Mastering The Technique


Well, I’m still struggling to upload photographs. James Peacock came this morning to get fibre optic broadband under way, but BT Open Reach had not taken the last step in installation. This appears to have been done late this afternoon so James will return tomorrow.

While James was wrestling with this, I chatted to a blackbird enjoying a brunch of crab apples. This one has now mastered the technique of chipping away at the fruit without knocking it to the ground. The bird no longer attempts to swallow the meal whole, but neither does it lose it like a toddler learning to use a fork. In fact it was very like a little person, in that bits of food tended to be plastered over its beak.

Our friends Margery and Paul came to lunch and we enjoyed our usual fun conversation well into the afternoon. Jackie made a delicious spinach soup which was followed by a plentiful salad with haloumi, ham, and pork and chicken pie. After that, ham sandwiches sufficed this evening.

‘Communication Is The Key’


‘Every cloud’, we are told, ‘has a silver lining’. Sometimes this is difficult to see. This good outcome from my Broadband problems, however, became clear this morning when the very personable Mike Smith came to install a new phone line.

Firstly, the BT Openreach engineer climbed a ladder at the front of the house to work on the fixture on the eaves.

Health and Safety regulations meant that he was not permitted to climb the pole out in the street without someone in attendance to ensure that he did not come to grief. This was to be a colleague who needed to come from Fawley via Beaulieu where the road was closed.

This may have meant a certain amount of boring hanging about waiting for Andy, the other man to arrive. Not so. A treat was in store.

Mike had noticed that ‘someone was a photographer’. So was he. He has a Flickr account which he opened on my computer so that he could show me some of his superb work. He specialises in street photography, of which the site contains splendid examples. My shots above don’t do justice to these pictures. I recommend his site.

Naturally we had much to talk about. But eventually his support arrived and he had to get back to what I called “some real work”. Having climbed the ladder propped against our holly tree, helmetted, and hoisted, Mike did what he needed to do. Unfortunately there is a problem underground that requires the attention of a specialist team. Following our friend’s request this should be attended to in a couple of days.

Today’s title was Mike’s suggestion.

When visiting Bransgore yesterday, Jackie had noticed a splendid maple at the corner of St George’s Drive that she thought I would like to photograph. She drove me there this afternoon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious sausage casserole followed by her spicy pumpkin pie. The casserole was served with creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy carrots, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts; the pie with whipped cream. I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2010.


Derrick and JosephPhotograph number 43 in the ‘through the ages’ series was probably taken by Vivien and printed by her brother Bernard in 1962. Bernard always used a square format. Here, I sit on a cast iron and wooden-slatted bench in the garden of 18 Bernard Gardens to which we had moved as a family a couple of years before, alongside my brother Joseph.
In a fascinating coincidence, my parents and I each produced five children with eighteen years between them. Unlike my Dad, I needed three wives to achieve the round handful.
Dad was a man, of his time, who would never borrow money for any purchase. When, in the late sixties, the large Victorian house began to suffer from subsistence damage, the quotation for repairs was £400. My father could not be persuaded to borrow that sum on mortgage, so it was sold and the remaining members of the family moved to Morden.
Malachi 26.12.13This morning I received a phone call from Sam and Malachi in Perth, Western Australia, and had long conversations with each of them. My grandson chuckled away when I asked him: ‘Why?’. He has, so far, despite distinct O’Neill genetic traits, retained his English accent. The attached photograph is taken from Holly’s Facebook page of 26th December last year.Cherry tree stump
SnowdropsSnowdrops have arrived in our garden. I spotted some as I began my walk of the Football Green/Shave Wood loop this afternoon. They were not far from the sawn-off cherry tree stump, which is all that remains of the casualty that was taped off in December.Feather Trail
A trail of white plumage, reminiscent of Hansel’s breadcrumbs, on Running Hill led to the remains of a large, now unidentifiable, white bird.
At the bottom of the hill, the gentleman who lives at Orchard Cottage opened his gate and crossed to give a pony on the green a tasty morsel. He had to be quick to return to his garden.Jill, partner, & ponies The dark brown creature and its white companion, having had their interest aroused, wanted more and were intent upon laying siege. That is one of the hazards of that particular kindness to animals.
Bonfire in field
Further on down into Minstead, alongside the pedestrian safety path that runs by the most dangerous stretch of road, the smoke rising from a bonfire in an adjacent field blended with the subtle greys of the clouds above.
Tyre tracksPony & oak treeOn Lyndurst Road, just before the junction with Football Green, a number of fairly large trees have fallen recently. Huge tyre tracks provided  evidence that some rather heavy machinery had been used to clear them from the road.
Foraging ponies are looking a great deal more healthy than they did this time last year, when they were so cold and wet and their ribs were beginning to protrude.
Shave Wood signpost
CloudscapeAs I turned the corner at Shave Wood, the skies, having been somewhat obscured by the trees, came back into view. How they had altered since I first saw the bonfire blend. Big skies are a feature of the countryside, and I find their constant changes of hue and formation fascinating. At that moment the artist had laid gentle brush strokes of yellow and indigo over the bright blue base wash.
Minstead Lodge
Visible from high up on the hill approaching London Minstead, Minstead Lodge, like the Gothic pile it is, stood out against the rainbow trout tints in the sky.Sunset From Bull Lane I could look down on the still burning bonfire I had seen from the other side of the valley. The cloudscape painter had changed his or her palette yet again, as the setting sun slowly turned the gold to pink.
BT Openreach technicianA BT Openreach technician high on a ladder clamped to a telegraph pole opposite the Minstead Lodge drive in Seamans Lane was applying some kind of testing device. He agreed that he was quite busy at the moment.
Further on I met Oliver. Not my grandson. A greyhound. His owner’s mother informed me that he had not been fast enough to pass muster as a racing animal, so was in fact a rescue dog. He seemed friendly enough, and ignored the baying of neighbouring hounds who had picked up either his or my scent.
For dinner this evening, Jackie produced roast belly of pork with sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, and vegetables. This is a most underrated cut of meat, that, when of Lidl quality cooked long and slow, offers a most flavoursome meal. Creme brûlée was to follow. I drank more of the Bergerac.

August In December

Yew Tree cottage
This morning, with rain threatening, in order to deliver dry cleaning, I walked to the Village Shop and back. On the way down I met three male walkers seeking interesting birds. I mentioned that there were many rooks around. They pronounced those boring and told me they had seen a chaffinch. Later a robin flitted across my path. I briefly wondered whether that would be boring too.
BT Openreach van
A BT Openreach technician, as is often the case, was working down a hole by the telephone box at the Newtown junction.
I was able to direct the driver of a delivery van to Malwood farm. That made me feel useful.
This afternoon I worked on another dozen negatives from the archives. These required the removal of quite a lot of dust and little hair marks from the scans. Perhaps the fact that I dropped them on the carpet two or three times whilst trying to slot them into the templates had something to do with this. The images were from 1974 and ’75.
Jessica and Michael 1.75Michael 6.74Derrick 25.12.74Derrick 8.74In January 1975, Jessica and Michael pick cabbages in the garden of her parents’ home at Bulcote Lodge in Nottinghamshire.  My freckly son’s head and shoulders are in the Droop Street garden in June 1974, and the two of me are at Lloyd Baker Street in August and on Christmas Day 1974. It would not be easy for anyone at first guess to determine which was which. In the August picture I am sporting what was left of the brown velvet suit. The two 1974 homes are featured in ‘The Cake Is A Lie’.
Later, I finished reading Voltaire’s short story ‘Le Blanc et Le Noir’.  The black and the white are Rustan, the protagonist’s, evil and good angels.  I needed to remind myself that the French philosopher was writing in an eighteen century ignorance of racial stereotyping.Through the device of a dream and a certain riddling, which I must admit lost me, Rustan learns that good and evil co-exist. This is very much an Arabian Nights tale.
This evening Jackie produced glorious chicken curry, splendid savoury rice, and a beautiful bhaji of cauliflower with which we shared a bottle of Wairu Cove sauvignon blanc 2013. Bread and butter pudding with a tot of evaporated milk was to follow.