Children 7

LETER thank-you very much for my action man kit I am playing with it alot. It has come in alot of handy. We have been doing alot of things at X. On Wednesday 21st of Mrch. We are going to a Gold minning-town On the Earnslaugh which is a big ship and we are going to Water-fall-park. I have just got my bronze koru which is lost of funny but exciting bits and pieces you have to do. Hope you are feeling well.?

thanK you ant X fo the book I like reeding tham to myself and ges woat I got a starwars game For citismas. and the boaks a raeally interesting I reed them to the othe boys evry day affte School. they a very Frnny

thanK-you FoR KnicKerBocker. He is a nice green monster. I have a BaBy Doll calleD Katey. She is in hospital getting hEr EyE fixeD. I have a Nice teacher. I have a Nice swim at SchooL. I am EnrolleD at Brownies.

X seems to have suffered more than the others over the last couple of months’ traumas. She’s spent the last fortnight being a right little sod. However she slowly seems to be coming round – or is it us that are coming round?

She has just spent 2 days with them. She enjoys it but I think finds that enough – X is going through a very difficult stage – much ‘no, no, no’ and stamping – and of course with his mother’s determination that everyone will do just what she wants – but now – it doesn’t go down too well and they’re having a fairly explosive time.

He went to bed in X’s room. He slept like a log and his father went to collect him some 2 hours later – a cry of anguish came from him: before going to sleep he’d wrecked her room – books everywhere and her drawer she’d put all her first pay in open and money all over the place. I retrieved a screwed up fiver and 2 $20 notes from the WPB and another $20 lying around – one $20 has completely vanished. He kept saying he’d ‘posted it to sea’. Whilst everyone played hunt the $20 note he disappeared only to reappear looking like a Red Indian having drawn all over his face with my lipstick – he’d put it all back v. tidily as he proudly showed me!

The PM came to visit the college a week ago. Afterwards he stayed for a cup of tea during which your 2 nieces rolled up and presented him with a scruffy bunch of flowers they’d purloined from some pluty hedge on the way home from school!! Praise be I wasn’t close at the time – I’d have been slapped on the computer as a trendy liberal and been blighted for life!

I was assisted by a very young teacher whom I greatly admired for her control of this group – which didn’t all come from her own form. One boy tried it on near the beginning, when she had demanded silence, and she just gave him a look and said, ‘You’re not special, you know. You have keep the rules like everyone else’ and after that they all ate out of her hand. It’s maddening not to have this gift. I only have to go into a class to have pandemonium in no time!

You’re not special, you know.

Ageing 7

I love the local handyman who was working on the house yesterday and said firmly ‘the only thing I have against you coming here is your age!’ He decided it was a good acre in all, and that he wouldn’t take it on himself. As he stands quietly meditating for most of the day I can quite see that he wouldn’t, but of course I am now spurred on to show him that he is wrong – even if I have nightmares when I close my eyes and consider the decorating in the house, the garden… Ah well, all will pass and you must come and help cut a hedge in due course!

X had a bad crash in her car. She apparently dozed off while driving, and went into a 32-wheeled articulated truck carrying a load of lubricating oil in drums, in spite of the driver getting right onto the grass on his side of the road in the effort to keep out of her way. As you would expect, hitting such a heavy vehicle more or less head on, her car was severely crushed, and poor X had both legs broken and her pelvis – one leg in no less than seven places. It took two hours to cut her out of the remnants of her car, and she is 81, and must be almost indestructible to survive at all, I think. So maybe Y is right not to allow me to drive further than about five miles alone!!!

X has become progressively worse. She won’t go out at all. Her mind is in a loop and at times she can be quite aggressive. She doesn’t answer her phones and they should be cut off. Carers go in to her three times daily, seven days a week.

Her mind is in a loop

I had another x ray, another ECG and then the interview. The ECG was drawn out as the sister wanted to use me as a demonstration for a couple of medical students. Luckily they had warm hands.

How I hate having my eyes tested – especially the big blue light which they bring closer and closer until one can’t help watering and blinking madly however much they say, ‘Don’t blink, just for the moment. Try not to blink.’ However the result was satisfactory. He reckoned that my glasses were the right ones to have, and thought my eye strain might have been through keeping the things I was looking at at the near limit of my capacity to focus, whereas the man who made the glasses had made them for typewriter range, as it were; and he couldn’t find anything else wrong or impending apart from a minor infection of the lids for which I have an ointment. He also reckoned that the deterioration I had noticed was to be expected, and could be expected not to continue for a good time – so no reason for alarm (apart from wondering how much his bill will be, which he said they would send!)

The cough is supposed to be getting better. In the meantime I developed a nasty pain in my foot, and went back to him to learn that I had GOUT, if you please. (I didn’t think I lived licentiously enough for that, but apparently the diuretics I take to stop my ankles swelling etc., make it more likely.) So that was another pill, twice a day to add to the eight. I had also developed what I thought was a stye but that he treated with admirably scant respect, and said it was a something cyst (I gather based on a blocked tear duct) and flicked it out with a bit of paper. So that was one problem apparently finished off, and certainly it has been admirably free of pain since he did it

I wanted to tell you that the eye op had gone brilliantly, and I am already driving the car with renewed vision! Having put the local in they covered up my face with a vast blue sheet, rather similar to the thing I collect my garden leaves in, and gave me an oxygen tube underneath to keep me alive, and a peg on my finger to show that I was. It pinged if I wasn’t. On the whole I was glad I couldn’t see anything, apart from a few colours through this blueness, the sounds were startling enough, but in fact I couldn’t feel a thing.

House repairs & housekeeping 5

We’ve had some horrid cold weather and I spent two half days putting pink batts in our roof. It is a very low pitched roof so that one can’t get even onto hands and knees. I started by laying a nice smooth plankway the full length over the kitchen and sittingroom so that I could slide on my back hauling myself along on the roof trusses. Then I retired to the far end with a rope and X fed bundles of batts into the roof attached to the other end, with a second rope to haul the cover back for more. Then it was just a question of poking them into position with a broom – but my elbows and hipbones got a bit sore! I don’t know whether it’s improved the ceiling but it had a marvellous effect on the weather. It was almost balmy when we went for a Sunday walk this afternoon.

I’m sorry you are still having trouble with aspects of the flat e.g. those windows and beetles but I suppose it is one of the debit aspects of property-owning that one always does. I was under the trapdoor into the hole under the house a week or so ago and was horrified to find a large patch of bright yellow mould surrounded by reaching tentacles and clouds of white fibres, all sprouting within a foot or so of the wall. After 2 days I nerved myself to scoop the horrid stuff up in an ice cream carton and take it to the building inspector who (thankfully) dismissed it as harmless as mushrooms.

I’m so glad that the kitchen fan is a success. They certainly are expensive things. Ours was all the more because it wasn’t practical to put it in the kitchen wall or window since that faces the prevailing wind and the poor thing couldn’t be expected to cope with that, and if it did it would only blow the grease and smell back into the bathroom next door; so we put a pipe through the ceiling and straight up through the roof. Of course what with the plumber to cut the hole in the decromastic roof, and the carpenter to cut the hole in the ceiling, and the tinsmith to make up the pipe and the electrician to wire up the fan, the fitting cost about twice as much as the fan itself!

X’s new plan for household tidiness – no more cupboards for marmalade, empty yoghurt pots etc. You just have one shelf on which everything is put in chronological order, everything else being moved up to make room – and anything which gets to the other end is thrown away. We agreed an improvement whereby there would be a hole in the wall at the far end and one of those disposal bins parked outside so that the whole system would become automatic. Brilliant, n’est ce pas?

First in first out

Poor X, he saw the enormous earth mover working next door and leapt out to get him to level our drive prior to concreting: at $50 an hour + an earth carrier lorry and man, he put in three-quarters of an hour and didn’t do the heaviest part, in fact I think it was a dead and expensive loss, but that’s what happens when one tries to supervise yourself and economise.

The main preoccupation this week is the start of the new room. I worked with our chosen one-man builder – mostly fetching three loads of sand in the trailer to fill in for height. By evening it was all prepared and the concrete ordered for the morning. Three minutes before the appointed hour the lorry arrived – but no builder! Panic – but, by the time he had backed up the drive and got a cup of coffee, he arrived so all was well again – until the last scrap of mix dribbled out with a miserable hole in one corner of the boxing. I think if I’d been on my own I would have raked it all across and levelled it off an inch or so lower! As it was we ordered another 1/2 yard, waited an hour and a half for it, and then had to fit half of it into the caravan standing – a very expensive sort of fill-material.

As I have now decided to do most of it myself [adding a new room] I am obviously going to be busy for a long time. X estimated it at 200 man hours or thereabouts – and you can bet that I don’t count as that sort of a man and will need quite a bit of extra time putting right the things that go wrong as I go along. X was a bit horrified when we started examining the carport in detail as the great 10 inch rafters which support its roof (and our new room on top) appear to be resting on only one inch of a beam at the house end of them and to be held in place largely with a couple of 6 inch nails each. So I must see if I can incorporate some slight reinforcement as I fill in the carport just to stop them all falling off and our new room with them if we have an earth tremor.

I was fortunate to get an off-cut of particle board the floor is made of, and replace the patch I cut out. Having measured it about four times to make sure I didn’t cut it wrong, as I so often do, I cut it wrong, would you believe, and had to fit in a strip a quarter of an inch wide to make up!

Things fall apart 4

I said yes I did know about sewing machines when she rang up and asked what I thought might be the trouble, and at great inconvenience as I was just going to drive up to town, went along and found she hadn’t oiled it in 12 years and it clanked madly, so started by upending it and unscrewing the bottom plate and generally dismantling it; by which time she was getting distinctly worried, especially as I said I hope she knew the bottom casing was cracked, as I hadn’t done it, and she didn’t know, and as that didn’t cure it I looked in her instruction book and altered a screw they suggested, and hey presto it seemed cured. I didn’t see her for a week and unwisely asked her how it was going, both of us wished I hadn’t asked, as after half an hour it had the same trouble. She took it to the shop who eventually said it needed oiling and readjusting, having paid the bill she went home and set about her job again and the electrical connection went up in smoke!! I suspect both of us will think I was the cause of it for ever more! But it has reminded me that it’s much kinder of me to not try and help people, the results are always disastrous!!

I really think it’s a sickness this inability to throw anything away – X now has an electric frying pan, an Electrolux and a Kenwood that don’t work – tho’ she has new ones!

I felt a bit indignant with the motor corp today. You will recall that on our trip just after we got the car, last October, the speedometer start jumping about and threatening to burst into flames. It cost me $41 to get it repaired, which I wrote to claim back under warranty directly we got home. I called in to see them before Christmas since I had heard nothing but still nothing happened so eventually I wrote a politely rude letter to the General Manager about a fortnight ago. Today a cheque arrived with the invoice I had sent them – but no letter – not so much as Sorry scrawled across it. Things are not what they used to be.

Our arrival was little less than spectacular – we got half way up the drive with the van and then we spun – X said get out and push which I did and the mud shot up all over my front. At one moment I thought it was going to career backwards across the grass but I shoved rocks under the wheels. We were then joined by a young man visiting the neighbours who knew what he was about but couldn’t get right up either – then Y joined us to my horror (he’s got a heart and v. frail), so we rapidly decided to park it on the grass verge for the minute but it’s a bit sad we can’t get it outside the house, as we’d thought of it as an overflow spare room.

The muddy drive

Gardening 6

The drought is getting very serious for the farmers – though we are still allowed a hose for 2 hours on odd evenings (since our number is 31) and that has kept the veg garden producing well – especially runner beans, and a couple of plants I bought as courgettes which produce full-size marrows more or less overnight at the drop of a hat. My solitary grafted ‘Super Tom’ has only done moderately though – not more than 100 tomatoes I should think compared to one round the corner which (so I hear) is 8’ high and has 600 on it!

The garden’s a bit of a mess at present because some grass clippings we carefully dug into the new vegetable bed as enrichment for the soil had grass seed in and we now have lawn where there shouldn’t be and dry grass and dandelions where there should! The first of the home-grown produce is just about ready now – carrots’ll be the first. And we’ve a whole cupboard full of apples, pears, rhubarb, tomatoes and beetroot, more beetroot and yet more beetroot!

I am starting on the huge garden. It has a great tennis court of lawn and some more grass and veg, and is spotted with stupid beds in the grass and many queer trees and bits and pieces. They were mad keen gardeners and did some pretty peculiar things to my mind. The so-called compost heaps appear to have everything but the kitchen sink embedded in them and it is all too obvious to me that enormous rose prunings and suchlike will never rot down in a thousand years, so I shall have to do a little re-organising in due course. Not to mention the odd plastic bag or bottle that seem to have got in too. But although I am rude about them they actually got things to grow in an extraordinary way and there are all sorts of twigs and bits and pieces stuck into the ground which will apparently take root in time! Except that by then I shall have probably dug them up in my ignorance. There are miles of hedges!!

The trouble is that the compost is so full of weed seeds that wherever I use it I have to go back endlessly to repair the damage! I don’t know why it should be, as I use some expensive and evil-smelling mixture supposed to contain millions of bacteria per cubic hair’s-breadth so that the compost ought to be beautifully sterile.

The lemon tree is bowed down with ripe fruit and every other stage of growth, which is a good thing as I’m down to my last pot of marmalade, the peach blossom and prunus are in flower, the buttercup and mimosa trees too, and the camellias are still flowering. Also the daphne which smells delicious, the forgetmenots and odd daffodil too, and lilies of course and masses of pink daisies that go on for months.

Lemon tree

Holidays 6

I’ve booked the early ferry (7.20) on 2nd Jan. (we have to report at 6.20 I’m afraid!) and the evening (6ish) on the 19th. What I reckon is that we go down to Greymouth on the 2nd via Blenheim and the inland road and stay Greymouth in a guest house B&B (get some fish and chips or something en route) – go to Lake Moeraki on the 3rd which should give us enough time to have a bit of a look at the Fox Glacier and other points of interest. There’s a motel at Lake M. that we stayed at before – bit sandfly-y but otherwise OK – and then over Haast Pass the next day and down to Cromwell. If we leave on the 18th, stay in Christchurch and come on up to Picton on the 19th.

Of course I have been frustrated by the number of shop windows which enchant X (and I fear she is equally frustrated that she doesn’t have long enough to look). We went into a big covered market near San Lorenzo this morning to buy our picnic, and that was fun to see. But the high spot was visiting San Gimignano yesterday – although fraught with misfortunes: (a) we went by train, not having enquired about the bus which was 50% cheaper – we returned that way; (b) we were late so got on without tickets and were charged nearly as much as the fare as a penalty – a minimum, our charming conductor appeared to be saying; and (c) most catastrophic of all, in the hurry I forgot my camera – I could have used a whole film on such a place. Some postcards and a sketch we did will have to suffice for the record.

The Jamaica trip sounds very exciting and I’m green with envy, and if souls can change colour I expect X would be too!

Green with envy

We are here on the Salmon River drinking our white wine and watching the locals celebrating our loss of the colonies. This is no doubt a wonderful continent – the country, the wildlife, the space – we love it. BUT, it is difficult to define why, we would never live here. Wonderful BUT.

They had double booked my seat – a large lady was ensconced in 16F. So – alas [!] they had to put me in CLUB ha ha – a window seat too – end of the saga.

Still the same as ever here – buildings have deteriorated a bit more but the people still as nice – the island still unspoiled. Grenada is off the main tourist tract – cruise ships come and go quickly so are of no real benefit. Yachts and a few private houses who rent out and a few hotels and that is about it. We are enjoying the peace.

She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring – given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic, I’d rather fancy going with her.

We can put a bit of the money from the house aside in the hopes of a trip next year. Of course X wants to go via Mexico, the Russian Georgia and Crete – you know her sublime indifference to the dull facts of geography!

He has recently ‘put into the water’ a 33ft motor launch. He bought the hull and finished all the top works himself. It has a $15,000 diesel engine in it and does 27 mph. He described how he had taken it across to the Sounds for Easter, and I must say it sounded a hair-raising trip with ten foot waves and visibility down to a kilometre or two. And he has never learnt any navigation, and only had a little hand compass somewhere tucked away in a cupboard. Apparently he dug it out, screwed it to the woodwork in front of the wheel, and he had a chart from which he managed to get a rough bearing from the north entrance of the sounds to the island and in due course, there was the island in front of him. ‘Good fun,’ said he – which reminded me of the head man of the Air Force who was talking on the radio the other day, and described flying Tornado aircraft at low levels as good fun – by which I gathered that he meant good for the flow of adrenalin!

Time is moving at a rate of knots and we sink weary and sleep 8 hours plus a night (praise be) however noisy the traffic. We did Ostia yesterday and I kept a close eye on your steps – X couldn’t believe we’d covered the whole city. We were there rising 4 hours when our feet and empty tums gave out and we missed out on a lot. I was disappointed X wasn’t as enthusiastic as we were – I must have talked about it too much. It was v. sad how much of the reconstruction was crumbling again and half the gorgeous mosaics covered in sand and even being broken up by weeds – tho’ people are still working on it. One of the joys was having less tourists than in the more accessible places. We had a bottle of vino and water with us which helped on the way and went to find lunch at 3 p.m. The nearest place wouldn’t serve any more and the second was wildly expensive and all fish dishes. We had the cheapest pasta speciality which had – we think – prawns, snails and other unmentionables – but we were so hungry we enjoyed it! We ordered a carafe of wine but they only served whole bottles – the cover charge seemed wasted if we didn’t eat something else so we had a piece of the most gorgeous gateau – and left a trifle light-headed at 4 p.m.! When we got there there was an American couple at the next table who’d also got involved in a whole bottle of wine and he was a riot. He kept telling us he’d never got drunk before and giggling and she kept assuring us she’d never seen him like this – but was sweet and amused about it.

We had a rather queer meal in a takeaway place and ended up for the night in the Railway Tavern – rather surprisingly! – and all the more since there doesn’t appear to have been a railway there for decades. Their drinking habits were very orderly and quiet (and we were in the Residents’ Lounge anyway) – in fact we were more disturbed by someone who seemed to be leaving at 4 in the morning and was insisting loudly on his companion bringing the b. teapot so that it could be rinsed out. An odd conversation in the still of the night.

We had been warned that the sandflies there had been crossed with moas before the latter became extinct so we were glad that another shower absolved us from taking an evening stroll and we slept with the windows tight shut.

We’ve collected quantities of stone from various beaches (on Friday afternoon my trousers got soaked to the knees by one wave I was too busy to notice but I hung them out of the window the last 25 miles which got them nearly dry again – well, the 25 all but the 1/2 mile I needed to get them on again to face the motel office!)

Hong Kong was interesting for two days, but I’d not want to go again, we went on a 3 1/2 hour bus tour, their expensive houses on the hills overlooking the harbour were super luxurious and the usual comparative squalor down by the harbour. The remains of the disastrous tornado of 2 weeks before (of which we’d had no knowledge) had left a trail of rubble behind it, uprooted trees etc. it must have been ghastly for the people who live in boats. They seemed a very light-hearted people and happy, apart from the few aged bag of bones one saw sitting in corners, I wondered just how old they were, I fear the life must age them young, if you see what I mean.

Children 6

X still talks 19 to the dozen and I think the whole town knows of her as a chatterbox – if she were anyone else’s child I’d think of her as precocious and rather revolting, but someone has to love her!

[Visitors viewng house for sale] The wife’s approach to her outdid my grandmother – on seeing X’s darkroom she told the 5 year old it would be a good place to shut up bad little girls, and when Y offered them a strawberry each she said she didn’t expect they’d eat them, they didn’t like anything that was good for them – would you believe it this day and age! She was delighted with the sitting room and sunroom, which go through the house, and said she could keep the children out of it and they could play at the end of the kitchen, the space about 9 square feet [one hopes this actually means 9 x 9 not 3 x 3!] where we normally eat. Lucky children.

Must repeat gorgeous misprint of the year – found on wrapper of local frozen chickens – ‘before serving remove the wrapper and brown the children in a moderate oven for half an hour’!

The boys are almost eating more than I do now – certainly they all do for breakfast and lunch if not dinner! At dinner they get a main course: meat, spud, and 2 veg generally, then a milk pud or similar and they’re always still hungry and usually manage a piece of bread and quarter apple afterwards! My housekeeping costs have risen 50% in the last year. I’m dreading when they’re 12, 14 and 16 – they’ll cost a bloody fortune!

X seems to cross swords with her teacher; I suspect the worthy lady sees in X’s somewhat precocious manner a reflection of her own two obnoxious little brats! Last time X complained about unfair treatment at school her mother went and ‘had it out’ with both teacher and headmaster. The upshot was that X was required to go to the front of the class and publicly apologise for lying. Charming!

If the boys all go in one room they get up at the crack of dawn and jolly well see to it no one goes on sleeping. They’ve done such ghastly things as raiding the kitchen and throwing the eggs +++ around; their mother’s put a padlock on the kitchen door, which she locks before she goes to bed.

The egg fight

X staggered in from school looking like the wreck of the Hesperus dragging his satchel and saying, ‘I’ve had a very long day’ – I know the feeling.

X at a meeting – best manners asked, ‘Can I have another pipe clean please?’ She meant pikelet!

The family went To X Last Saturday. I went on a boat and I went on The miniture train Twice and Than went to Granny’s New house and hoD Cish and chips.

This afternoon I had X’s assistance again, as she left them both with us as she was going into town for ‘The Boyfriend’. But I must say he was very good and dug away with a fork bigger than him. The only snag was when we went down to buy some wood to finish the carport fence. We went into the Mall and he suddenly advanced on a little girl (rather smaller than him) and started a punch up – but luckily she had a slightly larger sister who defended her fairly aggressively until I could remove him.

The hyperactive batty boy certainly sounds a cross – no doubt his teacher heaved a sigh of relief at the clever idea of unloading him on you, even if only for half an hour a week.

[Drawing received with letter written on it.] This is about Beatrix potter and It’s a FiLm and we are having a Nice haiday love X. and we went to Y love from X

Travel hazards 2

I have thought of coming to England next year, but am beginning to wonder if I really have the strength. It’s not the actual flights, it’s the awful airport nonsense, and getting to the airports from here.

It was a bit off-putting at the hotel too – notices about double locking your door at night and putting the chain on and a security guard on each floor. We left there at 6.30 p.m. yesterday and stayed in the plane right through to here, stopping to fuel at New Delhi but not allowed off and arrived 5.30 a.m. and had in fact been flying 17ish hours. Vast Air Italia, 400 passengers – full. The staff couldn’t have been less interested – unlike the other lines – and the last straw in small mindedness they showed the Return of the Pink Panther but we hadn’t enough change again – I only saw one man who’d paid up $2.50 and got the headphones for sound. It looked utter rubbish in the odd moments I woke up so I didn’t mind.

We have just had a traumatic lunch. X gave me a new stove and dry/solid fuel and we were all set with picnic bits for lunches, tea, coffee etc. We started by buying cheese which turned out to be Roquefort and 250g and cost equivalent to £1 which shook us (and reminded me of the 3/6d banana!) so we only bought rolls to go with it- as we go to Crete on Monday and just can’t have butter running around, and then started up the stove which gave more heat under than on top and looked as tho’ it was going to catch the wallpaper – awful moment as we got it all onto the balcony – with soot all over the marble and my clean white shirt. However after washing the balcony and removing – I hope – all signs of our efforts we did better at the 2nd attempt and hope we’ve got it taped!

Soot on the balcony

We came on the weekend when 40,000 Alpini were expected for their annual blessing by the Pope. It gave a festive and noisy (or noisier) air to Rome – every time you moved you got one of their foot long feathers in their green hats in your eye. We’re setting forth to ‘do’ the Vatican today. We’ve got into a pensione (Select Hotel my foot!) with an elusive plumbing system. We have archaic shower in room and bidet with occasional cold water – and loo and bathroom on landing. I asked if I could have a bath any time and the proprietor say. ‘Why not?’ Now I know why not – there’s no plug and no hot water!! but it’s clean and pleasant and only 5 minutes from the termini.

What is this ‘ball lightning’ which been providing you with amusement? I don’t remember hearing of it and suspect the little green men, or the Russians (playing a double bluff on themselves)! As also with the Challenger-launched satellite which is (according to our radio) either in pieces, or following in orbit on their tail where they can’t get at it.

It sounds as though X’s having quite a time over there – I hope she gets back in one piece. Did she tell you that when she left, she left her hand-luggage at checkout, a glove on the ground, arrived after boarding-call, and didn’t know which plane she was supposed to be on!

Gardening 5

[The continuing saga of the ‘piranha’ grubs.] We were bemoaning our purina bugs to X after church, and she said they are having a terrible time with them. According to her they always move north and each moth produces 10,000 eggs. If the farmer to your south doesn’t do anything one year you have a time the next. Their neighbour didn’t care last year! Their son dug a hole for a tree for her, and out of a square foot (compared to the normal disaster rate of 4 grubs) he found 39! I’m glad we don’t lie north of them! – though they have been trying to combat them and have had a helicopter spraying their fields.

The 39 grubs…

[and more] Did I tell you the folk remedy for our grass grubs was ‘mobbin’. You put lots of animals on a small area and they crush the eggs 12″ under ground – as we explained you can’t do much in this line with 10 ewes and 6 lambs. I don’t think even adding 6 hens would help! Anyway the season’s come for the moths to fly, so at least we won’t have them again. We have found lots of dead ones so X’s efforts haven’t been wasted.

We had plenty of other jobs including a satisfactory start on clearance and burning of two horrid creeper bushes which infest some of the trees in our lower field and on the river bank. One is a fierce form of thorn called Barberry, and  the other a true creeper covered leaf and branch with pernicious little hooks – it goes by the sardonic name of ‘lawyer bush’ since it never lets you go once it has got hold of you.

The garden deserves more of my time – the flowers are gorgeous. I do enjoy them so much. The freesias are coming out apace now and the mimosa’s in flower but I keep clear of that as it gives you pink eye (at least that’s what my ma told me).

The real clear up in the garden isn’t quite due but as a preliminary I covered the lawn as best I could with one of those hormone weed killers – which I can’t say I really approve of because it makes the weeds look as though they are writhing in agony and it’s difficult to feel really convinced that it is in ecstasy of living a pace they’ve never lived before which their contortions are expressing.

Adult learning 2

I started language school this week. There’s one other English girl there and a couple of other English-speakers. A French girl who taught English, married to a German and with whom she speaks English as he doesn’t speak French! And a 1/2 American 1/2 French man. A host of other French people, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean and so forth – really mixed! The teacher is quite good though you have to keep a dictionary near as it’s all too easy to misunderstand her explanations as they are also in German and our vocab. doesn’t stretch to exactitudes!

It’s very humiliating to read a story to a 3 year old and have him correct your pronunciation!

I’ve finished my Great Painters and started an evening course at the university called The Problems of Art. Quite different approach by younger man of more conservative type – promises to be interesting but I find it a bind having to drive into town after dinner.

This evening we were practising using the WAIS [Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)] – not seriously enough on my part I’m afraid. It’s terrible in that lab (Psych) cos I’m always laughing or late or both. I sit with the wrong people. Next week I’m going to be serious because the woman who takes us must be getting fed up with me.

For Human Learning we have to train a rat to bar press. Our rat was perfectly friendly at first but the noise the water machine made scared him no end and he huddled in a corner for an hour and a half despite all sorts of soothing noises, stroking etc. etc. Poor little thing – it makes you feel so mean – a jolly nuisance from our point of view tho’!

The rat

She is staying with us until Friday. Most of the morning we have been tidying up my vegetable patch – and she knows the names of all the weeds in Latin, it seems, having taken an agricultural degree at Reading, around the end of the war – the first one.

I am relieved to learn from today’s letter that your acrobatics and singing class are separate classes, I thought you were outdoing the Black & White Minstrels; I was completely disillusioned when I found they didn’t actually do both at the same time! Incidentally, how did they manage when they gave live performances? I felt quite exhausted at the thought of going on to Scottish dancing after acrobatics, you must be bonkers! From my vast size it would be just the thing for me. But nearer to hand, perhaps helping X dig up the concrete drains each side of the drive with a pickaxe would be more constructive!

So one day was spent acquiring comprehensive but simple literature from the library and visiting the climatologist at the meteorology office – I hope by a combination of sagacious nodding and a show of vagueness I managed to disguise the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea what was the function of a net pyrradiometer or couldn’t consistently distinguish between a wet bulb thermometer and an isobar! The other day was spent plumbing the depths of the mines department to try and find out if the department had to obtain a mining licence in order to prevent anyone else collaring a hunk of oil we want to quarry for processing as a cement substitute.

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