The North/South Divide


Today was another dull one with little sun after 10 a.m. This morning we took a motorised stroll through the forest


and brunched at Hyde-Out Café where I enjoyed a tastefully presented full English.

Cyclists on road 1

Just outside Bashley the first bunch of cyclists began disrupting the traffic.

Rubbish in stream

Someone had recently lobbed food packaging into the stream crossing Holmsley Passage, along which we passed the resident of

Modern House

the modern house that was once the site of the crossing keeper’s cottage.

Ponies on outfield 1Ponies on outfield 4

At Burley ponies had been engaged to mow the outfield of the cricket green.

Ponies on outfield 3

Some took a break,

Ponies on outfield 2

and, for one, the task had become all too exhausting.

Braggers Lane

It being the grockle season, only the narrower lanes like Braggers were free of cyclists and other cars designed to send drivers onto the verges.

Cyclists on road 2Cyclists on road 3Cyclists on road 4

More common were crocodiles like these escorted children wobbling along

Irises 3

opposite the irises blooming in Whitemoor Pond.

Foxgloves 1Foxgloves 2Foxgloves 3

Mauve foxgloves stood proudly erect all over the forest.

Orchids and ferns 1Orchids and ferns 2Orchids and ferns 3

On the slopes on other side of the road leading into Bolderwood, where the first two of these pictures were taken, wild orchids clustered among the curling ferns.

Orchids, ferns, and bottleBottle in ferns

Someone had lobbed a bottle into this lovely landscape.

Tree stump

Logging had been carried out in the vicinity of this stump with its moss-covered exposed roots.

Foal and ponies

The A31, that bisected the forest into North and South, spans the road through Bolderwood, bringing the modern world into stark contrast with the historic home of this equine family whose ancestors grazed the forest floors for centuries.

Horse riders

One of two riders crossing the heath on the other side of the main thoroughfare gave me a pleasant smile, after which we exchanged waves.

For our dinner this evening Jackie produced tasty chicken thighs marinaded in lemon and herbs and roasted with peppers; boiled potatoes, carrots, and green beans.




A Losing Battle


This morning we drove to Milford on Sea to search out a door handle in the architectural salvage outlet there. The establishment was closed, so we consoled ourselves with


brunch at The Needle’s Eye Cafe. I enjoyed the Maxed up Breakfast while Jackie chose her customary jacket potato with cheese and beans.

Speedboat passing Isle of Wight

Whilst a speedboat laid a trail across The Solent;

Gulls over car park

gulls squealed into the car park;

Sea fishing

and intrepid sea fishers set up their rods;

the sun fought a losing battle with the indigo clouds over the Isle of Wight. Jesus beams provided the brush strokes to the cloudscapes and a slash of light on the water.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tender beef stew, sauteed potatoes, and crisp carrots, cauliflower, and green beans. I finished the Fleurie and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

All Part Of The Process

Princess Ida programme 3.14The annual O’Connell/Rivett family attendance at the Godalming Operatic Society’s Leatherhead Theatre production of a work by Gilbert & Sullivan directed by Pat O’Connell follows a carefully choreographed process. Taking advantage of the close proximity of each point in the proceedings, arriving in very good time to dine before the performance, we all stay at the Travel Lodge hotel in the town, walk around the corner to dine at an Italian restaurant, and across the road to the theatre. Afterwards we enjoy a drink in the company of the cast, spend the night at the staging post, and breakfast at Annie’s cafe before making our ways home.
The outing was yesterday. The operetta Princess Ida.
All part of the process is that Helen and Bill will have parked in the more expensive car park a bit further away. Ron will then offer to go and collect their car and move it to the one that is free after 6 p.m. and over the weekend, about 100 yards away. He will do this just in time for us to take possession of our seats before the prompt start of the overture.
There is one popular restaurant near enough and willing to feed the entire cast and guests in good time to facilitate the promptness. This year, having changed ownership, it was undergoing refurbishment. It was not yet officially open, but the new proprietor offered to provide a restricted menu for us all, provided we placed our orders in advance. We did so. The orders were placed in a relay of mobile phones. This meant that there was some confusion about my pizza, but this was rectified with good humour. I am not sure what the original name of this establishment was. It is now Rialto, and is to be recommended. There were no complaints about the previous one, but all were agreed that this reincarnation is a general improvement. If they live up to their first night, they should do well.
Rialto meals
There was, however, one part of the process that was maintained by the new staff. Traditionally, one of our group goes without something until the waiting staff are eventually alerted to its absence. It may be an entire meal, a drink, or simply a glass with which to imbibe a share of a bottle of wine. Until now, Shelly has been the victim of all these omissions.Pizza Perhaps it served me right for speculating about what she would miss out on last night, for it was I who went without my pizza. Drinking my share of the house red wine, I watched the others enjoying their various dishes accompanied by red or white wine. Eventually I got my own back, and they all watched me consume mine, which was excellent.
The Leatherhead Theatre is an excellent venue. This morning, during a wander around the town, I noticed it was occupied by a group engaged in a religious service of some denomination, so it is perhaps as versatile as the Regent Centre at Christchurch. I also noticed a plaque on the wall, part of the information provided by Leatherhead Heritage Trail, giving a history of the building:Thorndyke Theatre
The theatre was very full, as warranted by the usual accomplished performance. Familiar faces included Simon Cakebread, bravely surmounting a chest infection, as King Gama; Richard Arthur as King Hildebrand; and Richard Hales as Hilarion. The Society is fortunate in having a leading lady lady, Jen Sanders, who, being tall and elegant, has a beautiful and powerful voice belied by the slenderness of her frame. Many of the actors and singers have most expressive faces, bodies, and hands, none more so than the entertaining Nora Price who, this time, played Lady Blanche. I found myself transfixed by her hands in particular.
The costumes were splendid and the choreography faultless. Pat explained to us later that one joke that brought the house down had been created at the last minute by members of the orchestra. When Ida claimed to be able to play a number of instruments at once, these players rose from the pit and offered her their various pieces.
Early this morning I finished reading The Folio Society’s edition of ‘Good Behaviour’ by Molly Keane. This is a clever. well-written novel, surprisingly first published in 1981. My surprise is that it skilfully describes a past privileged age, depicting mostly unlikeable characters. On the other hand we do like our period television dramas such as ‘Downton Abbey’. Jane Gardam, in her introduction, tells us that the books was originally turned down by two publishers as being ‘too dark’.
Good Behaviour cover 3.14I can see those publishers’ point of view, although the darkness that strikes me is perhaps a different one than theirs. I find the heartrending despair of the naive yet nevertheless spirited narrator Aroon rather less than amusing. Debra McFarlane’s exquisite illustrations, one of which decorates the boards of the cover, perfectly depict the young lady. The family culture of denial is stifling. However, I have to admit that the writing sparkles with wit and the characters are only too credible.
After this, still too early to meet the others for breakfast, I walked around the small Surrey town, spotting another Heritage plaque, this time giving us the tale of a former post office the demise of which must have been repeated throughout the land:Former Post Office                                                                                    Penny BlackA possibly less imaginative title is borne by The Old Post Office public house in Newark.
Breakfast at Annie’s continued two parts of the process. The first was the encounter with Michael, a regular customer there. This is a very homely little place with just a few small tables. It offers wholesome food, and every Sabbath some of the residents of an establishment for people who are at least partially sighted attend for their Sunday roast dinner. One of these is the septuagenarian Michael. He is so politely gregarious and able to communicate with the use of his other senses, that the first time we met him we had not realised he was unable to see us. Today, Jackie and I arrived before our companions, so we had Michael to ourselves. We come but once a year, yet he does seem to remember us.
Breakfast at Annie'sThe next part was not usually attached to Annie’s. Perhaps it was because there were eight of us, two more than usual, that two of us went short of a meal for a while. Shelly distracted herself with the ‘i’ crossword, and I entertained myself by watching the others scoffing. I won the race to be served by a short head.
Back home in Hampshire Helen and Bill will collect us this evening for a visit to Totton’s Fuchi restaurant, to complete a pleasant weekend. I will report on that tomorrow.

A Large Bottle Of Hoegaarden

The Raven

Our overnight stay at The Raven Hotel, part of the Old English chain, was a very pleasant one.  The original building, erected the year Queen Victoria died, has been extended to take more guests.  Clean, very well appointed, and supplied with all the necessities, the room was perfect.  Particularly noteworthy were the acoustics, lending complete clarity to every sound from the room next door, the corridor, and the street outside.  It may even have been a pin that was occasionally dropped by our neighbours.  There was a modern looking television which we didn’t try.  On the radio Jackie was able to receive local radio pop music and ‘Talk Sport’.  She would have preferred Radio 4.

Joking aside, we slept very well.

Breakfast was served in a large, well equipped dining room by most friendly and attentive young staff.  We were certainly not the only customers present.  From the accents there had been a Geordie wedding.  One very young, very skinny, very blonde, very brown, woman spent the whole time alternately hitching up her shoulders to keep her lacy, see-through, poncho styled, white, off both shoulders, top garment in place.  Or maybe she was attempting to dislodge it all together.  Either way it was entertaining.

The attentiveness and efficiency of the staff was displayed when the young lady pouring our coffee overfilled my cup, the contents spilling into the saucer.  She was a bit discombobulated as I picked up the saucer and began to tip its contents into the cup.  She offered to fetch me a fresh saucer.  ‘No, thanks’, I replied, ‘this is what we do at home’.  A young man was there in a flash with a thick paper napkin.  The food was plentiful and well cooked.  Naturally we each had full Englishes, which contained some of the best breakfast sausages I have tasted.

At £40 per night through the Late Bookings website, both the hotel and the website are to be heartily recommended.

After pottering in our room for a while, we made our leisurely way to visit Wolf and Luci in their static caravan in Hurley.  The day was as enjoyable as usual, covering many subjects of conversation and reminiscing over more than forty years of friendship.  Luci fed us on a tasty lamb stew followed by a delicious fruit crumble.  She and I shared a very good bottle of the appropriately named Wolf Blass; and she demonstrated her assiduous reading of this blog, and her intrepidness in searching it out locally, by presenting Jackie with a large bottle of Hoegaarden.

We made very good time home, where I added a couple of photographs to yesterday’s post.

The Traditional English Tea

We stayed in this morning for a visit from the owner of the flat upstairs and a technician sent by her insurance company.  On 2nd March I described a leak from number 9 that had dribbled through our ceiling.  Christine, in residence, is the tenant.  Sarah, the owner, had been told by the insurer that, in order fully to investigate the cause of the intermittent penetration of our ceiling, it was necessary to aim a device at our plasterwork from inside our flat; the electronic gadget, allegedly capable of its own painless penetration, would be able to diagnose what was wrong with the bath. Apparently looking directly under the bath was not an option.

This rather mystified us, but we had no objection.  It rather surprised the technician too.  He had no such instrument, and had no idea how he was supposed to diagnose the leak from a bath nestling on the floor of a room about twelve feet above the soles of his shoes, and through ceiling, joists, and floorboards.  After some quite lengthy and helpful discussion about the building, estate agents, and owners, Sarah and the young man repaired to number nine.  When he had left after completing his work, she kindly came to tell us that he had indeed taken off the side cover of the bath and found what was wrong;  apparently an overflow and something to do with damp plaster, possibly from showering.

We were thus delayed in partaking of our brunch which was to sustain us until the visit, for a traditional English tea, of Helen and Bill and their German friends Hilda and her great nephew Simon.  This meant that we did not have time for checking out two prospective properties for which we have been idly surfing the net.  Or is it browsing the web?

Actually, we would have had time for two had we not got lost.  Property-wise we have rather a dilemma.  We are very pleased with the wonderful flat in its idyllic setting that we occupy.  But we do have to pay rent, and by the end of the year, we may just have enough money to buy somewhere.  Not, unfortunately, in the rather expensive New Forest.  So, we have been having a look on the property websites, but not actually at any houses themselves.  Today we decided to at least reconnoitre the areas of a couple of places that could not be more different.  The first a pretty cottage in a pretty lane in a pretty village; the second a large ground floor flat in an Edwardian Manor pretty much like what we have at the moment, possibly even grander.

Fyfield Cottage

We found Fyfield Cottage in Everton with no trouble, and had a wander around.  Fyfield Cottage gardenIt is more extensive than it looks from the very narrow West Lane, and has a lovely garden with a new shed and parking space for three cars.  I have my doubts about whether the ceilings would be high enough. Honeysuckle and actinidia Every home in the lane was attractive, and I was particularly taken by the happy juxtaposition of honeysuckle and actinidia in the hedge opposite.  Just window shopping.

It was the second possibility that proved elusive.  This was Ossemsley Manor near Bashley.  We knew exactly where it was.  But how to get to it?  Had my driver not turned right too soon we may well have been congratulating ourselves.  But she did.  As the track began to peter out, we came alongside a teenage girl on a horse accompanied by an older woman on foot.  The girl claimed not to be any good at directions and left her companion to set us on our way.  The young lady had said we needed to go straight ahead, but wouldn’t be able to get through the gate in front of us.  We followed the other’s directions, and after we had detoured for a good mile or so, our paths crossed again.  Our informants had only travelled about a hundred yards, or metres.  This was after the car’s suspension had been sorely tested by invisible speed bumps set in a badly made up road.  I was convinced we were going in the wrong direction so we turned around, returned to a proper road, and set off back to Minstead to be in time for our German guests.  In the process we drove the reverse of a long stretch I had walked on 27th February.  I was then able to see where we should have gone.  Had I only realised where we were or remembered the name of the common where I had seen the chicken cross the road, we may have had better luck.  As it was, we had to put off that little recce.

Bill, Helen, Hilda & Simon

Our guests arrived on time and were treated to a traditional English tea.  The kind that no-one ever eats today, unless on holiday in the West Country.  Which I suppose they were.  A bit like the Full English breakfast only being consumed when staying at a B. & B.  And since everyone except Simon, who preferred sparkling water, drank coffee, it wasn’t quite authentic.  Nevertheless the excellent spread included the traditional cucumber sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, strawberries, two different cakes, and even biscuits with an assortment of cheeses and pickles, and was consequently enjoyed.  It was a more than adequate evening meal for us.

After the repast we all watched an old sixteen millimetre film starring Helen, Jackie, and a little later, Shelly, taken by their Dad, Don Rivett, about sixty years ago.  The format, after several reincarnations over the years, is now DVD.  Guest appearances are by their paternal grandparents, mother and father, and cousins Adrian and Christopher Barlow.  Although the sisters have seen these films often, the memories came flooding back.  Since it was silent, it probably gave poor Simon a rest from listening to spoken English.