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).

Nature 2

We went to a meeting at the little school. Coming out we saw a huge pale green moth, about 2 inches long, and we decided it would be kinder to put it outside instead of leaving it for the children to see the next day so a man threw it outside. As it touched the ground there was a terrific whrrrr and an owl swooped down and snatched it up without putting its undercarriage down even – we were all taken aback, it happened so quickly.

I decided I definitely don’t want to live in Australia where the scenery seems to be liberally sprinkled with poisonous spiders, snakes, scorpions etc. – not to mention the flies which were revolting in their quantity and persistence.

Dawn chorus hater

I was really pleased I am not the only one who can’t abide the dawn chorus, people look quite shocked if I say so – not nice, dear! No fear of being woken by that at present, we sleep till nearly 8 quite often these days, and it’s starting to get dark at 4.15 p.m., must be the shortest day soon, tho’ I fear real winter doesn’t start until June.

I never realised before I came here just what a beautiful place Vancouver is: it’s like a miniature San Francisco, with miles of beaches, mountains behind the city, woods and forests, and an enormous park in the middle of the city. The weather has been glorious: real autumn. Sun, clear blue sky, clear air, misty blue sea and mountains. But it’s the colours of the trees that really get me: yellow, browning, crimson, green conifers, every colour you can imagine, all kaleidoscopic.

Too sad – both stands of trees which the rosellas nested in have come down and the white faced herons’ ones too – don’t know where they’ve moved to.

I have been in this paradise for a month now. And paradise it surely must be. Postcards simply can’t do the scenes justice. X and I moved into a house yesterday and I’m sitting on the Chesterfield (settee to you, mah dearh!) looking out of the picture window at an unimaginable sight: vast grey/black mountains, snowcapped, piercing the bluest of blue skies, emerging from velvet green pine trees. It’s just superb.

Nuisances of life 5

Yesterday we planned an expensive but pleasant way of celebrating. We intended to meet them for a smorgasbord lunch. In the event the car burst a front wheel bearing on the way to the early service which complicated the arrangements somewhat…. The car sounds expensive – I rang today and the bearing had got hot enough to weld itself onto the stub axle so that will probably have to be replaced as well and they didn’t know where they were going to get a spare. The second misfortune was after service when I went first to the garage in the village – who couldn’t help – tripped over a 1 ft high concrete retaining wall and fell flat into a muddy patch catching my right leg a real whack just below the knee against the concrete. As the third thing I lost my Parker biro! I know I used it to write a cheque after lunch and can’t imagine where it went after that. Maddening. Otherwise, the day went well!

One recent symptom we could do without we have noticed several times in the watches of the night, and that is an intermittent gnawing sound in the wall just behind out beds! Since that part of the house is on a solid foundation it is very difficult to see how any rodent could get there, without working its way along from under the hall floor which would be about 10 or 12 feet with an upright bit of 4×3 to get past every 18 inches. It is both mysterious and trying! I only hope that when it gets to the leads to the bedside lights it doesn’t take a fancy to the taste of plastic insulation, and short the wires! I’ve tried setting a trap under the house – on the far side which is the only part I can get at – and have caught one mouse, but fear that this may be bigger game.

We’ve had a big dandelion blitz and X has scarified it (isn’t that a lovely word) and resown it – but how much will come up is anyone’s guess as the birds arrive in flocks and the only person/bird to fall over the black cotton X put across is me!

Trip hazard

No, I don’t think the boys had been boozing – was another car coming round the corner that got them. X says they were on the right side of the road. Anyway the whole of one side of the new car is being replaced – I can’t believe it will ever be the same.

Politics 3

Merely to have a parcel with over £6 in stamps on it is a thrill – or else a cause for bemoaning what the £ has come down to. (The whole news of Britain’s economic state refills me with gloom every time I open a Guardian. Mrs. T appears to be as dictatorial and as wrong-headed as our miserable man.)

Big marches and demonstrations yesterday for Hiroshima day – especially as we have a USA nuclear cruiser on a visit at present, which many people object to. I decided to spend a couple of hours writing a letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs instead of marching. He assumes that we all want a treaty with USA under which we can be defended with nuclear missiles – and that those who suggest that the USA might stop making the things and even dismantle a few hundred to show willing to the Russians are a sort of unilateralist lunatic fringe. It irritates me when politicians misrepresent what dissenters to their policies say in order to dismiss them without really thinking out an answer! But I wrote a nice polite letter, on the whole.

We have found the Korean airliner business distressing – not least because American protests seem to protest too much – and gradually bits of news leak out to show that maybe there is more in the Russian spy-plane argument than meets the eye e.g. a genuine confusion of 2 planes and even perhaps a deliberate use by an American recce plane of the Korean plane to hide itself and get away. In the war the bombers used to drop metal strips which were called ‘Window’ to confuse enemy radar and it would be interesting to know what the latest developments on hiding in the sky were. Meanwhile the Cruise talks are held up, and that is the worst aspect of the situation.

I wrote a week ago to the Minister for Energy who is a rather brash young man complaining because the Government has appointed a ‘Commission for the Future’ which is trying to get people to discus what sort of a country they would like to have, and before they can get any results he is selling the pass by entering into enormous contracts with firms overseas to build a second smelter for aluminium, and various other large industrial plants.

They opened the new Town Hall about ten days ago and one of the ceremonies was to get Ted Heath across the world to give the first major speech. They broadcast it on TV so perhaps it didn’t matter so much that they only filled about a third of the seats for the occasion. We thought he was brilliant. Spoke for an hour, to the minute, without a note in front of him and was really interesting about recent history such as the Marshall plan, the first Bretton Woods and so on – but the relevant thing about it was his plea for moderation and a continued readiness to negotiate .

[and to show you can’t please all of the folk all of the time]

I was v. surprised old Wilson got back in – tho’ Edward Heath is enough to put anyone off the Conservatives – I don’t envy anyone in power at present.

Purchases 2

Have I written since buying a little pull out leaf oak table and 4 chairs from an Indian? That and the divan, big chest of drawers and a 5′ x 2′ 6″ desk doesn’t leave room to do more than a little deep breathing but it’s cosy and looks over to the mountain (pity about the houses in between!)

Not much space

The latest bout of modelling I was ticked off for cos my shoes were ‘shoddy’ so that was a good excuse to blow $30, which I haven’t got, in a sale to get some new ones (in absolutely stupid colour all due to good salesmanship, so now I’ll have to dye them!)

Unfortunately the lovely lolly is all gone, nearly all of it on the washing machine. But on the other hand it’s saved us getting a loan at some exorbitant interest to pay for one.

We went on the smaller boat and sat in the open in the front and took a picnic – fortunately, as those who ordered one for $5 weren’t all served. When we booked the man at the desk said tellingly, ‘You can buy a lot for $5 though’!

I also spent my Christmas money, at last, and added a birthday cheque to it and bought a pale jade ring set in silver. I had been going to buy a Spong Slicer and a Shredder, but luckily they couldn’t get hold of one for me! I’ve also bought something else – sssh – it’s the Japanese version of Bernina called Globe, it’s fully guaranteed by Bernina for 25 years and has a selection of 14 decorative and useful stitches, and other features, like automatic buttonhole and non-adjust tension, certainly enough for my needs, and as it costs less than half the equal Bernina, I decided I couldn’t go wrong. I’ve afforded it by lots of complicated rationalisations, but nevertheless my motto for the rest of the year is: Money doesn’t grow on sprees.

I decided not to put some money into the firm in X which is making an electric car. [Very forward thinking company in 1980!] I think it’s a very good idea, but even if I went down to look round I doubt whether I should discover whether the ground floor I thought I was getting in on was solid, or poised perilously above a cellar of bankruptcy. So instead it is for help with education of the grandchildren.

The last two weeks have been traumatic with carpet hunting. Eventually I avoided having the two cheaper practical ones and settled for something we both liked in green – I’m still recovering from the shock!

I went mad yesterday and dashed up to X at 8.30 a.m. to get a ‘special ’ in flowery sheets – less than half for doubles. I’ve cut 20 inches off the side to make pillow cases – they are madly psychedelic and in all the wrong colours – oh dear!

I bought rather foolishly on the spur of the moment a camel hair skirt this week – reduced to $8 from $18 – but it makes me look even larger than I am.

Stocking the larder/ self-sufficiency 2

Coming home on Tuesday we hit a hare. X was reluctant to turn the car and collect it but in fact it was quite whole and will feed the dog for a week. I was quite sorry we weren’t going to have it – it looked so good.

Well there’s never a dull moment here. I’d just finished helping X drench the sheep when a call came from a name I didn’t recognise saying, ‘I’ve got the ram on the front seat of the landrover, but don’t know what to do with the children’. Then the penny dropped, it was the woman who said she’d lend us her ram! Anyway I said to hold everything and X would go down. He brought the children and she drove with the ram seated beside her licking her face!! A huge animal, but she assures us he’s very sweet and friendly, not like her other white ram who is twice the size!

The white ram’s arrival

A young couple we met a while ago came to say goodbye before leaving for the UK and brought us a 2 1/2 lb trout – frozen solid with all its innards in. I’ve kept ignoring it till X told us last weekend he’d dealt with one they’d had – stuffed and baked it – so not to be outdone I attacked ours today – complete with veal stuffing, broad beans and sauce. It was delicious – we only ate half of it, but felt that was too much, especially followed by plum crumble and cream.

Have deep froze case plums – hands delicate shade of dark purple.

We, with variable assistance from the kids, put in a couple of hours each morning on making a path, with a zigzag in it, down the hill from the gate out of the orchard. Partly to make it easier to go up and down that side without twisting ones ankle, and partly to gather together as many of the big stones as possible and (when I have had time to level out their holes and drop a bit of grass seed) to improve the field. We made a steady gradient with a wall of stones, filled in with others, and earth which I had spare behind the garage as a result of my drainage activities, and I have since sowed it. Apart from that major work there were a few other exercises such as moving my water-collecting bucket up to the top waterfall where it is possible to collect a better flow in dry times. Of course no sooner had we done that than we had a night’s rain, with the river up to the level of your fordings, and the creek roaring. I went up the next day to check it, and found the tank half empty and nothing coming in, so feared the worse. However, everything was still in place, and it turned out in the end to be another of the freshwater crayfish stuck in the entrance to the pipe from the bucket. They seem to regard that as a particularly secure and convenient sort of cave to make a home in. I’ve got an extra piece of gauze lining the bucket now, in the hope of confounding their house hunting.

Now I have bought a spinning wheel! – at least, a kitset which I put together a couple of days ago. Another first was making brawn. X bought a whole pig – half fresh and half to be pickled, hammed, baconed. She rejected the head! but when I was working out what the effective cost was it seemed we were throwing away about $10! So I got the half that hadn’t gone to be cured and tackled it with the aid of Mrs Beeton. We put one of the trotters in too, and got a nice stiff brawn, enough for three meals! And lots of stock as well. I could have had lard as well, but by that time I had had enough so the fat went in the rubbish bag!

We have six lambs alive, having lost three either at birth or within 48 hours. I think we chose badly as regards the (white) ram we borrowed as several of the ewes had trouble. Of the six we have one black, three white, and two if not khaki at least piebald. They are twins, one with an even more speckly face than its mother, and the other black with white ears and a white stripe down its backbone. When they lie among the rocks in the river field they are so well camouflaged even their mother has trouble in finding them!

We got rid of the ram this last week (hence moving the lambs back to join the others yesterday). I had arranged to sell it for its owner to the man down the road and he came to help catch it one afternoon. We spent about 40 minutes trying to pen the flock and they kept breaking away but eventually I got near enough the ram when it was only moving slowly to throw myself on it and knock it off balance and land nice and softly on its middle! After which we hauled it ignominiously, 2 legs each, to the trailer. In full view of all those ewes too!

The other unsettling factor, just at the moment, is having the sheep in the drive! Not only do you have to open and shut two gates every time you take the car out, which can be a great nuisance especially in the showery weather we have been having but also they make such a mess of the place and it is almost impossible to walk down for the letters, and back, without bringing defecatory mementos back on ones shoes. However, they are getting on nicely with eating it down, and another two days or so should see the end of that worry for the next three months.

The local Lions were demolishing a house and selling the bits yesterday and as I couldn’t go I made a bid for the old garage shed – reckoning I could get a hen-house out of it cheaply. They promised to do what they could and when I went out this morning I found a splendid pile of 4″x2″ (full of nails of course) and also two large sheets of glass in rather shaky frames about 4′ square each which will make an admirable cold frame for starting seeds off. I reckon the new cost of all this would be about $250, so I’ve not done badly for my $25 bid!

Have wasted a good deal of time worrying about our largest sheep, which after several false alarms during the week at last showed real signs of giving birth. She obviously has twins, and did after an hour manage to produce the first – which has taken after its father, being white in spite of her blackness. The second hasn’t arrived yet but she has broken off cleaning up operations on No. 1 several times, to paw the ground and fling herself down (luckily not with such abandon as to land on No. 1), so I hope that by the time we have finished lunch she will have achieved it. Talk about continuing drama – X reported that one leg of the second lamb had appeared, and after consulting my neighbour I managed to catch her, and X shoved it back again – the second one presenting backwards, it seems, as she couldn’t find any signs of a head, or even of the other leg so next door has promised to come over in an hour or so. He came over and managed to get the second lamb out – alive too. Promptly plonked it down on mother’s face to give her a taste for it. We left all three in the pen, and she seems to have accepted it and be cleaning it up. [Writer had farming experience as a youngster but X was a city dweller so showing a maternal interest in babies of all kinds! The neighbour luckily was a pro!]

The neighbour had some scruffy lambs of a friend in one of our paddocks, and a lot of them just couldn’t feed their lambs, so the owner ended up with 10 lambs by his fire being hand fed: he’d have done better to have found out a little more about them before he bought the ewes. We were given a shoulder of wild pork this week, it was delicious, and a dozen farm eggs – all very neighbourly and swappish.

I’ve got my surviving second-hand window fixed up as a cold frame and have a couple of seed boxes under it but otherwise things have been pretty held up in the veg garden by the wet. The only things that have actually been growing have been a couple of rows of greens and a row of beans (the broad variety). Those are now flowering – but are only a foot high where they should be five feet – so something is wrong there. And the greens have been progressively eaten down to bare stalks – I think by a pair of hares I’ve seen in the fields a couple of times! But my trees seem to have taken root. And we have a plum tree in full blossom – but no bees about. I can see that’s going to be the next venture after I’ve got chickens under way. Meanwhile there’s more fencing, and drains and repairs to the drive and wood cutting to keep me busy.

A large lorry turned up with a man who got out and said, ‘I’m a beekeeper. I’m looking for places to put some hives.’ So we walked around and he chose a place in our field opposite the house, for which he offered us ‘a taste of honey’. He brought ten hives on Saturday, and presented us with two pots of honey on the spot by way of a down payment which I thought was nice. It’s very good too and strikes us as an extremely painless way of getting a free supply, as long as the jolly insects don’t swarm all over the house. 9 hives = about 1/2 a million bees I think! He assured me that this doesn’t happen, with good management!

I got a large and expensive bag of sheepnuts – which is the essential factor in my plan for penning my sheep in future, without a dog, and without taking the fence to the sheep as before. Yesterday I knocked up the necessary wooden trough, put out some of the nuts and watched anxiously. They grazed all round the thing, but never touched it! However today at least three of them had a go, and all the nuts were gone, so tomorrow morning I will put out a new supply and beat on the fence at the same time, which I hope they will come to associate with the availability of a titbit, if only I go on long enough. I have only a week to get them trained to come gambolling and not notice me putting the pen round while they eat, as that is when their next drenching is due. I fear that is too hopeful, but we shall see.

I had to get the vet one day last week to one of the ewes whose feet I have tried in vain to cure. What with the vet (whose charge slightly exceeded the value of the sheep, I reckon) and then the sheepnuts they are chomping through daily, I need a good lambing percentage or I shall be very out of pocket.

Things children say 3

He’d been to a rather surprising sculpture display at the art gallery and when he got back to school he was asked to draw whatever he liked best at the art gallery. ‘So,’ he said, ‘I drew me’!

How are you? I have just learnt how to do writing. Mummy hos boughty me two Guitir bookS. and I am up to exercise 20. I am also Working on the Cherry Song. love from X   P.S. and at School we are working on a 100-years ago

A few week’s ago my class & school Had a bomb-scare, it was very scary. The dog’s came but They could not find the bomb. 10 minutes later the same man rang up St. X. In both school’s there was no bomb.

‘Mummy – I don’t understand’ / ‘What don’t you understand?’ / ‘Me’. As X says most profound for a 2 year old!

X and Y had apparently got into a mix-up the day before – X says that he was trying to get one of the paints out of his paint tray for Y and the tray slipped – but whatever it was, their mother answered the howls and discovered Y pouring with yet more of his frequently letted blood. I suspect X’s account of the incident may not have been exactly the whole truth and nothing but as he is being very possessive at present about anything he wants to play with.

X talks with a slight lisp which is fun at present, and he hasn’t started showing off yet, and chats away to himself about the oddest things. I asked him where his trousers were and was told ‘they gone shopping’.

School is being a great success. He endeared himself to his teacher on his first morning by walking in and saying, ‘You knew I was coming, why didn’t you put my name on my peg so I could hang my coat up?’ Little darling!

[A unit on safety in school] We also had the kids wandering round with ‘dangerous objects’ for a display – one easy way to have an accident I’d have thought! One boy brought a hand grenade which he swore was live. I have my doubts myself!

[Birthday request] A pad of drawing paper ‘white like my shirt on both sides. This intrigued me and his mother thought it very funny as he obviously felt fobbed off with some he’d been given to scribble on with print on the back, and obviously newsprint was not wanted!!

I got her to read road signs – 2 classics we had: ‘falling debts’ instead of ‘Falling Debris’, and ‘Wondering stock’ instead of ‘Wandering stock’.

[child of 2y] ‘Oh daddy you’ve spilt your puddy. Naughty daddy. I won’t spank you this time, but if you ever do it again I’ll be very cross.’

Older child had been speaking about her school project on gnomes. When she had finished the younger one proceeded to say something like, ‘The Catholic church is telling the members to go back to eating no meat on Fridays.’ Older one looked puzzled and said, ‘But there aren’t any gnomes alive today are there?’ Dad said, ‘No, why do you ask?’ Reply, ‘Then how can Catholics eat gnome meat on Fridays?’!!!

Gnome meat