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.

Church/religion 3

The headmaster wanted the whole Easter message at a service on Maundy Thursday because, as he put it, it was the only Easter service most of his pupils would attend, and I had to fit in with the hymns the school band knew – about 4! However I think all went well – there were neither boos nor snores; although I didn’t actually test the effect of the sermon by having an altar call!!

He’s been reading masses of books on different religions and is now sure Christianity is all wrong.

Have you read that book – I have it from a friend. I found it most reassuring that all the learned people he quoted obviously have the same queries as I have and don’t seem to have found as satisfying a relationship with God as I have. … [The author’s] wife is playing hymns on the radio every Sunday morning. I think she must be trying to make up for his emptying the churches, which is the widely held view.

Has the ‘Toronto Revival’ reached you?

The ordination went very well which is more than can be said for the ‘simple supper’ (the Bishop’s words) afterwards. The cathedral supper room had been double booked so the event took place in a ‘cosy’ Methodist tea room over the road. Not only could only about 1/4 of the people get in at any one time but when they did the ‘simple supper’ was a cup of plastic coffee and a tea-biscuit!

the simple supper

 

The Sunday morning service was not X’s cup of tea at all, because she was told that she had got to look more cheerful while she was singing and that she thought was too much. The singing was all choruses, always sung twice and sometimes more, and that part I didn’t enjoy as most of them are so repetitive anyway – musically very simplistic too; but our imported speaker was quite good.

They’re extending the Cathedral, every new Dean feels he must do something to be remembered by (my opinion). I suppose it must be easier than saving souls. I think it needs to raise some 8 million dollars which with people queuing for food handouts doesn’t seem quite proper.

There’s s hoohah going on in the parish because the vicar wants an assistant which will cost $20,000 a year and our income barely covers costs – if anyone queries this two couples who ‘run the parish’ tell them they have no FAITH – and they’re going to ask every family to give $10 more a week to help!!! The Vicar has also decided on curtains for their sitting room which will cost $900 – Sanderson linen.

[continuation of topic]

Yesterday we had the Church Fair. There are 6 of us at our church who produce things for our stall. I do far the least but took down coffee jars full of shortbread biscuits made with the machine, boxes of meringues, six jars of marmalade etc. but the farmer’s wife who is one of the old originals had 16 boxes of goodies, absolutely masses of pickled onions, dozens of jars of jams, chutneys and other things, and our MP’s wife had made quite 6 dozen packets of 6 chocolate truffles laced with sherry and various wines. I doubted if they’d sell but they all went. Anyway between us we raised $460 plus, and were a little put out when the money man told us all the funds were going to go together now – not our plan at all. Last year we gave it to general funds so this year they’re taking it for granted. However we’re firmly holding onto it until we sort it out. We pay for all the expenses of our little church and Diocesan quota, which is ridiculously high for the tiny congregation. There’s a storm brewing as the Vicar wants an assistant for which $20,000 a year is required, so he intends asking every family to pay an extra $10 a week to cover it. I fear I may have told you this bleat before, but we’re feeling very sore about it. I’m afraid he’ll also decide to close down our little church as the congregations are so small, but it would be very sad.

Last Sunday we had the most awful service – all action songs and two people ‘sharing’ their conversion and a dance group who changed on the spot and pranced all over the place. … The Vicar said the most he could suggest is one service a month as congregations of less than 20 are irrelevant and rumour has it he’d like to sell the church and land – for money money money. We had a nice normal service this morning – our patronal festival – tho’ few people and not a big do in flowers etc. – as we used to in ‘our day’ and afterwards X played his bagpipes outside which was lovely.

I loved your story of the scruffy old man at church even if he was so ordinary as to have ‘red woolly socks only on his feet’. The whole episode reminds me of an ‘interesting’ service I went to in a very big, empty and dull church in Notting Hill Gate. All went well until some ‘rooster’ at the back found that it was the appropriate time for him to contribute loudly and in tongues! There followed 5 minutes during which there was a competition between this guy and the celebrant to see who could deliver the Spirit’s authentic word most loudly. I can’t remember who won, but I don’t recall that it was the Spirit!

A friend and I had a good day. We organised a Quiet and Bible Study day for our parish. We were relieved because it seemed to go really well. Our Vicar was rather pessimistic and said we must be happy if only 5 or 6 people came; and I must say I didn’t disagree! However it pays to advertise (or pray or something) as we ended up with 20 people and the retreat house almost overflowed.

Cheek

On the way home we watched the bungy jumping. One cheeky young man called out, ‘Are you going too, granny?’ Afterwards I wished I’d said yes, if he’d shout me! Why don’t you think of these things at the time?

[Child of 8y] About mother’s lacy black bra: ‘A see-through bra! Oh well, I suppose it’s cheaper.’

[Child of 9] Realising he’d missed something which sounded interesting, he said, ‘Oh bother, I wish my ears were poking into your conversation.’

missing something

After about half an hour he [owner] turned up with his two daughters. He was licensed for 4 people which he already had booked (plus his friend and baby, plus his girlfriend and 3 year-old!) so we became his cousins for the day and booked into the third B&B bedroom with en suite.

He is building a yacht an hopes to sail in some enormous race ‘If he can find a sponsor’ – I can’t think why people be expected to pay for someone to indulge themselves.

She tried the place I suggested and got it wrong, and went straight to the place without an interview, so it was a wasted journey, I told her she’d need a 3 week notice to get a proper counsellor, but someone else said just turn up. So, I’m fed up with being taken as not knowing anything – I’d phoned up and found out.

Ageing – 4

I went for my compulsory 76 driving test in December and was told his only complaint was I wasn’t quick enough off the mark at lights etc. – which held traffic up – but I won’t push it – I know my reactions and the ability of the car best. An old boy of 88 locally went into the side of a car and wrote it off, the second car in 2 years.

Slow on the off

I am distressed I have not heard from my cousin for 2 years; as he is my only remaining relative, I would like to know if they are still in the land of the living. Would you be a dear and phone them for me? My address book has suddenly disappeared – I will have to put their number down later in the letter.    … X has found my address book though so here is their phone number – no, it isn’t – I haven’t got it!! Here is the address. She is more with it – it’s a pity I’m not! – so I hope she answers the phone.

They came out to tea on Saturday – he is pretty sick with cancer though of which bit of him I don’t know – but he battles on very cheerfully – so we enjoyed their coming.

Poor old X, it’s so hard when she’s helped everyone for so long. It must be hard for Y – she said in a letter when she goes to the nursing home the father sits with his head in his hands saying he wishes he was dead, and X bursts into tears – so unlike her.

Now I’m on 2 different anti-bs, to be taken at different times, so I have to write when down carefully, or I certainly wouldn’t remember if I’d taken them or not.

Isn’t getting old sad? I’m not going to put anything in writing or help any but mine own in future – the stress is too much. The most trivial things put me in a tizz – making hair appts, then cancelling them, and the like.

He’s in a bad way, looks awful and really isn’t all there – and [wife] keeps telling him so. I’m sure he shouldn’t be driving

Today we didn’t wake up until 9.30 so had to put a move on to get to church. Lovely little building and a good service. One of the congregation was to be 96 this week – she walked down the v. steep path to the church in a more spritely way than I!

She had to take over the driving on the motorway as I was sleepy. It’s incredible how easily I go to sleep when I sit down during the day, though I find it difficult to sleep more than 6-7 hours in bed!

Nuisances of life 2

A woman had run her car into the side of X’s the day before and had really upset him – especially as it was just after he’d left Y sitting down while he collected the car from parking place – and not only lost her but the car too! and they finished up being driven round in a police car.

The owners will spend only the barest minimum in upkeep. We’re still waiting to have a leaky loo and roof fixed, to say nothing of the bathroom and kitchen redecorating. There isn’t one window ledge that hasn’t got paint flaking off – two grow moss! and the wallpaper is about 12 years old – and looks it. The carpet is worn down to the felt in a number of places and the previous tenants not only smoked very heavily, but apparently kept various animals locked inside all day while they worked…

[Re irritating habits of the public touching display of painted silk goods] I forgot to tell you about a card with a piece of similar weaving with ‘Feeling swatch’ written on it! Would this keep your customers’ grimy hands off?!

At least I managed to find a couple of books and a pleasant card for X’s birthday – though at the moment most of our ferries are carrying the same cargo backwards and forwards several times across Cook Strait because the shunters at Picton are not working overtime in protest at a new roster, and the Union refuse to fill the place of any man who is absent for any reason, and then the whole gang say they can’t safely unload any wagons! Anyway the card went by air.

My new pullets were no sooner given the freedom of the field than they wormed their way through the hedge in order to grub about under the blackberry and other scrub on my neighbour’s side. What’s more, though five of them returned for the night, the sixth insisted on roosting in an inaccessible bush – so that if it started laying I certainly wasn’t going to get the eggs.

Making a run for it

I don’t know why, but all my greens have come to nothing, and though we got beans they never really recovered from the sheep’s attack. There are lots of tomatoes, but I doubt whether most of them will ripen now and quite a number are infested with caterpillars that make large holes in them – though whether to go in or to come out I haven’t discovered and it is a matter of some importance!