Mapping up in 1919

Today at work (yes, I managed to stagger in on top of Mr Gouty Foot) Heather had me doing something different to the usual cataloguing onto the system. Today she kept delivering boxes of books to my desk with the instruction to Dispose or Keep depending on certain criteria. I don’t know how many boxes there are altogether but I managed to get through quite a few.

The criteria was pretty simple. If we had at least one on the system they went into the Dispose pile unless they had been donated. If we didn’t have one and the copy was in good condition, they went into the Keep pile.

All the time I was sorting through the books, a bunch of moving guys were working with squeaky trolleys, moving stuff out of the store into the back of a van ahead of the big move. It’s odd how, after so long of nothing seeming to happen, it’s now all gone a bit mental.

In fact, this morning, I went in through the main doors which have had a scaffold in front of them since I started. This has made direct egress impossible so we’re forced to go into the side entrance.

Soon, or so Nick says, I’ll no longer need a pass because the library entrance will not be on the base. That will be a good day. Particularly after today’s run in with the most unpleasant security guy I’ve met so far. Which is a shame because most of them are lovely people. Then there’s this one.

However, back in the library…among the boxes of books I also had a couple of odd objects. Most notably was a big, very dusty, paper wrapped and tied up with string, brown box with a label on the front. Apart from the label, there was nothing else to indicate where it had come from or why.

The box contained various documents. The main one was the actual report (a rather dry piece in early 20th century government-speak. Then there was a load of cloth bound maps showing the various locations of defences along the coast.

The report was organised by the joint defence services (Navy, Army, newly created Air Force) as well as including translations of captured German documents. And it turned out to be quite handy for when the Germans returned for the second time. It is very comprehensive.

Most impressive was the volume of coloured plates that accompanied the report. Rather than tinted black and white photographs, the report committee used artists to draw and colour the various defence buildings and anything else of interest.

These small paintings (they look like pastels) are an absolute delight and turn something quite military into things of beauty.

I only had time to photograph one example before it was all bound back up and stored away somewhere.

Sketch showing camouflage of emplacement

This is the Oldenburg Battery (no 28). It looks like a farmhouse. It’s actually a concrete bunker with a farmhouse painted on the side of it. You can see the gun in what looks like a little shed at the side of the farmhouse that isn’t.

There was also fake fakes created along the coast. The Germans built bunkers and disguised them as other buildings then didn’t use them for anything. This was to confuse the Allies. I call that very clever.

That was pretty much it for my exciting day at the library.

I then had (for the first time, admittedly) a delayed train from Portsmouth. This wouldn’t really have been a problem (the hold up was 20 minutes) but because I catch three different modes of transport, the time adds up cumulatively. This meant I was over an hour late home. Which, in turn, meant I couldn’t collect the dogs from Sue until after 7pm.

Still, a good day and the girls certainly weren’t complaining.

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A new visit from Senor Gouty Foot

I woke up this morning determined to go to the gym. I swung my legs out of bed (‘swung’ is a bit of an exaggeration when they actually kind of just fall off the bed) and attempted to stand up and go downstairs. I couldn’t really put much weight on my foot. I saw my dreams of going to the gym roll up and fall away.

I had my coffee and waited to wake Mirinda at the appointed time, knowing this would herald my next big walk (going upstairs with a cup of tea). I steeled myself for the ordeal. Not for the first time, I thanked the patron saint of all things wood for banisters.

I returned to the lounge.

And so my day consisted of laundry, research and minimal movement. I did take the girls to the park for a very slow and laborious ball chase. Mirinda said I could have just walked up to the Dell but I told her that Emma needed the shade of the Avenue of Trees otherwise she was completely knackered. Mirinda said I spoiled the dogs. I couldn’t argue with that.

Tomorrow is a work day so I’m willing my foot to be better.

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Gym day

I returned to the gym today after a week away and it felt fantastic. I really do miss it when I don’t go. I guess I don’t miss the long, laborious walk along the awful streets but once there and starting to pedal…well, I love it. And then, of course, there’s the brilliant shower.

And I’m happy to say that last week’s strange occurrence of there just being men there was merely an aberration. Today everything was back to normal with a general smattering of both men and women.

I did finally change locker location though, which made things a bit different. The ones around the back, which I normally use, are way too popular and sometimes make getting dressed awkward. I have promised myself I’d try the ones opposite the showers for a while so, today, I did just that.

There was no-one using the shower lockers this morning so, of course, it was actually quite good. It also meant there was a shorter walk from the actual shower to my locker. Meanwhile there were a number of men in the back area – I could hear them – while I felt like I had the entire space to myself. I realise it’ll only last till someone else is using the shower lockers of course.

At Nero’s I was almost stuck with the worst barista in Farnham again. He’s a trainee who I can’t see ever being anything else. He is terrible. Fortunately he was having so much difficulty with the customer in front of me that I managed to slide in under his radar and was served by the woman who I think is the manager. She is the complete opposite to the worst barista and makes a great latte.

Back at home we had to contend with the guy at the end of the street trimming his hedge with his electric hedge trimmer. As I said to Mirinda, while I’m not keen on most engine and tool noises, my personal most hated has to be the electric hedge trimmer. And, of course, the fact that hedges are generally big and take a long time to trim means I have to put up with the irritation for quite a while.

At least he was doing it during the day rather then at 9pm on a Sunday night like he did last year.

The rest of the day was spent pottering, walking the dogs and making a pasta free lasagne. I also felt some gout-ish warning spikes in my foot. It doesn’t look good for tomorrow.

On a wall in Park Row, Farnham
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A fox stole Corky’s toy

We had a very full day today though it started slowly enough. Being a Sunday meant a bit of a sleep-in for me, a bigger sleep-in for Mirinda and the usual slow walk into town with my trusty wicker trolley; again, for me. It also meant a Skype session for Mirinda.

Back at home we had an organised tour of Mirinda’s new greenhouse lined up for Neighbour Dave and Gail and, of course, Rodney.

The girls were particularly pleased to see Rodney though, while we were having a cup of tea, Freya was in heaven sitting on Dave’s lap as he stroked her into catatonia.

Dave was very enthusiastic about the greenhouse but completely flummoxed by Mirinda’s Pixie Gardens. His face was a picture of confusion and mystification. It was a joy to behold.

And Gail supplied the title of this post. We were discussing the fox that sometimes visits the gardens in our street, scaling the fences between us. Gail said that Corky (her mum’s Jack Russell) had a favourite toy which was left in the back garden and stolen by a fox.

Apparently the toy squeaks and Rodney is frightened of it so we know it wasn’t him.

Then we hopped into Max for the short drive to the Chawton House Summer Fayre where many craft-y stalls awaited as well as a lecture in the Great Hall and a bit of Regency dancing…

…before a beer in the Grey Friars and the short drive back home.

Chawton House

The most exciting bit of the day, however, was late on. While Mirinda took the girls for a walk to the Castle (I thought she meant Farnham but given how long she was away she clearly meant Windsor) and I started our lamb shanks for dinner, I put the Men’s Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand on the radio for company. And it was extraordinary.

If a screenwriter was to envisage a film about an international cricket game which kept the audience gripped till the end and without a clue as to who would win, they couldn’t have written a better script. It was unbelievably exciting. And it ended in a tie.

I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a tie in a one day game before. In the World Cup, a tie is decided with a Super Over. This means an over bowled by both sides, with the one bowler and three batsman, allowing for one wicket apiece. The idea is for them to make as many runs for their six balls as possible.

Talk about high drama. England batted first and managed 15 runs without losing a wicket. It was then new Zealand’s turn.

It came down to the final ball. They needed two to win, one to tie. They managed one run then turned for the second. What else could they do? The batsman pushed himself towards the crease but the fielder threw to the keeper who whipped the bails off with the batsman still out of reach. It was amazing.

And so, after 50 normal overs (241 runs each) and one super over (15 runs each) the result went on the loss of the single wicket in the super over. And the England team went mad.

Lords lit up with noise and celebration. It was the final to beat all finals.

From the BBC website

How I would have loved to have been there.

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Super chilled about art

I am, most decidedly, a sceptic. I rarely believe anything on someone’s say so. The only faith I have is that the next mass extinction event will be the complete eradication of humanity because, like any climax woodland, only the fittest in any environment ever survives.

Hypnosis is one of those things that you’d imagine, given the above, that I would never believe in without some firm evidence. And, if I don’t believe in something, it’s clearly not going to work on me. It’s kind of like the stupidity of homeopathy which seems to work for the weak willed while being an example of a lot of marketing and no science.

However, the difference with hypnosis is I have actually seen positive results which indicate it does work. Dad, who had smoked for most of his life, was advised to give up because of the onslaught of emphysema. He tried many things but nothing worked until someone suggested a hypnotherapist.

It worked instantly. He went to the first session and never smoked again. The therapist also taught him meditation which he practised every day, swearing by the calming and peaceful life it provided.

So, armed with this combination of scepticism and belief, I attended a hypnotherapy session today with a Masters student. It’s for her dissertation. She wants to write a piece on the effects of hypnosis on mobile phone addiction and she has organised three sessions with ten participants each and I was in one today.

Without going into too much detail, I didn’t go under though I did feel remarkably relaxed during and afterwards. Whether any of the others went under, I don’t know because we all had our eyes closed. The reason I know that I didn’t was because at one point she told us to forget everything that had happened during the session and I didn’t forget anything.

Not that that matters. I rather enjoyed just sitting, listening to someone talk soothingly and put me in a super relaxed state.

I was the only male there, something that I’ve never minded particularly given I often wind up being the token male in a traditional female role. The fact that I much prefer the company of women to men also helps a lot.

Anyway, it didn’t work on me and my phone addiction has not lessened since. Or increased either, to be fair. I left and went shopping, stopping to admire a rather odd door down an alley.

What?

I can only assume the door is some kind of outside art from the university which is, after all, only a road away. And it wasn’t the only art I saw today. Of course, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who wouldn’t think the door or what follows is actually art but people have some odd ideas.

I posit the following: Take Constable’s Hay Wain. A beautiful painting depicting the quiet simplicity of the country. I think the majority of people looking at Constable’s painting would agree that it constitutes ‘art’.

Now, get a camera and take a photo of the same scene, from the same spot in the same conditions. Get the photo developed and put it in a frame. Is this ‘art’? I think some people would think it wasn’t although there is very little difference between the two apart from the medium. Some people might argue that there’s less skill in taking a photo and it can be replicated time and time again whereas the oil painting is unique.

So, get rid of the camera and just stand and look at the scene. The same scene but live. This is definitely unique and will never happen again. Is that ‘art’? Does the changing landscape mean that this ‘art’ is constantly changing, growing, developing? When we look at the painted landscape then the real one and declare them both beautiful is it because they are both ‘art’?

This is a question that could easily apply to the works dotted throughout Farnham Heath at the moment. As we walked the girls through the heathland, little plots of imagination made themselves known among the pines and heather.

Scrunchies as fungus

From spray painted scrunchies twisted into fungal shapes, to legless chairs placed between towering trees inviting the viewer to look up and admire the world in a specific way. It was all good fun.

Sometimes the pieces were excellent (I rather liked Bird Spotting), other times a bit silly but they were all art and deserved to be considered as such. Other people’s imaginations can only really be seen through their creations. When it combines us with the natural world, it’s always novel, usually original and generally questioning.

Legless

Back at home, it was barbeque time and I was lucky enough to be the sole audience to an outdoor concert while I sizzled and grilled kebabs and a few Gloucester Old Spot sausages.

A perfect accompaniment to any barbeque
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Back to the country

Because I’m being put under a spell tomorrow, I’ll not be able to visit the butcher for the usual weekly meat-fest so I wheeled my trolley into town this morning instead. It felt rather odd, almost as if Friday had become Saturday and I had to keep reminding myself I was a day behind. Or ahead.

Naturally, upon my arrival at the butcher’s, there was a fair bit of ribbing over the cricket from yesterday. Having attended Oz v England matches before in the UK, and wearing my Oz shirt, I’m well used to it. And, like the match version, it was all in good fun. I also let him know I was going to France to which he asked if that would give me time to get over it before the Ashes onslaught.

Lion and Lamb Yard unusually deserted

Then Starbucks, then Waitrose, then home to do some research.

A week ago I wrote to a historian about the Ewhurst research and he replied giving me permission to use his work (obviously with a credit) on the SGW site. His work is amazing. He has managed to find out some incredible facts about the fallen of Ewhurst. I am very lucky with this memorial.

And so I worked away in my office while Mirinda worked in various rooms and terraces. She is much improved (only rasping a few times an hour) and thinking of going for a walk today, the first time in almost a month.

I stopped at lunchtime and made a salmon and dill quiche for dinner (Mirinda ordered it last night with a walnut lo-carb pastry which I made up) and did some small gardening jobs. Both turned out rather well though the quiche was more delicious.

Mirinda took some little time off her work in order to start filling the greenhouse with the necessary stuff to make it useful – plastic pots, compost, etc. She doesn’t want to make it too messy though because she wants to show Neighbour Dave while it’s still brand, spanking new.

And then, as the day started cooling, we took the girls to Frensham Little Pond. It was beautiful, peaceful and a welcome return to nature.

Bliss.

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No bongs on your birthday

Today marks the 160th birthday of Big Ben. It first rang out in 1859. Today, however, it’s birthday was not celebrated with joyful clanging because of the building/restoration work continuing on the Houses of Parliament and, more significantly, the Elizabeth Tower where it hangs, presently immobile.

Q: What do you buy a bell for its birthday? A: A ring.

That’s my best effort at a, so-called, dad joke. Though I’m not a dad. My apologies.

Back at Greenhouse HQ, Mick turned up just as bright and early as yesterday and set about finishing his excellent work. He had taken home the magic window openers in order to put them in his fridge. This is so they can be fixed in a closed position – they open up in the heat and close in the cold. I don’t know why he didn’t ask me to put them in our fridge. Maybe he has a special Magic Window Opening Device fridge. I will never know.

Of course, today I had the girls so the big back doors had to remain closed. Not because they’d bother Mick but because the side gate is open and Emma cannot be trusted to remain inside if a dog passes the house. So we all sweated it out inside with the occasional, rare foray outside to clarify various positional queries that Mick had.

While it was definitely hot in the extension it was possibly not as hot as in the centre of the Edgbaston cricket ground where Australia opted to bat against England in the second semi-final of the Men’s Cricket World Cup. They lost too many wickets far too early then the rest of them far too late to actually manage to post a decent score.

Actually, to be brutally honest; Australia played shit and the English played brilliantly. At the off I was kind of sad I wasn’t there. By the end of the Australian batting, I was glad I was only listening on the radio.

But enough cricket…for now. Just after lunch, Mick proclaimed the job finished and took me on a tour.

El finito!

It has sliding doors, which Mick helpfully demonstrated…I’m not sure why. Still, a little bit of what you already know and take for granted is better than a whole world of stupidity. At least that’s what I say in these times of dumbing down.

More impressive than the sliding doors are the special magic window opener things. (That’s the technical term for them. Obviously.) They are brilliant. He showed me how to turn the dial half a turn in order to recalibrate them if necessary though he said it probably wouldn’t be necessary. I guess I’ll have to wait for winter to really know.

Solar powered windows

The temperature is also controlled by the blinds on the windows that face the most sun. Mick showed me how to, carefully, open and close them, warning me against just letting them go because they would break and be rendered useless. You can see them in the photo below.

He also showed me the wonderful staging and shelf. Okay, these required no demonstration given I’ve used a table before but he did tell me what the little plastic bags of extra bits and pieces sitting on the staging were for. They will have to go in that drawer everyone has where little bags go in order to be rediscovered in ten years when their use has been completely forgotten.

Mirinda’s new workplace

Now it just needs a potting table, some electricity and a water supply and it will be complete. It certainly puts a new gloss on the working area of the garden.

Meanwhile in Edgbaston…the English batsman managed to do what the Australians had failed, score quickly and not lose wickets. They won the semi-final by 8 wickets. At one stage, a delighted Johnathon Agnew said “the score is 2 for 222 with 2 needed to win.” Which could be written 24222 with 22 win.

Anyway, England were by far the better team and I can only hope that we perform much better in the Ashes. I say that for Jud’s sake as much as my own.

Finally, here’s a little guided tour of my own.

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The day of the greenhouse

Mick turned up this morning, bright and early and ready for a 07:30 start on the new greenhouse. Meanwhile I’d been up and out, clearing a path and making access to the boxes easier than it was.

Before Mick started

Although Freya is in the photo above, I actually took them around to Sue for the day before Mick arrived because I figured it was easier than keeping them locked in the house. Not that they complained at all. Quite the opposite. And, for the first time ever, Pippa met me with the goose in her mouth, something that normally happens after arrival.

And so my day was spent watching the glasshouse slowly rise from nothing as Mick did his stuff down the back of the garden. As boxes vanished from the terrace so the structure began to appear. By lunchtime, it was all looking well on the way.

Halfway through the day

On the Health Watch front, Mirinda went to work today for a meeting she couldn’t avoid. She did feel a bit better but still far from perfect. She was determined to go in, have the meeting then return to the flat and rest. Which she did and, when I spoke to her late in the day, it seemed to have worked. No nasty coughing fits; just a few isolated growls.

I spent the day pottering around the extension, listening to the first semi-final in the Men’s Cricket World Cup (New Zealand won against India by 18 runs in a one day match split between two because of rain yesterday) and generally staying available in case Mick needed me. He didn’t. He just worked away, alone and seemingly happy.

I also spent some time working on the Ewhurst war memorial.

At home time

Mick left at about 4:30pm and I went and collected the girls. They took absolutely no interest in the greenhouse, preferring to run around the garden as if they’d been away a month rather than (not) a complete day. We’ll see how they go tomorrow because they’ll be at home while Mick finishes up.

Sadly it means the extension doors will have to be shut but it also means I’ll get to hear the second semi-final of the Men’s Cricket World Cup between England and Oz.

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Psych’d

This morning I went back to the gym following last week’s visit from Mr Virus. And, very oddly, there were no women there. There are always women there, of various ages, some on treadmills, some on bikes, some just waiting for the yoga to begin. Today, however, it was all men. Apart from one guy, they were the usual men. There wasn’t even an attendant upstairs. It was most disconcerting.

Still, I had a good work out before heading into Farnham for coffee and shop. On the way home I walked with Vivienne, Luna’s owner. She told me about her psychology Masters degree and how she’s organising an experiment and, given my age, would I like to participate. Naturally I said yes and will be going on Saturday.

Meanwhile at home, Mirinda followed through on her threat and actually went to the doctor. According to the NHS website, people suffering with her particular brand of bronchitis should see a doctor if symptoms persist beyond three weeks. And so she went up and actually saw our doctor. I meant the one we’re registered with. This rarely happens. Mind you, so does going to the doctor.

The doctor told her she was fine; didn’t need a puffer and the cough was now only there because the cough was causing itself through her dry throat. She was advised to drink plenty of fluids (not a problem given she doesn’t stop) and rest. She then went to the Garden Centre for some Plant Therapy.

One of the plants she brought home with her was a black eyed Susan which I planted to climb up the windmill. It was already well established in the pot, so should start looking good almost immediately with little effort from me.

Naturally I took the dogs to the park (Emma’s leg appears to be all better…whatever was wrong with it) and we met an English mastiff who was massive. She’s come over from Texas and is 15 months old. Such a placid girl she is. I had a long and interesting talk with the woman who was walking her for her owners.

At one point, as we sat on our bench, I asked Freya what she thought of Emma and her limp. She just gave me a look.

Yeah, right, like it was anything!

The rest of the day was spent making final arrangements for the trip to France, working in the garden then making ramen for dinner.

Mirinda is determined to go to work tomorrow so I’m hoping she’s feeling better by then.

Here’s a short video of Freya stalking a squirrel. If you’re quick, you’ll see it escape up the tree after a few seconds and before I start speaking.

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View from the back

The gardeners came today. Gardener Dave has returned (he had a lovely holiday, working on his tan and enjoying French cuisine) and now has a new sidekick. Though I don’t know his name so, in the meanwhilst, I’m going to call him Robin.

Actually he was one of the two chaps who came last time and I’m pretty sure it was he who destroyed my ring of seedlings though he insisted it was the other guy who they call Luigi.

I took them down the back and pointed out what Mirinda wanted doing this week, making an extra point that it wasn’t done properly last time so needed re-doing, basically. I also complained about the premature death of the seedlings and banned them from even breathing on the Wild Flower Patch.

Gardener Dave was not that keen on shifting the wood pile for the second time but did it without too much grumble, possibly because it hadn’t been him who moved it last time. He also had Robin clear the compost into two empty bins and the wheelbarrow while cutting the grass.

Dave was a bit concerned that I didn’t have the usual list of jobs to referred to. He was surprised that I’d been trusted without one. (He knows me remarkably well.) I explained that given it was the same jobs as last time, I was fairly sure I could remember.

Actually, the trickiest bit was knowing the difference between which plants had tomato feed, seaweed feed and ericaceous feed. I’d had it drummed into me last night so I had to pass on the drumming to make sure the feeding didn’t go awry. They managed to get it right (I was watching keenly) but they didn’t get to the conifers out the front (seaweed feed) which I’ll have to do.

As usual, everything looked lovely by the time they’d finished and Mirinda dragged herself out of bed to inspect their work.

From the soon-to-be greenhouse

Speaking of the patient…she doesn’t appear to be improving and is now threatening to see the doctor. This means it really is serious.

And speaking of patients…Emma seems to have done something to one of her hind legs. It’s nothing serious but she does tend to limp a bit. For this reason, for her own good, I didn’t take them to the park today. Freya wasn’t bothered but Emma was a bit bereft.

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