We have been picking oysters to get some money together for the trip. Oysters are to the island what coals are to Newcastle – they are everywhere. The beach is the economic heart of the island and we are right there! As far as manual work goes, the work is good. There are five of us working for one guy, and it only takes about an hour and a half to fill lots and lots of buckets and fling them, full of oysters, into a big truck. We have to fill the truck, and we work about three nights a week. Money is good. We have been working all this month, and by the end of it we will have earned our return train-fares. Maybe we will be ‘oyster millionaires’!
We sat for the best part of an hour watching semi-finals and finals of shearing competitions. I’ve never watched an expert before, and they certainly are fascinating. How they don’t cut the sheep to pieces I can’t imagine as they shave them very close, and go whizzing round their necks and up and down their tummies quite unable to see where the shears are going, for the wool that is piling up on top of them.
He got a job with the local daily paper moreorless as the sweeper-up in their printing shop, and was then offered a chance to work the guillotine, and so on round and up, until a year or so ago they made him factory manager for all their printing.
In passing she mentioned X’s baby – don’t know when it arrived – evidently everyone is delighted with everything as X has large house, 2 maids and a nanny – who says money doesn’t talk?!
We opened the tea garden ready or not! I am still making table cloths. We have 8 tables for 2 or 3 inside then 2 verandah tables and 2 large tables in the gazebo. I am doing the outside cloths, round with pull up string so they don’t come off in the wind! Embroidered by machine of course – leaves, posies, insects and squirrels, grapes etc. I already had to make one for a customer.
My policy that I took out at the age of 21 matured a few days ago. It was only for £200! though with profits is now worth £550 (i.e. about half what £200 would buy in 1933!!) Not much of a bargain really as I must have paid in a total of about £230 over the years. Unfortunately I have lost the policy so I haven’t got the money yet.
Her brother was there one day marching about the garden with a broom pretending to be a soldier (grown man) so it must be a family failing.
How are your awful neighbours – my awful neighbours are about as awful as usual, if not worse. Luckily for me a v. nice young couple (both lawyers) have moved into the other side of the semi next door which is occupied by one of these awful people! they don’t like her any more than I do and I sorta think they are going to something about it – being lawyers!
X sent me a cutting from one of their papers all about him and his peculiarities. There were several glaring mistakes which made me feel smug – the ancestral seat of the family for instance. We dined with him at his house, big yes, but hardly baronial. The old house was burnt down with his cousin in it which is why he inherited the title. I do pity his wife having to sit through endless journalists getting copy from him and rehearing all the old stories.
We’ve just filled out our Census forms, what a to-do – practically want to know how many times you go to the loo. I felt a bit shamed having to tick ‘no school qualifications’ and only 9 years schooling! Put my MBE after my name to cheer me up.
We left at 9.40 a.m. We popped in on the Xs at about 3.15 hoping to cadge a bite of lunch. She had gone out with the kids and he was painting the kitchen. He assured us we were welcome to sit on the lawn and eat the ice blocks we’d brought them but he was going to continue his painting and listen to his cricket. That sort of thing is very hard to stomach – especially when the stomach concerned is empty!
We went home and to X’s for supper. She had a beautiful house in a village with a square surrounded by arches. Her house is three storeys and the gravel terrace leads to the bank of another river running in a valley with trees on the other side. The furniture and paintings were gorgeous and she had done the dining room walls with gold material. One of her sons was in for dinner and we dined on homemade pate and then goose with exotically done potatoes then salad and then an enormous creme caramel. The white-coated man servant was summoned to pass round the dishes by a little silver bell and it was all very gracious living!
The evening was disastrous – my pet parishioner (who gave me the can of oil) is so alone and knows he’s odd – but I didn’t realise how odd and was rather fed up with X who finds him very offputting. He was quite batty and talked utter balderdash in the most delightful and cultured way all evening, interspersed with his wild stories of being damned to hell by Cardinal so and so and committed to the asylum by Bishop someone else – he’d lift his eyes to heaven and mutter ‘Oh the madness, the madness’ – all very unnerving. He thanked me charmingly for the evening and X said talked perfectly sensibly all the way home. He was a fighter pilot in the war. I was so sorry for all the others. It wrecked the evening for them.
Unfortunately I didn’t really take to X who was staying and I think v v was probably true – a most loud and aggressive person as my desiderata says! Anyway we got along.
Do you remember X at my hairdresser’s – by repute anyway? Well he was arrested last month dressed in women’s clothes at a club and caught giving the man he was dancing with a pep pill!! Much to my surprise he was still at the firm and as cheerful as ever when next I went. Actually I like him – he’s a pleasant boy. I gather he was fined $70.
I found two boys on the train who were crossing Paris on the metro – one who was rather a bore and who unfortunately was coming on my train but I managed to avoid as I had a couchette and the other a civil servant of some sort who was taking unpaid leave after 9 months recovery time after a nasty incident – he was staying in a hotel on business somewhere and during the night a skylight fell in and badly cut up one eye. He was hospitalised for months and had spent the months off work wandering about Europe – he was quite interesting. Unfortunately he had mistaken Montpelier for Montmartre so had at least another day’s travelling to do to get to the people he as staying with.
There was great excitement in the town yesterday morning as some bod escaped police custody and was caught locally, on the crashing into two police cars and into the fence of a friend of mine – who says life in the country is boring?! Only two weeks ago someone was caught with a bag of unstable gelignite at the pub down the road – he was dropped off there by a petrol tanker driver who had given him a lift – things could really have gone with a bang!
Sorry your new job didn’t come off – at least you’re not as inately optimistic as me – even now I am slightly surprised that anyone more suitable than me could have applied for a job!
I have bought myself a second-hand enlarger (b&w) so that I can do my own printing at home… It isn’t too hard to make a darkroom out of the kitchen after dark. One project that I am doing at the moment is rephotographing some family photos. Some are quite old and rather damaged or faded, however they are coming out not too badly. I did an album for my father from them for his birthday this year. He was 80… He was thrilled with it, after being a bit upset, as I knew he would be. He loves looking at all the photograph albums at home, but lots of the photos are very small. I just picked a selection and made them a lot bigger and easier to see for fading eyesight.
Today I received a new toy which I’ve never had before – a cheque book. I’ve practised writing out two cheques, and now there’s hardly anything left in it. Absolutely fatal, but I’m tired of running around during lunch hours paying all the bills. Much simpler to pop them in the post.
My calculator was even cleverer than just solar, it worked under electric light too, but unfortunately the brightness in our sitting room was beyond it unless I stood up to get the direct flow, not how I enjoy my evenings! However my new one I exchanged for it has a battery reputed to last 1500 hours, and turn itself off 7 minutes after use if you forget. I don’t think I’ll find it too expensive to run!
I hoped to find a copy of the handbook for my model at the motor cycle shop which deals in Yamahas – but no luck. He sold the only bike of that model which he had in stock last week. I was going to borrow it and copy the important bits at the library. If you know a good place in London where you might get me a handbook, Yamaha RX 125 two-stroke, 1979, do get me one and post it and I will repay you.
I collate and staple some 6000 diaries – everyone lends a hand when they’re free but it’s pretty boring. I remarked to the head of the department he’d do better to get a machine and he quite seriously said it was much more expensive and would cost 4c a sheet. As I reckon I average 150 6-page diaries an hour I can see his point but it’s not v. good for my morale! ( I wouldn’t mind being bored for $9 an hour as against about $1.85.) However I’ve been quite firm I couldn’t stand more than one day a week on that lark so they can take it or leave it. The government statistics department pay v. well – but you have to spend about an hour with each family asking the most personal financial questions – I’d be v. uppitty if anyone asked me so am not prepared to be told what myself!
I could have wept over you plodding round London, wet and tired and no home – so glad you eventually got fixed up and hope it proves a success. We’re continuing our hunt – we went to see the one we liked so much (altho’ they were asking twice what the valuer thought it was worth) to see if it was worth pushing out the boat for. Glad we did – it had shrunk no end since we saw it and was really quite impractical. We were amused by the estate agent – who’s nice – he picked a book from their shelves and was reading it whilst we went round. He beckoned us silently to go and read the title of the book – ‘How to get rich quick on Real Estate’!!! If we hadn’t already decided against it that would have fixed it!
Had a letter from X – their old house has been turned into a cul de sac with 6 houses in it – they must have made a bomb over it.
A Dutch couple turned up. They were looking for peace and quiet and apparently prepared (if it was not all big talk) to buy 2000 acres to achieve it. The sight of the neighbour’s dilapidated shed across the fields seemed to be enough to put the man off, so it was difficult to see why they kept us waiting twenty minutes for our lunch while we showed them round the house and they chatted! ‘Too small,’ they said eventually.
A brief line to tell you we SOLD yesterday for MONEY. The man offered $10,000 less than asked and said it was no use coming back to him with another offer as that was it and he’d look elsewhere if we weren’t satisfied. One of the partners went out and pushed him up by $5,000 so we ended up in the middle of top and bottom valuations. … The stinker of a buyer added to the agreement ‘sheep and garden seat’. That seemed a fairly nit-picking attempt at face-saving. As he didn’t mention how many sheep we’re selling the lambs and getting 2 old ones shot.
We called on the farmer the other side of the river and I started by apologising that I proposed to go on trespassing across a corner of his field as my predecessors had done. (They apparently made the drive a nice straight way which was his, instead of through a duck pond and then with a dogleg turn which was how it should have gone by the map.) However he didn’t seem v. worried which was good.
I’ll go to help them move. Retirement House Number 4! It’s getting to be a hobby/habit!
We went over to look at a factory where they make houses in ‘modular’ bits – bringing them and nailing the whole thing together rather like Lego in a single day! That was quite intriguing and seemed cheaper than a solid wood house.
X told her it went for £42,000 – what must ours be worth [sold for about £11,000 only 2 years before] – about 3 times as much land. The houses like we bought after the war for £2,600 are selling for £22,000. Everything’s gone mad.
I got home at 6.40 in gathering dusk to find no electricity in the house, and no candles either, apart from a couple of Christmassy ones X had managed to borrow next door. The builders have actually started this week and had apparently been up in the roof just before it went off about 5 so I was deeply suspicious! Rang him up and it seems all he had been doing was looking which way the ceiling joists ran and he was most obliging and arrived with a tame electrician a few minutes later but all he could do was to confirm that it was the elec co’s fuse on the pole which had blown so then there was another long wait. Eventually the van arrived at about 9.45 and all was sweetness and light within 3 minutes once more.
The carpentry work is practically finished downstairs but heaven knows when it will be habitable. The electrician and plumber still have to return, and the plasterer is only promised for the end of next week. But the major snag is the floor which is apparently so rough and wavy that the flooring expert practically refuses to do anything. In the end we shall either have to do it in wood after all which will reduce the headroom even more or else I reckon we’ll have to stick down polystyrene ceiling tiles and then cover it with vinyl and carpet and get used to sinking in until we have trodden it down!…[and the solution later] Eventually after long discussions what they did was to put down dozens of little wooden blocks of assorted size and varying thickness getting them roughly level – bed them into strips of plaster, and then lay sheets of a compressed wood chip board about 8 ft by 4, which ought not rock or sag even if it is not all that well supported in places. They nailed it right through into the concrete underneath – which was pretty thin and has probably broken up in the process, but what the eye doesn’t see we hope the heart will not grieve over!
We went along 90 miles of unsealed, bumpy, windy road – very picturesque even when viewed through dust and vomit. That section went very well with the only mishap being a puncture. After some tea we went on. About half way the generator light came on – the battery (and lights and engine) finally gave up in the middle of nowhere. Luckily while I was away phoning for a taxi at the nearest farm a man, who obviously had seen a car before, stopped and tracked the trouble to the regulator (the what?). With finger on ‘that thing there’, and a hefty push we managed to get under way and finally arrived at 1 a.m.
I cheered X up last week, I was leaning into the ‘frig looking for something and lost my balance so grabbed the nearest thing which was one of the shelves. I yelled for X who found me with 3 broken eggs and masses of bits surrounding me, a box of eggs fortunately had only one cracked.
I write to express sympathy, now much out of date, over the manner of your parting from Computer Man. Admittedly it sounded entirely in character (and I can imagine him saying to himself ‘Here I’ve been paying her to learn in my time and this is all I get for it’) – but such a pity, to have to protect his ego in such a male chauvinist and piggish way. If that leaves you short on your financial arrangements for your trip through the early waning of your moonlight you are very welcome to borrow the money in my deposit account over there.
[Postcard of Titanic posted Southampton 19th April 1912] Thurs night – just passed docks. Many hundreds of anxious people outside shipping office. What a terrible calamity! Glad we shall see you on Saturday night.
I seem to be burning the rather aged candle at both ends and in the middle and feeling the consequences!
I had my hair done by a new man in the morning as I had a phone call in the middle of dinner on Friday to tell me ‘my’ nice Dutchman had fled the country in debt all round – sad, he worked so hard. I was the only one with a telephone number by my name and got the brunt of the owner of the premises fury – or disappointment.
I couldn’t resist having a go with my ‘new’ knitting machine this week and made a pale green oiled wool crew neck sweater. The concentration and frustration were terrific. I got within inches of finishing the back and really got into the swing of it – about 20 rows a minute – when the whole thing fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed I was coming to the end of the wool. After wasting about 1.5 hours trying to put it back on the needle I gave up and had to unravel and start again.
I went for a long walk along the hill a week or so ago carefully avoiding the larger rams with which the fields seemed to be stuffed because we had a grisly story in the paper not long ago about two people in their seventies who spent an hour and a half being attacked by a ram, which was eventually driven off by the farmer’s wife who was in her sixties.
She thought our TV so crummy she’s told us to go and choose any colour set we like and send her the bill!! I must admit our black and white has about had it. For the last 4 months or so it’s had no sound so I pick up the sound channels on the FM band of the radio and sit it by the TV.
I had to extend the wiring from the power plug for the new position of the frig and was just fitting the new socket on the end of the extension when it shorted in my hand with a loud bang. I can’t think when I was last so foolish as to plug in and switch on a length of wire of which I proposed to bare the far ends! Fortunately I wasn’t touching the wires themselves.
I do hope my new lathe is not going to be a rogue causing constant trouble. The first thing was when it suddenly stopped driving although the motor was running. However after some pushing and pulling that seemed to cure itself. Then a few days ago I switched the motor off but it just went on running. A machine that won’t run is a nuisance but a machine that won’t stop could be a real danger in emergency so I wrote them an indignant letter and the firm’s technical expert is coming out to look at it.
It has not been a good gadget year – I am on my 4th hairdryer (of the batch of 10 the local chemist got in, I’ve had 4 – it was obviously a faulty batch). X’s new soldering iron had exposed wires. Our cooker, only about 2 1/2 years old, has something quite seriously wrong with it as it burns out thermostats at a most alarming rate and X’s new bedside light has loose wires since bulbs seem only to last until the thing gets moved.
X rang this morning in rather a dither – her brakes gave out going down their drive – actually by pumping her foot down it worked in time but ever since she’s thought up all the things that might have happened and got herself in a state – she really is a bit neurotic.
While I’m writing this letter I’m lying on the lounge settee under a sheepskin rug trying to keep my blood circulating. We are having another one of ‘our’ weekend power cuts. It wouldn’t be so bad if the weather wasn’t so unusually shocking. The wind is in the south and blowing a tremendous gale. Luckily it has stopped raining. For at least a week or so it’s just been bucketing down.
Here we have snow – winter came early this year. The woods are so beautiful when there is a fresh fall, (to speak a true cliche: it is like living in the middle of a Christmas card!) It thaws, and rains an incredible amount and gets very cold and snows again.
The whole family is now contemplating a move for a minimum of a year to Lagos – 35 degree all the year round with a constant 95% humidity – not my cup of tea (though remarkably like it, when you come to think of it).
We were amused with the radio report that traffic police, fed up with having to rescue people who ventured on the motorways against all warnings that they were impassable, had blocked the access roads with snowballs – presumably made with the aid of of front end loaders to push them along.
It’s been bitterly cold here yesterday and rained in buckets all day – I froze but sun out today again.
X gave me an umbrella, a truly magnificent structure when erected with about as much steel work as the Eiffel Tower. If I ever have the effrontery to put it up in town I shall expect the draught between all our new tower blocks to carry me smartly to the top of the parliament building. Cheaper than hang-gliding!
The further east we went the rain got heavier and the forecast got worse. We moved into a cabin on the coast. It poured solidly on the first 3 days, was dull on the fourth and absolutely glorious on the fifth day. Despite all that we had a very good time. We went to see the kiwi at Napier, looked at a very good model village and boated between the rains. We went to a flick and swam in the rain and had a lovely day on the beach on the Saturday.
In high summer we are sitting in all our winter clothes huddled over the fire – full on. It’s been THE lousiest summer of all time – I think we had the only vaguely reasonable weather for holidaying of anyone I know.
I’ve just realised that I have been sitting here most of the morning without having the fire on, so spring really has sprung in a small way already. The oak is on the point of bursting to leaf, which is pretty prompt of it only a fortnight late in spite of the bad winter we have had and the magnolia has been blooming away for days. I’ve managed to get the strawberry beds more or less sorted out but it is difficult to believe we shall get any plums this year as the blossom has all gone now, and not a bee to be seen anywhere so far!
Our house is on a steep rise on an unmade road and in the last downpour two deep channels were cut either side – we couldn’t get out as it was a foot deep and a foot wide. So they came along with dump trucks and graders and 7 men and filled in the holes. Alas, it rained again and all their cosmetic work was washed down the hill and filled up the drains in the road that crosses ours causing it to flood one foot deep at the edges, over to the playcentre on one side and to the park on the other.
One likely candidate is a fairly ‘rough diamond’ who has been with us about 18 months – a man who X is apparently denigrating saying we don’t want a trade union secretary as a president! I can’t think of a better training for managing our members than to be a T.U. secretary!
We had the first of the Greenpeace beach clean-ups last Saturday for the new season, and managed to collect quite a pile of junk. It is odd that there is one particular stretch of beach near the river mouth which seems to specialise in bathing shorts, and similar bits of clothing. Very odd. I have noticed it several times, and this time I think I got three pairs, and another man working in the same area said he had got some too.
We had the Bridge Club AGM last night – a lot of waffling, under woolly chairmanship by our retiring (thank goodness) president. The next one is the wife of a Brigadier, and will keep us all in order and be efficient and hardworking and lucid, no doubt. All the more important, so far as I am concerned, since I am now back on the Committee as they were having trouble finding a treasurer and I said I would take a turn.
I’ve just sent away to find out if I’d be suitable for any VSA vacancies for next year and if it sounds likely I may follow that up further to see if they’d take me. That’s usually also for two years and counts as continued service over here which is a big factor in getting jobs. I get enthusiastic and not in turns about the idea (typical!) but think on the whole it’s a good thing to do and if I’m going to do it then now is a better time than in 2 years time.
Talking of incompetent volunteers, a fortnight ago we broke up the path from my study door to the garage and prepared it for re-concreting. It ‘only’ took 2 1/2 hours for 2 qualified civil engineers, a medical specialist, two accountants and an educationalist at tertiary level. Yesterday I hoped the concrete was going down – but no luck. Someone had boobed over ordering the materials so it looks as though we shall be stumbling over the sub-structure for another 3 weeks until the team can reassemble. A pity.
I am delighted to say that we managed to introduce some new blood into our vestry and reduce the average age a bit at our Annual Meeting. This had all been organised beforehand and just as well since again we only had 24 people present (out of a magazine distribution of 700!) It is said that a lot of people stay away for fear of being elected to do something if they come.
I am glad we didn’t have to build – our valuer and lawyer warned us against it as you never know how much it will all end up as and we’ve got an established garden with a 35 ft oak tree +++ and it’s all in very good condition.
I don’t envy you the trauma of property hunting – I was quite exhausted and bemused after seeing about 20 – and only too glad to clinch the first one we saw when it ‘came back’.
On Christmas Day we let off 3 borer bombs. [Strange antipodean custom???] Alas I dropped the match on the one under the house instead of lighting the fuse and the instant pall of black smoke was accompanied for about 5 seconds by a 3 ft tongue of flame which lapped hopefully at the floor boards above! As I’d just warned the fire people that I was letting off the bombs I had visions of my calls for the brigade being laughed off with ‘Oh she’ll be right, mate – it’s only a borer bomb; now if you’ll give us a couple of minutes we’ll get stuck into a couple of dozen Christmas beers in the office here.’
I spent a couple of hours one afternoon taking the TV aerial off the chimney (which has frequent and large cracks in it) in the hope that this would prevent it getting worse. I borrowed one ladder – a heavy wooden one – from our neighbour to get up to the roof, and slung our aluminium steps over the ridge to get up to the chimney stack – and when I had finished I left the wire brace round the chimney and wished I had a couple more to help hold it together. I’ve also managed to make the third part of the bookcase – and hope that when I’ve finished painting and bring it upstairs it’s going to be a bit more of a success than the disastrous other bits.
We’re so tidy it’s agony – I hope it sells quickly for that alone! We decided that to keep inside and outside to present state all the time we’d need a gardener and maid!
The problem is to know how to dry out the batts in the roof, even when you have stopped the leak. I discovered a nail sprung, above, and caulked and hammered that, and then cut a two inch hole in the ceiling and rigged up the old Electrolux to blow air in through it. After most of a day it seemed all dry, so I plugged the hole with a round of softboard fixed in with Polyfilla. Just when I had got it all painted the next day we had another gale with heavy rain – and it was evident that I hadn’t cured the leak! So the whole process has had to be repeated – this time I put gungy tape all down a join in the roof where the edge of one sheet is bent up a bit and presumably catching a lot of water that drives in in a high wind.
We seemed to do all the same business, as usual (some of these decisions have been on the books for 3 years!), the Treasurer and the manager had their all too common argument, the Treasurer resigned and then unresigned – ho hum!
She doesn’t get on with her boss… The latest thing was that her 2nd band girls were not to be allowed work merit points for good marks in their test because they’d beaten the 1st band girls, who are meant to be brighter. ‘It would make a nonsense of the banding system.’
The forms get more and more complicated every year it seems, as they introduce more and more computers. And I heard of a friend had an amended return for this year which the computer had worked out. He rang up to say he couldn’t understand it and how had he got his figures wrong – and the girl at the other end eventually admitted that it was the computer that was wrong.
But it seems they propose to change the rates of the old surtax to collect extra money from us! The wriggles of the Social Welfare minister, a fat lady called X, to avoid admitting she made a mistake and avoid apologising for it have to be seen to be believed. Quite odorous.
He spent a week checking the safety of two tunnels that are being built. He found that they weren’t safe. He’d naturally expected them to be re-designed to make them safe. But you’ll never believe what he was told – they just wanted to know for their records – in case something happens! I just pray nothing does!!
I wish she could live in a smaller, brighter and warmer house with about an eighth of the hedge and half of the lawns to look after – or a team of large schoolboys ready to be hired next door.
I went for a pleasant though chilly walk along the beach with the dog, amid clouds of swirling sand, as the wind was strong. There are some nice houses along the stretch there, which one doesn’t see from the road, and some of them have attempts at gardening right down to the sand, with succulents and so on. But the actual bottom of their gardens is hardly fairy-like; they are obviously bothered with erosion and each frontage has its own endeavour to counter it – here a concrete wall, then posts and planks, then old stakes with old motor tyres thrown on them, and so on.
Bugs in the garden are being a real worry this year, and I have had to root up a very promising row of broad beans as something ate all the centre of the main shoot out! I was so proud of them too but hadn’t bothered to examine them closely. Pigeons attack from above, slugs from below and the weather from all round, so it is parlous hard – but good exercise and profitable if anything does come up!
Pause to go and drive two cats off my vegetable patch where they were indulging in preliminary love-play all over my small cauliflower plants. Not nice at 9.40 a.m., and definitely counter-productive of caulis at any rate.
The house has a well-planned and flat veg garden, a fig tree and lemon, peaches plus plus plus, but as it’s only 6 years old they are only about 6-9 foot tall, but things grow almost as you watch them there, and they said they had put down 100 lbs of runner beans last year.
I noticed the lawn was getting terribly mossy, so got some iron sulphate and scattered it about – not very evenly, I fear, for the next morning it has turned black in patches! The agent who came the other day and seemed knowledgeable said the real trouble was some worser-than-grass-grub animal, called something like piranha (though I thought that was a fish) – it lives 18 inches down but comes up to feed on the grass roots.