Death Is Now My Neighbour

I spent much of the day preparing and posting

The rest of my time was spent on reading the final 240 pages of. ‘Death is now my Neighbour’ by Colin Dexter. An Inspector Morse novel – one of those that spawned the long running BBC television Morse series starring John Thaw – this is a consummately crafted work worthy of such success.

Particularly on screen, the essence of a good series depends upon the chemistry of the relationship between the main protagonists such as the Chief Inspector and his Sergeant Lewis, expertly presented by the learned Dexter who remains down to earth in his characterisation. Carefully detailed and progressing to a flawless conclusion this keeps us guessing to the end.

This evening we dined on tender roast lamb; crisp Yorkshire pudding; boiled potatoes; and perfect carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.

The End Of An Era.

Grow-ArcsFlatpack Greenhouse recycledOur fierce winds of late have ripped open the rather flimsy cover of Jackie’s self assembly greenhouse. This morning we went on a search for something more robust, and eventually found Grow-Arcs at Stewarts in Christchurch. Apart from the display model, there was only one in stock, but because they were slightly smaller than the original, we needed two. The staff dismantled the display one. We brought them home, and The Head Gardener assembled them. The now obsolete frame has, of course, been recycled against the front fence.

This afternoon I began reading Ian McEwan’s novel ‘Sweet Tooth’.

This evening we dined on egg, bacon, mushrooms, and baked beans, followed by Jackie’s apple crumble and evap. We both drank sparkling water.

Two nights ago we watched the penultimate episode of Downton Abbey. Having chronicled the saga of an English country house from the outbreak of the First World War to the years before the Second, this really had to come to an end, for the era of such grand households was in its death throes. The producers received much angry criticism for leaving a number of loose ends, in what was advertised as the final episode; clearly to encourage viewings for the Christmas special which we are now told is to come.

The era of my title is, however, not this one. It describes the tenure of the admirable Kevin Whateley first as Sergeant “Robbie” Lewis, in the Inspector Morse series, then as Detective Inspector in the spin off bearing his character’s name.

Inspector_Morse_Kevin_Whately_John_ThawThawKavanaghQCWikipedia tells us that ‘Inspector Endeavour Morse is a fictional character in the eponymous series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter. On television, he appears in the 33-episode 1987–2000 drama series Inspector Morse, in which John Thaw played the character; as well as the 2012 series Endeavour, portrayed by Shaun Evans. Morse originally is described as a senior CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officer with the Thames Valley Police force in Oxford, England. With a Jaguar car (a Lancia in the early novels), a thirst for English real ale and a penchant for music (especially opera and Wagner), poetry, art, classics, classic cars, and cryptic crossword puzzles, Morse presents a likeable persona, despite his sullen temperament.

(John Thaw’s photograph, left, is wrongly captioned as Kavanagh QC, another role he played. It is undoubtedly of Morse, although he didn’t get to smile much.)

‘The same source offers this further information:  ‘Lewis is a British television detective drama produced for ITV. A spin-off from Inspector Morse, like that series Kevin_Whately_as_Inspector_Lewis,_Oxford,_August_2015it is set in Oxford.Kevin Whately reprises his character Robert “Robbie” Lewis, who was Morse’s sergeant in the original series. Lewis has now been promoted to detective inspector urland is assisted by DS James Hathaway, portrayed by Laurence Fox, who became promoted to Inspector in the eighth series airing in 2014. The series also stars Clare Holman as forensic pathologist Dr Laura Hobson, and Angela Griffin as DS Lizzie Maddox.’ 4This précis, corrected further on the Wikipedia page omits  ‘Rebecca Front as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (2006–2014) — She is the senior officer supervising Lewis and Hathaway. When Lewis returned from his overseas secondment Innocent was not convinced that Lewis would be of value, but he proved himself to her on his first case. Innocent is frequently at odds with Lewis over his investigation style. In Series 9, it is revealed that she has gone to work for Suffolk Constabulary.’

An interesting dynamic was created by dragging Lewis out of retirement to assist his former junior.

On 2 November 2015, ITV announced that the show would end after its ninth series, following the decision made by Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox to retire from “their roles” in the series. In a statement made by Whately, he announced that the show had gone on long enough, with his character having done many stories between Morse and Lewis after he took on the role 30 years ago.’

We watched the final episode this evening. I have been an avid follower from the beginning, and have probably seen every story. Apart from the deceased John Thaw, all the excellent actors named above, none having become typecast, should soon be gracing other roles.

Father Brown

I’m not feeling any better today. This is a little frustrating because yesterday I had been able to think, which hadn’t been possible the day before, so I hoped to be running around again by now. I always was an optimist. Crystal, another blogger, had commented on how difficult it is to be patient with illness. I imagine that is what she meant.

Jackie, however, improves by the day.

From the amount of coughing I have been engaged in, my stomach now feels as if I have done a few hundred sit-ups. This is not so fanciful when you consider that in my thirties I had a period of performing more than three hundred every morning, until I decided that eleven minutes was a bit too long and boring to spend on this rather excessive exercise.

My Folio Society edition of G.K.Chesterton’s Father Brown Stories consists of two volumes, each comprising two of  the four books. Yesterday evening I finished the first book, called ‘The Innocence of Father Brown’, and containing a dozen superbly crafted short stories, in elegant, flowing, prose. The fact that the eponymous amateur sleuth is a Roman Catholic priest is really incidental. He is an entertaining little character.

Colin Dexter, the author of the Inspector Morse series of novels, has written an interesting and knowledgeable introduction, and Val Biro’s skillful illustrations enhance the 1996 publication.Father Brown cover

Unfortunately my book now has some minor water staining on its front cover. I must have unwittingly spilt some from my bedside glass in the dark when I was rather dopey.

I have mentioned before that I was encouraged to read these books by watching the TV series. This is described as based on Chesterton’s characters. The only story I have now both read and watched, ‘The Invisible Man’, has developed some of the characters and radically changed the tale. Perhaps that is the only way the author’s little gems can be transferred to an hour long dramatic production.Father Brown illustration

The text illustration I have chosen to insert here is one to ‘The Invisible Man’. I won’t say how, but it ably demonstrates the point I make above.

This evening, for the first time for some days, Jackie felt able to drive out for a Chinese Takeaway meal, and I thought I could manage to sample some of it. In the event I couldn’t eat much, but there is always tomorrow.



This morning I finished reading ‘The Remorseful Day’ by Colin Dexter.  This is the final novel in his series about the cerebral Chief Inspector Morse.  A pleasant and intelligent detective story which ends appropriately, if far less dramatically than the acclaimed television series.  I found it impossible to read without visualising, and indeed, hearing, John Thaw in the eponymous role; Kevin Whately as Sergeant Lewis; and James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange.  A superb piece of casting if ever there was one.  Indeed, I am told that the author himself began to write with John Thaw in mind.

For a number of years now I have been playing a little game with future readers of my collection of books.  I leave a bookmark inside.  This can be a train ticket; a boarding pass; the visiting cards of restaurants, hairdressers, or any other profession; even a shopping list.  That will give them something to think about, I imagine.  A couple of times I have been hoisted by my own petard.  This is only one of the beauties of second-hand books.  One paperback I had had for some thirty years before actually reading it contained not one, but two bus tickets.  One was the old stiff card type of ticket issued on country buses, from a route in Surrey;  the other the kind which came off a roll dispensed by the conductor on London transport.  He (always a he in those days) would wind a handle to produce the printed ticket.  The blanks were like minature toilet rolls.  These were given out on the trolleybuses mentioned in my post of 17th. May.  If you were lucky a generous conductor might give you a whole roll to take home to play with.  The ticket in my book was for the 52 bus which ran very close to Sutherland Place in W2 where I was living and the time and finally reading the book.  Frances once knew a librarian who found the weirdest objects in returned books, perhaps none so mind-boggling as the rasher of bacon.

My copy of E. Annie Proux’s ‘The Shipping News’ contains a postcard written in German sent to a woman in London soon after the novel was published.  As I know no German any confidentially is preserved until the book is picked up by a German reader.  ‘The Remorseful Day’, however, contains something potentially more intriguing.  This second-hand hardback purchased in the charity bookshop in the grounds of Morden Hall Park (all hardbacks £1, paperbacks 50p)  has no need of a bookmark because it has a ribbon attached to the binding.  What it does have, however, inscribed in ballpoint pen, is an outer London telephone number on the penultimate page.  So far, I have resisted calling the number.  Will the next reader be able to refrain?

Soon after mid-day rain set in for keeps and I gave up composting the final prepared beds.  We all decided to troop off to the antiques centre at Wickham, only to find it closed.  Every visitor to the village had had the same idea, namely to take shelter in one of the two tea rooms which were open.  We were unable to get into Lilly’s but managed to squeeze into The Bay Tree Walk tea rooms where various beverages were enjoyed until we returned to The Firs and Jackie and I continued planting in the rain.  Trooping around Wickham I had used a folding umbrella.  It takes me so long to work out how to open and close these things that there is hardly any point.  I did of course leave it in the tea rooms and then again in Chris’s car.  By this method I never normally manage to keep an umbrella for more than one trip, unless, of course, I am as well chaperoned as I was today.

In the evening, when everyone else had departed, Elizabeth, Jackie, and I ate out at Eastern Nights in Thornhill.  Just up the road, this Bangladeshi restaurant was very good.  We have tried many in the area and this was one of the best.