Nuisances of life 6

Poor X tripped down the step in the middle of our sitting room after breakfast and caught his face just above his eye, between eye and temple, on the corner of my grandfather’s old oak table – blood everywhere but his mother was marvellously calm – I suppose she is getting used to it as they had had I think seven lots of stitches between – picked him and shoved his head under the kitchen cold tap, and then we took him off to the doctor – but in fact it was only a plaster job and not stitched.

Right under our noses with the TV at full blast, a mouse has been running to and fro all evening. X set a trap beside him on the fireplace and the cheeky thing has managed to eat it all and not set it off. We saw the first one since we’ve been here this week, and caught him. We hoped to get t’other one before we got a clutch, or whatever you get of little mice. … The mouse has been layed?!!laid? to rest – now we’ll see if a family appears too.

X was attacked by one of our vast magpies when she went for a walk at the w/e – it dive bombed her for 100 yards actually hitting her head – ugh.

Your efforts with your frames and the varnish sounded a bit like my efforts to make a new box for the Scrabble set which I recently finished. It was a question of using up bits of wood that I had on hand, and I ended up with the box just an eighth of an inch too narrow to take the Scrabble board flat, so it has to go in on an angle with both the bits of wood that hold the pieces on the same side. Maddening. And apart from that the lid which is made to slide in and out jams when it is fully shut and is liable to fall out of its grooves altogether before it is fully withdrawn. Not a successful piece of carpentry, I fear.

X had the car out two days ago, and came back unaware of a large dent in the front wing on the driver’s side. Maddening! I don’t know whether it was a friendly shove from a larger car – maybe a four wheel drive with a high bumper which just nicely come above our wheel arch, or whether she did it herself against a post outside one of the shops she stopped at. Which doesn’t seem likely but is possible because she remembers trying to reverse and getting out of the car to check she wasn’t running over someone because the car resisted reversing.

A mob of hippies had a demonstration outside Parliament and they – some 100 strong – mobbed the official’s car when he was leaving and came into the car park as we were all coming out. Some sensible young priest (from X district so he’s v. likely had experience!) invited them in to see the cathedral. They flocked in girls on boys’ shoulders, smoking cigarettes and climbing all over the chairs in bare feet. The organist rose to the occasion and played the organ so loud they couldn’t shout the odds but in fact got talking in several groups and some joined us for tea in the hall and eventually the chaplain for the university who’s a very good type suggested they weren’t having much fun and now they’d seen it why didn’t they go – and they did!! As some 8 had already been arrested outside for abusive language, damage and knocking a policeman down, I think we got off lightly.

I’m sorry for not replying sooner, especially as you were sounding altogether rather miserable. I confess it was semi-deliberate as I thought X would think it odd if you didn’t share the letter but that to commiserate about the difficulties of cohabitation would not be news she’d really want to read! However she’s safely back here now so I feel freer to write! We went out to the airport today to make sure she caught the right plane. It was good to see her and all went well once we’d actually got her through customs – first she had to borrow $30 to pay her duty and having done that she left her two bags on the collection turntable – how she got past the customs guys without the evidence I can’t think! – I could well believe that the two of you in a single flat for 3 months would be potentially lethal. However she was most effusive about how well you’d got on and seemed really enthusiastic about the whole trip.

It’s really stupid of Mrs. X – she’s made her command performance ‘Regrets only’ put on awful printed bit of pink office paper, why she thinks any of us would ‘regret’ I can’t think!

[re puzzle] How queer it is that one can search and search for a particular feature and be sure that that piece, at least, must have got lost, and then ten minutes later when you are doing something else, you find you have filled that particular gap up without noticing. Talk about gremlins!

On the whole, the leadership was hot on the results to be achieved, and weak on how to achieve them, I thought. And that is not new.

The hospital rang me for my long awaited op. (Coincidentally a cancellation occurred only one day after our speech director phoned up to complain about how long I’d been waiting!) Alas the op was not so wonderful. The guy doesn’t seem to have sealed the fistula and when the surgeon saw me 2 days later the conversation included a priceless, ‘Oh, if it’s your speech you want to improve it’s your soft palate I should be correcting; I could do something with that’. Grrrrrrrrrrrr! So I’m back on the waiting list for round two.

We were just off to bed last night when there was a bit of a furore in the road outside. Some young lad had come off his 756 cc mini-motorbike and broken a leg. We called the ambulance and directed traffic etc. for a while. What did seem rather bizarre was that while the ambulance guys were doing their thing at one end of the victim the traffic cop was busy booking the other end for riding an unregistered bike, having no licence, being under age etc. etc. – at least I suppose it kept his mind off the pain!

Summer is upon us, meaning that there is seldom ten minutes of the day indoors when one isn’t being bombarded and threatened by the buzzing of our enormous brand of bluebottles. We have at last invested in two fly bats of plastic, which are a good deal more effective than rolled up newspapers, but still not much fun especially as they are very difficult to hit on the wing! and sometimes take a terrible long time buzzing round and round before they decide to sit down for a rest.

The bluebottles

X and co. moved out of their house on Friday and came down to us yesterday – they are to stay until I think 17th (by which time I expect we shall all be round the bend) when the house they are renting to begin with will be vacant.

But perhaps you hadn’t heard that the Xs finally got out still owing us $400. We’re pretty fed up with the solicitor who said Monday 10 days ago yes, he would get a summons out the next day – but when I called on him this Monday at a time suggested by his secretary the summons was no further forward. But yes he would do it directly he got back from a funeral and wouldn’t wait for the bailiff, but would serve it himself on Tuesday for certain. I rang him this afternoon and he was just then hoping to get it from the Court! We are beginning to despair of anyone when your solicitor can no more be trusted than your defaulting tenants!

[continuing saga]

And talking of giving up – we have a tremendous and frustrating hate on with the solicitor who seems by now almost certainly to have lost us all chance of getting any of the money the Xs owe for rent by the most unremitting negligence and inefficiency – added to which, when we ring him weekly to hear what he hasn’t done, he manages to sound patronising even when he obviously can’t remember where the ‘due processes of law’ had got and what he was supposed to be doing next.

I’m handicapped in writing this as I have a shrewd suspicion I posted the first since my return without a stamp or on a UK form – so you may get it in 6 months or not at all, or have to pay vast sums for it – but I don’t want to leave it longer to hear it’s arrived.

Too maddening, after working all day to get ahead so we’d be at the club on time, we had to rush through a delicious steak and kidney pie and go before our pudding – and were late – and then I got annoyed with a silly woman who first told me a spit and sawdust dubious joke and then tried to be funny at my expense. After this my play got worse and worse – we revived the fire when we got home and ate our puddings – mine cold bread and butter pudding – and didn’t get to bed before 12.15.

My heart sank for you about the lecture you turned up for a day late. I knew just how you felt as I did the same – we were flat broke and X came to visit and we had that ghastly Swedish girl and Y with us and I’d got tickets for one of the outdoor plays and we arrived to find it was for the night before – I could have wept.

But on the way back the car developed a definite ‘ticking’ noise which I put down to a very loose tappet – but was perhaps something more serious which I didn’t recognise as about 5 miles from home there was an almighty bang followed by horribly expensive grinding and cracking noises and a smell of hot oil! It has since appeared that a con rod broke and the loose end thrashing about went through the sump, demolished the oil pump and cracked the cylinder block beyond hope of guaranteeable repair. All of which adds up to about $600 of new bits and $200 of labour pulling them together – on top of which I shan’t ever feel confident in towing with the car again – so that we shall have more expense in changing it for something a bit more powerful – unless we give up the van which would be rather a policy of despair.

I think she’d be bored stiff here and I’d hate to lend her the Viva – she’s the most erratic driver.

It was me who convinced you there were humming birds in the hot houses at Kew as I took you there to show you and I even got one of the old gardeners and he denied it – I was v. put out and quite unconvinced – but now you have solved it for me as we lived quite near Syon Park and I must have seen them there and told you the wrong place – I get quite despondent how often I’m wrong!

I achieved my first real bit of work on the computer this week. When it finally came to printing it I pressed he button with trepidation, only to discover that the last eighty or so letters of each full line were being printed as the beginning of a new line. And of course I didn’t know how to stop it safely, so I stood there wringing my hands like the sorcerer’s apprentice while it wasted about eight sheets of paper (I’ve got it running on continuous sheets now).

When we got back from the station yesterday X discovered that somebody had picked and gone off with her only two daffodils, which were growing temptingly near the front gate. A rotten trick!

It’s a maddening thing that our TV, which is more or less audible and with a vague and rather snowy picture most evenings always seems to degenerate into a blizzard complete with a gale-like roaring on Sundays, when there is a David Attenborough series which we like to see.

I am sorry about the bird down your chimney. I can just imagine how distasteful, to say the least, dealing with the plagues has been. [Bluebottles and maggots…] It seems a pity you can’t have a holocaust up the chimney. But I suppose that might be rather tempting the fates.

Health

I must be a sore trial to the doctors, I think, as my symptoms always seem to disappear when they come on the scene. I had this pain in the side of my chest last week, which was very inconvenient, as it hurt to cough, and often when moving, or even lying down in some attitudes. Eventually on Wednesday evening, X insisted that I should get a doctor, which we did about nine thirty. She didn’t confess until afterwards that she was being largely influenced by a doctor drama going on on TV which revolved around a man having a heart attack!

X has had a nasty ear do – she complained of deafness – we put it down to swimming but took her to the Dr. after a few days and he said it was only wax and syringed them both and all seemed well and she heard beautifully but 2 days later got awful pain in and behind the ear so of course it was Saturday again and we had to go to yet a different partner who said there was some ‘infection and it was a mastoid process’ – whatever that means – but mastoid anything frightens me. He put her on gigantic doses of antibiotic which has improved it but she finishes them today and it still hurts. I’m not sure she shouldn’t go to a specialist willy-nilly.

I actually got around to the ‘barium meal’ x-ray he ordered months ago. ‘Where is the pain?’ said the operator and I couldn’t remember!! The ‘meal’ was revolting – the result quite negative, d.g.

Having boasted the day after we got home of our freedom from all bugs and tummy upsets I developed one the next day, which failed to respond to my usual white pills. So eventually I went to a young man who was standing in last week for our doctor who didn’t seem a bit perturbed and told me much the best thing was to let the bug ‘burn itself out’, and that the last time he went to H-K it took him 3 weeks. Mine, I am glad to say is d.v. now burnt!

People were fantastic during X’s comings and goings [to hospital]. Apart from having us to meals and looking after kids, we were given biscuits, pies, fruit enough for an army and masses of people visited X. Even an old dear of 85 insisted on having us to tea and providing us with fruit and biscuits – and then phoned me up 2 days later at 7.10 a.m. and told me to send one of the kids round to collect some warm scones for our lunch!

We had some rather shocking news of her yesterday. She was due to have an operation on Thursday and her husband rang yesterday to say that the Surgeon had started but not been able to do anything as she has a cancer which has spread and is now inoperable and he gave her a few weeks only to live.

After 3 weeks of the 2 months, X discharged herself from hospital not upsetting the Dr. or nurses by so doing as she’d been so bad tempered she’d upset everyone! I’ve had 3 v. lengthy letters since she returned and she sounds as tho’ she’s in full flight again – she really is remarkable.

I can now actually see the cards at bridge as I’ve had my old black glasses reglazed (?) with the reading prescription of my bifocals and if I sit well up to the table and ‘bosom’ my cards I can keep all in focus.

I have put on all I lost and more. The doctor’s jolly hormone pills seem to have made me swell up round the middle but he swears it’s just because I’m so much better!!

We had difficulty in getting a doctor to come (you know how they expect you to rise from the dead to go to the surgery here…)

He’s also had to have some atomic isotype something to do with the brain – which the brain man says he’s almost sure will be negative – I asked what it meant if it was positive and X said it meant he was mad!! Oh dear, oh dear.

I’m not sure if I’m glad for X or not – it must be awful for her and all the family if it’s just a matter of lying in pain and waiting poor dear.

We heard from X who seems to have completely forgotten not only that she had told us of her accident but also that we had exchanged more letters and sent her some flowers.

I think we’re both a bit tensed up. It’s too depressing the number of people who regale us with tales of how they’d planned a trip abroad when they’d retired and one of them died at the crucial moment – not good for one’s morale!

I’ve just put my hand on the stove to see if it was working – it was – HELL.

The cooker IS on!

Bureaucracy 2

She offered the receipts etc. but was told he’d take her word for it – took off 2/3 of the price and charged 25% on remainder which came to $6!!! X said when I phoned it was all a toss up and depended on the man on the spot. Someone else told me it was left fairly loose so the types who were trying to pay for their holiday by calling here could be charged the whole 110% as it was becoming such a racket.

I don’t understand why you have a Trust to manage the finances of your job, but it doesn’t sound as though they are making a very good job it. How much I agree with your remark about having fewer managers and more people to actually do some work. It happens all the time with our Health service now, and all they can manage it seems is to cut down the services provided when they haven’t enough left over after paying themselves.

 

Our latest effort at service for the public is a threat by bank clerks to strike from the Friday before Christmas right through until after the New Year (and you can imagine the fun the thieves will have – there are reports of crowds of them booking flights!!).

Thieves travelling

Having spent 2 weeks since last writing being without a driving licence my news is limited. I quite enjoyed it actually and it was v. economical not being tempted with inessentials! Friends drove me down on ‘the day’ – at the end of a run round a square he said I had broken the law 3 times! All the things I’ve done for 60 years – but I didn’t push this and thanked him for putting me right – and I got my licence! – I am mellowing!

Certainly your bureaucrats sound very trying – but do not be mystified. They work on certain principles by which their actions and reactions can usually be explained e.g. ‘Never on any account admit that you have made an error – whether of fact or of judgement.’  Secondly, ‘Do not accept any other person’s actions or requests at their face value, especially when they are apparently philanthropic or economical.’ They are obviously seeking some hidden advantage for themselves or trying in some obscure way to discredit the bureaucrat. The one must of course be frustrated as wholeheartedly as the other. Thirdly ‘Never act without precedent or make an exception to a rule.’ Such initiative might be called in question and it is worth much labour even to the extent of letting one’s tea get cold or STAYING LATE to argue oneself out of the necessity. I dare say there are others but that threefold cord is not easily broken without adding other strands!

It is a pity that X’s claim to fame was to do with such shady episodes as the Profumo affair, and the subsequent choice of Lord Home as prime minister after Macmillan, which of course also proved fairly disastrous for all concerned. He was much too nice a man to make a successful P.M.

Hopefully we shall get a letter tomorrow – no, not tomorrow as it is Labour Day when like the gasmen we do no work at all; and probably not Tuesday either, because that will be like a Monday and we hardly ever get any letters on Monday – but say Wednesday! On the whole our post has got much worse since it ceased being a Government service, and quite often it seems as though they are saving up such miserable brown envelopes as they are prepared to bring us at all for two or more days of the week. The Post Office were horrified when we told them and couldn’t understand it at all. That sort of thing is definitely fifty years out of date.

He was filling in a form about her and asked ‘Have you any convictions?’ to which she replied, ‘Yes – I’m a Christian.’ Fortunately when she realised what he meant they both had a good giggle!

I am continually amazed at how like our bureaucracy is to yours – they must send representatives back and forth to learn from each other, I think. Our Ministry of Education is constantly making cuts in funds until the schools have to cut services in one way or another, and then sending commissions of enquiry to examine the school’s methods and to complain, just like your department having to cut the services to special schools and then being told off for having done so. It is difficult to imagine any more effective way of lowering morale and encouraging frustration!

Gardening 7

My vegetable garden is really looking quite creditable now though it would be better still if the wind hadn’t broken off or down the tops of some of my potatoes. I’ve got 3 sorts of them, a row of peas just podding, a row of celery, carrots, parsnips and a couple of pumpkins all under way, a few tomatoes and at about the fourth attempt some French and runner beans – though I think they are going to be very behind and may get drought struck – or else will be ready for picking while we’re on holiday!

We stopped to show her the garden of our old house – sad, sad – I didn’t know weeds could grow so much in 3 months

I’ve laid another 50sq m of garden in lawn; slowly but surely the barren waste is coming under control- my fastidious (and retired) neighbour even smiled at me the other day so I must be doing well!

Congratulations on your vegetables. I have put some garlic in (a month late I fear). I had some little Brussels sprouts growing which hadn’t any stalks but otherwise looked healthy at one time, but now they been eaten almost to the bone by something and can’t possibly do any good, I fear.

I hope the orange tree is more successful at going on growing fruit than our lemon which has produced endless beginnings and no reasonable continuations.

We bought some new plants and a copper beech tree and a bush X has always wanted which has all its new leaves a deep red. We put them in one afternoon and that night the damn sheep got in and removed all the red leaves!

Sheep eating all the red leaves

The story of your garden almost brought tears to my eyes. It seems that for exterior exhibition you’ll have to stick to cockle shells and silver bells (though they wouldn’t last long in these inflationary and criminal days).

Apart from occasional sudden cold days, spring is here: blossom on the apples, strawberries and boysenberries, buds on the roses with one or two out, and so on. Enough grass has grown to hide most of the black patches on the lawn where I tried to kill the moss with iron sulphate, but I don’t think any of the expensive grass seed I sowed has taken root. But a few of my veggies are looking quite good, and we had some more of the broad beans from over the winter for lunch.

We are having a three day summer, (today is the third) and I ought to be out hosing the beans, and weeding the veg plot which has remained scandalously empty so far, apart from one crop of carrots and a few parsnips, plus lots of self-down parsley. Unfortunately the pumpkins which used to appear of their own accord in some numbers have given up. Alas, no soup! And the entire plum crop this year year has been picked – four plums! The blossom all got blown away when it was much too cold for bees. I suppose I ought to go round with a rabbit’s foot another year. I must enquire into the technique. But the apples are looking good so hopefully we can fill the deep freeze with them.

My runner beans have suddenly sprung halfway up the strings and the broad beans five feet high, but a lot of things are not doing so well – beetroot stuck at two inches, carrots refusing to appear at all, tomato plants tuck at a foot high, and the broccoli bursting into yellow bloom when they ought to be forming nice green heads. (I always find that particularly irritating!).

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.

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