Characters 2

He sounds an odd character – I’m astounded you managed to refrain from crowning him for long enough to get to like him!

I’ve got a terrifying new help – X phoned to say she’d been asked to work in a school library starting right away – 2 days notice after 4 years but she did give me this woman’s name who lo and behold came the next day – large, loud and bright red lipstick. She got going with great gusto and from various remarks obviously thought my house was ‘feelthy’. She keeps running her hand over lamp shades and saying X must have been v. short. How she manages to take up twice as much dirt in the cleaner I can’t think – and she likes cleaning the oven! Anyway she said she’d been with my friend so I phoned her and she told me how lucky I was and she liked her so much she’d left her something in her Will – so I’d better try harder!

The people who went there are falling apart. The old man is evidently impossible – won’t let his daughter or her husband have any friends there, let alone the children’s friends, won’t let them use the telephone. When the grand-daughter was baby sitting for the neighbours, X said had grandfather done anything about getting a ram for the sheep as it was getting late in the season, and he was told Grandfather doesn’t like anything like that, he won’t even watch kissing on TV.

We made the former president who was such a trial an honorary life member – perhaps in the hope that she would thereby be persuaded to adopt more statesmanlike attitudes and keep her fingers out of the day to day running – but I think it’s unlikely to happen. She has been putting about that when the treasurer goes off to X halfway through next year as he is planning to do that she will become treasurer in his place (on the rather odd grounds that it would be good for her husband, who had a stroke last year, to have to concentrate on some of the detail of it!)

We heard from X this week, and were amused to hear he listened to the Test Match with the radio under the bedclothes at 3 a.m. – he doesn’t age much!! He must be at least 75.

She’s gardening mad and has rebuilt the garden too. I play bridge with her, she’s much taller than I am and twice as large! and is a bit overpowering, but I’ve given up making too quick opinions about people and hope we’ll click (tho’ life style is a bit daunting)!!

She’s quite the funniest person I’ve met, and she likes everybody, except the husband of her last boss who would come into the office smelling of drink and be very rude to them and to their clients, so she complained to the Manageress who said she had it in hand and it wouldn’t happen again! And it didn’t.

X’s party was all go. Y home wearing the awful red velvet coat his father wore when we first knew him – and brown suede shoes! And his hair looked as though he hadn’t done it since he left months ago.

party attire

Holidays 4

We had a lovely but exhausting time. I’m afraid I opted out altogether one day and read at home(!) for the sake of being sociable on the others. We went to the beach and for a day to a well-done hot pools area and went to see a Bond film among other things. Good fun. The hot pools area was very good. They had 12 different pools of varying heat from sauna (which I could hardly put a toe into but saw one boy swim underwater in!) to fairly tepid ones for the end of some slides. We went down that several times, the 3 kids trying standing up. X got really good, Y could do it to half way down and Z seemed somehow to keep stopping and sort of hopped half way down before finally sitting down, much to the amusement of those waiting!

[Postcard from Ibiza] The old city is really lovely, up on a hill behind great fortifications of a lovely pinky-yellow rock. But the part down by the bay where all the hotels are is being terribly ‘developed’ and will soon be solid concrete! Our hotel is so nice with its own swimming pool (I haven’t been in yet but today is very warm and tempting). Tomorrow we are taking a coach tour all over the island and then we plan to hire bicycles!

I had a long letter here when we got back 2 days ago ago. I’ve written re dates and said to make all arrangements as I don’t mind what I do or when. I’m getting so used to making no decisions and just going around where I’m told and loving it! X and I had a marvellous car trip together and stayed in some wonderful places. I think I really enjoyed the little self-contained lodges in National Park where you looked after yourself re feeding but fires lit and place cleaned by the boy and washing up done! We cooked on a wood stove – made a gorgeous milk pudding as the fire slowly went out after supper and the oven lasted warm for a long time. On the way to the mountains we are staying again in a little lodge on a great lake with X and daughter who is my god-daughter. After all this grand living I shall be quite happy to sit for a bit. It has been extremely interesting and I’ve met some very nice people. Anyway I’m so glad I came and it’s all so easy now. Gosh how I fussed!

X and I left last Saturday from Salisbury and stayed 2 nights with her eldest son and family in their married quarters. Chaotic family – various relatives there too as there was a big dance in the mess that night. Then on to Bulawayo. Very comfortable and Bulawayo biggish pleasant town. Went to a drive-in cinema to see film about Ahmed the Largest African Elephant and masses of other game. Hadn’t been to a drive-in since Jamaica. Then on to the Ruins near Kyle Lake where we are staying in a little round thatched chalet. Communal lavs and bathrooms with wonderful hot water. We do all our cooking on a wood stove that is lit for us by an African and he does all washing up. Luxury camping. The ruins are quite extensive and consist of walls made entirely of granite ‘bricks’ – some still 20 feet high and about 15 ft wide. Also on top of nearby hill more ruins like the others – stiff climb up but magnificent views from the top – the whole thing is set in the middle of bush and no one knows why or when they were built but as it must have been done by primitive people it’s an incredible feat. These camp sites are all in National Parks and very well maintained – you can also have cottages or lodges with more accommodation – the chalet we have costs about £1 per night inclusive of sheets, cooking equipment, light, wood and baths – very comfortable and snug. Going on tomorrow to a hotel at Hot Springs where you can swim in the baths and drive through the nearby mountains. We’ve another 2 stops after than and back to Salisbury.

Lap of Luxury – Am certainly living it up and shall have to live on bread and water when I leave X both for the sake of my purse and my figure. Never mind it is all enormous fun. We have had 2 nights in a very pretty hotel looking out over Kariba Lake which is vast and one looks across the lake to a lovely mountain range. Visited the dam, crocodile farm and a delightful quiet trip on the Ark which was a ship from which Operation Noah was organised when they rescued so many animals when the valley was being flooded. A middle-aged couple bought it and turned it into cabin cruiser and live there all the time. We anchored in a quiet backwater and watched birds and natives fishing – all v. peaceful and pleasant.

Operation Noah

We flew up here to the National Game Park – over 5000 acres and have been out in little buses seeing the game. That has been very exciting and we’ve seen masses and some gorgeous birds – lovely bright colours, very decorative. Lots of baby elephants and zebra. We saw the perfect picture of a young leopard sitting in a tree – just looking straight at us but too far to get a photograph with my camera I thought but very clear with the binoculars – and even without. There is a water hole just in front of the hotel and about 3 lots of elephants came down at lunchtime and were so funny chasing the wart hogs off. Lots of ear flapping and trumpeting and showing off – only a ditch between us and them so it looked as if they were right in the garden. This is an interesting new hotel only built in 1972 – central main area with 2 large bedroom wings – 2 floors only. The central area has a dome open to the sky with a fountain and plants growing up. The walls are covered with large pieces of local stones all varnished. We’ve seen loads of game and even get up in the freezing cold at 5.30 a.m. to go out and see them. Soon gets warm when the sun gets up.

Have had a very extravagant tour last week with X – such gracious living as I’ve never known but it’s been marvellous. It’s been a wonderful holiday – I got quite brown at the Victoria Falls but it’s colder here out of the sun. I freeze until the sun gets really hot. I never want to be really cold again it is so marvellous to have sun.

 

On Wednesday we went to Orakei Korako which is a thermal reserve. The reserve itself was most impressive. It was mostly around several acres of large flat ground with numerous bubbly ponds breaking through the crusty surface and having a long wall of very white silica as backdrop. The whole thing was made more effective by the vivid orangy greeny algae that live on the rocks over which the hot streams pass. On Thursday we spent the morning in the hot pools in Taupo. They’re fantastic. At 98 F they reduced my desire to swim to nil in about half a length and thereafter I just lay, occasionally opening one eye to make sure the kids hadn’t drowned – exhausted by my morning exertions, I slept all afternoon.

 

Coming through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, it was thick snow, just like fairyland. With all the Christmas tree forests shimmering in the sun. Greece was a bit warmer and we camped by the sea and the pine forests. Istanbul was a great place, really interesting, the Bazaars were a sprawling honeycomb of dimly lit passages laden with merchandise. We went to the Blue Mosque and explored the waterfront and ate fish steaks down by the Bosphorus.

 

We spent three days in Toronto, staying with some kids we’d met on the train. It was grey and snowy and cold, but we had fun. Went to Niagara Falls one day. Then we went up to Montreal and stayed a few days there. I loved it there. Such a change to be in an old city again, with winding, cobbly streets (in the old quarters), and the whole city has got such a good spirit. Can’t really define it, but it’s a great place. We were staying with some kids in the French district, and although the whole city was under hundreds of feet of snow, it was all lovely.

 

We drove through the pine forests to Troy and explored the ruins, then we went on to see the ancient city of Ephesus. We drove along the coast and we saw the Dardanelles and Greek islands. The scenery was very beautiful.

 

After we left Denizli we drove high up into the mountains over 8,000 ft, and it was thick snow and freezing cold. We saw wolves, eagles, and tribesmen galloping on horseback across the snowy plains. On the Russian border, near Mount Ararat, we saw a bear. The country was really wild. When we drove across the border into Iran it was snowing. The roads were really bad. Tehran was fun, Isfahan was beautiful, the mosques are wonderful, all green, gold and blues mosaic work. There was a very old palace there, and some fabulous wall paintings, still being restored. The Shah Abbas hotel was wonderful, all the best craftsmen in Iran have contributed their skills, it is a national showpiece. The ceilings and walls have lovely paintings and mosaic work. They did beautiful engravings and jewelry, and the carpet factories are very interesting. They make the most intricate patterns and lovely colours. We went on to see the ancient city of Persepolis which was very interesting.

 

The desert was a wonderful place – so peaceful and still. Great plains of stony ground covered with little silvery and yellow bushes. We climbed up and down mountain ranges, saw mirages, and eagles. Once we came out upon a high plateau and saw before a great blue lake in the middle of a plain, surrounded by shimmering salt flats and there was a little mud village beside it. In the mornings and evenings it was really freezing cold, we used to burn the bushes for camp fires and cook potatoes in the ashes. We used to come across the odd primitive mud village and a couple of shepherds and flock of goats, and little donkeys laden with firewood.

Dowsing

I went to a drill that’s being done near here last week – such a nice man – the one in charge dowsed himself – but only for water – and not depth or flow per minute. I rashly gave him my idea on all three – so I want to go back next week to see if I was on target!!! I was offered a can of beer – I regretted I couldn’t accept!! I was delighted to hear later I’d got the right depth and flow. It’s so good to have something I can check on whether I’m right or not.

 I saw an article asking for ‘divine intervention’ to help find a spring in the zoo so I got a copy of a map of the zoo with contours and did a mass of work on it and made an appt with the manager of the zoo. Having arrived at 10.45 we left at 5 p.m. deadened. It was made doubly difficult that half my plan of streams ran through ‘cages’ of animals etc. and the place was seething with visitors…

dowsing

[and later in another letter]

Certainly no one could have done it that didn’t map dowse – what with piped water, storm water, sewage drains, and 2 springs/streams (which I was looking for) – not to mention the animals – it wasn’t easy… I was surprised I’d got so tired until I read a book that said dowsing was a very big strain and you shouldn’t do it for too long and too often.

 I was glad to have a phone call from an architect I did a dowse for last year… I’d feared my last effort must have overstepped the mark, I got very enthusiastic and put in a lot of unnecessary information, including a line that went across a field I couldn’t make out until X (who doesn’t believe a word of it!) suggested it was an electric fence – which I believe it was – though it could have been a remanence (lovely word!) [From Wikipedia: Remanence … is the magnetization left behind in a ferromagnetic material (such as iron) after an external magnetic field is removed.]

I’m right into this dowsing business and wonder if you have water under your bed? You said there was a lot round the houses. If you draw the layout of your house and where your bed is placed it is possible it happens to be over water and that is what’s causing your sinus trouble and by just moving your bed you’d be a renewed woman!! Please mark North etc. It’s not a joke honestly – masses of research has been done to prove it.

I wanted to dowse the boys’ room and found X was over water and Y was apparently all clear, which surprised me when I saw the TV in the sitting room was near his wall, but their mum found X had unplugged the TV, and, when I re-dowsed it, it was positive.

Celebrations 3

After the ceremony we moved to the food table in the garden which looked magnificent piled with meat (I’d cooked a 24 lb turkey two nights before!) and salads and homemade bread and cheese and fruit – and wine too of course. And a cake which my mother ended up by cutting because she seemed to do it much more efficiently than me! In the middle of the feast much excitement and commotion when a huge telegraph pole crashed in slow motion outside the cottage – hurting no one luckily! But it cut the electricity and telephone. Present-opening in the garden, and a friend of ours did magic tricks and we made some ‘speeches’ – my father made a great one, very lovely, calling everyone there ‘friends’ and welcoming X into the family. My parents adored every minute of it and everyone thought they were great – no one wanted them to leave when they did.

Christmas was really quiet. X went home returning to tell us of all the huge and wonderful meals her mum and relatives served her while we who stayed here starved on scraps in the staff ‘Beanery’. The food is really atrocious, and they didn’t lay anything special on for Xmas, which was pretty miserable of them I thought.

Scraps at the Beanery

X was old enough this year to really enjoy his birthday. Y came up and we celebrated with just us and her. Little X loved opening all his pressies with great excitement and then we had some party tea. It all went very nicely.

We had a big staff party on Christmas Eve, which was pretty good, got up late on Christmas Day and generally lazed around. New Year’s Eve we, 8 of us, went for a sooper dooper meal with dancing afterwards which was really good. We don’t get out too often, as the townsite is 4 miles away, and the road is like an ice rink, and cabs are expensive.

I really envied you the fireworks and the general crazy feeling you get in London on an occasion like that [Charles’ & Diana’s wedding] I think the last one I went to was 1945 at the end of the war.

We made Guy Fawkes a movable feast (it was pouring with rain on the actual night), and late Saturday night had a huge slash-fire as a bonfire, roasting wieners on sticks and sitting around the fire drinking beer – also dancing in the field to music on the radio. Halfway through the evening it began to snow, but it was only light and we kept on eating and drinking and dancing. It was really exciting, with the huge fires and the snow, and X read to us about the ancient history of fire celebrations.

My birthday was really fabulous. The party in the evening was really marvellous. There were 20 of us altogether at the most expensive and best restaurant in town. It was a fabulous turnout and he had menus specially written for us and 2 birthday cakes to have at the end of our 7 or 8 course meal! We arrived at 8 and didn’t leave until something like 1.30 or 2. But it was a wonderful evening.

Change

I note you are going to X for a lunch – did you know I spent most of my childhood there? It was a lovely, sleepy little place in those days, but when I last went back, it had become all touristy and horrible – and, apart from the fact that both my parents are buried there, and I still have friends there, I wouldn’t mind if I never saw the place again – it has changed beyond all recognition! I’ve always said that one can’t go back in life, only forwards, but I sometimes wonder if I’m even doing that!

It is a big gap and suddenly one realises – at least my sister and I did – that with both our parents gone horror of horrors we are now the ‘older generation’!!

One person from our section resigned recently, and that is allowed to be filled, but it has to be by someone redeployed from another area. This is a bit of a worry, as I expect we’ll get someone who someone else is pleased to see go.

getting rid

Am I nuts? I’ve really stopped being able to see any more whether this really is what I’ve wanted for years or I’m off my rocker. Maybe I’ll be able to think more clearly at my own place.

I asked after the ‘little boy’ born whilst we were there only to find he’d topped 6 foot and had finished a philosophy degree but sadly like so many of them had got a dead end job.

To begin with, I called it ‘Aphorisms and Illustrations’ but on the whole that seems bit pretentious, so it is now called ‘Pointers and Pictures’!

I could have wept over your would-be purchaser opting out – I hope it means there’s a better offer coming your way – any offer coming our way would be something, but so far we’re just 1,200 down the drain in advertising. What is particularly maddening is the first estate agent has a man WITH MONEY looking for something like this, but we’re tied for a month to the auctioneers. He poohpoohed the idea of sharing the commission in spite of my suggestion that ‘half a loaf was better than no bread’ – stiff necked, I call it.

Early in the morning and after 5 p.m. it’s getting nippy. Tho’ many plants have got really muddled up and are flowering for the second time, it’s been a mad season, no really settled weather. I’ve worn a summer dress about 4 times, and my new white sandals the same, and now out must come the old drearies.

Things children say 2

My aunties took me to the zoo and we saw two politicians.

seeing the politicians

 

To acquire votes, one must kiss old people and babies and that spreads disease.

It is easier to have a baby if you are a cat.

On Saturday we were having dinner with some friends including the headmistress. After about an hour’s conversation – during which time both the girls had been asked if they would like to read – or even watch TV – X announced, suddenly, that this conversation was getting even more boring and could we change the subject and she’d tell us a joke… The headmistress who is used to 1000+ kids jumping to her every command was somewhat taken aback, needless to say!!

[Dictated letter of thanks from 4 year old] I bought a cash register with my money. It has money and a credit card. It has a scanner that goes ping. We play shops with it with mummy and the boys and daddy and my friends. We play libraries too. We have been to X with the youth group. We went biking up the hill. We saw swans and ducks and horses. We loved the horses. They went galloping. We played on the park there. I like the swings.

X has been having rough time with his group friends – hopefully solved now. I gathered yesterday that whatever rejection he’d been experiencing wasn’t entirely unreciprocated and he’d been name-calling. When asked, he told me he’d just been using ‘extraordinary, grown-up words and X didn’t understand’ – Hmm!!

Teacher’s question: What do you do if you’re hungry? Answer: I eat my boiled egg and Mum will eat the yukky bits.

I use the purse quite a lot for putting my money in it. It is usufall because my other purse has just brock.

Mummy gave me a culb [corrected in father’s hand to cube] and X mucked it up for me (I was glad because I wouldn’t dear tough [corrected in father’s hand to touch] it. I was scard to.) Our trip was grate and pusy was very good she sleept and walked around. [Well, a letter is not to be sneezed at even with spelling mistakes!]

Dear X. I guess she is only being ‘normal’ but, oh dear, it is very trying. She has a very cunning ability to pick one bit out of a conversation, and use it totally to her own advantage … I’m not used to such cunningly contrived and clever conversations, and she usually has me floundering at least once a day. The trouble is – when do clever quips become downright insolence?!!

We started the term with a language unit on Noah’s Ark. The kids did some stories today telling the story from one point of view or another. Some of them had lovely bits of dialogue e.g. God said to Noah, “Build an ark, there’s going to be a flood.” “But Go-”. “No buts.”! Or after Noah had told the three sons how to build the ark they all said, “Got you.”!

DIY ark instructions

 

He seems to have no concept of time when he’s actually playing. He’ll clap it right and then play it quite differently and say he’s done it the same – “I AM doing that.” Oh dear. I tried a tape recorder and he just grinned and said, “Well, I like it better that way”!

We were fascinated with two tidbits of news [grandchild] gave us – one she told the people she visited after us that her family was coming south and may be staying with them – which rather surprised the wife!

Children 3

X gave a fulsome introduction to the man proposing Y’s health which went v. well and Y much affected replied. He’s the most modest boy. [Grandmother] said how well all the boys had grown up and [mother] was a wonderful mother and had made such a good job of them – no mention of [her son, the father]!

X was despondent with her daughter who went into her teens by dyeing her hair pink and had a nose ring and was threatened with being expelled. X says she’s got old rather sooner than she’d expected!

the teenager

 

Isn’t it fun X [grandchild] being a mouse in the ballet? Evidently all went well.

Well, I eventually wrote to X [‘grown-up’ grandchild] with a copy of my letter that had made her cross, and she coloured in all the bits she didn’t like and answered by number … So I replied in kind and trust we’re not now cut off. Her affectionate ending didn’t really make up for verging on being impertinent, but I did say I thought that was because she needed a dictionary. [And in a later letter] The fracas got quite out of hand ending with a venomous letter. I’ve now burnt the file, but it simmers inside me.

The man talked to me and seemed pleasant and said they hadn’t expected to have their son with them, and be free to do their own thing. The son was a v. large 30-ish man with big black beard and dressed in black leather all over. Later I was talking to him; he was ready to answer any remark but didn’t initiate anything. When I asked if he had any friends near he said most of them were in X, and I didn’t click until I got home his father had said, ‘He has problems’… I went over and asked our ex-neighbour if she knew anything I didn’t and told her of the remarks made, and she was very shirty with me, and said she couldn’t possibly ask them what he went to the hospital for, which wasn’t what I’d asked her. Only as I was walking out of the door said, ‘I only know he’s schizophrenic.’ I called over to say hello yesterday. The father looked pretty downcast. Poor dears, anything like that is so much worse than our tribulations, and we’ve had more than our fair share, I think.

We arrived with them before dark so had some time with the boys too – rescued the little one having a ball with large pot of Vaseline from bathroom cupboard.

I took them to the rec – walked – and that was marvellous. X was a bit indignant when I had to help him down the ‘fireman’s pole’ – but suffered me to help him onto it as his arms are too short!!!