Early Films


Yesterday was Matthew’s birthday, and he, Tess, and Poppy will be flying to New Zealand on Christmas Day. That is why Jackie drove us to Upper Dicker and back. I just had time yesterday to publish a taster in the form of a picture of the sunset from one of the flat windows.

Train crossing

Although Berwick is a very small station with few trains passing through, we always seem to have to wait at the level crossing just a few miles from our destination. This time was no exception. We sat patiently behind this young man as the transport trundled past. We were caught again on the way back home.


The Birthday Boy and his family were pleasantly surprised. After Becky and Ian joined us, Matthew opened his birthday presents and we all unwrapped our Christmas gifts from each other.


Several people noticed a deep pink sunset, so I nipped into a bedroom and poked my camera through a window.

Later, Tess ordered the delivery of a truly excellent Indian takeaway meal. We shared plentiful pilau rice, onion bhajis, vegetable samosas, and naans. My main choice was lamb naga, and Mat gave me the whole green chillis from his jalfrezi. Peroni and a good Chateauneuf du Pape were imbibed. Poppy chose orange juice.

As always, we turned to reminiscing. Knowing that Shane is my all time favourite film, Mat told me he had just seen this masterpiece from the 1950s and agreed that it was an excellent production.. Our son had not known why I had enjoyed it so much, so I enlightened him. He then told us of his earliest remembered film,

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx_4C1cyUZA&w=560&h=315]

and why it was also a favourite. This was because I had collected him from school and taken him to see it. The singer on this clip is the late great Roger Miller.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmOe27SJ3Yc&w=560&h=315]

Coincidentally, one of my favourite songs is by this performer.

Becky’s early memory was the 1975 Disney film ‘One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing’. I don’t appear to have had an input to this. It was, however, very topical, because Poppy really likes dinosaurs and we had given her a toy one which she had immediately identified as a triceratops, which was more than I could have done.

This afternoon I enjoyed studying the Victoria & Albert Museum’s 2016 production of The Twelve Days of Christmas, beautifully illustrated by Liz Catchpole, who has incorporated William Morris’s designs. This was one of the presents given to me by Mat and Tess.

Here I feature the decorated front board and two of the spread sheets of the text.

For our dinner this evening, Jackie produced succulent pork chops topped with sage and onion stuffing, pork sausages, new potatoes, firm Brussels sprouts, and crisp carrots, with meaty gravy. I drank Somontano Pyrene 2011.


Tree Felling

Yesterday’s post carries a picture of the holly stump I decided to remove today. The promised rain fell overnight but kept off today, so I didn’t get my break.
Jackie drove us to Milford Supplies where I bought a long, heavy, tree feller’s axe, a smaller hand one, an iron shovel, and, for good measure, a fork handle. Tree felling toolsI felt somewhat like a Mafia hit man as I arrayed my purchases in the boot of the car.
I spent the rest of the morning extracting the stump. This feat was achieved by swinging the heavy axe and bringing it down on the stubborn remnant enough times to split it a bit and chip off some residual branches; by digging out soil around it until reaching roots; by chopping or lopping out those lifelines for the tree; and eventually kicking the object to dislodge it enough to cut out the tap root. It is harder to do this than to write about it. As I wielded my long macho weapon I identified with Van Heflin’s homesteader in ‘Shane’, and kept an eye out for Alan Ladd. He didn’t show up, so I had to finish the job unaided.
The last holly I cut down was about 30 feet high in Newark almost thirty years ago. I sawed off sections of the trunk first, until reaching a manageable stump. This is the method I employed after lunch with a tree only about ten feet tall. Having added all the branches to my ever increasing pile of stuff too tough for compost, I tackled the stump in the same way as the earlier one. I was able to leave a useful length to aid me in the kicking process.
Today’s location is at the far end of yesterday’s path. It widens out beyond a decking area which is approached by stepping stones through the gravel. The condition of that terrain can be seen from the stump picture. With the two hollies out of the way I thought I just had to weed, rake, and sweep the gravel and I would be finished. No such luck. The few sprigs of copper beech piercing the elderly weed protection lining in front of the platform would just pop out with a little gentle persuasion, I thought. Not so. They were actually suckers sprouting from a root of the mature tree nearby. So I chopped out a section of that root and completed the job.
Decking areaIn this photograph the keys to the location are the blue clematis and the red rose. The holly stump was situated close to the central two stepping stones.
Stepping stones and gravel
The disturbed area to the right of this second image was occupied by the other tree.
The wooden arch leading into the front garden now supports a rose of deeper pink than the first that bloomed.
Yesterday’s roast pork and red cabbage meal was beautifully reprised. The crackling was even better. With it, Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Bishop’s Finger beer.


I spent most of the day almost completing the wall for the compost bins.  Jackie did a great deal of clearing and tidying up in the garden, whilst Elizabeth concentrated on making the house ready for the coming of Malachi, who was bringing his parents with him. Sam and Holly and Malachi were visiting the boat show and came to stay with us afterwards.

An unidentified butterfly visited the garden.  Can anyone identify it?

Almost as soon as Malachi arrived, he asked: ‘have you got any toys?’  This sent Elizabeth on a search.  Fortunately she was able to find a few that Adam had left behind, including a small radio controlled car which went down rather well.  He did, at three and a half, ask her if she had any children’s games downloaded on her i-pad.  It was her attempt to rectify her lack that revealed a flat battery.  He had to make do with his mother’s i-phone.

Whilst eating his favoured green beans with his fingers the poor little chap bit into one.  Finger, not bean.  He really did cry, and eventually recovered on his father’s lap.  Over the meal we got to talking about names.  This arose because Holly is expecting another baby in November.  As with Malachi, she is interested in names from her Irish heritage.  As with Malachi, they are uncertain about which spelling to choose.  He, of course, got the Hebrew version.  Again, the parents have a front-runner as a name, which has several possible spellings.  Holly’s two brothers, Hugh and Shane, are named after ancient Irish kings.  It had been Holly’s mother, Gay, who had told me that Shane had such an origin.  Until then I had thought the name came from the the 1953 film starring Alan Ladd.  One afternoon just before Christmas in that year, Chris, Jacqueline, and I excitedly trotted off with Dad to Mary Jeffrey’s firm’s children’s party.  Mary was a friend of our Auntie Gwen.  A big disappointment awaited us.  We were greeted at the door with the information that there were only two tickets.  My stomach churning, and my lower lip quivering, I said: ‘it’s all right.  I won’t go.  The others can go’.  Dad rewarded me by taking me to see the film, on current release at the cinema.  It has remained my favourite film ever since.  No doubt because of the circumstances rather than the picture itself, good as it is.

When I related this tale Elizabeth told us that the three of us older siblings had once visited the annual fun fair on Wimbledon Common without taking her.  On discovering her sobbing in her bedroom, Dad had taken her to the fair.  He obviously didn’t like to see his children disappointed.

Danni and Andy joined us for our evening meal.  To go with the green beans that Malachi mistook his finger for, Jackie produced a fine array of vegetables and an excellent lamb stew.  The Firs mess followed.  The usual red wines, beers, fizzy water, and orange juice were drunk.