‘What Is Your Tactic?’


As stated yesterday, Jackie drove us late in the afternoon to Steamer Point Nature Reserve where she parked the car and we walked down to Friar’s Cliff beach.

Here is the origin of the name of this area:

From the Nature Reserve, we could see

Highcliffe to our left,

The Isle of Wight and The Needles straight ahead,

and Friar’s Cliff Beach to the right.

A number of people were exercising their dogs on the sands

and in the water.

Two boys joined in.

It was not until I had moved along towards Friar’s Cliff Beach that I saw this notice.

It was just as well that I photographed the beach yesterday, because steady rain set in for the day as we entered The Beach Hut Café.

The reason we were here was that Jackie, drinking coffee here yesterday whilst I was photographing, had noticed Olympics breakfast on the menu. This was apparently something of a challenge, and came with a ‘no sharing’ rule. We decided I would try it for brunch. Our initial disappointment at its no longer being on offer was dismissed when we explained that we had only come for this treat and we were told that, in that case, they would produce one. This, of course, meant that I was really on my mettle. No way could I fall down on the challenge. Even though I did not know what this meal would contain. Jackie opted for the Big Breakfast which was, in itself, quite a challenge, but

nothing like this, which was placed in front of me with a certain amount of glee.

I had barely begun when Danny emerged from the kitchen and asked me ‘What is your tactic?’ Seeing that I clearly didn’t have one, our young friend, who had managed the feat on one occasion himself, suggested making sandwiches with the toast. As there were three fried eggs and six half rounds of toast, that is what I did.

In fact, I found myself imagining that I was in a generous Indian restaurant and reaching the painful stage when it was only my determination not to leave anything that kept me going. This helped, as did the periodic visits of the catering staff who informed me that I was ‘the best yet’, when I still had some way to go. Perhaps being a former marathon man trained to run through the pain barrier was of equal assistance.

When I was on the final lap, Jackie demanded the camera, and stayed poised for the last mouthful,

and the empty plate.

I swear My Grandfather’s Shirt was not so tight before I sat down.

Should anyone feel inclined to enquire about my evening meal, I would simply refer them to my brunch.

Fifty Years Ago Today

This morning Jackie and I had a trip to Highcliffe, last home to so many people that it is full of shops with good quality second-hand goods from houses recently rendered unoccupied by infirmity or death.
We went in search of curtains, of which the Sue Ryder shop provided three good pairs, and the Oakhaven Hospice a fourth. A wardrobe was also a requirement, because Flo is coming to stay in a couple of days time, and we want her to have a choice of bedrooms. This we found in the hospice where, in November 2012, we had bought our serpentine table. It will be delivered on the relevant day. We brunched in the Star cafe.

Should our granddaughter choose one of the bedrooms at the front she will have a view across fields to a rape crop in the distance. The idyllic back garden was visited this afternoon, among other creatures,

by a cabbage white butterfly and a hover fly sharing the sunlight on a hellebore. And is that a caterpillar snaking up between them?

The tulips are now so full-blown that they have a kaleidoscopic quality.

For my fiftieth birthday in July 1992, my friend Giles made me a chequerboard in stained glass. It now enhances the window at the foot of our stairs.

Fifty years ago today Michael was born.

Here Vivien holds him when he was ten days old.

I have given each of my offspring a stack of albums containing photographs of their childhood. When I phoned Michael today, he told me that Alice had produced a slide show from his albums and they were watching it on their computer.

Early this evening I strolled down Downton Lane to investigate the caravan sites, and in particular the shop. Downton Holiday Park is alongside the lane. A larger and more salubrious establishment is the Shorefield Country Park on Shorefield Road. That has a very well stocked Spar, which will be our village shop.

This evening we dined on Tesco’s finest microwaveable curries; lamb rogon josh for me and chicken jalfrezi for Jackie, with Sainsbury’s vegetable samosas heated in the oven. The oven is definitely meant to be low level, because Jackie, who is herself tall, is not high enough to read the symbols on the control dial. I opened a bottle of Isla Negra reserva cabernet sauvignon 2013 and drank some of it.


On this dull, wet, day we decided we might as well go somewhere that was already damp, so Jackie drove us to Highcliffe for her to do the charity shop round and for me to walk. On the approach to Emery Down, my greying Easy Rider, long locks flying, pedalled vigorously towards us, passing on the other side of the road.
Leaving the car in Wortley Road car park we went our different ways along the High Street. I turned right at the end and walked to the cliff, down to and along the beach to my right, and eventually back along the footpath along the top.
IOW in mist
Ever seeking a different view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles, as I peered from above across the choppy seas I found they had been moved. If not by Mike who I was to meet later, perhaps they were just obscured by the mist.Waves approaching shingleWatching the waves
Spray on revetement
'Sculpture' on rocksA few scattered walkers were out contemplating the waves, and one lone dog walker occasionally came into view. Dog walker on groyneCrunching along the shingle watching and listening to the breakers crashing against what I was to learn were the groynes and the revetments, I occasionally ambled the length of  these structures jutting out to sea, standing where Sam and Malachi had done on 13th January last year, and peering across the Channel. Planted in a pile of the stones was what I took to be imaginative piece of modern sculpture that may have been a contender for the Turner prize.
Waves and shingleAs I progressed along the beach the sound of sliding pebbles receded like the advancing waves slipping back into the sea. They competed unsuccessfully with the chug chug and rattle of a heavy digger in the distance. As I approached, it dumped a huge boulder that I imagine must have come from area of disturbed sand left between similar rocks strung out in a row.
By the time I reached the machine it had been silenced and its operator, standing by the grabbing end wrenched at the clawed structure attached to the crane. The very friendly man was Mike, who was Neptune, the company contracted to maintain the Dorset coast at this point. His firm’s patch extended from Hengistbury Head to Chewton Bunny. More than happy to stop what he was doing and engage in a most informative conversation, Mike was about to ‘do some digging’ for which he needed a different grabber. Mike changing grabberMike in cab removing grabberMike's changed grabberSeeing him operate the heavy machinery and his wrench gave me some idea as  to what he owed the grip of his handshake.
It was Mike who told me the terms for the rocks that jut out to sea, the groynes; and the piles along the shingle, the revetments. Groynes offer protection from the seas, and revetments keep the embankments in place. It is Mike’s task to redesign and maintain these defences. In describing this constant activity he called himself a dung beetle, which I thought a lovely image. This hardy individual, ever since playing here as a boy, has learned the nature of the tides, the winds, and the currents and how each effects the coastline.Neptune working It Cliff drainageseems to me a tragedy that the current political and economic climates have already reduced, and are likely to jeopardise the rest of, his operation.
On previous visits I have been puzzled by lines of smaller rocks stretching down from the cliff top at regular intervals. These stones cover membranes much, I imagine, like those used to suppress weeds in a garden. Having been put in place by Neptune, they are draining the cliffs. My informant considers this a major difference between Highcliffe and Barton on Sea where there is no drainage and the cliffs are constantly in danger of subsidence.
Our evening sustenance was provided by sausage casserole (recipe), carrots, rich green broccoli, and mashed potato containing chopped chives. Creme caramel was to follow. I finished the Cahors and Jackie drank another glass of the Nobilo.

A Bouncing Baby Boy

We drove back to Highcliffe early this afternoon, for Jackie to shop and for me to walk.

The contrast between this moist Monday and yesterday’s sunny Sunday was marked.  Highcliffe beach was deserted except for me and a jogger. Gorse, Highcliffe 1.13 I walked along the cliff top first, before descending to the shore by muddy steps beside which the Council had placed a notice claiming that the provision of this facility did not constitute a right of way.  I wondered whether this was some disclaimer of responsibility should someone have an accident. New Bin 1.13 Near the bottom of this path, a correctly labelled ‘New Bin’ had been installed. It is definitely not an old one.  On the shingle, where yesterday Sam and Malachi had watched the receding tide, were wading birds, presumably waiting for their supper to be presented by the sands.Wading birds, Highcliffe 1.13

When I met Jackie at the car park, she had not had time for a full tour of the town’s many charity shops.  I therefore joined her to finish the task.  Among other objects, we discovered more contributions to the toy and dressing-up boxes, and a lampshade to replace a weekend casualty.  As mentioned before, Highcliffe has more than its share of charity shops.  I have probably visited them all by now.  What is extremely noticeable is that none of these establishments has the familiar smell of stale clothes which is so prevalent in their London equivalents.

On the way to our destination Jackie slowed for a female pheasant in the road in front of us.  The bird started, veered sideways, flew straight into the windscreen, bounced off, and continued its journey.  This reminded me of one of my earliest memories, from the summer of my third birthday.  I think it was Uncle Bill who was driving us to Brighton.  These are details which emerged in the later telling among the family, so I’m not quite clear about them.  What has remained vivid in my memory, is the image of my younger brother, with me in the back, deciding he wanted to get out of the motoring car, opening the door and doing just that.  Mum screamed; I dashed to the other side to look out and watched Chris, fortunately in a nappy, bouncing across the centre of the road into the path of oncoming traffic.  Bill brought the car to a standstill.  Somebody rushed out and gathered up the happily unharmed little soul.  Fortunately there were fewer, and slower, cars around in 1945, and the M23 hadn’t been invented.  Mind you, we do now have childproof locks.  The problem with them is that it takes a child to work out how to open them.

This evening Jackie produced an excellent lamb jalrezi with pilau rice.  She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Roc des Chevaliers Bordeaux superieur 2010.


Malachi is most definitely at the ‘why’ stage.  This morning, over breakfast, he asked Jackie ‘why?’.  She had a ready answer, smiled, and said ‘I anticipated that one’.  ‘What does that mean?’, he asked.  ‘I knew you’d ask why?’, she replied.  A mischievous grin game over his face.  ‘Why?’, he said.  Why is it that children always win that game?

Incidentally, does anyone know a good method of removing baked beans, beef stew, apple juice, milk, and goodness knows what else from cream damask covered dining chairs?

Today was a beautiful, if cold, day.  We therefore had a trip to the beach at Highcliffe.  Ponies were much in evidence on our drive through the forest, so the safari plan was more successful today than yesterday.

Highcliffe beach 1.13We walked along the beach and back to The Cliffhanger restaurant where we had lunch together before Sam and Malachi set off back to London.  This was the only time I have seen the beach here full of people, obviously taking advantage of the rare dry day.  Dogs and children were particularly enjoing themselves.

Malachi’s favourite occupations were throwing stones into the waves; avoiding the surf; and climbing rocks. Sam, Malachi & surf, Highcliffe beach 1.13 Watching his Dad scattering pebbles into the receding tide, reminded me of similar games I had played with him when he was pretty much the same age as Malachi.  The little lad, according to his Dad, misses no opportunity to climb about on rocks.  Naturally he loved climbing on the huge rough boulders on this beach. Malachi climbing rocks 1.13 Observing Sam guiding him in his exploits reminded me of my son’s guiding hand in Cumbria more than twenty years ago, which I described on 14th July last year.

Malachi wasn’t interested in the cuttlefish bone Jackie picked up and showed him, and we were more interested in unusual stones than he was.  Stones were just there to chuck into the waves.  We, however, spoke of an interest in pebbles with holes running through them.  This led us to Matthew’s extremely long bell-pull.  In his house in Seaford, Mat had rigged up a lengthy rope running from the fourth floor.  On this cord were threaded a string of stones from the beach with holes running through them.  Jackie and I, unbeknown to each other, had contributed stones for our son’s collection during our years apart.

Sam & Malachi against the light 1.13We stood at the ends of the breakwaters, enjoying the thrill of the spray ricocheting up from the rocks.  A certain amount of bargaining was involved in determining how much time Malachi could spend riding on his father’s shoulders, and how much he had to walk.  This involved using the posts bearing lifebelts as markers.  Malachi had to make it to ‘the next red thing’ under his own steam to warrant being hoisted and carried aloft.  Again this brought back memories of my carrying Sam in the same manner.  Most of the way, in fact, Malachi was so absorbed in his rock climbing as to forget his desire for a ride.  At one point Sam and I had to follow him along a line of rocks, in age order, with Grandpa bringing up the rear.

Wheelies on the rocks 1.13A highlight of the return journey was the group of young men doing wheelies on the rocks.  They were very competent and very confident, for their limbs were unprotected and none of them came a cropper.

The Cliffhanger was very full.  Jackie had gone on ahead and felt somewhat uneasy about holding a table for four with one coffee for an hour.  The very friendly staff were quite relaxed about it.  When the rest of us arrived it was so warm inside that it seemed incongruous to see windswept people with faces reddened with cold entering the establishment in search of a table.  Sam and I enjoyed haddock, Jackie scampi, and Malachi a burger; all with chips and salad.  Jackie and Malachi had icecream to follow.  Sam drank coffee; Malachi blackcurrant squash; with water for me.Sam, Malachi & others, Highcliffe beach 1.13

This meant that salad sufficed this evening, after a visit from Elizabeth who brought Christmas presents from Jacqueline and from Danni.  I drank a bit more of the Marques de Montino rioja reserva 2007 I had opened with my sister.  Jackie imbibed a small bottle of Hoegaarden.  We did have bread and butter pudding afterwards.

The Serpentine

This morning we drove back to Highcliffe to collect a hall table we had bought from a hospice shop yesterday.  Jackie then drove up to Highcliffe Castle and esconced herself with coffee and scones whilst I went for a walk along the beach.

I followed a path from the castle grounds to the beach and walked to Friars cliff where I joined the Christchurch Coastal Walk back to my starting point.  After a short tour of the grounds I found Jackie in the tea rooms, by which time I was dripping all over the place.

The journey from Minstead had been very pleasant and quite sunny.  The overnight rain had left much of the forest waterlogged and pools on the roads.  Each passing vehicle threw up showers of rainwater which had not yet drained away.  As we drove into Highcliffe the sky darkened significantly, and as I reached the beach the rain began to plummet.

Although there is an open path from the castle grounds to the beach below, there is a wire mesh fence otherwise surrounding them.  I was intrigued to see a fresh posy affixed to the mesh, through which the sealine was visible.  Was there  a story there?  Later, on the Christchurch Walk, just as high above the beach, someone had discarded a single stem red rose.  Was there a connection?

The more I burnt my boats and progressed along the almost unoccupied shingle, the faster drove the more or less horizontal stinging rain and the biting wind.  As the tide was ebbing, it soon revealed that there was a sandy beach of which I had yesterday been unaware. 

Pebbles were in parts covered with various forms of seaweed. 

Shore birds were scavenging among the still sea-wet shingle and weed.  Crows seemed to find something worth picking over.  A group of birds I took to be some kind of sandpiper played a little game with me.  They trotted along ahead of me until I got too close, thumbed their beaks at me, flew off, descended onto the sand to continue their foraging a little further on, and repeated the whole process.

When I tired of the game and the conditions I decided to join a gentleman who was sheltering against a concave sea wall.  He leant whilst his two labrador-looking dogs scampered in the pools.  I continued walking but I was at least gaining some respite from the elements.  His dogs ignored his calling them off when they jumped up and sniffed around me.  My instructions to them to disappear smartish were more successful.

Rows of beach huts at Friars cliff were padlocked for the winter.  On the Christchurch Walk lies the Steamers Point information centre.  Someone with a sense of humour of which I greatly approve, has placed an ammonite in its rock with a clear reference to Ammon, the ancient Egyptian ram-headed god.  Is that a lamb by it’s side?

Highcliffe Castle is a largely modern renovation of a building which was rendered uninhabitable by fires in the 1960s.  Because it is mostly built of medieaval French masonry and stained glass, shipped over for Lord Stuart de Rothesay, it looks far older than its 180 years.  I felt far too bedraggled after my drenching to visit the building or the exhibition which it housed.  This will be undertaken at a later date.

In the flat at Morden Jackie had availed herself of the small half-freezer and my little Ryman’s filing cabinet, which had stood in the tiny hall, to deposit her handbag and car keys on entering.  Because we now have enough room to place these items in more suitable areas, she was without an appropriate receptacle. 

In the Oakhaven Hospice Shop she had spotted a fine serpentine table which would do the trick, but yesterday we had no room for it in the car.  It is now enhancing, and filling more of, our hall space.

The sky was clear, and the sun shone throughout the afternoon, whilst I changed into dry clothes and put the heating on.

This evening Jackie produced an absolutely delicious chilli con carne followed by an excellent unburnt bread and butter pudding.  I drank more of the Cahors 2010, whilst she drank Hoegaarden.

Dover Beach

The weather today was very unpleasant, with driving rain and blustery winds.  I found myself agreeing to a trip to Highcliffe.  After all, we were going to get wet anyway, so why not at the seaside?

Isle of Wight from Highcliffe 11.12

Jackie drove me to the clifftop and pointed out the Isle of Wight, quite near, but only just discernible in the grey gloom.  She thought I might want a nice bracing walk along the seashore.  I thought I might wander around a new town.  In fact I did both.  We agreed a meeting time and point.  I left her heading for a carpark as I set off along the high street.  Having realised that Highcliffe town centre had far more than it’s share of House Clearance Specialists, Charity Shops, and Funeral Directors, I decided I wasn’t quite ready for it, and turned back to the coast.  The wind furling and unfurling The Solent was so strong that it held me up as I descended from the upper level.  On my return, it helped me up.  Seagulls were drinking from rainwater puddles in a park.  I’ve never thought of it before, but perhaps they don’t drink seawater.

Waves crashed against the stone breakwaters, one of which was having its ingredients arranged by a grabbing crane.  It’s flag fluttered violently.  Foaming spume clung to the pebbles and the rocks, quivering until the gusts of wind ripped chunks off it and flung them into the air to land on grass some distance away, like anaemic candyfloss fallen from a child’s fairground treat. Then I heard the sound of pebbles on Dover Beach.  Matthew Arnold’s poem of that name had entranced me in my teens as he described ‘…the grating roar of pebbles on the beach……….. begin and cease, and then begin again, with tremulous cadence slow….’.  The ‘begin and cease’ seemed to me perfectly to catch the sliding of pebbles grating together as the water slipped back down the beach ready for the next assault.  Through the buffeting of the wind and the clashing of the sea against the breakwaters a snatch of that music came to me as if in a vacuum and brought back a poem I hadn’t read for more than fifty years.

After meeting Jackie we had a late afternoon main meal of gammon steaks and sticky toffee pudding in the Globe Inn, during which I learned that she had done the rounds of the Charity and House Clearance shops and bought a number of treasures for our new home.  We returned to one and bought a beautifully made oval brass Indian tray table.  I told the proprietor his shop looked like my Mum’s sitting room.  He replied that a lot of people had said that.

This evening I read a bit more of A.L.Rowse’s ‘The England of Elizabeth which I had begun a couple of days ago.