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’.Broccoli and stilton soup

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. Baby and window cleaner 9.67It 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. Users guides and remotesThis 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.400px-Spaghetti-Junction-Crop

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. Television set-upWith 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.

A Gift From Norway

We drove early this morning to Ringwood for a bit more shopping, then went on to visit Helen and Bill in Poulner, after which we meandered around the northern forest villages seeking a particular photographic subject for a card idea that Jackie had.  We returned home along Roger Penny Way.

Leaves of plane tree

Tree LineOakThe plane trees around Ringwood car park are now mostly devoid of leaves, although many of the forest trees remain festooned with persistent clingers. Along Roger Penny Way, the rounded shapes of the oaks and beeches with their golden foliage are set off nicely by the pointed evergreen pines behind them.  The gnarled and arthritic limbs of the oaks are beginning to reveal themselves.

Ponies, cattle, and donkeys were all motionless soon after midday.  All these roamers seem to be growing winter coats.  The equine varieties stood stock still, whereas the bovines lay basking in the sunshine glinting on their variously coloured ear tags.Cattle basking

Helicopter trioHigh above the fields and chimney pots of Ibsley, a trio of helicopters, possibly military, glided silently across the skies.  As Jackie brought the car to a standstill alongside someone’s house, and I leapt out to photograph the airborne vehicles, I rather alarmed a woman who stood quizzically shielding her eyes.  I therefore felt obliged to explain what I was doing, by which time I had all but missed the shot.

Back in Minstead, where the horses of the Freshwater Stud were now wearing man made winter coats, we found the picture we had been looking for all along. Freshwater stud This afternoon I worked on the prints required.

Yesterday, the Christmas season officially opened in Central London with the switching on of the lights to the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.  Our annual gift from the people of Norway in recognition of Britain’s help during World War Two, the tree has been a feature of the capital since 1947.  This is how I, with my Kodak Retinette 1b, recorded the scene fifty years ago:

Trafalgar Square 12.63

The rows of people to the left of the picture are carol singers.  Different groups still perform nightly carols raising funds for various charities.

This evening we dined at The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton, on the excellent buffet meal.  Although called a buffet this is rather different in that for £18 a head you do have all you can eat, but you actually select from a normal full menu , and are given all the time you need with breaks in between.  If you over-order and cannot eat it all you pay normal prices for the uneaten portions.  It seems to work rather well.  Once again we remarked on the friendliness of the atmosphere, with the staff seeming to be on very good terms with all the customers.  I always eat the decorative chillis and cucumber.  When taking our first set of empty plates away, the waiter, seeing that I hadn’t eaten the lemon slice, from which I had at least squeezed the juice, suggested he should put it on my bill (as an uneaten portion).  With our meal Jackie and I both drank T’sing Tao beer.

A Collection For Posterity

Frosty lawn

A bright sun streaked through the trees and across the frosted lawn this morning.  It was still pretty cold, so, although I am beginning to feel like taking a reasonable walk again, it probably wouldn’t have been sensible and my rambling was done through my photographic archives.

A task I have been putting off ever since I acquired my iMac, had been to rescan all my old slides and negatives.  I made a start on my very first colour slide, taken in August 1963.

Mum, Joseph, friend 8.63Vivien and I had married two months before, and, whilst searching for our first owned home, lived in my parents’ house at 18 Bernard Gardens, SW19.  Ever since his birth, as Jackie and I were to do later, she and I had taken my young brother everywhere with us.  It is perhaps therefore appropriate that I begin this renovation process with a picture of Joe on a seesaw in the garden of that Wimbledon house.  Mum is doing the seesawing by the side of an unidentified friend.

Kodak-Box-BrownieOnly one of our honeymoon pictures survives.  It was probably taken with the Box Brownie my grandfather had passed on to me some years before.  I am not sure where the print is now, but, like most amateurs in those days, I didn’t keep the negatives.  Colour slides were different.  Unless you had them made into prints, which rather defeated the object, you couldn’t view them without a projector shining light through the positive film.  That is why my collection for posterity began with colour slides.

The colour of the original fifty year old slide has deteriorated into a monochrome pink sepia.  There were also numerous little black specks and tiny hairs on the scanned image.  With the marvellous iPhoto application, I have managed to get some of the pristine picture back.  No doubt, my friend Alex Schneideman would have improved it still further.

Having been encouraged by the honeymoon photo of a Cornish fishing village I had decided to upgrade my camera and begin with colour slides. 200px-Kodak_Retinette_and_case That is when I bought my Kodak Retinette 1b, which is what I would have taken the August picture with.  Although it had a good lens for the money, in keeping with those days, there was nothing electronic or automatic about the device.  In particular you had to work out your focussing by estimating the distance between you and the subject.  This was aided later by the purchase of a rangefinder which you clipped to the top of the camera body.  Even then a calculation was required.  It will be apparent from the said photograph that I had some improvement to acquire in that department.  A knowledge of depth of field might have been useful.  For the uninitiated this is the range of the picture that will be in focus with any specific combination of lens aperture and shutter speed.  This meant that even if Joe had been in sharp focus, Mum was not going to be.  Not that anyone has to worry too much about that now.  The factors are more critical when taking close-ups, but the modern camera does the thinking for you.

This afternoon Jackie drove us through splendid forest roads glorified by the strong, low, winter sunshine, to Calshot to show me Henry VIII’s small castle.  No doubt, like the nearby Hurst Castle, this was part of a warning system and a minor defence against a possible Spanish invasion.Calshot Castle Today there is an observation tower equipped with modern technology alongside the Tudor building. Tanker passing Calshot Castle Passing the castle was the oil tanker ‘Sovereign’, another symbol of modern life undreamt of by the sixteenth century holder of that title.

Gull rounding Calshot Castle

Gulls, rounding the castle, hovered on the gusts of wind that tore across Southampton Water, just as their antecedents have done for more than half a millennium.

Shoreline

Choppy waves sped across the channel separating us from the docks and Fawley refinery, and slid up the shingle beach and back down again.  WindsurfingThe wind that urged them along and held up the gulls provided exhilarating power for a number of kitesurfers, one of whom had to stop to blow up his kite.

There were many yachts wrapped and lined up near the bay. Yachts The Beach huttinkling of their tackle against the masts provided charming wind chimes.

Although, at high tide, we saw only shingle today, judging by the rows of beach huts lining the shore between the village and the castle, Calshot Beach must be sandy.  Jackie managed to pinpoint on the map exactly where we were and therefore to identify the docks; the refinery; and the Spinnaker tower on the far shore opposite the castle. Beach hutsRealising how close, when parked near the huts, we were to the Isle of Wight, she also identified Cowes and Ryde. Cyclist with Labradors

A cyclist taking his two Labradors for a walk wheeled through the car park, across the road, and back the way he had come.

We dined on Jackie’s juicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by sticky toffee pudding and cream.  I drank a glass of Via di Cavallo Chianti 2012.  Perhaps a little light for a fiery curry, this was nevertheless an excellent wine and just right for my head this evening.