When I was young 2

Trains are not what they were. When I think of the breakfast I used to get around 1947 which lasted all the way from Waterloo to Basingstoke where I used to go to audit a steam-roller manufacturer’s business! And some notes I am putting into publishable shape have a description of the restaurant car on the mainline here around 1910. In those days the manager of the car did his own buying at the various stops – trout, whitebait, lamb, strawberries etc. according to season. There were various places where the suppliers used to wait in which case the train was stopped for the bargains to be completed! Nowadays one has to rush out to the refreshment room at the halfway stop to acquire tepid tea in plastic cups and equally tepid and plastic sandwiches.

Trackside goodies

Hope you remembered all your lunch when you went to Whipsnade, unlike your 21st! What a change from 4 shillings to £2.50. [And in 2019 quoted at £21.30!]

I went into the local garage who kindly lent me their hydraulic jack which saved a great deal of fiddling about, and winding, to get the offending wheel off the ground. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the shock absorbers, but the new bearing I had fitted a month or two ago seemed distinctly loose, and the man adjusted it for me in about two minutes flat with his clever cruciform spanner for the wheel nuts, and his special pliers for pulling off the cover to the bearing. Would have taken me all of half an hour. But it didn’t cure the rattle! However, the next service is coming up, so I shall have the shock absorbers given a special examination. I remember reading not long ago that they aren’t made to last more than 40,000 or so (which surprised me as they are the sort of thing one expects to last as long as the car).

Your bike sounds super – it brought back memories of my biking in those parts in the war – I can remember my delight as I struggled up the Finchley Road if the admiral passed me in his large car and pushed his bosun out to ride my bike up and gave me a lift. We were in the big block of flats at the top of the hill and the wrennery was in the enormous nurses’ hostel.

 

Pets 2

She really is a most surprising and individual dog – much too friendly, normally, as a guard dog though occasionally she produces menacing barks and growls. Every now and then she suddenly goes haywire and rushes about, often going off about fifty yards and then coming charging back straight at you. If she actually hit one at top speed she would certainly knock one over and probably break your leg as well, as she is about 10 inches across the chest and weighs 3.5 stone. Other times she dances around off all four paws at once and she has a remarkable heavy breathing act. But in another mood nothing will do but to snuggle up and lay her head on whatever portion of ones anatomy is available – however uncomfortable that leaves the rest of her!

Dancing off all four paws

There is a dog of ancient vintage, which I don’t think will last long but it doesn’t worry me as much as the thing the previous girl brought. It was a mad mongrel that barked and jumped up at everybody. So it was not with any sorrow that I said goodbye to that particular animal!

About two weeks ago she went up the hill with X and started racing down and rolled over dead – heart attack. Too sad – we miss her and in fact chose the place we’re going to to be near walking country. However, no doubt we’ll be more tempted to walk if it doesn’t mean going the same way always or take the car. We’ll wait and see how we feel when we’re settled before thinking of another.

Our beautiful Irish setter ran away one day and never came back. Either someone stole her, or she may have been shot for running deer. Either is equally possible. It hurt a lot to lose her, even though setters traditionally have a roaming tendency, and she had slipped off enough times for us to know that one day it would be for good.

We had to let the old dog be put to sleep and we got a 4 year old boxer, quite small, from animal welfare. It has been an exhausting 3 days as we have no gate and 400 metres of only barbed wire fence. But she is settling down and stays close to us. We can shut her in the little back yard when we both go out – only for church mostly.

Last year I entered a competition to name one of Henny Penny’s little chicks. I was lucky enough to win one. Eggburt was delivered three weeks ago.

Church/religion 5

We had a pleasant evening last Sunday at the Cathedral when they were saying goodbye to X. I can’t say I got anything out of his sermon any more than the four years I heard him every week! – but it was nice to see so many old friends.

I asked the boys what they’d give up for Lent the other day and after much debate one said he’d give up getting cross so I said, ‘Are you sure, that sounds like hard work’. Whereupon the other one said, ‘That’s a good idea, I’ll give up hard work’!

I’ve just had my grandfather’s Bible rebound. I got it in two halves from two aunts. Inside it is inscribed ‘Presented to X on his 25th Birthday from his Father-in-Law with a request that the Contents may often be perused, with a Spiritual Blessing resulting thereby’.

It’s a sort of inter-denominational monthly do… the meeting over – ran for thirty five minutes – mostly a man with a fantastic gift of the gab, but some queer ideas, I thought, talking on a passage of what sounded like Habbakuk – and then his wife (50 if a day) got up to croon one of these gospel songs, which she did three times over in a voice of warm treacle – really revolting, after which they got everyone to sing it with her still leading, about fifteen times, interspersed with ‘altar calls’ (if you know what they are) and exhortations to go to another meeting on Sunday afternoon etc.

Another of our ewe-lambs went off and got dipped last Sunday with the Pentecostalists – full of joy and quite unrepentant for not having consulted his clergy first. Very trying, these individualists!

Last week we had our own pet visiting preacher. He has turned out to be an admirable speaker, thank the Lord, and in spite of my well-known propensity for sleeping when other clergymen talk, I have listened to him every day and twice most days without once dropping off! Perhaps it helps that by and large I agree with him on almost every subject he has talked about.

We spent nearly all our time shopping apart from a 4 hour trip round Hong Kong Island – and a service on Sunday morning which I walked to and found a church which was almost a duplicate of a Victorian one just off Queens Road in Weybridge – so Anglican and so completely un-Asian that it was too pathetic to be funny.

We get little snatches of news about the row going on in UK over the ordination of women, the latest of which is the ex Bishop of London’s threat to lead a party of priests to join the Roman church; or to form a new C of E under the Pope – I’m not quite sure which. I think he must be crazy: I have a book of his from which I guess that no way could he accept the sort of intellectual discipline that Rome exerts.

[Poor attendance] seems to have been afflicting the House Group I go to on Thursday evenings. Maybe it has just been the very long and beastly winter which we are emerging from, but quite often the group only produces about five people although in theory we have a membership of about fifteen. Personally I think it is also because we don’t have a sufficiently worthwhile programme, and waste a lot of time drinking tea, not having met until 7.15 p.m. so we don’t actually start doing anything until about 8.30 apart from chatting. And when we do start, our capacity for chasing red herrings is quite something, so we never, but never actually get through any programme – and often take three weeks to cover what other groups apparently cover in one session. However, as long as they enjoy it – !

The group

Significant other 5

I’ve fixed for one of our more eccentric friends to come to supper. She’s a sculptress and farms 5 acres on her own in a slap happy way. She had a husband but said, ‘Oh, I got rid of him’!!!

Did I tell you X’s elder daughter is divorcing her husband – with 3 young she won’t have an easy time – but she married him against all opposition.

I’m not sure if X is going to remove Y from your evil influence or disapproves of the flat or hopes to accommodate her himself??!! Maddening if he does for any reason, just when you’re settled.

X had another school dance on Friday – put on by the 6th form. The dreary fat Y’s mama made up a party of 6 and had them to dinner first. Evidently not one of the boys asked any of the girls to dance and Y only danced with her brother who’d sneaked in without a ticket. However X was cheerful enough as she’d danced all the evening with another boy she’d ‘seen on the train’!

Have heard from X that her daughter’s husband has died – sounds a blessing to me – but she may be v. sad.

They are in the middle of a horrible divorce and he still suffers from depression. I’m sure he will recover when the pressure and rows are over.

His daughter has come unstuck from the reputedly very rich man she was engaged to last year, apparently losing the contents of her bank account in the process. He was discovered to have a record for fraud etc.

X and I have excelled ourselves again. We went into a JUNIOR bridge tournament last week and, yes you’ve guessed, we were bottom again!! He put a chauvinistic pig rhyme on my desk just afterwards:

‘There was an old man who said dash, Why am I and my wife both so rash? If she called with reserve, There’d be room for my verve, in playing the hand with panache.’

 

She has asked me in front of him if I’ll give him his birthday dinner as they can’t afford another party!!!

Said friend has since died, leaving her very boorish husband much lost and realising for the first time what a wonderful wife she was.

But when she died…

I had a hard time writing to X and put it off for as long as I could. I fear the change of relationship from having short bursts of fun living whilst he played hookey from home and reality, to her being home and reality, and he with an added guilt complex on top of it, might prove to be rather an anticlimax. She’d do better to close the book on the past 12 years and start afresh with her other pursuer. I’d have no sympathy with Y if she did!!! (I didn’t actually SAY all this when I wrote!!)

It was amusing your remarks about X’s man. When I told Y they’d got engaged, she remarked, ‘not to that drip, she must be mad’! I do hope for her sake you’re both wrong. She sounds so nice, and deserves better.

Silver linings

X and I played together at the Bridge Club (my appointed partner most timely lost a relative-by-marriage at an advanced age and just the right moment) and came second, which pleased us greatly.

I realised that my brand new small case had 2 holes – because of the weight of my shopping it had dragged on the ground, so presto I hitched a lift for the rest of the way – very thankful to my Guardian Angel!

Today they have gone back to eat the remains of the feast, except that X can’t eat much having been in hospital last week; her colon is inflamed and must be on a diet before they operate! She is none too pleased, but she has lost 3 pounds in 2 days, and was glad to tell me.

I’ve had 3 happenings. I thought I’d lost my great great uncle’s ring and spent a morning hunting for it – then was just going to go out when I thought I’d better ask our neighbour as we’d had tea with them and there it was under the couch I was sitting on. Joy. Then X collecting luggage and bits for our jaunt put his hand in the top of the linen-cum-everything cupboard and found the pair of glasses I’d lost some six months ago AND I had a phone call to say I’d won the raffle of an Aran knit cardigan.

We were doing some rush shopping and got back just as the traffic cop had ordered a tow away – he rushed to his bike and managed to cancel it just in time – so her ticket was $20 instead of $40 – she played the organ at a funeral the next day, she said it would just pay it!

I’ve got flu or something at the moment. About half the school is down with it so I suppose I would hardly miss getting it. It’s a blessing in disguise really cos they’ve had to cancel house drama which was going hopelessly anyway. I was going to be a headmaster in my play but I was terrible at it. That just leaves us with a musical evening, a bio/geog trip and market day – all of which I’ll probably miss (hopefully) at this rate.

The agent’s visit occasioned a certain amount of activity such as doing a clearance in the garage – which for the moment is startling (at least to me) in its orderliness!

I heard from X last week. She remarked that although it was easier to read my typing and I got more on the page, she felt she’d lost the spirit of adventure when reading my letters!

Handwriting v. type

Diet ideas

I’ve lost a bet with X to lose half a stone. I think I’ve put on 2 lbs and she, maddening child, has lost more than she set out to! This cold weather makes me want to eat more to stoke up, and last week’s bridge, or lack of it, didn’t help. I turned up all set to find my partner was already sitting with someone, she’d just failed to put our date in her programme. I was so cross I came home, bit all my nails off and then raided my tin of meringues and whipped lots of cream and ate no less than four!

He is on to something new in natural food, etc. and now his wife is on a completely raw diet; they gave me a taste of her raw bread and it did awful things to my glands and turned my mouth down so I couldn’t even try to say it was lovely! Anyway at present she is blooming and he said it was all because of twice a day raw wheat shoot drink which is grown from special organically grown wheat, from which they make their bread. He showed me the masses of little trays he was growing his wheat in; it is ready 10-14 days after sowing, about 6 inches high, when he puts a handful in a glass of water (collected once a week from a friend’s bore!) and puts it in the liquefier and you drink it straight away!!

Raw bread and wheat grass

Wasn’t it maddening, the abscess didn’t stop me eating, I could do with losing a stone! A friend of ours has just been on brown bread and water/ coffee/tea and no milk on alternate days for 2 weeks and lost 2 kgs.

We’ve just had the most sumptuous plum pie with lots of cream as Lent is over. I’m an ass, perhaps that’s why I lost nearly 1/2 a stone. I must try and restrain myself.

I heard from X that she’d gained 3 lbs – I wonder if she’ll keep it up. Do hope so.

He only weighs a few pounds more than me – tho’ admittedly I’ve suddenly gone to nearly 11 stone and can hardly bend in the middle and none of my clothes fit so I must take action TOMORROW! The doctor’s quite unsympathetic and says it’s because I feel better and the pills I’m taking have changed my metabolism and increased my appetite – no help at all!

Our newly married aged friends have just returned from a painting holiday having lost 9 lbs each, all through taking half a teaspoon of cider vinegar in water 3 times a day, sounds foul but I’ll try anything once.

The diet book looks much easier than all that calorie counting, I was surprised how alcoholic I can be without a thought! But sad that my rather heavy homemade brown bread is 18 grams an ounce; can’t believe I can keep down to 50 a day.

Dowsing 3

We’ve been wondering whether to drill a bore – it’s been so hot so the garden and all the fields are drying out. Our neighbour has one and I dowsed on the same line and it’s obvious as it’s an old stream that comes right up to our fence. So we got a drilling type along – v. nice young man – who said he could do it for $1,750!!! Then we’d need an engine and cover and electricity laid on. So we’d be into £2000+++. Praise be the drought’s broken and we had steady rain last night.

There’s a woman from the mental hospital loose, she’s reported dangerous having axed her husband to death. I dowsed she was in X last night, and as I was going in that direction today I had a little look at the part of the road I thought I had reactions to (I wasn’t too convinced, it was rather a coincidence it was in the place I knew I was going to today!) but it was odd that in the middle of a really quite pleasant neighbourhood there was a shabby little house surrounded in weeds and all the blinds down. Clutching my folder I rapped on the door and when an aged crone answered, asked how to get to a road in the district. She certainly wasn’t the woman who is wanted and didn’t seem at all put out, so as [partner] said I’d probably be put in the mental hospital too if I told the place I’d dowsed her, I let well alone!!! The news tonight says she’s been seen miles away, but she obviously made her getaway during the night after I dowsed!

We’ve had a fascinating day. We went into X this morning to an aerial photographer who was a poppet. It was difficult to get him to show us what we wanted without telling him what for. After I’d talked round sewage and water pipes etc. he said, ‘You’re not telling me the whole story so it’s difficult to help.’ So I had to admit I had a hunch re the seepage – he said he’d lived here all his life and feared there wasn’t any but actually there was a line on the photographs he couldn’t explain. Anyway we set off to the bay right off the beaten track and had to climb down awfully steep cliffs and had a gorgeous afternoon clambering over rocks looking for oil or tar. Then there were two young surfies and on the way back I asked them did they ever get tar or oil on their skin diving suits and they came up with the information there was some soapsuddy looking patches in the bay and pointed them out to us. We had a look from the top with binoculars and there was a line of bubbles which didn’t change position. I was told it was easy to see a seepage as the bubbles showed on the water – TRIUMPH. Of course [partner] is quite noncommittal and unconvinced but we’re going to two other places there should be a seepage on shore tomorrow.

He is that delightful epitome of tact who told her that the man in the DSIR to whom she had been speaking about divining was the department’s officer who dealt with crank queries! Even she was taken aback.

The man in charge of cranks

 

Politics 4

There were 3 knighthoods announced yesterday and one of them was the man who I suspected was the young lieutenant helping me and the Wrens ‘in Algiers’. I’ve not come across him yet – now I’ve seen an uptodate photograph in the press I’m not sure I want to (it made me feel very old) pompous and dull – and he was a very lighthearted type.

I was rung up about 10 days ago by our national moral guardian who runs a body called the Council for Protection of Moral Standards, or some such – wanting me to go and see a film called ‘The Streetwalker’ in order to complain and get it referred back to the censors who she thought had achieved a new low in laxity. I went and was left with some distinctly pornographic memories! So I duly wrote an indignant letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs and sent copies of it to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister hasn’t answered but I heard from both the others (it is after all Election Year). As the PM is one of the most offensive politicians I have ever seen I’m not sure I shall be voting this year.

There was a snidey little piece at the bottom of the paper one day saying a shot had been heard coming from the Russians’ quarters in the village. It finished by stating, somewhat pointedly I thought, ‘Later 12 athletes were seen leaving their quarters each carrying a large portmanteau’. You can imagine the grizzly conclusion I came to !!!!!

Sportsmen with portmanteaus

But by all the news in the Guardian and what gets into our daily it sounds as though you may be having the central heating cut off by now and life outside getting grimmer every day. Poor old England sounds as though she is just about falling to bits what with the strike and Rhodesia and Ulster – and today the last minute doubts over the Common Market bill in Parliament.

From this distance Heath and Co. look pretty inefficient – though I don’t envy him the job, even if I could then afford his yacht!

With the latest shootings by white Rhodesians near Salisbury, X will be worried for her sister, reprisals always seem to follow. I get quite sick with all the brutality and violence everywhere, and with all this build up of weapons for someone will trigger off the holocaust at some point; there seems nothing individuals can do about it. I don’t think I came out of the Joan of Arc mould.

I was amazed by the change of tone in this letter about her feeling re Rhodesia. In her last she said it was all blown up out of proportion and no one bothered with politics etc. In this one she says her sister is having shooting lessons and they never go out without a gun, and there have been raids nearby, but they don’t want to leave unless they have to etc. etc.

Ill judged comments 3

I don’t remember judging her on this or anything else but could have suggested she made up her mind which was difficult with boyfriends in tow. If people tell me about their troubles I think silence is condoning. If I’m supposed to say Yes Sir, No Sir, I’d rather not be involved. Did she complain to you? I have more things to cope with than worry anymore on that score tho’.

Our party for the young gang was Tuesday. I’ve not recovered yet – 24 and us! …All went well except X practically threw them out half an hour earlier than they’d been invited for – two people came to collect young and he got muddled! on top of me telling someone their daughter was definitely not at our party when they rang up when she was sitting 2 yards away from me. I had some explaining to do the next morning. I was afraid she would be on the mat as to just where she was!

Pause of over an hour while X calls – she’s a bit dangerous as she’s a bit (quite a bit!) deaf and a terrific gossip – the combination produces libelous remarks!

Coming as he has from a rather liberal state school to a fairly conservative private school he’s objecting to calling the teachers ‘Sir’ – for a variety of very good reasons I might say! I don’t feel very happy giving him the full guff about respecting his elders and betters as his tutor is a complete twit! I’ve suggested that he go and ask his headmaster why this form of address is still considered appropriate when no one else in the country uses it. Should be interesting!

My opinion, uncharitable and unchristian etc etc, is that they have fled her manipulation and deviousness and need to control them.

She was talking to an acquaintance at a party the other day who commented that she never wears wraparound skirts as ‘they really make one look like the back of a bus’. X was wearing her rather snazzy homemade wrap-around skirt! Oh well, a very cuddly bus she is too!

A cuddly bus

 

 

Nuisances of life 5

Re the cricket lady – I asked a member of Lords who said that he was inundated with requests and suggests her bosses should give her an introduction.

I’ve spent more time at the Accident and Emergency Department at the local hospital this year than I have during the whole of the rest of my life! The staff there are getting to know me quite well, having extracted splinters from hands after I snapped a twig the wrong way, removed a huge cyst from the top of my leg which was the result of being butted by a horned sheep, and treated me for Erysipelas which is a disease that everyone took great delight in telling me that pigs get. (I got this as a result of one of our stable doors slamming into the back of my heel in a sudden gust of wind, and very nasty it was, too!)

I was cleaning out a much overgrown corner of the garden near the road, and lo and behold, another air-letter from her somewhat the worse for the depredations of worms? mice? or other paper-eaters but still for the most part readable. I suspect a pair of sparrows who have active designs on our letter box – some days they are encouraged by the postie’s deliveries of paper to use it as a loo (admittedly most of our mail deserves no better), and some days they seem intent on building. I think it must have been one of the latter days, when they started operations by clearing the ground!

How about a weekend towards the end of August/ beginning September? I am hoping that by then it will be possible to get out in the garden without being surrounded by 100/200 buzzing flies madly circling round your head! To avoid being driven mad I have devised a net bag in which I intend to bury my head entirely! X says people will think it odd – if they are rude enough to look over my hedge they can think what they like, and anyhow my shouts of fury and slapping noises must have alarmed them already!!

Protection against flies

 

I can well understand how difficult it must be for you to get around to letter writing at all, with your work, study, club and just ‘living’. Eating and cleaning are dreary chronic essentials I find!

How very irritating about the phone [number of new landline being in the middle of a bank of numbers for local maternity unit]. We have the same number as the vet only his involves dialling 2 first. Nearly every day someone starts off, ‘If I brought Phroo-phroe down, could you put him to sleep?’ etc.