Euro Trim

The trials and tribulations of the two months since my knee surgery have meant that I have been less than assiduous about my recovery exercises. My surgeon had recommended that I use an exercise bike.

Aaron had obtained one for me. I tentatively tried it out today. Since the technical stuff didn’t work on this piece of equipment destined for the dump, I haven’t a clue what I am meant to be reading or adjusting on this static bike rejoicing in the name of Euro Trim. Never mind, after raising the seat as high as possible, I can turn my legs over – very gingerly. Jackie was well enough to act as Assistant Photographer.

The rest of the day was spent on reading and relaxation.

Late this afternoon Jackie managed to take herself to Tesco, where she stocked up on ready cooked curries. We enjoyed the first this evening. The Culinary Queen’s choice was chicken tikka masala; mine was chicken jalfrezi. We shared mushroom rice and a selection of vegetable snacks.

Always A Drop To Drink

Today was milder and wetter. Last autumn, Jackie had planted up a pair of tubs for Mum’s garden. Now the intended recipient occupies a care home, one of these graces the garden of her empty bungalow. The other stands in front of the trellis adorning our garage door.

We took a short trip to the East of the forest, where, at East End the stunning golden mimosa tree is in full bloom;

a pigeon looks down on it from a nearby naked oak.

The corner of St Leonard’s Road and the road to East Boldre is as waterlogged as always once we have experienced considerable rainfall. Water overflows onto the road and vehicles spray as they pass.

At East Boldre a chestnut pony, ankle-deep in another pool, slakes its thirst. Today it can be said that there was water, water, everywhere, and always a drop to drink.

This evening we dined on tangy lemon chicken; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and tender peas.

Back In The Garden

Stormy weather and a heavy cold have kept me indoors for the last week. Today the wind has dropped to 20 m.p.h. and the sun has shone. I therefore took a walk in the garden. Jackie now has the cold and is currently housebound.

Our winter flowering cherry remains bright against the blue sky above.

The copper beech and the weeping birch still display their skeletal frames;

pruned roses are biding their time to burst forth in bloom.

Golden forsythia glows beside the patio.

Whichever way you look at them, the old cart wheels and the gazebo arches have designs on the gravel path,

visible beyond this end of the Phantom Path.

Camellias still bloom and bud throughout the shrubberies.

Daffodils still abound. Those in the patio are accompanied by tulips, pansies, and violas.

Primulas, bergenias, hellebores, cyclamens, comfrey, alliums, grape hyacinths, and pulmonaria all await discovery in the beds.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese served with rashers of bacon, followed by lemon Bakewell tarts.

A Collaboration

One of Robert Gibbings’s diversions in ‘Trumpets from Montparnasse’ was his recounting of the request of his friend, Charles Ede of The Folio Society to produce a series of engravings for ‘The Discovery of Tahiti’ by George Robertson. This was a joint project with Gibbings’s publisher, J. M. Dent, published in 1955.

Naturally, this led me to my own copy of this work, in fact a 1973 reprint. I finished reading it this morning.

The transparent jacket to this slender volume reveals the embossed designs on the front and back boards and the spine.

Here is the frontispiece. Oliver Warner’s editing and his introduction are exemplary. He has modernised the spelling of his 18th century source, and interspersed summaries of sections from other seamen’s diaries when they provide amplification of the narrative. His explanatory footnotes and occasional correction of Robertson’s assumed facts are enlightening.

But, of course, my major interest was in the illustrator.

In order to produce reasonably large images of the woodcuts, I have scanned sections of the pages, with a little of the text by way of explanation.

Here is the dramatic opening paragraph,

and what was soon revealed to the crew’s delighted eyes;

and yet more.

This paragraph reflects the difficulty of establishing trust with no common language.

Sailors and islanders were fascinated by each other’s artefacts. In particular the nails of various sizes carried on board became the most valuable trading items.

Robertson never established the purpose of this place.

What nails could buy is suggested here.

Fresh food was also essential to the traders.

The artist’s final illustration admirably encapsulates what was clearly a very sad day for both parties of this 6 weeks’ acquaintance. The paragraph in square brackets is one of the editor’s additions.

I watched the last three matches of this year’s Six Nations rugby tournament. Before the England versus Scotland game we dined on pork spare ribs and a selection of Chinese starters, with which I drank Doom Bar. Jackie now has the cold as well, so this finger food suited us both.

A Cornucopia

is a cornucopia of literary and artistic delights from the pen, brush, and chisel of the author. Mine is the 1955 first edition of J. M. Dent protected by a somewhat worn jacket.

The embossed designs on the front board and the spine are therefore as fresh as they were 64 years ago.

Gibbings earned his living as a highly skilled and sought after wood engraver. This book tells of a trip to Paris and to Positano following his desire for colour and brushes as a break from the black and white bread and butter work. The writer’s memoirs are peppered with fascinating anecdotes from his own encounters and from tales of other artists. The history and geography of his subjects are presented with deceptive ease.

The book contains eight colour plates, one of which is repeated on the jacket above.

There are also forty examples of Gibbings’s wood engravings. These scans of sample pages offer the reader tastes of his elegantly simple prose; the last image above containing one of his many entertaining and informative insights into the art world.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s powerful smoked haddock, creamy mashed potato, piquant cauliflower cheese, crisp carrots, tender runner beans and cabbage, followed by ginger ice cream and lemon drizzle cake.

Stay Stock Still

I have been unfit to visit Mum since the day after she arrived at Woodpeckers Care Home on 25th January. Reports are, however, most encouraging. She has ventured into the communal areas which we did not expect, and a couple of days ago only declined at the last minute to join a trip to a garden centre because of the inclement weather.

My beloved niece, Danni has posted this photograph on her Facebook page. Ella (seven weeks) is appropriately to the fore. She needed her mother (33) to cradle her into position. My sister Elizabeth (65) sits behind her daughter; alongside sits our mother (96) clutching a quarter of a napkin she has divided up for economy. It is almost a century since Mum was the same age as her great granddaughter. Had such a photograph been possible at that time there would have been no relaxed smiles or waving arms – all subjects would have been urged to stay stock still.

I continued my rest, reading, and recuperation.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent pork chop; creamy mashed potato and swede; roast parsnips; crunchy carrots; and tender runner beans; with flavoursome gravy.

The Crime Of Sylvestre Bonnard

Unfortunately my copy of the title work of fiction is not one of the Bodley Head collection of the works of Anatole France, illustrated by Frank C. Papé. It is, however, an early Folio Society volume of 1948, complete with dust jacket.

This charming little tale, first published in 1891, was the author’s first novel. In his usual flowing, poetic, prose he gives us a story of relationships spanning generations. With a delightful delicacy he describes the beauty of human emotions, not omitting scoundrels. As usual, I will not reveal the details. The work has always been in print for anyone who wishes to read it.

Lafcadio Hearn’s translation has been used by permission of The Bodley Head. The translator has provided a useful introduction.

Book illustration, by 1948, had moved on from the Golden Age of elegant draftsmanship exemplified by Mr Papé. The more impressionistic lithographs of Harold Hope-Read are quite a contrast to the careful lines of the earlier illustrator.

Once the reader peers through the murk of the artist’s well balanced designs and deciphers the suggested expressions of the people in the images it is possible to recognise his fidelity to the charming text.

This evening we dined on Lidl ready-made curries. Mine was chicken jalfrezi; Jackie’s was chicken korma. These acceptable meals were followed by Belgian buns.