“Thankyoufor your very kind Xmas present! I was very excited to receive it!!! I had been looking at a beautiful coat rack for our hallway – and your gift bought that!…”
“…Talking of rudeness, we agreed with her that he was somewhat lacking in consideration. It was one thing to take us up on our invitation at 24 hours notice – it was only for a night anyway; and to expect to stay another two nights with her; but on top of that we gather he turned up with the others without any prior notice at all and is proposing to stay a fortnight! Nor did anyone get so much as a postcard to say thank you…”
“What joy to have read you, and heard you; now the seeing is missing!…”
“…Luckily I had a nice letter from [someone else] before Christmas as otherwise I was beginning to think the country had sunk below the sea as there were no thanks for money orders forthcoming despite early postage. But perhaps they all felt they must wait until the 25th before writing to acknowledge!…”
“Thank you for the note. Yes, it was my painting at the library. I’m glad you liked it…”
And some are just a bit dilatory!
“Thank you for your nice letter which I should have replied to sooner, and also the the one before that. Thank you also for the t-shirt which you sent me. I have in fact started other letters, but on reading them through I decided they sounded so sad and morbid that they got no further than the waste paper basket beside me…”
“An embarrassingly late note to say thank you for the pepper pot – an invaluable part of our cooking tools. We had a great ‘Moon’ in Italy – seeing a huge number of churches and bowls of pasta…”
Dalyan sailing holiday: “Yesterday, we took a river trip inland to see some rock tombs and an ancient Greek city – nice to be off the boat for a change.”
Menorca: “This afternoon we took a boat trip around Mahon harbour – with a short stop for gin refreshment. Didn’t manage to lose any of the children!”
Iona: “Staying at the Abbey which is itself an experience! (Never peeled so many potatoes in my life before etc. etc.) Worship is particularly good. This afternoon, walked up to the N.E. corner of the Island in brilliant sun, then paddled across the sands at the north end – only to get soaked walking home again.”
Marmaris: [postcard shows] “Unspoilt scenery of this bay where we are staying. The main road of the place is still as dusty as ??200 years ago and we are expecting John Wayne to appear on his horse any minute.”
Switzerland: “Here we are again in the snow – a great change from the desert of Egypt. I decided to go to Cairo and down the Nile for 2 weeks with 2 German girl friends. The Valley of Kings was wonderful + tombs and temples.”
Letters from gardeners in three countries (aged from 40 to 80!) Strange that we all go on gardening when it seems to have many inbuilt problems! The triumph of hope etc.
” …my garden is starting to look just marginally more respectable in that some perennial plants have honoured me by actually growing. Most of them are still quite small yet, but I feel that when there is growth there is hope that something bigger will eventuate. I still have to arrange a path to my orange tree and compost bin – at present it is what one could politely describe as ‘beaten earth’.”
“The garden has dried up and we have been trying to fit in some of the winter tidy. I’ve managed to prune my trees (though piles of branches still lie about) and dug a big enough patch to put my seed potatoes in, though I don’t think there is any point until it gets a trifle warmer; and have weeded my leeks – which are about the only thing I’ve got growing apart from half a dozen Brussels sprouts which are too small and weedy to pick. I made a couple more kilos of pumpkin soup last week and managed to use up an enormous carrot which was the sole remnant of my so-called crop and which partner was refusing to cook as being too coarse. It tasted well enough as carrot soup with curry powder and the rest in it. I have artichokes too waiting to be dug up and converted in the same way, but they are rather a bore doing, and nobody really likes the result very much – and I have not discovered a way of disguising them. I wonder whether they would just add some body if I mixed them with oxtail, of which we have the remains of a catering-size tin which must be getting pretty stale by now. I have replaced all my strawberries with new ones, but fear with cold weather delaying them, we shall get very little fruit, very late, this year…”
“I got bored stiff with the rain. Days and days of meaning to get on with jobs and only getting short spells at sweeping or digging or something – still bits got done and that is about all I can manage in one session. I had a lovely afternoon today as I lit a bonfire and burnt about 6 barrow-loads of acorns and oak leaves – very, very naughty as I ought to compost the lot, but there are so many and I am not sure about the acorns and whether they turn into leaf mould! There are still plenty left to add to the heap on another day when they are wet and clingy – today they were bouncing everywhere in the wind.”
“We’ve enjoyed ourselves very much here, though yesterday we felt a bit stuffed with Bridge (there are lessons in the a.m. and playing sessions both afternoon and evening). We did all three, with disastrous effects on our evening score so we took a day off… Actually we relented in the afternoon and played half a session to fill in for a pair who were playing till the first call for their plane came. We weren’t very satisfactory substitutes as on the very last hand I made a bad miscalculation over the number of Aces and Kings partner had and put her into a slam call which went down 800 points and cost them a place in the event I fear.”
And from the partner:
“We spent the most difficult Trivial Pursuit afternoon – I think I knew one answer and felt more and more inadequate – and more so when we played Bridge… Wish we’d done what we originally intended and just played Bridge in the evening – we played as badly as usual; it was sad we came 5th the first night and gradually went lower and lower – we’re so much better when we’re canny and don’t get carried away! I think we’ll have to take up tiddlywinks.
Letter ends with a seasonal comment:
“I thought the Queen could have been more positive, and said the East were being more friendly – rather than ‘less unfriendly’! Princess Anne looked amazingly Edwardian – which didn’t go with her swashbuckling walk. How I’d hate to be Royalty.”
Family advice to Bridge beginners:
There’s many a man walking the Embankment who forgot to draw out all the trumps
If of sense you are bereft, place the cards upon your left
“I have two short trips to hospital this autumn, and find it hard to escape the feeling that I am getting old… My wife’s death, however sad and unexpected, had seemed for a moment to give me the opportunity to travel but, no sooner had I made a provisional booking, than I learnt that my doctor would not sign the certificate for medical insurance – and without that, any such thing is unthinkable – rich as I am!!
“He says we’ll think again about it next year, but by next year my only travel will probably be through the stratosphere to wherever…”
and the poor man [not] at his gate
“Sorry to hear you’ve been unwell but I think I can do better, having had three more operations this year, with the prospect of more to come. I do get better, more or less, in between but there never seems to be time to restore normal life before I’m hauled in again. So that’s my excuse.
“I treat your alleged financial woes with the usual contempt. Don’t you know that people from my humble background are perfectly aware that you middle class folk never actually go short? It’s the system. All I can say is I hope you’re rooting for Mrs. Thatcher…”
“…I am so glad you went to town literally on your wardrobe (not that I thought it needed this consideration and that remark might have been put better!) What I meant was that a day pushing round London and getting yourself one or two necessities before embarking on the journey must have been refreshing despite the crowds, after the dreary end of term affairs with your clients – you must have been thankful to see the back of them for a short week or two. Now I have just reread this paragraph and it sounds as though you sailed up the road sitting on the bloody wardrobe – too much food yesterday maybe and it has dulled the brain…
“Quite amusing on Christmas Eve taking the library trolley round to the few patients in over the holiday… There was a ‘Drop in’ for the volunteers for 3 hours – at which I failed to drop as I was busy babysitting… Much to my relief I may say as I find jollities like that very embarrassing and hard work. Had the usual huge collection of cards from people I see every week and never dream of sending one to – I try to train them not to bother but it doesn’t work! Such a silly waste of effort and money but very kind of them…”