A Nod To Little Gidding


Today I scanned the final photographs of the Henley – Newark row/walk of July 2003. The last leg, from Nottingham to Newark was 25 miles in length.

Sam set off without James, and I trailed in his wake. It is hard to believe that I managed to keep within sight of him as he rowed along the River Trent, but these photographs would seem to prove it. Perhaps the cattle would bear witness.

As the rower moved into Farndon, James, Louisa, and Gemma set out to greet him and to follow him towards

Newark Castle station 7.03

Newark Castle, first passing the railway station;

to be greeted by his reception committee as he docked. Louisa, as requested, handed me two pints of beer – all for me.

Perhaps this was a lap of honour alongside the castle ruins. This 13th century castle was originally built for the Bishop of Lincoln. A Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, ‘in 1646 the garrison surrendered, but only after a direct command from Charles I. Parliament ordered the castle destroyed so it could never be held against them again, but fate took a hand; plague broke out in Newark town, and the destruction of the castle was halted.’ This quotation is taken from  http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=93 which contains a more complete history in very readable form.

So, what has all this to do with T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’? From this, the last of the poet’s Four Quartets, I have borrowed

‘What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from………….

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time’.

The reason is that I do not have the negatives of the last of my photographs as they are prints, which must have been produced by our friend Alison, or her sister, Rosemary, both of whom were there to send us on our way.

Sam took delivery of his boat at Henley where he and James set about preparing and stocking it for the journey. Note the black bin behind my son,

which I strapped on with the rather optimistic intention of collecting sponsorship money.

Pacific Pete left the mooring,

and we were under way. This was to be the last sound footpath I trod for the next eleven days.

This evening we dined on Thai inspired fish cakes from Tesco served on Jackie’s succulent bed of sautéed onions, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and manges touts; noodles; prawn toasts and spring rolls. The Culinary Queen drank her customary Hoegaarden and I drank more of the madiran.

P.S. See Mike’s bitaboutbritain comment below for a much fuller illustrated history of Newark Castle




On this sparkling autumn morning I bade farewell to Morden Park; to its squirrels, its magpies, its rooks, its parakeets; and the many passing acquaintances I have met there in the last eighteen months.

Jackie, during the next couple of days, will be engaged in much more difficult goodbyes, as she leaves Merton Social Services Department after more than thirty years employment during which she has undergone many changes.

Noticing one of the regular dog walkers trying to coax his reluctant labrador out of the park, I commented that it was usually the dog tugging the man. ‘E don’ wanna go ‘ome’, was the reply.  ‘E’s all right comin’ in, but now ‘e says: ‘c’mon Dad, let me play a bit longer’.  Further on I met a woman with two dogs, talking to a couple with another.  She was saying that the pulling dogs really hurt her arm.  I told the story of my earlier conversation.  They all laughed and she said: ‘If they ‘ad their way they’d stay ‘ere too’.  Later a man watching me vainly trying to capture with my Canon a bright green parakeet sunning itself on a oak branch said: ‘There’s loads of ’em round ‘ere’.  I guess I will become equally familiar with a rather different accent in The New Forest.Morden Park 11.12 (2)

Contemplating fruiting ivy surmounting a wire mesh fence took me back to autumns in Lindum House.  The grounds were surrounded by a lias limestone wall, the material of which was centuries old.  This had been scavenged by early builders from the ruins of Newark Castle which had, during the Civil War, been destroyed by the Royalists as they were about to be defeated, so that Cromwell’s men could not make use of it.  Clambering over this wall was much older ivy than Morden’s.  The stems were very thick and I had to prune it every year to prevent it from endangering passers-by.  It could poke your eye out.

As, in December 1987, we stood at the two-hundred-year-old cast iron gate watching the removal men depart, Jessica had said: ‘This is it, isn’t it?’, meaning this would be our last move.  Sadly, this was not to be, for nineteen years later, I was soon to be widowed for the second time, and to return to London.  There have been five changes of abode since then, not counting the holiday home in Sigoules.  Maybe Minstead will be the last.  It is certainly a very exciting prospect.

Sometimes happily, sometimes not so, I have therefore become quite accustomed to removal men, none so remarkable as the young Maltese who was on the team that moved us from Furzedown to Newark.  He was a huge man with massive, powerful, hands.  He carried a full tea chest of books on one shoulder, whilst one-handedly wielding an armchair in the other hand.  Time and again.  When it came to returning the tea chests to the van, he would, by the corners, grip four in each hand.  This charming character, full of smiles, could not speak English, but his colleagues, whose task he made much easier, told me his story.  He had come to England for what would be a life-saving operation on his pituitary gland.  He was suffering from gigantism and needed medical intervention to stop him growing.  I have often wondered how he is.

For this evening’s meal I made a lamb jalfrezi.  I have never before managed to make one from left over roast lamb, as opposed to balti pre-cooked meat, without it still tasting like an English roast.  This time I worked hard at it and succeeded.  Jackie drank her usual Hoegaarden with it, and, unusually, I drank Roc de Lussac St. Emilion 2010.