The Foxton Flight

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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

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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;

Riders

slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.

Bridge

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

 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.

 

Sorted

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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.

‘I Wouldn’t Dare’

My friend Geoff Le Pard, this time, gave me the correct location of the former Gosling home. It is actually on the corner of Woodcock Lane and Silver Street. Jackie drove me out there this morning.

Silver Thatch 1

I would imagine the gates are rather different than those Geoff would have known.

Agars Lane

Although very convenient for photographing Agars Lane, opposite, the strong sun immediately above the central gable militated against a head-on shot, so

Silver Thatch 2Silver Thatch 3

I walked down the Woodcock Lane side hoping for less glare. The very high fence is protected by the deep water-filled ditch alongside it.

Silver Thatch 4

Finally, a helpful cloud dimmed the haze at the front and I was able to take a reasonable view.

Having sight of such a splendid abode made it easy to forgive our friend for sending us on a Wild Goose Chase a couple of days ago.

This afternoon I dipped into the selection of rediscovered negatives once more. A reinforced envelope addressed to Elizabeth, containing a letter and a strip of four colour negs would have been impossible for me to identify had not the letter been dated November 2003. My sister had obviously asked, as is her wont, to borrow these treasures to ‘work on the images’. I must have ‘filed’ the package in a drawer when she returned it to me.

One of these photos, from July 2003, was hopelessly out of focus, and another was of no great interest. I scanned and worked on

Deadly nightshade fruit

the fruit of deadly nightshade pictured alongside London’s Regents Canal,

Dandelion seeds on canal water

and dandelion seeds floating on the water.

Someday I must compare with Elizabeth what we each did with them.

When, later this afternoon, I came to begin drafting this post, we lost our Broadband connection. Not only that, but all BT’s telephone lines, even including the sales number, were engaged. I may have uttered the odd expletive. And possibly some not at all odd.

There was nothing for it but to lose myself in Josephine Tey’s elegant novel, ‘Brat Farrer’. After a couple of hours or so were back on line. Having calmed down somewhat I asked Jackie to remind me that there was no point in doing anything other than sitting and waiting when this happened again. ‘I wouldn’t dare’, she said.

Jackie fetched, and we ate, a meal from Hordle Chinese Take Away this evening. We drank water.

Whilst Jackie was out, I checked the line again. All was well, except that I could not access WordPress because ‘the server was not replying’. I really was comparatively calm when I rang Apple Support after dinner. The server replied whilst I was in the Apple queue. It seems my patience had borne fruit. I left the queue and posted this.

Imperial Leather

Jackie spent the morning weeding and planting. I chipped in with an hour of clearing up the leaves and other debris from our recent burning session.

After lunch I received a call from BT level 2. This is a more experienced adviser than the poor cannon fodder who field the first problem calls. Since we have had no interruption for the past eighteen hours or so, and I am convinced the problem is outside the house, I was not willing to waste my time or hers by going through the checks all over again, whilst I hung on to the phone when I could be doing something else. We compromised. I hung up. She asked me a few questions, then ran the checks, and called me back.

Well. What do you know? The problem is outside the house. Something I have been saying for a fortnight. There was a term for this, which I didn’t catch, since it was spoken in an Indian accent. There are three possible areas of difficulty: the exchange, the cabinet in the street, or underground. At least that is what I understood. An engineer is to be given the task of investigating this, and I will receive a phone call in three to four days time.

I was at last being given some sense, but we won’t hold our breath.

Our new bath was delivered on Thursday when I was in London. The man who brought it would not help take it upstairs because he wasn’t insured for that. At least he put bit in the hall, which is where it stayed until Jackie and I took it up ourselves. It helped me relax after yet another long distance technical conversation.

Sprinkler and cosmos

We then planted up yesterday’s three rose purchases and gave the whole of the rose garden a good sprinkling.

Rose Garden 1Rose Garden 2

These are two views from the bench by the orange shed.

Clerodendron trichotomum

The clerodendrum trichotomum undergoes quite a metamorphosis during its flowering. In future posts I will demonstrate this.

Butterfly Speckled Wood

Butterflies, such as the Speckled Wood, are enjoying the sunshine.

18108983_Soap_167533cWhen our new bath is installed our visitors may well be supplied with Imperial Leather soap. Alexander Tom Cussons 14.7.1875 – 20.8.51, chairman of the eponymous company, is best known for manufacturing this body cleansing agent.  He also manufactured a number of others which have since been discontinued. These included Apple Blossom, Linden Blossom, Lilac Blossom, Blue Hyacinth, and beautiful rose perfumed soap that led to the naming of the famous Wendy Cussons Rose. The rose was bred by Gregory & Sons of Nottingham, and was intended to be named after Tom’s daughter Marjorie, but instead she asked for it to be named after her brother’s wife, Wendy as she bore the name Cussons. This extremely successful fragrant hybrid tea has won many awards, and is still available today, over 50 years after its introduction.

Rose Wendy Cussons

Ours is now blooming.

This evening we dined on pork spare ribs in spicy barbecue sauce, savoury rice, and boiled new potatoes, followed by vanilla ice cream. Neither of us imbibed.