We have been picking oysters to get some money together for the trip. Oysters are to the island what coals are to Newcastle – they are everywhere. The beach is the economic heart of the island and we are right there! As far as manual work goes, the work is good. There are five of us working for one guy, and it only takes about an hour and a half to fill lots and lots of buckets and fling them, full of oysters, into a big truck. We have to fill the truck, and we work about three nights a week. Money is good. We have been working all this month, and by the end of it we will have earned our return train-fares. Maybe we will be ‘oyster millionaires’!
We sat for the best part of an hour watching semi-finals and finals of shearing competitions. I’ve never watched an expert before, and they certainly are fascinating. How they don’t cut the sheep to pieces I can’t imagine as they shave them very close, and go whizzing round their necks and up and down their tummies quite unable to see where the shears are going, for the wool that is piling up on top of them.
He got a job with the local daily paper moreorless as the sweeper-up in their printing shop, and was then offered a chance to work the guillotine, and so on round and up, until a year or so ago they made him factory manager for all their printing.
In passing she mentioned X’s baby – don’t know when it arrived – evidently everyone is delighted with everything as X has large house, 2 maids and a nanny – who says money doesn’t talk?!
We opened the tea garden ready or not! I am still making table cloths. We have 8 tables for 2 or 3 inside then 2 verandah tables and 2 large tables in the gazebo. I am doing the outside cloths, round with pull up string so they don’t come off in the wind! Embroidered by machine of course – leaves, posies, insects and squirrels, grapes etc. I already had to make one for a customer.
My policy that I took out at the age of 21 matured a few days ago. It was only for £200! though with profits is now worth £550 (i.e. about half what £200 would buy in 1933!!) Not much of a bargain really as I must have paid in a total of about £230 over the years. Unfortunately I have lost the policy so I haven’t got the money yet.
Her brother was there one day marching about the garden with a broom pretending to be a soldier (grown man) so it must be a family failing.
How are your awful neighbours – my awful neighbours are about as awful as usual, if not worse. Luckily for me a v. nice young couple (both lawyers) have moved into the other side of the semi next door which is occupied by one of these awful people! they don’t like her any more than I do and I sorta think they are going to something about it – being lawyers!
X sent me a cutting from one of their papers all about him and his peculiarities. There were several glaring mistakes which made me feel smug – the ancestral seat of the family for instance. We dined with him at his house, big yes, but hardly baronial. The old house was burnt down with his cousin in it which is why he inherited the title. I do pity his wife having to sit through endless journalists getting copy from him and rehearing all the old stories.
We’ve just filled out our Census forms, what a to-do – practically want to know how many times you go to the loo. I felt a bit shamed having to tick ‘no school qualifications’ and only 9 years schooling! Put my MBE after my name to cheer me up.
We left at 9.40 a.m. We popped in on the Xs at about 3.15 hoping to cadge a bite of lunch. She had gone out with the kids and he was painting the kitchen. He assured us we were welcome to sit on the lawn and eat the ice blocks we’d brought them but he was going to continue his painting and listen to his cricket. That sort of thing is very hard to stomach – especially when the stomach concerned is empty!
We went home and to X’s for supper. She had a beautiful house in a village with a square surrounded by arches. Her house is three storeys and the gravel terrace leads to the bank of another river running in a valley with trees on the other side. The furniture and paintings were gorgeous and she had done the dining room walls with gold material. One of her sons was in for dinner and we dined on homemade pate and then goose with exotically done potatoes then salad and then an enormous creme caramel. The white-coated man servant was summoned to pass round the dishes by a little silver bell and it was all very gracious living!
The evening was disastrous – my pet parishioner (who gave me the can of oil) is so alone and knows he’s odd – but I didn’t realise how odd and was rather fed up with X who finds him very offputting. He was quite batty and talked utter balderdash in the most delightful and cultured way all evening, interspersed with his wild stories of being damned to hell by Cardinal so and so and committed to the asylum by Bishop someone else – he’d lift his eyes to heaven and mutter ‘Oh the madness, the madness’ – all very unnerving. He thanked me charmingly for the evening and X said talked perfectly sensibly all the way home. He was a fighter pilot in the war. I was so sorry for all the others. It wrecked the evening for them.
Unfortunately I didn’t really take to X who was staying and I think v v was probably true – a most loud and aggressive person as my desiderata says! Anyway we got along.
Do you remember X at my hairdresser’s – by repute anyway? Well he was arrested last month dressed in women’s clothes at a club and caught giving the man he was dancing with a pep pill!! Much to my surprise he was still at the firm and as cheerful as ever when next I went. Actually I like him – he’s a pleasant boy. I gather he was fined $70.
I found two boys on the train who were crossing Paris on the metro – one who was rather a bore and who unfortunately was coming on my train but I managed to avoid as I had a couchette and the other a civil servant of some sort who was taking unpaid leave after 9 months recovery time after a nasty incident – he was staying in a hotel on business somewhere and during the night a skylight fell in and badly cut up one eye. He was hospitalised for months and had spent the months off work wandering about Europe – he was quite interesting. Unfortunately he had mistaken Montpelier for Montmartre so had at least another day’s travelling to do to get to the people he as staying with.
There was great excitement in the town yesterday morning as some bod escaped police custody and was caught locally, on the crashing into two police cars and into the fence of a friend of mine – who says life in the country is boring?! Only two weeks ago someone was caught with a bag of unstable gelignite at the pub down the road – he was dropped off there by a petrol tanker driver who had given him a lift – things could really have gone with a bang!
Sorry your new job didn’t come off – at least you’re not as inately optimistic as me – even now I am slightly surprised that anyone more suitable than me could have applied for a job!
He’d been to a rather surprising sculpture display at the art gallery and when he got back to school he was asked to draw whatever he liked best at the art gallery. ‘So,’ he said, ‘I drew me’!
How are you? I have just learnt how to do writing. Mummy hos boughty me two Guitir bookS. and I am up to exercise 20. I am also Working on the Cherry Song. love from X P.S. and at School we are working on a 100-years ago
A few week’s ago my class & school Had a bomb-scare, it was very scary. The dog’s came but They could not find the bomb. 10 minutes later the same man rang up St. X. In both school’s there was no bomb.
‘Mummy – I don’t understand’ / ‘What don’t you understand?’ / ‘Me’. As X says most profound for a 2 year old!
X and Y had apparently got into a mix-up the day before – X says that he was trying to get one of the paints out of his paint tray for Y and the tray slipped – but whatever it was, their mother answered the howls and discovered Y pouring with yet more of his frequently letted blood. I suspect X’s account of the incident may not have been exactly the whole truth and nothing but as he is being very possessive at present about anything he wants to play with.
X talks with a slight lisp which is fun at present, and he hasn’t started showing off yet, and chats away to himself about the oddest things. I asked him where his trousers were and was told ‘they gone shopping’.
School is being a great success. He endeared himself to his teacher on his first morning by walking in and saying, ‘You knew I was coming, why didn’t you put my name on my peg so I could hang my coat up?’ Little darling!
[A unit on safety in school] We also had the kids wandering round with ‘dangerous objects’ for a display – one easy way to have an accident I’d have thought! One boy brought a hand grenade which he swore was live. I have my doubts myself!
[Birthday request] A pad of drawing paper ‘white like my shirt on both sides‘. This intrigued me and his mother thought it very funny as he obviously felt fobbed off with some he’d been given to scribble on with print on the back, and obviously newsprint was not wanted!!
I got her to read road signs – 2 classics we had: ‘falling debts’ instead of ‘Falling Debris’, and ‘Wondering stock’ instead of ‘Wandering stock’.
[child of 2y] ‘Oh daddy you’ve spilt your puddy. Naughty daddy. I won’t spank you this time, but if you ever do it again I’ll be very cross.’
Older child had been speaking about her school project on gnomes. When she had finished the younger one proceeded to say something like, ‘The Catholic church is telling the members to go back to eating no meat on Fridays.’ Older one looked puzzled and said, ‘But there aren’t any gnomes alive today are there?’ Dad said, ‘No, why do you ask?’ Reply, ‘Then how can Catholics eat gnome meat on Fridays?’!!!
One likely candidate is a fairly ‘rough diamond’ who has been with us about 18 months – a man who X is apparently denigrating saying we don’t want a trade union secretary as a president! I can’t think of a better training for managing our members than to be a T.U. secretary!
We had the first of the Greenpeace beach clean-ups last Saturday for the new season, and managed to collect quite a pile of junk. It is odd that there is one particular stretch of beach near the river mouth which seems to specialise in bathing shorts, and similar bits of clothing. Very odd. I have noticed it several times, and this time I think I got three pairs, and another man working in the same area said he had got some too.
We had the Bridge Club AGM last night – a lot of waffling, under woolly chairmanship by our retiring (thank goodness) president. The next one is the wife of a Brigadier, and will keep us all in order and be efficient and hardworking and lucid, no doubt. All the more important, so far as I am concerned, since I am now back on the Committee as they were having trouble finding a treasurer and I said I would take a turn.
I’ve just sent away to find out if I’d be suitable for any VSA vacancies for next year and if it sounds likely I may follow that up further to see if they’d take me. That’s usually also for two years and counts as continued service over here which is a big factor in getting jobs. I get enthusiastic and not in turns about the idea (typical!) but think on the whole it’s a good thing to do and if I’m going to do it then now is a better time than in 2 years time.
Talking of incompetent volunteers, a fortnight ago we broke up the path from my study door to the garage and prepared it for re-concreting. It ‘only’ took 2 1/2 hours for 2 qualified civil engineers, a medical specialist, two accountants and an educationalist at tertiary level. Yesterday I hoped the concrete was going down – but no luck. Someone had boobed over ordering the materials so it looks as though we shall be stumbling over the sub-structure for another 3 weeks until the team can reassemble. A pity.
I am delighted to say that we managed to introduce some new blood into our vestry and reduce the average age a bit at our Annual Meeting. This had all been organised beforehand and just as well since again we only had 24 people present (out of a magazine distribution of 700!) It is said that a lot of people stay away for fear of being elected to do something if they come.
I am glad we didn’t have to build – our valuer and lawyer warned us against it as you never know how much it will all end up as and we’ve got an established garden with a 35 ft oak tree +++ and it’s all in very good condition.
I don’t envy you the trauma of property hunting – I was quite exhausted and bemused after seeing about 20 – and only too glad to clinch the first one we saw when it ‘came back’.
On Christmas Day we let off 3 borer bombs. [Strange antipodean custom???] Alas I dropped the match on the one under the house instead of lighting the fuse and the instant pall of black smoke was accompanied for about 5 seconds by a 3 ft tongue of flame which lapped hopefully at the floor boards above! As I’d just warned the fire people that I was letting off the bombs I had visions of my calls for the brigade being laughed off with ‘Oh she’ll be right, mate – it’s only a borer bomb; now if you’ll give us a couple of minutes we’ll get stuck into a couple of dozen Christmas beers in the office here.’
I spent a couple of hours one afternoon taking the TV aerial off the chimney (which has frequent and large cracks in it) in the hope that this would prevent it getting worse. I borrowed one ladder – a heavy wooden one – from our neighbour to get up to the roof, and slung our aluminium steps over the ridge to get up to the chimney stack – and when I had finished I left the wire brace round the chimney and wished I had a couple more to help hold it together. I’ve also managed to make the third part of the bookcase – and hope that when I’ve finished painting and bring it upstairs it’s going to be a bit more of a success than the disastrous other bits.
We’re so tidy it’s agony – I hope it sells quickly for that alone! We decided that to keep inside and outside to present state all the time we’d need a gardener and maid!
The problem is to know how to dry out the batts in the roof, even when you have stopped the leak. I discovered a nail sprung, above, and caulked and hammered that, and then cut a two inch hole in the ceiling and rigged up the old Electrolux to blow air in through it. After most of a day it seemed all dry, so I plugged the hole with a round of softboard fixed in with Polyfilla. Just when I had got it all painted the next day we had another gale with heavy rain – and it was evident that I hadn’t cured the leak! So the whole process has had to be repeated – this time I put gungy tape all down a join in the roof where the edge of one sheet is bent up a bit and presumably catching a lot of water that drives in in a high wind.
I have a terrible tenant next door – a raucous lady with 9 dogs who make a hideous din – and so does she.
I really felt completely out of touch with X when she visited, but 50 years ago is quite a time, and we’ve both had quite different lives.
Last Monday they both thought that someone had come during the night to take away the 5 geese brought up by one hen. It is very funny to see the geese following Mother Hen and her chicks. Anyway they (geese) had gone walking to the neighbours who brought them back.
She’s nice, I hope we meet again. The house is fantastic, and if I had 3 living-in maids, (God forbid), and 1 or 2 gardeners, I’d love to live there.
The [neighbour] on one side is mafia, by his own boast, and likes to rearrange the boundary lines to suit himself, in spite of my paying for a legal survey! Then he abused me verbally for about 20 mins because I was clipping back what he describes as ‘his’ hedge.
The next door lady had her ‘Happy Circle’ Christmas party yesterday so at least I have avoided that by saying I was a bit busy just at the moment and would join later; very soon the time will come when I must go and be happy weekly with a lot of other old ducks I suppose.
The nice girl next to me has left but she sold to a quite pleasant family so I am not too unhappy! Dad works hard in digging up his lawn… Mum is a little robin and rather good fun I should think, and there appears to be a resident daughter who is very pleasant. Somebody told me today that she had been married and is now walking out with somebody else…
I am kind of scared about seeing my friends in London, maybe I’ve moved away from them in my thinking – this time last year if you’d mentioned living in the woods on an island with 250 people I’d have run laughing into the nearest boutique! I’m really looking forward to seeing you though – I don’t get that feeling when I contemplate that – so please be around in December!
It’s funny when you’re away from people. Sometimes you’ll pop into my head for no apparent reason, then I won’t be thinking about you for a long time, then when I sit down and write I feel right there with you even though I haven’t seen you for three years, and I wish we could have a long conversation, instead of you writing and telling me where you’re at and then six months later me writing where I’m at.
I am temporarily browsing with the dear old aunt – now 85 and as perky as ever. Her memory is so marvellous we both have the urge to strip her brain of any bits of past-family news before she departs this life. She came to the wedding in a borrowed hat (rather too big and stuffed with paper) and thoroughly enjoyed it – everyone always so pleased to see her. It turned out to be such a pretty wedding (fraught with drama to the end!) I gathered up the 18 frozen corpses, banging together like rocks [could they be pheasants I wonder??] , a mountain of branches, buckets, wire, flowers, jam jars, my fur coat and the aunt on the previous Thursday evening and delivered things at the various houses as I went along.
Our trip to X was marvellous. Good times started as soon as we got on the train. There were a nice bunch of people travelling with us. All of us united by ‘third-class coach conditions’ (sleeping curled on the hard seats, three-day picnics because train food is so expensive, suffering discrimination and rude behaviour from train guards and conductors on account of being the lowest economic class on the train). Anyway we had a lot of fun and it was even quite hard to part from a few of them – living with people for three days and nights it seems as if you’ve known them for years. Travelling across Canada is an amazing experience. It is such a vast country and you remember that the railway runs along the southernmost part, and that all the major cities and towns follow the railway – which leaves about 80% of the country sparsely populated, remote and wild: ‘The North’, in fact, – ‘The North’ being also a very romantic almost legendary country, deeply embedded in the collective Canadian conscious, a semi-myth that I can feel somewhere inside me too. As a matter of fact it’s pretty incredible to see how little of Canada is populated even when you travel the main route. You can go for a whole day and night in Ontario just passing the occasional Indian village and for the people who live in those villages the train is often the only means of transport. The train passes once a day. Of course the whole country was deep in winter and snow when we were travelling: the Rockies, days of flat, flat prairies where the sun goes down on a sea of snow like it does on the flat ocean, the vast frozen lakes and forests of Ontario – and then you’re in Montreal one night after days of spaciousness and nature, wham right into Montreal main station and crowds of people milling around and bright lights and noise and speed.
As long as it was fine it really was a gorgeous place for lazing or boating – but the walking was a bit too energetic to be really attractive in spite of the wonderful views to be gained by fighting up through the bush. It really needed a sailing dinghy to be complete! But the old launch with its African Queen chugging diesel engine was useful in a leisurely way – the only trouble being that its throttle-fixing catch was broken so that, if you didn’t keep your hand on it, it gradually slid back to an almost-closed position, and the boat went very slowly indeed – but that meant standing down in the well of the boat, under a rather low roof, and getting the smell of the engine – whereas if the throttle had been alright, one could have stood up on the seat and looked over the top the whole time – and steered with one foot.
The holiday home is minute and my heart sank – it’s really rather scruffy but once here 24 hours I feel it’s my ‘scruf’ and don’t mind so much! It’s got all mod cons in quite its own style – the frig is in an outside shed with the loo and the shower is in the garden – lovely hot water – and basin too.
We have an electric fry pan, jug and single ring cooker, radiator that’s left on low all year round to keep it aired and a party line phone for the whole Bay regulated by a form of Morse. We’re one short and one long!!!
Having good time in glorious USSR. Still have our noses, but X’s feet keep threatening to fall off!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.