Walking Sticks


Eric the pheasant, spurning the stale puffed wheat Jackie had left out for him, and preferring what the greenfinches drop, turned his back this morning.Eric 2

Later in the day he returned for the scraps. Jackdaws carried off last night’s left-over chips.


After breakfast we hid some Kinder eggs for a hunt for James, due to visit at lunchtime. As is our wont, the clues were photographs, such as this one of an iron Belgian commode, used in Newark as a coal scuttle, and now for potatoes, and, temporarily, an egg.

Frances, Fiona, and Paul accompanied James, and we all enjoyed a buffet lunch which was so splendid that someone asked whose was the wedding. Once the three year old to the hang of the idea, the Easter egg hunt went down well.

Among the presents that Frances brought were a couple of walking sticks; one, a hundred years old, had belonged to the father of a former mentor of Chris’s; the other had been tailored to my brother’s size. Chris’s old friend was Nellie Brown. It was her father who had owned a fascinating illustrated history of England that had been passed to me upon his death. I don’t remember the publisher, but it had been published in instalments around the end of the nineteenth century, the black and white illustrations being reminiscent of the Illustrated London News of that period.Walking sticks

I now have five walking sticks. The medium one in the cluster on the right of the picture is the one I have been using recently. Jackie bought it in a mobility shop when I had the hip replacement five years ago; the shorter one is the centenarian that had belonged to Mr Brown; and the tallest, my perfect fit, had been Chris’s. The ornamental, probably African, one with a bird handle was a present from Wolf many years ago. I don’t think it is made to take any weight.. The one on the left was given to me by Norman during the dodgy hip period. I don’t think I’ve really mastered the technique, but I am improving. The essential purpose of these sticks is to aid perambulation by taking the weight for which the weakened limb is designed. It is therefore important that the length is correct. Chris and I were more or less the same height, so I was fortunate that his children bought him one called Hazel. Or maybe that was the wood from which it was fashioned.

Sometimes a stick is held to aid balance. It can make a useful pointer, or even a weapon. Soon after I had the hip replacement, I would carry one just to alert other travellers on the Underground to the fact that I wasn’t as able to swerve out of their paths as I had once been. That actually made no difference. People still rushed past. It is everyone for him or her self on London Transport. I think the ornamental or ceremonial sticks are meant to be brandished simply to indicate status, perhaps higher than that attributed to someone who needs a sturdy one for walking.

Frances and her family left late in the afternoon to visit Mum, and there was plenty of cooked meats, pies, cheeses, salads, and Tess’s cakes for the rest of us to graze on in the evening.

The Crab Pot

MapleMany attractive trees and shrubs, like this beautiful green-barked maple, are simply in the wrong place and require sadly severe treatment. This one was denying access to the potting shed and encroaching upon the path, forcing other plants to do the same. We trust it will recover from this morning’s extensive amputations.

Elizabeth drove Mum over from West End for lunch and to view our new home, with which she was very taken. Before lunch, we had a tour of the garden. Our mother, in her ninety second year was determined and delighted to see everything. Mum negotiating pathConcentrating hard on her Mum (Jackie and Elizabeth hidden)Elizabeth and Jackietwo sticks, she walked with me every step of the sometimes uneven paths, whilst Jackie and Elizabeth wandered rather more quickly at will.

Petunias in chimney potLysimachiaThe chimney pot planting is now well established, with such as scented petunias looking splendid. A Lysimachia, Jackie has also introduced, is in full bloom.

HeucheraHeucheras are grown for the beauty and variety of their leaves. Described by our resident horticulturist as ‘the gardener’s dream’, they are hardy plants which can tolerate shade and grow in any type of soil. Needless to say we now have a great many adding colour to most beds. Their clusters of small flowers, blending with their foliage, cling to long slender stems.

Snake bark maple autumn leavesThe snake bark maple is now beginning to wear its autumn colours which stand out well against the weeping birch leaves. We hope that this early display is not a sign of something sinister, and simply perhaps that it is a native of North America.

Lily with hoverfly

Another delicately hued yellow lily is attractive not only to us but also to hoverflies;Penstemon

a deep magenta penstemon is rewarding us for freeing it from choking brambles;Honeysuckle

and honeysuckle has now taken over decorative duties from the roses around the entrance to the front garden.

It is three years since our mother, who lives in a bungalow, has tackled any stairs at all, let alone our rather steep ones. She did, however, with me climbing ahead, and Elizabeth behind, manage to ascend to our first floor and suitably admire the rest of the abode. This was after we had enjoyed another of Jackie’s lavish salad lunches.

Back in the late 1980s, when she was much fitter, Mum regularly drove up to Newark for an annual two week holiday. One year she admired some artefacts in an architectural salvage establishment in the town, saying she would quite like to buy one. I had no recollection of this until she reminded me today, but I had bought it for her and taken it down to Horndean where she was living at the time.

She has developed a practice of, when appropriate, returning presents long since forgotten by the giver. Today, she and Elizabeth both brought me gifts for my birthday tomorrow. Crab potMum’s came with a card which apologised for returning ‘this’ in a tatty state, but perhaps I might like to make a project of it. It was that very same iron and rope crab pot I had given her about 25 years ago. Apparently it has lost its rope handle. But who cares?

After our visitors had departed it was a while before we felt like eating, when fish fingers provided a more than adequate snack.