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.

House repairs & housekeeping 5

We’ve had some horrid cold weather and I spent two half days putting pink batts in our roof. It is a very low pitched roof so that one can’t get even onto hands and knees. I started by laying a nice smooth plankway the full length over the kitchen and sittingroom so that I could slide on my back hauling myself along on the roof trusses. Then I retired to the far end with a rope and X fed bundles of batts into the roof attached to the other end, with a second rope to haul the cover back for more. Then it was just a question of poking them into position with a broom – but my elbows and hipbones got a bit sore! I don’t know whether it’s improved the ceiling but it had a marvellous effect on the weather. It was almost balmy when we went for a Sunday walk this afternoon.

I’m sorry you are still having trouble with aspects of the flat e.g. those windows and beetles but I suppose it is one of the debit aspects of property-owning that one always does. I was under the trapdoor into the hole under the house a week or so ago and was horrified to find a large patch of bright yellow mould surrounded by reaching tentacles and clouds of white fibres, all sprouting within a foot or so of the wall. After 2 days I nerved myself to scoop the horrid stuff up in an ice cream carton and take it to the building inspector who (thankfully) dismissed it as harmless as mushrooms.

I’m so glad that the kitchen fan is a success. They certainly are expensive things. Ours was all the more because it wasn’t practical to put it in the kitchen wall or window since that faces the prevailing wind and the poor thing couldn’t be expected to cope with that, and if it did it would only blow the grease and smell back into the bathroom next door; so we put a pipe through the ceiling and straight up through the roof. Of course what with the plumber to cut the hole in the decromastic roof, and the carpenter to cut the hole in the ceiling, and the tinsmith to make up the pipe and the electrician to wire up the fan, the fitting cost about twice as much as the fan itself!

X’s new plan for household tidiness – no more cupboards for marmalade, empty yoghurt pots etc. You just have one shelf on which everything is put in chronological order, everything else being moved up to make room – and anything which gets to the other end is thrown away. We agreed an improvement whereby there would be a hole in the wall at the far end and one of those disposal bins parked outside so that the whole system would become automatic. Brilliant, n’est ce pas?

First in first out

Poor X, he saw the enormous earth mover working next door and leapt out to get him to level our drive prior to concreting: at $50 an hour + an earth carrier lorry and man, he put in three-quarters of an hour and didn’t do the heaviest part, in fact I think it was a dead and expensive loss, but that’s what happens when one tries to supervise yourself and economise.

The main preoccupation this week is the start of the new room. I worked with our chosen one-man builder – mostly fetching three loads of sand in the trailer to fill in for height. By evening it was all prepared and the concrete ordered for the morning. Three minutes before the appointed hour the lorry arrived – but no builder! Panic – but, by the time he had backed up the drive and got a cup of coffee, he arrived so all was well again – until the last scrap of mix dribbled out with a miserable hole in one corner of the boxing. I think if I’d been on my own I would have raked it all across and levelled it off an inch or so lower! As it was we ordered another 1/2 yard, waited an hour and a half for it, and then had to fit half of it into the caravan standing – a very expensive sort of fill-material.

As I have now decided to do most of it myself [adding a new room] I am obviously going to be busy for a long time. X estimated it at 200 man hours or thereabouts – and you can bet that I don’t count as that sort of a man and will need quite a bit of extra time putting right the things that go wrong as I go along. X was a bit horrified when we started examining the carport in detail as the great 10 inch rafters which support its roof (and our new room on top) appear to be resting on only one inch of a beam at the house end of them and to be held in place largely with a couple of 6 inch nails each. So I must see if I can incorporate some slight reinforcement as I fill in the carport just to stop them all falling off and our new room with them if we have an earth tremor.

I was fortunate to get an off-cut of particle board the floor is made of, and replace the patch I cut out. Having measured it about four times to make sure I didn’t cut it wrong, as I so often do, I cut it wrong, would you believe, and had to fit in a strip a quarter of an inch wide to make up!

Children 6

X still talks 19 to the dozen and I think the whole town knows of her as a chatterbox – if she were anyone else’s child I’d think of her as precocious and rather revolting, but someone has to love her!

[Visitors viewng house for sale] The wife’s approach to her outdid my grandmother – on seeing X’s darkroom she told the 5 year old it would be a good place to shut up bad little girls, and when Y offered them a strawberry each she said she didn’t expect they’d eat them, they didn’t like anything that was good for them – would you believe it this day and age! She was delighted with the sitting room and sunroom, which go through the house, and said she could keep the children out of it and they could play at the end of the kitchen, the space about 9 square feet [one hopes this actually means 9 x 9 not 3 x 3!] where we normally eat. Lucky children.

Must repeat gorgeous misprint of the year – found on wrapper of local frozen chickens – ‘before serving remove the wrapper and brown the children in a moderate oven for half an hour’!

The boys are almost eating more than I do now – certainly they all do for breakfast and lunch if not dinner! At dinner they get a main course: meat, spud, and 2 veg generally, then a milk pud or similar and they’re always still hungry and usually manage a piece of bread and quarter apple afterwards! My housekeeping costs have risen 50% in the last year. I’m dreading when they’re 12, 14 and 16 – they’ll cost a bloody fortune!

X seems to cross swords with her teacher; I suspect the worthy lady sees in X’s somewhat precocious manner a reflection of her own two obnoxious little brats! Last time X complained about unfair treatment at school her mother went and ‘had it out’ with both teacher and headmaster. The upshot was that X was required to go to the front of the class and publicly apologise for lying. Charming!

If the boys all go in one room they get up at the crack of dawn and jolly well see to it no one goes on sleeping. They’ve done such ghastly things as raiding the kitchen and throwing the eggs +++ around; their mother’s put a padlock on the kitchen door, which she locks before she goes to bed.

The egg fight

X staggered in from school looking like the wreck of the Hesperus dragging his satchel and saying, ‘I’ve had a very long day’ – I know the feeling.

X at a meeting – best manners asked, ‘Can I have another pipe clean please?’ She meant pikelet!

The family went To X Last Saturday. I went on a boat and I went on The miniture train Twice and Than went to Granny’s New house and hoD Cish and chips.

This afternoon I had X’s assistance again, as she left them both with us as she was going into town for ‘The Boyfriend’. But I must say he was very good and dug away with a fork bigger than him. The only snag was when we went down to buy some wood to finish the carport fence. We went into the Mall and he suddenly advanced on a little girl (rather smaller than him) and started a punch up – but luckily she had a slightly larger sister who defended her fairly aggressively until I could remove him.

The hyperactive batty boy certainly sounds a cross – no doubt his teacher heaved a sigh of relief at the clever idea of unloading him on you, even if only for half an hour a week.

[Drawing received with letter written on it.] This is about Beatrix potter and It’s a FiLm and we are having a Nice haiday love X. and we went to Y love from X

Travel hazards 2

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

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

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

Soot on the balcony

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

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

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

Adult learning 2

I started language school this week. There’s one other English girl there and a couple of other English-speakers. A French girl who taught English, married to a German and with whom she speaks English as he doesn’t speak French! And a 1/2 American 1/2 French man. A host of other French people, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean and so forth – really mixed! The teacher is quite good though you have to keep a dictionary near as it’s all too easy to misunderstand her explanations as they are also in German and our vocab. doesn’t stretch to exactitudes!

It’s very humiliating to read a story to a 3 year old and have him correct your pronunciation!

I’ve finished my Great Painters and started an evening course at the university called The Problems of Art. Quite different approach by younger man of more conservative type – promises to be interesting but I find it a bind having to drive into town after dinner.

This evening we were practising using the WAIS [Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)] – not seriously enough on my part I’m afraid. It’s terrible in that lab (Psych) cos I’m always laughing or late or both. I sit with the wrong people. Next week I’m going to be serious because the woman who takes us must be getting fed up with me.

For Human Learning we have to train a rat to bar press. Our rat was perfectly friendly at first but the noise the water machine made scared him no end and he huddled in a corner for an hour and a half despite all sorts of soothing noises, stroking etc. etc. Poor little thing – it makes you feel so mean – a jolly nuisance from our point of view tho’!

The rat

She is staying with us until Friday. Most of the morning we have been tidying up my vegetable patch – and she knows the names of all the weeds in Latin, it seems, having taken an agricultural degree at Reading, around the end of the war – the first one.

I am relieved to learn from today’s letter that your acrobatics and singing class are separate classes, I thought you were outdoing the Black & White Minstrels; I was completely disillusioned when I found they didn’t actually do both at the same time! Incidentally, how did they manage when they gave live performances? I felt quite exhausted at the thought of going on to Scottish dancing after acrobatics, you must be bonkers! From my vast size it would be just the thing for me. But nearer to hand, perhaps helping X dig up the concrete drains each side of the drive with a pickaxe would be more constructive!

So one day was spent acquiring comprehensive but simple literature from the library and visiting the climatologist at the meteorology office – I hope by a combination of sagacious nodding and a show of vagueness I managed to disguise the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea what was the function of a net pyrradiometer or couldn’t consistently distinguish between a wet bulb thermometer and an isobar! The other day was spent plumbing the depths of the mines department to try and find out if the department had to obtain a mining licence in order to prevent anyone else collaring a hunk of oil we want to quarry for processing as a cement substitute.

Hobbies 5

The sand-yacht

X is now embarking upon making a sort of sand-yacht using 3 secondhand skateboards for wheels and two broomsticks for a mast – said like that it rather sounds as if he’ll look like a cross between a witch and Tarzan in full flight!

I’m enjoying the Scottish dancing though at present feel much more inept than on the first night! The more you realise that you’re doing things wrongly, the more discouraging it is! However, we have about half an hour actual lesson for the new ones now so with any luck things may improve. Unfortunately I’ve found so far that one can do brilliant skip changes, setting reels etc. when practising but go completely to pieces when you have work out where to go as well!

Having bought a half gallon of resin at vast cost I tried to encapsulate my pumice head as no one has found a way to preserve pumice. What to do it in was the first difficulty, then I decided the best thing we had to hand was a sherry flagon. I got it standing on its neck end straight, and filled it to the shoulder with resin. (Having first tied pieces of string soaked in petrol round the base, set it alight and then plunged into cold water, and broke it off – a little alarming!) When dry I waxed this and the rest of the flagon, suspended the head upsidedown inside and started pouring the catalysed resin down the side; it said you shouldn’t pour more than quarter of a inch at once as the heat builds up and could crack it. I began very carefully, keeping the next lot of resin on ice to slow down gelling, but the afternoon drew on and I got more and more reckless until the thing gave off enormous heat – and yes, they were right, it cracked all over! and bang went my head and about $8 worth of resin! The little paper weight I tried with seed heads inbetween times worked like a dream, of course.

Our recorder group seems to be falling to pieces which is sad… Of course there was also X, who was so earnest, and used to organise little concerts for us with various groups of captive audience like pensioners which we hated – but she gave us up a couple of years ago now, and I can’t say that we were sorry, ingrates that we are! Our trouble is that none of us find time to practise regularly, so we never get any better, which must be very dull for real musicians.

Last Friday we all set off for X for our jolly bridge tournament; at present we’re saying never again. We excelled ourselves by coming bottom, very shaming. It was totally exhausting. We played from 1.30 on Saturday to 5.30 p.m., off to find our dinner, back at 7.30 and play until nearly 11 p.m. Back at 9.30 a.m. Sunday and play until 1 p.m. Then a light meal laid on by their super club (cost quarter of a million) whilst we waited for the results. (Wish we hadn’t!) Half way through Sunday morning I was so tired I could hardly follow suit yet alone be cunning.

It’s really very maddening, X is trying watercolour landscapes too, and he’s really so much better than I am, without really trying! … [Next day] When we got back after a cuppa we went back to finish yesterday’s painting; of course all colours had changed; X’s was super anyway and mine is a mess, bah! I beat him two days running at Scrabble tho’!

I do find dressmaking so much more relaxing than painting etc. as I don’t have to think so much, but now I really have no more excuses and must be creative or just admit I haven’t got what it takes, which I have a sneaking suspicion is the case!

It really does surprise me how many of my acquaintance here appear to spend all their time playing golf, bowls or croquet by day, and bridge by night. Maybe they do do all sorts of useful things in between – and come to think of it I suppose it’s not really any more constructive to spend my time growing vegetables to eat and cutting up wood to burn.

In between times I’ve bought a fibreglass boat! 9’3” long – it’s still in the shop while I chase a trailer which I hope to have by Friday. It looks a sweetie and is (provisionally) to be called Giggle.

X is having a nasty time trying to work out the bridge scores from last night, someone must have made a wrong move and some couples played the same hand 3 times without noticing it! We had a phantom twice and others didn’t have one at all, what the computer will make of the results I hate to think!

I’ve bought 32 ounces of natural wool to make X another Aran jacket, she’s worn hers almost nonstop for 5 years, and it’s beginning to look like it, I’ve lost all my lovely nails I grew on our holiday, usually not having something to do with my hands in the evening, so I hope this will be therapeutic as well as cover X. [The nails haven’t got mislaid but nibbled off…]

Pets 2

She really is a most surprising and individual dog – much too friendly, normally, as a guard dog though occasionally she produces menacing barks and growls. Every now and then she suddenly goes haywire and rushes about, often going off about fifty yards and then coming charging back straight at you. If she actually hit one at top speed she would certainly knock one over and probably break your leg as well, as she is about 10 inches across the chest and weighs 3.5 stone. Other times she dances around off all four paws at once and she has a remarkable heavy breathing act. But in another mood nothing will do but to snuggle up and lay her head on whatever portion of ones anatomy is available – however uncomfortable that leaves the rest of her!

Dancing off all four paws

There is a dog of ancient vintage, which I don’t think will last long but it doesn’t worry me as much as the thing the previous girl brought. It was a mad mongrel that barked and jumped up at everybody. So it was not with any sorrow that I said goodbye to that particular animal!

About two weeks ago she went up the hill with X and started racing down and rolled over dead – heart attack. Too sad – we miss her and in fact chose the place we’re going to to be near walking country. However, no doubt we’ll be more tempted to walk if it doesn’t mean going the same way always or take the car. We’ll wait and see how we feel when we’re settled before thinking of another.

Our beautiful Irish setter ran away one day and never came back. Either someone stole her, or she may have been shot for running deer. Either is equally possible. It hurt a lot to lose her, even though setters traditionally have a roaming tendency, and she had slipped off enough times for us to know that one day it would be for good.

We had to let the old dog be put to sleep and we got a 4 year old boxer, quite small, from animal welfare. It has been an exhausting 3 days as we have no gate and 400 metres of only barbed wire fence. But she is settling down and stays close to us. We can shut her in the little back yard when we both go out – only for church mostly.

Last year I entered a competition to name one of Henny Penny’s little chicks. I was lucky enough to win one. Eggburt was delivered three weeks ago.

Silver linings

X and I played together at the Bridge Club (my appointed partner most timely lost a relative-by-marriage at an advanced age and just the right moment) and came second, which pleased us greatly.

I realised that my brand new small case had 2 holes – because of the weight of my shopping it had dragged on the ground, so presto I hitched a lift for the rest of the way – very thankful to my Guardian Angel!

Today they have gone back to eat the remains of the feast, except that X can’t eat much having been in hospital last week; her colon is inflamed and must be on a diet before they operate! She is none too pleased, but she has lost 3 pounds in 2 days, and was glad to tell me.

I’ve had 3 happenings. I thought I’d lost my great great uncle’s ring and spent a morning hunting for it – then was just going to go out when I thought I’d better ask our neighbour as we’d had tea with them and there it was under the couch I was sitting on. Joy. Then X collecting luggage and bits for our jaunt put his hand in the top of the linen-cum-everything cupboard and found the pair of glasses I’d lost some six months ago AND I had a phone call to say I’d won the raffle of an Aran knit cardigan.

We were doing some rush shopping and got back just as the traffic cop had ordered a tow away – he rushed to his bike and managed to cancel it just in time – so her ticket was $20 instead of $40 – she played the organ at a funeral the next day, she said it would just pay it!

I’ve got flu or something at the moment. About half the school is down with it so I suppose I would hardly miss getting it. It’s a blessing in disguise really cos they’ve had to cancel house drama which was going hopelessly anyway. I was going to be a headmaster in my play but I was terrible at it. That just leaves us with a musical evening, a bio/geog trip and market day – all of which I’ll probably miss (hopefully) at this rate.

The agent’s visit occasioned a certain amount of activity such as doing a clearance in the garage – which for the moment is startling (at least to me) in its orderliness!

I heard from X last week. She remarked that although it was easier to read my typing and I got more on the page, she felt she’d lost the spirit of adventure when reading my letters!

Handwriting v. type

%d bloggers like this: