After death/news of death 3

X’s best friend died recently – she really wanted to go but it is still hard for X.

It was sad to hear about X’s death though I do realise of course that he was not the easiest man to live with.

X died the day after we left to come here. We said our goodbyes the day before as we both kind of knew. It didn’t lessen the shock any, even though it was expected.

It was good of you to write and tell me of X’s passing. It was a very sad piece of news. He had a long, happy and productive life and that must be some consolation to you all – I remember him with great affection. I hope she will be able to face her future life without him – it has to go on, but it’s never the same again. It’s awful having no one to chat to – that’s what I have never got used to.

X saw that the old relation died recently and said bravely but boldly that she would write to you (to save her writing direct!) to tell your Papa when next you wrote, as he was in faint contact with the old girl as you know. Eventually she admitted that she hadn’t actually got around to putting pen to paper or ringing up and I rashly said I would do it for her – and then left it sitting around for days long. So now I am settling down to do some letters and clear my conscience, and if you could remember pass the news on it would be appreciated .

I am sorry your friend died. Of course, if she was a good age these things are not unexpected. But it is an end of an era, and there is the sadness with the finality of it.

I was so sorry to hear of your mother’s sickness and dying. It is a hard time to go through, the best comfort is to be thankful she has no more suffering and problems. I sometimes wish my mother could see something then I realise she is far better off and happier where she is anyhow!

How is it that I only wept once or twice over my own mother’s illness and took the departure stoically, but am in floods now? Old Age perhaps.

grief

My brother had an accident with a tractor on his farm. …he was heavily sedated and for nine weeks from the date of the accident his life hung by a thread. While there were times when I was encouraged and thought he would recover, he eventually passed away. We will never know how much he suffered during this time as after the resuscitation a trachea was inserted and he was unable to communicate verbally but seemed to comprehend right to the end. I thought it a cruel procedure but it was intended to be a short term life saving device.

It’s so depressing the number of deaths we’ve had amongst family and friends this last 12 months.

Celebrations 4

I won’t give all details of X’s wedding, I may get carried away! but she had long white dress, veil, silver and white ribbons – the lot, and Y’s 2 little girls in ‘Edwardian’ dresses sent from England as bridesmaids.

Many thank yous – the flowers are gorgeous – they arrived whilst we were having dinner – by a bearded young man full of apologies they were so late but he was marrying the florist on Saturday and she had to go and be fitted for her dress and and and! We were doubly pleased we’d decided to dine at home because a) we’d been so extravagant and (b) we were fixed to play bridge with different partners at the club and would have had one eye on the clock (and t’other up the chimney). As it was we had a luscious meal of avocado pear, fillet steak, creamed potatoes and broad beans and sauce followed by ice with raspberries and cream – super.

He’s been saving for 2 years for it he says – a dinner party for 20 at the most expensive place. Neither his parents or we could budge him to postpone it or move it to Y which would have more than halved the cost. The dinner was superb – wine flowed, followed by cigars, liqueur coffee in enormous brandy glasses and special birthday cake. It must have cost every penny of $500. I gather after we left at 12 the singing got a trifle bawdy – Elizabethan songs or no, they were asked to desist!

We went off to the old town hall for what had been described as a concert. It was in fact a unique variety show. There were only five turns, of which one was also the compere. First a tapdancer, very professional. Then the compere himself. He did a turn with a handpuppet of a grey rabbit, which was extremely skillful, and he also got a girl of about eight from the audience to ‘help’ him, whom he treated with great sympathy, and they did a card trick between them, which the puppet nearly gave away. There were two men who did a fast moving turn with a variety of normal string puppets (though with heaven knows how many strings each); a man with a harmonica and a turbaned conjuror with an exotic-looking girl assistant who got stabbed through the throat, and elevated to the horizontal in midair without visible means of support and the rest of the time danced and weaved about the stage to the rather loud music – both no doubt designed to take our attention off the sleight of hand! It was all jolly good clean fun!

the conjuror

We had an ‘elevenses’. Actually the first people arrived at 11.15 a.m. and the last left at approx 10.15 p.m. after being told it was time to go (hints hadn’t worked!) It was a fabulous day – hot and no wind and everyone drank like fish but no one seemed to get sozzled cos they all are like horses too! We had about 25 adults plus 10 children here and got through nearly 4 dozen home brew, 7 bottles wine, 20 litres soft drink and a similar quantity of fruit juice!

Children 5

It was very nice to see them but I confess that 48 hours is about as much as I can take. I do find it very wearing to be addressed in the same stentorian roar that X uses, but with a great deal more persistence by Y. I suppose it’s a mixture of being small, and the third, together with going to school, that makes the habit.

[and more later on the roar] He makes most of his remarks as though addressing the foc’sle from the bridge in half a gale – perhaps he should have a course in reading poetry or something to break down his steady monotone roar! But I was impressed with his farewell – thanking me for coming, hoping I had a good trip, sending love to Grannie and so on – all, I think, quite off his own bat.

We went to a pre-Christmas party at a house with a pool and I told the boys to wait till I got outside. Well they didn’t, they jumped straight in. When I got outside 2 minutes later X was sitting in someone’s lap, blue in the face – he’d sunk straight to the bottom and fortunately someone saw him on the way down for the second time and hauled him out. After comforting him and thinking he wouldn’t go near water again he climbed straight back in and played around happily at the edge or with me for close on an hour!

She told her mother at lunch time that ‘this morning my news at school was that mummy had tidied my room’!

He’s a very proud member of the school’s ‘bantam’ rugby team. The school took part in a tournament about 50 miles away last weekend. I took 4 of the boys down and was appointed team manager for some obscure reason. My serious application to the task of training, warming up and in-game sideline advice achieved little but a sore throat and much hilarity from the other parents – we lost one game, won one game and were knocked out after the first series of games.

We are hastily thinking up some games for X’s 4th birthday party, which is about 20 kids from her pre-prep school. I think we shall be mad and exhausted at the end of it!! They have to be very simple games as X is not so bright at picking up a new idea and is also not the world’s most sterling loser so we shall probably have tears – and Y just doesn’t bother if he feels like wrecking it anyhow.

His mother can’t do a thing with X now – he just says ‘no no no’ and tells her not to shout at him!!

angry toddler

X has now produced two teeth – she is as unfriendly as ever – I don’t touch her if I can help it – she screams blue murder. Fortunately her mother has a 16 year old sitter who lives opposite and she’s the one person X accepts beside her parents so now they leave the children at home usually in an evening which is much better.

Church/religion 4

She seemed to be a bit paranoiac about a thing called EST (Erhard Seminar Training) which sounded a bit like the Moonies without any mention of God; she seemed determined that some of her husband’s friends who had been captured by this system, if that is the right word for it, were going to drag him into it. Their friend certainly didn’t seem to think much of EST methods of brainwashing, in order to ‘build you up’ with whatever it is they teach. But I found it difficult to discover exactly what that was!

Their son was there, now 23, quite brilliant, but got himself into a state that I can only see a psychiatrist getting him out of. He left the C of E and joined the Assembly of God and was very involved and talked in the extravagant way they have which embarrassed me. Somehow he feels they have let him down, and he’s completely turned into himself.

[re a new vicar] What is worse a whole lot of the older people have stopped going to church as they don’t like his charismatic approach and it is generally thought he doesn’t care for anyone over 50. You can’t please everyone, and he’s wonderful with the children and most of the young couples, and the Sunday School has really bloomed with him, but the older ones he’s put off are the ones who could perhaps afford to come up with $500 a family which he hopes for [to fund the planned building project].

We had a very heavy dose from the Word – my fellow retiree has fundamentalist leanings, and in addition to ramming them home proceeded to illustrate from the problems of abortion, sex education in schools and nuclear threat. ‘Has he covered all his hobby horses?’ whispered X as he finished – and indeed I think those are the main ones. His method of dealing with the nuclear threat is typical. 2 Peter 3.10 ff, he says, obviously refers to nuclear war and its results, tied up with the Return of the Lord. So not to worry or do anything to prevent it coming about. End of problem.

We have a small boy in our Sunday School who regularly comes up with classics. Doing the Ascension last week he produced this drawing. When asked what the funny black things were, he said scathingly that it was Jesus going up past the birds!

the Ascension

I could scream – they’re talking about ‘… many shopping days to Xmas’ already – it means the whole thing becomes a drag and chore – so sad – the other day was when a disc jockey came up with ‘Only … many days to Xmas – God forbid’!!!!

We had a true American to preach last Sunday morning who won a prize from the Order of St Luke (an Anglican society aiming to encourage the healing ministry of the church). He boomed on for 15 minutes (not giving any precise examples from the vast experience X said he had) and ended up by telling us how to get a ‘blessing on our bodies’. The method was not in fact to ask God for it but to ‘concentrate on the indwelling Intelligence’ (or some such phrase) and then to relax each part of you separately speaking the Intelligence in your eyes (for instance) and saying ‘Eyes, you have never seen better’ and so on. When he got to ‘Stomach, you’re doing a grand job – keep it up (or was it down), Stomach’ I nearly burst out laughing, and alternatively felt like walking out in protest against the nearest thing to the Christian Science heresy I’ve heard from an Anglican pulpit in a long time. But in the evening we had Y and he went on for half an hour and kept me awake and attentive every minute of it (which is high praise indeed, as you know).

Employment hassles 3

We laughed at X’s bagful of letterheads [with too many typing errors]. Y said she never thought of actually removing the evidence like that.

What great scandals and excitements seem to be happening in the jobs and I agree that it is always fascinating when any situation builds up and I hate leaving before I have found out the happy (or otherwise) solution. If you have a lunchtime free perhaps we could have another meeting and I could hear a bit more! I know the difficulty of settling a date in advance, but with our peculiar commitments on both sides it seems a bit necessary. Fitting in my 3 employees and your 2, AND the garden is really quite a problem – but I haven’t been up for ages and I did so enjoy our last meeting.

The firm also occupies a good deal of my time, but a bit less now as I have cut it down with the improvement in the weather. We have a dopey secretary who really never wakes up at all until after lunch, but is awfully good fun when she does. Her mind is set on her organ and flute and playing in their ‘group’, so work gets scant attention. 2 friends of hers also help out, but luckily they are slightly more alive and do achieve a little work too. I am really rather shocked at the casual way they wander in first thing in the morning, which should be 8.55 according to the boss and is 9.30 for the secretary – and that’s early for her!

Well, I took a job at an export company, no import, and I was in the dental section. Afraid all the dental equipment and sets of teeth about the place finally got to me and I left.

too many teeth

Last week we had a ‘getting near to completion’ celebration on the dam. The whole thing went quite well. I got lumbered with a bloke from the Herald who seemed prepared to risk life and limb to get a good picture of the dam. By the time I finally got to the ‘do’ I was a shaken wreck. However I did get a mention in the write-up for my efforts! This could prove to be a grave political error as the report totally ignored both my boss and his speech!

School music festival is also imminent and there are still 31 little dears waiting for me every day! Luckily no longer 34 as we have a new class this term and they took 4 of my kids out. I’ve had one return from another school since. Even 3 less helps though – especially those ones, in some respects!

I realise that probably I was depressed for years. You just don’t realise it. Being out of a negative work environment for some time now has had its positive benefits.

Perhaps it is something to do with being got rid of from the workplace where I worked so hard, or perhaps it is something to with facing what someone from my singing group called ‘the long autumn’. You sort of realise that you don’t have the time or energy to start life afresh, or if you do, the horizon before which you have to have achieved whatever it is you’ve decided upon, is much nearer to you than it used to be. It is very sobering.

Our offices are going to be closed for more days than usual over this Christmas/New Year period but I’m not too happy about it. It is too busy a time to get away or to shop or to get anything done by workmen so for me it is a waste of leave. However, I will clean out some cupboards, try to discard as much as possible and generally chill out.

I was taking the ‘devotions’ for the Anglican Association of Women’s monthly meeting. I can’t think why they have to have any devotions but haven’t quite the courage to say so. Not that it would make any difference if I did – X would say ‘My dear fellow, that’s an interesting point of view – let’s toss it around’ – and ten minutes later when nothing had been decided he would say ‘Fine – that’s fixed then. Next business’ and be quite hurt if I said ‘What’s fixed?’ (Do you detect a trace of bitterness? Well, it did happen over 2 different things at the staff meeting yesterday.)

Making money

We have been picking oysters to get some money together for the trip. Oysters are to the island what coals are to Newcastle – they are everywhere. The beach is the economic heart of the island and we are right there! As far as manual work goes, the work is good. There are five of us working for one guy, and it only takes about an hour and a half to fill lots and lots of buckets and fling them, full of oysters, into a big truck. We have to fill the truck, and we work about three nights a week. Money is good. We have been working all this month, and by the end of it we will have earned our return train-fares. Maybe we will be ‘oyster millionaires’!

oyster picking

We sat for the best part of an hour watching semi-finals and finals of shearing competitions. I’ve never watched an expert before, and they certainly are fascinating. How they don’t cut the sheep to pieces I can’t imagine as they shave them very close, and go whizzing round their necks and up and down their tummies quite unable to see where the shears are going, for the wool that is piling up on top of them.

He got a job with the local daily paper moreorless as the sweeper-up in their printing shop, and was then offered a chance to work the guillotine, and so on round and up, until a year or so ago they made him factory manager for all their printing.

In passing she mentioned X’s baby – don’t know when it arrived – evidently everyone is delighted with everything as X has large house, 2 maids and a nanny – who says money doesn’t talk?!

We opened the tea garden ready or not! I am still making table cloths. We have 8 tables for 2 or 3 inside then 2 verandah tables and 2 large tables in the gazebo. I am doing the outside cloths, round with pull up string so they don’t come off in the wind! Embroidered by machine of course – leaves, posies, insects and squirrels, grapes etc. I already had to make one for a customer.

My policy that I took out at the age of 21 matured a few days ago. It was only for £200! though with profits is now worth £550 (i.e. about half what £200 would buy in 1933!!) Not much of a bargain really as I must have paid in a total of about £230 over the years. Unfortunately I have lost the policy so I haven’t got the money yet.

Music/theatre/art 2

So glad to hear your guitar course was both helpful and fun – were either the coming ‘international star’ or the boy who played Bach whatever he was told – the boy who joined your class last year and progressed at great speed much to your irritation – there?!

X phoned this morning to say my big picture has sold in the gallery – to a woman from France who saw it here and then wrote from France saying she must have it!! So now the to-do of getting money from her first and sending it minus glass to France.

Mangles are in great demand [for use as a printing press!] – so glad you got one – is it hard rubber or wood? X does some lovely work – etching – the colours are so crisp and she draws so well – it amazes me she doesn’t sell better.

X [young son] has just spent a couple of days being a penguin in a Christmas film which will be on TV. He’s only background, but everyone starts somewhere. Anyway, he very much enjoyed it.

I went to see La Traviata last week. I don’t think I’m very opera minded as I found the whole thing highly amusing and giggled for about a quarter of it.

X sounds so happy. We’re so glad she’s making such good use of her opportunities – even opera – about which she’s ecstatic about costumes, scenery and music and ‘…the singing was bearable’!

The solid little X (14 months) will be the musical one and cannot resist dancing in time to whatever tune he hears – with a seraphic grin and a gentle attempt to sing as well. His mother is thrilled, being a real musician herself.

Last night we’d had it and thought a jolly picture would cheer us up and X had kept telling us what a fantastic film Ryan’s Daughter was. I asked her if it was suitable for Y and ‘Oh yes’. Have you seen it? We were eventually madly brave in the middle of the second wholesale love scene and walked out. Of course we were in the middle of the row. 30/- worth for about half an hour of acute embarrassment.

They have just refurbished the cathedral organ ($100,000+) and chose this occasion for it to be handed over. X chose to play a completely unknown composition which went on a long time and seemed designed to use every note and stop (not always all together) – and then later the choir sang an anthem ‘In praise of the Trinity’ which was very far from acknowledging the Unity – I have seldom heard such a discordant collection of sounds.

Marcel Marceau was here last month and I’d have loved to see him, but the seats were exorbitant – funny, I thought he died about 5 years ago.

We went to a show at the school put on by the leaving 7th form girls. Odd acts were good – but appallingly produced – everything that could go wrong with lights, sounds etc. did – the whole show was more suitable for the Windmill than a church school for young ladies!

Papier mache is very labour intensive. I have nearly given up making pots, but I can’t resist well-paying commissions, but pottery is very labour intensive compared to painting.

The cubs did a fun thing recently. We made the classic western of all times. It lasted 8 minutes and had 22 cub actors all of whose ideas were included in the script! Considering rehearsals consisted of 4 lots of 20 minutes and one of 1 hour it all went very well. However I’ll reserve my judgement until the final thing comes back from the processors…[and from a different reporter] It was shot on location in the railway yard and the hill behind it, and comprised imprimis, a fight on a train between cardsharpers and their victims, then an attack by Indians intent on getting money to buy booze, then a fight between the booze-dispensing baddies and the Indians, then rescue of the passengers, short shrift for baddies and flight of Indians under attack by US Cavalry (dismounted owing to steep terrain). The Cavalry forgot their flag at the critical moment and Indians their warpaint – so a good deal will be required of the subtitles I think.

The lecture (which was with slides of his pictures) didn’t get started until 10.15 p.m. or so. I caught a glimpse of the first two pictures and one or two others but otherwise slept soundly through it all, apart from the moments when I nearly fell off my chair; but he was so irritating in the discussion at the end that he quite woke me up – to the point of taking part. He was very down on anyone who painted anything beautiful (lumping all such together as ‘tourist spot artists’ comparable to the writers of comics who produce their trash to make money from the public’s ignorance and bad taste) whereas what mattered in a painting was really the Artist’s Ideas. We all went home furious after midnight.

boring slides

NOW to paint a masterpiece to put into the exhibition, entrance day next Wednesday; the awful thing is I don’t know if any of them are any good or not, I fear it means it’s NOT!

I phoned a man at the Dept of Scientific Research who was most helpful apart from hastening the oxidisation of copper – he said he knew when they built Buck House they imported camel dung! I s’pose I could go and get some hand pickings from the zoo!

He said I was to be included in the 5 to be asked to send in designs and the ‘brief’ would be out in about 3 weeks. I waited 4 and as I’d made endless enquiries about suitable materials etc wanted to know when I’d get it and asked him. Only to be told it had to be offered to 5 of the Sculptors Union first and if nothing came of that it would be an open competition. He s’posed he should have let me know – don’t you think that’s offhand? – I spent hours making enquiries and looking things up and making a detailed graph drawing with all specifications that weren’t necessary for just my small model. However his diabetes is blowing up and he looks awful so I s’pose I must excuse him – not that I have any choice.

Outings 4

I went sand-yachting with them them and friends of theirs. Great fun tho’ I wasn’t game to try it without a pilot sitting on the back telling me what to do. The first time even that didn’t help as I steered mercilessly for the sea (by mistake!) with the owner of the yacht proclaiming dramatically, ‘Not the sea!!’ and jumping off! It capsized but luckily you can’t fall out because of the seat belt.

She’s rather good value but I don’t know why we’re all supposed to enjoy meeting. I’m told by X the wives are getting together for jolly luncheons now, awful idea.

I’m going out to lunch tomorrow with one of our rather sedate friends to meet a woman in this parish whom umpteen people have told me I’ll like and is supposed to be the backbone of the church, but she hasn’t appeared yet and no one seems to have heard of her!

I do wish you’d been with us on our seal trip – you have to see them to believe it – masses of them and by walking about a mile and clambering over rocks you get nearer than is comfortable if they start barking and clambering towards you. It was v. rough and great blocks of them came in on top of the waves like surfies and managed not to be bashed on the rocks but I can’t think how.

Another place we tried gold panning with a cake tin we got no gold, but picked about 2 lbs of raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries – it must have been a miner’s garden about 100 years ago.

Re the ‘leisurely climb’ in X’s letter: it took me 5 days to get full use of my legs back… and the gash in my right leg caused by tripping over a horizontal tree trunk cost me 1 tetanus injection and a course of antibiotics.

This afternoon was to be an excursion to a seal colony but we left the Dimp behind and in 50 yards were covered in sandfly bites – the ‘grand swelling’ variety seem to live here and X has got about 15 around his eyes – one eye barely open! We therefore gave the seals a miss and decided to swim. We actually never went above our knees cos it was so dangerous but still got completely soaked!

We went over to Skippers up the Shotover river. The road in is distinctly one-way and very windy with precipitous drops on one side. However the main threat is from rampaging tourist buses, who seem to think they own the road and drive as if they’re not even prepared to debate the issue. Once there we had a picnic lunch outside the now abandoned Mt. Aurum sheep station homestead. We then went and investigated some of the old gold tailings. There are some fabulous relics there which leave a very clear impression how the sluicing was done and a feeling of awe at the enormous labour involved in winning the gold.

Friends up the road phoned this morning and asked us to drinks tonight, some friends of ours we introduced them to are going, and I suspect this is why the last minute invitation! However for once I won’t be proud, it’ll be a chance to wear my new shocking pink suit!!

the pink suit

Characters 4

Her brother was there one day marching about the garden with a broom pretending to be a soldier (grown man) so it must be a family failing.

How are your awful neighbours – my awful neighbours are about as awful as usual, if not worse. Luckily for me a v. nice young couple (both lawyers) have moved into the other side of the semi next door which is occupied by one of these awful people! they don’t like her any more than I do and I sorta think they are going to something about it – being lawyers!

X sent me a cutting from one of their papers all about him and his peculiarities. There were several glaring mistakes which made me feel smug – the ancestral seat of the family for instance. We dined with him at his house, big yes, but hardly baronial. The old house was burnt down with his cousin in it which is why he inherited the title. I do pity his wife having to sit through endless journalists getting copy from him and rehearing all the old stories.

We’ve just filled out our Census forms, what a to-do – practically want to know how many times you go to the loo. I felt a bit shamed having to tick ‘no school qualifications’ and only 9 years schooling! Put my MBE after my name to cheer me up.

We left at 9.40 a.m. We popped in on the Xs at about 3.15 hoping to cadge a bite of lunch. She had gone out with the kids and he was painting the kitchen. He assured us we were welcome to sit on the lawn and eat the ice blocks we’d brought them but he was going to continue his painting and listen to his cricket. That sort of thing is very hard to stomach – especially when the stomach concerned is empty!

We went home and to X’s for supper. She had a beautiful house in a village with a square surrounded by arches. Her house is three storeys and the gravel terrace leads to the bank of another river running in a valley with trees on the other side. The furniture and paintings were gorgeous and she had done the dining room walls with gold material. One of her sons was in for dinner and we dined on homemade pate and then goose with exotically done potatoes then salad and then an enormous creme caramel. The white-coated man servant was summoned to pass round the dishes by a little silver bell and it was all very gracious living!

The evening was disastrous – my pet parishioner (who gave me the can of oil) is so alone and knows he’s odd – but I didn’t realise how odd and was rather fed up with X who finds him very offputting. He was quite batty and talked utter balderdash in the most delightful and cultured way all evening, interspersed with his wild stories of being damned to hell by Cardinal so and so and committed to the asylum by Bishop someone else – he’d lift his eyes to heaven and mutter ‘Oh the madness, the madness’ – all very unnerving. He thanked me charmingly for the evening and X said talked perfectly sensibly all the way home. He was a fighter pilot in the war. I was so sorry for all the others. It wrecked the evening for them.

worried man

Unfortunately I didn’t really take to X who was staying and I think v v was probably true – a most loud and aggressive person as my desiderata says! Anyway we got along.

Do you remember X at my hairdresser’s – by repute anyway? Well he was arrested last month dressed in women’s clothes at a club and caught giving the man he was dancing with a pep pill!! Much to my surprise he was still at the firm and as cheerful as ever when next I went. Actually I like him – he’s a pleasant boy. I gather he was fined $70.

I found two boys on the train who were crossing Paris on the metro – one who was rather a bore and who unfortunately was coming on my train but I managed to avoid as I had a couchette and the other a civil servant of some sort who was taking unpaid leave after 9 months recovery time after a nasty incident – he was staying in a hotel on business somewhere and during the night a skylight fell in and badly cut up one eye. He was hospitalised for months and had spent the months off work wandering about Europe – he was quite interesting. Unfortunately he had mistaken Montpelier for Montmartre so had at least another day’s travelling to do to get to the people he as staying with.

There was great excitement in the town yesterday morning as some bod escaped police custody and was caught locally, on the crashing into two police cars and into the fence of a friend of mine – who says life in the country is boring?! Only two weeks ago someone was caught with a bag of unstable gelignite at the pub down the road – he was dropped off there by a petrol tanker driver who had given him a lift – things could really have gone with a bang!

Sorry your new job didn’t come off – at least you’re not as inately optimistic as me – even now I am slightly surprised that anyone more suitable than me could have applied for a job!

Pre-digital

I have bought myself a second-hand enlarger (b&w) so that I can do my own printing at home… It isn’t too hard to make a darkroom out of the kitchen after dark. One project that I am doing at the moment is rephotographing some family photos. Some are quite old and rather damaged or faded, however they are coming out not too badly. I did an album for my father from them for his birthday this year. He was 80… He was thrilled with it, after being a bit upset, as I knew he would be. He loves looking at all the photograph albums at home, but lots of the photos are very small. I just picked a selection and made them a lot bigger and easier to see for fading eyesight.

Today I received a new toy which I’ve never had before – a cheque book. I’ve practised writing out two cheques, and now there’s hardly anything left in it. Absolutely fatal, but I’m tired of running around during lunch hours paying all the bills. Much simpler to pop them in the post.

My calculator was even cleverer than just solar, it worked under electric light too, but unfortunately the brightness in our sitting room was beyond it unless I stood up to get the direct flow, not how I enjoy my evenings! However my new one I exchanged for it has a battery reputed to last 1500 hours, and turn itself off 7 minutes after use if you forget. I don’t think I’ll find it too expensive to run!

I hoped to find a copy of the handbook for my model at the motor cycle shop which deals in Yamahas – but no luck. He sold the only bike of that model which he had in stock last week. I was going to borrow it and copy the important bits at the library. If you know a good place in London where you might get me a handbook, Yamaha RX 125 two-stroke, 1979, do get me one and post it and I will repay you.

I collate and staple some 6000 diaries – everyone lends a hand when they’re free but it’s pretty boring. I remarked to the head of the department he’d do better to get a machine and he quite seriously said it was much more expensive and would cost 4c a sheet. As I reckon I average 150 6-page diaries an hour I can see his point but it’s not v. good for my morale! ( I wouldn’t mind being bored for $9 an hour as against about $1.85.) However I’ve been quite firm I couldn’t stand more than one day a week on that lark so they can take it or leave it. The government statistics department pay v. well – but you have to spend about an hour with each family asking the most personal financial questions – I’d be v. uppitty if anyone asked me so am not prepared to be told what myself!

collating by hand