Taking A Hint

Emily is now a nineteen year old student of Art History at Nottingham University.  As I gazed skywards this morning, whilst waiting for Jackie to unlock the car to take me to the station for my London trip for visits to Norman and Carol, I saw one of my granddaughter’s first drawings.  When asked what she had reproduced with a white chalk line across black paper, she replied ‘an aeroplane’.  She was about two. Jet plane Such are the advances in technology in the intervening years that the camera can now clearly show the two jet streams and the plane itself, not so visible to even the two year old naked eye.

The quiet coach on the outward journey wasn’t.  Halfway along the carriage were seated three elderly women, at least one probably hard of hearing.  One didn’t get much of a word in, but the other two more than made up for her.  Intimate domestic arrangements; stories of cruises; the layout of London streets; how to care for nails; and many other enlightening topics distracted me from my Susan Hill.  Although packed, the return train was much quieter and I was able to finish reading ‘The Magic Apple Tree’, being a record of a year in the country.  I don’t know when blogs began, but this delightful book, first published in 1982, has all the ingredients of one.  The writer even describes gardening; growing, cooking, and eating food; and offers various recipes of her own.  She takes us through the changing seasons and their affects.  I was reading one of my late friend Ann’s volumes. John Lawrence's Winter I bought my own copy as much for John Lawrence’s marvellous engravings as for anything else.

I walked the usual route from Waterloo to Green Park and took the Jubilee Line to Neasden. From Waterloo Station road bridge A footbridge spans the road from Waterloo Station and the South Bank of the River Thames.  Crossing a square and descending some rather loose steps takes one to the London Eye.  At the top of these steps stood a young woman with a child in a buggy.  Her older companion, looking past me, the only person in sight, observed ‘we are going to have to get someone to help you.  I can’t, because of my back’.  Undeterred by my apparent invisibility , I took the hint and the bottom of the buggy.

Piper on Westminster BridgeThe gilt on the Westminster Bridge lamp stands glinted behind the lone piper as he mopped his brow and swigged some bottled water.  He has stood on that spot, puffing away, all through the recent cold months.  Now in shirt sleeves, ‘I’m not complaining’, he said of the warmer weather.

In St James’s Park, I was just in time to alert a woman crouching to be photographed with a little girl that her strawberries and cream were sliding off the folded over cardboard plate clutched in her downward stretched right hand as she concentrated on putting her left arm around the child.  It probably would have made a great picture, but it would have been rather cruel just to let it happen, even for the sake of art.

An authentically dressed, youngish, woman stood at her easel endeavouring to capture in pastels a gorgeous display of flowering cherry blossom. Pastel Painter, St. James's Park When asked if I could photograph her she said she wasn’t happy with the painting.  She had one with which she was much more satisfied in her portfolio case.  It was clearly a day for taking a hint, so I asked if I could see it.  She took pleasure in unwrapping it for a private viewing.  It was indeed very good, but of a different scene.  I explained that I was more interested in her and her activity than in simply recording the result.  She was both happy and relieved.

For a change, Norman having had an operation four days ago, I brought the food and he produced the wine.  Jackie had selected and bought the stilton and cauliflower soup; the gala pie salad; and the brioche bread and butter pudding.  The wine was an excellent Greek cabernet sauvignon.

Afterwards I visited Carol, then returned home by the usual routes, Jackie waiting at Southampton Airport Parkway to drive me to our flat.

Whose Road Is It Anyway?

Coal titsBack home in Minstead the coal tits on their feeder made up for the elusiveness of the small birds in Sigoules.  After a morning spent preparing my papers for Philip, my accountant, I took a later than usual ford loop walk.  Upper driveUpper drive was looking resplendent in the mid-afternoon sun.  The deciduous trees, not yet in leaf, displayed their shapely naked limbs.  Elsewhere, hedgerows and other, smaller, trees were producing young, yellow-green, budding leaves.  Daffodils still thrust their way through thorny hedges.  Susan Hill, in ‘The Magic Apple Tree’, her record of a year in the country which I began reading yesterday, calls spring a ‘yellow season’.  After the masses of dandelions, marigolds, and buttercups in and around Sigoules, and now us, too, being treated to its awakening, I see what she means.  On this very pleasant afternoon there were even a few brief April showers.

Ponies on roadA car that sped past me on the very narrow road to the ford, barely wide enough for a pony to straddle it, came to a sudden halt around the next bend.  Hearing its approach I had stepped smartly to the side.  No such courtesy was offered by the seven or eight ponies that idly blocked the road.  They ambled up and down and from side to side investigating possible fodder.  The driver just had to wait.  Also waiting, in a side road, was a tourist driver who wasn’t sure what to do.  I gave him the benefit of my vast, all of five months, experience, and helped him and his passengers on their way. Ponies on road (2) Mind you,  I was very wary about passing the rear end, by which was all the space that was available, of the first  horse.  Having negotiated this back passage safely, I arrived, after walking up from the ford, at what passes for the main road through the village.

Cow following meSusan Hill speaks of cattle being sent into Buttercup Field at the beginning of May, having been sheltered for the winter.  Obviously, in the New Forest the freedom to roam comes a bit earlier.  This was brought home to me as I started up the hill through Minstead.  A strange lowing sound from behind me alerted me to the fact that I was being followed up the road.  Indeed, the only sense I could make of the increasingly agitated, closer and closer, mooing was that the tagged cow wanted me out of the way.  I soon realised that it was keen to join its companions who had taken possession of the road and more or less covered Seamans Corner.  At a rough estimate half the bovine population of the New Forest now blocked the roads and stripped what was left of the foliage.Cows on road  As I approached the Corner, Cow in hedgeapart from the odd cow occupying the usual headless stance, pausing only to plop their own recycled fodder offerings, they were all following me up the road.  It was just a wee bit disconcerting.  I must admit that I did occasionally take a sneaky look to make sure there was no pizzle in sight.  Had I seen one, I’m not sure what I would have done. Cows on road (2) Watching tradesmen negotiating these natural obstacles I often wonder how their time-sheets are affected.

Jackie produced her usual excellent arabbiata with mixed pasta for our evening meal.  I had cherry pie for afters.  Jackie drank Peroni while I had some Marques de Montino  reserva rioja 2007.