She Was Indispensable

Morning gloryBidding farewell to Jackie’s Morning Glory, after she delivered me to Southampton I boarded the train for Waterloo for a last weekend’s packing before the final removal from Sutherland Place.  Not a journey you want to make on a hot Saturday morning.  Had a woman, who was leaving the train in a few minutes at Winchester, not offered me her seat, I would have had to stand all the way.  I had already walked through several carriages, struggling past assorted standing passengers and luggage blocking the aisles.  Shortly after this the guard made an announcement telling people with bicycles not in the cycle racks that they would have to leave the train; and another informing customers that they could sit in first class for a £5 supplement.

From Waterloo I took the tube to Queensway and walked the rest of the way.  Roger, the gardener brought me the keys and I set to work whilst waiting for Anne, home in England from Athens for a few days, who had generously offered to come and help me.  It is always good to see our friend whom I have known for many years.  She is not often in England now, so I consider myself most fortunate that she was free today, for she was indispensable.  An expert packer, she aptly took over Jackie’s role as the practical one. First she drove me to Safestore where I bought more storage boxes and bubble wrap.  There was a slight problem driving into the forecourt as the road was blocked by two old red London buses having been hired for a wedding reception.

After this Anne displayed great skill in safely packing china and glasses whilst I got on with the books.  She, as a globetrotter, had clearly done this many times before.  When we ran out of bubble wrap we used my ancient finance files, more than six years old and therefore no longer likely to be required by Inland Revenue.  It was amusing to see invoices and receipts providing a crinkly shell for wine and sherry containers.  Our friend spent all afternoon tackling this task in an impressively methodical way.  She didn’t break anything, but in my one attempt to help her I managed to snap a stem.  I left it to her after that.

I had been warned that a prospective new tenant was to visit this afternoon.  A young family came to view with the estate agent.

Shortly before I left Sutherland Place three years ago I watched an elegant middle-aged woman painstakingly renovate and redecorate the outside of a shopfront in Chepstow Road, just around the corner from Westbourne Grove, that had suffered some neglect.  This was soon to re-open as Otto, a pizza house providing cornmeal crust products.  Jackie and I enjoyed it so much that we visited it several times in the last days here.  The woman was the mother of the very personable new owner.  When I visited it this evening, I was asked if I had eaten there before.  I was happy to relate this story and to congratulate their success.  It is now a very vibrant eating place to be highly recommended to anyone finding themselves in the area in search of a meal. Otto's pizza This evening I enjoyed a pizza with extra jalapeno, a crisp, dressed, side salad, and a glass of excellent Rioja.  The establishment was buzzing.  Their third birthday party is on the 18th September.  We are invited.  I regret that we are unlikely to attend.

Scarecrows

Something dawned on us as we sat drinking our coffee this morning.  Doctors.  You see, I mostly keep away from them, but have recently had a few trips for minor stuff.  Maybe, its because, as Prof. Johnny Lyon-Maris said yesterday, ‘[I’ve] never been 71 before’.  However, this got Jackie and me reflecting on our respective mothers’ reluctance to call in the GP.  Yes, they used to visit in those heady early days.

Jackie, a second child, was born in 1948.  One of her contemporaries was the National Health Service.  I was born when the NHS was not even a twinkle in Beveridge’s eye.  Then, if you wanted a doctor, you had to pay for it.  No wonder parents of slender means thought twice about risking the rent money.

Tour 'DEUX' France scarecrows

Soon after ten Jackie drove us to Sway to collect Sheila Knight and spend the day giving her a tour. Bisterne young farmers scarecrowPac a Mac scarecrow We began with the Bisterne Scarecrow Festival Trail.  Dalek scarecrowThis involved a trip around Bisterne and its environs following a map plotting scarecrows created by local people. Redundant scarecrow Some were easier than others to spot.  Where's Wally? scarecrowWe never did find two of them.

James scarecrows

A great deal of thought and humour has gone into the creation of rustic works of art reflecting topical and cultural themes. George and the Dragon scarecrows The recent birth of Prince George was celebrated in at least three displays, notably ‘George and the Dragon’ which would have appealed to Flo, our family dragonologist. The tortoise and the hair (sic) scarecrows Nearby laze the tortoise and the hair (sic).  The wit of The crow's nest scarecrow‘Scarecrow Ashes’ appealed to me. Scarecrow Ashes The scarecrow is a cricketer, fronted by a dustbin containing wellies beside which is a small shovel of ashes, suggesting other scarecrows have been incinerated.

Gruffalo scarecrow‘The crow’s nest’ puts one in mind of a bird cocking a snoop at those meant to scare it off.

Sheila’s favourite was ‘The Gruffalo’.

Scarenam Scy scarecrows

The performance of ‘Scarenam Scy’ would no doubt rival that of Jessica and Imogen in their new kitchen on June 16th.

So where's the picnic and Goldilocks scarecrows

Maid scarecrow

A maid with a tray of mugs stood outside a house we are interested in, advertising tea in the Village Hall which abuts the house, and which will be the beneficiary of donations received by the artists.By George, he's a big boy scarecrow

And baby makes three scarecrows

Bin around scarecrow

After exhausting this splendid display we travelled to Christchurch where we lunched in the excellent Old Mill cafe/restaurant.  Meals were plentiful and well cooked.  I ate a full English breakfast; Sheila had a toasted teacake; and Jackie chose two fried eggs on toast.  I was given a free pot of tea. This happened by default.  Ordering, as is normal, was done at the counter.  There was a queue.  I ordered the tea for me and cappuccinos for the ladies.  The young lady serving asked whether chocolate was required to top the coffees.  I said I didn’t know, but I would go and ask while she made the tea.  I returned very quickly.  The tea lay on the counter, alongside the coffees, which I placed on the tray provided.  As I reached for the tea, she said it was for the man on my left, that is next in the queue.  ‘Did you order tea?’ she asked.  I confirmed I had, so she pushed the one on the counter towards the other man and said she’d make me one afterwards.  He said I should have his, which I did.  I offered more money, as I had already paid for the coffee and meals.  She waved me away, indicating she wouldn’t bother with it.  The other chap then joked: ‘Oh, that one’s mine then’.  As I turned away the young woman pushed a yellow plastic duck towards me, saying: ‘You’ve forgotten your table number’.  The duck was emblazoned with the number 17.

After this we took a trip on a ferryboat that took us on a figure of eight route to Mudeford and Tuckton. Mudeford sheds A very friendly pair of boatmen informed us that the ‘sheds’ or beach huts at the picturesque Mudeford quay now sell for £240,000 each.  And that is without utilities, running water, or lavatories.

The peace and calm of this nautical journey was disturbed by the excitement caused by the exhibition laid on by the Red Arrows who were performing at the Bournemouth Air Display.  The passengers regarded this as a bonus.

While Jackie went off to move the car, Sheila and I visited Christchurch’s historic priory church.  Before returning to Sway we showed our friend the outside of Highcliffe Castle.

We dined with Sheila at the Sway Manor Hotel.  The food was excellent.  Sheila and I enjoyed a creamy vegetable soup while Jackie’s starter was a prawn cocktail; Jackie and I tucked into tender, non-fatty, pork belly, while Sheila praised her large slow-roasted duck leg.  That was enough for Sheila and me, but Jackie ate a wonderful slice of lemon meringue pie.  I drank a glass of red Chilean wine.

After Jackie drove us home I set about the mammoth task of uploading all these pictures.

Resting Places

My chauffeuse was gadding about with her sisters today, so I had to take myself to Lyndhurst for Prof. Lyon-Maris to check on the freezing of my wart.  I could, of course, have booked a cab, but decided to walk the four miles to the surgery via Emery Down in stages.  The first stop was the bench at The Splash.  A comparatively young man came striding across the grass.  This was Kevin, who with his wife Louise I had met briefly on February 20th.  Today they had driven past and recognised me.  We spoke for three quarters of an hour.  At one point we were surrounded by cattle.  A loud bellowing from a cow alerted us to the fact that her calf had approached us.Cattle and cyclists  She was warning either the little one or ourselves to keep off.  A string of passing cyclists caused the mother to turn her head, and the calf wandered off.  Never take your eyes off your child in public for a moment.

Soon after starting the second leg of my journey I came across a bovine kindergarten siesta. Calf kindergarten Figuratively tucked up in their little camp beds, the youngsters, like many of their human counterparts, didn’t much want to sleep.  One of their carers looked as if she could do with the rest.

As I reached the brow of the hill between Emery Down and Lyndhurst, I was grateful to the friends of Norman Sendall who had placed a bench in his memory on the forest verge.  Norman plaqueThat is where I took my second break.  While I was engrossed in my book, a car drew up and came to a standstill alongside me.  Out stepped Berry to offer me a lift home.  I had to explain that I hadn’t reached where I was going yet.

It was a hot and humid day, so it was just as well I arrived with an hour to spare to sit on the weatherbeaten seat beside the Youth Club in a corner of the carpark, and dry out before stripping off for the doctor. Seat outside Youth Club Forget the benches in the High Street.  They were all occupied by dripping ice cream cones clutched by visitors of all ages.

The professor had a third go at freezing the stubborn wart, and, while he held me captive, gave me a pneumonia vaccination.

Lyndhurst was its usual bottleneck, so The Swan at Emery Down, to which I walked to await a taxi, became my final resting place, where I enjoyed a pint of Doom Bar.Pint at The Swan  On seeing me photograph the beverage in context, a young woman asked, incredulously: ‘Are you taking a picture of your pint of beer?’  When I replied in the affirmative, her small daughter asked me: ‘Are you drunk?’.  Feigning incensement, I pointed to the glass and indicated how little I had yet consumed.  The taxi arrived much earlier than anticipated, so I had to down the rest in a hurry.

Before preparing my scrambled eggs on toast garnished with rather soft radishes, I once again admired Jackie’s planting, the like of which had regularly earned her plaudits from Merton In BloomTagetes and snapdragons As I was about to dish up, the head gardener, who I had expected to eat out with her siblings, arrived home and added fish fingers to the menu.

‘Where’s The Tripod?’

This being a Norman and Carol day, Jackie drove me to Southampton where I boarded the train to Waterloo and thence to Neasden by Jubilee Line.  As I disembarked onto the tube platform a young German family asked me the way to an Indian temple of which I was unaware.  They showed the photograph of a large complex in white stone reminiscent of the Morden mosque which I visited on 18th May last year.  I had never seen what Norman subsequently told me was the largest Hindu temple outside India.  The guidebook that contained the photograph was helpful to neither them nor me.  I don’t read German.

I led them to a map on the wall of the station entrance.  There we found it.  Neasden station is on Neasden Lane.  The temple is on the North Circular Road.  These two thoroughfares are separated by the railway line.  There is no route across at that point.  After yesterday’s fiasco, I didn’t really feel equipped to offer further guidance.  Nevertheless I had a go.  They seemed happy with my solution which was to turn left out of the station, left again after a short while, and to weave through side streets to reach the North Circular.  Quite a long way down that they would reach their goal.  I speculated that they might find a bus.  I do hope they made it.

Observant readers may have noticed I haven’t done much walking since the complaining calf I reported on 6th of this month.  This is because it is still whinging.  As I walked from the station to Norman’s, the voice of my Dad, as it often does, came to me.  He had recommended feet pointing straight ahead, not splayed outwards, and shoulders back.  I still attempt to follow his direction.  Dad didn’t quite reach the age when aching joints make this all a little difficult.  Or if he did, he never mentioned it.  It was a German friend of Chris’s who claimed that if, after a certain age, you woke up one morning and nothing hurt, you were dead.  Well, I am not dead yet, and a few aches and pains are not going to deter me.  A strained calf is another matter, and I was under strict instruction from Jackie not to take my usual perambulation to Green Park.  For once I had more sense, and anyway, she reads the blog.

I met a couple of men surveying the large junction at the end of Neasden Lane and was able to confirm that what they thought must have been an old cinema was indeed just that.  This led us on to discuss the Granada, Tooting, in South West London, which has had many incarnations.  Long ago it was built as a magnificent baroque theatre.  In the brief heyday of the cinema it showed films in a splendid setting with three or four thousand seats, and ornate boxes in tiers high above the stalls.  A preserved building, it is now what one of the men termed ‘the finest bingo hall in the land’.  Many years ago I attended there my only bingo session with Auntie Stella.  I fell asleep during the proceedings.

As I sat on the bench talking to the surveyors, I asked them what they had done with their equipment. Roundabout, Neasden Lane Pointing across the roundabout, one said they were keeping an eye on it.  I couldn’t see it, but I thought that was my problem.  Feeling like Harry Enfield’s paternal character, You-Don’t-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That, I suggested they didn’t want to leave it there.  Soon afterwards one hastily gulped down the last of his sandwich and leaped to his feet crying: ‘Where’s the tripod? The tripod’s gone’.  Off he dashed in unsuccessful pursuit. Church Road market He then appeared to be investigating the stalls of Church Road market.  Perhaps that is where he found it, for he did eventually reappear with it.

Surveyor

Norman served succulent stuffed chicken breast followed by flavoursome fruit crumble, accompanied by an excellent Spanish red wine, which he thinks I brought him some time ago.

I then took my usual route to Carol’s and from there to Southampton where Jackie was waiting.

At Cross Purposes

1236377_510306457393_768761580_n[1]Via Facebook last night I was treated to a fitting finale to The Firs Open Studio.  On 17th, the first day, I reported to search for the mislaid sold stickers. (see post)  Elizabeth, Danni, and Andy went off to a pub last night to celebrate the ending of what has been a successful venture.  Opening her handbag, no doubt to pay for a round, my delightful little sister discovered the stickers.  This could, of course, have happened to anyone.

This morning I walked down to the village shop, returning via the footpath to London Minstead.  I met a woman in Seamans Lane, with a much larger dog on a lead, who confirmed Becky’s identification of the wanderers loose on 24th (see post).  They were Jack Russells.  My informant said they were ‘always out’.

At Seamans Corner I watched a thistle seed resisting the efforts of a breeze too gentle to dislodge it from its stem to whisk it away to its germination site.

We took a trip to Ringwood to do some banking this afternoon.  On the way we saw a For Sale notice outside Rufuston, featured on 25th July.  The board was Austin & Wyatt’s.  I went into their Ringwood office to ask if they were the correct branch and to enquire about the house.  There ensued a ridiculous conversation between me and the agent.  Jackie, who accompanied me but sat well back, could see we were at cross purposes, but wasn’t feeling up to intervention.  I explained we had driven from Minstead and passed the house on our left.  I described it.  He said that was not the house for sale, which was the one next door.  He produced a brochure.  That was nothing like the one I knew to be next door.  I had walked past it often enough.  I mentioned the Little Chef and the garage.  He said he’d been there the day before and knew what he was talking about.

I will be the first to admit that I slightly muddied the water by getting East and West muddled, until Jackie put me right.  But I maintain this confusion of orientation does not extend to left and right.  I most certainly do know with which hand I write.

Ever ready to admit I may be slightly in error, I was prepared to take the brochure and check out the house.  This was not a task easily undertaken.  Leaving Ringwood in the direction of Rufuston, one is on the wrong side of the A31.  To come to a halt outside the house by using this major road, it is necessary to drive all the way to Cadnam roundabout in an Easterly direction, well past Rufuston, turn round there and travel Westwards.  To avoid this we had therefore to cross the A31.  This meant going via Burley and the A35, which is a considerable diversion.  Leaving Burley there was a considerable traffic jam caused by a string of ponies planted in the road who wouldn’t budge.  Eventually a man in a T-shirt with an unreadable logo sped on foot down the hill and gesticulated to the animals in order to shift them.  He had to use a bit of brute force as well.  He was distinctly underwhelmed by the well-earned applause he received.  Perhaps he was in more of a hurry than most of us.

RufustonHave I mentioned that you can’t actually drive up to the house from the A35?  No, I thought not.  You can walk to it, but there comes a point where it is safer on the vehicle to abandon the car and continue on foot.  I knew this, of course.  As we parked the car outside what is clearly a residential facility for people with learning difficulties, we were greeted by a very friendly group.  David, not a staff member, greeted us warmly and asked if we had come to look at the house.  Shaking his hand and introducing myself by name, I had to explain that it wasn’t his house we had come to see.  Having the brochure in my hand wasn’t a great deal of help, and possibly confused the situation.  When we finally reached Rufuston, just a few yards away, my impressions were confirmed and endorsed by Jackie.  I checked the phone number on the Austin & Wyatt board.  It was not the Ringwood number.  Now I had distinctly asked the agent whether it could have been another branch involved.  He had said not.  I felt exonerated yet rather annoyed, feeling that just because I had got East and West momentarily muddled, this had all gone pearshaped.

We made our way back to the car, and the comparatively easy route home.  Jackie chose the return journey to be the moment to remember that there was another Little Chef with a garage alongside it on the other side of the A31, much nearer to Ringwood.  She also knew that the St. Leonards on the brochure indicated this area and later confirmed that on the internet.  Well, how was I to know?  I had, after all, expressed some misgivings that the A31 was termed Ringwood Road.

After this it was very comforting to partake of Jackie’s choice chilli con carne (recipe) with wonderful wild rice and to finish the Cahors opened some time last week.  Jackie also partook of the food, but drank Hoegaarden.

The Answer Must Lie In The Postcodes

Windmill landscape

Billingford Mill is maintained by The Norfolk Windmills Trust:

Norfolk Windmills Trust (1)

WindmillThere may be more water pumps than mills, for these former relics of times past were used to pump out water from the county’s precarious terrain reclaimed from the sea.

Were it not for the rooftop in between, the Billingford Mill would have been beautifully framed by our hotel bedroom window.  It was this that drew me out early on this dewy morning to wander into the field in which it stood, and along footpaths around it. Willowherb Sunlight lent a glistening sheen to the willowherb running to seed, and a warning glitter to delineate the strands of the spider’s webs thus deterring flies from entering.Spider in web  These circular spun traps festooned the long grasses bent under the weight of the recent rain.

Returning to the side road by the pub, I passed The Old Smithy, The Old Bakery, and various other cottage dwellings, and walked down to a junction at which I turned right to Brome and Oakley before retracing my steps in time for breakfast.

Field stubble

Shorn stubble stubbornly protruded from some of the fields.Cattle at dawn  In others cattle were enjoying their own morning fodder.  The road crossed a surprisingly fast-flowing stream.

Stream

As Jackie and I descended the fire escape on our way to the bar, a fast-moving vehicle pointed out a hitherto unnoticed fact.  The fire escape led directly, and I mean directly, into the road.  There was, in any case, no pavement.

The Horseshoes

Our most congenial hostess provided a breakfast equally as excellent as yesterday’s.  She confirmed she had, indeed, prepared all the Sunday lunches herself, having a little waiting help. I have revised my impressions of this establishment, which is in fact much more pleasant than the rather basic room suggested.

Pondering the two Billingfords conundrum, I decided the answer must lie in the postcodes.  That of The Horseshoes begins IP (Ipswich); whereas Sue and John’s home, The Old Chapel, starts with NR (Norwich).  Maybe The Horshoes was once in Suffolk, the county of Ipswich.  Newark, after all, in Nottinghamshire, was originally part of Lincolnshire.  My former home there, Lindum House, translated from the Latin, would read Lincoln House.  Our landlady said she sometimes receives mail which should go to The Street in the other Billingford.

We had a more pleasant drive back to The Firs where we learnt that visitors had continued to trickle in during our absence, and my cards had continued to sell.  After a short stay we returned home, Jackie having intended then to drive us to Walkford with a present and card for Shelly, whose actual birthday it is today.  In the event, after driving several hundred miles in three days, she decided she couldn’t do it.

Berties (sic) has moved to Lyndhurst.  This fish and chip shop graced Lymington Road in Highcliffe for about forty years before being sold to the current owners, who moved to our nearest large village in 2012.  Unfortunately for the proprietors and prospective diners, builders let everyone down over the work in the new restaurant, so locals have, until very recently, made do with a takeaway.  Having eagerly awaited the opening, we learned that it has at last happened.  When she woke from a well-earned sleep, Jackie drove us there where we enjoyed large haddock meals.  Jackie drank coffee, while I had tea.

Don’s Eightieth

Don

The reception at breakfast went a long way to improving my feelings about The Horseshoes.  Our table was already laid for us.  We were greeted by a very friendly woman who cooked us a Full English to perfection.  At the same time she was single-handedly preparing mounds of Sunday lunch for the general public.  The bars were very clean, although the upholstery showed signs of wear.  We speculated that the owners were having to economise, and were doing well to remain open when pubs throughout the land are closing at such a rate.

Coffee bar

After breakfast Jackie drove us to Great Yarmouth where we sought the internet and found it in Starbucks in Gates Market shopping mall. Seaside town street Wandering around this vast holiday town we had the feeling that we were on a casting set of the television sitcom ‘Benidorm’.  There is something dispiriting about swarms of people wandering vacantly or with bored expressions filling the cheap stores and amusement arcades that line the streets. Bowls 2 Other activities included the Great Yarmouth bowls festival.  Most players of this national sport are, like my Grandmother Annie Hunter, who played for Durham, beyond their first youth.  Heads at bowlsThere was, however, at least one young lad on the green.  Young lad bowlingThe idea, I understand, is to roll the bowls down the sward, getting them to finish as near the much smaller jack as possible.  Having played a little in my teens, I can vouch for the considerable skill that is involved.

Aiming for Cromer on the A149 as a slight diversion en route to the correct Billingford we were diverted onto the coast road because of an accident.  The diversion was therefore somewhat less slight. Don's party When we arrived in the beautiful sunshine that had displaced yesterday’s rain we discovered we were not the only people who had fallen foul of the two Billingfords.

Don's drummer and pianistOn a beautiful afternoon we had a very enjoyable time with Don’s family and friends. It was especially good to meet his daughters Carol and Sue and their husbands, as I had known them a little when they were in their teens. Stepson Roddy, his wife Hayley, and their sons were other welcome guests.  Roddy, too, I had known in his teens.  Don was in great form, belying his great age.  A jazz band completed the atmosphere.  Don is a great fan. Don's party Jazz band He also likes real ale, so there was a plentiful supply of that, to go with the excellent barbecue, managed by son-in-law John.

We set off back to the wrong Billingford soon after seven.  The band played on.