Jackie’s Post


“The only time I can hear birdsong is when I’m sitting on the loo”.

When Jackie, delivering this sentence yesterday to her sisters in Milford’s Polly’s Pantry, became aware that she had raised her voice – as she told me this morning – she had hoped other customers had not heard this taken out of context. Having been beset by building works on one side of our garden and hedge-cutting on the other, that,  opening statement was indeed true. This is because baby sparrows in the nest in our extractor fan are currently clamouring for the food parents are bringing home. Even while the fan is operating, a clunk, as the meals on wings arrive, is followed by intense tweets that would put Mr Trump to shame. Two adults proceed in non-stop convoy throughout the day.

When we first arrived here four years ago the front garden trellis bore quite weedy specimens of pink and red rambling roses, clematises and honeysuckle. Heavy pruning and nurturing has resulted in a splendid floral wall. The roses, in particular, shelter the entrance to the nest from view.

As always, the birds do not fly straight to the nest, but perch somewhere nearby to recce the surroundings before diving in. Our foraging parents choose first to alight on the trellis foliage. This morning, Jackie watched the proceedings through the hall window and photographed the birds transporting wriggling beakfuls of juicy breakfast.

Now, I may have put all this together and added my twopenn’orth, but this is quite clearly Jackie’s post.

This evening we dined on beef burgers, onions, carrots, cabbage, and mashed potato with tasty gravy.


The Sexiest Statue In The Capital


Treacherous snow and ice lying on the ground today kept us inside and prevented Richard from getting his van out of his drive until mid afternoon, so I decided to visit The Streets of London. Trains were not running so this was achieved through the medium of a batch of colour slides from June 2005.

The Hilton Hotel Paddington is actually in Praed Street, on the corner of Harrow Road, WC2. Paddington Walk, revealed when the large van had passed on, was still under construction at the time I made these pictures.

Still in WC2, Covent Garden Tube Station, opened in 1906, stands on the corner of Long Acre and James Street.

Floral Street is at the other end of James Street. Many scooter riders have their directions perched on a board in front of them.

The brass number plate at 80 Strand, on the corner of Carting Lane, WC2 clearly receives regular polishing.

Arundel Street, WC2 shares a corner with Temple Place, on which is sited Temple Underground station.

Along Victoria Embankment

lies Savoy Place where stands a memorial to Michael Faraday at the edge of Victoria Embankment Gardens.

There we find another, depicting the Muse of Music, celebrating Sir Arthur Sullivan. I know my self-imposed restraint on this series of photographs is that they must contain the street sign, but on this occasion I couldn’t help myself.

https://memoirsofametrogirl.com/tag/memorial/ tells us:

‘Sitting on reclaimed land on what used to be the River Thames stands Victoria Embankment Gardens. It’s a small pocket of greenery in the West End just a stone’s throw from the waterways located beside Embankment tube station. For many workers and tourists, it’s a nice place to have lunch, but it is often passed by. As well as playing host to a café and summer lunchtime concerts, the Gardens also feature a collection of monuments to the great and good.

One such monument is the Grade II listed memorial to legendary composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. Situated in the slimmer part of the gardens nearer to the north-eastern exit, it is located looking towards The Savoy Hotel. Sullivan and his frequent collaborator, dramatist WS Gilbert were closely linked to The Savoy Theatre, which was built by their producer Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1881 using profits from their shows. Gilbert and Sullivan’s last eight comic operas premiered at The Savoy Theatre, so it is only fitting that the Sullivan memorial is so nearby. Eight years later, The Savoy hotel opened next door, also built from profits of their opera The Mikado, which had premiered at the theatre four years previously.

Lambeth-born and Chelsea-raised Sullivan is widely recognised as one of the greatest English composers. Although best known for his operatic collaborations with Gilbert, he also wrote many operas, orchestral works, ballets, plays and hymns, among other musical compositions alone. Among his work with Gilbert included HMS Pinafore, Patience and The Pirates Of Penzance. Following an incredibly successful career and a knighthood in 1883, Sullivan died at his London flat of heart failure on November 1900, aged 58. Despite his wishes to buried with his parents and brother at Brompton Cemetary, Queen Victoria ordered he was to be laid to rest at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Nearly three years after his death, Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John’s memorial to Sullivan was unveiled in Victoria Embankment Gardens by Princess Louise on 10 July 1903. The monument features a weeping Muse of Music, who is so distraught her clothes are falling off as she leans against the pedestal. This topless Muse has led some art critics to describe the memorial as the sexiest statue in the capital. The sculpture is topped with a bust of Sullivan, with an inscription of Gilbert’s words from The Yeoman Of The Guard inscribed on the side: ‘Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon.’ At the bottom of the pedestal is a mask of Pan, sheet music from The Yeoman Of The Guard and a mandolin inscribed with W Goscombe John A.R.A. 1903.

Meanwhile, if you come out the Gardens and cross the road, there is a memorial to his former writing partner Gilbert on the retaining river wall. It features a profile of the dramatist, two females, two wreaths and a shield. It reads: ‘W.S. Gilbert. Playwright and poet. His Foe was Folly, and his Weapon Wit.’ Gilbert died May 1911 after suffering a heart attack in the lake of his Harrow Weald estate while trying to rescue the artist Patricia Preece, who was 17 at the time.’

This crossing in SE1 leads from Sutton Walk to Waterloo Station, which, had I gone up by the non-running train, would have carried me back to New Milton.

So slippery was it in our inclined drive that, when Richard did manage to arrive, he needed to lay a large dust sheet over the icy surface in order to carry in his tools and equipment.

He installed the extractor fan;

switched the hinges and lighting buttons of the doors of the fridge freezer, which, of course, involved drilling precise new holes;

and set it in its allocated space beside the ovens, from which he burnt off the insulation.

Plaster in various places was prepared for later smoothing.

We were so iced in this evening that it wasn’t even safe to walk along to The Royal Oak. I may not have mentioned before that we are not blessed with adequate street lighting. So it was instant vegetable soup and egg mayonnaise sandwiches for our dinner, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Doom Bar.

Snow On The Eucalyptus


By the time Jackie and I returned from the forest yesterday evening, Richard had fitted


all the smooth-running drawers

Sink and draining board

and splash trims to the worktops. I had planned to photograph these before he arrived this morning, but I overslept, so I got in his way again.

Wadding under shelf

At top left of the above picture can be seen the new oak windowsill, under which wadding has been applied.

This had been the site of the old kitchen sink. Our friend decided to lower the power points now half way up the wall, and to fit new skirting board.

Other electrical work included the fitting of strip lighting. The first two of these pictures shows the wiring of the larder cupboard with Richard pressing the switch which will be operated by the opening and closing of the door. Beneath the materials in the cupboard can be seen the quartz base to the food store. The electrician holds a reel of LED lights from which he cuts a suitable length. The last of these pictures is the strip over the long worktop.

Yesterday, in describing the core cutting for the extractor fan ducting I did not give enough emphasis to the fact that both these holes were cut through solid concrete blocks en route to the new outside wall.

The first cut, through the wall above the hobs, takes us into what was the garage.

Extractor fan casing

Later, Richard made a casing for the extractor.

On the front drive, beyond Richard wielding the saw, can be seen the cold dry cotton balls that fell from the sky whilst he was thus engaged. Viewing the first picture above full size in the gallery will show that the ice in the Waterboy’s shell has only been disturbed by the running flow. I wonder how many eucalypts, like that in the third image, have gathered a coating of snow.

This evening, the management having changed, we dined at The Royal Oak, just two buildings away. The new team have only been in occupation 5 days, so it was quite quiet. A new, much more tasteful, ambience has been created. Service and food were very good. I enjoyed a rib eye steak, cooked exactly as I asked; Jackie was equally pleased with her gammon steak. She drank Amstel, and I drank Ringwood’s Forty-niner.

The War Of Canudos

Yesterday evening, after dinner, Jackie attempted to turn off the extractor fan. She pulled the cord. Something snapped inside. To reach it I had to climb up on a chair. Fortunately the glass spice jar I knocked off the top of a tower of shelves didn’t break. I fiddled around and found a screw under a cap. I unscrewed it and removed the casing, to discover a small piece of plastic had sheered and come adrift. This meant I had to release the mechanism manually. At least I stopped the fan, but until we buy and fit another, that is how it will need to be turned on.
This morning, Joe, The Lady Plumber’s ‘lad’ came to remove the now redundant piping from our bathroom. Before that we had bought the fireworks for Saturday from Lidl, posted the redundant TV box to BT, and took in two jackets for cleaning.
I then cleared ten brick lengths of bramble and ivy roots from the back drive.
Jackie was out to lunch with her sisters, but sensible enough to have left me a beef and mustard sandwich Morning gloriesgarnished with tomatoes. Whilst I enjoyed it I also got pleasure from the cluster of sunlit pale blue morning glories shot with pastel pink  that can be seen through the kitchen window.
TWATEOTW040TWATEOTW041This afternoon I finished reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s haunting historical novel: ‘The War of The End of The World’. A Peruvian, the author chose to set his book in Bahia, a North-Eastern state of Brazil, as the nineteenth century was coming to a close. The book was originally published in 1981. My 2012 Folio Society edition uses the 1984 translation by Helen R. Lane. Ben Cain’s illustrations reflect the primitive nature of the story.
A very lengthy tome, it was only the political sections that I had difficulty following, and sometimes found rather boring. We are sensitively shown how the extreme poverty of underprivileged, landless, disabled, and uneducated people of that time and place affected their wretched lives, enough for them to flock to the shelter of a community established by a mystic preacher. Each character is beautifully and touchingly described as the civil War of Canudos progresses to its bitter end. The harshness of the terrain and climate adds to the horrors of thirst, starvation, wounding and destruction, which beset both the settlers and the soldiers sent to drive them out. Transcending all this is the superhuman emotional and physical strength displayed by people ultimately barely alive. The prose, having set the scene at a more leisurely pace, builds naturally, briskly, to a final crescendo. I have to say I was confused by the alternation between present and past in various sections. This was clearly not the fault of the translator, who seems to have done a remarkable job.
Ultimately the state cannot tolerate this enclave hoping to live in peace apart. The title of the book reflects the belief that the world would end at the turn of the next millennium, a myth which perhaps Vargas Llosa is dispelling.
Not knowing much about South American history, this novel had me researching the conflict that took place during 1896 and ’97. I learned that Antônio Vicente Mendes Maciel, an itinerant preacher who had been wandering the less inhabited areas of Brazil for the previous twenty years and had taken the name Antonio Conselheiro (The Counsellor), set up the Canudos_villagecommunity in question in 1893. Bahia was then a desperately poor zone, with a disenfranchised population living on subsistence agriculture. As such it was ripe for his influence, seeking hope from his promise of a better world. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at military suppression, a large Brazilian army force overran the village and killed nearly all the inhabitants.
Daniel’s fish and chip restaurant provided our dinner this evening. My beverage was tea; Jackie’s was coffee.