Outings 4

X suddenly decided on Saturday night that she was fed up with cooking, so we went over to the Old Flame on Sunday for lunch, which was very pleasant and not vastly more than it would have cost us to buy the food to eat at home, I suppose. (Well, only about five times as much.)

Eating out is expensive

Your trip on the canal took me back to our various trips on the Thames, but not on any 50 foot long, at least you didn’t sink your barge(?) as one of our party did a motor boat on the first day out! The biggest thing I’ve steered was a tank landing craft when we went for a fun ride in Suez Bay, when the Captain from the parent ship signalled ‘Wrens take the helm’! We did have a bit more space than you, though when a battleship came through the canal at the narrowest point by Navy House there were only a matter of feet either side of her – nasty.

He was describing how he and X and a friend had gone for a day’s tramp on a recent day off and of horrific adventures involved in finding a way out of the bush again, including walking down a stream up to their waist in water for quite a way – at the end of which he had had to be dropped off for a meeting, still in the same pants, because there wasn’t time to go home to change. It sounded to us just the sort of expedition which leads to these searches which continually happen in the summer, though X maintained that it was really quite safe. But it only takes a fall to break a leg or something which would put a different complexion on it. Our friend did just that. It took six burly men and a boat to get her back to the beginning of civilisation, plus an aeroplane, and she is still in plaster to her knee, with a cracked rib into the bargain from a fall when she got out of bed by herself, because it was her ‘good’ leg which she had broken.

We went after lunch to the pictures, and saw Forest Gump. It was rather a nonsense story in some ways, but in others was worth watching, and at any rate it didn’t have any bad language and no violence other than the Vietnam bits which the story justified. So we thought it worth watching.

A colleague and I had a lovely 2 days familiarising ourselves with the Shotover river which is just upstream of the project but still in the same catchment. We drove about 50 km up the river on the first day staying overnight in a tiny hut on a sheep farm. The farmer lives alone with his wife and 2 children who do their schooling by correspondence. Such a remote life must be quite hard on both parents and kids. On the second day we tramped up a couple of tributaries to look at various areas of engineering interest. The whole river has been extensively worked for gold since 1862. The various remains were fascinating. Apart from the tailings there were numerous pipes, buildings, ropeways and even a 10m high dam about 2 miles up a tiny tributary; the gold must have shone awful brightly!

I will leave you in peace at Easter to get straight as I shall still be recovering from the 17th I expect, both financially and in sheer exhaustion at the train journey and the crowds in London. Unfortunately I can’t change X from the 17th, as she is the holy one who knew the family, and Holy Week and Easter are her busy times of course as she is a deaconess or something (does it have 2 n’s in the middle?). In fact quite why I still know her I don’t understand, as there is only the tenuous link of school and her knowing the family, but she is a persistent old thing and I quite like meeting about once every two years.

We went to the village yesterday on the way here but were unlucky. The Rector and our neighbours were out, Mr. X – still the head teacher – was running school sports and Miss Y (ex organist) was having a nap on her couch from which we did not like to try too hard to wake her. So the only person we saw to talk to was Mrs. Z, who hadn’t changed a scrap and was still slightly frightening, as the whole family always were because one felt they were all so clever, erudite and artistic musically. It was a joy to see the little church again as beautifully kept as ever and especially nice because there had been a wedding and there were extra flowers.

My only visit to Browns Hotel was when my ex-boss cut a Directors meeting to take me to lunch (complete in uniform so a little conspicuous) only to find on looking round the rest of his ‘meeting’ lunching the other side of the room!! The next time he took me to lunch – post war – it was the Berkeley.

We went out to ‘see the seals’. We drove over to X and down that valley where we had the nice picnic by the little dam, and climbed those steep slopes. At the end the road runs along by the sea for a couple of miles and then comes to an end at a sheep farm. From there we had to walk about a mile and a half partly on grass and partly on shingle and over rocks to the place where they were all laid out sunning themselves, with others floating about on the waves as they came in. It seemed surprising that although the waves were three or four feet high and the rocks very sharp looking they seemed to be able to scramble ashore whenever they liked without any harm.

We went down to the Park to watch the extraordinarily assured young women (from about eight upwards) putting their ponies over the jumps. No one would think we have had a depression for years, judging by the array of horseboxes, rugs, Range Rovers etc., apart from the horseflesh – and well rounded rumps in stretch jodhpurs! But it was cold, in the southerly, standing to watch, so we did not stay long.

Then we went in search of Miss X – who is said to be 92, and is small but very much compos mentis. She lives in the house she was born in, which is vast, just for her. A corridor stretches away for about twenty yards from the front door with the same complicated plaster designs in the ceilings and two or three arches, which her father had apparently made when he first bought the house as a shell, and finished the interior himself. She said he was a plasterer by trade, and maybe he started that way but he must have done better for himself than that to afford this house. She keeps it spick and span with the bits out everywhere and she showed us it all: sitting, five bedrooms, dining room, kitchen and bathroom and a billiard room at the end of the passage. And on top of that she does her garden too which was full of dahlias and all sorts of flowers, slightly untidy but very fruitful – and she has a gardener once a month, whose main job I gathered was to remove her rubbish. We stayed an hour and hope we didn’t exhaust her too much.

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