The Lady Plumber


It was Homer in The Odyssey who first described dawn as having ‘rosy-‘ or ‘rose-tinted fingers’. This morning we saw how apt his description was. There is, of course, as much controversy about the identity of this ancient Greek, or even Greeks, as there is about our own William Shakespeare’s. Something else the two have in common is that their phrases have become part of international language without speakers necessarily knowing from where or from whom they originated. I expect you can all think of examples. For starters, here is one I learned only this morning: ‘Manners maketh man’. We must have all heard this one, but where does it come from?

‘William of Wykeham’, according to Barrie Haynes, ‘was not a bad lad’. This is how my friend began his ‘Between Ourselves’ column of 22nd July 2009, in a Lincolnshire newspaper, Target Series. He then goes on, among other pieces of information, to tell us that William founded both Winchester College and New College, Oxford. The phrase quoted above has been adopted as their motto by each of these educational establishments, for it was their founder who coined it. Thank you, Barrie, I didn’t know that.

Barrie’s column ran for 76 weekly issues from 2009 to 2010. It is entertaining, sometimes provocative, and a mine of information. I am slowly working my way through the collection he sent me. I am not tempted to skip anything. The man is a delight, and I hope he soon succumbs to my pressure on him to start writing a blog.

During an hiatus in the work of Sam, The Lady Plumber, who fitted our dishwasher this morning, I walked the route through Roger’s fields, along the side of the wood, left along Cottage gardenthe bus route, and back up Downton Lane, pausing as usual to admire the cottage garden on the corner. Cosmos, marigolds, and nicotiana were the plants I could identify.Hang glider and crow

A crow, with another in the distance, tracked the hang glider that reflected the deep blue of the Solent, visible from the fields at our end of the lane.Wood

Fly on dead branchAs I walked along the side of the wood, my face tickled by spider’s strands stretching across the footpath, I felt thankful that I was not a fly, one of which basked in comparative safety on a dead branch.

Sam, The lady PlumberTo return to Sam, she is not phased by any problems she encounters. On each occasion she has worked on our plumbing, she has found the need for another piece of equipment, and has happily gone out and shopped for it. Today the pipe leading from the dishwasher to the water supply was too short, so she bought an extension. Sam is also willing to sort out other problems. Whilst testing the machine she spotted a leak in one of the sinks, unscrewed the elbow and found a broken washer. This meant another trip to the suppliers. She had other jobs to complete first, but undertook to come back to us afterwards, which she promptly did.Sam Davidson Matching the washers had been a difficult task, so Sam was justifiably triumphant when she had fixed the new one to her satisfaction.

Work continued somewhat sporadically in the back drive. We are slowly getting there.

The Happy Wok at Ashley once again provided our evening repast, liquid refreshment being Hoegaarden and Bishop’s Finger.

Fascinated By His Shadow

We use door stops in the flat. This morning I bent down to hold back the living room door so that Jackie could wheel in the coffee trolley, nutted the mock-Georgian brass handle, and cut my forehead. That, I thought, was a trick worthy of the early film-makers. I doubt I could do it on purpose.

The fierce wind howling through the trees and hurling blinding icy darts into my face as I set off for today’s walk was much more powerful than that coming off the Channel yesterday. I just about reached Minstead Hall before I decided I didn’t want the exercise that much, turned around, and retreated back to Castle Malwood Lodge.

Derrick Leicester marathon 1983

As always, when rain is that piercing, I think of the Leicester marathon in 1983. Although this photograph looks sunny enough, there was an awful squall which hit us as we turned a corner somewhere en route. Perhaps it was short-lived in reality, but it has lingered long in the memory.

After lunch I scanned another 16 black and white negatives from 1982. On the very end of a rollI found another of the line out pictures featuring on 15th January. Derrick in lineout 1982Much of the image suffers from light pollution, but I think it is amusing enough not to crop it. Here I am definitely about to leap. For those who don’t know, I’m the hairy one in the middle.

Brewery Tap chimney maintenance 1982The Brewery Tap 1982The next roll of film would have been used after October in 1982. Intrigued by the maintenance work on its chimney, I took several shots of Wandsworth’s Brewery Tap. Like so many pubs, this historic hostelry is now, having been closed in 2006, about to give way to redevelopment. I was just trying out my telephoto lens, unknowingly reproducing something for posterity.

Jessica 1982Sam & Soldier outside building 1982Soon after this, Jessica and I took Sam and Louisa out to a National Trust establishment where the rest of the film was shot. I don’t remember the location, and the only clue I can offer is contained in the elongated photo of Sam and ‘Soldier’. Should anyone recognise the corner of the building I would be grateful to hear from you.

Recently, under the auspices of Facebook, a distraught little girl was reunited with ‘Roar’, her soft lion toy. I wrote of such Transitional Objects on 29th January. Sam & Soldier 1982Well, ‘Soldier’ never came back from this trip, and Sam did not appear at all troubled. We needn’t have feared. There was, of course, no Facebook then.

Sam & shadow

It was clearly a sunny day on that occasion, for our son was fascinated by his shadow.

Whilst I was working on these negatives, I became aware of a steady drip that told me the recent leak had returned. Once again the gully on the balcony upstairs had to be cleared. Apparently the felt roofing is in a very bad state and has to be attended to.

We dined this evening at Family House Chinese restaurant where, as usual, we enjoyed a good meal in a friendly family atmosphere. Jackie drank T’Sing Tao beer and I drank the house red wine.

As we leave Totton and approach the Cadnam roundabout there is a large road sign which should make clear which turn-off you need when you approach the roundabout. What follows is no longer a problem now we know our way around. Van on A336There is however, almost always, as there was this evening, a small van bearing ladders parked right in front of and obscuring part of this notice.

In The Brearley Mould

As planned, yesterday lunchtime Jackie drove Flo, me and Scooby to Shelly and Ron’s for a most convivial lunch and afternoon which stretched into the early evening.  A storm raged throughout the journey, the Modus wheels sending up high waves on either side as it disturbed the numerous pools across the country roads.  Despite still recovering from a cold Shelly produced an excellent turkey and sweet leek pie inspired by Jamie Oliver.  I was particularly impressed my the lightness of the pastry, which I gather is quite difficult to attain.  Ron and I drank Malbec.  I’m not sure what those with a preference for white wine enjoyed.  An excellent apricot flan with ice cream and/or cream was to follow.  Port, Madiera, coffee, and mints brought up the rear.  Later came Christmas cake.

I had been misinformed about the likelihood of being prevailed upon to play Trivial Pursuit. Instead we played an hilarious game of Who?, What?, Where?.  For those who, like me, haven’t come across this before, the idea is that each participant wears a cardboard hat into which is slipped a ticket with a person, object, or place inscribed thereon.  The wearers, in order to establish their unseen identity, ask questions of the other players who may answer simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  If the answer is in the affirmative the victim may ask another question; if in the negative, the next person in a clockwise direction has their turn.  I was no better at this than I am at charades.  It would have helped if I hadn’t assumed that the hats bore some relevance to what was written on the tickets.  This, given that my hat was a deerstalker, caused me to waste two questions on Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.  I  managed to establish that I was a person no longer alive, then forgot that I was defunct.

All in all, mine was not a great performance.  That of Helen and Bill’s son John on the CD ‘John Eales Sings Christmas’, with which we were afterwards entertained, was somewhat better.

Fortunately Flo opted to spend another night with her grandparents, so we arrived home earlier than expected.  It wasn’t until rather later that we managed a little cheese and biscuits, after which I read Giles Foden’s introduction to Benjamin Cowburn’s ‘No Cloak, No Dagger’.

Rob, the ‘general handyman’ engaged by Penyards, who is extremely reliable, effective, and efficient, visited this dry morning, and confirmed our diagnosis that the leak from above was a matter for estate management, who are contracted by all the residents and landlords to look after the property as a whole.  Nevertheless, having been unable to gain access to the flat upstairs because no-one was in, Rob and his colleague obtained a ladder, mounted the balcony from the outside, and cleared a blocked gully.  Once the fuses were replaced the underfloor heating could be turned on to no ill effect.

In ‘Did You Mean The Off Break?’, I wrote of my initiation into Wimbledon College Under 14s cricket team. Derrick in Wimbledon College under 14s cricket team The team photograph taken in 1956 at a time when, at the end of the season, we had all reached fourteen, is number 40 in the ‘through the ages’ series.  Give the Persil-washed condition of our whites, I imagine it must have been before the start of a game.  Just in case anyone has trouble picking me out, I am third from the left of the viewer’s perspective in the back row.  I believe fourteen was the age at which I became a permanent fixture of that particular row in group photographs.  Next but one along stands Roger Layet, who I was, a year or so later, very pleased to persuade to play for Trinity Cricket Club.  A correct, if somewhat painstaking batsman, Roger was an asset to any side.

Iain Taylor, as captain, sits in the centre of the front row.  As  a captain and a cricketer, he was in the Mike Brearley mould.  Both intuitive and insightful characters who could make friends easily, they managed their players extremely well, yet neither was particularly outstanding as a player.  You may think I have a bit of a nerve to describe a man who could captain England (Brearley, not Taylor) in such a way.  Brearley was, however, probably the most outstanding captain this country ever had.  He could manage Ian Botham, for goodness sake.  It was in the Brearley years that our greatest all-rounder – famously aided and abetted by Bob Willis, particularly at Headingley in 1981 – performed his most miraculous feats.  Mike Brearley, indeed, a psychotherapist, was described by Australian opponent Rodney Hogg as having ‘a degree in people’.  And Iain could manage us.  He did, of course, recruit me, so his judgement must be sound.

On Ian’s right (from his perspective) sits Mike Miliffe.  Mike was the batsman who succumbed to my bowling as described in the above-mentioned post.  I was to learn, playing alongside him, how fortunate I had been to succeed against him in the nets.

Our skipper is flanked on his left by Bob Hessey.  Bob was an outstanding fast bowler.  His speed and accuracy was aided by an easy, athletic, run to the wicket and flowing action.  I could have done with that.

Flo is still with us, as is my friend Tony who arrived this evening.  He, Jackie and I dined at The Foresters Arms in Frogham.  In the dark and rain, stepping out of the car and walking to the pub gate, we found ourselves treading on what seemed like hard round balls.  On closer inspection they turned out to be Brussels sprouts, no doubt scattered for hungry ponies.  Unusually for a Thursday evening, we were the only diners.  This was no doubt because most people were partied out after the last few days.  We received our usual warm and friendly welcome.  Jackie and I enjoyed battered haddock and chips, whilst Tony chose sausages and mash.  He abstained from dessert whilst Jackie and I partook of sticky toffee pudding and ice cream.  I had a couple of glasses of Malbec; Tony drank Wadsworth’s 6X; and Jackie drank lager.

The Traditional English Tea

We stayed in this morning for a visit from the owner of the flat upstairs and a technician sent by her insurance company.  On 2nd March I described a leak from number 9 that had dribbled through our ceiling.  Christine, in residence, is the tenant.  Sarah, the owner, had been told by the insurer that, in order fully to investigate the cause of the intermittent penetration of our ceiling, it was necessary to aim a device at our plasterwork from inside our flat; the electronic gadget, allegedly capable of its own painless penetration, would be able to diagnose what was wrong with the bath. Apparently looking directly under the bath was not an option.

This rather mystified us, but we had no objection.  It rather surprised the technician too.  He had no such instrument, and had no idea how he was supposed to diagnose the leak from a bath nestling on the floor of a room about twelve feet above the soles of his shoes, and through ceiling, joists, and floorboards.  After some quite lengthy and helpful discussion about the building, estate agents, and owners, Sarah and the young man repaired to number nine.  When he had left after completing his work, she kindly came to tell us that he had indeed taken off the side cover of the bath and found what was wrong;  apparently an overflow and something to do with damp plaster, possibly from showering.

We were thus delayed in partaking of our brunch which was to sustain us until the visit, for a traditional English tea, of Helen and Bill and their German friends Hilda and her great nephew Simon.  This meant that we did not have time for checking out two prospective properties for which we have been idly surfing the net.  Or is it browsing the web?

Actually, we would have had time for two had we not got lost.  Property-wise we have rather a dilemma.  We are very pleased with the wonderful flat in its idyllic setting that we occupy.  But we do have to pay rent, and by the end of the year, we may just have enough money to buy somewhere.  Not, unfortunately, in the rather expensive New Forest.  So, we have been having a look on the property websites, but not actually at any houses themselves.  Today we decided to at least reconnoitre the areas of a couple of places that could not be more different.  The first a pretty cottage in a pretty lane in a pretty village; the second a large ground floor flat in an Edwardian Manor pretty much like what we have at the moment, possibly even grander.

Fyfield Cottage

We found Fyfield Cottage in Everton with no trouble, and had a wander around.  Fyfield Cottage gardenIt is more extensive than it looks from the very narrow West Lane, and has a lovely garden with a new shed and parking space for three cars.  I have my doubts about whether the ceilings would be high enough. Honeysuckle and actinidia Every home in the lane was attractive, and I was particularly taken by the happy juxtaposition of honeysuckle and actinidia in the hedge opposite.  Just window shopping.

It was the second possibility that proved elusive.  This was Ossemsley Manor near Bashley.  We knew exactly where it was.  But how to get to it?  Had my driver not turned right too soon we may well have been congratulating ourselves.  But she did.  As the track began to peter out, we came alongside a teenage girl on a horse accompanied by an older woman on foot.  The girl claimed not to be any good at directions and left her companion to set us on our way.  The young lady had said we needed to go straight ahead, but wouldn’t be able to get through the gate in front of us.  We followed the other’s directions, and after we had detoured for a good mile or so, our paths crossed again.  Our informants had only travelled about a hundred yards, or metres.  This was after the car’s suspension had been sorely tested by invisible speed bumps set in a badly made up road.  I was convinced we were going in the wrong direction so we turned around, returned to a proper road, and set off back to Minstead to be in time for our German guests.  In the process we drove the reverse of a long stretch I had walked on 27th February.  I was then able to see where we should have gone.  Had I only realised where we were or remembered the name of the common where I had seen the chicken cross the road, we may have had better luck.  As it was, we had to put off that little recce.

Bill, Helen, Hilda & Simon

Our guests arrived on time and were treated to a traditional English tea.  The kind that no-one ever eats today, unless on holiday in the West Country.  Which I suppose they were.  A bit like the Full English breakfast only being consumed when staying at a B. & B.  And since everyone except Simon, who preferred sparkling water, drank coffee, it wasn’t quite authentic.  Nevertheless the excellent spread included the traditional cucumber sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, strawberries, two different cakes, and even biscuits with an assortment of cheeses and pickles, and was consequently enjoyed.  It was a more than adequate evening meal for us.

After the repast we all watched an old sixteen millimetre film starring Helen, Jackie, and a little later, Shelly, taken by their Dad, Don Rivett, about sixty years ago.  The format, after several reincarnations over the years, is now DVD.  Guest appearances are by their paternal grandparents, mother and father, and cousins Adrian and Christopher Barlow.  Although the sisters have seen these films often, the memories came flooding back.  Since it was silent, it probably gave poor Simon a rest from listening to spoken English.

‘Er Indoors

Judith photographing landscape 8.12

Last night and this morning I read ‘Roman Britain’, Peter Salway’s contribution to the 1984 Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, another of Ann’s books.

Thierry and Geoffrey arrived early to continue the work.  It won’t be finished before I leave, but, no matter, much was done.  They had been awaiting instruction from Saufiene who was in Tunisia.

When, in August last year, I had walked with Judith (posted 10th August), a broad circular route on the perimeter of which lies Mescoules, the conditions had been so different.  Then it had been a blazing hot day.  Today was cold, damp, and overcast.  Cattle in fieldCattle seemingly lying in a field amidst tall grass stirred themselves into an ungainly gallop as I approached, and stood expectantly by a water-trough in a far corner they knew I must pass.Calves  The adults soon lost interest in empty-handed me and, whilst they were there, visited the trough, now surrounded by a quagmire.  I retained the calves’ interest a bit longer.

Tractor tracksTractor tracks through a barleyfield left an interesting pattern, such as might be considered a crop circle message.

At least the snails were enjoying the weather.Snail

This seemed a longer stretch than I remember it.  Perhaps it does on a dull day without company.  Had I held my nerve for a few yards longer, I would have passed a smallholding I recognised and not felt the need to reassure myself by asking for directions of the only person I met en route.

A gentleman was standing, legs astride, with his back to me, beside his van parked alongside a house.  He emitted a stream, shook his right elbow, hoisted his shoulders in a shrug, and lifted the arm about a zip’s length.  The French are more relaxed about these things.  Perhaps it was his own house and he had forgotten to take a leak before he left it.  Having politely waited for him to finish I asked him the way to Sigoules.  To my relief, he confirmed my intentions and told me I had an hour to go.  Fortunately it only took 45 minutes, as the rain soon came down again.

Lunch at Le Code Bar consisted of noodle soup; chitterling salad; tender beef served with penne pasta; and apple tart.  I could have had salmon salad, but chose the chitterling because the only other time I had attempted to eat one it had been raw.  I swear the butcher had told me this was an option.  It hadn’t been palatable.  When I told David this he curled his lip in distaste.

Back at the house the trapdoor remained a problem.  Thierry is to make another, much lighter model, in his own workshop.  Even with a new system this very heavy, subject to moisture, and knackered current door will be cumbersome and just as difficult to dislodge.  I told him to stop struggling with it.

I shared great fun with the builders as I tried to explain the epithets ‘er indoors’ and ‘she who must be obeyed’ from the long-running television series ‘Minder’ and ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’.  They had asked me for the English version of femme, as in wife or Mrs.  I felt obliged to give them options.