One of our regular Christmas decorations is positioned under the glass of an African display table I bought in Finsbury Park in the late 1970s. It features our granddaughter Florence as Mary alongside Joseph in a Primary School Nativity Play.

I spent the afternoon completing my reading of my 1984 Folio Society Edition of Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son. Despite the emotional and practical difficulties in the author’s getting to grips with this work described by Christopher Hibbert in his excellent introduction, Dickens has produced what I have found his most engaging novel. I agree with Thackeray’s observation that “It is unsurpassed. It is stupendous”. All the writer’s descriptive skills; his humour; his flowing prose; his compassion; and his forward looking, come into play with a consummate construction not always apparent in other works. I was most impressed by the way in which he draws a large cast of characters together in the last few paragraphs as he brings the book to a complete conclusion. The lives are largely not happy ones, but they have credible participants, of which Florence is a key member. As usual I will refrain from giving any more detail in case any readers are tempted to tackle the tome.

Charles Keeping’s final septet of illustrations speak for themselves.

‘ ‘Sol Gills ahoy’ ‘

‘A burying-ground, where the few tombs and tombstones are almost black’

‘Nothing lay there, any longer, but the ruin of the mortal house’

‘He wept, alone’

‘Down among the mast, oar, and block makers’

‘Edith sunk down to her knees, and caught her round the neck’

‘The Wooden Midshipman’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots and broccoli; firm Brussels sprouts; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Merlot.

A Flaw In The Printing

This morning I completed the addressing of the last of the cards for posting.

After lunch I scanned the next six of Charles Keeping’s marvellous illustrations to my Folio Society edition of ‘Dombey and Son’.

‘He caught her to his heart’

‘ ‘I beg your pardon, ‘ interposes Cousin Feenix’

‘ ‘Let go, will you? What are you doing of?’ ‘

‘She wound her wild black hair around her hand’

The drawing of ‘She surveyed him with a haughty contempt and disgust’, shows the gentleman’s unusually sheathed teeth indicating his discomfort;

and, in the foreground of ‘Away, at a gallop, over the black landscape’ the teeth display alarm instead of the usual broad grin.

Because of a flaw in the printing of this page, I have not included the text with the image which is too good to omit.

Max, of Peacock Computers, visited this afternoon to troubleshoot the new landline, and to tidy up the cable spaghetti of the improved broadband system.

Afterwards we posted the cards and bought bread and tomatoes at Everton Post Office.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s substantial chicken and vegetable stewp and fresh crusty bread and butter, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Pomerol.

Catering For Boxing Day

On the only dry morning of a largely dreary day we visited Tesco for Jackie to obtain further ingredients for her Boxing Day curries, and to acquire petrol.

Having now read fifty more pages of ‘Dombey and Son’ I scanned the next nine of Charles Keeping’s exquisitely detailed illustrations to my Folio Society edition.

‘Painted and patched for the sun to mock’

In ‘The horse, in his struggles to get up, kicked him’ features the artist’s trademark dog, with Keeping’s own imagination demonstrating the animal’s distress at the accident.

‘Awake, doomed man, while she is near’

‘Mr Dombey, in a paroxysm of rage, pulled his hair rather than nothing’

‘She confronted him with the same self-possession and steadiness’

‘ ‘Don’t mind her,’ she said; ‘she’s a strange creetur’

‘She cast the gems upon the ground’

‘The captain carried her up’. Note how the stairs are indicated.

Of all the delicate details in ‘She dared not look into the glass’ perhaps the mirror is the cleverest.

Later, I published https://derrickjknight.com/2021/12/13/a-knights-tale-78-divorce/

The Culinary Queen perfected her Boxing Day Chicken Jalfrezi during the day,

saving enough of the sauce prepared yesterday to see us through the week on lamb jalfrezi and pilau rice, which we began this evening with her favourite Hoegaarden and more of the Malbec for me.

Byron Road 2021

Early this afternoon, our neighbour, Gordon, visited. We enjoyed a convivial conversation in which he expressed pleasure to hear that the article he had given me from a 1928 edition of The Mansfield and Sutton Times had appeared in my post ‘Patent Love’.

Later, I scanned the next four of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’.

‘She lay like a horrible doll that had tumbled down’

‘Miss Tox took him on her lap’

‘Pinning him by the legs, the children claimed him as their friend’

‘Their heads all but touching, in their hurry and decrepitude’

The organisers of Byron Road Christmas decorations in Barton on Sea have this year dedicated their annual fundraising display to

the NHS.

We made our visit after dark this afternoon.

This evening we dined on well cooked pork chops with apple sauce; baby new boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots; and firm broccoli and cauliflower, with meaty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Macon.

“Brother Jack Can’t Hold His Head Up Yet”

This morning I scanned the next six of Charle Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’ – each one an example of the artist’s mastery of of mood in portraiture.

‘Mr Dombey, leading Mrs Dombey by the hand’

‘A stoical gentleman in a shaggy white greatcoat’

‘She sat down upon a heap of stones’

‘ ‘Let go, mother; let go’ ‘

‘She could not have taken a bird more tenderly and gently to her breast’ occupies a double page spread.

‘There was a throng in the state-rooms up-stairs’

Joined by G-Ma Elizabeth, Danni and Ella brought new baby Jack for lunch.

Our great-niece wanted to go straight into the library where her hamper of toys are kept. She was confused and delighted to find that they had already been brought into the sitting room ready for her

to unpack them all and tell Jackie all about them.

While feeding Jack on the sofa, Danni demonstrated multi-tasking by carrying on a conversation with her daughter who informed us that brother Jack couldn’t hold his head up yet.

Elizabeth took a turn at doing it for him;

while Danni moved closer to Ella who has not lost her pointing technique.

Jackie produced her usual lunch melange of cold meats, salads, and fresh crusty bread. Ella saw nothing awry with eating Tunnock’s teacakes and sausage rolls with alternating bites.

Jack, of course, had to flop this one out, which he did on his G-Ma’s lap.

We had given Jack a pack of nappies and a Boot’s voucher; Ella’s present was a set of Play-Doh which she put to use with Elizabeth.

A final feed, a comparison of noses, and one more story completed a very enjoyable afternoon.

Later, Danni sent me a photograph of Jack, sporting his penguin outfit, suggesting he might be suitable for Christmas dinner.

Speaking of dinner, tonight Jackie and I finished her wholesome winter stewp with fresh crusty bread and butter. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Fitting Perfectly

Connor and Josh completed their work on our floor this afternoon.

The last stages had them working on different locations alongside each other, and finally together as the work was completed in the vestibule.

Connor’s fitting of the tiles round the WC bowl and macerator; and his joins at the corner of the doors fit perfectly, and the link between the hall and vestibule is a seamless operation.

After spending some time putting things back together again, I scanned the next three of Charles Keeping’s exemplary illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’,

‘There was a labyrinth of scaffolding raised all round the house’

‘The afflicted foreigner remained clasping Miss Tox to his heart’

‘Mrs Skewton smirked at her cadaverous self in the glass’

This evening we dined on second helpings of Jackie’s wholesome, well-filled beef and onion pie with accompanying vegetables, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2019.

Really Faster Broadband

A Kelly telephone engineer visited at 7.50 a.m. this morning to install the new faster Broadband. Max of Peacock Computers had not been told, and, of course, wasn’t likely to be available at that time. I was forced to dash upstairs in my dressing gown and don some clothes.

The plan had been that Max would meet the engineer at the house with the new router with which to set up our service. Peacock’s man phoned the supplier at lunchtime when he learned what had happened. Less than an hour later he arrived with the router and worked his magic.

First he activated the Broadband and checked that all was well.

Then he synchronised the TV and the laptops.

In the meantime, Jackie cleared more of the wisteria and

trimmed Paul’s Scarlet rose.

I had moved the patio chairs to their winter quarters between our house and the fence shared with North Breeze.

All today’s photographs uploaded like a dream.

This gave me the confidence to scan another five of Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’.

The passive desolation of disuse was everywhere silently manifest’

‘Florence wept long and bitterly’

‘The shutters were not yet taken down’

‘The major wafted a kiss to Cleopatra’

‘An old, worn, yellow, nodding woman, huddled up, like a slovenly bundle’

Although these pages uploaded swiftly and smoothly, I struggled to entitle the images. I am assuming that that remains a WordPress glitch.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s very savoury rice topped with a fluffy omelette; and two preparations of prawns, namely hot and spicy and tempura. The Culinary Queen drank more of the Chardonnay while I drank more of the Douro.

The Artist’s Own Embellishment

Between struggles with blogging posts today was spent on sorting cupboards; shredding and recycling documentation going back fifteen years; and making administrative phone calls. Unfortunately my shredder takes a rest every ten minutes or so.

There were no illustrations to https://derrickjknight.com/2021/11/13/a-knights-tale-63-a-course-and-a-change-of-position/ so I was able to post that late this morning.

I spent a considerable amount of time wrestling with transferring five scanned pages from Dombey and Son. In the event I gave up on the last one, to which I will return on another day. I don’t want to omit any of Charles Keeping’s superb illustrations.

‘They were all three put aboard the Son and Heir’

‘Mr Tootle, professionally clothed’

‘The little cavalcade drew near’

In ‘Mr Carker broke into a trot’ the dogs are the artist’s own embellishment.

This evening we dined on second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway meal with the same accompanying beverages.

Keeping, Garden, Peacock, Wardrobe

This is the progress Richard and Ross had made on the bedroom wardrobe before they finished last night. I had been unable to add it to yesterday’s post, but did so this morning.

Later I scanned six more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Dombey and Son’.

‘Mr Carker the manager’ will be instantly recognisable when he next appears.

‘Florence came and sat by his side’ and

‘Sister and brother wound their arms around each other’ give Mr Keeping opportunities to use flowing folds to indicate their closeness.

‘A vista to the railway world beyond’ demonstrates Keeping’s skill with perspective.

‘Mr Carker, showing all his teeth’

‘Florence smoothed his coarse back with her little delicate hand’

This was interrupted by a session with Max of Peacock Computers in which he remotely controlled my iMac in order to rectify a problem with my BT ID and password being rejected. This is apparently not an unusual situation resulting in lack of access to e-mails.

I then plucked up courage to wander round the garden which has received scarcely any tidying up since the recent storms which brought down the wisteria arbour. I was pleasantly surprised at how well she was looking.

These are a random selection of photographs of how I found it. Each is labelled in the gallery.

The Kitchen Makers gents had reached this stage of the wardrobe assembly before we left them this afternoon to drive to Elizabeth’s home at Pilley to complete further administration relating to Mum’s estate.

By the end of the day the wardrobe was almost finished. The more accurate colours feature in the penultimate gallery.

This evening we dined on smoked haddock; creamy mashed potatoes; tangy cauliflower cheese; firm carrots and broccoli; tender spinach and green beens, with which we both drank Jurancon white wine 2019.

A Spot Of Pedicure

Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm shop where she bought eggs, a leg of lamb, and vegetables while I photographed some of the produce displayed outside, including

pumpkins, cut flowers, cyclamen and pansies.

A pair of roofers worked across the road.

On this warm, damp, and largely overcast day the sun briefly signalled its presence when I stopped to commune with ponies outside Burley.

One grey indulged in a spot of pedicure.

A number of walkers enlivened the landscape.

I had no problem uploading pictures today, which is probably just as well since obtaining two multiple page forms concerning Mum’s probate was a different story.

As I eventually said when I got to speak to someone in the probate service, because I am an old man who didn’t grow up with computers I want to do as much as possible as an executor without going on line. Having previous experience in the case of my friend Wolf I knew that I needed Probate Application and Tax forms. www.gov.uk gives information about obtaining and completing these on line, but not about receiving them by post.

I therefore tried the telephone. After three differently accented machine voices led me through three different option numbers to press I eventually joined the muzak queue – for a good half hour. The man who eventually answered me and I enjoyed an amusing conversation when I explained that I wanted paper forms sent to me. Normally he could have done this, but not now. Why?

Because they are out of print. I can, of course, download them and print them myself.

I hoped to calm myself by reading a little more of ‘Dombey and Son’ and scanning the next four of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘Then came rows of houses’ displays one of the artist’s excellent street scenes, this time with chickens; and with the foreground portrait offering perspective.

‘Captain Cuttle advanced to the table’, and the next two drawings show more of Keeping’s excellent portraits.

‘The doctor was sitting in his portentous study’ is one;

‘Paul’s chair was next to Miss Blimber’ contains two.

The errors during uploading returned with a vengeance in these. I had so many attempts at the first that I couldn’t see straight. The process took a very long time, and I was then unable to edit them in the gallery. That will also have to be tackled maƱana.

This evening we dined on tasty baked gammon; succulent ratatouille; firm roast potatoes, some of which were sweet; crunchy carrots; tender green beans; and piquant cauliflower cheese, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2018.