Do you recall that teacher at X who got into big trouble because one weekend he had hopped on a bulldozer at the quarry and had run over a worker’s car before he found out how to stop it? Oh – it’s not like it was in the old days.

The big excitement this week was shooting a wild pig! We were having breakfast on Thursday, when the sheep suddenly started bunching up in the paddock with the beehives in – and the next thing we saw was a large black back-end of a pig going down between the wire and the cypress trees on the other side of the drive, in our river paddock. I rushed to ring X [the neighbour] but there was no answer – so I got my rifle and went out to have a look – determined not to venture beyond the fence. By that time the biggest of X’s dogs which is the ‘holding dog’ had appeared and had the pig by the nose. I waited my chance and got in a sideways shot – which I was frightened had hit the dog, as it came dancing round at that moment! The pig stood there head on, and the dog retired to a discreet distance! and the next shot in its head killed it. It was a very big one – X subsequently reckoned about 150 lbs, and seemed quite worried that it might have charged and come straight through the garden fence. Where ignorance is bliss! The sad thing is that my dreams of being set up in nice pork joints for a bit were dashed. X says it was too old and would taste too strong to be nice – so it will be his dogs and maybe ours who get the benefit. ‘If you were a drinking man,’ he said, ‘you could have had a drink or two on that tonight.’ I went to my bible study as usual!

A bit like the poor bloke at school who was playing the fool jumping from bath to bath and missed the last edge and landed in the bottom taking the base with him to the floor. He did look silly standing on the floor with bits of bath (and water) all around him.

Oh dear!

I had a long letter from X the au pair a while ago. She sent pictures of her family, a girl the age she was when she came to us, 20. She says ‘She is now getting 20, and after she has been playing the mad during her teenage years, we have hopes she will slowly settle down and become reasonable.’ I suspect she forgets she was ‘playing the mad’ when in England, and I’d know.

Nuisances of life 2

A woman had run her car into the side of X’s the day before and had really upset him – especially as it was just after he’d left Y sitting down while he collected the car from parking place – and not only lost her but the car too! and they finished up being driven round in a police car.

The owners will spend only the barest minimum in upkeep. We’re still waiting to have a leaky loo and roof fixed, to say nothing of the bathroom and kitchen redecorating. There isn’t one window ledge that hasn’t got paint flaking off – two grow moss! and the wallpaper is about 12 years old – and looks it. The carpet is worn down to the felt in a number of places and the previous tenants not only smoked very heavily, but apparently kept various animals locked inside all day while they worked…

[Re irritating habits of the public touching display of painted silk goods] I forgot to tell you about a card with a piece of similar weaving with ‘Feeling swatch’ written on it! Would this keep your customers’ grimy hands off?!

At least I managed to find a couple of books and a pleasant card for X’s birthday – though at the moment most of our ferries are carrying the same cargo backwards and forwards several times across Cook Strait because the shunters at Picton are not working overtime in protest at a new roster, and the Union refuse to fill the place of any man who is absent for any reason, and then the whole gang say they can’t safely unload any wagons! Anyway the card went by air.

My new pullets were no sooner given the freedom of the field than they wormed their way through the hedge in order to grub about under the blackberry and other scrub on my neighbour’s side. What’s more, though five of them returned for the night, the sixth insisted on roosting in an inaccessible bush – so that if it started laying I certainly wasn’t going to get the eggs.

Making a run for it

I don’t know why, but all my greens have come to nothing, and though we got beans they never really recovered from the sheep’s attack. There are lots of tomatoes, but I doubt whether most of them will ripen now and quite a number are infested with caterpillars that make large holes in them – though whether to go in or to come out I haven’t discovered and it is a matter of some importance!

House repairs 2

We are settling into our house well. There’s lots of little maintenance jobs and plenty to do in the garden. X has spent quite a bit of time making a workshop in the basement so he could unpack his tools and dozens of jars of assorted workshoppy things! There are now lots of shelves made with wood we scavenged from offcuts bins at local timber places! The next thing is the bench, then he’ll put in 2 windows. I’m pleased he’s a handyman!

I know exactly how you feel about these light bulbs that won’t come out and when they do they leave the metal bit behind in the holder and what is inside the metal bit at the top of the bulb is what falls out into ones eyes and wherever else.

Today I am forced to sit down not having any electricity to even cook my lunch or to indulge in a cup of hot water. Yes, you might have guessed, the workers are still at it. The cold and hot water tanks are not outside but the mechanics for the drilling is not working, must be replaced after the interference of the plumber and the electrician!! Now all the wires and channels are in place, but nothing is connected, so let’s wait: what will happen next?!!

Whilst at the shop we saw some so-called foolproof security locks, so we’ve put 4 of them on the windows we’re most likely to forget to shut, or need some air from.

I started using that old push machine for washing carpets with on the dining room at 1 p.m. – one I had specially well cleaned in the morning. It was amazing, after 2 days I hoovered again, and on top of usual bits and dirt, at the bottom of the bag there was about 2-3 tablespoonsful of grit, and it looks a much better colour.

At last the man found out what was wrong with the TV – virtually new guts – so $250 later it’s working beautifully – but seldom anything worth watching! If anything else goes I fear it means a new one.

We had high winds and rain for a couple of days and were dismayed to see water running down the outside of the sitting room stove pipe (recently swept). The next day the reason became clear – the cowl over the top had blown off – I think the sweep must have given it a good biff with his brush and broken part of the holding-down straps. Anyway, I had to replace them, which was not easy, as the cowl itself and the top of the chimney were both pretty rusty and thin. I riveted the straps onto the cowl, and then drilled holes in the chimney for self-tapping screws, which was a sensible suggestion from the man when I went to buy more rivets.

Biffed by the sweep


In the process of being redecorated by previous owners it had lost the knobs off both sides of 2 bedroom doors (plus latches and locks) and there were 4 built-in cupboards all knobless and catchless so that was 4 doorknobs, 5 cupboard knobs and 4 magnetic catches to fix for a start. And there was an awkward ancient tap in the garden which created a fountain every time it was turned on to provide cold water for the laundry [?sounds a bit primitive even for 35 years ago!]. I had to borrow wrenches from a new neighbour at the back to mend that one +++.   I enjoyed it all very much with a nice sense of achievement.


[Re a portrait commission] I am working madly to get the head of X right – I was delighted with it but when Y brought X for a check I found some major surgery was needed – top off his head and chunk off his chin – and somewhere I’ve lost the likeness on the way.

Headless & chinless wonder

I spent some time before breakfast today sorting out my knitting machine … It’s a fascinating thing – fortunately X reminded me how frustrated I got when the whole thing came off the needles!!

We finished the last of 28 hands at the same time – looking longingly at the tables laden with sandwiches and luscious cakes – I sneaked 2 and dashed out… Oh, surprise, surprise – We came 2nd. I phoned to tell my partner as she’d left before they gave out the results and after seeming pleased she started telling me all the things I’d done wrong!!!

It’s sad so many of my paintings came home – but 2 sold was more than some – I welcome them back but can’t think where to put them. I’m all agog to get going again – new spray for my gun and paints – now all I need is some good ideas. I mustn’t be so violent – but I do like working in inks. X remarked, ‘I liked your paintings – but they need space’ – nicely put!!

I am halfway through a set of chessmen [on the lathe] (very fiddly), and have broken off from that to make a big pot, the last couple of days, to take a margarine plastic pot inside – as a Christmas present. It has one flaw in the lid, (which is also too loose, really – it was difficult to measure as the underside was attached to the faceplate of the lathe, and the overhang was about half an inch). But as X says consolingly, ‘Everything has flaws, including us.’

She’d just had 2 visitors from overseas round who wanted to know all about her work in 10 minutes flat, in the middle of trying to finish off a lot of orders; she fitted them in – it took 2 hours – and gave them a pizza lunch, but wouldn’t give them the name of her dyes whilst they were still here. She said if they wrote when they got home she would then!

X makes her paper with odd grasses and dried flowers actually in it. It’s difficult, she’s so pleased with her own work, I can raise no enthusiasm!


X and Y got office cleaning jobs in the holidays. X not very keen, finished after a week and got a job to look after ten under-2s with one other adult instead. The man in charge of the cleaning told X what a pity it was Y had to go back to school, he was so good he could have joined his team!! Y being a straight As boy, thought it was rather a giggle but it’s his first job and at $7 an hour he was glad of it.

Her son is a doctor with his own practice and living on a farm with stabling and 6 of his own polo ponies but is worried as another doctor has come to the area and is undercutting his charges?!!

Worried about competition

It worries us most that your ‘minder’ will use your request for extra time away at Easter to put you on a lesser rate – she sounds a skunk.

It sounds an interesting place to work – lots going on and lots of support. Lots of expectations too – she said the headmaster was more likely to ask you what was wrong with your programme than with the child if someone causes trouble or walks out!

I asked her what in fact did people want to know about this odd bird for – and she said she rather wondered too, but it looked good on her CV!!

That chief of yours sounds so mad that it is surprising she hasn’t been given the push by the department. But I suppose mere madness is not enough for that. But to miss the union meeting and then demand that the minutes be changed as she would like is hardly explainable in any other way!

I wrote to the company [who make tinned food] some time ago, to ask why they had no women on the board of directors seeing that most of their customers were women – and eventually got a very chauvinist reply to the effect that the question had never arisen so far, but when it did any woman who had adequate qualifications and experience would be considered along with male applicants. I suppose it would be a waste of time to write back and enquire how many of the existing male board do the shopping for their households and the subsequent preparation of most of the meals.

X was talking the other day of moving to a much larger farm – but that must be the tenth pipe dream he’s talked about in the last two or three years. He would have to sell this place first, and that’s not going to be easy, as the land really is pretty rough, the fencing is far from complete – and wool and sheep prices are hitting new lows each year so not many people will be wanting to buy, I fear – nor to lend money to help.

Gardening (2)

I hoped I had now finished getting the garden updated, but of course the first beds now need weeding again. I am covering as much as I can with grass clippings but they are even bursting above that. For the first time I’ve really gone to town with chick poo and mushroom compost, and everything, including the weeds, has taken off. … For the first time I’ve established a lily of the valley bed, and have had enough to pick two little vases from, they smell the whole house.

He is now mowing the front lawn. It took him quite a long time to get used to the idea that it could be stopped with the clutch so the first results were a track a bit like the meanderings of a very drunk sailor looking for his ship, as he struggled to get round the various bushes without hitting them – with various unmown patches on the way where he tipped the machine up to change direction more quickly. However he now seems to have got the idea and is going round cleaning up all the cut corners.

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erratic mowing

[Getting house ready to show buyers] I had a pleasant man I felt I’d known all my life come with aged sister of 84, who stayed in the car until he ‘let her know if it was worth seeing’! He did collect the sister who was equally nice and very enthusiastic especially about the garden. The oak tree is in full leaf of pale green and looks super, my lily of the valley are marching up the bed and also coming up through the flag stones, the scarlet rhododendron is out and a little dark orangey red tree with maple shape leaves is beside the breath of heaven and the purple stuff that climbs over the fence and right hand side of the drive, the roses have started and the Solomon seal and azaleas and I’m quite amazed myself! The gardener put some stuff on the lawn for the big leaved horrors that were on it and it looks super.

We’ve got plums coming out of our ears – I’ve put down enough for at least 2 meals a week and given lots away.

My hydrangeas go on and on – lovely – and the dahlias. At present I’ve got a vase of those lilies that are white with red spots on them – and the pollen comes off all over you – bright red – they grow behind some bushes and I enjoy them for about 2-3 weeks indoors a year.

My new electric mower does quite well, and I am pleased with it – and especially that yesterday, when I pulled it backwards and managed to cut the cable, it didn’t give me any shock! Admittedly that is no more than they promised, but it is always nice to have a machine that stands by its guarantees!

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