Finding Its Feet

Lidl and Aldi are gaining ground in the war to control England’s Supermarket custom. Their quality is very good and their prices very low. There is no finesse in their layout of goods, and there is no guarantee that an item on sale in the central aisles will be in stock the next day. General groceries are usually in regular supply.

This morning, on a regular shopping trip to Lidl, Jackie bought me a linen/cotton blend shirt for £7.99. She would have bought another had she been certain that XXL would fit. It did. This afternoon we returned for another. She left me in the car and entered the store to investigate. The stock had been replenished.

She returned with five more. As she was about to drive off she casually mentioned that there was a linen jacket she hadn’t bought because I would have had to try it on. I took the hint and left her in the car so I could attempt the purchase.

By this time the jackets were strewn all over the racks. None were in their boxes because they had all been tried on.

My rummage revealed that there was just one that fitted me. I bought it Jackie asked how much it had cost. “£19.99″was my reply. “Crikey, that’s very nearly twenty quid,” was her response.

We continued into the forest where, at Frogham, we encountered more baby donkeys.

One was quite elegantly sedate.

The other was far more wobbly. As it slid along the back of the Modus it slipped and fell under the side of the car. Jackie turned on the ignition and I called out to her not to move. She turned the engine off and our little friend extricated itself, rolled over, and commenced clattering backwards and forwards along the tarmac, narrowly missing my sandalled feet. It was certainly finding its own.

It then sandwiched itself between another vehicle and a walking couple who eventually continued their trip along the road. The local woman expressed the view that this creature had probably been born today or yesterday.

From the high point of Abbotswell we looked down on ponies, foals, and cattle basking in the sunshine;

field horses did the same thing beside Blissford Road;

and, nearer home, ponies were silhouetted on Birchy Hill.

This evening we dined on creamy, tangy lasagna with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Squinzano.

Leaf Compost

The cranking clatter of marauding magpies heard as I walked down Downton Lane on my Mechanical diggerHordle Cliff top walk this murky morning, was to give way to that of a mechanical digger in Shorefield on my return. The latter, which was breaking up the concrete bases of the demolished chalets, could be heard from the beach.
Openreach engineer and vanPerched atop his ladder in the lane was an Openreach engineer whose van advertised Superfast Fibre. Perhaps others who have been sold this particular broadband are more fortunate than we are. This has been the fifth working day since BT informed us that it would take that long for us to be returned to our old copper broadband. We have heard no more.
Blackberry leavesBlackberry leaves at the cliff top and the seed cases of an unidentified shrub on the way Seeds of unidentified shrubup to Shorefield glowed brightly. It looks as if the seeds are relished by the birds. Does anyone recognise them?
StreamThe stream photographed late yesterday afternoon runs beneath Downton Lane and emerges near Bridge Cottage.
Perhaps because they were neither shrouded in mist, nor burnt out or silhouetted by strong sunshine, the South West side of the Isle of Wight and The Needles were as clear Isle of Wight, The Needles, and couple with dogas I have ever seen them. As I prepared to take this shot, the woman in the red coat disappeared from view, so I awaited her return. I then had a lengthy and wide-ranging conversation with the couple, while a cold wind blustered.
It has been my aim to build a row of compost bins similar to those I made at The Firs two years ago. I haven’t yet managed that, but leaves need to be treated rather differently than general plant matter, for they produce a more beneficial soil conditioner and therefore should be kept separately. In order to aid their decomposition they should have air circulating. A Leaf compost binplastic mesh frame found in the former kitchen garden provided the perfect receptacle, which, in fading light, I set up at the garden end of the back drive this afternoon, then made a rather desultory start to filling it from piles Jackie has been sweeping up over past weeks. The whirling wind gave me an acceptable excuse for deferring sweeping up any more today. I rather think we will need more of these containers.
Like most of their products, Lidl’s Bordeaux Superieur 2011 that I drank with my dinner this evening is surprisingly good. There is a twist to this particular bottle because Mo and John brought it back from Lidl in France, whereas we have bought similar in New Milton. Jackie drank another glass of the Cimarosa and we both enjoyed her succulent roast chicken, crisp roast potatoes and parsnips, and perfect peas, carrots and cauliflower. She says she is getting geared up for Christmas.

Is This Orlaigh? 2

After I had walked down to the postbox and back, the rain set in for the day. I amused myself scanning more of my loose negatives, viz. fifteen from the summer of 1982.
Matthew 1982Becky 1982 01 Sam 1982 04That year water pistols were all the rage, and Sam was delighted to be introduced to them by Matthew and Becky in the garden of Gracedale Road. In his photograph Matthew is wearing his P’tang Yang Kipperbang haircut.
Covent Garden Craft Market at that time when the area was in the process of being rejuvenated was the genuine article. Covent Garden 1982 03Covent Garden 1982 06Covent Garden 1982 07Tiffany lamps1982Stallholders brought their own work for sale and continued creating it on site. Although we no longer lived in Soho, trips up to the vicinity were always popular. It was during the one featured today that I photographed the picture that Alice snaffled.
The iPhoto application on my iMac has a face recognition facility. It automatically picks out a face and invites you to identify it. It does occasionally select something like part of a tree that could resemble a fizz, but on the whole it is remarkably accurate. If it thinks it knows whose is the likeness it asks ‘Is this [a name]?’ and gives the option to put either a tick or a cross in a box. A tick receives an automatic entry. A cross allows you to enter the correct name.Sam 1982 02

This shot of Sam prompted the question ‘Is this Orlaigh?’.

Orlaigh is, of course, the daughter of Sam and Holly, and hasn’t quite yet reached the age her father was in this picture.

One of the consequences of finally acquiring a dishwasher is that, unless you run it before you have filled it, you need more of everything so that what you need is not in the machine awaiting a wash when you want it. This led us in search of a ten cup cafetiere this afternoon. Despite visiting Lidl, because you never know what you might find in the central aisles, we came home without one.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole (recipe), mashed potato, runner beans, and carrots, followed by ginger sponge and custard. She drank Cimarosa chenin blanc 2014, and I drank more of the rioja.


Yesterday’s steady rain changed to showery weather today. One rainfall soaked us as we ran from the car to Molly’s Den; another kept us in the car when, after the Den shopping trip Jackie and I drove down to Barton on Sea.
The return visit to Molly’s was in search of some Victorian glasses for Shelly’s birthday. We found them and also the bonus of present for someone else which cannot yet be mentioned.
Having read the post of our previous visit to this emporium, Barrie Haynes regretted that I had not photographed the play bus. I had not done so because it was swarming with unaccompanied children and I was therefore afraid to do so. This time parents were there supervising their offspring. When I explained that our friend, who has an interest in such things, would like me to photograph the vehicle, they were only too pleased to assist by ushering their infants out of the way to give me a clear view of Bessie’s Play Bus. I ruefully reflected that it would have been much nicer had the ‘ess’ in the title read ‘arr’. So, here you are Barrie:Bessie's Play Bus
The ‘Bronco’ toilet paper of the 1940s was made of a single layer of tissue paper, rough on one side, and shiny on the other. It wasn’t very comfortable, and if you used the wrong side you could get yourself into trouble. Mum’s dress patterns, being rather flimsy, were not much better, but in post-war Britain you used what you could get hold of. Again on our last trip to the cubicles (in Molly’s Den), I had found some framed pattern covers, roughly contemporary with those Mum cut up for us to use when closeted. Today’s find was even better. Dressmaking patternThere were two actual patterns from the 1940s in their covers. I eagerly opened one of them so I could once again feast my eyes on our loo reading material from that decade. These examples were American and only printed in English so I was denied the pleasure of once more seeing the word that had creased us up when we were early learners. When I had shown Elizabeth the pattern covers, and mentioned them on the phone to Mum, each of them had the same initial response to make: ‘Schnittlinie’. Probably aided by the symbol of a pair of scissors at the edge of the line, I was quite proud, all of seven or eight years old, to be able to translate ‘cutting line’. Elizabeth, incidentally, twelve years younger than me, never had the joys of reading the word, but it was already firmly embedded in family culture. Hence her immediate association with it. As a matter of interest, on account, no doubt, of the number of visitors we had recently, Jackie first of all had shopped at Lidl for a replacement stock of toilet rolls, on which we had experienced a run.
I have now taken so many photographs of the Isle of Wight, that I amuse myself by varying Isle of Wight through wet windscreenthe weather, the light, and the viewing angle. The heavy rain on the windscreen gave me a Chrysanthsdifferent option today. It is in the picture, just above the bar of the car park barrier.
The rain eased off enough this afternoon for us to begin to populate the flower bed cleared by Elizabeth over the last couple of days. I dug a space, which involved moving an acanthus further back, and Jackie planted half a dozen chrysanthemums she had bought in Lidl. They don’t look much at the moment, but next year they should be up to two feet tall.
Late this afternoon we drove over to Shelly’s birthday tea party. She had produced a splendid array of canapes, well-filled tasty sandwiches, pork pie, warm quiche, and homemade cakes accompanied by cups of tea and glasses of Cava. She was very pleased with our present. She had in fact told us about Molly’s Den, which added a pleasing touch to our purchase. Jackie and Malcolm were there, as was Pete, and daughter Katie who is about to open her own stall at a similar outlet in Wimborne, so the conversation naturally led to stories of antiques and auctions. It was particularly nice to meet Ron and Jackie’s parents, Ray and Daphne.

Piquant Cauliflower Cheese

This morning I finished reading the preface to Madame Bovary. I hadn’t realised that Flaubert’s now acclaimed novel once enjoyed the limelight, like ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H. Lawrence, more than a century later, of an indecency trial before being published in book form. Lawrence’s mediocre novel was first published privately in Venice in 1928. Not until the obscenity trial of 1960 could it be published in UK. Naturally the trial’s publicity boosted Penguin’s sales enormously.
The day began dry, but dull and blustery. It soon brightened. I walked through London Minstead to Shave Wood where Jackie met me and drove us to New Milton’s Lidl for a shop, then to Milford on Sea for lunch at The Needles Eye cafe, after which we returned home via Bolderwood.
TerrierA black terrier who lives on Seamans Lane, the self-appointed guardian of his home usually menaces me with savagery when I walk past. Today; either he lost interest in leaping up and down, barking, and showing his fangs; or he has become accustomed to my presence, because he suddenly relaxed, stuck his head through the wire fence, and gazed calmly down the road.
The two heaps of sold timber lying on the forest verge at Hazel Hill would seem to be still awaiting collection.Sold timber
There was a little difficulty in obtaining a shopping trolley at Lidl. As anyone familiar with these devices will know, you have to press a £1 coin into a slot to release a metal tag entering the mechanism through the other side to enable you to pull out your chosen  steed from a string of others. Someone had jammed a coin into ours and it wouldn’t budge. We could neither withdraw it nor put a new one in. So we had to move to another set of trolleys and successfully try our luck there. When I reported the problem to an attendant, his manner, although polite enough, suggested he thought I had inserted the dodgy bit of currency.
Gulls on sea wallGulls on shingle
We didn’t stay long on the sea front at Milford on Sea. I swear even the seagulls were shivering on the shingle and the sea wall, not fancying any encounter with the winds and the waves. Those that did attempt to fly didn’t stay long in the air.
Waves & breakwaterRough sea on rocks
Rough sea on stepsRough sea & pool on shingleSpray on sea wallSpray mounting sea wallThe waves hurled themselves and buckets of shingle at and over the wall and created pools on the walkways with their myriad drops of spray. A couple of times whilst attempting to photograph the scene I was required to take evasive action, and a deposit of salt was encrusted on my viewfinder by the time I had finished.
Our return journey took us alongside the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive near where a Tree clearancenumber of very large trees had been ripped from their shallow roots and lay waiting to be dealt with by The Forestry Commission’s clearance crews.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s beautifully blended smoked haddock and cauliflower cheese meal. I believe the splendid special piquancy of this dish comes from the cheese sauce.
Its method of preparation is this:
To make enough sauce to cover quite a small cauliflower take: approx. 1 ounce of butter; 3 ounces of strong Cheddar cheese, cubed; a little less than 3/4 pint of semi skimmed milk; 1 3/4 oz plain flour; 1 teaspoonful of made up English mustard (for colour and piquancy).

Cheese sauce 1Consistency 1Cheese sauce 2

Consistency 2Cheese sauce 3

Consistency 3Cheese sauce consistency

Consistency 4

Place a small saucepan containing all but the milk over a high heat and stir constantly, adding the milk a little at a time once the butter has melted and is absorbed into the flour. The cheese will slowly melt into the mixture. Once consistency 4 is reached you can use it to dress the cauliflower, having lightly boiled that along the way.
Cauliflower cheese
Then add grated cheese and pop it in the oven to bubble away until it browns.
Today’s mashed potato included swede and onion. With it we shared the last of the Nobilo. Afterwards we ate jam tart and lemon meringue pie.

Death Of The Brown Velvet Suit

Yesterday I mentioned my mother’s postwar ingenuity.  Not just making all our clothes, but manufacturing her own toilet paper.  Of necessity, her squares cut from knitting patterns were not very comfortable, but they were at least strong, and did the job once you had done yours.Floralys  We are now inundated with numerous brands of this household necessity, all claiming to be soft and strong.  Having been engaged in extensive research in recent months we were relieved to discover the only one that lives up to its claim.  It is four ply. Not like other producers’ slender slivers of loosely connected paper each of which disintegrate the moment the slightest finger pressure is applied.  Four strong sheets guaranteed to stand firm.  Forget the rest.  Floralys super soft is the business.  And where can you buy it?  Where else but Lidl?  (I’ll take my commission now, Mr. Lidl).

Before our guests arrived for Sunday lunch, we paid a visit to Totton’s finest emporium, in order to acquire a few supplies.  The convenience of shopping on the Sabbath was not available in that bygone era when Mum was making do.  I have mentioned before how much you could buy with a penny during my childhood.  But we couldn’t go out and spend one on this day.

Helen and Shelly, Bill and Ron, joined us for lunch which was taken at a leisurely pace.  Helen, Ron, Bill & ShellyJackie presented a most impressive roast beef meal followed by spicy pumpkin pie or lemon cheesecake, or both.  Those who like red wine enjoyed Bill’s Carta Roja gran reserva 2005; the white wine drinkers preferred Palastri pino grigio 2012.  With our coffee we were treated to Turkish delight Helen and Bill had brought back with them from their recent holiday.

Ron brought a memory stick containing his video of John and Stephanie’s  wedding.  After a few teething troubles I got it to work on the iMac and we all relived the day.

With this particular group there is always an exchange of stories.  At one point we got onto the subject of bizarre motoring accidents.  This took me, and therefore the others, back to late 1972.  One weekend at that time I returned from visiting Matthew and Becky to where I was living in Gillespie Road, near Arsenal’s old football ground, to find my Ford Corsair concertinaed.  Its front and back had each been pushed in a bit. Apparently there had been an attempted murder in which another car had been used to run down a pedestrian.  Things got rather out of control and the murder weapon plunged into the car parked behind mine which was shoved into the one in front.

My listeners were probably hoping that that was the bizarre accident and the story would finish there.  No such luck.  There was more.  David Hignett, one of the social workers in my Southwark Area Team, with Pat Benge at his side, offered to tow me in his very solid Volvo, to Raynes Park which housed my garage in those days.  We set off after work, and drove at a rate of knots through London from north to south.  The chosen route took us into Chelsea’s King’s Road.  This was then the place to be noticed.  I certainly was.

David drove at a good thirty miles an hour, and didn’t seem to slow down for bends.  As we turned left into King’s Road, the towrope became entangled around my left front wheel. When we stopped at traffic lights I alighted from my car and waved to my friend who repeated the gesture.  Pointing to the underside of the vehicle I crouched down and began to tackle the rope.  The lights changed.  Off David sped.  I leapt to my feet and started running.  Between two motors tied together.  The one following had no driver.

Fans of Stephen Spielberg’s 1971 TV masterpiece ‘Duel’ will know that it is possible to be chased by an apparently driverless vehicle.  There was no question about mine.  It was driverless.  The driver was running down the road in front of it.

Naturally, I yelled a bit at David.  Pat screamed at him to stop.  He did.  My Corsair didn’t.  I turned to see it bearing down on me.  Bracing myself for the impact I caught my car in my hands by the front bumper and actually managed to stop it.  Unfortunately the front of the Ford also caught my leading leg, ripped it a bit, and my trousers even more.

As I limped to the kerbside after we’d all come to a halt, I might, I thought have been justified in being disappointed that no-one in the crowd that had now gathered seemed inclined to offer sympathy or concern for my health.  They were all looking for the film crew.  After all, why else would a young man wearing a brown velvet suit come a cropper in such an unlikely manner?

For anyone who is actually concerned, I simply suffered a little bruising, with my bones intact.

History Comes At A Price

When the whole row of checkouts in a supermarket begins to reject any credit or debit cards that are inserted into the machines at the counters, chaos ensues.  We know, because we shopped in Totton’s Lidl this morning.  Our prospective purchases were all laid out on the conveyor belt.  The man in front only had a few items to buy.  His card was rejected.  He fished around about his person for another.  That was rejected.  The young lady who had only just opened up our escape route, leant back, turned round, and asked the young man operating the one alongside for help.  He said none of the machines were working.  That wasn’t a lot of help.  Were the machines to be believed, no-one had any money in their accounts.

A lot of buzzing of buttons took place.  Along came a technical looking gentleman with a special looking key which he inserted into the end checkout machine.  Nothing much happened.  A man in a white shirt accompanied him.  The technician had another go.  ‘Will that work?’ asked our young lady of the official looking gent.  ‘It might’, he replied.  I don’t think that was the answer she was hoping for.

Customers were being very patient, but the queues were mounting up.  The man at the head of ours paid in cash.  We didn’t have enough.  We were informed that the nearest cash machine was some distance away.  Oh for Sainsbury’s, which always has its own ATM.  Eventually a new till was opened and seemed to work.  Our checkout person decided she would enter our purchases into a ‘lay away’.  This meant the details could be transferred to the till of young woman newly brought in as reinforcements. ‘Good thinking, Batwoman’, said I, and Jackie walked across to the next till.  The card being used at that moment was rejected.  Fortunately the ‘lay away’ worked, and we were able to get away, and drive to Ringwood Brewery.

Pony central refuge

The stationary object just off-centre of the middle of the road at Seamans Corner, appeared to be a new central refuge.  When we returned en route to Ringwood, it had gone.

Ostlers Keep

Ostlers Keep (1)

The purpose of the brewery trip was to have a look at a wonderful looking eighteenth century house we had seen on a website.  It was bang opposite the brewery on the busy road to Christchurch.  Never mind, if it is still for sale when we have the opportunity to look in earnest, we will be back.  Ostlers Keep is packed with original features.

Bisterne is on this same road, so we continued along it in order to have another look at the house by the Village Hall photographed on 30th August.  We wanted to see how far the garden extended at the back.  This involved entering the hall car park.  As I peered over the 6′ fence, the owner, Rod, approached.  I explained what we were doing.  He had no objection.  I said we didn’t want to disturb people until we had the necessary money, but acknowledged that we had rather disturbed him today.

Monmouth House

Monmouth House plaqueMonmouth House in West Street bears a plaque detailing the story of its name:

This has been for sale as long as we have been in Minstead, but we haven’t seen it on any website. Taking the name of the agent and investigating the window of Spencers of The New Forest, we discovered why not.  It is way beyond our possible price range.  Given that it leads straight onto the busy town road, we had thought it may not be too expensive.  Wrong.  History comes at a price.

P.S.  I pressed the wrong button earlier on and published this post a little too soon.  There will be a P.P.S.

P.P.S.   Jackie fed us this evening on steak and vegetable ragout with dumplings.  I drank Ogio merlot 2012.  I didn’t give Jackie any.  She preferred sparkling water.

I Had Just Won The Lottery

Copythorne Crescent house

Today it was time for a big shop. In this instance that meant a trip to Totton for Lidl and Asda.  On the way we diverted to Copythorne to recce a house in Copythorne Crescent.  The house looked good.  It was down a narrow unmade road with hedgerows alongside fields opposite. Necking horses In one field a couple of horses were necking.  There was significant road traffic noise from the M27 beyond the fields.

Lidl is more compact than Asda, so shopping there was fairly straightforward.  In the English owned store, we separated as I went off in search for wine to see if that is where the excellent Cotes du Rhone came from.  It was, but it wasn’t on offer at 50% reduction.  It cost £10.50.  Jackie normally buys half price bargains.  She thought she must have decided to treat me with that one.

Tramping up and down the aisles in Asda, evading – not always successfully – shopping trolleys, baskets, walking aids, and slaloming children, is easily the equivalent of a decent distance walk.  Why is it that no-one who suddenly stops, and reaches across the rows for an item which has caught their eye, is ever supplied with rear or wing mirrors or brake- or indicator lights?

And why, whenever I take our shopping across to the car, do I always get the trolley with out of control steering?  The Asda one was fine today, so it is a slight exaggeration to say that I always get the dodgy trolley, but, given that we went to two shops in one trip, it would be fair to say I always get one per journey.  The Lidl one was different.  It was a prime example of the need sometimes to lean heavily on one side of the carriage whilst at the same time attempting to steer it straight from the front.  Today it became slightly more complicated when playing dodgems with a woman being pushed in a wheelchair.  The man escorting her was an expert steerer, but he did have to allow for my veering in front of him.  Eventually the couple simply stood and stared, as I struggled to prevent my steed from falling off the edge of the kerb before reaching the dropped section.  Once you reach your car with these wheeled bearers it is the devil’s own job to stop them from running into your vehicle whilst you decant their contents.  Like the errant shoppers in the store, they don’t have brakes.

When I eventually did empty the trolley and return it to its rack, I met a couple of unforeseen obstacles.  Lidl’s bays are reached by pushing the trolleys between two parallel bars.  At the end of the row you are rewarded by the sight of a line of these baskets on wheels attached to the last of which is a key chain that you insert into a slot on your trolley so that your £1 deposit is spewed out for your collection.

The first obstacle was a young woman leaning on the bars arguing into her electronic cheek extension who seemed to have no conception of blocking the road.  I gently pressed her shoulder and pointed to my trolley.  She shifted her position barely enough for me to get by without the slightest pause in her one-sided debate.   Having reached the trolley rack I was ready to insert the key.  I saw no slot in my handle.  A brief technical examination revealed that the container for the slot was loose, cracked, and had swivelled underneath the handle. With consummate skill, I righted the pocket, inserted the key, caught the flying £1 coin, and returned to the car feeling I had just won the lottery.

Sweet peasMichael came for a visit this afternoon and stayed over.  As we sat in the garden I was entranced by the late afternoon’s sun’s rays lighting up the sweet peas and other glorious flowers in Jackie’s pots.

Our dinner consisted of sausage casserole, potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage; followed by apple crumble, custard, and ice cream.  Michael and I drank the Cotes du Rhone while Jackie quaffed Hoegaarden.

IKEA 3 (R18)

On this clear, cold, and sunny morning I took yesterday’s walk in reverse. Smoking chimneys enlivened the line of the horizon.  Distant cattle lowed; cocks crowed; steam rose from one sunlit ditch whilst a blackbird spuddled in another; the occasional cyclist whirred, and the occasional car sped, past.  Otherwise it was just me and the ponies.

Walking back through London Minstead, I was greeted by another Father Christmas (see yesterday’s post).  The word must have got around.

Later in the morning we decided to assemble our IKEA bed.  Extracting the headboard, Jackie realised it was too wide to fit our carefully measured space.  Too wide by 17cm.  I got out all the paperwork and checked the identification numbers on the boxes against the measurements given on both our Self Service Picking List and the Sales Receipt.  Consistently shown on each docket and on each box are the measurements 140 x 200; thus the three bed frame items are marked BED FRM 140 x 200.  Our bedstead was 157cm wide.

Now, as my readers know, I will always find the humorous side of any situation.  If it is possible.  We were not amused.  Not in the least.  I reached for my phone and dialled customer services.  A machine warned me that there was a waiting time for calls being answered from between 20 and 30 minutes.  After being notified for the second time that I was number 13 in the queue, I blew a gasket and was all for going straight back to IKEA there and then.  In the meantime, Jackie had consulted a 2013 catalogue which she had picked up on departure from the store.  She found the bed frames listed as 157 x 211cm.  These were to take a 140 x 200 mattress.  If that were so, then why are the boxes and documentation for the frames given as 140 x 200?  And why didn’t our extremely helpful shop assistant not make this clear?  Did she know any more than we did?  I was no calmer.  They could have the whole lot back and refund all the money including delivery charge.

Jackie, however, remained calm and thought again about the layout of the room.  If we moved a portable cupboard and brought the bed up to the large French windows we could just about make it feasible.  We could squeeze past the bed to open the windows when necessary.  What we couldn’t have was a bedhead jutting into the doorway.  So far, so good.  All we have to do now is put it all together.  Tomorrow.

After lunch we drove to Totton for a vast Lidl shop.  In the process we found a very good quality double airbed for 10% of the cost of the IKEA bed.  So we bought one.  There is plenty of room in the sitting room for this, which means we can now accomodate two couples.  We had momentarily considered that we should have had an airbed for the spare room and still sent the IKEA one back.  Then we remembered nights in Louisa and Errol’s spare single room on a double air mattress on the floor with no way of heaving ourselves up because there was no space around the bed, and thought better of it.  Have you ever tried to prise yourself up from the middle of an airbed whilst in intense pain from a hip requiring replacement?

Before dinner I made a few amendments to my next Independent crossword puzzle scheduled for 27th.  We then ate spare ribs in barbecue sauce with vegetable rice followed by baklavas.  Jackie, having taken the entire contents of Lidl shelves, drank Hoegaarden, and I consumed Cono Sur reserva 2010, an excellent wine of which, unfortunately, we cannot remember the source.

Prolixity Or Concision?

Early this morning I finished reading Robert Graves’ ‘Count Belisarius’, which, I have to say, I found rather heavy going.  I know enough about Roman history to admire Graves’ research and his knowledge of Belisarius’ successful conquests of the Goths, the Vandals, and the Persians; and his relief and defence of Rome during the reign of probably the longest serving Emperor Justinian and his ex-prostitute wife Theodora.  I don’t know enough to question any of his remarkably detailed coverage of individual campaigns and battles.  Since this is an historical novel there may be a measure of invention and embroidery.

The author is evidently fascinated by warfare and its techniques, which I am not.  How this, possibly the greatest, Roman general mastered the terrain, mustered and deployed his troops, and outwitted his enemies doesn’t really intrigue me.  Apart from the perfidious Procopius, historians have focussed more on the military than the private man.  Procopius was one of the tools of the jealous emperor in the Count’s ultimate betrayal and downfall.  Graves has done what he could to fill in our sense of the man, his wife, Justinian, and Theodora.  He refrains from Gibbon’s salacious descriptions of the notorious empress.  I am, nevertheless, pleased to have read ‘Count Belisarius’, whose name lives on in the prolific US television output of Belisarius Productions.

Somewhere, sometime, in the past year or so, I have read an observation that journalists do not make good writers of literature because they do not use the long sentence.  The view was that they are so accustomed to writing immediate, almost staccato, prose that they cannot produce other than short sentences.  Like this.  Be that as it may, whoever awarded E. Annie Proulx the Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Shipping News’ must not have agreed.  Robert Graves, on the other hand, perhaps because he wrote in the first half of the twentieth century, is a long-sentence specialist; that is he manages to string a great many words together, making full use of punctuation – and relying quite heavily on dashes – before allowing himself the luxury of the full stop that brings that particular sequence of words to an end.  I trust the journalist Lynne Truss, who wrote ‘Eats, Shoots And Leaves’, an attempt to address the importance of punctuation, would approve of Graves’ scholarly work.  Probably.

Jessica was once told by one of her teachers that she and her schoolmates were the last literate generation.  I do not believe this bt i mst say txtgs ment tht 4 sur mny pepl 2dy do rite mssgs brfly im not v g at it as u cn c n pncttns gon out th wndw

I am, of course, of the Ronnie Corbett school of narrative.  Ronnie, an absolutely splendid comedian, who was very short, would sit on an overlarge chair and tell a long-winded story which went all round the houses, rambling all over the place before he got to the point.  Shameless.  He was.

Having finished the book I took a last walk towards Wimbledon via Mostyn Road as far as the John Innes Park and recreation ground, through which I travelled, emerging by way of Blakesley Walk onto Kingston Road, turning right there and along to Morden Road; meeting Jackie at Safestore where we purchased our cardboard boxes for the move.

The Listener puzzle mentioned yesterday has been accepted.

We lunched on leftovers from last night’s jalfrezi and began our packing.  As a break from taping together and filling large cardboard boxes, making sure in the process that I would be able to lift them, I had my last shop in Morden’s Lidl.  This had me reflecting that my first trip there had been when we were moving in here and found ourselves without mugs for coffee.  Now we will have a dishwasher the extra four mugs I bought then will come in useful.  As you know, you need more of everything in order to fill the machine.  I don’t like bananas by the way, but you never know what you’ll find in this emporium.

Just think, I could have bought my Wellies in Lidl.  Have no fear, there is a Lidl at Totton, a suburb of Southampton not far from Minstead.

This evening, in our continuing attempts to empty the freezer we ate a melange of cottage pie (for one) and beef stew (for one), with Lidl veg.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden, whereas my preference was for Roc des Chevaliers Bordeaux Superieur 2010.