A Good Woman

On 25th December there cannot be many homes in this country without a television turned on at some time in the day, perhaps to watch The Snowman, The Shawshank Redemption, or The Queen’s Speech.  It is incidentally amazing that the same queen, Elizabeth II, who had already been on the throne for ten years in December 1963 will again make the speech this year as she has done annually ever since. Elizabeth 25.12.63 My sister Elizabeth was so entranced when I took today’s advent picture that I doubt it was her royal namesake she was watching.  The little girl must have found the smarties in her stocking.  She is flanked by Vivien and Grandpa Hunter, whilst Joseph, from whom she may be protecting her spoils, is perched on Grandma’s lap.


The rising sun this morning, peering through the now naked trees and picking up the edges of the fast-moving clouds with a promise of rain, offered us a stunning, albeit transient, view from our vast living room windows.  By the time we had made an early departure for the Woodland Burial Ground at Walkford, the heavy wet slate clouds dominated the sky.

Mum Rivett's wreath

At the burial site we met Helen and Shelly for the three sisters’ annual laying of a Christmas wreath on the small plot that contains the ashes of my delightful former mother-in-law Veronica Rivett.  A few tears were shed and reminiscences were shared.  Mum, who had enjoyed celebrating Christmas well into her eighties, would have appreciated the timing of this tribute.

What particularly came back to me was how she had dropped everything and crossed London to collect and look after Matthew on the morning in 1969 that Jackie was hospitalised with meningitis.  This was the day I was due to begin my Social Work training course at Croydon Colleges.  Jackie had been ill for a fortnight and her head was so bad that morning that we called the GP who, within seconds, diagnosed meningitis and arranged for hospital admission.  This meant care had to be arranged for Michael, then five and at school, and Matthew, at nine months old.  A neighbour with a son at the school took on the task of transporting Michael to and from school.

What I had forgotten was that Matthew himself had German measles at the time and that his Nan took him to her bed; and when Jackie was back home but still unwell, Helen and Bill came to stay with us for a short while to continue the care.

We repaired to Shelly’s nearby home for coffee, conversation, and home-made mince pies.  After this Jackie and I drove to New Milton to buy some specialist Asian supplies from a shop which will hopefully become a local resource.  The shopkeeper recommended a Sri Lankan restaurant in Bournemouth.

This afternoon I finished reading Voltaire’s short story ‘Le Monde comme il va’, in which a messenger is sent from the deities to report on the behaviour of the people of a mythical region.  Babouc’s observations are to determine whether or not the allegorical Paris warrants annihilation on account of the baseness of its population.  The reporter finds that there are also positive qualities to be found in humanity and recommends continuing existence.  The world as it is is worth keeping.  Perhaps I am beginning to get the hang of the philosophical journey.

The restaurant mentioned earlier was the Dosa World in Old Christchurch Road.  With fond memories of Morden’s Watch Me, we just had to visit the new one this evening.  This turned out to be quite an experience.  This morning’s clouds fulfilled their promise, and the wind that had sped them on their way continued most forcefully.  From late afternoon until after we returned home we were treated to a tempestuous deluge.  This made the journey, peering through a windscreen regularly obliterated by rain and wipers, rather precarious. A hold-up on the A35 was caused by a fallen tree.  We spared a thought for the police personnel attempting traffic control in gale force wind and rain.

Because Jackie had researched our destination well on google maps we were able to negotiate old Bournemouth reasonably straightforwardly.  The wind was such as to send cyclists wobbling, to attempt to uproot shrubbery on the roundabouts, and to blow umbrellas inside out.  More problematic, it was able to tear the passenger door out of my hand, doing enough damage to the hinges to render it impossible to close the door without lifting it.  This meant that when we came to return home, because I couldn’t manage successfully to do this from inside, Jackie had to get out in the pouring rain and do it from the outside.  My turn to struggle in the rain had come earlier when I tried to coax a ticket out of the parking meter that had snaffled my pound but had no intention of releasing what I had paid for.  Eventually I decided they’d had my money and if necessary I was prepared to say so in court.  Anyway, it was unlikely that any sane traffic warden would venture out in this weather.  None, in fact, did.

Whilst we dined in the restaurant we watched people rushing by in a vain attempt to keep dry, and the glass door kept blowing open.  When we left, the street was strewn with dead umbrellas.

It was not up to the standard of the Watch me, but the Dosa World was worth the trip, although we may not think so when we have the bill for the door repair.  DosaDosa and saucesThe Dosa itself was a good indication of the very good meal to follow.  This filled crepe was so large that it buried the sauces beneath it.   We both drank Kingfisher.   The young man who served us was personable, attentive, and helpful.  Possibly because they only deal in cash, the prices were really rather low.

On our return journey, all last year’s familiar pools were back.  The water wrenched Jackie’s steering, and my woollen overcoat smelt like a wet sheep.

It Was Christmas Day In The Forest

Raindrops on thorns 12.12

After Jackie and I had exchanged Christmas stockings, and before the rest of the family emerged from slumber, I took a brief walk down to Minstead, turned left opposite The Trusty Servant, left again into Bull Lane, and back home via London Minstead.

The shower installed in our flat number 4 was, until this morning, the most powerful I have ever experienced.  The very hot water needs careful adjustment, and if the taps are fully turned on you are drilled backwards through the curtains and likely to end up on the floor, having to fight your way back to lessen the flow.  This, however, is nothing compared with the stair rods that continued to saturate our surroundings.

As I walked down Running Lane I noticed the silent scuts of our three deer, like three baubles on different lengths of elastic, bobbing up and down as they disappeared from view, festively decorating the forest trees.  Apart from the occasional jacketed horses in soggy fields, water bouncing from their coverings as they ate their morning mud porridge laced with straggly grass, the only other sign of life was of a robin flitting, dripping, across my path.

The rain had increased in tempo the minute I set out. Garden in sunshine 12.12 As if someone had operated a switch it ceased on my return, just as I liberally sprinkled the welcome mat and applied the towel which had been thrust into my hand.  Very soon we were enjoying bright sunshine, as the rest of Santa’s stockings were leisurely opened.

In the early afternoon Flo spotted a woodpecker in the garden.  This was the first time I’d ever seen one.  This bright green red-topped bird flew off to a distant tree, to return tantalisingly beyond my camera’s range.

Queen's speech 12.12Watching the Queen’s speech at 3 p.m. I reflected on the first time I had see her on television, as recorded on 27th May.  The technological advances available since her coronation are quite astounding.  Not only is the screen much much larger; the picture in colour, and with no parallel lines moving up it; but it can be photographed with a tiny camera, transferred to a computer, and instantly posted around the world.  The broadcast itself has already been transmitted globally, to countries many of which did not have television in 1953.

After this Becky drove Flo, with me as a guide, on a pony hunt.  Primrose and Champion were back in their field feeding on fresh dry hay.  Seeing three on the edge of the forest we stopped the car and Flo got out to converse with them.  Leaping the ditch, they rushed over and, together with several more who appeared from nowhere, they had soon surrounded us.  Apart from those I described on 13th October, I have never seen them move so fast.  This rather disconcerted Becky who, earlier, on foot, had encountered a persistant sodden pony who got close enough for her to cry ‘let’s get out of here’. Becky and pony 12.12 Apparently safe in the car, Becky was even more alarmed when one stuck its  bewhiskered nose through the open window.  No doubt they were seeking more palatable food than that which the soggy forest provided.

Later in the afternoon and early evening we watched a DVD of ‘Ice Age 4’, followed by ‘Call the Midwife’ on BBC 1.  Jackie then provided a marvellous traditional roast turkey dinner with Christmas pudding to follow.  Jackie, Ian and I all had some Compte de Brismand champagne. Ian also drank Peroni and I imbibed Bouchard Fleurie 2011.  We played charades in which I went some way to exonerating myself after my ignominy in a Passage to India a week or so back.  I didn’t actually mention it in my blog, but Jackie chose to point out my incompetence in her Facebook comment.  I wonder if this time she will mention that I got ‘Phantom of the Opera’ after one syllable.