello to each other she announced that she'd been to Sainsbury's, the Post Office and the greengrocer so we could head straight home. She said that her shoulder was now beginning to ache and she was feeling tired due to the humid weather so we should head straight back to hers. So, Phase 2 out of the window!!!

We got back to Mum's and I told her I'd remembered what she'd said about wanting some perennial plants to fill up the gaps in her garden and proudly presented my cuttings (now with the added bonus of greenfly!). As I said previously, she's getting a bit tetchy in her old age and doesn't believe in beating about the bush. I handed her the day lily and she immediately said, "oh no, not another one of those! You gave me one of those a couple of years ago and it's a damned nuisance. I keep meaning to ask Robin (her 'gardening man') to get rid of the one I've got out there now as it's too big". I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to tell her that she'd told me she didn't have enough plants to fill the garden so I just, very meekly, said, "well, you'll have to see if you can find a neighbour that'd like it". She, rather ungratefully, said I could 'shove them outside'. I suspect that they'll end up in the compost bin. So much for my good turn!

Despite this setback though, we had quite a good day and Mum, as she so often does these days, regaled me with stories of her childhood in Coltishall and some of Dad's tales of his war years. I duly recorded all the salient points in my limited memory so I can write them up later!!

And so it came to the journey home - bus late, but at least it turned up. All in all not too stressful but could have been better. I'd give it 8 out 10. (Can anyone remember what the TV programme was called back in the 1960s with that lovely lady who used to 'give it foive'?) Was it Pick of the Pops or something like that?

The rest of the week went relatively well - I got a bargain from Suttons Seeds online. 20 garden ready perennial plants for £25. I'm now an avid 'shop online' girl and Adam's amazed at the speed I can find comparable prices - everything from flowers to electrical goods! And I've got some wonderful websites that give me cashback if I connect through them. I've even signed up to a charity cashback site - every time I go through them to purchase something online, the PAWS centre (the local RSPCA shelter where Cleo came from) they get a percentage of what I paid.

I checked out the Woolies website on Friday and ordered Adam's brother-in-law a bag of pick-n-mix which I've had sent to him down in Essex. He was forced to retire early from the company he'd worked for for 47 years so thought we'd send him a little bag of treats to help him celebrate, although it sounds as if he's already getting into the swing of things. Adam's sister phoned us during the week (she's recently given up her job as a child welfare worker with the local council), and announced that she and Ray were sitting in the garden with their dog enjoying a Chelsea bun and a cup of coffee!

This morning we were up again fairly early, had a cuppa and took our little weekly jaunt to the local Co-op and couldn't believe our eyes! At the checkout next door were a couple, Stephen and Laura, who'd been neighbours of ours when we lived in Norwich. They'd both been teachers in Ethiopia and had bought a house in Norwich so that they and their two young sons could come home during the summer hols to catch up with old friends and relatives. When Adam and I had moved out to Spixworth we'd somehow lost touch with them but apparently they were now living in Spixworth themselves! Their youngest son, Tim, was with them - home from University for the weekend. He'd been 9 when we left Norwich and, as you can imagine, was unrecognisable from the little Timmy who enjoyed poking around our perennials looking for ladybirds! His older brother, Jonathan, must now be about 21 or 22 and apparently he was at University too. Stephen's now a lecturer in Norwich and Laura decided to give up teaching and is now doing a course at the University of East Anglia. Strange old world - full of coincidences!!!

Now, what to do today? Looks like a thunderstorm's a-brewin' so I might just indulge in a cup of tea and a piece of fruit cake (Mum gave me one when I was over at hers on Wednesday and it'd be a shame if we left it to go stale - well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). As it's so humid neither Adam nor I really fancy eating much so I'll probably stick some chicken portions in the oven to cook during the afternoon and then we can have chicken salad tonight or, if the weather turns cooler, we can take the chicken off the bone and use it in a stir fry. In the meantime, I'll probably catch up on a bit of CSI or Corrie or maybe do a bit more research into another article.

Before I end though, a message for George. You asked about the footpath in Coltishall. The footpath itself is still there but its just not as 'prettily presented' as it was when I lived in the village. You no longer have access to the whole of the meadow as it's been fenced off and the crooked wooden five bar gate has been replaced with a metal one. I suspect it's because the people who use the footpath no longer respect the 'laws of the countryside' and probably demolish wooden gates and chase the cattle that graze on the meadow. I can well remember taking walks through there with Mum, Dad, my older sister and our cat and the cattle used to love coming up to us and being stroked but these days they're liable to be set upon by yobs!!! Such is life, as they say!!!!

Speak to you next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday, Blissful Sunday

So what's life been like in Norfolk this week? Quite uneventful. Lots of work and very little play. My planned day with my mother went awry. Both she and I developed stomach bugs on Tuesday (won't go into too much detail there!) so cancelled our get together on Wednesday, but as I was confined to the house that day for obvious reasons I took advantage of my quiet time, settled down on the sofa with my feet up, my little ASUS laptop and went adventuring in the great land of Google which showed me the way to my latest little gem of an article.

The rest of the week was all work and no play making Jackie a very dull and depressed girl but, come Saturday morning, I was feeling considerably brighter. Started the day with a visit to the local Co-op even before I'd had my early morning cuppa and breakfast! But it was well worthwhile - they had pecan and maple syrup pastries still warm from the bakery so - you've guessed it - I just had to buy a couple. Not both for me I hasten to add - one for me; one for Adam. They went down a real treat with a cup of coffee; not your everyday Asda one but a nice Douwe Egberts (ever so poash and refeened!). The shop also had some delicious hot crusty bread so we had a late lunch of slightly reheated fresh bread with Cheddar cheese (yummy! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!).

The morning was spent typing up my latest article for Triond and, in my 'writer's block' moments I got on with a bit of housework. It's amazing how much less boring housework is if you can concentrate your mind on something more exciting. For most housewives I suspect it's music, but for me it's thinking about the article I'm currently writing or thinking of another subject to add to my notebook. I honestly think I've got an addiction to writing. Whether or not it's a bad thing I don't know but one thing I do know for certain is that, since I discovered Triond it's brightened up my life no end. Maybe it's one of those mid life crisis things - but thankfully it's not the sort of crisis that involves me taking myself off into the wilds with hobnail boots, rucksack and a cagoule!!

But following this extremely fruitful writing/housework day, I did rather over indulge in the evening. Having had stodge for breakfast and stodge for lunch we then had a luvverly lasagne for dinner, but then we went just that one step too far! We brought out the cheapo cheesecake from Asda and added cream to it. Just as well we didn't have any 'waffer thin mints' or we might just have done a Monty Python Mr Creosote.

The night didn't go well. Adam woke up at about 3.00 with indigestion (no surprises there!) and then a couple of hours or so later we woke to the sound of crunching. Adam had a quick look over the end of the bed and our delightful little Cleo sat there crunch the head off a shrew. So, up I got and shooed her away with her towel that we keep on the end of the bed for her sleep on, while Adam gathered up the remainder of her early breakfast in a cloth. He decided he wasn't going to get dressed, go downstairs and give it a decent burial at 5.00 or so in the morning so he dropped it out of the bedroom window and said that if, by the time we got up, it was still there he'd bury it but hopefully the magpies, rooks, fox or visiting cat might just pick it up. Thankfully, it had gone by this morning.

So today I've decided I'm going to relax - I've just stewed up some blueberries that were on offer when we went shopping yesterday and put a joint of ham on to cook. We then intend to have some hot ham with the remainder of the loaf of bread we picked up yesterday and perhaps a bit of chutney and then I'm probably going to look into another article. It seems most people out there love anything that's gruesome and grisly so I'm going to Google a bit to see if I can find anything particularly mentally disturbing to cater for those needs!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here We Are Again, Happy As Can Be ...

Not (as the age old song has it) because I'm with 'all good friends and jolly good company', although both these statements are true (I've got Adam and Cleo!), but because it's the weekend, the weather's fine and warm and I've got no work to do - yippee!

This weekend I've decided to get out in the garden for a couple of hours. Having had a quick walk around with my early morning cuppa I can see that despite the biting wind and the torrential rain we've had during the week my hardy annuals are taking a wary peep through the soil and I'm hoping the smiling sun will be enough to tempt them out. All is not lost on the cucumber and courgette front. I've noticed that, despite their battering by the elements, even they've got buds on them. So first job - bring out the Tomorite! Then I really must get the foxglove and marigold in. My sister gave me the marigold as part of a birthday present at the end of May and Adam's sister and brother in law gave me the foxglove as a belated birthday present when I met them at Southwold last weekend so I really need to treat that as a priority.

What then? Probably indoors for a couple of hours to flick a duster round, and then out to weed the flower beds and pots, dead head the rose bush, cut the lawn and generally enjoy the sun while it's out.

The week itself has been a real mix of highs and lows. On the low side, a few of my favourite clients have been on holiday which has left just the more awkward ones to work for which, in turn, leaves me out of pocket as I'm paid per minute of dictation rather than on an hourly basis. So earnings are down. On the other hand, on the 'highs', I have had a bit of time to throw a few articles out.

On another high note, I've been in touch with my friend at the TV production company that promotes my historical crime articles telling her that I haven't actually been doing 'crim law' articles recently but instead, I've done a couple on lesser known battles/wars, together with a biographical article on Christopher Cockerell. She's come back to to me this morning and said that she'll try and promote those as she wants to show that the company have other ideas than just crime. As she was a criminal barrister in London it was inevitable that her first major project would be criminal based.

As for the rest of the weekend, when I've finished my 'grub around' in the garden, my 'doings'' with the duster and my 'Wii hour' I'm going to try and find time to settle down to a few hours' research and a bit of writing.

Next week ... work as per but with a little respite probably on Tuesday. It's the ninth anniversary of my dad's death and, not surprisingly, Mum still feels a bit down at this time of year having spent 47 years of her life with him (quite a record by today's standards!) so we're planning a day out together. Thankfully she's not the morbid sort, loves a good laugh and, a bit like me, she finds that what should be a normal day out, tends to turn into a drama!

A few months ago we had a day in Norwich. Started well ... both her bus and mine arrived at Castle Meadow on time. We went into Castle Mall for a cup of coffee and a choccie muffin and hold our campaign briefing. First job, Boots in The Mall, then up to the market to get greengrocery, fresh fish, meat, cheese and sausages, across to Debenhams for a quick look around the clothes department to see what we couldn't afford, then on to M&S to buy a few little luxury food items and look at clothes that we could just about afford; up the top of St Stephens to the Co-op; back down the other side of St Stephens to BHS for lunch, call into W H Smith to buy magazines for the journey home; across to QD to look at things we could afford and then to Iceland to pick up a bargain or two. Then, at about 3.30 we aimed to be homeward bound.

Following coffee and muffin, we made it to Boots, the market, Debenhams and M&S, but as we left the rear entrance of M&S to wend our way up through the crowds to the Co-op, Mum managed to catch her toe on a paving slab and, if it hadn't been for some kind gentleman walking towards her, she would have landed flat on her face. But, despite all odds, she remained vertical. We then managed to get to the Co-op unscathed and even managed to scale the stairs without too much difficulty. By that time, it was almost lunch time so, before the Norwich Union Nosh brigade were allowed out of their ivory tower, we headed back to BHS to take cover in the restaurant.

Having enjoyed a good plate of fish and chips and a pot of tea, we left BHS at about 1.45 - around the time that the workers were returning to work. By this time I'd bought a fair bit of shopping but Mum, ever cautious with her pounds sterling, had just one small bag of food from M&S, and a couple of bangers and a Cromer crab off the market. Following lunch, she had, in the circumstances, taken hold of my greengrocery bag containing some apples, a cucumber, some carrots, some bananas and a cauli. Now, the restaurant is on the first floor and, as Mum is a bit like me and tends to trip over sixpence, I told her I'd go ahead of her down the escalator. Suddenly, on the journey down, I heard a muted 'oops' from behind me; as I turned to see what Mum had done, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a cauli flying past, followed by a cucumber and a shoe. I then turned sharply and saw mother lying on her back on the escalator, one shoe off and frock above her head. A young man who was obviously extremely distressed by seeing next week's washing, helped her to her feet, whereupon she turned to face back down the escalator, lost her balance and launched herself down the escalator without the aid of a parachute.

Someone at the bottom saw her cannon down and stopped the escalator. A very kind assistant came across to lift her up. Mum had cut her leg and laddered her tights so the assistant took us to the staff room to give her some first aid . She seemed okay but the assistant insisted that she sit still for a few minutes until the bleeding had stopped and, in the meantime, went and got Mum a new pair of tights off the shop floor. We then received a visit from the manager who took us back up to the restaurant and provided us with a free cup of tea.

It had obviously caused quite a stir in the shop as loads of assistants came to wave us off - whether this was because their lives are normally so mundane that it was the most dramatic thing that had happened all year, whether they felt sorry for Mum or whether they were just ensuring that we left the premises unscathed I know not! By this time it was around 2.30 and, as Mum's leg was still bleeding a little and it was obviously coming out in a huge bruise, we decided to call it a day. I left her sitting in the bus shelter while I ran up to WHS to get us each a magazine and we headed homeward an hour early.

So I wonder what this trip will bring forth? Watch this space next weekend!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Now That Summer's Here (or Not!)

I thought, at the beginning of the week, we were in for a nice long, hot, spell of weather but what began on a high, definitely sank throughout the week. Typically, on the lovely hot, summery days I was working long hours in my poky little office, so couldn't take full advantage, but yesterday (Saturday) when I was by the sea there were near gale force winds a-blowin' and today when I want to plant up some foxgloves and marigolds, it's not only cold and a bit on the blustery side, but, as a country girl, I can sense rain in the air!

On Monday afternoon I had my sister, brother-in-law and 10 year old nephew on the doorstep at 4.00. They'd been unable to visit on my birthday so brought over my pressies - a large pot of marigolds, a bottle of white wine (which was very gratefully received as I'm going through an extremely hectic time with my work and in need of a good chill out potion at the end of the day!), and an interesting 'herb starter kit'. The box stated that it contained three herb pots, three packs of seeds (parsley, chives and basil), a wood stand and compost. I opened up the pack and couldn't find any compost and instantly thought 'just my luck. I end up with the duff package!', but then I realised that what I thought was a little cork-like disc of plant food in the bottom of each pot was actually the compost. Having read the instructions, it said that the discs needed to be put into a bowl with a measure of cold water and allowed to expand. There'd then be enough compost to fill the pots. Haven't actually tried it yet but I'll be amazed if it works! But enough of my herby tardis tale.

My nephew, who's extremely irritating and not the best behaved child, was handed a DVD and booklet sent as a 'free sample' from some publisher or other, in the hope that we'd sign up for a thousand future editions at a bargain price of £15 a week or some such. He seemed happy enough reading the book (which was about tigers) until he discovered that the DVD, if twizzled around in the case, made a high pitched squeaking noise and that, of course, far exceeded the entertainment value of the booklet. Funny how he gains pleasure from 'winding up Auntie Jackie and Uncle Adam'!!!

The week continued rather mundanely, except for my evening hosing session. No, not some form of colonic irrigation or wet T-shirt competition - for those people who have met me, they'd know that most definitely wouldn't be a pretty sight but more the stuff nightmares are made of! - but in an effort to keep my annual seedlings and my wilting perennials and veg alive.

My efforts seemed to be bearing fruit (or at least leaves and flowers!) until Friday arrived. True to its origins (named after the goddess Frigg), it was frigging cold and windy which instantly knocked back the courgettes and cucumbers so I'm now left with some poor bedraggled little things that I'm hoping above hope will pick up if the weather perks up again.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny ... but typically it was cold and windy too. Just perfect for a day by the sea (not!!!). We'd planned to join Adam's sister, brother-in-law and mother at Southwold in Suffolk. Gaby, Adam's sister, telephoned to say that his mother didn't feel up to the journey but that she and Ray and Jake (their gorgeous little dog) would meet us on the sea front.

We arrived early at the allotted car park which we discovered was a pay/display so I leant into the hurricane force wind and pushed my way up to the meter to pay (being the law abiding citizen that I am) only to find that there were four different periods for payment - up to one hour, one to two hours, two to three hours, three to four hours and more than four hours. I wasn't sure which to choose so decided to phone Gaby on her mobile but discovered that my mobile had died completely - fully powered but unable to use as it said my SIM was unregistered, despite the fact that I'd been using it for the last couple of years or more!

I decided to go for the four hour option which would let us stay there until 4.00. Typically, the option I wanted would cost £3.05. Two pound coin inserted in slot - success; one pound coin inserted - dropped out; tried one pound coin again - success; five pence piece - couldn't even get it into the slot; tried second five pence piece - still couldn't get it into the slot; tried third five pence coin - still couldn't get it into the slot; timed out - two pound and one pound coins dropped through. Decided to opt for three hours which didn't require a five pence coin and then top up later if necessary.

By this time, Gaby, Ray (and Jake) had arrived. Ray said that the best fish and chips were at the other end of Southwold so we should follow him. We told him that we'd paid for the car park so he suggested we may as well make use of that time and we should travel in his car. So we spent five windswept minutes loading up our 'little extras' into the boot of Ray's car - camera, binoculars, coats and extra grub (we'd stopped off at our local Co-op on the way there and picked up a couple of bottles of drink and noticed they had an offer on at their in-shop bakery counter. Buy a pack of mini-muffins and mini-chocolate browniers, usually £1.75 each, for £3 - just the sort of healthy dessert one would need after eating fish and chips).

The fish and chips went down a treat. Poor Gaby then asked if we'd like a cup of tea as we only had cold drinks and she thought we might like something a little warmer. She'd brought two flasks of hot water with her but unfortunately, on opening the first flask she found it had broken somewhere on the journey between Essex and Suffolk.

We then took the dog for a brisk walk along the beach. As anyone who's walked along a soft sandy beach knows, it takes quite a bit of effort on a normal day, but add to that a 30 mph head wind and I'm certain we walked off not only the fish and chips, brownies and muffins but also honey nut cornflakes we'd eaten at breakfast and part of the chicken kiev, new potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn and peas from the previous night!!

We returned home windswept, well-gritted like the M25 in a cold spell (or maybe not!) from the sand and completely shattered! So, following a light snack and a glass of white wine (thanks to my sister!) I retired to my boudoir and spent a quiet hour or two with Tony Robinson on Classic FM, a good crime novel and a cuddle with the cat.

Well, it's now 1.45 on Sunday and we're having a nice, steady downpour so think I'll stop for a cuppa and a chocolate brownie/muffin and settle down to an afternoon of article writing - but which to do first? A little known battle story along the lines of my Beachy Head one; a gruesome tale of a Victorian poisoning, or a short one about my father's tale of the D Day landing? My heart tells me it should be the D Day landing one but my head tells me that I should be making progress on the former!!

The D Day article reminds me - during the week I spoke to my mother on the phone. She told me that one of her neighbours, Roy, who's 95 has just got his first passport as he's decided to travel back to Normandy for the first time in 65 years. The trip is, in part, being funded by the National Lottery to enable suitably qualified companions to travel with the veterans. Roy, having now obtained this passport has decided life is passing him by and he's booked himself on a cruise later in the year. My mum was questioning the wisdom of this solo trip and said that she wouldn't do it at the age of 95 in case she died on the ship. Always up for a laugh, I told her that it wouldn't be a problem - they could either bury him at sea or do as they used to do on on the old sailing ships; pickle him a barrel of rum until they returned to Blighty!!