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!

Ageing 5

It seems to have been a busy time – at my desk as well as elsewhere, and just recently (i.e. the last few months) I have found that I have to use my glasses for reading and writing, or else I quickly get squiffy-eyed. So it becomes less attractive to sit there all day.

I think I’m going senile – frightfully interesting things to tell you keep flitting through my mind and I can’t catch hold of them before they go out the other side!

Vanishing ideas

One letter was from X: they have had such bad luck healthwise. He has been in hospital again and is constantly under the doctor and can’t do anything, and her eyes are worse and she can’t get the other one operated on until May, and to help things along she broke her back this winter skiing, and, as she has no car, life must have been more than maddening.

A member of the bridge club was playing last night after doing 18 holes of golf, had a stroke this morning – that’s the one depressing thing about this place, it makes you realise you’re in the zone, so to speak, all too often.

She hoped she could keep driving her car whilst she was at her present house, as she wouldn’t enjoy being graciously given a lift to town once a week to shop! How I agree with her.

X has taken a new lease of life since his eye was ‘done’ – he can see much better than me! I can’t get used to his 8 pills he has to take for his heart tho’ – one of which is the cause of his gout so he has another for that!

We took meals on wheels to a lady in much the same state as your friend last week. X (who does the going in bit) was busy for quarter of an hour trying to encourage her to get out of her large and empty house, complete with tennis court, which she has been alone in for about 13 years – and go and live in one of our retirement villages instead. She told X that she was now so frightened of people that she never goes out of the house. But it seemed to have done her good to have got some of it off her chest.

Strong opinions

I find it hard to share a country with X, more especially when he is the Prime Minister and I am not. I think he has been so inept, and so loudmouthed …[too libellous to repeat!] Comes of being so small physically, perhaps? – in height, at least. He’s not all that small roundways.

Don’t want you large

 

 

I really don’t know if the child will ever survive because she only ever gave it half its feed because she told me she didn’t like large children!

 

 

The first I heard of it was when X phoned me at work and asked me to pop in – said in that voice that implies there’s no hurry as long as you are here yesterday as I have something to say to you.

You are better off as you are so long as you remember who you are.

I’m sure I was telling you once before how involved I’ve become in the whole women’s thing over the last three years. Ever since I read The Female Eunuch in fact, and I have just continued from there, reading a lot of stuff by and about women, getting a very good sense of being a woman, but realising continually how many stereotypes and roles have to be broken down.

If you can locate them ask her if she has had our letters and what’s happening – there’s no use beating about the bush or she’ll push it all in her pending tray again – she’s madly disorganised.

I laughed and laughed and then felt extremely irritated with X’s letter, as you say, a poor attempt at doing her mother! Remember you can be pretty good at a ‘put-down’ too!

Do you know we still haven’t heard about the finalising of X’s estate – I strongly believe the solicitor has put it on a horse.

Well, I hope never to see another day like this! It’s alright, no disasters but the next 5th Sunday in February is due in 2004, and I don’t really fancy remaining in ‘the miseries of this sinful world’ (quote from burial services) to the age of 92.

I’ve just finished reading X’s copy of Papillon – violent, crude and horrifying it may be but a fascinating and sensitive story – I’m not so revolted as X was.

Dowsing 2

Now she’s on this dowsing lark – she’s got expensive meters and taking a course – I can only use a map or twig – not so convincing!!

 

Evidently the diver has several wrecks he wants to follow up and first is going to employ people to use machines to try and ensure which hold gold. I’ve just been trying my hand with gold here (X obligingly had 2 objects) and it worked both by walking over it and on a plan of the room with a piece hidden by her – so if we’re nearby I think I’ll suggest I’d be much cheaper!!!

 

Looking conservative for the AGM

As I’ve despaired of getting through to any of the oil companies I’m on a new play. I’m backing myself! I’ve bought a modest 700 in the company before they start drilling (when all the shares go up) and 2 days later went to their AGM. Present: chairman, 32 directors, 2 pressmen, 2 other shareholders (male of course) and me!!! I dressed in a v. conservative and elegant manner – pearls, gloves, the lot – and asked questions about a concession they said they had in their report and which my map said another company had (apparently they share it – but not according to my records). I asked if they could tell me the exact location of the drill they hope to make in March – but was rather there, there, little woman’d – ‘We leave that to the geologists’. I didn’t say any more as I could see dubious headlines about black magic, but made my number with one of the directors and said I’d write.

 

I thought to myself why can’t he find which wreck has gold on board before he goes to the expense of getting special electrical equipment etc. so I called on their house. He clutched his brow when I mentioned dowsing, as evidently a woman had commissioned him to try and retrieve the gold from a boat which was sunk in 1809 on the result of her having dowsed for it, and had a go at digging it up herself, and not surprisingly gave up after 3 ft. He actually got down to 24 ft and struck wood, which he says was hopeful as all round was rock, but couldn’t get his digger to go any further. He was all for giving me her plan and for me to write to her if I found anything too. I thought this was a bit cheaty, but took particulars of where he said he’d dug, and indeed, on the spot, map-dowsed on her rough drawing. (You’d have giggled, I used a cotton reel with black cotton and a gold cufflink of his and her wedding ring!!)   I firmly announced she was north of the actual gold, in a manner that convinced even me.

Evidently a black African wrote to him saying he could find gold, and he’d told him not to come, but come/go he did. So the diver had hidden several paper bags in the sand (in case someone was watching and could tell the man) and one had gold in it. The man full of confidence went forth using his hands only and walked straight towards the right one, but unfortunately also walked right over it! So the whole trip was a dead loss, I think one chance unfair, too much depends on it and the poor man must have been in a state.

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.

Pranks

Do you recall that teacher at X who got into big trouble because one weekend he had hopped on a bulldozer at the quarry and had run over a worker’s car before he found out how to stop it? Oh – it’s not like it was in the old days.

The big excitement this week was shooting a wild pig! We were having breakfast on Thursday, when the sheep suddenly started bunching up in the paddock with the beehives in – and the next thing we saw was a large black back-end of a pig going down between the wire and the cypress trees on the other side of the drive, in our river paddock. I rushed to ring X [the neighbour] but there was no answer – so I got my rifle and went out to have a look – determined not to venture beyond the fence. By that time the biggest of X’s dogs which is the ‘holding dog’ had appeared and had the pig by the nose. I waited my chance and got in a sideways shot – which I was frightened had hit the dog, as it came dancing round at that moment! The pig stood there head on, and the dog retired to a discreet distance! and the next shot in its head killed it. It was a very big one – X subsequently reckoned about 150 lbs, and seemed quite worried that it might have charged and come straight through the garden fence. Where ignorance is bliss! The sad thing is that my dreams of being set up in nice pork joints for a bit were dashed. X says it was too old and would taste too strong to be nice – so it will be his dogs and maybe ours who get the benefit. ‘If you were a drinking man,’ he said, ‘you could have had a drink or two on that tonight.’ I went to my bible study as usual!

A bit like the poor bloke at school who was playing the fool jumping from bath to bath and missed the last edge and landed in the bottom taking the base with him to the floor. He did look silly standing on the floor with bits of bath (and water) all around him.

Oh dear!

I had a long letter from X the au pair a while ago. She sent pictures of her family, a girl the age she was when she came to us, 20. She says ‘She is now getting 20, and after she has been playing the mad during her teenage years, we have hopes she will slowly settle down and become reasonable.’ I suspect she forgets she was ‘playing the mad’ when in England, and I’d know.

Nuisances of life 2

A woman had run her car into the side of X’s the day before and had really upset him – especially as it was just after he’d left Y sitting down while he collected the car from parking place – and not only lost her but the car too! and they finished up being driven round in a police car.

The owners will spend only the barest minimum in upkeep. We’re still waiting to have a leaky loo and roof fixed, to say nothing of the bathroom and kitchen redecorating. There isn’t one window ledge that hasn’t got paint flaking off – two grow moss! and the wallpaper is about 12 years old – and looks it. The carpet is worn down to the felt in a number of places and the previous tenants not only smoked very heavily, but apparently kept various animals locked inside all day while they worked…

[Re irritating habits of the public touching display of painted silk goods] I forgot to tell you about a card with a piece of similar weaving with ‘Feeling swatch’ written on it! Would this keep your customers’ grimy hands off?!

At least I managed to find a couple of books and a pleasant card for X’s birthday – though at the moment most of our ferries are carrying the same cargo backwards and forwards several times across Cook Strait because the shunters at Picton are not working overtime in protest at a new roster, and the Union refuse to fill the place of any man who is absent for any reason, and then the whole gang say they can’t safely unload any wagons! Anyway the card went by air.

My new pullets were no sooner given the freedom of the field than they wormed their way through the hedge in order to grub about under the blackberry and other scrub on my neighbour’s side. What’s more, though five of them returned for the night, the sixth insisted on roosting in an inaccessible bush – so that if it started laying I certainly wasn’t going to get the eggs.

Making a run for it

I don’t know why, but all my greens have come to nothing, and though we got beans they never really recovered from the sheep’s attack. There are lots of tomatoes, but I doubt whether most of them will ripen now and quite a number are infested with caterpillars that make large holes in them – though whether to go in or to come out I haven’t discovered and it is a matter of some importance!

Children 3

X gave a fulsome introduction to the man proposing Y’s health which went v. well and Y much affected replied. He’s the most modest boy. [Grandmother] said how well all the boys had grown up and [mother] was a wonderful mother and had made such a good job of them – no mention of [her son, the father]!

X was despondent with her daughter who went into her teens by dyeing her hair pink and had a nose ring and was threatened with being expelled. X says she’s got old rather sooner than she’d expected!

the teenager

 

Isn’t it fun X [grandchild] being a mouse in the ballet? Evidently all went well.

Well, I eventually wrote to X [‘grown-up’ grandchild] with a copy of my letter that had made her cross, and she coloured in all the bits she didn’t like and answered by number … So I replied in kind and trust we’re not now cut off. Her affectionate ending didn’t really make up for verging on being impertinent, but I did say I thought that was because she needed a dictionary. [And in a later letter] The fracas got quite out of hand ending with a venomous letter. I’ve now burnt the file, but it simmers inside me.

The man talked to me and seemed pleasant and said they hadn’t expected to have their son with them, and be free to do their own thing. The son was a v. large 30-ish man with big black beard and dressed in black leather all over. Later I was talking to him; he was ready to answer any remark but didn’t initiate anything. When I asked if he had any friends near he said most of them were in X, and I didn’t click until I got home his father had said, ‘He has problems’… I went over and asked our ex-neighbour if she knew anything I didn’t and told her of the remarks made, and she was very shirty with me, and said she couldn’t possibly ask them what he went to the hospital for, which wasn’t what I’d asked her. Only as I was walking out of the door said, ‘I only know he’s schizophrenic.’ I called over to say hello yesterday. The father looked pretty downcast. Poor dears, anything like that is so much worse than our tribulations, and we’ve had more than our fair share, I think.

We arrived with them before dark so had some time with the boys too – rescued the little one having a ball with large pot of Vaseline from bathroom cupboard.

I took them to the rec – walked – and that was marvellous. X was a bit indignant when I had to help him down the ‘fireman’s pole’ – but suffered me to help him onto it as his arms are too short!!!

Significant other (2)

Finally: good luck to X’s new hubby – I think if I saw her again I’d probably bite her!

She sure has woken him up and made him more amusing and human. I hope X reckoned that perhaps she [2nd wife] was a good substitute for young Y – although of course still sticking to her opinion that Y was badly done by!

X and I, at last, managed to agree on how we’ll split the remainder of the matrimonial property which will take place at the end of January when the lawyers get back from holidays at our expense!

Our neighbour who has the stroke victim husband is off to Canada for 2 or 3 weeks and putting him in the home at the end of our road – she does this every few months – which is very wise of her – can’t think how everyone seems to afford these things except us – which is silly as we could really – but feel guilty about it!

Did I tell you I heard from X: her sister who tried to kill herself – down a flight of stairs when her fiance decided he’d go into a monastery instead – died in the ‘home’ X put her in – what an awful 8 years of wasted life – I hope the man knows the consequence of his action.

V. sad: one of her daughters-in-law suddenly committed suicide just before Xmas – teenage children – husband left her.

One of the nicest of the group said she’d decided she didn’t like men – she’d just had a brief letter from someone she dotes on – middle 50s – saying he’d left his wife as he’d met another woman he wanted to live with.

We have not opened the tea garden yet as we were in such a bad marriage state – very close to separation. Then we were persuaded to attend a course ‘Curse to Blessings’. [That’s what it looks like which seems surprising!] Well – we are just amazed at the change that has come over us. We are on honeymoon. We are enjoying this state till 4th March I think when we shall open. … We have found that we can actually work together now without even arguing and are due to go to the Anointed Marriage course at the end of the month. And I take X to the Curse to Blessings in about 3 weeks. We are relieved her boyfriend did not get a job here …

I was talking to a friend who said her husband’s ex-wife regarded her as the woman who stole her husband and they didn’t even meet until 7 years after the first wife left him. The human mind is an extraordinary thing.

We found a fish and chip shop directly across the road which provided an admirable lunch which we could eat in the firm’s lunch room while he relayed to me the story of his war, in various engineering jobs, and some of his subsequent career and marital troubles (which had been somewhat mixed up).

Evidently her mother told all 3 girls they should know getting married wasn’t the only way to go, and only X got married very young against their advice and was deserted after 3 children. I can’t altogether blame their mother for her view as her father left her mother and lived with someone else before they got together again.

She and her husband separated for quite a while; he spent every penny he had (and every penny she had) on cars, and was not the perfect husband.

Every time he opened his mouth, she told him he was being boring and ‘nobody was interested in that’ and he was snapping back, and being generally disgruntled.

I do wonder who X has married – Y said she replied to the speech as her new husband is very shy – and mad to marry her!!!

He’s so foul in the morning he goes to work without breakfast and phones her up about 9.30 and they talk for ages. But how this would fit into a caravan I can’t think.

Evidently he’s a new man since the break-up of their marriage – lost weight, given up smoking, and is very cheerful.

the new man

I’m pretty amazed they made their 25th too – a few years ago I think it was touch and go.

We had a huge montage of them climbing sheer cliffs and one of him kayaking down a narrow bluff which had seething water … I trust she won’t be a widow too young.

X has really done wonders with her minute flat – it looks hovelish outside but perfectly okay for one person – she keeps bringing things from the house [ex home] some of which he has different views on whether they are ‘hers, his or theirs’. It’s not going to be easy.

Life’s surprises

I had a weird birthday, felt very depressed in the morning as I got a parking ticket and ‘cos my mother-in-law rang to wish me a ‘pleasant’ birthday. (A word she NEVER uses, we’ve had a disagreement and said word was equal to sh**!) Then at lunch I met two good friends who I haven’t seen for 1 and 3 years, quite by chance, which was lovely; then my car was towed away. Then I had a lovely evening after retrieving the car. What a day of extremes.

[Child of 7] ‘Stick ’em up, Mummy… Come to think of it, I don’t know what I’d do with a dead Mummy.’

As far as your dream about me driving a coach into a lake goes – something odd’s going on! Another of my friends had a dream in which I pushed lots of people into a swimming pool recently! Deep meaning??

driving the coach into a lake

I think God is telling me He wants another home on this property and used to help families trying to get their lives sorted out God’s way. If I am hearing right, He will supply the money for this. Life has been rather exciting with God in spite of all problems.

I expect I’ll just be on the basic salary scale for a primary teacher with a degree, but apparently some previous jobs entitle one to more, but, here’s the catch, they don’t tell you what those jobs are!

X has developed an extremely weird spiritual belief package that incorporates Christianity, Ancient Egyptian beliefs and New Age ideas. I had a chat with him the other day and he was talking about spirit guides and things. One sentence was along the lines of ‘Jesus and Anubis are two of my spirit guides’ – enough to curl the toes of all three groups I should think!!

He rang me the evening of the funeral and said how pleased he was that they had gone, so everybody felt they had done the right thing… I should think they stayed for a meal and then drove on home as he didn’t ring me until after ten, when I was half asleep and thoroughly uncomposed – or is it decomposed?! – as hadn’t got all my teeth in and was lisping badly!!

I wrote an article… a phone call came in the middle of the night from some bloke in Ireland who wanted my address which X cheerfully dished out! A week later came a letter from a consultant in Ireland congratulating me on my excellent article. Some distant relative had sent him a copy and he’s sent it to some bigwig in America!