The One-armed Wheelbarrow

On an overcast, more sultry, morning we cleared clippings and I dead headed.

With no change in the weather this afternoon, Jackie set about chopping up the cut foliage from the plants in the front garden corner

while I transported it to the compost bins and added the more woody sections to the ever increasing heap on the Back Drive.

The hydrangea will stay.

Later, Jackie tidied the area and took

hydrangea cuttings which will be covered with plastic bags and placed in the greenhouse

My post “Five Years On”, from October 14th, 2019 shows, not only the said drive as it was when we first arrived, but also some of the fires that dispensed with the vast amount of brushwood that we cleared from the jungle that was our garden.

It is now apparent that we will need some more bonfires that will call into service the one-armed wheelbarrow in the same way as one was employed before.

Later this afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/09/04/a-knights-tale-27-eventually-chris-twigged/

This afternoon Elizabeth came with baskets of dirty washing to avail herself of our washing machine because hers has died. This took some hours and she shared our takeaway meal from Red Chilli. She and I finished the Comté Tolosan Rouge while Jackie started on another bottle of the Pinot Grigio Bluch.

A Knight’s Tale (27: Eventually Chris Twigged)

Sometime around 1950 when Chris and I were still at primary school, if you were prepared to walk home, in the days of small High Street shops before the advance of supermarkets such as Tesco, you could spend your bus fare on a bag of broken biscuits from the old style family grocer in The Broadway,

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or, in season, a pomegranate from a fruit and veg stall in Russell Road. You ate the pomegranate seeds with a pin carried for the purpose. If you wanted an ice cream from De Marco’s alongside the stall that meant walking home two days in a row and managing not to spend the first day’s fare on the first day. 

In this picture of Russell Road from July 2012, Hawes Estate agent who collected rent from my mother throughout my childhood, is on the site of De Marco’s ice cream parlour and MoneyGram was once a shop selling holy pictures and other religious mementos.  A sign of changing priorities, no doubt. Especially in Wimbledon, now land of Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. Wimbledon, where, in my childhood, you could smell coffee roasted and being ground in a shop along the broadway. Wimbledon, where Whittard of Chelsea now offers taste guaranteed luxury tea and coffee in Centre Court shopping mall.

Wimbledon Theatre, on our left of the picture, after several refurbishments, now styled New Wimbledon Theatre, is where, still in primary school I saw my first Shakespeare Play, details of which I cannot remember.

One day Chris and I, whilst walking home, decided to investigate Spencer Hill.

Some way up the hill, in someone’s garden, stood a tree with an inviting hollow area at the top of the trunk.  I climbed up to the gap to have a look.  Chris followed.  As I entered the bowl shape in the bole I heard a rather angry buzzing sound.  In an instant I was covered in bees.  I’d like to say I was out of there like a shot.  Unfortunately Chris was bringing up the rear and seemed to have some difficulty in understanding either ‘bees’ or ‘get down’ or all of it.  He didn’t seem to grasp that he was in my way.  I yelled incessantly until Chris twigged and leapt from the bottom branch.  I was then out of Spencer Hill and onto a bus like the shot.  Having, of course, spent my fare I had no money.  I recall the concern of the bus conductor for this snivelling wreck with his head in a swarm of bees occupying the first seat on his vehicle, and the kindness of the woman opposite who paid my fare.  Chris must have made his own way home, but I was no caring elder brother at that point.

To this day I remember sitting on a stool with Mum picking bee stings and the dead creatures out of my head.  I can still see them crawling dazedly inside my fair-isle jumper.  If ever I lose my hair and there are pitted marks in the scalp I bet they’ll be from those bees.

Logistical Problems

Garden maintenance – mostly clearing up and dead heading – began early this morning for us both.

No doubt attracted by the redolent scent of roses released by the warm sunshine, bees buzzed and butterflies flittered around me as I wielded the secateurs.

Bees and Red Admirals both tried the fading Festive Jewel;

both also favoured verbena bonariensis,

as did Comma and Small White butterflies.

Worker bees were mostly partial to Summer Wine.

A little later we drove to Milford Pharmacy for a repeat prescription; to Tesco for E10 unleaded petrol; to Ferndene Farm shop for three bags of compost and various vegetables; and to the forest for a preprandial drive.

Heather beamed bright on the verges of Burley Road, while

a group of ponies were already sheltering under the trees at the corner of Burley Lawn, doing their best to switch off each other’s flies, by the head to tail method.

This presented some logistical problems arising from a certain size difference.

Later this afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/09/03/a-knights-tale-26-town-halls-trams-and-trolley-buses/

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips, onion rings, and peas, with which Jackie finished the Pinot Grigio and I drank more of the Comte Tolosan Rouge.

A Knight’s Tale (26: Town Halls, Trams, And Trolley Buses)

We were dependent in those days on trolley buses to take us to school or the first leg of the journey to Auntie Gwen’s. From Merton’s splendid Art Deco Town Hall we would take a tram to Latimer Road, and occasionally continue along Wimbledon Broadway by tram.

Years later I was to discover that the hand carved fitted furniture for the above-mentioned building had been removed when its inside was gutted to accommodate the current Tesco supermarket. Only the facade remains. The solid oak curved fittings were transferred to the mayor’s rooms in the ’60s tower block that now houses council offices. Needless to say they fitted in neither sense of the word.

It is perhaps no coincidence that I watched the removal of a splendid wood panelled staircase and its circular landing smashed up and removed from what had been my Social Services Area Office to make way for the aluminium and laminate structures of the Westminster Council Leader, Tesco heiress, Dame Shirley Porter’s “One Stop Shop” in the 1980s. This had been a Victorian Town Hall.

Now to return to the trolley buses.

(Photo: David Bradley Online)

Trolley buses were a post tram invention, utilising overhead wires providing the current which was fed to the buses through long connecting rods.  These were much longer than the links used by today’s Intercity trains.  Much delight was taken by all us children when the rods became dislodged.  It was a major undertaking to reposition them, which was an entertainment in itself, and, of course, if it happened at the right time and in the right direction, the bus couldn’t take us to school.  In modern football parlance I’d say that was a result.

These buses ran along Worple Road, providing a transport link between Wimbledon and Raynes Park.  Until the early 1950s Wimbledon sported both trolley buses and trams.

(Photo by Norman Hurford, 1950, scanned by Peter Brabham on Flickr.)

I am proud of a story featuring my paternal grandfather, John Francis Cecil Knight, who was walking alongside one of these open-topped vehicles during the early 20th century. A man on the upstairs deck gobbed overboard. The phlegm landed on Grandpa’s sleeve. He jumped on the tram, ran upstairs, and made the offender wipe off his deposit.

These were the days when you could freely board public transport on the move.

Trams have been widely reintroduced in England. Those between Wimbledon and Croydon make use in part of disused railway tracks.  They do not glide down Wimbledon Broadway as did the early trams of my boyhood.

In May 2012, whilst waiting on a red light at the ungated level crossing being approached by a tram in each direction I sensed that a young oriental jogger was going to continue on through the path of the trams.  She didn’t look from side to side and ignored the light.  I held up my hand indicating that she should stop. She took no apparent notice of me, glanced to her left, and ran on.  The tram that was the most dangerous missed her.  She was wearing specs with very thick lenses.  Maybe she couldn’t see.  Maybe she had confidence in her speed.

Behind The Scenes

I began another gloomy-looking day by printing a batch of photographs for my sister, Jacqueline, including

this one of her son, my nephew James and his son Shay at Michael and Heidi’s wedding on 5th October 1991.

Our blogging friend Carolyn began a comment on “Her Autumn Garden” with

a poem which I printed for Jackie to stick on her fridge. She photographed both it and a series of behind the scenes locations.

From the east front gate we see the Head Gardener’s Shed, greenhouse, and

potting up station where, perched on her kneeler she fills containers in the wheelbarrow from the fresh compost bags.

Behind the shed various implements are stored, and beside it potted items await their permanent homes.

Plants in need of more nurturing begin their lives in the greenhouse, also seen

beside the wisteria arbour.

Accessed from the west gates beside the house

the front garden contains a strengthened arch.

Later, we shopped at Otter Nurseries for Sharp Sand, pansies, and a hose attachment; posted Jacqueline’s photographs from Everton Post Office; and continued for a short forest drive.

Attracted by a fallen giant at Lucy Hill, I disembarked and scrambled into the

woodland where earlier casualties were in the process of being absorbed into last autumns leaves on the forest floor or draped in undergrowth to aid their decomposition and provide winter quarters for various insects and other small creatures;

and bracken was beginning to shrivel and turn golden brown.

Ever perverse, the sun waited for me to return to the Modus before sending weak streaks across the fallen leaves and silhouetting trees opposite.

Finally Jackie pointed out a door in a tree trunk behind which a Hobbit may have set up home.

This evening we enjoyed our second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese takeaway with which Jackie drank more of the Pinot Grigio and I drank Chevalier de Fauvert Comte Tolosan Rouge 2019.

Her Autumn Garden

Jackie spent the day in her element, nurturing

her Autumn garden, which I photographed at intervals. WordPress willing, each of these images is individually titled in the gallery.

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

‘Composedly smoking, he leaned an elbow on the chimney-piece and looked at the schoolmaster’ displays both arrogance and reserve.

‘Spreading his hands on his visitor’s knees, he thus addresses him’

‘The little expedition down the river’

‘Crouching down by the door and bending over her burden to hush it’

This evening we dined on Hordle Chinee Take Away’s excellent fare, with which Jackie drank more of the Pino Grigio and I finished the Faugeres.

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.