Nearly There

The only bathroom cabinet in the house capable of containing anything useful to ablutions was in the downstairs loo, where it was probably superfluous to requirements. It was so positioned that, I have it on good authority, when rising from the lavatory seat one was likely to hit one’s head on the bottom corner. We took it off the wall this morning and replaced it with a mirror.

The rest of the morning was spent on progressing the installation of the garage library. Whilst Jackie built three IKEA Billy bookcases, I carried most of a lifetime’s collection of large Smith’s photograph albums upstairs to a very useful wardrobe cupboard that could have been tailor made for them. There will be more under the piles of Safestore storage boxes. I considered myself fortunate to have discovered as many as I did. This had the benefit of clearing more space to work in the library, but my system is such that I can’t start the process of filling shelves until I find the box marked ‘Novels A’ which has so far proved elusive. This will be the one that contains my copy of Daisy Ashford’s ‘The Young Visiters’.

During my preprandial tour round the garden, I photographed two different tulips, one very delicate in colouring, the other of the deepest red:Tulip - delicateTulip - dark red                                                             A heavily pruned wisteria lies, at present, beneath the pergola.Wisteria It will, no doubt, once more festoon the wooden structure.Ajuga with beeBee on ajuga

Furry orange bees are lapping up the ajugas.

Whilst I was wandering about, Jackie made a delicious vegetable soup for lunch.

Library shelvesAfterwards, with minimal help from me, she continued building the bookcases. Today’s tally was seven, leaving two more for completion tomorrow. The library is nearly there.

The Plough Inn at Tiptoe still serves the best pub food in the area. We reminded ourselves of that by dining there this evening. My choice was the fish combo with which I drank Doom Bar. Jackie opted for a half rack of ribs and Peroni to drink.

A Fascinating Collage

This morning Jackie and I set about building a garage door screen  with parts of the IKEA wardrobes, supplemented by battens sawn from an old wooden pallet. We needed nails to  fix the laminated chipboard to the wood. This entailed a trip, on the recommendation of Giles and Jean, to Milford Supplies in New Milton. Being Jackie’s favourite kind of shop, she bought a few more things as well.

Now, when it comes to such practical tasks, when I say ‘we’, I really mean Jackie, with me standing around looking awkward and supplying the occasional bit of muscle, not, I must admit, always in the required direction. She, you see, is much more experienced with tools and has a far greater spatial awareness. The child’s teaching toy involving posting different shapes into a box with various openings would have come far more naturally to her than to me.

Garage door screenThe concept of fabricating a make-shift wall, against which to place the bookcases, from the materials at hand, was all Jackie’s. I did, however, under expert forepersonship, largely carry out the task, whilst she ironed and trimmed her curtains; fixed some toilet roll holders which were actually straight; and prepared an excellent fry-up for lunch.Face flannel collage

When we discovered a collage involving scraps of wood, a face flannel, and copies of the Daily Mail firmly gunged to the concrete floor, I was all for allowing it to stay put under the laminate that was to cover that bit of the ground. Jackie, however, much more of a perfectionist when it comes to such matters, set to with a hammer, chisel, and screwdriver, and at least gave us a flat surface.

During the lunchtime break I took another tour of the garden and photographed more plants for my readers, please, to identify.

The comfrey we know:ComfreyBottle brush tree and unknown shrubBottle brush tree and unknown shrub 2Unknown shrub

The shrub to the left and behind the two pictures of a bottle brush tree, however, defeats us (update: Jackie has identified it as Crinodendron Hookerianum, otherwise known as Chinese Lantern Tree).

Further behind, and to the left of these shrubs, is a cherry tree that has suffered in the winter storms. When I get around to the garden I will need to cut off the broken section. The bright green leaves surrounding this, has been identified by Tess, a New Zealander, as belonging to a hebe with a name beginning with K which I can’t remember.

This evening Jackie fed us on prawn and lamb jalfrezi with savoury rice, paratas, and vegetable samosas. She drank her usual Hoegaarden, whilst I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Louis de Camponac cabernet sauvignon 2012.

For the preparation of this jalfrezi follow that for lamb given on 22nd January, and when it is cooked, add frozen prawns and simmer for about five minutes; and if using fresh prawns, until they turn pink.Thrift & beach hutsCliff top, beach huts, fisherfolkjpg

After our meal we drove to Hordle Cliff to watch the sun sink beneath the horizon. From the thrift-covered cliff top we could look down on beach huts and on fisherfolk settling down for the evening on the shingle.SunsetGulls at sunsetGull at sunsetCouple at sunset

Crows and gulls fought over scraps tossed from cars whose occupants had brought their meals on wheels. One couple left their car and became silhouetted against the reddening sea.Crow on bench

A sated crow took a rest on a bench set to view the Isle of Wight, in which the bird appeared rather disinterested.

Identification Required

Last night Jackie came up with an excellent idea for recycling some of the IKEA wardrobe sections in the creation of the garage library/laundry room. This was going to need the use of a saw, and we only possessed the hacking kind

A further trip to B & Q in Christchurch was therefore required, especially as we needed some more of their curtains and dowelling for the rails. We bought all these and stopped of at Fergusson’s in Highcliffe to collect a mirror that came with one of the chests of drawers we had bought.Fergusson's House Clearance While she was at it, Jackie added the hand-painted screen seen on the left of the photograph, to our purchases.

There were long mounting brackets attached to the mirror. I had travelled from B & Q in comparative comfort, with two eight foot dowelling poles over my left shoulder. The journey from the House Clearance shop was a little more complicated. The dowelling was now being kept company by one of the mounting brackets, whilst I held the screen close to my right cheek.

We also wanted to go to New Milton to visit the bank and buy some mounting card and Glu Dots for the photographs I featured yesterday, but thought it sensible to go home and unload first. Glu Dots are a Blu Tack product which hold the pictures in place and are removable when required. We found them in New Forest Stationers which is very well stocked with all art and writing materials.

Now, the IKEA sections have spent a week in the rain on the skip pile. IKEA wardrobe sectionsThey are also spiked with various bolts, screws, and fastenings. I therefore took a screwdriver to them, and undid what I could before we trundled the requisite number back into the garage where they had come from.

We have a number of containers packed with domestic items surplus to our requirements that may be useful for younger home makers. Before we could get the IKEA kit back in the garage we had to make room for it. This involved carting those other boxes to the shed at the bottom of the garden.

After this exercise Jackie put up two more pairs of curtains in the kitchen, and I flopped for a while before wandering around the garden realising exactly how little we know about its plants, many of which are clearly unusual specimens. Of those we think we have identified, we would welcome readers’ confirmation. Of those we can’t, all offers will be gratefully received.

There are many decorative trees, almost none of which we know. For example, this one in the front garden:Fir tree in front garden

or this in the back:

Tree in back gardenAquilegia Dianthus

The aquilegias and dianthus  we are confident of,

but this flower, on long tall stems, has us beaten:IMG_8472

as do both the pink and white ones here:IMG_8481

The very prolific white plants we think are scillas. Could the pink flowers be tierellas or heucherellas?Cactus

Perched on a table near a water butt is a potted cactus.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi (recipe) with savoury rice. I drank sparkling water.

P.S. 31st July 2014

Jackie has now identified the white flower that had us beaten. It is libertia, like so many of our plants, a native of New Zealand.

Cleaning And Hanging

This morning’s test confirmed that Matthew has successfully cleared our shower soak away. Goodness knows what the blockage was, but Bullitt had not penetrated it.

To begin the day, Jackie and I each carried out a fairly extensive cleaning task. Personally, I think I drew the short straw. My task was the removal of the third lavatory seat, the scouring of the porcelain, and the fitting of a replacement. Mat and Tess had brought us the replacement yesterday. we had actually given it to them for Christmas, but it didn’t fit their colour scheme, so they bought another, and we bought this one back off them. That way they still had a present from us. Should anyone wish to read a description of the seat replacement process, I would refer you to ‘Beyond Rancid’ posted on 8th of this month.

Clock from MichaelJackie chose to clean and polish the refurbished clock given to Jessica and me by Michael thirty three years ago. And a very good job she made of it too. It is a much lighter wood than I have known for years.

This afternoon hanging was the task. Whilst Jackie hung a pair of curtains she hand bought in B & Q on a length of dowelling from Knights ironmongers, I paid attention to a couple of pictures.

The curtains frame the kitchen window rather nicely, and happily blend with the cloth that happened to be on the dining table. Curtains at kitchen windowOn the bottom left of the window-sill stands a stoneware vase that Becky made for Jessica and me when she was an art student in the early 1990s. Suspended from the ceiling at top right are a set of wind chimes made from silver-plated cutlery given to me by Michael’s children when they were all quite small. They are on the list for a polish.

Towards the end of the last decade, when I was living in Sutherland Place, I printed a large number of A3+ size prints of my colour slides, and began a practice of changing those on display each week. I bought two large frames with perspex windows having magnets at each corner. It was a simple process to slip out on photo and insert another. Now we have a suitable property in which to begin again.

We had a diversion to B & Q in Christchurch, where we bought a spirit level, the like of which has been a stranger to our house for many years. My pictures are held by two nails, so a means of ensuring they went up in a straight line was a definite requirement.

I have chosen to reproduce the framed hangings as they are in situ. This means that the observant viewer will be able to work out where they are in the house. Michael 8.65The portrait of Michael in the kitchen sink, taken by me at Ashcombe Road whilst Vivien was bathing him, is from August 1965. Is there anyone who has at no time bathed their child in the kitchen sink?

By September 1967 when the next photograph was taken, Vivien had died and Jackie and I had met. One pleasant outing was taken with Jackie, her mother, and her sister Helen. Helen & MichaelThis picture was in a carriage of the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch steam railway. It has always remained one of my favourites. I have never returned to that tourist attraction, but Jackie, who has, tells me that the view we had enjoyed on that day is now obscured by houses.

Giles Darvill is one of my oldest friends, and, by virtue of living in Milford on Sea, is now a neighbour. This evening Jackie and I visited him and Jean, his lady friend, and dined on an individual curry carefully selected by Giles for each of us. Jackie drank Kronenberg and the rest of us two different red wines. Giles had not seen Jackie since 1972, but the years just rolled away and we enjoyed very pleasant company.

The stained glass piece my friend made for my fiftieth birthday has already been mentioned. Other works of his also adorn our home. The fascinating fact is that, of my possessions brought to our joint home, Jackie selected those for display without knowing their pedigree.

The Carpet

Tesco Clubcards

Jackie has been having difficulty obtaining a correct Tesco Clubcard. Twice she has clearly spelt out KNIGHT on the telephone. She has received two cards now, the second one, this morning,  having at least an N where an M was originally given. She has another phone call to make.

Having seen a sign indicating a path to the beach on my last walk through Shorefield Country Park, I walked that way again this bright, windswept, morning, turning right at Dane Road.Clifftop with Isle of Wight and The Needles I was at the cliff top, from which I could see the Isle of Wight and The Needles, in half an hour.Sunrise Bushcraft sign

Shorefield has a Sunrise Bushcraft education project, the hoarding for which I passed on my way.Fishing on the beachMan and boyFisherman

Taking a walk along the shingle, I conversed with a couple of intrepid fishermen who needed to keep a low profile from the gusts coming of the choppy sea.Group with blue balloonTwo women  with blue balloons- Version 2RooksMatthew in garage library

The usual groups of adults and children enjoyed themselves at the water’s edge. One child lost a balloon which rapidly disappeared back up and over the cliff.

I took a shorter route back home, through the rookery, where vociferous and voracious chicks now kept two parents busy, and magpies were, in no uncertain terms, informed that their presence was not required.

Our son Matthew, and his wife Tess, brought us lunch and stayed for the afternoon. Mat, a true professional spent a couple of hours laying a carpet, which Michael had given us, in the garage library, which is now a garage/library/laundry room. This was a magnificent effort involving moving heavy boxes of books backwards and forwards across the room as the floor covering, including underlay, was unravelled. I wasn’t much help.

The carpet had been sent down from Graham Road with our furniture by Michael. It was a well-nigh perfect fit.

Yesterday’s second application of Bullitt to the shower plug hole had proved no more successful than the first. Not content with his work in the library, Mat then took a flexible rod to the shower, and, we think, cleared it.

Finally, a very full day was rounded off by a visit from sisters Jacqueline and Elizabeth who arrived in time to chat for a while with Mat and Tess, who then went on to visit Becky, Flo, and Ian.

The rest of us dined at The Royal Oak, where we enjoyed our usual warm welcome and attentive service.

 

Spaghetti Junction

Here is the recipe for broccoli and stilton soup I had hoped, last night, to be able to provide this morning. Thanks to our caterer-in-chief:

Take a largish saucepan.

With approximately 2oz butter and 1 and 1/2 oz plain flour make a roux.

Then add 3 to 4 oz crumbled stilton to taste.

Meanwhile, heat a pint and a half of water in a separate pan, into which dissolve two good quality (e.g. Knorr) stock cubes, one chicken and one vegetable. If possible these should be low salt because stilton can be salty.

Simmer chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower in the stock until soft.

Gradually stirring it in add the broccoli and stock to the roux and ‘cook for a bit more’.Broccoli and stilton soup

We had some for lunch. It has a delightful piquancy.

Before that, we had driven to Knights ironmongers in Lymington, where we bought a number of practical items, like sink plugs, door locks, hacksaws, chisels, and a preparation for clearing the blocked shower. I had used Bullitt before, but couldn’t remember the name. The very helpful young man in the shop went straight to it when I described our needs.

Bullitt is 95-97% sulphuric acid and claims to dissolve pretty well all organic matter that can legitimately find its way into pipes. It comes with considerable safety warnings, and emitted a steam, which we are advised not to inhale, on application. Unfortunately, whatever is down there, it seems impervious to sulphuric acid. I suppose it could be fossilised. After following the instructions and scouring the scummy tray, there was no speedier a trickle down the plug hole. I applied another dose and walked away without much hope of success. Jackie, on the other hand, made a good job of fixing sink plugs and door locks.

My first car, bought in December 1966, was a red Hillman Imp. During our courting days I was able to drive to Jackie’s family home in Beckenham, sometimes with Michael, sometimes leaving him with Mum in 18 Bernard Gardens. Always a keen photographer, I kept the camera in the car. One afternoon in September 1967, I stopped at traffic lights, and glanced to my left. There a window cleaner was engaged in polishing a large sheet of glass under the gaze of a baby in a pram inside the room that it was lighting. I grabbed my all-manual Kodak Retinette 1b camera, and, in the seconds before the red light turned to green, snatched the shot. Baby and window cleaner 9.67It remains one of my favourite ‘posterity’ images. Judith and Barrie will, no doubt be intrigued to recognise the roof of my car reflected in the window of the room.

Aficionados may be able to identify the make of the pram. Window cleaning has now become much more sophisticated. Does anyone still use a ladder, chamois leathers, and elbow grease?

When she was here last week, Flo observed that we had our TV in a funny place. This was because it was behind Jackie’s chair and consequently rather obscured from view. Users guides and remotesThis in turn was because I was too scared to attempt to set up the Sharp Aquos TV; BT Vision complete with the Powerline adapters required because the Home Hub was far enough away from the telly to need it; and the Bose 123 CD/DVD player complete with its bulky Acoustimass module.400px-Spaghetti-Junction-Crop

The Gravelly Hill interchange on the M6 at Birmingham is the original spaghetti junction. This is a nickname given to a network of connecting roads that appears a tangled mess. It could equally apply to the wiring system focussing on the seven year old TV. Television set-upWith constant reference to the various users guides that came with the equipment; to the tags at some stage or another attached to the various wires; with some of the tentacles still attached at one end to the relevant gadgets; and with a good deal of foraging among a container labelled ‘phone wires and stuff’, a miracle was achieved. We can now watch telly, choose a programme from BT vision, play a DVD, or listen to a CD.

Whilst I was grappling with technology in the living room, Jackie successfully did so in the kitchen, where, on her induction hobs, she produced a lamb jalfrezi (recipe) as good as ever. She served it with wild rice. I finished the merlot.

The Isle Of Man

This morning Jackie drove me to New Milton for me to catch the London train. This took her eight minutes, but added half an hour to my train journey. It is far preferable than driving to Southampton for her, and no problem for me.

Lilac, bluebells, moon daisiesIn a small patch of garden alongside the statioMoon daisiesn buildings lilac, bluebells, and moon daisies Moon daisy with raindropsglistened with raindrops. As I photographed the daisies a woman on the platform pointed out the display of daisies I had already shot. She said she had not seen them there before, and wondered whether they had been planted or were self-sown.

TulipFrom Waterloo I took the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines to Preston Road and walked to Norman’s. Much tilling was being undertaken in the allotments adjacent to the John Billam Sports Ground. One holder had planted a bright array of tulips.

My friend fed us on roast lamb, paprika wedges and vegetables followed by blackberry and apple crumble and custard. We shared a bottle of excellent Crozes-Hermitage.

In narrating the condition of our new home I was prompted to mention Sheila Darzi. Sheila was a member of our Intake Team of social workers in Westminster in the early 1970s. The insanitary conditions of a house to which she made an assessment visit were such that she had to go home to change into a pair of Wellington boots. The Old Post House is not quite that unsavoury, but it comes a close second.

Before I left home this morning I had examined the legs of the reproduction Victorian free-standing bath in our master suite. As far as we can tell, it is quite new, and we would seem to be the only people to have used it. Once each. It is so small that we can only sit cross-legged in it. Not even each at the same time. Yesterday Jackie felt it move. She discovered that none of the legs is fixed to the floor and one of them came off the bath in her hands. My inspection revealed that the other three limbs are at least bolted to the bath.Bath

Perhaps there is some significance in the fact that the lock on the family bathroom door photographed a couple of days ago bears the three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man.

From Preston Road after lunch I took the Metropolitan and Jubilee Underground lines to Westminster, and walked from there to Carol’s. After spending some time with her I returned, via the 507 bus and the train from Waterloo to New Milton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.

On the train today I began reading Desmond Seward’s history of ‘The Wars of the Roses’. It promises to be very good.

At home, Jackie produced a tangy broccoli and stilton soup with which I drank water and she Hoegaarden. I will attempt to prise a recipe out of her for publication tomorrow.