1,000 Days

Stump 2Stump 3Stump 4Shadow on stumpIn bright sunlight this morning I played around with the super vivid setting on the camera. I reduced the saturation in the saw picture in order to reproduce the natural colours which still look pretty unreal. This tool was discovered when we were clearing the overgrown hedging on the back drive, and remains where we propped it.

The timid tits approaching the bird feeder stop off in the shrubs behind it in order to watch for their moment to swoop and snatch up their sustenance before being attacked by more belligerent birds such as robins, or assassinated by humans who may have set out the larder as bait for nefarious purposes.

SawTit approaching bird tableStump 1PlanksAutumn leavesLeaves and pondweedPansies

I forget the name of the influential art master who taught for a short time at Wimbledon College. Rather a tempestuous character, he was sacked for beating up Adam Pardon. He helped us to see that trees were not simply a single brown in hue. Nothing makes this clearer than the range of russets, oranges, ochres, greens, yellows and indigoes sported by the decaying wood of our dead stumps or discarded planks. These photographs have not exaggerated them much.

Becky and Ian had given me Boris Johnson’s timely publication ‘The Churchill Factor’ for Christmas. Rather appropriately, I finished reading it today. Boris has written neither a history, nor a biography, but an extended eulogy for the great man. This is a very readable book, benefiting from the writer’s admirable research and entertaining facility with the language. Sir Winston Churchill died 50 years ago today, and, the first commoner since the Duke of Wellington, to receive the honour, lay in state in the Great Hall at Westminster.

At the time, I was working for Mobil Shipping Company at the now demolished Pill Box building between Waterloo Station and Westminster Bridge. I watched a queue of 300,000 people snaking across the bridge and The Embankment on their way to pay their respects to the man who had so eloquently rallied their spirits during the war that had ended just twenty years earlier. Johnson reminds us that there was so much more to Winston than that, but I won’t add to the billions more words that are bound to be produced in the days to come.

Churchill lying in state005Churchill lying in state003Churchill lying in state001Churchill lying in state002Churchill lying in state004

During my lunch hour, I nipped out with my totally non-automatic Kodak Retinette 1b camera, and photographed those people braving the cold winter’s day. I first published a selection of these with my post of 22nd May 2012, but I think it fitting to repeat them today. Note that the Union Flag flies at half mast over the Houses of Parliament.

For our dinner this evening Jackie coated chicken thighs in their skins with piri-piri seasoning and roasted them in the oven. Retaining the skins produces enough fat to obviate the need for oil. This was accompanied by her usual savoury rice without egg. We had the chickens after all.

Red cabbage melange

The surprise addition was the melange of sautéed red cabbage and other vegetables. Into the finely sliced cabbage, onions, and green beans, which were stir fried, carrots were added quite late on in order that they should retain their original colour. When everything was soft enough a splash of vinegar was added, a lid was applied the saucepan and the whole steamed on a low heat for no more than ten minutes. I recommend it. Between us we finished the Pedro Jimenez white wine.

This is my 1,000th post since I began my blog on 9th May 2012. Although some entries have been published a day or two late, no dates have been missed.

P.S. The following morning Jackie and I had a discussion about just what is contained in the queue photos. When I last published them Becky had commented on the fashions of the day. Jackie was struck by the number of hats displayed on the heads of both men and women, and the number of fur coats still acceptable then. The one woman walking in the opposite direction on Lambeth Bridge in the first picture would be on her way to the end of the line. It would take her three or four hours to reach the front

A policeman who commented on BBC news may possibly be visible in the third picture. He answered our conundrum about the line of vans seen on the far side of the first image. They were catering facilities provided by the WRVS. Clutched in the arms of a news vendor on the right of photo three are copies of The Times, the front pages occupied by a photograph of the great man.

Clicking on the images produces larger images which helped us examine the details. Maybe you could find more of the information from half a century ago.



A Short History Of England

PeriwinkleA warm wind swept through overcast Downton and across The Solent this morning when I took my usual walk to Hordle Cliff top and back. Sheltered among the hedgerows, perky periwinkle still trails along the ground.
On my return, I wrote the rest of my share of our Christmas cards and put them in the post.
Simon Jenkins, a former editor of The Times, having completed his six year stint, has recently retired as Chairman of The National Trust. It was in association with that body that Profile Books published his ‘A Short History of England’ in 2011. I finished reading it this afternoon. Jenkins has a thorough grasp of the story of how today’s England has emerged, from the Dark Ages of the fifth century, when the Angles arrived from Germany, to the date of publication.
He writes, in a clear, simple, elegant, and often humorous style, of the country’s heroes; villains; triumphs; disasters; conflicts, both internal and external; and its development into global prominence then partial eclipse. He unravels for the lay reader key individuals and events in our history. Anyone, for example, who can clarify ‘The Wars of The Roses’, as he does, is worthy of admiration.
This concise yet comprehensive single volume deserves to be read by anyone with a wish to understand English history. All is intelligible, and such quotations as are included are brief, illustrative, and pithy. Having sometimes thought their use in history books is rather more to fill out the text than to lend it credibility, I found this refreshing.
Packed with colour illustrations, all of which are credited, the book has a useful index and appendices of 100 key dates; Kings and Queens; and Prime Ministers.History of England jacket
Naturally the choice of the four personages chosen to adorn the book jacket could be debated, but it is interesting all the same. From left to right we have King Edward III, undoubtedly the greatest mediaeval king; Queen Elizabeth I, who gave her name to a Golden Age; King Charles I, who was executed by his people; and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, who saw us through the Second World War.
This evening yesterday’s delicious curry meal was, with its beverages, reprised today. As always, it had improved with keeping.

Panettone And Jam Pudding

13th November 2013

Jackie drove me to and from Southampton Parkway today for my visit to Norman. I took my usual Green Park route from Waterloo as far as Piccadilly, which I crossed and continued up Old and New Bond Streets to the next station on the Jubilee Line. River ThamesIt was high tide on a choppy Thames as I approached Westminster Bridge. Gulls on the embankment wall were being tempted by one woman to provide photographic material for another, younger, one – and for me.  Gull feeding 2Gull feedingGull feeding 3They were both amused at my efforts.  The fact that we did not understand each other’s languages was no barrier to communication. Churchill statueOn 1st November 1973, Queen Elizabeth II gave the honour of unveiling the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square to the great man’s window, Baroness Clementine.  The sculpture, gazing across from the green to the Parliamentary arena that its subject so dominated during the years of the Second World War, captures his distinctive posture so well that a silhouette is all that is needed for recognition.  Ivor Roberts-Jones was the artist. The green grass still largely uncovered by leaves in St James’s Park, provides the carpet for crows, squirrels, waterfowl, and humans. St James's Park plane trees Although the London planes slough their bark throughout the year, their leaves are retained a little longer than yesterday’s gorgeous maples. The reason I know about the bark is a little embarrassing.  Some time around 1980, I was gazing thoughtfully out of my Westminster office window when I noticed planes in the street outside shedding their skin.  Wondering whether this was a consequence of the hot summer and something should be done about it, I telephoned the department responsible for their maintenance to alert them of this fact.  ‘They are meant to do that’, was the reply.  ‘That’s how they get rid of city dirt’. Neasden Lane autumnNeasden Lane pavementNeasden’s trees were making a valiant effort to brighten its unattractive blocks of flats, but no amount of fallen leaves could have invited carpet slippers onto the ramshackle surface of the Neasden Lane pavements. Norman served a tender, well marinaded beef stew and pilau rice for lunch.  Not having used his Le Creuset casserole dish for some months – since last Christmas as it turned out – he was surprised, when removing its lid, to find it contained half a panettone.  He also had a jar of jam he wanted to finish up.  Consequently the planned bread and butter pudding became one of panettone and jam, baked with a custard topping, and served with cream. recipe-image-legacy-id--757_11 The peel in the brioche type bread made an excellent substitute for marmalade which is sometimes spread on the bread of our normal version.  I thought this an agreeably inventive variation on a theme.  The choice of wine, appropriately, was an excellent valpolicella. My journey home was uneventful.  Seeking an illustration of panettone on Google, I discovered the BBC posh panettone bread and butter pudding, and am able to insert a picture of this.  It doesn’t have custard or jam, so I consider my friend could legitimately take out a patent.


On learning of my penchant for history, our friend Margery lent me ‘The Crusades’ by Thomas Asbridge.  I began reading it yesterday evening.

As I took a series of photographs in January 1965, at the ripe old age of 22, I thought: ‘these will be an historical record one day’. Churchill lying in state005 Now, nigh on 49 years later, they are.  I did not start illustrating these posts until June last year, so when I mentioned on 22nd May that I still had the colour slides I took of the queues for the lying in state of Sir Winston Churchill, I did not add them to the post. I rectified that this morning, by adding five.


Deer fleeingAfter this a deer made its quite slow, elegant, way across the lawn, until, disturbed by our attention, it fled into its bolt hole.

Gravel, pipes, and logsI then walked the two underpasses route, starting at the Malwood Farm end.  A summer’s usage by pedestrians and ponies has produced such reasonably clear footpaths as to make my earlier errant efforts at this trip during the waterlogged spring seem somewhat meandering.  The farm’s gravel heap is higher, harmonising even better with the pipes upon, and logs beside, it.  I reached the Rufus Stone car park in very quick time, just as Bob and Lyndon were preparing to move on.Bob and Lyndon  These two friendly men were volunteers for the Forestry Commission, engaged in litter picking.  I wondered if the family decanting from a car behind them might render some of their work in vain.  I spoke with them for a while, and told them I had seen their equivalent in Morden Hall Park last year.  They knew of the National Trust’s similar system.

Apples for the ponies

Outside Shovel Cottage in Minstead four apples placed on the verge of the road seemed to be harbingers of the season when local residents put out food for the struggling ponies.

Athelhampton Hall 3

Athelhampton HallAthelhampton hall 2At mid-day we set off, Jackie driving, to Athelhampton Hall in Dorset to visit the privately owned house and gardens. Dahlia It was a dull day and late in the year, but we saw enough of the splendidly designed gardens to know that they will look stunning in spring and summer, when we vowed to return. Athelhampton Hall and fountainFirst built in 1485, the house has undergone various embellishments over the centuries, yet remains beautifully integrated.

The garden has been so well designed that wherever you are positioned, as in an open plan house, you are led to another living area.  There almost seem to be more rooms in the garden than in the grand house, each one offering an invitation to another.  Fountains lineThere are more walls than in an open plan house, though.  Fountains abound.  Through one you can usually see another.  Dahlias, Rudbeckia, Rose alive and deadsunflowers, Hydrangea were blooming. HydrangeaRudbeckia Some roses were still at their best, usually with their companions’ petals carpeting the earth beneath them. Sweet Chestnut Sweet chestnut shells are developing to protect the nuts they nurture.

EucalyptusBoy with dog sculptureA thirty year old eucalyptus, in gentle pastel colours, sheds its bark and its leaves onto the brick paths around its base, two long roots stretching out like symmetrical tentacles. Jackie in pleached elms collonade There are a number of pleached lime colonnades.

The delightful boy with his dog was just one of the many sculptures enjoying the flowers.

Bridge over River PiddleA bridge in the grounds crosses the River Piddle.  (That just had to be done, didn’t it?)

Sunflower arch

GraffitiEn suite bathroomAt the entrance to the house I was intrigued by the dates of some of the graffiti.  Once inside, we were permitted to take photographs; could roam freely without having to follow a prescribed route; and could, it seemed, sit anywhere.

Copper bath

There were bathrooms of different periods, one containing a magnificent polished copper bath.  It had me wondering about the term ‘copper’ for a tub for washing clothes.  The state bedroom had what must have been a rather early en suite.

Staircase from King's Ante RoomSpiral StaircaseStaircases were from very different periods, and always intriguing.  One, an Elizabethan ammonite, led to the gallery where I discovered Marevna.  Marevna was a Russian painter who lived in the house from 1948 -1957. Pointillist portrait by Marevna She worked with all the great earlier twentieth century painters, her style embracing various forms, such as cubism and pointillism, to name just two I recognised.  Obviously a favourite model, her daughter Marika, was her child with Mexican artist Diego Rivera who, incidentally, numbered the brilliant Frida Kahlo among his many lovers. Marevna Gallery entrance At the top of the  spiral staircase lies the entrance to the gallery, through the door of which can be seen part of her ‘Homage to Friends from Montparnasse’ of 1961. The Great Court by Marevna Her painting of The Great Court hangs on a wall adjacent to one framing a window through which can be seen the real thing.

The Great Court from The Gallery

DerrickWhen, like father bear, I tested a very comfortable chair, and Jackie decided to photograph me in situ, she found herself at the head of a queue of would-be David Baileys.

After an uneventful drive back Jackie produced a meal of lamb and mint sausages, potato croquettes, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage and peas.  It only needs a second’s power cut, to which we are prone, for the electric cooker to be thrown out.  By this, I mean, its operation is upset.  Mind you, it sometimes is at serious risk of being ejected through the kitchen window.  The instruction manual has to be consulted, and much fiddling undergone if the food is ever to burn.  We had one a couple of days ago.  However, it was sorted, otherwise we wouldn’t have had our sausages.  Mine went down well with the rest of yesterday’s Sicilian wine, and Jackie’s with her Belgian beer.

Return to The Smoke

Red Noses, WaterlooAgainst the odds, Jackie got me to Southampton Parkway in the nick of time for the London train for my visits to Norman and Carol.

Today being Red Nose Day, the culmination of national efforts to raise money for children’s charities, Red Noses gathered on Waterloo station concourse, from where I walked to Bond Street station and boarded the Jubilee Line train to Neasden.

Photographing London EyeAs usual photographers were shooting their companions against the backdrop of London monuments. Photographing phone box When a young oriental gentleman saw what I was doing, he insisted on returning the favour. Derrick by phonebox At least, that is what I thought he was saying.  But then language wasn’t really a problem.  His intentions were clear.

This time I took the direct route from Piccadilly, up Old, then New Bond Streets. Churchill and Roosevelt The class of the shops and the expense of their goods reduces somewhat once you have passed the flower stall alongside Churchill and Roosevelt still amusing each other at the graft linking Old and New.Bond Street flags

Polo window displayFenwick displayForests of flags festooning their upper facades proclaim the outlets, and the retailers’ displays, both inside and out, are as colourfully artistic as ever.Burlington Arcade

Huge, stony-faced doormen stand guard before the exclusive jewellers; a less scary uniformed attendant stands at the entrance to Burlington Arcade; and, as elsewhere in London, staff stand outside their workplaces smoking cigarettes.  Bond Street smokersTwo young men were most amused to be thought of as an integral part of the capital’s modern scene.  The metropolis has, for different reasons, borne the nickname ‘The Smoke’, since at least Victorian times.  This is because of the number of coal fires that were lit throughout the city during that era.  The great smog of 1952 described on 6th January was instrumental in having a stop put to this.

The contrast between this most opulent thoroughfare and Church Road, NW10 could not be more marked.

Norman served up tuna steaks, pilau rice, and roasted vegetables, followed by raspberry trifle, complemented by an excellent Pinot Noir.  Thus replenished I returned to the tube for a trip to Carol’s in SW1.Church Road NW10

At Neasden I met and spoke with a peaceful Egyptian Muslim.  His view was that religion should not be mixed with politics.  No faith required us to kill people.  Although he was too young to have known him, he spoke fondly of Anwar Sadat, whose assassination I had seen reported on French television in 1981.  He told me that those behind the death of the former president were now in power and a revolution was being mounted to oust Mohamed Morsi, who would not leave voluntarily.  More bloodshed was inevitable.  Arab Spring had brought this about.

It had rained on and off all day in London, and when Jackie collected me at Southampton it was pouring there too.

A Rant

Today was what David calls ‘the big tidy up day’, so there was no walkabout.

This morning I finished Dennis Wheatley’s ‘Vendetta in Spain’.  With a good grasp of history and a fine attention to detail, Wheatley tells a rollicking good story.  Set in the first decade of the twentieth century, this novel was, even when published in 1961, described as historical.  This got me reflecting on what is history?  For a child of the last century, born in 1942, it was initially strange to think of this book as such.  When Louisa, born in 1982, once asked me who Winston Churchill was, I was quite surprised.  Then I considered my own ignorance about the First World War; my lack of knowledge of the ministers and personalities involved.  I was even vague about Douglas Haig.  and I had been born far closer to that event than she had to the second conflagration.  Then, I remember Churchill’s funeral.  How we experience time changes as we age.  When I write of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, it seems like yesterday, yet must be remote history to my grandchildren.  As the days go by, I feel I have all the time in the world, yet the reality is that mine are numbered.  Six months in a child’s life seems an age.  To a septuagenarian it is nothing.

Purple succulent flowers 8.12

My house in Sigoules was built in the eighteenth century, from solid stone.  Exposed beams are from barges which struggled down the Dordogne loaded with produce.  Since they could not be taken back up the raging torrents, the vessels were broken up and used for building.  I understand the crews then walked back to their starting points and began again with newly built craft.  Now  enormous refrigerated vehicles bring regular fresh produce to Carrefour and Le Code Bar.  I can fly to Bergerac from Southampton in the same length of time as it took me to commute from Newark to Kings Cross.

I received a call later from James Bennet of Azzurri.  Azzurri is a company to which O2 allocated my mobile phone management about three years ago now.  They apparently ‘manage’ mobile phone accounts.  The first I heard of this was a letter from Azzurri, sporting the O2 logo, telling me I would be hearing from one of their representatives.  As long as I have been a mobile phone user I have had an O2 business account.  I only ever had one previous problem.  Oh, yes, the Azzurri intervention was a problem.  The earlier one was my discovery from my bank statements that the cost of my mobile phone had rocketed during the last two months.  On closer inspection, and after telephoning O2, it transpired that for nine months I had been paying for two mobile phones.  One wasn’t mine.  Because the first seven amounts had been virtually identical to mine, I had not noticed that there were two entries each month.  Obviously the lucky person who hadn’t been being billed got greedy.  In fairness, O2 immediately put that right and gave me a refund.

Back to James Bennet and Azzurri.  As I needed to be able to send e-mails from France I actually welcomed the initial approach.  I was informed that I needed a Blackberry with which I would be able to do this.  I have no problem with that.  I can.  Now.  The phone was quickly supplied and the contract signed.  Mr. Bennet then seemed to be less communicative.  Which was a pity, since I could not access my e-mail account.  Neither could I get anything from Azzurri but voicemail messages.  I inundated my personal account ‘manager’ with texts, voice- and e-mails.  He almost never responded.  I made several visits to O2 outlets in London, each taking upwards of an hour of time.  Every single, initially confident, O2  consultant failed either to contact Azzurri or to access the account.  Not one of them had heard of Azzurri.  I always had to provide the contact number.  Eventually we were told that Mr. Bennet had not passed the relevant information to the necessary department.  At last I gained a promise from him that it would be done within two days.  It wasn’t.  And his voicemail message had changed.  He had gone on holiday and would not be back until I was in France.  I managed to reach someone else.  He made, and failed to keep, the same promise.  Finally, I spoke myself with technicians who were able to solve the problem over the telephone.  I can’t remember whether they were in O2 or Azzurri departments.  But does it matter?  All the information is at home in England.

There followed extensive letters, mostly unanswered, and phone calls to O2 Customer Relations department.  When I finally spoke to the manager she informed me that I was bound to Azzurri for two years.  You can imagine my response to that.  Eventually she agreed to release me from Azzurri.  Coincidentally, I received a box of chocolates from O2.  One had been sent to each ‘valued customer’ of ten years or more.  When I politely suggested that didn’t really fit the bill, she proudly told me it had been her idea.  I think she realised I wasn’t impressed.  Furthermore, to compensate me for my trouble, I would receive a list of events at the O2 Arena.  I could choose any performance for which I would be given two tickets.  The list never arrived.

Maybe I had been freed from Azzurri.  But if anyone told them, they ignored it.  A year ago I received a phone call from a poor chap who had been given the task by Azzurri of contacting all customers to see how satisfied they were with the service.  I told him.  I finished by saying it wasn’t his fault.  Just his bad luck.  Now James Bennet calls me.  As I can only get a signal on the loo seat upstairs, I did not reach the phone in time and had to listen to a voicemail message from him.  ‘It is a little while since we spoke’ and there are possibitilities of a new tariff and a new handset.  I calmly walked up to the village square where I can be reasonably sure of an uninterrupted signal.  Of course I got his answerphone.  I left a fairly firm message.  Well, it was firm, and fair.  He responded with an e-mail to which, as I had said, I will not reply.  I had asked him not to contact me again.

The Code Bar pizza, a quarter carafe of red wine, and chocolate surprise pudding finished the day nicely.

The Scent Of A Squirrel

Churchill lying in state004Last night I finished reading the National Trust guide to Chartwell which, as they say, is synonymous with Churchill.

Reading of the country’s reaction to his death took me back to 1965 when I was working for Mobil Shipping Company in a building nicknamed The Pill Box, situated outside Waterloo Station near the end of Westminster Bridge. Close to where St. Thomas’ hospital is now. Churchill lying in state002 From there it was possible to see the growing queues snaking along The Embankment waiting for some hours to pay their respects at his lying in state.Churchill lying in state001Churchill lying in state003Churchill lying in state005

I still have the colour slides I took of these people in their ’60s coats.

The Pill Box was so named because of its hexagonal shape.  Highly modern then, today it no longer exists, having been far too small and therefore insufficient investment for such a profitable site.

Such a warm, cloudless day as this demanded a walk in Morden Hall Park.  This it got, not just by me, but also by mothers and toddlers, some of whom were settling themselves on the grass, in anticipation of spending some time there on the first such day we have had since that freak one week spring in March.  A group of schoolchildren were having an alfresco lesson.  No longer was the park the sole province of hardy dog-walkers and intrepid old men.

The coot family has arrived.  This morning there were some chicks squeaking in the nest with their mouths open waiting to be fed, while two were trailing their parents and being given the first of the goodies that were being fished out of the water.  These two were not so daft.  By far the most plentiful birds at the moment, both in the park and Morden’s gardens, are magpies.  At one point I saw six together.  If, like me, you can’t get beyond two in the nursery rhyme, Google it to find out what I’m in for.  This, of course, is bad news for this year’s avian parents.  They can be heard in the gardens attempting to scare off the predators who are certain to reduce this summer’s dawn choruses.

The stream bore masses of yellow irises, and clover had arrived to join the now really profuse buttercups.

Those of you who may be puzzled by Louisa’s response to the squirrels in the loft are entitled to an explanation.  Some years ago, when Louisa and I were still living in Lindum House, and I was down in London working for a couple of days, she telephoned me to say there was something wrong with the shower water.  It had an horrible smell.  I said I would sort it out when I got home.  Thinking that Louisa (although that was never her wont) may have been being a bit fussy, I climbed into the shower cubicle to sample it……   No way was I going to shower in that!  I instantly recognised the most unsavoury stench as that of a dead rodent.  Before Louisa had existed we’d had a dead rat in Soho and that smell, once experienced, is never forgotten.

I ventured into the loft and, sure enough, floating in the albeit securely covered water tank, were the putrid remains of an adventurous squirrel.  How it got in there is a mystery.  Removal of the corpse was an extremely delicate task.  Imagine trying to scoop up a furry  jelly which hasn’t properly set.  Having drained the tank several times the water was still nauseous.  Knowing that Matthew would be able to advise on the problem I telephoned him.  He suggested a trip to the local swimming baths – not for a shower, but for a solution.  I just had time to get there before they closed, and a very kind young man, at some risk, he assured me, to his job, provided me with a bag of stuff.  This was to be applied to the water and subsequently drained off.  I had to do this three times before either of us dared contemplate a shower.  I hope the young man has risen up the ranks.

Our evening meal today consisted of fish and chips courtesy of Messrs. Young and McCain, Sainsbury’s Basic Mushy Peas and Hayward’s pickled onions washed down with a Shepherd Neame brew from Lidl at £1 a bottle.


Today we had another family gathering, this time with Michael, Becky, and Matthew and their families.  We went to Winston Churchill’s former home, now a National Trust property at Chartwell and afterwards to Michael’s for a meal involving starters of barbecued sausages followed by chicken, salads and finally Eton mess.

A minor panic was calmed by the arrival of Matthew and his dog Oddie some while after the rest of us.  The arrangement was that we would all congregate at Chartwell.  Matthew was to ring Becky if he got lost.  The only problem was that both Becky and I had left our mobile phones behind and noone else was sure of Mat’s number.  In any event there was no signal at Chartwell.  We are now so dependent on mobile phones that it becomes disastrous if anything goes awry with them.  Anyway, panic averted.

Oddie is quite an old Jack Russell terrier.  It has become more and more marked lately that this formerly black and white dog has hair on his head and face which is now almost completely white.  Speculating about this it occurred to me that the same thing has happened to me.  Why not also to a dog?

After a pleasant drive through the Surrey and into the Kent countryside, we arrived at Chartwell, near Westerham in Kent, on a fine spring afternoon and had an idyllic walk in the grounds before visiting the house.  The greens of the trees, shrubs and fields are bright and fresh at this time of the year, as are the rape fields.  Chartwell is set in a beautiful wooded valley in the Kentish Weald.  The house itself is perched on the hillside offering stunning uninterrupted views of the grounds and the slopes beyond.  It is easy to see why Sir Winston chose this spot.  As in all National Trust properties the gardens are beautifully maintained, the spring flowers and shrubs, particularly rhododendrons and a magnolia, being now at their peak.

The house itself is a museum of Churchill’s life.  We are reminded of his honours, his many talents, and his very exciting existence.  He truly was one of the greatest Englishmen.  In the grounds is a smaller building which was his studio and is still stocked with many of his paintings.  I had an interesting discussion with one of the attendants about his painting style.  This in fact was in the main house, rather than the studio.  It was Heidi who accompanied me in the house and we spoke to the custodian of the kitchen about the recipe for Amber Apple pudding which she was reading in the open period cookery book on the kitchen table.

Back at Michael’s house we spent a pleasant while talking and telling stories.  Inevitably these involve what are known as Soho stories.  These are from the time of Michael’s years from 10 to 18 when we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard, SW1.  Emily, Oliver, Alice and Flo know these stories off by heart, although they all took place before they were born.  When appropriate I will weave some of them into these annals.