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.

Ageing

My father died early in the year. It was a sad event, but a release in one way. He didn’t really know what was going on any more… My mother did seem to realise he had died, although she cannot communicate. She just cried and looked very depressed on the day of the funeral. She seems to have recovered her spirits: with dementia it is just impossible to tell what they are thinking.

Did you know that mum’s two brothers died this summer? I’m afraid we are in those years when people who seemed immortal suddenly are not!

Here not much happens so it becomes increasingly difficult to make it happen – staff shortage but no shortage of confused residents. They are now building on in order to take day centre people thus adding to still more confusion!

X has had a minor stroke I think, so shuffles along like a 90-year-old and gets lost for words and gets so annoyed when I can’t guess what he means – I am getting better at it, I think! He still drives to the local shop when I don’t go out – he must have his daily paper! He takes the dog round the garden and worries where the cat is all day and at night too! It is rather trying!

a bit doddery

I got an unexpected phone call from a writer. He’s written a biography of Mary Wesley who was among many things in MI5. Apparently I’m one of the few – in fact only person – old enough to remember her when she was married to her first husband. Having discovered that I’m ninety he was in a great hurry to see me!

I’m getting so dotty that I shall soon have to get a Carer which is depressing – all my old friends seem to be either dead or in nursing homes and not liking the intense loneliness which goes with most old age.

I was so sorry to hear of your mother’s sickness and dying, it’s a hard time to through, the best comfort is to be thankful she has no more suffering and problems. I sometimes wish my mother could see something then I realise she is far better off and happier where she is anyhow!

Clothes

High time I sent you the cheque… I hope you can put it towards a ‘ball gown’ to make you feel right on the day – judging by the prices of the garments I looked at in London last week you will be lucky to go in a T-shirt and nothing much else. There was a fabulous play suit in Liberty’s made of about two literally washing-up cloths, in linen with the blue stripe and ‘glasses’ in white on it, and it cost about £100. Having recovered from that I bought a ready to sew skirt length at reduced price as it was last year’s pattern and a bit of quilted material which my dear sister is making up into a waistcoat for me.

play suit material

[Re Tissot exhibition in Toronto] I have always had a weakness for his work. I love those frivolous fashions and the incredible hats – and the sad background of his undying love for the beautiful consumptive lady who figures in so much of his work. Did you know that the fashion for little skittish hats which came in during that period, replacing the big saucers, signalled the emancipation of women? The reason being, that they had to be secured by hat pins (instead of ribbon under the chin) and that meant the females were armed against the base desires of men?? I love it!

I even bought a new sun hat. Having scorned local ones at $3.50 because they were trimmed, so-called, I actually paid $19.95 – worse than 3s 11 3/4p I paid for my wedding hat! – at a hat shop – but it did suit me i.e. covered my fringe and half my face. I took off the dreary multicoloured plaited nylon band with gold in it and put on a white ‘chiffon’ scarf and it looks most elegant – so I wear my old gardening hat in case the new one gets spoilt!!

I’ve just started making up a skirt which I’ve had the idea and material for – for a couple of years! It will either be stunning or atrocious (possibly both!) but at least the cost of the material is a long way hence (or thence???) [Yes, that makes perfect sense!]

Voluntary work 2

How is your adult literacy student? Last time you wrote you said you were rather concerned about her as she was in hospital cheerfully accepting all sorts of dreadful things without question. Mine is young and quite healthy but not interested. I think Father is the prime mover in what is supposed to be voluntary, and makes sure that poor X is here on the dot of 7.30 p.m. … The rest of the family is quite successful: only X seems to have missed out, and I think he feels he is the family failure. Father sees me as someone to bring him up to scratch. Altogether a bit of a pickle.

A nice friend sometimes asks me to go over and help with typing for a ‘tapes for the blind’ charity, and I enjoy going but feel an awful fraud as I type so slowly and badly on a manual machine now that very little gets done in an afternoon. But he is always very grateful so I suppose I get down to it better than some of regular volunteers. A good thing to keep in with, as I may want the service any time myself- but I have read most of the books they can offer I think!

I am enjoying doing the library trolley once a week at the new general hospital…. we do our best and giggle a lot and lose our way frequently as it is a most confusing hospital. The corridors have little coloured men on the walls to guide you the right way. Gynae is pale green and where the trolley is kept there are 5 little men showing, so one goes on until it is only one little man disappearing into a door and that is the ward!

a strange direction system for the book trolley
follow the little men

Taking advantage

Many thanks indeed for your letter and all that most useful information – I’m now hoping I didn’t give a fortune away when I gave [away] D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Last Poems’ 1st Edition…a rather unworthy recipient and I don’t suppose I shall ever hear from him again. He was so enthusiastic that I thought perhaps he should have it! I’m now going to order the Guide to 1st Editions before I do any more…

I think your friend should get quite a bit for D.H. Lawrence if in good condition [Oh dear!], also for Katherine Mansfield, especially the Hogarth editions… Dust wrappers are important, if the books were originally published with them.

Life has been a bit thwarting here. I was heavily conned by a clever salesman who came when I was sleepy after lunch and not thinking. He managed to make me think he came from the Council and was offering to add to the loft insulation on a grant for the poor and aged… I said I would have it done. Why I didn’t ask the local Council whether they were reliable or not I don’t know, but there is still time as needless to say they gave me a day when they were in the area and I stayed in on tenterhooks from 9 to 5 and not a peep out of them. Was I mad? Yes.

But, as you can imagine, X [the tutor] enjoyed the holiday and did some painting himself but the tutoring was virtually Nil – I can hear you say I told you! We all complained finally.

But these estate agents! There was one X had grave doubts about buying anything from on the grounds that he wore elastic-sided shoes – and when we met him I saw what she meant. He ought really to have been selling the sleazier sort of secondhand cars. The one who was dealing with the house she is angling for seemed a very pleasant and apparently honest man, and yet he swore blind that the electric wiring had been renewed – which I found it impossible to believe, because there was not a new switch or plug in the house.

Having the terminal at home means that his boss rings him up at weekends or even when he’s on holiday to ask him to sort out various problems! … The next day, I unplugged the phone… Now I just take messages but don’t pass them on if it’s out of office hours! … One of the big problems of the recession is that people who have jobs are so scared of losing them they work longer and longer hours just to hold on to them, and employers like to take advantage of this!

a wife is determined to stop business interference in home time
pulling the plug

 

Significant other

He’s very nice (well, obviously I would think so). He’s very outgoing and has a good sense of humour and is a very caring sort of person too. He gets really involved in what he’s doing and will try his hand at most things. If he’s playing a game he’s quite competitive.

…she was never an amicable woman and made his life a misery and I do not know why he stayed with her at all.

Marriage troubles were pending I knew; finally I slept in the flat for 6 months and threatened my husband ‘we see a counsellor, or move out!!’ Anyhow we have had a breakthrough, although at present I wait for friends to arrive as he won’t see the counsellor any more.

 

he might still be smoking but he's not fat - yet
comparing negatives

I found he had cigarette stubs by his bed again. She says she’d rather he smoked than get fat.

 

We set off after the first night of Club Pairs which I’m playing with a v. pleasant woman this year as X and I seem to be out of step bridge-wise. I think we both do too many psychic bids as we know the other one won’t mind!

X had his hair cut and looked much more presentable – said he was getting a complex as everyone was commenting! It was not I might say at his family’s behest but his girlfriend’s – he sounded quite worried at how obedient he was being!

She is into a great romance with a nice bearded young man who runs a very large property for his father (who is horrid) and will no doubt inherit eventually. Do you think I am very mercenary? But I do like to think of my little darlings being in a stable financial situation and not having to fret over electric bills etc. Of course it may come to nothing!

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.