Purchases 2

[Letter dated 1944] I understand that when I was away unwell a fortnight ago you kindly called and discussed with a colleague of mine a Service of silver Spoons and Forks, and I am writing to let you know that I have been keeping this Old English Service until I heard from you on the matter. As you know, they are at present engraved with a Crest but which of course can be satisfactorily removed and the Service restored to a practically new condition. The Service comprises:

  • 12 Table Forks
  • 6 Table Spoons
  • 12 Teaspoons
  • 6 Coffee Spoons
  • 12 Dessert Forks
  • 12 Dessert Spoons
  • 4 Sauce Ladles
  • 1 Chutney Spoon
  • 1 Pickle Fork.
    • (Total weight 102 oz) and the price is £70.

I shall be glad to hear from you at your convenience. I am, Madam, Your obedient servant, [signed]

The idea of 4 pairs of shoes being ‘restrained’ and ‘some useful black skirts’ made me think I must rethink my buying efforts before it’s too late to enjoy it!

Black skirts and shoes

‘This is a file for you to practice with.Move the cursor down a few lines and start typing – remember that WordStar always has help available – just press F1 whenever you need assistance.’

These are the very first words I have attempted to write with my new computer, and its word processing programme. My eye was taken by a Commodore with a large (40Mb) memory which was on special but I have resisted it and have ordered an Amstrad with a mono screen, and a 30Mb hard disk drive. I can’t tell you with what trepidation I am writing, as with each stage of using the thing! I have actually had it since last Friday, but there have been certain interruptions, so that all I have done so far is work through the first three lessons of the Amstrad tutorial disk and read the (very much clearer) book with the word processing disks.

X boldly asked for a cash discount as it would cost the shop 5% if we paid by card (which I couldn’t in fact do without multiplying the limit on my card by ten) and he agreed straight away, which I hadn’t really expected.

I bought some heavenly wide striped wool to make skirts for the girls with plain thin silk beautifully matched for shirts, stuff for 3 caftans for me +++ – I know I’m mad and can’t think when I’ll make them all up.

I fell for a $175 4 piece suit. It was reduced to $129 and fitted beautifully, except the trews were 3″ too long. I explained to the buyer I’d really only wanted a cardigan, and could he reduce it any more, and in the end he brought it down to $120 and told me quite good humouredly I was a hard bargainer!

X phoned t’other day to say there was a wonderful sale at a furnishing material shop that was closing down – I didn’t want anything but thought it churlish not to even look – silly me. I bought 46 1/2 yards of material + 10 yds curtaining for Y and 2 made up curtains for her.

Pre-digital

I have bought myself a second-hand enlarger (b&w) so that I can do my own printing at home… It isn’t too hard to make a darkroom out of the kitchen after dark. One project that I am doing at the moment is rephotographing some family photos. Some are quite old and rather damaged or faded, however they are coming out not too badly. I did an album for my father from them for his birthday this year. He was 80… He was thrilled with it, after being a bit upset, as I knew he would be. He loves looking at all the photograph albums at home, but lots of the photos are very small. I just picked a selection and made them a lot bigger and easier to see for fading eyesight.

Today I received a new toy which I’ve never had before – a cheque book. I’ve practised writing out two cheques, and now there’s hardly anything left in it. Absolutely fatal, but I’m tired of running around during lunch hours paying all the bills. Much simpler to pop them in the post.

My calculator was even cleverer than just solar, it worked under electric light too, but unfortunately the brightness in our sitting room was beyond it unless I stood up to get the direct flow, not how I enjoy my evenings! However my new one I exchanged for it has a battery reputed to last 1500 hours, and turn itself off 7 minutes after use if you forget. I don’t think I’ll find it too expensive to run!

I hoped to find a copy of the handbook for my model at the motor cycle shop which deals in Yamahas – but no luck. He sold the only bike of that model which he had in stock last week. I was going to borrow it and copy the important bits at the library. If you know a good place in London where you might get me a handbook, Yamaha RX 125 two-stroke, 1979, do get me one and post it and I will repay you.

I collate and staple some 6000 diaries – everyone lends a hand when they’re free but it’s pretty boring. I remarked to the head of the department he’d do better to get a machine and he quite seriously said it was much more expensive and would cost 4c a sheet. As I reckon I average 150 6-page diaries an hour I can see his point but it’s not v. good for my morale! ( I wouldn’t mind being bored for $9 an hour as against about $1.85.) However I’ve been quite firm I couldn’t stand more than one day a week on that lark so they can take it or leave it. The government statistics department pay v. well – but you have to spend about an hour with each family asking the most personal financial questions – I’d be v. uppitty if anyone asked me so am not prepared to be told what myself!

collating by hand

Property – Values / repairs/ layout 2

I could have wept over you plodding round London, wet and tired and no home – so glad you eventually got fixed up and hope it proves a success. We’re continuing our hunt – we went to see the one we liked so much (altho’ they were asking twice what the valuer thought it was worth) to see if it was worth pushing out the boat for. Glad we did – it had shrunk no end since we saw it and was really quite impractical. We were amused by the estate agent – who’s nice – he picked a book from their shelves and was reading it whilst we went round. He beckoned us silently to go and read the title of the book – ‘How to get rich quick on Real Estate’!!! If we hadn’t already decided against it that would have fixed it!

Had a letter from X – their old house has been turned into a cul de sac with 6 houses in it – they must have made a bomb over it.

the new cul de sac

A Dutch couple turned up. They were looking for peace and quiet and apparently prepared (if it was not all big talk) to buy 2000 acres to achieve it. The sight of the neighbour’s dilapidated shed across the fields seemed to be enough to put the man off, so it was difficult to see why they kept us waiting twenty minutes for our lunch while we showed them round the house and they chatted! ‘Too small,’ they said eventually.

A brief line to tell you we SOLD yesterday for MONEY. The man offered $10,000 less than asked and said it was no use coming back to him with another offer as that was it and he’d look elsewhere if we weren’t satisfied. One of the partners went out and pushed him up by $5,000 so we ended up in the middle of top and bottom valuations. … The stinker of a buyer added to the agreement ‘sheep and garden seat’. That seemed a fairly nit-picking attempt at face-saving. As he didn’t mention how many sheep we’re selling the lambs and getting 2 old ones shot.

We called on the farmer the other side of the river and I started by apologising that I proposed to go on trespassing across a corner of his field as my predecessors had done. (They apparently made the drive a nice straight way which was his, instead of through a duck pond and then with a dogleg turn which was how it should have gone by the map.) However he didn’t seem v. worried which was good.

I’ll go to help them move. Retirement House Number 4! It’s getting to be a hobby/habit!

We went over to look at a factory where they make houses in ‘modular’ bits – bringing them and nailing the whole thing together rather like Lego in a single day! That was quite intriguing and seemed cheaper than a solid wood house.

X told her it went for £42,000 – what must ours be worth [sold for about £11,000 only 2 years before] – about 3 times as much land. The houses like we bought after the war for £2,600 are selling for £22,000. Everything’s gone mad.

I got home at 6.40 in gathering dusk to find no electricity in the house, and no candles either, apart from a couple of Christmassy ones X had managed to borrow next door. The builders have actually started this week and had apparently been up in the roof just before it went off about 5 so I was deeply suspicious! Rang him up and it seems all he had been doing was looking which way the ceiling joists ran and he was most obliging and arrived with a tame electrician a few minutes later but all he could do was to confirm that it was the elec co’s fuse on the pole which had blown so then there was another long wait. Eventually the van arrived at about 9.45 and all was sweetness and light within 3 minutes once more.

The carpentry work is practically finished downstairs but heaven knows when it will be habitable. The electrician and plumber still have to return, and the plasterer is only promised for the end of next week. But the major snag is the floor which is apparently so rough and wavy that the flooring expert practically refuses to do anything. In the end we shall either have to do it in wood after all which will reduce the headroom even more or else I reckon we’ll have to stick down polystyrene ceiling tiles and then cover it with vinyl and carpet and get used to sinking in until we have trodden it down!…[and the solution later] Eventually after long discussions what they did was to put down dozens of little wooden blocks of assorted size and varying thickness getting them roughly level – bed them into strips of plaster, and then lay sheets of a compressed wood chip board about 8 ft by 4, which ought not rock or sag even if it is not all that well supported in places. They nailed it right through into the concrete underneath – which was pretty thin and has probably broken up in the process, but what the eye doesn’t see we hope the heart will not grieve over!

Bureaucracy

We seemed to do all the same business, as usual (some of these decisions have been on the books for 3 years!), the Treasurer and the manager had their all too common argument, the Treasurer resigned and then unresigned – ho hum!

She doesn’t get on with her boss… The latest thing was that her 2nd band girls were not to be allowed work merit points for good marks in their test because they’d beaten the 1st band girls, who are meant to be brighter. ‘It would make a nonsense of the banding system.’

The forms get more and more complicated every year it seems, as they introduce more and more computers. And I heard of a friend had an amended return for this year which the computer had worked out. He rang up to say he couldn’t understand it and how had he got his figures wrong – and the girl at the other end eventually admitted that it was the computer that was wrong.

But it seems they propose to change the rates of the old surtax to collect extra money from us! The wriggles of the Social Welfare minister, a fat lady called X, to avoid admitting she made a mistake and avoid apologising for it have to be seen to be believed. Quite odorous.

The wriggling bureaucrat

He spent a week checking the safety of two tunnels that are being built. He found that they weren’t safe. He’d naturally expected them to be re-designed to make them safe. But you’ll never believe what he was told – they just wanted to know for their records – in case something happens! I just pray nothing does!!

Change

I note you are going to X for a lunch – did you know I spent most of my childhood there? It was a lovely, sleepy little place in those days, but when I last went back, it had become all touristy and horrible – and, apart from the fact that both my parents are buried there, and I still have friends there, I wouldn’t mind if I never saw the place again – it has changed beyond all recognition! I’ve always said that one can’t go back in life, only forwards, but I sometimes wonder if I’m even doing that!

It is a big gap and suddenly one realises – at least my sister and I did – that with both our parents gone horror of horrors we are now the ‘older generation’!!

One person from our section resigned recently, and that is allowed to be filled, but it has to be by someone redeployed from another area. This is a bit of a worry, as I expect we’ll get someone who someone else is pleased to see go.

getting rid

Am I nuts? I’ve really stopped being able to see any more whether this really is what I’ve wanted for years or I’m off my rocker. Maybe I’ll be able to think more clearly at my own place.

I asked after the ‘little boy’ born whilst we were there only to find he’d topped 6 foot and had finished a philosophy degree but sadly like so many of them had got a dead end job.

To begin with, I called it ‘Aphorisms and Illustrations’ but on the whole that seems bit pretentious, so it is now called ‘Pointers and Pictures’!

I could have wept over your would-be purchaser opting out – I hope it means there’s a better offer coming your way – any offer coming our way would be something, but so far we’re just 1,200 down the drain in advertising. What is particularly maddening is the first estate agent has a man WITH MONEY looking for something like this, but we’re tied for a month to the auctioneers. He poohpoohed the idea of sharing the commission in spite of my suggestion that ‘half a loaf was better than no bread’ – stiff necked, I call it.

Early in the morning and after 5 p.m. it’s getting nippy. Tho’ many plants have got really muddled up and are flowering for the second time, it’s been a mad season, no really settled weather. I’ve worn a summer dress about 4 times, and my new white sandals the same, and now out must come the old drearies.

Church/religion (2)

I do still play Bridge on Monday mornings, so I am mixing with some non-church folk. Not getting far yet with them on the spiritual side – but I chip away at it. And next week I start ‘wife sitting’ with a woman in our church who does not dare stay alone when her husband is away. (It is not really a problem since my dog had cancer and I had to have her put down recently.)

Met also one of his daughters who has 6 boys (very Catholic family); we sang grace at the table.

He built his own house and was very proud of it – with first class materials, solid enough to last many centuries. I can’t compete with that, but I can go to church and pray, as he suggested also!

I found the article and subsequent letters about the man with the gift of tongues very interesting. The magazine showed a nice balance between supportive and sceptical letter! It all accorded very well with such experience as I have had. I must confess that I have always been a bit sceptical about the gift of interpretation of tongues, and have regarded the gift itself as much more for encouraging and bringing joy to the person who has it than for the enlightenment of other people. I have occasionally been at meetings where someone has spoken in tongues and someone else has interpreted – but have been disappointed by the rather platitudinous nature of the interpretation, which did not seem worthy of the Holy Spirit (though maybe the Spirit did not think we were ready to accept anything more startling?)

I have just joined a new Church – OXYGEN LIFE! Very lively, described as a New Testament Church, bursting with young families with children. I think I am the only person over 70! No church doctrine to worry about – only the Bible.

We had lunch and then a video of the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury – or at least of bits of it: about 40 minutes worth out of a couple of hours. The atmosphere was not altogether improved by the tape being put into fast forward at intervals, to speed up some of the interminable processions with which the affair started, which invariably caused the clergy widows to burst out laughing.

fw 005
the clergy are not amused!

X is on a course with Mahikari – which she has gone overboard about. I fear for her a little and am in the middle of a huge book about it, but have warned her if money is involved be suspicious, there have been so many rip offs with various so called Divine Calls.

It was a stupid meeting, really. We had been asked by the powers that be in the diocese to examine the problem of ‘Sexual Harassment’ – about which I found I had nothing to say, except that it appeared to be another name for temptation which we have known for a long long time. So producing ‘Guide lines’ (not for it, but to counter it) seemed rather a waste of time.

We have had a jolly two days tidying up our wills and tomorrow we’re going to see the funeral people and choose what we’ll have and I hope pay for it – and then we can get on living!!!

Nuisances of life 3

I think I told you about the huge rat that walked across our skylight when I had an elevenses party. Well, we didn’t catch that but a while ago I saw another smaller one and managed to get X to see it before it scurried off. We set a trap in the skylight and caught two the same size but now they seem to have taken the hint.

exploring rat

The second week of the holiday was somewhat marred by having a wisdom tooth out. It wasn’t too bad but my face swelled more than expected so I looked like an advanced stage of mumps on one side for a while. It’s almost down again now – I can still feel where he pulled my jaw about though.

Whilst I remember, did you ever – Maddening – I can’t remember – something caught my attention and can’t finish that fascinating question!!!

Only four lambs – 50% lambing rate is most shaming! Next year if I still have them I’ll have to find another ram I think. [But later] We now have adorable twin black lambs from a ewe we didn’t think was going to lamb, plus a white one, and one twin that survived, and another is imminent. They make their bed in the oddest way by pawing the ground and when nice and muddy or clear of grass sit in it.

I found my dahlias were at last showing few shoots, so spent a whole afternoon sorting them out into 3 boxes, one that looked too shrivelled to come to life again, another that might, given time, and the third that all had shoots and were ready to plant. I’d promised X some of them and intended sharing the third box, but left the job in the middle and didn’t come back to it for 2 days when I was taking the typewriter to her as she had asked to borrow it, so picked up the box outside the back door and went – yes, you’ve guessed, it was the one with all the good ones in it. I was ridiculously miserable for two days – I’ve enjoyed them so much the last two seasons, I hope she does this season!

I fear I haven’t done very much of the jigsaw, there seem so many things mounting up in the garden and bridge and just living takes a long time!

I’ve been feeling very sorry for myself as the 2nd double tooth broke in half last week, the first one was on the bottom jaw so didn’t show but this one was on the top beside a previous gap. The dentist was away but saw me promptly the day he came back, and said he couldn’t do anything about it as it was too soft, so I’d have to have it out soon. I asked, ‘Like now?’ and he said if he gave me a local whilst he saw the next person just slowly coming up the drive, he’d do it when she left.

My bank statement came and I took ages trying to balance it – finished $100 up on the bank – must be wrong! I think it was last time X did them for me and after 2 days still couldn’t balance it that he said he thought I should die before him. I said I didn’t want to be hurried up I had lots of things I wanted to do!

House repairs & housekeeping

I was delighted to hear that your dry rot (caused by wetness) was really only wet rot (caused by intermittent dryness as well as wetness) – because the former really is bad news whereas wet rot, as I understand it, is not ‘malignant’, and can be cured reasonably easily provided they can find the source of the wet.

I have now engaged with X to come and build us a new fence along the bottom boundary, which will involve removal of the present compost enclosure. … So I must pull down the remains of the aviary, and remove most of the plants from that border for safekeeping until he has finished. Not, of course, that he is likely to start when he says – he never manages that – but just in case he’s nearly on time, we must be ready.

I’m glad the wood worm treatment is over, though perhaps even now not seeming quite a thing of the past. I was surprised they demanded as long as six weeks before you could cover it – but let’s hope that by then you will have been able to get the other jobs done which are essential… I am enclosing a bank draft as our contribution to getting your flat as you would like it. All these little men must be costing you a lot of money.

all these little men

Our building is all go now. The frame is up and the roof and weatherboards go on next week. The concrete block wall would probably withstand an explosion – it’s SOLID. We’re managing to afford a new kitchen while we’re about it… We’ll have a new wall oven and gas hob (our stove’s being decidedly temperamental – I think the thermostat’s broken!) We also have to have a new water heater… All this fits into the amount we’ve borrowed – on paper at least!

We’ve also bought an extractor fan for the stove hood. It’s not as strong as previous ones we’ve had and makes a bit of noise, but it does seem to get rid of the smells and steam, and we don’t need to have it on when we’re in there.

We have been having much attention given to our telephone. It went out of action a few weeks ago and we complained – and had a van here all day with a pleasant young man who seemed thoroughly confused at our wiring system (between our three phones and one outside bell) and eventually rigged a temporary wire over the top of the house as part of trying to reduce the buzzing in our ears. It didn’t do much for us. Then last week two men in a van turned up, and again stayed most of the day, plus a supervisor in a car for half an hour, and another van. They traced the whole thing, and went round muttering things like ‘the yellow is crossed with the blue’ and ‘there’s a groundswell on the red’ – and gave us another new line under the house instead of the one over the roof. They worked very hard even though it was raining most of the day – and eventually went away triumphant.

The friendly plumber came and estimated for a new basin. I inherited a cracked one where the old girl’s husband had had a seizure or something and dropped a heavy bottle from a short height into the basin. The nice plumber said cheerfully ‘Claim on insurance – they aren’t to know you didn’t do it’ which seems sensible but immoral! The roof man suggested the same so I see I have been missing out all these years on something everybody else does – no wonder the rates per year are so high now.

X has replaced the supply of drinking water we keep, last done 3 years ago, and I found my dried milk to be the same 3 years out of date.

He helped do a massive clear-up in the front garden and we packed the green bin to overflowing. I also collected oddments I wanted to get rid of to put outside the gate and almost all were taken – it’s a good idea: you’re invited to help yourself to anything you’d like and a van collects the rest. ‘They’ call it trash.

Our TV which we’d been saying was so good suddenly packed up and our nice repairman said a new ??? [part] would cost over $100. So we decided to do it now before the old one cost any more. That took all the morning – I’d phoned round getting prices so was able to knock them down $60 – X just can’t do it – I have no qualms – they obviously won’t lose on the deal.

I have been lucky through the coldest nights (so far) and haven’t frozen up – apart from one outlet from the bath which was my own fault as I knew the taps dripped and I forgot to jam the plug in securely after my bath. Fortunately I was able to face the damned snow and unstoppered it with a boiling kettle and a little wangling of the icicle that had formed (despite the protective bag of bracken put over the drain which was supposed to prevent the frost getting through!)

Accounting

We seem to have the budget knocked into presentable form, which is not much short of a miracle!… We seem to have staved off one daft idea – presenting the under-resourced budget with a ‘faith gap’ i.e. a deficit which would be made up by putting the guilties on X to contribute a bit more. Certain items in the budget would not be spent until extra funds were forthcoming. It sounded an accountant’s nightmare.

faith gap

 

… as part of my campaign to cut down my super-annuitants’ surcharge, I wrote off to a deer farm which was advertising for capitalists who would like to make nice tax losses while the place was developed; but it involved putting about $13,000 into the place as a minimum, over the next five years, and I decided that was too large and longterm for me.

Clothes

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

play suit material

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

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

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