We had a very pleasant little party for 30 ‘close relatives’ to meet – spoilt by the boyfriend of one bridesmaid who spent the next 24 hours with his arm round the girl and had nothing to offer the party – he was the gate-crasher of all time!

We’re having a Pimps and Prostitutes party. I’ve made a horrible pair of shorts for it: in red shower-proof very shiny material with a black zip and black lace up the sides, to be worn with no panties, tights and black boots and a black blouse tucked into bra straps and a packet of cottonwool in the bra to provide a cleavage! I tried them on the other day and the effect on X was stunning – I hope I’ll be safe!!!

On Saturday we had a really good party at our place – a Christian Passover feast. We didn’t start till 11 p.m. when I got home from the Revue but X had prepared all sorts of Jewish dishes and we had a service and then the food. We had 4 guests. Then at 2.30 we went for a walk in the botanical garden. Lovely.

They entertain madly, which they both enjoy, and I’m glad they seemed to have acquired a lot of musical friends, who are very easy to amuse as they do it themselves!

I don’t think I’ve written since the ball – it was a great success. Everyone dressed up in fantastic costumes and had a fabulous time – one chap dressed as a traffic cop and, I gather, had a wonderful time on the way there and home telling drivers what to do. He ticked off a taxi for double parking, asked 2 people coming out of the pub if they were planning on driving home and actually stopped one couple and asked to see their licences! I bet he enjoyed it.

We had our pre-Christmas-break dinner for our Thursday group – an admirable contributed meal, to which my appointed share was only a green salad (which is of course the one thing we never eat!) However I have now got half the French dressing which I concocted from half the spice jars and bottles in our cupboard left over in the frig so some time I shall have to buy another lettuce, to use it up. I made two bowls full and it all went so I suppose it got a pass mark.

salad dressing

The Xs came to dinner and bridge – we don’t work on the same channel and he and I usually clash as we have quite different ideas about what’s funny. But they play bridge much like us and it was pleasant.

At our dinner party after a detailed discussion at dinner on birth control (X had just come back from a vast conference in the Philippines of it – he was asked to go by the Government and report to them – they’ve evidently had incredible results – all by blackmail and bribery – $50 if you’re sterilised after third sort of thing!!) and of course from there to abortion – at one point she apologised for him and asked if I’d like her to change the conversation!!! – we then got onto what sculpture was going on the front of the new cathedral.

We had a ‘rags to riches’ ball at the college about a week ago. It went really well. It was a do it yourself affair; bring your own grog and a plate and a home-grown band. By way of fancy dress I went in my dinner jacket and bowtie etc on my top half and shorts and holey socks below – it didn’t feel proper at all!

I laughed and laughed at your journey home from the party – obviously the sooner one of you moves the better – I always feel so let down when people aren’t as nice as I thought they were. It’s just as well it wasn’t his shoe I upset the wine in!

We have a strange party in prospect next month – re an elderly Methodist lady. She has been a widow for some years, and last year had a most unfortunate second venture into matrimony. I don’t know what happened, but it lasted only a month or so. Now she is to try once more! – with another elderly Methodist whom they knew in their first marriages.

She came too as we had our wedding-present dinner to X and her new Y. I was so glad that we did it in one of the houses we go to, instead of spending $30 each going to to the pub in the village or somewhere. As it was we had a most splendid meal and could move around to talk more easily. It was a pity that Z was ‘cantankerous’.

Hobbies 7

Did you know I’d taken up potting fairly seriously? I’m about to embark on buying a wheel. I sold $20 worth of bits at a recent country fair, so I’m getting all inspired to make my fortune!

I had a good time at bridge. I was playing with X (who was our President at the time we were building our rooms, and I was secretary-treasurer). She is much better than me, but I managed to stay awake, and not make too many mistakes in the calling, hopefully. Anyway she congratulated me (with a little too much surprise in her voice to be entirely complimentary) on playing one or two hands brilliantly, so that was all right.

I rashly and regrettably put my name down to do a mask making course, so this Saturday and Sunday was taken up with the first half of that. What a messy do it is – I didn’t enjoy having Vaseline all over my face, then have bits of plaster they use on arm setting etc. stuck all over my face, 4 pieces thick, and the subsequent steps.   We continue next weekend and paint and model on our mask taking one of the moods of his characters in the play. [Otherwise described as] For our mask making we put masses of glycerine all over our faces then stuck 2”x2” patches of gauze all over our faces, then the glue and more gauze and let it dry. Mine was far too wet and had to be dried with a hair dryer before it could be lifted off. One of the men has written a play for about 5 or 6 people and all the masks they use through life, and is hoping we will produce ones he can use, on a stick I suppose, to follow it through. I hope it all comes to something – it’s booked to be shown at several different places later in the year.

Mask making

I’ve joined X’s adult drama group – we went this week – only about 8 of us and great fun. He reduced us all to one level by making us hop round holding one foot and pushing imaginary things about, then gave us speeches, poems etc. to read on a stage complete with mike and recorder – rather good agony as everyone was asked to criticise afterwards. He most amicably chopped us all down to size and I wish I’d ‘had a go’ half a century back!

I am sending this in an envelope so as to enclose three of the pictures which I managed to take at X’s. I managed to make these last week before we went away, by putting one of the camp tables up in my shower, and propping the enlarger on top of the loo – not very comfortable but my darkroom has really worked its way to the top of my list of jobs now, apart of course from the spring work in the garden which is just beginning, and preparation for three meetings of various sorts and a two day conference all of which are due to take place in the next fortnight!

I don’t think I told you I’d knitted a long cardigan for myself on my machine. Apart from the fact it took some 2 weeks with several undoings, not one and a half hours the women in the advertisements say so gaily, and it doesn’t match a think I’ve got, I suppose it’s a success!

My table in the sitting room is covered with all the papers re my father’s forebears, then my ironing is at the ready and the latest Gibbons stamp catalogue has come from the library and so I’m catching up on sticking in the ones I’ve got but didn’t before know the date of issue – and then… my playroom is covered with bits of polystyrene and models galore – rejoice with me – I’ve got the commission!

We got home 6.15 – ate and got to bridge at 7.15. Even X joined me in a whiskey – we must do it again – first I put him into 6 no trumps which shook him – and he made it – he then put me into 7 diamonds which as he’d given our opponents a quite wrong meaning to my initial call – shook me even more. However everything opened and shut and I made it, and we made another small slam we hadn’t called!!

Health 2

I wonder if a homeopath Dr. would help if t’other can’t – I was put off in Toronto when I went to one with swollen glands and recurring throats and he asked if I found it difficult to keep my feet covered in bed as I was tall! Mad I thought then but really v. sensible.

It doesn’t sound as tho’ your sinus trouble has really cleared up. I went to a German? Dutch specialist and he drilled a hole through the top of one (inside!) of my nostril through to the sinus. I think I found it a relief at the time, but it was about as bad as having miles of stuff put up your nose!

Our electric blow fire finishes me and we seldom use it now – it stirs up all the dust and blows it at you and dries up the air at the same time most cleverly.

I’ve got my hearing aid – X’s altered as he’d used it no more than 3 times. I can’t think why they didn’t cut all the hairs out of his ear, it must have been impossible to put in. I find it very easy and don’t notice it, and have nearly forgotten to take it out before getting in the bath, which is the one thing that kills it. I don’t really want it but I do have the TV louder than other people like to have it.

The dr. found an unexplained ‘black spot’ on his retina. He told me he’d never seen anything like it before. As a matter of course X commented that he did often think he saw mist coming out of that eye and sometimes when he looked at the board at school he’d see a word, and when he looked again it had ‘changed’.

The mist…

The medical was to check on some swelling in an unmentionable place which our doctor here had thought might be worth having minor surgery for. However the surgeon assured me that as these things go mine had not gone very far and it’s all quite benign – so we decided to let it be for the present.

Unfortunately I got into such a stew about coming in here, getting the kids looked after, etc. I ate back all the weight (+some) that I lost whilst I was ill. Much as I hate to admit it, I think Weight Watchers is the only way for me to go. I just read an article on tension and I seemed to have 3/4 of the symptoms to a greater or lesser degree – so maybe a change to a new outlook on life would be a good thing as ‘1066 and all that’ would say. But how does one change a whole outlook on life? Start by losing weight I suppose!

The Registrar when he had finished his examination started off by saying, ‘Well, I’m glad to say you have nothing untoward growing there’ or words to that effect. I had of course wondered so it was cheering news that he thought it was just old age!

I got a stinker of a cold in the head which lasted most of the week and turned into a loose cough, rather of the graveyard variety, which I still have with me though I am hopefully on the mend.

I’ve had a stiff shoulder: after a time I went X’s doctor who ‘manipulates’ on the side – but he said it was just a strained muscle and gave me a week’s course of pills which he warned me might upset my digestion. They did nothing for the shoulder but were most effective in their side effects which started as they were finished and so far remain in full flight. I shall now have to go back to my own doctor and see if he can give me something for my middle which doesn’t cause any more joints to seize up!

Adult learning 3

We also asked X what good it was doing for mankind to know about these extraordinary birds which use compost to keep their eggs warm. And there doesn’t seem to be any answer, except ‘It looks good in one’s CV’!

And I suppose it teaches her something about scientific method, which is probably good for her and could be applied later in life to some really useful research.

Compost warms eggs

X phoned the other night to see if we’ll be seeing them over Easter for long enough for her to do one of her psych. tests on them – last time she did this she sat on the stairs outside their bedroom and heard them planning awful things and didn’t tell the fond parents. They weren’t amused!

I must do a little practice on my bass recorder as we have a new player with us who plays a flute and is much better than we are, in that he plays at sight everything we have laboured on for years without getting much better! Still, very good for me to have some incentive to practise, I know quite well it is lack of practice which is why I never get any better, but don’t manage all the same to do it!

The Professor is rather dry but with an obvious interest in the subject and the odd ray of humour: ‘Now to come to another aspect of English; I’m going to write an obscene word on the board. Er… just give me a few minutes to think of one.’!

If you need to put any stamps on letters to us and the Stephenson rocket ones are still about, could you use those? They tell us scrounging is the first thing to learn as a teacher!

This is a new sort of letter which I hope in a moment to illustrate – not done with my word-processing program but with another called ‘gem’ which includes a facility for ‘painting’. One of the problems is that it shows no margins and does not seem to wrap around like the W.P. And another is that I can’t see how to go backwards except with the mouse, which is not very accurate.

No news here re X yet either – he has another gruelling weekend with umpteen interviews – he was told unofficially at 11 p.m. that the ‘assessors felt v. positive about the application’ – I s’pose it could be positively NO but he didn’t take it thus – I fear he’s going to be very hurt if turned down.

I spent two days making a spread sheet on the computer summarising my expenditure for the last two tax years: only to find yesterday evening when I turned it on again to add a bit that the first year has disappeared altogether. It’s maddening: but at least I have one copy printed out to prove that I did do it once! I don’t know why it happens, but think it is something to do with being given the choice, when you start to save the programme [sic] between making a back-up and ‘Over-writing’ which the book says ‘Use with caution’ without explaining why. Or it might be because I thought to save time by making a copy of the first programme and then deleting all the figures to leave the description of what I had spent them on, and then renaming that with a new file name, and filling in year 2’s figures. Perhaps I forgot actually to copy Programme 1 when I had loaded it, so that it was the working copy which I deleted. Anyway it was very annoying, and undermining to my self-confidence!

After death/news of death 4

Yes, I do feel X is around – specially some days when I need a bit of help, and send up a cry – it always seems to work, but I feel a bit mean asking for him to RIP one minute and then calling him back! I do keep reminding myself to tell X that and even look across the room to his chair to remark on something.

Isn’t it sad: the old dear who had the Gallery in her house at X has died of a stroke – lovely for her to have had the pleasure of its success tho.

I heard from X that she has taken her sister-in-law’s death very badly – rather surprisingly, as she always disliked her – but evidently she hadn’t reckoned on outliving anyone – she’s been so ill for so long. It’s incredible she had her first cancer op. some 40 years ago – Poor dear, evidently she has this ??decalcifying business with her spine now and is v. bent.

Thank you for your letter, the day you heard of X’s death. Poor Y will feel very lost I expect, even though she wasn’t the world’s best and busiest about the house, from what I ever saw.

Dear X managed to escape her problems last week, and the funeral was on Friday, with the church nearly full of people.

My neighbour with her husband with awful effects from a stroke – must be 5 years ago now – remarked how much I got out and I felt quite guilty but I remember you telling me not to keep refusing invitations or people would stop asking me.

There were two funerals – yesterday was X who was wife of our former Archdeacon, now retired, most notable for her laugh which was capable of felling pine trees, or turning over double decker buses. She was 93. She used say recently, if you asked after her health, ‘Dying slowly’. She was a very loud lady indeed, but a heart of gold and undoubtedly did a great deal of good to judge at least by her funeral which must have had about five hundred people at it, and lasted an hour and three quarters. She had three parsons taking the service, and three eulogies.

Felling pine trees

I was able to explain to him the changes in our Wills which we made recently, and tell him about the arrangement we have made with the local undertaker, whereby we have paid in advance for whichever of us dies first, including money to buy you a return ticket to come out for the funeral, assuming you would like to, and can organise it. Not that we either of us have any reason to suppose we are about to decline in health, but we feel it is desirable to have arrangements in place at our age.

Sad news first, I had a cable saying X died on Wednesday 29th. I’m glad for her but it’s a wrench thinking I’m the only one of my family left, no one to say ‘do you remember’ to.

We went to her funeral yesterday morning. That was almost entirely non-religious, though there was a prayer said at the beginning by one of the family, after which it was just a series of people reminiscing about her for about half an hour, after which they carried out the coffin to an Irish jig on a fiddle. Singularly unfitting I thought, and rather depressing without any commendation or anything to round it off.

The garden at X (of happy memory) sounded delightful, and especially the owner ‘finding herself’ a widow.

And daily I expect to hear X has died, the last letter from her daughter said her condition was deteriorating and she spent all her time in bed now. I’ve since had a very shaky letter from her, you never know with X. She has such fantastic stamina if she’s set her heart to still be with them for Xmas she jolly well will be.

Art 3

Lovely new Ex. opened at the gallery yesterday. Huge oils all abstracts super colours. 10 years ago I would have fallen for one – 10 years ago – but getting rid of things is the order of the day.

Thank you so much for sending the stuff on Mary Fedden – and also interesting on Julian Trevelyan who had some work in Charing Cross hospital I remember. I shall take the pieces over to show my father, who knew them and used to go to open day parties at Durham Wharf.

We went to the Academy (David and the ‘Prisoners’) this morning, and then on to the Pitti Palace across the river. There we were both sure that there is the original of one of our two old portraits in the gold frames (which themselves seemed very Florentine). It was a self-portrait by a Venetian around 1700 called Nicolo Cassana.

We went up to X on Saturday for the opening of the exhibition. We got there with 15 minutes to spare to find the others all waiting outside though the place was open. In due course we trooped in, and found that the gallery owners had hung the pictures very well – they had managed to make them good neighbours, even when the styles were quite different! But nobody came to see which was sad! In the whole afternoon we had five visitors, and only two of those were people we knew before. The others came to see some pictures by an artist which occupied the rest of the gallery.

What a traumatic time you had getting your exhibition launched!! But it was nice to sell two big ones the first two days. Nice of X to go twice and take someone else too. I call that real support.

The art gallery was half occupied with an exhibition of ‘works’ made of bits of old motor cars, or a pair of pantyhose stretched from a cushion to two points on the walls, and so on. Some of the exhibits were quite cleverly adapted, but on the whole it was a bit way out for me. Upstairs they had some pictures from a university collection and these were nearly all abstracts, of the most abstract sort: six feet by four of brown paint with a single line running from top to bottom 2 ft 6 and a half from the left hand edge – that sort of thing.

The way-out exhibit

They had a new show opening in their Gallery. These were pictures by a woman who we had not heard of before, and not very prepossessing, but she did lovely watercolours, mostly scenery, some flowers – but much too pricey to think of buying.

There’s a lovely little bits and pieces shop opened beside the petrol station. I went in to look round and fell for a fascinating bracelet which I found was made of nails used to shoe horses. I asked if they were interested in miniatures and one of the women glowed and said she was anyway as she had a photograph of her daughter in her wedding dress she’d like to have painted (sounds hell). I think I’ll ask them over for a drink on the way home then they can see the worst before committing themselves.

I did a pastel portrait of the newly married wife of an old acquaintance last week.  He’s asked me so often it was becoming an embarrassment – she’s 65-70ish and has already buried two husbands – she’s gaunt but has very good bones and a delightful expression. I haven’t done her justice – he insisted she wore a suede pull-on hat which didn’t help at all. I must get it out of the house ASAP before I wreck it poking it every time I go past.

X seems to be getting into New Age stuff!…  She was also fascinated with some ‘art’ by a woman with very heavy ‘magical’ overtones and strange things happened to people who bought it.

This was a selection of enormous pictures all abstract, of named bits of X, which one could not recognise and all filled with strange eyes. I could find absolutely no merit in any of them.

We went to see ‘the Queen’s Pictures’. They certainly were a lovely collection of thirty out of her hundreds or thousands; I can’t imagine how they chose which ones to include. I thought one of most striking was Judith and Holofernes, illustrating a story from the Apocrypha, in which Judith gets this oppressive general Holofernes drunk and then chops off his head. The pictures shows the lady in lovely yellow gown holding the head by the hair, and attended by her maid. But the humour of the painting lies in the fact that Judith was modelled by the painter’s mistress, and her maid was a portrayal of the mistress’s mother, while the head was a self-portrait of the painter! … The way out of the exhibition involved going through a number of rooms where we were confronted with a few nice pictures and a lot of stuff like ? – the man whose painting largely consists of scrawls of writing. I never can understand why he is regarded as having any merit whatever!

Transport 2

X drove me to the airport only to find the place had been closed all night to in and out traffic because of the very high wind. They were on the way to the circus so I waited and eventually our plane was given the OK as the wind dropped quite suddenly but we didn’t get in until three-quarters of an hour late, we settled in and were then asked to return to the waiting room: a small private plane had pancaked on the only runway, it took over an hour to remove it (we’re just a wee bit primitive here!) Anyway then we were off.

I saw the ideal petrol saver the other day. A tricycle with enormous balloon tyres – very safe and comfortable. You could even put a big plastic sheet over you to keep you dry like an umbrella!

There were many pictures to choose from: cameleer posties, policemen on camels, soldiers on camels, women (only one described by profession – governess), couples on camels, camel trains, camel buggies, camel carts, camels hitched to ploughs, hitched with donkeys or horses… Camel riding was obviously a necessary attribute for many of this nation’s forebears.

When I got the Maxi three years ago it used to take $8 of petrol at a time. This week it got a bit low and took $17.96 worth to fill. It is a real pleasure to take my Honda in to be filled for the next 75 miles or so and have 75 cents to pay!

X wants to examine the passenger lists of ships sailing from England to South Africa between 1871 and 1876. Could you ring up the National Maritime Museum in SE10 and ask them whether they still exist (the lines that is) and if not who took them over. It is difficult to believe that the passenger lists won’t have been pulped decades ago, but I suppose there’s a chance that they may exist in some archives somewhere.

It was certainly a great deal easier to manoeuvre the van being almost level with the drive now and a smooth surface. I hope I shall be able to get it out more easily too – up to now I have had to haul it forward with a cunning pulley wheel device I got, on the end of a rope round a tree on the other side of the garden!

The pulley thing

X kindly lent us her Mini which we returned to her yesterday. They are an odd contrast to drive. A Mini seems very ‘tough’ compared to the Fiat: a matter of ‘Esau was an hairy man but Jacob was a smooth man’!

You wouldn’t expect to have a lovely time on a canal in London somehow – though I seem to remember a very leafy glimpse of it once round about Regent Park somewhere. A pity about the collision in the tunnel. Glad it was only paintwork – though paint is bad enough with most boatees!

I must say that the problems of garaging on the street sound reason enough for moving, to me! I’m glad my bike has never fallen over (or been pushed) yet; how the people with the really big ones manage I can’t imagine. I got into conversation with the tyre man at one of our local garages a week or so ago, when he was kindly repairing my back wheel which I discovered to be flat on arrival in the village – he has a Japanese 600 or 750 of some sort. I made some remark about having avoided death so far (since I’ve always heard that about 30% of the people who buy those big bikes kill themselves in the first six months) and was told very firmly that the class of rider who had most accidents on a mileage basis was the 125 and downwards. (Mine is a 125, you remember.)

A string of cars appeared coming north towards us. Suddenly from behind the first one appeared a red car, overtaking. But when he saw us he braked to pull in again. However the road was damp after rain, and he went into a front wheel skid right in our path. All along that straight on our side of the road there is a high bank, with sometimes up to a car’s width of hard shoulder – and sometimes not! There was, at the point our paths were going to cross, so we avoided a head-on crash but did a very hearty side-swipe from just behind our front wheel. The hard shoulder than disappeared, and we went up the bank and ended up with my side of the car on the ground and X hanging in midair above me in her seat-belt. From looking at the place some time later, it appeared that we had travelled about 17 yds between the place where the strip had come off the side of his car to the point where the glass came out of my window as I put my elbow down to take some of my weight, so our deceleration had been comparatively mild compared to a head-on smash, and we were lucky to escape with only very mild bruises – and X with a stiff back for a few days, which was probably from her gymnastics getting out of the car when people arrived very quickly from the other cars, and opened her side door, while I was able to loose off her seat belt once she had some other means of support.

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.


I had X yesterday – you can’t take your eyes off him for a minute – even when he’s ‘asleep’! His father put him to bed when they came the other day – after 1/2 hour I said I could still hear him talking so Y decided to get him up. He’d turned on my bedside light and I suddenly saw what looked like strips torn off the wallpaper – then we smelt my new large pot of hand cream. He’d put the lot all over his face and hands and a square yard of the wall, 3 pillow cases, sheet and my candlewick bedspread. We scraped it off with a knife – fortunately it was a washable paint on the wall and it doesn’t show!!

The infants v. good – X is a really delightful and responsible little boy and Y is much improved though I gather a constant source of worry to the parents as to what she’ll say or do next! She was cut off sharply once or twice before I could gather what she’d said – maddening!!! Z is a nice cuddly little thing and ties her mother round her little finger.

There’s a constant whirl going on from 5.30 a.m. on. One morning at this time X crept into the family room where I slept and excused himself in a penetrating whisper, as he wanted his song book. He crept back to the room they all three share now and they quietly shut the door and went to it, the lot, but the lot, from Yellow Submarine to Lily the Pink in a really wall shattering chorus.

We had X to stay over the weekend a week or so ago, which was interesting. We hadn’t seen her apart from one or two hours since before she went to Canada, and she has grown up a lot; in fact she is a very different person from the rather whinging schoolgirl she was ten years ago. Now she knows it all (with admittedly more justification than most nineteen year olds, for she has got herself around a great deal). She is planning to go to Vietnam, on some sort of biological research team, to work in the forests next January, together with her boyfriend. I would be heartily glad if the whole plan falls through, for it seems to offer a variety of dangers: but I suppose one can only just express an opinion and leave it at that. She is a nice affectionate child (young woman).

She is the oddest baby. Her mother said she wasn’t at all what she expected – and she looked just like her g’mother! I think she looks like a cross between Grumpy of the 7 Dwarfs and Queen Victoria. Enormous dark eyes she turns on you in a very critical way, dark brown curly hair – lots – and she ruminates all the time with her mouth well turned down and pokes her tongue out and licks her lips. She has a little round bullet head and long fingers and lovely nails.

[Outing with young grandsons] The lunch was super and we all ate hard for 2 hours! … We played racing demon until it was time for tea – ‘We’re really not hungry – just a small piece of pizza please’ all the boys said – but it was remarkable how hungry they felt once more after all – and went on happily to drop scones, flapjacks and burnt house cake most in the plural: an outstanding performance after the lunch they ate!

Praise be X is now really friendly and very sweet and actually knows me – I couldn’t cope with Y – we just don’t ‘take tea’. I laughed and laughed last week – he came for 2 hours whilst his mother went to the hairdressers. He seemed v. chatty and was in fact being quite pleasant and friendly – and all in the same chatty voice said to me, ‘mummy says I mustn’t say I don’t like granny’!!

We had X up here for a couple of days this week. She is most exhausting, and delightful, though with a frightful accent and not very usual table manners, which she has acquired from her flatmates, I suppose – they both work in the builders trade, so eating becomes rather like feeding a concrete mixing machine. But X is determined to find some sort of vocation in life: and it obviously ought to be concerned with people, as she seems to have a way with her.

We’ve had X here from Thursday evening until this evening. He is a great giggler (in a raucous way reminiscent of his mother at his age) and very quickwitted – with quite a facility for making Limericks, for instance, which I thought surprising for his age. He has also got much more agile in recent months – runs quite fast and far. We did a few jobs, like planting out the strawberry bed and visiting the water supply and went a long walk up a new track the neighbour has had bulldozed right up to the far end of his hill, on which he was setting the pace most of the way. He got himself soaked 3 times (in the stream, filling the watering can and finally slipping and sitting down on the walk in a very wet patch of grass which he said very indignantly was ‘camouflaged’!!!). I think he enjoyed it all.

The puddle was camouflaged

X wanted to tell us his news! And of course, I couldn’t get a word of what he was saying! However Y then suggested he tell me what he had done at the play centre this morning. I was duly surprised to hear he had played with some gold dice, but Y enlightened me when she came back to close down. It was cold ice they had been playing with! But when I think that I was quite frightened of the telephone until the age of about fifteen, I marvel.

Talking of the way professional families are turned out, do you remember the photo of my family on holiday circa 1920 – scruffy wasn’t the word for us. And come to think of it, X tends to appear in jeans which are more hole than cloth, and all the boys wear terrible gym shoes all the time.

I think we shall have to give up offering meals to her brood. They all came in to tea yesterday on the way back from their parish weekend, although to begin with X just stayed in the car apparently asleep. Y came in and managed two or three ham sandwiches (very ladylike – no crusts) before we eventually produced the biscuits, and then he did quite well on them. Later X wandered in, and of course got the choice straightaway: he managed two nibbles out of a cream cheese and pineapple sandwich, and deserted it for a chocolate biscuit. We had all the crusts for supper!

He gave X a big polystyrene surfboard and Y a recorder – Y burst into tears and said, ‘I want a BIG present too’! All was saved when a swimming ring was in Y’s parcel too and his mother quickly blew it up – BIG!!

Significant other 6

Also have an arborist coming this week to trim a large maple tree in my backyard which hangs over a rather troublesome neighbour to the East. This woman lives alone with 2 cats and a very belligerent noisy dog. As far as anyone knows she has never worked. Her resident man left her about 4 years ago. She occupies herself by reporting the neighbours to the City at the least opportunity – though I think that now the City people don’t bother to listen to her!!

We both went to have our hearing tested a week or so ago, and I have just ordered a thing to fit in my left ear, which is apparently worse than the other. It remains to be seen whether it is going to help, but I do find that I have to ask X to repeat herself more often than she asks me – though (privately, of course) I think that that is because she is so deaf that she keeps the radio on too loud which interferes with my hearing her the first time!!

Have you heard X has remarried? A doctor 2 years widowed – I hope he’s a better bet than her first disaster – he sounds nice, with a mind of his own, as he proposed after they’d known each other 3 weeks.

He’s about X’s age – his wife suddenly upped and ran off with a friend of theirs about 2 years ago – so he’s married a charming widow (twice widowed) of about 60 and they appear to be enthralled with each other and madly happy!

She tells me his sister- who we knew and her husband, a solid little solicitor whom I liked, but X made disparaging noises about – have separated – 4 young too – tho’ I s’pose the twins must be 16 now.

X gave us a gorgeous lunch today at the hotel. It was beautifully and lavishly presented and as [partner] said coming in, ‘I’m having a holiday. No lunch to get and I ate so much that I shan’t have to give you much for supper’!

Look after yourself – I sometimes wish you had someone to look after you – but I doubt if you’d let them!

X still lives there and still happily married to the rich old man who was a great friend of Y.

She’ll probably end up getting a brilliant degree and marrying this vicar bloke or someone similar! She says there’s nothing but friendship between her and this ‘wotsisname’ but X seems to think otherwise. We shall have to wait and see.

He said his wife went back to UK for a holiday and took $3000 with her and so liked being home and everything was so much cheaper she’d put down a payment on a house and bought a coloured TV and he was now going back too!!

I agree with you, I think he’s a honey, not a ball of fire, but then he was regular Army!! He’s always been the same, and far too nice for X in my opinion.

I was fed up with X – he’s really been smoking much less lately but he must have had 8 in the evening even when I demurred politely. It’s difficult as if I make him mad he’ll just be foul and that makes her asthma worse.

She was difficult to make progress with. You couldn’t see her face as she wore a lot of make-up; she hardly said a word the whole time, and it was very difficult to prise X away from her – he was being super-protective the whole time. They did not appear to talk even to each other very much – so it’s very difficult to form any opinion about the whole affair. It must have been very terrifying for her – rather like being thrown into a tankful of piranha fish I should think.

Meeting the piranhas

In company they appear to be quite close and equitable, but I’m afraid X does not get much joy out of his marriage, and the peace is only maintained by a good deal of self-control on his part just refusing to get upset by her more pathological traits.

I went up to see her that afternoon and discovered that X (her husband) had gone to sleep on her bed, a state in which he remained the whole half-hour or so that I was there. I think he must be very difficult to live with, because is he manic depressive, and liable not to take his pills into the bargain.

They have a son who married 3 years ago and went off the rails a few months later departing with an ex-girlfriend and leaving his wife in an advanced state of pregnancy. This largely I think through sheer immaturity: he was probably finding it difficult to make ends meet. Anyway he came back and his wife forgave him (one up for Rome – she’s an R.C.) and the whole family moved to a 30 acre patch to grow vegetables.

%d bloggers like this: