Going Back

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“Treasure Island”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, and “The Wind in The Willows”, are just three long-term classics that have been marketed as children’s books. I keep no such distinction on my library shelves. That is probably why

Going Back001

Penelope Lively’s “Going Back” stands alongside Mario Vargas Llosa’s “In Praise of the Stepmother” among my novels.

I finished reading Ms Lively’s short novel a couple of days ago. I can offer no better review than to reproduce the author’s preface to the Penguin editor of 1991. She writes: “Going Back was first published [in 1975] as a children’s book. I suppose that was what I thought I had written. Reading it now, I see that it is only tenuously so; the pitch, the voice, the focus are not really those of a true children’s book. Looking at it fifteen years later, I see it quite differently, and recognise it as a trial run for preoccupations with the nature of memory, with a certain kind of writing, with economy and allusion. I was flexing muscles, I think, trying things out, and it was only by accident that the result seemed to me and to others to be a book primarily for children. It has been in print ever since, but has led a shadow-life, I suspect, skirted by children properly way of what perhaps was never an apt offering anyway, and unknown, to others who might have found something in it. When a new addition on the adult list was suggested, I thought this a reasonable idea.’

Market it for whomever you like, it is splendid example of reminiscing into a well-remembered wartime childhood as a vehicle for exploring the author’s themes.

Desk cleaned and tidied

I overslept this morning enough for Jackie to get at my untidy desk still bearing a layer of fine dust from the installation of the new kitchen. This she cleaned, tidied, and polished to a level to make me frightened to spoil it. The items now perched on my printer and scanner were rather scattered around the desk. Well, I knew where everything was. Now, like polishing a new car at least once, I will just have to sort the piles and maintain its current condition. Even the keyboard and mouse are shiny, and, when scanning old slides and negatives, I will now know which are blemishes in the scanned material needing retouching, and which are globs of something unpleasant on the screen.

The history of The Church of St John the Baptist, Boldre, can be seen on my blotter, which contains more coffee than ink. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that we would need more visits to supplement the information given there. With another day of unrelenting rain we decided on going back to seek out

Grave of Edward Watts, St John the Baptist, Boldre

the oldest named tombstone in the graveyard. This is that of Edward Watts, who died on May 12th 1698. After all it wouldn’t matter much if that was wet, would it? Now, far more lichen obscures the inscription than on the photograph that illustrates the booklet, which directed visitors to take twelve paces from the East end.

East Window, St John the Baptist Church, Boldre

The East Window helped me locate the stone that I had missed on a previous visit focussing on the graveyard. This, in 1967, was designed by Alan Younger of London, in memory of two generations of de Mowbray Royal Naval officers. It was fortunate that the artist lived until 2004, because he was able to restore the piece after someone had thrown a brick through it in 1995.

I had a pleasant conversation with the Revd Canon Andrew Neaum, who was, with two helpers, working on decorations.

Rain on windscreen

Perhaps we experienced divine intervention when the rain lashing the windscreen on our arrival, suddenly ceased, and

Lichen covered trees

lichen covered trees opposite visibly brightened.

Water running down Church Lane

Nevertheless, rainwater streamed down Church Lane,

Water running under fence

ran under a fence,

Waterlogged garden

waterlogged the garden at the bottom of the hill,

Swollen stream

and swelled the river running through it.

Lichen covered fence

Just like that on the gravestone and the trees, lichen clung to an elderly rustic fence opposite.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb spicy pasta arrabbiata with which I drank Paniza gran reserva 2009

Procrastination

Desk untidy

This morning was spent making up for procrastination in various ways. My desk sits in the hall that doubles as a study. Despite the fact that I know where everything is, it does become a little untidy. Jackie never complains, but I know she would rather visitors saw some sort of order when they entered the house.

DowelBefore moving some of the material from on and under the desk into the hall cupboard this required a little repair. The door of the Chinese cabinet is hinged with wooden dowels, one of which was broken in the move to Minstead in November 2012. The damaged piece needed to be drilled out to make room for a replacement which Jackie had bought soon after our arrival at Castle Malwood Lodge. I thought I had better get around to that, and fixed it before tidying up the desk. When they were children, Matthew and Becky bought me the slate coasters that are now visible and can serve their proper purpose instead of delegating that to any bit of paper or blotter that could be reached.Desk tidiedDesk after cleaning

It looked even better after Jackie had got at it, made a few adjustments, and cleaned the computer screen.

For a while we have been meaning to check the contents of the oil tank. I did that. It was a bit low, but not crucially so. A similar task was arranging the next emptying of the septic tank. I did that by e-mail.

It must be four or five months since I last had a haircut. Again, we have been saying for some time that I needed one, especially as anyone might think I was trying to recover my long haired days, which would probably be a bit sad. Jackie did it in the kitchen this morning whilst I sat and watched tits, robins, chaffinches, pigeons, and sparrows flitting past the window and enjoying their breakfast.

Derrick reflected in computer screen

When asked to photograph her handiwork for the blog, Jackie had the bright idea that I should repeat my previous unwitting image of a good haircut, so I photographed my nice clean Apple screen.

It was another Six Nations Rugby afternoon. I watched it on television. In the first, quite the best game of the tournament so far, Wales, in Cardiff, beat Ireland 23-16. In a rather less intriguing contest at Twickenham England beat Scotland 25-13.Aaron

Aaron continued his work on the back drive, which is looking very good.

This evening we dined on pork rib rack marinaded in barbecue sauce, and Jackie’s egg fried rice and stir fry vegetables with teriyaki sauce. I drank Chateau Les Mourleaux Bordeaux 2012, and Jackie didn’t.

Elizabeth Chose Her Moment

4th April 2014
Refreshed after the first good night’s sleep I have enjoyed in weeks, I went on an exploratory walkabout this morning.
Country Watch signStreamSetting off down Downton Lane towards the sea with what I think was the Isle of Wight visible in the distance, I took a footpath leading across a field to the right. I then followed a left turn along another with a ploughed field on the left and a wooded area to the right. As I passed a couple of Countryside Watch signs, I hoped I didn’t look too suspicious.
I leaned on a bridge across a gently flowing stream, and, as I walked away, I noticed a deposit on the palm of my hand, indicating that a bird had been there before me.
This track led me to a narrow winding road on the other side of which was Taddiford Gap car park. The road was quite busy, and therefore rather dicey to negotiate. I was consequently relieved to see another footpath to the right just past Taddiford Farm. I took it. It led through woods and, like the curate’s egg, was good in parts. It others it was a bit muddy. I crossed what I hoped was the same stream I had encountered earlier. It was, and led me to Christchurch Road opposite a rape field I had seen before from a distance, and within sight of our house.
Back home I tackled some phone calls. Today was the date of the activation of our landline and broadband. BT’s letter indicated that this could happen at any time up to midnight. I phoned a very helpful woman called Gaynor who told me the engineers were working on it. She put my mind at rest on the question of the hub working through floorboards. Apparently hers does. I had been invited to take part in a customer survey to which I had agreed. When the call about that came later, I was asked how easy or difficult it had been to obtain the help I required. I had a choice of 1 to 3 to press. Having been happy, I pressed 1 as required. The message was repeated. Three times. After which I gave up.
Pippa at Spencers had told us she could provide us with names and phone numbers of suitable people to carry out practical tasks. Since we were still getting nowhere with our Neff hobs and the Logik built-in multifunctional oven hasn’t been built in anywhere, I obtained a name from her of a man who would be able to deal with both of these and fit the washing machine. I left him a message.
Jackie worked on cleaning and sorting the kitchen whilst I cleared more space around the washing machine. This led to a major blitz on the garage. The shelf above the plumbing for the machine contained a sand-tray once, no doubt, used for potting plants, now a spawning ground for spiders, the white clusters of whose eggs lined the crevices. One heavily pregnant creature staggered away seeking shelter underneath. Having noticed the handle of a small shovel protruding from beneath garden shrubbery, I thought this might be useful for collecting up the sand. Upon extracting it I discovered it had been used for clearing up after an elderly dog. The morning’s guano was far more attractive.
On a roll, I then decided to drag out a rolled-up carpet Michael had given us. This would enable me to place some boxes of books under the shelves. However I had to reach the relevant end to tug, and clear various items lain upon it. My way was blocked by the legs of a desk balanced on top of the Safe Store book containers. It wouldn’t budge. This was because a box of books was wedged underneath it. I pulled the whole structure towards me, intending to lean the desk against the garage doors whilst I extracted the now seriously maimed box, spilling as few of its contents as possible. Elizabeth chose that moment to telephone me. Now propping myself against the desk teetering on the boxes, I fished in my pocket for my mobile phone and we had a pleasant conversation. After speaking to my sister, I completed the task and came in for lunch.
Having freed the desk, I had to find a home for it. It had always been my intention to have an office in the hall, but it was full of assorted belongings. so we cleared that, which, of course meant cluttering up other places. Never mind, it was a job well done. For there, in the middle of the wall under the bay window, just where I would have wanted it, was a lovely telephone point. Not so quirky after all.Office
I retrieved the home hub and telephone from the bedroom, and set it up in my now established office, this time with my iMac attached. Now all there was to do was to await the connection by BT. Then there was a shriek from  Jackie. We had no electricity. The loss of power coincided with her having turned off the hobs at the wall. Fortunately we had found the fuse box. One fuse had tripped. I turned it back on. Not only did we have light and power, but the child lock had disappeared. And we had broadband. Magic.
Coincidentally, my on-line friend Jane, had sent an e-mail telling us that turning off the hobs at the wall would free the lock.
The bad news about the hobs is that they work by induction which means the pans used with them must be magnetic, so, until we buy some more suitable ones Jackie will be forced to use my heavy iron pots.
We dined this evening on microwaved fish pie and mushy peas, with which I drank Isla Negra reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.