Bricks In The Hopper

Hellebore, snowdrops, ferns, heuchera

As our garden awakens, hellebores, snowdrops, ferns, and heucheras stretch their limbs and jostle for position.


Some hellebores, petals perhaps frost-bitten, raise their heads,


possibly having been alarmed by our jackdaws jousting over the rooftop chimneys,

Fungus on maple

What was once a maple on the grass had been cut back by our predecessors. Although we have some new shoots the stump now bears some fascinating fungus. We hope that is not a sign of the tree’s imminent demise.

HopperDuring the recent heavy rain, a hopper at the front of the house overflowed. Today I decided to investigate the blockage. The device contained a couple of pieces of brick that seemed to serve no purpose except partially to block the down pipe. I removed these items and Jackie filled a bath upstairs and let it flow into the pipe. All seemed to be running smoothly. Unfortunately Jackie had lifted the manhole cover to the septic tank.

This system, for homes not on national mains drainage, operates via sections of piping across the garden. There are three such covers. When we had our houseful at Christmas, we had experienced some overload in the waste pipes, creating an unsavoury heap in this first access point. Buckets of water, we thought, had solved the problem.


The residue in that pit, now solidified, resembled sand formations in the Arizona Desert,

which is why, having broken it up with a metal post, kicked up a stink, and begun to apply further buckets of water filled by Jackie,

Drainage access

I decided it was more sensitive to refrain from photographing the site until it was cleared. It had been necessary to pour the water down at speed, which incurred a certain amount of splash-back, best nimbly avoided.

The bucket drill was applied to each of the other access points, in order to ensure that the coagulated substance had been coaxed along the pipes. If that hasn’t cured the problem we will call in the experts.

This evening we dined once more on Jackie’s superb, well-matured, liver and bacon dish, served with mashed potato and swede, carrots and green beans. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Louis Virion Costieres de Nimes 2014.

After dinner, I watched the highlights of England’s earlier rugby match against Italy.

Oddie Aloft

This morning Aaron continued painting the landing doors.

Film wallet 12.2003

Way back in the dark ages, before Lightroom and such, some of us still used film photography. Processing was offered in far more outlets than can be found today. Our films were delivered to the chemist for collection the following week. Prints came in small wallets complete with a section for the negatives. Two of these that I found in my rediscovered negatives box also contained dated contact prints for ease of recognition.

Today, I scanned a few that tell a story from December 2003.

Jack Russell terriers are known for burrowing down rabbit holes, not climbing trees after squirrels.

Oddie 12.03 1

Matthew’s Oddie was, on this occasion, the exception. By the time he began to scale the acacia in Lindum House garden, his prey was long gone;

Oddie 12.03 2

Oddie 12.03 3

but he carried on regardless.

Oddie, Matthew, and Paddy 12.03

Matthew and Paddy, our collie/labrador cross in the shrubbery, looked on with some consternation.

Oddie and Matthew 12.03

Even my trigger-finger was shaky. At this point Mat rushed indoors.

Oddie 12.03 4

His dog, looking a bit doubtful himself, continued to scrabble silently up the bark

Oddie 12.03 5

until the inevitable happened.

He fell,

and plummeted




outstretched blanket that

Matthew had retrieved in the nick of time.

This afternoon I watched the Six Nations rugby internationals between Ireland and France, and between Wales and Scotland.

Liver, onions, bacon,and mushrooms 1

For our dinner this evening Jackie produced liver, bacon, onions and mushrooms in a easy gravy; crisp Brussels sprouts; and mashed potato and swede.

Liver and bacon meal

It tasted as good as it looks.

Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Saint-Emilion.

The Grinch

Electricians installing street lamps

As we set off this morning for Jackie to drive me to New Milton, and back this afternoon, for my lunch date with Carol, the sunlight on the house at the corner of Hordle Lane attracted my attention. It was then I noticed the electricians installing street lamps on an existing pole.

The attractive early light was short-lived. In London the skies were overcast, and at home there was much rain.

My up journey to Waterloo proved to be interesting. Perhaps because it is Friday, the only seat I was able to find was occupied by a pile of bags and coats. It was one of two groups of four flanking the gangway. Pointing out that there were no other available seats I politely asked for this one to be vacated. It was. With no problem.

Thus I became surrounded by a party of one man and six women out for a day in London. Naturally there was much conversation which did not detract too much from my reading. It was when sandwiches were dished out that I began to feel I was decidedly in the way. One of the women diagonally opposite handed them out. Without a word to me, the gentleman to my left stretched out his arm across the front of me. Swallowing my discomfort, I said nothing. The second time I refrained, but knew one more occasion would warrant a word.

There was a third passage of packaged sandwich. I pointed out to the man that I had been very polite when I had asked for the heap on the seat to be removed and would appreciate it if I were accorded a certain amount of courtesy when stretching across me. A somewhat surprised exchange followed.220px-How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_cover I said I did not wish to spoil their party, but would appreciate their registering that I was actually there.

There followed a long silence, during which the gentleman read his Daily Mail, taking great care token hi elbow way from me. Feeling very Grinch-like, I said I would try to find a seat elsewhere, but my fellow passengers urged me to stay.

The thaw continued. Conversation resumed, and, having been offered a sandwich, I was even included. We parted at the terminal station with good wishes all round. I was not asked to carve the turkey, but I felt as if I had gone through the whole gamut of Dr Seuss’s story, since filmed, about his famous curmudgeon.

In ‘Farewell To Westminster‘ I mentioned how the Victorian town hall in which I had worked, had, except for its facade, been demolished for a different use. Many such buildings erected in a more optimistic era for permanent purposes, have met similar fates. Wimbledon’s 1930s Town Hall, gutted to make way for supermarket shelves, is now a Tesco’s.

Alongside Waterloo Station, in Waterloo Road, the London County Council Fire Brigade Station of 2010 has undergone a similar transformation. Where once firefighters had slid out of bed and down their pole, leaped into their engines, and sped out into the busy road to attend to flaming buildings, a gastropub named The Fire Station now serves food, such as wood-fired pizzas and thirst- quenching liquid refreshment.

Fire station 1Fire Station 2

In the first of these two photographs the cyclists could possibly arrive at Euston before the bus bound for that other London Terminal station. The TO LET board advertises refurbished characterful offices.

Crane at work 1Crane at work 2

The crane is working on a large corner development.


Whilst taking the second of these pictures, from The Cut, I wondered what the painter L.S.Lowry would have made of the scene.

1930 Coming from the Mill (smaller size)

‘Coming from the Mill’ is just one of his famous works portraying unconnected pedestrians.

Carol and I enjoyed our meal and each other’s company at Tas, where we received our usual warm welcome and attentive service.

A Good Arboreal Scratch

We enjoyed another bright and sunny day, albeit a little cooler. A light, short-lived frost had left strings of pearls around our early flowers including


hellebores I had overlooked yesterday,

Prunus pissardi 1Prunus pissardi 2

and prunus pissardi.

This afternoon I watched recorded highlights of last Sunday’s drawn rugby match between Ireland and Wales. This is a very rare result these days, and you have to go back 42 years to the last evenly scored game between these two teams.

After this, Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm Shop where we bought three bags of compost; then meandered around the forest as far as Godshill and back along Roger Penny Way.

Cloudscape 1Cloudscape 2Cloudscape 3Cloudscape 4

Ponies and magpie

The sun romped in and out of the clouds in the ever-changing skies spilling light and shade over the heathland where well-fattened ponies, with their magpie acolytes, chomped their way across the turf.

Ponies crossing road

When these free-creatures of The New Forest fancied the grass would be greener on the other side, they wandered across the road, exercising their inalienable right to hold up the traffic.

Shattered fallen tree

The recent storms have brought down numbers of trees such as this oak, its trunk shattered, on the approach to Burley,

Oak tree

where another, more dead than alive, still stood,

Pony scratching

and where one pony left its companions foraging whilst it had a good arboreal scratch.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken curry; savoury rice; and vegetable samosas and pakoras; followed by Sicilian lemon tart and evap. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Fortnum & Mason Saint-Emilio grand cru 2011, given to me by Luci and Wolf for Christmas.


It is not that unusual for readers seeking contacts or history to stumble across this blog and, through comments, to ask me for information. Yesterday there were two. One man sought a contact with Trinity (Battersea) now Trinity (Oxley) Cricket Club. I, and two others responded. A second person, a woman, wondered whether Jackie’s sister, Helen, was someone she had trained with in the 1960s. I put them in touch with each other. Such is the power of WordPress.

Today, definitely presaging Spring, was even sunnier, and warmer, than yesterday.

Here are some of the garden flowers I did not pick yesterday:


We have pretty pansies,

Hellebores 1Hellebores 2Hellebore 1Hellebore 2Hellebore 3

a vast variety of head-hanging hellebores,


several flourishing viburnums,


precocious primulas, some a little nibbled,


different camellias,


and cerise cyclamens among others.

At midday we drove to Efford Recycling Centre to dump some of our rubbish, and

Charger and toysMats

as usual departed with purchases from the Sales Area, namely a charger, some toddler toys and rolls of mats for the garden shed.

We then came back to Otter Nurseries where we enjoyed mushroom soup and rolls with the discount vouchers. After this we went driveabout.

Isle of WightIsle of Wight 2

The Needles and Lighthouse

The light was so clear over the Solent that we had the sharpest view of the flanks of the Isle of Wight, The Needles, and the lighthouse, a mile and a quarter away.

Walkers silhouette 1Walkers silhouette 2

Walkers were silhouetted on Hordle West Cliff Top.

Pheasant hens Pheasant hens 2

Driving along Angel Lane we gatecrashed a pheasant hen party.

Cloudscape 1Cloudscape and silhouettes

Back at home, shortly before sunset, sand-clouds gathered over Christchurch Road. This time buildings, shrubs, and trees provided the silhouettes.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s chicken tikka biriani; vegetable pakoras and samosas; salad; and delicious cauliflower bhaji that would have graced any Indian kitchen. The cook drank Hoegaarden and the satisfied customer drank Kingfisher.

Farewell To Westminster

Storm Imogen appears to have slunk away today, which was calm and sunny, brightening our








and camellias.

Another strip of colour negatives from April 1986 in a brown window envelope in the rediscovered collection were clearly not taken by me, but by staff members on my last day as Westminster Social Services Area 1 manager as I prepared to continue my working life in a freelance capacity. I scanned them and placed them in my negative files.

Derrick 4.86 1

Here I stand in my office in the former Victorian Paddington town hall,

Derrick 4.86 2

and here I am signing a few documents. Through the window behind me can be seen the old St Mary’s Hospital, which like the town hall has been largely demolished and converted to Housing Association dwellings.

I doubt that any Social Services Departments can today afford the luxury of spacious accommodation for all staff, such as the splendid manager’s office, on the walls of which I was able to hang many family photographs,

Derrick and Louisa 4.86

Louisa came to see where I had been working. We stand in front of portraits of, clockwise from top left, Michael, Sam, Louisa, Auntie Gwen, Matthew, Dad, and Jessica. I think it was Becky obscured by her sister’s head. The other two are of me running in a marathon and a twenty mile race.

This brought to an end twelve enjoyable, if very difficult, years in post.

Cicken tikka

Jackie fed us this evening with her delicious chicken tikka; vegetable pakoras and samosas; colourful savoury rice brought back from our recent visit to Dynasty in Brockenhurst; and salad. The red splurges on my helping are Dorset Naga Chilli and Smoked Garlic Jam, spicing it up. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I drank Kingfisher.

Storm Imogen

The winds of Storm Imogen, that reached 96 m.p.h. off The Needles, howled all night and continued at 55-65 m.p.h. throughout the day. Carol had the good sense to suggest I might need to postpone our lunch date. This was very wise as the trains I would need to catch were severely disrupted, and trees were reported down on roads such as the A35.

We were warned against venturing out unless our journey was urgent. I trust you will agree that investigating the views across Christchurch Bay to the Island fitted that bill.

Isle of Wight and The Needles

We began on Hordle Cliff Top where it was impossible to see what I was doing, as I was forced backwards by the gusts. Consequently I needed to straighten this one up in my Mac. The computer that is, not the one I was wearing.

Enticed by the prospect of spray on the rocks at Barton on Sea, that is where I took the rest of the photographs.

Man descending steps

Descending the car park steps was easier than the battle that was the return.

Shoreline and Isle of WightShorelineSpray 1Spray 2Spray 3Spray 5Spray 6

Shoreline 3Clouds and sprayClouds and Sea

Close examination of the images will reveal the effects of the flying spray spattered on my lens.

Clifftop buildings

The buildings on the clifftop clung to their perches,

Dog walker

beneath which one of the very few dog walkers in evidence clung to her hood.

Barton on the news

Back home, the BBC 1 p.m. News, featured Barton on Sea. Actually, the scene looked more like Milford to me, but never mind. I’m probably wrong.

It being Elizabeth’s birthday, we further braved the storms to meet her, Danni, and Andy for dinner at The White Hart at Cadnam. We shared, olives, stuffed peppers, and bread in a balsamic vinegar dip. My main course was rabbit, ham and lentil broth with parsley dumpling. I shared a cheese board with Danni; and good Chilean red wine with her and Elizabeth.