A String Of Pearls

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A week ago we had celebrated Shelly’s birthday at a party in her garden sheltering under a marquee from the sun. Today it was the turn of Ron’s 70th.

Raindrops on marquee with upside down bunting

This time raindrops dripped from that same tent. The 70 bunting, blown by the wind, stuck, upside down, to the awning.

Guests under marquee 1Guests under marquee 2

Of the guests, numbering some forty people, only the hardened drinkers availed themselves of the somewhat soggy outside protection.

Umbrella and shoes

It was definitely a day for umbrellas.

Guest 1Guest 2Guest 3Guest 5Guest 4

Most of the guests gathered inside.

Guests greeting

Some, who knew each other, were pleasantly surprised at each other’s presence.

Helen and Billy

Last week’s event had been mostly for family members. This one was largely attended by friends, but grandparents, like Helen putting on Billy’s shoes

Helen and Max

or simply revelling in Max, were welcome.

Shelly and guest

Great aunts, Shelly

Jackie and Max 1Max 1

and Jackie also made much of Max,

Max and pearls 1Max and pearls 2Max and pearls 3

who maintained a firm grip on Jackie’s pearls;

Billy

while his brother Billy wheeled his cars across the table.

Stephanie and Max

Stephanie did manage to have a go with her younger son when the older generation allowed it.

Bill doing quiz

Ron had thoughtfully provided a quiz spanning the seventy years of his life ‘in case no-one turned up’. He needn’t have worried about that. Bill

Guest doing quiz

and other guests got stuck into this with bemused enthusiasm.

Donna

Donna was perhaps exempt from this game because her partner, Neil, was involved in the marking.

None was more surprised than Jackie and me when we won the competition, possibly because Becky and Ian had arrived after the judging had begun. Our daughter had completed the test on her own and in a hurry, yet scored only one point less than us.

Guest eating jalfrezi 1Guest eating jalfrezi 2

Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi with sag or peas ponir and savoury rice was a great success. All was eaten in a very short space of time except for one helping saved by a guest who wished to wait until he had room for it.

LordBeariofBow’s comment below provides this most appropriate addition:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg2vtWezWbw   Thanks, Brian.

Shelly’s fish pie and lasagne were also excellent, as were trifle and cakes produced by Jackie’s two sisters. Red and white wine and various beers were imbibed.

Precipitation

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Keeping out of the kitchen this morning was just not an option. The enticing aromas of tonight’s dinner would not permit it. Preparation of Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi was under way. The spicy fragrance and enticing colours of food from the Indian sub-continent would, if necessary, compensate for lack of taste. They don’t even have to think about that, for their flavours are second to none.

Chicken jalfrezi 1

Initially I resisted, until the bubbling sauce got the better of me;

Chicken jalfrezi 2

and the tomato puree added rich colour.

Chicken jalfrezi 3

Jackie normally likes to fry the chopped chicken pieces separately, but they had not been defrosted in time, so

Chicken jalfrezi 4

in they slid,

Chicken jalfrezi 5

and the tempting mixture continued cooking, until,

Chicken jalfrezi 6

with the addition of ample chicken stock, the pan simmered away the early part of the afternoon,

Chicken jalfrezi 7

until the lid was removed to release the condensed liquid and allow the meal to thicken up.

Heavy overnight rain and a thick cloud layer rendered the garden an inverted version of the pan lid. When the precipitation ceased

Fly and raindrops on crab apple blossom

a bedraggled fly still sought shelter among the liquid drops on the crab apple blossom;

Clematis

our first large blue clematis bloom had taken a battering;

Rhododendron

and the first offerings of an early rhododendron,

Rose Shropshire Lad

rose Shropshire Lad,

Peony

and tree peony, were all somewhat soggy.

Early this evening the weather was dry enough for us to sit in the rose garden for pre-dinner drinks. The higher and brighter notes of the small birds combined with the deeper ones of the wood pigeons, against the repeated refrain of The Needles lighthouse fog warning.

Rose Madame Alfred Carriere and raindrops

A weeping Madame Alfred Carriere had popped out during the day,

Misty background

in time to catch the mist rolling in from the sea.

Meat samosas, egg fried rice, and paneer in a curry sauce, were served with the aforementioned stependous jalfrezi.  Sticky toffee pudding and cream was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I started another bottle of the Cotes du Rhone.

Problems With Networks

This morning we took a trip by car to the municipal dump which is a short distance away, between home and Lymington. Carpet and toilet seats for dumpFollowing our tidy up of the skip pile we took down the back seats of the Modus and loaded it with the dog-sodden carpet (one of the items the previous owners had left for us thinking they might be useful); the rancid toilet seats; a few stale paint pots; bits of lino and other carpet; and a some other small objects, and joyfully tossed them into the various bays in the waste disposal and recycling centre. True to family tradition, we did not go away empty-handed, because Jackie bought four plastic window boxes from the Sales Area.

Flushed with the success of recovering the garden’s irrigation system, Jackie applied herself to the apparent ornament in the form of a sunburst which she thought must be a sprinkler. SprinklerShe rigged it up, attached a hose, turned on the tap, and the sun spiralled spinning arcs of water around an area large enough to keep us leaping for dry land. There must have been a rainbow somewhere, but I couldn’t see one.

Clematis montanaClematis montana pushing fence overYesterday afternoon I had begun tackling a tangled mass of ancient clematis Montana and brambles, each with stems as thick as small trees, which were pushing the kitchen garden fence onto the lshrubs next door. It wasn’t long before I realised that our neighbours were suffering an invasion such as the lonicera one that beset us on the other side of our property. I needed to discuss with Bev what I planned to do. She was out. I left her a message. She responded a little later than I would have wished to start, so we agreed to meet this morning. Our very friendly neighbour was happy for me to deal with our side and said she would take care of theirs. A young horse chestnut that had no business being there was providing boughs to add to the jumble. That would have to go as well.

On our return from the dump, I got stuck in to the task. And the brambles got stuck into me. Unbelievably, three very old members of the most prolific of clematis specimens had been trained against the fence and never pruned.

During our lunchtime break our phone emitted a squeak and we lost our telephone and broadband connection. We waited a while for it to right itself. It didn’t, so I girded my loins and made the call. On my mobile, of course. BT, like all conglomerates that have outgrown their user friendliness provides a machine to respond to customers. I am sure my readers are all familiar with the rigmarole that I was presented with, so I won’t go into great detail in a rant. I will say, however, that it is no help whatsoever to be given choices of reporting either a problem with the phone or with the broadband when you have problems with both. Eventually I conveyed to the robot’s voice that we had a fault. I was put on hold whilst this was checked. Whilst on hold I was told, repeatedly, that I could go on line and use the self-help facility. The chance would have been a fine thing.

Eventually I received confirmation that we had a fault and an engineer would be arranged. Should the fault lie with our own equipment this would cost £130. If the fault was their fault I presume it would then be repaired free of charge. The problem would be resolved by the end of the day on 7th of this month.

I raged back into the garden to take out my frustration on the clematises. Whilst I was doing this Jackie came out to tell me we were back on line. The BT machine had taken my mobile phone number and promised to keep me updated by text. Or I could follow progress on the website. I wasn’t told how I could do that. I received one text confirming this. No more. Had Jackie not periodically checked, we would have been none the wiser. At no time was I ever given the option to talk to an adviser, which is what they usually call a real person.

Fence partially clearedNet supporting clematisI managed to clear two of the clematises, and to remove the offending conker tree. Whoever had trained the plants, had fixed a thick wire network reaching a foot above the six foot fence. When I came to the third tree that should have been a shrub, I found that the weight of the tangled mass had brought the top section of the network forward, so I had that vying with the brambles to take my eye out.

PoppiesAlready ragged from the BT experience, and letting forth a somewhat less than mild imprecation, I determined to tackle that one tomorrow; admired the new poppies, and lit a bonfire.

Chicken jalfrezi & rice and peasHaving burned some more of the cuttings pile I joined Jackie for a delicious meal of her juicy chicken jalfrezi (recipe) which was just the job. Ice cream was to follow. I drank Las Primas Gran Familia tempranillo 2013.

‘You Do Get About Don’t You?’

Landscape

Water coming off fieldDitchAlthough still rather windy, the morning after the storm dawned bright and sunny. On a springlike day rooks cawed on the wing and smaller birds sang in the trees or squabbled, flapping, in the bushes as the females fled the males. Water still poured off the fields and trickled down the gullies or roared into ditches as I walked the two fords ampersand.

A Highway Maintenance team had just finished patching the pitted tarmac at Seamans Corner.Highway Maintenance They agreed they were very busy at the moment. The rest of the team declined to be photographed and left the youngest member to face the camera.

Gloves and banana skinLaneClear streams rolled off the fields onto the lanes of Minstead. Two odd gloves and a banana skin nestling in one of the pools must have a story to tell.

Rivulets crossing the fords were still swollen, so much so that when I stood in the water to photograph the torrent, my socks were soaked.Ford

Ford waterTelephone boxThe telephone box at Newtown bears a notice informing us that coins are not accepted. Since there is nothing inside I wonder who might be considering a donation.

Sheep

Sheep were out in the field again.

Horse & trap

Teeth marksTwo women thanked me for photographing them in their horse drawn vehicle. I don’t think the teeth marks left on a tree by a stream came from their steed.

I have mentioned before that post is delivered throughout the area from a little red van. I often exchange waves with the bearded driver. Today our paths crossed on numerous occasions. As he parked up and approached a house clutching a couple of letters he quipped that he should have given me some and I could have delivered them for him. ‘You do get about, don’t you?’, he said.

Chicken jalfrezi and special fried rice.This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and special fried rice, with which I drank Cobra and she chose Hoegaarden. For the method of cooking the curry readers are referred to that for the lamb version described on 22nd January. In this case the chicken is not pre-cooked, but added at the same time as was the lamb. The richness of this particular sauce is obtained by adding up to half a pint of water as required and bubbling the pot on hob mark one for up to a couple of hours. Have a look at it, give it a stir, and see what you think.

Again, on the 22nd January, pilau rice has been described. Jackie has transformed this into what the restaurants call special fried rice with the addition of an egg.

Do not chuck the egg in straight from the shell, otherwise you will just bind all the rice together. Make a small single egg omelette, chop it up, and scatter the pieces into the mixture when it is virtually cooked. Stir it in. We said before that anything you wish can go into the rice. Today’s variation was peppers of three different colours.

Bon appétit.

The Freehand

Emery DownGiven that I had an appointment in Lyndhurst at 5.50 this evening, I saved my walk until I could reach there, via Emery Down, by that time.  It was a beautiful day and I arrived just before sunset.  The appointment was with a GP to have a wart burned off my face.  This was a very quick, not quite painless, process.  It stings a bit and the doctor said it might blister but he wouldn’t be worried about it.  I did wonder whether it had occurred to him that I might be worried about it.

Jackie met me to take me home where I reheated the chicken jalfrezi I had prepared in the afternoon.  Jalfrezi, in this case, refers to the method of cooking left-over meat.  I don’t think any self-respecting Indian or Bangladeshi chef would recognise it.  First of all, we like our gravy, so I always add some stock.  This I make from the bones of a stripped roast bird.  Between us, we managed this morning to boil the stockpot dry.  Jackie rescued the bits that weren’t actually stuck to the pan, added some water, and got it going again.  This was indeed a labour of love because she cannot understand why I don’t use stock cubes like any other chef.

The ingredients today suggested an approach nothing short of reckless.  We were lacking some of the usual components, like broad beans and peppers.  So what were included were left-over mashed potato and swede, carrots, garden peas, and cauliflower cheese; and a tin of drained kidney beans.  Remarkably enough this was delicious, and had a sauce rather thicker than I usually manage.  The mash probably aided the consistency.  It was accompanied by Cobra.

In 1976 my Social Services Area Team in Westminster always relaxed in the William IV pub off Harrow Road after work on a Friday night.Derrick c1976  Wherever you finished up your day, you always knew that you would have company if you repaired to the William.  This is probably when and where photo number five in  the ‘Derrick through the ages’ was taken by Jessica.  More than thirty years on, that group of like-minded individuals organised the first of what are now regular reunions.  The most dedicated member of those groups at the time was Howard Leigh, who was not actually employed by Social Services, but worked for DHSS.  We felt that Howard was one of us, and it is Howard who has been the driving force behind the reunions.  The smoking tree stump protruding from my mouth is actually a briar pipe, of a model known as freehand.  This indicates that the maker has been given a free hand to follow the natural shape of the root and leave the top all knobbly and gnarled.  When enjoying a complex Dunhill mix over the hour or so it took to smoke a pipeful, the smoker didn’t usually have a free hand at all, being required to prop up the tree in order to avoid straining the jaws.  The photograph clearly shows the free hand supporting the chin.

Banknotes And Phonecards

Today was a Mordred (posted 12th. July) day.

I took my usual route to SW1 for coffee with Carol.  A flattened frog, having attempted to cross the sodden footpath in Morden Hall Park, hadn’t made it.  As I slalomed around the pools, a cyclist who had crept up behind me deftly avoided me as I crossed her path.

The warning notice on the tramway which divides the National Trust property from the Wandle Trail must have been inspired by the push-me-pull-you from the 1967 film, ‘Doctor Dolittle’, starring Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley.

An announcer at Victoria politely requested travellers to ‘stand on the right and walk down on the left of the escalator’.  This seemed to me to be an impossibility.

In speaking with Carol, I mentioned a collector I had once disappointed.  When Louisa was very young she had become interested in foreign banknotes.  I took great delight in scouring Newark market stalls for samples with which to enhance her collection.  In her teens she moved on to other things and returned them to me.  Learning of my friend’s interest I offered them to him.  And was unable to find them.  When moving back to London in 2006, I unearthed them and sent them to him.  He was very pleased.

Phonecards required me to be a bit more adventurous.  In the 1980s, when Louisa began collecting them, I was working in London, which is, of course, full of phoneboxes.  These cards contained a reader which recorded the time left available on them.  When exhausted, they would often be abandoned in the boxes.  Rich pickings for someone prepared to tramp the streets and, if necessary, cross the road to forage.  They would come in sets.  I remember one celebrating a Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, the name of which escapes me.  I would happily try to fill in the gaps for my daughter, proudly presenting them on my return to Lindum house in the evenings.  It was a red-letter day when I found one of the first cards ever issued.  Since this was some time after its publication, I imagined it had been deposited by a tourist on his or her return to England.  I once mentioned this obsession to a friend of mine.  Now, these boxes also contained cards of another nature.  Often bearing obviously lying glamour photographs, sexual service advertisements were frequently pasted on the walls.  My friend got quite the wrong end of the stick and pulled my leg unmercifully.  Cursory glances into today’s telephone boxes on my return to Victoria demonstrated that these wares are still being marketed through this medium.  Most are now torn off, leaving stubborn fragments attached to the glass.  They look rather like a price label attached to a present, or a charity shop paperback, which you cannot completely remove.  Whilst carrying out my research I rather hoped that no-one watching would also get the wrong end of the stick.

That early phonecard, issued by BT (which in those days did truly stand for British Telecom) has now been superceded by a myriad of companies issuing cards without a reader; and the mobile phone has severely limited the call for public phone boxes.  Louisa eventually also donated that collection to me.  I don’t know where it is now.

For this evening’s meal I created a totally new version of chickem jalfrezi.  It never is quite the same as previous efforts, but this time it was an almost total invention because I’ve lost the recipe.  I’ve made it enough times for that to be no real problem, it just makes for variety.  With it, we drank Kingfisher and Cobra 2012.