A number of readers rightly gathered, from its brevity and the absence of culinary description in yesterday’s post, that I had run out of creative steam. For those concerned about the lack of sustenance, I can say that we had boiled eggs and toast for breakfast. On our knees of course. Well, on plates on our knees to be precise.Boiled eggs

We had packed the egg-cups, but there is no end to Jackie’s ingenuity.

Offers of weekend help have come from Danni, Becky, Flo, and Ian. These have been gratefully accepted. We should have quite a party.

Cupboard under stairsMeanwhile, I boxed up the contents of the airing cupboard and the shelves occupying the spare room; and cleared out the cupboard under the stairs. Those who know we live in a flat may wonder why we have a cupboard under the stairs. We are blessed with one because it is in the bathroom. ‘What?’ you may ask. Well, you see, the building underwent a vast conversion into its seventeen apartments in the 1980s. Our bathroom occupies part of what was the main entrance hall. The area under the main staircase provides us with the said storage space.

The more we achieve before the weekend, the more family fun we can have. Volunteer helpers, please note, you are required to bring your own wine and ale glasses.

One of the processes it is advisable to follow when moving house is that of emptying the freezer and the fridge. This is best done during the preceding days, so that the contents can be enjoyed and cooking be at a minimum. This makes for some fascinating platefuls. Sausage casserole and chicken KievThis evening we dined on sausage casserole (recipe), chicken Kiev, chips, and vegetables. And a very tasty melange it was. I drank Lion’s Gate Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2012, an extremely quaffable South African wine.

Incidentally, my younger readers may not be aware that when I was growing up in the 1940s, people owned neither fridges or freezers. This was particularly problematic in the summer of 1947, when tar melted in the streets. Butter and milk had to be stored in sinks full of cold water that soon warmed up itself. Runny butter dripping off hot toast, as described by Kenneth Graham in my all-time favourite, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, may be quite attractive. Rancid butter slipping out of its wrapper onto a dish before being poured on your bread is quite another matter. ‘Rancid’, incidentally remains one of Matthew’s favourite words, ever since I once used it when he was a child. You’d be really surprised at the number of uses to which the term can be put.

Another such versatile word usage was coined by Ray Chard, who once described a cricket ball that had been returned after being hit out of the ground, as somewhat ‘gnarled’. In our family this word did not have the longevity of ‘rancid’, but I hope Ray still uses it. I have been known to entertain the youngest Knights with it. You must admit it has a certain cachet.

Harry The Grape

There is nothing more certain to do my head in than to try something either new or that I haven’t done for more than a week on the computer.  You will therefore be able to understand why I have been putting off moving my Apple computer to Minstead from the Firs.  Well, to be more accurate, setting it up at Minstead.  Elizabeth persuaded me to remove the Mac some time ago, but I have deferred the satisfaction of actually getting it to work.  I had to feel very strong to tackle that.  So I spent the morning at it.  Getting it plugged in was straightforward enough.  Turning it on worked out all right.  Then came the wireless mouse and keyboard.  No idea.  The box on screen said they weren’t discoverable.  Perhaps the batteries needed changing.  They did.  That did the trick.  Now for the internet.  Couldn’t get on.  We have a home hub, but can’t remember the password or how to set it up.  Ah, but I can remember Elizabeth’s.  Tried that.  That got me access to a BT hotspot.  Which will have to do for the moment.

The reason I bought the Apple in the first place was for photography.  I also bought a professional negative film and slide scanner, and printer capable of producing A3+ size photographs.  The ever practical Jackie has rigged up a wheeled platform housing these that can be brought from the bedroom wardrobe cupboard to the computer in the living room when I want to use them.  For everyday printing I have a smaller printer/scanner that works well enough with the Windows laptop.  But it wouldn’t work with the Apple.  Of course not.  The software disc must be loaded in.  Where was it?  After about half an hour I found it where it should have been and where it actually was in the first place and I didn’t find it when I looked.  It was quite a long process to upload this, but I managed it.  Then I printed a sample picture which had lines all over it.  That meant the nozzle had to be cleaned.  Simple enough on the laptop, but it took me ages to manage it on the Apple.

One last task would suffice for today.  Downloading the digital photographs from my camera to Windows Vista laptop works like a dream.  But could I do it on the Apple?  No.  That computer, bought in 2007 is too old, for goodness sake.

The New Forest Inn 2.13It was almost a relief, after lunch, to walk to Lyndhurst, ahead of Jackie to meet her there, via Emery Down, where The New Forest Inn was making good use of at least one chimney.

On the way through Minstead I stopped and chatted with a couple on a walking holiday.  Thinking I recognised their accent I asked where they were from.  It was Spalding in Lincolnshire, which is not all that far from Newark.

Pheasant 2.13On the road down to the ford a male pheasant scurried across my path.  ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is a hoary old question to which there are numerous humorous answers.  I don’t know why my bird crossed the road in the first place, but I think he turned and recrossed it because he had seen me get my camera out, and, proud of his plumage, wished to prance about and pose for me.

Molehills 2.13Molehills abounded in the fields and on the verges.  I have never seen a live mole, but I am sure I would know one from E.H.Shepard’s marvellous illustrations to Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic ‘The Wind In The Willows’, which was one of my favourites.  So inspired was I by Mr. Toad and his friends that, in my teens in the mid-’50s, I began to make a comic book called ‘Toad in the Wild West’.  Mr. Toad 2.13That original masterpiece is long gone.  But here is a rough sketch of the eponymous hero.

Perched on the hilltop as you approach Lyndhurst from Emery Down is the rather splendid Victorian church of Saint Michael and All Angels. Gravestone steps, St Michael and All Angels 2.13

In its graveyard lie the ashes of Alice Hargreaves, nee Liddell, the inspiration for the reverend Charles Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll.  His  ‘Alice’ books are also timeless classics.

A steep set of stone steps winding down to the town carpark is made from old gravestones, almost all the inscriptions of which are completely obliterated.  One would hope that these erasures were the effect of centuries of wind and rain, rather than of recent footsteps.

Jackie’s complete lamb jalfrezi meal was reprised for our dinner.  I finished the Carta Roja while she drank Orange Hefeweizen beer from Kitchen Garden Brewery in Sheffield Park, Uckfield.  This is a Sussex outlet which seems to have some provenance for Jackie.  Some years ago Jackie picked grapes for the friend of a friend who ran the Sheffield Park Vineyard and Nursery.  He was Harry the Grape.  Harry Godwin would be beyond retirement age by now.  So has he or his son branched out?  Or are there now two different enterprises?  Answers in a comment please.

Episode 2 of ‘Call the Midwife’ followed our meal.


Michael and Emily drove down to join us for the day.  As they are great National Trust fans, Michael having made a superb investment by subscribing to life membership at the age of nineteen, I suggested a trip to Mottisfont, a National Trust property situated just four miles North of Romsey.  Michael drove us all there and we enjoyed a day at this establishment dating from a thirteenth century priory.  Rightly famous for its walled rose gardens, there is much more to enjoy there.

We were greeted by a small bridge over a stream, the river Test, from which a number of families were throwing bread into the swirling waters.  Upon investigation we saw that trout and ducks were vying for the offerings.  Later on we took the riverside walk which had clearly inspired Kenneth Grahame to write ‘The Wind In The Willows’, incidentally one of my favourite books of all time.  The highlight, for me, of the visit to the house was the exhibition of E.H.Shepard’s illustrations to that wonderful novel.  In an exhibition case, among other editions, was one sporting Arthur Rackham’s marvellous work.

Although the roses were clearly past their best, it was apparent that the walled gardens were a wonderful display, still featuring many different species, still blooming.  Buddleiae were attracting a range of butterflies and bees.

During the visit to the house itself, Elizabeth was being sold a raffle ticket in one of the rooms.  As I approached the desk, I realised I would be invited to buy one myself.  I don’t believe I have ever won a raffle in my life.  I hate selling tickets.  In fact, if an organisation I am involved with sends me a book of tickets to dispense, I buy them all myself.  I still never win.  So I look the other way when I am expected to buy someone else’s.  This time there was no avoiding it.  I sidled up to Elizabeth, looked as if I belonged to her, and glanced from the volunteer sales assistant to my sister, in a proprietorial way, hoping to indicate that I was with her and her ticket would cover us both.  It worked.  I was unsolicited.  Michael, who had followed minutes later, was not so fortunate.  You never know, one of them may collect the £10,000 first prize.  Then I will feel I’ve missed out.

Tree bark, Mottisfont 9.12

We really did pick a gorgeous autumn day for our visit.  The light was superb and the temperature was warm.  As we entered the building we passed a knot garden which had been planted in a most suitable arrangement in this year of the Queen’s 60th. Jubilee celebrations, the football World Cup, and the London Olympics.  Jackie was upset by the sight of one particular weed in the arrangement, and therefore pleased to see it extracted.

When we returned to The Firs I immediately began the preparation of a sausage and bacon casserole.  Jackie and Danni rendered invaluable help with the vegetables.  As is often the case, I was quizzed about ingredients.  The mention of green cardamoms took us back ten years.  It has long been a tradition that I produce a Boxing Day curry with the left over turkey or other unfortunate bird that has graced our Christmas table.  When Oliver was about five, I forgot to mention that the meal contained this particular spice.  Oliver bit into one and promptly threw a tantrum.  He rushed out of the room, to be persuaded back in by Jessica.   I had to explain and apologise.  Eventually he calmed down, the offending items were removed from his plate, and we continued to enjoy the meal.  The next year we again enjoyed Gramps’s curried turkey.  Soon after we began, Oliver asked: ‘what were those green things we had last year?’.  I told him.  ‘Can I have everybody’s?’, he asked.  Donations were readily given.  He promptly and proudly ate the lot.

This evening, the casserole was followed by Jackie’s apple crumble.  A variety of red wines were drunk, except by one of us who had Hoegaarden.