Christmas Socks

Christmas Day begins, when everyone has surfaced, with opening of Santa’s presents.

Ever since Flo herself was a baby, Jackie made her a Christmas fairy dress each year of her childhood.

Today was Ellie’s first. Flo carried her around, then placed her in my former counselling chair

in my former counselling chair.

Her parents then helped her

open her stocking presents.

One gift from my Santa haul was New Forest 222, “The guidebook that covers every square mile of the New Forest”. I, and Mrs Claus were both surprised when I opened the book at random and found an acknowledgement of information from This had been provided by Alan in his comment concerning the cattle trough.

After watching The King’s Speech we opened our main presents.

Jackie was delighted by her representation of Nugget and trowel on a back support cushion given by Flo and Dillon;

our grandson-in-law enjoyed the flat caps we gave him.

When all the giving seemed to be over, I was led to my desk where I was given a blanket draping a mid-Victorian swivel captain’s chair from Dillon, Flo, and Jackie combined. Becky made the photograph of me in situ.

Later Becky, Flo, and Dillon all sported their Christmas socks while watching cartoons.

Somehow, Jackie produced a splendid roast Turkey dinner with all the trimmings, timed to perfection. Afterwards we enjoyed excellent Christmas pudding with Ambrosia custard. I don’t have the time or inclination after my share of the Prosecco, to itemise every item, so readers will need to study

this image featuring Flo, Ellie, Dillon, and Becky if they would appreciate any more detail.

A Knight’s Tale (36: Some Schoolmasters)

A most inspirational teacher, Mr. Millward dedicated his life to teaching history at Wimbledon College.  He was one of those pupils who never really left the school, returning after university to take up his life’s work.  Learning about the Tudors and Stuarts we would eagerly await ‘Sid’ striding into the classroom with a rolled up chart under his arm.  This would be hung on the wall to illustrate the day’s lesson. 

These were beautifully produced maps and diagrams which brought the subject alive.  He had made each and every one.  He was, like me, a cricket fanatic.  I still have the history of cricket he inspired me to write and illustrate as a homework exercise.  His nickname, ‘Sid’, was taken from a lesser known bandleader who once performed at Wimbledon Theatre.  ‘No-one forgets a good teacher’ was once an  advertising slogan for recruitment into his profession.  It was so true.

This was his form photograph of about 1956. I am on our left of the middle row.

Quite different was ‘Moses’, whose remit was European History, so named because he was an ancient priest.  His teaching aid was a small dog-eared, equally antique, exercise book from which, seated in his pulpit, never taking his eyes off the page, he would churn out notes he must have made much earlier, as if he were reciting an oft-repeated sermon.  For some reason Moses always picked on me.  Until one miraculous Monday morning. He didn’t actually know my name.  He had decided to climb down from his perch and wander round the classroom.  Passing my desk and glancing at my exercise book, reading the name, he asked: “Knight?  Are you the famous bowler?”.  “That’ll be my brother Chris”, I replied.  “But didn’t you get eight wickets on Saturday?”, he continued.  Well, I had. (I also got seven on the Sunday, but as that was in a club match I thought it best not to mention it).  From then on the sun shone out of my backside.

Another priest who also used me as a butt was Fr. Bermingham.  He did it so often that one of the boys ran a book on how many times this would happen in any particular lesson.  Quite a bit of pocket money changed hands.  Now, as I sat in the same place for both periods, in the centre of the front row because I was just beginning to realise I should have my eyes tested, I thought it might be politic to move.  I therefore took up residence right at the back, to the left of his area of vision.  As if on cue, quite early on in the proceedings, he opened his mouth to speak, looked in what he thought was my direction, closed his mouth, and scanned the rows of grinning boys.  Eventually lighting on my similarly smiling face, he said: “Ah, there you are Knight, like a great moon over the horizon”.  At least he knew my name.  However, he had just given me another one.  For the rest of my schooldays I was known as ‘Moon’.

Please don’t get the impression I was a victim.  Most of the masters, like Bryan Snalune, actually liked me.  In fact, Frs. Moses and Bermingham probably did as well.  Their observations were generally meant to be humorous.

On the viewer’s far right nearest the volleyball net, Bryan Snalune crouches, ready to spring into action. I think I am at the back of this court in jumper and tie. I’m amazed that so many in the picture wore ties. Bryan introduced the sport to the school, and brought in Canadian Air Force players to teach us the game. He arranged a few fixtures for us. I have no idea how we fared.

This gentle giant, not much older than us, had that magic quality that demands respect whilst conveying equality as a human being. He was a lot of fun without losing his authority. I see his toothy smile and shock of fairish hair now. His subject was French, through which he guided me to A Level GCSE.

The smile mentioned above is probably indirectly responsible for my being awarded a punishment of two strokes of the ferula. The ferula was the Jesuit version of the cane.

A small, flat, slipper-like object consisting of leather with whalebone inside it, this was wielded by a punishment master not connected with whatever offence of which you had been guilty. ‘Two’ – one on each hand – was what was dished out to the little boys. If you were a recidivist and rather older you could progress to ‘Twice Nine’. But you wouldn’t want to.

Bryan Snalune was a keen amateur actor. During my group’s last weeks at school he performed in a play where his character was called Goofy. Clearly the casting director had also noticed the teeth. I cannot remember why, but I was not present at the performance, yet my classmates came back with this priceless information for a budding cartoonist. It felt natural to draw Walt Disney’s Goofy on the blackboard just before the French lesson.

Unfortunately our friendly teacher was not the next one to enter the room. Instead, Fr Strachan, S.J., the deputy headmaster found some reason to make a brief visit. Glancing at the familiar character depicted on the board, he demanded: “Who did that, Knight?”. Maybe he recognised my style. Although a decent enough man, Fr Strachan was not known for his sense of humour. On that day he displayed a rather quirky one. “Get two”. He proclaimed.

I don’t remember the name of the executioner, but I can see him now, a little round chap in holy orders whose beady eyes glinted behind his spectacle lenses. He was a little surprised at his prescribed task when I knocked on his door and extended my arms. My outstretched palms were at a level which put my fingers in danger of picking his nose. He, and I, were both even more surprised when, at each stroke, a wailing chorus set up an anguished howl in the corridor outside. Although my hands stung rather more than somewhat, I was able to open the door to encounter the whole of my class doubled up with laughter.

The year before this, when Tommy reigned in the cinemas, Bryan had managed the second XI cricket team of which he had appointed me captain. How Moses came to know my name is recounted above. It was for this team that the performance that brought me into his recognition was played. Bryan Snalune was the umpire. When five wickets had fallen, all to me for not many runs, “Take yourself off now”, he suggested sotto voce. He was the boss, so I did. Mind you, I doubt that his intervention as a supposedly neutral officiator was legitimate.  When only two more had gone down and the game was, I thought, in need of my more direct involvement, I came back on and polished off the last three. Could that have been the day I would have taken all ten? I guess we’ll never know.

It was just before my fourteenth birthday that I had been introduced to playing cricket. Iain Taylor, the captain of the Under Fourteens team, and a friend of mine, asked the headmaster, who rejoiced in the wonderfully appropriate name of Father Ignatius St Lawrence, S.J., to give me a trial for the team.  I had never played before, but Iain got me to bowl a few balls in the nets and seems to have been impressed.  With ‘Iggy’, as the head was predictably known to the boys, standing as umpire I was instructed to send my nervously delivered missives down to the team’s best batsman.  I bowled him four times before Iggy had seen enough.  One of these dismissals was with a deliberate slower ball that turned sharply from the off – that is opposite the right-handed batsman’s legs – side of the pitch and hit the middle stump.  The deviation was probably caused by the ball striking an extraneous object when it landed.  Turning to me at the end of my spell, Iggy asked: “Did you mean the off-break?”.  “Yes, father”,  was my coolly delivered reply.  All priests were of course our fathers.  I was in.  Later, out of earshot of anyone else, I asked Iain: “What’s an off break?”. In the picture above “Where’s Derrick?” (6).

As will be surmised from my interview with Fr Wetz mentioned previously, I also first played rugby at Wimbledon College.

The school playing fields were in Coombe Lane, Raynes Park. We always walked there from the school in Edge Hill to play rugby and cricket.  It was here that my friend Tom McGuinness scored what I believe to be his only try.  Tom’s eyesight was so bad that he could never see what was going on.  One afternoon he found the rugby ball in his hands.  ‘What shall I do?’, he asked me.  ‘Run for the line’, I replied.  ‘Where is it?’ enquired Tom.  ‘That way’, I indicated.  Tom sped for the line, fell over, and touched down.  No-one saw him.  The fact that we were playing in dense fog had levelled this particular playing field.

Our route to the sports fields took us through Cottenham Park where I once went scrumping on the way to rugby.  Remembering throwing sticks into conker trees when younger, I had ingeniously decided to chuck my boots into an apple tree intending to knock off some fruit.  Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to untie the laces that bound them together.  

Soon they were suspended like the socks that reminded me of this story when walking along the Wandle Trail almost 60 years later.  More ingenuity was required to get them down.  This involved the park keeper who was a bit put out.  It made me late for the match.  I couldn’t even invent a story which would present me in a better light.  The news had been spread all round the changing rooms.  Bill Edney, Geography master and rugby coach, was also a bit put out.

High Street Gallery


This afternoon Jackie drove Elizabeth and me to Lyndhurst so that my sister could replenish her cabinet at the Antiques Centre. This gave me the opportunity to perch on a bench alongside the high street where I was able to watch the world going by, and, of course photographing visitors galore. This selection of photographs is virtually random. Although each bears a title in the gallery


You will see in each shot what catches your own eye or imagination. I will just highlight the sequence where a couple of dog walkers approach Paws in the Forest from one direction, and pass a little girl, coming down the hill with her mother, and enjoying an ice cream , some of which drips onto her forearm.

This evening the three of us dined on Jackie’s splendid sausage casserole; swede mash; crunchy carrots, and firm cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Elizabeth and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta Malbec 2017



A Tradition Maintained


This afternoon we were visited by Helen, Bill, Shelly, Ron, David, Jenny, Rachel, Gareth, Anthony, Jane, Neil and Donna, for the annual Boxing Day party.

Everyone gathered by about 3 p.m. and swapped all their latest news with the usual amount of fun and laughter. Guests could help themselves to cold meats, salads, and cheeses from the kitchen table.

Ian distributed drinks,

then turned to his role as quiz master.

There was keen competition between the two teams into which we were divided. Ian had spent considerable time on compiling a quiz of the year divided into months. A final round included 22 excerpts from Christmas songs which we were required to identify. The team I was included in was most fortunate in having Donna as a member. Almost single-handedly she clinched victory with her encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music. Each team had a scribe who would write down the answers. The debates to determine the answers became quite animated.

There were still some Christmas presents to be distributed.

Some tender moments were experienced.

Finally, Jackie’s delicious cooked meals became available for people to help themselves. The sitting room was cleared in seconds, until guests returned with laden plates. There was plentiful lamb jalfrezi, rice, onion bahjis, and samosas; and beef in red wine with mashed potatoes.




Shed by trees and strewn around the garden’s beds and paths, last winter’s twigs would have filled a mattress.


Those I gathered this afternoon certainly occupied the best part of one of our orange bags of ‘green’ refuse destined for the recycling centre.

Father Christmas was generous with hose this year. Even so, my sock drawer gradually became surprisingly full to overflowing. Jackie’s, however, was rapidly emptying. Eventually she realised that I had been mistaking hers for mine.

Jackie's socks and hearth

I really have no claim on these.

Also shown here are the cast iron fireplace and the wooden surround still awaiting final fixing. The copper fender was a present from our son and daughter, so must be accommodated. The blue tiles were already in situ. Whilst the laminate flooring is quite good quality, if you like that sort of thing, it has been appallingly fitted and we really would like to see the back of it. That, of course, would require lifting it to reveal what we hope will be the original floorboards. With any luck these will not have been butchered. Fingers crossed.

Readers will remember that, hands flattened on our kitchen window, bewhiskered nose twitching, an amiable rat peered longingly at our Christmas dinner. Some time after that Jackie discovered holes in the birdseed on the utility room shelf; later still, she heard rustling. It was time to put down bait. On a daily basis, the poisoned seed was disturbed in the morning. Either our visitor deserved the name Rasputin allocated to him, or his whole family had followed, or come to look for him when he didn’t return.

Rat bait

We were rather sad when, today, we discovered an undisturbed pile of bait.

This evening we dined on starters of prawn toasts and spring rolls from Tesco; Jackie’s sublime egg fried rice; and Lidl’s tender oriental pork. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank San Adres Chilean merlot.

‘What Was Derrick Doing There?’

Sunrise 12.12

Watching the sun come up behind the bare trees and frosted lawns seen from our windows brought home the fact that we will be acutely aware of the changing seasons in The New Forest.

We set off early this morning for another trip to London.  This was for the purpose of fulfilling a promise to appear as Father Christmas and Santa’s Little Helper for Merton Mind in St. Mark’s Church Hall in Mitcham.  We had a brief diversion to The Firs to collect my Wellington boots that were to be part of Santa’s outfit.  The bright sunlight on the foggy frosted fields of Hampshire and Surrey created such beautiful scenes that had we had time to stop for photography we would probably never have arrived in Mitcham.  As it was we were a little late and I had to explain that it had been foggy in Greenland.  Dan was more specific about where we had come from.  He knew it had been The North Pole.

Someone had locked the side doors to the building, so I had been unable to sneak in wearing my civvies.  I had to go in the main entrance and pretend to be a potential purchaser from the stalls, hoping no-one would recognise me when I emerged from the gents wearing the outfit Jackie had been provided with.  Our friend Sheila, the Director of the organisation, had lurked outside whilst I changed into my red and white garments, so she could show me my station in the hall.

There was a bit of a queue, so I had to get straight into the business of what people wanted for Christmas.  As soon as two likely accomplices arrived I said that I just must get out of my boots because my feet were killing me. Lisa & Dan helping Father Christmas Derrick off with his boots 1.12.12 Dan and his sister Lisa eagerly heaved away to relieve me of my cumbersome footwear. Derrick's socks 12.12 This revealed the socks Becky had given me last Christmas which have the merit of not going with everything.  For some reason this caused the children and their mother great amusement.

These two became firmly attached to Father Christmas and gave him and his Little Helper a share in all the spoils they managed to win on the various stalls at the fete.  Dan 12.12Dan, in fact, gradually usurped Jackie’s role, rendering her somewhat superfluous. This bright little lad sussed that I couldn’t be a real Santa because he had seen another one the week before, but he played the game well, including asking me lots of complicated questions.  Lisa didn’t really know what she wanted, but he did.  He wanted a PSP.  As Father Christmas didn’t know what that was he delegated the task of Googling it to his original Little Helper.

Other children came along at intervals and had conversations with Saint Nicholas’s impersonator.Father Christmas Derrick and Mia 12.12  It was lovely to experience their wonderment. Father Christmas Derrick and Kishan 12.12 One little girl had said she wanted a little doll.  A little later a man brought along a musical doll which he said was surplus to his requirements.  He thought Father Christmas might want to give it to a little girl.  Dan had the bright idea that the child who had asked for a doll might like it.  Off he went in search of her.  This, unfortunately was in vain, for she and her mother had left. Lisa and Father Christmas Derrick 12.12 However, it naturally wound up with Lisa who was delighted with it.

The last time I played Father Christmas was almost fifty years ago when one of the children being entertained was my three year old brother Joe.  Feeling rather complacent about having pulled off the disguise and fooled my little sibling, I returned home to be advised by my mother that when he had come home he had asked her: ‘What was Derrick doing there?’

After the fete Jackie and I visited Becky, Flo, and Ian before driving back to Ringwood for a Curry Garden meal accompanied by draught Kingfisher.  Then it was an early night.