A Gentle Snow Plough

This morning I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/08/31/a-knights-tale-25-a-papal-honour/

By mid-afternoon the earlier Stygian gloom had lifted enough for us to drive to Puttles Bridge and back after buying another, larger, bag of tree bark mulch.

With barely a ripple the now very shallow Ober Water could hardly be said to flow under the bridge.

The root trip hazards, often framing pools of water, are now bone dry.

Two or three families were frolicking in what was left of the stream flanked by dappled woodland devoid of the usual mini-pools. I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the mother in the first of these pictures, whose son, while manoeuvring a small dinghy, was heard to say “It’s not deep enough”. I told his Mum I had never heard that before.

Ponies, including a large foal, grazed beside the road.

A child had hopped home with one shoe.

Chips fell from a fallen tree.

On our return through Brockenhurst, a Highland cow, with its cumbersome rocking gait, lumbered among the patient vehicles.

Among the multicoloured heather on the moorland beyond the town, other, tail-swishing, ponies with another foal clinging to its mother, grazed or took their ease.

Two remained obdurately planted in the road until a tour bus, like a gentle snow plough, proceeded to shift them.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork; boiled new potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; moist sautéed peppers, mushrooms, and onions; and tasty gravy, with which Jackie drank more of Pino Grigio Blanc and I drank more of the Faugeres.

A Knight’s Tale (25: A Papal Honour)

Auntie Gwen had become my godmother in 1942.

24 years later she was to perform the same service for my eldest son, Michael.

It is a common phenomenon that some distant members of families only meet at weddings and funerals. I had last met my cousin Maureen at the funeral of her father, my Uncle Derrick. Marcus Derrick Knight had been the executor of Ellen Beatrice Gwendoline, who, like him had been given a string of Christian names listed in the order in which their parents thought they flowed best, the first not necessarily being the one by which they were known.

When Maureen had been clearing out her parents’ bungalow she had discovered various memorabilia of Gwen. Having thought I was the person who should have them, she brought them to my brother Chris’s funeral on 31st October, and handed them over. There were various framed certificates, photographs, a eulogy, and a medal.

The bronze coloured medallion records her length of employment at the Association for the Propagation of the Faith.

Auntie Gwen eulogy

This service is described in the APF newsletter framed by Gwen herself with the addition of an in memoriam card that must have been inserted by her brother. My godmother, born in 1904, would have looked, when I was born in 1942, as she does in the memorial card. I remember her more as in the later photograph illustrating the magazine article. What that piece does not describe is Gwen’s transport to and from Wimbledon Station from her homes, first at 18 South Park Road, then 9 Latimer Road. This was a sturdy upright bicycle on which she travelled everywhere, even into old age.

Without a typewriter in the days before computers my mother supplemented the family income by addressing by hand the envelopes for monthly letters to A.P.F. Subscribers. These were delivered by my aunt and collected when done.

The cross mentioned by Canon Mark Swaby must be the gold papal medal that Uncle Derrick had given me after Gwen’s death in 1986. It was almost certainly stolen in a burglary at Newark in the early 1990s.

Auntie Gwen

The Gwen I could not possibly have remembered was photographed around 1908. The delicately tinted print bears the stamp of Britannia’s Ltd, 8 Emery Lane, Boston, and was framed by F.J.Salisbury of 64 Upper Tooting Road, London, SW17. This gem from the early years of photography would grace our walls even if we were unable to identify the subject.

Completing West Bed Planting

On a very dull, overcast, afternoon we shopped at Otter Nurseries for tree bark with which to mulch Jackie’s further planting in the recently opened up West Bed, then continued for a brief drive into the forest where we found nothing to photograph in such poor light.

While Jackie completed the dressing of the soil,

I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/08/30/a-knights-tale-24-enter-gwen-to-the-rescue/

Later, I scanned the next six of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Our Mutual Friend’.

‘Tradesmen’s books hunger, and tradesmen’s mouths water’

‘There was a deadly kind of repose on the place’

‘ ‘Oh-h-h!’ cried the person of the house’

The artist has used a double page spread to show ‘Boots and Brewer bolting off in cabs’ in opposite directions.

‘At times Mrs Lammle would lean forward to address Mr Lammle’ demonstrates Keeping’s mastery of expression.

‘An old Jewish man in an ancient coat’

This evening we dined on perfectly roasted pork with crisp crackling; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender runner beans, and tasty gravy, in the non-availabilty of pork stock cubes, made by adding those of chicken and ham to the juices from the meat. Neither of us imbibed..

A Knight’s Tale (24: Enter Gwen To The Rescue)

Please understand that not all my primary school teachers were sadistic beasts.

Miss Downs was adamant that we should read three books a week.  Consequently, dutifully, if not religiously, Mum took us on a regular weekly trip to Wimbledon Public Library, where these treasure troves were to be found.  Thus my teacher and my mother nurtured a lifetime love of books.

Every Sunday morning my brother Chris and I would attend Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart on Edge Hill and go on for breakfast at

Auntie Gwen’s on the first floor of 9 Latimer Road. 

Apart from my parents, it is Auntie Gwen I have to thank for surviving my infancy.  One evening when she was babysitting Chris and me, I am told, we decided to play in an upright roll of lino.  Somehow or other I managed to get my head stuck in the top of it.  There was I, hanging by my chin, my body dangling in the tied up tube.  There was Chris, screaming his head off (he must have feared I was about to be decapitated).  Enter Gwen to the rescue.  She heaved the roll onto the floor and extracted the gasping child.  Apparently I had actually stopped breathing and turned blue.

When we were very small she would cycle every Saturday to our home in Raynes Park bearing goodies.  I remember eagerly awaiting sets of transfers which could be applied to paper or skin.  They were very flimsy and had to be oh so carefully soaked off in water.  An example was a set of butterflies.

As we became old enough to travel alone we would visit her every Sunday morning for the above mentioned meal. Maybe that’s where I get my penchant for fry-ups from.  After a full English we dunked so many digestive biscuits into our coffee that you could stand a spoon up in it.  When Gwen could no longer do the entertaining I visited her for a weekly chat well into my adulthood. 

She kept every present I ever gave her.

Gwen never lost her marbles, but I did base my illustration for a magazine article depicting an elderly person confronted with a confusing array of medication on the first photograph above.

This aunt was my godmother, not the proprietor of a greasy spoon, as working men’s cafés are fondly termed.  Dad, at that time, was not a practising Catholic, and Mum was not one at all, but on marriage in a Catholic church, had been required to vow that any children would be brought up in that faith. Gwen had been the first member of the Protestant Knights to convert to Roman Catholicism. She was followed by my paternal grandfather, and then my father at the age of eight. 

In our case ‘attend Mass’ was a loose description.  When we discovered that it was only if you missed the crucial parts of the ceremony each Sabbath that you were condemned to Hell, we started stretching it a bit.  We would sneak in just before the Gospel and slide out just after Communion.  What we didn’t know was that Miss Downs was part of the congregation.  It was therefore something of a shock when we were summoned to her room at school to be asked to explain our behaviour and to be given a verbal what for.  This seemed pretty bad luck to us, and a bit out of order. The long arm of the school was everywhere, but hers wasn’t one that beat us. 

The Church of The Sacred Heart, Edge Hill, is the one I attended throughout my childhood.

Meet Ivy

In the heavy heat of this morning, silent but for the tinkling Rose Garden water feature, the distant mooning of a solitary wood pigeon, and the snuffling chuntering of a neighbour’s dog from the other side of the fence as I progressed down the back drive, I carried out extensive dead heading while Jackie weeded beds, watered wilting plants, and tied back strays.

This afternoon we attended Shelly and Ron’s barbecue at which we were all to meet Ivy, our new great niece.

Here are a few of the family and friends present.

It is also David’s birthday. Here he opens his card from his parents, Helen and Bill.

To The Lawn Bed

Yesterday Jackie cleared the bank outside the Back Drive gate, leaving brushwood on the gravel path for attention today;

this morning she worked on removing the stump of a scentless and rarely flowering philadelphus, while

I cleared the Back Drive debris;

and further strengthened the arch spanning the Phantom Path by inserting supporting angle irons that she had recently begun. On this day of sunny intervals it was difficult to walk through the garden without admiring the

Brick Path looking towards the house,

or through the Gothic arch now festooned

with mina lobata.

Later, the Head Gardener completed the task of extracting the philadelphus stump, and that of

a leycesteria in the wrong place;

filling in the holes and covering the gaps with broken pieces of marble which once bore the much abused wood burning stove that we inherited from our vendors, thus completing the

opening of the view from the West Fence to the Lawn Bed. The last nine photographs are Jackie’s.

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/08/28/a-knights-tale-23-corporal-punishment/

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata; crisp broccoli, and tender green beans, with which she drank Dolomiti Pinot Grigio Blush 2020, and I drank more of the Faugeres.

A Knight’s Tale (23: Corporal Punishment)

Corporal punishment was the norm in those days. At St Mary’s the administration was far more directly personal than I was to experience later at Wimbledon College.

I was about six or seven when, after her lesson at the end of the day, I incurred the wrath of Mrs Chapman. There had been a spate of lost coats.  It was suspected that these had been stolen.  I went to my peg and found my coat missing.  Full of trepidation, I reported this to the rather frightening teacher.  I was told to sit down at my desk and wait.  Off she strode to fetch the caretaker..  Together they scoured the buildings for my clothing.  Whilst they were gone, and it was growing gloomy in the otherwise empty classroom, I had a terrifying thought that set me a-quivering.  The clouds were darkening in Mrs Chapman’s face as she returned without the coat.  What I said next brought on the thunder.  Bottom lip trembling, ‘Please Miss’, I blurted.  All female teachers, married or not, were ‘Miss’ in those days before Ms had been coined.  ‘Please Miss’, I repeated, ‘I’ve just remembered.  I didn’t bring my coat today’……………  The calm after the storm was deadly.  Mrs. Chapman never bothered to send you to Miss Bryant for the cane, she administered a few hearty slaps herself.  At least they were on the palms of your hands.  Perhaps it hurt her more than it hurt me.  Then I had to go home and explain to my Mum why I was late.

Mr. Hyde, on the other hand – actually both of them – wouldn’t hurt himself with his method.  He used the flat of a ruler on the backs of your fingers, whilst clasping them to keep them still.  With his dark hair and visage; his hirsute nostrils and digits; and his fearsome eyes enlarged by thick lenses, he looked every bit the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll.

Miss Flaxman favoured a barrage of energetic open-handed blows on the backs of your legs.  A large red-haired amazon, I don’t think she ever took her coat off, for it always seemed to flap about when she stung your calves.  She had to bend down to reach small legs, which meant her head was a bit close so you had to try not to fart.  The strange thing about these latter two is that they would steam into you until they were exhausted.  His nostrils would flare and flare, and she would become redder and redder in the face.  Their breathing would reach a crescendo and eventually quieten, when they would suddenly cease.  Rumour had it that they were what we now call an item.  Perhaps these performances reflected a certain amount of sexual frustration.  They were Catholics, after all.

This physical chastisement takes me to my greatest deviousness.  Mrs. Braniff, unusually for her, had decided to send me to the headmistress, Miss Bryant, to be caned.  Perhaps she had dished out her own quota for the day.  Well, I didn’t fancy the cane, so I nipped round into a corner of the playground and hid for what seemed a reasonable length of time, after which I returned to the classroom hugging my hands beneath my armpits.  I suppose I thought that if I were sussed I’d only get the cane anyway.  Actually, I got away with it.  In the words of the the song, ‘I disremember what’ my misdemeanour had been. I must have been about nine years old.

In due course I will describe the corrective system of my Jesuit Grammar School.

Bisterne Scarecrow Festival Trail 2021

The Community of Bisterne and its surrounds are to be congratulated on recovering this event in the time of Covid 19. Although there were fewer displays than normal we enjoyed many of the old favourites on our drive round on this overcast morning.

‘Rapunzel’ came on first, letting down her golden locks at Kingston Farm, North Cottage.

Her provenance was noted on her lonely wooden tower.

Ashbourne cottage at Kingston displayed both

‘Doctor Jock’

and ‘Duggee and the Scarecrow Badge’.

Outside 2 Avondale Cottages Colin Furze advertises his website.

‘Bear’ of Cobbs Cottage is a genuine figure of straw.

Celebratory punsters produced ‘Hip HIPPO ray. The Scarecrows are Back’, outside Iona, 18 Christchurch Road.

Unfortunately the woman who made ‘Wish you were ‘ere’ was not at home today when I knocked on the door of Rose Cottage, Bagnum to congratulate her on the first prize in her category because when I had spoken to her about her excellent entry two years ago she had been disappointed not to have won. I hope she sees this.

37 Sandford always give us an excellent tableau.

This year’s ‘Sandford Grand National’ was no exception.

Their neighbours at 39 Sandford produced both

‘Cosmic Horoscope’, with its pinned predictions and

penned posting with which I heartily agree;

and ‘Santa’s Workshop’ where we are invited to write a letter to him and post it in the pillar box provided.

Two displays, ‘Orinocho Womble sez Please Pick Up Your Litter’ on the driveway to Stable Family Home Trust;

and ‘Reuse & Recycle’, were messages to those who deface the environment with their rubbish.

With ‘Free Britney’ The Stable Family Home Garden Cottage sought justice for Britney Spears.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank more of the Greco di Tufo and I drank Faugeres 2019.

Head To Tail

A dull morning gave way to sunshine as we left to visit Shelly and Ron with a birthday present. After coffee and convivial conversation Jackie and I set off for a forest drive.

Heather, bracken, brambles, and gorse tangled together festooned the verges and the moorland alongside Burley Road.

Jackie parked on the gravel lay-by opposite the now powdery pony tracks along which I added my footprints to theirs across to Whitemoor Pond,

where ponies and cattle, drawing numbers of walkers sought the benefits of cooling water.

Ponies occasionally drank; cattle stood in silence broken only by the occasional canine yelp.

The stationary, uncomplaining equines, plagued by pesky flies, clustered together in groups, head to tail, flicking at each other’s persistent pests.

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/08/26/a-knights-tale-22-but-a-little-boy/

This evening we dined on our second helpings of last night’s Red Chilli takeaway with which Jackie drank more of the Greco di Tufo and I finished the Dao.

A Knight’s Tale (22: But A Little Boy)

Some time after arriving back home, I was to experience my first day at school. There was, of course, no such thing as pre-school in those days.

This was probably my greatest horror.  My grandfather had taken me to school, and, cock-a-hoop, I strode in, waving him goodbye.  I had a new set of clothes and was embarking upon a new adventure.  Then I turned the corner into the playground…………….  It was full of screaming children, including girls, and most of them were much bigger than me…….. I got home to Raynes Park before Grandpa.  There are no words to describe the absolute terror represented by these dotted lines.  I was off like a shot.  I suppose I must have ridden on the bus, but I really don’t remember.  The next image I have is of bashing on the front door until Mum came down to me.

Naturally Mum calmed me down and returned me to the torture chamber.  She may have fed me, may have accompanied me on the bus.  It’s all a blank, not even a blur.

I was presented to Miss Mulvaney.  Miss Mulvaney smiled, took my hand, and led me into her classroom.  ‘We are having plasticine this afternoon, and here is Maureen Potter to look after you’, she said.  I was flabbergasted.  There, beaming in her half of our joint desk, sat the most angelic creature I had ever seen.  She had a lovely round face, the image of which I cannot conjure up, but the impression of which has remained deep in my heart.  As this motherly child took my hand my stomach leapt.  Not for the first time that day, but this time it was a wholly different sensation.  I was in love for the very first time.  Miss Mulvaney knew what she was about.

We enjoyed the plasticine too.  Why is it, incidentally, that however bright the original colours are, this material always turns brown?

This photograph portrays the school with extensions, as it was in 2012. Note the traffic calming additions on the road. Nick-named ‘sleeping policemen’ they were unheard of in the 1940s.

There is a modern main entrance, above which lies a bas-relief in memory of Father Rankin S.J. who was, in my day, an influential Jesuit and possibly Auntie Gwen’s favourite priest.

The schoolroom in The Priest’s House Museum in Wimbourne which we visited on November 23rd 2013 reinforced my memory of that first day of my formal education.

As we will see in good time, the cane hanging over the blackboard was an authentic touch.  The previous day’s date, in fine copper plate handwriting, was inscribed on the blackboard.  The plastic pencil container on the teacher’s desk was perhaps an aberration.  What fascinated me was the pairs of desks, which enthralled two small children who, having visited earlier in the week, had brought their parents back for a second visit.  Their eyes opened wide when I told them I had sat beside a lovely little girl in one of those very same desks when I had been but a little boy.