Virtual Baby Minding

Matthew and Poppy 3

Today was once more warm, wet and windy. The temperature was 14 degrees centigrade even as we drove home from Mat and Tess’s in Upper Dicker this evening. We had gone there to spend the afternoon in support Matthew, on child care duties whilst Tess was working in their Village Shop. They now live in the flat above.

We spent much of the time in the restaurant where we enjoyed lunch.

The Big Dicker

Mine was actually a brunch known as The Big Dicker.

Especially as mushrooms are hiding behind the superb local sausages, it will perhaps come as no surprise that the only further sustenance we required on our return home was a bacon sandwich.


The reading matter seen further up the table includes magazines from the 1970s.

Matthew and Poppy 6

Poppy managed a smile for her Granny, although she was somewhat less enamoured with me.

Poppy on motorola 1Poppy on motorola 2Poppy on motorola 4
Poppy on motorola 5Poppy on motorola 6Poppy on motorola 7Poppy on motorola 10Poppy on motorola 11Poppy on motorola 12Tess was able to give her baby an afternoon feed and pop her into bed for a brief sleep. They have a baby monitor produced by motorola. This enabled us to mind Poppy remotely. We could see her, and she could hear us.

I was fascinated by the number of positions the sleeping infant could adopt in quick succession. As soon as she awoke and yelled, Mat was upstairs like a shot. She immediately brightened at the sight of her Dad, who offered her her pink Teddy before bringing her back downstairs, after which Jackie took her off for a walk in her Silver Cross carriage.

She was sleeping again when her Grannie returned with her.

The Cold War And The Three Day Week

IMG_6579Aaron began redecorating our guest bathroom this morning. The wall-hanging cabinet was a typical piece of DIY from our predecessors in that the blue protective plastic film still adhered to the item, which had been secured by just two of the required screws. Aaron took it down, I painstakingly peeled off the film that felt as if it had been fixed with the spray mount I have been using on the garden album photographs.

Plastic film 1

The sign on the back of the cabinet had been ignored.

Together, Jackie and I polished up the surfaces with Hob Brite.

The day’s warm weather was belied by the trees, tresses tossed, sashaying violently in the tempestuous winds of storm Clodagh, making it impossible for us to finish putting the rose garden to bed.

Sweet Tooth002‘The Cement Garden’ from 1978 was, I think, the first of Ian McEwan’s novels I read. It introduced me to the author’s penchant for the gruesome. For that reason I have always been rather ambivalent about this excellent writer now surely at the height of his powers. His eloquent, smooth, prose is most compelling, but his tales often grim. Nevertheless ‘Sweet Tooth’, which I finished today, is difficult to put down. For some, the period of the Cold War and the energy-saving three-day week, may cause the work to be classified as historical. I, however, was entering my fourth decade in 1972. I can therefore vouch that McEwan brilliantly encapsulates the mood of the time.

The work is not really a political or spy story. It is a love story which reflects the author’s often rather grim take on human relationships. The device of novels reported within the novel is intriguing, and cleverly done. Love him or hate him, McEwan is never boring, and always worth a read.

My one grouse is that the paper in this hardback, published by Jonathan Cape in 2012, is already turning brown.

I probably don’t need to explain The Cold War, but it may be helpful to quote Wikipedia on the three-day week, which ‘was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government 1970–1974 to conserve electricity, the generation of which was severely restricted owing to industrial action by coal miners. The effect was that from 1 January until 7 March 1974 commercial users of electricity were limited to three specified consecutive days’ consumption each week and prohibited from working longer hours on those days. Services deemed essential (e.g. hospitals, supermarkets and newspaper prints) were exempt.[1] Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10.30 pm during the crisis to conserve electricity.’

On 23rd September this year the Independent reported that: ‘The prospect of the three-day week returned to haunt Britain yesterday as it emerged that ministers are considering paying firms to cut hours in order to survive the recession’; and, as we near the end of 2015, trust between the East and the West is once more at a low ebb.


This evening we dined on one of Jackie’s more than just a Spanish omelette, stuffed with almost anything you could think of and topped with mature cheddar cheese. This was served with chips and baked beans, and followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. I drank Seashore Isla Negra merlot 2014.

Flaunting Longevity

This morning, before the afternoon wind got up and rain came down, Jackie and I weeded and removed more leaves from the rose garden, in readiness for the application of compost.


We still have flowering snapdragons


and geraniums,


whilst winter cyclamens emerge from hibernation.

Rose pink

The pink rose stands sentinel on the Oval Bed,

Rose Margaret Merrill

and, showing signs of age, Margaret Merrill still blooms.

Honeysuckle and beech

The honeysuckle rising from the blue arch flaunts its longevity before the falling beech leaves.

This afternoon I inserted the last of the pictures into the garden album.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb jafrezi and choice chicken tikka with mushroom and onion rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I quaffed Old Crafty Hen.

Lymington Quay

On a wet, mild, morning, I inserted the penultimate section into the garden album, and printed the final batch of photographs.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Lymington quay and back. She left me to find Dials Antique Clocks, recommended yesterday by Highcliff Watchmakers, while she went in search of Peacocks and baby clothes.

Dials antique clocks

We were both successful. Dials has a most picturesque location at the corner of Quay Street. The clock repairer was happy to tackle a traditional clock bought by Michael for Jessica and me about 35 years ago. He didn’t do battery operated digital clocks like Mum’s carriage clock that had become so corroded that, when Elizabeth cleaned it, the contacts fell off. When I explained that it was one I had bought my mother many years ago, and bore my name as part of her identification of presents to be returned to the donor when the time comes, he changed his mind, although warned me of the cost., which is really not a factor. I have, incidentally, told Mum that I don’t any longer give her a present I wouldn’t want back at a later date.

Lymington Quay 1

I left the clocks at the shop and wandered back to the still water.

Boats 1Boats 2Boats 3

The only real sign of life, where the boats were all moored, was of the sea birds.

Gull and smaller bird

A wagtail bravely advances towards a gull.


Speaking of gulls, surely this mongrel pigeon has at least dual heritage.

Swan preening

Swans were busy preening,

Mallards 2

and a pair of sleepy mallards dozed to the rippling sway of their rowing boat.

For our dinner this evening Jackie produced her delicious lamb jalfrezi, chicken tikka, onion and mushroom rice, and an onion bhaji. I drank Old Crafty Hen and The Cook chose sparkling water.

Weak Salmon Skies

This morning I pasted the South End section into the garden album and printed the Patio set of photographs.

This afternoon I had another needle stuck into my arm. So did Jackie. These were our flu vaccinations at the GP surgery. So efficient was the service that appointments were one minute apart. At reception we were  given a red sign reading FLU. As we approached the woman at the far end of the waiting area who told us to roll up our sleeves, I felt like a mediaeval leper wearing his ‘unclean’ label.

Ushered in on the conveyor belt, Jackie and I were allowed into the torture chamber together, and pricked in quick succession. It was all very jolly.

It was now barely twenty minutes to the early sunset. Jackie drove us along the clifftop to Barton on Sea, where I disembarked and wandered about photographing the weak pastel salmon shades of the sea and skies. The wind was still, and the temperature mild, enough for me to be wearing an unbuttoned jacket.

Sea view 1

Sea view 2                                                                                                                                       These first two views tell the story of the gradually collapsing coastline. The recent falls in the foreground display the stones still to fall, and the terraces down to the coast, bearing plenty of greenery, show the different levels that have collapsed earlier. As always, clicking on these images will show more detail. The Isle of Wight is on the first horizon. The other looks across its eponymous bay towards Christchurch.

Sea and sky

Sea, sky and clifftop                                 The next two pictures have similar orientations.

Tree and sky

This tree has bent to stronger winds than those of today.

Sky over static caravans

Clouds, sea and clifftopThe concrete path on the land of the Hoburne Naish static caravan site in the foreground of this picture, comes to an abrupt end where it collapsed into the sea.


Down below, a trio of walkers strode along the water’s edge.

After this, we drove on to Highcliffe with a bag of work for Highcliffe Watchmakers. Two items, being clocks, were ruled out immediately. The very obliging craftsman didn’t ‘do clocks’, but he knew man who did. His diagnosis on my Tissot watch was that the winder needed a tweak. This did the trick. He then replaced the strap, and inserted a new battery into Jackie’s watch. All he charged was the cost prices of the strap and the battery. Nothing for telling me there was nothing wrong with my watch.

We went on to Sainsbury’s outside Christchurch where we bought some baby clothes.

Our dinner this evening consisted of Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi, onion bhajis, and naan. I drank Old Crafty Hen.

‘You Read That To Me Too’

Although I am virtually recovered from what my GP thought was diverticulitis, I still have a slight niggle in my lower abdomen. Jackie therefore drove me to a follow up visit this morning. No more antibiotics are required, but a blood test was recommended to confirm the diagnosis. We therefore went on to Lymington hospital where I provided a small amount of blood.

This process was so smooth and utterly painless that I was most impressed and told the phlebotomist so. He said ‘it doesn’t always go like that’.

In my earlier years I was a blood donor for a while. I got to thinking about this, and that led me on to recollect Tony Hancock’s classic TV programme of 1961. This youtube video is an extract just over four minutes long. There are many full length options on the same source.


Compare the early television screen with those of today.

My first mention of this classic came in my post ‘Early Entertainment’.

This afternoon we drove to Hobbycraft at West End where I bought some photo mount and Jackie some sequins, then on to Elizabeth’s where Danni cooked us all, including Andy,  an excellent chicken vindaloo, spinach and potatoes, and boiled rice, accompanied by naan, onion bhajis, and pakoras.

Chicken vindaloo


One of the drinks was an intriguing bottle of Mirza Ghalib vin de pays d’Oc 2005. This, a French wine, was produced specifically for drinking with curry. Given that the French are not big on Indian food this was rather surprising, yet effective.

Mirza Ghalib

One of our enjoyable conversations concerned hedgehogs. This led me to relate the tale of little Jessica telling the story of Nobby Bates, including June Brokas’s comment on the post, during which a look of recognition came over Danni’s face. ‘You read that to me, too’, said my niece. Elizabeth had also bought the book and read it to her two children, Danni and Adam.

Starting Inside

Today was wet, much warmer, and overcast. This morning I cleared up clippings and fallen branches.

I have more than once observed that, after our first month in Downton, the inside of the house has been neglected for the garden.

Certain items, like the toilet seats, the shower hanging loose in the guest bathroom, its blocked sink, and its quirkily arranged ineffective door lock, required immediate attention.

Bathroom 4

Bathroom 2

ShowerBathroom 3There was neither screen nor curtain for the said shower. In our search for a screen, we decided we had to have a new P bath to match it. This meant retiling. That is the task that Mike, of Perfect Plastering, carried out last week.. We were then left with the doddery daubing on the walls and a floor covered with just about the worst possible colour for a room containing a receptacle for human excreta. Mind you, judging by the state of the toilet seat I removed, there was probably a method in the madness.

You can’t have a nice new bath and tiles without redecorating. And it is getting too unpleasant for Aaron to work outside. So, he will begin by decorating this room. To this end, this afternoon, Jackie and I bought paint from Brewers in New Milton.

Afterwards I entered the Oval Path and Elizabeth’s Bed section into the garden album, and printed up the South End set of photographs.

We enjoyed second helpings of the Happy Wok takeaway meal for our dinner this evening. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Bardolino.

First Frost

Our first, albeit mild, frost of the season left a few fingermarks on the garden this morning.

Frost on solar light

Despite its leaving specks of icing on the solar lamps with their suitably frosted design, throughout the day we enjoyed enough sunlight, such as that burnishing our remaining beech leaves, for us to be justified in anticipating a little more overnight twinkling. The pond is yet to freeze.

Beech leaves

Frost on nasturtium leaves

The nasturtium leaves that proudly cupped raindrop bubbles bow down in flaccid surrender;

Frost on laurel leaves

and the rhododendrons had second thoughts about budding.

Rose Margaret Merrill

Margaret Merrill remained coolly unperturbed.

This afternoon I placed the Dead End Path section into the garden album, and printed the Oval Path and Elizabeth’s bed selection of photographs.

In order to track down a Chinese takeaway open this Monday evening Jackie was forced into a real hunter gatherer foray. Eventually she lit upon The Happy Wok in Pennington whose windows were themselves lit. We enjoyed the meal with which I drank more of the Bardolino.

A Loony

Dawn skies 1Dawn skies 2Dawn skies 3Dawn skies 4

I couldn’t resist nipping out this morning to photograph the dawn skies. When Jackie opened the bedroom curtains she saw what she later described as ‘this loony standing in the middle of the road in his dressing gown and slippers. He must have been freezing’. The first two pictures above are looking down Christchurch Road at the front of the house. The others are from the back garden.

The wind was eerily still after several weeks raging.

Rose ballerina

Even the Ballerina just outside the rose garden held a motionless pose.


Sub-Zero temperatures overnight have not killed off the pelargoniums, although some are looking a little crinkly at the edges;

Geranium palmatum

and their hardier relatives, geranium palmatums having been fooled, by the earlier temperate weather, into a fresh flush of flowers, remain resilient.

Griselinia hedge

This morning, Aaron and Robin completed the pruning of the griselinia hedge,

Sawn beech trunk

then cut down a self-seeded beech tree that was threatening our neighbour’s fence. In cutting inserts for rain, Aaron had a stab at engraving his own initials.

Here is the link to my posting on today.

I pasted the recycling section into the garden album, and printed up the next section.

This evening we dined on chicken and bacon pasta bake, cauliflower, carrots, and green beans, followed by Post House Pud. My choices of filling for the meringue nest were lemon cheesecake and vanilla and toffee ice cream. In case you are wondering, that wasn’t a great mix. I drank Bardolino classico 2013.