The Robotic Sheep

Running Hill shadows 2.13On another fine sunny day I soon found myself chasing shadows as I walked down Running Hill, up Seamans Lane to London Minstead, and along the back lanes to Football Green. Shadow across pool 2.13Pony and shadow 2.13Wooden house shadow 2.13 Here are some of those I caught.  I returned along the road through the village.  Cattle lowed; birds sang; a cock crowed; a donkey brayed.  Blackbirds scavenged in the hedgerows and ditches.  Smaller birds flitted from tree to tree.  A robin redbreast perched on a rusty gate.  The birds, unfortunately, unlike the ponies, who will pose perfectly still for hours, are most camera shy.

Curtle Cottage at Seamans Corner provided an apt backcloth for the white pony which, during the ninety minutes or so between my trips past him, had travelled less than twenty metres. Curtle Cottage and white pony 2.13 Tim Cordy, a neighbour in Newark, bought himself a robotic sheep to save him the effort of walking up and down with a lawn mower.  I have no knowledge of whether these machines are still in production, but Tim’s, sometime in the ’90s, was one of the earliest.  The area to be mown was bounded by a wire.  The robot was set off.  Tim could walk away and leave it to its own devices. It would creep up and down the lawn, turning at the touch of the wire.  Perhaps he could have achieved a similar result with a pony, but it would probably have been slower.  Mind you, a pony hoovers up its own fuel, recycles it, and drops it on the lawn.  The sheep probably had to be fed with some bought from a garage, didn’t recycle it, and didn’t drop it anywhere.  Maybe it had to be emptied, though I am not sure.  Certainly not quite like the way Matthew empties his dog.

Jackie produced a wonderful lamb curry this evening; her own pilau rice; popadums, paratas, and vegetable samosas from various outlets; and her own chopped-up onion salad for the samosas.  She drank Hoegaarden, whilst I finished a bottle of Carta Roja gran reserva 2005 that had been open about five days but was still drinkable.


Sunlight across lawn 2.13Shafts of sunlight from across the frosted lawn early this morning signalled the glorious day we were to have.  As I walked through Minstead joyous church bells vied with celebratory birdsong for attention.  The solitary crowing cock barely competed.

Berry stopped her car and got out for a chat.  She has been engaged in rescuing a pony.  This creature, now billeted with her own two, disappeared last summer and has been sought ever since.  He turned up recently in a very sorry state, really thin, and not eating much.  Apparently he is not a good forager and has just spent an awful winter trying to do just that.

Ponies 2.13Just past Football Green, on the right, there is a rough road going uphill past a large imposing building.  Ignoring the ‘No Through Road’ sign, I took that route.  Williams Hill House is the big one.  There are also two farms, one of which is called Mill Lane Farm.  Eventually the road peters out into a wide footpath.  Mill Lane path 2.13This is very churned up.  Walking down it I was puzzled to see two bridged streams in quick succession running under it.  I also had to battle with the mud-suction for possession of my walking boots.  Having run down to the streams the path then rose and turned round to the right revealing a most idyllic sight.  Perched atop a wooded bank was a group of old brick buildings having undergone recent renovation.  Mill pond 2.13The bank sloped down to a wide and deep millpond whose clear waters reflected the surrounding trees.

I considered that if it were possible to continue the way I was going I might emerge somewhere in the vicinity of Emery Down.  As I wasn’t sure, I was rather relieved to see the sunlit steam of human exhalation billowing like tobacco smoke from the leafy bank.  A woolly-hatted bearded head, and then an athletic looking body, rose into view. Robert 2.13 I was looking up at Robert, with whom a long chat ensued.  Robert had spent twenty years turning the buildings into a most attractive home.  He explained that the mill itself was no longer in existence.  He also confirmed that if I continued up the slippery path, I would soon reach a road which, turning right would bring me to Emery Down.

Emery Down almshouses 2.13Some time later I was in Emery Down, from where I took my usual route back home.  In that village there is a rather beautiful collection of almshouses, a banner on the railings of which announces a refurbishment project for 2013.

Crocuses 2.13Apple and spring bulbs, The Down House 2.13After lunch we joined Elizabeth and Mum at The Down House in Itchen Abbas.  This is a large private house that was open today under the National Gardens Scheme.  The organisation enables home owners to display their gardens to the public on two or three days a year.  The small entrance fees are donated to various charities.  Jackie and Mark Porter, the owners, had a splendid day.  Parking was well organised and catering was excellent. Down House garden (2) 2.13Down House garden 2.13 The garden was very well laid out, the woodland walk being at its best at this time.

Candle, The Hampshire Bowman 2.13In the evening, Elizabeth, Jackie and I dined at ‘The Hampshire Bowman’, at Dundridge, near Bishop’s Waltham.  This is reached by following a long winding single track road perhaps a couple of miles long.  I had been to this real ale pub once before for a drink with Paul Newsted. Tonight  we chose to sit close to the log fire.  The mantelpiece contained a row of candles in their brass sticks.  As the barman lit them before transferring them to tables, he told us why the one on the left hand end burnt down quicker than the others and produced nobbly stalactites.  It was in the direct line of a draft between two doors, so the flame was always flickering with interesting results.  A small boy, on leaving the pub, couldn’t resist peeling off some of the nobbly bits.

Proud of its range of beers, the establishment only reluctantly serves the odd lager.  Fortunately for Jackie, there was Becks on offer.  Elizabeth and I drank Wallops Wood.  Jackie and I consumed excellent mushroom soup.  The very good main courses were roast chicken for Elizabeth; roast lamb for me; and fish and chips for Jackie.  Blackberry and apple crumble; sticky toffee pudding; and bread and butter pudding, were all equally delicious.

An ageing lurcher, to no avail, sat hopefully under our table.

P’tang Yang Kipperbang

Dresses 2.13For some time now Jackie has been collecting toys, books, and dressing up material for visits from grandchildren.  She has now taken this a stage further.  Buying such as Disney Princess dresses in various stages of use and abuse from her favourite charity shops, she has washed, ironed, mended, and added flouncy petticoats and sequins to the originals.  Now they are nine.  They are too good to dump in the dressing up box, and must be hung up.

Ford approach 2.13All Saints from footpath (3) 2.13This morning I walked the two fords ampersand, amending its shape by walking up the footpath past All Saints churchyard.  The track alternated between a quagmire and a clear gravel river bed.  The last time I took this path the two horses in the adjacent field were grazing in a blizzard.

Spring bulbs in churchyard 2.13Snowdrops around gravestone 2.13There was such an array of spring bulbs emerging in the graveyard that I was almost afraid to walk in it.  Careful as I was, it was almost impossible not to tread on any.  Snowdrops and crocuses were in bloom, while daffodils were coming into their own.  They provided a  thick pile carpet of a white, golden yellow, and purple abstract design on an emerald ground.  Treetrunks and gravestones were festooned with these harbingers of spring.

After a light lunch Jackie drove us to Mat and Tess’s in Upper Dicker where we, together with Becky, Flo and Ian, joined our son and daughter-in-law for a belated Christmas celebration.  Tess had been ill at the end of December.  We exchanged presents and pulled Flo’s crackers.  Matthew couldn’t resist tossing a packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers onto the table to save me going to the other room for the party type.  Tess serving up 2.13As always we enjoyed good family time with a deal of hilarity.  Tess, a superb cook, produced an excellent tagine and couscous meal.  Somehow the meat dish was always full.  Her homemade Christmas cake, still moist, was to follow.  Whilst I had been in France there was a repeat showing of P’tang Yang Kipperbang on Channel 4.  This was a wonderful film about adolescent yearning set against a cricket commentary from the legendary John Arlott, originally shown on that channel’s second night in 1982.  Whenever it is repeated it is a must for family viewing because Mat and Becky, along with many of their classmates, were extras in the film.  We were entertained by renditions of their respective performances.  Mat in particular came in for a certain amount of parody.  It seems that he took his acting role seriously, but that wasn’t wholly appreciated at the time.

An interesting issue of historical accuracy was raised during the filming.  The production was set in that post-war period before there were any black and Asian children in Wimbledon.  Those young people were therefore unable to appear in the film.  Given that those who did appear in the film were given a fee, £5 per scene, I do hope those who were excluded were similarly compensated.

Surprisingly Picturesque

Although I have been unable to confirm the nationality of a gang of childhood friends from the early 1950s, my recollection is that it was ‘the Czechs’ we did battle with in those days.  For some reason Jackie and I got talking about this over coffee this morning.  Refugee families had been housed in a large Victorian terrace in Worple Road.  Somewhere nearby was a bomb site.  My gang and a similar group of the incomers engaged in mock warfare.  There were strict rules and no-one was ever hurt.  On this patch of weed-covered rubble and debris each nationality built a den out of corrugated iron, wooden beams, old sinks, cisterns, and whatever else was available.  We then hurled bricks and bits of concrete at each other’s structures until one collapsed, after which the winners crowed a bit, then we all shook hands and went home.  It was absolutely forbidden to throw a missile at another boy.  Language was a bit of a problem, but we managed to communicate rules and intent.  There had not been enough postwar time for these sites to have been fully cleared, and they were most attractive playgrounds, no doubt full of enough hazards to have horrified today’s parents.

Four days ago, when Lydie was driving me to Bergerac airport, she described the beauty of morning mist rising from the local frosty fields on clear sunny days.  In particular she had seen a scene where the tops of trees seemed to be emerging from a sea of water.  As Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway railway station for my London lunch date with Norman, we saw a similar phenomenon beside the M27.

On the train I was amused to hear a most original ring tone on the mobile phone of the man opposite.  It was, in his little girl’s voice, ‘Dad, Dad, come on Dad, your phone’s ringing’.  Yesterday Jackie had explained the significance of Charlie and Carlos in a TV auction programme, as being a jocular distinction between two men named Charles.  So when the steward on board announced that there were two at-seat trollies in service, Peter being in charge of the rear five coaches, and Pedro of the front five, I had an idea what might be going on.  When Peter arrived at my seat I asked him if this were so.  He laughed and said he ‘couldn’t remember his name so [he] made something up’.

From Waterloo I walked my usual route to Green Park, where I boarded a Jubilee Line train to Neasden. Love hearts and London Eye 2.13 Helium-filled love hearts hanging from the avenue of naked trees approaching the London Eye were juxtaposed with that wheel’s capsules, just one of which seemed to reflect their colour.

Westminster Pier 2.13Cruise vessels were filling with passengers at Westminster Pier where, for Norman’s 70th birthday celebrations I had boarded one with Jessica, and last year, for his 80th, with Jackie.

Boadicea 2.13This year’s tourists are now becoming difficult to negotiate in this iconic area of London.

Goose basking 2.13In St James’s Park a slumbering goose had claimed a soporific shaft of sunlight.

On the tube a standing young man, plugged into one mobile device, peered down at that of a seated young woman who appeared to be scanning her messages.  The rest of us were treated to a high volume African telephone conversation, the slightly robotic voice emanating from the mobile being even louder than that of our softer-spoken fellow traveller.  On the return journey this effort was completely outbellowed by two Chinese men sitting on opposite sides of the carriage and several seats apart.  Another African was loudly engaged in a telephone conversation, but at least he hadn’t got his device on hands-free mode.

St Mary's church Willesden graveyard 2.13Having some time to spare I attempted to visit St Mary’s church, Willesden.  Unfortunately, as is almost invariably the case in London churches now, the doors were all locked.  I walked around the graveyard which was tidied up a few years ago.  A stone tablet by a gathered-up collection of gravestones proclaims this fact.  Although there are a very few memorials to more recent interments, most of those there are Victorian.  The land is virtually an open-air museum of a long-gone section of nineteenth century London.  With the church itself, which is rather older, a surprisingly picturesque scene greets anyone venturing off the High Road at Church End.  From Neasden station one walks past a very gritty area dominated on each side by scrap metal dealers and waste skip depots; sorry-looking terraces of rented accommodation; a busy garage whose customers often cause hold-ups as they queue to enter; then ugly 60s office buildings and slightly more recent council estates; rubbish everywhere, including the front of the graveyard; rusted benches surrounded by dog-ends; cracked, broken, and sunken paving stones; parking meters; and the often nose-to-tail queues of London traffic belching out exhaust fumes.  It is all very sordid and I usually walk past the church feeling sorry for it. St Mary's church Willesden 2.13 Today I was rewarded for taking a closer look.

Norman provided a lunch of boiled bacon followed by jam roly-poly, accompanied by Carta Roja gran reserva 2006.

At Neasden station on the way back to Waterloo, a young woman was attaching a small black fascinator to one of her companions’ hair.  The headdress was blown out of her hand and made its way like a speedy spider scampering across the platform to be retrieved just before it descended onto the lines.  With much gaiety it was finally firmly fixed in place.

I arrived back at Southampton Parkway in time for Jackie to collect and drive me back to the lodge.


The weather today could not have been more different from yesterday.  As it was ten degrees warmer and sunny, Jackie was prompted to pore over maps to find a spot from which I could walk and she could potter.  She came up with Lepe beach, on the other side of the Beaulieu estuary from Bucklers Hard (see post of 12th January), and drove us there.  Leaving her in the carpark I walked along the beach in one direction, and back along a road above it. A kind gentleman thrust a parking ticket, valid for the rest of the day, into my hand as I got out of the car.  He’d only used it for ten minutes.  This quite often happens in The New Forest area.  We had marvelled in the car that we now live in the midst of so many places that tourists drive long journeys to enjoy. Lepe beach 2.13The tide was out as I walked along the strand watching a solitary yacht wending its way through the river mouth. Geese, Lepe beach 2.13 Scavenging birds were gathering rich pickings.  They ignored a headless fish.  There was a very strong smell of seaweed. With the water on my left, much of the land on my right was in private hands and fenced off with instructions for the public to keep out under threat of marauding dogs.  The guidebook Jackie had produced described the road above the beach as the route to be used at very high tides.  There was also a board in the car park explaining that, because of the melting polar icecap, the sea level was rising.  With the tide coming in and my time running out I decided to climb a wooded bank up to the recommended road.  By the time I returned to the carpark much of the sand and pebbles I had walked along at the beginning was under fast-moving water that splashed up over a concrete wall. Lepe beach (2) 2.13Before meeting Jackie, I popped into the cafe and bought a leaflet on D-Day at Lepe.  As I enter the car, there, on the passenger seat, lay another copy.  Jackie had thought it might interest me.  We learned that Lepe was a major departure point for troops, vehicles, and supplies in the Normandy landings; like Bucklers Hard it was a construction site for part of the prefabricated floating Mulberry Harbour; and a mainline base for the P.L.U.T.O pipeline. After this we dropped in at The Firs.  Elizabeth was out, but a roofer was working on a dilapidated chimney stack which had suffered greatly during the last twelve months of rain.  He went into great detail about the problems, but he rather lost me.  All I can report is that it was wet, crumbling, had vents in the wrong place, and grew ferns.  Jackie watered greenhouse and garage plants and drove us home.  I then walked to Seamans Corner postbox and back to post Jessica’s birthday card enclosing a bit of dosh.  The most apologetic contractor who had forgotten our correct replacement toilet seat came to fit a new one.  It still doesn’t fit properly, but it is a match for the split one.  When this building was converted, no expense was spared in fitting out the flats to a high specification.  This included, in our flat at least, a kind of baroque shape to the bathroom equipment.  Given that the landlord’s agent was only prepared to authorise a ‘like for like’ replacement for what had been in place when we arrived, we had scoured the internet searching for the correct original.  It would have cost £300. That seemed like the cost of a golden throne.   We didn’t bother. We had not been to the Imperial China restaurant in Lyndhurst before, but booked a table for their Valentine’s Night set meal.  As we scanned the menu’s eleven items a waitress told us we didn’t have to choose because we were getting it all.  There followed an excellent meal.  Jackie’s was accompanied by T’sintao beer and mine with white then red du Beouf wine.  Behind me, but in full view of Jackie, was a platignum blonde in her forties wearing outrageously fun platform shoes. Jackie was so fascinated by these that I got up, went over, and informed their owner.  It went down quite well.  Afterwards I chatted with the proprietor about living in Soho’s Chinatown.  My readers will know that I had lived there during the 1970s.  Our host, Gary Kwok, had been a boy there then.

Back In England

The New Forest hasn’t changed much since I left it on 20th January.  The snow has cleared, but it is still very cold, drab, and, if anything, even more waterlogged.  Light rain had begun to fall by the time I reached Shave Wood when walking the loop that touches it.

A small van approaching me from the rear as I reached Seamans Corner gave me an abrupt reminder that I was in a different country.  I follow the general rule that it is safer when walking along unpavemented roads to face the oncoming traffic.  Consequently, for the last three weeks I have been carefully walking on my left hand side of the road.  That is what I was doing this morning at first.  Even after I’d corrected this, when waving acknowledgement to drivers of approaching cars who gave me room, I found myself waving to the passenger seat.

Fingers tingling, I stopped and had a long chat with Audrey Saunders (see 16th December last year) who, begloved, leant over her garden gate.  Her sister, who had struggled to answer the door when I delivered the first set of photographs, is now in a home.  Her pony Primrose had managed to pick up a length of barbed wire obviously overlooked when the fence was installed.  She had wrapped it around her leg, sustaining a deep surrounding cut.  The RSPCA vet had successfully treated this, and, in the process, Champion’s alarming cough.  The male horse had consumed some of his companion’s medicine, whereupon his chest infection had disappeared.  Further on through Minstead I met Alison with her dog Tom.  Tom now has terminal cancer, about which Alison is quite philosophical.

Familiar Trees by G.S.Boulger 2.13On the walk I reflected on the fact that I really must learn about trees if I am going to live in the forest.  Jackie, last night, showed me an excellent little Dorling Kindersley guide to them that she had just bought, which reminded me of my first second-hand book purchase.  This had been in a Dutch auction at school.  I believe I paid 2d. for G.S.Boulger’s ‘Familiar Trees’, as much for its exquisite illustrations as for the subject matter itself.  2d. in pre-decimalisation currency is the equivalent of less than 1p. today.  I was thirteen; 2d was a lot of money for me in those days.

When we set off in the car this afternoon for a trip to Donna-Marie in Ringwood for me to have a haircut, snow was falling again.  It did not settle and had turned to rain by the time we got back from a visit to Helen and Bill.  Visibility on and beside the motorway was limited by a fine grey shroud.

Jackie then produced a fine vegetable soup; a delicious beef stew; and an excellent rice pudding.  She drank Montpierre reserve Sauvignon blanc 2012; my accompaniment was Carta Roja gran reserva 2005.

Sensory Exploration

From the attic window 2.13Sod’s law was in force this morning.  As I prepared for my return to England, Sigoules awoke to the first clear blue sky that had not had frost laden ground beneath it since my arrival.  Sun kissed the rooftops visible from the attic window.  Southampton, on the other hand, when I reached it by my usual methods of transport, was grey and several degrees colder.  Never mind, Jackie’s smile as she met me at the airport, made up for the lack of sunshine.

The more than half empty plane arrived at Bergerac twenty minutes early, and lost none of that time before touching down at Southampton.  This despite more turbulence than usual.  Like many other passengers, I had no-one in the seat beside me.  But I did begin to feel soft and gentle pressure against the left side of my back.  Surely my luck couldn’t be in?  This slowly increased.  There came the added sensation of being prodded rhythmically.  As it became interesting I leant forward and turned to see what was happening.  The podgy little hand of a very young toddler I had seen in the departure lounge was extended from behind between the seats.  Her mother was apologetic.  I smiled and said that was no trouble.  After all, isn’t this a common method of exploration of new faces in inquisitive children of that age who don’t yet have speech?  Many a time, bearded or clean-shaven, has my face been silently explored in this manner.

Jackie drove me back to Castle Malwood Lodge; after catching up with each other, I caught up with the post and made a few consequential phone calls, including chasing up a loo seat.  Before I took off for France, a new seat had been put in place of a split one.  The contractor who struggled through snow to get to us had installed it even though it was rather small, just to keep us going, as it were, with the promise of one the correct size to follow.  It hadn’t followed. I rang the agent.

Passage to India meal 2.13An evening meal at Passage to India in Lyndhurst, accompanied by Kingfisher (and Jackie), confirmed I was home.

Around The House, Day 2

I spent the morning hoovering and tidying the rest of the rooms.

Main bedroom 2.13Following Elizabeth’s sensible suggestion, I changed my bedding in the main bedroom just for the last night.  This obviates the need for trying to get it washed, dried, and ironed on the morning of departure.  Possible in the summer, but certainly not at the moment.

Kitchen 2.13As I’ve only eaten two meals at home on this trip, the kitchen didn’t need too much attention.

Sitting room 2.13The sitting room and entrance hall have had the heaviest usage.  Hall 2.13The defunct washing machine and ancient ironing board in the hall are waiting for a kind friend with wheels to help me take them to the municipal dump.

I did not venture into the cellar that lies beneath a trapdoor in the hall.  At the bottom of a narrow winding set of stone steps the entrance requires me to bend double, and I’m not often up for that.  This opens out into a spacious area Mike had kitted out as a workroom.  It would now be used to store winter fuel, had I got round to buying any.  When the Kindreds first lived here, a friend fell through the open trapdoor and broke his leg. Trapdoor winch 2.13 This prompted Mike to build one of his inventive constructions.  He fashioned a retractable balustrade to surround the entrance to the nether regions when open; rigged up a wall-mounted pulley such as would hold an elephant; and equipped this with a powerful webbing strip to be attached to one of the iron rings from which the trapdoor can, by slowly cranking the winch, be raised.  The instructions for doing this are pasted, in French and in English, on the wall beside it.  Mike is not a games inventor for nothing.  I keep the balustrade hooked in place on the wall and cover the tiled trapdoor with a carpet.  Jackie’s sunhat conceals the machinery.

Bathroom 2.13Lower stairs 2.13

The bathroom will have a thorough clean in the morning; and, in order to allow time for drying overnight, the ground floor tiles and lower stairs will be washed before I go to bed.  My mobile phone lies on the ledge behind the loo because that is the only place where I can sometimes receive a signal.  It beats a stack of joke books beside the seat.

Garden, Sigoules 2.13The last three weeks have been so wet that I haven’t been able thoroughly to sweep the tiles in the courtyard garden, although there was a brief window of warm sun this afternoon enabling me to sit outside for a while and even get a king sized duvet cover iron-dry.  The birds were joyful.  Maybe the chicken will finish the sweeping.

The usual excellent lunch in Le Code Bar was my last until my next trip.  When Fred offered me more delicious onion soup I resisted temptation on the grounds that ‘Max has scared me’.  Octopus rings in batter (how’s that Judith?) with a bowl of tomato sauce was to follow.  The main course was a beef stew containing numerous chunks of tender lean meat.  My response, when offered a second helping of that, was to decline, saying ‘Max would beat me’.  The sweet, described as ‘home-made cake’, had the consistency of a moist quiche and contained small pieces of pear.

After lunch I ironed the duvet cover and did some more washing, courtesy of Kim’s machine(see 31st July 2012).

Whilst I was in the bar posting this, Sofiene arrived.  He had, in passing, visited No.6 to find me not at home.  Knowing where to look, he found me.  He had brought me a present of a book of French poetry.  Naturally we had a drink together.

Around The House, Day 1

Upper staircase 2.13Today was what David has termed a ‘big clean’ day.  It is the mandatory preparation for the next visitors.  Washing and ironing is the least of it, because that has been done throughout my stay.

I work my way down from the top.  First the sweeping and hoovering, including the removal of any of last year’s lingering cobwebs.  Then the dusting, although there is very little of that.  Beds must be prepared, and the porcelain attended to.  The final task is swabbing down tiles and staircases.

When I have the luxury of more than one day I can be more thorough.  I first deal with those rooms I either have not used or will not be using again before I leave.

Attic room1, 2.13Attic room 2, 2.13Attic room 3, 2.13No-one this time has used the attic or bedroom 2 on the first floor.  They therefore didn’t need much attention.  Attic rooms 2 and 3 each lead off room 1.  What this room loses in privacy it gains in the presence of two spacious walk-in locked cupboards.  I think it was Elizabeth who pointed out that it would be possible to get two more bedrooms out of them.  The exposed original stone wall is interlaced with huge wooden beams from the dismantled barges that could only navigate one way up the Dordogne.  Just two entrance beams are a danger to heads.  These, as in the doorway of room 2, have warning flags pinned to them.  Otherwise a stepladder is required to reach the roof.  The chest of drawers in room 3 occupies a niche which  terminates below head height.

When Michael and Heidi  and their family first came here it took Oliver about thirty seconds to get up to the top and bag the bed in room 1.  The girls were quite happy with his choice, although Alice soon rigged up a truckle bed beside her brother.  The cupboard in room 3 had reminded her of a scary story.

Bedroom 2, 2.13After the attic came first floor bedroom 2 which, although large, needs a minimal amount of furniture as it has a built-in wardrobe.

I descended to the downstairs WC and shower-room and gave it a good once-over.Downstairs WC & shower room 2.13

Utility corridor 2.13Finally, I swept and swabbed down the upper staircase and the utility corridor leading to the shower room.  The only hazard in this area is the front wheel of Oliver’s outgrown mountain bike that hangs from the ceiling.

This was all done by 2.45 when I microwaved the rest of last week’s sausage casserole which I had removed from the freezer yesterday.  It was so delicious I finished the sauce with a spoon.  Does anyone else with a beard have trouble keeping soup out of it?

Secrets Of The Lockers

I am now in my fifth year of coming to Sigoules.  This was brought home to me this morning when I had quite a long, reasonably fully understood, French conversation  with Marie in the haberdashery.  She told me I spoke very good French.  The French of Moliere.  Laughingly, she added that her English was the English of Shakespeare.  I think it was a compliment.  When I first entered her shop, early in 2008, I was hopeless.  I couldn’t even think of the numbers for the measurements of the oilcloth I need for my kitchen table, nor even with certainty the days of the week.  As for my A-level grammar; that had gone out of the window.  As for understanding a word of what she said; forget it.  It had been Elizabeth, from the back seat, who had helped me out with the word for aeroplane in a very stilted conversation with Lydie in her taxi.

Marie tells me she comes from the Loire region; Lydie is from Paris; and David from Lille.  That is why I have more chance of understanding them than I do the local people, who are probably the equivalent of our Geordies.

After this I joined Maggie and Mike for their normal Saturday morning trip to the outskirts of Bergerac.  We had a brief visit to the town itself to check that the Indian restaurant we intended to visit in the evening was still there.  It was.  The plan had been to wander around the picturesque Old Town.  It was, however, far too cold to amble, and the place was pretty deserted.  Shops would not be open until March.  Apparently this is the longest winter the local people can remember.

During the interim between the two car rides, I walked the loop around the donkey’s field.  It was raining steadily by then.

Umbrella in doorway 2.13Maybe I should have borrowed the umbrella I spotted in a doorway further down rue St Jacques, just as someone had half-inched mine from the step of Soho’s No.2 Horse and Dolphin Yard sometime in the 1970s.  On the other hand, maybe not.  I well remember the domino theft effect that prevailed in Wimbledon College in the 1950s.  Each boy was provided with a locker intended for wholesome sports kit.  They were also used to conceal the air-brushed black and white magazine photographs of naked women which were all that was available in those days of comparative innocence.  The more resourceful scholars knew how to gain access to others’ hidy-holes.  The rule was if someone nicked something from yours you stole from someone else’s.  This didn’t seem justifiable to me, so I was always the loser.  It was a Jesuit priest on a routine search who discovered the soft-porn mag a schoolmate had kindly unloaded onto me.  That also seemed rather unfair.  I’d rather not go into the consequences.

Laurence 2.13Watching the rugby match between Scotland and Italy, Laurence politely informed me that I had misspelt her name last week.  I had given her a man’s name.  If you could see Laurence you would know how inappropriate that is.

Maggie, Mike and I completed a very enjoyable day with an excellent meal at the Krishna in Bergerac.  This is quite the best Indian restaurant I have sniffed out in France.  Red and white wine were drunk.