Misty morning

Slowly, mist dispersed from the garden as we drank our morning coffee.

Jackie drove us to The First gallery for midday where we joined the party celebrating the fortieth year of the artwork exhibitions at the home of Margery and Paul. This was a very happy occasion with friends gathered by this mother and son over a lifetime. We are pleased to be counted members of this honoured group.

In keeping with the theme there was a ruby coloured beetroot soup with a number of other ingredients. The ingenious Paul had devised a method of topping the soup with a creamy Ruby soupSoup with female symbol40. This was done with sterilised garden wire dipped into the mixture and laid on rather like the shamrock sprayed onto the head of a pint of Guinness by dextrous bar staff. I was fortunate enough to be presented with a perfect specimen, but they didn’t all come out like that. One young woman decided that hers, also including a lentil version looked like the female symbol which she invited me to photograph.

We had all been invited to bring an inflated red balloon. On arrival we were informed that there would be a prize for the last person to hold an unburst one. The secret was to keep yours out of the way of broach pins and forks, toasting or otherwise. Leo, the youngest member of the group clung to his two until the very end.Leo and his Mum

Margery had made a splendid selection of small snacks and a superb chocolate sponge The First cakecake which formed the centrepiece of the desserts table which was soon emptied.  She made the first half cut Cake cuttingacross and directed Paul to complete it. He was, after all, part of the partnership and moreover had decorated it. We toasted the pair with Champagne heavily laced with cranberry juice. One guest was keen to help our hostess protect her balloon. MargeryElizabeth, in the foreground of this picture, didn’t have a red balloon, so she painted the legend: ‘I AM RED HONEST’ on  hers.

Leo was very quiet throughout, but the conversation at one point did turn to methods of preventing small babies from disturbing parents’ slumber. When Jackie told us a story about one of the elderly ladies she had cared for thirty years ago, a tongue twister competition ensued. This client’s childhood would have gone back to the end of the nineteenth century when her mother had the perfect antidote to nighttime tears. She would make a ‘tea’ with a ‘penn’orth of poppy heads from the apothecary’. Quite a lot of spluttering accompanied somewhat inebriated efforts to repeat this.

It was quite close to sunset as the party broke up and we all went home. Driving due West into a magnificent sunset Jackie turned off the M27 taking the Fawley road, in an effort to get me into the forest before the sun disappeared. She didn’t quite manage that, but, as Sunsey BeaulieuSunset Dibden PurlieuSunset Beaulieu RiverSunset Hatchet Pondso often, the shots were more attractive with clouds lit from below. The pools on the heathland near Debden Purlieu, the Beaulieu River, and Hatchet Pond all added their reflective charm to the views. This was perhaps the perfect close to a ruby day.

By the time Jackie dropped me at Milford on Sea so that I could walk home via the cliff top and Shorefield, darkness had set in, but there was just enough light reflecting off The Sunset with cow parsleySunset over The SolentSolent for me to catch a bit more of sundown along the coast. As I walked up the dimly lit Downton Lane I removed my black waterproof coat and carried it so that the headlights of oncoming traffic could gleam on my buff sports jacket.

After the spread laid on at The First, a small bowl of Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi and egg fried rice accompanied by the last of the Cotes du Rhone Villages (red, of course) wine sufficed for our evening sustenance.

The Weather


Early this morning we attended to bits of my body.

First, Jackie drove us to the GP surgery in Milford on Sea where I set in motion a long overdue referral for an orthopaedic assessment of my knees, and learned that I am on a list for a cataract adjustment to my left eye. I should be fully bionic soon. Next was a visit to our dental hygienist for a routine treatment.

We then returned to Hockey’s Farm Shop for a box of eggs we had left on the table yesterday.

Today the weather was decidedly soggy with occasional rain. Just one pony appeared to have ventured out. As it struggled to find nourishment along the verges of Holmsley Road it must have regretted the lack of

one of the rugs its more pampered field residents were still wore. They didn’t all even have to find their own food.

These latter animals were kept at South Gorley, so let us here return to Holmsley Road, the forest floors on either side of which are now full of temporary pools covering the terrain and reflecting branches, trunks, and mossy roots.

Crossing the A35 we come to Holmsley Passage, bordered with its own pools of precipitation and wind-blasted branches.

A woman with a dog strode down the hill and across the swollen ford just in time to enhance my photographs.

At Gorley Lynch, light rain seeped from silver-grey skies, supplementing ditchwater flowing across the crumbling road, and brightening moss on the thatch of the house alongside the farm café. This was in stark contrast to the cerulean canvas that had covered the building the day before. Note the mistletoe in the tree. There is much of it about the forest.

This evening we dined on Hockey’s Farm hot and spicy pickled onions accompanying Mr Pink’s fish and chips, and pineapple fritters in Lyle’s golden syrup. I drank Don Lotario gran reserva Navarra 2009.

The Skip

28th November 2014
This is the fifth and final day of the black and white flower photo challenge. On the second I posted a close-up of cow parsley that is having a second flowering this year. I finished my response to the challenge with a shot of what this plant usually looks like in winter.Cow parsley
The Sun NewspaperSkipButterflis on skipApart from the soggy newspaper atop a skip in which butterflies perched on pearls in Shorefield Road, it was a sunless morning when I took my Hordle Cliff top walk in reverse.
Openreach vans are regular visitors to this area. I stopped and chatted to a gentleman Openreach engineerworking on a cab, as we now know the engineers call the cabinet. When, during the first of my recent calls to BT, the Indian adviser told me that the problem was in the cabinet, I would have been even more confused had he said ‘cab’.
This evening Jackie drove us to Wickham where we met Elizabeth and her friend Cathy at the Chesapeake Antiques Centre open evening. Mulled wine and mince pies were served and a beautiful singer performed. I found it difficult to negotiate the crowds in the confined spaces of the corridors between the packed rooms and display cases, so I soon repaired to the Veranda Indian restaurant where I waited for the others, and Cathy’s husband Paul to join me. There we enjoyed our usual splendid meal and Indian lagers.
On our return home I was once more unable to access the internet, and had to post this the next day.

Teenage Creativity

One aspect of Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ that I did not mention yesterday is that this youthful writer loses no opportunity to insert one of his poems or ballads into the text. Mostly using rhyming iambic pentameter these are all rather good. The only one that isn’t is presented as written by a young boy in need of advice about his work. ‘Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine’, for example, can be found on Google.
This had me reflecting overnight on my own teenage versifications, in which I was encouraged by the gentle Jesuit, Fr. John Harriott S.J., who was the teacher for my A level year of 1960. I still possess the exercise book into which I transferred all these works in my best handwriting. The ink is a little faded now, but I see I hadn’t then lost my copperplate r.The Examination011 Here is one of the shortest with which I also experimented with some kind of rather doubtful free verse. I must have spent some exam time daydreaming. Hopefully I had finished the paper.
It was Father Harriott who wanted to enter me for S(cholarship) level G(eneral) C(ertificate) (of) E(education). Because I was not applying to any University the headmaster would not allow it. In those days you were not told your marks – just pass or fail. My mentor took the trouble of applying to the examination board for my marks and telling me that I had achieved S level standard. Which was rather nice.
PansyFor today’s black and white photo challenge I posted on Facebook a bejewelled pansy. It seemed to me that the markings on these playful plants lent themselves perfectly to representation in monochrome.
This morning Jackie drove us to Wroughton to visit Frances who fed us on sausage and bacon butties (cobs or baps if you prefer) and then drove us to the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to visit an exhibition based on the work of the teenaged J.M.W. Turner.
In a cabinet in one of the museum rooms sat a typewriter from 1914 which was very like Typewriterthe one on which I, after a fashion, taught myself to type at my Aunt Stella’s home. The font on the letter in the museum is similar to that in the typed versions of my poem mentioned above, that I have tucked into the notebook. Using this ancient device was a laborious process in which pressure on the keys stamped ink from a ribbon onto the page, and the shift key was a lever you pulled across at the end of each line.
In a case in the corridor leading to the art gallery stood an easel containing what for me Winter in Pendlebury - L.S.Lowrywas actually the highlight of the trip, L.S. Lowry’s ‘Winter in Pendlebury’, labelled their Pick of the Month.
turnertalk460Seven of the eight Turner paintings were executed in 1791-92, when he was 16-17. His teenage skill was incredible, yet it perhaps needs a certain amount of imagination to recognise the style he was to develop that was so far ahead of his time.
On our return home Jackie and I dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe. We both had the enormous rack of pork ribs and could eat no sweet. Jackie drank Beck’s and I drank Doom Bar.

The Monk

One of the benefits of our mild Autumn has been that non-hardy plants, like this fuchsia Fuchsia quasarQuasar, are still out in the garden. Normally a delicate pink and lilac on a white ground, this picture was my selection for the third day of my Black and White Flower photograph submissions.
Edward Sherred, landscaper, called this morning with his wife. Every couple of years he had pruned the tops of the variegated hollies in the front garden. Our predecessors had the benefit of free tree surgery and his wife used the branches to make Christmas wreaths. Having enjoyed a similar arrangement at Lindum House I was happy for us to continue the process. He did a good job.
Stinging nettles and sticky williesBlackberry blossomDandelionIt was a dank day for my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Stinging nettles and sticky willies were sprouting again in the hedgerows. Blackberries had been conned into producing more blossom, and a brave little dandelion had forced its way up through a driveway’s gravel.Hordle Cliff beach
Birds were silently snuggled up in their nests, and The Needles were shrouded in mist. I met no other creature in an hour’s walk.
‘The Castle of Otranto’ is hailed as the first gothic novel, and Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ as the ultimate one. This work, which I finished reading today, has all the ingredients. Set in Madrid at the time of the Inquisition, we have a dubious monastery and a doomed convent; we have wild weather and benighted forests; we have superstition and sorcery; we have blind belief and blasphemy; we have saintly heroes and sinful religious; we have cunning and deception; we have a sadistic prioress and a seduced and seducing prior; we have terror and torture; we have ghosts, ghastly dungeons, and damp sepulchral crypts strewn with unburied bodies; and we have rape and murder most foul.
Hammer (‘The House of Horror’) Films would have relished it, but it was a French-Spanish production directed by Dominic Moll that presented the adaptation released in 2011.
It hard to believe that Lewis was barely twenty when he completed this fast-moving and insightful novel that has intrigued readers ever since 1796. My Folio Society edition benefits from an introduction by Devendra P. Varma and is embellished by the wood The Monk Illustrationengravings of George Tute, who must have thought it was Christmas when asked to illustrate a book packed with such dramatic incident. He is certainly up to the task.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice (recipe). I finished the chianti.

Find The Crop

The rain was back in Downton today, but uninterrupted internet access wasn’t. Which would you like to read about first?
Ok, I’ll be gentle and start with the weather. The fog warning from the invisible Needles lighthouse sounded above the pattering of raindrops as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk just Muddy fieldafter midday. Cattle, having been brought inside for the winter, have left the sodden fields. Rainwater left its film on the camera lens.

A pair of barely discernible yachts were out on The Solent.

I will now attempt not to rant about BT. The facts should speak for themselves. Not counting the man who connected Infinity Broadband on 10th of this month, we have now been visited by three Openreach engineers. It was number three, this morning, who confirmed that we had been mis-sold our package, which I hadn’t asked for in the first place. After he left I spent the best part of two hours on the phone, mostly pacing up and down the sitting room listening to music. In fact this could easily have constituted my day’s walk. But it the mood I was in at the end of it all I needed to go out and get wet.

The answer is that our house is 2km from the cabinet in the street, and problems develop if you are 1km away. BT have the equipment to check this at the time of installation without having to enter the property.

I began the day’s call to the sales department in England. I was transferred to the technical help team in India, and back to a woman in England whose task it was now to start the process of getting us back to our previous contract. It was when the technical man, putting me on hold for the third time advised me to wait, sit back and relax, that I very politely stated that I had no option but to wait, yet relax was what I would not be doing.

The upshot is that we must wait ten working days for a complaint to be processed and five for us to be put back on our old broadband. That is a fortnight and a week.

SaladAfter a salad lunch, served with Jackie’s usual artistry, and four failed attempts, I managed to cling to the web just long enough to post my second day’s photograph for the black and white challenge. I chose a tiny crop from a picture of an unseasonal cow parsley head that still blooms this November.

Cow parsley 2Cow parsley 3Can you find this little jewel in the full frame?

Had there been any sun today, it would have been setting by the time I was able to work on this post. We are dining on Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi (recipe) tonight, but I may not be able to access The Net then, so I am sending it off now.

Black And White Challenge

This morning I received a photographic challenge from Kanan Buta. This requires the posting on Facebook of a black and white floral picture each day for five days, on each of which a challenge is to be issued to another friend. I have plenty of pictures of summer flowers that could easily be converted to monochrome, but it seemed to me that a challenge accepted in November should be photographed currently and that these colourful subjects should be chosen for their form. In discussing this with Jackie, she came up with the perfect suggestion for this, the anniversary year of the commencement of The Great War. This was a skeletal poppy head, stripped of all flesh yet still standing in the garden. Here is my first day’s entry:Poppy head
On this the first bright, finger-tingling day, taking my Hordle Cliff top walk, I happily obtained a more than ample haul for my five days. I will include one in each of my subsequent WordPress posts.
Road maintenanceAs I walked down Downton Lane, a cloud of dust billowing from Shorefield Road alerted me to road repairs that were being undertaken. A cutting blade was being applied to the edge of the tarmac. Rooks
The rooks are nesting again and soon Shorefield Road will be reverberating with their cries.
Frost on grassFrost on leavesCondensationFrost was coating the fields and hedgerows, and condensation, reminiscent of that described in my ‘Armistice Day’ post, lined the bus shelter in the corner of which a daddy longlegs had met its end.
Isle of Wight and The NeedlesWoman walking dogsThe sea was calm; The Needles, sharp and clear, pierced the pastel skyline; and a woman with a pair of dogs crunched along the shingle.
We had a little less disruption in our internet access today, which is why I had the confidence to wait until tonight to post my offering. Given that the fourth engineer is booked in tomorrow, I do hope there will be difficulties in the morning, otherwise it will be like a visit to a doctor, when you suddenly feel better whilst sitting in the GP’s patient chair.
This evening Jackie produced a splendid pork casserole for our dinner. This was accompanied by crisp carrots, brussels sprouts, and broccoli; roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert was steamed syrup sponge and custard. Jackie drank Peroni and I drank Via di Cavallo chianti 2012.

‘You’re Not Going To Believe This, Miss’

Steady drizzle dripping from dreary skies had, by the time I returned home from my Hordle CrowCliff walk, developed into the deluge that would continue throughout the day. Crows cawed from the telephone lines above the coast road and slugs slithered across the tarmac.
We were without internet access until mid-afternoon, and even then it was erratic, but I was able to scan a batch of colour slides from 1975, and wait until then to upload them, and to load the above photograph into iPhoto. In order to download photos from my Canon SX700 I must be on the web, so whether I can do this or not is touch and go.
Pete 4'75Michael 4.75In the 1970s Jessica’s parents lived in Bulcote Lodge, near Burton Joyce in Nottinghamshire. We often visited, and Michael liked to bring Pete, his friend from Islington Green school, to spend time there. In April 1975 the boys played football on the immaculate lawn.
At that time Islington Green was a flagship comprehensive school and the headmistress, now Professor Margaret Maden, was considered one of the leading educationalists of the time. She had a soft spot for Michael, which was just as well when he brought his cousin James to lessons. James’s half term holiday in South London was a week earlier than my son’s. The boys thought it would be a good wheeze to pass Michael’s cousin off as a French exchange student. He sat ant the back of the class and they thought they had got away with it until Ms Maden summoned Michael at the end of the week and asked him who the uninvited guest had been. ‘You are not going to believe this, Miss…..’ began Michael. Too right, she didn’t. Neither, presumably had any of the other teachers. But it was all treated with good humour.St Pancras 5.75 01St Pancras 5.75 02jpg
In May 1975, when I took the rest of the photographs, we were living in Lloyd Baker Street in Islington. From there I took two more St Pancras skyline sunsets.
Matthew and Becky 5.75 03Matthew was amused to be asked to pose by his sister’s side. Becky sits in a rocking chair that now furnishes our spare single bedroom. It was one of Jessica’s twenty first birthday presents.
Much more serious was his approach to chess, which we played with my replica of the famous set found on the Isle of Lewis some time before April 1831. They are thought to be Scandinavian from the twelfth century.Matthew playing chess 5.75
Matthew & Becky 5.75 01Matthew and Becky 5.75 02Across the road from our balcony lay blocks of flats, in one of which lived Pete. Mat and Becky liked to watch the street from the safety of our railings.Jessica 5.75Jessica hands and purse 5.75
These two shots of Jessica, in one of which she examines the contents of her purse, were also taken that May.
I will close this entry, as I did yesterday, by saying that we will dine on a Chinese takeaway meal, and that I will send my post whilst I have a precarious grasp on the internet.

Preparing For The Party

I am grateful to two blogging friends, Ginene and Cynthia for engaging in a discussion about yesterday’s post. The likely culprits are mice and voles making use of mole tunnels. Mouse holeWe have all three examples of wildlife in our garden. Comparing the tiny drilled entrance hole with the gravel stones surrounding it would implicate these small creatures.
My lower back is complaining about yesterday’s efforts. Frustrated by yet more internet access problems, and in an effort to get myself standing up straight, I took a short walk to Shorefield and back. I met a couple considering taking over The Royal Oak pub and had quite a long talk with them, but I was rather less than upright.
After lunch I girded my loins and took on BT again. I have discovered that if you want to talk to a person more or less immediately it is best to call the sales team. Logical isn’t it?
A lengthy discussion with a very helpful young man eventually revealed that Broadband Infinity does not reach our property. I had told this to the salesperson who sold us the package. She had checked with her manager who confirmed it was in our area. None of the engineers who have visited the house has mentioned this. Ashley, the salesman, advised me to change back to the BTHub3. I did this. It didn’t work. I changed back to the Hub5 which works only intermittently. Half a loaf is, I suppose, better than none.
I rang the sales department again. After a total of three hours I finally spoke yet again to the faults team level two. Apparently if you revert to Hub3 you need some kind of an adaptor fitted if you are on infinity. An engineer will visit in three days time. I did of course keep my usual cool……..
Infinity or what? Perhaps this term relates to how long you have to persist before you obtain uninterrupted service. It’s probably quite a long way ahead.
Now maybe I will have enough access time to make the post I promised yesterday.
In the 1980s, until we moved to Newark in 1987, I had begun to print my own black and white photographs. After we moved I imagined that, upon retirement, I would convert the gardening outhouse to a darkroom and continue this process in earnest. Then came computers and I do it differently now.
Jackie’s needlework has been featured before. It is also evident in this set of pictures taken on Ilford film in 1982.
I forget who hosted the party in which we were invited that summer to attend in Edwardian dress. I think it was a student on the Croydon Social Work course. In those days I was living with Jessica, Sam and Louisa in Gracedale Road, Streatham. Matthew and Becky spent the weekends with us. The rest of us dug out appropriate gear from our wardrobes, whereas Mat and Beck sported splendid costumes produced by their mother for the occasion.
Becky Sam and MatthewMatthew 1982 02Matthew 1982 01Jessica and Louisa 1982Becky 1982Becky and Matthew 1982 01Jessica Becky and Matthew 1982Matthew and Becky 1982Matthew Sam, Jessica and Becky 1982Jessica 1982 01Matthew 1982 02The selection of images presents the family breakfasting in the garden, then dressing for the event. The pipe bearing the head of the ‘widow of Windsor’, as Queen Victoria was termed, and the stoneware bottle, were spoils from the buried midden in Kingston that we looted in our mudlarking days. I had a new stem fitted to the pipe. Jackie tells me that Becky’s hat was fashioned from an artificial bridal bouquet purchased from an Oxfam shop. Becky tells me that when she went home and told her Mum that they were going to a fancy dress party Jackie was excited at the prospect but rather daunted by the requirement of Elizabethan dress. When, the following week, our daughter returned with the information that it was Edwardian, not Elizabethan, Jackie was somewhat relieved.
Candle holderJackie has a penchant for tall wrought iron candle holders to be converted to garden planters. She had spotted a couple yesterday in Molly’s Den. We bought them after I’d finished with BT.
This evening we will be eating a Chinese takeaway meal. I won’t push my luck by waiting until afterwards to post this, but will do so whilst we are still on line for however long it lasts.

What’s Eating The Bulbs?

This morning, I dug out 14 brick lengths of bramble and ivy roots from the back drive’s Northern border. We have had less rain the last couple of days, therefore I thought I would return to the task. Actually the soil remains rather heavy and cloying, so it was tough on the back, and I welcomed the drizzle that gave me an excuse to stop. On the Southern side, Jackie is probably going to be disappointed in her dream of a fine display of daffodils in the spring, because the bulbs she planted are being eaten. We haven’t seen any squirrels, but we do have mice, which, last night, Giles suggested might be the culprits.Iris

It is probably slugs scissoring patterns into the iris petals.Mushrooms

One of the dead stumps has produced its own golden mushroom cluster.

This afternoon I scanned and identified a set of black and white negatives from the summer of 1982. A considerable amount of retouching was required. I will tell the story and feature a selection of the photographs tomorrow. That’s because we are due more heavy rain which probably won’t be conducive to a new set of images. After all, there are only so many ways one can depict raindrops falling into puddles.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chilli con carne (recipe), savoury rice, and green beans, followed bu steamed ginger sponge and custard. She drank Hoegaarden and I began a new bottle of Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009.