Outings 3

This time it was a film called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was the most awful tosh, and very violent – but with some clever special effects.

I went last Saturday to a ‘Men’s breakfast’ at 7.30 a.m. where to my amazement they had managed to collect well over 50 men. We were promised bacon and eggs, but in fact supplied with two large and pale sausages floating in gravy, which I abhor with sausages – but the talk was quite interesting.

Two pale sausages

 

It was expensive! but good and the plates not so overloaded that they put you off. I think we shall have to go back again sometime to try some of their more exotic dishes particularly one offered among the sweets ‘whole Camembert cheese, deep fried with tamarillo sauce’. The menu board offered ‘coffee (bottomless cup)’ but I’m glad to say ours did actually hold their liquor quite safely.

Did you see the museum? A most incredible hotchpotch of anything and everything that might be interesting! We also saw a diving museum . Very interesting in parts – amazing the amount they salvage – thousands of gold and silver coins. However I suppose it cost thousands too. A stainless steel sink and plastic comb from the ferry that sank looked a little out of place but I suppose their day of interest will come.

We went to a film called Northern Safari. Very good photography but rather stilted commentary, as they ploughed from Perth via Alice Springs to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back round the edge – a man, his wife and his sister in a 1948 Chevrolet or something of the sort, towing a trailer which carried supplies, tents and an 11 ft plywood boat. He was a brave man (and highly ingenious as for instance when he got stuck in a river he made a winch consisting of a young tree propped across the track behind two tree stumps, with a six foot bough lashed across it with wire fishing line – with which he proceeded to pull the car out single handed while the ladies indulged in admiring photography. And since he hadn’t got an axe with him, to save weight, he shot the tree down with about ten rounds from the hip at a foot’s range!)

A funny thing happened. We went to get our visas and the Consul called us in and said he had something to show us. We all sat down and he ordered tea and coffee and showed the other three some photographs, but not me. Then he showed them to me and they were of a girl very like me. Apparently he had been going to marry her 2 years ago but something had gone wrong. On the strength of this he invited me out to dinner and then said the others could come along to chaperone me. We had a really fabulous evening. He took us to one of the best restaurants and we had drinks at a most unusual bar , then went downstairs to eat and watch the floor show. Then we drove on to the Hilton and went up to the top and looked out and saw the whole of the city spread out beneath us. We danced and drank and had a later supper and watched the floor show and then I collected a marriage proposal.

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.

Travel hazards

X has leeches galore I gather – nothing seems to faze her – she loves it all, people and country.

Last stop in view of the volcano who’s been blowing his/her top in a big way and the ski fields are closed and everyone round is losing millions. We came past when it was first starting – mild puffs and black clouds – but later rocks the size of cars and lava streaming down have caused a great mess and the acid from the ash that was thrown up 10,000m has blown far and wide.

We have amazing letters from X. Being a vegetarian must have made her though – the miles she goes through forest and crossing rivers so rough she had to have a man each side to hold her up – and spends all her days covered in mud and sopping and loves it all – up at 3.30 a.m. and in bed by 2.30 p.m. – she’s a wonder at never missing an opportunity.

I arrived with the realisation that I had left the letter with the name of our motel on my desk at home. So I put Avis (‘we try harder’) to the test and they certainly came up trumps. At the fifth telephone call the girl on the desk established where I was booked in, and when I looked helpless and asked how to get there first produced a map and then the offer of a lift when she went to lunch. In fact she got held up and got her boss to take me!

I am housebound. I left asking for a driving test too late – they stopped 18th December and can’t take me until 16th January. As I’m booked in I don’t think the police would mind but I was afraid of the insurance – ‘they’ said if I had an accident and passed my d. test they’d pay up but not if I failed – fair enough but I’d be so jittery I decided not to risk it.

I’m fed up with the travel agency woman who has a horrible nasal voice, and treats me like an imbecile, which annoys me even if I am one.

Please excuse my writing and any mistakes as I am writing in a very dim light, sitting on the floor of a large room, off a typical Persian hotel courtyard. We have broken down yet again, about our 25th breakdown. We have hit 4 cars, 2 lorries and 1 bus so far, it has been a rough trip but adventurous.

The Crash Tally

We broke down for 5 days at Xmas and we had a really swinging time in a small hotel in Turkey. The Turkish hospitality was really overwhelming.

We then took off across the desert, along a camel track. We were warned not to go, and to take a guide – X just laughed! Result, we got bogged down about 12 times and had to dig ourselves out. We got lost many times. We tore off our rear bumper and rear lights and had to tie them on with rope and the lights with sticky tape. We are now 24 days behind schedule because of all the breakdowns..

Without a car of my own it has been a bit restricted as they have quite forbidden me to use the country buses. It is quite a relief really as they are the most crammed vehicles that I have seen and just trucks with sides of boards and board seats inside. There is no gap down the middle for the conductor so he hangs on to the outside on a kind of running board and gets the fares from there and looks in imminent danger of death at every corner.

X is quite terrified of your new motor bike and keeps saying how potty you are, but it must cut own on transport costs tremendously – as long as replacement parts for the pinched bits isn’t more! Did I tell you about our car? Because a part which cost about 40 cents broke and I didn’t take it in the same day another part costing $124.21 broke = total bill $272.50.

If you get a machine do spend a lot on the accompanying ‘gear’. They say that leather is best at avoid painful abrasions if you do have a fall. Don’t ride on ice; it upsets one incredibly quickly once you start sliding – very difficult to correct! Do have your bike fitted with the bars across the front which protect your leg if it falls with you still on it. [Countermanded by instructors as likely to trap your leg and/or break it!!!] Before I had a m/c I spent a lot of my lunch hours reading m/c mags. Their advice was ‘Imagine what might happen and work out what you would do. What, for instance, would you do if your throttle stuck open?’ And when I had a bike it did happen once and with all my forethought I managed not to panic – took the clutch out and turned off the ignition before the engine blew up – and then nearly fell off when I let the clutch in again while still doing about 40, as of course it almost locked the back wheel!

The quote for going to SA or USA en route was staggering, and for both astronomical, so I’ve cut my cloth to the size of my pocket. My only extra frivolity is to book to come back via Tokyo where, if I have any funds left I hope to stay a couple of days. I’ll let you know flight etc. later when I receive the tickets from the Travel Agency. I got so cross, everything they quoted and gave me brochures for, after I’d agonised over them for a day and made up my mind, on going back was told all those prices were now out of date and in one case it was currently 3 times as much.

Characters 3

The original ewe-lamb used to pay no attention when I fed the nuts to the others – but when she had her lamb and promptly abandoned it and went off to feed by herself, we shut them up together for a day in the pen, holding her down while the lamb had her first feed and so on – and to sweeten the cares of motherhood for her I gave her a troughful of pulled grass, with some sheepnuts mixed up in it. She quickly became an addict, and comes at the gallop when I appear with the tin and baas after me in an infuriating way whenever she sees me – even ten minutes after they have finished their morning feed! If I wait for all eight to get within range before putting the day’s ration out, she is so eager that she is liable to trip me up getting to the trough ahead of me!

Eager for sheep nuts

She always has been one for poking her nose through any and every hole in the fence to get the sweeter grass the other side and her lamb is now copying this. In fact over the weekend she got right under the fence to graze on the lawn – though after I had caught her once, by the wool (which I imagine hurts like having your hair pulled) to drop her over the fence, I noticed she was scuttling back under if she saw us at the window looking at her.

One of the most beautiful things this year was Sarah Jenkins being born. Sarah is our baby goat (Gracie is her mother) and she is the most adorable little one: black and white, soft fur, those incredible eyes with oblong rectangles. She’s frisky and independent and affectionate and I love her to bits. The day she was born I was literally ecstatic with love for her and for birth and life. She was so tiny and wobbly, like a little puppy, and we bottle fed her and sat around for days just watching every move she made!

She’s the nicest in-law – I’ve never heard her say an unpleasant thing about anybody and never gossips about other people’s business – when I admire that so much I ought to make greater efforts to do likewise!

An old acquaintance rang up and said he was going to come out and see us about two o’clock. Do you remember the Trained Ear – the man who recommended us to use drainpipes for the loudspeakers? It was him but he didn’t turn up.

She was in shocking form and even X found her cantankerous, but we survived the evening. She has her caravan parked in the yard now (God knows for how long, but I foresee quite a long session).

Children 4

She has become a most attractive little girl – in looks and personality – some get better and t’others get worse – X is a real whiner – even when cheerful (which isn’t often) she whines – drives her father round the bend.

I was staggered – not to say horrified whilst in the home – as there were two kids one of 15 and another of 16 having babies ( this – apparently – is average) and on the day I was discharged there was a girl of 18 who was having – wait for it – her 4th!!! (She was married).

X’s birthday was great fun. You should have seen him eating his cake – it was really funny. First he picked it all up and screwed and squashed it between his fingers; then with the one remaining whole piece which was about 3″ long he picked it up in the middle and squashed all the middle part hard into his mouth so that lots oozed out of the sides.

Becoming human

[Re child of 4] He’s got quite a sense of humour and has also started to do naughty things – like throwing X’s pyjamas out of the window which makes him much more human. I’d previously felt he was just too good to be true! The children played lots of pretend games while there and since she’s been back we’ve had cows under the bed, piggies in the meat trays that have to be fed half a weetbix every morning and little ghost monsters who have lost mummies and daddies and have to be given a drink of                                                                         milk and then taken home!

X is doing so well recently – I wish you could see him. He’s now spoon-feeding himself and drinking out of a cup alone. (He’ll even put his spoons in his bowl when he’s finished now – the latest manners I’ve taught him, which was very difficult as he likes to keep them to bang on the table!)

She brought the boys over on Friday plus the others who were overlapping for two days. [So, 4 grand-children.] We had quite a good day with a batch of games to be played and scored for an overall prize – not too much competitiveness though: both X and Y are liable to near-tears if they get beaten at anything.

He is quite sweet as far as newborn babies go! Has blackish hair and nothing very outstanding. Neither big nor small – 7 lb 5 oz and medium size nose – his eyes look vaguely Chinese at the moment but I think that’s cos he’s hardly opened them yet being only about 38 hours old!

X’s boys have had their usual calamities – a brick came out of the wall with their help and gashed one just above his eyebrow. The doctor couldn’t stitch it but used special plaster that had to be left on for days and looked pretty gory. The next day she left two of them in the car whilst in the shop and when she came back one was weeping blood and tears – I fear Y must have poked his finger in his eyes. Fortunately it was the whites that were bloody. It was the day of the oldest’s birthday tea and she had to go and sit for an hour in the surgery before the doctor could see him.

He apparently saw MASH whilst in hospital and when we revisited the hospital for his check-up he looked very respectfully at a passing stretcher complete with old lady being wheeled up to the theatre and stage-whispered to me, ‘She’s going up to God, isn’t she’. After much ssshing and after she was out of earshot, I asked him what on earth he meant, and explained that they were called stretchers, and were for people who were too sick to sit up but had to be moved around. ‘Oh no they’re not,’ he said ‘you go on those when you get killed in the war and two men in white coats wheel you up to God. They’re called God’s cars’!! We’ve now sorted this out.

She went by herself to play with a little friend nearby the other day and when she returned I enquired whether she had enjoyed herself. ‘Oh yes, but she was a bit shiny when I got there’. I asked her what she meant and she replied, ‘Well, she hid behind her mummy and wouldn’t come out for a little bit.’

The little one has started the hiding-under-the-table-with-the-sugar-basin phase. T’other day I caught her trying to squeeze into the bottom shelf of the fridge with caramel yogurt and a spoon, and a couple of days later I caught her sitting in the rubbish box with her back to me tucking into the remaining half of X’s birthday chocolate.

Emigration/moving house

I agree with your reticence about emigration – it’s a lot of bother if you decide it was the wrong thing to do… I think it is harder for single people, too.

Oz seems such an exciting place – strictly for the young? So many people I know are moving there. It seems many people’s Mecca. People are getting very fed up with the violence here, and Australia seems to appeal, preferably to UK with its bad climate and high prices. I am slightly soaked in Australia just now as we have just had a re-run of that awful movie Thorn Birds.

At last we seem to be part of the scenery down here. It’s a great town and there are such friendly people of all types and interest… but don’t ever be tempted to move away from your patch.

I have put this house up for sale, but I don’t really want to sell! So I will see what God will do. I am asking 2.65 million for this property, 2.85 if I don’t like the people!! I bought it for 450,000 15 years ago. The problem is no proper fence and gate so someone needs to buy it who can afford to do that. [I should think if someone can afford 2.65 million in any currency, they will have enough for a fence!]

We went to the village to attend, for curiosity, the auction of a house just outside of the railway (well, 200 yards from it). We had been told they had already turned down an offer of $72,000 (3 bedroom, 1 sitting, on a very small section, made of wood so requiring expensive maintenance). In his opening ‘blurb’ the auctioneer led up to his valuation of it as $95,000 – but he couldn’t get a bid until he had come down to $60,000 – and 2 bids and long pauses later, they withdrew it with the price at $65,000! We are not planning to move yet!

I saw the ‘new’ house with X – it could be v. nice but is in an abysmal state at present. It’s to be redecorated and she says ‘they’re’ putting formica etc. in the bathroom and it needs it – I’d have thought it would take a good month’s work and several thousand $$ – it was supposed to be done before they move but as someone didn’t turn several moves along the line it’s all been held up and they must move by the end of the month for someone else to go into their house. To add to the difficulties there is even less built in cupboard space in the kitchen than they have at present and there everything is three layers deep. Hope it works out.

Did we tell you we were weak enough to look at a house near the village – all we’d need in our senility but mad as mortgages carry vast interest.

Really, all that’s been wrong with me is general home-sickness and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, except me – got to learn to live with it.

 

 

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.

Hobbies

[Re a portrait commission] I am working madly to get the head of X right – I was delighted with it but when Y brought X for a check I found some major surgery was needed – top off his head and chunk off his chin – and somewhere I’ve lost the likeness on the way.

Headless & chinless wonder

I spent some time before breakfast today sorting out my knitting machine … It’s a fascinating thing – fortunately X reminded me how frustrated I got when the whole thing came off the needles!!

We finished the last of 28 hands at the same time – looking longingly at the tables laden with sandwiches and luscious cakes – I sneaked 2 and dashed out… Oh, surprise, surprise – We came 2nd. I phoned to tell my partner as she’d left before they gave out the results and after seeming pleased she started telling me all the things I’d done wrong!!!

It’s sad so many of my paintings came home – but 2 sold was more than some – I welcome them back but can’t think where to put them. I’m all agog to get going again – new spray for my gun and paints – now all I need is some good ideas. I mustn’t be so violent – but I do like working in inks. X remarked, ‘I liked your paintings – but they need space’ – nicely put!!

I am halfway through a set of chessmen [on the lathe] (very fiddly), and have broken off from that to make a big pot, the last couple of days, to take a margarine plastic pot inside – as a Christmas present. It has one flaw in the lid, (which is also too loose, really – it was difficult to measure as the underside was attached to the faceplate of the lathe, and the overhang was about half an inch). But as X says consolingly, ‘Everything has flaws, including us.’

She’d just had 2 visitors from overseas round who wanted to know all about her work in 10 minutes flat, in the middle of trying to finish off a lot of orders; she fitted them in – it took 2 hours – and gave them a pizza lunch, but wouldn’t give them the name of her dyes whilst they were still here. She said if they wrote when they got home she would then!

X makes her paper with odd grasses and dried flowers actually in it. It’s difficult, she’s so pleased with her own work, I can raise no enthusiasm!

Employment

X and Y got office cleaning jobs in the holidays. X not very keen, finished after a week and got a job to look after ten under-2s with one other adult instead. The man in charge of the cleaning told X what a pity it was Y had to go back to school, he was so good he could have joined his team!! Y being a straight As boy, thought it was rather a giggle but it’s his first job and at $7 an hour he was glad of it.

Her son is a doctor with his own practice and living on a farm with stabling and 6 of his own polo ponies but is worried as another doctor has come to the area and is undercutting his charges?!!

Worried about competition

It worries us most that your ‘minder’ will use your request for extra time away at Easter to put you on a lesser rate – she sounds a skunk.

It sounds an interesting place to work – lots going on and lots of support. Lots of expectations too – she said the headmaster was more likely to ask you what was wrong with your programme than with the child if someone causes trouble or walks out!

I asked her what in fact did people want to know about this odd bird for – and she said she rather wondered too, but it looked good on her CV!!

That chief of yours sounds so mad that it is surprising she hasn’t been given the push by the department. But I suppose mere madness is not enough for that. But to miss the union meeting and then demand that the minutes be changed as she would like is hardly explainable in any other way!

I wrote to the company [who make tinned food] some time ago, to ask why they had no women on the board of directors seeing that most of their customers were women – and eventually got a very chauvinist reply to the effect that the question had never arisen so far, but when it did any woman who had adequate qualifications and experience would be considered along with male applicants. I suppose it would be a waste of time to write back and enquire how many of the existing male board do the shopping for their households and the subsequent preparation of most of the meals.

X was talking the other day of moving to a much larger farm – but that must be the tenth pipe dream he’s talked about in the last two or three years. He would have to sell this place first, and that’s not going to be easy, as the land really is pretty rough, the fencing is far from complete – and wool and sheep prices are hitting new lows each year so not many people will be wanting to buy, I fear – nor to lend money to help.