Food theories

Our friend has a different theory – that all the violence which seems to get worse and worse each year is a direct result of addiction to junk food. When challenged, he assured me that it was a well-proved scientific fact, and told me all about some experiments with rats or mice where the junk food group became pot-bellied, mangy and cannibalistic in two months, while the control group remained as sleek and fat as Pharaoh’s kine.

 

the dream

I had a long and complicated dream last night in which one of the bridge club widows (who in the dream was an American) came and assured me that the key to world peace was a diet of corn fritters, which toned down the most aggressive temperaments to coo like doves. She had various additional ingredients and cunning methods of cooking which would vary the taste to anything one liked more or less from roast beef to ice cream. There were lots of embroideries to do with a drink called Eirene and ways of getting people to take one or the other – but I suppose the most significant aspect of the whole thing was that it started with lots of people shuffling about – in a psychiatric ward! So much for hopes of world peace!

Money

I happen to be the most useless person in the world at keeping track of my finances (there are as yet undiscovered African tribesmen who could maintain a bank account better), and at the time of the wedding – and many times since, I’m embarrassed to say – I was seriously wobbly in a fiscal sense.

I have just vented my spleen on the local hospital management as a protest at the monstrous charges we have to pay under the reformed, streamlined, user-pays, homogenised, de-humanised health ‘service’. I’ll probably have to pay in the end but I guess a protest on the way won’t go amiss! I recently heard of a person who wrote to say she wasn’t paying on principle. The bill was handed to debt collectors. Their fifth letter contained the information that they had ensured that she now had the lowest credit rating possible and that in future no business in the country would lend her money, allow hire purchase or give her a mortgage.

I am very interested in the Heseltine-Thatcher quarrel, as Westland shares are one of my few remaining English investments. Obviously whoever wins the quarrel, I have lost most of my money in the company already – but at least if their future is worth squabbling about, presumably they are not going to be left to go down the drain without trace, and might one day get back to paying dividends and being worth more than the 2 1/2p that they are proposing to write the shares down to at present!

She seized half his capital and all the furnishings of his house. She then refused all his many offers of maintenance for the offspring and insisted on fighting it out in the courts at a cost in lawyers of some strange amount to each party. Then the judge by some miracle awarded her much less than X had offered her in the first place so she is ever skulking around sniffing for more!

I am alarmed at your state of having 2 mortgages and no job… I never have enough money – who does? – so for the past 8 months I have been taking in a student lodger… It has worked quite well – but of course it meant a lot of heaving around of stuff from one bedroom to another and the loss of privacy.

X wrote to me and said he was in S.E. Asia again until March. He must be about 90 by now. I hope if I live that long, that I’ll be able to get about like him at that age. (Silly idea really – I certainly won’t have enough money.)

no water

I moved into X’s house… He’s on leave… As soon as I moved in I found an unpaid electricity bill, I paid that and was pleased to have averted a crisis. Then I found an unpaid water bill and paid that. There was still water in the tank, so I didn’t know the water had already been cut off until the afternoon of 24th December.

Entertaining

As usual at 7.15 with us arriving and getting organised we started worrying that no one would come – but then half an hour later we worried if we had enough food/drinks.

It’s the village party tonight… As the noise is so terrific it doesn’t matter much who is there – conversation is all but impossible.

tiddly speaker

The old boy patron of the society (who opened the Exhibition) had obviously been wined and dined too well by X – was so embarrassing – really quite tiddly.

 

 

If you want to come you can have the camp bed here but I know that only a night or two is possible without me suddenly going mad. Such a creature of habit am I too.

… and then we had afternoon tea at the Vicarage for a select few – ugh – but it wasn’t too ghastly and I just survived. ‘Being social’ is just NOT my strong point – but then you know that.

She made a super rich cake and put it where the dog can’t reach it. X moved it to a place that was a gift to the dog who ate about 1/8 of it but wait – after nearly giving up with rage – she made another and filled it with layers of cream and put cherries soaked in brandy on top and put a throw-over over and SHUT doors … sudden scream from X – the dog got in and had pulled cover off bring the cake to edge of table – spoiling top cream only…

She would be very happy for X to come and stay there – she is quite firm that he would be more comfortable and better fed there and I rather agree! She has ‘turning out of her room’ down to a fine art… she is worried about putting Y out of his routine of sitting in the armchair in the kitchen and watching TV… He finds it hard to admit that he is older. Oh dear, what a mouldy old lot I make us out, but we really are rather dull and set in our ways and I do feel two or three days would tell X all he needs to know about our insular views. Old memories are all very well but when the names are all missing the conversation tends to be ‘Oh, of course you know who I mean – dear old so-and-so with the wife’ and the audience has to guess until we get the right person or all give up in disgust!

[After a memorial service] X had got a bun fight ready at the house which was for the family, relations, friends and village people who remembered him. So it was all a bit mixed as the village method of having a tea is to take their cup and plate and pile the latter with all the grub it will hold and then retreat to the available chairs and bad luck to those who come later – which inevitably would be the relations and friends!

Telling it how it is

X remarked how well we all looked: retirement must be good for us, and he really must try it some time. I said, ‘What a good idea’ and hoped afterwards that I had not sounded too enthusiastic. But it is really high time that he did – he’s sixty-nine, and so conservative that John Bull would look liberal pink by comparison – and by and large he’s about 80% responsible for whatever failings in morale there are among the staff locally.

You said you thought I might be too young to see the hang-ups, I can see the hang-ups and aren’t blind to them but if a person grows up looking at what they might be getting out of life had they done something else they wouldn’t enjoy the decisions they have made. Anything works if you try. If only you could be here to see… you’d understand. I am young but am really quite grown up too and I like to look at things in a positive sense ‘cos if I always think negative I’ll be a negative person when I’m older.

I proposed an amendment which supported the declared intention to help poor people … I wasn’t allowed to get away with ‘poor people’ – it was variously described as Dickensian, patronising, etc. and ‘lower income groups’ wormed their way in instead.

That reminds me of a decorator that was here just before we moved in. He was meant to re-varnish the windows which were heavily water stained and badly neglected; so what does he suggest? ‘You’re wasting your money on these windows – you’ll never make them look good. Why not re-paint the kitchen instead?’

In the course of the day I managed to drop my old glasses, and broke the frame, which was convenient in that it saved any question of trying to use the frame again (which I did the last time I had a change of prescription). The nice young optometrist looked at it and said it had been a nice frame once – all the rage about the time he was starting work twenty years ago.

the frig

Men are wonderful inventions – X gaily went off leaving the refrigerator full of an odd chunk of bread and a bit of cheese and various jugs of orange and milk – I suppose he hoped Y would deal with it, or perhaps he imagined it would keep for a month. The house seems to be having the clean-up that can’t be managed when he is there, and the sheds have lost a lot of treasures by my unkindly hand. 16 old tobacco tins for storing hypothetical screws and nails went quite firmly… I hope he doesn’t notice that a pair of waders that had rotted over the bunion spots have gone from the shed as I am sure they were very treasured but weren’t ever used judging by the spiders and cobwebs surrounding them.

After death

I pulled up my socks and set off on a day trip last week to rescue some possessions that X had ‘wished’ to us. .. After a drink my distaste for the whole day had melted a bit, but I still felt it was wrong to be peering at her possessions. However the others had done far more of it, and had much more to do so I swallowed my dislike and ended up with a bag full of china, an anorak and a skirt. … sent me home with a determination to throw out more junk (not yet quite fulfilled, but I have started several times!)

I feel none of us paid enough attention to X but that is absurd as she was wrapped up in her friends there and all their doings! She was so very good to us all and did so much for all her friends – we have heard so many examples of the kindnesses she did to all sorts of unexpected people.

the round bed

I had a lovely time during the week when I was rather specially remembering X as I was alone in her beloved garden and could feel very close to her. I even braved the little round bed that contains the ashes and gave it a good dig and some peat to help drown the ashes, which don’t seem to have mingled quite as expected!

As you say, it is amazing how things pile up. X’s neighbour of 90 died recently after having lived alone in the same house for over 40 years. It took a woman who was I think designated as Executor of her Will over four months of daily grind to get it all cleared out and the house sold… She used to tell me that she was going right home to clear out her own house before it was too late! But one never does of course, and the moment you do throw something out you find that you need it!

Just a note with some sad news I’m afraid. Mum died quite suddenly a few days ago… She died at home in her own comfy bed, which is what we all hoped would be the case, as she hated hospitals… After attending the Catholic church for many years, she decided to make it “official” and was baptised a Catholic three days before she died… So it is to be a Catholic funeral which really seems not much different in any case.

Foreign parts

We are not far from the Limpopo physically, but centuries away from Kipling’s (?) description (in a manner of speaking). That’s what is so disappointing after my other trips and stays in Africa.

You seem set to come to Portugal but I wonder if you realise it’s gloomier here in winter than at home. Although it’s a bit warmer, people don’t have heating in their homes, and this high-rise flat in the suburbs is obviously built with the heat of summer in mind (i.e. lots of outside walls, no carpets). It rains lots too and is very windy. If you think you don’t mind all that, do bring umbrella, waterproof shoes and a couple of sweaters, but most of all don’t forget a sleeping bag. [This did not prove – with further off-putting remarks – to be an irresistible invitation!]

Last weekend our class hired a car and went to Sesimbra and then to Evora. It’s there that they have the Chapel of Bones that X talked about. My friends couldn’t understand why I was so keen to see this gruesome room with walls made of thigh bones and skulls.

There was a gale blowing and high waves, so, with coral reefs on each side of the entrance and the most vicious sharks to be found anywhere, we decided to head up north and try to land on the lee side of Madagascar.

The two other people who’ve arrived came from Zamboanga on one of the regular boats which nearly sank because it was overloaded. (One sank a couple of weeks ago and 100 people were drowned or eaten by sharks.) After that our journey seems safe by comparison. 

pet parrot

 

 

I do have a separated ‘room’ to myself in the house at the moment which is very nice. The pet parrot is demolishing the straw divide little by little.

Voluntary work

Things from the Bring & Buy sale

Our Bring and Buy sale yesterday achieved its aim of buying yoga mats for the members of the Day Centre who have a course going every year. And it made a good bit more too for other occupational therapy things, so that was amazing and good. We had our usual junk on the stall and sold quite a lot, and the prices were a bit lower than sometimes which was good. I managed to get away with not buying things I didn’t want and came out with 2 tomato plants, a box of tissues and 3 squashy bits of flapjack which were over-greasy and leaked everywhere on the way home! 

Our room [for volunteers] in the main hospital has been an annexe off a store in which all the stuff from one of the wards was housed while it was also being redecorated. An old gents’ ward and the chairs and beds all give off the most penetrating smell!! I will leave the rest to your imagination, but I am thankful that it hasn’t been too warm, as the window won’t open and I should have died.

[re care home] We had a lovely Garden Party there in July – not meant to be a money-raising concern, but the 2 or 3 stalls, tea and raffle brought in something short of £2000!!

We have the Mothers’ Union coffee evening at the house and a local fete, and now face a 50/50 auction in the village hall this weekend in aid of the church. Some very queer objects going from me, and I hope others are giving more valuable possessions than I am.

I will cut down on my voluntary activities as I found last year I was just pushing the children away to make this phone call and that. I am President of the Parents’ Association which I formed along with another lady last February. I am not a Guide Leader this year although I am taking my camping certificate.

Good luck with the cake stall – I like those as the goodies always sell well – at the most ridiculous prices! I did the handicrafts at the hospital WI’s garden party on Saturday and found myself facing a mass of rather badly made articles of uncertain origin and mainly covered with dog’s hairs! Made by our VSO who is most worthy and inventive, but not madly careful in execution! Anyhow nobody came really, except for the few members who were not involved on stalls and any of their friends they could snare, so there were few sales of my goodies – and a good drenching downpour ended it early! On Monday we had a jolly day trying to dry off all these dreary, slightly smelly, woollen objects strewn all over the office – in preparation to packing them away for the next fund-raising concern!