Agnes Miller Parker

Jackie drove me to and from New Milton for me to lunch with Norman at Tas, in The Cut, EC1.


In the rather neglected station garden a Leycesteria is blooming rather early. Note the dumped supermarket trolley visible beyond the stems.

The Cut SE1

From Waterloo Station I approached The Cut, as congested as ever, via Lower Marsh

Food stall 2

with its cosmopolitan food stalls preparing for the lunchtime custom.

Food stall 1

I wasn’t the only photographer focussing on food.

Tas Special meal

Norman and I had our usual enjoyable discussion over the Anatolian cuisine. We both chose the Tas Special lamb meal, which was very tender and tasty. Before that we had each chosen soups. Mine was fish with coriander and ginger. For dessert we each enjoyed baklava, and shared a bottle of the house red. We finished with coffee before I made my way back to Waterloo for my return home. Further sustenance was not required this evening.

Two days ago, I featured the dust jacket of Eiluned Lewis’s ‘Honey Pots and Brandy Bottles’. This was to display the work of Agnes Miller Parker. I had bought this 1954 publication some forty years ago, essentially for the illustrations. Perhaps, I thought, it was time I got around to reading it. I finished it on the train today.

The book is a collection of essays and poems gathered to represent the four seasons of the year. Published by Country Life the writing is pleasant, if, for this reader, unexciting.

What lifts the publication well beyond the ordinary are the wood engravings of a woman I regard as one of the best illustrators of her day.


The clarity, perspective, and depth of field evident in these masterpieces would be impressive if they were simply pen and ink drawings. When one considers the technical skill required to bring light and life to images worked into blocks of wood, admiration can only be enhanced.

If Dan’s Grandfather Can Do It………

This morning I reacquainted myself with our Downton garden where I found signs of impending autumn. Phantom hydrangeaThe phantom hydrangea turns pink during that season, and is beginning to do so now. Leaves are starting to fall, and, although the day was warm and sunny, the early temperature was a little cool.
HoneysuckleA new honeysuckle, saved from the jungle of the early summer, now clings to the golden arches. ClematisSimilarly rescued, an unidentified clematis now festoons the copper beech. Cyclamens are emerging into the light. CyclamenOne has fought its way through rough soil beneath the holly near the head gardener’s den.
Calls to my Blackberry phone, even after I have returned from France, are very crackly. I therefore decided to request what is probably only my fourth upgrade in about fifteen years. This meant a trip to O2 in Christchurch. The process of making the necessary adjustments to my contract, filling in the forms, and choosing and setting the new Samsung Galaxy took all of two hours. For starters, the computer indicated that I wasn’t eligible, so the assistant had to work manually.
Dan, who attended to me while Jackie sat beside us, was a delightful young trainee who occasionally needed help from his willing and more qualified colleagues. It was really quite an entertaining afternoon, the highlight of which was probably the selection of a new device. Dan was not phased by this elderly gent saying he didn’t want internet and didn’t feel comfortable with touch screens. He asked me how old I was. When I told him he replied that his grandfather was in his eighties and was very effectively using a phone that carried all the facilities once confined to a computer.
Obviously I had to opt for what was good enough for Dan’s Grandad.
Jackie regretted that it would have been rather undignified for her to emulate the little boy who, in boredom, silently rolled around under the chairs whilst his father was discussing his contract.
Afterwards she drove us to the cleaners at New Milton, then home to Downton.
This evening I failed my first test with the new device. I received, or rather didn’t receive, a call from my friend Jessie. Not knowing how to answer it, I missed it. Fortunately, by the time the subsequent voicemail message came in, I had figured out how to respond, so was able to listen to it and return the call.
We dined on cod, chips, and mushy peas at Daniel’s in Highcliffe. Jackie’s drink was coffee, and mine was tea.

Don’t Flap, And Keep Still

A short poem by Clement Marot (1496 – 1544) entitled ‘Plus Ne Suis Ce Que J’ai Ete’, which was this morning’s choice was rather a sad lament for the writer’s spring and summer.  That a man who didn’t have an autumn by today’s standards could write as if his love life was over, was my first reason for counting my blessings, as readers will know I often do.  That, at 70, I can feel as if I have not yet reached winter, is the second.  The writer would have liked to have been born again to serve love better.  My third reason to be grateful is that I have been given the opportunity to do so without ever having had such a wish.  My renaissance is metaphoric.

The rest of the morning was spent on the usual cleaning up.  Swabbing down the kitchen and hall tiles was left to this evening to allow for drying time overnight, and I finished off the garden this afternoon.

Taking a break outside in the sunshine to finish Valerie Grove’s biography of Dodie Smith, I was encircled by a large wasp that hovered around me for some time, no doubt contemplating whether or not I was worth a sting.  My philosophy on such occasions is ‘don’t flap, and keep still’.  I didn’t, and I did.  Eventually it flew off in search of someone more attractive.  The first lizard of the season, a larger than usual adult, ventured onto the tiles, but thought better of it as I reached for my camera.Ivy on back wall  The avian occupants of the back wall continue to frustrate me.  I know they’re in there somewhere.

The Observer described the book as ‘utterly delightful’, which it is, and Elspeth Barker, writing in the Independent on Sunday, offered the view that it is ‘a successful portrait of a powerful and original woman of devastating wit and intelligence’, with which I concur.

Three boiled eggs, slices of fig sausage, bread and butter, and an orange, sufficed for my 4.00 p.m. repast.