Like Joyce’s Wet Bed

Early this sultry morning, before setting off to meet her sisters for lunch, Jackie carried out necessary garden irrigation which I continued after enjoying the lunch she had left prepared for me. After giving pots a fresh-water- and myself a sudorific-drenching I proceeded to a little dead heading that I had failed to ignore.

Aaron, working at Mistletoe Cottage, dropped in for a chat.

Later, my clammy shirt now cold, like James Joyce’s wet bed sheet (“When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold.” – ‘A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man” ),

I wandered around with my camera.

The random photographic results are all labelled in the gallery that can be accessed by clicking on any image each of which may be enlarged in the usual manner.

This evening we completed the watering and I cut off a few more heads before dining on spicy pepperoni pizza and plentiful fresh salad with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carles.

Omitted From The Talking Book


Yesterday evening, Becky, who with Ian also stayed overnight with Flo and Dillon, was hunting in the library for James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. She had been listening to it on the radio. I knew where it was, but it was inaccessible at the moment. This morning I moved items blocking the passage and brought it out for her. This is my Folio Society edition of 1965, with illustrations by Dodie Masterson. The coloured drawing is on the front cover board; the black and white ones are full page pictures in the text.

This book, in its slip case, has followed me around for more than half a century. Purchased only five years after I left Wimbledon College, a Jesuit grammar school, it contains descriptions of a Catholic child’s upbringing with which I could identify. Beginning in the language of a very small boy, my recollection of Stephen’s bed-wetting and how it is warm and comfortable at first, then goes cold, was an example of such reminiscence. Becky tells me that this has been omitted from the talking book version. I was happy to present her with the slender volume.

Dillon, hailing from South Carolina, had never seen ponies roaming free before. Becky therefore offered to drive him and Flo on an equine foray. I accompanied them to Burley and back via a somewhat circuitous route. On the way to the village  we encountered a number of ponies on the moor. They mostly seemed rather young, and less inquisitive that we would expect from older ones, as they went about the business of eating grass and gorse. Interestingly, they were very tolerant of Scooby’s attention.

We stopped at Burley where the young couple explored the witchy and other tourist shops. The fudge outlet was popular. Becky’s experience was so hilarious that at this point I hand the keyboard to her.

‘I noticed a bag of Marmite Fudge and on hearing the surprise in my voice the lady in the shop asked me, tentatively, if I would like to try it.  There was a long pause before I weakly said yes.  She sliced a very small piece off the block and then said, “Oh no you won’t want that much”, cut it in half and finished her sentence, “because it’s hideous.”  I popped it in my mouth and just looked at her.  Speechless.  “It’s interesting.” I said politely.  She replied, “I think it tastes like you’ve accidentally poured gravy all over your apple crumble.”‘

As we left the village, our guests were treated to the classic pony traffic disruption. In this they were assisted by a partial road closure furnished with temporary traffic lights. A string of the animals trooped across the road. One turned back to the other side to sample some tasty looking ivy dangling over a fence. This creature couldn’t make up its mind which side of the road was more attractive. As the lights changed from red to green no further progress was possible until it had stopped crossing and recrossing the tarmac.

This evening Jackie, utilising all her new cooking appliances, produced an excellent roast chicken meal, including Yorkshire pudding, roast and sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, manges touts, sage and onion stuffing, and tasty gravy. Jackie and Ian drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Chateauneuf du Pape 2015

After The Rant

I have mentioned before that there had only been two books in my life that I have not finished reading. The first was James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, because I couldn’t fathom it; the second was ‘Mort d’Arthur’ by Sir Thomas Mallory because it bored me. I have now managed a third for a combination of the two reasons.

‘Meditations’ by Rene Descartes was so difficult and boring that I did not continue with ‘& Other Writings’ in my Folio Society edition. What I did seem to understand was that this philosophical thinker trusted no perception other than his thought, except that he accepted God as a given. He didn’t trust his senses until he had done them to death inside his head. It did my head in. In fairness, better brains than mine have kept the work in print for almost 400 years. I finally abandoned it last night and began Jonathan Dimbleby’s ‘The Battle of The Atlantic’, which at least promises to flow.

I spent most of the morning trying to unravel my phone problems without becoming too twisted up myself. Do you know, I think Descartes is more comprehensible than our conglomerate corporations.

After going through all the usual hoops, my first call to O2 resulted in my being informed that my long term phone number had been transferred to my new SIM and superseded the temporary one I was given yesterday. The conversation ended abruptly. I cannot say why.

I couldn’t use the new phone which now bore the legend ‘Not registered in network’. I couldn’t even call O2 on it. I wondered if a fuse had blown. It had. Mine.

Using the landline I went through the hoops again and, of course, spoke to a second advisor. He told me that the transfer from business to personal account would take 48 hours. In the meantime I could use the old number on the new phone. I couldn’t. One of the comments this man had made was that if I could try my old SIM card in any phone that it would fit, it should work. I took that card out of the broken phone in order to try it in Jackie’s mobile. I dropped it on the floor. In attempting to pick it up, my lady shot it under the sofa. It’s amazing how much fluff you find when you have to shift a sofa bed.

It didn’t fit Jackie’s phone. I tried a third call to O2. This, once again new, advisor, when quoting my numbers, mentioned one I didn’t recognise. You’ve guessed it. My number had been transferred to the wrong account. This was quite different to either my old or my temporary numbers. Having reversed all this, he told me this would now take four hours to activate.

I will acknowledge that it was difficult to do so through gritted teeth, but I observed that I had been an O2 customer for 30 years and expected better expedition than that. He promised to call me back as soon as he could.

This rant over, I gathered a few more prospective prints for The First Gallery Exhibition. Here is a sample:

table top 23.9.15

This table top illustrates The Head Gardener’s propensity for purchasing suitable item’s from Efford Recycling Centre.

raindrops on sweet pea 23.9.15

The end of September 2015 was quite wet, as shown by these raindrops on sweet peas.

Frozen pond 1

On 19th January this year, a brief freeze gave an abstract quality to the Waterboy’s pool.


Sunrises, like this on 6th April 2015, are often wonderfully dramatic.

Gardener's Rest

By 27th September 2014, The Head Gardener’s Rest had been installed;

Poppies by Jackie 3

on 29th June, when taking this photograph, she had set these poppy seed heads against the red Japanese maple.

bee on cosmos 29.9.15

Here a furry little bee plunders a cosmos.

Despite the O2 representative’s promise, and the fact that he knew we were leaving for the weekend after his call, he didn”t make it. I therefore made a fourth call and spoke to yet another advisor. Hee had to confer with someone on the other side of the business, and put me on hold for a while. I was put through to a young lady who explained that they were working on it at the moment, and it should be resolved shortly. I would receive a call when it was done. I could safely take the new mobile with me. I said this was the second such promise I had received today and asked whether I could trust it. She assured me that I could and that it had been a pleasure talking to me.

Later this afternoon, Jackie will drive us to Leatherhead for the annual family evening watching her cousin Pat O’Connell’s direction of Gilbert and Sullivan. This evening’s choice is ‘The Grand Duke’.

All I can tell you about dinner is that it will be taken at an Italian restaurant before the performance.



Slightly Better Than Expected

The Canonical Hours are the seven prayer times in the day developed by the Roman Catholic Church. Ritualised offices are said, at three hourly intervals, in private or in groups. In her novel ‘China Court’, which I finished reading today, Rumer Godden has chosen to give each of her seven chapters a name of one of these hours.E3_double2

Mediaeval books of hours offered hand-written and -illustrated devotional works. They are the most common manuscript works of the period. Each of Godden’s chapters is headed by quotations from two of these.

James Joyce spans just twenty four hours in his rather more lengthy ‘Ulysses’, but Rumer Godden’s tale, a saga of four generations of occupants of ‘China Court’, covers a much greater time span. So why has she chosen to present her work in this way? That, I cannot tell you, for it would reveal too much. It is well worth reading the book to find out.

There is, of course, much more to relish in the novel. Slipping seamlessly backwards and forwards through the years, we learn about those who have lived in ‘China Court’. Opening with the death of a key figure, holding all the tapestry together, it is the story of the house, but far more, of those who have lived in it. We are treated to the author’s trademark beautiful, descriptive, writing and her insightful characterisation. An example, which fits with the time theme, is how seasonable changes in the garden are detailed. Close attention has to be paid to the narrative, for so seamless are her time switches that they are unannounced, so you suddenly find yourself transplanted into the lives of other generations. If, like me, you read in bed, it is not advisable to tackle this one when you are sleepy.

Ron barbecueing

Despite rain falling steadily all morning, Shelley and Ron persevered with their planned barbecue. By mid-afternoon the rain had cleared and the event continued, to be enjoyed by Jackie and me and most of the usual guests. Convivial conversation ensued. The delicious fare was similar to that provided on 9th. I drank Doom Bar and Jackie drank Carlsberg.

Traditionally, English Bank Holiday events are ruined by rain. This one wasn’t, as the weather was slightly better than expected.



Chateau Cluzeau 1.13Yesterday afternoon I finished reading ‘The England of Elizabeth’ by A.L. Rowse.  This Elizabeth was the first English queen so-named.  I am aware that most people alive today have known no other than Queen Elizabeth II.  First published in 1950, during the reign of our Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, the book was researched and written without the aid of modern technology.  Rowse had no computer and no internet.  His work is the result of a lifetime’s scholarship.  It is packed with information about how people lived in the sixteenth century, how they were educated, how they were governed, and what they believed.  Detailed references abound.  The author’s own reading was immense.

There is much to admire here, but I cannot say I enjoyed the writer.  His attempts at humour, mostly in the sections covering religion, fell short for me.  More than once he voices the opinion that works of art are more valuable than human lives.  If that is indeed his opinion it was patently not shared by the makers of ‘Resistance’, described in yesterday’s post.  Sarah’s symbolic burning of the mediaeval map, which is what the Germans were really after, is a clear statement of the opposite view.

‘The England of Elizabeth’ takes a certain amount of stamina and determination for the layman to get through.  Some of the later pages of my 1953 Reprint Society edition, which the flyleaf indicates has had at least one previous owner, were uncut.  There have only been two books in my life I have been unable to finish reading, two hundred pages being my limit in each case.  The first was Sir Thomas Mallory’s ‘Morte d’Arthur’ which, like certain sections of the Old Testament, bored me with its long lists of names; the second being James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, which I couldn’t grasp.  It is a mistake to attempt to read the latter as a narrative, although, if you can decipher them it does contain such episodes.  As an inveterate punster – Jackie says it’s pathalogical, and the Greeks have a word for it – I should have enjoyed Joyce’s language.  The trouble is he made it up, and his puns involve six languages – far too many for me.

Later, I watched ‘Stigmata’ on DVD.  This psychological thriller, directed by Rupert Wainwright, was ‘a scary movie’ even before I was able to play it.  At first, I couldn’t because a box on my laptop told me it was configurated for a different region.  What on earth did that mean?  The box told me I could manage the DVD region.  How was I going to do that?  I had to find device management.  Well, following various paths by accessing, by trial and error, a number of different control panels on the desktop, I eventually unearthed it.  Apparently my normal region is 2.  There was a vast number of countries I could choose.  Which one, for goodness sake?  Closer investigation of the small print on the DVD sleeve, which is in any case minute, revealed that it was produced by Virgin Records of America, Inc.  I picked United States.  Given that I had bought the film in Wimbledon Village’s Oxfam shop, I found this rather surprising.  But then not many people other than Americans can afford to live in that part of London.  The U.S. is in Region 1.  A warning informed me that there was a limited number of times I could change the region.  So, even if I could remember the path would I be able to revert to Region 2?

The film was quite a contrast to the gentle ‘Resistance’.  Violent action; strange, strident sounds; extravagant special effects; kaleidoscopic camerawork, it had them all.  The depiction of the inflictions of the stigmata on the female lead was reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s horrific representation of ‘The Passion of The Christ’, which I could hardly bear to watch.  Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne were excellent in the main roles.  Notes provided in the container offered two alternative endings.  Having watched the incongruously romantic ‘theatrical’ coda, I decided to view the director’s original.  He recommended watching the whole film again, rather than just his final scene.  So I did.  The original was much more convincing, but hardly worth a repeated complete viewing.

Afterwards, with much relief, I managed to revert to Region 2.

Donkey, Sigoules 1.13This morning I walked to Pomport and back.  Just outside Sigoules, as usual, my friend the donkey was at home with his goats.  Judging by the position of his ears, he wasn’t too pleased to see me at first, but soon, ears to the fore, happily tracked me along his fence, uttering a plaintive honking when it prevented him from continuing.

Roofs, Pomport 1.13It was a bit breezy up at Pomport, so I had to walk rather briskly. Tending vines, Pomport 1.13 Clad in fleecy jackets, hats, and gloves, like frozen market stallholders, an isolated elderly man and, elsewhere, a young woman were tending vines.  Once again I beat the rain.  This time it set in for the day.

The whole purpose of my trip in this cold month of January was to have some internal doors replaced by Huis Clos.  The first appointment was 10 a.m. this morning.  I received a phone call deferring this to 11.30.  I stayed in from 11 to 5.30.  No-one came and I heard no more.

I consoled myself with reading a little more of Andre Gide’s ‘La Porte Etroite’ and watching a DVD of Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage-to-screen studio production of William’s great timeless tragedy ‘Othello’.  Willard White’s performance as Othello was most powerful, and Imogen Stubbs’ Desdemona superb.  Of the supporting cast I would single out Zoe Wanamaker, flawless as Emelia.  Ian McKellen richly deserved the awards he won for his odious Iago.

This evening in Le Code Bar chicken noodle soup; a plate of mixed meats, avocado, and salad; superbly cooked steak with a mound of fried potatoes done with bacon, garlic, and some herb or another; followed by my choice from a huge basket of fruit, from which I just managed a pear; and a quarter carafe of rose wine assuaged the day’s disappointment.  What makes it even better is that, although they don’t open the restaurant in the winter, David himself offered to feed me in the evening if I preferred.  Which was just as well today.