Unconditional Surrender

In Life magazine a photograph appeared following the first VJ Day. It depicted a returning US sailor embracing a local woman in celebration of the end of the war. It’s an iconic and evocative image. Artist Seward Johnson, a sculptor, decided the photo needed to be made whole and created a massive 25ft three dimensional version.

Fast forward a number of decades and Seward made a replica which has been touring the world to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D Day.

The statue has two names, Unconditional Surrender and Embracing Peace. I don’t know why it has two names. Perhaps Seward couldn’t make up his mind.

Anyway, we saw it tonight at Portsmouth. It stands between the Mary Rose and the Victory and is mighty impressive.

The chap with the umbrella is Nicktor, for scale

The reason we were there was because tonight was the annual Victory Dinner and, regardless of the drizzly rain and slightly slippy upper deck, we had a glorious time. We did go for a careful wander then went below for some Pimms-under-cover before listening to the speech rewarding the annual Victory Medal.

Nicktor getting a taste of life with a walking stick

Dawn (now a Doctor…well unofficially for the moment) and Nicktor (suffering from a foot and leg complaint) joined us aboard the HMS Victory along with Sheila and Dave Higgins on table six which was originally table seven but was changed for some reason.

It was the first time for Sheila and Dave, who are from Norfolk. They were worried they’d be stuck on a table with a bunch of old fuddy duddies. They were very glad that didn’t happen as we all contributed to being easily the rowdiest table on the gun deck.

Dave, Mirinda, Nicktor, Dawn, Gaz and Sheila

I’ve just realised the photo above looks as if Dawn has taken a selfie with an extremely long forearm. This is not true. Sheila grabbed a passing waiter and asked him to do it.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Five foot eight

Being a Friday, I should have been working today on the war dead. And, to be fair, I did work for about three hours. However, a lot of my day was spent in failed cooking. Susanne and Rafi were coming over for dinner and a bed so I decided to cook some special treats.

I’m sure it happens to the best cooks and I’m thankful it doesn’t happen often but nothing really worked very well today. Except dessert. Dessert worked and some people might say that that is more than enough. Everything else, though, was a bit of a flop.

I made some courgette chips then forgot they were in the oven and they were more like charcoal chips. I also tried some cheesy pizza crisps but they just melted all over the baking sheet. It was from a woman who creates a lot of keto recipes that I use. Needless to say it’s not a recipe I’ll try again.

Then the lamb and pistachio patties cooked too fast while the oven veg was a bit pathetic. At least the cacik was okay. And, as I said, the dessert which was simplicity itself – raspberries, blueberries and double cream blended up and chilled then topped with a single berry, a dribble of cream and walnuts.

Fortunately the company more than made up for my food failings.

You’d think it was cold!

As can be seen from the above photograph, we managed to eat outside. The weather today was very kind with no rain for most of it and sun for large periods. In fact, we even managed to go up to the park for a bit of a ball chase. Sadly without a Flicka-stik™.

I was amazed at how dry the park was given the amount of rain that has fallen on it. Emma who normally returns with wet legs from running through long grass, was bone dry. Freya rarely gets wet. Speaking of Freya, it was such a joy walking her without a lead now her season is finished.

Avenue of Trees

As well as failed cooking, park walking and a little bit of research, I was busy tidying up for our visitors who turned up precisely at 6pm as Susanne had promised. Not a bad run, she said, even though they drove right through the centre of Basingstoke. At peak hour. On a Friday! She blamed her satnav because she doesn’t have a Gary.

Mirinda arrived about two minutes after them and couldn’t believe how tall Rafi has suddenly become. Five foot eight, Susanne proudly informed us. Given his bouncy hair, I noted, that puts him taller than me.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

A different type of Tempest

Last year we went to the Maltings to see Romeo and Juliet performed by the seemingly indefatigable HandleBards. Four actors, quick changes of props and costume and two hours of complete fun wrapped in Elizabethan verse. Shakespeare never seemed quite the same again.

Tonight, because we loved it so much last year, we were booked into seeing their 2019 touring production of The Tempest.

The only problem was the weather. The HandleBards work outside and, throughout the day, the weather came and went, sometimes storm and torrential rain, othertimes grey but dry. Yesterday I’d had an email saying the show would go on regardless though they did have an inside space if a real tempest required it.

Today, while washing floors and doing laundry, I watched the weather, regularly texting Mirinda (who was at a conference being mobbed by adoring fans) with reports. It was my reports that would decide whether she stayed in town or came home for the show.

By 3pm I decided she should come home so I reported the day had completely cleared up, the sun was blazing and it was just like Fiji. She texted back saying we’d meet at the Maltings.

Given the unusual circumstances, I decided to leave a little bit early and eat at Sushi Jun as I would be walking passed and didn’t feel like making dinner for myself.

I’m glad to say that Sushi Jun seems to be flourishing. All the tables were booked and I was offered the bar for dinner. This was fine and made me feel just like a Tokyo businessman on the way home after work. This feeling increased when a second solo man entered and sat at the bar just down from me.

The bar at Sushi Jun

The food was fabulous though I was rather disappointed to find that they have stopped making ramen (** sad face emoticon **). Ignoring that, the pork gyoza and sashimi selection were both delicious, particularly when washed down with an icy cold sake.

Then it was on to the Maltings for the purpose of our night out. Actually, I hadn’t been outside the house all day (except to put rubbish in the bins) because of the weather so going to the theatre (sort of) made up for it.

Shortly before I left the house, I had a second email saying:

Sadly the weather has defeated us, the 7.30pm performance of The HandleBards The Tempest will take place today indoors in the Tindle Studio. Expect usual HandleBards style, riotous energy and a great deal of laughter!

It made me wonder what had happened at the matinee.

So, upstairs I went and met an unusually impatient Mirinda to take our seats in the front row and wait for the fun to begin.

And it was excellent. The four actors (Ellice Stevens, Katie Sherrard, Roisin Brehony and Tika Mu’Tamir) were superb not to mention the five audience members who stood in for various characters along the way. Excepting Ron (or Rob), who played himself for the card trick. A special mention for Rachel who played about 15 characters at the end with great skill and fortitude.

On the way home I said to Mirinda that, in a complete departure from my previous life, I actually really like Shakespeare these days. She said it was because I understood the language now and I hadn’t before. I think she’s right because it all made perfect sense to me. And I’m still convinced that, overall, The Tempest is a comedy.

It’s also about colonisation (though not sure if Shakespeare realised it at the time of writing) and the sad lives of both Calaban and Ariel. These two characters are the leads in the serious side of the play…as far as I’m concerned.

All in all, an absolute delight of a night. Now we just need to wait for next year.

Posted in Gary's Posts, Theatre Review | Leave a comment

Warships: 1860 to the present day

Having managed to dodge the day before D-Day celebrations in Portsmouth last week, I was back at work today. The weather was actually bright and, vaguely, sunny as I headed south. While rain had been predicted, like all predictions this was a miss rather than a hit. Until it was time to go home, of course, when it poured with rain, soaking the train I was sitting in.

Heather wasn’t in the office today so Kate logged me in and away I went. I love the fact that they just leave me to get on with it. I’m not alone, of course, Today there were way more volunteers than permanent staff and all of us were happily beavering away at our various jobs. It’s odd but I think the volunteers are keeping the place going.

Anyway, I collected some books and set to working through them.

Having disposed of the dreaded poetry two weeks ago, I was now firmly entrenched in warships. And warships from all ages. From a delightful little book regarding the Greek war galleons to a strange looking stealth vessel, the Sea Shadow built in 1985 and finally scrapped in 2012 because it didn’t work very well.

This is not a schematic of the Sea Shadow

The book regarding the galleon dated from 1824 and was a short essay describing, in full, how the ships worked and were built. The information was based on historical accounts and the minimal archaeological evidence extant at the time.

Given we know a lot more now because of, for one thing, improved archaeological process, it would be interesting to read a more recent account of the same thing. Mind you, I could have done without the Greek sections. The author had the habit of quoting people like Homer in the original. All well and good in 1824 but there’s not a lot of ancient Greek spoken any more.

The essay was scattered throughout with line drawings showing a galleon through various elevation and plan views, bringing it alive. I’m sure someone could use the drawings to build their own Greek galleon if they were so inclined.

Another book I entered had a history of warships from the ironclads, featuring a short introduction regarding the development of steam and screw propulsion. Naturally I had a read. And, while skipping a full account of the screw propellers tried by the British navy before deciding on Petit-Smith’s, the author was pretty close to the money. He even included a wonderful lithograph of the first steam ship, an image I’ve never seen though know all about.

Claude Francois, Marquis de Jouffroy d’Abbans testing his steam boat in 1783 on the Seine, Paris

I wrote about poor Jouffroy back in October, 2012 but hadn’t seen an image of the boat being tested. A rare and wondrous find.

Oddly, quite a few of the books I worked on today had the title Warships: 1860 to the Present Day. They were all by different authors and were various editions from various years in as many different formats as possible. It was all a bit unimaginative though accurate, I guess. (I’m assuming that 1860 is taken as the starting point because it begins with the Warrior.)

I worked my way through another shelf then logged off and headed home. As Kate escorted me out to the gate, I explained that the rain presently falling on us was my fault because I built a barbecue yesterday. She agreed and told me off. I said it was probably justice that I’d not be able to use it for a while.

How could I not include the Warrior?

The worst of the rain was reserved for the train journey and I only managed to get a little damp before reaching home. During the night, it returned to torrential levels of downpour.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Our very own Slab

I was a bit concerned that today the weather would be as lashingly lousy as yesterday. The main reason for my concern was the fact that Ron was coming round to lay a big slab of concrete up the back, something which is a bit difficult when the rain is torrential. My concern, however, was unfounded as the day progressed through grey to blue, back again and no sign of the wet.

Poor Ron had to work yesterday and said he was covered in head to toes in mud and concrete. I said it was a good thing he hadn’t gone swimming then. He showed me his trailer which was very dirty.

In passing, Ron told me he hadn’t had a day off since January – no weekends, no sickies, nada, nothing, nowt. He’s going to treat himself to a trip to Spain this weekend coming. I told him this wasn’t a treat but a very important bit of rest. He agreed. I hope he’s making money out of it because that’s a long time without a break.

He works very hard, does Ron. While I gave them a coffee first thing and they had to go and buy some more hard core about halfway through, they worked pretty much non-stop from 11am to 5pm.

At the halfway point

Because the side gate was open for most of the day and Emma can’t be trusted, the dogs had to stay inside for most of the time. They didn’t seem to mind that much except when Ron suddenly appeared from around the side or his mate appeared from down the back. Generally they just stayed asleep.

I, on the other hand, did some research work between washing loads (Freya has finished her latest season which means a lot of towels need very strong washing) and managed to complete the Chiddingfold memorial. I’m now ready to start on Rowledge.

At about 14:15 a friendly delivery man knocked and handed me a very big box, joking that he’d be back in a couple of hours to take advantage of the contents. I laughed and told him he’d better pray the rain stayed away then. And to bring meat.

For the next couple of hours I was busy building the contents of the box. Stupidly I didn’t take a photo of the contents before assembly. However, this is the finished thing:

So Mirinda can cook for guests in the summer

It wasn’t that difficult as long as the instructions were followed. Mirinda, for some reason, has the idea that I don’t follow instructions (or manuals). I corrected her, saying that I’ve always followed the instructions given it makes it easier. I think she’s perhaps confused me with herself and the fact that I generally understand the instructions.

The lid even works

Now we just have to wait for a decent day to christen it beneath the sun. I’m really looking forward to wafting delicious smells over the fence to Neighbour Dave’s patio.

Meanwhile, as I sweated away with the big doors closed and the extension pretending to be a sauna, Ron and his mate (he never told me his name but I have to assume it was Dave) battled away, hacking and mixing and laying until, finally, the slab was laid and it looked beautiful.

Of course, when we went to inspect his work, the puppies had to accompany us. Actually, Emma was very friendly to Ron. She let him pat her and fuss over her, something quite rare. We decided it was either because he was very nice smelling or his doberman was.

Anyway, all was well and he drove off to some other job in some other town, leaving us to glory in our very own slab.

Just waiting for the greenhouse
Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Biblical proportions

A portent from yesterday

Flood alerts are in place…after heavy rain lashed Surrey and Hampshire. The Environment Agency says it means flooding is possible after river levels rose, affecting low lying land, gardens and roads near rivers. The agency is advising people to avoid low lying footpaths near local watercourses, and plan driving routes to avoid low lying roads near rivers.” Eagle Radio, Surrey

All a bit unseasonable for June but the result of a low pressure system over Northern France that decided to pay us a visit.

Fortunately it didn’t really start bucketing down until after Gardener Dave and Andy had finished in our garden and headed off for their next job. Of course they would have been drenched, cold and miserable at their next job but that’s out of my scope.

First thing, it was all a bit drizzly as I went to the gym then shopping. It was in the afternoon that the crazy, slashing rain turned up. It made hearing quite hard in the extension but gave that wonderful feeling of being in the garden while remaining warm and dry inside. Such a great design.

Of course the puppies weren’t that impressed because there was NO way we were going out in it, regardless of Freya’s Season State. In fact, it hadn’t stopped when I put the rubbish out at 11pm and I fell asleep to the sound of big, heavy raindrops falling on the bathroom skylight.

The wet, wet garden

Actually, with regards to Freya, we think she may have finished her latest Season. Which is very good. Now I just need to arrange for them to go to the vet.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Doing a Chinon

In a completely different context, John mentioned the whole sorry Chinon episode on Saturday and, today, the same sort of thing happened to us. I guess we’ve just been to too many places and the memory of some has been pushed so far back that they’ve been obscured by dust and wallpaper paste. This seems to be very much the case when it comes to gardens.

Today we went to Alresford in order to visit Weir House. Of course I managed to get the location completely wrong and we were forced to wander along the Riverside Walk before heading back to the Fulling Mill and taking the correct road. But, we found it and Mirinda, full of the delight that replaced her irritation, snapped a photo of the house.

Many years ago – in 2003 to be exact – we went to a garden with Farelli. I remember the occasion very well but possibly the main thing I remember is her lying in a raised mound of grass covered man-made hillock the centre of which had been hollowed out into a sort of sun worshipper’s delight.

Farelli in the mound

There was also a delightfully wild water meadow alongside an actual river but I’d forgotten that bit until today. And the reason I remembered it today is because we, unknowingly, returned.

As we approached the beginning of the massive garden – the veg bit – we both emphatically stated we’d never been before. This was reiterated when we walked through the full moon tunnel. I mean, seriously, how could we have forgotten this:

But we had. Still, we followed the signs for Tea and, after having a cup outside the huge entertaining area which, along with a massive dining area complete with kitchen, toilets, an in-ground swimming pool and tennis court, we kept being amazed at the various areas of Weir House garden that we swore we’d never seen before.

Then, on the opposite bank of the river, we saw it. The tiny hill I mentioned earlier. The tiny hill which had contained a somewhat scowly Farelli once a long time ago. To document the fact, Mirinda decided to pose like a Shakespearean actor declaiming the lack of sunshine.

Sun, sun, wherefore art thou sun?

What Mirinda (and I) had completely forgotten is that it was not only Farelli who posed in it back in 2003 as this photo proves:

Anyway, moving right along…here is how Weir House is described on the Country Gardener website:

This spectacular riverside garden, owned by Mr and Mrs G Hollingbery, has a sweeping lawn backed by old walls, yew buttresses and mixed perennial beds. The contemporary vegetable and cut flower garden is at its height in September. There’s also a newly designed garden around the pool area, a bog garden and wilder walkways through wooded areas. Children can use the playground at their own risk.

Country Gardener: https://www.countrygardener.co.uk/gardens/weir-house-old-alresford-hampshire

Mr and/or Mrs Hollingbery must love gardening. By the looks of their garden they must never stop or, as I overheard a fellow admirer walking around comment, perhaps they have a team of gardeners on hand, day and night. Whatever the case, it is stunningly beautiful and biscuit tin idyllic. Definitely a must see for NGS enthusiasts like us.

A marvellous yew with a bench around the base

I feel we haven’t visited an NGS garden for yonks. It was lovely.

Just in closing…the small sign in front of the mound that can be seen in the photo of Mirinda from 2003 above is no longer there. However, through the magic of Photoshop, here it is:

Posted in Gardens, Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

I will rather trust a Fleming with my butter

Today, in Borough market, I was buying cheese and meat, two Weasel staples, when I came across a French provincial cheese shop. The young chap was very helpful, loading my bag with various familiar cheeses. I then pointed to a small log which had an even smaller sign next to it declaring it was raw sheep’s milk cheese.

He gave me a small taste. It was divine. He said the monk that makes it uses thyme to add a bit of depth to the flavour. He also told me a story.

The monk lives and works in a monastery somewhere deep in the French countryside. He is a cheese making wizard. He used to just make goat’s cheese, the goats tended and milked by his fellow monks. The trip from grazing to cheese was very, very short.

Gradually the other monks died off, leaving him alone at the monastery. He was unable to tend and milk the goats so the herd was split up (or eaten, I guess) and suddenly he was bereft, rambling around a massive great nearly empty monastery mostly without any cheese. One day, sitting on a hillside, resting from his Biblical perusings, he spied a flock of sheep and hit on the idea of approaching the local farmer and asking for sheep’s milk.

The farmer agreed and so cheese-making returned to the monastery and the Cheese Making Monk was happy once more. And, to be honest, so was I. An exceptionally lovely cheese.

Southwark Bridge starling

The reason I was at Borough market buying cheese was because today was the first Globe date for 2019. The play was The Merry Wives of Windsor which we saw many years ago at one of our first (if not THE first) Weasel dates with Shakespeare. (I haven’t been able to find an entry for it so I’m not sure when but I’m certain we did.)

Anyway, because of my accepting a lift from Mirinda on her way to guitar, I was ridiculously early and found myself wandering around, having a coffee then, finally, settling in to the early opening Anchor Inn, waiting for the others.

I didn’t have long to wait as John turned up just as I settled into a chair with a fresh pint to hand. He bought one for himself and we moved outside to wait for the others.

John reminded me that, because today was the Queen’s ‘official’ birthday, there was to be a fly past Buck House at 1pm and we would be perfectly placed to watch it as it turned on and across the Thames. And, of course, he was right. (Lorna took an excellent photo of the Red Arrows flying in formation with a sign post pointing towards Buckingham Palace in the foreground.)

Eventually, the rest of our party arrived and I stood up to greet them, one by one, with a big hug. As I reached the end of the seven strong queue, a couple of ladies on the table next to us jumped up demanding one as well. A little later, one of the ladies told John that I looked familiar, wondering who I was. John told her she probably knew me from Neighbours. This caused great hilarity.

Eventually Tottie turned up and we were complete. Our group this time consisted of Me, John, Lorna, Darren, Bex, Lex, Tottie, Anthea, Lauren and Will. While it was rather odd not having Lindy there, it was great seeing Tottie as it’s been an absolute age between drinks.

Of course we all had the usual hilarious time drinking a couple of (ridiculously expensive) pints before heading up to the Globe for the play.

We were in our favourite Gentlemen’s Box B and we set out our picnic ready for the off. Which came in due course.


The play was very, very funny, the performers excellent (as you’d expect). I thought Pearce Quigley was a marvellous Falstaff and Sarah Finigan and Bryony Hannah superb as the two merry wives, Mistresses Page and Ford respectively.

Of course, everyone else was brilliant as well including the amazing band which sounded like it had just stepped out of the 1930’s. In fact, the whole thing was set in the Britain of the 1930’s which I thought worked well.

Something else that worked remarkably well was the modern cultural reference at the end when Fenton was called for.

Anyway, a lot of enjoyment was had by all and we took our leave of the Wooden O with broad smiles upon our faces.

People gradually peeled off and the last of us found ourselves in a pub on the Strand which served as a delightful stopping off point before settling in at The George…as usual.

Me, Anthea, Lorna, Darren, John, Bex and Lex. Selfie skills by Lex.

Another great day of Weaselling.

Posted in Gary's Posts, Globe | Leave a comment

Deluge across the south east

Today it rained. We haven’t had much sustained rainfall for a while so it was welcomed by the garden. And the water companies, I’m sure. There was, however, one individual who didn’t welcome it one little bit and just sat, sad and miserable, pleading with me to take her outside.


Okay, the photo above was taken yesterday when the sun was out but the look is the same.

There was a short period of blue sky but, fortunately, I wasn’t fooled because before long the black returned and the water lashed at our back windows.

I was working from home (after walking into town first thing just to get wet) and, while I started in my office, moved to the Dining Zone when I returned to the house to make a coffee and realised Mirinda had shut the girls out of the library because she was having an important phone meeting which did not need any sudden high pitched yapping. This meant Freya had to be locked out as well.

As I entered the extension two little faces looked up from the red dining chair. There’s nearly always one or the other of them there but rarely both together.

Emma particularly likes it because she can comfortably lie down on it, feigning sleep while always ready to pounce on anyone (or thing) she spots out the front door. She likes her comfort, does Emma, but needs to be alert to the dangers presented by strange dogs across the road and the postman.

I decided to set myself up at the dining table to keep them company. This was an instant invitation for Freya to lie across my lap. This is possibly one of her favourite spots though why she enjoys putting her head on my arm while I type is anyone’s guess. Eventually the constant movement forces her to withdraw her head and let it flop down the side of my leg.

I then continued researching the names on the Chiddingfold war memorial, feeling equal amounts of the joy of discovery and the sadness of young lives snuffed out. I felt it even more poignant than usual given yesterday was D-Day 75.

Memorable this week were the White brothers, Walter and Algernon. They lost their parents in the 1890’s. Walter was packed off to boarding school while Algernon went to live with an elderly aunt.

Sometime after 1911, Walter decided to immigrate to Australia to become a farmer. How he would have succeeded or failed will never be known because, in 1914, he enlisted in the Australian Infantry and was cut down at Gallipoli.

Algernon managed to be promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment before being killed in Belgium in 1918.

There was a third brother, Percy. He seems to have survived the war.

And so my day continued.

PS: Here’s a link to the Chiddingfold memorial on the Surrey in the Great War website.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Yew trim

Today marks the actual 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the world’s media attention was drawn to Normandy. Footage from all along the coast was wall to wall at the gym. It was odd seeing all the places I’d recently visited with the Weasels now full of people and, in the case of a lone piper, atop a mulberry. Apart from having to endure the TV being on in the men’s changing room (a pet hate) it made a change from Brexit.

Not that the Brexit relief lasted long because a few of the veterans despaired that the continent they fought to keep free is descending into the same sort of intolerant fascism that turns their sacrifice into so many wasted lives.

The funniest moment came not from Normandy but from the Republic of Ireland. In a meeting with Leo Varadkar, Donald Trump likened the border issue between the Republic and Northern Ireland as the same as his wall idea between the US and Mexico. He seems to think he understands the Irish situation but proves, yet again, he’s an incompetent fool. Which just proves that people get the leaders they deserve.

Away from the news, the Saga of Mirinda’s Greenhouse continued at the house with the 1st Call Tree guys arriving in the afternoon to give two over-hanging trees a bit of a trim.

The two offending trees are the yew in the corner between us and Neighbour Dave and the massive conifer on the opposite side. Both of them needed reducing because they were too low for the greenhouse roof. The sun needed to be freed.

The yew before

This photograph is going to be impossible once the greenhouse is completed, particularly given I’m standing inside where it will be. I have quite a few photographs like this, showing the place before and, when I look back, I am amazed. As I said to the 1st Call guys, thanks to them, our garden has changed beyond any recognition. I’d love to know what Maxine would think if she were to return for a day.

It only took just over an hour and the back of the garden was suddenly lighter and more open. The yew was looking trimmer and the not-yet-built greenhouse gable, free from interference. They did an excellent job.

The yew after

It’s quite difficult to see what was done to the conifer so I haven’t included a photo of it. However, as a sort of before the greenhouse photo, here’s how the back of the garden looked at around 4pm after the guys had packed up and left.

I just need to remember to take the same shot when the greenhouse is built

The next stage is the concrete base which is being created by Ron next week.

To cap it all off, the Aussie cricket team beat the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup today. Amidst the boos of the crowd, they showed they are on the way back.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment