My friend the R.C. Bishop called me to see if I had any paintings for the art show last Saturday. Having done absolutely no painting all year due to this and that, I was able to dredge up three old ones – two had to be framed in a hurry. But I was pleased they all sold in the first hour – I said I’d give their charity half the proceeds. I must say, a more undistinguished bunch of paintings in the show I have never seen. It was in much too large a venue – last year it was in the house next door and there was a smaller much more distinguished collection shown to better advantage.

My day with X began in Piccadilly, ended in St. James’ and was very ‘full’ and ‘successful’ i.e. I finally got to the gallery only 16 months after the exhibition that I’d wanted to see had opened!… I thought you might be interested in this Samuel Palmer. It’s possible they still have the picture there – I enquired re one from the 4-months-old similar exhibition to the original one which was unsold in the basement… Yes, I’m thinking I might make a further (small!) purchase…? [small purchase: a Samuel Palmer???]


There is so much bad painting here – what I call ‘brown paintings’ – peasants and palm trees and mud-coloured mountains – boring.

a dull day with heavy rain coming in the Caribbean
a brown painting


There is also an unfinished cross I started some years ago – a construction of copper mosaic that I have enamelled. My kiln is a small one so have to think in terms of linking large work together. The cross depicts Alpha & Omega – plenty of colour – slimy mud and things at the base and volcanoes and night & day with a sun at the top. Am intending to mount it on a super piece of oak that I found in a builder’s yard – weathered and worn to a gorgeous silver patina – it was at one time a tail board from a small farm cart – I guess 100 years or more past.

…Some splendid Monets – I bought a poster of the Floating Studio – now I know why he did so many waterlilies! The gallery had done the walls the same colour as Barnes had used, which was a rather nasty sort of yellow ochre which I did not think was a very good background for the pictures – but who am I?? They did a big photomontage of one of his hanging arrangements, which was very interesting, as he mixed such different things and made such balanced sort of compositions.

Looking through some of my earlier efforts I came on some things that I did before my pot-boiling flowers and was quite impressed. I must do some more buildings and portraits – I have got into such a rut, but the flowers sell like hot bread and it tempts me.

I think she is such a good artist. Her family are quite unimpressed with her work, and it all seems to be done on odd bits of paper and the backs of envelopes and I am sure will disappear when she dies. There were a couple of portrait heads, Indian?, that I would give my eyeteeth to own, also a landscape in mixed media.

I have been painting quite a lot. X, my grand-daughter, was over with her aunt who also paints flowers, not nearly as well as I do (!) and is peddling them to tourists on the coast, and I was so incensed it gave me the prod I needed. X has contacts with galleries over there and will help me place mine.

I was interested to hear of the Byam Shaw man – I was taught there by a marvellous teacher, Ernest Jackson, only drawing. The painting end was too heavy for me – Prix de Rome stuff a way over my head.




We had our jolly fair about 10 days ago. The fair is a most interesting phenomenon. After months of advertising, sewing, jamming, etc., the doors are flung open at 1 p.m. to a locust-like invasion. The place is bedlam for about an hour and a quarter and by 2.30 the place is filthy and empty and we are $5,000 richer. NOT a genteel social event.

Thank you so much for your donation to Maggie’s Centre. My fund-raising is going quite well. I have over £1000 in sponsorship and hope to get some more from the ‘exciting’ Ladies’ Night. Also I have decided to go to a car boot sale on Sunday, and am trying to dig out the rubbish of ages to sell.

It sounds as if you are a hot bed of industry one way and another, but I do hope the new outlet proves successful and that the Handicraft Evenings go on bringing in big sales. It was a dashing idea and might well have proved a rather embarrassing evening for all concerned, with nobody really wanting to buy in any quantity – but it didn’t so that is grand. I visualise the next step as door to door selling like a gypsy with clothes pegs!!

Yesterday was a big stint at the hospital for geriatrics and old off-their-chumps as we had an ‘Edwardian Garden Party’ with some of the volunteers and staff rigged up in Edwardian garb – or as near to it as they felt like! …I helped behind the cake stall and book stall in my usual garb – and only wished I still had winter woollies on as it was all out of doors and cold at 10 a.m. In fact it rained by about 11.30 and everybody’s goodies got a bit damp, but we hadn’t many cakes at all so there wasn’t much left to protect except for some very nasty tins of mushy peas and the ilk, given from the back of the store cupboard by some well-wisher!

I went off and helped at a junk and jumble sale at the hospital and I did rather well on my junk stall as my next door neighbour cleared out all sorts of exciting china bits which went well. In fact in the first rush I reckon a good bit was nicked. We really hadn’t quite enough helpers but what matter who pinched what – it gave the patients a thrill and I don’t mind if they nick things. But when outsiders who are trying to beat down every price do, I get upstage about it!

the volunteer doesn't mind the patients helping themselves
help yourself sale


… if any Jacob’s wool would interest you later on, there will be a jerseyful to spare – blotchy black and white and very, very random in all directions – colour and thickness! But mine has been my saving grace during the last month and I am seldom out of it when indoors and on my own – it is hardly elegant for the hospital, which is too hot anyhow!

I have nearly given up making papier mache pots, but I can’t resist well-paying commissions, but it’s very labour intensive compared to painting. I tend to do business wherever I go, if I can. I painted 14 pictures this winter in the Bahamas and left six there to be sold. I hope they are all sold before my next visit in January.

I was ready to sit and do nothing but tag some more wool into my new ‘bogus-feather-cloak’ type shawl. I’ve done about a third of the tagging now – after which it will need tabby weaving all round, and tasselling on two sides.

She has now sewn together the twelve squares I wove on my lap-frame, to make a rug… I pretend that the unsquareness of the pieces, owing to my over-tight weaving, is part of its old-world charm.

I’ve at last started my Jubilee Sampler, I think I should have practised first, every stitch is an adventure, nay, a disaster – all the thread is getting furry with so much unpicking!

He continues his ART and sells out each exhibition. It’s a great pity as he’s really gifted but has appalling taste.

I’m sewing for the stall – dolls’ clothes etc. I borrowed a Barbie against all my better principles – they are so revolting – but do make good clothes horses…  And I’ve done some for Action Man – including sleeping bags. I chose some material that looked a bit like camouflage but was glad I didn’t say so at the sewing bee this week as it was someone’s maternity smock!

The endless patchwork she does and she reads so much as well and she’s pretty well crippled with her back and really should not live alone. Of course, the secret of getting so much done is not to have a television. It’s my undoing – I slump on the sofa and usually go to sleep – so feeble-minded.

some do handicraft, some snooze to TV

She makes mirror frames and they sell like mad. She gets a ‘little man’ to make the frames, and she paints or stencils them in lovely colours and pops in a mirror. The frames are not exactly carved, but bits are chopped out here and there and the effect is great. She even does full length ones.


X always thinks he’s right, very bossy and very little tolerance especially to Y. He seems to be under the impression that all of life’s incidents are like a mathematical equation and have one correct answer – he, of course, always works out the right answer so differences of opinion are rubbished vehemently and loudly!… at school he’s apparently a veritable angel as he got the class ‘citizenship’ prize which means general nice guy, good manners, courteous etc.

[Child of 9] I was so nervous my knees were chattering.

well, why shouldn't knees chatter
chattering knees

X brought over the 2 younger boys. Before she went she warned me to wash Y’s pillow well and truly as she’d just seen he’d got some visitors in his hair again! Of course ever since I keep feeling itchy.

I’ve been particularly careful with X, but she’s so on the defensive – especially about the children who must be admired and never thwarted – it’s not been easy.

We discovered, rather belatedly, that we were about to be parents in the plural… I gave birth to twins… However [a month later] we were of the belief that sleep had been abolished as they ate (or drank) every two/three hours since they were very little and trying to catch up.

He had a grotty week while we were at camp. He was teething and walked round with a mouthful of spit all week (occasionally dumping it, once on one of the chaps who then called him Waterbomb!) Then he fell out of his cot and banged his head and either bit his tongue or developed mouth ulcers as well. And then he got the blisters. Poor kid. However he was back to normal by the end of the week.

X has found one good friend in the class, whose word has become law! Some of said ‘words’ are rather unlikely but he’s a nice little boy. We have to check his bag when he comes to play – the first time they took some of our tools up the tree house and dismantled two locks and a peep-hole cover. They then made plans for pulling the whole house down and rebuilding it in 4 storeys with umpteen decks! Next time he came he had his drill set and three of his father’s brand new paint brushes with him. A bit of soapy water to paint with distracted them from the drill thankfully!

X has been right into volcanoes recently. He and Y (who has walked on an erupting one, you know!) have been allowed their heads at school to pursue it for their reading topic for a while, which was nice. They have an ongoing game about special Powers they own who do various things (like swapping the roofs round at school over the weekend!) and have names and characters of their Powers and visit various planets. Also invisible snakes and tarantulas! All rather fun.

Things fall apart

a woman gets on with it herself
one-woman demolition company

I have made the quite drastic decision to demolish this house, and build another on the site. I could see the roof needed replacing. Then I thought of the damp… and of the back of the house now with a nice sag to it and not likely to last too many more years.

We have had an awful election with much violence, cheating and skulduggery of all kinds. It’s really pointless giving these ignorant yobs a vote as all they really want to do is have a good fight and shoot each other – very depressing.

The poor old Morris just went. I think someone must have been looking after me, as the engine just died in a most convenient spot as far as limping into a free parking space right by, and getting home without any bother.

Why, oh why, should the good Lord send all the plagues of Egypt to settle on your flat or its neighbour? It does seem a little hard, but I hope it won’t end in boils on you as well.

They are in the midst of a horrible divorce and he still suffers from depression. Just hope things can be finalised in the next few months – I’m sure he will recover when the pressure and rows are over.

Having moved so often I was surprised how stressful I found it this time round, until I realised it was the first time I had orchestrated a move a) while holding down a job, and b) with no maid to fetch and carry and clean! (Maids, who were once the norm here, have become a luxury since the gov’t imposed a relatively high minimum wage for them. All very commendable in theory, but it has also meant many are now unaffordable and therefore unemployed.)

She has just divorced her husband – he seems to be suffering from a severe mid-life crisis. Gone completely off his head – not with women, just with life. His factory was closed down due to debt and he seems to have lost everything he owned and it is not bad luck, it is sheer poor management and total irresponsibility.




… two nights with the old 93-year old cousin, full of woe as the family home has to be sold and she is miserable although she can’t live there without a ‘keeper’ as she will keep falling down on her arthritic legs.

Scottish Dancing is his passion in life which she cannot do because she has a back, or something. [We know what you mean!]

Yes, how X needs a break… I remember her as the Golden Girl with everything going right for her.

A good resolution for the winter will be to type for 20 minutes each day to make my fingers work right, but I may have left it too late and I shall never get out of the habit of using the wrong fingers when the correct ones bend the wrong way! But if I could make them a bit more pliant it would help.

I seem to be getting the rheumatics in my shoulders and arms and my hands look pretty peculiar and some fingers leave go of things at the wrong moment and although my toes are permanently numb and blue they don’t actually seem to be falling off.

A thorn in my side this year has been my temporary assistant. The present occupant works about quarter time at best. She is always ‘sick’, and never even apologetic or worried about it. Personally I think a good shaking would do a great deal to improve the situation, however it doesn’t feature as a motivator in any of the personnel manuals. .. We are unable to terminate her employment as she continues to bring certificates.

It is a bore and very ancient-making to be crawling everywhere like a decrepit crab instead of stepping out!

Like a crab


Employment hassles

Your work situation seems as harrowing as mine, though in a different way. I get annoyed at needing to do everything myself to make sure it gets done properly (or at all) but not being allowed to. I exploded recently at the finance man who blamed his inadequacy on the ‘fact’ that I ‘don’t understand Portuguese very well’ (!) when it’s patently obvious that I understand it so well that I am in danger of catching him out in his little games.

I was unable to take any leave. The Corporation works in a way unique to itself I think, and I have found myself acting in a position for nearly a year now. By the time things get back to normal it will be over a year. During this time I have also acted in a yet higher position for four months, having two (three counting myself) untrained staff to look after. Of course, no one asked me whether I wanted to do it, or even seemed to think whether or not I might be capable of it. I was exhausted after that little effort, and have managed to have one week’s leave which was just wonderful.

I worry about you a bit – you are earning enough to eat properly aren’t you? It’s so damnable that anything one enjoys doing so often doesn’t give financial return.

Her schoolgirl daughter has been giving me a hand in the garden and is quite useful although I really prefer doing it alone! Still it provides extra pocket-money for her…

Mayoral aspirations

It looks doubtful that the contract will be renewed after the second year, however things may change. Hopefully the Council will take pity on me. However, it generally can see more justification in a prestigious car for the Lord Mayor than in employing a few more people.