This morning we suffered from an excess of wind. I write not of flatulence, but of 35 miles (56 kilometres) per hour gusts tearing into our trees, tossing the tresses of the more slender ones like the weeping birch and the eucalyptus. For those of you in other parts of the world this may not seem very strong, but for us, especially after nurturing numerous window boxes and hanging baskets over the summer, it is a big deal.
I fought my way down my circular route to Hordle Cliff Beach, where the turbulent seas flinging spray over the shingle bank had me fearing once more for the beach huts.
Our already decrepit No Parking sign had been ripped from its board, and that of The Spinney had shed its phone number.
On this unseasonably warm day the sun shone and every cloud had a silver lining.
Roger was emerging from Hordle Manor Farm carrying a bale of hay, thus confirming our speculation that it had indeed been his family who had rescued Scooby when he wandered off and disappeared. He paused for the photograph and gave me a thumbs up sign.
Walking back through Shorefield, I fell in with another Londoner with whom I shared recollections of the Great Storm of 1987.
On my return Jackie was clearing the area around our patch of grass which she had mowed yesterday. I then removed the last of the cuttings we had left on the back drive, adding quite a bit to the log pile.
A very heavy thunderstorm having driven us inside we sat calmly over lunch. Listening to car horns in the street outside Jackie commented that strong winds make people irritated. The elements had not made me irritated. I repeat, with gritted teeth, I was not irritated. Not until we opened Jackie’s bill from BT.
BT then achieved what the heavens couldn’t. When their last shutdown left me without access to e-mails for four days, possibly for want of anything else positive to talk about, one of the advisers persuaded me to have on-line billing. I had already explained that Jackie was the account holder so I would have a bill of nil. If they wanted to implement that I had no objection. A day or so ago I received an on-line bill for £48.17 stating that it would be taken from my bank account on or after 14th October.
On our mat this afternoon appeared Jackie’s bill for the identical amount, the identical period, and the identical date of removal from her bank account. I was also told that from 1st December a surcharge of £1.59 will be added to paper bills. There is no such notification on Jackie’s invoice.
I phoned the telephone company and was greeted by the usual robot which had the usual problem understanding my choices from the varied options. One word the machine had difficulty in understanding was ‘other’. At the third attempt, the robot having a Scots accent, I tried rolling my r at the end of the word. That did the trick. Then, of course, I had to wait ten minutes listening to another voice, telling me that my call was important to them, before I reached a person. A gentleman with an Indian accent informed me that it was not possible to check my account because the system was down. Engineers were working on it. I should call again after four hours.
Me, irritated? You bet.
Later, Jackie drove us to Wroughton. I will report on that tomorrow.
The day began less than delightfully. Two days ago, our dishwasher was delivered. That was an excellent service. Disappointingly, the Kenwood machine developed a fault on our first wash last night. The booklet advised us to contact a qualified technician. I tried that this morning. Curry’s customer service number produced one of those maddening systems that asks you to repeat everything before moving on to the next robotic question. Eventually I reached a person who clearly knew what he was doing, but, unfortunately for him, could only offer a visit in five days time with no specific time frame. Rather less than calmly, I expressed my frustration. ‘We are not the retailer’, he politely replied. He did sound a little upset. Of course I said it was not his fault, but I had expected to speak to the people who sold the equipment, not an engineer engaged to conduct repairs within the guarantee period. That is asking too much in our progressive age.
I then tried the number of the Christchurch store given on the receipt. This connected me to the same system. It looks as if I will be washing up for a few more days.
After this I needed a walk. It is a long time since I undertook one of these in the rain. We have enjoyed such a long dry summer that it is difficult to remember the two years of almost incessant rain that ended this spring. I took my circular route to Hordle cliff beach, along which I crunched with no other company. The few dog walkers there were preferred to stay on the cliff top. One small terrier stood at the top of the steps insisting he be led down. His master complied with the request, but the young lady with him remained aloft.
Often, on these narrow winding lanes, a mirror is fixed to a suitable structure on the opposite side of driveways so that residents emerging are able to see anything coming up the road. One of these in Downton Lane gave me the opportunity to take a selfie. Although the term for these images has not yet reached the dictionaries, they are photographs taken at arm’s length by the subject with a mobile phone. Certain politicians, such as David Cameron, are partial to their photo opportunities. Actually I don’t believe my effort is strictly a selfie, since it is a reflection and taken with a digital camera that doesn’t send or receive messages. Perhaps the lexicographers will eventually elucidate.
A controversy rages in The New Forest over cyclists. One faction encourages them into the area, so they may enjoy their exercise and patronise the tourism facilities; whilst another regards them as a nuisance, often creating dangerous obstacles on the roads, causing long backlogs where they cannot be overtaken. A sign at the corner where Downton Lane meets the coast road states ‘Caution Cyclists’. I think this is to encourage car drivers to be on the lookout. It could also be alerting pedestrians to the fact that a two wheeler could come hurtling round the bend on the footpath. On the other hand it may be suggesting that the cyclists themselves should be careful.
By mid-afternoon the day had brightened. The clematis Carnaby has flowered for the first time, as has a pale blue morning glory, clearly fooled by the dull morning into blooming still at 5.30 p.m.
This evening Jackie varied her smoked haddock and cauliflower cheese meal photographed on 2nd May last year (recipe for cauliflower cheese), by using cod. The green element in the palette was provided by spinach. This was followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. We both drank Cimarosa Pedro Jimenez 2013.
Jackie spent most of the day continuing the fumigation of the kitchen, the porch, and the entrance hall. She also tackled the stairs and more of the light switches, all of which need to have their original cream revealed once more. We both continued to unpack and find homes for the contents of various storage boxes, and moved more furniture upstairs.
I then took a walk down Downton Lane, left at the bottom and along Hordle Cliff beach.
The verges and hedgerows of the lane are blooming with wild flowers. Periwinkle, primroses, daffodils now a bit past it, lady’s bedstraw, stitchwort, dandelions, and bluebells can all be recognised. Nettles and cow parsley are beginning their emergence from the earth beneath.
Some way down the lane on the left lies Downton Holiday Park. A red telephone box peeps through the hedge from over a caravan.
The ripple of waves around a tractor ploughing a field proved to be the massed wings of seagulls in the wake of the swirling blades of the plough. As I leant on a five-barred gate listening to their squealing and screeching, I felt that that great high-kicking French philosopher, Eric Cantona, stood by my side, just as had imagined Steve Evets in Ken Loach’s brilliant film ‘Looking For Eric’. For those who are not aware of the significance of this observation, Cantona famously offered an enigmatic response, concerning seagulls following a trawler, in a television interview.
The Isle of Wight and The Needles were visible from the coast road.
I was soon crunching and slithering along the shingle which I shared with a sprinkling of hardy young families enjoying the seaside.
My choice from the Tesco microwaveable meals this evening was beef stew with dumplings; Jackie’s was chicken hot-pot. Fresh runner beans were the accompaniment which Jackie cooked with her new hobs. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Isla Negra.
This morning Jackie drove the two of us back to Hordle Cliff Beach, the excuse being to check on the photograph I had left for Richard yesterday. She stayed in the car park overlooking the sea whilst I continued my exploration.
The photograph was secure and intact, which is more than can be said of many of the huts and steps down to them and the beach. The lower treads of some of the wooden steps leading from the top level of huts along the centre of the cliffside had been simply torn away. Even those with their struts set in concrete had been uprooted. Scattered along the piles of shingle were numerous kitchen implements with no way of knowing where they had come from. An elderly couple, more fortunate than many, surveyed the undamaged yet wet inside of their beach hut on the higher level.
Richard had expressed concern at the recent replacement of concrete steps by wooden ones. This was because people like his elderly mother could not manage the pitch of the new ones and would no longer be able to come down to the hut. What has happened to these, albeit older, structures would seem to make another case for solid concrete.
Still throwing up spray from the more powerful waves, the sea was a little milder today. The sun shone; a solitary crow flew overhead; and a yacht sauntered along The Solent and past The Needles.
Walkers surveyed the damage. Dogs scampered and frolicked. One black and white creature thoroughly enjoyed playing in the creeping tide, and racing it up the banks of pebbles. This delighted a group of children.
On this journey we pass Wootton Heath, which has been littered with misshapen mirrors putting me in mind of ‘Skyfall’, James Bond’s birthplace.
This afternoon we are driving to Leatherhead for the performance by Godalming Operatic Society of Jackie’s cousin Pat O’Connell’s direction of Princess Ida. I will report on that tomorrow.