Characters 4

Her brother was there one day marching about the garden with a broom pretending to be a soldier (grown man) so it must be a family failing.

How are your awful neighbours – my awful neighbours are about as awful as usual, if not worse. Luckily for me a v. nice young couple (both lawyers) have moved into the other side of the semi next door which is occupied by one of these awful people! they don’t like her any more than I do and I sorta think they are going to something about it – being lawyers!

X sent me a cutting from one of their papers all about him and his peculiarities. There were several glaring mistakes which made me feel smug – the ancestral seat of the family for instance. We dined with him at his house, big yes, but hardly baronial. The old house was burnt down with his cousin in it which is why he inherited the title. I do pity his wife having to sit through endless journalists getting copy from him and rehearing all the old stories.

We’ve just filled out our Census forms, what a to-do – practically want to know how many times you go to the loo. I felt a bit shamed having to tick ‘no school qualifications’ and only 9 years schooling! Put my MBE after my name to cheer me up.

We left at 9.40 a.m. We popped in on the Xs at about 3.15 hoping to cadge a bite of lunch. She had gone out with the kids and he was painting the kitchen. He assured us we were welcome to sit on the lawn and eat the ice blocks we’d brought them but he was going to continue his painting and listen to his cricket. That sort of thing is very hard to stomach – especially when the stomach concerned is empty!

We went home and to X’s for supper. She had a beautiful house in a village with a square surrounded by arches. Her house is three storeys and the gravel terrace leads to the bank of another river running in a valley with trees on the other side. The furniture and paintings were gorgeous and she had done the dining room walls with gold material. One of her sons was in for dinner and we dined on homemade pate and then goose with exotically done potatoes then salad and then an enormous creme caramel. The white-coated man servant was summoned to pass round the dishes by a little silver bell and it was all very gracious living!

The evening was disastrous – my pet parishioner (who gave me the can of oil) is so alone and knows he’s odd – but I didn’t realise how odd and was rather fed up with X who finds him very offputting. He was quite batty and talked utter balderdash in the most delightful and cultured way all evening, interspersed with his wild stories of being damned to hell by Cardinal so and so and committed to the asylum by Bishop someone else – he’d lift his eyes to heaven and mutter ‘Oh the madness, the madness’ – all very unnerving. He thanked me charmingly for the evening and X said talked perfectly sensibly all the way home. He was a fighter pilot in the war. I was so sorry for all the others. It wrecked the evening for them.

worried man

Unfortunately I didn’t really take to X who was staying and I think v v was probably true – a most loud and aggressive person as my desiderata says! Anyway we got along.

Do you remember X at my hairdresser’s – by repute anyway? Well he was arrested last month dressed in women’s clothes at a club and caught giving the man he was dancing with a pep pill!! Much to my surprise he was still at the firm and as cheerful as ever when next I went. Actually I like him – he’s a pleasant boy. I gather he was fined $70.

I found two boys on the train who were crossing Paris on the metro – one who was rather a bore and who unfortunately was coming on my train but I managed to avoid as I had a couchette and the other a civil servant of some sort who was taking unpaid leave after 9 months recovery time after a nasty incident – he was staying in a hotel on business somewhere and during the night a skylight fell in and badly cut up one eye. He was hospitalised for months and had spent the months off work wandering about Europe – he was quite interesting. Unfortunately he had mistaken Montpelier for Montmartre so had at least another day’s travelling to do to get to the people he as staying with.

There was great excitement in the town yesterday morning as some bod escaped police custody and was caught locally, on the crashing into two police cars and into the fence of a friend of mine – who says life in the country is boring?! Only two weeks ago someone was caught with a bag of unstable gelignite at the pub down the road – he was dropped off there by a petrol tanker driver who had given him a lift – things could really have gone with a bang!

Sorry your new job didn’t come off – at least you’re not as inately optimistic as me – even now I am slightly surprised that anyone more suitable than me could have applied for a job!

Crime/sympathy

I am sorry to hear about the very distressing events so close to you. Somehow things like that only ever seem to happen ‘somewhere else’, and if it does happen near you, it comes as a great shock. It makes one feel very vulnerable.

Things here are getting a bit rough – a murder a minute including 2 R.C. priests, one of whom was just quietly saying his prayers, by himself, in his church one evening. It’s very hard to understand.

cheeky thief

The guy next door to me woke up with someone in his flat on the 2nd floor; he put the light on and after the initial mutual ‘surprise’, the thief took off OUT THE WINDOW and down the drain pipe with my neighbour yelling abuse at him and the thief replying something like ‘and the same to you’. He had pocketed the guy’s cell phone and wallet, had removed a blanket from him as he slept!! in which to carry off further loot.

[About getting some specialist cutting done for an artwork] He looked at my lovely granite and asked where I’d got it from. Feeling a bit apprehensive I said a man in X had given it to me, but I knew it wasn’t from this enormous firm I’d gone to. He replied, ‘In fact it is a piece of ours’. It’s fortunate I’m beyond blushing! But seeing the name of the hotel it had been used on he knew who had given it to me as they had both worked on it. Evidently a big trolley with a pile of this stone had been stolen only a few weeks earlier: not surprising he was suspicious.

The saga of the carpet is coming to a head soon – that is the carpet which our ex-president at the club found in a cupboard and cut up and laid in the kitchen. The hairdresser downstairs who was storing it up to lay in her new spa-pool annexe has finally taken the course I suggested to her about six weeks ago and laid a claim against us in the Small Claims Tribunal – though I wanted it laid against the owners of the building as well, seeing as how one of their directors told her to put it in the cupboard, and another told us we might use it supposing it was somebody’s leftover, and it’s their kitchen anyway!

He said the other day that he was $1500 down on the theft of the skins which were stolen from his shed two or three months ago, because they were not covered by his insurance policy; and last week he was going off to X one day to try and sort out the money due to him for the trees that were felled. Apparently the woodmen had gone bust, and the mill to which they had taken the trees for sawing said they had no record of which came from his land, and which from the land across the river which they were felling and carting the same time.

Politics

Partner is away at the moment doing a dreadful course in Yorkshire which will teach him how to deal with a nuclear holocaust. He can pick me up from Greenham on the way back!

Not much has transpired since we last communicated (except the Falklands war!!!)

Oh, think of the boredom of an election – can’t say I am keen on any of them really and the radio will be full of speeches and rant.

…and in the process of freeing up the ‘wage freeze’ which the former government had in force, and so this round everybody is trying to catch up for about the last three years…

We continue to be regaled daily with snippets about the Rainbow Warrior affair – of which one of the nicer ones was a report from Paris of official indignation about the conditions under which the two French Army officers were being kept on remand awaiting trial. ‘As though they were common criminals’ was the complaint. I don’t know what the French think arson and murder count as in the criminal code.

the closed mind

…when I asked X what she thought, she said honestly enough, ‘I came with a closed mind, and I’m going away with a closed mind’.

There is so much fraud and mismanagement in Government it is frightening. Government hospitals and health services are in a sorry state but there is always money to show off and host conferences… One thing they are good at is throwing a party… I’m stuck here, there is nowhere to go. I can only do the best I can and trust I don’t get raped, robbed, hijacked or murdered. (No exaggeration, all are very real possibilities). Funny, but I manage to live my life without fear. We have our lovely weather, good shopping, movies and theatre and I still have a job and a roof over my head for which I am grateful.

There has been factional fighting in the council for a long time, with some members accusing others of just using it as a way to self aggrandisement etc. etc. Now the mayor is in the middle of a public scandal relating to some shady personal business dealings in X. The public bone of contention is that he used council phone and fax facilities to the tune of several thousand dollars for these business dealings, and also that he sent personal business correspondence on council letterhead. He doesn’t see that he has done anything untoward. So, once again, we wait for the mud to settle before we can see what’s what.

Our trials and tribulations of the past 4 months contain enough material for a long-running ‘Asian soap’. We have been under surveillance from Special Branch, ordered to leave the country and goodness only knows what else… but we are still here and alive to tell the tail! oops tale!

 

The end is not yet

Crime, punishment, rumours of war

“…a colleague at work confessed that she had been defrauding the company by not banking cash taken from clients… She was fired but what a mess to sort out! …The company has employed a Credit Controller…”

“After the Spring Harvest Festival we were given a magnificent lunch picnic in the shelter of the old prison walls. It seemed rather awful to be throwing away so many card and plastic plates and cups when 150 years ago several men were hanged 20 yards away after a prison uprising about the withdrawal of their own pannikins granted by one Governor with enlightened ideas, and withdrawn by the sadist who replaced him.”

“Fifty years since I went to war on a 2/11d ticket from Charing Cross – makes me feel OLD!”

Two reports of the same event

“With the present ‘gag’ on our local media during the State of Emergency, you are probably better informed than we are! … yes, it IS very worrying and frightening… and it is now closer to home than ever before – last Saturday night’s bombing on our beach front was a mere two miles away – the explosion we heard while watching television was a sound which is becoming all too familiar…”

“Well, despite the bombs going off here things are still very much together and life goes on. The car bomb which almost demolished a beach front hotel a week ago was quite something… Our secretary lives in the adjoining block of flats. There was considerable damage to windows… right up to the 20th (top) floor of the building…”