An Unexpected Portrait

Yesterday, by a narrow margin, Ireland won their rugby match against France. This was an excellent contest, and secured the championship for the victors. It went down very well in the Irish evening in support of CAFOD, which we attended with Helen and Bill, Shelly and Ron.
Catholic Aid For Overseas Development is an official agency representing England and Wales. It exists to help third world countries to become self-sufficient in feeding themselves.
Hopefully the evening made a reasonable contribution to the cause. It was certainly enjoyed by people of all ages. Lynden and Clive provided an excellent calling service for the barn dancing which was enjoyed by three-year-olds and those a good seventy years older. The star of the show was Titus, probably the youngest, who was adopted as her partner by the caller, and kept going until the evening ended at 10 p.m.
We were greeted by Helen and her colleagues ladling out steaming platefuls of tender and tasty Irish stew with wedges of fresh, crusty, bread. No encouragement was needed for some of us to emulate Oliver Twist and present our plates for a second helping.  A gentleman in a fluorescent emerald green jacket managed the temporary bar and later presented the questions for the quiz that Helen had compiled. It was a shame Helen had produced the puzzles because that meant that our team were deprived of the input of Bill who would most certainly have lifted our table from its final sixth place.
Children placed a prompt card on each table, for a group performance of ‘Green Grow The Rushes O’. This is a traditional song involving each group at the appropriate intervals to repeat the refrain on their card. Our ensemble were rather chuffed to earn applause for our harmonising.
After the raffle, in which Bill won a Nivea product, we drove him home, leaving Helen, who had not stopped working all evening, to coordinate the clearing up.
This morning I wandered a wide loop around the forest opposite the end of Lower Drive, emerging at Suters Cottage and returning via London Minstead. This was the area I had explored in the mist of 21st January.
I have often wondered how it is that people can come into such a beautiful region and chuck rubbish out of their cars onto the forest verges.Budweiser bottles Today’s detritus included spent Budweiser bottles.Shadows on forest groundFallen tree shadows
Shadows on wooded slopeShadows crisscrossingSun through treesSunstar through tree - image of young womanThe forest looked so different today. Cast by the bright late morning sun shining through the trees, long shadows streamed across the shattered trunks and leaf-strewn terrain.
Sun stars were created throughout the area, none more dramatic than that providing a picture light for what appeared to be the portrait of a young woman etched on a trunk.
Holly regenerating

A blighted holly demonstrated nature’s powers of regeneration.

Forestry Commision gate

Several deer, as elusive as the ubiquitous brimstones that never seem to settle, streaked across the path beyond a Forestry Commission gate. Forest scapeI swear there were two of the butterflies in this forest scape when I pressed the shutter button.

Minstead Lodge

Minstead Lodge, not yet obscured by leaves, can still be seen in its lofty position above the road.

Orange tree and pony

The deciduous trees are beginning to come into leaf. Some of these take on a bright orange hue lending them a glow borrowed from the russet ponies,

When we first moved into our current home, the walls of the flat were occupied by the owner’s pictures. Carefully labelled by Jackie, we packed these up,stored them in a cupboard for access to which we needed a step-ladder, and replaced them with our own. This afternoon we reversed the process.

This evening Elizabeth and Danni joined us and my niece drove us all to Ringwood’s Curry Garden where we enjoyed the usual high standard meal with friendly and efficient service. The restaurant was very full.

Sole Survivor

Yesterday’s mid-day meal at Le Code Bar consisted of a noodle soup, ham salad, and plentiful roast chicken and chips followed by a Paris-Brest dessert, of which a welcome second helping was, with a smile, placed on my table by Fred as I worked on my blog post.
Later, I watched Prime Suspect Two. The first production had dealt with sexism. This one has racism as its sub-plot. It is as tense a well-acted and directed drama as its predecessor. I then began reading ‘Keeping the World Away’ by Margaret Forster.
This morning I undertook a bit more clearing up. A wasps’ nest had been found in the attic and eradicated by Renov Conseil 24. With a dustpan and brush I transferred the corpses to the garden. Like the survivor of a massacre protected by a screen of deceased comrades, the largest of all the vespas staggered from the heap and crawled towards the lip of the pan. I gave it its chance on the earth outside.wasps I do hope it doesn’t create another  home inside.
On leaving the house to make my farewells at Le Code Bar, I met a two year old and his grandmother. I had some difficulty in communicating with the little boy who was dragging his cart over the steps to No 6. Grandma spoke clear northern French so there was no problem there. I explained that I had equal difficulty understanding such small children in England. She identified with this, saying it wasn’t easy for her either.
The ATM at Credit Agricole told me it couldn’t give me any money and I should contact my bank. I had only attempted to withdraw 20 euros to pay for my taxi. There was plenty in my account and I had entered the correct PIN. Taxi Eymetois would, I know, have been happy to wait until next time, but that wasn’t the point.
I telephoned Barclays in Paris. I have previously written that they transferred my account from Bergerac without telling me. This time I was told that my card had been blocked in September. The very helpful woman who spoke to me did not know the reason for this, but she freed the account and told me I could use the card again from tomorrow morning. When I explained that that would be too late, she was most apologetic, but could do know more.  As I said to her, thank goodness Taxi Eymetois have become friends.
It is because I came away in September with enough euros to see me through until today that this was the first time I had attempted to withdraw cash on this trip. Had I done so earlier in the week, one day’s delay would have been manageable. Having relaxed after resolving this problem, I drew out 20 euros with my NatWest card. The transfer fee on such a small sum will be minimal, but I had opened the French account in order to avoid such supplements. Unfortunately my English bank does not operate in France.
Sandrine arrived early to collect me and drive me to Bergerac Airport. When I told her the tale of the card she said, as I knew she would, that I should have waited to pay them next time. The plane journey went smoothly and Jackie was waiting at Southampton to drive me home.
My iMac happily accepted my Sandisk photos and I was able to upload them to the last week’s posts.
This evening Jackie and I dined at Curry Garden in Ringwood, and enjoyed the usual good food and efficient, friendly, service. We both drank Kingfisher.

The Swinging Sixties

This morning I began reading Jacques Suffel’s preface to Gustave Flaubert’s timeless novel ‘Madame Bovary’. This introduction seems to be doing a good job of putting the work into historical and social context. Hopefully, having read an English translation should help me with this original version.
This was another day of steady rain, so I decided to scan some ‘posterity’ pictures. Just one colour slide took approximately three hours. When I turned on my iMac a big grey box with a large X in the middle of it on the screen prompted me to download what I soon realised – or at least hoped – was a new operating system called, of all things ‘Mavericks’. Being an American organisation I suspect Apple were thinking of unbranded calves rather than independent-minded persons. They must have run out of wildcats which is what all the previous systems’ names were.
I was informed that the download would take 51 minutes. Fortunately much of this time was taken up by a welcome phone call from Sam in Perth. I will leave him to update friends and family with his own news.
The system was downloaded successfully. This involved a change of the previous galaxy photograph as wallpaper to what could loosely be described as sweeping waves. I suppose I’ll become accustomed to it.
I was now able to start on my scanning. Not. A box told me my Epson Perfection V750 PRO had quit unexpectedly and prompted me to try again. And again. And again. Probably ad infinitum if I hadn’t decided to call a halt and ring Apple Care
Naturally I was answered by a machine operated by my voice. She and I had some difficulty. Maybe it was the questions delivered in a broad Scots accent. Yes, an American system with the diction of those living north of the English border.  Perhaps my London speech was the problem. We got there in the end and I was at last in a very short queue to speak to a real live person. Whilst waiting I had the pleasure of listening to Johnny Cash singing ‘Ring of Fire’ – by far my favourite ever bit of holding music. After Johnny came something weird. But, as I said, it wasn’t a long wait.
Carolyn, another Celt, was a very helpful adviser. We established, as I thought, that Mavericks was the problem. It didn’t know I had a scanner that its predecessor had been quite happy with. In fact it stated that I didn’t have one, which I thought rather presumptuous of it. My helper sent me an e-mail with details of a link via Apple to Epson’s web pages. I tried it. Epson didn’t seem to know about my new Mavericks. I fiddled around in their system for a while then returned to Apple Care.
Carolyn had left clear information and James was able to pick up the story. I think he knew a bit more about Epson and sent me another link direct to that company. I needed, apparently, to download new software – the type that can recognise independent minded people. It was done successfully, although it took some time.
James clarified a puzzle for me. The problem with the first link had been that it provided a (very long) list of software that would be automatically downloaded by Apple if we used ‘Software Update’. I had done so and nothing happened. James said that was because the list was for hard drives and I needed software. Aaaaaarrrgh.
Anyway, before we set off to New Milton and Bashley I scanned my slide and put it into iPhoto.
Not so fast.
I had to update iPhoto first. But I managed that.
I have written so often about driving through deluges over the last couple of years, that I will not risk repetition. I will just say that the clatter of rain on the car’s external surfaces, and the whoosh of spray sent up by our wheels every time we went in for water-skiing drowned out all the other normal motoring sounds, such as the sweep and grind of the windscreen wipers.
Setting off in mid afternoon for a trip to a bank and a farm shop is not usually to be recommended. The bonus of the weather was that both establishments were virtually deserted. I was in and out of the bank before Jackie, having dropped me off, had returned from parking the car;Cheese and piesFerndene vegetable racksJackie studying meat shelvesSausagesand I was able to photograph the shelves of the Ferndene Farm shop. Previously I have been inhibited from producing a camera and potentially photographing crowds who wouldn’t like it. That was not a problem today.
Jackie Carnaby St 6.67Once we were home again I was able to return to ‘posterity’. Carnaby Street in July 1967, where I took a photograph of Jackie in the entrance to a closed clothes shop, was at the centre of the universe. It was Hwhere all the world came to buy their garments so they could be part of the London scene in that swinging decade. We didn’t have the money for such extravagance so we had a look one evening just to say we’d been there.
John Stephen had a shop in the street, where this tie, dating from 1966, was bought in the year Jackie leant against the wrought iron. I wonder whether Mick O’Neill has one like it in his superb collection.
In July 1967, ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, an earlier hit in the UK, was number one in Germany for Manfred Mann, in which band Tom McGuinness played from 1964 – 1969.  Did he, I wonder – top right in the picture – buy his outfit in Carnaby Street?
This evening, ‘once more unto the’ storm did Jackie drive. This time to Ringwood for dinner at the Curry Garden, which was very full. I enjoyed lamb hatkora with a plain nan; Jackie chose prawn korma with pilau rice. We shared a sag paneer and both drank Kingfisher. Afterwards Jackie ate Walls ice cream with chocolate sauce and I had a pistachio kulfi. It was still raining as we drove back along the A31.

The Years Just Roll Away

This lunchtime, Michael Watts came for a visit and a drink in The Trusty Servant Inn, to which he drove me.  We had an exhilarating chat.  By amazing coincidence he had just come from Alex Kelly in Fordingbridge who, now having set up an Independent facility in the care field, had worked for many years with Helen.  Because Helen Eales was known to have a sister called Jackie, my friend mentioned it to me.  As he, a Londoner, said: ‘It’s a small world’.

Bidding goodbye in the car park, I walked back home.  Turning at the clopping of hooves some way behind me I saw Berry, riding Poppy (see post of 4th January). They had just had a very frightening experience, having been almost hit by a white van careering down the hill.  A police vehicle drew up as we were talking, and Berry reported the incident.

Today was clearly a day for linking up with old friends.  This evening Jackie drove us to Ringwood for a meal in Curry Garden with Geoff and Sheila Austin.  In the 70s and 80s I had worked and played both rugby and cricket with Geoff who has appeared in a number of these posts.  Having spent time with him only once or twice in the intervening years I had never met Sheila.  Jackie was introduced to Geoff once at a reunion of Westminster Social Services Area One Team three years ago.  We were pleased to learn that they had needed to visit Ringwood and wanted to meet us and perhaps have a curry.  Naturally we suggested our favourite venue in this market town.  It is one they had often visited with Geoff’s late mother.

The meal and the service were of their usual excellent qualities.  We all drank Kingfisher.

Such a foursome could easily have resulted in a conversation between the two men swapping stories with which the women were not familiar.  There was naturally a certain amount of this, but we were always able to include the ladies.  We found Geoff’s wife delightful, and she and Jackie developed a particular rapport.  There are those relationships in life which are intense or involved in a particular way for a certain time and which stay with us during periods of long separation or absence.  When meeting again after even many years, they just roll away.  This was one of those.

A Little Inconvenience

Has anyone had a modern lavatory seat fitted that does not soon become loose and start swivelling round to give an unstable perch?  I’m hard put to think of any.  One unfortunate consequence is the need for frequent brushing of the porcelain sides because you are not sitting in a position from which a direct descent into the middle of the waiting water is possible.

Loo seatHaving become tired of the inconvenience, I got down and tightened up the offending nut.  Now I was surprised that the loose one was on the right when the seat always swivelled to the left.  Jackie, being of a far more practical bent, said ‘of course’, when I marvelled at this.  When I thought about it, it was obvious, really.  How successful I have been remains to be seen, because the four winged nut was clearly meant to be hand-tightened.  Perhaps that is the problem.

After this, and later on today I printed another batch of card-sized photographs.  In between these sessions we needed another trip to our GP surgery.  Jackie has been feeling distinctly below par, and this morning correctly diagnosed her virus.  The Lyndhurst surgery offers an excellent and patient-friendly service.  Brian, the triage nurse had been helpful to me when I had an eye infection soon after we arrived here.  He makes an appointment to telephone the person in need, and keeps it.  I didn’t need to go in.  He prescribed medication and it was soon ready for collection in the local pharmacy.  Today he correctly determined that Jackie needed to see a doctor, and made an appointment for an hour later.  All the doctor had to do was confirm that Jackie has shingles.  We collected the prescribed medicine and went on to Hobbycraft in West End to buy more card blanks and little transparent bags for the individual masterpieces.

A drink was necessary for Jackie to start on her medication, so we visited Haskins garden centre next door to the craft shop, for a coffee.  Now, I am not an aficionado of mass coffee outlets, and after the Starbucks experiences of 30th July, am pretty wary of them.  Beverages at Haskins are provided by Costa, and I didn’t really want one anyway, but made the sacrifice to keep Jackie company. Costa coffee Knowing I wasn’t particularly thirsty she, who bought the drinks, ordered medium sized ones.  I chose Americano.  This was American in more than name.  If mine was medium, I’m very glad we didn’t have large ones.

I was only joking yesterday when I said Margery’s bread would never be eaten.  Margery's breadWe started it with our late lunch today.  It is delicious, having a chocolate brown colour, a firm texture, and a touch of sweetness.  I am not knowledgable enough to name it.  Maybe the description will help in  its identification.

It seemed to me that the appropriate meal this evening for someone suffering from shingles would be a curry cooked by someone else.  Accordingly, we drove to Ringwood to patronise the Curry Garden, where we enjoyed the usual high standard meal accompanied by Kingfisher beer.

Of course, had we eaten at home we would have had to clear the card-making debris from the dining table.  That was another good reason for eating out.  We have completed 22 new cards today, although they still await my inscription.  Far more have been printed ready for Jackie’s part in the process.


Today we spent six and a half hours in the car on a journey to visit Sam and Holly and their children Malachi and Orlaigh, in Homerton, East London.  The return took four of those hours.

Orlaigh Beth, the latest family member, was born on 15th. November.  Holding this new life in my arms I was reminded of my own daughters, especially Becky with whom there is a resemblance.  But she is Orlaigh, not just who she looks like, but a twenty first century child who will know things I could never dream of.

I also thought of Holly’s parents, Gay and Mick O’Neill, who I hope to see at Christmas.  They are not yet able to see their grandchildren as often as they would like, because they live on the other side of the world.  Gay, your turn will come next week.

When Jackie and I arrived, Malachi was at Pre-School.  After his sister had been brought down and presented to her UK grandfather, Sam went off to collect him.  In the meantime Orlaigh uncomplainingly was held by both Jackie and me.  She screwed her face up a few times and searched for an absent nipple, but otherwise she slept on until a while later, when she made it clear she was hungry.

Malachi arrived, excited to see us, so much so that he called through the letter box before Sam came to open the door.  After lunch we had to play hide and seek.  He did what all little children do and gave the game away by giggling in his hiding place.  Jackie did a grand job of not finding him in all the obvious places, before his laughter could no longer be ignored.Holly and Malachi 11.12

After this it was drawing.  He enjoyed being artistic alongside me, and helping Holly with a picture.  By the time he got his train set out it was time for us to leave.

On our very lengthy return journey, when I was not asleep, I contemplated my life with children.  In my seventy first year, the only time there has not been a baby or young child in my life was the fourteen months before my brother Chris came along.  I was the eldest of five, and my brother Joe was only three when Michael, my eldest, was born.  Matthew, Becky, Sam, and Louisa followed soon enough; and Emily, the first of six granddaughters arrived nineteen years ago.  Oliver, almost seventeen, felt some relief of pressure when Malachi joined him nearly four years ago.  Orlaith keeps the tradition going.  Thank you, Sam and Holly.

After a pretty difficult journey home we went on to Curry Garden in Ringwood where we had an excellent meal accompanied by Kingfisher beer and a long exchange of life stories with the manager who lives in Bethnal Green, not so far from where we had been today.