Of Roundabouts And Retail Parks.

Seated in the conservatory with our morning coffee Jackie and I watched what Elizabeth, on 19th, had termed ‘bay tree bird station’.  It was a squirrel this time joining the dove for crumbs from the table.  The peanut dispenser, hitherto eschewed, was being visited regularly by various small birds pecking at the nuts.  We speculated about a mysterious flood Elizabeth had discovered in the week.  The only possible source seemed to be the vicinity of the exterior 120 year old vine root, since the hole cut in the wall for the stem to enter its glass-bound home, was surely too far up; and rainwater didn’t usually flow up trunks.

In order to collect my overhauled camera, I took a walk to Jessops in Hedge End and back.  Rather circuitously.  Beginning at the end of Beacon Road by walking through Telegraph Wood, I soon reached the Ageas Bowl, home of Hampshire County Cricket.  Keeping this arena on my left, I ventured over mounds of ploughed up earth and rubble, hoping eventually to emerge onto the main road.  This was successful, but very muddy.  I found four golf balls which, upon my return, I scattered around the garden.  The reason for this should be evident to anyone who has read about the golf ball conundrum mentioned on September 8th.  When the ladies see this they will probably kill me.

I may have found my way to the major road which would lead me to Jessops, but finding the camera shop was a different matter.  West End is surrounded by a plethora of roundabouts and retail parks.  The retail parks all have different names, and all the roundabout signs, leading in whichever direction, lead to Hedge End and/or The Ageas Bowl.  Jackie, who is such a good navigator, finds it perfectly possible to cross over the M27 several times when finding her way between West End and Hedge End.  Every junction looks the same.  Arriving at the first roundabout, don’t ask me which one, I carried straight on, passing various other roundabouts and likely venues, none looking remotely like the home of Jessops, which I had visited more than once before.  I backtracked to my first roundabout and asked a man if he knew where Jessops was.  He worked in Halfords in Hedge End Trade Park, but had no idea about Jessops.  He got out a Samsung mobile device and attempted to find it.  The best he could do was establish that it was a mile away from where we were standing.  I thanked him.  By this time I thought I was on the right road, and continued.  Eventually I found Jessops and my camera which was all better now.  Two staff members in the shop were discussing Hampshire’s cricket.  The conversation began with a question about whether one of the men had been to the Rose Bowl this year.  Never once did they term the ground ‘The Ageas Bowl’, preferring to use its original title.  And to think someone is paying a great deal of money for the name change.  This got me pondering on how long it takes for a change of nomenclature to be accepted by locals or afficionados.  Throughout my lifetime the pub on the roundabout at the Morden end of Grand Drive and Hillcross Avenue has been ‘The Beverley’, after a brook which runs nearby.  During the short time we have lived in Morden it has become ‘The Morden Brook’,  The bus companies still call their local stop ‘The Beverley’.

I returned past the Ageas Bowl to Telegraph Road where I turned left and finally right into Beacon Road for The Firs.

On this return journey I tried to get my head around this maze.  Apart from numerous other differently named retail parks, such as Bradbeers or Chalcroft Distribution, we have Currys and PC World in Hedge End Park; Halfords in Hedge End Trade Park; and Jessops, I now know, in Hedge End Retail Park.  And I had to carry all this in my head until I reached a pencil and paper.

When I returned, Jackie was merrily digging into the earth around and beneath the conservatory downpipe, which the ladies had decided was the cause of the flood problem.  What looked like a soakaway pipe running directly into the earth for drainage, was in fact sited on top of a buried root.  As this had thickened over the years, and been subject to a build up of earth, it had blocked off any water outlet.  During heavy rain, water pouring from the conservatory guttering had nowhere to go.  This seemed to be the cause of the inflow of rainwater Elizabeth had found on the floor.  I finished off digging the hole and put in place a piece of piping Jackie had found to divert the rain away from the root.  We then went off to Home Base in Hedge End Park for a couple of bags of gravel which I poured into the trench.  Jackie finished it off with an artful application of pebbles collected from round the garden and pieces of flint extracted from The New Forest.

Afterwards, we all did a bit more planting, my contribution being distribution of compost and embedding a scented rhododendron.

We had an early meal at the Tandoori in Woolston.  Jackie and I drank Kingfisher and Elizabeth had some Australian red wine.  Jackie then drove me back to Links Avenue.


Jackie and I had another drive into the Surrey countryside today, this time to Ockley for lunch at The King’s Arms where we had honeymooned in 1968.

Whilst passing the roundabout just outside Dorking which bears a sculpture of a giant chicken, I was reminded of the roundabouts in France.  Certainly in the area I am familiar with, around Bergerac in the Dordogne, there are numerous roundabouts carrying structures reflecting something of significance to the area.  One of those in Bergerac (the decision makers presumably having resisted the temptation to erect yet another statue of Cyrano),  contains seafaring figures pulling on ropes, an artificial beach, and running water.  This is situated on the riverside and speaks of the ancient barge-going traffic.  One in Les Landes has a huge chair which, upon investigation, turns out to be celebrating furniture makers of centuries ago.  A few more of these on our overcrowded roads would brighten up traffic queues.  (Except for The Chicken Roundabout on the A143).

And so to The King’s Arms, where this Knight eagerly opened his arms in 1968.  Surprisingly neither the pub nor the village seems to have changed much in 44 years.  It is a beautiful area with fond memories.  As we were keen not to leave the four year old Michael we only had a break of 4 days whilst Jackie’s mother Vonnie cared for him.  The excitement engendered by a shed fire, which seemed to bring out the whole village to watch the firemen do their stuff, was nothing compared to that of being alone together for the first time.

This Sunday the food was excellent and the beer acceptable.  Jackie had first-rate roast pork and I had fish in tempura batter and chips which were very good.  As far as I can tell, having consulted Chambers on our return home, tempura simply means deep-fried.  It certainly was deep-fried.  We each had very tasty and spicy butternut squash soup and sticky toffee pudding.

I am indebted to my then elderly friend, Kenneth Lovell, for the discovery of Ockley.  As a teenager I had spent a short holiday one summer with Ken and his friend George at Ken’s house there.  Ken and I used to draw and paint alongside each other at his house in Raynes Park when I was a teenager.  Ken, an artist and illustrator, would be working on his illustrations for S. G. Hulme Beaman’s Toytown series of books (on one of which Ken gave me the honour of a minor collaborative role) , and I would be receiving the benefit of his observations on my juvenile efforts.