The First

On 29th October I responded to a letter from BT inviting a telephone call because they thought they could offer a cheaper broadband package. I was offered BT Infinity at a lower cost than the current one. This would be faster. We would require a new home hub. There would be some interruption for three days whilst the equipment sorted itself out. There was. We lived with it. That period was over yesterday. At 6.30 a.m. this morning we had no internet access at all. At 7.45 I rang the phone number I had been given. After fifteen minutes checking the line I was informed that the fault was in the cabinet. I asked what that was. It is the box out in the street somewhere. The earliest an engineer could come out to fix it was Monday, that is in three days time.
It was then I went into what Jackie calls ‘honest to the point of ouch’ mode. Eventually we were given an appointment for tomorrow morning. Reluctantly I accepted that. Jackie then reminded me that we had to be in Croydon at midday. I rang the sales department seeking an improvement on this. I had apparently been given tomorrow as an exception. I was told BT Openreach vanthat the engineers were Openreach, not BT. All Openreach vans bear the BT logo, as can be seen by clicking on it to enlarge this photograph taken at Minstead in January. How is the poor septuagenarian punter to comprehend that these are two different companies?
I took myself off for my Hordle Cliff walk in order to calm myself down. As I walked down the lane an Openreach van sped past me.
Internet access returned at midday. A miracle, or what?
Margery and Paul and exhibitsThis afternoon Jackie, Flo, and I travelled by car to visit Margery and Paul Clarke, and see their current exhibition at their home, The First Gallery at 1 Burnham Chase, Bitterne. This is the fortieth anniversary of their first such event. There is much of interest on the walls, tables, and chairs of what is probably the original Art-Gallery-in-a-Home. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, automatons. Most items are suitably priced for Christmas presents. Our friends offer a warm, genuine, personal welcome complete with cups of tea and Margery’s splendid mini mince pies.
Here are just a few of the items for sale, although there is absolutely no pressure to buy.Alvin Betteridge potsAutomatonCellistEvening GlowFoalsHalf Way HorseHatNot a LowryPainting and photosRocking horsesRunning FoxSuzie Marsh tableVarious small items
A visit to will provide more images and updates.
Back home, we dined on flavoursome mixed grill casserole, creamy mashed potato, crisp carrots, brussels sprouts, and runner beans. My choice of sweet was tiramisu. I drank sparkling water, and the others stayed dry.

In Our Daughter’s Handbag

Barton on SeaJust before lunch Ian drove Becky, Scooby, and me to Barton on Sea. As we walked along the cliff top, we watched storm clouds approaching from the North. Deciding to ignore them we walked down the slope towards the beach, got drenched, and retreated to the Beachcomber Cafe. The whole population of the seaside town seemed to have had the same idea. No seats were available. The meals looked very good, so as soon as the rain stopped we drove back home for a pizza we knew Jackie had defrosted.Cliff edge warning 1Cliff edge warning  2

It seems to me that the cliff here has become more unstable in the last year, and that there are more warning signs. To the right of the first picture, a long cleft is evident. I wondered how long it would be before the land fell away as it had a little further along.

This afternoon Barrie and Vicki came for a visit. Green Man bird feederVicki produced a very attractive and tasteful bird feeder in the form of The Green Man that she had made for us. Jackie and I enjoyed their usual entertaining conversation, which was interrupted by the repeated  sound of Becky’s mobile phone. HandbagIt soon became apparent that this was in our daughter’s handbag. She was outside, having gone to meet Ian who was walking Scooby. Soon afterwards Ian returned, having lost their dog in the maze of the maize field. Realising what the phone calls might have been, Becky dialled the number in her phone. Sure enough, Scooby had been found. The telephone number shown on his collar tag photographed on 11th was that of the old Mitcham landline. Fortunately, Becky’s mobile number was on the reverse side. She called the number that had been left on her phone by the woman who had found Scooby. He was at the bottom of Downton Lane. She went to collect her dog and all was well.

Barrie has photographed our golden conifer because he has a friend who he expects will be able to identify it. I hope soon to be able to enlighten those of my readers who have been waiting with bated breath for the information.Golden conifer branch

A branch from this tree is one of those Jackie and Flo cut for our granddaughter to turn into wands for sale at A Touch Of Magick  in Emsworth, which is the outlet that is stocking Flo’s jewellery.Copper beech branchWands The other twig is from the copper beech. Some of the wands are resting on our Alvin Betteridge dish.

You have to be either a sadist or a masochist to enjoy the highlights of the very short third day of the Oval Test Match between India and England, in which the visiting side simply rolled over, but Ian and I tortured ourselves with watching the highlights this evening. After this, we did the male thing and went to the Royal Oak pub for a drink whilst the ladies prepared a delicious roast lamb meal. We seem to have stayed out rather longer than expected because, in mid-conversation, Ian, looking out of the window, seemed rather discombobulated. I leant forward so I could see what he was seeing. There was Becky, in her slippers, hands on hips, looking for all the world, except for the lack of hair curlers, like Florrie, the wife of that famous working class hero, Andy Capp, silently indicating that we should get home immediately.

We did, of course, drink up and return to Old Post House where we enjoyed a wonderful meal followed by next door’s apple crumble and Jackie’s custard containing eggs and nutmeg. My readers know no-one lives next door. But there is a very enticing apple tree in the front garden. If we hadn’t raided it, the fruit would have gone to waste. Ian drank Pedro Jimenez Cimarosa 2013; Jackie and Becky Lambrusco; Flo Tropicana mixed tropical fruit juice; and I finished the bordeaux.

The London Eye

This morning Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway railway station where I boarded a train to Waterloo for lunch with Norman and late afternoon coffee with Carol.  From Waterloo I walked along the Embankment to Westminster Bridge which I crossed, continuing into Birdcage Walk, and taking the route to Green Park underground station detailed on 25th September.

Passing The London Eye on the Embankment I thought of my trip on this modern landmark, erected to celebrate the second millennium.  I gazed on it  from Westminster Bridge, on which a bagpiper was in full flow.

Ten years ago, after a river trip celebrating Norman’s 70th birthday, Jessica and I took a flight on the Eye, for which numerous people were queueing today.  It was a very cold, cloudless day in March, and the view, for those who could look at it, of the serpentine River Thames and its world-famous cityscape, would have been stupendous.  It was with much trepidation that I bought the tickets along with more film for my camera so I could photograph the scene from a great height.  This was one of my many unsuccessful attempts to cure my acrophobia.  At that time I had not yet conquered my fear of flying either.

The Eye is a vast wheel on the circumference of which, at regular intervals, are fixed ovoid glass people-containers.  This construction rotates excruciatingly slowly transporting passengers from ground level to the skies and back down the other side.  I understand that most people subject themselves to this ‘flight’ for fun.

Entering the transparent pod in which I was to endure the next forty five minutes of my life, I made an immediate beeline for the central seat and remained there throughout the ordeal.  So paralysed was I that I was unable even to load the camera, let alone look at the view.  What made the experience even more terrifying was the two small children clambering on and swinging precariously from the handrail which circled the glass walls of the capsule.  My brain simply computed an unprotected rail suspended in mid-air, from which they were bound to fall.  As with all phobias, there was no point in applying logical thought to the situation.  When perched at the very top of the wheel you are looking down on the Shell building, which is pretty tall itself, and it takes ten minutes even to start the descent.  Not an experience I have any intention of repeating.

On the Embankment wall opposite the Aquarium, once the headquarters of the Greater London Council, a vociferous seagull was holding forth.

There was a film crew on Westminster Bridge, their equipment trained on a group of Japanese.  The forceful wind tearing along the Thames was so strong as to blow a very slight young woman off balance and into my arms.

St. James’ Park was still full of tourists with their cameras.  Squirrels were queueing up to have their photographs taken, especially if the photographers’ assistants held tasty morsels of food in their outstretched fingers.  Later, I was to read in A.L.Rowse’s history of Elizabethan England that John Norden’s map of Westminster in his book ‘Middlesex’, published in the 1590s, contains illustrations of ‘deer leaping in’ this very park.

As I walked along Piccadilly I became aware that I was approaching the source of a repetitive chant which turned out to be a chorus of ‘Barclay Brothers, pay your taxes’ outside the side entrance of the Ritz, one of London’s most salubrious hotels.  Presumably these two men, residents of Sark, are having a holiday in London and someone has got wind of it.  They have been accused of forging a fortune and ferreting it away in offshore accounts to avoid paying their dues.

I took the Jubilee Line to Neasden and walked to Norman’s  where I was fed on lamb shank followed by jam rolypoly accompanied by a very good red Bordeaux.  Norman gave us a housewarming present of a dish made for him by Alvin Betteridge at Chandlers Ford in the late 1960s.  Alvin turns out to be a friend of our friend Margery Clarke.

After this it was by tube to Carol’s, then to Waterloo where I caught a commuter train back to Southampton to be collected by Jackie.  Looking around me on board this transport in which I had been fortunate to find a seat, I was relieved that my commuting years are over.

As I felt Jackie struggling to keep her steering level whilst being buffeted by winds on the M27 I had some idea of what that slender young woman on Westminster Bridge had been up against.