Sunday, 24 May 2009
Work and weariness - national productivity creeps up slightly
It is Sunday evening and I am sitting at the computer (obviously) feeling rather sore, and a little sorry for myself. I have not been sleeping well, and my back is sore and aching. Age is creeping up on me, and it has already raced away with Dr P, so that I have to do everything by myself.
The back soreness is due to weak muscles, according to the physiotherapist I consulted some time ago, and I should have been doing exercises to strengthen them. I am no good at exercises - they are hard to remember, and I take no pleasure in doing them. By the time I do the leg stretching ones in the morning, time is slipping by and I have to get downstairs and get on with things. Good intentions and a plenitude of guilt feelings are not enough.
As well as having a sore back, I have not been sleeping well, and last night I tossed and turned, finally falling asleep about 3 am, so I got up late. Part of the sore back problem is due to the mattress - I think it needs replacing. Mattresses should be turned regularly, and this one has never been turned at all. There is a depression where my hips and bottom go. Calling on superhuman strength, I turned the mattress. This was not fun, and it lowers my spirits to have to tackle such things unaided. However I have told Dr P that we probably need to buy a new mattress, given the age and condition of this one. Strangely enough, given our respective weights, his mattress seems to be in better shape, although we may have bounced around more on mine than on his. Perhaps I should invent a mattress meter for future comparative analysis.
Undaunted (despite the sore back, etcetera) I pressed on with life. What else can you do? In addition to cooking quince jelly during the week, today I made cumquat marmalade. I now have a surplus of both commodities, and thus can dispense largesse.
Most of my cumquat supply comes from several trees down the road (in a public area, I hasten to add). The trees are a good size - indeed most of the fruit is too high for me to reach. Periodically I go and harvest the fruit - otherwise it all just falls to the ground in a squishy state, and is wasted. I get some strange looks from passers-by (although I try to harvest at quiet times of the day) who clearly wonder what this strange elderly female is doing! Some people have no sense of preservation. Nor do they recognise cumquats as useful and delicious fruits. There are seldom enough cumquats to make a batch of marmalade in one go, so I take them home, wash all the grime off them, cut them into pieces, and then freeze them until such time until a sufficient quantity has accumulated. It is better to cut them up. You can't tell whether they are any good unless you cut them, and as quite a number are past their prime there is significant wastage.
For the past few years I have had a cumquat in a pot on our front porch. As it faces west, it has been a battle to keep it alive. This year, the flowers set fruit, most of them grew, and they all looked ready to harvest - lovely plump fruit of a good size, just begging to be made into marmalade. So now they have been. My recipe comes from the Fowlers Vacola cookery book for preserves and jams, a venerable publication which is now bespattered with jam. Although I have several other books on making jams, the Fowlers Vacola book is the only one with the recipe for cumquat marmalade. As I had more than the specified quantity, I wanted to do a double check. Dr P did the calculation on how much extra sugar I needed, and I checked the Stephanie Alexander book and sure enough she had the answer - equal numbers of cups of fruit and sugar.
Whenever I make jam Dr P looks at me as though I am very strange. Perhaps he is right. Nobody likes that stuff, he says. Well, I do manage to give away quite a lot to friends and family, but actually I make it because I like doing it. I do like the jams as well, but try not to eat it much, because of the problems it can cause my mattress.
By the time I finished making the marmalade (after the very late start) the day was very well advanced. I'd stripped the bed so had all the sheets and doona cover to wash and dry. My washing machine is acting up a bit - not wanting to finish the loads, so it took some time and a little rough persuasion to get it all done.
Any left over energy was devoted to filling up the garden rubbish bag. I cut back the stems of the Japanese anemones, pruned severely the lemon verbena plant, which has just finished flowering,. It always grows madly again in spring. In the meantime there is easier access to the clothesline. I then gingerly trimmed the kaffir lime.
This plant has grown very vigorously, and although it has flowered it has never set fruit, despite my remonstrations. It has ferocious thorns and so any pruning has to be done with extreme care. There were some dead branches at the back of the tree, which have dried into very hard wood, so great caution is required when removing the dead bits.
This day's work does not really sound all that onerous. Most people regularly do much more than I do now, and I used to do so too. I look back and wonder how I managed to bring up three children, with minimal domestic help, work part time, do most of the gardening, and have a social life too. Obviously I must have moved much faster and more efficiently. Retirement slows you down.
In between all this mostly voluntary labour I have been re-reading the Flashman books, by George MacDonald Fraser (I think he died fairly recently). They purport to be the memoirs of Harry Flashman, the bully from Tom Brown's School Days. They are indeed ripping yarns, and so well written - and talk about politically incorrect! If you like 19th century history you'll like these books, which are very expertly researched, with the (in)glorious career of Flashman inventively inserted in graphic detail. In between all my hard labours today I nicked out to the local second hand market. I usually do this each week, as it is a great way of finding cheap books to read. Today I picked up two more Flashman novels, so it just goes to show that when you are on a roll with something, along comes a bit more for you.