After the ceremony we moved to the food table in the garden which looked magnificent piled with meat (I’d cooked a 24 lb turkey two nights before!) and salads and homemade bread and cheese and fruit – and wine too of course. And a cake which my mother ended up by cutting because she seemed to do it much more efficiently than me! In the middle of the feast much excitement and commotion when a huge telegraph pole crashed in slow motion outside the cottage – hurting no one luckily! But it cut the electricity and telephone. Present-opening in the garden, and a friend of ours did magic tricks and we made some ‘speeches’ – my father made a great one, very lovely, calling everyone there ‘friends’ and welcoming X into the family. My parents adored every minute of it and everyone thought they were great – no one wanted them to leave when they did.
Christmas was really quiet. X went home returning to tell us of all the huge and wonderful meals her mum and relatives served her while we who stayed here starved on scraps in the staff ‘Beanery’. The food is really atrocious, and they didn’t lay anything special on for Xmas, which was pretty miserable of them I thought.
X was old enough this year to really enjoy his birthday. Y came up and we celebrated with just us and her. Little X loved opening all his pressies with great excitement and then we had some party tea. It all went very nicely.
We had a big staff party on Christmas Eve, which was pretty good, got up late on Christmas Day and generally lazed around. New Year’s Eve we, 8 of us, went for a sooper dooper meal with dancing afterwards which was really good. We don’t get out too often, as the townsite is 4 miles away, and the road is like an ice rink, and cabs are expensive.
I really envied you the fireworks and the general crazy feeling you get in London on an occasion like that [Charles’ & Diana’s wedding] I think the last one I went to was 1945 at the end of the war.
We made Guy Fawkes a movable feast (it was pouring with rain on the actual night), and late Saturday night had a huge slash-fire as a bonfire, roasting wieners on sticks and sitting around the fire drinking beer – also dancing in the field to music on the radio. Halfway through the evening it began to snow, but it was only light and we kept on eating and drinking and dancing. It was really exciting, with the huge fires and the snow, and X read to us about the ancient history of fire celebrations.
My birthday was really fabulous. The party in the evening was really marvellous. There were 20 of us altogether at the most expensive and best restaurant in town. It was a fabulous turnout and he had menus specially written for us and 2 birthday cakes to have at the end of our 7 or 8 course meal! We arrived at 8 and didn’t leave until something like 1.30 or 2. But it was a wonderful evening.
Tomorrow I’m going to X for a cataract op on the second eye and there for a couple of nights. After that I hope to drive better but doubt I shall dare take on the motorway. Impossible to enjoy Y [care home] but it’s a huge relief to have Z [partner] reasonably well looked after by exceptionally nice overworked carers… Sorry such a dull letter but life here is fairly limited!
The VIP went to our old people’s home. No one seemed to recognise him, so he approached one of the more alert-looking old dears sitting around the walls. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he asked. ‘No, dear,’ replied the resident, ‘but don’t worry. Just ask at the desk: they’ll tell you.’
X has Alzheimer’s and, thankfully, is blissfully unaware of his wife’s death. He’s as happy as Larry in the nursing home, and isn’t, thank goodness, at all difficult to look after. He loves having visitors, especially when they bring him sweets and biscuits!
Life in this place becomes more and more of a horror story – about 90% of the inmates senile and the rest have given up interest in much other than their health and the food. Lucky old X jumped ship in good time to avoid all this… Awful as old age is I can escape into books, libraries and pubs – so far!
His memory is alas extremely short-term but it helps in that he no longer remembers long enough to worry.
I hate the story about your aunt – old age is terrible. Our turn is coming and I’m dreading it.
Herewith new address – a sort of old people’s home with extra nursing care. Rather a drear thing but the lesser of two evils as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cope with X’s problems here. We are there on a month’s trial so may well get chucked out as X is not good at cooperating with nurses.
Oh dear – Xmas – what a bore – I can imagine paper hats at the home. My bed-sit in the home is 12×12 so you can imagine I can’t take much other than a bed and 2 chairs!
I am around elderly people a lot and although most of them are interesting and wonderful I sometimes find myself thinking about old age. I have had some absolutely hysterical lunches with X, when I have visited her at the [care home]. It really makes you think when you see how people are treated in these homes and the amount they cost is horrendous.
We watched the fireworks that go off down in the town from our balcony and then went to bed. Town on New Year’s is disgusting. Everyone is drunk and kissing everyone else!! So we don’t venture down there anymore.
We all had lovely things and a good time was had by all, with the children quite often spontaneously remembering to thank and at least two of the three capable of opening a parcel without tearing the paper to shreds and losing the all important label!
Then came a huge milestone in my life – my 50th and I celebrated in style. On the actual night a dinner at a wonderful new fish restaurant. Then a few days later I had a champagne breakfast for 20 girlfriends at a popular local restaurant.
I was vastly amused when a bit of wedding cake appeared in the post. The postage by air must have been staggering. Anyhow as you can imagine the stamps go down big with X and the two eldest grandchildren as they are all avid collectors and join in big sessions with the swaps and catalogue when they are at home. To go back to the cake… it was gobbled at once and no-nonsense about sleeping with a bit under the pillow.
I had a nice day – X baked me a gorgeous cake and I demanded a slice this year, diabetes or not, and actually got it. I had a good day even though it wasn’t like being at home. The sun is shining and I’m going outside.
We went to a friend’s for dinner and my dustbin of a child came up with this beauty: he’d had a large dinner and pudding and held out his plate, put on a pathetic expression and whimpered questioningly, ‘Food for the poor?’
Your Christmas sounded ‘unusual’ to say the least. I was amused by your saga of the disappearing turkey – there’s something rather bizarre about a half turkey getting mislaid. The old dears sleeping off lunch reminded me of a dinner party I went to. There were about 12 of us there and at about 10 p.m. people progressively decided that a brief snooze would improve their subsequent conversation – so they simply keeled over on the floor one after the other and went to sleep. There I was left, suffering from an inhibited upbringing, and the only one awake!
I’m not sick of fish yet but would die of surprise if I saw a green leafy vegetable on my plate. With so many plants growing freely around it always surprises me no green vegetables are planted.
Flatting helps one appreciate food at home all the more! It’s not that we can’t cook, because we both do pretty well in that department, but – us poor students – at home there’s nice food, one doesn’t have to work hard to jolly it up.
Here we are in the damp Scottish mists – now I know why they make so much whisky and weave so much – they need to in order to survive the damp. I feel like a fungus already.
Today I made my Christmas cakes. Rather late in the piece, I’m afraid, however they are done. I have two to give away and one to keep. I also made some shortbread from an untried recipe which is rather disappointing. I am putting a piece of it out of its misery as I write this. [For Christmas] I am having a duck galantine which I will cook in the morning, or the night before, and some salads. I don’t want to have to cook, then eat, a roast if it is hot.
I sat with another volunteer at lunch and she spent the whole time telling me how wonderful her microwave was and how quickly it did everything. I think I am too old to bother, and perhaps it isn’t really necessary for one person alone, as the cooking doesn’t take long anyhow, and the sound of making sauces and so on in it leaves me cold. I expect it would be good for you when you come in late from work, but the outlay would take a lot of saving on electricity! I was delighted when somebody else joined us as she proclaimed that meat didn’t taste as good done in one, and she didn’t think it all that wonderful.
“This place is much like an open prison – full of dotty confused people – luckily I get taken out quite a lot. Nearly all the carers and nurses here are nice and just one or two sadists.”
“… the carol singers form only at Christmas and go to various elderly people’s homes in the fortnight before Christmas. This has been rewarding and depressing. Today we went to a dementia wing, to entertain the residents. Half of our audience appeared to be asleep, but the other half really seemed to enjoy it, and were quite attentive. I hope they did, as it must be very boring for them many days.”
“…heard from X today and we are rather glad to hear that he plans to give up the estate – although it is lovely and proved an immense interest for him I do think perhaps it will shortly be a bit much – if he is getting as old as we are as quickly, if you see what I mean!”
“I nearly settled on a Help the Aged flat at X but fortunately they had all gone by the time I got around to writing, as I then began to feel better and couldn’t imagine why I wanted nothing at all to do and a warden to summon when in extremis!”
“Everything seems to happen! I am now in X Nursing Home… Forgive me for not writing – all happened so quickly – I will get in touch – please don’t forget me.”
“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
“…I am so glad you went to town literally on your wardrobe (not that I thought it needed this consideration and that remark might have been put better!) What I meant was that a day pushing round London and getting yourself one or two necessities before embarking on the journey must have been refreshing despite the crowds, after the dreary end of term affairs with your clients – you must have been thankful to see the back of them for a short week or two. Now I have just reread this paragraph and it sounds as though you sailed up the road sitting on the bloody wardrobe – too much food yesterday maybe and it has dulled the brain…
“Quite amusing on Christmas Eve taking the library trolley round to the few patients in over the holiday… There was a ‘Drop in’ for the volunteers for 3 hours – at which I failed to drop as I was busy babysitting… Much to my relief I may say as I find jollities like that very embarrassing and hard work. Had the usual huge collection of cards from people I see every week and never dream of sending one to – I try to train them not to bother but it doesn’t work! Such a silly waste of effort and money but very kind of them…”