Forced to rest my injured leg, this afternoon I published
then read a good chunk of V.S. Naipaul’s ‘A Way in the World’.
This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish, chips, Garner’s Pickled Onions and Mrs Elwood’s Pickled Cucumbers, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden, I drank London Pride, Flo drank Lipton’s iced tea, and Dillon drank Fanta.
Every Friday evening throughout July and August Sigoules square is covered in long tables and chairs;
various food suppliers put up their stalls;
Les Caves and others produce the wine; and people swarm in from miles around. There is a pop group singing a fair number of English songs. With respect to those who want to sleep, everything closes down around midnight. Given my proximity to the square I’d best join in. If I didn’t there would be no point in going to bed early. In any case these are delightful occasions, and at one we met Judith and Roger Munns, whose friendship was to prove to be particularly helpful.
On our early morning arrival in Sigoules on 28th August 2014 I immediately visited the police and alerted them to the fact that I was about to reclaim my house. I had been advised that they would help me regain my property. This was denied by the officer on the desk who stated that it was a civil matter and not their concern.
Allowing a reasonable amount of time to avoid waking whoever was in the household, accompanied by Michael, I rang the bell. Having no response, I opened the door, which was unlocked, and confronted some of the occupants. These included the mother of the family, a teenage girl, two young men, and two small children. The conman who had groomed me was away.
Despite pleading from the mother and the two pre-school children clutching at her skirts I was adamant that they should leave today. The father was suddenly able to telephone me and ask me to retract. Naturally I refused.
The woman claimed to have no money, no transport, and nowhere to go. I did not believe her and would not relent.
Leaving them to pack up, we visited Garry and Brigitte next door. I spent the morning with my neighbours while Michael went off to make some work phone calls. Brigitte cooked a splendid lunch which consisted of a piquant tomato salad; sausages with fried potatoes, onions, and haricot beans which Garry had topped and tailed; and strawberries. We drank rosé wine and water.
An emergency locksmith reinforced the security of the front door. Obtaining that locksmith was just one benefit from the friendship of Judith and Roger mentioned above. When others had been unable Judith quickly tracked down a man to change the locks.
My unwelcome guests did actually leave at the appointed time. In truth, Michael had found the language – only Garry spoke any English – too stressful and had resorted to a café meal. This meant that my son was able to witness the female squatter using a bank card to fill a car with petrol before moving off – the significance of this being that fuel there was only available by card.
I began the task of reclaiming my rooms by making my bed which contained cheesy snacks similar to Quavers lodged between the mattress and the headboard. The bedroom itself had been taken over. My clothes had been removed from wardrobes, and an array of shoes were lined up on the floor. An enormous television stood on my chest of drawers.
That evening, although I hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours, I was still not tired, so I settled down to watch Prime Suspect 3. I got the gist of it, but some of the detail escaped me because I kept dropping off into deep slumber. I went to bed at midnight and slept soundly for six hours.
All was not over yet, because much furniture, many clothes, bedding, and personal effects belonging to the squatters remained to be collected.
The method proved useful once again today. I couldn’t walk, but I could hop from seat to seat around the garden for a photoshoot. So this is what I did.
These images were produced from a seat in the patio;
these from the Wisteria Arbour;
the Gardener’s Rest yielded just two;
then came the decking;
one from the bench at Fiveways;
a good range from the four various viewpoints in the Rose Garden;
two from the concrete patio;
four from the Heligan Path bench;
two from the Westbrook Arbour;
three from the Nottingham Castle bench;
and finally, petunias in a chimney pot on the lawn seen from its own bench. All the other titles will be available from accessing the galleries.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef and onion pie; boiled new potatoes; firm carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, with meaty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Flo and Dillon drank Ribena, and I finished the Côtes-du-Rhône.
On our way to a shop at Lidl this morning, Jackie pulled into a farmer’s drive and leapt out of the car with her camera.
Whenever we pass this weather-ravaged oak tree we make a mental note to photograph the effect of the sometimes savage coastal winds that have carved one side of the tree into a monumental headstone. With the cluster of crows taking a breather today – they are often found perching on markers of final resting places – this was the moment we had been waiting for. Jackie’s first picture also shows how a different kind of climate has prematurely altered the pigment of the fields around.
This evening we dined on more of the chicken in Nando’s sauce; Jackie’s savoury rice; and tender green beans, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, I drank more of the Côtes-du-Rhône, and Flo and Dillon drank Ribena. (No, WP, how many times must I tell you this is not Ribera?)
of which the above is the title page and the frontispiece;
and next the front boards and spine.
Tim Andrews has provided a knowledgeable and insightful introduction in which he states that ‘Fitzgerald’s fascination with the very rich and his concern with their corruptive and destructive power had been treated earlier in his fantasy, ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’ ‘
As usual, I will refrain from giving away any of the story, save to say that it relates a truly terrible tragedy in the Shakespearian sense – the result of harbouring a long term dream.
The spare, elegant, lines of the illustrator reflect those of the writer, who wastes no words in which every noun, adjective, and adverb carries maximum weight and the narrative races along with the rhythm of the hedonistic Jazz Age of the 1920s, in the wake of the First World War.
Fitzgerald may well identify with his narrator, but he has no love for the profligate culture of the privileged rich who live for pleasure and exploitation. People of doubtful morals don’t seem to really care for others, despite their propensity for affairs.
We are kept engaged from the opening sentences, through the shocking surprise, to the carefully controlled closure.
Widely regarded as the author’s masterpiece I have no quibble with that, although I have not read much more of his work which is said to be variable.
photographed a few flowers which bear their titles in the gallery. Bees were quite busy, although the first one was clearly sheltering beneath the zinnia petals. A number of seeds, such as those alongside the deep red backlit petunia, were blown in the air.
While I was uploading these pictures Flo and Dillon set out on a watering and planting session.
This evening we dined on chicken breasts marinaded in Nando’s lemon and lime sauce; Jackie’s savoury rice cooked in my chicken sauce; and tender green beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden, Flo and Dillon drank water, and I drank Signargues Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2020.
During my early years at Sigoules I engaged a national company of repute to carry out various window repairs. The work was completed to my satisfaction. Soon after this, the two representatives visited saying that they were setting up their own business. There followed more internal improvements over the next year or so. This involved one of these two men having a key to the house while I was at home in England.
For ten days during August 2014 I exchanged a stream of electronic communication between me and people in France concerning my house in Sigoules.
A family to whom I had agreed to let the house, and had thought were friends, moved in ahead of the drawing up of a contract without letting me know. The first I knew of it was when I received complaints from neighbours about noise throughout the night. Texts and e-mails to the male partner of the couple who seemed to be in possession gleaned no response. When, earlier in the month he had, on the telephone, told me the internet had been installed I asked him if he had moved in. He denied it. In case you have not guessed, the miscreant was the man mentioned in the first paragraph above.
Having had very little sleep during this period, I set out on a long journey on 27th of August 2014 to attempt to remove my squatters. The first step was Jackie driving me to Michael’s home in Sanderstead. There, we were greeted by Emily who scanned my passport and proof of ownership documentation and e-mailed this to a solicitor Michael had researched on the internet and engaged on my behalf. The police were aware of the situation. I would not have been able to manage all this alone.
When, in the 1970s and ’80s, as a Social Services Area Manager, I had been responsible for my staff going out on potentially difficult and stressful visits, I had always insisted that they had all the necessary help to have administration, relevant forms, and potential back-up in place, so that all they had to worry about was the job in hand. I now have direct personal experience of how necessary this was. Without the support and practical help of my friends in France; my lady and my son and granddaughter at home, I would not have been able to carry this through.
An hour after Michael arrived home from work, he drove me to No. 6, rue Saint Jacques. The only respite he had from more than ten hours at the wheel was the 35 minutes on the Eurotunnel train. I am known for falling asleep as a passenger. Remarkably, however, I remained awake, except for momentarily dozing on occasions. Having arrived in Calais from Folkestone, we set off into the night, taking the faster toll road route skirting Paris.
Michael, driving me through the night, was probably skirting Paris when the digits of the clock turned to 00.01 on 28th. We became aware of the metropolis as the dark midnight sky brightened with the multicoloured lights generated by urban living. A surprising number of other vehicles were on the road, most, as we continued further south, heading north towards the capital.
My son had not enjoyed the dubious sandwiches he had bought at Calais, so we made a number of stops in search of more sustenance. These were unfruitful, as every outlet was closed. Fortunately there were a number of all-night public conveniences, albeit of variable cleanliness.
The indigo sky was largely cloudless and sprinkled with numerous stars. It was not until about six in the morning that light, then eventually a strong sun, began to emerge behind my left shoulder. Parts of the landscape seemed to be scattered with creamy white pools amid the undulating hills. Nearer to hand, swirling mists, which is what these were, rose from moist fields and drifted upwards to dissolve into the air. The low sun cast long shadows across the pink-tinted countryside.
I regretted that we had ‘no time to stand and stare’ nor, more importantly perhaps, to photograph such evocative scenes.
What happened on arrival must await my next instalment
Pennington Common is about three miles from our home.
Bush fires swept across it on two occasions last month. As I left the Modus in which Jackie parked, I spoke to a couple who lived further along the road behind the car. They told me that the first event, in which they smelt and breathed in the smoke, was the most damaging; but, the second the most frightening because they could see the wind-flung flames soaring above the houses. Confirmed by a young woman pushing a toddler in a buggy, they told me that although the cause this time was not established, boys and youths burnt the gorse every autumn in order to carry the strong stems home for firewood. Apparently the fire fighters needed to bump a parked car away from one of the entrance gates to the public ground in order to gain access.
The woman and her passenger had come from the direction of the children’s playground which escaped the inferno.
As my sandals disturbed dust and ashes I sensed lingering scents of smoke.
Sun-dappled lanes such as Lower Sandy Down with its ancient hedgerow verges formed most of our route from Pennington to
Pilley, where a foal wandered along the eponymous Street
and cattle now shared what remained of the particularly parched lake bed pasturage . The above gallery of photographs was produced by Jackie, who, noticing the cattle wandering off while I was struggling to change lenses helpfully covered me.
In fact they returned and I was able to add my own.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie topped with fried potatoes – because I had sliced the potatoes so thinly we had enough left over for duchesse potatoes on the side – this meant Mrs Knight took longer to fry them and needed to include onions – I guess she found that helpful. Other vegetables included firm broccoli and cauliflower; tender green beans; and crunchy carrots. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden; Flo and Dillon, water; and I finished the Syrah.
Knowing that hosepipe bans were to be imposed on Hampshire and the Isle of White today, we were relieved to learn that bans were determined by the water companies. Our supplier is Bournemouth Water, which has not yet ordered a ban. I celebrated with
a gallery of garden views.
Flo and Dillon continued clearing, planting, and watering this afternoon.
Jackie drove me to Lymington to buy more photographic printing paper, then to take a short forest drive.
The anonymous craftswoman who decorates the postbox on Pilley Hill has
produced a theme for our friend, Jessie.
Everywhere bracken is browning; heather is purpling; blackberries are ripening early, like these along Norley Wood Road.
Cattle were in no hurry as they ambled nonchalantly along Sowley Lane. Drivers had the choice of moseying in their wake, passing along the parched rock-hard verge, or simply waiting patiently. These were very big, thudding animals. I rather hoped they wouldn’t tread on my sandalled feet.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent cottage pie topped with fried potatoes; tender spring greens and green beans, and crunchy carrots, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Dillon drank water, and I drank more of the Syrah.
This afternoon Jackie drove us all to Helen and Bill’s at Fordingbridge where we enjoyed introducing Dillon to his aunt by marriage, and a little later to John who had called in on his mother.
Later we dined at The Lamb Inn in Nomansland.
As Dillon explained, a trio of Guinea Fowl were occupied in the clearing ticks from the green in front of the pub.
In the pub garden Jackie and Flo chose well filled burgers, chips, and slaw for their main meal, followed by Eton mess and Brownie with ice cream respectively; Dillon and I both selected succulent steak and ale pie with very flavoursome carrots and cauliflower, and tender garden peas. Jackie and Dillon both drank Inch’s medium cider, Flo drank J2O, and I drank Doom Bar.