Hoisted By My Own Petard

Front path

This morning, whilst Jackie continued with her planting, tidying, and extensive garden maintenance, I carried out some more work on refining the gravel path in the front garden. This involved marking out a line, digging up and either moving or rejecting stray plants, and  replacing some rocks and concrete that line the side nearest the house. Some of the hellebores were so interested in my activities that their normally shy flowers actually raised their heads. These can be seen my clicking on the image above.

‘A Suitable Boy’, Vikram Seth’s novel, a magnificent saga of an Indian family, came up in conversation recently. Although not normally a name-dropper, I just had to mention that I had received a very complimentary letter from the author a dozen years ago. In ‘The Listener Setters’ Dinner’ I describe how this came about.

The Times Listener Crosswords were ones that I enjoyed setting during a period of about twenty years. They are termed ‘advanced cryptics’ as they are very difficult both to create and to solve. The clue solving was often the easy part, as there is always a final twist that requires further thought and activity. One of my devices was to involve solvers in producing a drawing at the end. Four-Letter Word was one of these that earned the praise of Mr Seth.

Thinking it might be fun to present this to my WordPress readers, I consulted my albums of published puzzles. Because of the nature of this work, I was required to solve the entry method. I couldn’t do it without a struggle that took me quite a long time. Well, it was as long ago as 12th October 2002 that it appeared in the newspaper. The solution, published on 2nd November, for reasons that will become apparent, didn’t have much printed in the grid. Thus, I was hoisted by my own petard.

I am fully aware that most of my readers will not be familiar with cryptic crosswords, so I will not bother you with the clues. It is the theme I would like to offer.

The drawing I wanted to create needed flowing curves. How on earth was I to manage this on a typical square grid? It was after six months thought that I hit upon the idea of using hexagons in a honeycomb. That particular device was not original, but I like to think the use to which I put it was.

Focussing on the preamble and the grid, and ignoring the clue column, this is what solvers were presented with:Four-letter Word 001

The preamble is the paragraph on the left beneath the title. It explains what is required in addition to solving the clues. The grid is where the answers are written.Four-letter Word 003

Examples of entries given in the above illustration are 30 REGRET, 31 RIPPLE, and 32 PENNON.Four-letter Word 002

Once the whole grid has been completed and the correct sequence of letters blocked in, an outline that could be a cat is produced. I have used a highlighter to make it stand out. The initial letters of the 8 letter answers, in clue order, spell out CHESHIRE, helping to identify Lewis Carroll’s character. For clarity I have not confused the issue with a fully completed grid.Cheshire_Cat_Tenniel

With a little artist’s licence, solvers will have reproduced a suggestion of Sir John Tenniel’s famous illustration to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Four-letter Word 004

In that story, the creature disappears leaving its GRIN. Thus, according to the preamble’s instructions, solvers, having used a pencil, are to rub out everything but the four-letter word appearing above hexagon 38. This location is shown in the entry examples given above.

This evening, for our dinner, Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and egg fried rice was supplemented by the contents of a doggy bag provided by Lal Quilla last night. We were grateful that Elizabeth hadn’t been able to finish the chef’s special that she had enjoyed. So did we.


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.