… two nights with the old 93-year old cousin, full of woe as the family home has to be sold and she is miserable although she can’t live there without a ‘keeper’ as she will keep falling down on her arthritic legs.

Scottish Dancing is his passion in life which she cannot do because she has a back, or something. [We know what you mean!]

Yes, how X needs a break… I remember her as the Golden Girl with everything going right for her.

A good resolution for the winter will be to type for 20 minutes each day to make my fingers work right, but I may have left it too late and I shall never get out of the habit of using the wrong fingers when the correct ones bend the wrong way! But if I could make them a bit more pliant it would help.

I seem to be getting the rheumatics in my shoulders and arms and my hands look pretty peculiar and some fingers leave go of things at the wrong moment and although my toes are permanently numb and blue they don’t actually seem to be falling off.

A thorn in my side this year has been my temporary assistant. The present occupant works about quarter time at best. She is always ‘sick’, and never even apologetic or worried about it. Personally I think a good shaking would do a great deal to improve the situation, however it doesn’t feature as a motivator in any of the personnel manuals. .. We are unable to terminate her employment as she continues to bring certificates.

It is a bore and very ancient-making to be crawling everywhere like a decrepit crab instead of stepping out!

Like a crab


Employment hassles

Your work situation seems as harrowing as mine, though in a different way. I get annoyed at needing to do everything myself to make sure it gets done properly (or at all) but not being allowed to. I exploded recently at the finance man who blamed his inadequacy on the ‘fact’ that I ‘don’t understand Portuguese very well’ (!) when it’s patently obvious that I understand it so well that I am in danger of catching him out in his little games.

I was unable to take any leave. The Corporation works in a way unique to itself I think, and I have found myself acting in a position for nearly a year now. By the time things get back to normal it will be over a year. During this time I have also acted in a yet higher position for four months, having two (three counting myself) untrained staff to look after. Of course, no one asked me whether I wanted to do it, or even seemed to think whether or not I might be capable of it. I was exhausted after that little effort, and have managed to have one week’s leave which was just wonderful.

I worry about you a bit – you are earning enough to eat properly aren’t you? It’s so damnable that anything one enjoys doing so often doesn’t give financial return.

Her schoolgirl daughter has been giving me a hand in the garden and is quite useful although I really prefer doing it alone! Still it provides extra pocket-money for her…

Mayoral aspirations

It looks doubtful that the contract will be renewed after the second year, however things may change. Hopefully the Council will take pity on me. However, it generally can see more justification in a prestigious car for the Lord Mayor than in employing a few more people.

Church / religion

One of the more interesting details was the hairdo of the smaller of the two candle-bearing girls. I suppose she might have been fifteen. Her hair was short and dark, but with most of the ends well-blonded. It just struck me as unusual as a combination with serving in church.

There was an interview on TV, on Sunday evening, between one of our better known TV personalities and Lloyd Geering. The first is a declared (almost militant) atheist, and by the end of the interview I did rather agree with his view that Lloyd Geering is an atheist too, though he disguises it under what the interviewer described as gobbledygook … when he said things like ‘God is a word which we use as a symbol for possessing a system of values’… Actually he has lots of good ethical ideas, but like most humanists seems to think that if he can get people to agree on what are the right ‘values’ all will be well, ignoring the fact that no one manages to live up to their ideas (even with the grace of God to help them, let alone without). But you can’t help liking him!

Too cold for church

In the cold weather I have temporarily abandoned church – it is too freezing cold to get out of bed in time for the 8 a.m. and the church is so cold for the longer 10 o’clock that I go numb during the service. We have our new vicar starting this coming week so I shall have to reform soon and become a faithful if inattentive attender.

We went in the evening to the Salvation Army. The new Captain and wife, only recently arrived, started dead on time and finished in 50 minutes. They collect most of the congregation in their car and a van, which gives them the whip-hand in the matter of timing!

In the morning service, X declared (in a whisper) that she wouldn’t sing one of the hymns because she didn’t like it so she was going to sing something else. She didn’t, of course, but the funny thing was that on the next carol, Y did! He started singing the second verse (which he swears always used to be the first)!


My doctor is very aggrieved that I was so upset by his phoning late with his news of my blood test, and mumbles he won’t tell me anything in future if I get so worried about it. He insists now that about 10% of the people locally would very likely have it and I could have gone for years without knowing if I hadn’t had a blood test and anyway he didn’t diagnose it, it’s in my notes from five years ago, but the results showed it was getting worse this test.

I am absolutely delighted with ‘obsessional slowness’ and ‘pathological procrastination’ as the words fit a number of everybody’s symptoms. What will they think of next as a sensible diagnosis to offer a grown man?

A rattle in his chest

They have been spending the day with us, which was lovely. The baby had a rotten ‘rattle’ and ear trouble. They’d been in to see the doctor on the way here. I think it’s fortunate he and his wife are to be the godparents – doctors’ fees have gone up per visit! Part of the new budget. And prescriptions. Already two people have died because they couldn’t afford a weekend visit to the doctor. In fact ‘they’ now say this should never happen – but the poor don’t know.

My doctor said if it didn’t clear up then I’d better take a self-destruct pill, I wasn’t feeling well enough to think it funny, it’d lasted six months. Incidentally I did change my doctor and now go to the woman, who seems very understanding, but has the slightly chilling habit of not saying anything so you’re inclined to say more than you intended!


Her ‘new’ Mini seems a success; pity she left her old one (before it was sold) uphill from the new one, with the brake off! Fortunately it didn’t do much harm to the grid on the front.

I am so glad that you have got the car, and hope that it will serve you well. Admittedly, there is something about the swoop of a motorcycle, on a nice dry road, and on a sunny day, which you would need £50,000’s worth of car to equal, but it will be a joy to be rid of the business of dressing specially to go anywhere, and even more of arriving wet and cold.

He spends a large part of his time at the gym and out with friends. [The other son] seems to be out much of the time also so many a night we are sitting at home car-less while our sons are out doing the social rounds.

I was most surprised to see that a city sophisticate such as your good self had reverted to being a peasant, even if you still make a daily pilgrimage to town. There is no doubt a reason. You will know that your commuter line is shortly to be electrified. This might improve things travel-wise.

the commuter


I’ve pretty much decided to give up on teaching for a career. I like teaching, but I’m not very good at the crowd-control side of the job.

I’ve been doing a month’s relieving 45 minutes drive away. It went OK I suppose but it was a bit hairy in parts – the last 4 weeks of a 15-week term is not an idea time to take over an undisciplined class! However. It’s a shame for the kids having 3 teachers in a year actually – especially as there’s not much else that’s stable at home for many of them around the school area.

engineer au pair


This change of plan meant X had to get her au pair a little earlier than expected and a lady from Turkey arrived just a few weeks ago. She has just finished University and is now an Industrial Engineer. Her English is limited but, being a very clever lady, is improving every day. She hopes to stay here for a year whilst her fiance is doing   his National Service.


X continues to be a complete mystery to me. Programmers really are on a different planet from the rest of us humans but, nevertheless, he is successful and enjoys what he does. No parent can ask more than that!

I’m supposed to find which diseases the butterfly caterpillars (which we export as pupae to live butterfly displays in UK and USA) die of and prevent them…

I am in a bit of a quandary at work. My boss is not managing as coherently (I can’t think how else to phrase it) as he was. In fact, I think he has got steadily worse over the last two years. During the last couple of weeks he has behaved quite irrationally on occasion. As there is no one much to observe this who can advise him to take all of that leave which is owing to him, I think I may have to take a rather drastic step and go and talk to someone about it. I don’t want him to have a breakdown. I feel like a tattletale.

Your new regime sounds ‘challenging’ if very hard work and I hope it won’t wear you out, particularly with a bossy boss. How I loathe the type who send peremptory notes and I do hope I wasn’t like that in the days when I ran a department! To [our family], who are always right, it comes hard doesn’t it?

Employment here is very bad, except if one has specific qualifications and experience e.g. mining engineer, accountant and top-level managerial experience. I have an interview for a job next week. The job is assistant archivist. I don’t know why they are even interviewing me, but perhaps there weren’t many real archivists who applied.

I muddle along as best I can. It’s a real case of ‘do what you can where you are with what you’ve got’!

It seems that as usual my out-of-date fantasy about having very little work in August and doing things like going home early and tidying the desk drawers, is indeed a fantasy, as I have to write the Annual Report by the end of August, complete with graphs and appendices etc., write various bids, re-vamp part of our education service, and finalise a whole range of service advice leaflets and programmes.

Your last letter relayed all the health problems you ended up with after the row with your boss. Wasn’t worth it, was it? I developed a back problem I think as a result of long hours and too much SITTING, SITTING, SITTING!!! Fortunately it came right on its own, or with the help of the change in jobs. I was so miserable in my work I think my mind was looking for ways to put an end to the stress if you know what I mean.



We watched the fireworks that go off down in the town from our balcony and then went to bed. Town on New Year’s is disgusting. Everyone is drunk and kissing everyone else!! So we don’t venture down there anymore.

We all had lovely things and a good time was had by all, with the children quite often spontaneously remembering to thank and at least two of the three capable of opening a parcel without tearing the paper to shreds and losing the all important label!

Then came a huge milestone in my life – my 50th and I celebrated in style. On the actual night a dinner at a wonderful new fish restaurant. Then a few days later I had a champagne breakfast for 20 girlfriends at a popular local restaurant.

I was vastly amused when a bit of wedding cake appeared in the post. The postage by air must have been staggering. Anyhow as you can imagine the stamps go down big with X and the two eldest grandchildren as they are all avid collectors and join in big sessions with the swaps and catalogue when they are at home. To go back to the cake… it was gobbled at once and no-nonsense about sleeping with a bit under the pillow.

I had a nice day – X baked me a gorgeous cake and I demanded a slice this year, diabetes or not, and actually got it. I had a good day even though it wasn’t like being at home. The sun is shining and I’m going outside.

We went to a friend’s for dinner and my dustbin of a child came up with this beauty: he’d had a large dinner and pudding and held out his plate, put on a pathetic expression and whimpered questioningly, ‘Food for the poor?’

The oldies

Your Christmas sounded ‘unusual’ to say the least. I was amused by your saga of the disappearing turkey – there’s something rather bizarre about a half turkey getting mislaid. The old dears sleeping off lunch reminded me of a dinner party I went to. There were about 12 of us there and at about 10 p.m. people progressively decided that a brief snooze would improve their subsequent conversation – so they simply keeled over on the floor one after the other and went to sleep. There I was left, suffering from an inhibited upbringing, and the only one awake!