Employment hassles 3

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

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

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

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

too many teeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making money

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

oyster picking

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

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

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

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

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

Music/theatre/art 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

boring slides

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

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

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

Outings 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the pink suit

Characters 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

worried man

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-digital

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

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

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

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

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

collating by hand

Property – Values / repairs/ layout 2

I could have wept over you plodding round London, wet and tired and no home – so glad you eventually got fixed up and hope it proves a success. We’re continuing our hunt – we went to see the one we liked so much (altho’ they were asking twice what the valuer thought it was worth) to see if it was worth pushing out the boat for. Glad we did – it had shrunk no end since we saw it and was really quite impractical. We were amused by the estate agent – who’s nice – he picked a book from their shelves and was reading it whilst we went round. He beckoned us silently to go and read the title of the book – ‘How to get rich quick on Real Estate’!!! If we hadn’t already decided against it that would have fixed it!

Had a letter from X – their old house has been turned into a cul de sac with 6 houses in it – they must have made a bomb over it.

the new cul de sac

A Dutch couple turned up. They were looking for peace and quiet and apparently prepared (if it was not all big talk) to buy 2000 acres to achieve it. The sight of the neighbour’s dilapidated shed across the fields seemed to be enough to put the man off, so it was difficult to see why they kept us waiting twenty minutes for our lunch while we showed them round the house and they chatted! ‘Too small,’ they said eventually.

A brief line to tell you we SOLD yesterday for MONEY. The man offered $10,000 less than asked and said it was no use coming back to him with another offer as that was it and he’d look elsewhere if we weren’t satisfied. One of the partners went out and pushed him up by $5,000 so we ended up in the middle of top and bottom valuations. … The stinker of a buyer added to the agreement ‘sheep and garden seat’. That seemed a fairly nit-picking attempt at face-saving. As he didn’t mention how many sheep we’re selling the lambs and getting 2 old ones shot.

We called on the farmer the other side of the river and I started by apologising that I proposed to go on trespassing across a corner of his field as my predecessors had done. (They apparently made the drive a nice straight way which was his, instead of through a duck pond and then with a dogleg turn which was how it should have gone by the map.) However he didn’t seem v. worried which was good.

I’ll go to help them move. Retirement House Number 4! It’s getting to be a hobby/habit!

We went over to look at a factory where they make houses in ‘modular’ bits – bringing them and nailing the whole thing together rather like Lego in a single day! That was quite intriguing and seemed cheaper than a solid wood house.

X told her it went for £42,000 – what must ours be worth [sold for about £11,000 only 2 years before] – about 3 times as much land. The houses like we bought after the war for £2,600 are selling for £22,000. Everything’s gone mad.

I got home at 6.40 in gathering dusk to find no electricity in the house, and no candles either, apart from a couple of Christmassy ones X had managed to borrow next door. The builders have actually started this week and had apparently been up in the roof just before it went off about 5 so I was deeply suspicious! Rang him up and it seems all he had been doing was looking which way the ceiling joists ran and he was most obliging and arrived with a tame electrician a few minutes later but all he could do was to confirm that it was the elec co’s fuse on the pole which had blown so then there was another long wait. Eventually the van arrived at about 9.45 and all was sweetness and light within 3 minutes once more.

The carpentry work is practically finished downstairs but heaven knows when it will be habitable. The electrician and plumber still have to return, and the plasterer is only promised for the end of next week. But the major snag is the floor which is apparently so rough and wavy that the flooring expert practically refuses to do anything. In the end we shall either have to do it in wood after all which will reduce the headroom even more or else I reckon we’ll have to stick down polystyrene ceiling tiles and then cover it with vinyl and carpet and get used to sinking in until we have trodden it down!…[and the solution later] Eventually after long discussions what they did was to put down dozens of little wooden blocks of assorted size and varying thickness getting them roughly level – bed them into strips of plaster, and then lay sheets of a compressed wood chip board about 8 ft by 4, which ought not rock or sag even if it is not all that well supported in places. They nailed it right through into the concrete underneath – which was pretty thin and has probably broken up in the process, but what the eye doesn’t see we hope the heart will not grieve over!

Things fall apart 3

We went along 90 miles of unsealed, bumpy, windy road – very picturesque even when viewed through dust and vomit. That section went very well with the only mishap being a puncture. After some tea we went on. About half way the generator light came on – the battery (and lights and engine) finally gave up in the middle of nowhere. Luckily while I was away phoning for a taxi at the nearest farm a man, who obviously had seen a car before, stopped and tracked the trouble to the regulator (the what?). With finger on ‘that thing there’, and a hefty push we managed to get under way and finally arrived at 1 a.m.

I cheered X up last week, I was leaning into the ‘frig looking for something and lost my balance so grabbed the nearest thing which was one of the shelves. I yelled for X who found me with 3 broken eggs and masses of bits surrounding me, a box of eggs fortunately had only one cracked.

I write to express sympathy, now much out of date, over the manner of your parting from Computer Man. Admittedly it sounded entirely in character (and I can imagine him saying to himself ‘Here I’ve been paying her to learn in my time and this is all I get for it’) – but such a pity, to have to protect his ego in such a male chauvinist and piggish way. If that leaves you short on your financial arrangements for your trip through the early waning of your moonlight you are very welcome to borrow the money in my deposit account over there.

[Postcard of Titanic posted Southampton 19th April 1912] Thurs night – just passed docks. Many hundreds of anxious people outside shipping office. What a terrible calamity! Glad we shall see you on Saturday night.

I seem to be burning the rather aged candle at both ends and in the middle and feeling the consequences!

burning the candle

I had my hair done by a new man in the morning as I had a phone call in the middle of dinner on Friday to tell me ‘my’ nice Dutchman had fled the country in debt all round – sad, he worked so hard. I was the only one with a telephone number by my name and got the brunt of the owner of the premises fury – or disappointment.

I couldn’t resist having a go with my ‘new’ knitting machine this week and made a pale green oiled wool crew neck sweater. The concentration and frustration were terrific. I got within inches of finishing the back and really got into the swing of it – about 20 rows a minute – when the whole thing fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed I was coming to the end of the wool. After wasting about 1.5 hours trying to put it back on the needle I gave up and had to unravel and start again.

I went for a long walk along the hill a week or so ago carefully avoiding the larger rams with which the fields seemed to be stuffed because we had a grisly story in the paper not long ago about two people in their seventies who spent an hour and a half being attacked by a ram, which was eventually driven off by the farmer’s wife who was in her sixties.

She thought our TV so crummy she’s told us to go and choose any colour set we like and send her the bill!! I must admit our black and white has about had it. For the last 4 months or so it’s had no sound so I pick up the sound channels on the FM band of the radio and sit it by the TV.

I had to extend the wiring from the power plug for the new position of the frig and was just fitting the new socket on the end of the extension when it shorted in my hand with a loud bang. I can’t think when I was last so foolish as to plug in and switch on a length of wire of which I proposed to bare the far ends! Fortunately I wasn’t touching the wires themselves.

I do hope my new lathe is not going to be a rogue causing constant trouble. The first thing was when it suddenly stopped driving although the motor was running. However after some pushing and pulling that seemed to cure itself. Then a few days ago I switched the motor off but it just went on running. A machine that won’t run is a nuisance but a machine that won’t stop could be a real danger in emergency so I wrote them an indignant letter and the firm’s technical expert is coming out to look at it.

It has not been a good gadget year – I am on my 4th hairdryer (of the batch of 10 the local chemist got in, I’ve had 4 – it was obviously a faulty batch). X’s new soldering iron had exposed wires. Our cooker, only about 2 1/2 years old, has something quite seriously wrong with it as it burns out thermostats at a most alarming rate and X’s new bedside light has loose wires since bulbs seem only to last until the thing gets moved.

X rang this morning in rather a dither – her brakes gave out going down their drive – actually by pumping her foot down it worked in time but ever since she’s thought up all the things that might have happened and got herself in a state – she really is a bit neurotic.

Weather 2

While I’m writing this letter I’m lying on the lounge settee under a sheepskin rug trying to keep my blood circulating. We are having another one of ‘our’ weekend power cuts. It wouldn’t be so bad if the weather wasn’t so unusually shocking. The wind is in the south and blowing a tremendous gale. Luckily it has stopped raining. For at least a week or so it’s just been bucketing down.

Here we have snow – winter came early this year. The woods are so beautiful when there is a fresh fall, (to speak a true cliche: it is like living in the middle of a Christmas card!) It thaws, and rains an incredible amount and gets very cold and snows again.

The whole family is now contemplating a move for a minimum of a year to Lagos – 35 degree all the year round with a constant 95% humidity – not my cup of tea (though remarkably like it, when you come to think of it).

We were amused with the radio report that traffic police, fed up with having to rescue people who ventured on the motorways against all warnings that they were impassable, had blocked the access roads with snowballs – presumably made with the aid of of front end loaders to push them along.

snowball block

It’s been bitterly cold here yesterday and rained in buckets all day – I froze but sun out today again.

X gave me an umbrella, a truly magnificent structure when erected with about as much steel work as the Eiffel Tower. If I ever have the effrontery to put it up in town I shall expect the draught between all our new tower blocks to carry me smartly to the top of the parliament building. Cheaper than hang-gliding!

The further east we went the rain got heavier and the forecast got worse. We moved into a cabin on the coast. It poured solidly on the first 3 days, was dull on the fourth and absolutely glorious on the fifth day. Despite all that we had a very good time. We went to see the kiwi at Napier, looked at a very good model village and boated between the rains. We went to a flick and swam in the rain and had a lovely day on the beach on the Saturday.

In high summer we are sitting in all our winter clothes huddled over the fire – full on. It’s been THE lousiest summer of all time – I think we had the only vaguely reasonable weather for holidaying of anyone I know.

I’ve just realised that I have been sitting here most of the morning without having the fire on, so spring really has sprung in a small way already. The oak is on the point of bursting to leaf, which is pretty prompt of it only a fortnight late in spite of the bad winter we have had and the magnolia has been blooming away for days. I’ve managed to get the strawberry beds more or less sorted out but it is difficult to believe we shall get any plums this year as the blossom has all gone now, and not a bee to be seen anywhere so far!

Our house is on a steep rise on an unmade road and in the last downpour two deep channels were cut either side – we couldn’t get out as it was a foot deep and a foot wide. So they came along with dump trucks and graders and 7 men and filled in the holes. Alas, it rained again and all their cosmetic work was washed down the hill and filled up the drains in the road that crosses ours causing it to flood one foot deep at the edges, over to the playcentre on one side and to the park on the other.

Ill judged comments 2

Little X was gorgeous, she’s so friendly, and pretty in spite of looking like her father!

Bridge was X’s downfall because he played so much of it at varsity he never got his degree – I didn’t realise the boys didn’t know this and put my foot in it to one of them.

However else I’m wrong I’m sure I have no resemblance in looks or manner to X – I won’t wear that one!!! I do get a little tired of being contradicted and organised in my own house tho’ – we get on quite well by letter!

I had a letter this week from X who had been in touch with the local rag and it had an article and picture of my work, all with my chatty remarks in my letter to X. I must be more careful, it puts me back when people send on letters or remarks I’ve made to them. Z sent my letter to her on to her brother, not at all the same chat I’d have written to him!!

When playing Old Maid with X [grandson] on his visit here he told me most pleasantly I was a horrible old sod. I told him I did not approve – and he apologised most contritely and said I was a very nice sod really!!!

Horrible old sod!

[Comments on birthday book gift] ‘How to complain’ dedicated ‘to an expert’, indeed! Apart from my hair dryer (which I’ve just returned for 7th time) I haven’t actually complained about ANYTHING except a packet of cornflakes, which they mixed up with soap flakes, for a-a-a-ages. Anyway – I’ve not taken anything further than commenting to the shop owner, admittedly there are shops I can’t be bothered to go in because their service is appalling. Perhaps you should have dedicated it ‘to a would-be expert’!

[re gift of some Tarot cards] Really, X is getting terribly staid, straight-laced and heaven knows what else! When I opened them she quite seriously told me they were a lot of nonsense and very dangerous and that I shouldn’t use them! Oh dear!

At lunch X had 1 glass of wine and was fooling around putting the holly on her head and calling herself the Xmas pudding so we were deciding whether to pour brandy on her or just set her on fire! and Y was telling her she was getting tipsy and mustn’t drink any more and to behave herself, getting thoroughly embarrassed so X pointed out that Y was very happy the night before whereupon I said ‘I know, you’re secretly on the bottle, aren’t you?’ That was fatal, my lecture was ‘I don’t approve of such suggestions, you oughtn’t to speak like that’ with about the straightest face I’ve ever seen – I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel put in my place!

He gave her a wide silver ring which would look lovely if she’d take off her gold wedding ring but her hands are too pudgy for all three.

But X would have none of it (he hates the young man who at some time has apparently told him precisely what he thinks of him and his music which is nothing at all).