11.2.70 [two aerogrammes]
Dear Mum, me again. I received some more books! Another little parcel, with the Hamlet book I was asking about, Pickwick Papers, Verse and Worse (I told you Mike gave me another copy of that for Christmas, didn’t I?) and the copy of Nicholas Nickleby which I’d forgotten I had. I thought I had another copy of that which was in the same edition as some of the others I had ˗ perhaps that was the one that I borrowed off Flora Edwards. [A singer who’d been involved in the Dunedin Opera Company.] The copy you sent unfortunately is the abridged edition (Whitcombe and Tombs claiming to be able to improve on Dickens), and has so much missing it isn’t true. [W&T was a Dunedin retail and publishing company.] Never mind, perhaps I didn’t even have another copy of that: if that’s the case I’ll get another one one of these years. Sorry to keep muddling you up over these books ˗ just goes to show you how little I knew about what I had or didn’t have.
I finally heard from Kevin Rowlands, by letter, in which he merely tells me that he is working in Promises, Promises (which has been playing in the West End for quite a while) and gives me his address and phone number. Quite honestly since that leaves me to do the contacting again, I don’t know that I can be bothered ˗ probably any more than he can. [See more about this man here.] Well, we’ll see; I may pluck up whatever is required to contact him ˗ though I can’t see the point much, since he has no reason to want to know me, I think, and the same rather applies to me! I try to be outgoing, really I do, and I’m more than I was, but dear, dear, it’s difficult when you have to arrange a meeting where neither party is especially interested. It has the same opening gambit difficulties as Britain has been experiencing with the Common Market!
Hey, I’m glad you’re sending that new James Baxter. I have a tremendous amount of time for him, even though he’s sometimes inclined (or was, perhaps) (especially in his plays) to explain things that ought to be left for the reader or auditor to figure out for himself. But who am I to criticize? He’s certainly one of the greatest poets to come out of NZ (completely without any foreign influences, so to speak) and he’s one of us as well! [Baxter was all of this; later he would become something of a cult figure when he gave up ordinary society and went to live as a kind of prophetic hermit in the middle of the North Island; young, drifting people gravitated towards him.] Did I tell you bought his latest collection (published by Oxford University Press, no less) recently? Worth every penny.
I’ve something else to say to you. What is it? It’ll come back, perhaps. It’s Ash Wednesday today ˗ gee, it has come round quickly this year. And as usual I’m unprepared for its (now self˗enforced) rigours. Though the older I get the more things there are that I ought to overcome, and obviously this is the time to resolve to overcome them. I don’t know why I’d always assumed that as I grew older I ought to become a better person, because that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think I’m improving in one direction, and I take off the blinkers and see all the other faults I’ve been carefully ignoring, or that have walked up behind me when I was pretending to be holier than thou! Age seems to bring greater awareness, of one’s own self anyway, and that no doubt is a good thing ˗ but good heavens the more I find out about myself the more I see what a difficult job my (so-far much ignored) guardian angel ˗ (definitely Fred, by the way!) - has to cope with. Poor beings ˗ they must be nearly visible with all the pity that they must needs show for us humans! (Angels, I mean ˗ this is all a bit mixed up.) Despair however is as much a sin as any of the seven deadlies, and with Fred’s firm arm holding onto me we may get there yet.
No more news from the CIB yet: I calculated it would take until at least the beginning of next week anyway before I’d hear anything, so in the meantime I’m remaining clam (no! calm!)
We’re in the middle of depression at work ˗ with the two managers having left, things have got so unlively, it isn’t true, and when Margaret comes in it’s like the circus arriving in the middle of an out-of-the-way town. She performs to me and I return the compliment (if you follow the rather messy metaphor) and the lights go on again in that part of London, but it’s amazing what a casual atmosphere reigned in that place before. Everybody has so much time on their hands that they tell you their life stories, apart from the long discussions Margaret and I have on everything and everybody. The doorman we have at the moment is a twenty-two-year-old who is the most sex-obsessed person I have ever met. If all he says is to be believed he has a pretty busy life (!) and while some of it horrifies me and some it even now shocks me, he isn’t really a bad wee guy at heart, and a sympathetic ear (though not generally agreeing one in this case!) doesn’t do any harm, I think. And the night usherette told me her life story the other night (she’s a Catholic, incidentally ˗ Irish as 99% of the London ones seem to be) and dear God, she’s been engaged, or attached, to three different men and they’ve all been killed! She’s about thirtyish, I suppose, but one died in an air crash, another in a car crash, and the third of a very premature heart attack. It’s a wonder she survived herself, somehow. But she came to London some time ago (six years or so) and seems now to be getting over it all. It all happened back home in Ireland. She’s not a bad stick, but a little, just a teeny bit, dreary ˗ and anyway she goes for older men, I think. Am I getting suspicious or something? I should really stop here ˗ but I’ll go onto another sheet.
P.S. The shop is going to give me another pair of shoes!
Still about the people at work, in case I don’t send this with the other. The new assistant manager, a twenty-one-year-old (!) South African (born in Ireland actually, and lived in London for a little of his youth) is quite a nice guy, but he takes life terribly seriously, and as soon as a problem arises, as Margaret says, it shows ˗ all over his innocent face. I suppose I was like that all those terrible four years ago, and I think was probably worse, though I don’t think I’ve ever subscribed to the school of letting everyone know that now-and-at-this-instant I have a problem! Not at least once I got past the embarrassment stage; well, pretended that I had. My problems boil up inside, with my putting them aside for ages before anyone knows they’re there. And to tell someone one of my problems, at least up until recently, was quite a considerable effort. I still in a lot of ways tell myself that I’m quite capable of handling everything, and would sooner muddle around for some time before getting help. Obviously I revolve around my own little axis too much, and eventually would have screwed myself into the ground if I hadn’t realised that people don’t mind helping you!
The new manager, Mr Rogers, is an ex-policeman, I’m told, and smokes a pipe, and has a nearly grown-up family, and is very home-minded ˗ all the things that most of the mangers on the circuit aren’t. This is nothing against him, of course; he’s very sincere, and at true person at heart, but like John, the assistant, he doesn’t really understand the sort of slightly round-the-bend people that Margaret and I are. Don’t gasp, mother, I haven’t become any more crazy than I was at home ˗ but I don’t really think I have a dreary personality, and life apart from its fraughts ought to be quite a happy thing. The saints, after all (my examples, not my fellows!) were happy people: they knew where they were going, they knew that the world could be harmonious if it weren’t for the warped minds that we all have that make us think we know better than God. So, as I say, things at work aren’t as effervescent as they were, which is a pity really, because it makes me see the place in the pitiable light I would have seen it in previously if it hadn’t been for the previous staff. [Breathes.)
We’ve had a lot of fun at the flat over the last weekend: a leak in the bathroom developed overnight, after merely persisting quietly for some time, into a flood, and so we stuck a basin under it. The funny thing was that the water was somehow managing to jump out of the basin and walk across to the other end of the room. We discovered then that we had another leak. So we called in the two little men who fix things on the estate (we’re part of a number of houses all belonging to the same landlords) and they came and fixed up the more humble of the two leaks (at 8.30 in the morning just as we were all getting up to go to work or whatnot) and left its big brother for another drippy day. Fortunately they’ve now fixed that fellow up too (one of them giving himself a great big bump on his forehead in the process, and both of them leaving dirty footprints all over the bath, the plastic curtains done up into a bow, the wall singed where they soldered the pipe, lovely sharp little happy pieces of solder all over the floor, our toilet gear and such in the midst of the mess, and the covering to the Ascot water heater half-on, or perhaps it was half-off!), and we’re now reasonably back to normal again. I cleaned up most of the mess, being the only person in and up at the time, and then Angela did lots of finishing touches, so that it now looks like the bathroom we knew and loved.
I went to my second [piano] lesson on Monday, and if I’d any doubts about Doris as a teacher (did I say Reg seemed to infer I ought to have gone only to the best?) they were pretty firmly dispelled. I think this decision at least has the makings of a success. And there was considerable improvement in my general impression over the one I gave at the first lesson, too. It will take it seems about another year ˗ did I say that? ˗ to get to the stage of LRAM, but since I started things backwards, by going out and working as a musician before I was really ready for such things, it doesn’t matter I guess. [This is a bit of nonsense: I was perfectly capable of doing the music when working; additional training never fails to come in handy, of course.]
But I must get another job: for one thing, it doesn’t pay that much, and for another, it’s just driving me up the wall, though I have a lot of wall to go yet. I don’t want to leave just yet, but I think decision number five is called for soon. But I’ll have to get an interesting job ˗ if I’m to work in the daytime, say. Since this is one of the biggest cities in the world that shouldn’t be toooo hard. That’s for tomorrow, anyway. Today I have another hour and a half to face before I’m allowing myself anything to eat. And there will be gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair, etc. I’ve been on a Bible-reading ‘course’. That is, I read a certain specified section or chapter each night: I’ve kept it up for some months now, too. But dear me, some of the Old Testament is odd!
I can’t give up sweets for Lent ˗ I hardly ever eat them. Love. XXXX
P.S. Remembered what I was going to say in Part I! Kingsley rang the other night and I’ve invited him up for lunch on Sunday ˗ hope he survives!