Criminals Beware


Jackie drove me to New Milton this morning for me to catch the train to Waterloo so I could lunch with Norman. It had been the intention that she would drive me home at the end of the day, but that is not how it worked out. Normally I telephone her when I know  an arrival time. I do this on my mobile phone. But I left it in the car.

From Waterloo I took the underground via Finchley Road to Preston Road station and walked through the John Billam Sports Ground to Norman’s home in Woodcock Hill, Kenton.

Cigarette ends on litter bin

The litter bin outside Preston Road clearly doubles as an ash tray for those people desperate for a cigarette as they leave the underground where smoking is prohibited.

Child on scooter

On the thoroughfare itself a happy child enjoyed her new scooter,

Vehicle turning

while a large vehicle struggled to negotiate the corner beside All Seasons fruit and vegetable store without squashing the produce.

Rubbish in street 1

On the other side of Preston Road, I turned down Preston Waye (sic) which has clearly seen better days. Rubbish bags surrounding the trunk of an ornamental tree

Criminals Beware

wrapped by a sign warning criminals off rather detract from its autumn garb. The website of Smartwater, the company responsible for the glaring sleeve, claims: ‘We are an international crime fighting and crime prevention company with an established track record for detecting and deterring criminal activity. We have created a wide range of crime reduction programmes utilising our cutting-edge and proprietary traceable liquid products which have been highly successful in reducing crimes, such as burglary, robbery and asset theft. We work extensively with Law Enforcement, both at a local level and internationally, to implement our crime deterrence strategies.’

Can on Wall

The drinks can seen on the wall beyond the tree is one of many stretched along the alley.

Preston Waye

Like many similar areas, the number of front gardens abandoned to several motor cars, and the rows of refuse bins, suggest multiple occupancy.

Sofa in front garden

A garden where roses still bloomed there was interestingly furnished;

Trees and shrubs

at the bottom of the road were well tended shrubbery and trees,

Litter on football pitch

to the right of which a path leads to the John Billam Sports Ground. Perhaps one of the visiting magpies had investigated the contents of a bag of litter on the football pitch.

Man walking with stick

A gentleman, like me, no longer able to play the game, made his way along the footpath and sat on the bench he was aiming for.

Plastic bag round bollard

Beyond the flame red trees, two huge industrial ride-on mowers swung onto the grass. One of their bags blew off and nestled around a bollard.

Cigarette packets on grass

Further on towards Woodcock Hill, cigarette packets

Food packaging on grass

and fast food packaging mingled with fallen autumn leaves.

Norman and I lunched on pork pie, beef, and ham salad followed by chocolate eclairs. This had been produced by Jackie and toted by me. Our friend provided an excellent Waitrose beaujolais. Before I left, I phoned Jackie to say that I would be unable to call again without my mobile, and would therefore take a cab home from New Milton.

So far, so good. The train from Waterloo was subject to a certain amount of delay because of “trespassers on the line at Totton”. This meant we had to leave our train at Brockenhurst unless we wanted to go non-stop to Bournemouth. There was a stopping train waiting for us, but that was held back to give another precedence.

Once at New Milton, the cab was quickly available.

P.S. More useful information on Smartwater is contained in Osyth’s comment below.

None So Brazen


Autumn tidying in the garden produced enough clippings to warrant a trip to the Efford Recycling Centre. In exchange for two bags of these and £4 we returned with four firm chair cushions for raising the front passenger seat, and a plinth for the owl in the new arbour.

Hatchet Pond 1Hatchet Pond 2

Towards the end of the afternoon we drove through the forest and stopped at Hatchet Pond

Gulls over Hatchet Pond

where gulls occasionally took off after food,

Donkey being petted 2

and donkeys attempted to share visitors’ refreshments.

Donkey being petted 1

When I asked the group in a camper van if they minded the photographs, the gentleman, beaming, replied: “I don’t mind. It’s not my donkey”.

Highland Water 1

Approaching Brockenhurst on our way home, we deviated to that extension of Highland Water that flows under the A337.

Trees and shadows

Shadows were cast beneath the trees.

Family at Highland Water 1

A family and a couple lingered, enjoying the last rays of sunshine.

Tree roots and family at Highland Water

Tried not to trip over tree roots, probably laid bare when the stream has been in spate.

Please take your litter home

The usual samples of litter had been left behind, none so brazen as this.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb cobbler, new potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.  The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Graves.

Message In A Bottle?


This morning I tidied up the Head Gardener’s Walk. It was becoming a little overgrown.

This was the result.

Apart from a brief spell of sunshine when I was carrying out this task, today was very dull and overcast. It was not the afternoon to go in search of a field of bluebells – especially as we didn’t find it.

Ballard Water Meadow 1

We understood that it was part of Ballard Water Meadow and Woodland.

So dry has been our month of April, that the streams that cross the area are all but dried up.

Conservation has been in progress for some years. A footpath, logging, and cutting back of undergrowth beside the main ditch provide evidence of industry.

A handful of small black cattle sat around chewing the cud as I left Jackie sitting on a bench and went off on a bluebell hunt. The beasts contributed plentiful pats as their contribution to the ecology.

Cow 1

The cows quietly tolerated the flies crawling around their eyes.

Dog walker, buggy, cattle

Many dog walkers availed themselves of the pet-emptying facility.


I continued in search of the elusive bluebell field, and settled for the odd clump of the English variety – not the Spanish Armada.

Reflections in lake

I reached a man-made lake with its share of water fowl and reflections of nearby buildings.

Oasis wrapper

Unfortunately there was a smattering of litter in the surrounding woodland,

Maltesers in lake

and in the lake itself.

The Maltesers container lay at the edge. A couple of bottles stood up in the water. Was there a message in this?

On my return the cattle had risen to their feet and started foraging.

This evening we dined at The Crown Inn at Everton. I chose well-filled steak and kidney pudding with carrots and swede wrapped in a cabbage leaf, chips and gravy. Jackie chose duck with noodles, stir-fry vegetables and hoisin sauce. Desserts were respectively bread and butter pudding with pomegranate seeds floating in creme Anglaise, and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Jackie drank draught Becks, and I began with a glass of Brown Brothers Everton Red, which was accurately described as having the flavours of the hedgerow. My second glass was the well-tried Mendoza Argentinian Malbec.

The First Gothic Novel

Jackie, as usual, drove me to and from New Milton for my trip to London to visit Norman for lunch, and Carol afterwards. I took my usual routes from Waterloo to their respective homes.

A woman also being delivered to the home station this morning, left her driver with a farewell that had me chuckling. ‘What?’ she asked, addressing him through the still open passenger window……… Then ‘sod off’, followed by a cheery ‘see you later’. I hadn’t caught what had provoked the imprecation.

A short while later she and I had a good laugh about it on the crowded platform.

It was a gloomy day in London, which is probably why I focussed on some of the more seamy aspects of the capital’s suburbs. Littered around a bench in the recreation Litterground at the far end of Preston Waye (sic) were beer cans, fag ends, and other debris from a party, the attenders of which had eschewed the bin provided. The bicycle rack Cycle rackUnderpants in phone boxacross the street from Preston Road tube station had not saved one owner from losing his wheels, and judging by the rusting condition of what was left of his transport he had decided to leave it where it was. Alongside this a pair of soiled underpants or panties lay on the floor of a telephone box. I didn’t investigate them closely enough to determine the gender of their erstwhile wearer.

Signal failures between Eastleigh and Basingstoke extended my outward journey by forty minutes and caused chaos at the end of the day when two train-loads left the terminus on one service, resulting in large numbers of passengers standing or sitting on the floors of the aisles. Squeezing past the standers and stepping over prone people on the way to the loo was rather embarrassing, especially as it was impossible not to touch them, and absolutely necessary to be careful where you did.

Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’ dubbed by Andrew Graham-Dixon and others the first Gothic novel is a short book. I read it on the train. Published in the 1760s, the first edition rapidly sold out and has been in print ever since.

Harking back to the Middle Ages, as Gothic does, the book had all the necessary ingredients for evoking a romantic image of that period. There is a feudal tyrant, knights on a mission, damsels in distress, forbidding weather conditions, and a gloomy castle complete with dungeons, empty corridors, and a hidden passageway. The well-constructed plot, in five chapters, follows the form of Greek Tragedy, and the author borrows from Shakespeare devices such as his clown characters.

Walpole’s story was perfectly timed to engage the enthusiasm of his times for such tales, and spawned many others, such as Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’, with which I continued whiling away my extended train journey.

Keeping illusrationMy Folio Society edition of ‘The Castle of Otranto’ is illustrated by Charles Keeping, one of my all-time favourites. He has a distinctive style and remains faithful to the text, nicely capturing the required mood. Here we have Isabella, a young woman fleeing the tyrant Manfred. A gleam of light in the gloomy castle depths renders her visible and displays the frightening path with rippling pools she has to tread.