A strong smell of overheated paint came from our very effective new radiator this morning so Jackie opened the sitting room windows.  I wondered whether the new appliance might be a wee bit counterproductive.

I spent the morning on my laptop, effectively putting off the search for the advent calendars in the garage.  We had made a start on this task yesterday evening.  This involved trying to find a way through to the back of the boxes of books placed in there by Globe Removals on 2nd September. As it turned out, we had in fact extracted the correct calendar container without realising it, so Jackie fished the required items out straight  away.

IMG_6713Unfortunately we discovered that, because of the uneven weights of the book boxes, there were a number of accidents waiting to happen.  In truth, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to lift them.  With Jackie’s help, it proved to be entirely possible to tidy the stacks, and in the process, I unearthed most of my photo albums.

My archival system is such that it is sometimes easier to locate a photograph from the print in one of the albums, which will then tell me, with any luck, whether I need to find a negative or a slide.  Or maybe, as today, I just wanted a suitable picture of a subject and it didn’t really matter exactly when it had been taken.  In this manner, the finding of the albums made it possible for me to locate a shot of Michael and his dog Piper. Michael & Piper 6.77 I wanted this to illustrate earlier posts about the boy and his foundling, especially one concerning the advent of the dog.  It was a colour slide taken in Horse & Dolphin Yard in June 1977.  I didn’t need to do any more than take out a few dust specks.

Jackie walking by Andrew's Mare

Jackie by Andrew's Mare

Pony in pondIt being another glorious autumn day we drove up to the Andrew’s Mare car park and both walked a tour of the ponds.  Amazingly, but for a pony slaking its thirst and having a paddle, we had this usually quite crowded spot to ourselves.  Pony leaving pondPony in pond (backlit)The pony showed its displeasure at receiving my attention, by walking up out of one pool and, attempting to blind me by the sun, stepping into another.

The animal could not have known that its peaceful ablutions were soon to be disturbed by a band of marauding dogs of varying breeds that were being decanted from a number of vehicles as we returned to the car park.  We had just missed dog walkers’ rush hour.  Whilst it is very encouraging that these animals have the area in which to romp and chase sticks, it is a great shame that the beautiful spot is fouled by heaps of their excreta that their owners have not seen fit to remove.  We know that pony droppings are found everywhere in the forest, but their recycled material is not the same as that of carnivores.Buzzard feathers in gorse

The remnants of a buzzard caught in a gorse bush blended rather well with the yellow flowers.

Throughout this walk we heard a steady roar from the A31.  A31  from Andrew's MareThe sun glinted on the vehicles which could be seen from just one point, demonstrating that we were standing further away from the road than we would be in our own garden.  Nevertheless we do not hear it at home.

Pony BookendsWhen we arrived at the car park we noticed what Jackie described as ‘bookends’ in equine form. Pony bookends in bracken Apart from one which turned its back on its companion under Jackie’s scrutiny, neither of these creatures moved a muscle, not even an eyelid, for the whole of our period at the site.

Pony's breath

It is now cold enough for the ponies’ breath once more to form visible swirls of steam.  That way we could tell that they were real.

From here we drove, via Emery Down and Bolderwood, under the A31 to the villages to the north, and back via Godshill along Roger Penny Way, catching the splendid sunset as we motored.

Cattle crossingA galloping cow, for those of you who have never seen one, is not a pretty sight. Cattle climbing Ungainly at the best of times these milk suppliers with bodies too large for their slender legs, and bones sticking out all over the place, lollop along from side to side, seeming at any moment likely to collapse like grounded kites.  It is even less attractive when there is a large herd of them thundering down from one high field, stampeding across the road in the midst of bewildered traffic, and climbing a well-trodden footpath on the other side.  We know, because we had plenty of time to sit and await their Ibsley Common at sunsetdeparture when they did just that as we approached Ibsley Common, incidentally owned by the National Trust.  Maybe, unlike the ponies, they had run out of steam once they had crossed the road, because their uphill climb was more laboured.

Chicken marinaded in mustard and lemon sauceEarly this evening we dined on another of Jackie’s beautifully presented symphonic masterpieces; a study in ochre and cream with a dash of green, represented by chicken marinaded and baked in mustard and lemon sauce, cauliflower cheese, sautéed potatoes and nuggets of runner beans.  It tasted as good as it looks.  I have to admit that I served myself.  Had Jackie done so, there would have been no sauce splashed on the rim of the plate, and one of the beans would not have broken free.  I drank some more of the Valdepenas Gran Familia reserve 2007, whilst Jackie’s choice was Isla Negra sauvignon blanc reserve 2012.

‘I Told You [It] Was Ill’

Back in the summer we told our landlord’s estate agent that one of the thirty year old storage heaters wasn’t working.  This was inspected in September and pronounced not to be functioning.  After a month I prodded the agent.  A week or so later we were told another company would be in touch to have a look at it.  Two appointments were made over the space of about three weeks and cancelled by the firm, either on the day or the day before.  Lady Bracknell, in Oscar Wilde’s play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, utters the lines ‘to lose one parent …. may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness’.  She came to mind when, for the second time in succession the excuse given had been someone ringing in sick.

Eventually I had a call from the electrical company asking if they could come that afternoon.  I said that was not possible because we were going out.  The man wanted to make another appointment.  I said that, given the history, I wasn’t prepared to make one.  He then asked when we’d be back. An agreement was reached that the men would come at 5 p.m. that afternoon.  They did.  They confirmed the heater wasn’t working.  They would then have to report back to the agent.  After they’d gone, the manager phoned and suggested an adjustment I could make.  He talked me through it.  As we are on Economy 7 tariff, even if it were operating the heat would not come through until the morning, so he volunteered to phone me then and check.  He didn’t.  The tweaking had been unsuccessful anyway.

As with every potential expenditure above a certain figure, the sum of which we don’t know, we are told that the landlord, who lives in Canada has to be e-mailed for consent.  We are also told replies are difficult to come by.  The electrician’s judgement was that a replacement was required and the landlord’s permission had to be sought.  I had by then informed the agent of the inordinate delay over getting the current firm to inspect something we all knew to be defunct anyway, and expressed my usual displeasure at essential repairs needing long-distance landlords’ permission.  A week later the outlay was approved.  I was told the firm would be contacting me again.  After a few more days they did.  Referring to the history, I refused to make an appointment.  I said that if Penyards, the agent, wished to make one and attend on behalf of the landlord, we would of course grant access, but were not prepared to undertake to be present when experience had told us no-one was likely to attend.  Within minutes the agent telephoned me and agreed to be present for an appointment she would make with the electricians.

The appointment was this morning.  It was kept, both parties arriving early.  As we were not going out I said the agent need not stay.  We now have a nice new heater.

It seems time to display the splendid soups on which we lunch when at home during the winter months. Vegetable soup Here is today’s Jackie special: Vegetable with lashings of leeks.  Very warming and tasty.

The bread knife, of which the handle is protruding from beside the loaf, has enjoyed more than fifty years of uninterrupted use.  It was a wedding present from Auntie Gwen to Vivien and me in June 1963.  Unfortunately the board that accompanied it was lost in the move from Lindum House in December 2006.

St Paul's (Vivien) 8.63After Vivien and I married, she continued to work as a colleague of mine at Lloyd’s, until just before Michael was born the following April.  We still wandered around the City area at lunchtime, and were always fascinated by how often St Paul’s would appear between gaps in buildings.  When I took the next ‘posterity’ photograph, in August 1963, my first wife was walking towards me on the right hand side of the road.  I don’t remember  which street we were in, but in those days there was clearly no trouble parking.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Donna-Marie’s in Ringwood for a haircut.  That is, she provided transport.  She wouldn’t nag me into doing anything.  I had intended to have this a couple of weeks ago, but anyone who has followed the sinus saga will know I could not have allowed anyone near my head.

Today’s title is a slightly amended version of the marvellous Spike Milligan’s famous epitaph: ‘I told you I was ill’.  article-2146080-00EF30651000044C-550_468x286Milligan’s own words are inscribed in Gaelic on his gravestone.

I finished the Gran Familia and Jackie drank Hoegaarden with this evening’s delicious chicken curry and savoury rice.  Vanilla ice cream with a dollop of strawberry jam and a coating of evaporated milk completed the meal.

A Double Six

Our High Streets are dying.  Those in the smaller towns seem to have more Charity Shops than any other single outlet.  Even Bournemouth’s Castlepoint yesterday failed to produce a particular present about which I must, at the moment, be discreet, for fear of the intended recipient sussing.

Before Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway for my London trip we therefore did some research on the Internet.  Carrying this information and my memory, I sought suitable shops once I arrived at Waterloo.  This involved walking the length of Lower Marsh; back to South Bank; across the Golden Jubilee Bridge to Charing Cross; along The Strand; and finally up St Martin’s Lane.  All to no avail.  Both the Lower Marsh and South Bank establishments were now Japanese restaurants, and the other two had become coffee shops. In the words of the song ‘Fings ain’t what they used to be’.  The Internet information had been posted in March, and I had seen the South Bank and Strand stores thriving within the last eighteen months.  Were I to reveal what I was looking for I imagine my readers would speculate that on-line shopping has done for these businesses.  I may let you know my quarry after 25th December.

Christmas Fair

Merry Go Round

Christmas Fair (1)On South Bank there was an extensive and thriving Christmas fair.

Charlie ChaplinOn 19th July I had seen Charlie Chaplin striding along to his performance venue.  Today, at his pitch, he was receiving significant gleefully embarrassed attention.

On the way to Charing Cross underground station to take the Bakerloo line to Baker Street where I changed to the Jubilee line for Neasden, I passed a crowded Trafalgar Square, in which the French seem to have acquired a stake.  Their emblem was in temporary residence on the otherwise empty plinth.

Trafalgar Square

Norman’s lunch consisted of tender, meaty, roast duck; red cabbage; carrots; and a tasty vegetable and potato bake with which we shared an excellent Italian red wine.  A latticed plum flan was to follow.

Afterwards I took the Jubilee line to Bond Street where I alighted for Oxford Street and the last throw of the dice in the game of ‘Find the Present’.  I threw a double six, so I won’t have to give up and buy it on line.

Oxford Street

I continued along Oxford Street, where it was snowing Christmas lights,to Oxford Circus to catch the Victoria line to Carol’s. Regent Street Regent Street was equally spectacular.

Later, I took my usual route back home from Rochester Row.  Jackie was, as always, on time to meet me at Southampton Parkway.

Wild Woodbines

Shattered potDuring one of the recent frosty nights a rather lovely earthenware plant pot that Jean had given us shattered into a heap of shards.  This was a great shame.  I now understand why it is essential to buy frostproof, not simply frost resistant ones.  Jean’s had been brought back from Australia, where such protection is probably not required.

This being a much duller, yet, consequently, warmer day, I worked on old photographs this morning.  Given the amount of trips we have taken to the seaside recently, it is perhaps appropriate that number 37 in the ‘through the ages’ series, one of my grandfather’s efforts, takes us back to the Whitby of 1951. Derrick (Chris's legs) 1951 The print had a criss-crossed crease that I couldn’t fully eradicate cutting into Chris’s legs.  It is of course not my lower limbs that I have grasped to perform a contortionist’s illusion.  Incidentally I wonder how many people of my generation have been the subject of this early proof that the camera can lie.  Louisa has such a picture featuring her mother Jessica and Jessica’s cousin Caroline.

I find the soft-out-of-focus effect of the backgrounds of Grandpa’s old photographs very attractive.

Flower stall 8.63

Turning to the posterity collection we take a leap forward back to August 1963.  In those days men’s outfitters and tobacconists dominated the shopping streets of The City of London around Leadenhall Street where I worked.  Lime Street was the situation of the flower stall I photographed then.  That florist had a display of fine chrysanthemums.  Today, stallholders usually wrap purchases in something a little more decorative than the serviceable sheets skewered in place rather like Mum’s dressmaking patterns in the loo.

It is many years since I found myself tramping The City, but I would expect the outfitters to still be there, albeit in much larger premises, and the tobacconists long gone.  Today, smokers are pariahs, their weed not to be advertised.  Supermarkets still sell tobacco, but, like porn ‘out the back’, it must be hidden from view.

In the 1960s, before we knew what we know today, a large proportion of adults smoked cigarettes, such as those advertised in the photograph.  Boxes of cigars are also visible in the shop window.  The ordinary man probably couldn’t afford those.  Players were the product of Nottingham-based John Player & Sons;  Bristol of that city’s WD & HO Wills.  Both companies were merged into the Imperial Tobacco Group.  During that decade Wills produced 120,000 cigarettes an hour.  One of their most popular brands was Wild Woodbines, which were a feature of both Jackie and my childhoods, as both our fathers smoked them.  I still remember the distinctive aroma of the furniture van cab in which I rode when working with Dad back then.

Always preferring photography in natural light rather than flash, I often experimented with what was available.  Dad Lighting Up 10.63To this end I photographed my Dad lighting up in October 1963,Don Rivett Lighting Up 7.67 and repeated the process with Jackie’s father, Don Rivett, in July 1967.  The results are at least atmospheric.

This afternoon, we broke the back of our Christmas present buying in Bournemouth’s Castlepoint Shopping Centre.

Chicken and mushroom jafrezi with savoury rice, followed by bread pudding and custard, was tonight’s delicious evening repast.  I drank a glass of Valdepenas reserva Gran Familia 2007, and very good it was too.

‘They Are Her Friends Now’

After a frosty night we were treated to another crisp, clear, and cold morning, so Jackie and I made an early start for a trip to Milford on Sea.

ForestForest (1)The morning sun on the trees bordering the A35 beckoned beguilingly, so Jackie parked on a suitable verge for me to go on a photo foray. Deer in forest As I passed through a walker’s gate into the woods I glimpsed, in the far distance a group of siren deer.  This time I was a little quicker on the draw and did not allow them to tempt me off into the unknown as, sharpish, they scarpered.

From Paddy’s Point car park in Milford on Sea, I walked down steps to  the beach and along the shoreline, grating on sliding shingle, Beach with hutsas far as the The Needles (1)end of a row of beach huts from whence I climbed up more steps on the crumbling cliff and back along the top to the car.  Every few yards along the path was placed one of a row of memorial benches dedicated to people who had spent their last years contemplating The Needles from this point.

Gull surfingGullsAlong the shoreline unceasing, gently receding, wavelets in the slowly ebbing tide, covered, then revealed, glistening pebbles and glimpses of sand.  Bobbing up and down, a seagull sedately surfed until seen off by another.

Peacock butterfly & shadowBack in the car, as we blinked into the bright morning sun making its way up the clear blue sky, a rather ragged peacock butterfly rested for a few moments on the windscreen before flitting off to oblivion.

Bonfire on Isle of WightYesterday I had noticed a bonfire across the Beaulieu River.  Today we brunched in The Needle’s Eye cafe from where I watched smoke from another on the Isle of Wight playing along the sides of what appeared to be hills.  My full English breakfast and Jackie’s tuna in baked potato were very good.  You are always given marmalade with the full English toast.  I never eat the sweet spread. Don’t get me wrong, I love marmalade.  I just don’t think it sits right with a fry-up.

We stopped for a little Christmas shopping in New Milton on the way back.  As you leave Bashley there is a sign by the roadside warning that there are pigs on the road.  We have occasionally seen them but they were absent today.  This prompted me to voice my puzzlement about how it is that all the various different animals are allowed to roam in the forest but, sticking to their own localities, don’t seem often to get lost.  I was soon to receive the answer.

After a rest we drove out to Frogham to witness the sunset across the heath from Abbots Well car park.  This is the point from which Jackie watches me finish my walks across the heath.  The sunset sat well on the pond.Sunset

The track into the car park is pitted with deep pools.  A nasty grating thump somewhere in the nether regions of the car didn’t seem to have done any damage.  Following us in was a 4X4 which had much less difficulty negotiating the tricky terrain.  Heathland from Abbots Well car parkThe driver got out and studied the heath through a pair of field glasses.  He explained that he was looking for a cow that had been missing for eight weeks.  He had just found it, and was trying to work out how he was going to reach it. Miraculously, because I had several times walked over that terrain, I was able to be of some minor assistance.  Either that, or the gentleman was being very polite.

Apparently, the animals are safely left to roam because they like to stay with their friends. Cattle on heathland from Abbots Well car park - Version 2This particular cow, which, because of its black ears, he recognised, through his binoculars, among a group of white ones, had not been out much before and had wandered off alone.  After all this time the cattle she was with were now her friends.  Off went our acquaintance to spoil a marvellous friendship. 4X4 in heathland Jackie soon spotted him driving across the heath.

The Forester’s Arms in Frogham has been closed when we have attempted to visit it before.  It has reopened under new ownership, and we very much enjoyed the atmosphere there as we stopped for a drink on the way home.

Jackie then produced a splendidly spiky chicken jalfrezi with fragrant onion rice, followed by spicy bread pudding and custard.  I finished the Saint-Emilion whilst Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

‘Are They Real?’

The sinus pain that has been unrelentingly situated around my right eye for a fortnight showed some sign of shifting and lessening this morning.  I have not taken Ibuprofen for 24 hours and the antibiotics have run their course.

Beaulieu street

After lunch Jackie drove us out to Beaulieu, around which we wandered.Patrick's Patch  We were immediately captivated by Patrick’s Patch, the welcome sign of which explains it:Patrick's Patch Welcome

Chard, Patrick's PatchWe were struck by the quality of the produce and the preparation for winter.  There is a link with Fairweather’s Garden Centre across the road, which had an extensive and unusual collection of Christmas items, some of which we purchased.

Cottages in the picturesque streets date back to at least the seventeenth century. Parked cars do, however, bring one sharply into consciousness of the twenty first.

One shop appears to sell nothing but Teddy Bears. Bucket, spade, beach balls, hula hoops , ice cream and logsGood quality gifts and groceries are in abundance.  It was amusing to see, outside the Village Shop, a bucket and spade, hula hoops, and beach balls holding their own with a display of more seasonal logs.

The splendid plumage of the ‘locally shot pheasants’ hanging across the shop’s frontage could not be dimmed in death.  A woman passing asked her male companion: ‘Are they real?’.  ‘Of course’, he replied with a measure of disdain. Pheasants hangingPheasant feathers I didn’t think it politic to mention that I had been wondering the same thing.

There is a mill pond at this end of the tidal Beaulieu River on which stands Buckler’s Hard which we visited with Sam and Malachi on 12th January. Beaulieu Abbey If you can avoid the trees and buildings you can get a good view of the thirteenth century Cistercian abbey.


Across the river someone was having a bonfire.  A gull kept its distance from the smoke.

We drove back across the heathland, diverting to shop at the Old Milton Lidl.  This took us past The Old Post House which, we were now delighted to see, advertises itself as with ‘Sale Agreed’.Heathland 2


Jackie stopped the car along the road through the heath, so we could again admire the effects of the lowering sun. Heathland shadow As I stepped out onto the plain I came across a warning sign alerting me to the fact that this area had been designated for military training during the First World War, and that there was ongoing work to remove ‘unexploded ordnance’ which meant we should watch out.

Our evening meal was cottage pie followed by rice pudding, jam, and custard.  The final touch was offered in jest, in recognition of my Lower Marsh lunches with Terry Taylor in the 1960s.  I jumped at it.  Jackie finished the sauvignon blanc.  I began Ron’s Lussac Saint-Emilion 2011.  Both these wines were very good.

As If Preserved In Amber

In August 1963 I was working in marine insurance for the Committee of Lloyd’s .  As I always went for a wander during my lunch hour, I imagine that the second slide in my posterity collection was taken during one of those walks. Tower Bridge 8.63001 I am hard put to determine the vantage point from which I looked out across the Tower of London landscape.  Lloyd’s building itself would have been somewhere near the correct position, but I worked in the old ‘room’ which would not have been a tall enough structure.

The MonumentI am going to plump for The Monument, the full title of which is Monument to the Great Fire of London.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke.  Situated at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 62 metres from the site of the outbreak of the fire in Pudding Lane on 2nd September 1666, it is the same length in height.  The observation point at the top is reached by a narrow winding staircase of 311 steps.  My younger colleagues and I would challenge each other in a timed race up to the top.  I managed it once, but doubt that could have been the day I took the photograph.  I think there would have been some camera shake.

The foreground and middle distance of my picture hasn’t changed much in the intervening fifty years, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and HMS Belfast have stood firm.  The massed cranes that lined the far distance have done their job and moved on.  Had I the skill I might be fascinated to superimpose today’s skyline on this historical record.

Tower Bridge 'insect' 8.63The colour of the slide itself has deteriorated into an overall deep pink.    Applying iPhoto I have regained a little colour and eradicated numerous age spots.  This and another picture of Tower Bridge are the second and third of my posterity collection.  Each needed a considerable amount of restoration work.  As if preserved in amber, a microscopic insect is embedded in the clouds a little below the top left hand corner of the second picture.  I hadn’t the heart to eject it with the myriad of other little specks on the scanned image.

Tower Bridge 8.63002The Tower Bridge photo focusses on the River Thames itself, and shows the working barges which were much more in evidence in those days.  I possibly stood on London Bridge to capture this one.

After a day on the computer we dined on scrumptious cottage pie and vegetables followed by rice pudding with a dollop of jam.  Just the thing for sinus pain.  I finished the chianti and Jackie had a glass of Roc Saint Vincent sauvignon blanc 2012.

P.S. I am indebted to Jackie for pointing out that the London Bridge I stood on was sold to Robert P. McCulloch of Arizona in 1967.  The replacement was opened to traffic in 1973.  Whether or not I took this photograph from the old bridge, I certainly stood on it.  There is of course an urban myth that states that Mr.McCulloch thought he was buying the Tower Bridge I photographed.  He strenuously denied it.