A Second Chance

Elizabeth and Danni came over for a pub meal last night. The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, our first choice, was fully booked until 8.30, so we popped down to The Trusty Servant Inn at which there was room. Unfortunately their main oven had just ceased working, so there were a number of dishes they were unable to produce. This was no real problem, as the excellent sausage and mash; liver and bacon; pasta; and fish and chips were all available. The two portions of mixed vegetables were too much for us all to share, and perfectly cooked, that is crisp and colourful. Trips to and from the bar required the use of slalom techniques. The group of somewhat inebriated young men wearing silly hats were perfectly happy to usher each other out of the gangway, but first one had to catch their attention. This wasn’t easy when they were prodding a friend’s sternum, which required all their concentration, whilst repeatedly iterating the punchline of a joke.
It was when the others came back to our home that we realised there are a number of ‘deliberate’ mistakes to this packing lark. Elizabeth and I both opted for red wine. There was only one wine glass not nestling in bubble wrap somewhere, so I had to quaff my beverage from a water tumbler. That, which must be grasped in a fist obscuring the liquid within, doesn’t quite have the same ambience as an elegant slender-stemmed bowl which can be lifted to view the ruby contents ripe for supping.
This morning we made another trip to Morrisons and returned loaded with more boxes. Packing continued this afternoon.
Smugglers Inn
Early this evening we gave ourselves a break and drove off to Milford on Sea. I waited in the Smugglers Inn car park, and watched the lowering sun still picking out the rooftops whilst leaving lower levels in shadow, whilst Jackie shopped in Hollands. RocksWaves on rocksWe then drove down to the beach where my chauffeuse sat watching the choppy seas crashing against the glistening rocks as I wandered along the shifting shingle.Isle of Wight & Needles
The Isle of Wight and The Needles appeared beyond the Solent in sharp relief.
The Marine restaurantThe Marine restaurant, the site of the St Valentine’s Day onslaught and rescue, now looks fully repaired.Beach Huts
Across Sturt Pond the beach huts gleamed in the dying rays against the backdrop of threatening skies.
Because Jackie had thought I had damned Zaika restaurant with faint praise on our last visit, we decided to give the establishment a second chance. This time the food, having passed the popadom test, matched the service. It will do.

The Wrong Date

I have begun reading Peter Roberts’ short history of Minstead in the seventeenth century.

On a cold, dark, and dank morning in this flaming June…….. just a minute, what flaming June?  We like to think of this early summer month as sunny and warm, so we call it ‘flaming June’.  That hardly applies.  I’ll use my grandmother’s ‘flaming’.  Grandma, you see, used ‘flaming’ as an euphemism for something else, of which I fondly hope she was unaware.  So, as I was saying, on a cold, dark, and dank morning in this flaming June, I walked the two fords loop, finishing, via the church footpath, at The Trusty Servant Inn where I was to meet Heather for lunch.

Rhododendron ringUnknown hands had fashioned a ring of rhododendron petals beside the bridle path at the top of the hill coming up from the first ford.  Just before I descended to The Splash, I noticed the twig circle, the mystery of which was unravelled on 11th January, has reappeared.  This all suggests that parties of schoolchildren are returning to the Study Centre just above that ford.

The church footpath was unexpectedly drier than usual, clearly having benefitted from maintenance work. Church footpath A bit of a ditch has been dug into the upper verge and channels have been cut across the path so water from the higher field is channeled into the lower one.

The Trusty Servant Inn was functioning during the period of Mr. Roberts’ history.  Perhaps the building itself has been reincarnated since then.  Heather and I reached the car park at the same time, and, never having met before but faced photographs of each other for about a year on the on-line Scrabble board, recognised each other even before she emerged from her car.  We knew we would get on because of the rapport we had shared on the game chats.  It was a most enjoyable lunch capped by my new friend coming back to our flat to meet Jackie and spend another hour or so with us both.

Heather and Brian live at Horndean, where Mum and Dad had their last home together.  Dad died in his bed there and is buried in the cemetery at nearby Catherington.  The date of his death was Christmas Day 1987, just two weeks after Jessica and I had moved with our children to Newark.  This has always made Christmas an especially significant date to remember.  In my ‘Would You Believe It?’ post of 7th August last year, one of the uncanny stories that provided the theme was that of completing the posthumous pastel portrait I began the following Christmas Eve and finished in the early hours of Christmas morning.

In August 2012 I was in Sigoules with Don and did not have my copy of the Dad's portrait photocopyportrait with me.  I am now, with the aid of technology nearly forty years on from December 1988, able to reproduce it here.  What I have is an enlarged photocopy of the original given to my mother.  In those days we did not have our own scanners and printers and the pc to operate them.  We visited the local shop, usually a stationers, equipped with a photocopying machine.  Osborne’s in Newark possessed one with a facility to enlarge what was to be reproduced.  Now I can photograph the framed picture behind its glass with my little Canon S100, walk across the room, slip the SIM card into the back of my computer, fiddle about a bit with the image, save it on the desktop, upload it to my WordPress blog, finish the post, and send it round the world via the server.  Had any one told me this would one day be possible whilst I stood by the stationer’s machine, wondering how to operate it, would I have believed it?

Returning to 1987, whilst Dad’s body was being lowered into the grave, I noticed the date of death inscribed on the coffin’s brass plate was 24th December.  The family consensus was that I should ask the undertakers to change it.  I asked them to do so after the burial.  I do not know whether they ever did.  I don’t suppose it matters much now.  We know.

Following the plentiful ham, egg, and chips I had for lunch, we dined on pizza, salad, and trifle.  I drank Cocker Hoop ale, which name suggests that Jennings, the brewers, are proud of it.

The £2.00 Pint

Yesterday I received John Green’s package of comments on what is likely to be my last Listener Crossword.  They were largely positive and some complimentary.  John is the very thorough checker of the entries for this, the pinnacle of crosswords.  Having performed this free service for many years, John provides statistics, both personal and general, of such as numbers of entries, successful and otherwise.  He describes common and individual errors, and sends his handwritten extracts from solvers’ letters to the setters.  These days I am more inclined to post a blog than set a crossword.Nuthatch & marsh or willow tits

As I watched the birds this morning, wagtails trotted across the lawns; alongside the feeder station a blackbird, preferring fresh kill, dragged an unresisting worm from the sward; and a nuthatch elbowed a couple of willow tits off its chosen breakfast dish.  The two smaller birds perched on the wrought iron holders, awaiting their second sitting.  A large black corvine creature strutted about for a bit, then, in cumbersome flight, lumbered, airborne, into the forest trees.

The Shave Wood loop was today’s walk.Anne's house  Anne’s house on the way through Minstead which I imagine has for many years been in desperate need of refurbishment, is now looking quite trim.

CelandinesAlthough absent from the roads through the forest itself, the verges of those leading to it are rich in daises, and, seeming to have been blown from the glowing gorse bushes nearby, celandines and dandelions.Metamorphosing tree  Yet another fallen tree is metamorphosing into a primeval creature.

I had a pleasant conversation with a young woman riding a horse along the verge passing Hazel Hill car park.  Seeing someone emerge from the only vehicle parked there and walk into the forest, I followed, thinking I might learn a footpath skirting London Minstead.  It was a small family who seemed to be setting up camp.  I rather hoped the pile of wood being collected was not for building a fire.

As I passed Hazel Hill Farm a cacophony of cackling and clattering emanated from the hen coop.  Wondering what had caused it I peered over the fence just in time to witness a guilty looking crow winging off.

Ponies - Seamans Corner

Back at Seamans Corner ponies were gathered grazing on the first fresh green grass they can have tasted for months.

Before our evening meal Jackie and I visited the Trusty for one drink each.  A pint of Doom Bar (£3.95) and a small bottle of Peroni (£3.50) cost £7.45.  Yes, £7.45 for two drinks.  We then reminisced over the time, probably in the 1980s, when we began to wonder how long it would be before you didn’t get any change out of £2.00 for a pint of beer; and, not much later, when would £5.00 be inadequate for a round of two drinks?  Unless you happen to live near a Wetherspoons the £2.00 pint is long gone.  How can that chain do it?

On our return, to accompany Jackie’s succulent roast pork dinner, she drank Hoegaarden and I had Carta Rosa gran reserva 2005.

The 3D Crossword

I wrote yesterday about Oddie’s propensity for sitting on my chair.  This means I get a liberal sprinkling of short white hairs forming an extra cushion.  And they are definitely not mine.  Matthew, on contemplating this phenomenon, enlightened me as to the origin of the phrase ‘the hair of the dog’, indicating the cure for a hangover allegedly being a further drink in the morning.  The full sentence should be ‘the hair of the dog that bit me’, that came from the mediaeval belief that the application of the hair of a rabid dog that had bitten someone would cure them of the disease that had been passed on by the biter.  Mat was inclined to think that anyone who did try this was only likely to get bitten again.

Mat and Tess in The TrustyThe little dog sat quietly under the table in The Trusty Servant where Jackie, Mat, Tess and I enjoyed lunch.

For something like two years in the early 1990s I worked on producing a 3D 15×15 cryptic crossword.  Mike Kindred and I had been commissioned to set one.  As he is the half of our partnership best able to tackle the construction of the grid I left that to Mike.  What he created was forty five interlocking grids in our pre-computerised existence.  All I had to do was put the words in and write the clues.  I had to ensure that each word could be read as if running through a cube.  This involved hand-drawn grids on huge sheets of paper.  The black squares were comparatively easy.  Those that required the entry of letters had to be large enough to contain various options, and I had constantly to check that what I wanted to put in one grid would appear in the right places in interlocking ones.  The eraser was an essential tool.  If I have lost you in the technicalities of this, imagine what it did to my head, as I spread my working sheets across the tables in the trains from Newark to Kings Cross; or on the floor or desk at home.  I also had to find room for lots of dictionaries from which to find words that would fit.

Eventually my task was complete. Following the generally accepted grid construction rules requiring a fair distribution of letters and black squares, it was the first ever 3D crossword which didn’t have too many rows of blank spaces. Someone then had to be found to write the computer programme that would reproduce this original work.  We wouldn’t have started on this mammoth venture had we not been assured this would be forthcoming.  A disappointment was, however, in store.  This would cost £25,000, beyond the means of the man who had presented us with the project.  It never saw the light of day.

Derrick c1993Whilst I was sitting in my study in Newark, probably speaking to Mike about current progress, Becky, camera in hand, stuck her head round the door and took photograph number 13 in the ‘through the ages’ serious.

After a salad meal this evening, with which Tess and I drank Reserve de la Saurine 2011 and the others abstained, we played Bargain Hunt.  This is Mat and Tess’s game based on watching the television programme.  We each estimated what items might fetch at auction.  Mat kept the score.

The Village Lunch

Running Hill 1.13Running Hill was glorious this morning as I set off to walk a quirky Q linking the two fords with the Fleetwater phone box.  This red phone box, incidentally, no longer takes coins.  Bishops were in the process of moving people out of Barter’s, a rather large yet homely house which has just been sold.

The only humans I saw were in cars. Poppy's head 1.13 Steaming exhalations emanating from ponies’ nostrils, snorted downwards, soared upwards and evaporated.  Come to think of it, mine were doing the same.  Poppy nutted Libby out of the way so she could get to the water bucket.  Berry had said that this horse was the one in charge.  She demonstrated this today.  No resistance was offered by the wilder animal.Sheep in field 1.13

Sheep were strung out grazing in the sunlight.

We visited The Trusty Servant Inn, known locally as ‘The Trusty’, for lunch.  This was a monthly village gathering attended by both familiar and new faces.  The pub, in winter months, provides one course from a selection of four or five, for £6 a head.  Jackie chose fish and chips; I had shepherds pie; and we drank Peroni and Doom Bar respectively.  The village is proving to be most hospitable.  At our end of the long row of linked tables one subject of conversation was the alleged Grinling Gibbons work over our entrance hall fireplace.  No-one can yet verify the provenance of this.  Nor has anyone come up with a definitive origin of the word Seamans.  Oz thinks Richard Reeves in Lyndhurst might help with the latter.  We also spoke about ancestry, names, and nicknames.  Oz, actually Robert Osborne, has been Oz since he was a ten year old schoolboy.  Friends of mine sometimes call me Del, and, when they want to be really amusing, Del Boy, with reference to David Jason’s classic television character Derrick Trotter.  Oz would not answer to Ozzie, and Diane declines to be called Di.  Diane and Bill; Oz and Polly (Pauline); Eileen and David; and Jackie and I got to know each other quite well in the time.  At the far end of the table were Mary; and Jeanie and Nick, and a few others we didn’t meet.  Mary had driven past us en route; Jeanie was the woman on whose door I had knocked in search of Seamans Lane information on 9th December last year; Nick is the husband who wasn’t in.  We had a few words with them when we left.  I list these names in full in the hope that this will help me remember them.Village lunch 1.13

While I was walking in the morning Jackie went shopping in Totton’s Lidl.  Among other purchases she came back with a child’s play-tent and a fan heater.  The reason for the heater is that she is beginning to feel cold in the bedroom, whereas I don’t notice it.  After lunch we decided to visit Aldi in Romsey where I had seen an electric blanket.  Initially there was no sign of one.  Searching under a pile of pillows like a terrier throwing up soil from a foxhole, we unearthed the one I had spotted, fortunately hidden from the view of anyone else who might have liked it. Hand cooked potato chips By the checkout there was a tub of ‘Hand Cooked Potato Chips’.  This amused us.  Like almost every display near a checkout, this one contained supplementary items dumped by people who had changed their minds.  The woman on the till was very pleased when I told her that if there were an Olympic sport in checking out, she would be in the team.  Her speed and friendliness were equally impressive.

Our evening meal was the same as yesterday.

The Tree House

Tree House 12.12

This morning I took the Minstead, Football Green, Shave Wood and London Minstead circular route.  In case anyone is wondering, London Minstead is so-named because it lies on what was the road to London.  That such a narrow winding lane should have been the way to the capital is amazing by today’s standards.
.Minstead was very crowded this morning.  Cars were parked on every available space, including all the grass verges.  As The Trusty Servant came into view I saw a gathering of horses; riders in hunting outfits; friends and families, including children in buggies; and various assorted dogs.  Drinks were being passed around, and the staff of the inn were distributing tasty looking snacks.  I asked one of the observers whether this was a hunt party or whether they were actually gathering for a hunt.  ‘It is a meet.’, she said, ‘In a while the master will call them all together for the off”.  I expressed surprise that they would need such sustenance before setting out on such an exercise.  She assured me it was needed before they left.Meet, Minstead 12.12.(2)JPG

A large garden on the way to Minstead contains a tree bearing what I assume to be a derelict house.  This always reminds me of Sam’s tree-house in an old false acacia in the grounds of Lindum House.  He built this with friends some twenty-odd years ago.  This structure was of two, possibly three storeys.  It could, and on occasion did, harbour several boys overnight.  One day he found an estate agent’s ‘For Sale’ board.  This was placed in a prominent position on the tree, and was visible from the road.

I have mentioned Beauchamp Lodge Settlement before (e.g. 15th August).  One of the projects managed by this charity was the Community Cafe.  At the time Sam’s tree-house appeared to be up for sale, a young woman with a pronounced Lincolnshire accent worked in the cafe.  I asked her to make a phone call expressing interest in buying the property which was very close to Lincolnshire.  It seemed to work a treat when Sam answered the phone.  Knowing my son, however, I suspect he probably twigged what was going on and decided to humour his Dad into believing he had been hoodwinked.  Louisa was not forbidden to enter Sam’s house, but she and a little friend did build their own less ambitious one in another tree.

The cafe project was one in which a small staff was augmented by trainees who either had mental health problems or special educational needs.  One day one of the people on placement who had psychiatric ill health asked me if I’d bought my Lottery ticket.  I said I didn’t buy any because I considered I had no chance of winning.  Quick as a flash he replied ‘that man who won several million last week wouldn’t have done if he thought he had no chance’.  I had to acknowledge the sense of that argument.

This evening we drove to Helen and Bill’s at Poulner where we enjoyed a very convivial family dinner party.  Helen produced a truly excellent meal which would have graced the best of restaurants.  We started with parsnip and gruyere goujeres which were both crispy and melted in the mouth.  The next course was a rich, tasty, and succulent French beef stew with perfectly timed vegetables.  This was followed by a tangy lemon mousse with home-made chocolate and cranberry biscuits; then a cheeseboard.  Various red and white wines were consumed; port accompanied a cheeseboard.

Any Van

Today we moved to Minstead.  Up before seven we continued packing.  The removal men arrived twenty minutes early and sat and waited outside until the appointed time of eight o’clock.  This courtesy was extended throughout the move.  Two men, possibly Polish, friendly and helpful, worked at a great rate loading the van; arrived at Castle Malwood soon after we did; and cheerfully unloaded in continuous drizzling rain, unfazed by the fact that they had to walk across soggy grass peppered with rabbit poo, carrying all our furniture and belongings.  I was quite chuffed to be able to use my previous incarnation as a furniture remover by suggesting that a desk which refused to go through the door to the sitting room would possibly go through the window,  It did.

Globe Removals

This has been the most efficient and economical move I have experienced in the last few years.  It was arranged on line at http://www.anyvan.com, a service I would thoroughly recommend.  Within an hour of posting our details and requirements I received four quotations all within £35 of each other.  The successful bidder phoned me and we fixed a date which was adhered to.  The man’s name was Andy, and his firm was Easy Move.  When a Globe Removals van turned up I assumed Andy, who introduced himself as he arrived on the doorstep, had hired his van from Globe Removals.  As we said farewell, his dark and my white hair plastered to our heads by the rain, I noticed he sported a Globe Removals logo discretely placed on his T-shirt.  I said I thought his firm was Easy Move, yet he was wearing a Globe Removals T-shirt.  He laughed and explained that there were two Andys.  They each ran removal firms and exchanged jobs when necessary.

Facing the task of unpacking was just too much.  After we had collapsed and relaxed for a while, it was off to The Trusty Servant for lunch.

On the way we realised that our new home was surrounded by primaeval creatures.   We arrived there just after 2.30 to learn that food stops being served then.  The chef was in the bar and he said he was still there so we could have food.  What a contrast, as we told him, to our experience at The Flower Pots Inn on 1st October.  We were given excellent ploughman’s lunches; Jackie had draft Budweiser and I drank Doom Bar.  Then it was back to Castle Malwood to do a bit of unpacking before going to Elizabeth’s for the evening.  Apart from a wonderful roast chicken meal served with Hardy’s Stamp of Australia shiraz, cabernet sauvignon 2011 and, in Jackie’s case, Stella; followed by minced pies and custard, we needed showers at The Firs because we have no hot water at No.4.  A contractor is coming in the morning to see what he can do.

On our return to our new flat we passed a cow in a hedge.

Doom Bar

Louisa, Errol, Jessica and Imogen, after the girls had had a grand time playing with the Pig characters, left mid-morning for their return to Nottingham.  Yesterday had been a great success.

Later, it was Elizabeth’s turn to be introduced to our new flat.  She had, of course, seen the outside, but then we had not been in possession of the key. Jackie and Elizabeth had a chat on a bench in a corner of the garden, which is in full view from our East facing windows.

We took over a few more items from The Firs, then had lunch in The Trusty Servant in Minstead.  We all chose Sunday roasts, for which the pub is rightly renowned.  I so enjoyed my real ale, Doom Bar, that I persuaded the others to try some of their own.  This meant I had to sacrifice a couple of mouthfuls to their tasting, but it was worth it to get Jackie, for the first time, to enjoy a proper beer.  Sadly, when I came to examine the bill, I saw it labelled as ‘guest beer’, which means it won’t be there long.  I told the proprietor she could have it back any time.

After lunch we looked in at the Hall Antiques market which is a fortnightly event.  Again we made a purchase, this time an elegant little bedroom chair which is now the first item of furniture in situ in our new flat.  On leaving the Village Hall we returned to The Lodge to place the chair inside.  Jackie preferred to wait in the car as Elizabeth and I went back into number 4.  Out of the car I stepped, and headed off to the entrance doors, suddenly realising that my sister was not with me.  I turned, to see her, walking away from the car, bearing the chair.  So keen was I to have another look inside the flat that I had forgotten what we were meant to be doing.  And I had drunk two pints of Doom Bar.

Back at The Firs, during a discussion about Paultons Park, Jackie and Elizabeth realised that, some twenty five to thirty years ago they had each visited this theme park when both it and Elizabeth’s children and Jackie’s nephews and nieces were in their infancy.  Elizabeth remembered a photograph of Adam enjoying an early ride in the company of his mother and Frank Keenan, his paternal grandfather.

After a light salad in the evening Jackie and I returned to Morden.  I kept my driver company for most of the journey, although I did have a snooze midway.


This morning Jackie and I drove over to Minstead to do a little more research into what is to be our local village.  As we arrived, signs proclaimed that there was an antiques and bric-a-brac fair at Minstead Hall.  Since we had come upon it by accident, the organisation’s name, ‘Serendipity’, seemed fortuitous.  After we had got past the man in the entrance hall who was wishing to sell us a set of prints he thought were watercolours, we spotted, on the very first stall, two similar vases.  They were of a dark green ceramic material in a shape which was certainly used in the 1880s; when Castle Malwood Lodge was built; with delightful floral designs appliqued in a hard paste.  We don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to buy from the first stall you see, but we bought these and were well pleased.  It was, of course, mandatory to try out The Trusty Servant, if this was going to be our local.  With excellent real ale, a choice of lagers for Jackie, and first-rate plentiful food it turned out to be a winner.  Despite the fact that the bar was quite busy, all three staff behind the counter greeted us with winning smiles as we entered, and the service continued to be efficient and cheerful.  We both lunched on roast pork.

On the grass verge opposite the pub, a row of cattle grazed.  We have much to learn about the New Forest, but we believe these animals to belong to verderers, a group of people with ancient rights to graze their cattle and pigs, who in modern times have responsibility for management of the woodland.  A short distance away was a group of New Forest ponies.  These animals, owned by the New Forest Commoners, roam freely throughout the forest and the villages therein.  I am particularly amazed at how still these creatures are, when not actually cropping the grass.  Last year in a car park in Burley I had been convinced that those I saw individually positioned, sometimes almost touching cars, were incredibly realistic sculptures.  It took a very close examination to reveal that they were alive.  Jackie says that it is important for them to conserve energy otherwise they would have to eat an awful lot of grass.

We also checked out the village shop which is reasonably stocked, sells newspapers, and offers a tea room.  Not quite in the class of Tess’s establishment in Upper Dicker (see post of 12th May), it is certainly a very good asset, and only half a mile from the Lodge.  Jackie bought the Ordnance Survey Leisure map for the New Forest.

This evening we dined on left-overs.  This of course conjures up the image of a concoction produced from small amounts left over from recent meals.  Sainsburys, I think it was, who ran a television advertising programme after the 2008 credit crunch, recommending people to make use of left-overs to create wonderful new meals which most of the older generation had been producing for years.  Now, left-overs from a 90th birthday party are certainly not scraps.  We could choose from whole roast chickens; unopened quiches;  platefuls of ham; cooled salmon;  a good half dozen French sticks;  untouched cakes; baked potatoes;  and still fresh coleslaw; with half empty bottles of assorted red wines, and, in Jackie’s case, a previously unopened bottle of Stella.  We’ll probably get some more at some stage tomorrow.