Until the end of 2008, although I could not afford to buy another house in London, the interest on my money from the Newark house was earning c£1,000 per month. Suddenly this almost disappeared. The global financial crash had happened. I had paid a deposit on the house in Sigoules back in August, and, of course, the French solicitors unnecessarily delayed proceedings so that completion was not reached until mid-December.
I had a choice. I could cut my losses and accept the loss of my £10,000, or I could continue with the purchase and hope for the best. I also felt obliged to the friends from whom I was buying. I carried on regardless.
In December 2008, just a week after completion of my purchase of No. 6 rue Saint Jacques, S.W.France was hit by the greatest storm in living memory. The gales were even worse than those that had buffeted the U.K. in October 1987. The consequence was that Maggie had had to telephone me to tell me that my recently acquired house had been flooded. I had not even had time to take possession. The cellar was full of water and there were several inches of it in the ground floor. Multiple disaster had struck. The gales had thrust water under the French doors at the back, and the local underground stream had strayed into the cellar, completely filling it. Because of a three day power cut across the entire region the auxiliary generator installed for just this eventuality failed to function and had to be replaced. The trapdoor into the cellar was swollen and had to be forced, breaking some of the tiles laid over it. To make matters worse the inferior plastic piping distributing water throughout the house had sprung a leak and burst. Now I have a copper system which cost a pretty penny. Maggie and Mike had managed to get emergency help to pump the place out, and obviously I had to come over to organise repair work. The house was freezing, damp, and full of soggy mats and plumbers. I stayed with Maggie and Mike.
The English representative of the Insurance Company managed to wriggle out of responsibility for the consequences of the tempest, and I was advised to pay the plumber in advance. Much against my better judgement I stumped up. The plumber never finished the making good and it took 18 months for Mike to recover my keys from him.
When you wake up at 6 a.m. in an all-electric house to find you have a power cut and cannot make your morning coffee; and you have often passed a cafe in New Milton that professes to open at 6.30, there is only one thing to do. We did it. Dopily, Jackie drove us to Sunny Side Up Cafe. When, on entering, you learn that the big breakfast contains Ferndene Farm Shop sausages, suddenly coffee doesn’t seem enough. Jackie enjoyed her poached egg on toast, but I just had to have the full works.
And I could read about the Test match in yesterday’s Sun. Moeen Ali, permitted by the English Cricket Board to wear wrist bands bearing the legend ‘Save Gaza – Free Palestine’, had been stopped from doing so by the International Cricket Council. Steve Harmison, M.B.E., former England fast bowler has been quoted as saying that the spinner’s action on a cricket field was dangerous. Perhaps so, but Gaza has been an insurmountable problem for generations. Even without being able to unravel the rights and wrongs of the situation, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have made his statement.
Through the cafe window we watched the driver of a huge articulated lorry tidily loosening his load for delivery to Travis Perkins. We had watched him drive past the depot, presumably because he could not negotiate the left turn, and on to the next roundabout where he could backtrack and execute a right turn from our side of the road. Others were queuing, awaiting the store’s opening for their reception. From the top of the pillar box a POST OFFICE sign has been removed. Our home therefore has a shared history with the eating place, as does the Upper Dicker Village Shop, and no doubt many others of our smaller post offices which have been lost.
I took a walk along the maize field and collected more flint stones, completing the head gardener’s path on my return. I blame my Dad for the visual pun, because I thought of him as I peered down a hollow tree branch lodged in the hedgerow. One day when I was very small my father appeared in the doorway with one cardboard centre of a toilet roll held up to each eye, thus forming a pair of makeshift binoculars. Somewhat mystified, I gazed up in amazement.
‘Not two peoples’, said Dad. ‘Two peepholes’. Yabba dabba doo!
He would have been proud of his grandson Matthew’s offering related on 31st August 2012.
Between the tyre tracks on the path alongside the field, bees worked their way along ground covering convolvulus. Back home, another burrowed into a morning glory.
This afternoon I dug up and stacked more of the heavy concrete blocks and a few bricks from the kitchen garden, and Jackie completed her compost wall, then pruned and trained the wisteria.
This evening’s Red Admiral butterfly perched on a solar light, presumably waiting for it to come on in order to enhance its colour. It is of a duller, more orange, variation than, and consequently perhaps envious of, its redder and brighter relative seen yesterday.
We dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s delicious offerings. Jackie drank T’sing Tao beer and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.
This morning was a low-key one of rather subdued recovery from yesterday’s party. We drank coffee, ate toast, and played Scrabble.
In mid afternoon we lunched on what was surplus to requirements at yesterday’s lunch. By this time we were four: Elizabeth, Danni, Jackie, and me. Afterwards Jackie drove me home and we settled down to a relaxing late afternoon and evening.
My cousin Jane, nee Janice Booker, has lived in America since she was a young woman, and I have not seen her since. The last time I saw Jane was when we were probably still in our twenties when she was on a visit from The States, and Jackie and I took her out to a pancake house. When a limp, thin, flattened object with a smattering of sweet liquid was presented on a plate, she said: ‘That’s not a pancake’. You see, they do things differently in America.
I have, for some years, intended to e-mail her a copy of a photograph I took of her holding my son Michael in August 1964. Jacqueline has now provided me with the address, and I sent it across the Atlantic in a trice. It then occurred to me that it would make a good next picture in the ‘posterity’ series, and I began to draft today’s post. I got as far as ‘subdued’ in the first line when we had a power cut.
These are really quite a nuisance, especially as electricity is our only power source. I lit some candles, only spilling about a dozen matches on the carpet and burning just a couple of fingers.
After a while we decided to go for a drive as far as Downton and back, possibly via Bertie’s in Lyndhurst, in the unlikely event that that fish and chip shop should be open on a Sunday evening. The idea was to see whether this hiatus in power extended beyond our building and whether Downton was similarly affected. We very quickly established that there was no supply in Minstead, but that the dearth did not extend beyond our village.
Bertie’s was closed, so we thought we’d try Goodies in Totton. This meant driving back close to home, so we thought we’d check on the state of play en route. Our power was back on so we decided to stay in.
Pondering a rather deep philosophical question, I sat down to write my post, at least as far as the evening meal. I turned on the computer, brought up WordPress, sat with my hands poised over the keyboard ……… and we had another cut.
It is quite possible that Jackie and I both uttered expletives at this point. I relit the candles, found the torch, and the lights came on again. And I tried once more. I trust that in the circumstances I will be forgiven the shortage of photographs today. Hopefully my beautiful cousin will make up for it.
Now. Whilst we were driving out to Downton did the lights all come on in Minstead? Or was Castle Malwood Lodge back on stream only as we approached it? We had been out for about an hour and had not been there to see. Did the windows glow with light after five minutes or fifty? And as we weren’t there was it of any consequence to us?
And how did The Beegees know that ‘the lights all went out in Massachusetts’? (YouTube it).
This rather nonsensical musing put me in mind of the poser mentioned above: ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it does it make a sound?’. This is apparently an exercise in thought raising questions about observation, perception, and knowledge of reality.
I guess we could just ask our neighbours.
In the meantime, I am going to attempt to knock up some scrambled egg on toast and post this missive before the next cut.
P.S. Jackie got to the kitchen, the eggs, and the toaster, first.