Art 3

Lovely new Ex. opened at the gallery yesterday. Huge oils all abstracts super colours. 10 years ago I would have fallen for one – 10 years ago – but getting rid of things is the order of the day.

Thank you so much for sending the stuff on Mary Fedden – and also interesting on Julian Trevelyan who had some work in Charing Cross hospital I remember. I shall take the pieces over to show my father, who knew them and used to go to open day parties at Durham Wharf.

We went to the Academy (David and the ‘Prisoners’) this morning, and then on to the Pitti Palace across the river. There we were both sure that there is the original of one of our two old portraits in the gold frames (which themselves seemed very Florentine). It was a self-portrait by a Venetian around 1700 called Nicolo Cassana.

We went up to X on Saturday for the opening of the exhibition. We got there with 15 minutes to spare to find the others all waiting outside though the place was open. In due course we trooped in, and found that the gallery owners had hung the pictures very well – they had managed to make them good neighbours, even when the styles were quite different! But nobody came to see which was sad! In the whole afternoon we had five visitors, and only two of those were people we knew before. The others came to see some pictures by an artist which occupied the rest of the gallery.

What a traumatic time you had getting your exhibition launched!! But it was nice to sell two big ones the first two days. Nice of X to go twice and take someone else too. I call that real support.

The art gallery was half occupied with an exhibition of ‘works’ made of bits of old motor cars, or a pair of pantyhose stretched from a cushion to two points on the walls, and so on. Some of the exhibits were quite cleverly adapted, but on the whole it was a bit way out for me. Upstairs they had some pictures from a university collection and these were nearly all abstracts, of the most abstract sort: six feet by four of brown paint with a single line running from top to bottom 2 ft 6 and a half from the left hand edge – that sort of thing.

The way-out exhibit

They had a new show opening in their Gallery. These were pictures by a woman who we had not heard of before, and not very prepossessing, but she did lovely watercolours, mostly scenery, some flowers – but much too pricey to think of buying.

There’s a lovely little bits and pieces shop opened beside the petrol station. I went in to look round and fell for a fascinating bracelet which I found was made of nails used to shoe horses. I asked if they were interested in miniatures and one of the women glowed and said she was anyway as she had a photograph of her daughter in her wedding dress she’d like to have painted (sounds hell). I think I’ll ask them over for a drink on the way home then they can see the worst before committing themselves.

I did a pastel portrait of the newly married wife of an old acquaintance last week.  He’s asked me so often it was becoming an embarrassment – she’s 65-70ish and has already buried two husbands – she’s gaunt but has very good bones and a delightful expression. I haven’t done her justice – he insisted she wore a suede pull-on hat which didn’t help at all. I must get it out of the house ASAP before I wreck it poking it every time I go past.

X seems to be getting into New Age stuff!…  She was also fascinated with some ‘art’ by a woman with very heavy ‘magical’ overtones and strange things happened to people who bought it.

This was a selection of enormous pictures all abstract, of named bits of X, which one could not recognise and all filled with strange eyes. I could find absolutely no merit in any of them.

We went to see ‘the Queen’s Pictures’. They certainly were a lovely collection of thirty out of her hundreds or thousands; I can’t imagine how they chose which ones to include. I thought one of most striking was Judith and Holofernes, illustrating a story from the Apocrypha, in which Judith gets this oppressive general Holofernes drunk and then chops off his head. The pictures shows the lady in lovely yellow gown holding the head by the hair, and attended by her maid. But the humour of the painting lies in the fact that Judith was modelled by the painter’s mistress, and her maid was a portrayal of the mistress’s mother, while the head was a self-portrait of the painter! … The way out of the exhibition involved going through a number of rooms where we were confronted with a few nice pictures and a lot of stuff like ? – the man whose painting largely consists of scrawls of writing. I never can understand why he is regarded as having any merit whatever!

When I was young 3

He turned up himself, and spent a whole afternoon hand digging 3 ft deep, starting at the road frontage, and on and on to the link up with the sewage pit, commenting the while that he must have been drunk when he put it in as it was so crooked, and when he was at school his father told him he had to keep at his lessons or he’d end up digging holes all day, and now at 35, having done just that and got University Entrance, here he was, digging holes!

Wednesday 27th. Now there is actually going to be a post out today, the first since last Friday, (things are not what they were in my young days, when the postman used to struggle to our door on his bike, two or three miles from the post office with another two or three to go beyond us on his round, on Christmas morning!) so I must really get this finished at this session!

I thought I would type this morning to show off my nice new nylon ribbon. Of course, having fitted it last night, I noticed that the faint one I was replacing appeared to have been used one way only, and should really have been rewound upsidedown – so I put it back on the spare spool and put it away in my desk drawer – where I then discovered another half-length, which had never been used. So I now have about a year’s supply. I haven’t been able to get a ribbon on the right spool for this typewriter, which is made in Sweden and now 25 years old and always have to rewind the new ones onto the same old spools, which have both had replacement lugs added by me with Araldite to make the reversing apparatus work! Sometimes the ribbons I buy seem longer, and overflow my spools – hence having a half-length one put by.

It sounds a very go-ahead school. Last month they laid on a Victorian day ending with a ‘swep up’ [=grand!] tea at the house of one of parent’s parents – with all the family silver out and some of the parents dressed as maids in frilly hats and aprons. I was able to find some old pictures of my Great-grandmother with the maids in the garden of her house when she first moved into it, new. The kitchen up the back stairs was then the conservatory, and the maids lived and cooked in the back basement. Pretty horrifying really.

Your 2 people who nearly died having been in hosp. goes back to the days the babies had at hospitals died – until it was found the doctors went straight from working on dead bods to producing babies without washing.

Just had a call from the library saying they have ‘A man called Intrepid’ in for me, have you read it? I gather it has references to the set-up I was working for at Woburn Abbey. I can hardly believe I’ve been involved in so many exciting things. I really do mean to write some articles entitled ‘It’s funny I’m so boring’!

Listening to secondhand gramophone records was one of my standard ways of spending Saturday afternoon in my first two years in London – only the place to do it in those days was at Foyle’s in the Charing Cross Road. I can’t remember what they cost – of course they were all 78s and I think you could buy a new 10” for half a crown (remember what that was?!) so I suppose you could get a 10” for a shilling and a 12” for two, or thereabouts.

It is one of the memories connected with Christmas which I have, that there used to arrive a parcel of crystallized fruit every year, sent by Dad’s brother. The ones we were least fond of were the pears, and the firm favourites were the apricots. But if you got more than one of those a year you were definitely cheating!

we don’t like the pears

Health

I must be a sore trial to the doctors, I think, as my symptoms always seem to disappear when they come on the scene. I had this pain in the side of my chest last week, which was very inconvenient, as it hurt to cough, and often when moving, or even lying down in some attitudes. Eventually on Wednesday evening, X insisted that I should get a doctor, which we did about nine thirty. She didn’t confess until afterwards that she was being largely influenced by a doctor drama going on on TV which revolved around a man having a heart attack!

X has had a nasty ear do – she complained of deafness – we put it down to swimming but took her to the Dr. after a few days and he said it was only wax and syringed them both and all seemed well and she heard beautifully but 2 days later got awful pain in and behind the ear so of course it was Saturday again and we had to go to yet a different partner who said there was some ‘infection and it was a mastoid process’ – whatever that means – but mastoid anything frightens me. He put her on gigantic doses of antibiotic which has improved it but she finishes them today and it still hurts. I’m not sure she shouldn’t go to a specialist willy-nilly.

I actually got around to the ‘barium meal’ x-ray he ordered months ago. ‘Where is the pain?’ said the operator and I couldn’t remember!! The ‘meal’ was revolting – the result quite negative, d.g.

Having boasted the day after we got home of our freedom from all bugs and tummy upsets I developed one the next day, which failed to respond to my usual white pills. So eventually I went to a young man who was standing in last week for our doctor who didn’t seem a bit perturbed and told me much the best thing was to let the bug ‘burn itself out’, and that the last time he went to H-K it took him 3 weeks. Mine, I am glad to say is d.v. now burnt!

People were fantastic during X’s comings and goings [to hospital]. Apart from having us to meals and looking after kids, we were given biscuits, pies, fruit enough for an army and masses of people visited X. Even an old dear of 85 insisted on having us to tea and providing us with fruit and biscuits – and then phoned me up 2 days later at 7.10 a.m. and told me to send one of the kids round to collect some warm scones for our lunch!

We had some rather shocking news of her yesterday. She was due to have an operation on Thursday and her husband rang yesterday to say that the Surgeon had started but not been able to do anything as she has a cancer which has spread and is now inoperable and he gave her a few weeks only to live.

After 3 weeks of the 2 months, X discharged herself from hospital not upsetting the Dr. or nurses by so doing as she’d been so bad tempered she’d upset everyone! I’ve had 3 v. lengthy letters since she returned and she sounds as tho’ she’s in full flight again – she really is remarkable.

I can now actually see the cards at bridge as I’ve had my old black glasses reglazed (?) with the reading prescription of my bifocals and if I sit well up to the table and ‘bosom’ my cards I can keep all in focus.

I have put on all I lost and more. The doctor’s jolly hormone pills seem to have made me swell up round the middle but he swears it’s just because I’m so much better!!

We had difficulty in getting a doctor to come (you know how they expect you to rise from the dead to go to the surgery here…)

He’s also had to have some atomic isotype something to do with the brain – which the brain man says he’s almost sure will be negative – I asked what it meant if it was positive and X said it meant he was mad!! Oh dear, oh dear.

I’m not sure if I’m glad for X or not – it must be awful for her and all the family if it’s just a matter of lying in pain and waiting poor dear.

We heard from X who seems to have completely forgotten not only that she had told us of her accident but also that we had exchanged more letters and sent her some flowers.

I think we’re both a bit tensed up. It’s too depressing the number of people who regale us with tales of how they’d planned a trip abroad when they’d retired and one of them died at the crucial moment – not good for one’s morale!

I’ve just put my hand on the stove to see if it was working – it was – HELL.

The cooker IS on!

Ageing 7

I love the local handyman who was working on the house yesterday and said firmly ‘the only thing I have against you coming here is your age!’ He decided it was a good acre in all, and that he wouldn’t take it on himself. As he stands quietly meditating for most of the day I can quite see that he wouldn’t, but of course I am now spurred on to show him that he is wrong – even if I have nightmares when I close my eyes and consider the decorating in the house, the garden… Ah well, all will pass and you must come and help cut a hedge in due course!

X had a bad crash in her car. She apparently dozed off while driving, and went into a 32-wheeled articulated truck carrying a load of lubricating oil in drums, in spite of the driver getting right onto the grass on his side of the road in the effort to keep out of her way. As you would expect, hitting such a heavy vehicle more or less head on, her car was severely crushed, and poor X had both legs broken and her pelvis – one leg in no less than seven places. It took two hours to cut her out of the remnants of her car, and she is 81, and must be almost indestructible to survive at all, I think. So maybe Y is right not to allow me to drive further than about five miles alone!!!

X has become progressively worse. She won’t go out at all. Her mind is in a loop and at times she can be quite aggressive. She doesn’t answer her phones and they should be cut off. Carers go in to her three times daily, seven days a week.

Her mind is in a loop

I had another x ray, another ECG and then the interview. The ECG was drawn out as the sister wanted to use me as a demonstration for a couple of medical students. Luckily they had warm hands.

How I hate having my eyes tested – especially the big blue light which they bring closer and closer until one can’t help watering and blinking madly however much they say, ‘Don’t blink, just for the moment. Try not to blink.’ However the result was satisfactory. He reckoned that my glasses were the right ones to have, and thought my eye strain might have been through keeping the things I was looking at at the near limit of my capacity to focus, whereas the man who made the glasses had made them for typewriter range, as it were; and he couldn’t find anything else wrong or impending apart from a minor infection of the lids for which I have an ointment. He also reckoned that the deterioration I had noticed was to be expected, and could be expected not to continue for a good time – so no reason for alarm (apart from wondering how much his bill will be, which he said they would send!)

The cough is supposed to be getting better. In the meantime I developed a nasty pain in my foot, and went back to him to learn that I had GOUT, if you please. (I didn’t think I lived licentiously enough for that, but apparently the diuretics I take to stop my ankles swelling etc., make it more likely.) So that was another pill, twice a day to add to the eight. I had also developed what I thought was a stye but that he treated with admirably scant respect, and said it was a something cyst (I gather based on a blocked tear duct) and flicked it out with a bit of paper. So that was one problem apparently finished off, and certainly it has been admirably free of pain since he did it

I wanted to tell you that the eye op had gone brilliantly, and I am already driving the car with renewed vision! Having put the local in they covered up my face with a vast blue sheet, rather similar to the thing I collect my garden leaves in, and gave me an oxygen tube underneath to keep me alive, and a peg on my finger to show that I was. It pinged if I wasn’t. On the whole I was glad I couldn’t see anything, apart from a few colours through this blueness, the sounds were startling enough, but in fact I couldn’t feel a thing.

Travel hazards 2

I have thought of coming to England next year, but am beginning to wonder if I really have the strength. It’s not the actual flights, it’s the awful airport nonsense, and getting to the airports from here.

It was a bit off-putting at the hotel too – notices about double locking your door at night and putting the chain on and a security guard on each floor. We left there at 6.30 p.m. yesterday and stayed in the plane right through to here, stopping to fuel at New Delhi but not allowed off and arrived 5.30 a.m. and had in fact been flying 17ish hours. Vast Air Italia, 400 passengers – full. The staff couldn’t have been less interested – unlike the other lines – and the last straw in small mindedness they showed the Return of the Pink Panther but we hadn’t enough change again – I only saw one man who’d paid up $2.50 and got the headphones for sound. It looked utter rubbish in the odd moments I woke up so I didn’t mind.

We have just had a traumatic lunch. X gave me a new stove and dry/solid fuel and we were all set with picnic bits for lunches, tea, coffee etc. We started by buying cheese which turned out to be Roquefort and 250g and cost equivalent to £1 which shook us (and reminded me of the 3/6d banana!) so we only bought rolls to go with it- as we go to Crete on Monday and just can’t have butter running around, and then started up the stove which gave more heat under than on top and looked as tho’ it was going to catch the wallpaper – awful moment as we got it all onto the balcony – with soot all over the marble and my clean white shirt. However after washing the balcony and removing – I hope – all signs of our efforts we did better at the 2nd attempt and hope we’ve got it taped!

Soot on the balcony

We came on the weekend when 40,000 Alpini were expected for their annual blessing by the Pope. It gave a festive and noisy (or noisier) air to Rome – every time you moved you got one of their foot long feathers in their green hats in your eye. We’re setting forth to ‘do’ the Vatican today. We’ve got into a pensione (Select Hotel my foot!) with an elusive plumbing system. We have archaic shower in room and bidet with occasional cold water – and loo and bathroom on landing. I asked if I could have a bath any time and the proprietor say. ‘Why not?’ Now I know why not – there’s no plug and no hot water!! but it’s clean and pleasant and only 5 minutes from the termini.

What is this ‘ball lightning’ which been providing you with amusement? I don’t remember hearing of it and suspect the little green men, or the Russians (playing a double bluff on themselves)! As also with the Challenger-launched satellite which is (according to our radio) either in pieces, or following in orbit on their tail where they can’t get at it.

It sounds as though X’s having quite a time over there – I hope she gets back in one piece. Did she tell you that when she left, she left her hand-luggage at checkout, a glove on the ground, arrived after boarding-call, and didn’t know which plane she was supposed to be on!

Gardening 4

I wish she could live in a smaller, brighter and warmer house with about an eighth of the hedge and half of the lawns to look after – or a team of large schoolboys ready to be hired next door.

I went for a pleasant though chilly walk along the beach with the dog, amid clouds of swirling sand, as the wind was strong. There are some nice houses along the stretch there, which one doesn’t see from the road, and some of them have attempts at gardening right down to the sand, with succulents and so on. But the actual bottom of their gardens is hardly fairy-like; they are obviously bothered with erosion and each frontage has its own endeavour to counter it – here a concrete wall, then posts and planks, then old stakes with old motor tyres thrown on them, and so on.

Bugs in the garden are being a real worry this year, and I have had to root up a very promising row of broad beans as something ate all the centre of the main shoot out! I was so proud of them too but hadn’t bothered to examine them closely. Pigeons attack from above, slugs from below and the weather from all round, so it is parlous hard – but good exercise and profitable if anything does come up!

Parlous hard!

Pause to go and drive two cats off my vegetable patch where they were indulging in preliminary love-play all over my small cauliflower plants. Not nice at 9.40 a.m., and definitely counter-productive of caulis at any rate.

The house has a well-planned and flat veg garden, a fig tree and lemon, peaches plus plus plus, but as it’s only 6 years old they are only about 6-9 foot tall, but things grow almost as you watch them there, and they said they had put down 100 lbs of runner beans last year.

I noticed the lawn was getting terribly mossy, so got some iron sulphate and scattered it about – not very evenly, I fear, for the next morning it has turned black in patches! The agent who came the other day and seemed knowledgeable said the real trouble was some worser-than-grass-grub animal, called something like piranha (though I thought that was a fish) – it lives 18 inches down but comes up to feed on the grass roots.

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.

Learning

Two days ago I at last managed to remember and get to a session of a seminar I signed on for, and paid (!), on the gloomy sounding subject of ‘Practical Preparation for my last years and my death’. I managed to miss the first four of the six sessions (which perhaps says something about my subconscious?)  I think I really joined because the syllabus set out in the blurb didn’t appear to say anything at all about preparations for death, as opposed to dying. This session was led by the doctor in charge of palliative care at the Hospice where 90% of their patients are dying from cancer; and she was very consoling about the process of dying, but brought a nun along with her as she was no expert, she said, on the spiritual needs of patients.

I think as far as algorithms are concerned my mental age is about 3. When my study notes gave us the one for finding a number out of 100, it seemed to me that I had never been taught the heuristic method (that is a lovely word, which I have never before come across; I was quite surprised to find it in my dictionary at all!)  It didn’t help that the study notes kept on talking about larger, when it meant smaller, and vice versa. That particular set must have been prepared in a hurry: it had several similar mistakes in it, making the whole subject all the more confusing.

What’s the number?

We were led by a German professor of the most phenomenal and terrifying eruditeness. It was really quite a strain listening to him for more than half an hour at a time – though in fact he had a pleasant light touch and remarkably good colloquial English (thanks to living in Glasgow for 8 years and New York for 12 – without a trace of either accent, would you believe?)

After qualifying for one profession and trying others, he’s now half way through studying to become a doctor whilst the wife is the main provider – quite a thing with 4 children with the eldest 13.

Ageing – 4

I went for my compulsory 76 driving test in December and was told his only complaint was I wasn’t quick enough off the mark at lights etc. – which held traffic up – but I won’t push it – I know my reactions and the ability of the car best. An old boy of 88 locally went into the side of a car and wrote it off, the second car in 2 years.

Slow on the off

I am distressed I have not heard from my cousin for 2 years; as he is my only remaining relative, I would like to know if they are still in the land of the living. Would you be a dear and phone them for me? My address book has suddenly disappeared – I will have to put their number down later in the letter.    … X has found my address book though so here is their phone number – no, it isn’t – I haven’t got it!! Here is the address. She is more with it – it’s a pity I’m not! – so I hope she answers the phone.

They came out to tea on Saturday – he is pretty sick with cancer though of which bit of him I don’t know – but he battles on very cheerfully – so we enjoyed their coming.

Poor old X, it’s so hard when she’s helped everyone for so long. It must be hard for Y – she said in a letter when she goes to the nursing home the father sits with his head in his hands saying he wishes he was dead, and X bursts into tears – so unlike her.

Now I’m on 2 different anti-bs, to be taken at different times, so I have to write when down carefully, or I certainly wouldn’t remember if I’d taken them or not.

Isn’t getting old sad? I’m not going to put anything in writing or help any but mine own in future – the stress is too much. The most trivial things put me in a tizz – making hair appts, then cancelling them, and the like.

He’s in a bad way, looks awful and really isn’t all there – and [wife] keeps telling him so. I’m sure he shouldn’t be driving

Today we didn’t wake up until 9.30 so had to put a move on to get to church. Lovely little building and a good service. One of the congregation was to be 96 this week – she walked down the v. steep path to the church in a more spritely way than I!

She had to take over the driving on the motorway as I was sleepy. It’s incredible how easily I go to sleep when I sit down during the day, though I find it difficult to sleep more than 6-7 hours in bed!

Keeping fit – 2

I am taking fresh carrot juice and raw veg and fruit a lot – no meat or milk or eggs, but I do have nuts and tinned fish. It is supposed to help the arthritis in my back, and I am feeling better after 6 months. Also I have given up blood pressure pills and am a bit lighter too.

The boys have had 6 of 7 lessons and have making good progress. X is working so hard at freestyle and backstroke but is somewhat hampered by a natural tendency to sink!

A tendency to sink

What went awry with your dentist’s efforts? I’m lucky as X (who isn’t everyones choice) is as good sculpting teeth as rock and clay and will do odd things like sticking the front tooth that flaked apart together again tho’ he admitted it was unorthodox, and he charges me mates’ rates.

We had 3 large boxes of chocs given us at Xmas and I can’t resist them. I’ve bought an exercise video but I fear it hasn’t helped just sitting beside the TV!! I must get up and do some NOW.

She goes back to the clinic for a check-over on Thursday, and provided the bones are still in the right place, she will be having the pins out and a change of plaster – hopefully to one below the knee. Over the last couple of days she has been putting weight on her leg quite unconsciously and on Sunday was doing slow motion ballet leaps across the sitting room – her crutches providing the wherewithal whilst she was in the air.

I haven’t heard about your mini jogger – is it round and about a metre in diameter? X has one like that under the grand piano – I can’t really see him or his wife bouncing on it tho’. [Both about 85!] I am doing my exercises and I’m sure they loosen me up – but I don’t walk as much as I’m told to – there are so many things to do that you can see the use of the time.

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