Protective Pruning

This morning dawned bright and comparatively cold, but work in the Rose Garden could still be carried out in shirt sleeves.

Here Jackie prunes Mama Mia which had already been trimmed a short while ago. These photographs  show the new shoots persisting – but they had to go before winter winds rocked the stems and loosened their roots.

Climbers escaped the treatment, allowing their hips to colour the arch. One white Madame Alfred Cariere bloom has survived.

Nugget, of course, shot down to investigate. Muggle kept a low profile in the larch.

Late this afternoon Jackie drove us to Emsworth where we dined at Durbar Indian restaurant with Becky and Ian.

We stopped at Everton village shop and Post Office to post a package to Australia.

Here is the village poppy display.

Jackie thinks this cloud formation ahead of us on the M27 indicates a spell of cold whether. Can anyone confirm this?

We were almost an hour early for our 6 p.m. date. Then we hit this roadworks queue which occupied a little time.

The mogul inspired restaurant is excellent and rather out of the ordinary. We shared rices, a paratha, and onion bahjis. My main course was Goan pork vindaloo; Jackie’s, paneer tikka; Becky’s, chicken biriani; and Ian’s, another mild chicken dish. Our son-in-law and I drank Cobra, his wife drank rosé wine, and Jackie drank Kingfisher. The food was very well cooked and the service exemplary.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Sidecar


Towards the end of yesterday afternoon Jackie drove us to Emsworth to join in Ian’s birthday meal at Nicolino’s restaurant.

Doves on church

A month ago, I had photographed white doves in the morning light on and around the bell tower of St James’s Church. Yesterday a few remained on the roof basking in the evening light. A certain amount of interbreeding with pigeons appeared to have been going on.

Becky on balcony


Becky and Ian on balcony

and Ian were on their balcony to greet us.

Ian and Keith

We were joined in the restaurant by Ian’s friends Keith and Kirsty. The two men enjoyed reminiscing about their schooldays. The tilt of the picture behind her fiancé niggled Becky so much that he was required to straighten it.

Starter at Nicolino's

I haven’t traditionally been over-keen on Italian food. Nicolino’s, in serving quite the best I have ever tasted, has provided the exception that proves the rule. I can’t remember what my starter was called, but, like all the others, it was a meal in itself.


The calzone that followed was a fresh, firm, parcel with succulent contents.

Summer pudding

I didn’t really have room for this splendid summer pudding, but I forced myself.

My wine was Le Focaie sangiovese Maremma Toscana 2012. It didn’t come by the glass, so I brought half a bottle home. I suppose if I stretched my brains I would be able to name some of what the others consumed, but I really can’t be bothered.

Jackie drove us home on the M27 afterwards as she had done on the outward journey. This had been when our curiosity was aroused by the unusual sidecar passenger of a vintage motorcycle.

Dog in sidecar 1

We just had to overhaul the biker.

Dog in sidecar 2

Who was the intriguing little chap,

Dog in sidecar 3

gradually coming into view,

Dog in sidecar 4

looking this way and that?

Dog in sidecar 5

Could it be?

Dog in sidecar 6

Surely not?

Dog in sidecar 7

Yes. A dog. Strapped in a seatbelt. I do hope the motorcyclist saw the thumbs up sign and the camera lens I poked out of the window as we passed.

My title pays homage to Mark Haddon’s superb little novel, required reading for anyone involved with autism, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’.

P.S. My thanks are due to Barrie Haynes who put this on a Facebook comment: ‘This is a nine year old retro Triumph Bonneville (Yankie type with high bars.) It is still in production and named after the Utah Salt Flats where the company had some success. Those panniers would have set him back a pretty penny and, according to the signs, the sheepdog is Scottish! There is an urbane myth about why this section of the M27 was originally laid in concrete sections? They say that it was because of the ‘Oil Crisis’ around that time. Hope this is of help.’

Xmas Show


This morning I made some prints for Christmas presents, before visiting Margery and Paul at:

Xmas show brochure

This ever popular exhibition did not disappoint in its array of art works in different media, reasonably enough priced to make for good, unpressurised Christmas shopping.

Clown cushion

Margery’s own charming clown cushion makes a good start.


Lucille Scott’s snails would decorate any garden.


There is much good jewelry on a par with these necklaces.

Deborah Richards’s ceramic sculptures are a highlight.

Hare wire picture

I liked Ruth Facey’s wire pictures.

Lounge Lady

Rita Rouw’s Lounge Lady, reflecting the note of humour in the exhibition, has an air of Beryl Cook.

Cock and cats

The cock and cats at the top of the stairs seems a happy juxtapostion.

Monkey linocut

On the way up are a row of Josephine Sumner’s colourful linocuts,

Fish string

opposite which are strings of fish.

Picture and tea set

The contents of this shelf in the kitchen may or may not be for sale. Whether or not, they are examples of the objects around this home that display the best part of a century’s fascination with all forms of creativity.

There is still another week in which to visit the show.

We spent that afternoon with Elizabeth and Mum in turn at their respective homes in West End.

Christmas lights

way home we noticed that a number of the small towns, like Lyndhurst, have switched on their Christmas lights.

There was enough of yesterday’s Indian takeaway for, with the addition of onion bahjis, second helpings this evening. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the madiran.

One Blowout After Another

Today we drove to Mat and Tess’s in Upper Dicker for lunch, making a slight deviation to Emsworth to collect Flo who joined us and returned this evening to stay for a few days.
It being Remembrance Sunday we listened to The Cenotaph Ceremony on the car radio, and, as always, I thought of two minutes’ silences with Auntie Gwen.
Monty and Louis are the sons of Mat and Tess’s friends Vickie and Dave. They are also, clearly not by coincidence the names of Tess’s two guinea pigs for whom Matthew bought a large dwelling place last Christmas. The two little animals have spent the last few months in a large metal cage in a well trampled compound in the garden, and today was the day Guinea pig Monty 1Guinea pigs insideGuinea pig LouisGuinea pigs Monty & LouisGuinea pig Monty 2for them to move to their winter quarters in the wooden structure inside the house. It wasn’t too difficult to move them, because they come when called, especially if a tasty carrot or pepper is being waved about.
The three photos of the pets inside their wooden house were taken by Flo.
Roast dinnerCauliflower cheeses & roast dinnerDessertsTess, who is a magnificent cook, produced a wonderful meal. We began with a Jerusalem artichoke and bacon soup with crusty bread;  roast chicken, lamb, potatoes, carrots, and leaks, with two kinds of cauliflower cheese, one containing chorizos, was the main course; after this came delicious lemon meringue pie and chocolate brownies. Various wines, beers, and fruit juices were also consumed in this veritable blowout.
After my introduction to Speed Scrabble, we spent an afternoon in entertaining conversation until Jackie, Flo and I set off back to Downton.
Tyre shreddedIt was then that we experienced our second blowout, in the form of a shredded tyre on the M27 while we were still East of Southampton. Jackie phoned the RAC and within half an Moon and traffichour of the call a breakdown lorry from Ravenscroft Motor Company had arrived. Until then, I had amused myself watching the stationery moon, and the traffic speeding by.
Jackie and FloThe repair man loaded our Modus onto his truck in which we got to ride to Rownhams Service Station where he intended to change the wheels. Unfortunately, after quite a struggle, he was unable to remove the spare wheel from its moorings in the back of the car. This meant our car was reloaded onto the breakdown vehicle and we all road home in the driver’s cab. The Modus was finally dropped onto our back drive. It is just as well we have spent so much time clearing this space, otherwise the lorry would not have got into it.

‘If It’s Worth A Photograph……’

Regent Street lights001Today’s advent picture is similar to the first, but has a different coloured central star.  This seems to me to offer far more variation than one would see today.  It is worthy of note that there are very few pedestrians admiring the window display and the vehicles on Regent Street in December 1963 are all taxis or buses.

As we set off for Southampton Parkway this morning, foraging ponies loomed out of a heavy mist weakly penetrated by a myopic sun resembling a haloed full moon shrouded by thick clouds.  Visibility on the A31 was most meagre.  There were some clear patches on the M27 giving layered views of the bordering forest trees.  Foreground silhouettes would give way to a barely visible row followed by bright golden ones.  The pattern would be repeated into the distance.

By the time my train had reached Waterloo the sun’s warmth had drawn most of the mist up into the ether. Westminster BridgeHouses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge That which lingered over the Thames presented dreamy views of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.  London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Houses of ParliamentAn oriental gentleman resting a super-long lens on the parapet of the Golden Jubilee Bridge told me what stunning sights he had just seen from the top of the London Eye.  I apprised him of the reason I was unable to emulate him.

Bangles stall

The Christmas fair on South Bank flourished.  One of the stalls sold its own version of festive lighting. Christmas decorations stall Like Catherine wheels they spun, expanded, and contracted.  The timing of this photograph was a delicate matter of trial and error.

Blue CockerelCrossing The Strand and walking through Trafalgar Square I was afforded a clearer view of the blue cockerel poised either to drink from the fountain or to peck at Nelson’s other eye.  I now understand that the sculpture is not French after all.  It is the work of German artist Katharina Fritsch who describes it as ‘feminist’.

Pirate living statueOn the piazza before the National Gallery a diminutive, motionless pirate perched on his own plinth.  Dropping £1 into his hat I said: ‘If it’s worth a photograph, it’s worth a donation’.  Silently, without moving any other, even facial, muscle, like a jointed puppet, he raised his glass in acknowledgement.  I don’t know whether he had been aware I’d shot him.

From the square I walked up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus and along Piccadilly itself to Green Park where I boarded a Jubilee Line train to Neasden and thence to Norman’s. Eros in a bubble Eros, presumably in preparation for the revelries to come, is now encased in a bubble.


A bagman I had seen over the years in numerous parts of London adjusted his load after having effected bicycle repairs.

Fortnum & Mason WindowFortnum & Mason Window (1)

Fortnum and Mason’s windows reflected the seasonal mood.

At Green Park I was to regret parting with my last coin.  I needed a pee, which can now only be obtained by inserting 30p into a machine.  So I had to ask the man at the ticket office to change a £10 note.  The smallest coin he gave me was 50p.  The machines don’t give change, so what once cost one old penny was subject to 120x inflation.

Norman fed us on a roast turkey and Christmas pudding lunch with which we shared an excellent bottle of Vacqueras 2011, after which I took my usual route to Carol’s and then on to Waterloo.  Jackie collected me from Southampton.

Cultural Change

Bunning, Jackie tells me, is the term given for heavy commercial vehicles lacking the requisite acceleration yet trying to pass others on the inside lane of a motorway.  When attempting this from the middle lane it can take several minutes for one to lumber past.  Those on the inside are generally not prepared to give an inch.  This is apparently one cause of the standing waves that can cause a disruption to the flow of traffic. Bunning on M27 We were subjected to an instance of such a snail’s race on the M27 this morning as she drove me to Southampton Parkway.  I wondered whether the unladen car transporter would have tried his luck had he had a load on board.

In order to turn off for the station we have to filter off from the inside lane.  Sometimes these vehicles obscure the sign, so, in the past, we have missed the turn.  When we know we are near it we must keep behind the marginally slower moving truck.  Overtaking the pair of them risks overshooting the exit, which is not want you want to do when you are aiming to catch a train.  Fortunately we now have it sussed.

Today I began reading ‘Carthage. A History’, by Serge Lancel.

George Irvin's FunfairFrom Waterloo I took the Jubilee Line to Neasden, where posters advertising George Irvin’s Funfair invited visitors to celebrate Eid (see post of 15th August last year) demonstrating how London’s culture has changed since the 1950s when I attended such attractions. Women approaching Church Road marketChurch Road market This progression is reinforced by the immigrants from across the globe converging on Church Road market in search of bargains.

William FryThe depot of William Fry’s scrap metal recycling centre, so often the source of ocular irritation from swirling dust, on this fine day looked almost attractive.

Parking meterIn the Borough of Brent it is still possible to pay for parking if you have the correct coins but no mobile phone.  The City of Westminster, for example in Sutherland Place, assumes all drivers wishing to use the meters do carry such devices.  Coins are not accepted.  Mind you, in Brent it is not only cars that are parked by the roadside.

A thriving carwash service is offered at the Harvest garage in Neasden Lane.  Today, as often, there was a queue, which sometimes causes a little congestion and consequent clamouring of car horns.

Car wash

Chancel House, diagonally across the road, has its own variation on the cattle grid, ensuring that cars do not enter by the exit. Chancel House 'cattle grid' As vehicles leave the car park which is protected by an electrified gate, their wheels depress the teeth waiting to spike any tyres attempting to cross them from the other direction.

Norman served up a luscious lamb shank followed by a sponge with a pineapple base, accompanied by an excellent Portuguese red wine.

From his flat I took my usual route to Carol’s, and after visiting her, boarded the frequent 507 bus to Waterloo.  Thence by train to Southampton where my lady awaited me in the car.