Our Youngest Viewer

PiperPiper - Version 2Before being collected by Andy and Danni to return to The Firs, Jackie and I finished four more cards that we didn’t have the blanks for yesterday.  These demonstrate very clearly the capabilities of the little Canon S100 camera.  I have extracted a very small section of a photograph taken in July to produce a particularly pleasing music themed card.  The cream paper on which it is mounted (not shown here) picks up the colour of the stone walls behind the bagpiper and blends beautifully with the pillars and the Scots outfit.  The clarity of the smaller picture is such that it could be printed on A3+ sized paper.

Shortly before our car arrived, I received a very welcome call from Sam in Ostia.  We had a long chat which lasted well into the journey to The Firs.  I was so distracted by talking to my son that I forgot my camera, and Andy had to turn round and go back for it.


Bluebottle on peachBegoniasAt lunchtime I had a wander round the garden and admired the gladioli planted a year ago; the bluebottles enjoying the compost now filling the bins I built at that time; and begonias in the pots Jackie filled a short time ago.

MaisieThere were few visitors today, but Maisie, our youngest viewer, was delighted to sign the visitors’ book.  A frequent visitor to The Firs, it is fascinating to see the development of Laura’s little girl.  Maybe on this occasion she was intending to make her contribution to the work on display.

Once the doors were closed to the public, Danni and Andy went off for fish and chips from the magnificent Thornhill supplier and brought them back for us all.  On 14th September last year I described our first encounter with The Frying Fish, whose small portions are considerably larger than most outlets’ large. (click here to see post). They are crisp and tasty as well.  Newark’s fish and chips were excellent, and there is strong competition from the more upmarket Seashell in Lisson Grove off Marylebone Road.  Thornhill’s finest beats them all.  It is fascinating how this insalubrious suburb of Southampton has, next door to each other, a superb Indian reastaurant and an incomparable take away fish and chip shop.

Before we left for home Adam, Thea, and a friend of theirs called Rebecca dropped in briefly on their way home to North London from a short break in Cornwall.  We offered to share our family sized portion of chips with them, and although we were already five, I’m pretty sure that had they not already eaten, there would still have been enough for us all.

Chinese Boxes

Along the laurel hedge at The Firs there lies a heap of various items that might some day be useful.  By the side of that there is a compost heap.  There are parts of cemented brick pillars from the former pergola which blew down long ago; pieces of wood in various stages of decomposition; bamboos cut from what is now the hot bed; a picnic table which has seen better days; all bound together by vigorous ivy. Someone had the bright idea of building three compost bins and transferring the heap, layer by layer, to these containers.  I decided to build a dry brick wall with removable slats at the front so that the soil can be easily extracted by shovel.  Some of these joined layers of bricks are on concrete bases and very heavy.  I learned fairly early on that it is not a good idea to attempt this task in sandals if you are apt to roll the layers of bricks over your foot.  Don, I could do with your expert advice, guidance, and assistance.Bits of brick pillars 9.12

Not having Don’s guidance, I struggled to make the wall stable.  Locking the various, mostly cubed, shapes into place, so that any adventurous infant, tempted to climb, would be unable to topple my creation, was proving beyond me.  After lunch we sought some advice from the more practical Geoff, and Elizabeth gave me the benefit of her muscle and more mathematical brain.  We did enough to make us confident of success over the next day or two.

Whilst this was going on Jackie planted a clematis, lots of spring bulbs, and some violas.

The three year old Sam had demonstrated how children are prone to scale unstable constructions.  Before he was born we had, as my readers will know, lived in Soho. Readers of my post of 21st. May will know that the Chinese supermarkets and restaurants in Gerrard Street would habitually put out wooden boxes which had contained various foodstuffs.  Some uses of these have been described in that post.  Another was the creation of bookshelves.  Stacked on top of each other the boxes which may have contained such as  jars of ginger, made excellent containers for books.  They had the added advantage of saving further packing when we moved.  I had no difficulty, when we arrived at Gracedale Road in Furzedown, in locking these variably shaped boxes into place, filling one wall with them, and filling them with reading matter.  One day when Dad was visiting us, Sam decided to climb the stack.  It wobbled like a house of cards when one too many has been placed on top.  Dad, who loved such projects, returned with his tools and screwed each and every box individually to the wall.  When we came to sell the  house I was a bit apprehensive as to what any potential buyer might make of such a quirky adornment to the front room.  In truth I felt that by now it was like a candle in an empty bottle of Mateus Rose.  I needn’t have worried.  The male buyer said that this was in fact a selling point.  He liked the construction so much that, friends told us later, when he and his wife sold the house he claimed to have built it himself.

Next door to Eastern Nights in Thornhill lies The Frying Fish, which is of course a takeaway fish and chip shop.  We have often wondered what it is like.  Tonight we decide to find out.  Elizabeth went off to buy ‘us tea’, which translates as our supper.  Although we very soon realised why there is a always a queue there, the service was quick and friendly.  Not knowing how the portions worked out, Elizabeth needed advice on the size of the chips portion to choose.  For three people with good appetites she was told one small portion would suffice.  If uncertain she could have one small and one child’s allocation.  That is what she opted for.  The woman serving offered to show her the small one and refund the money for the child’s if she decided that was enough.  As scoop after scoop were helped into the wrapping paper, It seemed to be enough, and Elizabeth was given some of her money back.  Since she had paid by card this was an unusual method of cash-back.

The fish was large, tasty, and perfectly cooked in thin, crusty, batter.  The chips were equally crisp and flavoursome.  The amount was ridiculous.  A large portion of chips in Newark was too much for me to eat.  This pile of my favourite potato made that look small.  The three of us could not eat  them all, and left anyone else’s normal-sized portion in the bag.  Elizabeth and I shared a bottle of Prestige de Calvet Bordeaux 2011, whilst Jackie downed Hoegaarden of Belgium, best before 19.6.13.