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!

Characters 2

V. good-looking American tall and dark in a jeans suit – he’d missed his boat as got involved in a party and got so drunk time went by! Sad really as although he said he was the cook it was a partnership set-up in which he’d expected to make $10000 over 6 months. I s’pose he broke contract but he still hoped and was phoning to try and catch them at another port – I didn’t find till late in the day that he’d in fact trained for 4 or 5 years as a chef but had difficulties as he’d got all his diplomas by 21 but his understaff kicked at being organised by him as he swore he only looked about 12! So after a while retrained as a hairdresser under Vidal Sassoon and later ran a trucking co. with another man which fell to bits with the petrol business. He was v. well read and quick in the uptake and a definite leavener to old X.

She stamps and screams and ‘after all I’ve done’ or ‘given’ and so on – she’s another who’s misguidedly KIND – I know they think I’m a cow about her but I’ve heard her telling everyone how much she does for them all and she certainly can’t afford any more grandchildren – and insists they stay and then goes round telling people how awful it’s been. I fear she’s really round the bend.

[Doing home visits collecting radio listener info] I met some real odd bods – one rather large man got out of his bath and came to the door dripping and with a minute towel which was so inadequate I said I wouldn’t hold him up but come back – I did in the evening and he was covered with embarrassment! Another elderly dame drew herself up and said ‘Jesus is my Lord and Saviour and I wouldn’t have a radio in the house’. I did wonder if her imagination of what came over the radio was perhaps more danger to her soul than what in fact was recorded. Outside was her sister who couldn’t have been less than 75-80 mowing the lawn with a nylon stocking tied over her spectacles – I almost expected to meet a third with a gag in her mouth.

Large man – small towel

I know I terrify you and can’t think why when I’m so moderate!

[But if the motion was passed]  I think he would be sadly perplexed to know what to say, since he combines tremendous conservatism with a horror of causing offence (or so it seems to me, but then we don’t really ‘take tea’).

The two girls have started ballet lessons, they look sweet in their leotards. The lady who takes them is most odd – she’s about 60, fairly overweight with straight black hair that is streaked with grey. She speaks with a guttural Dutch accent, however the kids understand her – I’m not sure that the parents do!

We had X to a meal yesterday evening – she is staying out here for a week or two trying to decide whether it is the place for her to retire to in a year or so. It’s doubtful whether she will be happy in retirement anywhere. Nothing but grievances and what she said to so-and-so to ‘put them in their place’: not exactly an endearing habit.

One of our computer buffs is trying to fix a computer that works off his wife’s voice, as she can’t type. I think it verges on being bogey, and it’s only a matter of time before the machines take over and run the world, the mess we’re making of it at present it wouldn’t be too difficult to do better. The voice coming in print is amazing.

Bureaucracy 2

She offered the receipts etc. but was told he’d take her word for it – took off 2/3 of the price and charged 25% on remainder which came to $6!!! X said when I phoned it was all a toss up and depended on the man on the spot. Someone else told me it was left fairly loose so the types who were trying to pay for their holiday by calling here could be charged the whole 110% as it was becoming such a racket.

I don’t understand why you have a Trust to manage the finances of your job, but it doesn’t sound as though they are making a very good job it. How much I agree with your remark about having fewer managers and more people to actually do some work. It happens all the time with our Health service now, and all they can manage it seems is to cut down the services provided when they haven’t enough left over after paying themselves.

 

Our latest effort at service for the public is a threat by bank clerks to strike from the Friday before Christmas right through until after the New Year (and you can imagine the fun the thieves will have – there are reports of crowds of them booking flights!!).

Thieves travelling

Having spent 2 weeks since last writing being without a driving licence my news is limited. I quite enjoyed it actually and it was v. economical not being tempted with inessentials! Friends drove me down on ‘the day’ – at the end of a run round a square he said I had broken the law 3 times! All the things I’ve done for 60 years – but I didn’t push this and thanked him for putting me right – and I got my licence! – I am mellowing!

Certainly your bureaucrats sound very trying – but do not be mystified. They work on certain principles by which their actions and reactions can usually be explained e.g. ‘Never on any account admit that you have made an error – whether of fact or of judgement.’  Secondly, ‘Do not accept any other person’s actions or requests at their face value, especially when they are apparently philanthropic or economical.’ They are obviously seeking some hidden advantage for themselves or trying in some obscure way to discredit the bureaucrat. The one must of course be frustrated as wholeheartedly as the other. Thirdly ‘Never act without precedent or make an exception to a rule.’ Such initiative might be called in question and it is worth much labour even to the extent of letting one’s tea get cold or STAYING LATE to argue oneself out of the necessity. I dare say there are others but that threefold cord is not easily broken without adding other strands!

It is a pity that X’s claim to fame was to do with such shady episodes as the Profumo affair, and the subsequent choice of Lord Home as prime minister after Macmillan, which of course also proved fairly disastrous for all concerned. He was much too nice a man to make a successful P.M.

Hopefully we shall get a letter tomorrow – no, not tomorrow as it is Labour Day when like the gasmen we do no work at all; and probably not Tuesday either, because that will be like a Monday and we hardly ever get any letters on Monday – but say Wednesday! On the whole our post has got much worse since it ceased being a Government service, and quite often it seems as though they are saving up such miserable brown envelopes as they are prepared to bring us at all for two or more days of the week. The Post Office were horrified when we told them and couldn’t understand it at all. That sort of thing is definitely fifty years out of date.

He was filling in a form about her and asked ‘Have you any convictions?’ to which she replied, ‘Yes – I’m a Christian.’ Fortunately when she realised what he meant they both had a good giggle!

I am continually amazed at how like our bureaucracy is to yours – they must send representatives back and forth to learn from each other, I think. Our Ministry of Education is constantly making cuts in funds until the schools have to cut services in one way or another, and then sending commissions of enquiry to examine the school’s methods and to complain, just like your department having to cut the services to special schools and then being told off for having done so. It is difficult to imagine any more effective way of lowering morale and encouraging frustration!

Money 2

Much flak about the Public Service Investment Society (as its name suggests a public servants’ investment co-op) went into receivership last Friday. Luckily I withdrew all my savings and borrowed $300 only last week, so I don’t stand to lose much! I always have been altruistic like that!

I’ve just had some photos done for the modelling I’m venturing on, I’m hoping to make lots of lovely lolly (I probably won’t but hope springs eternal and all that!) Anyway posing lying on a bean bag with a magazine and a large whisky all morning is a change from housework!!

Photos for the portfolio

And we are right behind you here it seems with our devaluation last weekend. They do a lot of talk about how it will help the farmers and how the increased price of imports won’t work through to the public for 18 months – but yesterday the news was that car dealers have never been busier and all the prices will be going up within a month or so! And I expect that’s how it will be all round. The country has been borrowing vast sums abroad for the last two years, and some time soon we shall have to stop doing that and cut imports accordingly – and then there’s going to be a big mess, with a lot of unemployment, I fear.

And why do you have to go on to temp work if you are given an Easter holiday? It all sounds mysterious and foreboding – especially taken with odd snippets that we get over the radio about your cost of living such as the new price of the Times – and now your rather horrifying budget. Is it becoming very difficult to exist and enjoy life in a small way in London?

X starts his new job here on Monday week and swears that when the house sells he is going up to do the packing and moving. But of all the crazy times to change jobs and house and then arrange to spend a month’s rent on a party as he is going to tomorrow night – it’s a pity I haven’t been rendered quite as speechless as you might expect because he’s a bit fed up with my comments on the situation, I fear! The job is better paid than the last – but he will need it all by the time he’s mortgaged himself to the hilt to buy a house in the bits of the city he considers suitable for a young business executive!

The warnings about everything being so expensive in Japan were quite true – a cup of coffee and doughnut in a milk bar type of place were equivalent to 72p and 25p – both very good admittedly. [Those were the days…]

Yes, the man who bought the Fiat seemed sweet – if rather lean and hungry looking. He told X how he’d started with a v. dashing car – and as he married and acquired more and more family the cars got smaller and older and now he was down to 3 children and a Fiat!

We got a solitary – I mean one-man-on-his-own builder up here yesterday to look at the plans and the house itself, and he promised us an estimate for labour only, maybe tomorrow. He said the best way was for us to ‘shop around’ and buy the materials ourselves – apparently it’s worth driving 20 miles for timber even paying for delivery compared to the local timber-yard. He also said that one could get up to 30% off normal price for cash on delivery – which reflects how badly off the building industry is at present – because no one can get a mortgage anywhere to build with: though he must surely be exaggerating. I hope his figure looks reasonable as he seemed a pleasant straightforward man, though I suspect his suggestion was mainly because he hasn’t any working capital himself!

Gardening 7

My vegetable garden is really looking quite creditable now though it would be better still if the wind hadn’t broken off or down the tops of some of my potatoes. I’ve got 3 sorts of them, a row of peas just podding, a row of celery, carrots, parsnips and a couple of pumpkins all under way, a few tomatoes and at about the fourth attempt some French and runner beans – though I think they are going to be very behind and may get drought struck – or else will be ready for picking while we’re on holiday!

We stopped to show her the garden of our old house – sad, sad – I didn’t know weeds could grow so much in 3 months

I’ve laid another 50sq m of garden in lawn; slowly but surely the barren waste is coming under control- my fastidious (and retired) neighbour even smiled at me the other day so I must be doing well!

Congratulations on your vegetables. I have put some garlic in (a month late I fear). I had some little Brussels sprouts growing which hadn’t any stalks but otherwise looked healthy at one time, but now they been eaten almost to the bone by something and can’t possibly do any good, I fear.

I hope the orange tree is more successful at going on growing fruit than our lemon which has produced endless beginnings and no reasonable continuations.

We bought some new plants and a copper beech tree and a bush X has always wanted which has all its new leaves a deep red. We put them in one afternoon and that night the damn sheep got in and removed all the red leaves!

Sheep eating all the red leaves

The story of your garden almost brought tears to my eyes. It seems that for exterior exhibition you’ll have to stick to cockle shells and silver bells (though they wouldn’t last long in these inflationary and criminal days).

Apart from occasional sudden cold days, spring is here: blossom on the apples, strawberries and boysenberries, buds on the roses with one or two out, and so on. Enough grass has grown to hide most of the black patches on the lawn where I tried to kill the moss with iron sulphate, but I don’t think any of the expensive grass seed I sowed has taken root. But a few of my veggies are looking quite good, and we had some more of the broad beans from over the winter for lunch.

We are having a three day summer, (today is the third) and I ought to be out hosing the beans, and weeding the veg plot which has remained scandalously empty so far, apart from one crop of carrots and a few parsnips, plus lots of self-down parsley. Unfortunately the pumpkins which used to appear of their own accord in some numbers have given up. Alas, no soup! And the entire plum crop this year year has been picked – four plums! The blossom all got blown away when it was much too cold for bees. I suppose I ought to go round with a rabbit’s foot another year. I must enquire into the technique. But the apples are looking good so hopefully we can fill the deep freeze with them.

My runner beans have suddenly sprung halfway up the strings and the broad beans five feet high, but a lot of things are not doing so well – beetroot stuck at two inches, carrots refusing to appear at all, tomato plants tuck at a foot high, and the broccoli bursting into yellow bloom when they ought to be forming nice green heads. (I always find that particularly irritating!).

Employment hassles 4

X broke the news of our departure at the end of June this week – it was a bit of a damp squib actually as I think it was expected – we haven’t hidden the fact we’ve got the house, caravan etc for our retirement. There are always regrets tho’ when it becomes imminent – I take so long to know people – I’m only just getting anywhere with some – but I long to play house.

[and from X] Of course when it comes to it I expect I shall be sorry to leave some of the people here. But only some! I said my last word to quite a number of them in this month’s Parish mag in which my letter (instead of being addressed as usual ‘Dear Friends of the church) started ‘Dear Fringe…’ I reckoned there was nothing to lose at this stage!

I do think the bureaucrats who run your job are the absolute end for inefficiency, not to mention plain rudeness and indifference.

In reply to my Christmas card which asked for news of his family, he wrote on his that he got to the office at 6.45 a.m. and didn’t leave it until 7.30 p.m. – and I reckon he will find his X gone one day soon if he doesn’t get home a bit earlier than that.

I am glad that you can treat as funny your chief’s appropriation of the idea you borrowed from your last chief, which you mentioned when you were describing the meeting at which you released it. I think I should be hopping mad, even though it wasn’t my original idea.

I’ve changed my jobs. I was quite sick for a while so I gave up my other job and have had a break for a few weeks but am noticing the drop in income amazingly so I’m getting another job. Same but quite different. This time it’s a restaurant that’s just opening – the owner is the chef, he’s a really nice family man, and the emphasis is going to be very much on quality food and service compared with the last place where it was on fun! I hope it isn’t too much harder!

She’s had a rather rotten 18 months in a research team at UCL – personality clashes, incompatibilities, and total frustration with inefficient and downright lazy colleagues – she’s chucked her hand in and is now on the loose with a friend in India and Pakistan for 3 months.

I fear that however nice the woman was who did your review, she will have had orders to bring in some changes which are designed to save money, so her hands will have been tied. In other words the review will just have been a device to save the Government’s or the Department’s face. The same sort of thing is always happening here. If there is any good news, such as some extra money to be spent on health or education, it is announced with a flourish of trumpets by the minister, but if the boot is on the other foot, it’s someone else’s foot that gets the blame, always.

I’ve had a series of run-ins with the project engineer. Although I’ve had the occasional win they’ve been battles rather than wars! I fear it’s a case of ‘he might not always be right, but he’s always the boss’! He’s one of those blokes with whom I’m unable to have a discussion, only a contest!

I used to find it a relief when auditing to change locations and conditions every fortnight or so (there was always a chance that you would strike a place that would give you chocolate biscuits for 11ses and plum cake for tea! I suppose we should have suspected these of having things to hide that required us to be kept sweet!) – but going to a round of different places every day must be exhausting – like ‘If it’s Tuesday it must be Brussels’ which they showed us on TV around Christmas – most amusing and rather pathetic at the same time.

The office has not yet collapsed; we did have structural engineers in to assess. They did not seem concerned. I still don’t understand how a concrete floor can drop. I sit on the toilet and notice the 1/2 inch gap between the floor and the tiles on the wall. Some tiles have cracked and/or fallen of and the rows are out of alignment with each other!!

Poor work environment

X tells me that you didn’t get the new job which you ended up not wanting – sounds a bit Irish. I’m glad or not as I should be!!

Has X written since she was tackled round the legs by a policeman?! After an exhausting evening waitressing she’d just changed, came through the kitchen door only to have a large man throw himself at her and brought her down a resounding whack against the corner of the metal coffee trolley, which fortunately empty but previously had two large jugs of coffee on it. She had a deep half inch cut on her thigh which bled all over the place and still had bruises all up her leg when we were there 2 weeks later. There was a big table of police cadets celebrating and one bet another who was pretty drunk he wouldn’t tackle the next person to come through the door, poor X. She was sat to recover with a large drink and the man came and apologised but she was pretty shaken up.   Y phoned the powers that be in the police and complained fairly forcibly. He was told the man hadn’t proved very satisfactory in other ways either, so I fear he’s cooked his own goose.

A colleague forgot to turn off the computer terminal when he finished using it on Friday afternoon. This combined with a program error to produce a ‘dump’. This miserable machine proceeded to spew its miserable guts out all over the printout throughout the weekend. By Monday morning the golfball had battered the ribbon on the printer to a shapeless pulp. You think you have problems.

Gosh, what a set-up there is in hospitals nowadays. I can’t get used to all the hierarchy and even the question of a Charge Nurse is a deep mystery to me! As to Sector Administrator – all nuts and baloney as far as I am concerned and I long for the days of the Hospital Secretary and two consultants who decided everything between them.

I had applied for a job as director of works on X ( a tiny coral island just on the tropics). We had to rush up to town for interview. Although I felt we presented ourselves in our true colours, they can’t have been the colours they were looking for, as I gather I haven’t got the job. Pity! it looked ideal both job and family-wise.

X has got a part-time job in a local PO – the idea being she’ll earn enough for Y not to have to work all over the long vac. – last year was a ramp – he got only just over dole rates and was more senior than the top man at the job – let alone the one he was standing in for – and had an hour’s journey each way at his own expense. He was fairly philosophical about it – in that he enjoyed the work – BUT…

It will be good that she has the teaching qualification so that she can always look for part-time work as a relief teacher – though I can’t myself imagine anything more deadly than relief teaching – constantly being faced with strange and unruly bunches of kids and having to pick up at short notice in the middle of someone else’s teaching programme.

I do think whoever it is who is responsible for the organisation of your job must be quite mad. It is so inefficient to expect you to tackle such an overload of work; obviously you cannot be expected to actually do it all to your satisfaction or anybody else’s. I don’t wonder that you have such a high turnover of staff – which obviously is an extra load, by reducing the continuity of treatment, apart from the extra load on the Horatios who hold the bridge.

I imagine your hilarity at work is of the maniacal sort. It wouldn’t matter so much having your case load in waiting doubled if you were playing a sort of monopoly, but when they are real kids, with real mothers and families, it really is too bad. I loved the picture of the preschool parents discussing their memories of the mad lady with the rat chained to the leg of the table! [One intriguing facet of reading old letters is not having the other half and forgetting what on earth can have occurred!]

Emigration/moving 2

I had a letter from an ex-colleague wondering whether to come here. I only met him once – as he reminded me – on the top of a mountain in Basutoland! I mostly remember it because his son had been playing the fool at the hospital we had built there – he was the engineer! They have a much younger boy and want to come here because it’s ‘so much cleaner physically and morally’. I felt I had to disillusion them a bit on that one – though not very harshly because on the whole I’m glad we came.

It’s all GO here [prior to moving] – I’m mortified at the state of my outside room – I’ve even found a mouse’s nest in the back of a hanging! Won’t rest until it’s cleaned out. I’m being very strong minded and even mean to weed out my ‘this is my life’ box!

We were delighted to get your tape with all the horrors of your move. Traumatic is mild. Your frig must be obsessed with a devil, surely the shop should have fixed it but it must be difficult for you being out during the day. I must say I don’t like leaving things open for workman to do whilst I’m out. At the best it makes my nasty suspicious little mind work overtime! The eggs popping out of their shells conjured up lovely picture, and should surely be made into an animated sequence for TV! I can well imagine the result of the lemonade as X’s ginger beer burst all over their kitchen whilst we were there and in spite of mopping everyone was sticking to the floor for days afterwards.

A friend commenting on the effect of movers on ones furniture: ‘three moves are as good as a fire’! I took a Friday off and a friend brought her trailer round and we moved lots of boxes and some light furniture. On the Saturday another friend came round with his 6’x4’ trailer and the two of us moved all the furniture by 3 p.m. On the Sunday I moved another 2000 boxes – full of useful things like old magazines! By that evening I was quite dead and glad to go back to work for a rest.

I expect you rustled up a selection of friends and made them walk in a column bearing your household goods to save a moving fee? I hope X was able to help with moral support or the car or something to encourage you in your battle. It is exciting, although slightly horrifying, to be at last in possession and rapidly finding out the snags. I never realised how badly the doors fitted here until the winter winds showed them up. Some have enormous gaps and others won’t shut and require frequent rubbing down or encouragement with a bit of soap to try to make them close. Condensation is a bind and it is v. gruesome here in the bedrooms. It streams down the windows in the sitting room too, but I do nothing about it except mop up the result! When they were all frozen inside I did rather object, but it was too late to do anything until they chose to thaw, and Y with central heating was just about as bad.

We decided that prices in the latter were grossly inflated (any village which has 5 flourishing estate agents’ offices in 30 yards must be the wrong place to go). The general effect of the other tour was to increase our interest in the first house we saw there (which was probably the agent’s idea in taking us round!) It was in some ways a stupid house with this wide corridor along the front and 2 10×10 ft bedrooms – but it had something about it in spite of large disadvantages such as having no kitchen door, the bathroom leading out of the kitchen, the only loo as near as down the garden as it could be while remaining under the one roof (you went through the kitchen and the laundry to reach it), and a garden with a grass bank nearly as steep as at the Avenue. We were told by the valuer that it was worth $25,750 against their asking price of 30,000. We offered 26,000 and were indignantly refused – and the latest we have heard is that they are toying with an offer of 28,000 by someone who still has to sell another house.

X did all china, glass etc to save some money and just as well – the stacking, travelling and unstacking (we’ve done all the unpacking) took 12 hours – they said we’d got twice as much as anyone else they’d moved!! They gave us some v. old fashioned looks at some of our belongings – treasured bits of wood, boxes of stones, and of course the 2 drainpipes [part of an idiosyncratic stereo system]– I really got quite embarrassed!

Our buyers moved our bulky stuff in what proved to be a rather smaller van than we’d imagined and took 3 trips so we were glad we’d got professionals to move our piano, my stereo deck, table and deep freeze – for awkwardness and weight, plus my Regency sewing table and china cabinet for safety! – that took 3 of them nearly 3 hours so we were glad of the other help.

The small van

Church/religion 6

We had the church fair last Saturday. The usual vast collection of hand-me-downs of everything from washing machines to children’s books, plus the usual plants, flowers, pots of marmalade and cakes. We managed to get there earlier than we usually do, and had a correspondingly good choice, so the final result was more satisfying than often. For the church, it was pretty satisfactory too, I think – $6500 was the provisional figure next morning.

We went to X’s induction. It is a funny little church – a sort of prefab hall, which they have been aiming to replace for a long time, I believe, but I seem to remember that the last Vicar but two or maybe three decided to use all the money to build the vicarage first. They had a very good turn out to fill the whole place, and sang very ‘hearty’, which was nice. And we had the new locally made service, so they did not have to process endlessly round the building singing odd verses of ‘We love the place, O God…’ Instead at the right point, various people bring up a chalice, a prayer book, a bible and offer them to the new Vicar with words to the effect ‘Mind you use this properly’ to which he replies to the bearer ‘Sure, I will’ and then to the congregation ‘And don’t you forget to come and see me at it’ or words to that effect.

We had harvest festival at the beach church last Sunday, and I took a box of apples, and little red tomatoes – and shall have to dig out another for next Sunday when we shall be going to X, who have their harvest festival then. The green cooker apple has got so much fruit on this year that you can hardly walk underneath it for all the windfalls which make it quite difficult not to turn ones ankles all the time!

X was invited to tea (at 2.30 if you please) by the wife of the ex-vicar where she found seven clergy wives she had collected in order to discuss some group for maintaining the rights of women, or something of the sort, which X did not approve of.

In spite of X’s depressing remarks about my star being a different colour/shape and in the wrong place when we’d spent a day making it and a morning hanging it, with Y on the roof pulling fishing thread through 2 light openings and me below tying it on and directing proceedings to make it hang straight, I was already feeling like hell and think that was the last straw to give me a migraine the next day. But it was a huge success and masses of people remarked on it. It was really rather bogey as we lighted it with blue spotlights from behind the screen and it threw a huge shadow of what looked like a dove descending on the back wall – also remarked on. A second spotlight was put on the crib (full size) which stood inside the altar rail on a bed of straw. At the beginning of the midnight service all the lights except the spotlights were put out and the choir came in with candles and it really looked beautiful.

I’ve been having a fairly miserable time this Lent,with my house group. I was asked by a lady down the road to join hers, which seemed a polite thing to do, rather than the group I have been going to for the last two years, which is several streets away, but in fact she has only managed to get three other members besides me, all women; and the material we have been using has been very lacking in real content, so we go at 10, chat until 10.30 while having a cup of tea, do the study which lasts about half an hour and may then chat for another half hour before going home. Never mind! There is only one more study left in the series now.

Have you by any chance heard tell of the ‘Toronto experience’? They had a couple of people talking about it at the evening services here a week or two ago, and my hostess in my group went along. Apparently what started happening at this small church near Toronto was that people started rolling in the aisles with laughter, without anything really amusing happening, but presumably just a release of tension of some sort, which they put down to the Holy Spirit. And it seems the same thing started happening here, and my hostess experienced it. When I told X about it she said she would like to go the next time they have one of these services, but I’m not sure myself whether I want to. We shall see.

Rolling in the aisles

We had brass bands most of the day on the radio, and a Gallipoli film on TV, and the usual parade service, which remains surprising popular, though I can’t really think why, because we use the same service papers and therefore the same hymns every year, and an address which is nearly always unsuitable. This time it was the headmaster of one of the secondary schools, who said he was going to say three things of which the third was particularly for the young people present. (There is always a full parade of scouts, guides and cubs plus some cadets.) In the first place he was barely audible, and very often not even barely, and secondly his language and content was quite over these small children’s heads. A pity.

We’ve gone back to our 5 p.m. winter time for the evening service from today (largely because War & Peace is too fierce a rival later on!)

We had so many heaters on that the trip-fuse blew during the sermon. What a blessing they are, compared to the old fuse where you had to mend them before turning them on again.

This last weekend I had a girl visiting who is to be married here in September and is determined to have a service of her own devising – which is an increasingly customary thing here. Apparently most the University Chaplains have a copy of a thing called a ‘marriage kit’ which is a sort of box file containing bits of any and every wedding service they can get hold of. The user picks out Introduction No. 3, Giving Away No. 5, Vows No. 2 etc. until they have the selection they want adding a few bits if they want to of their own composing. Unfortunately this girl’s literary taste is deplorable (although she is a secondary school teacher) and her service is a mass of sentimental and turgid gush – to my way of thinking. After one or two minor amendments and some more daring – such as actually including a prayer and a blessing, I told her that if she got it typed out I would submit it to the Bishop for his approval. Actually he is pretty conservative so he may well turn it down flat and I don’t know what happens then. They ought really go to a Registry Office I think.

The retreat was very enjoyable, as it was a silent one, but at the same time I knew most of the people there quite well. There is a lot to be said for not having to speak to people you know – or for knowing people you are going to be silent with! I didn’t particularly take to the conductor but that didn’t matter much.

Am now due to go and see X (ex Eighth Army brigadier) whom I am supposed to exchange war stories with, as he is not prepared to discuss his coming demise owing to raging empheseema (?).

I went out for a walk and suddenly saw X crossing the road from his car to the church. He had apparently come for the funeral of somebody I think of as an old boy. So in spite of my unfunereal dress I went in. And discovered among other things that the ‘old boy’ was just a year older than me! He had chosen to have the old prayer book service which was as wordy as ever and not as good, I feel, as the new one, but among other things we had ‘Jerusalem the golden’ which was fun.

We had an interesting conversation about the questionnaire the committee are contemplating on the subject of the way the clergy prepare people for marriage – but in fact it was pretty discursive and I don’t know that we got far. (I don’t know, mainly because I haven’t yet had time to think about it!) I had to go in again on Friday p.m. for a Prayer Book Committee. Put baldly you could say that we spent 2 1/2 hours talking about one sentence in an alternative Prayer of Consecration – but actually it was an interesting and quite useful meeting about the principles of what we were trying to do.

We had a rather mixed bag of instruction (with our Bishop well at the bottom, I thought – he varied from dull to abysmal!) – but I enjoy talking shop every now and then and I was asked to do a weekend course at the end of July which will give me something to think about when we are snowed up.

The Assistant Bishop told us a delightful story of a bishop he met at Lambeth (so the tale goes) who got himself engaged to be married rather late in life. Having little experience of how to live up to the occasion and being too shy to ask his colleagues he went to Foyle’s for enlightenment – refused the help of the assistant – but eventually found just what he felt he needed, though he was surprised at the price. It was a large volume entitled How to Hug. He hurried home with it, and settled himself down to read, only to find that he had acquired the XIth volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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.

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