It Was Christmas Day In Islington

Before I was reunited with Jackie, my life was much simpler.  My belongings were only in three different places.  In particular, clothes, books, other personal items, and the furnishing for one room resided in The Firs.  The idea was that I would spend half my time there and half in my house in Sigoules in the Dordogne area of France.  Then Jackie and I began to share a home again and we furnished another flat, eventually relocating to Minstead, just twenty minutes drive from Elizabeth’s.  We were happy, especially if we were to continue maintaining my sister’s garden, to leave our belongings in her care.

Then came Danni.  My niece is to return to her family home for a while and would rather like her old room back.  Today, therefore, was spent moving us out.  Beforehand, Elizabeth gave us lunch, we had a look at the garden, and Jackie tended to the plants in the greenhouse. Daffodils (tete-a-tete) The tete-a-tete daffodils were just one of the varieties of bulb Jackie had planted last autumn.  It was very pleasing to see they, among others, had survived our long winter.

Late in the afternoon, two car loads of books, clothes, and other belongings left The Firs in convoy and sped to Castle Malwood Lodge.  It was a race against the rain.  We just got the last of the books inside before thunder, lightning, hailstones, and rain struck.  This was such a storm that when we set off afterwards to Lyndhurst for a meal at Passage To India we were puzzled as to what was the white stuff in strips on the road, that is the part not under water.  It turned out to be hail, that, in the restaurant car park, still lay thick and crunchy underfoot. We enjoyed the usual top quality meal at this establishment, accompanied by Kingfisher.

This has been a long, very wet winter, not particularly good for roses.  In 1974, however, the season was much more clement.  That year was during a previous period of unsettled rented accommodation.  Then Jessica, Michael, and I lived in a house belonging to The Peel Institute, a boys’ club in Lloyd Baker Street in Islington.  It was our home on condition that I performed not very onerous caretaking duties in the clubhouse.  The Lloyd Baker Estate is a very trendy area in which to live.  For us, it was short-term, pending the refurbishment of the very elegant house.  We enjoyed a beautiful garden which I was happy to maintain.Derrick 25.12.74  On Christmas Day 1974 I picked a bunch of fresh, vibrant roses.  I still have the colour slide of Jessica’s photograph to prove it.  Unfortunately I cannot, this evening, get my slide scanner to work properly, so I can only reproduce the substandard early version which is all that Elizabeth had to work with in producing number 6 of ‘Derrick through the ages’.  If I manage to solve the problem I will replace the photograph in this post.

P.S. The problem is solved, but I’ll keep this as it is – it is part of the day.

Sensory Exploration

From the attic window 2.13Sod’s law was in force this morning.  As I prepared for my return to England, Sigoules awoke to the first clear blue sky that had not had frost laden ground beneath it since my arrival.  Sun kissed the rooftops visible from the attic window.  Southampton, on the other hand, when I reached it by my usual methods of transport, was grey and several degrees colder.  Never mind, Jackie’s smile as she met me at the airport, made up for the lack of sunshine.

The more than half empty plane arrived at Bergerac twenty minutes early, and lost none of that time before touching down at Southampton.  This despite more turbulence than usual.  Like many other passengers, I had no-one in the seat beside me.  But I did begin to feel soft and gentle pressure against the left side of my back.  Surely my luck couldn’t be in?  This slowly increased.  There came the added sensation of being prodded rhythmically.  As it became interesting I leant forward and turned to see what was happening.  The podgy little hand of a very young toddler I had seen in the departure lounge was extended from behind between the seats.  Her mother was apologetic.  I smiled and said that was no trouble.  After all, isn’t this a common method of exploration of new faces in inquisitive children of that age who don’t yet have speech?  Many a time, bearded or clean-shaven, has my face been silently explored in this manner.

Jackie drove me back to Castle Malwood Lodge; after catching up with each other, I caught up with the post and made a few consequential phone calls, including chasing up a loo seat.  Before I took off for France, a new seat had been put in place of a split one.  The contractor who struggled through snow to get to us had installed it even though it was rather small, just to keep us going, as it were, with the promise of one the correct size to follow.  It hadn’t followed. I rang the agent.

Passage to India meal 2.13An evening meal at Passage to India in Lyndhurst, accompanied by Kingfisher (and Jackie), confirmed I was home.

Primrose And Champion

Horse in landscape 12.12. (2)JPG

This morning I walked to Emery Down where Jackie picked me up and, after an abortive visit to a closed Highcliffe, drove us to Lyndhurst where we made a start on Christmas shopping.

Ponies were out in force today.  At Seamans Corner one was scratching its nose on the wooden seat surrounding a tree.White pony 12.12  Another quietly allowed me to pass  before ambling across the road.

As I passed Orchard Gate, a large house on the left on Running Hill, I greeted a young woman I had seen before, emerging with a bucket.  An older version was struggling with her bicycle mudguard.  Not being particularly handy I was rather relieved she hadn’t seen me walk by.  When I reached the two horses in the waterlogged field I was pleased to see them tucking into fresh hay.Primrose and Champion 12.12. (2) JPG  The young woman came along with the bucket, smiled, climbed over the stile, sploshed into the waterholes, and walked across to the far side of the field.  Whilst I was engaged in photographing the horses, the woman I took to be my acquaintance’s mother arrived on her bicycle.  She had just had a tyre replaced and the mudguard had kept catching on it.  It seemed to be allright now.  She told me she was a commoner and these were her horses.  She had other horses on other land.  These two were Primrose and Champion.  Primrose was the most beautiful example of the New Forest pony you were ever likely to see.  Champion had a bit of a cough which seemed a little better today.  My informant introduced herself as Mrs. Audrey Saunders.  She had bought herself a Victoria Pendleton bike but couldn’t get on with it so had given it to her daughter who, it seems, is less inhibited in whizzing around the lanes.

On a bend after the left hand fork of the forded road there is a steep camber in the road which is always full of water. Pool and cones 12.12 When walking by it is sensible to wait for any cars to pass first.  The opposite side of the bend abuts a very waterlogged private drive that someone is attempting to fill with gravel.  Roadmenders’ cones have been placed to prevent drivers from running over the verge, creating yet more mud.  This leaves even less room for pedestrians to negotiate.

By the time we left Lyndhurst the day that had dawned bright and clear had deteriorated into a damp deluge.  No doubt the pool above has reached the cones by now, for the downpour did not desist.  Indeed, it turned to hail and we waited in the car outside the house until the stones stopped ricocheting off the roof, windscreen and bonnet.  The clean gleaming white hailstones on the grass contrasted with last night’s black shiny wet deer droppings.

This evening we returned to Lyndhurst for a meal at the Passage to India restaurant.  This was excellent, and augmented by draft Kingfisher.  We were quite disconcerted by a small Oriental group consisting of two young women and a little boy.  The small fellow, although not looking too unwell, coughed and spluttered all the way through his meal.  One of the women seemed to be bravely keeping up a cheerful conversation whilst reclining and slowly subsiding in her high-backed chair.  Her face became more and more grey-looking; her handkerchief more and more soggy; her eyes more and more glazed; her nose more and more like Rudolph’s.  Since Jackie traditionally has a Christmas cold she was most relieved when our neighbours left the restaurant.

Horse in landscape 12.12