Before And After

This morning I e-mailed Ray Salinger a set of the photographs taken at the ‘Seventy Years On’ party.

After this I joined Jackie in the garden, where we continued yesterday’s tasks.

Gravel path front garden

I edged the front garden gravel path with rocks dug out over the last couple of days, then spread the transported earth around the flower beds fronting the house. The thick, stubborn, root behind stone near the front of this section of the path is of lonicera, an overgrown hedging of the honeysuckle family that I did battle with last year.

Weeping Birch Bed

Jackie further opened up the Weeping Birch Bed. In the process she took down the golden arches that we had erected last summer to support honeysuckle and passion flowers that festooned the bed. Anyone inclined to follow this link will be treated to the original state of what became the rose garden. The moss-covered stone edging the bed is tufa. We dug much of out last year, but there was much more still to be removed. These rambling climbers have been reduced in size in readiness for a more suitable frame.

Libertia clump

I dug out a thick clump of trimmed libertia in readiness for its division and replanting.


Colchicums are spreading nicely in the triangular bed, and

Red Admiral on verbena bonarensis

Red Admiral butterflies are having a resurgence.

Suset on wall

This evening the lowering sun burnished the back drive fence and the wall of Bev and John’s house that we had cleared last year;

Virginia creeper, calibrachoa, and fuchsia

and inflamed the Virginia creeper, calibrachoa, and fuchsia.

Cumberland, chilli, and pork chipolata sausages were included in Jackie’s divine  casserole this evening. She served it with ridiculously creamy mashed potato and crisp carrots and cabbage. Treacle sponge pudding and cream was to follow. The Cook drank Bierfest and I drank more of the chianti.


In her latest post, which I read this morning, my blogging friend, Pauline King, reminded me of my flat-share with my friend Giles in Claverton Street i 1973.

This was a basement flat in a Pimlico terrace. The enclosed back yard was a small area of concrete. There was no real sunlight. Nothing grew there. The elderly woman next door, however, enjoyed a wonderful ferny garden in what appeared to be rich soil. One day I asked her how she had soil when we had concrete. ‘Oh, I’ve got concrete underneath,’ she said. ‘I put the earth on top’. ‘Where did you get it?’, I responded. ‘From Battersea Park’. She replied. ‘How did you get it here?’ was my next question. ‘In my handbag’, was the answer.


This wonderful woman had trekked backwards and forwards – it must have been for years – carting bags of soil trowelled up from this London Park situated on the other side of the River Thames. The times superimposed onto Google’s map probably relate to trains from Waterloo. This heroine walked across Battersea Bridge.

Our own efforts at shifting soil today paled into insignificance when compared with that neighbour’s feat. Nevertheless I can offer those up for consideration.

Jackie working on Weeping Birch bed

Jackie continued her work on opening up the Weeping Birch Bed; revealing some hidden plants; resetting others; and infilling soil from the excess on the borders of the back drive.

Gravel path

I dug out the soil from the area worked over yesterday; moved that round to the front of the house; collected several barrow loads of gravel from the pile on the back drive; and spread it over the revealed surface, thus widening the path. The transported earth needs spreading, and the left hand side of the path needs edging with stone. Maybe tomorrow.

On this glorious day the diaphonous wings of small furry bees glinted from many flowers, such as

Bee on verbena bonarensis

verbena bonarensis

Bee on cosmos

and cosmos;

Butterfly Small White on verbena bonarensis

and Small White butterflies, fluttered, flashing, everywhere.

View across weeping birch bed

When we sat drinking fizzy water we looked across the other side of the bed Jackie is renovating. Can you see the Small White in this photograph? (As always, clicking on the image will enlarge)

Mr Pink’s fish and chips had the honour of providing our dinner this evening. We added gherkins, cornichons, or wallies, and pickled onions. I drank more of the Chianti and Jackie drank more fizzy water.

Confusion For Flora And Fauna

Jackie continued with general garden maintenance today.

New bed

Here she applies anti-vine weevil solution to all her many heucheras.

As became clear last year, there is no defined boundary between us and the empty North Breeze next door. In particular, that at the front is concocted from self seeded trees, rotting planks of wood, and what I take to be one of the pre-Everest window frames from our house. The glass panes have long since become estranged from their lead. Some have remained intact, but others have broken and found their way into the thin layer of soil in which a few weeds have managed to survive. This earth has been laid on top of gravel, thus narrowing the path that led round the house.

Front boundary

My task was to remove this soil in order to expose the shingle, thus widening the path. This was easier said than done. That is because the strip was full of tree roots, rubble, concrete, bramble, and ivy. I just dug it over. Moving it can wait.

View from patio

A view from the south west corner of the patio shows the condition of our neighbour’s back garden, and some of the panels we have set in place to keep the triffids at bay.

We continue to enjoy such warm, sunny, weather as to become somewhat confusing to flora and fauna alike.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana clothing the large dead tree alongside the new bed is blooming again.

Brick path, dead snake bark maple, owl

The owl in the dead snake bark maple, especially having experienced the bright super moon throughout the night, just cannot get to sleep.

Antirrhinum and sedum

Antirrhinums are growing alongside sedums.

Butterflies and bees like these in

Bee on cosmos

cosmos and

Bee on kniphofia

kniphofia must be convinced we are still enjoying summer.


The asters, however, know what the season is.

This evening we dined on fillet steak; a moist melange of mushrooms, leaks, onions, and peppers; and crisp carrots, green beans, and new potatoes. I drank Via di Cavallo Chianti 2014. Jackie had already enjoyed her Hoegaarden in the rose garden.


View from dressing roomHeligan path

As the morning sunlight gradually scaled the beech tree to the left, it exposed the changing nature of the weeping birch, the leaves of which are beginning to blend with the gravel of the Heligan Path.


Aaron and Robin completed work on the decking, which included Aaron’s own idea of the steps, made from offcuts of the planks. The intention is to train plants around the trellis.

Cold frame

It was a day for recycling. Jackie and I built a temporary cold frame for the winter, from offcuts of Elizabeth’s conservatory roofing, concrete slabs, and old bricks.

Automata are mechanical figures designed to move in certain ways when set off at the turn of a handle. As an art form these date from very early times, and are, at least in The First Gallery at Bitterne, near Southampton, enjoying a resurgence of interest. Our friends Margery and Paul Clarke, the proprietors, have long featured such works in their exhibitions, and have just finished one devoted entirely to these intriguing and entertaining constructions. At the close of this event they gave a party to celebrate this and their 40th year of exhibiting. Naturally we attended.

The gallery in their home was filled with fascinating pieces, all hand-made with marvellous moving parts. Examples are:

Automaton 1

Horse Box with Bird,

Automaton 2

A Friendly Gesture,

Automaton 3

Love Boat,

Automaton 4

these three as labelled,

Automaton 5

A Cheap Automata Shop,

Automaton 6

A Wave Machine,

Automaton 7

this group of four,

Automaton 8

Three Fishes and Bird,

Automaton 9

this one the name of which escapes me,

Automaton 10

another being tried out,

Automaton 11

these tiny miniatures in their glass case,


and Helluva Guy,

Wooden puppet

whose creator also made the hanging wooden puppet.

Margery had made a few figures of her own, notably:



Aggie witch

and Aggie, the very very wicked witch.

Other works included:

Cat and dog

Cat and Dog,

Cat in Moonlight

Cat by Moonlight,

Seal box and fish

and Seal Box with Fish.

Group in garden

It was a warm enough day for a number of guests to sit outside,

Margery speech

until all were called in to drink a toast, listen to Margery’s short welcome speech,

Margery Lighting candle

and see her cake candle lit.

She then cut the cake which was distributed to follow the excellent soup, numerous canapés and other treats, and various desserts.

After this we visited Mum shortly before her temporary carer arrived to help her cook her dinner. Mum is having a difficult time with her arthritis at the moment and, for the time being, has a carer visiting at mealtimes.

We then went on to Elizabeth’s and spent some time with her before returning home where the contents of the doggie bag given to us last night by the waitress at The Royal China were just the job for our evening meal. I had consumed a glass or two of wine earlier, so was in no need of accompaniment. Jackie drank a Hoegaarden.

The Wealdstone Raider

This morning, whilst Jackie continued preparing the garden for the winter that only the calendar suggests is bound to come, I cut the grass, and lopped a dead branch.

View fro dressing room to rose garden

From above, the progress of the rose garden can now be clearly seen beyond the Pergola Path.

Four days ago, Ian reached a milestone birthday. Today we intended to celebrate it at his favourite restaurant. Unfortunately he is ill and that has been postponed.

When he and Becky were staying with us in August, a catchphrase between us was ‘D’you want some?’. This invariably had us collapsing with laughter, and our daughter loaded this video onto our television:

The YouTube piece is 13 minutes long, and, although I do urge you to watch it, you may be satisfied to learn that it tells the story of how Gordon Hill, following an encounter at a ninth division football match, became a celebrity; and earned thousands of pounds in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital, by making a recording of the song The Wealdstone Raider, which reached number 5 in the hit parade at Christmas 2013.
This is so much more than a music video. We see how Gordon took on rival fans who were fortunately amused; we see how he was encouraged to capitalise on this; how he was only interested if the proceeds could go to the children’s hospital where he spent the first fifteen years of his life; and how the fame, at first exciting, became a stressful burden. It is a remarkable, humorous, and touching tale.
I wanted to present Ian with a copy of the song for his birthday, but am not confident in making purchases on line, so I asked Becky to buy it for me. This wasn’t actually possible, but she downloaded the track and made this cover for the CD:
 She has skills far beyond mine. She sent me this copy of her work. I was to have given the CD to her fiancé, but, in the event, she gave it to him instead.
This afternoon, on TV, I watched Rugby World Cup matches between Italy and Canada, and between South Africa and Samoa.
The Royal China
The Royal China inside
Possibly because of its location, at 25a St Thomas Street on an awkward bend approaching the High Street in Lymington, The Royal China restaurant is not well known except for its steady takeaway service. Is, however, well worth seeking it out, as we did this evening. Its low-beamed dining room suggests the building is of considerable age. The ambience is cosy, and Dean Martin’s spectre croons mellifluously in the background. Seated near the kitchen, we could hear the homely, rhythmic, chopping of the food we were about to be served. Our delightful Roumanian born waitress was kind enough to warn us that the portions were large and we may be ordering too much. Taking her advice, we reduced the number of dishes by one, which was not nearly enough. Half of our main courses were bagged up for us to carry home for breakfast.
My choices were hot and sour soup, egg fried rice, and hot and spicy king prawns. We shared shredded duck. While we waited we drank Tsingtao beer and ate a plentiful supply of prawn crackers.
I am now about to watch a recording of the third of today’s rugby matches: that between England and Wales.


The Eyes Have It

Elizabeth's bed

This morning, when she had finished her work, including planting of spring bulbs, in Elizabeth’s Bed, Jackie joined me in clearing up after yesterday’s installation of the Monet arch. This involved removing more clippings to the burning pile; a slight repositioning of the path edgings; and hoeing and raking the gravel. She had, yesterday evening, retrained selected stems from the two roses.

Open Reach engineer

Open Reach engineer and Monet arch

I had enjoyed a certain amount of banter with a pair of Open Reach engineers who spent most of the day working on a pole outside our house. I suggested that, because of their frequent attendance, they may like to buy a season ticket.

Temporary traffic lights

At least their temporary traffic lights slowed the traffic. We could do with them all the time.

Rose magenta climber

Miraculously, this magenta rose still blooms at the end of the stem shown on the arch.

I understand that certain Australians are under the impression that we have stolen their sunshine. They may appreciate the benefits of what they are missing by seeing that

Bee on dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

our bees still plunder flowers such as the dahlia Bishop of Llandaff;


that sunflowers, impersonating Catherine Wheels, still tower aloft;


and that this honeysuckle, very poorly earlier in the year, has recovered after liberal doses of systemic fungicide and insecticide.

Later, I made a couple of prints for Frances, and posted them. She had asked me for a copy of one taken by Jenny on 17th.

Frances 1950sFrances 17.9.15

I was struck by the same pair of sparkling eyes that had smiled at her father’s lens in the 1950s, so I made an additional crop of our sister-in-law herself.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips with pickled onions and cornichons. Jackie drank Festbier, ‘brewed according to German purity law’, and I drank Doom Bar.

The Monet Arch

Oscar, that fine blogging poet of In So Many Words, recently expressed wonderment that I got any work done with all the photography I did in the garden. I wonder, did he know that the camera is a preferred delaying tactic; and that a new rose arch has stood in the hall porch for the last three days, awaiting assembly?

Rose arch at front

The arch leading into the front garden was such a ramshackle structure that it was being held together by the roses, honeysuckle, and clematis it was meant to support. I therefore ordered a replacement from Agriframes. Today we decided to substitute the new metal Monet Arch for the existing rickety woodwork.

Anyone who remembers our last struggle with an Agriframes Arch may well understand our reluctance to begin this project, and Oscar, in particular, will understand my need ramble round the garden first.

The overnight rain had once again left sparkling gems on the flowers:

raindrops on geraniums

on geraniums;

raindrops on begonia

on begonias;

raindrops on trailing antirrhinums

on trailing antirrhinums, less their tails battered by the winds;

raindrops on hollhock

on Margery’s long- lived hollyhocks;

raindrops on giant fuchsia Pink Marshmallow

on a giant fuchsia Pink Marshmallow;

Raindrops on rose Mamma Mia

and on the rose Mamma Mia, to name a few.

raindrops on apple tree

The ripening apples on the tree also benefited from a wash.

The two beds Jackie has planted up in the last week welcomed the nurturing rainfall. These are

Former ficus bed

the former site of the ficus,

Triangular bed

and the triangular bed linking the Pergola and Brick Paths.

View across triangular bed

Having removed some overgrown shrubs from the latter opens up the view through to the Agriframes Gothic Arch.

Japanese anemones

At every corner the sun lit hosts of grateful blooms like these Japanese anemones.

That little wander was just one of the ways we managed to defer tackling the arch until after lunch. Spelling mistakes in the instructions didn’t inspire me with confidence; neither did the fact that the suppliers had equated 1.2 meters with 4 feet.

Monet Arch Parts List001Monet Arch Instructions002

This was the paperwork.

Before anything else, we decided to take step 2. It seemed rather important to make sure we could fit the four posts into gravelly soil with concrete and stone embellishments. This meant heavily pruning the plants in situ, then piercing four holes in the right places. Every time I extracted the hole maker, bits of gravel fell back into it. That was rather frustrating. Next came step 1. We then applied the top section to the four posts of step 2, to check we had them properly aligned. After a bit of tweaking we found we had.

Step 1 was then removed so we could build step 3, and apply it as in step 4.  Eventually, that worked. This meant we were ready to put step 1 in place.

Monet Arch

I trust that is all very clear. The next time we need an arch it will come ready-assembled from an architectural salvage outlet such as Ace Reclaim.

Did I mention that it rained during this procedure? No? Well, it did.

This evening we dined with Giles and Jean at her home in Barton on Sea. Jean produced an excellent meal of Sea Bass, new potatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms; followed by a succulent autumn pudding, being a seasonal variant on my favourite summer pudding. I drank a rather good mourvedre, while Jackie drank Peroni. Naturally we had our usual stimulating conversation.

Officially Autumn

Although she does tidy up much of her refuse, when the Head Gardener has been about with the loppers and secateurs, it falls upon me, the Under Under Gardener, to clear the heaps of clippings; to transfer them to the compost and wood-burning piles; to sort them; and to cut them into manageable sections. This I did this morning after Jackie had driven off for one of her sorority lunches with Helen and Shelly.


Judging by the scent pervading this pile, the marauding cat that we hope keeps the rodents down, had liberally sprayed it with a peculiar pungency.

Rose Wedding Day clippings

The rambling rose, Wedding Day, having outgrown the Agriframes arch and dared to festoon the two Japanese maples and frolic over a hebe, was given a particularly severe haircut. I console myself in the knowledge that, like mine, it will grow again.

This is all part of the autumn clear-up. It is, after all, the first official day of autumn. We are, nevertheless, still treated to the sights of summer, like

Bee in poppy

bees burrowing into crinkly poppies;

Butterfly Small White on verbena bonarensis

Small White butterflies fluttering everywhere and perching on verbena bonarensis;

Petunias and geraniums

petunias, pink striped dahlias, and geraniums;

Raindrops on sweet pea

and raindrops on sweet peas.

Rose garden

The rose garden is flourishing. We have left two peep-holes in the fence so our neighbours can enjoy it too.

Rose Kent

Carpet roses, like the white Kent, are spreading nicely.

Red hot pokers

We have red hot pokers everywhere. Either they are proliferating at will, or there was too much undergrowth last year for us to notice. These are surveyed by the owl at home in the dead Snake Bark maple.

Table top

We moved the furniture and potted plants from the decking for Aaron to refurbish it. This colourful table top had held a floral display.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s lively chilli con carne and tasty mixed vegetable rice. I finished the malbec, and The Cook drank Hoegaarden.

A West End Ramble

Jackie spent the morning planting and clearing beds; I chipped in with dead-heading of roses. This afternoon we bought some trellis from Everton Nurseries to go round the decking. The return journey had me bent and contorted in the passenger seat with lengths of stapled wooden strips over my head. Fortunately it was only about five minutes.

I scanned another dozen of the Streets of London series of colour slides from April 2004.

Streets of London 4.04070

Judy Dench was then starring in All’s Well That Ends Well at the Geilgud Theatre on the corner of Oxford Street and Rupert Street, W1. Some may consider her portrait less than enticing. The vehicles, the rooftops of which can be seen on Oxford Street were probably going nowhere fast.

Streets of London 4.04071

The ubiquitous Starbucks, that purveyor of weak coffee – unless you pay for extra, tasteless, shots – has a presence in Avery Row. This was clearly an unusually warm April.

Streets of London 4.04072

South Molton Lane lies to the West of New Bond Street,

Streets of London 4.04078

where Roosevelt and Churchill continue their conversation first featured on 20th July. Most of us couldn’t afford the entrance fee for the shops behind them.

Streets of London 4.04073

Seymour Mews is not far from Marble Arch. The grid of little square lights on the pavement outside Nordic Interiors is a common sight. These glass prisms, fitted to an iron cover, were introduced in the 1880s to throw light into the back of dingy coal cellars. Following the Clean Air Act, the coal has probably given way today to many other materials. The passing woman is probably quite ignorant of the fact that she is walking on private land.

Streets of London 4.04074

The facades of the buildings in Albemarle Street are typical of Mayfair’s splendour. Probably every second of every day in London sees some maintenance or other being carried out. Here, it may have been street lighting that was being attended to. The typical jack-in-the-box adjustable platform suggests this to me.

Streets of London 4.04076

Davies Mews is another of these frequently encountered little back streets that once held stables, and now house residents who can afford to pay millions for a tiny dwelling. These date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Built in rows behind large city houses, they consisted of a carriage house on the ground floor with residential accommodation above.

Streets of London 4.04079

From Davies Street can be seen the mews mansard roofs, demonstrating how modern residents have enlarged their living space. What would those coachmen of earlier times think if they could see today’s conversions and rebuilds?

Streets of London 4.04080

This was Oxford Street in April. Imagine it at the height of summer, especially during the Sales season. Moving against the milling flow of people and their buggies in this famous shopping street is a nightmare. At every junction, such as this one with Bird Street, there is a stall selling bags, T-shirts, trophies, nicknacks, fruit, hot-dogs, and much more.

Streets of London 4.04077

Moving slightly North West we find Ranston Street, NW1. I don’t know if this was once a mews, but the rows of houses look very much like the typical rebuilds, where many, but not all, of the homes have retained a place for their modern, horseless, carriages on the ground floor. These workmen are attending to a roof, it seems.

Streets of London 4.04081

Venables Street, NW8 runs into Church Street Market. It is therefore most appropriate that there should be a Tesco Metro. That is because Tesco was founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen as a group of market stalls. He had, himself, begun by selling surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London. It would have been similar to those we see in Church Street today. The Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname.  The first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice cottage pie, new potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and ratatouille. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I consumed more of the malbec

Droop Street

Rain kept us out of the garden for much of the day, although Jackie did manage some planting later on.

I scanned some colour slides from June and July 1974.

The story of our three month occupation of an empty children’s home in Droop Street, London, W.10 is told in my post ‘The Cake Is A Lie’. This is where these photographs were taken.

A selection includes

Jessica 6.74 001


Becky 6.74 002


Matthew 6.74

Matthew 7.74


Michael 6.74 002

Michael 7.74 001


Eddie 7.74

his friend Eddie,

Joseph 6.74

and my brother, Joseph.

Observant readers may have spotted that the picture of Becky was used as a model for one of the illustrations to her book.

We dined this evening on chicken Kiev, ratatouille with tomatoes for courgettes, boiled carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and new potatoes. I drank Parra Alta malbec 2015. Jackie had already drunk her Hoegaarden, watching the solar lights come on from a seat in the rose garden.