Things fall apart 4

I said yes I did know about sewing machines when she rang up and asked what I thought might be the trouble, and at great inconvenience as I was just going to drive up to town, went along and found she hadn’t oiled it in 12 years and it clanked madly, so started by upending it and unscrewing the bottom plate and generally dismantling it; by which time she was getting distinctly worried, especially as I said I hope she knew the bottom casing was cracked, as I hadn’t done it, and she didn’t know, and as that didn’t cure it I looked in her instruction book and altered a screw they suggested, and hey presto it seemed cured. I didn’t see her for a week and unwisely asked her how it was going, both of us wished I hadn’t asked, as after half an hour it had the same trouble. She took it to the shop who eventually said it needed oiling and readjusting, having paid the bill she went home and set about her job again and the electrical connection went up in smoke!! I suspect both of us will think I was the cause of it for ever more! But it has reminded me that it’s much kinder of me to not try and help people, the results are always disastrous!!

I really think it’s a sickness this inability to throw anything away – X now has an electric frying pan, an Electrolux and a Kenwood that don’t work – tho’ she has new ones!

I felt a bit indignant with the motor corp today. You will recall that on our trip just after we got the car, last October, the speedometer start jumping about and threatening to burst into flames. It cost me $41 to get it repaired, which I wrote to claim back under warranty directly we got home. I called in to see them before Christmas since I had heard nothing but still nothing happened so eventually I wrote a politely rude letter to the General Manager about a fortnight ago. Today a cheque arrived with the invoice I had sent them – but no letter – not so much as Sorry scrawled across it. Things are not what they used to be.

Our arrival was little less than spectacular – we got half way up the drive with the van and then we spun – X said get out and push which I did and the mud shot up all over my front. At one moment I thought it was going to career backwards across the grass but I shoved rocks under the wheels. We were then joined by a young man visiting the neighbours who knew what he was about but couldn’t get right up either – then Y joined us to my horror (he’s got a heart and v. frail), so we rapidly decided to park it on the grass verge for the minute but it’s a bit sad we can’t get it outside the house, as we’d thought of it as an overflow spare room.

The muddy drive

Travel hazards 2

I have thought of coming to England next year, but am beginning to wonder if I really have the strength. It’s not the actual flights, it’s the awful airport nonsense, and getting to the airports from here.

It was a bit off-putting at the hotel too – notices about double locking your door at night and putting the chain on and a security guard on each floor. We left there at 6.30 p.m. yesterday and stayed in the plane right through to here, stopping to fuel at New Delhi but not allowed off and arrived 5.30 a.m. and had in fact been flying 17ish hours. Vast Air Italia, 400 passengers – full. The staff couldn’t have been less interested – unlike the other lines – and the last straw in small mindedness they showed the Return of the Pink Panther but we hadn’t enough change again – I only saw one man who’d paid up $2.50 and got the headphones for sound. It looked utter rubbish in the odd moments I woke up so I didn’t mind.

We have just had a traumatic lunch. X gave me a new stove and dry/solid fuel and we were all set with picnic bits for lunches, tea, coffee etc. We started by buying cheese which turned out to be Roquefort and 250g and cost equivalent to £1 which shook us (and reminded me of the 3/6d banana!) so we only bought rolls to go with it- as we go to Crete on Monday and just can’t have butter running around, and then started up the stove which gave more heat under than on top and looked as tho’ it was going to catch the wallpaper – awful moment as we got it all onto the balcony – with soot all over the marble and my clean white shirt. However after washing the balcony and removing – I hope – all signs of our efforts we did better at the 2nd attempt and hope we’ve got it taped!

Soot on the balcony

We came on the weekend when 40,000 Alpini were expected for their annual blessing by the Pope. It gave a festive and noisy (or noisier) air to Rome – every time you moved you got one of their foot long feathers in their green hats in your eye. We’re setting forth to ‘do’ the Vatican today. We’ve got into a pensione (Select Hotel my foot!) with an elusive plumbing system. We have archaic shower in room and bidet with occasional cold water – and loo and bathroom on landing. I asked if I could have a bath any time and the proprietor say. ‘Why not?’ Now I know why not – there’s no plug and no hot water!! but it’s clean and pleasant and only 5 minutes from the termini.

What is this ‘ball lightning’ which been providing you with amusement? I don’t remember hearing of it and suspect the little green men, or the Russians (playing a double bluff on themselves)! As also with the Challenger-launched satellite which is (according to our radio) either in pieces, or following in orbit on their tail where they can’t get at it.

It sounds as though X’s having quite a time over there – I hope she gets back in one piece. Did she tell you that when she left, she left her hand-luggage at checkout, a glove on the ground, arrived after boarding-call, and didn’t know which plane she was supposed to be on!

Gardening 5

[The continuing saga of the ‘piranha’ grubs.] We were bemoaning our purina bugs to X after church, and she said they are having a terrible time with them. According to her they always move north and each moth produces 10,000 eggs. If the farmer to your south doesn’t do anything one year you have a time the next. Their neighbour didn’t care last year! Their son dug a hole for a tree for her, and out of a square foot (compared to the normal disaster rate of 4 grubs) he found 39! I’m glad we don’t lie north of them! – though they have been trying to combat them and have had a helicopter spraying their fields.

The 39 grubs…

[and more] Did I tell you the folk remedy for our grass grubs was ‘mobbin’. You put lots of animals on a small area and they crush the eggs 12″ under ground – as we explained you can’t do much in this line with 10 ewes and 6 lambs. I don’t think even adding 6 hens would help! Anyway the season’s come for the moths to fly, so at least we won’t have them again. We have found lots of dead ones so X’s efforts haven’t been wasted.

We had plenty of other jobs including a satisfactory start on clearance and burning of two horrid creeper bushes which infest some of the trees in our lower field and on the river bank. One is a fierce form of thorn called Barberry, and  the other a true creeper covered leaf and branch with pernicious little hooks – it goes by the sardonic name of ‘lawyer bush’ since it never lets you go once it has got hold of you.

The garden deserves more of my time – the flowers are gorgeous. I do enjoy them so much. The freesias are coming out apace now and the mimosa’s in flower but I keep clear of that as it gives you pink eye (at least that’s what my ma told me).

The real clear up in the garden isn’t quite due but as a preliminary I covered the lawn as best I could with one of those hormone weed killers – which I can’t say I really approve of because it makes the weeds look as though they are writhing in agony and it’s difficult to feel really convinced that it is in ecstasy of living a pace they’ve never lived before which their contortions are expressing.

Adult learning 2

I started language school this week. There’s one other English girl there and a couple of other English-speakers. A French girl who taught English, married to a German and with whom she speaks English as he doesn’t speak French! And a 1/2 American 1/2 French man. A host of other French people, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Korean and so forth – really mixed! The teacher is quite good though you have to keep a dictionary near as it’s all too easy to misunderstand her explanations as they are also in German and our vocab. doesn’t stretch to exactitudes!

It’s very humiliating to read a story to a 3 year old and have him correct your pronunciation!

I’ve finished my Great Painters and started an evening course at the university called The Problems of Art. Quite different approach by younger man of more conservative type – promises to be interesting but I find it a bind having to drive into town after dinner.

This evening we were practising using the WAIS [Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS)] – not seriously enough on my part I’m afraid. It’s terrible in that lab (Psych) cos I’m always laughing or late or both. I sit with the wrong people. Next week I’m going to be serious because the woman who takes us must be getting fed up with me.

For Human Learning we have to train a rat to bar press. Our rat was perfectly friendly at first but the noise the water machine made scared him no end and he huddled in a corner for an hour and a half despite all sorts of soothing noises, stroking etc. etc. Poor little thing – it makes you feel so mean – a jolly nuisance from our point of view tho’!

The rat

She is staying with us until Friday. Most of the morning we have been tidying up my vegetable patch – and she knows the names of all the weeds in Latin, it seems, having taken an agricultural degree at Reading, around the end of the war – the first one.

I am relieved to learn from today’s letter that your acrobatics and singing class are separate classes, I thought you were outdoing the Black & White Minstrels; I was completely disillusioned when I found they didn’t actually do both at the same time! Incidentally, how did they manage when they gave live performances? I felt quite exhausted at the thought of going on to Scottish dancing after acrobatics, you must be bonkers! From my vast size it would be just the thing for me. But nearer to hand, perhaps helping X dig up the concrete drains each side of the drive with a pickaxe would be more constructive!

So one day was spent acquiring comprehensive but simple literature from the library and visiting the climatologist at the meteorology office – I hope by a combination of sagacious nodding and a show of vagueness I managed to disguise the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea what was the function of a net pyrradiometer or couldn’t consistently distinguish between a wet bulb thermometer and an isobar! The other day was spent plumbing the depths of the mines department to try and find out if the department had to obtain a mining licence in order to prevent anyone else collaring a hunk of oil we want to quarry for processing as a cement substitute.

Significant other 5

I’ve fixed for one of our more eccentric friends to come to supper. She’s a sculptress and farms 5 acres on her own in a slap happy way. She had a husband but said, ‘Oh, I got rid of him’!!!

Did I tell you X’s elder daughter is divorcing her husband – with 3 young she won’t have an easy time – but she married him against all opposition.

I’m not sure if X is going to remove Y from your evil influence or disapproves of the flat or hopes to accommodate her himself??!! Maddening if he does for any reason, just when you’re settled.

X had another school dance on Friday – put on by the 6th form. The dreary fat Y’s mama made up a party of 6 and had them to dinner first. Evidently not one of the boys asked any of the girls to dance and Y only danced with her brother who’d sneaked in without a ticket. However X was cheerful enough as she’d danced all the evening with another boy she’d ‘seen on the train’!

Have heard from X that her daughter’s husband has died – sounds a blessing to me – but she may be v. sad.

They are in the middle of a horrible divorce and he still suffers from depression. I’m sure he will recover when the pressure and rows are over.

His daughter has come unstuck from the reputedly very rich man she was engaged to last year, apparently losing the contents of her bank account in the process. He was discovered to have a record for fraud etc.

X and I have excelled ourselves again. We went into a JUNIOR bridge tournament last week and, yes you’ve guessed, we were bottom again!! He put a chauvinistic pig rhyme on my desk just afterwards:

‘There was an old man who said dash, Why am I and my wife both so rash? If she called with reserve, There’d be room for my verve, in playing the hand with panache.’

 

She has asked me in front of him if I’ll give him his birthday dinner as they can’t afford another party!!!

Said friend has since died, leaving her very boorish husband much lost and realising for the first time what a wonderful wife she was.

But when she died…

I had a hard time writing to X and put it off for as long as I could. I fear the change of relationship from having short bursts of fun living whilst he played hookey from home and reality, to her being home and reality, and he with an added guilt complex on top of it, might prove to be rather an anticlimax. She’d do better to close the book on the past 12 years and start afresh with her other pursuer. I’d have no sympathy with Y if she did!!! (I didn’t actually SAY all this when I wrote!!)

It was amusing your remarks about X’s man. When I told Y they’d got engaged, she remarked, ‘not to that drip, she must be mad’! I do hope for her sake you’re both wrong. She sounds so nice, and deserves better.

Silver linings

X and I played together at the Bridge Club (my appointed partner most timely lost a relative-by-marriage at an advanced age and just the right moment) and came second, which pleased us greatly.

I realised that my brand new small case had 2 holes – because of the weight of my shopping it had dragged on the ground, so presto I hitched a lift for the rest of the way – very thankful to my Guardian Angel!

Today they have gone back to eat the remains of the feast, except that X can’t eat much having been in hospital last week; her colon is inflamed and must be on a diet before they operate! She is none too pleased, but she has lost 3 pounds in 2 days, and was glad to tell me.

I’ve had 3 happenings. I thought I’d lost my great great uncle’s ring and spent a morning hunting for it – then was just going to go out when I thought I’d better ask our neighbour as we’d had tea with them and there it was under the couch I was sitting on. Joy. Then X collecting luggage and bits for our jaunt put his hand in the top of the linen-cum-everything cupboard and found the pair of glasses I’d lost some six months ago AND I had a phone call to say I’d won the raffle of an Aran knit cardigan.

We were doing some rush shopping and got back just as the traffic cop had ordered a tow away – he rushed to his bike and managed to cancel it just in time – so her ticket was $20 instead of $40 – she played the organ at a funeral the next day, she said it would just pay it!

I’ve got flu or something at the moment. About half the school is down with it so I suppose I would hardly miss getting it. It’s a blessing in disguise really cos they’ve had to cancel house drama which was going hopelessly anyway. I was going to be a headmaster in my play but I was terrible at it. That just leaves us with a musical evening, a bio/geog trip and market day – all of which I’ll probably miss (hopefully) at this rate.

The agent’s visit occasioned a certain amount of activity such as doing a clearance in the garage – which for the moment is startling (at least to me) in its orderliness!

I heard from X last week. She remarked that although it was easier to read my typing and I got more on the page, she felt she’d lost the spirit of adventure when reading my letters!

Handwriting v. type

Dowsing 3

We’ve been wondering whether to drill a bore – it’s been so hot so the garden and all the fields are drying out. Our neighbour has one and I dowsed on the same line and it’s obvious as it’s an old stream that comes right up to our fence. So we got a drilling type along – v. nice young man – who said he could do it for $1,750!!! Then we’d need an engine and cover and electricity laid on. So we’d be into £2000+++. Praise be the drought’s broken and we had steady rain last night.

There’s a woman from the mental hospital loose, she’s reported dangerous having axed her husband to death. I dowsed she was in X last night, and as I was going in that direction today I had a little look at the part of the road I thought I had reactions to (I wasn’t too convinced, it was rather a coincidence it was in the place I knew I was going to today!) but it was odd that in the middle of a really quite pleasant neighbourhood there was a shabby little house surrounded in weeds and all the blinds down. Clutching my folder I rapped on the door and when an aged crone answered, asked how to get to a road in the district. She certainly wasn’t the woman who is wanted and didn’t seem at all put out, so as [partner] said I’d probably be put in the mental hospital too if I told the place I’d dowsed her, I let well alone!!! The news tonight says she’s been seen miles away, but she obviously made her getaway during the night after I dowsed!

We’ve had a fascinating day. We went into X this morning to an aerial photographer who was a poppet. It was difficult to get him to show us what we wanted without telling him what for. After I’d talked round sewage and water pipes etc. he said, ‘You’re not telling me the whole story so it’s difficult to help.’ So I had to admit I had a hunch re the seepage – he said he’d lived here all his life and feared there wasn’t any but actually there was a line on the photographs he couldn’t explain. Anyway we set off to the bay right off the beaten track and had to climb down awfully steep cliffs and had a gorgeous afternoon clambering over rocks looking for oil or tar. Then there were two young surfies and on the way back I asked them did they ever get tar or oil on their skin diving suits and they came up with the information there was some soapsuddy looking patches in the bay and pointed them out to us. We had a look from the top with binoculars and there was a line of bubbles which didn’t change position. I was told it was easy to see a seepage as the bubbles showed on the water – TRIUMPH. Of course [partner] is quite noncommittal and unconvinced but we’re going to two other places there should be a seepage on shore tomorrow.

He is that delightful epitome of tact who told her that the man in the DSIR to whom she had been speaking about divining was the department’s officer who dealt with crank queries! Even she was taken aback.

The man in charge of cranks

 

Politics 4

There were 3 knighthoods announced yesterday and one of them was the man who I suspected was the young lieutenant helping me and the Wrens ‘in Algiers’. I’ve not come across him yet – now I’ve seen an uptodate photograph in the press I’m not sure I want to (it made me feel very old) pompous and dull – and he was a very lighthearted type.

I was rung up about 10 days ago by our national moral guardian who runs a body called the Council for Protection of Moral Standards, or some such – wanting me to go and see a film called ‘The Streetwalker’ in order to complain and get it referred back to the censors who she thought had achieved a new low in laxity. I went and was left with some distinctly pornographic memories! So I duly wrote an indignant letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs and sent copies of it to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister hasn’t answered but I heard from both the others (it is after all Election Year). As the PM is one of the most offensive politicians I have ever seen I’m not sure I shall be voting this year.

There was a snidey little piece at the bottom of the paper one day saying a shot had been heard coming from the Russians’ quarters in the village. It finished by stating, somewhat pointedly I thought, ‘Later 12 athletes were seen leaving their quarters each carrying a large portmanteau’. You can imagine the grizzly conclusion I came to !!!!!

Sportsmen with portmanteaus

But by all the news in the Guardian and what gets into our daily it sounds as though you may be having the central heating cut off by now and life outside getting grimmer every day. Poor old England sounds as though she is just about falling to bits what with the strike and Rhodesia and Ulster – and today the last minute doubts over the Common Market bill in Parliament.

From this distance Heath and Co. look pretty inefficient – though I don’t envy him the job, even if I could then afford his yacht!

With the latest shootings by white Rhodesians near Salisbury, X will be worried for her sister, reprisals always seem to follow. I get quite sick with all the brutality and violence everywhere, and with all this build up of weapons for someone will trigger off the holocaust at some point; there seems nothing individuals can do about it. I don’t think I came out of the Joan of Arc mould.

I was amazed by the change of tone in this letter about her feeling re Rhodesia. In her last she said it was all blown up out of proportion and no one bothered with politics etc. In this one she says her sister is having shooting lessons and they never go out without a gun, and there have been raids nearby, but they don’t want to leave unless they have to etc. etc.

Nuisances of life 5

Re the cricket lady – I asked a member of Lords who said that he was inundated with requests and suggests her bosses should give her an introduction.

I’ve spent more time at the Accident and Emergency Department at the local hospital this year than I have during the whole of the rest of my life! The staff there are getting to know me quite well, having extracted splinters from hands after I snapped a twig the wrong way, removed a huge cyst from the top of my leg which was the result of being butted by a horned sheep, and treated me for Erysipelas which is a disease that everyone took great delight in telling me that pigs get. (I got this as a result of one of our stable doors slamming into the back of my heel in a sudden gust of wind, and very nasty it was, too!)

I was cleaning out a much overgrown corner of the garden near the road, and lo and behold, another air-letter from her somewhat the worse for the depredations of worms? mice? or other paper-eaters but still for the most part readable. I suspect a pair of sparrows who have active designs on our letter box – some days they are encouraged by the postie’s deliveries of paper to use it as a loo (admittedly most of our mail deserves no better), and some days they seem intent on building. I think it must have been one of the latter days, when they started operations by clearing the ground!

How about a weekend towards the end of August/ beginning September? I am hoping that by then it will be possible to get out in the garden without being surrounded by 100/200 buzzing flies madly circling round your head! To avoid being driven mad I have devised a net bag in which I intend to bury my head entirely! X says people will think it odd – if they are rude enough to look over my hedge they can think what they like, and anyhow my shouts of fury and slapping noises must have alarmed them already!!

Protection against flies

 

I can well understand how difficult it must be for you to get around to letter writing at all, with your work, study, club and just ‘living’. Eating and cleaning are dreary chronic essentials I find!

How very irritating about the phone [number of new landline being in the middle of a bank of numbers for local maternity unit]. We have the same number as the vet only his involves dialling 2 first. Nearly every day someone starts off, ‘If I brought Phroo-phroe down, could you put him to sleep?’ etc.

 

 

Making money

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’!

oyster picking

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.

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