A Leaving Present

There are always unexpected expenses when moving house. One we hadn’t bargained for was caused by the discovery yesterday that none of Jackie’s carefully collected saucepans – not even her precious pressure cooker – can be used on the Neff hobs. Naturally therefore, the most expensive kitchen installation requires the most expensive cooking utensils. Off we drove to John Lewis in Poole to by some with a magnetic quality.

Jackie knew what she really wanted, which was Tefal non-stick pans, but hovered and havered over the price, until I took the bull by the horns, picked up a range of pots, thrust some into her arms, and carried the rest to the checkout. Even the man who served us carried a magnet to check the equipment.
I’m no fool. Microwaved meals and eating out are all well and good, but they cannot match my lady’s culinary prowess.
On our return, I just had to photograph them amassed on the surface where they will be used in the creation of delicious delicacies. There are a couple of unplanned bonuses in the resulting image. Firstly, Jackie is seen reflected in the oven as she passed behind me. As was demonstrated by an earlier photograph, this would not have been possible before she painstakingly cleaned and polished the Moben installation. Secondly, in the top left corner, Norman’s parrot can be glimpsed on its perch suspended from a hook in the ceiling.
We had a welcome visit from Danni in the afternoon. She is much-loved niece, and it was gratifying to hear her say she felt the same way about the house.

When, in 2008, I gave up my consultancy role with Parents for Children, I was given a number of presents from different groups in the organisation. One was basket containing an array of plants in a pot. The main feature of this was a very young azalea. Neither London soil nor tap water was suitable for the plant, so I repotted it and fed it on rainwater. Miraculously it has survived, having continued to be nurtured in Michael’s Graham Road house for the last few months.

It was a joy to see that this, together with a  pieris I had also bought for Sutherland Place, had, unharmed, been first off the Globe Removals van. When we get around to it, we will find permanent resting places for each of these.
Parents for Children was a specialist adoption agency set up in the 1970s specifically for finding homes for children who by reason of disability or emotional difficulties were difficult to place. With the changing financial climate, the cost of such intensive specialist work, and the development of Social Services own fostering and adoption sections, the agency’s survival became more and more precarious and closed down not long after my involvement ceased. Whole generations have reason to be grateful for their existence.
This evening, courtesy of Tesco and the microwave, I dined on chicken jalfrezi whlist Jackie ate lamb rogon josh. These were followed by treacle puddings.

Averting A Disaster

Daffodils in vaseDaffodil buds Jackie bought at Ferndene Farm Shop opened out beautifully overnight, and looked resplendent in the morning sunshine. The Belleek vase was given to us by Elizabeth  a couple of Christmases ago. As one of the television commentators on the England versus Wales rugby match said this afternoon: ‘the sky couldn’t be bluer’. As it was at Twickenham, where the game took place, so it was in the New Forest all day. This contest was by far the most intriguing of the weekend’s internationals. Not just because England won by a comfortable margin, but because one always felt their opponents could catch them up, particularly if the home side continued to give away penalties. Both kickers had an afternoon of 100% success. Leigh Halfpenny scored all Wales’s points with his six attempts, and was later found to have dislocated his shoulder making a try-saving tackle on Luther Burrell. I won’t explain the points system, for rugby fanatics will know it, and those not interested can easily skip this bit. Incidentally, a number of international rugby players are now sporting full beards, vying with each other in length. One of the Irish players yesterday, had he been quite a lot smaller, could have passed for a leprechaun. Jackie tells me this is because ‘real men wear beards’. We needed to replace a few light bulbs which don’t seem to last very long here, so, well in time for the kick-off, we decided to visit the New Milton Tesco, where we bought some. Well, it was a good excuse for Jackie to drive us past the house that will be ours at the end of the month. It is still in situ. Continuing to Milford on Sea we had another look at that. As we emerged from Newtown to turn left into Forest Road, we encountered some congestion caused by a car parked up on the verge. The vehicle was surrounded by ponies. The driver and passenger had their windows open and were feeding the animals, which were displaying an unusual amount of energy as they imitated customers on the first day of a Harrod’s sale. Pony backlitThe more patient ones stood back, no doubt awaiting their turn. Never having been one to enter such a free-for-all, I identified with these three. At children’s parties I would always wait until the gannets had had their fill. It’s so undignified not to. In the supermarket I went in search of the bulbs whilst Jackie picked up a few other items. For one young lady it is probably just as well I did.Tesco's Shelves In order fully to understand the scene that met my eyes as I turned one corner, it is necessary to study this photograph of the shelves. Note that, after the event, the blue drink containers labelled KX have one missing from their pack. Note also the gap between the Indian tonic water and the Roses lime juice on the very top shelf. When these shelves came into my view an elderly woman making her uncertain way towards them was pointing up at the KX drinks that occupied the now empty space, in an endeavour to engage the assistance of a younger female. Had the more aged person had a straighter posture she would have been a bit taller. Even with an upright back, her helper was not as tall as the lady in need of help. She was very short. And very rotund. So much so that when she mounted the packs of Coca Cola on the pallet she had to stretch her arms up to their full length to slide her fingertips under her quarry. She teetered on the edge of the cokes, like a stunt person in a thriller movie making her way along a ledge outside a high building. She struggled to gain purchase on the slippery plastic that wrapped the consignment. She drew them towards herself. She rocked on the Cokes. The batch of KX slid forward on the edge of the shelf. Aiming, it seemed, for a dive. Approaching from behind, I reached over her shoulder and relieved her of her burden. She most certainly was relieved. Meeting her further on in the store, she gave me a pleasant smile. I thought it politic to explain to Jackie how I’d earned it. This evening’s dinner was a delectable liver and bacon casserole with which I drank a little more of the Bergerac. As with most of Jackie’s meals they are always variable in production. We therefore present today’s version, to which, once the method has been understood, you will no doubt make your own amendments. Method: Slices of lamb’s liver, including any blood in the packaging, from the Ferndene Farm Shop are ideal. If you cannot get to that outlet that is your misfortune, but I am sure you will find another good source. To that is added Sainsbury’s cooking bacon. Both, with a Knorr lamb stock cube and enough water to cover them are cooked for about five minutes in a pressure cooker. If you don’t possess such an implement, cook them in the casserole until tender. Quantities are up to you, as is the balance between liver and bacon. Liver & bacon casserole Fry four medium onions in the casserole dish. Jackie didn’t use garlic today, but it is an option. A sprig of dried rosemary, and a couple of bay leaves, with the meat and its fluid are then added. We had supplementary red peppers and carrots because they match the dish they were cooked in. There are endless such variations according to the colour of your pot, or just to your taste. Slosh in enough red wine to cover everything and simmer gently until tender. Half an hour whilst you prepare the veg should be enough. Liver & bacon plated up

It looks pretty good on the plate, and is very flavoursome.

Like Shovelling Water Or Coal In A Bunker

Jackie is very keen on keeping our flat clean and tidy. Glancing at the fireplace surround since 11th/12th February when  Sam and Orlaith made a surprise visit, one would not think so. Orlaith's footprintsYou see, when she came to dust this area my housekeeper couldn’t bring herself to do it. It bore a set of podgy little footprints that are still causing amused delight.
Yesterday, when explaining the frustrations of the English system for buying and selling houses, I didn’t describe the exchange of contracts and completion of sales. I can only tell you what we have to do. I cannot quite fathom the reason. Nothing is at all binding until contracts have been exchanged. Anyone can pull out at any time and leave the other party in trouble. In order to proceed to completion, contracts must first be exchanged with the payment of a 10% deposit. Reneging on the deal after this results in forfeiture of the deposit by the buyer, or, I have been told by the agent, a similar figure from the seller must be paid to the disappointed purchaser.
The solicitors want the money up front at each stage. Yesterday’s transfer was of the deposit. We had been told the exchange has been agreed and should take place today. The completion date was still to be negotiated, but in anticipation that it will soon be arrived at, we drove into Ringwood once again and transferred the balance of the money into the solicitor’s client account this morning. Exchange did not happen today. It is now to be tomorrow, with completion on 12th March.
Afterwards, although it was a very mild day, we lunched on one of Jackie’s delicious warming soups. This was bacon and lentils. A precise recipe is impossible. What she does is keep a vegetable puree base that consists of left-overs, including such as cauliflower leaves and onion skins. This, which I believe is known as compost soup, is divided and frozen in ice cream tubs. When the time comes she defrosts a portion and adds whatever takes her fancy. Today it was chopped up left over gammon steak, fresh lentils and a few extra carrots. She believes that somewhere along the line it must have had onions in it. This must suffice as a recipe. Here is a picture of the ingredients of the next compost soup base, to which brussels sprouts superfluous to this evening’s meal were later added: Compost soup ingredients
This afternoon, as an excuse to drive past The Old Post House, we visited Hordle Beach near Milford on Sea. Dog walkersWalker on beachSeaWe looked down onto the heaped shingle and the foaming sea, watching walkers along the shoreline, and, buffeted by the wind, walked down a set of still stable wooden steps, onto the shifting heaps of pebbles. The woman in the red jacket above put me in mind of two women I had seen alongside Southampton Water on 14th October 2012. She was doing a fast walk. They had been running.
Cliff fall with beach hutsSmashed hut and debrisIn the less sophisticated warfare of centuries gone by soldiers lined up for battle in serried ranks, one tier behind the other. The front line copped the brunt of the enemy fire, and the next one clambered over dead bodies to take their places. It was those beach huts here that had been in the vanguard that had caught the full force of the recent storms, with devastating effect. One section of the cliff had fallen away, rendering difficult access to huts teetering precariously on the new edge.Smashed beach hutsDebris Plot 267Many holiday hideaways had been reduced to timber ripe for Unsafe structure warningreclamation, and debris lay where it had been washed up. Some belongings were probably now nowhere near their former homes. Council notices warned that specific buildings and land surfaces were unsafe.
A defiant message from the owners of the pile of scrap that had once stood on plot 267 aroused our admiration.
One man had been working for two days at fixing up his hut and shovelling away the shingle. This was Richard, who explained that the pebbles hurled to the front of his and other huts had, in fact, provided a protecting wall which had saved his property from the worst of the devastation. He pointed out a gap in the line where a row of huts, as if a giant had scooped them up in the night, had simply disappeared. He described his task of shovelling shifting pebbles as trying to scoop water out of a bowl, because they kept falling back in again.Richard shovelling shingle His much more apt simile, later in the conversation, was of getting in the coal for his Mum when he was a boy. Anyone who is old enough to have done that will know that as you scraped your shovel along the cellar or bunker floor, lifting one load, another slid down and filled the space you had just created.
Sadly, whilst we were conversing with this man, a group of young men started chucking some of the flotsam around and making off with other pieces. When we arrived back at the car park we could see them smashing it up and abandoning shattered scraps. A woman on a bicycle reached them before I did. She must have remonstrated successfully, for they began to pick up the broken pieces. As I approached they threw the last pieces into the car and, like Starsky and Hutch, jumped in and drove off as the doors were closing.
Back home in Minstead we dined on tender heart casserole, crisp vegetables, and potato and onion mash. Jackie achieves such tenderness in this meat with a tendency towards toughness by pre-cooking it ‘for a long time in a pressure cooker’. I drank some Bergerac reserve red wine from 2012.