Claiming The Perch

Although it had heated up by midday, the earlier part of the morning was cooler.

We finished the work on the wisteria;

Jackie continued with other shrubs and roses, such as those festooning the gazebo. Behind the third and fourth steps of the ladder in the third image here can be seen

the colchicums which continue to spread.

Piles for clearance could be found anywhere. In this picture we have the rose ‘cap’ from the top of the now bareheaded gazebo.

The third compost bin is pretty full,

and we only have two more empty refuse bags.

It didn’t take a wood pigeon long to claim the now available perch atop the gazebo.

This evening we dined on roast chicken and parsnips; sage and onion stuffing; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender runner beans; and tasty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Douro.

A Fine Set Of Choppers

‘A Short Walk from Harrods’ is the fifth volume of Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography, and, to my mind, the best. I finished reading it last night, and would have been saddened had I not had one more to come.

This work deals in more depth and detail with material that has been featured in earlier books, notably the years in France. Without giving too much away I would say that this is the mature writer honestly facing endings and renewal with his gifted descriptive writing. Pondering on the flowing language it occurred to me for the first time that Bogarde brings his actor’s ear to his prose. He knows how the words and their placement would sound when spoken, and he works on adapting his undoubted skill. I have not read any of his novels but this book could well read like one.

Today was free from rain, but winds gusted at more than 40 m.p.h.

Aaron of A.P. Maintenance is an ace and generous recycler. He takes our logs to another client whose heating comes solely from an open fire. To us he brings paving and other materials without charging for them.

He really enjoys what he says is “making something from nothing”. Here he stands beside an extra compost bin he is building. The burnt plywood sheet came from his friend’s garage; the pallet from another; the perspex sheeting from our garden; the boards from his own supply. The bricks along the front is a typical finishing touch.

So far the winds have not created too much damage. The galleries in this post can be accessed by clicking on any image in each one. These may be viewed full size by clicking on the boxes beneath them. Further enlargement is also possible with a click. The pictures are labelled individually.

Jackie did her best to repair some of the windburn and other damage to plants, and later we drove to the north of the forest.

There was much waving of manes and twitching of tails from the ponies on the green outside the converted school in South Gorley. One creature, keen to make my acquaintance, met me nose to muzzle as I stepped out of the car, shook her head about a bit, and repeatedly presented a fine set of choppers for inspection.

The stream at Ogdens North was now very shallow, so that pebbles on the bed could be seen beneath the reflections from above.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy piri-piri chicken, marinaded throughout the day in a tangy sauce; her most colourful ratatouille; boiled baby Jersey Royal potatoes; and mature, yet tender, cauliflower and broccoli, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2019.


Jackie and I began the day on grandparent duties (see post of 28th. August), so Sam and Holly could have a lie-in.  They had, after all, kept him quiet since 5 a.m.  Elizabeth soon joined us for great aunt duties, whereupon Adam’s Transformer robot made way for robots in an i-pad game Malachi had shown her how to download.  Jackie and I had given my grandson chocolate coated crunchy pieces and pink and white ice cream.  Since he considered this wasn’t really breakfast he had cereal with his parents a bit later.

Not being very interested in helping us move the compost heap into the bins, Malachi went on a squirrel hunt with his Mum.  The little family set off for London just before lunch.

Elizabeth and I then went foraging in the garage loft for off-cuts of wood with which to supplement the garden materials to complete the compost bins.  Mum came to lunch and assisted in measuring the placement of stakes in the construction with dexterous application of her walking stick.  Jackie had bought the stakes in Haskins garden centre.

Whilst watching our robin diving into the recently exposed juicy bits of the older compost, and scuttling off with spoils, I was reminded of our Newark plumber.  This chirpy little fellow was a keen fisherman.  An excellent craftsman who was both skilled and reliable, he had, some years before, recovered from prostate cancer.  Very proud of this, he once insisted on undoing his trousers, reaching inside, and pulling out his colostomy bag to show Jessica and me.  He believed our compost bins contained the best bait worms in the town, and regularly raided them to keep himself supplied for his trips to the river.

In the late afternoon Jackie drove me to Shelly and Ron’s where we also met Helen and Bill.  Their home in Walkford is reached by a pleasant journey through The New Forest.  We were treated to high tea of tasty sandwiches prepared by Shelly; an excellent spicy fruit cake baked by Helen; and strawberries with clotted cream.  Helen told us about the German dough with which she had made the cake.  Apparently it reproduces itself so that you can make cake after cake from the same original material.  It operates much in the same way as a ginger beer factory.  Helen described her race to get ahead of the dough before the cakes completely took over the freezer.

After this we watched a DVD of the South Anglia Savoy Players production of Ruddigore, which won the Buxton International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival competition this year. Ruddigore 9.12 We were all agreed that it was no surprise that this flawlessly polished performance was the winner.  It was hard to believe this was an amateur performance.  Our particular interest was that among the cast were Jackie’s cousin Pat O’Connell and his daughter Olivia.  It seemed to us that, for his comic turn, Pat received the greatest applause at the end.  There were some splendid voices among the cast.  I had experienced Pat’s work in directing the Godalming Operatic Society, but had not seen him on stage before.

Finally, I am indebted to Elizabeth for identifying yesterday’s butterfly as a comma.

Reminiscing With Don

Don sleeping 7.12

Tomato plant 7.12First thing this morning Don gave me a lesson in pruning tomatoes, to give me the best chance of producing a crop from my compost bin.

We then spent several hours continuing last night’s reminiscences.  Don and Ann shared the Soho, Furzedown, and Lindum House Years with Jessica and me.  We shared their time in Finsbury Park, Cerrigidrudion, and Bungay.  During the next week we will have thirty-odd years to talk about.  Much of what we ranged over is not suitable for a blog, but there is plenty that is.  Taking Michael, Matthew and Becky from the mews flat in Horse and Dolphin Yard off for a day in the country at the Essex show springs to mind.  Bringing happy townies back to The Smoke after a day in the verdant sunshine brought a pleasant end to a satisfying day.  Don was later to help us move from Soho to Furzedown in S.W. London.

We were frequent visitors to N. Wales after Don took early retirement and he and Ann set about renovating their house on a Welsh hillside and converting the attached cowshed into a very attractive home.  Many of the trees Don planted in the ‘parc morc’ (pig field) were saplings from Lindum House.  Don, an accountant from Cheam, soon became a champion dry-stone waller.  Ever modest, he jibbed at my calling him this, but he cannot deny he has trophies to prove it.  In fact, when my family are amused at my signing off my posts with what I had for dinner I always say it is my version of my friend’s teapots.  He always left some container in his walls for birds to nest in, or to bear some memento from his life.  He told me today he only ever put in one teapot.  I had managed to convince  myself it was always teapots.  Just as a child to whom you give one good experience will magnify it into a regular event.

I remember one particular barbecue in the pouring rain in Cerrigidrudion just after they’d moved there.  The subsequent conversion was still a cowshed, which was just as well because that is where we shivered under comparative shelter and ate chicken, sausages, and cuts of meat with our fingers in a smoke-filled atmosphere.  Much more conducive for such an event was the weather at the French gite we shared on a later holiday. Ann & Don 9.82 Don was master of the coals.

I have mentioned that holiday before, and will save the climax for a further post.  Don did remind me, however, that it was then that Sam received his first cut.  I still remember my sadness at my beautiful boy having suffered his first blemish.  During Siesta time, when, of course, nothing was open, we came across a broken shop window.  ‘Don’t’, said I, as our four-year old made a dive for the broken glass.  Too late.  He grabbed it and brought some away in the palm of his hand.  Which I could not get him to open.  Even if I could I would need a pair of tweezers.  We found the duty Sam 9.82 001chemist which was open. Sam 9.82002 She had some tweezers.  But how was I going to get Sam to expose his palm?  She smartly provided the solution.  Out came a bag of sweets.  Our lad could not resist one.  Poised, tweezers in hand, I knew I had, at best, one chance.  Sam’s fingers spread and snaked out for the sweet.  I swooped with the tweezers.  The implement secured and withdrew the shard of glass.  Sam ate his sweet and we bade the woman goodbye.  Ann bought an ice cream and provided a cuddle, and all was well.

Ann and Don were frequent visitors to Lindum House.  When I spoke of the neighbourhood children sliding down the wide staircase on a mattress, frequently knocking the valuable painting off the wall at the foot of the stairs, Don said: ‘I bet Louisa was behind that’.  Too right he was.  He knew her well.  Every time that painting came off, so did a section of its ornate plaster frame.  Ann and Don would, in later years, stop off en route to Don’s family in Norfolk.  They’d spend the day with us, sleep in their caravan on a local site, and press on to visit Don’s daughters.  The couple are both in the group photograph of Michael and Heidi’s wedding which stands on the sitting room table in Sigoules.

After several hours in the garden sunshine, Don went inside for a nap, and I started writing, before our trip to Le Code Bar.  This evening’s repast was steak and chips for me; salmon pizza with a white sauce for Don; Stella and Liffe respectively; and creme brulee for each of us.  Don proclaimed the creme brulee ‘the best in the world.  No wonder you have it after every meal.’

Friends To Bank On

On another scorching day Elizabeth drove me to Southampton airport where I boarded a plane to Bergerac to be met by Lydie, waving her arms and striding across the tarmac to embrace me.  She is, incidentally, about a foot shorter than me with the grip of a bear.  I had to drop my bag.  Before paying I asked her to deliver me to the Credit Agricole cash machine in the market square.  Still dopy from the plane, I entered the wrong pin number.  I had to search in my trouser pocket for the correct one, hidden in an electronic device.  So well hidden, that by the time I had retrieved it I had run out of time.  Lydie patiently waiting in the taxi.  Me scrabbling in my trousers, concerned that I was keeping her waiting.  An Englishman just off the plane.  I had to start again.  The machine gobbled my card.

I had given Lydie a list of trips for my friend Don, joining me next week, and me up to 14th. August, the first being in three days time.  ‘No problem’, she said,  ‘Saturday will do.’  Unfortunately this bank is only open two mornings a week , and tomorrow isn’t one of them.  Any visit there also has to wait until Saturday.  Now, my French account is with Barclays.  I originally opened this in Bergerac.  Sometime last year I discovered that that branch no longer does everyday banking.  Without my knowledge my account had been transferred to Paris  I could walk to Bergerac, but no way am I walking to Paris.  There was, therefore, nothing for it today but to telephone my personal banking manager in Paris.  Despite what it says on his card he wasn’t there.  There followed conversations with two different, very helpful, women interspersed with holding, biligual, messages.  Thank goodness, with their English and my French, we got by.  My card has been cancelled and I will be sent a new one which will cost 16 euros.  So far, so good.  But.  They can only send it to England, not to my house in France.  If I could get to Bordeaux, two and a half hours drive away, I would be able to collect my replacement card there.  Patiently, oh, so patiently, I explained that Bordeaux was a very long way away, I had no car, and NO MONEY.  Ah.  I can, however, use my chequebook, I am assured, without the card, although some people will not accept cheques for small sums like 2 euros.  Throughout this I naturally remained my usual calm, unflappable, self.

I then drew 90 euros on my NatWest account.  This, of course, will cost me a transfer fee.  And I’ve just transferred almost everything in my current account in England to my French one in order to pay for replacement shutters and windows, the work to start in two days time.  I may even go into overdraft, incurring another fee, despite having more than enough in a special interest bearing account which earns peanuts.  Now I know why NatWest have changed their Gold Account to a Black one.  Somewhat stymied.

It was definitely time to visit my friend David in Le Code Bar.  David readily allowed me to run up a tab for the duration of my stay and let me have cash if I needed it.  Given that this is a very recent friendship I would call that a generous display of trust.

Never mind.  The house is as I left it in early June.  The agapanthus is blooming for the first time; the lizards are basking in 38 degrees; and I am growing my own tomatoes on a plant which has forced its way through the boards of my compost bin.  There are potatoes coming up in a bed I composted last year.

I’ve just missed the annual wine festival, the bunting for which will stay in the village for the rest of the summer.  UK, of course, has been similarly festooned since the football world cup and the Queen’s jubilee, and now awaits the London Olympics, for which I will also be absent.  I have exchanged Union flags for floral flourishes.

Once I’d settled in, I paid a visit to my friends Garry and Brigitte who live next door.  Unfortunately for me their magnificent house is up for sale; sadly for them the market is depleted.  We had what, for me, is essential, a pleasant conversation with people who  speak the correct French I learned at school with a Parisian accent, delivered at a pace I can understand.  It is good for my ears which cannot pick up the local accent.  Rather like a French speaker trying to understand a Geordie.

In Carrefour I had a cheque accepted without a card.

This evening I dined alfresco at Le Bar.  I sat under a lime tree sadly devoid of caterpillars (see yesterday).  There were, however, a number of flies seemingly interested in my steak and chips; and the occasional wasp attracted by my Adnams Innovation.  Take note of the latter, Don.  Creme brulee was to follow. I was well satisfied.