Mother’s Day

Most of the day was taken up in transporting Jackie’s garden. We had a surfeit of sisters offering lodgings for the contents described yesterday. We considered ourselves fortunate to be moving the vast number of plants that had survived the mild winter, and even more so that they were only starting to flourish and therefore not bushing out all over the place. Even so, four car loads were required to complete the task.

Our options for a place to store the portable garden whilst getting our new home in shape, were Helen’s in Poulner, Shelly’s in Walkford, or Elizabeth’s in West End. Helen and Shelly are each already sheltering various precious objects.

Given that by the time we take the plants to Downton, they will most certainly be bushing a bit, and that Walkford is the nearest sibling’s abode, that is what we plumped for. With flattened back seats and loading the car to the gills, in two return trips we had cleared a little more than half the items. Coinciding with our arrival back at Castle Malwood Lodge, Becky and Ian arrived to help. We had a plentiful lunch provided by Becky, then decided that two cars could probably finish the job in one last push. We filled Becky’s and Jackie’s vehicles and still had a few items over. I then had the brilliant idea that if one person stayed behind we could use a passenger seat for these.

That was it. Becky remained behind and continued packing kitchen items whilst the rest of us unloaded the cars at Shelly and Ron’s.

This evening we all dined at The Family House in Totton. The Family House main mealThe staff were their usual friendly Shredded duckShredded beefselves, and the meal excellent. We chose M3 set meal. This has a range of starters; shredded duck; a wonderful special rice; Loved to bits badgejuicy vegetables with crunchy water chestnuts; shredded beef; and chicken in black bean sauce. Becky drank Diet Coke. The rest of us imbibed T’Sing Tao beer.

Jackie sported her Mother’s Day badge. This had been given by Becky in addition to a card. Because of tomorrow’s move she realised Jackie would not really be able properly to display the card for a while so she supplemented it with a badge that could be worn.

 

A Rude Awakening

Flowering cherryWe have packed the long life milk, so it fell to my lot, this bright morning, to walk down to the village shop to buy some more. I returned via the church path, The Splash, and Furzey Gardens.

Burgeoning spring has come to Castle Malwood Lodge garden, with its flowering cherries and its shrubs; to those in the village; and to the verges and hedgerows.

I stopped on the way to say goodbye to Alan. We discussed the ‘bedroom tax’, which in my view is far more complex than it seems to some. There is no doubt that many elderly people, often recipients of depleted and diminishing Social Services, are struggling alone to keep going in family houses when all their offspring have moved away, whilst younger people, faced with mounting rents, strive to bring up families in one-bedroomed flats. Whether penalising those Council tenants who cannot, or are reluctant to, move from their life-long homes is the answer, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, somehow a balancing of this problem needs to be achieved.

At the village green I met a couple seeking a walk before lunch in the Trusty. I now have plenty of experience with which to set them on their way.

Celandine & violasHawthorn

Celandine, violas, primroses, and hawthorn sparkled in the sunshine. Primrose & ChampionI find it almost impossible to photograph primroses in bright sunshine, so I settled for an equine one who, with Champion, her male escort, basked at the trough.

Moss on phonebox

Moss adorned the little-used public telephone box.

Berberis

Sawn trunkA flaming bright orange berberis blazed alongside the road leading up to the church.

A number of trees bordering the still soggy church footpath have been cut down. They leave fascinating forms reminiscent of a child’s wooden jigsaw puzzle.

At one end the signpost has been embellished by the addition of an outstretched gauntlet. Clearly someone thought the direction of the thoroughfare needed some clarification.Gauntlet

Less hardy than the New Forest ponies, many of the adult thoroughbreds in the fields still wear their winter warming coats. The youngsters seem to be deemed not to need them.Horses through hedge

Alex Schneideman, in a recent post, illustrated an enlightening article on the emotional impact of out of focus portraits against sharply drawn settings. I wonder what he would think of this shot of the horses seen through the hedgerow.

Toad

Whilst I was wandering this morning Jackie began the task of dismantling her portable garden. We continued it this afternoon. When she had installed it, she had disturbed a sleepy toad. The creature obviously survived the trauma, for today the horticulturist once again aroused it from its slumbers.

Jackie’s garden contained the deer-proof fencing, various assorted bricks, and a total of 84 pots of flowers, most of which were quite large. Some of the pots were in hanging baskets. There was the bird feeder with its squirrel baffle, and lots of both wooden and metal stakes. This was no mean achievement to put together, and quite a project to take apart. As I trudged backwards and forwards across the garden to return brick-loads to their previous resting place behind the garages, I wondered how she’d managed to carry them all across in the first place.

As I post this we are about to drive to the Curry Garden at Ringwood, where we will enjoy their usual excellent food and a pint and a half of Kingfisher.

 

Satiation

Today we took a break from packing. Off we went for lunch at The Needles Eye Cafe in Milford on Sea. This took us past our prospective new home outside which stood a furniture van into which items were being decanted from the house. This made us feel optimistic that we may be able to collect the keys fairly early on 31st.

Obtaining cash in the small town was an interesting experience. There was no bank. We thought there might be an ATM in the Co-op. There was. But it wasn’t working. The shop assistant directed me to a beauty parlour, on the outside wall of which I would find a cash machine. You see, the building used to be a bank. Quite handy if you needed cash for a make-over.

Fry-up

At the cafe, as I was feeling rather peckish, I treated myself to a perfectly cooked light snack while Jackie enjoyed a baked potato filled with cheese and beans. My fry-up should have been followed by toast and marmalade. By the time I realised this had been forgotten, I informed the staff that I would be quite satisfied without it. With it I would have been sated.

Jackie then admired the view whilst I wandered along the beach.Seascape with boat A boat was visible against the pale sea and skies merging in the weak sunlight.

This was the first time the tide had been low enough here for me to walk along the strand. It wasn’t long before I realised that I could neither continue hopping over breakwaters nor reach the footpath above. BarriersBeach hut remainsMy way to the bank was blocked by hundreds of yards of metal barriers erected on either side of what had once been long terracing of beach huts. A dog owner, whose pet was anxiously wandering along the barriers with that tell-tale tail wagging, told me she was ‘keen to get down to her favourite beach’.

Shingle on stepsShingle on steps 2

Shingle still covered the concrete steps.

These holiday venues were much more substantial than the wooden ones we had seen at Hordle Cliff Beach. Beach hut debrisBeach hut missing wallBeach hut wrecked doorwayThey were built of breeze block with roofs of some kind of aggregate. The storms had destroyed some, rendered others unusable, and the whole area unsafe to enter. Entire buildings were now just gaps in the rows; others had lost walls, roofs, doors, or windows. A notice announced that ‘the work’ would be finished by April 11th. Men in hard hats wandered along the devastated stretches.

Beach hut missing roof & NeedlesThrough one space where a hut should have been, I had a clear view of the now calm sea with The Needles in the background. The fortuitous notice warning of ‘the gap’ was nothing to do with that created by the so recently raging ocean. It was akin to those similar signs painted on tube station platforms where the bend in the rail cannot be fully adjusted for by the train carriages, thus leaving a wide gap to be leaped over on entering the transport. Here there is a gap between the edge of the made-up footpath and the backs of the huts. I imagine it is possible, if you are really determined, to lose your leg down it.

Castle Malwood Park farm

The early morning rain had set in again by the time I, later, walked down to the postbox and back, passing Castle Malwood Park Farm.

Having seen what I had for lunch, Jackie really should have had mercy on me this evening. But, no, she presented me with an irresistible plate of her delicious chilli con carne (recipe) and wild rice and peas. I didn’t quite manage to eat it all.

Rancid

A number of readers rightly gathered, from its brevity and the absence of culinary description in yesterday’s post, that I had run out of creative steam. For those concerned about the lack of sustenance, I can say that we had boiled eggs and toast for breakfast. On our knees of course. Well, on plates on our knees to be precise.Boiled eggs

We had packed the egg-cups, but there is no end to Jackie’s ingenuity.

Offers of weekend help have come from Danni, Becky, Flo, and Ian. These have been gratefully accepted. We should have quite a party.

Cupboard under stairsMeanwhile, I boxed up the contents of the airing cupboard and the shelves occupying the spare room; and cleared out the cupboard under the stairs. Those who know we live in a flat may wonder why we have a cupboard under the stairs. We are blessed with one because it is in the bathroom. ‘What?’ you may ask. Well, you see, the building underwent a vast conversion into its seventeen apartments in the 1980s. Our bathroom occupies part of what was the main entrance hall. The area under the main staircase provides us with the said storage space.

The more we achieve before the weekend, the more family fun we can have. Volunteer helpers, please note, you are required to bring your own wine and ale glasses.

One of the processes it is advisable to follow when moving house is that of emptying the freezer and the fridge. This is best done during the preceding days, so that the contents can be enjoyed and cooking be at a minimum. This makes for some fascinating platefuls. Sausage casserole and chicken KievThis evening we dined on sausage casserole (recipe), chicken Kiev, chips, and vegetables. And a very tasty melange it was. I drank Lion’s Gate Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2012, an extremely quaffable South African wine.

Incidentally, my younger readers may not be aware that when I was growing up in the 1940s, people owned neither fridges or freezers. This was particularly problematic in the summer of 1947, when tar melted in the streets. Butter and milk had to be stored in sinks full of cold water that soon warmed up itself. Runny butter dripping off hot toast, as described by Kenneth Graham in my all-time favourite, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, may be quite attractive. Rancid butter slipping out of its wrapper onto a dish before being poured on your bread is quite another matter. ‘Rancid’, incidentally remains one of Matthew’s favourite words, ever since I once used it when he was a child. You’d be really surprised at the number of uses to which the term can be put.

Another such versatile word usage was coined by Ray Chard, who once described a cricket ball that had been returned after being hit out of the ground, as somewhat ‘gnarled’. In our family this word did not have the longevity of ‘rancid’, but I hope Ray still uses it. I have been known to entertain the youngest Knights with it. You must admit it has a certain cachet.

An Auction Lot

The promised e-mail came from Penyards this morning. It contained a formal apology with the bonus of an end of tenancy date of 31st March. I simply thanked the writer. I took no pleasure in this, for the emotional toll was such that it feels like a Pyrrhic victory.

After a small amount of filling the Morrisons’ boxes, Jackie drove us to Becky’s family’s home at Emsworth, where we collected some more.

Our daughter has decided it is time to auction her original vinyl Beatles collection.

Beatles records There were three L.P.s she felt she could not include in the lot. These were ‘The Beatles’, ‘The Beatles Beat, and ‘With The Beatles’. The first two, in my handwriting, bore her mother’s name; the third, mine. We thought we were ready to let them go.

We didn’t do much else after we returned home.

 

 

 

About Turn

Helen came over this morning to help with the packing. As we had run out of boxes we drove out to Morrisons, too early for any yet to have been available. A very helpful young woman who was filling shelves went ‘out the back’ to seek some out for us. Unfortunately the last of yesterday’s had already been baled up, so she had asked her colleagues to save some for us, suggesting we called back at about four o’clock.

When Jackie’s sister arrived we loaded her car with previously filled boxes of our more fragile or precious items. We followed her to Poulner where Bill assisted the rest of us to sore all these in their garden shed, which had been cleared for the purpose.

Penyards added another viewing for this afternoon. That made three. The first didn’t take long. A few minutes after the interested couple and Robert, the agent, had left, Robert returned to tell me the other two visits would not take place. This was because the flat had been let. I asked him what that meant. He replied that the couple who had just left had paid the deposit on the phone.

Whilst Jackie and I were reeling from this sudden about turn, I received a call from the young woman whose, shall we say, lack of clarity in the first place had set the ball rolling. She offered a sincere apology for putting us through such stress and for being ‘not clear enough’. I reminded her that she had said she had told me about the ‘subject to contract and references’ provision when in fact she hadn’t. She was not in the office at that moment, and consequently calling from a mobile phone, but promised to go in early to send me an e-mail at 8.30 a.m. in the morning.  I reminded her that she had promised an e-mail before, and I would very much like to receive this one. She took responsibility for the fiasco. I said her manager should share it. He too had made me promises he had not honoured, and he was ultimately in charge. Had Mr Davis listened to the recordings of our conversations he must have known I was telling the truth and should have adhered to the new agreement. I accepted the young woman’s apology, but regretted that this call had not been made before the flat was re-let.

At 4 p.m. we returned to Morrisons. There, a very pleasant young man named Karl, came out with one of their extra large trolleys loaded with a dozen banana boxes. He cheerfully towed them out to our car whilst Jackie took our trolley back to the rack. Had I remembered where our Modus was, Karl’s journey would have been less circuitous, and he and I may have reached our destination before Jackie did.

After taking the containers home and unloading them, Jackie drove us back to Poulner. She went off with Helen for an hour and I stayed with Bill, during which time we watched rugby, chatted, and listened to stunning recordings of Rachel Eales singing. Thai StartersThai main coursesAfter this we all dined at a Thai restaurant in Ringwood whose name I can’t remember. It was excellent and we had an enjoyable and stimulating evening.

The Catering Service

We continued packing today until we ran out of boxes.

It is one of the conditions of our tenancy that we are required to ensure that smoke detectors are working and the batteries and all light bulbs are serviceable. I have written about and illustrated before the difficulty of reaching the light bulbs. Because they are virtually flush with the ceiling the detectors are even more impossible to stretch to. Indeed, they are marked on the incoming inventory as ‘not checked because too high to reach’.

The list of our responsibilities sent to us by Penyards makes it clear that we must pay for any of the above items that need replacement and if they have to carry out the task we will also be charged £30 per hour shopping time in addition to the cost. In fact one of the smoke detectors was letting us know it had a defunct battery as we moved in. When I replaced the battery I lodged the device on a shelf in order to avoid climbing up to stick it on the ceiling. When mentioning this to Penyards’ representative I was told if I didn’t put it back I would have to pay for it. I collected the large stepladder this morning and returned it to its high perch.

Wrestling with installing an internet security system this afternoon, I gave up and went for a walk. When setting out on the muddy terrain alongside Malwood Farm, I decided I wasn’t in the mood and came back home. Jackie then drove me to Curry’s in Christchurch where the technician there had more success than I had with the installation.

It was fortunate that the call from Penyards came on our way back, for I was in a better mood by then. The young lady who had been given the task of phoning me had been delegated to ask me to confirm not one, but two viewings tomorrow. Anyone following the Penyards saga may well wonder why more prospective new tenants should be being introduced at this stage.

Alan Davis, the Managing Director, had e-mailed me on Friday 21st to tell me he was working on a resolution to the issue and would ‘be back to me’ today. I had no contact from him, but first thing this morning I received one from Natasha saying they expected to complete the referencing process with the agreed new tenants by the end of the week, but could they bring others during this week. A short while later she sent me another requesting a viewing tomorrow afternoon.

I did not reply to these, but e-mailed the manager reminding him that he had undertaken to get back to me today, and asking if, in the light of the two e-mails I had received from his staff member, I was to expect direct contact from him. I said that Natasha still seemed to be pursuing the ‘provisional’ line and asked him what he had done about it.

By the afternoon the visits planned for tomorrow had doubled. I said the people could come but we wouldn’t guarantee to be in.

I had no contact from Mr Davis. This is the second time he has failed to ‘get back to’ me. That is 100% of the promises.

Although the quality of the food provided by Jackie at Castle Malwood Lodge remains as superb as ever, there are certain restraints currently imposed on its consumption. The dining table is surrounded by, and stacked with, filled storage boxes in one or the other of which lies most of the crockery. It is also rather difficult to wheel the patented serving trolley through the rather congested flat.

We must therefore serve ourselves from the kitchen, carry our plates through to the two armchairs that have a clear pathway and are not bearing supermarket fruit boxes loaded with the aforementioned crockery.

Chilli con carne

Today’s chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas was well worth the effort. You can see I served myself because of the streaks on the upper right edge of the plate. I drank a little more of the Languedoc.