Michael Watts has identified the allium photographed two days ago as ‘Purple Sensation’. Now it is in full bloom, and lives up to its name. Thank you Michael.

We also have a new rhododendron in flower.
This morning we took another trip to IKEA where we bought four more book cases, some book ends, clocks, and a couple of rugs. The sets of shelves are half the height of the tall ones; three are the same width as those, and one half the width. This was our solution to the problem of having run out of shelf space. They had to be shorter so that they did not obscure the light source from the window to the garden.
Possibly because it was the day after a bank holiday weekend, this was a more pleasant than usual IKEA experience. There were far less customers milling around than usual; we knew exactly what we wanted, and could go straight to the items; and the queues were shorter.

On our return through the forest there were many ponies enjoying munching grass in the sunshine. By the side of the road between Beaulieu and Lymington two mares were suckling their foals as we drove by. Jackie stopped the car for me to walk back and photograph them. Each was by then teaching the art of cropping the sward. I imagine ponies need weaning quite early in life. One mother and child trotted off into the bushes. The others remained unperturbed. I was fascinated at how wobbly on their pins were each of the youngsters, especially when negotiating slopes.
After lunch Jackie made up the shelving whilst I prepared the books for insertion. It was touch and go whether we would be able to make room for the Dictionary of National Biography, MacMillan’s Dictionary of Art, and the Oxford English Dictionary, but I am pleased to say we managed it. There are just three more miscellaneous boxes to be emptied tomorrow.
This evening we dined in Bombay Night in New Milton, where we enjoyed the usual excellent meal with friendly and efficient service. Kingfisher was our drink.

Not Lost After All

Those smaller sized books that are filling the spaces at the top of the library bookshelves need bookends to keep them securely in place.

We needed a few more, which, given that their product is very robust and weighty, meant a trip to IKEA in Southampton this morning. We also went to buy a replacement for Jackie’s kitchen shelves, so generously donated yesterday.
As usual, Jackie grasped a trolley, just in case we saw anything else.  This proved to be prescient, since, in addition to the above items, we also came away with a large rug for the entrance hall, several induction hob friendly cooking pans, some gift wrapping paper, and finally, a mini sack barrow. Given that we have probably finished carting large boxes of books backwards and forwards, this latter item seemed rather like locking the stable door (after the horse has bolted).

After nearly two hours in the dry heat atmosphere of this emporium, I felt as usual, as if I were in a trance.

During the wait at checkout I was able to reflect that IKEA, on our way in, had, by virtue of a certain obfuscation of their signage, warned us what we were in for.
One box of goodies retrieved from storage is labelled ‘Contents of Desk’. Since it rattles a bit and would not have been opened for some years, I have rather put off investigating the contents. I dip into it every now and then, and attempt to make decisions about disposal or otherwise.

Today I came across a small print of a photograph taken on honeymoon with Vivien in 1963. We stayed at a bed and breakfast farmhouse in Pendeen in Cornwall, and I am reliably informed by my blogging friend, Melanie of

that this was a shot of Mousehole. I do not have the negative and thought I had lost the print, the significance of which is that it was on the first roll of colour film I ever exposed, and it was instrumental in making me serious about my photography.
It was taken with the Kodak Box Brownie, and has suffered a few blemishes over the years, but I have decided not to remove these, and to present it as I found it.

I also found further art-work I had thought gone forever. Here I reproduce two:

The mother and child was the original drawing for a Christmas card made in 1976.

The elderly lady contemplating an array of medication is my Auntie Gwen.

Gwen was not confused about her pills. The drawing was made for the in-house magazine of my Social Services Area Office in Westminster Social Services. It was called ‘Age Lines’ and was devoted to our work with elderly people. Edited by Sid Briskin, one of the Social Workers, contributions were solicited from all his colleagues. I generally provided the illustrations. This one was from 1985.

We spent the afternoon and part of the evening filling shelves, reaching Novels L.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sausage casserole (recipe), boiled potatoes, and crisp carrots and cauliflower, followed by chocolate eclairs. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I began a bottle of excellent El Pinsapo gran seleccion rioja 2011.

Nearly There

The only bathroom cabinet in the house capable of containing anything useful to ablutions was in the downstairs loo, where it was probably superfluous to requirements. It was so positioned that, I have it on good authority, when rising from the lavatory seat one was likely to hit one’s head on the bottom corner. We took it off the wall this morning and replaced it with a mirror.
The rest of the morning was spent on progressing the installation of the garage library. Whilst Jackie built three IKEA Billy bookcases, I carried most of a lifetime’s collection of large Smith’s photograph albums upstairs to a very useful wardrobe cupboard that could have been tailor made for them. There will be more under the piles of Safestore storage boxes. I considered myself fortunate to have discovered as many as I did. This had the benefit of clearing more space to work in the library, but my system is such that I can’t start the process of filling shelves until I find the box marked ‘Novels A’ which has so far proved elusive. This will be the one that contains my copy of Daisy Ashford’s ‘The Young Visiters’.

During my preprandial tour round the garden, I photographed two different tulips, one very delicate in colouring, the other of the deepest red.                                                          

A heavily pruned wisteria lies, at present, beneath the pergola. It will, no doubt, once more festoon the wooden structure.

Furry orange bees are lapping up the ajugas.

Whilst I was wandering about, Jackie made a delicious vegetable soup for lunch.

Afterwards, with minimal help from me, she continued building the bookcases. Today’s tally was seven, leaving two more for completion tomorrow. The library is nearly there.

The Plough Inn at Tiptoe still serves the best pub food in the area. We reminded ourselves of that by dining there this evening. My choice was the fish combo with which I drank Doom Bar. Jackie opted for a half rack of ribs and Peroni to drink.

The Triangle

I spent the morning clearing the garage. First I finished removing the IKEA wardrobes;

then garden tools went to the orange shed; then various other items went into the house. There are still a few tidy boxes of items from which younger homemakers may wish to take their pick.

Otherwise the room is ready for the books to be unpacked from storage boxes and settled on the IKEA Billy bookshelves. Probably about another dozen should suffice.

We now have two piles of debris for a skip.
This afternoon Jackie drove us to Milford on Sea. The haze leant an atmospheric quality to the beach.

Flo was unaware of the black-headed gull which I had panned as it flew towards her. She raised her head, across which blew her hair at the most opportune moment.
This evening all seemed right with the world. Jackie plucked up the courage to produce a full meal on the Neff hobs. This was her spaghetti bolognese, except for spaghetti read linguine. It was of her usual superb standard, and followed by microwaved  lemon drizzle pudding courtesy of Waitrose, served with Jackie’s own custard. I finished the Isla Negra.
During the past fortnight I have learned a new meaning for the word ‘triangle’. Martin Taylor had observed that there was no triangle in the kitchen. Jackie had concurred, and has, at moments of stress since, mentioned the fact in her usual calm, collected, way.
I was a little bemused at this, for to me a triangle belonged in a primary school band. This was the instrument entrusted to me at St Mary’s on some auspicious occasion in my early years, possibly because it was considered I could do least damage to the performance with it, and they didn’t want me to suffer the ignominy of being left out. I remember being rather puzzled when I was told to bash it with a metal rod thingy at certain regular intervals. I’m not sure my sense of timing was particularly unerring.
Surely there was no place for one in a kitchen?
I was, of course on the wrong track altogether. The triangle in a kitchen, you see, is composed of lines linking cooker, cupboards, and sink. You are meant to be able to stand in the middle and reach any one of these easily from the same spot. In our kitchen, by swivelling at will, you can just about reach cooker or hobs and a selection of cupboards rather too low for the elderly. Water is, however, a problem. To get to that from either of the other two sides of the triangle you must walk around the island. Jackie doesn’t appreciate the exercise. And refers to the fact. Quite often.


The gloriously sunny weather that has welcomed us to Downton continued today.

I took a walk up Hordle Lane alongside the extensive rape fields that glowed beneath the cloudless blue skies. A footpath on the left led around one field and through another. At first the fields were on my left. Horses lazed in a paddock on my right. Further footpaths put the rape on the right and woods on my left.

Bluebells enlivened the forest floor through which they had penetrated as they sprung from their hibernating bulbs.

Naturally I took a path through the woods where primroses were equally abundant. This wound around a bit, but I could hear the roar of what I hoped was Christchurch Road, distant on my left. Some of the time. Otherwise I heard the cawing of rooks, the humming of various insects, and cackling of hens and geese. A bleating and baaing  led me along another track in the hope I might see some lambs.

I was not disappointed. They littered wide open grassland to my left. Farmland to the right contained Shetland ponies and black sheep, one of which was a magnificent three-horned ram that took to its heels at the sight of my camera. Maybe I’ll catch it next time.
The wide track through Peter’s farm took me to Lower Ashley Lane, where I turned left to the junction with Lymington Road, a section of Christchurch Road. I returned home along this undulating, winding busy thoroughfare lacking a footpath. I had to be rather vigilant.
This afternoon we took delivery of Flo’s wardrobe from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. The men took it upstairs and our granddaughter manoeuvred it into its alcove.

Flo took some rather lovely photographs of the garden.                                                    This one she entitled ‘Spring’.

My manly tasks today were helping Jackie to put up more curtain rails, then to add to the skip pile. Anyone from Globe Removals may wish to skip what follows. Their stalwart men moved four dismantled IKEA wardrobes, all carefully marked up by Michael, from his Wimbledon house to storage; out of storage; and into our garage ready for us to reassemble. They are too tall for our ceilings, which is why we bought another from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. We have been unable to give them away. This afternoon I began humping the extremely heavy sections from garage to garden heap. I didn’t finish the job. But there is a lot more room in the garage.
This evening Jackie drove to the Hordle Chinese Takeaway in Stopples Lane and returned with a plentiful feast on which we dined with Flo. I drank Spitfire ale.

IKEA 3 (R18)

On this clear, cold, and sunny morning I took yesterday’s walk in reverse. Smoking chimneys enlivened the line of the horizon.  Distant cattle lowed; cocks crowed; steam rose from one sunlit ditch whilst a blackbird spuddled in another; the occasional cyclist whirred, and the occasional car sped, past.  Otherwise it was just me and the ponies.

Walking back through London Minstead, I was greeted by another Father Christmas (see yesterday’s post).  The word must have got around.

Later in the morning we decided to assemble our IKEA bed.  Extracting the headboard, Jackie realised it was too wide to fit our carefully measured space.  Too wide by 17cm.  I got out all the paperwork and checked the identification numbers on the boxes against the measurements given on both our Self Service Picking List and the Sales Receipt.  Consistently shown on each docket and on each box are the measurements 140 x 200; thus the three bed frame items are marked BED FRM 140 x 200.  Our bedstead was 157cm wide.

Now, as my readers know, I will always find the humorous side of any situation.  If it is possible.  We were not amused.  Not in the least.  I reached for my phone and dialled customer services.  A machine warned me that there was a waiting time for calls being answered from between 20 and 30 minutes.  After being notified for the second time that I was number 13 in the queue, I blew a gasket and was all for going straight back to IKEA there and then.  In the meantime, Jackie had consulted a 2013 catalogue which she had picked up on departure from the store.  She found the bed frames listed as 157 x 211cm.  These were to take a 140 x 200 mattress.  If that were so, then why are the boxes and documentation for the frames given as 140 x 200?  And why didn’t our extremely helpful shop assistant not make this clear?  Did she know any more than we did?  I was no calmer.  They could have the whole lot back and refund all the money including delivery charge.

Jackie, however, remained calm and thought again about the layout of the room.  If we moved a portable cupboard and brought the bed up to the large French windows we could just about make it feasible.  We could squeeze past the bed to open the windows when necessary.  What we couldn’t have was a bedhead jutting into the doorway.  So far, so good.  All we have to do now is put it all together.  Tomorrow.

After lunch we drove to Totton for a vast Lidl shop.  In the process we found a very good quality double airbed for 10% of the cost of the IKEA bed.  So we bought one.  There is plenty of room in the sitting room for this, which means we can now accomodate two couples.  We had momentarily considered that we should have had an airbed for the spare room and still sent the IKEA one back.  Then we remembered nights in Louisa and Errol’s spare single room on a double air mattress on the floor with no way of heaving ourselves up because there was no space around the bed, and thought better of it.  Have you ever tried to prise yourself up from the middle of an airbed whilst in intense pain from a hip requiring replacement?

Before dinner I made a few amendments to my next Independent crossword puzzle scheduled for 27th.  We then ate spare ribs in barbecue sauce with vegetable rice followed by baklavas.  Jackie, having taken the entire contents of Lidl shelves, drank Hoegaarden, and I consumed Cono Sur reserva 2010, an excellent wine of which, unfortunately, we cannot remember the source.

Deceptive Appearances

Orlaith Beth came in at 9lb 5oz.  She is expected home with her Mum today.

This morning I walked along Seamans Lane and through London Minstead to Shave Wood, turning right there and back to Minstead, emerging at Football Green whence I walked back home via the Village Shop where I bought tickets for tonight’s play at Minstead Hall.

Although there is still much colour in the forest, many deciduous trees are now almost devoid of leaves.  Their branches fan out, one, for example, tracing the outline of a Spanish senorita’s fully extended cooling accessory.

Driving along this route a couple of days ago our way had been blocked by six cattle, four of whom had their front halves buried in hedges, in the manner of the one pictured on 12th November.  Today I think I spotted the reason for the fascination of hedges.  Much of the land on the far sides of these hedges lies at a higher level, and the lazy cows don’t have to bend down for their fodder.  I assume the tag on the pictured animal’s ear indicates to which verderer this protected wanderer belongs.

Further on, Jackie had pointed out another primeval creature she had seen the day before.  The pony which had been grazing alongside this relic of pre-history seemed to have crossed the road and was now consorting with a giant Galapagos tortoise.

Leaving Minstead behind as I approached Castle Malwood Lodge I met the man I am due to impersonate on 1st December.  He was in civvies, of course.  He encouraged me to persevere with my less prolific growth and suggested I gave his picture the caption: ‘This is what I aspire to be’.

Early this evening the bed we bought yesterday was delivered by IKEA.  A next day delivery as promised went some way towards improving our feeling about the company.  All we have to do is assemble it.  Coincidentally, we learned from Becky that the wardrobe we left behind for her in Links Avenue has been collected by Mat and Ian.  Jackie and I had assembled that when we moved in there eighteen months ago.

It was touch and go whether we would be able to attend the performance of ‘Dish of The Day’ by Christine Woodhead, for which I had purchased tickets this morning, because we had to wait in for the deliverymen.  But we made it, after Jackie had produced a meal of omelettes and baked beans.  We finished the wines begun two days ago.

The performance was an hilarious one by the local Minstead Players.  The piece was well written, set in an Italian restaurant run solely by a woman clearly modelled on Julie Walters’ Mrs. Overall who did, indeed, turn out to be the cleaner.  The three tables were occupied by a couple with an elderly mother, three young women on a hen night, and a dating agency rendezvous.  One rather clever moment was when one person from each table simultaneously  received a call on their mobile phone, and the individual conversations fitted together as if they were all three speaking to each other.

IKEA 2 (18)

Yesterday evening Holly’s baby girl was born, after a long labour and eventual Caesarian section.  All is well, but we await further news once the little family have recovered.

Fog beset the forest today, lending a sense of the Gothic to Castle Malwood Lodge.  Moisture dripping from the boughs plipped and plopped onto their plentiful plumage carpeting the ground.

I took Seamans Lane to London Minstead, turned right into Bull Lane, and right again at a junction which took me back to Minstead.  Having left by ‘lower’ drive, I returned in the direction of ‘upper’, turning right just before I arrived there.  This led me to our nearest neighbours in Hollybrae.  I then trudged into the woods following the line of our drive, eventually recognising our garden shrubbery.  I couldn’t just walk into the garden which was surrounded by a wire fence.  I continued until I reached the road leading to ‘lower’ drive.  There were no footpaths, so this wasn’t exactly straightforward.  Beautiful as is a carpet of autumn leaves, you cannot tell what is underneath them.  In some places the answer was ‘not much’.  So I got a bit soggy.  My wellies and walking shoes being at The Firs, my suit trousers got a bit damp.

This afternoon we returned to IKEA.  Yes, we went back for more.  We’ve got the journey sussed and now knew where we’d gone wrong in parking.  We also knew that beds were on level 4.  We had measured the space and realised the IKEA doubles would just fit into the spare room.  The one we preferred would not, we realised, do.  This is because one side would have to go against a wall.  This means whoever sleeps on that side, if needing to, as Chaucer put it ‘rise for a piss’, having in any case to bottom-slide down the bed to get out, would have come up against an ornate bed-end.  I thought about that in the middle of the night.  There had to be no bed-end.

Driving to level 4 was, in itself, an experience.  Imagine driving one way up a helter-skelter or a spiral staircase.  Steering was scary, and when we got to the top it was best not to look down over the railings separating us from the streets below and Southampton harbour.  Not if you have my head for heights.

When Jackie picked up a trolley on our way in I was a wee bit alarmed.  ‘I might want to buy something’ was her explanation.  We chose our bed fairly quickly and went through the process of identifying the various parts.  For anyone having the good fortune to be ignorant of the IKEA process, it is as follows.  You are given identifying codes and numbers which tell you where, in rows of aisles on the ground floor, to find your purchases.  Apparently collecting your purchases is known as ‘picking’.  We know that because, had we wanted someone to do the ‘picking’ of the bed for us we could have paid a bit extra for it.  Which might have been a wise move.  In the event.

Before we got to that, we, of course, had to follow the IKEA maze, which meant passing other potential purchases, like door-stops, plates, duvets, pillows, sheets, duvet covers, coat hooks, and rugs.  Well, I guess you know by now why Jackie wanted her trolley.

‘Picking’ the bed for our guest bedroom was an experience.  I do hope those of you who will try it out will appreciate the effort involved.  What you do when you ‘pick’ is go to level 1 where, if you very carefully follow the arrows, you will find numbered aisles.  Rather like most of our street numbering, evens are on one side and odds on the other, so if, as in our case, one bit of your bed was in aisle 16 and the next bit in aisle 17, you would have to shove a heavily loaded trolley across the road, which was in fact filled with other goods.  Actually we only bought one bed, but the bits were in three different aisles.  And the first bit was in three differently numbered boxes.  And we couldn’t find these at first because they were buried under heavy mirrors in containers which had fallen over from the next ‘location’.  I should have said that in each of these aisles there are 30+ locations.  Our mattress, for example, was in location 32, that is at the furthest end of the aisle.  Loading that onto the trolley, on wheels, but with no brakes, was no mean feat.

During the two hours we spent in, with the possible exception of Carlsberg, Scandinavia’s most popular export, I realised that one of the most energy-sapping aspects of this store is the tropical, airless, atmosphere.  How the staff manage, I do not know.  Given the temperatures in Sweden, you may think this rather surprising.

Having ‘picked’ and paid for our bed we wheeled the various parts on the trolley to the Home Delivery and Assembly desk.  Now, we already had a large supermarket type trolley loaded with the items mentioned above.  And the flat trolley containing mattress, bed-head, and all the other pieces which make up a double bed, extended too much for me to push on my own.  This meant that we each took a handle of that trolley and Jackie pushed the other with her other hand.  A number of people coming towards us tried to walk past without making way.  This was rather difficult.

The thought that IKEA would actually assemble our piece of furniture was very exciting.  Anyone who has assembled such items themself will understand why.  It was one thing to build something out of Meccano for fun, quite another to attempt to follow instructions to put a bed together.  So.  It was a great disappointment to be told by the young lady on the home delivery desk that they didn’t do it any more.  I pointed out the sign behind her, suggesting that if they didn’t do it they should take down that sign and all the much larger, upper case, signs which had led us to her.  This rather discombobulated the young woman who felt the need to go off and check her facts.  She returned, somewhat embarrassed, and confirmed that she was right.  The small print in the sign states that it is their partners who do the assembling and she could give me the number to ring.  But, as I said, the heading claims they do it themselves and is misleading.  And needs removing.  And she should tell someone that she had a customer complaining.  And I don’t suppose she will.  As Jackie says, it gives a whole other meaning to the phrase ‘we’ve made up a bed for you’.

This evening we dined on fillet steak purchased in the Lyndhurst butchers, which was much more successful than his only half-cooked pork pie. Dessert and wines were the same as yesterday.


I hate banks. Between them, two have wasted my morning.

First, I received a phone call from Barclays in France. I was €200 overdrawn. How was that when I had transferred plenty by Urgent on-line Transfer on 4th? My conversation with the caller led us to the realisation that Barclays France had changed BIC and IBAN numbers without telling me.

Why did this not surprise me? This would not be the first time they had made changes without notifying me. One example was transferring my account from Bergerac to Paris. There have been other issues. NatWest don’t operate in France. So I was stuck with Barclays.

When I had finished with the Frenchman, I checked my on-line statement. Sure enough the payment appeared on it. This meant a call to NatWest who were experiencing more than usual demand. This meant listening to music and robotic apologies for ages. Eventually I heard the voice of a real person. He was very helpful, but he had to liaise with another department several times. More music. And more music. Although the payment request had been received it didn’t work with the older BIC and IBAN, so it was in the hands of an investigative department. The advisor took the new details.

Because this last conversation had taken so long I received three timing out prompts on the computer. Each time I took the ‘stay on line’ option.

At the end of the call I found I couldn’t obtain any response from NatWest on line banking.

I telephoned once more. More music; more warnings about heavy demand; suggestions that I might like to try the on-line service. Eventually I was answered by someone in another department who tried various options to unravel the problem. This time liaising with his on-line colleagues. More music, each time; more apologies, etc., etc. Finally he told me they were experiencing technical problems affecting lots of customers. This, of course, was why there was so much demand. He advised me to try again later in the day.

Just as we made our farewells. My helper received a prompt advising him to try to interest me in an ISA. He was not able to.

Leaden skies have made for a very dull day on which the sun never opened its oppressive grey drapes.

Scotland’s acclaimed novelist, James Kennaway died in a car crash, believed to have been brought on by a heart attack, in 1968. He was 40 years old. His visceral, nightmarish, novella, ‘Silence’, was published in 1972 through the administrations of his widow, Susan. I read the final pages this afternoon. It is perhaps fortuitous that I picked it off my shelves after having finished reading ‘Schindler’s Ark’. Both deal with extremes of humanity’s violence; Kennaway sets his work of fiction in times of racial tension in America during the 1960s; Keneally’s style is far more factual. In the novella two races are equally violent; in the faction one is hell bent on destroying the other. Fifty years on we are beset by news of racial hatred and the atrocities it promotes, and the euphemism ‘ethnic cleansing’ has come into world languages. I have scanned both covers of my 1977 Penguin edition. Accessing the gallery with a click should, if necessary, make the blurbs easier to read. The portrait was made by Harri Peccinotti.

Sausage casserole meal

This evening we dined on Jackie’s colourful sausage casserole, crisp carrots and broccoli, and creamy mashed potato and swede. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Camino Nuevo.