Head To Head

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS ENLARGED GALLERY

A patch of mostly dull and cold weather is giving me ample reasons for continuing with the scanning of the negatives of the long walk of the rather hot July of 2003. Today we are again back on the River Thames in South Oxfordshire.

Couples walking 7.03

This was still near enough to normal civilisation for elderly couples to be out walking along the banks.

If there were any footpaths on this stretch, they lay beneath the ripeness of Summer requiring negotiation, in the form of wild flowers attracting bees; grasses in seed; plantains trip over; broad backlit leaves bearing shadows of other floral forms; and convovulous carrying tiny beetles.

Convolvulus reflected 7.03

One of the latter plants trailed over the river, reflecting on the murky water.

Derelict hut 7.03

An avian trio perched on the coping stones of a derelict shed in need of replacement tiles;

a pair of peacocks entered into head to head negotiations;

Mallard and ducklings

a mallard paddled along ahead of her imprinted offspring;

Swans and cygnets

and a pair of swans introduced their cygnets to further reaches of the Thames.

Sheep and farm buildings 7.03

A flock of sheep grazed alongside what I took to be farm buildings of some sort.

The sun-baked natural world disregarded the two young men taking a leisurely row along the sleepy waters, passing a dangerous-looking weir, and negotiating a narrow lock.

Here, at home, dusk this evening lent a dramatic air to the looming skull of the virtually gutted North Breeze next door.

Shelly and Ron gave me a couple of very good Blason du Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 wines for Christmas. I drank a glass this evening with Jackie’s excellent chicken jalfrezi, and aromatic pilau rice, served with vegetable samosas. My lady finished the Coquimbo.

The Fireplace

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

This morning I printed my pdf download of ‘Bits of a Boyhood’, Bruce Goodman’s story of his growing up in rural New Zealand, that he has generously provided free of charge. Bruce is such a good storyteller that I know I will enjoy it.

Fireplace originally

Barry and Owen of New Forest Chimney Sweeping completed the fitting of our fireplace dating from the turn of the 20th century.  This is what they began with.

Tools

The way these two men began by laying out their tools and equipment indicates the thoroughness with which they approach their work.

Everything was therefore available as soon as it was needed.

Two heads are better than one

Barry is clearly the master craftsman, and Owen the apprentice, but the father seeks the son’s views along the way. Two heads, it would seem, are better than one. Before they began they drove off to purchase the fireback, seen here lodged in place.

Next came lining up the fireplace and surround. This was a process that was continually being repeated as they went along.

Screws were applied to the carved wooden surround,

Applying brackets to surround

to which brackets were fitted prior to fixing it to the brickwork.

Holes were then drilled into the cast ironwork.

Owen took a hacksaw to the fireplace while Barry continued with the brackets,

 which the father then trimmed.

Lifting surround

The whole structure was then lifted into place,

Checking the fit 1

then securely fixed, when Barry carefully checked the fit.

Spirit level

Note the spirit level.

Owen cementing

Owen then cemented the inside space,

and Barry provided a level and beautifully smooth floor,

Testing the draw

finally testing the draw to his satisfaction.

Baz and Owen attending wedding 2008

The services of no chimney sweep are complete without attendance at weddings, thus bringing good luck to the bride and groom. This photograph was produced in 2008, when Owen was rather smaller. It is one of a bound collection kept for display.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi, savoury rice, onion bahjis, and a paratha. Jackie drank more of the Vernaccia di San Gimignano and I drank Cimarosa reserva privada carmenère 2015.

Rasputin

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

Shed by trees and strewn around the garden’s beds and paths, last winter’s twigs would have filled a mattress.

Twigs

Those I gathered this afternoon certainly occupied the best part of one of our orange bags of ‘green’ refuse destined for the recycling centre.

Father Christmas was generous with hose this year. Even so, my sock drawer gradually became surprisingly full to overflowing. Jackie’s, however, was rapidly emptying. Eventually she realised that I had been mistaking hers for mine.

Jackie's socks and hearth

I really have no claim on these.

Also shown here are the cast iron fireplace and the wooden surround still awaiting final fixing. The copper fender was a present from our son and daughter, so must be accommodated. The blue tiles were already in situ. Whilst the laminate flooring is quite good quality, if you like that sort of thing, it has been appallingly fitted and we really would like to see the back of it. That, of course, would require lifting it to reveal what we hope will be the original floorboards. With any luck these will not have been butchered. Fingers crossed.

Readers will remember that, hands flattened on our kitchen window, bewhiskered nose twitching, an amiable rat peered longingly at our Christmas dinner. Some time after that Jackie discovered holes in the birdseed on the utility room shelf; later still, she heard rustling. It was time to put down bait. On a daily basis, the poisoned seed was disturbed in the morning. Either our visitor deserved the name Rasputin allocated to him, or his whole family had followed, or come to look for him when he didn’t return.

Rat bait

We were rather sad when, today, we discovered an undisturbed pile of bait.

This evening we dined on starters of prawn toasts and spring rolls from Tesco; Jackie’s sublime egg fried rice; and Lidl’s tender oriental pork. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank San Adres Chilean merlot.

Father And Son

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Today work began on our fireplace. First Baz and Owen inspected the prospective purchase at Gordleton Barn, pronounced it suitable, and set about making ready for it.

This is the doubtful D.I.Y. effort that started the day in our living room.

Barry and Owen Chislett-Bruce are New Forest Chimney Sweeping & Repairs. This father and son team are personable, thorough, efficient, and work quickly, cleanly, and tidily.

Here they are at work removing the orange shelf and the bodged tiling.

They were pleased not to have damaged any of the tiles, which Owen stacked up neatly.

They then carried out the task of clearing the raised rock-hard concrete from the open space,

hoovering as they went along.

Baz and Owen contemplating fireplace 1

Baz and Owen then collected the Victorian replacement from the barn, and contemplated it for a while.

Baz and Owen contemplating fireplace 2

This involved Baz sticking his head up the chimney.

There were several possible options for ensuring a tight fit, the preferred one being removing a row of the original hearth floor tiles, and removing more of the concrete. This required considerable effort.

Fireplace 3

The cast iron tiled fireplace was firmly fixed, ready for the next stage.

A final vacuuming was carried out,

Fireplace 4

and this is how they left us until further elements are obtained and fitted.

Observant readers will have noticed that the men, while working their socks off, do so in their socks. This, the groundsheets, the hoovering,

Rubble bags

and bagging up the rubble as they go along, demonstrates their careful attention to the homes in which they work.

Whilst at the barn, I took a few more pictures of the interior.

It is now soon after 3.00 p.m. We will be driving over to Elizabeth’s for the three of us to attend Margery’s exhibition at Southampton Art Gallery, after which we will have a meal together. I will then have no time (or energy) to post this, so I will do so know and report the evening tomorrow.

Happy Hunting

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Those who have read posts from April 2014 onwards will know that we moved into a house that had suffered from much bodged D.I.Y. We are only putting this right at a very slow pace.

Here is our badly painted crooked mantelpiece made from a bit of wood trimmed with beading. Note the gaps behind the tiles stuck onto the walls, and that between the shelf and the wall.

Fireplace surround

We can’t stand it any more, so we travelled to Ace Reclamation in West Parley to investigate surrounds created from reclaimed timber. We are now to submit a measured drawing to have one made for us.

Ace Reclamation entrance

Our morning was spent in heavy rain. Here is the entrance to the architectural salvage outlet. The staff member waving in the distance is acknowledging the postwoman who has just delivered the mail to

Ace Reclaim letter box through wet windscreen

an old postbox which serves as Ace Reclamation’s letterbox. This is what that looked like through our car windscreen.

Readers can already imagine that I wasn’t about to make a complete inventory in the rain, however I did what I could. This yard is a wonderful repository of artefacts and materials. There are garden ornaments and furniture galore, some of which, on past visits, has found its way to Downton. Figures in stone and bronze, a giant cockerel, carriage lamps, urns, tiles, timber, rust, telephone boxes, a suit of armour, a mangle, a garden roller, gargoyles, can all be found therein. You could enjoy happy hunting in reality, or, if you’d prefer to stay dry, virtually, through searching through these photographs.

Flooded woods 1

The wooded areas on either side of the long, unmade, road, the potholes in which give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘off the beaten track’, are waterlogged.

Ripples in ditch

The ditches are filling up fast,

Waterlogged trees 2

and flooding a paddock,

in which stood three damp horses, two of which were a sandy colour I have not seen before.

Gorse

Mind you, the gorse glowed a grateful golden yellow.

On our way home we visited Friar’s Cliff Café for brunch. There was just one other customer couple who had braved the blustery seafront to reach the comfort always available there.

Sea through café window 1

This was the sea through the rain-splashed window.

Anyone who has seen a photograph of a Friar’s Cliff Café breakfast will not be surprised to learn that a selection of small Asian snacks, such as samosas and spring rolls, more than satisfied us for our evening meal with which jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cahors.

‘Strike While The Iron’s Hot…….’

A comment from my blogging friend, Mary Tang, on yesterday’s post led me to contemplate first names. Mary has met many people who share her prenomen. Apart from my Uncle Derrick, I have only come across three others who share my spelling. Strangely enough, they also all had the same surname.

Derrick-645x300

The first Derrick Knight to create a certain amount of confusion was a documentary film maker who began working in the 1950s. Some of his films were used in Social Work training. I never met him, and I didn’t make films. But I needed to convince a certain amount of Social Workers that it wasn’t my name on the credits. The above photograph is borrowed from Guy Coté’s site.

When my picture appeared on Google’s images page heading the story of a man on Death Row, this causes a little consternation for half a day.

The one namesake I did actually meet put a flier through our letterbox sometime in the 1970s when we lived in Soho. He was the proprietor of a new shop called Knight Games, just opened in Dean Street. I just had to walk round to meet him. Imagine our joint amazement when I entered the establishment and we found ourselves staring at our doppelgangers. We were the same height, the same build, the same hair colouring, with similar features, and wearing similarly framed spectacles.

This morning a courier called Phil delivered my brother Chris’s chair which Frances has sent me from Wroughton in Wiltshire.

On a warm, wet, and overcast afternoon, after visiting the bank in New Milton, Jackie drove us out to Ace Reclamation at Parley, beyond Christchurch.

As we negotiated the bumpy potholes of the mile and a half long track to this architectural salvage outlet, Jackie observed that ‘you must really want to get to this place to come down here’.

Puddle Ace Reclamation

Once we had parked outside the truth of this came home to me as we clambered over a pallet laid alongside a large puddle in the entrance. I was reminded of Walter Raleigh spreading his splendid cloak over one such, so that Queen Elizabeth I wouldn’t spoil her shoes.

Ace Reclamation yard 1

The yard and and the sheds comprise a cornucopia of reclaimed artefacts. A giant cock perches above an old telephone box. New corrugated iron sheets are piles alongside covered planks. Pub and Post Office signs are suspended above various garden ornaments of dubious provenance. Just opposite The Crown, for the past two years, has stood a very tasteful item of garden statuary. Not so today. The figure I had intended foe Jackie’s Christmas present had been sold.

Ace reclamation yard 2

We had a look around anyway, if only to confirm that we had aimed for the best piece there. The red Egyptian replica bearing implausible bare breasts didn’t quite cut the mustard, although one of the staff members did suggest she might.

Ace reclamation yard 3

Neither did we fancy the two huge dogs standing between an assortment of vacuum cleaners and an ancient bath. They appeared to be guarding an assortment of doors, roof tiles, and paving.

Chairs etc

Another hound, set up a warning clamour when I presumed to photograph a jumble of chairs, radiators, bath, mirror, and fireplaces. Fortunately, he was penned in.

Carding machine

Autumn leaves adorned part of a carding machine

Fire grates

and a heap of rusting grates.

Planks and posts

Wooden planks and metal posts stood opposite them.

Some items are deemed requiring protection from the elements. These are kept inside,

Clean me please

which can get rather dusty.

Fairground horses

A string of fairground horses line up alongside everything including the kitchen sink.

Don't put it off sign

Finally, pinned to an arrangement of doors was a sign pertinent to our predicament today. Examples of various fireplaces were also displayed.

As a parting quip the manager advised me to ‘strike while the iron is hot next time’.

We drove on to Lyndhurst where we intended to buy another present. We didn’t find that either.

Never mind, we dined on a juicy chicken and bacon pasta bake, with a medley of roasted vegetables. I drank Cimarosa Reserva Privado malbec 2013.

Over The Top

Shady pathOnce Jackie had finished her recent clearing job in the bed on what was originally ‘the shady path’, the very wobbly line of the edging tiles so upset my sensibilities that today I reset them into a more pleasing curve with suitably concentric parallels. This required a little more gravel in the sections where I had moved the bend inwards.

We still hadn’t taken our trip to Ace Reclaim at Hurn, so we decided to do that and divert to Ferndene Farm Shop for the decorative stone on the return journey.

At the architectural salvage depot we did not find anything suitable for restraining the rampant rose, but we did find something which readers may be forgiven for thinking we had quite enough of already. View left from Ace Reclaim benchView towards house from Ace Reclaim benchJackie had noticed when clearing her patch that there was an attractive view either to the left or the right, suggesting it might be quite a good position for a perch. She had in mind a single seat, but we spotted a two-seater bench that could just be squeezed into the car. So we bought it.

We bought two bags of Dorset stone at Ferndene. While we were there, if we were going to place the bench on recently dug soil, it made sense to buy a couple of heucheras and a vinca ‘Illumination’ to enhance the site. Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 1Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 2Back at home we positioned our purchase, and Jackie planted the flowers, with three begonias for good measure. I then spread and raked the gravel and we had a sit down.

The rooms in our garden can now be described as fully furnished.

Whilst setting the tiles, I reflected on the fact that, for all the work I have done in the garden during the last three months, this was the first satisfyingly creative piece I had managed. The rest was all clearance and destruction. I also thought of how I had come to be rather a dab hand at positioning these attractive boundary markers. This was in the late 1980s in Newark. Our, albeit still very large, garden there had once been much more extensive. A big section of it had been sold for development, but, for our first few years there, nothing was happening. The original Victorian garden had been bounded by these attractive tiles. Some were now buried by a century’s accumulation of soil, but Jessica and I dug them up for use in creating divisions in a vegetable-growing area out of a rough piece of ground. That was also, incidentally, my first effort at laying gravel paths. I had crushed up bricks and road stone to produce about ten inches of hardcore, and covered this with sand before applying the top surface of gravel. This rather amused John Parlett who had bought the aforementioned building plot and erected his own bungalow. He thought I had gone a bit over the top. He was too tactful to say so, but his knowing smile and the twinkle in his eye said it all. This amazing man, a plasterer by trade, used a Readers Digest manual to teach himself how to instal his plumbing and electricity. John had saved our ceiling, as described on 2nd March 2013.

To return to the tiles, I wasn’t sure I would have enough. It was Mum who came up with the idea that the tiles would have extended into what we then called ‘the waste ground’. There was as yet no boundary, and the land looked pretty much like the deserted jungle next door here. But Mum was right. More tiles were there for the taking. Enough to complete the task.

MaizeMaize 2Early this evening I wandered down Downton Lane and turned right into the field, ploughed in April, where a fine crop of maize was coming to fruition.

Deadly nightshade

Deadly nightshade now blooms in the hedgerow.

Bramble across back driveIt is becoming rather more hazardous to use the back drive to enter the lane, as the brambles sporting the blackberries that I still want to pick when they have ripened, stretch right across it.

The final evolution of the splendid sausage casserole, supplemented by pork rib rack in chilli sauce, mashed potato, and vegetables provided our dinner this evening. Jackie drank sparkling water whilst I consumed a glass of Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon 2012.