Friends and neighbours 2

I have a terrible tenant next door – a raucous lady with 9 dogs who make a hideous din – and so does she.

I really felt completely out of touch with X when she visited, but 50 years ago is quite a time, and we’ve both had quite different lives.

 Last Monday they both thought that someone had come during the night to take away the 5 geese brought up by one hen. It is very funny to see the geese following Mother Hen and her chicks. Anyway they (geese) had gone walking to the neighbours who brought them back.

She’s nice, I hope we meet again. The house is fantastic, and if I had 3 living-in maids, (God forbid), and 1 or 2 gardeners, I’d love to live there.

The [neighbour] on one side is mafia, by his own boast, and likes to rearrange the boundary lines to suit himself, in spite of my paying for a legal survey! Then he abused me verbally for about 20 mins because I was clipping back what he describes as ‘his’ hedge.

The next door lady had her ‘Happy Circle’ Christmas party yesterday so at least I have avoided that by saying I was a bit busy just at the moment and would join later; very soon the time will come when I must go and be happy weekly with a lot of other old ducks I suppose.

Xmas with the old ducks

The nice girl next to me has left but she sold to a quite pleasant family so I am not too unhappy! Dad works hard in digging up his lawn… Mum is a little robin and rather good fun I should think, and there appears to be a resident daughter who is very pleasant. Somebody told me today that she had been married and is now walking out with somebody else…

I am kind of scared about seeing my friends in London, maybe I’ve moved away from them in my thinking – this time last year if you’d mentioned living in the woods on an island with 250 people I’d have run laughing into the nearest boutique! I’m really looking forward to seeing you though – I don’t get that feeling when I contemplate that – so please be around in December!

It’s funny when you’re away from people. Sometimes you’ll pop into my head for no apparent reason, then I won’t be thinking about you for a long time, then when I sit down and write I feel right there with you even though I haven’t seen you for three years, and I wish we could have a long conversation, instead of you writing and telling me where you’re at and then six months later me writing where I’m at.

Stocking the larder/ self-sufficiency

My sheep are hanging over me again – metaphorically speaking. Firstly they are getting pretty short of grass, though I’m glad to say that most of them seem to be prepared to eat the hay I made with the sweat of my brow last summer, as well as the sheep nuts which I am giving at a reduced rate because of the hay. Secondly, they have all got to be injected – at least the seven ewes have – but I’m putting that off, today, as it was a stormy night and they will all be wet today and unpleasant to hold still while X jabs them. The chicken are also hanging over me at the moment as they have practically given up laying, and I need a lesson in what to do next.

 

We are so cosy and warm in our log cabin, second winter. We built a larder/storage room this autumn, so now we have four rooms – very grand! I did a lot of canning again this year, stocking the shelves up with plums, pears, apples, apple sauce and jams and jellies for the winter. I have to say, I am getting quite a professional when it comes to canning!

Because of a lot of delays this summer, we never did get our house started. Next year for sure. I am quite content with our log cabin, at least for one year more.

 

After their initial flightiness and standoffishness my new chicks seem to be settling down. We are up to about four eggs a day from 6 so that’s not bad, and I have started selling them again.

Our neighbour’s wife and the two younger kids were away. His dogs took off after a pig and he came back to leave the older boy with us and get a dagger before chasing after them. By the time he got back supper was ready so we invited him in too.

 

The kitchen is my favourite, all logs and wooden shelves and workbench, and filled jars and rose hips strung out to dry for tea. Our garden came out well, and in fact we’re still eating carrots and cabbage and beetroot from it, and I planted some pretty flowers in front of the cabin. This summer we also acquired one cat  (to keep the mice away), two white ducks called George and Martha and five chickens, which actually are too young to lay eggs until the early spring.

 

Last week I heard a couple of shots and thought next door was killing off a sheep, but he phoned to warn us the butcher had come to butcher his cow, and the first shot sent it straight off and over a 4 ft fence to land dead at the top of our drive. As their Landrover was in the garage for a couple of days the remains of the poor beast had to remain outside our gate, loose head and all the innards until he could take them away. The rural postie hesitates as to whether to get out of the car to put our letters in the box, pools of blood etc. everywhere.

 

I got on reasonably well, in a slightly ill-disciplined way while they were up north. I never managed to make my bed until the day they were coming home, and most days forgot even to pull it together after breakfast – but I did several washes, and managed to cook a lamb casserole which lasted two days, and sausages which X left for another two. One day I bought a ‘boil in a bag’ meal from Woolworth’s, which wasn’t bad though I imagine one would quickly get tired of them, apart from the expense, and another day I fried some lamb cutlets. On Friday, expecting the others back in the evening, I was extremely domesticated, and very busy! Made my bed! Hoovered the house from one end to the other, and dusted everywhere, even the tops of the pictures and the mantelpiece which involved taking down all the Christmas cards and putting them back again. Cleaned the windows, put a coat of paint which has waited a long time on bits of the outside room, and cooked another large casserole and a fruit salad in preparation for them: I was exhausted. My performance amazed me!

The couple down the road came over Sunday week ago and collected the three black wether lambs which I had promised to let them have, and on Saturday when I had the car back for the trailer I went and collected three, a year older but white, from X to keep the summer grass down and prepare themselves for the freezer a bit later on. As the first couple were prepared to pay what I had to pay for the replacements that means we get about half our meat supplies for about 6 or 8 months more or less for nothing (well, not quite if you allow for feeding the mother ewes in the winter, and inoculating them etc., plus interest on the capital tied up in the fields).

Each day X has been away there’s been no water after breakfast. The first day the jolly new filter thing had come adrift; that was easy, I took out the filter and put the two bits together, deciding I’d rather have brown water than no water. The next day they were adrift again but ominously no water was coming out of the pipe, which means the holding tank is empty. I struggled up to the jolly tank – it was very frosty and very wet, but the tank and pipes were all in place. Only the thought of no hot bath kept me going after that. The neighbour had told me his rams were well behaved but I kept a wary eye out for them and took a big stick, so on to the bucket. I found a piece of rope tied across the creek and I presumed it was for holding whilst investigating the bucket, so I hoped for the best and did that, and found under the chicken wire and many leaves a branch had got in and blocked up the opening out, so I felt very triumphant about that but realise that I’m not so sure I like Heath Robinson contraptions as I thought I did! This morning the filter was disconnected again so I joined it up once more, but tonight something very odd is happening, it was full but didn’t appear to be moving so I rashly unscrewed one end and the full blast of water shot over me. X is due home tomorrow so I think I’ll leave any further efforts to him; I just hope I get a hot bath tonight.

 

X thinks her dahlias are smaller this year than last and that the answer is sheep manure. There were two possibilities – to try and rake it up from the fields, or to dig it out from underneath the neighbour’s woolshed. We chose the latter, but it was a pretty unsavoury job. Little headroom, long whiskers of cobwebs plus, hanging from the slatted floor above, and a good deal of it well trodden down where the sheep had been put in to keep them dry if it threatened rain before shearing. We contracted with the manager to pay him $10 for a trailer full – but called it a day a $5 worth! It looks a most miserable little heap now we have it sitting in the field waiting to be distributed. Never mind, next year I hope to have a nice pile of chick manure mixed with sawdust

 

We have built a new chicken coop and run. Our hens are laying six eggs a day, and very soon we’re getting a whole bunch of baby chicks, which may start laying in the autumn, or next spring for sure. This is the first year we have made it with our chickens, the ones we had the last two years never did anything much. Nothing is nicer than getting eggs out of the nesting box – especially when you see how incredibly expensive they are in the stores!

Friends

I ALSO feel the need to join something to meet people as my already small circle of friends just gets smaller. A good friend with whom I did a bit of eating out and the occasional pub crawl moved and I really miss her. I have more friends out of the country than in the country.

So much for friends who say ‘any time’ – the first three people I asked for a lift to the clinic were out. I then asked X who came half an hour too soon, dropped me off and said, ‘You’d better get a taxi back.’

I spoke to X today – I had forgotten how much talking to him lifts my spirits. He is a very positive person and seems to enjoy life so much.

She was so nice and I enjoyed doing things with her. On paper she is dull but not dull at all in real life! I think she suffers from no one over here ever showing an interest in her life in X etc. Well, the English are incredibly parochial and expect everyone to be endlessly interested in their local gossip.

I really enjoyed our get-together and trust it won’t be 19 years before it happens again. You had better come here for the next reunion. The exchange rate is in your favour.

X has broken his leg badly in two places and is furiously frustrated by crutches and not allowed to drive a car for weeks. Lives alone so not easy for him. In my experience friends race in for a short time and then get caught up by their own problems.

the broken leg

Exploits

He’s a gorgeous little boy who has several good friends… he’s beginning to get ‘into things’. The other day I caught him emptying all X’s tin of gambling money into his toy till!! (It is a large tin of coins for playing poker with – it’s all shared out and all returned to the tin afterwards!) Oh dear. Actually he’s got rather light fingers come to think of it. I found a note in my rubbish tin and X mysteriously lost a little bag with a lot of cash in it.

I got a hoax phone call and I got my gun out – to cut a long story short I shot myself! Went in at belly button region and out at left buttock! I got a fright but 24 hours in hospital proved it to be a soft flesh wound! The good Lord saved me (and my fat)!

We had a card from X from Finland this week – she’d just got back from Lapland, where the family of ‘this gye’(!) had taken her. They’d picked 80Kg of cloudberries which they were selling at $35 a Kg and this was paying for the next part of her trip with the money she’d earned ‘doing embroidery things in people’s hair’. Sounds vaguely ominous but fascinating. She earned $600 in 3 days doing all this.

We’re having a horrendously huge BBQ on the 20th. It was going to be a few friends and seems to be about 60 at this stage!

the BBQ

Property – values/repairs/layout

Are you still enjoying your flat in London? Is the interest still going up and crippling you or are things easier now? It must have increased quite considerably already in capital value. My flat has increased in value to more than three times what I paid for it 6 years ago. I’m not sorry I bought!

the balcony

I have moved… I wanted a balcony…It is on the 6th floor and on a ridge so from such an elevation the lights at night are quite magnificent… I overlook an Indian Community – mostly lovely big homes. Part of their culture is to keep roosters. These do a lot of crowing in the early hours. I love it – it is like being on a farm!!

My poor house hasn’t progressed very much. This summer, providing it isn’t too hot, I plan to do renovations including paving my verandah and purchasing a garden shed to get rid of all of the odds and ends making the back of my house (inside and out) look like a reduced version of Steptoe’s yard.

I have two very smart door bells… the back door does a vibrant ‘come at once’ sort of ring and the front door does more of a Big Ben ‘Ping Pang’ – all marvellously suburban and quite right for such a dead-end road as we are… Both doors are down the side of the bungalow in ridiculous places as the kitchen door comes first so automatically one goes there – just as well as the front door opens cheek by jowl with the loo/bathroom door and I can imagine awkward confrontations and lurkings until the caller has gone!!

How I pity you with that selling business and I do hope the agent shows himself worthy of the colossal percentage and achieves a sale. Ones home suddenly seems shabby and unworthy and the callers look as though they can’t imagine anyone bearing with it and peer around suspiciously.

I have decided, after strenuously denying that I required one, to employ an architect to do my house. It will add considerably to the cost, however I have not got the energy to do the work. (Get the design through the local council, and supervise the building work.)… Of course I will be the worst possible client, as I have Ideas as to what I want. (Reading the architectural magazines, I have gathered that the ‘ideal client’ is the one who is willing to go with whatever the architect comes up with. Well, that’s not me.)

I am in the process of buying the dullest bungalow in X in a row of similar horrors so that I can’t even recognise mine yet. Never mind, it seems delightfully small and compact.

My house plans are static at the moment. I haven’t given up the idea, however I need the bigger income. As yet, I have not had any word as to my salary evaluation. According to our award, I am being under-paid. However, whether they will cough up or not is another matter. I have a collection of wonderful glossy magazines with beautiful places in, but of course I will have to come down to earth when I actually start doing it – even a bigger salary will only stretch to fairly ordinary basics.

The house renovations must be grim to live with but no doubt when all is finished you will be glad you did it. Contractors always do that sort of thing – take on several jobs at once and never finish any one completely… X had their house almost completely rebuilt by architects this year. So they are living in chaos still. All the outside walls were pulled off and for a time they lived behind tarpaulin sheets!

It has taken me the entire year to do all the improvements to my new home amidst HEAT, DUST and NOISE and much moving to and fro of furniture and accessories etc. etc…. I have a top-of-the-range ceiling fan in my bedroom so I can actually sleep under a blanket – and that is on speed 1 (of 5). Any higher and I may wake up pinned to the ceiling… The only problem here is that being closer to nature (2nd floor, previously 6th floor) moths and beetles and things fly in, in the hot weather.

It is indeed a most exceptional place, on a hill 5 Km from sea and shops, sea view, dream home, dream kitchen, granny flat, 2 garages under house, paved curved driveway and by the way a cycal in the front garden!! Small pool, gazebo seating 12, also separate cottage at far end of property, terraced beds for fruit, plenty of fruit and nuts, pawpaws, about 3 1/2 acres, old trees etc. etc. [Can we all have a place like this?]

New acquaintances

I’ve also got myself a visiting job – a doctor who has fairly recently lost his sight. I was told he could do with someone to read to him from time to time. We started on the newspapers, and have now progressed on his suggestion to the Book of Revelation – but we don’t generally cover much as we slide off into mutual comment and anecdote!

Misunderstanding

I found her very kind, interesting and easy to get on with. It was difficult she spoke so quietly and I hear so quietly – if you see what I mean! but I trust we didn’t talk at cross purposes too much. One we discovered – I thought she was speaking of Russia and she was in fact speaking of Sweden – I was quite amazed at some of her statements!

 A real time waster today was a call by X who dropped in on his way home and effectively filled the time between lunch and tea with talk. He touched among other subjects on stress in the halfshafts of Land Rovers, the method of construction adopted for the interior walls of his house and its relationship to the problems of fitting sliding doors and extra power; plus common misunderstandings of the rates system and other equally enlightening subjects. In fact, he is a crashing bore. A pity, since he is obviously a kindly man, and it is very friendly of him to look in on us.

We were invited next door… She has a very loud voice, and is a great talker, so X was sitting there for about two hours trying to keep her finger in her ear on that side without it being obvious. I was feeling battered at one remove by the end, so it must have been very painful for her. Every now and then we tried to make it a conversation by starting off, ‘That reminds me of…’ – but not with much success.

I liked him better than her really – but a few words at the top of ones voice in the middle of a party is not much to judge on.

However she’s quite pleasant, and he is, but is very outspoken if he feels like it and calls a spade a b. shovel: last week we missed Bridge and evidently he and our ex-president flared up (he’s a Union man and a pain in the neck) and X raised a fist and asked him to step outside – X retired with a heart and last year had a triple bypass op. and Y had a stroke earlier in the year, and both well into the 70s – it must have been quite a show!