House repairs & housekeeping

I was delighted to hear that your dry rot (caused by wetness) was really only wet rot (caused by intermittent dryness as well as wetness) – because the former really is bad news whereas wet rot, as I understand it, is not ‘malignant’, and can be cured reasonably easily provided they can find the source of the wet.

I have now engaged with X to come and build us a new fence along the bottom boundary, which will involve removal of the present compost enclosure. … So I must pull down the remains of the aviary, and remove most of the plants from that border for safekeeping until he has finished. Not, of course, that he is likely to start when he says – he never manages that – but just in case he’s nearly on time, we must be ready.

I’m glad the wood worm treatment is over, though perhaps even now not seeming quite a thing of the past. I was surprised they demanded as long as six weeks before you could cover it – but let’s hope that by then you will have been able to get the other jobs done which are essential… I am enclosing a bank draft as our contribution to getting your flat as you would like it. All these little men must be costing you a lot of money.

all these little men

Our building is all go now. The frame is up and the roof and weatherboards go on next week. The concrete block wall would probably withstand an explosion – it’s SOLID. We’re managing to afford a new kitchen while we’re about it… We’ll have a new wall oven and gas hob (our stove’s being decidedly temperamental – I think the thermostat’s broken!) We also have to have a new water heater… All this fits into the amount we’ve borrowed – on paper at least!

We’ve also bought an extractor fan for the stove hood. It’s not as strong as previous ones we’ve had and makes a bit of noise, but it does seem to get rid of the smells and steam, and we don’t need to have it on when we’re in there.

We have been having much attention given to our telephone. It went out of action a few weeks ago and we complained – and had a van here all day with a pleasant young man who seemed thoroughly confused at our wiring system (between our three phones and one outside bell) and eventually rigged a temporary wire over the top of the house as part of trying to reduce the buzzing in our ears. It didn’t do much for us. Then last week two men in a van turned up, and again stayed most of the day, plus a supervisor in a car for half an hour, and another van. They traced the whole thing, and went round muttering things like ‘the yellow is crossed with the blue’ and ‘there’s a groundswell on the red’ – and gave us another new line under the house instead of the one over the roof. They worked very hard even though it was raining most of the day – and eventually went away triumphant.

The friendly plumber came and estimated for a new basin. I inherited a cracked one where the old girl’s husband had had a seizure or something and dropped a heavy bottle from a short height into the basin. The nice plumber said cheerfully ‘Claim on insurance – they aren’t to know you didn’t do it’ which seems sensible but immoral! The roof man suggested the same so I see I have been missing out all these years on something everybody else does – no wonder the rates per year are so high now.

X has replaced the supply of drinking water we keep, last done 3 years ago, and I found my dried milk to be the same 3 years out of date.

He helped do a massive clear-up in the front garden and we packed the green bin to overflowing. I also collected oddments I wanted to get rid of to put outside the gate and almost all were taken – it’s a good idea: you’re invited to help yourself to anything you’d like and a van collects the rest. ‘They’ call it trash.

Our TV which we’d been saying was so good suddenly packed up and our nice repairman said a new ??? [part] would cost over $100. So we decided to do it now before the old one cost any more. That took all the morning – I’d phoned round getting prices so was able to knock them down $60 – X just can’t do it – I have no qualms – they obviously won’t lose on the deal.

I have been lucky through the coldest nights (so far) and haven’t frozen up – apart from one outlet from the bath which was my own fault as I knew the taps dripped and I forgot to jam the plug in securely after my bath. Fortunately I was able to face the damned snow and unstoppered it with a boiling kettle and a little wangling of the icicle that had formed (despite the protective bag of bracken put over the drain which was supposed to prevent the frost getting through!)

Jobs

I’ve pretty much decided to give up on teaching for a career. I like teaching, but I’m not very good at the crowd-control side of the job.

I’ve been doing a month’s relieving 45 minutes drive away. It went OK I suppose but it was a bit hairy in parts – the last 4 weeks of a 15-week term is not an idea time to take over an undisciplined class! However. It’s a shame for the kids having 3 teachers in a year actually – especially as there’s not much else that’s stable at home for many of them around the school area.

engineer au pair

 

This change of plan meant X had to get her au pair a little earlier than expected and a lady from Turkey arrived just a few weeks ago. She has just finished University and is now an Industrial Engineer. Her English is limited but, being a very clever lady, is improving every day. She hopes to stay here for a year whilst her fiance is doing   his National Service.

 

X continues to be a complete mystery to me. Programmers really are on a different planet from the rest of us humans but, nevertheless, he is successful and enjoys what he does. No parent can ask more than that!

I’m supposed to find which diseases the butterfly caterpillars (which we export as pupae to live butterfly displays in UK and USA) die of and prevent them…

I am in a bit of a quandary at work. My boss is not managing as coherently (I can’t think how else to phrase it) as he was. In fact, I think he has got steadily worse over the last two years. During the last couple of weeks he has behaved quite irrationally on occasion. As there is no one much to observe this who can advise him to take all of that leave which is owing to him, I think I may have to take a rather drastic step and go and talk to someone about it. I don’t want him to have a breakdown. I feel like a tattletale.

Your new regime sounds ‘challenging’ if very hard work and I hope it won’t wear you out, particularly with a bossy boss. How I loathe the type who send peremptory notes and I do hope I wasn’t like that in the days when I ran a department! To [our family], who are always right, it comes hard doesn’t it?

Employment here is very bad, except if one has specific qualifications and experience e.g. mining engineer, accountant and top-level managerial experience. I have an interview for a job next week. The job is assistant archivist. I don’t know why they are even interviewing me, but perhaps there weren’t many real archivists who applied.

I muddle along as best I can. It’s a real case of ‘do what you can where you are with what you’ve got’!

It seems that as usual my out-of-date fantasy about having very little work in August and doing things like going home early and tidying the desk drawers, is indeed a fantasy, as I have to write the Annual Report by the end of August, complete with graphs and appendices etc., write various bids, re-vamp part of our education service, and finalise a whole range of service advice leaflets and programmes.

Your last letter relayed all the health problems you ended up with after the row with your boss. Wasn’t worth it, was it? I developed a back problem I think as a result of long hours and too much SITTING, SITTING, SITTING!!! Fortunately it came right on its own, or with the help of the change in jobs. I was so miserable in my work I think my mind was looking for ways to put an end to the stress if you know what I mean.

 

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!

We all need a job

“Don’t whatever you do go filing for Jesus – it sounds fairly mad and sinister in the extreme! Even a few hours on a Monday would finish me very rapidly I think, especially as her filing system is so plainly madly designed and you would soon be crazy too.”

“… the redundancy provision in our newly agreed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is much more generous than the previous provision. It would give me several months in which to find alternative work, before I was bankrupt. (Perish the thought.)”

“I’ve spent my mornings being what is grandly known as Office Manager of a large private preschool… The school is owned by a witch, but is run by her gay, 40-something son and his ‘partner’, each of whom is a delight and between them they provide a lot of fun and laughter each day …”

“More and more seems to be expected of people and I seem to spend more and more time doing things like ‘Asset protection programme’ and ‘Environmental management plan’ for our area, than doing what is actually on my job description and for which I am ostensibly paid. This is not to mention ‘Department management plan’ which details all of the things we are to achieve in our department in numbered and dot-pointed detail, with names attached. Then there is the ‘Performance management plan’ which each person is required to have, and which repeats the Departmental management plan in a rehashed and individual form. I understand that this sort of thing is a disease affecting businesses the world over.”

Yes, it’s plan bingo everywhere!

It’s the taking part that counts

the Bridge players where someone has gone wrong
Of sense bereft

“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
  • One quick look is worth two finesses(!)