Empty Summerhouse

Despite a heavy overnight frost and another frozen birdbath, this beautiful Easter morning lived up to it’s coincidentally being the first day of British Summer Time, when clocks are put forward for six months so we all get up early to enjoy more daylight.  Some of us did emerge from our beds in good time.  Some of us didn’t.  Those who did took great delight in a game of shinies, largely at my expense.

Shinies are the reflection of sunshine in wristwatch faces.  These produce little golden discs which, with minimal movement of the wrist, the owner can send travelling across a wall.  Oddie is fascinated by this phenomenon.  Purely, of course, by accident, Jackie managed to put these UFOs into orbit just above my head.  The result was that, in his eagerness to reach them, Oddie’s horny feet trampled over my bare toes.  For some reason this created great hilarity.  Over and over again.

I first discovered this game about fourteen years ago when commissioned to keep three year old Oliver entertained.  He had a child’s bow with rubber-tipped arrows.  As long as I occasionally kept my wrist still, he enjoyed firing at his largely moving target.  I was able to achieve my object without stirring from my armchair.

After coffee I accompanied Mat and Tess to Bursledon Car Boot Sale, where Tess bought several bargains for use in the shop.  The Car Boot Sale is a particularly English phenomenon, where a mixture of items, some old or obsolete, some apparently useless, some hideous, and some interesting, are laid out on the ground or on trestle tables and change hands for amounts starting at about 20p.  Bursledon Car Boot SaleThe occasional stall has more ambitious stock with some kind of pedigree.  There are catering vans and the smell of frying onions is very tempting.  This particular venue was vast and very well attended.  Clothes, fabrics, toys, books, and CDs became more and more higgledy piggledy as prospective buyers rummaged through them.  Mat spotted an extensive set of vegetable stalls, and, after a phone call to check with Jackie, bought a cauliflower and some mushrooms.  Two young men, anxious no doubt to get home, were offering their last two items, a lawn mower and an adjustable office chair for £1 each.  Some time later I saw one of them walking to the entrance carrying the chair and accompanied by a young woman brandishing car keys.  She had obviously just bought the chair and he was being obliging.  In fact he was struggling so much I thought the woman may have had less difficulty.  Near the entrance a couple of men were displaying second-hand laptops for what seemed to me to be optimistically high prices.  I didn’t notice any sales.  I imagine the outside arena where this took place must have been a quagmire most Sundays during the last six months.

In France, these phenomena are called ’empty attic’.  So the English term focuses on how sellers transport their wares, while the French consider where they came from.  Neighbours of ours in Newark were asked by the people from whom they bought their house for permission to store the lightbulbs and other items they had removed from the property in the summer house in the garden.  This was apparently for a car boot sale.  Perhaps their event should have been termed ’empty summerhouse’.

Before Jackie’s excellent roast lamb meal we all went down to the Trusty for a drink.  Just as we were about to leave there we were tracked down by Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Danni, and Andy. Back at the apartment we had a very enjoyable evening. Flo, Ian, (Becky), Oddie and Scooby At one point whilst I was attending to drinks, the whole Becky family joined Oddie on my chair.  They thought it was amusing.

While we ate our meal, the gatecrashers kept us company.  I am beyond recording what was imbibed.

Spring Is In The Air

PrimrosesMat, Oddie and I walked the ford loop via the churchyard path.  Primroses are now abounding in the hedgerows and daffodils mirror the lichen on the gravestones.

Churchyard daffodils

The Herdwick lambs were arousing the interest of a couple of neighbours.  One is quite black, the other pure white.  The farmer explained that Herdwicks normally ‘throw’ black lambs.  A white one is very unusual.

The Furzey Gardens alpacas normally pretty well ignore me when I pass. Alpacas Today they showed a great deal of attention.  It wasn’t until later that I realised they must have picked up Oddie’s scent, which is often not too savoury.

This afternoon there was a definite sense of spring in the air.  The sun shone and the garden birds flitted and swooped about.  I am beginning the recognise the languid loping line of the various tits aiming for the feeder.  I was able to stand very close without frightening them away.  It is amusing how they make for the shrubbery behind their food; perch there until they are sure it is safe to dive for the seeds, nuts, or fat balls; grab a morsel and flit away. Long tailed tit Indeed, one particular long tailed tit seemed less timid than a robin I startled.  Interestingly, there seem now to be three robins vying for territory.  We wonder which one will win out.

While Mat, Jackie and I played Scrabble this afternoon, we watched a number of large rabbits bounding and chasing each other across the lawns.

Later, Becky, Flo, and Ian joined us and we all dined on Jackie’s shepherd’s pie followed by Sainsbury’s sticky toffe pudding and custard.  Jackie drank Latitude 35 degrees S; Tess and I drank two different red wines; Ian had Peroni; and Mat, Becky and Flo abstained.

The 3D Crossword

I wrote yesterday about Oddie’s propensity for sitting on my chair.  This means I get a liberal sprinkling of short white hairs forming an extra cushion.  And they are definitely not mine.  Matthew, on contemplating this phenomenon, enlightened me as to the origin of the phrase ‘the hair of the dog’, indicating the cure for a hangover allegedly being a further drink in the morning.  The full sentence should be ‘the hair of the dog that bit me’, that came from the mediaeval belief that the application of the hair of a rabid dog that had bitten someone would cure them of the disease that had been passed on by the biter.  Mat was inclined to think that anyone who did try this was only likely to get bitten again.

Mat and Tess in The TrustyThe little dog sat quietly under the table in The Trusty Servant where Jackie, Mat, Tess and I enjoyed lunch.

For something like two years in the early 1990s I worked on producing a 3D 15×15 cryptic crossword.  Mike Kindred and I had been commissioned to set one.  As he is the half of our partnership best able to tackle the construction of the grid I left that to Mike.  What he created was forty five interlocking grids in our pre-computerised existence.  All I had to do was put the words in and write the clues.  I had to ensure that each word could be read as if running through a cube.  This involved hand-drawn grids on huge sheets of paper.  The black squares were comparatively easy.  Those that required the entry of letters had to be large enough to contain various options, and I had constantly to check that what I wanted to put in one grid would appear in the right places in interlocking ones.  The eraser was an essential tool.  If I have lost you in the technicalities of this, imagine what it did to my head, as I spread my working sheets across the tables in the trains from Newark to Kings Cross; or on the floor or desk at home.  I also had to find room for lots of dictionaries from which to find words that would fit.

Eventually my task was complete. Following the generally accepted grid construction rules requiring a fair distribution of letters and black squares, it was the first ever 3D crossword which didn’t have too many rows of blank spaces. Someone then had to be found to write the computer programme that would reproduce this original work.  We wouldn’t have started on this mammoth venture had we not been assured this would be forthcoming.  A disappointment was, however, in store.  This would cost £25,000, beyond the means of the man who had presented us with the project.  It never saw the light of day.

Derrick c1993Whilst I was sitting in my study in Newark, probably speaking to Mike about current progress, Becky, camera in hand, stuck her head round the door and took photograph number 13 in the ‘through the ages’ serious.

After a salad meal this evening, with which Tess and I drank Reserve de la Saurine 2011 and the others abstained, we played Bargain Hunt.  This is Mat and Tess’s game based on watching the television programme.  We each estimated what items might fetch at auction.  Mat kept the score.

Whose Chair Is It Anyway?

Robert's HouseSam and I walked to Lyndhurst and back this morning.  The return journey was via Mill Lane where we had a brief chat with Robert whose yellow tractor was perched alongside the Mill Pond, some of which was draining into one of the streams under the rough track.

I needed to visit the bank in Lyndhurst to order some euros to take to France at the end of next week.  We did this and for three hours put the world to rights.  Sam’s contract with the London Olympics Committee having come to an end we spoke of interviews and their processes.  This reminded me of two jobs I had not landed.  The second was my last interview before going freelance, because I realised I had gone as far as I could in Social Services.  This was in 1985.  I had applied to be head of fieldwork in a London Borough.  There were only two of us in the waiting room.  The other candidate was an internal employee who was to retire in two years.  He told me he hoped I would get the job.  Why was there no-one else?  I wondered.

It was some way into the interview before I found the answer.  I was asked what would be my reaction should they reorganise the department in two years time and effectively demote me.  Rather naively thinking this might be something to test my mettle, I replied that I would consider that they didn’t want someone of my calibre and get a job somewhere else.  This appeared to be the wrong answer.  The other man was appointed.

Something similar happened during my first team leader interview with a different London Borough.  This time, in 1972, I was faced with a distant semicircle of interviewers in a vast council chamber.  Each of eleven members of the inquisition had a sheet of paper on which the questions were presumably written.  One person read out a question I had just answered.  I apprised him of that fact.  Without a shred of embarrassment he then read out his own allotted question.  In this vast arc of people all seated on a much higher level than me I could not see them all at once.  Two elderly women to my left continued fairly loud conversations whilst I was trying to answer their colleagues’ questions.  They were out of eyesight, even if well within earshot. Eventually I turned to these people and asked them to keep quiet as I couldn’t concentrate.  They seemed to have taken offence at that.  I was unsuccessful. However, the next day the Director of Social Services telephoned me, explained that I had blown it, made it clear that she wanted me, and told me to reapply when it was readvertised, and be more careful.

I took the advice and reapplied.  This time the interviewers were on a stage in front of me.  I was the solitary spectator in the stalls.  I was asked a question which was going to flummox me.  At that point the tea lady came on from stage right.  A break was taken.  The question was forgotten.  I got the job.

After lunch today Mat and Tess joined us.  We had enjoyable afternoon together until Jackie and I took Sam to Hamble where he was to participate in a sail training course.  Our son and daughter-in-law shared Jackie’s sausage casserole followed by rice pudding with us.  Red and white wine was imbibed.

Oddie on my chairBefore dinner I engaged in an interesting competition with their Jack Russell terrier, known as Oddie.  Most dogs who sit at your feet staring longingly are after your food.  Not Oddie when gazing up at me.  He is willing me to leave my chair so he can dive into it.  I, on the other hand, am determined to stay in it long enough to keep him out.  This went on until Jackie moved into the kitchen to prepare our evening meal.  The kitchen being down the hall, Oddie had a problem.  How could he keep an eye on both the chair and any possible perks that may be available in the kitchen?  He couldn’t of course.  That meant constant anxious to and froing between the two rooms.

The Photographic Model

Birdfeeder & titsWith the aid of Dave Farrow’s ‘A Guide to the Garden Birds of Britain & Northern Europe’ we are trying to learn our birds.  This morning we think we identified a nuthatch; and great, coal, and long tailed tits; on the bird feeder.  There was also a robin, but we are fairly sure we can spot one of those.  The pole holding the feeders has gone a bit wonky, but gravity works quite well on the hanging items, even if the fixed trays are on a bit of a tilt.  I just thought I’d mention that in case anyone thought the photo was askew.

Once we had completed the building of our second Billy bookcase, we looked up to see wisps of thistledown floating around the birds.  I do believe I can honestly use ‘we’ in this context today.  Full of confidence, we had a coffee and built a third bookcase in good time to collect Sam from the railway station.  The thistledown turned out to be snow, but it was wispy, light, and, despite continuing throughout the day, not settling.

After lunch Sam went through the fourth assembly at a rate of knots.  He did allow me to bang a few nails into the backing sheet.

Derrick c1977Photograph number 12 in Elizabeth’s scanned series was taken by a young woman aspiring to be a professional. I do hope she managed it.  In about 1977 she had a portrait project to complete for her qualification course.  Unfortunately I can only remember the name of her mother, who worked in my Social Services Office.  This was Liz McKay.  The student daughter asked me to pose for her and produced a very pleasing set of black and white pictures.  It was more than thirty years later that Alex Schneideman, a true professional, was to repeat the compliment.  We will come to one of his pictures a bit further on ‘through the ages’.

The original scan was taken directly from the print, as the photographer, of course, kept the negative.  The result was covered in dust and minute hair marks.  I therefore had another iPhoto challenge, requiring quite a bit of retouching.  This was simple and successful.

Sam, we hope, had a nice relaxing time until dinner.  This was Jackie’s arrabbiata with fusilli.  Thoroughly enjoyable.  Sam and I drank Roc des Chevaliers bordeaux superieur 2010.  Jackie, as usual, quaffed her Hoegaarden.

Robin Ghyll

Even at midday today a block of ice filled the birdbath.  After lunch I walked the Shave Wood loop.  Apart from Ari and Jackie who stopped their car for a long chat, I saw no other humans. Only three ponies were in evidence.Pony camouflaged  One tore dead branches from a fallen tree, perhaps for the lichen.  They certainly are experiencing food harder and harder to find.

Many forest car parks, like the one at Hazel Hill, have been padlocked for the winter.  Now we have passed the alleged first day of spring, they have been opened up. Hazel Hill car park I see no sign of people rushing to fill them.

Derrick 8.79We are going back a couple of years in Elizabeth’s ‘through the ages’ series.  The featured picture, number 11, was taken by Jessica in August 1979 during one of our holidays in the Lake District.  Before I explain the location, I need to confess to spending a couple of hours locating ‘Pictures’ on my iMac.  This is because I decided to scan and adjust Elizabeth’s version of the photograph, which was the wrong way round and bore some faint but unfortunate parallel lines across it.  In fairness to my delightful sibling, when she first scanned this for one of Mum’s birthdays perhaps ten years ago, equipment was not so good, and how was she to know it was my right hand on which I was resting my face?

I saved the scan to ‘Pictures’ which has a different icon than ‘pictures in iPhoto.  I couldn’t work on the picture from ‘Preview’, and I couldn’t find the separate ‘Pictures’.  After much frustration and a reluctance to phone Apple helpline yet again, I found how to move the picture to iPhoto.  It didn’t really need any enhancement, but at least I can now manage any that do.  If I can remember how to do it, that is.

Now, to the holiday.  The family of Jessica’s sister Sue Trevelyan owned the house at Robin Ghyll near Langdale in the Lake district.  We would sometimes stay with the Trevs, sometimes on our own, taking Matthew and Becky with us.  On this occasion our friends the Biebuycks accompanied us.  This was a large, spacious, house shared by the Trevelyan brothers, and available for all their relatives.  A dry stone wall surrounded the rocky garden that overlooked the Lakeland hills.  There were numerous popular walks, some of which, (see ‘Vertigo’, posted 14th July last year) scared the life out of me.  It was on one of these holidays that I discovered the delights of Theakston’s ‘Old Peculiar”.

Billy bookcaseIf the truth be known, I probably chose to wrestle with the computer to avoid tackling the assembly of the IKEA bookcases which were delivered this morning.  But I couldn’t put it off for ever.  Were I to claim that I, or even we, unpacked these heavy boxes; studied the picture book instructions; checked the contents and laid them out in a sensible order on the floor; collected the necessary tools together; and built the furniture, I would be stretching credibility.  So I won’t.  This afternoon, Jackie was the surgeon.  I performed the roles of hospital orderly and theatre nurse.  We settled for one operation.  There is always another day or three for the others.

Last night’s jalfrezi meal and Kingfisher was repeated this evening with the addition of mixed fruit crumble.  Delicious.

He Wanted To Read The Gas Meter

This morning I walked the church path via Furzey Gardens road loop.  I had a long chat with Audrey and passed the time of day with two horse riders.  That was it. This afternoon we decided to ignore the weather and amble round Blandford Forum in Dorset.  It was far too cold to amble.  As we got out of the car we knew that.  We concentrated on our shopping.  Jackie parked in a car park marked ‘town centre’.  It didn’t look much like a town centre and we weren’t sure where to go.  We asked another woman who had the same problem.  We found a small sign pointing to what looked like a back alley which actually took us over a fast flowing stream, under the overlapping floor of a building, into what seemed a poorer part of this Georgian town.  We were soon in the town centre, diving from charity shop to charity shop in an attempt to get warm.  We didn’t leave them empty handed.  The woman from the car park was in each and every shop.  I also found a framer’s where I bought a frame for the Mottisfont Trout (see post of 23rd) picture; a branch of Wessex photo who stocked the inks for my Canon printer; and a computer shop where I bought a mouse mat. Solar Energy in streamIn the stream we crossed to reach the shops, someone had obviously decided there was not going to be much solar energy around this year.  The advertising board had been dumped in the water. Practically everyone in town was swathed in scarves, wearing gloves, and sporting a variety of overcoats. Black Headed Gull Even the black headed gulls in their summer plumage looked as if they had made a mistake.  One seemed particularly confused by it all. It was a shame that we were just too cold to do justice to wandering round this attractive and historic town, but we saw enough to know that in better weather it is worth another visit.  The young man in Wessex photo, not stocking it himself, had telephoned the Ringwood branch to see if they had A3+ paper size.  They didn’t, but would happily try to get some for me.  We stopped off at Ringwood on the way back to order some. In the Blandford branch of the photo shop a man carrying a portable device that I recognised but couldn’t quite place, stood aside patiently waiting whilst the one shop assistant served another person, then me, made the phone call, talked paper sizes with Jackie and me, and began with the next customer.  I think that if the helpful young man hadn’t asked the visitor what he wanted at that point, he would have been waiting there still.  He wanted to read the gas meter. Derrick 9.82Photograph number 10 of the ‘through the ages’ series is a reminder of a much warmer time.  This, I believe, was taken by Ann Eland on one of our joint holidays with her and Don,  in Brittany in September 1982.  By then I was being asked whether I had highlights put in my hair. Jackie's jalfreziJackie produced a superb lamb jalfrezi, pilau rice, and cauliflower bhaji for our dinner this evening.  We both drank Kingfisher.  I then ate sticky toffee pudding, and she had chocolate cake.

‘I Believe You’ve Got Something Belonging To Me’

The bitterly cold wind has returned, but we do seem to be in one of the few areas of the country without snow.  Louisa in Nottingham has five inches of it.  Jackie drove us out to Bransgore where she visited the MacPenny Garden Nursery and whence I walked to Sainsbury’s car park in Ringwood.

There were lots of cyclists on the forest road.  Some offered or returned a cheery greeting; some even managed a smile; others, usually those with head down, bum in the air, and hands tightly gripping the handlebars, simply pedalled on regardless.

Washing in Braggers LaneA very efficient, very optimistic, washer person lives on the corner of Braggers Lane, Sopley.

A pair of Kestrels hovered overhead, soared over a field, swooped and scattered a foraging flock of unidentified other birds.

Because it was so cold and because the road was fairly flat, I set a brisk pace, which meant I covered about seven miles in two hours.  This turned out to be rather unfortunate.  Before we left the flat we checked we each had a phone.  As we left I mentioned that I wasn’t carrying my keys, but that didn’t matter because Jackie had hers.  ‘I’d better not lose you today, then’, she quipped.

We thought that maybe the journey would take me three hours.  I said I would meet her in the Ringwood car park, but Jackie, thinking the journey might be a bit far, suggested I ring her to tell her when I’d like her to collect me, indicating where I’d be.  Passing Ringwood Football Club ground I realised I wouldn’t have far to go, so at a signpost signalling one mile to my goal, I phoned her to say I would meet her in the car park as originally intended.  I got the messaging service.  I left the message.  She had not replied by the time I reached Sainsbury’s.

Now, Sainsbury’s car park in Ringwood, on a bleak Sunday morning, dressed in clothing only warm enough for striding out, when you have raised a sweat that turns cold and clammy the minute you stop and stand around for the next hour, is not the most delightful place to be.  You can amuse yourself wandering up and down the rows of vehicles searching for a missing Modus, but even this palls after a while.  You can sit down in the draught, but it is really better to keep moving.  The bus shelter is the best option, but that tends to confuse drivers who are inclined to think you want a ride.  And you can’t be seated anyway because you’d have your back to the car park.

I wasn’t too alarmed at first, but three quarters of an hour seems a long time for someone to have no signal, even in the New Forest.  I had added a text to my original message, tried ringing every thirty seconds or so, and even rung the number of the phone I knew Jackie was unlikely to be carrying with her.  By the time the three hours mark was approaching, I wondered why, even if she hadn’t got my messages. she hadn’t phoned me.  Much longer and my fingers would have been too frozen to press any digits.  (I almost wrote ‘dial any number’, but we don’t do that any more do we?  Any more than we ‘pull the chain’ when we flush the lavatory, unless we are using Michael and Heidi’s outside one).

Helen and Bill live a few minutes drive from where I was.  Indeed, whilst I had been gazing longingly at ‘The Inn on the Furlong’, virtually opposite where I was standing, they had probably been inside enjoying a nice warm room and hot coffee.

I decided to call them for help.  They were back home by then and Bill was settling down to watch a Leicester v Saracens rugby match.  Jackie’s brother-in-law was most generous as he leapt to his feet when asked by Helen to go and get me.  She didn’t even tell him the story as I heard her say ‘just go and get him’.

Virtually as I finished the call to Helen, Jackie phoned me.  She was rather puzzled when I told her Bill was coming to collect me.  She had received none of the messages, but had gone home for her second phone when she realised that her prime one had no juice left.  I hadn’t left any messages on this secondary phone, and three hours was not up, so she was unaware that there was any cause for panic.  I then tried to stop Bill coming out, but was, of course too late.  Helen, by this time, had reached Jackie’s second phone and put her in the picture.

Bill calmly drove to the bus station, invited me to ‘get in quick’ and keep the cold out, and tactfully showed no curiosity about the story.  He no doubt thought I would tell him in my own good time.  I did.  Now we knew all was well we could have a good laugh.  And he didn’t even mention he was risking missing his rugby.  He was sensibly recording it.

Jackie, in the meantime, had driven up and down all the roads I might have used, imagining that if she did find me she would be cutting short my walk.  She even noticed the same washing line I had.  As I was warming my hands and insides with Helen’s welcome coffee, Jackie arrived and was heard to utter ‘I believe you’ve got something belonging to me.’  When we got home we put the boosters on all the heating to aid the thawing out process.

Tonight we dined on roast lamb followed by sticky toffee pudding.  I drank Terre de Galets Cotes du Rhone 2012, bottle number 138579.  Jackie abstained.

Printing Mottisfont Trout

DaffodilSpring continues to be thrust aside by its hoary old relative.  Why winter has been unable to enjoy an easy third age on the lecture circuit is a mystery to us all, except perhaps Michael Fish, the weatherman who infamously dismissed reports of the Great Storm of 1987.  A solitary daffodil manages to defy the cold and to brighten the shrubbery opposite our dining area.  Its companion probably isn’t going to make it.

Just as cold today, at least the wind had dropped.  There was not much sign of life until I met the sheep as I walked the first ford ampersand.  A couple of bedraggled, head-drooping, forlorn looking ponies jerked their slow way up the centre of the road through the village.  A young woman relaxed aboard her pony at the end of a ride.  The occasional car went by.  Apart from the rider, the only other person I spoke to was a driver on my return journey who stopped and asked the way to the Study Centre.  I trust Judith will be as impressed as I was by the detailed accuracy of my stunning directions.

Imagining being reliant on sheep for your day’s excitement should give the reader a better flavour of the day than yet more attempts of mine to find different ways of describing miserable weather.  As I approached the sheep field in Newtown I was greeted by a very loud bleating chorus.  This was emanating from the hedge through which it was just possible to see the vociferous ovine occupants.  On turning a corner and drawing up alongside a five barred gate I felt like a London bus driver arriving at Morden bus station soon after school going home time.  The parent sheep were already waiting at the gate baaing their heads off. Sheep and lambs It was then I saw the lambs.  These small animals leapt, gambolled, pushed and shoved each other, and squirmed their way in front of the adults, determined to get to the head of the queue.  The parents’ hubbub followed me as I continued on my way.

This afternoon I tackled the last of the challenges my new computer has set me.  I connected the Canon Pro 900 printer to the iMac.  Lo and behold, the software download was done automatically in about two minutes and I made an A3 print in a jiffy.  The setup is now pretty well complete.  The whole kit has to be confined to a fairly small space in our massive sitting room.  Mac sits on the desk.  The small Epson printer lies underneath on a ledge alongside the A4 printing paper, and the Epson V750 Pro scanner is perched on a small Sainsbury’s wine rack on its side on top of a little filing cabinet.  There is no room in this arrangement for the enormous A3+ printer.  Jackie, of course, came up with the ideal solution.  This very heavy piece of equipment nestles in a laundry bag within a plastic box on wheels.  All this stands at the bottom of her wardrobe.  When I need the printer I open the wardrobe; pull out the box on wheels; open the box; lift out the laundry bag by its handles; carry it from bedroom to sitting room, where the kitchen trolley waits to double as a stand; place the printer on the trolley; and finally attach the plug in place in the trailing socket on the desk and put the cable into a USB port.  I really think Heath Robinson, a superb draftsman famous for his drawings of complex and complicated contraptions for simple tasks, would have envied my lady her inventiveness.  Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything ridiculous about Jackie’s simplification of my set up.

Printing trout

Today’s test print was of trout taken at Mottisfont on 7th September last year.

This evening we took a trip to Imperial China in Lyndhurst, where we enjoyed the usual excellent meal, and both drank TsingTao beer.

Post On A Till Roll

When she learned through on-line Scrabble chat that I walk every day regardless of the weather, my friend June suggested that I must be mad.  This would be a view shared by the head of Bromley’s Probation service during the 1980s.  One of my freelance contracts was to facilitate a support group for senior probation officers.  During one particularly bad winter, possibly 1986/7, I was due to take a session one morning when the snow lay thick upon the ground.  Traffic was in chaos.  Trains were suffering from ‘the wrong kind of snow’.  But I had my running shoes.  Provided I was careful, and sometimes ran off piste, I could cross London quite quickly.  On this occasion I arrived in Bromley, on time, having run from Gracedale Road in Furzedown, SW17.  I was the only group member in attendance.  The manager didn’t want to pay me, because she thought it a bit out of order to have turned up on a day like that.  However, I had a contract which I had wished to honour.  After some negotiation I received half my fee, which seemed a compromise I would have to accept.

This morning we had been promised heavy rain making its way from Southampton.  A cock crew as I set off early down Running Hill in an effort to beat the blast. Sheep The Met Office must have been in touch with the sheep on the road up to Furzey Gardens because they had sought shelter from the open field.  Further on, our neighbour Bill was walking his two Old English sheepdogs which he said were shorn when the sheep were shorn.

Cycle trackA solitary equestrian rider passed me on the heath beside the waterlogged cycle track.   And the end of this I took the road towards Fritham and turned off left to a sign marked Linwood which I made my goal.

Orange and gorseBefore the turn-off I noticed, strewn at irregular intervals, oranges on the right side of the road.  My puzzlement increased as I continued along the road, until, on the left hand side I discovered a further crop that had been ditched. Oranges in ditch The teeth marks on one of the discarded ones suggested this was a variation of the popular Halloween pastime involving apples and a tub of water.

The clopping of coconut shells by a cinematographic sound effects man on the road behind me signalled the extremely rare sight of galloping ponies. Ponies galloping They had possibly been attracted by the arrival of a mini coachload of ramblers, whose lack of proffered goodies probably disappointed them and brought them to a standstill.  Their more cynical companions who hadn’t bothered to cross the road, merely glanced up and continued cropping the heath.

Burning brackenIt was my nostrils on the Linwood road, that alerted me to the controlled burning that culls the bracken.

Gritting the roadI turned right at a road junction to which a gang of Hampshire council workmen were working their way replenishing the grit on the verges, in an attempt to stem the tide, thus reducing the numerous rock pools.  Having walked past and through some deep enough to harbour crabs, I was able to tell them what they were in for.  They were going need a few more lorry loads.

The storm struck just as I reached the Red Shoot pub at Linwood.  I got pretty wet seeking a phone signal in order to ring Jackie, tell her where I was, and, since I was expecting her to drive me home, invite her to lunch.  She also had to bring my wallet.  The hospitality of the staff at this excellent establishment extended to offering to start me a tab so I could have a drink whilst I was waiting.  They also lent me a couple of lengths of till roll and a biro with which to amuse myself writing notes for this post.

Roast chicken was our evening accompaniment to the last of the burgundy for me and the Latitude 35 degrees S for Jackie.