Jobs

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.

 

Celebrations

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!

 

Depression/unemployment

nearly cheeseless

Having this job has been good for my morale. I hate being unemployed – it makes me feel useless and frustrated about being unproductive. Over the last year or so I’ve felt varying degrees of that because of being unemployed. Having some really excellent friends has basically been the only thing between having ‘my bit of cheese fall off my cracker’ as I’ve heard someone euphemistically putting it and staying non-cheeseless.

 

You were right about X’s not-job. It must be pretty tough after all that time with one company. I do hope he gets something else before too long. Quite apart from the financial issues, I suspect an unemployed X would quite quickly become unbearable.

Both the photography and the lace making have made me much more positive lately. I know some people say it’s better to perfect something one already knows something about, but I think to do something new and different can have a very positive effect when one is feeling down and despondent.

I did get your letter. I even replied but did not send it. I was feeling like I was going to collapse into a heap. It was the stress from the work situation, physical exhaustion, stress through my housing dilemma, and a boss who thought I was invincible even though I was trying to tell him I was just about going gaga.

World War I & II

 I’m taking advantage of ANZAC holiday to catch up on a few letters. (The day on which we remember our ‘finest hour’ when thousands of NZ soldiers were killed on the hills of Gallipoli in the 1st War – we humans must have the brains of peas!)

brains of peas

X rang and [partner] talked with him – I was quite glad to miss him actually. He was a young Lieutenant when Y and I were in Algiers – i/c a ‘small boat’ and whilst waiting for the invasion of Sicily he and some 8 others helped collate the Operation Orders for some 2 weeks.

Yes, X was the Art Director there and… when he went to Woburn Abbey in the war I joined them as soon as I could get away. There were some 10 people from [the company] there, oddly. X must be getting on now, when I was 18 I thought him pretty aged!!

It’s always nice to have a good excuse to ring you. I was talking this morning about the miserableness of lack of communication for people overseas during the war – it would have been wonderful in those days if one had been given a ration of one call every three months, or something! It is quite a different sort of communication to hear a voice as against reading writing (let alone typescript – though that does mean more on the page).

He was for a time on the Queen Elizabeth at a time during the war when she was used carrying 15,000 troops at a time from USA to Britain, and about 1,200 sick or prisoners on the way back. She apparently did not usually have an escort, but relied on her speed (something like 36 knots flat-out, if I remember rightly). He told me of an occasion when she was to rendezvous off Milford Haven with two cruisers who would look after her. Before long there was a radio warning of submarines and an order to adopt ‘Zigzag R’ (which involved full speed). No sooner had she worked up to that than one of the cruisers flashed a plaintive message, ‘Wait for me’!

Time flies by

This year I have been prescribed my first set of reading glasses. I can read quite well without them, however at the end of the day I have to say the world did have very fuzzy edges. So, off I went, and was told that many people required glasses by middle age. How very cheerful. My eldest sister is 60 tomorrow. I have to say that the realisation of this made me pull up with a real jolt. I never thought it when she turned 50: even though I am somewhat younger, that didn’t sound anything like 60 sounds – sort of aged. So there, you have another 10 years of being young.

I am glad that you are doing new things.

new ventures

 

I have to say that as one gets older ones group of friends seems to dwindle, or you see them less often, or something. I too have felt the need to do something different and meet new people.

 

I must admit I also worry a little about how quickly the years seem to be going, the birthdays coming around much more quickly than they used to and the realisation that middle age is not so far off! However I always think of X who bought and started a sheep farm at the age of 50. She is in her mid-70s now, with the farm quite successful… How one avoids or copes with the bodily ills rather than those of the mind I don’t know.

…a year since we set off from Southampton. It is amazing that time can go so quickly. I keep thinking of what we were doing a year ago – getting up and having rolls on deck, having dinner with that dreadful man (remember the sardine appetiser?), charging up and down B deck.

I surprised everyone, and not least of all myself, by having a stroke in middle of June. At least I was sensible and was able to rest and recover lounging in the garden – I felt like the last of the Colonial Empire – laying back under the trees for hours on end. Don’t be shocked at being 50. I was 70 this year – whatever next!

X’s surviving brother, 89, came over from Spain in the summer and while here did two stints on television – one in ‘The Bill’ and one for a new series of ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench – great for his morale but stressful.

I thought I felt old when the children of friends started getting married, but it’s even worse when people my age announce that they’ve retired or are thinking of retiring. Where have the last fifty-two years gone to? X’s father died just two days after his eighty-seventh birthday. Although he’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, and his death was, in fact, a happy release from his torment, X and I were suddenly acutely aware of having moved up a generation, as it were. It’s not that we feel any older (or wiser!), just nearer to the other end of our lives.

 

Holiday treats

We had a lovely week in a fairly isolated bay in Corfu – looking over the sea and high on a hillside. Our main exercise was walking to the bay and taverna – up and down a 1 in 5 rough hillside. Glow worms twinkling when we staggered home in the evenings.

A couple of weeks ago I had a deep dive (40m) and saw many large barrel sponges, lots of whip coral and some red and purple sea cucumbers. … On the way back to shore, the pilot of the boat saw a whale shark under about 6m of water, so we got close then went in with mask, fins and snorkel and tried to swim with it. It was about 6m long (they said) which is small for a whale shark, but by lazily sweeping its huge tail from side to side it went too quick for me to keep up for long. It was great to see it.

We’ve been going swimming yesterday and will be going swimming at the park today when X’s woken up in a rain kind of thing, which wets people but not the people on the other equipment at the park. [!]

We did do some short ‘walks’ in the Drakensburgs. They are marked paths which supposedly anyone can do. One was a 4 hour walk, and it took us that long, virtually to the minute. However we didn’t realize that we would be doing some rock climbing on it, and probably wouldn’t have done it had we been warned. Once we’d got to the top of the ridge it was very windy, freezing cold, but with a superb view.

She is back after 10 weeks in the Solomon Islands. Her dreams of a tropical island paradise were rather shattered there: beautiful blue sea which she couldn’t swim in because of the coral and various sorts of sea creatures (hostile sorts), lovely white sand which turned out on closer inspection to be gritty pieces of coral only to be walked on with thick-soled sandals and a sun which doesn’t just burn, it frazzles.

There are a few celebrations now planned… The team are going on a boat trip up the Hawkesbury River. The boat is the last ‘mail boat’ in Australia and provides a mail service to people living on the Hawkesbury. I think it is more of a tourist attraction these days but it should be a really relaxing day.

Prague is wonderful – even considering we never saw any sunshine – cloudy and rainy and cold. … We ate at the local cafes – went to lots of music concerts in different churches 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. You can dash to two if you like – went to the theatre. Had 5 days in Prague and then went to a Baroque old town in the South. Sun came out … Bohemia was beautiful countryside and old country towns.

… such a nice letter from X this a.m. She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring. Given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic I’d rather fancy going with her.

whale watching

In April we went on a Caribbean cruise on the Norway which used to be the SS France when she was a Trans-Atlantic liner. It was a wonderful holiday with great weather and very relaxing. In September my friends came to visit and we had a lovely time including going whale watching in the Bay of Fundy – what a fantastic experience to see them so close up – the whales I mean!!!

We all keep on gardening

My B&B business is still thriving, nearly all the proceeds of which go into the upkeep of the garden. However hard I try to be abstemious, I always end up spending a fortune on seeds and plants each year, and then wondering why I have to spend so much time watering when the weather is hot and dry! … some things did extremely well, such as roses, peas, garlic, onions and autumn raspberries, while others failed quite spectacularly, in particular, summer raspberries, most tree fruit and broad beans. All my tomatoes and peppers were very late producing anything edible, due to the lack of sun in early summer, but there wasn’t a sign of the usual infestation of whitefly. There’s no pleasing gardeners, is there!

I had a lad who helped with the mowing for most of the summer. Very useful but he did it so badly that it nearly drove me to drink!

The ground is squelchy with wet after last night’s downpour and there won’t be very much more I can usefully do in the garden until it dries up a bit! The poor little seedlings do look bedraggled after it and I might earth them up a bit I suppose, but it seems rather fiddly and pointless to mess with them. Actually the slugs will finish them off in one more night if I leave them I expect – they have devoured a line of carrots, the first line of kale and sprouts and all the dwarf beans to date so there isn’t much hope I feel!

There is quite a large backyard which has an orange tree and some vegetables which I planted. However it mainly looks very run down as nothing has been done to it for years. I expect I will have to battle for several more years to rid it of noxious grasses which just take over if not kept constantly in check. Come autumn I will have planned it (I hope) and can plant some shrubs and ground cover which should improve it greatly. I have things in the front garden now – some cooking herbs, a climbing rose (to hide the iron fence), a white and ordinary coloured lavender, a rosemary bush, and two daisies both of which have a fungus and will have to be destroyed.

…if you’re against strong poisons on weeds and have only a small area, a drop of petrol will go down to the roots in no time, useful for between paving.

water creature

 

For my birthday in July everyone generously gave me money so I could put a water feature in the garden or, as X calls it, my water creature.

 

The garden has been lovely, always something new… I got quite a lot of strawberries last year, made lots of my strawberry syrup and bottled it. We shall use most of our homemade jams in the tearoom, muffins & jam etc. I may do marmalade and lemon curd for sale as one can make them any time. We have a good fig tree too, some citrus and mulberries besides plenty of pawpaws. We may do things like homemade bread & pate for lunches, and fruit salad. Youngberries and blackberries are growing well. Hazel nut trees have taken and one sweet chestnut tree, one blackcurrant (one small shoot survived the new gardener!) [Green with envy re this list!]

The weather here in Sydney is gradually getting warmer as spring turns into summer. The trees and shrubs are all in bloom so the City looks great. The Jacaranda trees have been stunning. I went on a garden excursion recently – to see some private gardens in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately it rained all day and it really rains hard here. Anyway we had to spend a lot more time on refreshments than viewing.

The varieties of potatoes have me intrigued. One of the ‘house’ type magazines I bought had a feature on potatoes: it was really quite an education. One rather intriguing one is Purple Congo which is quite small and dark purple. I t mashes quite well apparently, to a beautiful lavender shade reminiscent of a colour some elderly ladies used to like their blouses. A bit off-putting, so I haven’t tried it, even though the writer of the article did promise it was very tasty. I am not going to have any vegetables other than a few herbs in pots. I cannot get enough sun at the right time for them to grow properly. I don’t want to put them in the front, although many home gardeners of Mediterranean origin do. You see these beautifully staked beans and tomatoes in beds next to the roses, which may have garlic or onions growing under them. … I sort of run out of steam when planting the front, as I came to the foundations of the original house in just that strip where I could plant. So it was digging and prising small stones from between very much larger and heavier ones, and chipping off the sopping old mortar. I couldn’t get out the largest: they were just too heavy, apart from being at a depth of from just above my knees down. I would see people drive and walk slowly past me trying to peer inconspicuously to see what I was doing, knee-deep in my own front garden.