The native women carry their babies on their backs and any loads on their heads. We have seen several women carrying logs of wood this way, as well as lots of people with their shopping on their heads. One woman I saw was walking along doing some crochet work, the thread coming from an enormous spool of wool on her head.

[While partner travelling] This living alone is terrible, you have to do everything. I’ve only got about twenty minutes before I have to go out to lunch today, so this probably won’t get finished, but must go half empty, as I hope not to go into town tomorrow… What I’ve done in the 2.5 hours since I got home I can’t imagine but I’ve only just managed to get myself a cup of tea. Let’s think – I answered a couple of phone calls and drove the sheep out of the garden back into the drive, as the phone went before I got the gate closed after coming in. Picked a few tomatoes and some spinach for dinner; pureed the former. Boiled some bones for stock. Brought in the logs. Fed the chicks and shut them up with some nice new sawdust on their floor, and took the dog round the field. It hardly sounds like 2.5 hours worth.

[re steroids] I can’t believe the effect they’ve had on me, I’m hyperactive, mentally and physically, and have made more decisions in a week than in the last 2 years, throwing out things, changing things round, saying no if I want to!


[And from partner’s point of view!] X in the meantime is full of enormous energy, and does about four jobs at once all day – presumably the effect of the steroids. And at the same time she is not doing so well with sleep and seems to get through the night with about three hours or less; and is a bit shy of adding Mogadon to the other pills.


X and I had a lovely visit to a woodland garden near here yesterday as there was a sale of plants there. X very knowledgeably discussed the merits of something she fancied with an old gent selling it, and we came home with two of them! She is very good at reeling out names of things, whereas I refer to everything as ‘that blue thing’, which is very lazy on my part. Also I find my eyes don’t really encourage me to try to read the labels as I have to get down to it a bit too much and get in everybody else’s way by sticking my bottom out and my head down. But it was a lovely morning and the garden itself was in gorgeous autumn colour, despite very wet grass under foot, so we thoroughly enjoyed our little excursion.

X brought Y over for afternoon tea the other day. She’s amazing for 86 – I gather they were worn out by the time she left!

I’m going to some good lectures – given by an art historian – Renaissance & Impressionists – very yummy and I so enjoy them as they are nothing to do with anything – if you know what I mean! [Er – not really!]

We had lunch and a walk-game. We went for a walk and left a trail of arrows to say which way we’d gone, and they tried to follow. I say tried, because they missed the first arrow and ended up miles away!

not THAT arrow!

I can’t remember if we had been to X on a shopping spree when I last wrote. I bought a cardigan in a revolting khaki which did nothing for my complexion, and a skirt that makes me look like the back side of a bus – otherwise we had a very good day. After agonising over my purchases for days I told Y about them and she said to send them back, it was my money! So I did, and felt much better.

We feel much the same about meals out – they flow off the plate. X is wonderful: if I settle for a ‘do it ourselves’ he buys all the most extravagant things plus wines etc. and there’s no comparison which we enjoy most – and there’s usually exotic things over for days – all at the price of going out.

X is up to her eyes in lists and writing to people to see if they can go and see them – wish I didn’t feel so sure it won’t come off – she’ll be so disappointed. I keep reminding her that from experience, when you’ve worked out costs, double them.

Hope you like the photo of your godson! He and his girlfriend (she’s Greek believe it or not) went to a ‘P’ party – he was a peasant and she a panther. No, it isn’t his own hair, it’s a wig from kindy.

They were here for dinner the other day and X said, ‘We’re driving to Y on Friday if anyone wants to come’ – so I’m going! It’s for their daughter’s 21st. I gather you got an invite! I think everyone except me did – so I’m gatecrashing it! Should be neat fun.

You commented on me tolerating X going to McDonald’s. He hardly ever goes normally so there’s not much point in getting my knickers in a knot over a few holiday visits! What’s the bad press? We haven’t heard it here.

That night it started pouring with rain and still was when we left at 7 a.m. for our pre-booked trip out to the reef. We went in a yacht with 13 passengers and 5 crew. It would have been a lot more lovely in fine weather, but as it was we had to go under motor (nasty diesel smell) and the wind was squalling up to 40 knots, so I fear I was dreadfully seasick for most of the way out and felt ghastly for at least an hour after getting there. Still, eventually I felt well enough to have a go at snorkelling and the crew were really kind and helpful and someone came with me and brought up interesting creatures from below like sea cucumbers and a creature that spits out its intestines like spaghetti to shock intruders! The coral was lovely and the fish amazing, so I’m please we went despite the weather.


guest arrival

I’ve had some really interesting guests this year, including a vicar who loved doing needlepoint, a couple who live on a canal boat, a birthday card designer, a retired bank manager. The one I remember most is the helicopter pilot. I really thought it was a wind-up when, before he came, he telephoned to ask how he could recognise the house from the air, so I was pretty taken aback when I saw a helicopter circling round! He actually landed right next to my greenhouse, which was pretty alarming because I had visions of all the glass being blown out.

When you mentioned X on your card, I felt a real pang. Does she wear her brocaded evening gowns for couriering jobs I wonder? or the Chanel-type suits. I imagine the latter would be more practical.

We had old X to tea last Sunday – still driving her car at 84 or some such, and as lively as ever, though getting gradually more dogmatic, and ‘a character’. She must be a sore trial to the vicar, judging by some of the things she said she had told him about his parish! We didn’t go to the meeting which was held to approve the extension to the back of the church in addition to the new hall, and a consequent increase in the money owed – because we thought we would not be able to resist the temptation to be violently critical. But X went and gave them a piece of her mind to the same effect! She stayed talking hard from about three until after six.

What she means I think is that she hates socialising especially entertaining and now she’s getting so she doesn’t even like family gatherings with several age groups very much.

I have met X [well-known personage mentioned to her in a letter], as I am quite friendly with his sister who lives down here now. She, too, can talk (!) but is a lovely kindly person. I wish she wouldn’t mention X quite so much though!

[Re acquaintance with definite OCD] I must say I’d go more than ‘strange’ if anyone tried to remove any of my pet belongings – I’d be looking for the largest sharpest knife PDQ. Is he treatable?


The whole place was looking quite magical yesterday and I took the car up to the forest and walked to find some berries and grasses for my big jug and it looks rather nice. Also saw an extraordinary fungi – bright orange just like some orange-peel stuck to a bit of wood.

I still feel pangs of envy when I get letters from friends who have decided to stay in England, as it is coming on autumn. Autumn and spring were my favourite seasons, partly because they were so colourful and partly because things happen so quickly in them. There is little sudden change in seasons here – things happen gradually so that one season merges into another almost imperceptibly.

I can swim out to the reef to snorkel (or ‘goggle’ as they very aptly call it here.) We are right on the beach and recently I have been watching for hatching turtles. Came across some early this morning who were being attacked by ants. (That’s a problem in our butterfly rearing too.)

I am sorry I am so bad about hygiene. Fleas and ticks are, alas, part of our way of life, but they vary with the time of year, and I’m afraid you hit a bad patch. The only ones that really upset me are cockroaches and spiders.

I saw a green thing walk past as if it owned the place. It was quite large (about 30 cm) lizard, with a pointy nose and tail. … If it’s a feral lizard, I might have to try to trap it and have it removed. It’s sleek and healthy looking – a fine specimen of lizardhood. I would prefer it to be native, as then it could continue to keep the slug and snail population down for me.

the green visitor

Nuisances of life

I’ve had tinnitus myself in the past and it’s so annoying. Mine was two pitches that went up and down randomly, like a sick siren.

You should know one is here on earth to be ‘abused’ in every walk of life, whether one likes it or not!!

Too sad about X – she’s packed so much into her life and I fear it caught up with her – I only hope it doesn’t mean a vegetable life – she’d rather die than that – but we can’t choose.

I have a wonderful idea about your birdbath. When our water plant was overdosed with bug killer none of my birds would touch the water in the bird bath. Do try boiled water for 2-3 days just to see. If it works you can made an official complaint to your council like I did – except I play bridge with the man who dealt with ours!

the bird bath

My Christmas cooking was a disaster – I used a rough puff pastry for a mince pie (last year’s mince!) – it was v. indigestible – and a recipe of X’s for the cake and it was practically uncooked in the middle and the fondant icing and almond icing revolting!

I made a super salad with cold trout ++ Neither of the boys would touch it – just ate a roll. Then we had vast amounts of strawberries and cream – neither liked that or bananas.

The radio reception is poor apart from the local station which is revolting: mindless howling music, fourth form jokes greeted with forced giggles, endless advertisements, and hardly any news apart from the runners for the local races.

I wore my new tweed jacket to church. I was fortunate to see it in a shop which had a sale on, looking at something else. It is, I think, the only jacket I have ever managed to buy off the peg, with a reasonable appearance across the shoulders, and sufficient length in the arms (after being let down to the limit). Of course, it wasn’t in the sale!!

We’re having an awful hoo-ha about our petrol here – we’re having cars bursting into flames almost daily. They’re very evasive and say it will take 3 weeks to complete tests  but a high-up man did his own tests and put a piece of tough rubber tube in the ‘gas’ complained about and held it up to the TV to see how stiff it was before he put it in then how bendy and sloppy it was after half an hour. It is being accused of doing just this on rubber parts of the cars it’s in contact with – then the slightest spark causes the flames.

She was very upset when she first heard of the damage to her precious van, even if relieved X hadn’t damaged himself. I did find it a bit surprising that he could do it $3000 worth of damage if he was really only going 8 mph, but it did sound an excusable accident…

His father was determined to get away as soon as possible for a long weekend fishing and in fact departed about three in the morning last Saturday – though Y had asked him to put it off a few hours because of the frost on the road at night. In the event it was frosty, and he skidded into a bank and turned the car over – and has probably written it off, though he apparently escaped unscathed, and hired a car to go on to his fishing.

I was notified that a tax refund was coming. It duly arrived, and three days later when I remembered about paying it into the bank, had disappeared again, which is absolutely maddening. The last time this happened I found the cheque acting as a bookmark, so I have searched high and low through all the books I remember having had out of my shelves, and got the library to chase a copy of a book which I returned about the right time, but that has drawn a blank. I can only conclude that it has gone to the tip.

The very nice surgeon said it was a very easy and quick job, and yes he preferred a local anaesthetic and should take about 10 minutes and a couple of stitches. He started looking for the end of the temple artery and 3/4 hour was still looking. Giving a chatty rundown of it not being in the right place, and he’d got a very small bit that didn’t look like an artery, and just as he was about to declare he’d not been able to find it, he said he’d found something he hoped was the right one and cut out the cm required…   At one moment when he said quite despairingly  ‘I hate mornings like this’ – I felt the same!

[re borrowed Mini] is a little alarming to drive as it’s got a very violent clutch, and at one time makes a noise like a little old man talking, most disturbing!

My big lathe suddenly passed out, and on inspection I found that the main drive belt had parted. I found today that the firm I bought it from had disappeared leaving only a part of its name attached to some other firm, and on ringing them: No they hadn’t sold that machine for years, No they hadn’t any spare parts left, No the man who used to travel round visiting machines they sold had retired and not been replaced, and No the speaker hadn’t a clue which end of the main shaft came off to make it possible to put the new belt (if I could get one ) on. [Sounds like full marks for customer relations then…]

Aging (2)

I had an airmail … it was from X saying Y is staying with her – and said she looked like someone from Belsen when she arrived – she broke her femur some months ago and hadn’t been looking after herself. I think X expects to keep her there which would be the best. Y added a happy note at the end saying how well she was and being spoilt – X has 3 Alsatians and endless cats.

You never mention X – did he ever chat to Y, or is he away with the fairies – v. sad – he was such a good looking man. One thing about Z [home town], we’re all running down and make the same silly mistakes and get more and more ga-ga!

I can just imagine how X would haver about the composition and the exposure and everything else. Just as well it would be still life he was taking – but, as you say, not really endurable for you. How on earth anybody could fall asleep in the middle of making sandwiches I can’t imagine, (and I am getting very good at it listening to the news, reading the paper or even playing Bridge).

asleep in the kitchen


Sorry not to have written for so long. I was going through a very hard time. … I spent two weeks in X’s flat and this set me up for the last lap looking after Y. I had caregivers while I was away. He seemed much the same when I got back so I did not think he would go to the Lord so quickly.

The man next door is struggling, but X his wife – who has a raucous voice was telling me on the phone, how it was like training a child and he would wipe his nose on his sleeve and she’d correct him and he’d do it again 2 minutes later. I said I hoped he couldn’t hear her – but she assured me she was in the next room!

Poor dear is losing her sight and has sudden fainting fits so has to stop driving – the Drs say if only she’d have one whilst with them they could diagnose the cause – another friend had the same trouble and did have a ‘turn’ at the clinic and is now on her third ‘pacer’ and driving again too.

I still find it hard to accept that everyone is so aged and white hair and remember that’s just like me – sad!!

Had a bit of a disastrous year so far. Started off with my spectacularly unsuccessful right knee replacement op in March – still hobbling about and loads of pain. X had a massive heart attack in September just 3 days before we were due to go go away. Life is now a hectic round of doctors’ and hospital visits but we intend to get back on the holiday treadmill in earnest next year.

I discovered I am diabetic, what a surprise – but looking back I think Mum had it, though untreated, and she lived to 90.

I find now, 73, I am definitely slowing down.

My sister-in-law managed to sell the farm and has bought a house in the suburbs but pulling it apart bit by bit and re-vamping. At her age I can’t see the point in all the improvements – we all seem to think we will live forever!!

Ill-judged comments

[The letter contained] a very unfeeling comment about X’s g-dad who was run over and killed. I hope she didn’t make the same comment to the parents!

She manages to speak much better than we had thought possible and I am sure when it is all done we shall very soon get used to a slightly different look. X [young grand-daughter] is being rather dubious and hasn’t gone to see her yet. A good thing, as being stared at is a bit unnerving for her and they are a family who make very very candid comments about one’s appearance anyhow!!

X seems to have settled down well in her job, and heard the other day from the woman at the agency that her boss had said that it was working out well – this in spite of having missed the post one evening with some urgent stuff and then told the boss that might not have happened if he had told her to begin with exactly when it was wanted instead of having answered her enquiry ‘Yesterday’ – which is certainly far from illuminating.

[X is a child that the writer is helping as a volunteer] I had spent a little time working out a poem with one OUGHT word in each line in a context which I hoped would help. I put this in front of him and asked him to read it, to which he replied ‘Have I got to?’ If he had said ‘It looks difficult’ or something of that sort I might have just agreed with him – but as it was I felt very annoyed and said with some heat ‘No you haven’t got to: you can go out in the garden and never read again as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll go home’ – at which not surprisingly he looked a bit startled.

X writes to her – I’ve opted out. A letter she sent (as her father said she had to) saying she didn’t ‘mean to hurt me’ is not enough to right the incredibly rude letter she sent. I very likely use phrases she misunderstands – as I her – so we’re safer not corresponding.

We went to see X’s watercolours first, which were in a touristy gallery on the Front with, it must be admitted, a range of quality in the goods! Anyone within earshot would have been in no doubt, that’s for sure!

at the gallery


The other thing of interest is I now have a close friend of 78, from the old church, but he had left the church 4 months ago because his sister-in-law spread rumours about us that reached his 5 children – like he was sleeping over and I had killed 2 husbands!