Further Down The River

We continued the garden manicure this morning. My contribution was to set up a further compost bin and to dead head roses and poppies. We each filled a further trug.

Sadly, Jackie found the undamaged body of Nugget Junior this morning. His Dad visited us often, perhaps in mourning.

Shortly before lunch heavy, steady, rain set in for the afternoon, during which I scanned my final pages of Agnes Miller Parker’s flowing engraved illustrations complementing the exquisite pastoral prose of “Down The River” by H.E. Bates.

As usual, click on any image to access the gallery. Just beneath each picture, to the right, a box invites you to ‘view full size’, which can be further enlarged.

This evening we enjoyed a second sitting of Mr Chan’s splendid Chinese Take Away, with which Jackie drank Becks and I drank Alma da Vinha Douro Doc 2018.

Down The River

The English author, H. E. Bates (1905 – 1974) is best known for his novels, in particular those embracing the escapades of the Larkin family, starting with “The Darling Buds of May”. Peter J. Conradi, in his Guardian obituary, offers the quotation that Bates had the gift of putting the English countryside down on paper.

This gift is amply demonstrated  in

which I finished reading last night. The work predates, by just 3 years, “Sweet Thames Run Softly”, Robert Gibbings’s first celebration of his riverine peregrinations.

Bates’s first such wanderings were guided by his beloved grandfather along East Anglia’s Rivers Nene and Ouse. We are taken on these rambles and more as the writer develops into manhood. River is, however, his main character. The waterways and their denizens – flora and fauna – are described in such exemplary prose that comparison with Gibbings is inevitable. In my view the latter has the lighter touch and wanders off down periodic tributaries, often involving myth and legend, as his spirit moves him. Bates, equally as eloquent, is more organised and offers observations on contemporary issues such as killing otters for sport.

A product of Glasgow School of Art, Agnes Miller Parker (1895-1980) was described by me in my eponymous post of December 14th 2015 as ‘one of the best illustrators of her day’.

I trust her wood engravings will bear this out. The above illustration is the title page.

Here is the book jacket, still intact after not far off 100 years.

Because of the number of engravings in this volume I present here a first selection,

and will add a few more at intervals to my normal ramblings.

This evening we dined on succulent roast gammon; roast potatoes: Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese; firm carrots and broccoli; tangy red cabbage; and tender green cabbage with leeks. I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2018. The Culinary Queen had enjoyed her Heineken whilst cooking.



The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

“Smug Git”

We were engaged in a quiet morning opening presents and cards.

Just before lunch I enjoyed a FaceTime chat with Sam, Holly, Malachi and Orlaigh who sang “Happy Birthday”. Poppy joined in, but as she had not had the experience before she was a little bewildered; and it is a long way to Australia.

In fact, Western Australia is a very large area itself.

Later they sent me these photographs taken on their 15 hour drive from Fremantle to the north of the state where they are spending a holiday in warmer temperatures.

Over lunch we got into little ditties and unusual words that Poppy could happily recite. This prompted me to test her with one and to tell the story of a London bus journey about twenty years ago. I became aware of a conversation between a man and his grandson who were trying to spell an unusual word. I took out a pen and wrote it on my bus ticket which I quietly handed over. “Smug git”, said the gentleman as he read ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. https://youtu.be/1Pu1adxqUAg

Just before Mat and Poppy returned home, Shelly and Ron arrived, bringing presents and a card. This was a happy coincidence because they are also Poppy’s Grauntie and Gruncle.

Later, I finished reading

being the second novel in the saga of the Larkins, introduced in “A Freak Of Fate

Bates, in his enviably inimitable fashion, has his outrageous family convince at least one Frenchwoman that she should never again say ‘that the English were frigid and reticent or restrained or that they took their pleasures sadly or that fog perpetually covered their land.’

Early this evening Louisa, Jessica and Imogen rang to wish me a happy birthday. The girls usually sing one rude version or another. This time they didn’t. They must be growing up.

This evening, Elizabeth joined us for a meal at Faros Greek restaurant in Milford on Sea. Service and food was as good as ever.

Jackie’s moussaka was delectable; and Elizabeth enjoyed her marinaded chicken.

There are three ingredients that would make me hesitate to order a meal: ouzo, pasta, and cheese topping. I was felling adventurous when I chose this tender lamb stew which contained all three. It was delicious, and accompanied by plentiful fresh salad. I drank Harmony red Avantis Estate wine and the ladies chose Mythos beer.

Jackie’s dessert was chocolate brownie with ice cream; mine was baklava, and Elizabeth’s Greek yoghurt with walnuts.

I recounted the supercalifragilistic story for Elizabeth’s benefit. She responded with “citsiligarfilacrepus”.

A Freak Of Fate

This morning I carried out more dead-heading of roses.

My post ‘https://derrickjknight.com/2018/06/04/auntie-ivy-and-sir-edmund-hillary/explains that I inherited my aunt’s book collection.

Another of her volumes, from The Book Club, published by Michael Joseph in 1958, is the first of a series of five novellas by British writer H.E. Bates which was adapted for a hugely popular television series from 1991-1993.

Bates, and his readers, revel enviously in the somewhat sybaritic lifestyle of the Larkin family. I found it very difficult to put down the book which must have taken no more than three hours, completed after lunch, to enjoy. The prose romps along following the Larkins’s “perfick”ly carefree escapades. Just three spring weeks transform the life of a would-be tax inspector who is hopelessly enamoured by the eldest daughter in what must be the most blatant efforts at an arranged marriage imaginable.

Pop Larkin is the archetypical happy-go-lucky wide boy miraculously conjuring up wildly extravagant provisions for the voluptuously maternal Ma and their vibrant brood. The initially hapless Mr Charlton is defenceless against parental schemes and the seductive allure of Mariette.

The jacket designer has captured the chaotic contentment of the author’s work so well that it is a time that he or she remains anonymous.

I hope I have not divulged too much for those who have not seen

this series of extracts from the TV series. Apart from the wedding scene these clips are most faithful to the first book.

Pam Ferris and David Jason, straight from his role as dubious trader DelBoy in ‘Only Fools and Horses’. are ‘perfick’ as the pleasure loving parents; Philip Franks as the bashful young man; and Catherine Zeta Jones as the delectable daughter.

My copy of the book bears an inscription of significant coincidence for me. An address on the first page had me doing a double take. This is ‘W.V.S. Paddington, 313 Harrow Rd.’


gives details of what was then called the Women’s Voluntary Service.

I don’t know how Ivy acquired the book, but I certainly knew 313 Harrow Road. Some twenty years after the novel came into my possession I was, as Manager of Westminster Social Services, Area 1, in charge of that building, a former Victorian town hall. When my department moved in we had a number of tenants, being charitable organisations. W.V.S. was no longer one of those – that would surely have been an even more fortuitous freak of fate.

Later this afternoon I carried out further irrigation.

Jackie having returned this evening we dined on more of her delicious chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Concha Y Toro Casillero del Diablo reserve 2107.