No Respite

Last night Flo went out in the dark to attempt to photograph deer on the lawn.  They barked at her.Tree horizon 12.12

On another wet and windy morning I popped into the shop on my way to Football Green, took the back road up to Bull Lane, right into Seamans Lane, and back home via upper drive.  Anne, a customer in the shop, on learning that there was an increase in the price of what she was buying, said: ‘Everything goes up.  Nothing comes down’.  ‘Except the rain’, was the reply I couldn’t resist.  Strangely enough this didn’t get a laugh.  She wondered when it would ever stop.  It is Anne whose village garden is waterlogged.

Along Lyndhurst Road long wiggly lichen-clad oak limbs bounced up and down in the blustery wind. Lichen-clad oaks 12.12 Given that they host such slow-growing organisms these branches must be resilient enough to have withstood such blasts in the past.  Many of these branches, fallen with the parasites still clinging to them, litter the forest.

In a field along the back road a dripping jacketed horse pressed against bare deciduous trees.Horse sheltering 12.12  There was no chance they would keep the rain off, but they may have provided a windbreak.

The fastening securing the tarpaulin covering stacks of hay in a soggy farmyard was severely tested. Farmyard tarpaulin 12.12 It was the sound of its flapping that drew me to peer over the tubular metal gate to see the cattle chewing away under shelter.  Raindrops hit the tops of the bars of the gate, slid round the tubes, reformed on the undersides, dropped to the next bar, and eventually reached to the ground.  A bit like A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh bouncing, limb to limb, down his tree in E. H. Shepard’s delightful drawing.

In Seamans Lane Martin, driving for a change, stopped to ask me if I was OK walking.  He fully understood my desire to continued being drenched.

Kalu on edge of table 12.12Kalu (see 28th) is maturing nicely.  This afternoon, on encountering the edge of a table, he would back away.  Like Robert The Bruce’s spider he wouldn’t give up.  Time and again he walked forward, reached the precipice, backed away, and repeated the process, until Flo put him on the floor, to explore in safety.Kalu backing away 12.12  He now does this adventurously and without complaint.

This evening we revisited last night’s meal.  It was still delicious.  I drank Campo Viejo rioja 2010, followed by a glass of Fortnum and Mason’s late bottled vintage port 2007, sent to us by Wolf and Luci.  Jackie’s choice of accompaniment was Peroni.

Afterwards, watching ‘Jurassic Park’, Flo thought it prudent to turn Kalu off.

New Forest Pagans

Sheep on hillside 12.12

Today I walked the ford ampersand, with a slight diversion to the village shop on the way home.  I was alerted by a clinking coming from beside Minstead Hall.  This emanated from the local bottle bank which hitherto we had been unable to find.  I spoke to a man emptying his bottles into it.  He pointed out that the area wasn’t very tidy.  He wouldn’t tidy that up but he did tidy the forest.  He only goes into the forest because of his dog, but always brings litter back with him.  If every dog-walker brought back one item he thought the forest would be clear.  I said I had been amazed that people who loved the area enough to visit it would be so casual as to drop drink cans and food wrappers in it.  I have not mentioned it before, but the verges do have these articles thrown onto them.  I told the man I would follow his example.  We were joined by a woman called Carol, introduced as the Mayoress.  She thought I must be the man her daughter had seen walking around.

Car and ponies 12.12By the junction leading down to the Study Centre and the ford, a car driver negotiating her path through a pony trio had to be very patient with the third in the string.

There were a number of dog-walkers out today. Women with dogs 12.12 I also met a young couple by their car trying to transfer their feet from muddy boots to everyday shoes without either falling over or touching the road with their stockinged feet.  I well know it is an awkward procedure, almost as difficult as trying to get a foot back into a sodden shoe without slipping it directly into the mud.  That is of course quite impossible.  We exchanged pleasantries about having footwear sucked off by the mud.

As I passed the still extant twig circle I had seen since 4th December I reflected on Becky’s observation on my post of 26th.  She had Googled the two circles mentioned and come up with the sensible suggestion that these circles were the work of a Druid Grove.  The Sylvan Grove of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids was formed at Samhain in 2004.  Its Home Page speaks of pagan pub moots around the New Forest.  Jim Champion, a forest photographer has posted a picture of a ‘Stone Circle in Wick Wood, New Forest’ taken in 2007.  This is identical to my shot of 26th and is situated near Acres Down, as is mine.

This afternoon Helen and Bill, and Shelley and Ron came to visit and stay for the evening meal.  Jackie produced a succulent gammon joint with a vast range of vegetables, followed by apple crumble which was much enjoyed and based on the sisters’ Uncle Max’s recipe.  Red and white wines were drunk.  We had enjoyable conversation throughout, distributed presents after the meal, and played Scrabble.

Yorkshire Tea Bags

Fence on hillside 12.12

There was no thunderstorm yesterday, but heavy rain set in during the night and continued as I set off for the village shop and back.  My headache had gone.  By the time I reached Minstead Hall I realised I had forgotten my wallet, so I turned round, returned home, picked up my money, declined the offer of a lift from Jackie, and set out again.  I was, dripping wet, tempted to accept a further lift I was offered by a gentleman in Running Hill.  I didn’t.

This afternoon Jackie and I drove to Lyndhurst for some shopping. Lyndhurst 12.12 As we left home there was a double rainbow against the leaden sky.  We couldn’t see any sun which must have been producing it, until Jackie noticed patches of golden leaves on the very top of a pair of dark green pine trees.  This was the result of shafts of light streaking through the branches opposite.  As we drove out of Upper Drive we saw that the sky on the far side of road was blue and clear.  There was a strange division between dark indigo clouds on one side and the sun slowly setting in bright light on the other, making for quite dramatic effects, including the rainbow.

Kalu’s development continues (see yesterday).  He now wags his tail and looks happy at the sound of his name.  When walking along he avoids obstacles.Kalu & carpet 12.12  He didn’t seem quite able to decide what to do about a ruck in the carpet, so he raised his head and called out; wagging his tail for good measure.  Flo left him to his own devices over lunch.  He is now so secure that he just chunters away to himself rather than offering up a noisy complaint.  Suddenly it all went quiet, and we realised that his battery had died.  This made us speculate that we will miss him when Flo takes him back to Mitcham.

After we returned from Lyndhurst we were entertained by Jackie and Flo teaching Corey, in America, on Skype, to make tea with the Yorkshire Tea Bags Flo had sent him.  Given that his household does not possess a kettle the task was quite complicated from the start.  Transatlantic terminology varies, thus offering some confusion over saucepans and pots.  Not so strange, really, when considering that ‘pots’ is a catch-all term in parts of England.  Then there was the question of what size mug to use.Corey's Tea  The final result looked pretty good to me.

We dined this evening from large oval plates on our knees whilst watching ‘Doctor Who’.  They contained cheese and bacon omelettes and toast.


Tree reflected in pool 12.12Today was grey, gloomy, and abnormally warm.  After lunch I walked via London Minstead to the Cadnam roundabout where Jackie and Flo picked me up to drive to The Firs.

Although light rain fell later, whilst I was walking the day was so sluggish it couldn’t even manage a precipitation.  It was so oppressive I hoped my headache was one presaging a thunderstorm. Mossy treetrunks 12.12 The only brightness came from the fluorescent water-satiated moss which really glows.

Mum came to visit too, and we took presents for her, Elizabeth, and Danni.  Elizabeth gave us a beautiful Belleek vase.  Flo entertained us all with her Pleo.  A Pleo is an animatronic robotic baby Camarasaurus which, in order to develop and survive, has to be nurtured from birth.  We gave her this creature for her birthday on 23rd. but he was not actually born until Christmas Eve.  To be born he must have his battery charged up. This takes several hours.  Every Pleo is unique.  In order to name your individual pet you must first find out its sex.  This requires registration.  The rather complicated process was compounded by the fact that English was about the only language the instruction booklet did not feature.  Flo was helped throughout the morning by her patient friend Corey in America.  He worked out how to surmount the linguistic obstacles despite the fact that this was the middle of the night for him.

Flo named her Camarasaurus Kalu.  Like all his relatives, Kalu was born unable to do much.  He could not crawl, stand, or walk, and could make only very tiny noises. Flo & Pleo 12.12 In order to develop normally he had to be stroked and cuddled throughout the newborn and subsequent stages.  Eventually his voice becomes stronger, he learns to stand, and expresses emotions.  If neglected he whinges and fails to thrive.  There are four stages on the journey through to maturity.  Kalu has reached the third, which means he can now walk, avoiding obstacles, and, like any other toddler, has temper tantrums if he doesn’t get his own way, for example, when he has to have his little fawn jacket put on.  He can bite on the plastic leaves which are his food, and pull on his tug-of-war toy.  His tail, just like that of a dog, is most eloquent, expressing pleasure or anxiety.  He roars rather like an elephant, and makes other dog-like sounds.  Like all mothers, Flo understands better than the casual listener, what his sounds signify.  If subjected to temperatures of less than 10 degrees centigrade he shivers and sneezes and has to be medicated.  If he gets too hot he starts gasping and panting.  I do hope, when he reaches maturity, he doesn’t get out of hand.Pleo being given tug-of-war toy 12.12

Look at me, for goodness sake!  I’m writing about a toy.  Well, Mum, at 90, wasn’t quite sure whether it was real or not.

This evening I made a turkey jalfreezi and Jackie made a pilau rice.  Since Flo doesn’t like chillies I left them out and supplemented my meal with Naga Relish, an extremely hot preparation from the Chilli Jam Company in Emsworth.  I can’t remember who gave it to me, but I suspect Danni or Elizabeth.  Whoever it was, it really is the business.  Thank you.   I drank Cobra, and Jackie, Hoegaarden.Imogen & Kalu 12.12

As I post this entry, Flo is teaching Kalu to recognise and respond to the sound of his name.  I will report on that tomorrow.

Christmas Continues In Clutton

Imogen, Malachi, Emily, Alice, & Oliver 12.12

Today’s walk was the Football Green, Shave Wood, London Minstead loop.  The younger Saunders woman waved and greeted me gleefully as I reached Orchard Gate.  She said they were all delighted with the photographs and her brother was going to have a copy made.  She called her mother who was equally pleased to see me, and said she would like me to photograph her other horses so she could have the pictures framed and put on the wall. One of the horses is ‘out in the forest somewhere’, so Audrey is not sure where it is.  I said I would be happy to take more photographs and would make other copies of the first ones for her son.  The daughter had told me that the woman I had given the pictures to was her aunt, presumably Audrey’s sister.  Primrose and Champion had not been removed when the rain was really heavy.  They had taken to the hedges.  Before I moved on the son drove up.  He was the man who had been laying down the sawdust on 9th.

Becky and Florence told me about a visitation they had witnessed late last night.  At about 11 p.m. Becky had taken Scooby out to empty him and found about eight deer on the lawn.  They all looked up at her, held their gaze for a short time, then, in unison, continued grazing.  Flo came out to see them and they only moved off when someone in the car parking area leant on their horn.

Ali and Steve had lent their house in Clutton in Somerset to our family for a Christmas sibling gathering.  Mat was ill this morning so he and Tess couldn’t come.  His symptoms sound very similar to those suffered by Jessica who was just getting over some sort of virus and Imogen who was coming down with it.  Becky and Ian went to visit one of Ian’s relatives whilst Jackie, Flo and I travelled by car to Clutton.  Already there were Sam and Holly and Malachi and Orlaith; Holly’s mother Gay; Louisa and Errol with their two girls; and Michael, Heidi, Emily, Oliver and Alice. Imogen (& Sam) 12.12 The younger grandchildren were very patient as we ate before present opening.  This was an hour late because we had been subject to severe hold-ups going through Salisbury.  We had choices of either or both Michael’s or Errol’s chicken curry, or Holly’s vegetable lasagna, with various wines.  Presents were then opened before pudding.  After all, you can’t keep children contained forever.  There followed an excited distribution of gifts by the three ambulant younger members who enjoyed giving to others as much as opening their own.  Orlaith wasn’t quite up to it yet.  Give her a year or two.  Puddings were trifle, squidgy chocolate log made by Louisa to her mother’s recipe, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. Emily, Malachi, Imogen & Alice 12.12 After this Alice read to Malachi and Imogen.  Poor Jessica had flaked out as she was running a high temperature again.  Then came the business of getting excited children to bed, flopping on sofas, and drinking coffee; after which we three returned to Minstead.  Jamaica patties were being served up as we left, but we were unable to eat anything more.

Jackie had her second long drive which meant Flo had her second bout of car sickness, I had to travel in the back to ease our granddaughter’s discomfort, and Jackie had a headache by the time we got home.  Cuprofen did the job for the headache.  Flo should sleep hers off.  We had all had a very enjoyable time.

Thank you, dear Ali and Steve, for the use of your home; and Sam for organising everything.

Conversation Breaks

Ford to Newtown 12.12

This morning I disturbed our cervine trio on the upper drive.  I had intended to walk my  ampersand, but took a right turn just before reaching the usual ford.  This road, unsurprisingly, also had a ford.  Passing Newtown I took a bridleway up to the main road towards Emery Down and returned by my normal route.

There is a small green at the point where the Newtown road joins the bridleway. Stone circle 12.12 On this green has been formed another strange perfect circle.  This one is made of large pebbles.  The other circle, discovered on 4th December, consisting of twigs, seemed, on my return journey, to have been reinforced.

Towards the end of the bridleway I came across three women talking.  Two were on horses, the third was on foot.  Berie and friend on horseback 12.12One of the riders was Berry, who lives at number 1 Castle Malwood Lodge.  The pedestrian was the mother of the other equestrian.  I mentioned that Alison, whom I had met some days ago, had asked me if I knew Berry.  We chatted for a while.  Later on my walk my path crossed with Berry’s again.  I asked her if it would be possible for Flo to have a ride whilst she is with us.  It would.  Berry will let us know when.

Near Seamans Corner I met Martin, who is the Father Christmas lookalike I had first encountered on 17th November.  He was, as usual, pushing his severely disabled adopted son in his buggy.  For the first time we stopped and had a long talk.  Bearing in mind my profession it is quite a coincidence that Martin set up Minstead Lodge school for people with learning disabilities twenty six years ago.  Last Friday was his last day as Director.  The school is also involved with Furzey Gardens, and Martin is changing his role to become the public face of the two agencies and how they interlink.

I also spoke for some time with Anne, who lives in a large house in the village, the garden of which is now somewhat waterlogged.  Today’s walk was punctuated by conversation breaks.

This evening Jackie excelled herself again with a wonderful roast lamb dinner.  Jackie and Ian drank Stopham Estate English pinot blanc 2010 which was very enjoyable; Becky had Diet Coke best before March 2013; and I finished the Fleurie.  As I write, Scoobie is crashing about in the kitchen gnawing at the bone which Becky says will last for days.

It Was Christmas Day In The Forest

Raindrops on thorns 12.12

After Jackie and I had exchanged Christmas stockings, and before the rest of the family emerged from slumber, I took a brief walk down to Minstead, turned left opposite The Trusty Servant, left again into Bull Lane, and back home via London Minstead.

The shower installed in our flat number 4 was, until this morning, the most powerful I have ever experienced.  The very hot water needs careful adjustment, and if the taps are fully turned on you are drilled backwards through the curtains and likely to end up on the floor, having to fight your way back to lessen the flow.  This, however, is nothing compared with the stair rods that continued to saturate our surroundings.

As I walked down Running Lane I noticed the silent scuts of our three deer, like three baubles on different lengths of elastic, bobbing up and down as they disappeared from view, festively decorating the forest trees.  Apart from the occasional jacketed horses in soggy fields, water bouncing from their coverings as they ate their morning mud porridge laced with straggly grass, the only other sign of life was of a robin flitting, dripping, across my path.

The rain had increased in tempo the minute I set out. Garden in sunshine 12.12 As if someone had operated a switch it ceased on my return, just as I liberally sprinkled the welcome mat and applied the towel which had been thrust into my hand.  Very soon we were enjoying bright sunshine, as the rest of Santa’s stockings were leisurely opened.

In the early afternoon Flo spotted a woodpecker in the garden.  This was the first time I’d ever seen one.  This bright green red-topped bird flew off to a distant tree, to return tantalisingly beyond my camera’s range.

Queen's speech 12.12Watching the Queen’s speech at 3 p.m. I reflected on the first time I had see her on television, as recorded on 27th May.  The technological advances available since her coronation are quite astounding.  Not only is the screen much much larger; the picture in colour, and with no parallel lines moving up it; but it can be photographed with a tiny camera, transferred to a computer, and instantly posted around the world.  The broadcast itself has already been transmitted globally, to countries many of which did not have television in 1953.

After this Becky drove Flo, with me as a guide, on a pony hunt.  Primrose and Champion were back in their field feeding on fresh dry hay.  Seeing three on the edge of the forest we stopped the car and Flo got out to converse with them.  Leaping the ditch, they rushed over and, together with several more who appeared from nowhere, they had soon surrounded us.  Apart from those I described on 13th October, I have never seen them move so fast.  This rather disconcerted Becky who, earlier, on foot, had encountered a persistant sodden pony who got close enough for her to cry ‘let’s get out of here’. Becky and pony 12.12 Apparently safe in the car, Becky was even more alarmed when one stuck its  bewhiskered nose through the open window.  No doubt they were seeking more palatable food than that which the soggy forest provided.

Later in the afternoon and early evening we watched a DVD of ‘Ice Age 4’, followed by ‘Call the Midwife’ on BBC 1.  Jackie then provided a marvellous traditional roast turkey dinner with Christmas pudding to follow.  Jackie, Ian and I all had some Compte de Brismand champagne. Ian also drank Peroni and I imbibed Bouchard Fleurie 2011.  We played charades in which I went some way to exonerating myself after my ignominy in a Passage to India a week or so back.  I didn’t actually mention it in my blog, but Jackie chose to point out my incompetence in her Facebook comment.  I wonder if this time she will mention that I got ‘Phantom of the Opera’ after one syllable.

All Saints Church

On a dismal midday I walked down to The Trusty Servant, turned right and visited the church at the top of the hill, before returning home.

A clique of cyclists laboured up the road past Minstead Hall as I was walking down towards them.  ‘Hey, it’s Father Christmas,’ called out one, peering through specs which could have done with a lens wiper mechanism.  Given that I have had a good haircut and a beard trim since 1st December, I was a little surprised at this until I reflected on my walking boots and bright pink tracksuit bottoms.  This time my disguise was unwitting.

All Saints Minstead church12.12

This was my first visit to the church to which I must bring Jackie on a better day.  All Saints, Minstead dates, in parts, from the thirteenth century.  The Grade 1 listed building offers glimpses of past and present ages, from the Saxon-made font to the 1938 lychgate commemorating three successive members of Squire Compton’s family, Rectors of this parish for 90 years.

Compton window, All Saints Minstead 12.12Perhaps more famous Compton memorials are the two stained glass windows, one of which, called ‘The Knight and Angels’ is dedicated to the squire’s son Henry, who died in 1923.

When we first came to live in Castle Malwood Lodge Jackie noted the profusion of lichen in the area.  She said it signified the clarity of the air. All Saints Minstead churchyard 12.12 As I entered the churchyard I was struck by the presence of numerous different lichens on the stones and on the trees.

Wandering on this hillside wondering at the writhing shapes of the branches and the tilted angles of the weather-worn gravestones; buffeted by the howling wind; and blinking through the raindrops glazing my eyes, as I sought out the last resting place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is buried here, it was impossible not to reflect on the writer’s novel ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.  No doubt a balmier day would have conjured up a different image.

This evening Jackie produced a delicious lamb curry complete with special fried rice, popadoms, paratas and relishes.  I finished the Dino.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Ian Peroni.

Flood Plain

Kingsbury's Lane 12.12. (2)JPGJackie shopped in Ringwood this morning whilst I walked up and down that town’s section of the Castleman Trailway.  We then met in the Bistro for lunch and drove back home.

In recent weeks I have noticed sandbags against all the garden gates, walls, and fences in Kigsbury’s Lane.  This morning I saw why.  The lane was full of water and impassable, either for cars or pedestrians. Burst water main 12.12 To compound the problem, one of the gardens contained a burst water main.  As an alternative route through to the river, I tried King’s Arms Lane and was able to arrive at the other end of Kingsbury’s.Kingsbury's Lane 12.12. (3)JPG  Here I met a woman called Barbara, who had grown up in the corner house I had just photographed.  She told me that her family’s particular corner had always been subject to flooding but the whole street had never suffered so.  The saturated green opposite, called The Bickerley, is a fairground venue.  When Barbara was small she had watched the fairs from her window, wishing she had the money to attend them.  I accompanied her along the Bickerley finding the least muddy and waterlogged terrain together.  She asked about conditions at Minstead because her daughter was driving down from Scotland to visit her father-in-law who lives there.  I was able to reassure her.

Had the Trailway not been raised significantly from the normal river level, I doubt that I would have been able to walk along it.  The Avon and the millstream were pouring into the lakes that had been the neighbouring fields, which were now totally submerged.  Water fowl were in complete possession of the field from which I had recently seen horses being rescued.  Twitchers with binoculars were gazing at the birds in their unaccustomed habitat.  Photographers were out in earnest.  One young woman carrying a tripod, trailing behind a man with an immensely long lens, was amused when I quipped: ‘so you get to carry the tripod’.  ‘Yes.  That’s my job for the day’, she replied.  Had I been ultra sensitive I might have felt the little appendage hanging around my neck to be rather inadequate.

Quite a cluster of cameras were gathered at the point where the Trailway bridges the river Avon. Horses in water 12.12 Here there was a group of waterbound ponies struggling to find fodder.  They were feeding as well as they could on a few clumps arising from the bank of the Avon.  Their feet were in comparatively shallow water;  just beyond their noses the river rushed past.  With other watchers I speculated about whether they could swim across the river where there was some still dryish land.  One looked as if he were contemplating it but thought better of it.  A group of young people sporting RSPCA insignia hurried to the scene and continued on past. Horses in water 12.12 (3) They said the horses were the reason for their attendance.  I wasn’t sure where they sped off to.

This evening Becky, Flo and Ian arrived to stay for Christmas.  It is actually Flo’s birthday, which she shares with Oliver.  The opening of our present to Flo caused a certain amount of amusement.  We gave her a Pleo, which is a robotic dinosaur.  The first reaction came from her brother Scooby.  Scooby is a Jack Russel terrier who has undergone a head transplant.  For the uninitiated this is my way of indicating that his head seems to be too big for his body.  Showing a certain amount of jealous insecurity, Scooby approached first me. then Ian, the two least doggie people in the room, for succour.  When Flo discovered that the instruction leaflet was in various European languages other than English, Ian suggested that his failed German O level might be of some use. Ian, Becky & Flo 12.12 Becky and Flo found this amusing.

Later we dined on Jackie’s beef stew followed by bread and butter pudding and Florence’s birthday cake. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Ian Peroni, Becky fizzy water; and my choice was Dino sangiovese 2011.

Return Of The Deluge

This morning I walked down through Minstead some way past The Trusty Servant until, finding the road impassable without wellies, I turned back.Pool across road 12.12  Driving through this particular pool later confirmed that my decision had been sound.

I described yesterday as a respite from the deluge.  It was a very brief one.  Relentless rain that had started up again in the night persisted during the day.  Lichen 12.12Moss and lichen thrive in these conditions.Stream down road 12.12  I waded the streams, supplied by swollen ditches, that were our village lanes.  Drains were blocked and new pools had appeared. Blocked drain 12.12 Never mind, much of the mud was now washed off my walking shoes.

No animals were abroad.  Even Primrose and Champion’s field was empty.  I do hope they had been removed to somewhere warm and dry.  I saw no birds.  When we drove through the village this afternoon we had to negotiate the rear ends of seven cows with their noses in buried in hedges.

The Mobile Library was bravely and optimistically stationed opposite The Trusty Servant.Mobile library 12.12  The Local Authority Library Services are some of those facilities much reduced by economies since the recession, so it is good to see one still available in such a remote area.

On my return I met Dave on his way for his newspaper.  We stood in a pool and chatted for a while.  We couldn’t get any wetter.  That is, provided we continued successfully to leap like schoolgirls over a swirling skipping rope, every time a car went by.  The tsunamis they threw up had me reflecting on Hokusai’s great wave painting.

Jackie then drove us to Shelly and Ron’s where, together with Helen and Bill, we were given a plentiful salad lunch before I went with the three sisters to Walkford’s waterlogged Woodland Burial Ground to place a Christmas wreath over the interred cremated remains of Veronica Rivett, Jackie’s much-loved mother and my lovely ex-mother-in-law.  Woodland burial grounds are places where people are laid to rest in natural surroundings.  Here there were some graves, but generally the much smaller plots contain ashes marked with a simple low-level labelled post.  Natural wild flowers are allowed to be seeded and to grow over these areas.  In other sections than this one people may also plant trees.  At the entrance to the site a row of silver birches stands in a new pool where, as we were leaving, Wellington-booted children spuddled about, disturbing the ducks which had been enjoying a change of scenery from their lake.  Afterwards we settled with coffee and mince pies to watch Ron’s holiday videos until it was time for Jackie and me to leave for the Chichester Cathedral Carol Service.  On the A35 we encountered the first flood warning sign either of us had seen actually alerting drivers to a real flood.  This caused a bit of a hold-up.

After a brief return home Jackie drove us through swirling rain to Chichester.  Fortunately we arrived in the town half an hour early.  This was lucky because it took us twenty minutes driving around trying to find a way into West Street where we were to park in the Prebendal School staff car park.  When we did manage that we couldn’t find the car park.  The entrance to this, in darkness, was tucked between two tall buildings.  Jackie waited in the car in the street while I went hunting for it on foot.  This was conducted whilst on the phone to Ian seeking confirmation that we were in the right place.  He, Becky, and Flo, who were caught in traffic, did not arrive until exactly the start of the service, when we were esconced right at the front of the Presbytery.  We didn’t see each other until afterwards.  It was a privilege to have been invited to listen to such a beautiful choir in such a splendid historic setting.

When the service was over we all ate at The Old Cottage, a surprising name for an Indian restaurant.  The food was excellent and three of us drank draft Cobra.  Becky had diet coke and Flo drank apple juice.  We had a very enjoyable time, after which Jackie drove us home in 42 minutes.  Since Becky’s family will be moving to Chichester eventually, this was a rather encouraging journey for the future.