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!)

Self-preservation

I’ve just had a visitation from our vicar – very pleasant but I just can’t take being prayed over in my sitting room. And saying no thank you – it doesn’t sound very friendly, but…

Reflecting on the theme of self-destructive behaviour – one of the frustrations and demoralisers for self-destroyers is that often those around them appear to (and do) ‘press on regardless’ because that seems to be the only way to prevent themselves being sucked into self-destruction too.

[Child of 7] Some people say ‘I wish all my dreams would all come true but I wouldn’t – I have some TERRIBLE dreams!’

We stayed there until the following Monday. On the whole the time was fun if one was able to ignore X who was utterly impossible for large chunks of the time; her skills at putting-down and misconstruction are becoming highly honed with age.

Are the satisfactions of your work worth the assaults on your health by all the germs that your patients cough, splutter, sneeze, blow and breathe in your face each day? (It’s a pity that you can’t enclose yourself in an armoured-glass cubicle equipped with a two-way microphone-loudspeaker, like the embassy enquiry desk here – but I can see that it would have drawbacks in the field of interpersonal relationships.)

We had an orgy of present opening somewhat overcast by the boys’ cub-master calling as he couldn’t manage the previous night – and staying for well over 2 hours when X made an inspired invitation to join us in a cup of tea before he went!

I have an inclination to have all my hair clipped off to see if it will grow back curly. X nearly had hysterics when I told her but I must do something to boost my morale!

Her ‘new’ Mini looks fine, in very good condition. It was good of her landlord to go round with her when she was looking. I fear car salesmen are a breed of crooks.

the jovial vicar

We wasted an afternoon at a Mothers’ Union affair on Saturday. She had to run, and produce beforehand, a lucky dip of grocery things and I went to support and buy. There were 9 members present and me !!! The chairwoman had done no advertising and instead of making about £100 we eventually cleared about £30, which was wonderful in itself from so few, but useless towards their annual expenses. It was quite the dreariest 2 or 3 hours that you ever met and I got landed with running the raffle, but the helpers had already taken their tickets and nobody else came, so there was little to do! We had tea and retreated with endless goodies that we didn’t really want.The Vicar was very jovial and full of long and pointless stories and had to be avoided at all costs and Mrs. was full of talk about her runner beans and the trials of her Brussel sprouts so it was all fairly cheesing. The only good thing was the chocolate cake we had for tea! But the endless sandwiches of tinned salmon and corned beef which some earnest member had cut went quite disregarded and I don’t know if there were any takers to buy them at the end as I left just before the end. It was suggested that I should join but I really think it is to be avoided at all costs!! With luck it will die a natural death before I get around to doing so.

 

Medicine

X is looking v. frail and tires so easily – he takes umpteen pills which seem to keep his ulcer and heart ticking over and his nice young doctor assures him he’s doing well.

I gathered from X that they did take some scrape or whatever and results from that were to come back later – haven’t heard about that yet. I guess the question that remains is why the results of the original blood test or whatever were so strange, if it wasn’t what they thought it was.

X [new baby] is an enthusiastic drinker and managed to nibble a couple of holes in me early on, which then apparently got thrush, so we had a jolly week or so there. Finally, they seem to be healing up thankfully and we’re building up toward full breast-feeding again. What would my La Leche friends say? Yesterday I went out to the hospital to have warm ozone blown on me which was very pleasant and may have been helping the final healing – what funny things they think of ! Better than being microwaved, which was also on offer!

On the boring subject of my indisposition last year, I had a brush with the dread disease (not bosom) and some major surgery by the most super surgeon who recently arrived here – lucky for me. He was 6ft 3ins, bearded and could be described as the gentle brown giant. Couldn’t have had anyone kinder, gentler or more skilful…

on steroids

He wanted me to start the steroids that day – which I duly did after dinner… I found I had no headache and felt fine – I can even open my mouth properly! BUT the other side effects sound almost worse than the complaint. Getting heavy over all trunk and weak in the muscles – arms and legs – and a round face. ‘Walk tall, sit on firm dining room type chair’ and so on.

I seem to remember she got allergies by the score when she was with you before and had to use an ioniser or some such to purify the air! I am sure they are splendid devices but I am always a bit of a cynic and want to see something for my money.

… there was a general gloom anyway as one Partner had died in the week and the husband of another had ‘pulled a muscle in his chest’ – he died suddenly the next day, heart attack of course.

 

Special skills

Do remember to send me a diagram of your house so I can dowse it for you. It seems to be good for us and especially our friend X… I think when I last wrote I was waiting to hear the result of the drill being done nearby; I went down complete with cans of beer to celebrate only to find X had decided he shouldn’t put on another 10 ft pipe to bring it up to the depth I reckoned he would strike an aquifer and water in vast quantities. He was disappointed too as he was sure I was right. As he’d already gone 3 metres more than he’d been instructed to go I can see his predicament. However, he was happy for me to go and try out the next well which won’t be for a month or more.

 

giving light

I’ve attended a course in this Mahikari I mentioned in the last letter and can now ‘give light’ – it still seems remarkable but anyway. But it seems to attract people who neet it.

My jaunt to dowse a section was interesting. I’d said I had no qualifications, and he assured me it was whether you had it or not that mattered! We marched round this dreary section, which had been covered over with tarmac and used as a car park, and the council had a competition going for the best building that could go on it… It came out very odd, and I suspect there was an old cess pit and a large soakaway, it was over a swamp, in a gully, I think the person who said it was not fit for habitation would win any competition. Then I got a very strong reaction at one point… and since coming home and trying to make sense of it, I got a book (the only one they had!) from the library, which told me all the things I didn’t know… I think the council had cut off all the old pipes which are now holding polluted water, and the big cess pit and soakaway the same, and there is one new pipe right down the new boundary not quite as deep as the old one, so now I wait hopefully! – shall be told how wrong or not I was.

I didn’t realise you needed another licence [for a motorbike] as I imagined that you had a full driving licence, but I suppose that sort of thing went out after the war or some time ages ago and one takes it in bits now? I still rejoice that I can drive a tractor or a heavy van or something (all without taking one at all and I would undoubtedly fail a test!!) What this elderly lady does about turning round on a push bike and signalling and so forth is extremely vague – I usually try to turn round – find I am a bit bad at twiddling my neck/shoulders – take a hasty glance and not really see anything and then stick out a wavering hand and proceed rapidly across the main road to the safety of the lane. Alternatively I suddenly hop off at the crossing and run across at my fastest speed as cars zoom up a hill quite blind and suddenly appear ready to run me down.

Art

My friend the R.C. Bishop called me to see if I had any paintings for the art show last Saturday. Having done absolutely no painting all year due to this and that, I was able to dredge up three old ones – two had to be framed in a hurry. But I was pleased they all sold in the first hour – I said I’d give their charity half the proceeds. I must say, a more undistinguished bunch of paintings in the show I have never seen. It was in much too large a venue – last year it was in the house next door and there was a smaller much more distinguished collection shown to better advantage.

My day with X began in Piccadilly, ended in St. James’ and was very ‘full’ and ‘successful’ i.e. I finally got to the gallery only 16 months after the exhibition that I’d wanted to see had opened!… I thought you might be interested in this Samuel Palmer. It’s possible they still have the picture there – I enquired re one from the 4-months-old similar exhibition to the original one which was unsold in the basement… Yes, I’m thinking I might make a further (small!) purchase…? [small purchase: a Samuel Palmer???]

 

There is so much bad painting here – what I call ‘brown paintings’ – peasants and palm trees and mud-coloured mountains – boring.

a dull day with heavy rain coming in the Caribbean
a brown painting

 

There is also an unfinished cross I started some years ago – a construction of copper mosaic that I have enamelled. My kiln is a small one so have to think in terms of linking large work together. The cross depicts Alpha & Omega – plenty of colour – slimy mud and things at the base and volcanoes and night & day with a sun at the top. Am intending to mount it on a super piece of oak that I found in a builder’s yard – weathered and worn to a gorgeous silver patina – it was at one time a tail board from a small farm cart – I guess 100 years or more past.

…Some splendid Monets – I bought a poster of the Floating Studio – now I know why he did so many waterlilies! The gallery had done the walls the same colour as Barnes had used, which was a rather nasty sort of yellow ochre which I did not think was a very good background for the pictures – but who am I?? They did a big photomontage of one of his hanging arrangements, which was very interesting, as he mixed such different things and made such balanced sort of compositions.

Looking through some of my earlier efforts I came on some things that I did before my pot-boiling flowers and was quite impressed. I must do some more buildings and portraits – I have got into such a rut, but the flowers sell like hot bread and it tempts me.

I think she is such a good artist. Her family are quite unimpressed with her work, and it all seems to be done on odd bits of paper and the backs of envelopes and I am sure will disappear when she dies. There were a couple of portrait heads, Indian?, that I would give my eyeteeth to own, also a landscape in mixed media.

I have been painting quite a lot. X, my grand-daughter, was over with her aunt who also paints flowers, not nearly as well as I do (!) and is peddling them to tourists on the coast, and I was so incensed it gave me the prod I needed. X has contacts with galleries over there and will help me place mine.

I was interested to hear of the Byam Shaw man – I was taught there by a marvellous teacher, Ernest Jackson, only drawing. The painting end was too heavy for me – Prix de Rome stuff a way over my head.

 

 

Celebrations

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?’

The oldies

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!

 

Entertaining

As usual at 7.15 with us arriving and getting organised we started worrying that no one would come – but then half an hour later we worried if we had enough food/drinks.

It’s the village party tonight… As the noise is so terrific it doesn’t matter much who is there – conversation is all but impossible.

tiddly speaker

The old boy patron of the society (who opened the Exhibition) had obviously been wined and dined too well by X – was so embarrassing – really quite tiddly.

 

 

If you want to come you can have the camp bed here but I know that only a night or two is possible without me suddenly going mad. Such a creature of habit am I too.

… and then we had afternoon tea at the Vicarage for a select few – ugh – but it wasn’t too ghastly and I just survived. ‘Being social’ is just NOT my strong point – but then you know that.

She made a super rich cake and put it where the dog can’t reach it. X moved it to a place that was a gift to the dog who ate about 1/8 of it but wait – after nearly giving up with rage – she made another and filled it with layers of cream and put cherries soaked in brandy on top and put a throw-over over and SHUT doors … sudden scream from X – the dog got in and had pulled cover off bring the cake to edge of table – spoiling top cream only…

She would be very happy for X to come and stay there – she is quite firm that he would be more comfortable and better fed there and I rather agree! She has ‘turning out of her room’ down to a fine art… she is worried about putting Y out of his routine of sitting in the armchair in the kitchen and watching TV… He finds it hard to admit that he is older. Oh dear, what a mouldy old lot I make us out, but we really are rather dull and set in our ways and I do feel two or three days would tell X all he needs to know about our insular views. Old memories are all very well but when the names are all missing the conversation tends to be ‘Oh, of course you know who I mean – dear old so-and-so with the wife’ and the audience has to guess until we get the right person or all give up in disgust!

[After a memorial service] X had got a bun fight ready at the house which was for the family, relations, friends and village people who remembered him. So it was all a bit mixed as the village method of having a tea is to take their cup and plate and pile the latter with all the grub it will hold and then retreat to the available chairs and bad luck to those who come later – which inevitably would be the relations and friends!