Refurbishment Under Way

Yesterday I received a message from Gov.UK headed “Sorry, there is a problem with this service”. Its content was simply : “Your Account is already activated” and a request to access a questionnaire to help them improve the service. I would not receive a reply. I didn’t bother.

Early this morning Richard and Ross of Kitchen Makers arrived to begin working on the first of the refurbishing projects they are to carry out.

This involved stripping out the bodged extension of the airing cupboard; removing much debris; carrying it

down the steep and narrow stairs with little headroom and out to their van; then starting to assemble the new cupboard in the chimney breast.

Because the built-in cupboards are hand made in advance their sections have to be carried round the side of the house, through the kitchen and up that staircase.

The first picture in this gallery shows the shortest of these parts; the next three the difficult task of transporting a higher compartment through the sitting room and up the stairs.

Later, the craftsmen began to assemble the cupboard.

This afternoon I filled in the Probate Application forms.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent sausages in red wine; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; firm carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli; with tender green beans. Dessert was pumpkin pie and cream. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Montaria.


Among the many boxes of books now temporarily stored in the garage are hundreds of photograph albums. Photo albums in garage I plucked up courage to begin a search for the picture mentioned in The Tempest post of 14th June last year.  Although I’m fairly sure I hit on the right container I was unable to find the photograph.  During the late 80s and 90s Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I shared a number of Lakeland holidays with Ali, Steve, and James.  The missing photo was almost certainly taken during the holiday in one of Hugh Lowther‘s cottages in Watenlath. Ali and Steve 8.89 Never mind, I reminisced about those times and found some happy shots of our friends.

Hardy MonumentThis afternoon Jackie drove us to Higher Bockhampton in Dorset where we visited Hardy’s Cottage.  Some of his American Admirers explained its significance thus:

From the car park we were offered a choice of routes to the building. Footpath to Hardy's Cottage (Jackie) We could try the woodland walk or use the lane. Sweet chestnut path We opted for the stony, steep, uphill, buttock-straining, path lined with sweet chestnut copses.  The more gentle lane sufficed for our return.

I had forgotten my National Trust membership card.  The very helpful young woman staffing the entrance made a phone call to check my credentials, so it didn’t cost me anything.

On walking up the garden path I noticed two elements that were to be explained on entry.  Hardy's birthplaceThe first was that the chimney was smoking.  The second was a woman who looked as if she belonged in a period drama based on a Hardy novel.

Hardy's cottage garden

The garden itself; although we were told that in Hardy’s day it would have been filled with the stock in trade of his master mason father; looked stunning, even so late in the year.

Jackie in Hardy's cottage sitting roomAs suggested by the smoke, the house was heated by log fires alone.  There was no artificial light.  Candles lit the darker corners of the snug in which the National Trust representative invited us to sit and absorb the ambience.

Kitchen, Hardy's cottageThe kitchen also had a fire over which a kettle was perched. Bedroom in Hardy's cottage Natural light from the windows brightened the bedrooms.

Staircase, Hardy's cottageThe back staircase was truly scary.  It was little more than a fixed step-ladder.  The bedroom door at the top of it warned visitors to descend backwards, and to remember that there was a side step at the bottom.

The cottage itself was very cramped.  Doorways were so low as to cause the custodian trepidation every time anyone over about 5′ 9″ entered the building.  I was a bit of a nightmare.  We learned that during Hardy’s childhood it had been much smaller.  What we now see is the merging of his childhood home with the adjacent one of his grandmother’s.

Trish and visitor, Hardy's cottageThe bench seat in the snug, unoccupied in the above photograph, was soon filled, as were all the other chairs in the room.  In a window seat in the corner sat the woman who had just preceded us into the cottage.  The custodian and bearer of the history.

She was Trish, an avid Hardy adherent, who stimulated conversation about the man as an author and as a human being.  We discussed the relative merits of Hardy’s novels and his poetry.  She was able to answer questions about his marriages; Trish (1)his personality; Trishwhere he went to school; and to enlighten us about his father’s occupation, eventually taken on by his brother Henry who was eventually to build Max Gate to the author’s design.  This most engaging woman with a beautiful voice and an intelligent, expressive, face had us all captivated.

On our return journey home, we realised, as we sniffed the woodsmoke that pervaded the air in the car, that it was not only the ambience of the snug that we had absorbed.

Given that Trish really was the teacher today, it was something of a role reversal when she gave Jackie an apple from the garden.  My lady added it to the poky pork paprika that she provided for this evening’s meal.  The food was delicious.  I finished the Veluti which was equally palatable.  Carte d’Or rum and raisin ice-cream was to follow.

The Chiropractors Could Come In Useful

This morning Jackie drove us to Emsworth, near Chichester, to help Becky in the first stages of moving into their new flat.  She was collecting the keys at mid-day and taking in ‘a few boxes’ before the main move tomorrow.  I became slightly concerned when I knew that Matthew was involved.  This would surely expand the ‘few’.  It did.

Cafe MokaFish & ChipsIt didn’t really surprise us that we arrived some way in advance of our two offspring.  We had coffee in the Cafe Moka, virtually next door, before ringing the doorbell at the appointed time, whereupon we were admitted by the estate agent, who herself, admitted that we were not who she was expecting.  However, by the time she needed to attend to her car parking meter, she had grown to trust us enough to leave Becky’s parents alone in the apartment.


The cafe can be seen from the small balcony, euphemistically termed ‘garden’ by the estate agent, as can the fish and chip shop and various other restaurants opposite.

I was delighted to see that the Chinese takeaway, the:Oriental 'ity

had used an apostrophe in one grammatically correct way.  It is a pity about the comma underneath.

Loaded Able Assignments van

I was right in my assumption that Matthew would stuff all he could into his little Able Assignments van.  And on top of it.  Staircase 27 North RoadThe stairs up to the third floor of the building were not as elegant as those that had so intrigued us at Athelhampton Hall two days ago, but I was to get to know them quite well over the next hour, during the unloading of the vehicle.  (I could have stumbled upon an intriguing staircase photographic theme here).

On the ground floor of this building, there is a chiropractic clinic.27 North Road  This was somewhat reassuring, for if we did our backs in during the process, we wouldn’t have far to go for treatment.  A dentist’s is on the opposite corner; a hairdresser’s across the road from, and a Tesco alongside, the Moka.  As Becky said, she’d never have to go out.

Derrick & MatthewMatthew moving Becky inMat and I got pretty hot and sticky.  Becky got very dry.  At one point Jackie and Becky had repeatedly cried ‘sit!’ in stereo.  Once I had realised Scooby wasn’t present, it dawned on me that I was being addressed by the two ladies concerned for my health and safety.  It must have been the heavy breathing that caught their attention.  Or maybe what Matthew termed the light patches on my dark blue shirt.

So it stood to reason we needed a drink.  This was obtained at the Blue something or other that ‘I disremember’.  I’m sure I will have a chance to reinforce my memory before much time has elapsed.  The staff there were extremely friendly.  As the barman offered me a tray and I thanked him, saying ‘I was wondering how I was going to get the drinks outside in one’, he responded with a smile and: ‘I was going to help you myself, but I thought I couldn’t be bothered, I’ll give you a tray’.  I might get to like him.

Before arriving at the pub we went to check out a choice of Indian restaurants for tomorrow night.  ‘A Taste of India’ stands next to ‘The Spice Village’.  What could have been a problematic decision was made easier by Matthew, whose report on the first of these, where he had once eaten, was that it rivalled Mitcham’s ‘The Raj’.  We booked at ‘The Spice Village’.  The man who took our booking, noticing Becky cavorting to the rhythm of the music that was playing, told her he would try to have it on when we arrived to eat, and to remind him if he forgot.

Emsworth promenade

The tide was out in the harbour, and the day rather changeable, but it was easy to see why it was such a tourist attraction.  Later, Elizabeth told us it was one of Mum’s favourite walks.

Our return journey took us close to The Firs, so we dropped in on Elizabeth and took her off to Eastern Nights for the usual excellent curries, Bangla, and Cobra.  Jackie drove us home in the dark amidst heavy rain.