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. You 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:
This afternoon, as an excuse to drive past The Old Post House, we visited Hordle Beach near Milford on Sea. We 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.
In 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. Many holiday hideaways had been reduced to timber ripe for reclamation, 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. 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.