Hobbies 3

We’ve been in for two bridge tournaments since I last wrote. As usual we were in the last quarter of the list both times. It really is very irritating that we play bridge so badly and don’t ever seem to improve. There must be some sort of knack for visualising where all the cards are, after the calling, and then remembering which ones have gone and adjusting the picture of what remains as they turn up – but neither of us seem to be able to acquire it. And of course we tend to stretch the rules a bit when we are calling so we even manage to deceive each other. However ‘it’s only a game’ – and a pleasant enough one unless one has a whole evening with hardly a hand to call on, when it can become temporarily boring.

[Limericks were a family amusement]

X the cheeky boy started off one:

How red is gran’papa’s nose

continued by others with

Perhaps whisky or port is his dose

But those in the know

Say it cannot be so

For see it turns blue when he’s froze

It turns blue

In spite of their daily ration of ‘nuts’, the poor sheep are perpetually hungry just at present – not the best of times as the first lambs might be born any time in the next week – though the Farm Advisory man I spoke to about it said thin sheep generally have their lambs more easily than fat ones. I hope so, not having had any midwifery practice. At least X seemed to think that they are all going to produce – so the ram seems to have done his stuff in spite of his youth and tentative manner, whenever we saw him making advances to them.

I’m going to take up fishing when I get back – such an easy way to do nothing.

X put together the poncho thing I had made for her in two halves, but it didn’t hang right, and also she felt that it might prove too delicate in construction to stand up to much wear (though it would not be likely to have much because it was as warm as wearing a whole fleece!) – so in the end I made a diamond frame of wood and it now adorns the wall in the dining room, and looks quite decorative.

I’m sure I told you when I last wrote how avidly I was reading Doris Lessing’s books. Well, I also read ‘The Golden Notebook’ by her. Honestly, it is powerful stuff, not only a whole social document, but the women, who are the main characters, are marvellous, real: ‘I urge you to read it’ as the reviewers say! Also I read ‘Jane Eyre’ for the first time since I was at school, and again I was so impressed. Jane is my heroine: such standards of honesty and trust and integrity I can only hope to attain after a lifetime. Also I loved the whole style of the book; not a spare word in it. T.S. Eliot has a poem ‘East Coker’ which you probably know. There was another discovery. These three things I have read are my big reading discoveries of the year. Thought I would share them with you.

I have actually made a little start with weaving – but only on a frame loom you hold in your lap, using a long wooden needle to manipulate the weft. So far I’ve only done – or half-done – one piece and that only six inches wide, because the only thing I could find for the warp was a limited length of fishing line. It started as six inches but is now down to five, because I have been pulling the weft up too tight – especially in the sort of rows where you go round each warp string separately to produce pretty patterns. A further snag is that the variations in my spinning make it difficult to discern the pattern when you have done it! However I am getting more regular in my results (thanks among other things to a spinning seminar which I went to a couple of Saturdays ago, at which I picked up quite a few tips, including the importance of really good carding of the wool before you start). They tell me that after a time it becomes positively difficult to introduce the lovely airships which at present add such variety to my yarn!


…it snowed – and snowed and snowed. None of the children had ever seen snow falling so this was a real treat. It took me all of 5 minutes to tire of the novelty, as memories of the slipping and sliding and slushy mud came flooding back!

We’ve had a stifling hot month – I spent the whole time with my hair soaking and dripping face, impossible to do anything vaguely energetic until after 5 p.m. The ground got absolutely dried out, and now we can’t have the hose on untended at all, and only water by hand alternate days. I swear you imported those blasted little ants, I’ve never seen them before! There’s not a lot but enough.

Spring is under way, though rudely interrupted today by a howling gale with many showers of rain and lowering clouds. X says rain makes the ewes produce their lambs – but our last three are showing no signs at all and look as though they are going to give it a miss this year. But the egg yield seems to be going up again, just when I have been expecting the hens all to go broody. They have overheard my remarks about the deep freeze and be laying for their lives! – though a more prosaic suggestion is that the days are getting longer!

The hens are threatened

Officially the last day of winter here, and I must say it has been looking and feeling like it. Driving hard drizzle all the morning, and I lit the sitting room fire after breakfast and have been very glad to keep it going this afternoon while I have been writing letters.

There are some vague signs of spring, including cherry blossom in the orchard and plum very nearly ready to come out too, though it is wettish and a cold wind today. The grass is growing a little, but I have taken to giving the sheep a ration of nuts daily, as well as some of the hay I made last year, which they eat to a certain extent though a good deal just gets pulled out of my improvised hayrack and trodden about. Still quite a triumph that they eat it at all. It reduces the sheepnut expense a bit. Lambs are due any time after the 23rd. I haven’t managed to get anything into the veg garden yet.

6.30 p.m. and another day vanished away like morning frost in the sun.

Then to look out of the window, knowing it is cold enough to kill you if you stayed out for only a short while, but seeing those fantastic mountains.

We have had a good winter here. It was hard before Christmas; very very icy-snow-bitter-cold. We were working like maniacs to finish all building, insulating etc.

We had our first snow here last week. This place is so incredibly beautiful when it snows. I have a love of this land where we live that gets deeper all the time.

Celebrations 2


We went to a fabulous wedding when we got back from holiday. X wore a lace sari and looked fabulous with lots of dangly gold chain jewelry and a headdress of medallions across the forehead and her bridesmaids wore raw silk saris, which I thought looked even nicer than the lace. Several of her friends from England ended up coming back for the wedding and she had asked them to be bridesmaids if they could make it, so it was a large bridal party! They had a reception preceded by a traditional ceremony. About 300 to sit down to the meal – no wonder the family were saving for years for the wedding but lovely on the day!

Christmas was fun with all the kids home but it’s quite nice to be back to ‘normal’ now with just the dog to look after (and X [partner] of course!)

The party went well apart from the sausages on sticks which got left in the microwave and so didn’t go at all. Sad!

One unfortunate bit of X’s bash was Mrs Y and her sister had a rather noisy quarrel over, of all things, what was going to happen for Mrs Y’s 70th birthday – her sister and husband walked out eventually – very embarrassing.

At the after-show party for Cinderella, X (Buttons) was most in demand from the 6 girls in the children’s chorus, he danced like maniac for 3 hours and chased the girls round the hall to give them an elaborate kiss on the hand before leaving!

[House warming] In spite of no curtains and the whole house littered with cardboard cartons of possessions, they invited about twenty people up for a drink. I admire their ability to ignore such inessentials. (They had found the glasses).

We are having a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a welcome in the evening. X picked up her ticket for the latter after church. I got held up talking to someone and when I got to the car she was in it already together with a vast and leafy stalk lying on the floor. I said ‘What’s that?’ and she, thinking I referred to the envelope with the ticket in, said, ‘My welcome for the Archbishop’ – which reduced me to giggles. I can just see him advancing up the aisle a la Palm Sunday!

Many thank yous for the delightful anniversary card. We bought the most super duper Prestige set of kitchen implements, very expensive, but the best designs I have seen. X also took me out to dinner at the new restaurant in our village. Most intriguing from the outside as it always keeps its red curtains closed, and only opens some nights. Our first surprise was the people there, one couple was a she and a she/he, but he turned out to be a he/she and another v. odd couple – foreign I should think, both young, one tall and a continental looking back [?! I presume he didn’t turn round] and t’other small and scrubbed looking and not at all bright who wore a black cap all the evening. They went through two bottles of something which I presume they brought, altho’ they scrutinised the labels, and smoked large cigars. I think they had packs with them. The others were a couple who we could only see when a leg came round the corner, which didn’t appear to have trousers above the boots, and the last guests were a duller collection of six of our type celebrating something – we ignored how expensive the dishes were (for the first time ever, I think!) and had an exotic meal which was followed a day or two later by a weekend of being entertained.

The leg with no trousers


We went to X’s 80th birthday last Sunday. She’s amazing, always a menage in a car, now drives herself to the city and back and takes all her old cronies about. I don’t say I actually enjoyed it, but it was good of her daughters to lay it on for her, there must have been over 50 there.


Two days ago I at last managed to remember and get to a session of a seminar I signed on for, and paid (!), on the gloomy sounding subject of ‘Practical Preparation for my last years and my death’. I managed to miss the first four of the six sessions (which perhaps says something about my subconscious?)  I think I really joined because the syllabus set out in the blurb didn’t appear to say anything at all about preparations for death, as opposed to dying. This session was led by the doctor in charge of palliative care at the Hospice where 90% of their patients are dying from cancer; and she was very consoling about the process of dying, but brought a nun along with her as she was no expert, she said, on the spiritual needs of patients.

I think as far as algorithms are concerned my mental age is about 3. When my study notes gave us the one for finding a number out of 100, it seemed to me that I had never been taught the heuristic method (that is a lovely word, which I have never before come across; I was quite surprised to find it in my dictionary at all!)  It didn’t help that the study notes kept on talking about larger, when it meant smaller, and vice versa. That particular set must have been prepared in a hurry: it had several similar mistakes in it, making the whole subject all the more confusing.

What’s the number?

We were led by a German professor of the most phenomenal and terrifying eruditeness. It was really quite a strain listening to him for more than half an hour at a time – though in fact he had a pleasant light touch and remarkably good colloquial English (thanks to living in Glasgow for 8 years and New York for 12 – without a trace of either accent, would you believe?)

After qualifying for one profession and trying others, he’s now half way through studying to become a doctor whilst the wife is the main provider – quite a thing with 4 children with the eldest 13.

Gardening – 3

We found the only way to cope with weeds on the gravel was with spray however much I hate it, I imagine every symptom for weeks after using it, especially after our Bishop was whisked off to hospital after spraying his roses!

the bishop is poisoned

I’ve had a fantastic ‘go’ in the garden – and for the first time ever I don’t mind if people look out the windows – I’ve even cleaned those so they can!

I’ve had all my dahlia bulbs out this year and have far too many to cope with – but have put hem all over the place and this morning I found I was digging them up to plant another – so feel it’s time to stop.

We’ve taken out a tree which was past it’s prime like me.

A friend of ours had a horrid accident with one of those dangerous fly-mowers; he’s removed his big toe on one foot and damaged the other foot. I met him at the clinic yesterday, just managing on crutches. I think they ought to be banned, there are so many accidents like this.

Our camellias are super and responding to lots of acid++ and the magnolia has just started to come out. I had 2 daffodils just inside the gate and some so and so took them.

Did I tell you I got myself a petrol chainsaw after all, as well as my electric one. Much more noisy of course – but I couldn’t resist it, to tackle the great pile of logs and bits pushed together by the logging men’s bulldozers. I’ve had two or three days out there (it’s rather a more-ish job – one never arrives at a point when there isn’t an obvious place to pull out a few more bits for the bonfire, cut one more big log, or clear another square yard or two of field!) The veg garden has been too wet to work in – tho’ I did get a row of potatoes in a couple of weeks back. The grass is growing a little, though not much – enough for a rush job to be done on the lawn when we asked a couple to tea at short notice last weekend!

Seems like spring could be here. My tulip, daffodil and iris bulbs are showing, and I’m in the middle of being dazed by glorious seed catalogues, trying to decide what to plant in the garden. The circle really has come full swing quickly.

Significant other – 3

 Did I tell you the sad news of the Xs? Long letter her saying he had taken a year’s sabbatical from her?! and had produced a legal document to say he could live as a single man for a year – now I’ve heard everything! There was a terrific shindy with the tax dept – and it came out that their accountant just hadn’t been sending in all the figures and none at all for one year. It ended up with him having to pay $1,000,000 in back payments and fines – and by mortgaging houses and using money he’d ‘kept fluid ’ was able to pay up – but once in the clear he removed his entire studio and gallery to another State and left her to look after their 4 houses and keep an eye on the family.

She can do nothing right – she’s busy trying to organise a tour of Europe next year – with him and X in a hired caravan. My heart sinks at the idea – 3 months – horrors!

I asked if she still saw X and she said no, he didn’t like her lawyer – but she did – she’d obviously had a big settlement in her favour over the divorce!! Sad he does not seem to enjoy things much.

News of X’s marriage sounds v. odd, do you know what he’s like? I don’t envy him, their house will be in chaos.

living in chaos

X’s hasty wedding was a bit odd too – what does he do workwise – one O Level and looking after chickens is not full of hope for the upkeep of his new wife.

I thought I’d offer X something on time this Xmas and offered her a duvet but she says Y likes a heavy weight on him. I suppose I could give him a length of rope and a block of concrete!

The boyfriend is large and basic (who looks very nice to give him his due) with little education. She says if they were to marry and have a family she wouldn’t mind his looking after the babies and house, as she certainly wasn’t going to stay and look after them. She got quite irate with me when I said I couldn’t imagine his doing it as his friends would think it such a joke – she said couldn’t I see her understanding of it, and I must realise things were different nowadays, and so on – I understood exactly what she meant but didn’t agree with her!

One of our bridge 4 is failing visibly all the time and has difficulty speaking clearly (Parkinson’s) so her husband won’t talk to her and has taken over the kitchen to the extent he’s had it all redone to his choice of everything whilst she was put in a home with a retired nurse. It’s not a happy set up, with the added difficulty of a friend of theirs who’s practically an accepted 3rd in the house and does all the things with him that she can no longer do – walking, swimming – and we’re not sure what else!

He’s 23, fairly big, got curly hair and big curly sideboards and a bit of an extravert.

My changing room environment was emotionally taxing as there were 4 of us – the other three single, but one had just split up with a boyfriend of 2 1/2 years and the other two were involved with married men, one of them with lots of strife.

Let me give you a little word of advice: don’t marry someone you’ve only known for a few months!

The thing we can’t understand is why X thinks he is so marvellous. When she told me that he had aged 5 years in the past 2 weeks the other day, my cynical thought was ‘that makes him 15’ but I didn’t say that cos I didn’t feel it would help.

The marriage day was all perfection. The garden glowed with flowers, the sun burst out of the blue sky – X and I stood up by the altar table – behind us was an arbour we’d made and covered with a fish net with flowers and ferns twined in it. In front of us the people (about 40) sat in a semi-circle of benches we’d made out of driftwood from the beach. X had written the liturgy, and as well there were poems – Fernhill by Dylan Thomas, and I read one by Yevtushenku called Colours – and guitar and dulcimer music. I was bursting with excitement and joy. Everyone was smiling and serious at the same time.

I won’t have told you I had a ‘Dear John’ letter from X in October. I was very sad, and really it wasn’t as bad as all that. It is difficult to keep up a romance when people are 7000 miles apart. He met someone else, and it was only a matter of time before I would have been writing the same sort of letter as on Oct. 10 I fell somewhat for a 6’2” hunk of superb Canadian manhood. Absolutely terrific guy.


On the way home we watched the bungy jumping. One cheeky young man called out, ‘Are you going too, granny?’ Afterwards I wished I’d said yes, if he’d shout me! Why don’t you think of these things at the time?

[Child of 8y] About mother’s lacy black bra: ‘A see-through bra! Oh well, I suppose it’s cheaper.’

[Child of 9] Realising he’d missed something which sounded interesting, he said, ‘Oh bother, I wish my ears were poking into your conversation.’

missing something

After about half an hour he [owner] turned up with his two daughters. He was licensed for 4 people which he already had booked (plus his friend and baby, plus his girlfriend and 3 year-old!) so we became his cousins for the day and booked into the third B&B bedroom with en suite.

He is building a yacht an hopes to sail in some enormous race ‘If he can find a sponsor’ – I can’t think why people be expected to pay for someone to indulge themselves.

She tried the place I suggested and got it wrong, and went straight to the place without an interview, so it was a wasted journey, I told her she’d need a 3 week notice to get a proper counsellor, but someone else said just turn up. So, I’m fed up with being taken as not knowing anything – I’d phoned up and found out.

Ageing – 4

I went for my compulsory 76 driving test in December and was told his only complaint was I wasn’t quick enough off the mark at lights etc. – which held traffic up – but I won’t push it – I know my reactions and the ability of the car best. An old boy of 88 locally went into the side of a car and wrote it off, the second car in 2 years.

Slow on the off

I am distressed I have not heard from my cousin for 2 years; as he is my only remaining relative, I would like to know if they are still in the land of the living. Would you be a dear and phone them for me? My address book has suddenly disappeared – I will have to put their number down later in the letter.    … X has found my address book though so here is their phone number – no, it isn’t – I haven’t got it!! Here is the address. She is more with it – it’s a pity I’m not! – so I hope she answers the phone.

They came out to tea on Saturday – he is pretty sick with cancer though of which bit of him I don’t know – but he battles on very cheerfully – so we enjoyed their coming.

Poor old X, it’s so hard when she’s helped everyone for so long. It must be hard for Y – she said in a letter when she goes to the nursing home the father sits with his head in his hands saying he wishes he was dead, and X bursts into tears – so unlike her.

Now I’m on 2 different anti-bs, to be taken at different times, so I have to write when down carefully, or I certainly wouldn’t remember if I’d taken them or not.

Isn’t getting old sad? I’m not going to put anything in writing or help any but mine own in future – the stress is too much. The most trivial things put me in a tizz – making hair appts, then cancelling them, and the like.

He’s in a bad way, looks awful and really isn’t all there – and [wife] keeps telling him so. I’m sure he shouldn’t be driving

Today we didn’t wake up until 9.30 so had to put a move on to get to church. Lovely little building and a good service. One of the congregation was to be 96 this week – she walked down the v. steep path to the church in a more spritely way than I!

She had to take over the driving on the motorway as I was sleepy. It’s incredible how easily I go to sleep when I sit down during the day, though I find it difficult to sleep more than 6-7 hours in bed!

Keeping fit – 2

I am taking fresh carrot juice and raw veg and fruit a lot – no meat or milk or eggs, but I do have nuts and tinned fish. It is supposed to help the arthritis in my back, and I am feeling better after 6 months. Also I have given up blood pressure pills and am a bit lighter too.

The boys have had 6 of 7 lessons and have making good progress. X is working so hard at freestyle and backstroke but is somewhat hampered by a natural tendency to sink!

A tendency to sink

What went awry with your dentist’s efforts? I’m lucky as X (who isn’t everyones choice) is as good sculpting teeth as rock and clay and will do odd things like sticking the front tooth that flaked apart together again tho’ he admitted it was unorthodox, and he charges me mates’ rates.

We had 3 large boxes of chocs given us at Xmas and I can’t resist them. I’ve bought an exercise video but I fear it hasn’t helped just sitting beside the TV!! I must get up and do some NOW.

She goes back to the clinic for a check-over on Thursday, and provided the bones are still in the right place, she will be having the pins out and a change of plaster – hopefully to one below the knee. Over the last couple of days she has been putting weight on her leg quite unconsciously and on Sunday was doing slow motion ballet leaps across the sitting room – her crutches providing the wherewithal whilst she was in the air.

I haven’t heard about your mini jogger – is it round and about a metre in diameter? X has one like that under the grand piano – I can’t really see him or his wife bouncing on it tho’. [Both about 85!] I am doing my exercises and I’m sure they loosen me up – but I don’t walk as much as I’m told to – there are so many things to do that you can see the use of the time.


Do you recall that teacher at X who got into big trouble because one weekend he had hopped on a bulldozer at the quarry and had run over a worker’s car before he found out how to stop it? Oh – it’s not like it was in the old days.

The big excitement this week was shooting a wild pig! We were having breakfast on Thursday, when the sheep suddenly started bunching up in the paddock with the beehives in – and the next thing we saw was a large black back-end of a pig going down between the wire and the cypress trees on the other side of the drive, in our river paddock. I rushed to ring X [the neighbour] but there was no answer – so I got my rifle and went out to have a look – determined not to venture beyond the fence. By that time the biggest of X’s dogs which is the ‘holding dog’ had appeared and had the pig by the nose. I waited my chance and got in a sideways shot – which I was frightened had hit the dog, as it came dancing round at that moment! The pig stood there head on, and the dog retired to a discreet distance! and the next shot in its head killed it. It was a very big one – X subsequently reckoned about 150 lbs, and seemed quite worried that it might have charged and come straight through the garden fence. Where ignorance is bliss! The sad thing is that my dreams of being set up in nice pork joints for a bit were dashed. X says it was too old and would taste too strong to be nice – so it will be his dogs and maybe ours who get the benefit. ‘If you were a drinking man,’ he said, ‘you could have had a drink or two on that tonight.’ I went to my bible study as usual!

A bit like the poor bloke at school who was playing the fool jumping from bath to bath and missed the last edge and landed in the bottom taking the base with him to the floor. He did look silly standing on the floor with bits of bath (and water) all around him.

Oh dear!

I had a long letter from X the au pair a while ago. She sent pictures of her family, a girl the age she was when she came to us, 20. She says ‘She is now getting 20, and after she has been playing the mad during her teenage years, we have hopes she will slowly settle down and become reasonable.’ I suspect she forgets she was ‘playing the mad’ when in England, and I’d know.