Punch Drunk

After lunch I girded my loins and prepared to do battle with BT. After 45 minutes and an initial misdirection I was helped to access my account by a very helpful assistant named Jen. The problem concerned a different account and I really can’t be bothered to go into it here even if I could get my head around it. Believe it or not the “Bill” I hadn’t been able to access turned out to be a credit.

Having thus cheered myself up I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/12/30/a-knights-tale-85-i-was-stitched-up/

I then scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations to “A Tale of Two Cities”

‘Sydney Carton drank the punch at a great rate’

‘He leaned and elbow on her table, and covered his eyes with his hand’

‘He sat munching and drinking near Madame Defarge’s counter’

‘She laid her face upon his breast’

This evening we dined on tender roast lamb; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm Brussels sprouts, sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, mint sauce, and meaty gravy. Jackie, Becky, and Ian drank Vineyards white Zesty, while I drank more of the Merlot-Tannat, which involved opening another bottle.

“I Don’t Want To Have To Pick You Up From The Floor”

During much of the day I struggled with BT who have chosen to deny that I continue to have an account while they are taking payment for it but blocking access to it so I can’t check what they might be extracting. I have better things to do than persist at the moment.

This afternoon I published https://derrickjknight.com/2021/12/20/a-knights-tale-80-samson-is-welcomed/

Jackie made further progress with the Christmas decorations. As can be seen, Santa has been checking out the chimney. I am not allowed to assist because the Maintenance Department says she doesn’t want to have to pick me up from the floor.

This evening we dined on the Culinary Queen’s flavoursome stewp and fresh crusty bread and butter with which I drank more of the Merlot.


Needless to say, the BT e-mail problem that, four days ago, I had been promised would be resolved within 72 hours was not. I therefore spent an hour on the phone this morning, first with an advisor in Belfast, then with one in Cardiff. I won’t bore you with the details, save to say that when back running I had 997 e-mails to check.

Later, Shelly and Ron visited with presents for Jackie’s birthday which it is today;

and to enjoy a guided garden tour. Further details of the pictures are given on the gallery which can be accessed by clicking on any image.

A few days ago I had given Jackie a Birthday Card using a print of a mushroom made by Matthew Chalk of https://www.blackstone-chalk.co.uk and his nine year old son, Arthur.

“I want one”. She had said. I kept shtum.

A day or so later I mentioned that I wanted her to take us for a drive today. She did. To Matthew’s workshop in Tunbridge near Romsey.

The first squeal of delight came when I pointed out the mushrooms I had commissioned, and said “Happy Birthday”. She picked one up, carried it to the car, and returned to bid farewell to Matthew and Arthur who kept their physical distance.

“What about the other two?”, I asked.

“Three!?” came with the second squeal.

At the moment they stand on the patio – a temporary home so Jackie can see them through the sitting room window.

On our return home we took a turn through the forest via Minstead, where

two ponies attempted to enter the car. Note the flies on the first one’s nose as she asks Jacke for entry. The other tried the windscreen, then turned to the driver’s window. Jackie wasn’t quick enough to close her window before her visitor started scratching its chin on the glass.

Leaving the village taking the lane to the Emery Down way we greeted two cyclists, the second towing a trailer containing two little boys. Note the rhododendron Ponticum which currently lines many of the hedgerows. Muffins, the thatched house and garden, was Jackie’s favourite house when we lived in Castle Malwood Lodge.

Further along we encountered a group of assorted ponies and a little brown foal on the road. The mother of the infant became quite stroppy with one of the other mares and it became a bit lively so I re-entered the car until a truce was declared.

We continued through Emery Down, turning right to Bolderwood where

rows of deep pink foxgloves swayed among the giant redwoods of the Ornamental Drive.

For dinner this evening I slowly heated Jackie’s luscious liver and bacon casserole from the freezer while boiling new potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower to perfection. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I drank Carles Priorat 2016.


Having spent far too long last night grappling with the WordPress theme issue, and, waking up this morning to find my e-mail password rejected although I was still receiving them, I had not the heart to continue my interrupted chat with yesterday’s Happiness Engineer, so I carried on regardless.

Much of the morning was spent on the BT problem. I began by trying to reset my password on line. I won’t go into the glitches that occurred. I don’t receive paper bills any more and of course phone numbers are not given on the website, so I dug out an old invoice to find one. I was informed that there was a 20 minute queue, I therefore settled down to the usual concert of thrilling muzak. Eventually I spoke to a person. In Halifax. In England.

She was very helpful and patient but met exactly the same glitches as I had done. Finally she fed me more musical mush while she disappeared to consult a senior colleague. The advice was that the problem was at their end and would be resolved within 72 hours. Seven hours later I am now not even receiving mails.

Have I mentioned the irritating pop-up which keeps appearing and stops me closing down the computer until I kick it into touch?

Jackie, meanwhile, kept to her gardening where it was comparatively safe. Before lunch I joined her, swept the Brick Path, transported some garden refuse to the compost, and dead-headed swathes of diurnal Welsh poppies.

Later this afternoon, via Undershore,

where the majestic dogwood on the corner of Hundred Lane is at its prime,

we dropped in on Elizabeth and disturbed her washing her car. Keeping a rather generous two metres distance we yelled at each other for a while.

The heat was too much for a young thrush which sank into a neighbours cypress and sat coolly gasping.

Moon daisies line the verges of Pilley Street

where the village sign bears pendant hearts in tribute to carers,

and graffiti on a barrier fence promotes gratitude to the N.H.S.

Back home Jackie undertook more gardening and garnered photographs of pleasing views from beside the greenhouse and along the Brick Path, with a close-up of a pale blue iris.

This evening’s dinner consisted of Jackie’s succulent ratatouille moistening roast gammon; creamy mashed potato; caramelised sweet potato; firm carrots and cauliflower, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

Claggy Conditions

Although somewhat warmer, our day was dank and drizzly with no sign of the sun.

After lunch Jackie drove us to Norleywood and back.

The Scots would term the landscape’s weather dreich.

Gleaming wet bracken bounced back what light there was onto

the soggy terrain

with its fast flowing weed-carpeted, hopefully temporary, pools.

This mud-spattered pony certainly looked forlornly in need of a hot bath;

some of its companions sent ripples around their reflections as they took a cold one while drinking weed soup.

While I was drafting yesterday’s post we were very surprised to receive a call on our landline; even more surprising was that the voice at the other end was as clear as a bell.

Why was this surprising?

Well, for years we had such poor internet service from BT which I will not repeat here, that we closed the package account and kept the landline simply to retain our e-mail address. For some months now callers have reported a permanent engaged signal, and when we have tried to make a call we have been beset by crackling. Good crackling on roast pork is  welcome, but not this kind.

Jackie took this call from a BT engineer who wanted to check that he had fixed our problem. He was surprised to learn that we hadn’t reported the fault. This, incidentally, is because I was so fed up with previous responses that we thought we would make do with my mobile.

Upon investigation the engineer realised that he had corrected the wrong number – ours being one digit different from the right complainant. He came to the house and I spoke to him. Because he didn’t have a work order for ours he had to undo the repair. He did however confirm that ours was faulty at the box.

He gave me a number with which to contact the right section of the supplier to book another engineer. I did that.

The bonus was that, from a partial address the engineer had given us, I was able to investigate the possible other customer on our way back from Norleywood. I couldn’t find  the right address, but did meet a delightful woman and her son with whom I had a very pleasant conversation.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid liver and bacon casserole; creamy mashed potato; firm Brussels sprouts; and varicoloured carrots, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Pinotage.

The Foxton Flight


It rained all day today. Aaron, who could not work in such weather, came for a pleasant chat over a mug of tea.

I will not bore either my readers or myself with full details of today’s BT episode. But it does warrant a brief mention. Yesterday, as you know, I had been promised a phone call from a manager about the charge of £50 to change the name on my account. The young lady who telephoned me from India this morning was certainly no manager. When we came to an impasse she transferred me to someone in England. The best I could glean from her, after she had consulted with her manager, was that this could only be done free of charge was by changing the phone number then transferring it back. There was no guarantee that our existing number would be accurately returned. I told her, for the recording, precisely what I thought of her company, stated that it was only my reluctance to change our number and my e-mail address, that kept me with them; and that I wouldn’t bother to take her up on her kind offer.

Then I scanned another set of colour negatives from my longest walk.

I don’t usually tinker with the colours in my photographs, but I did have a play with these three landscape shots.

Sam in Pacific Pete 7.03

Beyond Oxford, Sam took to the Grand Union Canal

alongside which the footpaths were often completely overgrown, albeit

with pleasant wild flowers, such as meadowsweet and willow herb.

Of the many butterflies flitting about, I only recognised the red admirals. (See John Knifton’s comment below)

Oak leaves 7.03

The shade from trees like this oak was often welcome in the heat of the day.

About the Foxton Flight of Locks, built between 1810 and 1814, Wikipedia informs us:

‘Foxton Locks (grid reference SP691895) are ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal about 5 km west of the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and are named after the nearby village of Foxton.

They form the northern terminus of a 20-mile summit level that passes Husbands Bosworth, Crick and ends with the Watford flight

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of a group of locks where each lock opens directly into the next, that is, where the bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system.

The Grade II* listed locks are a popular tourist attraction and the county council has created a country park at the top. At the bottom, where the junction with the arm to Market Harborough is located, there are two public houses, a shop, trip boat and other facilities.’

On the day Sam guided Pacific Pete down this staircase, family visitors were out in force. For once I was ahead of my son, and reached the locks in time to learn that the canal-side telegraph was buzzing with the news that a large rowing boat was on its way through.

The audience gathered to watch Sam use his giant oar to steer and propel the boat through the locks because there was no room to row.

Asian family leaving Foxton Flight 7.03

Did you notice the Asian man gesturing to his family in the first picture, and shepherding them over the bridge in the last, in order to lead them down the slope to see the rower on his way?

Child helping at the locks 7.03

There had been no shortage of helpers to push the long balance beams operating the gates.

There were plenty of narrow boats on the waters, but no other ocean-going rowing boats.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s glorious sausage casserole; crisp carrots, cauliflower and red cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished Helen and Bill’s Malbec.

Tales From The River Bank


BT excelled themselves today. Readers will remember that on 18th December I had cancelled my useless Broadband package, and retained the landline, having to create a new account to include £5 per month to keep my e-mail address. I was told that this new account would be in my name. Even though the payment has come out of my bank account for years they have never been willing to substitute my name for that of Mrs Stockley, who is in any case now, once again, Mrs Knight.

The latest bill still includes the full package, so I went through the hoops and the wait to speak to a man with an Indian accent. He was very helpful. He assured me that there would be a refund on the next bill. But. That is still in the name of Mrs Stockley. It cannot be changed. I politely expressed my displeasure. Eventually the gentleman told me it could be changed at the cost of £50. I hit the roof, and demanded that this be lodged as a formal complaint. It took him a while, but he returned saying he had done so, and included  something to compensate for the ineffective Broadband. A manager will call me back within 48 hours. We will see.

Believe it or not, British Gas then capped this. I received, in the post, a bill for almost £700, including a sum of more than £650 I had paid by phone on 11th. I telephoned them. I went through more hoops. And another wait. I learned that the payment, like many others, had not gone through, because of a fault in their system. I was advised to check with my bank that this was so. I expressed displeasure at having to do this. The woman at British Gas offered to call me back in 20 minutes to check. My bank statement confirmed what she had said. She did ring me back. I paid the money and advised her that a simple letter of explanation enclosed with the bill would have been in the interests of customer service – something that her company could well do with.

Later, I decided to go on a long walk. Not, this time, literally. The trip was undertaken in July 2003 in a supportive fundraising effort for the epic row Sam was to undertake the following year. I have featured various anecdotes from the walk, the first appearing in ‘Nettle Rash’, before I had unearthed the negatives. I began to scan them today.

Sam took delivery of the specially designed rowing boat at Henley on Thames, and off we set on a fine Summer’s afternoon around the time of my 61st birthday. He and his friend James took the boat, whilst I walked along what I had hoped would be the footpath. I soon discovered that the banks of the River Thames and the Oxford Union canal were not as smooth and foliage free as that branch of London’s Regent’s Canal alongside which I had trained for the event.

Couple on riverbank 7.03

The stretch along which I followed this couple was plain sailing in comparison with what I had to battle through in the post highlighted above.

Lock gate 7.03

Elderly lock gates, green tresses dripping with possibly unsavoury water, were to be a regular feature of the journey. This was quite useful, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up.

Waterfowl 7.03

Waterfowl were plentiful;

Suckling goat 7.03

a woolly goat, or perhaps a sheep, suckled its young;


slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.


Numerous bridges were to be negotiated.

This house is one of those in which I enjoyed a peaceful overnight stay. The story of the most notable exception is told in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’.

These fields were probably located in the vicinity of the above house.

This evening, over dinner, we experienced more of faceless moneymakers’ scant regard for customer service. Our meal was taken at The Raj in Old Milton. On this Saturday night the carpark was virtually empty and, although the restaurant was doing brisk takeaway business, we were the only diners. The first thing we noticed was that, entering the parking area as usual we found ourselves passing through no entry sign. Then came the frequent notices stating that parking at any time, was only permitted for 20 minutes and anyone overstaying would be charged £100. Jackie parked in the street outside and I spoke to the  manager. Apparently, with no warning whatever to the row of shops fronting the parking area, the landlord of some of the buildings has implemented the restriction. Many of the outlets, including The Raj, are freeholders who bought their buildings with free parking included. The first owners of the Raj building did so in 1962. There are two other caterers in the block. None of their customers could eat and leave in 20 minutes. All the occupants of the block have joined in making a legal protest.

Jackie chose chicken sag; I chose king prawn khata; we shared a plain paratha and special fried rice, and both drank Cobra beer.







Plein Air Painting

A BT engineer spent most of the morning with us. He found a fault in the line up the street, a faulty hub and possibly a faulty TV Box. The good news is that this was all the provider’s equipment, so we will not have to pay £130 for the privilege. The engineer would put all this in his report. He thought we might be able to use BT on our laptops. We tried after he had left. We couldn’t. Neither could we access Players and Apps on our TV.

We just had time to collect our Antipodean dollars from the bank at Lymington before it was James Peacock’s turn to administer to our internet. He brought a new modem for the EE line, and activated Players and Apps through that. Everything is now working brilliantly.

BT Broadband clearly has to go. I now had a dilemma. I could ring BT and cancel their package, or we could drive to Tanner’s Lane and catch the sunset. There wasn’t time to do both.

No prizes for guessing that we caught the sunset over the beach;

honking swans flying across the backdrop of the Isle of Wight;

along the lane itself;


 donkeys employed in pruning a holly hedge;

Sunset 11

and masts of yachts in Lymington harbour.

Sunset painting

Whilst walking along the shingle at Tanner’s Lane beach I admired the plein air painting of Barry Peckham. My camera lens at deep dusk has failed to do justice to this friendly man’s accurate rendering of a painting executed in the short time available. The delicacy with which he has captured the skies, and reflections on the water is most impressive.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pork baked in mustard and brown sugar, topped with almonds and served on sautéed mushrooms and onions; boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.


Magic And Witchcraft

Technology is fine when it works, but you really can’t trust it. Yesterday I discovered that O’Neill Patient had never received my complaints letter. Having paid the extra fee for tracking and recording delivery, it never occurred to me that I would not get what I had paid for. When the Royal Mail website indicated that the letter had been posted, but not that it had been delivered, it was with some difficulty that I found a telephone number which I rang, in the hope of speaking to a person. Of course I got a machine giving options which didn’t quite cover my situation. This meant waiting for an adviser and listening to music for 16 minutes. The person who eventually came on the line advised me, with profuse apologies, that the package had neither been delivered nor retained. I could claim compensation if there was anything valuable inside. I said I didn’t think they would compensate me for embarrassment, and I couldn’t  be bothered to claim back the postage. I e-mailed a copy of the letter to the solicitor.

Early this morning the solicitor phoned me to check that I had received his e-mail saying he had never received the letter. I replied that I had, and that I had e-mailed a copy. He had never received that e-mail. I sent it again. It bounced back. Eventually he did receive it, but couldn’t open the attachment because it was an iMac document and they run on Windows. He passed it to his IT team to see if they could convert it. They couldn’t.

Becky entered the fray and learned that in my earliest mail I had misspelled the firm’s name. She then sent the letter as a PDF document and Mr Bourke received and acknowledged it.

While I was in the mood, I telephoned BT sales department concerning our constant interruption of Broadband connection. I asked for an engineer visit. It was two hours before one was booked. Two hours spent on the telephone.

I went through the history of our problems with the first man. He tried to sell me Fibreoptic Infinity. I gave him the story of one of his predecessors assuring me, despite my questioning it, having sold me it. This had resulted in 5 different engineer visits. Only on the fifth was I informed that we were too far from the cabinet from which supply is transferred. We returned to the older system. He said he wasn’t technical and would transfer me to someone who could help. “Please don’t send me to India and have me put through checks I have carried out numerous times before”, I asked. He said he wouldn’t. With no further contact he sent me to India.

I was then subjected to the whole array of usual checks. Since the woman was very polite and patient, I was the same with her. I did, however, stating that I didn’t like saying so because I did not want to be rude, mention that her accent was a problem, for example when she asked me to take the plug out of the “ello” port on the back of the hub, I struggled to realise that she meant “yellow”. As a non-technical person, I had been seeking L O.

She also spoke about superfast broadband. Once more I carefully explained our experience with that. After 25 minutes she said that our contract only allowed for 1 megabyte, so we needed to increase this. She then wanted to do more tests which I declined when she assured me that the increase could be arranged with the old type of cable. There is now no doubt that something had been lost in translation.

Back I went to the sales department. The conversation I’d had with the previous adviser was repeated almost word for word, except that he said I would need superfast cable. He then offered to transfer me to a technician. I insisted it should be someone in England. He complied with this, and gave me the number to which he was referring me.

An English technician ran the checks and called me back when she had finished. She said that the usual tolerance they work to is 4 drops a day. We have 92. An engineer has been booked for the 18th. If it turns out to be our equipment that is at fault it will cost me £130. That was not the case the last time engineers visited. Fingers crossed.

Well, that took care of the morning.

What better antidote to wrestling with the 21st Century mystifying technical progress than to lose myself in a book first published in 1921, relating a mystical story set in the thirteenth century – publication before the internet was invented, and taking us back to a time when even printing itself had not been invented.

This afternoon I finished another book by James Branch Cabell illustrated by Frank C, Papé. This was the Bodley Head 1925 edition enhanced by Papé’s illustrations.

The work is ‘Figures of Earth – a Comedy of Appearances’.  Although containing some beautifully poetic descriptive passages this rather picaresque fantasy novel to my mind lacks cohesive direction. The ‘figures’ of the title provides an intriguing wordplay device for tracking the main protagonist’s journey through a life concertinaed by magic and witchcraft.  Manuel is dominated by his desires prompting him to make unwise choices. He suffers from the rather common ailment of attainment providing less satisfaction than the thrill of the search. As usual I will not betray the story. The are five sections to the tale, each one dedicated to a different literary friend who defended him against the charge of obscenity brought against his earlier novel, Jurgen. Perhaps the stork depicted in a couple of the images below was a an attempt to avoid further controversy.

Although the author clearly has his tongue in cheek, this novel lacks the lightness of touch demonstrated in ‘Domnei’, highlighted above. As always, Papé is in tune with Cabell, and produces brilliant illustrations. There are vignettes throughout and decorations on each dedication page.

I have chosen to feature the twelve main illustrations, and would draw attention to the way in which the artist depicts perspective by lightening his line where appropriate.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jafrezi, pilau rice and vegetable samosas. I drank more of the Malbec.




James, of Peacock Computers, returned today to set up the fibre optic broadband.

He began with his coat on, but soon discarded it. Naturally, I don’t fully understand the process. Actually, I don’t understand it at all. Lots of clicking of the mouse was involved. Various differently designed and coloured boxes appeared on the screen. Much scrolling up and down ensued. After lots of details and numbers were inserted, James got down on his knees. This was not to thank The Lord, but to read routers on the floor. Telephone calls were made with the service providers. A speed test revealed green and yellow blocks of colour showing download and upload speeds. The problematic upload speed is now five times that which it was before.

James Peacock

To ensure that the problem really was sorted, we uploaded the above photographs, beginning with this one of James.

Such is the monopoly of BT in this country that they supply all the phone lines, but are incapable of installing a fibre optic broadband more than 1 kilometre from the cabinet that contains the necessary equipment. That has to be done by another company who cannot supply the lines.

Christmas tree

In the meantime, Jackie has made a start on decorating the Christmas tree.

Haddock and chips

We have often walked past Lymington Fish Bar on the way to Lal Qilla, but never before entered it. On a recent post featuring Lymington Quay, a reader named Rob spoke of how he had loved to eat their fish and chips whilst seated on the harbour wall. This was the prompt we needed. We dined there this evening on cod/haddock, chips, and onion rings. Jackie drank San Miguel and I drank a good Italian pino grigio. Food and service was excellent. A good recommendation, Rob.