Say “Bye”

I woke later than usual this morning. As I passed our upstairs windows soon after 7 a.m. I spied Jackie standing with a camera at the far end of the garden.

She was taking advantage of the early morning light, which was just as well for the first three images in particular.

Titles, as usual, can be gleaned after accessing each of the galleries with a click. Otherwise I will let her results speak for themselves.

This afternoon she drove me to

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, where I walked for thirty minutes along this reasonably even path.

So crowded were the car parks that we only just managed to find a space. Surrounding the car park, golden St John’s Wort glowed in the sunshine that pierced gaps between the

majestic giant redwoods

surrounded by bracken.

Now the tourist season has begun, and children have been let out of school, I do not walk alone.

Two little boys ran on ahead of their parents, pausing while a woman approached engrossed in her mobile phone. Having put it aside, she greeted me warmly.

Two gentleman I took to be the fathers of the boys called them to stop, caught up with them and turned to communicate with the likely mothers with whom I had been conversing.

The woman carrying a younger child, I think did not speak English. Nevertheless when, realising that they were pacing me and my knees, I urged them not to wait for me she held up her little boy to wave and say “bye”. Her companion had good enough English to tell me about her aunt’s hip replacement.

On my return to the car I paused to photograph a trio playing catch. Anyone who has been accustomed to catching a hard cricket ball will appreciate that it is much easier to pouch than is this yellow tennis ball.

When we set off for home string of cyclists wheeled along Rhinefield Road.

Just outside Brockenhurst a leisurely pony and foal were instructing a patient motorcyclist in the rules of the New Forest roads.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious beef, mushrooms and peppers in red wine; Yorkshire pudding; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; and tender runner beans with which I finished the Grenacha Syrah. Mrs Knight had downed her Hoegaarden while seated on the patio in conversation with Nugget.

The War Of Canudos

Yesterday evening, after dinner, Jackie attempted to turn off the extractor fan. She pulled the cord. Something snapped inside. To reach it I had to climb up on a chair. Fortunately the glass spice jar I knocked off the top of a tower of shelves didn’t break. I fiddled around and found a screw under a cap. I unscrewed it and removed the casing, to discover a small piece of plastic had sheered and come adrift. This meant I had to release the mechanism manually. At least I stopped the fan, but until we buy and fit another, that is how it will need to be turned on.
This morning, Joe, The Lady Plumber’s ‘lad’ came to remove the now redundant piping from our bathroom. Before that we had bought the fireworks for Saturday from Lidl, posted the redundant TV box to BT, and took in two jackets for cleaning.
I then cleared ten brick lengths of bramble and ivy roots from the back drive.
Jackie was out to lunch with her sisters, but sensible enough to have left me a beef and mustard sandwich Morning gloriesgarnished with tomatoes. Whilst I enjoyed it I also got pleasure from the cluster of sunlit pale blue morning glories shot with pastel pink  that can be seen through the kitchen window.
TWATEOTW040TWATEOTW041This afternoon I finished reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s haunting historical novel: ‘The War of The End of The World’. A Peruvian, the author chose to set his book in Bahia, a North-Eastern state of Brazil, as the nineteenth century was coming to a close. The book was originally published in 1981. My 2012 Folio Society edition uses the 1984 translation by Helen R. Lane. Ben Cain’s illustrations reflect the primitive nature of the story.
A very lengthy tome, it was only the political sections that I had difficulty following, and sometimes found rather boring. We are sensitively shown how the extreme poverty of underprivileged, landless, disabled, and uneducated people of that time and place affected their wretched lives, enough for them to flock to the shelter of a community established by a mystic preacher. Each character is beautifully and touchingly described as the civil War of Canudos progresses to its bitter end. The harshness of the terrain and climate adds to the horrors of thirst, starvation, wounding and destruction, which beset both the settlers and the soldiers sent to drive them out. Transcending all this is the superhuman emotional and physical strength displayed by people ultimately barely alive. The prose, having set the scene at a more leisurely pace, builds naturally, briskly, to a final crescendo. I have to say I was confused by the alternation between present and past in various sections. This was clearly not the fault of the translator, who seems to have done a remarkable job.
Ultimately the state cannot tolerate this enclave hoping to live in peace apart. The title of the book reflects the belief that the world would end at the turn of the next millennium, a myth which perhaps Vargas Llosa is dispelling.
Not knowing much about South American history, this novel had me researching the conflict that took place during 1896 and ’97. I learned that Antônio Vicente Mendes Maciel, an itinerant preacher who had been wandering the less inhabited areas of Brazil for the previous twenty years and had taken the name Antonio Conselheiro (The Counsellor), set up the Canudos_villagecommunity in question in 1893. Bahia was then a desperately poor zone, with a disenfranchised population living on subsistence agriculture. As such it was ripe for his influence, seeking hope from his promise of a better world. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at military suppression, a large Brazilian army force overran the village and killed nearly all the inhabitants.
Daniel’s fish and chip restaurant provided our dinner this evening. My beverage was tea; Jackie’s was coffee.

The UK Citizenship Test

Early this morning I wandered around Sigoules. Despite the fact that the last few days have been gloriously sunny, yesterday was the official ending of summer in France. Today the children returned, surprisingly eagerly, to school. They were certainly not, as Shakespeare put it, ‘creeping like snail unwillingly’.
Morning gloriesLeavesSignalling autumn, the low sun cast long shadows from fallen leaves. Conkers looked ready to drop. Morning glories mingled with the ivy climbing the walls of the CartWar Memorial garden, and flowers still bloomed in the old cart resting in the grass around the community centre.FootpathStream
I discovered a wooded footpath I had not noticed before. Signed ‘rue de la Moulin Cave’, it ran along the backs of houses until it emerged on the outskirts of the village on the road to Bergerac. A stream accompanied it on the final stretch. Beyond this, stone steps led up to a private garden.
On my return to the house, the female partner and one of the young men who had been occupying it, were waiting to collect their clothes and shoes. I helped them carry out the eleven bin bags, two travelling cases, and one briefcase. I also handed the woman a batch of letters I had managed to extract from the box on the wall outside.
Later, Brigitte drove me to Bergerac airport.
On the day of Michael’s Shampers birthday celebration, Tess was also rejoicing in having passed the UK Citizenship Test that day. She is now officially one of us. The flyleaf of Iain Aitch’s ‘We’re British Innit’ claims that unlike Tess’s test, ‘this is the real Britain’, that of mushy peas, haggis, corner shops, Coronation Street, horse racing, and fox hunting. Those of us around the table struggled with some of the historical questions Tess reported, but all would have recognised what goes with fish and chips.
Aitch casts his humour over all levels of society and all corners of Britain. He mixes clearly invented facts with those that are accurate, in a most amusing, often rather scurrilous, way. The book’s title had made it impossible for Becky and Ian to resist buying it for my birthday. It provided welcome light relief over the last harrowing week. I finished reading it in the airport lounge.

The Fender

Morning glory

The garden looked glorious in the morning light. In fact the morning glories lived up to their name. New flower bedIt was difficult to remember that the newly created bed through which runs the head gardener’s path was a jungle of bramble and overgrown shrubs completely obscuring the fence behind, on which were trained unseen clematises and camellias.Clerodendrum Trichotomum

A clerodendrum Trichotomum is coming into flower. These delicate blooms have various transformations to go through before they are done with delighting us.Fuchsia

A very leggy hardy fuchsia, rescued from the jungle at the far end of the garden now clings to the netting fixed to a tall dead tree stump.Japanese anemones

Most of our Japanese anemones are white, but there are some strategically placed pink versions, like this one growing through the red leaved maple.

Lacecap hydrangea

The lace cap hydrangea attracts insects like the hoverfly in this picture.

I have mentioned before that the small white butterflies flit about barely settling for a second. They are partial to the plants in the iron urn. Small white butterflyIf you have managed to find the hoverfly above, you may care to try your luck with this well-camouflaged butterfly on the lobelia.

Derrick staking gladiolusThis afternoon I read Hisham Matar’s introduction to Ivan Turgenev’s ‘On The Eve’, then started on the novel itself. I also did a little watering of plants, and staked up a gladiolus.

Early this evening, Becky, Ian, Flo, and Scooby, came to stay for a few days. With them, they brought birthday presents for Jackie and me jointly from them and Mat and Tess. FenderThe major shared present was a beautiful copper Art Nouveau fender Lamb jalfrezi, chicken korma, samosas, pilau ricewhich fits quite well in front of our wood burning stove. On each side of the stove itself tands one of a pair of bookends that Becky had given me about five years ago.

We all dined this evening on a splendidly authentic Jackie curry meal, consisting of lamb jalfrezi (recipe), chicken and egg korma, vegetable samosas, and pilau rice (recipe). Hoegaarden and fruit juice was consumed by the others whilst I drank Castillo de Alcoy 2010.

After this Ian and I walked with Scooby around the maize field.

Every One A Winner

Morning gloriesI photographed on commission this morning.  Jackie would like to make a card depicting a trio of Morning Glories.  She has several plants, but just one produced the required threesome today.

Cottagers Lane in Hordle is a gorgeous tree-lined road, today dappled in the sunlight.  A house we had seen on a website led us there.  Still in the forest, at a pinch this thatched beauty could be affordable.  Our usual external viewing didn’t disappoint. Cottagers Lane house In tip-top condition, with a newly thatched roof, as evidenced by the still golden decoy pheasant up above, this was an attractive prospect, with additional (library) accommodation in the garden.  That side of the road backs onto open fields. Cottagers Lane As I took a selection of photographs, a female group, with horse, and dog in tow, ambled past.

The Frys Lane house in Everton, previously under offer, is back on the market, so we had another look at that too.

Preserves and CakesVegetablesAfter an errant drive back we visited the Minstead Flowers, Fruit, and Vegetables Show at the Village Hall.  According to Oz, whom we met there, the event was a major success, having attracted far more entries than for many years.  Collection of salad vegetablesEvery kind of produce imaginable was carefully and artistically displayed with explanatory labels, some indicating the award of prizes.  We didn’t stay for the presentation of these latter, but there was a vast assembly of silver trophies shinily filling a table on the stage.

When paying our 50p each for admission we were enjoined to assist in the final judging.Floral display  If I understood Steve Cattel correctly this was the selection of some kind of Victor Ludorum for the floral displays.  I suggested getting us to do this was a cop out.  He said it was.  We had to place our ticket in the tumbler of our choice.  Mine had already won first prize as a novice exhibit. There weren’t many other tickets in the cup.

Basket of vegetables etc.Basket of vegetables and eggsAs well as the eponymous flowers, fruit, and vegetables, a table was laid with preserves and cakes to make your mouth water;Eggs another of cracked eggshells alongside their contents; models made by children; and novelties like the weirdest vegetables.  One pair of prize-winning vegetables also looked pretty weird to me.  That is why I photographed the turnips.  As I raised the camera, a hand slid across the image in the viewfinder and was abruptly withdrawn.  Its owner apologised for spoiling the shot.  ‘I didn’t take it’, I said. Two turnips ‘Please put your hand there again.  It will make the picture.  It looks as if you are snaffling the turnips’.Weirdest vegetable  Who knows?  Maybe that is what she had been doing. Dahlias etc. She was happy to humour me, but was inevitably somewhat tentative, and looked a little less like a child grasping for sweets.

I was particularly intrigued by the ‘Tray for a Royal Christening’ displays.  These required baking and flower arranging skills; a suitable choice of tray, china and cutlery; and an artistic presentation.  As Jackie pointed out, the bootees on the winning fairy cakes perhaps influenced the judges’ choice of number one, but they were all noteworthy entries. Tray for a royal christening first prize Tray for a royal christeningPersonally, I think anyone who has the courage to enter such a potentially disappointing competition, relying on the somewhat arbitrary judgement of others, deserves a prize.  Jackie was incensed that the vase of roses she had thought best hadn’t even been placed.  Unfortunately that’s not how life works.

Athletics at school wasn’t my thing.  I always wanted at least a ball, if not a bat, and I was no sprinter or jumper.  And if I were going to be a sweater, I wanted it to be in a game.  We had an annual sports day and everyone was expected to enter three events. I wasn’t going to enter the hundred yards race; and I hadn’t developed my Fosbury flop. What could I do?  Well there was a javelin, a discus, and a shot.  It didn’t seem to require much effort to stand there and chuck them, especially as no-one else fancied their chances and there were never more than three entrants, so I was assured of at least bronze.  I have to admit to being rather dangerous for any peripheral spectators when it came to the javelin.  It would also have helped my points rating had I thrown it straight.

I’m not sure if I mentioned at home that a gold medal gained in the discus one year required less than even my normal desultory effort, for there were no other competitors.

Jackie once went to a show similar to today’s at Minstead.  She admired a cake that had won second prize.  Searching for the winner of the gold, she realised there wasn’t one.  There had only been one entry not adjudged good enough for the prime accolade.  When she told me this I considered myself fortunate that my schoolmasters had not been inclined to take the same stance.

No matter how many entries there had been for tonight’s chicken jalfrezi contest, Jackie, with her delicious offering, would have won hands down.  Any self-respecting Bangladeshi chef would have been proud of it.  Particularly appreciated were the delicate aromas of her pilau rice garnished with toasted almonds.  Although the meal didn’t really need it, I spiced mine up with Naga relish given to me either by Danni or Shelly.  I finished the Ogio merlot, myself.

She Was Indispensable

Morning gloryBidding farewell to Jackie’s Morning Glory, after she delivered me to Southampton I boarded the train for Waterloo for a last weekend’s packing before the final removal from Sutherland Place.  Not a journey you want to make on a hot Saturday morning.  Had a woman, who was leaving the train in a few minutes at Winchester, not offered me her seat, I would have had to stand all the way.  I had already walked through several carriages, struggling past assorted standing passengers and luggage blocking the aisles.  Shortly after this the guard made an announcement telling people with bicycles not in the cycle racks that they would have to leave the train; and another informing customers that they could sit in first class for a £5 supplement.

From Waterloo I took the tube to Queensway and walked the rest of the way.  Roger, the gardener brought me the keys and I set to work whilst waiting for Anne, home in England from Athens for a few days, who had generously offered to come and help me.  It is always good to see our friend whom I have known for many years.  She is not often in England now, so I consider myself most fortunate that she was free today, for she was indispensable.  An expert packer, she aptly took over Jackie’s role as the practical one. First she drove me to Safestore where I bought more storage boxes and bubble wrap.  There was a slight problem driving into the forecourt as the road was blocked by two old red London buses having been hired for a wedding reception.

After this Anne displayed great skill in safely packing china and glasses whilst I got on with the books.  She, as a globetrotter, had clearly done this many times before.  When we ran out of bubble wrap we used my ancient finance files, more than six years old and therefore no longer likely to be required by Inland Revenue.  It was amusing to see invoices and receipts providing a crinkly shell for wine and sherry containers.  Our friend spent all afternoon tackling this task in an impressively methodical way.  She didn’t break anything, but in my one attempt to help her I managed to snap a stem.  I left it to her after that.

I had been warned that a prospective new tenant was to visit this afternoon.  A young family came to view with the estate agent.

Shortly before I left Sutherland Place three years ago I watched an elegant middle-aged woman painstakingly renovate and redecorate the outside of a shopfront in Chepstow Road, just around the corner from Westbourne Grove, that had suffered some neglect.  This was soon to re-open as Otto, a pizza house providing cornmeal crust products.  Jackie and I enjoyed it so much that we visited it several times in the last days here.  The woman was the mother of the very personable new owner.  When I visited it this evening, I was asked if I had eaten there before.  I was happy to relate this story and to congratulate their success.  It is now a very vibrant eating place to be highly recommended to anyone finding themselves in the area in search of a meal. Otto's pizza This evening I enjoyed a pizza with extra jalapeno, a crisp, dressed, side salad, and a glass of excellent Rioja.  The establishment was buzzing.  Their third birthday party is on the 18th September.  We are invited.  I regret that we are unlikely to attend.