Jackie’s contribution to Shelly’s sixtieth birthday party catering this evening was a couple of platters of salad.  This meant a late morning trip to Ringwood to buy the disposable plates and the more pleasantly disposable ingredients for the meal. And when in Ringwood at lunchtime it is now obligatory to visit the Bistro Aroma.

We did so.  Jackie had up-market ham egg and chips, known as ‘gammon delight’, and coffee.  My choice was faggots and tea.  Although I don’t normally like tea, for most of my life I have drunk that beverage when in a cafe.  This is because, until comparatively recently cafe coffee was always infinitely inferior to working men’s tea.  In my youth there were no coffee machines and you were usually served milk-in-first instant granules if you didn’t take tea.  Cafes do mostly serve good coffee now,  but you can’t guarantee it, and anyway, old habits die hard.


Mum’s rissoles are the reason for my choice of faggots.  These latter, mostly a Northern and Welsh delicacy, had not passed my lips before, but I thought they would be like our childhood post-weekend feast.  They were, albeit rather softer in texture and somewhat lacking in the other Sunday roast left-overs that we may have found in our rissoles.


It is some years since we enjoyed Mum’s minced meat and onions treat, so I have downloaded this image from the internet.  I am sure Mum’s were much more succulent.

Argentine economics of the 1950s changed British eating habits forever.  My boyhood understanding of my mother’s explanation was that an outbreak of foot and mouth disease had reduced both supply of beef and willingness of importers to receive what there was.  No doubt there were other, subsequent, factors.  This put up the price, making it unaffordable for such as us.  Until then chicken was the expensive meat, generally reserved as a Christmas speciality.  This decade, however, saw the rise of the now frowned upon battery chicken farms.  Beef became expensive and chicken cheap.

When I and the next two offspring were still young, Mum had, every Monday, used a hand mincer to grind up the left-over previous day’s joint, and make such as cottage or shepherd’s pie, depending on whether we had partaken of beef or lamb.  You can’t really do that with fowl.

Only once did I ever visit chickens in their long rows of cages piled on top of each other.  This was in Hugh Lowther’s farm in Cumbria’s roofless Lowther Castle (click here for post of 23rd November last year).  The stench made one retch from a long way off.  It is a relief to my conscience that we are back to free-range chickens.

I have Becky to thank for now being clever enough to be able to link readers to previous posts.  She and Ian paid us a visit, having been to view a flat in Emsworth. One of my most staunch blog followers, Becky has always been determined enough to track back to earlier posts through the laborious method.  Today, she showed me the trick. Becky's instructions And wrote it down.  Which was the most important bit.  To have one’s daughter say: ‘What have you just done?’, indicating that whatever it was it wasn’t a good idea, is a most enlightening experience.

Jackie and I joined Shelly’s party for a couple of hours.  It was an enjoyable event and we were sorry have to leave early.  An excellent band and barbecue were provided, as were free drinks at the bar for the first hour.  Many friends and relatives joined in the festivity.  After a while the dancing began.

A First Class Service

MothFirst thing this morning I photographed a moth conveniently spread out on the kitchen work surface.  When I showed the picture to Jackie she said ‘you know it’s dead, don’t you?’  She had picked it up from the floor and laid it to rest so that I would be able to photograph it.  Possibly she has me sussed.

For at least a week now the car has been throwing a spanner in the dashboard.  At intervals it has elaborated on this warning sign with the message Change Oil Service Required.  The vehicle was booked in today.  Despite really struggling with Shingles Jackie was determined to take it in.  So off we went to Ringwood.  Wells garage is just outside the town. Whenever we go there we wander to the shops and await a call from Tony to say the car is ready. Bistro Aroma Today, before shopping, we had brunch in the Aroma Bistro where the excellent food and friendly service is as good as it was when discovered in December last year.

Shopping included more photographic material from Wessex Photographic, among which were the Red and the Green Canon Series 8 inks.  So accustomed am I to no-one, especially Jessops, where I bought the printer, ever having these in stock, that I told the assistant I expected to have to order them.  She went straight to them and pulled them off the rack.  Most of the other six different inks required to make the printer work can be obtained somewhere or other, with the notable exception of the original supplier.  They are exhausted very quickly.  The red and green varieties can last a year, which is maybe why they are not usually on the shelves.

Walk of Art graffiti (3)It really took quite a long time for us to walk back to Wells garage.  The way is along very pleasant lanes and footpaths, except for the underpass that takes us to the requisite side of the A31.  Some civic authority decided to brighten up this route with art works.  Quite reasonable representations of well known paintings adorn the well-lit tunnel.  Walk of Art graffitiGiven that these are usually pretty dispiriting thoroughfares I thought this an excellent idea. Walk of Art graffiti (2) One would have hoped it could have deterred the graffiti wits.  Unfortunately not.  It even seems to have encouraged them. A Walk of Art The tunnel is named ‘A Walk Of Art’.  There is someone after my own ‘eart in an influential position in the town.

We had not received the usual phone call, but Jackie really needed to sit down, so we decided to return and wait at Wells’s, taking several rests en route.  Tony warned us that we would still have to wait for an hour and a half.  We settled down to wait, during which time we got talking to Hazel, the Managing Director of this long-established family firm.  I had been amused by her telling the others that she had been correct about an unnecessary bank query.  NatWest had corrected her addition of cheques paid in by machine.  She knew she was right and was able to prove it.  The amount in question was 20p.  Well, it was the principle that mattered.

Service at Wessex Photographic had been startling.  Service at the Bistro had been friendly and welcoming.  The car had been booked in for a short service, but what follows was extensive service.  As we spoke with Hazel, Tony appeared clutching a piece of broken front suspension spring.  Things were going to take a bit longer.  Not even knowing of Jackie’s illness, Hazel arranged for Peter to drive us home in one of the firm’s cars.  This friendly local man did so willingly. Having known the deceased owner for more than fifty years, Peter has a three morning a week job in retirement, doing any driving around that needs to be done.

Frozen brambles - Version 2

Back home, it was down to work in the ‘factory’. Frozen brambles - Version 3 After a lie-down Jackie was raring to go and getting me to produce cropped versions of pictures we had already used in toto. The frozen brambles is one example.  The benefit for her is that she doesn’t have to chop them up, just breathe down my neck whilst I play on the screen.

Today’s tally was 29 cards, bringing the total to 182.  After this Jackie was still able to produce our evening meal of keema, certainly not korma, curry; tandoori chicken and special fried rice.  My drink was Roc des Cevaliers Bordeaux superieur 2011; hers was Hoegaarden.

A Monstrosity

Becky, Ian, Scooby and I walked down to the village shop and back this morning.  It was again very cold.  On our return Jackie was watching ‘Bargain Hunt’.  Seeing something on offer that she thought a monstrosity reminded Becky of an item in my parents’ hall.

At six years old my daughter was enthralled by this piece of furniture.  She would gaze at it wondering whether it was a chair or a table because it was being used as both.  In her own words she describes it as a table that had a cushion-seat in the side with pretty patterns and carvings.  It was almost throne-like and appeared to be made of marble and gold.  The decoration was in fact plastic and the cushion probably Dralon.

Becky asked me what it was.  Apparently I glanced furtively from side to side and quietly answered that it was ‘a monstrosity’.  The little girl trotted off to school and told her teacher that when she grew up she was going to have ‘a monstrosity’.

Dating from the time when people always kept the telephone in the hall, this monstrosity was a telephone table.  Becky now says that if she ever sees one she will just have to buy it.

After lunch I accompanied Becky and Ian on a mooch through a virtually closed Ringwood.  We had coffee in the excellent Cafe Bistro Aroma.  As we ambled through the rather deserted car park for our return, the roar of a car from behind us made Becky and me instinctively step aside.  This was just as well.  Tearing through pedestrian pathways came a greyish car belching black smoke from its exhaust.  Ian estimated it missed me by half a metre.  Like something out of ‘The French Connection’ or any other car chase movie, it sped though a gap between two parked cars, took a right angled change of direction to the left at the far end, rushed through, forcing a gap in, a stream of moving traffic, zigzagged right and vanished out of sight.  Our journey back to Minstead seemed quite pedestrian in comparison.

Tinchy Gimson was a volunteer married to the treasurer of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society (see 18th July last year).Derrick c1994  Photograph number 14 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken by her in the garden of the establishment in West Hill, Putney sometime around 1994.  As far as I remember, the intention was to produce mug-shots of the staff for clients.  As a freelance consultant, I was included in this.  The garden contained an Anderson air-raid shelter built as a place of refuge from bombs during the Second World War.  Never having been removed, this became home to generations of foxes, the cubs of which gambolled in the sunshine on the lawn every spring.

Jackie produced a mouth-watering roast beef dinner this evening, followed by treacle sponge pudding.  She drank a glass of Latitude 35 degrees S; I had some Siren 2012 that Danni had brought last night; and Ian drank Peroni.

I Don’t Actually Work Here

The morning dawned as frostily as the last few days, but the temperature did rise a few degrees by early afternoon.  We needed another trip to Ringwood where Jackie had to take her car to the excellent Wells garage in Salisbury Road for a light bulb to be replaced.  It must be a stroke of design genius that requires the bumper to be removed before a £7.50 bulb can be replaced.

Whilst she waited at the garage I walked back to the river and turned left along the Castleman Trail to see what the other direction was like.  Passing three boys busy making themselves sick on Golden Virginia, I soon came to Bickerley Road, where there was no continuation sign.  With a sense of deja vue I searched for a route.  A major road called Castleman Way, and especially a Railway Hotel pub, offered a shred of hope.  This was unrealistic.  I even asked a postperson for directions.  She stood with great internal concentration, scratched her head, stroked her chin, and kept repeating ‘I have done it’.  Eventually she proclaimed: ‘but it was so long ago I can’t remember’.  I bet she’s wondering still.  I know I am.  I didn’t find it and eventually returned to the town centre and the cafe where we again enjoyed excellent lunches in the Bistro which, although not the Martin Cafe is a pretty good replacement, reminiscent of Jackie’s regular Rosie Lee in Morden. My choice was toad in the hole.  Jackie’s was eggs on toast.Egret, Ringwood field 12.12

Swans, Ringwood field 12.12Whilst by the river I thought again that the water on the fields may not be so high.  Swans and an egret were enjoying the unwonted flooded expanse.  There was the odd submerged tuft that offered the swans a perch.

Whilst Jackie was booking the car in I stood in the foyer idly looking at a little old Fiat vehicle perkily standing on the floor.  My reverie was disturbed by a voice from behind which compared its owner’s three year old Volkswagen most unfavourably with this allegedly perfect gem.  This gentleman, who appeared to be inflicted with logorrhoea, proceeded, with neither introduction nor pause for breath, to eulogise about the 1971 Fiat car which was being renovated by the garage.  I must say it did look in pretty good nick for a 41 year old, even if it had only done 21,000 miles.  He, of course, should know, because he had worked for Fiat when a young man in Greece.  When he helped himself to coffee from the machine, and demonstrated his complete misjudgement of me by going into great technical detail as if assuming I would have the first idea of what he was talking about, I thought maybe he was on the staff in some capacity.

Because of the necessity to remove the bumper, Jackie’s car wasn’t ready by the time we were to meet, so we walked back to the garage after lunch.  On the way we spoke of our garrulous friend.  Apparently he had found other victims in the form of people looking at cars for sale in the forecourt.  He was happily showing them round.  As she left for the cafe she overheard him saying ‘I don’t actually work here’.1971 Fiat 12.12

This afternoon we took the car up to Wimbledon for separate evenings out which, because by the time we get back it will be too late for a post, will be described tomorrow

Jogger’s Nipple

Castleman Trailway 12.12This was another beautiful clear winter’s day when the hard frost did not leave the ground, but continued to sparkle in the sunshine, except for the very open heathland where steam rose offering a misty veil across the backlit landscape.  We reprised yesterday’s Ringwood trip, except that I didn’t have my hair cut; I walked further along the Castleman Trailway; and we had our brunches in Bistro Aroma, a much friendlier and more popular cafe, with a greater range of food better cooked.  As she drove along the A31 Jackie spotted a hawk atop a fir tree, and likened it to a star on top of a Christmas tree.Ponies, seagulls, crows 12.12

It seemed to me that the waters were subsiding a little; just enough for the seagulls to share the fields with crows, and for the ponies to enjoy a little firmer foothold in parts.

Castleman Trailway 12.12 (2)As I now knew the way I walked further along the Trailway in the allotted time, managing to reach the edge of Ashley Heath and walk up the hill of pines and heathland by a pukka path provided with a small footbridge that spanned the ditch I had lept yesterday.  I was able to look down on the small town before retracing my steps back to the cafe.

Whilst perhaps not quite ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, this was definitely extremity-tingling weather.  That phrase, incidentally, having nothing to do with cojones, is not as rude as may be thought.  The brass monkey was a container for cannon balls on nineteenth century sailing ships.  It was made of brass, which the balls were not.  Because the two metals froze at different rates the balls would fall from their perch.

Having been revealed by Donna’s attention yesterday, my ears were certainly tingling.  She had actually said, when exposing my lugs, that she hoped this wouldn’t make them too cold.  Nevertheless, brisk walking, as usual, warmed me up, just as running had in years gone by.  Training runs in a track suit were one thing.  Running races in sub-zero temperature, clad only in the briefest of running shorts and vest, usually of some unyielding synthetic material, was quite something else.  The combination of stinging cold and the friction engendered by clothing on skin could be quite painful.  When awaiting a start in conditions such as today, the experienced person wore a black bin-liner until the last available seconds and discarded it before getting into a stride.  This was when ‘jogger’s nipple’ was prone to set in.  When, even through a vest, exposed to a cold enough temperature, the nipple would react as may be expected.  The friction of regular movement would do the rest, and soreness and sometimes bleeding would result.  As a runner you just had to grit your teeth and press on.  Rather difficult if your gnashers were chattering with cold as you lined up for the off.  Men’s particular appendages would also suffer in withering cold.  It was not a good idea to jump into a hot shower before you had thawed out somewhat.Backlit robin 12.12

This evening Jackie produced a flavoursome, hot, chilli con carne.  She drank Hoegaarden and I had a glass of Le Pont St Jean minervois 2010.

Helen having recommended the village of Bartley’s Christmas lights, we drove out after dinner to see them.Bartley Christmas lights (2) 12.12  Many of the residents of this location have decked out their gardens and houses with an amazing array of colourful electrical and mechanical celebratory illuminations.  Deer, for example, glow with light and move up and down as if grazing.  Particularly as street lighting is at a minimum, this alternative serves to guide one round the village.  One of the literal highlights of Christmas in Morden was the ritual drive down Lower Morden Lane.  House after house seemed to vie with its neighbours in producing similar spectacles.  As people of the Muslim faith have moved in, so these displays have reduced, but it is still worth the trip.  In Bartley we have found a most satisfactory substitute.