Last Hours Of The Day

While the overnight gale continued to rant, rave, and spatter our windows we spent the morning continuing the decluttering prompted by our domestic refurbishment. I made considerable headway in dispensing with decades of paperwork.

Late this afternoon, when the wind and the rain desisted, we rewarded ourselves with a forest drive.

At the corner of Brock Hill Car Park serving the Rhinefield ornamental drive a victim of the recent winds, ripped from its rooting place and tossed onto picnic tables lay ready to join

others having earlier suffered similar fates to return to the soil from which they sprang.

A bitter wind made the temperature feel colder than the 3 degrees Centigrade that was recorded. The walkers lending scale to the giant redwoods around them were wrapped up well.

We have learned that robins abandon gardens for the forest during winter. They were much in evidence. This one dropped onto a fungus-bearing post.

From Rhinefield we progressed to pass Burley Manor where two groups of walkers caught the last of the sunlight as they crossed the lawn and its dying trees.

The skies were adopting gentle pastel shades, which strengthened by the time we reached

Picket Post, blessed with Jesus beams on the approach to sunset, more apparent across the moors alongside

Holmsley Passage.

This evening we dined on moist roast lamb; boiled new potatoes and the sweet variety roasted with parsnips; firm broccoli; tasty red cabbage; and tender runner beans; with mint sauce and meaty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden while I drank Duck Point Merlot 2019.

Windblown Flames

After a full day of tidying and clearing we took a quick trip to catch the sunset at Mudeford.

Jackie managed to transport a carpet upstairs, one step and a time; we then moved a computing desk from the days when the devices all had towers downstairs to extend the long wooden desk I bought 34 years ago from the previous owner when I bought Lindum House. This enabled me to arrange iMac, scanner, and printer in a less cluttered manner, prompting me to tidy out the drawers on the basis that if anything inside them related to equipment I no longer used it was binned. I also continued disposing of ancient paperwork.

We drove though a dramatic shower and a range of moody skies which, by the time we reached our goal were quietly smouldering until

the flickering flames of a bonfire blew across the skies.

A stately cavalcade of swans and cygnets sailed past a row of mallards

A woman pushing a pram, and perching gulls provided picturesque silhouettes.

A dashing dog scattered other birds.

On our return, I published

Later, we dined on Jackie’s wholesome winter stewp with fresh crusty rolls with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.

A Knight’s Tale (70: Earning The Gratitude Of Neighbours)

On the outside of a shop on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Macclefield Street, very close to our bedroom window, sat a burglar alarm constantly being set off by spiders and such.  Once activated it would not desist from ringing.  The police could never either trace a keyholder or get one to come out and turn off the noise.  One of their problems was that the establishment often changed hands.  On one occasion when it was doing my head in, and the police were unable to help, I decided to take it off the wall.  Armed with a screwdriver and a hammer, I climbed a ladder, hoping no-one was looking up my dressing gown, and set about it.  This was a very complicated procedure in which I had to completely dismantle the offending article and prise apart some wires before the shrill noise would stop.  Fortunately I had no need of the hammer.  When I returned to bed, hoping to sleep, Jessica suggested that I should tell the police what I had done.  I did.  Five minutes later I was arrested.  On being escorted into the police station I was greeted with calls of ‘ ‘ere, that bloke rings a bell’, and ‘don’t get alarmed mate.’  I think it was the highlight of their evening.  The sergeant informed me that they were not prepared to charge me with criminal damage, but they had to give the owner the opportunity to do so.  And I hadn’t actually damaged anything.  I’d carefully collected up all the bits.  I’d have had more sleep if I’d stayed indoors.  Unsurprisingly, the owner was not interested in pursuing the matter.

Some while later, intent on repeating my misdemeanour, I was halfway up the ladder when a policeman politely asked me what I was doing.  When I told him, he said I wasn’t.  ‘Oh, OK’, I replied, and went back to bed.  Eventually I tried a more subtle solution.  By this time the outlet was selling clothes.  After a particularly bad three nights in succession, I persuaded a shop assistant to give me the phone number of the current owner.  The next occasion on which our sleep was disturbed, I telephoned him.  ‘Whoooaahr’, said I, with a sharp outlet of breath, ‘I think you’d better come out here’.  Now he was alarmed.  I went on to tell him that his shop had been burgled.  In their haste to get away the perpetrators had strewn jeans all over Shaftesbury Avenue.  Naturally, in telling this little white lie, I remained anonymous.  We were never troubled again.  Our neighbours were quite grateful.

Time For A Woodland Drive

Early this morning Richard and Al of Kitchen Makers visited to cut the bottom off the new inner door and return it to its position.

They brought a trestle in order to measure and cut the door in the front garden.

Before they put back the door, they carried the long case clock into the hall from the corner of the sitting room into which they had toted it before the flooring work began. There proved to be some difficulty with this on account of replacing the weights, which required generous patience and ingenuity considering that they had already fitted this in ahead of their planned day’s work. Jackie having reset it, the clock continues to keep the perfect time it has maintained for 200 years

Martin, from Fordingbridge, then visited to discuss and quote for rebuilding the wisteria arbour.

After lunch we posted the Probate Application, cheque, and supporting documentary evidence from Everton Post Office; followed on to Ferndean Farm Shop where Jackie purchased some provisions; and set out upon a forest drive.

The burnished landscape glowed along Holmsley Passage.

Ponies grazed and squirrels scampered about the dappled woodland and among autumn leaves nurturing mushrooms and sheltering solitary holly berries alongside

Bisterne Close, in a field on the opposite side of which basked

a lone deer in the sunshine that

backlit a pair of ponies beside Burley Road.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome winter stewp with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Fitting Perfectly

Connor and Josh completed their work on our floor this afternoon.

The last stages had them working on different locations alongside each other, and finally together as the work was completed in the vestibule.

Connor’s fitting of the tiles round the WC bowl and macerator; and his joins at the corner of the doors fit perfectly, and the link between the hall and vestibule is a seamless operation.

After spending some time putting things back together again, I scanned the next three of Charles Keeping’s exemplary illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’,

‘There was a labyrinth of scaffolding raised all round the house’

‘The afflicted foreigner remained clasping Miss Tox to his heart’

‘Mrs Skewton smirked at her cadaverous self in the glass’

This evening we dined on second helpings of Jackie’s wholesome, well-filled beef and onion pie with accompanying vegetables, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2019.

A Knight’s Tale (69: Soho’s Seamy Side)

It was probably meths that the dead man was drinking.

On Sunday mornings, after the wild life of the night before, Soho was generally calm and civilised. The small garden squares, like

Soho Square in which a visitor photographed me in October 2017, were tranquil places in which to settle with a book.

In 1975 it was in one of these that I encountered another such imbiber, who settled himself beside me, picked up my specs which, never needing them for reading, I had placed on the previously empty bench, and menacingly told me what he could do with them. I politely asked for their return. A bottle of meths in his other hand, he stretched out the arm holding my glasses and proceeded to simulate crushing. I grabbed his arm. With dismay I found I could not move it. He calmly put down my optical aids, staggered to his feet, and wandered off chuckling.

Perhaps equally alarming was the night two alleged soldiers rang our doorbell. It was not unusual that male visitors would seek an available woman in our yard. I told these two that they were out of luck. One became seriously threatening. Keeping my hand on the door, I responded with my usual quietly determined tone. His friend warned me not to take him on because he would kill me. Quick as a flash, I slammed the door. Sometimes I can exercise discretion.

On another occasion I discovered a gentleman exploring drawers in our bedroom. He was unable to tell me what he was doing there. Fortunately he was more scared than I was, so he did not resist when I escorted him down the stairs and back outside.

It was Jessica who received an offer she could easily refuse. It was not unusual for ladies of the night to avail themselves of the corners of the yard for various cosmetic or clothing purposes. On one instance it was relief that one such visitor sought in the very corner in which the man had died. My then partner called out of the window explaining that this was not a public lavatory. The woman offered to urinate in Jessica’s mouth.

Our relationship with De Hems, the pub whose rear entrance virtually faced our front door, was very good. One night, however, a very noisy party continued well after closing time. I rang the back door and asked for the decibels to be lowered. The reply was that the event was being held by the local CID branch of the Metropolitan Police. I said that if the row did not stop I would enquire as to whether the uniformed branch would be interested in a complaint. Silence ensued almost immediately.

We did see the seamy side of Soho, but I will not dwell on it again.

A Masterclass

This morning Connor and Josh prepared the boards they had laid yesterday by “feathering’ them with a mixed cement-like material and leaving it to dry while they went on to another job leaving me in charge of their powerful


The skim was then smoothed in preparation for

fitting the tiles, which is what they call the laminate strips, onto a further layer of glue.

The joins around all the corners and skirting boards of the rooms could not be tighter.

When they finish tomorrow Connor will have laid all the floors throughout the ground level of our house. The first image above shows how today’s work runs seamlessly through to the kitchen; the second through to the sitting room.

As we watched Connor showing Josh the ropes, we considered that we were witnessing a masterclass.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef and onion pie in crisp short crust pastry; firm boiled potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower; and tender cabbage, with meaty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Merlot.

“Would You Like To Photograph Connor Doing Something In The Bathroom?”

Connor and Josh from Crestwood arrived promptly this morning to carry out the first stage of the final flooring project. We are most fortunate to have enjoyed Connor’s work on all three ground floor jobs.

First the original floorboards were smoothed and swept.

Some of these required screwing down to form a flat surface for

boards carried in by Josh, measured, largely by Connor, and fitted neatly to form a base for the final strips of Karndean Pale Limed Oak textured laminate which have served well in kitchen and sitting room.

Connor in particular is most obliging when it comes to suggesting pictures. In the first of the screwing pictures above, he held the pose for my benefit after he had finished the task. When asked by Josh whether I would like to come and photograph the expert doing something in the bathroom this didn’t seem something I should refuse. What he did was measure, cut, and fit like a glove a template for the boards.

The boards were then nailed flat.

A smooth screed was settled over the concrete floor in the vestibule, and left to dry overnight. As can be seen, Richard’s new door will have to be cut. He had anticipated this possibility. The men will continue tomorrow.

This evening we dined on succulent roast lamb; crisp roast potatoes and parsnips; firm carrots and cauliflower; tender runner beans; and mint sauce, followed by ice cream. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Merlot.

A Little Light Music

While I was seated in the sitting room this morning, blinded by bright sunshine reflected from Jessie’s present of a solar light creating its own moon and star-scape, I became inspired to wander round the house playing

a little light music.

After lunch I posted

Otherwise much of the day was spent clearing my desk and other areas of our entrance hall, in readiness for the start on the floor tomorrow.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s Special Foo Yung; Angela’s flavoursome spring rolls; and Co-op pork spare ribs, followed by mince pies and ice cream; with which Jackie drank more of the non-alcoholic sparkling rosé while I drank Pierre Jaurant Special Edition Merlot 2020.

A Knight’s Tale (68: The Man’s Fingers Still Clutched The Ball)

Michael and Matthew (clearly in the midst of a perennial growth spurt) often played soccer in Horse & Dolphin Yard. The Ball, the subject of this next story was not a deflated football. To take these photographs I must have been standing outside the door of our flat.

On another occasion two gentlemen, to my left, somewhat the worse for having consumed a quantity of the cheapest possible intoxicating liquid, sprawled against each other in a corner on the floor. Michael and his friend Eddie were playing with a tennis ball. Soon, my son came running up the stairs to inform me that one of the imbibers had taken their ball. Naturally I descended into the yard to persuade the gent to give up his spoils.

The man’s fingers still clutched the ball, even though he was now dead.

I called the police who arrived quite quickly. The officer in charge, whilst arranging for disposal of the body, instructed me to send Michael inside because he shouldn’t be seeing this. It didn’t seem politic to argue, so I quietly suggested to the fifteen-year-old that he would get a better view from an upstairs window. Up he went.

There were no blue and white tapes applied to keep out sightseers, and no chalk outlines were made. Clearly this was not really considered to be the scene of a crime. Except possibly the snatching of the ball. In the circumstances, I was prepared to overlook that.

Like all of Chinatown, the yard looks rather different now.