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!

Things fall apart 4

I said yes I did know about sewing machines when she rang up and asked what I thought might be the trouble, and at great inconvenience as I was just going to drive up to town, went along and found she hadn’t oiled it in 12 years and it clanked madly, so started by upending it and unscrewing the bottom plate and generally dismantling it; by which time she was getting distinctly worried, especially as I said I hope she knew the bottom casing was cracked, as I hadn’t done it, and she didn’t know, and as that didn’t cure it I looked in her instruction book and altered a screw they suggested, and hey presto it seemed cured. I didn’t see her for a week and unwisely asked her how it was going, both of us wished I hadn’t asked, as after half an hour it had the same trouble. She took it to the shop who eventually said it needed oiling and readjusting, having paid the bill she went home and set about her job again and the electrical connection went up in smoke!! I suspect both of us will think I was the cause of it for ever more! But it has reminded me that it’s much kinder of me to not try and help people, the results are always disastrous!!

I really think it’s a sickness this inability to throw anything away – X now has an electric frying pan, an Electrolux and a Kenwood that don’t work – tho’ she has new ones!

I felt a bit indignant with the motor corp today. You will recall that on our trip just after we got the car, last October, the speedometer start jumping about and threatening to burst into flames. It cost me $41 to get it repaired, which I wrote to claim back under warranty directly we got home. I called in to see them before Christmas since I had heard nothing but still nothing happened so eventually I wrote a politely rude letter to the General Manager about a fortnight ago. Today a cheque arrived with the invoice I had sent them – but no letter – not so much as Sorry scrawled across it. Things are not what they used to be.

Our arrival was little less than spectacular – we got half way up the drive with the van and then we spun – X said get out and push which I did and the mud shot up all over my front. At one moment I thought it was going to career backwards across the grass but I shoved rocks under the wheels. We were then joined by a young man visiting the neighbours who knew what he was about but couldn’t get right up either – then Y joined us to my horror (he’s got a heart and v. frail), so we rapidly decided to park it on the grass verge for the minute but it’s a bit sad we can’t get it outside the house, as we’d thought of it as an overflow spare room.

The muddy drive

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!

Gardening 5

[The continuing saga of the ‘piranha’ grubs.] We were bemoaning our purina bugs to X after church, and she said they are having a terrible time with them. According to her they always move north and each moth produces 10,000 eggs. If the farmer to your south doesn’t do anything one year you have a time the next. Their neighbour didn’t care last year! Their son dug a hole for a tree for her, and out of a square foot (compared to the normal disaster rate of 4 grubs) he found 39! I’m glad we don’t lie north of them! – though they have been trying to combat them and have had a helicopter spraying their fields.

The 39 grubs…

[and more] Did I tell you the folk remedy for our grass grubs was ‘mobbin’. You put lots of animals on a small area and they crush the eggs 12″ under ground – as we explained you can’t do much in this line with 10 ewes and 6 lambs. I don’t think even adding 6 hens would help! Anyway the season’s come for the moths to fly, so at least we won’t have them again. We have found lots of dead ones so X’s efforts haven’t been wasted.

We had plenty of other jobs including a satisfactory start on clearance and burning of two horrid creeper bushes which infest some of the trees in our lower field and on the river bank. One is a fierce form of thorn called Barberry, and  the other a true creeper covered leaf and branch with pernicious little hooks – it goes by the sardonic name of ‘lawyer bush’ since it never lets you go once it has got hold of you.

The garden deserves more of my time – the flowers are gorgeous. I do enjoy them so much. The freesias are coming out apace now and the mimosa’s in flower but I keep clear of that as it gives you pink eye (at least that’s what my ma told me).

The real clear up in the garden isn’t quite due but as a preliminary I covered the lawn as best I could with one of those hormone weed killers – which I can’t say I really approve of because it makes the weeds look as though they are writhing in agony and it’s difficult to feel really convinced that it is in ecstasy of living a pace they’ve never lived before which their contortions are expressing.

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.

Significant other 5

I’ve fixed for one of our more eccentric friends to come to supper. She’s a sculptress and farms 5 acres on her own in a slap happy way. She had a husband but said, ‘Oh, I got rid of him’!!!

Did I tell you X’s elder daughter is divorcing her husband – with 3 young she won’t have an easy time – but she married him against all opposition.

I’m not sure if X is going to remove Y from your evil influence or disapproves of the flat or hopes to accommodate her himself??!! Maddening if he does for any reason, just when you’re settled.

X had another school dance on Friday – put on by the 6th form. The dreary fat Y’s mama made up a party of 6 and had them to dinner first. Evidently not one of the boys asked any of the girls to dance and Y only danced with her brother who’d sneaked in without a ticket. However X was cheerful enough as she’d danced all the evening with another boy she’d ‘seen on the train’!

Have heard from X that her daughter’s husband has died – sounds a blessing to me – but she may be v. sad.

They are in the middle of a horrible divorce and he still suffers from depression. I’m sure he will recover when the pressure and rows are over.

His daughter has come unstuck from the reputedly very rich man she was engaged to last year, apparently losing the contents of her bank account in the process. He was discovered to have a record for fraud etc.

X and I have excelled ourselves again. We went into a JUNIOR bridge tournament last week and, yes you’ve guessed, we were bottom again!! He put a chauvinistic pig rhyme on my desk just afterwards:

‘There was an old man who said dash, Why am I and my wife both so rash? If she called with reserve, There’d be room for my verve, in playing the hand with panache.’

 

She has asked me in front of him if I’ll give him his birthday dinner as they can’t afford another party!!!

Said friend has since died, leaving her very boorish husband much lost and realising for the first time what a wonderful wife she was.

But when she died…

I had a hard time writing to X and put it off for as long as I could. I fear the change of relationship from having short bursts of fun living whilst he played hookey from home and reality, to her being home and reality, and he with an added guilt complex on top of it, might prove to be rather an anticlimax. She’d do better to close the book on the past 12 years and start afresh with her other pursuer. I’d have no sympathy with Y if she did!!! (I didn’t actually SAY all this when I wrote!!)

It was amusing your remarks about X’s man. When I told Y they’d got engaged, she remarked, ‘not to that drip, she must be mad’! I do hope for her sake you’re both wrong. She sounds so nice, and deserves better.

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

Dowsing 3

We’ve been wondering whether to drill a bore – it’s been so hot so the garden and all the fields are drying out. Our neighbour has one and I dowsed on the same line and it’s obvious as it’s an old stream that comes right up to our fence. So we got a drilling type along – v. nice young man – who said he could do it for $1,750!!! Then we’d need an engine and cover and electricity laid on. So we’d be into £2000+++. Praise be the drought’s broken and we had steady rain last night.

There’s a woman from the mental hospital loose, she’s reported dangerous having axed her husband to death. I dowsed she was in X last night, and as I was going in that direction today I had a little look at the part of the road I thought I had reactions to (I wasn’t too convinced, it was rather a coincidence it was in the place I knew I was going to today!) but it was odd that in the middle of a really quite pleasant neighbourhood there was a shabby little house surrounded in weeds and all the blinds down. Clutching my folder I rapped on the door and when an aged crone answered, asked how to get to a road in the district. She certainly wasn’t the woman who is wanted and didn’t seem at all put out, so as [partner] said I’d probably be put in the mental hospital too if I told the place I’d dowsed her, I let well alone!!! The news tonight says she’s been seen miles away, but she obviously made her getaway during the night after I dowsed!

We’ve had a fascinating day. We went into X this morning to an aerial photographer who was a poppet. It was difficult to get him to show us what we wanted without telling him what for. After I’d talked round sewage and water pipes etc. he said, ‘You’re not telling me the whole story so it’s difficult to help.’ So I had to admit I had a hunch re the seepage – he said he’d lived here all his life and feared there wasn’t any but actually there was a line on the photographs he couldn’t explain. Anyway we set off to the bay right off the beaten track and had to climb down awfully steep cliffs and had a gorgeous afternoon clambering over rocks looking for oil or tar. Then there were two young surfies and on the way back I asked them did they ever get tar or oil on their skin diving suits and they came up with the information there was some soapsuddy looking patches in the bay and pointed them out to us. We had a look from the top with binoculars and there was a line of bubbles which didn’t change position. I was told it was easy to see a seepage as the bubbles showed on the water – TRIUMPH. Of course [partner] is quite noncommittal and unconvinced but we’re going to two other places there should be a seepage on shore tomorrow.

He is that delightful epitome of tact who told her that the man in the DSIR to whom she had been speaking about divining was the department’s officer who dealt with crank queries! Even she was taken aback.

The man in charge of cranks

 

Politics 4

There were 3 knighthoods announced yesterday and one of them was the man who I suspected was the young lieutenant helping me and the Wrens ‘in Algiers’. I’ve not come across him yet – now I’ve seen an uptodate photograph in the press I’m not sure I want to (it made me feel very old) pompous and dull – and he was a very lighthearted type.

I was rung up about 10 days ago by our national moral guardian who runs a body called the Council for Protection of Moral Standards, or some such – wanting me to go and see a film called ‘The Streetwalker’ in order to complain and get it referred back to the censors who she thought had achieved a new low in laxity. I went and was left with some distinctly pornographic memories! So I duly wrote an indignant letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs and sent copies of it to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister hasn’t answered but I heard from both the others (it is after all Election Year). As the PM is one of the most offensive politicians I have ever seen I’m not sure I shall be voting this year.

There was a snidey little piece at the bottom of the paper one day saying a shot had been heard coming from the Russians’ quarters in the village. It finished by stating, somewhat pointedly I thought, ‘Later 12 athletes were seen leaving their quarters each carrying a large portmanteau’. You can imagine the grizzly conclusion I came to !!!!!

Sportsmen with portmanteaus

But by all the news in the Guardian and what gets into our daily it sounds as though you may be having the central heating cut off by now and life outside getting grimmer every day. Poor old England sounds as though she is just about falling to bits what with the strike and Rhodesia and Ulster – and today the last minute doubts over the Common Market bill in Parliament.

From this distance Heath and Co. look pretty inefficient – though I don’t envy him the job, even if I could then afford his yacht!

With the latest shootings by white Rhodesians near Salisbury, X will be worried for her sister, reprisals always seem to follow. I get quite sick with all the brutality and violence everywhere, and with all this build up of weapons for someone will trigger off the holocaust at some point; there seems nothing individuals can do about it. I don’t think I came out of the Joan of Arc mould.

I was amazed by the change of tone in this letter about her feeling re Rhodesia. In her last she said it was all blown up out of proportion and no one bothered with politics etc. In this one she says her sister is having shooting lessons and they never go out without a gun, and there have been raids nearby, but they don’t want to leave unless they have to etc. etc.