Of Cabbages And Knights

Most of the day was spent finding space in the flat for the belongings we had brought from The Firs yesterday.  This required a certain amount of ingenuity; some binning; and some decanting to the garage that comes with the flat.  Despite all the rain that has descended on it for the last six months, and the saturated nature of the surrounding lawns, the garage is bone dry inside, which is a bonus.  We put some items straight in there last night and I noticed then that those of last autumn’s leaves that have found their way in still crackle underfoot.

A minuscule percentage of my books had been at Elizabeth’s.  These are now in our living room.  Brains are still being racked to imagine what to do with the rest when they arrive.  Maybe the garage could become a library.  To make room in the wardrobe, shirts are now divided according to season of wear.  Summer ones, instead of being hung up, are folded and put away in a cupboard.  Should it ever stop raining, that is probably when the winter ones will take their place.

Do you ever keep attractive boxes that you don’t know what to do with, but are too good to throw away?  We have a beautiful Fortnum & Mason hamper which came, filled with goodies, from Wolf and Luci some years ago.  Good for picnics.  This year’s wonderful wooden brass-hinged box from the same sources had not yet been allocated a purpose and, since Christmas, devoid of the port and stilton it came with, sat on a shelf just waiting for us to know what to do with the tie overspill.  Jackie’s inventiveness came to the fore.Tie box 3.13 She rolled up a selection of ties and placed them in the box.  Thinking she had thus found a home for all my ties, she was somewhat disappointed to be informed that there were a lot more hanging in the wardrobe.  Never mind, these will no longer keep falling on the floor.  Jackie did discover that one or two, as she said, had my dinner on them, and should probably pay a visit to the dry cleaners.

Sam’s father-in-law, Mick O’Neill, has a cheerfully flamboyant collection of vintage pictorial American ties which go very well with his image on stage as a banjoist in Perth’s popular Bluegrass Parkway band.  He keeps his neckwear hanging, but I wonder if he has ever thought of a few exclusive Fortnum & Mason wooden boxes.  I doubt it.  His collection deserves to remain on permanent display.

I have still been unable to get my scanner working properly, so girded my loins and rang the Apple helpline.  A machine advised me to call back during business hours.  There was nothing for it but to return to carting stuff into the garage.  As the sun sank behind the row of automobile’s homes, I thanked my lucky stars for the lack of electricity in ours, and came inside and had a beer.

Derrick 1.75A few days after Christmas 1974 (see yesterday’s post), Jessica, Michael, and I went to spend the first few days of New Year 1975 with Jessica’s parents at Bulcote Lodge, Burton Joyce in Nottinghamshire. Photograph number 7 of ‘Derrick through the ages’ was taken by Jessica in her mother’s vegetable garden.  It was still warm enough for coatless gardeners, Jessica – who probably scraped the mud off her fingers before taking the photo – and Michael, to pick cabbages.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s marvellous chilli con carne followed by treacle sponge and custard.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden.  My wine was Palomar Creek 2011 zinfandel.

It Was Christmas Day In Islington

Before I was reunited with Jackie, my life was much simpler.  My belongings were only in three different places.  In particular, clothes, books, other personal items, and the furnishing for one room resided in The Firs.  The idea was that I would spend half my time there and half in my house in Sigoules in the Dordogne area of France.  Then Jackie and I began to share a home again and we furnished another flat, eventually relocating to Minstead, just twenty minutes drive from Elizabeth’s.  We were happy, especially if we were to continue maintaining my sister’s garden, to leave our belongings in her care.

Then came Danni.  My niece is to return to her family home for a while and would rather like her old room back.  Today, therefore, was spent moving us out.  Beforehand, Elizabeth gave us lunch, we had a look at the garden, and Jackie tended to the plants in the greenhouse. Daffodils (tete-a-tete) The tete-a-tete daffodils were just one of the varieties of bulb Jackie had planted last autumn.  It was very pleasing to see they, among others, had survived our long winter.

Late in the afternoon, two car loads of books, clothes, and other belongings left The Firs in convoy and sped to Castle Malwood Lodge.  It was a race against the rain.  We just got the last of the books inside before thunder, lightning, hailstones, and rain struck.  This was such a storm that when we set off afterwards to Lyndhurst for a meal at Passage To India we were puzzled as to what was the white stuff in strips on the road, that is the part not under water.  It turned out to be hail, that, in the restaurant car park, still lay thick and crunchy underfoot. We enjoyed the usual top quality meal at this establishment, accompanied by Kingfisher.

This has been a long, very wet winter, not particularly good for roses.  In 1974, however, the season was much more clement.  That year was during a previous period of unsettled rented accommodation.  Then Jessica, Michael, and I lived in a house belonging to The Peel Institute, a boys’ club in Lloyd Baker Street in Islington.  It was our home on condition that I performed not very onerous caretaking duties in the clubhouse.  The Lloyd Baker Estate is a very trendy area in which to live.  For us, it was short-term, pending the refurbishment of the very elegant house.  We enjoyed a beautiful garden which I was happy to maintain.Derrick 25.12.74  On Christmas Day 1974 I picked a bunch of fresh, vibrant roses.  I still have the colour slide of Jessica’s photograph to prove it.  Unfortunately I cannot, this evening, get my slide scanner to work properly, so I can only reproduce the substandard early version which is all that Elizabeth had to work with in producing number 6 of ‘Derrick through the ages’.  If I manage to solve the problem I will replace the photograph in this post.

P.S. The problem is solved, but I’ll keep this as it is – it is part of the day.

Return to The Smoke

Red Noses, WaterlooAgainst the odds, Jackie got me to Southampton Parkway in the nick of time for the London train for my visits to Norman and Carol.

Today being Red Nose Day, the culmination of national efforts to raise money for children’s charities, Red Noses gathered on Waterloo station concourse, from where I walked to Bond Street station and boarded the Jubilee Line train to Neasden.

Photographing London EyeAs usual photographers were shooting their companions against the backdrop of London monuments. Photographing phone box When a young oriental gentleman saw what I was doing, he insisted on returning the favour. Derrick by phonebox At least, that is what I thought he was saying.  But then language wasn’t really a problem.  His intentions were clear.

This time I took the direct route from Piccadilly, up Old, then New Bond Streets. Churchill and Roosevelt The class of the shops and the expense of their goods reduces somewhat once you have passed the flower stall alongside Churchill and Roosevelt still amusing each other at the graft linking Old and New.Bond Street flags

Polo window displayFenwick displayForests of flags festooning their upper facades proclaim the outlets, and the retailers’ displays, both inside and out, are as colourfully artistic as ever.Burlington Arcade

Huge, stony-faced doormen stand guard before the exclusive jewellers; a less scary uniformed attendant stands at the entrance to Burlington Arcade; and, as elsewhere in London, staff stand outside their workplaces smoking cigarettes.  Bond Street smokersTwo young men were most amused to be thought of as an integral part of the capital’s modern scene.  The metropolis has, for different reasons, borne the nickname ‘The Smoke’, since at least Victorian times.  This is because of the number of coal fires that were lit throughout the city during that era.  The great smog of 1952 described on 6th January was instrumental in having a stop put to this.

The contrast between this most opulent thoroughfare and Church Road, NW10 could not be more marked.

Norman served up tuna steaks, pilau rice, and roasted vegetables, followed by raspberry trifle, complemented by an excellent Pinot Noir.  Thus replenished I returned to the tube for a trip to Carol’s in SW1.Church Road NW10

At Neasden I met and spoke with a peaceful Egyptian Muslim.  His view was that religion should not be mixed with politics.  No faith required us to kill people.  Although he was too young to have known him, he spoke fondly of Anwar Sadat, whose assassination I had seen reported on French television in 1981.  He told me that those behind the death of the former president were now in power and a revolution was being mounted to oust Mohamed Morsi, who would not leave voluntarily.  More bloodshed was inevitable.  Arab Spring had brought this about.

It had rained on and off all day in London, and when Jackie collected me at Southampton it was pouring there too.

The Freehand

Emery DownGiven that I had an appointment in Lyndhurst at 5.50 this evening, I saved my walk until I could reach there, via Emery Down, by that time.  It was a beautiful day and I arrived just before sunset.  The appointment was with a GP to have a wart burned off my face.  This was a very quick, not quite painless, process.  It stings a bit and the doctor said it might blister but he wouldn’t be worried about it.  I did wonder whether it had occurred to him that I might be worried about it.

Jackie met me to take me home where I reheated the chicken jalfrezi I had prepared in the afternoon.  Jalfrezi, in this case, refers to the method of cooking left-over meat.  I don’t think any self-respecting Indian or Bangladeshi chef would recognise it.  First of all, we like our gravy, so I always add some stock.  This I make from the bones of a stripped roast bird.  Between us, we managed this morning to boil the stockpot dry.  Jackie rescued the bits that weren’t actually stuck to the pan, added some water, and got it going again.  This was indeed a labour of love because she cannot understand why I don’t use stock cubes like any other chef.

The ingredients today suggested an approach nothing short of reckless.  We were lacking some of the usual components, like broad beans and peppers.  So what were included were left-over mashed potato and swede, carrots, garden peas, and cauliflower cheese; and a tin of drained kidney beans.  Remarkably enough this was delicious, and had a sauce rather thicker than I usually manage.  The mash probably aided the consistency.  It was accompanied by Cobra.

In 1976 my Social Services Area Team in Westminster always relaxed in the William IV pub off Harrow Road after work on a Friday night.Derrick c1976  Wherever you finished up your day, you always knew that you would have company if you repaired to the William.  This is probably when and where photo number five in  the ‘Derrick through the ages’ was taken by Jessica.  More than thirty years on, that group of like-minded individuals organised the first of what are now regular reunions.  The most dedicated member of those groups at the time was Howard Leigh, who was not actually employed by Social Services, but worked for DHSS.  We felt that Howard was one of us, and it is Howard who has been the driving force behind the reunions.  The smoking tree stump protruding from my mouth is actually a briar pipe, of a model known as freehand.  This indicates that the maker has been given a free hand to follow the natural shape of the root and leave the top all knobbly and gnarled.  When enjoying a complex Dunhill mix over the hour or so it took to smoke a pipeful, the smoker didn’t usually have a free hand at all, being required to prop up the tree in order to avoid straining the jaws.  The photograph clearly shows the free hand supporting the chin.

A-Hunting We Will Go

Sam and MalachiSam and Holly brought Malachi and Orlaith to see us today.  Mal was straight into the garden, through the rhododendrons, and exploring the forest, before his parents had paused for breath.

Orlaith, having herself been fed, lay contentedly on the floor while the rest of us partook of a splendid Jackie vegetable soup.  After this all except Jackie went on foot on a pony hunt.  We walked the London Minstead, Bull Lane, Football Green loop.  Walking Malachi is like walking a dog, in the sense that, because he is constantly running backwards and forwards he covers twice the distance we do. Sam, Holly, Malachi and Orlaith He did actually perch on his father’s shoulders for the last twenty minutes.  Since Sam already had a sleeping baby sister strapped to him, he had quite a load on for the last uphill stretch.

Malachi enjoyed any sights of horses, even the jacketed farm type.Holly and Malachi He climbed on gates for this pleasure.  When I led the family down Bull Lane so they could see cattle in a farmyard, my grandson showed far more interest in a stream running outside it.  He made believe catching fish, and his mother caught a real piece of treasure.  Lying on the gravelly bottom Holly found a penny bearing the head of young Victoria, so thick and unworn as to suggest it had been there for a very long time.

Until we reached Football Green we saw no ponies.  That area made up for the absence elsewhere. Sam, Holly, Malachi (and Orlaith) We squelched through the mud and streams still lying on this open space, so that we could observe the creatures and Malachi could photograph them. Malachi photographing ponies The picture of the ponies below was taken by this little chap who is not four until Saturday.Ponies by Malachi (5)

On our return a further hunt took place.  This was for Easter Eggs.  Malachi was very excited every time he found one of his fourteen eggs, and wouldn’t eat any until he had his whole collection arrayed before him.  Jackie’s photographic clues idea was very successful. Sam and Orlaith 3.13 (1) Holly accompanied him around the house, helping him identify the objects in the pictures, whilst Sam sat with Orlaith.

Having already experienced an early Easter, Mal then enjoyed an early birthday celebration.  The actual day is Saturday, but we gave him our presents today.  The dinosaur card and book went down well, as did the Lego petrol tanker.

The next treat was an early dinner of Jackie’s smoked haddock and cauliflower cheese combination, followed by blackberry and apple crumble with cream, custard, and/or green jelly.  Sam drank Marston’s Double Drop and the rest of us – not including the children – shared a bottle of Roc Saint Vincent sauvignon blanc 2011.

Preparing For The Hunt

Emery Down 3.13An icy wind held this beautiful day in its grasp and ensured that my morning walk to Lyndhurst and back remained freezing.  Even by one o’clock when I returned, much of the terrain was frozen, ice covered the pools, and a thin layer of snow remained in parts.Misty & mistress 3.13

Misty and her mistress were dressed for the conditions.  This whippet’s owner was pleasantly impressed when I complimented her on the colour coordination they were displaying.  I don’t see how I could have missed it as their fluorescent glow gleamed in my direction from way down the road.

Tall pines sighed unceasingly when beset by the howling Easterly. The shorter hollies creaked, and flustered clusters of swaying ivy lent life to those deciduous trees that remained leafless.  Serried rows of last autumn’s bronzed beech leaves wobbled a bit, but clung stubbornly, upside down, to their perches.  Blackbirds, undeterred, went about their business in the hedgerows and ditches.Ditch 3.13  Such a good job had been done of clearing the ditches (see 7th March)  outside Sinefield that I doubt there would be much there to interest these foragers.

As I approached Emery Down, a group of barely visible deer scampered deeper into the forest.

The smoking chimney of The New Forest Inn was even more inviting than usual on this cold day.

Just as I had climbed up past Saint Michael and All Angels church on the way back, Jackie rang me to ask me to buy some carrots. It may have been cold enough for Christmas, but they can’t have been for Santa’s reindeer in March.  I didn’t fancy trooping back down to Budgen’s where I had just done our shopping, so we agreed I’d divert  to the Village shop to see if they had any. New Forest Inn Chimney 3.13 This meant using the church footpath, which is now just as muddy as ever.  My reward for this was the sight of daffodils now joining the crocuses in bloom among the gravestones.

Having walked approximately eight undulating miles, as I passed the telephone box I wasn’t looking forward to the steep climb up Running Hill – so named for the number of streams it harbours – when Castle Malwood came to my rescue.  An electrician asked me for directions to this conference centre which lies around the corner from us and has a very dangerous entrance onto the A31.  He clearly needed a guide.  So he had to give me a lift.All Saints churchyard 3.13 Which was just as well because his Satnav was attempting to send him up a badly made up road that had no access to the building.  And because I was a bit tired.

After lunch there was another job lined up for me.  Jackie had had a wonderful idea for an Easter Egg hunt for Malachi when he comes tomorrow.  Anyone familiar with these games will know that the searcher is presented with a clue that leads to the first egg which lies with the next clue, and so on until the end.  The clues could not be in writing because my grandson is not quite four.  When Flo was little Jackie had made drawings for the clues.  But I now have a digital camera and a shiny new iMac.  I expect you saw that coming.

Fourteen photographic prints of bits of household objects or equipment, all at four year old height level, were required. IMG_3850 I expected this to take all afternoon.  The photo-shoot was simple enough.  Loading the results into the computer was now easy-peasy.  Cropping and other adjustments that would have taken hours with Photoshop, could not have been quicker or simpler.  The printer was already plugged in.  Ah.  The first problem was that I had not selected the printer or synchronised it with the Mac.  Now where was the CD for the software?  A box asked me if I wanted to download the software.  I ‘accentuated the positive’.  In four minutes the software was downloaded.  No CD required.  Fourteen prints took even less time.  I think I love my iMac.

With this success I got rather trigger-happy and pressed ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save Draft’ too early for those who like to know what we had for dinner.  So now I’m having to ‘Update’ this post.  Well, it’s going to be roast chicken.  I will drink some more of the Cepa Lebrel, and Jackie will have some Hoegaarden.

Shirley Oaks

Cherry blossom on car 3.13Snow swirled and settled in the garden throughout the day.  Flurries flew about intermittently in Romsey this morning, but all that settled there was cherry blossom.  This was when I walked around the town whilst Jackie attempted to track down fish for the visit of Sam and Holly and Malachi and Orlaith on Wednesday.

Romsey Abbey 3.13I wandered around the Abbey and its vicinity, including the War Memorial Park and the bank of the river Test.  It was blustery and cold.  Bouquets and carved initials 3.13Having just passed through a gateway onto the narrow riverside bearing a notice warning of deep water and asking for the gate to be kept closed, I came across two bouquets fastened to a tree bearing carved initials.  I wondered what the story was.  Certainly the river flowed very swiftly. Further along, a host of daffodils bravely rivalled the clumps of snowdrops now clearly more in their element.Daffodils on Test 3.13

At least around this area of Romsey there is a collection of plaques embedded at intervals in the pavement and on walls and copings, each bearing a different few lines of poetry.  Betty Tucker poem 3.13Mark Harding poem 3.13Since those by the river have been placed in spots relevant to their text, I imagine that is so of all of them.

Our other reason for choosing Romsey as today’s shopping centre was the toyshop.  Before leaving the town we spent ages trying to decide on Malachi’s birthday present.  Hopefully we got it right in the end.

We then had to find the fish, for there had been none available in Romsey.  Perhaps I should have tried my luck in the river.  Aiming for Totton, to continue the search there, we missed the turn-off, which turned out to be fortunate, for we stumbled across a Morrison’s superstore where we found the smoked haddock we were seeking.

Derrick 1966Photo number 4 of ‘Derrick through the ages’, in which I seem to be attempting to simmer, was taken by Jackie in 1966 at Shirley Oaks.  These were the old children’s village style homes for young people in Local Authority care. Near Croydon, this was a laid out estate of forty two large houses, called cottages, each accommodating twelve children.  At that time the project also included a swimming pool, an infirmary, a laundry, a general store, a junior school, and even an unused mortuary.  The individual houses were staffed by ‘housemothers’, many of whom offered ‘families’ of children long term consistent care.  Jackie was one of these carers, in ‘Laurel cottage’, and my introduction to the world of Social Work that was to provide me with a new direction ( see 18th July 2012).  Long since out of fashion as a method of child care, these buildings were sold off to form an exclusive, expensive enclave.  The seclusion that had been considered too institutional, isolating and ghetto-like for troubled children, had become an attraction for those wealthy enough to buy their homes.  Shirley Oaks children were given no experience of life outside the institution until they were thrust into secondary school.  They didn’t go to the public baths and pay their entrance fee.  They knew no launderettes.  A daily truck provided an eneuretic service for the wet sheets which were left outside the back door.  Their shop issued the housemothers with weekly order forms on which they ticked what they needed and collected it once a week.  No money was handed over.  No ‘outsiders’ attended their school.  When a group of boys from outside began to visit a girl in Jackie’s care, a bunch of Oaks boys attacked them with such violence that there was blood on her doorstep.  I was inspired to attempt to do my bit in changing all this.  Perhaps I made a difference to some young lives.

Those children’s housemother made a very tasty chicken jalfrezi this evening which she ate with Hoegaarden and I with Cepa Lebrel reserva rioja 2008.

Lunch At The Tower

It only took an hour this morning to get BT to reset my personal password.  I tried it out on the Apple.  Cor, it worked.  I then transferred all the photos from my My Passport to the new Mac, so I can now operate the whole of my posts directly from the new machine.

After a welcome mother’s day call from Becky, the doorbell buzzed.  As Jackie opened the door, a bunch of glorious daffodils entered.  The hand attached to the arm following them was Matthew’s.  To her great delight, he came with it.

Matthew & Oddie 3.13We spent an enjoyable day together, during which Mat and I took Oddie for a walk down to the village shop and back.  The thirsty little dog emulated the ponies, which he otherwise actually ignored, by drinking from roadside rainwater.

On our return I watched England scrape a rugby victory against a much improved Italian side.  Neither Mat nor Jackie is a fan, so we also conversed about other things, with the TV volume very low.

I then came to select the third photograph in Elizabeth’s ‘Derrick through the ages’ series.  It was then that I received a most pleasant surprise from my iMac.  The chosen photo is from a 1960 print about two inches square with a crack across the middle of it.  I had worked on it with the Photoshop application in my older Mac about three years ago.  It was still in need of considerable improvement when I gave it to Elizabeth last year. It was that still blemished version that my sister used for her slideshow.  When I bought my new computer a few days ago, Joe had shown me that it was possible to enhance pictures with it.  Today, I hadn’t much confidence in my ability to find that facility, but in fact it was quite straightforward.  Not only that, but it was far simpler to use than my six year old Photoshop.  I was able to produce a version of the damaged portrait that is beyond all recognition.

Derrick 1960This photograph was taken by Vivien and printed by her brother, Bernard.  As will be instantly apparent, I was leaning on a rail near the Tower of London.  This was on one of our lunchtime walks from our workplace at Lloyd’s of London during the year we met. Vivien typed my work in the General Average office of that celebrated Marine Insurance establishment.  We would walk around the City during our breaks.  Little did either of us then know that I would, more that twenty years later, run three London marathons which included the cobblestones by that very spot.  Or that she would have less than five years to live (see 17th July 2012).

Oven fish and chips was our evening fare.  Treacle sponge and custard was to follow.

My First Match

Today Helen and Bill, and Shelly and Ron came for the afternoon and an evening meal.  One of the underlights had blown, so we made another trip to Homebase at Edge End, for replacements.  It seems that we need replacement bulbs or strip lighting on an almost weekly basis at the moment, and, although we always buy some spares as well, the next one we need is invariably of a different fitting or length from those we have in our expanding stock.  This particular light was so old, probably thirty years, that the holder was stiff and brittle, and kept cracking and shedding bits.  After unscrewing and taking it down, because we are both too tall to bend and peer underneath the cupboards, we were still at a loss.  I was all for asking the agent to have these fittings changed.  But Jackie wanted her kitchen today and was determined to see the job through.  I left her to it.Jackie fixing light 3.13  She fixed the tube in place and only needed my help to screw it back.

Before we left Shelly had phoned to check when they were expected because Ron, a cub master was taking his boys on a hike this morning.  This led me to reflect on my own brief sojourn in the cubs.  I hadn’t really wanted to join and only did so to please Auntie Gwen.  It seemed to me that weekdays at school were where I experienced enough regimentation.  So I always arrived late and mucked about a bit.  What finally earned my expulsion by Akela, was chucking bits of screwed up paper at other boys when we were sitting round in some kind of circle for some purpose which I cannot remember.  That was definitely a result.  I must have been about nine.

But that was not quite the last of me and cubs.  The Rowe family were friends of Dad’s.  Dickie had emigrated to New Zealand after the war, but we still kept in touch with his sisters.  One, Ivy, was an Akela.  The adults had the bright idea that I might like to join her pack on a camping holiday.  I remember three things about that trip.  One was cherryade; a sweet, sickly fizzy drink that everyone was addicted to.  The second was that I was so homesick that Mum and Dad had to come and take me home after three or four days.  I think Dad used his furniture van for this, but I can’t be quite certain.  Last, and most definitely not least, was an even more embarrassing experience than having to be fetched early.  There was a cricket match.  I had never played the game and knew nothing about it.  There was no place for me in a team.  ‘Never mind’, said the organiser of the event.  ‘You can be umpire’.

I was placed behind the stumps at the bowler’s end.  I stood there vaguely looking interested.  My reverie was soon shattered by an awful cry,  something akin to ‘aarwozeeee’.   I stood there definitely looking red-faced and nonplussed.  I did nothing.  I said nothing.  I saw nothing.  I wished I’d heard nothing.  ‘Put your finger up’, said one of the fielders.  ‘Which one, and where?’, I thought.  The other boy helped me out by indicating the correct procedure.  So I put my finger up.  Nervously.  And got a tirade of tearful abuse from a batsman who then trudged off to the edge of the field.  I cringe now as I think about it.

Early this afternoon I decided to tackle the internet problem once more.  I turned on the iMac and phoned BT.  There was a twenty minute wait.  I made good use of this by reading the booklet that came with the Home Hub.  This spoke of a ‘Wireless Key’ needing to be used.  When speaking with Apple yesterday I realised I may be engaged with someone in America, who was not familiar with BT Hubs.  He confirmed that it should be the BT Password that we had been using and had been reset.  The word on the screen was ‘Password’.  So what if I entered the Key instead of the password?  I was in the process of doing this when an assistant became free.  It worked.  That must have been the quickest call she’d ever made.

Now I can’t even get e-mails on my laptop, being told my own account password is incorrect.  I wasn’t going to start all over again today, so will ring BT tomorrow.

The purpose of the sisters’ visit was the grand rugbyfest.  Ron, Derrick, Bill watching rugby & Jackie 3.13The three men watched the afternoon’s rugby while the women played Scrabble, with Jackie periodically attending to the meal.  Jackie, Helen, and Shelly had realised they were each going to be rugby widows for the afternoon, so they decided it made sense to do it together.

We then spent an enjoyable evening centred around a tender roast lamb dinner, followed by apple and blackberry crumble.  Various red and white wines were drunk.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Malwood Farm underpass 3.13Yesterday’s rain was magnified today.  Looking out of our windows I thought the limited visibility was mist.  It was the deluge.  All vehicles on the A31 had headlights glowing, falling raindrops adding hazy coronas.  Undeterred, I walked the loop taking in the two underpasses.

Moss and leaves 3.13Pebbles on a beach revealed by a receding tide gain, until dried out, an enhanced depth of colour.  So it is with leaked petrol, as seen yesterday, and with leaves, lichen, and moss, not that these latter fruits of the forest have much chance of drying out at the moment.  Gravel in the beds of streams glistened invitingly.

Roads and footpaths were again flowing with water.  The uphill stretch of the A31 was a torrent.  Ducking to avoid dripping branches as I walked along its verges, simply meant that spray thrown up by lorry tyres hit my face a bit sooner.  The extra gusts of wind these vehicles created as they rushed past seemed more unsettling than usual.  My choice of route was beginning to seem a less than good idea.  However, to borrow from Magnus Magnusson’s ‘Mastermind’ catchphrase, I’d started so I would finish.

Once safely on the soggy heath I made my way to the Stoney Cross underpass.Pool on heath 3.13  One of the pony trails led to a fresh waterhole being rapidly and plentifully replenished.

In 1978, Denis Healey, Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, famously said of his friend and opposite number in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet that ‘part of his speech was like being savaged by a dead sheep’.  Geoffrey Howe was not dead, but he was certainly Wet in political parlance.  Wet sheep 3.13Seeing a wet sheep this morning attempting to gain some shelter, I thought of these two amicable rivals.

After lunch I attempted to start a new life with my new iMac.  The first step was to sort out a password problem with our Broadband.  We managed to get our Windows laptops connected to our Home Hub when we first arrived here, but now are often automatically connected to Wi Fi, requiring us to disconnect from that before connecting to the Hub. Recently the password has been rejected.  This did my head in because we had written it down.  Maybe we were looking in the wrong place.  So I rang BT and had the man take me through resetting the password, choosing the very same one as the old one for the replacement.  It worked.  When pressed, the adviser admitted that there had been an internal problem with BT Yahoo.  That annoyed me even more.

I then tried to get on the Internet with the new Apple machine, and kept being told I was inserting the wrong password.  So I rang the emergency support line which comes free for 90 days.  The technician confirmed that the password required was the BT one and not something specific to iMacs.  I put it in again.  Three times.  It was rejected.  Three times.  I couldn’t bear to go through the BT phone system again, and settled, for the time being, for the insecure Wi Fi route.  So I moved on to the second problem I had discovered.  The scroll bar for moving up and down the text of this post disappeared as soon as I looked at it.  This was a comparatively simple adjustment, so I was able to edit this document on my new toy.  But why does the M on the keyboard look exactly like an upside down W?  After a thoroughly frustrating afternoon, my head was already spinning enough.  I’d rather face any amount of dead sheep and savage terriers than go through that again. But I guess I’ll have to do so tomorrow.  Robert the Bruce learned from a spider that one must try, try, and try again.

My final effort today was to stick My Passport into the back of the computer and try to look at all the pictures I had transferred yesterday.  This needed all my willpower.  But, surprise, surprise, it was achieved in seconds.  2 Elizabeth’s set of ‘Derrick through the ages’, does not appear chronologically, but I have decided to leave it that way.  Today’s offering is from 1958. This was taken by Mick Copleston during one of our billiard sessions in his front room at the top end of Amity Grove.  Since he always won, I can’t think what I was looking so relaxed about.  Maybe I was just trying to look dreamy.

Speaking of relaxation, it is quite amazing how getting one process to work reduces the tightness around one’s head and lengthens the temper.

Feeling more optimistic, I decided to go for broke and transfer 1263 pictures direct from my camera Scandisc into iPhoto.  No problem.Slide show 3.13  As if this weren’t enough enough to lift the spirits we were able to watch a full-screen slideshow accompanied by gentle modern jazz music on a loop.  Magic.

Tomorrow is the grand rugbyfest day, which will be fully explained then, and for which Jackie has been preparing food since this morning.  It therefore seemed only right that I take her out for a meal this evening.  Her choice was Imperial China in Lyndhurst.  We enjoyed a marvellous and plentiful set meal, accompanied by  T’sing Tao beer in her case and a Georges du Beouf red wine in mine.