The Dappled Trunk

This morning I could no longer put off changing the lightbulbs bought yesterday. The picture light which I can reach with the aid of our small stepladder was done then. Three more at ceiling height were a different proposition.

Derrick carrying stepladderDerrick with stepladder in hallA major task ensued, not the least for the photographer who had to get down on the floor whilst I was scaling the ladder. But first things first. The larger ladder, once discovered in the hall of the other side of the house where reside the unreachable electricity meters, had to be obtained, carried across the front of the building, and negotiated into our flat and through the hall corridor.

Derrick changing spotlight in bayDerrick changing kitchen spotlightThen came the scary bit. The spots in the bay and the kitchen are the highest, but the bayonet fitting bulb in the sitting room is actually the most daunting. This is because two hands are required. The first time I replaced this one the old article was very stiff and tended to throw me off balance when it yielded. Derrick changing sitting room lightbulbThat was managed from the platform of our smaller ladder. No way was I trying that again.

There is a lot of internal illumination in our flat, and it tends to fail with some regularity. So you see, if, to quote someone I once met, ‘all I ever [did] around here [was] change lightbulbs’, I’d be kept quite busy.

Before a salad lunch based on a Ferndene Farm shop pork pie, I walked through the underpass and along Malwood Farm and the stream. I had intended to cross the sandbagged ford, but this proved to be far too muddy, so I carried on along the watercourse, eventually returning the way I had come.

Blocked pathFallen tree blocking pathFallen treesFallen treeSun through shattered treeThe recent terrible arboreal toll necessitated searching out new footpaths not blocked by fallen trees.

It has been reported that three main areas of The New Forest have lost 300 memorable trees. If all we see around us have not been included the losses must be considerably greater.

Mossy rootsMalwood streamTradition has it that in England the  month of March ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. This March has come in like a lamb. The lion’s visit was in February.

This is why I ventured this way today. Apart from the ford mentioned above the terrain is less boggy and the stream not so full as often.

Sun and trees reflectedSunlight finds its way through the deciduous trees and sparkles in the tinkling water, dappling the surfaces around. My feet rustled the dried leaves. A helicopter chugged overhead. The farm dogs barked. A flapping in some bushes was followed by the splendid flash of a male pheasant as it flew off at my approach.

Pony track

Ponies, as always, have found their way past obstacles.

Dappled trunkOne particular trunk took me back to the early 1970s. Page 13 of Becky’s Book features a similar dappled effect on a tree and the fence beside it. I was inspired to make this drawing when gazing out of a children’s home window during a child care review. I was of course fully concentrating on the matter in hand, but took the memory home with me.

Later in the afternoon, idling on my laptop, I looked up Bing images for Castle Malwood Lodge. To my amazement, I discovered that 63, the vast majority of the photographs shown, were taken from my WordPress posts. They were of the house and garden; of Minstead and the forest around; of Elizabeth’s house in West End; even shots from the plane on the way back from Sigoules. Google’s tally was rather less, but it did include a photograph of Regent Street lights from fifty years ago, and Becky’s profile picture from her childhood. Jackie drew up a different Google set which also included my mug shot.

Yesterday’s liver and bacon casserole (recipe) provided our dinner this evening. A casserole surely does improve the next day. Even the Bergerac after three days was unblemished.

Confusing Exchange

Upper Drive bent tree

Here is one I made earlier.

I forgot to post this Upper Drive shot yesterday. Trees in the New Forest don’t just fall down. They grow into all kinds of unusual shapes, such as this one forming a perfect arch through which one can glimpse the A31.

Last night I began reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel ‘The House of the Seven Gables’.

After an early lunch today Jackie drove me to Donna-Marie’s in Poulner where I was given my quarterly haircut. Fortunately the weather is a little warmer at the moment. We then went on to Lidl in Totton for a shop. As is not unusual, although we had only gone there for milk, a trolley was requested. We managed to fill it.

As is well known a coin is required to free the supermarket trolley from its chain of companions. Inserting your £1 into the slot pushes out the locking key and you may take your wheeled contraption into the store. Having made your purchases and loaded your car you push your key into the last trolley in the line, out pops your £1, and the key remains in the other basket on wheels until someone else inserts another £1, and so on ad infinitum. Until, that is, one customer has difficulty understanding what he must do to obtain his trolley, consequently holds up the proceedings, and the person waiting to return his and collect £1, decides to confuse the issue even more, by suggesting that he swaps his trolley for the other gentleman’s £1.

Today, I was that helpful stranger. It seemed quite straightforward to me. But not to the struggling newcomer. He grasped my trolley, clearly wondering what was in the transaction for my benefit. Perhaps this was because he was more than reluctant to hand over his coin. There he was, one fist wrapped around the trolley handle, and the fingers and thumb of his other hand gripping £1 as if he had a wrench attached to his arm.

His companion, who had readily agreed to the exchange, tactfully informed me that he would not be happy until I tried to put the £1 he had given me into the slot occupied by my original coin. Of course it wouldn’t budge. I think it then became clear to him that what we were actually doing was swapping coins and when he had finished shopping, he would be able to receive his part of the bargain and collect my £1. Whether or not this was so, he released the coin he had been hanging on to, and allowed me to dash off with it before he changed his mind.

Just writing this out is doing my head in. Goodness knows what the encounter did to his. Or the reading to yours.

On our return down Upper Drive we witnessed the unusual sight of three donkeys foraging where I had wandered yesterday. Donkey 3Donkey 2Donkey 1Even ponies and deer are rare visitors to this small section of forest, so it was quite a surprise to see donkeys there.

Early this evening I took a clamber around the outside perimeter of the grounds. I have written before that the garden is surrounded by its own trees and shrubbery merged into the forest and bounded by a strong wire fence. The house having been built high up on the site of an Iron Age hill fort, the land beyond the fence drops sharply. I followed a path trodden by surer footed creatures than me, who did not have to travel hand over hand clinging to the fence on the left or leaning on a tree to the right taking a clockwise direction. Only once did I slither, slide, and career down the bank coming to an abrupt halt as my outstretched palms eagerly slapped into a welcome forest giant.

Reaching a point from which I could progress no further, I discovered where the deer gain ingress and egress. Broken fenceOvergrown rhododendrons and fallen trees have brought the boundary wire down to a level which perhaps I could, in my distant days as a second row forward, have leapt. When we next enjoy a clear morning light, I will make a photo shoot.Castle Malwood Lodge at dusk Finishing by circumperambulating the lawns I watched the sun sink behind the building. DaffodilsThe first daffodils are coming into bloom.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi (recipe), with spicy wild rice (turmeric, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon  and garam masala added to the boiled version). I drank Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon 2013 and the chef didn’t.

Residential History Continued

As stated yesterday, Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I moved to Lindum House in Beacon Hill Road Newark, on 10th December 1987.  This home was large enough for all the southern family members to come and stay, and they often did.  Sam, Louisa & friends 5.89Its large garden was a haven for children, as evidenced by this photograph from Louisa’s Birthday party in May 1989.  The games were organised by Kate, a teenaged baby sitter.  Sam gleefully advances in a T-shirt that for some reason I don’t remember sports my signature.  Louisa sits a little behind and to his side.  All the children in the photograph were regular visitors until the house was sold in 2006; some, as they grew older, would often stay overnight, particularly if they lived in villages outside the town and had socialised in it.  By now I was using an Olympus OM2. I cannot find the negative so this reproduction is from a scanned print.

With Jessica’s death from multiple myeloma now a matter of time the house was sold in December of that year and I rented a flat in Hyde Park Square, SW London.  The story of this three week fiasco is told in ‘Aaargh!’.  Chesterton’s, clearly feeling they owed me something, provided me with a six month let in a house in Leinster Mews, just opposite Kensington Gardens.  After this I had three years at 29 Sutherland Place, in the lounge of which I am seated in Alex Schneideman’s portrait featured in ‘Showstopper’.

By the summer of 2010, Jackie and I, now reunited, took a flat in The Ridgway SW19, a street in which I had dreamed of living throughout my childhood.  This establishment is described in ‘A Professional Clean’.

Castle Malwood Lodge 10.12

P.S. I pressed Publish prematurely again.  After a year in The Ridgway we moved, until Jackie’s retirement, to a quirky little 1930s flat in Links Avenue, Morden, which we left in November 2012 for Castle Malwood Lodge, in Minstead, Hampshire.  We have the ground floor flat on the right hand corner of the photograph.

Gladstone’s Landmark

Christmas lights 12.63002Today’s advent photograph is a detail of yesterday’s, taken in December 1963.  To me, it resembles a jewelled necklace with a pendant bauble.

On Saturday, from our solicitor, we received a batch of papers pertaining to our prospective house purchase.  There were three problems with these.  One document to be signed jointly before a witness was not enclosed; another was presented for a purpose to which it was irrelevant; and finally there was a discrepancy between the contents of the seller’s declaration about the property and a letter from his solicitor.  I spent the morning trying to contact our man and finally discussing the issues with a colleague he had asked to phone me. She was very helpful.  My points were all valid and I don’t smell any rats here.  I guess it is just par for the course these days. From Furzey Gardens road

The slowly lowering sun lent a welcome glow to the now familiar landscape, somewhat offsetting the chill atmosphere lacking cloud cover, as I walked the Matthew and Oddie route this afternoon.  Those trees still blessed with leaves upstaged their naked neighbours.  Light does change a landscape dramatically.

Castle Malwood Lodge stands surrounded by the New Forest.  Over the years the forest has been allowed to encroach upon the perimeter, so much so that some trees and shrubs such as the now massive and varied rhododendrons seem to belong outside.  It was Mo who told me about Gladstone’s sequoia, and in particular that it stands so tall that Sequoia from Minsteadlocal people use it as a landmark.  This potential giant, planted in the garden, appears now to be part of the forest.  From the garden to which it truly belongs, because the land slopes down towards the road from Upper Drive, it does not look that much higher than other trees nearby, so I have always been puzzled as to how it can been seen from so far off. Today, seeing the tree line from the Upper Drive road, for the first time I gazed across at our sequoia standing proud. Sequoia from Minstead 2 I now know how this giant, presumably still in its infancy, is regarded as such a talisman.

Beech leavesOn the approach to  Rufuston, beech trees could still feel the sun’s rays, but, once I was high up on Forest Road, Setting sun on brackenit was beginning to sink below the heathland’s horizon.

Pines and moonThe moon then seemed impatient to replace its daytime cousin.  It climbed into the blue sky waiting for the dark green of the pines to edge Sequoia and moonout the deep russet still high on the evergreens’ trunks.

Still early in this day approaching the shortest of the year, I returned home at dusk.  Lingering any later along the unlit lanes of Minstead would not have been a good idea.  The moon, by then, had despatched the sun to bed, and seemed poised to alight atop Gladstone’s Christmas tree.

Dinner this evening was a tender braised steak with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and butter beans; carrots, brussels, and anya potatoes; followed by apple pie and custard.  I drank some more Saint Emilion, and Jackie a little Hoegaarden.

Proof Of Identity

Old Post House001

This has been a reading week.  I have managed French and German philosophy, and an English historical novel.  But when it came to the electricity meter my performance was subject to certain shocks.

In my experience, Southern Electric are the most reliable and understandable of the UK’s multiplicity of utility companies.  They give you a discount for paying promptly and have a fairly smooth system.  They do actually read the meters every six months.  Our current bill is estimated.  That document is easy enough to read, but I do like to pay for what we have actually used.  So I had to read the meter.

First of all, I had to find it.  There isn’t one in our flat, although there is a cobweb-filled fuse box, that on the estate agents inventory was marked as not inspected because it was too high up on the wall.  About ten feet in fact.

Electricity meter locationThere are two entrance halls in our huge building.  No meters were to be found in ours.  Using the trades entrance to the other side of Castle Malwood Lodge, Jackie found a vast cupboard over there full of meters, none of which was ours.  The ceilings are about 11 feet high.  Above the cupboards Jackie searched are two smaller, locked, ones.  Access to these required a perch on a long stepladder.

There are seventeen flats in our building (no number 13, so 1-18).  Each has its own meter.  Some of these are indicated by pencil or pen marks on the walls; some by ancient curled-up Dymo marker strips.  Ours is number 4.  It was therefore somewhat surprising to find that our meter was the only one in the top left cupboard.  Up I had climbed to the cupboard; unlocked it; climbed down and moved the ladder so I could open the door; climbed back up, opened the said door, and identified the number embossed on the curly Dymo strip as ours.

Electricity meterIt should have been straightforward from then on.  However, the device contained a window displaying three sets of numbers in rapidy changing turns.  Being on Economy 7 tariff our bill showed one total for Day use and another for Night use.  Two of the numbers with which I was confronted bore some resemblance to those on the bill.  The other didn’t.

It was time to telephone the supplier.  Going through the usual machine-led hoops, I eventually spoke to a very helpful woman who lives in a laird’s cottage in Scotland.  From this information you will know that we got on quite well.  Having kept me on hold while she sought advice, she abandoned trying to talk me through pressing buttons on the meter once I had managed to convey the logistics of making my way back to it with a phone in my hand.  I paid the estimated bill and the meter will be read next time.

But we may not be here then, for this afternoon we visited the bank in Ringwood where we gained a positive response to the possibility of a loan should we have a shortfall on the stamp duty on The Old Post House.  We forgot about this exorbitant tax on buying somewhere to live. Old Post House002 After this we drove to Spencer’s in Lymington to offer proof that we are who we said we were and that we live at the address we gave the agent.  Passports proved our identity, and it seemed appropriate to use the above-mentioned utility bill as evidence of residence.  I did apologise for having scribbled all over it.

Have I mentioned that one of the radiators for which we are paying rent doesn’t work?  I thought not.  Purely by coincidence, the manager of the electrical firm engaged to fix this, telephoned me when I was grappling with the meter problem.  He wanted to send someone this afternoon.  I said we were going out.  He suggested making another appointment.  Without actually quoting Oscar Wilde, I pointed out that the two previous appointments had been cancelled on the relevant days through someone calling in sick.  I didn’t mention that the great Irish epigrammatist may have thought this careless, but I did suggest we may not be able to rely on a third one.  He was somewhat chastened by this and undertook to send someone to be here when we returned home.  Two men did come, only ten minutes late, and having rung us to let us know.  They confirmed that the radiator doesn’t work, and, as for every other task needed in the flat, they have to go back to Penyards, the agent, for permission to do further work. I tried not to get too wired up about it.

The beautifully presented smoked haddock meal we enjoyed, and I photographed, on 2nd May, was repeated this evening.  The wine was the same except that it was Roc Saint Vincent 2011.

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.

Peterson’s Folly

There is no O2 signal at Castle Malwood Lodge today.  After the period in France I began to worry.  I rang O2.  The French and English experiences are allegedly coincidental.  The man I spoke to, from our landline, of course, told me that O2 had had a complete shutdown yesterday, but all should be back to normal now.  He advised me to take out both battery and SIM card, wipe the card with a dry cloth, and reinsert both the card and the battery.  He didn’t await the outcome.  I did what he said.  There was no difference.  I rang again.  A machine told me that they were inundated with phone calls and couldn’t take mine, so I would have to try later.

Along the A31, on the way to do some banking in Ringwood, I had a signal.  I guess I will just have to be patient at home.  Or I could just chuck the phone through  the window.

EarringThe earring still adorns the information board in Ringwood car park.  It has now been hooked over a metal staple and sways seductively in the breeze.

Our business concluded, Jackie drove us to Sway, on the other side of the forest.  Today’s objective was the Sway Tower, which our friend Sheila had sought on her last visit.  As thorough as ever, Jackie had Googled the landmark and walked the walk on the internet.  Able to retain such information, she took us straight there. This Grade 11 listed building is 66m or 200 ft tall.  Fashioned from concrete made of Portland cement, it is the tallest non-reinforced concrete structure in the world.  It was built by Judge Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson on his private estate from 1879 to 1885, and is, unsurprisingly, known as Peterson’s folly.  Originally intended as a mausoleum and advertisement for the material from which it was made, it is now a private house.  Despite having been, except for the window supports, constructed entirely of concrete, this is rather an attractive edifice.

Sway Tower

As I mounted the steps up to the gate leading to the house next door on the right, I coughed, alerting a most friendly young woman who was pegging out her washing.  She was almost eager to come out and tell us what she knew of the building, including its reincarnation as a private dwelling.  There is another house to the left.  The ruined folly was virtually in the garden of that property.  These neighbours sold their own house, bought the tower, and refurbished it.  Fire regulations do not allow residence above the fourth floor, because there is no passing space on the narrow staircase.  This information had not surprised Jackie too much because she had clocked the curtains.

A plentiful salad provided our evening sustenance with which I drank some Belle Tour Merlot 2012 from the Pays d’Oc.