Special skills

Do remember to send me a diagram of your house so I can dowse it for you. It seems to be good for us and especially our friend X… I think when I last wrote I was waiting to hear the result of the drill being done nearby; I went down complete with cans of beer to celebrate only to find X had decided he shouldn’t put on another 10 ft pipe to bring it up to the depth I reckoned he would strike an aquifer and water in vast quantities. He was disappointed too as he was sure I was right. As he’d already gone 3 metres more than he’d been instructed to go I can see his predicament. However, he was happy for me to go and try out the next well which won’t be for a month or more.

 

giving light

I’ve attended a course in this Mahikari I mentioned in the last letter and can now ‘give light’ – it still seems remarkable but anyway. But it seems to attract people who neet it.

My jaunt to dowse a section was interesting. I’d said I had no qualifications, and he assured me it was whether you had it or not that mattered! We marched round this dreary section, which had been covered over with tarmac and used as a car park, and the council had a competition going for the best building that could go on it… It came out very odd, and I suspect there was an old cess pit and a large soakaway, it was over a swamp, in a gully, I think the person who said it was not fit for habitation would win any competition. Then I got a very strong reaction at one point… and since coming home and trying to make sense of it, I got a book (the only one they had!) from the library, which told me all the things I didn’t know… I think the council had cut off all the old pipes which are now holding polluted water, and the big cess pit and soakaway the same, and there is one new pipe right down the new boundary not quite as deep as the old one, so now I wait hopefully! – shall be told how wrong or not I was.

I didn’t realise you needed another licence [for a motorbike] as I imagined that you had a full driving licence, but I suppose that sort of thing went out after the war or some time ages ago and one takes it in bits now? I still rejoice that I can drive a tractor or a heavy van or something (all without taking one at all and I would undoubtedly fail a test!!) What this elderly lady does about turning round on a push bike and signalling and so forth is extremely vague – I usually try to turn round – find I am a bit bad at twiddling my neck/shoulders – take a hasty glance and not really see anything and then stick out a wavering hand and proceed rapidly across the main road to the safety of the lane. Alternatively I suddenly hop off at the crossing and run across at my fastest speed as cars zoom up a hill quite blind and suddenly appear ready to run me down.

Accounting

We seem to have the budget knocked into presentable form, which is not much short of a miracle!… We seem to have staved off one daft idea – presenting the under-resourced budget with a ‘faith gap’ i.e. a deficit which would be made up by putting the guilties on X to contribute a bit more. Certain items in the budget would not be spent until extra funds were forthcoming. It sounded an accountant’s nightmare.

faith gap

 

… as part of my campaign to cut down my super-annuitants’ surcharge, I wrote off to a deer farm which was advertising for capitalists who would like to make nice tax losses while the place was developed; but it involved putting about $13,000 into the place as a minimum, over the next five years, and I decided that was too large and longterm for me.

Ageing

My father died early in the year. It was a sad event, but a release in one way. He didn’t really know what was going on any more… My mother did seem to realise he had died, although she cannot communicate. She just cried and looked very depressed on the day of the funeral. She seems to have recovered her spirits: with dementia it is just impossible to tell what they are thinking.

Did you know that mum’s two brothers died this summer? I’m afraid we are in those years when people who seemed immortal suddenly are not!

Here not much happens so it becomes increasingly difficult to make it happen – staff shortage but no shortage of confused residents. They are now building on in order to take day centre people thus adding to still more confusion!

X has had a minor stroke I think, so shuffles along like a 90-year-old and gets lost for words and gets so annoyed when I can’t guess what he means – I am getting better at it, I think! He still drives to the local shop when I don’t go out – he must have his daily paper! He takes the dog round the garden and worries where the cat is all day and at night too! It is rather trying!

a bit doddery

I got an unexpected phone call from a writer. He’s written a biography of Mary Wesley who was among many things in MI5. Apparently I’m one of the few – in fact only person – old enough to remember her when she was married to her first husband. Having discovered that I’m ninety he was in a great hurry to see me!

I’m getting so dotty that I shall soon have to get a Carer which is depressing – all my old friends seem to be either dead or in nursing homes and not liking the intense loneliness which goes with most old age.

I was so sorry to hear of your mother’s sickness and dying, it’s a hard time to through, the best comfort is to be thankful she has no more suffering and problems. I sometimes wish my mother could see something then I realise she is far better off and happier where she is anyhow!

Clothes

High time I sent you the cheque… I hope you can put it towards a ‘ball gown’ to make you feel right on the day – judging by the prices of the garments I looked at in London last week you will be lucky to go in a T-shirt and nothing much else. There was a fabulous play suit in Liberty’s made of about two literally washing-up cloths, in linen with the blue stripe and ‘glasses’ in white on it, and it cost about £100. Having recovered from that I bought a ready to sew skirt length at reduced price as it was last year’s pattern and a bit of quilted material which my dear sister is making up into a waistcoat for me.

play suit material

[Re Tissot exhibition in Toronto] I have always had a weakness for his work. I love those frivolous fashions and the incredible hats – and the sad background of his undying love for the beautiful consumptive lady who figures in so much of his work. Did you know that the fashion for little skittish hats which came in during that period, replacing the big saucers, signalled the emancipation of women? The reason being, that they had to be secured by hat pins (instead of ribbon under the chin) and that meant the females were armed against the base desires of men?? I love it!

I even bought a new sun hat. Having scorned local ones at $3.50 because they were trimmed, so-called, I actually paid $19.95 – worse than 3s 11 3/4p I paid for my wedding hat! – at a hat shop – but it did suit me i.e. covered my fringe and half my face. I took off the dreary multicoloured plaited nylon band with gold in it and put on a white ‘chiffon’ scarf and it looks most elegant – so I wear my old gardening hat in case the new one gets spoilt!!

I’ve just started making up a skirt which I’ve had the idea and material for – for a couple of years! It will either be stunning or atrocious (possibly both!) but at least the cost of the material is a long way hence (or thence???) [Yes, that makes perfect sense!]

Voluntary work 2

How is your adult literacy student? Last time you wrote you said you were rather concerned about her as she was in hospital cheerfully accepting all sorts of dreadful things without question. Mine is young and quite healthy but not interested. I think Father is the prime mover in what is supposed to be voluntary, and makes sure that poor X is here on the dot of 7.30 p.m. … The rest of the family is quite successful: only X seems to have missed out, and I think he feels he is the family failure. Father sees me as someone to bring him up to scratch. Altogether a bit of a pickle.

A nice friend sometimes asks me to go over and help with typing for a ‘tapes for the blind’ charity, and I enjoy going but feel an awful fraud as I type so slowly and badly on a manual machine now that very little gets done in an afternoon. But he is always very grateful so I suppose I get down to it better than some of regular volunteers. A good thing to keep in with, as I may want the service any time myself- but I have read most of the books they can offer I think!

I am enjoying doing the library trolley once a week at the new general hospital…. we do our best and giggle a lot and lose our way frequently as it is a most confusing hospital. The corridors have little coloured men on the walls to guide you the right way. Gynae is pale green and where the trolley is kept there are 5 little men showing, so one goes on until it is only one little man disappearing into a door and that is the ward!

a strange direction system for the book trolley
follow the little men

Non-sequiturs

Actually X plans to work in NZ next summer. She has worked in Oz so can’t get another work permit for Australia so NZ is the place! Did you hear that Y’s [totally unrelated person to previous] husband committed suicide last New Year – a terrible time for them all.

It’s best to be there when they begin to hatch in the night to keep the crabs off the baby turtles. Mrs. X ailing, so I may not be here for my whole 2 years.

We are hopping

[from child] We used to have 2 rabbits but one ran away, and we are hopping [sic] to find her the one that ran away was named Thumper and the other is named Midnight. I better go know because I are going to help mummy tidy my room.

My favourite dinosaur is Apatasaurus. I got a sellotape for Christmas.

He had a career choice dilemma which he solved thus: ‘On one side I’ll be a fire engine driver and on the other I’ll be Father Christmas.’

I wish I was better at living alone and that people would stop telling me what fun it must be looking at Sainsbury’s! [Flat is in block opposite the store.]

Performance

Sleeping Beauty

I will be taking part in the ballet school production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Adults are guests at the christening and at the wedding… I will have to make my costume. Mine is to be hot pink… I am a bit reticent about telling people to come: when I’ve mentioned that I go to ballet lessons, some people always seem to think that I’m professional standard, yet when other people say they play tennis, these same people don’t seem to expect any Wimbledon champions. Annoying!

We enjoyed the play , although the school benches were a bit hard to sit on, especially for the first half. There was a nice notice on a blackboard, writ large, in the entrance hall. It said, ‘First half: 1 hour 15 minutes; Interval: 15 minutes; Second half: 50 minutes’ together with a large arrow pointing to ‘Toilets’.

I did a little bit of playing: the first in about 18 months. This time I was sensible. I didn’t try to play any of the pieces I used to, so that I wouldn’t get despondent… There was a Julian Bream recital here quite recently which was inspiration. He played a lot of modern pieces which mostly I hadn’t heard before but which I very much enjoyed.

Tonight I went out and gave my first public recital for our recorder group. I didn’t do too badly I suppose. We went to X, which used to be called ‘The Home for Incurables’. (What an awful name.) It is a centre for people who are physically disabled (through brain damage, MS and other things people pray they don’t get) and unable to care for themselves.

The other thing I enjoyed so much in Toronto, tho’ not at all cultural, was a marvellous production of ‘Show Boat’ which I had never seen – and I was so stunned by all the dancing, the pretty dresses and music as the curtain went up, I almost cried. It must be 30 years since I saw a spectacle like that. Maybe I am a moron, but a bit of clean, uncomplicated fun is rather rare these days. I see the show has opened to a smash hit in New York.