The Tree

On another day of steady rain descending from slate grey skies, through my window I watched daytime headlights streaming along the glistening Christchurch Road and decided not to get wet by going out to photograph them.

Instead, I spent most of the day with Churchill’s “Early Life”.

Flo, on the other hand, continued her Christmas tradition carried out, apart from a few years in America, that has been her

decorating Granny’s tree since she was two years old.

This evening we all dined on further portions of Jackie’s chicken curry meals with which I drank more of the Garnacha

“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

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.

Ella Does Byron Road

With Ella visiting this afternoon it was incumbent on us to put up the Christmas tree before she arrived. I thought we might have done it;

but the Maintenance Department informed me that this was just a start.

After lunch I posted

Danni, Andy, Ella, and Jack, shortly followed by Elizabeth visited this afternoon. We spent a pleasant hour and a half together until it grew dark enough for us to visit the Byron Road Christmas lights, leaving Jackie at home until we returned and enjoyed the Culinary Queen’s tasty cottage pie; firm Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli; tender runner beans; and additional creamy mashed potatoes, with meaty supplementary gravy.

When the family arrived it was easy enough to plonk Jack, knowing that at 6 weeks he wasn’t likely to roll off sofa or cushions.

Ella, on the other hand was soon dragging her father into the library for the toy hamper to be brought into the sitting room.

Jackie took a hand at feeding our great-nephew,

until handing him back to his mother when the young family shared the sofa for a while.

On the Chesterfield Jackie read to Ella, until the sun had gone to bed and the rest of us set off to enjoy

the artificial light sources at Byron Road. Danni, Andy, Ella, Jack, and Elizabeth are all featured in the scenes, and named in their gallery images.

Later we dined as mentioned above, with Hoegaarden for Jackie, the last of the Pomerol for me, The Second Fleet Clare Valley Merlot 2020 for Elizabeth and Danni, and Diet Coke for Andy.

Continued Preparation

A fortnight ago, noticing that our fuel oil was rather low, I ordered a refill and was promised one before today. Overnight the tank was emptied and we had no heating this morning.

Opening with a plea of age and infirmity I rang the supplier early this morning. I then slipped into my trademark firm, quietly seething, tones which I am told can be quite scary. Further promises were made. I said I didn’t want promises. I wanted our fuel oil. Today.

It may, of course, be pure coincidence, but two hours later a tanker drew up outside and unloaded our oil. In fairness, I must acknowledge that all our previous service from WP Group has been exemplary. The next problem was resetting the boiler which had naturally stopped firing. With much trepidation The Maintenance Department set about this task. Soon she was able to cry: “I done it”.

Jackie continued decorating the house while I printed two more cropped copies of

her recent photograph of Nugget which we made into a couple of cards that didn’t need posting.

One was for Mum which we took to her today with a present. She had just been prescribed further antibiotics for a persistent chest infection.

It was past twilight when we left to visit Elizabeth to alert her to Mum’s condition. She was not at home so we took a diversion to Portmore to see if the residents had decorated the tree on the village green. They had, but as no electricity had been employed

we will need to return in daylight.

A murder of crows occupied high branches of other trees, but by the time I was poised with camera all but one straggler had flown off.

Later I phoned Elizabeth who was aware of Mum’s condition.

Back at home Jackie made her own photographs of her decorations.

This evening we dined on cream fish pie, green Brussels sprouts, orange carrots, and white cauliflower with which I finished the red Fleurie and Jacki drank more of the golden Sauvignon Blanc.

Hatchet Pond At Dusk

Today’s Christmas rose is this peach one from the patio bed.

The neighbouring clematis Cirrhosa Freckles festoons the grateful gazebo.

The now solitary pigeon still perches praying for the return of its deceased mate.

Nugget now spends much of his time outside the stable door where he enjoys sole use of the feeder by the house which is too close for other birds to risk.

“Where’s Nugget?” (56)

“Here I am”, he says.

While Jackie worked on the Christmas decorations I finished the cards which we posted later in

a suitably capped pillar box

at Everton Post Office.

By dusk we had arrived at Hatchet Pond

where other photographers focussed on ducks and swans.

Oh, dear. I seem to have pressed publish prematurely. Tonight we will dine on Jackie’s superb Shepherds pie with carrots, cauliflower and runner beans which will no doubt be perfectly cooked. I will drink Patrick Chodot Fleurie and Jackie will drink more of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Don’t Panic

Before going out yesterday we set up the Christmas tree in anticipation of decorating it today. That was not to be.

We had to decant it into the garden.

Upon reflection it is a good thing that I was up at 6 a.m. this morning. Upon an early doorbell ringing I unlocked the front door to find the cheery face of Connor from Crestwood who had laid our kitchen floor at the beginning of 2018. He was here to lay a new sitting room floor. No-one had told us to expect him. He was to take three days over the work. My first thought was

The next hour or so was spent trying to create clear areas for our craftsman to make a start.

My desk area in the hall gradually filled up; there was more to add after this; the kitchen and the stairs collected smaller items. Ascending the latter will be an assault course this evening, and there is no room to sit at the dining table

Connor moved the sofas. In the bottom right corner of this photograph can be seen the barcode on a random bit of beading which is a common feature of the work done by our predecessors.

Dismantling the wiring to our various internet devices was a major problem. Opining that I felt I was about to negotiate Birmingham in a car, I observed with phenomenal sang froid that I did not know how I was going to get it all back together again. For those who are not familiar with the so-called Spaghetti Junction of roads that surrounds that city this was a reference Connor well understood, having been there a couple of times.


He rather sensibly suggested that I should photograph all these

If these photographs are a little topsy-turvy that is because I didn’t know whether I was on my head or my heels. Please don’t look too closely at all the fluff.


What are the chances that this will make any sense to me in three days time?

Connor, on the other hand, knows exactly what he is doing. He began by taking up the old flooring;

then cutting sheets of ply to shape

and tacking it to the original floorboards

which, carefully applying a spirit level was covered with a screed which was then blown dry.

After lunch, having moved the sofas again he was ready to start on the other half of the room,

which he did with careful measuring.

There is only one thing to do when your kitchen is full of extraneous furniture and its table covered in nick-nacks. This evening we did it and dined at The ever friendly Wheel Inn. Jackie’s main course was a creamy mushroom and tomato linguin, followed by créme bruléei; mine was rib-eye steak, perfectly cooked medium rare as requested, chips, mushroom, tomato, and onion rings, followed by bread and butter pudding and custard. Mrs Knight drank Kaltenberg and I drank Ringwoods Best.




Christmas At Downton

Soon after the rest of us had dined on Christmas Eve, Mat, Tess, and Poppy arrived and consumed the rest of the Chinese meal. Jackie and I left the others and retired to bed somewhat later.

Christmas Day began with Mother and Father Christmas stumbling down the chimney before dawn to complete stocking duties.

It had been quite a job dragging Poppy’s into the room. Fortunately Barry and Owen had made a very good fist of sweeping the flue earlier in the year.

Beside the Christmas tree hung two of our granddaughter’s Christmas dresses, pink one having been made by Jackie by hand.

Strings of coloured lights festoon the walls. From left to right in these two images are featured Flo’s ‘My Grandpa smiling at me’ portrait alongside a charcoal drawing I made of Michael reading to Matthew in 1973; my photograph of Flo on her 18th birthday, and my pencil drawing of Jackie shortly before hers.

Much of the morning was spent opening – mostly Poppy’s – stocking presents. Here she discusses the next one with Tess. Matthew and Jackie remain in the background.

Mat received a Dandy annual in his sack, and lost no time introducing his daughter to the characters who had entertained his childhood, and that of his father before him.

After watching The Jungle Book we opened our main presents.

Jackie was quite pleased to receive the updated version of the Canon Powershot SX740 HS. This means that she will be able to see what she is photographing when she sneaks up on me.

I thought my new flash jacket went rather well with my work trousers and 30 year old grandfather shirt;

Matthew found that his birthday (19th December) jumper was a good fit.

It was all becoming a bit hectic, so I’m not sure what Ian unwrapped here.

Becky also received knitwear;

and a family heirloom in the form of a splendidly carved brooch, we think, in ivory. In a Garrard’s box this has been returned to me by Mum, as is her wont. She has labelled all presents we have given her over the years, intending for those to be returned to us when she dies. In more recent years she has been filtering them through to the original donor. This came to me a few days ago. I must have given it to her a good 50 years ago. It is now only legal to sell goods made from ivory before 1947, which means that this may have been antique when I bought it. Becky told me that after my grandmother’s death she was given a brooch I had bought her from Woolworth’s when I was a child.

Scooby was not left out. Here Tess ensures that he does not shake off his present.

Elizabeth joined us for the evening Christmas meal. The pudding and custard followed.

Goodness knows what everyone ate or drank.

Location Established


The discovery of a few more colour negatives from 1986, with the aid of a properly labelled photograph album, enabled me to establish that the mountain scaled by Matthew and Sam in yesterday’s post was actually in North Wales, near Cerigydrudion, where Ann and Don were refurbishing their house.

Seen in context, with Louisa hastening to join them, the hillock doesn’t seem so daunting.

Early one morning Sam escorted his little sister on a recce down the lane leading from the farmhouse we had rented.



gave Louisa a lesson in building a sandcastle.

Sam and Louisa

I’m not sure where Sam and Louisa found this swing boat which gave so much pleasure.

Becky at Christmas tree with Easter eggs

This afternoon Jackie went out for newspapers and came back with the first Easter eggs of the year – and it’s not even Twelfth Night, when the Christmas decorations are customarily taken down. Becky suitably expresses the stupidity of our marketing practices. Indeed, it occurred to me that, unless kept at the right temperature, the chocolate would have a white film on it by the time of the festival for which it was intended.

This evening, with our dinner, Jackie, Becky, and Ian drank Don Cayetano Sauvignon Blanc 2015. My beverage was Louis Virion Costières de Nîmes 2014. We ate Jackie’s sublime roast lamb, potatoes, and parsnips; green beans, broccoli, and carrots; followed by Christmas pudding and cream.

Natural Monochrome


Anyone having followed the broadband connection saga will no doubt share my delight in the fact that this morning I uploaded the ten following pictures in five minutes. Until James Peacock flew in to the rescue any one image would take far longer than that.

The Needles foghorn reverberated around Downton this morning, as sea mist combined with low sun to produce beautiful monochrome garden scenes. Silent pigeons in the trees were unfazed by this.

Misty trees

The final picture is of Christchurch Road, showing the murky driving conditions.


Incidentally, peacocks can fly, albeit no great distance.

Throughout the day, Jackie worked on the Christmas decorations. She finished the tree, but this is only the start of the festooning. In the last of these photographs I chose to focus on the reflected image of our wedding photograph from 1968 lit by Giles’s stained glass lamp.

This evening we dined on Carbonara pasta topped with bacon and served with broccoli and cauliflower florets. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Collin-Bourriset Fleurie 2015.

The Run Up To Christmas


Such is the speed of light changes, especially at this time of the year, that, in the two minutes it took me to sling on a dressing gown, get downstairs, and grab the camera this morning, the completely red dawn sky had streaked, but still looked dramatic.

Christmas tree

Today the usual division of labour between Jackie and me applied as we continued the run up to Christmas. The creatively practical member of the partnership decorated the tree, and the administrator wrote the cards.

Christmas lights 1

Santa Christmas lights

The last collection is at 4.45 p.m. As I walked to the post box in the dark, I noticed that a couple of our neighbours have also festooned their facades with festive lights.

This evening we dined at The Royal China restaurant in Lymington, where we enjoyed our usual plentiful meal with very friendly service. We both drank Tsingtao beer.

Christmas 'tree'

I also had the opportunity to photograph the ‘Christmas tree’ formed from lights forming   streamers suspended from a star-topped maypole. I had forgotten my camera when we were here yesterday.