Volunteering 2

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.

The swimwear triangle

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.

House repairs & housekeeping 4

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.’

Flames at Christmas

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.

Bureaucracy

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.

The wriggling bureaucrat

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!!

Gardening 4

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!

Parlous hard!

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.

Ageing 5

It seems to have been a busy time – at my desk as well as elsewhere, and just recently (i.e. the last few months) I have found that I have to use my glasses for reading and writing, or else I quickly get squiffy-eyed. So it becomes less attractive to sit there all day.

I think I’m going senile – frightfully interesting things to tell you keep flitting through my mind and I can’t catch hold of them before they go out the other side!

Vanishing ideas

One letter was from X: they have had such bad luck healthwise. He has been in hospital again and is constantly under the doctor and can’t do anything, and her eyes are worse and she can’t get the other one operated on until May, and to help things along she broke her back this winter skiing, and, as she has no car, life must have been more than maddening.

A member of the bridge club was playing last night after doing 18 holes of golf, had a stroke this morning – that’s the one depressing thing about this place, it makes you realise you’re in the zone, so to speak, all too often.

She hoped she could keep driving her car whilst she was at her present house, as she wouldn’t enjoy being graciously given a lift to town once a week to shop! How I agree with her.

X has taken a new lease of life since his eye was ‘done’ – he can see much better than me! I can’t get used to his 8 pills he has to take for his heart tho’ – one of which is the cause of his gout so he has another for that!

We took meals on wheels to a lady in much the same state as your friend last week. X (who does the going in bit) was busy for quarter of an hour trying to encourage her to get out of her large and empty house, complete with tennis court, which she has been alone in for about 13 years – and go and live in one of our retirement villages instead. She told X that she was now so frightened of people that she never goes out of the house. But it seemed to have done her good to have got some of it off her chest.

House repairs 3

X did a good job for me clearing a gutter that was flooding every time it rained – I reckoned no one would thank me if I tried to do it and fell off the ladder!! He also fixed the electric mowing machine – I couldn’t get the wheels down more and it was digging up the grass and very heavy to use – I think he’s a very pleasant young man.

Did you find out about the damp rot from the smell, not the downstairs exotic cooking???! Couldn’t this be the converters’ liability?

Our blasted man’s not turning up day after day and now there’s little hope of having it done by Christmas which we really hoped for. Infuriating. The man gave us a quote and said he’d start at the beginning of September. Well, after putting it off for over a month he rang and said he wouldn’t start till the beginning of November because he had finals at varsity! Economic History of all subjects too. What are builders coming to?!

X has been working like a slave since we last saw them and not only has he bought a house and landscaped half the garden but he built on a double garage and flat for his in-laws and made all the furniture for it from kit-sets.

Last weekend we went up to help X with some of the cleaning of their house. I spent the afternoon doing the 11 ft high kitchen ceiling and the upper walls which were liberally coated with grease. They had let off a smoke bomb earlier in the day so I was not afflicted with flea bites which the girls have both suffered from after an earlier afternoon there.

This time the front end loader (with four big wheels) got stuck altogether and they had to bring their big bulldozer in to to extract it. Result – great gouges in the turf in several places in the field – and when it stops raining I must go and have a look at my water pipe which runs across the field barely covered by the grass. I fear the worst for it – though mercifully it is not all that difficult to replace if they have broken it -it just needs a small length of the black pipe, two copper tubes of six inches or so for the joins, a couple of jubilee clips and a thermos of hot water to soften the pipe enough to get it on the tubes.

I cleaned out both the tanks. The top one was quite a job. I cut a manhole in the top, through which I stirred up the mud on the bottom while the water ran out (having disconnected the tap) until it was shallow enough to get inside to wash down the sides. I couldn’t get all the mud out, but did manage to dilute what remained below the level of the exit pipe quite a lot. It had been doing quite a job as a settling tank. And it certainly has quite a lot to cope with. Even when the creek appears to be running really clear, the filter is dark brown and thick with mud after 24 hours, reducing the flow into a trickle.

X noticed a drip coming through their porch; she rashly poked it and two bucketfuls of water came through. A hole in the porch roof. The man was due to come this morning – I hope it doesn’t prove to be worse than they think.

The porch roof

Strong opinions

I find it hard to share a country with X, more especially when he is the Prime Minister and I am not. I think he has been so inept, and so loudmouthed …[too libellous to repeat!] Comes of being so small physically, perhaps? – in height, at least. He’s not all that small roundways.

Don’t want you large

 

 

I really don’t know if the child will ever survive because she only ever gave it half its feed because she told me she didn’t like large children!

 

 

The first I heard of it was when X phoned me at work and asked me to pop in – said in that voice that implies there’s no hurry as long as you are here yesterday as I have something to say to you.

You are better off as you are so long as you remember who you are.

I’m sure I was telling you once before how involved I’ve become in the whole women’s thing over the last three years. Ever since I read The Female Eunuch in fact, and I have just continued from there, reading a lot of stuff by and about women, getting a very good sense of being a woman, but realising continually how many stereotypes and roles have to be broken down.

If you can locate them ask her if she has had our letters and what’s happening – there’s no use beating about the bush or she’ll push it all in her pending tray again – she’s madly disorganised.

I laughed and laughed and then felt extremely irritated with X’s letter, as you say, a poor attempt at doing her mother! Remember you can be pretty good at a ‘put-down’ too!

Do you know we still haven’t heard about the finalising of X’s estate – I strongly believe the solicitor has put it on a horse.

Well, I hope never to see another day like this! It’s alright, no disasters but the next 5th Sunday in February is due in 2004, and I don’t really fancy remaining in ‘the miseries of this sinful world’ (quote from burial services) to the age of 92.

I’ve just finished reading X’s copy of Papillon – violent, crude and horrifying it may be but a fascinating and sensitive story – I’m not so revolted as X was.

Travel hazards

X has leeches galore I gather – nothing seems to faze her – she loves it all, people and country.

Last stop in view of the volcano who’s been blowing his/her top in a big way and the ski fields are closed and everyone round is losing millions. We came past when it was first starting – mild puffs and black clouds – but later rocks the size of cars and lava streaming down have caused a great mess and the acid from the ash that was thrown up 10,000m has blown far and wide.

We have amazing letters from X. Being a vegetarian must have made her though – the miles she goes through forest and crossing rivers so rough she had to have a man each side to hold her up – and spends all her days covered in mud and sopping and loves it all – up at 3.30 a.m. and in bed by 2.30 p.m. – she’s a wonder at never missing an opportunity.

I arrived with the realisation that I had left the letter with the name of our motel on my desk at home. So I put Avis (‘we try harder’) to the test and they certainly came up trumps. At the fifth telephone call the girl on the desk established where I was booked in, and when I looked helpless and asked how to get there first produced a map and then the offer of a lift when she went to lunch. In fact she got held up and got her boss to take me!

I am housebound. I left asking for a driving test too late – they stopped 18th December and can’t take me until 16th January. As I’m booked in I don’t think the police would mind but I was afraid of the insurance – ‘they’ said if I had an accident and passed my d. test they’d pay up but not if I failed – fair enough but I’d be so jittery I decided not to risk it.

I’m fed up with the travel agency woman who has a horrible nasal voice, and treats me like an imbecile, which annoys me even if I am one.

Please excuse my writing and any mistakes as I am writing in a very dim light, sitting on the floor of a large room, off a typical Persian hotel courtyard. We have broken down yet again, about our 25th breakdown. We have hit 4 cars, 2 lorries and 1 bus so far, it has been a rough trip but adventurous.

The Crash Tally

We broke down for 5 days at Xmas and we had a really swinging time in a small hotel in Turkey. The Turkish hospitality was really overwhelming.

We then took off across the desert, along a camel track. We were warned not to go, and to take a guide – X just laughed! Result, we got bogged down about 12 times and had to dig ourselves out. We got lost many times. We tore off our rear bumper and rear lights and had to tie them on with rope and the lights with sticky tape. We are now 24 days behind schedule because of all the breakdowns..

Without a car of my own it has been a bit restricted as they have quite forbidden me to use the country buses. It is quite a relief really as they are the most crammed vehicles that I have seen and just trucks with sides of boards and board seats inside. There is no gap down the middle for the conductor so he hangs on to the outside on a kind of running board and gets the fares from there and looks in imminent danger of death at every corner.

X is quite terrified of your new motor bike and keeps saying how potty you are, but it must cut own on transport costs tremendously – as long as replacement parts for the pinched bits isn’t more! Did I tell you about our car? Because a part which cost about 40 cents broke and I didn’t take it in the same day another part costing $124.21 broke = total bill $272.50.

If you get a machine do spend a lot on the accompanying ‘gear’. They say that leather is best at avoid painful abrasions if you do have a fall. Don’t ride on ice; it upsets one incredibly quickly once you start sliding – very difficult to correct! Do have your bike fitted with the bars across the front which protect your leg if it falls with you still on it. [Countermanded by instructors as likely to trap your leg and/or break it!!!] Before I had a m/c I spent a lot of my lunch hours reading m/c mags. Their advice was ‘Imagine what might happen and work out what you would do. What, for instance, would you do if your throttle stuck open?’ And when I had a bike it did happen once and with all my forethought I managed not to panic – took the clutch out and turned off the ignition before the engine blew up – and then nearly fell off when I let the clutch in again while still doing about 40, as of course it almost locked the back wheel!

The quote for going to SA or USA en route was staggering, and for both astronomical, so I’ve cut my cloth to the size of my pocket. My only extra frivolity is to book to come back via Tokyo where, if I have any funds left I hope to stay a couple of days. I’ll let you know flight etc. later when I receive the tickets from the Travel Agency. I got so cross, everything they quoted and gave me brochures for, after I’d agonised over them for a day and made up my mind, on going back was told all those prices were now out of date and in one case it was currently 3 times as much.

Children 4

She has become a most attractive little girl – in looks and personality – some get better and t’others get worse – X is a real whiner – even when cheerful (which isn’t often) she whines – drives her father round the bend.

I was staggered – not to say horrified whilst in the home – as there were two kids one of 15 and another of 16 having babies ( this – apparently – is average) and on the day I was discharged there was a girl of 18 who was having – wait for it – her 4th!!! (She was married).

X’s birthday was great fun. You should have seen him eating his cake – it was really funny. First he picked it all up and screwed and squashed it between his fingers; then with the one remaining whole piece which was about 3″ long he picked it up in the middle and squashed all the middle part hard into his mouth so that lots oozed out of the sides.

Becoming human

[Re child of 4] He’s got quite a sense of humour and has also started to do naughty things – like throwing X’s pyjamas out of the window which makes him much more human. I’d previously felt he was just too good to be true! The children played lots of pretend games while there and since she’s been back we’ve had cows under the bed, piggies in the meat trays that have to be fed half a weetbix every morning and little ghost monsters who have lost mummies and daddies and have to be given a drink of                                                                         milk and then taken home!

X is doing so well recently – I wish you could see him. He’s now spoon-feeding himself and drinking out of a cup alone. (He’ll even put his spoons in his bowl when he’s finished now – the latest manners I’ve taught him, which was very difficult as he likes to keep them to bang on the table!)

She brought the boys over on Friday plus the others who were overlapping for two days. [So, 4 grand-children.] We had quite a good day with a batch of games to be played and scored for an overall prize – not too much competitiveness though: both X and Y are liable to near-tears if they get beaten at anything.

He is quite sweet as far as newborn babies go! Has blackish hair and nothing very outstanding. Neither big nor small – 7 lb 5 oz and medium size nose – his eyes look vaguely Chinese at the moment but I think that’s cos he’s hardly opened them yet being only about 38 hours old!

X’s boys have had their usual calamities – a brick came out of the wall with their help and gashed one just above his eyebrow. The doctor couldn’t stitch it but used special plaster that had to be left on for days and looked pretty gory. The next day she left two of them in the car whilst in the shop and when she came back one was weeping blood and tears – I fear Y must have poked his finger in his eyes. Fortunately it was the whites that were bloody. It was the day of the oldest’s birthday tea and she had to go and sit for an hour in the surgery before the doctor could see him.

He apparently saw MASH whilst in hospital and when we revisited the hospital for his check-up he looked very respectfully at a passing stretcher complete with old lady being wheeled up to the theatre and stage-whispered to me, ‘She’s going up to God, isn’t she’. After much ssshing and after she was out of earshot, I asked him what on earth he meant, and explained that they were called stretchers, and were for people who were too sick to sit up but had to be moved around. ‘Oh no they’re not,’ he said ‘you go on those when you get killed in the war and two men in white coats wheel you up to God. They’re called God’s cars’!! We’ve now sorted this out.

She went by herself to play with a little friend nearby the other day and when she returned I enquired whether she had enjoyed herself. ‘Oh yes, but she was a bit shiny when I got there’. I asked her what she meant and she replied, ‘Well, she hid behind her mummy and wouldn’t come out for a little bit.’

The little one has started the hiding-under-the-table-with-the-sugar-basin phase. T’other day I caught her trying to squeeze into the bottom shelf of the fridge with caramel yogurt and a spoon, and a couple of days later I caught her sitting in the rubbish box with her back to me tucking into the remaining half of X’s birthday chocolate.

Dowsing 2

Now she’s on this dowsing lark – she’s got expensive meters and taking a course – I can only use a map or twig – not so convincing!!

 

Evidently the diver has several wrecks he wants to follow up and first is going to employ people to use machines to try and ensure which hold gold. I’ve just been trying my hand with gold here (X obligingly had 2 objects) and it worked both by walking over it and on a plan of the room with a piece hidden by her – so if we’re nearby I think I’ll suggest I’d be much cheaper!!!

 

Looking conservative for the AGM

As I’ve despaired of getting through to any of the oil companies I’m on a new play. I’m backing myself! I’ve bought a modest 700 in the company before they start drilling (when all the shares go up) and 2 days later went to their AGM. Present: chairman, 32 directors, 2 pressmen, 2 other shareholders (male of course) and me!!! I dressed in a v. conservative and elegant manner – pearls, gloves, the lot – and asked questions about a concession they said they had in their report and which my map said another company had (apparently they share it – but not according to my records). I asked if they could tell me the exact location of the drill they hope to make in March – but was rather there, there, little woman’d – ‘We leave that to the geologists’. I didn’t say any more as I could see dubious headlines about black magic, but made my number with one of the directors and said I’d write.

 

I thought to myself why can’t he find which wreck has gold on board before he goes to the expense of getting special electrical equipment etc. so I called on their house. He clutched his brow when I mentioned dowsing, as evidently a woman had commissioned him to try and retrieve the gold from a boat which was sunk in 1809 on the result of her having dowsed for it, and had a go at digging it up herself, and not surprisingly gave up after 3 ft. He actually got down to 24 ft and struck wood, which he says was hopeful as all round was rock, but couldn’t get his digger to go any further. He was all for giving me her plan and for me to write to her if I found anything too. I thought this was a bit cheaty, but took particulars of where he said he’d dug, and indeed, on the spot, map-dowsed on her rough drawing. (You’d have giggled, I used a cotton reel with black cotton and a gold cufflink of his and her wedding ring!!)   I firmly announced she was north of the actual gold, in a manner that convinced even me.

Evidently a black African wrote to him saying he could find gold, and he’d told him not to come, but come/go he did. So the diver had hidden several paper bags in the sand (in case someone was watching and could tell the man) and one had gold in it. The man full of confidence went forth using his hands only and walked straight towards the right one, but unfortunately also walked right over it! So the whole trip was a dead loss, I think one chance unfair, too much depends on it and the poor man must have been in a state.