Travel hazards

X has leeches galore I gather – nothing seems to faze her – she loves it all, people and country.

Last stop in view of the volcano who’s been blowing his/her top in a big way and the ski fields are closed and everyone round is losing millions. We came past when it was first starting – mild puffs and black clouds – but later rocks the size of cars and lava streaming down have caused a great mess and the acid from the ash that was thrown up 10,000m has blown far and wide.

We have amazing letters from X. Being a vegetarian must have made her though – the miles she goes through forest and crossing rivers so rough she had to have a man each side to hold her up – and spends all her days covered in mud and sopping and loves it all – up at 3.30 a.m. and in bed by 2.30 p.m. – she’s a wonder at never missing an opportunity.

I arrived with the realisation that I had left the letter with the name of our motel on my desk at home. So I put Avis (‘we try harder’) to the test and they certainly came up trumps. At the fifth telephone call the girl on the desk established where I was booked in, and when I looked helpless and asked how to get there first produced a map and then the offer of a lift when she went to lunch. In fact she got held up and got her boss to take me!

I am housebound. I left asking for a driving test too late – they stopped 18th December and can’t take me until 16th January. As I’m booked in I don’t think the police would mind but I was afraid of the insurance – ‘they’ said if I had an accident and passed my d. test they’d pay up but not if I failed – fair enough but I’d be so jittery I decided not to risk it.

I’m fed up with the travel agency woman who has a horrible nasal voice, and treats me like an imbecile, which annoys me even if I am one.

Please excuse my writing and any mistakes as I am writing in a very dim light, sitting on the floor of a large room, off a typical Persian hotel courtyard. We have broken down yet again, about our 25th breakdown. We have hit 4 cars, 2 lorries and 1 bus so far, it has been a rough trip but adventurous.

The Crash Tally

We broke down for 5 days at Xmas and we had a really swinging time in a small hotel in Turkey. The Turkish hospitality was really overwhelming.

We then took off across the desert, along a camel track. We were warned not to go, and to take a guide – X just laughed! Result, we got bogged down about 12 times and had to dig ourselves out. We got lost many times. We tore off our rear bumper and rear lights and had to tie them on with rope and the lights with sticky tape. We are now 24 days behind schedule because of all the breakdowns..

Without a car of my own it has been a bit restricted as they have quite forbidden me to use the country buses. It is quite a relief really as they are the most crammed vehicles that I have seen and just trucks with sides of boards and board seats inside. There is no gap down the middle for the conductor so he hangs on to the outside on a kind of running board and gets the fares from there and looks in imminent danger of death at every corner.

X is quite terrified of your new motor bike and keeps saying how potty you are, but it must cut own on transport costs tremendously – as long as replacement parts for the pinched bits isn’t more! Did I tell you about our car? Because a part which cost about 40 cents broke and I didn’t take it in the same day another part costing $124.21 broke = total bill $272.50.

If you get a machine do spend a lot on the accompanying ‘gear’. They say that leather is best at avoid painful abrasions if you do have a fall. Don’t ride on ice; it upsets one incredibly quickly once you start sliding – very difficult to correct! Do have your bike fitted with the bars across the front which protect your leg if it falls with you still on it. [Countermanded by instructors as likely to trap your leg and/or break it!!!] Before I had a m/c I spent a lot of my lunch hours reading m/c mags. Their advice was ‘Imagine what might happen and work out what you would do. What, for instance, would you do if your throttle stuck open?’ And when I had a bike it did happen once and with all my forethought I managed not to panic – took the clutch out and turned off the ignition before the engine blew up – and then nearly fell off when I let the clutch in again while still doing about 40, as of course it almost locked the back wheel!

The quote for going to SA or USA en route was staggering, and for both astronomical, so I’ve cut my cloth to the size of my pocket. My only extra frivolity is to book to come back via Tokyo where, if I have any funds left I hope to stay a couple of days. I’ll let you know flight etc. later when I receive the tickets from the Travel Agency. I got so cross, everything they quoted and gave me brochures for, after I’d agonised over them for a day and made up my mind, on going back was told all those prices were now out of date and in one case it was currently 3 times as much.

Significant other – 3

 Did I tell you the sad news of the Xs? Long letter her saying he had taken a year’s sabbatical from her?! and had produced a legal document to say he could live as a single man for a year – now I’ve heard everything! There was a terrific shindy with the tax dept – and it came out that their accountant just hadn’t been sending in all the figures and none at all for one year. It ended up with him having to pay $1,000,000 in back payments and fines – and by mortgaging houses and using money he’d ‘kept fluid ’ was able to pay up – but once in the clear he removed his entire studio and gallery to another State and left her to look after their 4 houses and keep an eye on the family.

She can do nothing right – she’s busy trying to organise a tour of Europe next year – with him and X in a hired caravan. My heart sinks at the idea – 3 months – horrors!

I asked if she still saw X and she said no, he didn’t like her lawyer – but she did – she’d obviously had a big settlement in her favour over the divorce!! Sad he does not seem to enjoy things much.

News of X’s marriage sounds v. odd, do you know what he’s like? I don’t envy him, their house will be in chaos.

living in chaos

X’s hasty wedding was a bit odd too – what does he do workwise – one O Level and looking after chickens is not full of hope for the upkeep of his new wife.

I thought I’d offer X something on time this Xmas and offered her a duvet but she says Y likes a heavy weight on him. I suppose I could give him a length of rope and a block of concrete!

The boyfriend is large and basic (who looks very nice to give him his due) with little education. She says if they were to marry and have a family she wouldn’t mind his looking after the babies and house, as she certainly wasn’t going to stay and look after them. She got quite irate with me when I said I couldn’t imagine his doing it as his friends would think it such a joke – she said couldn’t I see her understanding of it, and I must realise things were different nowadays, and so on – I understood exactly what she meant but didn’t agree with her!

One of our bridge 4 is failing visibly all the time and has difficulty speaking clearly (Parkinson’s) so her husband won’t talk to her and has taken over the kitchen to the extent he’s had it all redone to his choice of everything whilst she was put in a home with a retired nurse. It’s not a happy set up, with the added difficulty of a friend of theirs who’s practically an accepted 3rd in the house and does all the things with him that she can no longer do – walking, swimming – and we’re not sure what else!

He’s 23, fairly big, got curly hair and big curly sideboards and a bit of an extravert.

My changing room environment was emotionally taxing as there were 4 of us – the other three single, but one had just split up with a boyfriend of 2 1/2 years and the other two were involved with married men, one of them with lots of strife.

Let me give you a little word of advice: don’t marry someone you’ve only known for a few months!

The thing we can’t understand is why X thinks he is so marvellous. When she told me that he had aged 5 years in the past 2 weeks the other day, my cynical thought was ‘that makes him 15’ but I didn’t say that cos I didn’t feel it would help.

The marriage day was all perfection. The garden glowed with flowers, the sun burst out of the blue sky – X and I stood up by the altar table – behind us was an arbour we’d made and covered with a fish net with flowers and ferns twined in it. In front of us the people (about 40) sat in a semi-circle of benches we’d made out of driftwood from the beach. X had written the liturgy, and as well there were poems – Fernhill by Dylan Thomas, and I read one by Yevtushenku called Colours – and guitar and dulcimer music. I was bursting with excitement and joy. Everyone was smiling and serious at the same time.

I won’t have told you I had a ‘Dear John’ letter from X in October. I was very sad, and really it wasn’t as bad as all that. It is difficult to keep up a romance when people are 7000 miles apart. He met someone else, and it was only a matter of time before I would have been writing the same sort of letter as on Oct. 10 I fell somewhat for a 6’2” hunk of superb Canadian manhood. Absolutely terrific guy.

Church/religion (2)

I do still play Bridge on Monday mornings, so I am mixing with some non-church folk. Not getting far yet with them on the spiritual side – but I chip away at it. And next week I start ‘wife sitting’ with a woman in our church who does not dare stay alone when her husband is away. (It is not really a problem since my dog had cancer and I had to have her put down recently.)

Met also one of his daughters who has 6 boys (very Catholic family); we sang grace at the table.

He built his own house and was very proud of it – with first class materials, solid enough to last many centuries. I can’t compete with that, but I can go to church and pray, as he suggested also!

I found the article and subsequent letters about the man with the gift of tongues very interesting. The magazine showed a nice balance between supportive and sceptical letter! It all accorded very well with such experience as I have had. I must confess that I have always been a bit sceptical about the gift of interpretation of tongues, and have regarded the gift itself as much more for encouraging and bringing joy to the person who has it than for the enlightenment of other people. I have occasionally been at meetings where someone has spoken in tongues and someone else has interpreted – but have been disappointed by the rather platitudinous nature of the interpretation, which did not seem worthy of the Holy Spirit (though maybe the Spirit did not think we were ready to accept anything more startling?)

I have just joined a new Church – OXYGEN LIFE! Very lively, described as a New Testament Church, bursting with young families with children. I think I am the only person over 70! No church doctrine to worry about – only the Bible.

We had lunch and then a video of the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury – or at least of bits of it: about 40 minutes worth out of a couple of hours. The atmosphere was not altogether improved by the tape being put into fast forward at intervals, to speed up some of the interminable processions with which the affair started, which invariably caused the clergy widows to burst out laughing.

fw 005
the clergy are not amused!

X is on a course with Mahikari – which she has gone overboard about. I fear for her a little and am in the middle of a huge book about it, but have warned her if money is involved be suspicious, there have been so many rip offs with various so called Divine Calls.

It was a stupid meeting, really. We had been asked by the powers that be in the diocese to examine the problem of ‘Sexual Harassment’ – about which I found I had nothing to say, except that it appeared to be another name for temptation which we have known for a long long time. So producing ‘Guide lines’ (not for it, but to counter it) seemed rather a waste of time.

We have had a jolly two days tidying up our wills and tomorrow we’re going to see the funeral people and choose what we’ll have and I hope pay for it – and then we can get on living!!!

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(!)