This afternoon we drove to the pharmacy at Milford on Sea, then to Elizabeth’s home in Pilley to collect a dish of Jackie’s and her camera which had been left behind.

We also wished to photograph the appropriately updated work of the anonymous decorator of the letter collection box on Pilley Hill, which we had noted on our way home last night.

I chose to place no more pictures on this post because this message should stand alone.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s nourishing cottage pie; tender cabbage; crunchy, tasty, carrots; and firm Brussels sprouts. I drank a small glass of the Malbec and the Culinary Queen abstained.

A Knight’s Tale (108: Instow Part 2)

It was probably in August 1998 that Jessica bought a secondhand outboard motor in Newark and used for one day in Instow in Devon. She left her recently acquired dinghy in the bay facing our holiday house. In the morning the motor was gone. As was every other similar item from other boats. This was apparently the first time such a theft had ever occurred at that location.

It was that year, the one after my then wife had received her diagnosis of multiple myeloma, that she paddled on Instow beach with Emily.

The following year was the one of the beach fortress.

Building sandcastle 8.99001

Sam, Louisa, James, Gemma, Lucy, and Nick start on a pile of sand on the beautiful beach of Instow, where 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.

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Building 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.

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Building 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.

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Bigger lads look on.

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

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

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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.

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Jessica and Judith prepare refreshments, evening wear is donned,

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Building sandcastle 8.99022

and the village begins to assemble.

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Jessica sports her trademark Monsoon skirt.

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‘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.

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

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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.

Garden Rescue

Today was fine and clear – perfect conditions for Elizabeth’s garden makeover.

On the way there we drove into Pilley along a lane dividing sheep from goats.

Jackie produced a few before pictures of the project before her battery died.

I photographed the work in progress, identification of the participants given in the galleries.

A splendid buffet lunch was provided by Danni, the Events Organiser, after which Isla mothered Jack.

Work, such as sawing up the fallen sumac and bed-making continued, while acrobatics were undertaken on the lawn.

It was then my battery’s turn to die, so Jackie and I returned home to recharge them both, after which we went back to Burnt House lane to join the others for Jackie’s chicken curry, savoury rice, samosas, and onion bahjis. Her delicious mixed fruit crumble was to follow, but I couldn’t eat anything more after the first course. I’m not sure who drank what, but I drank virtually non-alcoholic (0.5%) Adnams Ghost Ship.

I matched Jackie’s earlier before the work garden views with some afters.

A Bilious Attack

Having felt decidedly off colour with a painful headache and a rumbling stomach throughout the day I dozed on the sofa watching the continuing news from Ukraine, relieved by Six Nations rugby matches between Scotland and France, and between England and Wales. I may have rested my eyes on occasion, which might explain the missing bits.

After my first day at school it was a place I enjoyed being. I therefore had to be feeling rather rough to say I was feeling unwell on a school day. When I claimed that I wasn’t well enough this meant I needed to go to bed and would be unable to eat pudding.

This would have been my mother’s diagnosis whenever I said I had a tummy ache – the small child’s catch all ailment description.

Now as an adult I realised this may have had something to do with bile, but it was not until this evening that I had ever looked it up. It seems a combination of headaches, abdominal pain and constipation, now regarded as obsolete. Just for the record I didn’t suffer from the latter; vomiting was very rare; and I don’t remember headaches. As a young mother from the middle of WW2 Mum had inherited a number of old wives’ tales from my grandmother, and she tended to persevere with them past their sell by dates. A recommended cure for bandy legs, for example, was a mustard bath.

I was rather off my food until this evening when Jackie produced small portions of oven fish, chips, and peas, with which I drank water.

A Second Chance

Is it perhaps an example of Karl Jung’s synchronicity that I should have come to the end of an acclaimed modern masterpiece with which I find myself at odds on a day when the Kremlin is shelling Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

I began reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles soon after Christmas for which Tess had given me the book as a present. It is indeed a book of great ‘charm, intelligence and insight’ as quoted from the Sunday Times on the front cover. The narrative is very well crafted from start to finish. The apparently effortless language flows beautifully at a smoothly engaging pace. The relationships between his rounded characters are sensitive displayed. Knowledge of arts and history is demonstrated.

I do not have enough insight into Russian history to understand whether the story of a man spending almost his entire adult life in comparatively privileged house arrest following the 1917 Revolution is the comic genius that some newspaper critics are quoted as attributing to it.

So, although I did ultimately enjoy the book for its tale-telling and for its humour, with that dilemma in mind I could not find it funny without wondering about all the Russian people who lived and died under, or were forced to flee from the Communist regime.

Maybe it is more about the human capacity for acceptance, adaptation, and ultimate internal freedom.

Today was a bright and sunny as yesterday, so we drove out to St Peter’s Church at Bramshaw to test my resetting of the 35mm lens.

I had been given a second chance.

Unfortunately there were no ponies on Nomansland village green, so I had to make do with

some on the road at Frogham;

one against the rapidly descending sunset;

and one drinking from the pool at Ibsley.

This evening Jackie fed us on an extra pot of the chicken Jalfrezi and savoury rice prepared for Elizabeth’s event on Sunday. Because this is milder than my taste she gave me a chilli coulis made with four of the bird’s eye variety. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Finca Flichman Gestos Malbec 2018.

The Assistant Photographer Saves The Day

This morning I posted

After a heavy fall of sleet at lunchtime the darkly brooding clouds slunk away and the sun shone for the rest of the chilly afternoon. We did not receive the expect snowfall.

Jackie drove me to Lymington where I collected a large print for Jan and Bob Beekman; a flash gun for my camera, and two printing inks.

We continued across the forest to Bramshaw where I photographed the gravestones of the 12th Century St Peter’s Church.

From there we continued to Nomansland where I photographed ponies cropping the cricket outfield on the village green.

When I loaded these photographs onto my computer screen every single one was out of focus. How could this be, I wondered. I then checked the settings on my 35 mm lens which I had used for these shots, and found that that it was set for manual focus, which I never use. When the shop assistant who had set up my new flash gun to be fixed on automatic he had said “you could do it on automatic, too”. I had replied “please don’t confuse me with that. I never go off automatic”.

The only shot we have of that earlier trip is this one Jackie took of a footpath sign beside a stile leading into the church.

Even that would have saved the day, but Jackie went one further by suggesting we drove on to Barton on Sea to watch the sun going down. For this I had changed to the

70/300 mm lens which had been left alone.

A Knight’s Tale (107: Instow Part 1)

According to Wikipedia ‘Instow is a village in north Devon, England. It is on the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet, between the villages of Westleigh and Yelland and on the opposite bank of Appledore. There is an electoral ward with the same name. Its total population at the 2011 census was 1,501.[1]

There is a small river beach and sand dunes, that home some rare species of orchid including the pyramid orchid.[2]

The Tarka Trail passes through Instow, providing an easy means for people to arrive by foot or on bike. This section of the Trail is also part of the South West Coast Path, offering longer walks along the coast.’

From 1985 Jessica, Sam, Louisa and I enjoyed many annual holidays there with various family members.

Sam and Louisa, Instow 1985 3
Sam and Loiusa Instow 1985 2
Sam and Louisa Instow 1985 1

On that first visit Sam clambers over a stout, cemented, stone wall in the garden of our borrowed house.

Louisa then received a nature lesson from her mother, Jessica,

Jessica and Louisa 1985 1
Jessica and Louisa 2
Jessica and Louisa 1985 3
Jessiac and Louisa 4

seated on that wall, introducing her to the wonders of nature. An insect perches in our daughter’s hand; tall violet irises stand proud while yellow roses ramble along the stones.

Jessica and Sam 1985

Sam took his turn, too.

Jessica and Louisa 1985 2

Here Jessica admires sculptures at Marwood Hill Garden near Barnstaple.

Sam on donkey 1985 1
Sam on donkey 1985 2
Sam on donkey 1985 2

We took the car to Mousehole in Cornwall for one day. Sam loved donkey riding. A peculiarity of this ancient fishing village is the main road through to the harbour. Sam’s donkey stands on it, and is perhaps a more convenient way of manning the steep, cobbled, ascent. The granite strips among the setts provide steps between the houses. It is not suitable for vehicles, other than the shallow wooden sleds used by provisioners to deliver their produce.

Jessica, Sam and Louisa 1
Jessica, Sam and Louisa 1985 2
Jessica, Sam and Louisa 1985 3

The harbour has a similarly stout protective stone wall that can be ascended by substantial steep steps, such as those Jessica, Sam and Louisa are scaling. Jessica seems a little perturbed by our intrepid daughter’s purposeful strides.

Two Storm-Swept Overgrown Shrubs

Although the skies became overcast by mid morning, the day remained largely dry.

Martin began on today’s visit by tackling the overgrown and leaning pittosporum. The first two of these pictures show the tree tilted by the recent storms; the last, Martin’s trimmed result.

Leaving him in peace for a while, I wandered around and photographed tête-a-têtes; snowdrops and mahonia; and ipheions.

In the process I walked into another lurching overgrown shrub dislodged by the gales.

This euonymous would have to go, so

Martin set about it.

Leaving the leafy branches for us to burn, he took away the heavier pieces.

Afterwards he continued his work along the back drive. This involved straightening the edges, weeding the beds, and pruning roses supported by the dead stumps.

Although I was tempted by the aromas of chicken curry cooking all day, this was not for me. Jackie has prepared it for Sunday’s friends and relatives blitz on Elizabeth’s garden, postponed from last week’s which was rained off.

We therefore dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Douro.

A Knight’s Tale (106: That’ll Be The Day)

Opposite Victoria Station stands the Victoria Palace Theatre.  I have attended two and a half performances there.  ‘Billy Elliot’ is quite the best stage production of its kind that I have ever seen.  During its first week, for Louisa’s birthday, I took her and Errol to see the show.  At the time the film, which we had watched on DVD together, was one of Louisa’s favourites. Naturally we had a curry beforehand.

Billy Elliot: The Musical is a coming-of-age stage musical based on the 2000 film of the same name. The music is by Elton John, and the book and lyrics are by Lee Hall, who wrote the film’s screenplay. The plot revolves around Billy, a motherless British boy who begins taking ballet lessons. The story of his personal struggle and fulfilment are balanced against a counter-story of family and community strife caused by the 1984–85 UK miners’ strike in County Durham, in North East England. Hall’s screenplay was inspired in part by A. J. Cronin‘s 1935 novel about a miners’ strike, The Stars Look Down, to which the musical’s opening song pays homage.[1]

The musical premiered at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End in 2005 and was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four, including Best New Musical. The production ran through April 2016.[2] Its success led to productions in Australia, Broadway, and numerous other countries. In New York, it won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards, including, in each case, Best Musical. It has also won numerous awards in Australia including a record-tying seven Helpmann Awards.’ (Wikipedia)

Some years earlier, soon after Becky had returned to London from Newark, I arranged to meet her at Victoria Station to take her to the Victoria Palace to see one of the opening performances of ‘Buddy’. 

Wikipedia also tells us: ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is a musical in two acts written by Alan Janes, and featuring the music of Buddy Holly. It opened at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre on 12 October 1989. An early example of the jukebox musicalBuddy ran in London’s West End for over 12 years, playing 5,140 performances. Janes took over the producing of the show himself in 2004, and Buddy has been on tour extensively in the UK since then, having played Broadway, five U.S. National Tours and numerous other productions around the world. The show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical.

She didn’t turn up.  Since this was most unlike either one of my two reliable daughters I waited an hour.  The only other person I have ever waited for that long was her mother on our first date, again at Victoria Station.  Having finally given up on Becky, wondering what on earth had gone wrong, which probably affected my mood, I went to the theatre, explained the situation, and asked for a refund.  This was not possible.  I asked to speak to the manager.  He was unavailable.  ‘OK,’ said I, tearing up the tickets which I threw into the office, ‘you have these, they’re no good to me.’  Storming out of the theatre in high dudgeon, I walked straight into Becky.

Somewhat shame-faced we returned to the ticket office where I sought admission.  There was now a different booking clerk.  We could not gain admission because the show had started and anyway I didn’t have any tickets.  I quickly replaced my blown gasket and again asked to speak to the manager.  This time I was invited to wait for the intermission when he might just possibly be available.  He did indeed materialise.  The jigsaw puzzle that was the shredded tickets was fished out of the wastepaper basket, pieced together, and closely scrutinised.  We now found that the manager was sympathetic to our plight.  He had actually appeared before the intermission but invited us to wait until then and enter the theatre during the break.  We were given two much better seats and tickets for a future complete performance. Is that ever likely to happen again?   ‘That’ll be the day’.

A Huge Pat Of Rooted Soil

Power was returned to Elizabeth’s home during the night. After lunch she returned to sort things out then join us for dinner before settling back into Burnt House Lane.

Our storms seem to be over, and we enjoyed a much brighter afternoon when we shopped at Ferndene then continued on a forest drive.

Along Lyndhurst Road

A newly broken tree prompted me to disembark beneath Lucy Hill and explore this microcosm of forest ecology. Storm Franklin could not uproot this small oak, but it was strong enough to shatter the trunk and leave it standing where it will stay until it gradually disintegrates.

Previous skeletal remains are never far from each new casualty

gradually returning to the soil from whence it sprang years before.

Another giant, clearly hollowed with age has received it last push to crash to the ground, breaking up already dead timber.

The mossy roots and sturdy trunk of this large oak seem firm enough, but one long branch now leans against it.

Shadows fell across the slopes of the hill.

Further along the road, also bearing shadows on its verges

a really massive fallen oak must have blocked the thoroughfare until really heavy vehicles left their tracks in the churned up mud. Trees still standing were reflected in the overnight rain pool beside the huge pat of rooted soil.

On our way home a pair of ponies crossed from the sunlit side of Rhinefield Road onto the more shady area.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; firm Brussels sprouts; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower, followed by mixed fruit crumble and ice cream. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Elizabeth finished the Toscana, and I drank more of the Douro.