An Unexpected Portrait

Yesterday, by a narrow margin, Ireland won their rugby match against France. This was an excellent contest, and secured the championship for the victors. It went down very well in the Irish evening in support of CAFOD, which we attended with Helen and Bill, Shelly and Ron.
Catholic Aid For Overseas Development is an official agency representing England and Wales. It exists to help third world countries to become self-sufficient in feeding themselves.
Hopefully the evening made a reasonable contribution to the cause. It was certainly enjoyed by people of all ages. Lynden and Clive provided an excellent calling service for the barn dancing which was enjoyed by three-year-olds and those a good seventy years older. The star of the show was Titus, probably the youngest, who was adopted as her partner by the caller, and kept going until the evening ended at 10 p.m.
We were greeted by Helen and her colleagues ladling out steaming platefuls of tender and tasty Irish stew with wedges of fresh, crusty, bread. No encouragement was needed for some of us to emulate Oliver Twist and present our plates for a second helping.  A gentleman in a fluorescent emerald green jacket managed the temporary bar and later presented the questions for the quiz that Helen had compiled. It was a shame Helen had produced the puzzles because that meant that our team were deprived of the input of Bill who would most certainly have lifted our table from its final sixth place.
Children placed a prompt card on each table, for a group performance of ‘Green Grow The Rushes O’. This is a traditional song involving each group at the appropriate intervals to repeat the refrain on their card. Our ensemble were rather chuffed to earn applause for our harmonising.
After the raffle, in which Bill won a Nivea product, we drove him home, leaving Helen, who had not stopped working all evening, to coordinate the clearing up.
This morning I wandered a wide loop around the forest opposite the end of Lower Drive, emerging at Suters Cottage and returning via London Minstead. This was the area I had explored in the mist of 21st January.
I have often wondered how it is that people can come into such a beautiful region and chuck rubbish out of their cars onto the forest verges.Budweiser bottles Today’s detritus included spent Budweiser bottles.Shadows on forest groundFallen tree shadows
Shadows on wooded slopeShadows crisscrossingSun through treesSunstar through tree - image of young womanThe forest looked so different today. Cast by the bright late morning sun shining through the trees, long shadows streamed across the shattered trunks and leaf-strewn terrain.
Sun stars were created throughout the area, none more dramatic than that providing a picture light for what appeared to be the portrait of a young woman etched on a trunk.
Holly regenerating

A blighted holly demonstrated nature’s powers of regeneration.

Forestry Commision gate

Several deer, as elusive as the ubiquitous brimstones that never seem to settle, streaked across the path beyond a Forestry Commission gate. Forest scapeI swear there were two of the butterflies in this forest scape when I pressed the shutter button.

Minstead Lodge

Minstead Lodge, not yet obscured by leaves, can still be seen in its lofty position above the road.

Orange tree and pony

The deciduous trees are beginning to come into leaf. Some of these take on a bright orange hue lending them a glow borrowed from the russet ponies,

When we first moved into our current home, the walls of the flat were occupied by the owner’s pictures. Carefully labelled by Jackie, we packed these up,stored them in a cupboard for access to which we needed a step-ladder, and replaced them with our own. This afternoon we reversed the process.

This evening Elizabeth and Danni joined us and my niece drove us all to Ringwood’s Curry Garden where we enjoyed the usual high standard meal with friendly and efficient service. The restaurant was very full.

The Wrong Date

I have begun reading Peter Roberts’ short history of Minstead in the seventeenth century.

On a cold, dark, and dank morning in this flaming June…….. just a minute, what flaming June?  We like to think of this early summer month as sunny and warm, so we call it ‘flaming June’.  That hardly applies.  I’ll use my grandmother’s ‘flaming’.  Grandma, you see, used ‘flaming’ as an euphemism for something else, of which I fondly hope she was unaware.  So, as I was saying, on a cold, dark, and dank morning in this flaming June, I walked the two fords loop, finishing, via the church footpath, at The Trusty Servant Inn where I was to meet Heather for lunch.

Rhododendron ringUnknown hands had fashioned a ring of rhododendron petals beside the bridle path at the top of the hill coming up from the first ford.  Just before I descended to The Splash, I noticed the twig circle, the mystery of which was unravelled on 11th January, has reappeared.  This all suggests that parties of schoolchildren are returning to the Study Centre just above that ford.

The church footpath was unexpectedly drier than usual, clearly having benefitted from maintenance work. Church footpath A bit of a ditch has been dug into the upper verge and channels have been cut across the path so water from the higher field is channeled into the lower one.

The Trusty Servant Inn was functioning during the period of Mr. Roberts’ history.  Perhaps the building itself has been reincarnated since then.  Heather and I reached the car park at the same time, and, never having met before but faced photographs of each other for about a year on the on-line Scrabble board, recognised each other even before she emerged from her car.  We knew we would get on because of the rapport we had shared on the game chats.  It was a most enjoyable lunch capped by my new friend coming back to our flat to meet Jackie and spend another hour or so with us both.

Heather and Brian live at Horndean, where Mum and Dad had their last home together.  Dad died in his bed there and is buried in the cemetery at nearby Catherington.  The date of his death was Christmas Day 1987, just two weeks after Jessica and I had moved with our children to Newark.  This has always made Christmas an especially significant date to remember.  In my ‘Would You Believe It?’ post of 7th August last year, one of the uncanny stories that provided the theme was that of completing the posthumous pastel portrait I began the following Christmas Eve and finished in the early hours of Christmas morning.

In August 2012 I was in Sigoules with Don and did not have my copy of the Dad's portrait photocopyportrait with me.  I am now, with the aid of technology nearly forty years on from December 1988, able to reproduce it here.  What I have is an enlarged photocopy of the original given to my mother.  In those days we did not have our own scanners and printers and the pc to operate them.  We visited the local shop, usually a stationers, equipped with a photocopying machine.  Osborne’s in Newark possessed one with a facility to enlarge what was to be reproduced.  Now I can photograph the framed picture behind its glass with my little Canon S100, walk across the room, slip the SIM card into the back of my computer, fiddle about a bit with the image, save it on the desktop, upload it to my WordPress blog, finish the post, and send it round the world via the server.  Had any one told me this would one day be possible whilst I stood by the stationer’s machine, wondering how to operate it, would I have believed it?

Returning to 1987, whilst Dad’s body was being lowered into the grave, I noticed the date of death inscribed on the coffin’s brass plate was 24th December.  The family consensus was that I should ask the undertakers to change it.  I asked them to do so after the burial.  I do not know whether they ever did.  I don’t suppose it matters much now.  We know.

Following the plentiful ham, egg, and chips I had for lunch, we dined on pizza, salad, and trifle.  I drank Cocker Hoop ale, which name suggests that Jennings, the brewers, are proud of it.