The Castle Bench

Yesterday I began preparation for reassembling the garden bench based on those in Nottingham Castle grounds.
The first task today was the purchase of nuts for the bolts that would attach the wooden slats to the cast iron sides. These could have been obtained at a nearer establishment, but Knights in Lymington is fast becoming Jackie’s favourite emporium. In any case she needed some curtain rings and whatever else might take her fancy. We did buy a few more things, and, in fairness, it was me who chose socket spanners so I could get at the underside of the bench with a little more ease.

When we drive out of our front entrance we pass our potentilla which is in full bloom at the moment.

Before lunch, I carried the various components of the seat to the chosen spot in the garden. This sounds a rather routine task. In fact each one of the cast iron sides is quite an awkward proposition. It is six years since I last manhandled them and I now find them much more daunting.The previous owners kindly left us a home made wheelbarrow, the container of which is a large blue plastic basket. I thought it might save my body if I used that to transport one of the pieces of iron. I just about managed to raise it to the required level to dump it on the barrow. It cracked the container.
There was nothing for it but to carry each piece the few required yards. It helped to yell and groan a bit. Jackie helped me try all the slats, before we were driven in by heavy rain. But not before we realised that they wouldn’t all fit.
After lunch we had another go, with no more success, and, since we were getting very wet, gave up. Jackie continued her cleaning and scraping tasks.
Eventually the rain eased up and I decided not to let the problem defeat me, even if it meant cutting some lengths to size. I managed securely to fit eight out of twelve slats. By this time, I had run out of bolts, because some of the originals were missing and two others were bent when the construction collapsed at one point. These are thick bolts that have stayed attached for a good twenty years.
This time we drove to Milford Supplies for the bolts, because that is sensibly nearer. I then finished the task. This involved sawing ends off, drilling new holes, and hoping for the best.

We now have a garden bench.

The rhododendron behind me is now in full bloom, and we have a rich variety of aquilegias.

Our dinner this evening was Jackie’s choice chilli con carne (recipe) followed by chocolate cake and ice cream. Jackie drank Hoegaarden. I drank marques de Carano reserva 2007.

Spaghetti Junction

Here is the recipe for broccoli and stilton soup I had hoped, last night, to be able to provide this morning. Thanks to our caterer-in-chief:
Take a largish saucepan.
With approximately 2oz butter and 1 and 1/2 oz plain flour make a roux.
Then add 3 to 4 oz crumbled stilton to taste.
Meanwhile, heat a pint and a half of water in a separate pan, into which dissolve two good quality (e.g. Knorr) stock cubes, one chicken and one vegetable. If possible these should be low salt because stilton can be salty.
Simmer chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower in the stock until soft.
Gradually stirring it in add the broccoli and stock to the roux and ‘cook for a bit more’.

We had some for lunch. It has a delightful piquancy.

Before that, we had driven to Knights ironmongers in Lymington, where we bought a number of practical items, like sink plugs, door locks, hacksaws, chisels, and a preparation for clearing the blocked shower. I had used Bullitt before, but couldn’t remember the name. The very helpful young man in the shop went straight to it when I described our needs.

Bullitt is 95-97% sulphuric acid and claims to dissolve pretty well all organic matter that can legitimately find its way into pipes. It comes with considerable safety warnings, and emitted a steam, which we are advised not to inhale, on application. Unfortunately, whatever is down there, it seems impervious to sulphuric acid. I suppose it could be fossilised. After following the instructions and scouring the scummy tray, there was no speedier a trickle down the plug hole. I applied another dose and walked away without much hope of success. Jackie, on the other hand, made a good job of fixing sink plugs and door locks.

My first car, bought in December 1966, was a red Hillman Imp. During our courting days I was able to drive to Jackie’s family home in Beckenham, sometimes with Michael, sometimes leaving him with Mum in 18 Bernard Gardens. Always a keen photographer, I kept the camera in the car. One afternoon in September 1967, I stopped at traffic lights, and glanced to my left.

There a window cleaner was engaged in polishing a large sheet of glass under the gaze of a baby in a pram inside the room that it was lighting. I grabbed my all-manual Kodak Retinette 1b camera, and, in the seconds before the red light turned to green, snatched the shot. It remains one of my favourite ‘posterity’ images. Judith and Barrie will, no doubt be intrigued to recognise the roof of my car reflected in the window of the room.

Aficionados may be able to identify the make of the pram. Window cleaning has now become much more sophisticated. Does anyone still use a ladder, chamois leathers, and elbow grease?

When she was here last week, Flo observed that we had our TV in a funny place. This was because it was behind Jackie’s chair and consequently rather obscured from view.

This in turn was because I was too scared to attempt to set up the Sharp Aquos TV; BT Vision complete with the Powerline adapters required because the Home Hub was far enough away from the telly to need it; and the Bose 123 CD/DVD player complete with its bulky Acoustimass module.

The Gravelly Hill interchange on the M6 at Birmingham is the original spaghetti junction. This is a nickname given to a network of connecting roads that appears a tangled mess. It could equally apply to the wiring system focussing on the seven year old TV. With constant reference to the various users guides that came with the equipment; to the tags at some stage or another attached to the various wires; with some of the tentacles still attached at one end to the relevant gadgets; and with a good deal of foraging among a container labelled ‘phone wires and stuff’, a miracle was achieved. We can now watch telly, choose a programme from BT vision, play a DVD, or listen to a CD.

Whilst I was grappling with technology in the living room, Jackie successfully did so in the kitchen, where, on her induction hobs, she produced a lamb jalfrezi (recipe) as good as ever. She served it with wild rice. I finished the merlot.