The Golden Touch

PlantersMole trailOn the way through the garden this morning, to continue working on the back drive, I paused to admire Jackie’s two new planters, originally candle-holders from Redcliffe Nursery. They display her usual flair. Turning into the drive, I encountered the trail made by a mole. As this stopped at the site of the bonfire, perhaps last night’s embers were still warm enough to deter it from popping its head out.Pruned conifers
Jackie soon joined me and she made good progress pruning the conifers along the side of the fence between us and 5 Downton Lane.Wire netting 1Wire netting 2 Hampered by wire netting through which grew thick brambles and a number of trees, I, however, taking the whole morning, covered about two yards. Three hours and a couple of feet separate these two photographs. After that we stopped for lunch.Fuchsia
Fuchsia and blackberriesA little further down, some fine hardy fuchsias form a splendid hedge. They blend well with the blackberries, which we are picking as we go along. Butterflies are enjoying our long summer. Red Admiral and blackberriesComma butterflySpeckled Wood butterflyA Red Admiral seemed particularly partial to the blackberries, while the broad shiny leaves of trees we cannot identify bore a Comma and a Speckled Wood.Jelly babies wrapperIMG_0306LichenCricket on dandelion
For variety, I took the longer Downton Lane/coast road route to the shingle beneath Hordle cliff, and returned via Shorefield. A jelly babies wrapper, linaria vulgaris, lichen, and dandelions, one of which attracted a small cricket, lent golden touches to the hedgerows. Rust stains on beach hutSpaniels being photographedVariations on this hue were provided by rust stains running down from the iron hinge of a beach hut, and by the tennis ball being held up by a gentleman encouraging four spaniels to pose for their photograph. Women and spanielIt was a day for spaniels, one of whom frolicked with a group of four young women.
This evening we dined at Daniel’s in Highcliffe. We each enjoyed haddock and chips, mushy peas, and onion rings. I drank tea, and Jackie drank coffee.

After The Deluge 2

Yesterday evening Bill drove Helen, Jackie, and me to the Fuchi Chinese fusion restaurant in Totton. One of their favourites, this establishment is rather more up-market than Family House, which remains one of ours. The food was first class, and the service excellent, once we had struggled through the accent of our beautiful waitress with her very strong accent. This young lady understood us very well and spoke very good English once you could get your ears adjusted. It was quite fun really.
There was something of a pause between dishes, obviously the result of everything being freshly cooked. Helen chose a dish served in a hot stone pot with a fried egg on top of it. The man I took to be the young proprietor tossed this, mixing in the egg, and served it to Helen, informing her that it was enough for three people. We all had a share. It was good.
Jasmine teapotJasmine teapot 3Jasmine teapot 5The highlight came at the end of the meal. This was Helen’s jasmine tea. The hand-made clear glass teapot was perched on a stand of the same material. Now I know why tea lights, one of which was placed under the pot, are so called. A rounded teabag was undone. It contained what looked like a small walnut. This was dropped into the hot water, and we watched, fascinated, as a beautiful flower unfolded in the gradually darkening liquid reflected in the shiny black composite table. I don’t know what the tea tasted like.
Castle Malwood signA31
Pool & treeRipped branchSnatching sunshine between showers after another night of heavy rain, risking losing a shoe to the suction of the bog it now is, I wandered around the small section of forest that lies between our Upper Drive and the A31. It has taken a heavy toll in recent months.Fallen treeRoot & pool One huge branch has been ripped from its trunk. Deep pits, once dug for gravel, not yet filled by autumn leaves and other detritus, are now small lakes reflecting such surrounding trees that are still standing, and aiding the erosion of those that have fallen. Ponies visit for a drink and a meal of lichen and holly, now much more easily accessible.
Against the lightRipple & reflectionRipplePoolsReflection
Mossy trunkShadowsAs I walked out, raindrops from a recent shower, still sliding from branches overhead, dripped pattering onto last October’s leaves and forming ripples on the lakelets.
Bright emerald green moss contrasted with the soggy russet leaves on which the sun radiated long, strong, shadows.Telephone cableSawn trunk
The telephone cable brought down by the toppling, large, lichen-covered tree on 11th February still trails along the verge. It is itself undamaged.
WaterloggedWaterlogged 2
Much of the area is completely waterlogged.
Sun through treesbacklit reflection
Reflections seen against the light of the sun penetrating the trees are seen in silhouette.
On 28th February I observed that the evolution of what starts out as compost soup can be very varied. For today’s lunch this became chicken stoup (stew/soup). Added to the soup of that date was the remaining rich liquid from the evening’s sausage casserole and some freshly cooked further chunks of chicken. Superb.
Smoked cod, baked beans and chips accompanied by Roc Saint Vincent Sauvignon blanc 2012 provided our evening sustenance.

Through The Underpass

This morning I decided to walk through the Malwood Farm underpass and see how far I Soggy terraingot before I gave up on what I expected to be a rather soggy terrain. It probably would have been a better idea to have stayed on the roads, or at least worn Wellingtons instead of walking shoes.
Even before I’d left our garden, I could see that more trees had come down, and the steep downhill track leading to the underpass confirmed this, so I was not surprised to see the extent of the damage wrought by the winds, once I ventured into the forest itself.

Fallen treeThe large shrub that has fallen in the garden lies across the stump of the recently deceased cherry tree. I think it is a buddleia.

Fallen tree Malwood

This is just one of the recent falls on the short stretch to the underpass.

Underpass to Malwood farmThe sight of Malwood Farm in sunlight at the end of the tunnel was welcoming, and the promised return of the wet, windy, weather did not materialise until this afternoon.

The terrain, however, was rather less inviting. It was indeed soggy.  Pools lay, and new streams flowed, everywhere. Mud patches inhaled deeply in an attempt to snatch my shoes.

It would have been unprofitable to have tried to pick out one of last year’s safe paths. The way would be blocked by either a quagmire or newly fallen trees, or both. As is usual in these circumstances, I followed pony trails.New streamFallen tree across path

Fallen trees across path
Enter a caption

The animals are at least a little likely to attempt to avoid the suction underfoot, although I would not have been surprised to find one or two stranded in the mud.

Malwood streamMalwood stream (3)I had thought to take a rain check on the sandbagged ford before deciding on whether to cross it or not. Forget that. I didn’t even venture across the mud bath leading to the sandbags. It seemed politic to stay on our side of the winding stream I call Malwood.Malwood stream (2)Malwood stream (1)Malwood stream (5) I walked along it for a while, then retraced my steps and returned home.

Malwood stream (4)LichenWalking back through the forest to the side of the farm fences, I noticed much beautifully shaped pastel coloured lichen clinging to fallen twigs featherbedded by a mulch of deep dark brown autumn leaves.

My share of the five-egg mushroom omelette with toast that was for lunch, went down very well.

This afternoon I finished reading Voltaire’s story ‘Le Taureau Blanc’. Here the philosopher, in advocating the search for human wisdom and happiness, is having an ironic pop at the fantasy of the Old Testament. At least, that is the sense I make of this fabulous tale.

This evening we dined on succulent sausage casserole with creamy mashed potato, crisp runner beans and cauliflower, followed by creme caramel. I drank more of the Bergerac.

Sausage casserole mealJackie’s sausage casserole has an interesting provenance. What she has done is perfect my adaptation from Delia Smith. This is the tops.

For four to six servings:

Take 12 sausages;  lots of shallots; plenty of button mushrooms; a packet of Sainsbury’s cooking bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces; 3 big cloves of garlic; 5-6 bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoonful of dried thyme; 3/4 pint of pork stock (if pork sausages – today’s were  Milton Gate pork and apple from Lidl which provide a touch of sweetness); enough red wine to cover the contents of the dish.

Red peppers provide a bit of colour, but are not essential. Similarly thickening with the help of gravy granules or cornflower may be required.

Method:

Fry the sausages until browned on all sides and set aside.    In the casserole dish then fry the bacon and shallots with the crushed garlic. Add the stock and wine; bring to the boil, turn down the heat, add the bay leaves and thyme, pop the sausages back in and simmer for 3/4 hour. (The simmering refers to the cooking heat. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt a suppressed emotional stance).

Then add the mushrooms and simmer for further 20-30 minutes.

Jackie cooks this dish without a lid until the sauce looks rich enough, if necessary adding one of the thickening agents.

The final touch of the peppers may be added in the last few minutes.

Aviemore

Lower DriveBeside many cattle grids are placed small pedestrian gates, for ease of crossing.  Most people seem to either drive or walk over the grids.  Mat’s little Jack Russell, Oddie, simply trips across them.  Flo’s Scooby, on the other hand, managed to slip and hurt his foot on one.  Our lower drive gate is so seldom used that the latch grows moss.

Today’s walk, starting by crossing the grid, was to Fritham where Jackie met me at The Royal Oak for a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of beer, and drove me back afterwards.

SheepThe sheep in the field alongside Furzey Gardens road were looking very shaggy this morning.  All but one unfortunate, who appeared to be masquerading as the sheepdog in the Specsavers advertisement, and consequently retained straggly bits of fleece.  Or maybe the shepherd, having somewhat unsuccessfully sheered just one, had decided to have his eyes tested.Badly shorn sheep

There were still some boggy patches across the heath on the North side of the A31.  So maybe sandals wasn’t a good idea. Stream crossing point But the ponies usually find a way through, and they know it is much more fun to ford a gravelly stream than to squelch through a soggy quagmire.  At one point I disturbed a dear little doe who scutted away from the gorse bushes before I had seen her.  Had she just lain doggo I would have missed her altogether.  But then, she didn’t know that.

AirplaneTaking a short cut across the heath near Fritham, and hearing the drone of a single propeller airplane, I looked aloft in time to see it disappear into the fleecy clouds.  Possibly the plane confused me, for it was soon after that that I realised the short cut wasn’t.  This required the unnecessary circumperambulation of several farms and contributed to my being slightly late for our rendezvous.  Had I not taken this minor diversion I possibly would not have met the smallest foal I have ever see. Ponies and foal He will no doubt grow up to be a Thelwell pony like his Mum.  A little later I was rather chuffed to be able unerringly to direct a car driver to the pub.

With less than a mile to go I found my way barred.  A cow had adopted the standard New Forest stance of head in hedge.  She stirred herself sufficiently to extract her tagged ears and fix me with a stony stare. Cow on road This necessitated a little rear negotiation on my part.  I shifted a bit sharpish as she twitched her tail and tap-danced her back legs.  She may have also moved her front legs, but I wasn’t looking at those.

It is just possible that my ‘poof redders’ may be tempted to inform me that you won’t find either ‘scutting’ or ‘circumperambulation’ in a dictionary.  As far as ‘scutting’ is concerned it seemed to me to be a perfectly good way of describing the bobbing of a deer’s scut, or rear end, as it romps away.  And why not describe a circular walk as a ‘circumperambulation’?  After all, sailors get away with circumnavigation.   I’m hoping the Oxford Dictionary scouts spotted that one when I first used it on 20th July last year.

This afternoon, having slumped a bit after our lunch, we stirred ourselves to visit a National Gardens Scheme open garden in Bartley. Aviemore front garden We were so pleased we did because we could not have anticipated the breathtaking display that greeted us in this comparatively small establishment in a village street.

CerintheAviemore back gardenHaving been planted with expert knowledge and care it is clear that this garden has been planned for all-year-round colour, with an eye for texture and shape.  So varied is the fare that I could identify only a fraction of the menu. Poppy and pond Trees have been carefully pruned; when one plant is over for the year, up pops its neighbour, like the poppy by the pond; variegated leaf adds to the palette;  and all kinds of artefact are used as containers.  Huchera potsButler sinks are filled with succulents and alpines.  One of these lies atop an old mangle.  Mata Hari lounges in a corner by the stream that flows through the bottom of the back garden. Lichen-covered chair A chair has faced the front garden pond long enough to harbour plentiful lichen.  Almost every tree or trellis has a resident clematis or other climber.Cabbages  Raised beds have been constructed for vegetables.

A tasteful, artistic, and skilled hand has planned the optimum use of the whole plot, a modest one that can be viewed on an epic scale.  I remember my surprise when I first saw the originals of some of William Blake’s engravings and realised how small were these monumental works. Azelias Shrubbery, AviemoreAviemore is not dissimilar.

I could go on and on about this home of Sandy and Alex Robinson and their eldest son, Gavin.  Perhaps the attached photographs may be more eloquent.

Helen and Bill’s champagne, Etienne Dumont 2012, was a slightly incongruous, but nevertheless delightful, accompaniment to our evening meal of fish and chips, mushy peas, pickled onions, gherkins, sliced bread and butter, and tomato sauce.

Boxers

Le Roby cornerAs it circles the sky the sun’s rays move around rue St Jacques.  The valerian corner focussed on yesterday is the first recipient; by mid-afternoon the back wall benefits; the front of the house is lit in the evening.  Although still very cold and subject to ferocious winds, the clouds dissipated somewhat yesterday and I was treated to light shows, first of the shadows of next door’s oriental grasses, bowing, bending, and snapping back on the garden wall; then the fragile flickering of leaves of the trees opposite in the kitchen.

Early this morning I finished reading Susan Hill’s excellent novel ‘The Service of Clouds’.  The writing is beautiful, with spare descriptions of nature and the use of various other devices to reflect the theme.  She manages to avoid creating an air of melancholy in what is essentially a tale of sad, emotionally unfulfilled lives.  It is about disappointment, isolation, and loss.  Moments of happiness are brief.  This latter is symbolised by children flying kites which soar aloft, only to plummet when the wind drops.  She brilliantly evokes the experience of the ending of life in old age, and captures the effects of childhood on later years.

It was a bright morning when I set off towards Monbos.  Not far out of Sigoules is a sign pointing to Le Roby.  This time I obeyed the stop sign and followed the arrow.  The road is very short, leading to a few houses behind which is a grass track bordering fields with a view across the valley.

The juxtaposition of pale irises and red hot pokers at the corner I turned, had me thinking of Fire and Ice.  These were the boxing nicknames given to two policemen, partners, friends, and rivals, played by Aaron Ekhart and Josh Hartnett in Brian De Palma’s film ‘The Black Dahlia’.  Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank also star.  As it is worth watching, I will say no more.

W.C., Le RobyIrisesA garden in the little hamlet offers a different iris colour scheme.

I wondered whether the door marked W. C. on a rather ramshackle outbuilding was still in use.  It seemed a long way to go from the house in the middle of the night.

GrassesThe grasses on the track were like those that grew on the railway path behind 29a Stanton Road in which I grew up.  Today the stems are soft and a fresh lime green.  Later in the summer they will be dried out and yellow as corn.  Just as they were when we, as children, used to slide our fingers up their stiffness, making their seeds fly off.  It was fun to aim them at each other.

Soon the track was taped off and I could go no further. Donkey, Le Roby A donkey beneath a lichen-covered pussy willow tree in a field of buttercups, seemed, at first, to be my old friend on the Pomport road.  This one, however, was younger and better kempt.

Santas on drainpipeTwo intruders out of their normal time were scaling a drainpipe.  Perhaps the weather has confused them.  I found myself wondering whether they were early or late.

It was just as well I’d gone out earlier because Clement arrived to check the work soon after I had returned.  Saufiene having been in Tunisia, as I knew, his partner had been unable to phone me because he didn’t have my number.  I gave it him.  He had visited on Saturday when I was out.  I expressed my disappointment at the lack of completion, and gave him my French snagging list on which he complimented me.  He agreed with all my observations and, indeed, found a few more.  He said he would give Thierry a slap and bring him here tomorrow to finish off.  When I responded that he might ‘get one back’ he said ‘You don’t know me.  I’m a great boxer’.

This being a bank holiday, even the bar was closed.  Showers had begun at mid-day, so I have dashed up and down to my perch outside Le Code Bar in between precipitations in order to post this, after I had lunched on a Carrefour pizza.  That means I ate it, not that I used it as a plate.

On The Plane

Before setting off by my usual transport methods to Sigoules this morning I left Flo a note granting her permission to use my chair, my computer, and my house keys for the rest of her stay.  I trust she felt honoured.  We are very pleased that she will keep her Grannie company whilst I am away.

A gentleman much larger than me sat beside me on the aisle seat in the plane.  Actually that one had been allocated to me.  I tactfully asked him to rise so I could sit in the more cramped window seat.  Discretion seemed to be called for.  In fact he was very friendly and, as soon as was permitted, moved up to the front where he could spread himself across two empty spaces.  I quipped that one of us had to go and since he was bigger than me it had to be him.  The airline are very relaxed about people changing seats but it has to be after we are on the move.

A Welsh family sat behind me and, gazing down on the patchwork quilt of fields and model houses rapidly diminishing as we rose into the clouds, a small boy asked his grandfather if that were the whole of Wales beneath him.  ‘That’s England’, was the reply.  ‘Is it the whole of England?’ asked the lad.  It wasn’t.  The interrogation ended there.  Thinking of Malachi’s ‘why?’ game, I was rather relieved.  It could have gone on a long time.

I was rather intrigued by a couple in front of me.  A slender and beautiful young woman, when not reading Caitlin Moran or playing with her iPod, or whatever it was, fondly rested her head on the shoulder of her chunky grey-haired male companion.  I did my my best to convince myself that this was a father and daughter.  A wedding ring and certain tender aspects of behaviour soon suggested otherwise.

Suppressing thoughts about lucky dogs I persevered with ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger, which I had chosen as light relief after ploughing through Wordsworth’s biography.  An explicit scen involving a ghost and her grieving lover didn’t help much.

It was 7 degrees and raining when we touched down in Bergerac twenty minutes late.  Sandrine was waiting patiently to drive me to Sigoules.  Trees in leaf and blossom provided evidence that it has recently been as warm as twenty degrees.  In order that there should be no misunderstanding about the correct day of my return trip (see post of 5th February) I handed my driver a print-out of my flight details.  All I have to do now is remember it.

Lichen Sigoules war memorialAfter I’d settled in I had a stroll round the village where lichen thrives on the trees in the war memorial garden.  A late lunch of boiled eggs, baguette, and an orange was to follow.

A warm welcome awaited me in Le Code Bar this evening.  They are still not opening the restaurant in the evening so I settled for a complimentary bowl of olives to accompany my Stella.

Sadly, I have forgotten the battery charger for my camera so I will have to be very parsimonious with new photographs until the juice runs out, and supplement them with some I made earlier.

No Respite

Last night Flo went out in the dark to attempt to photograph deer on the lawn.  They barked at her.Tree horizon 12.12

On another wet and windy morning I popped into the shop on my way to Football Green, took the back road up to Bull Lane, right into Seamans Lane, and back home via upper drive.  Anne, a customer in the shop, on learning that there was an increase in the price of what she was buying, said: ‘Everything goes up.  Nothing comes down’.  ‘Except the rain’, was the reply I couldn’t resist.  Strangely enough this didn’t get a laugh.  She wondered when it would ever stop.  It is Anne whose village garden is waterlogged.

Along Lyndhurst Road long wiggly lichen-clad oak limbs bounced up and down in the blustery wind. Lichen-clad oaks 12.12 Given that they host such slow-growing organisms these branches must be resilient enough to have withstood such blasts in the past.  Many of these branches, fallen with the parasites still clinging to them, litter the forest.

In a field along the back road a dripping jacketed horse pressed against bare deciduous trees.Horse sheltering 12.12  There was no chance they would keep the rain off, but they may have provided a windbreak.

The fastening securing the tarpaulin covering stacks of hay in a soggy farmyard was severely tested. Farmyard tarpaulin 12.12 It was the sound of its flapping that drew me to peer over the tubular metal gate to see the cattle chewing away under shelter.  Raindrops hit the tops of the bars of the gate, slid round the tubes, reformed on the undersides, dropped to the next bar, and eventually reached to the ground.  A bit like A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh bouncing, limb to limb, down his tree in E. H. Shepard’s delightful drawing.

In Seamans Lane Martin, driving for a change, stopped to ask me if I was OK walking.  He fully understood my desire to continued being drenched.

Kalu on edge of table 12.12Kalu (see 28th) is maturing nicely.  This afternoon, on encountering the edge of a table, he would back away.  Like Robert The Bruce’s spider he wouldn’t give up.  Time and again he walked forward, reached the precipice, backed away, and repeated the process, until Flo put him on the floor, to explore in safety.Kalu backing away 12.12  He now does this adventurously and without complaint.

This evening we revisited last night’s meal.  It was still delicious.  I drank Campo Viejo rioja 2010, followed by a glass of Fortnum and Mason’s late bottled vintage port 2007, sent to us by Wolf and Luci.  Jackie’s choice of accompaniment was Peroni.

Afterwards, watching ‘Jurassic Park’, Flo thought it prudent to turn Kalu off.

All Saints Church

On a dismal midday I walked down to The Trusty Servant, turned right and visited the church at the top of the hill, before returning home.

A clique of cyclists laboured up the road past Minstead Hall as I was walking down towards them.  ‘Hey, it’s Father Christmas,’ called out one, peering through specs which could have done with a lens wiper mechanism.  Given that I have had a good haircut and a beard trim since 1st December, I was a little surprised at this until I reflected on my walking boots and bright pink tracksuit bottoms.  This time my disguise was unwitting.

All Saints Minstead church12.12

This was my first visit to the church to which I must bring Jackie on a better day.  All Saints, Minstead dates, in parts, from the thirteenth century.  The Grade 1 listed building offers glimpses of past and present ages, from the Saxon-made font to the 1938 lychgate commemorating three successive members of Squire Compton’s family, Rectors of this parish for 90 years.

Compton window, All Saints Minstead 12.12Perhaps more famous Compton memorials are the two stained glass windows, one of which, called ‘The Knight and Angels’ is dedicated to the squire’s son Henry, who died in 1923.

When we first came to live in Castle Malwood Lodge Jackie noted the profusion of lichen in the area.  She said it signified the clarity of the air. All Saints Minstead churchyard 12.12 As I entered the churchyard I was struck by the presence of numerous different lichens on the stones and on the trees.

Wandering on this hillside wondering at the writhing shapes of the branches and the tilted angles of the weather-worn gravestones; buffeted by the howling wind; and blinking through the raindrops glazing my eyes, as I sought out the last resting place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is buried here, it was impossible not to reflect on the writer’s novel ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.  No doubt a balmier day would have conjured up a different image.

This evening Jackie produced a delicious lamb curry complete with special fried rice, popadoms, paratas and relishes.  I finished the Dino.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Ian Peroni.

Return Of The Deluge

This morning I walked down through Minstead some way past The Trusty Servant until, finding the road impassable without wellies, I turned back.Pool across road 12.12  Driving through this particular pool later confirmed that my decision had been sound.

I described yesterday as a respite from the deluge.  It was a very brief one.  Relentless rain that had started up again in the night persisted during the day.  Lichen 12.12Moss and lichen thrive in these conditions.Stream down road 12.12  I waded the streams, supplied by swollen ditches, that were our village lanes.  Drains were blocked and new pools had appeared. Blocked drain 12.12 Never mind, much of the mud was now washed off my walking shoes.

No animals were abroad.  Even Primrose and Champion’s field was empty.  I do hope they had been removed to somewhere warm and dry.  I saw no birds.  When we drove through the village this afternoon we had to negotiate the rear ends of seven cows with their noses in buried in hedges.

The Mobile Library was bravely and optimistically stationed opposite The Trusty Servant.Mobile library 12.12  The Local Authority Library Services are some of those facilities much reduced by economies since the recession, so it is good to see one still available in such a remote area.

On my return I met Dave on his way for his newspaper.  We stood in a pool and chatted for a while.  We couldn’t get any wetter.  That is, provided we continued successfully to leap like schoolgirls over a swirling skipping rope, every time a car went by.  The tsunamis they threw up had me reflecting on Hokusai’s great wave painting.

Jackie then drove us to Shelly and Ron’s where, together with Helen and Bill, we were given a plentiful salad lunch before I went with the three sisters to Walkford’s waterlogged Woodland Burial Ground to place a Christmas wreath over the interred cremated remains of Veronica Rivett, Jackie’s much-loved mother and my lovely ex-mother-in-law.  Woodland burial grounds are places where people are laid to rest in natural surroundings.  Here there were some graves, but generally the much smaller plots contain ashes marked with a simple low-level labelled post.  Natural wild flowers are allowed to be seeded and to grow over these areas.  In other sections than this one people may also plant trees.  At the entrance to the site a row of silver birches stands in a new pool where, as we were leaving, Wellington-booted children spuddled about, disturbing the ducks which had been enjoying a change of scenery from their lake.  Afterwards we settled with coffee and mince pies to watch Ron’s holiday videos until it was time for Jackie and me to leave for the Chichester Cathedral Carol Service.  On the A35 we encountered the first flood warning sign either of us had seen actually alerting drivers to a real flood.  This caused a bit of a hold-up.

After a brief return home Jackie drove us through swirling rain to Chichester.  Fortunately we arrived in the town half an hour early.  This was lucky because it took us twenty minutes driving around trying to find a way into West Street where we were to park in the Prebendal School staff car park.  When we did manage that we couldn’t find the car park.  The entrance to this, in darkness, was tucked between two tall buildings.  Jackie waited in the car in the street while I went hunting for it on foot.  This was conducted whilst on the phone to Ian seeking confirmation that we were in the right place.  He, Becky, and Flo, who were caught in traffic, did not arrive until exactly the start of the service, when we were esconced right at the front of the Presbytery.  We didn’t see each other until afterwards.  It was a privilege to have been invited to listen to such a beautiful choir in such a splendid historic setting.

When the service was over we all ate at The Old Cottage, a surprising name for an Indian restaurant.  The food was excellent and three of us drank draft Cobra.  Becky had diet coke and Flo drank apple juice.  We had a very enjoyable time, after which Jackie drove us home in 42 minutes.  Since Becky’s family will be moving to Chichester eventually, this was a rather encouraging journey for the future.