Ageing 5

It seems to have been a busy time – at my desk as well as elsewhere, and just recently (i.e. the last few months) I have found that I have to use my glasses for reading and writing, or else I quickly get squiffy-eyed. So it becomes less attractive to sit there all day.

I think I’m going senile – frightfully interesting things to tell you keep flitting through my mind and I can’t catch hold of them before they go out the other side!

Vanishing ideas

One letter was from X: they have had such bad luck healthwise. He has been in hospital again and is constantly under the doctor and can’t do anything, and her eyes are worse and she can’t get the other one operated on until May, and to help things along she broke her back this winter skiing, and, as she has no car, life must have been more than maddening.

A member of the bridge club was playing last night after doing 18 holes of golf, had a stroke this morning – that’s the one depressing thing about this place, it makes you realise you’re in the zone, so to speak, all too often.

She hoped she could keep driving her car whilst she was at her present house, as she wouldn’t enjoy being graciously given a lift to town once a week to shop! How I agree with her.

X has taken a new lease of life since his eye was ‘done’ – he can see much better than me! I can’t get used to his 8 pills he has to take for his heart tho’ – one of which is the cause of his gout so he has another for that!

We took meals on wheels to a lady in much the same state as your friend last week. X (who does the going in bit) was busy for quarter of an hour trying to encourage her to get out of her large and empty house, complete with tennis court, which she has been alone in for about 13 years – and go and live in one of our retirement villages instead. She told X that she was now so frightened of people that she never goes out of the house. But it seemed to have done her good to have got some of it off her chest.

Hobbies 4

We went round last night and played bridge with X & Y. We had fantastic cards and had a lovely evening – not so X & Y!

One of the more interesting stands was the local coloured wool weavers and spinners. I was surprised at the price they were asking for two or three sacks of wool they had there. About thirty dollars. Admittedly, I suppose they contained about four fleeces, or at any rate three – and I did get $7 for my biggest one the other day. They had one large bag labelled in large letters COTTED FLEECE, which was word I hadn’t come across before. It apparently meant so tangled and matted that it was practically impossible to pull out and card. Most of mine are a bit like that!

She was keen to have a demonstration of spinning on a wheel. We had a bit of wool there and I managed to get her wheel going reasonably and spun a little bit, and she then had a go and after 15 or 20 minutes had got the hang of it and was producing some very reasonable yarn, which pleased me.

We have borrowed a couple of more up-to-date books on ACOL which are proving fairly disastrous while we are in the process of adjusting our bidding system! So far Monday does not seem quite such a pleasant evening to play as Tuesday. It may be of course that most of the people are just much better than we are! But whether or no, a good many are rather patronising to the poor little ‘jumped-up Tuesday pair’ – and also a bit rude in that as you move to the next table they are quite likely to continue their post-mortem without so much as a nod of welcome.

X no doubt told you of our catch of fish – three was quite enough for me, and I decided that even if we had been staying I didn’t want to go fishing any more until I had discovered an infallible method of finishing them off, and taking the hooks out.

I’ve spent a good deal of time constructing a balsa wood plane from his grandfather: a grossly optimistic compliment to his nimbleness of mind and body! We did have the satisfaction of it flying in the end, although I must admit it was aerodynamically rather unpredictable, veering to the right and flying into the house on the first flight and zooming to the left and getting shredded in the fence on the second.

 

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My head of X is going slowly, I try to leave it for a day or two so I see the mistakes, this morning’s was rather major, the forehead has to be built up, and I’m not happy about the eyes. I suspect one is set further back than t’other… [later] I’m far too ‘stressed’ to use my new typewriter! I’ve been battling with my 4th attempt with X and everything that can go wrong has – I now have it caged in 4 or 5 layers of plaster of Paris with heavy iron bars set in back and front. I expect I’ll try the next stage, but I’m not hopeful of the result – maddening when I remember my first 3 which I made casts for on the kitchen table in between meals – I feel very old today!!

The National Management game is in full swing again. We’ve made our first two ‘decisions’. Did I tell you that X is on a girls’ team this year? Their business sense is non-existent, their maths worse but their industrial espionage has to be seen to be believed; why, one of them even married an opposing team member to extort information!

Art 2

They had two people exhibiting and several sold, but she admitted this week when I looked in that some of them had been pre-sold, hence the red stickers, it really does influence people, sheep ever!

sheep ever!

 

I’ve on the spur of the moment sent two abstracts to the Academy having said never again. It’s an arts & crafts plus plus and when I enquired if any paintings, particularly collage, were going to be hung was told ‘it’s a very grey area’!!! I put a few additions to ‘Before time’ to make it ‘within 18 months’! and sent ‘Before time II’.

We went to another art exhibition last Sunday – she was a vast woman and so were paintings, haphazard views with 20 cm eyes all over them. It is probably my ignorance, as X thought they were marvellous.

I sold 3 watercolours just before Christmas – 20% went to the new community hall and I was told the club was going to have another 15%. They obviously thought I was a lucky girl to get a cheque for $108 just before Xmas – I’ve just worked out the cost of materials, frames, glass, mounts etc. and my profit is $20 for the 3!!!  – but good for my morale.

Rather belatedly I’m trying to do my autumn tidy in the garden – THEN I’ll paint – I find it so difficult to get going – then don’t want to stop for meals etc.

Another part of our Monday expedition was a visit to an exhibition of Chinese crafts at the Art Gallery. There was some exquisitely done work e.g. in double-sided embroidery – some of it on very modern themes – pictures of oil-workers controlling the latest gusher or of new Tibetan doctors setting off home after training on the Chung-Ping-Pong hydroelectric and irrigation scheme – and so on. Apart from getting a little tired of the broad smile of Maoist victory embroidered on every face it really was lovely – and of course those 32 pierced ivory balls all inside one another one like an eighth wonder of the world. Those also had modern designs carved on the outside ball just in case we might think that they were the ancient work of wage-slaves oppressed by imperialistic face-grinding Mandarins of the pre-enlightenment.

Guess what! I’ve sold 2 watercolours – one of proteas and other flowers I’m particularly pleased about as a woman I know (but not well enough for her to be ‘nice’ to me!) bought it and she’s run a florist’s for years and is quite an authority on flowers.

I’ve been struggling with more watercolours and feeling v. despondent – I get no better.

Holidays 5

I am temporarily browsing with the dear old aunt – now 85 and as perky as ever. Her memory is so marvellous we both have the urge to strip her brain of any bits of past-family news before she departs this life. She came to the wedding in a borrowed hat (rather too big and stuffed with paper) and thoroughly enjoyed it – everyone always so pleased to see her. It turned out to be such a pretty wedding (fraught with drama to the end!) I gathered up the 18 frozen corpses, banging together like rocks [could they be pheasants I wonder??] , a mountain of branches, buckets, wire, flowers, jam jars, my fur coat and the aunt on the previous Thursday evening and delivered things at the various houses as I went along.

Our trip to X was marvellous. Good times started as soon as we got on the train. There were a nice bunch of people travelling with us. All of us united by ‘third-class coach conditions’ (sleeping curled on the hard seats, three-day picnics because train food is so expensive, suffering discrimination and rude behaviour from train guards and conductors on account of being the lowest economic class on the train). Anyway we had a lot of fun and it was even quite hard to part from a few of them – living with people for three days and nights it seems as if you’ve known them for years. Travelling across Canada is an amazing experience. It is such a vast country and you remember that the railway runs along the southernmost part, and that all the major cities and towns follow the railway – which leaves about 80% of the country sparsely populated, remote and wild: ‘The North’, in fact, – ‘The North’ being also a very romantic almost legendary country, deeply embedded in the collective Canadian conscious, a semi-myth that I can feel somewhere inside me too. As a matter of fact it’s pretty incredible to see how little of Canada is populated even when you travel the main route. You can go for a whole day and night in Ontario just passing the occasional Indian village and for the people who live in those villages the train is often the only means of transport. The train passes once a day. Of course the whole country was deep in winter and snow when we were travelling: the Rockies, days of flat, flat prairies where the sun goes down on a sea of snow like it does on the flat ocean, the vast frozen lakes and forests of Ontario – and then you’re in Montreal one night after days of spaciousness and nature, wham right into Montreal main station and crowds of people milling around and bright lights and noise and speed.

As long as it was fine it really was a gorgeous place for lazing or boating – but the walking was a bit too energetic to be really attractive in spite of the wonderful views to be gained by fighting up through the bush. It really needed a sailing dinghy to be complete! But the old launch with its African Queen chugging diesel engine was useful in a leisurely way – the only trouble being that its throttle-fixing catch was broken so that, if you didn’t keep your hand on it, it gradually slid back to an almost-closed position, and the boat went very slowly indeed – but that meant standing down in the well of the boat, under a rather low roof, and getting the smell of the engine – whereas if the throttle had been alright, one could have stood up on the seat and looked over the top the whole time – and steered with one foot.

Al fresco shower

The holiday home is minute and my heart sank – it’s really rather scruffy but once here 24 hours I feel it’s my ‘scruf’ and don’t mind so much! It’s got all mod cons in quite its own style – the frig is in an outside shed with the loo and the shower is in the garden – lovely hot water – and basin too.

We have an electric fry pan, jug and single ring cooker, radiator that’s left on low all year round to keep it aired and a party line phone for the whole Bay regulated by a form of Morse. We’re one short and one long!!!

 

Having good time in glorious USSR. Still have our noses, but X’s feet keep threatening to fall off!!

House repairs 3

X did a good job for me clearing a gutter that was flooding every time it rained – I reckoned no one would thank me if I tried to do it and fell off the ladder!! He also fixed the electric mowing machine – I couldn’t get the wheels down more and it was digging up the grass and very heavy to use – I think he’s a very pleasant young man.

Did you find out about the damp rot from the smell, not the downstairs exotic cooking???! Couldn’t this be the converters’ liability?

Our blasted man’s not turning up day after day and now there’s little hope of having it done by Christmas which we really hoped for. Infuriating. The man gave us a quote and said he’d start at the beginning of September. Well, after putting it off for over a month he rang and said he wouldn’t start till the beginning of November because he had finals at varsity! Economic History of all subjects too. What are builders coming to?!

X has been working like a slave since we last saw them and not only has he bought a house and landscaped half the garden but he built on a double garage and flat for his in-laws and made all the furniture for it from kit-sets.

Last weekend we went up to help X with some of the cleaning of their house. I spent the afternoon doing the 11 ft high kitchen ceiling and the upper walls which were liberally coated with grease. They had let off a smoke bomb earlier in the day so I was not afflicted with flea bites which the girls have both suffered from after an earlier afternoon there.

This time the front end loader (with four big wheels) got stuck altogether and they had to bring their big bulldozer in to to extract it. Result – great gouges in the turf in several places in the field – and when it stops raining I must go and have a look at my water pipe which runs across the field barely covered by the grass. I fear the worst for it – though mercifully it is not all that difficult to replace if they have broken it -it just needs a small length of the black pipe, two copper tubes of six inches or so for the joins, a couple of jubilee clips and a thermos of hot water to soften the pipe enough to get it on the tubes.

I cleaned out both the tanks. The top one was quite a job. I cut a manhole in the top, through which I stirred up the mud on the bottom while the water ran out (having disconnected the tap) until it was shallow enough to get inside to wash down the sides. I couldn’t get all the mud out, but did manage to dilute what remained below the level of the exit pipe quite a lot. It had been doing quite a job as a settling tank. And it certainly has quite a lot to cope with. Even when the creek appears to be running really clear, the filter is dark brown and thick with mud after 24 hours, reducing the flow into a trickle.

X noticed a drip coming through their porch; she rashly poked it and two bucketfuls of water came through. A hole in the porch roof. The man was due to come this morning – I hope it doesn’t prove to be worse than they think.

The porch roof

Nuisances of life 4

The other day I was cutting the stalk out of a lettuce with a carving knife and it slipped so now I have 6 stitches and a most dramatic sling. It’s so difficult doing almost everything with only one hand. My thumb aches – don’t attack your thumb with a carving knife. It bled everywhere.

The wrong tool for the job

Had the lambs shorn yesterday. They never got around to them on Friday. They look so different without their wool – all angular – and with enormous great ears sticking out! We had a sharp shower this morning and they looked very disconsolate – the water was evidently getting through to their skin and making them shake themselves to get rid of it.

I think from various remarks they have made that they are very short of money for developing his place, and he is really caught in a cleft stick because it wouldn’t carry enough stock to produce a living for the family even when properly fenced and fertilised, so he had to go out working for other people doing fencing and so on, to keep the pot boiling, while all the time he needs to be doing the same work on his own place. It must be very frustrating.

It had been an awful week, she’d turned the dryer on and afterwards had found the little boy’s kitten had been asleep inside, of course it was dead, the inspector had been and she’d not got any of the 4 jobs she’d applied for.

X got bronchitis and the heater which we had ordered – and which we were planning on to save us almost but not quite literally from freezing to death – arrived with a huge dent and bash in it, so we were delayed getting that sorted out and another one sent. So for quite a time there we went through all sorts of physical hardships.

Well, the great day has come and gone, and we are – mirabile dictu – back in the building again. I must say that as I wandered round it last Thursday I couldn’t see how we possibly could be. Most of the lights were not working. The new doors were resting against little blocks of wood instead of proper stops – just roughly nailed to the frames; half the new woodwork did not seem to have been varnished; the carpet layers had not been near the place all day and had left piles of carpet, underlay and fish and chip papers all over the chapel – and so on – including the fact that we had 500 girls from the college in after lunch to try out the loudspeaker system which appeared to be a total failure! The carpet had ruined the acoustics. They still seemed to me to be a cross between Paddington Station and a public loo of the large sort. So the next day they ripped half the carpet up again!

I eventually managed to get a new Certificate of Fitness for the trailer this week, after a rather blasphemous morning trying to discover why the light wouldn’t work. And then when it come to it, the garage never asked me to turn it on!

We had a funny experience with the car a few weeks ago. The ignition switch and steering lock broke while the car was down town. As the device was attached to the car with snap-off bolts (to prevent theft) I had to co-opt the help of much gear and friends at college. We trooped off down town, plugged our power lead into the nearest house, drilled out the bolts, shorted out the ignition and drove away all under the noses of 2 policemen and passers-by – and no one asked what we were doing! Obviously an easy source of income.

They are mostly small huts called chattel houses built on about 16 inches of dry stone wall which forms the foundations and the rest is wooden with palm or wooden roofs. Sometimes some of the stones fall away and you see the huts balanced on what appears to be about three stones at incredible angles! There is one village where the people are all potters and work with the clay of the hill they live on. When it rains the land is extremely unstable and some of the houses have been I hear rescued from the bottom of the valley two or three times!! and just put back on some more stones.

I’ve at last finished my cardigan. I made it 2 sizes smaller than I’d buy as homespun is supposed to invariably stretch – but it’s 2 sizes smaller than I’d like. Pity. Perhaps it will give in wear. Very cosy.

Did I tell you I’d bought a digital watch to wear round my neck because whatever strap I used brought me out in a rash. To my fury the chain round my neck did the same there – most odd. But I can and do wear it over my shirt now. I can’t think how but I put it in the washing machine about 2 weeks ago and only found it when I took out the wash. V. wet inside and it’s the one thing the guarantee said: ‘It is not waterproof’. I rapidly took off the back and dried it and to my amazement it’s going wonderfully.

I had the most frustrating day yesterday. I decided I’d be all domesticated and make a Melton Mowbray pork pie to take to our bridge tournament tomorrow. I messed round boiling pigs trotters and cutting up meat off a hock, a nasty messy business, failed to make enough hot water pastry and had to start again, then got it half way through cooking, re-glazed it and put it back for an hour, setting the timer, but didn’t hear it over the TV and came to ages later. Don’t know if it’ll be edible. At the same time I made some chicken liver pate. I’d only bought half a pound of livers which made it all the more complicated with the recipe. It tastes gorgeous but I wonder if it was worth the messing about. What with marinating in brandy then adding sherry and cream, I think it might have been cheaper to buy some of the duck and orange pate I saw in the shop I was buying some real pork sausages in in the morning. I left those behind too, it wasn’t my day.

Our poor neighbour has just rung to see if we saw any strange bods about yesterday – he was working on some possum skins Saturday morning and today they’d all been stolen. He told us when we came he’d never locked anything up here – now we’ll have to put locks on the garage and check the door. Oddly enough when X was out the other night for the first time the dog started barking during the evening so I wonder if someone had been doing a little recce.

Must fly, more later – Now it’s before a really good TV production for a change starts, and on our better line, tho’ after swinging our aerial round to almost the opposite direction to that which we had it before, we can get enough of a reception to see anything important on TV 1 too now, well most nights, it depends on the weather!!

The removal people had delivered our stuff some days before. The labels on the boxes merely served to warn them where not to put them. One bedroom had the washing machine and four beds while another was simply piled to ceiling with assorted boxes. We got some beds organised by the first night but it took us 3 days before we excavated the easy chairs!

X gave up our al fresco shower after the first day but I managed to keep it up, even on the rainy nights – though being wrapped up from behind with a clammy cold wet curtain whipped suddenly up by the wind wasn’t a comfortable moment.

I have a notice in my tray of some other meeting next week I think. The meeting is about making this a ‘Year of Renewal’ (which I fear cynically is a euphemism for a year of demanding more money!) So I must make all sorts of good resolutions about not opening my mouth or I shall certainly be in the episcopal dog-house since I think we ought not be demanding more money from the laity in order to stay divided, but telling them to go and mix it with the Presbys etc. as soon as possible. We have 7 churches in a 1 mile radius here of which 5 are within a 1/4 mile radius.

How much does it cost you to ‘dial a gossip’? All our postage and phone calls/line etc. have gone up, and milk’s doubled to 8c a pint (do I hear a hollow laugh from you?)

Tuesday I had to go for my upper colon appointment at the hospital. Appointment at 9.30, which meant leaving at ten to eight to be sure of being on time. I got to the car park by 9.10 and the ward by 9.20. Dr. X arrived at 10.30 by which time he had a fine old queue. We talked, and he poked me in the tum, and said in effect, ‘I don’t know what it was, and it seems to have gone away anyway, so let’s call it a day.’ Which seems to sum up the situation fairly well. Perhaps it was the water, and either I’ve developed the necessary antibodies, or else am drinking less of it unboiled!

Significant other 4

I got rather involved – he took me to see his parents and then said he had fallen in love with me and wanted to marry me. I said it was the wine and that he would feel differently in the morning. However he rushed down in the morning and woke me up to say that his mother had prepared breakfast for me. So I went upstairs and ate a Turkish breakfast and met all the family.

I miss that boy really desperately: in fact I think it’s going to be because of him that I shall be home much sooner than I originally planned. But I’m waiting to have a letter from him, so I’ll see how it works out. Because I have a kind of feeling that with him, this could all be IT! Not that we fell madly in love with each other, but we both felt this very special, calm, really good feeling towards each other. Now I am getting completely paranoid because I just know that he’ll meet somebody else and forget all about me.

And underneath and on top of everything, I was having traumatic times with a man I’d been going with . It’d started off so perfectly, but every day in January things broke up a little more. We finally broke up altogether in February.

He is my age, and works as a social worker. That’s all I’m saying for now about him. I’ll probably tell you more in my next letter, but I’m kind of superstitious about him. Like if I talk too loudly about him perhaps he’ll disappear!

I have come to the conclusion that he is the sort of man that shouldn’t have got married in the first place (although how one tells that beforehand I don’t know) and unless Mrs. has changed incredibly over the years I don’t know how she fell for him in the first place. She is a very well informed, well read and amusing person with a very good brain and he is very stolid, and extremly, almost unbelievably, fastidious, and not interested in reading or any of the arts at all. From dawn till night they talk in a peculiar aggressive way and say some of the most cruel things which I can only suppose from long practice don’t go home at all.

It’s too sad: X – who must be 45 – has come to grief with 4 jobs since we’ve known them. I can’t make it out as he’s the most inoffensive and pleasant man – she’s the fire eater. I wonder if she tries to push him into jobs beyond his ability.

I was amazed at X getting married again – but what a good thing if they’re happy together and have family in common as a background.

We had had some cryptic remark about X having done something awful and had decided that it probably was an unsuitable marriage. It’s the first time for years that his father hasn’t answered our card by return – so either he’s hiding his head in shame, or he’s so deeply snowed in that he neither receives nor can send any mail!

If you got a letter from X you’ve done better than I have in 40 plus years. I’m still waiting for the wedding present she promised me she’d send after we all got married, as then ‘he could pay for it’!!

If she sends you her favourite photograph of X don’t be too put off – I don’t think he’s your type but he’s not as bad as the photo!

Judging by apperances

Someone has fallen in love with me too – which isn’t at all reciprocated!! He’s the Head Chef and although it’s lovely having him provide fillet steaks – or any sort of steak you could mention – and have choccy gateaux by the doz, he isn’t my idea of bliss.

Politics 2

Two politicians

The Party has agreed the OAP taxes will be rethought, but it doesn’t stop there; doctors’ fees, hospital fees, medicines etc are all to be user-pays in a big way. And university students are having to pay big fees. … The two bods who have stirred up most ire are X and the social services woman, who the [politician] rudely described as an ‘overweight farmer’s wife with no qualifications’. X he mildly describes as ‘a funny little woman’!!! and this is his own Party!

 

The news is terrible – every page there are bits that quite shock me – so many stories must give people ideas of something they could try. We’re all going to the devil – I must pray harder.

He set up a replacement of an official commission which was shut down by the Government, because they didn’t like the things he said about the future! He is interesting to talk to – especially if the subject is how bureaucracies and big businessmen don’t like being faced now with problems that won’t arise for fifteen years, but for which the solutions need starting now.

[Rhodesia – 1974] Lots of discussions as you can imagine and I found it very difficult to understand how one can sort this all out. Everyone answers that the present manner of governing in England looks so ghastly from here that why should they dictate how Rhodesia should be governed? Bit difficult to justify our strikes, inflation, shares dropping, £ dropping etc. etc. They are very isolated here and imagine the world situation differently to what one sees in London. Had some interesting discussions (very light-hearted) in Bulawayo as everyone fascinated by present English politics and also agog with Smith’s latest move. I wonder what can happen everywhere. The African people here seem better looked after than what I saw in Kenya but it is so difficult to understand all the ramifications. …    I’ve been shown over the African townships in Salisbury – very interesting. I can’t really sort out the political situation and am just taking it all as it comes. Very difficult to see what else they can do – or what they could have done – great grief that these last negotiations didn’t come to anything but it seems terribly important to sort something out fairly soon. X’s family are right up in the terrorist area and they are moving further south because of 2 small children – but it’s only about 60 miles from Salisbury. Not as bad yet as N. Ireland perhaps.

 

Yes, I think it might be interesting to be on the flats committee for a time; as always, being on the inside is!

 

Saw opening of Parliament yesterday. Such smart African Trumpeters with red fez and dark blue uniforms. Only small mounted police escort for the premier as everyone away on Border Duty. Every day someone seems to be killed – mostly Africans by Africans and some rather horrid intimidating rituals going on. We could see the people in Zambia from both Kariba Dam and Victoria Falls. Looked very inactive just there but 38 African soldiers were killed while sunbathing on a small island only 3 miles upstream. I can’t see what can happen but something must. Ian Smith looked terribly white and exhausted when he left the parliament building. Whether he’s right or wrong it must be a terrific strain.

 

I also found the Hansard in which a question was asked about an attack on him in Ireland, which nearly killed him, not too surprising as there was another report about the military open firing on a rioting demonstration on the same day, in which 3 were killed, I suspect it must have been the same place. It may also be the basis of the odd remarks I’ve heard about him killing someone.

 

I got so fed up with the situation last night that I spent the half an hour before midnight dictating a sixty or seventy word telegram to the deputy prime minister. Heaven knows what it will cost – and unfortunately the telegram department isn’t open at night so they won’t have woken him up to receive it, which would have made it even more worthwhile! To that I have just added a foolscap page of letter which I must get X’s comments on before I actually post it, but it relieved my mind to get some thoughts straight in it. Of course she and I don’t agree about Apartheid entirely, because she dwells on the difficulty of dismantling it, and I think that’s just another reason for getting at White South Africans to make a start and not drag their feet, which their privileged way of life is likely to make them do, until their fears outweigh their greed, by which time it will be too late. (I’m not sure it’s not too late already, unfortunately).

The train was fun: lots of good people and guitar singing and grass. We’d planned to go down to New Orleans from Toronto. New Orleans had a temperature of 75 and it was Mardi Gras week. We were really looking forward to it. However, ’twas not to be. The Americans are extremely obnoxious about letting people into the States from Canada; they’re so paranoid that they imagine everyone is trafficking in dope or a political agitator etc. And if you’re young and not very straight-looking, well, you’re in for a bit of trouble. They didn’t like the look of us, and even though we were perfectly innocent it was only a matter of minutes before we found ourselves being shipped back on the next bus to Toronto! Bastards!

 

Most of the work I do is concerned with either the commercial section which promotes British trade etc. or the Entry Certificate Office where the work is quite interesting and one learns the most scandalous things. I have become much less tolerant since I have been doing this and hearing of the fiddles and evasions and downright fabrications that go on (not helped by the fact that I only do work connected either with direct refusals or references to the Home Office in London and nothing to do with those which are granted). Some of the families, and the conditions to which they are trying to go (reported on by HO officials or police at home), and the perjuries they are prepared to commit to get there, are quite fantastic. Some seem to believe that they are positively insulting you if they tell the truth!

We went to see Gandhi – well over 3 hour film and I just didn’t think of the time. It really is excellent. I came away with pride in being British somewhat diminished.

Did I tell you about my correspondence with the Commissioner of Police on the subject of ‘long batons’? He was on the radio, following a medical report of two protesters who had had the bones of their eye sockets broken by being jabbed with the end of these things – an action which he several times referred to as ‘probing’. I wrote to say what an inappropriate word it was and I got a half a quarto page pointing out that it wasn’t only a medical word (which I had stressed) but used also of investigating crime, testing defences and so on. He ended up, ‘It was therefore in the broader context, untrammelled by pedantry, that I used the term in relation to baton use.’

 

We’ve been very worried about your naarsty riots, it all sounds most unBritish, and the talk of turning out the plastic bullets and hoses horrifies me, but what to do otherwise is something that I’m glad I’m not Maggie Thatcher to conjure up.

 

I often think of you with all these loose bombs floating around, but I suppose you all become quite stoical.

Outings 3

This time it was a film called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was the most awful tosh, and very violent – but with some clever special effects.

I went last Saturday to a ‘Men’s breakfast’ at 7.30 a.m. where to my amazement they had managed to collect well over 50 men. We were promised bacon and eggs, but in fact supplied with two large and pale sausages floating in gravy, which I abhor with sausages – but the talk was quite interesting.

Two pale sausages

 

It was expensive! but good and the plates not so overloaded that they put you off. I think we shall have to go back again sometime to try some of their more exotic dishes particularly one offered among the sweets ‘whole Camembert cheese, deep fried with tamarillo sauce’. The menu board offered ‘coffee (bottomless cup)’ but I’m glad to say ours did actually hold their liquor quite safely.

Did you see the museum? A most incredible hotchpotch of anything and everything that might be interesting! We also saw a diving museum . Very interesting in parts – amazing the amount they salvage – thousands of gold and silver coins. However I suppose it cost thousands too. A stainless steel sink and plastic comb from the ferry that sank looked a little out of place but I suppose their day of interest will come.

We went to a film called Northern Safari. Very good photography but rather stilted commentary, as they ploughed from Perth via Alice Springs to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back round the edge – a man, his wife and his sister in a 1948 Chevrolet or something of the sort, towing a trailer which carried supplies, tents and an 11 ft plywood boat. He was a brave man (and highly ingenious as for instance when he got stuck in a river he made a winch consisting of a young tree propped across the track behind two tree stumps, with a six foot bough lashed across it with wire fishing line – with which he proceeded to pull the car out single handed while the ladies indulged in admiring photography. And since he hadn’t got an axe with him, to save weight, he shot the tree down with about ten rounds from the hip at a foot’s range!)

A funny thing happened. We went to get our visas and the Consul called us in and said he had something to show us. We all sat down and he ordered tea and coffee and showed the other three some photographs, but not me. Then he showed them to me and they were of a girl very like me. Apparently he had been going to marry her 2 years ago but something had gone wrong. On the strength of this he invited me out to dinner and then said the others could come along to chaperone me. We had a really fabulous evening. He took us to one of the best restaurants and we had drinks at a most unusual bar , then went downstairs to eat and watch the floor show. Then we drove on to the Hilton and went up to the top and looked out and saw the whole of the city spread out beneath us. We danced and drank and had a later supper and watched the floor show and then I collected a marriage proposal.

Strong opinions

I find it hard to share a country with X, more especially when he is the Prime Minister and I am not. I think he has been so inept, and so loudmouthed …[too libellous to repeat!] Comes of being so small physically, perhaps? – in height, at least. He’s not all that small roundways.

Don’t want you large

 

 

I really don’t know if the child will ever survive because she only ever gave it half its feed because she told me she didn’t like large children!

 

 

The first I heard of it was when X phoned me at work and asked me to pop in – said in that voice that implies there’s no hurry as long as you are here yesterday as I have something to say to you.

You are better off as you are so long as you remember who you are.

I’m sure I was telling you once before how involved I’ve become in the whole women’s thing over the last three years. Ever since I read The Female Eunuch in fact, and I have just continued from there, reading a lot of stuff by and about women, getting a very good sense of being a woman, but realising continually how many stereotypes and roles have to be broken down.

If you can locate them ask her if she has had our letters and what’s happening – there’s no use beating about the bush or she’ll push it all in her pending tray again – she’s madly disorganised.

I laughed and laughed and then felt extremely irritated with X’s letter, as you say, a poor attempt at doing her mother! Remember you can be pretty good at a ‘put-down’ too!

Do you know we still haven’t heard about the finalising of X’s estate – I strongly believe the solicitor has put it on a horse.

Well, I hope never to see another day like this! It’s alright, no disasters but the next 5th Sunday in February is due in 2004, and I don’t really fancy remaining in ‘the miseries of this sinful world’ (quote from burial services) to the age of 92.

I’ve just finished reading X’s copy of Papillon – violent, crude and horrifying it may be but a fascinating and sensitive story – I’m not so revolted as X was.