The Fountains of Bergerac

It hadn’t been a good idea to sit up half the night watching the general election which resulted in a hung Parliament. Not when I had to make a start on putting together accounts information for my accountant. Not when we received a surprise visit from a prospective buyer for the house next door to discuss a boundary issue. Not when I had to deal with correspondence and phone conversations on that subject with the seller’s solicitor. Not when I was engaged in on-line communications of various other natures including reading and responding to followers’ comments. Not when all these activities were being juggled together.

I was beginning to wonder how I was going to summon the energy for photography when Sam came to the rescue.

When my son and his family left us in Portsmouth a couple of days ago they were en route to France where they spent the night in Caen and visited the Bayeux tapestry before going on to Sigoules to our house in that village. Because of the early morning trip to Southampton Hospital we managed to send them off without the keys. This necessitated my having to arrange for the estate agent out there to provide Sam with a set of keys, and to contain my anxiety until the handover had been accomplished. That had also interfered with my sleep the night before the election.

This morning the family explored Bergerac where the children enjoyed the fountains.

Malachi, Orlaith and friend

This one, where Malachi and Orlaith soon engaged with a little friend, is in the medieval Old Town. I have myself enjoyed many an ice-cream from the kiosk opposite while seated on that little wall.

Malachi and Orlaith 1Malachi and Orlaith 2Malachi and Orlaith 3Malachi and Orlaith 4

These further fountains must have been installed in the newer environs some time after my last visit.

In e-mailing these images, Sam had unwittingly saved my bacon. Given that Malachi’s new raincoat was also left behind in Downton it is just as well that they are clearly enjoying good weather.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent beef casserole, new potatoes, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower cheese.

The Story Of The Raincoat

Minstead road markingsIt is many years since I visited the cinema during the daytime, possibly not since my teens.  Emerging from the gloom of the colonnaded arbour that is Running Hill in leaf bearing a steady drip of rain from the now adequately dressed branches of the trees, the dazzle of the new road markings at Seamans Corner reminded me of the blinking reaction on leaving the darkness required for viewing the silver screen and encountering the sunshine of London streets.  There must have been some bright days in the 1950s.  Many of the cinemas in their heyday had doors near the gents marked ‘Push Bar To Open’. This was how you got out.  It was also worth sussing out before you entered, because if someone had not closed it properly you were in in a flash.  I’m not much of a cinemagoer now, and receive enough pocket money, so I wouldn’t know if this method of ingress and egress still exists.

As I returned up the hill, having, appropriately for today, walked ‘The Splash’ ford loop, I was reminded of the times there were problems with the film projectors in my youth. Sometimes the reel just snapped, sometimes it needed replacing. A grainy crackling would be heard and the screen go blank.  It was just like the splattering of the rain on the canopy above my head.

When we lost the picture, there would be catcalls and we would all look up at the projectionist’s window.  Through the fanned out beam from his equipment threaded wreaths of cigarette smoke, just like the swirling spray obscuring the vehicles in front of us on the M27 during today’s later drive to Hedge End to buy Jackie’s birthday present of bird-watching binoculars.

16th April 2009 was a very different day in Bergerac than it has been this year either in Hampshire or Aquitaine. Derrick This was the day I bought my French raincoat.  It’s a pity it wasn’t a trench coat.  Wouldn’t that have rolled off the tongue?  The purchase was recorded on 24th.  Elizabeth was there, with Chris and Frances, to witness the event. She can even prove it, for she took photograph number 19 in the ‘through the ages’ series, after the thunder storm  that made it necessary. Derrick walking away from pigeons She had been there, moments earlier, in the glowing sunshine smiling down on Bergerac old town, as I walked away from the pigeons towards the glorious flower displays which she subsequently immortalised.  Then, my maroon velvet jacket sufficed.

Flowers with man behindIn order to do this post justice, Elizabeth sent me her photographs by e-mail.  Flowers BergeracFlowers, BergeracNothing, of course goes smoothly on our broadband, so once again BT rejected my password and refused to deliver this evening’s illustrations.  I had my routine conversation with the technician who took over my screen and solved the problem.  Given that I was rather less than patient, his tolerance was greatly to be commended.

Jackie provided a liver, bacon, and sausage casserole with a plentiful variety of well-timed vegetables followed by rice pudding, for our dinner tonight.  Lovely grub.  I drank some Carta Roja gran reserva 2005.  I’ll be sorry when Sainsbury’s stop selling that at half price.

The Raincoat

Tree fungusThis morning was so cold when we went for a shopping trip to Ringwood that the wind pierced four layers of clothing.  It was a relief to enter the shops.  I waited for a possible meteorological improvement until late in the afternoon, before walking the London Minstead/Bull Lane loop.

There was no such luck.  If anything, the weather was worse.  I have never seen tree fungus such a nascent glowing gold as that on an ornamental cherry tree in the Lodge garden.  Like the snails in Sigoules, it must like it wet.

The leaden sky seemed to have expelled the cold wind that dashed frantically all over the place as if ricocheting off the walls of a confined space from which it was trying to escape.  Venting its spleen on any tree that stood in its path, it scattered the roads with tiny lichen-covered twigs and this year’s leaf, ‘ripped untimely’ from its moorings.  A stable door banged impatiently, its residents, still in the field, once again wrapped up in their winter jackets.  Intermittent needle sharp rain spiced up the proceedings.

The fourth layer mentioned earlier is a raincoat.  As I have only brought it back from Sigoules this year, it helps me locate picture number 18 from the ‘through the ages’ series.  This light Daniel Hechter garment was totally inadequate to keep out today’s blast.

DerrickA very different precipitation brought about its purchase.  Sigoules is subject at times to spectacular thunderstorms.  Visiting Bergerac with Chris, Frances, and Elizabeth on such a glorious day as to be wearing shorts and a T-shirt, we were beset by one such.  This means that unless I did something about it, I was going to receive a sheet of water descending vertically onto my head.  My companions, of course, were better equipped.  Fortunately we happened to be outside a men’s outfitters.  I dived inside.  Well, even if they hadn’t got a raincoat, I could at least get some shelter with a credible excuse.

Now, clothes are expensive in France.  And if you are shopping for them, you may not wish to visit the priciest outlet in Bergerac.  What the hell.  They had just one raincoat.  It fitted me.  If I went back outside without it I was going to get wet.  I bought it.  Like most unpleasant things in life, I can’t remember how much it cost.  The proprietors were probably in cahoots with the weatherpersons.

O.k., we know that picture was taken in France.  We know it was a day that warranted a raincoat.  With the benefit of digital technology we also know it was taken on 16th April 2009.  That narrows it down somewhat.  Erroneously, I had thought the photographer has to have been Chris or Frances.  In fact it turned out to have been Elizabeth, who I thought had not taken her camera on that trip.  I should have known better.

Now where?  The particular brickwork in the background is not found in Sigoules.  So we have Eymet or Bergerac.  Either of these towns has a multitude of twelfth and thirteenth century buildings.  I plumped for Bergerac, which my sister confirmed.

Jackie produced a wonderful sausage and bacon casserole for our evening meal.  I supplemented my share with  Montpierre reserve Languedoc 2011.

The Magnificent Seven

6.4.13

This morning was spent accompanying Maggie, Mike and Bill wandering first around the industrial centre outside the town and then around Bergerac itself.   The other customers in the large supermarkets on the outskirts were mostly French, whereas the Saturday market sprawling across streets both old and new, featured a fair smattering of English accents.  Although larger than most it has a pretty familiar set of stalls; cheap clothing and nicknacks; CDs and DVDs; vegetables and much else.  Maggie was attracted to tables containing crumpled, presumably second-hand, clothing priced at 1 or 2 euros.  The men weren’t.

We first had to drive around in search of a parking space.  This took some considerable time because the main carpark was occupied by a funfair.

By the time we returned, and Bill and I were dropped off at Sigoules, the acute headache I had woken with was considerably worse and I felt a bit queasy.  There was nothing for it but to lie down.  I divested myself of my raincoat, shed my shoes, and fell on top of my duvet.  I dozed for about five hours, stirring to climb under the duvet when I felt cold.  In the early evening I took three paracetamol, made scrambled eggs on toast, and returned to bed after eating them.  I was now well enough to finish reading ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger and begin Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’.  Before settling down to nine hours sleep, I remembered to take off my jacket, otherwise I remained fully clothed.

Some five years ago now, I received a telephone call from Mike Kindred telling me that his friend John Turpin, whom I had met once or twice, had asked him if he knew anyone who could take the photographs for a book he had written about the seven landscaped Victorian cemeteries known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’.  He sought my permission to give John my name.  This I gave willingly.  For the next two years, covering different seasons, John and I visited the venues for the purpose of photography.  From Kensal Green and West Brompton in the west to Abney Park and Tower Hamlets in the east, I became very familiar with the Victorian way of death.  Usually travelling with John, who knew all the cemeteries backwards, I sometimes returned alone to those in the west to which I could easily walk from W2 where I was living at the time.  One winter’s day John rang me to tell me about magnificent sunsets he had seen at Kensal Green.  Off I went  and took what I think were stunning sunsets against the various extravagant monuments in that, the first of these cemeteries.  It was a great disappointment when Amberley Press chose, for reasons of cost, to publish in black and white.  As I am not at home I cannot illustrate this post with a picture from the book.Cemetery Sigoules 8.12  Sigoules cemetery will have to do.

My friend Alison knew of this publication, so when she discovered that ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ was set in and around Highgate cemetery, perhaps the most famous of the septet, she lent me the book.  Once I got over one or two early similes which I thought rather fanciful, I thoroughly enjoyed the beguiling novel.  It is a ghost story like none other.  It is about love, grief, loss, and relationships, displaying a sound knowledge of humanity.  It provides evidence of a familiarity with London, introducing me to the intriguing Postman’s Park, of which I had never heard.  And it has a surprising denouement.

Postscript 10th September 2013:Kensal Green 12.08 -4

Abney Park 11.08 25Now at home, I add a few random (except for the sunset) pictures from the cemeteries.

Abney Park 11.08 26

Brompton 15The book’s ISBN number is 978 – 1 – 4456 – 0038 – 3. Highgate (West) 10.08 25 Published by Amberley, it is by John Turpin and Derrick Knight.

Raincoat Or Umbrella?

It seems we had our one summer day yesterday.  Today’s forecast was for widespread rain over the next few days, becoming colder each day.  Consequently I set off in warm and humid weather for lunch with Norman.  This involved the usual walk to Colliers Wood to board the tube for Neasden from where it is ten minutes on foot.

On such a day with such a forecast I always have two dilemmas.  The first is do I pay attention to the weatherpeople?  Mostly I don’t, but this time I decided to do so.  In fact, although there were signs of rain wherever I went, I only experienced one flurry of light rain.  The skies were, however, so threatening that it made sense to go prepared.

My second decision is whether to take an umbrella or wear a raincoat.  I settled for no jacket and my Daniel Hechter raincoat purchased in Bergerac a couple of years ago.  This had been a gorgeous sunny day in August until, as is not unusual, we were hit by a spectacular thunderstorm whilst I was showing Chris and Frances the sights of Bergerac Old Town and I was totally unprepared.  We happened to be standing outside a men’s outfitters.  I dived inside.  They only had one on the racks.  Miraculously it fitted me.  Sorted.

Once I had a Burberry but I left it on a train.  This is one of the reasons I have trouble with umbrellas.  I generally keep an umbrella for two trips and two years.  The first trip is when I’ve just bought it in similar circumstances to the Bergerac raincoat.  The second is usually about two years later when the brolly gets left on a train or at a bus stop; in a cafe or restaurant;  in fact anywhere it’s not raining.  I can live with losing one through such carelessness, but the one I lost in Soho seemed a bit out of order.  I had left the soaking wet umbrella at the foot of the stairs to our flat in Horse and Dolphin Yard, a mews between Shaftsbury Avenue and Gerard Street.  Another family member had left the door open.  My weather protection vanished.

The thief ventured no further into the flat.  An intruder on another occasion did come up the stairs and I found him rooting around the bedroom.  Someone was a bit careless about that door.  This young man claimed to be looking for a woman.  As I didn’t think he was likely to find one in the drawers he was ferreting amongst, I politely indicated that I didn’t believe him and it would be in his best interests to depart.  He did so rather rapidly.  Not so another unwelcome visitor.  This time a couple of soldiers on leave actually rang the bell, again looking for a woman.  This was late at night and one of them was rather threatening, so my response wasn’t very friendly.  His mate looked somewhat uncomfortable and warned me that the other man was likely to kill me.  Sizing him up and considering my chances, I decided upon discretion and quickly closed the door.

After lunch which consisted of stuffed pork steaks rolled in bacon, roast potatoes, and veg., all courtesy of Mrs. Waitrose; accompanied by an excellent Turkish red wine (Trio on the label), I travelled by tube to Victoria where I caught a train to Mitcham Eastfields from where I walked to Becky’s.  Our daughter had taken herself off in her car to visit her friends at her workplace – just six days after her operation.  You can tell she’s my daughter. Thirty eight years ago I discharged myself from Westminster Hospital 5 days after an appendicectomy and drove myself home.  It seems inconceivable that in those days I could have parked my car outside a Central London hospital, left it for that period, and found it awaiting my collection.

At Victoria a pair of policemen bearing what to my uneducated eye looked like automatic rifles were strolling among the crowds on the main concourse.  Although not by any means a daily occurrence it is common enough for no-one to be taking any notice.

A light salad was followed by a drive home.

Roundabouts

Jackie and I had another drive into the Surrey countryside today, this time to Ockley for lunch at The King’s Arms where we had honeymooned in 1968.

Whilst passing the roundabout just outside Dorking which bears a sculpture of a giant chicken, I was reminded of the roundabouts in France.  Certainly in the area I am familiar with, around Bergerac in the Dordogne, there are numerous roundabouts carrying structures reflecting something of significance to the area.  One of those in Bergerac (the decision makers presumably having resisted the temptation to erect yet another statue of Cyrano),  contains seafaring figures pulling on ropes, an artificial beach, and running water.  This is situated on the riverside and speaks of the ancient barge-going traffic.  One in Les Landes has a huge chair which, upon investigation, turns out to be celebrating furniture makers of centuries ago.  A few more of these on our overcrowded roads would brighten up traffic queues.  (Except for The Chicken Roundabout on the A143).

And so to The King’s Arms, where this Knight eagerly opened his arms in 1968.  Surprisingly neither the pub nor the village seems to have changed much in 44 years.  It is a beautiful area with fond memories.  As we were keen not to leave the four year old Michael we only had a break of 4 days whilst Jackie’s mother Vonnie cared for him.  The excitement engendered by a shed fire, which seemed to bring out the whole village to watch the firemen do their stuff, was nothing compared to that of being alone together for the first time.

This Sunday the food was excellent and the beer acceptable.  Jackie had first-rate roast pork and I had fish in tempura batter and chips which were very good.  As far as I can tell, having consulted Chambers on our return home, tempura simply means deep-fried.  It certainly was deep-fried.  We each had very tasty and spicy butternut squash soup and sticky toffee pudding.

I am indebted to my then elderly friend, Kenneth Lovell, for the discovery of Ockley.  As a teenager I had spent a short holiday one summer with Ken and his friend George at Ken’s house there.  Ken and I used to draw and paint alongside each other at his house in Raynes Park when I was a teenager.  Ken, an artist and illustrator, would be working on his illustrations for S. G. Hulme Beaman’s Toytown series of books (on one of which Ken gave me the honour of a minor collaborative role) , and I would be receiving the benefit of his observations on my juvenile efforts.