A Nod To Little Gidding

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Today I scanned the final photographs of the Henley – Newark row/walk of July 2003. The last leg, from Nottingham to Newark was 25 miles in length.

Sam set off without James, and I trailed in his wake. It is hard to believe that I managed to keep within sight of him as he rowed along the River Trent, but these photographs would seem to prove it. Perhaps the cattle would bear witness.

As the rower moved into Farndon, James, Louisa, and Gemma set out to greet him and to follow him towards

Newark Castle station 7.03

Newark Castle, first passing the railway station;

to be greeted by his reception committee as he docked. Louisa, as requested, handed me two pints of beer – all for me.

Perhaps this was a lap of honour alongside the castle ruins. This 13th century castle was originally built for the Bishop of Lincoln. A Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, ‘in 1646 the garrison surrendered, but only after a direct command from Charles I. Parliament ordered the castle destroyed so it could never be held against them again, but fate took a hand; plague broke out in Newark town, and the destruction of the castle was halted.’ This quotation is taken from  http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=93 which contains a more complete history in very readable form.

So, what has all this to do with T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’? From this, the last of the poet’s Four Quartets, I have borrowed

‘What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from………….

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time’.

The reason is that I do not have the negatives of the last of my photographs as they are prints, which must have been produced by our friend Alison, or her sister, Rosemary, both of whom were there to send us on our way.

Sam took delivery of his boat at Henley where he and James set about preparing and stocking it for the journey. Note the black bin behind my son,

which I strapped on with the rather optimistic intention of collecting sponsorship money.

Pacific Pete left the mooring,

and we were under way. This was to be the last sound footpath I trod for the next eleven days.

This evening we dined on Thai inspired fish cakes from Tesco served on Jackie’s succulent bed of sautéed onions, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and manges touts; noodles; prawn toasts and spring rolls. The Culinary Queen drank her customary Hoegaarden and I drank more of the madiran.

P.S. See Mike’s bitaboutbritain comment below for a much fuller illustrated history of Newark Castle

 

 

Tales From The River Bank

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BT excelled themselves today. Readers will remember that on 18th December I had cancelled my useless Broadband package, and retained the landline, having to create a new account to include £5 per month to keep my e-mail address. I was told that this new account would be in my name. Even though the payment has come out of my bank account for years they have never been willing to substitute my name for that of Mrs Stockley, who is in any case now, once again, Mrs Knight.

The latest bill still includes the full package, so I went through the hoops and the wait to speak to a man with an Indian accent. He was very helpful. He assured me that there would be a refund on the next bill. But. That is still in the name of Mrs Stockley. It cannot be changed. I politely expressed my displeasure. Eventually the gentleman told me it could be changed at the cost of £50. I hit the roof, and demanded that this be lodged as a formal complaint. It took him a while, but he returned saying he had done so, and included  something to compensate for the ineffective Broadband. A manager will call me back within 48 hours. We will see.

Believe it or not, British Gas then capped this. I received, in the post, a bill for almost £700, including a sum of more than £650 I had paid by phone on 11th. I telephoned them. I went through more hoops. And another wait. I learned that the payment, like many others, had not gone through, because of a fault in their system. I was advised to check with my bank that this was so. I expressed displeasure at having to do this. The woman at British Gas offered to call me back in 20 minutes to check. My bank statement confirmed what she had said. She did ring me back. I paid the money and advised her that a simple letter of explanation enclosed with the bill would have been in the interests of customer service – something that her company could well do with.

Later, I decided to go on a long walk. Not, this time, literally. The trip was undertaken in July 2003 in a supportive fundraising effort for the epic row Sam was to undertake the following year. I have featured various anecdotes from the walk, the first appearing in ‘Nettle Rash’, before I had unearthed the negatives. I began to scan them today.

Sam took delivery of the specially designed rowing boat at Henley on Thames, and off we set on a fine Summer’s afternoon around the time of my 61st birthday. He and his friend James took the boat, whilst I walked along what I had hoped would be the footpath. I soon discovered that the banks of the River Thames and the Oxford Union canal were not as smooth and foliage free as that branch of London’s Regent’s Canal alongside which I had trained for the event.

Couple on riverbank 7.03

The stretch along which I followed this couple was plain sailing in comparison with what I had to battle through in the post highlighted above.

Lock gate 7.03

Elderly lock gates, green tresses dripping with possibly unsavoury water, were to be a regular feature of the journey. This was quite useful, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up.

Waterfowl 7.03

Waterfowl were plentiful;

Suckling goat 7.03

a woolly goat, or perhaps a sheep, suckled its young;

Riders

slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.

Bridge

Numerous bridges were to be negotiated.

This house is one of those in which I enjoyed a peaceful overnight stay. The story of the most notable exception is told in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’.

These fields were probably located in the vicinity of the above house.

This evening, over dinner, we experienced more of faceless moneymakers’ scant regard for customer service. Our meal was taken at The Raj in Old Milton. On this Saturday night the carpark was virtually empty and, although the restaurant was doing brisk takeaway business, we were the only diners. The first thing we noticed was that, entering the parking area as usual we found ourselves passing through no entry sign. Then came the frequent notices stating that parking at any time, was only permitted for 20 minutes and anyone overstaying would be charged £100. Jackie parked in the street outside and I spoke to the  manager. Apparently, with no warning whatever to the row of shops fronting the parking area, the landlord of some of the buildings has implemented the restriction. Many of the outlets, including The Raj, are freeholders who bought their buildings with free parking included. The first owners of the Raj building did so in 1962. There are two other caterers in the block. None of their customers could eat and leave in 20 minutes. All the occupants of the block have joined in making a legal protest.

Jackie chose chicken sag; I chose king prawn khata; we shared a plain paratha and special fried rice, and both drank Cobra beer.