The Beach Fortress: The Definitive Illustrated Edition

Anyone caring to scroll down the comments on ‘And What Came Next?’ will be able to see several suggestions for the ending of the story. On Facebook, Becky has offered ‘The fly said ” Your wings are MASSIVE!” and the butterfly replied “How rude! You smell of poo. Shoo Fly!” And the fly buzzed off to find a nice cow-pat for his tea.’ And Sara Head: . ‘And jumped back in shock! “You’re real” each exclaimed, “I thought you were my reflection.”‘ Two rather good ones, I thought, but each a little more inventive than those of the two small grandchildren: Emily: ‘And they got married’. Oliver: ‘And the butterfly ate the fly’. Neither of my daughters is at all demanding. Therefore, when Becky put in a plea for seeing The Beach Fortress in the process of construction, it has been my pleasure to comply. Not being able to lay my hands on the negatives from August 1999, today I scanned a mere selection from the printed record. Here it is: Building sandcastle 8.99001

Sam, Louisa, James, Gemma, Lucy, and Nick start on a pile of sand on the beautiful beach of Instow, whist boats ply the channel between this and the former fishing village of Appledore,

Building sandcastle 8.99002

and Canon Henry Pearson leans against a moored boat surveying the scene.

Building sandcastle 8.99003Building sandcastle 8.99004

At this early stage it is possible for passers-by, like this mother pushing a pram, to be unaware of what is happening.

Building sandcastle 8.99005Building sandcastle 8.99007

Gradually, however, the young of Instow gather round.

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Louisa and Lucy smooth the surfaces,

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and Lucy employs the services of a little local helper.

Building sandcastle 8.99011

Bigger lads look on.

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Jim shares a joke with Lucy, whose assistant has wandered off

Building sandcastle 8.99013

to see if Louisa has any requirements, whilst his sister examines the footings.

Building sandcastle 8.99015

Building sandcastle 8.99014

Sometimes it’s not exactly clear who is in charge.

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Building sandcastle 8.99018

By the time the sun begins to sink below the horizon, the crew are able to position the flambeaus, and delight in their creation.

Building sandcastle 8.99019

Jessica and Judith prepare refreshments, evening wear is donned,

Building sandcastle 8.99020

Building sandcastle 8.99022

and the village begins to assemble.

Building sandcastle 8.99021

Jessica sports her trademark Monsoon skirt.

Building sandcastle 8.99017

‘David Robert Shepherd MBE (27 December 1940 – 27 October 2009)[1] was a first-class cricketer who played county cricket for Gloucestershire, and later became one of the cricket world’s best-known umpires. He stood in 92 Test matches, the last of them in June 2005, the most for any English umpire. He also umpired 172 ODIs [One Day Internationals], including three consecutive World Cup, finals in 1996, 1999 and 2003′ (Wikipedia).

He has observed the proceedings from very early on.

Building sandcastle 8.99023

As night closes in, the torches are lit, and the crowd dwindles away,

Building sandcastle 8.99025

eventually leaving the field to three proud mothers: from left to right, Ali, of James; Jessica, of Sam and Louisa; and Judith, of Lucy and Nick.

Anyone clicking on these images for enlargement will notice that I haven’t done any retouching. After all, there is only so much one can do in a day. Not that anyone would believe that, seeing what this lot achieved.

Fast forward to this evening, when Jackie and I dined on her potent spaghetti arrabiata, followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. She drank Hoegaarten and I drank Louis de Camponac cabernet sauvignon 2014.

Flo Meets Auntie Walisa

Bee on vibernumIn the garden this morning, bees, like this one on a viburnum, were up early;

Rose - Altissimo

a climbing rose Altissimo, already in situ, on the border of the projected rose garden, when we arrived, thrives;

diascia Apple blossom

as does the overwintered diascia (no, Mr. WordPress, not disco), aptly named Apple blossom;


and a multitude of the more normally hued foxgloves.

Here is my final offering in the Five Photos – Five Stories series:

The 2nd of January 1997 was bitterly cold day. Louisa and I were not even sure the trains would be running when we set of from Lindum House in Newark-on-Trent to Amity Grove in South London. But nothing was going to stop us. We had an excited hour and a half on the intercity train to Kings Cross; the usual cramped crush on the Underground to Waterloo; then, through Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, Earlsfield, and Wimbledon, to Raynes Park. Speeding up Amity Grove to number 76 we eagerly rattled on the front door, equally keenly answered by Becky who introduced us to her sleeping daughter, Florence, born on 23rd December 1996.

Louisa and Flo 2.1.97

Louisa tenderly cradled her new niece. I, of course, had to wait my turn.

‘Hang on a minute’, do I hear you think? ‘Who, then, is Auntie Walisa?’. Well, you see, Flo’s cousin Oliver, born to Heidi and Michael a year to the day before this little baby, took a while to be able to say his auntie’s name.

This was also the last time Jackie and I were to meet before the ‘Reincarnation‘.

For our return journey, Louisa and I had quite a wait on a freezing Raynes Park Station platform. Our bones were chilled, but our hearts were warmed.

Late this afternoon Jackie drove us to Redhill, a suburb of Bournemouth, for a visit to her great nephew Billy’s first birthday party. The adults sat inside whilst a number of children played in the garden. The birthday boy himself was peacefully asleep on his maternal grandmother’s lap when we arrived. When he awoke he did his best not to become overwhelmed by the gathered host, and, as is very common, seemed more interested in the wrapping than in his presents. Next year will, no doubt, be rather different.Jackie & Derrick

Helen sent this photograph the following day. Pirates of the Caribbean is playing in the background, and we were issued with eye patches. Get it?

Afterwards Jackie and I dined at a packed Lal Quilla in Lymington. My choice of meal was lamb Ceylon with special fried rice; Jackie’s was chicken sag with mixed fried rice. We shared an egg paratha and both drank Kingfisher. Service, ambience, and food were as good as usual, except that I must remember that their lamb is not the best option.

The Beach Fortress

This morning Jackie drove me to Molly’s Den and left me there to hunt for a birthday present for her, whilst she carried out various other errands. I didn’t find anything satisfactory, but the journey was worth the excellent brunch that the antiques and bric-brac centre provided. Brunch

Mine was, as you would expect, a fry-up – a first class one. I trust you can see the quality of the meaty sausages,the wedge of non-fatty black pudding, and the lean bacon. Everything was cooked to perfection, and the thick toast was probably home-made bread. Jackie enjoyed an equally well-cooked baked potato stuffed with prawns. We knew we would eat sparingly this evening.

For much of the day winds gusted at more than 30 m.p.h., and diagonal, driving, rods of rain beset us as we left Molly’s.

By mid-afternoon, The skies had cleared, and the downpour had ceased,

Clematis Carnaby

raindrops dripped from the clematis Carnaby,

Cabbage white butterfly on geranium

a Cabbage white butterfly slaked its thirst on a geranium,

Garden shed

and I changed Jackie’s birthday present into a garden shed ordered from Purewell Timber Buildings.

The fourth of my  Five Photos – Five Stories, is inspired by one of our fairly frequent Instow holidays with Henry, Judith, Nick, and Lucy Pearson.

Instow is an old-fashioned, carefully preserved, village lying opposite the former fishing village of Appledore in North Devon. The beach and the village lie within the Instow Conservation Area. It was all the more remarkable, therefore, that within the space of one day in August 1999, a magical construction emerged from the pristine sands.

Led by nineteen year old Sam, a team including Louisa, cousins Nick and Lucy, and friends Gemma and James, had created a vast turreted fortress of sand, complete with defensive wall and moat, and embellished with flags. Local children became willing navvies, and the word soon got about. David Shepherd, retired England cricketer and international umpire, gave his support.

Louisa-sandcastle 9.99

I am not sure what exactly was originally envisaged, but an idea of the scale of what was produced is indicated by this photograph of Louisa posing against the setting sun.

By nightfall, the flaming torches lit up the darkness, and what seemed to be the complete population of the village turned out to enjoy the celebration, naturally enough toting an ample supply of liquid sustenance. I expect we all eventually got to bed.

Yesterday I had published my invited story with five photos rather than the suggested one. This was because the book was a tale in pictures. The photo above, as with so many of the single shots I feature, was one of a series that followed the process of the project. Maybe one day I’ll cover the rest.

This evening we dined on Spanish omelette, bacon, and crusty bread and butter.

And What Came Next?

This morning’s bouquet includes: Petunias


Clematis Polish Spirit

clematis Polish Spirit;






and delicate gladioli.


A veritable cacophony reverberated along the kitchen facia as the parent starlings jointly strove to satisfy their screeching offspring.

Whilst Jackie continued the creative gardening, I did the ironing and applied the first layer of wax to the new stair-rails.

This afternoon our friend Harri and her dog Inka came for a brief visit.

I have chosen to illustrate the third of my Five Photos – Five Stories with a set of five photos taken in Brittany in September 1982. They were themselves to provide a board book I made for grandchildren Emily and Oliver quite a few years later.

Whilst I was contemplating getting up in the morning in the bedroom of a gite where Jessica, our two children, and Ann and Don spent an enjoyable holiday, a buzzing on a windowpane alerted me to the presence of a fly. I don’t know where the original book is now, but I will endeavour to write this in the language I would have used for small children.

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 001

One day a fly landed on a curtain flapping in the breeze.

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Suddenly a butterfly landed on the windowpane. The fly looked at it,

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and dropped onto the sill. So did the butterfly.

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The fly walked towards the butterfly and did a little dance.

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They reached out a hand to each other, and –

What came next?

Each of the children gave what may be considered a stereotypical response. If you would like to suggest a suitable finale, I will wait a couple of days before revealing what my grandchildren said. I wonder if anyone will match them.

This evening we dined at The Family House in Totton, enjoying set meal M3 in the usual friendly atmosphere. We both drank Tsingtao beer.

‘Sign That, Dad’

You may be forgiven for imagining that there can be no more new plants emerging in our garden. On the other hand, you may anticipate many more. Today I offer:

Chive and heuchera

colourful purple chives which sit well among the flaming heucheras;

Rose - peach

this unidentified peach rose;

Geranium azure rush

the rambling geranium Azure Rush, which makes good ground cover;

crinodendron hookerianum

Footpathand the crinodendron Hookerianum, or Chilean lantern tree that was incorrectly identified as Chinese last year.

This morning I sprayed herbicide on the fresh weeds coming up on the back drive. This gave me the confidence, later, to walk to the postbox on Christchurch Road, and possibly to continue across the field to as far as the wood. I took one look at how overgrown the footpath has become, thought better of it, and returned  to Old Post House. Just think, if this were in the 1960s, I would not have needed to walk anywhere.

Now it is time for the second of my  Five Photos – Five Stories.

You may know by now that during the nineteen Newark years I commuted to Kings Cross. This sometimes meant that I had a little time to kill. On one such occasion, about 1994, when I had given up wandering about outside the station fending off a persistent ‘working girl’, and decided to sit inside until departure time, I received a phone call from Sam.

Jessica’s and my son, knowing there would be a photo kiosk in the station, asked me to take a couple of photographs in the booth, for a school project he was engaged in.

And Sam was such a truthful boy.

Anyone who has used these photographic facilities will know that first of all you have to adjust the seat so you don’t take a shot of your torso. You then must try to smile in time with the flash, which is anyway inclined  to catch you by surprise and give you scary, startled, eyes. You probably will need several attempts.

I had plenty of time, so I persevered.

A day or two later, our son wandered into my study where I was engrossed in working out the three-dimensional crossword I was compiling to fit into Mike Kindred’s grids.

‘Sign that, Dad’ he said, thrusting a folded sheet of paper onto my manuscript pages. He knew I would trust him, and probably not ask what it was about. I didn’t ask, and duly complied.

Jessica, scarcely more devious than Sam, decided, for my birthday, to take me out on a surprise trip somewhere down the A3. As she drove us into the Surrey countryside, I found myself wondering which National Trust House, had an event on.

I hadn’t noticed what was in the boot of the car.

On Jessica drove, into Sussex. I began to smell some sort of a rat when I spotted the airplane symbols on the road signs. Was there any attraction near Gatwick? Not that I could think of.

When we arrived at the airport, I turned to a smiling Jessica, and asked what we were doing there. I didn’t have a passport. ‘Oh yes you have’, she cried, brandishing the updated one I had carelessly allowed to lapse.

A weekend in Paris ensued.

Derrick 12.94

It was Becky who provided the photograph, taken, I think that December, on another invasion of my sanctuary.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her superb chicken jalfrezi, with pilau rice and egg paratha. She drank Hoegaarden, whilst my choice was Doom Bar,


This morning we went driveabout. At New Milton we paid the car tax for a year, bought me some new sandals, and some curry spices; then at Ringwood I examined a magnetic picture frame at Wessex photographic, and placed an order for a larger one, and Jackie bought a keep for the recently fitted door to the master suite.


After lunch Jackie continued transforming our garden whilst I wrote a story. These unusual aquilegias were not visible last year because they were completely overgrown.

WordPress awards, it seems, are like buses. None come along for ages, then two or three arrive together. Having just received two awards in two days, the third has dropped into my mailbox. When Robin of Robin’s Real Life invited me to participate in Five Photos – Five Stories and described me as one of her favourite storytellers, this was my third bus.

Robin’s own delightfully romantic story prompted me to begin my daily quintet with a tale, snippets of which will have been gleaned by readers who have followed me for a while. It is now time to put it all together, and add relevant detail. I hope I can live up to the billing.

In March 1968, two and a half years after the death of Vivien, my first wife, Jackie and I were married. Nine months later, our son Matthew was born. This second marriage was to last a little less than four years. So distressing was the ending that it took each of us seven years to wed other spouses. Jessica, whom I married in 1980, was herself to die in July 2007.

Tess then came into the picture. Tess is Matthew’s lovely wife. In December 2008 she held a surprise 40th Birthday Party for the son Jackie and I shared. On other such special occasions a choice had clearly been made about which of us, who had not met for years, to invite. This time we were both to be at the event in The Plough at Upper Dicker.

With some trepidation I travelled down on the train, walked from the station, duly arrived, and surprised our son. Jackie, however, was absent. I circulated, chatting among the other guests, most of whom I knew well. My wandering through the bars took me past the door to the car park. It was then I did a double take.

The solid door was lit by a small, head height, window, perhaps 50 cm. square. There, neatly framed, in three-quarters profile, was my previous father-in-law, Don Rivett. But, this could not be. Don had died many years earlier.

The door opened, and in walked Jackie.

We conversed a little, then joined separate groups, but somehow or other, often found the groups merging. When Sam was the last to leave one particular table and we found ourselves alone, what now seems obvious began to dawn on me.

By the summer of 2010 Jackie and I had moved into a flat together, the proceeds of sale of our first marital home providing most of the funds necessary to buy our current house.

Jackie 8.10 004

For the requested photograph, I have chosen one from a set of negatives I took in August 2010, and scanned today. To borrow the words William Shakespeare put into the mouth of Dimitius Enobarbus when describing Cleopatra: ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety’. Jackie is not the reincarnation of Don, but she is of the muse of my youth.

After that it seems a bit mundane to return to the starling family, but we did spend some time watching as both parents, now more courageous, combined to cater for clamouring chicks.Starling 1Starling 2Starling 3Starling 4Starling 5

The trot along the roof top became more urgent; the drop from the corner, and dash into the cave, less hesitant.

Meat and vegetable samosas and a paratha were added to Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice for our evening meal. We both drank Kingfisher.




Stalking The Starling

Queuing to get on the blog this morning were:

Rose - pink climberThis pink rambler that has come through the recent rains somewhat scathed;

Clematis Marie Boisselot

the clematis Marie Boisselot;

Allium and spider

more alliums, one with a sentinel spider, less than usually reluctant to be noticed. Click to spot it.

By popular request I have returned to the Streets of London Series. I scanned another dozen from April 2004, of which I offer:Streets of London 4. 04 022

Firstly Church Path, NW10, in the London Borough of Brent. St Mary’s Church, dating from 938, has featured in a number of posts, such as that of 15th February 2013, when I found its grounds ‘Surprisingly Picturesque’.

Streets of London 4. 04 027

A younger, rather more splendid, church is Saint Pancras Parish Church on Euston Road, NW1. Its website describes what I have photographed, thus:

‘The church is a prominent landmark. Built by public subscription in 1818-22, it replaced the derelict Old St Pancras as Parish Church. Old St Pancras was rebuilt in Victorian times as one of the 17 subdivisions of the Ancient Parish of St Pancras. St Pancras Euston Road is Grade 1listed as a fine example of the Greek Revival style. Its external features, based on temples in ancient Athens, include an octagonal spire and an impressive front portico with 6 huge columns. On either side at the rear are our famous caryatids – statues of Greek women supporting the porches over the two entrances to the crypt. Traditional iron railings enclose the churchyard, where the annual parish picnic and other celebrations are held on the lawns.’

Streets of London 4. 04 030

Midland Road NW1, was still closed at the time of the London bombings of 7th July 2005, my 63rd birthday. The whole of Euston Road, and many of the side streets around were cordoned off, and people were pouring out of the underground system, as I took my normal walk from Beauchamp Lodge in Little Venice to North Road, a mile or so behind Kings Cross station. Midland Road is now incorporated into the development area around that station. On the morning of the bombs, oblivious of what was happening, on a forced pedestrian diversion, I came across an assembled swarm of many hundreds of men in the yellow hard hats shown in this picture.

Streets of London 4. 04 023

The building against which the construction workers are leaning is the British Library, at 96 Euston Road. Opened in June 1998, its Brutalist architecture, designed by Colin St John Wilson, can be seen to better effect from Ossulston Street, NW1.

Streets of London 4. 04 026

The proprietors of M.S.Tyres on the corner of Roundwood Road NW10 find it necessary to batten down the hatches against the ubiquitous graffiti that decorates this area of North London. At least the windows are protected.

Streets of London 4. 04 033

It doesn’t matter where you are in our capital city, it is very risky to leave your bicycle unattended. Virtually outside Baker Street tube station leans an example of the skeletal remains that litter many of our streets.

Either from familiarity with my presence, or from a desperation to feed its brood, I was able this afternoon successfully to stalk the parent starling squatting behind our kitchen facia board.. The bird, carrying sustenance, now lands on our roof, a speculative distance from the hidden nest; gingerly makes its way along the eaves; stands on the corner fidgeting and uttering sharp cries, either of warning or encouragement; then drops down and makes a dash for safety.

Starling 1Starling 2Starling 3Starling 4Starling 5Starling 6

Watching the poor creature dithering, popping its head down, lifting it up for a quick shufti, and eventually taking the plunge, was fascinating.

The skies were overcast today, but, it seeming to be the season for awards, the sun popped into my e-mails. I have now been nominated for:


Thank you very much, rameshwarir at for nominating me.

You have asked me these rather profound questions, which I answer as follows:

  1. Do you believe that there is someone watching over you, someone you can just feel & not see? I do
  2. What is the purpose of life? As best I can to make other people as happy as I would hope to be
  3. What is the one thing that you would go to or do to relieve your heartaches? I have found it and have no more
  4. What makes you happy? Refer to my answer at 2 above
  5. What do dreams mean to you? Those we experience through sleep are a way of working through timeless issues. In another sense, dreams are what we wish for
  6. What about Nature do you adore? Its constant variety
  7. What is the one element, off the 5, that you would associate yourself with and why? Earth because I like to think I am pretty well grounded
  8. What is your take on birth & death? Birth is an opportunity to begin a good life. Death is a time of reckoning
  9. What have you learnt from Nature? That it is there to be admired; and that we can control none of it
  10. What part of the tree would you associate yourself with? The trunk

In no particular order, my nominees for the award are:

Weave a Web


Poesie visuelle

Slice of London Life

In Noir Velvet

Fox And Finch Antiques

The Contented Crafter

MaxReynolds: Sunrise, Sunset And Other Visions

I will not set you specific questions, but simply invite you to tell us something about yourself as you wish.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s scrumptious chicken jalfrezi with pilau rice topped off by an omelette. Kingfisher was our chosen beverage.