Crumbling Cliffs

Frosted brackenThis has been a glorious day. Our first real frost lay on those parts of Barton Common not, by 11 a.m., yet reached by the brilliant sun. That was when Jackie deposited me there after a trip to Redcliffe Nurseries where we had purchased four outsize window boxes.

Ponies 1ponies 2Pony 2Pony and treeI spent almost an hour wandering amongst the bracken, the woods, and the ponies, before braving the path through the golf course and returning via the clifftop and Shorefield Country Park. Now standing stock still, now chomping the undergrowth, the animals spend their whole day preserving energy for grazing.

DitchThe paths were rather muddy, and although I didn’t quite get lost, I did twice meet a ditch I didn’t fancy crossing. Strangely enough I approached it from two different directions.

Blackberry and backlit leavesAttracted by a cluster of backlit leaves, I noticed a small red blackberry struggling to reach ripeness.

Footpath 1As, on the path alongside the golf course, I approached a tree tunnel leading to the sea, the thwack of the strike on a ball a metre or so to my right, followed by a cry of ‘Oh, bloody ‘ell’, had me diving for cover. We are, of course, warned of the occasional sliced shot.

Flickering flags and gullThe flickering yellow flags protruding from rounded humps on the newly laid section of the course deterred the gulls from exploring it.

Along the cliff top I had numerous conversations with other walkers in which we discussed the marvellous weather, the extended growing season, and the propensity of CliffsFootpath 2Footpath 3Footpath 4Footpath 5the footpaths to plunge into the sea.

Cow parsleySome of the cow parsley stars twinkling in the clear light would make excellent Christmas decorations.

This evening we dined on crisp oven cod and chips, mushy peas, and pickled onions that had remained in the cupboard long enough to soften. This was followed by Jackie’s beautiful blackberry and apple crumble and custard. She drank Stella and I finished the Languedoc.

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.

Getting Heated

Knowing I was once more going to have to grapple with BT this morning, I cheered my Japanese anemone with insectLeycesteriaMyrtle and pink rosebudspirits by wandering round the garden and focussing on the cleared shrubbery alongside the dead-end path.

Japanese anemones, leycesteria, and a pink rose have come into view. Begonias etc over septic tank coverMyrtle shootsThe leycesteria had been choked by a hazelnut tree the nut of which a squirrel had probably buried in the wrong place and forgotten. Because of the proliferation of sports in the myrtle I had been forced to be quite merciless in the pruning. It is therefore gratifying to see the shrub in bloom, and new shoots burgeoning.Fuchsia and heuchera Jackie has planted a hardy fuchsia and a heuchera here, with a labelled vinca for eventual ground cover; and, a little further along, has covered the unsightly septic tank lid with various pots perched on a section of an IKEA wardrobe.

For the first two hours of the afternoon, my BT battle continued. The best report I can give is that, having satisfied the robot, I did not have to wait to speak to an adviser. I don’t think he is all that familiar with either Apple or Blackberry. However, the poor man did his best. When I had tried to access e-mails on the iMac I was shown a circular symbol with a wavy line inside it. This, I have learned, means e-mails cannot be accessed. I clicked on it and read that they were unobtainable because of the server being off-line. ‘Connection Doctor’ was one of the options I could select. I did, and was linked to a Yahoo site which wasn’t much use in providing a cure. That is why I had phoned BT. The auxiliary nurse to whom I was linked tried a number of avenues, but I don’t think he recognised the symbol I was describing. Eventually he guided me through opening a second account, which did, temporarily it transpired, receive e-mails.

He was even less successful with Blackberry, and I told him I would try to resolve that one myself. I had a bit of a rest, then felt brave enough to tackle the Blackberry. It was, after all, Blackberry whose message provided me on 11th of my first inkling that there was anything wrong. Instructions were given as to how to verify the account. The option of using the device was exactly the same as the BT adviser had tried. The other option was the on-line version. I tried that, but was told I was giving the wrong password. I tried the ‘forgotten password’ option, which meant they would send it to me by e-mail…………………… I think you know what comes next.

A call to O2 furnished me with the password, but I still couldn’t do anything with it. Never mind, I thought, Apple doesn’t really need anything with it, if it is suitably cooked. It was then that I found that the Apple had gone off the boil. I now had three accounts showing; two with the wavy lines, and one indicating that I had a new message. But when I clicked on that no message came up.

It was now time to telephone Apple Care. Paul, when he heard what was on my screen, and even more when he saw it, described it as a mess. Apple have an interesting way of helping whilst viewing your screen. Instead of taking your screen over, as do BT, they have a red arrow with which they indicate what they want you to click on.

‘What have they done?’ was what he needed to discover. But first he had to erase it all and start again. He then got me up and running, hopefully, this time, permanently.

The process employed by Apple’s Paul, puts me in mind of the tale of the unprepossessing pins, recounted by Bill Eales many years ago. As I recall, the unfortunate owner of these legs, on entering a classroom, was asked where he got them, and told to ‘rub ’em out and do ’em again’. Maybe it was apocryphal.

Jackie in bottom of gardenWhilst I was becoming gradually more heated in the cool of the sitting room, Jackie was attempting to keep cool in the heat of the bottom of the garden, the sun reflecting off the concrete, where she continued her transformation of that area.

We dined this evening at Daniels (sic) Fish and Chip restaurant in Highcliffe. The food was very fresh and crispy and the service excellent. We both had cod. Jackie supplemented hers with onion rings. My choice was calumari. She drank diet Pepsi and I drank tea.

One of the e-mails I did receive when we returned home was from BT, promising a month’s free broadband.

Making Connections

The O2 signal problem at Castle Malwood Lodge continues.  I still had no connection at all this morning.  Jackie’s Nokia, also on O2, had very fluctuating signals.  Buoyed up by a bucket of coffee I decided to ring the provider again.  I was again advised to take the various parts out of my Blackberry.  I said I’d done that yesterday and it didn’t make any difference.  Dean, the very helpful adviser, then told me that according to the system there was no mast in our area.  When I pointed out that I had not experienced this problem before, he suggested that maybe O2’s contract with whoever was carrying the mast had expired.  I wasn’t convinced by this, so he placed me on hold so that I could listen to music such as to put me into dire straits, whilst he discussed the problem with the network connection team.  Periodically he interrupted the cacaphony to check that I was still content to hold.  Eventually he said the other team wanted to speak to me directly, and would call me within twenty minutes. That should have given me time for a pee.  As I made for the bathroom the phone rang.  So I had to wait whilst I enjoyed a meaningful relationship with the lovely Joanne.

Like Dean, this patient and thorough young lady had a pronounced Northern accent.  There being both Lancastrian and Yorkist blood in my veins, they made me feel at home.  Joanne, however, spoke in a language that, as I told her, I understood less than that of the natives of the country from which I had just returned.  Especially when she started talking about connecting the Blackberry to the WiFi hub, which meant discovering yet another password.  She soon realised that when navigating my device, I was happier being led to icons, like spanners, rather than the actual terms they represent, such as Options.  So keen was she that I should fully understand what was going on that she explained everything in great technical detail, none of which I had any hope of retaining.  And repeated it.  And again.  Even when I said ‘you lost me twenty minutes ago’.  That was a big mistake because iteration ensued.  And reiteration.

Finally Joanne fully explained the report she was sending to the technical team, and what I could then expect.  Given that I now had a fluctuating signal, and had become fairly desperate for that pee, she didn’t fully hold my attention.  Joanne said she was happy to wait if I wanted to go to the toilet, but I said I couldn’t because Jackie was in there now.  Fortunately I spotted that the battery was almost exhausted and gently mentioned that.  My adviser promised to send me a reference number in a text, and we said goodbye.  This was an hour after I had first called Dean.  And the loo was free.

I received the text whilst my head was still spinning.  To settle it a bit I walked down to the village shop and back.  On the way I met Jill, who lives at Seamans Corner.  She has retired from a similar profession to mine.  We had met before at the History Group on 8th January, but each had forgotten the other’s name.  Having reached the age when one can own up to such lapses, we did.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to West End to visit Mum.  Reminiscing, as always, was in order.  This time my mother reminded me of a visit I had made to her with Michael and his friend Eddie.  I don’t remember this, but I have every faith in my mother’s recollection.  No doubt we had been in search of Sunday lunch.  This was in the 1970s, when Mum had been custodian of Vivien and my wedding album. Derrick on April with Michael Michael would have been around the age he was in photograph number 49 in the ‘through the ages’ series, taken by Jessica at Carole’s home in Ipswich.  I had been persuaded to mount our friend’s horse, April.  This was, as Mum said, in my long hair and kaftan days.

Mum asked Michael if he would like the album.  Of course, he was delighted.  He and Eddie, however, took some convincing that the man marrying his mother, who then looked far more like the subject of number 3 of the series, was actually his father.  In the above picture his expression possibly displays some discomfort with touching the horse, but it could equally suggest the difficulty in connecting the two ages of his Dad.  Possibly an even greater problem than grappling with a phone supplier.  Mum demonstrated acting skills I didn’t know she had when she reproduced the two boys’ expressions.

Chicken jalfrezi and pilau riceOn the way back from West End we stopped off at Morrison’s superstore.  This isn’t really a very good idea on a Saturday afternoon when entire families are doing their week’s shop. And they didn’t have the coriander which was our main reason for being there.  Chicken jalfrezi mealJackie’s excellent chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice, on which we later dined, could not therefore receive its usual garnish.  Morrison’s did, however, provide the Kingfisher with which we slaked our thirst.

Junk From George Osborne


This morning I finished ‘Wordsworth, A Life’ by Juliet Barker.  That was essential because otherwise I would have had to weigh down my hand luggage with it on the plane to France tomorrow.  The book comprises 971 pages of very small print for this modern age.  Maybe the font size was chosen in order to restrict it to one volume.  Even skipping the notes, index, etc,, that take up the last section, I had to get through 810 pages.  This required the stubborn determination of a Cancerian marathon runner.  Full of dense detail about the man and his extended family the tome is a tribute to the research skills of the author, and the fact that I did want to complete the task of reading it is thanks to her powers of writing.  Being fairly familiar with the Lake District and having read much of the subject’s poetry also helped.  Maybe I should have been more fascinated by some of the more peripheral characters.

My readers will know I enjoy illustrated books.  I prefer my pictures to appear interspersed with the relevant text, so that every now and again I get a pleasant surprise.  What I don’t like are sections of photographic reproductions in two or three chunks, which usually means you are treated to portraits or views that you have not yet read about.  There were two of the latter clusters in this volume.  Of course this is also a matter of cost, so I shouldn’t be mealy-mouthed about it.  I enjoyed the book.

The rest of the morning was spent sorting out technology.  I have realised that for some weeks now I have not been receiving e-mails on my Blackberry.  Since I am off to Sigoules tomorrow where the Blackberry is my only e-mail source, this has become quite important.  The BT Yahoo icon has also appeared on the mobile device.  This made me think that the problem had arisen as a result of sorting out the password problem with BT which involved linking to a Yahoo account.

Given a choice between O2 and BT help lines I decided to try my luck with the former.  This was definitely the better option.  Dean, of O2, established that my Yahoo account had not been activated by Blackberry.  As I never use it I wanted to get rid of it.  This wasn’t possible without the password.  Now which one would that be?  I gave the young man the most likely key with a couple of alternatives.  None of them worked.  He tried the most likely one again.  No joy.  He said I would need to ring BT to check the password and he would call me back in fifteen minutes.

Well, after the last time I wasn’t going to go through the palaver with BT again, and anyway it would take much more than fifteen minutes.  So I had one last go with the most likely password.  This time it worked.  The most amazing part of all this was that Dean did actually ring me back on time.  He tried the password again.  It worked.

Now all I had to do was take the battery and SIM card out of the phone after we’d finished speaking and put them straight back in again, then wait twenty minutes to start to receive new messages.  The back of a Blackberry is like the inner sanctum of Fort Knox.  I couldn’t take it off without reference to the instruction manual.  Even then, it was tough.  The battery then slipped out easily enough.  But the SIM card was firmly locked in a strong box.  I managed to prise it out a bit but a metal band held it in place.  Imagining that I must have broken whatever was the crucial circuit, which would have been tantamount to taking the card out altogether, I reassembled the device.  76 messages came rushing in.  These were the old unread ones.  I had lunch, after which a new message came in.  It was junk from George Osborne, but it was a message.

I then accompanied Jackie to Sainsbury’s in Ringwood to replenish provisions devastated by the Easter family influx.  On the verges of the A road and roundabout approach to the car park are planted ‘a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils’.  I wasn’t exactly wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’.  In fact I had to dance between cars on their way to the West Country to approach them.  It has been a happy coincidence to finish the Victorian Poet Laureate’s biography in April, thus giving me the opportunity for a cheesy personal link with another, better known, rambler.

This evening Ali and Steve drove from their home in Clutton to the Aroma Bangladeshi restaurant in Shaftesbury.  Jackie and I drove to the same venue where we all met and spent a very enjoyable evening over an excellent meal, Cobra, and Bangla beer.

A Pikey

Keypoint paviers 9.12

Taking my normal route to Cannon Hill Common; with the exception of entering it through Joseph Hood recreation ground alongside; I paused in Maycross Avenue to chat to Keyline paviers.  Proud of their work, the man in charge told me how, with a membrane and a layer of concrete, they eradicated the weeds which I had seen a homeowner in another garden killing off, during a period of several days, earlier in the year.  This carport is there for good.

In the recreation ground, the grass was experiencing what is probably the final cut of the season.

As usual, alongside the lake, the vase attached to Allan William Marshall’s memorial bench was full of fresh flowers; ducks were being fed; and fishing was in progress.

Another grand oak had lost a limb, segments of which now encircle the tree, ensuring that there will be no need to manufacture benches in that part of the common for a long time to come.  Squirrels were racing up trees getting in supplies for the winter.

Walking back along the lake I chatted with Jordan and his friends.  Having the occasional difficulty with his line, there was great excitement when this boy was thought to have caught another fish.  His first catch, swimming around, as if in a goldfish  bowl, in a large orange bucket, was being gleefully inspected by his two friends.  There was some banter about who might be scared to touch the slippery scales.  The young lady, whose shiny patent leather handbag lay alongside other containers on the bank, was convinced the catch was ‘a pikey’.  The young angler was not so sure.  Having explained what I was doing, I had no need to worry about whether they knew what a website was.  Jordan’s male friend pulled out his Blackberry so I could enter the address in it.  I was somewhat relieved it was the same as my own mobile device, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to do so.  His companion told him he just had to e-mail it to Jordan and he would have it too.  Looking back over the years spanning today and my junior exploits described in my post of 30th. May, expanded in Chris’s comment on that of the next day, the advance in children’s equipment and communication skills was mind-boggling.

Hi, folks.

Hoping to avoid the rush hour traffic Jackie and I set off for The Firs earlier than usual, to be met by a snarl-up at the far end of Hillcross Avenue.  This had been caused by another taxi breaking down (see 26th. September).  This time, actually on the roundabout.  We got through this quite quickly, but the journey still took almost two hours.

Jackie, Elizabeth, Danni and I ate at the Eastern Nights.  Eventually.  Jackie drank Bangla, I had Cobra, and the other two shared a bottle of Cote du Rone.  Eventually.  The food was as wonderful as ever.  Eventually.  As we waited for an hour and a half for our meals we became aware that the two staff out front, both working their socks off, both very pleasant, yet rushed off their feet, were prioritising the takeaway service.  The phone was going all the time, and one or the other of them was rushing to answer it and take the order.  People who came into the restaurant for takeaway meals long after us, were being presented with their food long before us. I had decided I would speak to them about this the next time we went in on a quiet night, but after this length of time I had had enough.  I went up to the bar and leant on it waiting for one of the men to come.  At that moment, out from the kitchen came our hot-plates.  As our waiter left those on the table and approached me, I had a quick rethink.  I asked him for another pint of Cobra.  It still seemed best to speak quietly about the problems at another time.  The others all agreed.

A Rant

Today was what David calls ‘the big tidy up day’, so there was no walkabout.

This morning I finished Dennis Wheatley’s ‘Vendetta in Spain’.  With a good grasp of history and a fine attention to detail, Wheatley tells a rollicking good story.  Set in the first decade of the twentieth century, this novel was, even when published in 1961, described as historical.  This got me reflecting on what is history?  For a child of the last century, born in 1942, it was initially strange to think of this book as such.  When Louisa, born in 1982, once asked me who Winston Churchill was, I was quite surprised.  Then I considered my own ignorance about the First World War; my lack of knowledge of the ministers and personalities involved.  I was even vague about Douglas Haig.  and I had been born far closer to that event than she had to the second conflagration.  Then, I remember Churchill’s funeral.  How we experience time changes as we age.  When I write of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, it seems like yesterday, yet must be remote history to my grandchildren.  As the days go by, I feel I have all the time in the world, yet the reality is that mine are numbered.  Six months in a child’s life seems an age.  To a septuagenarian it is nothing.

Purple succulent flowers 8.12

My house in Sigoules was built in the eighteenth century, from solid stone.  Exposed beams are from barges which struggled down the Dordogne loaded with produce.  Since they could not be taken back up the raging torrents, the vessels were broken up and used for building.  I understand the crews then walked back to their starting points and began again with newly built craft.  Now  enormous refrigerated vehicles bring regular fresh produce to Carrefour and Le Code Bar.  I can fly to Bergerac from Southampton in the same length of time as it took me to commute from Newark to Kings Cross.

I received a call later from James Bennet of Azzurri.  Azzurri is a company to which O2 allocated my mobile phone management about three years ago now.  They apparently ‘manage’ mobile phone accounts.  The first I heard of this was a letter from Azzurri, sporting the O2 logo, telling me I would be hearing from one of their representatives.  As long as I have been a mobile phone user I have had an O2 business account.  I only ever had one previous problem.  Oh, yes, the Azzurri intervention was a problem.  The earlier one was my discovery from my bank statements that the cost of my mobile phone had rocketed during the last two months.  On closer inspection, and after telephoning O2, it transpired that for nine months I had been paying for two mobile phones.  One wasn’t mine.  Because the first seven amounts had been virtually identical to mine, I had not noticed that there were two entries each month.  Obviously the lucky person who hadn’t been being billed got greedy.  In fairness, O2 immediately put that right and gave me a refund.

Back to James Bennet and Azzurri.  As I needed to be able to send e-mails from France I actually welcomed the initial approach.  I was informed that I needed a Blackberry with which I would be able to do this.  I have no problem with that.  I can.  Now.  The phone was quickly supplied and the contract signed.  Mr. Bennet then seemed to be less communicative.  Which was a pity, since I could not access my e-mail account.  Neither could I get anything from Azzurri but voicemail messages.  I inundated my personal account ‘manager’ with texts, voice- and e-mails.  He almost never responded.  I made several visits to O2 outlets in London, each taking upwards of an hour of time.  Every single, initially confident, O2  consultant failed either to contact Azzurri or to access the account.  Not one of them had heard of Azzurri.  I always had to provide the contact number.  Eventually we were told that Mr. Bennet had not passed the relevant information to the necessary department.  At last I gained a promise from him that it would be done within two days.  It wasn’t.  And his voicemail message had changed.  He had gone on holiday and would not be back until I was in France.  I managed to reach someone else.  He made, and failed to keep, the same promise.  Finally, I spoke myself with technicians who were able to solve the problem over the telephone.  I can’t remember whether they were in O2 or Azzurri departments.  But does it matter?  All the information is at home in England.

There followed extensive letters, mostly unanswered, and phone calls to O2 Customer Relations department.  When I finally spoke to the manager she informed me that I was bound to Azzurri for two years.  You can imagine my response to that.  Eventually she agreed to release me from Azzurri.  Coincidentally, I received a box of chocolates from O2.  One had been sent to each ‘valued customer’ of ten years or more.  When I politely suggested that didn’t really fit the bill, she proudly told me it had been her idea.  I think she realised I wasn’t impressed.  Furthermore, to compensate me for my trouble, I would receive a list of events at the O2 Arena.  I could choose any performance for which I would be given two tickets.  The list never arrived.

Maybe I had been freed from Azzurri.  But if anyone told them, they ignored it.  A year ago I received a phone call from a poor chap who had been given the task by Azzurri of contacting all customers to see how satisfied they were with the service.  I told him.  I finished by saying it wasn’t his fault.  Just his bad luck.  Now James Bennet calls me.  As I can only get a signal on the loo seat upstairs, I did not reach the phone in time and had to listen to a voicemail message from him.  ‘It is a little while since we spoke’ and there are possibitilities of a new tariff and a new handset.  I calmly walked up to the village square where I can be reasonably sure of an uninterrupted signal.  Of course I got his answerphone.  I left a fairly firm message.  Well, it was firm, and fair.  He responded with an e-mail to which, as I had said, I will not reply.  I had asked him not to contact me again.

The Code Bar pizza, a quarter carafe of red wine, and chocolate surprise pudding finished the day nicely.