Transitional Objects

When I am tired or less than engaged by what I am reading, I sometimes wander off in my head, suddenly come to my senses, and realise my eyes have scanned the last paragraph or so with no idea how I reached my current point. This means retracing my steps to keep me on track. Rather like my forest rambling really.

I experienced this probably not unusual phenomenon once or twice whilst ploughing through the collection of Voltaire’s philosophical tales that, with ‘Songe de Platon’, I finished this morning. This particular sketch, translating to ‘Plato’s Dream’, was too short to send me off into my own reverie. It is a brief dream in the form of a Platonic discourse about the dual nature of humanity and the universe.

Easy to read if you are not working too hard to understand their allegorical nature, the stories are useful for brushing up your rusty French literature.

This morning we drove to West End to visit Mum, who was looking well. She has recently undergone eye injections of a different prescription for her macular degeneration, and is bearing up well. It is to be hoped that her sight may improve enough for her to continue with her cross-stitching.

After this we did a big Hedge End Sainsbury’s shop. I believe it is usually women who collect soft cuddly toys and array them at home on their pillows. I was therefore quite surprised to see an elderly gentleman pushing what, from my angle of vision, I took to be a set of these treasures in a buggy in the store. Baby in hatUpon closer inspection I discerned that the exposed hand was a little incongruous with the head that turned out to be a hat. The scene reminded me of a photograph I had taken In June 1967 at Bernard Gardens:

Michael & Babba 6.67

It is of Michael and Babba.

Babba was Michael’s Teddy Bear. Does anyone know where he is now?

Wrapped round our son is a dressing gown Vivien bought me for Christmas, probably in 1960. For some years after her death, just as Babba was Michael’s transitional object, so the garment, in a sense, was mine. Transitional object is a psychoanalytic term denoting a comforting item carried about by a child moving from one stage of development to another. The child is in transition between phases of life and the object is transported wherever the infant goes. Loss before the young person is ready to abandon it can be quite traumatic.

images-1Security blanket is the lay person’s variation on this phenomenon, perhaps the most famous example in literature being that belonging to Charlie Brown’s Linus. These objects, in reality, can become awfully smelly, and washing out the aromas sends to be extremely unpopular. Foster parents and residential care workers soon learn that the smells are an integral part of the comfort to which their charge is clinging.

P.S. I’ve pressed Publish prematurely again. Maybe I’ll add something later.

Through The Underpass

This morning I decided to walk through the Malwood Farm underpass and see how far I Soggy terraingot before I gave up on what I expected to be a rather soggy terrain. It probably would have been a better idea to have stayed on the roads, or at least worn Wellingtons instead of walking shoes.

Even before I’d left our garden, I could see that more trees had come down, and the steep downhill track leading to the underpass confirmed this, so I was not surprised to see the extent of the damage wrought by the winds, once I ventured into the forest itself.

Fallen treeThe large shrub that has fallen in the garden lies across the stump of the recently deceased cherry tree. I think it is a buddleia.

Fallen tree Malwood

This is just one of the recent falls on the short stretch to the underpass.

Underpass to Malwood farmThe sight of Malwood Farm in sunlight at the end of the tunnel was welcoming, and the promised return of the wet, windy, weather did not materialise until this afternoon.

The terrain, however, was rather less inviting. It was indeed soggy.  Pools lay, and new streams flowed, everywhere. Mud patches inhaled deeply in an attempt to snatch my shoes.

It would have been unprofitable to have tried to pick out one of last year’s safe paths. The way would be blocked by either a quagmire or newly fallen trees, or both. As is usual in these circumstances, I followed pony trails.New streamFallen tree across path

Fallen trees across path

Enter a caption

The animals are at least a little likely to attempt to avoid the suction underfoot, although I would not have been surprised to find one or two stranded in the mud.

Malwood streamMalwood stream (3)I had thought to take a rain check on the sandbagged ford before deciding on whether to cross it or not. Forget that. I didn’t even venture across the mud bath leading to the sandbags. It seemed politic to stay on our side of the winding stream I call Malwood.Malwood stream (2)Malwood stream (1)Malwood stream (5) I walked along it for a while, then retraced my steps and returned home.

Malwood stream (4)LichenWalking back through the forest to the side of the farm fences, I noticed much beautifully shaped pastel coloured lichen clinging to fallen twigs featherbedded by a mulch of deep dark brown autumn leaves.

My share of the five-egg mushroom omelette with toast that was for lunch, went down very well.

This afternoon I finished reading Voltaire’s story ‘Le Taureau Blanc’. Here the philosopher, in advocating the search for human wisdom and happiness, is having an ironic pop at the fantasy of the Old Testament. At least, that is the sense I make of this fabulous tale.

This evening we dined on succulent sausage casserole with creamy mashed potato, crisp runner beans and cauliflower, followed by creme caramel. I drank more of the Bergerac.

Sausage casserole mealJackie’s sausage casserole has an interesting provenance. What she has done is perfect my adaptation from Delia Smith. This is the tops.

For four to six servings:

Take 12 sausages;  lots of shallots; plenty of button mushrooms; a packet of Sainsbury’s cooking bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces; 3 big cloves of garlic; 5-6 bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoonful of dried thyme; 3/4 pint of pork stock (if pork sausages – today’s were  Milton Gate pork and apple from Lidl which provide a touch of sweetness); enough red wine to cover the contents of the dish.

Red peppers provide a bit of colour, but are not essential. Similarly thickening with the help of gravy granules or cornflower may be required.

Method:

Fry the sausages until browned on all sides and set aside.    In the casserole dish then fry the bacon and shallots with the crushed garlic. Add the stock and wine; bring to the boil, turn down the heat, add the bay leaves and thyme, pop the sausages back in and simmer for 3/4 hour. (The simmering refers to the cooking heat. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt a suppressed emotional stance).

Then add the mushrooms and simmer for further 20-30 minutes.

Jackie cooks this dish without a lid until the sauce looks rich enough, if necessary adding one of the thickening agents.

The final touch of the peppers may be added in the last few minutes.

‘Get Two’

This morning I began reading Voltaire’s tale, ‘Le Taureau Blanc’, which translates as ‘The White Bull’.  I doubt whether anyone of my generation can see such a title without thinking of Tommy Steele’s famous 1959 hit song ‘Lttle White Bull’ from the film ‘Tommy the Toreador’.  Rather as with Adam Faith’s ‘What do you want?’, I have been known to burst into a vernacular rendition of it. Both these period masterpieces can be heard on Youtube.

The year after Tommy burst on the scene was my last one at Wimbledon College. In ‘No-one Forgets A Good Teacher’, I signposted the possibility of featuring Bryan Snalune.Wimbledon College Volleyball squad 1960 I believe I stumbled upon a print containing his image today. He is probably on the viewer’s far right nearest the volleyball net. I think I am at the back of this court in jumper and tie. I’m amazed that so many in the picture wore ties. Bryan introduced the sport to the school, and brought in, I think Canadian, Air Force players to teach us the game. If they were American, I do apologise. He arranged a few fixtures for us. I have no idea how we fared.

This gentle giant, not much older than us, had that magic quality that demands respect whilst conveying equality as a human being. He was a lot of fun without losing his authority. I see his toothy smile and shock of fairish hair now. His subject was French, through which he guided me to A Level GCSE.

The smile mentioned above is probably indirectly responsible for my being awarded a punishment of two strokes of the ferula. The ferula was the Jesuit version of the cane.Ferula A small, flat, slipper-like object consisting of leather with whalebone inside it, this was wielded by a punishment master not connected with whatever offence of which you had been guilty. ‘Two’ – one on each hand – was what was dished out to the little boys. If you were a recidivist and rather older you could progress to ‘Twice Nine’. But you wouldn’t want to.

Bryan Snalune was a keen amateur actor. During my group’s last weeks at school he performed in a play where his character was called Goofy. Clearly the casting director had also noticed the teeth. I cannot remember why, but I was not present at the performance, yet my classmates came back with this priceless information for a budding cartoonist. It felt natural to draw Walt Disney’s Goofy on the blackboard just before the French lesson.

Unfortunately our friendly teacher was not the next one to enter the room. Instead, Fr Strachan, S.J., the deputy headmaster found some reason to make a brief visit. Glancing at the familiar character depicted on the board, he said: ‘Who did that, Knight?’. Maybe he recognised my style. Although a decent enough man, Fr Strachan was not known for his sense of humour. On that day he displayed a rather quirky one. ‘Get two’. He proclaimed.

I don’t remember the name of the executioner, but I can see him now, a little round chap in holy orders whose beady eyes glinted behind his spectacle lenses. He was a little surprised at his prescribed task when I knocked on his door and extended my arms. My outstretched palms were at a level which put my fingers in danger of picking his nose. He, and I, were both even more surprised when, at each stroke, a wailing chorus set up an anguished howl in the corridor outside. Although my hands stung rather more than somewhat, I was able to open the door to encounter the whole of my class doubled up with laughter.

Wimbledon College 2nd X 1959

The year before this, when Tommy reigned in the cinemas, Bryan had managed the second XI cricket team of which he had appointed me captain. Roger Layet stands second from the left. In the teacher post highlighted above, I told how Moses came to know my name. It was for this team that the performance that brought me to his recognition was played. Bryan Snalune was the umpire. When five wickets had fallen, all to me for not many runs, ‘Take yourself off now’, he suggested sotto voce. He was the boss, so I did. Mind you, I doubt that his intervention as a supposedly neutral officiator was legitimate.  When only two more had gone down and the game was, I thought, in need of my more direct involvement, I came back on and polished off the last three. Could that have been the day I would have taken all ten? I guess we’ll never know.

When you have determined on chilli con carne for dinner and you have run out of red kidney beans and live in the heart of the New Forest, you cannot nip round the corner for a tin. This means a drive out to stock up. And whilst you are there you might as well buy a few more things, which is what Jackie and I did. New Milton’s Lidl was the fortunate beneficiary of our custom this afternoon. En route through Downton we were not surprised to see that the The Royal Oak is closed and the business is To Let.

The above-mentioned chilli con carne was as delicious and appetising as usual. It came alongside savoury wild rice with sweetcorn and peas. Creme brûlée was to follow. Mine was accompanied by Llidl’s excellent value Bordeaux superieur 2012.

Now.  In grave danger of yielding my laurels to my lady, I am honour bound to satisfy the desire of a valued reader. There are a number of fans who find the culinary codas to these posts of prime interest. I will therefore detail the method of preparation of tonight’s repast.

Chilli con carne and riceLike all creative cooks it is useless to ask Jackie for a recipe. Each meal is a work of art in progress, planned and often prepared in advance with the variable brushstrokes applied as she goes along. However, here goes:

For enough chilli for eight servings take:

4 medium onions, 4 bird eye chillis complete with seeds, 4 large or 6 medium cloves of garlic. All finely chopped, fry in a little oil and set aside;

Simmer 1 lb of lean minced beef with a Knorr beef cube (Oxo too salty) until tender;

Combine everything with a small packet of passata, a small tin of tomato puree and 2 tins of drained red kidney beans. Adding water if needed, simmer until all flavours combine in a nice, thick, sauce.

This comes with a warning. We like it hot. Some don’t. Adjust chilli content accordingly.

This particular rice is boiled.

8-10 oz of basmati with added wild rice (can be bought mixed in supermarkets). When half-cooked add the contents of a small tin of sweeetcorn, a handful of frozen peas and 4 good shakes of Maggi liquid seasoning.

Bon appétit.

Pick And Mix

Last night, as for some time now, we were entertained by a number of forest owl duets.  As I have usually written my post before the overture I have forgotten to mention it before.

Trafalgar Square 12.64

By no means my best photograph, today’s advent picture from December 1964 shows the timeless nature of the Trafalgar square Christmas scene.  A better, similar shot was taken the year before and could equally have been produced today.

Early this morning I read Voltaire’s little inconclusive parable ‘Histoire d’un bon Bramin’, which sees a conflict between reason and happiness.  The world-weary sage who has everything is not happy.  His poor and unintelligent neighbour finds life much more enjoyable.  I suppose the question is why?

Frost pattern on windscreenA little later I walked through Minstead and back by an unplanned route.  Beautiful frost patterns on the car windscreen were reminiscent of those on the winter’s morning bedroom windows of our childhood.

Sow and piglets

As I reached Seamans Corner, the fact that this was a morning for reminiscences was brought home to me by the rampant scampering accompanying excited snorts emanating from the green.  No doubt the Sowsow who had brought her litter to clear up the fallen fodder nestling between the shrubs, had decided it was time to give her udders a rest. The more sedate elderly punk sporting nose rings and an ear tag, remained slobbering and grunting in one spot.  The fine mud spats she was wearing suggested she may have been seeking this comparatively drier spot to dry off.  Her offspring, however, like Emily, Oliver and Alice in Newark’s Pick and Mix sweetshop of the nineties; or Matthew and Beccy brass rubbing in St James’s, Piccadilly a generation earlier, were all over the place at once.

For those fortunate enough not to have come across the Pick and Mix method of selecting sweets, an explanation is in order.  What this involved with Michael and Heidi’s three children was a walk from Lindum House to Newark Market Square. This should have taken just five minutes, but, by the time Oliver had walked along the whole length of the top of the very low Further Education College wall, it was more like half an hour.  Reaching the shop and opening its door was like opening the traps at the start of a greyhound race.  Not chasing a hare, but rather choosing from trays of sweets lying in all directions, the children did not maintain a straight line. I had to keep an eye on each of them.  Since I only have two eyes and there were three infants this was somewhat problematic.

A certain amount of restraint had to be exercised as they rapidly decanted various items of confectionary into the paper bags with which they had been issued.  In particular it was quite an effort to ensure that the scoops and tongs provided were used instead of fingers that had so recently been running along the wire fence above the college wall. And no doubt worse.  I think it was Oliver who broke the mould and took an age over his selection.  Strangely enough, because they were not permitted to start the business of consumption until they were back home, the return journey did take no longer than it should.

Ponies and fence on horizon

Car splashingI had intended this morning to progress to Football Green and walk the Bull Lane loop, however, not wearing wellies, my way was blocked by last year’s familiar lake lying across the road beyond the village shop.  I turned back and arrived at Bull Lane via the footpath opposite the Trusty.

Rounding a corner cottage, I heard a woman standing at her door cry crossly to an unseen creature below the level of the hedge: ‘Come on’.  I suspect it was a canine in trouble.  Looking up and seeing me she repeated the call, this time in a tone of endearment.  The dog, if that is what it was, clearly entered the house, for she closed the door, no doubt to administer a serious rebuke beyond my prying ears.  What a difference an audience makes.

I must be circumspect about the reason for our outings this afternoon, but we drove to Calmore Industrial Estate to collect a package, and from there to Hobbycraft in Hedge End.  I should perhaps not have been surprised that the Royal Mail Totton collection point should be at Calmore.  Royal Mail and Parcel Force vans both deliver packages posted to us.  As we were leaving to answer the summons of Royal Mail, a Parcel Force van drew up in our drive.  With rather less than hope, I checked with the driver that he was not destined for our flat.  He wasn’t and said that he was and he wasn’t part of Royal Mail who pay him.  Maybe the answer lies in the size of the parcel, but it beats me why one company’s deliveries have to be made by two separate ones, both apparently under the auspices of the first.

The package we were collecting had been ordered on line from America yet mailed from Hong Kong with what our postal business’s form claimed to be insufficient payment.  We were invited to stick the relevant denomination in postage stamps to a card and mail it to them, after which the item could be delivered.  The alternative was to go and collect it and pay over the counter.  That is the option we chose.

This evening we fed on fish and chips, mushy peas and pickled onions, with which I drank Carta Rosa gran reserva 2006.

Perfume

Derrick & Vivien by Christmas tree 12.63Most newly married couples, each with a family of origin, divide their time over the Christmas period between the two.  As I am sure you all know, this can have interesting results.  Vivien’s penultimate Christmas in 1963 was no exception.  After spending the day itself with my parents, we travelled by train to her family in Sidcup, where it was probably her brother Bernard who took today’s advent photograph.  In those days we had no car and entrained from Wimbledon to Waterloo station where, laden with presents and requirements for overnight stay, we crossed over to Waterloo East and travelled on to Sidcup.  I still know the stations on the Dartford Loop line by heart.  Now, all these years later, it is Jackie and I who will be catering for our not so young offspring and their loved ones.

I have developed a brute force technique with which to open and close the passenger side door of our car, so we will probably defer the repair of yesterday’s storm damage for a while.  This was useful when we took an early trip to Ringwood for Jackie to perform the last of the Christmas food shopping and me to walk along the Castleman Trailway.

I walked through the town, across the Bickerley, along the Trailway, and back, to meet Jackie in the Aroma bistro where we brunched.Church through tree by Avon

On my way along the gravelled footpath, the reverberation of a bough above me was caused by an acrobatic trapeze artist in the form of a squirrel.  Hanging from all four paws on the underside of the branch, it would appear to have swung from one tree to another.

PoniesThe River Avon has not yet burst its banks, but the fields that were so waterlogged this time last year are showing signs that the ponies may again require rescuing. Gulls by Avon The gulls are already waiting to take Waterlogged fencepostspostspossession.Footpath overgrown

Where the Trailway parts company with the River Avon, there is a small picnic area from which a gate, that last year the water rendered unreachable, leads to a footpath along the river. Trees by AvonFootpath petering outRiver Avon through trees So overgrown was the path this morning that I was beginning to regret having taken it quite some time before I finally gave up and turned back.

On my way back along the gravelled footpath, a well-turned out elderly woman carrying a shopping bag approached me from ahead.  As we passed she commented on what a beautiful day it was.  ‘Yes, it’s lovely’, I replied.  After she’d gone the whiff of her fragrance reached me.  I turned and cried, in the general direction of her retreating form: ‘So’s your perfume’. She seemed rather chuffed as she in turn turned and thanked me.

Tess has recently posted a set of festive photos on the Upper Dicker Village Shop Facebook page.  One is of the reindeer whose story is told on the post recording my surprise birthday party in 2012.  This afternoon I inserted that picture into last year’s 1st July entry.

Later I read Voltaire’s ‘Histoire des voyages de Scarmentado’, a short story about the journeys of Scarmentado who travels the world observing sixteenth and seventeenth century examples of man’s inhumanity to man largely in the name of religion.  Things haven’t really changed all that much.

This evening we dined on chicken stoup.  For the rest of the world, unfamiliar with this particular meaning of the last word in the previous sentence, it is a wholesome hybrid of stew and soup and should definitely find its way into the dictionaries.  It was delicious anyway, especially when accompanied by Lidl’s finest in store bakery crusty bread.

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.

Sunrise

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.

‘Shoo!’

As a young man in 1973 I have to admit I was somewhat disgruntled to note the founding of Virago, proclaiming itself to be ‘a feminist publishing company’ dedicated to championing women’s talents.  It seemed rather an aggressive name.  And why did women need a segregated outlet?  After all, some of my favourite writers, as various as Elizabeth Gaskell or Virginia Woolf, had been published.  But then, there was Mary Anne Evans, who had had to choose the male pen-name of George Eliot.  And, come to think of it, The creator of ‘Cranford’ was presented to the world as Mrs. Gaskell.

Her Brilliant CareerThe book I finished reading last night ‘Her Brilliant Career’, subtitled ‘Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties’ by Rachel Cooke incidentally makes quite clear why Virago was necessary.  The dust jacket bears a sticker announcing ‘Virago is 40’.  Fancy that, a publishing house whose nascency I remember is now middle aged.

The fifties were my formative years.  I was seven when the decade began, and eighteen when it ended. Mum, Derrick, Jacqueline, Chris & ElizabethPhotograph number 38 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken right in the middle of Cooke’s period, in our grandparents’ garden in Staines.  Elizabeth is toddling, Chris and I each hold one of our then youngest sibling’s hands, and Jacqueline stands, smiling, behind.  Mum and my brother appear to have been scalped and I have virtually lost my head altogether.  Once more, parallax had struck.  Or maybe the photographer only had eyes for the girls.  Chris sports the famous blazer badge.  Mine must have still been on the frame.

Once Chris and I had entered our teens, I was vaguely familiar with some of the more famous names in the book, but had really no idea of the magnitude of their achievements.  A woman of her time, my own mother sacrificed her book-keeping career to concentrate on rearing her family, only to return to work when we children were all fairly grown up.  She got on with life with none of today’s labour-saving machines to help her.  Dad brought in the money and she managed it.  I do not wish to suggest in any way that we experienced Mum as resenting her lot.  That is just how it was. 

Rachel Cooke’s women were not having that.  They forged the way for others.  This book is well-written.  Offering pen portraits of her subjects and their lives, it also provides a snapshot of the age from the female perspective.  The designers of the jacket could not resist decorating it with glamorous young ladies, albeit in fifties fashions.

The work/life balance continues to be a struggle for everybody, not the least for women who wish to have a family.  It does seem as if the children of the book’s subjects did rather miss out.  Inevitably, I imagine.  Even now I don’t think we have enabled maternal women to have satisfying careers outside the home without great cost to their domestic lives.

Virago should continue for a long time to come.

Regent Street lights 12.63 002

Today’s advent picture is another detail from the Regent Street of 1963.

This morning I began reading Voltaire’s ‘Le Monde Comme Il Va’, which I would translate as ‘The Way of the World’.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to M & S at Hedge End to satisfy my need for trousers.  As she turned a bend in Seamans Lane she was forced to stop by a stationary car ahead that was surrounded by living equine sculptures. Ponies on Seamans Lane ignoring JackieThe other driver seemed content to sit it out.  He can’t have known how long the ponies can remain as still as yesterday’s pirate.  Jackie alighted to do something about it.  Leaving our car, she tried raising her arms and repeatedly shouting ‘Shoo!’.  She was ignored.  She tried taking a step back, leaning forward for purchase, placing her hands on its warm, furry, rump and pushing the cream coloured beast stationed in front of the car.  The occasional head was turned, but this, too, was of no avail.  The animal didn’t flinch.  Finally she took to bruising her hands by clapping them into each other in an attempt to startle.  This worked, and we were on the move.

This evening we drove to Bartley to admire the renowned houses with external Christmas decorations.Chrisrmas decorationsChrisrmas decorations (1)Chrisrmas decorations (2)The main event was slightly different this year, but equally over the top as last.

After this we drove on to The Foresters Arms at Frogham for a very Forester's Armsenjoyable dinner, entertained by the Hyde Church choir singing carols to the accompaniment of their own brass band.  We shared bread, olives, and cajun skewered chicken for starters; Jackie followed this up with stacked venison burger, whilst I had sirloin steak.  Both meals were very good, except that my medium rare steak turned out to be well done.  My sweet was Tart Tatin and Jackie’s was ice cream.  We each drank Villa Rosa wine, mine being Merlot and Jackie’s sauvignon blanc.