Clothes 2

Your dress for Christmas Day lunch seems to have been slightly touch and go. I seem to remember your aunt doing the same sort of thing for a dance sometimes, when we shared a flat and having to be either pinned or sewn into her dress because there wasn’t time to do the hooks and eyes or whatever archaic form or fastening was used in those days.

 

Drama over her veil at 2.15 nearly killed me. I got down from lunch at the hotel to find the bride and a pal waltzing round in jeans and anoraks – ‘I think I need a little advice about my veil’. I could have have murdered them all as the 3 bridesmaids were supposed to have sorted that the previous day! It was a lovely old lace veil and I had washed it and pinned it out a fortnight ago.

Bath-hat and pants

Here we were, at 2.15 with the bride in pants and a bath-hat, 3 bridesmaids fully dressed, X standing holding his half-hunter and due to leave the house at 2.30 (wedding at 3 and some 10 miles away). The dress was still in its plastic bag, but luckily such a good fit that one could zip her into it in a flash, but the veil gave us problems and I couldn’t get it right till we had put it on and off three times, because the pattern round the square was rather thick and looked as if she had a layer of porridge all over her face! To my horror as she came up the aisle her face was all ‘porridge’ again and she had caught the veil on the brim of Y’s vast pink hat as they came up the aisle (luckily this caused giggles rather than tears).

 

I came across the suit I was looking for. With some misgivings, it was $281 for 6 pieces. I took it on appro, praise be. When I tried it all on the next day, jacket, waistcoat, scarf (!), skirt, trews and blouse I decided the only two things that really fitted were the last two, and $140 each was too much.

It’s a long time since I saw X and I suppose the most memorable thing, apart from his face is the fantastic waistcoats that he and a friend of his were wearing when I first met him (must be about 1937!) There was some exploit or story of it involving a goat, too, but just what has now escaped me.

Travel hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crash Tally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghosts / supernatural

At last I’ve collected and unpacked the boxes of stuff you sorted out from [her house]. When I opened the lid of the long box with the dowsing stuff in it, it was such a strange and happy feeling, as though she came out of the box!

I’ve been thinking of you so much – and I was when you had your heart/eye upset – it must have come on the waves.

I started on the clay head and after 3 days it was beginning to take a likeness; I covered it with wet cloths each night and 2 days ago when I took them off – lo and behold the whole face had fallen off. I’ve given up and written to Dame X telling her what had happened and decided I needed her to give it her blessing before starting – so now I wait and shall see. She’s 98. [And in a later letter] I must start another head first – I’ve got some Raku clay and will try her once more – the last one was a flop too. She died just after I’d written asking her permission.

Her face fell

Did I tell you I had distinct feeling X [partner who recently died] came and asked if I’d found the little red leather prayer book he bought for my confirmation and then decided to buy a jersey instead. Altho’ he’s written in it, a lot of the pages are still stuck together and I never remember seeing it before – isn’t it odd? – it’s a delightful collection of old prayers.

X has threatened the workers on one estate with a touch of obia (very strong black magic worked by several women in most villages) if they light him any more cane fires and it has worked almost miraculously so far. They won’t tell definitely on the ones they know are doing it because of obia and most exacting punishments like having their houses burned down.

Holidays (3)

We’ve been talking about a little holiday for so long I got onto that and was all agog to go to Kakadu up in the Northern Territory of Oz – but the rather dubious promoter wanted the earth for the trip – all based on coach trips. We put it off and really I don’t think a coach trip would be any good for X – he’d sleep his way through Australia and hate being woken up to look at aboriginal paintings etc – and the flies!! So I turned to the Islands again but they look v. artificial apart from Norfolk where we’ve been – and where Y and Z went on their honeymoon. The coach tour was organised for hotels and meals – which appealed to me – tho’ usually I hate the vast amount they expect you to eat. Now X says let’s go to the Bay of Islands.

fw 001
asleep on the coach tour

 

X invited Y [younger relative] to stay so he went down on Sunday to come back the Tuesday week. By Saturday X was looking for an early flight! … I gather they went swimming & McDonald’s, hydrosliding & McDonald’s, ice skating & McDonald’s, movies & McDonald’s etc.

8 adults, 6 2/9 grandchildren, 4 cats and 10 bikes, trikes and scooters – a recipe for chaos? We all arrived at a very smart 4 bedroom house … Just at the moment I’m relaxing at the hot pool cafe while the 1st instalment of family change for the pool.

She said X had told her I’d always wanted to go to Georgia and she said it was very handy to Delhi and I must go and stay. I’ve just had a look at my globe and think it must have been Tibet we were talking about, the other place I want to go to! and yes Tibet looks possible.

We think we’ll try and organise ourselves ahead of time and go to Tasmania next year – all the crowd we used to go round with lived there at one time. I don’t think it’s as exciting as some places I’d choose but doesn’t move so fast!

We found a large stand of kauris and found them quite awesome – very odd such huge trunks and funny twiggy branches on top.

Friends just back from there [Cairo] found it dirty and rather frightening – apparently not changed from our time there, except the pyramids are crumbling so much you can’t climb them. I gathered from an article I saw recently ‘they’ had found some new burial places – aren’t we hypocrites? – once the bones are dry or crumbled it’s okay to dig them up – earlier it’s the most heinous crime of body snatching.

When I was young

I seem to remember that enormous hill on what used to be the A25 and particularly scaling it on one occasion in a very ancient (1922) car called an ABC which I had gone shares of £2 each on with a friend from X who came to stay and swat for our final exams – around 1935. This car had an unusual lubrication system by which oil dripped into the crankcase at the rate at which it was supposed to being burnt up or otherwise used. You could see it dripping in a little glass tube mounted on the dashboard. I don’t know whether it was a fault of the system or just of this car, but if you went up a long hill where the engine was pulling hard without any let up, it somehow built up a pressure in the crankcase and the oil started coming up the pipe instead of down until the glass tube was full of it. It was always nerve-racking wondering whether the top of the hill or a piston seizing up would come first. Once one got over the top and going downhill it all ran away into the engine again, to my great relief. It was a nice car, with a very good upright driving position, and a four speed gearbox which was well ahead of its time.

 No, I haven’t left my upbringing behind entirely, as regards the telephone. I often find myself waiting like Job for the bad news as I lift the receiver. And I’m not as good as X at just chatting even with free calls!

 I’m a bit worried she doesn’t intend having jabs – remembering the plague in X when everyone had to be inoculated against it. One bright local went for his buddies with suitable payment – which he didn’t last to use. It’s a v. nasty one and so is the plague.

the plague

 

I had a letter from X [niece’s husband] thanking me for the tails and dinner jacket. He took them to the tailors to be altered and they were a bit stuffy about it until they looked at it, then the tailor called all his staff to come and see the wonderful material and hand-finishing. It had ‘1937’ in the pocket [60 years previously].

Outings (2)

Went to the Arenes to see the tau which are very young bulls (3) let loose in the arena with about 6 to 8 young men dressed in white calling them to charge and they do. I was one metre away from one with a wall between us. Very frightening. Those young men had to run ever so quick and jump over a wall made of wood and then up near the spectators whilst someone is shouting which lad has won so many euros and this for quarter of an hour or more. To be seen once and that is it. DONE! NOT TO BE DONE AGAIN…

I went to a show with the 3rd age… it was simply marvellous and the discipline of leaving the arena was very organised; we didn’t have to wait too long as we were coach No. 9, but coach 38 must have found it a gruelling experience. It was quite tiring, although it was only 7 hours altogether. [!]

Your day with X sounded a lovely mix, though I don’t think I would have chosen Ibsen myself. My whole view of Russian literature is thoroughly coloured by a film (supposed at the time to be rather ‘risky’) which I saw about 1938 in a funny little cinema which then existed underneath the arches between Charing Cross and the river. It was an eternal triangle story, highly emotional, apparently, (though the subtitles hardly conveyed it) and punctuated with ‘Let’s have a cup of tea’ at all the high points, which came as regularly as the commercials in a TV drama. The trains at intervals didn’t help much, of course.

We went to see ‘the trots’. We only saw two races, and left before the last to avoid the traffic – but, as we were so late arriving, we got in for nothing and we were glad to have the experience! I picked but didn’t back the last horse in the first race we saw, and X picked and I backed for her the last but one in the other race – so we could have done better.

We did a visit to the Museum to see the Chinese Army – well, five of it, but quite well tricked out to make a reasonable exhibition with some big photos and various artifacts, and also a short slide show with commentary to begin with.

X had a lovely time last week going sailing. They’d had a week preparing for it, learning to rig the boats and so on and then went down to the estuary for 2 mornings. They were meant to get another half morning (for the ultimate fun of capsizing!) but it was flat calm and drizzling that day so they missed out.

no disasters

We left for home with a less-than-worthwhile diversion to a gallery to see some local artists’ work which someone had recommended. They all had scholarships to study three years or more abroad, and in no case did we think it worthwhile.

Sex appeal and influence

I think he is very swade [sic] by her influance [sic] as to what they do with their time but love seems to do that to people. [Spelling not a strong point!]

I wrote and told her my memories of her mother – I said how jealous we all were at her ability to attract every man that set eyes on her  …   (perhaps this had something to do with her refusing to write her memoir for the family saying there were so many things she’d done in her life that she wasn’t proud of and much regretted.) Actually I didn’t tell X her mother was not attractive to look at and very shy but had tremendous sex appeal! Infuriating for her sister as all her male friends were grabbed up…

We borrowed X’s ram yesterday. Y brought it for us. As he drove up all our ewes moved up to the gate and accorded him a great welcome which he reciprocated in a most definite manner before the truck had even driven off. Undoubtedly a randy ram. [One has to work out whether ‘he’ is the driver or the ram!!!]

I absolutely agree about X – she is a delight to talk to as one gets to know her and is so attractive. My dear, imagine meeting Y and her together and you can see how I sink into the ground!! And I am old and not feeling in the competitive age – it must be ghastly for plain Janes to meet a couple like that at a party, although both are really so nice but do look rather out of this world. Not that you have any reason for feeling like an elephant but they have some sort of mysterious poise that is defeating, and automatically makes the rest of us feel boringly dull.

plain Jane sinks into the ground

Time flies by

This year I have been prescribed my first set of reading glasses. I can read quite well without them, however at the end of the day I have to say the world did have very fuzzy edges. So, off I went, and was told that many people required glasses by middle age. How very cheerful. My eldest sister is 60 tomorrow. I have to say that the realisation of this made me pull up with a real jolt. I never thought it when she turned 50: even though I am somewhat younger, that didn’t sound anything like 60 sounds – sort of aged. So there, you have another 10 years of being young.

I am glad that you are doing new things.

new ventures

 

I have to say that as one gets older ones group of friends seems to dwindle, or you see them less often, or something. I too have felt the need to do something different and meet new people.

 

I must admit I also worry a little about how quickly the years seem to be going, the birthdays coming around much more quickly than they used to and the realisation that middle age is not so far off! However I always think of X who bought and started a sheep farm at the age of 50. She is in her mid-70s now, with the farm quite successful… How one avoids or copes with the bodily ills rather than those of the mind I don’t know.

…a year since we set off from Southampton. It is amazing that time can go so quickly. I keep thinking of what we were doing a year ago – getting up and having rolls on deck, having dinner with that dreadful man (remember the sardine appetiser?), charging up and down B deck.

I surprised everyone, and not least of all myself, by having a stroke in middle of June. At least I was sensible and was able to rest and recover lounging in the garden – I felt like the last of the Colonial Empire – laying back under the trees for hours on end. Don’t be shocked at being 50. I was 70 this year – whatever next!

X’s surviving brother, 89, came over from Spain in the summer and while here did two stints on television – one in ‘The Bill’ and one for a new series of ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench – great for his morale but stressful.

I thought I felt old when the children of friends started getting married, but it’s even worse when people my age announce that they’ve retired or are thinking of retiring. Where have the last fifty-two years gone to? X’s father died just two days after his eighty-seventh birthday. Although he’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, and his death was, in fact, a happy release from his torment, X and I were suddenly acutely aware of having moved up a generation, as it were. It’s not that we feel any older (or wiser!), just nearer to the other end of our lives.