Resting My Leg

Forced to rest my injured leg, this afternoon I published

then read a good chunk of V.S. Naipaul’s ‘A Way in the World’.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish, chips, Garner’s Pickled Onions and Mrs Elwood’s Pickled Cucumbers, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden, I drank London Pride, Flo drank Lipton’s iced tea, and Dillon drank Fanta.

The Good Soldier


Today I finished reading

The Good Soldier frontispiece

This frontispiece contains one of Philip Bannister’s excellent illustrations.

The Good Soldier cover

Although the term was not universally adopted until 1925, the Art Deco period had already begun in France by 1915, when Ford’s novel was first published. This, I imagine, is what inspired Bannister’s front cover design.

The author begins with ‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard’, but do not despair, the book is a perfectly constructed work demonstrating profoundly insightful characterisation, well-observed description and good story-telling written in flowing prose.

I will not reveal the story save to say that as a “tale of passion” it is of the suppressed kind, and is related by a close observer of humanity who has not, himself, experienced the “magnetism and passions” of such “splendid and tumultuous creatures” as the ill-fated protagonists of “the Ashburnum tragedy”. Dowell, the narrator, is convinced that in a world stifled by “conventions and traditions”, only the “normal” survive, and no-one, even they, gets what they want in life.

I found myself wishing that Henry James, an earlier American-born writer with an equally psychological bent, who died the year after this book’s publication, could have written rather less densely, and as apparently freely as Ford.

Julian Barnes has provided an interesting introduction to my Folio Society edition.

The Good Soldier illustration
The Good Soldier illustration

Here are a couple more of the illustrations.

This evening we dined at The Hare & Hounds in Sway. Jackie’s starter was prawn cocktail,


mine was whitebait in beer batter, served with brown bread and butter and salad.

Fish and chips

We both enjoyed fish and chips as a main course,

and neither of us could manage a dessert. Jackie drank Amstel, and I drank Ringwood’s best.

I’ll ‘Ave The Fish


Fields of buttercups on the way through Minstead were rather less than successful in brightening up a very dull morning as I walked the Shave Wood loop.

Forest Minstead

For a few brief moments the woodland was provided with dappled sunlight which managed to penetrate both the clouds and the trees. Violas Perky violas, and unfurling cowslips and ferns penetrated the leaf layer of the forest floor. Apple blossom

Apple blossom (cropped)Was this apple blossom I saw?  If so, how did it come to be in the woods?  Had someone merely discarded a core?

Flora on fallen tree trunk

The bottom of a large fallen tree was almost obscured by the flora covering it, in a clear example of the dead trees’ contributions to the ecosystem.

This evening Jackie drove us to Sopley where we dined at The Woolpack.  The lay-byes on this now clear evening on the stretch of the A31 between Castle Malwood and Ringwood were largely occupied by huge container lorries, their drivers no doubt snug in their hotel rooms which are their cabs. They would have been preparing their evening meals, watching TV, reading, sleeping, or whatever took their fancy.

The piped music at The Woolpack, being session musicians’ performances of old favourites like ‘On the street where you live’, or ‘The last waltz’, accurately determined the client group.  That is, our contemporaries and even more senior citizens.  PansiesAn attractive hanging basket outside the window contained splendid pansies falling over themselves to peer in and people watch.  They were particularly fascinated by an elderly couple and their daughter and son-in-law.

While Dad went to get the drinks in, a prolonged and oft revisited debate took place about what Mother would have for her dinner.  The problem seemed to be that the elderly person’s desire for fish and chips was for some reason doubted, or maybe contrary to some dietary regime.  When the drinks arrived, Mother went to consult the specials board in the other bar.  ‘I’ll ‘ave the fish’, she repeated, iterated, and reiterated.  She had actually been determined on that before inspecting the other offerings.  Her daughter was equally determined she should have the steak.  Fish and chips it ultimately was.  This had the benefit of terminating the discussion.  Now, The Woolpack is famous for serving its fish and chips in newspaper.  I began to feel rather sorry for the woman who had chosen this delicacy, because, of course, it had to be stripped of its newspaper, and someone of at least my generation must have felt nostalgic for eating the traditional English takeaway in the correct wrapping, even if it was to be consumed in the restaurant.  I know I was when I last dined here and said, with no contradiction, ‘I’ll have the fish and chips’.

On this particular occasion I had steak pie followed by pear crumble, and drank Doom Bar.  Jackie enjoyed gammon steak with creme brûlée for afters, and drank Carlsberg.

You Deserve All You Get

Today was warm enough for us to lunch outside, using a small table and folding chairs on the stone path leading up to the kitchen door.  Jackie's gardenJackie’s small garden outside there is taking shape.  This afternoon we drove to Aldi at Romsey for potting compost, a Polish Spirit clematis and a few other items.

Last night, as Jackie drove me back from Southampton there were, unusually more deer than any other animals on the road.  We realised the truth of Sisyphus‘s (see post of 19th March) observation that these timid creatures have been more desperate for food than usual this winter, and would soon be less venturesome in the garden of Castle Malwood Lodge, Bergeniawhen we noticed leaves and even flowers on one stem of these plants that have been regularly stripped to the bone since last November.

As I walked down to the village shop and back cattle and ponies shared cropping rights on the verges of Minstead’s lanes.  Maybe because their roots have been waterlogged for so long, there seem to have been a great deal of fallen trees in the forest.  It only appears to be those that encroach upon the road that are logged up and removed. Treestump noticeboard A vast trunk by the roadside in the village has clearly been there for some time, and is regularly used as a community noticeboard.

Derrick c1995We haven’t had a ‘Derrick through the ages’ picture for a while.  Number 15 in the series was probably taken by Jessica in about 1995 in the garden of Lindum House.  I don’t remember whose teeth marks are imprinted on my bottom lip.

This evening Jackie drove us to The Woolpack at Sopley, a delightful pub where we spent a very enjoyable evening with Helen, Bill, Shelley, and Ron.  The food and wine were excellent.  Meal at The WoolpackThey even served fish and chips in newspaper in the traditional manner.  As is probably common in groups of a certain age, one topic of conversation was stiff necks.  This prompted my story of my first encounter with Jasper Nissim, the male half of Newark’s osteopathy partnership.  Having been subjected, all my life, to pain in my left shoulder and a stiff neck emanating from a fifty two year old rugby injury, I was persuaded by other members of my family to put myself in the hands of this Newark Rugby Club fly half.  The fly half position is the one occupied for so long in the England team by Johnny Wilkinson, the playmaker of the game.  One task of the second row forward, one of the two big heavy men who formed the engine room of the pack, was to disrupt the life of the fly half.

The position a second row forward does not want to get himself into is lying on a clinical couch with his head in the hands of a fly half.  Nevertheless, there I was, prone on the bed, Jasper gently tweaking my resistant head from side to side with gradual increase of movement.  ‘Second row forward, weren’t you?’ ejaculated Jasper.  ‘Yes said I’.  ‘Well’, he replied, giving my neck a vicious twist, ‘you deserve all you get’.

The Dordogne Chippy


This morning I was collected by my long-term friends Maggie and Michael.  For coffee we visited their friends Cath and Charles, ex-pats from the West Country, all of us continuing for a drive through changing countryside to the Agenais region.

Vines gave way to hazel and plum plantations.

Arriving at our destination, the imposing castle of Bonaguil, near Fumel, Maggie and Mike laid out a folding table and chairs brought by each of the couples and we sat by a stream consuming a splendid picnic.  My friends always enjoy bringing their customary thoroughness to such events.  We therefore lacked for nothing.  We were able to contemplate the scary climb up the hill to the imposing fortress.

The gentle hills around Sigoules were nothing to the steep incline leading up to the towering edifice which had been 500 years in the making.  My now tightening calves suffered a bit.  Just before the French revolution the then chatelaine, Marguerite de Fumel, had died, thus possibly saving herself from the guillotine.  After this turning point in history the place had been sacked and left to its ruin.  According to the assistant in the mediaeval bookshop in the village, by the middle of the nineteenth century this splendid relic was concealed by trees and undergrowth and consequently forgotten until rediscovered by Philippe Lauzin, the author of one of the books I bought there.

Set in a cleft in the hillside and partially hewn through the rock; built of huge blocks of stone; with deep steps; and of gigantic proportions; I wondered how on earth men of lesser size than my 6’3″ frame managed to dash up and down wielding their weapons in defense of this impregnable fortress.  And how could any invaders have scaled the cliff and protective walls?  They must have been as nimble as the goats in Sigoules.  Surely even Errol Flynn or Gerard Depardieu (in his younger days) would have struggled.  William the Conqueror, who castellated England, must have modelled his plan on such a stronghold.  We marvelled at the superb, straight as a die, round tower piercing the skies.  And how did they get the stone up there?  The walls of one of the rooms, now used as a conference centre, contains historic graffiti.

Returning to the present, we dropped Cath and Charles off at their home and repaired to Le Code Bar.  Here, as on every Saturday night, The Dordogne Chippy had set up stall.  The chippy is a travelling English fish and chip shop which featured in last year’s T.V. series ‘Little England’.  Helen and Dave Mansfield have brought this slice of their culture to Aquitaine.  The poisson-frites and mushy peas were excellent.  The television programme had focussed on what I believe the French, perhaps not entirely in jest, call ‘The Invasion’.  On our return journey we had stopped off at Monflanquin, one of the Bastide towns which are a feature of the area.  Established in the 12th. and 13th. centuries, these ‘new’ towns, centred on an arcaded square, were built alternately by the French and the English, depending on who happened to be in charge.  I’m not sure who built Eymet, but it has surely been ‘invaded’ by the English now.  David and Frederick have certainly welcomed Helen and Dave, as they, and the rest of the village, have welcomed me.

In Monflanquin we had waited an age for lukewarm coffee, passable Earl Grey tea, and execrable ‘hot’ chocolate on which Michael had had to perform his favourite occupation, D-I-Y, from a packet of powder.  We were invited to ask for more milk if necessary.  When Maggie drained the little white jug revealing brown stains in rings round the bottom she wasn’t sure she wanted any.  These beverages had been produced by a woman who, some time after we had placed our order, had hurried out of the house next door.  I quipped that she had been summoned by telephone by the shopkeeper saying he had caught some customers.  Maggie said the loos were no better.  A far cry from Le Code Bar.