At Least Wells Garage Can Be Relied Upon

Once more, yesterday’s planned exchange of contracts on the house purchase didn’t take place. To compound the issue, the date for completion has been postponed by the seller’s solicitors who aren’t very good at answering their phone or responding to messages, meaning that we would need to put furniture into storage with the consequent additional removal fee. Our preparations were based on a completion date given by them. When not actually doing anything else, I have therefore spent the day expressing our frustrations about this and urging people to honour previous undertakings. I can’t be bothered to detail all the to-ing and fro-ing, except to say that no promised phone calls were received after 3 p.m., which means nothing probably happened today either. And now we have the weekend………
Richard's beach hutEarly this morning we drove back to Hordle Beach to deliver the photograph taken two days ago to Richard. He was not at his hut, so, as advised, I placed the print in a box inside a clear plastic recycle bag and stuck it behind the decking lodged at the front of the hut.
Beach huts and shingleWaves hitting shingleAs is clear from the shingle still piled up around neighbouring huts, Richard has done a magnificent job since we left him. The structure at the front of the building provides a platform over the pebbles when it is occupied, and a protective shield when it isn’t.
The incoming waves continued to push the shingle uphill as they struck home and climbed over the wall they had created. Waves and beach hutsFurther along the coast it was easy to see, from the spray bouncing off the breakwaters, how the banks holding the higher huts had crumbled.
It was only today that I realised that Auntie Gwen is responsible for my desire to make good pictures of incoming waves. I remembered that my godmother had one painting which wasn’t a devotional one, like The Sacred Heart.Sea and clouds This was a large, long, seascape that fascinated me because of the iridescence captured by the skilful painter. The picture held pride of place when Gwen still occupied rooms in her parents’ now demolished house at 18 South Park Road, Wimbledon. I don’t recall seeing it after she moved to Latimer Road.
As we were preparing to return home in the courtesy car supplied by Wells Garage, I received a call to say that Jackie’s Modus was ready for collection. We therefore diverted to Ringwood and swapped cars. The garage have done their usual thorough job at marginally less than the quoted price; fixed the passenger door without charge; and quoted a nominal fee for the loan of their vehicle. As usual when they do a job for us, they gave the car a thorough clean as well. It is good to know that someone at least sticks to the time quoted and doesn’t bump up expenses.
Thinking of expenses, given that we are already paying income and purchase tax, the amount of stamp duty and VAT for services that has been added to the cost of both the house purchase and car repair seems exorbitant to me.
One illustration to my post of 26th was of the ingredients of a vegetable base for soups. Today’s lunchtime chicken and vegetable soup put that to good use. Here we present the method of creating it:
If you have frozen your pre-cooked vegetable base don’t forget to defrost it in good time.
Stir-fry your chopped chicken pieces, onion and garlic. In the meantime poach, in chicken and vegetable (one cube of each) stock, any previously uncooked vegetables you may wish to add. Today’s additions were carrots, mushrooms and, in the absence of lentils, chana dal. Finally, add the thick vegetable base, thinning it with the stock, and simmer for a while. When you feel like it toss in the left-over vegetables from last night’s meal, making sure to bring them to the boil. Ours were red cabbage and brussels sprouts. Please yourselves as to quantity. You may add pepper, but if you have used stock cubes they usually contain enough salt.Chicken & vegetable soup
If, like us, you have enough prepared for the next day or two, you may care to add further superfluous vegetables from subsequent meals. You never know what you’ll have by the end of it. I can assure you this already wholesome fare improves with keeping.
Moving on to our evening meal, we enjoyed a delicious sausage casserole (recipe), crisp vegetables and swede, potato and onion mash. I drank Languedoc reserve 2012, and Jackie imbibed Roc St Vincent sauvignon blanc of the same vintage. It is worth mentioning that both this Languedoc and the Bergerac of a couple of days ago come from the French Connection Classics sold by Morrison’s. And very good they are too.

Chain Reactions

Having read Jane Gardam’s introduction to it, last night I began reading Molly Keane’s 1981 novel, ‘Good Behaviour’.
Early this morning Jackie drove us to Ringwood to make a bank transfer; to visit Ellis Jones solicitors; and to buy some eggs and veg. Rain throughout the night had replenished all the familiar pools, one of which required me to make a wide detour in order in order to pay for parking.
Car park poolTeetering on a low concrete kerb, I was in danger of stepping involuntarily into the swirling water sent rippling by cars driving through it. In those circumstances one expanding ripple is rapidly followed by another which in turn is ultimately superseded by a smaller one.
Back in October, we felt able, at last, to make an offer for The Old Post House. This was because the buyer of the London house part-owned by Jackie had pressed for completion of his purchase before Christmas, claiming he had both deposit and mortgage agreed in principal. It was not an accurate presentation of his position and caused inordinate delay consequent upon constantly moving goalposts. That sale is now complete, and today we transferred our purchase deposit to our solicitor’s client account. We await exchange and completion dates.
It is more than twenty six years since I bought a house in this country and a lot has changed in that time, not just the prices. Never before have I been caught in a chain. I now understand why our English system is considered to be such a nightmare. For those unfamiliar with this, a chain is the term given to the queue that is created by the fact that most people need to sell one house before they can buy another. No-one can be sure that any one purchase will not break down. Thus if I promise you a certain amount of money for your house, you may then promise someone else a figure for their house. I may have undertaken to buy your property based on another person’s promise to buy mine. If  my purchaser reneges, I cannot buy your place, and you cannot proceed with your purchase.
The Ashcombe Road house I bought when I was 21 was my first, and there was no onward chain. All I had to do was secure a mortgage. In 1963 the amount one could borrow was based upon one salary only. It is my conviction that the major reason for constantly rising prices is the relaxation of that regulation, effectively meaning two salaries, and eventually even more, would be required.
It was in 1968 that I bought the second house, in fact the London one mentioned above. Again there was no chain. The price that year was £5,000. It has just fetched £745,000.
There was an ongoing chain in the purchase of the Gracedale Road house in 1980, but, no-one having misrepresented their position, all went smoothly. Again, the transition from there to Lindum House in Newark in 1987, was unproblematic. Perhaps, until now, I have just been fortunate.
Derrick 1962Nothing is certain about photo number 46 in the ‘through the ages’ series, except that it was taken during the period when I was blissfully ignorant about the processes of buying and selling property. Wimbledon Common is the most likely location, and Vivien the probable photographer sometime in 1962.
We also have a term ‘chain reaction’. This is employed when one event, usually a disaster, follows upon another. Whilst I was writing the above notes, I received a call from Wells garage giving the diagnosis on Jackie’s Modus. The water pump had failed. This caused the engine to overheat. That destroyed the head gasket. Oil mixed with water. As, it seems, with everything else on this make of car, labour is intensive because the design is such that, even to change a headlamp bulb requires a complete dismantling job. We are stretched so far on the house purchase that now is not the time to contemplate the purchase of a new car. A quick discussion resulted in the decision to have the car repaired at a cost of £1,200. That sum in 1962 would have been £50 short of 50% of the cost of the first house mentioned above. Given that we had forgotten about stamp duty for house purchases and almost everything seems to have VAT added, I suppose you’d also call the car problem a double whammy.
Jackie on footpathReflections in waterlogged fieldsStream into Eyeworth PondThe late afternoon and early evening were bright and clear. We drove up to Eyeworth Pond near Fritham and walked along the gravel footpath, now, like the surrounding fields pretty waterlogged. On 10th November last year the pond was not as full, and the terrain not as covered in water as it was today. A rivulet feeding the lake had then trickled its way across the heathland through which the path runs. Today the rivulets were new threads speeding into what is currently a fast moving stream that could be heard from a distance. The now familiar devastation to the trees was here, in parts, even more dramatic than in some other areas. My photograph shows what is nothing more than a huge limb torn from a nearby tree, the shattered shards giving an indication of the force with which it had come crashing down.
Chilli con carne (recipe); wild rice and peas; and strawberry jelly in evaporated milk provided our sustenance this evening. I finished the malbec.Waterlogged fieldsFallen branches

A Painting

Jackie read out a salutary item for me from BBC News this morning.Mud-sucked shoe 10.12 My regular followers will know of my penchant for becoming stuck in the mud. She therefore thought I should take note of the couple in their late sixties who ventured into The New Forest not far from us. Twenty firefighters using specialist equipment were employed in freeing them when they ‘found themselves stuck in a bog near Burley. They were lucky to have a mobile phone and a signal’. ‘Phone Signal Saves Couple In Bog’, was the headline.
It was quite a pleasant morning when we set off in the hopes that the ailing car would reach Wells Garage in Ringwood. Tony, at the garage had said they were fully booked and one man short today, but we could bring the Modus in and they would do what they could. We made it to the garage, where he kept the vehicle and gave us a courtesy car.
John had lit a bonfire down the slope to the south east corner of the garden. Masking the trees, the smoke from this blended well with the clouds and patches of blue sky above. It wasn’t long before the rain set in and the blue disappeared.
We spent the rest of the morning at Helen and Bill’s, where we had coffee and a good salad lunch. By the time we returned home the roads were just as water-covered as at any other time recently.
This afternoon I finished reading Margaret Forster’s absorbing novel ‘Keeping the World Away’. I have focussed before on transitional objects. In a sense, Forster uses one in her novel. Passing from one woman to another over the period of a century, in a variety of circumstances, is a presumably imagined painting by Gwen John. A number of women are involved and their lives sometimes overlap quite apart from the connection with a real work of art.
A Corner of the Artist's roomJohn was essentially a portrait painter. Our author has chosen to weave her tale around a rare exception,  ‘A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris’, of which the work carrying her story is said to be a previous version.
The writer invites us into the minds of her characters, in particular their emotional lives, including their sexuality and their responses to Gwen John’s masterpiece. She is particularly skilled in this, as she is in story-telling. I will not reveal the ending of the book, which I would recommend for your reading pleasure, but I can say that Gwen’s childhood is the starting point. I think this version of the gestation and creation of the painting itself is probably imagined, linked as it is with the artist’s waning affair with Auguste Rodin, because it is at odds with the creator’s own comments. Nevertheless, it is credible and keeps us intrigued.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas. Strawberry jelly and evaporated milk was to follow. I drank some La Patrie Cahors 2012 malbec.

A First Class Service

MothFirst thing this morning I photographed a moth conveniently spread out on the kitchen work surface.  When I showed the picture to Jackie she said ‘you know it’s dead, don’t you?’  She had picked it up from the floor and laid it to rest so that I would be able to photograph it.  Possibly she has me sussed.

For at least a week now the car has been throwing a spanner in the dashboard.  At intervals it has elaborated on this warning sign with the message Change Oil Service Required.  The vehicle was booked in today.  Despite really struggling with Shingles Jackie was determined to take it in.  So off we went to Ringwood.  Wells garage is just outside the town. Whenever we go there we wander to the shops and await a call from Tony to say the car is ready. Bistro Aroma Today, before shopping, we had brunch in the Aroma Bistro where the excellent food and friendly service is as good as it was when discovered in December last year.

Shopping included more photographic material from Wessex Photographic, among which were the Red and the Green Canon Series 8 inks.  So accustomed am I to no-one, especially Jessops, where I bought the printer, ever having these in stock, that I told the assistant I expected to have to order them.  She went straight to them and pulled them off the rack.  Most of the other six different inks required to make the printer work can be obtained somewhere or other, with the notable exception of the original supplier.  They are exhausted very quickly.  The red and green varieties can last a year, which is maybe why they are not usually on the shelves.

Walk of Art graffiti (3)It really took quite a long time for us to walk back to Wells garage.  The way is along very pleasant lanes and footpaths, except for the underpass that takes us to the requisite side of the A31.  Some civic authority decided to brighten up this route with art works.  Quite reasonable representations of well known paintings adorn the well-lit tunnel.  Walk of Art graffitiGiven that these are usually pretty dispiriting thoroughfares I thought this an excellent idea. Walk of Art graffiti (2) One would have hoped it could have deterred the graffiti wits.  Unfortunately not.  It even seems to have encouraged them. A Walk of Art The tunnel is named ‘A Walk Of Art’.  There is someone after my own ‘eart in an influential position in the town.

We had not received the usual phone call, but Jackie really needed to sit down, so we decided to return and wait at Wells’s, taking several rests en route.  Tony warned us that we would still have to wait for an hour and a half.  We settled down to wait, during which time we got talking to Hazel, the Managing Director of this long-established family firm.  I had been amused by her telling the others that she had been correct about an unnecessary bank query.  NatWest had corrected her addition of cheques paid in by machine.  She knew she was right and was able to prove it.  The amount in question was 20p.  Well, it was the principle that mattered.

Service at Wessex Photographic had been startling.  Service at the Bistro had been friendly and welcoming.  The car had been booked in for a short service, but what follows was extensive service.  As we spoke with Hazel, Tony appeared clutching a piece of broken front suspension spring.  Things were going to take a bit longer.  Not even knowing of Jackie’s illness, Hazel arranged for Peter to drive us home in one of the firm’s cars.  This friendly local man did so willingly. Having known the deceased owner for more than fifty years, Peter has a three morning a week job in retirement, doing any driving around that needs to be done.

Frozen brambles - Version 2

Back home, it was down to work in the ‘factory’. Frozen brambles - Version 3 After a lie-down Jackie was raring to go and getting me to produce cropped versions of pictures we had already used in toto. The frozen brambles is one example.  The benefit for her is that she doesn’t have to chop them up, just breathe down my neck whilst I play on the screen.

Today’s tally was 29 cards, bringing the total to 182.  After this Jackie was still able to produce our evening meal of keema, certainly not korma, curry; tandoori chicken and special fried rice.  My drink was Roc des Cevaliers Bordeaux superieur 2011; hers was Hoegaarden.

Sir Garfield Sobers

A growling has emanated from the car in the last few days whenever Jackie has applied the brakes.  I could have understood it had it come from passengers, especially when she put her foot down heavily, but it definitely came from the vehicle, and only when the pedal was gently caressed.  We therefore decided to have the problem examined by Wells garage in Ringwood.  Jackie has found this firm, recommended by Helen, to be reliable, efficient, reasonably priced, and offering friendly service.

We drove to the garage this morning and left the car there whilst Bill drove Jackie to the Eales’ home in Poulner, to which I walked.  This took me along Northfield Drive at the end of which I turned right and on to Southampton Road which leads to The Mount, where Helen and Bill live.  Not having made this journey on foot before, I needed to be pointed in the right direction.  It was then almost straightforward.  There is, in Poulner, a Tudor period house which has been for sale for a very long time, it seems since soon after it was built.  It serves as a very useful landmark, so when it came into view I knew where I was.  I thought.

Tudor house in Poulner

I am used to travelling in Jackie’s car.  So I knew that I should walk past the house, continue for perhaps a quarter of a mile, turn around, go back past it, and take a left turn just before reaching Southampton Road again.  This, therefore, is what I did.  (In fairness, that only happened once, but it reads better as if it were a regular occurrence, especially as that really is what I did.)

Today’s rain was unrelenting.  The car’s brake pads needed replacing and would not be ready until late afternoon, so it was quite pleasant to stay the rest of the day with Jackie’s sister and brother-in-law, chatting and playing Scrabble.  Helen gave us a good salad lunch with her crusty home-made bread which reminded me of the smell of muslin-covered dough left overnight in my grandmother’s glazed earthenware mixing bowl.

The Scrabble led us to discuss the debacle of the on-line version which has been corrupted by Mattel, and the fact that many of the original players are moving to the more traditional Lexulous.  Helen and I are both what the Daily Mail has called silver surfers.   She has yet to try Lexulous which I recommended to her.

Before lunch, while Jackie and Helen were making plans for the sisters’ forthcoming camping weekend, Bill and I chatted in the sitting room.  Inevitably we spoke about sport, and he told me of how he acquired his treasured Walter Hammond four-star cricket bat.  That is his story, so I won’t steal his thunder, but it did remind me of how I secured Frank’s trophy.  Frank was a friend of the family in Newark.  Quite coincidentally, because Louisa met her husband after our friend had returned to Jamaica, Frank is Errol’s uncle.

Having spent his working life in England, this warm and friendly Jamaican and his wife Pansy decided to return to the land of their births when they retired.  I wanted to mark this with a suitable present.  It had become a tradition for Becky, Frank, and me to visit Trent Bridge for one day of the Test matches, so I had a good idea of a suitable subject.  But what would be the most apt gift?

Art on Glass in Bridge Street had, for many years, displayed in its window a perfect engraved portrait of probably the greatest all-round West Indian cricketer who has ever lived.  This was on a delicately coloured green glass which had been imported from Canada.  That was it.  That was Frank’s present.  Not the right island, but never mind, I thought.

I asked the proprietor to sell it to me.  The answer was a definite no.  The situation called for tactful persistence.  I explained why I wanted it.  He countered with the fact that this was the original of three he had made.  One of the others was auctioned at a local Country Club by the subject, who himself retained the other.  This of course made it all the more desirable.  I must have looked suitably crestfallen.  It has always been my policy to rely on people’s good nature, rather than try to beat them into submission.  The man offered to make another.  He was not prepared to do it on anything other than the Canadian glass.  That would take a little time, but we had about six months.  Well, the suppliers constantly let the craftsman down.  As we got nearer and nearer the departure date, and as my visits of enquiry became more and more frequent, I all but gave up hope.

Two weeks before the due date, the artist also gave up on the glass.  He announced that I could buy the original.  Frank was able to return to his native land with the very first copy of a most unusual portrait of Sir Garfield Sobers.

Back home this evening Jackie produced cod, chips, and mushy peas followed by bread and butter pudding for our dinner.  Good traditional English nosh.

I Don’t Actually Work Here

The morning dawned as frostily as the last few days, but the temperature did rise a few degrees by early afternoon.  We needed another trip to Ringwood where Jackie had to take her car to the excellent Wells garage in Salisbury Road for a light bulb to be replaced.  It must be a stroke of design genius that requires the bumper to be removed before a £7.50 bulb can be replaced.

Whilst she waited at the garage I walked back to the river and turned left along the Castleman Trail to see what the other direction was like.  Passing three boys busy making themselves sick on Golden Virginia, I soon came to Bickerley Road, where there was no continuation sign.  With a sense of deja vue I searched for a route.  A major road called Castleman Way, and especially a Railway Hotel pub, offered a shred of hope.  This was unrealistic.  I even asked a postperson for directions.  She stood with great internal concentration, scratched her head, stroked her chin, and kept repeating ‘I have done it’.  Eventually she proclaimed: ‘but it was so long ago I can’t remember’.  I bet she’s wondering still.  I know I am.  I didn’t find it and eventually returned to the town centre and the cafe where we again enjoyed excellent lunches in the Bistro which, although not the Martin Cafe is a pretty good replacement, reminiscent of Jackie’s regular Rosie Lee in Morden. My choice was toad in the hole.  Jackie’s was eggs on toast.Egret, Ringwood field 12.12

Swans, Ringwood field 12.12Whilst by the river I thought again that the water on the fields may not be so high.  Swans and an egret were enjoying the unwonted flooded expanse.  There was the odd submerged tuft that offered the swans a perch.

Whilst Jackie was booking the car in I stood in the foyer idly looking at a little old Fiat vehicle perkily standing on the floor.  My reverie was disturbed by a voice from behind which compared its owner’s three year old Volkswagen most unfavourably with this allegedly perfect gem.  This gentleman, who appeared to be inflicted with logorrhoea, proceeded, with neither introduction nor pause for breath, to eulogise about the 1971 Fiat car which was being renovated by the garage.  I must say it did look in pretty good nick for a 41 year old, even if it had only done 21,000 miles.  He, of course, should know, because he had worked for Fiat when a young man in Greece.  When he helped himself to coffee from the machine, and demonstrated his complete misjudgement of me by going into great technical detail as if assuming I would have the first idea of what he was talking about, I thought maybe he was on the staff in some capacity.

Because of the necessity to remove the bumper, Jackie’s car wasn’t ready by the time we were to meet, so we walked back to the garage after lunch.  On the way we spoke of our garrulous friend.  Apparently he had found other victims in the form of people looking at cars for sale in the forecourt.  He was happily showing them round.  As she left for the cafe she overheard him saying ‘I don’t actually work here’.1971 Fiat 12.12

This afternoon we took the car up to Wimbledon for separate evenings out which, because by the time we get back it will be too late for a post, will be described tomorrow