The Blue Coat

Suitably equipped for the fray

Jackie joined the queue at Tesco five minutes before opening time. She really felt for the woman in the blue coat.

The orderly social distancing exhibited outside the supermarket was somewhat belied by the few customers who reached past others to claim items they were afraid might disappear. Although we didn’t need any, Mrs Knight reported that toilet rolls were in stock.

Perhaps the fact that the fresh meat, fish, and deli counters were off limits enabled her to

feel relaxed about photographing sheep and lambs along Christchurch Road on her way home.

After watering the pots in the front garden this afternoon – the Head Gardener was to hose those at the back later – I took a trip to Honeylake Wood and back.

This involved walking along Christchurch Road past the closed Royal Oak pub, Downton Garage, Woods used car establishment, and a row of cottages, to the currently fallow field featuring a footpath to the wood.

Sandbags line the pub’s front porch, suggesting the management had not anticipated our current dry spell when the coronavirus closures were required.

This gentleman walking a couple of dogs

back to the kissing gate

was clearly complying with the request to keep canines under control.

Choosing to eschew the gate which others will have touched, I entered via a gap in the hedge beside the disused telephone box and the still active letter box.

I then walked along the edge of the field to the footpath.

Like most local fields this one is fenced by wind-sculpted trees.

The winding path through the wood

slopes down to a bridge over a stream. The photographs above indicate the fleeting nature of the shadow-casting sun. The bridge has been repaired since my last trip down here, but I did not lean on it for the same reason that I avoided the gate.

The banks of the stream were embroidered with gentle yellow primroses.

This evening we dined on chicken thighs of considerable size crisply roasted with potatoes and parsnips; Yorkshire puddings, carrots and spring greens, with which I drank Carinena El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018. Jackie had finished her Hoegaarden while cooking.

Wet, Wet, Wet

The wind had dropped today. Unfortunately it was not available to send the leaden clouds on their way. They hung overhead, shedding rain all day. Initially not much more than drizzle fell, so Jackie continued her autumn clearance and I joined her for a while. I brought the heavy precipitation with me, but stayed out until I feared for my camera lens.

Hoping that it was Nugget who had made inroads into it, Jackie gleefully pointed to another dish of sampled robin food.

She is heavily pruning a hebe alongside the Dead End Path.

I had intended to transport the clippings to the end of the back drive and bag them up for Aaron to take away. When the deluge began I thought better of it.

Raindrops had cleansed and bejewelled such as bronze fennel seed heads;

rhododendron leaves and buds that think it is spring;

maple leaves;

spiders’ webs;

rose hips;

rose buds;

fuchsias;

begonias;

petunias;

and phormiums.

After lunch I accompanied Jackie to Tesco Supermarket where she she shopped and I sat in the car photographing, through the rain-dripping windscreen,

 

other shoppers as they passed by.

We then drove to Woodpeckers to visit Mum who was on very good form.

Just along Sway Road a duo of decidedly damp donkeys sought what shelter they could beneath the trees of Brackendale.

Back at home I watched a recording of the Rugby World Cup match between Ireland and Samoa.

We dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika liberally peppered with cayenne; boiled potatoes; carrots al dente; and tender runner beans. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Grand Conseiller Pinot Noir 2017.

 

A West End Ramble

Jackie spent the morning planting and clearing beds; I chipped in with dead-heading of roses. This afternoon we bought some trellis from Everton Nurseries to go round the decking. The return journey had me bent and contorted in the passenger seat with lengths of stapled wooden strips over my head. Fortunately it was only about five minutes.

I scanned another dozen of the Streets of London series of colour slides from April 2004.

Streets of London 4.04070

Judy Dench was then starring in All’s Well That Ends Well at the Geilgud Theatre on the corner of Oxford Street and Rupert Street, W1. Some may consider her portrait less than enticing. The vehicles, the rooftops of which can be seen on Oxford Street were probably going nowhere fast.

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The ubiquitous Starbucks, that purveyor of weak coffee – unless you pay for extra, tasteless, shots – has a presence in Avery Row. This was clearly an unusually warm April.

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South Molton Lane lies to the West of New Bond Street,

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where Roosevelt and Churchill continue their conversation first featured on 20th July. Most of us couldn’t afford the entrance fee for the shops behind them.

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Seymour Mews is not far from Marble Arch. The grid of little square lights on the pavement outside Nordic Interiors is a common sight. These glass prisms, fitted to an iron cover, were introduced in the 1880s to throw light into the back of dingy coal cellars. Following the Clean Air Act, the coal has probably given way today to many other materials. The passing woman is probably quite ignorant of the fact that she is walking on private land.

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The facades of the buildings in Albemarle Street are typical of Mayfair’s splendour. Probably every second of every day in London sees some maintenance or other being carried out. Here, it may have been street lighting that was being attended to. The typical jack-in-the-box adjustable platform suggests this to me.

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Davies Mews is another of these frequently encountered little back streets that once held stables, and now house residents who can afford to pay millions for a tiny dwelling. These date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Built in rows behind large city houses, they consisted of a carriage house on the ground floor with residential accommodation above.

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From Davies Street can be seen the mews mansard roofs, demonstrating how modern residents have enlarged their living space. What would those coachmen of earlier times think if they could see today’s conversions and rebuilds?

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This was Oxford Street in April. Imagine it at the height of summer, especially during the Sales season. Moving against the milling flow of people and their buggies in this famous shopping street is a nightmare. At every junction, such as this one with Bird Street, there is a stall selling bags, T-shirts, trophies, nicknacks, fruit, hot-dogs, and much more.

Streets of London 4.04077

Moving slightly North West we find Ranston Street, NW1. I don’t know if this was once a mews, but the rows of houses look very much like the typical rebuilds, where many, but not all, of the homes have retained a place for their modern, horseless, carriages on the ground floor. These workmen are attending to a roof, it seems.

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Venables Street, NW8 runs into Church Street Market. It is therefore most appropriate that there should be a Tesco Metro. That is because Tesco was founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen as a group of market stalls. He had, himself, begun by selling surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London. It would have been similar to those we see in Church Street today. The Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname.  The first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice cottage pie, new potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and ratatouille. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I consumed more of the malbec

‘Is it 25 grams?’

Jackie drove me to and from New Milton to meet Alison who came for a short visit. On the way to the station we made a couple of stops intended to be brief.

The first went according to plan, except that the cleaners had been unable to remove barbecue sauce from my white linen jacket. I asked what would happen if I tried Vanish on it. I was told it would be ruined. When we got home, Jackie wasn’t having that, and applied a good dose of Vanish. The success or failure will become evident when the jacket has dried out. Who cares? It was not much use without this last chance, and, you never know, it may have an enhancing marbled effect as water rings make their way across the fabric.

The visit to Tesco for just six bottles of sparking water took a little longer. Jackie waited in the car, whilst I grabbed the bottles. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw a checkout with nothing on the conveyor belt. I made a dash for it. I had noticed an elderly woman sorting out paperwork which turned out to be discount vouchers. In my haste, I had not observed that she was standing in front of a fully laden trolley. Too late, I realised that she was in fact the queue. A splendid, stout, walking stick lay across her intended purchases. Slowly, wincing at every stretch, she began to unload. Eventually, I took pity on her and filled the belt. I then walked past her to the empty trolley, and placed her purchases therein, as they were checked off and placed in bags. When this was over, I thought I was done. Not so. Her discounts needed to be taken off her bill. The, very pleasant, woman on the checkout, balked at one of them. ‘Is it 25 grams?’, She asked. I had no idea what this meant, neither had my friend, the shopper. However, when the assistant caught my eye, clearly wondering how to deal with this, I said ‘Yes’. She smiled, fiddled with the computer keys, thus suggesting that ‘it’ hadn’t really been 25 grams, and accepted the voucher.

All was well. We were still in good time for Alison.

This afternoon, whilst I dead-headed more roses, Jackie drove to Everton Nurseries to return a faulty arch. It will come as no surprise to regular readers that she returned with further plants for the rose garden. We then plonked them, still in their pots, into position. They included the fragrant roses

Rose - Absolutely FabulousJPG

the aptly named ‘Absolutely Fabulous’;

Rose Schoolgirl

the climbing ‘Schoolgirl;

Rose - Kent

‘Kent’, a carpet rose for ground cover;

Rose - Winchester Cathedral label

and Winchester Cathedral.

Dahlia - Bishop of Leicester

In deference to my birthplace, also included was the dahlia ‘Bishop of Leicester’.

A white climbing hydrangea has been placed in the shady corner beside the orange shed.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s delectable fish and chips, gherkins, and pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the cabernet sauvignon.

Yellow Ticket

The storm, having filled the deepest ditches, and extended the pools on the fields and the roads, had desisted this morning when we began the day with a shopping trip to Tesco. This supermarket, like all the other home-grown ones, is feeling the squeeze from the Germans, Lidl and Aldi. There were notices everywhere announcing cheaper brands.

Tree in waterlogged fieldWaterlogged field

By midday the dull weather had evaporated into clear blue sunlit skies. After lunch I walked up Hordle Lane, right into Sky End Lane, left into Vicarage Lane, and left again, returning home back along Hordle Lane. I was lucky, for the rain set in soon afterwards.

Drink container in ditchDitch and shadow

Discarded detritus now floated in ochre waters of the ditches which I photographed with my back to the warming sun.

Hordle Lane 1Hordle Lane 2JoggerPoniesWoman walking dogPools glinted on the lanes and reflected the trees and skies above. A jogger ran past the paddock in which the ponies chomped on their fodder. Later he returned in the opposite direction, possibly eventually passing a woman and her exotic looking dog glowing in the sunlight, and casting long shadows.

 

Cars running through poolSome vehicles sped through the pools on the tarmac, sending up showers of water; others slowed and sprayed a little.

Tree reflectedSmall birdsOn Vicarage Lane, which enjoyed numerous reflective puddles, I engaged in conversation with a friendly woman tending her garden. She had noticed me attempting to photograph small birds in her trees. We didn’t know what they were, but they were attracted by nuts she had hung up for her visiting tits, siskins, and a solitary woodpecker.

Blackbird

Blackbirds scurried in the hedgerows.

All Saints ChurchGravestones

At the corner of Vicarage and Hordle Lanes, lies the Parish Church of All Saints, Hordle. Shafts of gleaming sunlight illuminated the sleepy resting place of former parishioners.

Jackie’s matured liver and bacon casserole was enhanced by the discrete taste of fresh mushrooms and peppers for tonight’s dinner. They were accompanied by prime mashed potato, and crisp cabbage, carrots and cauliflower, then followed by Tesco’s finest Belgian chocolate choux buns. Our dessert was purchased this morning at half price. Such is the UK’s obsession with ‘best before’, ‘use by’, and ‘sell by’ dates, that supermarkets cannot sell goods beyond whichever of these phrases appears the most relevant. Neither, for fear of lawsuits for food poisoning, are they able to give them away. They therefore do the next best thing and reduce the price. Our buns bore the legend ‘use by’ today. Had we purchased them later in the day, they would probably have been even cheaper. In this particular outlet you can recognise reduced items by their yellow ticket.

We each drank the same beverage as yesterday.

A Rookery

It is not a good idea to venture into a Tesco superstore on Good Friday morning. We learned that today. When we carry out such a shop I usually trot off in search of some items and return to Jackie who is loading the trolley in some other part of the store. It is normally not difficult to spot her in a crowd, but this one rivalled Trafalgar Square on New Year’s Eve.

For those of you who think that I could not select the wrong kind of long-life milk or apple juice I have to disillusion you. It is even possible for me to fight my way back to the shopper-in-chief with unacceptable apple juice twice. It gets a bit wearing carting several cartons backwards and forwards when you haven’t bothered to pick up a basket.

The majority of people guiding their trolleys through such crowds steadfastly refuse to make eye contact as they thrust forward. Some of my bruises will never come off. I thanked the one gentleman who did catch my eye with a smile.

Back home there were the inevitable items either forgotten or sold out in the mega-store. I therefore walked down to try out the Spar shop who did have coleslaw and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.Wallflowers & Private Drive sign Attracted by wallflowers growing by our back entrance I noticed we have a largely obscured sign designed to prevent uninquisitive parkers blocking our driveway. We may benefit from a little repositioning of this. There I met our neighbour Beverley who was painting her new fence. Unfortunately, as we introduced ourselves, and before I realised what she was engaged in, I rested my hand on top of the newly painted surface. She confirmed that the country park shop was a good resource.Landscape

The right hand side of Downton Lane offers extensive views across fields.

Rook guarding nestRook guarding nest b:wRook over nestRook flyingRaucous cries from the right hand side of Shorefield Road led me down a tarmacked track to a crowded rookery. Most nests had an attentive parent on guard, whilst other cawers flew noisily to and fro. Across a bridge over a stream lay timbered holiday homes to which a couple were making their way. They hoped to see chicks in the nests before they returned to their permanent abode.Rhododendron bloom

Rhododendron time is coming to our garden.Erigeron

Erigeron also does well.

When we dined at The Elephant Walk in Highcliffe three days ago, the meals were so plentiful that Becky took away a doggy bag. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for me, she left it in Jackie’s car. I had the benefit this evening, for its contents went down quite well with my Isla Negra cabernet sauvignon 2013. The feast Jackie had bought at the Hordle Chinese Takeaway two days ago was still able to provide her and Flo with their dinner tonight. Jackie’s choice of beverage was Hoegaarden.

A Leaving Present

There are always unexpected expenses when moving house. One we hadn’t bargained for was caused by the discovery yesterday that none of Jackie’s carefully collected saucepans – not even her precious pressure cooker – can be used on the Neff hobs. Naturally therefore, the most expensive kitchen installation requires the most expensive cooking utensils. Off we drove to John Lewis in Poole to by some with a magnetic quality. Jackie knew what she really wanted, which was Tefal non-stick pans, but hovered and havered over the price, until I took the bull by the horns, picked up a range of pots, thrust some into her arms, and carried the rest to the checkout. Even the man who served us carried a magnet to check the equipment.

I’m no fool. Microwaved meals and eating out are all well and good, but they cannot match my lady’s culinary prowess.

Tefal kitchenOn our return, I just had to photograph them amassed on the surface where they will be used in the creation of delicious delicacies. There are a couple of unplanned bonuses in the resulting image. Firstly, Jackie is seen reflected in the oven as she passed behind me. As was demonstrated by an earlier photograph, this would not have been possible before she painstakingly cleaned and polished the Moben installation. Secondly, in the top left corner, Norman’s parrot can be glimpsed on its perch suspended from a hook in the ceiling.

We had a welcome visit from Danni in the afternoon. She is much-loved niece, and it was gratifying to hear her say she felt the same way about the house.

AzaleaWhen, in 2008, I gave up my consultancy role with Parents for Children, I was given a number of presents from different groups in the organisation. One was basket containing an array of plants in a pot. The main feature of this was a very young azalea. Neither London soil nor tap water was suitable for the plant, so I repotted it and fed it on rainwater. Miraculously it has survived, having continued to be nurtured in Michael’s Graham Road house for the last few months.Pieris It was a joy to see that this, together with a  pieris I had also bought for Sutherland Place, had, unharmed, been first off the Globe Removals van. When we get around to it, we will find permanent resting places for each of these.

Parents for Children was a specialist adoption agency set up in the 1970s specifically for finding homes for children who by reason of disability or emotional difficulties were difficult to place. With the changing financial climate, the cost of such intensive specialist work, and the development of Social Services own fostering and adoption sections, the agency’s survival became more and more precarious and closed down not long after my involvement ceased. Whole generations have reason to be grateful for their existence.

This evening, courtesy of Tesco and the microwave, I dined on chicken jalfrezi whlist Jackie ate lamb rogon josh. These were followed by treacle puddings.