Strange Courtship

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This morning we drove out to Eyeworth Pond and back.

Yesterday evening I described the heavy rain that pummelled the pavement. It continued throughout the night. This is what it did to

Brockenhurst’s landscaped lawns,

and to its ford.

Some vehicles travelled through the water with caution;

others ripped through them; still more turned around and chose another route.

Cyclists used the bridge. I did point out to a couple of these that last year, not only had a pair of them whizzed through the flood, but they had responded to my request to do it again. These two did not accept my challenge. Perhaps I wasn’t direct enough.

On Eyeworth Pond a pair of Canada geese floated around, and occasionally went fishing.

The Mallards were in full courting mode. Sometimes the ladies were encircled by the males, sometimes chased around. At times I wasn’t sure the females were not making the paddling.

One couple did appear to be engaged in a strange courtship involving rear displays and synchronised diving.

Spray formed on a clear pool now covering terrain that normally provided forage for ponies.

A somewhat quizzical blackbird investigated the seeds left on the gatepost to the woodland walk.

A blue tit eyed me from a holly bush,

Robin

as did a solitary robin.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid sausage casserole served with slightly orange tinged creamy mashed potato and swede, bright orange carrots, off white cauliflower, pale green sautéed leeks, and deep red cabbage. Jackie drank sparkling water and I drank San Andres Chilean merlot.

Darkness At Noon

It was a bright and cheerful morning when I set off this morning to walk the Shave Wood loop and survey the effects of yesterday’s storm. Waterlogged forestNo more trees seem to have been uprooted or severely damaged, but there is more surface water than I have seen before.

Lichen and water

Water runs down the slightest incline, be it on the roads or in the forest. Where there is no slope new pools and streams are forming. Ditches follow the same logic. If there is a hill they are fast flowing; if there is a plateau they swell and join the ponds on the open land and among the trees. Tennis ball in ditchA tennis ball bobbed about in one running rivulet.

Streams newly formingMany areas of scrubland normally cropped by the ponies now bear darkened patches and trails that are inchoate lakes and streams. Football GreenAt the moment Football Green retains enough dryish terrain to support animal sustenance.Forest waterlogged Forest poolReflections in poolsReflections on groundTree and sky reflectionsFurther into the forest the skies are brought down to earth in their reflections.

The rose bush that had scratched at the side of the car has been cut back and tossed onto the muddy verge near the Minstead village sign.

Rose hips cut back

Water on vergeTree leaning on branch

At the corner of Shave Wood near the A337 an elderly tree suffering from osteoporosis appears to be using one of its branches as a crutch to prevent it from staggering into the road.

As the wind got up and the rain came down again, with each howling gust the tall creaking beeches caused me to become somewhat wary. Minstead LodgeIn the darkening skies of noon, Minstead Lodge looked even more the Gothic pile. (Thank you, Arthur Koestler, for writing your 1940 novel giving me today’s title). The day remained changeable. Soon after this photograph was taken, we were treated to a rainbow, yet by the time I reached home I was beset by rain falling from dark clouds and buffeted across the cattle grid on Lower Drive.

This afternoon we visited Elizabeth. When Danni returned home with Andy we dined on Elizabeth’s spaghetti Bolognese, followed by a Firs Mess. We began with an English bacchus wine, after which Elizabeth, Danni and I drank various red wines and Andy consumed cider. After this we went home.

The Swinging Sixties

This morning I began reading Jacques Suffel’s preface to Gustave Flaubert’s timeless novel ‘Madame Bovary’. This introduction seems to be doing a good job of putting the work into historical and social context. Hopefully, having read an English translation should help me with this original version.

This was another day of steady rain, so I decided to scan some ‘posterity’ pictures. Just one colour slide took approximately three hours. When I turned on my iMac a big grey box with a large X in the middle of it on the screen prompted me to download what I soon realised – or at least hoped – was a new operating system called, of all things ‘Mavericks’. Being an American organisation I suspect Apple were thinking of unbranded calves rather than independent-minded persons. They must have run out of wildcats which is what all the previous systems’ names were.

I was informed that the download would take 51 minutes. Fortunately much of this time was taken up by a welcome phone call from Sam in Perth. I will leave him to update friends and family with his own news.

The system was downloaded successfully. This involved a change of the previous galaxy photograph as wallpaper to what could loosely be described as sweeping waves. I suppose I’ll become accustomed to it.

I was now able to start on my scanning. Not. A box told me my Epson Perfection V750 PRO had quit unexpectedly and prompted me to try again. And again. And again. Probably ad infinitum if I hadn’t decided to call a halt and ring Apple Care

Naturally I was answered by a machine operated by my voice. She and I had some difficulty. Maybe it was the questions delivered in a broad Scots accent. Yes, an American system with the diction of those living north of the English border.  Perhaps my London speech was the problem. We got there in the end and I was at last in a very short queue to speak to a real live person. Whilst waiting I had the pleasure of listening to Johnny Cash singing ‘Ring of Fire’ – by far my favourite ever bit of holding music. After Johnny came something weird. But, as I said, it wasn’t a long wait.

Carolyn, another Celt, was a very helpful adviser. We established, as I thought, that Mavericks was the problem. It didn’t know I had a scanner that its predecessor had been quite happy with. In fact it stated that I didn’t have one, which I thought rather presumptuous of it. My helper sent me an e-mail with details of a link via Apple to Epson’s web pages. I tried it. Epson didn’t seem to know about my new Mavericks. I fiddled around in their system for a while then returned to Apple Care.

Carolyn had left clear information and James was able to pick up the story. I think he knew a bit more about Epson and sent me another link direct to that company. I needed, apparently, to download new software – the type that can recognise independent minded people. It was done successfully, although it took some time.

James clarified a puzzle for me. The problem with the first link had been that it provided a (very long) list of software that would be automatically downloaded by Apple if we used ‘Software Update’. I had done so and nothing happened. James said that was because the list was for hard drives and I needed software. Aaaaaarrrgh.

Anyway, before we set off to New Milton and Bashley I scanned my slide and put it into iPhoto.

Not so fast.

I had to update iPhoto first. But I managed that.

I have written so often about driving through deluges over the last couple of years, that I will not risk repetition. I will just say that the clatter of rain on the car’s external surfaces, and the whoosh of spray sent up by our wheels every time we went in for water-skiing drowned out all the other normal motoring sounds, such as the sweep and grind of the windscreen wipers.

Setting off in mid afternoon for a trip to a bank and a farm shop is not usually to be recommended. The bonus of the weather was that both establishments were virtually deserted. I was in and out of the bank before Jackie, having dropped me off, had returned from parking the car;Cheese and piesFerndene vegetable racksJackie studying meat shelvesSausagesand I was able to photograph the shelves of the Ferndene Farm shop. Previously I have been inhibited from producing a camera and potentially photographing crowds who wouldn’t like it. That was not a problem today.

Jackie Carnaby St 6.67Once we were home again I was able to return to ‘posterity’. Carnaby Street in July 1967, where I took a photograph of Jackie in the entrance to a closed clothes shop, was at the centre of the universe. It was Hwhere all the world came to buy their garments so they could be part of the London scene in that swinging decade. We didn’t have the money for such extravagance so we had a look one evening just to say we’d been there.

John Stephen had a shop in the street, where this tie, dating from 1966, was bought in the year Jackie leant against the wrought iron. I wonder whether Mick O’Neill has one like it in his superb collection.

manfredDM2711_468x350

In July 1967, ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, an earlier hit in the UK, was number one in Germany for Manfred Mann, in which band Tom McGuinness played from 1964 – 1969.  Did he, I wonder – top right in the picture – buy his outfit in Carnaby Street?

This evening, ‘once more unto the’ storm did Jackie drive. This time to Ringwood for dinner at the Curry Garden, which was very full. I enjoyed lamb hatkora with a plain nan; Jackie chose prawn korma with pilau rice. We shared a sag paneer and both drank Kingfisher. Afterwards Jackie ate Walls ice cream with chocolate sauce and I had a pistachio kulfi. It was still raining as we drove back along the A31.

Water

I have mentioned Becky’s lesson on tagging. The way I am implementing this is to tag a few posts a day. This morning it was the turn of ‘A Rant’ from Aust 13th 2012. Whilst I was in the process of drawing my readers’ attention to my displeasure with O2 and Azzurri, I received a phone call from O2. Most politely, I terminated the conversation fairly quickly. Jackie was a little perplexed that this intervention had me screaming with laughter.

Today’s weather forecast had promised that the steady rain would desist soon after noon, when we would have fine weather until 8 p.m.  By mid afternoon we decided we couldn’t wait any longer for the fine weather and would drive to Ringwood. This was a signal for the rains to accelerate. Considerably.Castle Malwood Lodge through wet windscreen For us, peering through the windscreen as we clambered into the car, already pretty wet from our walk across the path to it, the view of our home was Upper drive through hailstones on windscreenmuch distorted. Crashing over the cattle grid leading to Upper Drive, the rain turned to hail.

A31

Traffic on the A31 was pretty solid, but as the rain let up a little, so did the blockage, and we were soon under way.  Upon arrival, Jackie set off for Sainsbury’s, and I made my way through the town, and across The Bickerley to the Castleman Trailway.

Today, I was forced into a detour that had not been necessary on 14th. Kingsbury's Lane (1) Ignoring the flood warding signs at the entrance to Kingsbury’s Lane, I walked down it. The red Peugeot on the right seemed accessible, and it wouldn’t be much further after that.Kingsbury's Lane Big mistake. When I reached the Escapade I backtracked and took the next lane along.

Sewage overflowWhen I had photographed this scene on 23rd December 2012, I had described a steady flow of liquid coming from beneath a concrete cover in a garden, as emanating from a burst water main. The same stream was bursting forth to join the rest of the flood on the road. It contained toilet paper. I was informed by a man who waded down the road in wellies, that this was the mains sewage, which could also be seen spouting from under a metal cover in the road itself.

Before going on to cross the sodden Bickerley I walked along to the pillar box end of the flooded street to inspect the scene there. This is where I met my informant. Kingsbury's Lane (2)He had been able carefully to traverse the hopefully temporary lake in his Wellingtons. A philosophical character, he took it all in his stride. ‘Could do without the sewage though’, he exclaimed.

Flloded fields

Castleman TrailwayAs I approached the Trailway it was immediately apparent that the River Avon and the millstream between them had completely claimed the surrounding fields. For some little time now there have been no ponies in residence. Today they would have stood no chance of keeping their feet dry or finding any food. I imagine they had been removed in anticipation of this.

The torrent from above had ceased by the time I reached the flooded street. When I was close enough to the Avon to hear it rushing to join the millstream, in partnership with which it was rapidly turning the fields into an expanding lake, the rain began again.Sunset Sunset (1)On my lens it produced bizarre effects most of which, except for one at sunset, I have since discarded. On the other hand, it has been difficult to discard all those of the sun, claiming illumination rights to the sunken fields.

On 30th November 2012, I had seen woman rescuing her ponies from the field I focussed on today. A five barred metal gate bars the way into what is now a waterlogged area.Sunset (3)Sunset (2) The gate bears a sign warning dog owners to protect the livestock within from their canine invaders. The only living creatures in there now are the waterfowl paddling upon it. Swan taking off in sunsetSwan in sunsetAs I leant on this barrier in order to photograph the sun subsiding beneath the waves, a loud flapping reminded me of this fact. A swan in the act of taking off came into view. It flew over the sun’s reflection on the waterlogged grassland.

Wishing to avoid the slow-moving A31 on our return journey, we travelled via Bransgore, along winding roads full of pools, in the dark. To describe this experience would be to repeat some of the content of yesterday’s post.

Soon after our return home we dined on a hearty beef casserole with crisp vegetables, followed by creme brûlée. I finished the Bergerac and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Incontrovertible Clarification

In recent days I have begun reading Neal Ascherson’s ‘Black Sea’.

Last night on BBC iPlayer Jackie and I watched John Landis’s 2010 send-up of the ‘Burke and Hare’ tragedy. I thought it perhaps questionable that such an horrific story based on two real serial killers should be thought fitting for comedy. Nevertheless I did, indeed find it funny. All credit to the director; the writers, Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft; and the cast, for achieving that. Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg play the two villains; Pegg the somewhat perplexed follower struggling with his conscience; and Serkis the devious opportunist lacking such a thing. Isla Fisher is the scheming love object, and Tom Wilkinson the crafty surgeon who turns a blind eye to the means of death of the supply of bodies he commissions. Bill Bailey fulfils the classical chorus role, and a score of other well-known faces enjoy taking part in this scurrilous romp. Mind you, not much movement is required from Christopher Lee. This was undemanding light entertainment for someone who had been working at the computer all day.

Regular readers will know I had been retrieving and scanning Covent Garden negatives from my archives. I finished that particular roll of film this morning.  In 1982, when I think I took the photographs, that now very salubrious area of London was still in the process of transformation from the fruit and vegetable market dating back to the seventeenth century into an enclave that boasts numerous outlets for dining on its former produce, as well as meat from Smithfield, fish from Billingsgate, and culinary delights from all over the world. Guitarist 9.82The redevelopment of Nine Elms in Vauxhall, to house the New Covent Garden Market, began in 1971.  Trading began there in 1974.

When we lived in Soho, the old Covent Garden was ripe for speculators who moved in steadily to change what had become a daily craft market where people sold their own work into an outlet for more manufactured goods; and to convert some of the old buildings into classy shops and restaurants. It remains a thriving area, if lacking the old world charm of the ’70s and ’80s. Bustling cafes have open-air seating, and buskers, like my guitarist, still perform to enthralled crowds, such as those I pictured in September 1982. Boy on shoulders in crowd 9.82What my former neighbour John Bussell, a radio 2 producer, would have called ‘serious music’, was also presented to rapt crowds. Musicians Covent Garden 9.82John believed ‘classical’ was a misguided term for what should more accurately be termed serious. I’m sure the more decoratively dressed guitarist would have taken his music just as seriously as those who played with the aid of sheet music.

It seems to be a time for unearthing lost treasures. Slips on stall 6.83Today’s discovery should please my granddaughter Alice, for it was the negative of the framed print she ‘snaffled’ on 2nd September last year. It featured one of the craft stalls mentioned above. Perhaps I had Smithfield Market in mind when I saw this as a visual pun and hung the enlargement on the wall of the dining room in Lindum House. In my post of the following day I recorded that I had been unable to trace the colour slide from which the print was made. That is hardly surprising, because I should have been searching for a negative. I also erroneously dated this in the mid 1970s. This morning’s discovery came with an incontrovertible clarification in the form of the previous frame on the strip.Louisa 6.83 That is a picture of Louisa, born on 24th May 1982, lolling in a large armchair. I think you can work it out for yourself.

Well into the afternoon we took a drive out to The Foresters Arms at Frogham. Incessant rain, with gathering momentum, had fallen throughout the day. Much of it lay across the lanes of the north of the forest; surrounding the trees in vast pools; and turning the heathland into a few dryish winding strips between acres of water. Noisy torrents rushed over the fords. Those few ponies in view looked bedraggled as they squelched about in search of fodder.

Ford overflowing

At Blissford we came to a standstill. Water roared over the concrete and into the swollen stream, sending a wave back up the road as it ricocheted on the teeming surface. In the distance men in an emergency van’s gondola attended to overhead wires.  There was no choice but to turn back and take a wide diversion. Customers in the pub could not believe the photos I showed them were of Blissford. Only when Michelle, the manager, pointed out the telltale farm machinery at the roadside were they convinced.

Headlights in floodwater

The return journey, in the dark, with oncoming vehicles’ blinding headlights magnified by water on our windscreen and by the waves thrown up by Jackie’s own car, and reflected in the lakes the car had to skate through, was even more nerve-wracking for my chauffeuse.

Back in the safety of our flat we dined on Jackie’s tasty and tender heart casserole, cabbage, carrots, and mashed potato and parsnip with a sprinkling of paprika.

Kingsbury’s Lane

Frost patternFine frost filigrees adorned the cars in our parking area this morning as I set off to walk in the direction of Lyndhurst for as long as it took Jackie, leaving fifty minutes later, to catch me and pick me up in the car.

I had to telephone her to warn her that the roads were very slippery.  Consequently I hadn’t got much further than Sinefield before she arrived.

Where the early sun had not reached the asphalt, a thin coating of ice lay on the still black surface. I was forced to try my feet at involuntary skating. When a shoe slipped, I would arch my back and flap my wings like a duck about to take off.

The narrow lanes of the Emery Down route do not always have the space for verges. Where they were so endowed I sought out a grip on the mixture of wet mud and animal excreta normally best avoided. Running water down the hills was also worth a paddle. It was whilst descending one of these rivulets that I came face to face with two cyclists pushing their bikes up from The Splash ford. One of the men had skidded off his steed and cracked his head.

By circumnavigating each other we managed to avoid a Little John and Robin Hood scenario. For those unfamiliar with our legendary folk hero who took up residence with his band of merry men in Nottingham’s Sherwood Forest,  this refers to one of the tales of their first meeting in which Robin and the giant Little John come face to face with each other whilst crossing a narrow bridge over a stream. Neither would give way to the other so there ensued a battle employing staves. I expect Mr Google would tell you who won. Regardless, they of course ended up the best of friends. They were like children giving each other a thump as a way of saying ‘hello’.

There are steep winding hills through Newtown and Fleetwater. As I walked this way another cyclist came speeding down at a suicidal rate, and, a little later, two cars didn’t look any safer.

Sun through fenceThe shadows of fenceposts streaming across the road from where a new house is being built seemed like an extension of the rays of the sun that cast them.

From Lyndhurst we drove on to Ringwood for a Sainsbury’s shop and some banking. The latter took a while. This is because I lacked a BIC number for a French transfer.  There ensued a number of texts and phone calls and a certain amount of wandering around Ringwood in between.

Kingsbury's Lane floodingKingsbury's Lane floodI walked down Kingsbury’s Lane, across The Bickerley and onto the Castleman Trailway to discover that the flooding recorded in ‘Flood Plain’ in December 2012 has returned. Kingsbury’s Lane itself is well nigh awash. Kingsbury's Lane flood (1)Drivers of cars venturing down it were doing so with much trepidation, even more gingerly than those negotiating the lanes of Minstead earlier in the day.

Swan by AvonSwan and flood gauge

Flood gaugeThe Bickerley’s pools had returned and the River Avon has overflowed its banks. Waterfowl again occupy the fields recently providing fodder for the forest ponies. The water levels were well up on the flood gauges.

This evening we dined on spicy prawns, spring rolls, sweet chilli sauce, and lamb samosas, followed by delicious nutmeg flavoured bread and butter pudding with evaporated milk.  We both found Alsace Gewurtztraminer 2012 the perfect accompaniment for this British and Asian fusion collection.

Apple Juice

This morning I made a start on sorting and scanning 20 years of random film negatives.  The first strip was not my own.  It was taken in January 1984 by John Gordon, a friend of my sister Elizabeth.  Derrick running,1984 03This shot featured in the Southampton Daily Echo.  Sponsored in aid of Hilldene, her son Adam Keenan’s day nursery, I (701) was taking part in a ten mile race.  ‘Race’ simply describes the event.  No way was I in contention.  I was merely happy to beat my own personal best.  This one was completed in 64 minutes, and was a new best time, probably because it was snowing when we began.  That does tend to make one rather nippy.  I felt rather smug when Elizabeth told me that the photographer had said it would be a comparatively easy task to run alongside me for the pictures, and found it wasn’t.  The reason long distance runners look much slower than they really are is the heel/toe action which requires the heels to land first in the stride.

Today was twelfth night, and therefore time to take the Christmas decorations down.  First their storage boxes had to be removed from the garage.  Carrying the stack of containers through the kitchen, I walked into a metal chair and bruised my shins.  The stack rose above my eye line, and I hadn’t thought about it in advance.

My running days are over now, but what promises to be the longest running joke of all time continues to surprise.  As Jackie stripped the Christmas tree she let out a cry that must have been heard in Emsworth.  It was even louder than mine when I clouted the chair.

Perhaps three years ago now, Jackie and I took Becky and Flo for a meal at Ben and Jerry’s in Ampere Way, Purley.  Our granddaughter, as is her wont, drank apple juice.  The container had a metallic lid, rather like the ones that adorn cream pots.  As we parted company in the car park, Flo slapped the passenger side front window and ran off smartish.Apple juice There, adhering to my window pane was the apple juice lid.  Naturally, when someone plays such a prank, one must retaliate.  About a month later, Becky found the item on a part of her car that I do not remember.  Backwards and forwards went this transitional object, returned in the most devious of ways.  The gaps between the transfers were gradually extended.  This was essential because you had to give your victim time to have forgotten about it.

Have you, dear reader, remembered that Jackie was stripping the Christmas tree?  Well, you know what she found hidden among the artificial foliage, don’t you?

Given that we last hid the offending article in Flo’s Christmas present in 2012, one has to admire her patience.  Yes, Flo, we had forgotten about it.  But we’ll get you back.  In the immortal words of Vera Lynn, ‘Don’t know where, don’t know when’.  You do know that, don’t you?  (Vera Lynn, known as ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’,  raised innumerable spirits during World War II with, among others, her rendering of ‘We’ll meet again’, which can be found on Youtube).

Dragon by AdamAdam Keenan grew up to be a skilled and much sought after animatronics creator.  Three years ago he made a realistic  mechanically animated dragon for Flo’s birthday.  One of its joints became dislocated.  This necessitated a spell in my nephew’s hospital.  I well remember my tube journey back to Morden on the day I collected the cured lifelike creature.  I took great pleasure sitting in a crowded tube train surreptitiously pulling levers which made its eyes open and shut; its head turn and its tail sweep; and watching the faces opposite me.

At that time Jackie and I were holders of the drink lid.  So, of course, when Flo opened the box containing the repaired treasured animal, it had a suitable label round its neck.

Far too much rain for the forest and its environs to cope with continued to fall as, this afternoon, we drove to Totton for a mega post-Christmas provisions shop.  Reminiscent of last year, brown water flowed from the overfilled drains in the gutters across the centre of the main road into this suburb of Southampton.  We followed a petrol tanker most of the way, feeling rather grateful that we were not one of those cars, waiting to turn out of side roads, that got the benefit of the bow waves as the large wheeled lozenge sped past.  As Jackie said, there would not be much point in having a car wash at the moment.

On our return someone played ducks and drakes with huge hailstones bouncing from the water-bound tarmac to the car windows and vice versa.

Two fallen beeches in the road from London Minstead to the A337 bear the legend:

Beech sold

Beech fallen

Each is too long to fill the frame of one photograph.  This had us speculating that the purchasers may have been wood-carvers, for craft fairs, after the great storm of 1987, were filled with the work of those who had benefited from the trees that fell throughout the South of England.

This evening we dined on beef hotpot and cabbage, followed by the last of our Christmas pudding.  I drank La Serrana tempranillo 2012, whilst Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

P.S.  In her Facebook comment on this post, my daughter Becky has corrected a few details concerning the label.  Firstly the restaurant was Frankie and Benny’s.  She reminds me that the game began when, during the meal, Flo stuck the object on the back of my hand and I left it there all evening.  That amused our granddaughter.  As we were leaving I placed it on the back of her hand and dashed away.  Plonking it on our window was her retaliation.  But that didn’t take place immediately, Jackie now remembers.  We left the restaurant in convoy.  When stopped at traffic lights Flo emerged from the gloom and planted it on the driver’s window, not mine.  Our last transfer took place a little more than a year ago when we hid it in a kitchen canister.

Now, had this all taken place when I was Flo’s age I probably would have needed no memory jogging.  On the other hand, it couldn’t have, could it?