The gloriously sunny weather that has welcomed us to Downton continued today.

I took a walk up Hordle Lane alongside the extensive rape fields that glowed beneath the cloudless blue skies. A footpath on the left led around one field and through another. At first the fields were on my left. Horses lazed in a paddock on my right. Further footpaths put the rape on the right and woods on my left.

Bluebells enlivened the forest floor through which they had penetrated as they sprung from their hibernating bulbs.

Naturally I took a path through the woods where primroses were equally abundant. This wound around a bit, but I could hear the roar of what I hoped was Christchurch Road, distant on my left. Some of the time. Otherwise I heard the cawing of rooks, the humming of various insects, and cackling of hens and geese. A bleating and baaing  led me along another track in the hope I might see some lambs.

I was not disappointed. They littered wide open grassland to my left. Farmland to the right contained Shetland ponies and black sheep, one of which was a magnificent three-horned ram that took to its heels at the sight of my camera. Maybe I’ll catch it next time.
The wide track through Peter’s farm took me to Lower Ashley Lane, where I turned left to the junction with Lymington Road, a section of Christchurch Road. I returned home along this undulating, winding busy thoroughfare lacking a footpath. I had to be rather vigilant.
This afternoon we took delivery of Flo’s wardrobe from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. The men took it upstairs and our granddaughter manoeuvred it into its alcove.

Flo took some rather lovely photographs of the garden.                                                    This one she entitled ‘Spring’.

My manly tasks today were helping Jackie to put up more curtain rails, then to add to the skip pile. Anyone from Globe Removals may wish to skip what follows. Their stalwart men moved four dismantled IKEA wardrobes, all carefully marked up by Michael, from his Wimbledon house to storage; out of storage; and into our garage ready for us to reassemble. They are too tall for our ceilings, which is why we bought another from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. We have been unable to give them away. This afternoon I began humping the extremely heavy sections from garage to garden heap. I didn’t finish the job. But there is a lot more room in the garage.
This evening Jackie drove to the Hordle Chinese Takeaway in Stopples Lane and returned with a plentiful feast on which we dined with Flo. I drank Spitfire ale.

‘We’ll Finish What We Started’

31st March 2014
Posts over the next few days will be late, brief, and sparsely illustrated. Please bear with an exhausted elderly gent. The main reason for this will be stated next time.
Today, however, no way did I have either time or energy to apply to writing. Jackie and I began, with Ian’s help, by making the last three trips to Shelly and Ron’s with the rest of the portable garden. That is, we spent the morning trudging from the house to the car, loading it up, driving fifteen miles each way, and unloading.
In such intervals as there were, I was exchanging phone calls with agents and solicitors, seeking confirmation of the final transfer of moneys and consequent release of keys. Before this freedom of entry to our new home was announced, I received the promised call from the removal men to say they were 40 minutes from Downton with the furniture from London.
This sent Jackie scuttling off to the new home to meet the stalwarts from Globe Removals and update them on the situation. Ian and I continued with the last of the packing. I then received the go ahead for key collection. Jackie was now near Lymington, where Spencers, the excellent estate agents are based, so she dashed off there, collected the keys, and arrived just before Aegis and another Tomas, who were to be our companions for the day, arrived. I don’t actually know how the first mentioned man spells his name, and have therefore written it onomatopoeically. He is so powerful, it should be spelled as I have done.
These two men, having begun loading the London furniture at 8 a.m. and leaving it in Downton, drove to Castle Malwood Lodge, packed the van again, returned to Downton, and came back to Minstead, where they fitted all they could into their vehicle by the light of the headlamps of Ian’s Fiat beamed onto the garage. By this time they were grateful for Ian’s help with the boxes of books.
Then it was back to Downton for the final unloading, which was completed at 11.30 p.m. I don’t remember what it was I suggested to Aegis that they could leave to us, but I will always remember the answer of this cheerful young man who must have been exhausted. He replied: ‘We’ll finish what we started’.
As, having bid farewell to Globe Removals, the three of us dined on toast, Hoegaarden, and Piddle, we reflected on the superb service once again provided by its representatives.

Why Do Estate Agents Have Such A Bad Press?

As I reported yesterday, the promised telephone call from Penyards did not come. Hopefully giving him time to sort out his desk, early this morning, I phoned the manager. I asked him if he was familiar with the situation concerning our flat. He said he was and read out his briefing. ‘That’s her version’, I said. ‘Would you like to hear mine?’. Well, how could he refuse such a generous offer?
I told him the same story that I wrote in yesterday’s post. He listened, said it shouldn’t be as I described, and that he was sorry for our stress. Very diplomatic, he neither accepted nor rejected anything I said, but undertook to go through the recordings of the telephone conversations and get back to me. He didn’t. But then, tomorrow is another day.
After this I repeated yesterday’s walk, en route delivering a couple of prints to Mike, the gentleman I had met yesterday.
For once, deep in reflection about the situation in which we find ourselves, I didn’t really look around me much. It has all been rather sleep-depriving and depressing. This led me to think about the perhaps comparatively few estate agents with whom I have had the sometimes doubtful pleasure of dealing.
Derrick and Vivien 1960Photograph number 47 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken in Vivien’s parents’ garden at Sidcup, probably by her brother Bernard. This was in the naive, trusting days of 1960, before I had ever bought a house or taken a tenancy. Brown suede shoes and trousers with turn-ups were all the rage. I remember a member of the Magic Circle who lived in Amity Grove and let us into one or two simple secrets, such as the disappearing penny that would, assisted by a hand in the pocket, slide down taut pressed trousers to vanish into the waiting turn-ups. The penny at that time, was a decent size and you could do a lot more with it.
The recording of my residential history was begun on 3rd January, and continued on 5th.
I do not remember the names of the agents who handled either my purchase or sale of 79 Ashcombe Road. Buying this very first owned home was a smooth and straightforward operation, possibly because there was no chain. When I came to sell the house I experienced my first, shall we say, sleight of tongue. The agent telephoned me to ask if the buyer could have access to the property between exchange and completion purely for the purposes of decorating. When, during this period, I arrived at my own front door, I was somewhat surprised to find six milk bottles on the doorstep. In those days milk was still delivered to households in returnable glass bottles. I used my key to enter and was confronted by a tribe of small wide-eyed children. There was no sign of any decorating or decorators’ materials. I left without making an issue of it.
There were again no difficulties over 76 Amity Grove, the first home I shared with Jackie. Maybe that is why I don’t remember who the agents were.
It wasn’t until Gracedale Road that I bought a house again, or indeed, used an agent to rent accommodation, this time jointly with Jessica. Our experience was the same as the previous one, as was the purchase of Lindum House in Newark.
The fun really began with the sale of the latter home. One reason it took more than two years to sell this was because of several months inactivity from Savills, the sole agents. They even placed their board behind a tree, repeatedly ignoring my requests for it to be moved because it could not be seen from the road.  When we received a speculative offer out of the blue from a developer, and discovered that Savills were also agents for that company, I became suspicious and passed on my thoughts to the manager. Eventually he came to the house and, denying any underhand dealings, after much gentle persuasion on my part, abandoned the hopeless defence of his staff-member and settled for telling me that the file had been set aside and forgotten for six months. A little more persistence led to one half % reduction in the agent’s fee when the house was finally sold.
AAARGH! is the title of the post in which I describe three weeks as a tenant in Hyde Park Square, courtesy of Chestertons. What I did not mention in that article is a matter of interest. It was the first time an agent had denied a statement made to me. It was also my first commercial tenancy so I did not realise that for the young woman to say that I would receive interest on my deposit at the end of the tenancy was unusual. When I finally asked for it I was alerted to a clause in the contract saying that it was not payable. I had to quote the provision in the laws of contract stating that representatives’ verbal statements override the written word. The young woman declared that she had not told me I would receive interest. It would have been my word against hers in court. I received a minuscule amount of interest.
The agents involved in tenancies in Ridgway and Links Avenue, respectively Letz Move and People in Property were exemplary, as were Spencers of The New Forest over our current purchase.
This afternoon Jackie drove me to Ringwood where I posted Malachi’s belated birthday present and transferred money to pay for the London move and storage. Such is my faith in Globe Removals that I was happy to do that in absentia for the work to be done tomorrow. It’s good to be able to rely on someone.
Later, desultorily, we half-filled the other three made-up boxes.Birch branches.
Branch in gardenWandering round the garden in the early evening, I focussed on branches. There was the shattered branch of a large tree on the verge in Running Hill extending above our fence and resting in the garden, and there was the fine filigree of the as yet naked birch we see from our living room window. Sky streaks above rooftop
A striated sky streamed above the silhouetted rooftops.
The hot chilli con carne for me and the more medium chicken curry for Jackie provided our evening sustenance. We both enjoyed pilau rice and salad and drank Hoegaarden.

On A Mission 2

This morning I began the nightmare that is the administration attached to moving house. Most organisations prefer you to make the necessary arrangements on line, but I am of the generation that prefers to deal with real people. This is actually possible, but first of all you have to deal with a machine, You may use a keyboard, or in some cases speech, to answer the robot’s questions. At some point the mechanised voice will politely ask you to repeat either what you have said, or the number you have keyed in. If that happens more than once or twice over a particular point, you are advised to wait for an operator whilst you listen either to dubious music or advertising of the particular business’s services. If you are lucky you are told how many people are ahead of you in the queue or how long the delay may be.
Today’s experience wasn’t that difficult. It began with organising the removal service supplied by the admirable Globe removals who have moved us three times already. No problem. Once we passed the machine hoops, BT gave us a very friendly and efficient woman who sorted out the transfer of their equipment and account to be within four days of the move. Even New Forest Council had the decency to have their demands for council tax and consequent direct debits date from 1st April, to coincide nicely with our departure from Castle Malwood Lodge.
I’m bound to forget something, but at least I have made a start.
After lunch Jackie gave me a 90 minute start for a trip to just beyond Bolderwood. She then caught me up in the car and drove me to our destination and back. I walked to Emery Down by the usual route, turning right at The New Forest Inn. Had I not stopped in Minstead for a chat with Anne, I may well have reached our goal. As it was Jackie reached me just a mile from the Canadian Cross.
Peaty poolMy readers are more than acquainted with the huge corpses of forest trees and their crudely amputated limbs that littered this stretch of terrain. Pools of still water lay beside them. I suspect it was peat that lent its tincture to some of these glassy patches.
PonyA young and beautiful white pony ambled inquisitively across the dried bracken and  watched me walking past.
My Facebook friend, Barrie Haynes, who once lived in the area, had asked me about two maple trees planted either side of the Canadian Cross. Canadian Cross from leftCanadian Cross from rightJackie at Canadian CrossHe wanted to know how they were surviving, and I undertook to investigate. Rene FournierThe Cross is the centrepiece of the Memorial to Canadian Servicemen who lost their lives during the Second World War whilst contributing to the struggle, the outcome of which made my upbringing much safer than it may have been. Barrie wrote that ‘the story goes that two Canadians came back many years [after the memorial had first been erected], looking for the original  cross (which had rotted away). When the new cross was first set up, the maples either side were stolen’. They were subsequently replaced.
I am happy to report that the trees, although leafless at the moment, are thriving.
Please spare a thought for Rene Fournier and his compatriots.
This morning’s tussle with technology was a sweet dream compared to the nightmare that beset me when I began to draft the latter half of this post. iMac’s Safari would not load the page. The message they gave me was that the server had discontinued, probably because it was busy. I was to try again in a few minutes. I did so several times over the next hour. Then I had the first of my brilliant ideas. Perhaps it would work on Windows. It did. Oh joy. I could then write the text. But what about the photos? They were on the iMac. No longer on the camera so I couldn’t try to load them onto my HP laptop. I always delete them from the camera once I’ve put them on the computer.
Then I had my second brilliant idea. I could -mail the photos to myself, put them onto the HP desktop, and upload them to WordPess from there. I did send them successfully. But how, on my newest equipment, was I to transfer the pictures from the e-mails? I couldn’t fathom it.
But. Wait a minute. Do you feel brilliant idea number three coming on? I did. I still had my old Toshiba that Becky hasn’t yet collected. I knew how to do it on that. I thought. In fact I’d already forgotten, but I did manage it.
I couldn’t, however, do much with the image sizes, so I hope you will forgive me. In any case, I trust you will appreciate the effort that has gone into illustrating this post.
The superb bottle of Pomerol, La Croix Taillefer 2007, given to me by Shelly and Ron for Christmas, accompanying Jackie’s liver and bacon casserole (recipe), went some way to alleviating my suffering.
As did the WordPress support system. I had alerted them to my problem. Whilst I was completing this piece, David from WordPress came on to chat. He confirmed what I had been beginning to realise, which was it was an internet compatibility problem. He sent me a link which may help. I’m not up to pursuing this tonight. We’ll see what tomorrow may bring.
P.S. At 3 a.m. the next morning, waking up thinking about it, I rose from my bed and tried the link. It advised me to clear my Safari cache. This seemed a pretty scary thing to do. But I did it anyway. And. Blow me. It worked. The result is I have been able to reformat this page with larger photographs.

Full Marks To Globe Removals

Tomas and Roland

Phew!  The move from Sutherland Place has been completed.  Tomas and Roland, two very personable Lithuanian born young men did an amazing job and were excellent company.  How they managed to carry all the book-filled boxes up from the basement I could only marvel at.  My Dad was an excellent van-packer.  He would have been very proud of the way Tomas masterminded this process.  The original plan had been to work two trips, one to Michael’s Wimbledon House with the furniture, return to Sutherland Place, and then take the books to Minstead.  They wanted to do it in one.  This needed very tight work.  It was done.

I ran out of boxes.  Tomas brought two from the van.  I ran out of tape.  I bought some more in Westbourne Grove.  On the way I saw a three-legged cat deftly avoiding one of the multitude of doggie bags that litter the streets of W2.  These, you must understand, are not filled with food people couldn’t eat in restaurants.  They contain scooped up dog shit which local canine owners consider is acceptable to chuck in the gutter for roadsweepers to clear up.

With the van loaded and number 29 locked up I duly delivered the keys Roger Berwick had brought me on Saturday to Vera Williams in Talbot Street.  The men invited me to ride in the van, which was a great help to me and meant they didn’t have to wait in Minstead for my arrival.

The only hitch in all this process was caused by the cash machines.  I walked round to Sainsbury’s in Westbourne Grove.  Their ATM was out of order.  That didn’t particularly bother me, because there were lots of banks in Wimbledon.  Having introduced my removers to Michael and Matthew, I left them to unload, saying I would be back in a few minutes with the cash.  Santander was the nearest.  Intending to give these stalwarts a generous tip I needed £500.  Their machine showed a top figure of £400.  They also offered an additional transaction.  So I elected to follow the £400 withdrawal with one for £100.  It seemed logical.  I got £100 and a receipt which informed me I could have £200 more.  I went inside and reported this to the help desk.  I was told their machines only supplied £300.  ‘But there is an option for £400’, I said.  ‘That’s for special customers’, was the reply.

I then visited NatWest’s cash dispenser.  This one gave me a slip that bore the message that I could only have £200.  There was nothing for it but to join a lengthy queue.  No-one attaches themselves to the end of one of those unless they have a problem.  So it took a rather long time.  One exasperated young woman lost patience and left, so that moved me up one.  There was, of course, no problem at the counter.  The cashier offered to increase my ATM withdrawal limit to a ridiculously high sum.  He persisted in his offer, suggesting it would save me queueing.  He had a point so I reduced his proposed figure and accepted his generosity.  This also took more than a little time.

On the way back to the house a small boy dropped a letter.  His mother didn’t notice and seemed not to hear him telling her of this.  I bent to pick it up.  That is a very simple sentence.  The manoeuvre was not.  At the best of times getting down there is a somewhat painful business these days.  After a weekend spent packing it is less than easy.  And envelopes lie flat on the pavement so you have to get your fingers underneath them.  In Wimbledon Broadway this procedure has to be carried out while most of the world is streaming past you in haste, and is made more hazardous when you don’t have brake lights attached to your backside.  Anyway, I did it.  The boy was most grateful.  I’m not sure his mother was exactly delighted at its return.

I arrived back just in time to move on to Minstead.  Tomas completed the journey in an hour and a half, including stopping for petrol.  I thought that quite impressive.  They unloaded at admirable speed and were soon off back to where they had come from.

Globe Removals 11.12

Andy Bricks, of Globe Removals had moved us from Morden on 11th November last year.  It was on the strength of that experience I chose to use them again.  They are to be highly  recommended, as being punctual, efficient, reliable, and very reasonably priced.

Falling asleep at the end of the day, I just about managed this piece of work.  Jackie had driven us to Ringford where we had a look at the outside of a house.  Excellent curries were consumed.

As I staggered to bed I realised I hadn’t mentioned that we visited the Curry Garden, so I opened up the computer again to put that right.  The bit about the outside of a house is rubbish, as is Ringford – it should be Ringwood.  I must have been actually dreaming when I wrote that.  At least I got the curry bit right.  Well, I have been up for eighteen hours, and had quite a busy day, finished off with two pints of cobra with the meal. I’m going back to sleep now.

Any Van

Today we moved to Minstead.  Up before seven we continued packing.  The removal men arrived twenty minutes early and sat and waited outside until the appointed time of eight o’clock.  This courtesy was extended throughout the move.  Two men, possibly Polish, friendly and helpful, worked at a great rate loading the van; arrived at Castle Malwood soon after we did; and cheerfully unloaded in continuous drizzling rain, unfazed by the fact that they had to walk across soggy grass peppered with rabbit poo, carrying all our furniture and belongings.  I was quite chuffed to be able to use my previous incarnation as a furniture remover by suggesting that a desk which refused to go through the door to the sitting room would possibly go through the window,  It did.

Globe Removals

This has been the most efficient and economical move I have experienced in the last few years.  It was arranged on line at http://www.anyvan.com, a service I would thoroughly recommend.  Within an hour of posting our details and requirements I received four quotations all within £35 of each other.  The successful bidder phoned me and we fixed a date which was adhered to.  The man’s name was Andy, and his firm was Easy Move.  When a Globe Removals van turned up I assumed Andy, who introduced himself as he arrived on the doorstep, had hired his van from Globe Removals.  As we said farewell, his dark and my white hair plastered to our heads by the rain, I noticed he sported a Globe Removals logo discretely placed on his T-shirt.  I said I thought his firm was Easy Move, yet he was wearing a Globe Removals T-shirt.  He laughed and explained that there were two Andys.  They each ran removal firms and exchanged jobs when necessary.

Facing the task of unpacking was just too much.  After we had collapsed and relaxed for a while, it was off to The Trusty Servant for lunch.

On the way we realised that our new home was surrounded by primaeval creatures.   We arrived there just after 2.30 to learn that food stops being served then.  The chef was in the bar and he said he was still there so we could have food.  What a contrast, as we told him, to our experience at The Flower Pots Inn on 1st October.  We were given excellent ploughman’s lunches; Jackie had draft Budweiser and I drank Doom Bar.  Then it was back to Castle Malwood to do a bit of unpacking before going to Elizabeth’s for the evening.  Apart from a wonderful roast chicken meal served with Hardy’s Stamp of Australia shiraz, cabernet sauvignon 2011 and, in Jackie’s case, Stella; followed by minced pies and custard, we needed showers at The Firs because we have no hot water at No.4.  A contractor is coming in the morning to see what he can do.

On our return to our new flat we passed a cow in a hedge.