Ageing 8

I’ve been doing all the things we’d done before X died, fixing the funeral and putting down money for it and writing a new Will, all of which has made me feel ‘proper poorly’!!! But it will be a load off my mind when I’ve tidied it all up.

There’s virtually no flower beds but all grass and trees, there’s 5 acres practically flat with a stream running through it, milking shed for both cows!, a good sleep out which would take two bunks, and I can see X sitting on a mowing machine and being able to cope indefinitely, and each year we could let the sheep graze nearer and nearer the house as we got more and more senile.

[searching for a word before the days of Google] ‘Ponentially’ is a nice word but I don’t actually recognise it. Opponentially, perhaps, or potentially? … [and added as a PS] I woke up this morning at 5.58 saying to myself ‘The word is exponential’ – and there is such a word, but does it mean anything?   [and indeed it did – just the word to describe the growth in the number of plants I had achieved and hadn’t been able to describe because I couldn’t find the word for the previous letter.]

I’m quite worried about X – I haven’t had a letter for some 3 months and the briefest signed X card. Her daughter wrote on hers that X had been v. taken aback about her sister-in-law’s death – they never got on – but X didn’t expect to outlive anyone. She’s incredible – 70 and 3 big cancer ops since she was 34 plus endless other complications.

The last 2 days I’ve been worrying I have Alzeimers (?) decease [sic]  – I had to see a solicitor about putting the house in my name… I remembered the man asking if I had a safe place to keep something or should he keep it for me. I was a bit high hat about it but couldn’t remember what it was we’d been talking about. I must have wasted hours hunting for a new strange bit of paper – to no avail, so I phoned this morning and admitted I couldn’t find it – BUT actually he hadn’t given it to me – I felt more than silly!

The trouble about the big retirement village is that while you are more or less sure of nursing provision for any sort of demise, it is liable to cost you dearly. First you buy a house, which costs you all your present house, though much smaller. Then when you need an apartment, with meals provided in a restaurant you have to swap that for the house, and finally, when all you need is a bed where they look after you, that costs you your apartment. This business of getting old is very trying!

Retirement village death cycle!

X has a great clean-up urge on at the moment so I spend my time rushing between the lawyers and the funeral home checking on the preparations for casting off this mortal coil, and getting them up to date – when I’m not busy with our Income Tax for the year.

Of course it’s that darned memory again! Which reminds me that your comments about the Banville made me go and have another look at it – we read it in my group some months ago – and I looked in disbelief – had I really read this? I barely recognised it at first, tho’ bits did start coming back, but not enough to make any intelligent remarks. As you say, Hey Ho. … I now write down everything I read or else I can’t remember. Fortunately a recent radio prog I heard on the subject made me think I am maybe not that abnormal!

We then have exercises (very gentle but made to cover every muscle in your body) – I must get back to my 10 minute daily ones – I’m so bent over it depresses me I know I must be looking 90 as so many people try to help me and ask if I’m still driving!!

X only sits in the TV room all day and goes up and down. We have one medium dog who keeps him company. He is incontinent now, so senile at times too, walks very slowly and often needs help to get up from chair to dress and wash etc. … I hope they don’t hear me shouting at X too often, he can be so frustrating! I will be away 3 weeks and I really do need it.

It was a super surprise to see you but I do apologise for the number of clothes all over the floor and the general confusion which greeted you – how could I be so senile not to have put the date in my diary? Your flowers give me enormous pleasure – I took them downstairs to show them off – even the dotty residents loved them.

Yes, I think (and worry a bit) about how I am going to die. What will happen after that I can’t imagine but am optimistic that it will be enjoyable, though I hope I shall have time (and inclination) to appeal to Our Lord for the help I shall need to come to Him.

It is a bore getting old! In that connection, I was moving the power plus by a yard last week because X wanted to move her furniture round, and found it very exhausting kneeling on the floor to do it! And made a very clumsy job of it in consequence. I felt stiff for the next two mornings as a result, which I suppose means that next time I should get the man next door to do such jobs for me. But it’s a comedown for a self-respecting do-it-yourselfer!

We were a bit late leaving. I said I’d follow her down in my car; we set off with me in pursuit, it struck me she was going a very odd way, and then she disappeared, I hadn’t a clue where I was and tiptoed through two wet gardens knocking on doors for directions, to find I was in an unknown bit of X: I had been following the wrong car! It was now 15 minutes after the meeting was due to start, so you can imagine the trauma. I just can’t see in the dark especially when it’s raining and the car headlights coming at me; however I eventually got there, and spent 5 minutes trying to get in, by which time she had rung home and her husband was out looking for me! Anyway they were all very nice about it.       

She really should give up, her back has packed up again, this crumbling business, and has to have another op.  

Employment hassles 4

X broke the news of our departure at the end of June this week – it was a bit of a damp squib actually as I think it was expected – we haven’t hidden the fact we’ve got the house, caravan etc for our retirement. There are always regrets tho’ when it becomes imminent – I take so long to know people – I’m only just getting anywhere with some – but I long to play house.

[and from X] Of course when it comes to it I expect I shall be sorry to leave some of the people here. But only some! I said my last word to quite a number of them in this month’s Parish mag in which my letter (instead of being addressed as usual ‘Dear Friends of the church) started ‘Dear Fringe…’ I reckoned there was nothing to lose at this stage!

I do think the bureaucrats who run your job are the absolute end for inefficiency, not to mention plain rudeness and indifference.

In reply to my Christmas card which asked for news of his family, he wrote on his that he got to the office at 6.45 a.m. and didn’t leave it until 7.30 p.m. – and I reckon he will find his X gone one day soon if he doesn’t get home a bit earlier than that.

I am glad that you can treat as funny your chief’s appropriation of the idea you borrowed from your last chief, which you mentioned when you were describing the meeting at which you released it. I think I should be hopping mad, even though it wasn’t my original idea.

I’ve changed my jobs. I was quite sick for a while so I gave up my other job and have had a break for a few weeks but am noticing the drop in income amazingly so I’m getting another job. Same but quite different. This time it’s a restaurant that’s just opening – the owner is the chef, he’s a really nice family man, and the emphasis is going to be very much on quality food and service compared with the last place where it was on fun! I hope it isn’t too much harder!

She’s had a rather rotten 18 months in a research team at UCL – personality clashes, incompatibilities, and total frustration with inefficient and downright lazy colleagues – she’s chucked her hand in and is now on the loose with a friend in India and Pakistan for 3 months.

I fear that however nice the woman was who did your review, she will have had orders to bring in some changes which are designed to save money, so her hands will have been tied. In other words the review will just have been a device to save the Government’s or the Department’s face. The same sort of thing is always happening here. If there is any good news, such as some extra money to be spent on health or education, it is announced with a flourish of trumpets by the minister, but if the boot is on the other foot, it’s someone else’s foot that gets the blame, always.

I’ve had a series of run-ins with the project engineer. Although I’ve had the occasional win they’ve been battles rather than wars! I fear it’s a case of ‘he might not always be right, but he’s always the boss’! He’s one of those blokes with whom I’m unable to have a discussion, only a contest!

I used to find it a relief when auditing to change locations and conditions every fortnight or so (there was always a chance that you would strike a place that would give you chocolate biscuits for 11ses and plum cake for tea! I suppose we should have suspected these of having things to hide that required us to be kept sweet!) – but going to a round of different places every day must be exhausting – like ‘If it’s Tuesday it must be Brussels’ which they showed us on TV around Christmas – most amusing and rather pathetic at the same time.

The office has not yet collapsed; we did have structural engineers in to assess. They did not seem concerned. I still don’t understand how a concrete floor can drop. I sit on the toilet and notice the 1/2 inch gap between the floor and the tiles on the wall. Some tiles have cracked and/or fallen of and the rows are out of alignment with each other!!

Poor work environment

X tells me that you didn’t get the new job which you ended up not wanting – sounds a bit Irish. I’m glad or not as I should be!!

Has X written since she was tackled round the legs by a policeman?! After an exhausting evening waitressing she’d just changed, came through the kitchen door only to have a large man throw himself at her and brought her down a resounding whack against the corner of the metal coffee trolley, which fortunately empty but previously had two large jugs of coffee on it. She had a deep half inch cut on her thigh which bled all over the place and still had bruises all up her leg when we were there 2 weeks later. There was a big table of police cadets celebrating and one bet another who was pretty drunk he wouldn’t tackle the next person to come through the door, poor X. She was sat to recover with a large drink and the man came and apologised but she was pretty shaken up.   Y phoned the powers that be in the police and complained fairly forcibly. He was told the man hadn’t proved very satisfactory in other ways either, so I fear he’s cooked his own goose.

A colleague forgot to turn off the computer terminal when he finished using it on Friday afternoon. This combined with a program error to produce a ‘dump’. This miserable machine proceeded to spew its miserable guts out all over the printout throughout the weekend. By Monday morning the golfball had battered the ribbon on the printer to a shapeless pulp. You think you have problems.

Gosh, what a set-up there is in hospitals nowadays. I can’t get used to all the hierarchy and even the question of a Charge Nurse is a deep mystery to me! As to Sector Administrator – all nuts and baloney as far as I am concerned and I long for the days of the Hospital Secretary and two consultants who decided everything between them.

I had applied for a job as director of works on X ( a tiny coral island just on the tropics). We had to rush up to town for interview. Although I felt we presented ourselves in our true colours, they can’t have been the colours they were looking for, as I gather I haven’t got the job. Pity! it looked ideal both job and family-wise.

X has got a part-time job in a local PO – the idea being she’ll earn enough for Y not to have to work all over the long vac. – last year was a ramp – he got only just over dole rates and was more senior than the top man at the job – let alone the one he was standing in for – and had an hour’s journey each way at his own expense. He was fairly philosophical about it – in that he enjoyed the work – BUT…

It will be good that she has the teaching qualification so that she can always look for part-time work as a relief teacher – though I can’t myself imagine anything more deadly than relief teaching – constantly being faced with strange and unruly bunches of kids and having to pick up at short notice in the middle of someone else’s teaching programme.

I do think whoever it is who is responsible for the organisation of your job must be quite mad. It is so inefficient to expect you to tackle such an overload of work; obviously you cannot be expected to actually do it all to your satisfaction or anybody else’s. I don’t wonder that you have such a high turnover of staff – which obviously is an extra load, by reducing the continuity of treatment, apart from the extra load on the Horatios who hold the bridge.

I imagine your hilarity at work is of the maniacal sort. It wouldn’t matter so much having your case load in waiting doubled if you were playing a sort of monopoly, but when they are real kids, with real mothers and families, it really is too bad. I loved the picture of the preschool parents discussing their memories of the mad lady with the rat chained to the leg of the table! [One intriguing facet of reading old letters is not having the other half and forgetting what on earth can have occurred!]

House repairs & housekeeping 6

It sounds as if your flat is a great success even if the man below does share both his heat and noise!

We had an uncomfortable three days in the kitchen when X was busy painting all the cupboard doors a new colour with a cunning new painting device which she got at a ‘Home Show’ we went to. It is a square of about five inches covered with a sort of short nylon fur, which certainly does cover the ground when you are painting – it generally took her longer to clean up afterwards than to get the next coat on! Then we pussyfooted round all the doors which were scattered about the floor of the kitchen and laundry until the next coat was due.

The electrician came and managed to charge me $60 for about an hour and a half, plus two switches and a fuse box, which I thought fairly steep. I had already organised a new wire from the switchboard in the garage – it was X who actually crawled about under the house collecting it from where I had fed the end through a hole in the floor and pulling it down to the hole at the other end (at least he did it with a washing line and I pulled the cable through afterwards). What it would have cost if the electrician had had to do that too, I shudder to think.

I’ve got a big bag of our own runner beans in the d.f. and we’ve been using our own potatoes for a few weeks – (not v. good ones actually – they fall to bits when you cook them – X bought a sack ‘cheap’ for me when I asked for a few lbs only to find when we opened them they were sprouting so he planted them!)

I bought a tubular heater for the bathroom, which was very cold and got very steamed up – but have had great difficulty in getting it fixed and wired. Eventually I wired it up myself and have been running it on an extension lead from the landing – which is strictly against the law – so when (failing a local electrician) I rang the Elec. Dept. to come and fit it I was careful to tell them to ring me first. Let’s hope it’s enough notice to get it cold as well as unplugged! But this morning I had a call from them raising all sorts of difficulties – they don’t recommend that sort, you can burn yourself and scorch towels, it’s a fire risk and why didn’t I have a nice heated towel rain. Answer: Because that’s $46 and this is $14, and why had they themselves recommended that I go and buy it? ‘Just a moment while I consult my colleague’ – long long pause, and he came back to say ‘My colleague was not informed that you would have a towel rail over it’ – very reproachfully. However I promised to obtain a guard to go round it and eventually he agreed to send the man to do it (subject to this, that and the other!). It’s all so nonsensical because I could drill a hole in the wall and take a wire from the hot cupboard as easy as winking – only one is liable to be prosecuted if any inspector ever does happen to see it. And it is true that X burnt her leg on the one we had at the other house!

[story continued in another letter]

X looked out and saw a little van arrive with MED on the side – so she had to rush upstairs, disconnect, stow the revealing extension cord away, pick up the hot heater and dump it in the hall, and descend bright and breezy and disguising her hard breathing to the door! The man must have guessed I would have thought – but said nothing! X warmed to him (metaphorically) because when she suggested taking a wire from the hot cupboard through the wall and running it round the room he said very scornfully ‘That would be a mess. I’d rather not do the job than do that!’ I would never dare play with a telephone though, like Y. Perhaps it’s the idea of getting a s(h)ock in the ear’ole, direct, which puts me off.

I believe a safe way to leave pot plants is to put a jam jar of water beside each pot with a piece of wool in it and going over to the pot and it soaks slowly from A to B – I’m sure I’ve done it – but not for years. It may be wise to stand both on a tray in case they get too enthusiastic about it! You could always leave them near your home brew so it could dribble over them – you might get a forest.

It’s been quite interesting seeing some of the tricks of the trade of building – especially how easily a spurious sense of solidity can be given by attaching a piece of 10”x 3” timber with four inch nails to a 4”x2” framework! However if 4×2 is enough I suppose that small hypocrisy doesn’t matter much.

One of the agents was advertising that they had a ‘desperate’ buyer and we thought we might give them a ring – which we did though the house looked pretty untidy and all the grass 3 inches long. When we collected the key the next morning the agent had been in touch but I don’t know that anything has come of it. But by lunchtime I had cut the grass and taken a trailerful of rubbish to the tip – bottles, a car door and other bits, old boxes and tins, hedge clippings and a mattress! – and X had hoovered all through the house. Then it rained so we abandoned further tidying in the garden but it looked a good deal better.

The process has not been helped by waking on Thursday to an absence of water in the taps – some stoppage in our supply from up the hill. That took 2 or 3 hours of my time toiling up to investigate and down to the river to check our alternative supply, and changing over the pipes into the house (which sounds easy but meant a long struggle delving in a hole full of muddy water to disconnect one, and persuade the other thread to catch). On Friday the neighbour came up the hill with large spanners and a massive crowbar and we established that the catchment drum which sits in the creek was half full of silt. However we got half the top bent back and on Saturday three of us renewed the attack and bailed it all out and got it all reconnected. On Monday I switched the pipes back (in the muddy hole) with more journeys up and down to turn taps off and on – and then we had a really rainy night and most of the flow disappeared again! This time it was dampening to investigate as the stream was spraying all over me – but all was well there. I traced it to a small stone stuck in the ballcock valve on the roof. Joys of home plumbing!

Fixing the pipes

Emigration/moving 2

I had a letter from an ex-colleague wondering whether to come here. I only met him once – as he reminded me – on the top of a mountain in Basutoland! I mostly remember it because his son had been playing the fool at the hospital we had built there – he was the engineer! They have a much younger boy and want to come here because it’s ‘so much cleaner physically and morally’. I felt I had to disillusion them a bit on that one – though not very harshly because on the whole I’m glad we came.

It’s all GO here [prior to moving] – I’m mortified at the state of my outside room – I’ve even found a mouse’s nest in the back of a hanging! Won’t rest until it’s cleaned out. I’m being very strong minded and even mean to weed out my ‘this is my life’ box!

We were delighted to get your tape with all the horrors of your move. Traumatic is mild. Your frig must be obsessed with a devil, surely the shop should have fixed it but it must be difficult for you being out during the day. I must say I don’t like leaving things open for workman to do whilst I’m out. At the best it makes my nasty suspicious little mind work overtime! The eggs popping out of their shells conjured up lovely picture, and should surely be made into an animated sequence for TV! I can well imagine the result of the lemonade as X’s ginger beer burst all over their kitchen whilst we were there and in spite of mopping everyone was sticking to the floor for days afterwards.

A friend commenting on the effect of movers on ones furniture: ‘three moves are as good as a fire’! I took a Friday off and a friend brought her trailer round and we moved lots of boxes and some light furniture. On the Saturday another friend came round with his 6’x4’ trailer and the two of us moved all the furniture by 3 p.m. On the Sunday I moved another 2000 boxes – full of useful things like old magazines! By that evening I was quite dead and glad to go back to work for a rest.

I expect you rustled up a selection of friends and made them walk in a column bearing your household goods to save a moving fee? I hope X was able to help with moral support or the car or something to encourage you in your battle. It is exciting, although slightly horrifying, to be at last in possession and rapidly finding out the snags. I never realised how badly the doors fitted here until the winter winds showed them up. Some have enormous gaps and others won’t shut and require frequent rubbing down or encouragement with a bit of soap to try to make them close. Condensation is a bind and it is v. gruesome here in the bedrooms. It streams down the windows in the sitting room too, but I do nothing about it except mop up the result! When they were all frozen inside I did rather object, but it was too late to do anything until they chose to thaw, and Y with central heating was just about as bad.

We decided that prices in the latter were grossly inflated (any village which has 5 flourishing estate agents’ offices in 30 yards must be the wrong place to go). The general effect of the other tour was to increase our interest in the first house we saw there (which was probably the agent’s idea in taking us round!) It was in some ways a stupid house with this wide corridor along the front and 2 10×10 ft bedrooms – but it had something about it in spite of large disadvantages such as having no kitchen door, the bathroom leading out of the kitchen, the only loo as near as down the garden as it could be while remaining under the one roof (you went through the kitchen and the laundry to reach it), and a garden with a grass bank nearly as steep as at the Avenue. We were told by the valuer that it was worth $25,750 against their asking price of 30,000. We offered 26,000 and were indignantly refused – and the latest we have heard is that they are toying with an offer of 28,000 by someone who still has to sell another house.

X did all china, glass etc to save some money and just as well – the stacking, travelling and unstacking (we’ve done all the unpacking) took 12 hours – they said we’d got twice as much as anyone else they’d moved!! They gave us some v. old fashioned looks at some of our belongings – treasured bits of wood, boxes of stones, and of course the 2 drainpipes [part of an idiosyncratic stereo system]– I really got quite embarrassed!

Our buyers moved our bulky stuff in what proved to be a rather smaller van than we’d imagined and took 3 trips so we were glad we’d got professionals to move our piano, my stereo deck, table and deep freeze – for awkwardness and weight, plus my Regency sewing table and china cabinet for safety! – that took 3 of them nearly 3 hours so we were glad of the other help.

The small van

Children 7

LETER thank-you very much for my action man kit I am playing with it alot. It has come in alot of handy. We have been doing alot of things at X. On Wednesday 21st of Mrch. We are going to a Gold minning-town On the Earnslaugh which is a big ship and we are going to Water-fall-park. I have just got my bronze koru which is lost of funny but exciting bits and pieces you have to do. Hope you are feeling well.?

thanK you ant X fo the book I like reeding tham to myself and ges woat I got a starwars game For citismas. and the boaks a raeally interesting I reed them to the othe boys evry day affte School. they a very Frnny

thanK-you FoR KnicKerBocker. He is a nice green monster. I have a BaBy Doll calleD Katey. She is in hospital getting hEr EyE fixeD. I have a Nice teacher. I have a Nice swim at SchooL. I am EnrolleD at Brownies.

X seems to have suffered more than the others over the last couple of months’ traumas. She’s spent the last fortnight being a right little sod. However she slowly seems to be coming round – or is it us that are coming round?

She has just spent 2 days with them. She enjoys it but I think finds that enough – X is going through a very difficult stage – much ‘no, no, no’ and stamping – and of course with his mother’s determination that everyone will do just what she wants – but now – it doesn’t go down too well and they’re having a fairly explosive time.

He went to bed in X’s room. He slept like a log and his father went to collect him some 2 hours later – a cry of anguish came from him: before going to sleep he’d wrecked her room – books everywhere and her drawer she’d put all her first pay in open and money all over the place. I retrieved a screwed up fiver and 2 $20 notes from the WPB and another $20 lying around – one $20 has completely vanished. He kept saying he’d ‘posted it to sea’. Whilst everyone played hunt the $20 note he disappeared only to reappear looking like a Red Indian having drawn all over his face with my lipstick – he’d put it all back v. tidily as he proudly showed me!

The PM came to visit the college a week ago. Afterwards he stayed for a cup of tea during which your 2 nieces rolled up and presented him with a scruffy bunch of flowers they’d purloined from some pluty hedge on the way home from school!! Praise be I wasn’t close at the time – I’d have been slapped on the computer as a trendy liberal and been blighted for life!

I was assisted by a very young teacher whom I greatly admired for her control of this group – which didn’t all come from her own form. One boy tried it on near the beginning, when she had demanded silence, and she just gave him a look and said, ‘You’re not special, you know. You have keep the rules like everyone else’ and after that they all ate out of her hand. It’s maddening not to have this gift. I only have to go into a class to have pandemonium in no time!

You’re not special, you know.

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.

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