‘Have You Had A Fall Or Something?’

RufustonWe have found Rufuston on the agent’s website.  It is still intriguing.  Were we to pursue it, us oldies would need to install a lift; more double glazing; and at least one more loo.  The house is on four floors, with stunning views across the forest at the back, but the noisy A31 at the front.

I passed the building whilst taking the Matthew and Oddie walk this morning.  Running HillWhen I set out light rain was falling, causing everything to glitter in the sunshine.  By the time I reached what I have been calling Bournemouth Road, but which Jackie’s research has revealed to be Forest Road, the rain was becoming steadier, until it became a torrent well before I approached the bottle bank.  I could not summon a lift home because I had left my phone on charge.

Diving for shelter into the trees, I managed to spear my forehead on a dead holly branch.  I regard this as serendipity, because had I not dropped my head a little I would not have noticed what I take to be ponies’ teeth marks on the bark.  These reminded me of some  mediaeval paving stones I bought in an architectural salvage store in Carlisle in the late 1980s.  Hiring a van, I transported them to Lindum House, around which I made a footpath.  These stones, some of which were so worn as to be concave, contained hand-made chisel marks on the undersides.  Turning the concave ones upside down and filling the sockets with sand, a reasonably level path was produced, leaving the chisel marks in full view.

Ponies' teethmarks

My attempt to photograph the holly bark wasn’t completely in focus, but that of the branch was completely hopeless.  Maybe I wasn’t seeing straight.

Tramping along the wide Forest Road, I was greeted by a young man who stopped his car on the other side of the road. He wondered whether I was ok.  I must have looked a bit puzzled, because, when I said I was, he asked: ‘Have you had a fall, or something?’.  I smiled and said: ‘Oh, I just walked into a tree’.  I’m not sure this was any less of an alarming prospect for my good Samaritan, for he persisted.  Eventually he was satisfied I was unharmed.

When you think about it, it was quite reasonable for the couple, with a toddler in a car seat at the back, to have stopped.  I may well have done the same had I seen an elderly gent in an open-necked short-sleeved shirt, summer trousers, and sandals sans socks, striding through the heather by the side of an unpopulated road, in the pouring rain, with blood seeping into his right eyebrow.

Derrick's cutI hadn’t realised I was bleeding until I returned home and dripped (water) into the flat.  Soon after I had dried out and changed my clothing the sun came out and beamed at me. Probably at everyone else as well, but it did seem to be rather amused.

Imperial China in Lyndhurst High Street provided our evening repast, and very good it was too.  We chose their set meal B, which, as usual, was plentiful, varied, and crisply cooked.  We both drank Tsing Tao beer.  The waiting staff there are all amazing.  Remaining friendly, and sometimes humorous, they work at a rate of knots.  Seeing the young men in particular glide through the restaurant propelling trays of steaming sizzling options, deftly avoiding any customers taking their places, reminded me of Jeremy Guscott, England’s finest rugby centre of the 1980s and ’90s, and perhaps of any age.

The Shredder

A little cooler than yesterday, we nevertheless had a bright, clear day with intermittent clouds scudding across the sky.

Helen and Bill visited this morning bearing champagne and pinks in celebration of the birthday on which Jackie has reached her official extended retirement age.

Late in the afternoon I walked to Imperial China.  Not the real one, Ian will be relieved to know.  The restaurant in Lyndhurst where I was to meet Jackie for her birthday meal.

Daisies

Daisies are now seriously rivalling the taller buttercups in the fields and verges of Minstead; and, whichever you plump for, the blossom or the month, May is out.May

I took the route up Mill Lane and via Pikes Hill. Oak by Mill Lake An aged oak that bears a warning sign about the depth of the Mill lake must, if not already plotted, be a candidate for The Woodland Trust Ancient Tree registration.

Mill Lane

As I walked the lanes and tracks in the splendid light, I reflected on the fact that it is almost 48 years since Jackie and I first met.  As we embark upon old age together we have an inestimable blessing in that, despite having been reunited comparatively recently after spending most of our lives apart, we have memories of our early years together.  Unlike most people who come together later in life, we have no need to imagine the younger versions of each other.  We knew them.

In the restaurant we shared a joke with the waitress who assumed that the T’sing tao beer would be mine and the sauvignon blanc Jackie’s.  Next to us were a silent couple, a generation apart in age.  In what seemed to me a role reversal the woman in her eighties spent the whole time reading from a mobile device, while the younger man we assumed to be her son ate his meal without a word.

A rowdy birthday party group more than made up for this.  Why is it that such crowds always seem to have imbibed a good few drinks before they arrive, and always bring along at least one cackling chicken and a couple of laughing hyenas?

We have noticed before that it is very easy to miss the shredding of the duck, done at your table and with a sleight of hand that would qualify the prestidigitator for The Magic Circle. Shredding duck Even being prepared for this performance, I only just got my camera out in time.

We did of course enjoy the meal and the company.

Printing Mottisfont Trout

DaffodilSpring continues to be thrust aside by its hoary old relative.  Why winter has been unable to enjoy an easy third age on the lecture circuit is a mystery to us all, except perhaps Michael Fish, the weatherman who infamously dismissed reports of the Great Storm of 1987.  A solitary daffodil manages to defy the cold and to brighten the shrubbery opposite our dining area.  Its companion probably isn’t going to make it.

Just as cold today, at least the wind had dropped.  There was not much sign of life until I met the sheep as I walked the first ford ampersand.  A couple of bedraggled, head-drooping, forlorn looking ponies jerked their slow way up the centre of the road through the village.  A young woman relaxed aboard her pony at the end of a ride.  The occasional car went by.  Apart from the rider, the only other person I spoke to was a driver on my return journey who stopped and asked the way to the Study Centre.  I trust Judith will be as impressed as I was by the detailed accuracy of my stunning directions.

Imagining being reliant on sheep for your day’s excitement should give the reader a better flavour of the day than yet more attempts of mine to find different ways of describing miserable weather.  As I approached the sheep field in Newtown I was greeted by a very loud bleating chorus.  This was emanating from the hedge through which it was just possible to see the vociferous ovine occupants.  On turning a corner and drawing up alongside a five barred gate I felt like a London bus driver arriving at Morden bus station soon after school going home time.  The parent sheep were already waiting at the gate baaing their heads off. Sheep and lambs It was then I saw the lambs.  These small animals leapt, gambolled, pushed and shoved each other, and squirmed their way in front of the adults, determined to get to the head of the queue.  The parents’ hubbub followed me as I continued on my way.

This afternoon I tackled the last of the challenges my new computer has set me.  I connected the Canon Pro 900 printer to the iMac.  Lo and behold, the software download was done automatically in about two minutes and I made an A3 print in a jiffy.  The setup is now pretty well complete.  The whole kit has to be confined to a fairly small space in our massive sitting room.  Mac sits on the desk.  The small Epson printer lies underneath on a ledge alongside the A4 printing paper, and the Epson V750 Pro scanner is perched on a small Sainsbury’s wine rack on its side on top of a little filing cabinet.  There is no room in this arrangement for the enormous A3+ printer.  Jackie, of course, came up with the ideal solution.  This very heavy piece of equipment nestles in a laundry bag within a plastic box on wheels.  All this stands at the bottom of her wardrobe.  When I need the printer I open the wardrobe; pull out the box on wheels; open the box; lift out the laundry bag by its handles; carry it from bedroom to sitting room, where the kitchen trolley waits to double as a stand; place the printer on the trolley; and finally attach the plug in place in the trailing socket on the desk and put the cable into a USB port.  I really think Heath Robinson, a superb draftsman famous for his drawings of complex and complicated contraptions for simple tasks, would have envied my lady her inventiveness.  Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything ridiculous about Jackie’s simplification of my set up.

Printing trout

Today’s test print was of trout taken at Mottisfont on 7th September last year.

This evening we took a trip to Imperial China in Lyndhurst, where we enjoyed the usual excellent meal, and both drank TsingTao beer.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Malwood Farm underpass 3.13Yesterday’s rain was magnified today.  Looking out of our windows I thought the limited visibility was mist.  It was the deluge.  All vehicles on the A31 had headlights glowing, falling raindrops adding hazy coronas.  Undeterred, I walked the loop taking in the two underpasses.

Moss and leaves 3.13Pebbles on a beach revealed by a receding tide gain, until dried out, an enhanced depth of colour.  So it is with leaked petrol, as seen yesterday, and with leaves, lichen, and moss, not that these latter fruits of the forest have much chance of drying out at the moment.  Gravel in the beds of streams glistened invitingly.

Roads and footpaths were again flowing with water.  The uphill stretch of the A31 was a torrent.  Ducking to avoid dripping branches as I walked along its verges, simply meant that spray thrown up by lorry tyres hit my face a bit sooner.  The extra gusts of wind these vehicles created as they rushed past seemed more unsettling than usual.  My choice of route was beginning to seem a less than good idea.  However, to borrow from Magnus Magnusson’s ‘Mastermind’ catchphrase, I’d started so I would finish.

Once safely on the soggy heath I made my way to the Stoney Cross underpass.Pool on heath 3.13  One of the pony trails led to a fresh waterhole being rapidly and plentifully replenished.

In 1978, Denis Healey, Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, famously said of his friend and opposite number in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet that ‘part of his speech was like being savaged by a dead sheep’.  Geoffrey Howe was not dead, but he was certainly Wet in political parlance.  Wet sheep 3.13Seeing a wet sheep this morning attempting to gain some shelter, I thought of these two amicable rivals.

After lunch I attempted to start a new life with my new iMac.  The first step was to sort out a password problem with our Broadband.  We managed to get our Windows laptops connected to our Home Hub when we first arrived here, but now are often automatically connected to Wi Fi, requiring us to disconnect from that before connecting to the Hub. Recently the password has been rejected.  This did my head in because we had written it down.  Maybe we were looking in the wrong place.  So I rang BT and had the man take me through resetting the password, choosing the very same one as the old one for the replacement.  It worked.  When pressed, the adviser admitted that there had been an internal problem with BT Yahoo.  That annoyed me even more.

I then tried to get on the Internet with the new Apple machine, and kept being told I was inserting the wrong password.  So I rang the emergency support line which comes free for 90 days.  The technician confirmed that the password required was the BT one and not something specific to iMacs.  I put it in again.  Three times.  It was rejected.  Three times.  I couldn’t bear to go through the BT phone system again, and settled, for the time being, for the insecure Wi Fi route.  So I moved on to the second problem I had discovered.  The scroll bar for moving up and down the text of this post disappeared as soon as I looked at it.  This was a comparatively simple adjustment, so I was able to edit this document on my new toy.  But why does the M on the keyboard look exactly like an upside down W?  After a thoroughly frustrating afternoon, my head was already spinning enough.  I’d rather face any amount of dead sheep and savage terriers than go through that again. But I guess I’ll have to do so tomorrow.  Robert the Bruce learned from a spider that one must try, try, and try again.

My final effort today was to stick My Passport into the back of the computer and try to look at all the pictures I had transferred yesterday.  This needed all my willpower.  But, surprise, surprise, it was achieved in seconds.  2 Elizabeth’s set of ‘Derrick through the ages’, does not appear chronologically, but I have decided to leave it that way.  Today’s offering is from 1958. This was taken by Mick Copleston during one of our billiard sessions in his front room at the top end of Amity Grove.  Since he always won, I can’t think what I was looking so relaxed about.  Maybe I was just trying to look dreamy.

Speaking of relaxation, it is quite amazing how getting one process to work reduces the tightness around one’s head and lengthens the temper.

Feeling more optimistic, I decided to go for broke and transfer 1263 pictures direct from my camera Scandisc into iPhoto.  No problem.Slide show 3.13  As if this weren’t enough enough to lift the spirits we were able to watch a full-screen slideshow accompanied by gentle modern jazz music on a loop.  Magic.

Tomorrow is the grand rugbyfest day, which will be fully explained then, and for which Jackie has been preparing food since this morning.  It therefore seemed only right that I take her out for a meal this evening.  Her choice was Imperial China in Lyndhurst.  We enjoyed a marvellous and plentiful set meal, accompanied by  T’sing Tao beer in her case and a Georges du Beouf red wine in mine.

D-Day

Aside

The weather today could not have been more different from yesterday.  As it was ten degrees warmer and sunny, Jackie was prompted to pore over maps to find a spot from which I could walk and she could potter.  She came up with Lepe beach, on the other side of the Beaulieu estuary from Bucklers Hard (see post of 12th January), and drove us there.  Leaving her in the carpark I walked along the beach in one direction, and back along a road above it. A kind gentleman thrust a parking ticket, valid for the rest of the day, into my hand as I got out of the car.  He’d only used it for ten minutes.  This quite often happens in The New Forest area.  We had marvelled in the car that we now live in the midst of so many places that tourists drive long journeys to enjoy. Lepe beach 2.13The tide was out as I walked along the strand watching a solitary yacht wending its way through the river mouth. Geese, Lepe beach 2.13 Scavenging birds were gathering rich pickings.  They ignored a headless fish.  There was a very strong smell of seaweed. With the water on my left, much of the land on my right was in private hands and fenced off with instructions for the public to keep out under threat of marauding dogs.  The guidebook Jackie had produced described the road above the beach as the route to be used at very high tides.  There was also a board in the car park explaining that, because of the melting polar icecap, the sea level was rising.  With the tide coming in and my time running out I decided to climb a wooded bank up to the recommended road.  By the time I returned to the carpark much of the sand and pebbles I had walked along at the beginning was under fast-moving water that splashed up over a concrete wall. Lepe beach (2) 2.13Before meeting Jackie, I popped into the cafe and bought a leaflet on D-Day at Lepe.  As I enter the car, there, on the passenger seat, lay another copy.  Jackie had thought it might interest me.  We learned that Lepe was a major departure point for troops, vehicles, and supplies in the Normandy landings; like Bucklers Hard it was a construction site for part of the prefabricated floating Mulberry Harbour; and a mainline base for the P.L.U.T.O pipeline. After this we dropped in at The Firs.  Elizabeth was out, but a roofer was working on a dilapidated chimney stack which had suffered greatly during the last twelve months of rain.  He went into great detail about the problems, but he rather lost me.  All I can report is that it was wet, crumbling, had vents in the wrong place, and grew ferns.  Jackie watered greenhouse and garage plants and drove us home.  I then walked to Seamans Corner postbox and back to post Jessica’s birthday card enclosing a bit of dosh.  The most apologetic contractor who had forgotten our correct replacement toilet seat came to fit a new one.  It still doesn’t fit properly, but it is a match for the split one.  When this building was converted, no expense was spared in fitting out the flats to a high specification.  This included, in our flat at least, a kind of baroque shape to the bathroom equipment.  Given that the landlord’s agent was only prepared to authorise a ‘like for like’ replacement for what had been in place when we arrived, we had scoured the internet searching for the correct original.  It would have cost £300. That seemed like the cost of a golden throne.   We didn’t bother. We had not been to the Imperial China restaurant in Lyndhurst before, but booked a table for their Valentine’s Night set meal.  As we scanned the menu’s eleven items a waitress told us we didn’t have to choose because we were getting it all.  There followed an excellent meal.  Jackie’s was accompanied by T’sintao beer and mine with white then red du Beouf wine.  Behind me, but in full view of Jackie, was a platignum blonde in her forties wearing outrageously fun platform shoes. Jackie was so fascinated by these that I got up, went over, and informed their owner.  It went down quite well.  Afterwards I chatted with the proprietor about living in Soho’s Chinatown.  My readers will know that I had lived there during the 1970s.  Our host, Gary Kwok, had been a boy there then.