Some corners are turned easily: others are longer and require more careful navigation. To-day I have not left the flat: I have seen no-one and spoken only to one person on the phone. This has been a good test and one which I have passed with only one short difficulty.
Friday morning starts with a trip to Balsall Heath Road. I collect bread and milk to put into Pauline’s fridge and take the number 8 bus to the stop beyond Pershore Road. I manage the burglar alarm without problem and find room in Pauline’s fridge. The walk back up to Pershore Road and the wait for a 47 bus into town is a real stroll down memory lane: for twelve and a half years this was my route into town.
In New Street Station I purchase a further four weeks’ bus and train pass including the add-on to Lichfield. Perhaps this will be the last time I need the add-on. Next to the newest jewel in Birmingham’s crown – a Waitrose store has opened beside Snow Hill station. This shop is small by the firm’s standards, but is filled – packed from floor to ceiling – with all the good things I used to find in the Lichfield shop.
Within fifteen minutes I have found all I need for this evening’s meal. The bus stop is just across the road so I do not have far to carry my burden. Back in the house I put food away and have a little lunch before setting up the bread-maker to make a seeded loaf. It is an easy job, but it does need to be done according to the recipe!
I re-establish myself on Twitter. You can tweet me using @OsborneSJ I do not know how useful I shall find it, but I will give it another chance. Do you tweet? If so, please let me know how useful you find it.
And so to cook. Beef bourguignon is an old favourite and goes into the slow cooker. There is plenty of red wine to make its sauce and the shallots look good. I leave them in boiling water for five minutes before peeling them – it makes the task much easier. A jacket potato and some broccoli are all the additional vegetables this main-course will need. The sweet course is something of a cheat – a ready made meringue nest surrounded with fresh raspberries and topped with whipped cream on which four more raspberries are seated.
For the starter I sauté some some celery and pepper cut up very small. I then make a white roux flavoured with English mustard. Into this sauce I put the vegetables where they finish cooking. Two rings of pepper are boiled and kept warm: into these I spoon the vegetables in their sauce. The top of this creation is a dozen tiny prawns sautéed with a little pepper and spices – a veritable Heath Robinson dish!!!
Victoria enjoys all three course. We are both too full to attack the fresh loaf or the cheeses I have ready in the fridge. By the time Victoria leaves me, around 21.30, I am tired and fall asleep in the chair. Far too tired to blog, I take myself to bed and enjoy a good sleep.
Saturday morning dawns bright and I get up quite early. Anthea phones me – she has read my text message from the previous evening. We talk for most of an hour while each of us makes our morning drinks single-handed! But what shall I have for breakfast? The most obvious thing is the remnant of last night’s whipped cream: this I pour over fresh grapes for a most unusual but rather pleasant repast.
Julia and Graeme arrive: they drive a Saab 95, the same model Anne and I had enjoyed long time ago. Unlike our Saab, whose floor rusted so that one’s feet got soaked in wet weather, this vehicle remains in wonderful condition. We drive to Streethay where we spend an hour and a half collecting things from the kitchen: these will help Amy when she moves to her new house. The house is still full of items and memories, both of which are best faced with other people present.
It is raining when we leave. We return to Birmingham and park the car in Symphony Court while we walk across to Ju-Ju’s for lunch. We all choose the cod and chips, which are beautifully presented and also taste wonderful – some things never change.
Walking back to the flat – again it is raining – we collect from the car the few things I have brought from the Streethay kitchen for my use: I had really missed my ladle and my long cheeseboard. Graeme and Julia leave me and I have a quiet hour before getting myself ready for the evening’s concert.
I meet V outside the central library and together we go to Adrian Boult Hall to hear a student performance, “Romantic Classics in aid of Cancer Research”. Roma Loukes, a young soprano, performs a piece in Chinese “Stand together in the same storm-tossed boat”. This is followed by Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto No 1 with Liang Shan as soloist. Tim has joined us – he knows Liang well. The orchestra is good, although there are a few weaknesses, and the concerto’s second movement is begun far too slowly for anyone’s comfort, but as a whole the performance works and Liang really does sound good in the final allegro.
After the interval we hear both orchestra and conductor feel more at home with the Dvorak symphony No 8. This is one of my favourite Dvorak pieces, although as yet I know nothing of his early symphonies or his chamber music. The final movement’s bright climax is effective and the few of us, under a hundred have turned up, strive to make loud applause!
V has enjoyed the evening. I persuade her to come and look at the flat, which she does albeit with some reticence. We sit for half an hour or so, but V will neither eat nor drink and is anxious to be shown the way to Five Ways station. I enjoy the walk and stand on the platform with V until her train arrives. My walk back to the flat is by way of Broad Street’s busy side. The Saturday night revellers are happy and do not notice me: I am warm, moving quickly under a warm coat: they stand around wearing no coats and only flimsy clothes!
Back in the flat I find a glass of wine – the bottle is open from the previous evening. I send a text and receive a phone call. By 01.00 I am fast asleep in my bed and hear nothing until 07.00.
There is nothing whatsoever in to-day’s diary, so I make no attempt to leave the bed until 09.00. Having put a good television in the room, I use it it to watch the start of the London Marathon before using the bathroom and making a pot of tea.
There is little sense in making a loaf of bread and then not eating it. I cut two slices and toast them: though I say it myself, the taste s wonderful. Why buy a loaf of bread when it takes such little effort to persuade the bread-maker to produce one? I eat breakfast and then allow myself to enjoy the television: when there is nothing I wish to view, Radio 3 takes over the surprisingly easy task of entertaining me.
Prawns and eggs both need using – a prawn omelet makes a quick and easy lunch, which I follow with an apple and a banana. Who cares if my diet is odd, there is no one with whom to share my meals.
Hetti phones. She and Amy have left Prussia Cove after a really useful ten days of master classes and coaching sessions. Hetti has had no reception on her mobile phone while at the house and Amy has only been able to get sufficient signal to make phone calls when in one particular room. But they both sound happy: I am extremely pleased for them and hope Hepplewhite will be even more successful.
There is a job to be done: the study needs to be tidied so it can be used as a bedroom on Wednesday and Thursdeay nights. I bring various piles and boxes out onto the table in the main room and sort into piles. There is plenty to discard and a number of items which should be elsewhere in the flat. I need more room in the bedroom.
Currently, I share my bed with four of Anne’s teddy-bears and a cuddly lion. There is a large basket full of smaller bears on a chest of drawers. This has to go: one by one I put the cuddles, part of Anne’s collection, into a large plastic bag. Then I find myself overcome – I am pushing away what was a special part of Anne. Paper tissues, a cup of coffee and stern self-admonishment are required before the process is complete. Just what I shall do with the large bag’s contents I do not know – that can wait for another day.
There is plenty more to be cleared and there is plenty on the television to keep me informed, educated and entertained. ON Friday,Victoria had brought a carton of New Covent Garden Soup – Cheddar cheese and piccalilli. I heat this and enjoy it along with the crust from my loaf. There are a few grapes still to finish and there is always a little chocolate!
With jobs finished I watch the news channel and “follow” a few interesting people on Twitter. Then it is time to blog.
(What do I make of my weekend? It has been good. I have reminded myself I can still put together a three course meal – only for two on Friday, but I made enough for four and have put plenty of the beef dish in the freezer.
Making new friends is never difficult for me, but is now rather different. Since marrying Anne in 1978 we had made and developed friendships with many new people – almost always together. Now I have to do this alone and to think carefully about how my new friends see me. This is a good test for someone who believes he has turned at least one corner.
I must realise that not everything will go right, either with the new relationships I make or with my treatment of the items left here in the flat Many of Anne’s “old friends” may have to go: I am not averse to teddy-bears but cannot live in a teddy-bear mausoleum however much I cherish Anne’s memory.
Streethay will no doubt bring more hard decisions, but there will be little time to visit it this week. Hopefully, I shall maintain my progress and continue this learning curve: perhaps life is rally one long corner!)
Thank-you to Victoria for eating with me on Friday – it was good to cook for someone again.
Thank-you to Graeme and Julia for all their help on Saturday.
Thank-you to V for coming to Saturday’s student concert with me.
Thank-you to everyone who has phoned, texted, emailed or tweeted me.