Natural Elegance Element

On the near bank of a narrow inlet in Beaulieu River during an afternoon forest drive we noticed a pair of swans with their well grown cygnets 


and preening in the warm sunshine.

Soon they rose awkwardly to their feet,

stretched their wings,

waddled to the edge,

slipped into the water, their natural elegance element,

and trailed across the river

where food and drink were to be found.

While I focussed on these birds, Jackie photographed a distant heron.

This evening we dined on baked gammon; smooth cheese and mustard sauce, creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots; and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Bordeaux.

Anyone For Croquet?

A drowsy morning was necessary for me after yesterday’s exertions, although the Head Gardener did plant a number of seeds in the greenhouse.

This afternoon – cold with sunny intervals – we took a drive into the forest.

A game of croquet was in progress on the green at Nomansland. The players were unfazed by my attention, although one woman claimed in jest that I had put her off her stroke. I suggested to the others that they let her play again. They responded with a good laugh.

Our next stop was at Hale, a village surrounded by trees bearing mistletoe.

The verges of the high-banked lane running from Hale to Woodgreen bear many wild flowers including primroses, violets, bluebells; and plenty of mossy roots.

Splendid avenues of varied daffodils line the approach to Hale Park House. ‘Hale was recorded, although not by name, as a manor in Domesday Book. It passed through the hands of a number of owners, with a manor house being built by the C14, until in the C16 it was leased and then purchased by the Penruddock family. Sir John Penruddock died c 1600-01, leaving Hale to his son Thomas whose own son, John, commissioned a new house in 1637 from the architect John Webb (1611-72). A deer park is also recorded as established at Hale by 1638 (Debois 1990). In 1715, Hale was sold by the Penruddocks to Thomas Archer (1668-1743), Groom Porter to Queen Anne and architect, amongst whose works were the banqueting house at Wrest Park (qv) in Bedfordshire and the Cascade House at Chatsworth (qv), Derbyshire. Archer began the present house in 1715, most probably planted the avenues through the park (ibid), and is most likely to have been responsible for laying out the surrounding formal gardens and wooded pleasure grounds to the south-west and north-west of the house, as shown on a survey of Hale made by Thomas Richardson in 1789. He also largely rebuilt the church. Hale remained with the Archer family until the 1780s, the house being remodelled in the 1770s by Henry Holland (1745-1806) and then purchased by Joseph May for whom it was further remodelled by Popes of Poole (Booth-Jones 1953). In 1837, the estate was bought by Joseph Goff and during the C19 and early C20, the pleasure grounds were simplified and new formal features added to the gardens. The Goff family remained at Hale until the early C20 after which the ownership passed to Major Wright and then to the Booth-Jones family before being purchased in 1973 by Mr and Mrs Hickman. Hale remains (1998) in private ownership.’ This information comes from which contains much more.

Beside Wootton Common I stopped to photograph a heron blending nicely with a birch tree among the gorse. Needless to say, when I approached for a closer viewpoint the bird flapped up and away.

This evening we dined on succulent roast lamb; crisp roast potatoes, parsnips and Yorkshire pudding; herby sausages, firm carrots and cauliflower, with which Jackie drank Peroni and I drank Séguret Cotes du Rhone 2019.

Smiling For The Cameras


Waterboy Pool 1

We have several sparrows’ nests in the garden. They, along with various other small birds, take their ablutions in the Waterboy’s pool, as they did this morning.

Sparrows - one on waterboy's head, another on pool edge

Sparrows - one on waterboy's head, one flying

Sometimes they await their turn for a dip on the little lad’s head, flying off after they are done.

Sparrow on hook 1
Sparrow on hook 2

Other perches also come in useful.

I carried out an administrative task in relation to our friend Wolf’s executorship, after which Jackie drove me to the Hordle Post Office.

Crane transporter 1

We were narrowly beaten to Hordle Lane by a crane transporter. This held us up somewhat,

Crane transporter 2

since it took up most of the tarmac, and anyone coming from the other side of the road had to risk driving into the ditch.

Crane transporter 3

There were quite a few of these because it was school run time.

Mount Pleasant Lane

After I had eventually posted some missives, we travelled on to Brockenhurst via Mount Pleasant Lane which rather lived up to its name.


At Highland Water a heron strode purposefully along the shallow stream,


on the other side of which a group of small ponies mowed the lawns.

Pony and family 1

One of their number had remained on our side and attached itself to a small family.

Pony and bare feet

The father collected up the picnic and took it to a safer place,

Mother and two boys

while the boys watched with some consternation the pony snuffling the bicycle.

Pony and shoe

With teeth

Pony scratching and family

and hoof, the animal sought to relieve its itching,

Pony and family 2

reporting progress to the mother and her younger son

Pony and photographer

as the father crouched down with his camera.

Pony and photographers

While other photographers thronged to the scene the model began smiling for the cameras.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb lamb jalfrezi, her rice with peas, and her sag ponir, with which we both drank Kingfisher.

Heron In Flight


This morning I printed yesterday’s random header picture for our friend Mary. We posted it this afternoon.

After lunch Jackie and I took two orange bags of garden pruning and clippings, along with some metal and plastic rubbish, to the Efford Recycling Centre, and drove on to see how the thatching at East End was coming along.

Thatching 1

Here is a rear view which shows the L-shaped structure of the large building. The extensive scaffolding is an indication of the size of the project.

Much of the work has been completed to a very high standard. I was informed by the thatcher with whom I spoke, that the ridging that is to feature where tufts currently stand proud, will take longer than the four weeks currently expended.

We drove home via East Boldre, where, as usual, a heron was disturbed by the sight of my camera. I panned it as it took to the air, rising from a lingering, although drier, pool, past the gorse blending with its sharp beak, and up into the cloudy skies.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s toothsome cottage pie, piquant cauliflower cheese, spring greens, and crisp carrots and cauliflower. with divine gravy. Ian drank Peroni, and I drank Corbieres 2015.


Scooby, not wishing to be left out, would like readers to know that his evening repast was Tesco Tender Paté with chicken, mixed lovingly with James Wellbeloved Chicken & Turkey Kibble Complete. His dessert was the bone from our previous roast lamb dinner with generous bits of meat attached. His beverage was Adam’s ale. This information was provided by his Mummy, Becky. 15 in September, he’s quite elderly now, and needs to collapse in his bed after a meal.

“They Aren’t Going To Fly Away”


This morning we took a trip back to Gordleton Barn to measure a door I had photographed on our last trip in the hope that it might be suitable to replace our inner front door I don’t like. It was too thick.

The amount of rain that has fallen in the last 48 hours let up only briefly this morning, but we went for a forest drive anyway.

Ponies in mist

Damp ponies, such as these at Wootton, continued to feed on the misty moors,

Pool and reflection

Whilst I was engrossed in photographing the soggy terrain,

Pony in bushes

I glimpsed something among the trees that looked a different brown than the bracken.

It turned out to be a pony brunching on holly.


This gave us the idea of lunching at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms. My choice was steak and ale pie, chips, Savoy cabbage, carrots and peas. Just look at that gravy; and the wedges supplied with Jackie’s macaroni cheese, bacon, and salad.


I visited the gents which was, of course, situated at the end of the platform.

Lion sculpture

The harmless looking lions atop the entrance pillars wore lichen masks.

It was in Braggers Lane at Thorney Hill that I became rather mean to a string of be-rugged horses. Stopping to photograph pools leading to a five-barred gate, I noticed these animals far away beside distance trees. Seeing me lean on the gate they scrambled over to me, no doubt expecting to be fed.

Horse in rug

There was no such luck, and they looked somewhat forlorn as they watched me return to the car.


Cattle in a field alongside Thatchers Lane at Sopley melded rather well with the subdued landscape.


There is a deep ditch along this road. It is now well topped up, and clearly held much attraction for the heron that burst from it every time we approached, flew a bit further, and disappeared down below. Despite keen tracking, I was unable to get a decent shot in. eventually it took off across a field and dropped from sight. We then passed a stream flowing at right angles to the ditch. Sure enough, some distance ahead, was our happy quarry. Alongside the stream ran a footpath. I took it. At last the bird sprang out from the undergrowth and presented me with my final opportunity. This was it. Jackie’s message to my readers is: “That took a lot of effort.”

We crossed from Thatchers Lane into Fish Street at Avon. After a while, Jackie stopped suddenly, backed up a bit, then came to a halt. “They aren’t going to fly away”, she exclaimed. “What is that?”, I asked, peering at a grey mass behind a thorn hedge. “An emu” she replied. These birds, of course, cannot fly. Never having seen one before, I was intrigued by the motion of their necks, as they mimicked the movement of a snake charmer’s cobra, curling low in an arc then stretching upright and repeating the dance.

It will come no surprise to anyone who has seen our lunch that all we required this evening was a small slice of pizza with which I drank a little more Shiraz.

Brief Encounter


On a gloriously sunny morning that would have graced any day in Spring, Jackie drove me, via a network of of narrow, populated roads like

Platoff Road

Platoff Road

Normandy Lane

and Normandy Lane, to a footpath leading to Keyhaven and Lymington Nature Reserve.

Canada geese

As I used my long lens to bring the masts of Lymington Marina into this shot of Canada geese congregating in a field, beside which Jackie parked the car, little did I realise I would make closer acquaintance with the boatyard before my trek was over.

As I walked along the path I noticed first a woman walking along what I soon realised was a brick path around the bird sanctuary;

Cyclist silhouette

then a cyclist approaching from the opposite direction.

Walker and cyclist silhouette

Did they, I wondered, pass the time of day as they passed each other on their brief encounter.

A five-barred gate gave onto a sloping track that led to a large rectangular route around the water lands, around which others rambled.

Walker and gorse

This perambulator had obviously dressed to blend in with the gorse.

Waterfowl basked in their sanctuary.

Heron and mallards 1

I rely on my ornithologist friends to correct me if necessary, but I think this is a stationary heron being passed by paddling mallards;

whereas this is an egret admiring its reflection.

Ducks and pigeon

A slender pigeon-like like bird didn’t manage to merge into varieties of duck that I would need some help to identify.

Gulls undertook daredevil low-flying manoeuvres, running barbed wire gauntlets.

Brent geese preferred the high skies,

Approaching Lymington Marina

especially on the approach to Lymington Marina.

Woman on bench

The woman in the foreground of this picture, after I enjoyed a chat with her, had taken a rest on one of the suitably placed observation benches, but it didn’t take her long to overtake me again.

Bird watchers

Bird watchers availed themselves of another seat.

Lymington Marina from Nature reserve 1

About halfway round the rectangle, I realised that I had a choice between walking on to the marina to find my way back to the car from there, and retracing my steps. I’m not one for taking the latter option, but this has, on occasion, presented problems. I stopped  group of people and asked if I could return to Normandy Lane from there. I was told I could, and how to do it, with the observation that I couldn’t get lost. “Don’t you believe it,” I replied. “I can get lost anywhere”.

Ferry boat

The Wight Link ferry boat soon sailed past the marina.

Ducks in flight

Ducks took to the wing;

Dog walker and runner

a jogger and a dog walker took no advantage of their brief encounter;


and I found myself in the marina,

where boat maintenance was being undertaken.


A kettle was on hand;

Hull for repair

parts of hulls had been marked out for attention;

Devil on hull

and a devilish Chad peeped out.

As I left the marina and approached a path that would lead me to Normandy Lane, I met the group who had directed me earlier. “You are still on track” was the cheery greeting. I hadn’t the heart to let them know that I had been somewhat delayed by taking an incorrect, muddy, track.

Jackie was waiting for me, some two hours after my departure. A little more than intended.

This evening we dined on second helpings of yesterday’s curries, with which I consumed Chapel Vineyard cabernet sauvignon 2015.

Losing Control

12th July 2014 I began the day by posting yesterday’s entry. This afternoon Jackie drove me to New Milton where I boarded the train to Waterloo for a trip to Shampers, Simon Pearson’s wine bar in Kingly Street, where Michael was holding his second 50th birthday celebration.

To walk my normal route to Green Park, turn right along Piccadilly, cross this thoroughfare into Air St, turn left up Regent St, and right then left into Kingly St, on a Saturday afternoon in midsummer, is definitely not to be recommended unless you are intent on recording the experience. But I was. So I did.

The walk along South Bank and up the steps onto and then across Westminster Bridge was like taking on the combined international rugby forwards of the Six Nations and those of the Southern Hemisphere.

A packed speedboat sped under the bridge while cruise ships unloaded one herd of passengers and took on board another. Tourists were wielding every kind of device capable of taking photographs, a

good number of them being selfies, two of the subjects of which claimed to be Absolutely Fabulous, and the other Knight Style.

No-one appeared to see the huge notices closing the crossings at Whitehall and Palace St instructing people to use the underpasses. But perhaps that was just for runners in the 10k run that featured in the small print. St James’s Park was a little easier, but still packed with

people lovingly basking in the sunshine.

Motionless herons kept an eye out for prey from the lake.

Piccadilly and Regent St were almost as crowded as Westminster Bridge.

In Aire St a group were perched on the pavement sketching the view of Regent St through an arch. Having arrived at the venue 90 minutes early, I walked around the corner and sat for a while in Golden Square

where two low-flying aircraft had come to grief; spectators communed with the sculpture; and table tennis was in progress.

The assembled company at Shampers were Michael, Heidi, Alice, Emily and her boyfriend Sam; Louisa and Errol; Mat and Tess; Eddie and his wife Rebecca; and two other friends whose names I can’t recall, but whose faces I know well.

Eddie is Michael’s lifelong friend who often stayed with us in Soho in the 1970s, as, of course, did Matthew and Becky. It was natural with that grouping to recount Soho stories. One I haven’t featured before is the tale of the mechanical digger. One afternoon I was horrified to peer out of our first floor window and see one of these clanking its steady way across the yard, its grabber reaching out like something from ‘War of the Worlds’. The cab was empty. Michael and Matthew were vainly attempting to bring it to a halt. I am not sure who reached up and turned it off. Perhaps it was me. This evening Mat revealed that this parked municipal vehicle had been started with the birthday boy’s front door key. Then things began to teeter out of control.

This narrative prompted Eddie, who had also stayed in many other places with us, to confess about the ride-on mower in Wootton Rivers. He had apparently gone for a ride on this sometime in that same decade, had approached the church, lost control, and crunched the stone wall. Eddie’s recollection is that the wall was undamaged, but that the mower was rather crumpled. It still worked, however, so the miscreant parked it in the garage and hoped that Jessica’s father would not notice.

Eddie’s optimism was not entirely misplaced, as was demonstrated by Matthew’s next story. The owner of the mower, you see, was not exactly in complete command of his vehicle. One day our son was playing in the garden with a group of Pearson cousins. Suddenly panic, and cries of ‘Clear the lawn, everything off the lawn’, set in. Small and medium sized children rushed to and fro, hither and thither, grabbing toys, balls, you name it. ‘And Louisa’, someone yelled, and scooped up the crawling infant. It was then that Matthew saw the mower hove into view. ‘The beach ball’, someone shouted.

Too late. The mower steamed over and flattened the large round beach ball. It is believed that the driver remained unaware of the tragedy.

These, and many other stories were enlivened by various excellent wines chosen by Eddie, the professional. I was particularly taken with the chilled Brouilly.

Piccadilly Circus

The food was superb, My starter was squid, followed by grilled sardines, chips, and salad, some of which Louisa snaffled. I had to desert the party before the cheese and dessert.

I walked back to Piccadilly Circus and took the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo, and thence to New Milton and from there home by a Galleon taxi.

Sitting opposite me on the train from Waterloo were a young Chinese woman attempting to sleep, and an older Englishwoman attempting to talk. I returned the conversation for a while then indicated my desire to return to my book. Soon peace reigned as my companions slept. They departed at Southampton Central, but very soon afterwards I had to abandon the book, as the train filled up to capacity, and a drunken, acknowledgedly ‘chatty’ young man full of Jameson’s sought to entertain us all. Giving up, I closed ‘December’ by Elizabeth H. Winthrop.

The taxi firm is to be recommended. They operate from a shed outside New Milton station.

To Sir, With Love

Just after lunch we drove to Ringwood to shop, then delivered a present for John and Stephanie to Helen and Bill’s at Poulner.

The earring no longer adorns the information board in the car park.  I do hope it is now happily reunited with its partner and dangling from one of a pair of beautiful lobes.

After unloading the shopping, we sped across the other side of the forest to Milford on Sea, there to investigate Agarton Lane, on the outskirts, where there is a house for sale.

Agarton Lane cottage

The cottage is down a very narrow lane with fields all around,Field across one of which, virtually next door, trooped what, from a distance, looked like a group of grouse. Woodlands site The other neighbour seemed to be Woodlands which was staked out, it seemed, for building one house in the centre of a very large plot.

Cottage garden

Mare's tails

Although the garden of the subject cottage appears free of them, the whole area is infested with mare’s tails.  A stream runs across the road adjacent to the building.

Having given ourselves food for thought we continued to the coastline at Milford, finding that we had approached Hurst Pond Nature Reserve from the other side to the one we had investigated on 3rd July. Heron I became quite excited when I saw a heron stalking fish in the water, really quite close by. Jackie stopped the car.  I got out.  She revved up the engine to move on to a parking spot. Fisher silhouettes and reflection My prey flew off in search of a safer spot to seek his. Noticing his landing point, I decided to stalk him.  He chose to camouflage himself by imitating reed stalks.  It’s a good thing this wasn’t a stork, otherwise my wordplay may have got a little out of hand.

Along the causeway we had traversed in July, fisher folk could be seen carrying home their gear after the day’s work.Fisher silhouettes

Jackie has never cooked risotto before, but she decided to give it a try this evening.  Her mushroom version was superb.  She will definitely do it again. After all, it is different from biriani simply in the type of rice used in order to provide the glutinous effect which is required.  I don’t think there is a great deal of difference in the method, or, for that matter, in the Persian inspired pilau, at which she is most proficient. Jackie’s choice of ice cream to follow was strawberry.  Mine was rum and raisin.

FiorileGiven that we were eating risotto, I sought out a wine from our IKEA wine rack that sits in the bathroom cupboard, that I thought would do it justice.  I had the exquisite taste to hit upon a superb Sicilian offering from Fiorile, a Nero d’Avola Syrah of 2010.  In truth, I had never heard of it, but it had been given to me by the Head of Geography at Chichester Cathedral’s Prebendal School.  This is Ian Steele who we are welcoming into our family.  Ian had been given this present by a satisfied parent at the end of the last school year. Knowing I was more likely to appreciate it, he had given it a good home.  What better pedigree, I thought, for a wine, than that it has been purchased by such a donor. So I very much enjoyed it this evening.  Thank you, Ian, and the anonymous giver.

This bottle provided the inspiration for today’s title, for which I am indebted to E.R.Braithwaite’s semi-autobigraphical novel dealing with social and racial issues in an inner city school.  There have been several dramatisations of this ever-topical tale, the most famous possibly being the 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier, the title song of which propelled Lulu to No. 1 in the US charts.  Lulu, incidentally smiles across at  Sam from the opposite wall of the Akash in Edgware Road.

Poon after I have pent this sopt, I will have brunk the hole dottle. (The computer’s spellcheck wnet breseckr at this)

Oak Tree Farm

Oak Tree Farm telephone boxes

Yesterday’s observant readers will have noticed the post was earlier than usual.  This is because I pressed ‘Publish’ rather than ‘Preview’ by mistake.  Once today’s posts have been set in motion there is no turning back.  Some of us, of course still use what is jocularly termed ‘snail mail’, where you write on paper, place the missive in an envelope, write an address and stick a stamp on that and place it in a red box.  Until placed in the box there is plenty of time to rethink and even alter what you have written. Modern technology allows you endless painless revisions, but once you have pressed the button your message is metaphorically snatched out of your hands.  There are no snails in cyber space.  Mind you, the normal post, be it adminstered by the Royal Mail or its commercial rivals, is pretty quick.  We can still expect first class letters to arrive the next day.  Once it was even quicker.  In my childhood there were two deliveries a day; in Victorian times even more.  It was then possible to arrange an evening’s meeting through exchange of letters beginning that morning.  There was no texting in those days.

The Penny Post was introduced by Sir Robert Peel in 1841.  Originally horsepower was harnessed to carry the mail.  Now huge vans cart them along our motorways and special locomotive vans transport them through the night.  I once knew a man who worked on the mail trains.  The vans were mobile sorting offices.  Bags of mail were loaded onto the carriage, their contents removed and sorted, and unloaded at the other end of the country.  The system required the bags to be upturned and thoroughly shaken, to ensure that no mail had been caught in the seams.  One day he had adopted this procedure when a slim sheet of paper floated to the floor.  It was a postcard sent some forty years earlier from Germany.  Strenuous efforts were made to seek out the parents of the young man who had sent it during the war.

Soon after our dinner of Jackie’s liver and bacon casserole David Small arrived to replace the broken garage lock.  The light was fading by the time he finished.

The casserole was served with crisp vegetables and sauteed potatoes enhanced by onion and garlic.  It was rather a miracle that the spuds were not limp.  These hang in a bag behind the kitchen door, so they won’t turn green if you leave them too long.  Yesterday’s Murphies were wizened and bendy, displaying the creases you see in a new born baby’s skin.  Much of their stuffing had been drawn out by the new shoots they were sprouting.  But they weren’t green.  Jackie had disguised this beautifully.

As we had promised ourselves, we took another trip to Ferndene Farm Shop, joined the throng and well and truly stocked up.  I have never been to a Harrods sale, but I have seen pictures in newspapers of bargain-hunters frenziedly elbowing each other out of the way to get at the goodies on display.  Some of the most frail-looking customers in what is really a food supermarket of excellent quality and reasonable prices, would not be out of place at a Harrods free-for-all.Oak Tree Farm private letter box

Oak Tree Farm pillar boxesAcross the road from the shop lies Oak Tree Farm, a haven for red pillar and telephone box enthusiasts. Oak Tree Farm telephone and pillar boxes The gravelled courtyard behind a securely locked pair of entrance gates are filled with these symbols of England.  A black-painted Georgian wall-mounted letterbox is set in the establishment’s brick wall.  The owner is a serious collector.

Anyone interested enough in the subject of red telephone boxes may also like to read my post of 15th October last year entitled ‘Kersall Telephone Box’.

On leaving the shop we went driveabout.  New Milton’s main street was closed to traffic.  This made it rather difficult to reach Milford-on-Sea, but we managed it in the end and walked along the sea front past Hurst Pond Nature reserve out to Hurst Point, and back to The Needles Eye cafe (see post of 10th January).

High Ridge Crescent house

We happened to pass a house for sale in High Ridge Crescent that we had seen on the internet.  It confirmed our interest.

As we left our car in the Hurst Road car park and I announced my intention to take photographs, a woman advised me to make sure the horizon was straight.  I didn’t mention that it wouldn’t matter too much because I have an editing facility which can straighten images. Crow My picture of a crow aiming for the point of an arrow that was the water’s edge, seemed to me to be enhanced by the angle of the skyline, so I didn’t change it.

HeronA heron on the hunt in the pond did not move for the whole time it took us to walk to the spit and back.

The area is an intriguing nature reserve because it lies at a point where freshwater from the River Dane meets tidal water coming up the gully from the spit. Black capped gull The sight of the seabirds swooping, manoeuvring, and diving at an alarming rate along this channeled out watercourse reminded Jackie of the X-wings speeding along the tunnel during the famous Death Star battle in ‘Star Wars’.

Jackie on Norwegian rocks

Like much of the Dorset coast this area is subject to erosion.  In an attempt to stay the inevitable action of the waves, huge rocks line the shore alongside the nature reserve, providing shelter for the Californian poppies clinging to the pebbled margins. Norwegian rocks These were imported from Norway, and today the quartz they contain glinted in the sunlight.

This evening’s meal was a tender and lean roast lamb dinner.  Maipo reserva merlot 2012 was my wine.

A Night At The Globe

I began the day by photographing the corner of the garden in which the new fernery is located, so that Danni can see where it is.

Jackie then drove us back to Morden in readiness for a visit to The Globe Theatre this evening.  Sam and Holly had given me two tickets for Richard III for my birthday.  Disaster then struck.  I had left the lead for transferring photos from my camera to my laptop at The Firs.  I therefore walked to Jessops at Colliers Wood and back, to try to purchase a new connection.  They do not sell them, but sold me a Multi Card Reader.  Since I have been using a card reader system at Elizabeth’s, I thought this would be fine.

In the precincts of Abbey Mills Centre by the river Wandle, a heron was offering suggestions to a puzzler.

Walking back through Morden at school finishing time, I was reminded that I had left rural Hampshire for the end of the Northern Line, gateway to the South, as Peter Sellers put it when chanting of Balham.  I had to weave my way through milling schoolchildren, taking care to dodge their icecreams and sticky sweets; make way for mothers pushing buggies; elude shoppers with wheelie bags, endangering my sandalled feet; and avoid motorised vehicles for people with disabilities.  I was back on familiar territory.

Settling down with my laptop I followed the meagre instructions which came with the reader.  Nothing was happening.  I could not download my pictures.  I telephoned Jessops, whose representative said it sounded as if the reader was faulty, and advised me to reboot my laptop and if it still didn’t work return to the store.  It didn’t, so I will return to Jessops in the morning and hope to be able to add photographs to this post.

This evening we travelled by underground to Sam Wanamaker’s gift to the world.  Our mode of changing trains at Kennington is best described in Jackie’s words.  As we approached a train about to leave for Waterloo she reports that I flung myself into the closing gap in the doors and left her standing on the platform.  I turned, held my hand up to the window and raised one finger.  This was to indicate that Waterloo was one stop away.  Contemplating the amused glances of the other passengers, I felt grateful that it wasn’t two stations away.

Some twenty eight years earlier I had been taking Sam and Louisa on the underground for a trip somewhere or other.  Sam was walking beside his sister in her pushchair.  He trotted into the train just as the doors were closing.  Having just taken Louisa out of it, I quickly shoved the puschair into the gap.  The doors simply pushed the wheeled vehicle out of their way.  This time it was Louisa and me left on the platform.  I found a station employee.  He rang down the line.  Two young men on the train who had seen what had happened escorted Sam off the train at the next station.  Louisa and I followed on, and left, the next train at the same station.  A perfectly happy Sam, munching chocolate, was resting in the arms of a huge London Transport man.  Panic over.

Walking along Blackfriars Road Jackie spotted, through a gap in the streetscape, The Shard, hailed as Western Europe’s tallest building.  Sun reflected from this edifice causes the blinds to be drawn in her office on the eleventh floor of Morden’s Civic Centre.  The view of the skyline we enjoyed as we walked along the Thames to the theatre can clearly be seen from that same office window.

We had a meal of meze at The Real Greek, a couple of doors away from The Globe.  This was so good we wished we had had more time.  Our only complaints might have been that the small tables were rather cramped together, and someone had taken a bite out of the bowl in which my excellent beetroot salad was served.  Jackie drank Mythos, a Greek beer she enjoyed.  I was less adventurous and sampled Kronenbourg.

The Globe is a replica of Shakespeare’s famous original.  In The Bard’s day those who could afford them sat on hard wooden benches under a thatched roof.  Those who couldn’t, known as groundlings, stood in the central enclosure, open to the elements.  So it is today.

Neither of us knew the play and we were therefore surprised at its comic nature. The theatre was jam-packed with spectators, and we had to force our way through the groundlings to reach our bench, which was fully occupied.  The play having just begun, we stood silently on the stairs until a steward approached, moved another couple out of our places, and, equally silently, ushered us in.  Almost polished away by the many bums on these seats, our numbers were just discernible.  This splendid production held our struggling attention until a wave of activity in the central open area, punctuated by the patter of raindrops, rendered what was happening on stage inaudible.  The cast soldiered manfully on.  I say ‘manfully’ because, as an authentic rendition of Shakespearean times, women’s roles were being played by men.  Suddenly the activity in the pit became frenzied.  The downpour drummed on the roof.  The lighting illuminated vertical sheets of rain.  Torrents bounced off hastily donned hoods and scarves.  Shirts and blouses of those who had come unprepared became transparent second skins.  Hair was plastered to scalps, and rivulets ran down necks.  Some who had brought umbrellas were told to close them.  A few who sat on the stairs we had vacated were instructed to leave and stand in the rain because they were blocking an emergency exit.  Staff, and the occasional fortunate child, were issued with clingfilm wrappers by a young woman circulating among the rapidly diminishing throng of saturated, unsheltered, spectators.  Whilst this continued the cast strutted their stuff on stage.  I am sure they must be quite accustomed to such interruptions.  After all, Shakespeare’s groundlings made an awful din.  It will, however, be apparent from the attention I paid to all this going on in front of me that I had lost the plot.  So had Jackie.

P.S. Dated 21st January 2014. Roger Lloyd-Pack, who was speaking as the Duke of Buckingham through the worst of the din, died a week ago. A splendid actor, may he rest in peace.