‘Look At That Book’

Bathroom floor Downton LaneBluebell WoodTractor ploughing, gulls, rooks, Isle of WightCattle, tractor ploughing, gullsJackie spent most of the day cleaning and renovating the rancid master bathroom. This floor, unevenly tiled in some kind of rubbery squares, gives an example of what she was dealing with. The difference she has made is evident in this photograph taken as she began. When I returned from my walk the whole surface was the colour of the clean ones you see. From Downton Lane I took the path through the fields and alongside the bluebell wood, into which I deviated. The tractor ploughing against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight on the horizon attracted its usual entourage of gulls and rooks. When I reached the road I turned left and continued on past the bottom of our lane to Milford on Sea. Cattle alongside this route seemed oblivious of the then distant ploughman. Weeds pushing up tarmacAs I marvelled at the weeds and grasses forcing their way through the tarmacked surface of the narrow path to Milford, I thought fondly of Dickie Hamer. Father Hamer, S.J. was the gentle, well-loved, Jesuit priest at Wimbledon College who guided us towards O Level French. I don’t remember why we called him Dickie. Perhaps his first name was Richard. It was he who had first told us of the power of something as slender as a blade of grass to battle its way into the sunlight in search of the energy for photosynthesis. One day, as he took a tour round the classroom, he admired the drawings Matthew Hutchinson had made in the margins of his exercise book. ‘I’ll have some of that’, I imagined. So, on another occasion, I started embellishing my pages. When Dickie reached my desk, instead of the hoped for praise, I received disappointed admonishment. ‘Look at that book’ exclaimed the schoolmaster. I hear his voice, see his face, and feel the shame to this day. The experience was worsened because I knew I could never match Matthew’s art.Catch cricket and young MumsCatch cricketCatch cricket 2Catch cricket 3 A game of catch cricket was in progress on the Hordle Cliff top. When the ball was hit in my direction and I failed to grasp it, all round hilarity ensued. My unspoken excuse is that a cricketer accustomed to pouching a hard leather bound ball cannot catch a bouncy one designed for tennis. And anyway my effort was one-handed with the camera hanging from my wrist. Moreover, one bout of shame is enough for any one day. Books for charityI returned by the Shorefield route at the beginning of which is a house that in dry weather has baskets of books outside for sale in aid of children’s charities. A couple had parked their car and stopped to make a selection of purchases.

This afternoon I made a start on the garden. In the immortal words of Captain Lawrence Oates, ‘I may be some time’.

For one of my birthdays in the early Newark years, Jessica gave me a cast iron replica of the Nottingham Castle benches. This has accompanied me on most of my moves since, and brought to Downton from storage by the splendid Globe Removals team. There are twelve hardwood slats linking, by bolts, the very heavy metal sides. Whilst at Sutherland Place I replaced some of the deteriorated wooden sections with iroko I had cobbled from a picnic bench. The bench has been dismantled for transit. I decided to put it together again.

The cast iron pieces lay beneath the heaviest skip pile consisting largely of IKEA contiboard. I shifted all that and dragged the iron out. Then I couldn’t find the nuts that held the bolts in place.Weeding pathSawn trunk

So I had to do something else, and made a start on weeding the paths. I didn’t get very far before diverting myself by looking up at the shattered tree. The main trunk of this as yet unidentified plant had obviously suffered in the winter gales. I had to cut the top off. There was no time like the present. I sawed off the damaged section, lopped up the branches just coming into leaf, and carried them to the far end of the garden where there has obviously been a bonfire at some time.

All this time Jackie continued to work like Helen, or maybe another Trojan, upstairs, apart from a small break when she pruned a climbing rose in an effort to preserve my scalp when walking underneath it.

Trailing weedI suppose every garden has its pernicious weed that defies all efforts to eradicate it. Ours I recognise, but cannot name, from the garden at Lindum House. It is a long trailing and climbing creature with velcro epidermis that clings to anything. The creeper emanates from a buried, elongated lichee like object burrowing underground. All I will have time for this year will be to pull the greenery up by the handful before its little white flowers appear.

Extracting one such cluster revealed this fascinating little plant:Plant - unidentified

Each set of petals is about the size of a daisy. I don’t know what it is.

This evening we dined at The Jarna restaurant, the decor of which was described two days ago, when I vowed to return with my camera:The Jarna decor - Version 2Booth in The Jarna

Sam was doing deliveries himself tonight. Tiger windowAt one point he went out into a heavy shower of rain. He placed his container beside his car whilst he opened up the boot. JackieThis could be seen through the tiger left in the window glass otherwise covered by a laminate.

Ceiling lights of different hues imparted their glow to the diners, to their napkins, and to Sam’s head as he took the orders. Ours was green.

The food was good too.

P.S. Jackie put this comment on Facebook: Just done some research, seems that Ladies bedstraw is slightly different, it is Gallium verum , the weed in our garden is Gallium aparine , AKA- catchweed, everlasting friendship, Robin-run-the-hedge, even sticky Jack, and my favourite, Sticky Willy!!

‘Did You Mean The Off Break?’

Regent Street lights003

Today’s advent picture is again of the Regent Street Lights from December 1963, showing yet another differently coloured central star.  I think there were none exactly the same.

The early picture of me that I worked on this morning is not a ‘through the ages’ one.  I was actually looking in my old print file for one of those, but Elizabeth still has the originals from which she produced an album for Mum and the later digital set for me.  She’s only had them for twenty years, so I must be patient.

Wimbledon College c1956001

The forgotten treasure I did find is a Wimbledon College school photograph from about 1956.  It has enabled me to illustrate posts featuring Richard Millward, in the centre of the picture’s front row, and Tom McGuinness, fourth from the right in the rear tier from the viewer’s perspective.  I stand on the far left of the middle row, with an expression that I clearly didn’t think too flattering at the time my sister raided my album for Mum’s 70th birthday set.  I have retained the creases across the image, because they add some authenticity to the period.  The print probably came home stuffed into a satchel.

Certain further memories came to mind when perusing this image.  Iain Taylor, standing on the far left of the bench supporting the back row, was the captain of the Under Fourteens cricket team who secured me my first matches.  Being a friend of mine he asked the headmaster, who rejoiced in the wonderfully appropriate name of Father Ignatius St Lawrence, S.J., to give me a trial for the team.  I had never played before, but Iain got me to bowl a few balls in the nets and seems to have been impressed.  With ‘Iggy’, as the head was predictably known to the boys, standing as umpire I was instructed to send my nervously delivered missives down to the team’s best batsman.  I bowled him four times before Iggy had seen enough.  One of these dismissals was with a deliberate slower ball that turned sharply from the off, that is opposite the batsman’s legs, side of the pitch and hit the middle stump.  The deviation was probably caused by the ball striking an extraneous object when it landed.  Turning to me at the end of my spell, Iggy asked: ‘Did you mean the off-break?’.  ‘Yes, father’,  was my coolly delivered reply.  All priests were of course our fathers.  I was in.  Later, out of earshot of anyone else, I asked Iain: ‘What’s an off break?’.

Fifth from the viewer’s left at the back of the picture, stands a lad I cannot feel so smug about.  This is Vaughan, whose first name escapes me.  He was my partner in my first year at the College.  Partner was a definite euphemism for what I now consider to have been a rather cruel incentive scheme.  Boys were sat in pairs throughout the year.  At the end of each term our marks for work were totted up and set against each other.  The winners went on an outing called the ‘Victory Walk’.  The losers stayed behind and wrote essays or something similar.  I never went on a victory walk, and considering how hard I tried, with or without an incentive, that seemed decidedly vicious to me.

Not a very gifted academic, Matthew Hutchinson, the fifth boy from the left of the middle row, was the first person of whom I was truly envious.  I can draw a bit, but Matthew was the most talented natural artist I had ever met.  What I would have given for his free-flowing skill.  I do hope he made something of it.

Now we come to the brains of the class.  No-one could emulate the two who flanked Richard Millward, which is probably why they did.  Gordon and Rogati came top in everything and I swear they didn’t even break into a sweat.  Given their names I think my readers will have no difficulty in determining which is which.

Jackie & Christmas decs

Christmas decorationsChristmas decorations 2Christmas decorations 3With minimal help from me, work continued apace on Christmas decorations.

Once the stepladder had been put away, we dined on Jackie’s chicken jafrezi and pilau rice which greatly enhanced the bottle of Isla Negra cabernet sauvignon reserva 2013 which I opened and from which I drank a couple of glasses.