Mrs St Barbe

Piccadilly Circus from Regent Street 12.63Piccadilly Circus from Regent Street in December 1963 is today’s advent picture.  The circus was originally created in 1819, although it has undergone various alterations in the almost two centuries that have elapsed since then.  Having been used for advertising since the early 1900s, this is possibly the oldest and most famous site in the world sporting illuminated advertising signs.  The lighting was first provided by incandescent light bulbs that gradually made way for neon which in turn finally bowed out to LEDs in 2011.

A building at the left hand corner of Regent Street partly obscures the Coca Cola sign that was first plugged in 1954.  As far as I am aware this is the only product that has continuously graced the circus in the intervening years up to the present day.  Coca Cola C 1954I was 12 when the young lady in the photograph put the finishing touches to the original C.

Anyone who has seen the recent photographs of our own Christmas decorations may have some idea of the number of large containers, stored full in the garage throughout the rest of the year.  Now empty, they were this morning returned to their home, to be brought back, refilled, and replaced, after the festivities.

After this, mild as this December so far is, it was time to prepare for winter’s inevitable onslaught.  Most of the plants in Jackie’s temporary garden were annuals.  These pots for these required tidying away.

Now for the birds.  Jackie stopped feeding them during the summer because she was tired of cleaning their droppings from her plants.  Mind you, if they hadn’t been so prolific with their guano which contained various undigested items, we would not have enjoyed the sunflowers.  The birds will soon begin their struggle to survive and the plants have all but given up the ghost.  So we filled up the feeders.  No doubt, like last winter, it will take our avian visitors a day or two to become confident that the only shots aimed in their direction will be from my camera.

Lunch today came with instructions to eat an inordinate amount of cucumber.  This is because, having stocked up yesterday in preparation for the hoards we expect next week, Jackie found one in the car park.  I trust it will not be repeated.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Lymington where we visited the St Barbe Museum, where the town’s memorabilia are housed in a former Victorian school begun with a donation from Mrs St Barbe.

This being a museum of the area including various seaside holiday destinations like Milford on Sea,Women's bathing costumes I imagine it was appropriate that the entrance lobby contained a display of women’s bathing costumes from the 1900s to the 1970s.  It struck me that as the covering of the female form grew more scanty so must the bodies that would be eventually just about contained within the garments.

The history of the area is told in posters with accompanying photographs and prints on the walls of two large rooms.  One example is the photos of Barton on Sea’s cliff collapse of the last century.  A long floor to ceiling cabinet displays artefacts down the ages from prehistory to decades of the 20th Century. Record Player 1930s I was intrigued to see at the rear of the 1930s section an HMV record player similar to the one that Chris and I had enjoyed in the 1940s, behind a cup and saucer very like a pair that Ali and Steve gave to Jessica and me in the 1990s.  Jackie and I still have the cups and saucers, but the record player suffered somewhat because my brother and I had no gramophone needles, so one of us wound the handle while the other held a rather blunt pin in the grooves to play the music.  I am not sure whether the records or the machine lasted longer.

Bob the BarberousThe rest of the exhibition consists of remarkable tableaux with excellent artwork, and outstandingly good models of humans.  The first example of this which quite entranced me was the smuggler Bob the Barberous (sic).  I was repeatedly tempted to prod him to see if he was real.

The display I could not at first get near was of Marsh and Mud, and contained aGun punt punt gun mounted on a gun punt.  The reason I could not reach it was because it abounded with primary school children leaping all over the place and creating a row that would have drowned out the sound of the weapon itself.  I then realised why the attendant had apologised in advance for this phenomenon, and decided to view the exhibition widdershins.  After the marauding infants had departed the custodian examined the wig of the occupant of the punt to ensure that it was still securely in place.

In another scene, Jackie was startled to look up and see a male diver about to descend upon her.  Fortunately he was wearing a 1920s outfit.

There is a well-stocked shop and gallery of well-crafted and reasonably priced art works.

This evening we dined on chicken kiev, ratatouille, mashed potatoes and swede, broccoli and brussels sprouts.  I finished the Isla Negra.

The Gun

Having got home rather late last night, this morning I produced yesterday’s post, half a day late.

White butterflyButterflies appear to be rare in the New Forest.  Jackie’s flowers are, however, attracting them.  They even manage to get over the anti-deer net.

When visiting Milford on Sea and its environs we have noticed a grand entrance to a long drive bearing the sign: New Forest Water Gardens.  Today, Jackie drove us there.  We were to be doubly disappointed.  This was no stately home offering sightseers a glimpse of a world of which they can only dream.  It was a supplier of ready made ponds with water features, plants, and no doubt frogs and newts to order. New Forest water garden For £6,995 you could have a Jack and Jill.  The second disappointment would have been more relevant had we been hoping to buy.  Today is Friday.  New Forest Water Gardens is closed on Fridays.

Continuing on to Keyhaven we decided to drown our sorrows in The Gun Inn.  I will let an extract from one of the menu cards tell a little of its history:

The Gun Inn history

We further gleaned the information that in days gone by the landlord had the responsibility for fishing the bodies of drowned sailors out of the seawater below.  No doubt this led to the mortuary function.

Today the premises house a multitude of collections, such as clay pipes, cigarette cards, matchboxes, horse brasses and many others.  You must look everywhere for these.  The matchboxes, for example, are fixed to the ceiling.  There are lots of cosy, linked, rooms and a large sheltered garden at the rear, with a small one at the front.

The Gun Inn bar

While we sat with our drinks we absorbed the atmosphere created by the locals in the bar discussing sailing, boats, and barnacles.  One of them most certainly looked the part.  We were intrigued by the 240 different whiskies on offer.

300px-Punt_gunHad Rob Keenan not been my brother-in-law, and had he not had a penchant for unusual mechanical artefacts, I may not have known that the canon portrayed on the pub sign was incompatible with the history on the menus.  113I would never have heard of a punt gun, let alone recognised one. The Gun Inn - Version 2But Rob was the proud owner of one of these contraptions that goes off with an enormous, startling, bang fit to bring out the fire brigade.  In its day, that is the nineteenth and early twentieth century, mounted on a punt, it could bring down 50 waterfowl with one eruption.  A man allowing it to be fired from his shoulder would certainly need his head looking at, preferably before the trigger was released.

The Gun Inn

Jackie made tandoori chicken with pilau rice for our dinner.  I opened a bottle of Chilano cabernet sauvignon 2011, and drank some of it.