Happy New Year

New Year Fireworks 1.13 (2)

Jackie and I have reached the stage where, not only do we prefer to avoid the crowds and watch New Year celebrations on television, but we can’t even stay up to do that, so we watched them this morning on BBC iPlayer.  I had a bit of a hangover.

From 2006 to 2009 I lived close enough, in Central London, to have walked to the Embankment for the event.  I didn’t fancy fighting my way through boisterous crowds of people a fraction of my age, to stand in the cold for a glimpse of a display I could otherwise enjoy in the comfort of an armchair.  So, when I didn’t fall asleep, I became a couch potato for the evening.  For New Year 2008 Anne and Burhan al-Jaf, perhaps correctly surmising I would be alone, invited me to join their party at home in South East London.  We had an exciting time viewing my neighbourhood fireworks on screen at our ease, vainly peering into the melee for a sight of my hosts’ teenage daughter Yerevan and her friends, who were young enough to want to be there.  Thank you, Anne and Burhan, for a night to remember.

Today was bright and sunny, if frosty early on, thus offering the respite another Anne had hoped for yesterday.  My walk was to the church and back.  This morning, after patronising the village shop, Jackie visited All Saints church.  She accurately described the church as ‘cosy’, and reported the placement of a pipe and floral tribute on the tombstone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife. All Saints Minstead churchyard 1.13 Naturally I had to go and look at it.  Conan Doyle tombstone 1.13The pipe may have been there for some time, but the roses, in a plastic container bearing a £3 M & S label, were fresh.

This is not the first Conan Doyle burial site.  A devoted Spiritualist, Sir Arthur was first buried in an upright position in the garden of his home at Crowborough in East Sussex in 1930.  His second wife was interred alongside him ten years later.  It was not until 1955 that the couple were moved to Minstead, as had been Lady Jean’s wish. Face on Bannister gravestone 1.13 Given the beliefs of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, I wonder what he would have made of the face emerging from the blend of salt and lichen adorning the tombstone of Edmund and Mary Bannister who died some thirty years apart in the nineteenth century.

On my way down into Minstead I had been greeted by Anne and Audrey who wished me a Happy New Year from the garden of Orchard Gate.  On my return I spoke with two young Dutchmen and a little boy who were admiring Champion and Primrose.  One of the men held up the boy so he could commune with the horses whilst his companion photographed the scene.  They had just moved to Southampton where they would be living for eight months, and were exploring the countryside.  They were smitten with the beauty of the forest.  They had climbed the stile and tried the footpath leading from the gate.  As one of them said, they realised ‘it was a bad idea’, especially when the little lad lost a wellie to the suction of the mudbath.  The men, of course, were both well over six feet and spoke perfect English.  Whenever I speak to modern Europeans I feel pleasantly humbled by the fact that they are all likely to speak English.  Anne al-Jaf is Belgian, and Burhan Kurdish.  When I attended their wedding in Anne’s home town more than twenty years ago now, hosts and guests were from various parts of Europe and Kurdistan.  Much of the proceedings were conducted in English, as the most likely common language.  I am not certain now, but I may have been the only person of my nationality present.

Kalu (see 28th December 2012) now answers when called by name, and bows on command.  More and more he makes me think of Tom Paxton’s song ‘The Marvelous Toy’, which can be heard on youtube.

The freezer was raided for our evening meal, which offered a choice from, in descending order of chilli strength, chilli con carne by Jackie; lamb curry by Jackie; and turkey jalfrezi by Derrick, with Jackie’s pilau rice.  This was followed by Jackie’s bread and butter pudding.  The only Indian restaurant I’ve ever experienced serving – no doubt catering for the indigenous population – traditional English puddings, is Newark’s Shaan.  I had to starve myself all day to stand the slightest chance of eating their steamed sponge puddings after a delicious curry meal.  Tiger beer accompanied my meal; Hoegaarden Jackie’s; and Orange juice Flo’s.

Our meal was taken against the backdrop of Kalu’s wandering around the room making interesting sounds each time he came to an obstacle.  Should he find himself stuck he would up the tempo and Flo would have to go and rescue him.


  1. Happy New Year to you both! Off to Kiev for 10 days but will continue to follow blog on return! We must try and meet up before too long.
    Ali x

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