Noon In The Knight Garden

At noon, on another warm, sunny, day with a moderate breeze, I poked my camera out of the upstairs window in order to record the garden’s continuing splendour. (I was inspired by a comment from Elizabeth Gauffreau for today’s title)

This afternoon I finished reading ‘David Copperfield’ and scanned the final eight drawings with which that splendid illustrator, Charles Keeping, has adorned the closing pages of my Folio Society edition.

‘I hired a boat directly, and we put off to the ship’

‘I came into the valley, as the evening sun was shining on the remote heights of snow’

‘I thought I had never seen an obstinate head of hair rolling about in such a shower of kisses’

in ‘Going softly to her piano, Agnes played some of those old airs to which we had often listened in that place’ Mr Keeping, through the medium of the flowing grain on the side of the instrument, conveys the unspoken communication between singer and listener which culminates in the next but one illustration.

‘Whom should we behold, to our amazement, in this converted Number Twenty Seven, but Uriah Heep!’, unmistakeable to anyone who has seen the artist’s previous depictions.

‘Clasped in my arms as she had never been, as I had thought she never was to be!’

‘Mr Peggotty went with me to see a little tablet I had put up in the churchyard to the memory of Ham’

‘Peggotty, my good old nurse’

I don’t propose to review such a well-known book, save to say that it was a very good choice for Charles Dickens to term his favourite of the novels.

I have probably mentioned before that I do not generally keep more than one book on the go at any one time. This Dickens work and another, modern, novel have been an exception while I have returned to the Victorian masterpiece. As soon as I have finished reading Harold Brodkey’s book I will draw some comparisons between the two.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she finished the Rosé and I drank Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017.

Despite The Winds Of August

Yesterday’s winds were not quite as bad as expected, but they persisted today, amid sunny spells. The Head Gardener carried out more pruning, clipping, and tidying, with minimal assistance from me.

After lunch I wandered around with my camera.

Here is a selection of our white flowers, comprising Marguerites, cosmos, dahlias. Japanese anemones, and petunias.

Begonias come in varying colours, shapes and sizes.

as, of course, do the dahlias.

The pale peach and the yellow Summer Time climbers flower throughout the season.

Hues of hydrangeas and lilies, including hemerocallis are also numerous.

Crocosmia, including Lucifer, towering in the Palm Bed, and the more orange one against the red Japanese maple in the Pond Bed send up flickering flames signifying different heats.

Despite the winds of this unusual August, we still enjoy the exuberance of Nature’s painter’s palette.

I then scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s skilfully sensitive illustrations to Dickens’s ‘David Copperfield’

‘I lay my face upon the pillow by her, and she looks into my eyes, and speaks very softly’

‘Standing by the building was a plain hearse’

‘The ship rolled and beat with a violence quite inconceivable’

‘ ‘I will speak!’ she said, turning on me with her lightning eyes’

Shortly before dinner, I posted

The delicious meal consisted of roast chicken thighs; crisp Yorkshire pudding and fried potatoes; herby sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; with thick, meaty, gravy. We each drank more of our rosé and red wines respectively.

Running For Cover

Following a warning of further fierce winds we carried out our normal protective preparations early this morning. Although still strong the gusts were not as forceful as yesterday.

Soon after lunch we took a drive into the forest to take our minds off any possible storm damage.

As we approached Smugglers Road car park we witnessed the most unusual sight of a quartet of ponies racing down the hillside. Naturally we turned in to investigate the equine objective.

There, apart from a more nonchalant trio preferring grass to whatever goodies were on offer, the animals gathered around a group of promising visitors.

My attention strayed to the purpling heather on the verges and upward on the hillside. As I picked my way up a steep and very narrow pony track, I had forgotten that, with the current state of my knees, it is far easier to climb than descend. When I realised I would have difficulty getting down, and would not therefore be nimble enough to negotiate meeting a pony face to face, I sidled crablike to the bottom. I really must keep a stick in the car – and remember to take it out.

On my return manoeuvres I was happy to see the ponies still occupying the car park.

A group of walkers set off by a different, gentler, route

So far the rain had kept off. Enough, at Linwood Bottom, for me to be tempted to stray to photograph

a number of white cattle from a different angle.

No sooner had I disembarked than a heavy downpour sent me diving into the Modus; the cattle lurching to their feet; and a gentleman and two boys passing the bovine bunch in their dash for cover.

Having read enough of David Copperfield to scan four more of Charles Keeping’s memorable illustrations, I did so.

‘Mr Micawber accepted my proffered arm on one side, and the proffered arm of Traddles on the other, and walked away between us’

‘With the veiled face lying on his bosom, Mr Peggotty carried her, motionless and unconscious, down the stairs’

‘The door of the boat-house stood open when I approached’

‘ ‘The Devil take you!’ said Uriah, writhing in a new way with pain’

All the portraits in these examples remain faithful to earlier versions.

Tonight we dined on a mixed meat melange with tasty gravy; new potatoes, both boiled, and fried with mushrooms; crunchy carrots; and tender cabbage. Jackie drank more of the rosé while I drank Chevalier de Fauvert Comté Tolosan Rouge 2019.

Beside The Pond

This morning was the dry part of day beset with showers of varying ferocity. We shopped at Ferndene Farm Shop for three more bags of compost and a replenishment of our stock of fruit and vegetables, then continued into the forest.

Fly-decorated ponies planted in the road around the fully occupied Holmsley Campsite did their best to impede decanted campers, cyclists, and walkers setting out on their trips.

A nonchalant adolescent foal ambled across Burley Road, along which Jackie parked so that I could

follow the bone-dry powdery pony track to Whitemoor Pond. The third of these pictures is “Where’s Derrick” (5)

It was the sight of the distant clusters of ponies and foals that drew me to take the trek through the

moorland heather. Note the crow on the back of the reflected bay alongside the grey.

This afternoon I scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s skilled illustrations to “David Copperfield”.

‘Mr Dick leaned back in his chair, with his eyebrows lifted up as high as he could possibly lift them’

‘Mr Peggotty kept a lodging over the little chandler’s shop in Hungerford Market’ contains the artists ubiquitous little dog.

‘The girl we had followed strayed down to the river’s brink, and stood, lonely and still, looking at the water’

‘I began to carry her down-stairs every morning, and up-stairs every night’

Later, I did some more work on the next episode of The Knight’s Tale. Shortly before his death in 2017, my brother Chris asked me to help with the writing of his research on the family history. Now, for this section, I find myself wading through pages of material, including contemporary photographs and reminiscences. The problem is how to cull it to reasonable blog length.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s special savoury rice with tempura and hot and spicy prawns; tuna and egg mayonnaise with paprika; and plentiful fresh salad, with which she drank more of the Carricante and I drank more of the Barolo.

Battered, Bedraggled, Bejewelled

I began a thoroughly wet morning by posting:

During the afternoon the rain eased off and I wandered round the garden with my camera, photographing

battered, bedraggled, and bejewelled blooms, each of which is separately titled in the gallery.

Later, I read more of Charles Dickens’s ‘David Copperfield’ and scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations.

‘The younger sister appeared to be the manager of the conference, inasmuch as she had my letter in her hand’

‘The whole of his lank cheek was invitingly before me, and I struck it with my open hand’

‘Kneeling down together, side by side’

‘Jip lay blinking in the doorway of the Chinese House, even too lazy to be teased’

This evening we dined on an excellent takeaway meal from Red Chilli with which Jackie drank more of the Rosé and I drank more of the Shiraz. Mrs Knight enjoyed her sag triple: namely bhaji, paneer, and chicken; as I did my Naga Chilli Lamb, special fried rice, and plain paratha. There is enough left over for tomorrow.

A Knight’s Tale (1 : “A Sneaky Weekend”)

On another blisteringly hot day, before the sun was fully up, I produced

a dozen current garden views from above.

Later, Jackie occupied herself planting and watering, while I carried out some dead heading. These activities were continued at intervals throughout the day.

Some years ago, now, encouraged by a number of my readers, I began work on an autobiography reflecting the era of my life so far. Eventually I came to a seemingly unsurpassable crossroads.

I have now decided to publish extracts from my draft, in occasional instalments, making use of some material previously posted and further thoughts and details, of which this is the first:

During the early 1940s members of my father, Douglas Michael Knight’s, generation were doing what those of his father had done before, namely fighting to save the life of our country, and, indeed, the whole world, from the might of Germany and its allies.

My maternal grandfather, an engineer in the prison service, was attached to Leicester Prison. As such he and his family including my mother, Jean, née Hunter, were allocated prison quarters.

Dad was billeted for a while next door. The teenaged neighbour must have aroused his interest, because, on 7th July, 1942, I was born in Leicester General Hospital. The above photographs were taken around this time.

Wherever he was stationed, Mum tells me, Dad took every opportunity when in England to get home to Mum and me and, later, Chris.  If he had no official leave, this involved nipping off for what she calls “a sneaky weekend”.   Apparently he found all kinds of means to do this, often involving the railway services.  On one occasion when he couldn’t find any sort of train he walked all through the night from ‘somewhere in Yorkshire’ to Leicester for the pleasure.  Dad himself has told me about marathon nocturnal walks to Leicester.

Mum’s part in the subterfuge was to keep a lookout for redcaps, as were termed the military police, one of whom was her elder brother Ben.  I guess discovery could have been awkward.


Later this afternoon, having read more of David Copperfield, I scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s illustrations.

‘What was my amazement to find, of all people on earth, my aunt there, and Mr Dick!’

‘I observed Agnes turn pale, as she looked attentively at my aunt’

‘Mr Micawber had prepared, in a wash-hand-stand jug, a ‘Brew’ of the agreeable beverage for which he was famous’

‘I replied, ‘I, Miss Mills!’ I have done it!’ – and hid my face from the light, in the sofa cushion’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver and bacon; boiled new potatoes; tender broccoli and cabbage, with which she drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, and I drank Valle Central Syrah Reserva Privada 2019


This is the footpath to the centre of the Palm Bed that we cleared yesterday.

On another scorching hot day we began the gardening early. My contribution was a dead heading tour, a certain amount of weeding, and a little clearing up.

After lunch I scanned the next five of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to David Copperfield.

‘She drew the harp to her, and played and sang’

‘Mr Peggotty smoothed her rich hair with his great hard hand’ displays such tender emotion’

‘Mr, Peggotty, with his vest torn open, his hair wild, and blood trickling down his bosom, looked fixedly at me’ depicts horror and despair.

‘Miss Dartle gently touched her, and bent down her head to whisper’

‘I drank in every note of her dear voice, and she sang to me who loved her’

After this, I wandered around with my camera, picturing

various scenes, each of which is titled in the gallery;

a. bee clambering onto an eryngium;

planters that currently need watering twice daily;

the water fountain that Jackie cleaned;

and the brick pillar in Elizabeth’s Bed that the Head Gardener removed from further back in this plot and rebuilt with a refurbished sign. Other refreshed signage includes the Old Post House and Aaron’s Garden labels placed on the arch taking us into the garden from the Back Drive. The kitchen table is a makeshift studio.

This evening we dined on Thai prawn and pollock fish cakes; smoked haddock; oven chips; and toothsome cauliflower, runner beans, and peas, with which Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Hoverflies Can Stand The Heat

This afternoon seemed even too hot for bees. Jackie continued her garden maintenance work. My contribution included trimming the edges of the lawn, a modicum of dead heading, and acting as the Head Gardener’s bagman, to and fro the compost bins.

We enjoyed, however, a host of hoverflies, seen here on For Your Eyes Only, Verbena Bonariensis, red carpet rose, Rosa Gallica, and a Marguerite.

One of the few bees in evidence took a rest on a somewhat chewed hemerocallis leaf.

Later this afternoon, I scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to Dickens’s David Copperfield.

Writhing as Dickens describes, ‘He sat, with that carved grin on his face, looking at the fire’.

‘Miss Murdstone marched us into breakfast as if it were a soldier’s funeral’. Keeping’s portrait is true to his earlier ones.

‘The street was not as desirable a one as I could have wished it to be’

‘Traddles cut the mutton into slices; Mr Micawber covered them with pepper, mustard, salt, and cayenne’

This evening we dined on tender roast beef; fried potatoes and onions; crisp Yorkshire pudding; firm carrots, broccoli, and runner beans, with which I finished the Shiraz and Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Clear Paths

Today remained hot-sticky-humid throughout with very little sunshine. This morning Jackie ironed the last bedsheet; this afternoon I pressed the last three shirts.

The Head Gardener continued clearing, composting, and planting; while I applied myself to dead heading

such as Mamma Mia, Crown Princess Margareta, and Absolutely Fabulous; and to gathering up heaps of clippings.

Day lilies and everlasting sweet peas continue to proliferate.

The Brick and Gazebo paths are now clear once more,

as is the Phantom Path running between Margery’s and the Cryptomeria Beds.

Soon after we arrived here we found the iron ends of this bench in the jungle that we inherited. I bought timber for the slats and fitted them into place. It has become somewhat unsteady. Today Jackie reinforced it with metal stakes and resettled it. We no longer need to be apprehensive when sitting on it.

During a rest period I read enough more of David Copperfield to scan the next three of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘ ‘Miss Mowcher!’ ‘

‘My aunt sat looking benignantly on me, from among the borders of her nightcap’

In ‘People about me crying ‘Silence!’, and ladies casting indignant glances at me’ Mr Keeping makes the reason clear.

This evening we dined on roast chicken thighs; firm carrots and broccoli; tender cabbage; and boiled potatoes, with which Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I finished the Fleurie.

Path Clearances

Today continued with warm clammy-inducing humidity. The morning was still drizzly; although the afternoon was dry.

We both carried out further stints on the ironing backlog; Jackie’s before, and mine mainly after, lunch.

During the last few days, the Head Gardener has continued clearing the borders of paths such as the Phantom Path, the Cryptomeria Bed footpath, and the Brick Path. I helped her bag up the clippings from the latter.

The hanging baskets and other containers on the kitchen corner are filling out nicely. Having trimmed the fading Chilean Lantern tree has opened the red bottle brush plant to better viewing.

Elsewhere rose Just Joey is benefiting from trimming of the red carpet rose, and day lilies and gladioli mingle with geraniums.

As the afternoon wore on the light feigned the midnight hour. Suddenly a solitary thunder clap ushered in a brief torrential downpour which, like a Swedish runner practicing Fartlek training, varied its pace as it continued its descent. Fast periods dwindled to steady drizzle, then picked up tempo and repeated the process.

I read more of Charles Dickens’s novel, David Copperfield, and scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations displaying examples of his extensive range of portraiture.

‘I waltz with the eldest Miss Larkins’

‘I came out into the rainy street, at twelve o’clock at night’ looks as if Mr Keeping knows what is outside my window.

‘She was introduced as Miss Dartle’, complete with the scar the author describes.

‘Mr Peggotty laid his niece’s face with a gentle pride and love upon his broad chest, and patted it’, demonstrates the artist’s sensitivity to the author’s characterisation.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank more of the Fleurie.