Donkey Care


Margery and Paul visited and lunched with us today. Jackie continued her usual garden maintenance before and after our friends were with us. When they arrived, I was doing some dead-heading in the front garden. For some strange reason Paul thought this was to give the impression that I had been working at the task for rather longer than was likely.

After Paul and Margery had taken a tour of the garden we sat down to lunch and enjoyed the usual convivial time with them. Just as they were leaving, my camera arrived.

Please understand that what follows was truly hilarious and I surprised a number of people with my laughter. Goodness knows why, but I was genuinely amused. Firstly, I had to charge the battery. This was not unexpected, and I could see how to do it. That was fortunate because there was no instruction manual. Again, no real problem because I found one on the internet and downloaded it.

There was also no memory card. I rang Camera Jungle whose representative told me they didn’t stock memory cards. They did once, but they don’t any more. He told me what type I needed but said there was a whole range. He advised me to contact Jessops to buy one. He didn’t know the phone number but would look for it. I asked if it was the one I had been given yesterday. It was. He was off the hook because I still had it.

I phoned Jessops and waited an age to be transferred to the sales department. There a very helpful young lady said that she could take the order but wasn’t technically trained. She was instructed to give me the number of my nearest store who would tell me what I needed. I could then ring the sales department again and place the order. I had explained  that I was a long way from Southampton where I believed was my nearest store. She told me it was in Waterlooville which is in fact rather further away. No matter, any phone number would have done.

I kid you not. By this time I could hardly speak for chortling.

I rang Waterlooville, shared another bout of merriment, obtained the required information, and called the sales department again. Naturally I was answered by a different person this time. He quite liked the story, too. I placed the order.

You have to laugh, don’t you? (If you don’t I’ve wasted my time writing this up).

Unbeknown to me, Jackie had planned to take me on a forest drive with my new camera. Even if I had all I needed this would not have been possible. It is likely that I would have read all the books in my library before I got my head around the 220 pages in the manual.

In the meantime she took me out with my point and shoot. She was herself rewarded when, just outside Ibsley, we passed Heather Cottage, the garden of which had her shrieking with delight.

Heather Cottage garden 1Heather Cottage garden 2Heather Cottage garden 3

It was a quintessentially English cottage garden. Note the thatcher’s pheasant on the roof.

Ponies and jogger

Further on in the village, a friendly jogger opted to cross the road in order to avoid the ponies and their fascinating, to one, droppings.

Stream and trees 1Stream and trees 2

A stream at Gorley reflected the neighbouring trees.

Donkeys outside Hyde Primary School

It was only after I further examined the row of donkeys waiting to enter Hyde Primary School that I realised one was more aroused than was immediately apparent.

Donkey sleeping

Donkey foal

On the village green mares were tending their foals. Two youngsters were asleep on the grass. I disturbed one which began to whimper

Donkey suckling foal

and was soon latched onto its mother, thus disturbing her own contented grazing.

Donkey nuzzling foal

Another mare gave her offspring a tender nuzzle.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pork fillet baked in mustard with new potatoes and crisp carrots and green beans. She drank her Hoegaarden/Bavaria mix, and I drank more of the Madiran.

Porridge In The Bedroom

Soon after midday Jackie drove me from a waterlogged Hampshire to a dry Morden.  I then walked to Jessops in Wimbledon and back.  I still needed advice on how many shots I had left on my Scandisk memory card.  Discovering the fault in my camera in Hedge End Jessops had diverted my attention from the reason I had gone there in the first place.  Being told I still had more than 2,500 left was the first bit of good news.  The second was my good fortune in having chosen to go to Wimbledon rather than Colliers Wood.  Having decided to give the mud of Morden Hall Park a miss after my exploits earlier in the week, especially as I still haven’t bought any wellies, I was amazed to learn that that branch closed down last week on account of escalating rents.  I had been saved a wasted journey.

The streets are beginning to be carpeted by autumn leaves.  My route is festooned with estate agents boards, one of which is that of Hawes and Company, which put me in mind of the owner of the maisonette in Stanton Road in which my parents raised five children.  Hawes was the agent to whom Mum paid the weekly rent for our home.  The owner, Mr. Gabouli, was an Italian immigrant who carried out all the maintenance himself.  To me, a child in the 1940s, he seemed very elderly, but I don’t suppose he was anything like my current age.  He wore a knitted jumper full of holes and seemed to have paint everywhere which would never come off.  His specs were held together with masking tape.  The lenses were speckled with so much pigment and plaster I wondered how he could see anything through them.  One day he mislaid them and we had to search them out among his tools and paintbrushes.  All this was made a little more complicated by his accent which was so strong that we couldn’t understand what he said.

Only once in the sixteen years we lived there, was the place decorated throughout.  It seemed to take forever.  I’m not sure whether our landlord brought in helpers for this job, which in reality was probably completed fairly quickly.  Chris and I shared a small bedroom containing bunk beds at the time.  My memory suggests that we all camped in there for a while.  Was cooking somehow done in there, or was it done in the kitchen and carried through?  I’m not sure now, but I expect when Mum reads this she will clarify the situation.  I do remember a saucepan of creamy, steaming porridge consumed around my bed.

We finished the day with a fine salad accompanied by Wickham Vintage Selection 2010.

A Night At The Globe

I began the day by photographing the corner of the garden in which the new fernery is located, so that Danni can see where it is.

Jackie then drove us back to Morden in readiness for a visit to The Globe Theatre this evening.  Sam and Holly had given me two tickets for Richard III for my birthday.  Disaster then struck.  I had left the lead for transferring photos from my camera to my laptop at The Firs.  I therefore walked to Jessops at Colliers Wood and back, to try to purchase a new connection.  They do not sell them, but sold me a Multi Card Reader.  Since I have been using a card reader system at Elizabeth’s, I thought this would be fine.

In the precincts of Abbey Mills Centre by the river Wandle, a heron was offering suggestions to a puzzler.

Walking back through Morden at school finishing time, I was reminded that I had left rural Hampshire for the end of the Northern Line, gateway to the South, as Peter Sellers put it when chanting of Balham.  I had to weave my way through milling schoolchildren, taking care to dodge their icecreams and sticky sweets; make way for mothers pushing buggies; elude shoppers with wheelie bags, endangering my sandalled feet; and avoid motorised vehicles for people with disabilities.  I was back on familiar territory.

Settling down with my laptop I followed the meagre instructions which came with the reader.  Nothing was happening.  I could not download my pictures.  I telephoned Jessops, whose representative said it sounded as if the reader was faulty, and advised me to reboot my laptop and if it still didn’t work return to the store.  It didn’t, so I will return to Jessops in the morning and hope to be able to add photographs to this post.

This evening we travelled by underground to Sam Wanamaker’s gift to the world.  Our mode of changing trains at Kennington is best described in Jackie’s words.  As we approached a train about to leave for Waterloo she reports that I flung myself into the closing gap in the doors and left her standing on the platform.  I turned, held my hand up to the window and raised one finger.  This was to indicate that Waterloo was one stop away.  Contemplating the amused glances of the other passengers, I felt grateful that it wasn’t two stations away.

Some twenty eight years earlier I had been taking Sam and Louisa on the underground for a trip somewhere or other.  Sam was walking beside his sister in her pushchair.  He trotted into the train just as the doors were closing.  Having just taken Louisa out of it, I quickly shoved the puschair into the gap.  The doors simply pushed the wheeled vehicle out of their way.  This time it was Louisa and me left on the platform.  I found a station employee.  He rang down the line.  Two young men on the train who had seen what had happened escorted Sam off the train at the next station.  Louisa and I followed on, and left, the next train at the same station.  A perfectly happy Sam, munching chocolate, was resting in the arms of a huge London Transport man.  Panic over.

Walking along Blackfriars Road Jackie spotted, through a gap in the streetscape, The Shard, hailed as Western Europe’s tallest building.  Sun reflected from this edifice causes the blinds to be drawn in her office on the eleventh floor of Morden’s Civic Centre.  The view of the skyline we enjoyed as we walked along the Thames to the theatre can clearly be seen from that same office window.

We had a meal of meze at The Real Greek, a couple of doors away from The Globe.  This was so good we wished we had had more time.  Our only complaints might have been that the small tables were rather cramped together, and someone had taken a bite out of the bowl in which my excellent beetroot salad was served.  Jackie drank Mythos, a Greek beer she enjoyed.  I was less adventurous and sampled Kronenbourg.

The Globe is a replica of Shakespeare’s famous original.  In The Bard’s day those who could afford them sat on hard wooden benches under a thatched roof.  Those who couldn’t, known as groundlings, stood in the central enclosure, open to the elements.  So it is today.

Neither of us knew the play and we were therefore surprised at its comic nature. The theatre was jam-packed with spectators, and we had to force our way through the groundlings to reach our bench, which was fully occupied.  The play having just begun, we stood silently on the stairs until a steward approached, moved another couple out of our places, and, equally silently, ushered us in.  Almost polished away by the many bums on these seats, our numbers were just discernible.  This splendid production held our struggling attention until a wave of activity in the central open area, punctuated by the patter of raindrops, rendered what was happening on stage inaudible.  The cast soldiered manfully on.  I say ‘manfully’ because, as an authentic rendition of Shakespearean times, women’s roles were being played by men.  Suddenly the activity in the pit became frenzied.  The downpour drummed on the roof.  The lighting illuminated vertical sheets of rain.  Torrents bounced off hastily donned hoods and scarves.  Shirts and blouses of those who had come unprepared became transparent second skins.  Hair was plastered to scalps, and rivulets ran down necks.  Some who had brought umbrellas were told to close them.  A few who sat on the stairs we had vacated were instructed to leave and stand in the rain because they were blocking an emergency exit.  Staff, and the occasional fortunate child, were issued with clingfilm wrappers by a young woman circulating among the rapidly diminishing throng of saturated, unsheltered, spectators.  Whilst this continued the cast strutted their stuff on stage.  I am sure they must be quite accustomed to such interruptions.  After all, Shakespeare’s groundlings made an awful din.  It will, however, be apparent from the attention I paid to all this going on in front of me that I had lost the plot.  So had Jackie.

P.S. Dated 21st January 2014. Roger Lloyd-Pack, who was speaking as the Duke of Buckingham through the worst of the din, died a week ago. A splendid actor, may he rest in peace.

Graham Road

130A Graham Rd., Initials 6.12

Having spent an hour this morning ‘getting my head round my new camera’, in the process being surrounded by various connecting leads; a CD Rom; a lead with a plug on it; a ‘getting started’ booklet; a charger; oh, and a camera, and not really having got very far except for a couple of out of focus pictures of a sofa and cushions, it was fairly obvious where my feet were going to have to take me.  This was a round trip to Jessops in Wimbledon.  Actually the two pictures featured today were taken en route to Jessops, so it wasn’t all bad.

I fell at the very first hurdle.  The camera is so small that you are enjoined to fix its strap so that you can wrap it around your wrist in order not to drop it.  This initial instruction I was unable to perform.  Anyone who read yesterday’s post will know that my camera was a display model.  This meant that it probably contained an already charged battery.  I felt fairly confident in skipping the battery charging section.  There were other setting up procedures which to my uneducated eye staring at the various icons, numbers, and letters on the screen may or may not have been carried out.  One of these, said to be essential, was the setting of time and date.  I didn’t want these printed on my pictures, so why were they essential?  Pass.  Panic.  Perambulate.

Off I trotted to the experts.  An elderly couple in Mostyn Road were amused to see me photographing all sorts of stuff, like (out of focus) convulvulus.  I explained it was my new toy, and the woman said that after five years she hadn’t really got her head round hers.  ‘I’ve got lots of pictures of my feet, fridge door, mantelpiece… name it, because I keep pressing the wrong bits’.  ‘I’ve just done that,’ said I.  We had a laugh and I moved on just in time to see that I was being approached by swarms of boys from  Rutlish school presumably freed by the bell.

I had hoped by now to have completed the cyclists theme begun on 19th. June.  However, despite the danger of seeming to have a bee in my bonnet about them, I have to report that two of the boys in the leading phalanx were coming straight at me on the pavement doing slow motion wheelies abreast of each other.  The boys alongside them had to make way for me.  By the time the next lad on a bike approached me I had had enough of stepping out into the road and held my ground.  He bruised my knuckle as he swerved across my path.  At least he was trying to avoid me, and did apologise.  I decided to walk into the school and have a word.  I was seen by a gentleman in authority who may or may not have been the headmaster.  He was neither owning up to being the boss nor offering his name.  If I could identify the boys by picking them out after having waited at the school entrance the next afternoon something may possibly be done; otherwise it was all rather difficult because if the boys were told to cycle in the road the school would be in trouble if one of them ‘got whopped’.  I politely stated that of course I couldn’t identify the boys and wasn’t looking for retribution, rather some sort of ruling or guidance from the school.  Perhaps I would like to come back later and speak to the police officers attached to the school.  No, I wouldn’t.  I was thanked for bringing the matter to his attention.  C’est la vie moderne.  I was reminded of a walk along the Ridgway in Wimbledon village just over a year ago.  A 200 bus was being marshalled by two police officers ensuring that the melee of schoolboys from Wimbledon College were keeping some semblance of order.  Some lads were being turfed off the bus.  I told the representatives of law and order that had I behaved as the boys were doing when I was at the school 50 years ago I would have been before the headmaster in the morning.  I was in fact no angel, but when I did anything out of order outside school, like getting my rugby boots stuck in an apple tree which I was trying to scrump, and consequently being unable to play a match, or wittily (I don’t think now) changing a street name with whatever was the then equivalent of a marker pen,  I was inevitably shopped and for the high jump.  Am I showing my age?  Am I being an old git?  I don’t care.  Maybe I was a bit out of sorts because I was struggling with my camera.  I don’t think so.

130A Graham Rd., 6.12

As always when I use the Graham Road route I experienced a glow of pride when I walked past number 130A.  This extremely tasteful new-build was created by my sons Michael and Matthew and Michael’s small and friendly workforce.  Michael’s firm, Able Assignments, had done some structural work for the woman who owned the house next door.  She had wanted for some time to sell part of her garden for development but wanted craftsmen she could trust.  Having been pleased with his work, his manner, and his reliability, she invited my son to buy the plot and build a house.  No. 130A is the result.  I believe this property is an exciting hybrid of old and new ideas.  Many of the features, such as high ceilings; ceiling roses; deep skirting boards; and solid wooden panelled doors, were inspired by the Victorian architecture of Lindum House in Newark.  These are combined with top quality modern kitchen, bathrooms and entry system, with more than adequate storage space.  I wouldn’t mind living in it if I could afford it.

The man at Jessop’s put me right on various issues, sorted the settings, and explained that the out of focus pictures were so because the flash was turned off and therefore not operating when there was insufficient light, resulting in camera shake.  He immediately reassured me by telling me that most people couldn’t attach the strap, and showing me why.  I hadn’t gone ten yards out of the shop when I had forgotten how to zoom in on a picture I had taken.  Back in I went for a repeat lesson.

Whilst cooking this evening’s Methi Gosht I managed to slice the skin off a broken knuckle with the lid of a ghee tin.  The knuckle is one of two I broke playing Rugby many years ago, so it sticks out a bit more than it should.  I am not going to seek sympathy from my friend Judith Munns, because she’d probably think it served me right (the break, not the cut).

My Methi Gosht was accompanied by Cobra beer, Jackie’s with Hoegarten.

Choosing A Camera

Having been promised rain all day today the weather was kind to us and turned out much brighter than yesterday.  We therefore had a good morning’s planting.  This was a welcome change for me, having spent a year preparing soil by digging, weeding, and composting.  This seemed much the lighter option.

Jackie, Elizabeth and I went to buy Mum’s shopping and take it round to her, after which we paid a visit to Jessop’s.  It is so different now than in the days of my youth when no shops and very little else were open on Sundays.  As a child I could never go down the road for a loaf of bread.  We had to plan ahead and there was no room for impulse purchases let alone cameras.  Yesterday we had discussed the purchase of a camera but had not wanted to stop the gardening as we had expected rain today.  ‘No problem.  Jessops will be open tomorrow,’ was the solution.

I have been a keen photographer all my life, but have stubbornly insisted on using film.  I have a very good Canon and an even better Leica and will continue to choose colour slides and negative film for my main work, unless of course the experience I have sought today convinces me otherwise.  Over the last few years I have been working my way through thousands of slides and negatives from as far back as 1963; scanning them with an Epson; giving them the Photoshop treatment; and printing them on my Canon printer.  I’d never really need to take another photograph.  Rather like I’d never need to buy another book.

Unbeknown to him it is my friend Dominic who is the reason for the Jessop’s trip.  Having read a number of my posts he was complimentary but said he thought they could be enhanced by photographs.  Because of their purpose these pictures should be as instant as possible, making a move to a digital camera inevitable.  Yesterday I asked Elizabeth to photograph the rose arch mentioned in that day’s post, so that I could start the requisite illustrations.  Jackie then offered to buy me a digital camera for my birthday.  I snapped up the chance.  I am adding two pictures to yesterday’s publication.

Let us return to the trip to purchase the camera, which we had thought would only take a matter of minutes.  First we had to choose.  I’d gone in with two recommendations which narrowed the field somewhat.  I thought I’d best tell the assistant something about me, primarily that I’d never used digital equipment, but also what I did do.  He was somewhat surprised.  Then there was the consideration of all the different features, most of which I didn’t understand.  Then there were all Elizabeth’s more experienced and informed questions, most of which I didn’t understand.  Eventually I told the young man he obviously knew what he was doing and I would therefore like to know which he would choose.  He acknowledged a bias, and, indeed Elizabeth pointed out that he was sporting a Canon logo on his t-shirt, yet chose an updated version of the very same camera I had helped Elizabeth choose two years ago.  That was good enough for me.

Unfortunately the business of paying was even more prolonged.  Firstly, the only example of the specific camera that they had in the shop was the display model.  I asked for a discount on that.  The manager said it was not possible, but I could have some free printing.  As I’d already explained that I only wanted the camera to illustrate my blog I said this would not be of any use to me.  After a lengthy discussion involving the assistant toing and froing between me and the manager we were awarded a reasonable discount.  By this time, Jackie, whose patience had worn thin during the choosing process, was pacing the store like a caged tigress.  The first indication we had had of this was when she rushed around the shop pointing in turn to each camera in a row saying: ‘Would you like a black one, a red one, a pink one, a blue one……’  I was then asked for my e-mail address ‘in order to activate the discount’.  I was just about to give it when I thought I’d better mention that Jackie was paying for it so perhaps it would be her address they’d like.  This was indeed the case so we had to interrupt her march for a time.  Three or four trips were made by our friend in the Canon T-shirt to other parts of the store through a private door, it seems to collect bits that went with the camera.  Jackie continued her pacing.  The display camera had to be unscrewed from it’s stand, which set off the alarm.  Jackie was unperturbed.

Finally we arrived at the till.  Unfortunately the till’s computer was not speaking to the salesman’s computer so the discount had not been applied.  By this time our friend had gone off to advise someone else what they should buy.  Jackie went off for a pace whilst I called our original salesperson back.  He had to involve the manager who managed to unlock the problem and asked us if we’d like to purchase a second memory card at half price.  Even if I thought 1000 pictures on the one card I had would be enough he wondered had we thought what a good Christmas present it might make someone.  By this point Jackie was waving her card around with a wild expression in her eyes.  I do believe she would have said yes to anything.  I’m sure I caught the word ‘Whatever’.

Having taken the least line of resistance we agreed to the additional purchase.  The manager went away happily totting up his commission.  The check-out girl amended the entry in the computer and Jackie almost relaxed.  The bill was presented.  Unfortunately it was £20 more than it should have been.  This just happened to be half the price of an additional card.  I asked the young woman if this could be the problem.  She looked at her screen and denied the possibility.  The manager was sent for.  Jackie almost wilted.  The manager took his time.  I walked round and looked over the young lady’s shoulder.  I was right, the second card had not been reduced by 50%.  By this time even I slapped the desk  as I said: ‘OK. Take off the second card.  We don’t want it.’  Our friend Shannon (by now we knew her name), looking very relieved, took the card out of the equation just as her boss arrived.  He looked somewhat disappointed.  Perhaps he was just mentally reducing his commission.

Thank you Dominic.

Back at Elizabeth’s, after a later than expected salad lunch, Jackie was let off the leash to get back to her planting.  My contribution was a very little more ground preparation.

Before Elizabeth’s chili con carne meal with red wine, I helped Danni go over a teaching session she was planning for a course in which she is participating.  I’m proud of her already, but this, in my view, simply confirmed her abilities.

And so to Links Avenue and bed.