Doctors

My doctor is very aggrieved that I was so upset by his phoning late with his news of my blood test, and mumbles he won’t tell me anything in future if I get so worried about it. He insists now that about 10% of the people locally would very likely have it and I could have gone for years without knowing if I hadn’t had a blood test and anyway he didn’t diagnose it, it’s in my notes from five years ago, but the results showed it was getting worse this test.

I am absolutely delighted with ‘obsessional slowness’ and ‘pathological procrastination’ as the words fit a number of everybody’s symptoms. What will they think of next as a sensible diagnosis to offer a grown man?

A rattle in his chest

They have been spending the day with us, which was lovely. The baby had a rotten ‘rattle’ and ear trouble. They’d been in to see the doctor on the way here. I think it’s fortunate he and his wife are to be the godparents – doctors’ fees have gone up per visit! Part of the new budget. And prescriptions. Already two people have died because they couldn’t afford a weekend visit to the doctor. In fact ‘they’ now say this should never happen – but the poor don’t know.

My doctor said if it didn’t clear up then I’d better take a self-destruct pill, I wasn’t feeling well enough to think it funny, it’d lasted six months. Incidentally I did change my doctor and now go to the woman, who seems very understanding, but has the slightly chilling habit of not saying anything so you’re inclined to say more than you intended!

Depression/unemployment

nearly cheeseless

Having this job has been good for my morale. I hate being unemployed – it makes me feel useless and frustrated about being unproductive. Over the last year or so I’ve felt varying degrees of that because of being unemployed. Having some really excellent friends has basically been the only thing between having ‘my bit of cheese fall off my cracker’ as I’ve heard someone euphemistically putting it and staying non-cheeseless.

 

You were right about X’s not-job. It must be pretty tough after all that time with one company. I do hope he gets something else before too long. Quite apart from the financial issues, I suspect an unemployed X would quite quickly become unbearable.

Both the photography and the lace making have made me much more positive lately. I know some people say it’s better to perfect something one already knows something about, but I think to do something new and different can have a very positive effect when one is feeling down and despondent.

I did get your letter. I even replied but did not send it. I was feeling like I was going to collapse into a heap. It was the stress from the work situation, physical exhaustion, stress through my housing dilemma, and a boss who thought I was invincible even though I was trying to tell him I was just about going gaga.

We all keep on gardening

My B&B business is still thriving, nearly all the proceeds of which go into the upkeep of the garden. However hard I try to be abstemious, I always end up spending a fortune on seeds and plants each year, and then wondering why I have to spend so much time watering when the weather is hot and dry! … some things did extremely well, such as roses, peas, garlic, onions and autumn raspberries, while others failed quite spectacularly, in particular, summer raspberries, most tree fruit and broad beans. All my tomatoes and peppers were very late producing anything edible, due to the lack of sun in early summer, but there wasn’t a sign of the usual infestation of whitefly. There’s no pleasing gardeners, is there!

I had a lad who helped with the mowing for most of the summer. Very useful but he did it so badly that it nearly drove me to drink!

The ground is squelchy with wet after last night’s downpour and there won’t be very much more I can usefully do in the garden until it dries up a bit! The poor little seedlings do look bedraggled after it and I might earth them up a bit I suppose, but it seems rather fiddly and pointless to mess with them. Actually the slugs will finish them off in one more night if I leave them I expect – they have devoured a line of carrots, the first line of kale and sprouts and all the dwarf beans to date so there isn’t much hope I feel!

There is quite a large backyard which has an orange tree and some vegetables which I planted. However it mainly looks very run down as nothing has been done to it for years. I expect I will have to battle for several more years to rid it of noxious grasses which just take over if not kept constantly in check. Come autumn I will have planned it (I hope) and can plant some shrubs and ground cover which should improve it greatly. I have things in the front garden now – some cooking herbs, a climbing rose (to hide the iron fence), a white and ordinary coloured lavender, a rosemary bush, and two daisies both of which have a fungus and will have to be destroyed.

…if you’re against strong poisons on weeds and have only a small area, a drop of petrol will go down to the roots in no time, useful for between paving.

water creature

 

For my birthday in July everyone generously gave me money so I could put a water feature in the garden or, as X calls it, my water creature.

 

The garden has been lovely, always something new… I got quite a lot of strawberries last year, made lots of my strawberry syrup and bottled it. We shall use most of our homemade jams in the tearoom, muffins & jam etc. I may do marmalade and lemon curd for sale as one can make them any time. We have a good fig tree too, some citrus and mulberries besides plenty of pawpaws. We may do things like homemade bread & pate for lunches, and fruit salad. Youngberries and blackberries are growing well. Hazel nut trees have taken and one sweet chestnut tree, one blackcurrant (one small shoot survived the new gardener!) [Green with envy re this list!]

The weather here in Sydney is gradually getting warmer as spring turns into summer. The trees and shrubs are all in bloom so the City looks great. The Jacaranda trees have been stunning. I went on a garden excursion recently – to see some private gardens in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately it rained all day and it really rains hard here. Anyway we had to spend a lot more time on refreshments than viewing.

The varieties of potatoes have me intrigued. One of the ‘house’ type magazines I bought had a feature on potatoes: it was really quite an education. One rather intriguing one is Purple Congo which is quite small and dark purple. I t mashes quite well apparently, to a beautiful lavender shade reminiscent of a colour some elderly ladies used to like their blouses. A bit off-putting, so I haven’t tried it, even though the writer of the article did promise it was very tasty. I am not going to have any vegetables other than a few herbs in pots. I cannot get enough sun at the right time for them to grow properly. I don’t want to put them in the front, although many home gardeners of Mediterranean origin do. You see these beautifully staked beans and tomatoes in beds next to the roses, which may have garlic or onions growing under them. … I sort of run out of steam when planting the front, as I came to the foundations of the original house in just that strip where I could plant. So it was digging and prising small stones from between very much larger and heavier ones, and chipping off the sopping old mortar. I couldn’t get out the largest: they were just too heavy, apart from being at a depth of from just above my knees down. I would see people drive and walk slowly past me trying to peer inconspicuously to see what I was doing, knee-deep in my own front garden.

Property – values/repairs/layout

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

the balcony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics

Partner is away at the moment doing a dreadful course in Yorkshire which will teach him how to deal with a nuclear holocaust. He can pick me up from Greenham on the way back!

Not much has transpired since we last communicated (except the Falklands war!!!)

Oh, think of the boredom of an election – can’t say I am keen on any of them really and the radio will be full of speeches and rant.

…and in the process of freeing up the ‘wage freeze’ which the former government had in force, and so this round everybody is trying to catch up for about the last three years…

We continue to be regaled daily with snippets about the Rainbow Warrior affair – of which one of the nicer ones was a report from Paris of official indignation about the conditions under which the two French Army officers were being kept on remand awaiting trial. ‘As though they were common criminals’ was the complaint. I don’t know what the French think arson and murder count as in the criminal code.

the closed mind

…when I asked X what she thought, she said honestly enough, ‘I came with a closed mind, and I’m going away with a closed mind’.

There is so much fraud and mismanagement in Government it is frightening. Government hospitals and health services are in a sorry state but there is always money to show off and host conferences… One thing they are good at is throwing a party… I’m stuck here, there is nowhere to go. I can only do the best I can and trust I don’t get raped, robbed, hijacked or murdered. (No exaggeration, all are very real possibilities). Funny, but I manage to live my life without fear. We have our lovely weather, good shopping, movies and theatre and I still have a job and a roof over my head for which I am grateful.

There has been factional fighting in the council for a long time, with some members accusing others of just using it as a way to self aggrandisement etc. etc. Now the mayor is in the middle of a public scandal relating to some shady personal business dealings in X. The public bone of contention is that he used council phone and fax facilities to the tune of several thousand dollars for these business dealings, and also that he sent personal business correspondence on council letterhead. He doesn’t see that he has done anything untoward. So, once again, we wait for the mud to settle before we can see what’s what.

Our trials and tribulations of the past 4 months contain enough material for a long-running ‘Asian soap’. We have been under surveillance from Special Branch, ordered to leave the country and goodness only knows what else… but we are still here and alive to tell the tail! oops tale!

 

Money

I happen to be the most useless person in the world at keeping track of my finances (there are as yet undiscovered African tribesmen who could maintain a bank account better), and at the time of the wedding – and many times since, I’m embarrassed to say – I was seriously wobbly in a fiscal sense.

I have just vented my spleen on the local hospital management as a protest at the monstrous charges we have to pay under the reformed, streamlined, user-pays, homogenised, de-humanised health ‘service’. I’ll probably have to pay in the end but I guess a protest on the way won’t go amiss! I recently heard of a person who wrote to say she wasn’t paying on principle. The bill was handed to debt collectors. Their fifth letter contained the information that they had ensured that she now had the lowest credit rating possible and that in future no business in the country would lend her money, allow hire purchase or give her a mortgage.

I am very interested in the Heseltine-Thatcher quarrel, as Westland shares are one of my few remaining English investments. Obviously whoever wins the quarrel, I have lost most of my money in the company already – but at least if their future is worth squabbling about, presumably they are not going to be left to go down the drain without trace, and might one day get back to paying dividends and being worth more than the 2 1/2p that they are proposing to write the shares down to at present!

She seized half his capital and all the furnishings of his house. She then refused all his many offers of maintenance for the offspring and insisted on fighting it out in the courts at a cost in lawyers of some strange amount to each party. Then the judge by some miracle awarded her much less than X had offered her in the first place so she is ever skulking around sniffing for more!

I am alarmed at your state of having 2 mortgages and no job… I never have enough money – who does? – so for the past 8 months I have been taking in a student lodger… It has worked quite well – but of course it meant a lot of heaving around of stuff from one bedroom to another and the loss of privacy.

X wrote to me and said he was in S.E. Asia again until March. He must be about 90 by now. I hope if I live that long, that I’ll be able to get about like him at that age. (Silly idea really – I certainly won’t have enough money.)

no water

I moved into X’s house… He’s on leave… As soon as I moved in I found an unpaid electricity bill, I paid that and was pleased to have averted a crisis. Then I found an unpaid water bill and paid that. There was still water in the tank, so I didn’t know the water had already been cut off until the afternoon of 24th December.

Entertaining

As usual at 7.15 with us arriving and getting organised we started worrying that no one would come – but then half an hour later we worried if we had enough food/drinks.

It’s the village party tonight… As the noise is so terrific it doesn’t matter much who is there – conversation is all but impossible.

tiddly speaker

The old boy patron of the society (who opened the Exhibition) had obviously been wined and dined too well by X – was so embarrassing – really quite tiddly.

 

 

If you want to come you can have the camp bed here but I know that only a night or two is possible without me suddenly going mad. Such a creature of habit am I too.

… and then we had afternoon tea at the Vicarage for a select few – ugh – but it wasn’t too ghastly and I just survived. ‘Being social’ is just NOT my strong point – but then you know that.

She made a super rich cake and put it where the dog can’t reach it. X moved it to a place that was a gift to the dog who ate about 1/8 of it but wait – after nearly giving up with rage – she made another and filled it with layers of cream and put cherries soaked in brandy on top and put a throw-over over and SHUT doors … sudden scream from X – the dog got in and had pulled cover off bring the cake to edge of table – spoiling top cream only…

She would be very happy for X to come and stay there – she is quite firm that he would be more comfortable and better fed there and I rather agree! She has ‘turning out of her room’ down to a fine art… she is worried about putting Y out of his routine of sitting in the armchair in the kitchen and watching TV… He finds it hard to admit that he is older. Oh dear, what a mouldy old lot I make us out, but we really are rather dull and set in our ways and I do feel two or three days would tell X all he needs to know about our insular views. Old memories are all very well but when the names are all missing the conversation tends to be ‘Oh, of course you know who I mean – dear old so-and-so with the wife’ and the audience has to guess until we get the right person or all give up in disgust!

[After a memorial service] X had got a bun fight ready at the house which was for the family, relations, friends and village people who remembered him. So it was all a bit mixed as the village method of having a tea is to take their cup and plate and pile the latter with all the grub it will hold and then retreat to the available chairs and bad luck to those who come later – which inevitably would be the relations and friends!