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.

Then The Tableau Spoke

Wimborne Minster

Taking more advantage of these glorious autumn days, we drove this Wimborne Minster from car parkWimborne Minster from Priest's House gardenmorning to Wimborne to visit The Priest’s House Museum and wander around the little town, including the Minster itself.

Somewhat surrounded by its environment, it is difficult to find a complete, unobstructed, view of the Minster, the greater part of which was built in the twelfth century.  From wherever you are in the town, however; for example in the garden of the museum, or the car park nearby; at least one of its two towers is visible.

The splendid building is beautifully lit by its numerous stained glass windows, which set the very walls aglow.Stained glass

The sheer scope of the stonework of the walls and windows is awe-inspiring, yet there is a lightness of touch that lifts the spirit.

Anthony Et(t)ricke's coffinA niche in one of the internal walls contains the coffin of Anthony Et(t)ricke.  A notice informs us that this clearly eccentric gentleman was convinced he would die in 1693 and had his intended coffin inscribed accordingly.  In the event, he lived for another ten years, and when the time came to lay him to rest a rather unsuccessful attempt to change the date of decease to 1703 was made.

Quarterjack - Version 2High up outside a window in one of the towers stands the Quarter Jack, now a symbol of Wimborne.  He has for centuries stood watching over the town, and still, as he did for us waiting at 2.00 p.m., strikes his flanking bells with his hammers.

The visit to the Minster came after we had lunched in the cafe in the garden of The Priest’s House Museum after an enjoyable tour of that establishment.  Another in a growing number of local history museums we have visited, this one is imaginatively conceived and executed, having both permanent displays and particular periodic exhibitions.  It is, as we were to learn, a thriving activity centre for children who are encouraged to hunt for objects in the house and grounds, and to engage in activities, such as cooking on the kitchen range, that were undertaken in days gone by.

There are various rooms on the first floor, housing cabinets containing artefacts relevant to the history of East Dorset. Mrs King's Parlour First of all, on the ground floor, there are rooms dedicated to tableaux, such as Mrs King’s parlour, where Elizabeth, a mercer’s widow is seen discussing building plans with John Mitchell, her master plumber, who is known to have worked on the site in the eighteenth century.

The schoolroom was fascinating.Schoolroom  The cane hanging over the blackboard was an authentic touch.  Today’s date, in fine copper plate handwriting, was inscribed on the blackboard.  The plastic pencil container on the teacher’s desk was perhaps an aberration.  What fascinated me was the pairs of desks, which enthralled two small children who, having visited earlier in the week, had brought their parents back for a second visit.  Their eyes opened wide when I told them I had sat beside Maureen Potter in one of those very same desks when I had been a little boy.

Margery RyanMoving on from this conversation, I entered the Victorian kitchen, laid out with all its accoutrements, complete with an elderly woman with a shawl round her shoulders and a book in her hands before a lighted kitchen range.  This truly was an authentic tableau, with just one figure of the period in situ.  Then she spoke.  I laughed wholeheartedly, and said I had thought she was a model. She told me that a small boy earlier had thought the same thing, and had been most surprised when she greeted him.

This was Margery Ryan who was clearly one of the volunteers, and a wealth of information, including that of the children’s activities.  They were encouraged to make toast with one of the toasting forks hanging beside the kitchen range, just as I and my siblings had done by an open fire in our sitting room at Stanton Road. Mangle I remembered how, on a coal fire, you had to take your hand away every now and again because it got pretty hot.

We spoke for a long time, before and after we were joined by Jackie.  Margery, contemporary with our friend Margery Clarke, was proud of the fact that her name was spelt the proper way.

Perhaps the greatest surprise to me was the sight of the very mangle in which I had trapped Chris’s finger when we were very small.  I swear it was the same one.  How it had made its way there I’ll never know.

Having finally torn myself away from Margery, I ventured upstairs.  There was much to intrigue in the cabinets.  It is strange to see everyday objects from your own lifetime consigned to museum cabinets.Roller skates and skipping rope  For example in the childhood room, side by side, lay the roller skates and skipping rope of the 1940s.  Many a knee had I barked on the pavements of Stanton Road whilst trying to keep upright on my Ashby adjustable rollers;  and we boys joined in all the girls’ skipping games and contests about who could do the most skips without tripping up.

The 15th February 1971 was decimal day.  This was when the pounds, shillings, and pence of our sterling currency made way for the coinage we have today.  Overnight we had to learn that 244 pennies no longer made £1, for that was now divided into 100p.  Interestingly we still use the old sterling symbol, £, for pound, but a penny is a p, not a d, the previous Latin abbreviation. Sterling notes So it was fun to see a wallet in the gents’ costume gallery revealing £1 and 10 shilling notes.  The largest of the coins resting on the open wallet was half a crown, eight of which made £1.  This was quite a lot of money for a small boy.  Especially one who bit his nails.  Half a crown was the reward Auntie Gwen offered me to stop biting mine.  I earned it.  Then I bit them again.  Then I earned it again.  I think I tumbled to the idea of this being a good wheeze before my godmother did and that particular source of extra pocket money dried up.

The Priest's House garden

We vowed to return, especially as one admission ticket is good for a year’s season ticket, to see the long narrow garden in its prime.  Apart from an interesting array of shrubs and flowers, it contains heritage apple and pear trees.


From the Minster we finally returned home.  The lowering sun made even the A31 look delightful, HeathlandTrees and brackenTrees on heathand we took the Ocknell turn off so we could watch the last rays lighting up Stoney Cross Plain.

Ponies and photographerA small Shetland type pony turned its head disdainfully as two of its cousins demeaned themselves by forming the backdrop to a visitor’s photograph.

After a full day we tried out the Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton.  The ambiance was homely, greeting warm and welcoming, the service friendly and efficient, and the food good.  We both drank Tsingtao beer.  We will go there again.

A Collection For Posterity

Frosty lawn

A bright sun streaked through the trees and across the frosted lawn this morning.  It was still pretty cold, so, although I am beginning to feel like taking a reasonable walk again, it probably wouldn’t have been sensible and my rambling was done through my photographic archives.

A task I have been putting off ever since I acquired my iMac, had been to rescan all my old slides and negatives.  I made a start on my very first colour slide, taken in August 1963.

Mum, Joseph, friend 8.63Vivien and I had married two months before, and, whilst searching for our first owned home, lived in my parents’ house at 18 Bernard Gardens, SW19.  Ever since his birth, as Jackie and I were to do later, she and I had taken my young brother everywhere with us.  It is perhaps therefore appropriate that I begin this renovation process with a picture of Joe on a seesaw in the garden of that Wimbledon house.  Mum is doing the seesawing by the side of an unidentified friend.

Kodak-Box-BrownieOnly one of our honeymoon pictures survives.  It was probably taken with the Box Brownie my grandfather had passed on to me some years before.  I am not sure where the print is now, but, like most amateurs in those days, I didn’t keep the negatives.  Colour slides were different.  Unless you had them made into prints, which rather defeated the object, you couldn’t view them without a projector shining light through the positive film.  That is why my collection for posterity began with colour slides.

The colour of the original fifty year old slide has deteriorated into a monochrome pink sepia.  There were also numerous little black specks and tiny hairs on the scanned image.  With the marvellous iPhoto application, I have managed to get some of the pristine picture back.  No doubt, my friend Alex Schneideman would have improved it still further.

Having been encouraged by the honeymoon photo of a Cornish fishing village I had decided to upgrade my camera and begin with colour slides. 200px-Kodak_Retinette_and_case That is when I bought my Kodak Retinette 1b, which is what I would have taken the August picture with.  Although it had a good lens for the money, in keeping with those days, there was nothing electronic or automatic about the device.  In particular you had to work out your focussing by estimating the distance between you and the subject.  This was aided later by the purchase of a rangefinder which you clipped to the top of the camera body.  Even then a calculation was required.  It will be apparent from the said photograph that I had some improvement to acquire in that department.  A knowledge of depth of field might have been useful.  For the uninitiated this is the range of the picture that will be in focus with any specific combination of lens aperture and shutter speed.  This meant that even if Joe had been in sharp focus, Mum was not going to be.  Not that anyone has to worry too much about that now.  The factors are more critical when taking close-ups, but the modern camera does the thinking for you.

This afternoon Jackie drove us through splendid forest roads glorified by the strong, low, winter sunshine, to Calshot to show me Henry VIII’s small castle.  No doubt, like the nearby Hurst Castle, this was part of a warning system and a minor defence against a possible Spanish invasion.Calshot Castle Today there is an observation tower equipped with modern technology alongside the Tudor building. Tanker passing Calshot Castle Passing the castle was the oil tanker ‘Sovereign’, another symbol of modern life undreamt of by the sixteenth century holder of that title.

Gull rounding Calshot Castle

Gulls, rounding the castle, hovered on the gusts of wind that tore across Southampton Water, just as their antecedents have done for more than half a millennium.


Choppy waves sped across the channel separating us from the docks and Fawley refinery, and slid up the shingle beach and back down again.  WindsurfingThe wind that urged them along and held up the gulls provided exhilarating power for a number of kitesurfers, one of whom had to stop to blow up his kite.

There were many yachts wrapped and lined up near the bay. Yachts The Beach huttinkling of their tackle against the masts provided charming wind chimes.

Although, at high tide, we saw only shingle today, judging by the rows of beach huts lining the shore between the village and the castle, Calshot Beach must be sandy.  Jackie managed to pinpoint on the map exactly where we were and therefore to identify the docks; the refinery; and the Spinnaker tower on the far shore opposite the castle. Beach hutsRealising how close, when parked near the huts, we were to the Isle of Wight, she also identified Cowes and Ryde. Cyclist with Labradors

A cyclist taking his two Labradors for a walk wheeled through the car park, across the road, and back the way he had come.

We dined on Jackie’s juicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by sticky toffee pudding and cream.  I drank a glass of Via di Cavallo Chianti 2012.  Perhaps a little light for a fiery curry, this was nevertheless an excellent wine and just right for my head this evening.

Long Socks And Short Trousers

Plane tree's last few leavesA quick trip to Ringwood was required this morning to engage in a banking transfer because my French account has slipped into overdraft.  Plane tree leaves, a few of which still clung precariously to their perches, swirled around Meeting House shopping centre.  The Big Issue seller, and the seated homeless man seeking donations with his dog are beginning to suffer the cold on one of our first wintry days.

Midway through my course of antibiotics, I drowsed away the afternoon, between dozes reading more of Iain Pears and Voltaire, and playing a little on-line Scrabble.

Jackie, who is attending Harris Academy award ceremony this evening with Becky and Flo, left me chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice which, accompanied by fizzy water, perked me up a bit.  Enough for me to have a look at photograph number 36 in the ‘through the ages’ series.

Chris, Jacqueline & Derrick

The shot was probably taken in about 1952. Jacqueline, as well as Chris and I, seems to be kitted out for school.  We would all still have been attending St Mary’s, Russell Road Primary School in Wimbledon. Our short trousers tell me this.  I have mentioned before what happened to my first pair proudly bought for my first day at Wimbledon College.  We have all had our hair brushed for the photographic occasion, and unlike the little boy on the far left of the Victory Street Party picture, our long socks are firmly in place, kept there by elastic garters.  Neckties seem to have been in order.  As I remember both the stockings and the ties were quite difficult to wear with any sort of decorum.  It was perhaps the year before this that I had my brief tenure in the cub scouts. The garters that held in place the socks for that activity had mini green bunting flags suspended from them.  I wonder whether I kept the uniform decorations after I was asked to leave, or just snipped them off.

It is difficult to convey, in our age when most people have one device or another for taking photographs, what an event, worthy of careful preparation, it was sixty-odd years ago to have your image fixed on film.  You had to tidy up, look your best, and sit still.  Only the professionals took shots of people on the move.  Casual snaps from the few amateurs that were around then were not usually risked. Colour photographs can now be stored in the humblest mobile phone, and conjured up at the touch of a button or two, or the fingertip stroking of a screen.  Prints are rarely made.  When we were very young, parents did not have the facility for capturing countless colour images of their children’s every developing moment.  Those who were fortunate enough to be given a black and white posed print or two treasured them enough to place them in an album, or, as in my mother’s case keep them in a box.  Mum’s box was raided by Elizabeth when she made the series.  What would my grandfather, who took most of our old portraits, have thought of what can be done with what is left of his work today?