Wet Roads

Rain beating a clamorous tattoo on the Modus roof; repetitive rapping from a thumping car radio; abrupt slamming of doors; crashing gears of handbrake ratchets; muffled muttering of masked voices; clicking stilettos clopping through puddles – all combined to distract me from the last chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ as I waited in the car while Jackie shopped in Tesco this morning. Fortunately the rain had stopped when she brought her trolley load for me to unload into the boot.

Heavy rain soon set in again, and I finished reading my Folio Society edition of Charles Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’.

For fear of spoiling the story I will not add my own detailed review of this tale which has been printed in many editions and filmed for a BBC series in 2008 to the many that may be found on the internet.

I will simply quote the first paragraph of www.brittanica.com’s article:

Little Dorrit,  novel by Charles Dickens, published serially from 1855 to 1857 and in book form in 1857. The novel attacks the injustices of the contemporary English legal system, particularly the institution of debtors’ prison.’ and add that it is a love story with added mystery.

The writer’s flowing prose with sometimes poetic descriptive passages and witty humour mostly captivates, although some of the more boring characters had my interest flagging occasionally.

Christopher Hibbert’s introduction is as helpful as always.

Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to this novelist’s masterpiece. Regular readers will know that I have posted these as I have worked my way through the book. Although some narrative may be gleaned from these pages I have done by best not to reveal too much.

Here are the last three:

‘A big-headed lumbering personage stood staring at him’ as the brim of his hat had been tossed over the body of text.

In ‘Tattycoram fell on her knees and beat her hands upon the box’ the artist has captured the beating motion.

In ‘Changeless and Barren’, his final illustration, Keeping has managed to symbolise that the work is drawing to a close.

The rain returned before we arrived home and continued pelting for the next few hours. Rather like yesterday, it ceased by late afternoon. Unlike yesterday the sun remained lurking behind the thick cloud cover. We took a drive anyway.

As we approached Keyhaven the sails of a trio of enticing kite-surfers could be seen.

By the time we arrived they were packing up.

Saltgrass Lane runs alongside the tidal flats. At high tide it is often closed.

As we arrived, waves were lapping over the rocks and rapidly covering the tarmac. I was splashed by passing vehicles as I photographed the scene.

Figures were silhouetted on the spit; birds made their own contribution.

We continued along the lane back to Milford on Sea. Had we returned via Keyhaven we would probably have been locked out.

Other lanes, like Undershore, were washed by rainwater from overflowing fields and ditches. Jackie parked on this thoroughfare and I wandered along it for a while.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s stupendous chicken and vegetable stewp and fresh bread with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha, which involved opening another bottle.

Late Afternoon Sun

An early end to the Test match and rain falling for most of the day prompted me to read eight more chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’, and consequently to scan eight more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘Mrs Sparkler began to wonder how long the master-mind meant to stay’ is another two page spread.

‘Lying in the bath was the body of a heavily-made man’ sandwiches the text between the ends of the bath.

‘Mr Clennam, I think this is the gentleman I was mentioning’

”Young John surveyed him with a fixed look of indignant reproach’

‘Arthur turned his eye upon the impudent and wicked face’ which we now all recognise.

‘The gate jarred heavily and hopelessly upon her’

‘She staggered for a moment, as if she would have fallen’

For ‘The old house collapsed and fell’, the artist had no need to draw the building – he simply produced the effect.

Late in the afternoon, the sun emerged and drew us into a forest drive.

All along Sowley Lane

shaggy ponies tore at the hedges for sustenance;

colourful cock pheasants played Chicken crossing the road;

and snowdrops scaled the banks of the verges.

The pink-tinged water of the lake now surrounded bordering grasses;

and similar tints touched the puddle reflecting a gate above it.

Sunset. was arriving over St Leonard’s Grange

and lingered slowly for a while on our return journey.

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips; green peas; pickled onions and gherkins, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha.

Pauline’s Lightcatcher In Its Rightful Place

On a dull day we – mostly Jackie – spent time returning the kitchen to normal. Mrs Knight had washed, ironed, and now rehung the curtains. The glasses cupboard had its doors reinstalled and its contents brought back in from the library. The table returned to its normal position.

A number of bloggers, including us, have been beneficiaries of the late Pauline King’s delightful light catchers. It was therefore a priority for it be back in its rightful place hanging from the centre of the main window ready for when the sun shines again.

This afternoon I watched Television broadcasts of the Six Nations Rugby matches between England and Italy, and between Scotland and Wales.

During intervals I read the next three chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ and, after dinner, scanned three more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations.

‘The History of a Self Tormentor’ uses Dickens’s device of employing a letter to progress the narrative.

The image of ‘Canalletto dropped on one knee’, with the backward tilt of the body displays the artist’s mastery of movement in the human form.

‘Affery headed the exploring party,’ each member of which is recognisable from Keeping’s earlier portraits. This image is cleverly framed by the sinuous candle smoke.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s toothsome sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; soft broad beans; and crunchy carrots, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Redecoration Completed

While Nick Hayter continued with his transformation of our kitchen, I printed him a set of pictures of his progress “on the job”, including this one demonstrating his mask-less cutting-in skill produced this morning.

Downton Service Station had already provided our Modus with a new clutch and handbrake by 10 a.m., so we happily collected it.

Five chapters further on in ‘Little Dorrit’ provided me with five more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to scan.

‘Leaning on Mr Merdle’s arm, Mr Dorrit descended the staircase’.

‘He approached his destination through the by-streets and water-side ways’.

‘Now, sir,’ said Mr Dorrit, turning round upon him and seizing him by the collar’.

‘All the guests were now in consternation’, just one displaying distress. Another double page spread.

Keeping has portrayed stubborn intransigence to perfection in ‘Each proudly cherishing her own anger’.

This afternoon Nick completed his redecoration project.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots; and tender cabbage with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

A Happy Announcement

This morning, while Nick continued brightening up the kitchen, Jackie helped the ailing Modus to Downton Service Station. Unsurprisingly the diagnosis, which was delivered later, was the need for a new clutch. It is hoped that we will receive it back by the weekend.

This afternoon, having reached the 3/4 point of Charles Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’, I scanned seven more of Charles Keeping’s remarkable illustrations.

‘It was a deserted place and looked upon a deserted scene’ which was the side of the River Thames at night. The ladder scaling the wall to the left of the illustration was placed for easy access to the river bed. It was at such a location when the tide was low that I had to fish my late wife Jessica out of the mud.

Mr Keeping remains faithful to earlier portrayals of these two characters in ‘He rolled Mr Flintwinch about with a hand on each of his shoulders.’

‘I am now going to devote an hour to writing to you again’ depicts the unmistakeable letter-writer from the opposite side in a different location from the first such image.

With ‘It was a dinner to provoke an appetite’ the artist captures what I think is one of the rare boring passages of the prose.

‘Mrs Plornish, now established in a snug little shop at the crack end of the Yard’, contains typical details of the illustrator’s work, such as worn steps, feral pigeons, and a horse in the stable. These are Keeping’s own embellishments.

‘Mr Sparkler came and sat down on the other side of her’, for a happy announcement. The artist makes the varying feelings about this very clear;

equally in ‘Nobody noticed the Bridegroom’, whose insignificance is well depicted.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent sausages in red wine; sage and onion stuffing; creamy mashed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; crunchy carrots; and tender cabbage, with tasty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Recital.

Primroses For Tootlepedal

This morning I watched most of the second day’s play of the current cricket Test Match between England and Indian Channel 4. During the afternoon and early evening it was the turn of ITV’s coverage of the Six Nations rugby internationals between Italy and France; and between England and Scotland.

I am so grateful to my blogging friend Tootlepedal for tactfully pointing out an error in yesterday’s original title by letting me know that he could not find any primroses that it seemed the decent thing to do would be to nip out into the garden between sporting binges and

find some to redress the lack. They are a bit manky, but at least they are survivors.

After the rugby I scanned three more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Little Dorrit’

‘Gowan seized the dog with both hands by the collar’.

The different natures of the two sisters were clearly pictured by the artist in ‘Fanny was so very much amused by the misgivings, that she took up her favourite fan’.

‘The Dowager Mrs Gowan drove up, in the Hampton Court equipage’.

This evening we dined on succulent baked bacon; piquant cauliflower cheese; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots, and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank more of the Macon.

The Battle Of Longslade Bottom

After another wet morning I made a set of A4 prints of his last session on our roof for Barry, then scanned the next five of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Little Dorrit’.

In ‘The cloudy line of mules hastily tied to rings in the wall’, our vision is certainly clouded.

With ‘He found a lady of a quality superior to his highest expectations’, both author and artist have the tongues firmly in their cheeks.

‘As they wound down the rugged way, she more than once looked round’, depicts the slender limbs of these beasts of burden. The circle of the sun balances the picture nicely.

There is a wealth of period detail in ‘I write to you from my own room at Venice’.

‘To the winds with the family credit!’, cried the old man’, displaying far more animation than we have seen before.

Later this afternoon the weather brightened and we took a drive to Longslade Bottom, a favourite venue for

walkers and frolicking dogs.

The stream at the bottom of the slope is a Winterbourne – only flowing in winter.

Keep an eye on the young woman with two children beginning to make her way back up the slope.

Ponies quietly crop grass and crows noisily gather in the treetops.

As I ambled down the slope, who should I pass but the woman, now struggling with the two children, who still managed to find the energy to respond to my greeting.

Can anyone spot the changes in the writhing burdens?

Having reached their vehicle the battle to install the children inside it continued against a threatening sky to the shrieks of “I don’t want to”.

Particularly having watched so many children and dogs on these slopes, I must mention that the piles of canine excrement which I needed to avoid rivalled those of the ponies. Do the dog owners have any idea of the danger that what they leave to fester among the grass presents to children? (Anyone who doubts this should read John Knifton’s comment below).

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty chicken and vegetable stewp, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Macon vin de Bourgogne 2019.

Finishing Touches (2)

On another gloomy wet morning Jackie photographed a selection of our current garden blooms, some decorated with pearls of rainwater.

Here we have sarcocca Hoskeriana, cyclamen, daffodil, iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin, snowdrops, hellebore, camellia, daphne odorata marginata, and crocus.

Barry, of New Forest Chimney Sweeping & Repairs, then visited to extend the

downpipe across the kitchen extension roof to the guttering.

With our friend reflected in the Velux window he and I enjoyed a very pleasant conversation.

Five chapters further on in ‘Little Dorrit’ prompts a scan of five more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to this novel of Charles Dickens.

‘Mr Pancks requested Mr Rugg to take a good strong turn at the handle’ of the street pump, which were common sources of water for residents in the mid-nineteenth century. https://johnsnow.matrix.msu.edu/work.php?id=15-78-80 carries a long entry on “The Broad Street Pump: An episode in the cholera epidemic of 1854”.

in ‘My dear soul, you are my only comfort’, we recognise the earlier profile of the magnificent Mrs Merdle.

‘The three expensive Miss Tite Barnacles’ are somewhat less than delightful.

The jubilation of ‘The Collegians cheered him very heartily’ has the artist throwing his hats through the text.

‘The little procession moved slowly through the gate’ demanded the span of a two page spread. No doubt readers will recognise earlier acquaintances.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury pilau rice topped with a five egg omelette served with both tempura and hot and spicy prawns with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Réserve de Bonpas.

Race For Life

Another gloomy day and a joyful batch of rediscovered colour slides. The morning’s task – obviously – was to scan them.

These are from Nottingham’s Race for Life in June 2006.

Daughter-in-Law, Heidi is the tall woman in the centre of the throng gathering for the off.

Louisa, Gemma S, Heidi, and Emily raring to go; Gemma and Louisa taking on early refreshments.

Confident granddaughter, Emily, two months after representing Croydon in the Mini London Marathon, meant serious business.

Louisa and her friend, Gemma, were out to have fun, as well as

raise funds for Cancer Research in honour of Gemma’s Dad and Louisa’s mother who was also Heidi’s mother-in-law, and Emily’s grandmother.

Like her daughter, Heidi was comfortable throughout.

It was perhaps a little tougher for some.

Here, the ladies proudly sport their medals. Gemma was Gemma B on the day. She would soon marry Paul S, who stands beside her, as Louisa would soon marry Errol, standing beside her.

This afternoon’s scanning was of the next four ‘Little Dorrit’ illustrations by Charles Keeping.

‘Minnie was there, alone’, giving the artist an opportunity for a romantic, bucolic, scene;

while, in ‘She started up suddenly, with a half-scream’, and ‘Mr Flintwinch gravely pledged him’, we recognise the book’s most evil character (adopting an alias) and the elderly couple from their earlier manifestations.

‘She bounced across to the opposite pavement’ depicts the haughtiness of Little Dorrit’s sister taking offence at the humbler young woman’s escorting a pauper.

This evening we dined on well-baked pork chops topped with almond flakes; sage and onion stuffing; crisp Yorkshire pudding; roast potatoes and parsnips; firm carrots and cauliflower; tender cabbage and runner beans, with spicy gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Réserve de Bonpas 2019.

‘Lor!’, Chuckled Maggy

Barry of New Forest Chimney Sweeping & Repairs finished most of his work on our kitchen extension roof today. While he was doing so, I made him a set of A4 prints from my pictures of him from the last two days.

He sent me his own images of the new lead flashings and my mug. One of our problems has been the down pipe running rainwater directly onto the tiles. Barry will extend that on Monday.

Later, I read four more chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’, and scanned four more of Charles Keeping’s expressive illustrations.

Keeping has captured the rapt expression of this child-woman being read a story in ‘ ‘Lor!’, said Maggy, giving her knees a hug.’ Despite Maggy’s previous portrait having been full face, the artist has retained an instantly recognised likeness.

‘The private residence of Mr Pancks was in Pentonville’ where the artist could well have modelled these buildings on those still extant today.

‘Mr Henry Gowan seemed to have a malicious pleasure in playing off the three talkers against each other.’ The boy peeping over the group has been cleverly included in this picture – such is the artist’s attention to detail.

‘Parasite little tenements, with the cramp in their whole frame.’

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender cabbage and runner beans, with tasty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I drank Chevalier de Fauvert Comté Tolosan Rouge 2019, a remarkably smooth low-priced Lidl find.