Voluntary work 2

How is your adult literacy student? Last time you wrote you said you were rather concerned about her as she was in hospital cheerfully accepting all sorts of dreadful things without question. Mine is young and quite healthy but not interested. I think Father is the prime mover in what is supposed to be voluntary, and makes sure that poor X is here on the dot of 7.30 p.m. … The rest of the family is quite successful: only X seems to have missed out, and I think he feels he is the family failure. Father sees me as someone to bring him up to scratch. Altogether a bit of a pickle.

A nice friend sometimes asks me to go over and help with typing for a ‘tapes for the blind’ charity, and I enjoy going but feel an awful fraud as I type so slowly and badly on a manual machine now that very little gets done in an afternoon. But he is always very grateful so I suppose I get down to it better than some of regular volunteers. A good thing to keep in with, as I may want the service any time myself- but I have read most of the books they can offer I think!

I am enjoying doing the library trolley once a week at the new general hospital…. we do our best and giggle a lot and lose our way frequently as it is a most confusing hospital. The corridors have little coloured men on the walls to guide you the right way. Gynae is pale green and where the trolley is kept there are 5 little men showing, so one goes on until it is only one little man disappearing into a door and that is the ward!

a strange direction system for the book trolley
follow the little men

Non-sequiturs

Actually X plans to work in NZ next summer. She has worked in Oz so can’t get another work permit for Australia so NZ is the place! Did you hear that Y’s [totally unrelated person to previous] husband committed suicide last New Year – a terrible time for them all.

It’s best to be there when they begin to hatch in the night to keep the crabs off the baby turtles. Mrs. X ailing, so I may not be here for my whole 2 years.

We are hopping

[from child] We used to have 2 rabbits but one ran away, and we are hopping [sic] to find her the one that ran away was named Thumper and the other is named Midnight. I better go know because I are going to help mummy tidy my room.

My favourite dinosaur is Apatasaurus. I got a sellotape for Christmas.

He had a career choice dilemma which he solved thus: ‘On one side I’ll be a fire engine driver and on the other I’ll be Father Christmas.’

I wish I was better at living alone and that people would stop telling me what fun it must be looking at Sainsbury’s! [Flat is in block opposite the store.]

Performance

Sleeping Beauty

I will be taking part in the ballet school production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Adults are guests at the christening and at the wedding… I will have to make my costume. Mine is to be hot pink… I am a bit reticent about telling people to come: when I’ve mentioned that I go to ballet lessons, some people always seem to think that I’m professional standard, yet when other people say they play tennis, these same people don’t seem to expect any Wimbledon champions. Annoying!

We enjoyed the play , although the school benches were a bit hard to sit on, especially for the first half. There was a nice notice on a blackboard, writ large, in the entrance hall. It said, ‘First half: 1 hour 15 minutes; Interval: 15 minutes; Second half: 50 minutes’ together with a large arrow pointing to ‘Toilets’.

I did a little bit of playing: the first in about 18 months. This time I was sensible. I didn’t try to play any of the pieces I used to, so that I wouldn’t get despondent… There was a Julian Bream recital here quite recently which was inspiration. He played a lot of modern pieces which mostly I hadn’t heard before but which I very much enjoyed.

Tonight I went out and gave my first public recital for our recorder group. I didn’t do too badly I suppose. We went to X, which used to be called ‘The Home for Incurables’. (What an awful name.) It is a centre for people who are physically disabled (through brain damage, MS and other things people pray they don’t get) and unable to care for themselves.

The other thing I enjoyed so much in Toronto, tho’ not at all cultural, was a marvellous production of ‘Show Boat’ which I had never seen – and I was so stunned by all the dancing, the pretty dresses and music as the curtain went up, I almost cried. It must be 30 years since I saw a spectacle like that. Maybe I am a moron, but a bit of clean, uncomplicated fun is rather rare these days. I see the show has opened to a smash hit in New York.

Taking advantage

Many thanks indeed for your letter and all that most useful information – I’m now hoping I didn’t give a fortune away when I gave [away] D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Last Poems’ 1st Edition…a rather unworthy recipient and I don’t suppose I shall ever hear from him again. He was so enthusiastic that I thought perhaps he should have it! I’m now going to order the Guide to 1st Editions before I do any more…

I think your friend should get quite a bit for D.H. Lawrence if in good condition [Oh dear!], also for Katherine Mansfield, especially the Hogarth editions… Dust wrappers are important, if the books were originally published with them.

Life has been a bit thwarting here. I was heavily conned by a clever salesman who came when I was sleepy after lunch and not thinking. He managed to make me think he came from the Council and was offering to add to the loft insulation on a grant for the poor and aged… I said I would have it done. Why I didn’t ask the local Council whether they were reliable or not I don’t know, but there is still time as needless to say they gave me a day when they were in the area and I stayed in on tenterhooks from 9 to 5 and not a peep out of them. Was I mad? Yes.

But, as you can imagine, X [the tutor] enjoyed the holiday and did some painting himself but the tutoring was virtually Nil – I can hear you say I told you! We all complained finally.

But these estate agents! There was one X had grave doubts about buying anything from on the grounds that he wore elastic-sided shoes – and when we met him I saw what she meant. He ought really to have been selling the sleazier sort of secondhand cars. The one who was dealing with the house she is angling for seemed a very pleasant and apparently honest man, and yet he swore blind that the electric wiring had been renewed – which I found it impossible to believe, because there was not a new switch or plug in the house.

Having the terminal at home means that his boss rings him up at weekends or even when he’s on holiday to ask him to sort out various problems! … The next day, I unplugged the phone… Now I just take messages but don’t pass them on if it’s out of office hours! … One of the big problems of the recession is that people who have jobs are so scared of losing them they work longer and longer hours just to hold on to them, and employers like to take advantage of this!

a wife is determined to stop business interference in home time
pulling the plug

 

Significant other

He’s very nice (well, obviously I would think so). He’s very outgoing and has a good sense of humour and is a very caring sort of person too. He gets really involved in what he’s doing and will try his hand at most things. If he’s playing a game he’s quite competitive.

…she was never an amicable woman and made his life a misery and I do not know why he stayed with her at all.

Marriage troubles were pending I knew; finally I slept in the flat for 6 months and threatened my husband ‘we see a counsellor, or move out!!’ Anyhow we have had a breakthrough, although at present I wait for friends to arrive as he won’t see the counsellor any more.

 

he might still be smoking but he's not fat - yet
comparing negatives

I found he had cigarette stubs by his bed again. She says she’d rather he smoked than get fat.

 

We set off after the first night of Club Pairs which I’m playing with a v. pleasant woman this year as X and I seem to be out of step bridge-wise. I think we both do too many psychic bids as we know the other one won’t mind!

X had his hair cut and looked much more presentable – said he was getting a complex as everyone was commenting! It was not I might say at his family’s behest but his girlfriend’s – he sounded quite worried at how obedient he was being!

She is into a great romance with a nice bearded young man who runs a very large property for his father (who is horrid) and will no doubt inherit eventually. Do you think I am very mercenary? But I do like to think of my little darlings being in a stable financial situation and not having to fret over electric bills etc. Of course it may come to nothing!

Art

My friend the R.C. Bishop called me to see if I had any paintings for the art show last Saturday. Having done absolutely no painting all year due to this and that, I was able to dredge up three old ones – two had to be framed in a hurry. But I was pleased they all sold in the first hour – I said I’d give their charity half the proceeds. I must say, a more undistinguished bunch of paintings in the show I have never seen. It was in much too large a venue – last year it was in the house next door and there was a smaller much more distinguished collection shown to better advantage.

My day with X began in Piccadilly, ended in St. James’ and was very ‘full’ and ‘successful’ i.e. I finally got to the gallery only 16 months after the exhibition that I’d wanted to see had opened!… I thought you might be interested in this Samuel Palmer. It’s possible they still have the picture there – I enquired re one from the 4-months-old similar exhibition to the original one which was unsold in the basement… Yes, I’m thinking I might make a further (small!) purchase…? [small purchase: a Samuel Palmer???]

 

There is so much bad painting here – what I call ‘brown paintings’ – peasants and palm trees and mud-coloured mountains – boring.

a dull day with heavy rain coming in the Caribbean
a brown painting

 

There is also an unfinished cross I started some years ago – a construction of copper mosaic that I have enamelled. My kiln is a small one so have to think in terms of linking large work together. The cross depicts Alpha & Omega – plenty of colour – slimy mud and things at the base and volcanoes and night & day with a sun at the top. Am intending to mount it on a super piece of oak that I found in a builder’s yard – weathered and worn to a gorgeous silver patina – it was at one time a tail board from a small farm cart – I guess 100 years or more past.

…Some splendid Monets – I bought a poster of the Floating Studio – now I know why he did so many waterlilies! The gallery had done the walls the same colour as Barnes had used, which was a rather nasty sort of yellow ochre which I did not think was a very good background for the pictures – but who am I?? They did a big photomontage of one of his hanging arrangements, which was very interesting, as he mixed such different things and made such balanced sort of compositions.

Looking through some of my earlier efforts I came on some things that I did before my pot-boiling flowers and was quite impressed. I must do some more buildings and portraits – I have got into such a rut, but the flowers sell like hot bread and it tempts me.

I think she is such a good artist. Her family are quite unimpressed with her work, and it all seems to be done on odd bits of paper and the backs of envelopes and I am sure will disappear when she dies. There were a couple of portrait heads, Indian?, that I would give my eyeteeth to own, also a landscape in mixed media.

I have been painting quite a lot. X, my grand-daughter, was over with her aunt who also paints flowers, not nearly as well as I do (!) and is peddling them to tourists on the coast, and I was so incensed it gave me the prod I needed. X has contacts with galleries over there and will help me place mine.

I was interested to hear of the Byam Shaw man – I was taught there by a marvellous teacher, Ernest Jackson, only drawing. The painting end was too heavy for me – Prix de Rome stuff a way over my head.

 

 

Fund-raising

We had our jolly fair about 10 days ago. The fair is a most interesting phenomenon. After months of advertising, sewing, jamming, etc., the doors are flung open at 1 p.m. to a locust-like invasion. The place is bedlam for about an hour and a quarter and by 2.30 the place is filthy and empty and we are $5,000 richer. NOT a genteel social event.

Thank you so much for your donation to Maggie’s Centre. My fund-raising is going quite well. I have over £1000 in sponsorship and hope to get some more from the ‘exciting’ Ladies’ Night. Also I have decided to go to a car boot sale on Sunday, and am trying to dig out the rubbish of ages to sell.

It sounds as if you are a hot bed of industry one way and another, but I do hope the new outlet proves successful and that the Handicraft Evenings go on bringing in big sales. It was a dashing idea and might well have proved a rather embarrassing evening for all concerned, with nobody really wanting to buy in any quantity – but it didn’t so that is grand. I visualise the next step as door to door selling like a gypsy with clothes pegs!!

Yesterday was a big stint at the hospital for geriatrics and old off-their-chumps as we had an ‘Edwardian Garden Party’ with some of the volunteers and staff rigged up in Edwardian garb – or as near to it as they felt like! …I helped behind the cake stall and book stall in my usual garb – and only wished I still had winter woollies on as it was all out of doors and cold at 10 a.m. In fact it rained by about 11.30 and everybody’s goodies got a bit damp, but we hadn’t many cakes at all so there wasn’t much left to protect except for some very nasty tins of mushy peas and the ilk, given from the back of the store cupboard by some well-wisher!

I went off and helped at a junk and jumble sale at the hospital and I did rather well on my junk stall as my next door neighbour cleared out all sorts of exciting china bits which went well. In fact in the first rush I reckon a good bit was nicked. We really hadn’t quite enough helpers but what matter who pinched what – it gave the patients a thrill and I don’t mind if they nick things. But when outsiders who are trying to beat down every price do, I get upstage about it!

the volunteer doesn't mind the patients helping themselves
help yourself sale