‘You Read That To Me Too’

Although I am virtually recovered from what my GP thought was diverticulitis, I still have a slight niggle in my lower abdomen. Jackie therefore drove me to a follow up visit this morning. No more antibiotics are required, but a blood test was recommended to confirm the diagnosis. We therefore went on to Lymington hospital where I provided a small amount of blood.

This process was so smooth and utterly painless that I was most impressed and told the phlebotomist so. He said ‘it doesn’t always go like that’.

In my earlier years I was a blood donor for a while. I got to thinking about this, and that led me on to recollect Tony Hancock’s classic TV programme of 1961. This youtube video is an extract just over four minutes long. There are many full length options on the same source.

Compare the early television screen with those of today.

My first mention of this classic came in my post ‘Early Entertainment’.

This afternoon we drove to Hobbycraft at West End where I bought some photo mount and Jackie some sequins, then on to Elizabeth’s where Danni cooked us all, including Andy,  an excellent chicken vindaloo, spinach and potatoes, and boiled rice, accompanied by naan, onion bhajis, and pakoras.

Chicken vindaloo

 

One of the drinks was an intriguing bottle of Mirza Ghalib vin de pays d’Oc 2005. This, a French wine, was produced specifically for drinking with curry. Given that the French are not big on Indian food this was rather surprising, yet effective.

Mirza Ghalib

One of our enjoyable conversations concerned hedgehogs. This led me to relate the tale of little Jessica telling the story of Nobby Bates, including June Brokas’s comment on the post, during which a look of recognition came over Danni’s face. ‘You read that to me, too’, said my niece. Elizabeth had also bought the book and read it to her two children, Danni and Adam.

Suburban Terraced Housing

Anne stayed the night and we got up early for coffee and seeing her off back to London before her return to Athens.

From ‘The Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers’, Jackie has established that yesterday’s unknown shrub is a Siberian lonicera tatarica, or Tartarian honeysuckle, regarded as a pernicious weed in North America. I amended the post accordingly.

Another four tons of gravel was tipped onto the back drive this morning. Hopefully that will be enough to complete the layer.

Wisteria

A light blue wash would not have been our choice of cladding for the outside of the house, but it must have been an improvement on the bright pink we understand preceded it, and we are becoming accustomed to it. I have to admit that it sets off the wisteria on the back wall rather well.

Sticky willy shadowDandelion clocks

Later this afternoon I walked a few yards down Downton Lane, where Sticky Willy or Lady’s Bedstraw cast its shadow on on the hedgerows as it began to scale the other plants; and the earliest dandelions are now demonstrating that time is running out for them.

Before that I had scanned a few more slides from November 1972, from my stay at Blackheath. On a walk, Michael posed on a park bench, while Becky was too interested in whatever she was examining to take any notice of the camera.Michael 11.72Becky 11.72 0004

Michael, Matthew & houses11.72Matthew and Becky and backs of houses 11.72Wherever there is a grassy bank it is imperative for children either to roll down it or to climb up it. The one we came across must have been too steep for a roll, but Michael and Matthew ascended it. Matthew and Becky enjoyed peering through the railings of the terraced housing, probably speculating about who lived there.Backs of houses 11.72

Land, even in the suburbs of London, is scarce. If you are rich enough you can buy a large house with plenty of space, but for ordinary people, various generations of developers have built rows and rows of these terraces, each with their own small plot of land. Although London had been growing since the Londinium of the Romans, it was the Victorians who began the serious urban sprawl.  For example, after the advent of the railway, they built the southern part of Wimbledon, where I bought my first house. Each new wave has brought its own architectural style, extending what is now known as Greater London.

Taken from YouTube, The London Evolution Animation charts the growth of the capital from Roman times to 2013. I think it repays taking up the 7 minutes playing time.

This evening Jackie’s superb savoury rice accompanied Lidl’s splendid rack of ribs in barbecue sauce, for our dinner. I imbibed more of the Merlot and Jackie drank sparkling water.

A Fatal Error

Whilst Jackie drove the well used route to Shelly and Ron’s this morning, I, like Wordsworth’s Lucy ‘dwelt among the untrodden ways’. Well, untrodden for a very long time. And, apart from lunch, I trod them all day. Cleared areaCamelliaYesterday’s clearances had revealed the presence of another hidden gravel path, which I determined to open up and refurbish. The camellia mentioned yesterday is now fully visible through the cleared area.

I began by planting the two forgotten items from yesterday – a lilac and a fern. The lilac was to be placed alongside this path, and required the usual clearance of weeds, brambles, and ivy. Sneaking up behind and to the right beneath Allium and galliumthe allium in this next photograph can be seen the tentacles of the ubiquitous grasping gallium aperine.

Poppy orangePoppy yellow and aquilegiaPoppies of various hues are cropping up all over the place.

I have not featured the deutzia before because I could not identify it, but, happily, Jackie has done so:Deutzia

RoseAlthough its leaves bear the dreaded black spot, that curse of pirates and rose-growers, the pink climbing rose at the front of the house is beautiful and abundant.

Well, that’s enough of wandering around the garden. I’ve done the planting and had a look at the flowers. Now I must get down to business.

A few yards into the rediscovered path, some quarry tiles had been laid as a point of interest. A few were broken. A little further on, and to the right of these, is a smaller, linking, and also overgrown stretch of lined gravel. This has a similar feature of four tiles. I therefore diverted from my main objective, cleared that route, and took up the tiles and used them to repair the other set on the longer, meandering pathway.Path revealed In this photograph of the first opened thoroughfare the rake at the far end lies on this arrangement. I have left a few little violets in situ.

Jackie had not, of course, been idle on her return. She continued with curtains, and has now made and hung curtains for the whole house, often fixing the rails as well.

After lunch, I allowed myself a little diversion to pull out two thistles like those of yesterday, and to plant a little round tree/bush in place of one of them. Jackie had unsuccessfully tried to persuade me to take it easy this afternoon. Whilst I was engaged in removing the second of the thistles she came out and asked, in that mock accusative tone that indicates that the speaker thinks you are overdoing it: ‘What are you doing now?’. When she saw what I was engaged in, she gasped, and her expression turned to horror. ‘You’ve pulled up the acanthus!’ she exclaimed.

The head gardener was very forgiving, and most encouraging. She estimated that what was left of it would reach maturity in about seven years. The fatality, in this case, was therefore not the plant, but the tool that I had broken in trying to uproot the very stubborn sections of the acanthus. The plant should revive. Not so the fork handle. I wonder if Ronnie Corbett has any in stock? (Anyone who doesn’t know this reference is highly recommended to look up the Fork Handles sketch on Youtube. It is The Two Ronnies at their very best).

To return to the main path. I will need a heavy duty axe to remove a holly stump from the far end of it. Holly stumpSomeone has cut it down in the past, and it had bushed up. I trimmed off the shoots but otherwise cannot shift it, even with the aforementioned fork when it was still intact.

Path to decking 2Path to decking 1Two photographs will not suffice for the finished article, so here are two:

We are promised rain this evening, to continue into tomorrow. This will be a welcome relief because I will be forced to take a break.

I do ache a bit.

Two of the delights of Indian food are the aromas and the colours. Roast pork & red cabbageJackie adheres to these in her presentation, which is why she produced a special variety of red cabbage as a suitable compliment to her succulent roast pork, crackling, and vegetable rice (recipe).

For cabbage with a suitable gentle piquancy for this meat:

Take 1/2 small red cabbage, 1 large red onion, 1/2 a cooking apple (this one was Bramley`) cored, but not peeled.

Thinly slice all ingredients. Stir fry with big nob of butter and splash of olive oil. When part cooked add a splash of white vinegar and a good glug of red wine.

Stir it all up, turn the heat down, whack the lid on and let it cook a little while longer until soft but not soggy.

Try it. It was perfect.

With it I drank Dino shiraz Terre Siciliane 2012 and Jackie didn’t. I would have given her some but she doesn’t like red wine, except in cooking.

 

If A Tree Falls In A Forest……

This morning was a low-key one of rather subdued recovery from yesterday’s party. We drank coffee, ate toast, and played Scrabble.

In mid afternoon we lunched on what was surplus to requirements at yesterday’s lunch. By this time we were four: Elizabeth, Danni, Jackie, and me.  Afterwards Jackie drove me home and we settled down to a relaxing late afternoon and evening.

Almost.

Janice & Michael 8.64My cousin Jane, nee Janice Booker, has lived in America since she was a young woman, and I have not seen her since. The last time I saw Jane was when we were probably still in our twenties when she was on a visit from The States, and Jackie and I took her out to a pancake house. When a limp, thin, flattened object with a smattering of sweet liquid was presented on a plate, she said: ‘That’s not a pancake’. You see, they do things differently in America.

I have, for some years, intended to e-mail her a copy of a photograph I took of her holding my son Michael in August 1964. Jacqueline has now provided me with the address, and I sent it across the Atlantic in a trice. It then occurred to me that it would make a good next picture in the ‘posterity’ series, and I began to draft today’s post. I got as far as ‘subdued’ in the first line when we had a power cut.

These are really quite a nuisance, especially as electricity is our only power source. I lit some candles, only spilling about a dozen matches on the carpet and burning just a couple of fingers.

After a while we decided to go for a drive as far as Downton and back, possibly via Bertie’s in Lyndhurst, in the unlikely event that that fish and chip shop should be open on a Sunday evening. The idea was to see whether this hiatus in power extended beyond our building and whether Downton was similarly affected. We very quickly established that there was no supply in Minstead, but that the dearth did not extend beyond our village.

Bertie’s was closed, so we thought we’d try Goodies in Totton. This meant driving back close to home, so we thought we’d check on the state of play en route. Our power was back on so we decided to stay in.

Pondering a rather deep philosophical question, I sat down to write my post, at least as far as the evening meal. I turned on the computer, brought up WordPress, sat with my hands poised over the keyboard ………  and we had another cut.

It is quite possible that Jackie and I both uttered expletives at this point. I relit the candles, found the torch, and the lights came on again. And I tried once more.  I trust that in the circumstances I will be forgiven the shortage of photographs today. Hopefully my beautiful cousin will make up for it.

Now. Whilst we were driving out to Downton did the lights all come on in Minstead?  Or was Castle Malwood Lodge back on stream only as we approached it? We had been out for about an hour and had not been there to see. Did the windows glow with light after five minutes or fifty? And as we weren’t there was it of any consequence to us?

And how did The Beegees know that ‘the lights all went out in Massachusetts’? (YouTube it).

This rather nonsensical musing put me in mind of the poser mentioned above: ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it does it make a sound?’. This is apparently an exercise in thought raising questions about observation, perception, and knowledge of reality.

I guess we could just ask our neighbours.

In the meantime, I am going to attempt to knock up some scrambled egg on toast and post this missive before the next cut.

P.S. Jackie got to the kitchen, the eggs, and the toaster, first.

‘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.

Apple Juice

This morning I made a start on sorting and scanning 20 years of random film negatives.  The first strip was not my own.  It was taken in January 1984 by John Gordon, a friend of my sister Elizabeth.  Derrick running,1984 03This shot featured in the Southampton Daily Echo.  Sponsored in aid of Hilldene, her son Adam Keenan’s day nursery, I (701) was taking part in a ten mile race.  ‘Race’ simply describes the event.  No way was I in contention.  I was merely happy to beat my own personal best.  This one was completed in 64 minutes, and was a new best time, probably because it was snowing when we began.  That does tend to make one rather nippy.  I felt rather smug when Elizabeth told me that the photographer had said it would be a comparatively easy task to run alongside me for the pictures, and found it wasn’t.  The reason long distance runners look much slower than they really are is the heel/toe action which requires the heels to land first in the stride.

Today was twelfth night, and therefore time to take the Christmas decorations down.  First their storage boxes had to be removed from the garage.  Carrying the stack of containers through the kitchen, I walked into a metal chair and bruised my shins.  The stack rose above my eye line, and I hadn’t thought about it in advance.

My running days are over now, but what promises to be the longest running joke of all time continues to surprise.  As Jackie stripped the Christmas tree she let out a cry that must have been heard in Emsworth.  It was even louder than mine when I clouted the chair.

Perhaps three years ago now, Jackie and I took Becky and Flo for a meal at Ben and Jerry’s in Ampere Way, Purley.  Our granddaughter, as is her wont, drank apple juice.  The container had a metallic lid, rather like the ones that adorn cream pots.  As we parted company in the car park, Flo slapped the passenger side front window and ran off smartish.Apple juice There, adhering to my window pane was the apple juice lid.  Naturally, when someone plays such a prank, one must retaliate.  About a month later, Becky found the item on a part of her car that I do not remember.  Backwards and forwards went this transitional object, returned in the most devious of ways.  The gaps between the transfers were gradually extended.  This was essential because you had to give your victim time to have forgotten about it.

Have you, dear reader, remembered that Jackie was stripping the Christmas tree?  Well, you know what she found hidden among the artificial foliage, don’t you?

Given that we last hid the offending article in Flo’s Christmas present in 2012, one has to admire her patience.  Yes, Flo, we had forgotten about it.  But we’ll get you back.  In the immortal words of Vera Lynn, ‘Don’t know where, don’t know when’.  You do know that, don’t you?  (Vera Lynn, known as ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’,  raised innumerable spirits during World War II with, among others, her rendering of ‘We’ll meet again’, which can be found on Youtube).

Dragon by AdamAdam Keenan grew up to be a skilled and much sought after animatronics creator.  Three years ago he made a realistic  mechanically animated dragon for Flo’s birthday.  One of its joints became dislocated.  This necessitated a spell in my nephew’s hospital.  I well remember my tube journey back to Morden on the day I collected the cured lifelike creature.  I took great pleasure sitting in a crowded tube train surreptitiously pulling levers which made its eyes open and shut; its head turn and its tail sweep; and watching the faces opposite me.

At that time Jackie and I were holders of the drink lid.  So, of course, when Flo opened the box containing the repaired treasured animal, it had a suitable label round its neck.

Far too much rain for the forest and its environs to cope with continued to fall as, this afternoon, we drove to Totton for a mega post-Christmas provisions shop.  Reminiscent of last year, brown water flowed from the overfilled drains in the gutters across the centre of the main road into this suburb of Southampton.  We followed a petrol tanker most of the way, feeling rather grateful that we were not one of those cars, waiting to turn out of side roads, that got the benefit of the bow waves as the large wheeled lozenge sped past.  As Jackie said, there would not be much point in having a car wash at the moment.

On our return someone played ducks and drakes with huge hailstones bouncing from the water-bound tarmac to the car windows and vice versa.

Two fallen beeches in the road from London Minstead to the A337 bear the legend:

Beech sold

Beech fallen

Each is too long to fill the frame of one photograph.  This had us speculating that the purchasers may have been wood-carvers, for craft fairs, after the great storm of 1987, were filled with the work of those who had benefited from the trees that fell throughout the South of England.

This evening we dined on beef hotpot and cabbage, followed by the last of our Christmas pudding.  I drank La Serrana tempranillo 2012, whilst Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

P.S.  In her Facebook comment on this post, my daughter Becky has corrected a few details concerning the label.  Firstly the restaurant was Frankie and Benny’s.  She reminds me that the game began when, during the meal, Flo stuck the object on the back of my hand and I left it there all evening.  That amused our granddaughter.  As we were leaving I placed it on the back of her hand and dashed away.  Plonking it on our window was her retaliation.  But that didn’t take place immediately, Jackie now remembers.  We left the restaurant in convoy.  When stopped at traffic lights Flo emerged from the gloom and planted it on the driver’s window, not mine.  Our last transfer took place a little more than a year ago when we hid it in a kitchen canister.

Now, had this all taken place when I was Flo’s age I probably would have needed no memory jogging.  On the other hand, it couldn’t have, could it?

The Owl And The Pussy Cat

In the small hours of the morning the shrill cry of an owl, seemingly immediately by my open window, disturbed my slumber.  So far off as to be barely discernible came an answering call.  A duet ensued.  Suddenly all was quite outside.  Straining my ears I could just hear the distant correspondent.  Eventually both birds’ cries could be clearly distinguished in the middle distance.  The notes changed.  Merged.  Reached a crescendo.  Then silence.  As I drifted back to sleep, faint echoes reverberated. I thought of Eartha Kitt, that personification of the sex-kitten chanteuse.  Her rendition of ‘Let’s do it (let’s fall in love)’ was a hit in the 1950s and beyond.  Anyone who doesn’t know the lyrics and their connection with my reverie should find the song on Youtube.

Sofien's carWhen the team arrived after I had risen from my bed, Sofiene stood looking concerned at his car.  Benoit crawled underneath the front of it and pronounced the damage minimal and easily reparable.  I quipped that he was always underneath something.  First the bath, and now the car.  The story could not have been invented.  For about 100km over several days, a cat had been heard mewing under the bonnet.  Despite several searches, nothing could be found.  Until Sofiene realised that a neighbour’s small kitten was trapped inside.  Despite every encouragement, it would not emerge.  It was in a plastic casing near the engine.  He had to break the plastic to free the animal.  It would not budge.  Realising it must be hungry he offered it a sandwich.  It refused.  Sofiene moved away.  The kitten licked it with evident lassitude.  Sofiene tapped the casing in order to persuade it to escape.  Finally it did.  Naturally, I told my friend the tale of the swan in the braking system.

Partially refreshed by light rain, I walked the steeply undulating Pomport loop.  As I neared the village, Fred, no doubt on his way to the bar, waved to me from his scooter.  DucksThe racket made by ducks on the lake below the D17 was drowned by the deafening roar of a jet plane that rent the skies above.

Vines below Pomport

GrapesVigorous vines bear ripening fruit.

I did find a signal up at Pomport, but, surprise, surprise, the best one to be had is outside number 30 rue St Jacques, a couple of hundred yards from my house, almost the lowest point in Sigoules.

This evening, Mike is due to collect me to take me for a meal in Eymet.  I will report on that tomorrow.