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!]

Taking advantage

Many thanks indeed for your letter and all that most useful information – I’m now hoping I didn’t give a fortune away when I gave [away] D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Last Poems’ 1st Edition…a rather unworthy recipient and I don’t suppose I shall ever hear from him again. He was so enthusiastic that I thought perhaps he should have it! I’m now going to order the Guide to 1st Editions before I do any more…

I think your friend should get quite a bit for D.H. Lawrence if in good condition [Oh dear!], also for Katherine Mansfield, especially the Hogarth editions… Dust wrappers are important, if the books were originally published with them.

Life has been a bit thwarting here. I was heavily conned by a clever salesman who came when I was sleepy after lunch and not thinking. He managed to make me think he came from the Council and was offering to add to the loft insulation on a grant for the poor and aged… I said I would have it done. Why I didn’t ask the local Council whether they were reliable or not I don’t know, but there is still time as needless to say they gave me a day when they were in the area and I stayed in on tenterhooks from 9 to 5 and not a peep out of them. Was I mad? Yes.

But, as you can imagine, X [the tutor] enjoyed the holiday and did some painting himself but the tutoring was virtually Nil – I can hear you say I told you! We all complained finally.

But these estate agents! There was one X had grave doubts about buying anything from on the grounds that he wore elastic-sided shoes – and when we met him I saw what she meant. He ought really to have been selling the sleazier sort of secondhand cars. The one who was dealing with the house she is angling for seemed a very pleasant and apparently honest man, and yet he swore blind that the electric wiring had been renewed – which I found it impossible to believe, because there was not a new switch or plug in the house.

Having the terminal at home means that his boss rings him up at weekends or even when he’s on holiday to ask him to sort out various problems! … The next day, I unplugged the phone… Now I just take messages but don’t pass them on if it’s out of office hours! … One of the big problems of the recession is that people who have jobs are so scared of losing them they work longer and longer hours just to hold on to them, and employers like to take advantage of this!

a wife is determined to stop business interference in home time
pulling the plug

 

Significant other

He’s very nice (well, obviously I would think so). He’s very outgoing and has a good sense of humour and is a very caring sort of person too. He gets really involved in what he’s doing and will try his hand at most things. If he’s playing a game he’s quite competitive.

…she was never an amicable woman and made his life a misery and I do not know why he stayed with her at all.

Marriage troubles were pending I knew; finally I slept in the flat for 6 months and threatened my husband ‘we see a counsellor, or move out!!’ Anyhow we have had a breakthrough, although at present I wait for friends to arrive as he won’t see the counsellor any more.

 

he might still be smoking but he's not fat - yet
comparing negatives

I found he had cigarette stubs by his bed again. She says she’d rather he smoked than get fat.

 

We set off after the first night of Club Pairs which I’m playing with a v. pleasant woman this year as X and I seem to be out of step bridge-wise. I think we both do too many psychic bids as we know the other one won’t mind!

X had his hair cut and looked much more presentable – said he was getting a complex as everyone was commenting! It was not I might say at his family’s behest but his girlfriend’s – he sounded quite worried at how obedient he was being!

She is into a great romance with a nice bearded young man who runs a very large property for his father (who is horrid) and will no doubt inherit eventually. Do you think I am very mercenary? But I do like to think of my little darlings being in a stable financial situation and not having to fret over electric bills etc. Of course it may come to nothing!

Doctors

My doctor is very aggrieved that I was so upset by his phoning late with his news of my blood test, and mumbles he won’t tell me anything in future if I get so worried about it. He insists now that about 10% of the people locally would very likely have it and I could have gone for years without knowing if I hadn’t had a blood test and anyway he didn’t diagnose it, it’s in my notes from five years ago, but the results showed it was getting worse this test.

I am absolutely delighted with ‘obsessional slowness’ and ‘pathological procrastination’ as the words fit a number of everybody’s symptoms. What will they think of next as a sensible diagnosis to offer a grown man?

A rattle in his chest

They have been spending the day with us, which was lovely. The baby had a rotten ‘rattle’ and ear trouble. They’d been in to see the doctor on the way here. I think it’s fortunate he and his wife are to be the godparents – doctors’ fees have gone up per visit! Part of the new budget. And prescriptions. Already two people have died because they couldn’t afford a weekend visit to the doctor. In fact ‘they’ now say this should never happen – but the poor don’t know.

My doctor said if it didn’t clear up then I’d better take a self-destruct pill, I wasn’t feeling well enough to think it funny, it’d lasted six months. Incidentally I did change my doctor and now go to the woman, who seems very understanding, but has the slightly chilling habit of not saying anything so you’re inclined to say more than you intended!

Jobs

I’ve pretty much decided to give up on teaching for a career. I like teaching, but I’m not very good at the crowd-control side of the job.

I’ve been doing a month’s relieving 45 minutes drive away. It went OK I suppose but it was a bit hairy in parts – the last 4 weeks of a 15-week term is not an idea time to take over an undisciplined class! However. It’s a shame for the kids having 3 teachers in a year actually – especially as there’s not much else that’s stable at home for many of them around the school area.

engineer au pair

 

This change of plan meant X had to get her au pair a little earlier than expected and a lady from Turkey arrived just a few weeks ago. She has just finished University and is now an Industrial Engineer. Her English is limited but, being a very clever lady, is improving every day. She hopes to stay here for a year whilst her fiance is doing   his National Service.

 

X continues to be a complete mystery to me. Programmers really are on a different planet from the rest of us humans but, nevertheless, he is successful and enjoys what he does. No parent can ask more than that!

I’m supposed to find which diseases the butterfly caterpillars (which we export as pupae to live butterfly displays in UK and USA) die of and prevent them…

I am in a bit of a quandary at work. My boss is not managing as coherently (I can’t think how else to phrase it) as he was. In fact, I think he has got steadily worse over the last two years. During the last couple of weeks he has behaved quite irrationally on occasion. As there is no one much to observe this who can advise him to take all of that leave which is owing to him, I think I may have to take a rather drastic step and go and talk to someone about it. I don’t want him to have a breakdown. I feel like a tattletale.

Your new regime sounds ‘challenging’ if very hard work and I hope it won’t wear you out, particularly with a bossy boss. How I loathe the type who send peremptory notes and I do hope I wasn’t like that in the days when I ran a department! To [our family], who are always right, it comes hard doesn’t it?

Employment here is very bad, except if one has specific qualifications and experience e.g. mining engineer, accountant and top-level managerial experience. I have an interview for a job next week. The job is assistant archivist. I don’t know why they are even interviewing me, but perhaps there weren’t many real archivists who applied.

I muddle along as best I can. It’s a real case of ‘do what you can where you are with what you’ve got’!

It seems that as usual my out-of-date fantasy about having very little work in August and doing things like going home early and tidying the desk drawers, is indeed a fantasy, as I have to write the Annual Report by the end of August, complete with graphs and appendices etc., write various bids, re-vamp part of our education service, and finalise a whole range of service advice leaflets and programmes.

Your last letter relayed all the health problems you ended up with after the row with your boss. Wasn’t worth it, was it? I developed a back problem I think as a result of long hours and too much SITTING, SITTING, SITTING!!! Fortunately it came right on its own, or with the help of the change in jobs. I was so miserable in my work I think my mind was looking for ways to put an end to the stress if you know what I mean.