Going Back

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“Treasure Island”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, and “The Wind in The Willows”, are just three long-term classics that have been marketed as children’s books. I keep no such distinction on my library shelves. That is probably why

Going Back001

Penelope Lively’s “Going Back” stands alongside Mario Vargas Llosa’s “In Praise of the Stepmother” among my novels.

I finished reading Ms Lively’s short novel a couple of days ago. I can offer no better review than to reproduce the author’s preface to the Penguin editor of 1991. She writes: “Going Back was first published [in 1975] as a children’s book. I suppose that was what I thought I had written. Reading it now, I see that it is only tenuously so; the pitch, the voice, the focus are not really those of a true children’s book. Looking at it fifteen years later, I see it quite differently, and recognise it as a trial run for preoccupations with the nature of memory, with a certain kind of writing, with economy and allusion. I was flexing muscles, I think, trying things out, and it was only by accident that the result seemed to me and to others to be a book primarily for children. It has been in print ever since, but has led a shadow-life, I suspect, skirted by children properly way of what perhaps was never an apt offering anyway, and unknown, to others who might have found something in it. When a new addition on the adult list was suggested, I thought this a reasonable idea.’

Market it for whomever you like, it is splendid example of reminiscing into a well-remembered wartime childhood as a vehicle for exploring the author’s themes.

Desk cleaned and tidied

I overslept this morning enough for Jackie to get at my untidy desk still bearing a layer of fine dust from the installation of the new kitchen. This she cleaned, tidied, and polished to a level to make me frightened to spoil it. The items now perched on my printer and scanner were rather scattered around the desk. Well, I knew where everything was. Now, like polishing a new car at least once, I will just have to sort the piles and maintain its current condition. Even the keyboard and mouse are shiny, and, when scanning old slides and negatives, I will now know which are blemishes in the scanned material needing retouching, and which are globs of something unpleasant on the screen.

The history of The Church of St John the Baptist, Boldre, can be seen on my blotter, which contains more coffee than ink. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that we would need more visits to supplement the information given there. With another day of unrelenting rain we decided on going back to seek out

Grave of Edward Watts, St John the Baptist, Boldre

the oldest named tombstone in the graveyard. This is that of Edward Watts, who died on May 12th 1698. After all it wouldn’t matter much if that was wet, would it? Now, far more lichen obscures the inscription than on the photograph that illustrates the booklet, which directed visitors to take twelve paces from the East end.

East Window, St John the Baptist Church, Boldre

The East Window helped me locate the stone that I had missed on a previous visit focussing on the graveyard. This, in 1967, was designed by Alan Younger of London, in memory of two generations of de Mowbray Royal Naval officers. It was fortunate that the artist lived until 2004, because he was able to restore the piece after someone had thrown a brick through it in 1995.

I had a pleasant conversation with the Revd Canon Andrew Neaum, who was, with two helpers, working on decorations.

Rain on windscreen

Perhaps we experienced divine intervention when the rain lashing the windscreen on our arrival, suddenly ceased, and

Lichen covered trees

lichen covered trees opposite visibly brightened.

Water running down Church Lane

Nevertheless, rainwater streamed down Church Lane,

Water running under fence

ran under a fence,

Waterlogged garden

waterlogged the garden at the bottom of the hill,

Swollen stream

and swelled the river running through it.

Lichen covered fence

Just like that on the gravestone and the trees, lichen clung to an elderly rustic fence opposite.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb spicy pasta arrabbiata with which I drank Paniza gran reserva 2009

Flounces

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We are experiencing a little colder spell at the moment, and, this morning drove out to the forest in bright, crisp, sunshine

Woodland

At the top of Mead End Road, on the outskirts of Sway, lies Boundary car park, leading to a wooded area

Ponies in landscape

overlooking moorland on which, today I spotted just two distant ponies – a grey and a chestnut.

Reflections in pool

Flecks of ice still lay on the reflecting surfaces of recent pools

and crusted the muddy paths trodden by the horses

on their way down the slopes.

Horse riders

One pair of riders chose to keep their mounts on the road.

The lengthy log stacks, with the application of saw cuts, splits, lichen, fungi, moss, ivy, and painted lettering, contain much abstract potential.

Tree stump

This two-faced stump looks both jubilant and resigned at having evaded the final felling.

Reflections in pool 1

Reflections in waterlogged terrain, such as this at Wootton enhance much of the forest floor.

At this point an extended area sported the silvered flounces of a can-can skirt.

This evening we came back for a second sitting of Jackie’s splendid pasta arrabbiata with which I drank Reserve des Tuguets Madiran 2014.

 

 

Tales From The River Bank

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BT excelled themselves today. Readers will remember that on 18th December I had cancelled my useless Broadband package, and retained the landline, having to create a new account to include £5 per month to keep my e-mail address. I was told that this new account would be in my name. Even though the payment has come out of my bank account for years they have never been willing to substitute my name for that of Mrs Stockley, who is in any case now, once again, Mrs Knight.

The latest bill still includes the full package, so I went through the hoops and the wait to speak to a man with an Indian accent. He was very helpful. He assured me that there would be a refund on the next bill. But. That is still in the name of Mrs Stockley. It cannot be changed. I politely expressed my displeasure. Eventually the gentleman told me it could be changed at the cost of £50. I hit the roof, and demanded that this be lodged as a formal complaint. It took him a while, but he returned saying he had done so, and included  something to compensate for the ineffective Broadband. A manager will call me back within 48 hours. We will see.

Believe it or not, British Gas then capped this. I received, in the post, a bill for almost £700, including a sum of more than £650 I had paid by phone on 11th. I telephoned them. I went through more hoops. And another wait. I learned that the payment, like many others, had not gone through, because of a fault in their system. I was advised to check with my bank that this was so. I expressed displeasure at having to do this. The woman at British Gas offered to call me back in 20 minutes to check. My bank statement confirmed what she had said. She did ring me back. I paid the money and advised her that a simple letter of explanation enclosed with the bill would have been in the interests of customer service – something that her company could well do with.

Later, I decided to go on a long walk. Not, this time, literally. The trip was undertaken in July 2003 in a supportive fundraising effort for the epic row Sam was to undertake the following year. I have featured various anecdotes from the walk, the first appearing in ‘Nettle Rash’, before I had unearthed the negatives. I began to scan them today.

Sam took delivery of the specially designed rowing boat at Henley on Thames, and off we set on a fine Summer’s afternoon around the time of my 61st birthday. He and his friend James took the boat, whilst I walked along what I had hoped would be the footpath. I soon discovered that the banks of the River Thames and the Oxford Union canal were not as smooth and foliage free as that branch of London’s Regent’s Canal alongside which I had trained for the event.

Couple on riverbank 7.03

The stretch along which I followed this couple was plain sailing in comparison with what I had to battle through in the post highlighted above.

Lock gate 7.03

Elderly lock gates, green tresses dripping with possibly unsavoury water, were to be a regular feature of the journey. This was quite useful, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up.

Waterfowl 7.03

Waterfowl were plentiful;

Suckling goat 7.03

a woolly goat, or perhaps a sheep, suckled its young;

Riders

slightly older horse riders ambled leisurely along;

Lichen 7.03

and yellow ochre lichen clung to knobbly branches.

Bridge

Numerous bridges were to be negotiated.

This house is one of those in which I enjoyed a peaceful overnight stay. The story of the most notable exception is told in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’.

These fields were probably located in the vicinity of the above house.

This evening, over dinner, we experienced more of faceless moneymakers’ scant regard for customer service. Our meal was taken at The Raj in Old Milton. On this Saturday night the carpark was virtually empty and, although the restaurant was doing brisk takeaway business, we were the only diners. The first thing we noticed was that, entering the parking area as usual we found ourselves passing through no entry sign. Then came the frequent notices stating that parking at any time, was only permitted for 20 minutes and anyone overstaying would be charged £100. Jackie parked in the street outside and I spoke to the  manager. Apparently, with no warning whatever to the row of shops fronting the parking area, the landlord of some of the buildings has implemented the restriction. Many of the outlets, including The Raj, are freeholders who bought their buildings with free parking included. The first owners of the Raj building did so in 1962. There are two other caterers in the block. None of their customers could eat and leave in 20 minutes. All the occupants of the block have joined in making a legal protest.

Jackie chose chicken sag; I chose king prawn khata; we shared a plain paratha and special fried rice, and both drank Cobra beer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sussing Possible Rentals

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For much of the day, Jackie drove me and Flo around the forest, focussing on the location of a few flats she has found that might be suitable for her to rent. First on the itinerary was one over the antiques centre where Elizabeth has a cabinet.

From there we drove on to Ashurst to survey the forested area surrounding the secluded building. The low sun sent sharp shadows across the sparkling frosted terrain; and brightened reflections in the developing pools. Lichen covered broken branches lay all around.

A pony ripped its way through the bracken in which it foraged.

Once in the north of the forest, we brunched at Hockey’s Farm Shop at South Gorley. There, Flo photographed the alpacas, the donkeys, and the chickens. She was making a video with some still photographs of the New Forest.

A diminutive pony fed from a box on the side of a pen.

Sow with piglets

A contented sow shielded her three day old piglets from prying eyes. A notice warned that she might become grumpy if they were poked.

Donkeys

Donkeys always seem more in evidence to the north of the A31.

Godshill was our next port of call. We are unable to find the selected property, but we did tramp along muddy paths. The car’s access to the most likely location was barred by three farm horses, one of which was particularly large. As we made our way past them, the animals picked up speed and appeared to be racing us down the soggy slope on which mud mingled with equine droppings.

Farm horses waiting for tea

We thought it best to stand aside from these heavy-hoofed beasts. They swung round the bend at the bottom of the hill, coming to a halt at the farm gate. We were informed by the woman apparently in charge of their reception committee that they were assembling for their tea.

We failed to meet Becky and Ian here. After waiting in Godshill Cricket car park watching the moon rise and the sun set, we returned home to find the others there. Our problem was the lack of mobile phone signals depriving us of the ability to communicate on the move, on which we have all become so dependent.

This evening we all grazed on cold meats, cheeses, and salads Jackie laid out on the kitchen table.

 

 

Ice Art

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With most of the rest of the country under snow, our little micro-climate had none, and was just minus two degrees when Jackie drove me out to the forest this morning.

Around Wootton and Wilverley Plain, the terrain and its pools felt freezing frosty fingers;

frigid ferns flickered;

fallen leaves lit and unlit lay lambent or shaded.

Trees, bracken, and lichen brightened as the sun rose above larger arboreal screens.

Dog walkers strode across the plain.

Steam spiralled from nostrils of cattle and ponies.

A fret saw had been applied to the small patches of frozen water scattered among layers of leaves and pebbles, producing delicate ice art.

The way we live now means that friends and relatives dropping in on spec is largely a thing of the past. That our niece, Danni does this periodically is therefore doubly pleasurable, because she is, of course, delightful company, and knows a thing or two about the use of computers.

We enjoyed convivial company for an hour or two and she was able to confirm that I wasn’t doing anything wrong in trying to search out receipt of a recorded delivery letter I had sent to a partner of O’Neill Patient, the solicitors who had provided such appalling service over the remortgage. Almost a month after sending the letter I had received no reply, so, this morning sent a rather shirty e-mail. The response was that they had never received the letter.

After spending the best part of half an hour on the phone to Royal Mail, I learned that the letter had never been delivered, and had neither been kept by them nor returned to me. Apologies were profuse. I then sent another e-mail apologising for the tone of my first, sending a copy of the letter, and stating that, when the recipient had read it, he would understand why I had assumed that it had been received but not reached his desk.

Later this afternoon I collected the currency from the bank and posted it to Australia.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s famed chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice. My wife drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta Malbec 2016.

Waiting For A Bus

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This afternoon, Jackie drove us around the forest.

On the outskirts of Brockenhurst a troop of cattle exercised their right to hold up the traffic.

River Lymington

Over Lymington River

Swing over Lymington River

a swing has been suspended from a tree bearing

a lengthy lichen-laden limb kept out of the water by a complicated system of rigging.

Pool and reflections

A pool is filling up on the other side of the road.

Crow on shrub

Wherever we go we are likely to see a crow perched high enough to explain the term ‘a crow’s nest’.

This one could observe ponies chomping whilst waiting for a bus.

Ponies on moor 1

I was just thinking how sleepy one of the animals looked, when it turned and yawned in my direction.

An isolated individual had no competition for the grazing on the other side of the road.

Sun, tree, pool

At East Boldre, the sight of the sun behind a tree mirrored in a pool,

 

encouraged us to return in time to watch the sun drop down below the horizon

and deepen the red, gold, and indigo hues above.

Ponies keeping the grass down here were oblivious of the beauty above.

This evening we dined on fishcakes, one Thai, and one parsley and cheese, served on a bed of onions, peppers, tomato, and garlic; with runner beans, carrots, and cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the Malbec.

Forest Pursuits

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We spent the morning driving around the forest before lunching at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms.

Misty landscape with sun

The strong early morning sun forced its way through the rising mist, and eventually dominated the blue skies, warming

the landscape,

Oak branches

and eventually lighting the lichen-covered oaks,

some of which were reflected in the myriad of pools like these on the way to Burley.

Pool and golf green 2

Crossing the road I arrived at another small lake that turned out to be part of a golf course.

As I contemplated the green further up the hill, I imaged what it would be like to hit your ball into the water.

Preceded by their voices a group of golfers dragged their bags into view. I passed on my thoughts, and the gentleman facing me in the second picture, informed me, with a wry smile, that they didn’t need to imagine it.

There are many fords on the forest roads, with bridges for pedestrians wishing to cross swollen streams. This crossing near Burley was dry,

Stream 1

and clear water flowed fast beneath it.

On this fine spring Saturday there was much traffic on the road. This did not deter somnolent ponies who ignored cars slaloming around them and cyclists whizzing through the central gap.

Horse

A domestic horse tore nonchalantly at the beech hedge beside its wire fencing.

Telephone box reflected

At Brockenhurst a working Telephone box was reflected in a seasonal pool.

The structure had clearly been left exposed to the elements without protective paint for a number of years. A pile of rubbish carpeted the floor, and it was necessary to negotiate a discarded poop scoop bag to reach the peeling door.

Perhaps it would have been an idea to offer the management to local residents as in the case of this one at Wootton. This is also reflected, but it would be more savoury to make one’s way through mud and pony droppings than the obstacle mentioned above.

There were many golfers playing on various courses on this beautiful morning.

Dog being dried

Also engaged in forest pursuits were dog walkers like this couple drying their dog after a romp amongst the dewy bracken.

Cyclists abounded. Take note of the two heads ascending the hill behind those in the first picture.

Horse riders on Forest Road

Many horse riders were seen on the country roads and across the moors.

Joggers exercised alone,

Joggers

or in couples. Do you recognise the two heads seen on the road to Burley? Here they are somewhat later.

For lunch at Holmsley Jackie chose her favourite macaroni cheese. My meal was an excellent fish pie served with carrots, peas, and greens.

This evening the Culinary Queen produced a thick mushroom and cheese omelette for our dinner.