Head To Head

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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.

Sometimes I Couldn’t Keep Up

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Paul Auster’s ‘The New York Trilogy is a series of novelettes, originally published in sequence as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986) and The Locked Room (1986); and combined into a single volume the following year. The author, born February 3, 1947, ‘is’, according to Wikipedia, ‘an American writer and director whose writing blends absurdism, existentialism, crime fiction, and the search for identity and personal meaning.’

Last night I finished reading the first story which I soon realised was describing a descent into madness. Whose, I wasn’t sure; because of the several identities, realities, and time-frames.

There is also an intertextual relationship with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. It is so long since I struggled to make sense of this great Spanish classic that the significance of the link escaped me.

Chapter 2 almost had me abandoning Auster’s tale. However, I saw it to the end and came to appreciate what the author was presenting. I thought it worth persevering with, and was left happy to tackle the next one.

My copy is The Folio Society’s 2008 edition which benefits from the powerfully atmospheric illustrations of Tom Burns, which won the V & A  2009 Overall book illustration Winner for this work. The museum’s website states that ‘the judges commented that these illustrations make great use of colour, capturing the city in a very fresh and original way. They felt the images integrate perfectly with the text and manage to evoke a variety of sensations such as loneliness, complicated relationships and a sense of speed.’ I’d say he was a worthy winner.

This morning, I scanned another batch of colour negatives from my long walk of July 2003. Regular readers will know that this was executed as an exercise in support of Sam’s epic row of the following year; those who followed the link to ‘Nettle Rash’ will also know that this was not without its obstacles.

There were a certain number of occasions when I lost sight of the rower, either because of these or because there were not enough locks holding him up and giving me a chance to keep pace.

Some of the more pleasant stumbling blocks were created by the flora covering the absent footpaths. Although I can recognise a thistle and a wasp, I lack the knowledge to identify the wild flowers or the white butterfly.

There was ample opportunity to focus on the landscape alongside what I think is the Warwickshire stretch of the Oxford canal. Sometimes there was a benefit in being unable to keep up.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid pork paprika, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans, and red cabbage. I drank more of the Shiraz and the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden.

 

The Foxton Flight

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It rained all day today. Aaron, who could not work in such weather, came for a pleasant chat over a mug of tea.

I will not bore either my readers or myself with full details of today’s BT episode. But it does warrant a brief mention. Yesterday, as you know, I had been promised a phone call from a manager about the charge of £50 to change the name on my account. The young lady who telephoned me from India this morning was certainly no manager. When we came to an impasse she transferred me to someone in England. The best I could glean from her, after she had consulted with her manager, was that this could only be done free of charge was by changing the phone number then transferring it back. There was no guarantee that our existing number would be accurately returned. I told her, for the recording, precisely what I thought of her company, stated that it was only my reluctance to change our number and my e-mail address, that kept me with them; and that I wouldn’t bother to take her up on her kind offer.

Then I scanned another set of colour negatives from my longest walk.

I don’t usually tinker with the colours in my photographs, but I did have a play with these three landscape shots.

Sam in Pacific Pete 7.03

Beyond Oxford, Sam took to the Grand Union Canal

alongside which the footpaths were often completely overgrown, albeit

with pleasant wild flowers, such as meadowsweet and willow herb.

Of the many butterflies flitting about, I only recognised the red admirals. (See John Knifton’s comment below)

Oak leaves 7.03

The shade from trees like this oak was often welcome in the heat of the day.

About the Foxton Flight of Locks, built between 1810 and 1814, Wikipedia informs us:

‘Foxton Locks (grid reference SP691895) are ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal about 5 km west of the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and are named after the nearby village of Foxton.

They form the northern terminus of a 20-mile summit level that passes Husbands Bosworth, Crick and ends with the Watford flight

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of a group of locks where each lock opens directly into the next, that is, where the bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system.

The Grade II* listed locks are a popular tourist attraction and the county council has created a country park at the top. At the bottom, where the junction with the arm to Market Harborough is located, there are two public houses, a shop, trip boat and other facilities.’

On the day Sam guided Pacific Pete down this staircase, family visitors were out in force. For once I was ahead of my son, and reached the locks in time to learn that the canal-side telegraph was buzzing with the news that a large rowing boat was on its way through.

The audience gathered to watch Sam use his giant oar to steer and propel the boat through the locks because there was no room to row.

Asian family leaving Foxton Flight 7.03

Did you notice the Asian man gesturing to his family in the first picture, and shepherding them over the bridge in the last, in order to lead them down the slope to see the rower on his way?

Child helping at the locks 7.03

There had been no shortage of helpers to push the long balance beams operating the gates.

There were plenty of narrow boats on the waters, but no other ocean-going rowing boats.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s glorious sausage casserole; crisp carrots, cauliflower and red cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished Helen and Bill’s Malbec.

The Roadside Meadow

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Municipal planting has been one of the facilities offered by Local Authorities in these straitened times to have fallen by the wayside. In the metaphorical sense this is not true of New Forest District Council. Last autumn seeds were sown by the side of the A337 and covered with a protective netting. They have now sprung into life.

Wildflower meadow location sign

This is the location of the nearest site to our home, no more than a mile away.

Wildflower meadow wide view 2Wildflower meadow wide view 1

We have been waiting an opportune moment to photograph the most amazing display that is currently swaying in the breeze and buzzing with bees.

Wildflower meadow 27Wildflower meadow 25Wildflower meadow 26Wildflower meadow with bee on poppy 2Wildflower meadow with bee on cornflower 3Wildflower meadow 23Wildflower meadow 24Wildflower meadow 20Wildflower meadow 21Wildflower meadow 22Bee on cornflower 2Bee on poppy 2Wildflower meadow 16Wildflower meadow 17Wildflower meadow with bee on poppyWildflower meadow 18Wildflower meadow 19Wildflower meadow 14Bee on poppy 1Wildflower meadow 15Wildflower meadow 13Wildflower meadow 11Wildflower meadow 12Wildflower meadow 5Cornflower meadow 9Wildflower meadow 1Wildflower meadow 8Wildflower meadow 6For once, I cannot  say any more than the plants do themselves. This array would enhance any cottage garden.Wildflower meadow 7

Having feasted our eyes on these floral delights, we drove on to Barton on Sea to have a look at Christchurch Bay.

Beware unstable cliffs sign

The unstable cliffs sign is not new,

Cliff erosion

but it has perhaps moved inland a little more.

Gull over Christchurch Bay

Only the gliding gulls can travel over the clifftop with equanimity.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s marvellous boeuf bourguignon with swede and potato mash and mange touts. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I drank more of the Saint Emilion.

Latin Gave Me Up

Although not having got round its baffle, the crow is back trampling the petunias on the chimney pot. The squirrel, on the other hand, earned a meal this morning. It made a successful launch from the eucalyptus, crash landed on top of the corvine baffle, slipped underneath it, and scoffed away. Given that the rodent has now rivalled Eddie the Eagle, Jackie moved the feeder further from the tree. The next lift-off point will doubtless be the new arch. Google can supply further information both on our aforementioned Olympic skier and yesterday’s Greg Rutherford reference.

We returned, briefly, to Castle Malwood Lodge this morning to retrieve two garden recliners we had left behind; and for a chat with Mo. Jackie then drove us to Ringwood where I deposited two pairs of shoes for repair; back home for lunch; then on to New Milton for me to catch the London train to visit Carol.

MeadowThe corner around our old flat is well stocked with self-seeded blooms from Jackie’s temporary garden; and the little meadow alongside New Milton station has an abundance of wild flowers.

Today I finished reading Cicero’s ‘Pro Roscio Amerino’ (For Roscius of Ameria). This is an eloquent and subtle defence of a man facing a trumped-up charge of parricide, and is significant for its being the young advocate’s first speech in a criminal court, and for his courage in taking on powerful political elements. No doubt aided by D.H.Berry’s able translation, the writing flows, and is very readable and entertaining.

It is to be inferred from my last sentence that I did not read this in the original, which would have been far beyond me. I am no Latin scholar, as was proven by my first three years at Wimbledon College. My Grammar school was then notable for its emphasis on the classics. Keen to obtain as many OxBridge university places as possible, Latin and Greek were the school’s most valued subjects, for in those 1950s days, a Latin qualification was a requirement for entry into our two leading centres of learning.

I was never subjected to Greek, and my Latin was so abysmal that, long before the O level stage, I was transferred to Geography, not then considered of prime importance.

Being top of the class in French, it was always a mystery to me that I could not grasp Latin. At school, I thought maybe it was because it seemed to be all about wars that didn’t particularly interest me. Not very many years ago, I twigged the reason for the imbalance. It was partially about word order, but more significantly about ignorance of grammatical terms. Without understanding these, I could manage the modern language, not that dissimilar in construction to our own. Meeting concepts like ‘subjunctive’ which were not considered needing explanation for passers of the eleven plus exam, I didn’t just swim, I sank.

Cicero OrationsLatin gave me up. And Geography teaching was hit and miss, so I failed that too.

So. In English. I went on to read ‘In Verrem 1’ (Against Verres). This was a necessarily short piece used as a device to circumvent the delaying tactics of the defence of a patently guilty man. It was so successful that Verres withdrew and further prepared speeches were not required.

Each of the Orations in my Folio Society edition is preceded by a helpful introduction by the translator. I began Berry’s piece on ‘The Catilinarian Conspiracy’.

From Waterloo I walked across Westminster Bridge to Carol’s in Rochester Row. South BankI have seen this route even more crowded than today, but it was still a struggle to reach and walk across the bridge and past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

At the junction of Great Smith Street and Victoria Street a woman struggled with a chain of keys that would have done credit to Dickens’s Jacob Marley from ‘A Christmas Carol’, to free her bicycle from its fixture on a set of railings.Woman unlocking bike Having succeeded, she dropped the cluster on the pavement and loaded her steed. Given her apparel and the content of her baskets, I wondered how she would manage to ride off. She didn’t. She donned her furry hat over the straw one, pushed the bike across the road, and continued down the street.

I took the 507 bus from Carol’s back to Waterloo and boarded the train to New Milton where my chauffeuse was waiting to drive me home; show me her planting and tidying of the garden; and feed me on fresh vegetables with beef casserole, the method of cooking of which is given in yesterday’s post. She drank Hoegaarden, and I abstained.

Carry On Regardless

886304_344214319032199_40218913_oDavid has sent me an e-mail giving the information that Jamie and the Crazy Hearts will be performing a barbecue concert at Le Code Bar this coming Saturday evening.  So, come on, all my French readers, turn up.  I am assured by Fred that Johnny Cash will be there in person.  Possibly in spirit, anyway.

I missed my assinine friend as I set off on this chilly, cloudy, morning granted the occasional shaft of sunlight, to walk the Pomport loop. Mauve flowers The field he shares with goats was empty of fauna but full of flora, including long grass and nettles.

Wild flowersDaisy chainWild flowers proliferated.Buttercups  Buttercups had more chance to brighten the landscape than those of last week in Minstead. Dog roses Large daisies had formed their own, natural, chain, and dog roses mingled with others I cannot name. Cow parsley

The road was lined with cow parsley, Vine shootsand April’s knobbly-kneed vine stems were sprouting lime-green shoots.

As I neared Pomport the throb of the engine of a tractor working a field below, and the racket of ducks on the pond beneath the slope disturbed the general silence.

The sweet aroma of freshly mown grass led me to an elderly gentleman, his glistening face bespattered with cuttings.  We had a satisfyingly lengthy conversation during which we discussed my route.  He asked me if I was going via Cuneges.  I wasn’t.  He then suggested Saint Andre, a sign for which I knew appeared just before the usual road I take.  I said I would.

Memorial bouquetSomeone had placed a bouquet at the foot of the war memorial.

I had never taken the Saint Andre route before because it bears a no through road sign. View from Saint Andre But, relying on my local informant, I took a chance.  The tarmac did in fact peter out at this hamlet containing a few smallholdings, that offered a different perspective to my downward journey. Chicken

A marmalade cat loped off at my arrival, but a chicken, apparently mottled with terra cotta shards,Chicken's beady eye remained to fix me with its beady eye.  Spray can

Following the colour scheme, a spray can on a rubbish heap appeared to have released its contents.  I was able to pick my way through a very muddy track between vineyards that led to the road.

Approaching me as I reached the houses was a post van I had seen in Pomport.  This somewhat disconcerted me because I did not want to end up back there.  However, as the delightful song from Sam’s favourite album of the early 1990s from the aptly named The Beautiful South, came to me, I decided to ‘carry on regardless’.  My son played this record over and over again and I never tired of it.

Reaching the D17 and not recognising it for what it was, I dutifully turned left.  It was then that my experiences in The New Forest came in handy.  I spotted a fallen fruit tree I had noticed on my way up, promptly turned round, and walked back down to Sigoules, feeling that I had learned some woodcraft after all.

Today’s lunch in the bar began with a tasty vegetable soup followed by a crisp slice of piquant pizza.  The main course was a skewer of tiny tender hearts served with a spicy sausage and green and haricot beans.  Sweet strawberries was the finale.