A Clean Sweep

This morning Jackie took a broom to the garden windows while I took a trip back in time to scan the last few colour slides from West Norwood Cemetery produced in May 2008.

The third of these mausoleums is a longer view of the Augustus Ralli Mortuary Chapel first featured in “Spume” of March 10th (I am sorry that WP’s recent improvements means that I can’t work out how to provide a link to previous posts without sending you to the edit page).

Pandelis, Balls, and Rebecchi, are names that seem to be lost in time.

Numbers of decorative friezes and relief carvings enhance their monuments;

and here is a rather splendid cast metal door.

This afternoon I watched TV broadcasts of the Six Nations rugby matches between Scotland and Italy; and between Ireland and England.

For this evening’s dinner Jackie produced roast minted lamb; crisp Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, including the softer sweet variety; crunchy carrots, tender cabbage, and meaty gravy with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza El Tesoro Red Blend 2019.

After enjoying the meal I settled back on the sofa to watch the last game of the day, that between France and Wales.

Clear, Changing, Light

We began the day with an early trip to Milford on Sea Pharmacy.

Cloudscapes over the Solent and Christchurch Bay were ever changing. The Isle of Wight, invisible not so long avows nicely silhouetted against clear blue sky beyond bands of white cotton and degrees of indigo clouds. Cerulean patches peeped through others. Empty cruise ships waited outside Southampton for Covid-19 restrictions preventing them from taking on passengers to be lifted.

Similar skies prevailed over Keyhaven Harbour

and Hurst Spit, along which a couple of heavy lorries churned up dust before descending to

Saltgrass Lane.

Numbers of walkers and their dogs stood out against the constantly changing skies. Beneath the truck in the third image featuring the spit can be see a husky dog and its human companions.

This group raised considerable attention and a number of questions which the gentleman holding the lead was happy to answer.

After lunch Jackie worked on her water features in the garden while I cleared up a little: transporting clippings to the compost; lifting wind-floored owls, none of which had been damaged; and gathering slender fallen branches.

Having now read the first five chapters of

in which Mr Dickens begins to introduce his characters, I scanned the above frontispiece – ‘It was a clear evening, with a bright moon’ – with the title page and five more of Mr Keeping’s illustrations.

‘The old lady, naturally strong-minded, was nevertheless frail and fading’

‘Neither of the three took any notice of him’ – as the artist shows us.

‘ ‘You have seen the gentleman in this way before, miss?’ ‘

‘He touched the tip of his high nose, by way of intimation that he would let Mr Pecksniff into a secret presently’

Notice how Charles Keeping, in ‘Mr Pinch set forth on a stroll about the streets’ establishes perspective as the lines of the detailed foreground donkeys recede into those of the suggested distant chimneys.

Just before dinner I dashed outside with my camera

to photograph a fleeting sunset.

Dinner then consisted of three prawn preparations, namely tempura, salt and pepper, and hot and spicy; Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice; served with fresh salad, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sylvan Ecology

This morning we visited Lidl for a big shop. The Caterer in Chief donned a mask, entered the supermarket, and returned with a trolley load of goods while I sat in the car and read until it was time for me to assist with loading the purchases into the boot. When we arrived home I unloaded the Modus. Jackie was meant to have a rest at this point, but she started unpacking the bags before preparing lunch which I helped her eat.

After lunch we took a forest drive.

As we entered the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, piles of sawn body parts of a huge shallow-rooted oak tree that had succumbed to the recent storm prompted me to ask my Chauffeuse to park on the verge so I could create pictures. As we will see, the rich red tones of freshly sawn living wood will soon adopt more subdued hues. In fact I suspect that some of this material will be sold to craftspeople for the creation of furniture or ornaments such as the the mushrooms made for Jackie by Matthew Chalk of https://www.blackstone-chalk.co.uk

The rest may be left in situ to return in time to the soil from which it sprang. The woodland along the Drive is littered with trees in various stages of decomposition; the forest floor demonstrates how fallen timber is eventually overcome by moss as it sinks into the ground creating a bas-relief of its living form, blending with fallen leaves. The last image in this gallery clearly shows the process. Numerous insects are nurtured by the generated matter.

The droppings deposited by the ponies foraging nearby make their own plentiful contributions.

We encountered similar scenes on the road to Linwood. One of the ponies bore battle scars. I was somewhat surprised, when photographing the white-maned creature, to turn and find a bay right behind me breathing down my neck. Much to Jackie’s amusement, I backed off rapidly.

Although dry, the day had not been bright and was increasingly overcast by the time we reached Appleslade, where ponies,

a couple necking in the open, stood out on the hillside.

This evening we dined on a rack of ribs in barbecue sauce; Jackie’s savoury rice topped with a fluffy omelette; and fresh salad, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Two Dawns

In the early morning chill I girded my loins with a thick cotton dressing gown and stepped into the garden to photograph the pink-streaked dawn.

Keen arboriculturists may be interested in the sylvan skeletons of copper beech, larch, weeping birch, and lopped bay tree.

Our great-niece, Ella, was two years old in January. She and her parents have been unable to visit since before Christmas. We haven’t heard her form clear sentences. Danni texted me this morning to say that her daughter has been shouting out of the window: “Where has Uncle Derrick gone?”

My late son, Michael, was not much older when I had to try to answer his question: “Why did my Mummy die?”. So my feelings prompted by the very welcome text were somewhat ambivalent. It was very pleasing to know that Ella, who will be able to visit at the end of the month, could remember and missed us, yet that memory of Michael, who would never see Vivien again, has always been most poignant.

For much of the day Jackie occupied herself trimming dead material from plants with which she filled a succession of trugs. I operated a relay service transporting the contents to the compost bins and returning the containers to the Head Gardener for refills.

Of course I did not undertake my Under Gardener duties without carrying my camera. Featured here are euphorbia, mahonia, leucojum Spring Snowflakes, primulas, pulmonaria, tulips, daffodils, camellias, hellebores, hyacinths, cyclamen, and viburnum bodnantensis Dawn. The first camellia shrub shows blooms browned by an earlier frost.

I was calm and contented when I produced the Dawn skies gallery. That was before WordPress had chosen to apply another simplifying process to operate from the sidebar. Until I got my head around this system to construct the plants gallery culminating in another Dawn, it was only reasonable to inform Jackie that it wasn’t her I was shouting at.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice served with plentiful green salad and three prawn preparations, namely tempura, hot and spicy, and salt and pepper. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.

The Journey’s End

Today I scanned the last dozen tipped in colour plate illustrations by Frank Reynolds from Hodder & Stoughton’s 1913 limited edition of Charles Dickens’s ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ Details about the artist feature in my post ‘Not Done With Pickwick’

As I did yesterday I have included the lines of text that each of the following paintings depicts with the gallery image that can be accessed by clicking on each one individually. With the titles below I have indicated the three exceptions that carry no such references.

‘THE WAYFARERS’

‘MRS JARLEY’

‘SALLY BRASS’ (No lines of text)

‘LITTLE NELL’

‘FLIGHT’ (No lines of text)

‘MR AND MRS QUILP’

‘NELL’S GARDEN’

‘THE MARCHIONESS’ (No lines of text)

‘CRIBBAGE’

‘AWAY WITH MELANCHOLY’

‘THE FIGUREHEAD’

‘NEAR THE JOURNEY’S END’ (No lines of text)

This evening we dined on lamb roasted slowly enough to provide crisp skin while retaining tender meat; equally crisp Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and parsnips; carrots, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Home For Dinner?

In my post ‘Not Done With Pickwick’ I featured Frank Reynolds’s colour plates from Hodder & Stoughton’s publication. For a similar reason I scanned a batch of this artist’s work on ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

My copy is the limited edition of 1913, signed by the artist: No. 112 of 350. This is not what booksellers would call a fine example.

Although it is vellum bound, it lacks its silk ties and is rather grubby and a bit warped on the outside. These end-papers would probably have been repeated at the back of the book, but seem to have been replaced by blank sheets at a later date. The illustrations are pristine and remain protected by the original tissue.

‘THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP’

‘KIT’

‘DICK SWIVELLER’

‘QUILP’S WHARF’

‘DICK SWIVELLER AND SOPHY WACKLES’

‘KIT AND HIS MOTHER”

‘SAMPSON BRASS AND QUILP’

‘MESSRS CODLIN AND SHORT’

‘LITTLE NELL’

Frank Reynolds’s exquisite paintings speak for themselves. Clicking on each of these individual illustrations will reveal the lines of text to which they apply.

I paused here so that we could go for a forest drive, and will take up the task again tomorrow.

We began with a visit to Shallowmead Garden Centre where Jackie had seen an owl on her last visit that she could not resist. She just had to go back and buy it. For some reason she came out of the shop with three.

Cattle on the road slightly impeded our departure from Norleywood.

Several calves crossed a stream to join the adults and they all set off down the road, making me hope any driver coming round the bend would have their wits about them.

Donkeys on the road approaching East End tempted me out of the car.

This enabled me to investigate the woodland with its reflective pools;

its mossy banks, fallen trees, and fungus on a mossy stump.

Bare branches were silhouetted against the changing skies;

catkins swung from others.

While I was occupied with this, Jackie noticed that the donkeys may have been returning home for dinner.

The skies, constantly changing, beamed over Beaulieu.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s flavoursome sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots, and firm Brussels sprouts, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

About A Boy

Our sister-in-law, Frances, is nearing the completion of her collecting and coordinating Chris’s colossal accumulation of detailed family history documentation dating back to the 17th century.

One gap she and our nephew Peter have identified is a contemporary childhood chronicle of my late brother. Who better, they decided, to create this than the sibling who shared his life from its very beginning?

Some shared milestones illustrate ‘Christopher Michael Knight 1.10.1943 – 17.10. 2014’

Without this photograph from 1945, depicting a street party celebrating Victory in Europe at the end of that sphere of World War Two, neither of us would have any memory of the event.  For anyone below the age of about 75 to imagine the jubilation of that heady, optimistic, summer is virtually impossible.  Chris and I are in the centre of the front row.  My chubby little brother, then not yet two, looks, as would any other toddler, as if he had no idea what was going on or why he was there.  

Our mother had made our outfits, dressed us up for the occasion, and had a studio photograph taken.

It was perhaps about this time that I mangled my brother’s finger, or maybe a thumb. In mid-war London, Mum just 21, with Dad away in the army, there were none of today’s domestic appliances, or other conveniences. Without a washing machine an old fashioned mangle, as depicted in ‘Then The Tableau Spoke’ helped squeeze excessive moisture before hanging clothes up in the kitchen to dry. Chris was probably trying to help as he placed his hand between the rollers while I turned the handle.

Holidays were non-existent, unless we were staying with our maternal grandparents, as in the picture above, in which Chris plays opposite Grandma’s feet. Uncle Bill once drove us to Brighton for the day.

Mum’s iron was one that was heated up on the stove; we had no telephone; no car; neither fridge nor freezer; and used ration books into the 1950s.

Chris might have been a touch disaster prone. I forget exactly when he scalded himself by reaching up for a boiling kettle or saucepan, but his family will know that it scarred him for life – as did picking his chicken pox scabs.

The next accident came early in 1947. I don’t remember how he did it, but he managed to break his leg in our garden at 29a Stanton Road. Photographic evidence and an explanation of our attire appears in ‘Pink Petticoats’. I rushed upstairs to tell our mother. “Don’t be silly. He can’t have”, she replied, and yanked him to his feet to find that he had. There was no National Health Service in those days. The treatment was paid for from public funds because Dad was still in the army.

Ten years later, Mum stands with Jacqueline on the exact spot from which she tried to heave Chris to his feet. The steps behind continued up to our kitchen where we spent much of our indoor time. The kitchen range was similar to the one illustrated in ‘Then The Tableau Spoke’, highlighted above. We lived beside the railway which we could see clearly from the kitchen window and collect train numbers and the names of Pulman carriages drawn by steam engines. Always eager to “get down”, or leave the table after a meal, the rule was that we had to wait for six trains to go by before we could do so.

As mentioned in the also highlighted ‘Pink Petticoats’, Chris and I spent several months with our maternal grandparents in Durham while Mum was struggling with Jacqueline’s gestation.

We all attended St Mary’s Primary School in Russell Road, Wimbledon. It is essentially my experiences that are related in ‘Maureen Potter And Plasticene‘, but, although my brother was far too well behaved to warrant any of the punishments described, he would undoubtedly have witnessed their administration.

In those days it was a mortal sin to miss mass on a Sunday. Mum was not a Catholic and Dad was not practising. We, however, were expected to do so because our mother had vowed on her wedding day that any offspring should be raised Catholic. We were therefore sent off alone to church every Sunday with a penny each for the collection plate, before continuing to Auntie Gwen’s for breakfast. We had, however, worked out that the crucial section was the stretch between the reading of the gospel and the distribution of communion. We would therefore arrive late and leave early so we had fulfilled the compulsory requirement and wouldn’t go to Hell. What we didn’t know was that my class teacher was also a member of the congregation and had spotted our little scam. She tackled me about this at school, which seemed a bit sneaky to us.

We travelled to school by trolley bus along Worple Road. Often we would spend our bus fare on such as a bag of broken biscuits from the old style grocers in Wimbledon Broadway, and walk home. It was on one such perambulation that we climbed into a wasp’s nest.

We made dens on waste land beside the railway path that ran beside Wimbledon and Raynes Park. There is more about this and about our childhood home in ‘Cricket In The Street’.

As we became old enough we travelled further afield, and would walk up to Cannon Hill Common attempting to catch newts.

Chris followed me to Wimbledon College where he excelled at maths and cricket. It was here that we learned some of our basic differences. I really struggled with new concepts such as algebra and geometry with which he was happy; my forté was English.

Neither of us had played cricket before, so I may have been considered to have led the way, having started a year ahead of him. It was he, however, who spent two years in the 1st eleven while I captained the 2nd in my final year. We were both allegedly fast bowlers. Chris, although less accurate, was a great deal faster. This he achieved by swinging his delivery arm over twice. He would, no doubt, question my accuracy statement, given that his favourite sporting story concerned his feat of bowling five victims in successive balls. When I once mentioned that this was in a school practice match, Peter quipped that he had thought it was a Test Match. In the only school game in which we played against each other, he also bowled me, which was more than somewhat chastening. While on the subject I would add that he played for a short time with me for Trinity Cricket Club where his bowling was less successful, but, some 50 years later, he remained very high on the list of six hitters. The club had an annual single wicket knockout competition. Both our names are on the cup, although Chris managed it first.

I indicated earlier that Chris kept himself out of trouble at primary school. He did the same at The College. Whereas I was quite a regular recipient of stinging strokes of the ferula pictured above, my brother spent his whole career there pain free, prompting me to call him a creep.

As I understand it, women are the multi-taskers. Chris, at 17, was able to play his guitar; listen to music, not necessarily Hank Marvin or Buddy Holly; and do his homework, apparently simultaneously.

I will leave the rest of his life story in Frances’s capable hands.

This afternoon I watched the Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Scotland.

For dinner tonight Jackie produced her tasty sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots; and firm Brussels sprouts, with which she drank Hoegaarden whilst I opened another bottle of the Malbec and drank some of it.

The Old Curiosity Shop

Early this morning I finished reading ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ by Charles Dickens, and scanned the last three of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to my Folio Society edition of 1987.

This book bears all the qualities of Mr Dickens’s story-telling. We have mystery, suspense, moving prose, humour, and more than a touch of sarcasm. There is a wealth of characters intricately knitted together. As is typical the personages are uncomplicated; they are either sinners or saints.

The prose flows at quite a rate; the descriptions of a range of locations from city to countryside are often lyrical, and at times unattractive. Dialogue expands characterisation, while refraining from irritating attempts at the vernacular such as sometimes employed elsewhere. Cameo introductions of various contemporary environments and individuals are informative. I find it is quite helpful that the author reminds us of characters we may have forgotten about.

Christopher Hibbert’s knowledgeable and informative introduction expresses the commonly held view that in this work Dickens is attempting to write out his grief at the death of his idealised and adored young sister-in-law.

Normally when I review a book I try not to reveal anything of the story. This has been largely adhered to despite my decision to feature every one of the artist’s exemplary illustrations. Mr Keeping’s final image does indicate the ending, but hopefully there is still much to discover for new readers.

‘The water toyed and sported with its ghastly freight’ is suitably grim.

The young gentleman in ‘Bidding the travellers farewell’ is recognisable from previous portraits, notably in the dock. It is clear that the young lady does not want him to leave.

‘She was dead, and past all help, or need of it’

For a number of years around the end of the last millennium, I performed a consultancy role at Portugal Prints, the Westminster Association of Mental Health project then situated in Portugal Street, WC2. This was around the corner from Portsmouth Street where stood the 16th century building which had inspired Charles Dickens as a starting point for this novel. I never actually entered the establishment in that incarnation because it was never open when I walked past and I probably couldn’t have fitted into it. Google now tells us that it is a high-end shoe shop.

A parcel arrived from Becky and Ian this morning. It contained a splendid Mother’s Day bouquet with small packet of fudge chocolates. Becky made the vase for Jessica and me when she was an art student at Newark in the early 1990s. The book is one of Becky’s presents to me for Christmas 2020. It lives on the coffee table. Jackie produced this photograph.

Just as I settled down to watch Six Nations rugby this afternoon, we suffered a power cut which meant I missed the first half of the game between Italy and Wales. Jackie decided to go shopping. There was some difficulty for her leaving the house, because

temporary traffic lights were in place to enable the electrical engineers to fix the problem of a line tangled in the conifers central to her picture.

The second rugby match was between England and France. While I watched that

the Assistant Photographer focussed on the sunset which signalled that the gale is over.

This evening we dined on oven haddock and chips, small peas, pickled onions, and gherkins with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Mounting The Verge

With a penultimate scanning session today ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ is almost closing for Charles Keeping’s exquisite illustrations

‘They descended the narrow steps which led into the crypt’. Was the old man here based on Alastair Sim, even though he never made a film about this novel? Here is the trailer for his Scrooge: https://youtu.be/WqbQYsjrDR4

‘Mr Swiveller took another pull at the tankard, and waited for her lead’

‘Kit suffered them to lead him off’

‘During this melancholy pause, the turnkey read his news-paper

‘The gentleman who was against him had to speak first’

‘The pony reared up on his hind legs’

Although the strong winds began somewhat to subside during the day, we were treated to frequent changes of light as sunny periods alternated with violent precipitation; dark clouds with blue skies.

After a shopping trip to Ferndene Farm Shop this afternoon we drove around the lanes for a while.

Sometimes we experienced the changes described above all together.

I only had to swivel on the spot in Thatchers Lane for a very few minutes to acquire these images.

On London Lane Jackie began backing up when coming nose to nose with a monster. Quick as a flash the very young man in the driving seat mounted the verge to allow her space to pass. The tractor’s rear wheels were higher than the Modus.

Most verges sport a proliferation of daffodils, like these on

Charles’s Lane.

This evening we reprised yesterday’s delicious steak pie meal with more of the same beverages.

Habitual Head Hangers

Blues skies returned today for our first visit to Mum in Woodpeckers since before the Christmas lockdown, which has been somewhat relaxed.

We were able to use the screen room. Jackie photographed Mum behind the screen in which I am reflected. My mother was in good spirits, but not hearing too well, especially at the beginning, probably because of having to adjust after the long absence.

The Assistant Photographer also pictured the view from the window, containing

ponies in a neighbouring field, and

small birds in a tree. Unfortunately Mum would not be able to see all this.

As can be seen from the pictures above, we experienced some sunny periods today. This afternoon I entered the garden with trepidation, to be pleasantly surprised. So far the gale force winds have inflicted virtually no damage.

A few empty trugs have been transported; a watering can has taken refuge in the compost container outside the kitchen door; and one basket is down.

Smaller plants, like primulas, violas, and trailing vinca remain unperturbed.

Daffodils which we feared would be flattened, and the tulips which had been flattened, and spiked, by a recent frost, stood proudly erect.

Apart from a few blown down blooms, our camellias are all unscathed.

Many of our hellebores, habitual head hangers, unusually held theirs high.

Elizabeth came to dinner for the first time since lockdown. Jackie produced one of her splendidly succulent steak, onion, and mushroom pies; roast potatoes; boiled purple potatoes; crunchy carrots and Brussels sprouts; firm cauliflower, and meaty gravy with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while my sister and I drank Mendoza Malbec 2019. This was followed by a lemon tart.