One Miniature Member

Early this afternoon I posted “A Knight’s Tale (9: Before The Coming Revolution)”.

Later, we shopped at Lidl and carried on for drive. Everywhere is becoming very crowded. Reaching Lymington was a lengthy process. We kept along Sowley Lane and St Leonard’s Road to the east, which doesn’t have too many visitors.

A family of mallards beside a temporary pool alongside St Leonard’s Road were possibly debating whether to settle on it.

Opposite, in sight of the Isle of Wight,

bees busily worked over the remaining blossom on nascent blackberries while they still had a chance.

Our familiar equine group of friends, with its one miniature member congregated outside St Leonard’s Grange, within reach of

their still liquid watering hole reflecting possibly aquatic plants.

Cattle on the moorland fronting houses between East End and East Boldre were happy to share pasturage rights with a few ponies.

This evening we dined on our second helpings of Red Chilli takeaway with which Jackie finished the Carricante and I drank more of the Fleurie, which involved opening another bottle.

A Knight’s Tale (9: Before The Coming Revolution)

Mabel Knight, the most widely travelled of the siblings, followed the early career pattern of her elder sister, Ethel. Aged sixteen she attended a boarding school as a pupil/teacher in return for board and lodging. As usual there was no salary. This would come the next year as a teacher in a small school in Cornwall. For an annual salary of £10 per annum she was required to teach from 9 a.m. to 12 and from 2 p.m. to 4; to take boarders for daily walks from 4 to 5; to dust the drawing-room and schoolroom; and to make her own bed.

Further teaching posts in England were to follow before moving to Germany in 1905, and taking up positions of varying periods and satisfaction as nursery governesses. Her happiest engagement included charge of the three younger children of the Blumenthals who had made their fortune at Hopetown during the South African War.

A brief summer assignment in Pomerania, on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea was followed by a nursery post in Davos, Switzerland. This came to an end when her skating charge ran off and and fell on the ice – a minor accident for which Mabel was dismissed. Discipline of an employed domestic staff member in those days was harsh. She returned to England and spent two years on various teaching posts.

Between 1904 and 1907 my great aunt enjoyed a mostly long distance relationship with Dutch engineer, André Schmidt who was working in Tokyo. She was apparently devastated by his death in a tragic accident while showing a group of Japanese students round an electrical works in Hamburg.

The following year, having recovered enough from her loss, Mabel took a position teaching English in Batoum, Georgia. Initially, four children were her pupils. This expanded to include students from the school run by her employers; the son of the Commandant of the town; its chief chemist; the Governor’s only son, and others, such as the manager of

tea plantations in Chakra.

There, she was befriended by The Consul, Mr Stevens, and his family. For several years she enjoyed a very active social life – a “great life”.

After four more years Mabel moved to St Petersburg as governess to the children of the Professor Ott, Court Doctor there. Shortly before Christmas 1912, because the family were moving to Nice, she took rooms in the centre of the city, teaching many private students. Ethel was teaching and living elsewhere in the Tsarist capital. Before the coming revolution the two sisters met frequently, going to dances and parties together. “St Petersburg was a wonderful city to live in before WW1. At night the streets were filled with almost as much traffic as in the day and it was quite safe to come home late at night after a dance (2 and 3 in the morning).”

Happy Planting

Jackie spent most of this pleasantly sunny day on general garden maintenance, including spraying about half of the

Back Drive weeds with herbicide.

My contribution was dead heading, hand weeding, and clearing debris, in one long and one short bursts.

Here are some blooms of For Your Eyes Only, before and after dead heading.

I managed to disturb hoverflies like these on Summer Wine and bees like this on a white climber, but they didn’t take it personally.

I was serenaded by the trickling of the water fountain in the Rose Garden, and by small birds

like this tiny goldfinch perched atop the Weeping Birch. You may need enlargement of this image.

Happy plantings include these different yellow/orang dahlias; the juxtaposition of clematis, petunias, and verbena bonariensis against the kitchen wall; and the sprays of gaura (no, not Laura, WP) bursting from the Ali Baba pot.

This final set of images each bears a title in the gallery.

This afternoon I posted ‘A Knight’s Tale (8: From The Good Life To Refugee Status)’

Elizabeth came to dinner and we received a Red Chilli takeaway meal. My main choice was Tiger Prawn Vindaloo; Elizabeth’s was Bengal Chilli Chicken; and Jackie’s Saag Chicken. We shared special fried rice, a plain paratha, chana masala, saag bhaji, saag dal, and a mixed vegetable curry. Jackie drank more of the Carricante; Elizabeth and I drank more of the Fleurie.

A Knight’s Tale (8: From The Good Life To Refugee Status)

My paternal grandfather, John Francis Cecil (Jack), and his siblings were part of the seventh generation descended from John Knight, first appearing in the seventeenth century. His three sisters Ethel, Mabel, and Evelyn, governesses to the aristocracy during the twentieth century, between them lived through all the major upheavals of that period.  In 1917 Ethel and Mabel fled the Russian Revolution; Evelyn was in Ireland during the crisis of 1926; and Mabel observed the Spanish Civil War at close hand ten years later.

With the aid of Mabel and Evelyn’s diaries, my brother Chris produced a lecture and slide presentation on these fascinating lives.

The dates shown on Chris’s header are those of the women’s births. Mabel died in 1962; Ethel on 8th February 1951; and Evelyn in 1975. Between those dates these three women travelled all over the world during a time when ladies rarely travelled unaccompanied.

I was nine when Ethel died, and have no recollection of ever having met her. She had, however, until her death, been joint owner with Mabel of

18 Bernard Gardens, Wimbledon, SW19, which the surviving sister left to my father in 1960.

As was a common pattern, Ethel began as a pupil/teacher without pay. She went on to a teaching post in St Austell, and then to St Petersburg, returning to England, two weeks before the armistice in 1918, via Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Aberdeen.

She found secretarial work at London’s Grand Hotel before returning to teaching and tutoring, and then caring for her own mother who died in 1936, aged 94, from a fall downstairs.

Ethel never fully recovered from the privations of months of semi-starvation in the St Petersburg of 1918.

The story of the descent from the good life in Tsarist Russia to refugee status post-revolution in the company of her younger sister will be revealed in extracts from Mabel’s diary.


An Arboreal Ossuary

This morning Jackie continued with her general maintenance work, including

autumn cleaning the greenhouse, and clearing and resetting paths such as the Head Gardener’s Walk.

My minimal intervention was the removal of brambles invading from No. 5 Downton Lane. This, and the amount of weeds piercing the gravel is somewhat reminiscent of our arrival here 1n 2014.

I then wandered around with my camera.

Each of these images bears a title in the gallery,

as do these in the front garden one. Please ignore the rose stems that need sorting out.

This afternoon we drove into the forest.

If these ponies had come for a drink beside Bisterne Close they would have been disappointed because the pool has virtually dried up.

I stopped along Burley Road to investigate the tree work on the fallen giant that has recently added its bulk to the

arboreal ossuary that this area has become.

Early this evening, having been encouraged by my very good blogging friend, Uma Shankar, One Grain Amongst the Storm, and endorsed by another, Laurie Graves, to break up the sequence of material on my three great aunts, I made headway in preparing the next episodes of A Knight’s Tale.

Later, we dined on a repeat of yesterday’s menu, with which Jackie drank the same white wine and I quaffed Colin-Bourisset Fleurie 2019.

Beside The Pond

This morning was the dry part of day beset with showers of varying ferocity. We shopped at Ferndene Farm Shop for three more bags of compost and a replenishment of our stock of fruit and vegetables, then continued into the forest.

Fly-decorated ponies planted in the road around the fully occupied Holmsley Campsite did their best to impede decanted campers, cyclists, and walkers setting out on their trips.

A nonchalant adolescent foal ambled across Burley Road, along which Jackie parked so that I could

follow the bone-dry powdery pony track to Whitemoor Pond. The third of these pictures is “Where’s Derrick” (5)

It was the sight of the distant clusters of ponies and foals that drew me to take the trek through the

moorland heather. Note the crow on the back of the reflected bay alongside the grey.

This afternoon I scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s skilled illustrations to “David Copperfield”.

‘Mr Dick leaned back in his chair, with his eyebrows lifted up as high as he could possibly lift them’

‘Mr Peggotty kept a lodging over the little chandler’s shop in Hungerford Market’ contains the artists ubiquitous little dog.

‘The girl we had followed strayed down to the river’s brink, and stood, lonely and still, looking at the water’

‘I began to carry her down-stairs every morning, and up-stairs every night’

Later, I did some more work on the next episode of The Knight’s Tale. Shortly before his death in 2017, my brother Chris asked me to help with the writing of his research on the family history. Now, for this section, I find myself wading through pages of material, including contemporary photographs and reminiscences. The problem is how to cull it to reasonable blog length.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s special savoury rice with tempura and hot and spicy prawns; tuna and egg mayonnaise with paprika; and plentiful fresh salad, with which she drank more of the Carricante and I drank more of the Barolo.

Not As Punishing As Expected

This is the second delicately wind-chiming owl that Jackie has found smashed to smithereens by gale force winds. She wasn’t about to buy another so she carefully super-glued the pieces together late yesterday. She has since managed to prise her fingers apart.

Much of the day has been spent tying up or removing fallen plants. The white climber, Créme de la Créme was bent, at right angles, to breaking point, but seems to have revived. The Summer statue seems amenable to being tied to a verbena bonariensis, and the Head Gardener applied a green thumb to stake up prone tomato plants. We have been wondering what to do with the two wrought iron gates salvaged from the dump a few years ago.

The broken borage stems resting on the back of a dragon were about to be snipped.

Many of the hanging baskets placed on the ground were tipped over and lost their trailing elements. Some, happily, survived – others are in the process of being refilled.

Dahlias and clematises are among the many survivors.

Here Jackie makes apparent her feelings about those that were not so fortunate, although she did raise a smile when she realised that this phlox stem has a root and she will be able to make a cutting from it.

A few more images demonstrate that the efforts of Hurricane Evert were not as punishing as expected.

Light showers fell this afternoon, when I embarked upon research for the great aunts’ section of A Knight’s Tale. There is far too much material for a blog, so it will need to be well condensed.

This evening we dined on roast chicken; roast potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and a melange od fried onions, mushrooms, and peppers, with which Jackie drank Terre Siciliane Carricante 2019 and I drank Vendemmia Barolo 2016, a rather fine birthday present from Danni and Andy.

74 Miles Per Hour

The title represents the fastest speed of the hurricane force winds gusting through The Needles this morning. With our garden in direct line about two miles from these there was no point in going out to investigate the damage, so we drove to Barton on Sea to have a look at them.

Jackie photographed the wind filling my jacket as I stood as near the cliff edge as I dared (not very) to photograph the waves; and this sequence of a Union flag wrapped and unwrapped round the pole by the gusts. Even the crows and gulls kept away.

I managed just a couple of decent shots among the wobbly ones before descending the slope to the promenade below.

Like me, this couple had reached the bottom. I hadn’t tried it for at least two years since my knee surgery.

Flora on the hillsides must have found it difficult to remain rooted.

I had hoped to descend to the rocks below, but this would have meant sliding down the grassy slopes beneath the gravelled path along which others walked. I wasn’t about to risk that.

Choppy waves threw up spray as they battered the sturdy breakwaters and smashed into steadfast rocks. Salty vapour shrouded hazy horizons.

This afternoon I posted

Even by dinner time the winds had not totally subsided, so we decided that tying up plants and removing broken stems would have to wait until tomorrow. Similarly, we have let the garden furniture lie.

Jackie, however completed her project on clearing the stepping stones through the Palm Bed, and photographed it along with

the sunflower, which has survived.

This evening we dined on plump roast chicken; sage and onion stuffing; crisp Yorkshire pudding; roast and boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; fried chestnut mushrooms; and tasty, meaty, gravy, with which Jackie finished the Rosé and I finished the Recital.

A Knight’s Tale (7: World War I)

From my brother, Chris’s, research, I have learned that my potential great uncle, Fred Evans, brother of great uncle John (Jack Riskit) and Grandma Hunter, née Evans, was killed on the Somme in 1916. A first class cricketer and footballer, Fred was expected to play cricket for Lancashire until the war put a stop to it. From his home in Sydney, a member of the 53rd Bn., Australian Infantry, he set out for France on 8th March, 1916, and was, according to a comrade, George Stone, one of the first over the parapet and shot “about half-way across to” the German line, on 19th July. He has no known grave and is commemorated at V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles.

My Grandparents, John Francis Cecil (Jack) Knight, wearing Army uniform in 1917; and George Henry Hunter, clad in Merchant Navy uniform, were both fortunate enough to – at least physically – to have survived WWI, the first time the world went mad.

All I know about Jack’s war service is that he taught airmen to fly. His qualification for this was

The Norwood School for the Sons of Gentlemen, which was a family run business of the Knights for several generations, although not always in West Norwood.  He may not have known how to fly, but he did know how to teach. Male members ran the school, whilst the women became governesses when they served all over Europe. Central to the photograph, probably taken in 1913, are my paternal grandparents Beatrice and Jack (John Francis Cecil) Knight.

The woman on the far left we knew in later years as Auntie Evelyn.  It was her sister, Mabel, who bequeathed our father 18 Bernard Gardens. When the family moved into this large house in Wimbledon, among Mabel’s effects were all the gramophone records of Julie Andrews.  Mabel had no record player, but had clearly taken pride in her former charge. The colourful careers of our three great aunts will feature further on in the story.

Here, our late brother, Chris, on a visit to Tangmere, occupies a replica of the SE 5a Scout from 1918, which our grandfather taught airmen to fly. From the museum web page we read:


The Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5a scout was one of the most successful British fighter aircraft of the First World War and was one of the first aircraft to fly from the newly created RAF Tangmere in 1918 when No 92 Squadron trained here before leaving for the Western Front. The Museum’s replica was built to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and constructed by a small team drawn from our engineering staff using original drawings and employing the same techniques that were used for the original aircraft’.

Jack, after 1914, was never to work in the school again.  Returning from the First World War he no longer had the heart to work inside or in education, and bought a removal firm.

Grandpa Hunter was a land based engineer, almost certainly using his skills as a turner. He served on Victory 2, a training depot for RN divisions at Crystal Palace.

After The Storm?

Yesterday’s winds had in fact reached gale proportions.

This morning I joined Jackie in the garden and carried out a dead heading operation.

Roses New Dawn, Alan Titchmarsh, Créme de la Créme, For Your Eyes Only, and Winchester Cathedral were among those that received my attention.

Taking a break for lunch and cutting my hair, Jackie continued until early evening. Among her achievements were

the creation of a new bed opposite the greenhouse door; bringing one of her dragons further into view by providing him with a pedestal; and progressing the clearance of the stepping stones through the Palm Bed.

This latter project could be seen from the decking on which we took our pre-dinner drinks in gathering gloom, as could

the tall sunflower, and these two garden views.

My afternoon was spent producing

This evening we dined on pork chops coated with mustard; new potatoes, crunchy carrots, and firm broccoli, with which Jackie drank more of the Rosé and I repeated the Recital.

Immediately afterwards, having now learned that tomorrow’s gentle breeze and light showers has transmogrified into the end of Hurricane Evert, we set about once more laying down the garden furniture raised this morning.