Covent Garden & Gerrard Street

Last night I finished reading Christopher Harvie’s ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ in The Oxford History, and began H.G.C. Matthew’s ‘The Liberal Age’.

Soon after midday I walked through the farm underpass, into the forest alongside the wire fence that surrounds the pasturage, and, crossing the sandbagged ford followed the stream for a while, traversed it, and walked back along the other side.  Regular readers will know that this demonstrates a certain, almost well-placed, confidence somewhat lacking in the past.

Castle Malwood Farm

Castle Malwood Farm has always been visible from quite some distance, but I didn’t previously know what I was looking at, and one wire fence was the same as any other.  Now it and the sandbags are an infallible guide.

In my less than wholly successful attempts to avoid the boggy bits, and the necessary detours around fallen trees, I had a few diversions, but I always knew where I was.  Almost.  I have to confess one nasty moment when I realised the buildings I was headed for were not the aforesaid familiar farm.  I had unwittingly begun to follow a tributary and realised that what I was looking at were the also, sadly, familiar dwellings of Brook.  A quick turn around and I headed through the trees to the line of the stream which I will call Malwood.

Dappled stream

When I took my driving test in 1966 I felt the jolt of the kerb as I demonstrated my skill in reversing around a corner.  My calmness in stopping at the touch, straightening up, and doing it again got me through.  So it was today.  No panic, just go back and pick up where I left off.  I sometimes wish I could always remember that.

Dappled Forest

When walking beneath the trees on a day blessed with dappled sunlight, one is treated to little circles of light that have penetrated the boughs, projecting the images of leaves they have passed on their way down.  This particular camera obscura has not been provided with a focussing ring.  Dappled log

In the olden days of the 1970s and ’80s, when one had to use chemicals and an enlarger to make photographic prints, I would place the negatives in the device, sharpen the focus, expose the image on the paper for the requisite amount of time, take it out, stick it in various baths of stuff, and hang it up to dry, like David Hemmings in the superb 1966 cinematographic film ‘Blow-Up’.

Matthew and Becky c1979One such piece of work was a favourite photo of Matthew and Becky taken around 1979.  I could be more precise if I were prepared to search for the negative, but my print slipped down in its frame some years ago, and I thought if I photographed that today I could kill two birds with one stone and also centre the picture with an application of fresh adhesive.  That’s my excuse anyway.  Our children loved to spend their pocket money during their visits in the Soho years in the Chinese bookshops in Gerrard Street and the craft markets of Covent Garden.  In this particular photograph they are deliberating their purchases from a craftperson’s stall.

Matthew's Dads Day cardThe Gerrard Street shops in those days were Aladdin’s Caves for children.  Very good hand-made cards were on sale for a matter of pennies.  They would spend hours simply enjoying the ambience.  I still have a Dads Day card Matthew sent me.

The favourite outlet had a fascinating window with, usually pastoral, scenes featuring such as running streams framed with a glass front.  I don’t know how it was done, but the water actually seemed to flow, and movement was also imparted to other elements in the tableaux.  I was standing watching one of these one evening when an Oriental gentleman stood alongside me, equally fascinated.  ‘Devilish clever, these Chinese’, I uttered.  Fortunately he saw the joke.

I spent a very enjoyable evening with Maureen and John who live at number 5.  We talked about many things, and found we had much in common career-wise.  The plan had been that I would give them the benefit of my experience of France, but we moved beyond that.  Maureen provided a smoked salmon starter, followed by succulent steak in pepper sauce and crunchy apricot crumble with ice cream.  Bergerac and Bordeaux wines were an excellent accompaniment.

The Soho Festival

In The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain this morning I finished reading Paul Langford’s ‘The Eighteenth Century’, and progressed to begin ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ by Christopher Harvie.

It was a beautiful balmy day as I walked the two fords loop peaking at Forest Road. Radio mast Sheep grazed against the backdrop of a mast that is the reason we are so fortunate with internet and mobile phone signals where we live.  An uninterrupted reception is rare in the New Forest.  I was later to appreciate just how lucky we are.

Horses through gap in hedge

Through a gap in the hedge on Furzey Gardens road could be seen a horse favoured with a fly sheet.  Perhaps its uncovered companion stayed close for shelter from the pestilential insects.

As I Ieft the first ford and was about to veer left towards Newtown, I fell in with a tall, elegant, lively, and attractive South African woman named Yolanda, and her elderly dog, Trigger.  She was making her way to her place of employment at the far end of the bridle path.  I chose to change my route and accompany her.  Yolanda is a freelance live-in companion for elderly people.  We naturally spoke about Social Work.  She has no signal where she is living.

A golden labrador that now ignores my passing, barked with intent through gaps in its fencing.  It clearly wasn’t Trigger happy.  Being hard of hearing, Yolanda’s old boy quietly ignored the noisy young whipper-snapper.

I was delighted to note the name of the house in which my conversationalist was working.  Two days ago, a district nurse, driving up and down Running Hill, had asked me if I knew Skymer.  She was the person I had been unable to direct on that day, and was a long way from her goal.  SkymersThere, today, at the entrance to the splendid house at which we had stopped, was the sign, Skymers.  Yolanda confirmed that the nurse had indeed arrived, but it had taken her a long time to find the place.

To cap this I was able to achieve 100% success rate in my traffic directing role.  As two separate drivers waited their turn for my information, one for Tom’s Lane and the other for Furzey Gardens, the man who had kindly deferred to an elderly woman, said, with a smile: ‘You’ve got a queue’.

It was not until I worked on the Ondekoza photographs yesterday that I realised the large Romeo and Juliettas for the Soho Festival cigar smoking contest had coincidentally been provided by a supplier called Knight.  The idea was that you smoked one of these lengthy monsters for as long as you could without losing the ash.  When I entered in 1977, I actually had the longest ash, but mine was bent. Derrick cigar smoking competition 1976 I came second to a woman whose was straight.  You can imagine the ribaldry that provoked.

When we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard during the 1970s this was a new and popular event, and, held in September usually enjoyed perfect weather. Punch & Judy audience, Soho Festival, 9.76 (1) A Punch and Judy show in 1976 gave entertainment for all ages. Beccy, Soho Festival 9.76 (3) copyOne photograph I took of the audience featured on the cover of the Social Care Association’s monthly magazine.  Becky, on this occasion, was distracted from the puppets by the sight of my lens.  A little boy nearby, was engaged in that familiar comforting exercise of thumb-sucking combined with ear-twiddling.  Another had lost one of his front incisors.

The first family member to have the courage to enter a spaghetti eating competition was Michael.

Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 copyAs the dry spaghetti was ladled onto his plate, he looked as if he was about to bite off more that he could chew.  The thin coating of tomato sauce, looking no more appetising than ketchup, didn’t seem to do much to improve the digestion. Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 (2) copy My son soon got stuck in.  He and one of his rivals seemed to think the nearer the dish they got, the better their chances.

Old man.001

An elderly gentleman, eating at a leisurely pace, had probably just come along for his dinner.

The 39th Soho Festival is to be held this September.  Details can be obtained from the Soho Society at 55 Dean St., W1.

For my evening meal I enjoyed Jackie’s delicious chicken curry, savoury rice, and samosas so much that I paid scant attention to the last of the Terre de Galets which was meant to accompany it.

Ondekoza

Seamans Lane

Rose and honeysuckleAlthough it brightened up enough around noon to add a glow to vibrant magenta roses intertwined with honeysuckle in a Minstead hedgerow, the day dawned dull and dank as I walked the Seamans Lane/Shave Wood loop.  I did not venture off the tarmac.Roses and honeysuckle

The blossom I had seen on the edge of the forest leading to Football Green was indeed apple, as evidenced by the little green fruit on the boughs.

Apple tree

Until I met Anne in Minstead, I had the road to myself.  The elderly woman has been away for a while whilst her dilapidated house with its waterlogged garden, photographed on 21st April, was being refurbished.  It was good to see her back home and looking well.

On 24th February I posted information about Elizabeth’s Open Studios exhibition to take place in August. Ondekoza, 9.76. 001 There I mentioned that I was to submit some photographs of drumming that I took in September 1976, of the stunning Japanese band of timpanists that entertained the Soho Festival that year.  Ondekoza, 9.76. 002This afternoon I made a start by unearthing the original colour slides, scanning them and uploading  (if that’s the right word) them to my computer.  There was a fairly considerable amount of retouching to take out tiny blemishes in these little rectangles of positive film almost 37 years old.  They do not have the sharp clarity of today’s digital images, but maybe they are none the worse for that. Ondekoza, 9.76. 002 - Version 2 One I have even managed to crop, yet still retain enough of a focus to show the speed of the drumstick fanned across the drummer’s face.  We’ll see what I manage to do when I come to print them tomorrow.

Ondekoza, 9.76. 003

Jackie is camping at Corfe Castle with Helen and Shelly, but she still fed me this evening.  She has left me enough cooked meals and cold meats, pies and bread to last me a fortnight, let alone the four days she will be away. Chicken curry meal This evening I made a little impression on the large casserole of chicken curry, and ate one of the beautifully served dishes of savoury rice with a vegetable samosa and a nan, accompanied by a bottle of Kingfisher.  I did have to microwave the home-cooked dishes and heat the samosa and bread in the oven, but that wasn’t really any hardship.

Righting The Beetle

Impersonating a man with a great deal of local knowledge as I walked through Minstead this morning to pick up my route through the two underpasses turning at the Sir Walter Tyrrell pub, there was only one visitor I was unable to direct.  One of two, that is.  Just a 50% success rate.  Not very impressive really.

Bracken

The bracken on the other side of the A31 has almost obscured some of the tracks I took last time I trod a diagonal to Rufus Stone (see post of 19th November last year).  However, my friends will be relieved to learn that I was unerring in my direction.  Maybe they won’t.  Had I erred they may have had a laugh.

Degrading tree trunk

Some of the fallen trees have degraded enough to be flaking and blending well with last year’s autumn leaves.

The forest was very quiet today. Pony making for Rufus Stone car park Just two sounds interrupted my silence.  The first was a sudden neighing.  This is very unusual.  Ponies don’t usually waste that much energy.  I turned to see four of them making their way to the Rufus Stone car park, where they no doubt hoped to perform some scam on eager tourists.  I could have told them that the visitors hadn’t arrived yet.  A little later, a scuttling in the crispness underfoot, had me turning to spy a scut scooting through the undergrowth.  It was the tail of either a small deer or a very large rabbit.

Forest scape 2

Fallen forest giants blocked the pathways and lent their own prehistoric ambience to the wooded landscape.Forest scape 3Fallen tree 3Fallen tree 2Fallen tree

Moss-covered stumpA primeval swamp creature metamorphosed into a moss-covered stump and its roots.

Bracket fungiI’m sure there is a name for the step-thingies that climbers inset into sheer rock faces so that they may scale them.  Bracket fungi on a dead tree looked to me to be the prehistoric climber’s version of these.

It is sometimes amazing what one finds in the forest. Shoes Today’s gem was a pair of inappropriate footwear.  I speculated about who may have left them.  Had it been an eighteenth century beau?  Had it been Sybil Leek, whose story was told on 22nd of this month?  If so, where was her pointed hat?  Or was it one of the young women who had participated in the orgy mentioned on 22nd May?  And why were they placed so neatly?

Soon after finding these, I heard siren song, and was tempted by glimpses of diaphanous material wafting across a comparatively open space, to investigate.  Bog cottonThis led me into very boggy terrain in which I expected to be stranded.  Never having been daft enough to venture into a quagmire before moving to Minstead, I had not seen this white fabric before, and looked it up on Google when I got home.  It was, of course, bog cotton.

Wings

Back on dry ground, I found a pair of sloughed wings.

Stag beetleAs I clambered up the gravel path from the Malwood Farm underpass, I encountered a small stag beetle struggling across the stones.  This took me back to the long hot summers of my childhood in the dry and dusty suburbs of Raynes Park and Wimbledon.  There may, of course, have only been one such summer, but, as we know, anything that happens once in a child’s life is magnified in later life into a regular occurrence.

However often it was, a regular sight was a, usually much larger, (but then it would be to a child, wouldn’t it?) beetle lying on its back, its legs twitching away.  Chris and I, like all other boys, kind and generous to all living creatures, always put these insects out of their misery and back onto their feet.  This required a certain amount of nerve, and a lever.  After all, we were not going to put our fingers near those grasping claws.  If we were eating an ice lolly at the time there was no problem.  We just had to watch the squirming animal while we finished our refreshment, and we then had a ready-made implement or two.  If not, we had to search out a twig.  These were not in plentiful supply in our streets.  Or a used match.  There were loads of them, but they were a bit short, which meant fingers near the grabbers.  It was okay if we shifted the beetle through 180 degrees first time.  It would then stagger to its feet and make off sharpish.  If, however, we applied to much force, the poor creature went through 360 degrees and the procedure had to be repeated.  Probably we should have carried forceps around with us.  I do hope the beetles were eternally grateful.

Tonight we dined on a superb mixed grill casserole with twice cooked swede and potato mash and virgin cauliflower.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I began Terres de Galets bottle number 010165.

The Nuthatch

Jackie's side gardenBack down to earth after yesterday’s Mottisfont display, we were nevertheless delighted to note the progression of Jackie’s south side garden, begun some time after the kitchen one. Verbena and marigolds With few exceptions, her plants are benefitting from her love and attention, and the warmer weather.

Jackie was running out of certain specific items of bird food.  They now take precedence over shopping for human nutriment.  So we had to go to In-eXcess near Poulner on the A31 for replenishments.  While she bought the avian fodder and sat with her newspaper in the establishment’s cafe waiting for me, I walked a loop taking in Hangersley, Linford, and Shobley.  Horses in pastureThis consisted of sometimes steeply undulating lanes, harbouring idyllic homes, and offering views of sweeping woodland and hillside pasturage.  Bramble blossomThe thick hedgerows are decked with dog rose, bramble blossom, and honeysuckle, attracting much insect life.

Honeysuckle hedgerow

As I vainly wafted my ordnance survey map and watched horses switching their tails, I discovered why they are equipped with fly sheets.

margritti-this-is-not-a-pipeThe Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting, ‘The Treachery of Images’ is of a pipe beneath which is the phrase ‘this is not a pipe’.  The philosopher was correct.  It was not actually a pipe, but the image of one.

Hoverfly on dogroseSimilarly, the insect that alighted on the dog rose, was not what it looks like.  This was a harmless individual that masquerades as something else much more harmful, no doubt to scare off the opposition.  Not a bee, not a wasp, it was a hoverfly.

Whilst she was preparing our dinner of delicious sausage, bacon, and liver casserole, Jackie was startled by a thud from outside, as of a bird hitting glass.  Nuthatch on matShe looked outside and saw a nuthatch on the welcome mat, with  metaphoric stars in a speech bubble above its dazed head.  It was then her turn to bang on a window as she came round outside the sitting room and I handed her the camera. Nuthatch on blind On her return her little friend had recovered sufficiently to fly, but was disoriented enough to be perched at the top of the kitchen window blind.  I don’t think it still had limited vision.  It soon disappeared.

The aforementioned casserole was enjoyed with potato, carrot and swede mash; cauliflower; and, by me, the last of the Terres de Galets.

Graham Stuart Thomas

Rose garden 4This warm and changeable day turned out to be perfect for a visit to a National Trust garden.  We drove quite smoothly through Romsey, and past the Mountbatten home of Broadlands, where we would normally expect to encounter queues of traffic.  It was, however, as we neared our goal that we met the queues.  Cars formed lines in each direction at the entrance to the overflow car park.  The main one was already full at midday.  Rather harassed young men with SECURITY stamped on their jerkins waved us in one by one.  As we alighted we were told we were in the wrong place and likely to cause a bottleneck.  It wasn’t immediately clear how we could do that, but Jackie, adopting the usual placid persona she reserves for anything to do with the car, calmly and collectedly moved her Modus to the far corner of the uncut meadow  which served as a parking area.

What could possibly have brought all these vehicles to a National Trust house on a Tuesday in term-time?   Ah.  All was soon revealed.  The aged of the nation had descended en masse on Mottisfont.  We have now joined those privileged senior citizens who have done their time in their offices, factories, or whatever workplaces, and have the opportunity to litter the countryside with their presence.  I posted a previous visit to Mottisfont on 7th September.Pink climber This time, we were earlier in the season and able to enjoy the rose garden for which the house is justifiably famous.

Rose garden 2

For more than 800 years people have lived and worked on the Mottisfont estate.  The name comes from a Saxon moot, or meeting place, by a fountain. This site remains in the grounds, and is still a clear spring.

Mottisfont lawn

Crossing one of the several threads of the River Test, one sees the house across rolling lawns.  Meadow, MottisfontMeadows are retained on the edges and the area is home to many a massive tree.  Benches are dotted about and their shady situations offer places for rest or contemplation.  Motorised buggies transport those less mobile.

Jackie in walled garden, Mottisfont

We immediately made our way to the walled garden that contains many roses itself, and leads into the showpiece.

Rose garden

Rose spiralLast September there were still some roses in bloom, so I was familiar with the garden created by the Gardens Adviser to the National Trust, but I was totally unprepared for the magnificent display that greeted us as we made our way through the ancient brick walls to the gravel and stone paths laid amongst the profusion and variety of colourful flora. Rose garden 3 That the sun had chosen to light up the garden, filled with pensioners, some of whose clothing matched the horticultural hues, completed the picture.

I think Monet would have loved it. Bee in semi-double magenta rose

Whether one focussed on the whole landscape picture with the figures of those of a certain age dotted about amongst the flowers, or on the blooms themselves, there was much to delight the eye.Peony and rose, Mottisfont Iris

Rosa GallicaAmong the roses can been seen other plants such as peonies, irises, delphiniums, or allium.  All clearly benefitting from well-nurtured soil.

The aforementioned Gardens Adviser was Graham Stuart Thomas.  He moved his outstanding collection of old-fashioned shrub roses to Mottisfont’s walled garden during 1972 and 1973.Graham Stuart Thomas

A fine yellow rose bears his name.

We chose not to visit the house today, and went for a walk along the river bank.  Last September there was an exhibition in the house of E.H.Shepard’s illustrations to Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’.  Shepard’s drawings include an iron bridge much like the one you must cross to reach the riverside walk.  Indeed, to accompany the exhibition, a rowing boat such as Toad may have used, had been moored by the bridge.Bridge over River Test

Riverside walkA number of couples walked along the water’s edge.  Some ventured even further, into a vast meadow where cows lowed.

Ready for a sudden insecticidal leap to the surface, large trout lurked like U-boats among the underwater reeds that were flattened and fanned out by the swift flowing current that forced the ducks to paddle furiously just to persist in their desire to swim against it.Trout lurkingUnderwater reeds

As we made our way past an enormous sylvan structure that is two ancient plane trees in one, a troop of children that must have had very little impact on the average age of today’s visitors, fell over each other to be the first to reach the subject of their field trip. Plane tree school trip, Mottisfont Their escorts struggled to keep them to order.

Back home we learned that all the garages had been broken into overnight.  We lost nothing.  One man lost a torch, and another, two golf clubs.  It was rather difficult to see the point of the burglary.

Jackie made a juicy liver casserole as an excuse to use the giant cauliflower she had bought a couple of days ago.  This was enjoyed on my part with the last of bottle number 012919 of the Terres de Galets and the first of number 000198.

Pick The Bucket

Just a week away from July, I was actually cold as I walked down to Seamans Corner and back this morning to post a letter.  For a city dweller it may seem hardly worth recording such a trip, but it does take twenty minutes.  I reflected on a far more painful crawl to a post box described in ‘The London Marathon’ on 25th September last year.  I omitted to mention that that receptacle was just two or three hundred yards away.

This afternoon we motored to The Firs to continue work begun yesterday.  Jackie finished trimming the edges and did a lot more planting; Compost binsI performed some maintenance work on the compost bins and finished the mowing; and Elizabeth spent the afternoon tidying up the debris corner and packing her car so that she and I could do a dump trip.

Rosa Glauca

Many plants are now thriving as a result of last year’s work, be it the planting of fresh flowers or the nurturing of existing shrubs and smaller flora.

The Rosa Glauca, VerbascumVerbascum,Geum and foxgloves Geum, and Old English scented rose I have photographed were chosen almost at random.Old English scented rose

In the early evening Elizabeth and I took her second car-load to the municipal dump.  The main purpose was to transport much rubble from the house’s recently repaired chimney stack.  We also found room for the rotting innards of a beehive; a wooden ladder that had lost most of its rungs;  several bagfuls of pruned shrubbery and brambles; and even Jackie’s wheelie shopping bag that had finally collapsed under one of its loads of bags of compost.

I have previously mentioned my sister’s propensity for bringing at least one souvenir with her back from the dump.  Today was to be no exception.  She had placed the rubble in various buckets and other receptacles and loaded them into the car.  It must have been very difficult for her to have lifted them over the rim of the boot.  Possibly as difficult as it was for me to lift them rather higher into the enormous skip labelled ‘Soil and Rubble’.  I recommend anyone trying this at home to test lift anything to go into a Council skip at least to shoulder height before attempting the task.  If you can’t lift the container, reduce its contents.

BucketsWe travelled back with an extra bucket, Elizabeth’s, for £2 for cash.  A prize is offered for the reader who correctly identifies the new bucket.  Answers in a comment please.

Whilst I was waiting for Jackie, Elizabeth and Danni to change for a trip to the Masala Lounge in Chandler’s Ford for our evening meal, I amused myself watching the still toiling bees crawling in and out of foxgloves in search of honey. FoxgloveBee in foxglove They would fly in their ungainly manner, loaded to the thighs already, silently disappear up the trumpet-shaped petals, take their fill, stagger out, and move on to another.

Our meal was excellent, and the service, albeit a little slow, friendly and efficient.  Danni, who had found the restaurant some time ago, had often suggested we go there.  It was a good recommendation.  She drank a Chilean merlot, whilst the rest of us imbibed Cobra beer.

On the way there I travelled with Elizabeth, whilst Jackie drove Danni.  At one point my driver, addressing no-one in particular, announced that she had to charge up her eye pads this evening.  As I hadn’t realised she had an ocular problem, other than the family short-sightedness, I wondered why she needed such appliances.  After all, she was at the wheel and had my life in her hands.  This sent her into helpless laughter which made me all the more nervous since she appeared likely to lose control altogether.  When able to gather herself together she explained that she now possessed two i-Pads, one specifically for work, and they both needed recharging.