Loss and condolences

[With news of a friend’s death] She got such pleasure from your visits, your friendship and your wonderful letters and, on her behalf, I thank you for that. She was very fond of you.

I know you will be shattered by the news that X has gone – and I send you much love and sympathy.

I seem to have had a catalogue of misfortune in my Christmas mail. I heard from X this week. His wife recovered from her stroke a year ago, but the Alzheimer’s is worse than ever and she just doesn’t know him. Poor man. And Y – old colleague – lost his wife just before Christmas. There is no understanding how the good Lord arranges these things! The moral seems to be to keep one’s possessions and affairs tidier than I generally manage to do.

I am afraid you are going to miss X terribly and I am so sorry. I do think strokes are the absolutely worst thing that can happen to a person – but if it does happen, it’s best to go quickly, don’t you think?

I feel it is like a sort of club when we have lost someone very close and when it is someone in the family: father/sister. A bit of life has gone that no one else can possibly know about us. That sounds v. muddled but you know what I mean. She was my sister and he your father.

Do you recall that nice and long-suffering woman X who prepared the salmon lunch at my cousin’s house? I heard from her a few days ago, returning my Christmas letter to my cousin, and reporting that she had died quite suddenly when she had been planning a party for her 90th birthday. She wrote very kindly of her patience etc. in ‘the many years of physical pain allotted to her’ and described her as ‘a great woman’ but it seems to me that X herself deserved the accolade as much.

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returning your letter

Ghosts / supernatural

At last I’ve collected and unpacked the boxes of stuff you sorted out from [her house]. When I opened the lid of the long box with the dowsing stuff in it, it was such a strange and happy feeling, as though she came out of the box!

I’ve been thinking of you so much – and I was when you had your heart/eye upset – it must have come on the waves.

I started on the clay head and after 3 days it was beginning to take a likeness; I covered it with wet cloths each night and 2 days ago when I took them off – lo and behold the whole face had fallen off. I’ve given up and written to Dame X telling her what had happened and decided I needed her to give it her blessing before starting – so now I wait and shall see. She’s 98. [And in a later letter] I must start another head first – I’ve got some Raku clay and will try her once more – the last one was a flop too. She died just after I’d written asking her permission.

Her face fell

Did I tell you I had distinct feeling X [partner who recently died] came and asked if I’d found the little red leather prayer book he bought for my confirmation and then decided to buy a jersey instead. Altho’ he’s written in it, a lot of the pages are still stuck together and I never remember seeing it before – isn’t it odd? – it’s a delightful collection of old prayers.

X has threatened the workers on one estate with a touch of obia (very strong black magic worked by several women in most villages) if they light him any more cane fires and it has worked almost miraculously so far. They won’t tell definitely on the ones they know are doing it because of obia and most exacting punishments like having their houses burned down.

Thank you letters – 2 (and spelling!)

There is a blackbird on the little lawn outside my study window collecting a tremendous mouthful of worms, as a result of the rain which is beating down fairly steadily (this must be the ‘occasional showers on the west coast’ which they mentioned this morning) – so we have every incentive to get on with our thank you letters!… I’ve managed to fall asleep twice in the middle of writing this – and fear it must be very dull!

Thak you for the book you sent me but we have all ready got the book so I was going to swap it for another book. Sorry it was so late but I’ve been lazy with the birthday letters.

Thank you very much for the absolutly wonderfull batting glaoves I am rigfht into cricket so they are marvalous. They are very usefull for cricket seeing we only have small suply of equiptment at the team I go to. I am very proud of them to. I got them about 2-3 weeks ago and I am sorry I didn’t write sooner.

thank you for gaving me the DRACULA book. I likle the part where dracula is hiding and scares all the people away. We had a concert. At the concert we did a stick Game. [The mind boggles!]

Stick game at the concert

thank you for the big Mr Men book it is really neat. I have learnt a graDe 4. recorDer piece.

Thank you for the book about steam trains and Thank you for the Royal wedding cup it got broken in the air mail but mummy has mend it so it looks brand new. my Guitur is going well P.S. I will be going to beach house in two days.

Thank-you very much for my lovely book on ‘Mysteries of the Universe’ it will be most usefull in school projects and things of that nature. [Too young to be being sarcastic or deliberately insulting??] I have had a look through it and it has a lot of beautiful pictures and lots of writing so that I may read all about the picture. We had a lovely christmas I hope you did as well I got a new action man because my other one broke just before so I now have two action men except one of them has only one arm because that is the thing that broke off.

Thank-you for the magic flowres I have done one but it didn’t work out so I’m going to try a nother one today. And I will find the outher 3 pot’s very useful as well. From Santa I got an electirc toothbrush, when I turn it on it sounds like a road drill! P.S. hear is a picher of Santa.

I have bought Easter presents and made a rather poor imitation of your usual wrapping efforts – including the name tags. Although it’s only Easter Eve I’ll thank you now for my delicious looking egg – I couldn’t resist a peep as I bought it!

Employment hassles 2

She’s having to get as much work as possible and has taken on part-time typing jobs which is well paid and has 2 full weeks in January which will be a big help – as they still have 2 cars – and some capital she doesn’t want to touch – I don’t want to help financially – indeed she refused but I do hope he gets something soon – it’s so bad for his morale.

I don’t know if X has told you the latest saga of his job – it seems to be driving him to absolute distraction. All he has to do is see that the people who see that the men do their work properly, do their work properly (?!! if you see what I mean!) He’s not allowed to make suggestions, cos that lays the department open to responsibility, unless through the proper channels – about 3 weeks, 10 bods and forms in quintuplet.

We have had literally nothing to do here in weeks. Organised the odd social function for the staff, drawn posters and sold tickets, very little personnelling though! They say it will hot up a bit in Feb. but that is such a long way off, and I am absolutely BORED. And you can imagine what idle hands can get up to. Actually, all I do is roll into work hours late, or skip off early and take long lunch times. My boss is just a voice at the end of the phone. He comes in occasionally to sign the odd letter, but most of them I do anyway as I can’t leave these things weeks at a time. He went to Europe in Sept./Oct. on a recruiting campaign, spending 5 weeks in Switzerland and England, leaving me holding the child. Enjoyed that, as I was ‘i.c.’ as it were, not that there was much to be in charge of!! He goes off again at the end of January to do the same thing in the schools and universities across Canada, so again muggins takes the can. And there are so many extra-curricular things to be done here i.e. skiing, skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing – not that I do many of these – no time!!!

Schedule for idle office

Last week I started my holiday job. I’m standing in for a guy who’s gone overseas for 3 months. Quite interesting – would be even more interesting if they paid me as an engineer and not as a ‘vacation worker’ (a species little better paid than a labourer). As I’m doing engineering work I suspect they are acting rather unethically. However as there are plenty of students with no work at all I’m not inclined to complain too loudly!

I have a deep depression on me, due to the fact that is is impossible – and I mean impossible – to get a job here! I have tried the papers and the radio stations, and the TV stations, and the film studios. I have my name down on about seven secretarial agencies, and every day I look in the paper. Tomorrow I’m going to ring the advertising agencies and PR firms – and, would you believe, I am even trying to get a job teaching English to foreigners! The work situation is appalling: I’ve had several people interested in taking me on, but the economic position is so bad here that just nobody is hiring any staff. They had strikes here in practically every industry lasting for three months this summer, and I’ve met people who’ve been out of work for anything from three weeks to four months!

I got a job for about 7 weeks filling in while they are waiting for someone to come out from England. It’s a super modern air-conditioned office with most of the staff English and very pleasant and I shall be quite sorry to leave although the job leaves much to be desired in the way of interest for the majority of the time!

Underneath the huts is a little room dug into the earth where the potting [making pots!]– which is done entirely by the men – goes on. The women are not considered really clever enough to help apparently – although I expect they do heavy work like they do in the fields where it is they who pick up the 6 ft canes, tie them up and carry them up a precipitous ladder resting against the three ton lorries which must be backbreaking for a whole day from about 7 to 5.30.

Stocking the larder/ self-sufficiency

My sheep are hanging over me again – metaphorically speaking. Firstly they are getting pretty short of grass, though I’m glad to say that most of them seem to be prepared to eat the hay I made with the sweat of my brow last summer, as well as the sheep nuts which I am giving at a reduced rate because of the hay. Secondly, they have all got to be injected – at least the seven ewes have – but I’m putting that off, today, as it was a stormy night and they will all be wet today and unpleasant to hold still while X jabs them. The chicken are also hanging over me at the moment as they have practically given up laying, and I need a lesson in what to do next.


We are so cosy and warm in our log cabin, second winter. We built a larder/storage room this autumn, so now we have four rooms – very grand! I did a lot of canning again this year, stocking the shelves up with plums, pears, apples, apple sauce and jams and jellies for the winter. I have to say, I am getting quite a professional when it comes to canning!

Because of a lot of delays this summer, we never did get our house started. Next year for sure. I am quite content with our log cabin, at least for one year more.


After their initial flightiness and standoffishness my new chicks seem to be settling down. We are up to about four eggs a day from 6 so that’s not bad, and I have started selling them again.

Our neighbour’s wife and the two younger kids were away. His dogs took off after a pig and he came back to leave the older boy with us and get a dagger before chasing after them. By the time he got back supper was ready so we invited him in too.


The kitchen is my favourite, all logs and wooden shelves and workbench, and filled jars and rose hips strung out to dry for tea. Our garden came out well, and in fact we’re still eating carrots and cabbage and beetroot from it, and I planted some pretty flowers in front of the cabin. This summer we also acquired one cat  (to keep the mice away), two white ducks called George and Martha and five chickens, which actually are too young to lay eggs until the early spring.


Last week I heard a couple of shots and thought next door was killing off a sheep, but he phoned to warn us the butcher had come to butcher his cow, and the first shot sent it straight off and over a 4 ft fence to land dead at the top of our drive. As their Landrover was in the garage for a couple of days the remains of the poor beast had to remain outside our gate, loose head and all the innards until he could take them away. The rural postie hesitates as to whether to get out of the car to put our letters in the box, pools of blood etc. everywhere.


I got on reasonably well, in a slightly ill-disciplined way while they were up north. I never managed to make my bed until the day they were coming home, and most days forgot even to pull it together after breakfast – but I did several washes, and managed to cook a lamb casserole which lasted two days, and sausages which X left for another two. One day I bought a ‘boil in a bag’ meal from Woolworth’s, which wasn’t bad though I imagine one would quickly get tired of them, apart from the expense, and another day I fried some lamb cutlets. On Friday, expecting the others back in the evening, I was extremely domesticated, and very busy! Made my bed! Hoovered the house from one end to the other, and dusted everywhere, even the tops of the pictures and the mantelpiece which involved taking down all the Christmas cards and putting them back again. Cleaned the windows, put a coat of paint which has waited a long time on bits of the outside room, and cooked another large casserole and a fruit salad in preparation for them: I was exhausted. My performance amazed me!

The couple down the road came over Sunday week ago and collected the three black wether lambs which I had promised to let them have, and on Saturday when I had the car back for the trailer I went and collected three, a year older but white, from X to keep the summer grass down and prepare themselves for the freezer a bit later on. As the first couple were prepared to pay what I had to pay for the replacements that means we get about half our meat supplies for about 6 or 8 months more or less for nothing (well, not quite if you allow for feeding the mother ewes in the winter, and inoculating them etc., plus interest on the capital tied up in the fields).

Each day X has been away there’s been no water after breakfast. The first day the jolly new filter thing had come adrift; that was easy, I took out the filter and put the two bits together, deciding I’d rather have brown water than no water. The next day they were adrift again but ominously no water was coming out of the pipe, which means the holding tank is empty. I struggled up to the jolly tank – it was very frosty and very wet, but the tank and pipes were all in place. Only the thought of no hot bath kept me going after that. The neighbour had told me his rams were well behaved but I kept a wary eye out for them and took a big stick, so on to the bucket. I found a piece of rope tied across the creek and I presumed it was for holding whilst investigating the bucket, so I hoped for the best and did that, and found under the chicken wire and many leaves a branch had got in and blocked up the opening out, so I felt very triumphant about that but realise that I’m not so sure I like Heath Robinson contraptions as I thought I did! This morning the filter was disconnected again so I joined it up once more, but tonight something very odd is happening, it was full but didn’t appear to be moving so I rashly unscrewed one end and the full blast of water shot over me. X is due home tomorrow so I think I’ll leave any further efforts to him; I just hope I get a hot bath tonight.


X thinks her dahlias are smaller this year than last and that the answer is sheep manure. There were two possibilities – to try and rake it up from the fields, or to dig it out from underneath the neighbour’s woolshed. We chose the latter, but it was a pretty unsavoury job. Little headroom, long whiskers of cobwebs plus, hanging from the slatted floor above, and a good deal of it well trodden down where the sheep had been put in to keep them dry if it threatened rain before shearing. We contracted with the manager to pay him $10 for a trailer full – but called it a day a $5 worth! It looks a most miserable little heap now we have it sitting in the field waiting to be distributed. Never mind, next year I hope to have a nice pile of chick manure mixed with sawdust


We have built a new chicken coop and run. Our hens are laying six eggs a day, and very soon we’re getting a whole bunch of baby chicks, which may start laying in the autumn, or next spring for sure. This is the first year we have made it with our chickens, the ones we had the last two years never did anything much. Nothing is nicer than getting eggs out of the nesting box – especially when you see how incredibly expensive they are in the stores!


I am sorry to hear about the very distressing events so close to you. Somehow things like that only ever seem to happen ‘somewhere else’, and if it does happen near you, it comes as a great shock. It makes one feel very vulnerable.

Things here are getting a bit rough – a murder a minute including 2 R.C. priests, one of whom was just quietly saying his prayers, by himself, in his church one evening. It’s very hard to understand.

cheeky thief

The guy next door to me woke up with someone in his flat on the 2nd floor; he put the light on and after the initial mutual ‘surprise’, the thief took off OUT THE WINDOW and down the drain pipe with my neighbour yelling abuse at him and the thief replying something like ‘and the same to you’. He had pocketed the guy’s cell phone and wallet, had removed a blanket from him as he slept!! in which to carry off further loot.

[About getting some specialist cutting done for an artwork] He looked at my lovely granite and asked where I’d got it from. Feeling a bit apprehensive I said a man in X had given it to me, but I knew it wasn’t from this enormous firm I’d gone to. He replied, ‘In fact it is a piece of ours’. It’s fortunate I’m beyond blushing! But seeing the name of the hotel it had been used on he knew who had given it to me as they had both worked on it. Evidently a big trolley with a pile of this stone had been stolen only a few weeks earlier: not surprising he was suspicious.

The saga of the carpet is coming to a head soon – that is the carpet which our ex-president at the club found in a cupboard and cut up and laid in the kitchen. The hairdresser downstairs who was storing it up to lay in her new spa-pool annexe has finally taken the course I suggested to her about six weeks ago and laid a claim against us in the Small Claims Tribunal – though I wanted it laid against the owners of the building as well, seeing as how one of their directors told her to put it in the cupboard, and another told us we might use it supposing it was somebody’s leftover, and it’s their kitchen anyway!

He said the other day that he was $1500 down on the theft of the skins which were stolen from his shed two or three months ago, because they were not covered by his insurance policy; and last week he was going off to X one day to try and sort out the money due to him for the trees that were felled. Apparently the woodmen had gone bust, and the mill to which they had taken the trees for sawing said they had no record of which came from his land, and which from the land across the river which they were felling and carting the same time.


I only had two needs: socks and pants, and got them both though I hesitate to say the needs were satisfied. I find nowadays that in order to get pants with any room in them it is necessary to buy ‘sleep shorts’ which are cut a little more generously, presumably to allow for tossing and turning… The only problem was that the colour range consisted of black as in ebony, red as in post-boxes and blue as in azure skies. I chose one each of the last two, and live in hope of not having an accident which will lead to the exposure of the middle bit of me in public!

‘sleep shorts’ in pillar box red

What we were looking for was a hairdressing set (clippers and scissors and comb), and we found one at a price in the chemist. Then we tried an electrical shop and found another set about $25 cheaper. Finally we asked in a hardware store and they produced just the clippers, made in Germany, where the others were American, which they kept for people wanting to clip their dogs. They were $20 more than the first set we saw! We settled on the electrical shop ones!

The cardigan is a bit shorter than I like so will knit another 3 inches on I think. I want it to cover a mad garment – most un-me – I bought on an orgy. It’s long, mid-thigh in light wool – grey stripes going round the way – and black, and I bought a pair of grey leggings to go with it and a blue pair and a super pair of Angora ones to go with my jersey same colour, same materials – and, much duller, 3 polo necks. I bought a super navy jacket, buttons to the neck, too.

We went into town last week to look for a watercolour portrait book – I spent literally hours in some 3-4 shops and finally spent nearly $85 on two I don’t really like. I am so silly. I also fell for a summer dress – v. pretty material reduced to $30 – but a size too large and it didn’t shrink as I expected – and shirt for X’s birthday which even tho’ it’s ‘small’ looks much too big for him – so on the whole it wasn’t a success.

One of the big stores is closing down and we went in yesterday looking for bargains. X had no luck at all, but I seemed to be spending money like a drunken sailor, and went on doing so after we left there – ending up with a pair of trousers, 2 shirts, 2 V and Ps, a pair of slippers, a new gadget for my machine for cutting rebates and grooves, yards and yards of dark denim to make a darkroom and a book on the resurrection – oh, and a book of music for my treble recorder which I acquired some time ago on another minor spending spree, and am now trying to learn in place of the penny whistle.