The future and posterity

[From the days before computers etc. when phone calls abroad were booked and cost a fortune] It was lovely to hear you the other day – it never ceases to be a miracle to me – and surely it can’t be long before we’ll be able to travel that way.

On the subject of grandchildren, there is still only one who is married, and no sign of offspring – two are living happily in sin, one is gay, and three are still playing the field. So much for posterity.

This typewriter is being a great nuisance. It seems to have stopped refusing to reverse the ribbon at one end, which it was doing for a time, but now the platen and rollers are refusing to grip the paper, so it won’t wind on properly – and often refuses to accept the paper when I first feed it in without scrumpling it up at the edges.

She was a remarkable old lady – daughter of a skilled cabinet maker – who lost her mother in childbirth when she was ten, and thereafter was ‘mother’ to the family until the first world war, when her three brothers went off to the Front as they got old enough. She got a job in the Income Tax department, which she lost again with peacetime. Her father remarried a lady with a boarding house in X, and her brothers also soon got married so she was on her own and determined to see the world (which meant accepting a post as a cook in New Zealand with a £10 passage). She only had one contact there, apart from her prospective employer, and that was a Kiwi who had stayed a couple of years before in the [boarding house]. She had never met him, but her father gave her the name and address. In due course she got in touch with him. And at their second meeting he proposed and was accepted! That was the late 20s, and she was rising 40, but they had four children, including a set of twins.

The general principle behind the government’s Social Welfare programme seems to be that everyone should save like mad all their lives, in order to pay for their own old age and eventual demise; and the idea I was brought up on that any money you inherit should be regarded as a trust for your children, with enjoyment of the income only, is almost regarded as subversive!

The service started with a 3 1/2 year old boy singing the 1st verse of Away in the Manger. He and an 8 year old girl were brought out from an orphanage in Rumania / Russia?? – both very weakly. In 18 months they’re speaking fluent English and healthy and delightful. Their adopted parents are wonderful, having brought up their family, starting again.

Outings (2)

Went to the Arenes to see the tau which are very young bulls (3) let loose in the arena with about 6 to 8 young men dressed in white calling them to charge and they do. I was one metre away from one with a wall between us. Very frightening. Those young men had to run ever so quick and jump over a wall made of wood and then up near the spectators whilst someone is shouting which lad has won so many euros and this for quarter of an hour or more. To be seen once and that is it. DONE! NOT TO BE DONE AGAIN…

I went to a show with the 3rd age… it was simply marvellous and the discipline of leaving the arena was very organised; we didn’t have to wait too long as we were coach No. 9, but coach 38 must have found it a gruelling experience. It was quite tiring, although it was only 7 hours altogether. [!]

Your day with X sounded a lovely mix, though I don’t think I would have chosen Ibsen myself. My whole view of Russian literature is thoroughly coloured by a film (supposed at the time to be rather ‘risky’) which I saw about 1938 in a funny little cinema which then existed underneath the arches between Charing Cross and the river. It was an eternal triangle story, highly emotional, apparently, (though the subtitles hardly conveyed it) and punctuated with ‘Let’s have a cup of tea’ at all the high points, which came as regularly as the commercials in a TV drama. The trains at intervals didn’t help much, of course.

We went to see ‘the trots’. We only saw two races, and left before the last to avoid the traffic – but, as we were so late arriving, we got in for nothing and we were glad to have the experience! I picked but didn’t back the last horse in the first race we saw, and X picked and I backed for her the last but one in the other race – so we could have done better.

We did a visit to the Museum to see the Chinese Army – well, five of it, but quite well tricked out to make a reasonable exhibition with some big photos and various artifacts, and also a short slide show with commentary to begin with.

X had a lovely time last week going sailing. They’d had a week preparing for it, learning to rig the boats and so on and then went down to the estuary for 2 mornings. They were meant to get another half morning (for the ultimate fun of capsizing!) but it was flat calm and drizzling that day so they missed out.

no disasters

We left for home with a less-than-worthwhile diversion to a gallery to see some local artists’ work which someone had recommended. They all had scholarships to study three years or more abroad, and in no case did we think it worthwhile.

Significant other (2)

Finally: good luck to X’s new hubby – I think if I saw her again I’d probably bite her!

She sure has woken him up and made him more amusing and human. I hope X reckoned that perhaps she [2nd wife] was a good substitute for young Y – although of course still sticking to her opinion that Y was badly done by!

X and I, at last, managed to agree on how we’ll split the remainder of the matrimonial property which will take place at the end of January when the lawyers get back from holidays at our expense!

Our neighbour who has the stroke victim husband is off to Canada for 2 or 3 weeks and putting him in the home at the end of our road – she does this every few months – which is very wise of her – can’t think how everyone seems to afford these things except us – which is silly as we could really – but feel guilty about it!

Did I tell you I heard from X: her sister who tried to kill herself – down a flight of stairs when her fiance decided he’d go into a monastery instead – died in the ‘home’ X put her in – what an awful 8 years of wasted life – I hope the man knows the consequence of his action.

V. sad: one of her daughters-in-law suddenly committed suicide just before Xmas – teenage children – husband left her.

One of the nicest of the group said she’d decided she didn’t like men – she’d just had a brief letter from someone she dotes on – middle 50s – saying he’d left his wife as he’d met another woman he wanted to live with.

We have not opened the tea garden yet as we were in such a bad marriage state – very close to separation. Then we were persuaded to attend a course ‘Curse to Blessings’. [That’s what it looks like which seems surprising!] Well – we are just amazed at the change that has come over us. We are on honeymoon. We are enjoying this state till 4th March I think when we shall open. … We have found that we can actually work together now without even arguing and are due to go to the Anointed Marriage course at the end of the month. And I take X to the Curse to Blessings in about 3 weeks. We are relieved her boyfriend did not get a job here …

I was talking to a friend who said her husband’s ex-wife regarded her as the woman who stole her husband and they didn’t even meet until 7 years after the first wife left him. The human mind is an extraordinary thing.

We found a fish and chip shop directly across the road which provided an admirable lunch which we could eat in the firm’s lunch room while he relayed to me the story of his war, in various engineering jobs, and some of his subsequent career and marital troubles (which had been somewhat mixed up).

Evidently her mother told all 3 girls they should know getting married wasn’t the only way to go, and only X got married very young against their advice and was deserted after 3 children. I can’t altogether blame their mother for her view as her father left her mother and lived with someone else before they got together again.

She and her husband separated for quite a while; he spent every penny he had (and every penny she had) on cars, and was not the perfect husband.

Every time he opened his mouth, she told him he was being boring and ‘nobody was interested in that’ and he was snapping back, and being generally disgruntled.

I do wonder who X has married – Y said she replied to the speech as her new husband is very shy – and mad to marry her!!!

He’s so foul in the morning he goes to work without breakfast and phones her up about 9.30 and they talk for ages. But how this would fit into a caravan I can’t think.

Evidently he’s a new man since the break-up of their marriage – lost weight, given up smoking, and is very cheerful.

the new man

I’m pretty amazed they made their 25th too – a few years ago I think it was touch and go.

We had a huge montage of them climbing sheer cliffs and one of him kayaking down a narrow bluff which had seething water … I trust she won’t be a widow too young.

X has really done wonders with her minute flat – it looks hovelish outside but perfectly okay for one person – she keeps bringing things from the house [ex home] some of which he has different views on whether they are ‘hers, his or theirs’. It’s not going to be easy.

Multi-tasking

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!

multi-tasking

[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.

Outings

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 pleased we went despite the weather.

Characters

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?

Nature

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