Photograph number 43 in the ‘through the ages’ series was probably taken by Vivien and printed by her brother Bernard in 1962. Bernard always used a square format. Here, I sit on a cast iron and wooden-slatted bench in the garden of 18 Bernard Gardens to which we had moved as a family a couple of years before, alongside my brother Joseph.
In a fascinating coincidence, my parents and I each produced five children with eighteen years between them. Unlike my Dad, I needed three wives to achieve the round handful.
Dad was a man, of his time, who would never borrow money for any purchase. When, in the late sixties, the large Victorian house began to suffer from subsistence damage, the quotation for repairs was £400. My father could not be persuaded to borrow that sum on mortgage, so it was sold and the remaining members of the family moved to Morden.
This morning I received a phone call from Sam and Malachi in Perth, Western Australia, and had long conversations with each of them. My grandson chuckled away when I asked him: ‘Why?’. He has, so far, despite distinct O’Neill genetic traits, retained his English accent. The attached photograph is taken from Holly’s Facebook page of 26th December last year.
Snowdrops have arrived in our garden. I spotted some as I began my walk of the Football Green/Shave Wood loop this afternoon. They were not far from the sawn-off cherry tree stump, which is all that remains of the casualty that was taped off in December.
A trail of white plumage, reminiscent of Hansel’s breadcrumbs, on Running Hill led to the remains of a large, now unidentifiable, white bird.
At the bottom of the hill, the gentleman who lives at Orchard Cottage opened his gate and crossed to give a pony on the green a tasty morsel. He had to be quick to return to his garden. The dark brown creature and its white companion, having had their interest aroused, wanted more and were intent upon laying siege. That is one of the hazards of that particular kindness to animals.
Further on down into Minstead, alongside the pedestrian safety path that runs by the most dangerous stretch of road, the smoke rising from a bonfire in an adjacent field blended with the subtle greys of the clouds above.
On Lyndurst Road, just before the junction with Football Green, a number of fairly large trees have fallen recently. Huge tyre tracks provided evidence that some rather heavy machinery had been used to clear them from the road.
Foraging ponies are looking a great deal more healthy than they did this time last year, when they were so cold and wet and their ribs were beginning to protrude.
As I turned the corner at Shave Wood, the skies, having been somewhat obscured by the trees, came back into view. How they had altered since I first saw the bonfire blend. Big skies are a feature of the countryside, and I find their constant changes of hue and formation fascinating. At that moment the artist had laid gentle brush strokes of yellow and indigo over the bright blue base wash.
Visible from high up on the hill approaching London Minstead, Minstead Lodge, like the Gothic pile it is, stood out against the rainbow trout tints in the sky. From Bull Lane I could look down on the still burning bonfire I had seen from the other side of the valley. The cloudscape painter had changed his or her palette yet again, as the setting sun slowly turned the gold to pink.
A BT Openreach technician high on a ladder clamped to a telegraph pole opposite the Minstead Lodge drive in Seamans Lane was applying some kind of testing device. He agreed that he was quite busy at the moment.
Further on I met Oliver. Not my grandson. A greyhound. His owner’s mother informed me that he had not been fast enough to pass muster as a racing animal, so was in fact a rescue dog. He seemed friendly enough, and ignored the baying of neighbouring hounds who had picked up either his or my scent.
For dinner this evening, Jackie produced roast belly of pork with sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, and vegetables. This is a most underrated cut of meat, that, when of Lidl quality cooked long and slow, offers a most flavoursome meal. Creme brûlée was to follow. I drank more of the Bergerac.