Put asunder

[following divorce] “X has a girlfriend. They met about 4-6 months ago I think. To be perfectly honest, I find it rather weird. She seems like a pretty nice person, although I don’t know her much at all… She is divorced too… I do try and be normal and nice around them, but nothing stops it from being weird (in varying degrees at varying times).”

“Isn’t it sad about X and X. I can well believe that there were factors in their relationship which were always going to be difficult – differences in background, age, etc. – and maybe the real mistake was getting married in the first place…”

parting

“X ran into marital and other chaos and still is not settled after 3 years and is most unhappy. He adores his children – and it is all most distressing to watch as here an ex wife who is a card carrying member of the Female Liberation Movement, and a school marm to boot, makes life a legal and financial nightmare for the ex whose only mistake was to marry (at her insistence) when he was 22.”

Art and makers

“We went on to see the current exhibition in the gallery, which was called ‘Townscape’ although they were interpreting the title pretty widely since there were normal portraits, abstract squares of paint, three pigeons on a lawn and a variety of other subjects not easily identified as urban. The usual mixture, so far as I was concerned, of about half and half admirable, and ‘why-on-earth-did-they-accept-that?’ pictures.”

townscape

[Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe] The balustrades were added years later as the nuns were afraid to slip and fall. The beauty of the original wooden free-standing structure is breathtaking when you see it from behind. It is a strange story, the unknown carpenter who left without his pay as soon as he had finished the staircase. In the cathedral some of the stained glass windows are impressive – we noticed some had been made in Chartres.”

“X may have a commission – may! She called me at 2 a.m. I could have throttled her.”

“X [grandchild] gave me a pomander which smells very strongly – and for [grandfather] so he wouldn’t feel left out he gave him an old brown envelope stuck down – right down at the bottom was a flattened toffee paper, with 2 scrumpled toffee papers stuck on and a red ribbon bow and he explained it was for him to hang in his wardrobe!”

Advancing years bring change

“I have been entertained by X. Her questions have kept my brain ticking over: seven or eight questions on the trot, I am about losing the plot and forced to answer the original one and then managed to change the subject… But, the process starts all over again with the next lot!”

“They came at 3 p.m. and left at 7 so think that was a success – v. pleasant couple. He has something terrifying wrong, with internal bleeding of the brain at intervals when he’s rushed to hospital.”

“…the garden is tiny too and even if far nearer to neighbours than I like I shall have the consolation of being able to shout for help if in despair, and would be heard.”

“I tried to give my brain a brush down and went to Oxford for a residential week. I did a course in Literary Criticism and lived in Somerville College. Quite wore me out…”

“Oh I do wish I had your ability to like living alone.”

“…most of whom I hadn’t seen since we left X [14 years ago]. Many of them were sprightly early-retired in those days; and it was rather strange to see them again after this gap, all looking distinctly elderly. (I of course haven’t changed a bit!)”

group of older people
distinctly elderly

“How is the homespun jersey going? Shall hope to see it on you one day if I ever brave the stairs again – I got so comparatively-able-to-breathe-deeply during the summer, but I think I ought to live in the South of France or somewhere as I am panting again now and appear to be developing asthma or something sinister every time I try to ride up a slight incline on a bike. The answer is to walk of course and I can pant more gently then!!”

“We heard from X… I got a nasty shock to hear he’s 80 – it’s almost into-the-chasm-sounding, rather than over-the-mountain.”

Nothing is certain but…

“… about a year ago I wrote saying (more or less), ‘nice to have known you, goodbye’. He wrote back, having recovered from his latest bout of rigor mortis, saying he was bird watching and going off to Italy!”

“It was such a sudden and tragic loss that I suffered when partner passed away.”

“She was happy at his ‘easy’ end, and I can attest to that as husband was in and out of Hospital Emergency for 17 years before he died – and it was awful to watch it all – and of course more awful for him.”

[re bout of rhinitis] “…and those pills were the ones I didn’t bring. I reluctantly bought some quick relievers – which did work praise be. Horror story of X’s about a visitor who did the same and they didn’t go with some other medicine he took and he died within hours made me a little apprehensive!!”

“I was to and fro all the time and mother died last month just before I arrived back in X. It has all been too depressing for words. I know it was all for the best but it still knocks you for six.”

“Unfortunately X’s grandfather was hit by a car recently and he died a few days later. He was 80 years old so would not have been around much longer anyway but it was not a nice way to go.”

[re X’s garden after her death] “X had lovely iris stylosa – they are gorgeous but I haven’t been out to croon over them for about a fortnight. They made me burst into tears anyhow so perhaps it is as well to leave them uncrooned over.”

Some students

“I am not going back to varsity until I have decided what I’d like to do for the rest of my life as without an aim for good marks I think I wouldn’t do as well as I might if I had a goal.” [Hmm…]

the whirlwind

“I was told by some friends of mine there that they had met X with Y – Y with studs in her lips, ears, nose and belly – her hair also peculiar – some style she’d mimicked from India and hadn’t been washed for months. She was according to them very high on drugs but doing very well at the university. Well, from all one hears most students are on drugs. X was loyal but she said it was like having a whirlwind in the house and she couldn’t stand it for many days at a time.”

“It’s a shame, but I’m not getting on too well with my parents at the moment – they seem to be going out of their way to heap burdens on me to me, and I seem lazy and unthoughtful to them. I personally have been trying to take more on in the household – I’ve been doing my own washing and ironing etc. and I cook dinner quite regularly, as well as doing my usual chores and extra odd jobs. Oh well, it can only get better I suppose.” [Oh yes? Well, let’s hope so anyway.]

“I took part in a more interesting job the week before Christmas working for Telecom. I was a phone-in Father Christmas on ‘Santa Line’ along with a hundred or so others. Although very noisy it was a lot of fun, with the majority of calls being innocent and sincere (as opposed to the disbelieving fifteen-year-old who asks the most difficult questions possible).”

The birds, bees and flowers

“We opened the Tea Garden… We get tourist lunches, old folk from Britain once a week which is great fun and they love coming here – last time a snake obliged by nearly climbing onto the veranda from the bougainvillea! and the sun birds are a treat, not to mention the hoopoes nesting in the corner of the roof (instead of a tree!)”

“Now in South of India, tropical flowers, spices and rain. We are in Hill Station of Ooty and we have a fire.”

[The James Iredell House, North Carolina] “Wish you were here to see the wonderful gardens – magnolia plantation had 900 species of azaleas and a wealth of other flowers… We spent 3 days in Charleston.”

“This has been an interesting day-tour into the rain-forest. There have also been beautiful blue and red parrots and birds called whip birds because of their call. They made me think of you.” [I wonder why???!]

“First time I have seen this tree. It is a frassino tree and grows only in Sicily or Calabria. The manna is used in the trade as a laxative and also for other medical purposes???”

“Wow! I have just seen an enormous wasp type thing about 1.5 inches – HUGE. We got attacked by monkeys yesterday! I was holding a banana – I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. They looked as if they would climb all over me – so I hid the banana down my top and they went away!” [Lucky the monkeys weren’t too determined…]

whiskery fish
whiskery fish

“The garden was all palms and wild orchids and lovely plants with green and pink leaves! And a demented cockerel and a bunch of scatty hens… We went snorkelling about 5 times. We saw amazing blue starfish – their fingers were all sausage-fat and bright blue. And angel-fish and other stripey ones and an amazing thing called a half-beak – almost transparent from the side except for its eye which is halfway along its 2-3 foot body. When you looked down on them they were coloured though. We didn’t see many shoals of fish, which made the one of about 300 we saw on the last day all the more surprising! They were white and whiskery with a yellow streak down the side.”

“X related how they’d had a real gorilla in her youth in S. Africa – its mother had been shot – and they looked after the baby and played with it – until one day her sister teased it and it bit her – it was huge by then, about 5 – and their father said it had to go to the zoo. When they left it, it had tears running down its cheeks – as they all had, including her father – sad.”

“The countryside is so beautiful and all the orange cacci [persimmon] on the trees everywhere. They look like primitive paintings.”

Tact – or not

“I say what I think without wrapping it up into acceptable phrases – or make facetious jokes without making it obvious I don’t mean it. I’ve got so fed up with being misunderstood I’ve practically opted out of chat situations with the feeling of ‘What the hell’! Would you believe it the first such I remember goes back to when I was at school which means I was 7, and it still rankles. All the same I’ve made a New Year resolution I won’t ‘let off’ without at least a fleeting think before I say!!”

“His teacher was impressed with his very interesting questions (she doesn’t have to listen to him asking a friend why he has bushy eyebrows and grey in his beard!!)”

“They are going to X’s… I hope things go well there as they are already sounding apprehensive. Apparently after inviting them X rang and said it was a good time to come because they’d all be working! Then rang again and said a friend had offered their house which he recommended their taking as it would save lots. Shock – they were expecting to stay for free with them.”

“I wrote you a card but lost it in X’s flat – just vanished! I only hope I didn’t put anything too awful on it. Maybe it will turn up… Am pretty drained after a week of X but it was all very worthwhile.”

“…This led to a long discussion between us and the young, in which I pressed them to at least do the civil thing in respect of presents etc. [from their grandparents]. I hear that X managed an apparently acceptable letter, but Y wrote a really aggressive effort – beginning ‘Dear Mr. & Mrs. X’ and going downhill from there. Oh dear, oh dear.”

“I’ve started the five Monday afternoon painting sessions with X. Last week she’d just said we must never try and paint something that didn’t appeal to us and then set up daisies with shaggy leaves stuffed into a square glass jar, with two radishes in front and a check cloth draped behind them. I actually surprised myself by not pointing out I couldn’t think of anything I’d less like to paint!”

Smug & mean
Smug & mean

“So sensible having no photographs or reception line – how I wish we hadn’t, and kept the in-laws under wraps!! COW.”

“X can be trying too, the way she takes over my friends and then tells me ‘all the news’.”

“It seems that my reply said all the wrong things but it didn’t really matter because she didn’t really read it anyway… I can’t really be bothered with any ‘guiding’ letters. They upset me when I receive them and I feel like I have to defend myself every time I read them, which makes me annoyed and I feel down – so I would rather not receive them.”