Find The Crop

The rain was back in Downton today, but uninterrupted internet access wasn’t. Which would you like to read about first?

Ok, I’ll be gentle and start with the weather. The fog warning from the invisible Needles lighthouse sounded above the pattering of raindrops as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk just Muddy fieldafter midday. Cattle, having been brought inside for the winter, have left the sodden fields. Rainwater left its film on the camera lens.


A pair of barely discernible yachts were out on The Solent.

I will now attempt not to rant about BT. The facts should speak for themselves. Not counting the man who connected Infinity Broadband on 10th of this month, we have now been visited by three Openreach engineers. It was number three, this morning, who confirmed that we had been mis-sold our package, which I hadn’t asked for in the first place. After he left I spent the best part of two hours on the phone, mostly pacing up and down the sitting room listening to music. In fact this could easily have constituted my day’s walk. But it the mood I was in at the end of it all I needed to go out and get wet.

The answer is that our house is 2km from the cabinet in the street, and problems develop if you are 1km away. BT have the equipment to check this at the time of installation without having to enter the property.

I began the day’s call to the sales department in England. I was transferred to the technical help team in India, and back to a woman in England whose task it was now to start the process of getting us back to our previous contract. It was when the technical man, putting me on hold for the third time advised me to wait, sit back and relax, that I very politely stated that I had no option but to wait, yet relax was what I would not be doing.

The upshot is that we must wait ten working days for a complaint to be processed and five for us to be put back on our old broadband. That is a fortnight and a week.

SaladAfter a salad lunch, served with Jackie’s usual artistry, and four failed attempts, I managed to cling to the web just long enough to post my second day’s photograph for the black and white challenge. I chose a tiny crop from a picture of an unseasonal cow parsley head that still blooms this November.

Cow parsley 2Cow parsley 3Can you find this little jewel in the full frame?

Had there been any sun today, it would have been setting by the time I was able to work on this post. We are dining on Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi (recipe) tonight, but I may not be able to access The Net then, so I am sending it off now.

Black And White Challenge

This morning I received a photographic challenge from Kanan Buta. This requires the posting on Facebook of a black and white floral picture each day for five days, on each of which a challenge is to be issued to another friend. I have plenty of pictures of summer flowers that could easily be converted to monochrome, but it seemed to me that a challenge accepted in November should be photographed currently and that these colourful subjects should be chosen for their form. In discussing this with Jackie, she came up with the perfect suggestion for this, the anniversary year of the commencement of The Great War. This was a skeletal poppy head, stripped of all flesh yet still standing in the garden. Here is my first day’s entry:Poppy head

On this the first bright, finger-tingling day, taking my Hordle Cliff top walk, I happily obtained a more than ample haul for my five days. I will include one in each of my subsequent WordPress posts.

Road maintenanceAs I walked down Downton Lane, a cloud of dust billowing from Shorefield Road alerted me to road repairs that were being undertaken. A cutting blade was being applied to the edge of the tarmac. Rooks

The rooks are nesting again and soon Shorefield Road will be reverberating with their cries.

Frost on grassFrost on leavesCondensationFrost was coating the fields and hedgerows, and condensation, reminiscent of that described in my ‘Armistice Day’ post, lined the bus shelter in the corner of which a daddy longlegs had met its end.

Isle of Wight and The NeedlesWoman walking dogsThe sea was calm; The Needles, sharp and clear, pierced the pastel skyline; and a woman with a pair of dogs crunched along the shingle.

We had a little less disruption in our internet access today, which is why I had the confidence to wait until tonight to post my offering. Given that the fourth engineer is booked in tomorrow, I do hope there will be difficulties in the morning, otherwise it will be like a visit to a doctor, when you suddenly feel better whilst sitting in the GP’s patient chair.

This evening Jackie produced a splendid pork casserole for our dinner. This was accompanied by crisp carrots, brussels sprouts, and broccoli; roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert was steamed syrup sponge and custard. Jackie drank Peroni and I drank Via di Cavallo chianti 2012.

‘You’re Not Going To Believe This, Miss’

Steady drizzle dripping from dreary skies had, by the time I returned home from my Hordle CrowCliff walk, developed into the deluge that would continue throughout the day. Crows cawed from the telephone lines above the coast road and slugs slithered across the tarmac.

We were without internet access until mid-afternoon, and even then it was erratic, but I was able to scan a batch of colour slides from 1975, and wait until then to upload them, and to load the above photograph into iPhoto. In order to download photos from my Canon SX700 I must be on the web, so whether I can do this or not is touch and go.

Pete 4'75Michael 4.75In the 1970s Jessica’s parents lived in Bulcote Lodge, near Burton Joyce in Nottinghamshire. We often visited, and Michael liked to bring Pete, his friend from Islington Green school, to spend time there. In April 1975 the boys played football on the immaculate lawn.

At that time Islington Green was a flagship comprehensive school and the headmistress, now Professor Margaret Maden, was considered one of the leading educationalists of the time. She had a soft spot for Michael, which was just as well when he brought his cousin James to lessons. James’s half term holiday in South London was a week earlier than my son’s. The boys thought it would be a good wheeze to pass Michael’s cousin off as a French exchange student. He sat ant the back of the class and they thought they had got away with it until Ms Maden summoned Michael at the end of the week and asked him who the uninvited guest had been. ‘You are not going to believe this, Miss…..’ began Michael. Too right, she didn’t. Neither, presumably had any of the other teachers. But it was all treated with good humour.St Pancras 5.75 01St Pancras 5.75 02jpg

In May 1975, when I took the rest of the photographs, we were living in Lloyd Baker Street in Islington. From there I took two more St Pancras skyline sunsets.

Matthew and Becky 5.75 03Matthew was amused to be asked to pose by his sister’s side. Becky sits in a rocking chair that now furnishes our spare single bedroom. It was one of Jessica’s twenty first birthday presents.

Much more serious was his approach to chess, which we played with my replica of the famous set found on the Isle of Lewis some time before April 1831. They are thought to be Scandinavian from the twelfth century.Matthew playing chess 5.75

Matthew & Becky 5.75 01Matthew and Becky 5.75 02Across the road from our balcony lay blocks of flats, in one of which lived Pete. Mat and Becky liked to watch the street from the safety of our railings.Jessica 5.75Jessica hands and purse 5.75

These two shots of Jessica, in one of which she examines the contents of her purse, were also taken that May.

I will close this entry, as I did yesterday, by saying that we will dine on a Chinese takeaway meal, and that I will send my post whilst I have a precarious grasp on the internet.

Preparing For The Party

I am grateful to two blogging friends, Ginene and Cynthia for engaging in a discussion about yesterday’s post. The likely culprits are mice and voles making use of mole tunnels. Mouse holeWe have all three examples of wildlife in our garden. Comparing the tiny drilled entrance hole with the gravel stones surrounding it would implicate these small creatures.

My lower back is complaining about yesterday’s efforts. Frustrated by yet more internet access problems, and in an effort to get myself standing up straight, I took a short walk to Shorefield and back. I met a couple considering taking over The Royal Oak pub and had quite a long talk with them, but I was rather less than upright.

After lunch I girded my loins and took on BT again. I have discovered that if you want to talk to a person more or less immediately it is best to call the sales team. Logical isn’t it?

A lengthy discussion with a very helpful young man eventually revealed that Broadband Infinity does not reach our property. I had told this to the salesperson who sold us the package. She had checked with her manager who confirmed it was in our area. None of the engineers who have visited the house has mentioned this. Ashley, the salesman, advised me to change back to the BTHub3. I did this. It didn’t work. I changed back to the Hub5 which works only intermittently. Half a loaf is, I suppose, better than none.

I rang the sales department again. After a total of three hours I finally spoke yet again to the faults team level two. Apparently if you revert to Hub3 you need some kind of an adaptor fitted if you are on infinity. An engineer will visit in three days time. I did of course keep my usual cool……..

Infinity or what? Perhaps this term relates to how long you have to persist before you obtain uninterrupted service. It’s probably quite a long way ahead.

Now maybe I will have enough access time to make the post I promised yesterday.

In the 1980s, until we moved to Newark in 1987, I had begun to print my own black and white photographs. After we moved I imagined that, upon retirement, I would convert the gardening outhouse to a darkroom and continue this process in earnest. Then came computers and I do it differently now.

Jackie’s needlework has been featured before. It is also evident in this set of pictures taken on Ilford film in 1982.

I forget who hosted the party in which we were invited that summer to attend in Edwardian dress. I think it was a student on the Croydon Social Work course. In those days I was living with Jessica, Sam and Louisa in Gracedale Road, Streatham. Matthew and Becky spent the weekends with us. The rest of us dug out appropriate gear from our wardrobes, whereas Mat and Beck sported splendid costumes produced by their mother for the occasion.

Becky Sam and MatthewMatthew 1982 02Matthew 1982 01Jessica and Louisa 1982Becky 1982Becky and Matthew 1982 01Jessica Becky and Matthew 1982Matthew and Becky 1982Matthew Sam, Jessica and Becky 1982Jessica 1982 01Matthew 1982 02The selection of images presents the family breakfasting in the garden, then dressing for the event. The pipe bearing the head of the ‘widow of Windsor’, as Queen Victoria was termed, and the stoneware bottle, were spoils from the buried midden in Kingston that we looted in our mudlarking days. I had a new stem fitted to the pipe. Jackie tells me that Becky’s hat was fashioned from an artificial bridal bouquet purchased from an Oxfam shop. Becky tells me that when she went home and told her Mum that they were going to a fancy dress party Jackie was excited at the prospect but rather daunted by the requirement of Elizabethan dress. When, the following week, our daughter returned with the information that it was Edwardian, not Elizabethan, Jackie was somewhat relieved.

Candle holderJackie has a penchant for tall wrought iron candle holders to be converted to garden planters. She had spotted a couple yesterday in Molly’s Den. We bought them after I’d finished with BT.

This evening we will be eating a Chinese takeaway meal. I won’t push my luck by waiting until afterwards to post this, but will do so whilst we are still on line for however long it lasts.


What’s Eating The Bulbs?

This morning, I dug out 14 brick lengths of bramble and ivy roots from the back drive’s Northern border. We have had less rain the last couple of days, therefore I thought I would return to the task. Actually the soil remains rather heavy and cloying, so it was tough on the back, and I welcomed the drizzle that gave me an excuse to stop. On the Southern side, Jackie is probably going to be disappointed in her dream of a fine display of daffodils in the spring, because the bulbs she planted are being eaten. We haven’t seen any squirrels, but we do have mice, which, last night, Giles suggested might be the culprits.Iris

It is probably slugs scissoring patterns into the iris petals.Mushrooms

One of the dead stumps has produced its own golden mushroom cluster.

This afternoon I scanned and identified a set of black and white negatives from the summer of 1982. A considerable amount of retouching was required. I will tell the story and feature a selection of the photographs tomorrow. That’s because we are due more heavy rain which probably won’t be conducive to a new set of images. After all, there are only so many ways one can depict raindrops falling into puddles.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chilli con carne (recipe), savoury rice, and green beans, followed bu steamed ginger sponge and custard. She drank Hoegaarden and I began a new bottle of Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009.

Yesterday’s Bread

Weak sunThis morning I took my usual walk to Milford on Sea and back. Above The Solent, a weak sun peeked through gaps in the clouds, while on the cliff top the ever-present hooded Hooded crowcrows trotted about.

In the nature reserve squirrels avoided the muddy footpaths by leaping across them from Bracket fungusOrange fungustree to tree. Bracket fungus on a tree by the stream supplied a convenient stepladder for wild life, while orange mushrooms brightened the leafy carpet beneath.

Bread and butterAs, at lunchtime, I tucked into lovely fresh bread, crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside, I marvelled at Jackie’s technique for keeping it in the condition in which it came off the supermarket shelf several days ago. She freezes it after each meal and defrosts it in readiness for the next. This is a method she learned as a carer of elderly women living alone in the 1970s. Most of her clients did have fridges and freezers, but they preferred their bread bins. The contents of these were invariably green with mould which was transferred to any new loaves that were added. Gradually, she managed to persuade some to use their modern technology.

Yesterday I wrote of the 1940s without washing machines. Life was hard for everyone in those post war days. Please do not imagine you can hear violins playing, that’s just how it was. Other white goods unavailable to the ordinary family at that time were fridges and freezers. My mother, however, had no need to preserve loaves that, with her growing family, stood no chance of surviving a day. In fact, she would send us to the baker’s to buy yesterday’s bread which was cheaper and, being less scrumptious, lasted longer. I seem to remember a figure of 4d. that we handed over for each purchase. That is four old Echo margarinepence, roughly equivalent, if my arithmetic is correct, to 2p. today.

The hot summer of 1947 was particularly problematic in keeping milk and butter from going off. Bottles of milk were kept in cold water in the kitchen sink. Butter simply became runny. I couldn’t bear that, so I would only eat Echo margarine, the single oily spread that was at all impervious to the heat. This, of course, is really only fit for cooking, and no way would I consider it today.

This evening Jackie drove us to The Red Lion at Milford on Sea where we dined with Giles and Jean. My meal was steak and ale pie followed by plum tart and custard. Jackie chose hunter’s chicken followed by treacle sponge and custard. She drank Peroni and I drank Spitfire. The food was good and the company easy and enjoyable.

It is still hit and miss whether or not we have internet access. Fortunately WordPress backs up and saves my work when the connection drops, otherwise I would be tearing my hair out when trying to produce and send my posts.

Boiling Hankies

Once again this morning we welcomed the company of an Openreach engineer. This is because we continue to have access problems with BT Infinity. In fairness to the service provider, they did follow up the previous visit with a phone call, and arranged this one.

He was mystified as to what was wrong, but replaced the socket provided by his predecessor, and disconnected extension lines we don’t use that reached most rooms in the house.

We were on line when he left, so I was able to send Paul some of the photographs I had taken at The First gallery. These will illustrate a newspaper article.

Surveyor maleSurveyor femaleA couple of Environment Agency staff members were surveying a field at the bottom of Flies on carFly on carDownton Lane when I took my Hordle Cliff walk. A card in a car parked alongside that I took to be theirs indicated that this task was something to do with water. Flies clustered on the vehicle provided evidence of the mildness of the day.

HandkerchiefI still use cotton handkerchiefs. As I dropped one, with a thud, into the laundry basket this morning, I thought of certain saucepans, which Jackie and I had discussed recently. In order to clean them, in the 1940s, before she had any sort of washing machine, Mum had boiled up hankies in a large saucepan. In our early days Jackie, and her mother before her, had done the same thing, as had I during brief periods of living alone. Washing machines at that time were not as versatile as those of today. They probably only had one programme, with the result that, as Jackie observed, if you put the handkerchiefs in with other white items you were likely to find gobbets of snot that hadn’t been there before clinging to your clean white shirts.

A liberal sprinkling of washing powder was added to the pan of water, into which you stuffed the unsavoury items, and brought them to the boil. Keeping them bubbling and simmering until nicely cooked, it was best to give them an occasional stir with a wooden spoon, in order to dislodge the more stubborn mucus. This released a cloud of steam emitting the aroma of the detergent, which I can still smell as I write. It was best, if you could afford it, to reserve that particular pan for this process, and not be tempted to use it for porridge, otherwise coagulated residue mixed with milky oats might be imperceptible and prove rather unpleasant. Especially as you probably wouldn’t realise it.

For the fireworks party of 1st November Jackie made a delicious chilli con carne (recipe). Fortunately for us there was plenty left over with which to stock up the freezer. We dined on some of this, with superb savoury rice, this evening. Sticky toffee pudding and custard was to follow. Jackie drank Stella, and I finished the Marques de Carano.