This morning, as we were beset by a howling gale, while Jackie continued scraping grouting smeared all over the tiles of the downstairs lavatory, I further reflected on yesterday’s portrait. She was working on the wall the other side of the mirror.
I delved into my random negatives and scanned ten from the mid-1970s to 1981.
This photograph of me in what Jessica’s Aunt Elspeth called my Duke of Buckingham period was, I think, taken in Horse and Dolphin Yard, Soho in July 1974. Jessica was certainly the photographer. How my trousers came to require their extensive patching is told in ‘Death Of The Brown Velvet Suit’. I was so attached to the garment I could not bear to throw it away. The suit was kaput, but Jessica, with constant patching, kept the trousers going for some time.
Whilst in Soho, we, unfortunately, kept a parakeet called Charlie. The misfortune was the bird’s, not ours, for it was a friendly soul but clearly wasn’t happy, and lost all its tail feathers. One day, towards the end of the ’70s, Jessica heard a radio appeal from or on behalf of Johnny Savile, recreations officer for Springfield Hospital in Tooting. One of the facilities afforded for the psychiatric patients was an aviary. Someone had freed all the avian residents and the staff were seeking replacements. Charlie was duly delivered to Johnny, and it is to be hoped he was happier in his new home. It may or may not be coincidental that Morden Park is now blessed with a fine flock of parakeets.
By mid afternoon the rain had stopped and the wind reduced enough for us to plan to tackle the garden again. Just as we were about to begin we lost all electrical power. By a process of elimination I established that one particular fuse marked ‘sockets’ had tripped the whole system. We then at least had lighting, and some power. The trouble was that there were four switches similarly marked, and nothing to show which was which.
The fridge/freezer Jackie had filled up yesterday was not working. Neither was our home hub or my computer.
It was definitely time to call for an electrician. This I did. Benjamin Renouf, of Abre Electrical, who I phoned using his mobile number, was without his tools, but this very pleasant and calming young man came to see if he could establish the problem. He tried all the obvious solutions, but needed to return with test equipment. He had to go home for his daughter’s ninth birthday party, but will visit again in the morning.
In the meantime, the fridge/freezer, our laptops, my iMac and the home hub are connected by extension leads to the cooker point on the kitchen wall. That is the essentials of human existence taken care of
We dined early this evening, on Ashleigh fish and chips, before joining Giles and Jean for a jazz evening at Milford on Sea Community Centre. I will report on that tomorrow.
Tag: home hub
Here is the recipe for broccoli and stilton soup I had hoped, last night, to be able to provide this morning. Thanks to our caterer-in-chief:
Take a largish saucepan.
With approximately 2oz butter and 1 and 1/2 oz plain flour make a roux.
Then add 3 to 4 oz crumbled stilton to taste.
Meanwhile, heat a pint and a half of water in a separate pan, into which dissolve two good quality (e.g. Knorr) stock cubes, one chicken and one vegetable. If possible these should be low salt because stilton can be salty.
Simmer chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower in the stock until soft.
Gradually stirring it in add the broccoli and stock to the roux and ‘cook for a bit more’.
We had some for lunch. It has a delightful piquancy.
Before that, we had driven to Knights ironmongers in Lymington, where we bought a number of practical items, like sink plugs, door locks, hacksaws, chisels, and a preparation for clearing the blocked shower. I had used Bullitt before, but couldn’t remember the name. The very helpful young man in the shop went straight to it when I described our needs.
Bullitt is 95-97% sulphuric acid and claims to dissolve pretty well all organic matter that can legitimately find its way into pipes. It comes with considerable safety warnings, and emitted a steam, which we are advised not to inhale, on application. Unfortunately, whatever is down there, it seems impervious to sulphuric acid. I suppose it could be fossilised. After following the instructions and scouring the scummy tray, there was no speedier a trickle down the plug hole. I applied another dose and walked away without much hope of success. Jackie, on the other hand, made a good job of fixing sink plugs and door locks.
My first car, bought in December 1966, was a red Hillman Imp. During our courting days I was able to drive to Jackie’s family home in Beckenham, sometimes with Michael, sometimes leaving him with Mum in 18 Bernard Gardens. Always a keen photographer, I kept the camera in the car. One afternoon in September 1967, I stopped at traffic lights, and glanced to my left. There a window cleaner was engaged in polishing a large sheet of glass under the gaze of a baby in a pram inside the room that it was lighting. I grabbed my all-manual Kodak Retinette 1b camera, and, in the seconds before the red light turned to green, snatched the shot. It remains one of my favourite ‘posterity’ images. Judith and Barrie will, no doubt be intrigued to recognise the roof of my car reflected in the window of the room.
Aficionados may be able to identify the make of the pram. Window cleaning has now become much more sophisticated. Does anyone still use a ladder, chamois leathers, and elbow grease?
When she was here last week, Flo observed that we had our TV in a funny place. This was because it was behind Jackie’s chair and consequently rather obscured from view. This in turn was because I was too scared to attempt to set up the Sharp Aquos TV; BT Vision complete with the Powerline adapters required because the Home Hub was far enough away from the telly to need it; and the Bose 123 CD/DVD player complete with its bulky Acoustimass module.
The Gravelly Hill interchange on the M6 at Birmingham is the original spaghetti junction. This is a nickname given to a network of connecting roads that appears a tangled mess. It could equally apply to the wiring system focussing on the seven year old TV. With constant reference to the various users guides that came with the equipment; to the tags at some stage or another attached to the various wires; with some of the tentacles still attached at one end to the relevant gadgets; and with a good deal of foraging among a container labelled ‘phone wires and stuff’, a miracle was achieved. We can now watch telly, choose a programme from BT vision, play a DVD, or listen to a CD.
Whilst I was grappling with technology in the living room, Jackie successfully did so in the kitchen, where, on her induction hobs, she produced a lamb jalfrezi (recipe) as good as ever. She served it with wild rice. I finished the merlot.
Lines Of Communication
5th April 2014
After overnight rain the garden plants and spiders’ webs this morning were bejewelled. It wasn’t long before the leaden skies began a day-long disgorging of their contents.
We didn’t go anywhere. As she continued her mega kitchen clean, Jackie discovered that black cupboard handles were in fact brass. She made them glow again.
Martin Taylor, the artisan Pippa had recommended, responded to my voicemail message. We had a most frustrating almost one-way conversation on mobile phones because he couldn’t hear me as my signal kept breaking up. He tried his landline. That was no better. It was then that I realised our landline was dead. How could we have broadband, but no landline?
The answer to this may lie in the instruction booklet that came with the phones bought two or three years ago. Where was it? I remembered having scooped up various such technical documents and slipped them into one of the boxes. Which one? That was the question. A rather protracted search began. Eventually Jackie found them.
It took about three seconds study for me to realise that a lead was missing from the phone. But it was protruding from the socket. All the wires from phones, hub, computer, etc. are extended, and tangled around each other, so it was a bit difficult to find the line I was looking for. Eventually I tracked it to the home hub. With much trepidation I pulled it out and pushed it into the phone. Eureka! The phone worked, and the broadband still did. I called Martin from the landline and we communicated without interruption. He is coming on Monday 7th.
Thereafter, my major task was further clearance of the garage, fortuitously interrupted by a pleasant visit from Shelly who loved the house.
I removed numerous ancient paint tins, brackets, car bits, oily stuff, wood, metal, wires, and rubber from the rickety metal and cobbled wooden shelves; stripped out the shelves themselves; prised nails and screws from the wall; carted everything to the increasingly expanding skip heap; and swept up. In the process, I found some useful garden tools which I transported down the garden to the orange stained shed. Jackie then helped me to place three of the IKEA Billy bookshelves in the now vacant space.
This evening we dined on Tesco’s excellent beef lasagne followed by caramel-filled chocolate sponge. I finished the Isla Negra.
Tonight I managed to stay up until 9.30 p.m. before hauling myself upstairs to bed.
Elizabeth Chose Her Moment
4th April 2014
Refreshed after the first good night’s sleep I have enjoyed in weeks, I went on an exploratory walkabout this morning.
Setting off down Downton Lane towards the sea with what I think was the Isle of Wight visible in the distance, I took a footpath leading across a field to the right. I then followed a left turn along another with a ploughed field on the left and a wooded area to the right.
As I passed a couple of Countryside Watch signs, I hoped I didn’t look too suspicious.
I leaned on a bridge across a gently flowing stream, and, as I walked away, I noticed a deposit on the palm of my hand, indicating that a bird had been there before me.
This track led me to a narrow winding road on the other side of which was Taddiford Gap car park. The road was quite busy, and therefore rather dicey to negotiate. I was consequently relieved to see another footpath to the right just past Taddiford Farm. I took it. It led through woods and, like the curate’s egg, was good in parts. It others it was a bit muddy. I crossed what I hoped was the same stream I had encountered earlier. It was, and led me to Christchurch Road opposite a rape field I had seen before from a distance, and within sight of our house.
Back home I tackled some phone calls. Today was the date of the activation of our landline and broadband. BT’s letter indicated that this could happen at any time up to midnight. I phoned a very helpful woman called Gaynor who told me the engineers were working on it. She put my mind at rest on the question of the hub working through floorboards. Apparently hers does. I had been invited to take part in a customer survey to which I had agreed. When the call about that came later, I was asked how easy or difficult it had been to obtain the help I required. I had a choice of 1 to 3 to press. Having been happy, I pressed 1 as required. The message was repeated. Three times. After which I gave up.
Pippa at Spencers had told us she could provide us with names and phone numbers of suitable people to carry out practical tasks. Since we were still getting nowhere with our Neff hobs and the Logik built-in multifunctional oven hasn’t been built in anywhere, I obtained a name from her of a man who would be able to deal with both of these and fit the washing machine. I left him a message.
Jackie worked on cleaning and sorting the kitchen whilst I cleared more space around the washing machine. This led to a major blitz on the garage. The shelf above the plumbing for the machine contained a sand-tray once, no doubt, used for potting plants, now a spawning ground for spiders, the white clusters of whose eggs lined the crevices. One heavily pregnant creature staggered away seeking shelter underneath. Having noticed the handle of a small shovel protruding from beneath garden shrubbery, I thought this might be useful for collecting up the sand. Upon extracting it I discovered it had been used for clearing up after an elderly dog. The morning’s guano was far more attractive.
On a roll, I then decided to drag out a rolled-up carpet Michael had given us. This would enable me to place some boxes of books under the shelves. However I had to reach the relevant end to tug, and clear various items lain upon it. My way was blocked by the legs of a desk balanced on top of the Safe Store book containers. It wouldn’t budge. This was because a box of books was wedged underneath it. I pulled the whole structure towards me, intending to lean the desk against the garage doors whilst I extracted the now seriously maimed box, spilling as few of its contents as possible. Elizabeth chose that moment to telephone me. Now propping myself against the desk teetering on the boxes, I fished in my pocket for my mobile phone and we had a pleasant conversation. After speaking to my sister, I completed the task and came in for lunch.
Having freed the desk, I had to find a home for it. It had always been my intention to have an office in the hall, but it was full of assorted belongings. so we cleared that, which, of course meant cluttering up other places. Never mind, it was a job well done. For there, in the middle of the wall under the bay window, just where I would have wanted it, was a lovely telephone point. Not so quirky after all.
I retrieved the home hub and telephone from the bedroom, and set it up in my now established office, this time with my iMac attached. Now all there was to do was to await the connection by BT. Then there was a shriek from Jackie. We had no electricity. The loss of power coincided with her having turned off the hobs at the wall. Fortunately we had found the fuse box. One fuse had tripped. I turned it back on. Not only did we have light and power, but the child lock had disappeared. And we had broadband. Magic.
Coincidentally, my on-line friend Jane, had sent an e-mail telling us that turning off the hobs at the wall would free the lock.
The bad news about the hobs is that they work by induction which means the pans used with them must be magnetic, so, until we buy some more suitable ones Jackie will be forced to use my heavy iron pots.
We dined this evening on microwaved fish pie and mushy peas, with which I drank Isla Negra reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.
A Further Piece Of Quirkiness
3rd April 2014
On a wander round the garden this morning, I added periwinkle to the photographic gallery of our plants. Gathering daffodils, Jackie stands on what we were to name the Heligan Path, because it was so overgrown that we did not know it was there.
Curry/PC World delivered the fridge/freezer promptly as promised. Until they came we continued moving stuff around. This involved carting some furniture upstairs.
I telephoned Neff customer support line in an unsuccessful attempt to be talked through disenabling the child lock on the hobs. Although the woman who tried to help me was very helpful it didn’t seem to work. It was fun seeking out the relevant model number, which would enable her to know how to advise me. This, you see, was on the underside of the equipment that now formed part of the kitchen surface. Clearly I had to take out the drawer underneath, but then, how was I to read the figures? Lying prostrate on the worktop and sticking my head into the narrow space didn’t seem to be an option.
This is where the Canon S100 camera came into its own. I held it under the plate, and after several goes, managed to obtain one image that was not too blurred for me to read the number.
Later in the morning we gathered up some spring flowers to take to Pippa in Spencers as a token of our thanks. This personable young woman found time to have a friendly conversation.
We then visited Costa coffee for some Wi-Fi time, and I posted my blog entry for 1st. An antique shop didn’t have a suitable replacement door knocker. If you are thinking of visiting before we find one, flip the letterbox repeatedly and yell loudly.
Back home we continued the cleaning and sorting. I then tackled the scary task of attempting to set up the home hub in preparation for its activation tomorrow. It remains to be seen how successful I have been. In the process I think I discovered a further piece of quirkiness. The previous owner had his office in the living room where there is a television aerial socket, but, as far as we can tell, no telephone point. The only place allocated for a telephone appears to be in the bedroom above. In the hope that we will be able to access the hub wirelessly through the ceiling, I set up the telephone and hub, I hope, in the upper room. Our predecessor definitely used his laptop in the room below. If that doesn’t work for us we may not be able to contain our screams of anguish.
My next task was to clear a path to the washing machine. This was no mean undertaking.
In the evening we set out on a search for any Chinese restaurant that was not Lotus in New Milton. There were a number of takeaways scattered about, but we felt we had earned a sit down. Following circuitous diversions across the forest, we were led to the Yenz in Brockenhurst which was very classy. The establishment was rightly proud of its head chef. The food was excellent, and the T’Sing Tao beer thirst quenching.
Back at Old Post House we just about managed to climb the stairs to bed.