The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Sidecar


Towards the end of yesterday afternoon Jackie drove us to Emsworth to join in Ian’s birthday meal at Nicolino’s restaurant.

Doves on church

A month ago, I had photographed white doves in the morning light on and around the bell tower of St James’s Church. Yesterday a few remained on the roof basking in the evening light. A certain amount of interbreeding with pigeons appeared to have been going on.

Becky on balcony


Becky and Ian on balcony

and Ian were on their balcony to greet us.

Ian and Keith

We were joined in the restaurant by Ian’s friends Keith and Kirsty. The two men enjoyed reminiscing about their schooldays. The tilt of the picture behind her fiancé niggled Becky so much that he was required to straighten it.

Starter at Nicolino's

I haven’t traditionally been over-keen on Italian food. Nicolino’s, in serving quite the best I have ever tasted, has provided the exception that proves the rule. I can’t remember what my starter was called, but, like all the others, it was a meal in itself.


The calzone that followed was a fresh, firm, parcel with succulent contents.

Summer pudding

I didn’t really have room for this splendid summer pudding, but I forced myself.

My wine was Le Focaie sangiovese Maremma Toscana 2012. It didn’t come by the glass, so I brought half a bottle home. I suppose if I stretched my brains I would be able to name some of what the others consumed, but I really can’t be bothered.

Jackie drove us home on the M27 afterwards as she had done on the outward journey. This had been when our curiosity was aroused by the unusual sidecar passenger of a vintage motorcycle.

Dog in sidecar 1

We just had to overhaul the biker.

Dog in sidecar 2

Who was the intriguing little chap,

Dog in sidecar 3

gradually coming into view,

Dog in sidecar 4

looking this way and that?

Dog in sidecar 5

Could it be?

Dog in sidecar 6

Surely not?

Dog in sidecar 7

Yes. A dog. Strapped in a seatbelt. I do hope the motorcyclist saw the thumbs up sign and the camera lens I poked out of the window as we passed.

My title pays homage to Mark Haddon’s superb little novel, required reading for anyone involved with autism, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’.

P.S. My thanks are due to Barrie Haynes who put this on a Facebook comment: ‘This is a nine year old retro Triumph Bonneville (Yankie type with high bars.) It is still in production and named after the Utah Salt Flats where the company had some success. Those panniers would have set him back a pretty penny and, according to the signs, the sheepdog is Scottish! There is an urbane myth about why this section of the M27 was originally laid in concrete sections? They say that it was because of the ‘Oil Crisis’ around that time. Hope this is of help.’

Preparing For The Nuptials


Heavy rain fell overnight. Although it lessened during the day, it continued to irrigate the garden.

This meant a trip into the photographic archives. Today’s selection for scanning was from colour negatives of Michael and Heidi’s wedding on 5th October 1991.

Michael, Becky, Derrick, Sam, Matthew, Louisa 4.10.91 2

Some of us stayed at Michael’s overnight. This provided an opportunity for the rarity of a photograph of me with all my children together. Jessica probably took the photograph. Louisa sat on her favourite lap,

Matthew, Sam, Louisa 4.10.91 1Becky, Matthew, Sam, Louisa 4.10.91 1Becky and Matthew 4.10.91 1

and she and Sam gave Mat their full attention. Perhaps Louisa was a little worried that Sam’s ruffling could get out of hand. Becky seems to have come into some money.

Derrick and Matthew 5.10.91 1

On the morning of the event it was time to get togged up. Matthew needed assistance with cuff links.

Becky 5.10.91 1Jessica and Becky 5.10.91

Becky and Jessica sported splendid pink and white lilies.

Matthew and Sam 5.10.91 1

Soon, Sam and Mat looked the business, with white carnations for their floral adornment.

Heidi 5.10.91

Meanwhile, at her parents home just up the road in South Croydon, Heidi was preparing herself,

Heidi and Louisa 5.10.91 1Heidi and Louisa 5.10.91 2


Heidi, Louisa, and other bridesmaids 5. 10.91

and her other bridesmaids, who, like the Royals they felt, appeared on the balcony for the benefit of their public.

This evening Jackie and I enjoyed her chicken thighs marinaded in hot chilli sauce; mushroom rice; runner beans; and a melange of peppers, a courgette from Elizabeth’s garden, and leeks bound by flour and egg. She drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Pyrene cabernet sauvignon/tempranillo 2011.


‘You’re Not Going To Believe This, Miss’

Steady drizzle dripping from dreary skies had, by the time I returned home from my Hordle CrowCliff walk, developed into the deluge that would continue throughout the day. Crows cawed from the telephone lines above the coast road and slugs slithered across the tarmac.
We were without internet access until mid-afternoon, and even then it was erratic, but I was able to scan a batch of colour slides from 1975, and wait until then to upload them, and to load the above photograph into iPhoto. In order to download photos from my Canon SX700 I must be on the web, so whether I can do this or not is touch and go.
Pete 4'75Michael 4.75In the 1970s Jessica’s parents lived in Bulcote Lodge, near Burton Joyce in Nottinghamshire. We often visited, and Michael liked to bring Pete, his friend from Islington Green school, to spend time there. In April 1975 the boys played football on the immaculate lawn.
At that time Islington Green was a flagship comprehensive school and the headmistress, now Professor Margaret Maden, was considered one of the leading educationalists of the time. She had a soft spot for Michael, which was just as well when he brought his cousin James to lessons. James’s half term holiday in South London was a week earlier than my son’s. The boys thought it would be a good wheeze to pass Michael’s cousin off as a French exchange student. He sat ant the back of the class and they thought they had got away with it until Ms Maden summoned Michael at the end of the week and asked him who the uninvited guest had been. ‘You are not going to believe this, Miss…..’ began Michael. Too right, she didn’t. Neither, presumably had any of the other teachers. But it was all treated with good humour.St Pancras 5.75 01St Pancras 5.75 02jpg
In May 1975, when I took the rest of the photographs, we were living in Lloyd Baker Street in Islington. From there I took two more St Pancras skyline sunsets.
Matthew and Becky 5.75 03Matthew was amused to be asked to pose by his sister’s side. Becky sits in a rocking chair that now furnishes our spare single bedroom. It was one of Jessica’s twenty first birthday presents.
Much more serious was his approach to chess, which we played with my replica of the famous set found on the Isle of Lewis some time before April 1831. They are thought to be Scandinavian from the twelfth century.Matthew playing chess 5.75
Matthew & Becky 5.75 01Matthew and Becky 5.75 02Across the road from our balcony lay blocks of flats, in one of which lived Pete. Mat and Becky liked to watch the street from the safety of our railings.Jessica 5.75Jessica hands and purse 5.75
These two shots of Jessica, in one of which she examines the contents of her purse, were also taken that May.
I will close this entry, as I did yesterday, by saying that we will dine on a Chinese takeaway meal, and that I will send my post whilst I have a precarious grasp on the internet.

Since When Is A Balcony A Garden?

It may have occurred to my readers that Italian would not be my first choice of restaurant. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t like them much. Admittedly I reduce my options because I am reluctant to eat veal on account of how it is produced. I learned this on honeymoon with Vivien in Cornwall in 1963. We stayed at a farmhouse. One day the farmer rushed into the sitting room and asked me to help him get his bullocks in. Naturally obliging, and attracted by the sense of adventure, I dashed out to assist. We rounded up these poor creatures and ushered them into a darkened shed. Their owner’s reply to my questioning why they were kept there, was that they were used for that necessarily pale delicacy, in my experience being the staple of Italian menus.

Nicolino'sNicolino’s, however, has changed my view entirely. This establishment, which can be seen from Becky,Ian, Flo, and especially Scooby’s balcony, was chosen by Ian for his fiancee’s  birthday meal. The service was warm, friendly, and efficient. The staff recognised the family as neighbours, and were attentive without being intrusive. The menu was extensive. Operatic arias were played quietly on the music system, and there are guest singers on specific dates. The cooking was superb, and the meals so huge that Ian had to take some of his home, and I couldn’t face a sweet. Still less eat it. Three of us drank Peroni and Becky had a carafe of pink wine.

The balcony, incidentally, is another example of estate agents’ capacity for deception. This had appeared on the brochure as ‘garden’. So unlike one was it that the representative who showed the prospective tenants round needed, in answer to Becky’s question, to telephone the office to ask where it was.Pegs on balcony Even she expressed surprise as she passed on the answer. There is room for a washing line, but I don’t think that justifies the small triangular space high above the street being described as a garden.

Having, yesterday, given Flo, who had been using it in her jewellery and wand-making workshop, my electric drill and set of bits, I possessed no tools with which to fix our newly-acquired mirror to the wall. Fortuitously, severe delays on the M27 on our return home this morning, caused us to divert around Wickham and Hedge End where we passed a B & Q at which we stopped to purchase replacements.

The check-out queue, where Val was the only non-robot on duty, snaked across the store. All the other payment stations were self-service ones, of which we have a phobia. Most of those who joined Val’s queue were patently of a certain age. She patiently persuaded us all to trot, in turn, over to the supervisor’s kiosk, and fill in a form entitling us to membership of the over sixties club and a discount of 10% on Wednesdays, of which today is one. We deduced that would be a tidy reduction, so we complied.

Early this evening, Elizabeth arrived for her stay with us. After a coffee and an Earl Grey tea, my sister and I watered the pots and hanging baskets while Jackie cooked splendid spare ribs with her trademark savoury rice (recipe). A Post House Pud was to follow. Jackie finished the Cimarosa, and Elizabeth and I shared a bottle of Bourgogne de Calonnaise 2012.