A Knight’s Tale (2: I May Not Have Existed)

I was seven weeks premature, and weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces. Those weeks were spent in hospital with my mother, who I believe suffered from eclampsia, yet who was told by nurses not to worry and that she should bring me back when I was twenty-one because I would grow to be over 6 foot, dark, and handsome. The first two points are objectively true; the third is subjective. This was perhaps the first time I was lucky to survive.

Like all infants, I was totally oblivious of the world around me. I was aware only of food, excreta, and sleep. Even when I discovered my fingers I didn’t know they were mine.

Rather later, I came to understand that I had been born slap bang in the middle of one of the most important events of world history. Not only was WW2 a terrible conflagration inflicting enormous hardship on my young parents, but it changed the shape of the world and the interrelations of its peoples forever. Had this not happened, my parents, and those of many wartime babies, would never have met.

Firstly it is worth noting that had my father not survived, for example, Dunkirk in 1940, I would not have existed. This was the period, from 27th May to 4th June, when it seemed that almost everything that floated left the south coast of England to sail or stagger across to France to gather up our retreating soldiers under fire from the beach.

This flotilla of 700 little ships consisting of merchant marine and fishing boats, pleasure craft and lifeboats,  assisted in the rescue of 338,000 British and French troops cornered by the German army.  Some simply ferried waiting soldiers, some of whom stood shoulder deep in water for hours awaiting their turn, to the larger ships waiting off shore.  

Others carried their passengers all the way to Ramsgate.

Many of these vessels had not been in the open sea before and often leaked especially alarmingly for a non-swimmer like Dad.  His job in the evacuation process, until his turn came to clamber onto an ancient fishing boat and pray all the way across the Channel, was to repeatedly drive out to and beyond the front line to load his truck with exhausted comrades.

The only story my father ever told about this experience or anything else from the war was that each time he drove back to the invading front from the packed beach, the German voices grew ever nearer, until he drove his vehicle into a ditch and legged it to join a queue for the leaky vessel that took him back to Blighty. He was 22 years old.


It is perhaps apt that I should feature the second instalment of my life story today, because this was the first occasion post-Covid 19 that Elizabeth has been able to bring our mother to our home for a visit.

Mum was able to see much of the garden colour, and was intrigued by the idea of a water feature operating from solar panels. She knew she had been to a garden like this before, but wasn’t sure it was ours. She congratulated Jackie on her creation.

One bonus of having a small group together is that we can enjoy different conversations and silent moments without pressure to focus on one person.

We even briefly included Danni and Ella in a FaceTime conversation with Mum. I wondered how many people approaching their 99th birthday could enjoy the experience of communicating with their 2 year old great granddaughter in this manner.

Jean was shyly appreciative of the complimentary messages of goodwill sent by so many people from around the world via this blog.

She was also delighted by the posy Jackie prepared for her to take home.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome sausage casserole; boiled new potatoes; sautéed mushrooms, leeks, and peppers with crisp broccoli. The Culinary Queen drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank more of the Syrah.

Orlaigh And Her Rabbit – Er, Brother

Early this morning I received a FaceTime call from Malachi in Fremantle. Trying to keep up with an 11 year old who was playing Lexulous, chatting with both voice and text, and teaching me various applications simultaneously is testing indeed. All coming at a rate of knots, you understand.

One application involved ‘effects’. These can be changed in rapid succession – both the faces and their expressions. This is Malachi as his Dad. I challenge anyone else aged 77 to follow this whilst at the same time seeking a Lexulous word that won’t be too difficult whilst using US English – I couldn’t even find the icon or whatever to access my app.

I did, however, learn how to take photographs of the people so far away.

At one point, in the Chat section of our word game, I received a long message about arrangements for a meeting. Since this allegedly came from Sam Knight, in whose name we play the game, I assumed it was one my son had intended for someone else.

No. It was my grandson sending a message on auto. I completely lost the plot when he tried to explain that.

We were joined by Orlaigh and her rabbit – er, brother.

The computer was eventually set up in the dining room so we could continue conversing over dinner. Unfortunately the signal there, at the back of the house, didn’t produce very clear images so the photographs of my granddaughter tucking into potatoes and salmon didn’t actually materialise.

Jackie spent most of the day working in the garden, with minimal assistance from me.

She photographed various different rhododendrons;

a number of unfolding ferns,

some in the stumpery,

along with a hosta transplanted from elsewhere.

The clematis buds were photographed against the backdrop of John Corden’s favourite shed.

These gladioli buds are burgeoning.

The Assistant Photographer also produced images of a mound of red Japanese maple beside the decking;

purple silene;

and yellow euphorbia.

The Copper Beech is now sprouting leaves.

While we enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks in the rose garden we watched and listened to

Nugget, winging from tree to tree and resuming his repelling rivals routine. “Where’s Nugget” (74)”.

The song is so beautiful that it is difficult to imagine that it is a war-cry.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome chicken, vegetable, and bacon soup with crisp croutons and crusty bread. The Culinary Queen drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, while I opened another bottle of the Rheinhessen and drank some of it.


The Fascinator

This morning Jackie drove me to New Milton where I bought a pair of sandals and delivered some dry cleaning. We then continued into the forest for a short trip giving us time to return home for a FaceTime date with Sam and Malachi.

Our first tail-twitching ponies were encountered alongside

Holmsley Passage, where,

pausing for the occasional bite, a group of ponies emerged from the woodlands;

crossed the road,

and made their way onto the moorland;

tails twitching in efforts to deter flies.

As we neared home, on Holmsley Road, two foals accompanied another group.

One fascinated infant snuggled up to the bonnet of a small van, the driver of which disembarked and persuaded the traffic hazard

onto the verge.

Back at home I enjoyed a torchlight FaceTime conversation with my son and grandson in Perth. Sitting here in our summer mid-day it was fascinating seeing Sam and Malachi in pitch-black darkness, just after their 7 p.m., enlivened by the flames of a garden fire and Mal’s bright reading aid. The torch was also shone on the chooks in their coop. I was reminded that the sun sets very rapidly over there.

This evening we dined excellently on lamb leg steaks; roasted parsnips and butternut squash; Lyonnaise potatoes; carrots, cabbage and mange touts. I finished the Carinena while Jackie abstained because she had drunk her Hoegaarden on the patio when we had pre-dinner drinks overlooked by a

goldfinch perched atop

a towering bay tree.

Mountain Sheep, Mountain Bikes, And Archery


On a dank and dismal day, Jackie cleaned out the Wisteria Arbour. This involved swabbing down the furniture, clearing dead plants and sweeping a multitude of leaves.

Jackie in Wisteria Arbour

As I came out to report on a FaceTime conversation with Malachi in Western Australia’s Fremantle I could smell the apple mint in the pot at the bottom right of the picture. The tulip is one brought back from Amsterdam by Danni and Andy a couple of years ago.

Malachi, occasionally punctuated by his sister Orlaith and his parents, read me an excellent story he had written and illustrated, and took me on a virtual tour of their new house.

Such an unspringlike day gave me the opportunity to remind ourselves of the season by following our friend, Barrie Haynes’s, prompt and featuring:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYV69puN4DA&w=560&h=315]

I spent the afternoon scanning the next batch of our 1992 Cumbrian holiday spent at Towcett with Ali, Steve, and James.

On 18th August we climbed the fells from Haweswater where we made the acquaintance of mountain sheep who looked rather more comfortable than I felt.

The youngsters, Louisa, naturally taking the lead, ascended with the help of mountain bikes and the rest of us hiked.

Louisa tackling daunting banana split 19.8.92 1

As we know, Louisa is game for anything, but it looks as if she found this banana split, consumed at Tudor Restaurant, Penrith, rather daunting.

We stayed at Teal Cottage, one of the holiday homes in the grounds of Towcett House, the home of Jessica’s cousin Angie, and her then husband Viscount Hugh Lowther. There, Sam manufactured a bow and arrow and an archery contest soon got under way.

Louisa was first at the butts;

Sam followed;

and James brought up the rear.

I am grateful to Mary Tang for explaining how to remove the date stamp from these photographs.

Mr Pink’s fish and chips in Milford on Sea re-opened a few days ago, nine months after a fat fryer fire requiring thorough refurbishment. We were pleased to welcome them back and take cod and chips home to eat with gherkins and pickled onions. I drank more of the Bordeaux with mine.